How Do You Manage ‘Me Time’?

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It seems that recently a lot of my life has been about trying to be a bit more selfish. In the wake of my PND I’ve realised that actually, there’s not a lot I do for myself, ALONE, and before last week I had not been on my own without children since last November. I’m lucky to have both grannies willing to babysit but they would usually take either Elfie and Hux and I’d have quality time with whoever was with me.

Now, I think that connecting with your child on a one-to-one basis is very important and it’s something I really enjoy, but connecting to yourself is equally as important. Mama needs time to just sit and be quiet sometimes, to just be without the responsibility of being soley in charge of children. And if you think this is a little self-indulgent sometimes (I definitely used to), just leave your kids with a childless person for a couple of hours and see how much they’re pulling their hair out by the time you get back.

I realised recently is that I’m not the only one in my group of friends who craves alone time. The lovely Molly Forbes wrote about searching for the elusive me time this week and a mum friend and I have vowed to make time to get together every couple of weeks sans kids to chat over dinner and glass of wine. I’ve been thinking long and hard about easy changes I can make to my routine to make sure I make the most of time I have alone… but there’s always time for more relaxation! How do you make the most of your ‘me time’?

Don’t Do Housework
Snooze, yawn etc, but I am the sort of person who can’t relax in a messy house. I think it often borders on obsessive as I really find it hard to leave the house and start my day when the house is messy, so I’m trying to stay on top of this as much as possible (I did first try letting go a little bit, but nah, didn’t work). When I get rid of the kids for a couple of hours I don’t want to spend my time hoovering so I am trying to get this done with the children in the house. Lucky for me Elfie thinks cleaning is some sort of fun game (I know…) so we seem to be managing it and when I relax it’s in a lovely clean and tidy home.

Turn Off The TV
I’m one of those people who likes background noise accompanying them through every part of their life. I always seem to have the TV on in the background when I’m working and the radio when I’m cooking. I’m trying to turn these off when the kids or sleeping and I’m alone and just enjoy the silence. This still feels quite odd to me though, and I need to learn how to enjoy it more.

Paint My Nails
A ridiculous one but nails make me feel so much more together, even when I look like hell. I used to paint my nails last thing at night but after an unfortunate incident involving a white duvet cover and a bottle of OPI I might have to re-evaluate this method of relaxation.

Audiobooks
I find it quite hard to relax when I go to bed at night, I’m often winding down for a good couple of hours and can find myself lying in bed at 1am thinking about work, or kids, or fitting work in around kids. When I had teenage insomnia I used to listen to audiobooks before I went to bed and it really helped me drift off; I’ve recently joined AudioGo, an BBC audiobook download service, and it really helps me turn my brain off. Michael Palin and vintage Archers are current favourites.

DIY Facial
Bath, DIY facial, moisturise, bed. It’s my favourite thing to do in the evenings…. feels divine! I can never have enough evening time baths and they really do make me feel so lovely and relaxed, and I’ve started researching products I can specifically use to make this time even more special.

Dinner dates
Look at that top picture: I’m wearing makeup! In a restaurant! I went out with my mum for a meal at one of my favourite restaurants (The Black Horse in Woburn) and it was wonderful to be in a public place with other grown-ups for a while. You don’t have to be out with your husband, in fact it’s nice to remember who you are as an individual, I think.

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Our New House: The Lounge

 

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We moved house about 6 weeks ago and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it.

When we first saw our old house I was totally in love with it. But I was also 6 months pregnant and the landlord of the place we were currently living had just put it up for sale and I didn’t want to end up moving into my parent’s house with a newborn baby. We did that once before when we moved to the area, and though we all love each other dearly I think it’s safer to love each other dearly from separate houses.

(Long story short: the house we own is in Nottingham so we obviously don’t live in it as we need to be closer to London, we rent it out. We hope to buy a house in Buckinghamshire, where we live now, when that house has sold)

The house was everything I thought I had always wanted in a home. A barn conversion with double-height ceilings in the lounge, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a HUGE master bedroom with built-in wardrobes, an easy-to-maintain courtyard garden. In reality this was not the dream I thought it would be and the house taught me a very important lesson in the difference between wanting something and needing something. I wanted all those things, but I didn’t need them. I also didn’t need the £1500 per quarter electricity and gas bill (damn you, high ceilings! Screw you, drafty barn!).

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So we made the decision to move, which at the time felt quite difficult. I felt so proud of our big old house and it felt like a bit of a step down to be looking for somewhere smaller. But then PND set in and with it came the inability to clean, and with a house that big it became impossible to keep on top of the dust and the toys. Something easier to manage became essential, never mind the money we would save.

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Enter: the new house. Funnily enough we’d viewed this house before picking our old one a year ago. It had made me cry: I wept to Will that he couldn’t make me live in a house that was “such a white box so similar to the other white boxes” (it’s on a new-ish estate). Like I said, I was six months pregnant, and I can only blame my raging hormones for the ridiculousness of that comment.

Needless to say, when we looked round again we agreed to take it straight away. I loved it.

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This house isn’t at all perfect and if I owned it there are lots of things I would change straight away. I’d attack the faux black beams and fireplace with a tin of white paint for a start, and swap the doors for something a bit nicer. I’d remove the burgundy carpet in the hallway and up the stairs and do something about the shiny pine-coloured handrail.

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But otherwise, this house is perfect. We have a cosy lounge, a happy kitchen diner and a home office that otherwise masquerades as a conservatory. The bedrooms are a great size and the kids each have their own room. The bathroom is completely adequate for our needs (though the dodgy cold shower needs to be sorted ASAP, I’m so totally sick of taking baths). There’s a garage and a shed so plenty of storage space for furniture, tools and toys.

If you ask Elfie which house she prefers she will always say ‘Old House’. Though as she is so enamoured with her bedroom in the new house I am convinced this is because the new occupants of the old place have moved a trampoline in.

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The lounge is one of my favourite rooms of the house. It’s lovely to relax in at the end of the day and great to hang out in with the children. Yes, the toys are a lot more on display than they have ever been before, but hey, I didn’t have children to hide them away. I had children to enjoy them. So the toys will stay.

I’ve made some changes since we moved in: the original curtains were blue and not to my taste at all so I replaced them with some John Lewis curtain fabric. I’ve hung my favourite artwork and a picture rail and surrounded ourselves with our favourite objects. I’ve framed wedding photos and pictures of our families. As before I’ve made sure the room is as colourful as possible without having to actually paint any walls. I still like to think it’s grown-up friendly, though.

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So yes, we’re very settled. This house is so much more manageable than the old one, both financially and in terms of cleaning. We are saving £100 a month on our council tax and £20 a month on insurance (I went with Endsleigh contents insurance). Water is cheaper too as we only have the one flushing loo rather than three. Who on earth needs three toilets, anyway?! Elfie’s not even fully potty trained yet!

I’ve been amazed at the effect this house has had on my state of mind. I love it, it makes me happy. I’ve been able to work again both at my job and in my mum and housewife role. I feel so much more comfortable in my surroundings. Though it was obviously a massive ballache moving here was one of the best decisions we have made in a while.

Mummy Love: It’s Complicated

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When I was pregnant for the first time I wasn’t sure of much. I was completely confused at what childbirth would be like, I didn’t know if I would breast or bottle feed, or even if I wanted to be a stay at home mum or not. But there was thing I was sure of: the love I would feel for them in that hospital room.

I knew as soon as that baby was placed on my chest (or, as I had C sections, near my face) I would feel that immense, all-consuming rush of happiness and god-I-would-die-for-this-person. I know this because I’d read about it in magazines, seen it on the tv and heard about it each time my mum described my own birth.

So imagine my shock and surprise when it didn’t happen for me.

My pregnancy with Elfie was fairly straightforward. A few hiccups here and there but mostly happy and peaceful. That doesn’t mean it was easy though; I never relaxed having seen too many friends go through hearbreaking experiences with their pregnancies. I knew that falling in love with the person in my belly and then losing her would crush me so I was a bit scared to.

As I remember, Elfie’s birth, a c section, went like this. Bridge over troubled water on the radio, husband in scrubs. I could see the reflection of the operation in his glasses (GROSS!). A wriggly purple thing was pulled from me and thrust to my face. My first thought was: “that could NOT have come from me”. My second, “what’s all that gross white stuff?”. I think I then thought something along the lines of “erm, what do I do with this then?”.

We were moved back to our room, did the breastfeeding thing. She got pinker and angrier as newborns do and then slept a lot. I was still in total shock that I was going to have to look after this teeny tiny being, and in awe of her small fingers and toes. I think that’s a good word to describe my feelings in those early days: awe, and a little bit of shock too.

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Elfie came home and the worry set in where the mummy love should have been. She became very ill, and I again became scared of losing someone who could be so in control of my heart. Though I know I did everything I could have done at that time to get her seen and it was really a string of failings between our GP and Health Visitor that did not pick up her illness quicker I still feel horribly guilty.

This isn’t to say I didn’t love her then, not at all. She is my child and I have always loved her. But I did miss that feeling of loving so much you feel like you might vomit up your own heart.

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But then – surprise! It came right before I got pregnant again, the mummy love arrived just after her first birthday. I can’t remember what we were doing but my heart suddenly felt like it grew 100%. There it was. A year late, but it had arrived. That rush of love didn’t happen when she was a wrinkly angry baby, but as she became a toddler. It felt as good as everyone said.

It has never left and now I love her even more than that day. I don’t know how to describe what she is to me: my best friend, my confidante, my cuddly little champion. She says these things to me in her little voice (“I love you mummy, you best friend”) and I swear it makes me swoon and my heart thump out of my chest. It’s beautiful and so difficult to describe. When you have that love for your kid, you know. It’s like nothing else on earth.

Hux was a similar story. I spent the whole pregnancy so worried about having two children and splitting this new love that I’d recently found for Elfie and when he arrived that rush of love didn’t come. Instead I thought “oh good, he’s not as gunky as Elfie”. And then “what on earth do I do with this teeny tiny willy when it pees on me?!” (FYI I still don’t know).

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But again the mummy love arrived, a bit sooner this time, when he was about three days old. And now? Well, he’s my boy. I think it’s clear to anyone how much I love him. Sometimes so much that I worry I will put him on the BBQ and gobble him up with a side of coleslaw, he’s that delicious (not really. Maybe). He’s simply amazing and I can’t imagine ever meeting a man better than him (he is the best bits of my Dad and Will, after all).

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Does this make me a bad mum? I don’t think so. I just think it took my emotions a while to get over a few hurdles and catch up with my head. One thing I do know is that I would die for my children. And the fact that sometimes doesn’t happen immediately ain’t something they teach you in your NCT classes. It’s nothing you need to worry about either.  If, like me, you didn’t feel it straight away: hang in there. You too will soon want to vomit up your heart.

My friend Katie had a bit of a different experience to me: go and read her lovely account of when her girls were born.

This Summer I’ll Mostly Be Wearing Jersey

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I’ve always been a gal for good value items. I really like to have nice things but once you catch the bargain hunter bug it’s really difficult to return to buying full price items. One of the worst feelings in the world is buying something and then seeing it half price in the sale two weeks later. CRUSHING.

You have to be careful with your bargain hunting, though. Turn up at somewhere like Bicester Village (I live dangerously close) and suddenly that dry clean only silk embellished Temperley dress that’s down from £2,000 to a mere £550 can seem like a really good deal. God, I love Bicester Village. And Temperley. I wish my friends would have more black tie parties so I could justify such outfits.

Unfortunately there is little call for silk in my life these days, though. I tweeted last week the amount of jersey and lycra I wear each day is completely relative to the amount of sleep I’ve had the night before: i.e. not much. So with this in mind I’ve started scouting items for my summer wardrobes, should the sun ever decide to come out to play.

So far I’ve bought an utterly impractical but bloody amazing leopard print coat in the ASOS sale as well as a pair of VILA skinny jeans. They’re so tight the fly has a habit of working itself down but I’m hoping the 5:2 diet will get rid of a tiny bit of waist podge so this no longer happens. Plus, they’re mid rather than low-rise (unlike most of my Topshop jeans) so my mum tum can be tucked in nicely. Mum dressing is sexy, isn’t it?!

So when online store Ultimate Outlet (everything’s discounted!!) got in touch to ask me for my summer picks I was like, “Do you have anything in rainbow faux fur? Or maybe baby vomit unfriendly silk?” When they said “erm, no” I knew we’d get along. Look at all this lovely jersey! Cotton! Here’s what I’ll be wearing come April… OK, maybe June then…

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MTT: Salted Caramel Cookies

Salted Caramel Cookies

So a couple of weeks ago around Shrove Tuesday, I was perusing Instagram as you do, and I kept getting visually slapped in the face by sweet things. Pancakes, cookies, fudge, MORE PANCAKES. Gawd.

I’ve never been a huge dessert fan but since I’ve stepped into the realm of little scary white pills my appetite had kicked up a notch. And because I’ve also kicked up my exercise a notch (or two, lets be honest) I’m totally embracing it. Because really, hunger is miserable. Yay, puddings!!

Salted Caramel Cookies

The need I’ve discovered to inhale a large packet of Haribo each 48 hours isn’t ideal, but that aside I’ve been sticking to larger portions and the odd sweet treat. I’ve put on 5lbs in weight and am kidding myself that’s muscle, plus I will not go near the scales again for a while.

There’s been one craving that I haven’t been able to shake for a while. And that is the craving for cookies: proper, gooey American cookies. I usually find them a bit too teeth achingly sweet and I have always been a cake person. But yet, but yet. My mouth has been watering for a cookie and a cup of tea. (And a pancake, obvs). Damn you, Instagram!

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So Instagram let me to investigating plenty of cookie recipes. When I embarked on this quest I didn’t want to go down the double chocolate rout, I fancied a bit of refinement. And this is what I came up with. Ladies and gentleman, I present you with… Salted Caramel Cookies. Oh yeah.

Less calorific than a bag of Haribo. Maybe.

Salted Caramel Cookies

Salted Caramel Cookies

Sidenote: I’d told Elfie all about the fun we were going to have baking cookies and thought it would be such a great rainy afternoon activity for a 2.5 year old; I even put her in her new Polarn O. Pyret cupcake tshirt. However, I learned you should never underestimate the tantrum a toddler will have when you won’t let her stir boiling hot caramel. But she will get her own back when you find her face-down munching on the bowl of cookie dough.

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Salted Caramel Cookies
 
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Cook time
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If you are patient, make the salted caramel the night before and leave in the fridge overnight to harden. Then you can chop into pieces before mixing into your cookie dough. I am not patient so I just chuck mine in as a liquid.
Author:
Ingredients
  • The Caramel
  • 75g unsalted butter (best quality)
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 75 ml double cream
  • 3 tsp sea salt (I use Maldon)
  • The Cookies
  • 120g salted butter, melted
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 240g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Start by making the caramel. Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup and let simmer and bubble at a medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring all the while.
  2. Add cream and the sea salt and stir again for a couple of minutes. Pour into a shallow tuppaware container and line with greaseproof paper if you’re planning on letting it sit in the fridge overnight.
  3. Now time for the cookie dough! Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugars until just combined. Add the vanilla extract and the egg, and mix well.
  5. Mix together the flour and bicarb of soda, then use a spoon to add to the mixture, stirring until it comes together into a dough. If you are using a wet caramel, add ⅔ of this now now along with a couple of extra tablespoons of flour as it will make it a bit wetter. If you’re using chunks of caramel you don’t need to add any extra flour (the leftover caramel is AMAZING on vanilla ice cream).
  6. Add the chocolate pieces.
  7. Scoop onto a lined baking tray: I use an icecream scoop for this and fill it by ⅔ before depositing on the tray.
  8. Bake for 10-14 minutes. Mine take approximately 12 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt if using, and allow to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes, before moving to a wire rack to cool completely – or scoffing immediately.

 

 

 

HELP! I Think I Might Have To Be A Runner.

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As part of my ‘Become A Better Person Campaign 2013′ I have been trying to keep, or should I say GET fit.

There’s been the pancake race (harder than it looks. Bloody hell) that almost made me vomit and coming up I’m planning on a 5k and a 10k. As I was unable to just wing the 400m pancake race I have come to the harHsh realisation that I won’t be able to wing the other distances, either. Which means only one thing: I gotta exercise.

GULP.

I am literally the least exercise-y person ever. I’ve always been a pretty slim build and was constantly told during my school years that I was built to be a runner. Against my will they would drag me to athletics club and on cross-country runs, and no amount of hiding in the library would get me out of it. They even made me compete on a regional level (100m hurdles, what what) which literally put the fear of god in me. Please make me do anything, ANYTHING in front of an audience, just not run.

Saying that I love dancing and did ballet, tap and contemporary until the age of sixteen and I’m partial to a swim, too. Only problem is there are neither dance classes or a swimming pool in our town and when I go dancing at the wine bar the effects of the wine completely outweigh the fitness benefits.

So, running it is.

The one thing that’s been keeping me going through this period of running self-realisation has been trainer shopping. I was never a fan of trainers until I became a parent and now, I really can’t get enough of them. Love them in all shapes, sizes and colours (though mostly pink Nikes, in all honesty). If you ever wanted to get me a gift this is it. Size 5.5 thanks very much.

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Nike Flyknit 1+, £140

nike1Nike Lunar Forever 3, £70

nike3Nike Free Run 5.0, £80

nike4NikeFree Run 2, £80

All of these badboys can be bought from JD Sports. This post has been written in cahoots with them, which means more towards my pink trainer fund. You will make an athlete of me yet!

I’ve been working through my Couch to 5k app but am still kind of struggling to get my motivation on. Please, if anyone has any magic tips that will make me a runner, send ‘em my way.