Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Your 5 Event At Union Square, Aberdeen

10 weeks after having Willow I'm now completely out of maternity wear and actually started to wear button up jeans for the first time in forever last week! OK, they're a bigger size than normal and I still have to cover up that little mummy tummy but I'm well on my way to a normal body shape! Yay!

Union Square Your 5 Event

I do however feel like I've lost track of what's happening in the world of fashion, so I headed to the Your 5 event in Union Square in Aberdeen to find out what I should be looking for to update my wardrobe for Autumn.

Jo the stylist took me through the five key pieces that she feels are the backbone of a capsule wardrobe: the coat, the knit, the wide-legged trouser, the boot and the skirt. She talked me through all the different styles and asked me to pick my favourites and here's what I chose:

Your 5 Picks

I'm pretty impressed with that I chose and I was quite surprised that I had two Wallis items in there! It's not somewhere I'd even think to shop, is it because I'm getting older or is their range getting younger? I'll go with the latter!

I'm not sure wide-legged trousers are for me, although I like that joggers are a trend because I actually have a couple of pairs in a sleeker fabric that I bought after having Sorsha and the loose fabric and elasticated waist are great for covering my mum-tum! They're also great for casual or dressed-up for the evening!

And give me a military coat, cute boots, grey knitwear and a leather-look skirt any day and I'm happy!

I took my new found knowledge and went for a hunt around the shops and found loads of things I want!

Union Square Wishlist

By the way, if you're in Union Square take a look at the Union Square Plus app. It's free to download and has lots of offers and discounts for the shops and restaurants in the centre. I was trying to figure out where to go for lunch so I checked the app and found a "kids eat free" offer for Giraffe, so that's where we went!

What are you key trends or items for the season?

This post was written in collaboration with Union Square

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Tour Of Dundee Contemporary Arts

I recently met up with a group of bloggers in Dundee for some brunch and a tour around Dundee Contemporary Arts or the DCA as it's commonly called!

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Back in my twenties I lived in Dundee and my only real experience of the DCA was drinking in the bar or enjoying the sun in their beer garden so I was keen to see what else they had to offer.

First up we headed to the cinema where a live band was rehearsing for a showing of the oldest surviving feature-length animation film "The Adventures Of Prince Achmed" and I must say I was completely enthralled! The music played by Sink was absolutely perfect for the style of animation and I wish I could have stayed longer and watched it all!

Next up we fulfilled a dream of mine and visited the projection room! It was pretty much as I'd hoped, dark and warm and full of expensive equipment! The DCA shows a wide range of films so have the kit to play digital files or old-school film reels and I got to ask all about how they receive the film and splice it, and where and how it's stored and it was fascinating!

We finished the tour in the print studio which was another area I was keen to visit. I've done some screen-printing in the past which I hope to pick up again and I was impressed by the setup they have at the DCA. Aside from screen-printing they do courses and workshops in so many things including laser-cutting, bookbinding, letterpress, calligraphy, 3D printing, etching, photography, Photoshop, woodblock printing and even fish printing!

I was totally beaming after this tour and felt my creative juices stirring! I totally recommend a visit to the DCA whether you want to get creative, watch a movie, dine in style or just enjoy a drink!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Wedding On A Budget: How To Get Your Rings For Free!

Hi everyone! I recently mentioned that Allan and I are getting married in August 2018 and we're on a very tight budget so I plan to share some money saving tips on here!

The first one that I want to share with you is about wedding rings, because this one actually involves getting started early, like about two years before your wedding! In fact, you can also apply this one to engagement rings, wedding jewellery and bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts too!

goldsmiths wedding ring boxes

It's really simple (don't worry, I won't be posting anything dodgy!) all you have to do is shop at Tesco and sign up for a Clubcard!

By the way, this post isn't in any way paid for or affiliated with Tesco, I'm just genuinely excited about getting jewellery for free!

Every time you shop in store or online you get Clubcard points, 1 point for every £1 spent. Every quarter your points are tallied up and you get vouchers to spend at Tesco or through partners using Clubcard Boost. The vouchers are valid for two years.

So, if you get your groceries, petrol, Christmas shopping etc from Tesco you could end up with quite a tidy little sum in Clubcard vouchers over a couple of years. You can then use Clubcard Boost, which allows you to take the vouchers you've earned and TRIPLE THE VALUE at Goldsmiths stores! Yup, you can take these vouchers that you've received for free and triple their worth!

Allan and I did exactly this. We shop in Tesco anyway and use their grocery delivery service because with £1 delivery slots it's cheaper than us going to the store ourselves, and we saved up £115 worth of vouchers. We went into Goldsmiths and picked out our rings which were slightly above our budget, but we tripled up the vouchers we had to £345 and ended up paying the difference of £10. But obviously if you pick rings which are within the value of your vouchers they will be FREE! Yipee!

As with everything, terms and conditions apply so I advise you to check if it's the best route for you, and it only applies to Goldsmiths, but even if you have £5 worth of vouchers, that's still £15 off your rings and any discount is a blessing when you're on a budget!

I hope that's been of help to someone, it would be great to hear if it has! I won't necessarily blog about every bargain I find, but keep an eye on my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter under #tinybirdwedding to see what I find!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Sponsored: My Great British Baking Wishlist

Autumn has officially begun and this is when my mind turns to all things comfy and cosy. Snuggley blankets, stylish (and unstylish) knitwear and extra cups of tea! But one of my main comforts is food, especially baking, and with the Great British Bake Off every week tempting me with new and delicious things to try, I think I should give in to temptation. I need something to do as the nights get darker and the weather gets colder!

I also joined my local Scottish Women's Rural Institute (SWRI for short) last week, which is well know for its competitions and home-bakes so I need to up my game and here are the tools I hope will help me!

I think most people would have a KitchenAid Artisan mixer on their wishlist! It not only combines ingredients (heehee!) but also great styling and comes in 27 different colours so it'll look amazing in anyone's kitchen!

After seeing those delicious churros last week on Bake Off, I fancy getting myself a deep fat fryer. Not only will this fry delicious doughnutty treats, but it also does twice cooked chips, another of my super unhealthy loves!

I love to make shortbread, but a nice embossed rolling pin like this Star Wars one would just make it that little bit better!

You can never have too many cookbooks! I only just found out about The Nerdy Mummies Cookbook! Where have I been?!

I love fresh cooked bread and I've only made a cob in the oven before, so a bread maker is a must! I didn't know they were so fancy with scone modes and fruit and nut dispensers!

I must admit that I'm scared to make macarons. I have the recipe, I could easily give it a bash, what's the worst that could happen?! Maybe a macaron mould would help!

And finally, a batter dispenser. It's terribly practical but I'm a dribbler when I try to fill those little cupcake cases or even when I'm making pancakes, so this would probably save me a lot of cleaning up!

So what do you think of my wishlist? Do you have any baking wants or tools you can't do without that I could add to mine?

This post was written in collaboration with Panasonic

Thursday, 15 September 2016

We're Getting Married!

In less than two year's time, Allan and I are getting married!

Engagement Mount Teide Tenerife

We got engaged two years ago when I was pregnant with Sorsha. We were on holiday in Tenerife, our first (and only!) holiday abroad together, and the pregnancy was still a secret. We had been together for less than a year but Allan proposed to me at the foot of Mount Teide and of course I said yes! When you know, you know!

Now that we've had two lovely babies and a move to our dream home it's time to concentrate on the wedding! We've discussed it at length and, luckily, we both want exactly the same thing! It's going to be a small wedding with our nearest and dearest in attendance and it's going to be affordable. We really don't have the money to splash out on anything extravagant and it's not really our style anyway so it'll be all about having a relaxed, fun day on a very small budget.

As we organise things I'll be sharing our plans, along with any hints and tips I pick up along the way to get the best deals for the big day! Feel free to comment with any wisdom you can share!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Review: Papa John's Pizza

Who doesn't like pizza? Everyone has their favourite toppings (don't get me started on the pineapple on pizza debate!) and a favourite takeaway which makes it just the way you like it. One place I had never tried but heard great things about was Papa John's and recently they got in touch and asked me to try them out!

Papa John's has two takeaways in Aberdeen, one on Great Northern Road and one on Holburn Street, so I popped into the latter and picked up our tea then we headed to Duthie Park to munch our pizza picnic!

Allan ordered a side of hot buffalo wings for starter. You get six wings in there and he said they were really hot but delicious!

I dug straight into my pizza, The Greek (feta cheese, red onion, fresh tomatoes, black olives, sliced pepperoncini, mozzarella and oregano). I was a bit surprised that the Greek was spicy but that's totally my fault for not reading the menu properly! I'm not a big fan of anything too spicy so I picked those peppers off! Papa John's has a two spice rating - one chilli means it's hot and two chillis means very hot - and I'd say one chilli was too hot for me! Allan on the other hand loves really spicy food and thought both pizzas were hot but in a good way!

Allan went for the Piri Piri Chicken pizza (Roquito® chilli pepper sauce, double piri-piri chicken, baby Portobello mushrooms and double red pepper). The first thing he said was that the pizza tasted really fresh. He could taste how freshly baked and non-greasy the base was and how tangy the tomato sauce was, but he was disappointed with the lack of chicken on his pizza, especially as it was meant to be double chicken.

For me the highlight was the dessert, cinnamon knots! Anything warm and sweet with cinnamon is a winner and these were no exception! Again they were really fresh and finished off our meal perfectly.

Have you been to Papa John's before?  What did you think?

This post was written in collaboration with Papa John's Pizza

Monday, 29 August 2016

Welcome To The World, Willow Grace - A Birth Story From Dad's Perspective

My partner, Allan, wrote his side of Sorsha's birth story last year so it makes total sense to hear his perspective again for Willow's birth! 

As we both wrote on our perspective on the birth of our first daughter Sorsha we agreed it would be nice to do the same for Willow. Willow's birth was completely different, in that from the outset we knew she was going to be born via c-section. As soon as we knew we were pregnant again we discussed what we would want to do. In these situations while both partners' opinions are important it's ultimately down to the parent bearing the child to decide what happens to their body. As with so many things in our lives Karen and I were in sync and we both agreed that a c-section was the best way to proceed. I'm not about to get into the debate about the best way to have a child but based on our experiences it was definitely a C for us!

We arrived at Ninewells in Dundee at 7:30am. I was born in this hospital and it was nice to think that Willow and I came into the world in the same place. I changed into some seriously tight scrubs followed by some more realistically sized ones! Karen changed into a very fetching gown and we relaxed and chatted while we waited patiently to be served. We were briefed by the midwifes, anaesthetist and surgeons between reminiscing about our previous experience and talked about our fears and reassured each other. We took a few selfies and stayed in good spirits throughout. I especially liked the anaesthetist, he reminded me of a WWII spitfire pilot! Very well spoken but without a hint of arrogance.

It seemed that there were more people to be seen that day than were planned and on top of that emergency caesarians as well. Unlike when we were in Aberdeen the issues effecting the NHS were apparent here. The staff were only too willing to discuss struggling to manage the welfare of the people in their care while balancing their own welfare and it was apparent that they always put others first. This on one hand was a testament to the people who look after us day to day however it brought into sharp relief that the organisation clearly needs access to better funding. Issues included a shortage of pumps to drive drips, and more worryingly a shortage of pillows...a shortage of pillows! That kind of blew my mind. Why would a hospital be in a position where something as simple and fundamental as a pillow be in short supply?! I'm happy to say that our care was not affected and we were treated fantastically throughout which was a contrast to our previous experience. However, I would really worry about how that care would have been affected had there been a lot of people needing to give birth that day. Listening to a midwife talk about not having had a chance to get breakfast having started at 7am and it now being 1pm felt entirely wrong. For many industries and services not being able to get breaks would be a break of policy and safety and I can't help but feel that the full medical profession should find themselves with the support of legislation to support their wellbeing. If every member of staff within the NHS took exactly what they should in terms of breaks I wonder how many more cracks would show? That's enough of the social political commentary!

We were taken into surgery after about a four hour wait. It sounds like a long time but it passed easily. Karen showed just as much bravery as she did the last time. I don't tend to get upset or worried in these situations. A bit (or more) of blood doesn't tend to bother me unless it's coming from someone I care about. If they are upset or distressed I tend to get caught up in their emotions. Unless I am the primary carer I find myself getting very emotional. She's amazing! One more time...Karen's amazing! Everything went smoothly and she was as cool as a cucumber throughout. It wasn't long before Willow was quite literally pulled out (I like to peek and see what's going on) and we got to look at our very gory looking baby! Off she went to get cleaned and weighed. She was quickly back in my arms and we found ourselves calmly chatting and joking with the afore-mentioned anaesthetist. Off we went to the observation room where Karen got straight into breast feeding. This was such a wonderful change from our first time around where it would still be days before Karen would get to properly hold Sorsha. After a number of checks on Karen's vital signs we were off back to the ward and we got to settle in with Willow. Again completely different from our first experience with birth, far from being completely shattered and showing it Karen looked great, and although obviously sore, wasn't suffering from the exhaustion she had felt after hours of labour with Sorsha.

Karen's parents came and visited with Sorsha, it was great to see her cooing at Willow and waving as well. She did make a nuisance of herself running off and needing to be chased down but she's adorable with it. Karen spent only one night on the ward and, mostly I'm sure down to being an experienced parent and having been through all this before, was quickly released the next day. We were all bedded very early and it was nice to have a tiny person sleeping in a basket by the bed.

Despite having been through it all before I'm still plagued by a bit of paranoia and fear. I find myself checking on her often and on occasion stopping to intensely focus on her tiny chest as it almost imperceptibly moves up and down. It'll all pass soon!

It's a great feeling having now completed the family, although we still need to get the dogs but let's not rush that one! It's been the most wonderful experience watching Sorsha develop into the funny and intelligent little girl she is now and I can't wait to see how they grow together!

I am blessed to have met such a wonderful woman. Karen has given me everything I've ever wanted and continues to give beyond my expectations. What's really comforting is that I know I make her feel the same. We have a wonderful family and I hope it never changes.

It's always really interesting reading Allan's side of our birth stories! Thanks for writing this Allan, and for being the best baby-daddy and partner I could ever wish for!

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Maira Gall