I miss Art. I miss giant studios full of light and noise and colour and ideas and creativity and tears and joy and discovery. I miss screen prints, dark rooms, light boxes, sewing machines, charcoals, life drawing, sculpting and sketching.
The day I got my first little set of watercolours, aged 10, I was hooked. Maybe it’s the same feeling some people get from performing, or sports or watching videos of cats, all I knew was it made me happy. I remember looking at the first blank page, a ‘proper’ watercolour sketch book all bumpy and stiff, being scared to make a mark in fear of ruining it. Not knowing where to start I decided a still life would be as good a place as any given that was what a real artist would probably draw.
I didn’t have a silver bowl laden with exotic fruits to hand so I had to make do with the nearest thing….
a potato. Yes, my first subject on the road to becoming the next Francis Bacon was indeed the humble spud. It wasn’t a bad effort if I do say so myself, I showed it off pleased as punch, or poitín if you will. It was hard to read my Mother’s reaction, I’m pretty sure she was smiling with pride rather than amusement. Either way it made her happy too. I don’t remember anything else I drew in that sketchbook but I remember every detail of that spud.
I’m back from my blogging mega-break (9 weeks!) and so excited for the year ahead. I absolutely love New Year. I know some people think it corny or depressing after the excitement of December but I find myself getting giddy at the possibilities of a whole new year. Will 2018 finally be the year I make it into the World Series of Poker?? OK maybe the year I finally just learn to play poker but you get the gist.
As soon as Christmas Day is over I’m boxing up baubles and clearing the decks ready to say goodbye to the year gone by and welcome the next with open arms.
New Years Eve is my day. It starts early with a train journey to Brighton armed with coffee, a notebook and a pen. To start, some mooching in The Lanes and a visit to the art gallery then lunch and a glass of bubbles. After weeks of Christmas planning, visiting relatives and the general chaos of school holidays it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. Not to mention a walk along the seafront and a literal breath of fresh air to blow away the cobwebs of 2017. The journey home is spent scribbling my hopes and dreams for the year ahead. By which I mean a giant ‘TO-DO’ list with a few personal goals thrown in here and there. I won’t bore you with the entire lot but here are a few of the things I’m looking forward to in the next 365 days:
Health & Beauty
One thing I won’t be doing is starting another flipping diet! Nope. Wasted enough of my life to that soul-sucking nonsense. I ate my own body weight in Christmas cake, stuffing and stollen over the past few weeks and don’t feel remotely guilty about it. In fact I’m not even done yet so jog on Slim Fast.
My fitness goals come from a desire to challenge myself or try something new. Last year I did a couple of 10k runs (my first ever ‘proper’ races) and really enjoyed it. I’ll admit I’m definitely a fair weather runner though and there is nothing that would get me out pounding the pavements on a cold, dark day. For that reason I want to sign up for another 10k race this year to give me the incentive to dust off my trainers and get training again. Other than that I’d like to learn a bit more about strength training using my own body weight in a bid to tone up before we start peeling off the layers for Summer.
Drink more water. Urgh, I know I say it every year but I rarely drink enough and I know it’s a really good habit to get into – please tell me I’m not alone!! Despite its many benefits I still struggle to force myself to down anywhere near the recommended 6-8 glasses a day.
Wear SPF daily, book dental appointment to finally replace those two fillings (*cries*) and while I’m at it sort my barnet out.
I know what I’m comfortable wearing. I can walk into any clothes shop and easily pick out what’s ‘me’ and what isn’t. I know if a colour works with my pasty Irish skin and dark hair or makes me look like the undead. I’m bored though. My Converse/skinnies/jumper combo is my safe place and I love it but I need to be more adventurous with my choices. Nothing too mid-life crisis-y, I don’t want to to look like the lovechild of Grayson Perry and Lady GaGa. I’ve already made a start with my new Honey & Toast saddlebag, in a much braver colour choice than usual. I love it, but to be honest I’ve never met a leopard print I didn’t like.
Interiors wise I’m planning to ditch one of the sofas asap and replace it with a cosy armchair to free up some space for my children to fill with tat. Before Christmas I painted the master bedroom white and am on the lookout for some new bedding and copper/marble accessories for zhuzhing. Spud fancies a bedroom makeover this year for his 10th birthday which luckily is 9 months away as it will probably take us that long to agree on a wall colour.
I love my blog. My own little project, born out of a desire to try something new and challenge myself a little.
Writing is never something I’d particularly explored as a creative outlet, despite being drawn to other areas of creativity. While I admire anyone who has a talent for creative writing, I definitely use it more as a therapeutic process. From the very basic act of writing a list on the days when my brain can’t seem to focus on one thing, to keeping a journal over a number of weeks to help process life’s little challenges – the act of writing something down is cathartic.
Writing my first blog post though? Less theraputic, more completely terrifying. Who was I to be putting words out there on the interwebs for all to see? No background in writing, no training or qualifications remotely relevant to putting words down that people might actually enjoy reading!
And what do you write about when you can write about literally anything?? It’s so easy to become overwhelmed in the early days of blogging and self-doubt would ultimately creep in, leading to me agonise over the simplest of things before I got anywhere near ready to press the ‘publish’ button.
I never gave much consideration to my ‘audience’ (I just assumed nobody would ever actually read my posts) and to be honest I still try not to think too much about that. In fact most of my close friends and family still don’t know I blog!
After the first few posts I felt confident enough to tentatively share my efforts via ‘linky parties’. These are a great way to share posts, discover other blogs and build online friendships (some which have grown into real life friendships!) As a newbie those reassuring comments from the blogging community make all the difference. It wasn’t long before I was joining more linky parties than I could keep up with and suddenly the pressure to read-comment-repeat began to become another daily chore on my ‘to-do’ list. I started to feel the pressure to post (and read) regardless of whether I actually wanted to or not. Social media platforms were no longer somewhere to kill a few minutes looking at pretty pictures or discover an interesting article; it was all about self promotion and scheduling to grow my audience. This was not what I’d signed up for.
So why not just stop? I’m in control of my own blog, not vice versa right?
There’s something strangely satisfying about laminating stuff, no? This week we’ve been laminating left right and centre and basically living out my childhood dreams of being Teacher. Here’s a peek into what we’ve been up to…
There are oodles of online printables available for organising everything from your weekly menu to your wedding day. Visit Fellowes.com/ideascentre for some fab free options. Use a dry wipe marker so you can clean and reuse as many times as you like.
I also laminated my favourite ‘Daily Blogging Checklist‘, nothing quite as satisfying as being able to tick things off that list right?
Getting Flump to practice her writing isn’t easy at the best of times but it seems the novelty of a wipe-clean sheet makes it slightly more interesting! I also laminated her times tables sheets to keep them in the back of the car for practicing while we’re out and about. Next up – telling the time sheets (wish me luck!)
I found this idea online and thought it was so cute as a present for Grandparents – mini-me bookmarks! Just print a photo of your little one with their hands clasped up in the air, laminate and thread some ribbon through the top – simples. I also made a cute unicorn tail version with some leftover wallpaper. You can find some simple bookmark printables here to get you started.
With the start of a new school year comes the bonus of works of art arriving home on a daily basis- yay! Some lovely Mummies cannot bear to part with even the teeniest scrap of paper and store these offerings in a folder, to be filed away for sentimental reasons. I’m not that Mummy, ours get filed away in the recycling bin, sometimes enroute to the front door. However occasionally there are some treasures that even I find hard to ditch – there’s something about those handprint ones that get me every time. A quick trip through the laminator means I can store it away safely to cry over in years to come!
High on any kid’s list of favourite pass-times are making a mess and stuffing their greedy little faces with junk. It goes without saying then that baking, an activity that combines both these things, is always a winner. While I do a lot of baking when I have the kitchen to myself, I rarely have the patience or inclination to allow my two little helpers in on the act ‘just for fun’. This recipe is my secret weapon for those times when I can no longer avoid the joy that is baking with children. It’s simple enough for the kids to get involved, quick, has 3 basic ingredients and best of all uses little equipment so you won’t be left with a mountain of washing up.
If you’ve attempted to bake with kids before you’ll already know that they have zero interest in measuring out the ingredients or lining baking trays. All this stuff is boring. They basically want to get their hands covered in goop and eat the end results as soon as possible even if it means first degree burns to the tongue. Just get everything prepped beforehand (it won’t take long in this instance) and I promise things will be 100% less painful.
David Walliams, Frank Lampard, Ricky Gervais – to you and me well known names from the celebrity world but to my 8 year old son, authors of some of his favourite children’s books. Now you can add to the list of famouses-turned-author, funny man David Baddiel. In fact Baddiel has been writing for many years but has only ventured into children’s fiction more recently. Already a huge fan myself I need no convincing of his humour and brilliance but as we know, kids are the harshest critics and so on this occasion I’ve delegated the task of reviewing ‘AniMalcolm’ (Baddiel’s latest) to my own little bookwork, Spud.
At first he thought the book looked a bit big compared to his usual reads but inside the text and illustrations are well spaced out and make this an easy read for him- he flew through the pages chuckling away to himself! He really enjoyed it and especially loved the idea of the main character being turned into all the different animals and experiencing life from their point of view! Two big thumbs up from this little bookworm.
“I loved it when he was turned into different animals!” – Spud Brown, 8 years
If you saw my post back in February you’ll know that I was lucky enough to be offered a place to run Vitality London 10,000 for The Children’s Society. You’ll also know I am not a runner. Less than four months later it seems surreal for me to be sitting here writing a post about running 10k, but I did it! Yesterday along with 12,000 other runners (including Olympian Supermum Jo Pavey) I ran through the streets of London and it was one of the best experiences of my life. A highly emotional week for our country, those affected by the Manchester bombing were remembered in a minute silence as runners lined up in the Mall pre-race; with a reminder from Event Director Hugh Brasher that “above all, love overcomes hate.”
Every single participant had their own reason for running, their own experience of the race and their own story to tell, here’s mine.
When the opportunity arose for me to run 10k for The Children’s Society I’ll admit I had my reservations. Of course I wanted to do it but I had serious doubts that I would ever be able to achieve it. I’ve tried running in the past but for one reason or another never really stuck with it. I’d never even got to the 5k mark never mind 10k so I knew it would be something I would really have to work for.
I looked into what would be a realistic time period for a beginner to progress to 10k and discovered that it was definitely achievable if I stuck to a training plan. I downloaded the C210K app and without boring you with the details huffed and puffed my way through the next 14 weeks training.
Signing up for an event and running for a charity means you are committed, failure is not an option and what better incentive than knowing you are running for a good cause? Had this not been the case I know for sure I would have given up.
It’s very easy to get carried away when it comes to running gear – it’s everywhere now and so pretty. Unfortunately it’s also so spendy! I had a few bits and pieces hiding at the back of the drawer under the bed (with all the other stuff that never gets used) which I knew would be fine for now but footwear needed some serious consideration. I had a fantastic gait analysis at Sweatshop Milton Keynes and the staff advised me on the best running shoes for me within my budget.
Obviously there are challenges along the way that can’t be ignored but they can be overcome. Strained muscles or blisters can be expected but shouldn’t be ignored. My initial fear was my knee (which I’ve previously had surgery on) letting me down. I researched ways of running that wouldn’t exacerbate the problem and ironically as I’ve progressed through the weeks my knee has greatly improved!
As with any new training it’s normal to have reservations/expectations about how this might affect you, both physically and mentally. Now this is a funny one for me to sum up because although I haven’t lost any weight and my bingo wings and tummy pooch remain unchanged I do feel much happier with myself physically than I did before I started running. Four months is a relatively short time period to expect to see any notable physical changes from a few runs a week but perhaps underneath this soft exterior a slightly more toned version is emerging. Mentally, running allows you lots of time to think without distractions, whether you like it or not! All I can say is I’ve never returned from a run without feeling energised and positive.
When race day finally arrived I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. Having never been to a running event even as a spectator I didn’t really know what to expect. However I’d done the training and once I’d dropped off my kit bag (and made that all important last minute trip to the portaloos), I knew all that was left to do now was enjoy it.
As I lined up with all the other runners I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Emotions were high and I wondered if I’d be able to make it round the course without crying the entire time.
I needn’t have worried. As soon as I stepped over the starting line all of that disappeared and I felt pure happiness the entire run. Himself and the kids came along to support me so I have a few action shots and I don’t think there is one photo of me running where I don’t look like the Cheshire Cat!
A mixture of adrenalin and excitement meant I didn’t even think about my legs aching or needing my inhaler (which I had with me in a running belt just in case). Despite the humid conditions it didn’t occur to me that I might be hot, or thirsty or…..anything. Just happy. I didn’t even need my emergency Haribo!
If you read other people’s experiences of running events they will almost certainly mention the positive effect the crowd have on you and they are not wrong! Oh my goodness the crowd are so supportive the whole way around they deserve a medal at the end too. Whether it be having your family and friends there to support you, your chosen charity cheering you on, the fantastic live music or just strangers along the route shouting the name on your vest THE CROWD WILL CARRY YOU ALONG!
Runners are grouped by ability so while some will be looking to break records or leave with a PB, others will be simply aiming to make it to the finish lined. Being in the latter group I decided I didn’t want to think about timings, just enjoy the experience and I’m really glad I did. I think it would have been very different if I’d been conscious of how fast/slow I was going and to be honest my group was so busy that it would only have stressed me out if I was trying to weave in and out of the crowds. The timing tag you are supplied with (to attach to your laces) will take readings when you pass the start, 5km and finish timing pads if you want to look up your details after the race.
As the finish line grew nearer I almost didn’t want it to end. During training I’d thought a lot about crossing the finish line and imagined I would be a blubbing mess, full of emotion, a mixture of joy and relief. Weirdly it wasn’t at all how I’d expected. The cheering crowds finish a couple of hundred meters before the end and the road suddenly becomes very quiet and sparse of runners. As I stepped over the line I felt the last thing I ever imagined, I felt like a runner.
With half term just around the corner now’s a good time for parent bloggers to think of ways to keep your blog active while you enjoy some family time. These suggestions will help you avoid the dreaded Blogger’s Guilt that we all feel from time to time whether it be due to family commitments, writer’s block or too few hours in the day.
PLAN AHEAD: The most obvious and effective way to keep things ticking along is to plan well in advance. Scheduling new posts, tweets, Facebook updates etc for the week ahead takes the pressure off trying to ‘fit it all in’. Your blog will continue to get views while you’re busy building sandcastles and finally making use of your National Trust membership.
BLOG-MIN: If (like me) you are nowhere near organised enough to plan posts in advance use this time to do all the other bloggy bits and bobs on your to-do list e.g:
Find and fix broken links
Contact a blogger you would like to guest-post for
Update your media-kit
Respond to/follow up on emails
Refresh and share an old post
Pin your posts to Pinterest
Update your editorial calendar
All are great ways of being productive when it’s not possible to work on new ideas. Personally I need total silence to be able to concentrate on writing a post but I could happily manage a bit of blog-min while the kids are busy watching a DVD.
You may have noticed the #rockingmotherhood tag popping up on your favourite blogs quite a lot recently. A list of 10 reasons why you’re acing it in the Mummy game followed by 5 nominees to join in. I’m all for encouraging us mamas to ditch the mum guilt and actually celebrate the positives of parenting so here goes…
1:EMBRACING NEW EXPERIENCES – Ha! Where to start with this one? Becoming a mother brings with it no end of new experiences and challenges. Some of these we may prefer to erase from our memory (Morning sickness? Episiotomy? Cracked Nipples? I could go on but I won’t!). Others open up a whole new world where we are forced to deal with things totally outside our comfort zone. From Great Aunt Aggie to Gina Ford (urgh) we’re bombarded and bamboozled with advice but ultimately the buck stops with Mama Bear and slowly you begin to grow in confidence, learning as you go. Every stage of parenting a small human throws up (!) weird and wonderful experiences. Eventually I realised that being a mother is a bit like being Charlie Bucket in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; you know it’s a privilege not everyone gets, you spend most of it being slightly freaked out but ultimately you embrace it as one of the most amazing things you will ever experience.
As you might already know I’m running the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of May. Yep, that’s actually happening (well that’s the plan anyway!)
Not only will this be my first 10k race, it will be my first ever race. I’m part terrified, part excited, part terrified. Any previous attempts to run for more than 2 minutes have ended with me convincing myself I’m just not built for it, quickly returning to my comfort zone of long walks. After a knee operation and a long, boring wait for tendonitis to ease up I was happy just to be able to manage walking without pain. So there I remained, content with my daily mooch to the next village and back. A long enough walk to rack up a decent amount of steps and my daily therapy fix to boot- perfect.
This year however, when an opportunity came up for me to run as part of The Children’s Society team I knew it was just the motivation I needed to give running another try. It’s a wonderful charity that works with disadvantaged children dealing with a wide range of issues from child poverty to government policy, always working to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Being able to raise awareness for these guys through my blog while training for a 10k seemed like a no-brainer.
I thought I’d give you a little update on how it’s going so far. As the title of the post suggests, I’ve reached the halfway point of my training today *pats self on back* so I thought it might be useful for anyone considering the Couch – 5k to have a little insight of my experience.
I decided to train using the C25Kapp as it’s the most well known, tried and tested approach I’m aware of. It’s tailored to first time runners and seems to have a good success rate. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it or used it before it’s an 8 week running plan aimed to gradually build up your running to 5k through a combination of walking and running, until you are strong enough to run without stopping. Each training session lasts between 30-40 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down.
Each week has three workouts ideally with a rest day in between which works perfectly for me. I drop the kids to school and do the workout straight after on Mon/Wed/Fri meaning I don’t have to worry about fitting a session in over the weekend.
I would say that before starting C25K my level of fitness was average. I’m no gym bunny but I do try to make a bit of an effort to move my body and keep active. The very first day of training was this: 5min warm up then alternate 60sec jogging and 90sec walking for 20min. Pff, I mean how hard can that be? Turns out it can be quite hard. Hmmm….so at that point I may have had a mild panic about how the hell I was ever going to run 10k if I was struggling on Day 1!
8 weeks on, I have somehow managed to learn to run continuously for 5k! I just have to read that back because it seems unbelievable to me. I’ve never before managed anywhere near that and I know for a fact that the only reason I haven’t quit weeks ago is because I can’t. I’ve committed to running 10k and not doing so, well it just isn’t an option.
When the voice on the app tells me to run, I run and I keep running until she says I can stop. It’s that simple. I reckon Forest Gump had the right idea you know, just keep on runnin’.
Some days are harder than others. In fact most days are a little bit hard but I’d liken it to childbirth in that once it’s over you feel an overwhelming sense of joy and completely forget the horror you’ve just endured.