The amount of trainers I own are definitely not in proportion to the time I spend exercising. I adore them though: I love how these days it’s acceptable to wear a lovely silk dress and slap on a pair of Nikes to dress it down a bit. I love how comfy they are on the school run (though obviously no literal running takes place) and I love the pop of colour they can bring to an outfit.
My newest loves: New Balance Running Shoe, £71.99
Trainers remind me of when I was at school and it was totally acceptable to strap on my Filas with my 90s high-rise stonewashed jeans to go and loiter outside New Look. I still remember my lilac platform pumps from Miss Selfridge with the fondest of memories: evidently I’ve always enjoyed wearing trainers until the cows come home.
As a fully paid-up sneaker fan I have a Pinterest board dedicated to my favourites and have a wishlist of ‘trainers I need in my life’:
Via Alice & Sara
Via The Frugality
Next up is a pair of grey Nikes with neon trim: similar are these Nike Free Bionic training shoes for £71.99.
For me, trainers MUST be worn with skinny jeans or leggings; I’ve recently been sent these confident curves leggings from Isme and they are amazing, they hold everything in and give a lovely silhouette. A bit of grey jersey and tailoring or leather on top and job’s a good’un.
Written in partnership with Millet Sport. For more information please see my disclosure.
Autumn is the season when my skin starts freaking out. It becomes a shade of what I like to call ‘farmer rugged’ thanks to a combination of the cold air, central heating and lack of sunshine. I get dry patches on my nose and cheeks and as an added extra bonus due to the house move I’ve noticed my forehead lines are getting deeper. It’s a nightmare for my poor hard-working face.
Despite this I’m still desperately on the quest to get my skin to a state where I feel comfortable going out with no make-up on. If I re-read my posts from the time I started this initiative back in February 2012 it’s amazing how far I’ve come on; I’ve gone from washing my face with Boot’s basic cucumber foaming wash and moisturising with Nivea to being really interested in skincare. Thanks to Caroline Hirons my evening cleansing routine is carried out with enthusiasm and care and never EVER missed, and it’s brought such a difference to my skin.
I really enjoy scouring beauty reviews for what’s new on the market and if a PR ever emails to ask if I fancy reviewing one of their products I practically squeal with delight. I’ve become one of those girls who talks about eye creams with their friends and debates the various points of CC vs BB creams. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Anyway, here’s what’s been making my face that little bit nicer to look at this Autumn. And since you were wondering, BB creams are over: Clinique’s CC cream always comes out on top.
Dolce & Gabanna Rose The One* – £46.95
Not strictly for my face but definitely one of my most loved beauty indulgences. I’ve really got into fragrances since I became single and this is my new favourite (FYI: previous favourite was Stella McCartney ‘Stella’). I love how this scent is slightly floral yet fresh and grown up; it’s definitely not heavy and headache-inducing which I find some perfumes can be. I love it.
Clinique Take The Day Off Face Balm – £21
I know I’ve sung the praises of many face balms but this one HAS to be my everyday favourite. It’s not for everyone – its unscented and kind of has the texture of lard – but is so kind and gentle on my skin that I haven’t had a breakout since I’ve been using it. Because it’s so simple I find my skin is more receptive to whatever goes on next and I will continue to buy this for my ordinary day cleansing. And if you don’t believe me you can take Queen Hirons’s word for it.
Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream – £14.99
I’ve long been extolling the virtues of Eight Hour Cream and I think I will in years to come. I use this for everything: patches of dry skin, intensive hand cream, lip balm, eyebrow tamer, cuticle conditioner. I use it on the kids sore patches, too. It’s pricey but one tube lasts for absolutely aaaages; I’ve had one going on a year that lives in my handbag and I’ve just bought another that looks slightly prettier and less beaten up on my dressing table. I’m also a fan of the Eight Hour Cream day cream and the lip balm-sized version* is so very useful.
Estelle and Thild Facial Serum and Facial Oil – from £45
I’d never heard of Estelle and Thild before they were stocked at Harrod’s Urban Retreat Boutique. This beautiful range of skincare (the packaging and branding are lovely) from Sweden has been developed for use on even the most sensitive of skins and I can confirm all products I’ve been using have been very kind to my cold-ravaged face. I’ve been trialling the Rose Otto Age Defense Serum* and Facial Oil*; the serum I use every morning after cleansing and it’s a really lovely base for my moisturiser leaving my skin really smooth and my pores feeling tighter. The oil is my favourite though, I massage this in after my nighttime cleanse (I give my skin a pummle that Caroline Hirons would be proud of) and it leaves my skin really plump and supple. Plus they both smell divine.
LOOK, no makeup! Unheard of but thanks to my current regime I don’t have many breakouts to cover up and my skin tone is lots more even. There is an instagram filter here but that was more to minimise the effect of the bloody eye bags.
Gatineau Renew 7 Laser* – £49
This is one of those ‘miracle products’ that I usually don’t buy into whatsoever. You’re supposed to apply this as a serum morning and night for seven days as an intense treatment to give your skin the appearance of having had a laser renewal. I gave this a go with my cynical hat on, and you know what? I’ve never had a laser renewal treatment before but this has definitely improved my skin. My pores aren’t as visible, my complexion is more even and the skin looks brighter and feels softer. You use this when your skin is particularly suffering: winter (check), pregnancy, tiredness (check), stress… whatever takes its toll on your long-suffering face. It’s truly pepped up my tired-looking skin and comes recommended.
Trilogy Everything Balm – £20.50
Until I met Elizabeth Arden’s 8 hour cream I was never a fan of products that performed more than one task. But Trilogy’s Everything Balm* is one of those and I love it. I keep it in my bedside table drawer and use it last thing at night on my lips, my dry winter hands and my upper arms. It’s a balm but turns into an oil on contact and feels really soothing when it’s applied right before sleep.
Macadamia Healing Oil – £14.95
I feel like I’ve tried ALL THE hair oils on my (naturally curly, unruly and dry) hair. From Kerastase to Moroccan Oil to something that wasn’t Moroccan Oil but was loads cheaper. This Macadamia Healing Oil* definitely matches up to my experience with Kerastase but was about a third of the price and smells lovely. It leaves my hair soft and supple and as a bonus comes in a spray bottle so my hands don’t get all sticky. Definitely a great budget-friendly alternative.
Decléor Aroma Comfort Body Nourishing Milk – £17.95
I hate moisturising my body because a) I get cold and b) I hate feeling all sticky. And this body moisturiser beats both points; it sinks in effortlessly, leaves my skin feeling smooth rather than sticky and does both of those things QUICKLY. I’m still in raptures over Decléor’s Aromessance night balm and they’re fast becoming one of my favourite skincare brands.
* denotes a PR sample
Writing about my sleeping patterns yesterday was a bit of an eye opener, a total lightbulb moment. I was like, no wonder I’m so freaking exhausted all the time! It’s no surprise I fall asleep mid-way through watching films! My poor tired body!
I’ve been going through everyone’s suggestions and am going to try working as hard as I can with Elfie to get the kid to just sleep through the effing night, but in the meantime there are lots of things I can do to help myself.
The last four weeks have been pretty full-on, stress-wise. On top of my usual workload there’s been the house move, the divorce formalities and a few ex-landlord related woes to be dealt with. The non-stop running around, lack of sleep and stress of dealing with difficult people near enough made me crack at the beginning of the week but when you’re on your own, you can’t. You gotta keep plugging away at work, at kids, at getting through the days, knowing it will get better.
(I like to think I don’t play the ‘poor me, I’m a single parent’ card very often because, well, that’s not really how I feel. But last week I found the fact I didn’t have a partner to lean on very hard. Nobody to help bear the brunt of being completely skint, nobody to help with those early mornings, nobody to take the weight of the difficult people. Urgh).
Anyway, I got to the point of cracking a bit so I allowed myself to be a bit self-indulgent and wallow for a while (always important, I think) before telling myself I had to man up and get on with it. I thought a lot about what positive steps I could do to make my life a bit simpler, a bit happier. I was stressed because I was being pulled in so many directions so to remove that stress I just needed to step back and remove a couple of these demands for my attention.
Number one was work. I love my job and every day feel very lucky that I get to earn money from something I enjoy so much. But I am not good at saying ‘no’ when I’m offered projects, and though I enjoy them I find myself working evenings and weekends to keep up. So I turned some down, and worked hard on completing the ones that had been dragging on since before the move.
The new man in my life, he lives about 70 miles away so I don’t see him as much as I’d like. I had the realisation the other day that I had not had an evening in my house on my own for three months, since before I’d met him. So I told him that he’d have to spend our usual Wednesday night date night eating a meal for one and spent last night catching up on those projects, and more importantly remembering how it feels to be alone. I missed date night but at the same time it felt good to invest a bit of time in myself. I went to sleep just after 11pm and woke up at 9am. As I wasn’t waking early to get to the gym or rush home for work I got ten hours sleep. I felt a bit like I’d be on holiday.
I also realised I needed to look at my diet. But not just mine, the kids, because they eat what I eat. There were far too many trips to McDonald’s during the house move, too many takeaways and easy dinners of pasta. I knew that wouldn’t be contributing in a positive way to how I was feeling, physically and emotionally, and I wasn’t putting enough effort into what they were eating.
Now, I’ve been one for faddy diets in the past. In 2009 I lost three stone on a variation of the 5:2 diet and after Elfie was born I cut out sugar, most fats and wheat to lose my baby weight. But the improvements I want to make in my body are in the way I feel, not how much I weigh. I’m quite happy with my weight and though some of my jeans fit a bit snugger than they used to it really doesn’t worry me. I just want to feel less bloated, less tired and more energetic.
The Paleo diet is one I’ve been considering for a few months. I know my food enemies are wheat and other grains – I’ve always bloated after pasta and bread which is a shame as they’re so delicious – and dairy is something I could probably do without eating so much of. With a Paleolithic lifestyle you cut these foods out and eat as early cavemen would have: hunted foods such as meats and seafood and gathered foods like fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and eggs. Foods excluded from the diet are ones that would not have been available before the agricultural revolution such as grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugar and processed foods.
It’s a very simple diet. There’s an importance on as many organic, grass-fed foods as possible and it’s not about starving or depriving yourself. Meals are balanced and deliver the nutrients we are genetically programmed to receive. Apparently this diet brings health benefits, combats disease and eliminates excess body fat.
From what I know about my food preferences and the way my body reacts to various foods this diet is going to be more suited than any other I’ve tried. I’m not going strict Paleo: I’ll allow myself a bit of cheese from time to time, and one cup of tea a day with milk (though I’ll always try to drink herbal tea instead). And wine, obviously. But I’m going to give this Paleo clean eating thing a real go, for a month at least, and see how it improves my energy levels, stress levels and sharpness of mind.
I’m also going back to green juices in the morning (I LOVE YOU VITAMIX) and my first today – apple, banana, cavolo nero, blueberries, raspberries – was delicious.
Fellow stressed mum Charlotte pointed me in the direction of this book and I’ve already nodded along to so much of it, I think it’ll be a definite help. Already just acknowledging that I’m stressed, I’m busy, I need to change has made me feel loads better. As has the knowledge that I’ve got a fridge full of awesome food and a massage booked next week.
If you fancy having a go at the Paleo diet take a look; I’m collating recipes on the Paleo Pinterest Board Of Dreams so I will never be stuck for something to cook. And if you eat Paleo I’d love to hear your experiences. Like to get the full Paleo/Caveman experience should I really eat all my meals wearing an animal hide?
…or so the saying goes. Not as far as I’m concerned… I’m not weak and I still need as much sodding sleep as I can get; eight hours if possible.
When I was mid-way through my bout of PND my mental health nurse spoke to me a lot about sleep. It’s my way of coping in bad times, and I always know something is wrong if I simply want to go to bed and go to sleep at every opportunity. When I was at my worst I would sleep ten hours at night plus an extra two if I could when they kids napped… not normal.
Anyway, one of the conversations we had that stuck with me was about our body’s Circadian Rhythm. We all have our own internal clocks when it comes to sleep and they are programmed for different times; I know that my body functions best when I go to sleep at 12am and wake at 8am, whereas someone else’s (my darling daughter for example) might run from 8pm-5.30am. Ouch.
So as mine and Elfie’s sleep patterns are so poorly matched there are a lot of tired eyes in our house. Mostly mine, in all honesty. I bitch and moan about this on Twitter a lot and am happy that I have some fellow sleep-deprived friends to empathise with. Not happy that they don’t get sleep either, but happy I’m not alone. It’s always a bit of a triumph when one of us gets more than five hours a night and I think we feel each others sleep successes a bit more keenly than others do.
I do not know how she is so chirpy in the mornings.
When I was pregnant I didn’t get this sleep depravation thing. When people told me to “get your sleep in now, you won’t be getting much of it in the future” I just wanted to punch them in the face, because of course my baby would sleep. My baby would know how much its mama needed her 8 hours of shut eye and wouldn’t dare disturb that, would she? I thought it was that easy.
And even now when I moan about how little sleep I get I actually wonder if I’m making a big deal out of it. I wonder if child-free me would look at Work At Home Mother me and think “seriously? What do you do all day? Just sleep then”. I even wonder if I’m laying it on a bit thick and I’m being a big wimp; maybe I sleep more than I think.
So I decided to carry out an experiment. A week ago I downloaded a sleep tracking app that monitors your sleep cycles using the accelerometer in your iPhone. It’s a pretty cool piece of kit that is able to tell when you’re awake, when you’re asleep and when you’re in a deep sleep. It then processes the date into loads of charts and graphs that tells you what quality your sleep was that night. Or, in my case it’s able to tell me what time I went to sleep, what time Elfie woke up and how many times she got up during the night. It’s such a regular occurrence for Elfie to be up and down at night time that I tend to forget what’s transpired in the night and I thought it could be interesting to see exactly how much I’m sleeping.
Here’s my Week Of Real Sleep:
5 hours sleep. No wake-ups, Elfie got up 5.30.
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 1.15am, 3am, 5am, Elfie got up 6.30.
6 hours sleep. 1 long wake-up, from 1.45am to 2.30am, Elfie got up at 6.30.
5.5 hours sleep. 2 wake-ups: 3.30am, 5am, Elfie got up at 6.45 (A LIE-IN!).
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 3.30am, 4.45am, 6am, Elfie got up at 6.45.
5.5 hours sleep. 3 wake-ups: 1am, 4am, 5.45am, Elfie got up at 6.45.
6 hours sleep. 2 wake-ups: 3.45am, 5.30am, Elfie got up at 6.45am.
So, in a nutshell, to function properly I could really do with 56 hours of sleep a week. I seem to be getting 39 hours of sleep, a deficit of 17 hours. My weekly sleep deficit is slightly over 2 nights sleep. Ouch.
And that’s not taking the nightly wake-ups into account, which I swear affects me more than the actual sleep deficit itself. We had 14 of those this week. You know some animals sleep all winter, and if you wake them when they’re deep into hibernation it’s really really bad for their health? Yeah, that’s me. Only I like to hibernate each and every night.
So how do I get my child to sleep more? I kind of think this is just a (bloody long) phase and she’ll grow out of it eventually. In the meantime I’m taking steps to improve my diet and exercise so I’m in optimum health and more ably equipped to deal with the tiredness. Bring on the teenage years when I have to force her out of bed in the mornings.
There are certain things in life that give me the warm and fuzzies. Every time Elfie comes out with something hilarious or Hux learns a new word. Jacket potato with cheese and beans or cheese on toast with marmite (lots of cheese-based things, actually). Visiting places from my childhood: Bournemouth’s beaches, the New Forest, Mum and Dad’s house.
John Lewis is also one of those places.
When I was a kid we used to visit my grandma in Milton Keynes about once a month and take her in her wheelchair to what is now my local shopping centre. We always without fail would stop for a coffee at John Lewis’s coffee shop, Nana would have a cappucino and I’d do my very best to convince my mum to let me have the freshly-made crepes that we’d watch the chefs preparing. My grandma would give my brother and I all the 5p coins she’d saved (her hands were arthritic and she found it a struggle to pick them out of her purse) and we’d scour the children’s toy department looking for treasures.
These days I still visit the John Lewis coffee shop each time I go shopping, though now they have two: the slightly fancier Espresso Bar and the Cafe itself (I prefer the Espresso Bar and if you go I recommend the South African Sauvignon Blanc… I had it because it was my birthday, honest). I buy the children’s shoes and clothes from John Lewis, all my beauty products come from their beauty hall and I shop there for shoes and kitchen bits, too. I bought my last laptop from them and had my pre-move massage at the in-house Clarins day spa (it was blissful, I fell asleep and am going back next week for the post-move edition). The first place I met my lovely friend Lizzi at was the High Wycombe John Lewis coffee shop and, though it’s not the same, Waitrose are owned by the same people and I wholeheartedly love that place.
But it’s Christmas when John Lewis really comes alive for me. I can still remember marvelling at all the bright lights and big baubles of their Christmas department (erm, alright then, I still do marvel at them. IT’S CHRISTMAS after all). I went with my mum there last year to help pick out an ‘alternative’ Christmas Tree, she went with this one as she is super trendy and the shop for this years tree is slated for a couple of weeks time.
John Lewis also wins in the Christmas TV ad arena. Say what you will about ‘The Bear and The Hare’, it may not be factually accurate but then neither was the Animals of Farthing Wood and you can’t deny the addition of ‘Somewhere Only We Know” by Lily Allen is pretty special. At the MK John Lewis they’ve made the experience immersive and brought the animals and the cave to the store; as a special treat Elfie went to see it with her own grandma last Friday evening, so maybe it’ll be giving her the warm and fuzzies in years to come?
Instead of leaving with you with The Bear and The Hare I’m going to post 2011′s advert. I still can’t watch this without weeping like a child, and for me it really captures a special bit of what Christmas is all about.
End of cheese.
This sponsored post was thanks to John Lewis, my long-term love. See my disclosure here for more info.
I may have mentioned that I’ve just moved house once, twice or maybe twelve times? That’s because this house move has been one of the longest, most drawn-out processes ever. In the time from when I decided to move into my new house and the actual move approximately four and a half months elapsed, so for four and a half months my home was a haven for boxes, brown tape and bubble wrap and my mind was full of plans that were on hold until our address changed. I’m one of those glass half-full people who is constantly moving forward and needing to know what plans are afoot in life so to be in the limbo of a long house move? It was torturous.
I’m going to take you through the new house room by room soon, not just because I love the self indulgence of LOOK AT HOW PRETTY MY NEW HOME IS, but because I’ve managed to furnish and decorate the new place with old pieces of furniture I owned as well as freecycled and ebayed masterpieces. I’ve spent about 80 quid at the hallowed alter of IKEA and I’m pretty proud of myself for putting thought and effort into my interior rather than just throwing money at it. The process of thinking about how I want each room to feel has been a long and fun one, and dare I say it, I’ve enjoyed the trips to B&Q for spray paint, researching Annie Sloan colours, looking out for eBay and Etsy bargains.
When I thought about the way I wanted our new home to look, I just wanted it to scream “girls live here!” (sorry Hux, you’re an honourary girl). I wanted to go wild with patterns and colours that I have never been permitted to use before: florals, patchwork, all that fun stuff. I wanted lots of softness so it felt warm and homely for the kids, but enough grown-up touches so that I didn’t feel like I was living in a playroom.
Interiors-wise I’m pretty clueless. I admire Cherry Menlove‘s all-white country cottage aesthetic but worry it would be too high-maintenance for me, and love anything Jenny Komenda does but lack the artistic vision to pull it off. I know I like certains colours, random gold-framed pictures, patterns and cushions as well as motivational artwork (hooo yeahh) and trinkets. I like to feel warm, I like vintage-looking items, I like items in my home that really mean something to me. I enjoy the light given off by lamps rather than ceiling lights, I like muted colours and I like photos of my family. I wanted to throw all these elements together to create a place we would all feel relaxed in.
We all seem happier in this house. I am no longer carrying the weight of living in a house that doesn’t really feel like home, that I couldn’t afford and that was really too big for the three of us. I no longer stress because there’s a beige carpet in the dining room and my Baby-Led Weaning toddler consistently drops his dinner on it. There are no faux-beams in this place to make me feel oppressed (the 90s house builders have a lot to answer for… ugh) or old-fashioned burgundy carpets, and I now have an actual radiator in my bathroom (delightful!).
The kids both seem happier, too. Elfie no longer drags her heels on the way into pre-school and adores the fact that she shares a room with her brother. She may wake him a little earlier than I like but they are both so happy to play together in the mornings so I don’t mind. She’s only once in the last week tried to get in bed with me for cuddles and reassurance in the middle of the night, compared with every single night without fail at the old house. More sleep means happier faces all-round and that is something I can definitely get on board with.
The move itself is something I hope never to have to tackle again alone: you never really know how many belongings you possess until it comes to transporting them seven miles down the road, am I right? I was convinced I’d fill only two vans but nope, we did four, plus countless car loads in the weeks leading up to moving day. The local charity shops have done very well out of my wardrobe purge, and though the thought of getting rid of all the kids’ ‘noisy toys’ did cross my mind I feel very proud that I kept hold of them all. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours and unpacked instead, which was important to me because I wanted the kids to feel settled as quickly as possible. My dad taught me how to hammer nails into the wall without taking out huge chunks of plaster so I hung all my own pictures (and my own gold stags head, of course), so 8 days into the new house and it feels like we’ve been here for a lot longer.
Every night I go to bed and feel proud that I’ve tackled one of the most stressful situations we go through in life: alone and with two children in tow. I kind of feel like Wonderwoman but with smaller pants and without the banging body.