Friday, 14 July 2017

Getting serious for a sec - Anxiety in early pregnancy


TRIGGER WARNING: If you suffer from anxiety – especially anxiety about medical issues/ fertility/ pregnancy – I would not recommend reading this post, or if you do please be aware that all the issues described were my own anxious thoughts and not a reality and I give advice that worked for me on how to ease these anxieties.

I have been slowly working on and adding to this post from around pregnancy week 15, I am now 23 weeks and feel like it is a good time to share - I may add / edit later!


I wouldn’t really consider myself an anxious person (tense & emotional yes), I definitely experience anxious times, as many people do, and occasionally my thoughts/ fears can be overwhelming, but compared to people I know/ know of I definitely don’t suffer from anxiety. And I am able to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or know that good times will roll around again. So whenever I found out I was pregnant, I was surprised to find exactly how anxious I suddenly became.

Of course, pregnancy, perhaps especially a first pregnancy is an anxious time for most parents to be, and I expected that I would be a little preoccupied and maybe more worried than normal about things, but I found my anxiety in the first few weeks almost suffocating.

I was convinced that things were too good and something had to go wrong, almost ‘this happened to easily, there needs to be a twist’, ‘most things in life aren’t straight forward, why is this?’ and those types of thoughts.

 

The Laparoscopy/ Endometriosis Fear:


I have experienced on-again-off-again pain near my left ovary for a few years now, and last year (2016) I had an investigative laparoscopy operation to find out whether the cause of this was endometriosis.
This was the last time that I experienced this type of overwhelming anxiety – I became convinced in the weeks leading up to the op that there was something terribly wrong with me that ultrasounds hadn’t picked up, amongst these fears; 'I have cancer', 'a ruptured ovary', 'a twisted ovary', 'a growth', 'an ectopic pregnancy', 'no ovary at all'… all these thoughts went round and round in my head, and on top of every one of them was ‘You might not be able to have children.’
– these thoughts really took over my head for weeks, every time I saw a child/ baby/ pregnant woman/ baby advert etc. I felt like crying or going and curling up in a dark room. And despite all of this fear about what else could be wrong I was 100% convinced I had endometriosis – which sadly can also affect fertility.

The GREAT news for me was that they didn’t find any evidence of endometriosis, and that my ovary ‘looked healthy’ which I was totally shocked about. The consultant said she believe the pain is caused by a digestive problem (perhaps an intolerance or mild IBS) and while they couldn’t totally rule out endo there was no sign of it.

I still experience the pain occasionally, but a lot less frequently and severely than before, which makes me wonder whether some element of it was psychosomatic, or stress/ anxiety related (writing about this experience and rethinking the feelings and thoughts, I can now feel the mild pain around that area niggling at me)

 

Finding out I was pregnant - Anxiety, Sleep and Early Scan

 After I found out that I was pregnant, we were so happy and pleased, but I was also SO anxious and the ovary pain reared its ugly head… I sat awake most nights for the first 5-6 weeks thinking about everything that could go wrong, pregnancy problems in my family history, the ovary pain, and became sure that the pregnancy was ectopic. I honestly slept less than 3 hours a night for about 6 weeks. I spoke to my GP and she was very understanding and immediately offered to send me for an ‘early scan’ – which I had read can be very hard to convince a Dr to refer you for, even if you had previous pregnancy problems or miscarriages – and we had the scan at around 8 weeks. Of course the baby was miniscule at that point, and we knew they would only be able to tell us the bare minimum information – but we saw that it was in the right place and I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off me, a real almost physical wave of relief. The midwife then told us she could see a teeny tiny heartbeat and we couldn’t believe it. I've never felt so lucky in my entire life, and I doubt I ever will again.

 

My one biggest piece of advice on anxiety in early pregnancy is – if you are anxious, really worried or concerned – ask your Dr to send you for an early scan – no matter what happens at least you will know and not have to wait until around 3 months for your first ‘proper’ scan. If your Dr is reluctant to send you for an early scan, in many places here in the UK there are private clinics you can go to and pay for a one off scan. This usually costs less than £100 – if you can afford it, do it, just for your peace of mind.






That's all for now, I plan to blog more throughout my pregnancy butI felt like now that I am further on I should share just how anxious I was in those early weeks, because others might be feeling the same way and I know that reading a post from someone feeling similarly to I did would have helped me a lot in those sleepless nights and nauseous days!


Love,
Lindzi x

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Books for Baba - The Most Beautiful Children’s Books

When I found out I was expecting (ok… maybe slightly before then…) I was getting very ‘nesty’ as I often do and wanted to start buying bits and bobs for future baby. Baby clothes to me then felt a little too optimistic with the anxiety I was feeling (more about that in a future post) but books seemed like a good thing to start to look at.

Of course it will be years until Baba can read these books for themselves, but in the meantime I've chosen some of those with the prettiest design and pictures to entice them, as well as to be a design feature in their room!


Years ago I’d ‘pinned’ ideas for a future kids room and had several pictures of front facing bookshelves saved, and I love the idea of beautifully illustrated, brightly coloured books being a key feature in a child’s room – perhaps in the hopes of passing my love of reading on to them!


And so with this in mind, one of the first thing I purchased for our nursery (as well as a big comfy armchair for nursing) were these Ikea front facing shelves, although I’ve seen lovely wooden/ Perspex/ DIY versions out there too!

Below are a couple of my favourites from other sites which I have used for reference – sources tagged

Such pretty colours and perspex shelves! From Chronicles of Frivolity


A DIY version from A Beautiful Mess



Soft Colours and GORGEOUS Chair


I began collecting some beautiful books early this year mostly bought from Wordery, Amazon and a couple of vintage ones from eBay, I looked on Pinterest, on my favourite blogs (A Beautiful Mess, The Band Wife, Chronicles of Frivolity etc.) for inspo as well as trailing through book sites and googling ‘beautiful children’s books’.














These are what I’ve got so far (all books and authors plus more tagged below!)



And these are on my wishlist;



I also have a small collection of vintage children’s books that have been passed on to me by my mum or granny, and a few from charity shops and car boot sales I bought years ago which I plan to display too.



This one is my absolute FAVE! It was my mum’s and I loved it when I was little too (it never did teach me to tidy my room though…)







 I feel that keeping the nursery pretty muted neutral colours (we will probably not even paint the room - just keep it the off white colour it is now) and using fun accessories; chair, rug, lamps, cushions and of course BOOKS, to add colour, is a really nice way of designing a relaxing but fun space for a child. I can't wait to really get stuck in to 'doing up' the nursery! :)

When I actually get round to decorating the nursery and putting up the shelves I’ll share the final look with you!

In the meantime, what do you think? What do you think is the most beautiful children's book? And what was your fave as a child?

Love, L x

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Happy, Happy, Happy, News!

In February this year, Ross and I received some exciting, a bit scary, but very happy news, we are expecting a baby!


I took this pic at about 8 weeks, although I had the idea years ago! It's our wedding shoes at the beach I grew up on :)

While this baby was planned and hoped for, I found the first few weeks of the pregnancy extremely anxious, and I'm still finding it difficult to express exactly how I'm feeling - which is a new thing for me (as well as the hatred of all sweet food!)

We waited until after our 12 week scan to tell our families - even our parents, and told our closest friends that weekend.

I told work and shared the news on facebook after 15 weeks as I felt the 'keeping it a secret' thing was making me more anxious and therefore more nauseous - and I have felt quite a lot better since then!


FAQs (what everyone seems to want to know - which is lovely!)

When are we due?
 I'm around 16/ 17 weeks, so due end of October/ start of November ( we will be given a more definite date at our 20 week scan next month)

How have I been?
 Everything seems to be going well, and I feel OK, pretty tired and I was very nauseous for about 15 weeks - although not actually very sick - I always assumed 'Morning Sickness' meant actually throwing up, but apparently not!


Things I've been asked that aren't so lovely 

"Are you married!?"
To the woman in my office who I only know to see but who felt the need to let me know she heard I was pregnant (not actually congratulating) and then briskly asked me if I'm married - WHY does this matter to you? It's 2017 woman!
- For the record my response was "Did you just ask me if I'm married?! Sorry my hearing is bad but that's what it sounded like?"

"Was it planned?" 
 Again - NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS

"Were you trying for long?" 
This wasn't asked in a mean way but a caring way, but that it VERY personal information, and something that many people wouldn't want to share, and it's not a question I would ever ask someone, just be happy for their happy news!


Anyway, I'll share my POV and thoughts and updates as I can but for now I just feel like 'how do I deserve to be so lucky?!'


Any questions you have or advice (yes please!) please feel free to ask in the comments!

Love L x



Monday, 15 May 2017

My 'Perfect' Buttercream Recipe

Need a great basic buttercream recipe that works every time? Ready to have your socks blown off by simplicity? I have perfected and used this recipe countless times over the last 10 years or so, and I don't even think about it anymore, until someone says 'how?!'. Let me know what you think!


Plain buttercream with raspberry jam filled cupcakes and fresh raspberries (a fave of mine!)



I actually created a PDF of my recipe because so many people asked me to share it;


 Click here for your freebie PDF recipe!


But i'll go through the steps here too;


Easy Basic Buttercream Recipe

(Can adapt to any flavour)


Measurements given are enough for at least 24 cupcakes or one large cake, but very simple to adjust as needed


Equipment;



  • Electric Mixer
  • Large Bowl
  • Silicon Spatula
  • Damp Towel
  • Piping bags (if piping onto cupcakes)


Ingredients



  • 250g (half a block – UK sizes) salted butter – room temperature
  • 500g (standard size bag or half large bag) icing sugar
  • Splash of milk (or milk substitute - I've used almond milk before and it works fine!)

Candyfloss flavoured buttercream with Rainbow Drops 


Method


1) Cut butter into cubes and add to mixing bowl

2) Mix on high until creamy


3) Stop mixer, add 1/3 of icing sugar – mix by hand with spatula until not powdery


4) Mix on slow building up to high with mixer until combined



  • I usually cover my mixer carefully with a damp towel to stop the cloud of icing sugar!

5) Repeat steps 3&4 until all icing sugar is mixed in

6) If needed add a splash of milk to loosen mix (if it still appears clumpy or rough at this stage)


7) Mix on high in mixer until mix starts to go a pale cream colour and is very smooth


TIP If mix is too warm and starts to melt/ look liquid – add a little more cold butter, if it seems to split (this has only happened once to me!) The only real way to save it is by adding fat - i.e. chocolate! hopefully if this happens you can adapt your recipe and add a little cooled melted white or plain chocolate to the mix to revive it (see below for details)


8) Buttercream is ready to use when it is light and fluffy and a pale colour – the longer you mix the paler it will become.


BIG TIP; WHIP IT REAL GOOD! I can whip my buttercream for a good 30-40 mins sometimes!


White chocolate cupcakes with plain sponge and chocolate stars



To Flavour/ Colour the Buttercream


For fruit flavour butter creams – I add half a jar of fruit jam/ curd to the mix and rewhip

For caramel/ toffee flavour – add a couple of squeezes of sauce – I like to use Clark’s


For chocolate – carefully melt 150g (I use Tesco/ Sainsbury’s own brand – NOT COOKING CHOCOLATE) in the microwave and allow to cool to room temperature – add spoonful at a time to the mix while whipping on full – check after every couple of spoonfuls that the mix is still soft as chocolate will cause it to firm up.


Any other flavour/ colour – use a couple of drops of good quality colouring/ flavouring while whipping! ( the Rhubarb and custard cupcakes below - I used a few teaspoons of Bird's custard powder for the custard buttercream and a good quality rhubarb flavouring for the other.)



Rhubarb and custard buttercream with rhubarb sponges (piped with a duel bag piper)


Good luck! I'd love to hear how yours turns out and what variations you come up with!  :) L x

Mini Victoria Sponge Cake Cupcakes!


A colleague leaving my team this week asked for 'vanilla' cupcakes... to which I wrinkled my nose in disgust. I have been asked to make many different confectionery treats over the years but never just 'vanilla' (which I'm sure is lots of people's taste but just does not thrill me!) I eventually talked him into 'a Victoria sponge type thing' and so the Mini Vic Sponge Cakes were created!



Soft vanilla sponge, plain whipped buttercream and a dollop of raspberry jam, sprinkled with icing sugar, very simple but I have to say, they went down a treat in the office!


So, not exactly a recipe - (I've already shared my buttercream recipe here), more of a cupcake styling!


You will need;

Vanilla sponge cupcakes
Plain buttercream
Extra cupcake cases
Raspberry Jam
Piping bags
Icing sugar
Seive


Here's what I did;



First of all bake the number of vanilla sponge cupcakes you need, it's hard to get cupcakes to come out with a perfect smooth top everytime, half of mine had peaked tops - these got the traditional icing on top treatment (no one seemed to mind!) but I usually find at least half my batch turn out smooth (I always do batches in multiple of 12s, so this batch of 24 gave me 12 nice smooth topped buns)


Next unwrap your cupcakes from their wrappers as carefully as possible


Then carefully cut your cupcake in half horizontally, try to keep top and bottom even sizes


Place the bottom of each cupcake into a new clean case as you cut it, and set it's matching top beside it (to make sure it's the right fit!) I found it easiest to set the cases and tops inside my cupcake carrier.


Fill a piping bag with your buttercream and another with your jam, I used about half a jar of jam for 24 cupcakes. This is the jam I usually use.
You'll see I use a bag clip on the end of my piping bags, I find this really helps keep the mess down and I would DEFINITELY recommend this for the jam!




Now pipe a generous ring of buttercream on each of the cupcake bases, try not to go over the edge or they'll stick to the cases.




Next fill the centre of each ring with the raspberry jam.



Now pop the top of each cupcake back on, do not squish them down!


I chose to do a row of 4 cupcakes at a time to save on space and mess, but you can do them all at once! 



Once all your tops are on, give them a quick sprinkle of icing sugar using your sieve (you'll see I did this step in another surface to keep my carrier clean for taking them to work!)


And voila! Or bob's yer uncle! Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes. As I said, I ended up with 12 of these and 12 'normal' cupcakes - with raspberry jam in the middle and plain buttercream on top, and I don't need to be a research consultant to tell you (although I still am FYI) that the Mini Vic's disappeared quicker than the 'normal's'!


I'm baking for a bake/ plant sale in my mum's work this weekend and I think i'll give these another go!



What do you think?


Happy Baking,Lx

Monday, 6 February 2017

Buying Your First House - Advice From First Time Buyers!

I've been planning this post for a while, we moved into our house in May 2015, so a little while ago now, but that time has given me the chance to re-read and re-consider and re-write this advice - and now I feel i've got it down.


1) I advise to get an adviser

We were very lucky when buying our first home together that a family friend who is a great financial adviser offered us her help, she was patient at explaining things we just didn't understand, sorted out all the red tape and paperwork for us and helped us plan and budget properly - I realise we were very lucky in this and most first time buyers may not have the luxury of hiring a mortgage or financial adviser but if you get a chance or you can set some of your budget aside I would highly highly recommend having that professional help!


2) Pre-Plan


When you are applying for a mortgage you will have to be so open and honest about all of your finances, incomings and outgoings, little sneaky shopping sprees and exactly how much you spend at Starbucks - I knew this would happen, but I was still shocked when it did. I love to shop, I don't earn much, I LOVE clothes and good food, I'm crap at saving - these things do not a pretty bank statement make!

When you decide to start looking for a house, remember that most mortgage lenders will want to see at least your last three months bank statements - so try and be careful! Check your credit score and try and improve it if you can. If you've never had a credit card or any credit to speak of  - get some! This might seem counter-intuitive but taking out credit and paying it back is exactly what improves your credit score and what lenders will want to see!

Try and spend as little as possible for at least three months on silly things, you don't want your statements to show payday then a whole list of bars and clubs - lenders want to see where your money goes and if you are likely to be able to afford mortgage payments - show them you can!

3) Don't Settle Petal!


This is likely one of the biggest, scariest decisions/ commitments you'll ever make, but don't let that make you try to 'get it out of the way'. If you know what you want, or better yet what you don't want then don't settle for something that doesn't match up, unless the compromise is really worth it.

For example, I knew I wanted a house; not a bungalow, not an apartment and not a cottage. Two floors for me please. I knew I wanted it to be in Bangor, but was open to compromise if the house was bigger but further from the town centre - and that's what we ended up with! I can't walk into town, we are really on the town limits, but that means it a fairly quiet area, a new house and HORSES IN THE FIELDS AROUND US.

We also decided to spend extra to get the 'end' house. There were three of our house types available, one mid-terrace, and two end terrace, and I think we picked the perfect one.

The mid-terrace house would have meant a few grand less but I am SO GLAD we went for the end one, don't get me wrong, the mid house is the same size and quality and still a lovely house, plus there is basically no 'neighbor-noise' in these new builds, but as an 'end' we have wide open space at one side of the house, slightly bigger gardens, a window in the downstairs loo and the upstairs landing and easier access to the back garden - plus ... did I mention the horses?! We didn't see upstairs in our house until it was completed, but as soon as I went up and looked out the front windows I realised we were looking between the houses across the road and straight into the big field of the stables beside the development! #WIN 


4) Don't Bite Off (Too Much) More Than You Can Chew


Housewise;
Think about what renovations you can afford and when you might be able to afford them, we knew that cash and free time wise we were poor, it would take us a looooong time (longer than I would have liked) to 'do up' a house. We didn't plan on a new build, but it made sense for us at this stage of our lives.

I've had friends who've bought 'do-er uppers' and have 'done them up' beautifully, but with all the stress, mess, money and time that goes with it. 

Moneywise;
If you use a financial adviser (which I seriously recommend) they will help you figure out a budget and what you can actually realistically afford. You can't depend on that possible promotion or pay bump. Don't assume you'll 'make it work'. Make sure you can commit to the cost before you take the plunge!


That's it!


Hopefully this advice is helpful to those of you who were in the same position we were 2 years ago... like wtf where do we even start? Are we doing the right thing??! - All you can do is what feels right for you.

If you're looking for your first home now - I wish you all the luck in the world, and hope you are so happy in your new home!

If you're not - then hopefully you can either heed my advice for the future! or...

If you've already taken the plunge and are home owners then hopefully you agree with some of my advice, and perhaps have some of your own to share? Feel free to add your advice in the comments!