brunch club

It’s been a while since I went anywhere new for brunch.

What with the whole global pandemic thing, and then a new puppy who quite frankly I find scary enough taking to an empty field, the opportunity hasn’t really arisen for me to enjoy a casual sweetcorn fritter or two somewhere new and exciting. In fact when I went back and checked, the last time I wrote about going out for brunch was when I had homemade baked beans at The Weir in February 2020, which felt rather poignant and sad.

A couple of weeks ago though, when Mako the puppy was going through a short, well behaved phase where I trusted her not to bark loudly in my face for half an hour or so, Belle and I decided to brave it and take her out for her first ever brunch. Frogmary Green Farm‘s cafe and restaurant, Farm and Field, said it was dog friendly and it was far enough from home that if we did end up causing a scene we could just never go back and no one would be any the wiser.

As it was, Mako was very well behaved, and so you now ARE the wiser.

We went while they were having their one of their sunflower weekends so that we could pretend we were going for a wholesome outdoor activity and not JUST pancakes, and although that has now finished I noticed that they have a pumpkin patch coming up soon, which would definitely be worth a visit. They also have their own small florist on site, Frogmary Flowers, which was very sweet. (Mako DID knock over a pot outside the flower shop but we stood it up again quickly and I think we got away with it.)

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There are certain moments from books that I read as a child that were so powerful that I can still remember now how they made me feel, years and years later.

There was a moment in a Secret Seven book for instance, when they twig that they’ve misheard the baddies and realise that Emma Lane is in fact Ember Lane, and a red pillow is in fact a red pillar box. Suddenly they KNOW and the suspense of it is terrifying and thrilling all at once. I remember having to run downstairs immediately and hug my mum because it was all too much.

I had a similar experience with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and the Vermicious Knids – evil, carnivorous beasts who roam the universe, destroying everything in their path. The moment where that bank of lifts opens one by one and there is a Knid in each, spelling out the word SCRAM… well, if you’ve read it I’m sure you’ll understand.

Roald Dahl in particular has a way of telling stories that makes you believe, even when you’re old enough to know better. That story in The Witches about the little girl in the painting still gives me shivers. His stories are incredible, but with just enough reality to make you think that maybe, just maybe… Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent genuinely trying to uncover my hidden powers of telekinesis after reading Matilda.

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The Golden Girl donut

A little while ago I discovered the joy that is getting cookery books out of the library.

I’ve always gone to the library, obviously, I’ve not just suddenly discovered it as concept. I’ve facilitated my fair share of summer reading challenges with the girls, and been to story times, and done all the usual library things, but for some reason it had never occurred to be to get recipe books from the library. Silly really, as they are BOOKS, dur.

So anyway a few weeks ago I went along to the library, with my tote bag, and there were shelves and shelves of them! I sat on the floor and looked at all the pictures of all the things I’d probably never get around to making, but liked looking at nonetheless. I concentrated on baking because I find it more enjoyable cooking when I’m not hungry, just for the fun of making something. When you’ve been answering the ‘what’s for tea’ question every day at 4.30pm for over 20 years then the joy of cooking actual meals becomes a teeny bit diminished.

I ended up with a big stack of books for my tote bag and one of them was DONUTS by Vicky Graham.  View Post

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I’ve been struggling for a long time now to feel creative.

There are loads of excuses I could come up with, like a global pandemic, significant parenting and grandparenting responsibilities, stress, I don’t know, there’s plenty to pin it on, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s something bigger than that.

I’ve been feeling this same kind of ‘God I wish I could just sit and stare at an unopened book and eat bourbons’ vibe probably, if I’m honest, since I wrote this post, which is before I’d even heard of the phrase ‘social distancing’, so it hardly seems fair to blame my lack of creative inspiration on Covid.

At the time I called it a midlife unravelling, because a friend had told me about this article and everything I read resonated with me so much, but since I wrote the post over two years ago a new word for it has been blipping more and more frequently on my radar – PERIMENOPAUSE.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I talk about the perimenopause quite a lot over there, which is fine – the lack of flow in the creative juice department lends itself well to a few sparsely worded Instagram stories, but I’ve written less about it here, probably because the sheer volume of words required makes it feel impossible.

While I do feel that the whole concept of perimenopause has gained more and more publicity over the last couple of years, I think there’s still a huge lack of understanding around what exactly the perimenopause is, and what it means for all the people who go through it.

If you think perimenopause, what do you think? Can you reel of some of the common effects or do you just think hot flushes? (Which actually are more common during menopause that perimenopause.) Do you know how long it can last? (Up to ten years God help us.)

I was listening to a podcast today that used an expression that really stuck with me – they called perimenopause an ‘all systems’ condition. Perimenopause isn’t just a gynaecological issue, it’s an EVERYTHING issue. It impacts every area of your life, from sleep to libido. It can cause joint pain, lethargy, anxiety, skin and hair changes, even tinnitus.

Perimenopause can effect your energy levels and your motivation. It gives you BRAIN FOG. It makes life sometimes feel overwhelming or infuriating or pointless.

Perimenopause gets EVERYWHERE, in every bit of you.

There are women who’ve given up jobs because perimenopause symptoms have made them feel like they’re no longer capable, like they might be going crazy, like they might have dementia, like they are drowning.

Is it really any wonder that when I wake up multiple times every single night, lie awake for sometimes hours at a time, unable to find a place to lie that isn’t too hot or too painful for my hips, that I might feel a tad lack lustre? Can I really be blamed for not wanting to sit down and bash out creative stories everyday when sometimes even opening my laptop makes me furious and exhausted all at once?

No.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post to be honest, I think I just wanted to start talking here more about what’s going on for me right now and to give some insight for people who might be feeling that same lack of motivation and direction, some reassurance that if this is you, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy.

Over HALF the world’s population experience the perimenopause, so it’s time we started talking about it. If any of this resonates with you I’d love to hear from you – you can leave a comment on this post.

 

perimenopause symptoms

PS. My Menopause Doctor is a great source of information on the menopause and perimenopause and a great place to start if you want to find out more.

 

 

 

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Advertisement feature in association with Headway Tutors – providers of in-home and online tutoring.

Best online tutor

It’s a fun fact about me that, if you don’t count the paper round I had for literally 45 minutes, (which we don’t), my first job was as a one to one maths tutor. I was a personal tutor for about three years while I was at university and it was a great way for me, as a single parent to a toddler already, to make some extra money but work flexibly.

I guess when you think about it it shows how well suited I’ve always been to working for myself, because I took the initiative, found all my own customers and managed everything myself. It’s also quite staggering how far technology has come since then. There was no such thing as online tutoring companies back then because there was no such thing as online. Once I’d had the idea, the only way to find the people who wanted tutoring near me was to put an ad in the local paper. You couldn’t Google it – if you wanted to find a maths tutor you looked in the classifieds, or maybe at the postcards in the window of the newsagents.

I remember quite distinctly going into the newspaper office to place my ad, checking out the competition from the other private tutors and tutoring companies, and trying to come up with an enticing way to say ‘inexperienced but cheap’. My maths resources were Lego, (excellent for making fractions seem fun), a maths version of snakes and ladders that I drew myself on a bit of cardboard from a box and covered in sticky back plastic, and, if I was feeling flush, pages from workbooks that I photocopied in the library.

I charged £7.50 an hour. Happy times.

Find maths tutor near me

Nowadays the world of online tutoring is big business and there are masses of different online tutoring companies offering support with everything from the 11+ to GCSE Spanish. Many of these tutoring companies will offer the option of in-home tuition as well as online, and some may also run workshops or group tuition sessions, which can be more affordable than one to one tuition.

Because the options are now so much broader than the selection of postcards in a shop window, it can be hard to know how to choose the best online tutoring option for you and your child, so I’ve teamed up with tutoring website Headway Tutors to help you think about some of the questions you might want to ask yourself or a tutoring company before you make a decision. View Post

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Post in partnership with Competition Finder

It’s September, back to school, and that means one thing – STATIONERY.

I don’t have school aged children anymore, so my life doesn’t feel quite as defined by the rhythm of the school day and term times as it used to, but I haven’t lost my love of a new pencil case. To be honest I’m not sure that was ever really linked to being a parent, I thing I’m just a sucker for stationery.

I’ve teamed up with Competition Finder today to bring you the ultimate back to school blog post – four of my favourite stationery picks PLUS the chance to win £50 of Amazon vouchers, so you can have your own stationery blow out. (Or spend it on something else, like dog food or a hand whisk, I don’t really mind.)

Competition Finder is a great place to find all the latest competitions online. Competition details are organised by type, so whether you’re looking for holidays, cash prizes or something else, Competition Finder can provide you with all the details you need.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of winning Amazon vouchers though, lets indulge ourselves (me) for a minute and look at some bits and pieces that you really need on your desk, right now.

The Heirloom collection from Katie Leamon

I’ve bought a lot of notebooks in my time, (I dread to think), but I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as perfect a specimen as the notebooks in the Heirloom collection from Lily and Lionel for Katie Leamon. They are just exquisite – the prints, the quality, the thickness – they’re the absolute dream notebook.

They’re blank pages, I cannot abide a lined notebook, and they have a lay flat design, so no awkward spine cracking or holding pages open while you make notes. View Post

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I was at a networking event this afternoon and we were all sat down around a big table for a buffet lunch. (I will go anywhere a buffet goes.) I had nearly finished and was dithering over my last mouthful. I looked down at my plate – one small piece each of hard boiled egg, bread roll and butter, new potato, cucumber and tomato.

I looked up at the people sat closest to me and then down again at the plate.

‘I’m trying to create the perfect last mouthful,’ I said.

‘Oh my God yes!’ said at least two of the group.

‘I thought I was the only one who did this!’ said another.

A couple of people looked blank, as though they were surrounded by loons.

‘Um, NO,’ I said, reassuringly, ‘everyone does it surely? No one wants the last mouthful of a meal to be a crappy one do they? God, imagine eating a whole delicious sandwich and finishing with a bit of dry crust!’

I went on to expand on examples of how to create the perfect last mouthful – eating around a Big Mac until you’re left with the ultimate central bite, working your way through a roast dinner to make sure you leave yourself with one piece of potato, some stuffing, half a sprout and a good lashing of gravy, that sort of thing.

It was a bonding moment.

Some people it seemed had gone their whole lives thinking they were alone in their weirdness and the group sharing felt almost like therapy.

‘You should write a blog post about it,’ someone said.

So here it is.

I’d love to know what lengths you go to to create that perfect last mouthful. Do you always eat your pizza crusts first? Is there a magic roast dinner combination? Leave a comment and let me know.

The perfect last mouthful

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

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I don’t have a great childhood memory, but there are snippets of things that stick in my mind, conversations, feelings. Sometimes I’m not sure if I actually remember them anymore, or just remember remembering them, like the dream I had when I was about four years old of walking over a hill with my school satchel.

One thing I do remember though is reading Anne of Green Gables. I must have been young, (I hope I was anyway), because I remember being incredibly earnest about it and the type feeling very small. I remember going into the kitchen to find my mum to show her, proudly, that I had already read three whole pages. You’d wonder at that rate if I might still be reading it, but I must have picked up the pace a bit because I know I finished.

What I didn’t know until about ten minutes ago though is that Anne of Green Gables is the most translated children’s book to come out of Canada and that it has been translated into over 36 different languages.

I learnt this fun fact, (which feels like the kind of fact I might never forget), from online language school Preply. Preply has ten of thousands of online tutors in 185 countries around the world, so you can learn a language with an experienced native tutor. They cater of adults and children alike.

Of course Anne of Green Gables doesn’t even come close to The Little Prince.

Antoine de Saint- Exupéry currently holds the Guinness record for the most translated author and The Little Prince has been translated into over 382 different languages. I didn’t even know there were over 382 different languages, although I just Googled it and apparently there are around 6,500 so now I feel like a right idiot.

Anne of Green Gables

Here’s the top ten by country if you fancy a bit of international reading inspiration: View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Everyone Active

Raise your hand if you’ve been less active over the last 18 months that you’d like?

*raises hand*

Okay, to be fair, that’s not 100% true. I’ve done a LOT of walks. Haven’t we all? I’ve done so many walks near my house in fact that I’m pretty sure I could tell you exactly where every plant and tree is within a two mile radius. To say I’m sick of it is an understatement. And yes, I know I could have tried something else, like running, but long term readers will know that I am most definitely not a natural runner.

What I think we’ve all lacked during the pandemic, exercise wise and generally too, is VARIETY. Everyone knows that variety is the spice of life, so no wonder we’ve all got a little bored and sluggish.

I recently took on a challenge with Everyone Active, the UK’s leading provider of local leisure, gym, swim and activity facilities, to promote Everyone Active’s summer campaign, Everyone is Family.

Everyone is Family is running throughout August and is all about encouraging families to try something new, to get out and be active. What’s great about the campaign is that although of course they want to showcase the facilities they have to offer at their centres, the focus is more on just enjoying being active together, regardless of where you do it or how much it costs, even if that’s just kicking a football about in the park.

My task was to try a different activity every single day for a whole week. This included tennis, yoga, cycling and even some garden based online classes. I shared photos and videos everyday on Instagram, so if you want to catch up in detail head to my profile and watch the ‘Get Sporty’ highlight saved just above the grid.

Everyone on demand classes

Just a sample of the exciting content you can see on Instagram!

Belle and I have both been members of Everyone Active in the past, and pre-lockdown I’d quite gotten into the classes, particularly yoga. I’d starting making an effort to try new things too, including a 90s dance class at the centre in Wellington where we had actual glowsticks. And then the pandemic hit and there I was, lying in the garden reading Poirot.

We’re really lucky in that we have loads of Everyone Active centres in and around Taunton, including an outdoor high ropes and mini golf centre just a few minutes walk from me in Vivary Park. For this challenge though I focussed on the centre at Blackbrook, which has a gym, classes and tennis centre as well as a fairly new pool and spa complex. Everything you need basically for bringing variety back into family activities. View Post

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I had a brief period when Belle was in her mid teens when I thought my parenting responsibilities might soon be coming to an end. Bee was grown up, Belle was old enough to be responsible for taking care of herself, my work was surely done?

And then baby Joey came along, and I had all the responsibilities of being a grandparent to a small child, like remembering to put sunscreen on them and make sure they drink.

And then if that weren’t enough, we got a puppy. Honestly, I must be a sucker for it. Perhaps when you’ve been a parent since you were 17 you don’t know any other way and just have to fill the void?? Who knows. This post isn’t about diving into the depths of my subconscious, all this talk of sunscreen and responsibility is really just my oh so casual way of leading into a post about Sun and the Beach sunshades.

(I know, I’m a smooth operator.)

To be honest even when my own children were small I never owned things like sunshades. I think Mako the puppy has brought out this side in me that’s made me realise what a good job it was that I had my kids when I was younger and more care free. I don’t know if there’s a similar term to helicopter parenting that applies to puppies, but I think I might have it.

‘Is she okay? Is she allowed to eat grass? She barked once, what does she want? Is she sad?’

Good grief woman, give it a rest.

Still, at least now I don’t have to worry about Mako not having any shade in the garden or if we go to the beach. Not just any old shade either – Sun and the Beach sunshades are UPF50+ and block 98% of the sun’s harmful rays. No tan for you Mako.

She also very much enjoyed helping us to set it up.

Sun and the Beach sunshade View Post

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It’s been two weeks now since we got the new puppy and honestly time has warped into this sort of new baby speed, where individual days seem to take weeks to pass but you’re not sure what day it is or when you last ate. What I do know is that it’s three weeks now since we went away for the weekend in a motorhome from Goboony and it’s about time I told you about it.

Our motorhome weekend was designed to be a last hoorah before the puppy arrived, a final slurp at the cup of freedom, before we realised exactly what we’d done to our lives i.e. changed them completely forever.

It was brilliant, as we expected it to be, because we love motorhome holidays – they make me want to sell the house and train the cats to sleep in bunk beds and take to the road. We’ve done two motorhome holidays before, both longer trips and both with loans from Bailey. For the first one we went around the UK ticking off all the counties I’ve never visited before and the second was a tour of Ireland. (Some parts more interesting than others.)

This was only a short break – three nights – but it still felt like an adventure. I was nervous beforehand as the motorhome we’d chosen was seven metres long, but I also knew that once I got behind the wheel I’d feel like a badass bitch and want to become a truck driver. Honestly, driving anything sizable makes me feel so powerful. I especially love it when you get surprised looks from men. ‘A woman? Driving something larger than a Fiat Punto? Whatever is the world coming to?’

Goboony motorhome hire

What is Goboony?

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Sometimes I think about how my life would look as a pie chart.

I’m pretty sure everyone does this, just like I imagine most people enjoy Venn diagrams as much as I do. Everyone loves a Venn diagram right? Right.

The pie chart fantasy is a visual representation of a long held fascination with the idea that when I die I’ll be presented with some sort of searchable database, where I can access information about anything and everything I have done in my life. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, God would basically be a gigantic spreadsheet.

‘God,’ I’d ask, ‘exactly how many times in my life did I walk into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and get distracted and leave again, never having made a drink?’

‘27,429 times,’ God would say, in a robot voice.

‘God,’ I’d ask, ‘exactly how many people did I sleep with in that dubious 18 months around the time I turned 20?’

God would whirr and click for a while, smoke might come out. You get the idea.

I imagine a not insignificant slice of the pie would be taken up with time spent thinking ‘I really should do some work I suppose’ and sighing a bit, and continuing to watch Golden Girls. I swear that some days I spend more time ALMOST working than I do actually DOING the work. It’s probably the part of being self-employed that I find the hardest, the letting go of the guilt around work when you’re not doing it. I started a part-time job, still on a self-employed basis, back in November and in that whole time I’ve only had four days completely off. I was even doing Instagram stories on Christmas Day.

There is something about being self-employed that makes it hard to switch off. The pandemic has made it worse because I’ve been working at home a lot more and the boundaries have become blurred. Even after 13 years of freelancing, I still struggle to completely let myself off the hook – I’m always thinking of other things I COULD be doing, or SHOULD be doing. It’s a seemingly never ending loop of procrastination – perhaps my brain thinks that a general sense of obligation counts for something, even if I’m not actually getting stuff done?

The thing of course that’s so frustrating is that thinking about it never actually equates to DOING it – I don’t spend 14 hours a day tied to my desk or anything, I just waste a lot of time feeling like I should be. I wonder though if without the constant internal nagging, I’d ever get anything done at all?

Can you actually get things done without discipline?

In Oliver Burkeman’s latest newsletter he talks about this and references an article, written around the time I first became freelance, that is about getting stuff done by not being mean to yourself.

In it the author talks about my exact problem, that idea of spending a huge part of your life setting yourself goals, writing schedules, tormenting yourself into getting stuff done and being miserable. Half way through and I was on board. ‘This women gets it,’ I thought, ‘any minute now she’s going to reveal the secret to my eternal happiness.’

(This is another thing I tend to do – imagine that one thing is going to change everything for the better, if only I could find out what the one thing was.)

Her secret it turned out, was kind of bullshit if I’m honest. It was pleasure – doing stuff just because you want to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pleasure, I just don’t think it’s necessarily a valid approach to work. View Post

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