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Family Travel

Our European Bombaround- Roadtrips, robberies and risks

21 June, 2013

We had just begun one of our many family roadtrips around Europe, it was our first night and we had, unusually for us as we are hardcore campers, bunkered down in a cheap motel with just our toothbrushes to see us through to the morning. I was 14, my sister 17  and it was one of our last family holidays. We woke in the morning and headed down to our car to discover it had been broken into and every single tiny weeny item of ours had been pinched. They even took my sisters A Level revision!

We were completely devastated. I was a clothes obsessed teen and had taken all the very best things I owned; counting all of our clothes and gear, it was thousands of pounds worth of stuff. We carried on the holiday bravely, stopping in the first supermarket to buy one dress and a swimming costume each – we literally didn’t have the funds to splash out on proper wardrobe replacements.

We had lots of family chats about how things aren’t that important and although it was a bit of a tough holiday I think my parent’s philosophical response to it really rubbed off on my sister and I. There must be something about my upbringing that is allowing me to get rid of nearly a whole house full of beautiful things in a car boot sale next week! *cheerful face* *wails despairingly* *smiles bravely through tears* ALRIGHT DAMMIT I’M ONLY HALF COPING WITH THAT PROSPECT.

When we got home from that holiday and the insurance money came in  I was able to go to New Look and spend it all  kitting myself out exactly like a member of All Saints. Ooh yeah, I was WORKING that camo. I mean, literally, everything in my wardrobe was camo. Cripes. So yeah, sometimes there can be an upside to shizzle going wrong.

We had a fair mix of shenanigans happen to us on our childhood holidays and the odd bit of thievery and vehicle mishaps and bodily bumps and breaks on holidays since. (I guess something needs to happen, what with all the fun and frolicks otherwise happening on hols, to balance out the cosmos?!)Little family
My sister, my Pa and I one one of our family holidays.  In the modern day version my dad would be staring at his Iphone but instead he is meditating on a pebble, hehe.

We’ll be doing a few things to keep safe on our European adventure and avoid any accidents. We’ll go next level with our travel insurance.  We’ll get some kind of secure safe system for our valuables. And *a bit proud*  I’ve also done an incredibly thorough paediatric First Aid course and attended a lecture in managing childhood illness the natural way by Dr Donegan in preparation. (Do check Dr Jayne Donegan out, loads of great advice.)

In some ways we are swapping risks – the glass covered pavement of South London for the lake leeches in Hungary (what, do I keep going on about leeches?!) and hectic, busy roads for eerily remote necks of woods in Germany. But all you can do really is prepare as much as possible and then focus all your energy on having a blast, and if we can be as philosophical as my ‘rents were in the face of catastrophe then we’ll be doing okay. And if we do have a similar situation to the car robbery fiasco at least I’ll have a great excuse to kit us all out in matching camo outfits like a little family pop band.

Not that I’m one for focusing on the bad, but have you got any horror stories that outdo a fourteen year old having to wear the same supermarket dress for 2 weeks?

This post is sponsored by Irwin Mitchell and Tigerlily training who sent me on their First Aid course. More info on my disclosure page. Thank you!

Family Travel

Jolly japes on our European Bombaround- Croatia bound

14 June, 2013

Sometime in the early nineties, on one of the many European adventures my parents took my sister and I on, we parked our campervan up late on a Parisian street. We rolled out the beds, fell to sleep immediately and woke a few hours later with the sunrise rising over the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles. No jokes. My folks had plopped our friendly little VW camper right on that  royal porch. We rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and patted down our bed hair and walked straight into this majestic scene. (That is what you call glamping.)Versailles
The Palace of Versailles when we took Ramona a couple of years ago

It is partly these kind of memories that have inspired our own trip over to Europe this summer. Tim and I want to embrace all the jolly japes and high jinks that buzzing around Europe in a campervan can offer.  We are leaving on August the 1st in Betty our VW Westfalia with our two girls, returning to the UK 3 months later. We were originally going to try and take in every part of Europe possible but have reined in our plans a little.  We totted up the miles of our original route and found it came to 9000 which is a bit bonkers! Although this is a once in a life time opportunity we wanted to avoid any feeling of being rushed and harried of not being rushed and getting to know places a little bit.

Since becoming a blogger I have hugely enjoyed reading the travel and family blogs of some of my friends-
Alice’s jel-making Holidays in Sri Lanka, Helen and her brill family’s Center Parcs Holiday Review, Lapland Holiday Review, my gorgeous buddy’s Family Holiday, Penny’s Family Holiday North Norfolk, lists of advice such as Tips for Legoland Windsor and Liz’s Mark Warner snorkelling trip.

While I’m not going to be reviewing things on this epic adventure I do hope to delve for the first time into travel writing and blogging.

We are planning on visiting a fair few countries though:

Wild swimming in France (and cheese eating)
Forest walks in the Black Forest
Hot Pooling In Hungary
Exploring little folky villages in the Czech Republic
Ocean swimming in Croatia (this is our main destination and where we want to spend the most time – it was voted most beautiful country in the world by National Geographic – who’d a thought?)
Pizza eating and soaking up the October warmth in Italy on the way home

We don’t know how long we will spend in each spot, we are going to just roll with it and if we don’t get to them all then it isn’t a big deal. We want to see how driving with the little ladies goes- if they struggle we’ll simple strip back our itinerary even more. We are aiming for the idle, agendaless existence not three months of ticking off countries.

swimmingOur first family holiday with Ramona

I can’t wait for the simple living that van life will offer us (I’m just a little bit nervous about having only TWO pairs of shoes available) and the chance to get much better at being “present”; savouring inconsequential moments. We are stoked to be getting this much time together as a family of four and no work to get up for. (Sometimes it is okay to want to be a bit lazy eh?)

Maybe I do have a bit of an agenda though- ‘cos if we don’t get to park our camper on the driveway of at least one regal establishment I’ll be WELL MAD.

 

Whoops didn't tag these puppies

Our European Bombaround: We need you!

28 May, 2013

In about 7 weeks time we are upping sticks and going for a 3 month bombaround Europe in our camper, Betty. We could well emerge as Gandhi like pillars of peace and wisdom; all that forestry and earthy shizzle molding us into mega living-in-the-present sages.  Alternatively,  we will all go cuckoo- living in a 2m x 3 m box with only each other for company and WITHOUT THE INTERNET. *weeps*

Betty and Ramona Ramona making a cuppa in Betty

What with selling the house (it has finally sold, HOORAY!) and getting Betty fixed up (she is all better, WHOOP!) and having a new baby (Juno arrived, WAHEY!) we haven’t had much time to focus on the #bombaround. But this morning I woke up all Action Stations.

This is a pretty epic adventure… for which we are ill prepared. We know when we are leaving – the start of August- and we will aim to be back at the end of October (ish, depending on the weather.) We are thinking of meandering through France, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany (all making sense so far)- um, and also Spain.  We are thinking Spain might still be warm at the end of the trip, you see, it’s just quite a drive away from Germany. (GAH, FRANCE! Why you have to be so big, darn you?)

We aren’t primarily going for city sightseeing (hot, sticky crowds make us shudder) but for the wild swimming and walks amongst trees (we are down with the leeches) so will be skipping a few of the obvious stops.
ramona in woods
Ramona on a secret swing in a little slice of the wilderness in South London

We hope to visit some exciting happenings… things like Nature Play project in the Black Forest, a commune on an organic farm outside of Annecy, a revolutionary childcare centre in Budapest.

Perhaps you can help us?!

Have you visited or heard of any lovely happenings or sites or projects or beautiful places in any of these countries?

Do you know any people or families in these countries who are living life a bit differently and wouldn’t mind making new friends? (They wouldn’t have to put us up as we’d be sorted in Betty.)

Also… we have other questions… (novices? us?)

Do you have any tips for travelling around as a family?

How will Ramona cope without a little gang of buddies?

What are some things we MUST TAKE? (So far on my list are; my collection of retro tins, a 3 month supply of pear drops and a few vintage crochet blankets.)

Where do we find the charity shops in Europe? (Er, addict? ME? OUTRAGEOUS)

Any advice for coping, generally?

Also…

WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET?

Any tips, tricks and advice MOST GRATEFULLY received, we’ll send you a postcard….

Featured, Parenting

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids (that aren’t toys) 2018 – 2019

2 December, 2017

**This list of Gift Ideas for Kids has been Updated for 2018 – 2019**

We spent six months travelling around Europe in a campervan. We had a tiny stash of playthings and our three year old toddler Ramona thrived. She was a case study for how kids play in nature. She had a twig that would be a wand one minute, a baby the next, a spade in the morning and a guitar in the afternoon.

During that time I came to believe that too many toys can push a child’s imagination right under the bed and will eventually wreck the planet our children have got to enjoy for the rest of their lives. (Read my thoughts on that here.)

These days I think that rather than having such a negative view of toys we can just view them as one part of the big picture of childhood. As parents (or caring adults in a child’s life) we need to provide a nurturing environment that values fun, communal games, imagination play, art, creating, music, nature. Toys aren’t evil. They bring kids a whole heap of enjoyment, so let’s not be too harsh on them!

However, we all want to be that awesome adult that opens the doors a little more on a child’s imagination. We want to give a kid a gift that they will remember forever!BEST LIST EVER! Sixty Great gift Ideas for Kids- that aren't toys

Pin for later: Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

This list of gift ideas for kids is for you. Whether it is for Christmas or a special birthday, this list has a unique and awesome non-toy gift for every child.

This is a crowd sourced list of gift ideas for kids. Using Twitter and Facebook I asked 6000 people: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid?

Here are sixty ways to show you care, and for the most part they fire a child’s imagination and cause less havoc for the environment. Many of them are free, or cheap and plenty of them can be found in charity shops or secondhand stores. There is a common theme of taking children seriously- of trusting them and their abilities, of giving them tools to create.

(When a celebration is coming up and it’s a pressie-giving kind of time, I reckon a good, frank chat is the best starting point. The child/ parents have a better idea about what the child would enjoy/ needs like a hole in the head. But the second port of call should be this list, for sure. Bookmark it and share it with your family members!)

**New video** Here I share my favourite things from this list and add a few extra ones to the list – including the present we had handmade for Ramona’s sixth birthday! 

Here we go….

Gift Ideas for Kids – Tools & Equipment

I am reading “Escape from Childhood” by John Holt at the moment and the thing he is really convincing me of is how much kids NEED to be useful. Exactly like adults! They love to be taken seriously, to have serious implements and to be able to truly, genuinely help and build and be busy working. When considering gift ideas for kids we should think about great it must feel for them to open up proper tools and equipment.

1-A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

2- Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days. or perhaps a toolbox filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

3- Sew them a baby sling for their dolls. Here is a tutorial for an easy sling for your toddler’s doll – it has never failed to please a tot in my experience!

4- Gardening equipment- a proper trowel, some organic slug killer and some seeds.

5- A greenhouse. A reader says “When I was 9 I got a greenhouse. To this day it is still my best Christmas present ever as I spent hours with my Grandad learning how to grow food.”

6- A pocket knife. Every kid age 4+ needs a good simple pocket knife, a lesson in using it safely (sitting down, striking away from you, with an adult in range) and a bit of wood to carve.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for kids - that aren't toys

7 – Cress seeds were specified for very young children- imagine helping to feed your family at only age 2?! Plus they pop up all year round and don’t take as much patience. You can also make them a head to grow them in so it looks like hair! Classic!

8- My sister put together a survival kit for her six year old son- a good rope, pegs and a tarpaulin for den making, camo paint, a good torch. Flipping heck, that was a hit.

9 – A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children. They especially love head torches.

10 – A good baking bowl, a whisk, some scales. Show them you have faith in their ability to make something yummy.

11- The ingredients to make something yummy! One reader explains about the special thing she did for Christmas “I once gave my daughter’s friend a bag filled with the ingredients, Christmas cutters and the recipe to make their own Christmas gingerbread. They loved it.”

12 – Kitchen implements- one tweeter is getting her 2.5 year old son a peeler with a big handle as he genuinely loves helping in the kitchen. One reader received a sieve when she was young and it was her favourite present ever. I think I might get my three year old a good grater- they are so fulfilled when they are doing something worthwhile. A garlic press was another great suggestion. And every kid needs an apron.

13- Their own cookery book. Several times a week Ramona picks something out of her cookery book and bakes it. She is five.

14 – Something to pull apart- give them a screw driver and an old type writer and the afternoon to take it to bits and explore its inners.

15- A rock tumbler. A reader explains “I loved collecting rocks when I was about 9- it was so cool being able to polish them!”

16 – A magnifying glass and a book of native Insects.

17 – A microscope “I spent months finding things to look at and getting family members to guess what it was- the best was tiny slivers of onion skin.”

18 – Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife. We just bought a pair for our eight year old neighbour and you have pretty much never seen a kid more excited!!!!

19 – A calligraphy pen, nibs and ink. “I was given these age ten, and shown how to use it. I still have it!”

20 – A DIY science kit. Or DIY anything kit really!

Gift Ideas for Kids – Art and creating

The emphasis here is on good quality stuff. Just like adults, children deserve to work with good quality materials. It is frustrating scrawling on crap paper with crayons that barely make a mark. Seeing the vivid colours of acrylic paint on canvas is much more likely to stoke a child’s passion for creating art, no? These gift ideas for kids might just stoke your own memories of receiving creative crafty pressies.

21- A ball of bright coloured, good wool and instructions for finger knitting will open up a whole new meditative world.

22- Ingredients for DIY porcelain clay- a little box with corn flour and bicarb and instructions. They’ll love the making and the shaping.

23- Proper non toxic acrylic paint, high quality watercolours, and proper paintbrushes.

24 – A good quality sketch book. These are unbeatable in terms of art – acrylic and watercolours just feel and look magical with beautiful thick absorbent paper.

25- We always put a packet of non toxic nail polish in to my daughter’s gift pile because she JUST. LOVES. IT. I was in denial for a while. But it’s just the way she is. We get our nail polish from Iherb as it is totally harmless, water-based.  And YES! I do believe it is ART 🙂 (This is the only affiliate link in this post, I have chucked it in because we buy it so regularly for Juno.)

26- A candle making kit. (I have made candles since I was 11 when I got my first kit and loved it. And the only fire I caused was when I was 22 and being VERY experimental. Just a shame the fire happened on my future in laws dining table.)

27 – More kits: A perfume making kit – what a cool way to learn about chemicals and stuff.

28 – A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since. Or even just a hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

29 – How about these wonderful chalkboard puppets? Handmake some chalkboard blocks and give them along with some chalk and then, the best bit, PLAY TOGETHER!

30 -A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc. Red Ted Art has a lot of gift ideas for kids in the form of arts and craft gift boxes.

31 – Jars of homemade playdough and a box of cutters and tools (found in secondhand shops.)

32 – A box. It was the third best gift, suggested by over thirty people! The best explanation comes from reader, Clare “The best ‘present’ I ever got was a great big cardboard box. I made it into a house and played in it for YEARS. The best thing about it was that my parents got really involved in it- my mum made curtains for it and they never complained about having a tatty old hoc in the living room and let me keep it as long as I wanted.”

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

Gift Ideas for Kids – Music and Culture

33- A mixtape – burn a cd with a selection of fun songs. Ramona has been given some of these and they are her favourite gift by a mile. I have gone on to make them for other children and my kids have helped select the tunes. So cool.

34 – Audiobooks- Roald Dahl stories are fantastic and tantalise imaginative minds.

35- A subscription to a magazine such as National Geographic. A reader explains how she felt about her subscription given to her by her neighbour age six, “At first, we just looked at the pictures but I read more each year as I grew. In our sleepy village,nit was a very welcome window into different cultures. And I always felt very grown up and acknowledged when I read them.”

36- Instruments! A good drum, maracas, a ukelele. A good xylophone. The brain patterns used in music are the same as those used in maths so giving kids the tools to create music is important. And fun. But make sure they are GOOD- in tune etc or children will lose interest.

37 – A song. Rope people in to help you, friends to strum chords on the guitar. Record it on YouTube and send it to them! We have done this a few times, it’s weird and fun. Write your own or just change a few lyrics to an existing one.

38 –  A personalised book! We were given Lost My Name books for Juno and Ramona and they were strong, non-gender stereotyped stories.

39 – A poem. No, really, really! How special, for a kid to have their own poem. Written on beautiful paper. For them to treasure.

40 – A story. Ramona and Juno’s Grandad has written them both a story, printing it out into a book and gluing in photos.  It was about cats. They LOVE their personalised stories! How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them.

41- A matinee at a show (we like to queue at 7am at the Lion King box office for cheap tickets.

42- Books, books and more books. This was the most popular response by miles. The child especially enjoys receiving a book with meaning- one mum explains “her eyes light up when I say “this is something I loved when I was little, and I thought you’d like me to read it to you.”

43- Last Christmas we were living on the other side of the world to my husbands family. They sent over a book that they had recorded the story into- Ramona loves hearing the voices of her Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles reading to her.

44- A photo album or scrap book. Reader Sally explains that her three year old loves these.

Sixty Great Gift Ideas For Kids - that aren't toys!

Gift Ideas for Kids- Experiences

Days out were probably the second top answer after “box!” Kids love hanging out doing stuff with people who love them, and memories last WAY longer than toys. If giving an experience that doesn’t already come in the form of a card or voucher, draw them up a personalised one that they can open. It feels so much more exciting! These are gift ideas for kids that keep on giving WAY after they have been cashed in.

45 – A season pass or vouchers to something- an outdoor play area, a private woods such as Westonburt or a wildlife lark or donkey sanctuary.

46- A micro love bomb- let them have a whole evening hanging out with you, doing WHATEVER they want. Like, really, anything. (Based on Oliver James’ miraculous Love Bomb idea- a whole weekend to reset connection and attachment.)

47- A micro adventure- grab a tent, pack a little gas cooker and have a night in the local woods. Even London has accessible woods you can do this in.

48 – A visit to stables to ride on a horse- Ramona adored this for her third birthday. A reader adds that when she was seven she was given a Shetland pony-owning day “7 year old heaven!”

49 – Sew them something magnificent for their fancy dress box –  a mermaid outfit or a pair of wings- see a tutorial for easy toddler wings here, you could make them any size.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

50 – A tent and sleeping bags to camp out in the garden.

51 – A day out in a big city- the museums, a picnic, feeding the skanky pigeons, climbing the towers.

52- A voucher for a den building afternoon. Take wood, hammers and nails and build a fort together in the local woods.

53- A course. Six weeks of a children’s photography or pottery or dance classes.

54- Adopt a whale/ dog/ monkey. This is a delightful idea, the child has a sense of investment with an animal and they can make a real difference for a charity.

55- A box of second hand clothes and costume jewellery for a fancy dress department. One Tweeter said the stash she was given included a WEDDING DRESS. Brilliant.

56- An experience for a baby- a jar of threaded beads, jewels and shells for them to shake and look at.

57- And another idea for a baby- a box of tissues entirely theirs to pull out. (This is probably my favourite of them all- even at seven months old Juno has worked out how to undo the lid of the baby wipes and delights in pulling them out.)

58 – Organise a visit with a local craftsperson or skilled person.Imagine spending an hour with a beekeeper or on a tractor or hammering nails with a builder or watching an artist blowing glass or making cheese or something more specific the child loves! You could give a box of beers to the tradesperson in exchange! One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

59- Car booting/ junk store shopping. Write a voucher and include ten smackeroonies and set a date and go and find the most obscure antiques you can! We bought tap shoes at a junk store for both our kids- unbelievable amounts of entertainment!!!

60- Fruit picking. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of going strawberry picking with my Nana and Grandad when I was small. I remember my Nana stuffing her face, the red juice dribbling down her chin. She was an upright, honest citizen but I think she thought eating them as you go was part of the deal! Traditional activities like this are magical – I could almost make a list of gift ideas for kids based entirely on old skool chores. Ha!

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

***

What an epic, epic list of gift ideas for kids. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s Christmas gifts sorted: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

May your Christmas and birthday celebrations be ever imaginative and may you become a gift rockstar in the eyes of the children in your life!!!

PS We are blogging from a yurt in a forest in NZ these days – follow through Facebook or Instagram and keep up with our Youtube updates:

PPS If you are looking for creative gifts for mums and dad please check out my book 30 Days of Rewilding – designed to help families find their place amongst nature.

PPPS Check out the comments below for more gift ideas for kids – this is an organic, evolving list with people adding to it constantly via the comments!

Pin for Later:Sixty Gifts for kids that aren't toys. Amazing ideas for non toy gifts.

Sixty Great Gift ideas for Kids - that aren't toys!

Feminism

Seven Ways to Bleed Well (and why honouring your moontime isn’t just for hippies)

30 March, 2017

I got my period the very day we moved from our home in London to the South Coast. I was 13.  Our new loo’s door had that old slippery paint that you could peel off in satisfying strips. As I sat there feeling proud of the stain in my knickers I tore off a cream strip on the back of the door that over many toilet trips would evolve into a child sized dinosaur shaped absence of paint.  There was a bumper pack of industrial sized sanitary towels floating around, looking for its own spot in our new home, so I helped myself, a bubble in my lungs. It was happening to me! To me!  We hadn’t unpacked all the pots and pans and plates so we went to the beach and had fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens. I can lucidly recall splashing the vinegar over my chips, a smile on my face about my secret, but I can’t remember telling my mum, or my Aunty, or my sister, who were there with me, or what it was like to tell them.

Recently at a gathering for another young women who had had her first bleed we shared our stories of beginning to menstruate. I couldn’t believe how many people’s first bleeding happened on significant day – a big move, first day of high school, a huge accident. It seemed startling to me – why don’t we know more about this?

And I guess it’s because we don’t talk about bleeding. We don’t share info about our cycles. We still live under the shame and female disempowerment that began in the dark ages.

~

There are a few things I want to write about, but actually sit on for AGES because I can’t bear how perfectly they fit into the “stereotypical hippy” model.  This is one of those. But I have sucked it up and written it anyway because whilst on the surface this just might just seem like more hippy shizzle, this is actually something that is crucial for womanhood.

I truly believe that our menstrual cycles are a feminist issue. There is so much shame around our bleeding and such a humoungous lack of knowledge. There has been a systematic dismantling of women’s knowledge of their bodies for many centuries. We’ve progressed in so many areas in recent years but our bleeding has remained in a dark, dusty corner – talk of our moon cycles seems to evoke cries of “wiiiiiitch”…

I think we are all ready to move out of that oppressive stage.

I also want to acknowledge those women who don’t have wombs or who don’t bleed, who don’t experience a menstrual cycle. I want to be sensitive to you. And I want to honour the bodies that bleed. If you can be a part of this conversation, I welcome you totally. I don’t think it’s very easy, in fact, it’s tricky, it’s messy, we are (certainly I am) figuring much of this out through this exact kind of conversation.

honouring your moontime

Here are 7 ways to bleed well:

1 -Chart

I have only just started charting (using Moon Dreams Diary which is kinda meant for younger women but I am finding awesome!) but am already able to associate things I feel with my menstrual cycle. For example, I am sure I get cramping when I ovulate. Much of the medical profession deny this is possible but I know soooooo many women now who experience this.

I can also pre-empt my rage days, try my hardest to get some time to de-rage/ give expression and validation to all the things I’m feeling. I am learning that these hormonal mood swings are not inherently bad, but that within them there is a power that is often dormant or even medicated. (My mood swings were “solved” by a decade on the pill – something I now wouldn’t recommend ever. See video below)

2- Meet your needs

The cool thing is, as you chart you will discover more about what you need. You will find that on days 15-17 (or whatever) you need to have a lot of reflecting time. You’ll know that a couple of days before you bleed you get an intense aching back that is only received with walking, so you mark out time for big walks. For people with really regular cycles, you’ll even be able to book family and friends in to help you out on days where you need time to vent alone. The more you understand your body you will be able to respond to it and make room for your needs.

3- Add ritual to your moon cycle
I’m trying to build more ritual into my cycle, this is about creating a new mindset around mensturation, to make room in our lives for it, to honour the role it plays.

In my early twenties (before I knew about any of this stuff) I used to buy myself cold red grape juice and go somewhere beautiful to drink it and celebrate my body. I used to have so much pain with bleeding that I felt I needed to remind myself why I bleed and to try and see the good in it. Whilst I didn’t have a complete picture back then, it makes me smile to know that on some level I understood that I needed to be kind to myself.

Something I try and do each time is saving my blood, I have a moon cup so it is really easy to do this, and making it into a nutritious tea for my flowers. I love the symbolism and this ritual, seeing your flowers bloom as a result of your menstruation, is such a beautiful one.

I also do specific moon cycle journal sessions – lighting a candle and answering different questions. When I’m ovulating, I feel excited and ambitious so I like to dream and plan. When I’m bleeding I like to turn inward and let stuff out that needs to make an appearance.

There’s lots of things you could do to add ritual to your cycle:

  • Have an ovulation playlist and a bleeding playlist
  • Have specific moon cycle sketching/ doodling/ painting sessions
  • Have clothes that you wear that make you feel good or comfy according to your phase
  • Have particular teas that you drink at different times
  • Have walks or activities that you always do in your different phases

These rituals add comfort and place value on the different phases of our cycles.

4- Consider a moon circle

One year ago my friend and I invited some neighbours and some friends and even a couple of people we didn’t know well but wanted to know well, to form a moon circle.

This is the email I sent out to invite them, just to show how loose we were at the start, ha

“Just a quick one to see if you would be interested in coming along to a women’s moon circle we are hoping to start? The first one will decide what sort of thing it will be, but at this stage probably something along the lines of sharing our stories/joys/hurts around a campfire. Might you be interested?”

I was afraid of cultural appropriation until I realised that almost every culture in the land has a culture of women gathering like this deep in their history. If moon circles are going to draw activities or ritual from the wealth of indigenous culture we must acknowledge and honour those traditions in our circles.

Our circle happens every new moon, as that is when women whose bodies are moon-synced bleed, and over the year we have grown in our understanding of moon circles and have deepened our relationship with each other. We have mothers and women without children and older women and younger women. Hippies and non hippies! I now see this little sisterhood as being such an important thread to my life and wellbeing.

There’s a few things to note:

  • The main role of our moon circle is to connect with each other and have a space to be honest with your feelings, to vent if necessary.  We pass around a sharing stone and the person that is holding it shares what’s on their mind/ heart. Sometimes one thing good, one thing bad. Sometimes it is freestyle. It can be heavy/ light. But no one else responds with words. We just are present to what ever each other wants to share.
  • The secondary role is to provide a chance to be deeply present and experience some form of transecendence. We are totally experimental. We have massaged each others hands. Meditated. Yoga’d. Danced.  Sung. We hold a sound circle when we all make sounds, sometimes harmonious and other times not! I love the sound circle the most as it is a true lesson in just letting stuff out, not being fearful of how it sounds, making yourself quite vulnerable in front of others and simply trusting yourself.
  • The space REALLY needs to be held. We often open with a silent walk to our forest circle to reflect on what we are feeling, holding in our bodies as we gather. We light candles and herbs to mark out this space as sacred. We remind people that the sharing circle is a place for people to share what they want to share and not for getting advice. We want people to feel safe and open. We ask people if they want to be involved in any other activities.
  • We are always trying thing and open to new ideas that different people want to bring. I often feel full up with goodness after and feel like every woman could do with a sisterhood like this!

    I’m so passionate about this idea that I’ve written a new book all about it! Moon Circle is available to purchase now from my website or Amazon.
    Moon Circle - transform your menstrual cycle

5- Create transitional rituals as you/ your friends move through different life cycles

One of the things we are planning on doing with our moon circle is honouring the different life stages of menstruation. We would like to spend some time on a ceremony for those entering menopause, or on retrospective menarche (when you first ever bleed) ceremony.  I have been to a few of these gatherings – every one so different from each other. But it is a chance for the woman to mark the transition from one stage to another with her community. There might be candles lit. People might bring a poem. There might be singing or some rituals or art or something made together. There might be the ritualised walking from one area to another, the arrival at a new place, a new phase of life.

Whilst there are ancient precedents, rituals held by different cultures, I believe that marking these transitions has always been done and as a community of sisters you can create them. If you do have an incredible woman already doing this kind of thing, or a local hippy or doula or something, do ask for their support too!

“As I read Moon Circle I felt as though I was sitting somewhere cosy with Lucy as she honestly shared her experiences from her first discovery of a women’s circle to the harvest of knowledge she now has from setting up her own circle and participating in many. Through story, humour and practical guidance Lucy offers us an inspiring guide to create and hold a Moon Circle so that women can gather to reclaim their ways.” 
Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, author of Wild Power: discover the magic of your menstrual cycle and awaken the feminine path to power (Hay House, 2017)

“Beautiful and evocative, down to earth and very accessible, so anyone could feel that they could start or be part of a circle.” Susan Durcan, Embodied Wholeness

6- Do a bit of menstrual activism.

It’s a thing! I first came across this four years ago when we stayed at an off grid community in the south of Spain (read all about that in the post, The Hippy That Laid a Golden Poo- you can see now how formative that whole experience was for our family’s life!!)  People are out there trying to take the shame away from bleeding, trying to help people tap into their moon cycles, and, really importantly, getting sustainable forms of blood products (I really hate the term “feminine hygiene products!!!!”) to women who can’t afford it. Things like cloth pads and moon cups which last for a really really really long time.

A great example is the Ruby Cup – when you get yours someone who can’t afford one gets a freebie. But also, everytime you talk about menstruation, everytime you break some of those taboos, you are a part of this movement. I am proud to be working with Ruby cup to give you that affiliate link.  Read up on some of the great work being done.

7-  Read all the books!
If this has ticked your fancy there are a couple of books to get you started:

Her Blood is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation
and
Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

(My affiliate links for Book Depository – why go Amazon when you can go with someone that pays the right taxes?!)

And here is my latest video – talking about the Pill, our bodies, moon cups and more!!!

Want to be a part of this taboo breaking conversation? When did you get your period? Do you do any of the above? Do you think you might try a new one? Would love top hear from you!

Featured, yurt life

15 seconds

20 December, 2016

I’m way too early for New Years Resolutions, but I am sharing one of mine now as I believe it might be handy over the coming few days.

We’ve experienced some huge changes over the last few years. My husband and I handed in our notice, we sold our house in London, and most of the stuff in it, and we packed ourselves into a campervan and travelled around Europe with our kids. We ended up in New Zealand.  Not only in New Zealand, but off grid, in a yurt, in a forest, in New Zealand.

And one of the things I have learnt over this time is… don’t laugh… happiness comes from the inside out.

A campervan can’t bring you happiness. A yurt can’t bring you happiness. A forest can’t bring you happiness.

(A caveat: I speak about happiness here from a very privileged position, as a white, wealthy, healthy, person. I recognise that what I have to say does not apply to everyone and that other people will have vastly different experiences of happiness to me. And I’d love for you to be a part of this conversation. Another caveat: whilst I think working on our own happiness framework is a good thing, I think this goes alongside activism, kindness in action; supporting our neighbours, raising kids with empathy, sending funds to good people who can help Aleppo, campaigning for socially just policies and more.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Campervans and yurts gave us great adventure. Buying a farm with others brings us community. Living amongst nature means we can do things like new moon women’s circles and family forest play; dreams of mine come true.  All of these things were like little bricks for my Happy House. Everyone’s bricks are different.But the house can’t stand, the bricks mean nothing lasting AT ALL, without the mortar. You just got a pile of bricks. They meant something once, but now they are just dusty and have bugs crawling in and out of them.

What I’m trying to say is that we did all these exciting things, but the single biggest factor in my happiness came only this year, when I figured out that the mortar is, and I decided to do the internal work towards happiness.

And I want to share one of these processes as I think there is a huge opportunity for mixing up our happiness mortar over this coming holiday period…

15 seconds to happiness

The concept

So, in normal life, happiness touches us fleetingly. We eat a delicious burger with friends and we get a bubble of joy and a second later it’s gone. What we need to do, what we need to work on, is savouring the moment, in order for it to add to our overall happiness.

Happiness isn’t how many happy moments you have in your life, but how deeply you allow happy moments to penetrate your life. 

I first became aware of this concept during my Endorphin Experiment  (still ongoing! See Endorphin Experiment Week 1, Endorphin Experiment Week 2, Endorphin Experiment Week 6) which I began as a result of reading William Bloom’s Endorphin Effect.

And then, as if to really strike home how much I needed to do it this Christmas, I was listening to a podcast this week that mentioned it again. (My new favourite thing! Doing dishes or jobs or anything, as long as the kids are occupied, I just listen away and it is so nice! Tell me your favourites.)

A neuro psychologist was talking about the human brain’s negativity bias. How bad thoughts act like velcro in the mind – clinging to one another and building up – whereas good thoughts are more like teflon, very slippery and harder to make stick, long term.

One of the secrets to happiness is the ability to make those positive thoughts stickier.

15 seconds to happiness

To make positive thoughts stickier we need to hold on to them longer. You know those nice little warm fuzzies you sometimes get, say, when your children are playing together (together!! and not fighting!) and you think “oh, my goodness, lovely children!” or if you get the chance to see a glorious sun setting over a majestic mountain, or when you are sitting with your ancient Nana, and she is holding your hand and you are singing a carol together.

Don’t let that warmth of happiness touch you for a second and move on. Hold on to it, let the warmth move through your body, close your eyes and savour the experience of your harmonious children, the majestic mountain, sweet joy of being with your Nana. Hang on to it for fifteen seconds! It shows your brain you want to keep this moment, and it then weaves that good thought into an overall picture of well being. Slowly, slowly we rewire our brains for happiness.

In the podcast the Neuroscience of Happiness, neuro psychologist, Rick Hanson, says

“The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that, you turn positive events into positive experiences.

Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.”

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Solstice or nothing at all, these holidays often mean family gatherings and potential for these special moments. Remember the 15 second rule and harvest from these next few days a stack of good moments that will build up your overall happiness.

Halfway through this winter we began a forest play session for local home schoolers. It is a magical time, something we’ve dreamed of since visiting the Forest Kindergarten in Germany. We build huts, make soup, learn some primal skills. During our first session we sat around and talked about how to light a fire. “What can you start a fire with?” we asked the children. “Paper” “Twigs” “Cardboard” said some of them. “You can put a candle under the curtains” said another.

Indeed.

Happiness doesn’t come by doing something extreme like going off grid in New Zealand. It can very much come through the smaller stuff too.

Start with lighting your paper, before you set your curtains on fire.

Fifteen seconds to savour the goodness and spark your neurons for happiness.

~

So yeah, in an ideal setting Christmas is  a chance to build the framework for our happiness. And, also, sometimes with family gatherings, it’s, well, kind of the opposite! Tension can rise, particularly if you are parenting in a way that is different to others. My parents and my in laws are both respectful of the way we parent, even though they might not fully agree, but at different times over the last few years we have had people close to us make it clear that they don’t like what we are doing.

I have put some thought into how I can keep grounded, keep parenting the way I feel is right for us, all the way through the mayhem of Christmas. They ended up being 5 mantras which I share here. (YIKES I wish there was a better word than mantra! It just sounds so… so worthy. Ach. Who am I kidding? This whole post is worthy. Forgive me, I am obviously feeling very seriouspants today! I should at least call these Womantras.)

I would love to hear if you have any womantras (c’mon, let’s do it. Let’s literally just add WO to everything that starts with Man. Harhahahah.) Anyway, sorry, tell me what things help you stay strong and calm.

I just want to take a second too, to say THANK YOU HEAPS AND HEAPS for reading this year. I count it a complete privilege that I get to write and make videos and that people stick around to be a part of the conversation. Thank you x x x