A look back at a bedroom make over

I am sure a lot of us use the app TimeHop. I love looking back at how our family has grown. When I opened it up last week I saw this photo. And I just can’t believe how much our home has changed.

Now who doesn’t love a Time Hop throw back!?

For some background, at the time that our house was in this state, I was 39 weeks pregnant, perfect timing for ripping out everything… I had taken to my Mam’s house with our then 2 year old to hide until there was running water again.

The room in this photo was to become a bedroom for our eldest, which it then did, and later our second born shared it. But it now it the bedroom of the two smallest members of the family.

Cosy little beds

After a lot of room swapping and changing, we are at this stage. These bunk beds were built by my very talented father-in-law (who I mention a lot on here, he is one of those diamond humans!) . I designed them and we chopped up our cot bed and bought another second hand one. Plus the long lengths of oak for the new frame. He is amazing at this kind of thing, and has a lot of patience for my crazy brained schemes.

It is the most lovely room, I often come in here to take outfit pictures as it gets lovely light.

Loved looking back over all the photos, and remembering the stress at the time! In hospital after having the baby, they asked when I was planing to go home. I can remember saying “as soon as the new bath is in” ! And that is exactly what I did!

Thanks for reading

Hazel Ann x

Depth of a dream

*trigger warning – suicide*

I had a dream the other night. It is a little difficult to follow, but hang in and see if it makes any sense. All of this is my own interpretation of things that I have gone through. None of it is scientific, medical or anything like that.

In the dream there is a building which is being refurbished. There was a route through from the top to the bottom via rooms and staircases. Due to the renovation work the route is not complete, so you can go almost all the way from the top and down, but the final two floors are only accessible from the bottom up. It was a bit like a giant hamster cage with different interlinking compartments.

In my mind it is dark and I feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Feeling like I am fading away, I go into the building from the bottom and hide myself away in a room with a window. I can see out and watch all of my family start to miss me, speaking to each other, pointing, looking for me. It feels like it goes on for a few days while I remain in this room and cannot seem to get up and get out. I can’t even bang on the window. They never stop searching, I can hear them talking in the floors above me in the building, I carry on watching them as they become more and more frantic. I don’t move from my spot, I don’t seem to have any energy to help myself to leave this room. The logical part of me thinks “get up”, “why did you come in here”, “what are you doing”, ‘what is wrong with you”. In the dream I feel flat. Moving would require more effort than I am able for.

Eventually my father-in-law bursts through the door and carries me out. He is speaking to me but I can’t hear anything. This part of the dream doesn’t last long because it is where I wake up. It is also the part I find the most difficult to talk about because I know NOW that I am so glad that he has found me and will take me somewhere safe and that everything will be ok. I can sense his relief, his happiness at finding me. At that moment it is not shared by me.

Since having this dream I have not been able to stop thinking about it. What did it mean, what is my brain trying to process while I am asleep. I have had a lot of different thoughts about it and some of them have been scary to think about. I believe that when we dream, it is our minds working away going through what we have been experiencing.

Over the last few weeks I have seen a lot of talk on social media –  especially instagram – about issues like suicide. Awareness is being brought to this horrific thing. Last week was maternal mental health week.  All of these campaigns are SO important, it is ok not to be ok. It is ok to ask for help. You are not alone and you are not crazy. There is no shame in getting help, there is no shame in going to the doctor. Taking steps to get yourself back into a better place are important and there is help out there. That cannot be said enough – when you are in a really dark place and you hear it, it is hard to believe. So I think the more it is said and drummed out, the more likely people will be, slowly, to accept that it’s ok, that they can and will be OK again!

During my recovery last year I had very, very low points as, I have said before. At the time I never fully admitted to anyone how dark or low I felt. In a way I don’t think I admitted it to myself. This dream seems like my minds way of taking all of the things that are floating around and putting them together in this story.

In the dream the house is busy but there are places no one goes.  I slip away feeling as if no one will notice, and even when I see that they DO notice I am too weak to do anything about it. The system is not working right, the path is blocked. It takes people a while to figure out how to access me, to realise where I am, to realise that I am not coming back on my own strength. Watching this dream play out was scary, I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to come, I wasn’t sure if I wanted them to.

This is all probably very much a big ramble, but writing it out is therapy for me, if no one ever reads this it makes no difference. If you are still with me I hope that you can take away something that can either help you help yourself , or help you help someone else.

Being on the other side of it, my logical mind KNOWS that disappearing would have been the worst thing. I know that. I believe that. I don’t want to disappear. The point where  I am rescued, in the dream there is no sigh of relief. There is no overwhelming sense of gratitude towards my rescuer. The mind is a complex place, and when it is not working optimally the whole of your life in impacted. As I said being on the other side I am SO grateful for every single person who helped me through. There aren’t enough words to fully explain how thankful I am. I think that is why I find remembering some of these feelings so horrible. Imagine not wanting to be found, maybe even being a bit annoyed at being helped. Writing it makes me squirm a bit, however I want to be honest with myself and be real about how things can feel.

Most importantly I want to remember that no matter how dark things feel, there are people who love you. There are people who are searching for you. Who would give anything to help you.

If you have made it to the end then thank you! I appreciate it was likely similar to wading through porridge.

Until next time

Hazel-Ann x

Meal planning!

I often post stories over on instagram whilst I am in the kitchen cooking and baking. People often reply asking where I get my recipes from and how I meal plan. Answering these kinds of questions inspired me to pen this post.

Our family at the moment is myself and my husband and our four children ages 7,5,3 & 1. We all sit down together at meal times and eat the same thing. Making different meals is not something I have ever done. Our children might not always eat everything they are served, but I encourage them to all at least try a bite of everything. One loves broccoli and another can’t stand it, one loves spice and another is not so keen.

I also have my groceries delivered weekly from Tesco. I purchased the delivery saver pass using my club card points and have done that every year. This means that there is no extra cost to me for having my shopping delivered right to my kitchen table. I cannot explain how big a game changer this has been for us!

So what do you do? Where do you start?

I start by logging onto the Tesco grocery app and making sure I have my normal slot booked. Then check out what is on offer for the upcoming week. I add anything I think sounds good to my basket. I also check the cupboards so see what we have in.

The next part is my favourite, I have a bit of a “thing” for recipe books… and have built up a decent collection.. I don’t need them all but Marie Kondo they ALL spark joy! I choose a few books and look up what they offer. IMG_0917.JPG

(Side note – this is about half of my books..) But you don’t actually need any recipe books, the internet is FULL of millions of recipes. Just search what ingredients you have and away you go!

I work best with a pencil and paper, writing a proper list of my intended meals and what other ingredients I need to order to make them happen.

I don’t buy everything from Tesco, a local shop gets deliveries from the butcher most week days and deliveries of fresh fish twice a week, I like to have fish at least once a week.

Once I have my list of meals I can put it in order of what day I plan to have what, this has to have some level of fluidity as plans change. I go and finish up my online order and pin the meal plan to the fridge.

Typical week 

Sunday: Roast chicken with potatoes and vegetables
Monday: Chicken and bacon pasta bake
Tuesday: Baked breaded haddock, potatoes, broccoli and peas.
Wednesday: Spaghetti bolognese
Thursday: Tacos (using left over bolognese with added black beans)
Friday: Prawn curry
Saturday: Home made Chinese night – sweet and sour chicken, beef chow mein

Extra tips:
If your recipe calls for half of something, decide if the other half can be used in another recipe that week or if you can freeze it. Plan around your left overs. By doing this you will minimise food waste and save time and money. If you have children who are unsure about vegetables, don’t stress yourself out. You can try and hide them in sauces, or you can cut them up bigger and ask them to take a bite.
If you know which fresh ingredients have the shortest shelf life, have them at the beginning of the week so they are in their best condition. Meat can be frozen and defrosted so don’t worry so much about that.

I hope this has been useful! Let me know what your tips are for family meal planning.

Hazel Ann x

 

Tots Bots Easyfit Star

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Around 7  years ago when my first child was a baby, a friend I had made online asked if I wanted to try a reusable nappy she really loved.  I had been using old school terry  nappies, and I really loved those, but this was called an “all in one” nappy. When I got my hands on it I knew it was going to be a game changer. That nappy was a Tots Bots Easyfit. (Back then they were on “version 2” which was one of the best they made. Version 3 was a flop, version 4 was ok..) But then came the “star” which launched in March 2016 when my third child was in nappies. This is my review of the Easyfit Star nappy, after using them every day for the last 3 years.

So let’s have a look at an easyfit star. This one is called Rainbeau and features the popular Grims rainbow design. This is an all in one nappy – meaning that there is a waterproof outside and an attached absorbent inside. The waterproof part is made of PUL which is very durable, the absorbent inner is a super thirsty bamboo tongue which you tuck into the pocket at the back. The leg cuffs are elasticated and the front fastens using velcro tabs and a long landing strip. There are also poppers on the front for adjusting the rise of the nappy, so it can fit from a small baby to a ready to potty train toddler.

Bamboo is a natural fibre, it takes up to 10 washes to reach its peak absorbency. You are advised therefore to pre wash it a few times, I admit I never do this. I am always far too excited to get the nappy on the bum!

The nappy truly lives up to its name, it is so easy to fit onto the baby. If you are transitioning from disposables to cloth nappies, this nappy will already make sense with its velcro fastening. Judging when to change the rise poppers will become apparent when your baby has grown and the nappy starts to not be long enough, the poppers don’t tend to come undone in the wash either so you don’t have to fiddle around with them until you need to.

I found they fit well from around 10lbs, the leg elastics on a new one will contain nearly any poonami your baby throws at you! And bamboo is so absorbent that even a heavy wetting toddler will last a few hours without wet patches. Another great thing about the nappy being bamboo is that it dose not compress in the way that microfibre, for example, does. So long naps in the sling or pushchair won’t result in leaks. Getting started with cloth nappies can be intimidating, I really do think that this nappy is an excellent example of a well thought out, tried and tested design.

This is my little squidger Henrie modelling some easy fit nappies at around 4 months old.  He was on the smallest set of poppers and weighed around 15lbs.

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My daughter Agnes modelling an easy fit star when she was 15 months and weighed around 24lbs. This was a Joules print which I adored.

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My nappy shelf back in 2016 featured a mixture of easy fit v4 and stars along with a few other brands. I have now collected more stars and phased out the v4s.

Washing and drying your Easyfit nappies is also *easy*. Take the nappy off the baby and fold over the velcro laundry tabs. I store my dirty nappies in a dry bucket and then transfer the to the machine when I am ready to do a wash. The long tongue always agitates itself out in the wash so you don’t have to pull it out before. I use non bio detergent and a 60C wash. I then line dry and finish off on a cool tumble. You can tumble dry straight from the washing machine.

By boosting your easyfit star with something like a double bamboo booster, you might get it to work as a night nappy, if you don’t have a heart wetting baby.

So how have they faired over the years?

Absorbency has not depleted, the PUL has stayed in really good condition. My only negative I have is the leg elastics, which have relaxed a lot. If using for one child this is not really an issue as they are always growing and the need for the elastics to be super tight isn’t there. However if you plan to use them for subsequent babies or resell them after, it is a bit of a let down. I am not sure if Tots Bots have any plans to do anything about this. This was not something that was as big an issue with the previous versions for me.

So where do you buy these nappies from?  I have purchased from various places and I also have an affiliate link for

which gives you a 10% discount. The Nappy Lady  and Tots Bots direct are also websites I have used. There are lots of retailers offering different things.

I hope this review has been helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading!

Hazel Ann x

I will leave you with this cute video of Henrie scrambling around on my bed in his nappy.

Miracle drug … called exercise

I talked last week about how I was feeling emotionally one year on from having Henrie.

I wanted to document my physical progress too, I have been really enjoying exercising again, and the physical results always spur you on to keep going. Feeling strong physically gives a great mental boost I find.

Ok, so here I was last March with my 4 week old Henrie bear, how tiny and squishy was he! Again when he was 8 weeks old at our nephews wedding.  And then me now, a year on and feeling stronger and fitter. Not worrying about how much I weigh or anything like that, for me the real “prize” is having my mental health back and feeling strong.

My Jazzercise teacher is so lovely, and she is so talented! I go to her class which is only a few minutes away from me, for an hour, twice a week. I always look forward to class as it is my “me” time, dancing away my blues and sweating out my frustrations is the best therapy! On a Monday I also go to a class which I helped set up with my friend Jenny (who is one of those humans who seems to spin so many plates at once and always smiles!) It is called Boogie Beenies, you bring your baby in a sling and then boogie away to a whole mixture of music for 45 minutes while following Jenny’s direction. I am always on hand for any sling safety or comfort info. It is SO much fun!

Baby boy has been an absolute diamond since he arrived. Looking at the photos from his birthday weekend I am just in awe of how much he has grown, that I am still breast feeding this little monkey and my body didn’t “fail”, it has worked hard and over come so much.
Mammas give yourselves a pat on the back today when you look at your little humans. Because you have done an incredible thing growing them, whether we are talking in your belly, after you fostered or adopted them, helping them become big little people.

I am going to sign off now because as usual I am getting emotional and I like to ramble when that happens!

See you next time, thank you so much for reading!

Hazel Ann Xx

One year on

A year ago today I was having a brilliant day with my yoga teacher and a photographer, on a beach in winter, taking photos of a pregnancy yoga sequence. Little Henrie hanging out inside my belly. IMG_4136That’s me, feeling like a real warrior with my bare feet in the sand and my big bump.

I chose this as the way I wanted to remember the end of my pregnancy. What followed in the next few days was not what I had imagined. Talking about it and being as honest as I can, I hope that other people can identify and maybe not feel so alone.

Tuesday last, I was at the nurse having a smear test (if yours is due – go book it NOW!). We couldn’t believe it had been nearly a year since I had spent all that time going back and fore to the health centre trying to get my c section wound to heal. She asked me if I was now fully recovered,  when I answered I really believed that “Yes! I am doing great”. In that moment I whole heartedly felt like I was “healed”. The negative thoughts that at times had threatened to swallow me at different points felt so far away. Physically I am feeling really well, enjoying exercising and my life is full of the things I enjoy.

Over the weekend some things happened which brought back the memories of those days, the black days, and I was sort of plunged back into the well. I had to go and lie down at one point because I could feel a panic attack starting to rise up.

So I guess the point here is that, no, I am not actually as “over it” as I thought. While I am excited about celebrating a whole year of Henrie, there is a shadow.  I feel like I am banging a drum and no one really cares a lot of the time. What happened to me is no where near what happens to some people. That kind of thoughts are not helpful either though, just because your experience isn’t “as bad” , doesn’t mean it can’t affect you. Doesn’t mean that you are not “allowed” to find it hard to deal with.

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My focus is that it is ok to not be ok about it. Even when I thought I was ok. Speaking to a friend the other week, we were saying how becoming a mother changes you, and that the experience you have in labour and delivery changes you. Talking about that, being open and honest is needed. Pretending it is always lovely and perfect doesn’t stop other people from having a difficult time, physically, mentally. Your health comprises of both of those things. Look after yourself, whoever you are. You are important.

Hazel Ann x

A few favourite recipes

Hello and welcome back again.

This post  is about a few of my favourite recipes  we have made over the last month.

First up we decided to buy less chicken fillets and instead buy whole chickens or chicken drumsticks as they are so much better value for money, and we find they are more tasty. Only drawback is they take longer to cook.

This roast chicken was a recipe from Kirstie’s Real Kitchen.

I really love lemon with a roast chicken.

We had boiled carrots, mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli to accompany this juicy chicken.

 

 

 

 

Now this was a good recipe! A pot roasted chicken from Annabel Karmel’s latest book.

We were going to a birthday party on a Sunday afternoon, we only had an hour from getting in from church to when we needed to leave again.

This did not take long to prep, and then went into the oven and was waiting for us when we arrived home. Everything is in the pot so no need to start boiling potatoes either. img_6975.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is a chicken tray bake from the Hairy Dieters book which I bought a few years ago. It tasted lovely, there is paprika and oregano on the meat, but the potatoes were NOT cooked at the end of the cooking time. Paul fried his off in a pan, I just ate them anyway! But we put the rest of it back into the oven… and then found it again 4 days later! Oops!

The over on the right is a chicken stir fry with satay sauce, the recipe for which is from Fearne Cotton’s first recipe book. Its very quick to make, and is great as a dipping sauce and used for chicken or prawns.

I like to marinate the chicken breast in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chilli and lemongrass before I cook it. I used a bag of stir fry mix and added a red pepper and some egg noodles. The satay sauce I then heated and added over the top for anyone who wanted.

So this was the main event on Christmas Day! Mrs Turkey, she was  delicious. We had 5 adults, 3 children and a baby to  feed. My Mam bought this turkey breast joint from her local  butcher. Then it was my job to cook it. I did this on Christmas Eve as I didn’t want to be really stressed on  Christmas Day with everything else. My sister in law gave me her stuffing recipe which is pork sausage,  breadcrumbs, oatmeal, onions and dried apricots. I sliced into the breast, put in the stuffing and then used these cocktail sticks to hold it back together. Covered the top in bacon and tied with string –  note: I need to buy proper kitchen string! I seasoned it and then basted it regularly during cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

Not to blow my own trumpet too much, but it tasted so good and stayed moist for the rest of the time we used it as left overs.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it even really Christmas if you didn’t have turkey curry?

This one was garlic, ginger and onions fried, stir in curry powder. Then I added a tin of tomatoes and seasoned. I would have added chilli too but  I wanted the children to eat it without moaning!

A table spoon of mango chutney and handful of chopped dried apricots, add the turkey and heat through. I then added natural  yogurt. Served with some rice and naan breads (which I did not make myself!)The week before the Christmas holidays were due to start, a horrible sickness bug struck down a few communities around us. We decided to keep our children off school for the last few days. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do but the night before we kept them off one of them was up and down all night with a horrible cough too. We enjoyed our three extra days of Christmas holidays and watched films, baked ginger bread men and made a chocolate Santa’s sleigh using lots of chocolate biscuits!

I hope these ideas have been a bit of inspiration for you.

Thank you again for reading!

 

Hazel Ann Xx