Tuesday 23 December 2014

2014: A Year of New

So. We got busy. So busy I haven't updated the blog for about 4 months. Babies really do take over your life! Time for the yearly round up and to see just what happened to House of Peartree in 2014.


When I left off last year we had just completed the purchase of our new house. January 2014 is all about moving in and unpacking: cardboard box after cardboard box is unpacked and our new territory is explored. The first commute - we misjudge and have to stand up until Tottenham. Aargh - have we moved to a nightmare commute? Luckily not. Amusement that the Stansted Express has a trolley service, even when it is packed with commuters and there is noreal room for any trolley to make its way down the train.

Actually, January is not all about moving. We discover that Family Peartree will be growing in the autumn. This is our Otto - so-named because baby will be due in October. Nervous and excited.


Making plans for the future: ordering furniture, booking our first midwife appointment. Is this really happening? It seems so - pregnancy sickness in full swing, particularly during the morning commute (sorry, Liverpool Street travellers). Secretive second breakfasts, furtive making of herbal teas in the office to avoid awkward questions.


Hard decisions about work choices. I have been on a temporary contract on a lower than desirable salary, and there has been far too much dithering as to whether the firm will make my contract permanent. How long do I wait? Is it worth the daily sickness travelling in, sitting at my desk feeling sick half the morning, suspecting that if the firm knows I'm pregnant they could easily find a reason not to extend my contract?

A week off - various pregnancy appointments, a new car and painting what is going to be the nursery.

Cake with AOW ladies - always a happy experience and it's lovely when we get to meet up in real life. I can't help but let slip to one friend our news of Otto. It's lovely how happy she is for us.

Our first scan - there really is a little wriggling human in there. Little arms and legs and everything. We are in delighted awe. I can't help but laugh as the sonographer constantly refers to our 'active baby'.

Finally getting to tell our families and friends - seeing their delighted faces and receiving happy messages. It's weird knowing that the secret we've been keeping since January is fully out in the open. Maybe not that fully, as I am still hiding it from work colleagues.

Eventually deciding to hand in my notice - working up the nerve to send 'that' email.


New books to read courtesy of the #AOWBookSwap again - this time from a lovely lady called Katrina who sends me two books and some Easter chocolate. The latter soon disappears. I love being part of a wonderful community of such smart, brilliant, friendly women.

Last day at work - scary. My colleagues are far nicer than expected and there are gifts and a card. I alternate between fear that I will struggle to find another job in the future and (following another bout of sickness) relief that I won't need to face the train journey any more.


Our first wedding anniversary - celebrated with a weekend in Norfolk. It mostly rains, but we head out for a drive during the brief hour or so of sunlight and stumble across a cafe serving amazing fish finger sandwiches.

We also go for afternoon tea and walk round the grounds of our wedding reception venue. We pop into the hall on our way past - the place feels alive with the ghosts of our wedding. I can picture where everyone was sitting. It's wonderful to relive the day and focus on how far we have come.
Our second scan. The little person is growing well, there are fingers and toes and a spine and organs. It's magical to see, and a relief that everything is still ok. I am still being sick so it is nice to relax and not to have to get out of the house first thing every morning.


A holiday in the south of France, our last before Otto arrives. It is very hot, and not hugely relaxing, but it's good to have the time together. We mostly go swimming, wander round Avignon and eat a lot of icecream.


An appointment with a physiotherapist to try and tackle the pelvic girdle pain which has overtaken sickness/nausea as the most annoying pregnancy symptom. Walking is getting pretty painful.

New task: driving lessons. As the sickness has more or less gone, and I'm short of much else to do with my time except relax, I decide that now would be a good time to tackle the lack of driving licence in my life. Can I do this before Otto arrives?


 Driving theory test passed - hurrah! Booking practical test and I have to pick a date in mid September. I will be over 38 weeks pregnant. This is a crazy idea, surely?!

Celebrating 5 years of Team Peartree by heading into London for a very tasty afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair. We wander round Green Park for a bit, reliving one of our first dates from back in 2009.

NCT classes - meeting fellow pregnant couples from the area. Feeling nervous at first, but they're all really nice and we seem to get on well.


A new role at work for Alan, who is busy with the handover of old responsibilities and learning about the new.

Lunch with the NCT ladies - by the time this happens one of the babies has already arrived and the next one is due the following week. It's all starting to happen!

We have decorators in to transform the ground floor rooms from their bland white before Otto arrives. I spend a fortnight making coffee and putting biscuits out. The decorators are lovely and do a fantastic job. The house is starting to take shape.

A quiet birthday for me - we have cake, homemade by Alan (and delicious!) and a takeaway.

Day of the Driving Test approaches. I am so nervous, especially after having had a practice session the day before which seems to go disastrously. The test itself goes well, and I perform the best reverse round a corner of my life. This is the maneouvre I was dreading so once that's over and I know it was good I can relax a bit and just drive. Test PASSED! I can hardly believe it.

That's it, we're ready for Otto. As ready as you can be when you feel like you're revising for an exam but the teacher hasn't covered half the syllabus. I try to relax, taking the opportunity for lots of long baths and devouring whole books within a couple of days.

Otto is actually Helena! She arrives just before 1am on 12 October, weighing 8lb10.5oz, to the sounds of the Bob Harris show on Radio 2. We don't get the home birth we were planning for, but it doesn't matter. We are parents. We have a daughter.

A week on, and we are readmitted to hospital because I have an infection. We spend three days camped in a side room on the postnatal ward - thank goodness Helena and Alan are allowed to stay with me. We think we are lucky to have a room on our own - it turns out this is standard for readmissions so that new babies and parents aren't exposed to the risk of infection. Disappointing but hey, we still enjoy the private space.

The rest of the month passes in a blur of getting used to having a new little person in our lives. She is beautiful, but this is hard.


 Things settle down a bit and we get into more of a routine. Alan's birthday, again quieter this year but I still manage to bake a birthday cake. A weekend of food, going out for lunch on Saturday and then homecooked fajitas and icecream sundaes the next day. A fun evening spent with family at home rather than in a restaurant this year.


 Alan has a week off work - we go Christmas shopping in Cambridge and then buy our Christmas tree, a little early this year but we're too excited as it's our first Christmas in our new house, and our first Christmas as a trio rather than a couple. It all feels far more festive this year as we decorate the house, making notes for next year when we will be more established. Helena loves the shiny baubles and wants to look at them constantly.

Our neighbours invite us round for Christmassy drinks - everyone coos over Helena who is entanced by the roaring fire and then falls asleep.

We've been here for nearly a year, and it's been amazing to be able to start building our family and our forever home. We are already making plans spanning next year and beyond.

Merry Christmas everyone - and a very happy 2015 to you.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Joys of Afternoon Tea

August Bank Holiday this year marks five years since Alan and I met (technically 31 August but it's so much more fun to celebrate when there's an extra day to do it!). In some ways, it seems strange. Five years already?! On the other hand, how can it have been only five years? Either way, it seemed like a good excuse for a bit of a celebration.

In previous years, we've gone for a visit back to where we had our first date - at the Tate Modern. Although neither of us is that keen on modern art, it really brought us together that first day as we sat talking over plenty of tea/coffee in the cafe, followed by a wander round some of the crazy exhibits, and we love repeating the experience and looking out for any exhibits we remember from back then.

This year, being pretty heavily pregnant (34 weeks!) we thought something less energetic might be in order. Obvious answer? Afternoon tea.

Last year my excellent Maid of Honour Phillipa organised a fantastic afternoon at The Chesterfield Mayfair for part of my hen party. I came home raving about the food and service at the time, and had spent the last year telling Alan I wanted to take him back there. So, booking made and off we went. I was a little bit nervous - you know when you've built something up in your mind and then you start worrying that maybe it wasn't as good as you thought you remembered it? But I needn't have worried.

We were greeted by a smiling waitress who congratulated us on MiniPearTree and was very excited to hear how soon our due date was. We were seated in the conservatory area, a lovely light room with lots of greenery and a waiter came along to take us through the extensive menu.

The afternoon tea on offer seems to change fairly regularly - for my hen party last year most of us chose a traditional champagne afternoon tea but there was also a chocolate themed tea along with both vegetarian and gluten-free afternoon tea options. This time round, the main afternoon tea on offer was 'Afternoon Bee', with honey from the hotel's own bees and a range of cakes also incorporating honey.

Two things I always look for in a good afternoon tea are the variety of teas on offer and the sandwiches - I love a place which offers something a little bit different from/additional to the standard cucumber/egg mayonnaise.

The Chesterfield doesn't disappoint on either count. The list of teas is both extensive and diverse - I chose the Elderflower and Lemon Verbena which has been brought in especially for the Afternoon Bee, while Alan chose the Chesterfield Chocolate Tea, which as the waiter explained was introduced as an accompaniment for the chocolate themed tea last year but was kept on the menu due to popular demand.

Both teas were absolutely delicious - mine was light, citrusy and refreshing and Alan's was like a beautifully smooth and light hot chocolate but without the usual cloying heavy sweetness.

Sandwiches - ahhh, the sandwiches. In my opinion the Chesterfield offers the best afternoon tea sandwiches around. The egg mayonnaise came with watercress on basil bread to add extra dimensions, the ham and cheese came with generous layers of both, along with red onion chutney and onion bread. Our favourite by far though was the chicken with grain mustard mayonnaise and almonds - delicate but zingy. I hope they keep those on the menu.

We were offered more sandwiches of our choice (which we accepted enthusiastically, both opting for some more chicken and a sneaky extra ham and cheese for me) and more scones (which we were sad to turn down), along with lots of top ups of tea, which of course is an essential!

We really enjoyed the scones, although by the time we'd finished working our way through the sandwiches the scones (one plain and one fruit each) were no longer as warm as they probably were to begin with. The accompanying jam and cream were both simple and fresh.

We only sampled a couple of the cakes before admitting defeat - the chocolate honeycomb in particular was dreamy, like a delicately smooth Crunchie bar. The chocolate mousse flowerpot with chocolate soil, little flowers and a tiny sugarpaste bee was very cute, if a little rich for my tastes. Best in small doses!

The hotel was more than happy to let us take the remaining cakes home in a box (always a sign of excellent customer service!), and the kitchen even added a couple of extras of our favourites for us. They also presented us with a little teddy bear in honour of MiniPearTree which was such a lovely gesture. We've named him Chester and he's sitting on the mantelpiece waiting for cuddles in October!

Mmmm, cake...

We're already looking forward to making plans to go back next year, possibly with MiniPearTree - I believe the hotel will be offering a festive tea over Christmas and will then change again in January, so lots of variety. Highly recommended - there's a reason this place has won prizes from the Tea Guild.

This isn't a sponsored post and noone asked me to write this review - we just had a fantastic experience and wanted to let others know.

Friday 18 July 2014

Notes on Growing a Small Thing - 23-28 weeks

The Tuesday just gone marked our 28 weeks point - which as Alan calculated means we're now just over 70% of the way through this pregnancy and well into the third trimester. Time seems to both flying and standing still and there are still (or only!) 12 weeks to go if baby plays ball with being on time.

I haven't taken that many bump pictures - originally I was going to do one a week but it didn't quite happen like that. But here's one at 27+3:

I finally took the plunge at 25 weeks and went to see the GP about both the sickness and the pelvic girdle pain. He was very helpful and referred me straight to a physiotherapist for the pain, and gave me some antacids to see if that would get rid of the sickness. Dear me but Gaviscon really is disgusting, so I've only managed to make myself have the odd spoonful here and there. Luckily my lax approach to this has still had an effect and although the nausea still hangs around I haven't been sick for just over three weeks now. I'm happy with that!

Apart from getting tired a lot more easily, the last few weeks have made me feel much more normal and I've managed to get more done around the house (It's ok to still be unpacking from a house move after 6 months, right?). I'm even restarting driving lessons in a bid to get that test passed before October. This may be a bit optimistic but I want to give it a go now I'm feeling so much better!

The pelvic pain is unfortunately something that won't go away fully until at least October and just has to be managed until then. I'll write a separate post about this and the various management techniques as I was never even aware SPD existed until I started getting it.

Since my last post, we've bought some more sensible baby items (along with some more cute sleepsuits, socks etc obviously!). We now have a cot and dresser/changing top in the nursery, and have ordered our pram (the Uppababy Vista in green). We only really looked at two or three pram models in real life in the end - the others were the M&P Mylo2 and the Uppababy Cruz - but if you are looking for a pram I would really recommend having a read of this post and the comments on Florence Finds, which helped to cement our decision as there were so many positive comments on the Vista.

House-wise we've made progress too - we have a new sofa for the front room and wardrobes for our bedroom. Having painted our bedroom and the nursery, the rest of the house started looking very plain and white so we're desperate to get some colour into the ground floor rooms now. We've finally chosen and ordered colours for the front room, back reception room and the hallway/landings and the decorator is coming at the beginning of September. We knew we wouldn't be able to paint the landing ourselves as the ceilings are so high and then thought we might as well get the two main reception rooms done at the same time. Let's just hope baby stays put until after it's all finished!

Finally, I don't know if it's a growth spurt or down to the hot weather, but baby has turned into a real squirm this last week, hardly stopping with his kicks, prods and tumbles! I really love feeling the movements but sometimes it can take over everything you're doing. Last night Alan and I were talking before bed when out of nowhere baby kicked me so hard it made me jump! Baby has also gone all sweet in his/her tastes this week - Haribo sweets plus chocolate buttons is currently a winning combination (thanks Alan for a detour to the supermarket yesterday!) - as are ice lollies, but then I imagine most people, pregnant or not, are craving ice lollies at the moment!

Now, please excuse me while I go and stand in front of the freezer...

Monday 2 June 2014

Notes on Growing a Small Thing - Second Trimester

So. We're now at 22 weeks and time is moving quickly! We have about one month left before we get into the third and final trimester, so here's some reflections on the last couple of months.

I can't lie, there are a lot of times I've found pregnancy hard work, especially the first half of the second trimester - perhaps because I was partly expecting some kind of magical transition from sickness to bouncy maternal glowiness, and that just didn't happen. No energy surge here. I did have the luxury of finishing work at around 17 weeks (for non pregnancy related reasons) which, to be honest, has been wonderful, particularly as the nausea and sickness has always been worse in the mornings so not having to commute to a rigid timetable has been really useful. Nonetheless, up until around 20 weeks I was still being sick at least once a day every day, and that does get tiring. Happily since then it's died down a lot, although (as I found this morning!) the sickness does still rear its head every now and then!

Added to this, over the last couple of weeks I've been experiencing various levels of pelvic girdle pain (also known as symphisis pubis disfunction). This is a phenomenon affecting the joint and ligaments around the pelvis during pregnancy, and causes radiating pain around the same area, particularly when doing things like walking, moving quickly, turning over in bed and getting out of the car. You have to change the way you approach movements - sleeping with extra cushions, getting a bit of support and standing up slowly etc, and since I've done that it's got more bearable. Walking for more than about 5-10 minutes (particularly without a husbandly arm to hang on to!) is getting to be a bit of a no-no though - now is the time to be glad that our house isn't too far from town!

I realise a lot of the above sounds pretty negative, so I should also point out that I am finally starting to enjoy being pregnant. The bump started to appear at around 20 weeks and has popped out a little bit more the last week or so - it's fascinating to see.

We've also had our 20 week scan which was lovely as it felt like a very long time since the last scan so it's easy to let your imagination get carried away. We had the scan at 9am and MiniPearTree was not impressed by that - he was curled up in a corner as far away as possible and didn't want to budge. I did feel quite guilty having to jiggle up and down trying to get him to move - in the end I had to lie on my side so the sonographer could pick up measurements! We did get to see the tiny limbs (miniature waving fingers! eeek!) and he was opening and closing his mouth too which was amazing to see.

The scan results were all fine so we've allowed ourselves to start thinking more seriously about the nursery and buying bits for the baby. The first thing we ended up buying was a car seat (how responsible of us) and a couple of baby gros (frivolous but who can resist the cuteness of Pirate Duck (from JoJoMamanBebe) and a Star Wrap (from Tuppence and Crumble)?!). We will now buy some more sensible things... honest!
By far the best thing about the last few weeks has been starting to feel MiniPearTree move around. Up until now, it's mostly been just after lunch, during episodes of Pointless and in the evening as I get into bed, although the last couple of days he's been pretty active at all sorts of times of the day (hello 5am, we meet again...) with some pretty hefty kicking going on every so often. It's a strange sensation but one I've got used to very quickly, and already I think I'm going to miss the movements after October - it's rather wonderful lying in bed really early in the morning knowing that it's our baby making those movements.

As the second trimester comes to an end, I certainly feel a lot more positive about being pregnant but I'm not sure I'm one of those women who has a magical maternal time and feels like their entire purpose is to be pregnant. Much as I don't want to wish the summer away I'm looking forward to October and having a newborn far more.

[Disclaimer: I should also add that all references to 'he' in this post and any others are for illustrative purposes only - we have no idea whether MiniPearTree is a girl or a boy and couldn't have found out if we'd wanted as he kept curling up and crossing his legs, so all will be revealed in October!]

Saturday 10 May 2014

One Year Ago

We did this



It's been a busy year - marriage, a new job for me, packing and moving house twice (and more house viewings than is good for anyone) and our latest adventure along the path to parenthood. But it's also been wonderful - full of happiness, laughter and planning for the future. So thank you Alan for a wonderful first year of married life - and here's to many many more.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Wedding Rings - Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design

As we're coming up to our first wedding anniversary (What? A year already?! Afraid so...) we thought we would send our rings for an anniversary polish while we take a weekend away. Although it'll mean we don't have our rings for our anniversary, we do have cheap 'travel rings' for holidays so won't be completely ring-less.

I never did write a post about our rings so now seems to be a good time.

We knew we wanted our wedding rings to (a) reflect us and (b) be a little bit different, and we searched for a long time to find what we wanted. We thought a vine leaf engraving pattern with a stone in the middle would be interesting, and eventually we came up with a design on the back of the Evening Standard on the way home from work one evening (wedding planning tip - always keep pen and paper in your handbag!). We decided that as the main colour in our wedding would be blue, sapphires in our rings would reflect that.

Our first stop was the place we bought my engagement ring, as the lady who helped us design it was so lovely and helpful and we had loved the result.

A shame, then, that the experience this time round was so awful. The man we spoke to was of the 'yes this is what you want, most people have one like this' conveyor belt attitude and it made us feel unspecial and rushed. Alan had never worn a ring before and really wanted to try lots of different shapes and thicknesses, and this guy just wasn't interested. We had also decided we wanted some engraving, and were told that unless we had the exact specific design, they couldn't do it in case we didn't like it.


Some friends of ours recommended Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design for personal designed jewellery so having spend hours browsing her website in excitement we decided to make an appointment. We chose the branch near Hertford - they also have a workshop up in Cambridge.

They were running really late, which wasn't a good start and made us nervous as they shut at 4pm on a Saturday. However, they did make us plenty of drinks and certainly didn't seem to be clockwatching as we were there far later than 4pm in the end.

We met Sarah, one of the designers and explained what we were looking for. She was fantastic and both Alan and I were able to ask plenty of questions and try on lots of different types of rings. She drew out our design in a much more technical fashion than my bit of newspaper for us to approve, did lots of different costings based on various factors such as metals, stones. We even got to look at and examine the different sapphires and choose which ones we wanted.

This was great fun until the tweezers went 'ping' as I was holding them. Cue five or six people in utter silence, on hands and knees looking for a tiny tiny blue sapphire on the floor. Luckily it was found - I've rarely been so embarrassed!

We left the workshop at well past 6pm and were really pleased that they'd stayed open for us. We were already looking forward to seeing our rings!

When we finally picked up our rings just before Christmas 2012, we were overjoyed. We were blown away that they'd managed to make our little design and associated ramblings into two beautiful rings, with no fuss and plenty of creativity. Amazing.


We've since been back to the workshop a couple of times for resizing and polishing and we've always been made to feel so welcome. I love visiting their workshop - some of the pieces on display are stunning. If you want a special piece of jewellery made, I would highly recommend Harriet Kelsall Jewellery.

Not sponsored in any way - we just love our wedding rings so much it was time we shared them with you.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Making a House a Home - The Master Bedroom Stage 1

Doing some DIY on Easter weekend? Living the cliché!

After the success of painting the "spare room" we turned out attention to the master bedroom.
We worked our way through a number of swatches, and finally settled on Farrow & Ball, Chappell Green.

The bedroom is north-facing, so we hoped this colour would bring some life to the room without making it feel dark.

Our blank canvas

This paint requires a base-coat and two top-coats - a daunting prospect, even without the four day weekend. Like with the first room the wallpaper here was very shiny, which meant that it took two base-coats before we were happy to continue.

All this work - just for a base-coat

We almost wondered why a base-coat was needed. Surely it would only make sense if we were painting over a strong original colour, but with this room originally being white it seemed a little unnecessary. I'm glad that we stuck with it - the base-coat covered up the shiny wallpaper and helped the top-coat to stick better.

The finished room

We're really happy with the final product. It took most of the weekend to get one top-coat on though, so we had to finish off a week later.

The toughest part was the edging. The plastering underneath isn't the smoothest, and the join between the wall and the ceiling / skirting board is bumpy. Every time we tried to get the brush or roller closer to the edge we ended up getting paint over the line. After a while of getting very frustrated we decided to leave a small gap in the painting.

Frustrating gap at the top!

The plan is to look into getting some coving, and hope that this covers the gap! Otherwise we'll break out the masking tape and work our way around slowly.

The finished product
We have a new bed arriving next week, and are looking forward to having the new room come together.