Friday, 31 January 2014

#MeAndMine - A Family Portrait (January 2014) The 10 Years Today Edition

I'll admit it, this was a last minute post. Written at 7pm before I went out last night. Two quick photos taken before we put the kids to bed and I escaped for a meal out with my neighbours.

"Quick, everyone on our bed!" I shouted.


"Because mummy needs a photo".

Then Matt chips in, "Oh I look a mess, my hair looks like Screech from Saved by the Bell! Can we do it another time?"


"I'm not doing it' he says


He knows from my tone what to say.

"Ok then, let's do it" he grumbles but also laughing.

10 years ago today I met up for a first date with a guy I grew to knew on an online dating site. 10 years of happiness, laughter, love and attraction. I love him more today than I have ever loved him - it sounds corny but my love does grow stronger for him with time.

In 10 years we've only had one really bad argument where we've really had a go at each other. I don't think that's bad going?

It's been 10 years but it seems like much longer, in a good way.

In those 10 years we've moved house twice, travelled to some amazing places, married and had two beautiful children.

This weekend I'm going to miss my family like crazy. I am going to London on one of my besties hen weekends. It's bad timing with our anniversary but I'm also feeling very emotional about Matilda Mae's anniversary on Sunday.

But I know that my wonderful friends will take care of me and when I return on Sunday my wonderful family will be waiting for me.

There's not much more a girl could ask for.

dear beautiful

Friday, 24 January 2014

Laser Eye Surgery - One Week On

Now, before I continue with this blog, I want to make it clear that I have, in no way, been asked or paid to write this blog or recommend Optical Express for laser eye surgery. The surgery has cost over £4,000 in total. A huge amount of money that I struggled to part with it at first but, if you want to know why I did, read on…

I first considered laser eye surgery 5 years ago when my brother-in-law had it done. I was heavily pregnant with MC at the time and once she was born I couldn't bear the thought of risking my eyesight, going blind and not seeing her again.

Even though my brother-in-law had amazing results and said it was life changing and even though I had been told that no-one had ever gone blind from surgery, I couldn't shake off this doubt that I'd be the one that it would go wrong for.

It wasn't until last year that I started to look into it again. More and more people I knew were having it done - friends, acquaintances and fellow bloggers. They all had amazing results.

Last summer we had superb weather. This is when I really wished I didn't have to wear glasses or contact lenses. I was only sent 10 contact lenses a month and would save them up during the winter by wearing my glasses more. Then, when it got to the summer, I could wear contacts pretty much everyday and have the freedom of being able to wear nice sunglasses freely.

In September I told Matt that I wanted to have the surgery. I investigated the best place to get the treatment and chose Optical Express. It was the place that almost all of the people I knew had been and the online reviews I read were reassuring.

After becoming ill during September and October, I finally had my laser eye surgery consultation in November. I was checked over throughly and told I was fine to have the treatment at a cost of £3,500 for basic LASIK surgery. It was an awful lot of money but it was going to make a lot of difference to my quality of life. If you've never had really poor eyesight then you won't understand how it feels. Anyway, after careful consideration and talks with Matt we booked me in for 17th January.

I was SO excited! I'd been wearing glasses or contacts for over 25 years and the thought of being free of them felt great.

A few weeks before the treatment (and after some further research) I ended up paying an extra £800 for Optical Express' Advanced Wavefront treatment.This meant that the treatment was more precision made for my eyes. It would take any unique imperfections into account so I'd experience better vision than I could achieve with glasses and contact lenses. I paid this because I wanted to be more assured of great results and you can't really put a cost on your eyesight?

The only slight critisism I have of Optical Express is the wait time on the day of treatment. I was told to arrive at 1pm and I didn't actually have my surgery until 3.30pm. I had been told to allow 2-3 hours but the more I sat in that waiting room, between checks, the more anxious I became. However, the surgeon, Antonio Uceda-Montanes, was lovely and he set me at ease as soon as I met him.

I walked into the 'theatre' and two lovely nurses in their scrubs told me to lay down and make myself comfortable. Two large machines were either side of where I was and they seemed to be making noise like they were warming up.

Then the anaesthetic drops were put into my eyes to numb each eyeball while we waited for the surgeon to come through for the procedure.

Then it was going to happen!

The surgeon told me that I would feel no pain, just pressure and to concentrate on his voice and everything would be fine.

I was aware of talking between the surgeon and the nurses and then I remember the suction ring coming towards my left eye. This was the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure. I didn't feel any pain as it was put on my eyeball but I felt a lot of pressure. The nurse confirmed that the suction was on and we were ready to go. I was told to look at the light as the first machine to my left was brought over my eye and put in place. This was the soft laser that was going to cut the flap on my eye.

After the flap was cut, the suction ring was removed. Then the surgeon lifted the flap and the machine on my right was brought over. This was the machine that was going to correct my vision. There were some sharp clicking noises and a very slight burning smell (which, I believe, is produced my the carbon atoms the laser generates) but there was absolutely no pain or discomfort.

Then the surgeon put the flap back, administered drops and that was one eye done. All within 5 minutes!

After the process was repeated with the other eye I was checked over by the surgeon and all was fine. I was then led to a room where a nurse gave me 3 lots of different drops to use and some rather sexy goggles to wear to sleep in for the next week. These are to protect your eyes from being knocked in the night when you're asleep. Then I was ready to go.

Wearing my own sunglasses (your eyes are a bit sensitive to light from the anaesthetic drops) I walked out of Optical Express into the Trafford Centre full of busy shoppers. We walked back to the car and I text my Mum and my Sister. Then I closed my eyes for the 40 minute drive home as it was beginning to get dark and my eyes felt sensitive to the car lights and were quite watery.

I was advised that the best thing I could do was go home and sleep so that's what I did. I slept for a couple of hours and then, by 7pm I was watching TV! My eyes weren't sore (I'd taken paracetamol when I'd got home) but they did feel a little uncomfortable.

I watched TV all night and when it was time to go to bed I automatically reached up in the bathroom to take my contact lenses out but then stopped as my hand went towards my eye.


The realisation was huge.

I felt like crying but I figured that wouldn't be good for my new peepers so I went to bed.

The next morning I had a check-up in the Chester branch at 9.30am. As we drove there I was testing my new eyes and could read things further away than Matt who has perfect vision. He started calling me a cyborg. At the check-up I was told that everything was healing as it should and I was given the all clear to drive.

I drove up to my mum and dad's at 10.45am to collect the kids who had stayed with them overnight.

I could see!  I could see! I could see my family without glasses or contacts!


As this first week went on my vision got better over the first 4 days or so.

Night vision isn't quite there yet as I do experience halos on car headlights still but this was to be expected post-surgery and should subside.

Everyday at some point it hits me that THIS is my vision now. I don't need help to see anymore. Every morning it feels strange to open my eyes and be able to see everything straight away.

As from today I can wear eye make-up again and ditch the sleep goggles. Although secretly I think Matt has gotten quite used to sleeping with Bono.

And yes, incase you're wondering, I am asking myself why I didn't get this done sooner!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Love Where You Live - Our New(ish) Home

We've been in our new home almost 7 months now.

7 months!

I really can't believe it.

When I say that I can't believe it's been 7 months I mean it feels like much longer. It feels like we have always been here, like we've come home.

We love where we live.

I mean, REALLY love it.

We thought we loved where we lived before this but now we really know what it's like to love where you live. Our old house was too small for us. We loved the location but not the house. It had 3 bedrooms but the living space was far too small for us. It had been perfect for Matt and I when we bought it 7 years earlier but it lacked room for the children to play, storage facilities and the third bedroom was a small square that TC would outgrow in no time.

We'd looked at moving a couple of years previously and even went to put our house on the market. We'd fallen in love with a new 5 bedroom home nearby but when the prices were released it was priced more than we had expected it to be and more than we thought we could comfortably afford. It wasn't going to be ready for a long time either.

We were happy where we lived, we just needed a bigger house.

So we plodded on and embraced our home but we never felt entirely happy.

By this time, Matt had a new job earning more money and I was earning from my freelance work but we still didn't look into moving.

Then, one day in mid-March, I was sat reading a post from Jennie about her gorgeous playroom. I longed for a playroom for our children and Jennie's words and photographs made me look at the development again that very morning, just to see if it had been sold. I thought it would have been - it was a beautiful house and a long time had passed since we first looked at it.

My heart skipped a beat as I stared at the computer screen.

"Matt!" I called "That house we wanted is built now and still for sale!".

I didn't have to tell him twice. We went up to the sales office that morning, 18th March.

We fell in love all over again but this time with a real physical house, not just a floor plan. It was even better than we had visioned.

This time though it had extras. Lots of extras - carpets, curtains, light fittings, some furniture, an alarm and much more.

It felt like it was meant to be.

We pretty much reserved it there and then - only actually paying the reservation fee 10 days later when the crazy March snow had cleared enough for us to get up there after sorting our mortgage out.

3 months later we moved in and we haven't looked back.

We wanted a future-proof home or our 'forever home'. Somewhere to grow old in. Somewhere to watch our children grow up in. Somewhere we would always feel happy.

Home collageWe have 5 double bedrooms, a study, a large kitchen with an island (something we've always wanted), a dining room large enough to extend our table all the way, a double garage and 3 bathrooms - ours with a double shower - plus the downstairs toilet. The latter ones I'm not so happy about as it means more cleaning!

The kitchen is probably my favourite room in the whole house. It's light and trendy and, I'm told by friends, a real 'sociable' kitchen. My friends and I have spent a few nights around the island eating and drinking and it's been perfect. We've had fun buying some extra special things for the kitchen too and Matt bought me my dream KitchenAid for my birthday too. I love her.

our playroom

We've made one of the bedrooms into a playroom for the kids and they love it. It's 9ft x 12.5ft and it's a brilliant space for them to explore their toys and mess-up. There's plenty of room for both of them to play together or independently. We also have a sofa bed in there so it can be used a bedroom too which came in handy at Christmas.

The playroom is still very much work in progress (as is a lot of the house) but I've brightened it up with the children's artwork on the walls and brought some fabulous coloured storage from Ikea. I really want to get a mural painted and have my eye on some local people to deliver that - just need to save some pennies.

fun in the garden

The back garden is slightly smaller than our old house but the outlook is great - I love sitting in our lounge and looking at the beautiful trees out of the french doors. Our lounge is at the back of the house and we aren't overlooked. We had a fabulous summer this year and the garden got plenty of use.

This year I'd like to get the garden looking prettier. Unfortunately I don't like gardening but I really want to make the effort with this house.

Matt is loving the double garage but, at the moment, it's a bit of a mess. He keeps talking about model railways and insists it's "for the kids" but I think there's only one big kid he has in mind with his plans!

guest room

The 5th bedroom is our dedicated guest room with it's own bathroom. It's quite a little haven for guests but so far it's only family how have stayed the night although we are hoping to have some friends stay over soon.

It's in the attic space and I know that eventually the rooms up there will be claimed by two unruly teenagers when they don't think Matt and I are cool anymore!

The final thing is our neighbours. They are, quite simply, ACE. We are fortunate enough to be between two lovely, very different, families and we always feel welcome and their doors are always open to us. We've already organised carol singing around the tree at the park before Christmas and the vast majority of the neighbourhood ended up outside singing, eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine. It was lovely. It ended up with a fair few neighbours back at our house completely wasted and I won't go into detail about what happened to me but lets just say I didn't touch alcohol until New Year!

The children are so happy here too, not just Matt and I. MC is still attending the school she was at previously as we only a mile or so up the road from where we used to live so we haven't had to uproot her. There are lots of children of all ages (although mostly young) and the kids have made great friends already and it's a safe environment for them to play out too. I really can't wait for the summer.

I think it's so important to love where you live and I'm so happy that we finally truly do.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Finally Getting My Bionic Eyes!

Ok, so they aren't really going to be bionic but they may as well be.

To me anyway.

As this post goes live I will be sat, knees a knocking, undergoing laser eye surgery.


I'm actually not nervous at all (at the moment), I'm just VERY excited!

Not so excited about how much it's costing but I think it will be well worth the money spent. I'm short-sighted (-4.75 and -5.50) so it's not the cheapest of procedures and I've now upgraded to the wavefront technology for better results. After all, what price do you put on your eyesight?

I've worn glasses from a fairly early age (about 10, I think, although my parents may correct me) and a few years later into my teens wore contact lenses. I've made some pretty bad glasses choices in the past - although, in my defence, I was born in 1974 so in the 80's and 90's it was fairly cool to wear BIG glasses. Honest.

daughter of deirdre barlow
The plastic hoop earrings and tight perm
really perfect the look, right?

How can I be so young but be carrying off looking older than I do now? That photo makes me laugh so much, I'd really perfected the daughter of Deirdre Barlow look.

I actually really like the Missoni glasses I have now and I wear them a lot, although I tend to wear contacts throughout most of the summer. It will be so good to not have to bother with contact lenses again.

Here are just some of the things I'm looking forward to the most:

  • Being able to see at night/as soon as I wake up and not have to reach for my glasses
  • Not having my glasses steam up when I open the oven
  • Not having my glasses steam up when I go inside after being out in the cold
  • Being able to have a drink and not worry about falling asleep wearing my contact lenses
  • Being able to see clearly when Matt and I are *wrestling
  • Not having TC grab or knock my glasses off my face
  • Being able to see when I go swimming etc.
  • Not having the marks on my face where my glasses have been all day
  • Being able to fall asleep on the sofa without my glasses digging in my face

There are many more.

It's not about the cost of this procedure saving me long-term money from glasses and contacts as I don't spend a huge amount anyway. This is about quality of life for me. It's about feeling free and being able to see properly again without help everyday. It's about turning 40 this year and making changes to feel more confident in myself too.

So basically, as you read this blog I'll be having anaesthetic drops in my eyes, a flap made by a laser so they can access my cornea, laser beams in my eyes for a few seconds and then the flap put back. The actual surgery takes about 10-15 minutes and I get to walk out straight into a shopping centre wearing my sun glasses. How simple?

I think I may be asking myself at the end of all this, why did I wait 5 years?

my glasses 2007
More respectable glasses by 2007…
the head gear…not so much

*My sister always used to call it wrestling and I feel a bit odd writing 'having sex' on my blog! 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Christmas Day 2013

In my 3 years of blogging I've not actually written about Christmas.

How bad is that?

To be honest, by time we are through the holidays and we plunge straight into a new year I feel like it's too late to blog about it.

This year though, I'm making an effort, despite us already being halfway through January.

I need to blog about our family life more. I need to spend more time detailing our life and treasuring memories. It's probably not a post that will interest many people but it's one that I can look back on and that's what matters to me most.

For the past 7 years I've cooked Christmas dinner. The least amount was for just Matt and myself (the Christmas before MC was born) and the most was for 10 people.

That was this Christmas. 10 people.

Each year I've stressed about Christmas. I've got worked up about cooking for everyone and making sure the meal is perfect.

It always has been.

I'd spend the few days before working out all my timings of what needed to go in the oven on what setting, at what time and for how long. It would be timed to the minute and written out neatly in order.

This year was different though. I didn't prepare timings in advance and stress about dinner being perfect. Over the last 11 months or so, since Tilda passed away, I've realised more than ever what's important in life. Just being together as a family is what matters. Christmas dinner and everything else are just the extras. I had plenty of stars around the house to remind me of Tilda and what was important - not that I need reminding.

We were looking forward to Christmas as it was the first in our lovely new home. We were to be joined for dinner by my parents, Matt's parents and his brother and fiancée.

Christmas day was lovely.

The kids woke about 8am and that was only because I started making noise as I'd been wide awake from 6.30am excited to see the kids open their presents. Mini Cheddar was so excited when she saw the stocking filled at the end of her bed.

"SANTA'S BEEN" came the cries and running along the landing.

I when to Tiny Ched's room, plucked him from his cot and carried him into our room. MC carried his stocking in and we all sat on our bed to open presents. TC loved every second of it. He opened every present, although it took him a while as when he discovered Percy the engine in there he was beside himself and just wanted to play with that.

We went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast and then we entered the lounge to discover more presents - the kids had definitely been good this year!

Again, TC opened every single present excitedly and when he discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, that was it! He shrieked.

Last Christmas I would have been champing at the bit to get through the present opening and so I could start dinner. This year though, I soaked it all in. I took lots of photos and watched the kids excitement unfold on their faces. It was lovely and leisurely.

We all got dressed and the kids played happily with their new toys whilst Matt and I started the dinner prep. Matt is the perfect Christmas dinner sous chef! He preps the mountains of vegetables (I hate prepping sprouts) and cleans all the pots up as we go and is just generally my 'kitchen biatch' for the day. It's very rare we both cook together and I love it.

Matt's parents arrived just after 11am, after driving up from Nottingham, and his brother and fiancée arrived shortly after from Oxford. My parents (who only live 10 minutes away) arrived too and we were all set. I'd told everyone that I'd serve dinner at 1pm and, for the first time ever, it was slightly late by about 15 minutes - probably due to my more relaxed attitude!

We sat down (at a table with 3 extra non-matching chairs - isn't that what Christmas is all about?) to eat a feast of roast beef (we aren't huge fans of turkey), a mountain of roast potatoes, stuffing (who says you can't have it with beef?), pigs in blankets, roasted parsnips, sprouts and pancetta, carrots, broccoli and gravy. It was delicious and my stomach is growling just thinking about it.

For dessert I'd made a chocolate hazelnut meringue roulade the day before (thanks Delia!). If you've not tried one, do it - simple to make and it's a bit like eating Fererro Rocher. We had Christmas pudding and homemade mince pies too.

After dinner began the present opening again! The kids were spoilt so much and, despite having a big house now, we were wondering where we were going to put it all.

The only time the TV was on all day was for the Queen's Speech. Usually we will watch a film or something but this year I wanted proper family time with no distractions. We talked, we played games and we were just happy in each others company. There was lots of laughter and just being together as a family.

TC did so well through the day. He had a couple of small naps and went to bed a little later than usual without a peep from him. MC stayed up late and was a little tearful at bedtime due to such a busy and exciting day.

The inlaws all stayed overnight and it was lovely to be able to put everyone up for the night now we have the extra bedrooms.

Everyone went home mid-morning on Boxing Day so we could enjoy the rest of Christmas as a family of four and we did just that.

I have so many lovely memories.

TC opening up his stocking presents on our bed

MC thrilled to have Harry Styles!

This Disney Hedbanz game provided
much entertainment Christmas Day 
Full steam opening presents

"What's that you've got bro?"

The kids playing happily while we cooked dinner
My kitchen biatch hard at work

Note the Matilda Mae star at the end

Enjoying roulade and ice cream

Christmas Dinner face

A helping hand with presents from Grandma and Grandad

So good at opening presents

They played beautifully together with toys

Or just playing horses

Disney Hedbandz is awesome

My favourite photo from Christmas


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