Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Searching for my style mojo

Style is very personal. It has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion is over very quickly. Style is forever.
Ralph Lauren

I know I've said it before on this blog, but becoming a mum has coincided with a complete loss of my style mojo. 

Miss S has just turned five years old and I'm still somehow bumbling about in the dark with no real sense of my own style. 

Ok, so I've had two more children since then and my body has swelled and shrunk and swelled and (not so much) shrunk twice more. So I haven't spent the last five years sitting in a box and ignoring my style, it's just been massively in flux. 

I just can't feel my way through clothes like I used to. I can't see something and think "yep, that's the top". It's like all my instincts have left me and I have no idea what on earth feels comfortable anymore. 

I only know that I am not. Comfortable, that is. I've bought clothes from new shops, and while there is nothing wrong with them, and in fact I like other people in them, they just feel wrong on me. 

When I see photographs, I don't see me. I see me in someone else's clothes. I don't see the person I feel I am, because the clothes don't fit (literally and figuratively in some cases). 

There are pieces of her still there, that girl with the instinctive feel for what she wanted to wear, who she wanted to present to the world. 

I found a piece of her in Gap, when I discovered that they were still selling bootcut jeans (I bought five pairs!). 

I found another piece when I discovered I was coveting a new black leather jacket (which is still on my list, because it's expensive!). 

It doesn't help that the me has changed somewhat. I'm much more interested in being outdoors, because it engages us as a family, and connects me with the kids. So I now need walking boots and rainwear which I definitely have not needed before! 

I have to be comfortable and able to cart a baby on my hip and deal with chocolate covered fingers and snot. Those things don't really make shopping easy. 

Since I found the bootcut jeans, I've been re-assessing my wardrobe, considering exactly what makes me feel good, and what definitely does not. 

I'm trying to look at my wardrobe as a whole and seeing the gaps, the small things I need to add to the wardrobe which will tell the story of me. Which will present me to the world, rather than someone I don't really know. 

It's a little like a breath of fresh air, to have that tiny piece of me, even if it's only five pairs of jeans bought in the sale (and taken in because I promptly dropped three kilos and ruined the look of those perfectly fitting jeans). 

It's given me hope that I can feel like me again. That style won't evade me forever. 

I'm hoping that now I'm done with the maternity clothing, I can finally find more pieces of me, hidden like jewels  amongst the rails. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017


“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

I would never have described myself as a traveller. I'm not a nomad. I don't feel the call of the wild, or whatever you phrases you might use to describe someone who has the travelling bug. 

I was never drawn to the gap year, to travelling the world with a rucksack. 

I would usually describe myself as a city girl, someone who loves the convenience of life in the city, in walking to the nearest shop and being able to buy prosecco at 9pm at the end of my street. 

In terms of day to day living, living in a town has been by far the best decision. The convenience of being able to walk the kids to school and nursery and then wander off to do the weekly shop has been incredible, and exactly what I love. 

I wouldn't change where we live for the world, it suits us and our needs as a family perfectly. 

But being a parent seems to have awoken something in me that I didn't even know I possessed. I can only describe it as wanderlust. 

Maybe it was taking the leap and living in the Middle East for four years; maybe it is having three children and thinking about the things I remember from my childhood, the things that stay with me; maybe it is seeing the possibilities in my children, and wanting to expose them to opportunities to find out who they are and the right path for them; maybe it is because we are now settled, that I want to roam in our leisure time. 

I see the world with fresh eyes now. I see opportunities which I have never seen before. I feel excitement about travel and trips and possibilities which I have never felt before. 

I recently met up with a work colleague who spoke about travelling within the UK with such passion and love, that I began to rethink my perspective on holidaying in the UK. 

There's no guaranteed sun, but then with three young children, the hot eternal sunshine can be a curse as well as a blessing (ask those still in Dubai this summer!). 

My sunbathing days are long gone, and are not likely to resurface for many, many years! The lack of lazing opportunities have forced me to consider what else might be out there for us as a family. 

In doing that, it has helped to show me that the person I thought I was, is not necessarily all that I can be. 

I still love my luxury hotels and spa treatments, but it has reminded me of the girl who loved going to Brownie camp; who did her Duke of Edinburgh in the tail end of an American hurricane; who found solace in rock climbing and orienteering during her much dreaded P.E. lessons at school. 

I'm not sure I'm ready for full scale camping (or even glamping... not just yet) but I'm definitely ready to embrace more of the outdoors that I have in the last decade or so. 

Walking boots are firmly on my shopping list and I'm seriously excited by the endless possibilities offered by the UK and far beyond. 

My head is full of the exciting prospects that corners of the UK offer me. The Cotswolds; Norfolk; the Lake District; the Peak District; Cornwall; Northumberland; Wales; the West of Scotland; Northern Ireland. 

There is so much possibility. From exploring caves with stalagmites and stalactites to cable cars and boat trips out onto a loch. 

For some reason all of this calls to my soul. It beckons in a way that is immeasurably powerful and all consuming. 

And that's before I look beyond our own borders. Our children are still too young but I'm already longing after lapland; Iceland; Costa Rica; Peru; Cambodia; New Zealand; Canada; Alaska; Norway. 

I want to give the kids experiences that stay in their souls. I want them to kayak, to ride horses, to be able to climb mountains. 

Disney World has a magic all of its own, but the tension of a safari before sunrise, searching for the first glimpses of an elephant, that brand of magic is calling to me. 

I'm so excited of the prospect of discovering these things as a family. Of watching the wonder in my children's eyes as they see things they never dreamed of. Of exposure to natural wonders, a world outside of my iPhone (which I need to learn to leave at home!); a world that lives and breathes and dances to a different tune. 

My bucket list is long, and growing longer everyday. Where is on your bucket list? 

Friday, 18 August 2017

From Goal to Habits: My Physical Health

A well built physique reflects your hard work; money cannot buy it, nor can you inherit it; you cannot steal it, nor can you borrow it; you cannot hold onto it without constant work. It shows dedication; it shows discipline; it shows self-respect; it shows dignity. It shows patience, work ethic and passion. 

Physical health can often seem obvious. Eat less crap, move more. But if it was that easy, we'd all be doing it. 

The reality is that we live in a convenient world. Almost everything can be packaged and bought; you can pay someone to do almost any chore or any task. We are also time poor, trying to fit everything into an already crammed schedule. 

There simply isn't time for everything, and often exercise and a good diet fall by the wayside because of everything else that gets in the way. 

Eating is easy; not eating is not. Sitting on the sofa is easy; going to the gym is not. 

If given an option, I'd like to sit on the sofa and eat cake. 

The problem? The problem is that I already know how good my body is designed to feel. Joining The Circuit Factory in Dubai gave me a body that was strong, and gave me a diet which was designed to fuel that body. 

You can see how I was getting on at The Circuit Factory here. That progress completely ground to a halt when we moved back to the UK and then I got pregnant and completely piled on the pounds. 

I want to feel that good again. I want to feel healthy, I want to feel the difference when I eat food that isn't great for me, I want to crave fruit and vegetables again. 

This is about more than just dress sizes, I want to make the most of feeling good. I want to feel good so I can do more with my children, do more with my husband. 

So here are the habits I would like to form to improve my physical health: 

Reduce Alcohol to 1 Day per Week:

My alcohol consumption crept up during our return to the UK due to the stress of constantly moving from temporary accommodation to temporary accommodation and not having the space to fit in exercise. 

So while we have massively cut down the amount we were drinking, now that I'm not pregnant anymore, the alcohol has slowly crept back in again. 

It is so easy to have a glass of wine here, a gin and tonic there. But the reality is that I can feel the difference after even one glass of wine. It affects my sleep and I get REALLY grouchy when I don't sleep properly. 

So I'm going to work on reducing this down to once a week. I'm going to have to re-learn that meeting up with friends doesn't have to mean opening a bottle of pro secco. 

Reduce the Amount of Alcohol I am Consuming: 

This feels like a really important aspect of the reduction in the alcohol I am drinking. There is no point having one day a week to drink and then binge drinking! 

So I am going to restrict the amount I drink to 1/2 a bottle of wine or two gin and tonic (or similar), once per week. 

This feels like a sensible amount, where I can be social, but not feel like crap the next day. 

5 Portions of Fruit and Vegetables a Day:

I'm sure a lot of you are saying "Well, DUH". 

We all know that this is the recommendation (although I think it's been increased recently) made by a lot of people. 

The short version, fruit and vegetables are good,  eat lots of them. 

I don't eat enough and I definitely don't think I hit 5 portions a day. I need to be more conscious of the food I am eating and work out how to sneak in those portions during the day. 

I'm pretty good in the sense that I'll eat almost any fruit and vegetables, so it's not that I'm being picky, I'm just not reaching for the fruit bowl at the moment, chocolate is a more convenient option most of the time. 

Mister L is amazing with fruit and will eat grapes like they are going out of fashion. Miss S isn't as good and has gone off a lot of fruit lately. I need to be setting an example for them, so that they reach for the fruit first and the chocolate second. 

No sugar until midday:

I often reach for the chocolate immediately after breakfast. It's become a really bad habit and it's one I need to break. First of all we need to have less chocolate in the house, and then I need to really work hard on not going out to buy some, given we live really close to the shops! 

Miss S looks to be following in my footsteps and becoming a sugar fiend. I have also been allowing treats far too often, so that it's becoming an almost daily habit. 

That is really not something I want to encourage long term, as it's going to develop into a life long habit for all of my kids, if I'm not careful. 

I don't drink any fizzy drinks like lemonade or cola. They can be in the house and I would never think to drink them. The reason that I don't drink them, we never had them in the house when we were growing up. My mum just didn't buy them. 

Even though I have the sweetest tooth on the planet, I never reach for a sugary drink. So I want there to always be good food at hand in our house, and less of the sugary stuff. 

Hopefully that will encourage all of us to develop good, long term, eating habits. 

Avoid Gluten:

Gluten is something that I have never particularly gotten on well with. I find when I'm eating gluten it increases my cravings for sweets and carbs by 1000%. 

It also causes an upset stomach and flares my eczema. 

The problem is that gluten is so convenient. Toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch. These things are easy to pick up at any shop when you are in a rush and are easy to pack to take with you. 

So it's going to take more preparation and more foresight to help me bring along food that is gluten free. 

Saying that, we have recently discovered the M&S balanced for you lunches which are often rice based rather than pasta based, which has been a lifesaver for picnics. They are totally delicious too! 

Go to Crossfit 3x per Week (and no more):

I joined Crossfit Leamington about 12 weeks ago, and it has been exactly what I was looking for. The workouts are HARD and the team spirit is infectious. 

I'm not very self-motivated and I really need a lot of encouragement and support to take up, and continue with an exercise programme. 

Crossfit has given me that support and even though my diet is pretty appalling, my body is already changing shape. 

However, I began to get a little obsessed and tried to get to Crossfit 4-5 times a week. That is simply too much for me to factor into our lives at the moment, and it was causing unnecessary stress because it left so little time for all the other things that need to be taken care of. 

So I'm going to do three sessions per week, and no more. That should enable me to increase my fitness while having enough time to keep the entire family on a even keel. 

So those are my physical fitness goals. It's really interesting how they are almost all food based goals. It's easy to see from here where my weaknesses are! 

I'm going to try to update on my progress monthly, to see how I am getting on, and to reinforce my goals in my own mind. 

See you in September for the first monthly review! 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

From Goal to Habits: My Mental Health

Have courage and be kind

I'm starting with my mental health on purpose. I feel like, having struggled a little over the past few years, that your mental health is the key to overall well-being. 

Your mindset can completely alter the way you face the day. 

When I returned to work (after a four year break) I had a complete confidence crisis. A few things didn't go well, and my confidence crashed. 

The funny thing about confidence is that once you lose it, everything seems to go wrong. You have to re-discover that confidence in order to re-set the balance and make positive changes. 

The things that happen to you; the words spoken to you; even the music you listened to during the day can have a drastic effect on your mood, and the way you respond to the world around you. 

This has been the hardest section to break down into habits, because those habits are going to be the hardest to form and maintain. 

I've decided to be a little tough on myself though, and demand more than I think I'm capable of. Improving my health will mean being less lazy, not falling back on crutches, and being disciplined in an already full life. 

So, here are the habits I want to set for myself over the next few months:

To be in bed by 8pm on two nights per week (aiming for Sunday and one other night;

I'm really bad at just faffing about on the computer, or watching some mindless drivel on TV and not actually getting off my backside and trudging up the stairs for bed. 

Mostly this is because I'm tired and cannot be bothered to move. So, going to bed early ought to help me not feel quite so tired, and hopefully mean I spend less time faffing about when I could be doing things which make a difference to my health. 

To wash and blow-dry my hair once per week (Friday?)

I'm putting suggested days in here, because I know if it's not sent into a calendar type arrangement, things will just slide! 

Recently I've been really busy, and after I've been to CrossFit, I've just been washing my hair and leaving it to dry by itself... causing a wavy/frizzy do which doesn't really suit my layered hairstyle. 

So, firstly I'm growing out my layers, so that on the days when my hair can't be blow-dried, it doesn't look quite so odd (and I can get away with not having my hair cut for four months at a time!). 

Secondly, I feel so much more me when me hair is blow dried. I have a lot of very thick hair, so it takes me a fair amount of time, but  it really does make me feel much more pulled together. So I'm going to make the effort to look after my hair a little more often. 

Epsom Salt Baths twice a week

I LOVE a good bubble bath.

These days I much prefer baths over showers, as they feel a little more relaxing, even if I'm only actually in the bath for 7 minutes (I timed it this morning) before one of the kids needs my assistance. 

I'm not sure how effective Epsom Salts are at "Detoxing", but as you are supposed to stay in them for 20 minutes or so, that should give me long enough to actually relax. 

I may even make more use of my essential oils that I have been neglecting of late!

Guided Meditation three times per week

The older I get, the more I'm drawn to the idea of meditation and yoga and the whole mind/body balance concept. 

I'm really not great at shutting out errant thoughts though, so the idea of me taking up meditation by myself and spending some time NOT thinking about all the things I have to do, doesn't sound likely to succeed. 

So I'm going to use a guided meditation app. I'm going with the Insight Timer app which was recommended by Nicola Avery from Planning with Kids. 

Hopefully this can tie in with the epsom salt baths, so I can kill two birds with one stone. After all, a hot relaxing bath seems to be the perfect time to do some guided meditation! 

To use my iPhone for only an hour a day, and to put it away for the night at 8pm

This is going to be the toughest one for me. 

I'm the worst person for randomly searching for things on the internet (like holiday ideas for 2020) and scrolling through Facebook. 

I regularly delete apps in an attempt to stop using them, but eventually they find their way back on there. 

I definitely hide behind my phone when I'm tired and grumpy. I know that using my phone too much makes the kids feel like I'm not paying enough attention to them (which I'm not!) and they are much better behaved when my phone is nowhere to be seen. 

Take an evening walk with the kids whenever things are stressful

I've seen it written in so many places that the best thing to do with kids is to get outside. 

I know myself that being able to get out of the house and just walk has a really positive effect on both my mood and the kids. 

I have the best conversations with the kids when we are in the car, or when we are walking. I actually prefer to head out on walks with no playgrounds in sight as for some reason it brings out the good moods and engaging conversation in the entire family. 

So on those days when we've been in the house too long, I'm going to get out of the house after dinner, for a short evening stroll (weather permitting). 

Gratitude Diary

When you are in a bit of a funk, or just plain got out of bed on the wrong side, it's so easy to forget how lucky you are. 

Yes, I do know there are starving kids in Africa and women being trafficked as sex slaves, but when you are having a bad day, it can be hard to remind yourself of how good you have it. 

Plus, I love a good wallow in self pity, even though it does me no good whatsoever! 

So I'm going to try to write down 5 things that I am grateful for each evening. 

I might not do this every day, but if I can do it 3-4 times a week I think it will make a real difference. 

Use the computer once per week

This is another one which will be hard to give up. 

Much as I love my iPhone, I hate writing emails without a keyboard and sometimes you just need a bigger screen. 

This is also going to be difficult over the next few months as we re-mortgage the house and prepare for the next round of home improvements, but I'm sticking it on here anyway. 

It might take a while to get to this place, but as long as I can see the intention, and have to reflect on whether I've achieved it, it will remind me that this is a goal that I haven't yet completed. 

Keep every other weekend free for our family

This is massively easier said than done, given both the kids now have much better social lives than we do! 

For me, it's important that we have some time and space to do things as a family, and to keep on top of the house and family life. We all need space to breathe, and there isn't much room to do everything during the week. 

So I'm going to aim to keep some weekends free. So if we travel one weekend, the weekends on either side should keep us at home, with no weekend guests, so we can concentrate on homework and kids birthday parties and leisurely walks and time in each others company. 

Phew, that looks like A LOT of habits to form. Funnily, I feel better for having written it out! 

What habits do you need to form, and what is putting you off doing it? 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

My Goal for 2017

I would encourage you to set really high goals. Set goals that, when you set them, you think they're impossible. But then every day you can work towards them, and anything is possible, so keep working hard and follow your dreams.
Katie Ledecky

Following on from my last post, it is time for me to set a goal, a New Year's Resolution if you will. 

I appreciate that I'm a little late in the day for New Year's Resolutions, but better late than never, and I guess the phases in people's lives don't adhere strictly to the modern calendar.

Not everyone will be ready for a Resolution on the 1st of January. It may come later than that, much later in my case. 

I wasn't ready then, I was too busy waddling through the last few months of pregnancy, and getting ready to attend one of my best friend's weddings. I didn't have the head space for a Resolution. 

I have the head space now. 

I regularly read the Planning with Kids blog, which is amazing and great reading. If you like reading blogs, this is likely to be another to add to your list. Nicole Avery has decided to have a single goal. 

Once she had that single goal, she set out the habits she wanted to form to achieve that goal. You can read more about her decision here.

So I've decided to follow Nicole's lead and have a single goal for 2017. 

My Goal for 2017

It took me a little while to put my finger on my goal for 2017. There were lots of ideas for my personal development whirring around in my head, but none of them seemed like an appropriate goal, which I could then break down into habits that I wanted to work on. 

Eventually I wrote them all down... with an actual pencil (I couldn't find a pen - we were on holiday) and paper. Once I had them all written down in front of me, a theme gradually emerged and, after a lot of deliberation, the goal kind of wrote itself. 

So my goal for 2017 is to improve my mental and physical health

I realised that a lot of the times when I get frustrated, or I'm not the person I want to be, the better side of myself, it's because my general health is slipping. Either I'm not getting enough sleep; I'm not getting enough exercise; I'm not taking the time to do something which is just for me. 

I read somewhere that it's important that everyone takes time to themselves to refill their tank, because you can't pour from an empty cup. I'm not sure I'm saying that right, but I'm sure you get the gist. 

My kids demand a lot of time and attention, as they should, they are my people! Unfortunately, so does the never empty washing basket. (I can't be the only one who feels like the washing basket magically refills itself ALL THE TIME).

So I need to look at the time I have, and make sure I am utilising it as best I can, so that I have enough time for self-care, so that I have the patience and the energy to take care of everything else. 

I think I'm going to break it down into two parts, my physical health, and my mental health. I feel like it's really easy to focus on the physical health, because it's usually obvious and something difficult to ignore. Mental health tends to get shoved to the back of the to-do list, and I think it's something I really need to work on. 

I'm really looking forward to working towards my goal for the rest of the year, and I'm hoping to do monthly updates on my progress. I'm excited to see whether a focus on this area of my life can really reap rewards in other areas too. 

What are your goals for the year and how do you intend to fulfil them? 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Returning... and burn out

Burnout is what happens when we ignore the soul whispering against an unhealthy job or relationship.
Dr Dina Glouberman

I cannot believe it's been two whole years since I typed a single word on this blog. 

Time has literally flown by, and I have no idea how we got to here! 

Although it's easy to lose two years when you do the following:

  • Buy a house
  • Rip out the kitchen (on the 3rd day after moving in)
  • Spend three months prepping the kitchen (aka bomb shelter) for the new units;
  • Interview for and get a brand new job
  • Settle Miss S and Mister L into nursery
  • Go back to work and juggle the logistics of working and children
  • Gain two stone
  • Get pregnant
  • Gain five more stones
  • Settle Miss S into her school
  • Give birth to Little S
  • Have a slow recovery from said birth. 
Hmmmm... I get the feeling Gary and I don't exactly take things easy. 

I say this given we are about to embark on the second phase of doing up our house which entails do the bathroom, fixing our leaking roof (which is a much bigger issue than we initially thought!), re-do the garden, redecorate and carpet the hall, stairs and landing (which is huge in a four storey house). 

Looking at that list above makes me dizzy, and I'm the one who lived it. 

There's one thing I think is definitely missing from that list above. Self care.

In the whirlwind of everything that has happened over the last couple of years, both Gary and I have had little to no time for self care... and it shows. 

I think we are both pretty close to burn out... if not already there. Gary masks it better than I do, I'm the grumpy, negative one who stresses about everything, even things that aren't relevant (which holidays we'll take in three years, for example). 

I am exhausted. 

Recovering from a third pregnancy has been slower and more frustrating than ever. My hormones have still not settled down six months after giving birth, and I am seriously struggling to shift the baby weight. 

We've just returned from a short holiday, and that holiday made me realise that things had to change. That I could not continue on the path I was on, because it was causing misery for everyone, especially the kids. 

The only person who can bring in the necessary changes is me. 

I need to treat self care as another essential component of my life. On a parr with food shopping and getting the kids to school and nursery. 

We are finally beginning to feel settled, it really has taken the full two years. We now have friends, a support network, access to the right exercise/gym for each of us. Life finally has a rhythm and enough space for us to work in that self care. 

It's funny, I was feeling so stressed out and so burnt out and close to exhaustion that I wondered whether I had hit post-natal depression.... until I read back through this blog. 

My posts after we had repatriated... well quite frankly they scared the hell out of me. I have no memory of things being SO BAD. I cannot remember that feeling, I can't touch it. 

Reading those blog posts made me feel incredibly sad for the little me who was sitting in stressful misery two years ago. It also made me realise that while things have been a little tough lately, I'm definitely not in as bad a place mentally as I was then. 

Reading those posts made me want to write again. Not for an audience, not as a profession, but for me. So that I remember everything, both the highs and the lows. I want to be able to feel how I felt, when I read back through these pages. To chart our life as a family, and my progress and development. 

I want to be a better me, but I can already see that 2017 me is in a much better place than the 2015 me. I've already been through tougher times and that makes me excited about the possibilities going forward. 

So I'm back, hopefully writing something worth you reading!