Thursday, 17 July 2014

Dressing the Bump

I had a pretty sizeable bump during both of my pregnancies. In fact this photo was posted a year ago today when I was 33 weeks pregnant with JBoy.

I never felt the need to hide my bump. In fact, strangely enough, I had more body confidence when I was pregnant than I have ever had in my life. I wish I could bottle that! I think it is important to still dress well and take pride in your appearance as much as possible during pregnancy. I mean, we all love to slob around but there are times such as work and nights out in those 9 months which call for more than an oversized t-shirt and leggings, comfy as they are. 

Although I believe in dressing the bump, I do think that that spending a fortune on maternity clothes is completely pointless. I loved George at ASDA for maternity clothes. They not only stock the basics but some on trend items too. At the moment they have a beautiful maternity summer collection for those poor souls carrying around a bump in this heat. Here are some of my favourites . . .

Who doesn't love zebra prints. They are everywhere! I love this cute little summer dress, a steal at £10 in sizes 8 - 20. 



I love their floral dresses too. Great for day through to evening wear. They wouldn't look out of place in the office or in the bar (with a soda water and lime!) 

£12 for this pink and black sleeveless dress is a great price. Even though the price is cheap, doesn't mean the product is. I always find the quality is very good and the durability is far better than other discount clothing lines. 

Was £14 - Now £5
Get your money out of this dress if you are thinking about breastfeeding because wrap dresses are a girls best friend when you are trying to whip out your boob in public whilst balancing a newborn on your knee and trying to maintain your modesty. The plunging neck line is great for those oversized pregnancy/breastfeeding breasts and the pattern on this particular one is very flattering. I love this dress, a steal at £5 down from £14. 

Overall I am extremely impressed with George at ASDA's maternity range in terms of price and style. A tip though, you need to be quick when ordering online, as certain sizes often sell out which is testament to the appeal of these items. 

Check out the full maternity range here

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all information is factual and all opinions are my own. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

What I've Learned About Juicing (so far)

I first heard about juicing when I dubiously asked a girl in the staffroom what was in her flask. When she told me it was celery and cucumber juice with some apples mixed in for good measure I thought she was off her head. Another fad diet I thought. I was pregnant at the time and not really thinking about losing weight or nutrition. After Jamie was born I was aware that my sister in law was getting married in 6 months time and I wanted to lose some weight for the wedding. I had seen adverts on Facebook for Jason Vale's new juicing programme '5lbs in 5 Days'. The rest, as they say, is history. I want to share my introduction to juicing and give you a little flavour for it in the hope that you too will find some benefit in it.

Firstly, it isn't a diet. 

The 'lose xxx lbs in xxx days' can suggest that it is just another diet craze but if you look at it like that you are unlikely to succeed as diets, in my opinion, don't work or certainly, they don't work for me. I have been on a diet since I was 16 and all I have achieved is to gain weight. Juicing for me is about getting the best quality nutrition into my body is the most efficient way. Since starting juicing I have had periods of weight loss, stability and gain. However, I have felt great. My moods have stabilised, I have more energy, I sleep better, my skin is clearer, I am free from allergies, my digestive problems disappear completely and I feel in control around food. It isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle choice. Jason Vale talks more about why juicing is the bees knees here.

You don't have to replace all food with juice

The detox programmes such as Jason Vale's 5lbs in 5 days or Natural Juice Junkie's 'Juice Reboot' are designed to give your body a kick start. It is a way to reset your system and detox your body from sugar, caffeine and the numerous nasties contained in processed food. It isn't necessary to do a programme like this although there are many benefits. Having a young family, I find it difficult to do a total food replacement programme as I am still cooking and sitting with the family at meal times. The first 3 days are the worst as your mind is urging you to fail. We are in effect, addicted to sugar in the same way a drug user or alcoholic is on a biological and mental level so you do have to initially fight through that. As I can't avoid food, it is easier for me to only replace breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. I still have my dinner with my family, I just try to make it as plant based and as healthy as I can (stir fry, salads etc). My eldest son is almost 4 and is very aware of what I eat. I don't want him to see me not eating so that is another reason I don't often do total food replacement.

You can involve your kids

I want to be a role model for my children and as this isn't 'another faddy diet' there is no reason not to involve him. Making the juice is so much fun and he loves helping me squish all the fruit and veg down the chute. This is him having his green juice before our 5k Race for Life last week. Since I have started juicing his tastes have really expanded. He has always been a good eater, loves his fruit but not keen on salad veg. He now eats cucumber, lettuce, celery and pineapple. All foods he would have turned his nose up at before. He calls the juices Elf Juice (green) Santa juice (red) and reindeer juice (orange).

You don't need an expensive juicer

By the best juicer you can afford but don't worry if you can only buy the £30 one from Argos. I started with this cheap and cheerful Cookworks juicer and can honestly say it has been fine. The quality of the juice isn't as great, it can be a bit foamy and you do need to shake it up once it's juice to get rid of the layers. You don't get as much juice using a cheap juicer and that is my biggest gripe. I am just about to buy a new juicer and I am upgrading to an Optimum 400 as I have proven to myself that this is something I will continue to do regularly.

My Typical Day

8am - start the day with a ginger shot (sometimes I make a batch of these and freeze them in ice cube trays)
8.10am - Green Juice
10.30am - Herbal Tea
12 noon - Juice (usually another green juice)
3.30pm - Juice (usually a red/orange juice)
5.30 - Family Dinner
7pm - Herbal Tea

Sometimes if I am hungry through the day or later in the evening I will have a piece of fruit, veggie sticks with houmous or a Raw bar such as these .

If I stick to this routine and don't eat rubbish in between I typically lose about 3lbs a week (6lbs if I juice for dinner too) however, as I said before, weight loss isn't really my focus.

You don't have to drink it if you don't like it! 

I bought the '5lbs in 5 days' app which I loved as it had video demos! I didn't follow the plan but I made all the recipes then picked the ones I liked the best. I can't stand beetroot and couldn't take any of the beetroot recipes from this plan. I am aware of all the health benefits of beetroot and I wanted to find a way to drink it so I kept experimenting and looking around juicing sites. I then came across 'The Red One' on the Natural Juice Junkie sight and can honestly say I really enjoyed it! You do have to just look around and find different recipes to try. My go to guys are Jason Vale (The Juice Master) and Neil Martin (Natural Juice Junkie) and their recipes are really my juicing safety blankets but I have found a few good Facebook pages with hints and tips.

You can make your juice the night before

I don't tend to but you can. I find I am much quicker at juicing now and it takes me about 20mins to juice 3 juices in the morning and clean up. The important thing you need to know about storing juices is that they should be kept in airtight containers (filled right to the top) and in a cool dark place, ideally the fridge. If you intend on freezing them, leave a gap at the top to allow expansion when frozen. Juice made in a centrifugal type juicer can be kept in the fridge should be used with 12 - 24 hours max. Juice made in the masticating juicers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Neil Martin has great info about storing juices that you can read here 

It doesn't need to be expensive

If you buy a masticating juicer, several Kilner jars for storing your juice and shop for all your fruit and veg in the more expensive supermarkets then yes, it can be pretty costly. However, if you buy a cheaper juicer (to begin with anyway), use old rinsed out pasta sauce jars for storage and insulated flasks (I bought mine from Asda at 99p) and shop in places like markets, Aldi or Lidl you will drastically cut the cost of juicing. My weekly juicing cost for fruit and veg is about £30. Natural Juice Junkie even created a Budget Juice Reboot which uses less expensive and more readily available ingredients.


Just move yourself. That's my mantra of the moment. I am trying to move more. I am steadily increasing my exercise. My body hasn't been the same since the birth of my youngest son. I am finding it really difficult to get back into exercise and for the first time in my life I don't want to go to the classes I loved before because I feel really self concious about my current physical condition (nothing to do with weight). This is really my next hurdle.

It's not the same as Juice Plus

I've been hearing the words 'Juice Plus' being thrown around. This is not the same thing. There are no pills or powders here. This is real food. I don't claim to know much about Juice Plus other than this is not it. I want something real that is not overly processed. "But juicing them myself is hard" I hear you cry. It's not hard. Beating Cancer is hard, child birth is hard, living with a 3 year old is hard. Juicing fruit and vegetables and god forbid, cleaning the juicer for 10 mins is not hard. Man up and get on with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into my world of juice. For the record, this isn't a sponsored post. Nobody sent me free stuff and I didn't get paid. Everything I have written here is truthful and based on my own experience. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor so don't depend on me for medical advice because that would be ill advised. I do have a first aid certificate in the event of a skint knee though :)

Go forth and Juice x

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Summer Chocolate Delishiousness

Another day, another review of delicious summer chocolates by Hotel Chocolat. Blogging life is so hard!

I was impressed with the quality and quirkiness of these chocolates when I reviewed their Easter range and I have to see I am just as impressed with their range of summer themed chocolates. I tried out the Summer Fusions H-Box which contains edible luxury such as Key Lime Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake, Summer Pudding, Kiwi Smoothie and Blackcurrant Bombe. As you can see from the picture, they not only taste delicious but they are also beautifully presented. Each chocolate is a delight to all the senses. This would be a perfect addition to a summer garden party or an after meal treat if you are hosting dinner. I am so pleased with the quality and presentation of these chocolates that I have ordered some for a friend who has a  birthday coming up.

I have recently embarked on a gluten free diet due to health problems and I am pleased to tell you that I can eat all but two of the chocolates in this pack as apart from the Shortcake Bite and Key Lime Pie, the rest are Gluten Free. There is a mixture of white, milk and dark chocolate so if you are dairy free you can eat the dark ones worry free!

There are 14 delicious chocolates in the box (Summer Cooler, Frappuccino, Summer Pudding, Pineapple and Coconut, Key Lime Pie, Peanut and Banana, Strawberry Cheesecake, Lavender Caramel, Kiwi Smoothie, Peach and Hazelnut Gratin, Blackcurrant Bombe, Burnt Caramel, Choc Fudge Sundae, Shortbread Bite). The price is £13 which might seem a bit steep for a box of chocolates but for a special occasion like a birthday, fancy dinner party or just a special treat for yourself, they are worth the price.

I also sampled delicious Lemon Truffles (my personal favourite) which are silky soft truffles with a lemon curd flavour inside. Truly scrumptious. A true bargain at £3.85. Perfect for a little thank you gift or a treat for someone special.

Disclaimer: I received both products to review but all opinions are completely my own. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Ditching the Contracts

I have been on a contract phone since I left school (which was a wee while ago, ahem). Recently I've been thinking about changing my contract to try and reduce my monthly outgoings. Being on Maternity Leave is a drain in money terms so any savings are a bonus.

Strangely, after looking at Pay as you go on Three deals, a few days later I was asked to review a pay as you go mobile phone with a 3 sim card.

Nokia Lumia 520 was what I was sent. As a handset it's not an overly expensive one. You can buy one from  around £80 and for the money I think it's a great little phone. The phone I received was in Cyan colour making it fashionable looking, a look that would appeal to a younger person too. It works with a Windows phone 8 operating system which took me a while to adjust to but it's very simple to navigate. It has all the functionality you would expect from a budget smartphone.

The main use for my phone (other than texting and phonecalls) is to take pictures. This worried me slightly as I wouldn't want to compromise on the photo quality too much. I was pleasantly surprised. It's not to the same standard as the most recent iPhone or Galaxy handset but with 5 mega pixel it takes good photos and you can download great photo editing apps.

I really liked the little touches such as being able to link your lock screen photo to your Facebook albums so it will show you a different screen saver every time you pick up your phone. I also like the radio mix option which creates a personalised station based on your favourite artists.

As for the contract, I was most impressed.  For a £15 top up you get
* All you can eat data
* 300 mins
*3000 texts
* Lasts for 30 days.

This type of price plan is perfect for me. I don't text or call even near that amount and mostly use wifi or 3g for messages through WhatsApp.  I will be switching to Pay as you go on Three once my contract is up (which is roughly the same deal but a steep £38 a month!!).

I currently use a Galaxy S4 so I may have to compromise on the quality of handset or pay more than I would with a contract but after seeing what I can get for less money, I am pleasantly surprised.

I received a handset to review and a PAYG sim card but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

100 Happy Days

To be honest, I didn't blog about doing this because I really didn't think I would do it. Like pretty much everything else in my life, I thought I would start it and be passionate about it for a few weeks only for my enthusiasm to wane and eventually give it up a few weeks in. But hey! I surprised myself. Tomorrow is my Day 100 and guess what? I am pretty happy.

The point of 100 happy days was not as some Facebook trolls suggest, a means of bragging or attention seeking but a way to point out the little things in life that make me happy everyday. What I have learned in the last 100 days is pretty profound. I have realised who makes me happy, where my joy lies. I have learned about my priorities in life. Looking back on my phone photos each night was an interesting process. Weeding out the dross in my mind and replacing it with an image that encapsulates a moment of happiness has provided me with a more positive outlook on life.

When my friend Angela posted on Facebook about the project I was a bit sceptical about whether this would a) last and b) make any difference to my mood. The space of time between giving birth to Jamie and starting the project was a difficult time. Not because of any mental health issue this time (thankfully) but just because I was feeling bogged down in that new mum territory where all I do is lose sleep, change nappies, feed children, clean up mess, discipline my 3 year old, shout, swear, shout some more, feel guilty, beat myself up a bit about being useless, feed them again, clean again, feel undervalued by my husband who comes in from work to the chaotic mess that I have tried so hard to prevent all day.

I had lost sight of the light. One of the most prominent lessons I have learned is that even on the darkest days there is always light. You might need to try a bit harder and look a bit closer to see it but it's there on the horizon. I look into the eyes of my children, the warmth of touch from my husband, the sunset or rise, the ways the clouds move, the unconditional love of a pet, the acceptance of family, the closeness of friends, the escapism of music, the taste of a favourite food and the wonder of life as a child would see it.

That is where my joy lies.

I am happy. I love and I am loved.

Here's to the next 100 days . . .

Check out my Instagram feed for my 100 Days of Happy 

Some of my Favourites

Friday, 16 May 2014

Giving on a Shoestring - April (Year of Giving)

Yes I know it's May but it's been a busy April and we were on holiday so this is the first chance I've had to blog about my April giving exploits.

I struggle financially every April. I have usually only just got over the 'over' spend from Christmas when April hits me. April is a month full of family and friends birthdays as well as the Easter holidays so it is naturally a time of giving and usually a time of expense. As I am still on Maternity pay, if you can call it that, it barely covers my monthly food bill, I had to make my giving 'budget' this month. 

I recently bought a book called 'A Girl Called Jack'. It's a budget recipe book by a fellow blogger. The opening chapter had me in tears and really started the idea of this month's giving project. Here it is here if you want to go read it and come back ... 

It really is a brilliant cookbook if you are trying to feed yourself and your family healthily and on a budget. I think what I took from reading her post was a sense of perspective. I was, at that time, feeling pretty sorry for myself, feeling hard done by at having to cut back and tighten belts but I was being so closed to how privileged I really am. You forget that there are people in parts of the UK who are dealing with extreme poverty and that children here are going to bed hungry.

We think of hunger and we think of famine in Africa. We don't think about the kids living in our streets, villages, towns who are living with hunger on a daily basis. Obviously the situation in war torn countries has many layers of poverty, social problems and strife making comparison impossible but I believe it is never right that a child should be hungry. Truly hungry. Regardless of what side of the equator they live on. 

So I decided that this April would be a time to give to charities supporting these children. I bagged up all my old clothes and took them to the recycling centre. I emptied my food cupboard of all the non perishables that I knew I would never use and took them along to the local food bank. I set up a link with a local parenting support project and agreed with them that I would be donating books as my children out grow them to be used in their playroom and to be given to families in the local area. I plan on doing the same with Jamie's clothes as he outgrows them. Rather than selling them and making a small amount of profit for them I will donate them to charity or give them to someone who needs them.

On a similar note, A friend of mine on Facebook posted recently about how her son had seen a homeless man sitting out in the street and he felt compelled to go to the nearest shop and buy him something to eat and drink. I think that this shows what a compassionate and thoughtful young man he is going to be. Too many of us sit around and moan about the benefits culture, the immigrants, the homeless. We forget that underneath the label is a person. That person was at some point an innocent child. Someone's son or daughter. Some people take a wrong turn in life. Some people are born into misfortune. At the end of the day you never know what is in front of you. You never know when your luck might run out and you find yourself in a tight squeeze financially or at risk of losing your home. I know if it was me I would hope for the hand of a good Samaritan to offer me assistance or at the very least compassion. 

So I urge you to join me in giving. Look around your house. What could you give away? Look in your food cupboard. Will you use all those tins? Take them to your local food bank. Do you have lots of children's books that are not being read anymore? Bring them to me and I will deliver them to Home Start. You could play a part in ensuring that little tummies don't go hungry tonight. That they are warm and well clothed and have a nice bedtime story to read.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Year of Giving - Mummy March

It's Mummy March!

I am really enjoying my Year of Giving so far. I love planning who to surprise and this month I have decided to make it around the theme of Motherhood. I have a lot of friends who are either pregnant or who have recently had babies. It's a really tough time whether you are carrying your child on the inside, in your arms as a baby or on your hip as a toddler. Unhelpfully, children do not arrive with a manual or a how to guide and it's not always rosy, especially in the early days. I thought of a few mums in my life that I felt needed an extra boost and set about my scheming.

Feeding New Mums

My first gift was to my friend Paula who has just recently had a beautiful baby boy. One of my happiest memories as a new mum was when my friend Christine visited me after the birth of JC and brought with her a delicious home cooked meal. I had been living on tea, cold toast and biscuits so this gesture really meant a lot to me. I decided to do the same for Paula and when I went over for a cuddle with Joshua I brought with me some of my homemade stew, mashed potatoes and veg. I also arranged for COOK Morningside to deliver 8 meals to their house the following week to keep their freezer well stocked. This means that she can have a night off from cooking each week for the next 8 weeks.

Pampering Pregnant Ladies
My other charge this month was my cousin Leanne. She is due a baby in June and is getting to that fed up third trimester stage. She has been really tired and run down lately. She is doing so well though as she has a 3 year old and looks after her 2 year old nephew a few days through the week too. I decided to give her a wee pamper kit. I drew together a few bits and bobs such as shortbread (her favourite), a magazine, bump cream, peppermint cooling spray for tired legs, some nice shower gel and a calming reed diffuser. I popped it all in a gift bag and surprised her after nursery. Leanne is a salt of the earth kind of person. She would really do anything for you and always goes the extra mile for others, expecting very little in return.

Babysitting Service
Sometimes it's the gesture that means more than the gift. My friend Laura has 2 beautiful twin girls but getting out for the night without them can prove difficult. Laura's mum did a lot of childcare for her but she lost her fight to cancer just prior to Christmas. Laura was telling me how she had taken the girls and her hubby out for dinner but had to leave after the starters as the girls were a bit unsettled. I remember this stage well. In fact, on Christmas Eve the same thing happened to me. We went for dinner in a lovely Mexican restaurant. It wasn't lovely. Jamie cried from the moment we got there and John wouldn't stay in his seat. We rushed down our food as quickly as we could and left with me in tears. I think that Laura deserves a bit of chill time so I have gifted her my babysitting services for the evening to let them go for dinner together without the girls.

Preloved Rehomed
The last instalment of giving is something I think most mums are good at. Rehoming the old baby stuff you no longer need. I know that Jamie is my last baby so there is no need to hold on to things like clothes that were never or barely worn. I have bagged up my newborn clothes to give to my sister's friend Holly who is due her baby in the next month. I am also planning to give away my baby books to Homestart Lochgelly (a local branch of the charity that supports mums with kids under 5) as my boys outgrow them. I used my commission from selling Usborne books to buy £200 worth of new books for Homestart this month and the rest of my commission has funded the gifting this month.

Being a mother is one of the most demanding jobs and like most vocations it doesn't come well paid. You end up working your holidays and you are emotionally invested and on call 24/7. You can't take a sick day without feeling guilty and sometimes your efforts are not appreciated to the degree they should be. Motherhood doesn't come with a manual. Even on your best day you can still feel like you are failing. It's not without its benefits though. The smile of recognition when they see you enter the the room. The way they stretch their arms up to you to be lifted. The way they cling to you when feel hurt or upset. The way they curl their finger round your thumb when they are feeding. They way their little heads always smell so delicious. The way the look so peaceful and innocent when they sleep. The way they look at you with love in their eyes when you see them performing in their nursery show. The way the run to you and wrap themselves around you after 2 hours of separation like it has been forever. Its not always the easiest job but it is definitely the most inexplicably rewarding.

Happy Mother's Day