100 Days of Happiness: Day Fourteen

Bit of an early start as we hit the beach for a relaxing walk. It was so lovely to see the pup and Lamb playing together And the bond growing between them. We also saw the Portuguese ‘man of war’ jellyfish which is apparently plaguing our local beaches at the moment. There was also digging, shell collecting and chasing waves. So much fun!

What made you happy today?

100Days of Happiness: Day Eleven 

Day eleven of our 100 Days of Happiness say the Lamb and I head to one of our favourite places, Killerton House. We met her bestie and I got to catch up with her mum (and my dear friend) which always lifts the spirits. The girls had a lot of fun belting around the gardens, I shared a delicious Victoria Sponge with the Lamb, then we all went on a ‘mouse hunt’ around the house. As always, we left very impressed at the volunteers who help run these National Trust houses and the assorted activities they have to keep little people entertained.

Here’s a bonus shot of one of the flowers still in bloom. So pretty, even on a rather cold, damp day!


As always, once the Lamb was in bed, it was time for me to get to work. I’m prepping a new novel, with elements of fantasy, horror, supernatural and adventure. It’s my first ‘big’ writing project since having the Lamb so I’m hoping to get back into it, and make a start on it during National Novel Writing Month in November. There’s lots to prepare for it, with character bios, locations and multiple fantasy worlds to create. I’ve been struggling to get back into writing for a while so I’m hoping this preparation will help and I’ll be blogging more about my experience so pop back to find out more.

What made you happy today?

In Search of Happiness

An old school friend, Kerensa undertook the ‘100 Days of Happiness Challenge’ back in  2014. To say she was in a challenging period is an understatement – her husband had sadly passed away, leaving her with a baby. She had to move her life back to the UK from the US, with all the assorted stress a house move takes, with the added challenge of shipping across continents then reestablishing her life in a new town. As she says herself, Kerensa was running on pure adrenaline and once that was gone, reality began to set in. In order to alleviate the mental fugue she undertook the challenge to take a photo every day of something which had made her happy, no matter how fleeting, and share it. It proved an inspiration for many of us to see her photos and hear how she was getting on.

Three years later, Kerensa has remarried and has a baby daughter. In honour of her first husband’s memory, she has decided to undertake the ‘100 Days Challenge’ again and I’ve decide to join her! Like so many, we’ve been facing our challenges here at Casa CH and I realised that even the ‘fun’ things are now starting to feel like an obligation. We’re also entering some of my favourite times of year – Halloween and Christmas but I know once the fairy lights come down, the melancholy sets in so it will be good for me to keep finding a little brightness in the winter.

Follow me on @bluebeaglebaby and check back here to see what has cheered me up during the day and let me know if you’re taking part too – I’d love to see your photos! 

Movie Review: Ink (2009)


Synopsis: As we sleep the Storyteller and Incubi battle for our dreams, and in the case of little Emma, for her very soul. Her father, John must journey to save her. Will he be able to save her from the strange creature ‘Ink’?

Director: Jamie Winans

Starring: Christopher Soren Kelly, Quinn Hunchar and Jessica Duffy

Review: I watch a LOT of movies and have had a run of very bad films (check out my Reviews) so it was such a joy to discover ‘Ink’ (and the other film by Wimins, ‘Frame’ but more on that next week). I really, REALLY enjoyed it so prepare for gushing.

Where to start? The soundtrack, cinematography, originality of story and (the majority of the) acting is sublime.

The story: father John (Kelly) worksto hard and doesn’t spend them with his daughter Emma (Hunchar). During a battle with the ‘Storytellers’ and the ‘Incubi’ Emma’s soul is stolen by ‘Ink’ who’s determined to use it to pay his way into the Incubi. Cue Storyteller Liev (Duffy) who vows to protect her while other Storytellers battle to safe them. Ok, so it doesn’t sound that original But Winans visual and style raise this above the usual fair. The opening battle between the Storytellers. And Incubi may not have the slick punches of a Hollywood blockbuster but it’s well choreographed and makes good use of the space. My favourite character is the blind man but Duffy emits an inner grace I can only aspire to.

The difference in colours between the real world, land of dreams and world of nightmares was a treat and I didn’t feel the changes pulled you out of the story. There’s also an interesting use of lighting, especially in the world of nightmares which I won’t spoil for you but which were very clever.

The sets and costumes were mixed, but didn’t suggest a lack of design or care in their creation. Again, this isn’t a big-budget film but I was extremely impressed with what was created using their budget. This is helped by the directors use of different colour filters for each ‘land’.

The soundtrack is beautiful, a mix of haunting piano and some other arrangements. It fits perfectly with the directors visuals and is my new favourite writing music.

But there have to be some negatives. A few of the actors give uneven performances, including Kelly which does make the movie feel disjointed. Other reviewers have complained about the visuals which they found jarring or too unusual to accept, or the lack of classification for this film – is it fantasy? A horror? Sci fi? But for me, it didn’t need classification, it was a beautiful movie which defied classification and was the stronger for it because it emcompassed so much.

So, there are a huge number of independent film makers out there, many of whom are doing (in my opinion!) amazing work and need our support. Winans visuals may not appeal to all but his beautiful storytelling and the haunting music means you’ll be thinking of ‘Ink’ long after the credits have finished.

The Big Interview: Louise George

I met Louise during my first ever ‘real’ job and we’ve stayed in contact ever since,first via email then Facebook and I was overjoyed when she announced her pregnancy in 2011. Her daughter, Jessica, was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect during their 20-week scan leaving Louise and her husband, Michael, facing the difficult decision about her care, with medical advice suggesting that Jessica would not survive birth. Battling the odds, Louise and Jessica underwent in-vitro surgery which enabled Jessica to be born, then Jessica has had numerous surgeries since, with more planned for the near-future. I catch up with warrior Jessica and her true Wonder Woman mum, Louise.

GCH: Motherhood has given me a wealth of embarrassing moments (frankly, to add to an already impressive collection!). Can you tell us one of your embarrassing motherhood mishaps?

LG: Tiredness makes us do daft things as mums. I recently found myself tipping the contents of a potty into the kitchen bin instead of down the loo.

GCH: What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

LG: I sometimes shut myself in the kitchen and eat chocolate. I usually have some squirreled away somewhere!

GCH: I frequently joke about needing a LOT of tea to get me through some days with a cheeky toddler and crazy pup (or is that crazy toddler and cheeky pup?). So what’s your drink of choice – tea, coffee, wine, beer or something else?

LG: I tend to be a coffee drinker. That first cup in the morning is blissful. It’s amazing how it can transform me from a harpy to a human being. The transformation has not gone unnoticed by my girls though. Jessica will often ask me “Do you need coffee Mummy?” if I am a bit grumpy in the mornings!

GCH: You’re a trained midwife. What would you tell any expectant mum is a must have in her maternity bag (mine is face spritz, if nothing else it gave hubby something to do!).

LG: Face spritz was amazing! It was one of my must-haves both times.

My midwifery days are quite some way behind me now. But other than the usual essentials, I would say cereal bars and Lucozade were another must-have. They were great for giving me energy during labour and keeping hubby going too. Keeping birth partners fed is also important. Hubby almost passed out during my labour with Jessica and we realised that he hadn’t eaten anything for hours at that point. He felt much better when he was given some toast and jam!

GCH: Also, what was one of the best aspects to your job as a midwife? And one of the worst?

LG: That first cry of a new baby and the pure joy on new parents’ faces was the most magical thing. No matter how many times I saw it, it never lost any of that magic. I felt like I got to see a little miracle happen on a regular basis.

The worst is when a baby dies. It is the most heartbreaking thing. I have never forgotten that awful feeling of discovering that a baby had died in the womb and I still remember every single family I looked after whose baby was born sleeping.

GCH: Do you think you’ll return to midwifery?

LG: I don’t know at the moment. My registration lapsed a few years ago and I would need to retrain if I was to return. I have no plans to return in the foreseeable future. Hubby works in the events industry which has very irregular hours. If I went back to shift patterns or being on-call 24-7 as I was as an independent midwife, it would make childcare difficult to arrange. I now work part-time and mostly from home as an HR Manager which fits well with family life and means I can be there for the children when they need me. Any plans to go back to midwifery would be unlikely to happen before the children are old enough to be able to look after themselves.

GCH: Jessica was diagnosed with CHD at 20 weeks. Can you briefly explain what CHD is and what treatment she had? 

LG: CHD stands for congenital heart defect (or congenital heart disease which I think is a less accurate term). There are lots of different types of CHD – most people have heard of babies being born with “a hole in the heart” which covers some CHDs. Jessica has quite a complex CHD – she has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and a couple of other abnormalities. In children with HLHS, the left side of the heart is very underdeveloped. Basically this means she only has half a working heart.

With Jessica, there was also an added complication which limited the blood flow into the left side of her heart even further. This meant that her prognosis was particularly poor and we were told at 22 weeks’ pregnant that she wouldn’t be suitable for post-birth surgery. Thankfully the doctor also briefly mentioned an in-utero procedure which was being performed in Boston, USA. We considered going to the USA but were very lucky to be offered the procedure in the UK. This was carried out when I was 28 weeks’ pregnant.

Jessica had her first open-heart surgery when she was eight hours old. She had a second procedure a week later. Since then she has had two further open-heart surgeries (at 3 months and 7 months old) and several cardiac catheter procedures. She is due to have her last planned heart surgery in the next month or so.

This post explains a little more about the surgeries and how Jessica’s heart works compared to a normal heart: https://littleheartsbiglove.co.uk/jessicas-handmade-heart/

GCH: You’re a prolific writer and you’ve enjoyed musical theatre. How has being creative helped you cope with Jessica’s diagnosis?

LG: Writing has always been my way of processing my thoughts, especially if I find it difficult to talk about them. I find writing incredibly cathartic. I also enjoy drawing which is another way of processing my thoughts and I sing regularly too. Singing is something that makes me feel happy so is good for relieving stress.

GCH: Many people have described you as a Super Mummy, a title you politely declined in this blog post. However, you’ve coped with Jessica’s diagnosis with extreme grace and positivity. How do you manage to do that?
LG: My faith has helped hugely with this. My belief that God is walking this journey with us and helping carry us along the way when needed has helped give me the strength I need to get through each day and try to focus on the positives. We’ve also had so much support, love and prayers from friends and family which I am very thankful for. Knowing that we are held in so much love helps to keep me going.

I’m not always positive though! There are many times when I shut myself away and fall apart. I think it’s important too to feel able to let it all out every now and then. I don’t think I could focus on the positives if I didn’t give myself space to let go of some of the fear and worry too.

GCH: You set up your blog Little Hearts Big Love to document Jessica’s condition. Has it helped you connect with other ‘heart parents’?

LG: I’ve connected with a few heart parents through my personal blog and Jessica’s blog. Knowing that we are not alone on this journey makes a big difference. I am in contact with other parents who are further on in this journey who help to give me hope for the future. In the same way, our story helps to give hope to those who are setting out on their heart family journey.

GCH: Jessica was the first baby to undergo in utero surgery in the UK. Since Jessica was born, have you seen an improvement in the care, diagnosis and treatment of other babies with similar conditions?

LG: There are quite a lot of different in utero procedures for various conditions, some of which have been around for some time. Jessica had a procedure to open up a hole between the top two chambers of her heart which was done by inserting a balloon on a wire into her heart and inflating it. As far as we know she was the first (and possibly still the only) baby to have this done in the UK. I’ve only ever met one other heart mum online whose child has had a similar in-utero procedure and she lives in Australia.

With regards to improvements, I’ve been involved with raising awareness the heart charity Tiny Tickers for a couple of years. They do a lot of work to improve the early detection of heart conditions to help improve outcomes for heart babies. I am sure that surgical techniques also continue to improve.

As for Jessica’s in-utero surgery, I think it was very much a case of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. I am not sure that if I was pregnant with her today that we would have had this option without having to travel abroad. Our consultants back then had previously been involved in in-utero procedures (although not the one Jessica had). Their colleague, Dr Wilson, who performed the procedure, was on sabbatical in the States when I was pregnant. He happened to be back in Oxford the weekend after I first asked our consultants about the possibility of travelling to Boston for in-utero surgery and then was back again when I was 28 weeks’ pregnant – which is the ideal time for this surgery to take place. He’s now permanently based in the US.

Our main consultant retired a couple of years ago and the other one we saw regularly focuses on fetal cardiology so is no longer involved in our care. Since our main consultant retired, our care in Oxford has felt more disjointed. Our experiences with Southampton have always been very positive though and we are able to phone the ward there if we have any concerns about her health heart-wise. Our local hospital has also been very good and we have open-access to the children’s ward so can take Jessica straight there if she needs urgent medical attention.

GCH: You’ve written about your husband Michael and his journey dealing with Jessica’s condition. How have you supported him through it all?

LG: We very much support each other through this journey. The most important thing for us is making sure that we talk about our worries and concerns rather than bottling them up. Michael is better at taking in the information at appointments than I am – I am much more emotional in my initial responses whereas he tends to process it more rationally and then gets emotional later on. We balance each other out very well in this respect.

For me, being able to work from home and be flexible has helped. Michael works in the event industry which can be unpredictable and often means long hours when working on an event. He tries to be at as many appointments as he can, but I can work around hospital stays and appointments much more easily.

GCH: You’re thinking of turning Little Hearts Big Love into a book. Can you tell us more about this project?

LG: I’ve written a draft of our journey so far but I’ve not done any more with it at present! That particular project is on hold at least until after Jessica’s next operation.

I have written and illustrated a book for Jessica to help prepare her for having heart surgery. I’m looking into perhaps making this more widely available to help other heart families.

GCH: What are your hopes for your girls?

LG: To grow into young women who are loving, kind and unafraid to follow their dreams. I hope that they will grow up knowing that they are unique and wonderful just as they are; that a little love and kindness goes a long way and to see obstacles on their way as challenges to be met. I hope that they will learn that there is beauty in the journey, even when it means taking a different path to the one that you had hoped for.

GCH: Tell us a secret.

LG: I had an imaginary friend as a teenager. I still had occasional chats with him up until my early twenties. 

Many thanks to Louise for thanking the time to chat and I’m sure we’re all sending positive vibes to little Jessica as she moves towards her next surgery. I’ll keep you all updated as to how this loving, inspirational family gets on. 

Make it: Be blown away with paint!

The school holidays seem to be particularly dreary this year. The toddler seems to have fallen slightly out of love with painting so I decided to come up with a new method to renew her passion. 


This was a super-simple, fun and VERY messy project and one we both enjoyed. Seriously though, if you decide to try it, paint goes EVERYWHERE so make sure you put lots of paper down.


Those who know me, know I’m terrible at drawing (I once drew a stick an with three knees….) but luckily ‘Moon’ from the toddlers new favourite show (Sarah & Duck) is easy enough for even my cack-handedness to draw. I also did a few other simple outlines, including a tree, Spidergirl and a hedgehog.


Next, it was time to pour the paint. I bit of trial and error taught us that small drops, fairly close together worked better.


Then it was time to blow!


It was fun trying different lengths of straw and different ‘blowing’ techniques from short, sharp puffs, to longer blows while moving the straw around. They created surprisingly different results.


The tree is a little abstract.


Spider girl turned into a Deadpool/Venom hybrid. We used slightly too much paint on this one….


And here’s Moon, waving on his way to work.

Have you tried blow-painting? How did you get on? Let me know in the comments below! 

Things That Go Bump In The Night

‘Monster!’ Christopher pointed a small, pudgy finger towards the wardrobe, hugging his teddy bear tightly.

His mum, Sarah, lay him gently down in his bed. ‘No, sweetie, there’s no monsters in your wardrobe,’ she said, tucking his blankets around him.

Christopher sat up and pointed again. ‘Monster, mummy.’ Sarah looked into his saucer eyes and signed inwardly.

Forcing a smile to her face she rose and crossed to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. She made a dramatic show of opening the doors and rummaging through the few items of clothing hanging on their small hangers. She lifted out the boxes of toys and even lifted out his tiny shoes and peeked into each. ‘See? No monsters. Now, time for bed.’

‘Bed. Monsters. Bed, mummy.’ Christopher started waving under the bed, tears springing to his eyes.

‘That’s enough Christopher,’ his father, Mike, stood wearily at the door. Sarah threw him a sharp look. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘We go through this nonsense every night. There’s no monsters in the wardrobe or under the bed. Playing along just encourages him. Come on, you little monster. You’re the scariest thing in this room, so off to bed.’

‘Dr Jenkins said we shouldn’t dismiss his fears,’ hissed Sarah.

‘Well Dr Jenkins can spend three hours putting him to bed every night as I’m fed up with eating cold dinners.’

Sarah glared at her husband before quickly forcing a smile to her lips and stroking her son’s cheek. She reached under his cot and pulled out a stuffed toy. She brought it to her lips and whispered in its ear before handing it to her son. ‘Now Chris, I’d like you to meet Mega Mo. He’s a monster eater and I’ve just asked him to look after you all night, ok?’

Christopher looked at his mum, then at the toy. he chewed his lip as he studied Mega Mo. Mega Mo had a small, squat body, clad in denim dungarees. Small black leather boots stuck out the bottom, laces tied neatly in a bow. His arms were disproportionally long and muscular, the stitching etching out his fingers of his broad hands. However, it was his face that Christopher spent the longest studying – it was circular with two small, black eyes made from buttons, two cloth ears stuck out at 90degrees from his head and wool stuck out the top to form hair. It was his mouth which Christopher spent the longest looking at as it was overly wide, almost slicing his head in half. Velcro stuck his lips together, but it opened easily as Christopher pulled. Mega Mo’s mouth was empty, just a cloth bag.

‘As if he wasn’t already seeing monsters, you’re giving him one to sleep with,’ muttered Mike.

‘Dr Jenkins suggested it as a comforter. Mega Mo isn’t afraid of anything, Christopher and he look after you, ok? Now, lights out, time for sleep.’ Sarah rose and before Christopher could complain moved to the door, flicking off the light. His parents paused in the doorway, giving their eyes a moment to adjust to the assorted night lights Christopher insisted light his room. ‘Night, sweetie,’ said his mum.

‘Night son,’ his dad called, already heading to the kitchen.

Within a few minutes Christopher head the ping of the microwave as his parents reheated their dinners and the television as they flicked through the channels.

Christopher hugged Mega Mo to his chest as he sat in his cot. He knew they were out there, waiting. Every night since they had moved into the new house was the same: the monsters under his bed would wake him up. Christopher didn’t know why they did these things, other than to torment him. He’d hear them giggling, their long fingers curling around his blankets before dragging them off of him. He’d feel their breath on his face as they flicked his ears and their sandpaper skin as they yanked his feet. Christopher squeezed his eyes closed tightly and pretended to go to sleep. Sometimes they didn’t bother him if he was asleep. Sometimes.

The familiar scratching started at his wardrobe door, one long fingernail dragged across the wood, slowly at first, then in faster, shorter bursts until the door creaked open. A low buzz filled the room, causing the bars on Christopher’s cot to rattle. He closed his eyes more tightly, covering them with his small hands, fingers splayed over his face.

His cot was moving now, bouncing on the carpet as the creatures bounded out from underneath. Christoper started shaking. It sounded like more of the creatures were coming than had ever before. The giggling creatures moved around the room, their long claws plucking at the carpet as Christopher continued to shake, tears free-flowing down his cheeks.

The sound of velcro ripping made him pause. He desperately didn’t want to take his hands away from his eyes, but curiosity finally pulled them down to his sides. He started to reach for Mega Mo, only to discover the toy was no longer by his side. Christoper quickly scanned his bed, his blanket rumbled beside him, his bottle the other side, but the stuffed toy was nowhere to be seen.

A squeak from under the bed drew his attention. He hesitantly reached for the bars of his cot, but pulled back when he heard another squeak, followed by a thump. His cot rattled, then stilled.

Swallowing hard, Christopher peered through the bars. He saw Mega Mo on the floor, his broad arms swinging like a windmill, his club hands knocking the creatures down. He paused, scooping up several of the creatures and, grinning widely before opening his mouth and dropping the screaming creatures into the chasm. A blue felt tongue whipped around, licking his lips before he started chasing more of the creatures around the room, gulping them down as he caught them. Christopher watched as Mega Mo ate all of the creatures until there was one left, cowering in the corner. He chittered to Mega Mo who smiled before launching himself at the creature. In one fluid move he swallowed it whole. He stood upright and surveyed the room. Christopher followed his gaze and for the first time, he listened to the silence of his room.

‘Wow, I can’t believe he’s asleep!’ whispered Sarah, retaking the blankets that had slipped from around Christopher’s shoulders.

‘I know, he’d normally have screamed by now,’ muttered Mike. ‘Told you it was just a phase.’

‘Or Mega Mo helped. Where is that toy anyway?’ Sarah’s foot nudged against something. She looked down and saw Mega Mo. ‘What are you doing out of Christopher’s cot? I told you to protect him.’ She bent to pick up the toy. ‘Blimey, you’re heavier than I remember.’

‘Forget about the toy,’ hissed Mike, ‘Just enjoy the tranquility.’

Sarah tucked Mega Mo in next to Christoper who instinctively hugged him. He smiled in his sleep, dreaming of monsters, and those who ate them.