Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Closing Time

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

As 2014 comes to a close, so I make my grand gesture.
Too long in the making, it has not be an easy decision.
But this is it, the grand 'Au Revoir'.
I hope it is 'Au Revoir' for you as well as me.

It was inevitable.
I don't think it's about my lack of commitment.
My blog, my baby, born in June 2011 to coincide with returning to work with my family complete.

And I've loved it.
It's grown with me.
And beyond all expectation.
I have been so grateful to everyone who has stopped by to read our journey.
But as the babies became toddlers, the toddlers are now children, and my blog is more a part of me.

So it's time to find new roots, roots to grow and find more of me.
To take the brave step.
Something of me.
New learning.
(To Wordpress- aarrggghhh).

And so, it's time to wave goodbye to Johnson Babies,
To thank you for reading so far.
I'd love to see you on the other side.
Please pop over to my new abode, I'd be so grateful of your support.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Running into the New Year with SportsShoes

Exercise and me.
The imperfect pair.
I know I always feel so much better after exercising, but my commitment is often lacking.
I found a fab place this year which meant I could drop in any night of the week and enjoy Zumba.
But work got in the way, life got in the way, and now the classes have changed- and life isn't stable enough for me to book on in advance and I'm not fit enough at the moment to have confidence not to collapse in a heap.

The joy of this working mum is a lack routine. My working from home days and my working away, and overnights are not consistent, the expectation is for me to be flexible.
And therefore exercise and the hope of a healthy lifestyle need to fit this.
This is where I know I have an upper hand.
Because this is my extended back garden:
Available 24:7, regardless of my mood or inclination.

And what better way to take control of a routine than running it.... or jogging with a touch of walking for now.
SportsShoes got in touch to help me in my need to take control of exercise, and wow! was I impressed with their website. I already have a pair of basic sports shoes which I've been wearing to Zumba and Bounce but knowing that I wanted to take running seriously the offer to kit my feet out was gratefully accepted.
And of course, I never knew trainers could be so far ranging, further complicated by fantastic prices, and a price promise.
Reaching a decision wasn't easy, but eventually I fell for a pair of Asics, after a lot of researching various shoes, had good reviews and a thumbs up from Mr J.
And I love them, especially because they are blue and not too conspicious.
I quickly gathered from my browsing that sports shoes which are aestetically pleasing may not be kind to my feet if I'm not running as they are best designed to support me.
Taking running seriously meant considering where I would be running. And with this wonderful nature reserve it would definitely mean off road.
And with that decision made I was able to filter my choices a little more. Albeit there was still lots of choice.
With lots of elements (Gore-tex, 3M reflectivity and a sole support system were the main attractions) which I knew would be needed, I was impressed with all the additional features which would hopefully make my running experience a little less painful than anticipated.

So, how has it been?
The sports shoes turned up super fast, leaving little excuse.
And whilst I've not been as good as I've wanted to be (blame Christmas) I have started on my 'couch to 5k' journey. It's not great so far- but I remember the same when I started Zumba and wondering if I'd ever catch my breath again-I am unfit, and this does need to change.
Admittedly I've not been fit for photos, more a crumpled mess the minute I arrive back on the front door.
But on the other hand, I don't have blisters, I've yet to slip and fall on my bum, and I've not felt the morning after upper arch pain that I felt from time to time in my other trainers.

And so, here it is, the New Year, feeling a little bit better prepared, a little less behind the curve.
2015, I'm coming to get you!

Disclosure: I received a pair of sports shoes of my choice from SportsShoes for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.

Monday, 29 December 2014

When coffee makes the world a better place

One of my highlights of 2014 was attending an event to celebrate all that is good about coffee.
An opportunity to get together with a bunch of fantastic bloggers local to Cardiff, relax and laugh in great company with some amazing coffee to keep the conversations going.

The event was focused on the partnership between Curry's and Nespresso, and maybe I fell a little bit in love with this machine:
And along with fuelling my love of coffee, thanks to the fantastic hospitality provided by the Waterloo Tea I may have discovered a fantastic new meeting place, I have taken on the recommendations of Becky and have become a fan of loose-leaf tea. The care and attention which is commonplace at Waterloo Tea (since attending this event I have revisited Wyndham Arcade as well as Penarth) means that you can get great recommendations on tea, coffee, and food!

And then, there was Nespresso, enough blends for every palette, enough variety for each day of the week, every mood, and in wonderful colours.
And so we got to put our palettes to the test, to try 'cupping'... think wine tasting antics with coffee blends.
And so we got to appreciate, the difference good blends make, and how great coffee can be enjoyed as the mood takes, as a cocktail, straight, or with milk.
And of course I got to discover latte art- or more specifically the talent of latte art.
 Never again will I overlook the wonderful shapes which can be created at the hands of a barista.
And so the event came to an end.
One of 2014's life lessons.
Conversation, smiles and laughter should always be accompanied by great coffee.

Disclosure: I was invited to the Curry's Nespresso Event and received a goody bag. All views and opinions contained are my own.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Reflections on 2014

As the year draws to a close, I know it's been a good one.
I know we have a great deal to be thankful for.

2014 has not been without it's tough times.
And, as I think they were all work related, it is difficult to spend time dwelling on them.
But they have forced me to learn some hard lessons.
Basic values have been tested; friendship, forgiveness, resilience, and personal responsibility.
The team has slowly been rebuilding and I am so proud of the efforts and patience, and understanding offered.
But, all is accompanied by the doubt of what might be.
And so therein is the challenge for 2015- to truly move on 2014.

Family wise, we still are hugely grateful for the benefit which has been gained from moving home.
My mum and dad being the best, my mum's text messages continue to frustrate and entertain in equal measure.
The little people have had time with both of their uncles this year, and I hope they continue to understand and appreciate the benefit of their wider family.
And of course, in themselves, the little people are an absolute joy.
I love how close they are, I love the imaginative play, and I love their questioning and their logic.
I could do without the squabbles, and the cries and screams, and perhaps in 2015 we might have a winter with slightly less bugs and illness.
But 2014 saw me discover 'Me and Mine' and 'Siblings', so I have some great photos to appreciate 2014. Hopefully in 2015 it might become a more regular feature on the blog.

And as well as this being the year the little people turned 3 and 5, it was also the year we got to dress all three in their school uniform as the boys began nursery in May. And, like their sister before, they have thrived in this new environment.
We burst with pride as the boys took on their roles for the Nativity and as Christmas has unfolded I have loved how much they have understood the Nativity and absorbed the magic of the Christmas season.

And of course Christmas has in itself taught me lessons, we need not buy the children so many gifts. They are each committed to their favourite things, and are happy with as much or as little as is presented.
I have learned, as I sat assembling lego sets at midnight, that I may be off work but there are still challenges to test me. But they are much more enjoyable ones.
I predict that lego will become my nemesis, a streaming for OCD, as the children play and, in the process, destroy, and I cannot sit easy before it is rebuilt.

As for Mr J and I, of course we don't spend enough time together, of course we continue to laugh at each other's misfortune, and celebrate in each other's success.
Mr J has established his squash club for young people which, in spite of his disdain of paperwork, has been successful.

And as for this little blog of mine,
It has been my sanctuary, my sanity, and continues to enable so much.
We have loved the opportunities this blog has introduced us to this year.
I am thankful for the friendships created.

This year I have not been as grateful as I should have, I have not taken enough time to appreciate the efforts which everyone makes to allowing our lives to be happy, and I have not taken enough time to reduce stress and enjoy life.

And so I hope, come what may, 2015 will continue to see everything continue to work out for the better and that I can become a better person as life takes us forward.

And I hope, whatever 2014 has been for you, you have the time to reflect, and 2015 is everything you need and want it to be.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Word of the Week

It seems a natural choice for this week.
We have had a wonderful time watching the children enjoy their Christmas.
The excitement started last week when mum and dad treated us all to a break at Bluestone- and Kingdom of the Elves- it was a much needed break, and the little ones really had the magic of Christmas instilled.

Life got a bit more difficult after a phone call on Friday that Mr J's mum was to be hospitalised.
Tom and Seren had needed to take their last day off school as they were both under the weather.
And there was some stress in trying to figure out how various commitments would be kept with enough time aside for visiting hours.

And so things have been quite off piste.

After 5 days of struggling with my self diagnosed ear infection, a trip to the doctor's on Monday revealed a perforated eardrum- which had been aggravated further by my care of ear baths and otex!

But, as was inevitable, Christmas arrived.
A few hours found on Christmas Eve meant the wall decorations went up, last minute gifts were wrapped, and a sense of calm momentarily created.
We made it to the Crib Service, and we enjoyed our Christmas Eve traditions.
And of course on Christmas Day, the children didn't wake 'til close to 9am, so much is sleep valued in our home!

The Christmas unwrap has changed in our home this year.
Gone is the slow Christmas, where we are more eager for them to unwrap their presents as they take their time playing with each gift before moving on to the next.
Now, we have record breakers- equally in awe of their memory skills as their speed of unwrapping gifts. And then back to each of their favourite gifts in turn.

And this year, we had a Welsh Christmas lunch- Omelettes. Mr J went off to the hospital and left us lego building for the afternoon with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang remaining our Christmas film of choice.

Christmas dinner was had at tea-time, and was absolutely perfect- especially watching the children's choices- Tom seems to have found a love of parsnips and carrots, which is lost on me!

And today, we had Boxing Day at my parents, the children (and us) were spoilt rotten, Mr J nipped off to the hospital whilst we all got to laugh at the emotion my dad and brother throw into a good game of rugby- on the tv.

And around us, we do have happiness, amazing family and friends,
We have good health, it may not always be the best, but it is good,
And we have had a magical Christmas, where life as always has just worked.
At times, it may not be what we plan, or how we'd choose it, but it really is a life to be grateful for.
The Reading Residence

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Chocolate favourites- Christmas party recipes

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias

As Christmas arrives so the supermarket aisles fill with treats, some take me flying back to my childhood Christmases, of family gatherings over the festive period.
And as the list of Christmas parties we will be attending increases, so our grocery shop to Asda over the weekend gave us lots of recipe ideas so the children can go armed with party food for the table.
With lots of inspiration, Seb didn't know where to start:
I decided to try to incorporate the favourite products from Asda's Christmas Aisle with favourite Christmas recipes, which were simple enough for my eager tribe of chefs.

Chocolate Orange Brownies
I have been meaning to try this forever, if nothing beats Brownies as a party dessert, than what could make a better Christmas party dessert than Terry's Chocolate Orange Brownies?
175g unsalted butter, cubed
175g dark chocolate, segmented
Terry's Chocolate Orange, segmented
3 medium eggs
275g light brown sugar
75g plain flour
50g cocoa powder

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
  2. Create a bain marie and melt the butter, gradually add the dark chocolate until completely melted.
  3. Add half the Chocolate Orange segments, and melt a piece at a time. 
  4. Remove the chocolate from the bain marie and leave to cool.
  5. Break the eggs into a large bowl, add the sugar, and whisk until fully mixed and smooth.
  6. Fold the chocolate mixture into the large bowl. Continue with the folding technique until all contents are mixed with a consistent dark brown colour.
  7. Add the cocoa powder and flour into the mixture. Again fold into the mixture, gently, until the mixture becomes close to a chocolate fudge.
  8. Line a medium baking tray and transfer the mixture into the tray. Add the remaining chocolate segments across the top at regular intervals.
  9. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. When baked the brownie will look papery on top. Leave to cool and cut.
Next on the list was using Matchmakers, and as the children love making and eating gingerbread I thought I'd adapt this recipe with some new flavours.
Orange Matchmaker Cookies
350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter, cubed
175g light brown sugar
1 medium egg
4tbsp maple syrup
1tsp orange extract
Half a box of Orange Matchmakers.
Icing sugar for dusting


  1. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and combine.
  3. Beat the eggs and syrup together, add to the main bowl and mix into the ingredients combine into a dough. Add the extract and combine. Lightly knead. Add the Matchmakers and combine.
  4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 15mins.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  6. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, cut into shapes and place on the baking tray, ensuring finger space gaps.
  7. Bake for 10-15mins or until lightly golden. Leave on the tray for 5mins and move to a wire tray to fully cool.
  8. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Our final Christmas recipe was inspired by the children's favourite Winter treat:
Hot Chocolate Christmas Bark
100g white chocolate
100g milk chocolate
Handful of marshmallows
Half a packet of Oreos
Edible glitter


  1. Separate the Oreos, and break the biscuits into pieces.
  2. Melt the milk chocolate over a bain marie. Pour into a medium baking tray and spread across the bottom.
  3. Melt the white chocolate over a bain marie. Pour over the milk chocolate, spread across and then use a skewer to create a marble effect.
  4. Add the Oreos, marshmallows and edible glitter with the help of a child.
  5. Put in the fridge for 30mins to an hour.
  6. Tip out and break.
  7. Devour.
And with all our of treats in airtight containers so we are ready for the first of the parties this week, as the school prepares for the Christmas break- lets just keep our fingers crossed the contained stay airtight!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Ugly Duckling - This Christmas at ShermanCymru

There are some things which make Christmas.
To me, a trip to the theatre is one of them.
More importantly a family trip.
And since we moved back to South Wales we have loved ShermanCymru's approach to Christmas.

This Christmas, "The Ugly Duckling" is the Sherman's Christmas performance for 3-6 year olds.
And so perfect for our Johnson babies.
And of course, as have Sherman productions over our years, this year's production really does provide meaningful themes for our little ones to take on board.
And, so through the laughter of the 'honk' came the journey, acceptance, friendship, belonging.
The themes mummy appreciated, which will be absorbed by my children without knowing.
The journey to acceptance, to true laughter, was a magical one.
The actors were absorbing, my children were transfixed, appreciating the humour, feeling the emotion and energy conveyed by their talent.

As always, I love watching my children.
And as I get to know my childrens personalities so I fell in love with Tom a little bit more.
Tom sat and watched, and laughed, and expressed sympathy and happiness, Tom was ready to join in with the song at the end.
I love how much the theatre allows me to understand my children.
I love the seats they take in the audience, how involved they become.
I love how much they take in, how the conversations afterward are wider ranging than I ever expect.

'The Ugly Duckling' has every aspect of theatre which I want my children to appreciate.
From wonderful lighting, scenery and props.
More so, the production had actors with multiple roles, musical actors who allow my children to observe how instruments can add to theatre, and song and physical theatre which makes my children laugh, with words being unnecessary.

Whilst this is theatre designed for children, the beauty does not escape.
The atmosphere created, the wonder of the seasons as they pass, as friendship is established, as friendships are lost, but the sense of self grows.
And a swan is created.
We all loved this production, whether observers or participants, there is much to take away.
There is a festive feel to the play, that whilst there is no reference to Christmas, a magic is created.

The Ugly Duckling is at the Sherman Theatre until 3rd January 2015 with Welsh and English performances. Ideal for ages 3-6 years. Tickets are available at £8. Visit ShermanCymru or contact the Ticket Office on 029 2064 6900.

Disclosure: We received three complimentary tickets for this performance for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.
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