**Coming Soon!** ‘She Loves Herself’

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One project I have been really keen to work on is a series relating to body positivity, something you’ll know I feel strongly about if you read my previous posts Why Body-Shamers Can Kiss My (Squidgy) Butt! and All the Carbs Please…. Both received many open and honest responses from readers who have been affected by external pressure to look a certain way, often leading to a negative body image. For some this was ‘just’ feeling unhappy in their own skin but for others it led to a warped relationship with food and even eating disorders.

Loving our family and friends comes so naturally but it seems there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to loving ourselves. As women we are often under pressure to meet unrealistically high standards in many aspects of life, but none more so than our physical appearance (and often we are our own worst critics). We poke and prod our squidgy bits, lusting after a toned tummy or leaner legs, after all we’ve had SO much practice at picking fault it comes naturally.

Whether it’s pressure from the media, society or even closer to home, there’s no sign of this quest for perfection going anywhere soon. As a mother I find this pretty depressing. The thought of my daughter growing up with so many negative messages about women’s bodies and the worry of what impact that will have makes me sad for her.

Although the recent trend for healthy rather than skinny is encouraging, even this has been taken to extremes in some cases and ultimately resulted in a ‘healthy’ eating and exercise regime which is basically another form of restrictive dieting under a different guise.

A movement towards body positivity is definitely growing but it is still FAR outweighed by the negative messages we see targeting women (and it is mainly women) in the public eye. So what can we do? Well the obvious solution would be to say “Knickers!” to the whole nonsense and get on with living life, but it’s HARD. It takes courage and self confidence that has been knocked out of some of us from an early age, year on year. BUT we are not blameless. If we are to change anything we need to take responsibility and we need to do things differently. In the same way that eventually body bashing becomes second nature we need to become better at BEING NICE TO OURSELVES! I know, crazy concept.

There is a wonderful Eleanor Roosevelt quote which I have used before but it says it perfectly:

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Next week I’ll post the first of my ‘She Loves Herself’ series, my own small step towards encouraging positivity and reinforcing the idea that we need to just stop the silliness, okay? I am so excited about my first guest and can’t wait to introduce you and share her answers – eek!

This series is all about ordinary people refusing to be made to feel inferior anymore and having the courage to say “Actually my body is pretty bloody brilliant and what I choose to do with it is my business!”. If this is a subject that you feel strongly about or have been affected by then I need your support people! If you’ve had enough of being told you need to change and would rather be part of something positive then why not take part in the series? Just leave a comment below or email me messandmerlot@outlook.com – I’d love to hear from you!

X

 

 

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

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A few weeks ago I was tagged by Jane at Maflingo to take part in ‘Sisterhood of the World Bloggers’, a series of questions set by Jane which I have finally gotten round to answering.(I’ll then tag 5 bloggers to take part with some questions of my very own). Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

 

Who would you most like to meet and why? Given the opportunity to meet anyone  I would choose my Granddad on my Dad’s side, who died long before I was born and never had a chance to meet. On a lighter note, maybe Greg Davis? I don’t know why but I find him weirdly fascinating!

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What’s your earliest childhood memory? I can’t remember much before about the age of 5. They’re all pretty random things that have stuck in my mind, more snapshots in time than actual experiences. An apron that used to hang on the back door, or a very specific bathroom tile that had a pattern a bit like a bird if you squinted. When we lived in Dublin my Aunt lived on the same street and I remember visiting her and discovering a big bar of chocolate in the kitchen drawer. Obviously I broke off a chunk and started scoffing only to discover that someone had created the most revolting tasting chocolate as some sort of sick joke! Diabetic chocolate has come a long way since 1984.

What’s your favourite film and why? I rarely have the inclination to watch a film these days unless it’s something really special but as a teenager I used to watch ‘Clueless’ over and over again, usually on a Sunday while doing the ironing in my parent’s living room -it still makes me smile.

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Name three of your ‘guilty pleasures. Just three?? OK Hagan Dazs straight from the tub with my favourite ice-cream spoon. Preferably on the sofa, in my jammies after the kids have gone to bed. Blogging (OK, reading other people’s blogs) when I have an endless list of jobs to do. Post-school run cake for breakfast – I’m not sharing!

Which superhero would you most like to be and why? I’m not up on my superheroes (sorry Jane!) but I had really vivid, recurring dreams of flying as a kid so any one that can fly would be UH-MAZ-ING.

What’s your proudest moment. Oh God as a parent I get ‘Proud Mum’ moments about the most ridiculously small things all the time. I rarely feel proud of myself, in fact it makes me uncomfortable just trying to think about it (hello Catholic Guilt!) Maybe the first time someone said they enjoyed my blog -writing is a totally new thing for me so it was like validation that I was doing alright.

What’s your most embarrassing moment (I’ve shared mine, you share yours!)? When I was younger my Mum would insist on calling me ‘Fanny’ – more ‘years of utter mortification’ than embarrassing moment.

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What or who makes you laugh and why? My family aside (hey, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry) silly humour really makes me laugh. The Inbetweeners, Alan Partridge, The Office, Man Down, Gavin and Stacey, Peter Kay – you get the picture.

Who’s your favourite character from a book and why? Easy. The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Stuffs face, sleeps for a fortnight, emerges a fabulous creature.

When was the last time you cried? Yesterday. Becoming a mother has turned me into a massive cry-baby!

My nominations for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers tag are:

Rhyming With Wine

Beauty Baby Me

Slouching Towards Thatcham (honorary Sister!)

Just Saying Mum

Pink Pear Bear

Here are my questions for you:

  1. What is your favourite thing about being a blogger?
  2. 10 minute sit down with a cuppa and an iPad, what’s your go-to blog/app/website of choice?
  3. Summer or Winter?
  4. If you could have any piece of art (money no object) on display in your home which would you choose?
  5. Who would play you in a movie?
  6. And which lucky actor gets cast as ‘Love Interest’?
  7. If you could return to somewhere you’ve visited before where would you go?
  8. What’s your favourite way to relax after a long week?
  9. What was your first ever concert?
  10. If you were invisible for the day where would you go?

Looking forward to hearing your answers. Remember to tag me if you tweet so I can re-tweet your post – enjoy!

X

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Every Day’s a School Day plus *GIVEAWAY* Maths Puzzle

So despite the fact I’m typing this in what feels like the Earth’s core while the paddling pool is filling outside, I think we’ve all accepted that the Summer holidays are over and normal business has resumed – boooo….

Thankfully the kids have settled back into the old routine nicely while I’m still busy clearing up/recovering from the aftermath of school holidays.

Spud and Flump thoroughly enjoyed their break from the classroom (as much as I enjoyed my break from the school run!) but in an effort to stop their brains from grinding to a complete halt I employed a few sneaky tactics to encourage learning in a relaxed, enjoyable way.

  • Reading. Every year we take part in the Summer Reading Challenge which encourages children to read books in order to earn stamps, which they can then exchange for prizes. This year was particularly special as it was also part of the celebrations to mark the birth of Roald Dahl 100 years ago! It’s free and had both kids devouring books enthusiastically – the power of a scratch n sniff sticker eh?
  • Writing. We chose postcards while on holiday to write and send to friends back home.(Did you know it can take the average 5 year old up to 35 minutes to choose 4 postcards? Neither did I). Spud kept a diary of his adventures in a caravan, wrote to Blue Peter and penned his very first best-seller based on Ronaldo and himself fighting aliens in space in order to save the world from an invasion. I successfully tricked Flump into practicing her writing by ‘playing schools’ with free printouts from this website which worked brilliantly until she decided she was going to be the teacher and I was the pupil.
  • Maths. I wrote about my kids very different approach to learning in Beauty and the Brainbox and this is particularly evident when it comes to numbers! Spud is a natural, he just ‘gets it’ and writes out number grids and times tables for fun . Sadly it doesn’t come quite as easily to Flump who has a more ‘I do not like the numbers and you cannot make me like the numbers’ attitude when it comes to maths. When the lovely people at HappyCalc  asked me to review their new maths puzzle I had a feeling it would be right up her street. I was right…

The box comes JAM PACKED with pieces (138 to be exact), a mixture of illustrations and numbers which are combined to make simple equations and awesome spacecraft creations. As you can see Flump took over the floor with her sprawling masterpiece and the space theme couldn’t have been more apt as this is her Year 1 topic – result!

 

It’s aimed at 3+ from an educational point but to be honest any child who enjoys puzzles would love it. In fact Spud is almost 8 and spent ages playing with it, particularly enjoying all the funny little illustrations (I have to say I was impressed with the details, so many different little creatures to spot!). Unlike any other jigsaw I’ve seen this one is completely free form with no specific rules, allowing the child to create their own original design every time. Ideal for any little anarchist.

If you’d like to get your mitts on one you can purchase here  (currently on offer for around £23 plus P&P) or you can WIN one by entering via the link below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cooee!

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Hello!!

Just a super quick half pint of a post today as I refamiliarise myself with a laptop and poke my nose around the screen to say “Hi!”

So it’s been 3 weeks, did you miss me? Pah, bet you didn’t even notice I’d gone. Charming! Well I missed you lot, keeping me entertained and distracting me from all the very important things.

We’re at the end of our first week back to school here and so far, so good. With the exception of just one little meltdown (me, in the middle of M&S) we’re settling back into the old routine nicely and so far nobody has lost any uniform and Mummy hasn’t forgotten anything important. OK, I forgot the cheque for school dinners but apart from that, all good. On reflection my kids appear to be doing school a lot better than I am, hmmm… Oh, oh and we’ve walked to school four days in a row now and only had to run twice to beat the bell – I can tell you’re impressed. To be honest though, that’s mainly because we got stuck in a traffic jam on Day 1 and Spud was almost having kittens at the thought of being late for school, as a result we are now too scared to ever drive again JUST IN CASE.

Anywho, now that the chalk dust has settled and I’ve had a chance return the house to some sort of order I’m sooooooooooooo looking forward to getting back to blogging, lots of ideas I’ve been itching to crack on with over the holidays.

More of that soon, school run beckons – lovely to be back, looking forward to catching up with you all next week.

Have a great weekend!

Charlie.

Zoats- surprisingly ok!

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Ordinarily I’d never have courgettes in the house, I’m not a fan but my Father-In-Law grows them so we usually end up with a couple every few weeks. Never one to waste food I’ve tried a few ways to transform them into something tasty including cake, fritters and tzatziki dip. Today it’s zoats, a combination of oats and grated courgette (or Zucchini, hence the ‘Z’oats). You can pimp your zoats however you please, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, honey, chocolate chips, basically whatever you would normally put on porridge.

I had some fruit that was looking rather sorry for itself so decided to use that up. IMG_0910

For this bowl I used:
Half a massive courgette (1 small courgette) grated
1 apple grated
1 banana (half mashed, half reserved for topping)
Large splash milk
Topped with blueberries, banana and cinnamon
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Just mix it up and either cook on the hob or microwave as you would porridge and add toppings. The result? Now I’m aware the concept may sound very wrong, but actually the courgette doesn’t affect the flavour one bit and the texture is similar to grated apple. It bulked up the meal (that’s a tablespoon in the top image!) added fibre and sorted my courgette quandary – all in all a total winner, I’ll definitely be trying this one again, maybe with a scoop of protein powder next time (proat-zoats??)

Have you tried zoats yet? More importantly can you recommend any other recipes that use lots of courgettes (that don’t involve a spiralizer)??

x

 

Glossybox August 2016 – Quick Nosey

I returned home from a few days in Norfolk with the family to find my very first Glossybox waiting for me (shout out to all posties who hide stuff behind the bin and save me a trip to the depot- I love you.) This is a VERY quick post just to show you the contents. I’m no beauty blogger but if you want a nice shiny review with pretty pictures a quick Google should bring up plenty of professional offerings, this is just for anyone who fancies a nosey.

I was quite looking forward to opening that myself actually.

I should start by saying I’m not particularly high maintenance when it comes to my beauty regime but I’ve always been tempted to give Glossybox, My Little Box or Birchbox a try. Last week I spied a code which bagged me “£20 worth” of extra booty with my order so decided to treat myself and see what all the fuss was about.

 

I paid £13.25 inc (very pretty) P&P, here’s what I got:

MUA Full Size Eyeshadow Pallette (£4): I was pretty happy to receive the ‘Heaven and Earth’ (bronzy browns) option as I’ll probably get more use out of that than the bluey grey alternative.

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Spa To You Deep Pore Facial Cleansing Brush Full Size (£6.99): Never one for creamy cleansers, I love a good scrub and am a devoted face wash and flannel user when it comes to cleaning my mush. This product is right up my street, you just apply your face wash as usual and use circular motions with the brush for a good ol’ exfoliation. It comes with a nifty little stand/cover which turned out to be not so nifty when it kept falling over backwards. I propped it up against the wall, the world went on, my face felt suitably buffed. I like it, I’d probably use it 2-3 times a week rather than everyday.

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Mudmasky Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask 20ml (£53) Their website states £60 per 60ml (!!) but currently offering 20% to Glossybox subscribers. At this price I’m going to enjoy every ml. I used it after the cleansing brush above so I’ve probably taken strips off my poor face but actually it felt really nice – tiny tiny ‘scrubby bits’ (how am I not a beauty blogger?) which I like, went on really easily and smoothly, smelt a bit like washing up liquid, made me look like Elphaba from Wicked (bonus points). Dried hard but as the layer is quite thin it doesn’t do that horrible crackling thing which freaks me out a bit. Washed off easily and left my skin feeling really soft and not at all tight or irritated.

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Cowshed Wild Cow Invigorating Body Lotion 30ml (300ml £20) Not sure I would spend £20 on a body lotion for myself but I have had a few Cowshed products in the past and really liked them. From the packaging I assumed it was going to be menthol/eucalyptus which I hate so I was very pleasantly surprised when I got my nostrils round it.This one smells so good, similar to the gorgeous Origins Ginger range or Champneys Citrus Glow range. Luxuriously thick but easily absorbed, this went on beautifully. I. Smell. Lush.

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GB Monogram Pochette designed by Rae Feather – Either you’re up to speed with this monogramming accessories brand du jour, or like me you’ve never heard of it because these days the closest you get to monogramming is scribbling your kids initials on their PE kit. Anyway, the inclosed newsletter informs me that the likes of Louise Redknapp, Poppy Delevigne and Coleen Rooney are big fans. Smallish but handy little zip purse useful for stashing bits and bobs.

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All in all I’d say I got my money’s worth. These are products that I can use and although I may not necessarily have bought them for myself, the whole idea is that the box is a little treat. I like nice smellies as much as the next person but in all honest beauty isn’t really my thing so while I may not seem over enthusiastic about my Glossybox, I don’t mean to sound negative. If beauty is your thing then I’d definitely give it a try, I think you’ll really like it. Me however, well my idea of a treat remains a (large) wodge of cake or a glass of red.

(PS below are the products I received with my code for a bonus gift worth £20)

A very wearable full size 10ml Nails Inc varnish  ‘Uptown’. This picture makes it look a bit more peachy than it really is, it’s more of a rosey pink. Really happy with this.

Eylure false lashes . I LOVE how pretty false eyelashes can look but I HATE  the feeling of them on my eyes and these are some chunky bad boys so if I ever did manage to apply them properly I’d probably have to walk around with my eyes closed.

Collection 2000 Teal Gel Eyeliner. Pretty sure the eyeliner will go to my makeup obsessed friend who can rock any look, unlike me who would look like a pantomime dame if I attempted anything remotely trendy.

Hope you enjoyed this sneaky peek into my August 2016 Glossybox!

The Kids Are Alright

Somehow we are already halfway through the Summer holidays. Usually that statement would be one of reassurance, spurring me on through the second half towards the finishing line, where I can collapse in a heap at the school gates and be wrapped in a foil blanket by a member of St Johns Ambulance.

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This year however, something very, very strange is happening. After doing a quick check that I’d actually got my dates right and we were indeed at the halfway mark, I didn’t feel any sense of relief at all. In fact my heart sank a little knowing that the weeks are going by far too quickly and before I know it we’ll be diving into the new academic year.

So what has changed? How have we gone from a situation where I spend weeks dreading the arrival of the holidays and counting down the days until it ends, to one where the whole thing is a relatively pain-free, dare I say enjoyable experience?!

Now I know there’s a current trend of parents slagging their own children off, calling them everything under the sun and generally highlighting the many ways they make our lives a misery. While I find some of it funny, (Katie at Hurrah For Gin is just genius!) I won’t be referring to my kids as  dickheads, tw*ts or little f*ckers anytime soon (can’t promise I won’t be thinking it now and again though). Every parent knows children are hard work, they are relentless in their demands and have the ability to push you to the limit by breakfast but really, they are just being kids and sometimes kids can be annoying. As much as we would all love a tranquil existence with our impeccably behaved offspring it’s just not realistic to expect children to behave like anything other than children. In fact as parents it’s our job to deal with their little ‘challenges’ and ensure that they don’t develop into fully grown adult dickheads!

So apart from the incessant demands for my attention, requests for food, constant bickering and all the other perfectly normal shenanigans that make up family life, I guess what I am really trying to say is – the kids are alright. In fact they’re more than alright, I’d even go as far as to say it’s actually quite nice having them around! Yes, this is basically the post where I admit to sometimes enjoying the company of my own children. I can almost smell that Mother of the Year trophy.

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The obvious difference this Summer is that Flump and Spud are a year older, 5 and almost 8. This has such a big impact on many aspects of their abilities and behaviour versus previous years. In other words, they can enjoy doing way more stuff without everything resulting in some sort of emotional meltdown – HURRAH!!

Most days they can happily go from one activity to the next without needing to ask “What can I dooooo Mummy?” every 5 minutes and can play together or independently for a decent period of time too. Most days. Flump is more than happy in her own little world but Spud sometimes needs a little bit of guidance so we have a ‘Summer Rules’ sheet on the wall listing all the things they need to do before they are allowed screen time. This includes a certain amount of time reading, doing a craft, completing worksheets, making their beds, playing outside etc and usually this is more than enough to keep him entertained between breakfast and bedtime.

Days out are a much more enjoyable experience too. As long as I keep a constant supply of snacks and water on hand at all times the world’s our lobster. Playdates are a pretty relaxed affair with the little ones happy to play together (between snacks) and although there is an age gap, Flump is now more than capable of holding her own with the big boys and much to their annoyance often enjoys joining in with their games.

Where in previous years I wouldn’t have even attempted a trip to the shops unless it was absolutely necessary, so far we’ve managed a couple of pretty successful days shopping (even a Primark haul!) relatively fuss free. One of those included a trip to IKEA which the kids requested so they could go to Smalland for an hour, well I’m not gonna argue with that! Win win.

Lazy mornings, dawdling walks to the local playground, visits to the library and the odd trip to the coffee shop for a treat have broken the days up nicely and kept us happy with little effort or expense.

Credit where it’s due, they really have been pretty good company so far.

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In order to make the most of our time together I’ve made a few changes to my own behaviour which have without a doubt allowed me to enjoy the holidays in a much more carefree manner. Primarily, I’ve taken a big (temporary!) step back from blogging, writing if and when the notion takes me, dipping in and out of Twitter much less than usual and joining linkies a little less often too. This alone has made a huge difference – although I do feel like I’m neglecting my lovely blogging friends a bit I know they are a great bunch and will completely understand that family takes priority.

Spud and Flump are growing up far too quickly for my liking and every day I lose a little bit more of my babies as they figure out who they are and develop into little people! (Sad face.) I am very, very lucky to have the option of being a SAHM and I’ve realised that even though the kids won’t appreciate that now, hopefully in years to come they’ll remember the day we found ‘the tiniest frog in the world’ or knocked on fairy doors in the forest.

And so will I.

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