Thursday, 26 November 2015

Drowning Not Waving

I have really struggled to write this post but every time I thought that I should just hit the delete button and quit I realised how important it was to me and it gave me the strength and determination to carry on writing.It is easier to develop recipes and take nice photos than it is to be honest and open about your feelings.
For those of you who are long term followers of my blog you will know that I started it as my online escape to a positive place whilst I was battling breast cancer. Many years have passed since I first started my little blog and it has grown into something much more. I am so lucky to have been able to change career and start to earn a living from blogging but it was not until I shared my cancer story and had so many women reach out to me, some of whom I am still in email contact with that it occurred to me that I am able to do more than make a living I can reach out to people, I can create a community and a discussion on subjects that I feel are important not only to me but to many others. One of the most important factors in dealing with cancer for me, and for the women that reached out to me was a feeling of being alone. The friends and family who are around you at the time are invaluable but it is also important to connect with others who just 'get it'. Who know what you mean when you talk about treatment or emotions. It is this feeling of not being alone in difficult times that has prompted me to write this post.

I, like many other women really struggled to stay pregnant. Before I was blessed with Sebastian I had lost seven babies, six miscarriages and a still birth. A few weeks ago I lost my eighth baby and it destroyed me. Given my history I did not relax once during my pregnancy with Sebastian but this time I allowed myself to feel it was okay. However when I went for a scan at what should have been 14 weeks heard the words I have heard far too often, "we can't find a heartbeat". I waited a week for a second scan, during that week I tortured myself on Google reading stories of joy and woe and grasping onto any shred of hope I could. The night before I was due to have my second scan I started to bleed. Then I waited a week before I could have a procedure, (how clinical the language is that we use at times like this), as my body was not miscarrying properly! That whole concept seems ridiculous but the truth is many women have what is called a failed miscarriage and have to have medical intervention.
The grief you feel from losing a baby is real grief yet we are expected to grieve in silence, in secret if you will. The majority of women have miscarriages before twelve weeks so we are told not to tell anyone that we are pregnant, in the time when we feel sick and tired and hormonal we are expected to keep it a secret as that is 'the danger period' and we might have to then tell people that we had a miscarriage. But why? Why are we expected to grieve in secret, not let people know why we are physically and emotionally destroyed. We are told it is because we should not have to put ourselves through the ordeal of breaking the news to people but that is poppycock (I would use a stronger word but it is my blog rule). The fact is it is other people who don't want to hear your bad news, who feel awkward because they don't know what to say. In telling women that we should keep our pain secret, quiet and personal, we are not only subjecting them to an inhumane ordeal but we are isolating them from one another. We are preventing them being able to say to another woman with a shared experience, I went through this and allow them to heal together. To talk to other people about the things that we thought and felt and not feel alone in that.

So to those who are reading this and feeling alone, stop, you are not alone. I will share some of my thoughts to prove to you that you are not alone. I am convinced that it is my fault, that I did something wrong. All science and reason has left the building. It was my job to grow, nurture and protect my baby and I failed. It was my fault because I thought it was bad timing as we were moving. I was my fault because I worried that I would not have enough love for two children. I was my fault because I thought I have nothing warm that fits. It was my fault because I am a bad mother. In between blaming myself I am angry and pissed off at the world and I know that it is unfounded but I am still angry. I cry when I see a pregnant woman or a woman with a baby but I am still happy for them even though it is hard to say so. I am tired of platitudes and ungrateful when people say them, I smile and nod but what I really want to say is shut up, leave me alone and let me be sad I am entitled to be sad and you can take your positivity and stick it. I think that but deep down I know they say what they say because they just want to help, and then I feel guilty for wanting to tell them to stick it. I hate when people say stupid things like; "At least you have Sebastian", so if one of your children died you would laugh it off and think ahh well I have one left in reserve, no, so don't say it. Or telling me, "well you must be used to it by now", my word why would they say that! The truth is grief is different for all of us and my thoughts and emotions may not mirror yours but you are entitled to feel all that you are feeling right now. 
When I first started to write this post it was simply about pulling back the curtain on miscarriage but the more I thought about it the more I thought it is more than that it is about depression as well as grief. When people say it all comes at once they are right and the fact of the matter is I have been struggling for a few months and just about keeping my head above water. I lost my baby, I moved away from some wonderful friends, the city where I made my family was attacked and my friend lost both her parents in the blink of an eye, I have some terrible family issues that are clearly never going to be resolved and have left me feeling pretty isolated. My father has over my lifetime actively chosen to not be a part of my life four times now and yes it still hurts and no I always expect it to be better 'this time'. Add to that the daily grind of no sleep, financial and physical pressures of moving and  you get a person who is on the edge. Almost as bad as being on the edge is the fear of anyone else knowing that you are and this is what I want to highlight today. I am a mother of the most perfect boy in the world so I spend his every waking hour smiling and singing. All aspects of my work require me to be happy and peppy and we all live in fear of being 'that' person. The person people avoid as they don't want to hear their woes. But I have to make sure I look okay because I don't want people worrying that I won't meet a work deadline, I have to earn money, parent my boy and keep going. That involves washing, dressing well, sometimes popping on some make up and smiling, above all smiling and saying, "I'm fine". So often we are told that a depressed person looks sad, won't look you in the eye, has stopped washing but that is not true. Most of us are just about treading water and most days I feel like I am drowning. I keep thinking of a line in a song that went, "I'd like to be un happy but I really don't have the time".

The holiday season is a double edged sword it is a great time to come together but it also the time where you put your life under a microscope and expect it to be something that it isn't. At the same time you convince yourself that those around you are living in a perfect festive bubble, they aren't.

So I leave you with this message, don't presume people are fine, tell people you are not fine and more than likely you will find a kindred spirit and trust me it is better than being silent and alone.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Mushroom And Cider Sauce - Recipe

mushroom and cider sauce recipe
Sometimes people neglect the sauce and gravy element of their meal, it becomes an after thought. Well not in my house as a Northern lass I don't hold with dry dinner. This is such a simple recipe to prepare and works well with a number of veggie or meat options. I have it on good authority from my meat loving pals that this would be, "grand with chicken or beef", so there you have it. 

you will need;

20g butter
200g button mushrooms
150g shallots
200ml dry cider
100ml vegetable stock
3tbsp crème fraîche
2tsp dried tarragon 
salt and pepper  

  1. Finely slice the shallots and mushrooms. Gently fry in the butter over a low heat until the shallots start to brown and become soft and the mushrooms release their liquid.
  2. Add the cider, stock and tarragon. 
  3. Cook the simmer the sauce until it has reduced by a third. 
  4. Take off the heat, stir through the crème fraîche and season to taste.
mushroom and cider sauce recipe

Sunday, 15 November 2015

5 Tips For Creating A Vignette At Home

So let me pull back the curtain and let you in on some blogger secrets. Okay so we are not the magic circle but we do have our ways and we don't live in perfect houses, in fact some (most) days there is a high chance that I could be crushed under the weight of my ironing pile. One thing we bloggers do have is the ability to see with a bloggers eye, or through a lens. The great thing about sharing life through a lens is that you get to edit out the mammoth ironing pile and any other less desirable elements of your home.
So what is the point of creating a vignette in your home if you are not a blogger? Well you may be a designer/maker and one of the best ways to photograph your lovely products is to set it within a story so that people can see how it might look in their own home. Another great reason is because they look nice. I don't know anyone who says their house is finished, not really, there are always tweeks to be made, large and small, but it can look great on the way. Creating vignettes is a great way to dress a shelf or change up the decor in a space without getting the paint brushes out. Now we have discussed the benefits let me share my tips with you.
  1. SHOP YOUR HOME - Even if you are not a self confessed hoarder like me there will be items in your house that you can display. Old books, a shell from the beach, a gift your child has made for you. When placed in the right grouping any item can be made to shine.
  2. ODD NUMBERS ARE KEY - This is a standard rule for the aesthetics of life. One, three, five, seven, is visually stronger than two, four, eight. I don't know why it just is.
  3. VARY THE HEIGHTS & DEPTHS - By having objects that do not sit neatly in a row it is more interesting to the eye.
  4. BE BOLD - You should at least one thing that stands out, more than one if you are styling a larger space. Build your vignette around this item. It could be bold because of colour or shape. In the case of my fish vase it is bold on two counts. The vase was c/o Joy, their site has clothes and gifts. The home and gift section is filled with beautiful affordable statement pieces to make your vignettes pop. 
  5. THINK ABOUT TEXTURES - Varying the textures adds interest to the eye. I paired the high gloss glaze on my vase with muted faded papers of old books and the rough texture on the box brownie camera.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Is Your Home Christmas Ready? - With Homesense

Christmas,  Lifestyle  image,  homes,  interiors,  HomeSense,  white,  table,  ornaments,  garland
As the self declared Mrs. Christmas and interiors obsessive I was over the moon to work with Homesense on this post about getting your home ready for Christmas. Right now the car parks of every DIY superstore is filled with people in a mad rush to give their homes a little revamp before the holiday season. It is a time of year when we are going to fill our homes with friends and family and we want it to look its best. This is a busy time of year and you don't need to break your back or the bank to get your house ship shape, or should I say Christmas shape.

Sometimes all you need to do is brighten up existing decor as opposed to a completely new scheme, re-painting your walls the same colour as they already are make them feel fresher, covers up any toddler crayon mishaps and frees you up to change the wall decor. 

Setting up vignettes in your home at Christmas is a great way of using any objet d'art that you already own and combining them with your seasonal spoils. You could even treat yourself to a few new ones. 
You don't have to wait until December before you start making your house ready for the festive season. Now is the time to bring out the blankets, bring in the evergreens, the pine cones and fill your home with stag cushions and tweed. By creating a winter space for Christmas you get to enjoy it for longer and add to it once the 1st of December arrives and the tree goes up.
Look at other spaces in your home and see how you can give them that Christmassy flare. A mantle piece in a bedroom, the chalkboard wall in the kitchen - after all you live in your entire house not just the lounge.
Christmas,  Lifestyle  image,  homes,  interiors,  HomeSense,  Christmas  tree,  black  board,  let  it  snow
Why not try grouping ornaments that are too heavy or large for your tree with some extra fairy lights in a window or alcove. You can always use command hooks to adorn your home so that your walls are not ruined.
Homsense is part of the TK Maxx family so you will be able to find new delights each visit. I have put together a few of my favourite items from Homesense to inspire you whilst you decide how to start preparing your home for Christmas this November.
red candle holder // wooden tree ornament // reindeer cushion // black house candle holder 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

November Christmas

Halloween is out of the way so I don't want to hear any complaining. The fact is I have been using the C word since August, but that is just me. So here it is brace yourselves; Christmas, Christmas Christmas! The key to a stress free Christmas with lots of time for handmade goodies is preparation and planning, so as self proclaimed Mrs. Christmas since I was about eight years old let me guide you. Here is what you need to do in November for a successful Christmas.
  • This is the time to make your cards and gift wrap. Even if you don't plan to make all of your cards and wrapping it is nice to make a few for special gifts and close friends and family. If you are looking for inspiration there is this handmade card post & this one too. For gift wrap inspiration see this, this and this.
  • Have a clear out. Your house is about to be filled with more things and more people so have a clear out. Take things to a charity shop or donate any warm clothes and blankets to a shelter.
  • Call friends & family. The holiday season is very busy for everyone so make arrangements now about who you can see and when. Giving everyone lots of notice is the best way to avoid any upset or arguments.
  • Plan your family events. Is there a local carol service you want to attend? When will you go and choose the tree? All of these things can be fun and not add any stress if you have them in your diary. There is always time to add a new tradition, this year I am starting one by taking my two boys on the Santa special steam train in Keighley. There is also the annual tradition in my local cinema in Hebden Bridge of showing It's A Wonderful Life.
  • Make your own Advent calendar, there is a lot of crafty inspiration on the net, there is a little site called Pinterest you may have heard of. You could use this tutorial that combines crafty goodness with family fun as each day you add your own Christmas activity, anything from a romantic winter walk to making mulled wine and eating chestnuts under a blanket.
  • November is a great month for crafting. I like to save some crafting for December so I can make things whilst the decorations are up but any decorations November is the time. Here are some links to decorations you can make this December; one // two // three // four.
  • Go through your recipe/food plan for the Holiday season and sift out any and all recipes that can be made in advance and frozen or stored. Many sauces and soups can be frozen such as this bread sauce recipe. For winter soup inspiration you could try these; one // two // three. And they can all be made in advance and stored in the freezer. You can also freeze certain cookies and desserts. It is not just the freezer that can preserve your food you can also make chutney, pickles and cranberry sauce in advance and store in jars. In fact they taste better after a little maturing. Tray my recipe for cranberry and port sauce or my winter chutney, both great with cheese!

  •  Nothing smells more divine than a Christmas cake baking in your home and November is cake month as you need to feed it weekly. I have spent years tweeking my cake recipe to get it just the way I like it and when I was happy and shared it with all of you, here is the link.
  • More handmade. There are many handmade gifts that you can make in December and I will share them with you when we are closer to Christmas but other gifts take longer to make such as handmade soap. Soap needs at least 6 weeks to cure so it is time to start - follow my tutorial to show you how.
  • Start buying now. Christmas is not all handmade so start buying little things now to spread the cost. In truth I buy gifts throughout the year but from now add a little bit to your grocery bill each week so that it is not too painful at the end, Most stores have their Christmas ranges in now and you will be surprised at the lengthy shelf life on some items. 

I hope you have enjoyed my guide. I will be sharing a December countdown also so keep your eyes peeled, or you could always follow me on Bloglovin.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

5 Ways To Make Your Bed The Best Bed

missoni home cushions
The nights are closing in and don't wish you could hibernate through the winter, of course you can wake up for the holidays. Our bed is the most attractive place to be on the cold days but I am going to share with you my tips for how to make your bed a luxurious place to hibernate.

1. Go Large! Your bed has just warmed up you are drifting off to a deep sleep and the duvet has moved only to leave a cold spot. Buy a duvet that is larger than you need. You would be surprised at the difference a king size duvet on a double bed makes to warmth. If you are in a relationship it will also cut down on duvet hogging arguments as there will be more than enough to go around. Aesthetically it just looks a bit luxurious too which is always a bonus for the interior savvy among you 
scatter cushions
2. Get Cushions. If you are like me then you will have watched more than one situation comedy in your lifetime, even if it was against your will. In most 'sit coms' the writers like to perpetuate and over exaggerate gender stereotypes and one of the over used ones that I have seen is cushion comedy. According to comedy writers men do not comprehend cushions on a bed and women are addicted to them but fail to see how pointless they are. I will now end this argument cushions are not pointless, when you are sitting up in bed a pillow is not sufficient padding to make it comfortable. You need small cushions that you can moved around yourself and prop behind your head to form and safe comfy reading cocoon. Now we have laid that to rest once and for all I can tell you that the cushions you see here were c/o Sofa Sofa and Missoni Home. They can be used on a sofa, chair or bed, they are nice and firm whilst still being squishy. follow the link above to see the full range of fabrics and prices.
linen sheets
3. Be Natural. If you can avoid synthetic bedclothes or synthetic blends do so. They feel horrid and they don't last as long and they make you sweaty. The truth is pure cotton is not cheap nor is linen. My tip is head down to TKMAXX or a similar store as you can get pure cotton and linen there for a fraction of the cost, (it's what I do). I also discovered that John Lewis do a basics range that is not half bad and not too expensive. So it may be worth shopping around.
knitted hot water bottle cover
4. Pre-warm. I have a number of friends who have electric blankets and would not live without them. The idea is you put it on, it warms the bed. You turn it off and slip into warmed sheets, remember to take all of the precautions necessary for using an electrical item. I co sleep with my little one so it is not recommended to have an electric blanket so I adopt an old school method; fill hot water bottle, place where my feet will be, slip into warmed foot area.
ceramic lamp
5. Get The Right Lamp. When you choose a bedside lamp it is important to remember that at some point you will slouch down and many lamps leave you with a harsh light in your new lowered slouchy eye line. In my experience a bright light in your eye is not the best for a relaxing hibernation. One way to combat this is to choose a lamp that diffuses the light such as a ceramic lamp.

There you have it my guide to make the best of your bed. Happy hibernation!