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Friday, 23 August 2013

Life Unknown

Mr Strong and I had a rather serious conversation last night, about jobs, finances, things we want to teach our children, and opportunities we want to be able to give them.

For us at the moment, it is quite frustrating that things are financially tight, and will remain so for another couple of years if we are realistic. It's very easy to see what other people are doing, and feel like we should be able to do the same things.

We know that this season is not an easy one, from what has already happened and what is likely to happen over the next year. We are tried and tested, and we are stretched. We have to remind ourselves that we cannot plan for the future at the moment, but all we can do is make wise decisions for the next three to six months ahead of us, and continue to do so as best we can.

We have now been in Norfolk for just over a year, and eighteen months ago would not have predicted we would have made the move. The doors opened at the right time, and we believe God was in the decision completely - guiding us through the details as we sorted out uprooting our family from what was familiar.

Things will get better, we are certain of that, but wasting time trying to plan ahead when we don't know what God has in store for us is foolish. Concentrating on the here and now, particularly as we have a baby due in less than 2 months is our priority... in fact making it through until then is my only focus at the moment! Baby brain allows for little else!

There are a number of things I had planned in my head that I wanted to achieve by now. But life hasn't turned out that way. These things were planned when I was starting my independent life not long after completing my A-Levels and then going off to Uni. The world was my oyster and it is very easy to feel right now that I have dashed all of my hopes of achieving any of those things on my list. Priorities have shifted, and life has brought along choices, of which none I regret.

I have just over a year until I turn 30, and I am in a completely different place than I would have predicted. I am one for organising everything I can, I'm not a fan of surprises purely because I like to know I've organised everything!! Life isn't like that!

Being spontaneous and recognising the opportunities in front of us is what it is all about, and making sure that ultimately we are putting God's plans for us first and letting the rest slot into place behind. Let's face it, His plan is far better than ours, and has no limits - we can limit ourselves without realising. And that's the crucial point we mustn't miss - we have no idea what the plan for us is, and we have no idea how mind blowing it is, but we have to keep reminding ourselves of that when we are finding our current situation difficult. Whether that is because it hasn't aligned with our own plans, whether things are stretched, uncomfortable and out of our comfort zones, or even if things just seem to be sailing along nicely and we are aching for adventure.

We are living in the unknown, whether we like it or not! The best thing we can do is make wise decisions for the foreseeable future and not forget there is a bigger picture, we can only guide our next steps so far and then we must rely on God to do the rest. I'm just REALLY glad that there is no one better to put our trust in than Him!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Home Alone - What did we do before children!?

Well this last weekend has been a real eye opener! After confessing to my close friend last night that both I and Mr Strong were struggling with exhaustion and had a long list of tasks to complete, she offered to have the girls for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I gratefully accepted, despite my usual "thanks, but we'll be ok" response coming to mind, I knew we needed a break! She then offered to give them tea and have them overnight - tea was accepted but I declined overnight, convinced that Erin wouldn't settle.

The girls love the family in question, and they have a daughter who is between Erin and Lara's ages so they all play together often. Lara being in a cot would be fine, but Erin in a single bed, in a room of their eldest daughter who had lovely things to open and get into... I wasn't convinced she'd stay in bed without ransacking the room first!Lol!

When Saturday came, and the offer of overnight was repeated, I considered it again, explaining my only reservation was Erin's likelihood of getting into mischief! My friend quite rightly said it would be their problem to sort out as we wouldn't be there! So, I gratefully accepted!

Mr Strong was over the moon and I have to say I was relieved to have some time to get on with our "to do" list! So we set off working our way through the jobs and I spent about 4 hours ordering the vast amounts of children's clothes we had in the garage - ones the girls had outgrown and ones we have been given for our little boy who will arrive in October. The sense of achievement was amazing! I had forgotten how much I can achieve when I have no interruptions!

We had a relaxed tea, and then went out for a walk - trying to remember what we did in the evenings before we had children was amusing! We had the freedom to do whatever we liked but our minds went blank!!

It was eerily quiet in the house whilst the girls were away, and it felt very empty. The only time I have been away from them overnight is a couple of times I have visited my parents for the weekend (whilst Mr Strong had the girls) or when I was in hospital having Lara (so I wasn't technically without one of them!). Both of us said we weren't sure we liked it!! How I have craved peace and quiet this last few months, and now we had it, I wasn't sure I liked it!lol!

...When my alarm sounded the following morning, and I realised I didn't actually have to get up, the bliss of ignoring it and turning over was immeasurable!!! I leisurely got up, trying to keep quiet so Mr Strong could stay in bed but at 8am whilst I was in the shower, Mr Strong had got up and started hoovering! The house was tidy, and clean, and it was lovely!

I collected the girls and was so grateful to our friends for the much needed break. Since Saturday I have felt tons better and back to my normal self. I hadn't realised how much everything was getting to me, and now realise the importance of making sure we have a break every few months, not only for our own good but for the knock on effect it has on the girls too.

Whilst still feeling the usual tiredness from pregnancy, I'm finding things manageable, I think because my head is now straight and I can think rationally again. I am almost 32 weeks pregnant, and will be having the baby in 8 weeks time. I finally feel like I can cope with this last stretch!

It's amazing what some peace and quiet, and a little time to yourself can do to revive the soul!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Can we be loved for who we really are?

I have recently got into the habit of checking a newspaper website on a daily basis to read all the latest celebrity gossip. Not because I am particularly bothered, but whilst I am 7 months pregnant and sat at home most of the time, it's nice to read about other people's lives! I'm not proud of it, and I know most of it is complete fiction, but it's a bit of a guilty pleasure!

What has struck me recently is how ridiculous the stories are, and how many of them revolve around weight and appearance. Currently feeling like a beached whale (and looking like one too) my self confidence is taking quite a nose dive, but that's nothing new. I have never been slim and have kept telling myself that one day I will get the body I so want to have. Now... that does not mean a size 6, or even a size 10 - I'm not built for that! But I can certainly improve on what I have!!

Once this baby is born, I will have spent the last 3 and a half years being pregnant and having children. With 14 months between Erin and Lara, and 19 months between Lara and the new baby, every time I have tried to get into shape I have fallen pregnant. This will be our last addition to the family, and I am already getting myself into the mindset that will be needed to get myself into shape in another years time. I am realistic enough to know until next Spring/Summer, I probably won't have the inclination to do anything!

What saddens me, is that celebrities are constantly judged on how they have put on a few pounds, or perhaps even they have dropped down an amazing 3 dress sizes. How quickly have they lost their baby weight? How they have a new fabulous look? But how happy are they!? I have no doubt that most of them are happy with their status, but the pressure that comes with it must be awful. Britney Spears has "spent too much on junk food", Chantelle "needs to rein in her treats", and a member of Little Mix has "dropped down to a size 6".

No wonder we give ourselves a hard time about how we look, when everything around us suggests that there is nothing else we should be thinking about! How frustrating when there are far more important things in life. What's the bigger picture? Ok, so we need to be healthy and active, not only to look after the bodies we've been given, but to enjoy life and our families to the full. That doesn't mean that we can go to the gym three times a week so we can get completely wasted at the weekend. It also doesn't mean that we can make others feel uncomfortable when they don't lose weight as easily as others, or perhaps like the odd treat and work hard to earn it.

What really drives me crazy is how so many people forget that we have to live with the consequences of how we treat ourselves. Yo yo dieting, low self esteem, failing bodies because of binge drinking or drug abuse. The unrealistic social values that are set for us mean that we can have huge pitfalls in the long run due to the pressure we are subjected to.

Right, time to get off my soap box!

Why can't we live in a society that looks for the positive, that celebrates being the individuals we are, and when there are areas that we might be straying, to be gentled guided by caring advice meant to only build us up. Is that too much to ask?!

Here's to all the wonderful people I know, who I love just the way they are.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Easy-Peasy Rather-Lazy Roast Dinner!

I have to say, during this pregnancy, my desire to cook has seriously diminished! Especially during this very hot weather, the last thing I want to do is slave in a hot kitchen.

Nonetheless, there comes a point when you realise you haven't had a decent dinner for a while, but really can't be bothered to cook. So this is where this recipe comes in! It is my roast dinner at the moment, and satisfies the criteria of a decent dinner, that to me is near enough the full works to be enough for a roast dinner. It's also really easy, and is a "leave alone" dinner that can be done with minimal effort, but doesn't necessarily look that way when served!

So, here is my aptly named quick fix - it takes just over an hour to cook, but it really is minimal effort so bear with me!

Serves 4 (Large portions!)

Ingredients:
  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 4-6 Large White / Baking Potatoes
  • Approx 100g Dried Stuffing Mix
  • One Handful of Long Grain Rice (uncooked)
  • Vegetables to serve 4 people (whatever you fancy, or frozen peas!)
  • Smoked Paprika, Garlic Granules / Chopped Garlic, Salt & Pepper, Vegetable Oil
  • Tin Foil!
  • Olive Oil or similar
  • Instant Gravy Granules (I like Bisto For Chicken!)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 200⁰C (or 180⁰C Fan Oven).
  2. Mix the stuffing up with boiling water, adding more water than the instructions to make it quite wet.
  3. Add the uncooked rice and mix well.
  4. Peel the potatoes and cut into 4 to 6 large chunks each (depending on the size of potato!).
  5. Put the potatoes in a roasting tin, drizzle with vegetable oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika, garlic (save a little for the chicken) and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Put in oven for an hour.
  7. Put a little Olive Oil or similar in another roasting tin or tray, add some salt and pepper, and the remaining (or a little bit if you have a whole pot!) of garlic.
  8. Lay out the 4 chicken breasts next to each other (about an inch maximum apart) in the roasting tin and completely cover with the stuffing and rice mixture.
  9. Cover the roasting tin in foil and put in the oven for 50 minutes - 1 hour (depending on how long it took after putting potatoes in!).
  10. Prepare the veg and leave in saucepan for later.
  11. Leave the kitchen and have a cup of tea / sit down for 20 minutes or so!
  12. With 25 minutes to go, remove the foil from the chicken tray so the stuffing can crisp up, turn the roast potatoes and put the veg on to cook. This gives enough time for the veg to come to the boil and cook, to lay the dinner table and to make some gravy.
  13. After an hour of cooking the potatoes should be very crispy, and the chicken should be done (double check by cutting a chicken breast in half to make sure it's cooked).
  14. Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Experiment with different roast potato toppings, or use frozen roast potatoes, or even do mash! Prepare the veg in the morning so that you can leave the kitchen for even longer whilst everything is cooking away. You could even have a steamer going with your veg in meaning you can let it do the work without waiting for the saucepan to come to the boil! Frozen veg cooked in the microwave is also another quick time saver!