Thursday, February 4, 2016

Women are amazing

We can get a lot of grief sometimes, us women.

Society tells us that we're bitchy, unsupportive, judgemental, too touchy, too competitive, too whatever box it is that we should be placed in today.

But I'm very happy to say that I strongly disagree with all of the above. And I'll tell you why.

Since losing my job last month and writing openly about it here, and in the national press, I have been enveloped in nothing but total kindness by women I know well and those I've never even crossed paths with before. 

Looking serious for the camera. Photo credit: Irish Independent 

I've received supportive calls and texts from my girl friends, I've been given invaluable advice from a couple of other mothers I know who happen to be recruitment consultants, and I've been sent wonderful comments and messages online that have bolstered my confidence and made me believe that actually, maybe, just possibly, this could in fact be a good thing. 

I've had offers of recommendation from successful businesswomen, and calls about partnerships in budding businesses.

I've been added, unprompted, to online groups of ladies that share freelance work and contacts and knowledge. I've had emails from women I've never met giving me addresses and numbers of major editors and lists of people I could and should contact. 

Just today I was invited into the offices of a massive news corporation to meet the impressive women who run the show, and each of them took time out from their manic morning producing the daily papers to offer guidance and opportunity. 

And all the while, with every message and meeting and mail I'm thinking 'Really?! You women are amazing.'

Throughout all of this experience I've only received one negative view point, and that was in the comment section below the online article I wrote.

But of course that was just stupid.

I mean, we all know you never, ever read the comments.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to Live Lagom with IKEA

Lagom isn't a word you're likely to have come come across in the past. Unless of course you're Swedish that is.

Last year's buzzword 'Hygge' came from the Danes. Hygge roughly translated means to 'make cosy and enjoy the good things in life' - think warm blankets, comfort food, friends and log fires... Nice.

'Lagom' from the Swedes means 'The right amount is best'. Not too much, not too little, just right. A bit like a Swedish Goldilocks with her porridge if you will.

So to Live Lagom is to do what you personally can to live a balanced life - particularly in terms of the environment. Try not to buy too much food that then goes to waste, try to wash your clothes in warm water, change some light bulbs, ditch the car for the local shop run.... Basically it's doing what you can without going overboard.

When IKEA told me about their Live Lagom project I was sold almost immediately. I had become a little lazy in my recycling efforts and one too many times had caught myself chucking a hard-to-wash can or jar in the bin because 'well what difference is it really going to make...?'

Looking at some of the facts available from IKEA brought me fully on board. The £500 I was given to spend on IKEA sustainable products had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it of course.

If you need some convincing if doing a bit of Live Lagoming yourself is worth it have a look at these:

That's some pretty impressive motivation right there.

My product choices were primarily kitchen, energy and 'hygge-ing' related. More efficient cooking, less energy waste, and more cosying up of our home.

I'll be sharing my product choices and what made the most difference very soon. Once I've unpacked them all that is.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Don't look down

Losing your job is never easy. It's not very nice to be told you're disposable. But what's worse than that is knowing that the world you worked so hard to create and make steady is about to be turned upside down. The rug pulled shockingly from under your feet leaving your arms flailing and your head spinning.

Over four years ago I dipped my toe back into working waters following a few years off to raise the children. As a newbie blogger I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to not only set up a bloggers network for Netmums, the biggest parenting website in the UK, but also to run it on an ongoing, work-from-home part-time basis. It was the holy grail of work \ life balance and I embraced it with open arms. Over the next four and a half years I would lend my hand to many other tasks, learning content marketing, blogger outreach, sub-editing, content writing, brand relations and more. I loved being able to champion other bloggers, offer them paid opportunities and keep up to date with all the new talent joining the parent blogger ranks.

Sadly that will now come to an end having been let go from Netmums last week.

On hearing the news the first feeling was inevitably one of shock, then devastation, then absolute fear. Because although losing your job is never easy, losing your job when you are a single parent is simply terrifying.

I'm lucky enough to have a little money squirrelled away for a rainy day that will give me a bit of breathing space - not much, but enough to mean I'm not hyperventilating into a paper bag right now.

I'm hoping that after licking my wounds for a few days I can then pick myself up, dust myself off and open myself up to the universe of possibilities.

For now I'm just trying to not look down, or backwards, or forwards. I can't say I'm looking up though. Not yet anyway.

So I will stand at this crossroads for a little while, looking left and right, paper bag in hand. Just in case.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Twelve months ago I joined the One Word movement for the first time - it's a way of focusing your mind on what you want from the year ahead instead of writing a long list of well-intentioned resolutions that inevitably fail by mid-January, leaving you crying guiltily into the last remaining tin of Quality Street and wondering where it all went so wrong.

The process involves employing a very simple philosophy for the year ahead - choosing one word that brings all your intentions back into focus.

Last year I chose the word FRESH. Fresh starts, fresh air, fresh food, fresh thoughts. I didn't do too badly either. I found the idea was most useful when stuck in a quandary, not sure which side of the fence to jump over on. Go for a run or stay home? Bracing walk on the beach or movie? Pasta or salad? Meet new people or stick around the safe ones? It gave me a new perspective and helped force me out of my comfort zone more than once.

For the past few weeks I've been pondering my new word for 2016 and in order to choose it I've once again gone back to the questions of what makes me happy and when do I feel most fulfilled.

My work and hobby both revolve around the worlds of social media, which mean I am constantly distracted - sometimes in a great way, but more often than not in a way that leaves me feeling like I have achieved nothing despite spending hours online each day.

While I love blogging, it's an instant gratification hit. Write a post, put it out there, hope for a reaction or two, and then move on. It's mostly great, but there is no huge sense of accomplishment to it, for me right now at least.

Likewise the things I find myself reading - short posts and articles that raise a smile and then dissolve into the ripples of my every decreasing brain cells.

And so my word to focus on this year is DEPTH.

From finishing writing that book instead of messing about writing posts that serve no other purpose than to keep my blog ticking over, to reading the things that really matter - books that leave you deeply satisfied and articles that bring understanding.

From focusing on meaningful relationships with friends and family to putting my all into new projects instead of half-hearted attempts of 'could do better'.

This coming year I'm planning on making my decisions based on things that bring a sense of real fulfilment. I have a feeling this one might be a little tougher than last year- but I'm hoping to train my brain away from the short sharp hit and on to deeper depths.

And so my resolution is to make 2016 the year that I stop taking little sips of the sparkly champagne, and start drinking deep from that hearty glass of red instead.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lessons in Christmas

We took a festive detour last night. On a whim we decided to join an everyone-welcome raggle taggle collection of carollers on a street corner. The kids in Santa hats, a nativity scene set up on the pavement.

The 7 year old saw the statues and asked aloud in his best everyone-look-at-me voice did we want him to name them all.

As a lax, lapsed Christian I was more than a little nervous how it would go.

'That's the cow' he said, pointing to the cow.

'And that's the sheep' he said, pointing to the ox.

'And that - ' he announced pointing to the baby Jesus


', what's his name again?'

Then louder, to the crowd - 'What's he called again?'

'Jesus Christ' I muttered in despair.

'Oh yeah, Jesus'.

I pushed him to the back of the group and told him to behave. Always a mistake.

'Boring! Bor-rrring!  I hate this one.' he said as the carols began.

'And this one. When can we leave?'

Everyones smiles became fixed. Mine was gone a long time ago.

I grabbed his arm a little too tightly as he accidentally on purpose pushed his brother into an older lady.

Hissing into his ear I told him how much trouble he was going to be in when we got home.

'Stop ruining everything for everyone you spoiled little....'

The music struck up again -

'Peace on earth and mercy mild...'

Yep, Christmas has begun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How to live a greener life in 5 easy steps

Do you ever want to make changes to how you live, but don't know where to start? Or indeed if there's really any point? When is comes to sustainable living this is where I've been stuck.

We all recycle these days, but what else can we do that is simple to implement and makes a big difference to the world as a whole?

I've been fortunate enough to have been given time and expertise recently to find out some answers to these questions by everyone's favourite Scandinavian superstore - IKEA.

Renting a drafty and unloved house for the past couple of years has meant that I have pushed 'green' living to one side. I've been making excuses that lack of time, money, knowledge and the fact that I don't own the home mean that I can't do much more than throw a few tins in the recycling bin each week.

Not so!

Through IKEA's fabulous Live Lagom project (more on that to come) I've been learning that little changes can make big differences. So here's a beginners guide to some things you can do to get on board straight away:

1. LED Lighting
Changing the bulbs in your house to LED will make a huge difference, not just to your electricity bill but to the planet itself. Don't believe me?
LEDS use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They don't take time to brighten up as they did in the days of old, and all their energy is used to bring light - not heat as old fashioned bulbs do. Every light sold by IKEA is now LED.

2. Multiple socket leads
We know we should, but we usually don't... Switching appliances off standby is made super easy by simply flicking one switch on your extension lead. TV, DVD, Wii, Playstation and whatever else you have hooked up all get put to sleep for at least 8 hours instead of using up needless energy.

3. Rechargeable batteries
Did you know that one rechargeable battery equates to FIVE HUNDRED normal batteries? Insane. Why are we not all using them?

4. Cooking
Induction hobs use 40% less energy than standard glass hobs. Keeping the lid on the pan when boiling speeds up the cooking time significantly. Batch cooking. Turning the oven off 5 minutes before a dish is due to come out saves energy. As does only filling the kettle with as much water as you need... All little things that make a huge difference.

5. Washing
Dishwashers are actually the most efficient way to wash dishes (am I the only person that did not know this??) But failing that a simple plastic washing up bowl will save literally buckets of water - instead of seeing it run down the sink.
When it comes to clothes - the 30 degree rule should always apply. There really is no need to go higher - kind to your clothes, kind to the world. And hold the dryer - one of the worst culprits of energy gobbling at home.

There is SO much more you can do - shower timers, smart meters, draft excluders, heavy curtains, insulation, double glazing... There's a world of possibility out there.

I'm just at the start of my greener journey, but am excited to learn more. And did I mention that I get to go around IKEA with a personal shopper choosing products to kit my house out with? No? Well this won't be the last you hear about that I assure you.

I'll be posting all my purchases and the changes I've been making around my home so if you're interested in learning a little more alongside me please stay tuned. You can also follow the #LiveLagom hashtag for posts from lots of other IKEA customers, staff and bloggers throughout the UK and Ireland.

Disclosure: As part of the LiveLAGOM project with IKEA I receive a shopping budget, personal home visit and personal shopping experience as well as information and assistance on living more sustainably. 

Other useful links: Hubbub  - an environmental charity working with IKEA on the LiveLAGOM project. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Listography - Songs that transport me to a particular time and place

Music is a bit like perfume. One whiff of a certain tune and suddenly you're tumbling down the rabbit hole of space and time into a long forgotten but very precise moment from your past life.

There are so many songs and albums that do this for me (thank you music), but the force is particularly strong in a few select ones.

And so we begin the next Listography. It's a ridiculously easy one - apart from limiting them to just five that is.

Here's mine:

1. Space Oddity - Bowie
Bowie was the gift that kept on giving from my older and cooler siblings. At the time there was something confusing that I didn't get about him, and a weirdness that was almost frightening for a young girl still running around in pig tails and dungarees (cheers Mum). But the draw was always there, and never more so than through Space Oddity. I loved it the minute I heard it and each time I listen to it now I am transported back into the den of my friend Jenny's house, where her sister would eject Madonna's True Blue cassette tape and put it on especially for me. (I never did like Madonna).

2. Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
A double whammy. This still brilliant tune is forever welded in my mind to other delights such as The The and Psychedelic Furs. For me it's the moment of getting ready to go out to the local club, when your fake id was the passport to the night's success or failure.
Years later, finally of age and drunk to prove it, I was standing unsteadily in a busy pub in New Zealand wearing a witch's hat and stripy tights when this song started unexpectedly blasting through the speakers. The joy!
Incidentally, I'd like to apologise to all the people who were in the room that night.

3. I hope that I don't fall in love with you - Tom Waits
University was filled with music, from the obvious Primal Scream and Pink Floyd to the 'friends of a friend' new band The Frames and guilty pleasures such as The Carpenters. But the song that brings me sweeping down to that particular house, in that particular street, where that particular guy handed me a tape and told me to 'listen to this' - is this beautiful tune from the fabulous Closing Time.

4. The Sea - Morcheeba
'Left my soul there, down by the sea'. *sigh* Byron Bay was supposed to be a three day stopover as I backpacked my way alone down the Australian East Coast. But on day one it got under my skin and then I just couldn't leave, It was a special place and a special time and this song was the soundtrack to it all.

5. New York City Cops - The Strokes
A boring Friday night, Top of the Pops on the TV playing the same old crap until - hold on - what the f*ck is that! There was no hype to believe on my part, but they would have lived up to it anyway. That song came out of nowhere, hit me in the face and made me remember that there was great music being made out there. Actually, years later Julian Casablancas would hit his manager in the face too. Glad mine was just metaphorical.

So that's my rather lovely list. Now it's time for yours. If you want to join in just add your post to the linky below and I'll pop by for a visit.

Enjoy the trip down your musical memory lane.

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