Loving Your Community & The Aviva Community Fund

community

Since becoming a mum, I’ve started to really value my local community. A few years ago, I’d leave my house at 8am to jump on a train to Central London where my office was, and I wouldn’t return home til 7.30pm – or later if I went out in Soho for a few cheeky tipples. And when I did come home, as obvious as it sounds, I’d be in my house, curtains closed and watching TV or eating dinner (probably both at the same time, knowing me). I didn’t actually mix with anyone in my community – I rarely even spoke to my neighbours except for popping around to their house, if they’d taken in a parcel that had been delivered while I was at work. Even at the weekends, I’d jump in the car to head off somewhere to meet friends or family and I’d rarely stay local.

But since having my daughter, all that has changed. Starting with making friends with my NCT class and socialising with them locally and my year of maternity leave where I was forced to discover where various church halls were so that we could attend baby classes, I started a journey of exploring my local area… and falling in love with it. As my daughter started nursery and I got to know other parents, and as I met local friends through blogging, I realised how fab it is to be walking down the high street and bump into people you know. How useful it is to know people who can give you tips, tell you about things happening locally, and (yep, call me shallow) fill you in on local gossip. I also started shopping more locally and popping into our nearby cafe for lunch more often and getting to know the lovely owner. I know this will only increase, as the four-year-old starts school in September and no doubt will join Rainbows or local dance classes.

There’s no denying – life is better when you take an active part in your local community. Which is why I’m really thrilled to be involved with the Aviva Community Fund as a member of the ACF Team – where anyone can have the chance to secure funding for a local community group or charity that’s important to them….

Read More »

Because I’m Happy #2

Deliciously Ella recipe book

This week, the sunshine is making everyone happy – it’s actually impossible to feel crappy when it’s gorgeous sunshine. In fact, those very first few days of proper sun seem to put a spell on us all. Today, as I was driving along, other drivers were stopping to let me through, waving and smiling as they went. That never happens on a normal here in London! So continuing my new regular series, here’s what else has been making me happy…

Going on a health kick. We did it. We became those people who make smoothies every morning. Thanks to our new purchase – a NutriBullet – we are now really into having a healthy start to the day. My favourite smoothie so far is: spinach, banana, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, almond butter, coconut water, oats and chia seeds. But we’re going to try doing a full on green smoothie soon. I also bought the Deliciously Ella book and plan to try a few new dinner recipes this week. Wish me luck!

Pineapple

Nights out with lovely people. Last week, I met up with some lovely blogger friends for dinner. Over pasta and pizza, we chatted and caught up with each other – it was such a nice evening. The following night, I was invited by River Island to a dinner at the Riding House Cafe – one of my top restaurants in London. And I was able to chat to some of my favourite bloggers and fashion editors over beef wellington and red velvet cake. Mmm!

IMG_2014

Getting wine delivered. I often wish that there was an actual wine (and chocolate) home delivery service – like a takeaway but just for wine and sweets. It would be so popular with parents, at home with sleeping kids in the house, who can’t leave to pop to a shop. Or y’know, people who are just a bit lazy. So I am fully on board with The Grape Club, who – once you sign up – deliver a ‘grape drop’ of four bottles of wine, each month. Each bottle comes with its own personalised tasting note tag allowing you to learn about the wines as you drink. The Grape Club’s founders Anthony and Louisa are trying to ‘desnobbify’ the wine industry and bring brilliant wine, in a hassle-free way, to its members. Costing £45 a month, with no membership fee and the ability to cancel at any time, The Grape Club seems awesome to me. They sent me a grape drop to try and all four bottles were – no word of a lie – fantastic. Special shout out to the Malbec.

the-grape-club

Getting my toes out. When is it that it really feels like summer is on its way? When it’s warm enough to wear sandals or flip flops. This week, thanks to our mini-heatwave, I’ve shoved my boots to the back of the closet and I’ve been wearing my new black Birkenstocks. I even painted my toenails (*pops party popper in the air*).

Black Birkenstocks

Read More »

22 Things I’ve Learned In My 30s

22 things I've learned in my 30s

I’m *whispers it* 36. Which, to me, sounds ancient. How on earth I got to 36 when I feel like I only just left uni and started my career, I’ll never know. But as much as I sob a little at the thought of getting old, I am so much happier aged 36 than I was aged 22, when I had just graduated and was working in my first job. I was a ‘proper’ grown up and loved life, but now I look back, I can see there was so much I didn’t know. Here are some of them…

1. You really will feel better if you eat well and exercise – people who say this are right… who knew!

2. But being skinny won’t make you happy. Kate Moss says nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but she clearly hasn’t ever eaten an oozy fried egg sandwich with ketchup.

3. Be kind to your friends – life’s too short to play mind games. Meet up, drink wine, gossip. It’s one of the finest things in life.

4. But lose the ones that aren’t real friends. Anyone who is a bit toxic or even just doesn’t have your best interests at heart? Bin them. Life is definitely too short to spend time with those bozos.

5. It’s OK to enjoy staying in, rather than going out. Ahh cosy blanket, Netflix and glass of wine, how I love thee.

6. And when you do go out, it’s OK to suggest going somewhere ‘nice’ that isn’t rammed full of people, only leaving you enough space to hover by the bar.

7. Family is the most important thing – full stop. Call your mum, hang out with your in-laws, remember to send birthday cards, send small random gifts that show them you’re thinking of them.

8. But chances are, you only learn No.7 when you have your own child. It magnifies your need for that unconditional support and watching your own bond with your child grow makes you realise how important your bond is with your own family.

9. Having a child is utterly life-changing. Not just in a ‘dammit, I can’t go out as much anymore’ way, but in a re-evaluating your whole life and what actually matters way.

10. A cup of tea makes pretty much everything feel a lot better.

11. It’s totally worth spending a bit extra on a ‘nice’ wine. And you might even get less of a hangover from drinking it.

12. But hangovers get worse as you get older, and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do to stop this from happening. Just accept it and drink a bit less.

13. If someone is doing better than you, be happy for them. Jealousy and bitterness will just eat away at you, which is bad for you, but not that person who is doing really well.

14. Cleanse your skin properly before bed. I spent years not doing this, and my skin didn’t thank me for it. Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish is (as a lovely blogger I know put it) a total game changer.

15. Be kind to yourself.  It’s easy to listen to those negative thoughts about your thighs or your ability to do your job well, but counteract them with thoughts about how kick-ass you are.

16. Stay on top of life admin. Paying bills, sorting your taxes, booking your car MOT – all boring but essential. Even if you give yourself one task a week and achieve it, you’ll feel better. And like you’re WINNING at being a grown up.

17. Tell ‘mum guilt’ to do one. As long as your child is loved, fed, clean, happy, you’re doing a good job.

18. But leave your phone at home from time to time. A day out with your family, where you actually can’t pull your phone out when a notification buzzes in your pocket, is a bloody lovely thing.

19. Getting properly measured for a bra is everything. Go to a shop that specialises in this, like Bravissimo, and it will transform your life. (Bet you go down in back-size and up in cup-size).

20. Work out what you want in life, what you need to do to make it happen, and go for it. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Just focus on your own goals and plan.

21. Find your perfect lipstick. It’s the quickest way to make you look and feel a gazillion times better. I spent years convinced I couldn’t wear lippy, but I was WRONG. Now, it’s all about Mac Lady Danger, for me.

22. Don’t be a dick. I saved the most important thing for last. It’s something Caitlin Moran spoke about last year, when talking about feminism, but it applies in every area of life. Just don’t be a dick. Tell yourself this, if you are ever tempted to do or say something dickish. I promise, it will help you massively.

What have you learned in life so far?

Because I’m Happy…

original_ink-typographic-art-print-because-i-m-happy-2

Since my recent post on things that make me happy, I’ve thought quite a lot about happiness and I’ve decided to write regularly about things that make me smile – partly inspired by one of my favourite bloggers Kathryn, who writes Kat Got The Cream, and who regularly posts a Happy List. So here goes…

First up, the amazing print above – made by The Lovely Drawer and on sale at Not On The High Street for £20. I think this would look great next to my desk at home.

Our new cat. Well, we are kind of cat-sitting her, long-term, for a friend who has just moved into a small flat. We’ve had Thumbles (aka Baby Puss aka Puss Face) for a month now and she’s already a member of the family. She loves curling up at my feet when I’m in bed. She loves being chased by the four-year-old while she shouts “HELLO PUSS PUSS!” a little less.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 22.05.49

Days out with the family. Last week, we went on The London Eye followed by a trip down the river to Greenwich on the Thames Clipper – SO MUCH FUN. We did nothing in Greenwich apart from eat cake (me) and ice cream (the four-year-old) before coming home, but this weekend, we will be heading to Greenwich Theatre where we’ve been invited to see Adventures With Sam: In Outer Space, an interactive theatre show for kids. Apart from the obligatory Peppa Pig Live, we haven’t done much kids’ theatre yet, but I’m so excited to start going to more productions. Growing up, we went to see endless family shows, and I have such brilliant memories of trips to the theatre.

Beautiful stationery. I’ve got my eye on a desk planner by Betty Etiquette and I might also splash out on a notebook or three.

Betty Etiquette pad

Read More »

Why Shared Parental Leave Makes Me Want To Jump For JOY!

If you’re a parent, or you’re thinking about becoming a parent any time soon, you’ve probably heard the talk of Shared Parental Leave recently. The concept makes me want to jump for joy. As both a feminist, and as someone who coped miserably during my first year as a mum, I’m giddy at the thought of this change in law.

In case you’ve missed it, Shared Parental Leave kicks in for anyone with a baby due on or after 5th April 2015. It will allow the mum and dad to share up to 50 weeks leave to look after the baby between its birth and first birthday. You can take it separately (mum takes first six months, dad takes second six months) or you can take it together and overlap leave. Unlike maternity leave, you don’t have to take it in one block – you can take up to three blocks of leave and return to work in between, as long as your employer agrees. You have to be eligible (and as Rachel from The Little Pip explains over on her blog, it’s tricky to work through all of this) and you have to apply in the right way but an employer can’t refuse your application – it’s your right.

The new legislation has its critics – in this thought-provoking post by Sarah Ockwell-Smith,  the parenting expert says she thinks it devalues mothers if they sacrifice any of their time with their new baby, in order for the dad to spend time with the baby. She says she would like to see new fathers receive at least six weeks paid paternity leave and the option to take up to a whole year at reduced pay after this. “In addition to this they should be able to attend antenatal appointments and classes whilst still in receipt of full pay, as mothers currently do,” she says. “This leave should be completely independent of anything the mother receives.”

She has a point, of course, but any step towards equality is a step in the right direction.

As a new mum, I would have wept with joy at the thought of being able to share parental leave with my husband. On my last day of work before maternity leave, I cried in the office loos. I didn’t want to leave. Obviously I was excited about having my baby and meeting this new member of our family, but I didn’t want to leave work. I worked for a women’s magazine and I loved my job – properly loved it, skipping to work every morning and being a massive geek, working late and everything. I couldn’t imagine not doing that job for the next year. I realised that my job was a huge part of my identity. It was who I was. It was incredibly hard to step away from that for a year, and not really be able to admit this to the world, because as a woman who’s about to give birth, it would be wrong to be anything but filled with joy, right?

But more than that, I felt a bit pissed off, if I’m honest. Pissed off that society dictated that I should take a big chunk of time out of my career to look after our baby, while my husband would take two weeks of paternity leave and then head on back to work. It’s probably worth me noting here that I think it’s pretty tough on the dad too. To have to wrench yourself away from your partner and new baby after two weeks, and head back to work, leaving this fragile pair at home to cope alone, all whilst fighting sleep deprivation, must be seriously tough.

I know, right now, you’re probably shaking your head and thinking I’m a terrible mum for even thinking these things. Why become a mum if you’re not prepared to sacrifice things – things like your career, even for a year?

But my point is that as a couple, we both decided to bring a child into the world, so we should share the sacrifice. Unlike in the 50s when it was assumed that the dad would go out to work and provide for his family, while the mum stayed at home to cook, clean and look after the kids (ooh apart from my gran, who was a working mum in the 50s!). There are obvious reasons for a mum to be at home with her baby to start with – her recovery for example, after having just given birth to an actual human person, or if she’s breastfeeding her baby, something which sadly men can’t do (when will they invent that?). But after that – bring on the Shared Parental Leave, I say.

My feelings about parental leave don’t just stem from being a massive annoying feminist though. They also stem from the fact that if this legislation had been around five years ago, I probably would have stayed sane during the first year of my daughter’s life. Instead of sobbing quietly as my husband left for work every morning, staring ahead into the empty day before me, unsure how I was going to make it to 5pm when the Alan Titchmarsh Show would come on TV and signal that the day was nearly over (I will always have a special place in my heart for you, Alan), I might have enjoyed that year. If we’d had the option of sharing this time at home, navigating our way through early parenthood, things could have been so different.

So I’m THRILLED that this is happening (can you tell?) and if you want to find out more about it, head over to the Gov.uk website and also check out this video that my lovely friend Katie made with her husband for Tots100 where they discuss it. And if you do nothing else, read this Buzzfeed article and look at the amazing photographs of Swedish dads with their kids – part of a photo series by photographer Johan Bävman, which shows what the relationship between father and child can be like when they’re allowed to spend more time together.

What’s your view on Shared Parental Leave? Do you welcome the change, think it’s just a gesture or think it’s a mum’s natural place to be at home looking after her baby?

Swedish Dads, Johan Bävman

Image: Swedish Dads, Johan Bävman