Sunday, July 31, 2016

Project 52: Week 29 and 30

I know I keep promising pictures of something other than Millie, but after the disastrous deletion of all my photographs, I had to use one of the pictures I had sent to The Husband so that I could rescue it from his phone! This is a good representation of my early mornings of maternity leave, The Husband heads to work and Millie takes his place, keeping me company as we listen to the radio and I get ready for the day.

Then yesterday I made a start on replenishing my photo collection, and took this as we walked Millie across the fields. She loves to go bouncing through the crops, which is a very welcome sight after she was poorly last weekend, and a clear sign she is back to her normal self.

word of the week

It has been tricky trying to sum up the recent days in a single word, and in the end I have opted for "change".

Since I last blogged, maternity leave has kicked in and there has been a real change of pace! Funnily enough, having never been a morning person, I am suddenly up with The Husband as he heads to work and pottering around the house from quite early in the day. Not, unfortunately doing anything overly productive, the nesting instinct has been stronger in The Husband who is cleaning and sorting things at an alarming rate, but it has been nice to make the most of the mornings, with the radio and the dog for company.

There have been some lovely days with family and friends, including a surprise spa day with my best friend just over a week ago, a fabulous afternoon tea with my Grandad, and a few trips out to garden centres. After the spa day, I also got the courage to visit the local pool this week, and really enjoyed swimming a few lengths and being in the water after so long. I've also got back into the habit of planning meals, enjoying stocking up the freezer and trying some different recipes, like the onion bhajis I shared on instagram. Tonight there will be toad in the hole, with Grandad joining us, and potatoes from my parents allotment - it's all very domesticated around here isn't it!

I also treated myself to a new radio and bluetooth speaker for the conservatory, and once that arrived I splashed out on some new storage baskets which I have been meaning to buy for years! It is one of my favourite rooms, especially in the summer, and it is lovely to sit in there with Millie and enjoy the peace and quiet.

There have been a few unwanted changes too, like this time last week when our food-obsessed beagle suddenly stopped eating and starting being sick. We were having a lovely day celebrating my mum's birthday, with presents, a family meal, and a successful attempt at an eton mess cake creation, but she definitely wasn't quite herself. After lots of watching and waiting, we finally succumbed to a trip to the emergency vets late on Sunday, and after some injections (and giving thanks that The Husband is on the ball with pet insurance, because I definitely am not) we were sent home with a rather lethargic dog to look after. After a few days of rice and some paste from the vets which she seemed to adore, she is entirely back to normal. It's funny that we spend so much time telling her not to jump, lick, bark, and so on, but when she stops doing all those things we desperately want her back to her mischievous self!

Then on Friday, when I was already having a day fretting about whether the baby was moving enough, I inadvertently wiped my whole phone. Despite The Husband's extensive efforts on Friday night, the photos and messages were not retrievable, and I learnt the hard way about making sure you regularly back up. I was pretty devastated on Friday, there were (perhaps a slightly disproportionate amount of) tears, and I generally was feeling rather sorry for myself, especially to think I had lost the pictures from the last eight months, particularly with it having been my 30th celebrations, and the duration of the pregnancy. Gradually though, The Husband and my mum set about sending me photos that I had shared with them, and pictures they had, and there have been more than enough to fill the void! It was also lovely to look back over them all and reminisce about so many happy occasions, and realise how many wonderful memories there have been. In that spirit, the picture above is one from the collection I have re-acquired in the past few days, taken from the birthday meal my parents treated us to at Northcote.

So, while not all of the changes this week were particularly planned, and in some cases, weren't that positive, I'm glad to say I end the week feeling very happy indeed, with our beautiful beagle, as giddy as she can be, with the wonderful memories we have made over the last year, with the fabulous family we have, the new addition that will soon be joining us, and for tonight, with the prospect of toad in the hole and good company!

The Reading Residence

Sunday, July 17, 2016

word of the week

It has felt like there have been a number of small milestones over the last week or so, and the days have, as a result, been filled with flowers, which is my word of the week. 

Just over a week ago I finished work, for what will be, hopefully, a year of maternity leave. This last week has actually been annual leave, so I don't officially start the maternity leave until tomorrow, but my last day in work for rather a long time has now passed. As The Husband has been off this week too, it hasn't quite registered yet, but I imagine as he heads to work in the morning it might suddenly start to be a little more real! I actually left my placement permanently, as when I return I will be starting somewhere new, so there was an added sense of finality. My colleagues had very kindly got us a gift, and a bunch of flowers, to mark the occasion, and I left with promises to return soon, with our new arrival.

The following weekend involved an afternoon tea with my mum, and a few lovely ladies who happen to be our neighbours. It was the second time we have had a gathering in recent months, and it was another lovely afternoon. The icing on the cake was when my best friend arrived as a surprise to join us, it was lovely to see her, and she had also brought me some flowers to celebrate the start of my leave.

The Husband and I have both been off this week, partly to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. We went away for a couple of nights, not too far from home, and it was lovely to spend a few days together. As the traditional gift is fruit or flowers, some of my presents were floral themed, including a lovely notebook and pen, and also some specialty flours (great minds think alike Tess!). We returned home to a chilli plant from my parents, and the beautiful roses you see above from my Grandad. Then, on Saturday, a knock at the door brought a bouquet of roses from The Husband too, who hadn't wanted to let the occasion pass without buying me actual flowers too.

So from tomorrow, I shall be 37 weeks, which is officially full-term, and officially on maternity leave. There are a few small trips planned this week, so my days aren't looking too empty, and when I am at home, I am lucky enough to have a house filled with flowers to keep me company too!

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 27 and 28

Week 27 was another Millie photo, this time of her cuddled up in The Husband's arms, and slowly drifting off to sleep.

Something a little different for week 28, we went away for a few days for our anniversary and had a look around the beautiful Chester Cathedral.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

Project 52: Week 26

I must try and take a better variety pictures, Millie seems to be the dominant subject these days, but with a face like that can you really blame me?! 


word of the week

This week has been all about preparation. Preparing to finish work at the end of next week has meant plenty of long days getting things finalised. Gladly, after starting last week feeling like there was a lot to get through, plenty of progress was made, and hopefully this week should be a gentler final few days.

We had an antenatal class this week, and have subsequently gone into a flurry of activity packing a hospital bag and buying some additional bits and pieces that we hadn't yet got. I still don't think I have got to the point where I believe that we will be lucky enough to have a baby soon, but with tomorrow marking 35 weeks I guess it will be sinking in in the not-too-distant future!

The baby, however, is not preparing, and is still happily doing somersaults around on an hourly basis. It was breech at my last midwife appointment, and still seems to be regularly switching between various positions at the moment, so we shall keep our fingers crossed it is taking after its mum and leaving things until the last minute!

I've also been trying to prepare for our forthcoming wedding anniversary but it is proving tricky to buy a gift for The Husband when the fourth year tradition is fruit or flowers. He is somewhat averse to fruit, and I don't think he would share the same appreciation for a bouquet as I would! If we had an endless budget I would go for some variation on the theme and buy him some kind of Apple product, but as it is I might have to think a little more creatively. If I come up with anything ingenious I shall be sure to let you know.

Hope you all have a good week!

The Reading Residence

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: June

In June, I decided to extend my cookery book collection, by opportunistically raiding my mum's selection while they were piled up during some kitchen renovations. I had flicked through a few of mine without much inspiration, many of the remaining ones seeming to be full of recipes with excessive lists of ingredients, and I think the hope of warmer weather also making me feel less inclined to spend an age on hearty recipes.

So it was that I gathered together a small pile of tempting looking books, and for this month I went with My Kitchen by James Martin. There were lots of appealing recipes, and I liked that the book was arranged seasonally, allowing me to pick from the spring and summer sections in an unfortunately unsuccessful bid to lure the warmer weather.

The first recipe was pan-fried pork fillet with smoky tomato sauce. I halved the ingredients down to just serve the two of us, and added some rice too. The tomatoes were scorched before roasting, and a lack of gas meant that I still didn't get to break open the mini blow-torch which has been in the cupboard for years. However, the grill did just as well, and you may have seen my picture recently of the result. 

There was a lot of sauce, and the flavour was lovely. I did find that there was quite a lot of meat in the recipe, you can't quite tell in the picture as most of it is covered with sauce, but the recipe called for half a pound for each person, which seemed quite a hefty portion, though The Husband was more than happy with that! I did think another portion of vegetables would have made it a little more balanced, although I'm not sure I would have had the appetite for them.

The next dish was wok-fried chicken with ginger, chilli and wild garlic. Unfortunately I couldn't find wild garlic when I did the shopping, but the recipe did suggest spinach as a substitution. This was a really quick dish, even with a step of "velveting" chicken which was a new one on me. It involved coating the chicken pieces in cornflour and blanching before transferring it to the wok. The flavours were really strong for such a quick dish, and we really enjoyed it. Again, it felt like a lot of meat, and that the dish could have taken some more vegetables, but I already have plans to make it again this week, so I will be sure to add some then!

I was very pleased with my borrowed book, and think I might keep it on an extended loan (hi Mum!). I'd definitely be tempted to try more recipes and spotted quite a few that appealed as a I flicked through it. I haven't picked July's book yet but I'm looking forward to browsing through some more of my newly acquired options. The very first book I used for this challenge was Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook and I have to mention that in the last week I have rustled up three quick bakes from it, all with great success. I adapted the victoria sponge to a lime version, made the vanilla muffins, and today whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes in double quick time. I do love the reliability of the baking recipes, and it is definitely becoming my default choice when I want some speedy inspiration. Hope you are enjoying the challenge if you are joining in, do visit Penny's page to find out more. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

first things first

The first of July.

The first day of the weekend for me, using up my last days of annual leave here and there.

Later brings with it the first massage in a while, finally using up the last of my birthday vouchers and hopefully a little relaxation too.

Then, tonight, a dinner with good friends for the first time in a while. In fact I think the last time we saw them we were in the early days of pregnancy where we knew but no-one else did, so they may be a little shocked at my progress! They have also bought and moved into their first house since we last met so there will be plenty of catching up to do.

This feels like it is the first day of quite a significant month. With maternity leave due to start later this month, it is the the beginning of around 12 months off work. We have been very lucky that I will be able to take a year off, but it is also the first time I won't have had some kind of paid employment since I was about seventeen! This week has been one filled with a real sense of having a very final deadline to work towards but I have made good progress and am hoping my last few days in work will now be fairly gentle and focused on tying up loose ends, and I anticipate a lot of sorting of the paperwork I seem to accumulate on an hourly basis!

It could, also, just possibly, be the first month that we become a family of four (including the dog of course!). With a due date in early August, and a baby that is still very much doing somersaults, showing no sign of being head down or settling into position, it is unlikely at the moment, but there is that possibility and what a thought it is! The Husband suggested that we might, perhaps, possibly, want to start thinking about packing the hospital bags this weekend, and it seems like that could well be a sensible plan.

July also brings with it our wedding anniversary, and it is the first time we won't be going away for a week, having moved our holiday to June so that we could travel a little further afield without worry that we were too far from home. We do both have the week off, and have booked a trip for a few days to celebrate, but only 30 minutes from the hospital!!

So July seems to bring a lot of lovely firsts. It is always a lovely month for us, with celebrations and holidays, lots of different annual traditions and occasions with friends and family that seem to fall over the next few weeks too. I hope your month ahead has some days to look forward to and some loveliness along the way.