Friday, 21 July 2017

Post Natal Depression & Social Anxiety

Yesterday evening I was supposed to be going out to meet old friends and hopefully make new ones. I had planned to do this for a month, I was excited and planned an outfit, I was taking baby Humphrey along but it was still a night out. Yet I did not go out I sat here writing this post. I woke up in the morning and immediately had a panic, a physical feeling in the pit of my stomach. I then played out 1000 scenarios for the evening and started to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. The day drew on I was talking on the phone arranging the conference, sounding pretty confident, sending out emails, going about my day but still this feeling remained in the pit of my stomach. As time ticked on the sweating started. Then I started to make excuses to myself; Sebastian will be upset if I go out, I have too much work to do, I will get tired. Whilst all of those things are true they are not the reason I stayed away, I stayed away because I was scared. 

Trying to explain social anxiety to someone who has not had it is pretty near to impossible because all of their responses will be logical and the fear is illogical. Nothing really bad will happen. No probably not. If someone is mean to you it is not the end of the world, also true, and yet the fear is crippling.

I have mental health issues, I have written about them in the past so with Sebastian we were on high alert for PND, it never came, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life before or since. During my pregnancy with Humphrey the flag went up again and we were pretty confident that all would be well but it wasn't. The second night that Humphrey was in the world Sebastian woke up, as he always does and Joe had to go in and I couldn't go in as I was feeding and I thought silently to myself "this is your fault Humphrey you are keeping me from my child". As soon as I thought it I burst out crying and felt guilty and spent the next 3 hours staring at him, knowing I loved him but I did not feel the same way as I did on day 2 of Sebastian. So I kept staring willing the exact same emotion to transpire. Feeling increasingly guilty when it did not and fearful of the "what you don't love your baby comments" or the looks as others would tell me they felt the same way about all of their children. But in fact all of these conversations and subsequent judgements took place in the theatre of my mind.

I cannot think straight I have 2 completely different brains, one is saying of course it is different this time get a grip. You have health and work worries that you did not have last time let it go lady. Yet the brain that is in charge, the irrational one does not take note of any of that.

So why have I lumped social anxiety in with PND they are two entirely different things, that is true, but for me one has prevented me talking about the other. Looking back I have always suffered from social anxiety and there will be people who know me personally who will think yeah right, there may even be readers who think hmmm you put yourself out there a lot I am not buying this social anxiety thing. So there are nuances to it and it is different for everyone but mine manifests in a number of ways. 

When I was younger, and a little bit now, but less so I was super loud. If I am loud and flamboyant no one will know I am in fact shitting myself and have zero confidence in who I am. If people react badly to this no worries I will just get louder, bigger, more flamboyant, bordering on obnoxious. If I am a character that is fine, presenting at events, TV, in the workplace all fine because I am protected by the role, not as raw as here I am, please be my friend.

Many people say they lose confidence when they have children, forget who they were but I get out more now because I will force myself to do anything for my children. A singing group, messy play, forest school if they are enjoying it I will go, I will make an effort with other parents as that will impact on my child but meeting up with a parent as a friend outside of those confines and I am shitting myself again. Networking I am okay with that is social yes but it is work, take that framework away and I am blowing in the wind.

All of these feelings that I have lived with my entire life all of a sudden have a further impact because your friends are the ones who you need to tell. How do you talk about something as humiliating as PND when you are scared to be social. Situations I am normally okay with like talking one on one I am scared of and it is because I know I have an elephant in the room that I want to talk about but can't, until now. Oh the beauty of online the ability to open up behind a safety curtain.

It is easy to hide because I know all the right moves and what I should be saying so I keep saying them I am just uncertain as to their validity. Also the fact that there is a common misconception that PND or in fact depression means you are sitting down sad all the time helps you hide the fact you are drowning in it.

So here is the promise I made tonight I am breaking the silence and if I am judged for it so be it you couldn't possibly have a lower opinion of me than I have of myself right now. 

This is what I know;
  • I love Sebastian 
  • I love Humphrey 
  • I will never harm either of my children
  • I wanted to have both of my children
We were so on top of reading books to Sebastian and preparing him for the new addition to our family yet those feelings of resentment of my time with Sebastian are my own. So I have to make those points my mantra when I have doubts and carry on. 

This post is not my usual recipe/interiors/craft but this blog has always been an extension of me and maybe by more of us saying look actually I am crap at this it will bring comfort to someone else. So here goes. I am crap at this, life is kicking my ass daily and I am not inspirational or a hero or even a great person I am poo most of the time and I suppose I am okay with that.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Quinoa Pancakes

vegetarian freeze ahead recipe
It is not new information to any of my regular readers that I love food and love creating new recipes but it is new that I am obsessed, yes obsessed with batch cooking. I have two kiddos under the age of four, in essence 3 full time jobs and I am renovating a house, not to mention a dog that refuses to stop moulting regardless of the weather. So where does this leave mealtimes? 

I think that sitting down together at mealtimes is vital for family life, you get to stop and talk to one another and catch up, reconnect. No TV dinners in this house I am super strict on this one. I also want myself and my family to eat healthy home cooked meals. I don't want to have to resort to ready meals that are not the best for you and damage the environment with all of the additional packaging. My answer to these dilemmas is to cook with all of my might every so often and fill the freezer and store cupboards myself.
vegetarian freeze ahead recipe
These quinoa pancakes freeze like a dream and re heat in the oven. The recipe make quite a few so feel free to enjoy some on the day and still have lots left for the freezer.

you will need (makes 20 approx)

1cup quinoa mix (I use the quinoa & Bulgar wheat mix from Tesco)
1/2 cup rolled oats 
1/2 cup Eikhorn Flour (you could just use brown/wholemeal instead)
1tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 onion
2tsp sumac 
1/4 cup milk
1tsp bicarbonate of soda  
2tbsp fresh chopped parsley 
2 garlic cloves 
salt and pepper 
olive oil for frying 

(so cute how Sebastian has decided to get involved with blog pictures now, we bought him this second hand camera for Christmas and he has not stopped using it)
vegetarian freeze ahead recipe

method;
  1. Boil and drain the quinoa mix and set aside to cool. Meanwhile fry your chopped onion and garlic until soft.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix all of the ingredients together. 
  3. Fry either side until brown and the pancake is set. 
  4. If you are freezing them let them cool and then freeze them on a baking sheet so that they keep their shape. Once fully frozen they can be transferred to a freezer bag and stored until needed.
vegetarian freeze ahead recipe
They can be served in a variety of ways. A few days ago I used them in a stack with griddle vegetables and hallumi with a tomato sauce. Not a great pic but I did grab a shot with my phone as a serving suggestion.
vegetarian freeze ahead recipe

I hope you enjoy them as much as we are.




Thursday, 6 July 2017

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
It has been a while since I shared with you one of my Paris faves. I guess my mind has been so preoccupied with baby growing and the renovation in Yorkshire I forgot that it is easy to take the city for granted. The sun is out and it is time to wander. This is the best city in the world to wander in and it is mostly flat so you can walk for miles without breaking a sweat even in the heat. In fact I hold Paris responsible for me losing all of my baby weight. I wandered for miles daily with Sebastian and still ate my fill of pastries.
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le marché des enfants rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris and is situated in the 3eme arrondissement. 
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
The food is perfect if you are like me and and enjoy a global vibe on your plate you are in luck, world food is key here and it is all authentic, fresh and reasonably priced. Okay the Moroccan food is not Moroccan prices but hey we are in Paris so cut me some slack. One thing I love is that there is a good range of vegetarian food available something that is high on my agenda, there are also a few vegan choices too in a couple of the eateries. 
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
After enjoying a very nice lunch pick up some deli-esq eats to take home and enjoy. Although it may not technically be part of the market, (I have not checked), as it is market adjacent there is one of my favourite shops in Paris, perhaps the world, and no I am not speaking hyperbolically. There is a little shop that sells old photos. Some framed, these are more expensive, others are loose in boxes, these are cheaper and my favourite as I like to rummage. A big treat for me is to have a good hour to do this. I am obsessed with what images people chose to document in the days before digital. Film photography was expensive and so they needed to count and they deserve our respect.
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
Le Marché des Enfants Rouges - A Paris Guide
If you are with little ones there is a lovely park close by, I think it is always good to have a bribe in your back pocket although Sebastian does love a cafe and shopping and will sometimes decline a park  in favour of a brocante. I have raised a true Parisian!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Curated Closet - A Book Review

I have always tried to against the grain for no other reason that I pride myself on being deliberately perverse. So when the globe went gaga for Marie Kondo I was late to the party, now my home is better because of Kondo, it not only has less "stuff" in it but it also helped me realise what stuff really matters. Then bloggers and influencers went crazy for The Curated Closet, I resisted. This time I had good reason, a reason that went beyond just being perverse, I had read books and endless articles about how to 'style' or 'edit' your wardrobe. They all followed a general format and guess what I don't suit trench coats, nor do I desire a nice pair of tailored black trousers. I found all of this fashion advice somewhat formulaic, a 'one size fits all' attitude. 
the curated closet book review http://www.archieandtherug.com/
During pregnancy I was confined to around 4 outfits. As well as being depressing being away from one's clothes really does give you the space to re evaluate your wardrobe. I also renovated a junk room into a walk in wardrobe during that time so I could see everything in front of me and knew that there were a whole mess of things there that I didn't wear, that didn't suit me and items that only held sentimental value. I knew what needed to go but I was unsure as to what to replace it with.
the curated closet book review http://www.archieandtherug.com/
When I received the book I had a 1001 things to do so I thought I would have a quick skim over a cup of tea and I was quickly sucked in. The first thing I noticed is that there is no advice given about what you should have in your wardrobe, instead it leads through a journey of editing your wardrobe in your own style.
the curated closet book review http://www.archieandtherug.com/
One of the key lessons I have learned so far is that my wardrobe did not match my lifestyle. You see the thing is I don't attend nearly as many swanky garden parties and cocktail evenings as I thought I might, try zero....who would have thought eh! I have released that instead of filling my wardrobe with gowns I should invest in nice day clothes. I previously thought hey I will invest in a few nice dresses which left very little in my clothing budget, so I was picking up ill fitting cheap crap for the rest of the time. The thing is the 'rest of the time' is the majority of my time and I deserve to feel good all the time, we all do.

If your style is chaotic and you are not sure where you stand, you go around buying things on a whim the book helps with that too. One thing I loved about it was how practical it was. When I first saw how big the book was I thought wow that is going to be a chore to get through, can I really read that much about clothing? The opposite was in fact true. I believe the fact that the book was interactive was a big part of that, full of flow charts and quizzes.
the curated closet book review http://www.archieandtherug.com/
One of my favourite hobbies is to cyber shop. What do I mean by this? I fill my basket online with everything and then close the page, of course I do I am not made of money. What I have found after reading The Curated Closet is that very little goes into the wish list basket, even my imaginary purse has become more discerning. 

Perhaps a little of these lessons come with age. When I was younger I wanted to achieve certain looks, now I am more focused on the quality and fit of an item than defining the genre of an outfit. So my verdict is this; buy the book and read it don't have it as a coffee table book you will certainly benefit from it and it will save you money as you will buy things that you will wear and look great in and curb the impulse buying that so many of us fall foul to.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

How To Master Alfresco Dining In 4 Steps

4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
One of the things I learned about living overseas is they know how to eat outside, they just do and it is not a matter of the weather being an issue because when we have nice weather in the UK we still get it wrong. Nigel Slater has an amazing description of the great British BBQ in his book Eating For England;
"I live in fear of the barbecue, it's small talk and the awkwardness of holding glass and a plate at the same time, just as others fear being run down by a bus"
For me it comes down to a few key points. Point one standing around. Eating should be a relaxed affair so standing around does not appeal. This leads me to point two, we treat an alfresco meal/BBQ as a full on party inviting everyone we know so that standing around making small talk is the only option. I think treat it as a dinner party a few guests, a sit down affair. Point three go beyond the meat fest. Okay so I am vegetarian but I, perversely I know, enjoy cooking meat, but I loathe those giant meat packs of the cheapest burgers and sausages, the ones you wouldn't feed the dog. Now of course f you have invited everyone from your Facebook friend list this is the only way to afford to execute this meal but at this juncture I will refer you to point two, don't invite everyone.

Now I am a blogger and I like all things pretty and styling is key but it does not have to be taxing so let me share with you my key finds and tips so that you can enjoy some alfresco dining this summer no matter how many days of it we get to enjoy. Surely if we only have a few days we should make them count by doing a bang up job of eating outdoors.
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
1.Seating 

You really have to sit down to have a relaxing meal in my opinion but you don't have have a huge long table to create a wonderful seating area. A picnic blanket, a small table or crates on the floor to make a long and low table would all have the desired effect. Think about cushions, there are a great many showerproof cushions on the market that you can use on the grass or to protect your bottom from damp seats. Alternatively you can use a waterproof spray on cushions if you are in need of a specific look.
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
2. Food

The main part of any alfresco dining experience is the food, if there was no food we would just be hanging out in the garden. Too often we feel that certain foods are outdoor foods, BBQ means horrid burgers and sausages, over eating white buns. Why not think outside the box. If you have successfully tackled the seating all food is back on the table, excuse the cheesy language. BBQ can be special, think of handmade burgers, local sausages, griddled vegetables. Think seafood and fish, something about fish makes people think you are fancy for serving it, I don't make the fish rules I just report them here on my blog. You don't have to be a great chef to serve a great feast why not fill your table with cheese, fruit, olives, antipasti, breads.
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
3. Lighting

Chances are that your alfresco dining will go on into the evening. We have started to eat out in the evening as a matter of course when the weather is mild so having nice lighting is essential. So lets start with the basics, candles. Candles serve a multi purpose when is comes to alfresco dining they give off a very flattering light but they also create smoke which helps to keep the flies at bay. You could even use cintronella candles to really ramp up your anti fly campaign.You will need something other than candles to light your evening whilst you mop up the last of the wine and cheese. A few years ago I would have been a little dismissive about solar lighting but solar panel technology has improved and you can now get some great festoon lighting and lanterns that run on solar power. You can also pick up better lights, both options save you getting an electrician in to hook up exterior mains lights.
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/

4. Plates & Utensils

Balancing a burger on a napkin whilst standing in the corner, no no no. So we have addressed seating lighting and the whole burger issue so let us now talk about the napkin. I am nearly 40 I do not want to eat off a napkin. I want a plate, or if I am in a hipster cafe I will settle for a bread board. There is always a worry about breakages, even if you and your guest are careful. Personally I tend to take the risk but between my toddler and the odd guest who does not hold their wine I am thinking I might look at some different options, less breakable options. 
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Plastic plates have come on a long way and there are some great designs and patterns out there. I am a bit funny with plastic and try to avoid plastic toys for the kiddos but they are long lasting and you can look for ones that will recycle when the time comes. I am leaning towards wooden or enamel plates.
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4 top tips for alfresco dining and styling http://www.archieandtherug.com/

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Bullet Journal Friend or Foe

how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Admittedly I am somewhat late to the bullet journal party. This is odd as any project that involves using nice pens and a notebook is right up my street. The reason I hung back was that I was fearful of the journal, I saw them appearing online, I looked them up, they became a sort of a Pinterest obsession of mine yet still I refused to take part because I thought that the obsession may be less than helpful and instead become another time vortex in my already too busy life. But the pens! The beautiful, beautiful pens! I was like a child standing looking at a big shiny red button that said DO NOT PRESS, longing to press it but fearful of what might happen if you do. Like any good child and red button scenario I pressed the button, I pressed it hard, who wouldn't it's a button dude, or in my case a crisp new journal and a plethora of pens! So has it turned out to be a friend or foe? Friend, it is an absolute friend but it could have quite easily gone the other way so let me advise you how to keep your friendship with the bullet journal healthy and non toxic.
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
1. KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid 
Once I decided to take the plunge I hit Etsy marketplace and started to fill my basket with lovely stencils and washi tapes, I got more than a little bit carried away. Then I remembered the golden rule that it has taken me until I am almost 40 to realise, keep it simple stupid. Sadly I emptied my basket and remembered I am not an illustrator, I am not a graphic designer and I am not a teenager with lots of time. I am a woman who works full time with zero support network in terms of childcare, 2 kids under 5 and a home to renovate this is not a project this is supposed to help me plan my time and be more efficient. So I started to think about simple layouts. 
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
2. Make The Layout Work For You
If you Google bullet journal you can easily waste the best part of a lifetime scrolling through enticing images of intricate layouts. Then there is the original advice of monthly log, daily log, future blah blah... And that is great if that suits your needs but it won't suit all of us because we are rich and diverse globe of folk, so match your journal to you not the other way around. I knew that I did not need that many logs. I needed a weekly log and that was all. I wanted to see the whole week across two pages. This was my starting point.
 how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I wanted a small section for each day, I wanted to plan daily meals to help with food budgets. I included a notes section for things that I needed to do that week but did not need to be assigned to a specific day. I also added a shopping list section and a means to track my water intake, and 5 a day. I am the sort of person who will make more effort if I get to colour in dots at the end of a day.
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
3. Make It Personal 
In addition to the weekly log I wanted to make sure I could plan for other things such as the home and garden renovation. Although this, through choice is a book that plans my life and not my blog or the NOW Blogging Conference I would still have cross over, such as recording meetings in the weekly log but also in blog post planning. I needed a place to write down plans for the home and garden renovations; jobs to do, materials to be bought etc. It seemed like a logical place to write down potential blog posts that are contained in those tasks, especially for those days when your brain melts.
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I also wanted to make a record of recommendations I receive. So often when we chat people will say, you must watch, you must listen to, you must read. I hear these, get excited and promptly forget, now I write those things on a list.
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
4. Don't Fear Change 
At first in my weekly log I had a sleep tracker. As much as a good nights sleep is a great thing and a healthy thing to monitor I have 2 children under 5, a babe in arms and a 3 year old who wakes 2 or 3 times a night, still, with vivid dreams. Basically sleep is an alien concept so why torture myself with it. If you start one way and find something is not working for you change it up.
how to bullet journal effectively http://www.archieandtherug.com/
5. Don't Freak Out Take A Break
Often when we start a project and we falter we have a meltdown and quit. Instead why not just take a break, no harm no foul. During the third trimester insomnia, cracked rib, walking a round like a zombie eating whatever I liked not budgeting food at all stage of this year I decided to put the bullet journal in a drawer. I needed to let go of organising, embrace uncertainty and go with the flow. I knew at this time seeing what needed to be done and possibly missing stuff or pushing things back would depress me so guess what I let myself off the hook and picked it back up later, That is fine, it is your journal, no teachers are going to come and mark it. It works for you remember not the other way around.

I hope that I have helped you navigate your way through the complicated relationship of bullet journal and bullet journaler - not a real word but you all know what I mean.