What do you love most about yourself? That’s a good question isn’t it? Today I explore the idea and come up with three things which could be perceived as weaknesses, but that I consider strengths.

 

What with life being completely tedious lately, I’ve been struggling to think about things to write on my blog. I did the whole banana bread thing, then I did MINI banana breads… there’s not really anywhere to go after that is there?

‘Wow guess what guys? I sat about at home today! It was so inspiring!’

No.

Instead I thought perhaps the time had come to start thinking about STUFF. You know, STUFF. The inside bits, the big questions. My word of the year is SELF after all, and as this hasn’t been able to translate itself yet into spa days, maybe for now it needs to be a bit more introspective.

To spur me on, I bought a pack of ‘Questions to Empower‘ cards from Mål Paper. It’s 52 cards, each with a different question on it, designed to encourage self reflection. Perfect, just what I need to save me having to come up with original ideas. The cards arrived. I opened them. I gave them a shuffle and turned over the top card.

What do you love most about yourself?

‘What do I love most about myself?’

I felt relieved, like the cards were easing me in gently, because to be completely honest there are a lot of things I love about myself. I know the done thing if someone asks ‘what do you love most about yourself?’ is to point out your flaws and be secretly full of self loathing but I generally think I’m pretty great. I’m nearly 43, I’ve been a parent since I was 17, I’m kind, generous, smart, funny, modest… I’m a solid 9/10. (You have to keep something back otherwise you get lazy.)

I gave the question time to settle though, and mulled it over a bit. I wanted to think about some of the things I loved about myself that could be perceived by other people as flaws – the less obvious things that nonetheless make me who I am. Here are a few of the things that I came up with. View Post

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If you follow me on Instagram stories, you’ll know that I accidentally stayed in bed until lunchtime one day this week reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I’ve read a few Matt Haig books before and I always really enjoy them. He just makes the whole thing so easy. There aren’t those difficult chapters at the beginning where you have to get to know the characters, you never say ‘it took me a while to get into but…’ you’re just THERE, in the story from page one.

The basic premise is that a woman called Nora decides to kill herself, and before she dies she finds herself in the Midnight Library. The library offers her the chance to reflect on her life and her regrets and to try different lives, lives where she’d made different choices.

When I started reading The Midnight Library I figured I knew exactly what was coming – it’s a lesson in living life with no regrets, of not always wishing the grass was greener or imagining what your life might be like if only…

And yes, it is about that – the plot isn’t surprising in that sense – but it’s about something else too, which I’m not sure I had expected or appreciated quite as much.

One of the pivotal moments in the book happens when, in one of her parallel lives, Nora is confronted by a polar bear.

The Midnight Library polar bear

I don’t think polar bears look this chummy in real life

As you might expect, she’s terrified – properly beside herself with fear – but this moment is also the first moment where she realises that she doesn’t want to die, that life might be worth living after all. It’s no coincidence that this strong emotion triggers such a powerful feeling in her, but I’m just not sure I’ve given this enough thought lately. View Post

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We beat ourselves up a lot as human beings for our supposed ‘weaknesses’ don’t we? We admonish ourselves every time we eat a third bourbon or indulge in back to back Married at First Sight Australia. We imagine what better all round people we’d be if we only did the washing up immediately after dinner and didn’t ever text an ex after a glass of wine.

The fact is, we all do stupid stuff.

We all do things that we know, on some level, aren’t good for us. We do things knowing they are going to impact our health or our emotional wellbeing or possible contribute to the decline of the British High Street. But do you know what? It’s okay.

It’s okay if you get things wrong sometimes, it’s okay to make mistakes. The point of making this list, with the help of people on social media, is not to shame you, but to empower you. You can read this list knowing that all of these things are done by other people too and that it doesn’t make you a failure as a human.

What’s way more important is kindness, showing empathy, offering support when you are able. Making people laugh, sharing hopes and dreams, loving your family and friends. You can do all of this at the same time as eating too many crisps. If lockdown life has taught us anything it’s that being kind, both to ourselves and to other people, should be the priority.

So here’s my list of things that are bad for you that you do anyway – some aren’t even that bad at all, which proves my point really, that it’s all meaningless standards imposed on ourselves, by ourselves. Hopefully that’s a comfort.

Some are my own, some are other people, all of them are human. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

I don’t know about you, but over the last year my life feels like it has got smaller and smaller.

I not unhappy for the most part, but it has shrunk down until now it’s really just about food, drink, walks, cats and Instagram stories. And let’s face it, even some of the walks and the food is really just about the stories.

It’s quite an exposing state of being when you think about it. I imagine it like a series of concentric circles, with the furthest out ones being all of the things you do and the people you see that you normally engage with the least – in my case gym classes, children* etc – and gradually each layer has been peeled away until we are just left as these exposed inner cores, clinging onto the few keys things that make us human at least. I feel like the connections I do have with people are more real – there’s no small talk, you both know you’re in that park for a reason, so you get right down to it.

Food has become a much more significant pleasure too. I’ve taken to just eating whatever I want, whenever I want, but in an almost spiritual way. I don’t just munch on snacks for fun – I take my time choosing, and I savour the experience. When your pleasures have become fewer, they deserve taking more seriously.

What I do miss about food though is constantly being the one to have to cook it and wash up. Eating out has always been one of my best things, hence brunch club, and I miss the novelty of something new, of not being sure what something is going to look and taste like until it’s on your fork and in your mouth.

If I had endless wealth and lived somewhere cosmopolitan then a substantial part of my diet would be takeaways, but as I didn’t even qualify for any freelance financial support, it seems a bit foolhardy to spend all of the money I’m saving on my mortgage repayment holiday on satay chicken sticks and king prawns with cashew nuts.

I’m rambling. I apologise.

The point of this post is that I’ve teamed up with the competition website Competition Finder to provide you with some lockdown food inspiration and relaxation in the form of a selection of easy recipes and £50 TO SPEND ON TAKEAWAY. View Post

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A little while ago I found myself having drinks with a friend. The subject got onto men, as it often does, and specifically my apparent lack of skill when it comes to identifying good ones.

Belle was there too, and she’s always happy to feed into a conversation about my failings, so the stage was set.

We were talking about an ex partner of mine, and I was revealing something they had done early in the relationship which, when it happened, I had chosen to ignore.

‘What the FUCK dude?’ said the friend. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that at the time?? I’d have made you leave him.’

I sighed.

‘Seriously,’ she said, ‘you can’t ignore things like that!’

I can’t remember what it was exactly – it may have felt insignificant at the time – but it was an excellent example of why I end up in these odd and unsatisfying relationships. It’s because I choose to ignore the relationship red flags.

I like the see the best in people, I empathise, I understand. I think to myself ‘okay so that’s not ideal, but I can totally see why their experiences as a child/low self-esteem/borderline personality disorder etc etc might make them behave like that, and so it’s really not their fault and I have to let that go.’

WRONG. View Post

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Do you have a word for 2021?

It might feel a bit of a naff idea, but choosing a word for the year isn’t just about making a Pinterest board of inspirational quotes, or getting your word made into vinyl wall art, it’s about the intention behind the word.

My word for 2021 is SELF.

SELF as a word is not as selfish as it might first seem. (And is it actually a bad thing to be selfish? That’s for another blog post maybe.) SELF to me is about investing in yourself, understanding yourself, and in doing so becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. Doing this is just about the least selfish thing you can do if you think about it, because it’s only when you are at your best that you can be the best friend, parent, employee, and all of those other roles which we assign ourselves.

On the same day that I decided on SELF as my word of the year, my Dad sent me a picture. It was a picture of me, which my Uncle John had only just had developed from a (very) old roll of film.

Word of the year 2021

If that’s not the universe saying ‘great choice with your word Joey’ then I don’t know what kind of sign I should be waiting for. View Post

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Slummy single mummy

Remember this photoshoot we did years ago for a newspaper article I’d written? I had to bribe Bee with cash and a pair of Converse. One of the best things about being a single parent is that you can bribe them as much as you like without being judged.

 

Being a single parent is hard work, there’s no getting away from it.

It can feel relentless, both in a practical ‘seriously, I have to make dinner AGAIN? But I already did it 27,928 times?’ kind of way and emotionally too. Having to be responsible for all of the family decision making, without someone to compare notes with, can feel like a huge amount of pressure, and let’s not even start on the fact that you always have to be the one to take out the bins.

Like most situations in life though, being a single parent is essentially what you make it. Yes it can be lonely sometimes, and a bit sad when you get home and literally no one, apart from the cats*, cares about how your day went, but if you pack all that away at the back of your head, there are actually quite a lot of benefits to being the sole parent.

I’ve thought back over my actual years and years as a single parent and pulled out some of the best bits about being a single parent to give lone mums and dads with younger children some encouragement. What’s great is that a lot of these get even better as your kids get older –  they generally don’t want to get in your bed as much, you can go out and leave them in the house alone and they get their own bowls of cereal.

(*The cats only care if you do voices for them, which may or may not be okay.) View Post

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We have this thing in our house. It goes like this…

Someone will get up to do something like go to the toilet or get a drink. Someone else, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity, will say ‘while you’re up…’ It is then the duty of the person who is up to do the bidding of the second person.

Sometimes it’s something simple like ‘while you’re up could you get me a drink of water please?’ Often though, it’s more complex. As it’s just me and Belle in the house and I’m a little more up and about than Belle normally, it’s often me who takes the brunt.

Picture the scene. I get up to have a wee. Belle, who has probably been secretly waiting for this moment for at least half an hour, stirs on the sofa.

‘While you’re up…’ she begins.

‘Yessss…’ I say, taking a slow intake of breath because she has a cheeky look on her face like she’s probably not going to be asking for a glass of water. ‘What?’

‘Can you get me some kind of pudding?’ She says.

‘What kind of pudding?’ I ask. (The worst requests are the non-specific ones.)

‘Something nice,’ she says.

‘We’ve got bananas?’ I suggest. She raises her eyebrows.

‘Could you get me,’ she begins, and she does a sort of wriggle in her seat, like she’s just thought of the perfect thing and she’s excited, ‘a bowl of ice cream, and could I have a spoonful of peanut butter on the top. And then could you grate a little bit of chocolate over it all? And could you get me my lip balm from upstairs please?’

And I have to do it because those are the rules of ‘while you’re up’. View Post

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This is a paid advertorial with Tesco

Today I’m talking about Tesco Clubcard Plus, giving you a three month update on my post from August. With Tesco Clubcard Plus you can save 10% off 2 in-store shops per month up to £200 each, so up to £40 every month* on your in-store grocery shop and 10% on selected Tesco brands, including clothing and homeware, but is Tesco Clubcard Plus worth it? Am I still using it and saving money? Read on to find out…

 

Being an ‘influencer’ is a funny old job, not least because a lot of the time you have no idea whether or not you’re any good at it.

I know I can write of course, I don’t suppose Penguin would have asked me to write my book if they thought I was rubbish at that bit, but I don’t always know the power of my words. Just because I write about something, does that actually influence people’s decision making? Do my words impact people’s choices?

I like to think yes, but it’s always nice to get feedback, like these Instagram messages I got after I posted this slow cooker pulled pork recipe.

how to be an influencer

That’s reassuring isn’t it? You know the power is in your hands if someone buys three pork shoulders on your say so. You can see what I did there though – lured him in with the cats and then boom, sold him the pork.

One of the easiest ways to tell though whether or not I’m an effective influencer is how much I influence MYSELF. I’ve worked with loads of brands and businesses over the years where I’ve tried a product or service and loved it so much that I’ve never gone back. It’s quite exciting actually, because since I started blogging I’ve got to try so many new things that I might not otherwise have known about, and hopefully that’s where I come in handy for you – testing things out so that you don’t have to.

One of the most recent things I’ve converted myself to is Tesco Clubcard Plus.

I’ll be honest, when Tesco first asked me to give Tesco Clubcard Plus a whirl back in August I was cautious – it’s £7.99 a month and although you’re free to cancel at any time I was wary of signing up for another monthly commitment. In fact, even though I could absolutely see the value in it when I tried it, I did initially cancel after my first month because I was worried about forgetting to use it.

I know, not the best advert right?

BUT…

Then I RESUBCRIBED. View Post

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Advertisement feature – the best homemade chicken korma with Simply Cook

Chicken korma recipe kit Simply Cook

Things are a bit slow on the ‘eating out with friends’ front at the moment aren’t they? (She says, making the understatement of the year.)

It’s a shame, because eating out with friends is one of my best hobbies. If 2020 has made me realise anything it’s that I’m actually a lot more sociable than I give myself credit for. I do enjoy my own company, but I miss seeing people so much.

What’s surprised me the most is that I miss everybody, not just good friends, who I’ve made an effort to see when I can, but all of those other people, the people you maybe only see once or twice a month at events or groups, but who you always enjoy a chat with. These kind of small interactions seem inconsequential but they have a big impact.

And I miss the food. I’m not going to pretend it’s ALL about the people.

I miss eating things I’ve never tried before and having someone else cook it AND wash up for me. I miss trying new flavours and generally eating things that aren’t chicken nuggets and jacket potatoes and spaghetti Bolognese. You get stuck in a rut when you’re at home all the time don’t you? Eating out isn’t just good fun in itself, it inspires me to cook different things at home too.

Today though I did COOKING! Hoorah!

I made a Moghul chicken korma using a spice kit from Simply Cook. There are three individual pots of specially blended pastes, powders and potions* each in recipe box, along with a recipe card with a handy tear off shopping list so you know exactly what to buy to create your delicious, restaurant quality dinner. View Post

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I went to Lyme Regis yesterday.

I went to Lyme Regis a lot over the summer, but I haven’t been since one particularly tricky weekend a couple of months ago and I’ve missed it. I think it might be my very favourite seaside. It has pebbles and sand, pretty fishing boats, colourful beach huts, a couple of eccentric book shops and a kiosk selling excellent coffee and bagels.

And the sea obviously. But also bagels. Did I mention the bagels?

Of course while I was there I had a paddle. You can’t go to the seaside and not have a paddle can you? It was freezing, but I took my socks and shoes off regardless, and the cold was surprisingly exhilarating.

Lyme Regis also has some rather lovely gardens, which climb up the side of the hill from the beach, and feature a small mini golf course. If Lyme Regis wasn’t already my favourite seaside town then the mini golf would seal the deal.

For some reason though I don’t normally walk up and into the gardens, but yesterday I did. I hadn’t realised that the gardens have a little sculpture trail, and so I was quite surprised when I came across this.

Persephone sculpture Lyme Regis

My first thought was ‘me after bearing two children’,* but then I read the sign that went with it and felt a bit taken aback, because it really did feel like it was written for me.

I felt like I’d been caught out. View Post

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How does it feel to give birth at any age really? Could you describe birth to someone who hasn’t experienced it and really communicate what it’s like in a way that would make them feel it?

Even if you could, would that birth experience be their birth experience? I’ve given birth twice and I’m not sure there were comparable, even though it was the same hospital, the same vagina.

I was pregnant the first time around when I was just 16 years old and gave birth at 17 and now, aged 42, I often think about the women starting families for the first time. It feels a lifetime away to me. How on earth would I cope with the exhaustion and pain of pregnancy and childbirth now, let alone the sleepless nights and relentless parenting. If there is one perk to having a baby as a teenager it’s that you have a LOT more energy.

Baby Bee

Me and baby Bee

When people find out that I had a baby when I was 17, their first reaction is often ‘that must have been hard’, but honestly, I’m not sure it was. You have an adaptability and resilience when you’re 17, a kind of carelessness almost, like the world is yours for the taking. At 17 I felt invincible, immortal. Nothing much worried me – I just lived. Things happened, I made things happen.

Giving birth as a teenager, I felt like I knew it all. I didn’t really have a plan, I certainly didn’t have a birthing soundtrack or preferred blend of essential oils, but perhaps that worked in my favour? I know a lot of women have births that don’t go according to their ‘plan’ and they end up feeling like they’ve failed somehow.

I was naïve at 17 for sure, unprepared even, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, maybe it allowed me to just go with it, to do whatever needed to be done without self-criticism.

I wonder sometimes if this isn’t just my entire approach to life to be honest.

To give you a little flavour though of what it was actually like for me, giving birth at 17, I’ve reproduced, unedited, my own ‘birth report’ from the time, transferred from the Peter Rabbit notebook I wrote it in 25 years ago. I have shared this before, a long, long time ago, but as you likely haven’t been reading my blog for ten years, I thought it was worth another look. View Post

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