GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES

Sep 12

Hull is ace: The Freedom Festival

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by LifeLoveLaura on September 12, 2013

Last weekend was Hull’s Freedom Festival for 2013. The Freedom Festival is a free arts festival that has taken place in Hull for five years and it’s great to have something so exciting going on in our city. People moan about Hull but most of the people that do have never been. I have to admit, about 10 years ago I wasn’t a fan either but in recent years it has really upped its game and has become a top place to live. It’s just a shame that we’re stuck out at the end of the M62 or we’d get a lot more visitors and a lot more appreciation for the city. Big T came from Wakefield to Hull in 2003 for university and he loved it so much that he has never left! Now that the city has fun things like the Freedom Festival going on, I hope we get more recognition for being a great city. Hull has even made the short list to become the UK’s city of culture in 2017 (you can back the bid on twitter by following @2017Hull) and if we win, it will be well deserved, especially after such an amazing showcase at the Freedom Festival last weekend.

To kick start the festival on Friday night Big T, Little T, my mum, brother, sister in law, 5 month old niece and three year old nephew – more or less the full Family Pops, took part in a torchlight procession through Hull’s cobbled Old Town. It’s a part of Hull that I don’t often visit so I forget the beauty of this part of the city. It has a fabulous museum quarter and looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel with lots of picturesque alleyways, narrow bumpy streets and untouched dark and dingy old pubs. It is also where the house of William Wilberforce still stands. Hull’s Freedom Festival is a celebration of the lasting legacy of William Wilberforce and his success in the abolition of slavery. On Friday night, during the torchlight procession we had a minute’s silence outside the house where Wilberforce lived, which is now a museum. With over 1000 people taking part, the procession and the silence was very poignant.

The procession finished near the main stage of the festival where Lemn Sissay recited Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream‘ speech. It was spectacular and we were all so glad that we got to take part in such a big moment for the city. Even Little T enjoyed it and he was rocking out to a few bands afterwards late into the night! A one off, I promise.

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Waiting for the procession to start

Waiting for the procession to start

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

 

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

 

On Saturday we went back to the festival and spent the afternoon mooching around, listening to music, browsing the stalls and eating and drinking. Big T had some uni work to do so this time Little T and I went with my mum and dad, sister in law and my niece and nephew again. We got the train into town which was a novelty in itself as it’s something we never really do but it was good not to have to drive and struggle to find somewhere to park. We found a beer tent so plonked ourselves firmly there for an hour or so whilst my nephew had a dance to the fab jazz band that were playing and us adults got some grub. That suited Little T and I as he decided to have a mammoth nap whilst we were there, God knows how with all the noise going on!

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

After Little T had woken up and had his lunch we went for another walk towards the main stage again where a band called The Struts were playing. My former NME freak self is ashamed to say that I’ve never heard of them but my nephew LOVED them, spending the whole of their half hour set air guitaring away with his own little audience. Little T also had a little rock out on grandad’s knee after figuring out how to get his ear protectors off. In the end it just wasn’t worth the fight as he was determined to throw them on the floor!

Outside The Deep

Outside The Deep

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

Hull Freedom Festival 2013

There were plenty of other fab artists and events going on at the festival, way too many for me to mention here but you can read more about them here. The weekend came to a close with an rocking set from The 1975. Baby duties called for Big T and I so we couldn’t go but I’ve heard it was ace!

The Marina area of Hull has been a bit abandoned for the past 15 years or so by people other than market traders. With it’s many clubs and bars back in the day, it used to be the hub of night-life when my brothers, who’re now in their late 30s, were in their clubbing hey day. It’s recent revival with Fruit and the Humber Street Market, amongst many other things going on in the area, have made it the place to be again and it’s great to see. More of the same, if not better, next year please Freedom Festival!

Laura x

Please note: I have not been paid to write this post, I just had a great time and wanted to let people know!

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Sep 10

We love Center Parcs!

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by LifeLoveLaura on September 10, 2013

It’s no secret that our family are big Center Parcs fans. Little T is only a year old and he has been 3 times! We’re not made of money, each time has been for a very special occasion – mine and Big T’s first wedding anniversary, my mum’s 60th birthday and Little T’s first birthday. It just so happens that each of these special occasions have come about in Little T’s first year (his first birthday a given), although I do love any excuse to go to Center Parcs! We usually visit the Sherwood village as it’s only an hour or so’s drive from us but it still feels like we’re on a proper holiday.  I just love being in the forest away from it all. Everything you need is there – swimming, supermarket, spa, restaurants, not to mention the hundreds of activities. It can be expensive to eat at the restaurants but, for me, this is all part of the holiday.

This time we went Monday to Friday with Little T’s Auntie Jess, Uncle Tom, baby Bea, their Labrador Noah and our Labrador Daisy. We didn’t have anything in particular planned but Jess and I knew we wanted to spend some time in the spa leaving the boys on baby duty! We swam, ate, played crazy golf (I didn’t win, dammit), walked the dogs, ate a bit more and slept! I say ‘slept,’ we tried to sleep. Little T, now standing up, thought it would be good to spend most nights stood up in his travel cot peering and smiling at Big T and I. He has been in his own bed for a long time now and he’s not used to having us sleeping next to him so this was a bit of a novelty for him and kept him awake. It didn’t matter a massive amount though as we were on holiday so it wasn’t like sleepy Big T and I had a lot to do. No work = bliss!

First things first, Daddy wants a beer

First things first, Daddy wants a beer

The dogs were in holiday mode too

The dogs were in holiday mode too

The boys got their priorities right and filled the fridge with beer (Little T also tried to get in on the action but I had to remind him that he has a long time to wait) and the dogs got themselves comfy. Daisy isn’t used to having other dogs around so she loved having her mate Noah by her side for the week, although Noah, being an old man probably didn’t feel the same at having our giddy pup around!

Center Parcs UK

We were even joined by a Center Parcs frog! How that got into the villa I do not know but that’s part of the fun of Center Parcs, the forest animals – squirrels, birds and frogs, apparently, are all very tame.  If you are an animal lover it’s the place for you. In the past we have also been known to be joined by a swan at breakfast time, they’re not shy and if they think they’re going to get their beaks around a few scraps from your breakie then they’ll come right up to your villa to say hello. Being very much an animal freak, I love this!

Little T loved his early mornings

Little T loved his early mornings

Little T, although up staring and laughing at Big T and I during the night still insisted on waking up at 6.23 precisely most mornings. It was difficult to try to keep quiet whilst our friends and Bea slept when you have a noisy one year old and two daft Labradors bouncing around the villa. At times like that there’s no other option to embrace the noise.

Lunch in the dome

Lunch in the dome

Spot the bum crack in the family photo

Spot the bum crack in the family photo

We spent quite a bit of time in the dome, having two children with us and the husbands both being like big kids, it was a perfect place to pass the day as it suited everybody. There are just the right amount of adult and baby slides in the dome, the wild water rapids being our favourite. We had to take it in turns to look after the babies so us adults didn’t get to go down the rapids together but it was still good fun. Little T and Bea loved it outside in the warmer pool, people watching. I don’t think T could understand why he was outside in a swimming pool, being used to his indoor swimming lessons but he really enjoyed jumping in the bubbles and paddling under the waterfall. Last time we were there in April, a couple of ducks even joined us in the pool but sadly they weren’t waddling around us this time. T would’ve loved that!

Crazy golf time!

Crazy golf time!

Center Parcs UK

Center Parcs UK

Center Parcs UK

The crazy golf was such good fun! We went for the whole 18 holes so it took up most of the afternoon. Little T wasn’t a fan of being in his ErgoBaby though so we ended up having to put him back in his pram, personally I think he just fancied a bit of golf course off-roading because he couldn’t see what was going on when in his sling. There were quite a lot of families playing crazy golf so it was lovely laid back atmosphere, well until the boys started getting competitive. Crazy golf seems to bring out the worst and sweariness in you!

Center Parcs UK

Center Parcs UK

That evening we went for a 2 for 1 burger for tea in the Jardin des Sport so the babies could have a go in the soft play area. Little T was in soft play heaven, it wasn’t too busy so apart from baby Bea he more or less had free rein of the play area. He was more drawn to the bright lights and sounds of the arcade bit though, thankfully he’s not at an age where he’s asking for money to play the games. At a quid a go they’re not cheap! I did have a blast at the Guitar Hero, being the only game I am actually quite good at. Little T danced away to The Strokes, whilst I played along to a bit of Reptilia!

Little T and his mate Bea

Little T and his mate Bea

Bailey's milkshake time!

Bailey’s milkshake time!

Center Parcs UK

We took the dogs for a walk over to the Country Club on Thursday morning. It wasn’t quite lunch time but I went for a Bailey’s milkshake anyway, it is kind of breakfast food! It was a lovely day so we sat outside but Daisy tended to be a little bit more into the food on the next table than we wanted her to be so she was a pain in the arse! We had let the dogs off for a little swim in a pond on the way to the pub so they were way too muddy to be fussing around the people on the next table, although Noah is a little bit more refined than Daisy (not surprisingly, with me being her owner) so he behaved himself. Little T and I shared some garlic bread whilst the others noshed away on nachos then we headed back to the villa to get our stuff together to go for another swim. The babies and boys loved it so much last time, it would’ve been rude not to go again.

Swimming wore them out

Swimming wore them out

Center Parcs UK

Center Parcs UK

We had lots of fun swimming with kids in the outdoor area again but they were getting a bit tired so we went back to base near the Starbucks, very handy. The boys and Jess fancied a go on the rubber ring slide so I said I would stay with the kids and they were both sparko by now but I got a little bit bored whilst they slept so had to make my own fun with a blueberry snow cone!

On Friday morning we got up and headed off home early as it was bucketing down with rain. We had done so well up until then to have great weather so it must’ve known our holiday was over. As we were in the area, we were going to take the dogs for a run to Clumber Park on our way home but we had to call it off because of the rain. I was well kitted out for the rain with my Ilse Jacobsen Daisy walking boots and raincoat but we didn’t fancy driving home with a pair of smelly wet dogs in our cars. There was only one thing for it – a cheeky McDonalds breakfast instead, to finish our holiday off with!

I can’t wait for another trip to Center Parcs. We have nothing planned at the moment but I’m sure it won’t be too long until we get another fix. I do quite fancy having a trip to one of the other villages next time though so watch this space Center Parcs, we will be back!

Laura, Big T, Little T and Daisy x

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Sep 9

Smash!

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by LifeLoveLaura on September 9, 2013

Pinterest has a lot to answer for in our house. It has made me spend money that I don’t particularly have on slight home improvements, it made me want everything under the sun on our wedding day and it forces me to lust over homes from my wildest dreams. My massive lust for unachievable things aside, it is great for anything to do with little ones and can give you some brilliant ideas for things to do on rainy days and ways to remember those precious moments. Let’s face it, there are many a precious moments in a child’s life.

One thing I saw when browsing Pinterest when Little T was a few weeks old, was a smash cake photo shoot. It looked so much fun and I knew straight away that it was something I wanted to do with Little T when the time came for his 1st birthday but I knew I wanted to do it myself rather than paying for a photographer and studio time. Cake smashes seem to be very popular over in America (they’re full of great ideas over there aren’t they?) but not so much over here, so for those who don’t know what a cake smash is, here goes:

1. Dress a baby up in a cute outfit.

2. Bake/buy a cake.

3. Give baby the cake.

4. Watch him/her destroy it to their heart’s content whilst taking photos.

5. Job’s a good ‘un!

I brushed up on my baking skills (as we know from Little T’s rainbow cake!) and baked a small plain Vicky sponge for him to get stuck into and I bought him a lovely personalised bib from Esty. His bib was quite expensive but he’ll only have a 1st birthday once so I went a bit all out. We decided, rather than using our lounge for the shoot, we’d go to the university gardens next to our house and Little T could then make as much mess as he wanted and the ducks could have a treat and help themselves to the mess T left!

I used my phone to take the photos, maybe not as professional as some but hey, I’m not a photographer! Little T was a little bit more reserved with his cake than I thought he would be. It’s typical really, most days we’re asking him to not make a mess with his food and then when he can get as stuck in as he wants he’s all dainty with it! We got some great snaps though, and here they are. I couldn’t decide which to post so what the hell, I’ve posted most of them. Enjoy!

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

1st birthday cake smash

Big T and I were very happy that there was a little bit of cake left for us at the end of it too!

Laura x

I linked up Little T’s 1st birthday cake smash with #MagicMoments over at The Oliver’s Madhouse

Oliver's Madhouse Magic Moments

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Sep 8

A party fit for our little prince!

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by LifeLoveLaura on September 8, 2013

A week ago today was Little T’s 1st birthday. When I was thinking about how to celebrate his birthday so many people told me not to bother as ‘he won’t remember it.’ The massive party poopers!! This made me even more determined to do something special for him. Nothing overly extravagant but something that Little T can look back at the photos of and also so Big T and I will have something to remember. After all, it’s a very special birthday!

With the weather being quite impressive the past month or so (ok, I know it has started to go downhill this weekend but it HAS been nice!) we decided that we didn’t want to risk being stuck inside in a function room on a good day so a garden party it was. The only stumbling block there, we don’t have a garden. Bummer. Little T’s uncle came to the rescue though and offered us his, complete with a humongous trampoline. Score!

We invited close friends and family as we didn’t want it to be too rowdy and overwhelming for T. He takes after his mother being a nosey little monkey and he loves people watching but he is only a baby after all. Too much attention might have been a bit scary for him. I decided that, as it was a wee one’s party, only retro party food would do. Party rings, iced gems, cheese and pickled onions on sticks, the lot! I have to admit, we did put on a good spread, the grub went down a treat!

Retro children's party food

The spread – minus a few sarnies!

Rainbow kebabs

Rainbow kebabs

 

Homemade paper bunting

I didn’t organise any party games or anything, Little T is still a bit too young to play games but we bought all of his kiddie friends bubbles with their names on and there was plenty of music, eating, chatting and trampoline bouncing going on. We opened Little T’s presents with him in front of his guests as a few people asked to see him open them, although this job was more or less left to me. I didn’t mind though, I think I was just as excited to open his pressies as I am to open my own on Christmas day!

Pressie time!

Pressie time!

Our little family

Our little family

I have to say, I am quite good at organising things but I’ve never been particularly good at cooking or baking. Even still, I was determined to bake Little T an extra special birthday cake. The cost of cakes these days is extortionate and also something home made by mummy would mean a lot more. With his birthday having a little bit of a rainbow theme, only a rainbow cake did the trick! I wrote about my trial run of baking Little T’s cake here but the real thing was a hit! It got lots of compliments which made my hard work pay off and it ended up looking fab. I did, however, have to apologise in advance for the amount of colourings it contained, E numbers plus children aren’t the best concoction! Nevertheless, everybody had a bit and it went down a treat.

how to make a rainbow cake

how to make a rainbow cake

All in all, Little T’s party was a big success. It wasn’t anything over the top but it was special to us. I would never have forgiven myself if I had taken the party poopers’ advice and ‘not bothered.’ Little T enjoyed having a dance with his friends and family around and we all loved seeing him enjoy himself. He had no idea what a special day it was for him but he will in good time! I hope he doesn’t remember his trip to A&E in the evening though. About 6pm we noticed a red rash covering his tummy and his back so straight to the new children’s A&E department for Family K it was! After waiting around 3 hours, it turned out to be as we suspected – a bad reaction to something (we don’t know what exactly) but I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to rashes, you can never be too safe!

Little T was still smiling whilst seeing the doctor though, he’s such a good boy!

Still smiling in A&E

Still smiling in A&E

We love you so much Little T and you were a star on your very 1st birthday. Mummy will have to come up with an even better cake idea for birthday number two!

Laura x

I linked Little T’s birthday party up with #MagicMoments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

Oliver's Madhouse Magic Moments

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Sep 1

To my beautiful Little T, on your first birthday

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by LifeLoveLaura on September 1, 2013

Happy 1st birthday, our beautiful baby boy. You are the best thing to ever happen to us.

Baby's 1st birthday

Little T's first birthday

I can still imagine myself in the hospital bed after having you. The sounds, the smells, the feelings and it gives me butterflies in my tummy to think how quickly it has passed. I was in hospital for five days after you came into the world, so bringing you home to your new life outside of our private hospital room was the best thing ever. You have made every day of our lives so far so much brighter with your amazing sparkly eyes and beautiful smiley face.

You were born almost two weeks late, at 10.45am and I fell in love with you instantly. You looked just like your daddy with the dip in your top lip. You went from being induced on 31st August and being the youngest in your school year to arriving on the 1st September and being the oldest in your school year. Because of this you will have a whole new experience at school and be blessed with a different set of friends to if you had arrived a few hours earlier.

Our first family photo

Our first family photo

I couldn’t believe it when daddy told me you weighed 8lbs 15oz when he went to weigh you just after being born, no wonder my bump was so big and I waddled like an oversized Emperor penguin! You didn’t even lose much weight in your first week, 8lbs 13.5oz you totalled, but that didn’t surprise me as, once you got the hang of it, you loved your grub. Even though you were such a big baby, I look back at photos from the day you were born and I can’t believe how tiny you were.

Our first night together

Our first night together

On our first night together I was so exhausted and wanted your daddy there so much but I stared at you all night, inspecting your tiny fingers, your little button nose, the hairs on your head and your gorgeous long eye lashes. I couldn’t believe that you were mine and that I had made something so amazing in my tummy. YOU were the one kicking me under the boobs and hiccuping away in there for months. A year later you’d think that this would have sunk in but even now I look at you and tell your daddy that I can’t believe you grew in my tummy. It is such an overwhelming feeling.

I couldn’t wait to get you home from the hospital to meet Daisy but on your first night home, Daisy spent the night in the kennels just so we could get settled in with you. It’s a good job because you cried non stop all night. You didn’t want to feed from me so we had to get you some formula in the morning. You were so hungry and you wolfed it down. Daddy and I will never forget our first night at home with you! We were nervous introducing Daisy to you but you both became best friends straight away. Daisy always made sure she walked next to you when you were in your pram and she was so proud to be by your side.

Their first outing

Their first outing

Ever since meeting, the pair of you have been best friends. When you were in my tummy we used to joke that you would both come as a package and it’s true!

Within the first few months of your little life you had your first holiday abroad to Spain with mummy, daddy, Grandma and Uncle Lee, you had your first trip to Center Parcs for mummy and daddy’s first wedding anniversary and you enjoyed your very first Christmas at Grandma and Grandad’s house – lots of very special firsts for you. You were a busy baby! You got some teeth and started to eat real food when you were six months old, which you loved but your tastes changed all the time and they are still evolving. You adore listening to music and you make it clear that you’re a little rocker! You hate having your nappy changed, it’s almost an impossible task for mummy when you are rolling around the floor, trying to crawl away but with a bit of distraction we always get there in the end. You are very nosy and love being out and about in your pram so you can people watch and take in the world around you. You definitely take after mummy there!

One of your new favourite things is visiting the soft play, you just love rolling around and crawling away and hiding from mummy.

Little T's first visit to softplay

Little T’s first visit to soft play

I don’t think it will be long before you are walking as you are already pulling yourself around the living room and climbing onto the sofa. You are even onto your second pair of proper shoes! You are an adorable little boy T, living life to the fullest. Your cheeky and determined character shines and you bring out the best in me every day. You have changed me for the better and I am so grateful for your beautiful smile and sloppy tongue-y kisses every day. I love you so much Little T, you are my world and it is such a better place with you in it. I think about your future, who you will meet and where you will go but I don’t want to wish your life away. You are just starting out and I hope that daddy and I have given you the best head start that we can and that we are teaching you to be a good person. You are surrounded by people that adore you – your grandparents, uncles and mummy and daddy’s friends, and you are loved more than you will ever know.

Happy birthday Little T. Mummy, Daddy and Daisy love you millions xxxxxxxxxx

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Aug 20

I love my wagon

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by LifeLoveLaura on August 20, 2013

I spent weeks trying to come up with a first birthday present for Little T. I wanted something that he could keep but also something he could get use out of. I toyed with with idea of getting him a bracelet or a similar keepsake but being the rough and tumble lad that he is, I would have been too worried about him losing it. Then I remembered that being a massive fan of Americana, before I was even pregnant I used to say “whenever we have a baby, they’re having a Radio Flyer wagon.” That was it, present found!

We popped to the proper hipster bike shop in our town where they always have Radio Flyer wagons in the window but they didn’t sell the model that we wanted for Little T. The hunt begun! We originally wanted the ‘All Terrain Steel and Wood Wagon‘ but it wasn’t available in the UK, booooo! After being a bit gutted at first (I can tend to spit my dummy out, who’s the kid here?) we found the UK equivalent – the ‘Big Red Classic All Terrain Wagon,’ yay! We wanted something that was a little bit more sturdy whilst out on dog walks so the all terrain wagon seemed perfect with its big chunky air tyres. It will also be perfect for trips to the beach so we don’t have to worry about getting Little T’s pram covered in sand (sand is EVIL stuff!) It will hopefully be something that we can keep for a very long time and T can pass it down to his future little brother or sister or better still, to his own littlies.

I was VERY excited when it arrived and was going to wait to give it to Little T on his actual birthday, wrapped in a big red bow. Ideal, yes but good for my impatience, no. So, off Big T went with his ‘putting things together’ skills…

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

I couldn’t wait for Little T to get up in the morning so he could see his new wagon. A little bit early with his birthday not being for a couple of weeks but meh, he wouldn’t know! I could still give it to him with the big red bow on on his actual birthday, we shall see.

We took him out in it that evening as, once again, I couldn’t wait to take him out for his first ride in it and he loved it! He sat back like Lord Muck whilst I pulled him along, until he realised he wasn’t strapped in, that is. He loved the fact that he could move about but we didn’t. He thought edging towards the sides and us moving him back again was a game! Nevertheless, it was a fun little family walk, out and about in the university gardens on a sunny evening.

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

Radio Flyer Classic Big Red All Terrain Wagon

I will wait to take him out again in it until after his birthday, promise! If it will fit in the car after we’ve filled it with junk we might even take it along to Center Parcs with us next month, perfect!

Laura x

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Aug 11

Labstagram

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by LifeLoveLaura on August 11, 2013

Labradors of instagram

Daisy dog is so much of a natural at posing in front of the camera that she’s only gone and got her very own Instagram account. Being an official “Lab of Insta,” she has made lots of fellow canine friends on there already. If you would like to follow her shenanigans, you will find her under the name of daisy_doo_lab. It’s just a little bit of poochy fun!

Daisy (and Laura) x

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Jul 31

Happy anniversary Ma and Pa Pops!

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by LifeLoveLaura on July 31, 2013


pops

Today is my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary. 42 YEARS!

My mum and dad are amazing role models and I hope to have a long standing and happy marriage with a beautiful family, just like them. They are kind, helpful, generous, wise, experienced, worldly, with a little bit of nosiness and interfering thrown in for good measure. They bicker like cat and dog but love each other dearly, just like my Tilly and Daisy. I wouldn’t change a thing about them! Now in their 60s but both still working hard, they make sure they have amazing holidays (I don’t blame them) and, devoted to their three grandchildren, they spend every minute possible with their (now, very) extended family.

My parents are Little T’s world and he is a lucky boy to have such amazing grandparents.

So everybody, let’s wish Mama and Papa Pops a happy 42nd anniversary!

Laura x

 

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Jul 22

Every day is cake day…

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by LifeLoveLaura on July 22, 2013

…or it should be.

Yesterday was the last day of my maternity leave (sob) so by the time you read this I’ll be on my very first shift back at work. I’m not going to dwell on it too much, I’ve done that enough over the past few weeks! Instead I’m going to talk about CAKE.

Gone are the days of going out on the piss and staying out until 7am, on Saturday night I spent my night baking. I’ve never really baked properly before. I’m a dab hand at knocking together a Betty Crocker chocolate and vanilla swirl cake but there isn’t really much skill involved in cracking a few eggs and adding a bit of oil to a pre-made mixture. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve realised that Little T’s first birthday (scary!) is creeping up on us and being fully aware of how much nice cakes cost to buy, I have decided to try to make his first birthday cake myself.

After taking to Twitter for hints and tips on where to start, I’m THAT clueless, I had a go at a plain Vicky sponge last week to test out the mixture technique and surprisingly it turned out ok! Lovely and moist with just a tiny bit of a burnt bottom, ooh er!

My first go

My first go

Plain victoria sponge cake

Slightly burnt bottom but apart from that, all good.

It was moist, tasty and between Big T and I we managed to polish off the whole cake within 24 hours. If it’s there it gets eaten in this house!

We were going to go with nautical for Little T’s birthday but just before I plodded off to Hobbycraft to stock up on decoration supplies we decided to go rainbow themed instead. “Isn’t that a bit gay?” my brother asked. No brother, he’s a baby. Anyway… stupid big brothers aside, a rainbow themed birthday party can only mean one thing – a rainbow cake! As I’m one of those impatient people that can’t stand to wait for things and after realising that it’s not actually as difficult to bake a simple cake, I thought I’d have a go at one on Saturday night. There was bugger all on TV to miss.

Come 8pm, once Little T was well away in the land of nod, I cracked on.

Rainbow cake ingredients

Betty crocker cream cheese style icing

Equipment:

Scales

One cake tin

Greaseproof paper to line the bottom of the cake tin

Electric hand held whisk (I’m not messing about with hand one!)

Silicone spatula

6 bowls

Ingredients:

6 eggs

338 grams of sugar

338 grams of self raising flour

338 grams of unsalted butter

dash of vanilla extract (although I don’t think this made much difference to the taste)

1 tbsp of baking powder

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple Dr Oetker gel colourings

1 tub of Betty Crocker cream cheese icing (you could make your own but my skills aren’t that advanced just yet)

What I did:

Please note: although my cake turned out all right, this is not a fool proof method – next time I will be tweaking it a bit.

Plain victoria sponge mix

Umm, I never realised the disgusting amount of butter and sugar in a cake!

- Mix the sugar and butter with a bit of added elbow grease, until it is soft and silky. This time I didn’t mix it enough, next time I’ll mix until it goes whiter. 

- Add the eggs. I added them all at once and straight out of the fridge which caused them to curdle. Next time I will be adding them one by one and have them at room temperature. 

- Add the baking powder and then the flour, gradually. After I had done this I had to thin the mixture a little bit by adding some whole milk. It reminded me of making Yorkshire puds.

- Split the mixture equally into 6 bowls. There is no need to measure it, if it looks equal to the eye then it probably will be. Next time I won’t be making the mixture all at once. I will make it in 6 separate batches so it’s not just sitting there for hours. 

How to make a rainbow cake

- Add a full tube of the Dr Oetker colouring to each bowl. Next time I will be using Sugarflair food colouring as the ones I used weren’t quite bright enough for the look I was going for.

How to make a rainbow cake

- Cut out a circle of greaseproof paper to line the bottom of the cake tin. Add one bowl of mixture to the tin and spread evenly. Put it into the oven, preheated to 170 degrees (I have no idea what gas mark that is but I’m sure it can be googled.)

- Repeat the greaseproof paper and cake mixture to tin method until all 6 cakes are cooked. Each takes around 20-30 mins. Next time I will be using at least one other tin. One tin is ridiculous as the cake took 5 and a half hours from mixing until finished!

- Remove the greaseproof paper from the bottom of each layer. It got a little bit stuck but was easy enough to remove without breaking the cakes. In between each layer, spread a thin layer of the icing, kind of like buttering a sandwich.

how to make a rainbow cake

how to make a rainbow cake

how to make a rainbow cake

- Et voila! As this was purely a practise I didn’t ice the outside of the cake too but the Betty Crocker icing is perfect for this, as well as using it in between layers.

how to make a rainbow cake

how to make a rainbow cake

The moment of truth

The finished article!

The finished article!

I am SO happy with how it turned out. I tasted it yesterday morning and although it was reeeaaally sweet, it didn’t kill me. Like I said in the method, next time I’ll be using darker colours and more tins to save time but apart from that it’s pretty damn good, even if I do say so myself!  That might sound a bit big headed but considering a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t even make a plain Victoria sponge, I’m doing pretty well in the baking department. Roll on 1st September for Little T’s rainbow birthday party!

Laura x

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Jul 8

Time flies when you’re having fun!

4 comments

by LifeLoveLaura on July 8, 2013

Two weeks today I will almost be halfway through my first shift back at work after my maternity leave. The thought of it is something that has made me feel sick to my stomach since I left! We have had some milestones in our little family since T was born, including mine and Big T’s first wedding anniversary, Little T’s first Christmas and my mum’s 60th birthday. It hasn’t all been rainbows and glitter however, along with Little T’s hip dysplasia saga, my 37 year old brother had a sudden heart attack when T was a month old, my dad had part of his foot amputated because of a bone infection and then there was my mum’s emergency appendicectomy a couple of days before Christmas… to name a few things. All in all, we’ve really had a busy year during my maternity leave! Because of the good and the bad, we have really made the most of my time off with our new little bundle. We have had family trips away with my parents, been to Spain with my brother for some relaxing recovery time after his heart attack, had a trip to London to see The Book of Mormon and taken the opportunity to have lots of days out with Daisy dog.

My gorgeous boy

I have been fortune enough to have a full year off work but that doesn’t make returning any easier. Twelve days or twelve months off with your newborn, it’s not nice to go back to work after either. It’s not that I don’t want to leave Little T, I don’t mind leaving him. In fact, in the past couple of months whilst I have been doing some keep in touch days at work, Little T has been settling in with his child-minder and he has loved every minute of it. It’s more the fact that the once I’m back at work, I’m stuck there – until the time comes to think about having another little one. This realisation has taken months and months to settle in and I don’t think it fully will.

I’m having to go back full time, with limited time to spend with my gorgeous little family. I work long 12 hours days in a 24/7 hospital so I’m one of those shift workers that has to think about not being able to spend every weekend, bank holiday and Christmas off with the family. I will have to work. The days where I only have to think of Little T and I are over. The days where we stay in our pjs until way after lunch time, where we play in the paddling pool in the living room when it’s a bit rainy outside or where we take Daisy out for a nice long walk and a play with her ball all whilst daddy is at work – no more. Yes, I will still have two or three days off a week with Little T to do these fun things but it won’t ever be the same.

My little family

Not only that, I’ve never been great at time keeping. I’m one of those people that will be late to their own funeral. Having a baby does not help this bad trait of mine so I’m not actually sure how I’ll physically be able to get to work for 7am! I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it… in two weeks. Hopefully my colleagues will let me get away with rocking up a few minutes late for a week or so or until I find my feet again at least!

Some may say that I’m making a big deal out of going back to work, especially after having such a long time off. The fact is, it IS a big deal to me. I don’t want to go back. I would give anything to be able to be an old fashioned housewife, I’d even learn how to bake if I had to. I will never be one of those career focused women that find themselves ready to go back to work after their maternity leave, this idea is an alien concept to me! I also haven’t spent my maternity leave only talking about babies, I have had the fun times and adult conversation with my friends too, so going back to work isn’t going to fulfil my need for non ankle biter focused chit chat, it’s only going to make me wish I was at home, baking, in a pretty dress (I can’t even wear those where I work!)

This may seem like a moan about my job, it’s not and I am trying to look on the plus side of the situation. My maternity leave really has taken it’s toll on us financially. I could’ve returned sooner but the time with Little T was more important to me than having a bit of extra money. In the mean time we have really had to scrimp and scrape to get by. It hasn’t been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination, I have had to sell my soul on ebay to get some pennies together to buy nappies and food. It hasn’t been luxurious but sometimes (and totally sounding like Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson) the best things in life really are free. When feeling crap about money and pondering whether I should’ve returned to work a bit earlier taking Daisy and Little T for a walk in the gardens next to our house would reassure me that staying off was the right decision. Going back and actually having some money again, however, will be lovely. I can’t wait to get a decent wage again where I don’t have to think twice about spending £4 on a top from Asda. And… we can finally start saving for our exciting trip to Disneyland!

Laura x

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