Outside

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It’s been so sunny here this week we’ve been able to spend so much time outdoors in the garden, eating petals and soil (baby gal), making ridiculously complicated obstacle courses (first born), reading the paper (husband), and mowing through the lawnmower cable (yours truly). Yes, there I was one minute, having just put my daughter down for a nap, feeling like I was on top of things, cutting the grass, enjoying the glorious weather, loving my garden, then oh, the power cut out and the air turned blue!

Minor problems aside, isn’t it great to live a little more outside? Some of my happiest childhood memories are of playing out with my sister or my friends, in the paddling pool, lounging on the swinging bed (remember those? How retro), or playing swingball marathons at the bottom of the garden. As I crawl round the garden, picking trodden in pink play doh out of the grass, clambering over boxes of husband’s medical equipment in the shed to get to a bicycle pump, or bribing first born to tidy at least some of his toys away, I hope these are the kinds of things they remember when they’re older. Rather that than the regular cries from their mum of “listen, I’ve told you now five times, now please just do it!” Or another favourite, “no don’t pick her up, please only if she’s in danger, look she can’t breathe! If she’s crying it means she doesn’t want to be picked up!”

Now my baby gal is growing bigger, it’s heart-meltingly lovely to see her and her brother play together like this. It’s moments like this when I think giving our son a little sister truly is the best thing about having a second child.

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My June style loves

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You heard all about my lovely lunch when I was down in Cambridge, but I also managed to find time for a bit of shopping. Not online for a change which meant I could actually try some stuff on rather than just order whatever looked good on a model taller and slimmer than me and hope for the best!

On my travels I ended up browsing round River Island, which I haven’t shopped in for years. A few friends whose style I love have mentioned they’ve bought a few things from there lately so I thought it was worth taking a look. I tried a few things on, including this gorgeous chambray shell top with cut out trim. I bought that and an oversize white t-shirt, which I’m not sure whether I am too old for or not! You’ll know my decision if you ever see me wearing it.

Next up I went to Kurt Geiger, where I tried to spend the voucher which my friend bought for me a while back. While they had loads of beautiful shoes, unfortunately they didn’t have the ones I liked in my size, so I will be waiting til I can go shopping again to get the ones I want. It will either be the mannish Carvela brogues in a nude leather, or the gold sandals my husband later described as “cyborg”.

What I was very pleased with though is the holy grail of all wardrobe staples, the perfect pair of jeans. These are so soft and the fit is perfect for me. They don’t seem to sag at the knee either after just one wear which is what most skinny pairs I’ve had seem to do. They’re from Mint Velvet, which had a promotion on in John Lewis so I saved myself a few quid too. I can’t resist a bargain, it’s the Yorkshire in me!

Another one of my Asos finds is shown in this photo too, although due to our changeable weather it’s still hanging in my wardrobe waiting to be worn. It’s a bright green cami top, with a really cute flower design. The kind of thing I could see being made into a little girls’ dress. See, there I go again, wishing more shops did matching mum and child outfits.

I’ve also got a bit of a crush on a pair of leopard print Solillas sandals in Office. I tried them on with a friend who said they were like slippers and not her cup of tea, which kind of put me off. Still love ’em tho! Every summer I try on a pair of leopard print shoes and still I’ve never owned a pair.

What are your June wardrobe staples, and what’s on your shopping wishlist?

Memory book

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I couldn’t function without making lists. If I don’t write things down I’m done for, and even when I do I often fail to check my diary and forget anyway. My kitchen is filled with scraps of paper and several old pads with important and not so important things scrawled upon them. If I’m this diligent about writing down the minutiae, why am I so rubbish at writing down the stuff that really matters? Like the new email address I set up and linked to a twitter account in 2012, which is now hanging around in cyberspace, untouched due to my own inability to hack into my own life. Or more importantly, the things I really do want to remember in years to come, like my children’s first words and cute mispronounciations. Sound familiar? At the time I was always correcting but now they’re gone, I kind of miss them and don’t want those memories to slip away.

When my son was about two years old, when we called his name he always used to shout: “I comin’!”. I remember his first real sentence, when he was playing with a new bath toy he got for his second Christmas, he said: “I press the button and the bubbles comin’ in!” So cute. After “Daddy,” his first word was “cat”, but I have a friend whose daughter’s first utterance was “beer”. How could you forget that gem? But just in case you do, you better write it down. So now, before my daughter starts to talk, I’m going to do what I’ve been planning to do for five years. I’m going to start a memory book in this delightful notepad. It was handmade and screen printed by my friend’s sister Cathryn Weatherhead. She is based in Cardiff’s Morgan Arcade and her work is so beautiful and inspiring I think this book is special enough to hold these thoughts inside. It says “Beth am fynd am antur,” which luckily for me is translated on the label as “Let’s go on more adventures”. And who wouldn’t agree with that?

Cambridge – Buns and browsing

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With all the stress of last week’s operation and gut-wrenching (pardon the pun) worry, I suddenly found myself hanging around the hospital waiting for visiting time. Or at least, time that I could blag myself in outside of visiting hours with a cup of tea (for me) and a newspaper (for him). Elated at losing the fear that something terrible was about to happen and having a bit of free time, I did what any self-respecting woman with child-free time would do. I went shopping. There’s nothing like a good bit of browsing to take your mind off things, oh apart from exercise, which I’m afraid has taken a back seat in my life lately, apart from the odd pilates class. The last time I made a class I had to laugh to myself as the instructor declared: “Everyone is doing really well, yes even you, Julia!”

I have to say, Cambridge isn’t somewhere I’d thought about visiting before, but I fell a little bit in love with the place. Walking down the cobbled streets, past the colleges so steeped in history with their beautiful and statuesque architecture, makes it feel really special. I’d already walked down by the river, on my last visit to the city when we came to see my husband’s consultant last month. But there was one place I wanted to visit and that was Fitzbillies.

I’d read about this bakery-turned-cafe in the The Observer Food Monthly magazine a few years ago, and had always fancied paying a call. I remember reading about this couple who saved the famous bakery from closure, turning it into something really special and I really wanted to try it for myself. It didn’t disappoint. I ordered a bagel with smoked salmon and salad, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I can’t even remember the last time I ate lunch without simultaneously feeding a small child, so to sit in peace just for an hour felt so decadent! The only downside was I didn’t have any room left for one of their famous Chelsea buns, so I’ll definitely have to go back, maybe with the rest of the family next time.

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After lunch, I got down to a bit of serious shopping with a look round some of my favourite shops and a few that I’d never seen before. One of those was Tiger. Have you ever been there? If you live in the north like me, then probably not, as I just did a quick search on their website and my nearest store is 125 miles away in the Midlands. Shame, as it is so, so good for picking up really cool things for the kids without breaking the bank. It’s kind of like a middle class version of Home Bargain, crossed with a bit of Ikea. Let’s just say when I showed first born what I’d bought, he said: “Mum, next time you go to Cambridge I am definitely coming with you so I can go to that shop!”

Amongst the stuff I bought are some light up rubber ducks, which are way better than I thought they would be for £4. They add a certain disco element to bath time. I also picked up a design-led kids’ activity book and a toy tarantula, which apparently walks when the sun shines on it (terrifying). Oh and I almost forgot, two little hole punches which cut paper in the shape of a heart and a man. I don’t know why I forgot about those as I’ve been hoovering up paper hearts for two days straight.

That and the book kept first born entertained for a good hour this morning before school, without one single ask for the iPad. Not bad for a quid! Let’s hope they open a Tiger store in Liverpool very soon.

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Clock watching and smiles

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What would you do if you had hours to kill while someone you loved was having major surgery? It’s not a question you get asked very often I don’t suppose. I’m down at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, while my husband has an operation to fix his poorly bowel. He was due to go down to theatre at 8am, and I have been awake since 5.30 trying to stay calm and keep my mind off things. Speaking to his surgeon yesterday, if all went well he could be done by lunchtime, but if there were complications it could take all day.

As lunchtime for me is usually 11.30 (come on, I get up really early), it’s now gone 1pm and I am starting to sweat. I’ve tried listening to music (Beck, Elbow, Joni Mitchell, all too maudlin so had to turn to Pharell and the Polyphonic Spree for forced happiness), I’ve read the papers (thank God for my iPad) been for a walk and shopped online (another jumper from Gap and a cute apple print top for baby gal). I’ve spoken to my mum and called the recovery ward, only to be told he is still in theatre and to call back later. I wish I hadn’t bothered.

When I finally get the call it’s 2.30pm, and I jump so high I nearly hit the roof. When I hear that everything has gone well, I fire questions at the surgeon just to make doubly sure there haven’t been any setbacks. After all, every time we’ve been in hospital since this all happened last May we’ve rarely been given really good news. In fact, as I walk from my room to see my husband, a massive smile across my face, I wonder if the last time I was in a hospital feeling this happy was when baby gal was born last summer.

At last, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and things seem to finally be going our way…

PS As you can see from this photo, the op was on the 28th but it’s taken me a few days to find the time to write this post. I’ve been kind of busy as you can see! My watch was a Christmas present from my husband, chosen by me after much deliberation and ordering and sending back of several other styles. Can you see a pattern here?!

Waiting

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I’m a big fan of Dr Seuss and so is my son, and my favourite story is Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It’s the one I always choose at bedtime (if I get to choose), so much so that I don’t get to choose very often anymore. “Oh muuuuum, you always choose that one!” and so on. This year on World Book Day we even dressed up as The Cat In The Hat, and had so much fun and won a book token too (yay!).

The reason I’m telling you all this is that this book is really striking a chord with our family at the moment. I love the opening, the anything is possible feeling of “you’re off to great places, you’re off and away!” Surely that’s what we all want for our kids, to love and nurture them, show them what is possible and send them on their way in the big, wide world. With many, many return trips home that is. But the part that rings true at the moment is the part about the waiting place.

‘You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wriggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across wierdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…’

As I said before, my husband fell ill last spring and although his recovery so far has been amazing, he still has a long way to go before he’s back to where he was before. The next step is another operation, one which we hope will see him off his nutrition drip and more able to lead a ‘normal’ life. It’s been a long wait, and much as I am a supporter of the NHS, as anyone who has lived at its mercy will know when they say something is one month away that usually means two, or in our case nine!

That day is coming closer now and much as I am feeling anxious about it, I’m taking comfort in the simple, day to day things, like spending time as a family, reading books with the kids and just generally pretending nothing is going to happen. Because you never know, today might be our day, and when it is, we will finally be off and away!

Memories

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Of all my childhood memories, the ones which were recorded in photographs are amongst the most vivid. Take this one, of little old me scooping second prize in my hometown’s annual flower show sometime in the 80s. Always the bridesmaid, eh? But it’s one of my favourite pictures, not just because it amuses me how little I have changed, but because it makes me think about how much my mum helped me perfect my ‘flower arrangement in half a grapefruit’ using the sweet peas from our garden. As for the jumpsuit, well I still hold that outfit dear in my heart.

I wonder had I not have had this photo, would my memory of that day be as strong? I’ve tested this theory on first born, who at five admittedly doesn’t have to cast his mind back quite as far as I do. His strongest memories are those which he has seen in photos.

“What do you remember from when you were a baby?” I asked him as he had his bath this evening. “I remember I had curly hair,” he said. Ok… What else? “I remember the magic fountain, all pink with loud music,” he said. “Oh, and mummy and daddy’s wedding, when I wore a flower on my top.” All taken from photos we have around the house.

Of course we all have memories of events which weren’t captured on camera (thank god) and I am only too aware that getting my phone out to take a picture of every happy moment could mean I miss some of the fun that is actually happening in front of the lens.

But there is a good side to going everywhere with a camera in your pocket, and that’s being able to record the happy moments like these. I hope you like the photo, by the way. Still got the same hairstyle!

Sunhats

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This post seems wholly inappropriate given the fact I am sat in my kitchen watching lightning flash over those western skies. Three days of Daisy Duke weather, three barbecues down and it seems our flash of British summertime has been put to bed. However, it will be back and when it is I want to be prepared.

All I will say is this. When you see me walking down the street with my small baby gal’s head left open to the sun’s glare, don’t judge me. I have tried and tried and failed to get any sort of sunbathing on her head, and short of using handcuffs I just don’t think it’s going to happen. First I tried one of first born’s old ones, but it was whipped off faster than you could say ice cream. Next I tried a floppy Boden number, with the same result. So I went to the lovely West Kirby kids’ shop, Cowboys and Angels, to ask if they had any solution. A white Name It sunhat with a tie was produced, fixed on, and looked adorable. Seconds later, one tug of the tie and off it came. I’ve also tried a headscarf, but that lasted about 0.5 of a second. But I will keep on practising, even if it takes stealth tactics to succeed.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated. I don’t seem to remember I had this problem with first born, but then I could be wearing the rose-tinted spectacles that come with an ageing memory!

Spring dresses

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I love the girlieness of gingham and it comes I'm sure from my school days, when the start of the summer term signalled the move from stiff shirt and acrylic tie to light cotton checky dresses. Well it's time again for my uniform to change, these days from leggings or skinny jeans and Chelsea boots to spring dresses and Birkenstocks. And of course, er, leggings, which I'm sure Vivienne Westwood would be horrified to hear, if she had the inclination to care what I wear, which of course she never would.

Anyway this year, as I have precious little time for browsing in clothes shops, I am a die-hard online shopper, relying mainly on my favourite go-to sites Topshop, Asos and Whistles (for inspiration, special occasions and sales!). This usually ends in me ordering far too many clothes in the wrong size, returning them then ordering again before perhaps finding what I want on the third order. It’s a good job I’m on good terms with the ladies at the post office.

This oversize gingham dress is my new favourite, bought from Asos on a recent 25% off offer. I haven’t worn it yet but the temperatures are hotting up so maybe this week is the week! The dress on the left, of course, is for baby gal, who is benefiting from having a mother who loves dresses and for the past five years has only been able to shop for boys. If only they did this in grown-up sizes, I would be in at the basement with this one. It’s from Gap, and comes complete with matching knickers. Now if only they did that in grown-up sizes, we would never need worry about wearing dresses down that windy prom again…

Mornings

My house looks like I’ve been burgled. No, hang on, like I’ve been burgled but the burglars were hungry, helped themselves to breakfast and left their dishes of half-eaten porridge all over the kitchen table, then decided they needed a change of clothes and emptied our wardrobes out onto the floor. Even the pictures are hanging wonky on the walls, and my eyes feel like they are closing each time I stand still. Was there a party here last night? Ten or even, eek, 15 years ago I might have thought there had been. These days it’s just the detritus of a hectic family life, experienced by so many of us in the rush to actually get out of the house in the morning.

This morning was particularly fraught. My husband has gone into hospital for a blood transfusion, and had to leave the house at 8.15. Before that, we had to change his dressings (he still has a surgical wound on his tummy from last year’s nightmare), get the children washed and dressed and the first born looking presentable for school. This is no mean feat, as his hair has more bounce and bouff than Boris Johnson’s. Oh, and add to that the joys of the school teddy, Bobby Bear, who stayed with us for the second time in two weeks last night. He is starting to take liberties! At least this week we didn’t have to put his pjs in the drier five minutes before the school run. I can’t help but think all this would easier if I hadn’t been up half the night with teething baby gal, who was up and at ’em once again at seven. I’m not complaining, I love being a family and the noise and chaos that it brings. I just wish, like every other parent I know bar a very lucky few, for a little bit more sleep. Are you listening, kids?