The First Twelve Weeks

The First Twelve Weeks

I found out I was pregnant when I was just over 4 weeks. So it seemed like a LONG time before we reached that 12 week stage everyone talks about. We were just so happy and elated to find out we were having a baby and it was all so new and amazing in those first few weeks. I started noticing symptoms straight away which I found exciting at first, but then not so enjoyable as time went on!

I think from around 6 weeks onwards I felt pretty exhausted on and off, not constantly thankfully. I also noticed an increased sense of smell and certain things were completely repulsive to me! Such as strong food smells and strong aftershave and perfume.

Around 7 weeks the nausea started – this I was not prepared for. I foolishly thought I might be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t really get morning sickness, as I generally have a pretty strong stomach. However, when I asked my mum about her three pregnancies, the first thing she has always said is how sick and nauseous she was so I should have known. I think only very lucky people get away with no or minimal nausea! Mine involved feeling sick pretty much all day for about 5 or 6 weeks, and actually being sick most mornings. My husband started making me toast to eat in the car on the way to work to combat the car sickness which seemed to help. I stuck to mainly plain foods (not like me) which meant most of our dinner options went out the window! I also tried travel bands, don’t think they did much. I found that eating small amounts very regularly made the nausea manageable during the day and salty snacks were my food of choice! Crisps, crackers, cheese triangles etc! Dry cereal was also good and I ate strawberries and grapes as snacks and drank cranberry juice to make sure I was getting some vitamins! A lot of times I wasn’t remotely hungry but forced myself to eat as that helped the nausea – weird isn’t it?

As the weeks went on the nausea continued and I also felt pretty exhausted after each work day – so I’d just come home every night and lie on the sofa and achieve nothing! I noticed that my emotions were heightened and I could cry at the drop of a hat at anything happy or sad on TV!

Other things which helped me along the way were baths, lots of TV, listening to old CDs (Take That and Westlife lol), and a nice relaxing weekend in Ballycastle with plenty of fresh air (I am turning into my mum, it’s official).

Our 12 week scan finally came around and it was amazing, worth everything ten times over as we heard our baby’s heartbeat and saw the scan. It took until about 14 or 15 weeks for the nausea to reduce considerably and my energy levels to return to ‘semi’ normal. I am now 19 weeks and generally feel pretty good! I still feel a bit sick in the mornings and am pretty tired, but am so happy to be past the first trimester and am keeping my fingers crossed everything goes well for the remainder of my pregnancy.

How were the First Twelve Weeks for you?

Love, Laurel

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What’s new with me…a special announcement!

So I am slacking again with blog posts again! I feel guilty as I have really enjoyed posting almost twice a week for a good part of this year.

However I am very happy to say there is a reason for my absence – I am expecting a baby! I am four months pregnant now and my husband and I are extremely excited and feel very fortunate and grateful.

Here’s how we announced our news:

Pregnancy Annoucement

And here’s how we got Ella to stay like that while we took the picture:

Bichon Frise

The reason I haven’t felt much like blogging is because that old first trimester was a lot tougher than I expected! I don’t think I was prepared for the onslaught of symptoms, along with keeping things a secret and ‘acting normal’ and still doing everything I usually did (I’m talking about work mainly!).

So a lot of slobbing around has been done in the evenings and weekends and I have done more than my fair share of moaning! But I am feeling a good bit better and more like myself now though thankfully. My husband is very glad too! I am grateful for all his help so far  including breakfast in bed every morning.

We are very excited for April 2015!

Love, Laurel

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Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

Well hello! This is my first post in ages, I had a completely blog free September :( I hope to start posting more regularly again, and thought I would get back into it with some baking, so I made Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes. I have never baked cupcakes before but I’ve made plenty of cakes, and one of my favourites is my Mum’s Coffee and Walnut cake, so I thought I’d give cupcakes a go in that flavour!

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes (makes 12)

  • 25ml strong instant coffee
  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 75g walnuts, finely chopped

For the frosting

  • 80g butter
  • 10ml strong instant coffee
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 12 walnut halves

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees celcius
  2. Make the instant coffee and leave to cool
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar
  4. Beat the eggs with the vanilla and pour them gradually into the butter and sugar, mixing until everything is combined.
  5. Stir through the cooled coffee
  6. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and then fold in until combined. Then mix in the chopped walnuts.
  7. Spoon the mixture equally into cupcake cases and bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. To make the frosting: beat the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining coffee, and then gradually sift in the icing sugar until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.
  10. Spread or pipe it onto the surface of each cake and top with a half a walnut for decoration.

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes

The coffee flavour is nice and subtle in both the sponge and the frosting but still definitely there. The cupcakes aren’t huge – just the right size I think! They were very easy to make and are great for these autumnal and rainy days.

Love, Laurel

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Five Latest Loves #7 – GBBO, Make Up and Flip Flops included!

Summer is drawing to a close and there is a definite chill in the air. I am hoping for a hot September though – that would make up for a below par August we have just had. Although I love summer, Autumn does have it’s benefits, and I am quite looking forward to cosy nights in and the start of X Factor! I still love it!

Here’s my Five Latest Loves for this week!

The Great British Bake Off

Not very original I know. Like millions of others, I have watched every series of Bake Off and always look forward to it coming back on. Wednesday night’s episode was surprisingly dramatic, and the only Northern Irish contestant was sent home under controversial circumstances! I personally felt a bit sorry for Iain but when I checked it out on Twitter, Sue Perkins had commented that the show had been edited slightly to make it appear that Iain’s ice cream was out of the freezer for ages, when in fact it was about 40 seconds. Good TV though. I think I want Richard to win, but I do love Norman!

Great British Bake Off

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

I have been using this brush for a few days now to apply my foundation, and so far I love it! It’s a really firm and dense brush and is excellent for blending cream or liquid foundation evenly. I am a big fan and am glad I have made the switch from sponge to brush. I also love the Real Techniques Blush Brush – such good quality and brilliant for building up colour and blending.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

iPANEMA Flip Flops

I was kindly sent these lovely white flip flops by iPANEMA in Beach White last week. Unfortunately the weather here in Northern Ireland hasn’t been the greatest for the past few weeks, and I don’t have any more holidays abroad planned, so instead I have been wearing these incredibly comfortable flip flops around the house, as it’s still not quite cold enough for slippers! They are so soft and spongy to wear and sort of mould to my feet when I put them on. They seem really durable so will I will definitely be bringing them on my next beach holiday! iPANEMA currently have a great range to choose from if you fancy checking it out! Size wise I got a size bigger than normal as I always find flip flops slightly smaller than other shoes. Mine are a size 5.

iPANEMA Flip Flops

Max Factor Masterpiece Max Mascara

This isn’t really a latest love, as I’ve used it for years, but when my last tube ran out I bought a different brand, and it just didn’t match up. So I’m back on this excellent product from Max Factor in Brown/Black. It lengthens and thickens my lashes and NEVER clumps no matter how much I apply. It is honestly the best mascara I have ever used. Highly recommended!

Max Factor Masterpiece Max Mascara

Family get-togethers

I am spending this weekend in Ballycastle (again) with my extended family to celebrate my Uncle’s 50th Birthday. I love it when we all get together and really enjoy catching up with everyone. There is always loads of food so I’m looking forward to that too!

http://www.laurelloves.com/2014/04/easter-north-coast/

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Love, Laurel

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Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland

Last Sunday my family and I spent the day at Tollymore Forest Park, which is located near Newcastle, County Down. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Belfast.

Tollymore Forest Park

The scenery is gorgeous and we had a great day walking around the park enjoying the views. If you are ever visiting Northern Ireland, I would recommend coming here! Also nearby is Castlewellan Forest Park, and of course the Mourne Mountains. There are camping facilities at Tollymore and some of Game of Thrones was filmed here!

Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park

Tollymore Forest Park

We visited Tollymore as part of my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary celebrations, as a walk in the countryside is genuinely their favourite thing to do!

Tollymore Forest Park

This Sunday however, involves gardening, housework and a bit of DIY – not very exciting! Roast dinner time later though, and no work tomorrow, woohoo!!

Hope you are having a good weekend.

Love, Laurel

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Lemon and Lavender Anniversary Cake

My sister and I made this Lemon and Lavender Anniversary Cake at the weekend. The occasion was our parent’s 30th wedding anniversary, which makes me very happy and proud! It’s not the neatest or most professional looking cake, but it tastes amazing and that’s the main thing! It consists of a lemon and buttermilk sponge with a lavender glaze, lavender buttercream and lemon icing.

Lemon and Lavender Cake

For the Cake Sponges

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and line two 9 inch cake tins and aside.
  • Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, lemon zest and eggs. Then add in the buttermilk and stir well.
  • Gradually add in the remaining dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt), one cup at a time. Beat mixture until it becomes a smooth batter.
  • Pour batter into prepared cake tins, making sure it is evenly distributed. Put in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Then remove from tins and leave to cool on a rack.

For the Lavender Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Sprig of fresh lavender / tablespoon dried lavender

Method

  • Put the sugar and lavender into a saucepan and rub together to release the lavender flavour. Add the water and stir well.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes until it becomes a syrup and then allow to cool. Reserve 1/4cup of the syrup for the buttercream. The rest will be used as a glaze.

For the Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup lavender syrup

Method

  • Beat all ingredients together until a buttercream is formed. If the mixture is too thin, add more sugar. Put the buttercream in the fridge to stiffen slightly before spreading.

For the Lemon Icing

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Method

  • Pour all ingredients into a bowl and stir until combined and smooth

So after you have done ALL of that (it’s quite an involved cake!) you can now assemble!

  • When the sponges are still on the cooling rack, pour the lavender syrup over the top of them (don’t let it drip) and leave to set for about 5 minutes. It should harden quite quickly.
  • Put one of the sponges on your cake stand or plate and spread the buttercream on top. Then add the second sponge to the top.
  • Pour the lemon icing over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down if you want it to.
  • Decorate it however you like!

Lemon and lavender cake

Lemon and lavender cake

The combination of lemon icing and lavender buttercream is lovely, and the sponge is delicious. It’s quite a dense cake, a bit like Madeira, and the buttercream makes it nice and moist, as does the lavender syrup glaze. It’s a large cake so there is plenty to go around.

Although it took us a while to make, it was definitely worth the effort and my Mum and Dad loved it!

Love, Laurel

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Recipe taken and adapted from The Bleubird.

Chicken, Chorizo and Butterbean Stew

The summer seems to have disappeared here in Belfast. There is a definite chill in the air, along with ridiculous amounts of rain and no sun. Not good considering it’s only mid-August. I am really hoping things pick up a bit, but in the meantime here’s a recipe that is quite appropriate for our current weather – Chicken, Chorizo and Butterbean Stew.

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

I was very kindly sent this Chasseur casserole dish last week by Viking. I had no idea they had a great kitchen range, and was so pleased with the dish when it arrived; the quality is excellent. It’s made of cast iron and it’s the kind of item that will last a lifetime. You can view the rest of their range here.

Chasseur Casserole Dish Viking

Ingredients

  • 2 Skinless and boneless chicken breast
  • Good quality chorizo – I used about a six inch piece
  • 1 Small onion
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • Carton of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g Tin of butter beans
  • 1 Pint chicken stock
  • Handful of chopped spinach
  • Handful of chopped coriander

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. In a casserole dish, add the chicken and fry until sealed. Add the onions and garlic and reduce the heat. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chorizo and smoked paprika and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Pour in the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and stir well. Place the lid on the dish and put it in the oven. Cook for 1.5 hours.
  • Take the dish out and add the butter beans, coriander and spinach. Put back in the oven for a further 15 minutes.
  • Serve alone or with crusty bread (we had sour dough – yum)

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

The stew is really, really tasty and the chicken and chorizo cooked beautifully in the cast iron casserole dish. It was a ‘one pot meal’ which was great, and I left it overnight before eating which brought out the flavours even more. I would highly recommend this stew if you want something tasty, satisfying and warming, with minimal washing up!

Love, Laurel

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Recipe taken and adapted from Marcus Bean on This Morning.