31.5.18

I Should Be There

I'm not at the TT this year, and in all honesty it is affecting me more than I ever thought it would.

Since the first moment I set foot on the Isle of Man in 2015 I knew it was my happy place.
My island.
My home.
There is a massive piece of my heart left on that island, and I didn't realise quite how massive until right now.

The racing is still in practice stages this week but it pains me, greatly, that I am not planning my days out around it.
How I am not waking up in the morning to my brother suggesting where we can go for the day and what we can do, suggesting where we will watch the racing from. What time to get there. The best place to sit.

I have cried a lot more than I thought I would. I listened to the racing on the app on Tuesday and just hearing the bikes as they leave the start line to make their way down Bray Hill filled my eyes with tears, my skin with goosebumps, my blood with adrenaline.
My mind was there. I could feel it like I usually did but something was missing.
The pound on your chest as the bikes fly past.
The wind whisping your hair around your face.
The smell the bikes leave in their trail.
The anticipation as you hear them coming in the distance.
My legs, uncontrollably doing what I call the "Dunlop Dance"...where I just can't keep still. My breathing loud and heavy. And the biggest smile, as if I couldn't smile any bigger if I tried.
My brothers voice as we hear on the radio that the first bike has left..."Ready Lauren?"
The feeling again of being me.

This sport is part of what made me who I am today.
It changed me.
It helped me grow.
It made me discover who I am.

It's funny how I feel like a hypocrite. How can I say I love the TT and not be there?
I have regrets. I wish I was there.
I wish that right now, I was sat on grass, next to my brother, listening to a crackly radio checking our watches and phones for the times.
Me preparing myself for Michael Dunlop racing past me and just being close to him for a millisecond.
Making an effort to remember other bike numbers and listening so carefully because I actually understand how the race works...not just how good Michael Dunlop looks in leathers.

I keep wishing I could turn back time.
Or stop everything and be there.
To be in my happy place, with my brother.
To be experiencing it with him again.

I don't feel like me. Listening from home.
I feel prisoned.
Reading updates on Twitter and Facebook and not being there.
I should be there.
I need to be there.
But I'm not.


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Sundays #14


On Saturday night, once I'd finished work, we headed off to Thetford Forest in my boyfriends VW T4 for a night of Wild Camping. 

It was lovely as we met up with his best friend and his partner. We all cooked our dinner, and sat around chatting until almost midnight. 
I'd not done wild camping before so it was a lovely experience, despite being woken up by a big car pulling up with a yappy dog in the morning.

After we'd had a breakfast of sausages and eggs in a bap the others went home and we decided to drive to St Helens and go for a walk by the river there. 
It was such a lovely warm day and the river was quite busy. There is a church near the river so we went inside to have a look and then walked back to the van and headed across Norfolk...longer journey than I had planned...to St Benets Abbey. 
I love this abbey and the area. It was even more beautiful due to the weather, despite some teenagers deciding it was a good spot to go drinking (seriously, it wasn't a good spot for drinking so they ruined it a little) and the amount of fresh cow pats on the ground we had a lovely walk.

We popped into the supermarket on the way home to get a tub of ice cream and also picked up some noodles and sauce to go with the chicken we were having for dinner. We had chicken legs and I did an almost 'one tray' style dinner. Chicken legs, peppers, onions and sweet potato with the sauce mixed in and cooked in the oven for just over an hour. Served with egg noodles it was amazing, if I do say so myself. 

We watched a bit of Godfather 2 and then headed to bed.
It's funny how being out in the sun can make you feel so tired isn't it?
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22.5.18

A Lizard called Larry

Maybe I'm a complete loser but one of the exciting things about going to a Canary Island is the lizards you see crawling around the rock walls, volcanic fields, and nature sites.
My boyfriend was determined to catch a lizard before we left and on our last day he found Larry. Now, although it may seem mean and cruel to some that he caught a lizard, Larry was actually quite friendly and came over to us and happily let my boyfriend pick him up. They did kind of forge a close relationship in such a short amount of time.


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21.5.18

A Guide To Boosting Your Make-Up Bag By Receiving Free Beauty Samples

Certain beauty brands offer free samples to potential customers allowing them to try the new product before making a purchase. There is nothing more annoying than spending large amounts of money on new foundations when it does not even match your skin tone correctly. However, beauty experts in the industry know certain secrets about how to get your hands on specific free make-up products, simply by asking for a make-up sample.

Estee Lauder, Benefit and Soap & Glory are among the larger corporations who hand out free make-up samples; but the supplies are limited, so you need to know where to find these samples. Skincare companies, such as L'Occitane and L'Oreal are also known to give out small samples of their new products to potential clients before any purchases are made. There are certain methods whereby you can gain hold of these samples including requesting the products online or asking for samples in a retail store.

While you might not always be able to bag a full-sized tube of Mac brand foundation, it is possible to obtain small pots of the product that are ideal to slip into your favourite handbag for travelling purposes. So, before you decide to splash out on the latest Givenchy lipstick, try to use these top tips to make sure you cannot obtain the product for free before making a purchase.

1. Asking At The Beauty Store Counters

While making a request for free makeup samples in person can be overwhelming, it is something that you should take advantage of. Beauty counters in retail outlets such as Debenhams, House of Fraser and Boots will often have free samples available for customers who wish to try the product before making purchases.

However, you should be aware that make-up artists do not hand the free samples out to simply any person; you need to show a genuine interest in the product before they will give you a sample. According to the freebie hunter at WOWfreestuff.co.uk, Rena, if you are considering spending at least £20 or more on a make-up product, it is highly recommended that you ask for a sample to try beforehand.

Clarins is a brand well-known for their freebies and these skincare brands are often more generous with free products than make-up counters. Just remember that the store assistants will not hand samples out if they believe you are in it to collect the freebie and not try the product.

2. Sign Up To Test Make-Up Products

Large brands will typically send out free product samples in exchange for customer feedback. In some cases, the company will ask for feedback to be sent directly to the business; however, other brands may ask you to share your opinions and thoughts on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

According to Rena, skincare and make-up brands are constantly searching for bloggers and testers to use their products and offer feedback before the item is released to the public. To use the samples, it is recommended that you sign up to the big brands' product testing panels. Of course, not all of the brands will use your services as they may be targeting a specific demographic; for example, a skincare company may be testing products on females between the ages of 20 and 25 years.

Soap & Glory have a 'Beauty Brigade' product testing group where members can register and will be sent products to review from their homes. Another skincare brand, Elemis, allows customers to register for the chance to test new products before they are released to the general public.

3. Feel Unique Pick And Mix

Feel Unique is an online beauty brand offering customers the chance to choose a maximum of five free product samples per month from over 400 sample brands, such as Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation, Clinique moisturisers and Yves Saint Laurent fragrances.

The samples available from Feel Unique are small measuring in at approximately 1.5ml per perfume sample and a single sachet for foundation items; however, this amount can last a long time. You will need to pay an amount for packaging and postage, approximately £4; but you will receive a gift voucher worth the amount paid which can be redeemed in a beauty store.

4. Freebies On Social Media


It is common for people to see items on their Facebook timeline showing skincare brands offering free samples in exchange for post sharing or liking. Unfortunately, the limited number of samples makes it difficult to find the samples and obtain the items. WOW FreeStuff is one website that collects these social media offers allowing you to find them in a single online area.

Current sample offers available from WOW FreeStuff includes beauty samples from Estee Lauder, such as a 10-day foundation and primer. Of course, there are various other options when you register to another sample website.


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Sundays #13

This was our first Sunday in the new house and with a lot of unpacking to do I didn't really achieve too much in that area. 
I did a little bit, the odd box here and there but the morning was spent getting ready for my friends baby shower and leaving do.
The day was pretty relaxed and we didn't get up to much.

In the morning I left my boyfriend at home and me and the boys went into town to buy some balloons, a couple of cards and the boys chose a little pink teddy for the baby too.
We popped to the supermarket to get some lunch and headed home.

After lunch I got a little bit more done in the house, did my hair and at 4 o clock we headed to the pub to meet my friends. 
Unfortunately the weather wasn't as great as we'd hoped it would be and it was quite chilly but the boys had fun by the river and I was so grateful for my boyfriend as he really kept an eye on them for me. 
By 7pm the boys were hungry and the mist had started to roll in which made the temperature drop. 

The boys and my boyfriend had all voted KFC for dinner...Except Harry changed his mind so we drove to McDonald's to get him dinner then went to KFC for the rest of us. 
After a bath the boys went to bed and my boyfriend and I watched the rest of The Godfather which we had started Saturday night. 

The whole day seemed to go really quickly and I think I had stressed so much about my friends baby shower and was disappointed with certain aspects of it but the main thing was that we were there and got to spend a couple of hours together. I think you learn a lot about respect and importance when you try and plan something like that. 

The below photo is one Harry took at the baby shower. I think it is really cute, despite the finger in the way of the camera.

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18.5.18

Crepes in Paris

Last September I was lucky enough to be taken to Paris for 24 hours by two friends.
We basically did a walking tour of the city and were really lucky with the weather so got to see a lot.
I didn't really have anything in particular I wanted to see, but one thing I had to do was to have a Crepe.
I have this thing when I go away that I set myself a mini bucket list and in Paris there was literally three things on my list.
1. Eat a Crepe
2. Eat Escargot
3. Speak French as often as possible (not so easy when they know you are English and speak English to you.

My friends went for a sweet crepe (banana and Nutella...I hate bananas but they did look nice) and I decided to go for Ham and Cheese.
The man working in the Kiosk was lovely, an older gentleman who it was easy to have an innocent flirt with.
I asked if it was ok for me to take photos as he made the Crepe, which he didn't mind and ended up encouraging me and waiting for me to take a photo until he moved onto the next step of the Crepe making. He also encouraged me to have double the cheese I should I have done...which although tasted amazing actually meant it was a greasy meal to eat and walk with.
I loved how when he finished the Crepe he held it up for me to take a photo of too. This guy was photo-perfection and definitely knew how to work his product.



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17.5.18

Unattainable [I can see her in the distance]

I can see her in the distance.
A sparkle in her eye, a smile that is natural. That beams from her face, uncontrollable.
Her shoulders light, relaxed, with little weight on them. 
A little sass and confidence in her step. 

I can see her in the distance.
But as I move closer she gets further away. 
​I try running and every now and then it feels like I am almost there. A little bit nearer to her.
But then, she becomes faint. A blur.

​I'm left in a darkness.
Not quite black. Not yet. Just dark.
Everything around me is faded and every now and then I see and feel a little bit of light, like rays of sunshine coming through.
But they don't quite reach me.

And everyone else. Everyone around me. Slowly breaking away.
Walking in different directions. Into the light. 
I can't keep up.
They get bigger.
And I am getting smaller. 

Smaller. Unnoticeable.
No more sparkle. No natural smile. 
Heavy shoulders. 
No sass. No confidence.

Broken. Dark. 
​Pointless.​
​A walk over. Unimportant.​
​Weak. 

Sometimes I see her in the distance.
The woman I used to be.
But at the moment...she seems unattainable. ​
The woman I want to be. 

Photo credit: Unsplash
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15.5.18

Fuerteventura In Photos | Yoga Centre

We were driving from Caleta De Fuste to the North of the island when I spotted this really beautiful building on the side of the roundabout. As I was driving I didn't have much time or opportunity to really look at the building but said to my boyfriend that I wanted to stop near it one day to take photos.
The following day the weather was just as beautiful and on the way to the same beach we were driving to the previous day, I again mentioned I wanted to take photos.
It felt a little awkward as I wasn't quite sure if the building was being used or if it was derelict and if the writing on the walls was just down to Graffiti, especially as it was so beautiful.
I pulled over the other side of the road and walked over...thinking that I was either lucky by not getting caught or worried that I was going to get chased and shot. The words "COTO PRIVADO RESPECT" were what made me feel particularly nervous, and also a little cheeky for then stepping on the land.
I drove round the roundabout and then down a small lane to the side of the building where I then saw a camper-van and a moped...a sign that maybe it wasn't derelict and then I fully expected to be told off.
The building was even better on this side and I fell in love with the image at the top of the building.

I think the risk was totally worth it.
I am really proud of these photos.

When I came back home I Googled to find out what this building was and searched the web address on the side of the building.

Taken from the website:

"We are a non-governmental organisation, enhancing the positive spirit of each other. Welcome to all kinds of religious and spiritual engagement, with maximal respect to everybody. 
We do Raja Yoga, that is a global form of exercise to de-stress the body by meditation to enhance internal peace and harmony, due to observing, who we are and what makes us happy.
The programme consists of various types of activities which all the family can participate in (childrens age from 4 Years)."

I was so fascinated with everything I read on the website that I feel like I might have to add a break to this Yoga Centre to my travel bucket list.
Doesn't it look stunning?


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13.5.18

Sundays #12


This weekend I moved house.
Rather than feelings of excitement, all i really feel is anger.
Renting is shit. Truly shit.
I work in a kitchen and bathroom showroom and I hear a lot about how "we won't put a decent kitchen in because it's only a rental"...because apparently tenants...those who pay the mortgage for the house you use for your future retirement or pension....or for your second home in Spain...aren't worthy of the same respect, treatment or life you would give yourself.
I'm moving out because in two years I have had no heating in my lounge and dining room. For the first 2 months I had a gas fire...until that was condemned and a 6 months later I found myself, along with my children, huddled around a small electric heater just so we could enjoy opening Christmas presents feeling warm.
I paid £625 a month, never missing a months rent, to only be able to use 50% of the house for half of the year due to being so cold.
For a bath with a crack in it that slowly let's water out.
A shower which leaks. And half of a shower screen which does nothing to hold the water from dripping all over the floor.
For a double oven. One of which has never worked and the other which has no dials so it is a guessing game over whether or not your food will be cooked properly or will come out black.
A shed roof with a hole in...getting bigger...a shed full of electric sockets.
A fence at the back of the shed which was pretty much horizontal...providing little security from the car park behind and leaving your garden open to intruders.
A year of cladding being kept down the side passage...blocking the way for wheelie bins to be brought into the garden...causing bikes and various items being brought through the house, manoeuvring through the slightly poor designed kitchen. Cladding that was supposed to go up at the back of the house to make it look a bit better, to hide the peeling plaster.
Initially I wasn't moving because I wanted to. But more because I felt like I had to.
Because I actually deserve better. My children deserve better.
I shouldn't have to beg and chase for simple things you expect from a house, from a landlord or a letting agency.
Sitting on the floor of what was once Harry's room, trousers ruined from the bleach I am using to make an effort when it's the last thing I want to do, I am clinging on to my peace and trying to not lose my shit and cry at having to work hard sorting this house out, at having to leave the house in a reasonable state so I can try and get some of my deposit back.
Despite living the way I have for 2 years.
Despite begging for certain things to be done.
For moving with a washing machine with rust marks down it from where the boiler has been leaking for 2 years.
For asking for little jobs to be done and nothing being done.
For living in a house with no smoke alarms....Despite it being the law to provide them in a rented property.
Despite the landlady not spending a penny on things that needed to be sorted whilst I have been a tenant.
Two years of a letting agency saying they will get things sorted and placing blame on the landlady.
Two years of a landlady saying she will get things sorted and placing blame on the letting agency.
Tenants have rights. But you have to fight so hard for just the basics. And even harder for the rest.
Two years of no consideration because as a tenant...you don't matter.
Your money does.
But you don't.




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10.5.18

Things I Learnt From Being On a Nudist Beach

When we went on holiday we wanted to find a quiet beach to relax on. We went to one but felt it was too busy and ended up heading back a little bit to a quieter part...which also happened to be a nudist beach.

Although we had no intentions of actually going nude we still settled ourselves down in one of the pods that are self built there and protect your modesty and we really liked it to keep ourselves hidden away.
I chose to wear a bikini, for the first time in 17 years. I thought back to the last time I wore one and how self conscious I was despite not yet having children and having a good figure.
Yet now....here I am...at my heaviest, messy body due to children and bread, but actually feeling confident enough to embrace who I am and the skin I am in. Not influenced by anyone else apart from the pretty Matalan bikini that I couldn't resist.

So anyway, these pods were great for just feeling a little more body confident because although I wasn't hiding away, I still felt a little bit of privacy not being so out in the open unless I chose to stand up or walk down to the sea.

With most experiences I have in life I do like to look back and to at least learn something about it and to be honest, this was a beach...I didn't expect to learn anything from a visit to the beach.

However...going to a nudist beach I thought I would feel uncomfortable and not know where to look.
I'm not going to lie but when you see a naked man or a naked woman walk past you can't help but to look, you just can't.
And it's down to this that I learnt things from being on a nudist beach.

There is nothing sexual about it.

A nudist beach isn't full of horny old men looking to perv over slim naked young women. You won't find a beach full of people having a mass orgy let alone see any couple having sex openly on the beach.
It's not like a pick up point or dogging spot where you can see the goods before you have a go.

Age, size, shape doesn't matter. Confidence does.

You don't have to be a certain age, size, or shape to go to a nudist beach. The main thing is having confidence. Feeling good in your own skin is all that matters. No one goes there to show off, or if they do no one is paying any attention. You don't have to make sure you are trimmed a certain way or feel like you can't go if you have a hairy back. You don't have to be perfectly symetrical, if you have one breast that is slightly bigger than the other it is ok. You don't have to have super soft, flawless skin, if you have stretch marks whether they are faded and silver or red and purple stripes, you are still welcome.

No one is there to judge you or see you. No one there will be offended by you.

The same as above really. Because there are people of all different shapes and sizes and ages no one is going to judge you. No one is there specifically to see you. They are there to spend a day at the beach. To be free themselves and not to spy and spectate on your day.
No one is going to say "You there, put some clothes on. I am offended".

It's just a naked body

After you see the initial one or two naked bodies you tend to then switch off and just forget about it. /i actually felt after a few hours the day before of being in that environment that I would have felt comfortable enough to go topless. I actually didn't brave it, I was about to however after a paddle in the sea and getting told to get out by the lifeguard because the sea was too rough I sort of lost my confidence. However, I would feel comfortable in that environment to go topless. Not bottomless but topless, because boobs are boobs. Boobs do some in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that's what I realised.

We all have skin

We might all dress differently and have different styles and tastes when it comes to dress but take all that away, we are all the same. 
We are all bones with blood, organs, built with atoms and cells and covered in skin. 
We all have blemishes and marks and lumps and bumps and a uniqueness of us. 
What's so wrong with letting that out and being free with that?



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8.5.18

Three things I've done Good as a mum

I find it hard to actually say "I'm a good mum". I don't know if this is something other people feel or if it's just me but the fact I know I could do better in so many ways almost makes me feel like a fraud to admit I am a good mum.

I remember a few years ago at a therapy session writing a list of what it is to be a bad mum and what it is to be a good mum and after going through it I found myself more towards good than bad. In fact I wasn't really near the bad section whatsoever.

I was having a conversation with my mum when I said the words "I did really well with that. And with that. And also with that" and when our phonecall ended I sat and thought about the three events I had mentioned to her and how actually, these events are a pretty big deal to anyone but I managed to make them less of an issue or of a massive, scary, life changing event and was able to put a positive spin on it all.
And if I say so myself...I did brilliantly. 

I guess I realised that some things I'm not good at and I am lacking at when it comes to being a mum. But I have confidence that those bigger things, the bigger events, the times that take you by surprise and you have to think on the spot...those are the times I do well and I earn my "Best Mum" badge.

Divorce

When the boys father and I split up I was pleased that we hadn't got to a stage where we were constantly fighting or arguing, especially in front of the boys. It would surprise me if the boys hadn't picked up on something between us but I think them being so young definitely helped.
I was adamant that I wanted them to know the truth and to not be protected by secrets. 
I remember casually telling them in the car that mummy and daddy wouldn't be together anymore and wouldn't be married anymore because we didn't love each other anymore but would stay friends. 
I explained that they would have two houses, two bedrooms, and the thing they were most concerned about was not having NickJnr at both houses.
I was really proud of how they took it, and I was proud of myself for being able to deliver the news in a way that felt comfortable and easy.
I think with children things only seem a bit deal if you make it out to be a big deal. The bigger an issue you make it, the bigger the issue it is. And yes, divorce and a family separating is a big deal, but it doesn't have to be to children. They don't need to be aware of the hard times, the difficulties and the panicked moments of "what the hell am I going to do now?", of any fall outs or debates going on. 
However, I also let the boys see me when I was crying, I let them see when I was sad, or a little bit angry. Without ever placing blame on anyone or trying to turn them against a parent, I have always felt it important for my children to see me as a person and although they see me as strong and brave and powerful, I want them to see that other side and to know how to react or sympathise with someone who is sad. 
As a result I can confidently say I have raised two children who, although at times get me to the point I am crying, will drop everything to run and get me a tissue, a glass of water, and a ridiculous amount of cuddles to try and help. 
The boys idea of divorce isn't bad. They never got sad or cried because mummy and daddy weren't together anymore, instead seeing and realising that mummy and daddy are happier with their different lives.

Grief

My (ex) mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and was given an expectancy time frame. Telling the boys was really important to us and although I respect my ex I felt that, due to my faith and the things me and the boys have talked about, I was the best one to discuss this with them.
I remember being sat on Charles' bed and tearing up as I told them we talked about my great-nanny and about how she is one of our Angels and is with us. Thankfully the boys have the same faith and belief as me...which I know is maybe a silly thing to say when they are so young but I have always been open with them that they can believe in whatever they want to. They have both had proof of our spiritual belief and therefore their own reasons to believe in the same as me. 
Anyway, digressing, although this moment was sad we were able to bring a positive to what could have been a scary thing for them. 
We discussed how there would be moments Grandma would be poorly and she might not be able to see them and do things with them, and they really understood that. They do have the sweetest, kindest hearts.
The day she passed was really hard. That morning we had discussed going to see her after visiting my boyfriend as we would go past the town she lives in on our way home. Harry had drawn a picture of her as a Superhero. 
We almost popped in to see them on the way to my boyfriends, rather than on the way back but something told me not to. Around two hours later I had a Whatsapp from my ex telling me Nancy had passed.
I was stood in a garden centre. I looked at my phone, I gasped and I looked at my boyfriend, he knew by my eyes what had happened and somehow kept me strong. 
We were going out for dinner and whilst he did some checks at work I sat with the boys in my car and gently said to them that I had some news. Charles knew straight away, but I said the same as when I told them about cancer. That we now had another Angel. Through their quiet, gentle tears, I told them that any time they want to talk to Grandma they could because she would be there listening. Anytime they want to talk about her they could. And that she would never miss a thing. 
I comforted them. They comforted me. 
I was so proud of how they expressed their worry and love for their granddad. 
I was proud of the three of us and how each of us had handled and coped with the initial telling them she was poorly to telling them she had passed. 
We still talk to her. We still talk about her. We all miss her incredibly but I am so proud of how calm their emotions are and how understanding they are. 
I avoided certain words as I think they create a scary, dark image and even now I can't bring myself to type those words as I don't like to associate them with her. I think that's really important, to make sure you choose your words and wording carefully, to really think about how you are going to deliver such news because not only does it make it easier for them, it makes it easier for you too.
 

Moving House

Moving house wasn't something I had really been planning but after two years of emails complaining of no heating in my lounge and dining room, the crack in the bath, the broken fence at the bottom of the garden meaning anyone could come in, the big hole in the shed roof, and then a chance opportunity of moving to a house with heating, a nice kitchen, fixed fences and a landlord that might actually care I had to take it. 
I looked at the house before telling the boys I was even considering it and as I told Harry his eyes filled with tears and he started to cry. Silly excuses for being sad came out which I completely understood. "But we only have two cat boxes and have three cats!" being my favourite.
The thing was, I knew he was scared. He has felt safe here for two years, he feels comfort here, he doesn't understand the fights and stress and emails I send asking, politely, for simple jobs to be fixed. 
I soon did as I did when we moved out of the main family home they lived in before their father and I divorced. I pointed out the downsides to the house. I told them of all the issues we've had. I took them to the new house and pointed out things that were better. "We'll have proper heating" being one of them. And soon enough Harry's tears were gone and instead he was super excited that he would be able to walk to Asda....seriously, children can be very strange! 
With the house move soon on top of us and the boys in single figures of the nights left in this house, I am so glad that when I ask how they are feeling both reply with "a little bit sad but mostly excited. We can't wait to move" and I know that, again, I did something right. 

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