Win £150 John Lewis Vouchers With Everest Home Improvements

If you’re anything like me, you will have had at least 47 conversations about the weather recently. “When WILL the summer kick in?” and “Oh it’s been FREEZING recently, hasn’t it?”

Us Brits love to moan talk about the weather, but despite our despair that we haven’t yet had weeks of endless glorious sunshine, I have faith that we will get a decent summer. After all, it’s still only June. I reckon by the August bank holiday weekend, we’ll be basking in 30C heat and hoping for some cooler days.

To help you enjoy the final summery bank holiday of the year, I’ve joined up with Everest Home Improvements to give away £150 of John Lewis vouchers to one lucky winner. What would you buy with the vouchers? Here are some ideas….

john-lewis-outdoor-summer

[top row] MissPrint Little Trees Dinner Plate, Aqua, £6  // [second row] House by John Lewis Tealight Holder, Zest, £12 // [third row] House by John Lewis Charcoal Portable Kettle Barbecue, £29 // House by John Lewis Bowl Candles, Tangerine, £10  // John Lewis Lapis Outdoor Scatter Cushion, £20 // [bottom row] Talking Tables Giant Paper Fan, £9.50 // House by John Lewis Deck Chair Sling, Zest, £7.50 and Frame, £40 // John Lewis Summer Palm Cocktail Shaker, £8.

Everest know that sometimes three is better than two (their triple glazing for instance) and I think we all agree that this is the case when it comes to weekends. So, for the chance to win £150 of John Lewis vouchers to help you enjoy the last bank holiday of the summer, Everest want to know how are you planning on enjoying your long summer weekend?…

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Am I The Best Blog Writer?

bloggers-gonna-blog

It’s not a trick question! Am I the best blog writer you know? Chances are, the answer is “Well, no and PS get over yourself” but some people have taken it upon themselves to nominate me for a MAD Blog Award… so many people did so, in fact, that it resulted in me being shortlisted for the award.

And I only bribed half of them with wine in order to receive votes (Joke! Seriously, if the MADs organisers are reading, I didn’t. It was gin.)

For any non-bloggers reading, the MAD (Mum And Dad) Blog Awards are a big deal – a bit like the Brits or the BAFTAs, where the blogging elite all gather at a posh ceremony, wearing their gladrags, to drink champagne and find out who has won each award. I’m genuinely amazed and very surprised to be in the shortlist. When you think that there are around 10,000 mummy/daddy/family blogs in the UK, it’s a bit mind-blowing to be named as one of the top 6 when it comes to writing.

But I need your help! Because the winner will be the blogger who gets the highest number of votes. Here are some of the posts that I’ve enjoyed writing – if you enjoyed any (or all!) of them, then please do head over to the MADs voting form and vote for me in the Best Writer category!

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Why Do I Struggle With ‘mum’ Being A Large Part of my Identity?

close-up-of-woman

When you’re aged 15, you’re often seen as a schoolgirl. If you go to uni, you’re referred to as a student. Often the career we choose  alters how people see us. But there is nothing that happens in our lives that defines us more than when we become a mum. Nothing else changes how we are viewed by others – and by ourselves – quite as much. When you become a mum, you’re immediately popped into a mum-shaped box, whether you like it or not.

To begin with, I didn’t like it. I fought against the assumptions, only posting a few (read: 78) photos of my newborn on Facebook, so scared of being the subject of eye rolls from my non-parent friends. I was determined to still see my friends as much as I had pre-baby which led to one particular day when I found myself sitting on the floor of the disabled loo of Liberty, with a noisy breast pump attached to my bosom, before heading to a Soho pub. I guess I wanted to be seen as one of those mums who just happened to have a baby. “Oh what me? Yeah, I have a baby. But I’m TOTALLY the same person as I was before.”

Except I wasn’t. Because alongside being branded as MUM by the world around us, something inside us changes too. And I don’t just mean the fact that our Boots Advantage Card gets a boost from all the nappies, Sudocem and wipes we’re buying. Or that we go from BugaWHO to Bugaboo. Something shifts and we see the world in a different way. For me, it suddenly seemed a terrible place where awful things happened every day and I feared for my child being brought up in that world. I already worried about my child being bullied when she went to school and I panicked about her growing up to be an unpleasant child who picked on others. For a good 18 months after having my daughter, I couldn’t even watch films or TV programmes where bad things happened – I avoided the news for months and I’ve missed out on watching the entire run of Luther because as a new mum, I just couldn’t handle people killing people!

I also distinctly remember becoming a nicer person after having my daughter. I was more thoughtful and considerate to others, holding doors open for people, moving to one side in a busy shop to allow people past, flashing the lights in my car to let another driver through before me. I guess, subconsciously, I wanted to help make the world a nicer place for my daughter to grow up in.

But despite all of this, to begin with, I didn’t like being branded MUM. And to be honest, nearly five years on, it’s still something I struggle with. My identity has altered forever. I find myself calling and texting people and introducing myself as someone’s mum. My social life is less Soho pubs and more family BBQ at a friend’s house. Work-wise, I’ve gone from writing/editing features about hangovers and must-buy shoes to writing parenting features and running social media accounts for mum and baby brands.

Oh and I write a mummy blog.

But here’s the thing – I kind of hate myself for struggling with this. There’s no question that having a child is my biggest achievement in life. I created another human! I gave birth. I battled through dark days (OK months) when I had undiagnosed post natal depression and anxiety. I learned how to be a parent. My daughter is a smart, considerate, spirited child which is in-part thanks to me. I bloody rock.

So why do I struggle with ‘mum’ becoming a large part of my identity? This piece on The Pool by Lauren Laverne really struck a chord. ‘In our cultural conversation, “mum” is a diminished status, often preceded by the qualifier “just a”,’ she writes. ‘Pregnancy, birth and (most of all) post-pregnancy is horrifying. Mothers are encouraged to cling on to or reclaim their pre-children lives – to get their bodies “back” after having a baby. The best compliment you can give a pregnant woman is to tell her she looks tiny. The nicest thing you can say to a new mother is that she doesn’t look like she’s had a baby at all. If “being a woman is the ultimate insult”, it follows that being a mother isn’t too far behind.’

I think it’s time for me to embrace my mum status, to celebrate it, rather than try to sweep it under the carpet and pretend nobody notices.

 If you enjoyed reading this, you might be interested in voting for me in the MAD Blog Awards 2015. You can vote here and I’m in the Best Writer category. Thank you! 

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Winning At Work/Life Balance

busymum

It’s a year since I made the leap from office job to working freelance. I wish I’d done it sooner! I remember thinking to myself, years ago, that I could never work freelance because I’d miss the buzz of the office too much. I also think I was a bit scared of the unknown. But now I’m doing it? I love it. Aside from some unexpected side effects – namely working far too much without having that 6pm hometime goal to work towards each day, and putting on some weight without having those daily speedy walks to the train station and from the station to the office, each day – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I get such a kick out of having a day where everything runs like clockwork. I get up, sort breakfast, put a load of laundry in the washing machine, take the four-year-old to pre-school, head to the gym then go to my favourite coffee shop to work for a few hours. By the time I head home to make some lunch, the laundry is clean and if it’s a dry sunny day, I’ll hang it out in the garden to dry. I realise it sounds utterly lame but the idea of housework kind of just happening while I work makes me happy.

And working on my laptop while the laundry dries in the spring breeze makes me feel like I’m totally winning at work/life balance. Right now, as I type, my new Supreme Supima Hygro towels from Christy, that I’ve been asked to review, are hanging up to dry.

Christy towels review

So what’s my verdict on them? Well, boy are they super soft, thanks to the 100% Supima cotton. They even carry the COTTON USA International trademark for quality U.S cotton products. When I wrapped up the four-year-old in one of them after her bath, I asked her if she likes the new towel, and she grinned and told me how soft it felt on her skin….

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A Spot Of At-Home Pampering With LeSalon

Le Salon review

Like most people, I have a crazy-long checklist that I have to get through before any holiday. Working out what we need to take, making sure all clothing is laundered and clean, organising any airport parking, booking the cat sitter, buying new sunglasses. Oh and being freelance that teeny tiny matter of doing a week’s worth of work before I go, to make sure I only need to do minimal work while away.

Less important things (writing a blog post, having my nails done, changing up Euros) usually fall by the wayside as I realise that I’m not superhuman and shouldn’t try to fit everything in – after all, what’s the point in going on holiday if the lead-up to it makes you feel stressed?

But just before our recent trip to Portugal, Le Salon swooped in to the rescue. LeSalon is a beauty app that allows you to book premium beauty services quickly and efficiently with the technician arriving straight to your door. If you live or work in London, it’s super easy to book, just entering your postcode, the service you’d like and the date and time that suits you.

Le Salon review

le-salon-nail-varnishes

Prices are reasonable too – their Classic Mani is £25 and you can have an Express Mani & Pedi for £40. The technician who arrived at my door was Christine and she had all her kit in a handy trolley suitcase – all the kit is clean and sterilised and they only use CND and Essie polishes, so you’re guaranteed a good quality finish. The scrubs and lotions she used smelled AMAZING – lime and papaya if my memory serves me correctly, and got me in the holiday mood!…

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