Friday, 22 April 2016

Lauren's 30th Birthday

It has taken me three weeks to get round to writing a post about my incredible 30th birthday. Frankly, I've just been so busy! My birthday celebrations lasted a full week, and then I was straight back to work. I am now two weeks away from finishing for maternity leave, and there is so much to get done at work and I'm cramming in a few extra shifts too for the extra pennies, so it's been go go go! I can't believe I am now 30 years and 3 weeks old!

Thursday 31st March 2016

The sun was shining when I woke up. It's only now as I am getting older that I realise more and more how affected I am by the weather. Too much grey makes me really sad, and a day of sunshine sends me in to pure happiness. The kind of sun we get in Spring is my favourite, warm but not hot, the chill that lingers in the air means my red haired self doesn't burn. So to wake up to this on the last day of my twenties made me smile, and meant that Willow and I could enjoy breakfast in the garden. 

Sarah was at work for the morning, and I had the job of waiting in for Mr John Lewis delivery man to bring the beginnings of our little boy's nursery furniture. We aren't going to decorate his room until after I've finished for maternity leave, but we saw and loved the rocking chair and cot, so bought it, there and then. 

Sarah finished at 11, cutting her day short to begin my birthday celebrations. After a little sit down and a big cup of tea, we got to work on our task for the day - my birthday cake! I told her ages and ages ago I wanted a rainbow cake, the kind that is plain on the outside but is a burst of colour on the inside. It was her idea that we make it ourselves, and I'm so glad, cos we love baking, and it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon together. The funny thing is all of the cake layers looked kinda brown when they came out the oven, so we wouldn't find out until the following day if our efforts had paid off and if we had managed the look we were aiming for. 

The previous day Sarah had told me she had a surprise planned for my last night as a twenty something, but she absolutely wouldn't tell me what it was. I'm not a huge surprise lover, but I know my wife would only plan something I would love so I was happy to go along with it. She told me we had to be there for 7pm. It was only when we arrived and I saw the clinic's sign that I realised we were at a baby scan place. I nearly cried when she told me she had booked a 4D scan for us. I did cry when I saw him. On the screen came the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. The sonographer pointed out his important bits to us - heart, head, back, arms and legs, confirmed our suspicions that he is breech, and then focused in on his face, in perfect 4D. I know they say you always think your baby is beautiful, but my goodness, he took my breath away. He was fast asleep, with his gorgeous little eyes closed, and we just watched him - his little button nose, his perfect little lips, oh I can't wait to kiss him! At one point we woke up, opened his eyes, yawned and then fell back to sleep. It was a window in to his world, and as we held hands and just stared at the screen, our hearts grew a thousand times more with love for him. It was an utterly perfect way to say goodbye to a crazy but wonderful decade. Together we have bought a house, gotten engaged, become puppy mummies, got married, travelled lots of the world and made a baby. And that baby will be the focus of the next decade. It was magical and special and perfect and I want to go back and see him all over again!!

Friday 1st April

My Mum always jokes that I was an April Fool, but that after 42 weeks on the inside she was ready for me to be out! 

Fast forward thirty years and I woke up stupidly early. In fact I'd hardly slept all night, I was so excited! I kept waking up, looking at the clock and falling back off to sleep. But at 7am I could no longer contain myself and was just lying there, wide awake, watching my beautiful wife sleep and willing her to wake! When she did stir we spent the next couple of hours cuddling and chatting and laughing together, meaning we didn't in fact get up until much later, but I have to say it's a pretty dreamy way to spend your 30th birthday morning. If you could have told my 18 year old self that I would spend my 30th morning in bed with the most beautiful woman in the world, who also happens to be my best friend, I really wouldn't have believed you.

Eventually it was time to get up, and switching on my phone it became a little hive of activity with well wishes from my closest friends and family, Sarah's family, and anyone else who had remembered it was my birthday! Favourite of all was a video message from our two year old niece. She is such a little ray of sunshine in our lives, so her sitting in her PJs saying "appy birday Aunty Auren, wuv youuu" was brilliant.

Sarah had told me that she wouldn't be spending any money on actual presents for my birthday, because we are saving hard for me to have as much time off with our little boy as possible, and also because she'd planned us a trip away. I have to say I was more than happy with this, I live my life for adventures, not material things, so I was just looking forward to a few days away with my wife. However, the scene that greeted me as I walked in to our living room told me she had in fact lied to me about the whole thing! Or else someone else had put the huge pile of presents on the table! I was spoilt with so many things, from loads of new maternity clothes, to a beautiful laser cut print of a pregnant woman with our first scan picture in her tummy, Deliciously Ella's new book, a gorgeous calla lily bracelet with her birth stone, mine and our son's, tickets to see the play of my favourite film, Breakfast at Tiffany's in Birmingham, and a year's membership to the National Trust, so that we / I can spend my year off with the boy visiting beautiful places and taking him and Willow on gorgeous walks. My collection of presents may not have been what is considered typical for someone celebrating their 30th, but maybe I'm not your typical 30 year old; my presents were absolutely perfect for me, and were chosen by someone who knows me inside out. I am so grateful.

After breakfast of a variety of croissants and hot chocolate (my choice!), we got ready for the day, and Sarah told me we wouldn't be returning home then until after we got home from Brighton, so I needed to make sure I'd packed for a few days away! I had assumed we would be coming home that night, so was intrigued to find out what her plans were. So she told me - we were going out for a meal in my parent's home town, along with my parents, cousins, siblings, nieces and her family, and then there was a new Premier Inn that had opened up round the corner, so she thought we might as well stay there afterwards. We finished off the cake by icing it in different pink icings to give an ombre effect, and set off for my parents house, dropping Willow off at our friend's house first, where she would be spending the next week or so.

The afternoon was relaxing, emotional, and fun. Various family members popped in and out, dropping off cards and presents, including my niece who was very helpful in unwrapping my presents for me! And then it was cake time! I made a wish as I cut in to it, but really I think we all know my biggest wish has already come true. The cake was amazing! It was bright and colourful and tasty and everyone commented on how well made it was. We even had quite a few requests to make it again for other people's birthdays! Sitting drinking tea, eating cake and chatting with my family was a perfect way to spend a perfect afternoon.

Around 6pm Sarah suggested we go and check in to our room for the night to give us time to get ready for the evening. At this point she couldn't stop grinning, and I had no idea why. It turns out it was because she had instead booked us in to a boutique 5 star hotel in the city centre, and she thought it was pretty hilarious that I thought we would be spending the night in a Premier Inn! The hotel was absolutely beautiful. I remember it from my childhood as an old school house, and it dates back to the 1800s as this, before the school found new premises and it was taken over and turned in to a hotel. I loved though, how they have retained it's character and age, whilst updating it to make it a luxury five star hotel.

The table was booked for us all to meet at 7:30, at a gorgeous Mediterranean restaurant overlooking a beautiful lake and the impressive cathedral. We were slightly late, but not too much by our standards, and were greeted by 15 of our closest family. Gorgeous food, wonderful company and a beautiful restaurant, all orchestrated perfectly by my incredible wife. Honestly it was a night I'll never forget, it was perfect.

 Saturday 2nd April

We woke up to rain, which was a shame as we were about to set off for our favourite place in the UK for a couple of days. We have been to Brighton numerous times now, and we fell in love with it from the very first time we visited. So much so we got engaged there. So of course there wasn't really a decision to be made as to where we would go for a few days to celebrate my birthday! The rain continued to fall until we hit the motorway, when the skies cleared and instead we were treated to beautiful sunshine and bright blue skies. I love adventures, especially with my wife, listening to compilations of music we love from our wedding and American road trip, with the sunshine all around us, and iced soy caramel machiattos to keep us going, whats not to love?!

We arrived in Brighton around 4pm, and checked in to our home for the next three nights. Sarah had had to book the room she wanted in the hotel she wanted around 10 months prior, and now I understand why. Climbing the seven flights of stairs, the owner promised us it would be worth it when we got there - and oh my goodness was it! Voted the best view from a hotel room in Brighton, the view from the room and balcony overlooked the pier, the beach, the sea and all the way down to the Marina, it was absolutely breath taking.

My absolute love of planning and knowing absolutely everything about everything took some overcoming for this birthday, as all of the planning and arranging was left entirely to my very wonderful wife. For dinner that evening she had booked a table at Moonstone, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Hove that we have visited twice before - once on our engagement weekend and again the night after our wedding day, during our Mini-moon in Brighton. We know the food is sensational, and the funny thing is although it's a tiny place that is always crammed full, we are always seated in the same table in the window! It was amazing to go back - especially given that we went on the weekend I asked her to marry me, the day after our vows to be together for the rest of our lives, and now, 28 weeks pregnant with our first child. 

Returning home we sat outside on our balcony, cuddled up together under a big blanket, and watched the world go by. It was one of those moments where you stop and realise just how peaceful you are, how lucky, how happy. 

Sunday 3rd April

We were awoken early by the sound of the seagulls, who we joked wanted to tell us to get up and enjoy the day as the sun was out. But first there was some more of that amazing view to enjoy, and a gorgeous breakfast of blueberry pancakes and coffee.

We decided to begin the day with a walk along the beach, from our hotel to the Marina took approximately an hour, which may have been quicker if it wasn't for my inability to walk any quicker than a snail, now carrying a rather large bump! And then after a lovely stop on the beach for ice lollies, we wandered back. By the time we arrived back in to the town centre we were rather hungry and I was definitely in need of a sit down. Sarah had compiled a list of possible places for lunches, all of which provided amazing vegan food. One of the things we love so much about Brighton, is that our veggie / vegan diets are not only catered for adequately, but in a lot of places seem to be the norm. I opted to go to VBites, a vegan cafe we have visited before, as I really fancied a vegan cheeseburger - so

Sitting down for lunch I told Sarah I was actually quite tired, and instead of more walking could we instead just go back to our gorgeous hotel room and chill out there. She told me she had a better plan, and as the hotel we stayed in for our mini-moon had just opened a brand new spa, why don't we go and spend the afternoon there. I wondered why she had put our swimwear in the suitcases! Upon arrival she managed to surprise me again - by handing me a card telling me she had booked a full body pregnancy massage for me. We were shown into the relaxation room, and as I headed off for my massage Sarah was handed a glass of champagne, and spent the next hour and a half in the relaxation room, steam room and sauna. My massage was incredible - so much so I fell asleep a couple of times! Baby boy was not so relaxed, however, and thought it was a marvellous opportunity to wriggle and kick and squirm around while his mummy was chilling out!

After so much relaxation I was utterly exhausted! And we headed back to our hotel room as the sun began to set over this beautiful place. For dinner Sarah had planned for us to order thali boxes from Indian restaurant Chilli Pickle - they aren't a veggie place, but will alter pretty much anything to be veggie or vegan. Such a good idea - it was like high-end Indian restaurant food in a takeaway. But the portions were huge! After a wonderful, peaceful and beautiful day, an early night together was very much welcome!

 Monday 4th April

Our final full day in this wonderful place, and we decided again to get up early and head out to enjoy the day. Our first stop was Brighton Pier, good old-fashioned Britishness!

The thing is about Brighton is that you can easily lose quite a few hours just by getting lost in the Laines and then popping out in unexpected places. We spent most of the day in this way, stopping for tea when we fancied it, picking up a few cute items for our boy, just wandering blissfully hand in hand. Until my feet could no longer wander on and we went back to our hotel room, to get ready for the night ahead. For our last night there was only really one place we could go - the restaurant we got engaged at. We are yet to find a place to beat the quality of the food (all vegetarian or vegan), the friendliness of the staff or have a better time. We adore it. Sarah had asked the staff in advance if they could save us the window table we sat at on our engagement, and they did! They excitedly bought us 'Welcome Back' dessert plates, and asked how married life was. When we told them Lauren was 28wks pregnant they bought us a second 'congratulations' plate!

It was as perfect this time around as the times we have visited before - the meals were incredible, the cocktails are gorgeous (even non-alcoholic ones for pregnant ladies!) and most of all I was there with my favourite person in the entire world. Sarah made my 30th celebrations out of this world, all of the effort and thought that went in to the detail, the surprises, making sure I was happy, she is amazing, and I am so grateful. There is never a day that goes by that I don't look at her and know how lucky I am that I get to spend forever with her.

Tuesday 5th April
We were so sad to be packing up our things and saying goodbye to our magical place, we hope to return again very very soon. Time for one last veggie breakfast with this breath-taking view before we left!

Before we set off for home, there was a place Sarah had found that she thought I might like, so we took a brief detour to find out. Birling Gap is a National Trust beach which is absolutely beautiful, edged by sharp white cliffs and with views for miles and miles, where some of the Quidditch scenes in Harry Potter were filmed. It was gorgeous! I am often struck by how much beauty there is in this world, in this country, if only you care to look for it. We are so lucky that nature provides us with such experiences, such sights, it was a wonderful couple of hours walking along the beach and back before we began our journey home.

Wednesday 6th April

You'd think by now all of the celebrating would surely be done, but in fact there was one more adventure in store for me! My present from my parents was a trip to London for the day, where we would go to Claridges for afternoon tea. I was thankful for an 11:30 train, meaning we didn't have to get up early, and as London is only an hour from us by train, meant we had plenty of time to do a bit of exploring before our 3pm booking.

What an experience it was to arrive at Claridges, with all it's grandeur and opulence, and be shown in to the foyer room for afternoon tea. We were handed a menu featuring 26 different teas, and given time to choose. Well for a tea lover like me it took me ages to decide on just one…just as our waitress returned to tell us we could in fact have as many as we like, but one at a time! A couple of our favourites were Cloud Tea, which was so sweet and mellow it didn't need milk, and Malawi Antler - only a few kilos of it can be produced a year, and Claridges are only one of two places in the world that serve it.
First arrived the sandwiches, along with our chosen teas. There were five different varieties of vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, including mushroom and tarragon, butternut squash puree, and traditional cucumber. Claridges cater for veggie, vegan, and gluten free diets, as well as children which we were impressed by. We liked how welcoming and friendly it felt, despite being a luxury 5 star hotel, and the staff could not do enough for us. I have to say I felt like royalty! It was absolutely amazing. The sandwiches were followed by more sandwiches until we really had had enough, and then on to warm fresh scones with cream and jam, accompanied by another choice of tea. And when we felt pretty much fit to burst - the cakes and pastries arrived! We actually couldn't finish them all, so after our lovely waitress had bought over a birthday cake for me, she packaged up our cakes for us to take home, popping in a few extra ones! Another day that I will remember forever, it was absolutely amazing!

The train home was at 7:30, meaning there was time for us to wander slowly back down Oxford Street, and walk off some of those sandwiches, before catching our train home.

Entering my thirties has never been something I have been dreading, and leaving my twenties behind is not something I am sad about. I think I managed to achieve a lot in my third decade on this planet, and for that I am quite proud. I have done so many things, seen so many places, and grown and changed an awful lot. I guess in a lot of ways I am expecting my thirties to be calmer; there aren't so many big things that need saving for, like buying a house, paying for a wedding, going to amazing faraway places and then paying for IVF all in the space of one decade. I hope this decade brings peace, the chance to focus inwardly on our family, especially now we are expecting a child, and shifting the focus far more away from work and onto home, the three of us. I want to thank my wife, again, for my incredible birthday celebrations. It all feels like a dream now! But she worked hard to plan it all, and keep it all a secret from me, and I honestly feel like the luckiest girl in the world, not only for the experiences she has given me, but for her love. With her love I know I can do anything, together we are amazing and our little boy is so lucky to be coming in to our world, with her as his mother, where love knows no bounds, and where the centre of our world is love, and happiness, and the adventures we spend together. Here's to a brand new decade!

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  1. Oh girls. This blog post brought me to tears. What a breathtaking account of your 30th birthday celebrations. I can't imagine a more perfect way to celebrate. Sarah planned everything so thoughtfully and lovingly in a way that only she could. Rainbow cake, seeing your beautiful boy in 4d, gifts, family, the best view in Brighton, Claridges, just a few of the most amazing moments I read about. Your love is an inspiration. Your growing family is an inspiration. Happy belated 30th Lauren. Wishing you every happiness.

    1. Such a lovely comment, thank you so much Caroline! 😘💕

  2. How special, wonderful and just amazing your birthday week was! Thank you for the photos xx

    1. Ahh thank you so much girls, glad you enjoyed 😊😘

  3. Wow Lauren, you truly were spoiled rotten with love, thought & the things you love. Sarah really is a great match & catch for you.
    I am 28 this year and already dreading my turning 30 in a couple of years time, if only I can nudge D into having a read of this to get some ideas. I'll be happy.. I don't think the big party is for me.
    Also now Brighton is on the list of weekends away as it looks amazing from your pictures.
    Sending my love to you both.


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