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  • Love Keeps You Warm

    This post contains gifted items from Jacamo.

    No matter the weather, the weekends are all about spending time outside for me. After four days of being sat in an office, in the middle of an open plan office away from any of the windows (why are my desks at work always the furthest away from the window?), I need to fit a whole week’s worth of fresh air and natural light into Saturday and Sunday. Not to mention, I’m usually itching to get my camera out and stretch my creative muscles. read more

    Countryside, Days Out, Fashion, Lifestyle, Marriage
    / February 11, 2019
  • Our Date in Birmingham

    This is a collaborative post with Hotels.Com

    High on my priority list for this year are date nights. Or date days. Since becoming parents, the quality time I’ve spent with Little Pickle’s Dad has sadly dropped, and now that leaving Pickle with a babysitter is a lot easier, it’s something we want to really dedicate more time to. With that in mind, when Hotels.Com challenged us to spending the best day in Birmingham we could think of, we jumped at the opportunity. It was the perfect excuse to spend our January date in the city we love – I just wish we’d have had even longer. Next time, we need to look up some hotels in Birmingham to really make the most of it, especially as I spotted some amazing looking places for breakfast or brunch. read more

    Days Out, Dining Out, Lifestyle, Marriage
    / January 24, 2019
  • picnic date with wine for an outdoor cinema outdoors date night idea

    A list of Outdoors Date Ideas

    This is a collaborative post.

    Do you struggle like I do to come up with some interesting new date ideas? Our go to is a nice meal out or a cinema trip, but seeing as we’re both happier when we’re outside doing something in the fresh air, why aren’t our date nights reflective of this? I wanted to put together a outdoors date night bucket list, and I hope it gives you some inspiration too.

    I made a promise to myself at the start of the year that LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) and I would have more date nights together. When Pickle was first born, it wasn’t anywhere near the top of our priorities list and I think we suffered for it. And then, of course, there was the infamous ‘are we just co-existing‘ conversation. That was the turning point really, and now that Pickle does sleep much better, it’s getting easier and easier for us to spend an evening away remembering why we fell in love with each other in the first place. But maybe, in light of this list, we may try and organise a few date afternoons out instead!

    Row, Row, Row your Boat

    It’s a classic date idea, but taking a trip down the river on a rowing boat is always guaranteed to bring a smile to your faces. It’s something LPD and I haven’t done together yet – although we have been kayaking together a few times which has been magical (especially the time we went mackerel fishing in the sea where wild dolphins swam right past us!).

    We wouldn’t have to travel far either as there are plenty of rowing boats available in the River Avon at Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m already picturing myself in a floral Joanie Clothing dress, getting stuck in the reeds and trying our best to avoid the larger boats.

    All kinds of Golf

    Just after we got married, I vividly remember driving past Bromsgrove Golf Club and saying to LPD that I wanted to go on a date to a driving range with him. I’m not sure exactly why, but I liked the idea of him teaching me something. He’s quite a good golf player, but I’ve only ever muddled my way through mini golf courses (which is a great date idea in itself! There’s a nice looking mini golf course at Cannon Hill Park I want to try out). I knew then that we’d need to do it fairly quick as it’d become much harder once we had children… but guess what? We didn’t.

    I like the idea of building myself up the golf ladder. It could be a whole series of dates! Mini golf, pitch and put, then the driving range. Before I know it, I’ll be pulling my own golf bag with a range of Mizuno irons around a beautiful 9 hole course, followed by a leisurely lunch at the club house.

    Geocaching

    LPD and I used to go geocaching a lot, but it’s something we haven’t done since we had Pickle. One day, I’ll look forward to us all going together, but I’m not sure he’s quite old enough to understand it yet. The best thing about geocaching is that it can introduce you to some beautiful places and routes you may not have found before. I love exploring our local area and the excitement of following a trail and finding some hidden treasure is an added bonus.

    Outdoors Cinema

    You don’t have to stray too far from the typical date night mold for an outdoors experience. So many places now do outdoor cinema screenings during the summer months, and I love the idea of packing a picnic, a blanket and sitting out under the setting sun to catch a movie. Locally, we’re spoiled with choice: Hanbury Hall have an outdoor cinema programme, as well as mac birmingham.

    There’s plenty of ideas to be getting on with here – but do you have any other ideas you can add to the list? Have you done any cool outdoors dates you think we should try? I’m all ears.

    Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post. All content ideas, views and opinions are my own.

    Lifestyle, Marriage
    / June 24, 2018
  • Checking the time outdoors

    Finding Time for a Date Night at Chiquito

    ‘Finding time’. It’s a strange concept. And it’s a phrase I’m using a lot lately. I never seen to ‘find the time’ to do some of things that should be most important to me. It’s easy to rush around doing the things that feel most urgent, but the days and weeks quickly slip by and I look back with a tinge of sadness that I’ve been focusing on all the wrong things.

    I remember having to do a time management exercise one day in a department meeting at work (in my job before pregnancy). We had to split a piece of paper into four quadrants labelled:

    • Not important, not urgent
    • Important, not urgent
    • Urgent, not important
    • Urgent, important

    We had to plot where each of our usual jobs would sit within the quadrants. It was a pretty interesting exercise, and I often think about it now to help me prioritise my workload. The thing is, if I did this with my personal life – I think I’d be surprised by the results. I think I spend far too much time on the things that feel urgent, but ultimately are unimportant. And I want to change that.

    At the very top of the list of things I need to dedicate more time to: date nights. It sounds so silly and frivolous to talk about the need for us to spend time together – but it’s more than just an excuse to eat good food and enjoy a movie. It’s for us to reconnect. To enjoy each other’s company without the stresses of parenthood and the ever-looming threat of whenever the next tantrum will be. To remember why we decided to embark on this crazy journey together in the first place.

    Just before the end of March, we asked my Mother in Law to babysit and went to enjoy a meal at Mexican restaurant Chiquito. We hadn’t been there for years, and we really made a night of it. Pre-children, a meal out was a fairly frequent event. It was something we did when we couldn’t be bothered to cook ourselves or to face a kitchen of washing up. We went wherever was convenient, and rarely spent more than an hour dining. This Saturday? We spent three hours at Chiquito, chatting, laughing and soaking in the things we love most about each other. It was glorious.

    From enjoying a cocktail to start with (well, it would have been rude to pass up the 2 for 1 Happy Hour offer!), right through to our sharing street food starters, mains and even a cheeky pudding, we took the time to just enjoy each other. So often throughout the evening, I sat dancing in my chair, jigging my shoulders to the music and feeling like we were ten years younger again. If only I looked ten years younger, too!

    It was a particularly good idea to opt for a selection of Street Food starters – I’ve always thought literally sharing food is a good way to bring people together, which is why we did picnic type food for our wedding. Just as we wanted our wedding guests to chat and interact, it was fun to try the different starters together, comparing which was our favourites (mine was the halloumi served with a lovely jalapeño jelly) and offering each other the last chorizo (that’s even better than sharing your last Rolo, surely?).

    I’ve mentioned on here a million times before that I’m a real creature of habit, and I always end up ordering the same things off the menu. In fact, I’m sure LPD and I know each other’s habits so well by now that we could happily order for each other. To buck the trend, I went for something that although I’ve eaten lots of times at home, I’ve never ordered out at a restaurant before: chicken fajitas. It was absolutely delicious, and I love the drama of the hot sizzling chicken as it’s brought to the table! LPD kept with tradition and predictably ordered the brownie off the dessert menu. Although, I’m pretty sure he hadn’t ever had a popcorn brownie before, and the addition of salted caramel ice cream made it a real treat.

    It’s a good metaphor for marriage really. It’s nice to fall into familiar patterns of behaviour. There’s comfort in the safety of it, and the reliability of knowing what lies ahead is reassuring. But if you’re not careful, you can just as easily slip into a bit of a rut. The comfort gets replaced with boredom and it becomes difficult to find that same spark of enjoyment in the mundane. Throwing in a curve ball surprise now and then can only be a good thing! It keeps us on our toes. It throws us off guard and makes us try new things, develop new tastes (both figuratively and literally!), and it enriches the tapestry of our lives together.

    I have to give a special thank you to Olivia and Kenny, who looked after us so well during our meal. LPD and I have both previously worked in hospitality (in fact, it’s how we met) and so we know there’s no excuse for poor service. It was clear to see that Kenny and his team love what they do, and they should all be really proud of the friendly, welcoming and uplifting environment they’ve created at the Chiquito in Rubery. I think LPD and I could have chatted to Kenny all night about tequila! He gave us quite the lesson in the different varieties they stock behind the bar – giving LPD a couple of different ones to try. He was really impressed with the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, an aged tequila with flavours of butterscotch, caramel and cinnamon which should be savoured more like a whisky than slammed down as a shot with salt and lime (which, by the way, isn’t the thing to do with proper tequila!). LPD looks a bit miserable in this photo, but trust me – this is his ‘musing’ face when he’s carefully considering something – and he was giving the tequila his full attention.

    We’ve already got out next date night planned as our third wedding anniversary is just next week (those three years have flown by!), and I’m already looking forward to another evening spent together. We’re opting for a steak restaurant to tie in with the ‘leather’ traditional anniversary gift, but I know it won’t be long until we’re back at Chiquito, and we’ll be sure to download their new app so we can get £10 off our next bill. Bonus.

    Disclaimer: we were invited to Chiquito to try out their new menu and in order to share our experience. All opinion and views remain my own, and as always, are 100% honest.

    Dining Out, Lifestyle, Marriage, Reviews
    / April 6, 2018
  • Are we just co-existing?

    Are we just co-existing?

    Dear husband,

    Last night, you asked me: Are we just co-existing? And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

    At first, I was angry you’d even asked. Is that all you think of us now? After almost ten years of life together, our relationship has reduced down to just being two people that happen to live together? Gee, thanks. Immediately, I was on the defensive. Immediately, I felt hurt. Because that’s our default at the moment: we’re so easily offended by each other. I’m tired of having to suffix everything I say with ‘that’s not a dig at you, by the way’ just in case you’ve taken my innocent comment as a passive aggressive insult. It’s exhausting.

    Then I was just sad. Sad in the knowledge that we haven’t spent as much quality time with each other as perhaps we should. Sad that I can count on one hand the amount of dates we’ve had since becoming parents. Sad that I often think about organising a night out for us, but then feel like arranging a babysitter, worrying about money and putting pressure on myself to look nice are too big of obstacles to overcome. It’s just easier to have a lazy night in instead. For us to sit on separate sofas (when did that become our norm?), passively watching the latest craze on Netflix, with our phones in hand, fearing to get too comfortable knowing that as soon as we do, Pickle will wake up and require settling back down again.

    And then I felt guilty. Because, co-existing is a euphemism for our lack of sex, isn’t it? And I know I’ve not been very forthcoming in that department. I don’t have to justify my reasons why but I feel I have to. It’s not, contrary to your paranoia, that I don’t fancy you anymore. It’s not that I’ve gone off you or find the idea repulsive. I love you. I think you’re beautiful, and gorgeous and you’re always the handsomest man in the room. It’s just… my body isn’t the same as it once was. My hormones are all weird thanks to twenty months of breastfeeding, and I can’t forget how uncomfortable things felt down there those first few months. Don’t you remember how much I wondered if they’d made some kind of mistake during my c-section? How much I worried I’d never be able to enjoy sexy times again? And the relief when I found out all of this was normal because of my decision to breastfeed? Slowly, slowly, I think my hormones are starting to level back out, but I still get anxious. It’s still not the same. And I’m still learning to feel confident about my new post-baby body.

    I’m not rejecting you. It’s really nothing to do with you… but it’s like I said last night: if you spend months feeling pain from the prick of a needle, even if one day it’s suddenly not as painful – you’re still going to be scared of the needle. Perhaps my choice of analogy is a little unfortunate (I’m not calling you a prick, or a needle by the way), but the metaphor still stands.

    And let’s not even get started on my chronic lack of sleep. You may feel your nights are unsettled, but it’s nothing compared to the hours and hours I’ve spent awake at night nursing. Something I still don’t really feel you’ve shown enough appreciation for.

    Shit. I’m not painting a very pretty picture, am I? It’s all starting to sound quite bad. Strained. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we are just coexisting. Do all new parents feel this way? Is this what a marriage with children is like? Are we normal? Or are we failing? I don’t know. No one really talks about this, do they?

    This morning, unable to think about anything else, I looked up co-exist in the dictionary:

    Look at that second definition: to exist in harmony, despite different ideologies or interests. Hang on a minute. I don’t know about you, but that actually sounds quite positive. Doesn’t it? It also sounds like something that takes a lot of work, a lot of consideration, patience and compromise. It sounds like the kind of state married people should be living in.

    And we are different. Our parenting ideologies aren’t the same. Our roles as parents have been poles apart. Until this week, you were the breadwinner and I was the stay at home Mom, and as much as I know the value of being at home with your child – we live in a society that means our contributions to the household are inevitably measured differently. There are things you’ve even said yourself, comments and quips that despite you saying otherwise, betray you, and prove that you see Pickle as my responsibility by default, even when you’re present too.

    If, through all of this change to our lives, our views and our priorities, we can still manage to co-exist, and live in unity… I actually think that’s something to celebrate. Because, you see… despite our increased petty arguments and our passive aggressive tendencies, there really is no one else I’d want to do this with. There’s no one else I could find peace with in such a time of turmoil, change and uncertainty. You are still my best friend. You are still my rock. You are still the person I want to comfort me the most after a day of self-doubt, tantrums and overwhelm. Your opinion is the still the one I value above all others. You’re my everything.

    I know without a shadow of a doubt that I still want us to live in the same place. At the same time. I want to exist in harmony with you, despite a mountain of differences between us. I still want to co-exist with you. For many more years to come.

    So, ask me again: are we just co-existing?

    Yes. But really, that’s a good thing.

    With all of my love,

    Your ever-faithful sweetpea.

    xxx

    Lifestyle, Marriage, Parenting
    / February 12, 2018
  • Baby Fistpump at Wedding with a Toddler

    Top Tips for Attending a Wedding with a Toddler

    We had the absolute pleasure of attending our NCT friends’ wedding this week. We felt so privileged to have been invited, and to honour this glorious couple who have become such a big part of our day-to-day lives since we’ve become parents that we didn’t really stop to think about the practicalities of taking our adventurous, loud, teething, feisty toddler. We arrived woefully under-prepared. So if you’re reading this and have an upcoming wedding with a toddler to attend, please – learn from our mistakes! I’m certainly not a wedding-parent expert, but here’s what we figured out (the hard way).

    Marriage, Parenting
    / August 24, 2017