Weekend For Me

Yippee a weekend all for me as the kids are safely at the grandparents. They are already having an amazing time as is quite evident in the pictorial updates I have had. But what about me? What plans have I got?

Well you might think that catching up on some sleep might be on the cards and yes I am sure at least one nap will feature. However this weekend it’s about catching up on those chores that are made twice as frustrating with two small people in tow. First up is the shower cubicle. It’s a grim job but it needs resealing and a few tiles fixed back on. No problem with the help of a few tunes and the right tools.

Once that’s done it defrosting the old fridge and freezer ready for disposal next week. We now have one of those super American fridges that a person could live in on these hot summer days. The lawn needs cutting after the rain and the garden needs some general TLC so that’s on the list too.

The dogs are looking hopefully at the door – think they fancy a child-free stroll. One that doesn’t descend into me trying to herd cats and generally falling out with everyone! They also need a bath but they don’t know about that yet….

Not much of a relaxing weekend I hear you mutter. But here is the thing: I can’t remember what a ‘relaxing weekend’ feels like. There are always so many chores to do and so few opportunities to do them properly. Weekends in my 20s would of been spent in a pub garden surrounded by friends. These days my friends all have kids; what’s the point of a weekend off if you are chasing after someone else’s 2 year old?? So it will be another brew and a silicon gun for me today and you know what that’s ok. At least I get to listen to my choice of music and I won’t have to wipe anyone’s bottom or argue about how many biscuits constitutes an afternoon snack…

Post Holiday Fitness – From wobbly to where I want to be

So whilst everyone else appears to be slaving away to get themselves beach body ready – I took a more laissez fair approach and just went with what I had. Whilst hairy legs, bushy under carriage and a wobbly bottom are not to be ashamed of I have to say I felt rather less pleased with my decision once I had squeezed myself into my swim costume.

I wouldn’t say that I am overly vain about my appearance but this was a step too far for even my broad shouldered ego. Pre-holiday I had admitted that yes I had gained a few pounds and was in fact the same weight now as I had been when pregnant. Alas this time the culprit was not a 7lb baby but a rather serious issue with burgers. Despite knowing that I was larger than I have ever been I still made the some what rash decision of buying all of my clothes in a size 10. This turned out to be particularly ridiculous when it came to putting on my swim gear. You could say I mastered the floss but not quite the way you would imagine.

The holiday clothes issue was quickly rectified by a couple of new outfits. Obviously that didn’t fix the state of my hair which is in that tricky phase of growing out my pixie cut. Still that phase continues and like I do every time I go through this I vow never to cut it short again. But I know, and I am sure you will have been there too, that this is cyclical process and I will indeed go through his again in a few years time! Still with my wobbly hairy bits covered and an improving tan I made it through the week without having too many hang ups about my appearance.

Now back firmly on UK soil the decision to join the gym before my holiday was a good one. You see this time rather than join a state of the art, fully mirrored, poser gym. You know the ones I mean – full of beautiful 20 somethings in Lycra, looking fabulous barely breaking a sweat whilst running 10 miles. I joined a ladies only gym – where they promised no mirrors and no judgements. They set me up with my own programme; measured all my wobbly bits and spent time taking me through the whole circuit. So when I got back from my hols; feeling fat and a bit self conscious this was all ready for me to start tackling the problem.

So off I trotted on Thursday afternoon – down to my new gym. Where so far I seem to be the youngest person there, but that’s great too. Everyone was nattering and made me feel really welcome. No one cared how many miles I could run or whether my trainers were cool. We were all there for the sole purpose of shedding just a few pounds so we could get our trousers done up again and hopefully increase our basic fitness level just a touch.

It’s strange to me too find myself looking forward to going back again next week. I am only planning on going 3 times a week but hopefully that will make all the difference. Who knows maybe I will get the exercise bug and turn into a real gym bunny. For now my 30 minute low intensity work out makes me feel better in myself and I am sure that I will start to see some results soon with regards to my trousers 👍🏻

Birmingham’s Best Eateries – Our Top 5 Restaurants

Living in Birmingham we are quite spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out. However with 2 small children we are sadly limited to availability of a baby sitter! So we decided that rather than have 3 or 4 meals at £50 a month, we would go out just once and blow the budget!

Finding top restaurants hasn’t proved difficult and we have had some amazing evenings in the past 12 months. Here are our top 5 in and around Birmingham currently:

1: Harborne Kitchen – Harborne

This place really is a gem. The staff are super friendly and we love to eat at ‘The Chefs Table’ and watch everything be prepared. The menu is always exquisite and changes with the seasons. My personal favourite is the watercress veloute – a vivid green, it looks stunning and tastes incredible!

Harborne Kitchen gets the top spot for not only having great food and service but also for being reasonable priced. You can check out their menu Here

2. Carters of Moseley – Moseley

I am always amazed at how small this restaurant is when we walk in – but the staff are so attentive and friendly it makes the whole experience much more intimate.

Very much deserving of its renewed Michelin Star; Carters provides a mouth watering journey through their seasonal menus. Along with the perfect accompaniment of bio-diverse wines – it’s a great opportunity to try something totally new and you are in safe hands with their sommelier.

Personally I can’t get enough of their chicken liver cereal, or any of the delicious snacks on the menu. My last visit I took advantage of their amazing lunch time deal and I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon with friends enjoying 4 courses and a class of wine.

Why not book your table Here

3: Simpson’s – Edgbaston

A beautiful Georgian style restaurant, Simpson’s never fails to disappoint! Having held a Michelin Star for several years the food is as amazing as you would expect.

We visited here in the summer and sat in the gorgeous garden listening to the fountain and enjoying champagne cocktails! My favourite restaurant to visit on those warm evenings by far.

The steak tartare is like velvet and I recommend it if you find it on the menu. But be sure to save some room for pudding because they are always delicious!

Check out the latest menu Here

4: Lasan – Birmingham

Oh what a treat this place is! For high quality Indian cuisine we have found now where finer. There are some unusual and frankly delicious offerings on the menu.

I had the mixed starter to share on our last visit and everything on it was perfection. Although I have to say I struggled to squeeze in my main afterwards. We took our in laws here and they are desperate to go back and try the other things on the menu. Most surprisingly the puddings were great too – my father in law rates the stewed beetroot as one of the best desserts he has had in a while.

I highly recommend checking out the menu and booking a table Here

5. Adams – Birmingham

This was our last stop on our Michelin star journey around Birmingham. It was definitely worth the wait. The restaurant itself is classy, but without being over pretentious. The food is every bit as pretentious as you would expect at Michelin star level. But it’s not all sparkle and no substance.

Beautifully prepared and presented dishes appear and disappear rapidly. Every element of every dish has a purpose and adds another level of flavour. Nothing feels rushed but you’ll look up and realise that you have gone through the entire menu with ease.

It’s not a cheap night out by any means but it’s definitely worth it – check out the latest menu Here

Motivational Failure – Why I can’t get myself to the Gym

So you might be wondering how the exercise plan is going – no doubt you are ready to hear tales of how I have motivated myself to lose at least a pound or two… well no!

Really this site should be called fat bum won’t exercise… I have had my FitBit on which gives a surprising insight to how much walking I do. Considering I now spend most of the day in the car, I can still clock up 7000 steps most days. Of course that’s does not negate the fact that I eat burger for lunch almost every day. Add to this my excruciating back pain (it’s the sitting all day) I have to admit that the motivation for exercise is severely lacking.

You see I start of with great intentions. Today for example I was going to do the park run with a friend – but she didn’t text so I just kept that suggestion on the downlow. Now I am lying in bed drinking a full fat latte from Nero; nursing the heartburn that was a consequence of the freshly baked croissant that accompanied said coffee.

People tell me that once I start to exercise it becomes addictive. I find this hard to believe – chocolate, cigarettes and shoes are addictive but exercise? I can see that it makes you feel good and you get a sense of achievement but I can’t imagine it is comparable to biting into a bar of Dairy Milk straight from the fridge…. mind you if I never get started I will never know!

Perhaps I should set some personal achievable goals. Of course today’s goal is to get out of this bed and do the 18 loads of washing. If I have the energy after that and my spine doesn’t feel like it’s on fire I could do a 20 minute jog. But really I would rather sit for 20 mins and drink a brew. Preferably while the kids play quietly in the other room. See I think this might be the crux of the issue – I don’t want to ‘waste’ my 20 mins of down time from the small ones to go for a run. I want 20 minutes for me to relax, drink a hot cuppa or have a quick shower. There are not enough 20 minutes in the day and I don’t want to spend time doing something I know I will initially hate!

(As if to to emphasise my laziness the other half has suddenly dropped to the floor and done 20 push-ups. He is working on his beach body…)

I should be working to be ‘beach body’ ready myself. The prospect of putting this post-2-children body into a bikini is not something I want to think about. Don’t get me wrong it looks alright under clothes but bikinis don’t give you a lot of space to hide. Beside which the bottom half of my legs will never tan. I will do that thing where you only get brown knees and the bar across your feet where your flip flops are. You would think that the bikini thing would push me to tone up this ass – it doesn’t I will just buy a bikini with short bottoms!

So I think this post explains that I am fundamentally lazy! Does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can get myself motivated??

She Believed She Could So She Did

Last week symbolised the end of my nursing career (for now). On Friday I packed up my uniforms and laptop and walked away from 10 years of hard work and commitment. It was tough – it felt very strange walking out of the doors of the hospital and realising that I would not be back again. But it also felt liberating. All the stress, anxiety and worry that comes with being a ward manger just floated away. Suddenly the lives of patients and staff members was nothing to do with me. No more impossible targets, no more trying to cut costs whilst maintaining safety or trying to beg overworked nurses to please cover one more shift.

This last year has opened my eyes to the realities facing the NHS. As a nurse working directly with patients you don’t always understand why management makes the decisions it does. You believe that we are all working towards a unified goal of better patient care and services. And we are but the reality of the situation is that everything costs more than you think it should, and there are such finite resources that you can’t always have everything you need to get the job done. As a manager it can be somewhat soul destroying. On the one hand you have nurses and in my case parents demanding a higher standard of care, better nursing ratios and facilities; on the other senior management are asking for more cost.

Am I sad to leave behind the greatest challenge I have faced so far in my career? Yes and no. But having secured a fantastic opportunity in the private sector I could no longer justify the daily stress my job brought into my home life. Am I worried that I have sold my soul? Nope – the time has come to look after me and my own for while and if that comes with a rather large pay rise and some extra perks then all the better. Don’t get me wrong this new job is gonna be tough and there is loads to learn, but it’s exciting and I am looking forward to trying something totally different. Do I believe I can do it? You bet your ass I do!

So why am I telling you all about this? Well I am kind of hoping that I might get a bit more time now to get back to blogging. It’s been a while right? I know, I know, all those goals for a new blog that I set myself just fell apart. To be honest life just took over – well actually work took over. Why I thought I was going to juggle 2 kids, a full time 24/7 job and a blog is beyond me. Still here I am having another go so bear with me 🙂.

On the to achieve list is still my couch to 5k, currently I have the couch part down to a fine art. This was certainly the case when I had to do the skinny-Jean-wiggle this morning and actually ripped the bum of my jeans 😱. Whilst I have visited a lot of the amazing restaurants in Birmingham now, I have been very lax on the reviews so I am hoping to get some of those completed too. And the rest of the blog? Well I guess that will be the random musings of a ‘Just-about-Millenial’

Coffee House Stalker – but She’s Not ‘Sad’

A few weeks ago my mother made a rare visit to Birmingham. Now it takes a lot to get her to travel north of Watford so I wanted to make sure we had a good couple of days. Due to some unfortunate circumstances we found ourselves in town earlier than we had expected. This had obvious benefits like an empty car park, but the main draw back was the fact that nothing was yet open!

We crossed the car park chatting to ourselves before the reality of time hit us. As we approached T K Maxx I turned to my Mum and this is the conversation we had:

Me: ‘oh look we are so early its not open yet’

Mum: ‘ah’

Me: ‘I don’t think we need to stand outside and wait’

Mum: ‘oh no I don’t think we are sad enough to queue for T K Maxx to open’

Me: ‘shall we get a coffee’

Mum: ‘yeh sounds like a plan’

At this point we wandered off, carrying on chatting about stuff. I decided to take Mum to the new coffee place in town as their pastries are amazing (if you want to know more about this place check out the ‘Couch to Kitchen’ section).

We order our coffee and respective pastry and retreat into the back of the coffee house. Its pretty quiet in there, but there are a few people about. Leaning back in our chairs we carry on chatting, discussing the family and such. When out of know where this woman comes steaming up to the table:

Woman: ‘I think you are both very rude, I am not sad for queuing outside T K Maxx’

Cue totally non-plussed faces from me and my mother. 

Me: ‘errrr, what? what who are you?’

Woman: ‘you are both rude for saying I was sad for queuing outside T K Maxx’

(at this point she is waving her T K Maxx bag around and starting to draw quite a lot of attention)

Me: ‘sorry if you think we were rude but we weren’t talking about you, we didn’t even see you! We were talking amongst our selves’

Woman: ‘you are just very rude, I am not sad’

Mum: ‘oh love we weren’t talking about you’

The woman continues to rage at us, waving her T K Maxx bag in our faces before turning and storming from the coffee shop. Mum and I were agog and I think half the coffee shop were pretty shocked as well!

Being British Mum and I faced it off. We didn’t mention the outburst over the rest of our coffee. Not wanting other coffee-goers to think we were in the least bit perturbed. Once out of the coffee shop we both burst forth – ‘who was that woman?’ ‘how many coffee shops did she go round until she found us?’ 

Is it just me or is this an exceptionally bizarre set of events? If you have had a similar experience I would love to hear about it, because sometimes I feel these things only happen to me!

The Slow Demise of a Thirty-Something

Alas the demise of the thirty-something has me in its clutches. A fun packed night these days involves a hot brew and an episode of Game of Thrones. Preferably curled up under my cosy chinchilla style white blanket in my best PJs and slippers. Of course there is the occasional glass of wine, but that usually ends up giving me a headache and flushed face. Nope its time to admit that I am now well out of the cool zone. Rubber stamped by the fact that I cannot stand gin. Its no good to me it just tastes like tree.

It was always said that life begun at 40 but nobody ever told us that once you hit thirty things start to head south. I don’t mean the kind of south for the winter kind of south either – well unless you mean my tits. They are definitely in search of the equator.

I have to say the decline of my health, waist line and ability to withstand large amounts of alcohol certainly crept up on me. One minute I was a lively, go-getting, stay up all night twenty-something. I could squeeze into the latest fashions and I didn’t feel out of place in All Saints and Religion. I could rock a spray-on pair of jeans and a backless-frontless top with minimal tit tape and a towering pair of knee high boots. Nowadays the only way I could handle any of the above would be to have scaffolding rods under my nipples, and an exceptionally strong pair of spanks and blister plasters. Of course being less concerned about being cool and more into my creature comforts has its benefits. I can honestly say that no fucks are given about what other people think. Finally I can have my pixie haircut and geeky glasses, and not give a monkeys whether either look like I just got off the cover of Vogue. (Trust me I don’t, but like I said, no fucks given). Equally so I have no issue leaving the house in my ‘dog walking’ coat if its pissing with rain. I guess in a way the thirty-something period is quite liberating. 

Still the one area that really gets my thirty-something knickers in a twist (believe me those gran pants can still get bunched in your fan-a-lan) is that I am ridiculously unfit. Yes I know we should all be gym-going, smoothie drinking yoga masters – but I am not. The crux of the issue is my love of food, all food really but top of the list has to be cheese, english breaksfasts and chips. None of these things are helping my declining waistline. Now whilst I may still look a size 10 on the outside, inside I have fat person arteries! So, I have set myself a challenge… I have decided it is time to undertake a couch to 5K programme.Ok so when I said I had decided it made it sound like a new idea didn’t it? Well that’s not strictly true. You see I decided this over 2 months ago. In my excitement I brought some new running shoes and a running outfit. (I said I didn’t shop at All Saints any more, I didn’t say I had given up shopping!) My shiny new trainers have sat untouched since I unwrapped them. Except for the day I lent them to my mother to walk round Birmingham in… I think if I am totally honest with you, and myself, there has been more couch to kitchen than couch to 5K. 

To save myself from the slow demise of a thirty-something and to I have decided to share with you all my journey to fitness. It’s not going to be pretty – in fact its probably going to be quite sweary and sweaty. Keep up to date with how I am doing by following my story here. Oh and if you see me lycra clad and red faced, just walk on by and avert your eyes. It will save us both a lot of embaressment…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I am failing at Middle Class Motherhood…

It’s a long standing joke in our house that I am a ‘terrible’ mother. To be honest I think the main problem is that Pie attends an outstanding school. This would be fine, apart from the fact I am not an outstanding parent. In fact if Ofsted rated me I would probably be inadequate in many areas. I am a rubbish cook – despite my best efforts. We don’t do crafts at home  and I cannot teach Pie to ride his bike as he only ever pedals backwards. My driving skills are fair but my in car singing could be considered harmful… I do apparently make good sandwiches and give great cuddles (thanks Pie).


The other problem is I fail to get involved in the middle-class motherhood game. I don’t do yoga, therefore I never turn up to the school in my yoga pants or with a fabulous post gym glow. Usually poor Pie is lucky to see me at all at the school gate. If by some miracle I am there at 3 I am either in my scruffy jeans, with no make up and the ‘thrown through a hedge backwards look’. Or I am in my uniform, looking slightly harassed because I meant to get off early to pick him up with plenty of time. But I am in fact late and running from the car feeling slightly harassed and rather hot. 

Of course the other Mum’s all ask there little darlings how they got on at school. Pie always races out and announces that his pants are wet and can he watch Avengers when he gets home. This compounds the belief of the other parents that I am in fact a terrible mother in two ways. Firstly I am unable to potty train my 5 year old and secondly I allow him to watch TV. I just grin and unfold the plastic bag from my pocket for him to sit on in the car (it’s on hire purchase don’t judge my need for seat protection). I challenge anyone to toilet train this child – in fact I would pay you!


Worst of all are school projects, you know the ones where that damn bear come home for the weekend and you have to keep a journal. I can hardly write that The Bear watched me tackle washing pile mountain, wrestle Pudding into clothes and fail to cook a meal without cremating some part of it. I am pretty sure that the other entries in the book are utter bull. The person who gets The Bear after us must be like ‘winner, anything I write is gonna be better than that…’  

So no I don’t do yoga, I don’t have a gym membership and no my child has not mastered the toilet yet. I can’t attend the PTA, charity fun run or help out at the bake sale. I barely manage to keep up with the reading record, let alone complete the ‘optional’ (it’s not optional AT ALL) homework. I can’t stand the obligatory costume days, Easter bonnets or other such parenting requirements. I have tried to be as pulled together and perfect as the other parents at the school gate but the reality is I can’t manage it. I am just another frazzled looking mama who loves her kids but is never gonna win parent of the year. And you know what I can live with that. Motherhood is not a competition. It’s an ongoing battle, that you occasionally win but inevitably more often than not lose! 

A Busy Mum’s Guide To Buying A New House

So as many of you will know Pudding HQ is on the move! After several weeks of umming and ahhing, walking round houses and panicking that we would eventually be homeless it now looks like we are sorted. I have to say though it’s not an easy thing to organise a house move. Hardly surprising that they say this is one of the most stressful things you can do.

It really is a mine field of conflicting and biased advice out there so I have cobbled together a quick guide. I am by no means a property guru, mortgage advisor or solicitors. But here are a few things that I think made the process easier:

Busy Mum’s Guide To Buying a New House
  1. Mortgages & Agreements in Principle – A lot of places won’t let you start viewing properties until you can prove that you are financially viable. Which I can kind of understand. Viewings are time-consuming, not to mention having to keep the damn place tidy so people can look round. You want to know that people coming through the door are serious prospects. Most of the high street banks will now give you an Agreement in Principle. This is great if your finances are straightforward, but if you have a few debts etc I would recommend speaking to someone on the telephone. We found we could actually have quite a lot more mortgage when we spoke to a human! Finally be wary of estate agents and their recommended mortgage advisor, they get a big chunk of throwback commission for introducing new clients….
  2. Appointing Agents to Sell Your Place – You must have all seen the recent influx of online estate agents offering to sell your house at a fixed fee. I would definitely recommend getting a quote from one of these agents and possibly a local one so you can compare the prices. Be warned that most agents will tie you in to a few weeks where they will be the sole agent. Don’t forget that all prices quoted are liable to VAT. Make sure you know the exact costs from the outset and the tie-in length. The other thing to consider is that home buying is changing. High street estate agents are quickly being replaced by online sites such as Rightmove & Zoopla. If you are spending all your time looking for properties on these sites what do you think everyone else is doing?? Make sure which ever agent you use is posting your property on these sites.
     
  3. A Picture Tells A Thousand Words – You know the kind of houses that draw you in. Wide spaces, lots of light beautiful pictures where you cut and paste your family in your mind’s eye. So you want your pictures to be taken like that for the home your selling. Make sure that your agent is showing off your property with amazing pictures. But likewise when you are searching for a house remember that some agents will enhance pictures or use professional photographers and some won’t. An internet picture does not necessarily tell you everything. If you like the area and the floor plan, go see the house
  4. Sealed Bids…. – A lot of estate agents are employing this tactic at the moment. Asking you to provide your best and final offer. This can cause you to over-pay on the value of the house as it creates a feeding frenzy mentality. Not so bad if this happens on the house you are selling but pretty awful if it happens on the house you are buying. Remember that if you offer way over the asking price that your lender will complete a valuation survey. If the valuation is much less than what you have offered you will need to find the difference or attempt to negotiate with the seller.
  5. Go With Your Gut – House buying is a huge deal, so don’t end up buying a house you don’t really like. If there are things you don’t like, or are niggling away at you then stop and think for a minute. Somethings like hideous decor are fixable. Being 2 buses away from the nearest primary school, that has an inadequate Ofsted rating you are going to have to live with. Make sure you know what is important to you, make a list of things that can be compromised and things that are fundamentals. Moving is expensive you don’t wanna have to do it again in a few years!
  6. Instruct a Solicitor – buying and selling houses requires you to have a conveyancer, unless you are an amazing legal brain yourself. There are quite a few online companies for this now, but just be sure to read their reviews and take into consideration having to print, sign, scan and upload all your documents. Personally I quite like the online services because they give you a tracker and you can see exactly whats got to be done next and how far down the process you are. Also when you get quotes for your conveyancer remember that they usually include your stamp duty so don’t fall off of your chair at the costs until you have checked. A lot of them also do a no completion-no fee deal, bit of protection should your purchase/sale fall through.
  7. The Survey – If you are having a mortgage you will definitely need a survey. Cash buyers can have a survey at their own discretion. The mortgage lenders are usually happy to accept a basic valuation survey. If you want a more in-depth survey this will come at a cost. We went with the basic – because last time we had the home buyer it was very ambiguous for example ‘the electrics appear to be in good working order but we recommend that you have them fully checked by a certified electrician before committing to buy the property’. It was the same with the plumbing, heating, roof etc….

So there you have it – my Busy Mum’s Guide to House Buying. This has taken you up to the stage I am currently at. I will get another post written once we have completed. They reckon 6 weeks, but I am not holding my breath…..

Have you got any useful information about buying houses?

To The NICU Mum

Hello There, come on in. I know it’s bright in here and it’s loud. In fact I am sure it’s totally overwhelming for you. Most people don’t even know this place exists. It certainly wasn’t what you had in mind when you announced you were pregnant those few short months ago. 

It’s ok to be scared, to be shocked and too cry. But that tiny person in there is yours. Yours to touch and to talk to. Yours to love and to cherish. He is your baby, not ours. He knows your voice. We are just here to lend a hand, not to take away your early days with your baby. 

I know it’s hard when he seems so fragile. When there is a plastic box between you and so many wires in the way. But just hold his hand, you are the only person he truly knows. It’s going to be a tough journey for you both. A whirlwind of emotions, good days and bad. An uphill battle but you can do it. 

You don’t always have to be strong, it’s ok to say you are not ok. Don’t bottle it up. We want to support you, to help you be a family. Everything we do is to get you all home, together. We can tend to his medical needs, your only job is to love. That’s something we can never do. That is your baby, a tiny piece of you. 

Don’t be afraid to ask us anything. No question is silly, no feeling too small. Chances are we have answered them before but we never mind answering them again. I may never know exactly what you are going through but I won’t judge you. I am here to support you as much as your baby. Whether it’s a tissue and a kind word or a joint celebration of preemie milestone.