My Family Picnic Favourites

I’ve said it before on my blog but, eating alfresco makes me ridiculously happy! There’s something about enjoying food and drink outdoors, whilst soaking up the sunshine – it just sends happy hormones shooting around my body. This week (Saturday 13th – Sunday 21st June 2015) is National Picnic Week so with that in mind I thought I’d do a round-up post of my family picnic favourites. Hopefully it will inspire you to pack up a bag of tasty goodies, grab your picnic mat and head out for a family picnic.

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My Family Picnic Favourites (1)

1. Hammy Floral Picnic Mat – £30.00

This absolutely gorgeous picnic blanket is from Ragged Rose and features a stunning pink and white floral design on both sides of the mat. On one side the the rose print is on a cotton material and the reverse side has the same print on PVC, making it easy to wipe clean after each use. What I like about this picnic mat is that when you’ve finished using it, you simply roll it up and tie the ends together. I much prefer this to picnic blankets that have Velcro straps because they seem to get messy and ruined very quickly. I now keep this mat folded up in Jasmine’s pushchair basket so I can grab it and use it at any given moment – it’s had plenty of use at the park and beach already.

2. OXO Good Grips Salad Dressing Shaker – £7.69

This nifty little product is a great spill/leak proof way of making up salad dressings quickly and easily. Just add your ingredients and shake it up!  The fact that it’s watertight means it’s perfect for taking your dressings out and about with you for picnics. It’s also handy for storing leftover dressings in the fridge. I love my salads for lunch, especially as I’m on the Slimming World plan, and this has been so useful for making up low-syn salad dressings.

3. Mustela SPF 50+ Very High Protection Sun Spray – £19.79

This stuff has been an absolute Godsend over the last couple of weeks. Jasmine is incredibly fair skinned and I’m always very conscious of that when we’re out enjoying the sunshine. Thankfully this sun spray is easy to use and I know that once it’s on she is protected. It’s not sticky like some suncreams and doesn’t have an overpowering scent either. It’s the best baby and children’s sun protection I’ve used – so much so, I also use it on myself. Now, if Mustela could just invent a way to keep Jasmine’s sunhat on – that would be fab!

4. Can you tell what it is yet?! It’s the OXO Strawberry Huller – £7.99

If you follow my blog then you will know that I am growing my own strawberries this summer so I just had to try this Strawberry Huller which, as you’ve probably guessed, removes strawberry leaves and core – all in one quick twist! I’ve found this works much better on bigger strawberries than smaller ones but it’s quite a fun little gadget. This is perfect if you’ve taken a punnet of strawberries with you on your picnic. Also, it would be particularly useful if you were decorating a cake using lots of strawberries and wanted to get rid of all the leaves quickly and effectively.

5. OXO Twist Top Bottle – £11.99

As a family, we often combine our picnics with a walk or bicycle ride to somewhere first, which in the summer, is thirsty work (particularly if you’re pulling kids along in a bike trailer or pushing them in a pushchair). This large twist top bottle (24oz) is ideal for those pit-stops along the way. I really like the twist top as it keeps the straw inside the bottle, keeping it clean. I’m terrible for not drinking enough water so I’m hoping that having this bottle will encourage me to take a drink out with me wherever I go.

6. BRITA Navelia Water Filter – £19.00

This BRITA water filter would be especially useful for those ‘at home’ picnics or BBQs in the garden. It’s probably the most stylish water filter I’ve seen around (with 6 fab colours/designs available) and it is slender enough to sit in your fridge shelf. There’s an inbuilt electric cartridge exchange indicator to remind you to change the cartridge every four weeks (you can buy a x6 pack of cartridges for around £16). I’ve noticed that our tap water has tasted noticeably nicer since using it.

And, of course, this picnic themed post wouldn’t be complete without sharing some of the yummy things we’ve been enjoying alfresco lately…

My family picnic favourites

As somebody who adores marshmallows, I have always wanted to try a proper American -style S’mores but have never found anywhere in the UK that sells them… until now! Check out these beauties from Anges de Sucre – you can even buy them online and have them delivered to your door. Do it now and thank me later! :)

Corkers crisps are produced just down the road from me in Cambridgeshire. They have a large range of flavours – from Sea Salt to Duck and Hoisin Sauce. However, my personal favourite are the Red Leicester and Caramelised Onion flavour. If you like your crisps to have a proper crunch – these will be right up your street! You can find these crisps available at National Trust properties, the Tate, selected Waitrose stores and also Corkers crisps

We were sent a range of delicious sweet treats from The Fabulous Bakers which have gone down VERY well indeed with my whole family. My favourite had to be the Triple Chocolate Muffins (obvs!), whilst Jasmine couldn’t get enough of the Mango and Pineapple Bars. The range is available to buy from Asda, Ocado and Sainsbury’s from £1.50 – £1.79 – bargain!

Personally, I do not like drinking tea or coffee (I know!) so I tend to stick to water. But let’s face it, water gets boring after a while so it’s nice to finally be able to add some flavour to my drinks when I’m out and about. I now don’t go anywhere without a handy Robinson’s SQUASH’D in my bag. They make up to 20 drinks and cost £2 each, which is obviously much cheaper than buying 20 bottles of flavoured drinks from the shop!

Do you have any favourite picnic products?

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These products were sent to me for the purpose of this post. However, all opinions are my own.

Summer days
We're going on an adventure

Should I keep my maiden name?
The Pros and Cons

There’s just over a month to go until Stephen and I tie the knot and almost everything for the big day is sorted. However, there is still one issue that I’m completely undecided on. Should I keep my maiden name once I’m married? I seem to keep going back and forth on whether or not I want to keep my current surname or take my husband’s.

So I thought I’d do some thinking out loud, here on my blog, in order to help make a decision. I’m going to list the pros and the cons for changing my name and see if I feel any clearer at the end of it.

And before anyone suggests it, a double-barrel name is out of the question – honestly, it would sound ridiculous.

Should I keep my maiden name – the pros and cons:

Con: It doesn’t sound right

It’s not that I don’t like Stephen’s surname, in fact it’s far more unusual than mine (my surname is Richards). Until I met Stephen, I’d never even heard of his surname before. I do like that it’s a bit different. BUT when I put it together with my name it just doesn’t sound right. Does that even matter? I mean, it didn’t stop Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, did it?!

Pro: We’d all have the same name

I think this will probably be one of the main factors in making my final decision. Jasmine has Stephen’s surname and I do think it would be quite nice for us to all share the same name as a family. From a practical point of view, I never want to be in a situation where I have to prove my daughter is mine because we don’t have the same surname, when travelling through an airport, for example. I know people who have experienced this kind of hassle first hand and recently one of my favourite bloggers, Charlotte, wrote a very moving post about such an experience. (You can read that post here.)

Con: I don’t like paperwork

I’ll be honest, I am extremely lazy when it comes to paperwork – I can’t stand filling out forms. The thought of having to change my bank details, passport and driving license, plus countless of online account details etc. fills me with dread.

Pro: I feel like a new name could give me a fresh start

Sometimes life presents you with opportunities to wipe the slate clean and start again. Opportunities such as starting a new job or moving to a new area. You can reinvent yourself a little. I feel the same way about a name change – perhaps Mrs Jenna L***** will be a bit more sassy (I just giggled at the idea of me being ‘sassy’) or a tad more confident. Or… maybe I’m just talking out of my arse. And I’ll be the same old me… with a different name.

Pro: The feminist in me wants me to keep my name

I can recall my much younger self (we’re talking 7 or 8 years old) saying that I would keep my surname when I got married (although I did think that I’d have to marry a man with the same surname to do that). Obviously, now I know that I can indeed keep my own name or change it to something completely different if that’s what I want. Part of me thinks “Why should I?”. Why should I be the one who has to change my name. I’ve been Jenna Richards for almost 28 years – do I really have to take a man’s name just because I’m marrying him? Is it really that important in this day and age? I don’t believe it is and I don’t believe I should (nor does Stephen by the way).

Pro: I don’t have to make a decision right now

I can, of course, change my name at any point in the future – it doesn’t need to be as soon as we’re married. I can think about it a little longer and decide how much it bothers me that I’m the odd one out or even if it bothers me at all.

From looking over the above points, it would seem I’m leaning towards keeping my name (at least, for the immediate future anyway) but I would love to hear your thoughts!

What do you think, should I keep my maiden name?

Did you/would you keep your name or change it? Why?

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An A to Z of Jasmine

I was recently tagged by my good friend Katy to do an ‘A to Z’ post about myself. However, I thought it would be more fun for me if I wrote an ‘A to Z of Jasmine’ instead. After all, I like to use my blog as a place to make notes about my little girl, who is growing up far too quickly! I hope that one day, when I’m much older and my memory is hazy, I will have all of these lovely memories to look back on and reminisce over.

A – Jasmine’s was born on the 7th April 2014 at 7.41pm. 

B – Jasmine’s bedroom has a Little Red Riding Hood theme. It’s my favourite room in the house.

C – Jasmine had recently started giving proper cuddles. She throws her arms around me and rests her head on my body. It gives me the warm fuzzies. :) 

D – Whenever we are out, if we pass a dog, Jasmine will always point at it and make an “Ooo?!” noise. She’s fascinated with our canine friends. 

E – Jasmine currently has eight teeth. Four at the top and four along the bottom. 

F – We did Baby Led Weaning with Jasmine which made feeding her so much easier. 

G – Jasmine’s first ever journey on a plane was to Guernsey, which is where we spent her first Christmas at her Auntie and Uncle’s house.

H – “Heidi” was Jasmine’s first (and so far, only) word. She says it in an extremely high pitched voice.

I – Jasmine recently suffered with a nasty ear infection and conjunctivitis at the same time. Fortunately, she’s back to full health now. 

J – Jasmine’s favourite toy is a pink Jellycat rabbit that we refer to as ‘Bunny‘. She cuddles it at night and takes it everywhere with her. 

K – The first item of clothing Jasmine ever wore was a peach-coloured knitted hat that was given to her by the hospital. Unfortunately, it got thrown away by a midwife so we never got to keep it. 

L – Stephen and I each wrote a letter to Jasmine on her first birthday. They have been sealed and stored safely in her keepsake box. We are going to do this every year so that she can read them when she’s older. 

M – Jasmine was born at the Midwife Led Birthing Unit at West Suffolk Hospital – but only just!

N – “Noodles” is the nickname Stephen and I have for Jasmine. We probably use it more than her real name but she responds to both. 

O – Oranges are one of Jasmine’s favourite foods, she can hoover one up in approximately 0.5 seconds. 

P – We spend a lot of time at the park near our house. I still haven’t figured out how to remove Jasmine from the swings without a tantrum ensuing. She’d stay on the swings all day if I’d let her!

Q – Jasmine does the baby sign for ‘duck’ whenever she hears the sound of ‘quacking‘. Adorable. 

R – I had an early miscarriage in November 2012, Jasmine is our ‘Rainbow Baby‘. :)

S – Jasmine is obsessed with our Sing & Sign DVD. We have to watch it several times a day and it completely captivates her from start to finish, every single time. It drives me a little bonkers.

T – Jasmine’s first tooth came through at 7 months.

U – I’m extremely sentimental but there was no way I could keep Jasmine’s umbilical cord stump once it had dropped off. Gross! It went straight in the bin. 

V – Jasmine’s favorite vegetables are courgette, tomatoes and baby corn.  

W – We’ve recently started going to Waterbugs swimming classes – I hope Jasmine’s confidence will grow over the next few weeks as she’s very nervous in the pool.

X – Jasmine received a wooden instrument set in the shape of an owl for her first birthday from her ‘Auntie Bubbs‘ (two of my best friends) which has a Xylophone on it. Jasmine loves to play it, even though she holds the sticks the wrong way round.  

Y – I still can’t get over the fact that my baby is a whole year old.

Z – Jasmine is terrified of most zoo animals and wasn’t even that keen on the very nonthreatening red pandas.  

I now tag Lorraine from Babyy Pebbles, Vickie from A Pocketful of Dandelions, Hayley from Hayley’s Little Things and Shannon from Shannonagains to do an ‘A to Z’ post on either themselves, their little ones or anything else that takes their fancy. :)

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Stream of consciousness….

Some days I feel like my mind works overtime, the voice in my head yammers on all day long about anything and everything. I often find that writing down these thoughts and feelings help me to process them, rather than let them run round and round in my head, like a broken record. So that’s exactly what this post is, a stream of consciousness, that will mean very little to anyone else, but something tells me that I’ll feel better for writing it all down.

Jasmine’s napping upstairs and I stand outside in the garden, the sun warms my skin, I’m feeling a little lost….

Heidi is with me, she’s dragging a toy around the garden. She dumps the manky, old ball on a rope at my feet and I bend over to pick it up and then throw it for her. She whizzes to the other side of the garden and snatches it from the air. She then runs around in circles, tail tucked between legs, ball and rope hanging from her mouth. She looks so happy. I think for a minute about how uncomplicated happiness is for a dog.

All I can hear in the garden is the gentle hum of the main road, it’s like white noise and I barely notice it half the time. I can never decide if I enjoy this peace and quiet whilst Jasmine naps or not. Part of me likes the silence, a little bit of time to catch my breath before she wakes up for ‘Round 2’ but the other part of me feels like the silence is a reminder of just how lonely and isolated I am on a day to day basis.

I can’t stop thinking about my family. I get annoyed with myself for thinking about them because I know they don’t think about me. I constantly go from a ‘ah, who needs them’ attitude to ‘I really wish they were a part of my life’. I hate turning green with envy every time somebody mentions how wonderful their parents are, how they dote on their grandchild, how they are always there for them. I want that. I want Jasmine to have that. And we can’t have it because we cannot control other people. We can’t make them care about us. We can’t make them want to be part of our lives. Ah, who needs them.

I wish that Stephen was home because this weather is glorious. I feel selfish for enjoying it when I know he’s at work, feeling stressed. I wish we could enjoy this sunshine together. We met around this time of year, it was on sunny days like this one that we would walk for miles and miles, getting to know one another.  We’ve been together for almost 5 years, but I still feel like there’s lots of getting to know each other that’s still to be done. It’s so important that we make time for each other, it’s not so easy anymore but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I never want to take him for granted.

I think about going back to work. It’s not that I’m planning to, I don’t have to and I’m not sure if I want to. I’m not a career woman, I don’t miss work. I do miss adult company, though. The friends I’ve made on maternity leave have all gone back to work and now I rarely see any of them. I can’t help but think maybe I should go back to work too? I always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mum when I had children but I never realised how guilty I’d feel about it. I feel like it’s not enough. Whenever I go somewhere new, meet new people, I secretly pray they won’t ask me what I do. Because I’m not sure how to answer them without feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I care what they think and that annoys me. Ugh.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be able to earn a living from my blog. The type of blog posts I enjoy writing aren’t the type that make money. And even if they were, would I want to put a price on them? No, I’ll have to find another way. For now, I’m enjoying just doing what I do. I have got some genuinely lovely readers and that is payment enough.

I’m undecided about going dancing again tonight. I enjoyed it last week and I am proud of myself for giving it a go. But I don’t know if I’ve got it in me to do it all again tonight. To put on my brave face, to go and dance with strangers, to walk in that hall, bust some moves and pretend I don’t care that I’m alone. I’ll see how I feel later on…

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One year ago…

A year ago today we saw Jasmine for the first time at our 12 week ultrasound scan.

We sat in the hospital waiting room feeling giddy with excitement, although after one early loss already, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t felt extremely nervous leading up to that day. The thing I wanted to hear more than anything that morning was “everything looks good”. The couple sat opposite us could obviously tell we were all new to this, the bloke leaned forward and whispered “first time?”. They went on to tell us that this was their fifth child and that they also had 7 dogs as well as various farm animals. To be honest, I wasn’t overly interested as all I could think about was my own baby but it did kill time while we waited for my name to be called.

I was also desperate for the loo due to the nerves but also the half a litre of water I’d drunk in the car on the way in. A few minutes after my appointment time, just as I was a bursting point, we heard “Jenna, please?” Finally it was our turn to see our baby.

I was taken into a small room and introduced to the Sonographer, a lovely middle-aged lady who somehow immediately made me feel at ease. With her was a trainee Sonographer who asked if we minded her sitting in on the appointment, we were fine with that.

I hopped onto the bed, adjusted my clothes to expose my stomach and watched the Sonographer squirt gel on to my belly. “This is going to be cold, I’m sorry.” It took me back to the ultrasound scan I had when I was about 5-years-old.

For some reason I thought it would take her a while to find the baby, I guess because I had been used to searching for it with our home doppler. However, within a couple of seconds it was on the screen, clear as day, that unmistakable black and white baby-shaped image. You never forget that moment.

The next few minutes were filled with lots of ‘wow’s as we were shown the different parts of the body. I still couldn’t quite believe this was all real. The weeks of sickness I had endured were suddenly all worth it.

The Sonographer took a few minutes to concentrate on taking measurements and then I heard the words I had been waiting for “Everything looks good.” After she had finished taking the details she needed, she asked if it was OK if the trainee had a go. As I could’ve quite happily watched my baby all day I was only too pleased to get the opportunity to see it on the screen for a little bit longer.

They printed us off a picture and gave it to us for free as a thank you for helping the trainee out. Sadly our appointment came to an end but what an experience. Stephen and I both had beaming smiles across our faces. I stared at that blurry little image all the way home. Our baby. It was slowly sinking in. Now we could finally break the news to our friends and families!


The 14th October 2013 was such momentous day for us and one I will never forget.

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