Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunshine on my shoulders - Journeys of Discovery

For many years travel was a huge part of my life. It brought me to far flung corners of the globe, opened up the world to me and made me think about The Big Questions of Life, rather than 'I wonder if my email signature looks ok in that font'.

Travel is something I still get excited about. Whether it's harking back to my days on the road with a backpack that weighed more than I did, reading other people's stories of living in a Kibbutz, hearing that someone's son \ sister \ friend \ granny is ditching their life to head off on an adventure, or planning that never to happen road trip with the kids across Australia - it always gives me the same little tingle of rebellion.

It's inevitably about more than simply visiting a new country though, it's about making the most of life, seeing the world, meeting interesting people, immersing yourself in a different culture... it's about food and drink and sunshine and laughter and risks and open roads and feeling free.

At best hitting the road is a marrow sucking 'fuck it' to The Machine, at worst it's a forever remembered life lesson.


I didn't want to lose all my travels to my fading memory (thanks for that Byron Bay), so I've decided that I'm going to start noting them down here. If you'd like to share a travelling story too let me know. Or use #journeysofdiscovery so that I can find them.

As someone wiser and not me said - "We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to make Loom Band Footless Sandals

Finally my child has created something with Loom Bands worth posting about. It's no £170,000 dress, but I think they're pretty clever.

The best thing about them though is that they are incredibly easy, so no having to deal with tantrums or strops after your child has spent eight hours trying to figure out how to do something and then failing at the last step of the process. (We've all been there).

So here they are: Loom Band Footless Sandals.

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Step 1:
Take a normal Loom Band Bracelet and put it on your ankle.

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Step 2:
Make another longer one but don't clip the ends together.

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Step 3:
Put two loom bands together for your 'toe ring' and then clip one end of the long loom band piece to it, and the other end to your ankle bracelet.

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Et voila!
Loom Band Footless Sandals

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Loom Band Footless Sandals

Pretty and clever!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Warm Up on the Cool Nights: Ten Essential Items for All the Family


At the moment, with the weather being hot and sticky, it’s essential that you try and prevent overheating – especially when it comes to your children and babies. However, as the seasons change, cooler nights will be upon us, and it will soon be time for us to pull out all of the nice, snug and warm clothing that will help to keep us all toasty afterdark. Check out these ten essential items that will ensure everyone in your family can warm up, and stay warm, on cool nights, without having to spend a fortune on heating bills!

Slippers are a must-have for all family members, and with grownup’s, girl’s and boy’s slippers at George being as affordable as they are fun, you won’t have to break the bank to kit your kids, and you, out in a pair that will last.

Dressing Gowns
It doesn’t matter how old, or young, you are, dressing gowns are a perfect way to warm up on cool evenings. They’re also fabulous for the mornings as well, and are available in some amazing prints and styles, including this gorgeous pink spot print one for £8.

Electric Blanket
Bear in mind the effect on your electricity bill before you turn on the electric blanket. However, it’s a lovely appliance that can really warm you up when nothing else will do.

Hot Water Bottle
The cheaper alternative to an electric blanket, a hot water bottle is a great addition to any chilly bed or sofa. A quick boil of the kettle and you’re away!

Baby Sleeping Bag
You can buy sleeping bags for babies in various different sizes and togs, depending on the age of the baby and the warmth of the room. For summer, a 1 tog bag will suffice, but as it gets cooler, you may wish to trade this in for a warmer tog alternative. Either that, or layer them – but not too much!

Onesies are a great way to look fun and funky, at the same time as being warm and cosy. Available for all of the family, in various colours and prints, there’s bound to be one that you love.

Slipper Socks
If you’re not one for a pair of slippers, slipper socks are the next best thing!

We’re certainly not at the stage where we need to dig out the thermals just yet, but it won’t be long until the winter months are upon us. Thermals are a great way to keep toasty during the winter – they’re also a great item to take with you if you’re heading to a muddy field for a festival at any point over the next couple of months.

Heart-warming Food
It’s known that when it’s a little cool outside, heart-warming food is the way to go. Rather than summer salads and pulling out the barbecue, dust off the slow cooker and make some scrumptious stews, soups and casseroles. There are plenty of slow cooker recipes online for you to have a go at.

A Nice Cup of Hot Chocolate
How can you say no to a lovely, milky cup of hot chocolate during the cooler evenings? Not only is it yummy, but warm, milky drinks help to warm you up too. Go all out with some marshmallows and whipped cream!  

Stay warm on the cool nights, and make the most out of the sunny days that we have left!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Have you ever had a panic attack?

The more I talk to women of  a certain age the more it seems that anxiety and panic attacks are an unspoken pandemic of our generation.

Background, situation, personality seem to have nothing to do with it - admit to anyone that you've suffered from mild to extreme anxiety and the floodgates open - everyone it seems has a story to tell.

Photo Credit

I had my first peep into the world of anxiety about 8 years ago when I found myself in a packed conference room with a large number of my then colleagues. Despite having had numerous similar meetings in the very same room, with the very same people, I had a sudden urge to get to the door and get the hell out of there before I collapsed. The more I thought about collapsing in front of everyone the harder and faster my heart began to beat until I sure I was going to pass out. And there I was - stuck in a vicious circle of fear feeding fear.

After that, every time I had a meeting scheduled in that room I would be anxious the same thing would happen again.

I have no idea what brought on that first attack. And to be honest I still don't know if it was an anxiety attack or a panic attack or even what the difference is really, but once the evil little creature had found it's footing it lived there at the back of my mind, biding it's time until it felt that another appearance was warranted.

The next time it was in a church in the middle of mass. Again a packed room. Again the door too far away. And so I began to recognise the possible flash points and would try to avoid them as much as possible (apologies God and past bosses).

Over the years those moments all but disappeared, but in recent months I've started getting the same feelings again - this time in much more random places. Talking to friends, walking down the road, on a beach with the kids - an intensity of the moment sweeps over me and I begin to feel dizzy, then my heart and mind start racing until I manage to either talk or breathe myself down. Fortunately my moments are mostly mild, fleeting, and controllable. I doubt very much observing me that you would have any idea what is going on inside my head at the time.

It seems odd admitting to it in public. It's still a bit of a shameful secret amongst sufferers I think. It's almost like an admittance of not coping with life. Although I believe strongly that I am. If I'm honest I don't consider myself the type of person who would suffer from such things. Whatever that 'type' is.

But there is it. Not my fault, but my problem.

And I'm not the only one.

On a recent discussion on the subject M admitted to me that 'Lately I've had the constant feeling of butterflies, like I'm anxious about everything. And then I've started feeling near panic attacks about some things that shouldn't make me feel panicky.'

Ruth at Dorkymum says 'Earlier in the year I found myself straying into feeling anxious again, I felt like I had this huge pressure on my chest all the time and was crying at the drop of a hat.'

Lilliwhiterose told me: 'I suffer from Panic attacks, they got so bad earlier this year that my daughter started to imitate me when they happened in front of her. I got a good doctor so they have abated for now. I never ever felt ashamed of it. It is the most frightening experience to go through in that moment and time seems to stop so much so that I feel that my mind and my body are going to stop.' 

Sara, who writes openly about her diagnoses on her blog Where is my Mind? also went through major issues with her condition:  'It was a surprise finding out that that was what was wrong with me, I thought I was dying, my attacks caused me to go unconscious each time. I felt like I couldn't tell anyone outside of my immediate family, and only now after 7 years am I starting to open up about it'. 

Why do they happen:
Although each case is individual many sufferers believe that it's down to the frantic pace in which we live our lives. We run from one task to the next trying to squeeze in just one last thing - 'I'll just do this and then I'll sit down..', 'I'll just finish this before I take a break...', 'I'll just go here before I have a rest...' And of course the sit down \ break \ rest never come because the tasks are endless.

M says that  'I've decided I live life too frantically. I try to fit too much in, I try to get one more thing done on the To Do list and I try to catch up with one more email and everything overflows into the next until I stay up too late and get up too early and end up feeling like I never do anything well enough....The crappy pseudo-strength we call 'multi-tasking' has a lot to answer for. The idea that Women are Good at Multi-Tasking is such a dangerous myth. A few people multi-task well but never for long periods. No one can do several things at once really well for any length of time. This idea that multi-tasking is a strength is an anxiety generating, production reducing roadblock in the path of normal, healthy living.'

Online living also has a lot to answer for. We are constantly connected, constantly checking and rechecking accounts, constantly being summoned here, there, and everywhere. And there is no let up, there is no time to just 'be' in the moment - even if that moment is simply standing waiting for a bus. 

Annie advises that  'The biggest change that's worked for me and stopped my anxiety and worrying is to spend more time offline. It makes a huge difference for me, and as it turns out its not that life is going too fast for me but that I am going too fast to enjoy life.'

Major life changes, a particular traumatic event, or even hormones are other possible triggers. 

What helps:

If your condition is mild like me then many simple things may help - slowing down, disconnecting, breathing, meditationmindfulness, yoga, cutting back on coffee, drinking herbal teas, rescue remedy to name a few. 

But if your life and choices are becoming debilitated due to panic or anxiety attacks, or even the fear of them, then a good doctor should be your first port of call. 

There is plenty of help out there and plenty of people experiencing the same thing, so don't be afraid to open up to someone about it. 

And lastly - never, ever be ashamed of it. 

Further reading:

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Seismic Shift

This time last year I was wrestling with the fact that there was no way I was going to dodge that 40 bullet which had my name clearly emblazoned on it's sharp and shiny tip.

The shot was clean and true and hit me on 17th July, but it didn't hurt half as much as I expected it to.

Perhaps that was because I was too busy grabbing last chances and packing up the family home for a move overseas.

Perhaps it was because I had been mulling over my mid-life crisis for at least nine months beforehand.

Perhaps it was because I was drunk at the time.

Whatever the reason, it turned out that 40 was a pretty big year for me.

Right now, the person stood here looking backwards in a rare moment of snatched peace is a very different one to that frazzled, nervous creature who was packing up boxes and calming little peoples nerves whilst her own unravelled wildly in silence.

Long prior to that time my daily life had become a dumping ground. Huge piles of rubbish, broken dreams, guilt, children, washing and work had built up and buried me underneath them. A huge sign emblazoned with the words 'Just get on with it' was stuck out of the top of the dump and whenever I managed to peak out from underneath those words were all I could see above me.

Perhaps the literal packing of boxes helped clear some of the deluge that had poured down on top of me.

Or perhaps it was just time.

But in one year a seismic shift has taken place.

In place of that shadow there is now lightness and laughter, wisdom and acceptance, strength and understanding.

Part of the shift has undoubtedly been down to finally stretching that unspoken and invisible umbilical chord far enough away from playgrounds, school runs and bedtimes to remember what fun actually felt like.

At first this gentle stretching had to be emboldened by alcohol, but little by little every new extending of the chord, every night out, every child free hangover, every moment re-bonding with friends and family finally brought me to a place where I can walk out that front door with a click of my heels and not feel that heart wrenching pull of the chord backwards until it's time to see them again.

This year has seen me sit outside pubs on balmy evenings hearing strangers life stories. I've headed off on midnight adventures with new found friends. I've danced wildly and badly in pubs and clubs. I've had shouted conversations across tables filled with good food, old friends and buckets of red wine. I've twirled around Barcelona dowsed in glitter and happiness, and  I've bonded with 50,000 people in a field as we belted back lyrics of songs long lived to bands long loved.

And each time I've come home afterwards, picked up my 'Mum' hat, and gladly slotted back into my most important role.

The same but different.

You see it's not that I love my children any less than before, it's just that I love life more now.

Bullet no. 41?

Hit me.

Bonding time with my sister and 50,000 strangers

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Libertines at Hyde Park

'If you've lost your faith in love and music, the end won't be long...'

Image: Steve Cook Photography

Fortunately both love and music were alive and kicking on Saturday night as The Libertines took the stage in Hyde Park.

Having turned up late to numerous warm up gigs it was a relief to see Pete and the gang swagger on to the stage bang on time. As they stormed into Vertigo it was too much for many, the crowd surged, flares were let off and security came running on stage to halt the music. A second false start shortly after had the crowd and group both frustrated. With the band urging the crowd to move back, and ironically Pete pleading with everyone to calm down, they eventually launched into their set again.

It was a riot of brilliance. The set contained hit after hit, Pete looked surprisingly with-it throughout (unlike poor Shane McGowan who preceded them), and the band seemed to be loving it as much as the crowd.

Don't look back into the sun
There were too many highlights to mention - Time for Heroes, Music When the Lights Go Out, Can't Stand Me Now, Up the Bracket, What a Waster and of course What Katie Did (sung especially for me of course).

Towards the end of the gig the music was once again curtailed as some nutters tried to scale the delay tower. It lead to some rambling on the mic from Pete and an impromptu but beautiful Albion.

Image: @DamianSamuels

The set closed with I Get Along, and Pete and Karl ended up rolling around the stage floor in a state of excited relief - the bond between the two clearly visible to all watching.  For Libertine fans it was the perfect end to a perfect gig.

The day was a chaotic, poetic, joyful, beautiful mess - exactly what you'd expect from The Libertines.

Without a doubt - the Albion sails on course.


Full set list:
Boys in the Band
The Delaney
Campaign of Hate
Time for Heroes
The Ha Ha Wall
Music When the Lights Go Out
What Katie Did
The Boy Looked at Johnny
Can’t Stand Me Now
Last Post on The Bugle
Love on The Dole
Arbeit Macht Frei
Death on the Stairs
Radio America
Don’t Look Back Into The Sun
Tell The King
Up The Bracket
What a Waster
I Get Along

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Crazy talk

There are four kids squashed into the back of the car. Three are mine and the other one feels like she might as well be she's around us so often.

They are discussing craziness, or lack thereof in particular people they know. Crazy, it appears, is a very good thing to be.

The conversation is beginning to grate on my nerves.

The one who may or may not be related to us pipes up all chirpy - 'I'm crazy!'

Middle boy immediately shoots her down. 'You are not crazy'

But she is undeterred. 'I'm am so crazy. I'm SOoooo crazy.  Everyone thinks I'm just kray-zee'.

I try and fail to bite my tongue. 'You know that if you have to tell people that you're crazy it means you're not actually crazy don't you? In fact, it actually means you're lame'.

(Ok, ok she is related, I'm allowed these sort of transgressions occasionally).

There is a silent pause from the back of the car as they all contemplate this new knowledge.

Then the 5 year old bursts out 'I'M LAME!'

Which is, of course, exactly what makes him crazy.

Rocking the car goggles

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