My 5-day simple pre-Christmas Detox

What is it about the magic of Christmas that makes you excited? The fairy lights? The chance to spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest? Or perhaps the turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pud, chocolates, and the never-ending finger buffet?

It doesn’t matter what it is, most foods makes me feel uncomfortable (unless its cheese because, lets be honest, there’s no such thing as too much cheese). And whilst its inevitable that I’ll put a couple of pounds on over Christmas, its the bloating that I hate. And its not just over Christmas itself, I primarily feel bloated in the lead up to it.

My weakness is bread and all manner of bread-related food. I could eat a whole loaf in a day if I let myself. But unfortunately, whilst I have learnt to eat bread in moderation (I have two slices of toast each morning), it still makes my feel bloated, even the wholewheat seeded variety.

Having a calm tummy makes my day so much better and I’ve learnt over the years a few tips and tricks to enable me to have an enjoyable festive season. Please note that this is in no way a diet, I’ve just learnt to be in tune with my body and its needs. I’m lactose intolerant and have to substitute some foods – my post about it covers some of that – so I have quite an awareness of food generally.

I’ve discovered that just 5 days are enough to help me feel better, and the changes to my everyday life are tiny. No green juices or gym memberships here!

  1. Drinking lemon with hot water each evening. Lemons contain calcium, potassium and vitamin C and helps both digestion and your colon.
  2. Walking more. Taking the steps instead of the escalator at the train station.
  3. Reducing my bread intake. Not all carbohydrates, just bread.
  4. Eating more vegetables. I already eat plenty of red peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, garlic, squash and leaves, but I feel much better for adding a few stems of broccoli here and there – it goes a long way. Bananas and ginger specifically help to reduce bloating. Try spiralizing vegetables to get them into your diet – courgetti with your spaghetti!
  5. Getting more sleep. Everybody needs more rest but so many people over look it. Take time to look after yourself.

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    These are some of my favourite fruits and vegetables

These are simple steps for me, and don’t involve drastic changes to my life or habits. I try to live by them but ordinary life does get in the way sometimes. A positive outlook and an awareness of what you are doing – eating, sleeping, moving, etc, – all helps. So far, on the 4th day of December, I am feeling quite well and have no bloating issues yet.

Finding motivation within

Staying motivated to achieve a particular goal can be hard; whether its to lose some weight, get fit, eat well, read more, make time for others, the list goes on.

We put so much pressure on ourselves these days. Our working hours are longer then ever, we face difficult commutes and to top it all off we still have to do the more mundane tasks like bathing, washing, getting the kids to bed and finding time to eat. Its a wonder many of us can find the time to fit in any hobbies during the weekdays. I’m sure we all feel that we could do with an extra hour or two in the day sometimes.

I don’t think it helps when we switch on to social media and see idealised lives and images. Sure the quotes and captions are designed to be inspirational, but when I’m stuck in a rut I struggle to see a way out and being confronted with motivational images and captions makes me sink even further; comparing myself to those who clearly have far more time on their hands to work for their beach body.

I go through many phases in the course of the year, each and every year. I, like many others, feel the need to eat well and healthier at the beginning of the New Year, and to try and become fitter. A general push towards wellness and having a healthy balanced lifestyle. Usually, though I’m motivated following the Christmas splurge, January is actually a hard month for me because its my birthday and one of the busiest months of the year at work. Then its February and I hate that month – rainy and miserable – I really don’t want to have to trek to the gym!

But despite struggling to fit it in and having to traipse up town in the rain, I am always pleased when I fit a work out in or make a healthy choice (as opposed to a Greg’s sausage roll!)motivation quote1

I was very happy earlier this year in July when I achieved my weight-loss goal just in time for my holiday. I’d been trying to lead a healthy lifestyle since the previous August, but really stepped it up a gear in January. Unfortunately, once we returned from holiday I lost all my motivation to work out, though I did continue to try to eat healthily to maintain my weight. By September I’d cancelled my membership altogether.

And thats the point when I realised where motivation came from. It comes from within. Not from buying the latest gadget to help you achieve your goal, or from being jealous of those who are achieving their goals and trying to emanate them. Its finding something you love so you can stick with it.

Then, it dawned on me that whilst I have always wanted to be active in some way, running was just no longer comfortable for me (I have ligament problems) and that instead of doing it half-arsed I should find something else. Something that still allows me to feel like my muscles are moving, but without putting so much strain on my body.

This month, I started taking yoga and Pilates classes, one of each a week. And I have never been so excited to go to class before! Pilates satisfies my desire to try and be toned and to build up core strength using only my own body weight, and yoga helps me stretch and to improve my (apparently non-existent) flexibility. I feel the stretch and pull after each class and even in a short couple of weeks I’m noticing improvements. I can safely say, I am enjoying myself keeping active in a way that is sustainable.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about motivation, why it ebbs and flows and why some people barely seem to suffer at all. Yes, you need a positive attitude and a support network would be ideal, but I believe it comes down to this:

  1. To look forward to reaching your goal but being content with the journey it takes to get there. It may be a long road, but the journey is just as important as the destination.
  2. Little and often. You don’t have to completely change your life in order to achieve something. You just need to make one little change, and try and practice that everyday. Don’t feel bad if you eat a pizza after promising yourself it will be another salad for dinner. Accept it, and move on. The whole day is not lost just because of one decision. Get back up and start again!
  3. You might feel uncomfortable now, but being happy in your skin knowing you are doing what you can do, at your own pace, should bring you some peace and comfort.

motivation quote2We’re heading in to the Christmas season now and its going to be so tempting to indulge in chocolate and all manner of sweet and savoury goodies, but a little bit of awareness goes a long way. I’ve decided not to deny myself any treats, but to not overeat either. I’ve found over the last few months that the key to maintaining my weight whilst not working out is to enjoy the naughtiness but know that I don’t need to eat a whole tin of Celebrations to feel enjoyment.

Lets say positive to avoid the age-old January detox next year!motivation

 

An Introverted Perspective

For much of my young life I was quiet; hearing all but saying very little. I wasn’t loud or boisterous and hated being the centre of attention. Instead, I was softly-spoken, and would prefer to take myself off to a quiet corner to read.

Whether academically or socially, I struggled in large groups. I was a bit of a sponge and could soak up what everyone else was contributing, but felt uneasy giving my two penny’s worth.

When I left school for college I really came out of my shell. I wasn’t much louder but I began to be able to express my opinion. In part, and certainly with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that this had a lot to do with becoming acquainted with a much larger group of friends than I had been used to at school. Becoming ‘myself’ outside of college really helped my education; I had undervalued how much my own opinion could shape my learning and help me to understand and improve.

I’ve been working full-time for a number of years now and I’ve felt myself change. I’ve progressed and attained more than I could have imagined since I left school, but in some ways I’ve also regressed. It was only when I first started this blog that I realised how limited my vocabulary had become as result of my legal training. And I lamented that loss. I had excelled in English at school, both in literature and language, and was ashamed at how narrow my vocabulary had become in only a few short years.

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to have a forum in which to air my thoughts so that they are not all jumbled up in my head. Though, in truth, I am still struggling to commit to ‘paper’ what it is that I really want to say. I’m hoping that with each post I will be able to express myself further. And that leads me to my second reason; to improve on my writing skills and explore the wonderful world that is the English language.

A by-product of this blog has been a rediscovery of my love of reading. I’d lost so many years to just reading legal textbooks that in the limited down time I had I needed something light to occupy myself with, and beginning a long, complex story with heightened emotions felt draining at that time. With each novel I complete I not only feel my mind expanding, but I feel happier for it.

I will always have a love of the English language and I hope that this blog will help me to build on my communication skills.

Now that my opinion is out it is hard to reign it back in sometimes and I’m learning a whole new skill now: tact! But I guess I wouldn’t be a good litigator without a bit of a bite!

Cosy country walks and baked goods: it must be Autumn

The crisp clear mornings, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the coolness in the air – it must be bobble hat and mittens time again!

Autumn is truly my favourite time of year. I think spring and summer walks are really over-rated. I don’t want to trek for miles getting all hot and bothered when I could be kicking back with an iced lolly. For me, autumn and winter are much better times of year to be outside hiking and appreciating the countryside. I absolutely love seeing the change of seasons, and none is more magical then the beginning of autumn. Look at all the lovely gold, orange and copper tones:IMG_2775

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We are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country. These photos were taken at Badbury Woods on the Oxfordshire border where you can enjoy many walks through the woods and across the fields.

The nights are drawing in quite quickly now. Its twilight by 4pm and dark by 5pm. I must admit – I love the early nights. I don’t feel guilty coming home, getting into my pjs and having a hot cup of tea in front of the telly. Soon, we will have a log burner and I can’t wait!

When we came in today I felt a bit of baking was needed. Now the house smells of doughy sweetness and Earl Grey; perfect, right?IMG_2787

Biscuit time

To make my super simple basic biscuit you’ll only need the following:

500g flour

150g caster sugar

250g butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk

To make biscuit-y goodness:

  1. Mix together the flour, butter and sugar. Using your fingers, rub it together until it forms a consistency similar to breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix some more.
  3. Lightly flour a surface and roll on the mixture to about 5mm thickness.
  4. Cut out your shapes and place on a non-stick baking tray.
  5. Bake for between 12-15 minutes at 180 degrees. I prefer to turn it to up 200g for the last couple of minutes as I prefer them slightly more golden, but its up to you.

Enjoy with a brew! A perfect quick treat.

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Its all gone Pete Tong

I haven’t posted for a while because we’ve been going through a rather difficult time with our house purchase. It sounds silly doesn’t it – getting anxious about buying a house – though apparently its one of the most stressful transactions of your life.

We’ve been relatively calm if not downright excited about our house purchase and everything was going swimmingly well until 3 weeks ago.

Now, let me be clear – we aren’t jumping up and down because the sellers aren’t leaving their curtain poles or because we are missing a FENSA certificate for the windows (which we actually are missing as it turns out). No, we have had a shed-load of anxiety because one week before we were due to exchange contracts we found out that there are new regulations coming into force which stipulate where septic tanks can drain.

Its not a nice topic is it, septic tanks. But once you get over the lavatorial element of it, they are quite remarkable systems and the ‘science’ behind it is interesting.

The problem

Anyway, from 2020 any septic tanks that drain into a ditch or watercourse (which is defined within the regulations) are prohibited. So if you have a septic tank which does this, it needs to be replaced by 31st December 2019 or you face a massive fine by the Environment Agency – tens of thousands of pounds depending on the severity of the pollution.

Options

To be compliant with the regulations (known as the general binding rules) you can do the following:

  1. Install a small sewage treatment plant; or
  2. Re-route the pipework so that the tank drains into a drainage field (this option is likely to include a replacement/upgrade of your existing tank too)

You may need planning permission and building regulations consent, so check with the local authority and the Environment Agency if necessary.

The cost of the work is, quite frankly, as long as a piece of string. It could be £5,000 it could be £25,000. It all depends on the system you opt for, the land in question and any other issues unique to your property (such as distance from another dwelling or main road, which can be factors).

Unfortunately, if you are buying a house with a septic tank you are unlikely to know whether or not it is compliant with the general binding rules until about half way through the conveyancing process unless the sellers are already aware of the rules. We only have a very basic plan because the house we want to buy is so old, so we had to carry out a number of enquiries before we could establish that the septic tank was not compliant. For other properties it may be more obvious.

A drainage field is compliant (above); a pipe to a ditch/stream isn’t

Helpful links

If you think you may be caught by the new general binding rules, have a look through the government website here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water#enforcement-and-sanctions

I’ll update you all with how this plays out, but I can’t right now due to the sensitive nature of the issue and the ongoing conveyancing work.

Wish us luck!

Catching 40 winks

Sleep is literally one of the most important things in my life. Not because I obviously need it to function, but because there’s nothing quite like lying around, snuggled in a blanket all warm and fuzzy. I’ve found the best sleep comes after I’ve fallen asleep on the sofa in the evening (probably shortly after putting on a Netflix film) and then making my way up to bed in a drowsy one eye half-open state and collapsing on my bed. It only works, of course, if I’ve already de-make-uped and taken my lenses out otherwise I have an awful tantrum having to wake up again to do that!

I’m not as bad as the rest of my family though – my brother once fell asleep waiting for an elevator and we nearly left him behind!

I’ve always been a very light sleeper – I can wake up just from moving my arm, never minding turning over completely. But I’ve generally always found sleep easy. I could sleep most places; the car, the train, in public, it doesn’t bother me.

I love an early night, staying up til the wee hours just doesn’t interest me. I like to get into my pjs pretty much as soon as I get in from work, have some dinner, a cup of tea or three and then have an hour of down-time watching the telly. Whilst I’m sure I could go to bed at 8pm, the ‘adult’ in me insists on having some sort of evening so I usually head upstairs around 9pm unless there is an interesting post-watershed program I’m dying to watch.

On average, I reckon I fall asleep, properly fall asleep, one hour after I’ve gotten into bed. Say 10.30pm for argument’s sake.

I’m up at 6am for work, though lately I have been stretching this out until 6.30am, and then have a mad panic because I simply must leave the house by 7am or I’ll miss my train.

As that’s 7 ½ hours of sleep roughly, I didn’t think I was doing too badly. Many people want 8 or even 9 hours of sleep, but I imagine only a few are lucky enough to get that, especially during the working week.

The last 6 months for me have been quite bad. This weekend was the first weekend I’ve slept properly since April, and I certainly felt it. Back in April, I noticed that I was struggling to get to sleep and was waking up all hours of the night. I’d pop to the loo at 1am, feeling shattered but convinced my alarm was about to go off. I put it down to stress, though I couldn’t figure out what. I don’t get stressed that easily; I’m a lawyer and have a very stressful job per se, but I’ve learnt to compartmentalise my life which works well for me as otherwise I’d be worrying all the time. So if it wasn’t stress as such, was I worrying about something subconsciously? Well, if I am, 6 months on and I’ve let to figure out what it was.

By the summer I was waking every morning without fail at 5am. A whole hour before my alarm, but wide awake nonetheless. That’s the worst kind of rest – the lying there because you think you should and dreading the noise of your alarm kind of rest. I thought maybe I was getting too much sleep and waking up early as a result, but when I tried to get up I realised I was still shattered.

I tried reading in the evening before bed and had some herbal tea. It certainly helped, but as Sam is not a reader he tends to poke me or watch youtube videos in bed which distract me somewhat.

I’ve tried eating dinner earlier in the evening, and not eating as much; having fewer lamps on; drinking calming teas; having a lavender bath; having some peace and quiet; changing my pillows; sleeping the other end of the mattress; cuddling my stuffed bunny (don’t judge). Nothing really worked for more than one night.

Its quite unnerving in a way, feeling your body going through a change you can’t explain. I suddenly realised just how much I can’t function without sleep, or having poor quality sleep. My headaches have increased from a few a week to pretty much everyday. I’m tired by 10am. I’ve taken more paracetamol in the last few months than I have in years.

Sam doesn’t think that this is normal. My headaches are a concern to him, but what with my lack of sleep and inability to drink more than tea during the day (and certainly not enough to fulfil my 2 litre daily quota), I’m sure the headaches are explainable.

Last weekend I slept for 9 hours straight one night, and nearly 10 hours the next. Uninterrupted. I didn’t wake once despite desperately needing the loo. I thought I’d turned a corner and my body had automatically corrected itself, but Sunday night and I was waking once again throughout the night.

Do I have insomnia? Probably not. But surviving on 5 hours sleep a night can be tough and I’m sure its going to start impacting on my work unless I can get it under control.

I’m desperate for ideas on how to get better quality sleep, and more of it. So if any of you have any tips, please share them! If its a phase, that’s fine. But if I’m in it for the long haul, I may have to stock pile some Nytol.insomnia

Learning to make healthy choices, for life

Ask anyone if they have a problem with food, and the honest answer will probably be ‘yes’. Whether its to lose weight or tone up, to meet society’s expectations or just to get a decent Instagram photo, countless numbers of people will have issues with food.

My issue isn’t environmental. It found me.

I’m lactose intolerant, and whilst this may seem pretty run of the mill nowadays given loads of people have some kind of GI, FODMAP, celiac problem, let me tell you it was not easy growing up with it. Being lactose intolerant was just not a ‘thing’ in the 90’s.

I started to become sick at the age of 3 from something as mundane as a bowl of cornflakes. For the following 7 years I would vomit approximately 3 times each evening, 4-5 evenings a week or more. That means I’ve been physically ill more times that many people will be in the course of their whole life times. The doctors thought my mother had munchausen by proxy syndrome because they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and that my mother was on some kind of attention-seeking trip. Just before my 10th birthday and very much a last ditch attempt, my mother took me to a see a private consultant miles away from our home. I can vaguely remember his kind face, crinkling with a smile as soon as he saw me. Before I had even sat down he told my mother that I was lactose intolerant and, sure enough, he was proved right. The doctor was Indian and I’m quite olive-skinned for an English person (more so when I was younger than now); nearly half the Indian population have some form of lactose intolerance and the doctor had recognised the sallowness in my skin.

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My modified carbonara. Find a way to work around your hangups to enjoy the food you love

It was remarkable and the diagnosis literally changed my life. Of course, now I don’t remember much of what my diet was pre-age 10, but I do know it included the usual milk on cereal, milk in tea, etc.

My mother and I were fascinated that a food could do this to me.

If I have a milk product, my body starts to shut down; within 20 minutes I will become very heady, soon after I will start to sweat and then the tummy ache kicks in. Its not like being sick from a hang over or  a tummy bug – then you are only sick from your stomach. With my intolerance I am sick from my small intestine which can be excruciating – everything basically has to go back the way it came from, re-enter my stomach and pick up stomach acids before coming out. Once the tummy aches start its hard to say how long it’ll be before I’m physically sick, each time is different, but I will know in myself whether it will be a short process or if I’m in it for the long haul. The tummy aches cause all the energy in my limbs to be sapped and to be ‘re-directed’ to my digestive system. I’ve lost count of the number of times I don’t have the energy to get out of bed, or have been slumped on the bathroom floor pressing my forehead against the cold tiles. The amount of times I’ve cried for a towel, some water and for my hair to be tied back.

My mother and I started looking into other food groups and were surprised that the power of food can have on our bodies. This was still back in the 90’s and our general understanding of food and how to stay healthy has vastly improved since then, but its always something I find myself coming back to. I watch every episode of the BBC Superfoods series with Kate Quilton and anything else that investigates the pros and cons of eating a particular food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a health freak, but at the back of my mind there is always this subconscious nagging to eat well and to eat healthily.

Earlier in the year when I first started blogging I wrote about how I was having a bit of a health and fitness overhaul, the primary objective being to lose some weight.

I’d noticed in August 2016 that I was getting rather tubby and felt increasingly uncomfortable in my clothes. I’d put on so much weight that my work wear was straining on me and that made me lack confidence.

I joined the gym in September and just started doing some basic work outs (I used to really be into fitness so I have some idea of what to do). I admit I wasn’t 100% committed, partly because, with hindsight, I was doing the same thing, day in, day out.

I would rush from the office to the gym, do 20 minutes on the cross-trainer, 10 minutes on the bike and then use some really easy assisted weights to improve muscle tone on my legs. Occasionally I’d use the rower.

Than about November time I got Instagram and came across a fitness fanatic called Kayla Itsines who advocates a wellness lifestyle, but from the comfort of your own room. I don’t particularly like paying for someone to tell me how to exercise and what to eat so I’ve never downloaded her program, but there was enough information and videos on her Instagram feed for me to take away a few pointers. The concept of exercising without having a gym membership or running (though I am partial to the odd run) was intriguing. Although, as I understand it, Itsines builds up the intensity of her programs, it starts by telling you to do a round of exercises that involve no equipment and could be done from your living room.

I carried on with my gym membership, but decided to build in some ‘floor work’ to my routine. I felt so self-conscious using the mats at the side of my gym, in full view of everyone, that I started using the area where they hold classes. I quickly realised there are a lot of people like me who feel uncomfortable struggling to do a sit up in front of everyone else! I started doing a mini-round of basic exercises: 10 squats, 25 sit-ups, 25 Russian twists, 10 leg lifts, 40 cycle sit-ups (I don’t know what they’re called!) and some stretches.

The sit-ups were the killer. For as long as I can remember I’ve never been able to do a sit-up without feeling faint or sick. But I persevered and after two weeks I could do 10 sit-ups without feeling like I was going to black out and that was a real achievement for me. I would still do my time on the cross-trainer and some assisted leg weight lifts, but otherwise I focused on my abs.

Our office Christmas party was in December and I remember being able to buy a size 10 skirt because my waist had gotten smaller. I was so chuffed, even though I had not lost  much weight from anywhere else. But it gave me the boost I needed to see me through Christmas and into the New Year if nothing else. From January through to June I was desperate to get back to how I’d been at university. I didn’t set myself any unrealistic goals, just a target weight that I knew was achievable whilst still allowing me to have the occasional treat. I bought a couple of new figure-hugging dresses ready for our holiday in June and I was over the moon that not only could I fit into them, but I actually looked good. I was proud to be me and, for once, wanted to show off my figure rather than hide away in jeans and baggy jumpers.

I must confess that I haven’t been to the gym much since we came back from holiday in July, and I stopped going altogether in August. I realised that it wasn’t the fitness that I was enjoying (though being half-way toned was quite pleasing!), but rather what I was fuelling my body with. I LOVE food and I could never restrict myself from eating carbs, or having no sugar or doing some weird paleo-diet. I’m a firm believer of everything in moderation.

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Food should be an enjoyable social occasion, not something to begrudge

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I’m not afraid to throw a few odd ingredients into a meal to make up for an ingredient I’m lacking, but I think I became stuck in a rut. Do you buy the same items in your food shop every week? I was. Do you cook the same meals most weeks? I was. I was watching cooking programmes and thinking ‘that’s great, I’ll do that’, but would then never get round to it. And after over-analysing my food habits I’ve come to the conclusion that its all to do with vegetables.

I’m extremely partial to some mushrooms, garlic, chilli, red peppers (not any other colour), green beans, a cabbage and leek mix, a few potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes etc. It sounds a fair amount, but when I look around the supermarket shelves I realise just how many different types of fruits and vegetables are out there that I don’t even consider. So, I still buy the same vegetables, but now I mix it up a little bit each week – substitute some potatoes for a butternut squash. Simple changes, but ones that excite me to come into the kitchen at the weekend to make something slightly different. I put whatever meat, fish or carbs I want with it, but planning a meal around a particular vegetable really makes it the centrepiece, rather than the add-on because I feel obliged to eat my 5 a-day!

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PYO blackberries were a hit at the end of the summer

So since August I’ve focused on what I’m putting in to my body and I’m hoping to maintain the weight I lost for our holiday. I’ve put on a couple of pounds since July, but as I’ve been under the weather and I was away for a week with an extremely bad diet during that time, I think that’s understandable.

My parents are both vegetarian so although they allowed me to eat meat, I didn’t eat very much of it and even now I probably only have meat once or twice a week, and sometimes not at all. Its just not a big part of my life.

I’m also not a pudding person. Sweet treats just don’t grab me as much as the smell of a pie baking! My distaste for puds is mostly down to my intolerance as it can be very hard finding a sweet after-dinner treat that doesn’t involve some form of milk, cream, custard or the like. After years of not being able to have it, I honestly don’t really miss it.

I feel that I have reached a place of contentment in my life, with my food choices and with my body.

I hope to continue like this for many years to come. The satisfaction of eating right far outweighs the few minutes of eating too much cake! I’m not disillusioned – I know that life has its ups and downs and that my weight will fluctuate from over indulging some months, but I do believe that awareness is key. After all, how can you keep something in check if you don’t recognise when its going wrong? I’m excited to buy vegetables and that is something to be proud of in my book. For now, I just want to focus on making my body as healthy as it can reasonably be, without denying it anything. A balance: enabling your body to let you live life to its fullest.

We move house in a few short weeks and I’m going to start growing my own vegetables. I sincerely hope this will keep me on track but as I’m not a budding gardener it might be a bit trial and error for a while!

10 in 10

As I’m new to blogging I thought I’d share a little bit about me so you can all get to know me a bit better. I have a spare 10 minutes and thought I’d share 10 (interesting?) things you probably don’t already know:

  1. I’m a solicitor, for my sins. Its unlikely that I’ll ever write about my life as a lawyer or law generally as its bad enough doing it for a career never mind writing about it in my spare time.
  2. I can eat a whole loaf of bread in a day. I actually did this several times at university. I love bread, especially thick cut-it-yourself slices, and I’d rather cut my left arm off than be without a toaster.
  3. I can’t touch my toes. I’m 5’10” and no amount of flexibility as a youngster could get my fingers anywhere close to my toes.
  4. I have a 3 foot stuffed rabbit. I really want a dog, but what with Sam and I working really long hours, it just wouldn’t be fair on the fluffy. One day. For now, I cuddle a stuffed rabbit.
  5. I have a 3-year cycle with my hair. I’m in love with LOB haircuts (that’s a ‘long bob’ for those not in the know), but literally none of my family and friends think that the cut suits me. I first cut my hair off at 18, and pretty much every 3 years since then. My hair is currently the longest its been since I was 18 – its down to my waist – and I’ve been pinning a lot of LOB haircuts on Pinterest lately. I’ve already decided that if I cut my hair off again I will donate my hair to a cancer charity. Apparently 4 inches are lost in the knotting process, so the longer the hair the better.
  6. I’ve always wanted to run the Virgin London Marathon. I’ve watched it every year since I was 8 and always vowed that I’d run it with my dad one day. I’ve entered the ballot a couple of times, most recently this year (I’m still waiting to hear if I’ve been successful)
  7. I’m lactose intolerant.
  8. I hate technology. I’d quite happily throw my smart ‘phone in the canal. The chap who invented e-mail is on my metaphorical hit-list.
  9. I’d rather sit at home with a cup of tea, in my pjs, with a blanket, reading a good book than be out clubbing.
  10. Sam is the best thing to ever happen to me. I mean, I know I’m meant to say that because he’s my husband and all that, but he literally is the best person in the whole world. I’d be a very sad, angry person without him. He lights up my world in a way nobody else can. I love him with all my heart.

Tragus piercing : all you need to know

Ever since I was 13 years old I wanted my tragus pierced. I must have seen it on someone else and thought it was pretty cool. And before you say it, no, I wasn’t particularly ‘alternative’ or trying to rebel, I just thought it was nice.

But at 13 my mum was having none of it. She said ‘when you’re in college’. Well, a few years later when I was in college it was ‘you’re about to study law at university’, then when I finished university and law school it was ‘you’ll be having interviews for training contracts and jobs, you don’t want them to notice it do you?’

So it wasn’t until last year, at the age of 27, that I decided to get my tragus pierced once and for all. I was no longer studying and had held down a job as a solicitor for a couple of years by that point, so I figured – what is there to lose? I debated about whether or not to tell my mum about my intention to get the piercing, but decided to in the end. I did it in a very off-hand, its a run-of-the-mill-thing kind of way. She didn’t say much, thankfully, though I knew she disapproved.

So on 30th September 2016 (I remember the date because I’ve been thinking about the after-care process ever since!) I trotted off to a local recommended piercer and had it done.IMG_1834

The piercing

I laid down on a bed and the piercer clamped my tragus with a metal tool, pulling it forward so it was 90 degrees to my head. Then she used some kind of needle to create the piercing, pushing from front to back, whilst threading the stud through at the same time. She then screwed the ball on the front and it was all done. Super quick – about 15 minutes in total.

Did it hurt? Well, yes. But it was very quick and sharp, causing me to flinch. It didn’t throb or ache much afterwards but, as you’d expect, there was a bit of blood. Only a few drops though.

I was told that it could take up to a year for the piercing to heal so I bought some cleaning oil to help the recovery process. Apparently a large majority of infections in a tragus piercing happen in the first couple of months, and they can look like this:Infected-Tragus-Piercing-Signs-Bump-Risks-How-to-Treat-Tragus-Piercing-Infection

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Ew! & I’ve left the really graphic ones out so as not to put you off your snacks!

I was very regimented and stuck to cleaning my ear twice a day with the oil. I put a t-shirt over my pillow and turned it around each day before replacing the shirt every third day (as I was told to do). At the beginning of November I thought ‘pah, this is easy. No infection what so ever! Bet its even healed, I could probably replace the jewellery now’.

The infection

It was a typical case of speaking too soon. Not long after that my ear started to develop a swollen red mark around the front of the hole. Just as I thought it was going down, it would appear at the back – but never on both sides (I have no idea why). Sometimes the jewellery would have a crust on it, which initially sounds gross but then we realised that it was where I was washing my hair and not rinsing in my ears enough and a residue was building up. You need to turn the pressure of the shower head down and then let the water drip in your ear for about 30 seconds or so, then ‘tip’ it out by turning your head the other way. I think if you had short hair and didn’t use as much shampoo you probably wouldn’t have to worry about this.IMG_8542 (2)

I carried on with the oil, but after a few weeks realised it wasn’t having any effect. I knew that most people used a saline solution but it had seemed a bit of a faff to make every day. By mid-November I realised that I needed to do something and salting my ear seemed to be the cheapest way to do it.

A saline solution is just salt and water, but you can’t use table salt as that salt can sometimes be treated before its sold, so you’re best off with regular sea salt. I ground about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt into a tumbler and added hot water. After leaving it for a few minutes to cool down, I then dabbed some folded paper towels into it and held it on the piercing. You are meant to do this for about 10 minutes but aside from being the slowest 10 minutes of your life, you will also find your arm hurts an awful lot!

I salted my ear for the following 2 months and it really did help. The red swelling subsided in fits and bursts, though always appeared again after a couple of days if I stopped salting. For Christmas Sam had bought me a hoop and a diamante ball-stud, so I decided that I would switch the jewellery just before my birthday in January. It had been 3 months by then and I was anxious to see how well the piercing was healing. We couldn’t get the original ball-stud out at first because it had been screwed tight by the piercer, so we bought some latex gloves (which give you a lot more grip) and Sam managed to unwind the ball-stud. We replaced it with a diamante stud.IMG_8421

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Its now been just over 1 year since the piercing. Most of the summer my ear was fine and not red but it has started to have a slight red swelling on it again the last few days. I don’t think it helped that I knocked it really badly a couple of weeks ago, causing it to bleed. But otherwise it has gotten better, albeit it is a slow process.

Thinking about it?

Although I’ve had a bit of trouble with my tragus piercing, which seems to be ongoing, I would definitely recommend getting it done if you are thinking about it. The chances of you have such a bad reaction as the people in the horror stories above is pretty slim – unless either you have not gone to a recommended piercer, or your post-piercing cleaning routine is bad. Its normal to have some aching or swelling given you have just made a hole in your skin, but it shouldn’t be hurting a lot for a long period of time.

I love my tragus jewellery, especially my diamante stud. I feel a bit different, but in a girly way, not a tomboy-grunge kind of way like I should be hanging out in the back streets. I had my left ear pierced which is the opposite side to where I part my hair so I can easily hide it if needed, plus it is not so obvious that way. My mum doesn’t like it much, she says that its not as noticeable as I think it is, but thats fine. I had my ear pierced because I wanted it done, not for other people to see and like it. Just for me.

Recommended cleaning routine

You should follow whatever cleaning routine your piercer recommends to you, especially in the first few weeks after having the piercing done. After that, the fail-safe fall back is the saline solution:

  1. Grind 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt into hot water. Stir it so that the granules melt.
  2. Leave it for a few minutes to cool, then fold up some paper towels.
  3. Dip the paper towel into the solution and apply to the piercing with the jewellery in(!)

Do not rub. Do not scratch. Just let the solution soak into the piercing. Every couple of minutes dip fresh paper towels into the water and re-apply.

Do not wear earphones or headphones for at least 3 if not 6 months so as not to irritate it.

Different types of jewellery

There are various different types of jewellery you can buy for your tragus, from hoops to ball-studs. Unlike a traditional lobe piercing, the ball-studs screw on at the front, rather than the back because that would just be awkward otherwise!

I hope you’ve found this useful. Before I had my piercing I looked up everything from the process to possible infections and found that the internet can be a very misleading place! A lot of websites may have well have just said that my ear was going to fall off and that the piercing wasn’t worth it. It was hard to find an honest non-horror-story review.

Some lovely famous faces with tragus piercings:

Our Cornish (Coasteering) Adventure

Over the August bank holiday weekend Sam and I took a trip down to Cornwall, which is one of our favourite places in the UK. We’ve been many times before but absolutely love it down there and always take any excuse to go back. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We stayed just outside of Padstow, in a small campsite in St Merryn. It was the perfect location; great transport links for Padstow and Port Issac, and on the way home we were able to stop in at Tintagel and Boscastle too.

Padstow is a beautiful Cornish village. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt is situated on north coast and has a wonderful little harbour. The shops are quite commercial; the typical surf and fudge shops I’ve come to expect from Cornwall, but I think its the restaurants and cafes that entice the visitors in. Pubs, gastro-pubs, up-market restaurants and nook-and-cranny cafes, all serving fresh delicious sea food. You can buy freshly-dressed crab and mussels from stands around the harbour – as well as the traditional Cornish pasty if you fancy something more meaty! Padstow is quaint, but you really don’t need more than a couple of hours there.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES I would definitely recommend going in the morning if you can, as by lunch time and the afternoon the crowds are immense.

Harlyn Bay is where we did our coasteering. My parents had bought us a voucher for Christmas and we were so pleased as it meant tying in a new venture with a trip to the coast. I’ve wanted to do coasteering for a couple of years now (perhaps in an attempt to still feel young and fit despite my advance towards the big 3-0!) Sam is not a confident swimmer so I was a bit unsure whether or not he would enjoy it or would be too apprehensive – but he LOVED it. Coasteering is a meander across the rocks and seaweed along the coast, jumping into the sea and rock pools at designated spots. I would definitely recommend it for those of you who want to do it but have reservations. We filmed a little video to show you just how good it is – so you don’t have to take our word for it!

 

This was the hottest day of the summer – about 28 degrees. I thought we’d be bundling up in jumpers and blankets for the short drive back to the campsite but how wrong I was. I kicked back with some snacks back at the car and sunbathed!

Port Isaac in my view, is a cuter, lesser-known alternative to Padstow.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThere is one car park at the top of town and from there you can do a short walk along the coast, round and down to the village. It has a wonderful little bay with fishing boats (very active fishing boats judging by the amount of fish we saw in the market). We stopped for a Cornish cream teaSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES in a quirky little cafe where everything from the jam to the scones themselves were homemade.  A perfect respite before we continued on up the hill and enjoyed a welcome break overlooking the bay and soaking up the sunshine. Don’t forget to call in at the little fish market on your way through.

Some people may be familiar with Port Isaac as it is where Martin Clunes’ Doc Martin is filmed, but I’m pleased that, for the most part, it has not become too tourist-y.

Tintagel. Famous for the ruined castle and Arthurian legends of Merlin and the round-table. This village has really take on the myths surrounding the village as many (little) shops contained everything from dream-catchers to figurines. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Just to the left of a Cornish-pasty shop is the very steep walk down to the bay. But don’t worry – you don’t have to walk back up! There is a Landrover service for a small surcharge, or you could cheat like us and walk via a quaint church on the headland. We didn’t pay to go into the ruin or down to Merlin’s cave as it was sooo hot and there is not much shade, but we did enjoy it from afar and had a lovely walk back around on the coast.

Make sure to stop for a Cornish pasty in town – they’re well worth it! You only need a couple of hours here – perhaps a few if you are going to go across to the ruin.

But then you can take a short drive to Bossiney Bay. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPark up in a car park just off the road out of Tintagel and take a short 5 minute hike half way down the cliff. You should come to a cross road (ahem, cross path), and if you continue for a few yards there should be a parting in the hedgerow, giving you a clear view of the bay below. The rock formation here is quite famous as it looks like an elephant with its trunk dipping in to the water. Its also quite a safe bay to paddle in when the tide is out.

Boscastle was our final stop on our little tour of north Cornwall. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Just a couple of miles up the road from Tintagel is this little village. There aren’t any shops per se, but several pubs and cafes and a thoroughly enjoyable walk alongside the river, leading out into the estuary. You can walk along the river wall right out until you view the sea; but walk on the right not the more publicised left-hand side as the views are more impressive.

The tide was out when we arrived and we were able to see the chains staking the boats to the seabed, seaweed snaking along it and over the rocks. Well worth a visit and again, only a couple of hours are needed.

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If you are planning a visit to Cornwall – enjoy! And if you want any recommendations of where to go or stay just comment below.

back to basics: a strive for balance

I’m sat here with a cup of tea, my fourth in only a few hours, and some mini shortbread biscuits. Aside from the horrific morning I’ve had, I’d say I’m as relaxed as I possibly could be at this moment in time. In a minute I’m probably going to put some cheesy film on Netflix whilst I finish writing this.

But it was whilst I was chewing on my second shortbread that I started pondering life. Not the big ‘why are we here questions’ – that’s far too deep for a Sunday. But I’m sat looking out on my [badly maintained] garden and all the greenery; the trees, plants and my sunflower. My sunflower is my pride and joy. I grew it from a seed and its now nearly 4 feet tall. But it doesn’t seem to like much rain – the clue may be in the name? Anyway, with the amount of rain and wind we’ve had the last couple of weeks its looking pretty sorry for itself. And I’m thinking, given my stressful morning, why do I feel so calm all of a sudden?

I’ve pretty much always loved the great outdoors – albeit camping out in it took a bit of getting used to. Perhaps, I thought as I munched, its living in the countryside and all its calming influences. Hearing the wind whistling through the trees and rustling the leaves. The birds chirping to each other (though I do not appreciate the ravens who have made their home in next door’s tree who circle and squawk very loudly at all hours of the day and night).

No traffic noise. No pollution. Not being reminded of work at every turn or the fear of bumping into clients whilst you’re dressed in ripped denim and an oversized cardigan with slightly greasy hair (its a look I rock most Sundays). Being able to see the seasons pass. When I lived in Guildford it went from summer > winter > summer. I barely saw any open spaces to see the leaves fall and then the buds starting to sprout months later.

You can lose yourself in nature. Walking, cycling, just getting out there and immersing yourself in it. You don’t need company, you can go it alone. & maybe we all should more often. Get away from it all. From everything. You can lose yourself in thoughts; a flask of tea and a notepad and you can be someone else entirely.

 “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”

– Lord Byron

We live such fast lives nowadays. Always trying to get somewhere quicker than we did yesterday, moaning about everything; service, the weather and that guy who walks so slowly off the train. Doesn’t he know you have somewhere to be?

Its got me thinking about my commute to work tomorrow. A 40 minute fast-train ride. I see the same people everyday. I know where they stand on the platform for the carriage they want. The business men in suits, newspapers under their arms and smart phones tucked into a pocket. The lady who had a walking stick long after her twisted ankle healed, simply so she could get on first out of pity. Everyone moves in unison. A shuffle, a step and then settling in for the journey. The same mumblings to the conductor, day after day. The hoard of people, seamlessly moving towards the barrier and out, into the big city to go to their desk jobs and bark orders down the ‘phone. Drones. Coffee, coffee and more coffee in cardboard cups; the Starbucks logo quite possibly the epitome of modern day living.

People passing through without really noticing their surrounds, at least, not til its too late.

Absorbed.

Head down, looking at a ‘phone. Images that flood our daily lives from social media. Idealised images that are far removed from reality and which cause you to question your life. Some aspire to craft a life like that which they see online, as if everything is perfect and in vibrant colour. And if they try hard enough, maybe they will succeed and appear to have such a wonderful life as they would lead you to believe. Social media is here to stay for the foreseeable future, yet how relevant is it in our life? To have your life documented online for the world to see; but only the good parts. Not the bad, the ugly the dirty or the reality of it.

Don’t get me wrong, the irony is not lost on me. I’m a blogger and I have a Facebook and Instagram account.

To always be connected and close to those around you. A positive, depending on the circumstances, but also so often a negative. My ‘phone is ‘meant’ to be connected to my work emails. It was for nearly two years until 3 months ago when I disabled it before I went on holiday. I had full intentions of re-installing it with the swipe of a button on my return, but figured I would see how long I could get away with it. 3 months on and I can’t imagine having access to those emails ever again in my downtime. I hadn’t realised it before, but simply hearing the buzz when an email came in caused me to worry. What if? What if that email was the one that would show that I’d done something wrong? The beginning of the end of my career. Dramatic, I know. I’m not even a worrier compared with some of my colleagues; calm, level-headed I’m described. But I can’t not read it. That little red circle hovering over the envelope symbol glaring back at me. So I do. And its always nothing. Something I could have dealt with in the morning.

& thats it. For me, in a nutshell. Its all about being connected. And I just don’t want to be. I would throw my ‘phone in the river at a drop of a hat if I felt that I could. But I can’t. Modern life wouldn’t allow it. How could I possibly know if my train was running on time? Or what the people I follow on Instagram are up to?

So I strive for balance. I do what I must during the working week and try to fit in. To show that I can do it. An old person in a young body. But downtime is me time. And if I want to make onion soup and live in wellingtons and not wear make-up, well I’m damned well going to. I’m far from perfect. I don’t take good photographs and my vocabulary feels like its become limited to only those words that I need to use being a lawyer. But I’m learning. Every day is a school day and with each day, I’m settling in to myself and appreciating what I have more. Sometimes, I feel older than my years as if I’ve lead a full, enriching life and I’m looking back it on it with hindsight in my 80’s. Maybe I just want to make sure that here on in, I’m doing the right thing. Noticing the right things. Being true.

My life with Sam is great and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Except, perhaps, to go back 20 years to a world without ‘phones and targets and to the ease of a time where there was no immediate expectation of reply.

So, appreciate the beauty around you. It doesn’t have to be green and breathing. It can be grey, concrete or a tower block. But just make sure that you are happy and doing whatever it is you’re doing,  for you and live for the important things in life. Not the latest craze or getting the perfect photo, not messaging inane rubbish for the sake of it.

Just, going back to basics.

My shortbread is making me feel bad. I know its full of butter but it tastes so good. If only I could eat a normal amount and not the whole tin.

On the move to pastures new

I am so happy! We have just bought a house!

We returned from holiday a few weeks ago having found a buyer for our house. And, to be honest, I did feel under a bit of pressure to find somewhere suitable to buy quite quickly, simply because I don’t like messing people around. I don’t know why – our buyers haven’t given us a time frame or conditions – but I supposed I felt like I didn’t want to feel like I was keeping them hanging on.

Anyway, we decided to view as many properties as we could that took our fancy, though they were mostly ones we had already discounted from the look of the pictures, the work involved, or simply had a weird floor plan.

The first house we viewed looked lovely from the outside but there were no inside pictures. Why, I asked? Well, the agent said, a clearing company has only just removed everything from the old lady’s house. But we were assured it was a ‘lovely house’ and ‘totally, worth viewing’. I’m not going to say much about that house, save that THERE WAS A TREE GROWING INSIDE. An ACTUAL tree (well vine, there were grapes). It came through a hole in the wall and covered the entire, large (and tall), conservatory. Branches as thick as my thigh with grapes hanging down. I had thought initially that perhaps the tree had grown in recent months due to the lady’s lack of mobility, but then quickly realised that that growth was not from a few months but was twenty years’ worth.

Nope.

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I found this little gem in Tesco’s earlier in the week. Its a quirky light bulb glass (straw gives it away I guess!), but I’m going to put fairy lights in it

Then we viewed a house way outside of our ideal ‘circle’ (which is actually more of a rectangle). It was in a village which I thought would be twee but just, wasn’t. The following weekend we viewed 4 houses in one day. A second which was also outside of our circle/rectangle area, but which had huge outbuildings, albeit it needed a tonne of work. That was followed by a lovely detached thatch, but it had a weird layout and the garden was literally 90 degrees; there was a kids’ blue slide on the lawn and honest to God the poor thing must have slid down it and straight into the dining room it was that steep.

Then we viewed what would later become our home.

A house that I had thought was out of our reach and had simply wanted to view it for comparison purposes. It was 10 times better than the pictures and I pretty much loved it instantly. Beautiful large kitchen, log burner and mantle, exposed beams, wooden staircase and and tall ceilings and windows. Me and Sam are taller than average, but didn’t have to duck anywhere. It felt like a home. A home for us, for our future children. To have cosy winters around the fireplace, walks in the countryside (I may have to invest in more wellies), and to be able to just be us. But it didn’t have a garage for Sam which was top of the (his) list. Nowhere for the mini or the lathe!

Then, afterwards, we viewed the last house. It was a large 5-bed new build with a garage. It ticked all of the boxes on paper, but that was pretty much where it stopped. Neither of us really knew what to say as we were walking around with the agent. We muttered a lot about the ‘amount of space’, the proximity to town but neither of us were feeling it. You just know, don’t you, when your other half is thinking the exact same thing as you.

We couldn’t really get the country house out of our heads. No, it didn’t have as much outside space for Sam and yes, the third room was smaller than we had hoped for, but it was a home. A home. That’s when I realised the others were just houses, not homes. I could picture us living as a family in the cutest house in the area. The following day we drove out there and explored the country lanes some more – first gear around some of the bends! – and fell in love with the place even more. No corner shop. One bus a day, or thereabouts. But it does have an amazing pub, bakery, cute little village hall and more walks than you can shake a stick at. Sam said ‘I don’t even care about the garage!’ and that’s when we knew could well be living there soon!

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Anyway, we’ve agreed a price and now our sellers just need to find a home themselves. Fingers crossed we’ll be in by Christmas and can have the fire going and fairy lights strung over the mantle piece!!

I was sat in the car this week and thought, what do I want from this house? Is it a wish list? What could I do without?  And I just kept coming back to a feeling. A knowing feeling, but one I couldn’t really describe.

I am not someone who makes decisions with their heart. I’m very much ruled by my head and often it can be months if not years before I evaluate a past decision.

But, this time was different. I still had to think about certain things, such as getting a future child to nursery/school and making my commute.

This house has everything. A safe, beautiful place in the country where children can be children and I can bake bread to my hearts delight whilst sipping my usual Earl Grey.

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From my amazing little teapot!