Saturday, 21 October 2017

How I Achieved The Softest Baby Bump In The World (Probably)

During pregnancy, strange things start to happen to your skin. One minute everything is normal and you're just sat waiting for your pregnancy glow, the next your chin has transformed into a mountain range of spots and you have dry patches in the weirdest of places. Your bump seems to be bigger every time you look at it but you are also ballooning in areas you never expected (I mean, my wedding ring is now so tight that it leaves white marks on my sausage fingers). It is definitely important to take care of your skin during pregnancy as it starts to stretch out to make space for bubba and I have found that I feel better about myself too when I am moisturised to within an inch of my life.

Over the last 35 weeks, I have tried lots of different lotions and potions to keep my bump (and the rest of me) silky smooth but I always find myself going back to these 4 products. So, I wanted to share with you all my all-time favourite pregnancy moisturisers.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Massage Lotion For Stretch Marks
This product is one that I hugely associate with pregnancy as my mum used it when she was pregnant with my three younger siblings so it was the first product I reached for when I fell pregnant myself. I love the cocoa smell and how it leaves my bump feeling so smooth. It is quite a thick cream which I like as pregnancy tends to make your skin feel drier than usual. Also I have been using this daily since I found out I was pregnant and I haven't had any stretch marks appear on my stomach yet so either this is a coincidence or Palmer's are making magic lotions. I like to think it is the latter.

Boots Baby Oil
I feel like borrowing your kid's baby oil is such a typical mum thing to do but there is no arguing with the results. I like to use a couple of drops of this in the bath alongside a bubble bath or rub it into damp skin when I am just getting out of the shower. Also it is perfect for sensitive skin since it is formulated specifically for babies so you know it'll be gentle on your skin.

Simple Light Moisturiser
I have been using this moisturiser since I was a teenager and it has never done me wrong. It has seen me through the worst teen spot breakouts and winters of dryness and now it is standing strong through the changes pregnancy are making to my skin. I find that my face tends to be quite oily - especially around my nose and chin - and pregnancy hasn't changed that. I also tend to get spots on my chin and on my cheeks quite a lot. I like that this moisturiser doesn't aggravate my spots because it is quite a delicate formula and, as it is a light moisturiser, it lets my skin breathe and doesn't clog up my pores. I would highly recommend this product to anyone with sensitive and/or oily skin.

Bubble T Bath Pearls
When I'm not stealing baby oil from bubba, I love using Bubble T's bath pearls. They are filled with oils so you just drop a couple into the bath and they pop open and release all the oily goodness into the tub. They smell amazing and they leave my skin feeling so smooth after a long soak. They recently started stocking these in Superdrug too so you should definitely check them out - they also do teabags that you put in the bath which I am yet to try but am intrigued by. 

Have you tried any of these products? What do you recommend?

Monday, 16 October 2017

We Moved To London!

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I recently moved from Devon to the big city of London. Just writing that seems slightly crazy to me. My husband had been wanting to live in London for a while now and things had always got in the way of that. First, I had to finish my degree in Cardiff. Then, just a couple of months before I was set to graduate, we found out that we were expecting. At that time, we thought that there was no way now that we would be able to follow that dream and live in London. I mean, babies don't really mix with the fast-paced, working flat out, heady excitement of the capital. But then we stopped and asked ourselves 'why not?'. So, here we are one week into our new lives living in Greenwich.

When we first got here, I didn't know what to expect. I felt quite anxious for the first few days - everything you see on the news and the worried comments made by loved ones about how you'll be murdered in your sleep get into your head more than you care to admit. Honestly, I haven't adjusted to this new lifestyle yet and there are times that I want to jump on a train and return to the quiet, slow-paced village life that I was accustomed to in Devon. 

It is definitely a big change but I have tried to focus on enjoying the little things. I have been walking a lot more and taking the buses to different areas nearby. I went to Greenwich Market and I browsed the stalls and bought myself a pulled pork toastie (mostly because it contained gherkins and mustard which the baby seems to love) and a cranberry and raspberry juice which I devoured sat beside a huge ship on the waterfront. The other evening, I travelled into Covent Garden where my husband was working and we walked around looking at the big lights and eating McFlurrys.

I feel like London is a whole other world. There is so much to do, so many people, so many different areas. It is intense. I can understand why people are desperate to exchange their London life for a more relaxed one in a leafy suburb in Kent. But I can also see why so many people are drawn to London. Some days I have woken up feeling excited to jump onto a bus and tour around the city sipping Starbucks coffees and pretending to be a tourist. Other days I wake up and the constant hum of traffic and people is too much and I start to dream of the life we had in the Lake District where you go walking in the mountains and dip into family run coffee shops and everybody knows everybody. But I think only time will tell if this is the right place for us. For now, I am focusing on enjoying everything London has to offer.

Would you ever live in London? Where would you say is the best place to live in the UK?

Friday, 13 October 2017

Changes I'm Making To My Instagram

The early Insta days

When I first joined Instagram back in January, I had just moved to the Lake District to live with my husband for a little bit whilst I was on Christmas holiday from uni and wanted to share all the pictures I was taking at the time. I was then on a break from blogging and didn't feel hugely motivated to return to it but I was missing the feeling you get when you share snippets of your life with others and are able to share in some of their memories too. At this time, I loved sharing pictures of the scenery and I was very much into cooking as well - I was on a bit of a health kick so I had followed a fair few fitness gurus. I would post often twice or even three times a day usually using just my basic Sony camera phone and occasionally my Nikon bridge camera which is what I use for blog pics. I wanted to share pics that looked nice but the memories were the most important part for me.

My most staged period

Almost a year later and I feel like I have lost the original reason why I joined Instagram. I feel pressured to produce perfect content - even at the cost of it having much meaning. My pictures started to become more and more staged and I found that I was no longer sharing things that meant a lot to me. As long as I was sharing something pretty, that's all that matters, right? But even as I pushed to give my rather modest following what I thought they'd want to see, I noticed that likes were dropping. I wasn't getting as much engagement as before. My followers were dropping like flies.

That's when I realised that I had lost the whole point of Instagram. It isn't about posting perfect flatlays or stressing about which filter suits your grid best, it is about sharing a part of your life. It is documenting memories. Creating a photo journal to look back on. With this in mind, I decided that I was wasting too much time obsessing over how my grid looks and whether my photography is good enough. Yes, I'll probably never make it to the explore page but I want my Instagram to feel like a part of me and a reflection of my life rather than something that is staged and generic.

My latest posts

So, I decided it is time that I cut myself loose from this pressure to produce perfect content. I have started posting whatever I feel like. My captions have become longer and more chatty. I don't post at any specific time of the day or push myself to post everyday. I post what I want when I want. And that is how it should be.

What are your thoughts on Instagram?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Things I Wish I'd Been Told In The First Trimester

The first trimester can be a crazy time. You've been hit with the news that you're going to have your own mini me in just nine months. Your hormones are sending you into overdrive and you may or may not have just been sick because you smelt someone cooking eggs. We have all been there and I am here to say that there is light at the end of the cradling-the-toilet-bowl tunnel.

It is ok to be scared
When I found out I was pregnant, I was living in a shared student house with my husband and I hadn't even graduated yet. We had big plans to travel the world and experience all the crazy things life has to offer. Admittedly, when I found out I was pregnant, I felt scared. I didn't feel like it was the right time to start a family. 7 months later, I am nothing but a vision of excitement at the thought of having a baby. I'd say that it is natural not to immediately feel excited. Having a baby is a massive step and a complete lifestyle change. You may not feel an immediate connection with your unborn child. You may struggle at the thought of making compromises and changing how you envisioned the next few years of your life. But, trust me, it doesn't make you a bad person if you aren't immediately excited. It doesn't make you a bad parent if the people around you seem to be more happy about your news than you are. These feelings will come.

Eat what you can manage and don't feel guilty about it
For the first few months of pregnancy, I felt this real sense of guilt that I wasn't providing my little one with what she needed in terms of nutrients. The problem was that I couldn't manage anything that wasn't mega salty or just carbs. The only thing slightly nutritious that I was having was fresh orange juice - I drank gallons of the stuff. But all I wanted to eat was toast, chips with multiple sachets of salt, and salted tortilla chips. I tried to push myself to eating food that was good for me but it made me feel sick so, most of the time, I stuck with what I could manage. I'd say that a healthy diet is important but morning sickness and cravings often hinder you from eating what you know you should be. For now, eat what you can manage. Drink lots of water and try to sneak some fruit and veg in if possible. But, most importantly, take your pregnancy vitamins (the ones that contain folic acid). The sickness will go once you hit the second trimester then you can focus on improving your diet.

The morning sickness WILL eventually stop
Usually around the 14th week of pregnancy, your symptoms will die down and you'll start feeling a bit better. By 20 weeks, you should feel pretty much back to normal. The first couple of months of pregnancy were definitely the most difficult for me but things majorly improve in the second trimester. Just think that your body is experiencing something completely new - you are growing a human! Rest up, eat whatever you like, boss your partner around, and get as much sleep as humanly possible. 

Calling 111 is better than googling your symptoms
Those first few weeks before you're assigned to a midwife can be really scary - especially if you're a first time mum. Everything is completely new and the temptation to google every symptom is ever-present. My top piece of advice is to call 111 which is the non-emergency NHS number and talk to one of their advisors who will tell you whether it is worth you arranging to see a GP, dropping into the maternity ward at your local hospital, or if what you're experiencing is totally normal. Calling this number is a lot more reliable and an easy way of putting your mind at ease.

Don't feel scared of telling people about the pregnancy
I know that this definitely isn't applicable to everyone but when I fell pregnant at the age of 21, I was sure that my parents would be really annoyed about it. So sure that I didn't actually tell them until I was 18 weeks gone. Looking back, it's ridiculous that I was so scared to tell them because my family are all really excited about the baby. I'd say that if you think someone will react negatively to the news, just bite the bullet and tell them. If they do react badly, I am sure they will eventually come round - who wouldn't love a little bubba? But keeping your pregnancy secret isn't a good idea because you need people around you to support you and it is important that those you spend time with know you're pregnant in case you start feeling ill or anything. Also, equally importantly, declare your pregnancy to your employer as early as possible. I told my employer when I was only 2 weeks pregnant as I worked night shifts and my job involved long hours on my feet. Once he knew that I was pregnant, I was allowed more breaks, had to do less heavy lifting, and was offered some day shifts as well.

Your body is going to change in crazy ways 
I've spoken a couple of times on this blog about pregnancy body confidence (here and here) because I think a lot of women struggle with how their body is changing during pregnancy - I know I have at times! But it important to keep in mind that being able to carry your child is such a privilege even though it might not seem like it when you're battling morning sickness and feeling so exhausted that you're tempted to take five naps a day. Remember why you are doing this and think of each change as a step into a new world.

Research what financial support you're entitled to
If you're in the UK, you'll be entitled to some means of financial support depending on your circumstance. The best way to identify this is by dropping into your local Jobcentre, reading up on the GOV UK website, or chatting with your employer.

Every pregnancy is different
This is a great thing to keep in mind when you are reading up on pregnancy forums or being given advice. What is right for you and your baby might not have been right for someone else but don't let their advice sway you. Your body knows what is best for your child - and knows far better than someone on an online forum. Also people seem to love to try to scare pregnant women with graphic tales of their workmate's cousin's friend who literally split in half during childbirth. Take this stories with a pinch of salt and talk to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Don't buy maternity clothes too early
When you're in the first trimester, you probably won't be showing much - if at all. I'd seriously advise saving your pennies and not buying any maternity clothes yet. I am now 33 weeks pregnant and I am still wearing regular tops and jumpers with maternity jeans. Only buy maternity clothes when you feel like you need them because you can't be sure how big your bump will be and how much weight you will gain - or even lose in some cases.

I hope you found these points helpful and I would love to hear which things you wish you had been told during the first trimester.

Friday, 6 October 2017

10 Things You Need To Start Carrying In Your Handbag

I am a rather disorganised person. I never text back or reply to emails quick enough. I am always late to pretty much everything. And I have missed more buses than I care to admit. But one thing that I try to be organised in is my handbag. For me, the worst thing in the world is when you stick your hand into your bag to find something and are met with a sticky hell of melted sweets, cereal bar crumbs, and stray five pence pieces. For that reason, I routinely sort through my bag and keep everything in order. And after years of being a handbag wearer, I like to think I have learnt quite a few things about what is absolutely necessary to carry in your handbag. It would be rude not to share this wisdom, right? So, I have made a list in the hope that I can help free someone else from their own sticky, oaty handbag hell.

Sweets and/or mints
This may seem counter-intuitive seen as these are the very culprits of the melted sweet situation but a handbag just isn't the same without them. It is really important to me that I have mints on my person at all times. Mostly because I really like garlic. Also little mints and sweets are a great way to bribe small children into behaving/stopping screaming about being hungry.

I can never tell if this is excessive or just a really great idea but I never go anywhere without a plaster in my bag. 90% of the time, you won't need them but do you know how many good wife points you get when your husband scrapes his ankle and you just whip out your plasters and have him bandaged up in seconds? It's a lot of good wife points, I can assure you. So many it could even result in you being given choice of what to watch on Netflix and being bought chocolate. Worth it.

Face wipes
You never know when you'll end up staying out late or, more likely for me, spilling something on your top. Face wipes are perfect because you can use them for all the usual wipe jobs but they're also there if you need them for removing makeup or if you forget to pack your cleanser.

I am pretty much the British version of Beyoncé - I may not carry hot sauce but I do always have ketchup to hand. I like to keep those little sachets they give you in McDonald's just in case I am ever caught short on the red sauce front. Also this is another one which is perfect for when you are out with kids because kids can never have enough ketchup. Feel free to swap this for your preference in sauces.

It seems pretty obvious but, guys, please carry water in your bag. You'll all get dehydrated and turn into human versions of prunes. I don't want to see that happen.

This may be another slightly excessive one but I carry stamps in my purse. Yes, I have had strangers comment on this - apparently, I 'must have been a girl guide since I'm so organised'. But sometimes you need to pick up a card for a birthday at the last minute and don't want to walk all the way home to get a stamp then walk back to the postbox so it is just easier to carry stamps with you so you post the card as soon as you scribble down the address. Right? Ok, I know this one is a stretch but you never know when you'll need a stamp.

Pen and paper
Yes, everyone has a phone on them at all times but in a whimsical old-world kinda way, I like to carry a pen and a small notebook to jot things down in. Also a book is a good shout for when your phone runs out of battery but still don't want to have to interact with other human beings around you (because why would you?). Also phone batteries hardly last any time so maybe another good idea is packing a charger too - if you're feeling organised.

Carrier bag
Since what was arguably the biggest British controversy of our generation - the introduction of a five pence charge on carrier bags - I have become militant about carrying a carrier bag with me everywhere. No-one is getting their hands on the five pences I have peeled off the bottom of my bag.

This is another one that you'd assume everyone would carry but you'd be surprised that not so many people actually do. I couldn't survive without having lipbalm with me everywhere I go. I carry about 3 different varieties with me - including an apple spice one because I am at one with the seasons.

I find that all of my makeup manages to cling to my face throughout the day pretty well. All but my base. I find that my foundation starts to rub off in certain areas (especially my chin and nose??) which transforms me into some kinda impressionist white and pink mosiac. So, I always carry concealer to dot on those areas that I have the most trouble with.

So, there we have it: my 10 things that I always carry in my handbag. Of course, I always carry my purse and phone too but I wanted to share the more random items I swear by. I'd love to hear what you guys carry in your handbags and if anyone else shares my obsession with handbag organisation.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Visiting London On A Budget

I have the privilege of being married to a rather spontaneous man. When he suggested at 11pm on a Thursday that we go to London the following evening, I wasn't surprised. But what I did consider was how we would manage to stay in London for a whole weekend on our rather modest budget. Sure, we had stayed in London many times before and we have never been rolling in cash but with a bubba on the way and a house move on the cards, our budget had never been this tight. It is now Monday afternoon and I am back in Devon after spending a full weekend in the big city. I have to say, I am rather impressed by how well we managed to cut costs without scrimping on fun. So, I decided to put together a post of tips and tricks on how to save money when visiting the big city.

Know where your priorities lie
This is my biggest piece of advice not just in this post but in life: know what you are willing to spend more money on. Consider which things are most important to you. Are you desperate to try that fancy restaurant you've seen on everyone's instas? Do you really want to see a certain play? Or are you a bit of a hotel snob who loves a good king size bed with feather covers? Personally, I love to explore all over a city and wander around taking in the sights (and getting a lot of pics!) so I knew that public transport would probably be an area where I'd spend most of our budget. To balance this out, we decided to go with cheaper options when it came to accommodation and food.

Consider a hostel or budget hotel
If your main priority is seeing the city and you aren't going to even be at the hotel for more than the few hours you spend there sleeping, I would highly recommend booking a hostel or a cheap hotel. At the weekend, I booked us a budget hotel which was only 3 minutes walk from Victoria station and right in the heart of Kensington. I booked this at about 9pm for the same night for the sum of £50 per night. This included a breakfast consisting of cereal (better than nothing) and the room had a TV and there was wifi. The room wasn't anything special but the price for such a central location really impressed me. And the fact that this was a last minute price - if we had booked in advance, we could have got an even better deal. Most hostels in London average at about £18 per night but it possible to pay for a private family room in a hostel which usually costs about £40 per night. I would highly recommend using Trivago to compare prices and don't listen too closely to what the reviews say if you are looking at budget hotels.

Get a day travel pass or Oyster
Being a village girl, I find the transport in London to be incredible. The frequency of buses, trains, and tubes always surprises me. And it is not too expensive. You can pick up a daily travel card for £12 that covers most of London and allows unlimited travel on all forms of transport within the city (excluding cabs, of course). Or for £33, you can get a weekly travel card. The other option is picking up an Oyster card or a Visitor's Oyster Card. I have a regular Oyster card which I prefer as it's pay as you go and travel is free after your sixth journey. It depends how much you are intending to travel once you arrive in London but if you want to hit the shops in Oxford Street, explore Borough Market, take some outfit pics in Kensington, and head into Soho for a night out, I'd recommend picking one up because those taxi cab bills soon add up. 

Free attractions
One of the best things about London is that there is a wealth of free stuff to do. The city is full of museums and galleries that only ask for donations including the Tate and Tate Modern, V&A, British Museum, and The Natural History Museum. Also lots of the famous landmarks such as Trafalgar Square are free - walking around central is a great way to explore the city without parting with any cash. But my all-time favourite thing to do in London is explore the markets. My favourite is Borough Market but Camden Market is also really vibrant and exciting - although you may end up spending a little bit of money on some delicious snacks because who could resist? 

Independent restaurants
A great way to save money as well as trying something different is by eating at an independent restaurant. Venturing out of the centre is a great way to cut food costs. My best tip for finding cheap but delicious food is to eat at Lebanese or Turkish restaurants - for around £30, you can pretty much fill an entire table with a range of tasty dishes.

Explore outside of central
When we visited London, we travelled out to places like Lewisham and Croydon to explore parts of the city that we had never been to. Of course, I love doing all the touristy things that you find in the more central locations but you get more of a feel for London if you try places that are a bit off the beaten track. Also it is so much cheaper.

If you're travelling to London from within the UK, be sure to check out the prices for Megabus. If you book trains years in advance, you can get good deals but Megabus is shockingly cheap even if you book it the same day. My husband and I booked a one-way ticket from Exeter to London and paid £17 for both of us. One woman on the bus told us she got a return for £8 for the same journey as she had booked in advance. Admittedly, it takes a bit longer than the train and there is the chance of running into traffic but once you've got your headphones in and have found some blogs to catch up on, the time tends to go a lot quicker than you'd imagine.

Voucher apps
Voucher apps like Vouchercloud are a great way to find some discounts ready for your trip. If you're savvy, you could accumulate a few different vouchers for restaurants and attractions to use on your trip - especially if you know where you'll be staying and which restaurants you'll be close to.

Trainline is a great website for getting discounted train fares. I only discovered it last week when I booked train tickets for my husband and I from Bristol to Exeter for £19 which would have cost £34 if you had bought them on the GWR website. Also if you are desperate to ride the rails, be sure to book far in advance to get the best deals.

What are your London travel tips?

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?
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