Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Pregnant

- When multiple people tell you to “get your sleep in now, you won’ t be getting any once the baby’s here, hohoho” you will want to punch them in the face. Don’t, because they’re right.

- Daytime TV really does get boring. Apart from Come Dine With Me and Desperate Housewives.

- There is nothing like worrying about tiny babies. Metaphorical burglars/child kidnappers and shopping centre baby snatchers become an actual possibility.

- Because of these metaphorical burglars (who will strike in the middle of the night) you will never fall into a deep sleep ever again.

- Piles are actually real and do happen. They aren’t just made up to scare you into not getting pregnant, dammit.

- Learning the skill of peeing into a really really tiny receptacle is vital.

- You will become so used to dropping your pants that you absentmindedly go to unbutton your jeans when a stranger asks you for the time.

- Aches and pains appear in places you never thought existed, see: SPD in your crotch, cramp in your calf muscles. OUCH.

- Peeing becomes not just a random bodily function but something you need to do ALL THE TIME.
- Climbing stairs becomes a work-out: something to do with a decreased lung capacity.

- Absolute strangers come up to you in the street and touch your tummy, telling you with absolute certainty that by the shape of your bump you are having a boy/girl/unicorn, and you will want to punch them in the face. Don’t, even when you know they’re wrong, because it’s usually an old lady.

- Being a mother is the funnest job ever.

Looking After My Face

When I wrote my Life List last year I vowed to get my face to a state when I would be comfortable leaving the house without make-up on. This might sound  like an incredibly shallow resolution to make, but years of living in polluted London and burning the candle at both ends had taken its toll on my face and I was left with pale, sallow skin with large under eye bags (which I’ve always been prone to), large pores, ruddy cheeks and a lined forehead. I regularly used fake tan to perk my complexion up a bit but even then I felt uncomfortable with no make-up on.

Re-reading the above paragraph makes me wish I was a man. Imagine not having the worry of painting your face before you leave the house?

Since leaving the city I’ve tried a few skincare regimes, from pricey to budget: Clinique, Liz Earle, No 7 and good old Boot’s own brand. But nothing made me actively enjoy washing my face – I always resorted to Elfie’s baby wipes to clean the makeup off my face when I was too tired to properly cleanse – and so the state of my skin remained the same. Until I started using Cowshed on the recommendation of a friend.  It has been a lifesaver to my poor tired and dry mum face.

All Cowshed products have a very high concentration of essential oils so using the products always feels like a rich treat. I use the gentle Lavender cleanser with a muslin cloth followed by the refreshing Chamomile toner, as well as the Calendula facial scrub once or twice a week. At night I also apply the Cranberry Seed facial oil (this is divine!) followed by the Rose replenishing night cream, or the Quinoa hydrating daily moisturiser. It sounds like a lot but is a really nice way to wind down for five minutes at the end of a hectic day, especially if I’m treating myself to the facial scrub and a quick facial massage with the oil in the bath. Because I do miss the feel of a more traditional ‘wet’ facial cleanser I have also been using Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser once or twice a week in the shower in the morning.

This regime seems to have really worked for my skin type which is slightly dry to combination. The lines on my forehead are noticeably finer and the red on my cheeks has faded. I get much fewer breakouts, and although my pores are still visible they are less so.

I’m still not going to be leaving the house without make-up just yet, but I’m a step closer. In fact, my next task is to find a reliable long-lasting foundation that is lighter than my usual MAC Studio Fix Fluid as it’s become too heavy for my needs (though you’ll have to prise MAC’s Select Cover-Up out my cold dead hands; my skin is getting better, I’m not miraculously getting 9 hours sleep a night so there are still more bags than an airport carousel under my eyes). Bourjois’s Healthy Mix Serum has been purchased for the princely sum of £10.99 having read so many rave reviews about it online: I’ll let you know.

This post is not sponsored. I just bloody love Cowshed. 

 

My Fashion Week

Breakfast at a Rani Jones presentation, S/S 10. Out of shot: 3 empty champagne glasses

Last week I had big plans. Plans to write lots of witty and humerous garb about London Fashion Week and how it’s all relevant to the modern mother, blah di blah. But then I started feeling a bit ropey on Thursday and on Friday, wow, I was on my deathbed. With raging red tonsils.

In my previous life at a magazine I used to hoover up all Fashion Week show invitations discarded by the editors and co-ordinate all LFW Social Media coverage from the press centre (in the days before bloggers were segregated from the magazine journalists). It was brilliant – the free Toni&Guy hairdos, the MAC makeovers, the goody bags, spotting yourself in post-show coverage (OK, this happened once, Bora Aksu A/W ’10). But, believe it or not, in five years I have had some sort of cold or flu bug over London Fashion Week FOUR TIMES. Which I think it my body’s way of telling me that high fashion and I are incompatible.

So instead I will be directing you to some ladies who can help you out with intelligent and interesting coverage of the shows. First, you need to check out Kris’s stunning almost-live LFW photoblog. Then you should follow hair expert Rachael as either @furcoat or @HJi_Rachael on Twitter (her tweets got me through a particularly dark time on Saturday afternoon) as well as the tres sophisticated Isabelle OC. Lastly, check out lovely Laetitia’s illustrated LFW highlights and some easy-to-digest fashion at Glam.co.uk.

As for me, well, I’m wearing leopard print leggings today in homage to Fashion Week but I should really be back in bed. Or in front of the mirror examining my tonsil spots (they most certainly aren’t chic). See you on the other side.

PS: I will just say one fashion-y thing, but it’s OK because it’s geeky too: how brilliant is it that these Louise Gray boots look QR-code inspired?!

Move House: DONE

We are all moved! And as far as moves go it was pretty painless. I imagine the most painful thing will be when Will gets home and finds out by how much the budget was blown in IKEA today (a lot). There are still a few bits to be finished; the dining room has 3 boxes left, multiple shelves and frames need to be put up and we need to have a good long look at storage. Although we have more overall space here we have lost a utility room so I’m struggling to find homes for things like vases and electric breast pumps.

 

The kitchen needs a lot of work to make it more ‘us’ (see: the hugely expensive IKEA trip) and I’m looking forward to starting on a couple of craft projects we have, including stripping and painting the new kitchen table and a chest of drawers we found on Freecycle. But already it’s proven to be so much easier to keep clean than our last kitchen, with the beautiful but messy range cooker and the terracotta tiles that never seemed to be clean.

My favourite room in the house has to be our bedroom. It’s so calm and peaceful, and the en suite has the first wardrobe in 7 years that fits all my clothes in (bar the fancy dresses which are in the spare bedroom’s wardrobe. Shhh). I’ve allowed Will to take over the study and turn it into his man cave so have moved my computer in here, it’s a lovely place to work and write.

 

The lounge is also lovely – there are windows and french doors on both sides that let in lots of light during the day, and the exposed brick wall make it all cosy and warm at night. I love it.

 

I can’t wait to turn this house into more of a home. And then blog about it.

Fitness Inspiration and Motivation: Kaisa Larkas

In the first of my series bringing you the secrets of women who inspire and motivate me to become a better person, I introduce to you Kaisa Larkas. Kaisa is a Finnish-born fashion writer, PR, mum of three and fitness enthusiast who encouraged me to get off my bum and do something about feeling so unfit and lethargic. The woman made me run four times in a fortnight, she must be magic!

I met Kaisa by chance on Twitter and it transpires she and her husband not only lived opposite our old apartment in Shoreditch but she also lives in the village we’re moving to; we’ve met up a few times for lunch and dinner and I can confirm she is as gorgeous and fabulous in real life as she is online.

Kaisa has recently started running a Cavewoman Conditioning class locally to motivate women in the area in their quest to keep fit (I expect it will form part of my post-pregnancy weightloss regime come this summer…) and is one of the earliest risers I know. She’s not above a ‘woohooh!’ at 5am whereas you’re lucky if you get a ‘good-morning’ out of me. Here’s how to bring a bit of Kaisa’s motivation into your life:

You are a very busy mum of three. Has fitness and running always been part of your life or is it something you needed to do post-motherhood to burn off a bit of steam? 

Kaisa: I’ve always been active. I started playing basketball when I was very young and later on combined that with the gym and group exercise classes. I started instructing classes myself (from aerobics and spinning to circuit and body pump) when I was 16 and have been doing it on the side of my studies and journalism work ever since. I exercised through all my pregnancies, which I think helped with the births but also contributed to getting back into shape relatively quickly afterwards. Running is something new to me though. I used to hate it with passion up until a year ago. I decided to give it one more go and to my surprise, started enjoying it! It’s very addictive and because you see the progress pretty quickly, it’s motivating. I’m running my second half marathon in less than a month and I never thought I would even run the first one…

How do you motivate yourself to get up and get on with running or your day-to-day tasks after a bad nights sleep with the kids, or when it’s dark and cold outside? 

Kaisa: People ask me that all the time and I honestly think that running and the Cavewoman and Caveman Conditioning classes that I do are the reason that I am able to juggle so many things and cope with the lack of sleep! I no longer have gym membership so all the exercise I do is outside and it is hard to sometimes motivate myself to go when it’s wet and grim. But then I just need to think about how good I feel afterwards and that forces me to go! I also mostly run with a friend, which I would recommend to anyone as you push and motivate each other. It’s harder to slack when you’ve made a pact with someone…

Do you find it hard to balance motherhood, work, and activities you enjoy? 

Kaisa: Of course but I honestly think that if you are dedicated enough to exercise, you will slot it in no matter how busy you are. Not everyone can find the time to do something many times a week but even if it is a quick 20-30min run 3-4 times a week, a fitness DVD on a few evenings that the kids have gone to bed or even some resistance training at home a couple of mornings a week, you will feel so much better for it! I’m lucky I have a very supportive husband and an amazing au pair who enable me to find quite a lot of time to my fitness!

Do you find music helps motivate you to run? What music do you like to run to? 

Kaisa: I can’t run without music! I went through a phase of listening  to the latest Foo Fighters album a lot because when you stick to the beat of the songs, you have to be pretty speedy… But mostly I just put on something my husband recommended on Spotify or listen to mixes that my friend made for the Cavewoman Consitioning classes that I teach. They have anything fro Arcade fire to Rihanna on!

What treats do you enjoy to reward yourself? 

Kaisa: I’m not majorly into sweet things but I have a healthy appetite and can eat a lot and often. I eat a healthy balanced diet but if I feel like having cake or ice cream, I go for it as I think that as long as you exercise, you can allow yourself to do that. I can easily eat a litre of ice cream in one go. Shameful, I know!… ;)

Thanks, Kaisa!

One thing I have learned from listening Kaisa speak so enthusiastically about her training is that it’s rare you will actively want to go and exercise – in fact my husband says that putting your trainers on is the most difficult part of going for a run. But the good feeling you get after exercising is unbeatable and really does give you a spring in your step for days afterwards. I will be heeding Kaisa’s advice and taking 20 minutes 3 times a week to run around the block or do my Davina McCall DVD, and hopefully feeling all the better for it.

You can read Kaisa’s blog here or follow her on Twitter. To read more about why we all need to feel inspired and motivated sometimes, go here.

Losing Your Way (And Finding It Again)

When you have a baby you are given so much advice about how your life is going to change. You’re going to grow huge boobs, have no sleep, possibly get post-natal depression and sex will never be the same again. According to most new mummy literature chapped nipples, a flabby tummy and the baby blues are pretty much a given.

But little is said about the other ways your life will change. At the minimum you feel a whole new set of responsibilities: this little squawking human being is brought into your life and you are soley in charge of it not perishing. It’s your job to feed, clothe, bathe and entertain this little thing that you grew inside you for nine months. You give up your job, your social life and your sanity for something that’s not much bigger than a sack of flour.

If you’re like us and choose to take the opportunity of changing your life in honour of your new arrival then not only do you give up your job and social life but you also sacrifice your home, friends and lifestyle. You start life all over again to provide your little nipple muncher with what you consider to be a better quality of life, somewhere with cows and trees and Barbour jackets that have everything to do with practicality over ironic fashion.

Nobody told me the effect this can have on you as a new parent: the task of making new friends and losing touch with your old ones, finding your way in a new area, moving your belongings hundreds of miles, cutting yourself off from what used to be a lot of culture, restaurants and shops. Giving up a job you once loved to look for freelance work to subsidise the dream of being an all-in-one stay at home and work at home mother. These changes are huge, it can take a long time to come to terms with and be a huge pressure.

And does the baby ever thank you for all the great lifestyle changes and sacrifices you’ve made? Does it heck. It will continue to wake up throughout the night so not only do you have to get used to your new life, you get to do it on three hours of broken sleep. Thanks, nipple muncher!

(I’m really selling motherhood to you here, aren’t I?)

Anyway, the upshot of all this change that becoming a mother brings is that if you’re anything like me it can leave you having somewhat of an identity crisis. I didn’t work for the magazine any more, so that was no longer part of who I was. I’d given up my membership to Shoreditch and Soho house, so that was my social life out the window. All my friends were still in London, babyless, working and probably drinking at Shoreditch House. It was a part of me for such a long time and I missed it.

All this was compounded by a bit of a style crisis as apparently sequins aren’t suitable attire for NCT coffee mornings, and trying to meet parents my own age in this area seemed a bit of a futile exercise as there were none. If I worked I’d feel guilty and miss Elfie way too much (see: the great freelancing experiment of summer 2011) but if I didn’t work I’d miss the intellectual challenge. Trying to juggle all of these things meant that none of them were being accomplished satisfactorily and in the middle of it all I had no idea who I was anymore.

Sequins: will not help you blend in with the NCT mummies.

Admitting that yes, I really missed my old life, and realising it would be impossible for things to go back to the way they were was the first step: now to work out how to move forward and embrace life in a different way.

At the start of January this year I made 3 resolutions. One was to make all my bread from scratch rather than buying it (again: motherhood is sexy) and another was to start de-cluttering our house. But then I read this, In Praise Of Calling It Quits, by self-love advocate Gala Darling and it really struck a chord with me. It made me realise that if I’m finding my life hard, then I need to work proactively to change it. I’m not going to find friends by sitting at home moaning that I can’t find any mothers in my area with good haircuts and a similar outlook. I’m not going to feel more energized unless I get fitter and take time to myself to exercise. I’m not going to feel fulfilled at work or at home if I spend time working on a project with a client I don’t enjoy when I could be playing with Elfie.

So I made another resolution: to get off my bum and work hard at creating the sort of life I want to live. Common sense, really – it won’t come to me unless I create it. And if I’m feeling a bit like this there must be other women out there who feel the same.

But with the day to day drudgery of housework, money-making work and wiping bums it’s difficult to keep this resolve and maintain motivation, so I started looking to others with inspirational outlooks to drive me forward. And I want to start bringing a bit of this inspiration to my blog every week, with the idea that if they motivate me to become a better person, they can do the same for others. I’m going to ask my fitness, homemaking, cookery and work gurus to divulge their secrets and I will post them here for us all to feel inspired.

Image via MomDot

First up we have Kaisa Larkas. I met Kaisa completely by chance on Twitter through Mother’s Meetings, and quickly realised that insanely enough she lives in the village I am about to move to. She is a dedicated fitness follower, mother of three and fashion writer and PR and she’ll be here tomorrow telling us how she manages to stay motivated through the cold, dark days.

So the next time you’re sitting at home wondering what happened to your wild twenties you can think of me and remember you’re not alone. And then you can come here to read all about how to inject some get-up-and-go into your life. As Marjorie Pay Hinckley said, “the trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days waiting for better ones ahead”. Exactly.