A guide to parent blogging on my 1 year anniversary

1 year blog anniversary: a parent’s guide to blogging

A guide to parent blogging on my 1 year anniversaryThis time last year, I wrote my first ever blog post Once upon a time…. It was written whilst lying in the bath and contemplating my need for some ‘mental space’ after having my second child.

I can’t believe it really is one year ago. Blogging is now a part of my life – it feels like an extension of me, an outlet for my feelings, a way to express myself and a great means of encountering new experiences and new friends.

After 6 months, I wrote about my blogging journey 6 months in, about how I was addicted, had found another world that is fluid and ever-changing. I found I can write – even if I think I don’t have anything much to write about. I start, and I suddenly find I had a good 500 words or so in there after all. I’m by no means the best, but some of my work has picked up some interest – I’ve started to keep a record of these on my featured in page. It’s just a little memento for me – a reminder that I can do this.

I’m at a turning point. I’ve done lots of reviews and attended many blogging events, but I feel that this side of things has taken over a bit recently and I just want to ‘get things down’ more – write organically, whether it’s about a particularly trying day I’ve had with the children or my daughter turning 18 months.

I have so much in my head right now as I work, organise my children, try and keep on top of the house and also plan a wedding. It’s easy to forget that my blog can actually help me during busy periods rather than being just another ‘chore’. Writing helps make sense of everything. The therapeutic side of writing is well known but with blogging you’re also sharing it with a diverse community who often give back by way of feedback and comments.

So – I don’t want to repeat my previous musings on the joys of blogging, but I thought it may be helpful to anyone who is thinking of starting a blog to give a few tips from my own experiences. Here goes.

  1. Just write. If you’re thinking of starting but are lacking confidence, just begin! It’s very easy to set up a free blog on WordPress or Blogger amongst others. Plus, the wonderful thing about blogging is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not an essay or a report. It’s not a piece of journalism. It’s just you. Cut out the robot and be yourself – we want to hear what you have to say.
  2. Join lots of blogging communities. There are many blogging communities out there that provide advice, inspiration, links to other great blogs and brand contacts if you’re thinking of going down this route. My favourites are Tots 100, Britmums and Mumsnet Bloggers Network.
  3. Practise mindmaps. Early on in my blogging journey, I came across a great site/app called MindMeister. This is great for organising your thoughts while you’re on the move. Or buy yourself a pretty notebook – whatever you need to encourage you to jot down your ideas and inspiration on a regular basis.
  4. Have fun with photos. It’s surprisingly easy these days to take a decent photo with a smartphone, upload it to Instagram and make it even more decent. I use Instaframe to make quick collages of photos to illustrate an activity or collection of activities. You may be a photo pro already – maybe you even have a great camera – but for the purposes of blogging, the file size only needs to be small, which means lots of flexibility in how to create and develop your photography.My baby turned fourteen months old this week and I reflect on her development and learning
  5. Get social media savvy. There are lots of guides to social media out there – get googling, read a few articles and get organised. Twitter is the main touch down space used by bloggers – a great promotional vehicle and handy way to make and keep an eye on contacts via the use of lists. I also find my Facebook page invaluable for creating regular followers.  Using Instagram and Pinterest also generates interest and Google+ is the one to watch – this has really taken off this year amongst bloggers.
  6. Join a discussion group. There are lots of groups out there for bloggers. I’m a member of the North West Bloggers Facebook group, amongst others, and they’re great for sharing ideas, resources and opportunities.
  7. Go self-hosted as soon as you can. This is especially important if you’re looking to ultimately monetise your blog. If you’re self-hosted (rather than on free WordPress, blogger etc.) you own your own space and have greater freedom regarding advertising or affiliate linking. But it also means you have greater flexibility to customise your site. This area is one I’m still getting my own head around – there’s lots to learn about what you can do with your own website!
  8. Connect with brands, but don’t forget yourself. I’ve been lucky enough to have reviewed some great family products, restaurants and services. You’ll find that once your views start picking up and you’re getting noticed, you’ll get contacted by PR people and brands more regularly, whether it’s for reviews, sponsored posts or other opportunities. But you can find that this begins to take over your blog. It’s up to you – but remember why you started blogging!
  9. Stats aren’t everything. Oh my word – it’s so easy to get obsessive about those stats. They’re so easily accessible – I can take a look at my stats on my iPhone, iPad or laptop. I’ve enabled Google Analytics for a closer look. Blog stats are weird – some days you’ll find you suddenly have a spike in views even though you’ve written nothing for a week. Other days, you’ll be demoralised when a post you thought was your greatest piece of writing gets about 8 views. That’s the web and social media for you – it’s a fickle world! As long as you’re making progress with your followers generally, don’t worry. Or don’t even worry about that – it’s your blog, who cares who reads it as long as you’re happy with what you write? And on that note…
  10. Don’t be afraid to take a break. From my experience, all bloggers have moments when we are devoid of inspiration but we feel we should write for writing’s sake. Don’t be afraid to take a brief break – the blog will still be there when an idea grabs you again.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my blogging experiences and it’s helped focus my mind on how I’m progressing. I hope some of you reading this will start your on blogs, as I love reading them!

Curiosity and questions age 3

Questions: being three and being curious

Questions and curiosity at age 3

Curiosity has its own reason for existing. At least according to Albert Einstein. Recently, I’ve noticed that my three year old (three and a half now, almost) is asking LOTS of questions and it caused me to reflect on her curiosity.

I find many of her questions difficult to answer! Take “Mummy, where do the clouds come from?” for example, just as I was in the middle of changing my sixteen month old’ s nappy. Panicking slightly as I thought I really did not have the foggiest, I did manage to dredge up some high school Geography (I wrote GCSE Geography at first there, then realised that nope, I didn’t even take GCSE in this horrendously dull subject) and waffled about rain and water vapour and even managed to get something about the sea and mountains in there, which was probably wrong.  Three year old accepted it thoughtfully and proceeded to her next endeavour.

I wanted to keep on record some of the questions my three year old has asked – and it makes for interesting reading.   It shows how her mind is spontaneously curious about just anything she sees. Here are some from the past week or so:

  1. Where does the sun go when it’s night?
  2. What was your grandma’s name?
  3. Are there things to play with in cat heaven?
  4. Why do we have eyebrows?
  5. Why don’t I have boobies?
  6. Why does Daddy go to work? (Reminder here that Mummy does go to work sometimes!)
  7. Why is it morning time?
  8. Where have the clouds come from?/Where does the cold come from?
  9. Why do people have driveways?
  10. What are the yellow lines for in the road/What are the white lines for?
  11. How would we walk without legs or feet?

The last one had me in stitches – I have no idea where that came from!

I’ve been reading a lot recently about brain development and how so much of it – in fact pretty much all if you view it on a graph over a lifespan – occurs before the age of 5, peaking around age 3. I think I’m seeing this so much right now – I can almost see her little brain making connections and synapses forming.

It’s so hard looking after young children and yet so dauntingly important. I’d better read up on my geography as I want to have those answers to hand for her!

Any ideas on the “why is it morning time?” one?!

Eating pizza

Conversation at the family dinner table

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This pizza is fueling my conversational ability!

I’m always amazed with the sudden leaps of progress in the development of my two girls.

One such development has been happening on and off over the past few months, but was really apparent this weekend : joining in with family dinner table conversation.

At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it’s really cute!

We went out to an Italian restaurant with my parents for a late lunch over the weekend. My mum was discussing the fact that she doesn’t think her (many) coats are fashionable enough and that everyone seems to wear “padded coats” these days. She was explaining how she takes a trip to the Trafford Centre, and it’s “just a sea of padded coats!”

At which point three year old pipes up:

“You should wear what you want, Grandma.”

We were all momentarily stunned – that she had not only listened intently to the conversation of the grown ups whilst munching on her cheesy garlic bread, but that she’d responded with something insightful and completely true. Of course my Mum should wear whatever she likes. Padded coats are awful anyway (ok I have one which I wear constantly as it’s practical. I don’t actually really like it though).

Out of the mouths of babes…


10 things I do in the first hour after kids’ bedtime

This evening, my fiancee entered the house, climbed the stairs with eager anticipation at seeing his two boisterous girls and serene, loving better half, and was greeted by this:

Zombie Mummy

Scary, isn’t it? Yes – Zombie Mum made an appearance. And this is often the case after a day of dealing with atwo girls aged three and one and their boisterous, unforgiving demands.

Each day is different. Today involved ‘cake gate’,’cat-ornament’ gate and ‘I demand another bedtime story-gate’ for example.

Whilst being a mum is also the most rewarding and uplifting thing I’ve ever done, I do need, nay DEMAND, my own chill out time. Just a bit.

There isn’t much time in a given day to relax, catch your breath and collect your thoughts (in fact there isn’t any!).

However our bedtime routine does leave a bit of room for this. That is, Mr EC gets the lovely job of doing bedtime stories and finally putting them both to bed. This can take some time, particularly if three year old has decided to practice being a ‘bouncerina’ on her bed and one year old is constantly standing up in her cot, banging her milk cup on the side very loudly and shouting “door!”.

Enjoying bedtime
Frivolity, anyone?

Not my problem.

There are 10 things that I do in that hour (ok, sometimes 40 minutes.) after my role in bedtime is OVER.  Here they are:

  1. Mentally detox. During my walk away from the bedroom towards our bedroom and bathroom, where I intend to firmly remain for the next hour, I ask my mind to begin to relax and calm itself.
  2. Decide on book, magazine or phone browsing.
    I don’t have the chance to just read or browse during the day, so I’ll pick something to take into the bath with me. Tonight I just fancied catching up with Twitter, for example. On other nights, I take the Kindle and indulge my current Game of Thrones obsession.
  3. Have a bath. I used to just top up the remnants of the girls’ bath with hot water. I don’t do that anymore after the realisation that they’re probably weeing in it. I have a fresh bath, and add some of my essential oils or my favourite Clarins relaxing bath bubbles.
  4. Have a mental run through of the day. Before I read/browse, I will spend a few moments just mentally taking myself through the day and reviewing what happened. It’s a meditative act and I find it really calming and destressing.
  5. Do something pamper-wise. I love anything spa or beauty-related, so I will try and do one thing during that bathtime which feels as though I’m pampering myself. It might be just using a sample of a new cleanser I picked up somewhere, or using a face mask.
  6. Put warm pjs on. After the bath, it’s a ritual of mine to put my previously-warmed-on-the-radiator-pyjamas on! Geeky, I know – but it just feels nice.
  7. Have a few minutes lie down. I just recover from my bath a little by having a lie down, rather than launching straight into the next task at hand.
  8. Catch up on un-replied to messages. Ok I might lie there a bit longer and catch up on some texts or tweets.
  9. Ignore any child interruption. Throughout all of this, I studiously ignore any child interruption which, despite my intense instruction to the contrary, appears to still take place on occasion. This cannot be allowed. If a child enters the bathroon, for example, I simply shout very loudly, and very indignantly, to Mr EC to come and sort it out.
  10. Finally take my backside downstairs to make dinner. It has to happen eventually. On a good day, I’ve usually prepared most of it beforehand, or at least got something out of the freezer.

I feel another blog post coming on…10 thing I do once I’ve collapsed on the sofa after making dinner!

What do you do once your children have gone to bed? I’d love to hear from you.

Binky Linky
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Entertaining the children on wintry days

It’s February already, and where did January go?

January’s a funny month. I’ve already written about how ludicrous new year’s resolutions are due to the fact that really, we just want to curl up on the sofa with a load of chocolate.

It often feels like nothing much happens in January. It’s a “waiting for things to happen” month.

But life doesn’t just stop in January. A look over my photo stream tells me we’ve done quite a lot. We can’t just stop in and wallow, after all. There’s always stuff to do, even when the weather is absolutely ludicrously bad.

So here’s what we got up to this wintry, very rainy January.

We spent wintry afternoons in the park…

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…and terrorised otherwise quiet cafés with loud requests for babyccinos …

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…decided to give our dummies to the dummy fairy…

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…played at dressing up as princesses with friends…

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…and watched Tangled…over and over again…

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…alongside doing unspeakable things with felt tip pen…

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…and practicing ballet!

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So January wasn’t bad at all.  I’m looking forward to a year of fun activities with two lively girls.


I reflect on chaotic parenting

Chaotic parenting: it’s the in thing

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The other day, as I was attempting to sweep the impossibly littered kitchen floor whilst a three year old effectively strangled me with her interpretation of a bear hug and a one year old threw unwanted baked beans at my head, I realised that I’m probably not quite as in control as I sometimes like to think I am.

Is this good or bad? Is the fact that I’m writing this post mean I’m attempting to persuade myself that it’s ok?

The thing about parenting is that just when it seems you’ve got it cracked – a nice routine, all going smoothly, everyone quite happy – chaos pays a visit again. Usually quite spectacularly – a full week of shocking night time get ups with your three year old or a new back tooth that causes distress or a tendency to throw beans at your head while you’re tidying the kitchen.

It’s tempting to feel demoralised, to think “oh, not again – I must be doing something wrong here, why can’t I be more like so and so…” etc.

Unless, I tell myself, chaos is actually the new control? It’s the ultimate in parenting fashion for 2014 – chaotic parenting, hooray!

It’s not that I’m a control freak – I never have been. But I am a person who tends to like order and structure.

I love spreadsheets, for goodness sake. If I could devise a spreadsheet that could calculate the whims of my daughters on a given day, complete with a pivot table, I’d be one happy lady.

Unfortunately, or actually fortunately, being a parent had taught me to embrace lack of control. They’re developing humans after all – curious about the world and its limitless possibilities. And sometimes annoyed at it, too (those pesky teeth – design fault).

So I’ll save my spreadsheets for work (with the occasional one for household planning or Christmas dinner timings). I’ll wake up tomorrow and just wonder what the day will bring.

And wear a helmet next time when tidying up.

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Illness, guilt and parenting

I’m feeling the need to have a rant.  I also write a blog.

The two go together perfectly.

As some of my readers may be aware, I hate being ill and I am incredibly disappointed in the human race for not yet delivering to me a cure for common pesky viruses.

Ok I’m not dying or anything and I totally deserve whatever you may throw at me in terms of “pull yourself together, woman!” or “you don’t know how lucky you are!”.  But I’m still ranting.

Recently, I suffered from the illness many parents dread, and from which they tend to suffer (if you’re like me) around once a year.

The vomiting bug.  Rotavirus.  Norovirus.  I’m sure it has many different names (I could give it one).

It did its usual trick – came on very suddenley in the middle of the night, just as I was enjoying some blissful slumber after a week or two of get ups with a coughing three year old. After the necessary vomiting, aching muscles and general malaise followed.

I rant about having the norovirus and feel guilty as a parent for being ill

Before children, of course I would have taken a pragmatic view and rested the next day – perhaps lying on the sofa watching films, wrapped up nice and cosy, waiting for the illness to pass.

But now of course, my winter vomiting bug day went something like this:

7am: First child wakes up and wants my attention. I turn over, unable to get up and ask my fiancee to deal with it. I feel guilty, as well as rotten.

8am: We’ve progressed to getting the children ready. I just about manage to get our one year old dressed. I’m not my usual exuberant self and think she must wonder why. I feel guilty.

9am: Phone in work and tell them I’m sick. Feel guilty. Arrange care for the chidren. Feel guilty for asking.

9:15am through to about 2pm: Intermittent sleep, waking up, feeling fretful and guilty about not doing stuff. I could be getting some washing on, putting those picture frames up, at least doing some online grocery shopping.

2pm: Decide to try and eat something. Put a crumpet in the toaster as I think it’s all I can manage. Wash some crockery up at the same time. Feel awful and go back to bed.

Feel guilty…and so the day went on until I gave up, admitted defeat and went to bed for good.

Of course such a common bug only last for around 24 hours, but it leaves you feeling generally rubbish and not quite yourself for a good few days afterwards. I remember fiancee telling me “you’ve been grumpy for two days now!”.

I guess my ranty point is that it’s hard enough dealing with work, organising the children and all the general stuff that goes on in my head about school applications, picking presciptions up on time, dentists appointments, writing thank you letters, sorting out some swimming lessons, remembering to pay for ballet class.

Being ill just tips me over into ultimate grumpiness as it interrupts my life and my children don’t understand that I can’t be the same person, just for that day or two, even if I try.

Annoying.

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37 things to love about life, now I’m 37

Recently, I blogged about turning 37, and the mixture of feelings and emotions this scary event brought about.

37 is a funny age. It’s officially your late 30s. Does it mean I’m supposed to be a grown up now?

What it definitely does mean is that I have now had 37 years to work out what I love about life. So here goes: 37 reasons to love life, now I’m 37.

Warning – some of these points are quite serious, and some plain stupid, in no particular order.

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1. Family. Most of us would place this at the top of their ‘love life’ list. My children, my partner and father of my children, their grandparents, godparents – being surrounded by loving and supportive family enriches me in so many ways, I am sure I could write about fifty blog posts on the subject.

2. The wonder of children. I wrote about this when I was privileged enough to be part of The Mothers project by Rebecca Lupton. As my blog demonstrates, my two girls provide me with constant inspiration, laughter and hope (with a bit of exasperation thrown in).

3. Close friends. It’s so much fun having close friends. I have a core of friends I’ve known since school, and I’m also lucky enough to have made many other friends who have become close throughout life. Friendships are really special- I’ve learned to hold them dear and to embrace new friendships whenever the opportunity arises.

4. Scaring myself stupid. Thought I’d throw in a curveball here, after three very serious ‘things to love’. I absolutely adore, when my partner is out, switching the lights off, putting a good old horror film on (preferably one that really messes with your head, like The Shining or The Amityville Horror) and scaring myself stupid. I don’t know why this is – I guess it’s a different form of escapism!

Doesn't a mere glance at this just freak you out?!! Doesn’t a mere glance at this just freak you out?!

ARRRGGGHHH!! ARRRGGGHHH!!

5. Cats. Cats are amazing, aren’t they? I’m in love with cats. They sleep a lot, usually in the hottest/warmest nooks and crannies of the house, depending on their mood. They nibble their food daintily. They bring you ‘presents’. They occasionally fall off something or run into something, but when they do, they have a knack of pretending that didn’t just happen. Most importantly, cats are our friends and companions. I had my own cat for twelve years and miss her lots.

6. Knowing I can be a Mum, and make a decent job of it. It is a real sense of achievement, being a mum. Sometimes I’ll be doing something quite mundane, such as sterilising bottles or making sandwiches and I’ll realise that I’m just ‘doing it’ – getting on with what’s become the daily routine of our lives. My girls are happy, so I must be doing something right?

7. Achievement. Linking to the previous point, I’ve always gained great satisfaction from achievement. This is probably why I was a student until the age of 24. I did an English degree and Masters, then decided to change tack and did a postgrad in library studies. I’ve got an NVQ in family mediation, something similar in counselling studies, and a diploma in Indian Head Massage! This isn’t bragging – I’m just highlighting how I love not only learning, but a nice piece of paper to prove that I’ve learnt something new.

8. Feeling valued and recognised for those achievements. Of course there’s no point in achieving unless someone says “well done, you’ve done a good job”. It’s motivating and encourages me to achieve further. When that doesn’t happen ( for example in certain jobs I’ve had), I’ve tended to sit back and just do what I need to rather than go that extra mile. It’s taught me to value others as I know I’ll get more from them in return.

9. Baths. At the end of a busy day, after putting both daughters to bed, I find it hard to wind down without first having a bath. I read my book in the bath, mess around on my phone, and just chill. Baths are ace.

10. Relaxation. Linking to the above point, relaxation in general features strongly in the list of things I love. I have a number of relaxation apps on my iPhone, which I rarely use but I do like them! Rather, my relaxation ritual of a typical evening begins with the above mentioned bath, during which I read my book (see later point, number 28). Then I may do a spot of tidying up, have dinner with my other half, watch something on TV, and maybe read some more. However you choose to relax, I find it’s so important in order to achieve some calm and to just catch your breath. Recently, a friend and I visited a spa, and spent a lot of time in their ‘deep relax room’. It was worth
Hmmm...I could just rest my head on this lovely pillow...in the bath. Hmmm…I could just rest my head on this lovely pillow…in the bath.

11. Comfort. Again, along the same theme, we all take comfort in certain simple things. For myself, I just love being tucked up under a nice, clean duvet in bed, listening to…

12. Rain. I love the sound of rain, particularly when I’m warm, cosy, tucked up in bed where I can’t get wet. The sound of rain is mesmerising, unless you’re getting drenched in it.

13. Sunshine. Conversely, of course I love the sunshine. Plus, living in the UK, I feel enormously privileged whenever it deigns to make an appearance. Sunshine instantly enhances my mood and makes me feel positive about the day ahead. It makes the day easier and more relaxed, as myself and my children can visit the park or play in the garden. Sunshine is nature’s instant pick-me-up.

14. Wine. I don’t think I need to say much more about this. Wine, in moderation (which of course I always adhere to), is a relaxing and highly enjoyable tipple. It has been known to entice me to dance on tables, but this must be a hitherto unknown side effect.

15. Learning to laugh at myself. We all make mistakes in life, some big, some small, some just plain stupid. Accepting these and learning to laugh at yourself, either by yourself or with others, is surprisingly one of the simple joys of life.

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16. Change is good. Over the years, I’ve learned that change can only be a good thing. I’ve learned to anticipate change positively. When I was a lot younger, I used to fear change- for example leaving home to go to University. What would it be like? Would I make any friends? But it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Having children was the most major life-changing event to happen to me to date. It literally rocked my world, but it’s been great. Now I feel that life is changing again, with my return to work and my children approaching three and one.

17. Being nosy. I’m a very nosy person, and it brings me joy. Honestly, I take great joy in turning the lights off so no-one can see me, and curtain twitching. I like not only finding stuff out about people, but trying to work stuff out about them – like a mini investigation. I’m a social media stalker, which leads nicely on to..

18. Social media. What did I ever do without it? I’ve been an avid Facebook user for years and find it such a valuable tool for keeping in touch, sharing key moments of my life and being nosy. Of course I’d like to know what my classmate from 1988 who wanted to be a model and called me “ugly” is doing now (working in a rubbish shop in our old town haha!). I’ve also used Twitter for a few years, but have only very recently increased my use and discovered its true power. Somehow, twitter enables me to be more ‘myself’ when using social media – it’s quicker, more ‘on the fly’ compared to my more considered Facebook posts. It’s also been extremely useful for my blog, which I am still relatively new to – a great way to share posts, reach a wide audience and introduce me to other blogs and blogging networks.

19. Blogging. When I first started this blog, the main reason for doing so was that I felt a pressing need to write about my experiences following the birth of my two children. I now feel that blogging has not only given me the mental space I craved, through the act of writing down and visualising my experiences, but has introduced me to a whole new world! New friends, networks and lots to learn and explore. My friend even started a local group of blogging friends, the #bloggirls, who not only bounce ideas and thoughts off each other, but host their own linky each Thursday. I think I’ll blog forever. I’m sure my children will be very embarrassed when they’re older.

20. Feeling part of a community. This is a big part of blogging, I’ve discovered – the sense of community in sharing posts, commenting on others’ blogs and receiving feedback/comments alongside signing up to established networks such as Mumsnet bloggers and Tots100.

I also feel part of a community in many other ways, for example via certain friendship circles, in my line of work or being a member of a local church.

21. Belief. Now I’m not going to get all godly and churchy on you here, as I personally feel it’s important to understand and be at peace with your own beliefs without enforcing them on others (unless my opinions/thoughts on this subject are specifically requested). Yet I do wish to say that I have my own beliefs and feel stronger for it (partly due to the sense of community and support I gain from the church I belong to).

22. Helping others/feeling that you’re doing something worthwhile. As part of my work, some of my colleagues have worked on an initiative called Five Ways to Wellbeing. One of the ‘Five ways’ is to give i.e.

“Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile.
Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in.
Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be
incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.” New Economics Foundation (2013). Five Ways to Wellbeing.

I’ve found this to work for me. Over the years I’ve participated in a number of volunteering projects, including family and community mediation and helping out with the creche at my local church. It’s definitely a reciprocal feeling, helping others.

23. Food. Clearly we all need food to survive, but for me, it was only in my early twenties that I really began to enjoy it. From a very early age, I had an aversion to meat and my Mum would find chewed up pieces of it at the back of her oven where I used to hide them. I also had nightmares that it was coming to life on my plate! I couldn’t articulate at such a young age that it was meat I didn’t like, and vegetarianism wasn’t so well known. Meat and two veg was, as with many families, the staple meal. This meant, through nobody’s fault, that I just didn’t enjoy my food until I was much older, when I realised what I did and didn’t like and could cook for myself.

24. Cheese. My ultimate favourite food. I haven’t found a cheese yet that I don’t like. I eat it everyday- in sandwiches, on pasta, with crackers, in a sauce or on it’s own. When I cook a roast dinner for my family, I bake myself a whole Camembert as a treat and dip my veg in it (warning- this isn’t diet food haha!). I daren’t have my cholesterol levels tested.

25. Coffee. Another of my staple faves. I can hear many a friend tittering as they read this, as I’m well known for designing my life around latte stops. I’ve been known to drink a good seven cups in a day, so obviously I had to seriously cut down during my pregnancies, and actually wonder if the withdrawals contributed to the hyperemesis I suffered. The research around coffee drinking is a mixed bag. One minute it protects against Alzheimer’s, the next it increases the risk of osteoporosis. Well, I just like it. And need it, these days.

What would I do without it? What would I do without it?

26. Listening. Sometimes during conversation, it’s easy to chip in too early and say “yes, I did that” or “well, the other day, guess what happened to me?” A few years ago I had a sudden realisation that I was a big culprit, and found to my amazement that if I shut up and listened to what people have to say, I find out a great deal (good for nosiness – see point number 17, above), much of which is very useful and helpful.

27. Learning from my elders. Quite ironic this one, as like many of us, I didn’t particularly relish listening to my elders when I was younger. Since having children, I ask them anything and everything, ranging from cooking tips to sleeping or health issues! You can’t knock experience.

28. Books. Recently , I wrote about my other life – books. As far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed reading – unravelling a story, learning about new or different experiences, imagining different worlds. It always helps me to relax, unwind, and encourages my own creativity. I won’t write much more here, as I’ve previously written a long post about the genres I like to read and the benefit I feel I get from writing.

29. Ancient history. I’m no historian – or, at least I did an A Level in twentieth century history, but that’s where my academic prowess in history ends. I have developed a personal interest in ancient history, and as I sit here thinking about why this might be, I realise that it’s because we can learn so much about ourselves from the way our ancestors went about their lives. There’s no strategy or pattern to the subject matter I read; I’ve read books on Stonehenge, the ancient Incas, and I’m fascinated with Egypt. As an example, I recently read a magazine article about ancient Egyptian beauty practices, and how the Egyptian ladies smothered their faces in various fats and oils. Not much different to today, then.

30. Mystery and conspiracy theory. I’m a complete sucker for all this and have been known to subject my friends and partner to entire nights’ worth of Most Haunted Live. i love anything about ghosts, UFOs, crop circles – anything that screams “WEIRD!!”, in fact. This boils down to the fact hat I love a good mystery – linking to my love of gossip (see number 17, above). I like to work things out, try and understand them but with an open mind (yes, I’m still rational – really!).

31. Children’s TV. I missed my calling, here. I like to make a fool of myself (see next point, number 31) and don’t tend to care what anyone thinks if I suddenley break into a silly dance or walk in the middle of the park. Oh I wish I was a children’s TV presenter. I love watching it and I’ve even been knowing to have Cbeebies on when my children aren’t there. I want to do the songs about summer and winter. I want to do the Show Me, Show Me dances, grinning inanely all the while! *Sigh* – oh well, can’t have it all, I guess.

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32. Being silly. My two-going-on-three-year-old has recently coined the phrase “Silly Mummy!”. Enough said. See above point, number 31.

33. Yoga. I’ve experimented with various forms of exercise over the years, including running, swimming and exercise classes such as combat, legs, bums and tums etc. The exercise I’ve always loved the most is yoga – particularly ashtanga yoga. Yoga has the power to help us tone up and feel stronger and more flexible, whilst relaxing our minds.

34. Fashion. Ok, most of us loves clothes and jewellery. I, too love to shop- I just don’t get much chance these days!

35. Beauty products. I’m a big fan of beauty products – especially creams and bath oils. My ultimate favourite beauty purchase is a really good facial moisturiser or serum. I recently blogged about one of my favourites. Both fashion and beauty provide a time out for us often harassed mums – a bit of much needed self indulgence.

36. Holidays. Holidays!!! I’ve had girly ones to Tenerife and Majorca, and more recently family ones to Centerparcs or Cornwall. Our family deserves a much needed break and lots of quality time together every so often.

37. Me. This sounds very vain, but it is important to love ourselves. Takes a while – especially when you’re a spotty teenager with a back perm – but I think I’m finally there.

Phew! That took me ages. I’m glad I’m not 50!