15 December 2017

Fizz Chocolate Fountain*

Friday, December 15, 2017 0 Comments
I'm probably not the kind of person that visits Maplin much. I associate it mostly with electronics like computer stuff, lights, cables... Last time I visited the store was good few years ago, when I needed a cable to connect my laptop to the router (Wi-Fi in my student flat sucked).

Anyway, I never knew they have stuff that's more up my street, like their novelty cookware selection! And they were kind enough to send us this cool Fizz Chocolate Fountain to try out.

Unsurprisingly, Adam's in love with it from the moment he saw the box and insisted on trying it out straight away. Once I stocked up on chocolate and all sorts of things for dipping, we gave it a go.

The fountain is super easy to use. Once it's placed on flat and stable surface, you just attach the auger and cascade tower, and plug it in. Turn the heater on, get your chocolate sauce ready, pour it into the base, switch the knob to turn on the motor and watch your chocolate flow. Easy-peasy!

If you get the consistency of your chocolate mix right, it's quite mesmerizing to watch actually. 

We're not really the party people, but it is the party season and a chocolate fountain would be a great addition to your table. Get some skewers, fruit pieces, marshmallows, biscuits, waffle pieces... Anything you fancy to eat chocolate-dipped! Seeing as I'm spending New Year's Eve alone with the kids again, I might set it up for a little fun time for me and Adam ;)

Alternatively, if you're not big on the chocolate, you can use it like fondue - make a cheesy sauce and prepare some savoury nibbles for dipping.

I mentioned it's really easy to set up, and it's equally easy to clean afterwards - take the auger and cascade tower out and rinse, pour the leftover chocolate out and wipe the base, and it's ready to go into the cupboard ready for the next party. The only complaint I have about it, is that the base would be easier to clean properly if it also came off, but it's not really that big of a deal.

It's a fantastic little piece - and if you still need to find a gift for anyone, or want something fancy to entertain your guests, if you order by 6pm on Sunday 17 December you can get one in time for Christmas. Get one from Maplin HERE - check out their other items too!

*We were sent the Fizz Chocolate Fountain from Maplin for the review - all opinions are, as always, my own and unaffected.

02 December 2017

Hey baby! - my birth story

Saturday, December 02, 2017 1 Comments
Well hello there! It's been a while again, but for the past few weeks life's been rather busy...

Word of warning: there's a bit of a long post ahead!

On the 2nd of November we finally met our little girl. I must say I didn't really enjoy this pregnancy - first few months were filled with sickness and extreme tiredness, the last couple meant all kinds of aches and pains. I got to the point when I just wanted this baby out.

Last two months of my pregnancy were far from pleasant. If you follow my Instagram, you might've seen me mention that I've been having growth scans - at 32 weeks my midwife said I'm measuring slightly small, so she decided to refer me for an ultrasound to give baby a check. It confirmed that she was just below her expected weight, so we were monitored, having scans and consultant reviews every 2 weeks. At one point it was suggested that I get induced at 38 weeks if the baby wasn't thriving, but she got back onto the expected spot on the chart and instead of induction we were getting discharged from the consultant's care. I did, however, agree to get the induction booked at 41 weeks - I was getting too tired to wait. Although in the run-up to this I was really hoping that things would start naturally.

We hit our due date on 25th October and nothing happened. Then on the 29th we took a risk of going out for my birthday and I just prayed I wouldn't go into labour - let's be honest, hardly an ideal way to spend one's birthday (despite obviously wonderful present at the end of it).

As Missy was too stubborn to come out, on the 1st of November we headed to the hospital for my agreed induction. After initial assessment and CTG I had a pessary inserted, and the midwives warned me that things might not be as quick as I'd hope, so I should be prepared to still be on the ward by weekend (it was Wednesday). Hubby stayed with me most of the time, only popping out to pick Adam up from school. He brought him over during the visiting hours, and poor kid was actually expecting the baby to already be there - I explained to him earlier that mummy was going to hospital for the doctor to help take the baby out. Hubby then dropped him off to some family and returned to keep me company. In the meantime I started having contractions, but with no actual progress Hubby went home at the end of visiting time at 9pm, thinking he'd be back the following morning.

Because of the labour being induced I was regularly monitored - at one point the ctg picked up that baby's heartbeat was too fast and I needed doctor's assessment. That was probably the most unpleasant moment of my labour, when she got pretty harsh with me and announced afterwards... that she'd just given me a membrane sweep! But I was just too worried about my baby at that moment, I was scared it would all end up with emergency c-section. I even started to have silly thoughts that something bad would happen to myself! Doctors decided to put me on iv fluids to rehydrate me and hopefully calm the baby down. Obviously my veins were too tricky for everyone present and they ended up calling the anaesthetist to put a cannula in my hand, but it did the trick - baby's heart slowed down, but they decided to remove the pessary (which usually stays in for 24 hours) as things were progressing quicker than expected and it was probably causing baby's distress.

So the baby was now calm, but my contractions kept getting stronger. First time round I was in the delivery suite by this stage, with gas and air taking the edge off the pain. This time, in the induction ward, all I had was a dose of paracetamol and codeine, followed by a shot of pethidine later on. Well, according to the anaesthetist who saw me, I should've been in delivery room by then, but they claimed they had no spaces at that time.

Suddenly the pain started becoming unbearable - but, even though it wasn't my first birth, and the midwives kept coming to check on me, I didn't think there was actually much progress. At some point the senior midwife decided I seem in so much pain, she would examine me. Turns out I was 6cm at that point, so it was high time to move to the labour ward. One of the midwives went off to let them know, while the other just gathered all my stuff on my bed ready to move me. I (barely) managed to call Hubby to come to the hospital, he told me he needed to drop Adam off to his aunt first (he was supposed to stay the night there, but apparently wouldn't let daddy go), and we were off to delivery suite. I can't quite believe how amazing a midwife's intuition is - they kept telling me to breathe through the contractions and try not to push, even though I myself didn't think I needed to push just yet!

But guess what? I called Hubby just before entering the lift, and 11 minutes later it was over, the baby was out. Imagine the look on his face when he got there thinking I'm still giving birth, and the baby was already in my arms! Earlier I was actually really scared, thinking I can't do it on my own without him by my side. At that moment I felt bad for him that he missed it, but there was no way he could've made it even without having to drop Adam off ;)

So there she was. On the 2nd of November, at 4:40 am, little Aminah was born ❤

We got plenty of skin-to-skin while I was getting some stitches, then I fed her and we were left to rest for a bit. Then one of the midwives came to ask if we wanted to go home seeing as everything was OK, so I obviously said 'yes'! After spending a week in hospital with Adam, I didn't want to stay in any longer than absolutely necessary. So about 9am we were all ready to go, picked Adam up on our way and got home to start settling down.

It's not all been easy in this past month, but I think it's fair to say we're doing rather well so far. Also, I think I'm ready to get back to blogging now, and I might have plenty to write about (although it did take me a month to sit down to this one lol!).

Massive thank you to everyone who sent good wishes our way! ❤

23 October 2017

Home Bargains flower delivery*

Monday, October 23, 2017 0 Comments
Nearly there! My due date is on Wednesday, and I'm hoping this one will stick to the schedule better than her brother. But, although my body has pretty much had enough now, this baby doesn't seem to be rushing!

Walking can be a real struggle now, and I can't even begin to tell you how exhausting my last trip to the midwife appointment was... But when you get home and have a parcel waiting for you, that pretty much always makes things better - am I right?

Here's what was waiting for me that day - this gorgeous bouquet. And would you believe it came from Home Bargains? I didn't even know they offered flower delivery until recently, when they kindly offered to send me some.

The bouquet I received is called Warm Wishes - it's a beautifully assembled bouquet of carnations, chrysanthemums, germini, hypericum and solidago. It's perfect for the current season, with the colours giving it this autumnal vibe.

 I was pleasantly surprised with this delivery - I was kind of expecting it to be one of these letterbox flowers services (ordered one of those once and it wasn't brilliant). Instead, Home Bargains flowers come as a fully assembled bouquet ready to be displayed in your favourite vase (and if you don't have one, you can add it to your order).

They're perfect for all occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations (you might, for example, show a new mum you're thinking of her *coughs*). The flowers come beautifully wrapped, ready for gifting. The box doesn't say they're from the Home Bargains, so you can send them directly to the recipient. Alternatively, if you need the flowers for a specific event, you can order them few days in advance and not stress about finding a bouquet on the day. The stem wrap keeps them moist, making sure they arrive as fresh as when they were cut. 

If you want to treat someone (or yourself) to a bouquet like this, it's super easy. Just visit Home Bargains Flowers and choose your favourites. Select your preferred bouquet size, add a little extra like a vase, occasion balloon or a cute teddy bear. You can then add a short message to the recipient, and all that's left to do is choosing your delivery date - order by 4pm for free First Class delivery, or get it next day for just £2.95.

And here are my Warm Wishes 10 days later, looking as fresh and fabulous as on the day they arrived! Need I say more?

*The  flowers were sent to me by Home Bargains for the purpose of the review. The above post is my personal and honest opinion on the product and service provided.

18 October 2017

My hospital bag

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1 Comments
One. Week. To. Go.

If I'm honest, I'm actually a bit more nervous than first time round! I'm not sure why - I seem to have everything ready now, I've already been through labour and know what to expect... Maybe that's the problem lol! 

Anyway, while we're still waiting for little Miss, I thought I'd share a sneak peek into my hospital bags - just as last time, I ended up having two. It might've been easier to just find a larger bag and pack everything into one, but I actually think that having two separate ones makes it easier to find whatever stuff you need later on. Some people choose to have one bag filled with the essentials for the labour, and one for after - I chose to prepare one for me, and one for the baby. Oh, and keep your birth partner in mind too!

For the mama:
  • Your maternity notes and birth plan if you wrote one
  • T-shirt or nightie for the labour - preferably something you don't mind throwing away after
  • Dressing gown and slippers
  • Comfy PJs or a nightie - if all goes well you'll only be in the hospital for few hours after the birth, but you'll still want to change. Choose front-opening ones if you're planning to breastfeed.
  • Couple of pairs of dark-coloured knickers - best to grab some old ones. Or a pack of disposables.
  • Maternity pads. Hospital will likely provide some to start with, but you'll need loads of those. Make sure you have enough waiting for you at home!
  • If you're planning to breastfeed, nursing bra and breast pads
  • Hairband for the long hair, and a brush to sort it out later
  • Book, magazine, music - something to keep you occupied in the early stages
  • Lip balm - your lips will get really dry, especially if you use gas and air
  • Snacks and drinks to boost your energy - and keep your birthing partner in mind, you probably don't want them nipping out when they get hungry. We stocked up on muesli bars for now, and will probably throw in some fresh fruit just before we go. And it might be a good idea to grab a sandwich on the way.
  • Toiletries: shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant. And don't forget the towel!
  • Comfortable clothes to go home in - don't go all fancy though ;) Your baby will be out, but that doesn't mean the bump will just disappear! Pack a pair of leggings or some loose trousers (your comfy maternity jeans will work great), and a loose fitting top.

For the baby:
  • Bodysuits and sleepsuits in newborn or 0-3 size. Take at least 5 of each, especially if you're a first-timer - things can get really messy.
  • Socks or booties for the colder weather
  • Nappies. I actually packed the whole pack, babies go through a lot!
  • Cotton pads for cleaning - not your make-up removing ones though, go for the slightly larger ones made for babies' bums. 
  • Hat and cardigan to keep warm
  • Muslin squares 
  • Blanket - hospital will probably be quite warm, but depending on the weather you might want to cover the baby up for the way home
  • Going home outfit - to be honest, there's no need for anything too fancy though. You might want to just pick the cutest sleepsuit and maybe a cardi on top, just to have a nice going home photo. Ultimately, you're just getting to the car, eh? There will be plenty of opportunities to dress the baby up when people will start visiting you at home ;)
  • Car seat - the hospital might actually want to know that the baby will be safely strapped in on the way home. Make sure you've practiced putting it in the car.

Other things (you might want your birthing partner to remember these):
  • Fully charged phone - it's a good idea to have a charger or power bank with you too, especially if you're going to use the phone to distract yourself in the early stages
  • Camera (unless you're just gonna use your phone for the photos) - make sure that battery is full as well!
  • Change for the car park

It's a good idea to also have some spare stuff on stand-by, just in case you need to stay in hospital longer. Make sure your partner knows where extra nappies and clothes are, as well as anything you might need for yourself. You can just keep the extras in a carrier bag, ready to be picked up from home if necessary.

Would you add anything to that list? Maybe there's something else you found absolutely essential during labour, or maybe there's something you could use but completely forgot?

20 September 2017

my 10 pregnancy must-haves

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 0 Comments
So I'm 35 weeks pregnant now - when did that happen? It's hard to believe that in just over a month the baby will be here! As the reality hits, I'm pretty nervous about becoming mum of two. Adam, on the other hand, can't wait and recently started saying he wants the baby out already ;)

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I actually think that being further along with the pregnancy gives me a better perspective. Because even though it's not my first baby, I honestly can't remember much about the first time! 

Anyway, here it goes - my personal favourites that make the pregnancy this little bit easier.

  1. Multivitamins
That's a given. When you go for your first appointment, the doctor or midwife will straight away advise you to start taking prenatal vitamins. They are here to ensure that you get enough vitamins and minerals, especially now that the baby will be taking a portion of them. They're particularly important for improving your folic acid and iron intake. You'll probably be recommended Pregnacare, as it seems to be the most complex one, but cheaper ones are fine too - this time round my pregnancy folder that I got from a midwife had NHS bottle of vitamins thrown in.
      2. Snack bars

While it's not really true that you need to eat for two now, pregnancy does tend to make you hungry more often. And for me hunger meant extra sickness, as if the standard "morning sickness" wasn't enough. I had this weird thing when I'd suddenly feel hungry, and that feeling of an empty stomach would make me horribly sick. Frequent snacking and smaller meals are supposed to help with sickness in general, so it's a good idea to always have something small in the bag - I'd usually go for some cereal bars, as they're most satisfying, give quick sugar rush and are relatively healthy option.

      3. Heartburn relief

According to some old wives' tales, heartburn is a sign of a hairy baby - well, it was actually true for Adam. I'm one of those who suffered with heartburn from the very beginning of the pregnancy. With all the hormonal changes, and the growing baby, you're pretty likely to experience heartburn. There are some natural remedies - some people claim drinking milk helps, others advise peppermint tea. These don't work for me, so there's always some heartburn medication in my handbag. Most of these are safe in pregnancy, but make sure to check with the pharmacist or at least read the packaging first - Rennie and Gaviscon tablets are fine, and they worked best for me. If you're not a fan of the flavour though, Tesco has pretty nice fruity tablets that work just as well (and are a bargain too).

      4. Maternity jeans

I'm not really into buying the maternity clothing, but I'm a jeans girl so maternity trousers were a must. I actually switched from my normal jeans and trousers around 10 weeks mark this time - my work trousers were the first victim of my bloated belly, and within the next couple of weeks I had to ditch my everyday jeans. Personally I'm a fan of the under-the-bump style - the wide elasticated waistband is perfect from the first days your bump pops out, right to the end. And they're fabulous for soon after the birth, when the remains of your bump are still there. I wouldn't go crazy with over-the-bump style - unless your bump gets big really quickly, you're only looking at wearing these for couple of months.

      5. Stretchy dresses

As I just said - buying maternity clothes is pretty pointless, with some exceptions. When I was first pregnant, I bought exactly two tops in maternity section. This time round I bought couple of dresses, but pretty much only because I'm now big at the different time of year than previously and started running out of things I can wear ;) Anyway - what got me through the summer, were plain bodycon dresses that I bought in Primark. I got myself a few different colours, and since they're stretchy I just went for my usual size and they still fit the bump perfectly. I like dresses and tunics, but if that's not your style they now also have long stretchy t-shirts that are great for the bump.

image: Primark

      6. Comfy underwear

While you might get away with not buying maternity clothes, it's definitely worth getting some comfortable underwear. Again, it doesn't have to be pregnancy-specific stuff. Just make sure your knickers' waistband won't be uncomfortable on the bump, and you're good. And since you'll keep growing, you might also want to wait for that nursing bra until you get near the end - you'll most likely need a size upgrade during the pregnancy. What worked best for me, were these non-wired bras from Matalan - they're super soft, come in big enough sizes, and are good value for money.

image: Matalan

      7. Decaf coffee

I'm a coffee lover, especially once being a trained barista ;) And I'm not sure I could get through my days with no caffeine whatsoever, especially when I still need to work and most of my pregnancy fell in time before Adam started school full-time. Good news is that pregnancy doesn't have to mean completely giving up coffee, however we should limit the caffeine intake to 200mg a day - that's about 2 cups of instant coffee. Remember that there's also caffeine in tea, cola and even chocolate. I actually drink coffee more for the taste than the caffeine (it doesn't really affect my energy levels - I can easily go to sleep after a cup of coffee), so I occasionally indulge in a cup of latte at work, but to avoid excessive caffeine intake I opt for a decaf option at home. 

Actually I don't particularly like the taste of instant decaf coffee, so my personal choice is "Inka". It's a Polish roasted grain drink that dates back to 1960s. It's a mixture of roasted rye, barley, chicory and sugar beet, naturally caffeine-free, hence safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It's even great for kids - it was quite popular to be served for breakfast in my pre-school - so I feel good about giving it to Adam who seems to like the taste of coffee and always tries to drink mine ;)

      8. Mints

I normally suffer from travel sickness, but pregnancy certainly made it worse. On some days I can barely get home from work, the 15-minute bus ride can be unbearable! That's why another item always in my handbag is a pack of mints - might not work for everyone, but for me they do relieve that terrible nausea.

      9. Maternity pillow

Sleep struggle is real. When you add up the size of the bump, all the kicks, and often nighttime heartburn, getting into comfortable position is a hard task. And if you add a four-year-old who just won't stay in his own bed... 

There are so many different shapes and sizes of maternity pillows available. My favourite was this maternity and nursing pillow I got off Amazon. It's not too big, so even if Adam gets into our bed there's still enough space for him. It's also great for daytime support, when the back pain strikes. And later it can be used to support the baby while feeding - I had one like this with Adam, and it really was a great help.

     10. Shower stool

That's another thing I've had since my first pregnancy. Well, I didn't really go for any fancy special shower stool, but Hubby got me a plain plastic stool in one of the local shops. Still, it's a great help - in the early stages, when I was weakened by the constant sickness, it probably prevented me from collapsing a couple of times. Now, later on, it just helps to sit down when I can't quite bend down.

That's just my personal list of items I found most useful in the pregnancy. Do, or did you have any items that you couldn't live without when you were pregnant? 

17 July 2017

Oh, baby!

Monday, July 17, 2017 0 Comments
Hello everyone!

I can't believe it's been over five months since my last post. FIVE MONTHS!

Well... I guess since it's now more or less in the open now, I can reveal the major reason behind my absence:

Yup, the Halal family is getting bigger! We've been keeping it quiet and even most people around us didn't know until recently, but with 100 days to go it's kind of hard to hide it now 😉 Although if you follow me on Instagram you might've already seen something couple of weeks back.

So yeah, that's pretty much why t's been quiet here. I haven't been taking this pregnancy as well as my first one, with early back pains, heartburn and the morning sickness lasting like forever. I've just been permanently tired and honestly couldn't even be bothered to find topics to write about - keeping my Instagram active was about as much effort as I could make. Well, since finding out I was pregnant I started having hundreds of ideas for pregnancy and baby related stuff to write, but since we agreed to keep it quiet they obviously had to stay in my notebook...

Anyway, I've decided that it's about time to get back to it. Even Hubby's been encouraging me to start taking care of my blog properly - I think he's seen too much stuff about some bloggers actually making a living from their writing, and although I'd love to be able to do that one day, I'm still far from being the blogging world superstar 😄 

Until next time!
(I promise it'll be sooner than 5 months!)