My Wedding Story

Recently, my husband Ben and I celebrated being together as a couple for the grand total of sevenTEEN years. Yup 17! For a couple who are both only 36, that tells you just how much of our lives we’ve spent together. I’ve written about how we met before, here in fact. But I’ve never written about our wedding. And in recognition that we just celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary and I thought it was about time I did.

Ben and I got engaged in 2007. There was no ring, there was no beautifully planned set up. There was no anticipation, there wasn’t even a man on a knee. There was Ben. And there was me. Both in our pyjamas, stood in the doorway of the lounge in our flat in Surbiton. And it couldn’t have felt more perfect.

We both knew we wanted to get married close to our families and back in our home county, but I’ll tell you now planning a wedding long distance isn’t easy. Thank god for email, but we still had to make several trips down to Devon from our home in London to visit suppliers and venues. We pretty much knew our priorities for the day were good food (mine) and a good bar (Ben’s) and the venue we chose ticked all our boxes and more.

The Great Barn, was the most stunning wedding venue I had ever seen (and to be fair, nothing’s ever topped it ?) We went to look at it with my sister and when the three of us walked up the steps and into the barn our jaw’s all dropped. WOW was the only word any of us could manage.

The Great Barn, Higher Ashton, Devon

The Great Barn, Higher Ashton, Devon

First view of the inside of the barn. Yup, I still think WOW every time I see it.

First view of the inside of the barn. Yup, I still think WOW every time I see it.

We hired our own outside caterers. We knew from the start we wanted an elegant but relaxed affair and so we were looking for someone to do us a tip top BBQ or similar. We went with The Dartmoor Kitchen, headed up by (the now nationally recognised) Tom of Toms Pies and his amazing team, when we realised they could do us a locally sourced hog roast with all the sides. And boy did they do us proud! And to fulfil Ben’s request we decided to budget for stocking the bar ourselves, meaning people could just relax and enjoy. We even found a local brewery to deliver and tap us a barrel of ale just for Ben (well not quite, but he was determined to have a crack at finishing it!)

Thats a whole pig, locally sourced and organic. Yes this was a happy pig. Oh and bloody gorgeous

Thats a whole pig, locally sourced and organic. Yes this was a happy pig. Oh and it was bloody gorgeous!

A whole barrel of local ale, just for Ben ?

A whole barrel of local ale, just for Ben ?

Add to this a dress I’m still in love with (look out for a post about this on www.todreamofdresses.com soon!), some handsome suits, a bridesmaid dress fiasco that turned out better than I ever imagined, flowers from the florist all my friends used, two pairs of wedding shoes, a dodgy DJ, God knows how many metres of greenyblue ribbon (don’t get Ben started on how many different shades of greenyblue he had to look at that year!), a mountain of cupcakes from Cakeadoodledo and a last minute 90 Swarovski Crystal handbag and we my friends had a wedding to be proud of.

We got married in June 2008. It’d been a pretty crappy summer so far and it rained heavily the day before. I was so convinced it would rain on the day that I even bought white golf umbrellas just in case. As the day dawned I woke in my bed at the cottage next to the barn, sat for a minute looking at my dress hanging on the wardrobe and steeled myself to look out the window. I opened the curtains to blinding sunshine. And bawled my eyes out. Wayne and Colleen Rooney got married the month before us, spending a reported 5 million but even they couldn’t buy the weather, getting married in torrential downpours in Italy. The one thing none of us could control, regardless of the budget or the planning or the spreadsheets and it went right for us. Ha! Take that Mr and Mrs R!

My view when I woke up on my wedding day. Swiftly followed by tears at the sunshine!

My view when I woke up on my wedding day. Swiftly followed by tears at the sunshine!

My bridesmaids, my sister Laura and Ben’s step sister Leanne, had stayed in the cottage with me the night before. We were up til the wee small hours making paper cones to hold the petal confetti as I recall! One of my favourite memories of my wedding morning was sitting with them, in the cottage garden, drinking champagne and eating croissant in the sun. We were so relaxed we suddenly realised how late it was getting and in good girly fashion screamed and ran in the house to get ready.

I wanted that morning to be as peaceful as possible. I didn’t want to see anyone which is why I asked no one other than the few people I needed come to the cottage. Thankfully most people respected this although one or two didn’t and rather than flying into a rage I remember sort of curling up in a chair and staring at the floor. I may or may not have started rocking. My sister came over and asked if I’d like her to ‘sort it out’ and thus started my sister’s day of being the most awesome head bridesmaid I could ever have asked for.

My hairdresser (also my sister in law Nicky) arrived with her colleague to do my hair and make up. Then my friend Helen arrived with her 8 month old daughter Chloe, who was to be my baby bridesmaid. I’d seen someone else have a baby as a bridesmaid earlier in the year and just loved the idea. Chloe wore a beautiful white cotton broderie anglaise dress from Gap with a ribbon sash (greenyblue of course 😉 ) Helen was the first to see me as as I came down the stairs in my dress. And then promptly asked an already emotional bride in full make up if she would be her daughter’s god mother! How I kept from blubbing I’ll never know, but I may have called her a cow for pushing me to the edge – yeah sorry about that Hels!

Once we were ready and the house started to quiet, we moved into the cottage garden for photos, all the time laughing like drains. I have so many pictures of me just roaring with laughter before the wedding. I think it was part nerves but I was never going to make the shy demure bride really was I? I love these pictures and made sure they were included in the album our amazing photographers, Andrew and Agnieszka Younger did for us.

A candid shot from the garden.

A candid shot from the garden.

When the time came, and after the photographer made sure the coast was clear, we giggled all the way over to the barn. The wind suddenly picked up and blew my full length veil and my bridesmaids hair about. We went to the side entrance of the barn, rather than the main door as this gave me a straight, long walk down the aisle. I had already decided my bridesmaids would walk out in front of me, US style and we stood behind a partition giggling and waiting. The music I chose was the instrumental Album version of True Love’s First Kiss by Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell. From the film Shrek. Yeah yeah laugh all you want but I found no other piece that had the drama the barn deserved. I loved this piece and had spent months listening to it while walking to get the feel of the music but more importantly to desensitise myself to it. When I first chose it I couldn’t hear it without crying and I didn’t want my make up to run!

The music started and I listened. I sent each bridesmaid out on the beat I had planned. This wasn’t a walk down the aisle, it was a choreographed masterpiece. As my sister’s turn came, as the last bridesmaid to go, she turned, kissed me and told me she loved me. It took me aback and I’ll never forget it. Then she was gone and I was alone. I waited. Listening for the music to change to a quieter, softer tone. And when it did, I emerged, alone, but not in the least bit scared. The lighting had been set up the previous day to hit me perfectly as I walked and the effect was dramatic and beautiful. I remember checking I was holding my bouquet nice and low, I remember smiling more than I ever have, I remember looking straight ahead and seeing nothing but Ben in the golden light. I remember thinking “I’m doing it, I’m doing it” then thinking how I was never going to get to do this again, so to slow down. And I did. I realised how fast I’d been walking and slowed right down. To savour this moment.1910442_17086676663_3660_n

And suddenly the months of planning melted away. Nothing mattered any more. Who the hell cared what colour the dresses were? Not me. All that mattered was here. And now. We started the ceremony with the poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W.B. Yates read by Ben’s maternal grandmother Betty. A beautiful, brief statement of intent, it speaks of a vulnerability and a love that would do anything. Well it does to me anyway.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

We wrote our own vows and spoke them to one another. Clearly and sincerely. Ben promised to always make me coffee on the weekends and I promised to make him sausage sandwiches when he was blue. But most of all we promised to love each other no matter what. We kissed to a round of applause ??

We finished the ceremony with our friend Dom reading a story. This one in fact

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We signed the register to The Ramones, “Baby I Love You”, completed the formalities and walked out to Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)”. We walked to the back of the barn and were given champagne by the wonderful barn owner, John. And just stood there giggling. It was done. 18 months of planning and the most important thing was just being together.

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When the barn had emptied we walked back through the space and out of the large main doors, to be met with a shower of confetti. It was fabulous. My friend’s mum even tipped her cone down my cleavage and I didn’t mind. I just don’t ever remember feeling so at peace, so sure that nothing else in the world mattered, as I did in those few moments.

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Our wonderful confetti moment

Our reception was the elegant relaxed affair we hoped for. Every guest, at some point or another, has told us just how much they enjoyed the bubbles and nibbles in the garden, while we had our photos taken. The sun was out, the champagne was flowing and we made the most of the beautiful surroundings. Once we rejoined the party, we gathered everyone under the walnut tree, as we had decided to do the speeches before the meal and outside. We totally made the right choice. In line with tradition Ben and his best man made a speech and then so did I. There was no way I wasn’t speaking at my own wedding! I thanked people, we gave gifts and then I talked about Ben and made everyone cry. As a good wedding speech should 😉 !

A great orator!

A wonderful orator!

Then Ben gave me a gift. No one has ever seen anyone get as excited about a kitchen gadget before or probably since!

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But it was a Kitchen Aid people!!!!!

When the tears were dried and the speeches all spoken, we returned to the barn, transformed into an elegant dining room, with round tables, escort cards, tall sprigs of cherry blossom (artificial, but hey what do you expect, it was June not April) and tables named after CSI Characters (Grissom being reserved from the wedding party. Obviously). We ate hog roast (except my sister who had a chicken roasted just for her!), roasted potatoes, several different salads and a beautiful vegetable tart, all accompanied by my own chutney. I may have to do a post about, what we affectionately call in our house, “Brides Chutney”, but it was based on Nigella’s Spiced Apple Chutney from How to be a Domestic Goddess. And the drinking relaxing began in earnest.

Our beautiful table setting, biscuit favours by Ben's Mum and Grandma!

Our beautiful table setting, biscuit favours by Ben’s Mum and Grandma!

Sitting down to dinner

Sitting down to dinner

A tower of chocolate cupcakes? Yes please!

A tower of chocolate cupcakes? Yes please!

Taking to the dance floor for our first dance to the beautiful  "Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones

Taking to the dance floor for our first dance to the beautiful “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones

Party Time

Party Time!

We waited such a long time to get married for several reasons. a) We felt we were too young to get married for the longest time, b) we didn’t really have a need to or c) if you believe my husbands speech he wasn’t sure he liked me! But really the reason was we didn’t want to compromise on the day. We knew the kind of wedding we wanted waaaay before we got engaged and knew we didn’t want anything else. We waited until we were in a position to give ourselves and our nearest and dearest the day we had in our heads. And by jingo we did. Would I do anything differently if we got married now. Absolutely. I’d run off to Vegas or something similar. I definitely wouldn’t spend 18 months stressing over every single tiny detail. Who has time for that? But then I’m not the girl I was in 2008. Would she do anything differently? Probably hire a different DJ and have her hair redone half way through the day. Because the stressing and planning and obsessing meant it was pretty damn perfect.

Thank you Ben for such a wonderful day. But mostly thank you for a wonderful life.

Mr & Mrs S 2008

Mr & Mrs S 2008

Mr & Mrs S 2015

Mr & Mrs S 2015

 

 

Diary of an Imperfect Mum
Mama-andmore

Bluestone Resort Wales – A Review

If you’re a regular reader or follow me on any social media, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to spend the week as a family in the beautiful countryside of Pembrokeshire, West Wales. I couldn’t believe it when Bluestone National Park Resort asked me if I’d like to bring the family to visit. Ben and I lived in Swansea from 2009-2011 and Wales (and the Welsh), hold a very special place in my heart. In fact I didn’t realise how special, until I blubbed going over the bridge. What am I like? I’ve wanted to take Oscar to Wales since he was born, and despite looking into it a couple of times, we’d just never found anywhere we thought could work for him and for us. I won’t lie to you when I say I was a little nervous. Oscar’s Autism means he can be unpredictable and Pembrokeshire was a long way to go for him to react badly (4.5 hours from our home in Surrey), but I can’t explain just how well everything went. It was as if Bluestone sprinkled a little bit of Welsh magic over all of us.

So we arrived on Monday after a straightforward journey, made all the easier by the iPad and a couple of Thomas and Friends films. Believe me when I say you get no badges for getting your children to their destination by singing and reading with them, when neither of these things work and a iPad strapped to the back of the headrest does. Check in starts at 4.30pm, which allowed Oscar to go to preschool in the morning and for us to arrive in time for check-in to be in full flow, which meant queuing in the car.

TOP TOP #1: If you can arrive earlier in the day, do. Although you can’t get in to your accommodation until 4.30, you can check in and use the park’s facilities, meaning you avoid the queues when everyone else arrives. This may be particularly useful if you have children who don’t deal well with queues.

Everyone arriving at the same time means some queing

Everyone arriving at the same time means some queuing to get into the park

Despite the short time queuing, the iPad did sterling work until we were able to get into our accommodation with no fuss and a warm welcome. And when we did we were so impressed. All accommodation at Bluestone is self catering lodges ranging from studios to those that sleep 14 people. As we had originally planned to go with friends, who then couldn’t join us, we had one of the gorgeous Grassholm Lodges, which sleep 8 people in three twin and one double room. This all came with three bathrooms, one of which was a wet room and one an ensuite. Having so much space was a luxury in itself, especially as we’re used to a two bedroom terrace cottage!

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Just one of the twin bedrooms. The boy already making his mark!

I was probably most excited about having a decent size kitchen for a change!

I was probably most excited about having a decent size kitchen for a change!

The kitchen really was incredibly thoughtfully equipped (I cooked dinner for Oscar every night and for Ben and I twice with no bother) and we both noted how all the electronics were such good makes. It’s the little things no? It’s worth mentioning that the lodges do not come with washing machines and there’s no laundry on site, so be sure to bring enough clothes for the duration.

TOP TIP #2 Kitchens have everything you’d expect in a modern luxury lodge, including a dishwasher. Bluestone kindly provide a welcome pack of kitchen essentials including dishcloths, tea towels and 3 dishwasher tablets. You can also buy packets of three tablets in the park shop for 1. I really wish I’d realised this before, so I wouldn’t have fretted about taking cloths and washing up liquid and would have packed a few of my own dishwasher tabs.

A helpful welcome in the kitchen

A helpful welcome in the kitchen

The lodge was so light and airy and the temptation was to just stay in, enjoying the space, but there was so much else to do on the park. On the first night (and subsequent evenings) Oscar was thrilled to make great use of the park’s pub garden and adventure playground. As I’m sure Ben was!

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So spacious and airy. Wonderful!

A quick evening tipple at the Knights Tafern

A quick evening tipple at the Knights Tafern

The Treehouse, withy all its bridge and tunnels was a great hit with Oscar. Not sure Ben enjoyed it quite as much!

The Treehouse, with all its bridges and tunnels was a great hit with Oscar. Not sure Ben enjoyed it quite as much!

The park is built around a central ‘village’, which has a grocery store, bakery/coffee shop, off license, gift shop, pub, various restaurants and a Spa. Ben and I are both big spa fans (hey, who isn’t?!) so we knew we wanted to try out Bluestone’s WellSpa, but we knew we wanted to go together. I’m sure the ability to share childcare was the reason we saw quite a few extended family groups around the park. Although we didn’t go in a group, Bluestone is totally set up for this kind of holiday, with large lodges and even interconnected ones! So because we were ‘sans grandma’, we booked Oscar into the Mini Adventure session. This was a three hour creche session for 0-3 year olds held in the Adventure Centre (they also run similar age appropriate activities for 4-7 year old and 8-12 year olds). I booked the session in advance and explained about Oscar’s Autism. The staff weren’t phased in the slightest, and assured me that they’d looked after autistic children before. I was also reassured to hear the creche was in a locked room, with a maximum of 6 children, with two members of staff. The worst that could happen is that he’d hate it and wouldn’t stay (or they’d have to call us to come get him, which they promised to do). Three hours and no call later, we picked up a very happy little boy, who’d done crafting, baking and played with trains. Best 24 I spent all holiday!

The Mini Adventure session was Space themed. Oscar had an amazing time!

The Mini Adventure session was Space themed. Oscar had an amazing time making his Alien!

While the boy was aliening it up, Ben and I made full use of the time to check out the Spa. The treatment list was extensive, but we chose to just relax together in the Thermal Suite. I loved the Brick Sauna and Ben liked the Herbal Steam Room and we both loved the heated outdoor plunge pool. What a treat!

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I was rather taken with the changing rooms!

The chill out area had a very apt name. Pronounced cutch for those of you not down with the Welsh language.

The chill out area had a very apt name. Pronounced “kutch” for those not down with the Welsh language.

Time together as a couple can be rare, but we loved that Bluestone gave us the opportunity to make the most of it. We loved the creche and we also booked a babysitter for the Wednesday night, through the park’s very friendly and helpful customer service team. Oscar sleeps well anyway, but I’ve never seen him go down so easily as I did on holiday. This meant by the time the babysitter arrived, he was fast off and we could enjoy our meal out. We chose the recently updated Oak Tree Restaurant, which mixes Italian inspiration with Welsh produce. The sharing plate starter we had with baked Perl Wen Cheese was a revelation! So good in fact I forgot to get a picture of it!

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So good it’s gone!

The Oak Tree was one of several places to eat on the park. The choice was appreciated and we ate in many of them over the week with prices being reasonable across the board (not something you always find when you’re a captive audience. This was also the case in the Village Stores with a great range of groceries available at everyday prices). Although we bought a lot of food with us, having done a shop the day before we arrived, we also ate out several times. The food we had all over the park was good and I particularly enjoy my flame roast mackerel, down in the woodland restaurant Camp Smokey. Such a unique venue, it’s nestled deep in the middle of the woods and all food is cooked over open fires, just like a real All American cookout! Had Oscar not had the only melt down of the week as we sat down to eat, we so would have be finishing our meal by toasting our own marshmallows! It was such a shame it didn’t work for him as the food was delicious. But one melt down all week? I’ll take that!

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Camp Smokey, for the full outdoor camp fire eating experience

Our best eating experience of the week, had to be in the Wild Wood Cafe. We had been for a walk on the nature trail, after Oscar had woken that morning and still in his pyjamas declared he wanted to go for a walk by telling us ‘shoes’ and ‘buggy’. It was a beautiful day so we headed to the Nature Trail followed by a walk round the lake.

TOP TIP #3 The nature trail is beautiful and I highly recommend it. However be aware that it’s not a gentle stroll. Anyone with mobility issues would struggle and while we coped with our trusty 3 wheel Out n About 360, a lesser buggy (particularly the fold up umbrella style) would not make it. Slings or walking might be best.

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On the trail

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This was the easy bit!

After a super morning’s walk we headed over to the Adventure Centre, a building the size of a small leisure centre bursting at the seams with fun. We spent some time in the main room, playing on the bouncy castle, with the lego and in the soft play area but mainly having a good old explore. We also spent some time that afternoon in the Circus Room, an entire room devoted to the joy of Under 5s. They use the room for paid for Toddler Sensory sessions, but on the day we visited it was free to use all day. The boy found his new favourite toy in the ride on roller coaster – he’d have taken it home with him if he could!

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Jump!

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Lego Zone. Cool wall, but its missing something…

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Yeah that’s better

The AMAZING Circus Room. Soft Play and Sensory for the Under 5s. and we had the place to ourselves!

The AMAZING Circus Room. Soft Play and Sensory for the Under 5s. and we had the place to ourselves!

Oscar's favourite part of the week I think!

Oscar’s favourite part of the week I think!

When it came time to think about lunch we decided to try the Adventure Centre’s own restaurant, the Wild Wood Cafe. Oscar’s historically been good at eating out, but since he’s been too big for a high chair he struggles to sit and not want to get down for long enough. Add to the fact that this was all new to him, I had no high hopes for this lunch. However, I didn’t bargain on the wonderful atmosphere of the Wild Wood Cafe. As the name may suggest it’s made up to look like an enchanted wood. The lights are dimmed and the seating design really imaginative. Lunch in a bird’s nest anyone? We took Oscar in and let him have a run round exploring everything. As everyone else in there was also a parent of a small child no one batted an eyelid! The room was presided over by an enormous tree and Oscar was very taken with the throne. Yes they have a throne, which is used in the regular interactive dinner shows! They sound like awesome fun, just not for Oscar yet. Anyway after a look around he came and sat down, waited for his dinner and ate it whilst sitting the whole time! I make a big deal of this as it’s the first time he’s ever done this since outgrowing the highchair. The food was delicious (Ben was so impressed at how good his Steak Baguette was) and if you’re visiting with small children I urge you to take them at least once. It’s one of my favourite memories from the week 🙂

Have dinner in an Enchanted Forest

Have dinner in an Enchanted Forest

It sure enchanted my boy. Here he is, sitting and eating!

It sure enchanted my boy. Here he is, sitting and eating! Notice the throne in the background!

When I asked Ben what his favourite memory of the trip was, he said without a doubt the peace. Bluestone is set in 500 acres of beautiful Welsh National Park and the fact that cars are parked away from the lodges once they’re unloaded meant the pace of life on the park was a relaxed one. You can hire golf buggies to use during your stay. We decided not to this time, however if we’d been with a bigger group or anyone with mobility issues these would have been a life saver, as the park itself is rather hilly. The wildlife was everywhere and tame as you like, which thrilled Oscar as his new words that week were ‘bird’ and ‘animal’!

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View from our bedroom window the day we arrived

Ducks on the lake

Ducks on the lake

Our love of the Welsh countryside meant that we couldn’t go all that way and not explore the surrounding area, just a little. There were so many things to see and do close to Bluestone, but living in a landlocked county meant I desperately wanted to go to the beach. On recommendation from a friend back home, we broke with tradition and eschewed the popular Tenby, heading instead for Barafundle Bay, 30 minutes drive away. Now I wouldn’t recommend this beach for everyone. It’s sheltered and quiet, yes, but that’s partly because it’s only accessible via a half mile walk across the cliff tops and then down a long steep stone stair case.

TOP TIP #4 The guides say this beach is not accessible by buggies and to some extent they are right. However, if you really, really wanted to you could take your buggy most of the way and stash it in the bushes at the top of the steps, as we saw one couple do that day.

Oscar’s never really been to the beach and choosing Barafundle Bay was something of a risk. Not being able to take the buggy, being half a mile of difficult terrain away from the car, we could absolutely have chosen another location. But we would absolutely have missed out on the most amazing experience. Oscar walked/ran excitedly just ahead of us almost the whole way there. I think he appreciated the freedom, but not once did he make a dash for it (to be fair we were on high alert and had he shown any signs of bolting we would have scooped him up and high tailed it back to the car.) We thoroughly enjoyed the walk there and when we arrived? Well! No wonder it’s been voted Best Picnic Spot in the UK and in the Top 12 Beaches in the World before now.

With the wind at his heels! And in his hair!

With the wind at his heels! And in his hair!

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Me and my guy

Woah.

The BEAUTIFUL Barafundle Bay

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The steps down to the bay

No trip to the beach would be complete without a castle!

No trip to the beach would be complete without a castle!

What a day! And we totally chose the best day of the week for the weather too. The day we came to leave was dreary and reflected completely the way we were feeling. So sad to say goodbye to such a wonderful place. Although we had to check out at 10am, we were able to use the facilities until 3pm. This being the case we packed up the car with everything but our swim things and headed over to the Blue Lagoon. It’s everything you’d expect of a pleasure pool and had a great toddler/baby area. At least I thought it was great. Oscar enjoyed it but was tempted by the big pool soon enough. He’s quite confident in the water, but can’t swim and would not wear any kind of flotation device, which meant it was a very tiring experience for me. He LOVED the wave machine and the fountains and even went down the lazy river with me, but in the end I had to call time on the swimming. I just couldn’t keep up with him! I think if he’d been older he would have been in there every day. As it was I’m glad we tried it, but I’m not sorry we only went the once.

The Blue Lagoon Pool

The Blue Lagoon Pool

To be honest though there’s little we did more than once. The playground maybe, or getting ice creams from the Bakery. We were there Monday to Friday and we only got to sniff what Bluestone is about. But what we saw made us all happier than I could have imagined. The facilities were exactly what we needed as a family and the staff unremittingly helpful, friendly and good humoured (even the guy cutting the lawn on the ride on mower gave Oscar a big smile and a thumbs up when he saw him watching!) We couldn’t have asked for anything more. Would we go back. Yes. Definitely. Wales will always have a special place in my heart and Bluestone is a great place to visit what was once our adopted home.

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Heaven

We would like to say a massive thank you to Bluestone National Park Resort for generously providing us with accommodation in return for this review.

I was not paid to write this review and as always opinions are my own.

Please check out www.bluestonewales.com for more information.

You can also find Bluestone on Twitter and Facebook

 

 

 

The Boy Makes…Apple & Pear Almond Crumble

OK so this is a teensy bit of a cheat in the ‘The Boy Makes’ series. Oscar did indeed help me make this, but only parts of it (for reasons that will become clear). However, this is my first foray into a completely new, throw it together and see what happens recipe and as such I couldn’t not include it here. Plus once you taste it, you’ll thank me forever more!

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So a crumble you say. Usually the reserve of Autumnal feasts and its true it does have a taste of the colder weather about it, but it came about because I had a load of fruit that was lying bruised in my fruit bowl. Apples and Pears were what I had so Apple and Pear something it had to be. I chose a crumble because although Ben loves a crumble (as do I) what with one thing and a Slimming World I haven’t made one for ages. It’s not exactly a health food now is it, but I can tell you now making nothing else makes me feel as mumly or wifely or as god damn gorgeous in the kitchen!

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Spot the missing ingredient!

Ingredients

  • Three ripe pears
  • Two large ripe eating apples
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 50g cold hard unsalted butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds (I used whole ones blitzed in the processor but you could use ready chopped ones)

For the fruit filling

  1. Peel and chop the fruit into quarters. Core and slice each quarter thinly. This is difficult to have a three year old help with so I did this before he joined in
  2. Put the fruit into a mixing bowl and add cinnamon and maple syrup. Stir well
  3. Pour the contents into a suitably homely pie dish
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool

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For the topping

  1. Cube the cold butter and add to the flour
  2. Rub the butter and flour between the pads of your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs (or as near as damned). Remember as you rub the butter and flour together, to lift it out of the bowl. This adds air and a crispness later. Again this was tricky for the boy to be involved with but he enjoyed watching me!
  3. Stir through the sugar
  4. If you are using whole almonds, blitz them in the food processor until evenly chopped. If using chopped almonds open the packet!
  5. Stir the almonds through the crumb mixture
  6. Tip the crumb mixture over cooled fruit and bake at 200C or Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes

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Serve as you see fit. I like to serve mine with vanilla ice cream (something about the contrast between hot and cold is just mouth watering), but you could use cream, custard or nothing at all!

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Et voila. The very best crumble I have ever eaten. I’m sorry Mum and I’m sorry to both of my Nanna’s, but it really is that good.

I leave the recipe with you, jealous that you get to try it for the first time and hope you love it as much as I do.

You’re very welcome 😉

 

The Boy Makes…The Best GF Banana Bread Ever!

I’ve not had much luck with gluten free cakes so far. They’ve been OK, pleasant enough I suppose and Oscar’s been happy enough to wolf them all down, so they can’t have been that bad. But I don’t know, they just didn’t taste quite right, if you know what I mean. So I decided to give our family favourite a gluten free make over and see if I couldn’t make a really good gf cake.

Ben’s absolute favourite cake is Chocolate Banana Bread. It’s a slightly tinkered with version of this Nigella staple and I’ve made it many times. It’s great fun to make, primarily because I love squishing the bananas, and so I thought Oscar would enjoy it too. We gave it a go two weeks ago and it was such a roaring success, with everyone who tried it, that we’ve made three more since. And not one has hung around for long! It has a moist quality I’ve not found in other gf cakes and using good size overly ripe fruit gives it a wonderful banana sweetness.

So just for you this is our gf version of the best banana bread you’ll ever taste.

As in previous recipes we used my Kitchen Aid, but you could also do this by hand.

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  • 175 grams plain gluten free flour (we use Doves Farm)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  • 2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder (we use Waitrose Cooks Ingredient Baking Powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 good size ripe bananas (the riper the better!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line tin with baking parchment

Line tin with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/gas mark 3/325 F.
  2. Mash the bananas with a fork until a smooth puree and leave to one side.
  3. Put the GF flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bow and mix well.
  4. Melt the butter. I do this by microwaving in short bursts.
  5. Add the melted butter and sugar to the mixer bowl and beat until blended. Beat in one egg at a time, then add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.
  6. With the mixer on slow, add a third of the flour mixture at a time, mixing well each time.
  7. Pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake for 1-11/4 hours.
  8. Leave in the tin to cool for half an hour before inverting cake onto cooling rack and peeling off the paper.
Reminds me of weaning!

Reminds me of weaning!

 

Mix the dry ingredients together

Mix the dry ingredients together

 

Beat wet ingredients, then add flour mix a third at a time

Beat wet ingredients, then add flour mix a third at a time

 

Have a toddler that gets bored half way through and leaves you too it. Hey what? Hang on this is supposed to be The Boy Makes... not leave poor mama to it!

Have a toddler that gets bored half way through and leaves you too it. Hey what? Hang on this is supposed to be ‘The Boy Makes…’ not ‘Leave poor mama to it…’!

 

Leaving to cool is the hardest part!

Leaving to cool is the hardest part!

 

Inverted cake, now ready to cut.

Inverted cake, now ready to cut.

We assume it lasts well for a few days in an airtight container blah blah blah….. It’s only lasted a few days wrapped in foil in our house. Absolutely delicious when the boy’s gone to bed, sliced thickly, warmed in the microwave and severed with Vanilla Ice Cream!

Oh there he is!

Oh there he is! My little grubby chops!

 

BakedPotato Mummy
Free From Farmhouse

Slimming World Update – Week 91/92

Hi there

How’s your week been? Or should I say weeks? Yeah sorry about that. Symptomatic of the wider issue I feel. That’ll make sense in a minute.

Anyway, last night’s weigh in was a gain, same as the week before. Well, you know, that’s what you get from eating home made biscuits and cheesecake and banana bread and ice cream and crumble (Crimble Crumble for your FND fans!) and drinking wine and beer. It’s not rocket science guys. I didn’t gorge. I just ate. Ate things I wanted to and had missed. Ate and drank socially and in good company. Ate because my will not too has left the building.

Because you see I just don’t care as much as I used to. But then I’m dealing with stuff every day I didn’t used to. My meals are all healthy and planned and delicious, but what comes in between is not. The first few days of every week (after weigh in) are positive and thoughtful, but then something happens or something slips and the rest of the week falls into the abyss too. I’ve heard about people talk about this feeling but until fairly recently this wasn’t me. I could live my life the way I wanted and still lose weight. But something’s changed. People tell me all the time how well I’ve done and I don’t know if that’s wonderful or awful. On one had it’s lovely reminder to give myself a little pat on the back, but on the other hand it makes me feel dreadful because I know I haven’t come as far as I set out to. I want to feel that high of getting off the scales with a well earned loss, I do. I just don’t want it enough at the moment.

And there in lies the problem.

I still weigh more than most people who join ever will. But I can wear clothes I never dreamed of and look better than I ever thought I would. I’m not saying I’m giving up and going back to how life used to be (seriously I’m not OK!) I’m just kind of happy bimbling along here for a bit. And that’s why last night, after a fantastic discussion with my consultant and my group, I’ve decided to reset my target to 6 stone loss and maintain for a bit. Slimming World allow you to reset your target to anything you feel comfortable with at any time in your journey and I just think I’m not nearly focussed enough to push myself forward at the moment. But staying here? That I can do.

I don’t want you to think me a failure. I honestly never considered this an option before (trying to maintain), but once we talked about it, it just felt right. For me. For now. I’ve come to dread every weigh in, mostly because I know I have to write about it. I know it’s only pressure I’m heaping on myself, no one else is making me feel this way, but removing that pressure from a life that has plenty of other stuff going on (new, uncharted, scary, sad stuff) seems not a bad thing to do right now.

As my plan is to stay at target for a while, these posts could get awful boring. So I’ve decided to give the updates a rest. I still write plenty of other stuff you can read, should you feel inclined, but unless I have something positive and interesting to say I wont be writing the weekly updates for a while. I hope you can understand.

So long and thanks for all the fish

xxxx