The Beginning of Us – Claire’s Story

Beginning

This week’s Beginning of Us post comes from Claire over at A Clueless Mother. Claire’s blogging through her pregnancy and first time Mum-to-be experiences. She’s worth following for the newborn baby pics that will arrive in due course as well as her hilarious cat related updates. Check Claire out! Over to you Claire…

The story of how Jimmy and I met is not one from a fairy-tale. It is not particularly romantic and people do not normally sigh with glossy eyes when we tell our story but here it is.

In 2005 I was offered the position of Assistant Manager in Wolverhampton Walkabout. I jumped at the chance of a promotion and moved there almost straight away. I was used to moving around and settling in to new places and had lived all over the place. I was excited to meet a new bunch of people and see what Wolves had to offer. Walkabout bars usually provide their staff with a staff house. They are normally in a dodgy area and are unsanitary. Wolves was no exception, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

The first time I walked into the pub I was greeted by Jimmy who was 6ft” 2”, had a shaved head and was well built (I do like a bit of muscle!) He had the biggest grin on his face and was absolutely lovely, not to mention gorgeous. Originally from Leicester he had stayed on in Wolves after finishing his degree to stay close to his mates. I think he was clinging on to the student lifestyle. His family call him the eternal student.

I settled into my new role and new house quickly. I think it helped that Jimmy’s room was next door to mine and he had the world’s smallest towel. We had many an awkward moment on the landing when he had just come out of the shower. We flirted a lot at work and I loved working with him behind the bar. He made me laugh all the time and we hung around together a lot.

When I was a little drunk on a night out I told our housemate that I really liked Jimmy and wished he would make a move. Dying of a terrible hangover the next day Jimmy kept trying to drag me out to the union bar (we had a deal with the uni, cheap drinks for them = entry into the union for us non students). I eventually caved and after a few drinks I felt much better (must be the Vit C in those vodka & OJ’s!). Jimmy and I were dancing in the R&B room (classy) and he finally made his move.

It turns out our housemate had blabbed and told Jimmy what I had said. We both said in the beginning how it was weird that it wasn’t awkward. After a couple of weeks we decided to share a room to allow the house a TV room. We spent every second we could together laughing and messing about. I had told Jimmy that I was planning on going to Australia for a year to travel and work and asked would he want to come. He said yes and after only being together for 6 months we booked our visas, flights and first night in a hostel. During our first week in Oz we celebrated our 1st anniversary. Looking back it all happened so fast.

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When we got from Oz we both moved back home (I went to Cleethorpes and Jimmy went back to Leicester). It was tough ‘coming down’ from travelling, not being close to each other and finding work.

I had decided to go uni when I was 23, I went off to Crewe to study a degree in Dance while Jimmy stayed in Leicester working. We saw each other about once a month and I lived with him, at his place, during the holidays. After being together for 6 years I finally moved in with him when I had finished uni. I studied a Masters degree almost immediately after completing my degree. For a year I commuted over 3 hours each way to London, twice a week because I couldn’t stand to live away from him any longer.

We moved in to ‘our’ place in 2013 and now it’s more like our home than his place, which I love. In 2013 I began a PGCE teacher-training course, close to home in Nottingham (maybe I am the eternal student?). It was a tough year for both of us, I practically worked 7 days a week for a year and our relationship was tested many times (especially close to deadlines). We got through it and I passed in May 2014.

I can’t believe we have been together for almost nine years. Jimmy still makes me ‘belly laugh’ on a daily basis and has such a positive outlook on life. I love him to bits and couldn’t imagine my life without him. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and we are expecting a baby boy in January 2015, we couldn’t be happier. I am so happy to be having his baby. It’s funny to look back over all the things we have been through, working and living together, travelling and long distance relationships. It has never felt like hard to work to maintain our relationship. Don’t get me wrong we bicker and argue, usually about daft stuff but we always have a laugh in the end, maybe that is our secret?

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Wow Claire, you and Jimmy have been through so much! I think your secret is your eternal student streaks! hehe. Such a lovely story – thanks so much for sharing.

If you would like to read the other posts in the series you can see them all here and remember to come back next week for another lovely story!

Hand Drawn Toy Portrait Competition!

I love all things personalised and always think that a personalised gift shows that much more through than something generic off the shelf. Our house is full of personalised prints, keepsakes and artwork with meaning behind each one. Jenny Causebrook Moss recently got in contact to see if I would like to review her Hand Drawn Toy Portrait service but at the moment neither LP or LM have a clear favourite toy. LP has gone from liking Curious George, to Wallace and Gromit and now sleeps with Minnie Mouse every night without fail. So with this in mind Jenny and I thought it would be nice to offer her bespoke service as a competition prize instead!

alf with photo

Jenny Causebrook Moss draws bespoke portraits of favourite toys. The portraits are created from a photograph of the toy and the likeness is incredible with so much depth created with watercolours. All of Jenny’s previous portraits can be seen on her website and the winner would receive an A5 original artwork, which would arrive by Royal Mail recorded delivery. Portraits take up to three weeks from receipt of the photo and the winning portrait would be posted on the Jenny Causebrook Moss website too – your child’s favourite toy, immortalised forever now only in an original artwork piece but on the internet too!

Babs for web

Jenny’s drawing are truly beautiful and I know that in a year or so when LP has her most favourite of toys I would love to capture it in a portrait like Jenny’s – Being able to capture your child’s first toy shaped friend in a piece of artwork is such a lovely, different idea! For your chance to win such a lovely prize, please enter using the Rafflecopter below. Jenny is also giving readers free delivery on any orders from her Etsy shop until Christmas using code FPXMAS14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I have not been compensated in any way for this post.

30 Days of Autumn

Forest Holidays are compiling a list of 30 things to do in the forest in their 30 Days of Autumn Project and outdoors this autumn and they asked me for our family’s favourite autumn activities. Autumn is easily one of my favourite times of year, I love the leaves everywhere, conkers and the colours – all those autumn browns, oranges and golds. For me all the positives of autumn outweigh the cold and the rain!

This is really only our second autumn where LP has been walking and so we are fairly new to autumn family activities but even so we have managed to squeeze quite a lot into our family time and LP has clear favourites when we let her choose what to do.

One thing that LP loves is to just walk through the forest, kicking up leaves and finding as many different leaves as possible. She also loves the colours of the leaves and loves to save them, take them home and look at them again when they’re dry and crisp. She would happily spend all day just walking around kicking leaves and I’m sure Little Man will love this pastime when we introduce him to it this autumn!

30 Days of Autumn

Another favourite thing of ours to do in the forest is to hunt for the Gruffalo. A lot of forests have their own Gruffalo trail but children have such incredible imaginations that a trail isn’t really needed to hunt for the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo Child and the Mouse in the forest – he could be hiding anywhere and even a simple forest walk can be turned into an adventure by looking behind trees and under logs in search of the Gruffalo – I remember as a child hunting through the forest for the Wombles and I loved it just as much as LP loves hunting for the Gruffalo now.

30 Days of Autumn

LP’s most favourite of activities, in autumn or any other time of the year and in the forest or wherever we may be, is splashing in puddles. Whenever we go for a day outdoors, in the forest or just in wet weather we make sure that LP and Little Man are wearing their wellies and they can then splash in puddles as much as they like. It’s one very simple childhood pleasure – seeing their faces light up, their smiles and laughs as they jump up and down in the muddy water is something that I will never tire of seeing.

30 Days of Autumn

So there are our favourite autumnal activities. What do your family love to do when they’re out and about in autumn?

Review: nibnibs Snacks and Giveaway!

We have a house full of toddler snacks but we don’t really have snacks for Hubby and I unless they’re for a special occasion like friends round for the evening so it was a nice treat when nibnibs sent us a selection of their snacks to review.

Review: nibnibs Snacks and Giveaway!

nibnibs are passionate about creating moreish quality snacks and I couldn’t wait to see if they lived up to this expectation. Hubby and I usually find that if we do buy snacks they don’t last long as we always opt for moreish ones. The products we were sent from nibnibs were three different flavours of their mini cheese straws – Cheddar, Cheddar and Onion and Cheddar and Spicy Chilli. We were also sent a pack of Salt and Pepper Peanuts.

All the nibnibs packs are foil sealed for freshness and come with plastic lids to make a nice airtight container if you some how manage to make the nibnibs last more than one sitting! We shared the Cheddar Straws with the children who loved them – they took longer for them to eat than standard toddler snacks and for me that’s a great selling point although these are definitely aimed more towards the adult market as they are very ‘grown up’ snacks!

The Cheddar and Spicy Chilli nibnibs were my personal favourite, lovely cheesy snacks with a chilli kick too. The Cheddar and Onion nibnibs were lovely too and both live up to the moreish quality – the nibnibs are lovely, Hubby and I could have easily eaten all three packs in one sitting!

Review: nibnibs Snacks and Giveaway!

The Salt and Pepper Peanuts were really nice and something a little different to the cheese straws. I love peanuts to have with a drink or whilst playing board games or watching TV and for me these were the perfect snack to have for that sort of environment, a modern day bar snack!

nibnibs also have a range of full size cheese straws and all their products are produced in their Yorkshire bakery – I love buying British and knowing that a product hasn’t travelled halfway across the world before I eat it is a huge selling point to me.

We have teamed up with nibnibs to give away a selection of their products to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning please enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were sent the above products for the purpose of this review however all opinions are my own.

Review: Graco Evo XT

I love reviewing Graco pushchairs and love the Graco brand – our first pushchair was a Graco one and I absolutely loved the Graco Sky Travel System – it’s one that I will always recommend to people expecting their first child. With this love of Graco I was excited when they launched the Graco Evo XT and I have finally had a chance to review it.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The Graco Evo XT arrived all in one box and was easy to put together, literally just clipping the axle, wheels and basket into place. The pushchair was up and ready to be used within no more than fifteen minutes and I was impressed with how sturdy it was and generally how great it looked. The Graco Evo XT is a really solid option for anyone with an outdoors lifestyle – It comes complete with front and rear mudguards, large puncture resistant wheels with rubber tyres and a multi terrain tread to handle rough ground, refined suspension on all the wheels and even a mosquito net and luxury footmuff. The package is fantastic.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The first things I noticed about the Graco Evo XT were the huge basket – I’d been impressed with the size of the Graco Sky, Graco Evo and Graco Evo Mini baskets but the Evo XT has the biggest basket I have ever seen on a pushchair. This is a great selling point as it doesn’t detract from how good the Evo XT looks and uses all the room available.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The Graco Evo XT also has a multi position handle which is a great feature. I find a lower handle better but Hubby prefers the handle to be higher as he is taller than me. The only slight issue is that when the handle is in lower positions it makes it hard to maneuver the pushchair up and down kerbs as the leverage isn’t quite right.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The Graco Evo XT folds really nicely with a smooth one handed fold. It collapses with the seat attached in forward facing position but needs the handle in the upright position to fold fully. When folded it is fairly compact although still bulky, as is the same with most pushchairs of this style.

Review: Graco Evo XT

Little Man loves being in the Graco Evo XT. The footmuff is really soft and comfortable but the normal pushchair seat on the Evo XT is well padded anyway, making for a very snug environment. The footmuff folds over and closes using a toggle and velcro which is a great design although Little Man has worked out how to get his feet out of the footmuff so a standard design could be better where they are zipped in and completely secure and safe from the elements.

The rain cover is huge and covers the Evo XT really well. It’s simple to put on and stores easily in the shopping basket, leaving plenty of room for other things. It also has really useful air vents in the sides and the size of the rain cover makes it harder for Little Man to kick off which is a definite tick in the box for us.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The Graco Evo XT also comes with a padded bumper bar which is great for Little Man to hold onto. Unfortunately though it is covered in foam and Little Man chose to bite a hole in it and then pull it off with his fingers on the first day we used it. This is definitely a design issue and I wouldn’t choose a pushchair with a foam bumper bar in future although Graco did replace the bumper bar the following day which was fantastic customer service.

The Graco Evo XT can be used both forward facing and parent facing and can be turned into a travel system with the help of the Graco XT carrycot and Graco Snugsafe car seat (sold separately).

Review: Graco Evo XT

Review: Graco Evo XT

The pushchair is suitable from newborn as it reclines fully and the multiposition recline means it has a seating position to suit any age and need. Little Man sleeps well in the pushchair fully reclined and the extendable sun hood stops most light coming in so he is safe from the sun at all times and less likely to get disturbed when sleeping.

Review: Graco Evo XT

Review: Graco Evo XT

Having used the Graco Evo XT for a while now I have to be honest and say that it really isn’t the pushchair for us. It’s great to push out and about over grass or rough terrain, and it’s great when all you have to do is push the pushchair with both hands however, we use our pushchair daily for the school run and more often than not I am holding onto LP’s hand at the same time as pushing the pushchair. I am used to pushing pushchairs with one hand and choose pushchairs with one solid handle for this reason but the Graco Evo XT is very heavy to push and keeping it moving in a straight line with one hand is impossible, it’s just too heavy to steer one handed.

Review: Graco Evo XT

If you have a mainly country, off road lifestyle and don’t often need to push a pushchair with one hand and don’t have to go up and down kerbs very much then this would be a great option for you – the wheels and suspension are fantastic as well as the comfortable seat, extendable canopy, mosquito net and vast shopping basket. But for a mainly urban lifestyle there are alternative pushchairs that would be a better choice.

Review: Graco Evo XT

The Graco Evo XT is available exclusively from Mothercare with an RRP of £379.99

Disclosure: I was sent the above pushchair for the purpose of this review however all opinions are my own.