Thursday, 31 January 2013

Not that long ago, after many months of stressed out caking and consequently stressed out parenting, my husband and I finally came to the conclusion that we had to get cakes out of our home! Yes, working from home has it's advantages but my little cake business had completely taken our home, apart from the bathroom and bedrooms. There were times, usually at 4 am, when I seriously questioned whether I should continue with cakes, and with very little chance of escape, something had to give. For a long time we have dreamt about moving house, with space for our children, daily living, cakes and my husband's myriad of hobby equipment and clothing! Suffice to say, without a miracle, we are staying put.

I am sure the question of converting the garage had arisen previously between my husband and I, we can only imagine we dismissed it due to the fact that it was home to two motorcycles, bicycles, kids toys, garden tools and various other types of 'garage junk'. The very fact it took us so long to realise what had been staring at us the whole time got me thinking of the circumstances that had to come together to get us to the point where the move is actually taking place... firstly, my sheer frustration at having my workplace in my home whilst being so busy; secondly, being pregnant and hormonal, enough for me to be very vocal about my frustrations to my husband; thirdly, my husband having to move work base which meant he needed a car and had to sell his motorcycles (freeing up the garage); and finally, being pregnant and due a few months maternity leave, giving us an order free window to enable the necessary work to be done. When I think about it this way it just confirms my belief that things happen the way they are meant to and sometimes we have to experience times of stress so that when we come out the other side we appreciate what we have so much more.

The beginning of our journey to a house free from cakes is due to start in the next few days (although by the time I post this it may have already started!) but there has been a lot of preparation to get us to this point, namely clearing the garage of everything! Fortunately this job has come down to my husband, admittedly it was mostly full of his stuff! With a newborn to look after, the work would have fallen on him anyway. He tells me no less than 5 trailer loads were taken to the dump, that's 8.5 years worth of junk gathered. Thankfully our lovely next door neighbours offered us the use of one of their sheds to temporarily store my crates of equipment and we also had to purchase a shed of our own to house our tumble drier along with lawn mower etc. but the result is an empty garage all ready for it's makeover! I can't quite believe it's finally happening and, in all actuality, won't take very long, then the fun begins! I have pretty much decided how I want it to look, it's just a case of sourcing all the elements and putting it altogether. In a month or two when I start back I will have a lovely space to work in and display my cakes as well as our lovely family home to escape to, free from cakes! 

Here are 2 photos to show the progress so far. I'm looking forward to seeing it develop into the images I have stored in my head and chronicling it here!

The clear-out beginning...

Almost ready for it's makeover

Kathryn xxx

Friday, 25 January 2013

In my opening blog post I suggested that some of my posts would perhaps be a cathartic experience for me and this is definitely one such post. As the title states, this post delves into my experience of my 3rd child's first 12 days of life, most notably, the experience of breast feeding for the third time.

People automatically assume that the birth of a baby brings nothing but joy and ultimately for me this is true, however there have been so many ups and downs, even in such a short space of time it made me think about the journey I have already taken since the birth. 

Arwen Winter Hodge was born 13.1.13 at 2:23am, much to my delight, as she was only 2 days from her due date and I had been waiting, albeit impatiently, to finally meet my 3rd child, whom we did not know the sex of (one of the only surprises I like!). It was beautiful, as all my children's births have been, and peaceful, with it being that time of the night especially. When you finally get to hold your new born baby in your arms it honestly is the most amazing thing, time stands still! I would never have described myself as maternal, I am not and have never been one of those women who go goo goo over babies, even my own nieces and nephews, but my own children on the other hand... well I guess that's good thing!

Since Arwen's birth, cliche I know, but I have been on a roller coaster of emotions, as expected, but more so than I remember with my other two. Firstly I have a 4 year old and a 3 year old to continue to look after (plus a husband!), a house to keep up, and the thought that I don't have the luxury of 9 months maternity leave to avail of! That being said, whilst being offered an extra night in the 'Home from Home' unit, I wanted nothing more than to go home. The first few days at home, regardless of tiredness and the physical pain of having given birth, there is a feeling of elation. When reality hits, it can all be a little daunting to say the least! From my point of view, having already had two children people assume you can just get on with it, especially some health professionals. My main reason for saying this is because of my experience this time round with my decision to breast feed again. I was never under any illusions that it would be simple and with my first it took a heck of a lot of perseverance, through a heck of a lot of pain. Of course you could just assume that it should be a very natural thing but alas the difficulties faced by willing breast feeding mothers sometimes breaks them and they turn to the bottle, milk bottle that is! Second time around I certainly felt less daunted and thankfully breast feeding was 'easy'. However third time certainly hasn't been a charm and has been the cause of many a soggy tissue and scream through gritted teeth!

In the first few days I felt fine, latching may not have been perfect but it was early days, and we, Arwen and myself, (babies don't necessarily know what to do either) would learn together. That is, of course, the ideal, however by day 4 it was becoming excruciating; latching, let down and pretty much the whole feed. In my stubbornness, I chose to battle on and said nothing to the midwife. The pain was toe curling and my screams at the beginning of each feed blood curdling! The problem with breast feeding is that you can't hide, baby will probably not feed as well as they should and this will obviously show in their weight gain. After several nights of tears and trauma I decided to ask advice from the midwife, after spending days convincing myself I could do it on my own. This was on day 8, and after much chatting, and helpful suggestions, I immediately felt better. It's amazing the difference a knowledgeable, non-patronising and most of all friendly person makes to your mood, and for 2 days the suggestions I took on board worked, much to my delight! However life has a way of making sure you never get too comfortable and at the end of day 10 I coud feel a knot in my left breast and pretty severe pain when feeding leaving me extremely tender afterwards...great, a plugged duct with the possibility of mastitis, just what I needed!

So here we are at day 12, it is agony, I am grimacing through each feed on my left breast, now I know many would say it can't be worth the pain, but I believe it is. I am, by no means, a lactivist or breastfeeding advocate, I can only go by my own experiences. Looking back now I am so glad I chose to give it a go with my first and vowed to make no difference with my second and third so I will persevere. 

Kathryn xxx

Sunday, 20 January 2013

I am sure you probably know that I had been awaiting the arrival of my third child over the Christmas/New Year period, my due date was in fact 15.1.13 however, when my previous two children arrived 10 and 14 days early, I fully expected another early arrival. You would think that I would've already learned that children are far from predictable! I am pleased to say though, that our second little girl arrived at 02:23 on Sunday 13th January 2013.

I have never been one for birth plans, although after my first labour with my son I hoped any future deliveries would pan out the same. Why think too much about something that you don't really have much control over unless you opt for elective cesarean or some medical intervention is necessary. Ok do your homework and make sure you are aware of your choices but don't decide there and then. My husband is all too keen to let people know how easy my labours have been, I freely admit that I feel I have had an easier time than most but then it's all relative, isn't it? One thing I was certain about was my preferment for the 'Home from Home' unit. I am essentially a bit of a loner and am happy with my own company (most of the time!), the idea of staying in hospital for any longer than necessary did not appeal to me nor the thought of being on a ward. The thought of being with other pregnant/labouring ladies, with perhaps different pain thresholds, potentially being excessively vocal about their experience... harsh perhaps but I don't do suffering or sympathy, just ask my husband! I grew up never missing a school day, music lesson, sports practice etc., unless you had a limb hanging off you were capable. So a room to myself with my own bathroom and plenty of space... Yes please! Of course there are certain criteria for women hoping to use this unit. It is midwife led and pain relief options are few, but I would highly recommend it for anyone with the same kind of views and a healthy, trouble free pregnancy.

As I have said before I am a creature of habit and this followed for all 3 births, even with 18 months between child #1 and child #2 then 36 months between child #2 and child #3, because it all went great with the first I didn't want to do anything differently. I sometimes wonder why, when labour begins, women don't follow the advice which makes most sense...stay at home, first stage labour can take a while; keep upright and mobile for as long as possible, gravity helps; take a bath, paracetamol use a TENS machine, these little things can take the edge off your pain. I'll spare you with the rest but suffice to say the same goes for the pushing stage, the baby has to come out so why not help baby on his/her way, your dignity goes out the window anyway so get on all fours and let gravity help! Another little luxury of 'Home from Home', whilst pain relief is very limited, is gas and air. It can make some sick but thankfully not me. So for each birth, I have stayed at home till contractions were around 4 mins apart, got to hospital, been examined, got to my 'Home from Home' room, got dressed for labour and had a few, slow, deep breaths of gas and air before each little bundle was born. Of course as my first birth went rather quickly at the end I had a fair idea the other births would follow suit and knew what to expect, thankfully they were all similar and complication free.

Obviously I can only speak for myself, and my experience is perhaps the exception rather than the rule, when I think about it I have heard more horror birth stories than positive ones, why is that? I felt sure I could get by on the pain relief available to me in the 'Home from Home' unit, hence my decision. We all know our own bodies and if, for one moment, I had thought I may need something stronger or was fearful in any way, my choice may have been different preferring the labour ward instead, with doctors and pain relief galore! The reality is that labour pains don't last forever, just breathe through the contractions and know that each one has an end. Taking one contraction at a time knowing that you will finally have your little one at the end of it all may be enough to get you through and make your birthing experience a positive one, if not the memories of the pain will fade and you can relish the fact you lived to tell your horrifying tale and have your little miracle to show for it!

Kathryn xxx

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Throughout our time spent in our first and only home, so far, we have made quite a few changes, these changes tend to be when we are experiencing other significant life changes, which have specifically been the birth of our children and changing jobs/career break. It appears we are content with our lot until something major makes us realise that changes would improve how we live, then we wonder why we didn't do it sooner!

Just before we had our first child we extended our house adding on to the rear thinking that we would have a family kitchen/diner/snug area where we would spend most of our time and we did, that was until I started  Candytuft Cakes. I just assumed that working from home would be the perfect solution but it reached the point where I could not escape cakes. We bought display cabinets which took over our dining room, not to mention the large storage boxes on the dining table, and the fact that my ingredients and other equipment took up kitchen cupboard space also... imagine living in the same space as your workplace without being able to close the door on it. So for the past few months, with the inevitability of our third child arriving, we needed to rethink our living/working arrangements yet again.

We have a detached garage, which, until my husband's work circumstances changed, housed two motorcycles, amongst the usual garage junk plus more of my storage boxes. I guess we had never considered a change of use because of this. However when my husband realised he had to get a car, the bikes had to go and this freed up the garage as a potential workspace. 

Now after seeking a few quotes, getting rid of a few trailer loads of rubbish with still a little bit to do, we are about to embark on the conversion of our garage into my cake studio! We hope to have a space which will combine storage for my equipment, a decent workspace, space to display my cakes and also a consultation area. Hopefully work will be starting by the end of the month and will definitely be one for many blog posts! 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

As I write this blog post on my iPad, (damage limitations as I have just painted my nails!), it is almost the end to an evening unlike many I ever get to have! It is true, since all the hype of Christmas with a 2 yr old and 4 yr old, then that very same 2 yr old turning 3 on the 27th, and now the impending birth of child #3 it was all set to be a busy New Year but here we are on the 8th January with no newborn and much too much time on my hands!

I have never been one to sit at peace, more so the past few years than ever. The change in pace of my life since setting up Candytuft Cakes and being at home with my 2 children has kept me busy beyond belief, but that is how I like it, so this extra time on my hands, as short lived as it will be, is trying my patience! Keeping occupied during the day is easy enough however when evening comes and the kids are in bed, there are no cakes to bake/decorate, and I have restless legs, even watching tv is a task. It is so silly, this little one presently kicking the life out of me will be here in a relatively short space of time, will most likely be the cause of sleepless nights etc. but I would be more than happy if s(he) just decided to come along right now. I have even ironed every piece of clothing and bedding within an inch of it's life, which if you knew me well would be a shock as I DO NOT IRON, it has to be one of my most hated chores! 

So, this begs the question, what have I been doing to keep occupied? Well tonight I have had my first bath in so long I can't even remember. Baths are not something I do, as I never have the time, nor indeed the inclination and I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. It wasn't helped by the fact my husband decided to watch his Led Zepplin dvd which I could hear through the floor as I tried to relax!!! I, of course, after soaking for a while, then got showered and washed my hair. I also got the rare chance to
use some of my favourite products from Liz Earle and to smother my body in Bio Oil.  Upon drying my hair I then came downstairs to paint my nails, (only happens on very special occasions!), have a cuppa, open a box of Thorntons chocs and write this blog post.

I am being a little selfish blogging to keep my mind busy but I'm sincerely hoping baby realises the effort I have gone to to preen myself for impending childbirth and decided to come along soon and ruin all my efforts anyway, I really don't mind at all! Kathryn xxx

Monday, 7 January 2013

I have to say there has only been a year or so of my entire life where I have faced this phenomenon, whilst working a job which was mundane and meant me setting my alarm for 5:30am every weekday morning. I have mostly enjoyed my educational years and the majority of my working years have been spent working shifts or more lately of course working for myself, where weeks run into months and most days and nights are working ones anyway.

In a way I have a mild case of this tonight but for an odd reason indeed, my husband has been back to work since last Wednesday and tomorrow sees my son start back to nursery school. My daughter is pre-pre-school so only attends nursery Thursdays and Fridays but as I was expecting my 3rd baby to have arrived by now I feel somewhat at odds with the world. The thought of getting back to my old Monday morning routine of the nursery school run, grocery shopping with my daughter, returning home for an hour or so then picking up my son after lunch then home for an afternoon of mayhem with them both etc. is just not what I expected it would be. Of course I love both my kids to bits, it's nice for them to have a little of their own routine without being with me all the time but I had an idea of how life would be as 2013 began, new year, new baby, new routine, perfect time to start it all at once! I guess it comes down to me liking to be in control, but somethings are just a little unpredictable.

So how am I coping with this unpredictability? By doing the only thing I know how, baking of course! The end of last week saw me baking one of my husband's favourites, Banana, date, honey and walnut loaf, I have this recipe in a minature recipe book I bought years a go and it quickly became a favourite.

Then on Saturday morning, having realised I had some buttermilk in the fridge, I made my favourite cake ever Red Velvet Cake (follow the 'good to know' tip for making the cake). This little beauty made it's way to my mum and dad's for a Sunday treat and my little girl had her first and second tastes of red velvet! I know of many people who just don't get red velvet, but it should be a moist but light, vibrant red sponge, with a subtle chocolate flavour and contrasted with the cream cheese frosting is simply divine, I have tried a few recipes but find the Hummingbird recipe the best by far. There are some recipes out there which are basically chocolate sponges coloured red, don't even waste your time.

By the time Saturday afternoon came I felt the urge to bake again, this time I tried out a new recipe for my coeliac friend. Since meeting her at university she has become lactose intolerant and more recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Whilst being able to control her lactose intolerance, the coeliac disease is a different matter entirely and what is life without cake? So I found a flourless chocolate cake recipe, a simple one at that, and made her a little treat. With the ground almond substitution it made for quite a nutty flavour cake but the recipient was more than happy and with so few ingredients it's definitely one I will bear in mind for the future although the 20mins cooking time is somewhat misleading, more like 35mins as most of the reviews state.

I have to say it has been enjoyable just baking for the sake of baking, ordinarily I just don't have the time to bake other than cakes for decorating so I hope over the next few months to try out many new recipes and of course blog about them too! Kathryn xxx

Friday, 4 January 2013

I have had a Facebook account for around 4 years, opened because my friends had one then used it as a platform for my Candytuft Cakes Facebook page, my Twitter account has been going  for around 2 years and my foray into blogging has just started. I have to admit I am not a big user of my personal Facebook account, simply because I lost interest but my business page has been invaluable for showing my work in it's entirety as it is very accessible and easy to update, much more so than my Candytuft Cakes website. Twitter was started on a whim after getting a better mobile phone and blogging will hopefully give me an outlet for everything in my head that I don't get to share due to working alone with only young children for company during the day!

Apart from posts on my Facebook Business page I struggle with what to say, which is why, in the past I have said very little! You know those desk top calendars with quotes and sayings on each page, well, in my teens I remember reading one that said, 'Better to be thought a fool than speak and remove the doubt.' I have never forgotten it and it always makes me reluctant to post my ridiculous, or otherwise, notions. However when you read some of things on Facebook and Twitter you wonder why you made the fuss about your potentially uninteresting information in the first place! So as we begin 2013 I have thrown caution to the wind in some respects and will aim to share my thoughts  etc. more freely. I can't guarantee they will be interesting, make you laugh or be in any way informative but I will try!

Kathryn xxx

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

As with most things I start off at full throttle but inevitably with tasks that don't make money, bring pleasure or are absolutely necessary they are done as and when can be. I hope this blog to be cathartic to me if nothing else and perhaps a chronicle of things that mean something to me at any given time which would otherwise pass by and become a vague memory. So bear with me as I blog and find a rhythm, I live a relatively uncomplicated, but hectic life surrounded by the things that make me happy.

I have always been creative, and I guess in some ways a girly girl. Princesses, dresses, jewels, pretty things...these days I guess I show my more practical side, out of necessity mostly. I have also, always baked, even as a teenager, weekends would've been spent making cakes and eating cakes, what better way to spend your time when you haven't yet learnt to drive and live down the Ards Peninsula. Yet never did I think that I could ever turn it into a business. As expected of me, G.C.S.E.s, A-levels and university followed and as you can imagine a BSc (Hons) Social Psychology and Sociology really helps in the world of caking! There was nothing else for it than to get an office job, get married, have a few special holidays, have kids and do nothing especially interesting to anyone except ourselves. I found however that having kids brought me a new perspective, whilst never really having much ambition, content with life as it was, I suddenly started to think about how my life would be for years to come. Working ever changing shift patterns, seeing little of my kids and seeing even less of my husband, how much could I actually take.

As I have said previously, I believe things happen for a reason so just as cakes had become a hobby they started to become a possibilty, a possibility to make a career for myself, doing something I love and was becoming increasingly good at. Being on maternity leave with my second child made it easy for me to continue on with a career break and then take the leap to set up Candytuft Cakes. The rest however hasn't been easy. There have been times when I could have easily thrown it from me, having the kids all day and the late nights working have taken their toll but without the hard work I don't believe I would have the business I have today. One of my uncles is very business minded and makes suggestions all the time on how I could expand, but at the minute, the selfish side of me is happy to be Mrs Candytuft.

And still no appearance of baby, having had my little boy 10 days early and my little girl 14 days early I was quite certain this one would be early too and now the impatience has kicked in. There are few things about me ever change, I am a creature of habit and I do not generally like surprises. If a change is going to happen I need to dictate it! This change I am ready for, going from one child to two was definitely more than twice the work, how hard can one more be... She says in jest of course!

I am also one for believing that things happen for a reason, we may never know that reason but we learn to live with what comes our way and become better people for it, hopefully. I certainly had no idea where my life would lead, whilst I say I am a creature of habit I am not organised in the traditional sense of the word but I know where am I and where I am going to most of the time. Take my 'career' for example, I use this term loosely as I still feel like I am in a bubble with my own business, it started out as an experiment whilst on maternity leave and has just grown immensely to the point where it would have been silly to go back to full time work so taking a career break seemed like the most obvious option. On saying that I work harder than I have ever had to, have less sleep than I have ever been used to (even though I used to do shift work!), and am more stressed than I ever thought I could be! However being successful at something that is solely me is something I cherish and despite my moaning and grumbling I wouldn't change things.

What is it they say? A change is as good as a rest? Well I am looking forward to this newest change, hopefully within my period of maternity leave my husband and I can re-evaluate the business and make changes for the better. We have many ideas, our main one being to convert our garage to my cake room and to take a new approach to the future of Candytuft Cakes. So with a new baby, new business ethos and moving forward, 2013 is looking bright!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

...1st January 2013 and I start my blog! It's taken a lot to get me here, the imminent birth of my third child being the main reason! I was hoping (s)he would've been here by now and needed something to take my mind off the incessant Braxton Hicks so thought, hey, why not start my blog, so here I am!

I imagine my blog will be a mixture of musings on my life as a full-time mummy to 2, soon to be 3, beautiful children, wife, and self-employed cake designer with my own business, Candytuft Cakes, which I run from home. For now at least I have a husband to wait on me and an excuse to eat what I want, within reason of course! So bring on the tea and banana bread and my first blogpost on the first day of a brand new year!