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.

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?

September Cider Home Brew!

Every year we gather up all the apples from our tree in the garden to make cider (and a freezer full of apple pies and crumbles!). This year we were blessed with the warmest September day and our little three year old to help out whilst the twins napped. This is the first year he’s been interested in what we were up to so it was an extra special day.

Cider 2015We sent some apples off to be identified as the tree is very mature and has obviously been there a long time! It came back as Laxton’s Fortune, a Cox hybrid, so I think we’ll call the cider Nurse’s Fortune this time as we’ve been incredibly blessed these last few years! We were even joined by a beautiful butterfly who thoroughly enjoyed the spoils! It’ll soon be ready for bottling so now looking forward to the tasting!

The Supermarket Sugar Take Over

As you all know I’ve been eliminating refined sugar from my diet for a while now and it seems Jamie Oliver has been inspired too so it was great to see his Sugar Rush programme on Channel 4 last week about the dangers of hidden sugar. I’m at high risk of getting type 2 diabetes and was on the verge of gestational diabetes throughout both my pregnancies which is one of the main reasons I’ve decided to ditch bad sugars for the main part of my diet.

I personally don’t usually do the weekly food shop as the trolleys just aren’t big enough for my brood and the food but this week we only needed a few bits so me and the small ones decided to take it on.

My husband has a normal kind of pack up for lunch at work so I thought I’d see if I could get some healthier cereal bar type snacks and yoghurts which had a bit less sugar and weren’t classed as ‘low fat’. There were hardly any! In the ‘grown up’ yoghurt section all the six packs were low fat and unfortunately I don’t have the biggest budget to splurge on the premium brands so this week he has Munch Bunch (which reports to have 30% less sugar)! I have full fat greek style or whole milk yoghurt generally on my cereal but I don’t think he’d appreciate taking an enormous pot to work every day! (And I’m not sure it’d survive the backpack!)

The same goes for cereal bars – the so called diet ranges are ridiculously high in sugar. It seems you can’t avoid it if you want the ease of pre-made bars. I guess the key is to make your own so at least you know what’s in them. All comes back to time and the lack of it as a busy mum! I’ll let you know if I find a good recipe though.

As promised I said I’d go through some of the books I’ve been reading. Here’s a few things to keep in mind about sugar …

  1. Can make you overweight
  2. Can affect the nutrient absorption of other food and masks the taste
  3. Upsets your hormones, especially insulin
  4. Empty calories – there’s really no point in eating it from a nutritional point of view
  5. Even healthy forms of sugar such as honey and fruit are simply registered as ‘sugar’ by our bodies so it’ll still be processed the same way – any excess is stored around your organs and waist (argh!)
  6. So really low fat options which are high in sugar (to give it flavour) will still cause weight gain

What can you do?

  1. Eat one or two portions of fruit a day, the rest should be veg
  2. Use coconut sugar, honey, dates or stevia if you need an alternative to the refined stuff
  3. Make meals from scratch
  4. Increase your protein intake (will help with the sugar cravings)
  5. Keep an eye out for hidden sugars, such as in breakfast cereals, bread, diet/low fat foods, drinks and of course the obvious biscuits, etc! My kids now have porridge instead of the Weetabix type cereals for this reason.

All this info has been taken from Madeleine Shaw’s book Get The Glow and Amelia Freer’s book Eat. Nourish. Glow. if you feel inspired to read up on it! I don’t get much time to read but I have a little look every morning at breakfast to inspire me for the day! And I’ve managed to lose 5 lb of excess baby weight too – great motivation!

 

Getting Back On Track

I’ve officially been useless lately. For the last couple of months we’ve been through teething and multiple colds which has pretty much sapped all my will power and energy. All this means maybe 2-3 hours sleep each night so my immune system is suffering and my head hasn’t had the fight.

I’m now recovering from my third cold in as many months, which is totally unlike me. I’m not one to take days off sick as thankfully bugs aren’t something I pick up often. As I mentioned in my previous posts my quick fix solve everything is food. I have an emotional attachment to it – it makes me happy, I look forward to it and I see it as a treat for working hard. However this relationship with food means I choose the most ‘rewarding’ and fast options, such as toast, biscuits and ice cream, etc, especially in the evenings. I’ve found I have a mindless snacking attitude as well – if I see food I eat it without even thinking about what it is or whether I need it, all day long, especially if the kids don’t finish their meal.

So with September around the corner and back to school germs coming into the house for the first time I’ve sorted myself out! I’ve been reading some really good books when I can find 5 minutes – usually at breakfast when the little people are napping, and they’ve encouraged me to ditch the junk. In case you’d like to read them too, which I definitely recommend, they are Get The Glow by Madeleine Shaw and the second is Eat. Nourish. Glow. by Amelia Freer. I purchased both from my local supermarket (one of the few places I can get to easily with the brood!)

I thought a good way to keep me going and to maybe motivate you is to go through the books and fill you in on what I think is really handy information and tips so if you’re keen to get your diet and lifestyle in general back on track then hopefully it may inspire you!

The one point I really want to make though is although I need to lose my baby weight (there’s a lingering stone and a very round tummy there!) this is not about dieting. It’s about having a better relationship with food so I can feel healthier, have more energy and see food as nourishment rather than continually ‘rewarding’ it with junk food which in turn does me no favours!

Everyone has different areas that need looking at and my first place to start has been to get rid of refined sugar from my diet. I honestly feel better already but more on that later.

I’m also about to set up a Facebook group for support and inspiration where anyone can share recipes and ask questions to other members so hopefully see you there!

The Healthy Eating Begins!

I admit it…I’m a total sugar monster. If it’s not chocolate I can usually be found snacking on ice-cream, sugary cereals, biscuits or my main nemesis – crisps. They are quick, easy, take no preparation and are pretty enjoyable! However…they make me feel rotten.

At the moment I’m still breastfeeding my twins about three times every night and it’s during these awakenings that I tend to feel the worst. It’s probably because I’ve spent all evening whilst they’ve been blissfully dreaming scoffing my face with whatever the pantry offers – I could class it as an evening hobby.

I’ve recently been inspired by a few people who seem to have changed their lives for the better by radically changing their diet. I was shown a book by a relative called Deliciously Ella, by Ella Woodward. Having been diagnosed with a horrible illness she managed to turn her life around and come off all medication by following a strict vegan gluten free diet. I’ve always been sceptical as to whether or not this diet is as healthy as everyone says (and tasty?!) but my husband, having recovered from testicular cancer had researched and had also found similar stories.  Eat better = feel better it seems.

So, I thought, why not give it a go? And to my relief it’s actually pretty good! At the moment I’ve made small changes here and there towards a healthier lifestyle and I’m quite excited about feeling healthier and being more energetic for my kids’ sake too!

So, for your inspiration and hopefully to tempt those taste buds, here’s our week’s fruit and veg shop above! I don’t know about you but I think that looks pretty delicious! What do you reckon?