MTT Loves Thailand

11137887_558523914290542_97928520_n

When it comes to my week in Thailand I’m not sure where to begin.

My pre-conceptions were all taken from Hollywood and tales of friends at beachside yoga retreats, but the reality was much more than I ever expected in so many ways.

I was invited by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to fly out for six days as part of their Thailand Academy Program. On phase three, this trip was to be all about traditional Thai textile production with a focus on cotton and silk for the UK delegates. I travelled to North East Thailand to a province called Surin to learn all about silk production and to experience an often undiscovered Thai way of life.

11188239_10155770488990206_1849304514593688507_n

Also along on the trip were designers from the UK and France and design students from Germany which would culminate in these designers producing original pieces from their respective countries in the traditional Thai fabrics and, as it would turn out, in traditional Thai summer 42 degree heat. As the Thais say there are three seasons in Thailand: hot, hotter and hottest. We arrived in the hottest season and I got sweaty in areas I didn’t even know could get sweaty. It was glorious (the weather, not the sweating)!

11186813_539686462837436_770524207_n

I was really lucky to be travelling with some of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the fashion biz: corset maker Ian Wallace who is just one of the most warm-hearted people ever as well as being founder of atelier The Whitechapel Workhouse and chief costume designer for Immodesty Blaise. Bryde Gordon, whose hilarity literally had me laughing the whole trip and is definitely the headwear designer for my theoretical next wedding (her eye for floral headgear is exquisite). May Wong who was effortlessly chic, lovely and talented and does the most incredible things with upcycled textiles. And not forgetting our wonderful TAT representative Bee, who just made the whole trip for us all (and happily answered my millions of questions).

On the ‘cotton’ leg of the trip were designers and founders of wonderful Kenyan-based business The Basket Room Camilla and Holly, textile genius Rose Sharp Jones and fellow blogger Jessica.

It was brilliant to be surrounded by so much happiness and creativity for the week and definitely got me through the pain of travelling and jetlag.

IMG_2986

I didn’t ‘do’ the travelling thing when I was younger and it’s something I’ve learned I really love now I’m a little older. This trip was many things to me – we slept minimally but I came home with a head and heart full of knowledge, peace and love (I’m basically a hippy now) and I’m so thankful for TAT for choosing me to experience all these wonderful things. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Now we’re back and almost over this jet lag it’s my job to write about this wonderful country and I can’t wait to experience it all over again in my pictures and words. The food, the culture, the people, the history… Thailand, I will be back for you.

What I Packed For Thailand (PS: see you in a week!)

What to pack for Thailand

When you read this I will be in Thailand. THAILAND.

I’ve never been to Thailand before so when I had an email a few weeks ago from Tourism Thailand asking, “hey, fancy week in our beautiful country?” I said nothing but HELL TO THE YES. A trip to Malaysia with my parents 7 years ago still goes down in history as the best holiday EVER so I obviously jumped on the chance to go back to Asia. Because THAILAND.

And then I needed a  new passport which took forever (translation: 2.5 weeks), was away from the babies for a week and the chicken pox happened and it was so hard when I left them on Thursday. Elfie wept and wept as I walked out the door and Hux spent the day asking if he could come on my trip and ugh, those beauties.

But sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and in the interest of expanding my mind this week I have to take a trip to Thailand and come back a well-rounded, cultured and suntanned individual. They will adore the week with their grandparents and, you know what, spending time away from the kids when I’m not at home is about 80% easier than when I’m able to go into their bedroom and sniff their pillows (it happens, you get me).

What to pack for Thailand

Tourism Thailand are taking a small group of fashion designers and media (that’ll be me then) on a cultural journey, starting in Bangkok and going all the way up to North East Thailand, to Surin. We’re going on ‘The Silk Trail’ – discovering traditional Thai crafts including silk weaving and dyeing, visiting a Handicrafts village and seeing everything this beautiful region has to offer. It’s going to be fantastic and you can follow along over on Instagram and Twitter; we’ll be using the hashtags #DiscoverThainess and #ThaiAcademy3 (sorry in advance for the spam).

But northern Thailand means domestic flights, and domestic flights means a luggage limit of 15kg. I am the girl who couldn’t take less than seven pairs of shoes for three days in Amsterdam so packing light is something I’ve literally never achieved. But by god, this time I think I’ve got it.

I HATE packing, hate it. Nothing more boring than packing. But this time I’ve worked really hard on it; rather than chucking everything I own in a suitcase and hoping for the best I’ve decided to plan, plan, plan. I’ve stuck to a palette of mostly grey, blue, white and black so that everything matches, with colour from my new cross-body bag (John Lewis – the perfect size for phone/passport/money), some necklaces and a SCRUNCHIE (I’ll try everything once).

Enjoy your guided tour around my suitcase:

What to pack for Thailand

3x short dresses – mine are from GAP, Billabong and a great tie-dye number from ASOS. The weather is going to get up to 38 degrees when we’re there and with all the sightseeing we’ll be doing I think I’ll need dresses that are comfy.

LBD – Ted Baker. For anything formal.

What to pack for Thailand

2x long dresses – for evenings or when I need to cover up more. Another tie-dye one from Primark and this current season lace detail maxidress from Forever 21.

2x jean shorts – There’s nothing I like more than a pair of denim shorts, and both of mine have been made by ex-favourite pairs of jeans, one Levis and one GAP. The secret is to use a pair that are a couple of sizes too big. Max comfort.

What to pack for Thailand

Vest tops – I have multiple versions from Zara, H&M, Aubin & Wills and American Apparel. Who doesn’t need a million vest tops?

Tshirts – One ‘boyfriend’ style (ASOS), one stripey top from H&M and a breton stripe from Boden because nobody does breton better.

Hat – obvs. This is from M&S men’s section.

Shoes – THREE PAIRS!! OK, four, as I’m wearing one. Birkinstocks and Havaianas, espadrilles as we’re visiting a couple of areas that require covered feet and my favourite go-with-everything wedges.

Trousers – I got these amazing ‘holiday trousers’ from Zara (my name, not theirs) and I love them. They’ll do me for night and evening.

What to pack for Thailand

What to pack for Thailand

Beauty-wise I’ve again gone really pared-down; miniature shampoo and conditioner (Soap and Glory is my favourite for these), and The Body Shop’s serum-in-oil and Vitamin E cream that will do me for morning and evening. A small bottle of Kiehl’s moisturiser to act as aftersun, Clinique moisturiser for my hand luggage and Bumble & Bumble’s sea salt spray to control my curly hair (I’ve left my GHD’s at home. PROUD). For make-up I’m going really simple with a Clinique foundation and concealer, bronzer, chubby eye stick, BeneFit’s They’re Real mascara, a brown eyeshadow, Clinique blusher, Rimmel eyebrow pencil and NARS lipstick.

After all this I literally felt like I might have a nervous breakdown but all this came to 11.6KG. BOOM! I’ve never gotten below 20 so for me this is momentous.

Packing: stressful or walk in the (holiday) park?

My 1st Years – Gifts For New Babies

IMG_7056

What’s one of the best bits about having babies?

The talcum powder smell, the love and joy they give you, the fun you have with them?

Noooo, one of the best bits about babies is shopping for them!

Unfortunately my two just keep growing and growing (grrr – but my gosh weren’t they gorgeous?!) so Baby Gap is no longer as exciting as it once was, but a girl can dream. I don’t think that ‘shopping’ is enough of a reason to have another child so luckily my friends have started re-creating, meaning I can indulge my baby shopping fantasies (thats shopping for items for babies, not shopping for actual babies) without being pregnant. Fun!

IMG_7367

I think that when you have a baby it’s wonderful to receive really special gifts for them. When my two were small my friends were incredibly generous and gifted us with a plethora of gorgeous items and I’m happy to carry that tradition on. Which is how I came across My 1st Years.

My 1st Years started with value, personalisation and quality in mind and is growing to be one of the biggest personal baby gift companies in the UK. Their tagline is ‘Made With Love’ and the founders really enjoy seeing the pleasure and joy their products bring to new parents. I love a happy business story!

They offer a really wide range of products so I’ve picked out some of my favourites to show you. If you’re really struggling though I think a personalised baby blanket is always a lovely way to show someone you’re excited about their new arrival and my favourite is the cable knit. It’s truly a gift that will be treasured forever; I still have Elfie and Hux’s old baby blankets on their beds, and yes I nuzzle them on occasion. Weird things mums do, right?

My1stYears

Clockwise, from top left: gingham dressing gown £25, limited edition gold throne £200, ditsy storage basket £35, soldier pyjamas £30, pack of two bibs £12.

Thank-you My 1st Years for supporting MTT! 

Counting My Motherhood Blessings

11084909_1108645245828439_1942442942_n

I feel so very lucky to be a mother. It might not have happened in the ‘right’ way (at 24 I felt like a teenage mother) and I perhaps haven’t ended up in the ‘perfect’ family situation, however these two little people are my absolute world.

But I find that it’s so easy to get lost in the motherhood fug and forget how fortunate I am to be a parent. You know how it goes – you get up mega early with a toddler bogey or wet finger in your ear and you’re immediately wiping morning bums and sorting out pyjamas. Then it’s time to field breakfast requests; mine always want croissants or home baked bread with honey, they usually get slung dry Shreddies and a banana or porridge. After that it’s the serious discussion over why spaghetti strap dresses are inappropriate for winter, a debate on socks and – if you’re lucky – a 2 minute shower for you to a soundrack of “why don’t you have a willy, mummy?”.

Then you take off on the school run grasping for book bags/water bottles/PE kits, dropping your kids off at whichever location they’re supposed to be at (or not, as I’m constantly getting Nursery/Pre-school days muddled) before you can sit down at your desk, get to the gym or start the supermarket shop. The days are chock-full with work, meetings, domestic bits and bobs, finger painting, working again, negotiating (the UN has nothing on me).

11084628_1596144277297452_1646800901_n

It baffles me how full I used to think my days were. This is what it’s like to have full days. Juggling two children, a job and Easter holidays has taught me what it’s like to be busy. It Does. Not. Stop.

EVER.

Until.

Until your children go away for six days with their dad – that’s when it stops, like, completely stops. And I didn’t like it.

This was the first time I was spending such a large amount of time without them at home so I made plenty of plans for when they were away. I wanted to see three special friends and vowed to empty my inbox. I was re-igniting my green diet, remembering how good it feels to go to the gym, socialising, shopping, enjoying life.

In reality I drank a bit too much wine, spent a long time catching up on sleep (no such thing as too long, NO SUCH THING), online shopped for bras that now all need to be returned because they’re the wrong size, watched almost an entire boxset (GIRLS!) and caught up on The Good Wife, woke up one morning spooning a greasy Dominos box, you know, the standard.

Day one and two were great – I needed to stop after the not sleeping and full-on whirlwind that was Jan/Feb/March. But then it just started feeling very quiet, very quiet and very strange.

Living alone is by and large for me a success. I enjoy my independence, my freedom, my taste in decorating. Having lived with a man for 8 years I really enjoy my own space and the fact I don’t have to deal with anyone else’s toenail clippings. I like being in charge of the remote, the fridge and everything I do. But this week, for the first time, actually felt lonely. I can’t remember the last time I had the space to feel lonely. It was sad.

I missed the children ever so much. I missed their wit, their cuddles, their intelligence, their giggles, their smell, their chitter chatter, their singing. I even missed them crawling into bed with me in the middle of the night. My empty arms ached for my children to dive back into them – I felt empty and rudderless. Without them I had nothing, just bumping around from work to gym to home.

928860_1571850186425805_458156933_n

Their homecoming was the most special thing ever. I can’t describe the absolute joy you feel upon seeing your children’s faces for the first time in six days. Pure and utter joy.

They’re less than ecstatic at the reunion, obvs because they’re cooler than you and are more concerned about how Buzz Lightyear has fared in their absence, but post-reunion there’s definitely been an increase in cuddles for us all. Hux told me “it’s lovely to have you back, mummy” and Elfie said “I love you even more than the planets”. BEAMING.

I’ll remember this feeling of appreciation for my children forever. The next time there’s a meltdown in IKEA, a 6 night run of no sleep, a bout of chicken pox (holla to ma chicken pox people! We’re suffering over here), a squabble over a Peppa Pig mobile phone… I’ll remember this.

I am so lucky to be a mum.

 

MTT: Asian Turkey and Lettuce Wraps with Stir-Fried Broccoli and Mini Sweetcorn (Turkey San Choy Bau)

turkey san choy bau

I fell off the health wagon.

Somewhere between not sleeping and a bit of boy trouble I totally lost my will to paleo. I’m talking serious discrepancies here: I’ve been eating bread, pasta, Belgian chocolate cookies, fish and chips. I re-discovered what it meant to eat for comfort, to get to the end of the day and crave nothing more than a bellyful of carbs.

10623690_1454450244845527_724012463_n

Special thank-you to my dad (from hereon in known as ‘The Enabler’) for bringing me two packets of biscuits on his way home from work when Elfie had spent the day being sick and I’d spent the last 48 hours being awake. At that moment they were all I wanted in the whole world and they tasted SO GOOD.

I also discovered that when you aren’t sleeping or eating your usual greens-and-protein diet the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle; no energy, stay at home feeling sluggish, no endorphins from exercising, feel more sluggish, definitely no gym.

I felt pale, bloated, unhealthy and hey – GUESS WHAT – sluggish. I do not like feeling this way.

11084821_527662920708868_925576418_n

So after the children went away I decided to take action. I addressed the first issue of SLEEP and did that for ten hours straight. Then I threw out the remainder of the biscuits, After Eights (I adore After Eights…) and Chinese takeaway. Bad kitchen food vibes be gone…

I wrote myself a pretty strict meal plan for the next five days; lots of lean meats, no grains, enough salad and kale to sink a ship, a moderate amount of cheese. I went to the supermarket and then went to the gym. Three times (the gym, not the supermarket). I now can’t climb the stairs without my legs shaking but I feel strong again, vibrant, not bloated. And I had an amazing swim today! Endorphins forever!

IMG_2622

I hate this feeling of falling off the wagon. In the grand scheme of things (and particularly in comparison to my pasta-and-fats diet of old) it’s really no big deal. But I have a zit that I just know is as a result of my takeaway indulgences and I hate feeling that I’m not giving my health the best possible shot.

turkey san choy bau

Whenever I feel like I’m set back in life I just think – tomorrow is a new day. If I had a bad day at work or a terrible nights’ sleep – tomorrow is  a new day. That’s a wonderful motto for mums (or humans in general, really) who feel like they need a fresh start or a slate-wipe. It’s not life or death, it’s a few chips and an M&S cookie – let’s start again tomorrow, shall we? Are there any Easter-Egg-And-Booze overindulgers out there who want to join me? Tomorrow is a new day!

Turkey San Choi Bau

turkey san choy bau

My first meal back on the health wagon was a good one. Asian turkey and lettuce wraps – or turkey san choy bau if you’re feeling fancy – with stir-fried broccoli and mini sweetcorn. Turkey is one of the best meats you can eat, it’s high in protein and low in fat, though I find it can be a bit tasteless sometimes which is why it’s best in recipes like this one with punchy flavours. You could also use pork, chicken or beef, too.

Asian Turkey and Lettuce Wraps with Stir-Fried Broccoli and Baby Sweetcorn
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Half a large onion, chopped finely
  • 400g turkey mince
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 grated courgette
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (I use gluten free Tamari)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • crushed peanuts
  • handful coriander
  • Lettuce to serve, leaves split out (4 per serving) - cos, baby gem or iceburg is good
  • half a head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • half a pack baby sweetcorn, chopped in thirds
  • handful cashew nuts
  • 1 additional tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 additional tbsp honey
Instructions
  1. Start by heating up your sesame and vegetable oil over a medium heatbefore frying off your onion for a couple of minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add your courgette and carrot and stir through.
  2. Pop your mince in the pan and stir to break up. Brown it off.
  3. Add the soy sauce, honey and fish sauce and cook well until done through.
  4. Meanwhile heat a frying pan or wok to a high heat and toast off the cashew nuts, shaking the pan frequently so they don't burn.
  5. When they're done tip out and put to one side. Put the pan back on the heat and add a tbsp of oil. Throw in your broccoli and baby corn, charring on all sides.
  6. Move the veg to one side of the pan and add your soy sauce to the other. When it's bubbling stir the ingredients together and drizzle the honey on top. Add the cashew nuts, stir through and take off the heat.
  7. Serve the turkey in your lettuce leaves, sprinkled with crushed peanuts and coriander. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy (I don't!). Add the broccoli and baby corn to the side.

 

What A Single Mum Does Without Her Kids

11055960_393261224210820_262418486_n

Whenever anyone talks to me about my single parenting and then says to me “I don’t know how you do it” I feel a little bit satisfied. I kind of plump my feathers a bit and explain that I do it because I have to and think: “finally! Someone’s noticed all my hard work and thinks I’m amazing!” But it’s actually not really that simple.

I’ll tell you exactly how I do it; I do it because every fortnight the children go off to their dad’s house and I get two days and two nights all to myself – time that I can do whatever I want with. In all the parenting I did pre-divorce I never would have had this time to myself, precious time to rest, recuperate and do whatever takes my fancy, ALONE. I do it because as hard as it gets being the sole parent in the day-to-day of my children’s lives I have that precious time to take a step back, miss them terribly and realise why it is I work so hard for our little family.

In truth I usually spend my time catching up on sleep or work I’ve missed when I was sleep deprived but the option is there: FREE TIME! I can go to Paris! I can drive around ALONE after dark! I can go for a swim without my companion pooing in the baby pool! The world is my oyster.

As a sidenote I have to say that I have every respect for those I think are the ‘real’ single parents of this world. The mums and dads who don’t have their children’s counterpart parent involved in their lives, those who do it alone 24/7, 365 days a year. Those are the people you need to look up and say: “I don’t know how you do it”. Compared to those amazing people I am Single Mother Lite.

10838511_868043749923857_1306726880_n

Yesterday the children went off in the car to their dad’s house for six days. SIX DAYS. I cried first, then ate half a box of After Eights, felt weird and wondered what to do. Then I took a two hour nap because sleep, sweet sleep, and now I have five more days without my little buddies to fill. I predict I’ll get bored of napping by tomorrow – nobody can sleep that much.

Just kidding, I can totally sleep that much. But I probably shouldn’t.

It’s an odd one, having your children go away for such a long time. If it wasn’t for the sleep thing I wouldn’t want them to go, I really wouldn’t. I know it’s good for my sanity to have a break and do some things just for me and of course is great for them to spend the time with their dad but it still doesn’t feel nice. It feels like when you go on a long trip for the weekend – a few hours away so you can’t return home easily – with that weird feeling that you might have forgotten something. And then when you get there you realise you’ve missed something crucial, leaving your phone charger or toothbrush at home. That’s how I feel – completely normal, but like there’s something essential missing.

I always have BIG PLANS with my time off (I don’t). I find pleasure in the tiniest things: in our day-to-day the children go to bed at 7pm so I don’t like leaving the house after 5.30pm because this upsets our bed/book/bath routine. So one of my favourite things to go out at GASP 7pm to buy Fish and Chips (the one takeaway food that I wish did deliveries), or nip to the supermarket to pick something up before they close at 10pm. There’s just something super liberating about driving around after dark when you’re normally tied to your home from a particular time. STOP THE PRESS THESE ACTIVITIES ARE WILD.

11078858_434672383364827_1904245277_n

I also like to go to the gym at different times, like 8am when I’m normally scrabbling for P.E. kits and book bags. And when I go swimming I go at the grown up only times. Liberating.

I did go through a period of time when I thought it was a good idea to go on dates when the kids were away, squeeze in as many as possible. But I’m kind of at that stage now when I’d rather spend time with my friends or those deep fried fish and chips rather than making polite conversation with a man.

Unless you’re Jamie Dornan, then I will always have time for polite conversation with you.

So off I go today – the world at my feet. I’ve started with a morning of work which will be followed by a gym trip, a bikini wax and then the afternoon, evening, morning and boozy lunch with one of my favourite ladies in the whole world. Then a Friday evening with another wonderful woman and a Saturday morning of – ooh I don’t know – maybe buying the papers and taking them back to bed. I might push the boat out and go into London on Sunday but then again I might just enjoy the silence… because of course there’s the important matter of fitting in all 4 seasons of Girls somewhere.

Whatever it is I do though I bloody miss those kids. Hurry back to me, babies. Sleepless nights included…