Tuesday, 18 December 2012

There's always something good in everyday

Yesterday my youngest nephew turned 4! I can't believe how quickly those four years have gone.  I am very close to my sisters children, I love that now we have moved they are only around the corner and am thankful for the time that we have together and that they always want to come and visit their Auntie Amy!

I love their birthdays, wrapping their presents and seeing them so excited for their special day. Logan loved the attention all on him (he's the middle child of three) and being able to eat fairy cakes before dinner!

Unfortunately though my father was unable to join in the birthday celebrations. He was admitted to hospital on Monday and ended up having to be taken into surgery for an operation last night. He has been very unwell and we are all worried about him especially as he has been transferred to a hospital further away from us. The operation seems to have gone well though so hopefully this will enable him to turn a corner and begin to get better.

This week has already been very stressful but I'm blessed to have some amazing friends and family who have stepped in without being asked, to do whatever they can to help and to support us. I have been touched by the member of texts, phone calls, messages on Facebook and Twitter that I've received from people sending their best wishes and prayers for my father and for that I am truly thankful. It just goes to show that in the worst of times there really is something good in every day.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A British attempt at Thanksgiving

Ok so not a whole turkey, but they were delicious!

My first attempt at cranberry sauce

Parmesan potatoes and vegetables.  No alcohol with dinner because of my troublesome kidneys

Another first - baked sweet potato with a roast dinner!

Harley eyeing up the turkey.

Apple crumble and custard.

Lemon meringue pie.

Okay, so us Brits don't technically do Thanksgiving, but my friend Tyler is studying here in the UK and his family are back home in North Carolina so I attempted to make him a Thanksgiving.  It turned out to be so much fun and a good excuse to pig out! I'm not claiming that it was anywhere close to what Thanksgiving dinner should be and most definitely not how his family would do it but I was pretty pleased with my cranberry sauce and baked sweet potato with dinner! Tyler tried to convince me that brown sugar was good on the potato but that just wasn't going down with me!! The desserts certainly did though! Once Halloween has gone here in the UK it is impossible to get a pumpkin anywhere, so we had to make do with some fake ones on the table! Apple pie, custard and lemon meringue pie went down a treat though.  Three quarters of the pie just for me in fact!

Whilst I was cooking Tyler taught Megan all about Thanksgiving and answered her questions and although it was a bit strange having a turkey dinner at another time other than  Christmas, I think we may do it again next year!

Friday, 16 November 2012

I'll just put the kettle on...

This week I am exhausted. Completely exhausted. I'm struggling to get up in the mornings (the dark cold mornings don't help) and my schedule has been non-stop. On a very positive note though it has been a productive week with lots of appointments and conversations that have started with "I'll just put the kettle on..".  It would seem in Britain that a cup of tea can overcome all manner of problems and as a complete tea pot I am completely happy to carry on believing it! 

Tuesday was such a positive day, at an Autism support meeting, I was able to talk over a few issues that I have been having with Megan's specialists and how overwhelmed and tired coping with everything I have been feeling of late. Over (yes, you guessed it) a few cups of tea we were able to talk through a few options and I left feeling less overwhelmed. That evening I also had Megan's parents meeting, which I was also very pleased with. I moved her school a few months back after we had moved closer to my family and I am so happy that I did. Her teachers here are fantastic, they are behind me 100% with Megan and by putting things in place to help her get through the day. They are playing to her strengths and as far as possible removing any triggers that make things uncomfortable for her within the school environment.
I'm so proud of her work aswell, they have recognised how good she is at literature and she is now doing year 9 high school work at year 6 in primary school! All in all a good day.

Wednesday proved to be completely chaotic as we had four school groups in to learn about Cardiff's history. Safe to say the pot of tea and gluten free cupcake (pictured above) from my favourite coffee shop in the historic arcades, went down a treat and restored calm!

This week Megan and I tried our hand at making gluten free pain au chocolat. They turned out pretty well for a first attempt I think!

Thursday night however, my body gave in. Everything started to ache and my body was telling me I needed to rest. I had an early night and spent yesterday at home looking after myself. When I'm unwell I obviously need to recover as quickly as possible, so I took Megan to school and returned to bed for a couple of hours. I made the most of a peaceful house and had a lovely hot bubble bath, whilst reading home decor magazines and drinking copious amounts of super fruit tea.

This weekend I will be doing more of the same. Lots of clean food, vitamins, scouring the Internet for vintage finds & cuddles with my princess. To start it all off though.......a cup of tea in bed of course!!!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend x

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday - Lest We Forget

The Final Inspection

The soldier stood and faced his God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as brightly as his brass

"Step foward now you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek,
And to my church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No Lord, I guess I ain't,
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be saints

"I've had to work most Sundays
And at times my talk was tough
And sometimes I've been violent
Because the streets were awfully rough"

But I never took a penny,
That was'nt mine to keep
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills just got to steep,

And I never passed a cry for help
Although, at times I shook with fear
And sometimes, God forgive
I've wept unmanly tears

I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here
That never wanted me around
Except to calm there fears

If you have a place for me here O' Lord
It needn't be so grand
I've never expected, or had so much
But if you don't I'll understand"

There was a silence all around the throne
Where the Saints had often trod
As this soldier waited quietly
For the judgment from his God

"Step foward now you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell"
Author Unknown

Lance Corporal Dale Hopkins
28th September 1985 - 6th August 2009

We will remember you and all the other brave men and women who have lost their lives serving and protecting us.

Also,those who survived and have been left with the physical and mental scars of war and their families and friends who are left behind.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Film and Food Friday

We were going to be visiting my friend this weekend but she is unwell so will be staying at home.  I have yet to tell Megan as she is still in school but I am planning a cosy film night instead for us, leaving her to choose dessert and the film.  I have really been enjoying some home cooked comfort food this week and have been slow cooking a Moroccan Lamb Tagine since this morning to enjoy this evening.  

I love clean but tasty food and this tagine is so delicious and can be eaten a variety of ways - on a bed of spinach, with rice or quinoa, or as a soup with some crusty warm bread. It is also gluten free.

There are many recipes out there but here is mine:

Serves four.


1 x shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into 5cm/2in chunks (about 1.1kg/2½lb meat in total)

1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground black pepper
1½ tbsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
115g/4oz dried apricots, cut in half
55g/2oz raisins
85g/3oz flaked almonds
1 x 400g organic chopped tomatoes
600ml/1 pint lamb stock or water
1 or 2 tbsp clear honey


* I lightly brown the lamb on the hob using half a tspn of coconut oil and then add to the slow cooker.

* Add the spices and mix to cover the lamb.

* Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for 6 or 7 hours.

Thankful Thursday

This week hasn't exactly been running smoothly. It was Megan's first week back in school after our holiday and Autumn half term and we are still trying to get back into routine.  I had planned last week to start a new weekly recipe post as friends are often asking for ideas on what to cook.  I also planned to post about our Bonfire Night celebrations and What I Wore Wednesday but it's just not happened.  This has been a week where I am running on empty and there have not been enough hours in the day.  It is now a week since my last blog post and I may not make it by midnight as today was nearly a twelve hour day out of the house with training, meetings etc in work.  An unexpected long day though did make an excellent excuse for a Costa pick me up and the first black forest hot chocolate of the 2012 holiday season! Yes, mine was the largest one!

Although it's been a tough week I am counting  myself lucky for many reasons.  I am extremely thankful for the special people in my life who are there for me no matter what.  This weeks highlights include:

 * Bonfire celebrations with family and friends and Megan coping relatively well with the evening.

* Making Hershey's hot fudge ice cream sundaes and enjoying a glass or two of North Carolina spiced rum with my good friend Tyler and Megan (obviously M didn't partake in any rum drinking!).

* M's school recognising her ability and implementing high school English work for her, so she is not bored continuing at primary school level. She is loving analysing poetry and received A* in English Literature and B at Maths in her assessments.

* Recognising the support I do have not what I am not receiving. Thank you to my good friends Tyler and Crissie for listening to me, my mother for helping reduce the stress on the mornings I work by taking Megan to school and my aunt for her support in dealing with doctors and authorities with getting help for Megan.

* My friend Deb aka Shoeless-Deb of Walking by Myself, calling me and getting me through an awkward situation that I couldn't get out of with someone from my past.  Laughter is the best medicine!

I'm now looking forward to a catch up with my friend Gemma who had a beautiful baby girl whilst I was in Florida and taking Megan to my oldest friend Helen's house for the weekend once she's finished school tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Welcome November & October's favourite things

I can't believe that November is here already! This year is going so quickly and I have welcomed in November by spending the day digging out my kitchen cupboards and cleaning everywhere! This time of year with Christmas approaching always makes me feel as though I need a good clear out, I think it may be as I know with the bad weather we will be spending more time indoors. As today was my day at home and the first day since we got home from America that I've had a bit more energy, I got going! 

Anyway, back to October for a moment. I did intend to link up with Dancing with Ashley for October Favourite Things yesterday but my laptop has broken and I was trying to figure it out. No such luck though so forgive the photos from my iPhone and here goes.....

October was really all about our trip to Florida. Megan and I travelled with my parents, my sister and her husband and my niece and nephews. It was so lovely spending some quality time with my little munchkins (children not adults, just to be clear!) and making some very special memories.

The weather of course was another big bonus! Sunbathing in October was the best and I'm trying my best to keep my lovely tan! Unfortunately one of my best friends was unable to make it down to visit us, but we were very lucky as our friend Emily took time off work and made the journey down from North Carolina to join us for our last few days. We had lots of fun goofing around at Disney World!

My second October favourite was discovering Charming Charlie's. I LOVE this place, bags, clothes, accessories all colour coordinated in blocks - we need one of these in Cardiff!! Yes I have the bag, yes I tried on pretty much everything in the shop! I loved these 1920s inspired hats (incase you don't know, I'm a historian studying from the 1920s), they were so up my street and reminded me of the current series of Downton Abbey - very Lady Mary I thought! I made a few purchases over a few visits whilst we were there.

Whilst on the 'shopping in the USA' theme, I snapped up so many bargains! Clothes etc are so much cheaper than in the UK. This Michael Kors watch is my favourite buy though. I've wanted it for so long and when I saw it in Macy's for over £100 cheaper than at home I had to have it! I did feel a big guilty for buying it as I never buy anything like this for myself but it's so pretty!!

As much as I love my bargains, my favourite thing in Florida was definitely taking Megan to swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove. I had been looking forward to this for so long and have heard so much about dolphin therapy and how it calms people with autism and related conditions that I couldn't wait. It was the most amazing experience and I loved watching Megan with Jenny our dolphin. She was so relaxed and happy it made the whole trip worthwhile. The trainer also told me about a dolphin therapy centre in the Florida Keys which I intend to research.

My final October favourite was back home for Halloween. We had stocked up on Halloween treats in Walmart and brought them home. I was so disappointed not to be able to bring home a pumpkin though, there are so many different varieties (my favourite are the little tiger striped ones), rather than the standard ones we have here.
By the time we got home the shops had sold out and we went on a two hour car trip to find some!

The day was very cold but sunny and I thought we would be ok trick or treating that night. Typically though the heavens opened and the rain was so icy but out we went with Megan, my nieces and nephews! The children quickly learnt that pushing my two year old niece, Olivia to the front to say "trick or tweet" resulted in many more sweets!!! The night ended very cold and very wet but with very happy children!

I hope that your month was just as fun xxx

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What I wore Wednesday.....Happy Halloween!!

Top - New Look
Shorts - H&M 
Sandals - New Look
Watch - Michael Kors

I have just got in and am soaked through looking like a drowned rat! I was going to take some photos of my outfit today but that would mean drying my hair, my clothes and redoing my make up! 
It is 11c/49f today but as it is blowing a gale and hammering it down with icy rain, it is feeling a lot cooler! Just in time for 'Trick or Treatin' with the children tonight!! 

Instead, this is showing what I was wearing last Wednesday on my last evening in Florida (slightly different, I would catch my death wearing this here!). I have only been home in the UK for a few days but it seems an age ago that I was sunning it up by the pool.

My thoughts are also with everyone affected by hurricane Sandy this weekend. Our plane left Friday just as delays were starting and luckily my friends in North Carolina and family in Florida and New York are all safe and well. I hope everyone else is also. We may have miserable weather here in the UK but it is nothing compared to the storms in other parts of the world.

Hope that everyone has fun tonight!!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Slow Saturday

So half of today had already disappeared before I woke up! To be honest I had trouble remembering what day it actually was and this post is likely to sound rambled and make no sense at all! Last time I clearly recall it was Thursday and we were in Florida having our last lunch in the sun before getting on the plane. Then I lost five hours flying into the future on an overnight flight and landed in a wet, cold and gloomy London at 7.30 in the morning! We then had a three hour drive back to Wales. Now the plan was to stay awake until our normal bed time and try to get up at a reasonable British time this morning....Did.Not.Happen!! After being up since 4.30 the previous morning with little sleep on the plane, Megan fell asleep all the way home in the car. I managed to unpack when we got home and took a bath to warm up (on top of putting the heating on, a hoody and thick socks). It was lovely to see my animals and my best friend and her daughter came over for an hour so we got to give them their presents. After that I slept. Made dinner. Slept. Had another bath to warm up. Put Megan to bed. Slept....thirteen hours in fact until 12.30 lunchtime! Megan slept through until 1pm also (after going to bed at 9.30pm) and out bodies were still telling us that it was 8-9am in the morning!
The good news is that it is a beautiful sunny day outside (although only 9c/48f) and I have a list full of things I should be doing especially in the garden as it's not raining and I need to get it ready for winter. However I can barely get off the sofa and am not ready to face the cold, so we are spending the day in our pjs, hoody, fluffy socks and lots of hot fruit teams cuddles :) Harley our car has hardly moved from my side so it's a perfect day.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

What I wore Wednesday...

This is my first link up to WIWW! I've been making the most of my last day in the Florida sun & spent this morning at the mall picking up my beautiful Michael Kors watch, an afternoon by the pool and this evening out for food before heading back to the hotel to pack our cases for home :(

Dress - New Look
Belt - Dorothy Perkins
Sandals - Next
Cuff - Avon
Earrings - Accessorize
Ring - Jackdaw

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Home comforts....

I received these photos of our little Harley who is being looked after at home while we are away. My gorgeous boy does not like the colder, wet weather and is taking to the sofa for 20+ hours a day!!

I have taken a look and it is around 14c (57f) at the moment and set to drop to 8c (46f) on Friday when we land in the UK. I am going to freeze after enjoying temperatures in the late 80/early 90s!

I have to say though I am very much missing my cat. He knew we were going away and the morning we left he hid under Megan's bed and pushed my hand away with his paw when I crawled under to fuss him and say goodbye. I can't wait to see him and our rabbit Lola, when we return on Friday. I do hope that he doesn't ignore me as punishment though and stays curled up on the sofa to keep me warm!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday reflections in the sun....

I can't believe that it's five days until we fly home already! We have been so busy in Florida that it has gone so quickly. I'm sat by the pool soaking up the sun as I write this and I really don't want to leave this beautiful weather and head home to a gloomy, wet and cold British autumn. On the other hand though I think I am all theme parked out and I know for sure that Megan is too.

Although we are having a lovely time here, this holiday hasn't been as straightforward as I'd hoped it would and it has made me realise a few things that are quite difficult to come to terms with. Although I'm here with family, it's tough being away from home as a single mum with a child with some additional needs and this holiday has brought this home.

This being said though I'm loving having time with my princess and watching her cope extremely well considering the theme parks are so busy and sensory challenging for her. I'm watching her in the pool playing with some children and her confidence in the water has come on leaps and bounds, which makes me so happy and proud. I am also enjoying some quality time with my niece and nephews, which at home doesn't happen often. I will really miss that time when we get home as even though we live a couple of streets away normal everyday life often get in the way.

I'll blog more about our time here in Florida once I'm home, but for now I'm learning so much more about our strengths and weaknesses and recognising the simple things and time with children aren't given as much priority as they should and I really don't want that time to end.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pre-holiday musings

I am lying in bed at a hotel close to Gatwick airport ready for a 5.30 wake up call to get to our flight to Florida tomorrow morning.
The last few weeks, maybe even months have been extremely tiring and stressful and I am looking forward to some family time with my closest family, friends and hopefully some sun!
This morning I had an appointment regarding my daughter that I had been worried about for some time, the previous people we had seen were ignorant and pretty much a waste of time and I had been worried that today would be the same. Thankfully, the doctor we saw today was not the same and gave me some hope that although it will be a long road, finally the future may be looking a bit brighter. I can now go on holiday with that weight off my mind.
After a quick lunch we then packed our bags and drove up to Gatwick (around 3hrs). I was in agony most of the day as over the weekend I started getting the familiar pain in my back signifying another kidney infection. Typical just before we go away. So another trip to the doctor who immediately gave me an extra strong 14 day course of antibiotics (4 a day), painkillers and anti-sickness tablets. It will either kill the infection or make my immune system so weak I'll have a cold the whole time!!
I am now dosed up on pain killers after having a bath trying to sleep but my not so little one is wriggling about so much it is pretty impossible! 5.30am is going to be fun!! She is in fact so excited that she is driving me crazy but but at least she is safe, happy and next to me.
Last Monday, a little five year old girl was kidnapped close to her home in
To make matters worse poor little April suffers with cerebral palsy and needs daily medication to stop her being in pain. A day after her disappearance a local man and former friend of her family was arrested for her abduction and by Friday she still had not been found and he was charged with her murder. The search is now in its ninth day for poor little April and she still has not been found.
I have spent nights awake thinking about her and what her family must be going through, I can't imagine and it makes me sick to my stomach that somebody could want to hurt such a small and innocent child. I have woken up in the middle of the night just to check that Megan is still there and to hug and kiss her.
I found myself even more this weekend wanting to spend time doing our favourite things, so even though I was busy preparing for our holiday, we visited my Grandfather and then went to our favourite bistro/coffee shop/wine bar, Fino Lounge, in Whitchurch where we used to live until recently. I love the ambiance of this place, old sofas, games, music and black and white photographs. Megan also loves it here, she really relaxes which is unusual as she struggles out and about a lot of the time. They also do the best hot chocolate which I think helps! We spent a lovely couple of hours here, eating, drinking and playing scrabble before heading home to finish packing.

It has been a very mixed week and I am lying here grateful for my beautiful girl who is safe and cuddled up next to me, excited to see her, my niece and nephews so happy tomorrow morning at the airport and praying for the now unlikely safe return of little April Jones to her family and the strength for them to get through whatever is coming to them at the awful time.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Summer Stories

So summer has officially come and gone! It went from what was supposed to be a quiet one to completely hectic but also lots of fun.  I have been super slack in blogging what we  have been up to (intentions were there but I just don't seem to have had the time!), so here is a brief overview in pictures!

Our summer started with the arrival of the Olympic rings in Cardiff.  As host city to the Olympic football we  were to enjoy a summer of events and mayhem - Megan loved it!

The Olympic Torch relay reached Cardiff at the end of May, this was taken on the Hayes before we went to Coopers Field for the arrival of the flame at a big concert.


Next on the list of summer events was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June.  Megan decided we were going to do some baking and have some friends around for a Jubilee party!

Our Patriotic cupcakes were delicious!

July saw my beautiful girl turn 10!! I still cannot believe that I am a mother of a ten year old.  The time really has gone so quickly and to start off her first year in double figures the day began with her favourite pain au chocolat and tea in bed!

Followed by family and friends over after school for cake made by my fantastic sister (I unfortunately am completely useless with cakes!).

With our summer being the wettest on record we were wondering if the Olympics were going to be a washout!  Thankfully, the sun remembered it was summer after all and we had some beautiful weather!
The games started two days earlier than the Opening ceremony in Cardiff and the atmosphere was amazing.  August 4th was my turn to head to the Olympic Park in London and it was the most amazing experience.  I can honestly say that it was a privilege to have been there amongst the crowds and aswell as watching some men's hockey we saw some amazing British performances :) It was Jess Ennis' first day of the heptathlon, Gold medal success at the velodrome and Becky Adlington took bronze at the pool, to name a few!
My friend has recently moved to London and is the manager of Kurt Geiger at Westfield Shopping Centre next to the Olympic Park.  It was lovely being able to pop in and see her and I couldn't resist taking a photo of her shoe display - so pretty!!
The sight entering the Olympic Park
Dave & I at the Olympic Park

The next big event would take us back home to Cardiff.  The British round of the World Championship Speedway GP series is always a huge event in my family! (I will write a blog about this later in the month). My family has been involved since the 1950s and my cousin Sophie's husband is the current British Champion.  The British round for the last 10 years has benn held at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, home of Welsh rugby and for one day 500,000 tons of shale and the World's top speedway riders and fans.

On August 24th I took Dave and Megan to the Press and Practise session at the stadium along with Sophie, their daughter and friends followed by some Italian food in the evening.  The girls loved the attention they received from the fans as they shouted to Scott on the track!

Sophie, Maya, me and Megan

Although Maya is used to the sound of the bikes and betweek 40,000 - 50,000 fans shouting and blowing air horns, Megan is hyper sensitive therefore we didn't take her on the Saturday for the actual event.  Again the atmosphere was electric and we had an amazing night although the evening proved disappointing to us as Scott didn't make the semi-final due to a race that was re-run. Congratulations to Chris Holder who won in Cardiff though and there were some amazing fireworks at the end though and we already can't wait for next year!

Sky Sports filming area
Track side before the meeting

Indoor fireworks at the end of the night

So that was our summer!! There were lots of other things in between that we got up to this summer, it really has been chaotic, tiring but a lot of fun! What a summer of sport!  Here's to the next one!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Coconut Oil

I have been reading a lot about the benefits of coconut oil and have been keen to try coconut water as a clean alternative to other drinks on the go as it has been raved about by a lot of people recently.  

During a trip to London to watch the Olympics I found cans of it on sale in a Caribbean food outlet at Westfield shopping centre. I excitedly bought some (and I mean silly excited) to have with my dinner but have to admit I was not keen!!! The taste itself was not for me, it tasted like stale water and I quickly had to drink something else to take away the taste! I was so disappointed!

That said, I have friends who absolutely love it so I guess that it is just trial and error with regards to taste.  I may buy some to add to a smoothie for the health benefits however, I think it may be just as beneficial for this purpose to use a spoon of coconut oil.

Which brings me on to my main topic today....

I have previously used coconut oil for cooking as it is the healthiest oil available, but after some research and reviews I have seen about its health benefits I am keen on exploring how it could affect my body both physically and emotionally.  I have a few issues health wise that result from misdiagnosis of Coeliac disease (see previous post here)and a long battle with an eating disorder.  I am now convinced that coconut oil will be beneficial in aiding my body in it's recovery and intend on not only using it as a cooking oil, but also as a health supplement.

Here are the benefits of adding coconut oil to your diet...

hair care * skin care * stress relief * digestion * maintaining cholesterol * levels * weight loss * increased immunity * proper digestion and metabolism * relief from kidney problems * heart diseases * high blood pressure * diabetes * HIV * cancer * dental care * bone strength. 

For a detailed breakdown of health benefits click here.

I have ordered my coconut oil from Coconoil as they are one of the cheapest suppliers of certified virgin organic coconut oil that I have found and postage is free.  They also supply various sizes, including a handy 250g jar that I will be taking on holiday with me shortly. 

I will be taking a spoonful of coconut oil every morning with breakfast and along with my other supplements.  I am hoping to see positive changes very soon and will be posting my findings here!