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Day by Day September

Woah, long time no speak pals! Sorry for the near three week silence, I’ve been busy. The babies are getting more demanding by the day – chatting, squeaking, rolling and ~trying~ to crawl, so come 6.30pm every night, I’m well and truly knackered. I’ve also started picking up a bit more work again, so my days are fuller than ever. Here’s what’s been going on:

Reading: The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. I’m finding that my Kindle means I’m reading things I’d never usually pick up. This is a weepy, and I’m surprised to say I’m actually really enjoying it so far. Hoping to finish it by the time the film hits the cinema.

Watching: Wallander. Is there anything better than a Scandi noir? I’m a sucker for a crime drama and those Northern Europeans just do it so well. These are feature length so make for good evening viewing. Kurt is my hero.

Waiting: and waiting and waiting for Autumn. It’s been so damn hot and I hate it. Watching those leaves slowly turn to orange and brown is a great comfort to me and I’m counting the days until the nights draw in and I’m in my PJs before 7. 

Eating: A whole lot of kebabs from I Am Doner. Like most new parents, our takeaway intake has seriously increased since having the twins. It’s an easy rut to fall into and it can result in some seriously podgy waistlines, but luckily we have Deliveroo which increases our options tenfold. I love the Large Halloumi from I Am Doner and think it’s pretty reasonably priced too.

Pacing: The park during nap time each day. It keeps my step count up, and it gets me out of the house for a little longer. It’s also a great place to meet other mums and get chatting! Plus, during those challenging teething times, rolling the buggy here, there and everywhere is a surefire way to get the babies to sleep.

Planning: I’ve recently become a fully fledged #plannergirl with my new ban.do planner. Ok, so it’s not the coolest pastime in the world (Matt rips me endlessly), but it makes me feel so organised now that I have less spare time and there’s something strangely therapeutic about watching hours of YouTube footage of perfectly manicured fingers sticking stickers into books.

Booking: A short stay at Rudding Park Hotel in a few months time. It’ll be the first time we’re away from the girls for any length of time but I can’t pretend I’m not looking forward to it. A huge, cloud-like bed and a couple of uninterrupted nights sleep should put me right, plus I’m having a massage and dinner at their pop-up Horto too! Will report back.

What have you been up to?

Gifts for a New Dad

**Disclaimer: this post contains gifted products**

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When people talk about buying gifts for a new parent, let’s be honest, it’s usually the mum they’re buying for and it’s usually bubble bath. Or maybe a new pair of slippers. Or a sleep mask. Don’t get me wrong, of course, all of those things do come in useful during the first few months of parenting, but personally I probably would’ve preferred a bottle of gin or a PS4 game. And usually, Matt got nothing. Very often it seems that new dads get forgotten about in the gift showering, especially by an older generation who for some reason often assume they’re merely “putting up with” this big life change. You know, grinning and bearing it all until their nights are uninterrupted again and their wives remember they exist.

If, like me, you have what your Grandma might call a “Modern Man” under your roof, those new dads often work just as hard as us mums, if not *gasp* a little bit harder. During the first few weeks of the twins’ life, I was pretty useless. I was bed-bound, often with an oxygen mask attached, recovering from major surgery and a nasty bout of pneumonia and bloody exhausted. In those early days Matt looked after all of us. He fed the girls more than me, changed more nappies, even gave more cuddles. So, my point is, if anyone deserves a present it’s him, which made it pretty perfect when Debenhams got in touch with me a few weeks ago to see if I wanted to spontaneously treat him. So here’s my gift guide for new dads, gifted items I chose with my £100 voucher from Debenhams’ Gifts for Him section are marked with an *.

1. LoungewearI cannot stress this enough. Being comfortable is the number one priority when you have a small baby or two (or three+, you deserve a medal). I loved this post from Amy Antoinette on the reality of parenting, and she’s right, everything isn’t Instagram perfect. You need to be able to move, bend and wriggle with your baby, and you need to rest uninterrupted whenever possible. Being comfy is the only way.

I bought Matt some PJs in prep for this last Christmas, but one pair was never gonna cut it. Even now, once those babies go down at 6.30pm, we’re both in our comfies, there’s no fighting it. For true quality that I knew wouldn’t shrink in the wash or go all bobbly, I chose him these Calvin Klein Dark Grey Checked Pyjama Bottoms* (£29) – they’re pure cotton, machine washable and tumble dryer friendly which makes them top notch all round for me. And why stop there, eh? I also chose the Calvin Klein Black Pyjama Shorts* (£36) which are all of the above, plus they have two slouchy pockets. The last thing I bought were some boxer shorts* (£31.50), cuz let’s face it – who doesn’t love new pants? No one.

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2. Wine: This is, of course, not universal, but if your giftee enjoys the finer things in life then during the newborn months they’re probably going to be indulging in a lot of it, given the chance. We have a membership to The Wine Society, which along with regular catalogues gives you great prices on quality wines, as well as loads of interesting articles and information for fans of the good stuff.

While you’re at it, don’t stop there, get him a subscription to Noble Rot magazine (£37 for 4 issues) so he can really enjoy those quiet moments in the bath with a whisky sour (or wherever he likes to enjoy them). We both read so much more now that we have kids, maybe because there’s this urge to fill your fleeting “free” time with something learned and useful instead of just staring at the telly or messing about your phone (Who am I kidding? We still watch A LOT of Netflix). Hot Rum Cow also deserves a shout-out for being awesome (£24 for 4 issues). Both magazines are also available by the issue at Colours May Vary if you’re a Leeds local.

3. Food that doesn’t require cooking: As above, really. Newborn days are the time to indulge. Unless you’re very organised, you can’t rely on hot, homecooked food for every meal, at least for the first few weeks after you get home. Depending on what your guy likes, this could be as simple as buying him a packet of cocktail sausages and a Dairy Milk, but I’d really recommend anything from Hotel Chocolat, and if you’re feeling super flush, their hampers. The gifts are truly delicious, look super impressive and require minimum effort, a win win in my book. They’ve even got a New Baby section! The Bliss Chocolate Hamper (£155 – pricey but stunning) looks bloody great to me and includes wine, hazelnut spread and drinking chocolate as well as a fab selection of chocs. 

A cheese board is also an awesome option, for an easy tea, lunch or just a bit of snackage. We buy our cheese from George & Joseph who, along with their packed and varied cheese counter, have crackers, chutneys and beers galore as well as much more.

So remember, next time a friend of yours has a baby, don’t forget the dad! Happy shopping pals!

Take a Breath

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Turns out the last time I did one of these posts was a long old time ago – two years and almost two months in fact! The Tour de France was happening and those twins were nothing but a twinkle in my eye. How time flies, eh? Back to 2016 and it’s been a bit of a bumpy few weeks in the Dix household. As well as our daughters turning a grand old six months, we’ve had runny noses and hospital admissions, alongside cozy nights on the sofa, a few good coffees and catch ups with friends after weeks apart.

We’re all safely back at home, with better health in sight, and finally making plans for our garden just as the summer ends. We’re hoping that by this time next year we will have actually spent an hour or two enjoying it. Plans to pull up paving slabs and conifers are on track for next spring, gravelling the whole thing over and dotting around lots of pots with shrubs and herbs. Stage two is a grander affair with some benches, raised veg plots and even a… shed! How exciting. It’s nice to be working on the house again. I seemed to miss that whole stage of pregnancy, what with giving birth early and having a less than satisfactory time towards the end, so it’s nice that “nesting” has finally caught up with me.

I’ve been spending a lot of time inside recently, I guess mainly so the girls can fully establish a napping schedule and also, because you kind of run out of places to go with a double buggy. I’m very much an “always out” person, or I have been previously to having kids, so I still try to get out and about everyday, even if it’s just for a coffee. It’s easy to feel isolated in the first stages of motherhood but I keep myself busy with classes and long lunches with fellow mum and mum-to-be pals. In general though, I’m back home by 2pm with my feet up. The to-do list for the house is getting smaller, and aside from a repaint in a few rooms and a new runner on the stairs, it’s mainly about soft furnishings and putting prints up now. It’s lovely to have seen it come so far in three years. I suppose we’ll finish things just when we find we need to expand space-wise… typical! I really enjoyed Amy’s post Things I Have Learned About House Renovation and a lot of memories from the early days came flooding back!

I’ve started reading quite a lot more, too. In the past month or so I’ve read The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, A Clash of Kings by George R. R.  Martin, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I’d never have usually chosen that last one but I took part in a book exchange on Facebook that ended up with me promising to throw genre expectations to the wind. I really enjoyed it and now I’m part way through The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey and loving it so far. Weirdly, though I turned my nose up at the prospect, a Kindle has really changed the way I read and I’m much more enthusiastic about it somehow. Looking forward to several other novels I have waiting in My Library.

Foodwise, I tried the new I Am Doner via Deliveroo and absolutely loved it. Would recommend the halloumi kebab wholeheartedly. It’s huge, reasonably priced and stuffed with loads of good stuff. The chips travel well too. I’ll definitely be tucking into that again soon. Other than that, I haven’t tried much new recently. I’m a slave to my daily Flat White from Opposite and this summer I’ve really enjoyed sitting on their benches outside, pushing the babies backwards and forwards in the pram and having a bit of quiet time. Matt’s birthday is coming up so I’m looking forward to a meal out then – probably a trip to Ox Club or The Reliance, his favourites. 

I’ve started Baby Led Weaning with the girls this week so hold tight for some posts about that, and I’ve been trying some new recipes at home – hopefully some of which I can photograph and get up on the blog over the next week or so. I’m also heading out to the North York Moors this weekend for a little break so I’ll report back on that too.

In the meantime, let me know what you’re up to down in the comments or come and chat to me over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Photos go up pretty much daily on Instagram and remember you can keep up with me over on Facebook, too. See you soon!

Twins on the Way!

So I haven’t posted since July, and let me tell ya, a whole lot has happened since then. 

I’m four months pregnant with twins. “WHAAAAAAAT?” I hear you shout. IKR? Madness. I found out within a few weeks of my last post and since then it’s been smooth sailing. Kind of.

So this week is number seventeen. They’re the size of avocados. I’m still sick, but I think it’s getting better. I hope it’s getting better. I guess the main reason I haven’t been posting is because I haven’t been cooking. Or eating out. I’ve mainly been living on crisps and Rennie. Not particularly great food blog fodder, I’m sure you’ll agree. I hope to get back to the kitchen soon, but in the meantime, here’s what I’m obsessing over:

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1. Neutrals We don’t know the genders of our little ones yet. They’re in two separate sacs which means they’re most likely (very likely) to be non-identical. We’ve still not decided 100% whether we want to know or not, but if we do it’ll be before the end of November. Whatever we have, it’s important to us that they’re not blue or pink, if you know what I mean. We like monochromes, woodland creatures and gender non-specific baby-grows. Things like these CUTE leggings from Tobias and the Bear.

2. Nursery I’ve had a board of nurseries on my Pinterest account for a few years now. You gotta catch that shit when you see it, amirite? I’ve been combing through and deciding what I do and don’t like, and what’s gonna be possible for our spare room that’s currently the home office. The box room just ain’t gonna cut it for two. I like rustic, colourful and, you got it, neutral. 

3. Maternity Pillow I bought this bad boy from Mamas and Papas about four weeks ago and it has been a lifesaver. It supports my back when I’m sitting on the sofa and takes the pressure off when I’m snoozing. Plus it’s not pink/fluffy/frilly. WIN! I could actually marry it I love it so much.

I hope to be back soon, but if you’re loving the baby stuff (or you just like recipes) have a little look over at my Pinterest account to see what I’m currently coveting.

Beginning Again

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Contrary to popular opinion, I’m a big fan of January. I crave the cold, I never feel deflated when the festive season is over, and rather than setting unrealistic goals for myself – I harness the natural desire I have for a fresh start and turn it into crazy productivity. January is easily the most productive month of the year for me. I feel positive, inspired and ready to conquer the world!

So after the rush of December, I’m rarely ready by New Years Day to list my plans for the next year. Instead, I tend to mull things over throughout the month that follows, not setting any serious resolutions, but instead jotting down plans and ideas that I’d like to turn into reality. Here’s what I have so far:

– Run an efficient household
I’m aware that this makes me sound like someone from the 19th Century, but I want to keep my house clean, tidy and organised, and I think that’s achievable. I want to stick to a weekly shop budget for food and household supplies and continue to meal plan in an interesting and adventurous way to get better at using what I have and minimise waste. I’m going to know what’s in my cupboards at all times, and never let clutter build up. Tidy house, tidy mind.

– Work on the house
Please note that this isn’t “finish the house”. I’m realistic, I know that in my terms, this house will never be finished. I’ve spoken to enough renovators to know that once you finish the final room, it’s time to redecorate the first again – or to sort out the garden, or think about that extension, or replace the boiler. I’m not into setting unrealistic goals, so all I want to do is regain my enthusiasm to turn this house into a real home. We’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of that, but for now I’m diving deep into house and interior blogs to get the blood pumping again. First stop: declutter the box room and transform it into an efficient storage space, starting this weekend.

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– Pick up new skills
Much like last year, I’m keen to develop some more skills in the kitchen. This year, I’m determined to bake at least one batch of croissants from scratch (all twelve layers!) and start pickling and making my own condiments. Orange curd – I’m coming for ya.

– Get my finances in order
Some major life changes over the past few years have left me gazing at my current bank balance with a mix of awe and horror. This is the year I take charge and become a grown up. I’m going to consolodate and pay off debt, and I’m going to start to save for the future. I’m also going to become much better at being self-employed, promise. Pass me that calculator…

– Even more food
2015 is the year I commit to food even more than I already have. Sadly, that doesn’t mean eating more of it (I’m already on my last belt hole, after all) but it means looking for even more food based work, starting with that little festival I’m helping to organise in May. I’d like more styling and photography jobs this year, more social media work for food brands and more consultancy for smaller businesses and start-ups. All of those things were the most enjoyable parts of my job in 2014, so I hope this year brings more.

– Get a dog
‘Nuff said.

So that’s me. How about you?

Building a (Small) Kitchen

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When Matt and I started looking for a house to buy, we really only had one stipulation. We were spoilt with the flat we shared, although technically a “studio”, its lack of doors was made up for with high ceilings, a split level and a large, modern kitchen – something pretty unusual for a city-centre property. We had workspace for miles, storage enough for two cook’s wants and needs, and room to swing the proverbial cat. So when we decided to buy our own place, we agreed on one thing: the kitchen in the new place must be large. It’s where we spend most of our time, so it makes sense.

But it turns out, even when you only have one box to tick, sometimes compromise is necessary. Even after four seasons of Kirsty and Phil under my belt I wasn’t prepared to give up my one sticking point, but somehow, when Matt and I viewed our now-home it just felt like the right place for us – despite it’s piddly kitchen space. To be quite fair, there wasn’t a lot in the house that didn’t need transforming, and we took it all in our stride. While the prep space was small, the kitchen opened out into a huge dining room which now houses an industrial style table and benches, big enough to seat 12 comfortably – 14 at a push. As long as we had that room for people to congregate – to kick back and relax while something bubbled on the hob – we’d be content. And so the contracts were signed, the money changed hands and the renovation began.

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Still a bit of painting to do…

When I look at the “Before” pictures, I find it hard to even see the bare bones of it in what we have now. Work on the kitchen started in early September 2013, and finished mid-October. The breakfast bar was taken out first, followed by the cabinets, plumbing and old appliances, and actually, following an unplanned central heating system replacement and a total rewire, nothing but walls remained.

We had a reasonable budget, but we still decided to go with IKEA. The units are so versatile and we did loads of research online to dress it up and get just what we wanted from the basics. We ordered custom worktops in Iroko from WoodWorktops.com, which were then cut to size by our builders. We sanded and stained them ourselves, and I think they play a big part in making our kitchen look much more custom than it might’ve. On our honeymoon in Portland, we found some ornate doorknobs to add something else a little bit different from the norm. We went without cabinets up-top, because we thought what it offered in storage wasn’t enough to counteract the amount it would make the space appear smaller. Instead, we tiled up to the ceiling on the wall behind the cooker and ordered extra worktop wood to have thick shelves cut, held up by cheap, plain brackets that could hold large weights.

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The open shelves became home to all our glassware, crockery and some frequently used dried herbs and spices. This was something we agreed on from the start and pulled inspiration from loads of different places – from cookery programmes on telly to Pinterest and blogs. I also found my backlog of Living Etc magazines a real source of inspiration during the whole renovation. The kind of things in those magazines are usually totally out of my price range (it’s a how the other half live kind of thing) but I jotted ideas down and then trawled the web for cheaper alternatives or things we could do ourselves.

We chose to allocate big sums of money for our appliances – nothing crazy, but a little more than we perhaps needed to, because we wanted quality. I’ve not regretted that once. A good quality fridge-freezer and oven are the kind of things that bring us joy – as sad as that may be – and we both happily sacrificed meals out or a holiday, or more money for the rest of the house, because we use them all the time. We bought a range-style oven by Belling, which gave us five hobs, two ovens and a grill. We bought a double fridge-freezer from Samsung with water and ice dispensers in the door. A slim-fit dishwasher straight from IKEA was a necessity too. Finally, a farm-style square sink and pressure washer tap to make washing up quick and painless.

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Having a kitchen island for the past three years meant we were really loath to give it up. That one-step triangle between work-space, hob and sink was something we’d both grown used to and we didn’t want to sacrifice it, even if the alcove gap between kitchen and dining room wasn’t quite wide enough to make it comfortable. We tried repeatedly to work out a way to fit a standard size island in but it just wasn’t happening. We needed something narrower, so instead we decided to fashion our own island out of IKEA cabinets – cheap, easy enough and great for storage. It’s only 80cm wide, but that’s more than enough space to stand at. We topped and backed it with the remaining worktop wood, with an overhang to turn it into a little bar one of at can sit at if the other is cooking. It’s not the most solid or sleek thing in the world, but it’s practical, and I think it looks pretty sweet too. Once the island was fitted, the beloved one-step triangle was back, and everything was within arms reach to prepare a meal.

This kitchen really is a dream to cook in. There are a couple of things I had to learn – clean up as you go, the key, but once I developed new habits in place of old, I found everything within reach, great light and a real “heart of the home” feel. You face it as you come into the house, there are no walls or doors obscuring it from the front door, so you really do enter straight into it, so it always feels busy and welcoming.

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In case you’re planning a kitchen renovation yourself, I thought I’d put together a few tips I picked up along the way. Whether you’ve gutted your space and you’re starting from scratch, or you want to adapt a rented kitchen to suit your needs, these will be worth bearing in mind:

1. Keep it practical

Fundamentally, you need your kitchen to work for you. If you’re here at Whip Until Fluffy, the chances are that you like to cook, or at least you’d like to start. Unless you use your oven for storage (Hello Carrie Bradshaw), then workability should be at the top of your priority list. Keep the kitchen work triangle in mind. This can be your own version – for example, I adapted that model from oven, fridge and sink to be more like workspace, oven and sink – that’s just what works for me, but nothing is more than one step away and it works really well when you’re in the zone, getting stuff done.

Try not to be fooled by super-fancy technology or gadgets – know yourself and know what you’ll use. Kitchen real-estate value is high – don’t go wasting it. Don’t adapt your kitchen design because you see something and think “My life would be so much better with one of those”. Unless, of course, it would. This ties in with point number four. 

2. Modern doesn’t necessarily mean sterile

When we decided on an IKEA kitchen, I was worried it wouldn’t look right. I was worried it would be flimsy, that it might look plastic-y and cheap. We learnt really quickly that to avoid that lightweight, sterile look a lot of modern kitchens have, you don’t need to spend a lot of cash – you just need to be inventive. Our open shelving livens things up a bit – the contents of the shelves, as long as they’re tidy and organised, add a bit of colour and interest to the room. It’s also about some of the things I mentioned earlier – splashing out on different worktops avoids that matchy-matchy look, and a few added accessories like a lamp or antique door handles can add a richer, more lived-in quality. Our spotlights are great but they’re very bright. The angle-poise lamp we clipped on to the shelves is great for lighting a specific area and gives the room more of a soft, yellow glow, great for cooking in the evenings – especially in the winter. 

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3. Use colour to make it yours

Small spaces can be hard to make your own. Fill it up with trinkets and you risk it looking cluttered, and kitchen furniture and appliances tend to come in a bland colour palette. Personally, we like to keep walls and furniture to similar tones (we’ve done this throughout the house – with a few feature walls), but we’ve injected a bit of personality into the kitchen by using colour in smaller pieces. Our Le Creuset collection is all Volcanic, providing lovely pops of bright orange all over the room, and then we’ve mixed in smaller accents in the form of our Kitchen-Aid, which is Boysenberry, and some lovely vintage tea, coffee and sugar canisters in pale green. Cheap, bright utensils in clashing colours really aren’t for me, but little pops that compliment each other have really helped to give the room a bit of personality. We’ve kept the trinkets to a minimum but small touches like the carved wooden wine holder, an antique thermometer on the side of the fridge and the odd piece of decorative crockery are subtle nods to who we are and what we like, without dominating the room and taking up valuable space.

4. Be ruthless

I asked Matt what his advice would be to anyone building a kitchen. He had just as much, if not much more input into planning ours than I did, and his number one tip was “don’t be afraid to downsize”. When we moved from our flat we packed six large boxes of kitchen stuff. We had to unpack slowly due to the ongoing work, but we’ve been here for nearly 18 months and there are still three boxes in garage which we haven’t even touched. The best bit? I have no idea what can be in them, even though I clearly thought everything was essential when I moved. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, chances are you don’t need it. This goes for any smaller gadgets you have out on your worktop, too. If you don’t use it once a week, put it away.

If you’re redesigning from a kitchen that came before, remember that just because you think it belongs in the kitchen doesn’t mean it does. This works on a bigger scale, like a washing machine for example. Can you find an alternative space for it? Do it. Anything that doesn’t link directly to food and food prep, try to move it out. I put my washer/dryer in under the stairs and it’s so much more practical – I can do laundry while Matt’s in the kitchen without getting in his way and vice-versa, plus there’s a door in the way to help block noise. 

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So, that’s the story. We’re still adapting, and no doubt things will change for us over the next few years, but at the moment, I’m happy. It’s taken a lot of work and there are a few unfinished bits (anyone spot that unpainted pipe cover in the corner?) but it’s getting there. 

As for renovation inspiration, I have so many recommendations. I decided it was best to put together a whole separate post to share my favourite links. Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas or questions down in the comments or over on Twitter @WhipUntilFluffy. I hope this has helped anyone thinking of doing it themselves.

Diabetes + Conception: A Journey

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Just to drive home my point, this is today’s graph. The blue is where I should be.

Now this is quite heavy subject matter, all about the inner workings of my (semi-dudd) body. It’s kind of a weird thing to talk about on a blog, and if health and medicine don’t interest you, I won’t hold any grudges if you give it a miss and come back for a recipe next week. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll know that recently I’ve been talking about diabetes a lot and some of you have registered an interest, so that led me to the decision to talk about Having Diabetes a little bit more.

I’ve alluded before to the fact that conceiving a child can be difficult when you are a woman with diabetes. It’s actually not necessarily conception itself, it’s more the carrying a healthy baby to full term thing. My knowledge about this is basic, and I was actually in the dark about the subject on the whole until recently – until the doctors deemed me to be of an “appropriate baby-making age and circumstance” (read: over 25 and married). My reaction to that wasn’t necessarily positive, as you might have guessed, and initially I was very cross. I still am – to an extent, but there are reasons that it happens this way and all that stuff is for another blog post. For now, we’re covering the practicalities of how to get and stay pregnant when you’re a person with diabetes. You know… the medical stuff.

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, only a “patient”. Therefore, try not to get your knickers in a twist if my facts aren’t always exactly straight. In fact, if you know better, please correct me down in the comments. I’m learning, after all, and I’d really appreciate your help.

Let me walk you through it. In layperson’s terms, as a person with diabetes (pwd) my blood sugars move in peaks and troughs. With self-administered insulin, even with a pump, the doses I am giving myself are reactionary. Your pancreas, as a healthy person, measures the sugar in your blood and acts accordingly with the correct amount of insulin every single time, so there’s never an error, and you never stray out of those 4mmol/l – 7mmol/1 parameters. For even well controlled pwds, there’s a lot of guessing involved with basal insulin rates and dealing with carbohydrate on a day to day basis. Calculations are made and quantities decided on, but it will sometimes, inevitably, go horribly wrong. As a pwd, I’ve learnt to accept that and put it down to experience. That’s something that most diabetics will go through, because frankly, otherwise there’s a tendency to go a bit mad. As I understand it though, the thing with diabetes and pregnancy, is that the peaks and troughs can’t be there. Or at least, they need to be down to a serious minimum, so the graph of my blood sugar over a 24 hour period must not be a zigzag, but a smooth, undulating line. 

For me, and for most, this will take a lot of work.

Because the first trimester of pregnancy, especially for those with diabetes, is the most important, these things can get complicated. A lot of the time, pregnant ladies may not even know they’re “with child” until at the very earliest a few weeks, and more realistically 6-8 weeks gone, by which time some of the crucial development for baby is already complete. Therefore, there’s a training process. Pregnancy Training. When you say that to people, the initial response is usually a raised eyebrow and a sheepish grin. LOL sex! You need to practice having sex! Yeah… that’s not the bit I need to work on, thanks. Awkward for everyone now, right? Welcome to my life. Let’s move on quickly.

Just so you know, the risks of being pregnant and not having your diabetes under control are the following (quoted directly from NHS Choices). Please proceed with caution if you are a lady with diabetes and you haven’t necessarily read a lot about this before:

If you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may be at a higher risk of:   

People with type 1 diabetes may develop problems with their eyes (called diabetic retinopathy) and their kidneys (diabetic nephropathy), or existing problems may get worse. 

Your baby may be at risk of: 

  • not developing normally and having congenital abnormalities – particularly heart and nervous system abnormalities 

  • being stillborn or dying soon after birth 

  • having health problems shortly after birth (such as heart and breathing problems) and needing hospital care 

  • developing obesity or diabetes later in life

 

Cheery stuff, eh?

So, in light of all that, there are certain hoops I need to jump through in order to qualify to be able to “start trying”. I don’t really know what those are officially. Apart from the main thing, get my HbA1c (that’s my three month average) down to an acceptable level. That’s around 48, or 6.1%. I sit, generally, at 60-65 but in times of stress or activity or during burnout, that has at times risen to a rather frightening 80. 48 is a scary number. A number that, of the pwds I’ve met, most wouldn’t deem within their reach without some serious lifestyle changes. When I first started doing my research, there was talk of no post-meal blood sugars being over 7.0mmol/l. I can’t really explain to you, if you’re not a pwd, what kind of fear that struck in my heart the day I found that out. I still don’t know if that’s true. But if it is, I’m in for a tough few years.

So what are the alarm bells that ring in my head, now, towards the beginning of my journey?

No carbs. Less fat. No alcohol. No big days out. No big nights out. No exceptions. Mostly, no carbs.

And the questions that spring up as a result of those alarm bells? 

Is it all worth it? Do I want a kid that much? If it means no chips, no bread, no sneaky Milky Way Crispy Rolls at 4pm on a particularly boring day in the office, or glass of red wine to celebrate a good day?

At 27 years old, and I hope you can appreciate my honesty here, that’s not a question I can really answer yet. I think the answer is yes, it is all worth it. And I know it must sound ridiculous, not to mention insensitive, to consider giving up a chance to have a child in exchange for complex carbohydrates, mind-altering liquids and the faint glisten of animal fat on the surface of my plate. But it seems like an awful lot of work. An awful lot of hospital visits, blood tests, monitoring and, most of all, an awful lot of self-control. Which, as someone who since their 13th birthday has perpetually been three stone over-weight, has never been my strong point. It’s worth mentioning now that none of those alarm bells are strictly fact. They’re exaggerations, on the most part. But they are based in fact, and they do weigh on my mind.

I think that’s why I’ve decided to write it all down. And this might not be the right place for it, who knows, I might move my updates over to Medium or somewhere more appropriate. But for now, I wanted to be honest, share my life experiences and keep you guys in the loop. I wanted to get my thoughts out on the biggest “issue” in my life at the moment (hopefully the biggest issue I’ll have to face for the next few years). Also, as mentioned in my original Having Diabetes post, I’d like this to be a sometime place for me to share parts of journey in figuring all this stuff, diabetes on the whole, out, and a place where others can come as a resource. Because during my process of research, I’ve found those resources to be seriously lacking.

 Errr, so yeah. I suppose I’ll be back with progress reports over the coming months. Please give me any feedback you can on this post, even if you feel like diabetes is none of your business but enjoyed the read. I’m really interested to see how people feel about this kind of update.

 

 

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

So now Halloween is over, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas right? I know, I know… eye roll. It’s weird for me to get festive anytime pre-December 1st, but a few weeks ago I was invited to spend a bright but crisp Sunday afternoon with Katie Laura Flowers in Harrogate, to discuss wreath making and Christmas decorations. My first thought? Oh god, not yet. But it turns out I really rather enjoyed myself. Plus, it pays to get ahead with these things. After a few hours I had well and truly slipped into the festive spirit, and picked up a few new skills too.

I must say, wreath making has always somewhat appealed to me. I love the way they look, whatever they’re made from, and I even bought a foam ring from Hobbycraft last year, to put some of my artistic ideas to canvas, so to speak. It never actually happened, and the ring stayed starkers all winter long, giving me a slight pang of guilt every time it caught my eye.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura FlowersWreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After my workshop with Katie, I honestly think I’ll make a wreath of my own every year. The whole process was surprisingly easy and, like with most arts and crafts, I found it extremely therapeutic. I zoned out of my busy brain and sipped on tea for a few hours, chatting away to my blogger friends. I left Katie’s gorgeous studio feeling significantly calmer and with something pretty awesome to carry home in my (extremely grubby) hands.

We started with a wire frame. Katie recommended this, and always works with them herself, because they weigh less than the other options. Better for hanging, see. We wrapped flexible floristry wire all the way around the frame in a zigzag pattern. This provides a good framework for your foliage, preventing fall out, keeping everything solid even when your wreath is upright. Ever the perfectionist, I wove mine pretty tight, though I was told this wasn’t necessary and I took at least ten minutes longer than than anyone else. I felt pretty proud though.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After winding the wire, we kept it attached and began gathering greenery. We clipped off larger strands and bunched a few together to create a little posy. Katie taught us lot of clever tricks, like putting bushier plants towards the back to make others stand forward, giving your wreath a voluminous shape. We attached each posy with a few more loops of floristry wire to secure it. We kept adding small posies, working in a clockwise motion around the ring, each new posy on top of the next. Tips here include making sure you cover the width of the frame, working outwards – the wider the leaves reach outside of the loop the better, really. What you’re after is something really full and bountiful, and not necessarily perfect symmetry either.

After the green base layer was complete, we dotted in flashes of colour. This is when an artistic side really comes in helpful. The urge to place bundles of colour at regular intervals around the ring is strong, and taking a more relaxed, and (dare I say it) random, approach is key. I played around with mine for a while, and though there was loads on offer, I chose to keep it pretty simple with skimmia and a little statice, along with that Christmas staple – berries!

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

What was really great about the workshop is that we used a lot of materials that can be found in your garden or local area. Be sure to check up on the rules for wild flower picking in your area, but if you look in the right spots, there’s no need to spend any cash apart from the minimal costs of the ring and wire. If in doubt, you can always head to your local florist. They should have all the basics, even if it’s not out on display, so make sure you ask!

We used a mix of fresh and dried foliage, and the glorious thing is that everything fresh will dry well too. That means you can hand your wreath for months if you like, without it starting to look a bit dodgy. It might even look better. If you keep it inside, just mist it every now and again to keep it fresh.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

If you live anywhere near Harrogate, I’d really recommend Katie’s workshops. There are currently two options on offer. The wreath making workshop lasts a few hours, and like me, you’ll craft and leave with your own Christmas wreath. This would be awesome for a pre-Crimbo treat for mums and daughters (or fathers and sons!), a fun activity with friends or even a festive hen-do. Katie has a huge breadth of knowledge – from facts about the type of plants to use, to showing you how to wire-in delicate succulents to make your wreath that little bit different. This workshop costs £55, but mention me when you book and you’ll receive a 10% discount, taking it down to a bargain-tastic £49.50. Each class last three hours, includes fresh materials, coffee, tea and nibbles. They take place on 29th November and 7th December. You can also attend a simple step-by-step demo. These will set you back £20, include tea, coffee and nibbles, and are happening on the 18th and 30th November, and 2nd December.

This class suited me down to the ground. I’ve always fancied a bit of floristry and this really whet my whistle to try some more at home. I nearly always have a fresh bunch of flowers on my kitchen island, but I tend to buy cheap. Intricate arrangements and displays seem so out of my price range, but this workshop really convinced me that I can try some myself, without spending a ton of cash (hey, we can’t all be Elton John, ok?)

Have you ever tried your hand at flower arranging or floral crafts? Got anything exciting planned for the festive season?

Disclaimer: I attended a workshop at Katie Laura Flowers free of charge, thanks to an invitation from Emma. This hasn’t affected my opinion at all, I loved my experience of wreath making. 

Food Blogger’s Travel Survival Kit

Food Blogger's Travel Survival Kit

Something a bit different for you today. I’m currently winging my way down to London to stay overnight at Gatwick, and get an early flight over to La Rochelle tomorrow morning. This weekend is my food styling workshop with Karen of Lavender and Lovage, which I won as part of the #YogurtStylist competition. I’ll be keeping you informed about what I’m up to while I’m there, as well as a full rundown of my stay and what I learned when I get home, but to tide you over, I’ve created a post all about travelling with food in mind.

Camera + Lens As a blogger, the most important item in your kit is arguably your camera. A picture speaks a thousand words, after all. Great photography can transport your reader right to the action, and come on, they deserve it. Pack your camera, plus all its extras with a lot of care – you’ll be needing a charger or spare battery, a back-up memory card and you need to think about your lens choice too. If you have enough space – take a few, especially if you might want to photograph people, landscapes and action too. For France, I’ve packed my Nikon D40x with my 50mm f/1.4 lens, as well as the 18-55mm kit lens. Getting to know your camera on manual will help you tackle dim restaurant lighting, and make a smaller kit more versatile.

Battery Pack This is Blogger 101. Running out of battery is the cardinal sin, is it not? Can’t instagram? Might as well not exist. You, and your travels, are redundant (I’m only semi-joking). On the serious side though, running out of battery somewhere you’re not familiar with can be scary. A battery pack is compact, light and can really save your bacon. It also helps if you’ve forgotten the name of that restaurant someone on Twitter recommended, or you need a quick Google Map to find that coffee shop with the killer iced lattes. I have the EasyAcc® 8200mAh Aluminum Elegant Power Bank. It’s easy to charge, compatible with a lot of devices, and can recharge my iPhone 100% up to five times.

Food Blogger's Survival Kit

Notebook & Pen A lot more subtle than a DSLR at the dinner table, and a great way to jot down details about the menu, dish or atmosphere of a restaurant before you forget about them. Also comes in handy when you’re out exploring and you stop to catch up for a moment. You can plan your posts on the go without having to pause your trip for a second. Lighter and slimmer than any tech alternative, it’s no wonder old people like them so much, eh?

Comfy Shoes You’ll be needing these as you hot foot it from the chef’s table to that artisan donut store. As I learned last year in Portland, if you’re going to be stuffing your face multiple times a day, it’s important to be comfortable. You’ve got a consumption plan, now make it easy on yourself. This way, you can sprint to catch the last portion from the food truck that’s about to close up, or walk off a late night tasting menu (and sober up on the way home) without getting blisters.

VSCO Cam A simple, easy to use app which will improve your iPhone photos tenfold. With VSCO, you can add filters, edit brightness and contrast, vignette, sharpen, rotate and crop in seconds. You can’t have your DSLR with you all the time, after all, and sometimes you want to snap and tweet in real time. Take your pics in your Camera app and import them to your VSCO library. When you’re done, send them to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. #Winning. Download from iTunes for free.

Food Blogger's Survival Kit

Extension Lead This may sound extreme, but how many times have you had to rotate which device you charge because there are only two sockets in the hotel room? I like the Masterplug Indoor Power MSF3/NK-MS 3-Way Fused Adapter £1.75. If you’re abroad, you’ll only need one adapter, and you can charge multiple devices at the same time.

Mini USB I hate travelling with cables. They get tangled, they’re obnoxious, I hate them. Mini USB cables are a great alternative. They’re compact, they won’t get ripped or damaged and they cover the charging and connection needs of most devices. The Griffin USB Adapter Mini Cable Kit £12.54 is one of the more expensive options, but they’re sturdy.

Card Wallet This maybe the freelancer in me, but whether you’re into networking or not, chances are the people behind the food you’re photographing are going to want to know who you are. Meals are usually fair game, but it pays to ask before you start snapping pics of servers in action or nipping behind the scenes for candid shots. When they ask you where you write, it helps to have a card to offer. It’s not arrogant or pushy – I find that having a quantifiable thing means that people take me more seriously and offer me a bit more of their (precious – value it!) time. You can be as bashful as you like when you hand it over, and from someone who doesn’t exactly relish talking to strangers, I find it to be a nice, quiet way to explain who I am and what the hell I’m doing. I’ve got a pretty Brit Stitch card wallet that I keep in a handbag pocket to whip out and hand someone a card when they ask. And it doubles up too – I tuck in any cards I pick up along the way, small notes I’ve made or foldable fliers. I look back on them at the end of the trip and I know who I’ve met and where I’ve eaten – plus, I have the social media details of most of the spots I’ve visited.

Bonus Item: Lipstick By no means mandatory, but personally, I’m never far from a bright lip colour. It’s an easy way to look “done” without really putting in much effort, and I swear it makes anyone 100% more photogenic. You’re going to be eating and drinking a lot, so you’ll need something long-wearing. My favourites are the Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balms. I’m taking the Elusive and Showy shades with me on the road.

And that’s it! Let’s catch up soon – au revoir!

Chatting

Chatting

This morning, I read a post on Amy’s blog which sparked my interest. I’ve been lucky enough to gain a few followers recently (HELLO!), and save for the few of you who have diligently followed me everywhere since I was a young whipper-snapper, there are only a couple of my readers I know well. I think this idea originated with Allie, and it’s a great way to share a bit more, and to get to know you guys who read – I’m grateful for you, so will you be my pal? Let’s chat. Answers (any or all!) on a postcard, or, you know, in the comments section.

1. Tell me about your family.
2. What is your best/most vivid food memory?
3. Money and teleportation are not issues, you have one day. What do you do?
4. Is there something you’ve enjoyed recently? Tell me about it! 
5. What traits do you value most in other people?

My answers?

– My family… they’re nice! I have a mum and dad who have been married for 42 years, they live by the seaside, and I’m the baby – with two older sisters who are 10 and 11 years older than me. It’s safe to say I was unplanned, and have brought my parents a relatively large amount of stress, what with the dicky health and all, but they still love me so that’s sweet of them. My dad is tightly wired and highly driven – he’s my inspiration, he’s supportive and insightful. My mum is more laid back – loving and fun. Likes a party. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when I was 19, which was a weird experience and continues to be so everyday. My sister Kyley is a bit of a live-wire. She’s creative and she makes you feel like you can do stuff you’ve previously doubted. My sister Gemma is one of the people I feel most comfortable around, we speak a lot, even though she’s over 200 miles away, and she visits Leeds every few months. She’s 6 months pregnant so that’s exciting. They’re all a long way away but they’re a huge presence in my life. Oh, and these days I have a husband too.

– I have a vivid memory of eating roast beef at Castle Combe in Wiltshire when I was about nine. My mum, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying, is not the most confident or accomplished cook, so it felt like this was my first real memorable experience of real food. It was cut in thin, pink slices on a white, porcelain plate, and I ate it with crispy roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese. It was like a lightbulb had switched on.

– I would eat all day, naturally. It would start with coffee at Courier in Portland, then a trip to Blue Star Donuts for a Blackberry, Bourbon and Basil bad boy. I’d travel to San Francisco to see my friends Adam and Heidi for lunch – I’m thinking they’ll have a taco place in mind. I’d spend the afternoon shopping for books, comics and cookware, then settle into a nice, comfy coffee shop to read what I’ve bought. The evening would be spent at Zucco with my best friends, getting quietly drunk on Aperol Spritzes and Merlot and scoffing plates of Deep Fried Zucchini. I’d fall into bed at 21212 in Edinburgh around 1am, and I’d wake to bright skies and birds, with no hangover.

– Something I’ve really enjoyed recently, is the #ShowMeYourPump tag on Twitter. I took part earlier in the week, and I think it’s an excellent way to raise awareness and bond with my fellow pals with diabetes. The diabetes community on Twitter is something I’ve only recently discovered and it’s been a consistent source of support for me. While forums have always been helpful, it’s understandable that you generally see a certain type of person posting and asking for help. I’ve always felt a little out of my depth in that crowd. Twitter is open to one and all and it goes a long way to help me feel normal. The #ourD tag has a chat every Tuesday from 8-9 which I generally join in with if I’m at home, and users tend to post on it throughout the week, things like “Woke up at 15.0 this morning – feeling groggy. Time for a correction!” It’s nice because there’s always been a sense of shame for me before, like I’m the only one getting it wrong. This helps me understand that we’re all in the same boat. Plus, pictures of 2 year olds wearing their pump with a big smile never fail to make me tear up.

– Honesty. The ability to laugh at oneself. If you look at the people I surround myself with, they’re overwhelmingly silly. People who repeatedly say silly things, put themselves in silly situations or do things to make themselves and other people laugh. I like that, I think it’s admirable, and I’m trying to be more like that myself. As I get older I’m realising that being achingly self-aware is tiring, and at the end of the day you should just enjoy yourself. Who gives a shit what other people think? (Me, most of the time, but I’m trying not to)

So there you go.  If you have a spare five minutes please take the time to share an answer or two below, or even just talk to me over on Twitter. The internet is a wonderful place to connect with people and make friends, so let’s get to know each other.