Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Gift Of Giving Homemade

As you may have noticed, Christmas recently occurred.  As the parent of a just-turned-three year old, there was much excitement to be had; indeed, Jas delighted in everything.  From making cookies to decorating cards; from helping to wrap presents to leaving a glass of milk and a mince pie for Father Christmas - everything added to her festive experience.

Of course, the aforementioned were merely the trimmings; the real meat of her excitement stemmed from the promise of presents from the mysterious and yet omnipresent Father Christmas.  I still get excited about receiving a surprise gift so to get a whole heap of them in one go at the age of three must be mind-blowing.  And yes, both Jas and Sonny had a lot of presents.  Some expensive, some cheaper, but all were things that they had either asked for, or that we thought they would enjoy.

However, being on a tight budget this year, the majority of people received homemade gifts from us.  I have been meaning to give homemade presents for years now, but never seemed to have the time or inclination to go through with it.  But this year, I found a few recipes that inspired me to put good intentions into practise.  It was a lot easier than I had always expected; and the results weren't too bad either.

I made pfeffernusse, as pictured above, for my partner.  He loves the stuff and Lidl had sold out, so it seemed like the perfect gift.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a little on the hard side, but the flavours were all there.  James loved it, thankfully.

I made two batches of chocolate and walnut fudge (using Dairy Milk rather than the specified "semisweet chocolate pieces") and it turned out really well.  I was impressed by the speed of the process, the low cost of the recipe and the finished article; and enjoyed a whole lot of positive comments from young and old alike.  For gifting, I collected six squares into medium-sized silver organza bags (available online for pence).

For one young cousin, I made my own hot chocolate, which I poured into a cellophane bag and presented with a bag of mini marshmallows, a packet of chocolate sprinkles (left over from a trifle packet mix), two candy canes and a mug I knew would make him smile!

For my sisters, it was chocolate brownie jars - a one litre glass jar with airtight seal, filled with layers of flour, cocoa powder, caster sugar and finished off with a festive ribbon tied round the top, a bag of milk chocolate chips and a luggage tag on which I wrote the baking instructions on one side and their name on the other.

Finally, for my best friend, I found a mocha recipe which, once made, was packaged in a small glass jar and presented with a festive ribbon and a bag of mini marshmallows.

Other gifts were less homemade but still personal; we had photos of Jas and Sonny taken by Charlie from Bigger Pixel at their local music group, which we then framed and wrapped.  These went down very well!

The feedback we have received from our homemade gifts has been much more positive and appreciative than in previous years when we have spent large amounts of money at Boots and the like.  A homemade present displays the thought and effort that has gone into choosing and then creating it and, sometimes, you just can't buy that.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Words My Baby Knows

For the purposes of remembering just how much Sonny, our 15 month old, has amazed and delighted us with his growing vocabulary over the past few weeks, here is a list of the words he now can say (some of them perfectly; others a little less well!):


New words on a daily basis!  We are so proud of you, little man.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy Birthday Jasmine

Dear Jas,

My baby girl is three.  I am still struggling to find where the time has gone since you were tiny and pink and screaming.  And yet it also feels as though you have been with us forever.  My life before you seems so dull compared to how it is now, with you in it; bouncing and laughing and so full of life.

You have learnt so much this last year: how to do a forward roll, unaided; how to scoot really quickly; how to crack an egg (more successfully that I can); how to count to 20; how to recognise numbers and letters; how to be the most excellent big sister and how to make anything into a great game.  When you turned two, you were not the big girl you are today; you were dependent on nappies, dummies and bottles.  Now, at three, you are completely potty-trained and can settle yourself with a book; although we must have a chat about your bedtime delaying tactics soon.

I am so very proud of you, Jasmine.  Admittedly, this blog is called Smiles and Trials because of you and your ability to bring so much brilliant fun and horrific frustration to any day.  But even through the difficult times, I am proud of you.  You are fiercely independent and headstrong.  You know your own mind better than some adults I've encountered over the years - how could I not be proud of that?
You also have the incredible ability to walk into any situation and just get on with it.  Whether it be gymnastics, ballet, Caterpillars, art class, a brand new preschool or just the local park, you get stuck in and invariably end up giggling away with some new friend or other.  And you are getting really, really good at concentrating.  I am very impressed with this.  The foam mosaic you made with Daddy was beautiful.  Your enthusiasm for reading and writing is brilliant.  Your new-found adoration of the Wizard of Oz is less fun, but I can deal with that.

Sometimes, it would be nice if you listened to us.

But it is always lovely to have you here, Jas.  I miss you when you go to sleep.

I love you more than my arms can show.  I love you to the moon....and back!

Happy birthday!

Love, Mummy xxx

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Blinking does strange things to people.  I blinked once.

I closed my eyes on Mini looking like this:

And when I opened them again, she looked like this:

I then made the mistake of doing the same thing with Sunshine.

In one blink, he went from this:

To this handsome chap:

I really must stop blinking.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blogging at 1am

Jas woke up 45 minutes ago, disturbed by her cough.  She came into our bed for gorgeous cuddles and talked of funny dreams and happy things.  As Daddy drifted back to sleep, we spoke of her impending third birthday in hushed excitement.  Then came talk of her party.  Jas asked me who was coming and I began listing people.  When I had finished my list, she asked if her big brother would be there.  I had to say no; he would be with his mum.  Jas began to cry; not loud, exaggerated sobs but quiet, fat tears.
She didn't even want a cuddle.
I cried a bit too, heartbroken by seeing my little girl upset and being unable to do anything about it.
Not a good moment.

Eventually, I came up with the idea of giving her another birthday, this weekend, when her big brother will be able to attend.  There will be party games, music, cakes, a (very small) present and hopefully lots of fun and laughter.  Jas was pleased with this idea, excited by it.
We are both still quite awake now.  I have made Jas a bed at the foot of our own and she lies there now, propped up on her pillows, watching a film.  Happy again.  So much so that she wants to do this every night.  I've not yet told her that this is unlikely; it is too good to see her smiling again.

I love you, Jas.  So much so that I will forego a decent night's sleep just to watch your beautiful face.  I am sorry that there are some things I cannot change, but anything I can do to make you happy, I will do.  Always.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

For Better, For Worse

Dear Mr. E

So, we have had a hectic few weeks full of noise, stress, financial problems, Mini arguments, and that lovely upset tummy of Sunshine's.  Oh, and not forgetting the beautiful way in which people treat us with such respect.  Life will get better, though.  I know this, because I love you, for better, for worse and forever.  That's what really matters.


Monday, 31 October 2011


Today, Mini had her first experience of trick or treating, and boy, did she have fun!  The evening did not start so well as, whilst creating a beautiful autumn picture, Mini looked sad and, upon questioning, revealed that she was upset that it was Halloween and yet her friends had not come to see her.  In actuality, we were not expecting them.  Mini's Halloween party is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but she had seen all of the pumpkins, skeletons and other assorted decorations outside and assumed that partying was imminent.

Fortunately, when faced with the opportunity to dress up as a beautiful pumpkin and walk the streets collecting chocolate, Mini managed to smile again.  There was a slight wobble when she thought that her outfit was a dress (unacceptable, to Mini) but I managed to allay her fears by pairing it with burnt orange trousers thereby turning it into a "top".

When finally outside, Mini was so "incited", as she says, and was literally hopping up and down outside people's doors.  I had to laugh, as did everyone who opened the door to this tiny toddler pumpkin with her blonde hair and Converse trainers.  She was just so cute.  Not in the least bit scary, and not caring, just having a great time, giggling away.  And every time a door was answered and she was given a treat, she would walk away grinning as though it was the last thing she had expected.  Every time, she would show me the contents of her pumpkin bucket and exclaim, "I love that lady for giving me a chocolate; lucky, lucky me," with wide-eyed wonder and heartfelt gratitude.

Yes, she was spoilt by our neighbours, but she just loved dressing up and getting involved and I am very proud of her for being brave enough to knock on doors all by herself, in the dark, with hairy spiders hanging from various places.  I couldn't have done it tonight, let alone when I was two.

Although I don't have to worry about being scared of spiders because, "I will good after you, Mummy; I am not at all scared of spiders."

(Yes, she does think it's "good after" and not "look after".  Gorgeous, isn't it?)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cooking - An Inexact Science

One of my "25 Things to do Before I'm 25" goals was to cook a new recipe every week.  Another was to cook more with Mini.  Today, I combined the two. 

To be fair, I did adopt a rather lazy approach to the "new recipe" goal by simply slightly adapting a favourite, but it has worked rather well.

Mini and I made chocolate cinnamon muffins using the following recipe:-

150g self-raising flour, sifted
150g caster sugar
150g margarine
75g Whittards Luxury hot chocolate
75g Whittards Luxury cinnamon hot chocolate
2 eggs
1tbsp water

Now, I know you're supposed to use cocoa rather than drinking chocolate but this really works...and it was all we had in the house.

Here is the method we employed:-

Step One - put all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until it looks yummy.

Step Two - allow toddler to test that it definitely is yummy.

Step Three - Fill cake cases with the mixture.  If you can't find a proper muffin tray (I couldn't), then a baking tray will be fine.  You may, however, not be able to fit an even number of cases on to the tray.

Step Four - Set oven to 190 and wait for it to heat up (if you're like me, you too will have forgotten
to do this at the right time).  After five minutes or so, get impatient and pop muffins in anyway.  Leave to bake for around 15 minutes, or until they look edible.  Remove from oven.

Step Five - Admire. 

They really are very yummy.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Suncliff Hotel, Bournemouth

Last weekend, James and I spent the night in Bournemouth.  It was a last-minute decision as we had planned to go camping but decided not to trust the increasingly windy weather.
I found the Suncliff Hotel whilst searching cheap places to stay on  The offer was irresistible.  For £39, we could stay in a room with a sea view, have full use of the leisure facilities and even enjoy a cooked breakfast.  I was sold.

We arrived on a Sunday, when many people were leaving, and got to our room around 3pm.  It was clean and well-equipped with double-aspect sea views, a four-poster bed and a flat-screen TV.  Excellent.

The location is fantastic, being a mere 5 minute walk from the beautiful sandy beaches of Bournemouth and Boscombe and only 15 minutes from the town centre, with its brilliant array of shops and lovely gardens.

Having wandered round town and taken in the delights of the Russell-Coates Museum, we returned to the hotel around 7pm and headed down to the leisure suite.  Being a Sunday evening, we had it to ourselves and quickly found the bubbling hot tub.  Next up was the sauna, which was a first for both of us, and finally the pool, which we had to ourselves for almost an hour before a couple of friendly honeymooners joined us.  Everything was very clean, the water was warm, and the fact that it was so quiet was the icing on the cake.

Following our swim, we popped upstairs to the bar for a couple of drinks, which we enjoyed on the terrace, with the sounds of the sea behind us.  Finally, we headed to our bed, which was ridiculously comfortable.

After a fantastic night's sleep, we woke for breakfast which was, simply, amazing.  A self-service full English plus toast, cereal, fruit, bread, jam, marmalade, ham, cheese, yogurt and three types of juice.  I had never seen so much food on offer and was very impressed with the selection, particularly considering the price of the room.  We filled up enough to last us until dinner time!

The staff were all very friendly and always greeted us with smiles, which made us feel very welcome.  The only negative aspect that I could come up with is the décor, which is rather dated.  But, really, who cares, when you get so much for your money, and in a gorgeous location to boot?

Very happy customers!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

25 Things To Do Before I'm 25

I turned 24 this month.  To me, this means one thing - this time next year I will be 25.

I will have been on the planet for a quarter of a century.

With this is mind, I quickly realised that there are still so many things I want to achieve, or simply to experience, and decided to challenge myself to fit 25 of them into the next 12 months.

Here is my list:

Write a novel - this has been on my to-do list since I was about 12 years old, and I aim to begin my novel on 1st November 2011, as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Read a new book every month - one a month may not sound like a lot, but when you have two children under the age of three, it is a real achievement to find the time to read anything at all!

Start learning to drive and pass my theory test - I have wanted to drive since I was 17 and never got round to it, but I think now is the right time.  If I don't do it soon, I may never!

Cook a new recipe once a week - I love to cook, but can get into the habit of cooking the same dishes over and over again so think that this challenge is an important one.  It will also (hopefully) expose my children to new and wonderful flavours and cultures.

Pass the next module on my degree course - therefore bringing me one step closer to my BA.

Visit Thorpe Park and go on everything - just because I never have.

Swim in the sea - I used to look forward to doing this every summer, but haven't for as long as I can remember, certainly not since having children.  It's about time I got back into it!

Visit Amsterdam - everyone should have a travel goal.  Mine is realistic for us at the moment - just about affordable if we're sensible.

Host a dinner party - a chance to try out my signature dishes on people I'm not related to.  Who wants to come?!

Take Sonny to Spain to see the grandparents he has not yet met - think this one is self-explanatory!

Play a game of crazy golf - nope, never done this, either.

Ride a quad bike or similar - for the fun of it, and because Jas would think I was awesome if I did it.

Visit Stonehenge - because it has always intrigued me.

Go to a greyhound race meeting (or whatever it's called) - again, something I've never done but always wanted to do.

Save money towards our wedding - so that I can finally be Mrs. Ellis.

See Lulworth Cove - to see if I can take a photo as good as those that I have seen.

Visit Lancing College - it's only round the corner, seems silly not to.

Take the children to Legoland - because seeing them that excited would make me happy...and because I've never been either.

Cook with Jas at least once a week - in the last few months, Jas has perfected her egg-cracking technique to the extent that she is now better at it than I am.  My aim is to introduce her to new techniques to expand her knowledge and love of cooking.

Take Sonny on a boat - I think he would enjoy this.

Eat at Interwok - because it sounds amazing and I've been meaning to go since it opened.

Pick a pumpkin from a farm and carve it - with Halloween approaching, this seems easily achievable.

Visit Harrods - never been!

Take the children to Hamleys at Christmas - I don't know who would be more excited by this - them or me!

Learn how to play chess - because I had lessons when I was 10 and have since forgotten what I learnt.  This annoys me.

So, with the goals outlined above, I'd better get on and start completing them.  I promise to blog about my progress!

Thursday, 6 October 2011


National Novel Writing Month is an annual creative writing project in which participants are challenged to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month.

Guess what I'm doing this November?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Day at the Beach - in OCTOBER


This was the scene on Littlehampton beach this afternoon.  Hundreds of people sunbathing, swimming in the sea, queuing for ice creams.  It was warmer than July, and much more beautiful.  Busy, bustling; summery, even though, technically, it is autumn.  The scent of sun cream was back in the air, along with battered fish and vinegar-soaked chips.  The childen played in sand.  There was no need for sleeves.  We ate al fresco - a picnic and a barbecue all in one day.  I wore flip flops and, later, went barefoot in the sand.  The sunlight picked out the children's blue eyes in photos, lit them like candles.  It was, without question, a day of perfection.

I am still struggling to believe it is October.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Outside, the night is cold; the sky black, bejewelled.  The smouldering tangerine sun set hours earlier, before dinnertime.  During the day, the sun was warm but the air cool; bright leaves lay in piles, untouched in places, and crisped at the edges like toast.

Soon, burnt orange pumpkins will be plucked from the ground, carved, and filled with glinting lights.  Colours will explode in the sky and sparklers will be held in gloved fists; names written excitedly in the air.  Fires will blaze; marshmallows will be torched then devoured, their centres gooey.

Snow may fall, later.  Endless crystals dropping to Earth, concealing its blemishes in pristine white.  Children will marvel at it, use it to form men, slide down it; muddy its edges.  Then, it will vanish, melt away like it never existed at all.  Fires will roar inside darkened rooms; cocoa will be sipped.

The promise of Christmas will bloom, bringing with it golds and reds; lights, spices, trees, and gifts.  Food will be consumed in abundance, drink will flow.  Children will burn brightly inside, glow like the flickering candles reflected in their faces. Count days off on their fingers, or calendars.  Letters will be answered by Santa, who will squeeze into homes, leave bundles of excitement beneath the tree and watery footprints, if you look closely enough. 

The most wonderful time of the year.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Happy Birthday, Sonny

Dear Sonny,

This time last year, I was in hospital, midway through an induction that couldn't be continued overnight due to a staff shortage.  Everybody was giving birth that evening.  I was uncomfortable; annoyed at being 13 days overdue; miserable at the thought of Daddy's imminent departure, and starting to doubt that I was even pregnant anymore.  I just wanted to go home.

30 minutes later, I was in labour.  Daddy had just left, was probably not even home yet.  The midwife had also disappeared and so I spent a while texting my best friend in Dubai, trying to pass the time.  Hours passed and the pain increased to the extent where I was certain you were about to make an appearance.  I called the midwife, begged her to examine me, which she eventually did.

"4cm," she said, smugly.

She gave me paracetamol and a sleeping tablet and told me to get some rest.  It was 10:30pm.

By midnight, I knew it was the real thing; knew you really were on your way.  I begged the staff to let me call Daddy, and he arrived shortly after 12:30.  We were given a side room as all the delivery suites were busy.  We were left alone.

A lot of what happened between midnight and 4am is a blur of ineffective pain relief methods - TENS machine, a hot bath, codeine.  Nothing made a difference.  I asked for pethidine but the nurse wasn't qualified to administer it, said I would need to wait until I was in the delivery suite.  By the time a room was free, it was just after 4am and it was too late for pethidine so I opted for the only other thing on offer - gas and air.

It was so hot in that room.  Daddy kept opening the window when our student midwife left the room.  Every time she came back, she told him off and closed it again, said something about a risk of infection.  Daddy was also hot, and tired.  He fell asleep in the chair by the bed, and the midwife (called Amy, I think), kept leaving the room.  It was strange to be alone; Lucozade in one hand, entonox in the other.

At some point close to the time you were born, the midwife checked on your heart rate and I distinctly remember needing to know that you were ok.

"I love him," I said.  It was the first time I had said those words about you.

At 06.10am, on Friday 24th September 2010, you finally arrived.  It took all my energy and effort to get you into the World, with the threat of a caesarean hanging in the air.  Even in a confused state, I knew that you needed me to come through for you.

Your first cry was fractured but it was there.  I kept asking if you were alright; I asked Daddy, asked the midwives.  They all nodded, said of course, you were fine.  Your airways were cleared.  Then came the proper crying; the healthy, hungry yell.

You were wrapped in a towel and handed to me, wide awake, taking in your new surroundings.  Your lips and hands were blue; I kissed you and you were cold, so I held you closer.  You looked at me; you were so beautiful.

From that precious moment onwards, you were the best son in the World.  Daddy and I loved you immediately, off the scale.  So proud.  A boy!  A son.  We couldn't have been happier.

So there we have it, Sonny boy - the story of what happened this time last year.  The beginning of your beautiful life. 

You have changed so much already; you are a proper little boy now.  Gone are the baby days.  Sad, but necessary.  I am proud that YOU are my son, I would not want it any other way.

Thank you for an incredible year.  I hope you enjoy your presents in the morning; I hope we have chosen well!  I hope you read this one day and know how special you are.

I love you.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Mini is a bit of a tomboy.  She prefers trousers to skirts (because they're easier to climb trees in), shows no particular interest in Barbie dolls and make up (thank God), and loves to play football.

But she is still a girl. 

She looks beautiful in dresses, has the best pointy toes at ballet and likes to have her hair blowdried after her bath.

It really does bug me when people watch her climbing at the park and come over just to say that their daughter wouldn't do that because, "she's just too girly".

Females are allowed to be athletic, fit and strong as well as enjoying baking and painting their toes in pretty colours.

It isn't just boys who can climb, you know.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Mini's Music

Daddy made Mini a CD for the car the other day.  About half of it is fairly unremarkable listening for a 2.5 year old; classics such as Humpty Dumpty, Dingle Dangle Scarecrow and The Wheels on the Bus.

The other half, however, is rather more unusual toddler fare.  The following songs have been personally picked out by Mini as being her favourites:

Jorge Regula by The Moldy Peaches
My Girl Lollipop by Bad Manners
Surfin' Bird by The Ramones
Something In The Way She Moves by The Beatles
I Got Love by The King Blues
Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers (known as "The Jasmine One" in our car)
Fuego by Bomba Estéreo
Mama Do by Pixie Lott
and her absolute favourite:  Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen.

The purpose of this post is to remind me just how special my little girl is.  So individual and funny; and she certainly has better taste in music than I do!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Four Weeks, Three Children, Two Adults; One Summer

Summer.  A time for picnics, sunbathing and swimming in the sea.  Unless you're English, in which case you can scratch at least two items from that list.

Since the schools broke up for the holidays, my partner and I have been racking our brains to find new and interesting ways of simultaneously entertaining a teenager, a toddler and a baby.

So far, we have been swimming (twice) and ice skating, had picnics in various locations, been to a farm, been fruit picking, cleaned up an old rowing boat, been to an air show, taken treks up hills and around gardens, been to many parks, and spent numerous days trapped indoors by rain watching family movies, baking cakes and making stuff out of dough.

And what fun the children have had!

Teenager and baby play computer games

First time on slide!

Toddler and teenager make muffins

Fun at the park

A pony ride for the toddler

Toddler and baby share a swing

Teenager on a seesaw - who knew?!

Paddling pool fun

Toddler tries out the PS2

First time ice skating fo a very excited Mini

Teenager supervises toddler on the ice

Toddler borrows a helmet at Eastbourne air show

So, as the new school term approaches, I'm feeling confident that we've done a fairly good job of keeping all children reasonably entertained.  And for this week's itinerary?  Ceramic café, treasure hunt, Lewes Castle and probably a few trips to the park.

I'm exhausted just typing that...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The First Shoes

Sonny Robert James Ellis; aged (almost) 11 months - new shoes and football.

Sure signs he's growing up!

Friday, 5 August 2011

All Things White and Clichéd

I am not your average bride.  This certainty has come to me over the last few days as I have been trawling the internet for inspiration on how to plan our Big Day.  It seems that there are two camps to fit into - those who want a "proper" wedding, and those who cannot afford to have one.

Whatever happened to individuality?

Here are some things that you apparently must do:-

1:  You must be married in church.
2:  You must wear a big, white, unflattering dress.
3:  You must buy many flowers, at huge expense.
4:  You must arrive at aforementioned church in a posh car that no one will see much of.  This will cost you hundreds of pounds.
5:  You must have a huge cake of many tiers and save a layer for the Christening of your first child (!).
6:  You must hire a crappy DJ to play music that no one really likes.
7:  You must have a stranger follow you around with a camera all day; an act that would usually result in a phone call to the police.  You must also give them lots of cash for the privilege, regardless of how the photos come out.
8:  You must have a best man, who will pupport to be the Groom's mate and then use him to get cheap laughs from your family and friends.
9:  You must greet your guests before they enter your reception.  The same guests who were at your wedding ceremony.  And in the photos.  And talking to you five minutes ago before they had to leave the room just to come back in again.
10:  You must remortgage your home to pay for anything that you cannot immediately afford.

Now, as you may have noticed, I have issues with a lot of these so-called traditions; partly because they waste money, partly because they lack imagination and partly because some of them are just stupid.

Don't get me wrong, I see the sense in celebrating the love between two people, but I do not see the sense in spending thousands of pounds trying to achieve the kind of day that has been done to death.

Where's the harm in going for something a little bit different?

Honestly, the best wedding I've been to took place at a register office and was followed by a picnic in the garden of the bride and groom.  It was never about a big, lavish party, it was all about love.

And I hope that in amidst all the mounting excitement of planning our wedding I will keep that thought in mind.  A wedding is about love, not oneupmanship.  It doesn't matter if I don't arrive at the venue in a horse-drawn vehicle, it matters that James is waiting for me when I get there, and it matters that our families come together to celebrate our love and the fact that we are pledging our lives to one another.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

On Anniversaries and Proposals

James and I have been together for four years tomorrow.  I not only remember the date but that it was a Friday and that he called my mobile to ask me out; that he was at the park at the time, and that it was five weeks after our first kiss.

A lot has happened in the last four years.  Two children have been created, for a start.  Beautiful, intelligent, hilarious children of whom I am very proud.  There have been bad times as well as good but I'm sure I speak for us both when I say that it has all made our relationship stronger.

So: four years of love, fun, laughter, holidays, new homes and tiny babies.

And now a proposal.

Though I have hoped and quietly assumed for some time that we would marry one day, I was never really expecting a proposal.  I suppose you would have to know James to understand what I mean by this, but it was genuinely a surprise to hear him actually asking those four magic words.

Four words after four years; almost like it was planned or something.

I have a ring, albeit a temporary one while we save for a more durable piece of jewellery.  It is not really the ring that is important anyway, more the love that it symbolises.  I may not be rich in materials but I have someone who is happy to give me all that he has and who will love me til the end of the World.

What could be better than that?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Exam time

Mini has an exam on Sunday, at the grand old age of two years and eight months.  It is her first ballet exam and nothing too complex but yet another reminder of the speed at which she is growing up.

She knows what she has to do and will ace this exam providing she keeps her concentration.  I'm not saying she's easily distracted or anything but today was a show day at ballet where all the parents can admire the progress of their offspring and, in amidst the pointing of toes, the curtseys and the swooping, Mini stopped to tell a little girl in the audience that she had the same shoes as her.

And so her fate lies in the hands of her examiner - let's hope they don't wear anything that Mini recognises as her own...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Things To Do In Bournemouth When You're Skint

My sisters expressed an interest in taking Mini out for the day on Saturday and I decided to take advantage of this offer, which resulted in Daddy and I having approximately 48 hours to ourselves.  We both love Bournemouth (and its surrounding area) and try to get down there as often as possible, and so this is where we ended up at the weekend.

Being parents, we are perpetually cash poor but tend to view this as rather exciting as it gives us the opportunity to look for cheap or, preferably, free things to do when we are out and about.  And Bournemouth provides a number of great things that fall into the "affordable" category.

We started out with a trip to Dean Court to pick up tickets for the EC Cup, which were very reasonably priced.  We then headed to the Sovereign Centre in neighbouring Boscombe for a bit of window shopping (the weather was awful at this stage) and lunch.  There was a market on the street outside, selling a variety of fresh foods including fish presumably caught in the sea not 5 miles from where it was being sold.

After lunch, we headed back to Dean Court to watch an obscure German team hammer a premier league side from Russia, and to see the cherries struggle against the Glenn Hoddle Academy team who were eventually beaten on penalties.  The stadium itself is interesting in the fact that it has only three sides (north, west and east stands), though I would only recommend you visit Dean Court if you're a football fan and it is match day.

By the time the football was over, it was nearing 6pm, the sky had cleared and the sun was out.  We drove to the cliffs that run the length of the coast and parked between Boscombe and Bournemouth piers.  We decided that it was a little late to try out the Urban Surf Reef just east of Boscombe Pier but vowed to add it to our next Dorset itinerary.
We took in the view from the clifftop for a few minutes before heading down one of the zigzag paths that takes you all the way down to the beach (the cliff lift was closed!).

And what a beach!  As one more accustomed to the unattractive pebbles, smelly seaweed and murky water of Worthing beach, it is always a delight to take in the sights and sounds of Bournemouth's golden sands and warm, aquamarine surf.

We walked to the amusements at the head of the pier and spent a fair amount of money trying to win some 2 pence pieces before stepping outside just in time to see two people fired skyward in a human catapult disguising itself as a fairground ride.  The fact that they had paid £25 between them for the privilege only caused me more bemusement.

We made our way to the spectacular gardens, which remained busy well into the evening, the majority of the activity coming from tourists and students.  The crazy golf was still open at 7pm and though the Bournemouth Eye (a tethered balloon) was not, it still makes for an impressive sight.  We looked for somewhere to eat on the streets directly north of the gardens and eventually decided on Pizza Hut as, though everywhere looked busy, it seemed the least full.  This seemed to change once we were settled at our table as a group of eight loud teenagers were crammed in next to us; the meal was nice, though.
Finally, we walked off our dinner by strolling back through the gardens via the vibrant aviary and the majestic Russel Coates museum.

If you are heading to Dorset anytime soon, do not be afraid to stop in Bournemouth; there is plenty to keep everyone entertained and a lot of it is free.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Baby Steps

Sunshine can walk, unaided.  He doesn't do it very often, but he can.  He is (precisely) 9 months and three weeks old, which is around the time that his sister started walking.

He prefers to hold hands with you when he walks, it is like he doesn't trust himself to take his first steps all on his own. 

One of the most beautiful things I have seen in all my days is his sister taking him by the hand and walking with him, wherever he decides to lead her.

She is so proud of her brother.

Obviously, I am proud of them both.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Gallery: Travel

Paris, March 2010.

My first view of the Eiffel Tower:

It was a Tuesday morning, cool but hazy.  I think this was the furthest I've been from home.  I was about 10 weeks pregnant and missing our daughter but it was still the best holiday I've been on.

I cannot wait to go further afield.  Watch this space!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Do Ducks Have Knees?

On the way home from ballet this afternoon, Mini sat down in the middle of a conservation area, folded her legs and told us a story.

"Once upon a time," she said, "a duck went for a walk.  He climbed a tree and tried to pick an apple but he couldn't reach so he jumped down and hurt his knee."

She smiled and stood up to continue our walk home.

"Do ducks have knees?"  I asked, after a few moments.

"Of course they do, Mummy," she replied, running ahead.

And that was that.  An interesting insight into the mind of a two year old.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy Birthday, Sam

This little boy is 13 today.  Happy birthday, Sam.


This is what he looked like when I met him.  Happy birthday, Sam.

This is what he looks like nowadays.  Happy birthday, Sam.

Hope you've had a great day.  See you soon.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


I love to photograph my children as they sleep, their beautiful faces smooth and peaceful.  To illustrate this point, I have images.  Lots of them...

Love it!