Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Five Destinations I Would Revisit

I've got to be honest: blogging just lately is hard. I can think up half-ideas, but I'm really struggling to find the energy and motivation to develop them and write a full post, not to mention find and edit relevant pictures. Just. So. Tired.

But anyway, the lovely Holly has come to the rescue today and nominated me to take part in a blogging challenge/competition that is doing the rounds. Unfortunately I don't meet the terms and conditions to win the iPhone 6, but I'm OK with that and I'm going to just write the post anyway and share with you five places I would love to revisit.

1. Mexico
We visited Playa del Carmen in May 2009 - you may remember this as the time that the world was at panic stations over the outbreak and spread of swine flu. We were on the last flight out of the UK before all flights to Mexico were stopped, which we didn't actually know until the following day when we met our rep. In a way, it worked to out advantage as the resort was extremely quiet so we had a thoroughly relaxing two weeks in the sun. However, it was disappointing that we didn't have the opportunity to visit some places we had hoped to due to the Mexican government closing them. I'd love to go back and see Chichen Itza, and although we did get to visit Xcaret I would absolutely go there again because we had the most fantastic day!

2. Kenya
We had The Best Honeymoon in Kenya in 2011. There are no words that sufficiently describe the magic of seeing such amazing, beautiful animals in their own habitat - safari is an absolutely incredible experience and I would imagine anyone that does it would say exactly the same. We also had a really lovely stay in a beach resort in Mombasa, such beautiful surroundings and the staff were fantastic and we got to really relax - just what was needed after a year of wedding planning! I would love to do the whole thing all over again. You can read all of our adventures on honeymoon here.

3. New York
This might be a bit of a cheat since we're going to be back there in 27 days... But that just goes to show it definitely belongs on the list, right? I took this photo on the morning of our first wedding anniversary from the Top of the Rock, and I am so looking forward to going back this time round at night to capture the Empire State Building all lit up.

4. Orlando
Our first trip to Orlando last year was a brief one by usual British standards - just 5 nights. We decided that, as our stay was so short, we would completely skip Disney and focus on Universal - and we had such a great time! I would, however, love to go back for a longer stay and take in all the magic of Disney. We've been to Disneyland Paris before, which did feel magical - but I can only imagine how incredible "proper" Disney in Orlando must be in comparison!

5. Devon
Not a million miles from Holly's beloved Cornwall is my favourite part of the country: Devon. Next door, in fact. I holidayed with my parents in South Devon from being barely old enough to walk, and even now I still visit almost every year. This place holds a lot of special memories for me, and I really can't wait to take my own little one someday and create a whole lot more.

So there you have it, that's my five places I would love to revisit. What would be on your list?

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

To Christmas Tree or Not to Christmas Tree?

The time is drawing nearer to December, and usually once December rolls around I become increasingly antsy and desperate to get the Christmas decorations out. There's just something so wonderful about putting the tree up, isn't there?

However... This year, I just can't decide what to do. Neither of us can. If we were to put the decorations up, it would be on the weekend of 6th December, and we would have only 2 weeks to enjoy them before going on our big festive trip. We arrive back on Sunday 5th January, so realistically we would either have to take them all down before leaving, or on the very same day that we get home. Which honestly doesn't sound all that appealing.

What to do??? What would you do in our shoes? Would you carry on as normal, putting the decorations up? Would you put a few up, to make taking them down quicker and easier but still have an air of festivity around the house? Or would you decide that there's little point making the effort for just two weeks? Please help!!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Things I've Learned About Early Pregnancy

Having spent such a long time trying to get pregnant, I thought I knew what to expect. In theory, I kind of did. The reality of it has been a learning experience though!

Here are some of the things I've learned about early pregnancy over the last 5 weeks:

- tiredness reaches a whole new level. I thought I was tired during IVF; going to sleep at 9pm and wishing I could fit in an afternoon nap. Now I still wish for the afternoon nap, but there have been many days I haven't even made it to 9pm. 8.15pm the other night, rock on! I've kind of forgotten what the clock looks like at that time!

- constant nausea and queasy feelings are Not Fun. Eating properly is a distant memory now.

- I don't even remember what it feels like to not have a headache.

- having a super sensitive nose makes life interesting. Except when the nose is picking up horrible smells (peanut M&Ms as an example) which then, combined with the queasy stomach, makes for a horrible time.

- bouts of dizziness always attack at the most inopportune moment. There are not enough benches positioned around the places I frequent to help in my battle with this.

- working in an office with no opening windows is not conducive to feeling well. I need fresh air often, which I don't get when working in an airtight box.

I think I massively underestimated how all-consuming these symptoms could be; I am thoroughly grateful to have them, don't get me wrong, but I am also looking forward to being far enough along to wave them goodbye!

Can you relate to any of these symptoms? How did/do you cope?

The List

Thursday, 20 November 2014

How I Found Out I'm Pregnant

When you're going through IVF, and you have a bunch of TTC friends, the question you are asked repeatedly is "when will you test?" Some people can't resist testing early so that they have their result as soon as possible. Others can't bear the idea of seeing a negative result - especially when testing early can lead to a false negative.

Our frozen embryos, which were at the 5 day blastocyst stage, were transferred on Friday 10th October. My official test date at the clinic was Monday 20th October. However, I was aware that my result should show a reliable result at 9 days post transfer - which was on the Sunday.

I changed my mind a couple of dozen times during that nine days - I would test on the Sunday; I would wait and test at home on the Monday. On the Thursday, I started to feel a little 'off'. On the Friday, I felt positively awful (poor timing too - we were at a wedding, and although I made it through the day's festivities I had to go to bed at 5pm and completely missed the party on the evening!). On the Saturday, I decided I would test first thing on Sunday.

I barely slept a wink that night. My mind was working overtime: what if the test was negative? What if it was positive??? The uncertainty of our fate made for a very restless night for me. Eventually, just after 7am, I could put it off no longer. I needed to pee, so it was time to pee on that stick.

I had carefully placed an internet cheapy test in the bathroom the night before, and I watched as the control line immediately turned to a dark red. My eyes were fixed on where I thought the test line should be, and nothing seemed to be happening. My heart sank. I left the test on the edge of the bath, and I brushed my teeth. Afterwards I looked at the test, then I looked again. Was that a line? There was something there, definitely.

I'd heard Boy stirring in the bedroom, so I hollered for him to come and have a look. He agreed that there was definitely something of a second line. I took a (couple of!) photos of it and asked my lovely internet friends for their opinion. I was happy, but cautious - I didn't want to get too swept away in the moment.

My intention had been to save my last ClearBlue Digital test for the Monday morning, but by Sunday afternoon I could resist no longer. After what felt like a lifetime, the egg timer gave way to the word 'Pregnant'. Wow! I had almost given up hope of ever seeing that without the preceding 'Not'. It took its time about deciding just how much hCG there was though, it felt like another lifetime passed before it finally showed a result in weeks. I had expected to see 1-2 weeks, so it was quite a shock when this happened:

What does it mean?? Is that our first real sign that both embryos stuck? Unfortunately, we would have to wait another few weeks before that question could be answered...!

Monday, 10 November 2014

I Have News...!

Those of you that saw my posts the other week as part of National Fertility Awareness Week may have noticed on our timeline that we started our frozen embryo cycle back in September. Those of you that compared the dates to that of the fresh cycle may have wondered if we had a result by now.

You may also have noticed that I've been somewhat quiet lately. Not overly unusual, I know - I went all quiet when going through IVF because it's exhausting. Apparently, so is the aftermath. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so rather than me waffle on about where I've been for the last few weeks and why, I'll leave you with this:

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dealing With IVF Failure - #NFAWUK

I'm not one of those lucky people who never had to deal with grief. I'm also not one of those really unlucky people who had to deal with more grief than I can take. I've had a couple of instances of real, earth-shattering, heartbreaking, soul-destroying type sorrow, and the failure of our first IVF cycle most definitely falls into that category.

Going into that cycle, I was well aware of the stats: only 1 in 3 IVF cycles is successful. I know a handful of women who had gone through IVF before me, and every single one of them succeeded first time. In the back of my mind, I couldn't let go of the fact that because of the statistics, the odds were probably against us. Still, I tried to remain positive and optimistic... and the fact that my body responded so well to the drugs made me feel even more hopeful.

I had 17 eggs collected, and the next day we were informed that 14 of them had fertilised. We found out later that all 17 had initially fertilised, but the other 3 hadn't survived the night. This was far beyond our expectations, and we were so unbelievably happy. A couple of days later, we were told that we still had a really good number of embryos, and the embryologist was happy for us to wait until day 5 for transfer of our best-looking blastocyst. Everything was looking absolutely amazing.

Six days after 5 day transfer, I noticed I was bleeding. Not much, but enough to cause me to totally lose it right then and right there. Thankfully it was a Friday afternoon, so after I rang Boy in floods of tears I told my work colleagues I needed to go home. They never questioned it; I was obviously very upset so they just let me go.

That weekend, I tried to cling on to hope but I knew deep down what the outcome would be. I took a pregnancy test on the Saturday, and although I told myself the result could have been negative because it was just too early, all hope had left me. My official test date was the Monday, so I took another test at home on the morning before heading to the clinic for a blood test; it was, not surprisingly, negative.

I broke down once we got into the consulting room with the nurse. The emotions of it all were just too much, especially combined with the date - it was the anniversary of my dad's funeral, to top it all off. I had intended to go into work, but instead Boy took me home.

I went into work on the Tuesday morning, and my boss took me off to one side for a chat and said that I was obviously devastated and that if I needed to, I should take some time off to heal emotionally and mentally. I cannot even put into words how grateful I was for his support at that time -I truly was an emotional mess and he was quite right that I needed to grieve for what we'd lost. I spent the rest of that week at home, alternating between sleeping and crying. It was a couple of days before I felt able to communicate with anyone other than Boy.

As luck would have it, we had the week after that booked off as annual leave, so that gave me a bit more time to come to terms with what had happened. This included visiting my best friend and her beautiful little family for 5 nights, which was the perfect tonic at that point. Sometimes a girl just needs her best mate! Her daughters provided a lot of comedy, and her baby son was an excellent mix of cuddles and comedy of his own kind.

By the time I went back to work, two weeks after our negative result was confirmed, I felt much stronger - the time out was essential to the healing process for me, and although I was still obviously beyond disappointed, I was feeling a bit more ready to face the prospect of doing it all again.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

10 Things That Happen When You Try to Conceive - #NFAWUK

Today, as part of National Fertility Awareness Week, I'm taking a slightly more lighthearted (yet still very, very honest!) approach. If you've ever consciously tried to conceive, I'm sure you'll be able to relate to these!

1. Planning your life around your menstrual cycle. In particular, avoiding making social plans around the time of ovulation (because, you know, you've gotta be free to get busy!) and around the time Aunt Flo is due, because if she arrives you ain't gonna want to be sociable.

2. Becoming fluent in a whole host of acronyms you never would have dreamt of. Some examples of these are TTC, 2WW, AF, BFN, BFP, EWCM, OPK, HPT.

3. Becoming an addict at peeing on sticks, be they ovulation predictors or pregnancy tests. Oh look, there's another acronym: POAS.

4. Discussing your POAS habits on the internet with strangers.

5. Symptom spotting during the 2 week wait. Prodding your own boobs continually, to see if they're tender (they are after you've been prodding them so much!)

6. Fending off advice from well-meaning friends.

7. Losing spontaneity and romance from your relationship. Getting jiggy is a strictly timetabled activity; you can't just do it as and when you feel like it. And if you don't feel like it when it's scheduled, tough. Get over it.

8. Becoming an expert in the theoretical side of pregnancy. You know what should happen when, how you should feel... You just don't know if/when it will ever actually happen to you.

9. Feeling that the world is grossly unfair, and that there should be some sort of a queuing system in place for the dishing out of babies. How dare that couple that got married two years after you be on their second already when you're still waiting for your first?!

10. Dreading what's coming every time a friend says "I have news". It's invariably always yet another pregnancy announcement, and as happy as you are for your friend, it drives it home once more how sad you are that it isn't happening for you.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What It's Like To Be "Unexplained" - #NFAWUK

If you saw my post yesterday, you will know that in October 2012 we were given the label "unexplained infertility". This is such a frustrating thing to live with, for so many reasons.

If the doctors had been able to determine what was "wrong", then they'd know how to fix it, treat it, get around it. We would have been referred for some kind of treatment immediately. As it was, we were told that because we were unexplained, the NHS wouldn't consider offering us any sort of treatment until we had been trying to conceive for 3 years. Sure, in the grand scheme of things 3 years might not seem all that long; but when you so desperately want something to happen and the fact that it isn't happening is completely out of your control, being told you've got to wait for over a year longer before you can ask for further help is heartbreaking.

Just because the tests that have been performed haven't brought up anything specific, doesn't mean that there isn't actually an underlying problem. Unfortunately the tests that they do don't necessarily test for everything. It's frustrating knowing this, and not being able to do anything about it.

Not having a definitive answer makes it so much more difficult to accept. If everything is functioning as it should, then why don't we have a baby?? Why do other people get to have all the luck without even really trying? You begin to question everything. Am I a bad person? Do I not deserve this? Is it because I'm going to be a terrible mother?

Social situations become more difficult. Unfortunately, some people lack tact and will ask you straight up when you're having children, or why you don't have any yet. At first, you're quite good at lying through your teeth and use the age-old "we're just settling into married life first" or "we want to travel" or "we haven't thought about it". Inside, though, every time someone says something, a little piece of your heart dies. After a while, it becomes harder to keep pumping out these excuses, and it's easier to just hide away and avoid people - if you're not there, they can't ask you.

Sometimes, when you confide in people, they automatically assume that someone is "to blame". I was actually asked whether the problem was with me or with Boy. People have real trouble comprehending the fact that perhaps you've just been terribly unlucky. Aside from everything else, this isn't an exercise in which to point fingers. The fact is, it affects you as a couple. Both parties suffer equally. You want to make a baby together.

Any kind of infertility is a daily battle, but when you don't have any answers it feels like even more of a struggle. On the one hand, you try to take the positives that because there's nothing in particular wrong, maybe it will happen naturally... But on the other hand, it becomes all the more devastating when, month after month, it doesn't.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Our Trying to Conceive Journey - #NFAWUK

Today marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week, and the chances are that if you've been around here for some time you will know how close this subject is to my heart. To kick the week off, I thought I'd share our timeline of trying to conceive.

February 2011 - The start of our first cycle of not trying, not preventing (NTNP)

12 March 2011 - We got married! We knew it was unlikely, but we had hopes of a honeymoon baby.

April 2011 - My dad passed away suddenly. Extreme sadness that any children we would have would never meet him was one of my first thoughts.

June 2011 - The aftermath of losing my dad changed my way of thinking. I decided that the NTNP approach wasn't enough, and I wanted to learn more about how to maximise our chances of conceiving.

April 2012 - Made an appointment to see our GP, as we'd been trying for over a year without any success.

April - October 2012 - A number of tests were carried out, firstly blood tests for me and a SA for Boy. The results of these were fine, so we were referred to the hospital for further tests. I had an ultrasound scan and a HSG, and Boy had a repeat SA.

October 2012 - We met with the consultant to discuss results and future steps. She was incredibly unsympathetic, and basically told us to "go away" until the following October. They had discovered no obvious problems and therefore we were categorised as "unexplained infertility".

October 2013 - Back at the consultants. I was ready to fight for referral, but thankfully she was happy to get the ball rolling there and then.

January 2014 - First appointment at the Fertility Clinic.

February 2014 - Given our timetable for IVF!

8th March 2014 - Began our first cycle of IVF.

28th April 2014 - Found out conclusively that our cycle was unsuccessful.

30th June 2014 - Follow up appointment at the Fertility Clinic. We were given the option of starting our frozen cycle immediately, but we decided to take the summer off to enjoy our trip to Paris.

6th September 2014 - Began our frozen cycle.

It's been a long road to get to where we are now, but we have to keep the hope alive that someday soon, we'll get to take home a baby of our own.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

National Fertility Awareness Week

Next week is National Fertility Awareness Week here in the UK. To mark this, I will have a series of posts about my own experiences of infertility. I would love for you to stop by!

I am so glad that an awareness week exists, because infertility is something that touches so many people and yet is still so misunderstood by the world in general. The latest figures on the HFEA website tells us that one in 7 couples have problems conceiving - so even if you don't know for sure that you know someone who falls into this category, the chances are that you do.

I don't think anybody would wish infertility on anyone, and it's the sort of thing that you can't truly understand unless you've experienced it for yourself, but I do think that people in general do need to be a little more educated about the subject. It's such a lonely place, and if friends and family of those going through this difficult time could realise the best ways to be supportive, and the reality of what is going on, then it would make getting through each day that little bit easier.

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pet Peeves

I did that thing again where I just disappeared without explanation, didn't I? Things have been a bit crazy around these parts, that's all I can say really. We were at a wedding on Friday, and a colleague of mine is on holiday, so I had 2 persons-worth of work to fit into a 4-day week last week. Manic. I had intended to sit down and do some catching up over the weekend, but instead ended up wandering around a castle on the coast - as you do. But I'm here now and I'm ready to get back on the Blogtober train, today with my pet peeves!

- incorrect use of "and I"
- incorrect use of apostrophes
- there/their/they're, where/we're/wear, your/you're, loose/lose... you get the idea
- people who stand chatting in shop doorways
- queue jumpers
- "Train station". This is England, it is known as a "railway station".
- the way so many restaurants spoil what would otherwise be a lovely chicken dish with mushrooms
- always needing to sneeze right after applying mascara
- overuse of the word "like". For example, "I was, like, getting ready to, like, go shopping and, like, my phone rang, so I, like, answered it, and it was my mum, like..."

What are your pet peeves?

Helene in Between

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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Recent Reads

What I've been reading recently

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What Goodreads says:
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favours with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behaviour. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
What I say:
I had wanted to read this for so long by the time I got around to doing it, and it wasn't what I expected at all. I was pretty gripped by the storyline, and thought the book was very cleverly written. I didn't like the end though, that left me feeling very disappointed.
I rated it 4/5

Paper Towns by John Green 

What Goodreads says:
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...

What I say:
After really enjoying The Fault In Our Stars, I was keen to read more from this author. I wasn't quite so struck on this one. I found Margo to be pretty annoying for a start, and Quentin wasn't altogether engaging as a character either. In fact, here we are a couple of weeks later and I can't exactly recall how the story ended. Says it all, really.
I rated it 3/5

You're The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

What Goodreads says:
Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob - the man she's about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben - best man and the best friend any two people ever had.
And that's the problem.
Because if it wasn't Rob waiting for her at the altar, there's a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?
Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it...

What I say:
Much like when I read Giovanna Fletcher's debut, Billy & Me, I couldn't put this one down. I'm still a little bit torn with how it worked out; I think both guys made a good case for ending up with Maddy, but personally I liked the one she didn't end up with more.
I rated it 5/5

Nerd Girl by Sue Lee

What Goodreads says:

Everyone knows that office romances can be risky, but how much are you willing to sacrifice for love?
Julia Hayes is beautiful, successful, sometimes nerdy, and perpetually single. She lives in Seattle and just landed her dream job at one of the most iconic technology companies in the world. When Julia embarks on a new career opportunity, a serendipitous event literally throws her in the path of Ryan McGraw, the hot and charming VP. As the attraction grows between them, it's not long before Julia realizes that things are more complicated than they appear.
Nerd Girl is a heartwarming love story about a woman at the crossroads between true love and her career. It's about deciding what’s most important in life and taking chances to get it. But most of all, it's about not letting your mind prevent you from following your heart.

What I say:
This was a Kindle freebie and I couldn't put it down! I really liked Julia, and although Ryan made some mistakes along the way I really liked him too, and I was rooting for them to work things out.
I rated it 5/5

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

What Goodreads says:
Recipe for disaster: Celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle comes to Trenton to participate in a barbecue cook-off and loses his head - literally. Throw in some spice: Bail bonds office worker Lula is witness to the crime, and the only one she'll talk to is Trenton cop Joe Morelli. Pump up the heat: Chipolte's sponsor is offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the capture of the killers. Stir the pot: Lula recruits bounty hunter Stephanie Plum to help her find the killers and collect the moolah. Add a secret ingredient: Stephanie Plum's Grandma Mazur. Enough said. Bring to a boil: Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, a.k.a. Ranger, during the day. Can Stephanie hunt down two killers, a traitor, and five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, and solve Ranger's problems and not jump his bones?

What I say:
It's quite a while since I last read anything of Stephanie Plum and her escapades, but it was easy to get back into it and, obviously, things started going a bit crazy very early on. It was an easy read, reasonably entertaining, but not particularly memorable.
I rated it 3/5

Jenny Lopez Has a Bad Week by Lindsey Kelk

What Goodreads says:

Jenny Lopez is miserable. Having spent the summer working in LA, she’s back home in New York, and missing the three key elements in a girl’s life – a roommate, a job and a boyfriend. Jenny formulates a plan; surely someone must need a roommate and surely someone must need a girlfriend?
By the end of the day, she has arranged a viewing for a potential roommate, the gay blond aka the Sex God,secured two dates, and work looking after a top supermodel. Things look like they are back on track; everything is going to work out great. If only life was so easy…

What I say:
I think we all know that I love Lindsey Kelk's I Heart series, so I was excited to read this short story from Jenny's perspective. While I think disappointed is too strong a word, I would say I was kind of underwhelmed. Maybe because it is a short story, and I didn't have a whole lot of time to fall in love with it.
I rated it 3/5

What have you been reading recently?

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Monday, 13 October 2014

10 Weeks To Go!

I mentioned a while back that Boy and I were planning a slightly awesome trip for Christmas and New Year, and then I sort of didn't mention it again, other than to have my little rant about how we're not lucky to be having this trip.

In reality, this has obviously not fallen off my radar at all. In fact, for a few weeks it consumed me - finding the right accommodation was a total nightmare and I spent hours and days and weeks trawling the internet, trying to find just the right place for just the right price. I'm not one of those people who can just see something, think "yeah, that'll do" and book it. No, instead I have to bog myself down in the nitty-gritty details of ease of access by public transport, facilities, proximity to shops/restaurants/cafes etc, and a whole host of other things. I'm somewhat indecisive, and something of a perfectionist... But thankfully, that side of things is all settled now!

We start with 7 nights in Las Vegas, staying at the Desert Rose resort just off the strip. We chose it for a number of reasons; excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, condos including a full kitchen (you know how much I love a kitchen), no resort fees, price and location.

We'll be in Vegas over Christmas, so we're excited to see the different hotel decorations - I'm told the approach to Christmas in Vegas is just as OTT as you might hope. We've made no definite plans where shows are concerned, but I've got a list as long as my arm of those I'd like to see (Boy is quite happy to go along with whatever) so it's a case of narrowing down the selection. Any suggestions would be extremely welcome!

Next we'll fly to New York City and stay there for 5 nights, which will include New Year's Eve and Boy's birthday. We picked out one aparthotel quite quickly, but then our plans were scuppered when I went to book and they'd sold out of rooms. This led to weeks and weeks of trying to find somewhere perfect - it was a bit of a nightmare but we got there in the end!

We'll be staying in Long Island City at the Z Hotel; unfortunately no kitchen this time, but it's close to a subway stop on the E line (which is ideal for travelling from and to JFK), only one stop from Manhattan, they offer a complimentary shuttle bus to and from Manhattan, complimentary bicycles for hotel guests (not sure how much use we'll get of those in Dec/Jan but it's unusual so I like it!), and the real selling point is the absolutely amazing views. I cannot even tell you how much I'm looking forward to gazing out of those windows.

I've already made plans for Boy's birthday; we're going to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and climb right up to the crown. The last time we went to New York, for our one year wedding anniversary, the Statue of Liberty was closed for refurbishment so it was a priority to visit this time. I've read mixed reviews; some people say it's a bit of an anticlimax, but we want to experience it and find out for ourselves. It's such an iconic structure, and feels like something we should do.

We also intend to do both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock again, but switch the times of day from our last visit. Last time around, we did ESB at night and TotR first thing in the morning, so it will be nice to see the view from the 86th floor of ESB in daylight (and maybe we'll even pay the extra to go to the 102nd floor, who knows!), and to look out at the ESB all lit up from TotR at night.

Beyond that, our plans are yet to be determined. We'll probably go check out Times Square at some point on NYE, but I don't think we'll stay there all night to see the ball drop. There are a few shops we will definitely check out - Dylan's Candy Bar, FAO Schwartz, Macy's - and of course the festive window displays and the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree are a must. I'm open to suggestions though if you have any!

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sunday Social

 Apparently it's the last Sunday Social ever, so I thought I'd better take the chance to join in one final time!

1. How did you come up with your blog name?

This version was inspired by lyrics to one of my favourite songs by my favourite group, Westlife. The song is Beautiful World, and the line goes "life's made up of small victories" - which I totally believe to be true. Boy and I have faced a lot of difficulties in our time together - more than the average couple - and it really has felt at times like we just can't catch a break. So I chose the name Living for the Victories to remind myself to enjoy the good moments, no matter how small they are or how short a time they may last.

2. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
 The friendships I have made with people across the world. I didn't expect to "meet" so many wonderful women who I do genuinely class as friends.

3. What is one thing you have discovered because of blogging and now can’t live without?
 Erm... Tough one. Oh - free online photo editing! That's pretty darn good isn't it?!

4. Facebook or Twitter? Why?
 For personal use, Facebook. For the blog, Twitter. The simplest reason is that hardly any of my family and friends are on Twitter, and I don't have a FB page for my blog.

5. If one celeb read your blog, who would you want it to be?
 That's not something I've ever thought about. It would be pretty cool if anyone I'm a fan of did I guess.

6. What is something you want people to know about your blog?
Just that it's me, being honest and real.

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Little Bit Of Blog Love

A little while ago, one of my very favourite bloggers - Jamie at The Growing Up Diaries - nominated me for a Liebster Award. This is my first one since starting this blog, so I am absolutely tickled pink and super happy - thanks Jamie!

How It Works: 
I post 11 facts about myself
I answer 11 questions asked by Jamie
I nominate 11 bloggers that I love
I list 11 questions for them to answer

11 random facts you didn't know you didn't know:
1. My favourite kind of Haribo sweets are the milkshake ones.
2. I became an aunty when I was just 7 years old.
3. I have tried every flavour of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Jelly Beans. For me, the vomit one was the worst.
4. I am obsessed with New York City. Obsessed. My living room is like a shrine to the place. I can't wait to be there for New Year!

5. I so totally rock at music quizzes. Boy tries to make out that I cheat, but the truth is I'm just better than him and he can't take it.
6. I used to be terrified of rollercoasters. I didn't go on one until I was about 14. Now I love them, and going to theme parks is one of my favourite kinds of day out!

7. I used to be a nursery nurse. I am fully qualified to look after children up to the age of 8 years old.
8. I wish I could dance - like, really dance. I took salsa classes for a while, but I would love to learn properly and be (hopefully) good at it.
9. I've never broken a bone. I've been close a couple of times, but by some miracle managed to escape any actual breaks.
10. The first time I ever left the UK was the day before my 21st birthday. I went to Corfu with my boyfriend at the time.
11. I was born on a Monday. So apparently I should be fair of face. I'm not so sure that worked out the way it was supposed to!

Jamie's Questions:
1. What is your favourite season and why?
I love summer. I'm always happier when the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and I can walk around without sleeves.

2. What inspires you the most in your daily life?
This has got to be one of the most difficult questions in the world! I really don't know how to answer it. I guess people, places, things I see and do - I don't know!

3. If you were stranded on an island, what three things would you want to have with you?
Can one of them be a person? I'd want Boy there. We keep each other amused with the silliest of things, so he'd be good for keeping boredom at bay. I'd also want some kind of music source, and a good book.

4. Who is your hero?
I don't really have one. Is that bad? There are plenty of people that I admire, but there's no one person I could single out and say they're my hero.

5. Are you a coffee person, a tea person, both or neither?
Definitely coffee. I really don't like tea - totally against the British stereotype!

6. What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?
I don't particularly enjoy cooking, and I very rarely bake. I blame my kitchen! I swear, if I had a huge kitchen with loads of counter space and a great big island in the middle, I'd spend many happy hours in there! But alas, I do not. So... I'm going to say my favourite thing to cook is orange and balsamic chicken, because it tastes absolutely amazing - but I very rarely cook it!

7. Best advice you've ever been given?
Things will be OK in the end. If they're not OK, it's not the end.

8. What is your favourite sport? Who is your favourite team in that sport?
I'm British, so it's a foregone conclusion for most people that football is a big sport in my life. I was born and raised as a Manchester United fan, my dad supported them since he was a kid and he raised me to be a red devil too. But, as I'm also a northerner, rugby league is a favourite too and I support my hometown team.

9. You just won the lottery! What's the first thing you use the money for?
Travel! If I won big, I'd be booking my dream trip travelling North America.

10. What's your favourite way to relax?
My absolute, all time favourite way has got to be sitting beside a pool, with the sun blazing down and a gentle breeze, immersed in a good book. I think I really need to book a lazy, sunshine holiday!

11. Tell me something about yourself that people might find weird.
Until I was about 14, I didn't like pizza. I know for sure Jamie will find that weird!

11 Bloggers I love:
1. Holly @ Full of Beans and Sausages
2. Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly
3. Kerry @ XO Kerry
4. Mandie @ badbrewpack
5. Yvette @ Big Trouble in Little Nappies
6. Ashley @ Life on the Parsons Farm
7. Jess @ The Odell Yodel
8. Sarah @ Life as Always
9. Cheriese @ She May Be The Song That Summer Sings
10. Becky @ Rebeckann's Random Thoughts
11. Olya @ The Siberian American

My 11 Questions:
1. Who is your favourite Disney character, and why?
2. What is one thing you wish you were better at?
3. What was your favourite TV show when you were a child?
4. Who was your first celebrity crush? How old were you?
5. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
6. Have you ever won a competition of any kind?
7. What is your favourite snack?
8. Share a favourite photo or yourself. What's the story behind it?
9. Who is your favourite music artist?
10. What makes you feel most alive?
11. Do you have any pets? If not, do you want any?

Once again, huge thanks to Jamie for nominating me - and sorry I've taken so long to post!

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Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Most Memorable Halloween

Halloween isn't really that big of a deal over here in the UK. It does seem to be gaining in popularity - the shops definitely seem to have more Halloweeny type stock in now than they used to when I was a kid - but it's still a long way off having the same kind of status it seems to have in the US.
As a result, I don't have many Halloween memories to draw from. I went trick-or-treating once as a child, which was very uneventful. I went to one Halloween party in my youth, and about all I can remember of that is apple bobbing. This pretty much leaves me with the Halloween of 2008; the only party we've been to in recent years, and things didn't quite go to plan!

Boy decided that he would go to the party dressed at the Hulk. As you can probably imagine, this involved a substantial amount of green body paint. He had a green t-shirt to cover his torso, but his arms, legs and face were painted green. He looked good, but if we'd known how badly he'd end up getting on with a bottle of gin there might have been a rethink.

One minute he was fine, and the next he went outside and the addition of fresh air just seemed to send him totally over the cliff of drunkenness. At that point, I'd never really seen him drunk before, and I knew I needed to get him home. We'd only moved into the house a month beforehand and we didn't even have a bed, but I was somewhat concerned about letting him crawl into our sheets whilst covered in green so I started running him a bath. I figured if I could just get him sat in it, I could wash the paint off and everything would be OK.

It quickly became apparent that even that plan wasn't going to work. Once Boy had finished a good long vomiting session (sorry!), there was no coaxing him into the bath. He pleaded for me to make him a coffee, and when I arrived back upstairs with it I discovered him passed out on the mattress. Still green. But, thankfully, not much of it transferred on to the sheets!

Helene in Between

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hello 2024!

Dear the me of 2024,

Wow, look at you. You're 41. 41! Do you feel like a grown up yet? (My money would be on no)

So, I guess a lot has changed since you wrote this little letter to yourself. Sadly, my crystal ball is currently broken so I have no way of knowing how these 10 years are going to pan out. I can look backwards 10 years to when you were 21 (let's not consider that that's about half your life ago eh?) and I'm sure we'd both agree that those 10 years changed your life beyond recognition. At 21 you had a boyfriend who was, let's face it, all kinds of wrong for you and a bit of a d**k. You lived at home with your parents, and worked as a nursery nurse. You went out every weekend, dancing the night away, and you were a very trim and toned size 10. Wasn't life good?

The next 10 years were eventful, to say the least. You finally saw the light and ditched that boyfriend. Then you reconnected with your ex-best friend - with hindsight, you should maybe have realised that the fact that she stopped talking to you when you got a boyfriend and she got a massive case of the green eyed monster was a sign that things would never go swimmingly well for the two of you, but you always did try to see the best in people. Shame she had to stab you in the back a bit later on. But anyway... You found yourself having a huge change of direction career-wise, and little did you know then that this would lead you to Mr Right and have you move 100 miles away to set up home with him.

Your first 8 years of living together were anything but plain sailing. You had house problems, family problems, and more grief and heartache than you could shake a stick at. The loss of your dad a month after your wedding was such a difficult time, and your hopes of providing some good news for the family in the shape of tiny feet turned into another situation filled with sorrow and pain. At the time of writing this letter, that is still a work in progress, and I sincerely hope that joy finds you in the not too distant future.

On a lighter note, do you remember how much you used to look forward to 2015 because we would all travel around in flying cars and on hover boards - you'd seen it on the telly (Back to the Future, of course!) so it was obviously real and true and definitely going to happen. How did that work out for you? Maybe you're reading this in your flying car, its possible right? I wonder if you ever learned to drive when flying cars came around.

If it hasn't freaked you out enough that you're now 41, think about your godchildren. Curly is 18 this month! How did that happen? Cheeky is 15, and Smiley is almost 11. Let me tell you, 10 years ago as you were writing this, that all seemed inconceivable. I bet it feels like no time has passed at all since little Smiley used to think he was Spiderman and would climb up anyone or anything to get around, and had everyone wrapped around his little finger because that cute little face of his would melt any heart.

I hope the last 10 years have been kind to you, and have seen a change in your luck. Above all, I hope you're happy.

Helene in Between

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