Sharing a Chair | Rebecca Loves 💗

Podtastic: My current Podcast Picks. 

 
 Image Source: Icons 8 via Unsplash

Image Source: Icons 8 via Unsplash

 

I am always up for new ways to absorb knowledge or great storytelling. Podcasts were a very new thing for me this year and I have fully submitted to their allure. My only problem now is much the same issue I have with books, so many to consume, so little time. 

I love listening to Podcasts on a dog walk, on the treadmill, cheering up the daily washing up marathon or in my car sans small child distractions. I find it such a great way to multi task and absorb more information than I ordinarily would. As a writer I just want to know more and have a wider understanding of varying topics. It's all part of becoming a better writer.

 
 Image Source: Mohammed Metri via Unsplash

Image Source: Mohammed Metri via Unsplash

 

The Podcasts I’ve listened to are all very different. The short list here are the ones I cannot stop listening to, and have become completely submerged in, so much so that I now listen to them in the gym instead of music which is a big deal. I’ve followed my favourites with some I’ve got on my ‘to listen to’ list, so if you’ve listened to any of these I’d love to hear if you think they’re worth a listen.



5. The High Low

 By Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes

By Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes

I am pretty late to this Podcast, there was a lot of talk about it online, and Dolly’s column in The Sunday Times Style Magazine seems to be highly praised. As I am terrible at reading the weekend papers or keeping up with current affairs, this podcast seemed like a really great way to hear discussion on current affairs. What I love about this podcast is that it leads me into so many other media such as online articles, newspaper articles along with recommended books, interviews and even other Podcasts. I could lose an entire day with the intellectual wormholes these women create, taking me to content I want to know about but far more quickly than I could manage.

4. Happy Mum Happy Baby

 By Giovanna Fletcher

By Giovanna Fletcher

This is probably the Podcast that got me into Podcasts. As a stay at home mum you can go days sometimes without seeing another adult, or more importantly another parent. A parent being an adult who would ultimately understand you without words passing lips. I also have a soft spot for Giovanna, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her and she is just as lovely in real life as she appears online. The great thing about this podcast is it may be mostly celebrity interviews, but ultimately what unites them with the listener is that we’re all parents (assuming all listeners are parents of . course!) And, like us, they all have different approaches with varying difficulties and joys along the way. You will smile, laugh, and cry - just like your average day as a parent then!

3. Where Should We Begin?

 By Esther Perel

By Esther Perel

This podcast I found by accident and it is incredibly fascinating. Esther is an author and psychotherapist, specialising in sex and relationships. The Podcast, according to her website “..takes you into the antechamber of intimate moments.” In each episode we are graciously invited by a couple to explore the intricacies of modern relationships. Once you start listening I promise you will be hooked, especially if you are intrigued by people and what makes them tick. I will be forever grateful I found this series as it gives a wider understanding and knowledge of relationships.

2. Griefcast

 By Cariad Lloyd

By Cariad Lloyd

I cannot express this importance of this Podcast enough. When I was younger I lost my Grandad (Mum’s father) and my Granny (Dad’s Mother) within a week of each other. They were two of the most important and influencial people in my life at that time and yet I didn’t really understand grief or what I was feeling. People would tell me I was brave but I didn’t really know if that was true. A confusing time and yet a time that definitely helped shape an understanding of myself.

What I love about listening to these stories is it helps to build a more rounded view of grief, that it’s not linear and no two stories are the same. I constantly yearn to understand people more, so when those close to you lose loved ones what is the best thing to do? What do they need? I believe we can’t really know for sure, however listening to this will take you one step closer. If you have experienced great loss in your life then it will bring real comfort.

  1. Berkhamsted Revisited

 By Laura Kirk & Laura Gallop

By Laura Kirk & Laura Gallop

Right, I have absolutely left the best until last. I tell anyone and everyone I can about the pure brilliance of this Podcast. If nostalgia is your thing then get downloading. Laura Kirk bravely reads through her teenage diaries, and along with Laura Gallop they discuss subjects such as MSN Usernames, Boys, Ski Trips, obsessions with Freddie Flintoff and why parties were so anxiety ridden.

For frame of reference they set the scene by quoting the date, popular music, film, and notable events of the time. As someone who struggles to remember the horror of teenage school years, I find this an uplifting and enjoyable walk down memory lane. Even though I am almost ten years older than the girls (groan) I can still very much relate and appreciate the feelings experienced. I especially enjoy the fact that the two Laura’s are extremely different in personality and character, which gives depth and perspective to the memories. I am so addicted that I’m motivated to go to the gym just so I can hear the next installment. Pure brilliance!

Next on my list

  1. STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW

    We are big fans of TV Shows such as ‘How it’s Made’ in our house, and my 4 year old son loves watching ‘Do You Know’ on Cbeebies. Both of these shows demonstrate how everyday things are made or how they work and this Podcast is very much in the same vein. So I reckon it will be right up my street, who doesn’t love a cheeky BTS?! Geeky pleasure.

  2. THE GUILTY FEMINIST

    This is another Podcast that I see interesting discussions about, presented by comedian Deborah Frances - White. I love the idea that it celebrates Feminism in a refreshing way, addressing the hypocrisies and insecurities towards the subject. I think I feel more comfortable with a funny yet realistic approach towards being a modern day Feminist.

  3. CTRL ALT DELETE

    Another widely celebrated Podcast with numerous accolades. Discussing themes from her book of the same name, Emma Gannon talks with guests on subjects such as the internet, tech, social media, feminism and creativity. I look forward to listening, especially the episodes which feature guests such as Zoella, Dawn O’Porter and Alice Levine.

  4. SERIAL

    If, like me, you are somewhat obsessed with true crime stories, especially ones such as ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘The Staircase’, then I think this is our kind of listening. Over the course of one season, Serial uncovers one true crime story. The host, Sarah Koenig, is just as in the dark as we are ad doesn’t know the outcome until we come to the end of the series. I’m really excited about this one, I’m reluctant to start as I know it requires utter concentration, perhaps one for when there are no distractions.

I hope you enjoyed my roundup of Podcast recommendations, please leave a comment below if you have any of your own. Get in touch if you listen to any of those listed above, please head over to my social media channels to join in the discussion, I’d love to hear your opinions.

Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: Enough -

by Angela Cox

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Book Peak: A real life story of overcoming, with tools to help those who will no doubt read this and relate on so many levels. Truly inspiring. 

Book Pit: Only that I was enjoying the autobiographical section of the book so much that I wished there was more to read. 

Favourite Quote: 'Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.' - Ian McClaren

Similar Reads: The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope, Eat Drink Run by Bryony Gordon. 

 | FULL REVIEW BELOW | 

 
 

I've followed Angela on social media for two years, you could say that her transformation on The Body Coach plan sealed the deal on starting my own 90 day plan transformation. 

It was always clear from Angela's posts that she had a difficult relationship with food, I knew this because of my own experiences. Many of us will have a reason that we turn to food in times of trouble, and some of us will simply battle with food and body confidence and get stuck on that never - ending treadmill of self - destruction. 

I was stuck. Lost in a maze which seemed to have no exit and I really didn’t know where to turn.

Angela, much like myself, had a trigger. This was something I knew nothing about until I attended the launch for her book and she gave an emotional reading. I don't like to give spoilers in my reviews, and I feel it would take away from the heart of the book, the thread that holds it all together. Be prepared, it is shocking and the desperation you feel for Angela is overwhelming, but she tells the story so eloquently and has turned trauma into tenacity. 

The autobiographical section of the book will resonate with so many readers. Even if your battle has not been with an addiction to food, any addiction will occupy our thoughts and lure us into temptation much the same. We all have a story and Angela's is a brave one that so many of us can learn from. Many times I found myself nodding or even experiencing a few revelations about my own eating disorder that I hadn't yet dealt with. 

...I stayed strong in the moment of self-sabotage and didn’t yield to a binge. This was transformational progress.

Angela has played out the most recent part of her journey on social media, which brings with it an abundance of positives with a sprinkling of negatives too. This aspect of the book will be recognised by most who read it, given that the majority of us have experienced negative comments online and are all growing and adapting to this new world of fast - paced communication.

The second section of the book is brilliantly insightful, and to a planner like me, a real call to action. When you are sat on the edge of a seemingly impossible task, like having to lose a substantial amount of weight, it can appear hopeless. What I love about Angela's approach is that she too believes that breaking it down into smaller chunks or 'goals' and 'tactical steps' will make the task at hand seem less intimidating. We should celebrate the small achievements as ultimately they will add up to a much bigger one. 

... feedback in any form tells me less about myself and more about the person who is giving it.

I powered through this book, so much of it was like reading about myself or seeing my own thoughts written down. I wish I had this book when I was in my twenties because I know it would have pulled me out of that self destructive cycle and the years of self criticism which happened as a result of that. 

As a writer, I can understand why potential publishers wanted to split the book in two - one an autobiography and the other a book of tactics and strategy. However, this should only be seen as a positive, Angela has so much to give of value and I believe this book is just as successful as a singular module as it would be in two. The most important point is that the content draws you in with it's honesty, a characteristic of a great writer and of a great friend. Reading this book makes you wish you could give this friend a great big hug. 

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. - Ernest Hemingway

Angela Cox is now a successful mindset mentor, specialising in one to one sessions, retreats and upcoming event 'Mojo' follow Angela on Instagram, Twitter or check out her Facebook Page for Big Girl's Journey to Lean.  

 

 

 

Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock -

by Imogen Hermes Gowar

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Book Peak: The imagery of the book is faultless, written with extreme care, research and dedication. It was clear that the author had thoroughly explored the era down to minute detail, before I even knew anything about her. It is impressive.

Book Pit:  The pace of the novel is slow, which is overpowered by the incredible writing style, however for me, perseverance does not necessarily pay off culminating in feeling immense dissatisfaction at the ending. 

Favourite Quote: "A loss is not a void. A loss is a presence all its own; a loss takes up space; a loss is born just as any other thing that lives."

Similar Reads: The Essex Serpent, The Night Circus

 | FULL REVIEW BELOW | 

 
 

This kind of book is right up my street. I love historical fiction, and I am quickly realising, the older I get, that it might just be my favourite genre. So having seen countless bloggers and avid readers raving about this one it went straight on my 'to read' list. 

Upon starting the book I realised that it was not quite what I had expected, however, I know from experience that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many books I've read have turned out to be so much better than I had imagined they would be, even if first impressions had indicated otherwise. So I stuck it out.  

For mermaids are the most unnatural of creatures and their hearts are empty of love.

I had thought the book would be about a Mermaid, some mystical creature that was integral to the story, and I would be excused, given the title. However it becomes a tiny stitch in a tapestry woven from many other tales that don't always come to anything. 

Mr Hancock, a merchant, comes to acquire a mermaid. It is not the ethereal beauty of legends, but rather a gnarled and twisted foetal version of the myth. He sets out to make money from the creature, and that he does, however what he also gets is a lot more than he bargained for. 

Mrs Chappell, a madam, strikes a deal with Mr Hancock to display his mermaid within her establishment. This is where we encounter Angelica Neal, a courtesan who has recently lost her 'keeper' and is on the lookout for a new one. 

Its appearance is unbeautiful. It is not what people expect of a mermaid.

The story carries itself on mirroring themes between mythical mermaids and females of the time, lightly touching on the idea of being a trapped woman trying to obtain power and purpose in a world ruled by men. 

One sub story, which promises to tackle something beyond the restraints of gender, follows a mixed race prostitute called Polly who manages to escape from a 'job'. Much like her miraculous disappearance from this particular party, she vanishes from the plot never to be seen until the very end when we wonder if the author suddenly stumbled across her in her memory again. 

There are many metaphors throughout the book, some more obvious than others. The moral of the story is buried so deeply it is not easily accessible.

The book lures you into a place where you accept it as a real, viable story despite the appearance of mermaids, and so magical realism is not really apparent. That is until the end of the book when we are suddenly expected to accept some strange mystical happenings and it doesn't quite sit right. 

I cry out and there is a dull nothing.

Overall I found the book went at a glacial pace, I kept reading hoping that the story would turn a corner and reveal a major twist or unveiling that would make the journey worthwhile. Sadly I met my destination at the same tentative pace that I had sought it, rather than the climatic exit I had endeavoured to find awaiting me. The writing, setting and astounding attention to detail that went into this piece of work seem wasted somewhat as this could have been so much more.

 

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Rating 3/5

 

The words spoke from behind a mask may be bolder than those uttered barefaced, but this need not mean they are more honest.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine -

by Gail Honeyman

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Book Peak: The developing friendship between Eleanor and Raymond and the underlying theme of kindness is extremely heart warming. 

Book Pit:  That it ended! This was one of those books that really stays with you long after you've finished it. 

Favourite Quote: "There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope."

Similar Reads: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Lido by Libby Page, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. 

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

I am definitely someone who buys into the hype of a book, however this comes with a risk. Just because a book is riding high on the bestseller lists does not necessarily mean it's going to be 'just one more chapter' kind of excellent. 

But fear not. Eleanor is absolutely worthy of the hype. I may even go so far as to say that this is one of my favourite books of all time. It's that good.

I wouldn't usually go for this genre of book, so this was based purely on recommendations - it's not something I would have picked up in a local book shop (remember those?)

This is a story of loneliness, friendship and the great impact of kindness in the smallest of gestures. Whilst reading, it struck me just how surprising it was that this story hadn't yet been told. But thankfully Gail Honeyman put pen to paper and gave us Eleanor's point of view. 

If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.

The book covers themes such as loneliness, grief and has sparked much debate on the subject of nature vs nurture. One thing is for sure, you will grow attached to the characters - whether that's because you adore them or because you are simply intrigued. 

Personally I loved Eleanor, she took shape in my imagination in such detail I felt like I really knew her by the end of the book, and had fully invested my emotions in her and what she had gone through. The way she is socially unaware is both eccentric and endearing and yet I also found myself agreeing with her logic on many occasions. 

I loved how the author gave tiny glimpses into Eleanor's past but however desperate we were to know what had happened, it was far more important that we knew her as she was presently. The budding friendship with her colleague Raymond was the highlight of the book for me, showing that if we only pay more attention we could make those small gestures of kindness that can truly change the whole world for someone. 

It is beautifully written, giving a wonderfully raw narrative of life and all its complications. It's completely relatable in a sense that we've all known an Eleanor at some point, or perhaps in some ways we are her. The author cleverly leaves us readers thinking about our own actions it changes and challenges you.

There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.

I don't see how anyone could read this book without being affected. The thread of friendship that evolves throughout the story is something of beauty and yet it is so subtle and quietly suggested. 

A book that teaches us to look inwards and question our own actions is to be commended. The story stayed with me long after I read the final paragraph and I think it will continue to echo back to me for a long time to come.

An absolute must - read!

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5/5 Rating

These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

Sharing A Chair | Bullet Blog

BULLET BLOG: CYCLE TWO OF THE BODY COACH 90 DAY PLAN

Lifestyle : Getting Lean with Hypothyroidism

Having done the old plan a few times before, I knew that Cycle Two was going to be tough for me. The only reason I dread this cycle is because the increase in carbs (which I will discuss below) doesn't really agree with me. My body is always more sluggish and my progress slows down when I eat more carbs, however I know this about myself now so I just got my head down and focused on the fact that I would be building some serious muscle. 

How it works.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the 90 Day plan I will just give you a brief overview of how cycle two works. 

 

Month Two | AKA Cycle Two

NUTRITION - During the second month you up your carbs to two meals per day on training days, and you will still be aiming to work out 4-5 days per week - but this time you include resistance training as well as HIIT. So for at least 2 days a week you will be eating low carbs all day as in Cycle One. A typical training day for me looks like this (I usually trained mornings in Cycle Two):

Breakfast - Breakfast Pizza (Post Workout Refuel)

Snack - Rice Cakes and Peanut Butter

Lunch - Almond and Honey Pancakes (Low Carb)

Snack - 25g Mixed Nuts

Dinner - Mixed Bean Chilli (Carb Refuel)

My typical rest days would look something like this:

Breakfast - Coconut and Chocolate Smoothie (Low Carb)

Snack - 25g Nuts

Lunch - Fish Pie (Low Carb)

Snack - Protein Yoghurt

Dinner - Chilli Beef Nachos

TRAINING - Cycle Two is the kind of training I like because it mixes a bit of HIIT with weights and I absolutely love improving on my strength. I always aimed for 5 days training a week so that way if there are days I am suffering with fatigue a lot more, I can let myself off for having an extra rest day.

Workouts are 30 minutes long this cycle, so the time has increased by 5 minutes from last month. You will typically do 5 rounds of weighted exercises such as squats, chest press and shoulder press and then finish with an intense HIIT session at the end. 

Here are a few things from month TWO of the plan:

  • I felt extremely tired and sluggish during this cycle - as I mentioned above I try to eat low carbs most of the time when I'm not doing the plan as this works better for me with my condition. A lot of people with Hypothyroidism actually go Gluten Free completely. 

 

  • I didn't see a lot of physical changes throughout the cycle which can be disheartening when you are looking for NSVs (non scale victories) to help you get through and motivate you. However, I know I am edging ever nearer to my goal and gaining muscle at this point, so I tried not to let it get to me too much and stayed focussed. 

 

  • It was Easter during the cycle so I added on some time at the end. I was completely lured in by Easter because our house was full to the brim with chocolate (that's what having children does - and I didn't want them to eat it all did I?!)

 

  • I did get bored with this cycle very quickly, I know this is a mental battle because I wasn't seeing any results, and in fact as you'll see from my photos, it seemed as though the carb bloat actually hid the progress I'd made in cycle one. The best thing for me was to move on quickly to the next cycle with no break as demotivation can lead to lower restraint in my experience. 

So here are my all important results:

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 11.08.40.png

Of course I saw these numbers and felt pretty disappointed. My weight went up and where my inches did drop they didn't drop by much at all. My progress is definitely slowing down the further along I get but those last pounds of fat are always going to be the most stubborn.

I've also started to accept genetics a lot more - they play a major part and are a big reason why you should never compare with someone who has always been a size 8, when you're naturally a size 12. The smallest I've ever been is a size 10 and I have reached that size now, but I'm the fittest and healthiest I've ever been in my life so that's the added bonus. 

IMG_3066.JPG
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So when the numbers aren't saying much I go back to the photos. At the end of the day this is what we see in the mirror and is usually where we want to see change when it comes to confidence and wearing the clothes we like. This is a major factor for me in body confidence because I want to express myself through fashion and this just wasn't possible when I was at my biggest. 

Though the changes are minor I can see that my legs are more toned, this is a big deal for me as one of my genetic traits is having big thighs and wide calves. I have a much more defined collar bone and let's just say those squats are paying off! 
 

I have also been measuring body fat % and muscle gain on a Boditrax machine at my gym, despite the above numbers my muscle mass has increased from 48.7% to 50.2% and my body fat has decreased from 28.7% to 28.2% so something is happening beneath the surface.

If, like me, you suffer from a metabolic disorder then I urge you to take as many measurements as you possibly can along with photos and body fat %, as this will give you a much more rounded view than the scales ever can. 

If you have any questions about how I keep fit with Hashimoto's then please get in touch - I love talking to other people who are just as determined about their health!

SHARING A CHAIR | Book Club

-Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird-

 

by HARPER LEE

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Book Peak: The morals and hidden lessons that Harper Lee weaves so eloquently into her storytelling.

Book Pit: The writing is so important, and written so well that you do need to take the time to really soak in the story, and what lies beyond it. 

Favourite Quote: 'Atticus...he was real nice...' 'Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.'

Read if you liked: 'A Tree Grows' by Betty Smith or 'Adventures Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain.

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

Unlike most people I had never read this book before, I mistakenly thought I had done during my secondary school years but turns out I would most definitely remember if I had. There's no forgetting this book. 

Though the story is told by Jean Louise Finch, as an adult looking back on several years of her childhood; it becomes inherently clear that the character at the focus of the story is her father, Atticus Finch. 

Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.

A single Father, Atticus represents a steadfast character, consistently true to his morals in a novel full of changing attitudes and changing times. He guides his children as if they are adults, at first you think he is a little distant but as the story unfolds his parenting style becomes apparent, and relevant. 

Though he treats his children with maturity he is not quick to anger and realises they will make childish mistakes and have child like ideas. This is where his wisdom and morality comes into its own. He teaches the children, and those around him, to see people as equals and that to truly understand others we must walk a mile in their shoes. 

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

The book explores themes of Morality, Change, Race, Class and Relationships. It is no wonder this novel is studied in schools the world over, as there are so many layers of meaning which leave readers truly inspired. I don't personally believe that every reader will extract the same messages, but there is a consistent thread throughout which begs us to think before we judge, and regardless of race, religion or stature we are all human. 

There is a lot of mirroring in the story, characters who differ in race or status, yet united in their experience of being on the fringes of society. Atticus represents the central point amongst the differing 'folks' and it is through him that the children and other characters begin to see what he sees, and learn how we are not so different after all.  

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5/5 Rating

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

If you would like to be part of our online Book Club then please subscribe to our email list below. You will be updated on the book pick for the month and reviews of previous reads. We will also send resources to aid you in further discussion on your current read. 

Head over to the Sharing a Chair Facebook page to join our Book Club Discussion group and chat to fellow members. We will also be having votes there in future to involve members in choosing the books we read. 

Sharing a Chair | Blog

I get it now. 

Pre baby delirium.

Before I became a parent I had aspirations about the kind of mother I would be. You know the sorts of things, the kind of delusions that if someone mentioned them now you would laugh hysterically and then cry because you feel like a failure. But achieving the dizzy heights of full hair and make up and the latest trends minus puke stains is just not obtainable day to day - not for me anyway. 

 

I would like to think I was never judgemental towards other parents before I was one but, you know, I'm all about the honesty and there were definitely moments an eye roll would sneak out or just a slight groan when I would see certain posts on social media. One of these moments was the day that school admissions got announced, and those 'first day of school' pics in September. I can say this now because I'm a parent and I know I was an asshole. I can say this now because I'm about to go through it and get my comeuppance. Let me explain. 

 
 Those first days [Photo by  Fern Photo ]

Those first days [Photo by Fern Photo]

 

First Days.

When our beautiful son came into the world it wasn't plain sailing; I don't believe our experience was particularly rare but it was definitely new to us. It was scary and guess what? It was our first head-on with that classic parenting battle - expectation vs reality, and the battlefield that is 'your mind'. 

It's where that iconic phrase can really shine 'nothing prepares you', and I will use the usual response 'it's SO true'. Nothing prepares you for the worry and the suspense of just getting them into this world safely and your mind flits through all the time you spent, thinking about who this little being was nestled in their secret space, and you try not to panic.

Nothing prepares you for when they are here, and you want to hear that famous cry, but are they crying too much? Nothing prepares you for the love, whether it comes immediately, 2 days in or 2 months in, it will hit you somehow in your own way and there is nothing the same. 

 
 Two peas in a pod [a pod of tiredness and milk]

Two peas in a pod [a pod of tiredness and milk]

 

What now?

Then you get home and you're in awe of this ACTUAL human you've created. But what do you do with it? Then you have these crazy thoughts like 'what if I just drop him on his head?!?' 

Your days merge into one big blob of sleep, milk feeds and visitors and in my case 3am Breaking Bad escapades. You're not quite sure what the heck you have done but your old life is well and truly gone forever. But would you take it back? 

 

 
 Milk Drunk [ Fern Photo ]

Milk Drunk [Fern Photo]

 

All mums work hard.

Being a stay at home Mum I can often focus too much on all the things that are hard about being a parent because I live it every second of the day with no break times. Some people have this crazy idea that stay at home mums have an easy life where they go to cafe's and don't have to work. Well now I know (yep, I was one of them) that this is so far from the truth it's hilarious.

I have no idea how people do this parenting lark AND go out to work, and don't get me started on the amazing breed that is single parents (hi Mum), all I know is that every now and then I stop with the moaning and I just savour how lucky I am to be at home with my babies all day everyday.

Speaking of my Mum, she always told me that if I had a chance to be home with my babies, I should seriously consider it. She didn't have a choice and it broke her heart many times over. Milestones missed.

On the eve of the School admissions announcement it couldn't be anymore poignant to reflect on this amazing experience I've been lucky enough to have.

 
 Getting there through endless PJ days.

Getting there through endless PJ days.

 

Guilt.

Having been at home all day with my son I know it's going to be incredibly hard to let him go when it comes to September. I never used to understand why people cried when their children went off to school - and now I am literally crying as I write this, so there's that reality thing again.

I don't think it's going to be any easier for those parents who have to work. Just because they already have time away from their children regularly won't make it any easier. Perhaps their heart will break for the time they couldn't give, just like my Mum.

 I found Nursery and Pre School a welcome break, especially when my daughter came along, and boy do I feel guilty about that now, now that I know how precious time is. 

 Being a parent is tough and no matter what you do you will always wish you did more. 

 Resurfacing with a CHUNK

Resurfacing with a CHUNK

An ode to motherhood.

It is hard to convey what being a parent is like without cold hard experience. Releasing your child from their family bubble into a world where others may hurt them with words, or exclude them and squash their spirit, is incredibly scary but here's hoping we have a win with this one. Here's hoping reality exceeds our expectations in a good way. 

The driver, the chef, the best entertainer, she’ll overthrow a mini dictator.

A highly skilled fort engineer, with kisses that make the pain disappear.

A rep for him with that penchant for red, she’ll switch tooth for money right under your head.

She’ll fashion a costume, the best in disguise, with her Doctor’s ‘hat’ on she’ll poop analyse.

A translator, a baker, a crafty - crap maker, the role of a mum will never forsake her.

 
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The future is theirs.

To the incredible mix of parents waiting for the news of where their babies will be going to school, good luck but please don't fear.

All the sleepless nights, the dinner time battles, the supermarket tantrums and the endless kisses and cuddles have lead them to where they are now, and no matter where they end up they will always be coming home to you - their foundation, and those foundations are what will hold up their future. 

 Savouring the Pre School moments. 

Savouring the Pre School moments. 

Sharing A Chair | Bullet Blog

Bullet Blog: Cycle One of The body coach 90 Day PlanSharing A Chair

Lifestyle : Getting Lean with Hypothyroidism

 

 Left: 2016 first plan photo. Right: Beginning of Cycle One February 2018

Left: 2016 first plan photo. Right: Beginning of Cycle One February 2018

I found the Plan really easy to get into this time around (I've done the old version of the plan twice previously). I'm not sure if it was the brand new recipes and fresh set up or whether I was just mentally ready to start seeing results again. Either way, I was grateful for the motivation because that is the one thing between staying put or moving forward.

 

How it works.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the 90 Day plan I will just give you a brief overview of how this first cycle is laid out. 

Month One | AKA Cycle One

NUTRITION - During this first month you only eat carbs after a workout, and you will aim to work out 4-5 days a week. So for at least 2 days per week you will eat no carbs at all. A typical training day for me looks like this:

Breakfast - Cocoa Coconut Pancakes (Low Carb)

Snack - Apple Slices and Peanut Butter

Lunch - Mac 'n' Cheese (Post Workout Refuel)

Snack - 25g Mixed Nuts

Dinner - Prawn and Chorizo Stir Fry (Low Carb)

My typical rest days would look something like this:

Breakfast - Peanut Butter and Jam Smoothie

Snack - 25g Nuts

Lunch - BBQ Turkey Meatballs

Snack - Protein Yoghurt

Dinner - Chicken Cashew Curry

TRAINING - Cycle One is solely HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and you aim to do 4-5 sessions per week (one per day only) for 25 mins each time. You would essentially do different moves for 40 seconds on followed by 25 seconds rest and you complete 3 rounds, but this does varies from workout to workout. 

Here are a few things from my first month of the plan:

  • I didn't stay away from the sad step, I find this is really difficult when you have hypothyroidism because weight loss is like walking a tightrope. There is a fine line between losing fat, water retention and building muscle and Hypothyroidism doesn't seem to care if you are working your butt off, it will increase your weight with no warning or visible reason.

 

  • At 5'2" and weighing 11 stone 9lbs it seems obvious I was overweight. However, looking at photographs of myself on my wedding day at the same weight - I am carrying significantly more fat. This helped me to gain perspective when this months results came in because fat loss is so much more than the scales.

 

  • I had a few periods of complete exhaustion. There were two days halfway through when I could not exercise, luckily they were at the beginning of the week so I overcame it by making them my rest days. The tiredness was a little concerning as I kept falling asleep throughout the day (luckily I'm home all day) and I wasn't sure if it was thyroid problems rearing their ugly head - fortunately, after two days rest and early nights, it ebbed and my energy levels went back to normaI. 

 

  • I had one treat on Valentine's day but I allowed for this by adjusting my day, making sure HIIT was before dinner and I had eaten strictly on plan the rest of the day. I had absolutely no guilt about this because it is a lifestyle change and I was back to being completely focused the next morning.

 

  • In the final week of the plan I did find my restraint starting to deplete a little, I was getting bored of HIITs and just looking forward to Cycle Two and getting back to lifting weights, which is what I love. I like doing HIITs as part of a variety of workout methods but when it's the sole method it does become a little boring. As soon as I feel like that I know it's time to change things up so I submitted my results and I'm waiting for Cycle Two to be delivered.

So here are my all important results:

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Overall I felt a little disappointed. I worked extremely hard and only lost a few pounds. This is the continual struggle of Hypothyroid, it doesn't help that on the plan I think they put me on higher calories than I would allow myself with such a slow metabolism. That said, I fully trust the plan, it's all going in the right direction and seeing my photos showed me that sometimes it's not all about the numbers. 

 Half and inch lost on the waist makes a big difference to look at!

Half and inch lost on the waist makes a big difference to look at!

 A slight tummy shrink and a perkier 

A slight tummy shrink and a perkier 

So now I'm just waiting for Cycle Two to hit my inbox. I'm not a fan of increased carbs as I don't react well to them, but I am very much looking forward to building muscle in the gym again.

In the meantime I always relax for 1 or 2 days and have a little of what I fancy without going too crazy. This isn't the approach for everyone, but for me it's realistic and I miss a pizza or some sweeties so I find if I allow myself a little of what I like, I'm even more ready to attack the next 30 days. 

If you're doing the plan at the moment then I wish you the best of luck, if you're thinking about starting then I couldn't recommend it more. You can sign up on Joe's website, where you will also find my guest blog about staying focused when illness or injury hits during the plan. 

SHARING A CHAIR | Blog

A Newborn, A Toddler and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

HI MAMA LETTERS | HYPOTHYROID MUM

Hi Mama,

As you lie there, listless on the floor next to your screaming 6-month-old daughter, your son safely preoccupied with dinner, I know you are afraid. You don't know what is happening to your body, and although the random shards of doubt try to pierce your thoughts with lies 'you're depressed', 'you're going crazy', deep down you know something else is wrong. 

 
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That night you will take off in the car like a cliché. Driving to the highest point you can find to breathe in the freshest air available. Whatever this is, it is suffocating. Your husband will be worried. 

You hear the words of others trying to reassure, but they actually lead you further away from the truth, 'two children under two is bound to be tiring', 'you're doing too much, with all this new exercise'. Your children both sleep through the night, and until two days ago the new lifestyle was making you feel the best you've ever felt. You are making inspiring moves to be better, physically and mentally and your body repays you by attacking you. Literally.

You will scream when people suggest you are depressed. You can see your life and how beautiful it is, how happy it makes you, but it is on the other side of a wall. It's out of reach. You ask yourself, perhaps this is what depression feels like? 

When you finally decide to seek help, it won't be because of the exhaustion, or the weakness in your arms and legs and it won't be because the darkness is quickly crawling into your eye line. It's the pins and needles that creep up your arm that start to scare you, like tiny knives prodding you to wake up to reality. 

The nurse practitioner is thorough, he suspects carpal tunnel and perhaps some strange virus. He is concerned about the exhaustion so requests an 'MOT'. Thank goodness you didn't listen to outside voices, thank goodness you listened to the still small voice inside. 

"You'll hear back about the blood test by the end of the week."

When the phone rings at 4:30 pm that same day and you hear the Dr state his name on the other end of the phone, your heart will skip faster than you thought possible. This confirms it, something is not right.

"You are very lucky the Nurse that you saw today was so thorough. Your Thyroid has completely stopped working, probably several months ago." You learn later that you have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and you will learn over time that the state you were diagnosed in is very rare and was found just in time. 

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You won't have any idea the ordeal you are about to undertake. It may feel like an ending and you will cry with relief that you have answers, but this is only the beginning. You need to remember how well you know your body and hold onto that. This is a tool that will keep you sane through the weeks and months that follow. You need to remember that being healthy is paramount over body image, something you now have limited control over with this disease. 

At times you wonder if you will ever feel normal again, if you will stop snapping at your husband and children, and if your marriage will survive such a huge challenge.

Let me tell you that you are so much stronger than you will ever have imagined. Most people will not understand the gravity of what you have to deal with, but the more you talk and write about the issue, the more you will find friends who suffer with you and support you through it. But you will learn it is something that cannot truly be understood unless you go through it.

Most of all you will be surer than ever that you married the most wonderful man. He will take over with the children when you are too tired to function, he will take the time to research things with you, he will cook weeks worth of meals for you to keep lifestyle goals on track and he will support and inspire you to be the best you can be each and every day. Through sickness and in health.

There is still much that you don't understand about your body, and you live in hope that one day it will fix itself. For the time being, you are told it is permanent but you have not allowed any of this to hold you back, in fact, you are reaching goals all the time. You will surprise yourself with how much you have achieved when you come out the other side of this debilitating time of learning and healing. 

 
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Never forget that yes there are others with health problems much worse than yours, but it's not a competition and you have just as much of a right to voice how you feel. I know you feel guilty about complaining, but sometimes it's all you can do to get through. 

I now know you can take anything life throws at you and you will overcome it wonderfully. 

Rebecca

 

Original letter written for Hi Mama Letters.

Sharing a Chair | Blog

5 things more irritating than poop and sick.

 

When you become a parent, there's all the classics 'Say goodbye to sleep!' (correct), 'Watch out for those explosive poops' (unfortunately very correct) and then tales of woefully feeding your baby at 3am, only for them to promptly be sick, and you have to start again. All true. All soul destroying. Of course, it's worth it, but there are some irksome elements to parenting that don't get so much airtime. There are so many things that I didn't even know about becoming a mum, specifically the toddler era. Noone is going to talk to you about the toddler/preschool stage when you're just about to have a cute tiny newborn, and thank goodness I say because they are enough to contend with. 

 
 Look how happy I am in my spotless living room with my empty washing basket and a sole cup to wash up. 

Look how happy I am in my spotless living room with my empty washing basket and a sole cup to wash up. 

 

1. The Washing

Before my son came along it was just my husband and I with our weekly load of dark washing (do we really wear that much black?) What does a baby wear? A lot of white. What do babies do? Poop. A lot. That poop is also bright yellow (soz, but it is, let's not be shy - nothing is sacred anymore, we're parents) so this makes for a lot of washing, and scrubbing and then hanging it out in the sun in the hope it will bleach out the mustard tinge because nothing you do gets that stuff out - seriously?! But readers, I'm going to be *that* person and tell you that if you are planning a second child - just you wait. My biggest tip is buy lots of baskets because they will be your new wardrobes. You will wash it, and possibly hang it out to dry before it smells like an old shed, but by this point, you will NOT want to put it away. Millions of baby and toddler socks? NO thanks. 

2. Hoovering

If you are able to convince your child to eat carefully from a plate, or eat at the table I say give that parent a medal. I try this and then give in for a quiet life. A quiet, crumb-filled life destined to a lifetime of hoovering three times a day. If anyone tries to tell you that you deserve anything less than a Dyson you tell them where to shove their dustpan and brush because you deserve the Rolls Royce of suction to maintain your sanity. 

 
 Start them young and pay them in raisins.

Start them young and pay them in raisins.

 

3. Leaving the House

This will become a nemesis for several reasons. In the early days, you won't want to leave because of the effort involved, make the most of this time. By the time you've managed to fit every belonging you own into a bag that screams 'I abandoned style to carry around squashed bananas', someone needs a poo, or has pooped and now needs a full outfit change. 

You will then go through the delightful stage of never wanting to be at home, because if you do you will fall into the deep rabbit hole of Peppa Pig (don't get me started on that brat) and Pom Bears. You realise when they look cute and peaceful in bed that you were probably a bit harsh to lose it at 9 am when they asked for their 10th snack. You then consider that perhaps tomorrow you'll do better because your step counter says you've only done 500 steps in 10 hours. 

 
 Definitely worth it....I spose.

Definitely worth it....I spose.

 

4. Washing Up

Now if you have a dishwasher then read on my friend, and perhaps keep it to yourself. We don't have room in our house, because trust me if we did it would be on my Birthday list - screw the Feminist issue. Children add to washing up at a rate akin to Keanu Reeves on a bus rigged with explosives. Even when they don't even eat they add to it. Bottles, Sterilising, Weaning, refusing a gourmet meal you've cooked from scratch and moulded to resemble a plate of fish fingers, it all adds to what feels like a never-ending Groundhog Day of fairy liquid and peeling nail varnish. 

5. Bowls (and Snackgate - all day errryday)

Now this one might just be me, so to be I'm putting it out there in a desperate attempt to find me a comrade or two. As soon as my son could ask for things (lay down the law) and show a preference (shout at me for being an idiot and not reading his mind) he decided he wanted all of his snacks presented in bowls or 'pots'. When I say all, you toddler parents will know that this means approximately 100,000 snacks per day (no *YOU'RE* exaggerating).

So let's just say for argument's sake that the snack in question is a popular chew bake bar...you remove it from the wrapper and put it in a pot as requested. Winning? No. The wrapper was meant to stay on so he can stare at it and fondle it for an hour until he decides when it's opened. So you present a new chew bar quietly cursing the price and thinking up tricks to make him eat said rejected bar tomorrow. STILL WRONG. The pot is wrong. You then ask (through gritted teeth) 'which pot would you like then darling?' he finds a perfect pot, carries it off and then you hear it. The tears. He's dropped it and the CURSED chew bar has broken in half. You try the 'you've got two now' trick, to no avail. He wants a new pot and a new bar and all you can think of is how the washing up is now mounting. AGAIN.

 
 Those bloody pots.

Those bloody pots.

 

Post originally written for Selfish Mother.

SHARING A CHAIR | Book Club

- BOOK REVIEW | THE GREAT GATSBY -

by F.Scott fitzgerald

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Book Peak: The writing by Fitzgerald, which reads like prose. The descriptive nature of the storytelling helps to paint a vivid picture of the times and more importantly the characters.

Book Pit: It is difficult to relate to or sympathise with any of the characters, but this does seem intentional by the author to highlight their hollow lifestyles.

Favourite Quote: "I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.

Read if you liked: Any classic literature exploring the lives of those in high society. 

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
 

To look at The Great Gatsby on surface level, one would conclude it was a love story. But this novel has so much more to say than just that of love lost and found. 

Set in the 1920's, a period in American history where the importation, production and transportation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited nationwide. The story is told by Nick Carraway, who introduces us to the lavish parties that take place at his neighbour, Gatsby's house every weekend.

Gatsby is elusive during his parties, inducing an atmosphere of mystery around who he is. None of his guests ever seem to completely know about who he is and how he came to be so wealthy. Gatsby holds a dark secret about his past and what lead to his wealth and popularity, a connection that will ultimately lead to the climax of the story. 

And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.

The Great Gatsby, in many ways, demonstrates the emptiness a life of luxury can bring. There is a running theme of 'time', with Gatsby seemingly fixated on finding a future, but only by means of changing the past. It's as though he is happily living in his past and wants to recreate it by denying the relationships and emotions of those around him that get in the way. 

The reader will become increasingly frustrated with the characters and their many flaws. Tom with his brutish nature, not loyal in his marriage but expecting more than he puts in himself and Daisy with her lust for the finer things in life over the invaluable qualities of character. Our attitude towards Gatsby will ebb and flow, at some points feeling sorry for him and his quest for the love of his life, then at others we find ourselves annoyed when he acts like a spoilt child - requesting that Daisy deny ever having any feelings towards her husband. 

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

By the end of the novel you are left feeling that there is a great injustice in the world. There are no heroes and the careless get to carry on being careless and selfish in their ways. 

The book tells the story of the dreamer, of those who wish for the perfect ending and will do anything to reach for the unreachable. One could deduce that this is a little depressing, as the ending does not culminate in the long told tale that if you chase your dreams you will reach them, instead it shows that if you channel all your efforts into those that are unworthy, it will only have disastrous effects. 

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

This is a beautifully written tale of love and loneliness. The undulating prose of Fitzgerald makes the story come alive. I enjoyed every sentence and the fact that it is fairly short means that the quality leaves you satisfied and not overindulged. 

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5/5 Rating

Please leave your thoughts and comments on this novel below. If you would like to join in with the Sharing a Chair Book Club then please join our group on Facebook.

Sharing a Chair | Book Club

-Book Review | The Lie Tree- 

 

by Frances Hardinge

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Book Peak: The climax in the final part of the book is exciting and intense and the characters have become beautifully rounded and fully understood by this point.

Book Pit: The writing is beautiful but could equally feel over bearing, quite heavy for Young Adults as I found I had to concentrate at times.

Favourite Quote: "A rain shower was rehearsing. A few experimental droplets filled the silence."

Read if you liked: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman.

FULL REVIEW BELOW | NO SPOILERS 

 
£7.99
 

I'd never had the pleasure of reading a book by Frances Hardinge before, in fact, I had never heard of her, which I now realise is shocking. This was one of those moments when you see something and then you keep seeing it everywhere you go, so I took the hint and set about making sure I gave it a read. 

It quickly became apparent that this was an author who delighted in language and knew exactly how to make it dance across the page in beautiful prose. It took me such a long time to finish this book because I have two young children but I also wanted to devour every single word, savouring each carefully constructed sentence to acknowledge the thought that had gone into it. 


“Listen, Faith. A girl cannot be brave, or clever, or skilled as a boy can. If she is not good, she is nothing. Do you understand?”

The Lie Tree follows young girl Faith Sunderley, the daughter of a socialite Mother and a natural scientist Father. Faith is a girl with a thirst for knowledge, but she finds herself up against the time in which she has been born and learns a lot about what is expected for a girl of her age and social standing. 

 

The book begins with the family upending their life in Kent in favour of a new start on the remote island of Vale. It becomes apparent that Faith and her family are running from scandal surrounding her father’s latest scientific findings. When tragedy strikes the family, Faith takes matters into her own hands. In order to uncover the mysteries surrounding her Father and save the reputation of her family, she must be covert in her attempts to manipulate those around her and find the truth. 

“Women find themselves on battlefields just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.”

We are convinced of the battles that Faith has to face by Hardinge’s flawless ability to paint a perfect picture of the time. Issues such as the treatment of left-handed children and after-death photography are intricately weaved throughout the narrative to reinforce the authenticity of the storytelling. The effect of Darwin’s theories on Victorian society play a major part in setting the scene for Faith’s Reverend Father, also a fossil enthusiast who battles with the juxtaposition of his faith and the rival theories of his peers. 

 

“Faith had grown used to her father’s guests smiling, bantering and my-dear-fellow-ing over their tea, while racing their rival theories like prize ponies”

 

The fantasy element of the book is the inclusion of a mysterious tree, which is hard to review without revealing too much of the mystery within the story itself. It is quite fantastical but gives a great depth to the tale and makes the reader think about the role of a lie and where it can take us. 

 

 

 

Though this was written for Young Adults, I felt it was perfectly enjoyable for adults too. As a fan of His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman,  this felt like another example of YA fiction that can equally be enjoyed by adults. I especially felt that this would be an encouraging story of feminism for young women, showing that in adversity you can still achieve all that you put your mind to. Ultimately this is a beautifully written and brilliantly intelligent book about a strong-willed, intelligent young woman, offering an intricate story that leaves you with a satisfying conclusion.

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4/5 Rating

 

Sharing a Chair | Bullet Blog

How to take better care of you in 2018

Bullet Blog | Self-Care

 

Mood: 🙃 🙏🏻 🥑 🛁

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 'Self - care', it's happily replacing the term 'New Year, New You' and if you ask me (you didn't, but let's pretend you did) I'm all for it. I've spent far too many years being awful to myself, not taking enough care of my physical or mental health. In 2016 after the birth of my daughter something clicked and I took a leap in attitude to change this. With the help of the inspirational Bodycoach and unending support of my husband I lost a lot of body fat and fell in love with the Gym. 2017 was the year of the mind for me and I tackled some big hurdles with my anxiety and mental health. Now I know the two go hand in hand so this year I'm all about looking after myself, body and mind. Here are my tips if you want to get on board!

 

  1. Baby Steps - no matter how you plan to tackle your wellbeing this year, my number one piece of advice is to take it slowly. As soon as we say we're going to overhaul our diet, exercise or commit to completing a giant list of tasks (or all three), we are setting ourselves up for failure. Too much too soon. Take one thing and then break it up into bite sized chunks, making little changes that you build upon is much more sustainable.
  2. Add Something - I find adding to something I already do helps me to not feel overwhelmed. For example I help to walk my Nana's dog every evening, so instead of walking with her I now run with her and it doesn't take anymore from my day or my brain!
  3. Write it Down - Whether it's your nutrition or your house clutter you are tackling, things feel that much better when you write them down. When I do this I find it isn't so overwhelming and not as bad as I thought. I then have the satisfaction of ticking it off when it's done. 
  4. Do Not Limit Yourself - Don't put a time limit on your change. If you say 'I'm going to get fit by summer', and then you don't quite manage that part of your plan, how are you going to feel about yourself? Only commit to things that are going to improve your attitude to yourself, and don't put limits - you have the rest of your life to achieve and slow progress is still progress. 
  5. Take Baths - We can't all take a regular spa day, it's pricey and it's time consuming. What we can do is give ourselves a little pampering at home whether that is taking a bath, painting nails, looking after your skin with a little face mask or just simply sitting quietly in a room with some scented candles. 
  6. Make Time - Leading on from the above it is important to find time. It's funny how now I'm a busy mum of two I realise just how much time I have in my day and I manage to fit a lot more in. I used to have an excuse for everything but now I know I can fit a little of everything I enjoy into my day if I prioritise my time and use every free minute wisely. It takes practice but if I can do it - trust me you can too!
  7. Read - You may not be a big reader, but I think reading is such a great way to unwind. So many people I speak to say they don't have time for a book. But we all find the time to scroll on our smartphones nowadays so if we cut back on this (good for the soul) then trust me you'll find an extra half an hour. If you don't believe me then download the app 'Moment', and see how much time you're spending on your phone, you'll be in for a shock! I find reading before bed helps me relax into sleep naturally rather than screen time which actually keeps you wired.
  8. Forgive yourself - This is a big one for me. When I first had children I struggled so much with not being able to keep on top of things. Before I would pride myself on a dedicated day to clean the house, keeping on top of washing, writing thank you cards and sending out birthday cards and gifts on time. I just don't manage this anymore and I consider myself a pretty organised person. You have to learn to forgive yourself the little things and let them go, we spend too much time measuring ourselves against an invisible standard. Set a new standard - one that ebbs and flows with the fluctuation of YOUR life.
  9. Clear the clutter - Have a good clear out of stuff. My mind feels so overwhelmed when my house is cluttered and all I can see is stuff everywhere. It's very cathartic to rid little corners of your home of clutter - it will have the same effect on your mind. Remember write a list i.e. under stairs cupboard, sort computer files, tidy bookcase, shred paperwork, and then just aim do one a month maybe even just doing a little bit each day when you walk past.
  10. Take walks - If you aren't one for the gym, running, or high impact exercise then just go for a 10 minute walk. I find even just going for a 15 minute walk around the block each day clears my head and gives me breathing space. Sometimes changing the air is all it takes and if you can listen to some calming music whilst you do it, then all the better.
 
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So remember it's all about the little changes, over time these will have a big effect on your wellbeing and you may find there's a little room to make another change, and so it will continue like that. The more positive you are the more, the more you will welcome positive change. 

Take care of you

Rebecca is running everyday in January to support Mind Charity and their R.E.D. January campaign

You can show your support too by sponsoring Rebecca on her Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/reb-does-red2018

Thank You🏃🏻‍♀️

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 24 | TRUE CHRISTMASSharing a Chair

The true meaning of Christmas

On the final day of Blogmas I felt it all too important to reflect on the wonderful meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate to this day. Crafts and baking aside the thread amongst it all is love and giving - characteristics we have received from the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. 

 
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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Christmas means different things to different people, but to most of us it will mean spending special quality time with family and friends, showing how we care for one another by celebrating with food and the exchanging of gifts. 

The celebration of Christmas shifted more towards Santa and gift exchanging in the mid 19th Century, rather than focusing on the advent of Christ and giving to those less fortunate without expectation in return. Christmas can get very extreme and the true intention of the season gets lost amongst the madness of consumerism and commercialism. 

Giving to our friends and loved ones is by no means wrong, but it is good to take stock and remember why it is we are doing all of this so we don't become overwhelmed and lose sight of what is important.

When we say 'the true meaning of Christmas' we mean to reflect on why we came to celebrate in the first place. Christmas is a direct shortening of 'Christ's Mass', commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. 

At Christmas we celebrate the ultimate gift. The gift of Jesus from God Himself. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

Christmas is a time to reflect on all we have been blessed with, but to also remember those less fortunate than ourselves who perhaps will not experience the same Christmas we will. 

Amongst the madness of shopping, expectation and the stresses of cooking for lots of people, there is a centre of peace and there lies the real reason for the season. 

Nicky Gumbel puts it perfectly when he says "..the point of Christmas is Jesus Christ. At Christmas we celebrate the birthday of the most important person who ever lived. He is the centrepiece of our civilisation. After all, we call what happened before his birth BC and what happened after 'AD'. 

 
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Let's make sure we reflect on why we are giving this Christmas, and celebrate the greatest gift we could have ever received. Remember that the joy of Christmas can be enjoyed all year round if we centre our hearts with Him. 

🙏🏻 Merry Christmas🙏🏻

Sharing a Chair | BOOK CLUB

 
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Blogmas Day 23 | CHILDREN'S BOOKS Sharing a Chair // BOOK CLUB

Christmas Book Picks: Children

We love story time in our house and Christmas Eve is the perfect opportunity to get out the favourite Christmasy books. We keep ours safe, stored with all the decorations throughout the year so we get to discover them all over again in December. Here are a few of our favourites.

 
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The Jolly Christmas Postman

By Janet & Allan Ahlberg

 

 - This book is lovely, with interactive bits for the children to pull out and look at such as letters and cards. It integrates classic fairytales such as Goldilocks and Jack & the Beanstalk which many children will recognise. 

 
 
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The Night Before Christmas

 

By Clement C. Moore & Niroot Puttapipat. This is a classic Christmas story, but we love this pop up version with silhouette illustrations that are just beautifully intricate.

 

 
 
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God Gave us Christmas

By Lisa Tawn Bergen. This is a lovely story that combines the true meaning of Christmas with the image of presents and Santa Claus. It shows that the two can live side by side but shows us the joy and importance of remembering God at Christmas time. 

 
 
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Stick Man

By Julia Donaldson. No one writes children's books like Julia. Now a short film, this tale is all about a Daddy Stick Man trying to get home to his family at Christmas. Perfect rhyming prose for little ones this Christmas. 

 

Other books we love:

  • The Snowman | By Raymond Briggs - What a classic, it's a bit of an obvious one so we haven't included it in the above list but it would just be totally wrong not to mention it at all. 
  • The First Christmas | The Bible - We read this lots throughout December in lots of different formats - but each and every one is just as special as the other. 
  • The Gruffalo's Child | Julia Donaldson - This snowy follow up to the popular story of The Gruffalo has also been made into a Christmasy TV short and is a favourite all year round in our house. 

What are your children's favourite stories to read this time of year? Or what do you remember reading as a child at Christmas time? Let me know! 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 22 | CHRISTMAS CAKESharing a Chair

Alternative Christmas Cake

I'm not a fan of the classic Christmas treats, the fruity Mince Pies, Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding are not my thing. So every year I make a Guinness Cake for my Dad which has become a festive favourite.

 
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The cake is dark and very moist with a white fluffy cream cheese topping, so looks precisely like a frothy pint of blakc gold. The recipe does involve a small amount of Guinness but mixed with Cocoa and butter it makes for a dark chocolatey sponge. I use Nigella Lawson's recipe however I do add my own little twist just to make it a little more festive and that bit more indulgent. 

For the topping, Nigella suggests using double cream but I substitute this with Bailey's Extra Thick Cream which is available at Christmas from Tesco as well as some other supermarkets, I'm sure. I love using this because it adds a little alcoholic kick and stays in keeping with the Gaelic theme. 

I wholly recommend this cake if you love a chocolate cake and especially if your partial to a bit of Bailey's at Christmas. I'm off to have a slice. 

 

 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 21 | NO BAKE TREATSSharing a Chair

No Bake Christmas : Tunnocks Puddings

 

Today I am going to show you how to make another easy festive treat with minimal work involved - the best kind! 

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Ingredients: 

  • Tunnock's Teacakes
  • Icing Sugar
  • Water
  • Green and Red writing icing OR Berry and Holly sprinkles.

Method:

  1. Mix two tablespoons of icing sugar in a bowl with one teaspoon of water. Add more water or icing sugar until you have a thick consistency but not too thick as it needs to be able to run over the teacakes. 
  2. Using a teaspoon run the icing sugar over the top of the teacakes one by one. Encourage the icing sugar to run down the sides of the teacakes. If you are lucky enough to find some Berry and Holly Sprinkles then you can add these now before the icing has set so they stick nicely. Once they all have icing place them on a tray or plate to set in the fridge.
  3. Once the icing is set you can then decorate them using the writing icing if you are using some. I start by doing holly leaves (see pic below).
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4. Next I add 2 or 3 red berries with the writing icing to complete my holly.

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That is it! How easy is that? Such an easy little Christmas treat that you can add to a spread and will look very cute next to your no bake Reindeer Pops.

🍭 LAZY BAKING WINS! 🍭

 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 20 | 1 MILLION MINUTES 

Ways to help at Christmas - One Million Minutes

I am a big fan of the ITV One Million Minutes campaign. It is an award winning campaign encouraging us to pledge as little as 30 minutes of our time this Christmas to someone who is lonely. I think this is such an important cause, many of us are extremely lucky to have lots of family and friends to celebrate with at Christmas, but unfortunately this means that for those with no-one it can be the loneliest time of year. Why not head over to ITV and pledge as much time as you can. Here are some suggestions on how you can use your minutes:

  • Is there a neighbour that you've noticed may live on their own? Why not invite them in for a cup of tea and a chat.
  • Why not invite someone to a Christmas market or Festive outing. Remember not everyone who is lonely is elderly, there could be someone at your local playgroup who is finding parenting an isolating time, why not invite them out so they know they're not alone. 
  • Call older relatives that you don't see or speak to that much and let them know you are thinking of them. 
  • There are a number of organisations that you use your minutes to help and support. Some listed by One Million Minutes are: Neighbourly, Action for Children, Age UK, Contact the Elderly, Independent Age, The Royal Voluntary Service, Campaign to end loneliness, and The Silver Line. Click on any of these links to find ways in which you can help just by giving your time this Christmas.

🎁Give the Gift of Time🎁

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 19 | CHRISTMAS EVE 

In some countries and cultures there are traditions that centre around Christmas Eve. In some countries like Germany, it is the day that the Christmas Tree and any greenery such as Mistletoe or Holly is brought into the house and it isn't to be brought in before that. It's not a day that is celebrated as much here in the UK but in our family it definitely marks the beginning of the celebrations. Here are a few of my Christmas Eve traditions over the years.

  • The Younger Years - My Christmas Eve would be spent at home, watching a Christmas film and putting all the presents under the tree and having one cheeky squeeze of each present. I would then put out all the mince pies for Father Christmas and carrots for the reindeer of course. I'd probably be too excited to sleep and wake up every hour until I tried waking my family at 5am...I never got away with that.
  • The Teenage Years - This would definitely still involve the tradition of present placing, however it definitely became something of a tradition to go out celebrating with my friends. I was usually back from University or finishing work for a few days so I was ready to let my hair down. My mum wasn't a fan of this time period - especially the Christmas Day hangovers...sorry mum.
  • With My Husband - Before Children ruled the roost over here, we really enjoyed going out for a meal together on Christmas Eve. It was a really lovely chilled out evening and the tradition started because this is precisely what we did after we got engaged on Christmas Eve 2011.
  • With Our Children - We're still working out traditions with the Children, mainly because we are usually spending Christmas Eve in a different place with different family members every year. But I like to give them a new Christmasy book to read at bedtime with some new cosy pyjamas, along with all the things I used to do when I was little - getting ready for Christmasy visitors in the night. 

🎄What's your Christmas Eve like?🎄

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 18 | CHRISTMAS SONGS

My Favourite Christmas Songs

There is nothing that gets me in the festive spirit like a good Christmasy song or carol.. I pretty much love all Christmas songs and all of them hold special memories for me, but these listed here are extra special. Going to a carol concert or evening at church is a highlight of the season for me.

 

This classic reminds me of being a little girl and having the best Christmas and New Years Eve celebrating with  people from my close and extended family. Being that my dad is from a large Irish family  it makes sense that this one is so special to me. 

 
 
 

This has to be the most popular Christmas song doesn't it? I absolutely love it and when I hear it, it really makes the start of the season for me. I have to admit though that by Christmas Day I've heard it enough and I'm ready to pack it away for next year. 

 
 
 

This is another nostalgic one for me. It strangely reminds me of putting decorations on the tree, and my teenage years. It's definitely a party song and I can't help but do some immense shoulder dancing if it comes on in the car. 

 
 
 

I actually did Spanish at University so perhaps this is a little nod to that, but I also have quite a few Spanish friends so I love hearing this one at Christmas. I like that it's a little break from the norm. 

 
 
 

This is without a doubt my favourite Christmas Carol. It embodies the true message of Christmas and no matter how many times I hear it, it always gives me goosebumps. This version by Kings College is stunning. 

🎶 Which is Your Favourite?🎶