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30.6.15

Mother Teresa's Thighs

I'm walking around Alton Towers, the weather is nice in fact it's hot, but not unbearably hot. There is a slight cool breeze every now and then but not too often that it requires a cardigan.
I am wearing shorts.
That's ok. There are people there wearing all sorts. There are shorter shorts than mine, to the point where I wonder if they lose the name 'shorts' and simply just become 'knickers'. When did it become socially acceptable to walk around with your bum cheeks hanging out? Especially young girls. Maybe I am getting old? I don't know.
Anyway.
I am wearing shorts. They are an acceptable length. I've shaved my legs so I'm socially acceptable. But every now and then I feel like I've made a wrong choice. I feel a slight wobble, in the thigh, and I get all hot and bothered. I feel like everyone is looking at me and wondering how on earth I had the confidence to wear shorts. And why on earth no one close to me had told me that I can not get away with wearing them.
We had the opportunity to have our photo taken with the squirrel thing from Ice Age, I said no. For 2 reasons.
1. I am scared of people in costumes. And having watched this one poke and joke around with people stood next to him/her I wasn't up for it.
2. I worried about my thighs. What if they ruined the photo?
However later on whilst looking for a toilet, Harry and I spotted Upsy Daisy at a photo call and I couldn't resist. I picked Harry up, handed my camera to the lady looking after the character, and stood next to Upsy Daisy. Yeah, I was scared. I think the fear shows in my face, and in my body language, but I didn't even think about my thighs until I looked through the photos later and thought that cropping the photo would be the best option. Also, I fear those sandals really made my ankles look non-existent.


If I felt this paranoid about wearing shorts, then how on earth would I cope the following day wearing a swimming costume?!
We were sent to Alton Towers by Konfidence to test out the products we were sent for being one of their Swimologist families. So as much as this was a fun trip, I also had to look at it as a "business trip" too. We had a job to do. We had to test the swimjacket, the dive sticks and the float and the only way we could do this was to swim. And I couldn't exactly send Harry in by himself could I?
So Sunday morning, after breakfast we got back to the room and I put on my swimming costume. Recent comfort eating meant I didn't feel as confident as I did when I first tried it on, and I was really aware of my thighs and bottom.

When swimming I usually wear shorts and a tankini. Tankinis don't really make me feel that covered up as they constantly rise up and shorts, well, shorts cover the worst bits. But I thought I'd try a swimming costume to see if it made me relax a bit more.
I stood and looked at myself in the mirror, at the body I feel is a bit all over the place and not in proportion, and felt a little disappointed. This was a beautiful swimsuit that I felt nice in when I tried it on at home, confident enough even to show my mum. And I'd let myself down.
It gave me the wake up call to start exercising again and to start eating better again.
However, that didn't fix things right now. And I knew I had to suck it up (and suck it in!) and get on with it.

I didn't get a photo of me in the swimsuit. I know there is the hashtag #proudinmybikini and I felt sad that I didn't feel proud of my body or able to join in. But maybe that will be my end goal?

I got as far as this, which I put on Instagram, not for the attention but more to share how disheartened I felt with myself.

Oh god. Swimming today. Wish I could keep my shorts on.



I kept my shorts on for as long as I could, until it was time to get into the pool. 
I looked around and there were women of all shapes and sizes. And I expect that the majority of them felt the same as me. They felt paranoid, they felt like they didn't have the body for a swimsuit.
There were women in bikinis, with a mummy tummy, walking around confidently. Even if it was fake confidence, they still "owned it" and I almost wanted to go over and high five them.
I reminded myself of one of my favourite quotes.

That's true right? And although I am not Mother Teresa, I did/do have shit to do, and I do on a daily basis. I have to be a mum, I have to be a housewife, I have to do the school run, I have to run a blog, do the shopping, go to the doctors, all the normal things people do. 
And my thighs, really, don't matter when I consider everything else in life that is important. 

So I wore that swimsuit and do you know what? After a while, I didn't think about my thighs. I walked around, confidently, making sure that my children had a wonderful time. And they did.
As did I.

My swimming costume was provided by Swimshop, a leading swimming costume retailer in the UK.

25.6.15

It's Thursday, Stop Crying!

Oh, thanks so much for that intro Ed. You can always count on Ed Sheeran to get things started on a good foot hey? That man seriously has a way with words.

So it's Thursday today and it's almost 11 o clock as I start writing this, and I've already cried twice. Why? Because of the weekend. I know what you're thinking "Broken Record" well....let me just put you straight. I'm a "record breaking broken record" (51 mummies at Britmums Live FYI, thanks Guiness World Records!)
Anyway, it's all still a little overwhelming. The whole experience, putting myself out there and also I think the new found confidence just totally took over.
I didn't expect to feel so at home. I walked in and saw Jen and Susanna and in my head I wondered what on earth I was doing. I felt like a fraud to be honest.
What was I thinking when I sent an email telling them I was confident that I could do this job and that I would be good at it.
But as soon as they said hi, and I realised I didn't need to introduce myself and have that awkward "erm, I was the one who emailed you. You know, the room moderator. We had a conference call. We've been emailing. LAUREN. I'M LAUREN" conversation I felt so ready to just do it and to get on with it.

I don't want to blah blah blah on about things I've already written about (here FYI) but when asked on Twitter by Britmums...well they asked everyone, not me specifically, to describe in one word how I felt at this years conference my chosen word was "accepted".
I think it's an odd one to explain, and I want to choose my words carefully so as to not sound like I have this massive ego. But I think it's easy to feel swallowed up in the blog community sometimes. We are all little fish in a massive pond but it doesn't mean we go unnoticed.
The last two years, I suppose last year in particular, I felt like I was going wrong somewhere. No one seemed to recognise me or wanted to talk to me but this year, it felt so different.
People read my name badge and knew my name and knew my blog and had the sweetest things to say. And for someone who overdoes the compliments on a daily basis I found myself unable to cope with what people were saying.
The bully in me was telling me to ignore them but I was able to override that, which was overwhelming and a big deal for me when I generally tend to let the bully win, and I was letting the nice words sink in and trying to let them find somewhere nice to snuggle and to remain until the end of the event.

I expected to wake up on Sunday and for it to be like any normal day. The odd chat about Britmums Live here and there but it was completely different. All day my thoughts were on the two days just gone. It all felt pretty surreal. I kept reading the most lovely things on Twitter and on blog comments and was a little shocked at how nice people were being. At how much people thought I did a good job. I cried pretty much all day. Yes, I am emotionally unstable. And thought that by Monday all would be ok.
But no...well...yes it was all ok...but it hadn't stopped.
People were still being nice, and they were on Tuesday, and Wednesday and even today. And I kind of can't cope with it.
There are people who I have admired for SO long who knew who I was without me having to introduce myself. There were people who I have admired for so long who wanted to meet me, and talked to me at the event and have kept the conversations going on Twitter and Instagram since.
And that bully pops into my head and says "They're joking. They hate you really. They just feel sorry for you".
But I override that, and instead....oh goodness...lets make the tear count for today three now should we? *pull it together Lauren* I think that what if...what if I am actually likeable? What if these people actually DO like me, and did enjoy my company, and did/do think I am good enough to do that job but to also be good enough to talk to them.
What if those people actually want to be my friend?
What if the people I chose to hang around with actually had fun with me and enjoyed my company too?
What if I am as good as those who I admire and look up to? And what if....what if to other people I am that person too?

I hate myself so much for doubting others, and for doubting myself.
And I'm trying to hard to not do that.
I did that really egotistical thing of screen grabbing lovely tweets and emails just so I can read them and believe them.

This year was big for me too because I didn't have my close friends to lean on for support. I went as me, as an individual, and I was responsible for myself and for socialising and having fun.
And I did it.
I actually did it.
I did a really good job at that.

And maybe these tears aren't all that bad.
But for goodness sake, it's Thursday...when will they stop?

24.6.15

Britmums Live 2015 Room 4 Session Summary | Prize Promotions

Confession...I took 3 notebooks to Britmums Live this year. And a ridiculous number of pens. The past two years I have taken endless notes in each session, writing down quotes from the speakers and copying things written on their presentations.
Being a room moderator meant that I was able to attend sessions that maybe I wouldn't have attended before. However, I was also really lucky to have some amazing sessions and I can honestly say that I learnt something from all of them.

I felt it was easier for me to tweet anything I found helpful this year, not only because it was quicker than writing it all down in a notebook but also to entice attendees into my room.
I wanted to collate all of my tweets together and thought it would be a good idea to write posts about each sessions but just focussing on my tweets. I figure that even though it may not make sense to some, and there may not be a huge amount of tweets, it could be helpful to others.

‘SuperLucky’ Di Coke is a Prize Promotions Consultant, comper and blogger. With more than £250,000 of prizes under her belt, Di knows competitions inside out and works with brands and bloggers to ensure their prize promotions are fair, fun and successful. Di has been interviewed about competitions on BBC Breakfast, Radio 4 and in the national press, and never tires of welcoming new recruits to the hobby. You can find Di blogging at superlucky.me.@superluckydi


"Prizes make people happy"

"In T&C's, you need to use the word prize draw. Not giveaway"

"Prize draw - picked at random. Competition - judged. Know the difference and use your words correctly."

"The perfect prize- make sure the product is relevant to your blog and your readership"

"Trust your sponsor or company. If they go into administration YOU have to cover the prize"

"Charge for giveaways or ask for one of the products yourself. Don't under sell yourself."

""Visit the sponsors website and tell me what you would buy". Drives traffic to them and increases your comments"

"Make it clear to people what they have to do. Don't set up too many options. That is why people "cheat" on Rafflecopter forms"

"Don't say "I'll pick my favourite" instead "I'll pick the most entertaining/appealing...""

"If you are hosting a competition, get someone else to judge. Someone independent. Not you"

"Set T&C's. Never change them. And never change your closing date."

"T&C's. Include closing date, who can and can't enter (family, outside of UK) Let people know what you will do with their data."

"Make it clear what exactly the prize is. Mention how tickets will be supplied, if travel is included etc."

"You must give winners 14/28 days to respond. Unless it's a time critical prize...ie concert, day out, event"

"Add competitions and giveaways to linkys, share using hashtags, and competition websites."

"Check to see if your winner got their prize"

"Ideal length of a giveaway. 2-3 weeks. Try not to run them all at the same time. 1 a month or 1 every two or three weeks."

"Be confident asking a PR for products or voucher values. Don't devalue yourself. The PR can only say no/give lower. Be brave"

Britmums Live 2015 Room 4 Session Summary | 'How to market yourself and your writing'

Confession...I took 3 notebooks to Britmums Live this year. And a ridiculous number of pens. The past two years I have taken endless notes in each session, writing down quotes from the speakers and copying things written on their presentations.
Being a room moderator meant that I was able to attend sessions that maybe I wouldn't have attended before. However, I was also really lucky to have some amazing sessions and I can honestly say that I learnt something from all of them.

I felt it was easier for me to tweet anything I found helpful this year, not only because it was quicker than writing it all down in a notebook but also to entice attendees into my room.
I wanted to collate all of my tweets together and thought it would be a good idea to write posts about each sessions but just focussing on my tweets. I figure that even though it may not make sense to some, and there may not be a huge amount of tweets, it could be helpful to others.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the Top 10 sites for writers. Twitter: @thecreativepenn


"We are in a binge consumption culture. We binge watch tv series. So write a series of books"

"Take advice from people who are making money in the way you want to make money"

"Be authentic. Be real. Don't fake it"

"Be generous. Share each others work because you want to, because you enjoy it. Not because you want something back"

"Who are you? What suits your personality? Write about things you're passionate about. Stand out."

"Who is the person behind the profile? It's not traffic, it's people"

"What is the point of your blog?"

"Who is your target market? What is your niche? Who do you want to attract? How can you entertain/inspire?"

"Develop your voice & community, social proof and attract opportunity"

23.6.15

Britmums Live 2015 Room 4 Session Summary | LinkedIn

Confession...I took 3 notebooks to Britmums Live this year. And a ridiculous number of pens. The past two years I have taken endless notes in each session, writing down quotes from the speakers and copying things written on their presentations.
Being a room moderator meant that I was able to attend sessions that maybe I wouldn't have attended before. However, I was also really lucky to have some amazing sessions and I can honestly say that I learnt something from all of them.

I felt it was easier for me to tweet anything I found helpful this year, not only because it was quicker than writing it all down in a notebook but also to entice attendees into my room.
I wanted to collate all of my tweets together and thought it would be a good idea to write posts about each sessions but just focussing on my tweets. I figure that even though it may not make sense to some, and there may not be a huge amount of tweets, it could be helpful to others.

The first session I am sharing is actually the final session that was in my room this year.
LinkedIn with Alice Elliott.

Bio: 

Alice Elliott, also known as the Fairy Blog Mother, offers tuition and advice to beginner and post-beginner bloggers. Her particular talent is explaining blogging “really simply” using ordinary, everyday language, and through tutorials and e-courses in a highly visual, step-by-step format. She is currently working on her new blog Beginner Bloggers, which will be stuffed full of simple and helpful ‘How-To’ posts that aim to clarify WordPress and other blogging issues. Alice believes that if technical things like blogging are explained properly from the beginning, this will make later advanced use a lot easier. @alice_elliott



"Make LinkedIn status updates enticing to read. What would you want to read? What interaction do you want?"

"Limit your posts on LinkedIn in one day. Do not repeat the same title and introduction. You risk being seen as a spammer"

"Reply to comments. Key to engaging and to create conversation"

"Engage. And share other peoples posts. It shows you read widely and appreciate other people."

"Have a LinkedIn badge on your sidebar. Update LinkedIn just as you would other social networking profiles"

"Set up a personal LinkedIn URL"

"LinkedIn is NOT about the *number* of followers but the quality of followers, having a valid reason to connect."

21.6.15

Britmums Live 2015: "Hey, I’m proud of myself."

This year it was my third time at Britmums Live, and it was a little bit different to the past two years. In fact it wasn’t a little bit different, it was a lot different. Because this year my badge didn’t say ‘Blogger’. It said Britmums Team. Team….TEAM!!

This girl….woman….who two years ago hid in a toilet. Who wore spanx and worried so much about what people thought of her.

This girl….woman….who last year felt so overwhelmed by everything that she had way too much to drink. Who felt a little disheartened by the fact her friends were getting “attention” and she was left to the side.

But this girl….woman who was determined to not go for the third year as a blogger. Who knew that to feel a part of the community she had to do something about that.

I’m sure there is a saying about being in control of your own destiny, and right now, I feel that more than ever. Blogging is a massive community and as lovely as it is we are pitched against each other, there is no denying that. We have close friends but, depending on what you want from blogging, we are all in competition with each other.
It can be brutal. But that’s just life. In any area, in any industry, there is competition and there are opportunities. And I think the thing we have to learn is that if we don’t get certain opportunities then it doesn’t mean we are not good enough, it doesn’t even mean that someone was better than us. Sometimes there is no reason at all. Someone has to be chosen and with so many blogs out there, we can’t all be that one person.

Anyway. So last year I bought my Britmums Live 2015 ticket. But when I got home there was something in me that was urging me to take a chance. See, I wanted to be more than “just a blogger” there. I was in awe of the room moderators and wanted to be able to do what they were doing. I was so eager to do this that I put my ticket up for sale and with a confidence boost from goodness knows where, I “started a conversation that mattered”. And in January this year I was told that yes, I could be a room moderator. I didn’t cry (I totally did!) but in the back of my mind I was worried that maybe the Britmums team didn’t really think about it properly and that I would totally screw it up, but I couldn’t back out.

I felt nervous because I suppose I found myself in this friendship limbo, mainly because I am so close to Hayley (Shutterflies) and last year relied on her so much that part of me wondered how I would cope without her.
I had these images of me turning up on the day and Jen and Susanna being like “Oh. It’s you. We didn’t realise it was you” and to have major regrets. I felt ok on the train journey, but walking into the venue I felt so small. And I wondered if I’d made a mistake. But immediately I was welcomed by Susanna, Jen and Maddie and it was amazing. As a blogger, and a member of Britmums, in fact even before I started my blog I was aware of Britmums and so Jen and Susanna were (and still are) a really big deal to me. I’m not saying that to suck up, but in this industry they are a big influence and after fangirling over them the last two years I realised I had to keep my cool. I stood there couldn’t believe that I was actually doing it. And again in a totally fangirl “HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW MY NAME?!” kind of way felt like a giggly school girl when Susanna mentioned my haircut. “HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT MY HAIR WAS LIKE BEFORE?!” was screaming in my mind.

As I sat in my room I took some time to breathe. I read through my speaker Bios, excited for the sessions I had in my room, particularly the second session as for the last two years I had attended Nigel Camps video session and this year was moderating his session.
The first year, I didn’t talk to him, and last year I spoke briefly at the end of the Saturday. And I was lucky enough to review his book last year too. But again it was that whole, “I’m going to have to introduce myself” moment because I didn’t for a second think he would know who I was. But he did and I honestly couldn’t get my head around it. This was now three people, who I think of highly, who had accepted me and “knew who I was” and for someone who has blogged hard for the last four years and has seen others who started at the same time and after me fly off and be mega successful, meaning I questionned who and what I wanted to be, what I wanted to achieve, and where I wanted my blog to be, it was really quite overwhelming.

Anyway, massively long post, and this being the reason why I think writing a couple of days after the conference is better, I am now sitting on the train feeling completely….I don’t know. Overwhelmed (a word I clearly overuse) and accepted. The last year has seen me go through so many changes, personally, and particularly when it comes to confidence and the fact that people were picking up on this made me feel so good about myself.

Could I have done a better job as room moderator? Of course I could! However, I did it. I actually did it. I stood there and I did it. I know where I could have improved. I haven’t done anything like this before and I had to remind myself of that. I also had to remind myself that I was accepted to do that job because people had confidence in me to do it. Of course there was that big voice in my head telling me not to let them down, but I think the best thing that I did was to be honest with each speaker and to say “Look, I’m nervous. I want to get straight into it so I won’t go too much into your bio” and every single speaker was absolutely fine with that.
I realised that I didn’t have to be shy. I didn’t have to be reserved. And the best thing to do was to be myself and to be honest. So I made myself comfortable with the speakers, I made jokes and had conversations depending on who they were and on Friday night ended up going to the Bibs and then to the pub with the two speakers from my final session. And you know what, I might have sacked off my early night with Sushi and Orange is the New Black plan to go for a drink, but I had a fantastic time. Why? Because I was able to be me. The proper me. And I knew that, at least I think that, it was ok to be that person because that’s who people seem to like. And I like her too. I enjoy being her. And I wish she would stick around more often.

Saturday, after the final session, I felt sad that it was almost over. I knew I had to take myself away for a bit and rather than hiding in a toilet like I did two years ago, I felt confident enough to be able to go with Alex (Rotolight) to find Nigel and to sit in on his interviews with Carol Smilie and Jaume Marin.
The time went so fast and now it feels like I’ve gone home too early. It is a completely different experience being part of the team, and I felt like most of the time I was in a busy daze. I was also able to accept that no one was putting pressure on me at all, and that I was doing that myself, and it made it easier for me to control.

There were moments of acceptance, little moments, that I won’t forget. A squeeze on the knee, a pat on the shoulder, a smile and a thank you. And a tweet from someone not even at the event thanking me for tweeting so much during sessions. Those moments were worth it and how I didn’t cry there I don’t know.

And finally, after a massive post full of waffling and making probably no sense. I think it would be wrong to not turn round and say “Hey, I’m proud of myself”.

Because....
Hey, I’m proud of myself.

19.6.15

How to keep in touch with family using the internet

What would we do without the internet? Really?
Growing up I used to write letters for family, send photos and pictures. None of it was instant, like it is now.
To get your letter delivered, have a reply written and then to receive that could take up to 2 weeks. Nowadays, all that can be done in less than 2 minutes thanks to instant messaging and social media.

We live in Suffolk and my aunties and nanny live in Somerset, so keeping in touch with them has always been important to us and has always required commitment and patience.
With my brother now living away from Suffolk too the internet has become an essential part of our relationship.

Skype

I never really got the hype with Skype. I didn't like it, mainly because of bad experiences I suppose with spam accounts and spam messages, and the faff of having to set up webcams. With laptops now coming with built in webcams life is so much easier, and now for me Skype has never been more wonderful. 
Being able to sit your children in front of the screen so they can update their Uncle and Grandad and Grandma on school news and showing off their brand new t shirt can be just as good as seeing them in the flesh. It's also a great way to keep the children entertained, and babysat, whilst you are busy making dinner or tidying up.

Facebook

I'm not one of those parents who sets up a little Facebook account for their children. However, the boys are aware of what Facebook is, sort of, and know that I use it to keep in touch with people and that I share things on there for others to see.
Long gone are those days where we print off holiday photos, arrange them into an album and two or three weeks after the holiday has passed do we share these photos with family and friends. Now, it's instant.
I think the other great thing about Facebook is involving the boys with conversations. Recently, Charles' grandma wrote a status wishing him a happy birthday and rather than thanking her myself, I got Charles to reply instead. Which made it extra special and made more sense. But it was lovely to step back and let him take the lead, simply because he could.

Online game sites

Other than the typical social media channels the availability of game and entertainment websites helps to create an alternative to a girls night out.
Sites such a Bingocams, mean you can "meet" your family and play Bingo whilst in the comfort of your own lounge made even better by having the ability to see each other via webcam.
Combine with that some wine and nibbles and it's the perfect alternative to a girls night out.

17.6.15

TT2015 Diary: A Massage from Security

My alarm went off and I looked at my phone:
GET UP
WAKE UP
WAKE UP
GET UP

Seeing as I had had so many doubts about going these gave me the push to get up, get my hair straighteners on, get dressed, have a coffee and the Red Bulls I had bought in preparation.
And then it was time to head downstairs and to catch the bus to the airport. As I said on the bus I was overwhelmed by what I was about to do. Overwhelmed because I was seeing my brother, because I was fighting my anxiety and the bully inside me to go. Overwhelmed because I was being brave and also because I was doing something for me.
I sat on the bus and realised that for the first time in a long time I had put myself first and I was my priority, and I was my own responsibility. I pushed away those motherly instincts I usually feel towards my brother and forgot that I tend to want to be the protector, and fully accepted that I was doing this not only for me, but for him. And as a result of that I needed to embrace the experience and let him lead the way.
The bus journey was simple and quick, and after grabbing a trolley I eventually found the Flybe counter, checked in and then got a bit lost finding the departures area.
I was so hot, I think this was not only due to it just being a hot day, but also due to the panic I was feeling.
As I went through security I set the alarm off (thanks to the buckle on my boots) and had to be searched. This was the point I managed to relax, believe it or not, and to be myself. As the lady started to search my arms I couldn't hold back and said "Cor, this is like a massage". Her reply...thankfully...was "Best thing is, it's free". I held off from telling her it tickled as she felt around my waist but as she finished my legs and said I was free to go I couldn't help but to thank her SO much. She laughed and said I was welcome. The thing was, being searched really did feel like a massage and I did then feel relaxed. And having a little joke with her made me have that little confidence boost.

I treated myself to my favourite perfume, some headphones and a make up brush (oops!) and once instructed to made my way to the train to head to the gate.
Since last year I have been a lot more confident when starting conversations with other people. It was obvious that the majority of people on this flight were going to watch the racing, so I looked around for clues with outfits (TT caps and hoodies) and listened into conversations.
As I sat on the train I had a conversation with 3 men. One of which asked me if I was going to watch the racing, as I replied yes his immediate response was "REALLY?!". And at this point I realised that this was an attitude I would face throughout my 5 days there. Not in a negative way, but more because this is a male dominated environment and I was fine with that.
With a delayed flight I made friends with a woman sitting behind me. We talked and laughed non-stop about ridiculous things, and made the man unfortunate enough to be sat two seats on from my chuckle a few times.

The flight was simple and the view from the window was stunning. I sat and listened in to others conversations, and read some of my Caitlin Moran book, snuggled up towards the window as the man next to me clearly wanted both armrests.
Landing was fine and I felt so emotional as we approached. Just seeing a small part of the island and knowing my brother was there...ok and also knowing that William Dunlop, my favourite racer, was on the same island as me was rather exciting.
The airport was tiny and only around 6 of us with luggage so I slowly walked to baggage claim and had my phone ready to tell my brother I had landed. I heard a knock on the window and ignored it. I didn't want to look like an idiot turning round when I didn't know anyone there. As the knocking continued I turned round and saw my brother. He had surprised me by meeting me at the airport. I put on my biggest excited face and mouthed "I'm here! I'm actually here!". My brother has a habit of surprising me but I didn't expect him to do it here. It was the best start to the 5 days.
I was able to share a taxi with two of the men I met at the airport as they were heading in the same direction and as I stood at the camp site with my brother I felt so happy. I didn't cry, I might have wanted to, but as I looked around I knew for sure that I was going to have a fantastic 5 days and not want to go home.



16.6.15

Birthday Present Ideas for 4 Year Old Boys

As Harry turns 4 in three weeks time I've been busy planning his presents. I think when it comes to the second child it can difficult to buy presents because, in our case anyway, they tend to already have it thanks to their older sibling.passing it down.
I think having two summer babies was much easier for us because we are able to buy garden toys.

A brand that I trust for garden toys in particular is Little Tikes. In particular the Cosy Coupe car, these are in my opinion the most essential outdoor toy for any child. 
The new addition to the range, the Dinosaur Cozy Coupe, is ideal for prehistoric fans who want something to stretch their imagination that little bit further. 


Here are five of my favourite Little Tikes garden toys, perfect for a 4 year olds birthday.


Little Tikes: Cozy Coupe® Dinosaur (from 18 mths to 5 years) RRP: £59.99
Cape Cottage Playhouse (from 2 years) RRP: £99.99
2-in-1 Wooden Sand and Picnic table (3 years - 8 years) RRP: £59.99
Fish 'n Splash Water Table (24 months - 6 years) £44.99
Sizzle & Serve Grill (18 months - 6 years) £24.99

15.6.15

Effective Ways to Quit Smoking


Quitting smoking is difficult, but it’s absolutely not impossible. This is particularly true if you have a little extra motivation in the form of your child’s health. Whether you’re pregnant or already a parent, it’s impossible not to be aware of the harmful effects of cigarettes and second hand smoke. Understanding the effects, as well as the options and tricks for quitting, can help put you on your way to kicking the habit.

Side effects of smoking: first and second hand

Smoking can cause everything from the loss of your sense of smell and taste, to premature ageing and impotence. Smokers are also far more susceptible to common bacterial and viral infections in their respiratory systems, as well as far more serious illnesses such as lung cancer. Then, of course, there’s the cost – sit down with a calculator and figure out how much you spend on cigarettes per year if you’re not sure. It all adds up.

As a parent, you also have to consider the possible effects of you or other people smoking around your children. Second hand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic, and nearly 70 of which have been linked to increased risk of cancer. Second hand smoking causes serious health problems in infants and children, including respiratory infections, asthma attacks, ear infections, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. 

Smoking during pregnancy

You’ve probably been told that you shouldn’t smoke during pregnancy – but why not? Essentially, all the toxins, including carbon monoxide, that you inhale travel through your bloodstream and directly to your unborn baby, which can increase the chance of your baby to be born prematurely, can increase the risk of your baby developing lung problems, and can even raise the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth. Even if you don’t smoke, remember that second hand smoke can have similar effects – encouraging your nearest and dearest to quit, or at least to avoid smoking around you, is important.

How do I quit?

Well, the good news is that there are lots of ways to quit – if one doesn’t work for you or the people you care about, it’s likely that there are other methods that will be more effective. E-cigarettes are a great alternative for some, while other people are able to go cold turkey.  A starter kit such as Vapouriz e-cigs could be a good place to start to see if this is for you. Asking friends not to smoke around you can help, while some people find that having mints on hand at all times can curb their cravings. There are lots of suggestions online, and we’re sure you’ll find one to suit your needs!

14.6.15

That Sound

We're sat in the car, I'm in the front passenger seat looking around. I keep thinking back to last week, and what I was doing right now. I was sat on a church wall watching amazingly talented men fly past at the most ridiculous of speeds.
I knew my time was limited as I had to get to the airport by 5 to catch my flight home.
The sun was shining down on me, my decision to wear black skinny jeans was once again backfiring as my legs were burning.
Everytime a bike went past I held that feeling inside for a little while longer. That feeling you get in your tummy and in your heart as they go past, almost like a punch of excitement and adrenaline, mixed with this hard emotion.
6
Everyone is aware of what a motorbike sounds like. I hear them enough as they speed down a road near to my house. But nothing prepares you for what these bikes are capable of. I've never really got it when my brother has said "Cor, that sounds good doesn't it?". My usual reply being "Erm, yeah?!" Actually just thinking that they all sounded the same. I expect if I said that now he would totally disown me, but I stand corrected. I realised that there are some that sound better than others, some have that "WOAH!" sound, some have a deeper sound than others, some are louder.

I suppose on the roads in the UK, snug in my car, as a bike goes past I'm concentrating more on where they're going than what they sound like. It wasn't something I really thought about or paid attention to.
But here, as soon as I heard the bikes during the race on Wednesday I totally got it.
There were bikers all over the island, so general bike noise was a common sound. Laying in the tent you get used to hearing them through the night and early in the morning. I soon came to find it quite comforting. Of course it's not the same as hearing the Superbikes, but still, it was a noise that became normal and I realised quickly that it was a sound I would miss.

So this time last week I paid a little more attention. I listened a little more closely. I watched, selfishly without care of whether or not I was in anyones way. It was my last day, they had more to come. I felt overwhelmed and the thing that was keeping me from breaking down was hearing those bikes.
I suppose from a psychological view I did that thing where I attached those sounds to a feeling. That feeling of being me, being free, being happy. And more than that, being connected to my brother. Understanding his passion and feeling it too.
I wanted to soak in those sounds, soak in how my heart felt, that knot and excitement. I wanted to fire up that feeling so it wouldn't leave me as soon as I left the island.

As we drive in the car now, I spot a bike on the other side of the road, he's going at around 60mph or 70mph, so not 170mph+ like I had been experiencing, but still, I closed my eyes. Ready to hear that sound as he rode past us.
I closed them so tight. I clenched my fists. And waited.
And then, my eyes immediately filled with tears. Tears I couldn't let fall, but could privately let sit in my eyes for as long as I needed them.
Those feelings, that I desperately needed, came back.
And as much as I longed for that church wall, those burning legs, the force of the bikes speed making my hair fly all over the place, the smell, and the excitement around me, this was a good enough alternative.

That feeling will never be replaced and I won't get near it until next year. But for now, that alternative will be enough.
That sound of happiness.
That sound of freedom.



TT2015 Diary: The Night Before

After what felt like a super stressful day with packing, making sure I had everything I needed, making sure the boys were set for the week, co-hosting the Britmums and Birds Eye #MixUpYourMenu Twitter party, I was so glad when we were finally on the road to Stansted for the boys to drop me off at my hotel for the night.
I'd managed to get the Premier Inn at Stansted for a cheap price and felt that with a morning flight it would be better for me to stay at the hotel than to face a long car journey that morning.
After an emotional goodbye with Charles and Harry, and waving them off as they cried, I carried my heavy bags from one end of the car park to the hotel door. Managed to check in and find my room easily and then it sank in. I was actually doing this and was about to go on holiday, by myself, to meet up with my brother.
I spoke to my mum on the phone, had a bath and as I sat to watch Big Brother my phone went off.
ITV4
Road




Well. That was it. My night was sorted. 
I posted on Instagram:
This film, Road, is the reason I am going to the Isle of Man. I wanted to watch it again before I went but didn't get round to it, but thank goodness for ITV4 who are playing it tonight.This family, The Dunlops, are incredible. If you hate motorbikes and find it all boring I still urge you to look them up or to even watch this film. Their passion and dedication, despite such awful tragedies, is inspiring.These men would rather die doing something they love, which may be selfish to some, than to die of a long, painful illness."Tragedy is inevitable, but there is always the chance, and the hope, of euphoria".Not only do I get to visit the memorial of Joey Dunlop who died for his sport, I get to see Michael and William race. I used to hate bikes. And now I kind of hate how excited they make me.



I struggled to get to sleep that night. At 1 o clock in the morning I was still wide awake and had to force myself to sleep. At 6.20 my alarm went off. I was going to ignore it until I saw some messages from my brother which I found super sweet and therefore jumped out of bed, saw the sun was shining and got ready.


Watching Road the night before made me feel a lot better about my decision to go. I didn't doubt going as such, but more doubted whether or not my brother would really want me there. Or whether or not I would be too much of an outsider.

But as I watched the film I realised that actually, my passion for this family alone had earned me a place there and that as with any hobby or interest, you have to start somewhere. And this could be my start?

11.6.15

Leathers and Beards

This has been so hard to sit down and write. When I was there, at the Isle of Man, I made so many notes about what I would come back and write about. I even wished my laptop was with me so I could write whilst I was there (I wasn't aware of the clubhouse wifi and powerpoint access).
But then I came home and despite writing a post on my phone whilst on the plane back I haven't been up to sharing it.

The main reason I think, for not writing is because I wanted to keep it all to myself. Not in a "I don't want to tell people what I did" kind of way, but more in a way of wanting to protect my memories I suppose.

I think the other thing is that it is the hardest experience to explain. You literally can not put into words how amazing the island and the event is. I thought I knew what to expect just by watching some Youtube videos and by looking through some of my brothers but the first time you hear the bikes coming towards you (well, not towards you, unless if you are completely irresponsible and are stood in the middle of the road) it is really quite overwhelming and special.
I instantly went from not being into bikes and the sport at all to being hooked. The speed, the sound, the smell. Everything about it.
Before I went I could name 3 of the current racers, and two who had died because of racing. Now, I can name, and recognise the names, of more of the racers. And in the mornings the first thing I check is the TT pages on Facebook rather than Instagram and Bloglovin.
Recording Big Brother has been replaced by recording ITV4 to catch up on that days racing.

I worried that I would feel a little out of place. I don't know much about bikes really, and it's not like I appreciated the noise either. I also knew I would be outnumbered by men, particularly on the campsite and would feel like an outsider.
The truth is, you soon get swept up into it all. Everyone is there because they love bikes, and as soon as you say "Hey! This is my first time" you have your ice breaker to then talk about what you think so far, if you'd be back and so on.
We met so many lovely people whilst there. You just automatically talk to everyone around you when watching the races. You talk about all sorts of things, not just about the racing.
There are people you will never see again, and then those who you click with and who you want to keep in touch with. Those who you've made proper, solid memories with and who made your week what it was. Those people who you hope to meet again, and want everything to be the same.

The weather was a bit hit and miss for the 5 days I was there, which was probably a good thing considering that 85% of the people there are wearing leathers of some kind.
On the Saturday we went for a very long, tiring walk and although I wasn't wearing leather trousers and was instead wearing black skinny jeans, I had that 'Ross from Friends' moment. Fun times when in a small, not quite so pleasant public toilet!
And beards!! So many people....mostly men...had a beard! It was like the "in thing" for TT 2015 to the point that if you didn't have a beard then you really stood out. Other than if you were female of course.

I couldn't have loved it any more than I did....well that's a lie. Seeing William Dunlop (Google him) would have been nice....as would a few extra days.




10.6.15

Summer Mood Board: Picnic Essentials

Now that Harry is in preschool a full day a week (with the others being half day sessions) I am left with one day to myself. So far I've used this time to nap, suffer with a hangover on the Isle of Man, and to spend time with my best friend.

We've said we will try and "do lunch" as often as we can and I think that when the weather is warm it will be lovely to take advantage of local walkways and to go for a power walk, have a picnic break, and then power walk some more.

When it comes to picnic items I love the classic, traditional look and items.
A beautiful throw, like the one below from House of Fraser, creates a beautiful spread to then place pretty plates, cups and wicker baskets upon.

What are your picnic essentials?

Picnic essentials

9.6.15

Father's Day Gifts for Sailing Dad's #TruprintDads

Fathers Day is approaching and this is usually a time when I tend to panic about what the boys can get my husband.
My husband is the kind of guy that buys something if it wants it, which is fair enough, whereas I tend to stick something on a list for these kinds of occasions.
With sailing as our hobby and now being a big part of our lives this obviously makes Father's Day a lot easier when it comes to buying gifts.

I think personalised gifts give that special thoughtful touch and I personally tend to prefer these.

Working together with Truprint on Fathers Day gifts I've come up with some ideas perfect for Sailing Mad Dads.

A photo canvas is an ideal gift for any family member for all occasions. How about a print of a sailing day, or if you own a boat, a print of your boat taking pride of place in your lounge?


A photobook is also a lovely way to display special photos. This is a yearly tradition I am going to continue, with creating a photobook to record our year of sailing.

I saw the saying "I love you a yacht" on Pinterest and absolutely loved it, so decided to have it put on a mug along with a photo of the four of us in front of our boat.
I think the wonderful thing about personalised mugs is that they don't have to be used in their obvious way (ie to drink from) and can be used as either decoration or to hold pens and odd little bits.

The last order date for Father's Day gifts from Truprint is June 15th. Use the code LOVEMYDAD for up to £30 off Father's Day Gifts.

6.6.15

Caturday #2







5.6.15

Five Things | Being a Twin

I'm currently on a mini twinnie break at the Isle of Man with my brother. To mark the occassion I thought I would base my Five Things on being a twin.
I'm not going to lie. It's Tuesday as I write this and I'm sat in the hotel and need to sleep so it is rushed. But you get the jist ;-)


Reactions

I love being a twin. It makes me feel special, it makes me feel important, and it makes me feel proud.
I love telling people, when asked if I have any brothers or sisters, that I have a brother. And when they ask me if he is older or younger than me I simply reply "younger, by 4 minutes". I love that answer. It is either met with silence whilst people work it out, with a giggle or with a "ooooo are you twins?".
People also seem to automatically assume that I have a twin sister, and that my brother has a twin brother. We both get asked, seperately of course, "are you and your twin identical?". 

Conversation Starter

I asked my brother what he thinks is cool about being a twin and this was one of the things on his list. It is true, being a twin is a conversation starter and people do tend to ask questions about it, like do we know when the other is ill and stuff. This is the same for our mum too, it is a conversation starter for her as people can be fascinated knowing what it was like to grow and birth twins.

Sharing Celebrations

I love the fact that I get to celebrate my birthday ever year with my twin. I guess it helps that I think so highly of him, but it's also nice to reach milestones together such as starting school, exams, leaving school and so on.

The Bond

I would say I do have a close bond with my twin. I wouldn't claim that our bond is closer than other siblings. However, there is something super special about knowing that we grew together and that I suppose we are always at the same stage in life, despite going in different directions.

The Morbid Bit

This is horrid I know but it is a big part of being a twin and I can't ignore it because it is a strong feeling for me.
I would feel incredibly selfish if I was to outlive my brother. I've already been on this earth 4 minutes longer than him, and although 4 minutes really isn't much, it does feel like it to me.
I would never make a pact to end it together, or if one was to....you know, then the other one has to...you know.
But personally, I could never imagine living without him here. It would seem too unfair and not how the plan should go.


4.6.15

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork in Dr Pepper

Pulled Pork, although not a brand new concept, seems to be all the rage at the moment. I wasn't really caught up in it or bothered by it, being perfectly happy with a good ol' pork chop.
But, curiosity got the better of me, especially as I wanted to mix up the meals we have at home, and I found a recipe which involved the pork being cooked in Dr Pepper. It seemed a little bizarre as I'd seen it cooked in coke or in orange juice before but never Dr Pepper.
The recipe seemed easy enough. Dr Pepper, Pork, BBQ sauce. Done. No water, no other liquids.
So, I thought 'Dr Pepper, What's the worst that can happen?' (applauding myself for that one) and placed it all on our grocery order.

I wanted to mix it up a little so added a few more ingredients.
It was delicious and I first served it in Taco's with salad and Basmati rice mixed with a little mango and lime dressing.
There was enough left over to then fill two pitta breads, again with salad and two rolls.
It was so versitile and as good cold as it was hot!
This will definitely be a regular on our weekly meal planner now.


Ingredients

Dr Pepper 12floz
Pork joint
Red onion
Half a white onion
2 cloves of garlic
Barbecue sauce

Slice the onions into thin strips. Place in the slow cooker along with two cloves of garlic, sliced, and the Dr Pepper.
Add the pork to the slow cooker, with the fat and string remaining.
Cook on high for 5-6 hours, then remove the pork from the pot, and transfer into a bowl, leaving the juice and onions in the slow cooker . Carefully remove the string and the fat. Take two forks and shred the pork until there are no large chunks left. Add as much barbecue sauce as you would like to suit your taste and mix thoroughly.
Then, place back into the slow cooker with the juices and onions and cook again for 2 hours.
By this time the pork should have soaked up the majority of the juice and will be ready to serve.

Enjoy!

2.6.15

Life Experiences | Tomorrow and Saying Yes

Tomorrow I am going to the Isle of Man. I've never been there before and from Googling and seeing videos on Youtube I am SUPER excited as it looks so beautiful.
The only thing is, I am going to watch motorbikes. Motorbikes! I don't really like or have any feelings about motorbikes.
To me, motorbikes = speed = danger.
However, my brother is passionate about them and when he asked if I wanted to go along with him for a few days it seemed silly to say no.
I didn't say an instant yes though. I tried to think of excuses, and in all honesty I didn't think it was doable what with the school run and preschool run, uniforms to be sorted, swimming lessons and general being a wife and mum stuff.
I'm really lucky in that my mum is so supportive and helpful and has booked some days off work to help out.
I tried to use my anxiety excuse but my brother reassured me that it would be ok, and that he would be there for me. And I trust him with my life and know he wouldn't put me in danger.
There was the flight, and at the moment it's the main thing causing me stress. But I reminded myself that people fly solo every day, and there will be enough people at the airport to help me if I get anxious, or can't work out where I need to go or what I need to do.

There was the money thing of course too. Flight money, and then spending money, when you are a stay at home mum with a limited treat income, but a loan from the bank of mum came in and saved me (which I am so so so grateful for. I really am a lucky girl).
And the fact that my brother was excited, and he wanted me there. I still say he was joking and is now kicking himself saying "Sh!t, I thought she would say no". Recieving Whatapp messages asking if I'd booked my flights and telling me to "just book them already" gave me that push to get on with it.

The build up to it has been wonderful. Planning our days, and watching Youtube videos of the races as well as tour guide style videos of the island has helped to create an image of what it might be like.

I've promised that I am going to have the best experience I can. And that means doing everything my brother suggests we do. No saying no.
I'm ready for the unpredictable weather. I'm ready for disturbed sleep. I'm ready for unhygenic toilets, limited shower time and washing facilities. The only thing I am not ready for is a likely bad hair day...it's too short to put in a pony tail now so I can't handle a bad hair day at all!
Most of all, I am ready to be so overwhelmed with emotions and adrenaline that I spend most of the time crying.


1.6.15

Which Movie Gambler Are You?


This infographic was supplied by Paddy Power

Fish Finger and Creamy Lime and Mango Petits Pois Pitta | Birds Eye #MixUpYourMenu Twitter Party

On Tuesday, June the 2nd, tweet about how you Mix Up Your Menu, using the hashtag #MixUpYourMenu and following @BritMums and @BirdsEyeUK, and you can be in with a chance of winning 1 of 10 £25 shopping vouchers, plus Birds Eye vouchers!

Tweet how you mix up your menu, especially with family favourites like peas, chicken grills, burgers, original fish fingers and wholegrain fish fingers. You can also follow Birds Eye on Vine and watch recipe videos.


The Twitter Party is sponsored by Birds Eye, who along with Birds Eye ambassador Katie Bryson, who blogs at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter, who have loads of fantastic tips and recipes to mix up your menu

For the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with different recipes using our favourite Birds Eye products. Check out my Instagram feed for some other recipes I've tried out.
My favourite being a Fish Finger and Creamy Lime and Mango Petits Pois pitta. 

Lightly toast a pitta bread, and leave to cool slightly so it is easier to slice into to create a pocket.
Cook your fish fingers, and peas (I used petits pois). 
Once the peas are cooked, take a spoonful of Philidelphia and some Nandos Lime and Mango dressing, and mix thoroughly.
Then, simply spoon the creamy pea mixture into the pitta bread, and then place your fish fingers on top and ta-da! 
Enjoy!

I'm working together with Britmums and Birds Eye on the #MixUpYourMenu campaign