Saturday, 30 March 2013

Review: New Launch, Crafty Magazine

When I first started working in the world of craft publishing there was a huge void between the readership that magazines were focusing on and what was actually going on in the world of craft. Yes, there is an incredibly lucrative market of grannies out there who will spend a fortune on papercraft, yarn, beads, you name it. But the real creatives are the makers and designers of the 21st century. The bloggers. The Etsy sellers. The people who don't actually need to be told what to do, because they're driving the industry forward themselves.

These people, however, were ignored by the publishing industry for years. After all, how would they make money? If they're creative enough to be doing it themselves, they don't need our step-by-step projects and they're not going to spend a fortune on all the products that we try to sell through our carefully crafted editorial and advertising.

Fast-forward a few years and the publishing industry has finally caught up. Finally you can walk into WH Smiths and flick through an array of magazines which are aimed at creatives, bloggers, thrifters and designer makers. The people for whom craft isn't just a hobby, but a lifestyle.

The latest of these magazines is Crafty. Having been out of the publishing loop for a year or so, I wasn't aware of its impending arrival, but I stumbled upon Issue One on its launch date yesterday. I was incredibly glad I did!

The thing that most struck me was the design and style. From cover to cover it is clear that the people who put this together absolutely know what they're doing. The front cover is a brave red and white (colours that in my day would be restricted to Christmas only and would have to have included extra photography and a third colour!), featuring just a pair of customised Converse (an immediate win for me!). I didn't even read the coverlines, I bought it on the basis of the title and the simple imagery.





The inside was full of fantastic illustrations in place of photography, white space which allowed all the content to breathe and brilliant writing that was relevant to someone of my skill set, age and interests. There was a good balance of simple projects that most semi-crafters could achieve in an evening without buying extra supplies, complemented by engaging features and interviews with graffiti artists, designers and makers. I read it from cover to cover.

The free gift, a piece of calico fabric, though a basic, plain addition to your stash was of a decent size and the project ideas inside actually made me want to put it to good use stitching some covered buttons - as you can see below!


Also impressive was the synergy between the printed edition and the website. Although their website is relatively simple, I think a lot of publishers could learn how to link the two mediums together rather than using the web as a separate entity or afterthought.

Overall, Crafty Magazine, I salute you. I will now have to add your magazine to my growing list of 'must-reads' and once again, attempt to justify my monthly magazine expenditure to my husband. Thanks very much!

***

This post is linked up to Modern Mummy Loves

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dear Baby...

Dear Baby,

If you were anything like your parents then you would be here by now. We are early for everything. I was half an hour early for my own wedding and I got sent away because none of the guests had arrived yet. We hate lateness. Your Dad worked in retail management and would come home every day with poor excuses of his employees who just couldn't arrive to work in time for their shift.

But you, my dear, appear to be taking your time! And that's Ok. Maybe you'll be super laid back, a bit like your Dad. Or maybe it's because you're a little bit scared like your Mum - maybe you're just putting off this whole birth thing because it's new and unknown. Whatever, you'll arrive in your own time. Just, if you are listening, it would be really great if you could arrive before next Tuesday - sweeps and inductions are not part of your mum's birth plan!

We're looking forward to meeting you! Maybe you'll be slight and tiny like me, or maybe long and lean like your Dad. You'll be perfect, I know.

We're looking forward to getting to know you, and seeing how you take after both of us - if at all. We've washed all your clothes and bought all the equipment that everyone seems to think we need. Your grandparents survived without all of this stuff, of course, but apparently they're essentials.

Your Dad has picked out an outfit for you to travel home in. He chose it and bought it himself, so you'll have to thank him one day. He will be so proud. He can't wait to dress you in it and give you a cuddle.

So now we just sit and wait. We're getting on with things, just trying to pretend that all is normal, that really, we're not waiting for anything at all. It's like when you watch the microwave - every second seems to last a lifetime. Sunday was my birthday, we went to church, we went out for dinner. Monday we walked into town and went to Starbucks, I think the barista was a bit nervous that I might go into labour - she knew that Sunday was meant to be the day. We waved at Terry outside the church "Still here!" your Dad shouted.

We went to Lesley's for dinner. We have a church meeting tomorrow, a lunch date on Friday. Family visiting at the weekend. All normal things that might have to be postponed if you decide to make an appearance. Life goes on. If we act as normal as possible, maybe you'll come and surprise us!

Here's hoping!
Mum
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Monday, 25 March 2013

Adult Eczema: My Story


On my blog travels I've noticed that there are many people who suffer with sensitive skin, eczema, dermatitis and other skin complaints. There are plenty of resources and products out there that claim to help but what do you do when you've exhausted all options and the medical profession don't seem to want to waste their time and resources on you?

That was my experience. 

So, I would like to put in my two-pennies-worth on the subject in the hope that something I say resonates with other sufferers and maybe, just maybe helps someone. Today I'm simply going to tell my story of growing up with and coping with eczema, but in the future I'll be recommending products that I've found are gentle enough for my skin, in the hope that you might love them too!

Childhood
I have had eczema for as long as I can remember. Growing up, as with many childhood eczema cases, it was mostly concentrated on the backs of my knees and the insides of my elbows. It would become red raw and I would scratch it till it bled.

However, I never thought much of it. My older sister had eczema and it was much worse than mine. In comparison, my eczema seemed pretty mild, and when my mum questioned the doctor about it, he just told her to do whatever she did with my sister. So for the whole of my childhood a doctor never even looked at my eczema, we all thought it was pretty mild, and I got by with mild steroid creams whenever I thought it was necessary to use them.

2007: Age 22
The first time I went to the doctor about my eczema I was 22. It was just before my wedding and out of pure vanity I was desperate for my skin to look better. I had dry, flaky skin around my mouth and my legs were covered in blotchy, dry, red patches. To me, this was normal, and probably because of my own relaxed attitude, the doctor didn't think anything of it, she prescribed me some stronger steroid creams and Diprobase and sent me away.

2011: Age 26
At the beginning of 2011 I had stopped sleeping. I would lie in bed all night scratching, which was awful for me and awful for my husband. I was exhausted and nothing seemed to work. So I finally went to the doctors. I told him that I had suffered with eczema my whole life but that it had never been looked into and that I was exhausted. He prescribed me some more steroid creams and referred me to a dermatologist.

It was March, my dermatologist appointment was scheduled for July. That's a long time to wait when you're desperate.

At the end of March I visited the Country Living Fair where there was a company exhibiting that made skincare products from goats milk. My face was having a particularly bad day (red raw around the mouth) and they promoted their products as being great for eczema sufferers. I got talking to the owner who began to tell me all about the foods that we eat and how they affect our skin. He recommended that I switch to goat's milk rather than cow's milk and cut back on acidic foods like tomatoes and orange juice.

I spoke to my mum who had to put my sister on a very restricted diet when she was growing up and what the man said appeared to match up with her experience. So I thought I would give it a go. I switched to goat's milk and cut out cow's milk, cheese and chocolate. And within about two weeks my skin had drastically improved. Amazing!

There was a consequence to this, however. It wasn't long before traces of milk in other foods were giving me severe allergic reactions. It wasn't just an eczema flare-up anymore, it was a reaction concentrated around the mouth and eyes - dry, red, flaky skin accompanied by dark shadows under the eyes (I looked like I had been punched in the face!), blotchy skin over the rest of my face and in severe cases, a swollen tongue (which thankfully never progressed to difficulty breathing!). I even began having this reaction if I consumed goat's milk as well, so I had to cut that out too.

The doctor advised me that this is known as Allergic Blepharitis. He is the only doctor I have seen in this whole saga to actually acknowledge that I may have an allergy.

So, after a few months of cutting out every trace of milk from my diet my skin was looking pretty good (or so I thought!). It was finally time to go to the dermatologist who I thought would discharge me straight away. This is how my appointment went:
Dr: So when was the last time you saw a dermatologist?
Me: Never.
Dr: What do you mean?
Me: I've never seen a dermatologist.
Dr: So what have you been using?
Me: Hydrocortizone on the affected areas and Diprobase as a moisturiser.
Dr: And no one's ever prescribed you anything stronger or referred you to a specialist?
Me: No.
Dr: Hydrocortizone is for use on babies skin. It's so mild it won't do anything. Your skin is one of the worst cases of adult eczema I've seen in a while.
Me: Really? It's pretty good at the moment. Since I cut out dairy it's been a lot better.
Dr: You don't need to cut out dairy. There is no link between eczema and food.
Me: Well it's made a huge difference to my skin. And if I eat it now I get allergic blepharitis.
Dr: No, there isn't a cause of eczema, you just have it or you don't.
Me: My GP said you would test me for allergies whilst investigating my eczema.
Dr: No, there is no link.
Me: Well, I'd really like to be tested.
Dr: Ok, well I'll authorise some blood tests, but it has nothing to do with your eczema. Here you go, they will test you for cow's milk and cheese. (Isn't that the same thing?).
Me: Thank you.
Dr: Here is a prescription for a million different creams which you should use for different purposes, none of which I will write down for you so you will forget once you have left this room.
Me: Thank you.
Dr: I would also like to recommend you have light therapy, but it will involve coming to this hospital three times a week for the foreseeable future.
Me: I'm sorry, I have a job 60 miles away from here. I don't think my employer would allow me three mornings a week off work to lie on a sun bed.
Dr: That is a shame. Come back in six months when we will review your treatment. Your GP will write to you with your blood test results.
Me: Thank you. You have been most unhelpful.
Ok, so that's not an exact transcript but you get the gist!

Weeks went past and I heard nothing from my doctor, so the next time I went to the doctors I enquired:
Me: I also had some blood tests at the dermatologist in July. I haven't heard anything. Do you have the results?
Dr: There is nothing on your file, have they asked to see you again?
Me: Only in December for a follow-up.
Dr: They will give you the results then.
Me: That is four months away, am I just supposed to cut out dairy that whole time?
Dr: If you find that you're reacting to it then you probably should.
Me: Thank you, you have been most unhelpful.
I went away, continued to cut out dairy and continued to use the creams for which I could not remember their purpose. The one thing that did help, however, was replacing my high-street shower gel with Dermol 500 - an over the counter lotion specifically designed for dry skin conditions. If my skin started to become dry, I would also have Oilatum baths every night for a week and it would get back under control.

Four months later I finally went back to the dermatologist:
Dr: Your skin is a lot better than last time. I am going to discharge you.
Me: But I would like to know the cause of my eczema.
Dr: There is no cause. You just have it. The only thing you can do is manage it with all these creams for which you can't remember their purpose.
Me: Last time I was here you took some blood tests for allergies, I was told you would have the results.
Dr: Oh, let's have a look... here they are. You are not allergic to cow's milk or cheese.
Me: But my face swells up when I eat them and my eczema does flare up.
Dr: You are not allergic to cow's milk or cheese. Go home and eat a pizza.
Me: Thank you, you have been most unhelpful.
I did not go home and eat a pizza. 

Present Day
So where am I at now?
  • That was the end of 2011 and I have been dairy free ever since. 
  • My eczema is virtually non-existent, apart from some dry patches and scarring on the inside of my elbows. 
  • I continue to use Dermol 500 instead of shower gel, but I am slowly introducing other products in the hope that sometimes I can treat myself. 
  • I still have an allergic reaction to dairy products and I admit that it is hard. I would not recommend cutting out a food group until you have consulted your doctor and hopefully a dietician (do as I say, not as I do!). 
  • My skin is still very sensitive, particularly on my face and I have to be really careful what I put on it. 
  • But overall I am managing.
'll be posting more about the products I use and testing new products to see whether 'Suitable for sensitive skin' ever actually extends to us eczemary types so stay tuned! If you have any questions at all about adult eczema, I'm happy to help from my own experience, however I do recommend you go and see your doctor and check out The National Eczema Society for more information.

***

I've linked up over at Verily Victoria Vocalises for Post Comment Love

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

5 Third Trimester Essentials I Couldn't Live Without


You've arrived at your third trimester! The home stretch, the part where it all starts happening, more appointments, a more noticeable bump, baby showers, excitement - eeek! I've been putting together a list of pregnancy essentials (Click the links for the first and second trimesters), and here's my list for number three!

1. Bump Bands

Bump bands. Whoever invented these, you are a god-send. Not only have they enabled me to extend my pregnancy wardrobe (see my tip on how to make your non-maternity jeans last throughout pregnancy), but for someone like me, who is carrying her bump all out front, they have become a massive, literal support. And meant that at 39.5 weeks, even when my maternity tops are starting to let in a draft underneath my bump, I don't have to worry about revealing any skin. They can be expensive but I found that the pack from New Look for £9.99 did the job perfectly.

2. Iron Tablets
Right, so you were supposed to be taking all those pregnancy supplements but let's face it, once you were out the danger zone and you started to get comfortable with your pregnant state you got a bit slack didn't you? Don't! I entered my third trimester full of hope and optimism. I was just beginning my maternity leave, it was a new year, I would have three months of doing nothing to, you know, do things! And yet, I couldn't drag myself out of bed before 11am (and then it took two more hours to shower and face the day!). I couldn't do simple tasks like climbing stairs without becoming severely short of breath. I just wanted to lie about in my pyjamas and never do anything again. I was even having little faints every now and again and thought nothing of it! Well, I am pregnant, I thought, this must be what pregnancy is like! NO! 

Once my 28 week blood tests came back it became clear that I was actually low on iron. Not by much; my count was 10 and 'normal' is 11. But it was enough to have such an effect that I lost January in a haze of anaemic laziness. Within days of taking iron tablets I was back to my energetic self, walking everywhere, being productive and cheerful. I'm still on them, raising your iron count is a slow process, but if you're feeling anything like what I've described, mention it to your midwife! It's important!

3. Exercise Ball

As I entered my third trimester I began to get severe shooting pains in my hip and pelvic area whenever I climbed stairs, got dressed, twisted, bent down. It wasn't pleasant and is a recognised problem in pregnancy, though my midwife didn't appear to know much about it. So I started sitting on my exercise ball every day whilst at the laptop. I can honestly say that although I still get the odd twinge, it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I'll also be using it during labour and then for pilates post-pregnancy so well worth the investment. Head to Sports Direct as they generally stock them for under £10.

4. Maternity Pillow










Trouble sleeping in pregnancy? Get yourself a maternity pillow (or two... or three!). My sleeping has generally been pretty undisturbed - I'm one of the lucky ones. But it has been helped by a v-shaped pillow. Stick one 'arm' between your legs, support your bump with the curve, and lie on the other 'arm' (because I'm short mine reaches as far as my face) - super comfy! I'd also recommend one to anyone who wants to sit up and read in bed (pregnant or not!) and you can use it as a feeding support pillow post-birth as well. For me, the v-shaped pillow was sufficient, but people I know have stocked up on every variety imaginable and swear by them! Mine was £20 from Mothercare.

5. Pampering Goodies
Let's face it, once baby comes, your life is no longer your own. Bubble baths and manicures will be a distant memory of someone who once was. So make every effort to create your own home spa now! I neglected this area until a few weeks ago. I was gifted so many pampering goodies at my baby shower I thought I'd better get using them now before baby interrupts all my 'me' time!

Why did I not do this before?! Seriously, third trimester, lock yourself in the bathroom at least once a week, take some time to yourself, just you and bump, relax, unwind, make yourself feel good and emerge a new woman! (I'll probably run some reviews in the near future of some of my favourite products, specifically for those with sensitive, eczema prone skin, keep an eye out!).

What are your third trimester essentials? Comment below!

Missed the previous posts? Click the links for Trimester One and Two.

Today I linked up to Modern Mummy Loves Linky. Click on over to see all the products that Mums have been loving this week! 
I've also linked up over at Verily, Victoria Vocalises where you can read posts on just about anything and everything!
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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Bring on the Post-Natal Fun!

My time is almost up. Nine months of allowing someone else to rent my body and within a few weeks, or even days, it will be mine once more! Ok, so I'm planning to breast feed so it won't be totally mine - in fact, it'll be a milk machine for a while longer - but there are a few things I am looking forward to post-birth. Selfish things. Fun things. Things that you didn't think you'd miss but you absolutely do!

Wine

First up, wine! I know, it's the obvious one isn't it? I'm not a big drinker. If we're honest, half a glass of red is just about my limit and I probably consume that much maybe once a month (which equals six glasses per year - there's no box for that on all those pesky medical forms!). If I do push the boat out on a special occasion you can be assured I will either a) fall asleep before dessert, or b) descend into a fit of giggles not becoming of a grown woman my age.

The point is, giving up alcohol for pregnancy really wasn't a big deal. But every now and again, there's that niggling desire for a nice, relaxing glass of wine. Christmas, Valentine's Day and date nights were missing that little something. Picture the scene: nice, Italian restaurant, candle-lit dinner, romantic music and there's me slurping Sprite through a straw rather than elegantly sipping Merlot from a wine glass. It's just not the same is it?

Sleeping on my back
Normally, I can sleep anywhere. I'm not fussed what side of the bed I have, nor how I lie, or even where I am - give me a car, train, sofa, armchair or bed and I'll quickly be off to the land of nod. But when you're pregnant, life's not that simple. And the thing I've missed the most? Being able to lie on my back. Now, we know you probably shouldn't lie on your front for obvious reasons. But lying on your back? Yeah, if you want to continue breathing it's probably not a good idea. That nice, neat bump everyone keeps complementing you on? Suddenly it's a weapon of suffocation as it squashes one of your main arteries and prevents oxygen from travelling round your body. Excellent.

Pate

Check out this recipe here.

Being allergic to milk, there were already a lot of things that I couldn't eat. I thought, there wasn't much else you could cut from my diet. I mean, I don't eat cheese so that wasn't a problem and everything else that you're not supposed to eat never really made it into our cupboards anyway. In fact, pate is probably the last thing you would have found in our fridge prior to pregnancy. So why did I miss it so much during pregnancy?

I don't know! But the first snack I'll be consuming when I arrive home from hospital is a stack of Ryvita thickly smothered in pate. I can't wait!

Being Active
Give me a comfy pair of shoes and a nice day and I'll walk anywhere. I think this comes from living in London for so long. You just walk. Often, you could walk to your destination in the same time it takes to wait for a bus or head underground. And we don't drive, so walking is our means of transport (we're soooo not organised enough to always have bus money on us either!).

So when we moved to Kent, this attitude didn't really change. Not only did it save us money and get us out the house, but it also gave us a chance to spend time together and have a good old natter, just the two of us. Now, if it takes under an hour, we'll walk. Over an hour and we might consider a bus or taxi. So I was quite frustrated at 37 weeks when my body started to get tired and achey during one of our walks! My husband said "Em, you are practically full term, you're going to have to start taking it easy at some point!" Really?! I now have to get the bus into town and walk back. It's the rules.

So I'm looking forward to walking again! I have the best, lightweight, bright buggy that money can buy, spring is trying to make an appearance, and I'll hopefully be feeling up to heading out in between feeds!

Contact Lenses

Did you know your eyesight changes during pregnancy? Me neither. So I was quite concerned at about 16 weeks when I realised that whilst wearing contact lenses I could no longer read signs at the train station or see my manager's face from across the office (when she was speaking to me!). But a quick Google search and a trip to the optician told me that my eyesight was no longer what it was. They told me there was no point getting new glasses until after pregnancy and that my glasses prescription would suffice for those few months, but that because the shape of my eyeball had changed, my contact lenses would not correct my vision very well and would become more and more difficult to put in (how true that was!).

So since 16 weeks I have been wearing my glasses every day. Which is fine. I like my glasses, and it is easier to just stick them on your face rather than going through the cleaning and inserting rigmarole required for lenses (you can also have naps without your eyes sticking together!). However, every now and again, on a special occasion, or if I want to boost my confidence, or if I'm meeting new people, I would love to wear my contact lenses! I'm just much more me without the glasses in my face. It also means I can see when I apply my make-up in the morning, which is an added bonus.

New News
At the moment my conversations are filled with people asking if there's any news. Any twinges? Any Braxton Hicks? Trust me, if I go into labour and you happen to be there, I'll let you know. Otherwise, up until this point, the answer is no. And if anything happens, and you're not there, the next update you'll be getting will presumably be a birth announcement. That's right, I'm looking forward to having some fresh news to share. Some new topic of conversation that doesn't revolve around the baby being too comfy on the inside to remotely want to be on the outside.

What did you miss during your pregnancy? Comment below!
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Thursday, 14 March 2013

5 Second Trimester Essentials I Couldn't Live Without

Last week I started a little series on the essential items I couldn't live without during pregnancy. We started with the first trimester: those nerve-wracking 12 weeks where you have to keep schtum whilst feeling like you're going to throw up and worrying about every tiny symptom before finally getting to see your little bean on a black, fuzzy screen.

Get round to the second trimester and all of that seems perfectly worth it. You get to tell people your news, you're hopefully starting to feel a bit brighter and healthier and you get all the excitement of having scans and beginning to feel like it's a bit more real (your growing waistline will probably reinforce this feeling!).

So, what could I not live without during the second trimester?

1. Support Network
One of the best things about the second trimester is getting to make that all-important announcement. You might have kept it top secret up until now, or shared with a few close friends, but now you can shout it from the rooftops! And with that announcement, comes a whole new network of people who can advise, support and get excited. 

It's funny, one of the hardest things for me was making the announcement to my wider circle. We had told our families and close friends, but making it public knowledge felt strange. I enjoyed having a special secret, just a few of us, I was worried that if everyone knew it would somehow become less special. On the flip side, gaining this support network meant that I could ride on the back of other people's excitement for a while. 

The thing about pregnancy is that it is exciting, but it is impossible to maintain the same level of excitement for nine months straight. At this point, you've had up to 12 weeks to get used to your news (and to start worrying about it!), but all the people you tell? It's brand new to them! I loved walking into my office and telling my colleagues! All the smiles, squeals, hugs gave me a renewed excitement and if anything, it reinforced my own excitement and made it all the more special! So, yes, those close confidants from your first trimester are special, but never underestimate the importance of a wider support network who will help you get excited every step of the way!

2. The Bible
Ok, so if you're a Christian, or person of faith, then the word of God is pretty essential for life in general. And to be honest, for me it was pretty essential for the first trimester, just as much as the second and third. But if you do have a faith then you'll want to be anchoring your life in what God says. 

Your life is about to change dramatically. Your marriage is about to change. Your finances are about to (drastically!) change. Having a baby is all about change, change and more change. So if ever you needed to trust God on anything, it would be now. Find out what God says about you and remind yourself daily. It makes a difference. 

When that bank statement comes through the post bearing bad news? Know that God provides your every need. 

When you're feeling overwhelmed by what is ahead? Know that God will never give you anything that you can't handle. 

When you're trying to make some major life decisions about where to live or work? Know that God has promised to direct your paths. 

Feeling alone and unsupported? Know that God has promised to never leave you or forsake you. 

Write these things down. Stick them to your mirror or the fridge and declare them over yourself every morning. And remember one of my favourite quotes:
3. Tena Lights
For those little 'Ooops!' moments... enough said. (Remember your pelvic floor exercises, ladies!)

4. Baby on Board Badge


If you live in London, as I did for my first two trimesters, and you use public transport, do yourself a favour and get a Baby on Board badge. It is amazing at how insistent people are about giving up their seat for you if they know for sure that you're pregnant.

Granted, it doesn't always work - Londoners still have an amazing knack for staring at the floor, their phone, Kindle or hands in a bid to avoid eye contact, so likelihood is, they haven't even noticed you with your bump and badge. But most of the time, once people have clocked you, they will give you a seat.

In the second trimester, under a coat, your bump might not be as apparent to others as it is to you, so help them out a bit and get yourself a badge. It avoids all manner of embarrassment! On more than one occasion I had people who were standing up on the tube ask me if I needed a seat. I didn't, but appreciated their concern, and I did wonder what they were going to do if I said yes!

You can get your badge by contacting TFL direct (you can't buy them from anywhere else). It's free and they take about three days to arrive. All the info is here.

5. Pen & Paper

Pretty pastel handmade notebooks, available from here

The second trimester is when you're still busy with work but you have a million other things running through your head: Appointments to keep, questions to ask the midwife, things you need to buy, people you need to speak to, bills you need to pay off before baby arrives, budgets to make, possible baby names etc. etc. Combine that with a touch of the baby brain, tiredness or caffeine withdrawal and you will fail to remember everything!

To combat this, as if you need an excuse to buy yourself some pretty stationery, buy yourself a special notebook with a pretty matching pen. And write EVERYTHING down. It will make you more productive, a better employee and you'll feel in control. Make lots of lists. You never know when you might need to refer back to something!

So, there's your second trimester survival kit. Stay tuned for the third and final trimester... which I'll hopefully have lined up before baby decides to make an appearance!

Any other second trimester essentials you want to add to the list? Comment below!
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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

What's in a Name?


Eight months ago, we were convinced we were having a boy. We had a whole host of boy names chosen, in fact, we've always had more boy names than girl names picked out in our heads. Which is probably why it was so easy to be convinced - because we had names picked out, we could imagine him running around, with a name.
 
We had one girl's name. One.
 
Then, a few weeks before we found out that we were actually having a girl, it turns out that someone else liked that name too, and they beat us to it.
 
That's ok, we thought, there's plenty of girl's names. We'll find the perfect one.
 
And so our search began.
 
See, when you're choosing a name, there's so many things to consider. Such a weight of responsibility. This child has to live with your decision for the rest of their lives! That's a long time!
  • Does it fit with your last name?
  • What does it mean?
  • Does it roll off the tongue?
  • Do we like the shortened version?
  • Will it suit them as much when they're an adult?
  • Will it be too cutesy if they decide to be a doctor or a lawyer?
  • Is it too popular?
  • Too unusual?
  • Will people spell it wrong?
  • Will people pronounce it correctly?
  • Can it be said nicely with your regional accent?
  • Do we both like it? (Apparently we have to agree on this!)
  • Are we both going to like it in three months? Three years? 30 years?!
We searched the internet, we went through baby name books with a red pen, we would eavesdrop on other people's conversations, scoured people's friends lists on Facebook, we made list, after list, after list. We started to refer to the baby by different names, just to see what it felt like in conversation.
 
There's plenty of pretty names out there, but we've come up against the same stumbling blocks with every name we consider. Either, we don't like the meaning, we don't like the shortened version, or one of us likes it and the other doesn't.
 
And still, two weeks away from meeting our precious little bundle, we are none the wiser.
 
Don't get me wrong, we've narrowed down our list of options. Currently we have two front runners. They're nice names. They're pretty names. They tick most of the boxes. But... do we love them? And do you have to love them? Or is it the love for the child when you meet it that makes you actually love the name?
 
People say she'll be born and you'll just know. She'll just look like an Ava or an Edith or a Jenny or a Pearl. Really? How? Don't all new born babies look squashed and red-faced and not pretty at all? 
 
Mr. D says we don't have to decide straight away, and granted, you've got six weeks to officially register the birth. But... isn't that cruel? That the child is unnamed, with no identity for six weeks? No birth announcements? All the family wanting to know, constantly asking, making suggestions of their own. Surely, it's better to just decide at the birth!
 
How did you decide on your children's names? Did you always know, or did you have no clue what they might be? Comment below!
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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dressing Well for Pregnancy: An Essential Guide

Before I fell pregnant I always imagined that finding decent maternity wear for someone of my stature would be incredibly difficult. Hell, finding normal clothes for someone of my stature is incredibly difficult!

If you're less than five feet tall, but actually have hips and boobs then clothes shopping can be a nightmare. Add to the equation the desire to shop on a budget (you're only going to wear most of these clothes for a period of about 4 months, remember) and I thought I had an impossible mountain to climb.

Enter New Look.

My life saver.

I mean it!


My Maternity Wardrobe
My Maternity Wardrobe by emilydavieswrites Everything pictured available from NewLook.com

New Look has by far, the best value, best quality, high street maternity range that I've come across. I would recommend it to anyone, whatever shape or size. Here's a list of my maternity wear essentials, plus a few tips and secrets, that will see you through your whole pregnancy.

Before we start, you should probably note the following:

1. My office had quite a casual dress code so no need for tailored suits and pencil skirts (Thank God!). This meant that variations on the outfit pictured was pretty much acceptable whatever the occasion. If you have a high powered city job, I've got nothing. Sorry!
2. I was pregnant over the winter, if you're pregnant over the summer you'll probably just want to live in a maxi dress and flip flops. In winter, you're going to need to make extra provisions as outlined below.

Essentials, Tips & Hints for Dressing Well in Pregnancy

1. Your normal wardrobe will last longer than you think
Seriously. I'm 37 weeks pregnant and still wearing some of my normal clothes. Obviously, don't try and squeeze into your favourite, most expensive items, but basic essentials that can easily be replaced if they get stretched out of shape - like vest tops - will last longer than you think. Because of my short torso, a lot of my tops had the extra length in them to accommodate a bump, and it meant I didn't have to invest in many basic items, allowing me to spend my hard earned cash on nicer things instead.

2. Invest in the essentials
Here's what I really needed:
Maternity Jeans: I was pleasantly surprised to find that New Look ran maternity jeans in different lengths ('Hooray!' cried all the short people!). AND they were only about £15! Bonus tip coming up on how to make your regular jeans last longer....
Winter Coat: There's no getting away from this one, and it was my biggest expense. Get something that will last you through the coldest winter. I got a long, black number from H&M for £40. And I have worn it practically every day since November. Be warned though, in terms of quality I wasn't that impressed. Had I unlimited funds I would have gone totally upmarket and got something that suited my height a lot better, but hey, we can't have it all (and I probably would have got cold!).
Bump Bands: These are essential! And they were hugely helpful in making my regular wardrobe go further. (That Bonus Tip I mentioned? All will be explained....)
Jersey Tops: I have lived in these. They're inexpensive, look good and once you've built up a little collection you can wear a whole host of colours. Get a well fitting black one and it can be dressed up with accessories for a special occasion. (They're also often on 2 for £12 in New Look).
BONUS TIP
Want to make your regular jeans last longer through your pregnancy? 
1. Pull on your regular hipster style jeans (high waisted jeans won't work) and you'll probably find that although they won't fasten, they'll sit neatly under your bump.
2. Pull up the zip as far as you can, grab a hair elastic, fasten it through the button hole and loop it round the button.
3. Pull on a bump band like the one pictured (they're designed to be quite stretchy) and this will help hold your jeans up. Layer over with a vest top and a jersey top and no one will know!
I'm still doing this at 37 weeks and actually prefer them to my maternity jeans!
3. Layer, Layer, Layer
Layering is the key. You'll get much more out of a limited amount of clothes if you layer. Think bump band, vest top, jersey top, chunky knit (I bought a few cardigans from Primark and because you don't need to do them up, they're absolutely fine throughout your pregnancy), pretty scarf / accessories. Sorted!

4. Shoes, glorious shoes!
Shoes are the key item which will dress up an outfit in the event of afterwork drinks, date night or party. Alright, so you're not supposed to wear heels - your centre of gravity will change so you're at more risk of falling over. In my opinion (and because I am a shortie!), heels every now and again, if you feel able, are fine. You know your limits! If heels aren't an option for you, think patent flats teamed with skinny jeans. I spent the rest of my pregnancy in my trusty brown leather boots with jeans tucked in. Still smart. Still comfy.
The same principle applies to accessories. A nice scarf, bag or pretty jewellery are all you need to dress up the basic outfit for a special occasion.

5. Shop as and when you need to
Shopping is fun, but if you're trying not to spend a fortune then you'll be surprised at how little you need. I didn't need much in the way of maternity wear until I was at least 25 weeks - up until this point, layering up worked for me. So don't rush out after your 12 week scan and buy a whole new wardrobe! I then slowly built up a collection of tops and that was enough for me! (Of course, your own shape will dictate this to some extent!).

6. A note on Bra Shopping
We all know that a well fitting bra is an essential and that during pregnancy your body is going to change a lot. Most of the advice I read was that you shouldn't wear underwired bras and that you should get measured at 20 weeks and then again towards the end - buying maternity / nursing bras each time. Apparently you can increase by three cup sizes!
So at 20 weeks I dutifully went off to M&S for a fitting. Here's what I learnt:
a} Maternity bras are often the most ugly things in the world. Don't feel pressured to get them during pregnancy. The only difference is they're easily accessible for breast feeding. So save them for when you actually are breast feeding. Instead, look in the normal, non-wired section and you'll at least find some prettier t-shirt bras.
b} You might not grow that much. Over the course of my pregnancy I've only gone up by one cup size. This might change once I actually start breast feeding, I don't know, but there's no point in investing hundreds of pounds in maternity bras until we know for sure!
c} New Look has a limited range of maternity / nursing bras, but they are great value (think £12.99 each) and much nicer than the ones you might find in M&S. Mothercare is also a good bet for pretty things if you have more money to spend and they obviously have specialised experience in measuring pregnant women.

In summary, do get measured by a pro, do buy a few well-fitting, non-wired bras as and when you need to, do invest in some pretty maternity / nursing bras; but don't feel you need to go all out at 20 weeks and stock up on numerous ugly tents that you will hate wearing and will probably grow out of once you start breast feeding!

7. A Final Tip for Short People
One final word of advice if, like me, you're a bit vertically challenged. Show off that bump! It might be tempting to wear all those floaty tops but trust me, they're not designed for you. They will be far too long and will most likely reach your lower thigh area. They will look like tents! Dresses are the same. You will end up looking much bigger than you actually are. Stick to fitted tops, fitted jeans, fitted trousers and fitted skirts.

When I follow this rule, I get lots of comments on how neat my bump is, how I'm carrying it all out front and how I haven't put on any weight anywhere else. I tried on a couple of dresses in preparation for a party, and I looked like OctoMum! Ignore at your peril.

So there we are. Maternity shopping essentials.

Any other hints and tips? Comment below!

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

5 First Trimester Essentials I Couldn't Live Without

Being pregnant can be a scary place if you haven't done it before, or if previous pregnancies weren't easy. Ok, we have been doing this reproducing malarkey for thousands of years, but it doesn't mean you have a clue as to what to do or what to expect! Quite frankly, what did our mothers do without the internet?!

As my pregnancy draws to a close, I thought I'd put together a list of my utmost essentials to help you survive those initial nine months (which, be warned, will fly by!)

So to kick us off, let's start with the First Trimester.

1. Morning Sickness Provisions
Much of the first twelve weeks are spent trying to manage morning sickness (and keeping it a secret while you're at it!). I was lucky, I didn't get any severe symptoms (a la poor Kate Middleton), but if I was tempted to get cocky and leave the house without having eaten, believe me, I regretted it (think throwing up at bus stops and fainting in McDonalds)!

Always carry with you:
A bottle of water (keep it chilled if possible)
Snacks - I found bananas and granola type bars worked the best (though with a dairy allergy I was limited by my choices!)
Chewing Gum - apparently peppermint combats nausea and it works a treat if you've run out of snacks.
Hair bands - sometimes a bout of nausea can be stopped in its tracks just by stripping off your layers and tying your hair back, especially on hot public transport.

Other things that helped me:
Lemon & Ginger Tea - Ginger is renowned for tackling nausea so find something that works for you. I hated the taste, but I could just sit and smell it and it would help a lot! You could also try ginger biscuits or alternatively, I know of someone who suffered severe symptoms and the only thing that worked was eating sticks of pure ginger (yuk!).

Source: zest.co.uk via Emily on Pinterest


2. An Understanding Husband
Whether you're freaking out at the sign of any new symptom that might not be 'normal', living with your head in the toilet or too busy sleeping on the sofa to make dinner, an understanding husband / partner / boyfriend is essential. If he could be a Saint - with the patience of - that would be even better, because unbeknown to him, he will be working very hard over the next few months (years?) to make your life as easy as possible.

Now, I know, you're kinda stuck with the one you've got so no exchanges or returns allowed, but even if he's not always Mr. Sensitive, a little communication (both ways) goes a long way. Remember, he's not going to understand - he's not the one going through it after all - so it's up to you to tell him how you're feeling and if there's anything practical he can do to help you out.

The best thing Mr. D did during my first trimester was get up early every day to make me a slice of toast and get me a drink before I got out of bed and had a shower. If I started the day without these things, I had a habit of feeling faint. He was also always the one keeping the cupboards stocked up with snacks and bottled water so I always had something on my commute.

3. Pregnancy App
You've never been pregnant before. You have no idea what your body is about to put itself through. And, as outlined here, you're not actually in contact with any health professionals who can answer your questions (save them up for that Booking In appointment, your midwife will LOVE you!). So what do you do?

You Google everything! Ok, bad idea. If you Google everything you'll end up scrolling through hundreds of threads on mother's forums where no one is an expert but everyone has an opinion. My advice? Download the Pregnancy App to your phone.



It takes you through your pregnancy week-by-week and if everything is going well and you just need to know you're normal, it will probably cover it here. If you're still in doubt, phone NHS Direct for advice or speak to other Mums you know and trust. If the temptation to Google is too much, then do it with caution and give more attention to professional health websites, trusted magazine websites than you would mother's forums!

4. Vitamins
In pregnancy it is an unfortunate fact that you can't take much in the way of medication. This is because no one is willing to give their unborn child up for testing as a guinea pig and so doctors can't necessarily say whether something is safe or not. So, as always, prevention is better than cure.

Hopefully you're taking some kind of pregnancy supplement anyway and this will go a long way to ensuring your body is topped up with all the goodness it needs. But, if there's a cold making its way round the office then you might want to call in the big guns. I swear by Berocca. Whenever I have a cold coming on I have one of those a day and it never develops into anything more than a sniffle. Trust me, or you'll be stuck at home with your head over a bowl of boiling water wishing you had just taken a glass of the fizzy orange good stuff.


NB: Too much of a good thing? Apparently, it is possible to overdose on certain vitamins, so be careful if you're taking a pregnancy supplement as well as Berocca. You might want to switch to either/or just in case.

Remember to also talk to your doctor about getting the flu jab.

5. Your Best Friend
Possibly most important in the first trimester is the ear of a good friend. This is a huge event in your life and yes, you're meant to be keeping schtum, but confide in one other person and you have the ear of someone who can allay all your fears, share in your excitement and listen to your rants. If your best friend is also your work colleague then you also have someone looking out for you and covering for you in the event of morning sickness, or if you suddenly stop drinking copious amounts of Diet Coke and coffee. If she's a very good friend she might even submit to a faux health kick so that you're not the odd one out when you swap cocktails for orange juice and burgers for salads!

And remember, the reason you're not supposed to make a huge announcement during those first few weeks is because something could go wrong. Think about it, if something went wrong and you fell apart, who would you need around you? Your best friend.

Over to you! What would you include in your First Trimester Survival Kit? Comment below!


Stay tuned in the coming days for Trimester Two & Three!


Update: Check out my 2nd Trimester Essentials here and 3rd Trimester Essentials here
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Monday, 4 March 2013

Word for March: Trust

Trust:
noun
firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something


    Trust.

    It can be difficult can't it?

    Trusting other people isn't so bad. Very few people go through life expecting other people to let them down or broadcast their secrets to the world. If that's your expectation then generally you just choose not to trust. And some people are not to be trusted. Yes, trusting other people, that's the easy part. That part is within your control.

    But trusting God? The universe? Life?

    Trusting yourself?

    Trusting your instincts? Your gut reaction?

    Trusting your own judgement? Your own decisions? Your own skills and abilities?

    That's the hard part.

    Because really, you don't have much control over that. You just have to do it. Otherwise you would never get anywhere, would you? You would never make a decision.




    How can we learn to trust?

    We have to take a leap of faith!

    At the end of last year my pregnant self and hubbie made the decision to leave London and move back to Kent. Of course, when you decide to relocate it's pretty unlikely that everything will all fall into place at exactly the right time. So we weren't worried.

    Mr. D started looking for work in September. We gave notice on our flat in November. I scheduled my maternity leave to begin in December and we made the wise decision to temporarily move into Jon's parents' house so that we weren't burdened with rent and bills while we waited patiently for Mr. D's employment offer. 

    In the beginning we were full of this thing called trust.

    We trusted that God would provide. And he did. In the first month of Mr. D's unemployment we received in unexpected rebates the equivalent of his old monthly salary.

    We trusted that there would be opportunities. And there were. Mr. D had a few interviews in the run up to Christmas and although it slowed down over the festive season, he's had a few more since.

    We trusted that we were making the right decision. And we were. There was no way that we could have survived in London once my maternity pay had reduced.

    But what do you do when the trust begins to fade? When the results are taking longer than you expected? When you feel like time is running out and things aren't fitting into your carefully planned schedule? When the opportunities are not translating into jobs or money in the bank?

    What do you do?

    You check that you're doing everything in the natural that you can possibly do.

    And then?

    You keep trusting.

    You keep applying yourself, your skills and your abilities. You get creative. You invest in yourself.

    It takes time, energy and motivation to continually seek out your opportunity. It's hard getting knockbacks and rejections.

    But you've made your decision and a few short weeks ago you were sure it was the right one. So what's changed? Nothing. So you just keep trusting.

    Eventually your trust will be proved correct.

    And you'll wonder what you were worrying about in the first place.

    Promise.

    For more inspiring quotes and images on Trust, follow my board on Pinterest!
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    Saturday, 2 March 2013

    Love Letters of a Great Man

    A couple of weeks ago, in the wake of Valentine's Day, I tweeted about my desire for a two books: Love Letters of Great Men and Love Letters of Great Women. Two years running, around Valentine's Day when they are all out on display, I had dropped hints to my dear husband that I would like these books. But I feared that my romantic pleas were falling on deaf ears because two years running they had not materialised (in fact, I'm not sure any gifts materialised but that's a different complaint!).



    My husband isn't on Twitter, he tried it once but gave up pretty quickly, so he didn't see these tweets. They weren't aimed at him, I'd already asked for them, what more could I do? 

    So I resigned myself to the undeniable fact that neither of us are particularly romantic, we had even neglected to buy each other cards. (I can't really resent him for not remembering my choice of books when I haven't even bothered to buy him a card can I?!) Who needs a special day to remind yourself that the person you've committed to spending the rest of your life with actually loves you anyway?

    But then last week we were out shopping and after popping off to the toilet, I found Mr. D in Waterstones looking puzzled.

    "You alright?" I asked.

    "Yeah, I was going to try to get you those love letter books but they're not out on the table anymore. Do you think they still do them?"

    Of course, the Valentine's display had been replaced with a Mother's Day tribute leaving poor Mr. D at a loss as to where one might shelve such a book (he's more accustomed to the Crime Fiction department). So together we asked the shop assistant, who kindly pointed us in the right direction and I came away with my longed for books.

    I didn't get a love letter tucked inside, or a romantic inscription scrawled in ink, my books weren't wrapped up in brown paper and tied with twine, embellished with a single red rose, and they didn't suddenly appear on my pillow one day as a sweet surprise.



    But he did remember. And that's enough for me.

    Who says romance is dead?
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