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!



Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Welcome To The World, Willow Grace - A Birth Story

On Wednesday 20th July Allan and I walked into Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with a suitcase and an appointment to have our second baby. It felt so strange not to be in labour, but this birth would be a total contrast to Sorsha's entrance only 14½ months earlier.

willow grace baby birth


For a number of reasons and after much discussion between ourselves and the experts we had chosen to have an elective c-section. This was definitely the right decision for us but still came with a set of concerns. What would it be like to have a section without the distraction of natural labour this time? Would the spinal pain relief be agony? How would I feel this time around? Would there be problems? Would she be rushed away like Sorsha was? Like last time I blocked out my worries and focused on one step at a time.

So here we were, in the hospital at 7:30am, waiting to find out when we'd be taken to the operating theatre. I had blood taken by the midwife the day before and had taken the tablets I had been given, one the night before and one in the morning before we left home. I had fasted since midnight and my parents were looking after Sorsha. Another couple arrived after us and we were told that because we were a straightforward case we would go before them but after the emergency sections. After a few more tests and conversations with the midwife, anaesthetist and surgeon, I was told to change into a gown and, a few hours after we arrived, we walked down to theatre!

Sticking to my "one step at a time" process and deep-breathing my way through everything I had a drip and catheter inserted, was hooked up to various machines and the time for the spinal had come. I had no reason to be worried! I have an average pain threshold I think, and I can honestly say that it wasn't that sore. They sprayed my back with a cold spray, gave me a small injection in the back to numb the pain, and the spinal was more pressure than pain. They gave it a few moments to work and double-checked it had taken effect before moving me into position and beginning surgery.

Allan was by my side the whole time, talking to me and giving me updates at one side of the screen and watching the gory bit at the other! About an hour later Willow was born and they lifted her above the screen to show me! I remember seeing this tiny grey skinned baby covered in bright red blood and I started crying. Our baby was here and she was fine! The told me they'd clean her up, stitch me back together and we'd get skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. What a relief!

True to their word Willow was passed to me as soon as I went to the recovery room and they even got me started with breastfeeding! I was wheeled to the ward with our baby in my arms lying next to me and I couldn't believe how different this birth was to Sorsha's.

willow grace birth mum

I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery but luckily they were able to encourage my body to produce more through a drip rather than have a transfusion.

Mum and Dad came to visit that afternoon and we introduced Sorsha to her little sister. Allan stayed with me until evening. Throughout the night I continued to try and feed Willow, stay hydrated and nap, but maternity wards are not an easy place to sleep! As always the midwives were on hand to help and by morning everything was looking good. Allan arrived mid-morning and I was asked if we wanted to leave that day, so by mid-afternoon we were home!

Maybe I have rose-tinted spectacles because of the contrast to Sorsha's birth or the relief that it was nowhere near as bad as I had thought it might be, but I'm so grateful to everyone at Ninewells. The whole way through everyone had been so helpful and reassuring, I felt in such safe hands. Considering they go through roughly the same thing day in, day out they never made it feel routine. The surgeon did such an amazing job, even removing some hard scar tissue from my previous scar. I have healed fantastically and feel so much better, so much quicker than last time. Afterwards Willow was jaundiced and lost a lot of birth weight which was hugely worrying, but she was monitored and with a few adjustments she's back to full health. I'm so glad to have two beautiful, healthy little girls who'll grow up together and hopefully be the best of friends!


Monday, 8 August 2016

Review: Jamie's Italian Restaurant, Aberdeen

Jamie's Italian isn't a new restaurant to Aberdeen, it's been open since 2013, but it's another one of those restaurants that I've wanted to try but never have. I was excited about going here for lunch for my birthday not long after it opened, but it was fully booked and I never quite made it back, until now!

Jamie's Italian Aberdeen chopping board

Jamie's recently launched a new super lunch menu, so I went along with Sorsha and my sister to try it out. The restaurant has a really nice atmosphere, we were made to feel very welcome and the team there couldn't have been nicer. We were seated by a nice big window and Sorsha was given a funky high chair. Surprisingly, in a lot of restaurants, the high chair doesn't actually meet the table properly, so it was nice to have her at our level! It also saves a lot of mess!

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Aberdeen interior

 Luckily we arrived at a quieter time so I didn't feel weird taking photos of everything!

Jamie's Italian Aberdeen interior

First up, we got some drinks in. I was still pregnant at the time and my sister was working so no booze for us *sad face* but the mocktail I had was delicious!

Jamie's Italian mocktail

My sister is a veggie too, so we ended up ordering exactly the same thing while Sorsha had her first kids meal all of her own in a restaurant!

Jamie's Italian Happy Chicken Lollipops

Here she is munching away at her Happy Chicken Lollipops! It comes with "hedgehog" potatoes and a nice little salad tub. It was really nicely presented and everything was in manageable sizes for her.

My sister and I opted for Jamie's Spring Ribollita which is a chunky soup with cannellini beans and spring greens that came with focaccia. It felt a bit odd eating soup in the summer but it was nice and light for a starter.

Jamie's Italian Spring Ribollita

Next up we both went for Spaghetti Primavera with garlic pesto, peas and green beans and it was really nice and summery and fresh. Again it was quite light but filling so was ideal for lunch, didn't want my sister falling asleep at her desk afterwards!

Jamie's Italian Spaghetti Primavera

Unfortunately my sister had to head back to work before dessert, but Sorsha and I shared the most delicious Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake covered in fresh raspberries and amaretti. I can't tell you how good this was! We were both very disappointed when the plate was empty!

Jamie's Italian Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake

We had a really nice time at Jamie's, it was great to catch up with my sister over good food in a nice atmosphere and the team did everything they could to make us feel at home and keep Sorsha entertained!

The Super Lunch menu is great value at £10.95 for two dishes or £12.95 for three courses and the fact that the food was so fresh and tasty for that price is amazing! Sorsha's meal was £6.50 including a drink but, to celebrate the launch of Jamie's new cookbook Super Food Family Classics, kids eat free for the whole of August! Take a look at Jamie's website for full details and conditions etc.

This post was written in collaboration with Jamie's Italian Restaurant, Aberdeen


Monday, 18 July 2016

Review: Jim Jams Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

I must admit that I struggle to come up with breakfast ideas for Sorsha. Most of the time I could live on toast or whatever cereal there is in the cupboard, but I feel I have to make a better effort to introduce new and varied choices for her. I try not to spoil her with sweet treats either, most days she has cereal, yogurt, fruit, that kind of thing, but at the weekends I try to make it a bit more exciting with waffles or pancakes. That's where Jim Jams hazelnut chocolate spread comes in!

jim jams hazelnut chocolate spread on toast

Jim Jams' range of jams and spreads came from the same place, a parent's desire to give their children a tasty treat without all the added sugar. Not only has it less sugar but also reduced fat cocoa, so it's better for kids, diabetics, low-calorie diets and it's gluten-free.

jim jams hazelnut chocolate spread and toast

But what about the taste? Well I can tell you it is delicious and very moreish! Allan and Sorsha both loved it too so it gets a definite thumbs up from this household!

This post was written in collaboration with Jim Jams


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