TRAVEL: Oxford

Monday, 21 March 2016
 Planning any sort of travel recently has been a bit of a nightmare with my sister giving birth and other things going on. So it was great to finally head over to see Leanne & her husband Tom last weekend. The plan was to head to Oxford on the Saturday and make it back home in time to watch the Rugby - but the less said about that the better. 
  On the Saturday the fog descended and by the time we'd got to Oxford the weather had taken such a bad turn that all my photos look like we were on a ghost tour. The river had also flooded and we stood for a while watching a lone duck swim lengths on what should have been a field. 
 We'd originally set out with the plan to look at all the various places that Harry Potter had been filmed at. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, the books and films are basically what my childhood was all about. I was so excited at the chance to be able to visit places that I've watched over and over again. However, what we hadn't realised is that there was hundreds of students graduating that day and everywhere was closed to the public. It was pretty gutting, however Oxford was still a beautiful place to visit. 
  Churches, markets, coffee shops were in plentiful supply and all in really beautiful buildings. The whole of Oxford reminded me very much of Bath in that respect. Even Burger King looked like something from Diagon Alley - again with the Harry Potter references. 
 By lunchtime the weather had brightened up, the fog lifted and we were able to start to see even more of the beauty in Oxford. Even though the river had burst its banks (and had gone this awful yellow/brown colour) the beauty of it still shown through. This was just by the Botanical Gardens which would have been nice to have seen, it was just far too busy and we would have been in far too many graduation photos!

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FOOD: Wilfreds Lovely Welsh Bakes

Wednesday, 16 March 2016
I've always been bought up on "home cooking"from my Mum and my Nan. Roast dinners, pies, casseroles and the rest. Each one made from scratch and the pies were each made with homemade pastry. Could Wilfreds Welsh Pies live up to the standard set by the generations before me?
The Lewis Pies and Pastry Company, based in Wales, have launched a new premium brand of pies. They've been running since 1936 and is one of the largest pie and pastry manufacturers in the UK - so I was hopeful these pies were going to be something special. I wasn't disappointed, they are epic.

I was the envy of the office when my goody box of pies arrived, I'm pretty sure they would have opened and cooked them there and then! But, as Joey would say, I don't share food. Well, I have to with Matt.. six pies to myself would have been pretty greedy. 
After spending a good 30 minutes - I'm not joking - reading through what each pie contained I finally settled on "The Saucy Cow" and probably spent another 30 minutes giggling at the name. Matt chose The Fiery Chick as he loves cajun spice. It's so unusual to find pies with a really different filling such as cajun spices, usually it's your standard meat and veg. There's nothing standard about these pies though. 
 The pies were in individual boxes with the stickers saying which pies they were on top. I did almost miss the cooking instructions - heads up it's on the back of the main box. I put them in for about 30 mins at 180 in our oven, which is a fan oven. The flat started to smell just like the house did when I was a child and my Mum had been cooking so I was instantly transported back and my stomach started to rumble, loudly.

The beef just fell apart, each piece was so tender that I consciously ate slower to make it last longer and mourned as I finally cooked the last one on the third day of eating pies - this was a great dinner week! My favourite was The Saucy Cow and Matt's favourite was The Fiery Chick, I think just because it was so different and right up his street. But then, I'd happily eat any of them!

I'd like to call this paragraph "an ode the the pasty" - oh the pastry! It's so so so good. Hot water crust pastry is the way forward in life. Each pie is filled to the brim with meat, there's no skimping out here!Thick gravy, none of the watery stuff which I'm sure everyone hates. I'm now really hungry. 
These pies are such a treat and of such high quality that I'm actually purchasing over 150 for a work event I'm running. I guess that says it all? I wouldn't put them forward to my director if they had been anything less than perfect. 

You can read more about the pies, including stockists and where they get their ingrediants from on their FAQ Page. I'm so impressed with the answer to the question "Is the filling really all from Wales?" - I love purchasing local goods. 

What would be your ideal pie filling? You can always get in touch and let them know your ideas! 

Being a birthing partner; the one where I met Amelia

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Friday 19th February 2016

My sister was 8 days overdue, a day after her first stretch & sweep, a week after her show and there was little signs of anything happening. We'd been speaking all day and from what she was saying I was pretty sure she was so fed up and could do with the company. I headed over there after work with the plan to stay over night. 

During the evening we both went over the note we'd made at the birthing classes and concluded that walking & bouncing on the birthing ball was the way forward. Being as the weather was shocking a walk outside was out of the window so my sister bounced the evening away. 

Saturday 20th February 2016

I had more back ache than my sister at this point! Her sofa wasn't comfortable at all, so we both agreed that as long as nothing had happened in the day and there was no hint of baby in the night - I would head home for a few hours sleep. 

To get my sister out of the house, even though we were both thinking she was contracting at this point, we went shopping. Boots, Home Sense, Pets at Home, Marks & Spencer.. anywhere to keep her walking. Everywhere we went I wanted to shout out "my sister is in labour!" because I was so proud of her for walking through each pain. After three hours of walking we headed back home and there was no increase in the pain, she likened them to dull period aches. Nothing much happened for the rest of the day so I headed home that evening. 

Sunday 21st February 2016

The day things picked up and I picked up the camera and started vlogging. My sister was booked in for a stretch and sweet at some point, but as I said in the video there isn't a time given. The pain started to get worse throughout the day and so we called the Midwifery Unit. By this point my sister couldn't stand the pain, which was all in her back and could no longer talk through each one. I say "pain" because at this point every pain was in her back and neither of us were sure if these were contractions. 

At 2:30pm two midwives arrived, one training, they examined my sister and performed a stretch and sweep. Whilst performing the stretch and sweep my sister actually had a contraction, but hadn't realised that's how they felt and it was at the moment we were both like "ohhhhh!" sounds silly, but at the time you are so focused on not going to hospital too early only to just be sent home. Another pretty grim symptom of labour that my sister had was a lot of diahoerrea as the body is preparing itself for birth. 

The midwives told my sister that things were imminent, her waters were (and I quote) "bulging" so advised us to head into hospital at 5pm. Between this time and us leaving for the hospital the pain got worse and worse. The midwives told my sister that the baby was back to back which is why we weren't even sure she was in labour - they didn't prepare us for this!! My sister's partner works in London and I phoned him as the midwives left to ask him to leave work and come home. I didn't want him panic driving the two hours back to Cardiff. My sister took two paracetamol, turns out that was the only pain relief she took pretty much. 

At 5:30 we arrived at the hospital and my sister was examined. She hadn't dilated any further than the 4cm she measured earlier on that day. Even more annoying, we still hadn't managed to flip the baby despite spending the whole afternoon on all fours. Then, the dreaded words "we are sending you home" were said and disgruntled we headed off home. Her partner met us back at theirs and we all stayed together for a few hours.

Throughout the evening we repeated our afternoon of bouncing and being on all fours to try and turn the baby but by 11:30pm everything had stopped. The hospital were convinced nothing would happen for another 24 hours and talked us all in to going to sleep, even telling me it would be ok for me to go home (as in my flat!). Stupidly I did and headed home to sleep.

My sister and I texted all through the night, until about 3am where I must have fallen asleep and turned down the volume on my phone!! You can see where I am heading here right!? At this point all she was telling me was that the pain hadn't changed, waters still hadn't broken and all I kept saying was try and sleep, going on the advice of the midwives earlier. 

Monday 22nd February 2016

I'd set my alarm for 6am only to find numerous messages and missed calls. My niece had been born one hour earlier at 5:03am. The phone calls had started at 4:45am where the messages said they were taking Emily to hospital, my niece was born at 5:03am. Even if I had been awake I wouldn't have made the delivery. All it took was 5 pushes and 6 puffs of gas and air. 

What a trooper and her only war wound was a really small tear. In hindsight I should have never listened to the midwives and gone home, but you really do put the trust in the professionals. However, a healthy baby and a healthy sister is all I needed and I got that. 

Welcome to the world Amelia, I promise to be the best Auntie ever x

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Being a birthing partner; When the due date comes and goes...

Sunday, 6 March 2016
Photo Credit - Leanne
Thursday 11th February, that was the date she was supposed to arrive so naturally spent the whole day even more on edge. I had been starting to feel fairly calm about the whole birth thing again, until that Thursday.

Every time my phone went, I jumped and prepared myself to leave work and drive to the hospital or her house. This fleeting feeling continued for about a week after the due date and then I think I convinced myself that my niece would never arrive!

My sister nested, nested and nested some more. Walked and walked until she couldn't walk anymore. I'm also pretty sure that she never wants to see an exercise ball again in her life.

This continued until I had a phone call on the 19th February....

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