When you feel like you don’t have any friends

When I was growing up, I had two very close girlfriends. We did everything together. After spending as much of the school day together as possible, we’d hang out after school and then at the weekend as well. We were all as different as chalk and cheese and armadillos.

I was obnoxiously extroverted, boy crazy and didn’t give a toss what anybody else thought. One friend was as quiet as I was loud, which made her a sharp observer of human behaviour with a wicked and delightfully absurd sense of humour. The other friend was sensible, passionate and kind. She gave me a hug the moment we were introduced – who couldn’t be besties with someone like that?

I’m not saying we didn’t have our disagreements and falling outs, but those girls were my sisters. We had no secrets from each other and lived in each other’s pockets. When I recently went back to visit after not seeing them for 15 years, it was like we could pick up where we left off. We’d all changed so much, but the basic connection was still there.

It was a wrench for me when I moved across the world from those friends, and inevitably they were no longer such a big part of my life. But a few years after leaving I fell in with another kindred spirit. She and I did our PhDs together and during that time were practically inseparable. Although we both had boyfriends, people used to joke that she was my other partner.

However, student days ended, and we both got married and had kids. We kept in touch but no longer lived particularly near to each other so the relationship became less intense. Then she moved overseas, and our main interactions now are very occasional phone calls, lots of fb tags and a weekly Fitbit competition. Not bad – but not hanging all day telling each other our deepest secrets friendship either.

Friends Help You Move.png

I’ve been thinking about the wonderful friendships that I was lucky enough to have, because lately I’ve heard from more than one person how they feel like they don’t have any good friends anymore. Like, they don’t have anyone who would help them move … let alone help them move bodies.

And I get where they’re coming from. I have many people in my life who I’m happy to call friends, but since my youthful best friends, I’ve never been able to quite find friends who I would admit murder to (disclaimer: I have never murdered, nor do I have any intentions of murdering – this is a metaphor based on a popular saying). I also don’t have any group of friends that I hang with on the regular like I did when I was in my twenties.

I remember looking forward to the chance motherhood was going to give me to meet a whole new group of people. I’d make some new besties at baby groups and since we were all off work we would totally hang together all the time. That did not happen for me. It was actually a bit crushing. I tried to make some good friends but slowly realised that the only thing I had in common with these people was that we had sex during the same year.

I’m not saying I’m friendless. I actually have some lovely friends. I now have two close mum friends local to me (they would probably help me move but secretly resent me for moving away). Those friendships took several years to get to the great stage they’re at now and I hope they continue to grow. I’ve also met some very fun mums at my eldest son’s school. We have boozy and inappropriate nights out and I love hanging with them. I also have some wonderful friends who I used to work with or study with, who I see only rarely but when I do see them it’s a fantastic time.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I’ve come to the conclusion that friendships change when you start to trot towards ‘middle age’. So many people have been telling me that:

  • They’ve lost touch or fallen out with old friends that they valued
  • It’s difficult to make new friends
  • They don’t have time to invest in their friendships
  • They feel bad about not having close friendships or regular social engagements
  • They miss the security and enjoyment of their old friendships and groups of friends

And it’s not just mum friends who’ve told me this. I’ve heard it from at least two different childless male friends as well. They think there must be something wrong with them because they don’t have ‘enough’ ‘good’ friends.

So I want to tell you that, if this is the case for you, it’s not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you for not having the quantity or quality of friends that you feel you should have. My extremely unscientific anecdotal research shows that it’s perfectly normal for friendships to change and become less intense as you get older.

These days, I don’t have one friend who I do everything with. I have different friends for different occasions. Some I see weekly, some I see every few months, some I might only see once a year (or less). They all bring joy to my life in different ways. There’s the friends I talk about my kids with, the friends I go out on the town with, the friends I talk about work with, and the friends who will join me in contemplating the true meaning of life.

So if you’re missing your friendships, step back and consider how you might be having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It’s okay to play bit parts in each others lives. The time you spend together is still valuable. If you have a laugh together, if the interaction is effortless once you’re together, then these are your people – even if you don’t see them often or know everything about their lives, the way you did with your youthful besties. Life is, after all (as a random motivational speaker once said) ‘just a collection of happy moments’.

happy-quotes-happy-moments.jpg

Mission Mindfulness

Advertisements

A clean house is all in your head

I am not a fan of cleaning, and I’m not particularly good at it. I wouldn’t normally remember to wipe down skirting boards or move things to clean behind them. I struggle to find a way of keeping my house in a vaguely respectable state without spending too much of my valuable time on it. When I google for tricks and shortcuts, I mostly find overly ambitious cleaning rotas that make me feel like lying down in a darkened room.

I did try getting a cleaner, but she was never any more thorough than I would be – and sometimes less so – so I didn’t really feel it was worth the money or the loss of privacy.

So I was back to square one in trying to stem the rising tide of chaos in my home. I will never have an immaculate show home, nor do I particularly want one, but I have found that I feel happier if my house is hoovered and my bathroom smells clean. The other annoying things about life are less annoying when your surroundings are pleasant. It can actually have a pretty profound effect on my state of mind.

The problem is I’m kind of busy. I work, I have 2 small children that leave chaos in their wake, I blog, I have a social life, and I even exercise. Where does cleaning fit into this?

I can proudly announce that after years of struggle (and basically inexcusable years of having a much messier house before I had children), I have figured out how to keep vaguely on top of the cleaning. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s working for me. I’ve found by changing the way I think about cleaning, I can be much better at it.

So here are the things that have helped me, in case they might help you too:

You don’t have to do it all at once

I used to plan to “clean the house” as if it were one big job. And because I grouped a large set of tasks together into one, the enormity of the task simply grew in my mind. I would get all stressed thinking about all the cleaning I had to do. I would need to have a cup of tea and a nap to prepare myself for the arduous task. I would end up procrastinating all day and never do any cleaning.

So, I don’t “clean the house” anymore. I do discrete cleaning tasks, as and when I can. If I have a few spare minutes, I run the hoover around just the downstairs, or I’ll pop upstairs and clean the bathroom surfaces. Sometimes I’ll then feel like doing more, and sometimes I won’t. You can prioritise the tasks that need doing, and do just one at a time, when you have time. I’ve actually found this approach saves me from utter boredom sometimes. When I pick up my phone to scroll Facebook for the 27th time in a day, I decide to get out the Mr Sheen instead.

You don’t need to have a set routine

I used to think I needed to hoover the whole house and clean the bathroom every week, and tidy and dust and mop etc etc etc. Now, I clean things when they start to look dirty. I am not a pre-emptive cleaner. If it is dirty, I clean it. If not, then it can wait until later.

You also don’t need to try and work out which cleaning tasks you do on certain days. This helps some people, and I see a lot of these lists around the internet, but for if you’re a cleaning slacker like me, it might just make you feel a bit stressed. Do the task that you dislike the least first. It’s better than doing nothing.

Seize the day

Sometimes you’re not particularly busy and you notice that something is looking a bit mucky. Why not just quickly wipe it down right this minute? It will only take 5 minutes, but if you put off a small task like that or add it to your burgeoning list of tasks to do later, it will just get bigger (in your head at least).

Get a cordless hoover if you can

If you can afford a cordless hoover, it’s a total game changer. Sometimes getting out “the big hoover”, dragging it around and plugging it in is too much for me. I just whip out the cordless and hoover up a few Cheerios when I need to.

It’s totally okay to clean with wet wipes

Sometimes your sink is all full of toothpaste smears but you’re not going downstairs to dig out cif and a sponge, and then moving all your stuff off the edges of the sink. Grab a wet wipe and wipe that baby down. It’s not a thorough clean, but you’ll feel better if your sink looks clean.

Share the load

If you share your home with other adults, they should be pulling their weight with the housework. If you don’t, it’s a bit trickier – but never be ashamed to accept help where it is offered.

My husband and I have specific tasks and areas of the house that are “our responsibility”. These have been agreed based on mutual preferences. It takes a lot of pressure off to know that there are some things I don’t ever have to do! However, if I have a spare moment, then I don’t hesitate to do one of “his” tasks … and he helps me with mine too. That’s teamwork.

When the kids are old enough, I hope to get them to share the load as well. Their future housemates or partners will thank me!

Life is more important

Don’t mentally beat yourself up if you don’t manage to do any cleaning when you’d hoped to. Time with friends and family, and even with yourself, is more important.

If you have any children under 2, pat yourself on the back if you manage to do any cleaning at all. If you don’t, still pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing a great job ignoring those dastardly cobwebs.

On your deathbed, you are not going to look back and wish you’d had a cleaner house. You’ll be glad you cuddled your kids, your partner and/or your pets, and drank wine (or tea) with your friends.

What is your approach to fitting house cleaning into your busy lifestyle? Did you let it grow into a monster job in your head like me? Do you think the bitesize approach will work?

 

Mission Mindfulness

Sunshine Blogger Award: Sweet stealing and spelling

I was invited by the very lovely Anna Brown to participate in the Sunshine Blogger Award. It’s a nice little tag post where someone asks you 10 questions, which you then answer and nominate 3 more bloggers to answer your own 10 questions. It’s a nice way of shouting out to other bloggers you like and learning more about them.

1. If you could visit any point in history for just an hour where, when and why?

Okay this is overly sentimental, perhaps, but give me a break – I’m still in grief mode. I would go back to Florida in Summer 2003, when I was living with my grandparents. I would sit my grandma down and ask her all of the questions I never got to ask, and tell her the things I never got to tell her.

2. What film does everyone else love that you think is totally overrated?

Does it have to be a film? Because the thing that really fits this question for me is Breaking Bad. Everyone thinks it’s so great, right? I tried really hard to watch it, but it just sets my teeth on edge. I had nightmares about the episode with the bathtub. If you’ve watched it you’ll know what I mean.

But I do like that joke that went round, about how if Breaking Bad took place in the UK, the whole story would never have happened because the NHS would sort him out for free and he wouldn’t need to sell drugs.

3. If you were a cocktail what would your ingredients be and what would you be called?

This is a really hard question! I’m no mixologist! Can I be a drink that already exists? I would be a bourbon sour, because it’s classy and complicated but not up itself. Also, it’s American but slowly becoming more accepted in the UK.

4. What five items are always in your handbag?

Besides the obvious wallet, keys, etc., I assume? Too many pens, an emergency sanitary pad, headphones, lipstick and business cards (two types – one for blogging and one for my day job).

5. If you had to lose one sense, which one would you choose?

Hearing because I think you probably lose the least amount of quality of life. You can still drive, see where you’re going, look in the mirror (I’m vain like that), unlike if you were blind. I love to eat so I don’t think life would be worth living without a sense of taste, and your sense of smell is linked to taste. And life without touch would be very lonely. I’m already losing my hearing anyway, I think, from listening to too much loud music as a teenager.

6. Have you ever broken the law? Details required unless a court case is pending.

When I was about 12, I stole some sweets from a store because I really wanted them and didn’t have any money. I felt so guilty that I went back the next day and left the money on the counter before running away. I’m such a rebel, right?

7. How do you de-stress?

I could probably make an argument for running or even blogging, but let’s face it: it’s wine.

8. If you could only eat one meal and drink one drink for all eternity without negative repercussion what would they be?

Does that mean I could only ever eat that thing, or just that I could eat as much of that thing as I want? Anyway, I reckon it would be a spicy chicken tikka masala with some vegetable sides, pilau rice and naan bread, with a Strongbow cider. If it’s a full meal, I would require poppadoms with chutney beforehand and cupcakes for afters. Really moist and spongey cupcakes with lots of icing on top – American ones, not stodgy British ones.

9. If you could choose a week away with your partner/children to ANYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD or a week away solo to the place of your dreams, which would you choose? (and where’s the place of your dreams?)

There are so many places I’d like to go, but my big dream is to go to India, with a mixture of sightseeing and relaxing on a beach in Goa. A week might not be enough. I would either go with my partner and not my kids, or maybe take them when they’re much older than they are now.

10. Tell me three things that make YOU wonderful.

I’m honest, loyal to my friends, and good at spelling.

I’d like to invite 3 blogger friends of mine to participate next:

And here are your questions:

  1. What fictional place would you most like to visit?
  2. What’s the farthest you have ever been from home?
  3. If you could have one day where there would be no consequences for doing socially unacceptable things (not necessarily illegal – just rude), what would you do?
  4. Who would play you in the movie of your life?
  5. What is one song that would HAVE to be on your life movie’s soundtrack?
  6. What is the number one thing on your “bucket list”?
  7. What is your favourite conspiracy theory, that you really hope is actually true?
  8. Would you rather travel to the past or the future, and why?
  9. What is your favourite word? Mine is defenestrate.
  10. Name 3 things you are grateful for today.

The slow runner’s guide to surviving a 10k, and why you should try it

I did it! I ran the London Vitality 10k! I’m pretty amazed that I managed to run the whole way without stopping, albeit slowly. My time was 1 hour and 16 minutes, which is slightly faster than the time I’d predicted for myself. It’s amazing to be successful at doing something that you never thought you could do.

The tips I shared before the race, about how to deal with your nerves and get ready to race, definitely helped me on the day. A few other prep things helped as well:

  • I woke up extra early so I didn’t have to rush getting ready. I faffed around the house packing my bag for the day, and made myself a scrambled egg muffin for a good protein and carb-rich breakfast.
  • I turned up at the race venue early too.
  • I waited at the start so that I was in the front of my start wave. It was fun being at the front, plus I didn’t have to worry about passing people – they all had to pass me instead!

During the race, I had a few strategies to keep me going:

  • I decided not to wear headphones and instead was mindful of my surroundings. It was a wonderful atmosphere, running among London landmarks, and there were so many people cheering, lining nearly the entire length of the course. Strangers cheering you on is a great motivator!
  • My main rule for myself was to just keep running. I knew if I stopped and walked a bit, it would destroy my mojo.
  • I repeated mantras in my head when it got tough: “Just keep running” and “Slow and steady wins the race” were what worked for me.
  • I made sure to get water when it was offered, which I’m sure helped keep me from keeling over.

The finisher’s t-shirt and the rather attractive medal were a nice part of completing the 10k. But the thing that made the experience amazing was the way I proved to myself that I could persevere with something I found very difficult.

In the days after the race, I’ve been finding it easier to make better choices for myself in daily life, because I’ve proven to myself that I have willpower.

Should I sit and have a coffee or clean the house? I ran a 10k! House cleaning presents no challenge to me!

Not to say there aren’t times when coffee would be a better choice. I’m just saying that reminding myself of what I can achieve when I put my mind to something, helps motivate me to do the work I need to do.

You might think that running is not for you. But I’m here to tell you that unless your GP has told you not to, it’s worth at least giving it a try. A few years ago, I would have said that I can’t run. Hated it. Said my big boobs would give me a black eye and no sports bra was up to the job. Said I had weak ankles. But now look what I’ve done!

So please forgive this somewhat NOT humble bragging post, but I am usually better at noticing my shortcomings than celebrating my achievements. I hope that my small triumph will inspire you to have a go at something that scares you, and then celebrate when you succeed.

I ran the London Vitality 10k in support of The Children’s Society. They waived the entry fee in return for my blogging, but I still fundraised £280 to support their work helping vulnerable children in the UK. My JustGiving page is still active if anyone else would like to donate.

How to deal with feeling nervous about your first running event

As my regular readers will know, I’ve been training for a 10k charity run since February. The big day is now upon us, in just 3 days. I feel relatively confident about my training. I’ve been working hard at it, and though I decided not to attempt the full 10k in training, I know I can do at least 8k at a decent speed. By decent, I mean at least slightly faster than walking.

However, as I started considering the practicalities of the big day – what to wear, what to bring, what to eat – I found my stomach tying into knots. I’m pretty worried that the whole thing could go catastrophically wrong in one way or another. One thing I’m worried about, which has happened to me for big events in the past, is to be so excited and nervous that I get an upset stomach.

Running and bad stomachs are not a good mix!

So I decided to reach out to some of my fellow bloggers for advice, figuring some of them must have done a run like this as well. Their answers were all really useful, and just hearing their reassurance has made me feel a lot more confident about the whole thing.

So I thought I would share the advice, for anyone else who might be feeling a bit nervous about their first big running event too.

I find that the nerves end up turning into that edgy excitement feeling and can spur you on in a race. Drink plenty of water and do a fun warm up to help reduce the worry. Once you get going you will forget it all and you will love it. Everyone will be in the same boat but that’s why there is usually a fab atmosphere at big runs.

Emma Reed

Imagine yourself doing the run over the next few days and it all going perfectly. Good luck with the run!

Happy Mummy

I was nervous about my first 10k last summer and then the Great North Run but I just kept remembering the medal lol.

Just Average Jen

I was nervous doing a half-marathon, but remember you WILL NOT be last – by a long shot! I think it’s easy to assume you’ll be the “least professional” runner – it’s never true. Be proud and let your achievement carry you. Remember where you started and how far you’ve come. You got this!

The Mumatron

Go somewhere quiet and just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly for a few minutes. Visualise yourself soaring across that line and the feeling of pride you’ll have when you complete it. (Because you will!😊)

Pink Pink Bear

The build up is absolutely the worst bit. I’m always a mess at the start line and it takes me a mile or so to find my groove. Don’t try to beat the pack and go out too quickly. Just find a steady rhythm and lose yourself in the atmosphere. Then show off your medal at the end. 😊

Mouse, Moo & Me Too

Before a race I pick a mantra and repeat it in my head whilst breathing deeply. Usually something like “I can finish this race” or “I’m strong and confident”. Good luck, remember to run your own race, forget about what everyone else is doing and remind yourself how badass your are for running 10k!

Clare’s Little Tots

So to sum up:

  • Use your nerves to motivate you
  • Enjoy the atmosphere
  • Stay hydrated
  • Don’t worry about your performance – just do your best
  • Don’t worry about anyone else
  • Think positive
  • Use positive visualisation and mindfulness techniques
  • If all else fails, focus on the medal/bragging rights, etc.
  • You (probably) won’t be last (although someone has to be … but it’s no big deal)

Having these points in my head has made me feel 100 times better. Now I have a plan, all I have to do is pack my bag and figure out how to put that timing tag thingy on my trainers.

I’m running the London Vitality 10k and blogging about it to raise money for The Children’s Society, which helps vulnerable children and young people in the UK. If you would like to support me, please go to my JustGiving page.

Have you ever done a physical challenge event? How did it go? Do you have any tips to add?

My toddler drew on the wall so I Stickerscape-d it

I increasingly consider myself a lifestyle blogger, but I’m not sure I really qualify. Because lifestyle bloggers are supposed to have beautiful homes, right? And I don’t. We moved into this house over 10 years ago now and have never painted the walls in the lounge.

We were so busy working and socialising before we had kids that we didn’t really think interior decorating was a priority. Now that we do have kids, who force us to stay in staring at our walls, we are wishing we could spruce them up a bit. But it is utterly pointless. The other day, my toddler took a dry erase marker to the wall. And dry erase markers do not erase off of walls.

Wall drawing.jpg
Here is his masterpiece. What do you think it is? Maybe an expressionist jellyfish.

I find decorating to be annoying and expensive, and the last thing I want to do is go through all that just to have my freshly-painted wall drawn on by a 2 year old. So when Stickerscape contacted me to ask if I’d like to review one of their Thomas and Friends wall stickers, I had a lightbulb moment …

I could use the sticker to cover up my toddler’s wall drawing!

Thus improving the general ambience of the room without having to do any actual decorating. And he is Thomas-mad so I figured he’d be pleased with my scheme.

I chose one that had pictures of all the different Thomas and Friends trains with their names underneath. I thought it might help me keep track of which is which, as I’m a horrible mother who doesn’t know my Gordon from my Percy. It’s also good because you can either use the stickers all in one sheet as they come, or cut them out and put them on different places according to your preference. I decided to go with the former, because otherwise I would put them on all wonky.

The sticker comes rolled up in a poster tube, and then wrapped rather attractively in crepe paper. You unroll it and there are some instructions included. Wall sticker instructions.jpg

The stickers have a plastic backing and transfer paper on the front. So you have to stick them to the wall carefully as you peel off the backing, let them rest for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove the transfer paper. Before and after you stick it, you need to use a plastic card to push the stickers into the transfer paper and then onto the wall. Luckily, I recently lost my Oyster card and then found it after I’d already gotten a new one. So I had a spare card just lying around.

Sticking the sticker

Now, I have to tell you … I have really poor motor skills and am extremely impatient. My husband tells me off because I can’t open the Cheerios box properly – I always rip part of the box lid despite trying not to. Bad things happen to most of the packaging I encounter.

So I can assure you that even the most cack-handed among us can apply one of these wall stickers successfully. I was sure I would end up with at least one bit sort of ripped in the middle, or for the whole thing to go pear-shaped. But it didn’t. It’s really quite good.

And if you have a wall you actually care about, the stickers peel right off without damaging it as well.

Because of the sort of sticker I chose, it doesn’t totally cover up my toddler’s drawing. Some might argue it draws attention to it. But for me, it just makes a dingy wall into a cheerful happy little playspace. And my little one was so chuffed with it that he stood still and looked like a little angel for the picture.

IMG_20170522_143134

I should also add that we have used wall stickers from other companies before in the kids’ bedrooms. Stickerscape is definitely better than the ones we used before, for two reasons. First of all, the licensed content. Not all sticker companies have the likes of Thomas, Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden stickers available. Secondly, the price. The smaller wall stickers all come in less than £20, and in my experience that is very good value  – especially for recognisable characters.

So, if you’re doing up a nursery or child’s room, or you just want to cover something up, take a look at Stickerscape. They should definitely be your first point of call for wall stickers.

Stickerscape is currently offering 20% off on their new Thomas & Friends collection. Use Thomas20 at checkout. Expires 4 June 2017.

Disclosure: I received the sticker free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Tammymum

Clothes that fit your shape with Celuu

When it comes to clothes, I am NOT an online shopper. I find it very difficult to find clothes that fit properly and flatter my size 16 shape, and I hate the idea of having to ship back an item of clothing that I bought online when I find that it doesn’t fit or flatter.

The other clothing problem I have is that I am a mum of small children. This means 2 things:

  • Having babies has changed my shape from what it was before and I’m no longer entirely sure what looks good or fits me.
  • I have no time to comb the high street to find nice clothes.

These two problems are compounded by the fact that much of what is available on the high street caters to women who are a size 12 or less. If I pop into New Look or Dorothy Perkins, size 16 is usually the largest size I can find on the rack. And then it still won’t necessarily fit. It will either still be too tight, or it will just be a massive shapeless tent.

Many high street stores just have a single template for an item of clothing. To make the item a bigger size, they just scale it up. This does not take into account that the proportions and shape of a size 16 woman are very different from that of a size 8 woman.

So this is why I was very interested in the opportunity to review clothing brand Celuu. Born from 50 years’ experience of British design, Celuu offers clothes in sizes 12-22. They aim to follow current fashion trends while still being comfortable and wearable for a normal person. Here is a little gallery of some of their current offering:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The thing I like best about them is their “fit philosophy”. They adjust the design features of the clothes individually for each size in order to make sure they fit properly. This avoids what I like to call the “tent effect” of high street fashion – in which clothes that might have looked attractive on a size 10 look like a shapeless tent on a size 16.

Putting it to the test

Celuu sent me a top of my choice to try out. They have a brilliant size guide on their site in which you can use your body measurements to find out the right size for you. However, I didn’t use it. I just went for my usual size 16 to see how that would compare to the size 16 clothes I’d been trying in high street shops recently (and let’s just say I came away empty-handed and disappointed from all of those trips).

I chose a floral print tunic top that looked like it had a bit of shaping in the waist. I was hoping it would be able to handle my ample bosom and give me a waist. The verdict: I loved it. I even wore it to a blogger event and shouted about it on Instagram:

It fit effortlessly and made me feel really confident and fashionable. The fabric had a nice feel to it and didn’t get creased while I was wearing it – very important as I only iron for weddings, funerals and job interviews.

Like any online shop, if something doesn’t fit or you don’t like it when you’ve received it, you can return the item free within 14 days. But as I said before, that seems like so much of a faff. However, Celuu’s sizing method along with some great photography on the clothing product pages has reduced that risk for me. I was so pleased that the top looked just like I imagined it would after having seen it on the model on the product’s page. There was no photographic trickery or things surreptitiously pinned to sit nicer, the way that high street stores sometimes do on their mannequins.

I also love that the store focuses on sizes 12–22. It seems like there are plenty of stores out there catering for women who are smaller than a size 12, so why shouldn’t there be a shop that focuses on the rest of us? This brand allows us to love the way we look – and feel confident just the way we are – instead of thinking we need to slim down in order to wear beautiful clothes.

Celuu might just have made an online clothing shopper out of me! If you want to give it a go, you can get 10% off your order by entering the code “comp10” at checkout.

Competition: Win a £1000 wardrobe upgrade

To celebrate the launch of their new Spring/Summer range, Celuu are giving one lucky person the chance to win a £1000 wardrobe upgrade! The winner will get to choose a range of clothing from the website up to this incredible amount and really make this season one to remember. Entrance to this exclusive competition is easy: just sign up on Celuu’s competition page, and you will be in with a shot of winning this fabulous prize. Hurry though – the competition closes on the 8th May. Good Luck!

Disclosure: I received an item of my choice to keep from Celuu’s website in exchange for an honest review and sharing their competition details.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

All the things you don’t know about me…

One of my blogger friends who joins in with the #EatSleepBlogRT linky every week linked up a funny post the other week. It had a fact about her for each letter of the alphabet, and I really enjoyed learning more about her in a format that required her to be a bit more creative in how she expressed it. I commented that I’d really like to copy the idea and so she turned it into a tag post!

So here you are, an alphabetical description of some things that are important parts of my personality. To read the original post that started it all, and see more instructions for joining this tag, please check out Heather’s blog, Shank You Very Much.

Shank You Very Much

A is for acting

My childhood dream was to be a musical theatre star, but I never pursued it.

B is for boobs

My boobs are my favourite feature of mine. They aren’t quite what they used to be. They’ve been subjected to pregnancy and breastfeeding and 30-mumble years of gravity. But they’re still mine and they’re great.

C is for cats

I like black & white cats who occasionally bite you when you may or may not deserve it.

D is for Dad

I was brought up by my dad, and he did a smashing job really. Respect to all the solo parents out there doing it for themselves.

E is for Editor

In my day job, I am an editor. It’s not quite the acting dream, but I actually really love it. I dabbled with a lot of other possible professions in my younger days but I was always meant to be an editor.

F is for (the F-word)

I really love swearing. I like doing it and hearing other people doing it (as long as it’s comical/therapeutic and not aggressive). I don’t like to swear on my blog, but if you come round for a drink after the kids are in bed we can turn the air blue.

G is for Geek Groupie

I like a few geeky things like Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and other fantasy books & movies, Comic Book movies etc. But I’ve never quite been passionate enough about any of it to qualify to be a true geek. More so, I’ve always enjoyed the company of people geekier than me – and pretty much everyone I’ve ever dated has been a geek of some type. So that’s why I say I’m a bit of a geek groupie.

H is for Hats

I like to wear very warm, flamboyant hats in the winter. I get away with not blow-drying my hair and just sticking a hat on it. My mother-in-law bought me a real winner this year, and my son is taking after me.

Hats.jpg

I is for Indian food

I am obsessed with any sort of Indian food, from whatever region, authentic or not. Exotic spice combinations are my happy place.

J is for Japanese

I’m also obsessed with Japanese food. Sushi, Teriyaki, Udon – all of it. I NEED to eat it at least once a week. When I was a teenager my dad had a similar obsession, for which I ridiculed him. But it must be in the genes because now I can’t get enough of the stuff. I also find Japanese language and culture fascinating – have studied it a bit – and hope to visit Japan properly one day.

K is for Kitchen

We recently built an extension to our house with a brand new shiny kitchen in it. I’ve always wanted a breakfast bar and now I have one! We have worked for years to be able to get such a thing. When I’m feeling a bit down, it’s wonderful to have a part of my house that is shiny, uncluttered, and just how I like it (unlike the rest of the house).

kitchen.jpg

L is for Listening

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised how important it is to listen. I’m sometimes good at listening to my friends when they need a friendly ear. But other times I’m too self-centred and I forget to listen and think of others. It’s something I’m working on.

M is for Mindfulness

I am still new to mindfulness but I’m learning it’s a wonderful thing for my physical and mental health. It was actually another blogger who got me interested in it. If you want to know more about my new interest, check out my guest post on Mission: Mindfulness.

N is for Nicole

It’s my name … and I can’t think of anything else for this letter.

O is for Only You

My favourite cheeseball movie guilty pleasure from 1994. It stars Marisa Tomei, Bonnie Hunt and Robert Downey Jr before he was Iron Man. It’s about a woman who goes all the way to Italy chasing after a man who an Ouija Board told her was her soulmate. It’s full of beautiful scenery, cheesy lines, cringey comedy and good kisses. I will never get tired of watching it.

P is for PhD

It is a lesser known fact that I have a PhD in English. My thesis was about religion and postcolonial literature. I don’t remember much else about it.

Q is for Questions

Another of my current intentions for myself is to ask people more questions. I talk about myself too much and forget to ask other people things. So I’m trying to think about what I’d like to ask my friends. But I also have to be careful and not ask the wrong sorts of questions!

R is for Rock ‘n Roll

My music tastes are very eclectic. But if someone forced me to pick one, it would have to be rock. There is nothing like a rousing guitar riff. Plus there are so many sub-genres of rock, I’m sure I wouldn’t get bored.

S is for Sugar

The sugar police can go and drown themselves in a massive avocado smoothie as far as I’m concerned. I love sugar. Sugar in my drinks. Sugar in my cakes. The current trend of “giving up sugar” makes me roll my eyes so hard it gives me a headache. It’s definitely bad to eat too much of the stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s always bad.

T is for Truth

I am truthful about things to a fault. Perhaps the T could also be for Tactless, but I’d like to think I’ve gotten better about that over the years!

U is for Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

This is a real thing and they are bloody amazing. They play all sorts of songs on a collection of different sized ukuleles, with a strong dose of humour. Seeing Kate Bush’s song “Wuthering Heights” performed on ukuleles made my life complete.

V is for Vasovagal Syncope

That’s a fancy medical term for fainting. If I hurt myself and I think it’s really bad – like broken bones, gashes, or just extreme pain – I faint. I just check out. I also faint if I don’t lie down when they draw my blood for blood tests. It scares the bejeezus out of people.

W is for Wuthering Heights

If someone asks me what my favourite book is, I always say Wuthering Heights. Of course, I first read it when I was an impressionable, angsty teenager and I just thought it was the most romantic story ever. In my more mature years, I actually think Cathy is sort of an idiot. But I haven’t found another book that has made quite so strong an impression on me.

X is for Xylophone

I don’t really care about xylophones, but there aren’t very many words that start with x.

Y is for Youth is wasted on the young

Do you ever look back at pictures of yourself and think: “Damn, I looked good and had no responsibilities, but I never appreciated it at the time?” I do. I also think how much I would love to sit around studying maths and history, whereas as a teenager I thought it all mind-meltingly boring. It’s a shame that we have to go to school when we’re too young to appreciate it.

Z is for Zippers

When zippers stop working properly and come unzipped from the bottom underneath the pull tab. That just sets my teeth on edge. Aaaagggh.

I’m tagging Becki from The Mum From Brum, Nadia from Scandi Mummy and Jen from Just Average Jen to participate next. I hope you’ll all let me know when your posts are live so I can have a read.

The rules are here:

  1. Read through my post. I know, that seems like a given.
  2. Start your own blog post.
  3. Fill your alphabet in with things that describe you. Or just random thoughts that start with that letter if your brain decides it doesn’t feel like cooperating.
  4. Tag the person who sent this to you and two other bloggers that you’d like to know more about.
  5. Copy and paste these directions above your post so people know what to do.
  6. Pop over to Shank You Very Much to grab the badge code.
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Tips for starting the The 5:2 (Fast) Diet

I’ve seen a few people around lately asking about what diets worked for people, and even specifically about the 5:2 diet, also known as The Fast Diet. So I thought I’d write a little piece about my experience with the diet and some tips to help you if you decide to try it.

I first heard about the diet in February 2013. I had just returned to work after having my first son, and I weighed about 200 pounds (just over 14 stone). For me, that was not a comfortable weight. At lunch one day, some of my colleagues started talking about this diet where you eat just 500 calories (600 if you’re a man) for 2 days of the week, and eat normally (2000 calories/day ideally) the rest of the time.

I thought it sounded like such a ridiculous fad diet, and possibly even dangerous. I also thought I would be extremely grumpy if I didn’t eat enough in a day, and possibly even wouldn’t be able to function.

And because this is the sort of person I am, I decided to read a book about the diet. Just so I could tell my colleagues that I read it and still think it’s rubbish. So I bought the Kindle version of The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley. He is the guy off of the TV show, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, and one of the originators of the 5:2 craze. He tested out the science of intermittent fasting by doing it on himself, and the book lays out his findings.

It was utterly convincing. I gave the book to my husband – who is the biggest sceptic you could ever meet – and he thought it was great too. We decided to do it together.

It took me about 9 months to lose 20 pounds (about 1.5 stone) the first time I tried it. Then I got pregnant with my 2nd son and gained it all back. I started again when I stopped breastfeeding my 2nd, and again lost the 20 pounds. So the weight loss is slow, but that is what makes it sustainable. You will also see from the book that there are other reported health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cancer and diabetes.

I don’t have much in the way of before and after photos, as like a typical mum, I’m not in many of the pictures, especially full-length ones. But here I hope you can see the difference in my face, from April 2016 to now.

So I’ll let you read the book for yourself – it’s a quick read – but here are two lists from me. One with the pros and cons of the diet (and I think the pros far outweigh the cons), and another with a few tips for getting started.

Pros & cons of The Fast Diet

Pros

  • It works around your social life. You don’t have to be the one who can’t drink or have anything on the menu on your night out. Just plan your low-calorie days to work around your life. Ideally, they should be on non-consecutive days of the week, but it doesn’t really matter.
  • It doesn’t cost a lot of money. So many diets require subscriptions, or for you to attend groups or buy specialty foods. This diet isn’t trying to sell you anything (except maybe the recipe books, but they’re not necessary). We found that we even spend less money on food generally because we are eating less!
  • It can work around your family. You don’t need to eat a separate meal from everyone else. The diet works on the premise that in order to keep yourself feeling good on your low-cal days, you should eat mostly plants and protein. So a fast day meal might be some chicken and vegetables. This can easily be adapted for the rest of your family by adding some rice or potato. And, once again, it’s only twice a week – so it won’t really hurt the non-dieters to just eat the same as you.
  • It resets your eating habits. I found that it changed the way I ate even on my “normal” days. I’m less hungry all the time and my appetite is smaller. I don’t get ridiculously hungry between meals and mostly forget to snack! I’ve found it’s easier now to ask myself if I’m really hungry before I eat, rather than just bored or emotional.
  • It improves concentration. You might think that not eating will make you tired or cause you to have difficulty concentrating. But I (and many on the diet) have found that I concentrate better on my fast days.
  • It’s a diet for people who love food. I haven’t had to give up a single food that I love. I’m still allowed cake, chocolate and alcohol! It’s only 2 days/week that I restrain myself. And there are still delicious things to eat on those days, with just a bit of effort. Just don’t totally binge on your non-fast days.
  • You don’t have to obsess over counting points/calories/planning meals, etc. I’ve tried loads of other diets, like Weight Watchers, and if anything they made me more obsessed with food. Constantly counting calories and thinking about everything I put in my mouth is not for me! On this diet, I just plan 2 low-cal meals per day for 2 days per week.

Cons

  • It still requires willpower. I’m not going to lie. It’s not always easy when, for example, your neighbour drops by on a fast day with a beautiful piece of chocolate cake. Or when you’re having a really bad day. But just try and wait until tomorrow to indulge. And if your willpower fails, you can always fast on a different day!
  • It still requires planning. You do have to be careful about what you eat on fast days. You need to eat vegetables and protein in order to feel full. Crisps, chocolate or other junk food is going to use up your calories quickly and leave you starving.
  • The weight loss is slow. I only lose about 2 pounds per week. And some weeks nothing. It did take me about a year to lose those 20 pounds. But they say that the most sustainable weight loss is when you’ve lost it slowly.
  • Sometimes I feel cold or get a headache. The headache means I’m not drinking enough water. You get lots of your water from food, so you need to drink more if you’re eating less. I think the cold is just par for the course. Cardigans and hot tea seem to fix it!

BIG.png

Tips for getting started and carrying on

Think about when you’re going to eat on fast days

Some people have breakfast and then eat again at dinner time. Some people starve all day and eat all their calories at dinner time. I like to eat lunch and dinner. I find it easy to skip breakfast, and actually that eating breakfast makes me more hungry over the day. So experiment and see what works for you. Also think about what fits into your lifestyle.

Think about when you’re going to fast

As I mentioned already, this is totally flexible and can be different from week to week. Just consider whether you find it easier doing some things than others. I find it difficult when I’m with my kids because they’re constantly eating, but if I’m working I just focus on that and forget about food.

Think about what you’re going to eat on fast days

It’s good to start out with a few meals planned. If you’re having 2 meals in the day, it’s probably best to have one 200-calorie one, and another 300-calorie one.

You can get lots of recipes for free on the internet by searching for 5:2 diet recipes or recipes with the calorie value you’re looking for. The Hairy Bikers do some good ones. I also highly recommend the Fast Diet cookbooks, The Fast Diet Recipe Book and The Fast Cook. There are loads of other books out there though.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that you can eat convenience food on fast days. If I’m at home, my lunch will usually be two eggs quickly scrambled with 1-calorie cooking spray and no milk. I stick some salt and chili sauce on top for a quick 200-cal lunch. There are many tinned soups that are 200 calories (Baxter’s Hearty have a few nice chunky ones). You can eat a pretty massive amount of salad with chicken or tuna on top for 200 calories. And you can even get diet microwave ready meals.

I also work in London two days per week and buy lunch out. Pret a Manger, Itsu and Crush all list the calories of their food in the shop so you can pick something appropriate. Pret’s Tuna Nicoise salad with a squeeze of lemon and salt is very filling and less than 200 calories. You can also check most food shop’s websites to see if they have any low-cal options.

Drinking is your friend

No, I don’t mean booze on this occasion (sorry). I mean keep yourself hydrated on your fast days. Keep a bottle of water with you. You can even use one of those fruit infuser things to keep it interesting. Sparkling water with a dash of lemon juice is a good option. You can drink unlimited coffee, tea and herbal tea, as long as you don’t add sugar. If you add milk, try to be sparing as this can rack up the calories. You can use artificial sweeteners if you really need sweetener, but it’s better not to.

If I’m really struggling on a fast day, I do give in and have a diet (zero calorie) soft drink. This is not encouraged but allowed. The sugary flavour really helps me feel fuller.

Get support

See if your partner or a friend will join you at least in eating a fast day meal even if they don’t fast all day. It will be good for them too and great to have support. I also recommend The Fast Diet website. It’s got forums where you can connect with other Fast Dieters and even track your progress if you want.

Be kind to yourself

I’m not going to lie. The first 2 weeks can be tough. But if you stick with it for that long, it will get easier. And if you have a bad week or are sick and can’t do it, this diet has absolutely no guilt. Just pick up fasting again when you’re ready.

Are you convinced?

I should mention that I’m not trying to sell you anything here. This is NOT a sponsored post and I have nothing to gain from you going on this diet. I just wanted to share what worked for me (and is still working, albeit slowly), after years of unsuccessfully searching. I hope you’ve found this useful, and if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.

Please note that this is not medical advice and you should check with a doctor before starting a new diet plan.

Life According to MrsShilts