Since learning to ride his bike without stabilisers our Monkey just can’t get enough of it. He wants to go on a bike ride everyday, and often multiple times. We love it and thankfully LM loves sitting in her “chair” on the back of my bike too so we get out quite a lot.
On a very sunny Saturday last week we had no plans for the afternoon, so I came up with the idea of a slightly longer bike ride than we’d done previously. We are so lucky that we live close to a country park so most of our rides end up there or at a local playpark. I fancied a change though so we headed off to another lovely spot, a lock over the river.
It really is a longer cycle for Monkey so we thought we’d try it and see how we went, and he did brilliantly! Much of the journey is on a path next to the Nene Valley Railway line and at one point we were chasing a diesel train on the tracks. His little legs couldn’t quite keep up but Monkey certainly gave it a good try.
I originally thought we would just get to the lock over the river and turn back, but we got there in no time and Monkey was keen to continue, so onwards we went.
Down near the rowing lake are some sculptures that have been there since 1987 and that Hubs and I remember from when we were kids. This was getting quite far now, but Monkey was adamant he wasn’t ready to head back so we continued on and both kids loved seeing the sculptures… Especially the ones hubs has nicknamed “dinosaur poos” hehe can’t think why that would appeal?
I loved the one that looked like lots of open doorways, and miraculously managed to get a family snap of us all standing in a different doorway!
It was such a glorious day to be out, and lovely to see Monkey enjoying his bike so much. At times he was tired and needed a breather but on the whole he was fine. It was funny cycling behind him as he was having little conversations with himself, making up scenarios and vouching and whizzing and kept bending down low when he wanted to go fast to “get the baddy” or something haha.
It was just lovely and both hubs and I feel this is such a huge step as a family, to go on proper bike rides at more than a walking pace. I can see us doing this a lot this summer I really can. Well done Monkey!
10 years ago my life was very different to the way it is now.
10 years ago I had a failed engagement behind me and no clue what I wanted to do with my life after deciding a career in TV wasn’t for me after all.
10 years ago my father had recently committed suicide.
10 years ago I didn’t really know who I was or what lay in store.
10 years ago I packed my life up and headed off on a worldwide adventure.
When I say worldwide, I do mean worldwide. Over the next 12 months I visited 19 different countries and slept in goodness knows how many different places. I did a skydive, a bungee jump and a canyon swing. I got over my fear of snorkelling and even went diving. I climbed mountains and glaciers, took helicopter rides over waterfalls and the Grand Canyon. I slept in the bush in Australia and the freezing cold mountains of Canada. I walked the Great Wall and saw the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia and at Machu Piccu in Peru.
I started my adventure with my Mum in New York then I continued solo from then on. There were wobbles along the way. My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was away and I so very nearly came home. But thankfully they caught it early and she insisted I stay while she was treated. I still carry guilt about that but have to be glad that all ended so well.
I had my wallet stolen and my back up credit card cloned in South America leaving me with only the kindness of friends I met until I could have a replacement card sent to Australia . And boy did I meet some wonderful people. Some of us met up again for New Year’s eve in Sydney that year and I have met up with so many of them time and again over the last 10 years and I hope that our friendships will last a lifetime.
It’s hard to reconcile that year with the life I have now. Now I’m a mum and am responsible for 2 tiny humans. I wouldn’t change that for the world, but my travels and experiences are things that I am incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to return to some of these places with the kids when they are older to share it with them and the hubs.
I’ve always loved watching the relationship between my siblings grow and develop and it’s lovely to look at how much their relationship changes month by month.
They play together a lot more now, which brings with it a lot more bickering. I was away a couple of days this week visiting my very poorly aunt (I may share more about that one day if I have the strength) and when I called hubs at one point, the first thing I heard was Monkey yelling “LM no! Don’t do that!” haha. A good reminder that life goes on. Anyway, LM loves to try and boss her brother around and he’s very sweet so sometimes he concedes, but actually it is making him stand up for himself by saying no, which is good for him. It’s funny how they learn so much from each other, it’s not a one way street and I really love that.
There’s a lot going on at the moment so I’m keeping this short and sweet, and here are a few photos of my little pair, just going about their lives, together.
Plus I love this one that Hubs took while I was away..
And this one really sums up their relationship I think. A very put upon little Monkey being squished by a cheeky sister who loves nothing more than trying to wind him up! (Excuse the mess of our house lol!)
So there we have it, our little siblings in the last month. They do love each other though and love a good snuggle too.
Wasn’t the weather last weekend just stunning? A bit of sunshine can work wonders and I think almost all of us were out there in some form to make the most of us weren’t we? We had already arranged to meet friends at Fineshade Woods, which is a forestry commission forest near to where we live, and were quite pleased to be able to go there in the sunshine as we’ve only ever been on rainy or cold days before!
The biggest difference was obviously how busy it was, still we were there early enough that we managed to park and met our friends. First up was a little play on the fab play area near the visitors centre.
Then we headed off onto their newest trail, the Gruffalo trail! They had a Gruffalo trail here previously which ended with a sculpture, but I knew this one was all about the latest app, the Gruffalo Spotter, so I had downloaded it prior to arrival. We headed off down the trail and could immediately see the difference a sunny Sunday made, as it was busy! The kids loved spotting all the signs along the way even though we sometimes had to wait a bit to get close to some of them.
The app itself is based on an augmented reality. You scan some of the signs and then the characters from the book come to life on your device. It’s kinda cool… But I’m not that convinced I have to admit. On a bright sunny day it was tricky to see the screen… And we only had phones rather than a tablet which I guess may be better.
But for small children, I don’t think they really got why things were on my screen but weren’t really there. Trying to get them to pose for photos was tricky too as they were standing next to a sign and didn’t really get why. Monkey grasped it a bit but LM didn’t have a clue what was going on really! It didn’t help that it was a busy day as sometimes we had to wait to get to one of the signs, which the little ones really didn’t see the point of!
Then, the worst bit for us was that the final one, with the Gruffalo… Just didn’t work. I tried a few times and restarted the app but just nothing. I don’t think we were the only ones either so it was a shame. By that point the kids were pretty hungry anyway we easily distracted them and headed to the cafe.
I don’t think the app and the downsides detracted from our enjoyment of the trail… But actually I don’t think they enhanced it either. We all loved running around and playing in the woods and looking out for clues. The images we saw and pics we took gave us a bit of a giggle but I just think that actually for my kids at least, that they would have liked something tangible they could see, more than something on a screen. It also meant I was behind my screen a lot trying to get it to work, rather than being present and joining in the fun with them.
Like I say, we had a really lovely day. Catching up with great friends and having a fun outdoor adventure in lovely woods on a gorgeous day. I’m just not sure I’d bother with the app next time!
Have you tried the Gruffalo Spotter app? What did you think? Am I being overly negative about it or did you think the same?
I’m so so proud of our little Monkey at the moment. He’s always been a bit reserved about trying new things, and gives up quite easily if he feels he can’t do something, refusing to even try. But there has been a bit of growth in that area recently. Since learning to ride his bike without stabilisers his confidence has really grown. His balance has improved and he is taking more things in his stride.
He’s really gotten into climbing too. He likes climbing up the sides of our local pirate ship play park, and is desperate to climb trees too. When I saw our local country park was offering a tree climbing session I knew I wanted to book it. It’s not climbing in the traditional sense but using helmets and ropes.
I hoped he would love it but because he is who he is, I wasn’t 100% sure how it would go. He may have decided he didn’t want to do it at all, he may have decided not to try. But I tried to forget all that and just kept up the positivity about it. He had seen pictures of his frienddoing it before so I hoped that would help.We arrived on the day and there was a TV camera there as ITV Anglia News were doing a piece about it!
Monkey was very quiet but had an excited look on his face the whole time. He got suited up then it was his turn to climb.
And he was amazing! He listened to the instructors and did as they asked. He just went straight for it and right up that tree and was so happy about it. It was amazing!
Of course I took a little video if you fancy a watch … (feel free to keep the sound off so you don’t have to listen to my prattling… though the end is amusing)
Afterwards he was interviewed for the news and, well typical child, I’ve never known him so quiet and not chatty haha but they got a little soundbite… And well that night he was on ITV news! Our little TV star! I filmed the clip on my phone so you can see it, though sorry about the poor quality.
I am so so so proud of him, this was a real achievement for him it really was! He is really proud of himself too and loves the fact he was on the tv haha.
My Monkey turns 5 next month, I’ve been a SAHM for nearly 5 years and a blogger for a little over 4 years. And in all honesty I’m not sure how much longer that I will be either of those things. I have loved my time at home with the kiddies while they have been small, and my blog has been a real lifeline for much of that time. Connecting with other mums, sharing thoughts and ideas. Sharing the updates about my beautiful children. Sharing the downsides and hardships of being a SAHM and sharing my postnatal depression.
I’ve had ups and downs with blogging but for the most part I have loved it. For a while though, that love has been waning. I’ve struggled to give it the time and energy my blog really needs to be successful. I’ve stopped minding whether it even is succesful, and have just carried on sharing as and when I have felt like it.
I still have ups and downs. Days and weeks where I seem to find more time and more inspiration and resolve to do better to give more attention to my blog. Then I have days and weeks where I just can’t be bothered, to be honest. So I wonder how long to keep blogging… And I don’t really know the answer.
As for being a SAHM, as I mentioned above, it has been wonderful… But I don’t love it as much as I once did. I feel somehow wrong admitting that. I’ve been so lucky that I have been able to be a SAHM, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. LM starts preschool in a month, just a couple of mornings a week, but both she and I need that time. As we gradually increase her time at pre-school, my plan is to start working part time in some capacity.
The truth is I need more now. I have raised my babies at home with me. I have taken pride in their achievements and seen many of them as my own too. I taught them to count, to recognise their colours, to be kind and for the most part we’ll behaved. That’s been my job. But I feel I need something other than being mummy. This isn’t going to happen over night as there are many things to consider but I think my days as a full time SAHM are limited.
I think that may be one of (many) the reasons my love for the blog is waning. It is called Becoming a SAHM… if I’m not going to be a SAHM anymore… What do I do? Change the name and the whole purpose of the site?
I’m not completely ready to hang up either Cape quite yet. There are some more things I would like to blog about (having one of those weeks I mentioned before, where I want to do it again) and a couple of PR things to complete, though I’m not sure I’ll accept any more. Apologies to anyone who has emailed recently. It is hard enough to find the time and energy to write things I want to write these days, let alone writing things for someone else.
I’ve wanted to share one of our go-to recipes for a while and I am finally getting round to it! This is our super easy low calorie Thai Yellow Curry recipe. It really is dead easy to make and as I always seem to be trying to lose a few pounds I love how low calorie it is while also being really yum. We get 9 portions out of this too so it’s also low cost and budget friendly.
I love Thai food. I first learned how to make a Thai yellow curry while in Thailand about 9 years ago, including making the paste from scratch. I’m afraid time is of the essence these days though and we use a paste. Our favourite brand changed the recipe of their paste, and it now tastes like feet, but we have found an almost as good alternative which is still pretty delicious. It is the Thai Taste Gang Garee Yellow Curry Paste (affiliate link). We buy it on Amazon but you can get it from other places too. It means the curry isn’t as yellow in colour as it was with our previous paste but the taste is the most important!
The other key ingredient, which makes it so low calorie, is the coconut milk we use. Instead of using the typical canned coconut milk we use a uht coconut milk. I bought it by mistake once and found actually it worked so well for this curry. It makes it much lighter and now I MUCH prefer it to regular coconut milk. The one we use is Koko Dairy Free UHT Coconut Milk Alternative(affiliate link) and we just get it from the supermarket, it’s with the uht milks and dairy substitutes but I have found it on amazon too.
So, getting to the recipe for our Thai Yellow Curry
500g Chicken, chopped
1 Onion, peeled and diced
2 Cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
800g Potato, peeled & chopped
2 jars Thai yellow curry paste
300g Carrots, peeled and sliced
1 ltr Low cal coconut milk (uht)
½ tsp Fish sauce (or to taste)
1 tsp Sugar (or to taste)
1. Stir curry paste, chicken, onion and garlic together in large pan or casserole dish (we use a big Le Crueset pan). Heat, stirring continuously until chicken is lightly browned
2. Add coconut milk, carrots, potatoes, fish sauce and sugar. Stir.
3. Cover and bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for approx. 40 mins, or until potatoes and carrots are softened. Once you are sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked it is worth tasting, if it is a bit too salty, add a little sugar, if it is too sweet, add a little fish sauce. My measurements for these are approximate and can be amended according to taste.
4. Serve with 150g cooked rice.
That is literally it, see what I mean by super easy?
As I mentioned, we get about 9 adult portions from this recipe and teamed with 150g of cooked basmati rice each portion it is about 500 calories in total. We freeze the extra portions so we have an even easier meal that just needs defrosting and heating up on 2 more days (the kids share what I call an adult portion so we get 3 family meals out of the 9 portions). There’s often some sauce left too so we stir in some extra rice to that and hubs has small portions of thai curry flavoured rice for his lunches at work, which he teams with some chicken or ham or something.
I love this meal, it feels so healthy but has a lovely kick to it too. My kids love it which is even better, though they do need a cup of milk as it is quite spicy. We also get so much out of it in terms of dinner and lunches. Just love it!
We had a fairly momentous milestone in our house this weekend! Mothers day 2017 will be remembered in our house as the day Monkey learned to ride his bike. I cannot tell you just how pleased, and relieved I am to be able to write that, as I wasn’t sure when this day would come!
I’ve written before about our boy and my worries for him. He can be very stubborn and he gives up on things. He refuses to try something if he thinks he is going to fail at it, crying and saying “I can’t do it” without even trying. He’s the same at school too apparently. He’s only 4 I know but it’s something we have to work on. His self confidence and believing in himself that he can do things if he just tries.
It’s hard to know how to deal with it sometimes. I try to positively encourage him, but I’m not a perfect person and I get frustrated when he refuses to try. I also find that if I pander to him too much, that he will just play on that and keep crying until I either give in to him or get cross. Every kid is different I know, and I have to find the way that works for him, and it’s often that something that worked before, won’t work again!
Sometimes I find I have to use a bit of a “stick and carrot” approach. I have to give him a reason to try, usually a combination of the promise of something positive and the threat of something negative. On their own neither seem to work for him but a bit of both can just do it sometimes. For example yesterday was all about how proud everyone was going to be of him when he did it. His relatives, his teacher, his friends. It was enough incentive some of the time… But after a while he started to give up, even though he was making such good progress. So then I got cross. I told him that if he didn’t stop crying and didn’t try again, that he wouldn’t see his Granny & Grandad that afternoon. And what do you know, his tears stopped, he said ok, and he tried again.
I don’t like having to be the bad guy as a parent. I hate having to threaten but sometimes I have to as nothing else will work and I guess the end justifies the means. It’s like the thousand times that I ask him nicely to do something, then eventually shout. I don’t want to shout at all but when asking nicely doesn’t get you anywhere, sometimes you have to. It was the same with his recent tears at school in the morning. The more we were nice about it and the more attention we gave him the worse he got. We couldn’t find any reason for the tears other than he wanted to stay with us, which isn’t possible. Once we ignored the tears and ushered him in without acknowledging them (much as it broke my heart not to cuddle him) surprise surprise he stopped crying in the morning. I hate it but the truth is that it works. I guess it’s all about balance.
Anyway, back to the cycling. Once he was trying again, we found it really helped him to have one of us a little way ahead so he could focus on getting to us and concentrate on where he was going. Once he had enough of an incentive his progress sped up, and well, it just clicked. He just got it and then he was off!
It was amazing!
I was then running alongside him and I made up a little theme tune for him “woo oo woo oo Monkey can do it, woo oo woo oo Monkey can do it” which he picked up and as he cycled started singing “woo oo woo oo, I can do it!”
Once he started he didn’t stop and he doesn’t want to get off now! He was so proud to go into school today and tell his teacher and show his friends, and I’m so pleased for him. I hope that we can build on this and remind him of this day. Of how he tried and how he achieved! I hope we can help build his confidence and and give him the courage to try instead of giving up.
Our little lady is the age that Monkey was when she was born. It feels utterly bonkers in some ways… But then I see her sometimes and think how grown up she looks and suddenly of course accurate. I think part of it is that Monkey seemed so much bigger than he was at the time. We measured LM’s height the other day and she is now only just taller than Monkey was when he was 18 mths old! Nearly a year younger than she is now! They are such different children, but this post isn’t about that, it’s about her and how she’s doing at 2 yrs 5 mths!
Our little lady, where to start? She is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t particularly like the label but I really appreciate the meaning behind the ‘terrible 2s’ with this girly. She is wilful, stubborn and gets frustrated by pretty much everything, all of the time. Even when I try to do what she says she wants, it still often results in a meltdown because let’s face it, she doesn’t really know what she wants!
It’s easy to make light of it but in truth I do struggle with her constant demands and unpredictability at the moment. At home she demands the tv so much of the time and screams when I don’t give in. When I try and do a nice activity or something with her to distract her from the tv, it lasts sometimes seconds before she is wandering off, or she gets frustrated that the laws of physics won’t bend to her will and she can’t make everything do what she wants it to. Then we have a meltdown and I’m left clearing up the mess while she is off, either getting annoyed by the next thing, or watching the tv because I can’t cope anymore and am frustrated that even when I try really hard, I can’t seem to make her happy.
We go for lots of walks and she loves to be out and about. It takes ages to get anywhere while she inspects stones and picks daisies and chooses her stick for the outing. She loves chasing bubbles and popping them with sticks and she adores playing hide and seek behind trees, which I love too. In truth the best times that we have are out on walks when she is free to do almost as she pleases. I still take the buggy with us most of the time so we can get home quickly if a meltdown strikes, usually because she’s decided she wants to be carried and I can’t because she’s just getting too heavy these days!
She loves riding on the back of my bike to the local country park so that makes for some nice outings too. But everything very much has to be her way. Try and impose a purpose on an outing and it soon goes awry. She loves visiting the big supermarket near us… But only to run around and see all the ride ons. Try and do any shopping and it becomes a nightmare. I did manage to give her a notepad and crayon the other day so she could ‘help’ by ticking items off the list. She scribbled on it for a few mins before the moaning started but at least it was a few minutes. When we all went together the other weekend hubs and I ended up taking it in turns to carry her out like a sack of potatoes with her screaming and kicking and waving her arms around in protest. It’s just not fun it really isn’t.
We’ve had a few times where she has refused something that she just has to do, like brushing her teeth. We will try and be flexible where we can but there are some things she just has to do, so we have used the naughty spot. I’m not going to lie it was a nightmare to start with but she has got the point of it now and she will now let us clean her teeth again without a fuss as a result. She has to know we mean business sometimes, much as I hate having to be the bad guy, as I know she needs some boundaries.
She loves her gymnastics group that we go to, though that isn’t without meltdowns. It really helps going with other tots a similar age though as it really helps to be reminded she isn’t alone in her difficult behaviour. This week’s session was spent sharing stories with other mums and making each other feel a bit better that our kid isn’t the only badly behaved toddler around. The benefit of these groups is not to be underestimated!
I know it’s just a phase and she will grow out of a lot of her challenging behaviour… But I am trying not to wish it all away too much, because she is lovely too. She’s cute as a button and I adore her cheekiness about as much as it drives me crazy. I mean how can anyone resist this face?
She’s chattering loads more now too which is really nice, lots more little sentences like repeating me when I said I was going to the toilet “mama nee wee wee, mama go wee wee” and in telling me what she wants to watch on TV “woh oo-ee a tagar a aneemols” (watch umizoomi with the Tiger and animals). There’s new words coming all the time “brokeh” (broken) “cay” (cake) are two of today’s! Hopefully as she communicates better the frustration levels will reduce a bit. I really hope so! I’m also looking forward to warmer days, spent in the garden where the temptation of the tv isn’t quite so great (for both of us). Maybe it won’t be any easier but I have to look forward with hope otherwise I will just sink!
She also starts pre-school after the Easter holidays when she is 2 1/2 and I think that will be good for both of us. I’m hoping the pressure will be off me a little in terms of making sure she experiences lots of things for her development as they will help her do that. We will also get a bit of a break from each other which will hopefully make the time we do spend together a little less fraught!
So what else is going on with her? Well she loves a bit of water painting, especially with her aquadoodle mat. She is a bossy britches and loves telling us all off if we aren’t painting with her, as she quite often wants company. Even when watching the tv she demands “mama, chair” patting the chair next to her so I will sit down. I don’t always comply of course as I have other things to do sometimes but it’s quite cute. When it comes to watching the tv her favourites by far are umizoomi and dora the Explorer, which I don’t mind too much as at least they are interactive, and I love hearing her shout numbers or shapes at the screen. As I type (with her in my lap watching umizoomi) she is shouting “ohwah” (oval). She also loves a bit of dressing up, with a few definite fave outfits!
She loves being in the kitchen with me, especially when I cook her eggs in the morning and she is getting better when we bake. Whereas previously she has just played with her own bowl of ingredients, she has been actually helping me more recently, scooping ingredients in and helping me pour and stir, so that’s a nice development. She’s also helped with sorting the storks from the kale and likes to chop with our child friendly knife.
She loves to run around the house with a big cheeky smile on her face, so anything that involves chasing or running or tickling is good with her. She loves a good dance around the living room too :).
On the less positive side she has developed a terrible fear of dogs recently. A friend’s dog bounded over to her reducing her to awful screams, and now she screams and you can tell she is literally beside herself terrified when a dog comes near her. We are trying to be positive and talk about how lovely the dogs are, she will wave to them from a distance sometimes (when she’s not hiding behind her hands) and we’ve tried to get her to stroke some lovely gentle dogs we know, but so far she’s not having any of it! Any tips (that don’t involve us getting a dog) please let me know!
Another great habit, which daddy in particular just LOVES, is that she is pretty constantly picking her nose at the mo. Delightful eh?
So there we have it, our beautiful, challenging, loving and tempestuous little miss, at 2 yrs 5mths.
It’s Mother’s Day coming up, and the lovely people at Ollie and Leila asked me to share my experience of motherhood. We are all different and our kids are all different, so I think it is inevitable that we all experience motherhood differently.
I always knew I wanted to be a mum, but only in a vague way really. I wanted to live a bit first and then assumed it would happen when it happened. Ah the arrogance of youth eh? I was one of the lucky ones, I know that now, as it did happen for me, and pretty easily. Far more easily than I thought it would actually. I came off the pill (that I had been on for over 10 yrs) and was pregnant by the next month.
We were a bit shocked but it was what we wanted and we were ready for it… Or as ready as you can be. I don’t really think anyone can truly be ready to be a parent and no matter how much you talk about it, or how many friends and relatives you have seen become parents, it is still such a shock to the system when it is your turn.
I haven’t always found motherhood easy. We’ve dealt with colic and lactose intolerance and silent reflux. We’ve had fussy eaters and late talkers. The constant wondering ‘am I doing the right thing?’ can be so hard and I’m finding that doesn’t really stop. Nearly 5 years on I still have no idea much of the time whether I am making the right decisions or doing the right thing. But, my kids are happy for the most part and healthy so I guess I must be doing ok.
It’s exhausting too, especially so since our Little Miss joined us and made us a family of four. Going from one child to two is not an easy step. In many ways you know what is ahead of you, and I guess some mums are more relaxed second time around… But there a whole host of other challenges. First time round you didn’t also have a toddler to deal with while you were cluster feeding a newborn or changing outfits thanks to a pooplosion.
With two children, I have found it so difficult to find a balance between the needs of both children. At different ages and stages they need different things from you… But they both still need you. There’s jealousy, squabbles and bickering. Sometimes it is easier to tell Monkey to give in to LM when she wants something, to keep the peace. But that isn’t fair on him and actually doesn’t give her the right message either. That doesn’t mean I haven’t told him to do it though, because sometimes you just want an easy life.
Then there’s trying to find time for yourself, to still be you, when you have the constant demands of children. To make time for your partner when you’re both so so tired by your day. Making time to see friends, to have a hobby, to take care of yourself. It’s all too easy to let one or more of those things slip.
Motherhood is hard, it’s all consuming and it’s exhausting.
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
These little people who run me ragged, who drive me crazy and who push me to my limits. These little people are amazing, and I’m so lucky and so grateful to be their mama. It sounds twee and cliche but it’s the truth. My little boy tells me that I’m the best Mummy ever and I melt. My little madam snuggles in for a cuddle, or gives me her cheekiest look and I just adore her. I watch them playing with their daddy or just messing with each other and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. It all happened so fast and my life has changed so much, but I couldn’t imagine life without this little pair, I really couldn’t.
Motherhood is hard, but worth it.
Disclosure: I was gifted a beautiful necklace in exchange for writing this post however all thoughts, feelings and photos are my own.