Life Is Beautiful

I’m writing this from the comfort of my friend’s sofa during one of our babysitting shares. There’s something strangely luxurious about sitting in someone else’s living room, their baby sleeping, enjoying their food (a huge bowl of pasta and pesto, naturally) and just having that rare moment to really reflect without distraction or guilt. It’s what I need to digest the last 24 hours which have been a total emotional rollercoaster.

I’m full of excitement and love and yet I am burdened with sadness and despair. For today we woke up to the news of the atrocities that took place in Paris (we caught it as it was unfolding last night but the true horrors only revealed themself this morning) and it’s just changed everything. This time the evil struck bigger, closer and more randomly than ever before in a horrifically planned attack. Paris is a city I once called home – I used to live just around the corner from the restaurant that was targeted, I have partied at the Bataclan, I have drunk in the streets and picnicked by the canal. Paris is weeping. And so am I.

But I need to be strong – not to stand up to terrorists and beat them, because we cant beat them, and we definitely cant beat them through more vioience. No, I need to be strong because today Sam and I had confirmation that we are bringing a new human being into this world. We watched as it lay in my womb – all 5cm of it – and squirmed a little when the radiologist prodded it. Jack watched on – this wasn’t Peppa Pig on the screen, but it was certainly something interesting. The relief I felt at seeing that image is indescribable and of course, I welled up as I threw glances between Sam, Jack and the screen whilst the obstetrician just kept asking me if I was ok? (Is it that weird to cry at the sight of your baby inside of you!?) My tears were also for Paris, and also for the refugees and their children and the circumstances they find themselves in and the crisis we and they are all going through. So yes, I feel like I’ve been crying a lot over the past 3 months and so this morning has been extra emotional.

One can’t help but think, what sort of world are we in anyway? When I look at Jack he is so pure and so beautiful, what can I tell him? What will I tell him? Is this now our reality? Why are we bringing more people in to this life, some might say. Is this what I feel? No. I refuse to believe that. I want to bring good people into this world, to educate and entertain them, and in turn have them spread love and laughter. That is the plan, and that is why this morning’s news fills me with happiness and pride.

So this post is dedicated to life – to celebrating it, mourning it and to living it.

Thanks for reading. Oh, and I made this 5 minute video about how I’ve been feeling the last three months and how I knew I was pregnant long before sticking any plastic white stick in my wee.

A NIGHT ON A CANAL BOAT

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but come October, I always get itchy feet and want a break from the daily grind. It’s too cold by now to really travel to many places in Europe and still find sunshine (any suggestions welcome!), and yet the thought of flying further afield seems too indulgent after the rays we did get to enjoy over the Summer. And so it is that we decided to fully embrace the mini UK break (and the cold). And by mini, I mean mini. One night. 40 minutes from our home. Not warm. And yet, it was one of the most intimate and relaxing holidays we’ve ever had. The fact is, you don’t have to go far to feel like you’ve had a break and this is exactly what we experienced when we hopped in our car to spend a night on an air b n b Dutch barge on the Grand Union canal just outside of London.

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We started our mini break with a meal in a cosy pub near the canal before heading to the waters to find our new home. We’ve always been fans of Air b n b but this time ranks amongst the best of all our stays. Not only were our hosts Manuela and Richard there waiting for us, in the pitch black at 10pm (only we would arrive so late…) but they gave us a full tour of the boat and had left us provisions to get  started. The entire interior of the boat is wooden and the workmanship inside is just immense. We got the heater going and settled in for what was to be one of the best sleeps I’ve had in months whilst Jack slept snug (through the night) in a travel cot in the living room area.

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We spent the following morning doing my favorite thing of all: pottering in the boat. Fresh coffee and peanut butter on toast were the order of the day whilst we listened to Amos Lee (put your phone in a glass to create a decent speaker), watched Jack toddle about exploring his new surroundings before jumping into a bubble bath with daddy (yes, the canal boat had a bath!). It wasn’t until past midday that we actually ventured outside the boat, so content were we in our tiny beautiful home.

Before we set off for our mini mini break, I had said to Sam that the only goal was to not let Jack fall in the canal. I love watching him experience new things for the first time and I can’t wait to tell him about all the adventures his loopy parents took him on when he was little. The rest of the day was spent meandering along the canal and filling our tummies with a cooked breakfast at a local cafe on the water before promptly making a sharp exit as Jack didn’t seem so keen on sitting still. We walked on and Jack nodded off just in time for us to prop ourselves up on a bench and read the Saturday morning newspapers.

canal boat

By the afternoon, we were packed up and ready to leave our little canal boat and head back home feeling calm and content, all the more so because we knew we weren’t about endure horrific M25 traffic or airport security. Bring on the mini mini breaks, I say. And you really don’t have to venture far to find a perfect slice of holiday.

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“THE-BEST-THING-YOU’VE-MADE-IN-FOUR-YEARS” HUMMUS

When you consume as much hummus as we do as a family, and when you consider that a can of chickpeas comes in at 30 pence, it seems to make sense to start to at least entertain the idea of making our own. (I say “our own” but as you can see from the title of this post, you can probably deduce that muggins over here cooks, husband mainly just consumes….) I’m also coming to learn that whenever there is a magimix involved, this seems to generally be a signal to basically chuck anything in – which is my kinda cooking. Certainly, it seems hummus is no exception. Previously whenever I’d tried making it, I’d not had much success – it always came out a bit dry and certainly, not as tasty as a shop bought one. But this one turned out differently. I had a bit of coconut milk about to turn so I threw that in, and I think that was *the* ingredient. That, and some thai red curry paste leftover from the week before. Anyway, here’s what I did, and trust me (and @papalinouk), it tasted good. In fact, apparently better than anything else I’ve ever made since we’ve been married (that’s four years…) so I really recommend giving it a go.

Ingredients

  • 1 heaped cup chickpeas (rinse and drain well if you’re using canned)
  • 2 small gloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (depends how spicy you like…)
  • 1/2 cup  full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A big squeeze of lime
  • Water to thin, if necessary
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

It’s super complicated…whack it all in the magimix and turn up that dial (oh, and it takes longer than you’d think to whizz it all up so give it a good few minutes)

 

The combination of living in the suburbs of London and not wanting life to “stop” meant that I forced myself to embrace public transport with a baby pretty quickly. However, it didn’t come that easily: I don’t think there’s that many things that phase me as a mum fortunately, but public transport seems to be one of them. View Post

Let’s Be Adventurers (Plus, Turning 30)

This time it feels different. It feels different because I’m pottering about with a naked person on the morning of my birthday, and that naked person isn’t my husband. It feels different because on the night of my birthday party, I am delighted to be in bed by midnight. It feels different because this year, it’s not really about me, it’s about us, and our journey.

I recently read an article over on the Pool (SUCH a great site) by Lauren Laverne on how having kids made her more efficient. I love this article, especially the part where she says  “Looking after a small baby is like rolling a huge boulder up a hill – simple, just bloody hard.” However, whereas Laverne talks of prioritizing what she works on, I find myself saying “yes” more and more often. I am embarking on new projects, not knowing where they will lead, surely knowing some will fail, but trying all the same. I am putting myself out to the universe and seeing what or who might want to talk back. (this blog you are reading now is a case in point)

Turning 30 has made me assess where I am, the kind of person I am and where I want to be. And time and time again, now that I’ve started a family with my number one, now that I am stable, the theme of living free and having adventures all together comes up. Call it an early mid life crisis, but turning 30 and becoming a mother makes me want to do more, learn more, give more, travel more and basically live more. I am addicted to travel blogs, to making things from scratch, reading about overseas current affairs.. but it doesn’t feel overwhelming like it may have done a few years back, it feels exciting and within reach.

So we will see where the next decade takes us but as we cruise, the bed will go unmade, the pottering will continue and the journey will surely evolve. All I know right now is that I feel younger than ever.

This post is dedicated to a very special person, Rebecca, my second cousin who lives on the other side of the world in Australia. She is one of the mothers out there who most inspires me  – check out her business and you’ll see just one of the reasons why. She made the beautiful spoon that features on the front of this blog post and she is insanely talented. Please go say hello.

EASY PEASY HEALTHY ICE CREAM.

For those times you crave something sweet, want to be healthy and only have 10 minutes (any longer and it’s all too easy to reach for the chocolate..), then this, my friends, is the recipe for you. It makes enough for at least 6 portions – perfect for a little serving every evening or for a meal with a group of friends.

Ingredients

  • 250 ml low fat yoghurt
  • 500g frozen berries (my favorite ingredient as they just sit in the freezer waiting to be used!)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey (the naughty part)
  • Crushed digestive biscuits
  • Mint

Prep time

  • 1 minute + 20 minutes foraging for your magimix if you are anything like me

Method

  • Throw all the ingredients in the magimixe and whizz until smooth. Serve with crumbled digestive biscuits on top and a sprig of mint on the side. I promise you, it will satisfy your sweet tooth without inducing that guilt pang afterwards.

Give it a go – and enjoy!

WOMAD FESTIVAL.

I’m of the belief that having a little one does not mean life has to stop. I’ve been going to festivals every Summer for as long as I can remember and I wasn’t about to let becoming a mama change that. (We took Jack to Somersault festival last year, but he was only 12 weeks old so it didn’t really count!)

WOMAD, which stands for World of Music, Art and Dance takes place in the exquisite Wiltshire countryside and is a real cultural feast musically, artistically, and gastronomically. Now in its thirty-third year, you can tell that this is a festival that know’s what works. Stewards welcomed us with warm smiles and we were even offered a lift by Tony (the most amazing steward I’ve ever met) who bundled us on to his 4 x 4 before we could even pretend to protest and drove us, and our ninety bags (here’s my festivals essentials), to the camping field as Jack squealed with joy at every turn. And this was just the beginning.

Jack was happy as Larry the majority of our time at WOMAD. From toddling around the grass in his wellies whilst we chugged back a cider and put up our bell tent to being stuck under a rain cover gnawing on a plum for an hour whilst Sam and I frantically packed everything up in torrential rain. The Taste the World food area was our first experience inside WOMAD where we refuelled on delicious Goan fish curry and had our first bop with Jack snoozing on my back in the Ergo carrier. At other times we would sip on rich Colombian coffee, indulge in freshly baked plump sugary donuts and dine on a huge tray of steaming paella.

Delicious fresh fish curry with enough rice to keep us going for a while!

Delicious fresh fish curry with enough rice to keep us going for a while!

The array of music was incredible and over the course of the weekend our ears were treated to Israeli Jazz, Ghanaian soul, French reggae and so much more. Whilst we weren’t able to “rave” as we may have done in past years, new experiences with music were formed.  One of the highlights of WOMAD for me took place around sunset. As the sun started descending and the Staves dulcet voices began wafting through the air, beautiful scenes began unfolding around us. I watched as families set about bedding down for the night with loving focus; women breastfeeding their baby to sleep propped up against the back of the tent, fathers making the final tweaks to their kids’ cart, groups of children being fed by the nominated mother. Calm contentment pervaded. We left our buggy outside the tent with another mum as we made our way into the tent to get closer to those magical voices, Jack on our back. In the end we settled near the back with another few families and watched with warm hearts as the older children welcomed Jack in to their group and game of limbo they had set up with a long piece of straw whilst we chatted away with the parents.

We loved the Steam Fair with its vintage rides and the Global Market, full of beautiful Peruvian feather earrings and fleecy blankets that made me feel cosy just looking at. At night fall we would change Jack into his babygrow and just about manage to give him some dinner propped up on a bench without him racing off to discover a new friend or wooden spoon to play with. Mealtimes are slightly tricky at a festival or camping without any sort of chair but once with his bottle of milk, dummy, nightshade and lullabies playing from our phone in the basket of the buggy (our secret weapon!), Jack would soon easily drift off to sleep leaving us to enjoy the night together as a couple, intermittently snuggling and shimmying at the sidelines as the headliners blasted out. All the while, with our child sleeping soundly by our side. What could be nicer?

Cuddles before bedtime

Cuddles before bedtime

What I love about festivals, and WOMAD excelled in this space, is the exceptional friendliness of everyone you meet. No one asks what your day job is, where you live or often, even what your name is. Everyone just wants to get lost in the colorful haze of the festival and throw themselves in to the “moment.” And when you have a child, it is those”moments”  that are so precious and beautiful. At one point, Jack struck up a relationship with a greying older man who dazzled him with some fancy footwork in the All Singing All Dancing tent and who Jack in turn made feel young again, I am sure.

Jack thankfully slept well in his travel cot in the tent, despite me being worried he’d be too cold (my main concern) Waking up in nature makes me so happy and I loved unlacing (yes, we have a lace up tent.. it’s mega old school) the tent to show Jack the trees and the sky followed by a little amble to spot all the early morning campers. On the last day of the festival, a huge torrential downpour hit the site from first thing in the morning and we decided to head home. Cue absolute mayhem and as much peppa pig as we could get down Jack as we packed everything up and took the tent down. WOMAD stewards again saved the day as we left them watching over Jack whilst we dashed to and from the car.

Thank you Peppa Pig. That is all.

Thank you Peppa Pig. That is all.

We were gutted to leave WOMAD early particularly as we knew we there was just so much on offer we’d not managed to experience – the World of Wellbeing with its host of holistic activities including the spa complete with pools, sauna, showers and even a cocktail bar, the World of Words for debates and discussions and mainly, the World of Kids which hosted themed workshops and activities around Myths, Legends and Folktales (each year it’s different) culminating in the Children’s Parade on the Sunday. Thank you so much for having us WOMAD…we’ll be back.

And so has having a child change my festival experience? Yup. It’s just got even better.

xxx

P. S Here’s a quick video on our time there…take a peek and subscribe to the channel if you enjoyed this slice of our life 🙂

BACKPACKING AROUND SOUTH AFRICA WITH A BABY

My husband Sam and I did a lot of travelling in our twenties and neither of us saw it as something we necessarily needed to give up once Jack came along. Exploring the world, meeting people from different cultures, hiking (and getting lost) through forests and up mountains, lying in hammocks, trying new foods were all experiences that made us who we are and ones that we wanted to continue to build on. It’s just that this time we would have a third team member: our baby.

“Ah South Africa – no time difference so that’s perfect!” friends with babies exclaimed when we told them we were going there. To be honest it hadn’t even occurred to us. A good friend was getting married in South Africa which we seized as an opportunity to start embarking on some proper travelling just the three of us. And with Jack approaching 1 and a free flight under his belt, we felt he was old enough (and innoculated enough) to get his teeth into some travelling. Suffice to say it was by far the happiest trip we have ever had and one that we will forever remember.  Jack’s squeals as he sat in the jeep in the game reserve, bobbing up and down on Sam’s knee whilst the wind rippled through his curls, is a scene I will never forget.

When it came to packing, I tried to take the bare essentials. I took only a few nappies (I quickly reasoned with myself that babies in foreign countries wear nappies too), a few emergency baby food jars, a huge bag of toys, sunhat, sunscreen. The two most useful items we brought along though were a fabric highchair in the photo at the bottom and a snoozeshade – mainly for when we took Jack out at night so that he could get some shut eye in the buggy whilst we enjoyed a glass of riesling.

There was really nothing we couldn’t get out there – in fact, call me a geek but I find visiting foreign supermarkets a fun pastime. Accommodation wise, we stayed in a combination of hotels, hostels, cabins and air b n bs. My preference were the small b n bs, who were relaxed about having a young child crawl around and personable enough to have time to coo over him and bring him a little foreign treat.

The best thing about travelling with a baby? Everyone is so darn nice to you. Oh, and you have an excuse to politely move away from the guy around the campfire who is playing ‘Imagine’ badly on his sitar. So if you and / or your partner have ever been travelling, and you have a baby in tow, I massively encourage you to dust off those backpacks and get out there – this time as a family – and I promise you, your adventures will get even better.

Here’s a video I made from our time there – take a look: