Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Will you swim, Mum?

So I took the kids swimming today.  Big deal?  It shouldn't be, should it?  I mean, I can swim, and I own a swimming costume. So what's all the fuss?

Well, for me, it was a big deal. Because usually, Joe takes the girls swimming while I do something else; like work, or rest!!  Of course, the real reason I don't go, is that I don't want to be seen in my swimming costume.  But, after yesterday's 'light bulb' moment and blog post, and all the lovely responses, today, I thought 'sod it'.

I thought about how much the girls wanted me to go swimming with them, and how they couldn't care less what I look like.  They tell me all the time that they think I am beautiful and pretty. Evie doesn't like me to wear makeup because she says I look better  without it. And then I thought, who in that pool today do I actually care about?  Answer: my girls. Nobody else.

If Joe were with us, I'd care about what he thought too, but he knows what I look like naked. He's seen me at my absolute worst. Giving birth (that can't be pretty, or flattering!!) being sick, drunk, hung over, bigger than I am now (I was massive when I was pregnant!) and thinner than I am now. He's loved me the whole time. Is the sight of me in my swimming costume going to change that now?

As for the kids ... well, I thought back to when I was a kid, and how much I thought about what my mum looked like.  Um, not at all. In fact, in the last almost-40 years, have I ever cared what my mum looked like?  I mean, she used to have a dodgy jumper with a cat on it that I'd rather she'd not worn (sorry Mum) but other than that, she's my mum, and whether she'd gained or lost a few stone, did it make a difference to how I felt about her? Whether I wanted to be in her company? Whether I was proud she was my mum?  Of course not!!

What my girls want, and what any kids want, is a mum that will have fun with them, without worrying what they look like.  It's what my husband wants too (in a wife, not a mum, obviously). Talking of my husband, one of the things I love the most about him is that he really doesn't care what other people think of him. Or, on the occasion he does, he doesn't let it affect what he's doing.

I have photos of Joe carrying and/or wearing any number of girly accessories that either one of the girls or I got fed up of carrying. He is never afraid to look silly, if it makes me, or the kids, or anyone else for that matter, laugh.    When I turn around and see him standing on his own, carrying my handbag and wearing one of the girls' hats, looking a right wally, is when I love him the most.   Sure, my husband looks better when he's a couple of stone lighter than he is right now. So do I. But do I love him any less because of a bit of extra weight?  Of course not!  It shows we've had a few too many cream teas, fish and chips by the sea, or glasses of wine in front of the telly, and that he'd rather be putting the girls to bed every night, than going to the gym.

So, if I've established that the people I care most about are Joe and the girls, and I've established that they don't care what I look like, and love me as I am, why should I be so bothered??

So when Lola asked me if we could swim, instead of sit in the coffee shop while Evie had her swimming lesson today, I said yes. Even though I hadn't shaved, waxed, fake tanned, tried on numerous swimming costumes to find the least-worst, or done any of the other things that usually  induce major panic and cause me to make up some last-minute excuse for not swimming.

As I said yesterday, I started this year wanting to loose weight and get fit, so that I could turn 40 being happy with who I am.  But now, with 2 weeks to go, I am changing my mind. (Convenient eh? If I'd lost weight, I'd probably be sticking to that first plan, wouldn't I? :-)

I'm going to try my very hardest to turn 40 liking who I am, and how I look. Or at least not hating it.  My failing auto-immune body prevents me from doing lots of things.  That's bad enough. But why stop myself from doing even more things, because of something as silly as worrying about how I look?

This summer, I am going to do the things I want to do - fitness and illness allowing - not worrying what I look like.  If the sight of my overweight, pasty, possibly hairy, body doing that bothers you?  Well, that's your problem. Not mine.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Why don't we all cut ourselves some slack?

Wow!  I can't believe it's been 2 years since I posted in this blog!!  I've written a couple of posts in that time - some actually typed up - some just in my head, but for some reason have never published them.

I think the longer it got, since I had written anything, the harder it became.  I think I thought a 'come back' post needed to be a big thing - my best post yet!

Anyway, now that I'm not sure anyone even reads this any more, I've had a lightbulb moment.  I've been having a few of those lately.  Maybe it's got something to do with turning 40 next month?  Maybe it's a temporary lift of Fibro-Fog? Maybe I'm just finally becoming old and wise?  Who knows?

Anyway, my lightbulb moment today.  How do I describe it?  Well, today I'm at home ill.  Not so ill as to be asleep, but ill enough to admit to myself that I need to sit and do nothing.  Ha!  So what am I doing now?  Nothing? Resting? Or writing a blog?  Yep, I will never learn!

I was sitting here, feeling a bit sorry for myself because I'm not feeling well, and thinking about how I started this year determined to feel better.  I was determined that by my 40th birthday - which is only 2 weeks away - I would be feeling healthier; I would have lost enough weight to feel at least ok with myself, and I would be ready to leave my illness-ridden 30's behind and start my 40's with loads of energy.  Hmm.  Doesn't look like that's happened quite as planned, does it?

Then, just as I was feeling pretty bad about myself, I remembered this blog, and why I started writing it in the first place.  Yes, it was to document a few crafty projects and recipes I was pleased with, but primarily, it was to talk about the stuff that I passionately believe we should all talk about more often.

I truly believe that if we all talked about things like depression, self esteem, mental illness, physical illness and how we feel, more often, we'd realise that everyone's struggling with something.  What you see on the outside of a person does not necessarily tell the full story of what's going on on the inside.  We all project an outward image, that we think protects us from the outside world - but does it? Or does it make things worse?

So here's how I feel right now.  I am fed up of always being ill.  Auto-Immune disease sucks.  I am not sure that I have got to the bottom of what's wrong with me yet, but I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease a couple of years ago, but told that I have probably had it, un-treated, since my late teens/early twenties.  As a result, my insides are in a pretty bad way.  Two gastroscopies, more than a year apart, have shown that there's not much in the way of villi in my intestines - they have been worn away by my own body attacking itself, as a result of gluten. Great!

In addition, I've been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, had two carpal tunnel ops, one cubital tunnel op, and a TVT op to stop my pelvic organs making their own way out of my body!  Things still aren't right.  I have two more specialist appointments coming up - one to check out the funky 'floaters' that are constantly in my vision, and another to double-check the Fibro diagnosis - the current thinking being that Ehlers Danlos Syndrome might better explain my symptoms.  This has all been in the last 4 years.  Phew!  Just seeing that written down is a major reminder to cut myself some slack - which is the point of this post.

Do you know what?  If I had a friend going through all of that, whilst raising 4 and 6 year olds, I would think that she had her hands full, and wouldn't expect too much more from her.  So why do I expect so much more of myself??

But on top of all that, I am trying to build a business, Evie and Lola, in the 10 hours a week that I have to myself, while both girls are in school and nursery.  I am also president of our local Women's Institute - Wixams Vixens.  I can't help myself but become involved in all kinds of local events, and I set ridiculous standards for how tidy I like my house to be (which I fail on, by the way, pretty much 99% of the time!)

So that's all good.  I'm not complaining.  I love my life (except for the illness part, obviously).  I have a beautiful family, with dog and cat added for good measure.  We have a caravan that we love to go away in, pretty much once a month, and I really enjoy my business and being part of the WI.

What I really, really am not happy about right now is how I look.  I am at least 4 stone heavier than I am happy being.  I could do with losing 5, if I'm being brutally honest.  I hate how I look, how I feel, and how I dress, as a result of how I look and feel.

I never lost the weight I gained whilst pregnant with Evie.  Then I had Lola and gained more, and then I felt ill, and tired, and gained even more.  Now I have very little time or energy for exercise and my physio has told me not to run, or do anything else that puts strain on my unstable joints and prolapsing insides (see EDS suspicions!).

So that's all fine too.  I mean, I'd rather it wasn't the case, but it's not the end of the world, is it?  My husband loves me regardless, exactly as I am.  I have lots of lovely friends and I love my life.  I don't judge people on how they look.  I don't like or dislike a person in proportion with their size.  So why do I judge myself?  Why do I like myself so much less, just because I'm carrying a bit (lot) more weight than I'd like?

The problem is, my weight, and the way I perceive myself to look, is really tied up in my mental wellbeing.  I suffer, on and off, with depression and anxiety.  I have been told that I will be on medication for that indefinitely.  It's probably got a whole lot to do with the state of my insides. (do you know that 90% of the serotonin in our body is produced in the gut?  Just a quick google of gut health and mental wellbeing will throw up all kinds of evidence on this)  When I'm feeling particularly bad about myself, I have a tendency to not to want to go out.  I'll cancel plans.  Cry off on arrangements with friends, and make excuses to stay at home.

I might fabricate or exaggerate reasons to stay home, but I'm not making it up - I get physically ill - either with an anxiety attack or migraine, and can't go out anyway, but it started because I was feeling bad about the way I look.  Isn't that ridiculous?!  I can't even tell you how many events I've missed because of this stupidity!  I have lost friends because I have cancelled out one too many times without giving a decent reason.  I haven't given a decent reason, because there isn't one.   This is the reason, it's stupid and it has to stop!!

So, my plan at the start of the year was to turn 40 feeling better about myself, because I had lost weight, got healthier and was ready to party, wearing clothes that I'd chosen because I actually like them, rather than because they fit, or I think they hide a few of the bits of me that I don't like.

But how about this:  How about I cut myself some slack?  How about I think about what's going on in my life at the moment and give myself some space.  Stop worrying about how I look.  Honestly, I've got enough other things to worry about - does it matter what I'm wearing?

I'm not happy with how I am.  It's not how I want to be.  But I can't let it stop me doing the things I want to do!  It's time I just accepted it, and made the best of it.  I will fix it, if and when I have the time, energy, or diagnosis.  But for now, while I don't have those things, I need to become happier with how I am.

I'm writing this now because I can already spot the signs.  I have a big day out planned for my 40th and there is already a voice in my head telling me to cancel, because of how I look.  I am already feeling anxious about what I'm going to wear, because I believe I look awful in everything.  Even just writing this, and thinking about going out with people, out of my comfort zone, I can feel a panic rising.

I'm not going to be happy with myself on my 40th because I lost a load of weight and got back to looking like 'the old me'.  It's too late for that.  But there's still time for me to change the way I think about myself, and be happy with how I am.  I'm working on it.

How about you?  Do you need to cut yourself some slack too?

Monday, 29 June 2015

In support of local artists …..

Tabitha Mary's Embankment Suspension Bridge print - image from the website

Back in March, I took my little ‘Evie and Lola’ business to Westoning Spring Market. It was a lovely event with lots of fabulous small businesses showcased – most of whom I have followed since, with interest.

The one that stood out to me the most was Tabitha Mary. A collection of really beautiful, modern illustrations of iconic places in the UK. I loved the style, and it fits in well with postcards I have been collecting on our caravan travels, with the intention of decorating the caravan with them, as a kind of log of our travels.

Back at that fair, I admired the art, but was disappointed that none of the pieces were of places special to our family. I made a note to myself to keep an eye on the website, in the hope that Tabitha would add a print that was relevant to us.

A few months later, I heard that Tabitha was exhibiting at one of my favourite, and certainly most frequented, cafes in Bedford – Pavilion in the Park. (whilst on that subject, if you life anywhere close to Bedford, you must go there!  it's beautiful both in the day; for breakfast, lunch or coffee, or even better; go along to one of their excellent Supper Clubs.  You won't be disappointed - I promise).

But back to Tabitha's collection … I loved every print, as I knew I would, but just couldn’t choose between the newly commissioned Bedford images.  So, I did what I almost never do; I spoke up, and asked for what I wanted. I e-mailed Tabitha, explained about my postcard collection, and asked if she could do postcard sized prints for me.

Tabitha Mary's Bedford Park print - image from the website

Of course, Tabitha was incredibly lovely and helpful, as most owners of small businesses are. She explained that she would print four images to a page, and directed me to her website to choose the ones I would like.

While on the website, I spotted the Kilimanjaro print. This immediately brought back memories of seeing that very view, from a hot air balloon, on our honeymoon, five and a half years ago. So along with the postcards, I had to order a customised version of that too. It was supposed to be a gift for my husband on our 6th anniversary, but when it arrived, I couldn’t wait that long, and gave it to him right away instead!

Tabitha Mary's Mt Kilimanjaro print - image from the website

So my point in this story is twofold; support small and local businesses – they are usually extremely happy to go the extra mile for you, and if you want something, speak up and ask for it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I was inspired to write this after reading this lovely post from Katie Gregory - another Bedford blogger, who also asked for what she wanted, which ultimately added to my choice of beautiful Bedford artworks to be displayed in my caravan. Go and have a read. Then check out Tabitha’s website and blog for yourself. And maybe even commission a piece for your own town!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Brightening Up Everyday Jobs (Hillarys Blinds Craft Competition Entry)

Last week, Hillarys Blinds were kind enough to send me a metre squared piece of their lovely fabric, so that I could craft up something lovely, to enter in to their Craft Competition.

There were four lovely fabrics to choose from:

I chose the pretty, Orla Keily-esqe Daisy Pistachio and stared thinking of what to make.

When the fabric arrived, honestly, it was so lovely, I wanted to make a cushion from it!  I thought about a cushion trimmed with yellow ric-rac, to set off the yellow in the daisies.  A quick look at the craft competition entries from last year though, and the few starting to trickle on to this years' Pinterest board, suggested to me that a cushion just wasn't going to cut it.

I needed to be a little bit more creative with my entry, I thought.  But I was stumped.  Honestly, I had this lovely metre of fabric, and couldn't decide what to do with it!  This happens to me a lot with lovely fabric - I just can't seem to settle on the project worthy enough of cutting in to it!

Anyway, I dithered long enough that the deadline was looming and I just needed to get something done, so I changed tack.  What had I been meaning to make for myself for ages, but hadn't ever seemed to find the time for?  Would this competition bring the kick up the bum I needed?

While I was thinking, the washing machine started beeping at me - I'll just put the washing out while I think about it.  Then, oh my goodness, check out my peg basket!!

What a disgrace!  It's held together by duct tape, doesn't even hold all my pegs, and the slightest gust of wind tips it over, scattering my page all over the garden for the dog to eat!

So that was it, a new peg bag was getting made, but I didn't want the usual coat hanger style, as I thought that would probably fall off the line too.  I thought one that clipped on the line would be nice and secure, and still be able to be bought in the house easily when I'd finished using it.

I remembered a bag I was making, following the excellent instructions from Very Purple Person's blog. If you need to make a quick reversible tote, I recommend you check her tutorial out. 

I remembered that at the time, I thought that the handles could pop together.  I only wanted one handle for my peg bag though, so I went about changing the pattern piece.

I just put some baking parchment over the pattern and redrew, from half way along the strap, so that once cut on the fold, there would only be one strap on each side of the bag.  Does that make sense?  You could use any tote pattern in this way, if you'd prefer a squarer peg bag, for instance.  Also, you don't really need to 'box' out the curved bottom with the darts, but I think it makes the finished bag nicer.

From there, I pretty much followed the original pattern instructions, except when it came to sewing the strap together at the shoulder, I sewed each strap closed and then used my very handy Kam Snap tool to put a bright yellow snap in the centre of one of the flowers.

And voila, so much nicer than the old one!

And finally, and action shot of it hanging on the line!  I really love my new peg bag!  Is that totally sad?  Wait, don't answer!

Thanks very much to Hillarys Blinds for sending me this lovely fabric.  Mr Rowberry even commented that our new peg bag was nice and made in lovely fabric!

And I think I've just about got enough fabric left for a cushion … with yellow ric rac trim …!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Are you ready for Fathers Day?

Regular readers of my blog will know that there's not much I like more than a bit of 'virtual' shopping.  I mean, apart from winning the lottery and then doing actual 'money is no object' shopping of course :-)

Anyway, with Fathers' day coming up (21st June, just in case you'd forgotten), I thought it might be a good time to do a spot of 'for the men' internet shopping, and share my finds with my lovely blog readers.

First up, a gift I bought my husband, for his birthday last week, that would be equally great as a Fathers' day gift:

The Wilkin & Sons website has lots of different preserves and sauces, that can be personalised with wording of your choice on the label.  I bought my husband some Tomato Ketchup, which I personalised to say 'Daddy's Dip Dip' on the label (my husband and girls have ketchup with just about every meal, and it's known as dip dip in our house) and also some Hot Mango Sauce, which he also loves, and I had labelled 'Joe's Hot Stuff'.  What bloke doesn't want the ego boost of being called 'hot stuff' every time he puts sauce on his burger?

Next up, something I actually am going to order for my hubby for Fathers' Day, so I'm hoping that I can trust him not to read this post!   I have ordered from The Crafty Giraffe before - I ordered a gorgeous 'santa key' and wooden keepsake gift tags at Christmas, so I can definitely vouch for the quality of their products.  This year, Daddy Rowberry will be getting a hammer and tools set for Fathers' Day, personalised with 'Daddy can fix it' which is a pretty commonly used phrase around this house!

I hosted a 'My Showcase' party recently as an afternoon tea for my local 'at home in the day' friends.   It was a great excuse to have a natter and try lots of gorgeous beauty products, whilst the kids played in the garden.

While I didn't spend my £40 hosts voucher on anything for my husband at all (shame on me?), I did notice that they have some lovely products that even the least 'metriosexual' man would love!

I am sure that my husband, who is not at all interested in any kind of beauty products,  would love this Gentleman's Tonic shave cream, and combined with a lovely shaving brush, I think this would make a beautiful gift for a man at any time of year.  The products smell lovely and even better, if you host a party, you could get this, plus a little something lovely for yourself, for nothing!  Check out my friend Clare's My Showcase Facebook page to book a party.

For the eco-friendly, outdoorsy Dad out there, how about a pack of these adorable fire-starters, handmade in Cambridge and available from Etsy, they would make a great gift, with an I.O.U. for a camping weekend with the kids.

Add in a hip flask, filled with a tot of his tipple of choice, and you've got the perfect gift for the adventure-Dad!

Whilst on the subject of handmade gifts, how about these cool t-shirts, for the Daddy that's a Star Wars fan?  This set would be especially cute for a new father with a baby boy.

These are also available via Etsy, from a lovely shop called Blue Ivory Lane, which is another small UK based business.  I always try to support small UK based businesses whenever I can; you can get something quirky, that's great quality and can often be personalised to suit your recipient, to make it that bit more special, and at the same time, you are supporting small businesses, which need all the help we can give them!

So that's it - I've covered foodie dads, DIY'ers, Metrosexuals, the outdoorsy types and the geeks.  Who have I missed out?  I think there's something for everyone in there, but let me know in the comments if you think I've missed anyone out and I'll make sure I cover them next time I go gift shopping!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Gluten & Dairy Free Cornbread

My lovely friend Lucy, over at Mrs Bishop's Bakes & Banter, posted a recipe for Homemade Corndogs last week, and it reminded me of one of our favourite 'treat breakfast' staples, since going Gluten Free.

It's the husband's birthday today, so what better time for a treat breakfast, consisting of homemade granola, followed by crispy bacon, maple syrup and ….

Gluten, Dairy and Sugar Free Cornbread

I've adapted this recipe, from Gluten Free on a Shoestring, which is an excellent resource for gluten free recipes.  There are also a couple of books available, which look really great, so definitely worth a look, if you need to eat Gluten Free.

I've made the GFOAS recipe many times, just as it is, and it has always been delicious.  I now need to be dairy free as well as gluten free though, so I have made some adaptions, and thought I'd share my new recipe with you.

This has been a favourite with us as it's so easy to make, travels and keeps well (for picnics and weekends away in our caravan) and looks impressive for a treat breakfast.  It's also very good served savoury with chilli, or sweet; smeared with jam, or topped with good vanilla ice cream.

Gluten & Dairy Free Cornbread


2 cups cornmeal or polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 teaspoons baking powder (GF)
1 egg
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups almond or soy milk
4 tablespoons agave syrup (can also use maple syrup or honey)


Preheat the oven to 200 decrees celsius (slightly lower for a fan oven).

Preheat a large cast iron frying pan with 1 tablespoon coconut oil, or grease an 8" round or square cake tin.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the egg, milk and honey in another bowl.  Whisk well and the add the slightly cooled (but still liquid) coconut oil.
Add the wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.

Pour the mix into the pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (possibly more if not using a pre-heated pan - test with a skewer like you would a cake)

The cornbread will be light brown, with darker, golfed brown edges.  If you used a preheated pan, the bottom will be lovely and crispy.

Slice into wedges and serve with crispy bacon and maple or agave syrup.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

'Frozen' bike bag

Oh my poor little blog! It's been totally neglected for months! I have felt so ill and tired that there was just no energy left for blogging. But, I'm starting to feel much better now, and so sewing and blogging can recommence. Hooray!

I will explain all in another post, but for now, I'd like to share a quick project I made for my big girl today. She had a new bike a few weeks ago and I have been promising to make her a bag for it. Of course, it had to be made with 'Frozen' fabric - what else?!

I am really pleased with how it turned out and it was a really quick and simple make, which is just as well, because of course the small girl wants one too and she will not wait!

I used this pattern from Sew Can She and made a couple of minor changes. I used Kam Snaps instead of Velcro, for the fabric loop that attaches the bag to the bike. I thought it would be stronger and look neater. My loop also goes over and then under the bar on the bike, rather than under and then over, as the pattern suggests. Again, I just thought it would look nicer that way. I also added a snap to close the flap to the front of the bag. I might also add a long shoulder strap, attached to both sides, so that the bag can be carried along, once off the bike.

There's plenty of room for all those 'precious' things, that change on a daily basis, and must be carried with us at all times!

We've been riding our bikes much more lately, now that I've swapped my sporty bike for a proper Mummy bike.

I love love love my new bike! The basket is big enough for a very decent picnic and the small one loves being towed behind. She will be joined in there soon, by a little furry pal. We're getting a puppy! The girls of the household are extremely excited. Daddy's yet to be convinced!

Here she is, three weeks old. Have you ever seen a cuter thing? She will be with us in 7 weeks, and will have us wrapped around her tiny paw in no time, I am sure.

Something I haven't shared on the blog so far is that I've started a little enterprise. I'm selling my sewn creations under the name 'Evie and Lola' through a Facebook page, Etsy and at local craft fairs. It's going well so far and I'm loving it. Pop along and give me a 'like' by following one of the links below.

I'm thinking I might just pop a couple of these bike bags in the store, what do you think?

Evie and Lola on Facebook

Evie and Lola on Etsy