December Beauty

Well tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and to be honest I am well over the Crimbo Limbo. It’s a funny old time of year isn’t it??? I am well happy to kiss goodbye to 2018 which in many ways has been a bit of a shitter but I am a little scared of what 2019 will bring. I mean January?!?! What is that month about?!?!? Does anyone like January?!?!?

My hopes for 2019???? A cure for my crater like open pores and maybe just maybe I will embark on some Botox. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe .

  • Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask. £39.99

There has been a ton of hype surrounding this product. By hype I mainly mean that each and every time I log onto FB the adverts come up practically begging me to buy it. My husband calls me an advertisers dream. To be honest, if a product promises to reduce my pores then it’s bought.

As ever, I embark on products like these completely believing that it will change my life. I’ve now been using it 2-3 times a week since October. The little pot has lasted really well, mainly I think due to the brush you use to paint it all over your face. I bloody love the ritual of using the brush over my face…..the lack of mess is brilliant. The mask tingles a bit and dries very quickly. The flannel/sponge thing takes it off beautifully and my skin looks glowing and clear after removing. Are my pores reduced???? So, having become a bit of a product queen in the last couple of years, I wonder if the open pore holy grail exists. Maybe I am actually needing a miracle. After using this, my pores aren’t massively reduced but this is a bloody good mask that leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and looking lovely. I will continue my quest for the grail but I have a feeling I will definitely repurchase this product.

If there was any product that has changed my 2018 it is hyaluronic acid. I wish I had discovered it years ago, maybe I would still look like a 16 year old. So, over the past few months I have used 3 bottles of hyaluronic acid serum. Hands down the best was Pestle and Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum £36/30ml. The consistency of this was the thickest out of the three and therefore the product just felt more substantial. I used it twice a day and my skin immediately looked plumper, more refined, glowing and felt like velvet. The Poppy Austin Hyaluronic Acid Serum £15.49 for 60ml, although being really good value was my least favourite. It seemed to work well but for me, the consistency was just too thin and watery. That being said, for those among you who like a product to be pretty much immediately absorbed, this could be the one for you. For me however, I like to feel that I am getting a little more bang for my buck.

The Viola Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid is the cheapest of the bunch at £6.85. Although cheap, I have been really pleased with this product. Skin feels hydrated and looks plumped. The addition of Vitamin C has helped to fade the pigmentation I developed in my last pregnancy. Nice consistency too. I mean for £6.85 I can’t really complain!!!

Right off I trot to walk the dog. I am trying to do more daily exercise to avoid getting back on the anti depressant wagon. Not 100% sure it’s working but I’m going to persevere.

I hope you all have a great night tomorrow and a fabulous, wrinkle free, clear skinned 2019.

It’s the little things…..

Today I woke up with a funny feeling….positivity. Sadly and worryingly this is something I rarely feel. Granted it’s a Saturday and the day didn’t begin with the mad rush of school uniform, arguments about hairstyles and temperature of porridge but today I honestly feel good.

Due to this mad feeling of euphoria, I think it’s important that I write down why it is that I feel good.

So……..

  • I went out for a drink last night after the show. Usually I can’t be arsed and I just want to go to my bed but the key here is that it was a spontaneous drink. I happened to see a friend on my way out of the theatre who suggested a drink and I thought ‘yup.’ I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it by mentally listing the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I just went and I laughed and I had fun with my friends.
  • My children let my sleep this morning. Due to my inconsistent working hours my children definitely lack routine. Each week is different and my kids definitely suffer as a result of it. Sometimes I can pick them up from school, sometimes not. Sometimes I have a day at home, sometimes not. As a result, the girls are MEGA clingy. When I am home they want me. It’s lovely and I know there will be a time when they are indifferent but at the moment when they are both under 5 and struggling with the concept of sharing, I literally feel pulled in all directions. Today, however they went downstairs with daddy with no tears and I slept!!!!
  • I went for a run. Yet again this word spontaneous is going to pop up. I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it. I went into the sunshine and just ran. Maybe that is the thing….as a parent who works full time, spontaneity is word that is never used. Mums have no time for spontaneity. I know parenting is something we signed up for and I love it, but having the freedom to be spontaneous is really important. I could have spent the morning cleaning my fridge and hoovering (which was on my to do list) but I did something for me and it felt freeing and invigorating.
  • I went to the charity shop and bought tons of lovely books.
  • Today I have a matinee and no evening show. This is a major thing. Tonight I will have a ‘normal’ Saturday night with my husband. We will get a takeaway and watch a movie. This is not something to be sniffed at. There is something slightly depressing coming into work on a Friday night. Going up the escalator at Charing Cross and watching all the other people with that ‘Friday Feeling’ heading down the escalator to go home for their weekend is strange. I love my job and I am very lucky but weekends aren’t weekends when you are going into work. You miss your family and friends.
  • I found an unused £20 off voucher in my ASOS account. WIN.

So as a result, occasionally being spontaneous is wonderful for my mental health. I will have to remember this but ironically I will have to remember that I can’t plan to be spontaneous.

Have a lovely weekend.

I am happy! Am I happy?

Mentally I am struggling at the moment. The hamster wheel seems to be turning much quicker than I can currently run and there have been a couple of times in the past week when I have fallen off. Bruised, embarrassed and ever so slightly mortified I have to brush myself down and jump right back on.

Generally I have what I call a Windscreen of Sanity (it’s pharmaceutical name is Citalolpram) which I use to con myself and others that I am doing ok. To be fair, the majority of the time, I usually am…doing ok. This week however, my windscreen seems to have developed a couple of hairline fractures which we all know, in winter can develop into full on cracks.

The first chip was last Saturday. It was my daughter’s 2nd birthday. In true Motherland style my husband was in Margate on a stag and my wonderful and very helpful in laws were down helping. I have had shows nearly every night and we were had an opening night that evening. I knew I was in a state when I was quaffing room temp, pink prosecco which I had won in a tombola, whilst searching in the bins for stickers which had been chucked out with the wrapping, and trying not to lose my shit with my MIL who wanted to know where the most useful place was to store the cheese grater. Needless to say, I lost my shit. I started crying and had to pretend to my daughter that it was because there were raw onions in the bin.

Chip 2 happened when a very good but often slightly aggressive friend took a joke the wrong way which upset me. I literally wanted the ground to swallow me up.

Anyway the hairline chips now feel like cracks and I am trying to claw my way out of the pit.

All very dramatic I know.

So, I decided to go against the grain and not do a Friday Rant on FB. Instead I did a Dig Deep Friday in which I asked people to name things which made them happy. Not saccharine things like kids, dogs and husbands but random things like getting your teeth cleaned at the hygienist and a good deoderant.

My happies were anchovies, capers, Parma ham, Riverdance and well shaved legs. The comments started rolling in….some really good ones:

1. Cups of tea with exactly the right amount of milk drunk at exactly the right temperature.

2. Baby puffins being called pufflings.

3. Bake off.

4. Muppet Christmas Carol

5. New PJs

6. Avoiding kids bathtime

7. Alpacas

8. Bacon

9. A new book.

All in all 76 comments. Funnily however, it left me and others feeling a little empty inside. It was slightly akin to that feeling you get on NYE when YOU MUST HAVE FUN! Maybe Friday Rants is a bit of reverse psychology. The feeling of getting a rant off your chest and others agreeing with you is brilliant. Maybe it’s because I am British and I love a moan but now when something annoying happens I jot it down and store it up until Friday when I know I can mention it on FB and it will be much less annoying and hopefully a little uplifting. Who doesn’t love a moan and who doesn’t love a moan with others agreeing? Anyway I think Dig Deep Fridays is a useful exercise and one I think I will post every 3 weeks. I already have a few happies written down which make me smile when I look through them.

Anyway what are your rants? What makes you smile?

Thanks so much for reading and have a good week.

Motherhood Reimagined by Sarah Kowalski

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel.

This is a book which will stay with me for a long time. This is the first book on fertility issues I have read but the book was calling to me as I am now at slap bang in the ‘baby phase.’ My friends and I have moved on from weddings and we are now at that stage of having and trying to have babies.

Fertility is something which is taken for granted. When you first become sexually active you spend your life trying not to get pregnant and living in fear that a ‘mistake’ would be made and you would fall pregnant. As young women, we brazenly go through life assuming that we are all fertile goddesses and, if you happened to have unprotected sex, you will become a mother nine months later. When you plan your life do you ever allow for infertility problems, divorce, illness? Of course not. You assume you will breeze through life unscathed by the ups and downs. They happen to other people. People on Eastenders and Hollyoaks. Not to people like you.

Sarah Kowalski was one such woman. As a child, she loved children and assumed she would always become a mother. Like a lot of modern women, her career and life in general took centre stage ‘somewhere between my rocket-speed career and my jet-setting, single life, I’d completely lost my resolve to have children.’ She became a high powered  corporate litigator. However disaster struck and she was diagnosed with a type of repetitive strain injury called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. She went from an energetic, sociable woman to someone who was in constant pain. She didn’t have the strength  to wash her own hair or even put her key in the lock. She left her job and started to research alternative therapies like Feldenkrais and Qigong. It is through Qigong that Sarah met the most patient man in the world. Chris. Through Chris’s Qigong sessions Sarah decided she would start the journey to motherhood and she embarked upon Project Baby. As any woman knows, when Project Baby starts it is completely all encompassing. 

This is when the book became slightly frustrating for me. As a woman who struggles with depression, I have always gone for the quick fix….medication. Counselling didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to chat, I wanted a cure. This is where Kowalski and I differ.  I struggled with Kowalski’s initial objection to IVF, donations and her disregard to the information provided by the medical experts. The odds were so stacked against her, her time was running out and it was incredibly unlikely that acupuncture and Chinese herbs were going to make a difference. But that was her journey, and although the constant sobbing phone calls to Chris were irritating for me as a reader, Kowalski felt she had to run through all her options before she moved onto donation. On finishing the book, my feelings of frustration changed into feelings of respect. This was a process that Kowalski had to go through. She felt she had to exhaust all her options before she moved onto IVF and donation. Luckily Kowalski was not constrained by her financial situation. Money was no object in quest to have a baby. This is obviously not the case for a great many women out there and I wish Kowalski had acknowledged this. Her route to motherhood would not necessarily have been the one I would have taken. but it was her’s and that was an inspiration. 

I use the word ‘journey’ because that is really what this book felt like for me as a reader. Fertility is such a massively contentious issue. I was lucky enough to fall pregnant easily but I know a lot of people who didn’t. As one of the ones who didn’t struggle, I often feel like I am not qualified to have an opinion on fertility issues and I am so scared of saying the wrong thing. All I can say is, as a mother I can only imagine how it must feel when you are faced with the very real possibility that you might not have children of your own. For those amongst us who have always planned to become parents, to discover that you might not be able to fulfill that destiny. When you feel your body isn’t doing what it should. When everywhere you look, you see pregnant people. Utterly heartbreaking. 

Sarah Kowalski is a woman we should all admire. To go through this journey alone is utterly inspirational. In a sense Chris almost became her partner. Lacking the steady constant a partner or family member would provide, Chris took on the role. He helped her choose a sperm donor, channeled her anger and was even present during her labour.  I wonder had Sarah had that sounding board in the form of a partner maybe she would have come to the decision of donation quicker? If she had that person who could literally take the decision out of her hands things may have been easier. I wanted her to have someone to say ‘Stop. This isn’t working. Let’s try something else.’

As I have made clear, this was not an easy read. I feel like I went through the whole range of emotions with Sarah. Hope, frustration, excitement, disappointment, happiness. This was the kind of book that made me actually audibly react on the train which was often embarrassing. I also often felt quite stressed on arriving at work having read a few chapters on my journey. I want to make it clear that by no means is this a criticism of the book. I completely engaged with it and learned a lot. This book should be read by anyone who wishes to become a parent. Who knows if your journey will be easy but if it’s not I am sure Kowalski’s book will offer hope and comfort.

Thanks again to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Autumn Motivation


I completely love it when the nights draw in. The start of Strictly Come Dancing and the shorter days signify the countdown to Christmas and I am definitely one of those people who genuinely wish it could be Christmas every day. 

The darker nights also give me the confidence to go running.  This activity has to be done in the dark because………

I look like this

And also I love being nosy and running past people’s houses. 

This also comes at a time when we are thinking about having another baby. Both my previous pregnancies ruined me as I suffered with hypremesis gravidarum, umbilical hernia and also PND. I must be mad wanting to do it all again but I genuinely feel like I’m not done. Anyway I have set myself a goal. I am not even going to start to ‘try’ until I am fitter than I have ever been and I have managed to wean myself off my antidepressants.

So far so good. I even went running today after quite a heavy dinner party last night. I am slightly worried I have broken my dog though. 

I also wanted to list some podcasts that I use to keep me going.

  1. Casefile. Really good podcast which documents murder cases. 
  2. The Last Podcast On The Left.    This podcast makes me laugh a lot. Quite dark subject matter but the 3 guys who host it are hilarious.
  3. My Favourite Murder. This is also hilarious . Making murder funny should be so wrong but these 2 women manage to handle really dark subject matter in an often light hearted way and they also have a massive cult following.
  4. Woman’s Hour. Radio 4
  5. All The Books. Really good book based podcast. 

The Angry (But Utterly) Brilliant Chef

There is a man who I work with whose sole purpose in life (apart from singing very loud and very high) is to say controversial things. For the purposes of this post, lets call him Frank. If I say black, Frank says white. If I vote remain he votes leave. Firstly, I would like to say that Frank isn’t a person I dislike. I actually have a bit of a soft spot for him. When work gets dull, it is exciting to anticipate which ridiculously controversial statement will come out of his mouth at the most inopportune moment.  As controversial as Frank is, he creates a sense of camaraderie amongst his colleagues.  It is nice to have someone at work who we can tut about and raise our eyes to heaven. During a particularly dull moment at work, I heard Frank discussing The Angry Chef with a colleague. Said colleague is forever trying new diets and eating fads. Atkins, gluten free, pale, clean eating. She has tried them all, presumably because none of them have provided her with the results she was needing. Frank was telling her very loudly that ‘diets were all bollocks. You should read this book and you’ll see.’

I have never been someone who has dieted. Not because I have the body of a goddess….I could definitely do with losing a bit of weight, but mainly because I love food. Interestingly, I work in an industry where how you look is important. No-one wants to stand on a stage in a costume you have been made to wear and feel hideous. The world of opera has often been associated with fat singers with horns on their heads. Although there definitely are overweight singers, it is important to singers to be healthy and to be able to move about the stage with ease. Gone are the days of stand and deliver performances. That being said, working anti social hours does lead to unhealthy eating habits. I always have a bag of haribo on my desk, and a quick sugar hit is the thing I usually crave. A lot of my colleagues are looking for that quick fix diet that will help them lose a bit of weight whilst maintaining the energy to do a demanding job. Warner speaks about how all these diets work on the assumption that if we make black and white choices regarding our diet then we can be in control of illness and obesity. He says companies work on the idea that ‘cancer. type-1 diabetes, mental-health issues, obesity and the common cold are all neatly blamed on the individual, all wrapped up in a neat package of self loathing, designed to inspire us to change our behaviour.’ The point Warner is making is that it is not that simple.

I decided to take Frank’s advice to see if it was all ‘a load of bollocks’ so I got the book out of the library. There is no denying Warner has the knives out. Indeed the cover of the book is emblazoned with knives and endorsements from respected cooks and chefs written on the blades:

Thank God for the outspoken, intelligent, well informed Anthony Warner. Someone had to say it (the Clean Gut cult is tosh) and he does – forcefully, amusingly and convincingly. Prue Leith

Anthony Warner is a professional chef and blogger. He has a degree in biochemistry from Manchester so he is qualified to debunk the ‘dangerous dumbfuckery that has come to dominate the discussion of food and health.’ I must admit, I often found the science bit in the first half of the book, difficult to follow. It often felt slightly like being back in chemistry class when we had a young, hip supply teacher in who used words like bollocks and fuck. Peppering chemistry with expletives still makes it chemistry in my book and it took me back to double chemistry last thing on Friday when I just wanted it to be over. Like double chemistry however, I persevered and although I’m sure a lot washed over my head some things did remain.

For me, Warner’s most important point is that diet companies play on the vulnerable. This resonates with me hugely. As a mother of two young daughters, I am terrified of my children hearing the latest ridiculous diet fad and thinking that because it is endorsed by a celebrity then that is the way to be beautiful. Indeed, it happened only the other morning. Having finally wrestled my 4 year old into her chair to eat her cheerios before school, my mother in law breezes in and tells me she has just read online that eating breakfast is bad for you. “Why mummy?” says Edith. “I don’t want to eat breakfast if it is going to make me fat.” Slow hand clap for Grandma and the idiot who put that on the internet. Worryingly, this exchange has an influence in my 4 year old and also my 65 year old MIL who is constantly on the quest for skinny. In my opinion this is where Warner’s book is so emphatic and utterly brilliant. He says:

These thoughts of toxicity, sickness and danger are driven by the media, by the diet books, clean-eating blogs, detox gurus, by sugar-shaming, fat-phobic bigots, selling us lies and ascribing morality to perfectly normal dietary choices. No food should be feared, no choices deemed ‘wrong’. We should be free to embrace the huge variety that the world of food has to offer us, not restricted in our choice based on the moral values and pretensions of others. The end goal of all eating should not be a good-looking Instagram shot. The pleasure of eating should be embraced for what it is: variety, joy, precious moments shared.

This book should be a must read. I am making it my mission to spread the word of the Angry Chef. Thank you Anthony Warner for this brilliant book and thank you to Frank for once saying something that I completely agree with. I am now off to buy this for my MIL.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Chicken Stock and Chicken Soup….a labour of love but so worth it.

An epiphany has been had thanks to reading Raising Girls. Every weekend I am going to make a roast and we will sit together en famille without Peppa Pig as background and have intellectual discussions like ‘why do boys have different front bums?’ and ‘why is wee yellow?’

Today was the start of this and we had roast chicken. If I have time after a roast it is totally worth while making stock which you can then freeze, use for soup, risotto etc. It is a bit of a labour of love but soooo worth it.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

  1. Stripped chicken carcass. Bones, skin, gloopy jelly gunk.
  2. Onion. Don’t bother to peel. Just chop in quarters and put in pot.
  3. Garlic cloves. Again don’t bother to peel or chop. Just put in whole.
  4. Stick of celery. Chopped.
  5. Carrot. Unpeeled and chopped.
  6. Leek. Unpeeled and chopped.
  7. 2 bay leaves.
  8. Pinch of thyme.
  9. A few pepper corns.

Method.

  1. Put all the ingredients in the pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Simmer on the hob for at least 2 hours.
  3. When it has cooled, strain with a sieve. I often find there is a lot of oil on the top of the stock. If this is the case then the utensil below will be your friend as you can separate the stock from the oil .

Chicken Soup

  1. Stock.
  2. Left over chicken meat.
  3. Carrot. Peeled and chopped.
  4. Leek. Peeled and chopped.
  5. Celery. Chopped.
  6. Lentils.
  7. Pasta shapes, orzo or rice.
  8. Salt and Pepper.

 

Method.

Much like the method for the stock i just put it all in together. I make sure I add the lentils early on as they take longer to cook. Rice/pasta is optional but I find if I am giving the soup to the children, rice or pasta creates a more substantial meal. I have also discovered pasta shape letters which my 4 year old loves.

Anyway, thank you for reading.