How it feels taking maternity leave

Last week at work we interviewed for the person who will be covering my maternity leave. It’s starting to feel very real, now I only have about 5 weeks of work left.

The rest of the year stretches ahead of me like a desert, empty of the familiar but sometimes tiresome routine: alarm going off; the drive to work; dealing with tasks and problems I’m used to.

Several months being a full-time mum to a new baby will be full, of course, but I don’t know yet exactly what with.

On the one hand, I feel so happy and lucky that we’re here. I’m pregnant and in a couple of months we’re having a baby – what could be more exciting? On the other, there’s apprehension at the unknown.

I enjoy my job. It challenges me, works my brain, keeps me in close contact with important goings-on in the world.

Motherhood will be different. Maternity leave days will be centred around keeping my baby alive, well and happy. I will go to new places – the non-parent nightmare of ‘play gyms’, etc – and spend time with new people.

Will I adjust? Will I be a good parent? Will I feel defined by being a ‘mum’? Will it change me? Will I feel of less value? Will I ever have time to shave my legs?

When I first started to think about someone taking my seat at work for several months, it just felt weird.

Would they be better or more liked than me?

Given responsibility for dealing with all the applications, I joked about deleting the emails from the best candidates. I didn’t though!

Getting more used to the idea, I began to look forward to the lifestyle change and realised I wanted someone good to replace me. I care about my boss and my colleagues and the continuation of the good work I know I’ve done over the last few years. I want to come back to the job having been done well, to organised records, to not having to put right and repair something someone else has messed up.

I still feel slightly insecure. The candidates were highly educated, well qualified and full of enthusiasm. One applicant wrote that she had “no dependents” so could give her all to the job. Ouch!

OK new girl, my focus now sometimes drifts from what my boss is doing and saying onto what my baby might like to ride on, sleep in and play with, but I have a lot of brownie points in the bank, you just remember that.

After the interviews, my boss said: “None of them is as good as you, Anna.” It was sweet, but I didn’t think it true.

A little while ago, I wrote about how I was toying with looking for a new job. When I got pregnant, I realised it was that I had been looking for.

I hope I go back to work after maternity leave having enjoyed living an entirely different life. I hope I feel like I’ve done a good job for the first few months of a tiny human’s life.

I hope I go back to work in some way renewed (although no doubt sleep-deprived), with a fresh perspective and appreciation for a new, more complete life.

House tour update: kitchen art

For 12 months after finishing the kitchen renovation, we’ve been reluctant to nail anything to its pristine, newly-plastered walls.

But recently we’ve accepted that, well, we live here now, will do for some time and that personal touches beat a perfect finish any day.

So recently we got some kitchen art and prints up; some old, some new.

(And it occurred to me I don’t think I’ve ever shown you the dining side of the room!)

Grey Ikea kitchen, wood floor, pendant light, Hockney art Kitchen art

This is a print of David Hockney’s ‘Two deck chairs’. We bought it years ago in Salts Mill, but since we’ve been in this house it’s been hiding away in the loft. I love the colours and how it reminds me of holidays.

Typographic bon appetit kitchen art, pendant lightTypographic bon appetit kitchen art

This is a new buy from BHS (£30). I love the retro typographic print and cheery ochre yellow background. It’s perfect for our kitchen, which has a couple of retro and industrial-style touches, like the hanging pendant lights it sits behind (Ikea Ranarp, £18 each).

Art prints in a grey kitchen Art prints in a grey kitchen

On the side of our tall cabinet I’m collecting some favourite smaller prints, fixing them with washi tape. The main print is from a poem called ‘I love you’, which was read at our wedding (print and washi tape from Notonthehighstreet.com). The smaller two are greetings cards I liked too much to throw away.

Art can make such a difference to how a home feels, don’t you think?

PS you can read all about our kitchen makeover and how it looked before in my kitchen reveal post.

What I’m wearing while pregnant

I’m getting pretty bored of my ‘pregnancy wardrobe’ now.

Probably because I haven’t added that much to it for wearing while pregnant. For the first few weeks I just wore normal clothes and now – with a little over two months to go – spending a lot of money on clothing a body in a temporarily changed state doesn’t seem to make sense.

Having said that there have, of course, been some new additions. A couple of absolute essentials for me have been a few pairs of maternity tights and leggings (I got mine from H&M). Over these you can throw skirts, tops, jumpers and dresses – like this, taken a couple of weeks ago before an afternoon out in Leeds with the girls.

Maternity fashion - Primark berry dress and leggingsMaternity fashion - Primark berry dress and leggingsI’m sorry about the rubbish photos, I’m blaming the winter light (and some laziness).

The dress is just from Primark; I bought it because of its loose fit and thinking the rich berry colour would see me through a few winter parties.

This is what else I’ve been wearing: Continue reading “What I’m wearing while pregnant”

Review: The Street Food Cook Book

It’s been great to watch the growth of street food in the last few years.

Northern cities have definitely been at the forefront, and Yorkshire has embraced the trend with open arms. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m a fan. The meals I’ve eaten from food vans have been amazing.

Now a new book, The Street Food Cook Book, has pulled together some of the best northern street food – celebrating the events, sellers and recipes that epitomise the phenomenon.

Review The Street Food Cook BookFood from mobile vans is now about as far removed from greasy burger stands outside football matches as you can imagine. Continue reading “Review: The Street Food Cook Book”

Women in biz: Nathalie Bond Organics

While I dislike the name ‘mumpreneur’ (what’s wrong with just entrepreneur?) becoming pregnant or having a baby does seem to make many women reassess or change their careers.

When she became pregnant with first son Alfie, Nathalie Bond decided to stop using beauty products made with synthetic chemicals. She began making soaps and candles in her kitchen for her own use.

Shortly afterwards her company Nathalie Bond Organics was born, selling skincare and candles made with only natural and organic ingredients. They’re handmade in Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District National Park, where Nat, her husband Andy, Alfie and new baby Ted also live.

Just before Christmas, Nat sent me one of her candles to review. It was the orange and clove scent (only on sale until the end of January); four other varieties are available. I’m not usually a fan of spicy smells, but I found this one, while a winter warmer, to be delicate and fresh. Continue reading “Women in biz: Nathalie Bond Organics”

Ikea Live Lagom project – the products

You might remember that a few weeks ago I told you I’m taking part in Ikea’s Live Lagom project.

The project is about the small ways we can all live more sustainably. The Swedish “Lagom är bäst” means “the right amount is best” – so not denying yourself things you love, while not taking from the planet more than you need.

I’ve now discussed my lifestyle and home life with Ikea and their sustainability partners Hubbub, and decided that my journey towards taking less from the environment will involve:

  • cutting food waste by storing it better, cooking in batches and growing my own vegetables
  • using more energy efficient lighting
  • making the house cosier without turning up the heating – by, for example, covering a bare wood floor with a high pile rug and using a block-out blind
  • storing things more efficiently, so we don’t end up buying things we don’t need

Ikea have given each of their Live Lagom ambassadors a generous £500 to spend on their products. Now we all know that kind of money can take you pretty far in Ikea, but it’s not like I was scratching my head wondering what I could spend it on. More like I was struggling to whittle down my wish list.

This is how I’ve decided to spend my money. Continue reading “Ikea Live Lagom project – the products”

How pregnancy has surprised me

After waiting and hoping for so long to become pregnant, it’s surprised me a little bit how casual I feel about it most of the time.

We’ve got about three months to go, and we’ve now had the serious scans which showed – thankfully – that everything seems to be healthy.

(Oh, there is one thing. It looks like it could be a biggie. 9lb+ if it carries on growing as it has done so far. But I’ll worry about that nearer the time!)

I suppose casual is the wrong word, but I’ve got used to feeling the baby move inside me and it always being there, along for the ride.

Before I actually was, there are some things I thought I would do if/when I became pregnant: Continue reading “How pregnancy has surprised me”

Ideas for decorating the nursery

I’m currently entering the ‘just how much sh*t is this tiny human going to need?’ phase of preparation for parenting.

One thing that’s not in dispute – even though arguably there are more practical things to be doing, researching and buying – is that I want to get started on the nursery soon.

The baby’s room will be the smallest of our three bedrooms. It was actually the first room we finished, about four months after moving in. It never did get a shot at life as a study, or a crafting room, as planned; it’s been a dumping ground with a brief spell as a makeshift kitchen when we were renovating the downstairs.

But it is decorated perfectly well in neutral colours, so once everything got cleared out it could function perfectly well as a nursery, for the first few months at least.

But that wouldn’t quite be good enough for a blogger’s child, would it? No bland, boring décor here, thank you. Continue reading “Ideas for decorating the nursery”

A meal inspired by Greece

When we were in Athens last month, we had one of those moments that you know is going to sit in your memory bank forever.

We were sitting outside at a restaurant near the area of Monastiraki, eating a traditional dish of gyros each (delicious, and about £5), looking on to the Acropolis which we’d just been exploring.

Athens, Greece - Acropolis and ParthenonIt was the first full day of our holiday, and our first proper holiday for years. Over the coming days, we also went to the Greek islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Kefalonia.

So when Expedia asked me to be part of their World on a Plate blogger challenge – creating a meal inspired by a holiday destination – Greece instantly sprang to mind. Continue reading “A meal inspired by Greece”

Looking back on 2015

It feels like, each new year, just days pass and then you’re saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s <insert month> already.’

This year has been no exception, but when I sat down and thought about all the things that have gone on in the last 12 months I understood why.

It’s been busy, and eventful, and goes down as my most significant so far. Granted, next year is highly likely to push 2015 off the top spot.

  • It started by being really busy at work. I work for an MP, so the first few months of 2015 were absorbed with getting ready for the general election, and doing everything I could to help him be re-elected – and keep myself in a job. I’m proud he won his seat with an increased share of the vote, in the context of a difficult local and national picture. (Feel like a serious-ish read? You might like my post on why I think voting is so important).
  • Our first camp of the year was on Wales’ Ceredigion coast. And the location was simply stunning. We saw dolphins from the harbour wall. Just a few days of this and my body was reset after a frenetic few months at work. (These are the reasons I love camping so much).

Continue reading “Looking back on 2015”

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