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Peace will win

Oh, Nice.

The world is heartbroken.

It is hard to make sense, though, of this world at the moment. The anger and hatred and grief is all around us. It’s incomprehensible in its scale, unbearable in its manifestations. And while it shifts the ground beneath us, unsteadies our stance and disrupts our consciousness – it also strengthens our resolve.

We repeat the mantras: peace will win, fear will lose, we stand together, terrorism has no religion. We say them louder and louder as we hold each other. Determined.

And even as we tuck up our children and check on them in the small hours, we whisper the words: peace will win. Because this has to end.

Last night, I held my children close to me, kissed their soft skin, and cried for the families for whom life will never be the same. For the children whose parents won’t come home. This has to end. I held my children for as long and tight as I could before I thought they will wake. I didn’t want to let them go and be alone in the night. It’s silly. But what is this world they will one day make their own way intro. How can we fix it?

There aren’t any answers. There are, just now, only searching questions in the dark and cries into the void. This is not, though, the way it will be now. For we have to be moved to stand together, to talk, to unite.

Words wont change the world. But we have to start somewhere. By holding hands and talking about why, by making people listen, by telling our children, by being angry, by doing, by bringing about change. This has to end.

Why I will be hiding my grey hair

Kiran Chug

More and more grey hairs seem to be making themselves visible along my hairline. I’ve always had a few, but in the last few years I’ve become more and more conscious of them.

I’ve thought about hair dye on and off for ages. And, up until a few weeks ago, I was determined not to start using it. I didn’t care that greying gave away my age – I thought. I didn’t want to succumb to an expectation that women died their hair as they got older. I didn’t want to give in to a convention whereby we respond to the pressure to look younger – or so I thought. It isn’t that I’m confident about my appearance – I just didn’t really feel the need to make myself look younger.

Until a few weeks ago, when I changed my mind.

I have a birthday coming up, and I don’t particularly like birthdays. I find myself, every year, wallowing in a state of discontent for weeks. I feel like I’ve failed to achieve what I once thought I might have done by the time I reached this arbitrary count of days. I measure myself up against what my idyllic teenage self once thought I’d have done by this time, and I fail miserably and resoundingly. I take stock, and I don’t like it.

Once, before I knew really anything about life and people and myself, I had daft expectations of it all. This by this age, that by that age, etc, etc… I’ve known for a long, long time that life doesn’t turn out the way your teenage self thought it would, but I still can’t help, every birthday, feeling like I’ve failed. (For the rest of the year, I’m generally more able to see all the good in my world and feel mostly incredibly happy about it.)

But, given that the point in the year when I feel most rubbish about myself is nearly here, the grey hairs are taking up too much of my time. Not because I’m dying them, but because I’m thinking about them. All. The. Time. In fact, I’d probably spend less time on them if I was actually standing in front of the bathroom mirror and pasting them with chemicals every few weeks.

I know well the argument that women become invisible as they age. It makes me annoyed and generally disheartened by the values society places on women. But my reason for caring about my greys is pure vanity. When I see a salt and pepper hairline in the mirror, I don’t feel very pretty. Over the years, I’ve bought into what ‘pretty’ is and come to value it. Grey hair doesn’t fit in the image I’ve built.

Whether or not that’s because of a social construct of what prettiness is, isn’t my point. My point is that I’ve bought into the image, and I can’t stand up to it – even though I thought I would. I don’t mind being older, per se – so long as I don’t look like I’ve aged. I don’t feel confident enough in how I am and how I look, I suppose, to let the world see me in this natural state as it veers away the vision of non-greyness.

I’ve tried to quiz my husband on my greys. ‘Do you notice them? Do you think they make me look old?’ Of course he won’t answer because he doesn’t believe me that I won’t hold his answers against him during a future tiff. But, it’s not really about him or what he or anyone else sees.

This is about me and my mask and my armour. When you’re feeling down about who you are and what you’ve done, you need to pull strength from somewhere. That strength is a front, and my front is the layers of make-up, the heels on days when I don’t feel like I measure up, and – soon – a shade of hair colour bought in a bottle.

I wish I wasn’t so shallow. I didn’t think I would be at my age.

Rewilding and remembering New Zealand

Anatori Golden Bay New Zealand

I’m not sure what’s brought it on, but I’m homesick for New Zealand. In nearly eight years of life there, I never quite stopped feeling like an outsider in a country which wasn’t mine. But, at the same time, I also felt very much connected to that place –  because the more I grew to love and understand it, the more I let it become a part of me.

In 2005, I landed there a city kid. New Zealand changed me.

I never grew to love the wind in Wellington, but it was the start of my introduction to a life lived outdoors. Gales which knocked me off my bike also taught me about living with a respect for the elements. Tony dragged me camping and I complained loudly and insisted on powered sites so we could plug in the coffee machine – but I’ll never forget our first night under stars. I woke early and just after dawn, walked down an empty beach, shared only with an oyster catcher who warned me away from her nest.

I came to love being away from the city. I remember having a pointless argument with Tony once and driving half an hour up the road to spend the weekend alone. I didn’t eat or read or really do anything other than walk along the coast and swim in the sea. Here:Marahau Golden Bay New Zealand Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay was my happy place, our happy place, where we went after we got married, where we went for countless weekends, where we went just to ‘be’. The tip of the South Island, just a couple of hours from our little flat, was where we went to recharge, to do not very much, and to marvel again and again at how lucky we were. I found a few old photos tonight, including this one, taken at Collingwood on my birthday one year. We’d hired a one-bed studio for a night and walked for hours until an estuary and the tide made us turn back.Collingwood Golden Bay New Zealand

It was in NZ that I swapped the treadmill for running outside for the first time. And now, in London, where I seem to have stopped every form of exercise other than yoga, I miss the freedom of mind that brought. This was snapped at the end of a good run, outside a hut we used to escape to with friends. It was on the west coast of the top of the South Island. Mangarakau swamp was our secret. I learnt about the birds, the plants, the trees, the bush, the land. Down the road, we let the freezing wild ocean rush up to our feet on the shoreline and I never imagined what it would be like to miss a place so much. I didn’t know, then.

Mangarakau Golden Bay New ZealandAnatori Golden Bay New Zealand

And now, in London, I am trying my hardest to bring up our children to love the land and weather and elements and environment around them. I want them to experience it in a way I don’t think I wanted to as a child, but long to do more and more as we continue our lives in the city.

For a family living here, I don’t think we do badly when it comes to getting out in the fresh air. The weather might not always be on our side, but that doesn’t stop us from choosing to brave the elements and head outside. We try to spend as much time as we can outdoors – choosing the park or the forest over staying inside. We have to, I think. The children love getting out, they burn off their energy and sleep better for it, and it saves the house being turned upside down again.

But I have been thinking recently about whether we could do more with that time that we’re out. Instead of scooting to the park, again, or walking our familiar woodland route again – couldn’t we push things a little more? Are the children too young to explore more independently? I don’t think so.

I’ve been thinking about rewilding and initiatives like Project Wild Thing. I have no doubt that less screen time and more time simply just exploring and being outside would help us all sleep better, worry less, and smile a little more. The outdoors does make us happy – there’s no denying it. It lifts the pressure, eases the strain and relaxes our shoulders. We’re kinder on each other, gentler with ourselves, and better at keeping the world in perspective once we’ve really been out among it.

Our weekends don’t need to be filled with trips to the sea or mountain walks – but we do need to make sure that opportunities are still there for the children to have adventures in the natural world around them. I want them to feel confident that this world is out there to forge a connection with.

Our life is here now, but there is so much from our old life that I want to share with our children. I learnt to love and respect the outdoors – I think children do this instinctively. The city knocked it out of me once. I hope I can ensure the same doesn’t happen to Milin and Jasmin.

 

Mother’s Day

Lindt chocolates for mothers day

It’s been hard to ignore that Mothers Day is on the way. I’ve been thinking, mainly, about how very lucky I am – there are few people I respect and admire more than my amazing mum. What she’s done for me, and what she does every day while looking after my children so I can work – I haven’t found a way yet to express the depth of my gratitude.

I will be treating her to a few little things next Sunday – although not in person because of some exceptionally poor planning on my part. But I hope she feels loved and appreciated and I hope she has a rest. After that, I hope she takes lots of time for indulgence and pampering.

As for me, this will be my fifth Mothers Day. I’m planning to take a little time out, not on the day, but sometime around it, just to be by myself. Does that sound strange? It’s a day after all that celebrates a relationship with the people most precious to you.

Maybe I’m selfish – but I’d like a few hours to go to the shops and buy a new pair of shoes, without hurrying because of the impatience of my toddler. I’d like to get my nails done, because it’ll mean sitting still for an hour, without having to feed anyone or wipe their bottoms. Lastly, I’d like to get to a weekend yoga class, because usually me-time at the weekend falls between the hours of 9pm and midnight on a Sunday. I spend that ‘me-time’ getting the cleaning done.

On Mothers Day itself though, I’ll be with my babies. If they’re very lucky, they’ll be sharing these delicious Lindt chocolates from the new Mothers Day selection with me. The coffee’s all mine though.

What will you be doing for Mothers Day?

Lindt chocolates for mothers day*Thank you for the chocolates Lindor – they’re perfect for Mothers Day – and delicious! 

 

Little changes for a new year

January seems to be hurtling by so fast – and I can’t believe how long ago Christmas already feels. We’ve had a really busy start to the year and there’s already been lots of good but sadly, also, lots of not-so-good. I don’t really do resolutions, but given that this will be our first full year in our new home, I am making some little changes which I hope to see through for at least the length of 2016.

You know, already, that we love our little home. We’ve been here for six months now and we’re really making it our own. We haven’t got pictures up on the wall yet and the children still need bookshelves in their room… but slowly, we are making this space ours. We love it – but the one thing I really don’t love, is the mortgage.

And so, this year, if there’s one ‘resolution’ I’m making, it’s that I really have to start being better with money. It’s not that I’m bad – I understand what comes in, what goes out, I budget, I try to save, I’m organised with it, we have savings accounts, a pension plan… but I could be SO much better on a day-to-day basis. Above all, I could save more and spend less.

I’ve been a little slow to adapt my spending habits to fit the reality of our new outgoings and this month, that’s changing. We didn’t get a holiday last year because we were unsure if the house purchase would come through. This year, I’m desperate for one – but it means saving our pennies.

So, there’s a few simple things I’m doing which I’ll hopefully keep up throughout the year.

I’m being more organised with our family supermarket shop – spending less, making weekly lists so we buy only what we need when we need it, and sending Tony so I’m not tempted by all the things!

I’m also going to spend less on the children. I know it sounds mean, but they don’t need all the presents I buy for them and it’s time to stop spoiling them.

Most importantly, I’m buying less clothes. I have wardrobes full of clothes which I barely wear and there’s just no point – they’re expensive, they don’t make me happy, I can’t stand the clutter, and I’d rather save my pennies for a holiday!

These are just little things, but hopefully they’ll make a difference. I love these tips too from TSB on new year money resolutions – and if I did all of these things, I think we’d definitely deserve to book a holiday! (Not the point, I know, I know…)

But anyway – here’s my inspiration – a picture of our last holiday. Here’s to hoping we save enough for another one this year.Kos, Greeceswimming pool*This is a sponsored post

 

The Aldi Challenge and our weekly shop

As far as girls’ night gossip goes. I know that supermarkets aren’t usually high on the list of favourite subjects. But I had my sister and a very good friend around for dinner on Friday night and this is what we got on to. (After talking about handbags, discussing diets and moaning about our husbands, of course.) I’d just emptied a new packet of crisps into a bowl and both of my lovely girl guests wanted to know what they were. And that’s how we started talking about Aldi.

(For the record, the crisps were sea salt and lime and they really were delicious.) I’d picked up two bags last Friday, along with a gazillion other things. Not only were the crisps I was serving from Aldi, but most of our meal was made up of ingredients from there too. It was a chickpea and spinach curry on rice – simply hearty fare for dinner after the children finally went to bed. Our local Aldi branch is a ten minute drive away but, until last week, I’d never been inside.

Aldi had set me a challenge – could I do my weekly shop there? I was definitely prepared to give it a go. We have all the major supermarkets within a fairly easy distance of our house. I’m pretty disloyal and go through phases with all of them. The cost of a weekly shop is the biggest factor for me in choosing where we go – but I tend to ‘top up’ for nice added extras at the more expensive chains that Tony would have heart failure if I did our entire shop in.

I go through phases with online shopping too – I love the convenience, but often I’m not organised enough to book the Friday morning slot and so I take the kids and call it an outing. I get frustrated with substitutions and fruit that’s going out of date the next day too – so going in store really does have its bonuses in my view! The children love it as well and are good little helpers – so if it’s something we have time to do, I like doing it with them.

Anyway, back to Aldi – I’ve never been in despite hearing how cheap it is. I went on a Friday afternoon with the children, and I’m so glad I was alone. It would have been really difficult with them as the shop was really, really busy. I asked the woman at the checkout if it was always like this – and she said it was.

And then she gave me the total: £69. I couldn’t believe it. I’d bought beef burgers, salmon, mango, pomegranate, wine, toilet roll, some crisps, a few pizzas, filled fresh pasta, and ALL the fruit and veg and groceries we would need in a week. I really couldn’t believe how little it had all cost.

I’d filled a standard trolley. We buy a lot of fruit and vegetables – and I love berries and exotic fruit so out of season these can really add up. This trip included two capsicum, mushrooms, courgettes, onions, broccoli, carrots, banana, oranges, apples, raspberries, blueberries… and more! (Although I was disappointed there were no strawberries as the kids can’t live without these!) We also always buy wine, bread, and eggs, tinned tomatoes – the usual stuff. Most of our cooking is from scratch with fresh ingredients, so herbs and spices always get into the trolley too. While I was in Aldi my sister-in-law called and we arranged for her and my brother-in-law to come for a take-away that night. So, I popped a couple of pizzas, three bottles of wine and two bags of crisps into the trolley too!

Through the course of the week I think I subjected the shopping to a lot more scrutiny than normal. Maybe it was cheap because it wouldn’t taste good? However, it’s safe to say that everything was fine. I was disappointed with the bananas – but otherwise, the mango was amazing, the berries delicious, the crisps yum, the meat and fish great – and the wine? Brilliant. I didn’t eat the pizzas but Tony and our guests also gave them a big thumbs up and they saved us a fortune on a take-away. I was particularly impressed with the non-branded muesli (I don’t think I’ll ever buy branded stuff again!) and the kids’ chocolates also went down a treat despite not being branded – they obviously tasted the same!

It’s safe to say I’ve been converted. I wasn’t brave enough to buy the non-branded nappies and wipes, and the kids like certain yoghurts which I couldn’t get and my rice milk wasn’t there either – so there are a few things we’ll be heading to another supermarket for – but otherwise, Aldi has won me over. I’ll be sending Tony though – because the crowds aren’t for me and I really don’t want to go there with the children in tow! As for Tony? He’s delighted. He’s always on at me about saving money and he couldn’t be happier about doing the shopping when it means we save so much as a result of where he goes.

Aldi weekly shop*Thank you to Aldi who paid for our weekly shop – pictured above!

 

Freelancing and motherhood – how to make it work

I can’t believe it’s almost a year since I returned to working in an office. When I look back at how my work life has changed since becoming a mum though, it’s not been a straight-forward path from maternity leave to employment.

I took on my first freelance commission, a series of articles for a national newspaper, the month Milin was born. A few months later, I started writing two columns a week for a multinational parenting site. I wrote regular features too, and kept up the freelancing during a short stint back in the newsroom as a staffer.

The day Jasmin was born, I had articles appear in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. I cleared emails and brainstormed ideas while breastfeeding my newborn at night. Freelancing gave me the ability to keep on earning and upskilling while having two children only 18 months apart.

It’s over three and a half years since Milin was born, and while I’m working four days a week now in an office, I still keep up a little freelance work. And, it feels like more and more mothers are doing the same.

Freelancing has given me and my family so much flexibility. What I sometimes struggled with, though, was that I missed having colleagues. I missed the office. I missed bouncing ideas off other people.

I wish I’d known about Hiive when I started out – because I think a lot of these issues wouldn’t have mattered so much.

Hiive is a creative network that offers users a portfolio platform, job opportunities and access to careers resources. It’s designed to encourage discussion and collaboration within the creative industries.

For a writer who works for themself, it’s the perfect place to showcase a portfolio and hear about new leads. But it’s also a lovely little place to build a community. For all of us freelancers who sometimes want to discuss projects and ideas with people but don’t necessarily have a network of people around us – it’s perfect. If you’re looking for people to work with or embark upon creative projects with – you can see their portfolios and talk about things with them, all through Hiive.

Hiive would have been brilliant for me when I started writing freelance. Even though I had nearly a decade of working as a journalist in newspapers behind me, I didn’t have much confidence in putting myself out there creatively, for myself. The community that you can build at Hiive would have helped.

Now that I’m into my fourth year of combining freelance writing with motherhood, I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learnt along the way. I know so many new mums decide freelancing will offer them the flexibility employment won’t – so I hope some of these help!

1. Know that you have someone backing you. I don’t mean financially – I mean emotionally. Whether it’s your own mum, your husband, or a career mentor, have someone by your side cheering you on. It’s hard as a freelancer to deal with lapses of confidence – but having someone who believes in you (even when you don’t) will help you keep going.

2. Don’t just have one cheerleader – build a community of them. Ok, so this isn’t about getting your entire netball team to write great reviews about you on your website – it’s about finding like-minded people to connect with. It might be building a creative swarm around you on Hiive, whatever it is, a network of contacts to bounce ideas off, share contacts with and turn to for advice is invaluable.

3. Be strict with your timing. It’s so easy to work at every spare minute – because if you don’t, you don’t get paid. But allocate yourself set work hours when you have childcare and stick to them. It might be that you work every night from 8pm-midnight (I used to do this). It might be that you get three hours every Saturday morning. Whatever it is, don’t do the housework, don’t agree to pop to the post office… it’s your time to work and earn. Make it count.

4. Take time off. Chances are that as a freelancing working mum you work late, sleep little, and survive on coffee. Remember though, that if you’re knackered at the end of the week – you won’t make that deadline. Also, a few hours off at the weekend will mean time with your children – and that’s way more fun than working.

5. Believe in yourself, and make others believe in you too. Know what you’re brilliant at. I’m a trained journalist, I’ve only ever been paid to write. I was never going to make a living as jewellery designer (although that would have been lovely). Do what you know, ace it, believe you can ace it, and go out there with your head held high.

If you’ve got any other tips, I’d love to hear them!

freelancers desk

*This is a sponsored post.

The Perfect Jumpsuit for Summer

jumpsuits zara H&M Stella McCartney

I’ve been wondering about whether to get a jumpsuit for ages. Every time I’m about to take the plunge, I convince myself that either I’m too old or too short or they’re too much effort to go to the bathroom in… But, finally, about two years after everyone else, I’ve found one that could finally make my mind up for me. Look how lovely it is…

Zara jumpsuit

It’s a Zara jumpsuit that’s online now and – basically, I love it. The high waist and gathering around the top of the trousers are the features that are calling me me. I also love that the suit is so simple and could be worn with flats or heels.

I’ve also been admiring this Stella McCartney number – although you would bake in it over summer!
stella mccartney jumpsuitThere’s so many printed jumpsuits around at the moment too and while I think these would be so much fun to wear, I don’t think I’d have the confidence to pull one off. Here’s my current favourites though – let me know which ones you love. I’m definitely still picking the plain black Zara number as my favourite!

jumpsuits zara H&M Stella McCartney

 

New Tree Fu Tom DVD Giveaway

Tree Fu TOm

Tree Fu Tom is one of Milin’s favourite TV characters and he has loved watching the new DVD. I’ve got one copy of Tree Fu Tom Saves The Day to give away too – just enter below!

The new DVD features six adventures set in Treetopolis. If you’ve got a little Tree Fu Tom fan at home (like Milin) then they’ll absolutely love it. Their favourite characters will all be there, and the excitement of the six new episodes will draw them in.

Tom – in case you’re not familiar with him – looks pretty ordinary at the start of each episode. But, he’s actually a superhero. He puts on his special belt, performs a set routine of moves to ‘turn the magic on’ and then the adventures begin!

This hit CBeebies CGI animated series Tree Fu Tom really is a nice one for little kids. The characters are all likeable, there is nothing scary, and the fantasy land Treetopolis is brilliant for sparking young imaginations. Since watching the new show, Milin has been acting out lovely little adventures and getting me to join him on them – I love seeing him turn his imagination to something he has seen on the screen and make it his own story.

He can’t resist doing Tom\s magical moves too when he watches the DVD. Too cute!

tree fu tom magic

I’ve got one copy of the DVD to giveaway. Entering is easy by the Rafflecopter below – good luck!

The DVD features six action-packed episodes:- Ranger Tom: Super Helper, Tom and the Warble Weeds, Super Squirmtum, Ranger Tom: Fun Guy, The Golden Spore, Twigs’ Tall Tale.

TFT_Tom Saves the Day DVD
a Rafflecopter giveaway

T&Cs here.

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