Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Gemma Irene Brown


And so, at 38 weeks and 5 days, our beautiful daughter has made her arrival into the world.

Gemma was born at 16:08 on Monday 29th December (clever girl hanging in there til after Christmas!!) weighing 6lbs 8oz and absolutely perfect. We brought her home the same night and are a bit shell shocked but completely over the moon and so very, very happy.

There'll probably be a short blog hiatus while we are settling into life as a family of 3 but rest assured Gemma will get all the web space she deserves and more to accommodate the photos and updates we will put together. In the meantime here are some photos from her first few days in the world. She is just so wonderful and special.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

38 weeks

It feels quite odd to think that it's Christmas tomorrow. We are spending the day on our own, our last Christmas spent in that way for years and years (pending any baby action of course, more of which shortly) and have got some nice rolled sirloin in, a ham is cooking away on the stove top, there are nibbles and chocs galore about the house, and we'll be hunkering down to watch some Christmas telly later.

But I just had my routine 38 week appointment with the doctor, and he reckoned that I would be appearing in the local paper for having a Christmas Day baby, as Chewie's head is so far engaged now - he could barely feel it in fact, and could only really make out the shoulders. I don't feel in any way about to start my labour, it has to be said, other than I am feeling increasingly heavy at the bottom of the bump, and Chewie has, in the course of moving further down, given me a few breathtaking moments of pain as he or she rams into my cervix. So who knows. I could be posting a baby photo up in 2 days time, or still be hanging around in 4 weeks. Needless to say it's put the fear of god into Ali, heh heh. Lots of jokes about the Second Coming are flying around on SMS as well. Hmmm..

Anyway, in the absence of a baby photo here's one wall of our nursery, complete with monkey stickers. We have giraffes as well, on the wall behind the cot, but that's full of towels and sheets pending removal to our new blanket chest from Lombok WHEN they get round to delivering it; so once it looks a bit more normal I'll post a giraffe pic too.

Monday, 15 December 2008

36 weeks 5 days

(Warning, don't scroll down to the end of this post if you are at all squeamish)

In 2 days time my pregnancy will be officially 'at term' and should I go into labour first thing Wednesday morning, Chewie wouldn't be premature. It seems quite odd that the space of a day or two can alter where the baby is delivered and what monitoring etc they get after the birth - any time after Wednesday and I can phone up the Spires midwife-led unit at the John Radcliffe, with any luck get a nice room with the birthing pool, and give birth (fingers crossed) without too many medical interventions. Before then it's all very much more clinical. And after 42 weeks (21st January, yikes) I will probably need inducing - but that's waaaaayyy ahead.

Now I've been on leave for just over a week I'm amazed how much more tired I'm feeling. Last week was pretty busy up until Friday with various appointments (physio, midwife) nice days out (with Ali on Tuesday and Mum on Thursday, both involving very yummy lunches at the new Jamie's Italian in Oxford) and general chores and shopping and preparation for both Chewie's arrival and Christmas. Over the weekend my nights became more disturbed and for the last couple of nights my shut eye has been very on-off, as it feels like Chewie is growing more and more each day. All I can do is use the heavenly Blackthorn Body Oil from Dr. Hauschka on my belly in a last attempt to ward off stretch marks, catnap as much as possible during the day and hope that Chewie hangs in there for a bit longer. One thing I am doing, which has divided opinion among friends and family, is drinking 2 or 3 cups of raspberry leaf tea daily, which is supposed to make my uterus contract more efficiently in the labour and actually speed up the process. You're not meant to drink it before about 34 weeks as it can apparently bring you on early, but so far anyway I've read and heard more good than bad about it. It does taste pretty rubbish though, like every other fruit or herbal tea I've tried. They all smell so good in tea bag form and when steeping, but the taste is always so sour or bland or dishwatery. Luckily I have managed to make this tea a little more palatable with a hefty dollop of Winter Berry Cordial from the trusty Belvoir Farms, which has the happy side effect of making the tea taste like hot Ribena with a hint of mulled wine. Very festive!

Speaking of which we got the tree on Saturday, so at least our kitchen looks a bit Christmassy now; most of the presents are bought, and the cards were posted today. I think that's my lot for Christmas preparations this year. We're having a quiet one at home together, our last one on our own for years and years to come (unless Chewie makes an early appearance). I'm sure much festive food will be consumed but without the usual booze-fest we'll probably stuff as much chocolate down our faces as possible and slip into a TV and log fire induced snooze mid afternoon.

Ali took a new bump photo at the weekend with me standing in front of the Christmas tree so I'll post that when he's got round to sending it to me. In the meantime here's one from the previous weekend, when I was 35 weeks and 4 days. The friends and family we sent it to all freaked out slightly when they saw it - however it feels like it's even bigger now! Still measuring bang on target at my 36 week appointment though, at 36 cm. And 2/5 engaged apparently which is all good news. Apologies for the amount of naked flesh on display though - it won't happen again...

Friday, 5 December 2008

35 weeks 2 days

Last day in the office today - woo hoo!
It's actually a very odd feeling. When I left my last job, I handed over everything, went for my leaving drinks and then promptly let go of all residual guilt about workload, emails, projects etc. But now, as I know I am planning to go back in a year, I feel so much more responsible for whatever I hand over, and I want to make sure everything goes smoothly next year, mainly so I don't come back to complete chaos in 2010 of course... I actually feel very weird about the whole thing.

However come Monday morning when I don't have to get up at 5.50am and trek to Didcot in the pitch dark and pouring rain to catch that early bird train to Maidenhead - well, then, I can see I won't be quite so weirded out. With any luck I'll still be tucked up asleep until daylight breaks. Bliss.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

35 weeks

Final few weeks approaching now.

On the train home last night someone pulled the emergency lever and as the train ground to a halt there was a panicked voice calling for a doctor or a nurse on board as someone needed help. I don't know what the medical emergency was but it fair put the willies up me. Only 3 days to go at work so please please please let me manage to make it through another 6 journeys without anything like that happening to me should Chewie decide to make an early appearance.

We had our first NCT antenatal class on Sunday and it was really helpful, great to meet other couples in the same situation as us and learn some things we didn't know about the labour and birth and what to expect. The class leader was at pains to point out that most labours are not huge dramatic affairs like you see on TV and in films, and rarely happen very quickly; but the previous day I'd read a series of articles in the Guardian detailing transcripts of 999 calls, one of which had a woman giving birth inside half an hour from start to finish on her bathroom floor after being talked through it by the operator. It made me all emotional (well it doesn't take much nowadays). Having said all this I'll probably go overdue and end up desperate to get things moving come mid January. I'm carrying all my maternity notes about with me everywhere I go now though, just in case... But Chewie is still high up, the head isn't engaged (well it wasn't last Wednesday when I had my last midwife appointment) and I'm not even getting any Braxton Hicks contractions yet, although some of the women in the NCT class had been getting them and I had them early on so was expecting them to make a re-appearance.

3 lunches in 3 days before I go on leave on Friday and then it's sofa, roaring fire, knitting, reading and chilling out all the way before January. Of course that's the plan but no doubt an inconvenient nesting attitude will kick in or errands will insert themselves annoyingly to interrupt my supposedly idyllic 'me time'.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Websites that make me happy*

No, it's not that sort of post. Honestly, what were you thinking?

I'm talking about those sites I've either used for years or recently discovered, which tap into my personal loves and interests and/or make life easier. One of the recently discovered ones is Ravelry.com, an online knitting and crocheting community (bear with me) recommended by Arianne, whose role on our agency account I have appreciated for some time but until recently having no idea that we share a love of yarn and needles and generally making cute stuff. So I joined Ravelry the other day and now have a whole load of new patterns I want to try, yarns I want to buy and projects I want to get started on. Luckily with my leave coming up I might even have a chance to get going on some of them before Chewie arrives and occupies my every waking moment.

LibraryThing is another of these kinds of sites. I guess the beauty of both this and Ravelry, and Bloglines and even the dreaded Facebook to a certain extent is the cataloguing aspect of them (tapping into the librarian deep in my core, hmm); where knitting projects, books I own, blog feeds, friends, photos etc are all kept in nice easy places for me to access pretty much whenever I want to. I'm yet to find a gardening website that feeds my soul as much, but there's bound to be one out there somewhere.

Maybe I'm getting old, maybe it's preparation for being a mum, I don't know, but 10 years ago only books and music really excited me in my leisure time, that and drinking cider with various cronies of course :) Now I get far more out of creating stuff, whether it's a little beanie hat for a friend's toddler (it's nearly finished Julia and will be on its way to Calgary soon!), a banana loaf for a Bonfire Night get together, a batch of dahlia seedlings growing and blooming over the summer, or even dare I say baking a baby for the last 8 months. I still love reading and listening to music, at gigs or at home, but they exist more as activities to relax me and for pure enjoyment, whereas the more creative stuff seems so much more rewarding. Maybe I should have been a Home Economics teacher rather than taking up with all this online marketing malarkey.

*and other nice things

Thursday, 20 November 2008

33 weeks 1 day

Oh Chewie my darling. Thou giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. The last 2 nights miraculously I've been able to sleep right through til 6am, not a loo trip in sight and waking up relatively refreshed. Thing is, I think the reason, blissful though this is, is because your knees seem to be wedged right up behind my ribs, and you're a bit higher up than you were, possibly meaning you're not squishing my bladder as much.

But my god does that hurt sometimes. In the mornings I'm mostly relatively comfortable but by about 2pm I can't sit properly without feeling totally constricted around my right ribs; and my upper back just under my right shoulder blade is absolute agony. This goes on for most of the rest of the day, until I can get to have a lie down - and that's not exactly possible at work. So I can imagine the next 2 weeks will be a bit hard to take until I go on leave, when my nesting instinct will apparently kick in (ha!) and I start scrubbing floors and cleaning the oven.

Anyway enough griping. The wriggling Chewie's doing (especially after the spicy pumpkin risotto earlier in the week, funnily enough) always makes me smile and Ali and I are getting more and more excited to meet him or her in 7 weeks or so. Last weekend we went up to Manchester to spend a few days with Stuart, Alison and Archie and also Alison and Liam, and Ali was over the moon to see both nephews at the same time. It was lovely to spend time with the family and see how much both boys have grown - Archie is a wee smiley treasure at about 7 and a half months, and Liam is looking amazingly grown up at 8 years old, especially when he spikes his hair with gel or holds his little cousin gently in his arms.

We loaded up the Golf for the journey home with pram, crib, baby bath, baby gym, and mountains of bags of clothes Archie's too big for. I don't think you can actually see the floor of what will be Chewie's room now. That's going to be a job for the next few weeks, sorting it all and putting it away - though if we ever have more than one child we'll have to bloody move house. Now the only thing I really have left to get sorted is the nappy situation - need to make my choice so the poor nipper has at least something to cover its bum when it comes home from the hospital!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Eco-unfriendliness

With the impending arrival to our family it’s become a lot harder recently to plan for and be as eco-friendly as I would want to be.

Eco-pluses:
  1. We compost everything that’s compostable (but we don't have a wormery)
  2. Use Ecover for most of our detergents, cleaning products etc
  3. (In theory) have an efficient condensing boiler
  4. Get an organic veg box delivered every week
  5. Recycle glass, cans, paper every week (though the council won’t take cardboard and we don’t save it to recycle at the tip, which is bad)
  6. Buy local produce whenever we can vs. air freighted and support local businesses
  7. Buy organic food, clothes, toiletries etc vs. non organic if possible (and affordable!)
  8. Try and reduce our packaging wherever possible – use cloth bags for shopping (as often as we remember, which to be fair is about 80% of the time)
  9. Garden organically
  10. Bought a rotary airer* for our washing this summer and use it to dry our clothes outside
  11. Plan to use washable cloth nappies not disposables
  12. Cook almost all meals from scratch (I guess this is sort of eco friendly, as we would never buy ready meals and rarely if ever get takeaways other than the odd self-indulgent fish and chips from the chippie round the corner, which counts as supporting local businesses anyway!)
* or birley for those from north of the border…

Eco-bads:
  1. After a few performance glitches and some internet searching we realised our boiler may not be as efficient as we thought when it was installed…
  2. I love an open fire and will happily burn loads of logs and coal even when it’s not really that cold
  3. As a result of number 11 above, we’ve just bought a tumble drier. There’s no way I am draping wet nappies over radiators in January. If the baby had been coming in June I might have risked it and hoped to be able to put them outside to dry but it ain’t gonna happen in the middle of winter.
  4. When working at home during the recent cold snap I’ve had the heating on all day rather than stick an extra jumper on. I can see that from 5th December, when I’m at home all the time, and especially after Chewie arrives in January, the heating bill will be enormous this winter.
  5. Prefer to buy new than second hand (though we are getting a lot of newborn hand-me-downs from Archie which is brilliant and so is a sort of eco-plus.)
  6. Don’t think twice about jumping in the (petrol-guzzling sports) car and driving to see friends, family, do the shopping, etc which we could in theory do on public transport
  7. I don’t think we have ever even attempted to measure our carbon footprints and don’t make a proper effort to avoid flying etc although we do like taking holidays in the UK and I foresee more of them will be UK based in future!
So overall it appears that we are doing more good to the planet than bad, however I do think our bads are big enough to outweigh the small effort of the goods. Must do better - watch this space...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

31 weeks 1 day

Yikes. I got into work this morning and after getting my breakfast (3 weetabix, sugar, semi-skimmed milk, cup of tea) I sat down at my desk to go through some stuff. I opened my desk drawer to get my calculator out and a smorgasbord of junk food stared back at me accusingly. Half a jumbo bag of tortilla chips. An open but still quite full bag of assorted mints. Twelve (yes, 12) miniature bars of Green & Black's chocolate. Three quarters of a packet of rice cakes. An Uncle Ben's Microwaveable Mexican Rice (sounds horrible but is actually a very tasty and quick lunch). Only the presence of a banana and an apple managed to align the pile of food with some slight nutritional value.

And on the scales this morning, 10 stone, the heaviest, by some way, I've ever been. However - my rings keep slipping off my fingers in piles of laundry. My face is still looking the same as it has for months (usually I have a frantic reluctance to have any photos taken of me at all for fear of double chinnage etc but this has gone away totally in pregnancy). From the back I am reliably assured that you would never know I was pregnant. So it's only Chewie that is getting the benefit of these extra calories - which of course is as it should be. It's actually also now a great thing to be able to eat loads, rather than only the tiny meals I was able to consume in my first 15 weeks or so. What was that all about? Chewie was no more than 10 cm long, my stomach wasn't getting anywhere near the amount of squishing it is now, but I couldn't make it through even two thirds of a full meal, whereas now, with the bump measuring 31cm (bang on target for 31 weeks) he or she is almost a fully grown little baby boy or girl, pressing down on all my internal organs, including, you would think, my stomach. But I am suddenly able (and desiring) to eat. Loads.

Luckily we are still getting our veg box delivered from the fantastic Riverford, and my red meat consumption has gone up significantly, so I don't feel too guilty about a few bags of crisps and chocolates now and again. Or even daily.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

29 weeks 6 days

Time for a new bump picture – quite some growth, or at least it feels like it to me, despite the fact that Chewie hasn’t generated any real weight gain in the last 2 or 3 weeks – that seems to have plateaued. Last Friday Ali and I went for a meal at the Crazy Bear in Stadhampton to celebrate my birthday (I have now gone up a whole age bracket whenever I fill in any forms – feeling distinctly middle aged…) and while waiting for our coats at the end of the night the manageress was chatting to us. When I told her my due date she expressed shock that I wasn’t due much earlier given my enormous size, which peeved me a little as most other folk say how neat the bump is. I suppose I was wearing a cardigan/shawl thing tied at the front of my bump so it could have given the impression of more size than was strictly true, plus of course I had just dined on a 3 course meal... Oh well. The food was gorgeous, and they even pandered to my pregnant lady demands to make a broad bean and pea risotto in a starter portion as I couldn’t choose any of the foie gras/soft cheese/pate options that littered the starter menu. We’ll definitely be going back there.

Looking at the picture below I realise I need a haircut too – better do that while I can still waddle into the hairdressers unaided...


Last week was our week off work and spending frenzy. It started off on great form with a weekend at my Mum and Dad’s in Leicester which was rounded off in fine style with a day spa visit to Ragdale Hall for me and Mum (her birthday present from us earlier in the year). This was soooooo relaxing – and actually streets ahead of how good I thought it might be, having remarkably never even had a facial before never mind a whole spa day. Slopping round in a fluffy robe all day having massages and facial treatments and a lovely lunch and a session in the pool was nothing short of heavenly. After I got home on the Tuesday Ali and I spent the rest of the week researching and purchasing all manner of stuff for the baby, mostly furniture for the room but a few other bits and bobs too. We also got the far end of the garden cleared and paved (well we paid a man to do it for us) in preparation for the new shed which was ordered yesterday – so in a few weeks we can remove all the garden tools, bikes etc that are cluttering up the nursery and top room and covered with a tarp outside, and get them all tidied away – thank god. When the nursery has a bit more stuff in it and actually looks like it’s ready for the baby I’ll post some pictures. Also last week the Golf came back with rear bumper fixed so I’m back driving a normal sized car, which feels a lot better.

So now I’m back at work, there are less than 6 weeks to go before my last day in the office, and I’m feeling very detached from it all. It was so nice to focus on ourselves and Chewie and preparing for his or her arrival in January that it’s taking quite some time for me to get back into the work mindset. Of course it isn’t helping when people keep telling me stories of such and such they know who gave birth 4, 5, 6 or more weeks before their due date. I do NOT want to go into labour while still at the office!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

28 weeks 1 day

Chewie seems to be head down most of the time now, and the thuds I'm feeling lower in my belly must I think actually be punches. New midwife Alison (Marie has left to go and work in the new midwife led unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford so I might see her again in 12 weeks or so...) did a thorough prod about yesterday at my 28 week appointment and managed to locate a bum, a spine and a head, though I was unable to pick out anything quite as identifiable as that via my own tentative explorations later. This is good news as currently it means that Chewie is not breech therefore I don't need to plan a C-section or get induced, though apparently there is still plenty of time for him or her to turn around a few more times before getting into final position. Hiccups are a regular-ish occurrence now too which is quite a weird sensation but sweet all the same!

The iron tablets have so far not given me any nasty symptoms after taking them for a week, which is a bonus, and I can see a faint increase in my energy levels from a week or 2 ago. Something no amount of iron will fix is my rather ungainly waddling which happens whenever I heave myself out of what uncomfortable sitting position I've been in for a while - once I've got going I'm fine but those first few steps are a bit weebly. God knows what I'll be like in another month or so.

Also of note this week was a wobbly experience of another kind. On Monday morning I set off for work in the new Golf (Ali had left at the weekend for a business trip to the US for a week so I'm home alone). At 6.40am in the pitch dark it's never the best time to be on the road but generally there is little traffic at that time of day and I get onto a quiet train and into a quiet office before 8am. But this was not to be on Monday, as I slowed down at the roundabout to get onto the A34. As there was a car coming to my right I stopped and then felt an almighty great thwack jolt me forward, luckily *not* into the path of the oncoming traffic. As I was stationary when it happened there was no whiplash and the seatbelt didn't even lock, but I was in a bit of shock. So I got out of the car, even remembering to put the hazard lights on (impressed?), and a really nice guy who had stopped to act as witness asked me if I was OK. All I could come up with was a petulant, 'well NO, not really!!' and then burst into tears. The poor man whose car had rammed into the back of me must have panicked a bit when he saw the heavily pregnant woman in floods of tears after an accident that was clearly his fault. Mind you his little Nissan Micra was in a much worse state than the Golf, as the radiator was completely buggered and spouting water all over the road. As my car was driveable, after we swapped details I went off to Didcot as usual, mildly miffed that I'd missed my early train but not really thinking much more than that. However, all day at work I was distinctly wobbly so as soon as I got any sympathy from anyone I was close to breaking down again. Physically me and Chewie were absolutely fine but I was just an emotional wreck all day.

Anyway to cut the saga short, the other driver's insurance company have been fantastically efficient, phoning me by 9am the same morning to confirm my car would be repaired, arranging the garage to pick it up and organising a hire car as a replacement until the Golf's fixed. Now somewhat alarmingly I've got a brand new 58 registration Vauxhall Vectra which is bloody enormous but actually not that bad to drive, though it took me a while to work out how to put it into reverse gear... and a nice chat with the midwife yesterday put my mind at rest. She asked me if I'd had any contractions or bleeding or signs of my waters breaking, to which I almost retorted "if I had, do you think I'd be sitting here talking to you now? No, I would be in the bloody HOSPITAL, PANICKING, woman." Anyway, all is well, Ali is back at the weekend and Chewie has continued to kick and punch and hiccup away with no sense of restraint. Bless.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Two coats...

...little and large. The large one (though still only a size 10, yay!) is my early birthday present from Ali - it caught my eye on the Toast website and when I went and tried it on in their Oxford shop last weekend, it lived up to all expectations. It's voluminous enough to cover the bump, hopefully even up to the full 9 months, and drapy and gorgeous enough to look fantastic after bump has become babe in arms and I can pretend to yummy mummy status.
The little one has been in the making for some time now - but I've only just got round to finishing it. A few errors crept in along the way and it was actually knitted for Archie originally but my tardiness in completing it has meant that it will become Chewie's when he/she is big enough (it's size 3-6 months). It just needs a few buttons and we're there.

Next up for a knitting project is the Central Park Hoodie, using Debbie Bliss Donegal Aran Tweed in a lovely dark brown colour - something for me for a change! With my current rate of progress it may or may not be done by the time I can fit into it ;0)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

26 weeks 6 days

Ali took some more bump pictures at the weekend and I've just scrolled through my images folder to see Chewie's growth progress. It's quite amazing how much I have expanded in 4 weeks and the contrast is even more stark when you look at pictures taken mid-August. At the time I remember feeling quite huge, as I'd only just started showing, but compared to now, I was tiny! The other thing that's struck me about these latest pics is how washed out I look versus the previous snaps. The pic Ali took at 22 weeks-ish has me looking all bright eyed and awake whereas now I am feeling the strain a little more. I have reluctantly accepted that I'll have to go on iron supplements as my latest blood test showed no improvement in my haemoglobin levels from the previous one, and apparently from now until the end of the pregnancy Chewie will be sapping my already limited iron stores even more. I don't fancy palpitations and fainting, somehow. It does seem that my energy levels have certainly corresponded to all the stuff I've read about trimesters - in the first 13 weeks I felt fine (apart from the sore boobs), but was prone to random periods of extreme fatigue; the second trimester was a breeze - loads of energy, feeling great, dare I say 'blooming'; and now I'm starting to feel more tired again, but more consistently than before, and getting achy. We have a week off in October where we'll be buying baby stuff til we can shop no more, and after that point I can imagine doing pretty much naff all until January...



Wednesday, 1 October 2008

26 weeks

I gave my official maternity leave notification in at work today. Now it's all getting very real, as real as the list of projects I need to complete before I leave which unfortunately isn't getting any smaller. It's an odd feeling, speaking to project managers about activity and discussing media plans which somebody else will have to make sure are signed off after I've left. However, I still have enough weeks left (9 and a bit weeks before my last day, 8 and a bit working weeks [Ali and I have a week off in October] and counting, ohmygod) for it not to be too daunting. Yet.

Physically, as the bump gets bigger and heavier, so I become more unwieldy and uncomfortable. Can't get through the night without getting up for a wee any more (reminiscent of those early weeks) and can't sit in one place for more than about 40 minutes without the base of my spine screaming and my back aching. Restless legs in the evening have been ongoing for a while, apparently tonic water and / or bananas are meant to be good for this but so far it's been manageable. The maternity pillow is great now I've got used to it. Getting more tired again (early morning alarms, as it's now pitch dark at 5.55am, are becoming very hard to take).

Current battle is to try and retain some semblance of chillout time at weekends for the rest of the year. We've had a run of busy ones and until the end of October that looks like it'll continue, but November gets a bit easier and by December, my beached whale month, it's only antenatal classes to look forward to and then the waiting game starts.

We had our friends Matt and Nickiy over at the weekend for a trip to Cardiff to the Great British Cheese Festival. The day was good, though on a bit of a smaller scale from last year. As I wasn't allowed to consume either cider or soft / blue / unpasteurised cheeses it was a bit more abstemious for me than for the others but I did buy some very self indulgent Burnt Sugar fudge which is pure caramel sugar and cream and bloody scrumptious. In the evening I cooked a thai veggie curry and the talk turned to baby names. I won't bore you with all the ridiculous ones that the, erm, more drunken of the crew came out with but the upshot is that Ali is now calling the bump 'Chewie' short for Chewbacca. I'm in 2 minds on this, part of me thinks it's quite funny, the other part is a little concerned that it refers to an enormous hairy space monkey who also happens to be a boy. What if I have a little lady inside me? Sadly though I think this nickname will stick for the next 14 weeks.

Finally, we ordered some of these a while ago. The jungle ones arrived last week and I can't wait til we've furnished the baby's room so we can put them up!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

24 weeks 6 days

It's not that there hasn't been stuff to record about my burgeoning belly over the last few weeks - just that some fairly major work activity has coincided with a busy social calendar. Any free weekday evenings and the odd hour at the weekend have thus been taken up with eating, sleeping, trying to find some clothes that fit and generally trying to relax a bit. And for those of you who know me, and have perhaps found it a touch strange that I haven't even so much as mentioned the advent and launch of this year's SCD onto our TV schedules this autumn, never mind hyperventilated about it as much as I did last year, rest assured there will be much of that to come in later posts.*

So, bump news. Well, it's getting bigger. Ali hasn't taken a pic for a while but I'll post one up soon. A dread which now occasionally occupies me is whether my inny will become an outy, as apparently this can happen, and it's certainly a lot, erm, shallower than it was. Bambino is also kicking quite a bit more, something that's more noticeable in the wee small hours of the morning - I'm not 100% sure if it has actually kicked hard enough to wake me up yet, but when I have dragged myself into consciousness at aroud 5.30am in readiness for the alarm to finish the waking up process 25 minutes later, I am feeling some pretty hefty whacks.

Purchases have finally commenced and the bank account floodgates have been breached. We were up in Hawick at the weekend seeing Ali's folks and there is the most fantastic baby shop there, far and away the best one we've been into in terms of stock and helpfulness of staff (but sadly without its own website). The Nursery Shop in Abingdon is just a glorified present-buying emporium in comparison. So we went along, and looked at prams, prams, and yet more prams. Even those extortionately expensive Silver Cross ones that look like they should be pushed by Wendy Craig in an episode of Nanny in the early 80s, and which you presumably can't buy unless you're Victoria Beckham and live in a mansion with door frames wide enough to accommodate them. It was invaluable to be able to test different ones and get advice on what we needed. So we ended up with a Quinny Speedi, along with the carrycot, car seat etc. Very exciting! We haven't made any other actual purchases for the baby as such, although we did also get a new (secondhand) car last week, a 6 year old Golf with 5 doors (very important) so I don't have to drive the Polo for much longer. It'll be a shame in some ways to see it go as I've driven it about for about 5 years now, but it was on its last legs and it's only a car for heaven's sake anyway, not something to get sentimental about. I also got a snazzy new Dream Genie pillow from Amazon, bizarrely made by a company in Steventon, which is only 2 villages away from us, but dispatched all the way from the Amazon warehouse in Swansea. Hey ho. It's quite a contraption until you get the hang of it but means I'm not waking up in the middle of the night with pins and needles and cramp any more due to sleeping on my back and it can be used as a feeding pillow after the baby's born. I think I might need to get the sewing machine out and make a sturdier cover for it at that point though. While I'm on the subject of sleeping, my dreams have taken a rather disturbing turn. They've been more vivid since I became pregnant, but last night was weird in the extreme. I dreamt that Carlisle railway station was suffering a major series of explosions, and all I can remember from the dream is the raging fires, screaming people and fire hydrants exploding and killing random folk. It was a shocking and frightening experience (in the dream I was watching all this from a distance) and I imagine that driving past Carlisle twice on the way to and from Hawick had a good deal to do with why it cropped up as a dream location, but why I should have conjured up such scenes of panic and bloodshed I do not know. I hope it wasn't a manifestation of any deep seated fear of giving birth.

Final bit of pregnancy news is that I have been travelling in style (well, ish) on the train home from work recently by plonking myself down in First Class. As I get on the train at 7am in the morning I usually have my pick of seats and am generally the only person in the carriage until Reading - so I haven't bothered availing myself of the upgrade. But now I'm 25 weeks and due to pick up my MATB1 form from the doctor on Friday, I'll be applying for my pass to sit in First Class until my maternity leave commences. Nobody's challenged me yet on whether I am entitled to sit there (given that I don't actually have said pass yet) but generally there aren't many seats available in standard at around 6pm at Maidenhead, so even if I did run across a particularly stern train manager before I officially get my forms sorted, I'd be able to hold my ground and look righteously indignant if they suggested I move.

* Though this year, so far anyway <whispers> I'm not really that excited yet. The men are a bit boring, except for Gary Rhodes who is just hideous in a car crash ohmygodmustwatchbuthatemyselffordoingso sort of way. The women look as if they're all rubbish based on the group dances on Saturday, but I have an early soft spot for Christine Bleakley, as she seems very warm and genuine and also is dancing with Matthew Cutler who is lovely. Other than that I wait with anticipation for it all to hot up, after all who knew the gorgeous Gethin last year would end up being quite so wonderful and Alesha so brilliant?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

diverting widgetness

This seems to be spreading rather quickly at the moment. A viral marketer's dream, I'm sure...! It reminds me of drunken eveings playing games of the 'daddy or chips' variety (mainly involving 'would you shag xxxx from I.T. or xxxx from accounts' type of questions sadly enough). Have a go - it's the black box on the right.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

22 weeks 6 days

Had a lovely lunch yesterday with my friend Lynsey, mother to Lily who's 5 months. She's on maternity leave at the moment and it was great to catch up, indulge in some work gossip and listen to her experiences of motherhood and recommendations for prams and the like. Currently I'm indecisive between the Quinny Buzz and a Bugaboo, but to be honest I haven't really test driven either properly or even looked at the alternatives so it's still very much up in the air. Lily was a sweetie at lunch, good as gold with some winning smiles and gently hiccuping at one point. Apparently you can tell if the baby's hiccuping inside you but the movements I can feel are still quite indistinct and irregular so it's hard to tell. Funny, though.

Bump has grown a bit, though miraculously (to me) I'm still finding some people I see every day who still hadn't realised I was pregnant. I am actually now exactly the same weight I was this time last year, before I started to cut out the mid-week alcohol and too much bread, except obviously the weight was previously distributed in plenty more areas than just mid-belly.

A decision has been made about the spare room too. We're not going to bother re-painting (or rather, we can't be arsed). Its current blue is a lovely colour and if we have a girl I'm sure she'll get given enough pink fluffy things to make it not matter in the slightest. Our bigger priorities at the moment are a) getting me a new car that has 5 doors rather than 3; b) sorting out some furniture for the baby's room as well as some proper curtains and c) getting the ground prepared at the end of our garden and slabs put down in preparation for a new shed. After all, less than 4 months to go now! <drums nails on table nervously> and there's nothing a baby needs more than a good shed, obviously :)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Yet more silly names

Great news that Andy Murray is through to the semi-finals of the US Open. Slightly less good news that he's facing world #1 Rafael Nadal, as unless he produces a mighty mighty upset, he'll be out. However, all this pales into insignificance when you look at the guy Rafa beat to get to the semis. US player MARDY FISH???!!! Phenomenal! I'm assuming 'mardy' isn't used as a term of mild abuse in the US like it is over here but as names go, it beats Bershawn hands down.

Monday, 1 September 2008

21 weeks 5 days

I feel very lucky that as symptoms go, I haven’t yet succumbed to any sickness, excessive wind, weird rashes or even some of the more alarming ones like symphisis pubis dysfunction. Now there’s a scary one to contemplate. By writing this it’s tempting fate that my body will develop something nasty and debilitating by 24 weeks, but til then, currently I don’t even feel very pregnant, apart from the infrequent little internal kicks and the thickening waistline (‘thickening waistline’ is a phrase I’ve always wanted to use, with its prim Victorian overtones as if I'm some kitchen maid who’s been compromised by the young lord of the manor. Of course since Ali and I are disgracefully living in sin and have no plans to get hitched any time soon, especially not given ‘my condition’ (another good one), maybe I deserve all the prim Victorian-ness I get).

However I have had low haemoglobin levels since a nasty bout of anaemia in my first year of university, and so after my 10 week blood test confirmed this, I was urged by my doctor to increase my consumption of iron-rich foods. I don’t like taking iron supplements as they irritate my stomach, so now my diet contains a much higher proportion than before of red meat, leafy green veg and eggs, washed down with orange juice to aid the iron absorption. Yesterday’s meals consisted of a brunch of poached eggs and sausages on toast, a bit of ginger cake in the afternoon, and a Sunday dinner of a huge rib-eye steak, mounds of broccoli and new potatoes. The ginger cake is not, as far as I’m aware, full of iron, but the other small side effect of pregnancy has been to make me far more receptive to the idea of eating sweet foods than before (and hence, eating them). Life before bump was a very savoury affair – I’ve never been one to have chocolate, biscuits, cake etc around the house and if someone offered me the choice between a tube of Pringles and a bar of Dairy Milk the crisps would win hands down. I wouldn’t say I’ve had any proper cravings yet but certainly walking round the supermarket the other day, while Ali loaded up the trolley with a wide selection of bottled real ales and I briefly considered and swiftly rejected a bottle of Waitrose own label ‘low alcohol cider’, I did veer towards the cakes and sweets aisle and slip a packet of Bendicks Bittermints into the trolley.

I’m also loving the Lime and Lemongrass cordial by Belvoir Fruit Farms, a bottle of which, mixed with fizzy water, lasts me a week and seems to be doing a great job of preventing me reaching for the 4 bottles of Westons Organic Cider that were in the house at the point I discovered I was pregnant and which have been banished to the back of the cupboard ever since. I just hope they’ll last til next January...

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Mellow yellow

Despite my plans for a border full of reds, purples and oranges, this year the garden's most successful showings have been distinctly yellow tinged.
The coreopsis that mysteriously appeared from nowhere, has bloomed right through from early June and is still going strong;


the sunflowers have also done well (though I like the 'Ruby Eclipse' ones the best which are dark red with a yellow edge to the petals, and will certainly be planting those again next year);

the rudbeckia is looking good;


and even the hypericum, which I don't normally have very strong feelings for, had a fantastic show in late June and appears to be coming through for a second blooming around now.

I'm also really pleased with the osteospermum bought at the end of May to replace the tulips in the big green pot on the patio. Like the coreopsis, it's flowered constantly since then with nothing but a bit of dead heading to help it along its way. The blooms are a lovely colour - a faded yellow colour with pinky-lilac centres - and the foliage has remained a good glossy dark green all summer.

Friday, 29 August 2008

21 weeks 2 days

Serious internal jigging about from #1 bambino last night. Ali felt a kick for the first time which was wonderful, he was so happy to finally feel something! Since then the bump has been a bit quiet. I have a worrying suspicion that the Tom Petty album which was playing in the background might have spurred it into action, so I think I'll have to come up with a plan of action for its musical education before the birth that doesn't involve any Dylan, Waits, or Young... We're out for a curry tonight too so that might trigger a few movements - hopefully from the baby rather than my own insides though.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

21 weeks

Everything is OK! We went for the anomaly scan today at the John Radcliffe. As it turned out we needn't have bothered turning up early to make sure we missed the traffic - they had staff shortages due to sickness and so our 9.45am appointment ended up happening at 11.45am instead. Of course you also have to have a full bladder for the scan to 'cushion' the baby, so I was drinking cups of water from the fountain for 2 hours beforehand meaning I was desperate for a wee by the time we got in.

But the wait was totally worth it in the end - all the measurements were fine, all the organs normal and the wee one was very active, especially when it came to the time to capture a few shots for the scan photos. Most of them show our little darling standing on its head or with its arms and legs all over the place - but they're all brilliant. I've still no idea whether it's a boy or girl, and the nice sonographer, when I asked her at the end if she could tell herself (we had said we didn't want to know but I wanted to know if there was something obvious we'd missed...) said she didn't even check either, so we're none the wiser, which is just how we like it. We bought paint samples in various shades of green at the weekend to paint our deep blue spare room a less 'boyish' colour just in case, though I'm sure a baby girl wouldn't give two hoots about the colour of the nursery walls until she got to about four years old anyway.

Added to all this excitement is the fact that I can definitely feel loads of movement now, even from the outside of my belly rather than just the internal flutterings of the last few weeks. Ali hasn't managed to catch a kick yet but it's only a matter of time I'm sure.

So now we know everything's fine and developing as it should, it's time to put all my previous baby posts live, so apologies to those of you on Bloglines who suddenly have 8 or 9 posts to wade through of my self-indulgent baby-waffling. And to those who have been through it all before, feel free to send helpful anecdotes or recommendations...

Monday, 25 August 2008

20 weeks 5 days

Belly has been growing quite a lot this last week I think. Last week I wore a pair of pre-pregnancy hipster linen trousers and they fit fine underneath my bump, held up by a belt on notch 2 (I was on notch 4 pre-pregnancy). The other day at work I put them on and I was *really* uncomfortable all day, they were digging into me and I either had to pull them down a bit to sit just below my hips (and run the risk of them falling down altogether) or put up with the digging. Belt went to notch 1 as well. *Sigh*.

Although, someone at work referred to me as 'glowing' last week which, while very flattering, is not wholly true... I've been tired all week this week, although I had thought I'd got over the fatigue of the early weeks; and I'm not getting rid of the spots on my chin at all. It seems I am forever destined to be a bit spotty - I haven't had the bad painful ones like I sometimes got before, but I've not yet had a totally blemish-free complexion. Still, as symptoms go I could have had a whole lot worse so I should be grateful for small mercies... Spots vs. vomiting? No contest.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Eh?

Watching the Olympics on the BBC website (it's addictive) and I've just seen that a US 400m (male) runner is called LaShawn Merritt. There's also a 400m hurdler called Bershawn Jackson. LaShawn, Bershawn, what next? Reshawn, Sheepshawn, Duhshawn, the mind boggles. Bershawn, though. What a name for a child.

19 weeks 6 days

Ali took some bump pictures at the weekend. It does appear that we are now calling it 'bump' which is highly unoriginal, and has kind of evolved since it's become more 'bumpy' over the last 3 or 4 weeks. Actually I just look like I've been on the pies a bit, as there isn't much definition to it, more just a bloated look. But at least I look pregnant now! and it's prompting speculation about the flavour amongst various folk. My mum is convinced it's a girl, other people say boy, I truly don't have any gut feeling (well, I have feelings in my gut but that's hopefully just early baby movements) or even care one way or the other - I'm just thinking 'baby' at the moment and concentrating on that.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Interweb paranoia

I just Googled myself. Don't ask me why - I don't know myself - it was a random impulse in between work email answering. My LinkedIn profile came up at the top, which I wasn't desperately pleased to see but I'm sure I can fix that (in fact I just have, now). Then there was an old BBC article from when I was still working at Virgin very early on, when I commented about the launch of Napster into the UK. Get me, media pundit. Most alarmingly I saw my Facebook public profile appear at number 3. Now, I *know* I've blocked this from appearing to the world and coming up on Google so I was more than a bit shocked to see this. So I clicked through, and it appears I have a namesake in London, whose profile is public and thus searchable by Google. Thankfully mine is not. Actually I have 3 namesakes, as there's another one who has no friends and no profile, and a third one in Ontario.

It's kind of comforting to know I can control what information I put out there about myself on the internet, especially after a couple of weeks where my Yahoo email account has been hacked *twice* and some bloody spammer bastard has got into my account, mailed all my contacts with rubbish about some random electronics website and then deleted the sent messages so I had no idea what was going on until a few friends politely emailed me, assuming I would like to know what 'I' had sent them. Yahoo themselves were completely crap, stubbornly asserting that I had been the recipient of spam not unknowingly mailed it out, so I've given up contacting them and just changed my password instead. If it happens again I'll be going to gmail.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bookish stuff, good and bad

There's something that has annoyed me on and off for a while now but not to the extent that I've blogged about it. But I've been tipped over the edge... The other day, I purchased the new paperback of the last Rebus novel, Exit Music. So far so good. But when I unwrapped it from its cardboard sheath (sorry, Mostly Books, the purchase got me up to free delivery on Am*zon...) it popped out as a large format paperback. Number 17 in the series, the last one in the series that is, and the publishers Orion have to take the bleeding decision to re-format and repackage it so that it sits on the shelf next to the 16 previous, *small* format paperbacks (I think they're known as mass market, or A format in the 'trade', dredging up memories of my bookselling years at Blackwell's) in the series and looks downright stupid. I could just about put up with it when they decided to re-design the jackets to be more 'funky' looking with different typefaces, Ian Rankin's name much larger than before on the spine etc etc. At least they were all the same size on the shelf. But why change the size NOW?

The CJ Sansom series of Matthew Shardlake Tudor mysteries was the same - books 1 and 2 small format, then a size upgrade for number 3, Sovereign. But that doesn't seem quite as annoying as 16 small books and 1 big one. I even avoided buying the hardback, desperate as I was to read of Rebus's last days in the force, to wait for the paperback edition so I could complete the set.

Don't get me wrong, I don't shelve my books according to size or colour (most of the time anyway, though I do keep certain publishers together, mainly because the spines look groovy in a row - RIP Harvill Panthers). But these Rebus novels are sat on the top shelf, which is quite close to the ceiling anyway, so there ain't an awful lot of room height-wise for big books. Grr.

Better book news though in that I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and absolutely LOVED it. I have read some differing opinions/reviews of how good it actually is, and there's even a Wikipedia entry devoted to it but I have to say after I'd got my head round the initial concept I was hooked. I finished it on Sunday night in bed, and while Ali had already gone to the land of nod I was silently weeping rivers through the last 20 pages or so, something a book hasn't moved me to in a good while. Apparently there's a film being made of it, due out at the end of the year, which I'm not too sure I'll make the effort to see - although having said that I did really enjoy Atonement on the big screen, probably because it has been some time since I read the book. It's a wonderful feeling when you enjoy a book that much - and of course as I'm now on the hotly anticipated Exit Music the enjoyment keeps on coming. Fabulous!

19 weeks

Not much to report on really this week. Still a few little flutterings that may or may not be my digestive system rather than the baby moving. We went to see the Gutter Twins play at the Oxford Academy on Monday night which was a great gig, but very very loud. I hadn't really given it much thought beforehand but now the baby's senses are developing and apparently it can hear or at least sense sound vibrations, I got a slight wave of guilt about whether it was actually enjoying itself while the band thumped out their stuff. I even thought it might stimulate a kick or two "Mum, what on earth is this godawful racket you're subjecting me to?" but I haven't noticed anything. Our unborn child has so far been to 2 Radiohead concerts as well as the Gutter Twins so with any luck it should develop reasonable musical taste, unless Ali decides to play it some Neil Young after it's born of course...

Good article on old-fashioned names on the BBC today as well - not that we'll be naming it Clifford if it's a boy but it's slightly sad to hear that some names are almost obsolete now compared to the drivel that some parents inflict on their kids. If we have a girl I'd like the middle name to be Irene after both Ali's and my grandmothers, and that apparently is not popular at all nowadays which is a shame.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

So here we go again...

...with all the rain. Thankfully not of the epic flood proportions of last year, but enough to make things a bit miserable in the middle of what should be summer. The garden looks OK, but not sunny enough to get some nice photos; we haven't really sat outside at all this year and chilled out on the patio; and perhaps most amazingly of all, the only barbeque we've been too so far was a rainy one at Jo and Andy's in June, on the day of the Wimbledon final. We've been invited to a garden party on Saturday but the forecast is downright miserable so I have a feeling we'll be inside.

18 weeks

And I'm finally putting on some weight. Until about 2 weeks ago I'd only put on about a pound, which was weirding me out slightly because my bump has definitely got big enough for maternity clothes to become a requirement. But now I'm definitely seeing proper weight gain that can't only be attributed to the squidgy yumminess of the carrot cake I made at the weekend...

No movements yet though. I can't wait to feel a little kick. Even a big one would be okay.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

17 weeks

Mini panic attack just now. I was on the Blooming Marvellous website and suddenly it all became too much to take in. I have only the vaguest grasp of exactly what we need to get for the baby - nursery stuff, clothes, changing, prams, car seats, all I know is there is loads and I'm sure there are lists out there on the interweb and via friends and family, but it's just - overwhelming. Deep breath. Keep calm and carry on, as the poster says.

Monday, 28 July 2008

16 weeks 5 days

Bought some maternity clothes on Friday. I have to say it was a most unexciting shopping trip. Normally spending £200 on clothes would please me enormously but all the stuff I bought is very dull - the jeans in particular are hideous from the hips up, with lots of fabric panels and extendable buttons on elastic and the like. The fact they come up beyond my waist, Simon Cowell-style, is particulary noisome. Still at least they look OK from the bum down, and I can wear a top to cover the horrid bits. The next dilemma is what to do with the pile of ironing upstairs - it's full of stuff I can't get into any more. Should I pack it all away and forget about it til next March? Or, and sadly this is the likelier option, should I do it so I can stop it niggling away at me? Maybe I should wait til my 'nesting' instinct kicks in at 37 weeks.

Too many t-shirts

Whenever I get a new email from Threadless or howies, or see the new threadless designs on my bloglines feed, it’s oh so tempting to purchase a new one. Threadless is a lot cheaper than howies (being priced in $$ after all) but then there’s the slight eco-guilt of having the t-shirt flown across the world to get to me rather than trucked in a Parcelforce van from Cardigan Bay. But the threadless T’s are brilliant, all unique designs and limited editions and some of them very very cute. The ones I currently own are shown for your delight here, my favourite probably being ‘7.00’ which shows a little girl sitting under a cuckoo clock reading a book, lost in her own imaginary world. As a child I was very, erm, bookish, and whenever we went on visits to family or friends I’d always take my latest read along so I could plonk myself in a corner somewhere on my own, away from the grown ups and the other kids. Introvert, moi?

Howies T's are equally great - all organic cotton so lovely and soft, and also great designs. I remember the first time I bought one for Ali about 6 years ago, attracted by a piece in Marketing magazine about an up and coming Welsh clothing company who had a cool website and were still relatively unknown. The first 2 tees I bought him were 'Le Velo' (I think the Tour de France was on at the time) and a bright grass green one with white text on the chest simply saying 'Bill Hicks'. After the initial 'hhm, not sure about these, he was converted, as was I. In fact I'm wearing a howies sundress as I type.

Anyway I’ll probably continue to buy more t-shirts and stuff my drawers to bursting. Unlike Ali I am quite ruthless when it comes to chucking out clothes that I haven’t worn for 12 months or more but not quite so disciplined when it comes to buying new stuff… I do find it very hard to send a cool tee to the charity shop though.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

16 weeks

So, just had my 16 week midwife appointment with Marie. Everything was fine, but I had no idea she was going to check the fetal heartbeat! It was totally amazing to hear the little one's heart beating away like that, so strongly. That was one of the things I had a little niggly worry about - the 11 week scan was just miraculous, to see the baby move and kick and hear the heartbeat. But as I still can't feel anything inside me (and won't for a good few weeks yet) there's always that wonder 'I hope it's OK in there'. And it seems it is!

The weirdest thing was when Marie asked me if I was going to find out the sex at my 20 week scan. I said no, we'd like it to be a surprise. And then she said she could have an extremely good guess based on the sound of the heartbeat alone, and was very rarely wrong. Woah. That's some talent. It made me want to find out what she thought - but then we would have to find out for sure in four weeks to stop ourselves going mad. Now I'm in two minds again whether or not to find out!

Dutch adventures

So the last topic to post an update on before I get back to normal random journalling, is work. Well, it's been busy busy busy. After New York at the beginning of May it's been pretty much head down, though last week I was in Amsterdam for our annual international planning-session-cum-team-building few days.

Like Munich and the Alps last year, this was a really worthwhile trip (for the business side) and great fun (for the team-building element). After 2 and a half days of presentations, planning, and spreadsheets (we did also get to enjoy Amsterdam in the evenings, I didn't make it to the red light district but we did take a canal tour and eat in a few lovely restaurants) we drove to Muiden harbour about half an hour away from the centre of Amsterdam for our 2 day trip on the Pieternella - a 1912 clipper captained by old sea dog Matthieu.


Built in 1912 and hardly modernised since, it gave a very vivid flavour of what life at sea must have been like in the early part of the last century (men must have been a lot shorter for a start to get into the cabins). Matthieu was a mine of knowlege about all kinds of Dutch and European history and the actual sailing of the boat was fantastic, if lashed with rain on the Saturday. We sailed on the IJsselmeer, a massive dammed lake, to Volendam (very touristy) and then onto Edam, a beautiful picturesque little town only 30 minutes drive from Amsterdam. We got there too late to investigate any cheese-making activity but just wandering about the streets made up for that. A number of our crew started investigating house prices and it's safe to say there were future retirement dreams in some people's minds...

Back to Amsterdam on Sunday before finally getting home and crashing out late. It's wonderful to work with such a great bunch of people and get the opportunity to have a total laugh with them in a cool location once a year doing stuff you wouldn't normally be doing. Roll on the 2010 planning next year!

Monday, 21 July 2008

15 weeks 5 days

When these posts go live (when I'm brave enough to publish them that is) hopefully they'll seed themselves into the right order in the calendar. I thought it was time to start blogging my increasing bump though!

First off, pics (the only ones so far, until Ali starts snapping my bump progress that is):


The posts themselves will be short and sweet, but a bit more regular than the mammoth updates I've done recently. So, today was the first day I wore official maternity clothing. Thanks to the generosity of Alison the Isabella Oliver trousers were soooo comfy. I'm tempted never to take them off.

I also had a mild panic and googled whether my stinking cold (acquired in Amsterdam at the weekend) could harm the baby. Apparently as long as I don't take any drugs to mitigate the symptoms it's all fine. So my nose is alternately running and bunged up and I have a hacking cough. Getting lots of sympathy at work, though...

Second midwife appointment on Wednesday so I'll blog more then.

Summer holidays

A rather belated update about our holiday, and life in general over the last month. We've been so busy that I've had no time at weekends, no time in the evenings, and even less time on lunch breaks (what are these, exactly?) to finish updating the random topics I started about a month ago.

So. Holidays - can you tell we've been away? I was annoying everyone at work and most of my Facebook friends I'm sure by doing a daily countdown to holiday time before we went. I hadn't had any time off since last October (had to work over Christmas) and was sooo ready for a break. Ali and I went with Inntravel again after our brilliant holiday to Tuscany last year except this time we were right in the top left corner of Italy, in the Valle d'Aosta region slap next to the Alps. Our hotel was a gorgeous wood panelled antique haven with lots of cheese making implements strewn artfully everywhere and our room had a breathtaking view over wild flower meadows towards the snowy Alpine peaks beyond - truly beautiful. The Michelin starred restaurant was pretty damn delicious too and we managed to treat ourselves to dinner there three times, the other nights making for the Bar a Fromage next door or the local pizza place. On day 3 we took a trip on the cable car from Courmayeur over the top of Mont Blanc and over to Chamonix and I think that has to rank as one of the best things we've done on any holiday we've had together over the last 6 years - it was bloody spectacular. All the mountain walking we did in the region was great, and we saw chamois goats, wild fox, all manner of beautiful alpine flowers and some amazing waterfalls and mountain scenery. That is until Ali stepped the wrong way onto a loose rock on the Saturday afternoon at the end of our first week and ended up in plaster up to the knee for the rest of the trip. After a frankly terrifying journey in the hire car along windy mountain roads to the nearest hospital, during which I was containing my nerves admirably - I am not the most confident driver when driving somewhere I don't know, so add in an unfamiliar car, with the gearbox on the right and having to drive on the wrong side of the road, and you have one very stressed Kathryn - the x-rays luckily showed no break - phew - instead, a possible chip on the bone. As the swelling was so bad the doctors plastered Ali up and then we spent a couple of very slow days, while he rested it as much as possible and I ventured down to the hotel spa to lounge by the pool drinking green tea and reading my books. Lucky I'd brought five with me, eh? By some (un)fortunate twist of fate the weather changed for the worse for our last 2 days anyway so even if Ali had been fit and well we wouldn't have got that much good walking done.

Off to Milan on the Tuesday, another hairy trip down the autostrada for me to drop the hire car off before schlepping into the middle of Milan on the bus. The heavens opened that afternoon and evening so it didn't bode well for the last two days of our holiday but miraculously throughout Wednesday and Thursday we basked in 30 degree sunshine. Lack of mobility meant we couldn't do too much sightseeing but we did go to the Duomo which I found a total let down. Ali called it 'cathedral fatigue' and maybe he's right, but although I could appreciate the beauty of the architecture and the stained glass, and the little chapels and confessionals and the magificent altar were all wonderful, I didn't feel any sense of awe, respect, spirituality, call it what you will. I was almost. Well. BORED. Other than that, we travelled on the Metro to see the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, except when we got there (and not before, you understand, not on any of the posters or directions leading up to it) we found out it was closed for the summer. I mean, what bright spark thought that one up - oh, we'll close one of the most popular tourist attractions in Milan, for the 3 most touristy months of the year.

Then on the Wednesday night we saw Radiohead play the Civica Arena in the middle of the city. We managed to get in via the disabled entrance thanks to Ali's cast, and the gig itself was, as usual for Radiohead, amazing. The light show was spectacular (all done on low voltage LEDs) and the set was lovely - it was great to hear In Rainbows live now that they're a bit more polished in playing it than they were in Blackpool last year before it came out. It has to rank as one of the smokiest gigs I've ever been to though - even though we were outside in an old amphitheatre, the fact that every single Italian person there was chain smoking made it feel like the grubbiest of British pubs before the smoking ban. A mild annoyance to an otherwise fantastic evening and a great way to round off our holiday. Next year I think I'd like to try another different bit of Italy - maybe Amalfi and the coast. God bless Inntravel.

Kind of holiday related in that it wasn't our holiday but Ali's parents' and nephew Liam's, was the weekend a few weeks ago where they came to visit. On the Friday we took a trip to London to see the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and then have a turn on the London Eye. A visit to Hamleys made it into the itinerary for some Lego purchases and overall it was a great day. We even went to Garfunkel's in the early evening for a meal, bringing back memories of my own trips to London with Mum and Dad when I was only a bit older than Liam, who's 8 very soon. In those days (oh so many years ago...) there weren't many other places you could actually go with kids and guarantee they'd eat anything, I guess. On the Saturday my Mum and Dad drove up to complete the party and we had a relaxing (and chilly) couple of hours on a leisure cruiser up to Oxford along the Thames before wandering round a bit and getting the bus back. The boat trip was nice, but took a looooong time considering you can drive to Oxford along the A34 and park up inside 20 minutes.

Knitting I was going to gloss over, as I've slacked off remarkably here. After finishing the tank top and sheep for Archie I got going on a little coat for him, which is age 3-6 months and going to be way too small at this rate if I don't get a wriggle on. Next free weekend (roll on 2-3 August) I'll get back into it.

Music, has been all about Radiohead really. After Milan we saw them again exactly a week later in Victoria Park in Hackney, having an exceedingly enjoyable catch up with friends Matt and surprise guest Susan who'd flown in from Toronto the previous day. Another great gig, but full of complete arseholes. The weather was great and a lot of people had probably been drinking since before noon, explaining somewhat the abundance of idiotic behaviour and general lariness. At least the Italian fans had all been passionate Radiohead afficionados, singing lustily along to every track - but you were lucky to even hear some of the quieter tracks at Victoria Park due to the crowd's hollering. There was also a Pimm's tent, which struck me as mildly out of place. Other than that, no musical exploits to note. We've got tickets to see the Gutter Twins in Oxford in a few weeks time which should be good and loud.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Smashing word of the day

From Dictionary.com:

Cockaigne \kah-KAYN\, noun: An imaginary land of ease and luxury. Apparently comes from the Middle English 'cokaygne' and is ultimately adapted or derived from a word meaning 'cake' . Isn't that lovely? I quite like the idea of a land of ease and luxury at the moment, I imagine it to be a bit like a permanent holiday in Italy...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Friends, family, garden and good intentions

Following on from the last post, what have we been up to with our nearest and dearest then.
Well, the weekend before our holiday we had Stuart, Alison and Archie to stay. We got some real smiles out of Archie and Stuart entertained us by demonstrating how his love of music has been inherited - Archie's current favourite band is Black Sabbath. Whenever Ozzy's dulcet tones and thumping guitars come on the stereo he kicks his little legs and pumps his arms and smiles and gurgles, and apparently no other band has quite this effect on him... We had a great day out in Oxford, after a delicious meal at Carluccios the girls went shopping while the boys enjoyed a few beers, though quite how Archie managed to lift the pint glass is beyond me, ho ho. All in all a chilled out few days enjoying good company and good food before our holiday kicked off, very pleasant indeed.

In the garden, our little plot has come on surprisingly well given that we were away for the best part of two weeks. We installed a timed soaker hose thing along the borders with some dripper attachments for the pots and the tomatoes (highly technical, but Ali did most of the hard work, I just squealed faintly whenever the hose threatened to squash one of my dahlia seedlings or a tender pansy) and this worked well - at least nothing had died when we got home. Actually we may not have needed to bother with the hose as there was quite a bit of rain which had battered the plants down so some emergency staking was in order. Somehow we've got some striking bright yellow coreopsis going great guns next to a hebe and a briar rose (didn't purchase it and it looks remarkably robust to have germinated from some random seed, so I can only assume it was in the garden when we moved in and has been dormant for 4 years, unlikely scenario though this is) and this had flopped all over the place so it's nicely propped up now. The dahlias are OK, the morning glory is starting to flower, the sunflowers are growing inches every day and the hollyhocks are of monstrous proportions. We've even got some blackcurrants that look almost ready enough to pick! The basil, however, which was in the kitchen, while not dead from dehydration did mostly get eaten by caterpillars and is possibly beyind saving. All in all though it's looking good out there.

My good intentions recently have mostly been to do with updating the blog more often, so not entirely successful there. Exercise-wise, we were on a walking holiday so this counteracted the scrummy Italian food and wine, but nothing else to report, though I did swim a bit in the hotel spa pool, albeit not very energetically. My next good intention is to get going on my knitting again and also to organise a renovation of our sash windows which will be costly but really does need doing. I love living in an old house but there is always something that needs fixing, renovating or generally tidying. The worst thing is we still have a pile of ashes and rubbish in the grate from our last fire of winter (probably from February or early March). What slatterns we are.

Stern talking to

If this blog were an allotment I'd have had a nasty letter from the council by now telling me in no uncertain terms to get my act in gear or they will kick me out. Luckily the blog police don't appear to be bothered that my output has been less than prolific over the last few months so I can update you on what's been going on and with any luck do a bit better in July. As Deborah pointed out at work today it's all downhill now, the longest day has come and gone and the nights are drawing in already. Fabulous.

So to get some semblance of order back to things I'll use the loose tags I made up as categories and take it from there. I'll post them as separate posts, not to make the number of June's posts look good or anything compared to May (ha!) but because I know I have to be in a very leisurely mood to read any kind of massive post in my Bloglines feeds and it's easier to digest in smaller chunks I'm sure.

First off then, books. Not much to report here, I missed our last bookgroup at the beginning of June (a shame as the author was Henning Mankell, a Swedish crime writer I really like) but did get through a hell of a lot on our recent holiday, more of which later. I finished Suite Francaise, Roddy Doyle's 'Oh Play That Thing'; 'In the Miso Soup' by Riu Murakami (a little disappointing, I was expecting something a lot more gripping), the next bookgroup choice, Persephone Books' 'Someone at a Distance' by Dorothy Whipple (excellent) and am now wading through 'The Virgin in the Garden' by A.S. Byatt which is a bit of a struggle if you want to know, but I feel I ought to persevere and see if I start to care about any of the characters. Hardly a glowing review I know.

Holidays, family stuff, and garden to come! They'll be a bit less brief than this section anyway.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Long time no post

It does feel ages since I last posted and in fact this does appear to be my first post in May. Being as it's now 26th of the month that's not very good going.

I haven't even got the excuse that we've been too busy - the only thing that's graced our calendars this month really has been our trip to New York last week and weekend. I was out there with work for 4 days of meetings and conferences, and Ali came over and joined me on the Thursday. We hadn't been in the Big Apple together since our first romantic holiday together over 6 years ago, so it was lovely to be back. The weather wasn't that kind to us - tramping round Soho and Little Italy in the pouring rain isn't really having that great a time - but we had a sunny day on the Saturday and took a blowy Staten Island ferry trip as well as discovering a great little Italian restaurant near the Brooklyn Bridge. The obligatory credit card splurge took place but other than that not much to report.

Apart from this we've really been quite quiet. At the end of April we went up to Manchester to see Alison, Stuart, and Archie. Cue loads of photos of adoring auntie and uncle... My knitting projects went down really well and I've now finished a couple more things for him - a little orange tank top (apparently he's put on quite a growth spurt in the last few weeks so I'm praying it will still fit) and a toy sheep. This one didn't take me too long in the end but it was really fiddly and I had to read the pattern through about 4 times before I could get to grips with it - also my first attempt at intarsia was, well, interesting to say the least. Luckily none of the mistakes show on the outside. The pictures aren't very good but I didn't want to disturb Ali while he's ironing to get him to take more professional looking ones ;o)

So now it's the May Bank Holiday and it's been chucking it down all weekend. Not being able to get out in the garden has been really frustrating, though we have had to make some emergency fix-it dashes to tie back drooping roses, sort out the plastic around the tomato plants etc. I have dahlias that are bursting out of the cold frame and really could do with planting out - so here's to a sunny few days next weekend.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

a surprising discovery

I've been reading Non-Working Monkey's blog for a while now and this morning, while trawling my Bloglines feeds, I find out that NWM is in fact female. Why this should suprise me I don't know, but the writing style and complete don't give a shit air of all the posts really honestly led me to visualise a mid 40s male. Well, well. If I'd ever looked at her profile on Blogger I would of course have found this out by now, but it was one of the blogs recommended by another blogger which I just randomly added to my list of feeds and became hooked on. Well, you've got to be intrigued by someone whose interests are listed as:

Not working; idling; absinthe; small clay pipes; fezzes; Canada; veterinary pharmaceutical research pathology; autopsies; haematology rock; beavers; moose; Pierre Trudeau; armchairs; wrestling; squirrel pest control; cake.

Another caustic blogger is Decorno, whose blog Vodka has no Carbs I have just found and which is brilliant, containing as it does a LOT of swearing.