Learning to F.L.Y

My heart races. My breath becomes shallower and shallower. Beads of sweat pour down my bright red face as dehydration sets in. My legs ache and groan as they’re put into unfamiliar positions.

I know what you’re thinking: summer’s coming.

And you’d be right. Nothing heralds the doom-loom of brighter days, soaring temperatures and more flesh on display than a Baywatch episode more than the first treadmill session of the season.

Every year is the same. The autumn long-jumper-hides-everything chill out phase, the Christmas binge fest, the fruitless (literally) New Year resolutions and the ignorance of spring. Each stage an avoidance of one of life’s most obvious conditions: I need to be healthy and take care of myself. And then along comes summer. All heatwaves and suntans. Make no mistake: come the sun, come the invites. The bbqs, the beach trips, the parties, the on and on and on. It’s not, of course, essential that you’re in tip- top form to be able to enjoy the sun, but it certainly wakes the brain up from its dormant Ben & Jerry state to the fact that you’re probably going to relax and enjoy it more if you’re feeling good within and about yourself.

Vitamin and supplement store Hellenia are running a campaign to F.L.Y – First Love Yourself – to remind us to treat ourselves with extra care. After all, as a mum – if I don’t look after myself, how can I look after anyone else?

So this year yours truly is actually going to do something. Well, try anyway. I’m back to the usual and the obvious: take your vitamins, start exercising, up the water intake, cut down your pasta and potatoes, evict the coco bean and the sugar cane and bring in the new tenants fruit and veg. But what about the other stuff? What about the things that stuff can’t fix? Or even what about fixing the stuff that stuff caused in the first place? Well, that’s how I came to discover collagen and the benefits it brings.

For those not in the know, collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is the structural building block present in muscles, cartilage, bones and skin. So just the important stuff, then.

On my fitness travels, I’ve found myself becoming totally confused with the countless array of health supplements on offer. But after discovering collagen, I came to realise that a lot of what I need is right there in one packet. Whether it be to aid weight loss, recover quicker from workouts, rebuild tissue damage from said workouts or even to contribute to keeping your skin smooth and youthful.

This is where collagen supplements come in, taking care of yourself from the inside, improving your skin (always good for the summer) and taking care of your joints – again, an essential if you’re upping your exercise quota.

Collagen will now be a part of my healthy lifestyle as I embark to F.L.Y – what do you do to ensure you look after yourself?

 

Decorating with Your Children & Dulux

We all know the milestones that children hold as their most important defining moments. The loss of a first tooth, learning to ride their bike without stabilisers, even their first day at big school and countless others, but would you suppose that decorating their bedrooms would be top of that list?

Don’t worry, I didn’t either, but after doing some extensive research, Dulux has found that children rate the decoration of their bedrooms really highly indeed and are encouraging parents to work together with their kids to create something really special and unique.

I must admit I’m guilty in not involving my son is the decoration of his bedroom (along with three quarters of parents) – if I’m honest that was due to me being scared that he’d want his room neon green with an enormous mural of a dragon eating a unicorn on one wall or something equally bizarre that his six year old mind could conjure up. But after reading the research and commentary from developmental expert and child psychologist Sam Wass and Dulux creative director Marianne Shillingford – I’m beginning to see the beauty of involving our little ones to create rooms they love and want to spend time in, where their imaginations can grow and wander and they feel safe and happy.

circus

Dr Sam Wass first suggests to sit down with your child and create some pictures, drawings or even collages of what they’d like their rooms to look like, talking about it and giving them a role in the decision making process can give little ones a huge sense of pride. This can even encourage them to keep their newly decorated rooms tidier and want to show their friends something they have put their own stamp on.

Dulux have also created a whole host of looks to inspire children and adults on how to decorate their kid’s rooms (including videos of how to achieve certain looks, which paints and tools you need etc), that with a little imagination and some clever paint techniques – there really is no limit on what you can create together.  My personal favourites being Storybook and Circus, I know the inner child in me would love to disappear in my own little cloud covered bubble with a book in here!

storybook

Seeing these beautiful rooms and feeling the magic of childhood has really made me want to involve my son in the look and feel of his bedroom and give him creative control of his own space – because they’re only little for such a short space of time aren’t they and before we know it, the fairy tale murals and homemade wonderlands will be plastered over with band posters and selfies before we know it.

This is a collaborative post.

The Dress Lyst

Uh-oh. It’s Spring. And y’know what that means? The Mum Coat will soon be prised from our grasping fingers and we’ll be found out.

We won’t be able to get away with wearing the same, possibly slightly stained sweatshirt under cover of the coat on the school run. Or sweatpants when we have absolutely zero intention of going to the gym. Or pyjamas. Maybe. Only that once when you were running really late though. Promise.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, soon, very soon, I may have to spend more than my usual 3.4 seconds to think about what I wear. And if you hadn’t already gathered – I need desperate help.

This is where Lyst comes in.  Lyst is your expert, fashion-forward, personalised shopper who knows exactly what you like. Lyst will tempt you in with a few perfectly cut, beautifully draped old favourite styles, and bravely smuggle in a few pieces you wouldn’t normal think to look at – but it’s OK, Lyst has got your back. Lyst knows.

You see, on signing up, you’re taken through various designers and their key trends and pieces and you tell Lyst whether you like them or not – and based on these, it’s able to generate a whole host of suggestions for you.

Dress Lyst

I created a Lyst of dresses, because heaven knows I need help with anything vaguely feminine or that takes some effort to wear. Another really good thing about Lyst is that there’s something for every budget. Don’t be alarmed by the hand-embroidered tulle or bead appliqued Valentino gowns (and oh my, they are magical) – Lyst also lists the likes of Zara, H&M, TOPSHOP, ASOS and Forever21 to name a few more affordable retailers for those of us with clumsy dispositions or sticky fingered children.

lyst it!

Creating Lysts is really the highlight here, think of it like Pinterest but with clothes. Every item on Lyst has a “Lyst it” button, where you can conveniently keep that cute ASOS denim pinafore dress safe to peruse later. You can also edit these Lysts – Window Shopping, What I’d Look Like If I Had 2 Hours To Get Ready In The Morning & An Unlimited Budget, Brother’s Wedding in June,  Girl’s Night Out – you get the idea.

And because of this, I think Lyst and I are going to be the very best of friends. I may even start a new funky mum coat Lyst for next A/W.

This is a collaborative post.

AfterShokz Bluez 2S Headphones Review & Giveaway

A little while ago I was happy to be asked by AfterShokz to review a pair of their very snazzy Bluez 2S wireless bone conduction headphones – having never ventured beyond the infamous tangle-prone white in-ear earphones, I was really excited to give the AfterShokz a go.

Once they arrived, I realised just how serious the headphones were. The cynic in me was quietly thinking they were a bit of a gimmick, but on inspecting the very cool box and getting my hands on the Bluez 2S themselves – my inner voice was rendered speechless and found herself rather resigned.

Bluez 2S

As they’re wireless, next I needed to set them up and get them talking to my devices so I could start listening. This turned out to go from ridiculously easy, to trickier than it really ought to be – Apple devices and my Chromebook were the simplest, just enabling Bluetooth and pairing with the headphones. But my smart TV? No dice. After a lot of trying and heartache – it didn’t happen and my hopes of watching Walking Dead marathons while everyone else was asleep, just wasn’t meant to be. However after some research, I think this is more to do with my TV itself (LG) than AfterShokz.

Still, I was now up and running and ready to start listening!

AfterShokz Bluez 2S

These aren’t any old headphones, they’re headphones from the future! With normal headphones, the band will go over the top of your head, with the Bluez 2S – the band goes around the BACK of your head, hooking over your ears. Trying them on for the first time I thought they were going to feel really strange and unnatural, but in fact, as soon as they were on – I didn’t even know they were there and very quickly got used to the brand new effect of being able to hear what was going on around me and what was coming from the headphones.

Not sure what I mean? Don’t worry, I shall explain.

The Bluez 2S’s main feature is that the speakers don’t actually go into your ears. They rest just beside your tragus and conduct sound through your cheekbones. As the sound isn’t directed straight into your ear, hence blocking all surrounding noise and ambient sound – you can listen to your music / podcast / audiobook / guilty pleasure YouTube fashion vlog AND hear everything around you too.

This enables better situation awareness; making exercise, travelling, gaming and generally going about your day an awful lot safer for yourself and those around you.

Not only are the Bluez 2S the perfect answer for those with health conditions who can’t wear traditional headphones or earphones that go inside or cover their ears (like my partner), they’re actually a really clever solution to a lot of everyday problems caused by wearing traditional headphones. No more pesky twisted, tangled wires is just the tip of the iceberg.

Obviously being wireless, they do need charging with a charge time of around 1.5 – 2 hours. I found I got around 3-5 days battery life with light to moderate use – a few 30 minute runs, a couple of podcasts and the odd YouTube video. With continual use, I managed around 3-4 hours before they started cutting out.

More Bluez 2S Features:

  • Bone conduction technology delivers music through your cheekbones, ensuring ears remain completely open to hear ambient sounds
  • OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness and comfort during long-term wear
  • PremiumPitch+™ guarantees a premium audio experience, including wide dynamic range and rich bass
  • LeakSlayer™ technology significantly reduces natural sound leakage
  • IP55 certified to repel sweat, dust and moisture
  • Enjoy six hours of continuous music + calls on a single charge
  • EQ presets boost bass and reduce vibration
  • Dual noise canceling microphones exclude surrounding noise, effectively enhancing speech
  • Audrey Says™ voice prompts guide users through power, pair, play and talk
  • Hassle-free 2-year warranty

Overall, I really am super impressed with the Bluez 2S, they make going for a run and nocturnal Netflix viewing a lot easier and more enjoyable without going deaf to everything around me. With a few minor tweaks in the future, such as having an adjustable band and a longer battery life, I think they’ll be unstoppable. Even still, these are by far the best headphones I’ve ever used.

And the best part? I’m giving a pair to one of you lucky lot! Simply check the T’s & C’s and complete the Gleam widget below. Best of luck!

AfterShokz Bluez 2S Wireless Headphones

Disclosure: The Aftershokz Bluez 2S headphones were provided for the purpose of this review; the above opinions expressed and editorial is entirely honest and my own.

“When are you having another baby?”

This morning, I helped a friend after the school run. She had her hands full, was trying to open a heavy gate and push a buggy at the same time. Naturally, she was causing a tailback of parents trying to hot foot it out of the bitter cold after kissing their offspring goodbye, and I was in severe need of caffeine, I selflessly stepped in and helped her out by pushing the buggy for her and immediately regretted my saint-like good nature. In my groggy, half-asleep state, I was ambushed by a gaggle of highly excitable, walking ovaries (broody mums).

“Oh it suits you, Cas!”

“When are you going to have another one?”

“Oh please have another, please!”

And last, but definitely not least…

*dramatic gasp* *suspicious twinkle in eyes* “Oh my God, you’re not pregnant, are you?!”

I did what any self-respecting 28 year old mother would do in a highly personal, uncomfortable, unexpected situation. I whimpered a nervous giggle and ran the fuck away.

I wanted to collapse among the painted snakes and ladders of the school playground and weep. I wanted to let out this all-consuming ball of “I-want-another-baby-so-badly-it-physically-hurts.” I wanted to tell them I took a pregnancy test a few days ago and when faced with a single blue line, I barely spoke for the rest of the day, silently hating myself for getting my hopes up and letting my mind wander. I wanted to say that this burning need to have another baby has simply grown and intensified over the last 6 years. And it’s gotten to the point that I now subconsciously find myself window shopping for baby clothes online when I’m supposed to be buying school uniforms and have shamefully avoided friends and family who are pregnant or have new tiny babies.

I didn’t do that though, instead I scuttled away, burying my face further into my scarf while guilt engulfed me. Why doesn’t one child feel like “enough”? Because he is enough, he’s everything, he’s at the epicentre of our chaos filled lives and always will be.

But what if there’s more?

My heart shatters every time he asks for a little brother or sister, and then thinks for a moment before finally deciding on a sister and I have nothing to say but “I know, baby, I know,” and I have to quickly distract him with something else because my heart’s battering my ribs like a moth caught in a jar.

An ever-increasing age gap that just gets bigger and bigger.

Beating myself up for not being well and for things not being different. Resenting myself for not being able to just say “Fuck it,” and get busy making babies because the need to feel the weight of our newborn on my chest again is just too great.

bean bag

Because what if I get ill again? What if I can’t get out of bed for weeks on end? What if I have another breakdown and end up in a mental hospital, terrified and alone – again? Last time, we were lucky, Noah was at school when the police coaxed me, crying into the back of their car to take me to A&E. He was young enough to innocently accept that “mummy’s just a bit poorly” for my absence. I can never, ever afford for that to happen again but the fear constantly hangs over me.

My head tells me we have to be sensible and responsible, that we still need a few things in place and that we will get there. We will. Honestly, we will. Soon.

While my heart cracks into countless shards, doubt creeps over me like ice and I’m left feeling hopeless, ungrateful and selfish.

My body aches and tears sting my face in the frozen air, my legs struggle as if I’m ploughing through wet cement as I try to get home as quickly as possible. A weight, a tangible real weight over my shoulder brings me back to the present moment. A gentle tinkling sound. I stop dead on the pavement as I realise Noah’s schoolbag, adorned with half a dozen Star Wars keyrings, full of Dennis the Menace library books and twigs and leaves he’s collected is still slung over my shoulder, ten minutes after giving him a kiss and telling him to have a good day.

At that moment, turning around is the very last thing I want to do, I don’t want to see the hoard of mums again. My toes have grown numb while the cold creeps through my rubber soles. But I do it anyway. I turn around. Because against all odds, with both his parents being ill, with nothing turning out like we planned, and even when we didn’t think we could do it, we did good with Noah. And somehow, soon, we’ll do it again.

National Wallpaper Week with Graham & Brown – a Nostalgic Bedroom Makeover

You may have seen that this year I’ve been all about the home improvements. I finally had enough of looking at the sticky, grubby child muck on the walls and doing not much more than giving them an idle scrub with a baby wipe. And while I’ve tackled the majority of the house now, after hours and hours of painting and blisters and aching muscles, one room remained…

Our bedroom. Functional, yes. But pretty? Comfortable? Something to be a little proud of? Not really. It was always at the bottom of the priority list as ya know, we only sleep in there, right? How much difference will it make if it looks nice? (A lot apparently, but I’ll get back to that).

I needed help.

The decorating guardian angels Graham & Brown came to my rescue with National Wallpaper Week (wallpaperweek.com) which is the 5th to 11th of October don’tcha know (yes, it’s a thing) and the opportunity to makeover a room with some of their fancy wallpapers.

Shall we have a little “before” action?

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Even my unicorn collection couldn’t brighten it up.

Enough is enough I proclaimed to the sad walls, brandishing my brush of wallpaper paste menacingly in the air.

Part of this challenge was that Graham & Brown wanted to prove that there was a wallpaper for everyone, and that different styles can evoke different emotions and moods. I went with nostalgia – I wanted the room to be timeless, effortless and full of memories and all the different styles I love – an old faithful that I could rely on to make me feel relaxed and content. I don’t like interiors to match too much or look too uniformed, I prefer the quirky feel where different colours and patterns just sort of work together in harmony. Nostalgia to me means kitsch, junk shop chic, slightly silly and bright.

So I set out to find a bold, graphic print and fell in love with Kensington Charteuse – a Victorian style, hand-drawn print with a modern edge and striking colour-way – the perfect focal point for my mix and match style.

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Kensington Charteuse Wallpaper £15 per roll, Moscow matte emulsion 2.5 litres £27, Lit Arrow £60 – all from Graham & Brown

To compliment the gorgeous wallpaper I wanted a paint that made the paper the main star, but was still a gorgeous shade in it’s own right. I opted for Moscow by Graham & Brown – a beautiful, muted putty grey.

Within a day I’d managed to paint the room which only needed two coats to cover the somewhat dubious pink it was previously (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either). Even without putting the wallpaper up, the room began to feel different and had an air of stylish grown up about it.

The next stage was the paper itself. I’ve never put up wallpaper before so knew this could go very, very badly… But even as a complete novice, I can say with some confidence that it was actually pretty easy without any help. The Superfresco Easy paper is designed so that you put the wallpaper paste directly onto the wall, which saved a lot of faffing around as I didn’t need a pasting table and I didn’t damage any paper with my clumsy disposition. Start to finish it took me around 3 hours and we’re so delighted with the end result.

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And side by side…

before and after

I never saw myself as a wallpaper type person before this challenge. I always felt they made rooms feel too much, too done but I’ve now realised that there truly is a wallpaper to suit any home, any style and indeed any person.

I can’t wait to spend many an evening curled up in my new room with a good book and as many crocheted granny blankets as I can stand!

To find your own perfect (wallpaper) match and events and ways to join in near you, be sure to check wallpaperweek.com.

Disclaimer: All decorating items and products mentioned were very kindly sent to me by Graham & Brown for the purpose of this challenge and post. However all words and opinions are entirely my own.

Holidays-ageddon

We’re just halfway through the summer holidays. That’s just three weeks. HOW HAS IT ONLY BEEN THREE WEEKS? In that time we’ve had a violent sickness bug stampede through the house, my kid’s been stung by a wasp, he’s gone to bed at 10pm and still had the sheer audacity to get up at 5.30am and to top it off, he’s called me a twat.

So all and all, we’re doing alright, yeah?

I reckon parents fall into two groups when it comes to the school holidays and half-term. Unless you home educate – in which case I need the number of your therapist.

On one hand we have the relaxed and calm lot, rejoicing the lack of early alarms, packed lunches and ironing – “Every day is an adventure!” they’ll tell you wistfully, while you wonder if you even have the appropriate footwear to conquer anything vaguely adventurey or outdoorsy. “I can’t wait for all the lie-ins!” they’ll cry happily.

Lie-ins? Eh? If we’re talking about anything past 7am – then I think we need to see other people.

Then we have the second group, quivering and nervous and oozing with self denial about what we’re going to face in the next few weeks, and how are we gonna do it, where routine and everything we know that’s safe flies straight out of the window.

I mean, come on, they must be knackered right? They have to be. Surely they could do with at least one pyjama day with a side order of Disney films and way too many baked goods? Alas no, before you’ve even got to the good bit with the singing lobster – the little blighter has ripped off his pyjamas, adorned them on his head in a makeshift turban leaving him completely starkers and is attempting his escape from a window.

This is the moment when you realise that you’re no longer enough. The second it dawns on you that this feral creature you helped to make needs other children, lots of land, big open spaces and padded stuff to fling himself from and no amount of craft projects, park visits or baking days will tame that for very long at all.

div

Other things that you’ll no doubt encounter over holidays-ageddon:

The day you need to wait around the entire day for a delivery – the elusive 8am – 6pm slot will leave you in a false sense of security that you’ll be able to get out at some point, all the way until it arrives at precisely 5.59pm. Or worse, NOT AT FUCKING ALL.  By which point the kids will have made it their sole priority for you to go completely grey by bedtime, you’ll have shamefully wondered if it’d be really bad if you just locked them outside for a bit, just a little bit and had a mini cry in the airing cupboard under the guise of finally sorting the laundry out.

Two: The relatives are coming! Did you know you can translate “summer holidays” back to an old Norse saying which means “Family will descend on home and cause great discomfort / self-loathing and lust for murder.” It’s true, y’know. Brace yourself for arguments with the other half, a home that smells of a sickening mixture of bleach, freshly cut flowers and potent fear all while your children hate you even more than usual as you’ve hidden their collection of rocks / Kinder Egg toys / dead leaves and brushed their hair too vigorously and told them strictly not to sing Baby Got Back near your mother in law.

And thirdly: Get down with the sickness. “Mummy? Mummy, I think I’m going to be si-” 48 hours of every plausible surface including you, the cat, and OH GOD DON’T GET THE CARPET! covered in projectile vomit. And worse. Simultaneously. You’ll mop their sweat soaked brows with cold flannels. You’ll boil wash every known item of clothing and bedding. You won’t even care too much when they miss the bucket and puke straight over you. The flipside is when you inevitably catch the noro-bastard a few days later. “Can we go to the park today, mum?” asked earnestly while you whimper and crawl up the stairs desperately trying not to shit yourself. Again.

You wait, kiddo. You just wait until your first hangover, I’ll get you back.

However you’re getting through the summer holidays, I salute you – it ain’t easy, that’s for sure. I can guarantee I’ll be the first mum at the school gates on the 3rd, pleading with them to take us back. That we’ve changed and we promise to never be later than 8.40am and we’ll do the reading book every single night, I swear.

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