3 Sep 2014

My new full time job - Motherhood

Six weeks ago I got a new job that I wasn't meant to start until September and that I've never been more eager to start. The job? Being a mammy. Apparently baby was eager too and surprised us six weeks early! As my husband and I don't really know very many other people with babies or children that we see very often, it's been a case of learning on the job in our new role as parents.

Thinking back over the last month or so, the biggest thing I've come to realise is the lesson we've been taught about human kindness. Family, friends, hospital staff and even strangers have rallied round, cooking us boat loads of meals for the freezer, offering help in numerous guises, sending far too many (much appreciated) cards and gifts and everyone giving smiles and well wishes. Until we had Toby, we didn't realise how much babies bring out the best in most people.  We've also giggled about how much female attention fellas get holding a new born.

For a couple of weeks, Toby had to stay in the Neonatal unit to get strong enough to come home. Although he was fairly robust in comparison to many of the other little babies in the ward, his birth and subsequent stay in the unit came as a huge surprise to us. After all, despite being first-time parents, our textbook pregnancy had led us to believe little man would appear around forty weeks and be able to go home after a day or two. The last thing we expected was to have to leave hospital still as a duo, but I'll forever be thankful that this was only a temporary measure. When I was staying in the hospital with Toby, I got up at 3am to help with changing and feeding him. I was cuddling him afterwards and in a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life, he opened his eyes and looked right at me. It was in that instant I was overwhelmed by my love for my beautiful son and I knew my life would never be the same. Before July, we knew nothing about the neonatal unit, but we found it to be a place full of positivity and we'll always be grateful to the numerous nurses who cared for Toby (and gave us so much support and advice) during those weeks. They are truly inspirational. 

Something that's been invaluable since we got home has been a saline spray and a nasal aspirator for Toby's nose. Poor little sniffly thing has been getting used to the big dusty world and these two things have helped him and us get relief and some sleep rather than fall victim to congestion. I would fully recommend them (I love you Boots) and I've included links to them.

Another thing we've come to realise is that there's no such thing as too many photographs. Even in the few weeks Toby has been with us, we've noticed so much of a change which we've been fortunate enough to chronicle to enjoy (and use to embarrass him) at a later date. I'm already imagining Toby's life when he's older...his first words, his first steps, what music he'll like, the first time we can surprise him with a trip to Disney World...I JUST CAN'T WAIT!!! He's got bags of character already and both my husband and I are excited to see the person he'll become. Whoever that is, I can't imagine loving anything more in my entire life. I guess to sum it up, becoming a parent is the best thing I've ever done and although the hours are long and the pay is appalling, I'll never want another job.


24 Jul 2014

Lotti's Voluptuous Delights

No, it's not the title of a burlesque show although if it were, it would be the most beautiful, well presented burlesque show! Lotti's is in fact one of the first places I want to tell you about on my self-titled, 'Tilly's Teesside Troughing Tour.' 

Lotti's is situated on Stokesley High Street. It's up near the end where Boyes is but a bit further down and on the opposite side of the road. 59-61 High Street to be exact. Just so you recognise it, it looks like this.

When you enter this beautiful tea room, you're immediately met with a sensory experience. Good music, the sight and smell of delicious food and drinks, and the charming, vintagey decor. If you're lucky enough to get a table straight away you'll be given a menu which is pretty in its own right. This isn't just your bog-standard tea shop though. For starters, the menu is packed with offerings that have that extra special detail, in particular, Strawberry scones with lime drizzle and unusual Earl Grey cake to name a couple. 

To enjoy whatever choose, you sit at quirky mismatched tables and chairs, surrounded by chintzy scatter cushions and lamps and doily bunting. The atmosphere has been really good each time I've been in too, the staff are all very friendly and helpful and the other customers all look to be of a similar mindset, appreciating good food and good company. You feel as though you're amongst friends! 

I haven't experienced the savoury food yet as I usually race in on a morning to make sure I get a table but I'm aware that they do Tapas and Cocktails some evenings too which I hope to experience in the not so distant future. They also offer Afternoon Tea and which is something that has become extremely fashionable in recent times and understandably so. Who doesn't love that sedate, 'ladies what lunch' way of life?! 

There are great reviews on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/Lottisvoluptuousdelights so you can see plenty more genuine comments and pictures there. 

Hurry down as soon as you can and give them a try yourself. I promise you won't regret it!

21 Jul 2014

A mum-to-be saying goodbye to long nails assisted by Clyppi.

Having always been a lady who loves having long nails, times are changing as I prepare for motherhood. What has been practical for the first thirty years of my life now won't 'cut it' ( accidental pun but I thought I'd go with it) and whilst my nails will never be truly short, I have to admit defeat and think what will be sensible for baba and I. Painting my nails and looking after my hands with nice hand creams has always been a simple pleasure and I've always received compliments about my nails which I guess makes you take more notice and care. Need proof? I'm constantly posting pictures of my newly pampered nails on Twitter and Instagram. Now that I'm only a matter of weeks from having my first baby, I know from a practical/ safe point-of-view that my nails will have to be shorter from here on out unless I want baba to look like they've tangled with Wolverine. I know shorter nails don't have to be less glamorous, in fact I'd say a lot of dark nail varnish and current nail trends actually look classier on short nails but it'll just be a change from the norm for me.

( Excuse my veiny hand but it's been really warm hasn't it? Here are my nails pre-Clyppi.)

Three years ago, I bought some nail clippers from a well know chemist chain which weren't cheap and sadly tore my nails up. Ever since, I've been on the hunt for some simple but effective clippers that would give me the finish I wanted. When I happened upon the opportunity to try 'Clyppi Nail Clippers' I thought I'd give them a go and see if they lived up to their promise. The claim? "A Lifetime Guarantee  - an ultra cool precision tool for the trendy, stylish and well groomed." Well, as I mentioned before, I like my nails to be well groomed...


 These clippers actually surpassed my expectations. They are really sharp and cut through my nails with ease. This was particularly impressive because my thumb nails are very strong and are usually really difficult to cut and they made light work of them. My nails were left with only a few rough edges to file which was in high contrast to any other clippers I've used before. I got my husband to try them and said he thought they were better than any nail clippers or scissors he has used in the past. Two converts in one household! Below is a picture of my nails after minimal filing.

Faults? None. If I'm desperate to find something, there is a small nail file as a feature on the handle part of the clipper which will do the job, but I'm still a crystal nail file kind of gal. Having said that, the file would be useful for small shaping needs or if you were on holiday and didn't want to pack lots of things. These clippers are very compact so they're handy to transport about wherever you'd need to take them.

The price is really competitive, especially for the quality - they're made from stainless steel and as I said before, they have a lifetime guarantee! Currently available on Amazon here for £10.97  (and FREE UK delivery!)

I'm very impressed by these clippers and would recommend them to everyone. Don't waste your money on weak ones like I did in the first place. Just do yourself a favour and get these - it's a no-brainer.


(I agreed to review these for Clyppi and these were sent for me to try, but, as always, these are my honest opinions.)

29 Jun 2014

Parenting - an idiots guide

I was recently bought a copy of 'First-Time Parent'  by Lucy Atkins. I've avoided buying baby books during my pregnancy because I expected to feel overwhelmed by the information in them and thought I would just google anything I wanted to know or ask friends and family. My mam kindly bought this for us so I thought I'd give it a go and I've been so impressed. It's a total idiots guide, it's not too wordy or preachy, and best of all there's no bulls**t. Atkins tells you what you need, what not to spend money on if you don't want to, and all the things you probably would feel silly asking - like how to change a nappy. Let's face it, these skills aren't innate and if you don't know many or any people with children, why the hell would you know how to look after a child?

Here's the Amazon description:

Forget unrealistic childcare manuals – this is the book you really need to help you cope brilliantly with those first chaotic days and months ahead.

As a health journalist and mother-of-three, Lucy Atkins is familiar with both the medical aspects of childbirth and baby development, and the reality of day-to-day life as an exhausted first-time mum or dad. In her feisty, humorous style, she begins with that first mind-blowing day and addresses the issues unique to the first-time parent who stares at their newborn and thinks “Where are the instructions?”

Anticipating the questions and concerns of all new mothers–Why does my baby cry so much? Will I ever lose all this weight? Am I a bad parent because…?–the book provides practical advice and level-headed reassurance. It addresses the needs of the baby and, very importantly, those of the parent during the first year of their baby’s life.

Contents include:

• Starter’s orders – the equipment and kit you really need, as opposed to what the department store tells you
• Hello – how to cope with the first few hours
• Start – coming home, bonding, how to survive the first few days
• Sleep – for everyone!
• Cry – why your baby cries, what to do, why you'll want to cry, too
• Eat –breastfeeding, supplemental feeding, moving to solids, nutrition
• Grow – baby's physical and mental development
• Play – yes, you two actually can have fun
• Thrive – health considerations for baby and parent
• Live – adapting to your new life, the changing mother-father relationship
• Work – coping with being at home and with going back to work
• Also includes information on single parenting, and on adopted, multiple and special needs babies.

The First-Time Parent is on your side, and reassures that you can cope brilliantly with your new baby and your new life.

I felt like Atkins was an honest mate. Someone who you'd feel comfortable receiving guidance from whilst having a laugh. My favourite points have been that it's not patronising, there are plenty of references to the father's role to keep all the lovely dads informed and there are no guilt trips about breast-feeding, instant connections with your baby, feeling like you have to be the human embodiment of Mother Nature and all that clap trap. It's a really healthy account of how to take on the roles of mother and father and how you shouldn't feel guilty about trying your best. Perhaps an attitude a few health professionals could adopt and cut new parents some slack.

If you're a first-time mammy or daddy and fancy a read of something understanding, to-the-point and how you'd probably want to explain parenting to a newbie, this is the book for you. 

17 Jun 2014

Tilly's Teesside Tea and Troughing Tour

I'm a lady who loves her cuppas and food. On my days off I love popping to a coffee shop or restaurant, particularly the little indie gems. For those in Teesside and perhaps those who visit our little region, I thought I'd list and/or review the places that I've visited so I can share my views or introduce people to places the might not otherwise have heard of.

I've already written about one such gem, 'The Waiting Room', Eaglescliffe. You can read about it on the link. It's a cracking place, great food, great drinks (the local wines are lovely) and very friendly service. That should start you off!

If you've got any favourite tea rooms or restaurants for me to try, please let me know and I'll give them a go. Let the eating and drinking commence!

16 Jun 2014

Needle Phobia - a positive update

It's been well over a year since I addressed this point on the blog but I thought it deserved an update. The first post regarding my needle phobia is here if anyone wanted to read it again or give it a first look.

In this last year and a bit I've realised that I couldn't go on avoiding needles forever. It would be nice if that was the case but  it's not very realistic. We've all seen people like The Speakmans on the television helping people overcome these debilitating phobias and really improving these peoples lives, but I didn't have hundreds of pounds to spend on getting better and as a last straw kind of move, I even applied to be part of the show they've recorded this year. I didn't end up participating - I didn't get chosen for the pilot show and by the time I got asked to apply again for the commissioned series I was already exploring other avenues but for anyone who knows me, this was a really out of character thing for me to do, perhaps demonstrating just how desperate I was.

In October last year, something happened which made me hit breaking point with it all and I found the number of a service in the area that I'd seen advertised my my workplace. 'Talking Matters' is a place where you can be referred by your Dr or you can do what I did and self-refer. They deal with phobias, OCD, stress, anxiety and depression issues, and you can read about their services on the link. I nervously dialled the number and the lady who picked up the phone was amazingly understanding when I laid my cards on the table and asked if they could help. They said they'd ring me the following week for an assessment of my needs and they were very punctual and sensitive when I had this appointment. Long story short, I was paired with a lovely chap I've since called Phobia Phil. We've worked through lots of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to try to teach me how to get a handle on all of this and whilst there have been tears and emotional conversations, I cannot believe how much of a difference this course of action has made to my life.

One of the reasons I wanted to get treatments for my phobia was because my husband and I wanted to have a family and as you know I'm now very pregnant. 'Talking Matters' has enabled me to do one of the things I never thought possible and that was to have blood taken, albeit from my hand, for the first time in 23 years. I'm still working hard to get the courage and discipline to have blood taken from the bend of my arm but it's not something I see as impossible anymore which is half the battle. I'm due some more tests in the next week and I won't lie, I'm still very frightened but the fact that I'm talking about it and getting it done is incredible. I feel like someone has waved a magic wand over me.

Please, please seek help with your phobia or anxiety problem if you have one. Talking Matters is my local service on Teesside but there should be similar provision around the country so ask your GP or Google it to find yours. You don't have to suffer and be like that for the rest of your life. I wish someone had given me the information to sort this out for myself sooner and I'll never look back. Who knows, it might just save your life.

20 May 2014

Haworth 1940's Weekend

This weekend, my mam, grandma's and I went to the fabulous Haworth 1940's Weekend. We went for the full day on the Sunday and were blessed enough to have red hot weather. We drove - just under a couple of hours in the car for us Teessiders - and the place was already buzzing when we got there.


It was a bit awkward to find a parking space initially as parking places were quickly filling up and you were already heading down a tight road before you found the car park was full, however, we soon found a space and headed over to the park nearest to where we were, which was full of lovely stalls and an already bustling beer tent. I was impressed with how many people had gotten into the spirit and dressed up. Many looked like they came year on year in their beautiful chosen ensembles, pristine forces uniforms, tailoring and parasols  - it really seemed like you'd stepped back in time. People held themselves differently and seemed to speak and act in a more gentile manner. Everyone seemed so elegant and refined with beaming smiles, dancing and music everywhere we went that day. My Grandma's remarked that although people had just endured another awful World War at this time, the spirit was a positive one, captured and reflected well by the Haworth Weekender. Chin up and crack on. I think we could all learn from that attitude today, but sadly some people don't seem to know how to help themselves or one another in the same way anymore. 

Most of the businesses that were open had adopted a 1940's theme, menu or costume to get "In The Mood" (see what I did there?)  My favourite shop was Rose & Co Apothecary. They sell bath products in the shape of sugar mice and cupcakes and gentleman's shaving products amongst tons of other stunning gifts and treats, but my absolute favourite part was the bit stocking the ever fabulous Stop Staring dresses. They're not cheap but they're beautifully designed and made, and really fit with the vintage revival we all love so much. I'm saving for one when I'm out of my preggy clothes - I'm just gutted they don't do maternity or kids wear! 

We relaxed on a bench whilst a chap sang and played trumpet on the back of an army truck. This picture by a nice bloke called Jason Bowers was of this lovely part of the day!

One of the nicest people we encountered that day was a nurse who was dressed as a WW2 nurse. She spent a while chit-chatting with us and telling us some really interesting stuff about her uniform and  adjustments that were made from the original uniform in WW1. I could have listened to her all day. 

Hopefully we'll go back for this wonderful weekend next year. I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone.

5 May 2014

Arbonne - is it really as bad as it sounds?

To many, Arbonne - a premium health, cosmetics and skin care brand, is suspicious and untrustworthy.   You only have to type Arbonne into the internet and there's so many people wanting to bad mouth this company so what have they done that's so wrong? 

I was first told about Arbonne by some friends. Genuine friends at that, who would never mug me off or try to commit a daylight robbery. My husband and I have known them for years and we are as close as family members so I had and still have no reason to doubt a word they say. A couple of members of their family and their friends had signed up to become what is known as an 'Independant Consultant' as a side-line that would hopefully perhaps become a lucrative earner whilst they carried on with their normal lives and therefore didn't jeopardise anything they were already doing. These people had put some money into this but only out of choice and as you would any serious business opportunity. When they told me about it, the main thing I was interested in was the make up range. Which girl wouldn't be?  I thought I'd give it a whirl and support them, perhaps in the same way people buy Avon from their friends/family and collagues. The mascara and lip gloss I bought were some of the best products I've ever purchased - the lip gloss was a beautiful, strongly pigmented berry colour and the mascara was hands down the best mascara I've ever used. I'll hopefully do a proper product review on them soon so you can see them for yourselves if you so wish.

Back to the point...
Whilst I was happily using these products I googled Arbonne, just to learn a bit more about the brand, its history and to see more products that I would fancy trying. What I found by looking at links other than the Arbonne site itself, was a lot of vitriolic, knee-jerk reactions from some people that didn't seem to grasp the concept  properly or had been tricked by less than trustworthy people into signing up to be a Consultant when they didn't understand the full picture of the business. From the get-go, my friends had been transparent about their involvement and what you did or did not have to do. My understanding at the end or it was that it was a premium Avon, with the incentives it offered 25 years ago...lavish gifts, holidays, good money and a less saturated market. Oh and no door-knocking. Having actually looked at being an Avon Rep myself last year, the lady who rang (repeatedly) to give me more information and then turned up at my door one night with brochures was passive aggressively coercing me into joining. Nobody seems to be on the same witch hunt about Avon, even though it's the same kind of package. Maybe because it is a familiar name to people so they are less intimidated by it? Of course I was guilty of reading all these reviews on forums but my conclusion was still the same - that irresponsible people are misselling what could actually be a perfectly good opportunity. It shouldn't be sold as a get rich quick scheme but sadly that's what some people are doing and even if you could get people involved under those sketchy terms, that is a shaky and not very sustainable way to grow a business, no matter how seductive at the outset.

Because I'm so obsessed with  the mascara and lippy I'm considering signing up myself, but rather than do the approach that people are recommended to do, I've decided that I'll take the slow and steady approach if I do opt in, and order things I'll use rather than lots of expensive stock. Anything else is a bonus really?  After all, business is something you need to invest in if you want to make big money quickly, but it's not the only way. 

20 Apr 2014

What's in a name?

We're now half way through the pregnancy and have started looking at names for the little baba we've been calling 'Titch' whilst he or she is in my tummy. The scan is next week and we've chosen not to find out the answer to the question everyone seems to want to know - pink or blue?

The approach we've taken isn't everyone's approach it seems. Some people have loved particular names all their lives and some put it to public vote using social media. A dangerous game if you stick to the public choice which is no doubt something crazy!? There was a chap who did exactly that and at last check, he was going to have to name his child Optimus Prime or something from Transformers. I wonder if he followed through with it?

As I've probably said before, we're that couple who didn't have any elements of our wedding pre-chosen and it's the same with baby names. We've never had any favourites that we've always wanted to call a little bundle of joy, so we've been pouring over name books and websites to give us inspiration. We've managed to shortlist a few, but we're keeping those under wraps until we meet the little guy or gal to see what suits them. The biggest struggle choosing names has been associating the name with someone else or even a pet. In most cases it's been realising we know someone with the same name who is irritating or has negative connotations in some respect, whether that's a celebrity or a person we know or have met in our lives. The next hurdle was choosing a name one of our friends or colleagues hasn't already chosen. I know it's not a pre-requisite, but I didn't want our baby to have the same name as all the other kids belonging to people we know. There are plenty of names to choose from in the world and we're not choosing really random names, but since we don't have our hearts set on any it just made sense to us to do it this way. The next check we needed to do is to write what the initials would be, say the names out aloud and check that the most torturous nicknames aren't going to be painfully obvious. A woman at work suggested 'Belle' until another collegue followed it wih the word 'end'. School is hard enough without targeting your kids for abuse! Having done all that we're happy with our traditional choices and have managed to tick everything off our list to do the best we can for Titch.

Only approximately 20 weeks to find out now! 

12 Mar 2014

Are you a High Achiever?

I met up with an old school friend at Christmas. We only manage to see each other once or twice a year as he lives in London and I still live on good old Teesside where we grew up together. A conversation we had really got me thinking and after seeing a related article in a magazine and having a change or circumstances in my own life I mulled over about what we'd discussed.

The day that we had met up, my friend had already visited another friend and they'd been discussing who the 'high achievers' were from school. I found it interesting that every person mentioned had moved to the city and now worked as a freelance writer,  was in a good position for ITV or was jet-setting around the globe. Admittedly these are fantastic achievements, especially when you consider how competitive the job market is these days, but when I thought about the other things in their lives (I only know because of Facebook) then the rest of their lives didn't seem quite as well-rounded. Again, I'm not saying that you need a partner to be happy, but I know at least one of them had a failed engagement so I figured that at least one of them did want more from that aspect of their lives. I suppose what I'm asking is: How do you classify a High Achiever?

Career -wise, I've hopped around a bit. Now at age 30 I've still never settled on one thing I've always wanted to do. I'm more a 'Mr Ben' type who would like to have lots of experiences until maybe one day I've found something I LOVE. I've worked in retail, pharmacy, admin and I've been self-employed and I've loved most of them for different aspect of each role. I must say at times I've been very envious of people who have always known what they've wanted to do, they've focused on getting there and they'll do this job until they retire. I suppose by 30 I expected to be on more money and a bit more settled than I am, but then every other aspect of my life is perfect and this year I'll be taking on my most challenging role yet - being a mammy! I've heard the pay is rubbish but the rewards are second to none ;)

I class myself as wage poor but experience and love rich and so I would class myself as a high achiever. Of course I'd love to be on more money but I wouldn't swap it for anything that I have in my life. I was lucky enough to meet my husband when I was 19 and we'll have been together 11 years this year. We're blessed enough to have a baby on the way and we work hard to have nice experiences and a beautiful home and are lucky enough to have amazing relationships with our families and friends. That's something all the promotions and money in the world can't earn you. So if I had that conversation again, I might argue that myself and other people in a similar position to me are also 'High Achievers' and need adding to that hallowed list for less obvious but equally as important success.