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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Cake, cake and ... more cake!

So this week seems to have turned into a cake frenzy!
 
I decided to invite a couple of friends over this week and naturally made a big chocolate cake. In our small group at church that meets every Thursday evening we rotate who makes cake each week - it was our week so I doubled up and made two chocolate cakes at the same time. (I currently have RIDICULOUS amounts of chocolate buttercream in our fridge!)
 
We also have an event on at church and I was asked to make some cupcakes for it, so I am currently "mid batch" - I have 24 cakes cooling, 24 in the oven, and likely to have at least another 12 in once these come out.
 
As we are out tomorrow night at our small group, that means I have all of Friday evening to ice and decorate the cupcakes ready for collection on Saturday morning.
 
The best thing about making cakes is that you can ALWAYS make someones day, whether it's a "surprise knock on the door delivery", a "do you fancy a SLAB of cake!?" or helping out at a local event. Cake making is VERY easy once you know how, and with a bit of practice you can quickly find your speciality.
 
I have to say (unless it's a complete disaster) that I LOVE making cakes. There is no better feeling than having baked to your hearts content, to produce a wonderfully decorated cake for an occasion. It's also a really good and thrifty way of making presents.
 
There's nothing more rewarding than watching my mum open a tin of lovingly baked cakes, the twinkle in her eyes and the "Ok, just one more then...!" that comes with it. Below are a few of my favourites, and I haven't even really started making the themed childrens cakes yet!
 
Why not have a try at a new cake recipe this week, you might create a new favourite!







Sunday, 27 January 2013

War Paint

This morning as I was putting on my make up, I was thinking about how we constantly face feelings of inadequacy in such a perfectionist world.

Constantly subjected to images of thin, beautiful women (sometimes airbrushed), encouraged to change ourselves to be how others feel we should be.

When I was younger, I would rarely go out without make up. It made me feel beautiful, and confident, and helped to ease my feelings of wanting to be someone else. I vowed that I would never be one of those mums who "let herself go" - left the house without make up, in joggers, without styling her hair. THEN I HAD CHILDREN!!!

To have a shower was (for me) absolute minimum, but the rest was not necessary - if I had time to enjoy some peace and quiet - do my hair, carefully put my make up on, then that was a bonus.

How naively did I think that putting my make up on made me a better person. I often refer to putting it on as "putting my face on", which I'm sure will sound ridiculous to the girls in a few years time. It struck me this morning that I no longer put it on to make me feel better, but because I enjoy the process I take in doing it.

Whether I put my make up on or not, I do daily put on my war paint. Daily looking the enemy in the eye, who will try and make me feel inadequate. Who will make me feel like I'm not good enough, that I should be trying to be something else. Daily making the choice to accept who I am, and that I have been wonderfully and fearfully made in His image, from a blueprint of perfection.

In today's society, it is so easy to feel like we fall short in so many ways, and yes, we all have certain hang ups that we try to overcome. But it is so important not to lose who you are, and to be proud of what you have achieved... and if you're not, find someone to help you.

Unfortunately we are all required to put on our war paint everyday, but our reward is loving ourselves, just for being you. If you are struggling with this, find a close friend and share how you feel - chances are they will be able to tell you what a wonderful person they see through their eyes.

Week 1 - 30 Day Shred

I can't believe I'm posting this, but Week 1 complete!

I have actually done this 20 minute workout everyday since Monday and I am already feeling so much better! I have mostly done the workouts in the mornings, but yesterday in the afternoon and have just done it today (8pm).

Despite being out yesterday and today, I have made the time to do the workout. We were out most of yesterday but got back late afternoon - Mr Strong went outside to clean our car (it is Silver but looked black!) and the girls had their naps very late (surprisingly, I thought they would try and last without one!). But instead of sitting and enjoying the peace, I actually WANTED to do the workout.

Mr Strong was extremely surprised when he came in from cleaning the car to find I'd done the workout. I asked him if he was proud of me for doing it and he said he genuinely didn't think I'd stick to it and was completely astounded that I had. That made me feel good! I too, didn't think I'd do it!!!

I can feel the difference, my muscles feel stronger, I can do more of the workout without stopping for a rest, and the best part is I feel amazing for doing it! I finally feel like I can achieve my target of... Beach Gorgeous for 2014!lol!

I wish I had weighed myself before I started so I could keep a check of how I'm doing but did weigh myself this morning (I'm afraid I won't be sharing that with you just yet!).

I don't know whether it is the exercise that has made me feel better but I suddenly feel like my capacity is back. After having the girls I didn't feel able to do much, and I thrive being busy, juggling a number of things at a time. I finally feel able to do that and like I have got myself back. I know that sounds overly emotional, and maybe it is, but this is good progress!

Stay tuned for more updates! 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Chocolate Brownies

This is a friends recipe which she has used for years and never disappoints!

Makes about 16 squares

Ingredients:
  • 90g Plain Flour
  • 42g Cocoa
  • 175g Unsalted Butter
  • 350g Caster Sugar
  • Vanilla Essence or Flavouring
  • 3 Large Eggs beaten (or 4 medium)
  • Optional: 85g Choc Chunks
Method:
  1. Melt sugar, butter and 3 tsp water in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool. (Can take 45 minutes or so)
  3. Once cool, stir in some Vanilla Essence or Flavouring (1-2 tsp) and the beaten eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the flour (I don't usually bother sieving!) and cocoa, and beat into a smooth paste.
  5. Pour mixture into a greased and lined tin (if you have a tin that requires lining).
  6. If you are using chocolate, press the chunks into the mixture, and smooth.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes (180⁰C Fan or 160⁰C if not a fan oven) until set, risen and the top is crisping off.
  8. Leave to cool completely and then divide.
Note: These will not last very long - they are too delicious!!!

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

We have a large Tagine which we get out for special occasions, but I'm sure this could be cooked in a casserole dish or even a slow cooker!

Serves 6

Ingredients:
  • 1kg Lamb Shoulder (Cubed)
  • 3 Crushed Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Tsp Ras-el-hanout
  • 1 Tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tsp Runny Honey
  • 15 Dried Apricots
  • 1 Tsp Dried Mint
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Pepper
  • 2 Onions
  • 440g Chick Peas
  • 1/2 Large Butternut Squash or 1 Small one
  • 400g Couscous
  • 500-800ml Vegetable Stock
  • Fresh Coriander
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
Method:
  1. Mix all herbs together (except the fresh coriander) in a large bowl including the honey, add some oil to make a paste, and then add the cubed meat.
  2. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes - 1 hour (or overnight if you want to get ahead of the game!).
  3. Cut the peppers and butternut squash into large chunks (make sure you peel and deseed the butternut squash first!) and chop the onions. Cut each apricot into 4, and preheat the oven to 160⁰C (Fan Oven - increase to 180⁰C  if you don't have a fan oven).
  4. Put a little water in your tagine and put it in the oven to heat up.
  5. Brown meat in a frying pan, add onions and drained chick peas.
  6. Add meat to tagine and cover with vegetable stock. Cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  7. After 1 hour and 30 minutes, give it a stir and add the remaining veg and some fresh coriander. Cook for a further 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with couscous (mixed with chopped fresh coriander) and top the tagine with fresh coriander to serve.
  9. Enjoy!
Tip: If you want to do this in a normal casserole dish that will also work. If you want to do it in the slow cooker I would suggest doing it for 9-10 hours on LOW or 4-5 hours on HIGH.

Breakfast Casserole (Sausage Casserole)

A friend made this for us a while ago, and it was so yummy! I completely forgot about it until I stumbled on her email containing the recipe yesterday. She calls it Sausage Casserole but I like to think of it as Breakfast Casserole because of it's delicious ingredients! Served with mash and veg, and possibly a yorkshire pudding or two, it's a feast for Kings!

Serves 8

Ingredients:
  • 16 x Sausages
  • 6 x Rashers of Bacon (I used smoked)
  • 2 x 415g tins of Baked Beans
  • 1 x 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 x Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 25g Dark Brown Sugar
Method:
  1. Cut sausage into small pieces and cook in frying pan 3-4 minutes.
  2. Tip into a saucepan.
  3. Repeat with bacon.
  4. Tip into the saucepan and add everything else.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  6. Serve and enjoy!






Sewing Station

On Facebook I follow a number of people who have their own businesses making various crafts and handmade things. Not long after Christmas, one of the ladies who makes bags posted a picture of her workshop. I immediately became jealous of such a wonderful space to have everything out and within reach.

Now obviously she needs this to run her business but I thought, "That is what I'm missing in my life"! So I searched online to see if anyone else had a space to call their own for sewing, to find a wide range of "sewing station" ideas.

I used to make crafts a lot when I was younger and as the years have gone by, particularly since having the girls, I haven't really done much. About 2 years ago, I was given some money and I decided to invest in a new sewing machine, knowing it would be a great skill to have and not something I would think to be the top of my list when we had spare cash.

So, after seeking approval from Mr Strong, we agreed I could set up a table or desk in our bedroom so that I could have my own space to sew or do craft things to my hearts content. With the girls around, I rarely get large chunks of time, and to have everything set out ready to go would mean I could do 20 - 30 mins of something without spending half that time getting all my kit out.

Being on a very tight budget meant I couldn't go out and buy exactly what I would have liked but I am really pleased with the outcome. (A pine, shabby chic desk with ceramic drawer knobs and a storage shelf system was most definitely out of our price range!)

We found this (see below) on Gumtree for £15, and having watched a few things on ebay going for around £25 decided this would be a great compromise, drawers for storage and not too big as to overpower the room. I had looked at all sorts of furniture with the view that I could paint or get Mr Strong to make changes if needed, if we could get something cheap. Turns out that actually buying a desk that was almost identical in colour laminate to our bedroom furniture, and didn't need any work at all, was the cheapest option!


The laminate on top was slightly damaged but add in one of our old dining chairs it certainly would serve it's purpose. Next job was to find some PVC fabric to cover the top, not only to brighten it up but so that I would have a smooth surface to work on without fear of snagging fabric etc.

After looking online, again thinking that was the cheapest option, I popped down to The Range and found that I could buy fabric to the nearest 10cm that I needed, and also saved paying postage. For less than £3.50 I bought the following and with the assistance of Mr Strong just tacked it in place.


Finally, after looking all over the place for nice but decently priced handles (and choosing some but sending them back!) I got these for £3.30 each. The original ones I ordered were £2.99 each and were very cheaply made, but these are well worth the extra 31p each!!!


So, for less than £30 total, I got myself a wonderful and personalised sewing station when I would have spent far more than that doing up an old piece of furniture! I'm so pleased with it - just need to unpack all my bits and pieces ready for the sewing to begin! Although one thing I hadn't accounted for - was how uncomfortable the chair is!lol! I may just have to buy one more thing - a cushion!


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Pork Meatballs & Spaghetti

This is something my cousin made when she came to stay, and it was delicious! I'm not a fan of pork, and pork mince isn't something I've ever cooked with but I will be making this again and again! Not sure where it's from so if you know please let me know.

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:
  • 500g Pork Mince (although you can use other mince too)
  • 12 crushed cream crackers
  • Sprig of chopped rosemary (or dried)
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Grain Mustard
  • 1 Large Egg or 2 Medium Eggs
  • 1 Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Red Chilli (diced)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (chopped or crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 400-500g Spaghetti or Pasta
  • Fresh Basil leaves
Method:
  1. Mix the mince, crackers, rosemary, oregano, mustard and egg together. Roll into balls.
  2. Fry the chopped onion, chilli and garlic together. Add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Leave to simmer whilst you cook the meatballs.
  3. Add the spaghetti to a pan of boiled water and cook as per the directions on the packet whilst the sauce simmers.
  4. In a separate pan, fry the meatballs until browned all over and cooked through.
  5. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
  6. Just before you serve add some basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn, to the sauce.
  7. Serve and top with a few extra basil leaves.

30 Day Shred Fitness DVD by Jillian Michaels

Hello readers!

Right, I have actually done my 30 Day Shred workout 3 times now! I wanted to see how it went for the first few times before I posted about it!

Day 1

The girls have both had a sleep after lunch at the same time for a few days now so on Monday, as I usually do when they're both asleep, I sat down to catch up on some TV that I had recorded. Monday's pick was Call The Midwife which I had completely forgotten was on Sunday night.

About 2 minutes in I thought to myself "This is silly, you've got a perfect opportunity to do your DVD, but can you be bothered!?" At once I jumped up (quite unlike me!) and decided that I needed to do it once to get into it, and I really needed to stop the excuses!

So, Monday I did it, bare foot (I know, I know, I've now found my trainers!) and with my hand weights which arrived last week. I did think I was going to die about 5 minutes in but knew if I pushed past it, doing a 20 minute workout each day is very achievable even with a 2 year old and a 10 month old!

I certainly worked up a sweat and it really pushed me - there are 3 levels and within those a hard and easier version. So I did the easier version on Level 1. The idea is that as you get fitter, you go up the levels but it still remains 20 minutes.

After sitting down for 10 minutes to cool down, I got up to go and get changed and immediately felt my leg muscles! Later on that day I nearly fell down the stairs as I couldn't move very easily - my body must have got the shock of it's life to be made to do exercise!lol!

Day 2

I woke up and REALLY felt my muscles! But thought I'll do it again and see how I feel. I was due to go out so decided to do it whilst Lara had her morning nap and Erin was playing. Realistically I'd not want to do it in the afternoon and wasn't sure I'd get the chance.

Erin thought it was great for a while and joined in, then seemed quite put out that she couldn't watch Peppa (which I just told her she'd have to wait!), I again did it bare foot but vowed to find my trainers that night (I bought some cheap running/fitness trainers a year or two ago and never used them much only inside so knew they'd be great).

I immediately noticed I could do more than the previous day and pushed through a bit more, finding it went quicker second time around. I also vowed that as we have a hard floor (lino but still very hard!) I would order myself a yoga mat - I had resorted to using the baby changing mat!lol! I have a tendency to start things, order all the kit and then not use it but definitely need it for this!

By the evening I was really struggling and could feel the muscles in my legs aching but already felt an improvement in my legs!

Day 3

Today, I did it this morning again, more to make sure I did it! I wasn't sure if I should as my legs (again, seems to be where I'm noticing it more) were really aching and didn't want to do myself any harm. But I know that if you push through it, then sometimes it eases aches doing more exercise than if you have a break for a day (someone told me that somewhere - don't hold me to it!). Also I fully recognise I have more motivation in the morning so it seemed sensible to do it whilst Lara slept again.

Armed with my trainers it was tons better, and again noticed it was a little easier. Still working up a sweat but feeling really good about it. Seemed to go quicker again today, and I'm hoping my mat arrives in the next couple of days. I'm not aching as much and feel great an hour later.

I'm really impressed, for 20 minutes a day it's been fantastic. I was a little sceptical at first - I have always done Rosemary Conley's 1 hour or so DVD's but simply cannot fit those in whilst I've got the girls and by the time they're in bed the last thing I want to do is exercise! I can't afford the gym or fitness classes and know I wouldn't keep going. 20 minutes is great because it's quick enough to "get it over and done with" without much disturbance to the day.

It promises that along with a healthy eating plan, to shed 20lbs in 30 days - I am in no way looking for the result (although wouldn't complain!) but my mindset is that this will just be my new routine doing it once a day. There will be days that I can't, but if I can't fit 20 minutes in most days then there's a problem!

I desperately want to lose weight and get fitter. Now having had the girls, but always having been overweight, I need to change my habits and get on with it.

I highly recommend this DVD, please be aware that these are my own opinions and not an official review.

How do you stay fit and healthy? Any tips on great ways to do this whilst juggling a young family?!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Chicken, Bacon & Leek Casserole (Slow Cooker)

This is my favourite thing to cook by far at the moment, and is delicious with mash!

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 25g Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 3 Shallots (I used 2 White Onions)
  • 1 Large Leek
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (Thin sliced)
  • 4 Rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon (I used Value bacon and it tastes great!)
  • 2 Sprigs of thyme, leaved removed (I just used dried to my taste)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 400ml White Wine
  • 200ml Chicken Stock
  • Optional: 1 Tablespoon of Cornflour (Thickener)
Method:
  1. Fry the bacon in the oil until it starts going crispy, then add the chicken until it is browned.
  2. Put chicken and bacon into the slow cooker.
  3. In the same frying pan, fry the butter, garlic and onions / shallots until golden.
  4. Mix the onions / shallots, garlic and leek with the chicken and bacon in the slow cooker.
  5. Add the wine, stock, thyme and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover with the lid and cook on High for 5-6 Hours or Low for 8-10 Hours.
  7. I like to add some cornflour to thicken the sauce and make it creamier. Mix 1 Tablespoon of Cornflour with a little bit of water in a mug to form a thin paste. Add this into the slowcooker and leave to cook with the lid off for a further 10 mins whilst you get the rest of your meal ready. This is optional and is purely preference.
  8. Serve and enjoy!
Note: I have tried this on High and on Low, with and without the cornflour and it tastes just a delicious everytime so it is down to you which you choose depending on how much time you have (and if you are like me, what window your toddlers will allow!).

Tip: If you don't have any white wine (I tend to use left overs if we have any!) you can add more stock instead. Either Vegetable or Chicken Stock are absolutely fine.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Progress... 50%!?

Well, I sit here eating my Nutella on toast having NOT done my workout DVD at all yet!lol!

I have however, got on top of some washing, and some bits around the house, made some cakes and kept the girls reasonably happy! Friday couldn't have come sooner though this week!

My one major piece of news this week is that I have acquired a preloved desk to be turned into a sewing station! It is currently in situ in our bedroom waiting to be worked on - I can't explain how excited I am that I now have my own space! I won't have to faff around for 20 minutes, trying to get all my stuff out as I can now leave it ready. My sewing bag is at the top of my wardrobe so I always have to battle the endless strands of ribbon that fall out when I try and get it, and if I'm not being careful the sewing machine pedal plummets to meet my forehead - never pleasant!

My mission tomorrow morning is to find a pvc table covering for it so that I have a good surface to work on, and I need a few storage things for my collection of material, buttons, ribbon etc. I have recently raided our local sewing shop and come away with some great clearance bargains!

My cream felt arrived yesterday, ready for me to make my needle holder and I plan on making a matching pin cushion - who knew they could be so expensive for a nice one!

There will be a new page dedicated to my sewing projects - I have no training on the sewing machine, just a lot of ideas so I'm planning on having a go and seeing what I can create.

I used to do all sorts of craft things and I really miss it, I now have a place I can do that, and finally make some time for me!

So, I would say progress is about 50% of what I had planned on achieving this week but that's ok. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves (well I certainly do) in January to get sorted and it isn't the end of the world if it waits until February. We set ourselves up for failure if we don't be realistic that actually life can get in the way and let's not kid ourselves - I'd much rather start a sewing project than spring clean the house!Lol!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Must get more organised!

I can't believe it's the second week in January tomorrow. Our house needs some serious attention and I need to get back into the swing of things!

I need to hoover, change the bedding, tidy up the toys scattered ALL around the house, clean the oven, clear the dining room table, and put all the clean and dry washing away. I haven't even unpacked my bag properly since coming back from our visit to my parents Christmas week!!!

I haven't done any meal planners (we have just bought things to keep us ticking over as the freezer still had a number of things in left over from December), I have a number of craft activities going around in my head which I'm desperate to start, and I have GOT to unwrap the new "intense workout" DVD I had delivered nearly a week ago! (20 minute workout - I reckon I could fit that in most days - but must get the first time done to get me going!)

I am fed up of constantly having things to do so I've not done an awful lot the last few days and I'm now regretting it!! Plus Erin has definitely hit the terrible twos and Lara seems to have a new tooth coming through every 2-3 days at the moment so it's FUN FUN FUN!!!

Ok... rant over.....

I'm usually so organised in January, seems to have gone to pot this year, can't believe how quickly Christmas went!

We also have a number of people we want to have over for dinner and I'm genuinely thinking we won't be free until March!

Priority for tomorrow is get the house semi - sorted. But No. 1 priority is to do the DVD (I am predicting a comedy post tomorrow about it!)... I am determined to be beach gorgeous by 2014!!!

Hope I'm not the only one wishing I could just stay in bed and it'd all be done for me!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Body Image

A blogging friend of mine has recently written a post about body image and the way that the world will tell you you're not good enough.

She has a beautiful slim figure and I have always admired how nice she looks, often thinking if I could just look like that... I hadn't realised that she was subjected to cruel bullying when she was younger for her body type, or that it used to be such an issue for her.

Whilst we were talking, I told her I have always had body image issues myself but from the other end of the spectrum. Always being referred to as the "big girl" in our family - my sister was always slim and had comments about how her figure was so nice. In our family weight has always been the big joke, although we are a family who like our food, it was constantly topic of conversation. I just learnt to joke off any comments but inside it started getting to me more and more.

Being larger at school that the other girls, I was always very self conscious. I was told by certain people that I couldn't wear some of the fashionable clothes because I didn't really have the "right figure" and so they wouldn't suit me. The popular girls were always enviably skinny and I was just in a group of friends who were neither cool or uncool.

In hindsight, I was perfectly healthy and not overweight in the slightest - I simply didn't go through the stage that some girls have when they are young of being very slender. I admit, over the years I have put weight on for one reason or another, and I am determined to get down to a healthy weight before I get too much older and it becomes increasingly difficult.

I have always loved a particular recent fashion for leggings and denim skirts, and when I mentioned a while ago to someone close to me that I quite fancied getting this combo, the response was less than complimentary. "You haven't really got the legs for it" and the phase "tree trunks" was uttered!!!!

This person didn't mean any harm, but has been someone who I think wished I looked like my sister! Recently my sister has gone from a very skinny and unhealthy (for her body) size 8/10 to a size 14/16. She seems completely unhappy with her new figure but as for all of us, this is because of what the world portrays as perfection.

I was never made to be slim, it's just not my body type, but I recognise that it is time to get healthier. I am not so caught up in body issues, but the emotion and insecurity still lurks underneath, usually brought to the surface by someones lack of tact or meant-well comments.

It is so important to bring our children up in a loving environment, not bringing any doubt into their lives that you love them any less if they are different from everyone else. But let's face it, EVERYONE is different, that's the beauty of how God created us, but I think the world has nurtured this culture that we will never be happy with how we are.

We have a duty to our bodies to be healthy and active, and take care of what God has given us. And we have a duty to ourselves to celebrate our individuality and learn to love what we have. It's not always easy, especially if you have received negative comments before.

I agree with my friend, it would be great to change the world's expectations for the next generation and protect our children from experiencing this. Speak words of love and encouragement to your children, friends and family. Keep in check your own thoughts of body image, and make sure that you look in the mirror with thanks... I know I'm not alone when I say I am still working on that one!

Let's change the expectations in our own homes, and send our children - the next generation - out into the world equipped to change it.

Oh, and just so you know... last week I went out and bought some leggings and a denim skirt!!!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Ok, so I'm a day late, but Happy New Year!!!

I can't believe how quickly the end of 2012 seemed to go, we were so busy we just didn't have time to stop! We seemed to breeze through December, and with the help of birthday and Christmas money, seemed to stay afloat without a mad panic of "we've still got a week before payday!"

Erin has truly embraced a love for Winnie the Pooh, has turned 2 (!!) and has become a proper cheeky little girl! Lara is seriously on the move, now nearly 9 months she has teeth number 4 and 5 coming through (at 10 months Erin was still toothless!) and is trying to pull herself up so I don't think it will be too long before she's cruising!

Mr Strong has turned 32 today and I am now 28 - I am that much closer to 30 and find myself thinking what do I want to achieve before I reach that milestone.

Much of this year seems to have been occupied by big changes; the addition of Lara to the family, moving to Norfolk, a massive change in finances particularly now I have finished my maternity leave and officially call myself a "home maker" (slave, cook, cleaner, maid, servant, party entertainer... whatever the list entails!).

I have reached a point in my life where I am thinking what exactly have I achieved and what do I want to achieve going forward. What do I want to grow in this year, and what do I want to work towards. Selfishly, these thoughts are for me, not for my family!

The last 2 years particularly feels like we have been in a complete baby bubble, and I am really ready to move on and find myself again. Being a wife and mummy seems to have swallowed up my time to myself, and as much as they are amazing jobs, they are priority and at the age the girls are at, very demanding!

I have a number of things that I want to achieve this year (my bucket list can wait for another day!) but most of all I am looking forward to enjoying our family now that things are starting to become easier and we feel settled in Norfolk. I am certain that 2013 will be a significant year for us, although I'm not quite sure how, but I am looking forward it.

This year is a time to have fun, a time to find purpose, and a time to find those things to hope for.

Happy 2013! Take a few minutes (grab a cup of tea or equivalent!) and think about what you hope for, and what it is that gets you up every morning (that doesn't include little voices shouting for you!), think of a couple of things that you are passionate for and ways that you can start to make them happen.

"Dreams are the touchstones of our character."
-Henry David Thoreau