Wednesday, 9 October 2013

One Word

"Describe yourself in one word" said Tara this week.........

Friday, 6 September 2013

Careers, kids and having it all

“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, "Yes, I have it all.'" Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO

If Sheryl Sandberg’s book had come out two years ago I might be in a different place by now. It’s the story I’ve been searching for since I had my first child. It doesn’t have the answers but it reassures me that other people are asking the same questions.

A year ago today I left my middle-management, nicely pensioned, bloody hard work but very inspiring local government job. I’d worked for someone else since I graduated at 21 and I was giving it all up to go it alone.

When I handed in my notice three months and one week earlier, everyone had seen the signs and guessed it was coming. They knew I was struggling to juggle work, two young children and a husband whose own career was taking off. The tears gave me away.

We’d had a tough few months with two small children timing their chicken pox and childhood bugs perfectly with our peaks in workload. So after pulling too many all-nighters working (and even more all-nighters awake with a young child), I knew that something had to give.

He’d support whatever decision I made (for me or him), but knew I could be the only one to make it.

For the first time in my life I decided my career would take a back seat, I had to focus on family. It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I'm lucky to have had a choice, even if it wasn't the choice I wanted to make.

When I resigned I got lots of “I hear you’re leaving to spend more time with your children, oh that’s lovely.” No! That’s not why I left. This is why;

  • Because I value my career, I loved my job and I wanted to be the best I could be
  • Because having children made it impossible to live up to my own expectations of what I could achieve in work
  • Because I was failing. My career was on hold. Being a mother was holding me back
I would rather stop doing the job, than just do it to a satisfactory level. I no longer had the energy to be the person I wanted to be. Because you can’t have it all.

So I resigned from my proper job and went freelance. I spent the first three months with a huge hole in my heart (that's no exaggeration). Missing my colleagues, the work, even missing the commute – that valuable two hours a day alone with just a radio or book for company.

But as the work picked up I started opening my eyes and living again. One year on I’m back to working almost the same hours I did before  - but now I can bill for it! If I want a day off, I take it and more often than not I’m doing the school run.

It isn’t perfect. I’m suited to working in big teams, in big organisations and I miss my team, local government and all the challenges it brings. But I’ve stopped trying to have it all and I’m happier for it. I can’t have the career I want and be a mother at the same time.

But I do have one regret. That I wasn’t strong enough to believe that I could continue in my job and be a mother at the same time. That I didn’t have the confidence to say "right, off on the school run” with all the attitude and self-assurance of a man in my position.
I still wonder why it's so hard for many people to understand that women can love their jobs as much as they love their children. Working makes me happy and being happy makes me a better mother. I shouldn't be afraid to say that. But this is still a tough blog post to write.
And that’s where women like Sheryl Sandberg come in.

“Our culture needs to find a robust image of female success that is first, not male, and second, not a white woman on the phone, holding a crying baby,” 
what success looks like to me

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

(not) Wired for sound

I've made some bad purchases in my time.

One year I bought my husband an electronic dartboard. It added up the scores as you threw. He was confused, I was hormonal (I'd recently had a baby). I thought he could put it in the shed and play happily against himself to hide away from the screaming and tantrums (and that was just me).

Anyway I took it back.

Two years ago I bought him a big fat pair of wireless headphones. He was confused again (this time I was 37 weeks pregnant with a second child). He smiled, we put them on the 2 year old and watched him play along with Family Fortunes, laughed a bit, then forgot about them.

Until recently.

The wireless headphones have made a comeback and they are my new favourite thing. Our living space is open plan, we have one big room in which the whole family does everything. Playing, cooking, eating, working, watching TV. To watch something you have to compete with a whole host of other noises. So I generally don't bother.

But now I can watch the news, sound off/headphones on, whilst cooking dinner (the cooker hood made too much noise before). The other half can watch TV while I listen to the radio. The headphones can babysit the 5 year old while I make work calls and use the PC.

And the reach is good. I can wander into the next room, do as much multi-tasking as I like and I can still hear what's going on.

But I can't hear anything else. No fighting, no calling for 'MUMMY', no 'that's my bike', no 'is the kettle on?'. Nothing. I live in blissful ignorance. Happy in my headphones.

Wireless headphones. They are bloody wonderful.

I have no idea what make or model they are, I panic bought them in Lidl along with some funny red things in a jar. This is not a sponsored post.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Mid-term break by Seamus Heaney

RIP Seamus Heaney 1939 - 2013

It's hard to choose a favourite Heaney poem, but when I read Death of a Naturalist as a teenager I never forgot this one. It's a great collection, go out and buy it.

Mid-term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Taken from Death of a Naturalist buy it here
Link to Obituary on BBC website

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Star Wars and sunglasses - the Gallery

I've got a son and a daughter. In my ideal world they'd indulge in non gender-specific play and my daughter would be as happy playing Star Wars as my son would be dressing up.

Life doesn't always work out that way. Here, dear reader, is my reality.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words........... :-)


This post is part of The Gallery, a weekly photo link up on the Sticky Fingers Blog.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Beloved - 20 years on

"Where words could be spoken that would close your ears shut. Where, if you were alone, feeling could overtake you and stick to you like a shadow. Out there where there were places in which things so bad had happened that when you went near them it would happen again."

It's 20 years since I read Beloved. I remember loving it then and that it made a huge impression on me. But what I remember are the sights, sounds and smells. Where it was set more than what it was about.

A couple of weeks ago I saw it again. It hit me hard, the memory of the book and I remembered feeling drained once I'd read it.

So I picked it up and started again. Twenty years on, knowing more about the world and less of a romantic. Less time to spare but not in a rush to finish.

It's the story of slavery and the experience of slaves. How impossible is to ever be free of it. How one mother kills her child rather than let it lead the life she lived and how that ghost - and many others - come back to haunt her.

It's a story full of pain and it's so much worse now I'm a mother, an aunt, a godmother. I'm hearing, feeling and responding to a completely different story than the one I read before. A story about the desire and drive to protect your children from pain, whatever the cost. 20 years ago I just read it. This week I feel I've lived and breathed every word.

It's stunningly beautiful and just brilliantly written and it carries you along at a sing-song pace - but makes your heart ache. It's packed with detail and full of character. It's a heart-breaking story that you hope ends in peace. Quiet, restful, let-out-a-huge-sigh peace. But when you finish it's impossible to get out of your head.


So I'm going to continue this theme and go and find more books that made an impression on me 20 or 30 years ago and see how I like them now.  Next stop is a book my Grandad gave me as a teenager, To Sir with Love. If you do the same, let me know.

Beloved by Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Surviving your first school year

Parent pressure has reared its ugly head for me this week, as we all counted down to the last day of term.

Thank you gifts for the teacher.

Throughout this week I've been hearing snippets of conversations about goodies being bought and handmade gifts being prepared. I've asked my own friends what they're doing and quietly taken in their replies.

So by Thursday evening I was feeling in a bit of a panic. As I looked down at the cards my son had written for his teacher and teaching assistants, I started to wonder if it was enough.

Not because I didn't think a card was enough, but because for a fleeting moment I was worried about turning up at school without the required gift bag.

Required by whom? Not the teacher I'm sure.  Gifts aren't like dinner money, they won't be chasing me for payment. Yet many parents buy presents simply because 'everyone else does it'.

The only pressure I was feeling was, indirectly, from other parents and the stories I'd been hearing about the preparations for this big day.  It still wasn't enough to do more than the cards but it had made me stop and think.

So I put it out on Facebook (as you do) and asked why the big gifts for teacher obsession?

I got a big range of responses. Different people do different things for all sorts of different reasons. And they probably don't care or notice what I'm doing. Absolutely no one is judging.

So as we come to the end of our first school year, what have I learned as a parent?

I've learned that we put the pressure on ourselves. The best thing you can do is have the courage of your own convictions and the confidence to do what feels right for you.

If that means buying every member of staff a lottery ticket, then that's great. If it means a simple thank you and a smile by the school gate, that's perfect too.

Don't do things because everyone else does, do it because you want to, and then try not to worry about it. Second guessing just takes too much time and energy ( I should know!)

Phew. I hope the second year is easier.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bingo wings and swollen feet - it's Summer

The thing I like about the wonderfully unpredictable Great British weather is the huge range of wardrobe options you need to survive a year here.

It's hard to plan what to wear too far in advance and every day is a new and exciting challenge. Cotton dress and flip flops in the morning and a quick change into thick cords and wellies by the afternoon. Never a dull wardrobe moment. (I have a jacket for every occasion)

But this heatwave thing that we've got going on, is not only boring (oh look it's sunny again) but it gives me wardrobe issues of a whole different kind. How to deal with gentle perspiration in a ladylike manner.

Footwear - have I painted my toenails and will these shoes still fit in an hour when my feet swell and elephantitis sets in?

Tops - can I risk sleeveless and the big bingo-wing reveal? Too low cut and you'll see my tanline, might even risk showing the beads of sweat disappearing down my cleavage.

Middle - this is the biggest issue for me. There's a huge risk of sweat lines and the material getting folded into your baby layers when you sit down. I reject so many clothes on this basis. (I did consider losing weight but fortunately I've noticed that slim people sweat too)

Skirts and dresses - they let the air circulate and are generally much cooler to wear, but you've got to consider all of the above, with the added joy of some hot thigh rubbing. Lovely. 

And the best materials for the summer - linen and cotton - usually need ironing. Plus I'm absolutely sure that body hair grows twice as fast and suncream gives me greasy spots.

So God, please send me some gentle rain, a breeze and maybe some hail for a day or two.

I want a day off shaving and a bit of a challenge when I get dressed. Just give the sun back in time for the weekend :)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Why I don't like sun days - The Gallery

I am not a big fan of sun. I live in a valley that loses the sun completely by teatime and that is fine by me. There's nothing I like more than a bit of shade.

Sun is good and bad for my photographs. Good when it has that ethereal effect or it's doing the light streaming through trees thing. But bad when it's too hot and it involves me.

Let me demonstrate.....



I finally blogged for the first time in ages thanks to a prompt from The Gallery on the Sticky Fingers blog. Visit more sun stories here.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Monday, 3 June 2013

History repeats itself

I promised myself I wouldn't brainwash my children the way my Dad brainwashed us. It was all Man Utd and the Beatles. If we weren't watching football we were singing along to his guitar.

I want my children to make their own choices about football teams and music. I want them to support the local team through highs and lows. Rugby even (!).

To be fair to my Dad, United were in the old second division when I was born and we used to sit in crowds of twenty-odd thousand. They were our nearest major team. Ish.

But still,  I want my kids to find their own way. Find their own sport. Support the underdog.

Yet last weekend I found myself here, with my big sister (also brainwashed from a young age), my son and her two boys.

History repeating itself.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

My coffee story


'Does UleyGirl consume too much coffee?' replied my coffee-fuelled paranoia. It felt like the whole of Twitter and Facebook was asking me the same question. I think I need to defend myself.

I talk about coffee a lot but that doesn’t mean I’m addicted (I talk about exercise and sex too – see what I mean?)

Sometimes I can’t face coffee so don't drink it. I never get headaches, experience withdrawal symptoms or throw small animals from upstairs windows. Because I’m not addicted. (Or if I am, I'm not admitting it yet)

I may be happier after a coffee, talk a bit more and occasionally burst into song, but that’s no bad thing is it?

I like sharing it, making it for others, smelling it, savouring it.

But I'm not a coffee snob. I know what I like. I don't like tons of hot milk and I don’t like instant. I used to drink plenty of it but stopped really tasting anything. That's the problem with even the best instant coffee, it doesn't compete on taste and it lacks impact.

So instead of drinking ten cups of instant a day, I drink on average one large cup of filtered coffee or espresso (double – with hot water) per day. Sometimes two, three at the very very most. I can’t drink more than that.

I care about coffee and I really enjoy it, therefore I want to drink a cup roasted, blended and prepared by someone who feels the same way. Which is why I spend most of my time in Nom Nom Cupcakery (serving deep and delicious Rave signature blend) and Prema Café (nutty and smooth just like the owners).

So there. My coffee story.  *blows raspberry and puts the coffee on*

 (and I can think of lots of people who agree)

 Me, having me-time at Nom Nom Cupcakery

I love you Germany, I do

I love Germany. But I didn't realise everyone else did too.

I was just a bit surprised when they topped the 'most popular country' poll last week.
If it had been the most popular country once people had visited, I could understand it. I’ve been there and it’s great. But I thought I was alone and everyone else had a reason to really dislike the Germans.
Because they don’t laugh much. They wear terrible clothes. They eat raw meat. They work too hard. They don't like spending money. They put towels on sunbeds and they don’t queue. They speak better English than we do and they generally take life too damn seriously.
Except most of that isn’t true (except for the English bit).  
How can a nation with such a crazy dress sense, that created the Love Parade (RIP), take itself too seriously?

They love football, drink decent coffee, had mayonnaise with chips long before we did, drink copious amounts of good beer, eat really good food (if you like meat) and surround themselves with absolutely delicious cakes. They recycle with an efficiency and dedication we can only dream of.
And staying there with a family is an absolute pleasure. My Dad took my sister and I on a swimming tour when we were teenagers, then back again to see the families we met. I went on my own, with my family, I even took my friends. I clubbed, ski’d, shopped in C&A, swam in lakes and drank cognac for breakfast. I have memories of me and my sister laughing so hard we didn't think we'd breathe again. The most generous, welcoming and warm experiences of my life.
It's a great place and finally somebody, everybody, agrees.
My son, German football's biggest fan

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Birth and my life in football matches

My son is turning five so I started thinking about the day he was born. What do I remember?

That my husband was wearing a banana t-shirt (imagine that being the first thing you saw on exiting from the gift shop??)

I remember that on the morning after his birth I was late transferring back to Stroud Maternity because I wanted to watch the FA Cup final (Portsmouth 1-0 Cardiff).

I remember that I finally left the 'Stroud Hotel' because United were playing Chelsea in the European Cup Final and I wanted to watch it at home.

I also remember my milk coming in during the first half (feel free to look away now). I felt a mixture of pain and panic, trying to force a tiny baby to drink to relieve the pain, but with breasts rapidly expanding like Violet, the one ton blueberry from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Ever had the feeling you're about to explode??
I didn't think I'd live to see the second half, so sent the husband out to scour the supermarkets for a hand pump.

He returned and United won on penalties.
I was elated and the boobs thankfully, deflated.

There you go, my birth memories. All based around football (and I don't even follow it anymore).

Friday, 3 May 2013

My life on my face

"So I'll be recommending the collagen based moisturiser for you today Madam"

It's the kind of sentence I usually overhear an assistant saying to the grandmother in front of me,  whilst I'm waiting to pay for my roll-on Ibiza-grade body glitter for my latest big night out.

But not today. I ask her to repeat it, just in case the woman on the next counter is a voice throwing champion. Damn, she was definitely talking to me. I need plumping up.

I can chart my age through my moisturiser.

Teens: Nail polish remover strength for super oily acne prone skin. Finished with a lypsyl, applied nervously every two minutes, as a substitute for smoking.

20s: Dry cheeks, oily t-zone combination moisturiser for skin prone to 'outbreaks'. The spots settle but too much drinking and sunshine leaves it suffering major dehydration whilst my hormones play havoc with my chin, nose and forehead.

Early 30s: Skin smoothing, moisturising, glide on creams in luxury packaging that make me feel a million dollars. Reach temporary state of skin bliss. Start trying expensive French sounding brands just for fun.

Have two children.

Late 30s: Hold on for dear life to normal/dry moisture products, whilst experimenting with (see picture) eye gel, eye balm, eye cream, eye bag cover-up, God make them disappear please creams.

This week: Stupidly ask for advice when choosing new product. She'll be recommending the collagen based day moisturiser then. It's for 'anti-ageing and plumping up fine lines in your skin'. That'll be £48.

Shoot me now.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A great day out!

Looking for something to do with the kids on Thursday?

Need to entertain a toddler or keep your young ones occupied after school?

Then why not visit a polling station!

You can make an afternoon of it, take a picnic, call in at the park on the way.

You can teach your children all about elections, politicians (the good bit) and the fun things they have to look forward to once they turn 18 (even better if you pass a pub on the way).

They'll get a lovely walk, to laugh at some very funny faces (the candidates) and they might even get to dodge a few tellers.

All in all it's a great day out.

If you live in England or Wales you may have local elections on 2nd May. You've got the right to vote, use it and show your kids how important it is too.

Find out here

Saturday, 27 April 2013

We need more men in childcare

Gender imbalance in the home, in the workplace, in life, largely focuses on how to make things better for women. Lately I've been thinking about childcare and how important it is for children to be cared for by both.

Early years education is dominated by women for many reasons I don't need to go into here - negatively perceived ones such as pay, hours, status. But also for positive reasons like experience, expertise, empathy (and our ability to multi-task!)

But we're not going to change stereotypes or teach children to view men and women equally unless we do something about the care they receive in those very early years.

That means changing the way we behave at home (if we can) and encouraging more men to follow a career in child care.

Sexism isn't exclusively part of the male  psyche (oh how we all love to blame them). A quick poll of some of my mum friends reveals a suspicion of men who work in childcare. What are they doing that job for? They must be weird/sexually motivated? Couldn't they get a proper job?

This reaction offends me in oh so many ways.

It is a decent job and one of the most important anyone can do, a child's life is shaped in those first five years. It's well paid in the right setting, with excellent training and opportunities to study and progress. Looking after children is fun and rewarding so why shouldn't men enjoy it? Guess what - men like kids too!

We also know that children without fathers benefit from having strong male role models in their life. 

My children have been cared for by men and women in daycare and I'm hugely grateful for that.

So let's encourage more men into childcare, reduce the ridiculous stigma attached to doing a 'female' job and start giving all those who work with children the respect they deserve.

They taught me, my husband and my children everything we know.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Kylie Love

Do you know what? I really love Kylie. Love her. It's not a guilty pleasure because I don't feel guilty about it.

I loved her even more when she shacked up with Hutchence. 

Anyway, in her honour, a very short Kylie video playlist and one video dedicated to my girls x (page too slow loading if I embed them all).

Kick your shoes off, lose your inhibitions and dance.

1) Love at first sight (see video below)

2) In your eyes

3) Breathe

4) Slow (favourite video)

5) Better the devil you know

Friday, 12 April 2013

When you know too much

Your closest friends (and your PR) should know all there is to know about you. As one of my best friends used to say, "On a need-to-know basis, I just need to know."

No secrets, no pretence, no brave fronts. There are some people you should bare all to, otherwise how can they truly act as your friend?

They're also the ones you relax the most with. By relax I mean lose all sense of responsibility, drink too much and do things you normally wouldn't.

Yes those friends. 

You'll be stuck with them forever, and a birthday card I got this week reminded me of why.

Touche LW x

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Gallery - Walks with kids in Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire. A county full of places to walk, ramble or hike.

I could dedicate a whole blog to Gloucestershire walks (is anyone doing that?) but for this post I'll concentrate on walking with kids. It's the thing we do most because it's the easiest, they just run free in a safe environment and get to make their own fun.

Here are my top 4 places to walk with kids - within spitting distance of my house in the South Cotswolds. 

If you go on them I expect you to return wet or muddy, or both. Otherwise, what was the point?

Coaley Peak - FREE 

A council run picnic site on the Cotswold escarpment with views across the River Severn to Wales and the Forest of Dean.

Windy, exposed and spacious, with gliders taking off above you and paragliders jumping for their lives as you walk.  Kids can run about, fly a kite, play football or rugby, or just enjoy the open space and explore the woods. And you know when the ice cream van is there 'cos he puts a sign on the road.

Woodchester Park Play Trail - FREE (£1 to park if not NT members)

This National Trust park has 3 set trails through woodland and the shortest one (about a mile) is great for kids.

With a zip wire, rope swings, see-saws and plenty of places to climb, if you take a picnic to keep their energy up, you can easily spend three hours here.

It's good for parents too, although you shouldn't go on the zip wire in a summer dress.


Dursley Sculpture Trail - FREE

Not as glamourous as its Forest of Dean equivalent but loads of fun all the same.

It's a woodland walk which is good enough for kids, but with interesting sculptures to spot as you go - in the trees and on the ground. Most of the trail is suitable for pushchairs and it's located on Stinchcombe Hill which is also a great place to walk - with views across seven counties on a good day.

Westonbirt Arboretum

£4-£8 for adults. Under 5s free. Annual Membership around £30.

The stunning National Arboretum near Tetbury is split into two parts (the old and new) with a restaurant, cafe and play area. The old arboretum is flat with tracks suitable for pushchairs (and wheelchairs) and lots of places to explore for kids.

Great in hot sunshine because there's plenty of shade but also great in the rain because there's lots of shelter. Full of muddy puddles and although bikes aren't allowed - little ones with stabilisers are. One of my favourite places to be, all year round. Annual membership is brilliant value.

This was posted as part of The Gallery on the Sticky Fingers Blog. Click here to view more posts.

Monday, 25 March 2013

She wears velour

Dressed in grey she says goodnight
Closes her eyes and holds him tight
Listens to him snore away
Thinks about another day

She hears?

A cry to pierce the silent house
Footsteps quiet....a night time mouse?
Across the hall it creeps, until
it stops....then it is still

A voice

WAKEY WAKEY! right in her face
(can't she be some other place?)
A snotty smile before her stands,
Giggles loud then grabs her hands

She sighs

With heavy heart and mansize bags
She heaves her weight, her stomach sags
The scars she bears, the price she pays
For creating life as her hopes fade

She moves

Across the hall, “Now back to bed
You gorgeous *testing* sleepy head,
It's 2am not time to wake
No waiting for the day to break

She's tired

Tired of sleeping off and on
Of seeing day at half past one
Of greying whites and hairy legs
Of eating slops and drinking dregs.

She's lost

Lost in a haze of night and day
Of never putting things away
In their right place (she found the milk
Underneath the kitchen sink)

It's sour

Sour milk, burnt toast
Looking like she's seen a ghost
And all because she hasn't slept
For five years now, her self unkempt


The only thing to right her day
And wipe the sleepless nights away
(That and smiles of kids at play
their faces wipe your cares away)

She laughs

She smiles inside although she weeps
(cos all she wants is bloody sleep!)
Still - they give her so much joy
This snotty girl and cheeky boy

She's fine

Wine you say? of course she will
It helps her sleep, makes her still
Tomorrow that's another day
Try not to wish this life away....

She dreams

That soon they'll stay in bed til noon
Pray that moment comes real soon!
'Cos then she'll sleep, she'll rest, she'll care,
She'll give a damn what clothes she wears

Not yet

This is now and here she lies
Wide awake with open eyes
But no regrets despite the moans
She loves this place, this time, this home

For now she's mum, no time for more
She wears velour.

'Help me' blocks by Imogen Harvey-Lewis

Saturday, 23 March 2013

This time last year

I'm watching the snow fall and it's blowing a gale.

This time last year my son had chicken pox and I had a couple of enforced days off work.

Here are the pictures.

What a difference a year makes *reaches for the cake, grabs a beer*.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Gallery - RED moments


There are times when your kids make you laugh out loud. These two pictures are from the last few days.

1) My two year old in what she calls her wet suit, on a slide (Sunday)

2) And one I found this morning as I switched on my laptop to start work. (I wasn't going to bother with this blog post until I saw this). The four year old's idea of a joke - my new desktop image.

(Red is also the colour of the Chancellor's Budget Box (well, Gladstone's) but let's not talk about that)

This is in response to Red on the Gallery, click the icon to see posts from others.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Gallery - C is for Calm

Looking down from Frocester Hill across the Severn Vale, Gloucestershire

Something I need a lot of in my life.
I create my own noise much of the time so I seek calm on top of hills, in cafes and in rooms with a view.
Look and breathe.

North Morte Farm Campsite. Devon.

Coffee at Nom Nom Cupcakery, Nailsworth

This is in response to 'The Letter C' on the Gallery, click the icon to see posts from others. Of course it should have been C for clumsy, but I don't have enough photographic evidence of my falls ;)

Friday, 8 March 2013

My West Wing hero - International Women's Day

Female role models, do you have any?
I’m going to celebrate International Women’s Day by writing down my female heroes, as they stand, right now.
Because role models change as we change. As you have new priorities in your life, so your outlook shifts, you turn your head in a different direction and there they are - new role models you never knew existed before.
I do wonder what role models say about us. Are they out-of-reach aspirational? Or real people sitting in the office next door, willing to help and mentor whenever you need it? Or entirely fictional, coming to life from the TV or pages of a book, into your subconscious and commenting silently on every decision you make?  
Mine are mainly real and are mostly journalists. I take a little bit of something from all the role models I have, I don't necessarily want to be them, there's just something about what they do, who they are and how they approach life as a woman that appeals to me.
Anyway. On this day of celebrating all things female here's my list - I have more who are close to me, but I'll keep those to myself.

CJ Cregg

(I’ve even provided links).
Eleanor Oldroyd – Broadcaster of 5Live fame. (I’ve worshipped her almost as long as I’ve stalked Bryan Robson)
Ann Leslie – Foreign Correspondent
CJ Cregg – character from the West Wing
Sue Davie - Chief Executive Meningitis Trust
*New entry* Fleet Street Fox – Tabloid journalist and proud
And here's an Oxfam link for good luck :)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I carried a water melon

I spend a lot of time telling myself to shut up.
I talk A LOT, but what you don’t realise is, that’s me holding back. Me talking a lot, is mostly me talking a bit, but holding most of the words in my head and preventing them coming out. Can you imagine how unbearable I’d be if I let it out?
In North Wales (where I come from) this incessant talking is considered normal. But everywhere else? It doesn't seem to be the thing.
I’ve been thinking about this because I had a training day yesterday, a small intimate group of six. Within minutes of arriving, in that awkward silence before the training begins, I’d (unintentionally) insulted the man sitting next to me and told the group all about my fasting. Something they really didn’t need to know. But I just couldn’t help it.
You see I can’t stand a group of strangers sitting in silence before a meeting starts, all worrying about what they'll say in the dreaded ‘round the table introductions’. I always have to chat, get people talking, find common ground (aka humiliate myself and insult a few people) so by the time we do the intros it's just not that bad.  
Apparently this is a problem. A work-based coach once told me that I needed to stop ‘forcing my personality on people’ and let people ‘come and find me’. Not everyone wants to be your friend, he said.
So I tried it for a week.
I was my normal self in the office but when it came to meetings or group discussions, I sat back quietly, let other people take the lead and desperately, painfully, kept all my words tightly locked in my head (the hardest bloody thing I’ve EVER done).
And what happened? I had a whole week of people asking what was wrong.
Was I ill? Stressed? Everything alright at home? Unhappy? Leaving? Pregnant?
No, I’m just letting you all come and find me. (weirdo)
But he had a point, not everyone likes a chatterbox and they don't all want to join in. So just let people be.
Dirty Dancing classic lines
So occasionally I put these tips into practice and remain silent, but most of the time I forget all about it and speak before engaging brain.
In my excitement and urge to make everyone feel relaxed, I tell inappropriate jokes and dole out excruciating insults.
They don’t look funny in writing, without the perfectly timed delivery and painful tumbleweed silence that follows.
But this t-shirt (bought for me by colleague mumofthreeworld) says it all.

Friday, 22 February 2013

You don't always need to eat cake - fasting

We've been out for the last two hours, in a cold biting wind, watching Prince Charles open the village shop. Like visitors at a zoo, trying to catch a glimpse of an exotic animal. My fingers were frozen but a brisk walk up a steep hill, pushing my sleeping daughter in the buggy, soon warmed me up.

It's 2pm and we're home now. There's a hot cup of coffee steaming next to me. But there's no milk in it and I'm resisting the banana muffins sitting waiting in the tin on the shelf. Today I'm fasting.

It's my second day of fasting in my first week of the lifestyle advocated by Dr Micheal Mosely. And it's probably the first time I've felt weak. My whole body feels cold and what I really need is a cup of strong milky tea accompanied by some kind of cake.

Weirdly, I'm really enjoying it. It makes me feel good, energised, bright. I don't feel like I've given anything up, deprived or even hungry. The empty stomach feeling is actually really nice.

So is fasting another fad diet for those lazy arses who can't be bothered to change to a healthy lifestyle?

It's not just about losing weight, there's a lot of science behind fasting. It's claimed to lengthen life expectancy, can reduce levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1, which leads to accelerated ageing), switches on DNA repair genes and reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.

I'm simply controlling what I'm eating to get the maximum health benefits, but only for two out of seven days. On the other days I can eat what I like but that's not happening. I'm questioning everything I eat (now that I know I can go for most of the day without). It's already having an impact on the rest of my diet.

So it turns out I don't always need milk in my coffee and I don't always need cake after a walk. Who knew?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Gallery - Boys

A group of boys, born within a month of each other, bound by their mother’s need for coffee, counselling and company. Products of the NCT ante-natal production line.
Almost 5 years on, the boys are as close as ever. More like brothers than friends, they play, they argue, they fight and they sit in silence together.
And the mums still mainly just chat.
But no matter what I do  and no matter how many I take (I have hundreds) they will never EVER pose for a sensible photograph.

This post is part of The Gallery, view the Sticky Fingers Blog to see more

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Having a day off food - the fast diet

Following on from the skinny jeans post, I am fasting.

Not for religions reasons (although I have given up wine for lent, but not beer or gin). Mainly because my weight is creeping up and I have a wardrobe full of clothes I need to wear.

I am fasting two days per week and eating completely normally for the other five. It's a diet that isn't a diet. A way for people like me to lose weight. Someone who hates the idea of calorie counting, but often gets so immersed in what I'm doing that I can easily go without food for the whole working day.

You have probably read the publicity, seen Dr Michael Mosley's Horizon programme last year, or know someone who's tried this. What swung it for me is that I know GP s who are doing it for health reasons. It's not just about getting thinner.

Yesterday was my first day. You don't completely starve, you are allowed 500 calories as a woman (600 for a man). I'm going for the 12 hour fast, split my allowance between the morning and the night with nothing in between.

  • 7.30am - small amount of porridge made with water : 150 calories.
  • Usual coffees (without milk), water and mint teas all day as and when I liked
  • 7.30pm – bowl of soup worth only 240 calories.

That's it.

So how did I feel? Completely fine. Coffee kills any hunger pains so I didn't even notice in the day. After the school run I fed the four year old but had to carry on working so didn't think about snack, I didn't feel hungry, just empty. But a really gentle emptiness that made me feel lighter, brighter and just that bit thinner.

The toughest time was about 6pm cooking dinner for the adults and kids asking for snacks. But then it's the bedtime rush and it's all forgotten.

My sister and mum are also doing it, they both reported having a brilliant night's sleep after fasting and their main symptoms were a late night headache, but other than that they too found it easy. Unlike a normal diet you know it's not forever, you know that tomorrow everything is normal again.

And today I'm off to Nom Nom Cupcakery :)

So that's me done until Friday. A completely normal life for the rest of the week, with as much beer, gin or cake as I care to eat. Perfect. I'll keep you posted.

Find out more here. (it's not for everyone, so check first)

Monday, 11 February 2013

Skinny jeans sinner

“Those trousers aren't designed for real women. They were only made in your size for a laugh. You were never supposed to actually buy them! Skinny jeans were designed for special women who live on special diets of only special lettuce. If you can remember the last time you ate a burger then for Christ's sake take them off….”  The Regular Guy, In the Powder Room

I hate skinny jeans and jeggings.
I hate them because they really don’t suit me.
But I just can’t resist the draw of the elasticated waistband, the stretch fabric that feels so great no matter how tough the terrain (or big the lunch portions).
I resisted for a loooooonnng time. I know have too much arse and thigh for skinny jeans, but I gave in when I was pregnant with number 2. I could wear them with giant maternity tops and get away with it. They stretched so brilliantly around my water-retentioned legs. (see picture)
Then I got hooked. I realised I could wear old dresses that had been hidden away for being too short (as I got older and my knees got fatter). Put them with jeggings and it’s a whole new outfit.
I can wear them with flats, with heels, with boots and with wellies. They’re warmer than tights and smarter than tracksuits.
I can eat as many cupcakes in a day as I like and they just STRETCH so I don’t even feel it. (If necessary I just change to a bigger top.)
I love them but I hate them and I just keep buying more. I'm addicted to skinny jeans and they're doing nothing for my figure.
As the Regular Guy once said:
“Your arse looks fantastic love, but are you sure those skinny jeans suit your fat ankles?"

Skinny jeans + 41 weeks pregnant = not a good look

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Great marinade for steak - plus chilli onion rings

Staying in with kids means that most weekends one of us will cook something different.
The OH always heads for Levi Roots or African cookbooks. Last night he found a simple, but bloody lovely, steak marinade. So good I thought I’d post it.
This is based on 2 people, so just adjust to what you need.
2 x steaks of your choice (we had sirloin, the recipe suggests rump)
For the marinade:
1 tbsp. medium curry powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
Mix together and marinade the steaks for 1 hour. Take them out and cook to your taste. Keep the marinade to use as a dip for your onion rings. (heat on high it for 1 minute in a pan or microwave before serving)
Chilli onion rings
We just added chilli powder, ground cumin, finely chopped fresh green chilli to a thick batter. (batter made with plain flour, water, salt)
One large white onion made enough for 2 adults, with leftovers for the kids.
Slice the onion into rings, dip into the batter and fry in hot oil (deep fat fryer or deep frying pan) 'til golden brown.

Recipe adjusted from one in Tastes of Africa