The Honourable Woman


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Have you seen it?

The other day my friend asked me if I was watching The Honourable Woman. She sold it as ‘similar to Homeland’ and told me to check it out on iPlayer (episodes 1-7 are available for just over a week now so get there quick!) and so Pete and I sat down to watch it one afternoon while he was on paternity leave.


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Oh. My. Goodness. I was hooked before the first episode was even half through! Similar to Homeland in the sense of having spies, terrorism and secret loyalties at its heart it is also helped along by a stellar female cast taking powerful roles with a wardrobe to match, (hello Maggie,) and lots of clever political dialogue. Its also incredibly timely as it centres around the age old conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

I’m probably very late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t heard of it or watched it, it’s totally worth binge watching before it’s gone! Have you seen it? Did you love it?

Oh and no spoilers please! I’m only 2 episodes in ;)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

The BreastFeeding box

When I had my pseudo-babyshower (I just had a fun day with the girls for a manicure and dinner out, whilst swapping baby tips and advice,) one of my friends gave me a breastfeeding box. She had been given one by her best friend and found it really useful, so she decided to pass it on. It has been one of the most useful things I received pre-baby so I wanted to share the idea with you – either for those mamas out there who may find it handy, or if you want to buy a really useful gift for a mum-to-be. The bits are all stored in a click lock box and the idea is that you always have everything you need for a feed. I wasn’t sure how useful it would be at first but once I sit down to feed Bea I find I’m constantly asking Pete to bring this or that and the other, (invariably a muslin,) and particularly in the early days when I was less mobile and sore, I knew if I had the box, I had everything I needed.

  1. Lansinoh nipple cream – I used this from the first feed and used to apply after every feed, now I just use it twice daily, after a shower then before bed.
  2. Lansinoh Breast pads (disposable) – I was told not to bother with any others, just stick with these as they are the best and I did, until I forgot some when we went away for the night recently and I had to pick up some in Tesco’s, which were dreadful. These have something in the middle that absorbs moisture and sucks it in forming a gel. They can be really heavy with fluid when I replace them so obviously work well as they never soak through. The own brand ones didn’t compare in absorbency and didn’t stay put as well. I tend to change them a couple of times a day or night so keep 6-8 in the box.
  3. Hand cream – For frequent hand washing and because sitting feeding may be the only chance you get to put some cream on yourself.
  4. Lip balm – Because BF makes you thirsty and dehydrated.
  5. Hair bobble and kirby grips – In case you want to get your hair out of your face.
  6. Infacol (or similar if required) – We went through a phase of trying infacol and if you are using it or something similar then it makes sense to keep it in the box then you have it for every feed.
  7. Phone with breast feeding app! – My friend recommended this app – I think there are loads of them and this one is probably similar to others, but it has a lot of features and I find it easy to use. I use it to remind me which side to feed from, and to monitor when she is due a feed or how often she has fed. Hopefully one day it will show me a pattern!

Other things that were in the box I was given:

  • Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 breast therapy – I didn’t use these as I didn’t have too much soreness but they can be used hot or cold and I imagine would be really soothing – I threw mine in the freezer straight away for when I needed them.
  • Washable breast pads – I haven’t progressed onto these yet so I’ve taken them out of the box for now.
  • A pen and notepad could be really useful too.

It wouldn’t fit in my box but two other essentials are a muslin for wiping Bea’s face and for pushing under my breast between my skin and bra to catch any dribbles or drips so my clothes don’t get wet, and a pint glass of water or sports drink bottle to stay hydrated.

I’d love to know if you guys did anything similar or if there is anything you would have put in the box that I haven’t listed here?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Becoming a Mother…


Day 2

This post has been a difficult one to write, in fact I started drafting it as ‘2 weeks with Bea’ and got not much further until now. I haven’t yet written about our new arrival, other than to introduce her because it has taken me time to find the words. How to start? To put my words into context, I would never have described myself as maternal – I don’t get ‘broody’ and I would even extend that statement into my pregnancy. I had very real fears that I wouldn’t like being a mum, or that I might resent my baby for the inevitable changes that were about to take place in my life. That probably sounds like I wasn’t ready to have a baby at all, but I had come to realise (much earlier, before we tried to get pregnant) that I would probably never ‘want’ to give up complete freedom to do what I wanted, lazy beach holidays cocktail in hand swinging in a hammock, regular dinners out or last minute plans. But I knew I didn’t want to go through my life without being a parent and building a family with Pete.


First Bath time // Day 5

So it has taken me by surprise just how different I do feel, now that I have a daughter. I should have seen it coming I guess, as everyone always says they fell in love the minute they set eyes on their child, but equally, some of my more honest friends admitted that becoming a mother was a shock, not least due to the physical ordeal and that it took them days or weeks to fully bond with their baby – I suspected I may be the same. In fact the change in me when I first saw Bea was seismic. I finally found the words yesterday when I realised it was like The Big Bang, everything changed in an instant. A whole new universe began and Bea is my Sun.

Now I look back at times I have offered well meaning baby sitting duties to friends with new babies, just to give them time to sleep or shower and they have refused. Now I understand that maybe they didn’t want to be without their baby, even for a minute. I remember trying to reassure chronically fatigued friends that expressing or topping up with formula so their partner could give a bottle while they sleep wasn’t a bad option if it helped them function better. Now I know how they didn’t want anyone else to comfort their baby if they could, even at the expense of their sleep. It shocked me how primal the urge is to hold her sometimes, how much it upsets me when she cries. If I sound crazy, I feel like it at times! I fell hopelessly in love with this little person before I even saw her, the second I heard her cry.

Even now, having written what is here, words fail me. No statement is powerful enough to express how I feel about her or how content I feel with Bea in our lives. I wanted to share these thoughts not just to hear from all the other mothers what they felt in those first heady weeks of becoming a mother, but to reassure those of you who (like I did,) wonder if they will ever be ready or willing to take that unimaginable leap into motherhood.

Tell me, do my words resonate with you or remind you of how you felt? Or do they make you feel more positive about a family in your future one day?

Love
Rebecca
xo

Note: This post is not meant to patronise those of you reading who have never wanted or do not want a family in future, merely to describe how I feel and speak to those who might feel as I did weeks, months and years ago about children in my future.

Triple Temptation: Boho kaftans

Good Morning readers! Sorry for the lack of posts – I’m having some camera trouble which has been getting in the way and Pete is on his official paternity leave so we are out and about enjoying Bea. I’m sure things will get back to normal soon. Bear with me!

Maybe with the recent change in weather I’m already feeling nostalgic for the end of summer, or perhaps I’m hoping for an Indian summer to spend with Bea and the earth mother in me is coming out, but right now I’m leaning towards a much more relaxed sartorial style. Floaty tops, bright embroidered touches, cool fabrics and comfortable shapes are what I’m coveting, so I’m looking for the perfect embroidered top to pair with shorts, sandals and sunglasses for summer style.


Monsoon £29.99 // Monsoon £22.50 (sale) // Zara £29.99

They double as beach wear and don’t have to be restricted to summer – the black detailing on the first choice above would transition well into Autumn to work the folksy seventies vibe that will continue to be a hit for AW14. They’re also super kind to a lingering mum-tum and work well layered with a vest for breast feeding.

What do you think readers? Would you wear a kaftan?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Spotted: Monsoon x Pippa Small

I’m a real sucker for jewels and in recent years have moved towards buying pieces of real jewellery from favourites like Monica Vinader occasionally and building a collection that will last a lifetime, instead of frittering 10 and 15 pounds away here and there on inexpensive but poor quality costume pieces. I’m sure prolific accessory buyers would end up spending the same amount when totted up.

I have always loved Pippa Small’s pieces on Astley Clarke but they are way beyond my usual price point for purchasing so when I saw that Monsoon had collaborated with Pippa to make a capsule collection I was immediately interested. The collection also benefits the Turquoise Mountain Foundation (a minimum of £5 per piece is donated to the foundation) which employs craftsmen and women in Kabul, Afghanistan. Made of aquamarine and kunzinte, and 18K gold plated, the pieces are sure to be treasured for years to come.

What do you think readers, would you fork out a bit more for real materials instead of costume pieces?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Florence’s Food: Monkfish and Chorizo Skewers

Today’s guest post has been sent in by Lynsey and looks like the perfect summer dish for light eating or special enough for entertaining – I reckon these could even go on the BBQ. Thanks Lynsey and if you have anything you would like to contribute to help me while I am on maternity leave, click here to find out how you can get involved (scroll to the end of the post.)

Monkfish and Chorizo Skewers:
400g monkfish
200 g chorizo sausage
2 red peppers
1 tsp paprika
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to season
8 wooden skewers

  • Start off by trimming the monkfish – make sure to remove any skin and grey flesh, and cut into dice approx. 1 inch in size. Monkfish can be quite expensive / tricky to find at the supermarket, but this dish works equally well with chicken. Peel any skin from the chorizo, and cut into smaller dice. Chop the pepper into neat squares. Aim to have approx. 24 dice of each ingredient to make 8 skewers.
  • Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika and parsley together, and season with salt and pepper. Add the monkfish, and toss thoroughly to coat with the dressing. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to marinade, and let the flavours infuse into the fish.
  • Once marinaded, thread onto the skewers – alternating with the diced chorizo and pepper. Cook in a frying pan / under the grill / on the BBQ if the weather allows (!) for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the peppers are starting to blacken slightly. A good rule of thumb is 3 minutes and turn, repeating this about 4 times. I used a George Foreman for mine, as my grill decided to break as soon as I started preparing the fish…, so it really is a versatile dish.

Tabouleh Salad:
200g plain cous cous
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber
3 handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped finely
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
1 small red onion, chopped roughly
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to season

While the fish is marinading, you can get started on the salad. Cook the cous cous according to packet instructions (usually equal parts boiling water to equal parts cous cous, cover and leave for 3-5 minutes), fluff up with a fork and stir through the olive oil. Place all the chopped vegetables and herbs in a large bowl, add the cous cous, season and mix together well. Serve alongside the skewers and enjoy!

Lynsey

Triple Temptation: Nursing Bra’s

Possibly the least sexy thing about being pregnant has been the bra’s. Conflicting advice about under wiring do’s and don’t's is confusing enough, without the then hideous selection available. Personally, I needed larger bra’s pretty much from the off and struggled on in my usual ones until about 17 weeks, when I headed off to the shops and spent a necessarily brief (for my sanity) trip scoping out the available options in M&S and John Lewis. I found a selection of twee or cutsy polka dot, floral and generally hideous bra’s and a rude sales woman who flat out refused to sell me an underwired bra ‘because I was pregnant’. Cue me leaving without getting measured and buying a 2 pack of navy and white lace non-underwired, lace bra’s from M&S (36D at the time and they were nursing bra’s – all of the maternity ones were.) The only other bra I have bought in pregnancy has been a strapless nude (heavily underwired) number to see me through events and various stroppy/halterneck tops. (FYI, I went from a 32 C/D pre-pregnancy, to a 34/36 E currently, and that’s pre-feeding.) The other 2 have been on rotation depending on what is not in the wash.


Nursing Bra’s all from Figleaves.com £29-40

So with a new baby and the intention of breast feeding, I figured I’d need more bra’s – to help with the washing and also to try and make me feel better. I’m not obsessive about underwear and it’s certainly been a long time since I was wearing a matching set, but I know I’m going to feel a bit upset about my postpartum body and reckon if there’s anything I can do to make myself feel better, it’s worth shot. Plus, hopefully it’ll be a long stint of breast feeding, so on a cost per wear basis, these bra’s are going to earn their keep. I headed to Figleaves.com (first time customer) to check out their range after seeing a patient wearing a very pretty nursing bra and asking where it was from. It was Panache and I also found Elle McPherson’s range and HOTmilk. I was initially looking for a nude one but I bought all three of the above and sent the HOTmilk back, as it was too big (the others fit but have a little growing room, whereas the HOTmilk was slightly baggy.)

The service was great (free delivery and returns,) as was the range, so I wanted to share my finds. Have you bought any pretty nursing bra’s or can you comment on online sizing? I’d love to hear of any other brands that would be worth checking out…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

How to tackle a kitchen re-design (or any renovation)

I just want to say a huge thank you for all of your lovely comments and best wishes on Bea’s birth. It has been heartwarming to read them all from our new family bubble. We are still all doing well and enjoying time together but I have some prescheduled posts running for the next few weeks, so keep stopping by, (including some pregnancy/birth and beyond updates.) And of course I’ll be keeping an eye on things and commenting/replying here and on twitter or Facebook when I can. X

I got asked on twitter recently if I had any tips for a kitchen/living area re-design and realised there’s a whole post on that and it’s certainly longer than 140 characters. I’m by no means an expert and this was my first kitchen project so I’m sure any professional kitchen fitter would have better advice, but we have learnt a ton by planning it ourselves and I definitely have advice to pass on. I’ve interspersed this post with Instagram snaps of the progress of our kitchen work and a timeline is at the end.

Before you even start find out if you need planning permission and an architect or just drawings (your builder may do this, ours didn’t) and structural calculations. We started off with an architect who was slow, didn’t listen to us and basically just drew a set of plans that didn’t even have measurements on them and we were £1300 worse off for it. In retrospect we just needed structural calculations doing for the steel and builders drawings.


Our old kitchen layout

Consider what you use the space for (or want to use the space for if it’s not functioning as you would wish at present,) and what you can realistically do with it. We wanted a huge kitchen diner/living area. However we weren’t able to do that with the space available and the fact that we couldn’t extend. As we found this out at the purchase stage, we had to consider if the house was worth completing on, or were we going to have to try too hard to change it. No house is perfect but you also have to consider if what you are going to do to it is worth it in terms of increased value – will you out-spend what it can eventually be worth?


The old windows being taken out and made into new full length slim openings

Figure out your budget and marry that up with your expectations and what things really cost.
How much can you spend (or save) and how much do you want to spend? Some people couldn’t consider spending more than £10k on a kitchen, and others will do what it takes to get the kitchen of their dreams – this very much depends on personal income and the stage of homeownership you are at – there’s no point putting your dream kitchen in a 5 year house for example.
An example of what we wanted versus what we got would be our bifold windows – we originally planned to have floor to ceiling frameless glass including the corner of the kitchen, but for a variety of reasons, structural and cost related we ended up with window panels and bifolds. They cost about ⅓ of the first glass quote we had! I also thought as our kitchen wasn’t that big that we could look at more expensive brands and custom kitchens but quickly realised they are still VERY expensive and we compromised with the ex-display one we have now (which wasn’t much of a compromise but about a 50% saving.) Lastly, I wanted parquet look herringbone vinyl floor. Amtico do correctly sized tiles for that purpose, but were top of the range and priced to match. We compromised with a less expensive brand and range (Karndean) and had the planks cut in half – the result was a large scale herringbone but I love it and again it saved us about £1000.


The old chimney breast just before we knocked it out – sadly we had already planned the kitchen and couldn’t incorporate the old brickwork.

Work out your style and go for it. (Ie spend a lot of time on Pinterest!)
You can’t choose a kitchen without knowing what you want and it’s such a huge decision that I recommend doing this over a long period. I had this board on Pinterest for probably over a year before we even started looked or moved and I was able to look back over the evolution of the board and my tastes, and pick the consistencies out to help me see what I wanted and could live with longer term. Some of the things I liked (for example open shelving,) but wouldn’t be able to live with whereas others were key and consistent for me – I was desperate for marble despite the impracticalities. Also, use the Ikea website for kitchen design – there’s a great tool which can help you plan layouts as I found kitchen designers (at the lower end of the budget range) useless and lacking in imagination in this area.


Long window panels done (more were later put in where these two doors are) and the structural supports before the steel went in.

Work out the luxuries you want – You won’t be doing it again quickly so get it right
We wanted a hidden bin, to be able to hide small appliances and I wouldn’t compromise on a double sink, and 2 ovens. Our bin situation hasn’t fully been resolved and it is annoying not to have to that final detail nailed down.


Looking out of our new long windows from the building site!

To compromise or not to compromise?
Think about where you are willing to compromise. For me it was not on marble, but yes to the floor. Don’t compromise because you are tired or fed up of making decisions. Wait another day, or remind yourself it is worth getting right. It’s much better to delay work or finishing touches than regret things you’re stuck with later or rip them out in a few years for more money and hassle.


The bifold opening knocked through

Be prepared to make every single decision yourself.
I was totally overwhelmed at one point as our builder was amazingly hardworking and great but NOT a project manager and that basically fell to us. Trying to catch up and make daily decisions on top of a full time job was exhausting. Tiny thinks like the sockets and electric locations, plumbing, light fittings, types of socket cover, appliances, sink, worktops, wall colour, height and width of windows, door styles all impact on each other so need thinking through. Even our bifolds involved multiple minor decisions – the seal colour, frame colour, handle type, track colour, sills or no sills… and there is a lot of responsibility when measuring for things yourself, or for example making sure you order the bifolds at the right height so the frame was level with the floor that was being installed afterwards, and had to allow 11mm thickness to make it level inside and out.


The new windows finally in and the house sealed!

Make a time line of contractors and where they all interplay with each other.
You may not be able to do this until work has started and if you’re not bothered about rushing you may not need to, but (if you are lucky) in general no-one will come from when you ask them to for about 2 weeks which if you don’t plan ahead means multiple delays through the build/renovation process. On the other hand if you do it like we did, it means chasing everyone to finish daily so the next person can start when you asked them to.


Decorating – sealing the new plaster

Think about the outside – In our case this meant a deck or we would have stepped out from our beautiful new bifolds and kitchen to a 1m drop and a building site, so we moved straight from the kitchen work onto the outside. We also planned outside lighting when the electrics were replaced in the kitchen so it didn’t disturb the plaster and had the alarm company in throughout the build to remove and then later replace the sensors.


Admiring the new floor

Don’t forget to budget for furniture. Do you need a new kitchen table, or bar stools for the island, or a statement piece of lighting? You might well be prepared to live with old ones for a while but it’s worth thinking ahead on those things to get a really lovely finished result if you can afford it. (We still have our old bar stools!)


First breakfast in the new kitchen – still unfinished but usable!

Our building work started when we ripped out the old kitchen on April 21st and the kitchen, sink and cooker were plumbed in as the last things that made it useable (not complete) on June 20th. The outside was finished and our builder finally left on the 10th of July, although we did get some work done in one of the attic bedrooms in between that, that took about a week away from the kitchen/outdoors space. That’s pretty swift I reckon and only felt like it took so long because we were without the kitchen for all that time, whereas if you can have the kitchen taken out later for a like for like swap, it would be a lot quicker.

This is a timeline of the progress for us…

  • Start work 21st April – took old kitchen out.
  • 28th April Kitchen door to the house boarded up – only access was through the garden for the builders!
  • Windows were taken out and the holes elongated and partially bricked up to make the long openings.
  • Support structures were put in place, then the steel in for the bifolds.
  • Exterior walls were taken out so the bifold openings could be measured and ordered (10d turn around time)
  • Chimney breast taken out and steel inserted to support chimney breast above.
  • Steel boarded in with plasterboard and first fit electrics were done.
  • New door way to the hall was put in and the old tiled floor taken up.
  • Windows were fitted (24th May) but the wall had to be reinforced below the bifolds so they were delayed.
  • Replastering was done around the new windows.
  • Kitchen was fitted 29th May over 4 days and the bifolds done during that week sealing the exterior of the house. The fridge/freezer went in at this point.
  • More plastering was done to finish the last bit of windows and the hallway brick work around the door and where the old door was.
  • The second fit electrics came later (to actually put fronts on the wiring for sockets, plugs, fit under cabinet lighting and pendants.)
  • The floor had to go in after the cabinets as we weren’t flooring underneath them, but the Range had to go in after the floor as that is freestanding and needed to be floored underneath.
  • Appliances – the hob went in after the kitchen but before the oven. Dishwasher was plumbed in witht the sink which was done after the worktops went in.
  • We finally did the decorating ourselves
  • The marble was one of the last things to go in on June 18th as they had to take a template (one week before) once the kitchen was fitted and I then had to choose the slab which delayed us a little – more on that later.
  • Lastly the kitchen units were repainted (some were originally brown as part of the ex-display and we rejigged them as part of the new layout.) This was after the worktops in case there were any knocks or scratches during the other stages after fitting.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful or at least interesting. This was a huge learning curve for us and if it helps anyone else think think through problems before they happen it will be worthwhile. Obviously the kitchen is still not quite finished – we’re waiting for a few pictures and the central light fitting is missing some bulbs but as soon as it is I’ll take pics and show it off!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS I haven’t named all suppliers but will do another post on the finished kitchen with all of them in there. In the mean time, here are a few of the key ones involved in this stage. They are all people I would personally recommend.

Previous Kitchen posts:

Isn’t she lovely…

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Beatrice Evelyn Norris arrived yesterday at 11.14am and weighed 6lbs 5oz!

She is super cute, feeding like a pro and we are all totally blissed out. And I’m doing fine post c-section.

We will be spending some time as a family this week but look out for some sporadic posts from next Monday and an update if you’re lucky. ;) Oh and keep an eye on my Instagram for lots of updates!

Love,
Rebecca, Pete & Bea
xo

Capturing the bump…

I never planned to do a ‘bump shoot’, thinking I would have lots of selfie style bump shots to suffice and Pete would have taken plenty too. Whilst the former is true, the latter hasn’t been – we have been far to busy in the house to be anywhere worthy of dressing up and taking photos of late. Maybe it’s also the looming end to my pregnancy that has made me cherish it more, I will certainly miss this bump and shifting baby inside, but I hope the reality in my arms will be infinitely better. :)

I had planned to have a newborn shoot, when baby is fresh and still scrunched up and small, to capture that newborn bubble the three of us will hopefully be in (read: chaotic, sleep derived blur,) and so at the last minute last week I decided to ask our good friends Laura and Peter Lawson to do a bump shoot too. They made us feel so at ease in front of the camera and I knew they would ‘get’ how blessed out together we both are just now, as they had their little boy Albert only 7 months ago.

I’m so glad we did it now and Pete loves the results too. This was too special a time in our lives not to make some memories to treasure and now I just have to pick some for the wall!





Have a great weekend readers, see you next week!

Love,
Rebecca
xo