Four Months With Benjamin

Oh, Benjamin. You are growing so fast. You are already almost half my height, my darling boy, and I’m pretty sure that by the time you take your first steps you’ll be able to look me straight in the eye. I feel like every time I look, you have grown another inch, and you are getting so delightfully chubby. I just want to kiss your little round belly and chew on your chunky thighs all day.

You are so smart, too. I see you, looking around all the time, taking it all in. Always so curious, with your beautiful blue eyes watching the world. You have learnt to roll, just about, in the last couple of weeks and it won’t be long before you’re really on the move and keeping me on my toes. You can grab things, too, with purpose rather than just at random. I never thought I would be so impressed by someone being able to hold a toy until you came along, but it really is amazing to see you learn and grow. 

You are always smiling and laughing. All it takes is a round of peek-a-boo, or a singalong when folding the laundry, or just seeing your Dad when he gets home from work and you’re grinning ear-to-ear and gurgling your sweet little giggle. That’s not to say that you don’t have your moments; your first two little teeth have started poking through in the last week and it’s not been much fun getting those out, has it? I’ll miss your gummy smile, but it is exciting that this new stage is happening, too. Although the best part about it is that you stick your tongue out and hide them every time I try to have a look, which just tickles me. 

You’ve been a third of the way around the sun, my love, from the height of summer to the first few frosts of winter. We’re gearing up for your first Christmas, which we’re so excited about, even if you have no idea what’s going on. You will love it, I’m sure, because you’ll be spoilt with all of the attention from your aunts and uncles and grandparents all in one week, and there’s nothing you like more than a little bit of attention. 

So, here it is. Four whole months. And so many more to go. Stop growing. Keep going. I love you. 

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What We’re Buying Ben for Christmas 

I am so excited for Benjamin’s first Christmas. He is clueless, of course, but with a baby in the house it feels like Christmas is re-infused with so much magic. I’m also grateful that, despite my complaints about maternity leave, I am off for the whole of December so I can really make the most of it and prepare a lovely Christmas for the whole family. I’ve almost finished my Christmas shopping, the earliest I’ve ever done so thanks to all my free(ish) time so I thought I’d share what we’re buying Benjamin for his first ever Christmas presents. 

We didn’t want to go all out, because he really won’t know what’s going on so spending lots of money seems a bit wasteful – especially whilst I am on the aforementioned maternity leave. But, his birthday isn’t until July so this also seems a good opportunity to get a few bits to see him through until then. I don’t think he’ll need all that many toys until he’s slightly older – he’s been happy with the same three on repeat for the past few months – but a few extras in our rotation probably won’t go amiss. Whilst I can still choose for him, we have gone for mostly wooden toys that, in my opinion, look much nicer than plastic ones and will hopefully be a bit more durable. This activity cube feels like it’ll provide hours of fun, whilst these stackable rainbow rings are as much a kid-friendly ornament as they are a toy, don’t you think? 

Activity Cube // Sleepsuits // Wolf Jumper // Stackable Rainbow Rings

Benjamin has been growing at a rate of knots, so he’s about to grow out of most of his clothes. We thought Christmas would be a good opportunity to replenish his wardrobe, so I’ve bought him a couple of sets of sleepsuits (these bear-themed ones and these fox-themed ones), although I’m a bit concerned we might need to open them before Christmas at this rate… Whilst he’s growing so fast, I don’t want to buy him too much for each stage so I have to stop myself buying all of the gorgeous, colourful jumpers at (where else?) John Lewis, too. I love him in yellow, so this is my favourite, but I’m also a big fan of these squirrels, too.

And, of course, is it Christmas without books? We took a trip to The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton on Sunday and picked up Mog’s Christmas and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, although I had to restrain myself from all of the amazing books they had. I could easily have bought at least ten more, including one written by real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield and an absolutely gorgeous copy of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. If you’re a Leeds local, do visit them if you have a little one to buy books for – it’s an absolute gem. 

On top of that, we’ve asked for bath toys and a jumper/walker-type situation to try and keep him contained once he’s a little bit more mobile (and to amuse him, of course). Paul likes this Batmobile-style one whilst I prefer something a little more compact like this one. So, all in all, he’ll be thoroughly spoilt without even knowing it! 

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3 Ways to Jazz Up Your Soup #TheWayWeMakeIt

This post is in association with Cully and Sully

3 Ways to Jazz Up Your Soup // Amy Elizabeth

In my head, I’m a Nigella-esque domestic goddess who makes everything from scratch and always has something in the fridge or cupboard ready to go at every meal time. In reality, I am *sometimes* that person but I am just as often someone who is grabbing a slice of toast in between caring for a baby, or dashing to the local shop for a meal deal to eat al desko. Despite my best intentions, I haven’t prepared lunch to bring to the office in at least a year (because I just can’t face the sadness of leftovers reheated in the microwave) and although I pour over cookbooks with nourishing salads and mouth-watering sandwiches, I am inclined to neglect lunch in favour of handfuls of snacks snaffled from the cupboard throughout the day. Basically, I’m a lunch-based mess.

And so, whilst I dream of being the kind of person who makes all their own soups, I know that it’s actually a lot more feasible to grab something ready-made. Cue Cully and Sully, who sent me a bunch of their delicious soups to try out this week, thus upping my lunch game immeasurably. Their fresh soups are the perfect thing to have on hand if you’re busy but need something tasty for your lunch; they’re the perfect one person portion and you can even throw them in the freezer so you can stock up without resorting to tinned numbers, which tend not to be so flavourful and sometimes don’t have quite the wholesome ingredients of fresh soup like Cully and Sully. They’re basically the next best thing to making your own.  

Whilst soup is pretty tasty on its own, if you’re reaching for the same flavours time and time again you can end up with lunch fatigue (yet another problem I have when it comes to bringing my own lunch to work). So there are a few ways you can jazz up your pre-made soup to give yourself a little variety and convince your colleagues (or your baby, in my case…) that you’re some kind of lunch wizard. 

Cream + Greens + Nuts & Seeds

3 Ways to Jazz Up Your Soup // Amy Elizabeth

Any tomato-based soup works well with a little swirl of something creamy. I used soured cream, but creme fraiche or double cream both taste just as good. Throw in a handful of rocket or spinach to wilt down whilst you’re heating through your soup (this works much better on the hob than in the microwave, sadly) for a little extra greens and then top with some toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds (or both). That bit of extra crunch and creaminess will have you craving another bowl almost immediately. 

All the Carbs

3 Ways to Jazz Up Your Soup // Amy Elizabeth

Sometimes I find soup isn’t as filling as I like, so bulk it out with some extra carbs to avoid mid-afternoon hangriness. I added some pearl barley into my Cully and Sully Chicken & Vegetable Soup, and the texture works really well with soup, but equally you could add rice, pasta shapes, rice noodles or even some giant couscous into your soup as you see fit. Serve with crusty bread because there’s nothing better than carbs on carbs. 

Extra Veggies + Fresh Herbs 

Taking a little bit of time and adding a few little extras to your soup is, in my eyes, a form of self-care. It takes your soup from ‘hurried lunch on the go’ to ‘I want the tastiest thing possible to eat’. Whilst this Smoked Haddock & Salmon Chowder would be delicious on its own, a handful of tinned sweetcorn thrown in whilst you heat it up, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley just gives it a little bit of extra pizazz – and don’t you deserve a little extra pizazz in your life? 

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What I Want to Remember: The Newborn Days

What I Want to Remember: The Newborn Days

[Photo by Jenna Woodward Photography

How big his smile is when he first sees me in the morning, and when he sees Paul when he comes home. 

The way his face looks like a little turtle when he’s a bit disgruntled or just waking up. 

How excited he is to kick his legs and wave his arms in the air. 

That his favourite tunes are ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘Row, Row Your Boat’. 

The way he clings to my top (or my hair) when I’m carrying him

His little smile and the way he hides his face when he sees himself in the mirror, as if he’s shy of his own reflection. 

How charming he is to our friends and to strangers, smiling his biggest smiles. 

That he gets hiccups when he’s been laughing too much, or gets too excited. 

The way he burrows his head into my chest when he’s trying to go to sleep

His constant chewing on his hands, which can only be interrupted by sucking on the tail of his rattle cat instead. 

How he seems to grow an inch every time I look

That his eyes seem to take up most of his face (and are the first thing everyone comments on). 

How soft his skin is and how fluffy his hair is. How little he minds when I kiss him all over. 

His shocked look every time we put him in the bath. He’s still not quite sure about it… 

How curious he is whenever we’re out and about, looking at everything with those giant eyes. 

The little sound he makes when he’s too tired to sneeze properly. It’s so pathetic and so damn adorable. 

The way he knit his hands together as if in prayer when he’s drinking his milk. The way he throws his hands over his head when he’s asleep. 

The sound of his little gurgly laugh, which is so silly and so perfect. 

How much he needs me and how much he really doesn’t, all at once. 

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I Love My Baby But I Hate Maternity Leave

I have been on maternity for four months now, just over three of which I have had a little baby to care for – and I am already done. I’m not sure you’re allowed to say that; I am carrying around a lot of guilt around the fact that I would often much rather be at work than hanging out with my baby all day. Don’t get me wrong, Benjamin is the most precious thing in my life. I am forever smug that he is such a perfect baby, and his little smiles and giggles light up my day in a way I never imagined possible.

But he is still a baby and babies are, well, a little dull. We are only just getting to the point where he engages with you when you smile at him or make faces or sing songs. He loves ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’, but that’s about it. He is also currently on a two-hour routine, which means that I do the same sequence of things with him at least six times throughout the day. It is hard to muster the enthusiasm for the third time, let alone the sixth. Especially when I am on my own. 

Of course, there are moments that I treasure: when he is sleeping soundly on me; when his face lights up when he sees me for the first time in the day; when he smiles at his own reflection in our giant mirror; when he laughs as I kiss his toes; when he knits his little hands together as he has his milk. But there are also *a lot* of moments. Those things happen every day, pretty much without fail. And I don’t want to complain too much, because I know I am lucky to have such a perfect son, but it’s not as if each day has a lot of surprises in store to look forward to. 

I am also lucky, however, to have a job that I enjoy. It challenges me and entertains me, and I like my colleagues and my workplace and also, let’s be real, the pay cheque that comes with it. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but it is for me. And I miss it everyday. I am trying to fill my days as best I can, by meeting up with other mums or friends who work shifts rather than a standard 9-5, by taking long walks to do my various chores rather than driving, by taking on blogging and other creative challenges that I fit in during nap times. But I can see the time stretching out in front of me and I know that I won’t always be able to fill every day. 

Four months is a long time, and also no time at all with a baby. In theory, I could have another eight months of this. This again, two times over. But, in reality, I know I can’t cope with that much. Whilst I know that Benjamin will continue to grow and change and become more interesting and varied in his days, there will always be a certain amount of monotony to caring for a small human. 

You can never really be prepared for what it’s like to have a baby, and I knew that I would find all of this down time hard. I am not a person who likes to have nothing to do and whilst I know caring for a baby isn’t *nothing to do*, it can sometimes feel that way. It’s very practical and fills the time, but doesn’t, as yet, challenge me mentally. Or at least, not in the way that I would want. 

I think that I will be a better mother when I am back at work. I am under no illusion that it will not be difficult in other ways; the juggling of time, the exhaustion, the different guilt about leaving our baby with someone else. But I think that’s the kind of difficult that I can cope with. I am hopeful that I will find my time with Benjamin more precious when there is less of it, when I know that I won’t just be able to redo the day immediately if I miss time playing with him in favour of doing chores or writing a blog post. 

Like I say, I do feel guilty for feeling this way, even though I suspect there are plenty more mums out there who feel similarly (or at least, I hope there are…). Benjamin is so small (although he is big for his age, which sometimes fools me into thinking he is older than he is) and he deserves to have this time with his parents, whilst we have the luxury of being able to give it to him. In our financial situation, that means me for most of the time, which is unfortunate as I actually think Paul would cope with the extended leave much better than I am doing.

But it is the way that I feel, and I do firmly believe that there’s no point martyring yourself for the sake of your children, especially when they probably won’t even notice. A happy mum means a happy baby, right? So I am already thinking of bringing my maternity leave to a close sooner than I originally planned. Of course, when the time comes to hand Benjamin over to a nursery to look after, I may pine for these long days together, but I’m not so sure – I love my baby, but I sure don’t love maternity leave. 

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Housekeeping: November

We’ve always been pretty good at keeping our things clean and tidy, but now that we’re homeowners there are even more tasks to add to the list to keep our house up to scratch. It’s easy to forget the bigger tasks that need doing just once or twice a year, so I thought I’d start sharing the things we’re doing each month to keep everything up and running, spic and span! 

Reorganise the Kitchen Cupboards 

We bought a new cabinet to hold our plates, glasses and booze (away from reach of little people – by which I mean babies and children, rather than me!) which has necessitated a rejig of our kitchen cupboards. It’s my aim to take everything out and give them all a quick clean before reorganising them in a better order before the month is out. 

Sort Towels and Bedding

We have piles of towels and bedding in various drawers, boxes and cupboards around the house. This month I’m going to sort through them and get rid of any that we’re not going to use again, and put them all away neatly ready for the plethora of guests who’ll be visiting us in the run up to Christmas. 

File Paperwork 

We have a drawer of paperwork that needs to get organised. We tend to open our post, deal with anything important and then leave it to pile up as our paperwork folders are a little hard to reach. We need a better system, really, but for now it means we need to do a sporadic sorting session to make sure everything is in its proper place. And now is the time for that sporadic sorting session!  

Box in an Exposed Pipe

There’s a heating pipe just outside our living room door which is currently exposed; the original casing was peeling away and looked ugly so we just ripped it off when we moved in. It’s a cool copper pipe, so it actually looks quite good, but when the heating is on you can easily burn yourself on it as it gets so hot. It’s easy enough for adults to avoid, but with friends bringing around their crawling babies and Ben likely to go that way over the winter months, it’s safer to get it boxed up. 

Clean the Appliances  

Whilst we clean up spills and the like, our appliances could do with a little extra attention every now and again. I’ll be giving the microwave, oven, fridge, washing machine and tumble dryer a good clean this month so they’re in shipshape condition. 

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What I Learnt From Blogging (Almost) Every Day For a Month

Jackie Kelly 

So, this is it. The end of Blogtober. It’s been emotional. I didn’t quite manage to blog every day, but I’ve been more prolific than I have in years. I’ll be taking a little break from blogging so frequently whilst I attempt to undertake #NaNoWriMo and give this blog a little bit of a refresh, but I’m not going anywhere, really.

The Best Laid Plans Go Awry… 

I worked really hard to blog every day, but I wasn’t always as prepared as I wanted to be and as a result I couldn’t finish the challenge completely. I was a bridesmaid this past weekend, which took up two full days, and I have a friend who’s having a hard time who I spent good chunks of the previous afternoons before that talking with. Not to mention my ongoing childcare responsibilities. Obviously, I wouldn’t change any of those things – I will always prioritise my offline life, which is probably why I’ll never be a pro-blogger, but they did put a spanner in the works a little when it came to Blogtober.

I also planned to use this time to work on my photography, but with the pressure to get a post out every day meant that I cut corners where I could, and relied on Unsplash more than I would have liked. If I did it all again, I would try to do more in advance so that when things do go a little off the rails I have a back up. 

I Prefer Creating to Consuming

There are only just so many hours in the day and a lot of mine are now spent tending to my tiny little terrorist (a.k.a. Benjamin), so my time for blogging and reading blogs is limited. With Blogtober looming over me, those limited snippets of time had to be used for creation rather than for consuming other people’s content, which is my usual form of procrastination. It’s no surprise, really, but I definitely feel better at the end of the day if I have spent more time creating than I have consuming. I will never abandon reading other blogs completely, but keeping the balance in favour of creation is going to be key. 

Blogging Is Not Just About Writing

In days gone by, a blog was mostly about the words. Now that’s simply not true, but I’ve not really kept up. Photography, video, graphic design – all of that stuff is more out of my comfort zone and it’s the first to go when I am under pressure. I would much rather type out hundreds of words than take one or two photos. I’m not really a visual person, but if I want to improve then I’m going to have to work on that element of blogging and get uncomfortable. 

Good Content Takes Time

Churning out almost 30 blog posts in one month proved to me more than ever that good content takes time. I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with ideas and making them work immediately, but having a bit more time to edit, add photos, reword or just think about the topic would definitely have improved a lot of my blog posts from this month. Even a short blog post can take a few hours from start to finish, so I need to make the time. My next aim is to juggle quantity with quality so I can blog regularly and be proud of every single post. 

The Doing of the Thing Is The Thing

It’s all well and good talking about something, but as Amy Poehler says, the talking about the thing is not the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing. You are not a blogger if you never blog. You are not a writer if you never write. You are not a painter if you never paint. So you must do the thing. And the thing can seem scary, but it will never come to fruition if you don’t get started. Every time I force myself to do something that I say I’m going to do, I remember that it is in the doing that the thing comes alive. 

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October

Marvelling at how big Benjamin has become this month. 

Loving all of his little smiles and giggles. 

Having our photo taken by the wonderful Jenna – I can’t wait to share the snaps! 

Acting as a bridesmaid for the very first time.

Weeping and laughing at the speeches, dancing on the dance floor and smiling all day at the wedding. 

 

Wishing I was back at work… (Am I allowed to say that?) 

Failing at the last hurdle for Blogtober (but with good reason – see above bridesmaiding duties!) 

Writing 27 blog posts in one month, which isn’t too shabby, though! 

Making plans for #NaNoWriMo… and feeling a bit nervous about it… 

Bingeing on Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls. 

Picking pumpkins in Pontefract

Visiting Hadrian’s Wall and Tynemouth beach on our jaunt up in Newcastle. 

Being brave for my flu shot… I think pregnancy might have (slightly) cured my needlephobia… 

Spending the weekend in Nottingham watching Strictly with Ashley and Kirsten. 

Making pizzas on a Tuesday night with some of our best pals. 

Buying a new pair of glasses 

Reading Harry Potter to our boy at bedtime (and crying at almost every chapter!). 

Looking forward to Christmas already… 

How about you? 

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A Few Recent Reads

Vikas Pawar

When Benjamin was first born, there was a *lot* of down time. With him breastfeeding for what seemed like half the day, there was plenty of opportunity to whip out my Kindle and read. Now? Not so much. Life has moved on from those sleepy newborn days and I am finding it harder to steal snippets of time for reading. I’d still really like to read 52 books this year, which means another 13 before the 31st December. Not the easiest challenge in the world, especially with taking on #NaNoWriMo as well and factoring in the busy-ness of the Christmas season. But, I love reading and I want to make time for it, even when it feels like I am rushed off my feet.  

Hunger: A Memoir of my Body by Roxane Gay

This is a total gut punch of a book and I think it should be required reading to be a human being in the world. I have waited for this book to be published for what feels like years (and may very well be) and it was entirely worth the wait. This is a painfully honest and beautifully vulnerable memoir about food, weight, self-image, sexual assault and hunger, and it will absolutely blow you away. Roxane Gay has a unique perspective when it comes to the body, but I think everyone will find a little bit of their own body’s story in her words. Her experience has been vastly different from my own, but I still gasped in recognition at moments. There were parts that made me cry for her pain, and others that moved me to anger for how she has been treated. I don’t want to spoil it, because the revelations come thick and fast and I think that’s the power of the book – but be prepared for an emotional response to this book, whatever your body is like. 

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly*

I’ve been avoiding thrillers recently, because they often seem to hinge their shock factor on descriptions of brutalising women without much substance behind them. I have been burnt too many times by lazy plotting where sexual assault is thrown in for the sake of it. But, He Said/She Said was recommended by Bethany and Alice on the Hello Friend podcast, and I trust them so I put my reservations aside. This book actually puts sexual assault front and centre; a brutal attack is at the heart of it. But, it didn’t feel gratuitous and so my mind was put at ease. 

My favourite part of this book was that Kit, one half of the couple that witness the attack, is obsessed with total eclipses. It’s so fascinating, and punctuates the book as they chase them across the globe every few years. It’s in the aftermath of a total eclipse that Kit and Laura witness the attack, and their lives are changed forever. From the day of the attack to the trial and beyond, they are wrapped up in the events and what happens means they end up living in fear. I don’t want to tell you too much, as the joy of the thriller is in finding out the truth, but it is *very* cleverly done and I didn’t see the ending coming at all. Just when you think you’re sorting out the pieces, everything is turned upside down. 

The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee*

I read the first book in this series last year and was so eager to get my hands on the next instalment, I put down everything else I was reading as soon as I had it. This book is a futuristic Gossip Girl, with everything from stolen identities and forbidden love to family drama and illegal brain-computers (to put it very, very simply…). Like Gossip Girl, this elite group of teenagers are living the high life of parties, shopping and manicures, but there is so much more bubbling under the surface. It was really fun to revisit these characters (although it took me a few chapters to remember the back story of everyone – I should have reread the first!) and to escape to Manhattan in 2118. I’m already looking forward to the next one… 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I may receive a small commission. Books marked with a * were provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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For the Love of Pasta

If I was pushed, I think I would have to say that pasta is my favourite food. I feel genuine pain at how the bad reputation pasta has seemed to accumulate over the past few ‘clean eating’ years, when it is the purest and most delicious of foods. Always there for you when you need it most, nestled in the back of the cupboard waiting to be brought to life, it’s the ultimate in comfort food. I like mine with cream and tomato and cheese and garlic and the more the better, but it is just as good with seafood or ragu or just a simple drizzle of oil and a scattering of herbs. As today is World Pasta Day, I wanted to dig through my archives and find my favourite pasta recipes so you can remember your own favourite dishes and treat yourself to a dish of the good stuff today. Don’t let the pasta haters bring you down – pasta will nourish your body and your soul. It’s just that good. 

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Spaghetti Aglio Olio 

Simple Tomato & White Wine Pasta Sauce

Simple Tomato and White Wine Pasta Sauce

Spaghetti Vongole // Amy Elizabeth

Spaghetti Vongole

One Pot Pasta

Creamy One Pot Pasta 

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

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