Small Things {The Autumn Edition}

In the spirit of wanting less and being happpier with what we already have, I have been thinking of the small things that make these dark, blustery autumn months feed our soul. This week, I could so easily have written a post on the many things that irritate me, that everyone else seems to love, but I’ll strive to keep the internet a positive place and if you want that post, you’ll have to ask for it! Despite an attack of the grumps, there is still more to November than dark nights and soggy school runs. 

Finally having the chimney swept and building the first fire of the year, Bonfire season at the allotment, National Sausage Week. Having dinner bubbling in the Slow Cooker. Toddlers kicking through ankle-deep leaves. A crisp start to autumn that makes the tress put on such a show when the leaves are ready to fall. Discovering a child friendly cafe.

Treating yourself to a new herbal tea and finding that it is absolutely gorgeous and soothing. Paying off your library fines and so redisvering the joy of browsing the shelves and choosing some new books. Taking library books back, not only on time, but read and on time. Discovering a fresh, decaffienated coffee that actually tastes nice. Buying posh yoghurts simply because you know the glass jars will make nice candle holders and finding the yoghurt is delicious too. Closing the curtains at dusk, turning the lights on and knowing you don’t have to go out again for the rest of the day, putting your comfies on. Remembering to put a hot water bottle in your bed before you get in it. Good Autumn Tele (have you seen The Crown on Netflix? SU-blime!) New episodes of Gilmore Girls (FOUR DAYS PEOPLE)


Finding a new podcast that you love and can binge listen to. Baking a cake that you haven’t done before and knowing that it’s not quite right but that your’re going to keep trying until it’s perfect. Tate & Lyle’s Halloween Treacle tin. Cats who like to curl up next to you and purr very loudly. Starting a big knitting project, especially for yourself. Instagram, before the trail of Christmas trees arrive on December 1st. An evening of no TV after school, where the children all sit together, near enough for me to see and speak to them, all happy doing this own drawing/puzzles/homework. Making a fresh batch of Granola. 

Going to bed early to read a really good book. Staying up too late, reading your book and not caring that you’re going to be tired tomorrow, because it really is a good book. Finding a long forgotten piece of clothing and feeling like you’ve been shopping, even though you haven’t. Two hours child free time, to go Christmas Shopping with your partner and spending nearly all of it buying books for people. Finishing off homemade Christmas presents. Getting donations in for the school fair a week before the deadline. Parent’s Evening. Putting the children to bed on your own and getting it all done by half past seven. Going out with new friends. Staying in. Still getting the occasional day when you can hang your washing out. 


So, you see, there are in fact many good things about this dark and damp month. I guess we all just need to look for them. What is keeping you smiling this week? 

On wanting less

I want to want less, but if I am honest, I am terrible at wanting less. I don’t mean having less. I can de-clutter with the best of them and we live within our means, I mean actually wanting less in the first place. We live on a pretty tight budget. Don’t get me wrong, we have a nice standard of living. We don’t freeze, we don’t starve and we have many of the trappings of modern life. There are many people who really, properly struggle. The point of this isn’t really who has more, but how much I would like to desire less things. Things that I can’t justify buying and so don’t, but so wish I could and it’s the wishing that I would like to stop. 

It’s not an attractive quality when we really break it down, is it? Wanting more. Seeing things and thinking ” I want that” or “I wish I could have that” and if there is one thing I wish I could get better at, it is wanting less, coverting less. It’s that niggling feeling that I should be able to have nice things or go more places. I wouldn’t even describe myself as materialistic. I think if I truly was, then I wouldn’t feel as torn as I do. I would be happy to worship at the alter of consumerism and probably have a much bigger credit card bill. But I am not happy to do so. I feel uneasy with this side of myself, but that unease doesn’t make it any easier to stop wanting. 

It’s not entirely my fault of course, we are literally bombarded with advertising everywhere we look. Thousands of messages put in front of us every day trying to get us to buy this and go here. That this will make us feel better, make us happier and even if we resist most of the time, there will be moments when we are tired or sad or fed up, or even sometimes when we are happy and feel that we deserve a ‘treat’ and we will cave. We will give into one of these messages or images and believe that buying the ‘thing’ will make us happy. 

It is at this point that I am supposed to say that it doesn’t work and that things don’t make us happy and fundamentally they don’t. We need love and health and a certain standard of living for that, but can we we honest for a moment?Sometimes, things do make us happy. A new lipstick, a spruced up living room, a new house plant, your favourite mug, a night off from cooking. Alone, they do not make a life, but they certainly make my life cheerier and I may be shallow to admit it, but I also suspect  I am not alone in this. 

Social Media doesn’t help us avoid these messages to buy. Even when they are not delivered by the companies wanting us to buy from them, we are seeing small peeps into people’s lives and the ‘things’ they own. Sometimes overtly, I mean who hasn’t posted a “look at this gorgeous new thing I just bought” photo, but often just from seeing glimpses of homes and lives. 

New thing picture

We are bombarded from the other side of the coin as well. The simple, slow living, minimalist movement has mushroomed over the last few years and it talks a lot of sense. Encouraging us to think about what we own, what we really need and what we can take out of our overstuffed lives, but it can be problematic for us too. Aside from the fact that it’s proponents can come across as unbelievably smug and self-riteous, it can also seem like just another advert for stuff. Check out any slow living hashtag on Instagram and you will see some beautiful images. Some gorgeous views of course and most that give you a lovely sense of peace and serenity, but many of them will show you gorgeous homewares, amazing spaces filled with the highest quality soft furnishings, crockery, lighting and clothing. Sometimes the simple life can still make those ‘wanting’ senses tingle.  Hygge is a fabulous example of this. The Danish idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, of gathering with friends and the feeling of cosiness. At this time of year it sounds perfect for all of us. As well as sounding perfect it also makes me want to buy gorgeous scented candles and the cosiest blankets and throws. I suspect not the point of Hygge. 

Trying to want less in a world of stuff
So, how do we go about wanting less? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer and I am hoping some of you do. I read a thing this week, that suggested just feeling the feeling and I am always a fan of letting ourselves feel what we feel. So, simply acknowledging that we are having an urge to spend money, just as we would acknowledge the urge to eat something, or have a glass of wine can help us not to act on that urge. I have made the decision to stop following a lot of businesses on Instagram, to remove some temptation and am trying to satisfy my ‘treat urge’ by getting small or useful things. A box of lovely tea, a bottle of really cheap, but lovely bubble bath. I am hoping that taking these small steps and by being honest, I will start to want less and not feel I am somehow missing out. 

So, thoughts? 

A ramble and some treats for your ears

Hello friends. How are you all? If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling a little world-weary and fragile this week, after the news from America. The boys now understand a lot more of what they hear in the news and Mini Mck even discusses this stuff with his friends at school, so I have been fielding lots of questions this week. Having to explain to my five year old that of course he can be friends with Child X, even though they have a different colour skin and that yes, he can marry a man when he grows up, if he wants to, because we have the right values of love and friendship, unlike others who are stuck in fearful hate, is a bit heartbreaking if I’m honest. 

On the other hand, the same five year old has also informed me this week that he would like to be President and he would be kind and make the right choices. He also said it would be a good idea if we visited countries that had nice Presidents in the future, so that’s a trip to Canada on the cards, right? I have to admit that the look of bafflement on their faces, when I simplistically explained that the new US Presidient only really likes white people, gave me a warm glow. They just could not wrap their tiny heads around why someone would think like that. 

Anyway, I have some lovely blog posts I need to point you in the direction of, but I shall save those for another day, even though it will make them out of date and instead I thought you might appreciate some treats for your ears. This one is for all of you that need to turn off the news and surround yourself with stories and things that will make you smile and laugh. I think we all need some of that right now, so here are some of the things I’ve been listening to recently. 


Radio 4 seems to have had a bit of an Alan Bennett season in the last couple of weeks, with the utterly sublime reading by the author of his latest diaries. There is nothing more comforting than listening to Bennett witter on about the small things in his life and also his witty take on the wider world. This was followed by a great interview between him and Andrew Marr on Start the Week. I love Start the Week, even when I don’t really understand what they’re talking about. I can feel it literally stretching my brain and making it better, so I’d always recommend it for a listen. 

I was utterly gripped by a podcast that had been recommended to me by my friend, Heather. Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder was such interesting and fantastic story telling. Even though the actual crime was committed thirty years ago, it is still highely relevant today and related to lots of current and even future events. I listened to all ten episodes in about three days. If you were a fan of Seriel, this one could be for you. 

The Guilty Feminist is a new one to me, in fact I only discovered it this week, after someone mentioned it on Twitter and it is truly fabulous. Funny, clever and will have you nodding along and possibly shouting “Hell, Yes!” in parts. I think, this week in particular, I needed something that celebrates women and their fabulousness. It’s definitely going to be one of my must listens from now on. 

Another thing we all could do with this week is our faith in politics, particularly American politics and there’s no better place for that than The West Wing. I’ve been a fan ever since it was on Channel 4 when it first came out. You know, when we used to watch TV week by week at the time it was on and I’ve seen all of it several times since then. The West Wing Weekly is for West Wing nerds to relive this classic TV drama and they have some great interviews too. If you haven’t ever seen The West Wing, might I suggest that now would be an awesome time to start. Put your cynicism aside for 45 minutes and try and pretend that Martin Sheen is the actual President of the United States. 

Finally, a quick word about a couple of friends who have excellent podcasts that you should always be listening to. Kat has returned for the second season of the Blogtacular Podcast, with an interview with Instagram superstar, Sara from Me and Orla. Kate from A Playful Day is also releasing episodes at the moment and this is always a lovely listen, especially in the darker months. It’s a real curl up with a cuppa and blanket kind of podcast. 

So, there we are friends. Some rays of light to soothe you in these fractious times. I hope there is something new for you or at least something you haven’t checked in with for a while. 

Until next time xxxx

Slow weight loss

Over twenty years ago, a wise friend told me I would always be one of those people who would quite like to lose 10 pounds of weight and she was right. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to lose just a little weight, but not enough to really do anything about it. The only time I slimmed down was when I ran regularly and trained for a half marathon, but that was a side effect. I never did it to lose weight. Mostly though I just accepted that I wasn’t at the weight I wanted to me and gave it little thought. 

Until the beginning of this year, when I found I would cringe every time I caught a glimpse of myself in a window, or saw a photo. Years of babies, pregnancy and many, many sleepless nights had taken their toll, but with my ‘baby’ approaching two, I could no longer blame it on baby weight. When I did brave the scales I found that I was heavier than I had ever been and fast approaching a new stone bracket, when I really should have been in the next bracket down. 

It was time to act. I am not a dieter. I loathe anything that tells me zealously to give something up or that the food I eat is evil. I was eating a fairly healthy diet. I mostly cook meals from scratch. We don’t buy biscuits and cakes, as I prefer to bake them at home and we are not big on takeaways or meals out. However, something was clearly not right. Mainly, I was just eating too much. Too much cake, not enough vegetables and fruit. There was no way I would be jumping on the quitting sugar bandwagon, or going Paleo. To me, courgettes are not spaghetti and cauliflower is not rice. They are lovely vegetables that I am more than happy to eat more of, but they are not a replacement for carbohydrates. (I promised myself this would not become a rant about clean eating, so I’ll leave that thought there) 

I installed the My Fitness Pal and begun to labouriously enter what I was eating. I have to be honest, it was a complete bore. Having to stop every time you cooked or ate and enter every single thing was tedious, but after two or three weeks, I had my core foods and meals entered and it became less of a chore. It really opened my eyes to what I was ‘spending’ my calories on and what I could eat instead. 

I had three strategies. Firstly, to eat less of the stuff that is bad for me. So, mostly less cake and biscuits. I could quite easily demolish three biscuits just while waiting for the kettle to boil. Secondly, was to try to add an extra portion of vegetable to each meal. So, ‘Pasta with Pesto’ became ‘Slightly less pasta, with onions, peppers, mushroom, olives and pesto’. Finally,  decided not to deny myself anything, but to simply work with it. If I wanted cake, I would have it, but it would be a small piece and not everyday. If we ate out, I would think a little more about what I ordered. Maybe a smaller pizza, but with a side salad, for instance. I also didn’t let a choice dictate the rest of my day. If I had cake, I wouldn’t then think that I may as well pig out for the remainder of the day. The idea of ‘treat days’ drives me nuts. Perhaps another reason you wouldn’t find me doing the 5:2 diet. 

So far, I have lost 17 pounds. Very slowly, but the beauty of that is it has so far been easy to keep the weight off. No more yo-yo-ing. In fact, I feel I have truly changed my eating habits and my whole attitude to food and at the age of 42, it was about time. How much we weigh should not be our primary driver for happiness and it definitely isn’t mine, but being able to look in the mirror and see me again, being able to try on clothes that I haven’t worn for years, or go shopping and not feel miserable about it has been a real tonic. 

And it’s not entirely shallow. It’s called a healthy weight for a reason. We work better if we are not overweight and whilst in may not have been stones, I was definitely overweight. I didn’t let my children eat the way I did and so I wasn’t looking after myself as well as I was them. So much of what they learn is from modelling the behaviour we show them and I want them to grow up to love food, but know how to moderate themselves. By continuing to eat what they eat and not adopting a radical and strict diet, I have finally started to model the behaviour I want them to copy. 




My new favourite photo background and full length selfies are now totally allowed! 

Digital Detox lite

The idea of a Digital Detox does not appeal to me. Some may say it’s because I am addicted to my smart phone and the idea of unplugging fills me with dread. I prefer to think of it as liking the connections I make online, enjoying the things I learn from the internet and it providing a much needed break in my day. We’ll stick with that, shall we? 


On a more serious note, I do think that this online world that we live in now gets demonised to such a huge extent and mostly I’ve found it to be a force for good. A pool of like-minded and interesting people. Behind all those pictures, tweets and blog posts is a person trying to make a connection. I understand that behind some of them are people trying to make a negative and damaging connection, I am not entirely naive, but mostly it’s ordinary people, sharing their ordinary lives. 

So, I don’t really buy the need for a digital detox. I know most people who do it extol it’s virtues, but I’m not convinced it’s for me. However, I do think my internet and social media usage needs a bit of a makeover. It needs to go to Digital bootcamp or a Digital Detox lite. 

There’s too much mindless scrolling, too much clicking on links that don’t really interest me, too much time spent moving from one social media app to another without any real engagement, like endlessly opening the fridge when you’re hungry, even though you know what’s in there. However, I’m not doing enough of the stuff that I do enjoy and that does add something to my life. Not enough reading and commenting on blogs, not starting conversations on Twitter and Instagram. Not enough reading stuff that challenges and engages me, stuff that I want to share with others.

So, for the next two weeks, I am going to change my habits. I’ve chosen two weeks, because this week is half term and our routine is so changed with everyone at home that it’s not a real test. You probably won’t notice a difference, in fact you might think I am around more, because you may find a comment on your blog or your pictures from me, but my habits will be different. 

Here are my Digital Detox lite rules: 

– No merry-go-round switching between apps. If I am checking social media, I check each app once and then put it down.

– No mindless scrolling. If I am on the internet, engage with the people there and if I don’t feel like engaging, then I shall come back when I do. 

– Open my blog reader first, before I go anywhere else, visit those enclaves of the internet that people have put time into and that I enjoy visiting the most and because it makes my day when people comment, leave a comment. 

– Set a time limit when browsing. No more standing in the kitchen for half an hour with my coat still on scrolling ( Don’t pretend you haven’t done it!)

– NO clicking on links of things that only mildly interest me. It’s called click bait for a reason. Do NOT fall for it. 

– On a non social media topic, but equally as important. Unsubscribe from marketing emails and delete emails as soon as they come in, if they do not interest me. 

– No screens after 9pm, apart from if I am taking part in the Blogtacular Twitter chat, which is my favourite hour on Twitter each week. 

I am really interested to see if these changes make a difference to my digital experience. I could be proved wrong and perhaps I do need a complete digital detox, but I’m hoping I don’t *clutches all Apple products closely to chest*. How about you? So your digital habits need a bootcamp? 

Movements matter

Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows the thrill of feeling your baby move for the first time. It starts as a little flutter, that leaves us asking “was that it or am I just nervous about something?” Then, we are sure and it changes from those tickly kicks to big, strong blows to our insides as we watch, with a mix of awe and horror (just me?) and see our stomachs move as our baby turns from one side to the other. 

We’ve also, I am sure, experienced that horrific sinking feeling when we realise that we haven’t noticed any movements on a particular day, but how often do we ever contact someone for help and to get ourselves checked out? If you’re anything like I was you would’ve dismissed yourself as being overly-concerned and followed all the old wives tales to get some movement to ease our minds. Lying down for a while, drinking an ice cold glass of water. It seems that getting reassurance from a professional is way down the list and it shouldn’t be. 

Tommy’s have conducted a survey in partnership with the Bounty Word of Mum panel, of 1,318 respondents, all of whom were pregnant women. The survey included a number of questions about baby movements, including: when they first felt their baby move; what they would do if they felt their baby moving less; and what would prevent them from calling the midwife. 

Although 95% of pregnant women are aware that baby’s movements are important, 85% were unaware of how much movement they should be watching for. Only half of women would call a midwife promptly on noticing reduced movement and a massive 73% would delay asking for help and try to do something to make the baby move, despite there being no evidence at all for the effectiveness of this. More than half  would avoid calling the midwife/hospital due to worry about ‘wasting time’ or ‘being a nuisance’. 

A baby moving during pregnancy can be anything from a flutter, kick, swish or roll and these are a sign that baby is well. When a baby is unwell, they may conserve energy by slowing down their movements. We think that if this symptom is reported promptly there is a window of opportunity in which the baby’s life may be saved.  

A recent study showed that around half of women who had a stillbirth noticed reduced movements. It’s common, however, for women to wait for up to two days before they mention it to their midwife or doctor. Stillbirth rates are shockingly high – in 2014 the UK ranked 24th out of 49 high-income countries. For every 220 babies born in the UK, one is stillborn. This means that more than 3,200 families go home without their newborn baby, every year. Reduced fetal movement (RFM) can be a warning sign that there is a high risk of stillbirth.

Raising awareness amongst pregnant women of the importance of monitoring the movement of their unborn baby and reporting reduction in movement allows timely clinical intervention to save the baby’s life. A Norwegian study alerting women to seek help with reduced fetal movements, has shown a reduction of a third in stillbirth rates.
Tommy’s, supported by NHS England and Kicks Count, is challenging some of the prevalent and incorrect thinking about Reduced Fetal Movement with their new campaign Movements Matter

– Baby movements slow down in the third trimester due to lack of space (although baby’s movements may change in type, their frequency should not change)

– A certain amount of kicks is fine

– I can get help tomorrow

– I don’t want to bother the hospital

– I can’t be checked at the weekend or outside 9-5

– I can use a home Doppler for reassurance

Jane Brewin, CEO of Tommy’s comments; ‘There are no set number of movements a woman should feel, what is important is that she knows what feels normal for her and her baby. It is not true that babies move less often towards the end of pregnancy, a woman should feel their baby move right up to the time of labour, and during labour too. We urge women to never hesitate to contact their midwife or maternity unit for advice, no matter how many times this happens.’

Amy Horwood, 28 from Bath, had a stillborn son, George at 31 weeks. She says “I’ve had lots of counselling and the biggest thing for me was forgiving myself for not knowing enough about fetal movement. I felt it was my fault George had died and the guilt was overwhelming. I thought that once you got beyond that first 12 weeks everything would be okay. I miss George all the time and life is still full of ‘What ifs?’ but I’m trying to channel that grief, that loss into something positive. For me, encouraging other women to be more aware of fetal movement, is George’s legacy.”

Dr Matthew Jolly, National Clinical Director for Maternity and Women’s Health at NHS England, said: “It’s crucial that women and their partners feel informed and empowered when monitoring their baby’s movement, acting immediately to seek advice if they are concerned. Raising awareness of the importance of fetal movement through access to clear, consistent advice is key in helping reduce the number of stillbirths.”

 Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count, said: “It’s vitally important that expectant mums are aware of current recommendations on how and why to monitor their baby’s movements. This is something which Kicks Count has been raising awareness of since we launched in 2009. Things are improving slowly but there are still many myths in circulation such as ‘a baby will run out of room to move as they grow larger’, that are still commonly believed across the UK and are quite simply wrong. Now is the time for change. We encourage mums to trust their instincts and speak to a midwife whenever they feel that their baby’s movements have changed or if they are worried about any change during pregnancy”

We know how comforting each kick we feel is, but our reluctance to just get checked out when we have concerns is a massive factor. Pregnant women need to and the fact that this campaign is supported by such big, well-informed bodies really hits this message home. So, if you or someone you know are ever worried, please don’t even think that someone’s time is being wasted, pick up the phone and get seen. 

If you feel could I would be so grateful if you could share this post anywhere you are, because you just never know who’s feed it’s going to end up in and when it might pop back into their heads, just at the moment they need it. 

The cult of busyness and giving stuff up

So many of us have become addicted to being busy. It’s like a competition and I absolutely include myself in this.  It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and Radio 4 recently had a series of programmes from Oliver Burkeman (a favourite writer of mine) about just this topic. I would urge you to have a listen. 

You know how it is. You see a friend and they ask how you are. How many of us answer something like “Oh, yes good, thanks. Well, busy, you know how it is?” And they nod knowingly and regale you with just how busy they are. Have you noticed that no matter how busy you might be, there is always someone who is busier than you and wants to tell you about it. It’s as if our busyness has become a badge of honour. The busier we are, the more value our lives have.  Interestingly, studies quoted in the Oliver Burkeman programme have concluded that people who feel that they are busier than everyone else, are in fact, not. 

Of course, I’m not denying that most of us are busy, juggling home, work and family and many of the things we do, we have to do. We have to eat and live in something better than filth. We have to work and care for our families, but we seem to have become martyrs to our own lives and choices. Like little worker bees scurrying around and not often know why or if it’s what we really want to do. 

If I look at my own life, as I have over the last few months, there are things that we don’t have to do. There are things that we can cut out of our lives that will make us less busy and I am convinced that this is the case for many others too. However, this isn’t blog post preaching to you that you are doing too much and why can’t you just give something up. You probably are and you probably should give something up, but I know it isn’t as easy as that. The things we do in our lives, we choose to do for many different reasons. It may be necessecity or because we want to provide something special for our kids. It could be obligation or sometimes just something we want to do. Just giving these things up isn’t always simple, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it. 



I recently decided to give up a committee role I had held at school for the past year. It seemed an easy decision to make and in some ways it was. I knew, immediately that it was the right thing for me and that at this time of my life I couldn’t continue this commitment. No, actually, not couldn’t, but didn’t want to and this is where these decisions become difficult. I felt I had to justify myself, to others, but mainly to myself.

 “Oh, I can’t do it, while I still have a toddler at home full time. I can’t do it with the boys moving into Year 1 and Year 3, there’s so much change for them. Oh, I can’t do it with Mckdad’s job taking up so much time……blah blah blah!”

All of these reasons were valid and genuine, but if I had really wanted to carry on, I could’ve. The truth was that I wanted to be less busy. I wanted to be able to use my babysitting favours for doing things in the house, or even more secretly for myself. Even now, I’ve stepped down and someone fantastic has taken over I feel a mix of emotions. I know that making my life less frantic was the right thing to do and the relief at taking a leap and saying no to something feels liberating. However, I still feel guilty, I still feel the fear of missing out (that’s the control freak in me) and I still feel that I am justifying the decision to myself. 

As I write this I have an unexpected toddler free day and because it was unexpected, I had no plans. I can’t remember the last time that happened and straight away I felt that I should feel guilty for that. I thought of the rest of the world beavering away being busy, as I went for a rare and wonderful daytime run. This feels like a huge luxury in this busy world. So much so, that I very nearly combined it with going to check and open my Dad’s post, because multi-tasking makes us all feel more busy, right?  (By the way the radio documentary I mentioned argues that multi-tasking is of no use to us)

I stopped myself though. I ran along the river path instead, for no other reason than it is the route I love.  I am slowly trying to learn that there are no gold medals for busyness and that sometimes we owe it to ourselves to slow everything down. So others may well be busier than me, in fact they probably are, but that’s OK. I am OK with that, or at least I will be one day.