The Joys of Autumn

I posted this photograph on my photography business Instagram page recently and every time I scroll past I pause at it – something about it draws me in – the colours and homeliness of the image and what it represents…

cambridgeshire family photographer

The apples were picked from the tree in our garden and are a juicy Cox hybrid from Bedfordshire (Laxton’s Fortune). The tree has been bursting this year. We usually make cider from them but this year we decided to make enormous crumbles (which did not last very long!) We added in some deliciously sweet wild blackberries picked locally from a secret spot.

Autumn, for me, is a bittersweet time of year. I adore the colours, snuggling up in the evenings, putting the fire on and collecting treasures such as acorns and conkers with the kids. We’ve had such an amazing summer as a family and I feel a bit sad that the warm sun on my back at the beach will be but a memory waiting to return next year. Now I sense the nights pulling in, a chill in the evening air. It seems as soon as school returned last week autumn took its cue.

But with this new season comes so much good – family traditions, an immense display of colour from nature, making the most of the last warm days, feeling like you’ve stolen a little extra from summer. Harvest festivals, firework displays and warm bonfires with chilli jacket potatoes and warm cider are some of my favourite things.

Autumn has a lot of magic. What makes your autumnal heart sing?

 

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My Quest For A Chemical Free Lifestyle

Earlier this year I was introduced to Tropic Skincare by a lovely friend of mine and instantly I felt that it was something I needed to learn more about. I’ve always had a niggling worry in the back of my mind since having children about the amount of chemicals we use on a daily basis, whether it be in make up, toiletries, cleaning products and air fresheners.

I’m a bit obsessive (to say the least!) about having a home that’s clean and smells fresh so I have a tendency to overuse cleaning products and plug ins. I also adore it when my kids come out of the bath smelling sweetly and are then tucked into fresh bed sheets!

So I knew something needed to change but had no idea where to start – do I make my own cosmetics or would there be an alternative brand to use? Enter Tropic. I was immediately hooked. Having tried some of the products at a friend’s house I went home smelling like I’d been to a spa.

Before I knew it I was signed up and we have now changed over all our cosmetics and make up products to Tropic’s naturally derived alternatives. The best thing about Tropic is that you can use them guilt free. All bar one can be used safely on babies and children (a skin resurfacing serum – their skin is already perfect!) which is a huge plus. We have an enormous family history of eczema and other skin irritations including psoriasis and since using Tropic these have been massively improved. (I’ll share more about these!) And my kids smell even more amazing after their bath!

Having been through IVF and with my husband in remission from testicular cancer I do need to ask myself what part has our chemical filled past lifestyle had to play in this? If we reduce the carcinogens and toxic ingredients we put on our skin and in our air could we prevent these serious issues? Our skin is semi-permeable – apparently 60-70% of what we apply to our bodies is absorbed into our bloodstream and I know when I look on the ingredients list of many products I couldn’t even tell you what they are and that to me is pretty scary.

If you’d like to know more about the products you use at home check out the Think Dirty app. It’s unbiased and rates products from 0-10 with 10s being at the worst end and 0 the best, listing the ingredients and how good or bad for you they are. You can scan product barcodes but I find it easier to search from products as sometimes it doesn’t recognise the barcodes. The results may shock and surprise you!

How does you bathroom rate? Let me know what you find out!

Disclaimer: I am a Tropic Skincare Ambassador and use their products daily, however I have not been paid or asked by Tropic to write this post and all views are my own.

Be Still Mama Heart

So tonight I tucked my babies into bed, just like every other evening. But this evening feels different – tomorrow is the first day back at school after the summer holidays and my heart feels heavy.

The summer has been one of fun, one full of new memories and adventures.

Thomas turned five, he grew up a little more than I’d have liked but the boy he’s turning into this mama is extremely proud of. He cares for his little brother and sister, guides them gently down the stairs, then makes each of our water bottles up in the morning, excited to see each of us when we wake.

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All ready for the morning school routine again

And tomorrow someone else gets to share him with me. Another gets the hours I’ve treasured so greatly over the last six weeks. I hope they take good care of him, and nurture his little inquisitive mind.

Don’t get me wrong he needs school. Even though he’s one of the youngest in his class this little mind still needs to be challenged. And he’s excited to return.

But as I wave him off tomorrow, I’ll turn and take two little twin hands, never looking up for fear of acknowledging the feeling inside, and wait for 3pm when I can hear about all the fun he’s had.

Be still Mama heart.

The Knife Edge of Motivation

Okay, here’s a quick update! The summer got busy – again! But that’s all good, business is growing and I absolutely love it but it does mean my time is spread pretty thinly. Juggling motherhood, housewife duties, the business, a second job and a new school routine can be quite tough.

I started getting up before 6am to get ready for the day before the tribe surfaced but by 11:30pm having finished work I was exhausted and burnt out, especially as I was up 3-4 times during the night also. I had three visits to the GP in two weeks. I had a constant sore throat, body aches, worrying glands constantly up and I had a mini meltdown. I just wasn’t taking care of myself and I was exhausted and scared. My health was not good, mentally and physically.

The docs talked about medication. But I felt there was a better way. Me and hubby went on a weekend spa break and it helped put a lot in perspective. It was good to talk as I’d bottled everything up. I thought to myself – at what point though do we start listening to ourselves and acting to put things right – long term – as opposed to putting up with the problems and reaching rock bottom?

Before, my attempts to be healthier were mainly focussed on the way I look and losing the baby weight I still carry but this time was different. I wanted to feel happy and energised!

I really struggle with motivation and find myself, within a matter of minutes literally, going from super driven to oh I want cake! I’m not sure what the solution is yet – willpower maybe?! Let me know if you’ve found the answer please!

So let’s see – it’s the 1st November. The season of over indulgence is pretty much here but can I avoid it? I’ve been pretty inspired by Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) again recently as his plans fit well into modern busy life so I’ve written my shopping list for this week, planned my exercise sessions and caught up with reading his books. Just gotta take those selfie before photos now (urgh!) and see how it compares next month! Wish me luck!

Chia Pudding Breakfast

My whole life I’ve eaten cereal out of a box for breakfast. Always. I’m not even a toast girl really but museli, chocolate cereal? Yes I’m there.

So when I started eating healthier a few weeks ago I decided to reduce the amount of hidden refined sugars and grains in my diet – and the major one was breakfast cereal. But it left me with a problem – what should I be eating instead? I avoid bread where possible anyway as it makes me tired and bloated and through each period of breastfeeding my children oddly I’ve become intolerant to egg, which is something that still hasn’t sorted itself out yet even three months after weaning.

I did some research and found there are lots of other breakfasts that are super simple to make, even before the school run or in advance the night before that taste great and fill you up. My favourite so far has been chia pudding and lots of you have asked me to share the recipe so I popped it below at the bottom of the post!

I’ve taken inspiration from Jamie Oliver and Hemsley + Hemsley mainly but there isnt really one way to do this – experiment and see what you can come up with!

If you don’t know much about the superfood chia seeds here are a few facts (there are masses more!):

  1. They are small (mainly black) seeds that contain loads of fibre, vitamins and minerals
  2. They are low in calories
  3. They are naturally gluten free
  4. Full of anti oxidants
  5. They absorb water – up to 10 times their weight so help you feel full
  6. They contain a good amount of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids

These little guys are so versatile, can be bought in the supermarket and I often sprinkle the kids’ food with them for a little added boost.

Chia Pudding Recipe

Ingredients: banana, 400ml coconut milk (full fat), 1 tbsp honey, 6 tbsp chia seeds, 200g fresh of frozen fruit (my favourite is mango), 1tsp vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. Fill four bowls with the mixture and place in the fridge to set (I do this the night before).

So simple, so tasty! When you’re ready to eat, you can top the pudding with fresh berries, cinnamon, yoghurt, seeds, whatever you fancy really. If the recipe above is too sweet, maybe reduce or remove the vanilla extract and see how you get on.

I’d love to know your results!

Week 3 Diary of a Motivated Mum

Last week I managed to injure my hip whilst running, which was a real motivational sap. It’s funny how quickly you can go from being so dedicated one minute, eating well etc, to really off track. I’ve been stretching and have given myself a week off running to try and help as I really don’t want a set back – this would never have happened ten years ago – I’m feeling my age!

I’ve been getting the kids involved in cooking healthy family meals and they really surprised me how much they enjoyed them. Foods we never usually eat went down a treat! My three year old is a famously fussy eater so I was a little worried and it’s taken some serious persuasion but we’re getting there and he’s now prepared to try a little, which last year he would have absolutely refused.

Today I managed a 15 minute HIIT cardio workout (from Joe Wicks’s book Lean In 15) with the kids ‘helping me’. I think it’s important they see me exercise, I really want to be a role model for them.

We’ve also been baking some vegan, gluten and grain free chocolate chip cookies using almonds (Hemsley + Hemsley) which have just come out of the oven so I’ll let you know how they go down!

So…to the important part…and I’m writing it here so I keep at it-no secrets! I started three weeks ago on my mission weighing in at 10st 2lb and unfortunately couldn’t find my tape measure so have started the measuring today! This week I’ve weighed in at 9st 12lb so I’m losing a pound a week which is fab and exactly what I hoped to achieve. This isn’t all about weight loss, it’s also about body confidence and health for all my family.

Today’s measurements have been waist 78cm, hips 96cm, chest 79cm, thigh 57cm. There, no hiding from it now!

My aims for the next week? To add in resistance HIIT 15 minute workouts, get up early to get them done before the day (no talking myself out of it then!), aim to do these 4 days a week and watch the food intake. I’m a secret eater and finishing off the kids’ meals is my worst habit.

Now, I must get back to trying those cookies….

Finding The Motivation

So I’ve been away for 6 months, focussed on my business (which has been great and was very much needed) and spectacularly fell off the healthy bandwagon!

Summer is now kind of here, Love Island is on the telly and my need for my healthy lifestyle I achieved and worked so hard for last year is back with a bang!

But how do you find the motivation and the time when you’re busy, you run a business, you’re a mum, wife, friend?

I battle with this daily and I find it incredibly easy to talk myself out of exercise or resisting that biscuit. But I simplified things in my mind – instead of focussing on the fact that I find exercise boring and a mental battle to keep going when I’m doing it, I instead focussed on how much better I’d feel afterwards. How I’d sleep better, feel better, look better, be happier and more energised. And I basically didn’t give myself a choice – this has to be done and I keep my eye on the goal ahead.

What is my goal? As every mum may empathise I’d like to lose the baby weight (1 stone left of the three I gained with each pregnancy) tone up (I have a large split (diastasis rectii) in my abdominal muscles from my twin pregnancy, which has left me looking 15 weeks pregnant at all times and I’d love to get this a bit flatter. I’m also really conscious that I want to be around for a long time for my kids so I want to be as healthy as possible and be a good inspiration for them to lead their own healthy lives.

So baby steps first! I’ve been running 2 miles twice a week, been adding in some sit ups, I’ve cleared our fridge of processed food, such as ham etc as much as possible (BBQ sausages have stayed though!) and cut down on the food that makes me feel tired and bloated such as cereal and bread. I’ve also been less hard on myself with regards to restricting gluten and dairy as I found this so hard to maintain last year. Wish me luck!

So what things do you find keep you motivated to stay healthy?

A Very Special Christmas Message

This is the first year Thomas really ‘gets’ Christmas so we’ve been doing the usual fun things leading up to the event – Elf on the shelf, Christmas tree decorating, parties, etc. My sister in law let me know about a really special tradition you can also start – a video message from the proper Father Christmas himself!

So we went online and filled in a really short questionnaire about Thomas and what he gets up to plus important things he needs to do this year – we chose being kind to his siblings as this has been the biggest change in his life so far!

The video was then emailed to me so last night we sat down as a family, put the video up on the TV and watched the magic unfold…

It started with a photo of Thomas calling the elf’s workshop and Father Christmas addressing him, by name, and introducing his elves. I’ve honestly never seen Thomas so enraptured by something – I was holding back tears the whole way through (soppy Mummy).

The video is interactive so it encourages you all to wave to the elves, speak back to Father Christmas and is full of Christmas magic – it was truly special. And the best thing of all – it was free! You do get the option to upgrade and Father Christmas can also record a message for their birthday too.

Their website is http://www.portablenorthpole.com – definitely worth a visit!

Mummy Matters Too

This Mummy is pretty busy (understatement!). Recently I’ve seen lots of posts pop up in my Facebook newsfeed and my inbox about looking after yourself as a busy mum and how important it is.

This week I hit another of my now pretty regular walls of exhaustion. With three little people I’m often woken up a crazy amount of times a night – for feeds, bathroom visits, nose wiping, drink fetching, cuddles and re-settling usually – so by the morning I’m super tired. I’ve had moments where I’ve nearly fallen over with dizziness and it can make me feel nauseous, achey and pretty run down. I work hard too and enjoy my business, but I struggle to find the balance sometimes, and I don’t like the person it causes me to be.

As Mums we spend the majority of our time caring for others – children, partners, pets, etc. Add in work maybe. Then there’s the housework and shopping. There’s literally not enough hours in the day! It’s very easy to feel undervalued. So I thought to myself what can I do to be more relaxed, organised and stress free? So whether you’ve got one little person or many here are some thoughts…

  1. Get organised the night before. I have the change bag ready to go at all times-as soon as we get home from a day out it gets restocked. Make the lunches, clean up and get the washing on. That way, in the morning you won’t feel rushed
  2. Don’t do too much just before bed – take some time to relax, even if it’s just half an hour – for me that’s switching off the computer!
  3. Go to bed an hour earlier, then if you need to catch up on stuff, maybe get up a little earlier
  4. Make an effort to put on some nice clothes, do your make up and hair – it’ll make you feel ready to face the day
  5. Have a good breakfast. If you’re not a cereal kinda girl maybe have a smoothie?
  6. Put the kettle on – have a break for 10 minutes
  7. Spread out the housework and chores through out the week so they don’t seem so daunting – tackle one job a day – Monday’s ironing, Tuesday’s bathroom cleaning, etc! I get mine done when T is at preschool and the twins are napping in the morning so it’s all done and, literally, dusted!
  8. Don’t stress if it doesn’t get done – ultimately in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter
  9. Spend time with the kids just being silly – it puts the whole world into perspective to see things as they do
  10. Eat healthily and drink plenty
  11. I work from home in the evenings so fitting in exercise is tricky, but when I have the time I pop down to the pool for a swim for half an hour and I feel immensely better – my muscles relax and it lets my mind empty
  12. Meet up with friends, especially those in a similar situation to you. Meeting other mums with multiples or children of different ages and chatting about the joys and challenges makes me feel like I’m not alone
  13. Do something just for you. I enjoy getting out somewhere busy – I occasionally go into the city for some shopping or a coffee
  14. Don’t let the kids stop you from doing things – I take all three with me everywhere during the week. We go on days out, for lunch, shopping, coffee, walks, playgroups, etc. Yeah, it’s really really hard work sometimes but it benefits all of us to get out of the house. In the early weeks I found taking them out and being stopped by strangers to talk about them (the world loves twins!) really made me feel proud. True there will be times where people will tut and huff when you take too long or the kids are too messy or noisy but there’ll be others who will pat you on the back and tell you how wonderful they are, what a blessing, and how great you’re doing
  15. Don’t dwell on how little sleep you’ve had – in the early days with the twins I slept for 30 minute blocks between feeds if I was lucky but found if I thought too much about it I felt even more tired and worried. Honestly mums you are amazing – we can survive on the tiniest amount without it affecting much of our day! Fellow breastfeeding mums – you have the most amazing hormone swirling around your body which will help no end, the glorious oxytocin-enjoy it!
  16. Having kids there’ll be good times and tough times. My mum said something to me the other day when we were chatting about our respective crazy days and it really hit home – she told me to ’embrace the season you find yourself in’. You can’t change it. I can’t stop a toddler from having tantrums or a baby from waking in the night. It’s ultimately just a phase and before you know it, you’ll be onto the next and the worries from the last will be forgotten.

Hope maybe that helps a little – now…time to take my own advice! Let me know if you have any tips to add!

Book Exchange Club

We recently joined up to a local book exchange club via Facebook that a lovely friend of mine has started. The club selects a book buddy for your child each month and you exchange addresses – then the fun part begins!

We went to a bookshop in Norwich to choose a fun book – something different and one that our buddy may not already have. Thomas chose a lovely collection of Christmas stories and songs – he’s already so excited about next month – it’s the first year he really ‘gets’ Christmas!

We had a lovely surprise waiting for us when we got home – a big parcel with the little man’s name on it on the doorstep – cue great excitement – the post is a big deal in our house!

He received two lovely books -‘Is There A Dog In This Book?’ by Viviane Schwarz and ‘The Deep Dark Wood’ by Algy Craig Hall & Ali Pye. Both brilliant reads and we highly recommend them.

It’s really given us a reason to sit down together – all of us, twins included – although I do have to wrestle with all of them to turn the page! It’s tricky to read with two babies on your lap but another skill to master! We’ve always read bedtime stories but it’s nice to sit together during the day too with a book.

The loveliest thing is that our buddy had included a special letter, drawing and photo in the parcel too 🙂

If you ever get a chance to join a book club with your little ones I definitely recommend it! The process of choosing a book for your buddy, writing a little letter or drawing, posting it then receiving another in return is a really special experience and we’re now so excited for next month!book exchange