More and more single women choose to go through IVF alone in order to become a mum. In fact, in 2013, 952 singles were registered with a fertility clinic in the UK. This represents an increase of 226% since 2006! Whether having expressly chosen to remain independent or having simply not yet found the right man to have a child with, for these women and others like them, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) represents an excellent solution to becoming pregnant without a partner. 

Why choose IVF?

Opting to have a child alone is not an easy decision to make. However, whether it’s due to the ticking of the biological clock or simply a matter of choice, some women decide that it’s not because they are single that they are forced to give up on their dream of becoming a mum. In vitro fertilisation is often a second option for women who first try artificial insemination without experiencing any success. IVF is therefore seen as an alternative for singles who require a sperm donor in order to conceive.

In short, IVF is a fertility technique that involves the fertilisation of eggs with sperm in a laboratory dish. The result, called the embryo, is then placed into the woman’s womb. Regarding the woman’s fertility, the eggs can be hers or those of a donor.

Where to find a sperm donor?

To get pregnant through IVF, solo women can find their donors in various ways. They can opt for an anonymous donor chosen from a sperm bank or a fertility clinic. Some prefer to select a donor they know, for instance a close relative or a friend. One of the advantages is that they are already familiar with the donor’s personality and physical appearance.

Another alternative is to find a sperm donor on the internet, via a website. On these online platforms, women who want to become a mum have access to different profiles that will help them to find the right donor. There, they’ll have the chance to get to know him, to meet him and to ask him questions. You also have women who deliberately choose this option because they want to offer their child the opportunity to have a relationship with their donor.

How does IVF work?

First of all, it’s important that the woman goes to her GP to get informed about all of her options for becoming pregnant. She’ll have to undergo a series of tests to ensure that her body is able to have a baby. If the woman is using her own eggs to become pregnant via IVF, she’ll have to use medication to supress her natural menstrual cycle and then boost her egg supply by taking a fertility hormone. The next step is to collect the mature eggs with a needle in order to fertilize them with sperm. After developing in the laboratory for up to 6 days, the embryo is finally transferred to the woman’s womb with a catheter. Once that is done, patience is the name of the game, as our potential mum must then wait for 2 weeks before taking a pregnancy test.

The success rate of IVF is dependent on a woman’s age: 32,2% of women under 35 will have the chance to have a baby via this method as opposed to only 1.9% of women over 44. Becoming a mum can certainly present a lot of hurdles when you are a single woman. However, let’s stay hopeful: the joy of motherhood will be worth the effort!

single woman IVF

Image – Valeria Aksakova/shutterstock

This dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe is inspired by my recent trip to Vietnam.

They have a lot of coconuts in Vietnam. We visited the Mekong Delta on day two, and went by boat to a tiny island where they make sweets out of coconut, grinding up the coconut and boiling it with sugar cane. We saw a lot of coconut based souvenirs too and, best of all, I got to drink a lot of coconut water. Pretty much everywhere you go you can order coconut water to drink, just like you might order a Coke – they just cut the top off a coconut and stick in a straw.

Not only does it taste amazing but it looks pretty cool too.

When Dole asked me if I wanted to try out their new frozen fruit packs then, I thought it might be fun to try and create a coconut smoothie recipe that you could actually drink out of a coconut, should you felt so inclined. 

Pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

Of course you can just make it and have it in a glass like a normal person, but where would be the Instagrammable fun it that?! I realised too, when I came home and found myself ordering a massive cheese platter when out for lunch with a friend, that I pretty much ate no dairy in Vietnam, so I figured a dairy free smoothie recipe would fit well.

But first things first…

How to break a coconut in half

This was the challenge. 

I’ve won coconuts at fairs before, but I’ve only ever eaten them by smashing them up with a hammer. You can’t display a smoothie just by pouring it over a smashed up coconut can you?

No.

I needed something a little more professional looking. 

I watched a few YouTube videos and the best approach, should you not happen to have a circular saw lying around at home, (which I don’t), seemed to be to tap around the circumference of the coconut with a hammer. (Drain the coconut water out first, or you will make a mess.)

I did this for about three or four minutes and started to get worried as nothing was happening. I had bought three coconuts, just in case anything went wrong with the first one, but I didn’t especially want to fail at the first hurdle. I kept on tapping and lo and behold, just at the point when I was ready to throw it on the floor and stamp on it, a crack started to appear! I kept tapping, following the crack, and look what happened!

I felt pretty pleased with myself.

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

Then the recipe – this is a piece of cake in comparison.

How to make a pineapple and coconut smoothie

It’s pretty straightforward to make a dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie, and the beauty of smoothie recipes is that you can be really flexible with them and adapt them according to personal taste or whatever you have in the fridge. For this recipe I used the following:

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

I was making my smoothie just for me, so if you want to make it for more than one person you’ll need to scale up the quantities.

Start with a big dollop of coconut yogurt in the bottom of a regular sized Nutribullet cup. Add a good handful of Dole frozen pineapple chunks. The benefit of using frozen fruit, other than that you don’t end up with mouldy fruit in the fridge because you forget to use it, is that you don’t need to add ice – the frozen fruit thickens the smoothie up a little and makes it lovely and cold.

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

Top up your cup to around the ‘max’ line with coconut drink. I used Koko dairy free but you could use whatever you like. You could even try using the liquid you drained out of your coconut earlier if you are going for the full tropical experience.

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

Then just whizz it up!

Now is the fun bit. If you’re just going to drink it, like a regular person, then go ahead! It’s yummy isn’t it? I was worried about the balance between the pineapple and coconut flavours but I think this is just about perfect. The Dole frozen pineapple gives it a lovely fresh, clean flavour and chills it too. This would be lovely with a cheeky splash of rum.

If, like me, you prepare all your food and drink with the sole purpose of taking nice Instagram pictures, then now’s the time to pour your pineapple and coconut smoothie into your coconut. (If you’re using the half with the three holes then don’t forget to plug them with something. I used blutac. Please don’t take that as a recommendation.)

I decorated my pineapple and coconut smoothie with tropical straws and toasted a little bit of flaked coconut to garnish. I did this just by tossing the coconut in a dry frying pan for about five minutes.

Tada!

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

 

How to win your own Nutribullet

If you’d like to win your own Nutribullet, so that you can easily whizz up a dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie whenever you fancy it, all you need to do is come up with your own easy smoothie recipe, inspired by your own travels. Take a picture of your smoothie and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #MYDOLESMOOTHIE.

I’ve posted about the competition here on my own Instagram, to inspire you:

It doesn’t have to be a super fancy recipe, just something that you love, and that makes you think of a favourite holiday or adventure. The winner will be chosen based on a combination of creativity, quality of photography and the story behind the recipe. The competition will close at midnight on 31st December, so you have the holidays to get creative. (Full T&Cs at the bottom of this post.)

Good luck!

Like the look of my dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe? Why not pin the image below for later?

dairy free pineapple and coconut smoothie recipe

Produced in association with Dole. 

The winner will be notified via private message on Instagram within seven days of the closing date and must respond within 30 days with their name and a mainland UK address for the prize to be delivered to. If any Prize Winner fails to claim the Prize within 30 days they will forfeit the Prize and another valid Entry may be drawn. We will arrange for the Prize to be delivered to you at the address provided, at our cost. Please allow up to 28 days for delivery. Only one Entry can be made per Eligible Participant; additional Entries made by the same Eligible Participant will not be accepted. Entrants must be in the UK and 18+. Judge’s decision final.

 

The other day Belle and I were having lunch in McDonalds. I make no excuses for the fact that we go to McDonalds because we like it, so there. Also, we recently smuggled a full McDonalds breakfast for two into the cinema under Belle’s coat and it was ACE.

So we were in McDonalds, having just collecting our meal. As a side note – Belle does like ordering through those screens but I’m not entirely sure of the point of them. They just seem to have shifted the queue from the ordering stage to the food collection stage. Who knows, perhaps they did research and found that people are happier queuing when they know their Big Mac is on its way.

Mcdonalds Big Mac and fries

Anyway, we’d collected our food and I put the tray down onto the table. Some of my fries spilled out of their little carton. You know how they always do that, and you have to sort of round them back up? I collected all together again and I put the last straggler straight into my mouth, (for the sake of efficiency).

‘Belle,’ I said, pulling a sad face, ‘that chip was completely cold.’

‘What do you mean?’ she said.

‘I mean I just ate someone else’s old, cold chip off a table in McDonalds.’

‘That’s disgusting,’ she said.

Yes. Yes it was.

Adding a orangery to your home can add extra room, a great new place to relax and entertain guests and can also add value to your home in a similar way to an extension. However, do you need planning permission to put one in? It is an extra part of your house after all, but it’s not the same four brick walls as an extension usually is, so it can be a little confusing. If you’re thinking about installing a new orangery ready for the summer, take a read of this handy guide so you know exactly what you need to do to make sure your orangery is legal and safe.

orangery planning permission

Orangeries can be a great way to upgrade your space without going for a fully fledged two storey extension. Luckily, when you’re building a one storey extension, you don’t usually need planning permission. Crystal Living has some great tips that you can check to make sure that you’re within the guidelines. These include:

  • You will be exempt from planning permission if at least half the wall and 3 quarters of the roof is glazed or made from a translucent material.
  • If your orangery has an external door that separates it from the rest of the house, you won’t need planning permission.
  • You won’t need planning permission if your orangery is on ground level, is less than 30 square meters in floor area and 4 metres or under in height.
  • You will probably need planning permission if your orangery has a completely tiled roof, as this would count as a simple extension of the house.

If you’re looking for more tips on what does and doesn’t qualify your orangery for planning permissions, take a look on the Crystal Living website for more information so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do and what routes you need to take when it comes to permission. Crystal Living are experts in conservatories, orangeries, extensions and more so if you’re still not sure on the rules or you’d like to get the ball rolling with building your dream conservatory, you can visit their website, look at all the different options and arrange a free consultation.

orangery planning permission

Sponsored post.

When it comes to exercising at home, there are many different types of equipment that are available and that can give you a great workout. One of the best all-around home exercise equipment pieces you can buy is a rowing machine.

To find a rowing machine model that’s right for you, check out this website for all of the rowing machine latest reviews, and keep reading for our tips on how to correctly use a rowing machine.

Today’s rowing machines range from simple, easy-to-use models to sophisticated machines with all of the bells and whistles to truly take your home workout to the next level. Unfortunately, as straight-forward and simple as a rowing machine may look at first glance, many people often make crucial mistakes while working out that won’t allow them to gain the full potential the machine can provide. If you already own a rowing machine, or are thinking about buying one, here are some common mistakes and ways to avoid them to get the most from your workouts.

Not Understanding How the Machine Works

The first thing you should do before using a rowing machine is to learn about the different parts of the machine and how it works to give you a full-body workout.

While there can be differences from model to model, every rowing machine is built with the same basic design. A rowing machine is built on a long, low platform. At the front end there will be a tank of water or a flywheel that provides resistance when you pull on the handle from a seated position. There is a small platform that you put your feet on to push, and you sit on a seat that is on tracks and moves forward and backward as you row.

Because you use your arms and legs, many different muscles get a good workout, including your calves, quads, abs, glutes, biceps, triceps and deltoids.

Doing Too Much Too Soon

Hopefully, since you bought a rowing machine or will soon be buying one, you want to use it for a long time. The hardest thing about working out is sticking to your routine, especially if it’s been a long time since you had a workout routine.

You may say to yourself that you want to workout five or six times a week. This is a noble goal, but you should start out slower than that for the first few weeks to avoid burning yourself out.

Instead, tell yourself that you are going to row for 20 minutes, three times a week. This is a commitment that allows you to gain the benefits of exercise without the undue pressure of forcing yourself to workout more than you may want to. You can increase the time or the amount of workouts per week as you use the machine more, and before you know it, you may be using it five times or more a week.

Not Using the Right Resistance

Once you know the basics of a rowing machine, you can adjust the resistance accordingly so you can maximize your workout.

Many first-time users may just jump on and start rowing, which can be a big no-no. If the resistance is set too high, you can injure yourself or just not be able to workout long enough to get the good effects. If the resistance is too light, your muscles won’t benefit. Adjust the resistance so that you can row for fifteen or twenty minutes, but not so easily that you are not tired by the end of your workout.

Imagine the resistance being like the gears on your bike: the heavier it is, the more difficult it is to use for extended periods of time. Find the right resistance as you start out, and then you can increase it over the following weeks for a more intense workout.

Rowing Only Your Arms

When you watch someone else row, it may look like they are mostly using their arms, but this is wrong. The truth is, a rowing machine is such a good choice precisely because it works out your entire body when you use it correctly.

Today I’m doing a bit of a tech review, looking at the Philips driving video recorder.

Do you ever do that thing when you’re driving, when suddenly you feel super tired and your eyes become harder and harder to keep open? Around 2.30pm in the afternoon is my weak spot and a few times this year I’ve had to pull in somewhere for a power nap. It’s a bit dull for Belle when she’s with me and has to sit watching me sleep in a service station for twenty minutes, but I figure better that than driving her into the back of a lorry.

The weird thing about getting tired while driving, (or generally), is that often you don’t notice it’s happening. You forget that you’ve been on the road for two hours and you go into that weird semi-awake state of mind where you can convince yourself of things that aren’t actually true.

‘Oh no it’s totally fine to close my eyes on the motorway for a minute or two,’ you find yourself thinking, ‘because I have that magical goat that sits on the dashboard to take over when I get sleepy.’

Heads up guys, the goat is not real.

Instead of a magical goat though, you could get yourself a Philips driving video recorder

The whole ethos of the Philips driving video recorder is to give you peace of mind whilst driving. Philips describe it as a ‘personal road safety guardian’. 

Philips dash cam video recorder View Post

As you know from my rather bizarre cemetery story, I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago. When I have a bit of spare time in a new city I like to try to find more unusual things to do, rather than the obvious tourist stuff. Anyone can visit the Eiffel Tower – I wanted something a bit more off the beaten track.

I’ve always been a big fan of graffiti, so I decided to see if I could find some cool graffiti in Paris to take pictures of. I know that technically it’s vandalism, sure, but when it’s done well, it’s amazing – the skill that goes into good graffiti is incredible. 

First up, I went to have a look at a little bit of the Petite Ceinture. The Petite Ceinture is a 20 mile loop of railway, built about 150 years ago and abandoned in the 1930s. It’s an incredible phenomena – this vast expanse of neglected land running through the heart of the city, that has become a much needed home to animals and humans alike. I accessed it through a little open door in a side street, and had to walk past some makeshift shelters and tents and climb some old stone steps to get up to the track.

Petite Ceinture Paris View Post