Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review of the year 2013 - AKA, THE WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE

by Bex

I didn't do a review of the year last year.  2011 was an amazing year and I loved summing it all up on the blog.  Last year around this time we had learned that we would never make a baby the conventional way.  It was difficult to come to terms with and I just didn't know how to sum up a year of repeated disappointments trying to conceive followed by the shocking news that it would never work.

This year is really a year with two sides.  I promise it's not all depressing but I thought I'd get the horrid stuff over with first!  Although I've called it the worst year of my life, other than the obvious one big bad thing, it has actually been a pretty good year, it's taken me going back through the blog to realise this and I'm only sorry that I find it so hard to remember the good stuff sometimes!

So, this year we have come to terms with the fact that we will never get pregnant naturally, it's physically impossible.  I also have the ovarian reserve of a 45 year old at age 31.  It turns out there's something wrong with my eggs so without injecting sperm directly, they will not fertilise.  It transpired that my cervix is all bent and twisted and too narrow to get through to place the embryos we did eventually manage to get.  They weren't able to improve this access with an operation under GA.  I've had 2 rounds of IVF drugs and egg retrievals.  7 eggs were wasted the first time.  6 embryos were frozen the second time.  I've never had an embryo inside me.  Oh, and we've spent a fortune on all of these unpleasant and seemingly pointless treatments while awaiting our NHS appointment for 14 months now.  We're now facing a year where we may find out we will never get pregnant at all.

It is scary and utterly depressing.  And yet...

This year I have discovered just how many real friends I have.  And how caring they all are.  Even when I have been useless and paid next to no attention to what is going on in their lives, I have always received messages of excitement, support, good luck and love from SO many people in my life (some even before I had come out and admitted what was really stressing me out).  I honestly don't know how much more difficult this year would have been without them.  You.

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We've had Nik's exams to contend with (which he did manage to pass and became a Mr again!) all while dealing with these repeated "disappointments".  Disappointment is not the right word but I don't know what is.  It hasn't been an easy year by any means.  We sometimes say to each other "at least we don't have cancer".  And while that's true and we do have each other and there are many things in my life I am grateful for and I know I have been very lucky in other aspects of life, when it comes to saying at least we don't have a horrific disease, it really isn't good.  I would happily give up our nice flat, lovely things and fancy holidays if it meant we could have a family.  Sadly it doesn't and although we hoped in this case that money might just buy us happiness with IVF, if it's not going to work, no amount of money will change that.

I don't want to spend much time dwelling on it now.  December is usually a happy month for me.  I have written enough depressing and potentially boring woe-is-me posts about our IVF issues.  So, on with the review of the year ignoring all the stuff that sucked!  (I need to remind myself of the good things often.)

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/250794272972661978/

Some of these may feel like I'm clutching at straws but when life is shit, you just have to do whatever little things make you happy so you can keep getting up in the morning and carry on.

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We started the year at a wedding with good friends of ours and had a brilliant time.


Roz joined the blog and started writing about wine and her awesome new house renovation project.


I reconnected with an old friend who I hadn't heard from for 9 years and he came to stay.

Us in Jan 2013 and way back in 2000!  [The afro fancy dress was for the Millenium party at my house.  I still have that long cardi and those zebra wellies (see below!) and I wish I still had those legs!]


We started Pin It Do It, a challenge to get us and others doing some of the projects we all pin on Pinterest.


I bought a nifty fifty lens and really improved my food photography.


I had an awesome weekend in London for the ballet themed AOW Hen Do.




We went to South Korea for an amazing week of fun in Seoul.


(Where I mostly wore my coral maxi skirt!) 


And had a very tiring trip home!

had my 15 minutes of fame ;)

My magazine debut in You magazine - in my zebra wellies from 1999!
(Also shortly followed by the same feature in Woman magazine.)

We went to Amy's gorgeous wedding in a field and met up with friends from all over the UK!


Nik and I went to see my parents in Malaysia and went diving, shopping, visiting friends and ate lots of sushi :)



Claire, Bella and I


And of course there were the gorgeous orangutans!


We went to Nik's cousin's amazing wedding weekend in London.


I stopped colouring my hair and embraced the greys.
We went to my cousin's fantastic wedding in Warrington.


Of course there was ODP2 for Halloween!  Best party weekend ever with the most awesome people!




We went to Durham for the Lumiere Light Festival.


Nik and I had fun making some fab shelves to display some Christmas ornaments along with this years' tree.


We had a lovely Christmas with Nik's parents.



And I had a fab girls' night in for my birthday since Nik was on nights.  I was so chuffed so many people made it given the awkward time of year :)

Watching Pitch Perfect before the food arrived


The massive chai spiced chocolate cheesecake I made using 1kg of cream cheese!
Complete with green burning candles ;)

The blog has really taken off this year with lots of new readers and we've been getting invited to some pretty amazing events, mainly involving food which, of course, I love!



I started craft club and set myself a reading challenge.  There have been a few outfits throughout the year and even though I found out I have some more health issues, I have been trying to improve my general health again losing some weight and doing more exercise which will definitely continue into the new year and will most likely mean a return to more of my style on the blog as I get more interested in looking nice again.

I refreshed some of the pages on the blog this year with an index of our wedding as well as our IVF story and a new about page including Roz.

Life really isn't bad, it's just sometimes difficult to remember that when the one big bad thing takes over my thoughts.  Writing this has helped, actually going back over my blog posts this last year has reminded me of all these small (and some not so small) things which are so good in our lives.  I'm lucky to be surrounded by family and friends and be able to eat out and buy nice things, explore the world and share all of my experiences here.  But by far the best thing this year has been all the new friends I have made and become closer to during this saga.  I am so lucky and so grateful to have them.  You know who you are, Mwah!  :D

But still, fingers crossed that my body stops fighting against us in 2014 please, so we can be blessed with the family we so desperately wish for!  :)

Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas Dinner and Table Decor

by Bex

So, I mentioned that we got a bargain bird for Christmas dinner and I'd already prepared our strudel for dessert.  Nik is always in charge of the meat and potatoes for Christmas day, he's much better at roasting than I am and I'm much better at all the fripperies (which I think are much more fun anyway!)  We always have our starters as lunch and eat dinner in the evening and after this year's lie in we ate even later than usual.

For lunch this year we had the most amazing melty cheese fondue dip (from BBC Good Food Magazine, I'll share the recipe soon if you're interested?) and our absolute favourite - smoked salmon pate with bread and crackers.


It had a layer of caramelised onion chutney on the bottom!  :)

For the Christmas Dinner table decor, I winged it this year with no specific plans.  I got out our big white tablecloth along with the green table runner I made 2 years ago.  I decided to use our African safari napkin rings (a wedding gift from Auntie Bala) and gave everyone their favourite safari animal although I still used the placenames Mum made me 2 years ago as well and added my glittered pine cones (collected in Durham, glittered in Glasgow) for a bit more of a festive twist.  I also used the hand-painted napkins I bought in Malaysia this summer.  (Incidentally, Mum if you go to the Kraft Komplex, please get me four more, they wash really well!)



To carry on the safari(-ish) theme, since I already had our wintery terrariums complete with zebra in our apothecary jars, I carried them through and used them as the table centrepieces along with our vase of white tulips and the candelabra I bought for Halloween.


To keep it festive looking, I added the more snowy trees (It had ended up being cheaper buying a full pack on ebay and I was planning on selling the extra, massive trees.  I'm glad I never got round to it!) dotted around the table with a few mini candles.



We used my new 25p grey & white bowls from Glasgow Architectural Salvage to serve the veg and my fab new vintage style jar from Ikea for the cranberry sauce.


This year we had turkey with the usual accompaniments including my fab sprouts!  (I chop them in half, steam them so they're still a bit crunchy then toss them in a wok with olive oil, garlic and sesame seeds for a few minutes.  They taste amazing!)  This was the first time I've made bread sauce and although the recipe (bread & shallot sauce from BBC Good Food Magazine) only called for a pint of milk and 100g of bread we ended up with rather a large quantity!  Nik's dad made the honey & mustard sticky pigs in blankets and did all the peeling and his Mum made the gravy and apple stuffing bites.  It was a proper team effort and we had an amazing feast :)


I love adding little twists in for some different flavours every year.  What do you all have for Christmas dinner?  Are we the only ones who split it up and feast all day?

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Our Christmas 2013

by Bex

Instead of the usual Sunday Summary this week I thought I'd just do a round up of our Christmas.  I was working on the morning of Christmas Eve but my in-laws arrived on Monday afternoon and made the cider ham for me while I was working.  As soon as I returned from work that evening, the festivities started with reindeer antlers and a cocktail!  We went out for dinner to Bibi's in the West End and it was fantastic, we all loved it, I'd been dying to try it but kept forgetting to book in advance, it takes about 2 weeks notice to be able to get a table!

FIL getting into the spirit

I also added a few more last minute Christmas decorations...

My new snowflake decoration instead of a wreath this year.

Some of my homemade ornaments hung on the tree

I also made some of the glittery :)

On Christmas Eve I baked Nigel Slater's marzipan berry cakes again to enjoy with our coffees and prettied up all my pressies which had been wrapped and placed under the tree until I had time!  I never did get round to finishing making my Christmas cards so I'm sorry if you never got one from us this year!  Next year's cards will be fab I promise!






We had some of the cider ham for lunch with some bread & cheese.


After lunch everyone went out on a 'meat hunt' while I got on with some more food prep.  We weren't bothered which meat we ended up with for Christmas dinner, I'm not that fussed about turkey (I love roast goose or beef or even lamb or pork) and Nik wanted to try to get a bargain since we didn't mind what we ended up with so left it until late in the afternoon to go bargain hunting assuming we'd be able to get some kind of meat.  It also meant we didn't need to worry too much about having space in the fridge!  They came back with a £55 Waitrose free range Turkey which was all prepared, ready to go in the oven and cost us just £18 due to last minute reductions.  Result!

While they were out I made Eggnog which I've never had before and really only made it as I needed some for the Christmas porridge recipe for Nik's Dad's surprise breakfast!  It took 2 attempts as I managed to scramble the first batch as I was trying to do too much at once!  (I'm not the domestic goddess I may appear to be!)  The eggnog I made is basically like runny custard so I was convinced I would like it anyway so it was worth making.  No-one else liked it as a drink but I do!

Scrambled Eggnog :(


I was also getting my pear, marzipan and dark chocolate strudel ready to freeze as it supposedly cooks better from frozen, giving a crispier pastry.  (I will share the recipe soon!  It was good!)


And I got the pork belly marinating (with some help from FIL) ready to make pork rillettes.


I made mulled cider again which went down a treat that evening before we settled down for our film.



Sarah popped round with some pressies and gave me a guardian angel which I've added to our Christmas shelves :)


We enjoyed our Christmas Eve Box again this year but instead of Christmas PJs in the box, I bought us all Christmas jumpers.  The film this year was The Santa Clause and Roz gave us a chocolate Christmas tree to enjoy during the film.




And I enjoyed an eggnog laced with rum and cherries :)


On Christmas day we all got up late (I managed to intervene just in time before FIL made his daily porridge as I had the surprise Christmas Porridge recipe just for him) and had breakfast.  We had Christmas porridge and smoked salmon bagels and were so full we decided to leave the gingerbread pancakes for another day.

The cranberries were not artfully placed - the bag exploded when I opened it!

We then had a gingerbread decorating competition and MIL & FIL were surprisingly competitive ;)



I was really pleased with my snowman with his spotty scarf & green hat :)

Gingerbread garland hung above the fireplace before all of their right hands broke! 

After that we all got dressed before opening pressies.  I like to get glammed up for Christmas day but still be comfortable.  This maxi dress I bought in September was perfect!  It's sparkly, glam and stretchy ;)  I added more sparkle with my Anthropologie headband, the necklace Nik gave me for my birthday a few years ago and my Christmas bow ring again.


I had time to quickly ice and decorate my Christmas cake.  This year I decided to ice it with cream cheese icing as it's my favourite and I'm not that keen on royal icing.  I wasn't sure it would work with fruit cake but it does, I love it!  I copied another Pinterest idea (I am so predictable but I find so much inspiration there!) for the decoration.



I was extremely lucky when it came to all the lovely gifts I received.  We loved my secret santa present from Amanda M (more detail on all my secret santa presents coming soon, I was also matched with Anna K!  Don't forget to send in your own reports if you received a gift - Susan has already sent hers in!), these gorgeous green champagne glasses.


I also received the following fab pressies...



Including an amazing green Stella McCartney bag (!) from Mum & Dad, gorgeous antique green amethyst ring from Nik (which I bought at the Christmas Fayre I went to recently), a scented candle and a fantastic trip to L'Enclume from the in-laws, gorgeous fluffy earmuffs from my brother and sister in-law, various lovely jewellery and little tasty bits n bobs, a chocolate recipe book from Tracy from baking club (extra fortunate for Nik as you know he's a major chocoholic!) and a dragonfly brooch from my brother (also bought at the Christmas fayre).  Roz got me a perfume with lovely words on (see below) among other bits and a sparkly necklace, I got some super cosy slippers from Sarah.

“how you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you get down the mountain. and so it is with life, which for many of us becomes one big gigantic test followed by one big gigantic lesson. in the end, it all comes down to one word. grace. it’s how you accept winning and losing, good luck and bad luck, the darkness and the light.”


Anyway, this has become a very long post so I will write another one later about our Christmas dinner and table.  I hope you all had a lovely Christmas too and I plan to do lots of blog catching up over the next few days once Nik is on nights!  :)

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