Monday, 25 September 2017

Maternity Clothes and the Self-Confidence Crisis

TW: eating disorders

Over the last few months, my self-confidence has started to go downhill. I don't feel as good about myself as I used to. It sounds shallow but I miss feeling attractive. I feel like it has crept up on me over these few months and now I am feeling the full effects.

For most of my life, I have struggled with my weight. Last year, I reached the weight that I had always fantasised about achieving but doubted I ever actually would manage. I was a small size 10 - I liked to tell myself that a size 8 would probably be a better fit. Granted, I had treated my body so poorly to get to this point and, looking back, this weight loss feels more like a low point than an achievement. I realised that the problem was my self-confidence, not my size. I wasn't any happier as a size 10 than as a size 16. Heck, I think I was less happy because I felt like I hadn't achieved enough. I became obsessed with the tiny pocket of fat on my lower stomach. I would spend so much time in the mirror charting my 'progress'. I realised that if you don't love yourself at the size you are now, you won't love yourself once you've lost weight. It isn't a miracle solution to all your problems.

For months, I worked my way through my obsession with weight loss and focussed on giving my body what it needed rather than restricting myself. I wanted to get back to being the kinda girl who would order a chocolate cake in a café and not be adding up the calories in my head. With help from my husband, I got back on track and I was in a happy place. I rediscovered my love for takeaway pizza and I deleted the calorie counting app from my phone. Then I found out I was pregnant.

Admittedly, I did worry how the inevitable weight gain would affect me. I knew from the start that my body would change in crazy ways and the weight definitely did pile on fast. After only a couple of weeks, I had gone up a dress size in jeans. But I knew that there was no escaping this. I ate when I felt hungry. I gave into cravings and didn't push myself too hard with the exercise. 7 months in, I feel proud of my pregnancy body. I love my bump and I don't even mind the little extra chub I've gained because I know I need this extra weight for breastfeeding. I am proud of my body for carrying my child so well.

The problems come about when I have to try to dress this new body. I never realised how much of my identity and my relationship with my body is based on feeling good in what I am wearing. My self-confidence has been on the decline in the last few months because I just don't have anything to wear. I have tried maternity clothes but they just aren't me. I find myself wandering around clothes shops looking at the new season clothes and wishing that the maternity section was that exciting. I mean, sometimes I don't want to wear jersey striped tops and bodycon everything.

Jumper - Primark (similar)
Jeans - Mothercare (here)
Boots - New Look (similar)
Gilet - Primark (similar)

Of course, there are maternity clothing brands that are an exception to this. ASOS do a lovely range of maternity clothes and I recently picked up these jeans from Mothercare which I adore. I love seeing brands make maternity jeans that are soft, comfortable, have a great belly band, and actually look kinda cool. I love the classic blue colour and the ripped knees give me a 'I'm a cool mom' kinda vibe. On the same shopping trip, I picked up this jumper. Admittedly, it isn't as long as I would like to it be but I love the embroidered design on the arms. The best thing is that it is big and comfy whilst still looking nice. It is like a fluffy burst of autumn in my wardrobe. I paired the jeans and jumper with my all-time favourite chunky ankle boots and a gilet that definitely doesn't fit anymore and I finally feel a bit more 'me'. I feel like I have found an outfit that brings together all the autumn vibes that I absolutely love but is also comfy on my bump. When I wear this, I feel happier in myself. I am starting to feel more normal. I think I need to keep pushing myself to make an effort with my appearance like doing my makeup and not just scraping my hair back into a messy bun. 

To any other soon-to-be mums that are feeling the same, I would say that you have to be persistent in your search for clothes that make you feel like you again. Don't give up on maternity brands as they do often stock some nice pieces but also look in normal clothing shops - especially now that lots of brands are bringing out their winter jumpers which are a great way to wear a trend that is also not hugely uncomfortable. Also take some time to focus on yourself. Get your nails done, buy yourself some new makeup, pick up a swishy dress that flows over your bump and shimmy around in it.

Pregnancy can make you lose yourself. Your thoughts become focused on your little one - that's natural. But try not to lose sight of your own needs. You are still important and even though your priorities are shifting, make sure you don't let yourself fall to the bottom of the pile.

What tips would you give to soon-to-be mums when it comes to body confidence? What is your favourite maternity brand?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fighting The Seasonal Frizz With Noughty Haircare

The struggle is real for us curly-haired girls at this time of year. After a whole summer of fighting humidity-induced frizz, you would have thought Mother Nature would give us a little bit of a break. But, no. In come comes the wind and the rain and there goes all hope of having a good hair day. I have come to the realisation that frizz is just a part of life for me and I will probably never have perfect, frizz-free curls unless I use a whole lot of heat on my hair then never leave the house again - or even go near an open window. But that doesn't mean that I can't try to get as close to perfect curls as possible.

In my journey to reduce frizz and really bring out my curl pattern, I came across Noughty Haircare. Noughty Haircare has recently started being sold in Superdrug and they cater for hair types across the board. But here's the best part: they are 97% natural, vegan, and cruelty free. Of course, I snapped up a shampoo and conditioner from their curl range as soon as I laid eyes on them. And what sweetens the deal is that the packaging is just so pretty - I swear, these products are a blogger's dream. They even contain avocado - what's not to love?

In terms of the products that I purchased, I would say that they would be well suited to wavy hair or a loose curl type. They made my hair very shiny and I felt like my curls were definitely very moisturised after using the products. They didn't exactly add much to my curl definition but I could certainly see a reduction in frizz. I would definitely repurchase the shampoo again as I like that it is paraben free and doesn't cause my hair to tangle like many other shampoos do. The conditioner was good to have to change up my products every so often but I wouldn't rush to repurchase it because I found that it made my hair feel a bit heavy although it did give it a high level of shine which I was happy about.

I would recommend these products to give your hair a lift if it is feeling a bit dull in this weather. There products seem to be really moisturising and I can attest to how they leave your hair so shiny and soft. These products would be perfect for anyone with a loose to mid curl formation and I enjoyed experimenting with a new brand.

I applaud Noughty Haircare for creating a range of natural, vegan, cruelty-free products as it is difficult to find good products for an affordable price that aren't packed full of chemicals. I hope more haircare brands follow suit.

Have you ever tried Noughty Haircare? What did you think?

Monday, 11 September 2017

Spooky Fun At Wookey Hole

There is nothing I love more than a little bit of spooky fun. I can't handle horror but anything that has a slight novelty feel to it is an instant win with me. So, when my mum suggested we go on a family day out to Wookey Hole, I was mega excited. I mean, who wouldn't want to explore caves that are famous for once being the home of a real, live witch? Also I was pretty psyched to buy some cave cheese. They also do cave wine and cider which sounds amazing and I am really considering investing on a few bottles to put in my hospital bag for once the baby is out.

After a long journey along a lot of windy country lanes (thanks, SatNav), we finally found ourselves at Wookey Hole. This part of the day was less spooky horror, more family comedy involving a road trip and a fair amount of shouting and sulking. Kids and cars really don't mix. But once we were finally out of the car and queuing up to get into Wookey Hole, we all started to feel a little more excited. Especially seeing a few members of staff milling around with green painted faces and wearing witch costumes. And seeing a café selling ice-cream.

Due to it being super busy on that day, the man at the desk advised us not to head straight to the caves but to look around a few of the other attractions first. So, we took his advice and found a clown museum. I, for one, find clowns so creepy. Just the whole fake smile thing creeps me out. And the new IT movie being released has taught me that I am really not alone in this. I mean, who even like clowns really? The mini museum was quite interesting and I liked seeing the pictures of clowns from early 1900s circuses - those guys really take the biscuit for clown creepiness. I have not visited many clown museums in my lifetime so it was interesting to read more about the history of the whole thing but I definitely wouldn't want to be left alone in there.

We then headed through to where they had a big amusement arcade full of old arcade machines. They had been adapted to accept special tokens which you could purchase. I loved the nostalgic vibe of the whole place and I even got my fortune read on one of the machines. My sisters loved the machines that predicted their futures and, of course, trying out the old penny slots.

We then headed out to have a picnic and grab some Marshfield ice-cream from the café. I chose banana ice-cream because I have really been craving everything containing bananas lately - which is kinda strange because I usually hate banana. Full of ice-cream and snacks, we then headed into the caves.

The caves were really dark inside with only some areas illuminated with artificial lighting. We were dodging low-hanging rocks and puddles of water the whole time. Our guide told us the folk story about the witch who used to live in these caves and the coldness and darkness really added to the whole spooky atmosphere. I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if a rock suddenly fell blocking our path or if a body of water leaked from somewhere filling the whole cave - as you can tell, I am ever the optimist. For the end of the tour, we had to wear hard hats as the area had been excavated more recently than the rest of the parts and there was a risk of falling rocks - I was convinced this was the end.

Thankfully, we all made it out alive. I may have been slightly melodramatic as no-one has ever had any issues visiting the caves (that I know of anyway). We then were able to go to the gift shop and check out all the yummy cheese and other cave goodies. They even had fudge!

I would highly recommend a trip to Wookey Hole - especially if you have kids as it is a great family day out. I would love to go back for all their Halloween events to experience the spooky factor cranked up to capacity.

Have you ever been to Wookey Hole? Where is your favourite spooky location in the UK?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Things I Do To Make A Bad Day Brighter

Bad days are an unavoidable part of life. Even the most bubbly, sunshiny person in the world has an off day every now and then. I believe that taking care of your mental health is super important - just as important as taking care of your physical health - so I wanted to share a couple of things that I do when I'm having an off day to lift my spirits.

Cry it out
I find that sometimes all I need to feel a bit better is to ugly cry to a bit of Taylor Swift. It is natural that we bottle up things through the weeks and don't allow ourselves to really feel our emotions properly. A cry is a good way to release all these negative emotions you have stored away.

Talk to someone
Talking to someone is a great way to overcome any unhappiness you may be feeling. Whether you want to talk to a counsellor or let loose on your best friend, talking about what you're struggling with can really help. If you don't feel ready to talk about how you're feeling directly, I find that a chat with someone you are close to about anything from that new palette that has just dropped to who has been kicked off Bake Off this week can really help.

Do something nice for someone else
I find that channelling these negative emotions into doing something positive for someone can be a great way to feel a little better. When I am sad, I like to bake for my husband because it makes me feel better seeing his face light up coming home to his favourite snacks. Although I might not be feeling happy, it makes me feel a bit better knowing that I am responsible for making someone else happy.

Listen to something inspirational
When I don't feel my best, I like to listen to girl power ballads and songs that make me feel like I could conquer the world. For almost a year, I listened to Maya Angelou's reading of Still I Rise every morning as I did my makeup. I found great comfort in these words and, knowing Maya Angelou's personal story, it made me feel like if she could manage to get up everyday and achieve so much then why can't I?

Occupy your time
When you're feeling rough, it can be easy to want to hide away in your bed and never come out. This is normal and sometimes you just have to give in and allow yourself that time to recover. But, on such days, I like to try to do at least one thing so that I don't feel like I have wasted an entire day. This can be anything from tidying my room to doing the laundry. I find that if I have managed to accomplish something - even something small - I feel better about myself.

Be kind to yourself
Remember that everyone has days like this. Be kind to yourself. Do things that make you happy. It is so easy to think badly of yourself and compare yourself to those around you and their insta-perfect lives but try to overcome this negativity. Your feelings are valid and you are valid.

Social media blackout
Sometimes it is best to distance yourself from social media when you are feeling a bit down. Journal your thoughts rather than sharing them with everyone online as you may later regret posting what you did when you were feeling down. Also, when you already feel a bit grotty, there seems to be a weird force that pulls you towards Facebook stalking every ex you ever had - and their new partner, and their partner's brother/cousin/uncle/hairdresser - until you find yourself feeling even worse because what if that guy that you dated in year 9 was the one?! Sometimes it's best to turn off completely.

In case you are having more bad days than good, here are a few links to different websites and phone numbers that I'd advise you check out. Also don't be afraid to contact your GP or talk to someone you trust if you seem to be feeling down more often than you used to.

Mind - 0300 123 3393
Samaritans - 116 123 
Childline (under 19) - 0800 1111
Sane - 0300 304 7000

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Autumn Bucket List

I don't think I could call myself a blogger if I wasn't completely obsessed with autumn. I mean, it comes with the territory, right? As the weather get a little bit crisper, I start to dream of cosy nights in curled up with a good book and drinking hot chocolate with mountains of whipped cream. Although I will be a little bit sad to wave goodbye to the long summer days, I am intending to throw myself wholeheartedly into everything autumnal.

Add to my chunky knitwear collection
I have to admit, summer fashion often has me at a loss. All the pastels and bright colours aren't really my cup of tea and I struggle to feel truly comfortable in a dress - especially when it ends up with me being sunburnt pretty much from head to toe. Don't even get me started on being pregnant during summer and trying to find something that isn't a glorified lilac tent to wear. I am far more comfortable in a comfy knitted jumper, some ripped jeans, and a paired of heeled boots. This season, I want to invest in some knits in burnt orange and mustard. Also burgundy always make a comeback around September which is something that I support 100%. And my beanie is feeling a bit lonely so I think this year I need to get him a friend or two.

Bake everything
Nothing quite screams autumn like spending a rainy day indoors baking delicious sugary snacks. I love baking anything that has cinnamon in it at this time of year because it fills the whole kitchen with such a warm, sweet scent. I want to make gingerbread, banana loaf, and coffee cake first of all then I'd also love to challenge myself with more difficult bakes like baked Alaska cake and pastries. Heck, I might even make croissants.

Make smores
Along the same lines, I want to make smores. Probably I will end up cheating and just make microwave ones but nothing beats the melted marshmallow and chocolate combination of a smore. Maybe I could do it on the BBQ? Is that a thing?

Drink all the hot chocolate
Would it be a stretch to introduce a new hot chocolate testing series to my blog? It would be a great excuse to tour all the local cafes and rank their hot chocolates. My favourite is still Caffé Nero's but maybe their title will be challenged this year - who knows?!

Explore some new cities
I have the travel itch (not the kind you catch in Magaluf) and I really want to spend autumn travelling to new cities, staying in posh hotels, and indulging in a buffet breakfast. My budget might not stretch to the European cities I have in mind but there are definitely spots in the UK that I am yet to visit. Especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Binge watch all the Halloween films
I am really not a fan of horror films but I love films that are a little bit spooky. Especially when they are theatrical and maybe just a little bit camp. I love The Addams Family and intend to be channelling my inner Morticia from the minute the leaves start to turn orange. Other favourites of mine are Carry On Screaming and Rocky Horror. Can't beat those spooky, camp vibes.

Create a spooky autumn reading list
Now that I've finished uni, I want to delve into all the books I missed out on whilst I was studying. I want to read all the spooky books and get myself prepared for Halloween.

Try a pumpkin spice latte
Can you believe I have never actually had a pumpkin spice latte? I know, I have let down white women everywhere. The idea of a drink containing pumpkin has kinda put me off in the past but I am going to conquer my pumpkin anxiety and try one. Hopefully it won't be as much of a let down as matcha tea was for me.

Celebrate Halloween properly
I have been working on Halloween every year for as long as I can remember but this year I won't be. Despite the fact that I will be very pregnant by that stage, I intend to actually do something to mark the occasion. I just have to make sure I steer clear of spicy food to avoid the baby making a surprise appearance.

Go to a fireworks display
Once again, this is probably slightly unrealistic as I will pretty much be full term by Bonfire Night but I'd love to watch a fireworks display - even if it is just out my bedroom window (or the window at the maternity unit - eep!). Nothing beats an evening wrapped up in coats and scarfs watching a big bonfire and a firework display. Preferably with hot dogs and hot chocolate too.

Visit Wookey Hole
Wookey Hole is the absolute best place to visit at this time of year. I mean, it is a series of caves and the employees are dressed up as witches. Nothing gets more Halloweeny than that! I haven't been there in absolutely ages so I would love to visit again.

Try painting
This is a slightly less season related one but I would love to attempt to paint some little A5 cards with acrylic paint. I keep seeing everyone on Twitter posting pics of their incredible artwork and it has inspired me to try to give it a go myself. Maybe I can paint orange leaves to make it autumnal?

What do you want to do this autumn? What is your favourite Halloween film?


Monday, 28 August 2017

Support Other Women And Their Choices

Being 21 years old is an odd time. Half of the people you know are just graduating and have big plans to travel the world or are starting internships in some swanky London office. The other half are coupled up and already have a kid or two. I always associated myself with the first group of people. I have to admit, I was one of those women who would say they never want to have kids and that things like having a career and travel are far more important. Looking back, it is kind of sad how I felt, as a woman, I had to choose between a career and family life. Like it is impossible to have both and that motherhood would hold me back. But what is worse is how I felt that I had a right to criticise how other women chose to spend their lives. Fired up on the problematic line of thought that motherhood is giving in to the expectations of the patriarchy, I began to see everything from running a home to raising a child as being somehow less valuable use of time than having a high-flying career. I would tell people that I never wanted to have kids but what I really meant was that I didn't want to close myself off to opportunities. I didn't want to miss out on living my life. Then I got pregnant and I had to re-evaluate everything. But I came to realise that motherhood isn't a death sentence for your career. It doesn't mean that you will never make it to your dream travel destinations. I opened my eyes and I saw countless mothers who were hugely successful in their careers and had a passport full of stamps. Granted, it is not easy having a child and a career but the fact that it is possible makes me feel optimistic.

After realising how problematic my internal criticism of motherhood was, it made me more aware of just how much women who want children are pitted against those who don't. Women who don't want children are characterised as being stern child haters or whimsical nomads not fulfilling their reproductive duty. Women who do want children are characterised as simpering 50s housewives who have fallen victim to a patriarchal system that prevents them from excelling. Needless to say, neither of these characterisations are true. We need to stop judging women on what they choose to do with their bodies. A woman has the right to make their own choices over their reproductive system. This is what makes me so angry when I see comments on Twitter about the amount of bloggers who have fallen pregnant lately. It is buying into this divide that has been put in place to shame women on either side. Yes, you may not be ready to have children yourself but you should celebrate alongside these women. As women, we need to learn to build each other up rather than distance ourselves just because our reproductive decisions don't match someone else's.

Feminism has brought us a long way and I am thankful that, in the UK, women have reproductive rights but there is still a great deal of pressure placed on women in terms of their reproductive decisions. So, instead of judging each other and distancing ourselves from each other based on our decisions, we need to support other women. We need to bridge this divide rather than reinforcing it. We need to support and fight for women who don't have the same reproductive freedoms that we have. We need to protect these rights that we have in this country and fight for things to continue progressing rather than allowing our individual opinions on motherhood stop us from fighting for fairness and justice. Women without children, support the mothers you know and stand with them in battles against discrimination in the workplace. Mothers, stand with women without children in fights against social pressure to have children. Together we can make a difference rather than allowing our small differences to divide us.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Fossil Hunting In Charmouth

As a kid, I had a huge obsession with gemstones and shells. I would scour the beaches looking for the prettiest, most colourful little seashells to add to my collection. During our holidays to Cornwall, I would always spend my money buying those little baskets full of all different exotic shells and maybe even a starfish if I was lucky. My room was a treasure trove of sparkly gems. My love for gems and shells never really wore off so when my parents suggested we go on a day out to Charmouth to look for fossils, I was rather excited.

My little sister had recently been to the Jurassic Coast on a school trip so she was super excited about explaining to us how fossils are formed and the different types of fossils that are common to the area - she was basically our nine year old tour guide. In true British form, half the country had flocked to the beach at the slightest hint of sunshine so we had to trek along the pebbles for quite a while before we found a spot that wasn't too busy. The first thing that we noticed, apart from the blazing heat and the fact that we only had a tiny bottle of sun-cream that I had found in the bottom of my handbag, was a bullet. Yep, a bullet. Which I had pretty much sat on. It was an old one and it had apparently never been fired. We all got pretty excited imagining that it had washed up from some naval ship or something. My sister then suggested that we start digging around for some fossils and we actually managed to find a fair few interesting rocks and even a couple of pieces of fossil.

After we had fully excavated where we had chosen to sit, we decided to head down to the water as the tide was just going out and we thought that'd be the prime location to find something. We sat down on the pebbles by the sea and delved our hands into the water upturning rocks. Alongside a fair few crabs and shrimp, we managed to find some real fossils - and no one fell in the water which is another win if you ask me.

After all that geology, we decided it was time to indulge in some relaxing beach activities. We paddled our toes in the (freezing) sea and got ice-creams. We did want to also pick up some chips but the queue stretched for miles and all that science had really made us tired. Our final port of call was the gift shop which was full of every type of gemstone you could imagine. I could have spent all my money in there. I eventually chose a slice of bright pink agate because who could say no to a bright pink gemstone.

Have you ever visited the Jurassic Coast?
© The Emerald Dove. All rights reserved.
Blogger Designs by pipdig