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Combat the Winter Blues

10 November, 2015

I can’t really speak with much authority on this as we are heading into summer so let me hand your right on over to a guest blogger!! We actually do a lot of these… our gratitude list is a jar, we write things up and put them in and read them when we need them. So nice.

As the days become shorter and the nights get colder, even the most upbeat amongst us can feel a little down. Mild winter blues or known medically as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects about 29% of the population, while 40% suffer from general fatigue in winter. It can manifest itself though abnormal sleeping patterns, excessive or sparse eating habits, or an overall sense of sadness. While those who suffer from more sever forms of the condition should seek professional help, those who fall into the 29% of the population who get slightly downhearted can take some simple steps to combat the hindrance.

Shake up your Routine

For those who get down in the winter, the length of the season can be enough to evoke a sense of hopelessness. The same routine, day after day, week after week, month after month, can be overwhelming. While its temping to go home and lock up for the evening, make plans for after work, keep active, take a yoga class or even just go to the cinema. There an old saying that states: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”. Just because its winter it does not mean you shouldn’t engage in outdoor activities. Wrap the kids up and go on an adventure.

Adhere to a Rigid Sleeping Pattern

Even if you wake up sleepy, force yourself to go to bed at the same time every night and get out of bed at the same time in the mornings. It’s essential to have an orderly sleeping pattern, even if it takes a few days to fall into it. Make sure you have a comfortable  mattress that works for you, as it’s worth investing in to being well rested. Good sleep is an essential element to sound mental health.

Connect – Internally and Externally

Internally and externally, what on earth does that mean? Well, it means making connections with not only those around us but with ourselves. The feeling of isolation is one most commonly referenced by those who suffer from SAD. It’s also important to document your feelings, typically through keeping a diary. Make a ‘gratitude diary’ where you list five things every day that happened that you are grateful for or a ‘have done list’- the perfect antidote to those demanding “to do lists”. Lastly, make sure you’re getting a lot of antioxidants in your diet, found in items such as tea and blueberries. These will help ward of sickness, which can only make things worse in the winter.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post.


4 ideas for art prints in your home

28 July, 2015

I am a huge, huge, huge fan of walls that are covered in art prints, poems and homemade art work. Jam them in, cram them up. Bare walls are not for me!

Now, of course, if you are a fine art guru this could get expensive. If, on the other hand, you simply like pretty things and inspiring things and want to gaze on things that are lovely rather than collectable, I have a few ideas.

I frame anything, for starters. Buttons, wrapping paper and tea towels have all been stuck behind glass in my home. I think things in frames is one of the best and cheapest ways to decorate a house.

Next up you can get virtually anything printed.

We have a London bus sign, which was a leaving present when we left London and it sits proudly in our yurt in New Zealand! If I had more space I’d go for something this dramatic from here.

Consider printing out a fine art print that means something to you. This Gustav Klimt painting is one of my favourites as it evokes our families love of breastfeeding and cosleeping!

I’m also a sucker for words. I write big long sentences on wood and hang it up. I have a version of this in my home too: let her sleep

Finally using Posterlounge – my new faves – you can find super cheap prints for any room. Such a cracker. I love, love, love the ABC ones in the sale. Three quid? Bag it. linero-alphabet-poster

How do you decorate? Would love to hear what art prints you have on your walls!

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post!


How I became the landed gentry without being a capitalist

23 July, 2015

When I married my husband Tim, his folks sat us down and explained that they would like to lend us some money to buy our first home.

I cried. Not with happiness or overwhelm.  I was blown away. But instead of being utterly elated I was gutted! Suddenly I’d be launched into a new class of society – and I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t want to move up from my working class roots!

We have never owned houses in my family. My mum and dad, my aunties and uncles, both sets of grandparents, all the sets of great-grandparents – not a single one has ever been a home owner.

Through my teenage years and early adulthood I actually formed a huge framework in my head for why I didn’t even believe in homeownership. Upon this structure I hung the fact that there was no money in my family and no way I’d ever have a job outside of the charity sector that could ever get me a mortgage. I draped over it historical evidence that suggests the dividing up of land was the initial push towards great inequality and that land ownership has since been a massive source of injustice, separating the haves and have nots. I lugged this great anti-capitalist clothes horse around with me proudly.

And then I sat on the sofa as my father-in-law offered to get us started with our first house.

And I wept.

(Later, not in front of him.)

We tucked this incredibly generous offer into the pocket of a fusty winter coat (hanging on my clothes line, probably) and tried to forget about it.

Years later, a good office job for both of us, living in London, and very much pregnant we tugged it out and dusted it off. Hmmm. This could change our lives.

Within a week we had viewed a house (er, yeah, just the one. It was love at first sight… don’t do that though… I read about how you shouldn’t do that in the bank’s Guide To Buying A House while we were settling) and had -a bit frightenedly- used Experian CreditExpert credit check and discovered things were all good in the hood. And then had made an offer and had it accepted. Within a WEEK.

We ripped up the nasty pink carpet that made us cry on our first night, planted tomatoes in the garden, planned where the birth pool would go. And we were so, so happy. It was our nest for our growing little family.

Now, in 2015, our lives look different again! We managed to sell that home that we’d done up with bits and bobs from the side of the road for enough profit to buy a parcel of land in New Zealand with some friends. And we spent the leftovers on a big yurt.

So now we are not only homeowners but the land owning gentry!

I still carry that busy old framework about with me though. But instead of making me cry about owning land it inspires me to make our land a collective place of hope for the community. We will grow food and share it. We will run retreats and camps for families that need support. We will run forest education stuff and perhaps even forster some children. We will do our hardest to make our home a Zero Waste one. We will create our interior using repurposed materials. 

I’ve slowly come round to the idea that homeowners and landowners can be a real catalyst of change- not just the tools of a consumerist, elitist empire!

I just hope my Nana would agree….

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Attachment parenting, Parenting, Uncategorized

Attachment Parenting A Toddler: Beyond Breastfeeding and Babywearing

4 March, 2014

Last night Tim was out late so I had two little people on my hands at bed time- this is pretty rare for us. I hunkered down with them both, one on each side, breastfeeding to sleep, their guzzling and gulping the only sound in the treacly silence of a countryside evening.

Their eyes began closing as if on command, and they held hands across my belly. “What a perfect picture of attachment parenting!” I thought, ever so slightly wryly.

Truth is, this is rarely what mothering looks like for me. I find tandem breastfeeding uncomfortable and over the last year I’ve encouraged Ramona, who is three, down from a billion breastfeeds a day to just this one breastfeed at bed time.

Even last night, a second after I had that thought, baby Juno decided sleep is for suckers and instead burrowed under the duvet, popped back up with a fork (you know) and climbed atop my tummy, yodelling and waving her weapon about. (It is testament to the power of the boob that Ramona carried on drifting off to sleep regardless.) This peaceful, tandem breastfeeding and tandem babywearing thing just doesn’t seem to fit us with grace and ease!

Ramona rarely rides about in a sling these days – she prefers to run, scoot or sit upon her dad’s shoulders – clinging to his head and stealing his specs. We do cosleep – but her with her daddy in one double and Juno and I in another.20140304-134021.jpg

It’s funny, because when our children are babies attachment parenting seems to mainly be about those three behaviours.

Of course, babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping is how attachment parenting often LOOKS but no official AP sergeant has ever demanded these things in order to make it on the AP team. Because attachment- based on a quite unwooly psychological / mental well being- theory- really mostly comes down to nurturing connection and responding quickly to a child’s needs, with respect.

But when the baby has been weaned, when they want to sleep in their own bed, when they opt for the scooter over the sling, what does attachment parenting look like? As they grow, and these things become a little less a part of their lives, many parents feel a bit lost.

I for one began burying my head into books again, searching for ideas about child development, communication and nurturing connection with this wild and wonderful toddler in my life. 20140304-133829.jpg

There are five main ways that our attachment parenting philosophy has influenced our parenting an older child:

I reckon this is the Big One, the crucial part of our communication with toddlers. If attachment parenting is about connection, trust and responsiveness then our toddler need to feel understood and they need to feel that their emotions are valid, loved through their big feelings. We need to knock on the head “You’re okay, honey!” and ” Don’t worry!” – replacing them with an acknowledgment of how they are feeling; “You lost your toy? And I can see you are really upset” and “You are frustrated about that!”

Get into the habit of repeating back to them what you hear. Don’t add to their emotion “OOH, YOU ARE SUPER, SWEARINGLY FURIOUS!” (hehehe) but do give them words if they can’t find them- “upset” is a nice word that covers lots of emotions.

Start with your baby. Even when they cry as a tiny one, instead of “Shhhh” as them “Were you worried that I had walked away?” (Or whatever) – of course, while offering your boob because that IS what they want, a lot of the time.

This validation is a communication habit for a lifetime, for children, for friends, and colleagues.

Standing back
Strangely, it feels as if so at a loss are attachment parents when their kids hit the toddler years that they become “helicopter parents” – hovering over their child’s every move, as if worried of severing the attachment.

This isn’t the way, dudes.

Attachment parenting is about responding to a child’s needs and as they grow one of a child’s most demanding needs is that of autonomy. They need to know they are in charge of some stuff, they need to know they have a say on the things that impact their lives. (They also – importantly- have a right to this.)

Has your child, through tantrums, been asking for more space to exercise their will and their choices? What areas will you let go control of? Their clothes? Their food? Their play?

The attachment parents is the one that stands back when their child strikes out for independence, knowing that sometimes meeting the need of an older child can sometimes look like the EXACT OPPOSITE of meeting the needs of a baby.

And yet. Children still need touch. A parent’s hug can still fill the cup of an older child who has emptied themselves emotionally. A cuddle can change direction of an afternoon of play between kids that has become quite wrestle-based! Sometimes I wonder if a toddler’s physical (by physical I mean a lot of pushing) play is a plea for more touch.

Touch activates important chemicals in our bodies, and sometimes toddlers, and parents, can be so busy that we don’t activate them enough. It may be a cuddle, joining in with the wrestle, or even a massage that can restore a connection lost in mayhem.

The other day Ramona was struggling a bit and we kind of invented a game. She lies on her back and I just do the motions for different things over her body. So I say “spiders creeping up” and tap my fingers all over her from feet to head and “sun shining down” and whoosh my fingers back down from her head to her toes- like the whooshing sun, you know?!? I did different animals and weathers for about five minutes and it was almost like a meditation. There have a been a couple of times since when she has been really sad that she has asked me for the creepy spider game again.

It reminded me how substantial good healthy physical contact is with our busy toddlers and how it can meet needs that are hidden amongst rambunctiousness.

The most helpful tool I have found in my parenting kit (what, you didn’t get a nice bumbag filled with gadgets? It comes out just before the placenta) has been an ability to empathise. And I don’t really know where it came from. I struggled for about a year feeling overwhelmed by the strength of a two year old’s feelings, almost annoyed and frustrated – primarily I imagine because I couldn’t FIX it. I felt almost redundant.

I wish I could remember what triggered the change. (It was quite possibly finding out about play urges– a child’s instinct to play/throw/climb/burrow is as strong for them as BREATHING!) But somehow I just began seeing things from our daughter’s perspective- and I got a bit of a glimpse into how annoying and frustrating HER day must get! Being so curious, but not being given the space to follow up discoveries. Being so excited but finding that shouts of glee aren’t welcome. Being so opinionated but not being heard.


I’m no parenting saint AT ALL and I do feel infuriated sometimes but stepping back from my feelings and attempting to see things through her eyes REALLY helps.

Play is a form of communication for children, so if we want to nurture a strong connection with them we need to play hard too! Play has also rescued many a moment for us that was spiralling into disconnection.

If Ramona is doing something that breaks our one rule (No harming people or people’s stuff) then I will often use play as a way of recovering any shaken connection. So a couple of days ago Ramona was enjoying pulling apart a friend’s house plant. I explained to her why house plants need to not have their leaves ripped, but she continued. I was picking up that Ramona was running on empty a bit so I firmly said “I’m not going to let you pull apart that plant” and then I began to cry big, ridiculous sobs and pretended to be the plant “Noooooo, don’t pull meeeeeeeee!!!” And we had a silly old game of plant chasing kid and kid pulling plant. (A classic.) Later on, when Ramona was full up and connected again, we had a conversation about keeping people’s stuff safe.

Attachment parenting is not about avoiding all tension and healthy boundaries/ guidelines, but IS about creating a good, receptive environment in which to discuss these things in a respectful way. Play is often a bridge between inappropriate behaviour and necessary discussion for us.

One of the best books I have read on the whole of childhood based on attachment theory is “Letting Go As Children Grow” by author of cosleeping bible, Three In A Bed, Deborah Jackson.

“The letting go process does not have to wait until the rebellious teenager explodes with anger and frustration. It does not even have to wait for a two yea old to become ‘terrible’. We can let our children go from the moment they are born by trusting in the process of nature and responding to their needs as they become apparent.”

How does attachment look in your family these days? I’d love to hear from families with different ages.


Dog days

5 January, 2014

We have lived in New Zealand for five days. It took us three days to get here- we had the perfect trip, the girls were amazing on this longest of long haul flights. We welcomed in 2014 whilst standing in the queue for Immigration. (They let us in, phew!)

We have landed in the sultriest part of summer. It is stickily, drippingly hot. It is eyepoppingly, heart-rushingly beautiful.

It is very different to England. It is also very familiar.

We are sort of on holiday, finding our feet and catching up with family and friends. But we also need to think about getting jobs. And somewhere to live. Somewhere in New Zealand.

We’ve had lots of these kinds of conversations “So where abouts are you going to live?” “Well. In New Zealand somewhere.” “And what are you going to do, job wise?” “We will probably work, doing something.”

We aren’t being stally- we just don’t know the answers to these things yet.

(I’m currently pulling the “Don’t worry, Mum, it’s cool” kind of face I perfected during my high-risk teenage years.)

Our first step is probably to buy a House Bus. These are A Thing here- big coaches turned into tiny homes on wheels. We think this will help us feel settled and take the pressure off needing to find a house. You’d think having two major breakdowns in 6 months would put us off the idea of nomadic living, but it really hasn’t. The benefits (outdoorsy, simple life) tug on us too much.

And, well. That’s it. The main point of this post was really to show you this little dog I found in an op shop yesterday. (I know what’s important.) An Opportunity Shop is the absolutely brilliant name for Charity Shops here. We went with the whole family; 14 of us hit up these jumbly old shops. Which was a funny activity, because me and my family in England used to spend our weekends doing this together. *smiles bravely*

And then we all spotted him- and it turns out we all had a little Snoopy, exactly like this, when we were kids.


He’s a lot smaller than I remember him being- but it might have more to do with my own size.

He is a bit bashed up but his tail is the perfect size for Juno to pop in her mouth, and Ramona will love pulling him about once we find a rope for him.

So. No jobs yet. No house. But we have a dog, which means it’s serious.

PS- Linking up for the first time with Op Shop Show Off 🙂
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