peanut butter – my favourite healthy brands

When you’re looking for healthy swaps for the not-so-healthy food you love, it isn’t always easy.  There is no decent substitute for chocolate, and let’s be honest – who actually enjoys alcohol free wine?  Besides Daily Milk and a glass of red, another love of mine is peanut butter.

my favourite healthy peanut butter brands


The nutty loveliness is also a big family favourite.  Hubs dollops it into his smoothies, Oldest Son refuels on it after his swim training, and my idea of heaven is slathering it on toast.  Middle Son did used to say he didn’t like it; I considered disowning him but thankfully he changed his mind.

Unfortunately, when I was trying to cut out processed foods from my diet I realised that a lot of peanut butters have added ingredients like sugar, palm oil, stabilisers and preservatives.  So imagine my joy when I discovered that you can get peanut butter without any added nasties!


natural peanut butter

“Natural” is a bit of a marketing gimmick these days, a buzz word that doesn’t always mean much.  But there are peanut butters out there which contain only peanuts.  Nothing else.  You can’t get much more natural than that.

I think they’re even more delicious than the brands I grew up loving.  Unlike some healthy swaps, you don’t lose out on taste or texture with a natural peanut butter.  Even my kids like the natural brands – they didn’t seem to notice when we swapped!

But for the newbies to natural, a warning.  Natural peanut butter separates in the tub, meaning that when you open it you will find a layer of oil sitting on top.  Don’t despair!  You just need to give your pot a good stir to mix it all back up.  You can also help avoid this by storing the jar upside down.


my favourite healthy peanut butters

Pip & Nut

Pip & Nut were my intro into the world of au natural nutty goodness. It was love at first spoon-lick.  Their branding is cute af too.


Easier to buy from supermarkets than my beloved Pip & Nut, these guys don’t disappoint.


Whaaaat? An own brand natural peanut butter?  Goes to show that healthy is becoming mainstream.  And the best thing about the Tesco one (apart from the fact that is is just as yummy as the others)?  It’s super cheap!


weight loss tip

As tempted as you might be, resist the urge to settle down with a tub of Pip & Nut and a spoon.  Although healthier than other brands, natural peanut butter still packs a calorie punch. That’s down to all the good fats it contains.  Enjoy it, but don’t go nuts!



This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not getting paid for the content, but it does contain affiliate links.  You can read more about my affiliate policy here.
I just got embarrassingly excited when I came across the Tesco peanut butter when shopping for this week’s meal plan and had to share!

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pumpkin patch at arnprior farm

The October half term break is over. The trees look all glam in their burnt oranges and crimsons. Fingers and ears are crying out for gloves and hats. Yep, we’re well and truly into autumn.  Or, my favourite Americanism – fall.  Americans do this time of year so well.  I’m so jealous of my Yankee friends when their Insta feeds fill with cute pictures of their kids down on the pumpkin patch.  So when I found out that we actually have a real life patch near us I was crazy excited. At the pumpkin patch at Arnprior Farm we could finally live out all my fall dreams!

the pumpkin patch at arnprior farm


My two older boys had not one but two weeks off for the October break. To say cabin fever was taking hold by the end of the second week would not be exaggerating. Middle Son can get a bit stir crazy, so for family sanity I try to get him outside most days. As soon as I heard about the pumpkin patch at Arnprior Farm, we pulled on our wellies and off we went.

down on the pumpkin patch

The pumpkin patch at Arnprior Farm was just as I had always hoped a pumpkin patch would be.  We were allowed to wander about and choose our pumpkin, and Middle Son loved looking at all the different colours, shapes and sizes.  It took him a while to make up his mind.

In between wandering around the pumpkins, we let ourselves get lost in the Kale Maze.  We had to admit defeat though, and double back!  There were hay bales to climb as well (with a little help from mum), and you can even dig your own potatoes or pull your own turnips.  We refuelled with hotdogs from the food truck, before lugging our carefully selected pumpkins home.


the pumpkin patch at arnprior farm – the details

There’s still time to get down to the pumpkin patch – it’s open this weekend, 28-29th October, 10am-4pm.  Parking is free, but it gets really busy so check the Facebook page to make sure you can get in.  It’s free to get in, you just pay for your pumpkins (the kale maze is an extra £1).  The pumpkins are more expensive than the ones you get in the supermarket, but worth it for the experience!

There was a Scottish twist on an American classic though – mud.  Lots of mud!  Sadly, crisps autumn days are often overshadowed by rainy ones here.  Rain plus a lot of welly-clad feet makes for a very squidgy terrain.  I can’t stress this enough –  w e a r    y o u r    w e l l i e s  !!!  And if you’re precious about them, don’t wear your finest Hunter ones.

Also, bring a bag to carry your pumpkin in.  It makes it easier when kid wrangling, and also means less mud all over your hands.  Baby wipes and alcohol gel are a must too, especially if you plan on grabbing some food.



We can’t wait until next year to go again!


This isn’t a sponsored post.  We just think this place is amazing!

Country Kids

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our meal plan for this week

It’s been a while since I posted a weekly meal plan.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been making and following them though.  Meal planning is second nature to me now, I can’t function without one.  If I didn’t have my trusty list stuck to the fridge, we’d literally have cereal for dinner every night.

It can be hard to think of healthy meals every week.  Especially if you’re just starting out on a weight loss journey, or feel stuck in a food rut.  I’m going to make a point of sharing my plans each week – if you see something you like the sound of please let me know.  I’d love to share the recipes for the most popular dishes!


our meal plan this week


This week’s meal plan


Monday – curried fish bake

This is a freezer meal from one I made last week.  I’d never made this before, and although I need to tweak the recipe a little I was quite surprised by it.  Curry flavours with fish is a new thing for me this year, and I’m liking it.

I’ll serve it with brown rice and green beans.


Tuesday – tuna steaks with ratatouille

I love ratatouille at this time of year, it’s a great alternative when it’s too cold for salad.  Because it’s so full of flavour, I don’t mess about with the tuna – just grill and serve.

I’ll save some leftovers for lunch.


Wednesday – beef goulash

Speaking of awesome cold-weather dishes, this is such comfort food!  Tender beef in a smokey, rich sauce…*drool* You can find my recipe here.

I’ll serve it with mash potato and some mixed veggies, and save some leftovers for lunch.


Thursday – pizza burgers

This was a new recipe I tried last week – turkey burgers topped with pizza sauce, olives and mozarella.  They were lush!  I made double and froze the extras for this week.

I’ll serve them up without buns, but with a nice big salad.


Friday – chicken chow mein

Fakeaway Friday!  I have a love/hate with Chinese food, in that I think I want it and then regret it when I overindulge…MSG is not my friend.  Thankfully, when I make my own I always love it!

I’ll add in lot of stir fry friendly veg.


Saturday – burger and chips

Burgers twice in one week!  But these are homemade too, so I don’t feel guilty.  A nice, lazy dinner made even lazier by the fact that I made these weeks ago. All I need to do is defrost them.  I’ll make the chips in the Actifry, and use up any leftover salad.


Sunday – butternut squash and apple soup / chicken tikka masala / fruit crumble and ice cream

It’s our turn to do Sunday dinner!  The soup is a new one, but the flavours sound lush and my soup maker never lets me down.  I’m a bit nervous doing a curry, as my father-in-law has made some incredible ones over the years, but this is delicious.  And the crumble will be apple, pear and plum with an oaty topping, served with light ice cream.


This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not getting paid for the content, but it does contain affiliate links.  You can read more about my affiliate policy here.

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mental health boosters

I’m struggling to write about weight loss because I’m currently sabotaging my efforts.  For me, how I feel and what I eat are very closely linked.  If I feel good, being healthy can be so easy.  But if I feel like shit, I eat like shit.  And then I feel even more like shit.  So then I eat even more like shit. Safe to say, I’m not in a happy place right now.  But I’ve decided to turn it around and focus on the things that make me feel better.  Not elaborate things, not material things. Just simple daily things that serve as mental health boosters to get me through the crap times.

mental health boosters


Trying to write this post, I stared at a blank screen for longer than my limited free time can really allow me.  I just don’t know where to start…or even if I want to start it at all.  But I need to get over this block, my blog has been so abandoned.

I don’t know why I’m finding this so difficult to put into words, because I did the hard part last week.  I guess that’s a good place to start – walking into the GP’s office and bursting in to tears.  I’m having a mental health crisis.  Or at least I was, at the time.  Before I stepped into that room I had spent the past four hours sobbing and feeling as if I was losing my grip on things.  Even in that moment, I knew it was something that had been building for a while.  I’d just refused to see the walls closing in on me until I had no room to turn.

I’m in a better place now.  Not a good place, but a better one.  Asking for help was like releasing a pressure valve. I’ve been here more times than I can count, so I knew that medication was the route I wanted to go down.  Now I just need to wait for it to kick in.  In the meantime, I need to practice a bit of self care to keep myself out of that dark place.

My mental health boosters are simple things that can make all the difference.  Little things that keep depression from taking over and leaving me stranded.  They aren’t groundbreaking, but are things it can be hard to remember to focus on when you’re trapped in your thoughts. I hope they can help someone else.


my mental health boosters


I always seem to say the same thing about exercise – I never really want to do it, but I never regret it when I do.  But more than that, a workout can totally transform my mood.  No doubt some of that is to do with those mystical endorphins people always talk about.  But I think it’s more than that.  I think it’s because I feel like I’ve achieved something.  Getting swamped by your negative thoughts is hard when you’re concentrating on exercise, and a break from your worries can really lift your mood.

Even if it’s just a walk, distract yourself with music or a podcast and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.



A rare commodity in my life right now, but when all else fails my bed is my safe place.  Bra off, jammies on, total darkness and silence (I have a mask and ear plugs – I take this shit seriously).   I long for the day our baby finally sleeps through the night so I can get the full benefit of this one.

But even a naps can be powerful mental health boosters.  I read a tip once which has helped me a few times – if you only have a short time to nap, drink a coffee first. By the time you wake up, the caffeine will have kicked in so you’ll feel more energised.

When my anxiety is up, I can’t sleep.  But even then, sometimes just lying in bed can help boost my mood.  If I find my thoughts are racing, listening to this progressive relaxation can really help.



This is the hardest one to do, but probably the one that makes the most difference.  When I’m gripped by depression, I tend to cut myself off.  I don’t have the energy to be sociable, and convince myself that no one wants to be around me anyway.  But past experience has shown that spending time with my friends can lift me out of myself and remind me of so many things to be positive about.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in negative thoughts. When your own inner voice is the only one you’re hearing, the spiral is just downwards.  But if you can find someone to talk to, either about how you’re feeling or anything other than that, give it a try.


let go of things that don’t serve you

This is a turn of phrase I’ve stolen from Yoga with Adriene.  It really speaks to me, because we all have things we do out of a sense of duty.  Maybe that’s cooking dinner when you’re knackered. Or maybe it’s doing someone a favour when you’ve already got enough on your plate. Maybe you feel obliged to spend time with someone who brings you down. Whatever it is, it’s liberating to simply not do it.  Often I know it’s better for my mental wellbeing to ignore my mum’s phone calls, or to admit that I’m too busy to cook from scratch, or just to leave the laundry for another day.

We put so much pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we forget the world wont cave in if we let some things slide.  Letting go of the things that aren’t going to lift your mood can be challenging, and in some cases can cause you even more anxiety.  But if you let go of even just the small things, it can be a great mental health booster.



other tips

One of the best things I ever read was the Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay self care checklist.  Much like my mental health boosters, it includes some simple things that can help you take steps out of the dark fog.  Small things like taking a shower and getting dressed (which I swear by, even if I have nowhere to be), to bigger ones like seeing a therapist.  It’s a great tool to work through.

Another great tool is the You Feel Like Shit interactive self care flow chart. It covers similar areas as the checklist, but breaks it down in to steps. This could be easier to manage, and makes the suggestions more relevant to where you’re at.



speak up

But none of these mental health boosters are a substitute to getting help.  If you’re feeling anxious, depressed or just not right in yourself, the best thing you can do is to speak up.  See your GP, tell your spouse, contact a support service.  But don’t suffer in silence.  We live in a much more supportive time for mental health than when I was first diagnosed 15 years ago.  Nothing you’re struggling with will shock a health professional, and you’ll find no judgement from them. No matter how worthless you feel, you are worth help.

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back to weight watchers (goodbye slimming world)

If you’ve been following my blog you will know that I’ve been going to Slimming World.  But my diet loyalties always belonged to another programme, and the inevitable has happened – I’ve switched back to Weight Watchers.


back to weight watchers


slimming world and me

I joined Slimming World when I was pregnant, to make sure I didn’t balloon like I did in my other two pregnancies.  Weight Watchers don’t allow you to attend when you’re pregnant. But I needed the accountability of a weekly weigh-in to keep me on track.  So, feeling like a cheating hussy, I ditched my beloved Weight Watchers for the enemy.

After our baby was born in June, I kept going to Slimming World. The class is a friendly wee place and I like the consultant.  As I had some pregnancy (and pre-pregnancy…) weight to lose I thought I’d stick with it.  But over 7 weeks I only lost 3.5lbs.  Admittedly, my head was not in the weight loss game.  I wasn’t really on plan a lot of the time, so the lack of progress isn’t really a representation of Slimming World if you’re doing it right.   The thing with diets is that they all work, even the crazy ones.  What makes or breaks a diet is whether you can stick to it long term. Whether it fits in with your life.  For me, Slimming World just didn’t, and I wasn’t inspired by the plan.  So I’ve gone back to Weight Watchers.


heading back to weight watchers

Weight Watchers was the programme which helped me drop from a size 22 to a size 8.  It was the programme that turned my life around. It gave me skills and knowledge about health and nutrition which I still apply today, 15 years after my first meeting.  I love the programme so much that I even worked as a leader for a short while.  Even knowing what I do now about the diet industry, the importance of a sustainable diet and the trap that low-fat/reduced calorie/light/diet foods are, I still think the programme is amazing.  That’s why I’ve decided to go back to Weight Watchers.

We all operate in different ways when it comes to keeping ourselves on track.  I need to monitor pretty much everything that goes in my mouth or I get a bit carried away.  Let’s just say I’m pretty generous to myself unless I’m making a conscious effort to stay in check.  I’m an eater who doesn’t have an off switch. I think that was why Slimming World never sat right with me.  It was too easy to have more rice or potatoes because they were “free.” And don’t get me started on the Muller Lights (see my rant about the things I hate about Slimming World).  I need structure, limits and a way to measure what I’m shoving in my gob.  Going back to Weight Watchers gives me all of that.

For me, besides the programme itself, the big plus of Weight Watchers is just how good the app and website are.  The app is all singing, all dancing.  You can track your SmartPoints, your weight and your exercise.  You can look up or work out the SmartPoints in literally any food, and even build recipes to work out their SmartPoints too.  It syncs with all sorts of fitness trackers, so you get instant rewards for your activity.  It means I can take my diet with me everywhere. There is no guessing and I always know how to make the best choices.


the proof is in the pudding…

…ok, inappropriate analogy for a diet comparison.  But the test of whether a diet works is in the weight loss. In 5 weeks since going back to Weight Watchers I’ve lost 8lbs.  I’ve not been on track all that time, but the programme is so easy to follow and the app such an amazing tool that I’m motivated to stick with it most of the time.

I’m so glad I decided to switch.  For the first time in a long while I feel inspired to make changes, convinced I can do it and excited about the future.  Those size 12 clothes waiting patiently in my wardrobe hopefully wont be waiting for much longer!

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being my own example

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet on the blog recently.  I’ve made some changes to my healthy lifestyle approach and it’s made me take a step back and look at my blog.

I feel I’ve lost my way a little. This blog started off as a place to chart my efforts to keep well and maintain a healthy weight during my pregnancy, and I assumed it would grow from there into a healthy living blog.  I hadn’t anticipated that I’d write very much about my kids, but as they’re my life I’ve inevitably started to do just that. I also hadn’t anticipated that sometimes trying to live healthily can be hard, and not always fun to write about.  Most of all, I hadn’t realised just how difficult it would be to find my voice and my place, as a tiny little sea monkey in the vast ocean that is the blogosphere.


what i’m not

Mummy bloggers are big news.  Being a mummy blogger is an industry in itself.  They’re funny, honest, and a big deal with followers and brands alike.   They are all these things because they are amazing at their motherhood niche.  Maybe they’re super crafty and can amuse their kids (and readers) with homemade creations and elaborate bakes in a picture perfect house.  Perhaps they’re the epitome of patient, able to get down to their kids’ level and navigate each parenting minefield with guru-like understanding, sharing their knowledge with their readers whilst raising flawless children.  Possibly they’re graced with style and the cash to kit their mini-models out in the latest trendy gear, not to mention the sort of kids who enjoy posing for Insta-worthy shot after shot.  Or failing all that, they’re at least able to turn even the most shit-stained, hair-pulling, pass-me-the-gin days into a relatable confessional which has us all wetting our pants whilst nodding in relieved agreement that we’re not alone.

I don’t belong in that world.

But I don’t really belong in the healthy living world either.  I do not look good in Lycra, my fridge is more likely to contain some saggy looking peppers than avocados and kale, my workout gear is more Primark than Sweaty Betty and I’d pass on raw cacao for Dairy Milk.  But according to the blogosphere the only way to live healthily is to go to extremes.  The only people who are healthy are those with six pack abs and a fridge full of seasonal veg.

finding my niche

But not fitting in to the healthy living world is precisely the reason I started this blog.  And not fitting in to the mummy blogger world should be exactly why I do include my kids in what I write.

I’m just a regular woman, trying to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting whilst dragging bringing my family along for the ride.  And I don’t anticipate that the ride will see me suddenly becoming vegan and undertaking ultramarathons whilst morphing into a cool and very funny version of Mary Poppins.

I want to blog about the things I do and find out on my own journey to health.  Accessible, easy things that fit into family life and maybe rub off on partners and kids too.  I’m not holding myself up as a specimen of clean eating, cover girl perfect athleticism. I’m not even holding myself up to say this is what you should do.  I just want to show that living healthily doesn’t need to come with a price tag or take the same commitment as a part time job, and that it certainly isn’t only for certain types of people.  I want to prove we can all be a bit more healthy, in our own ways.   That to be the best version of ourselves doesn’t mean we have to copy anyone else.  We can set our own examples.  You can be your own example.

That’s what I intend to do.


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five healthy things to do every day

Is there such thing as a food hangover?  I’m pretty sure there is. I’m also pretty sure that I woke up with one yesterday morning.  If Irn Bru is the manna which cures an alcohol hangover, then I have the food hangover cure.  And these don’t just help with the hangover, these are five healthy things you can do every day.  Even if you’re feeling like you’ve fallen off the wagon, doing these five things can make you feel a little more positive.


five healthy things to do every day

a heavy weekend

I’ve written before about how weekends are a bit of a weight loss pitfall for me.  As soon as Saturday (ok, sometimes Friday night) rolls around, the reins come off.  It’s like a switch goes off in my head and I don’t even remember that I’m meant to be making healthy choices.

Since I really started knuckling down in my efforts to improve my diet, I’ve managed to kerb my weekends a little.  Particularly in the last few weeks, I’ve indulged a little but still kept within healthy limits.  And the results on the scale have been good.  This weekend though, especially Sunday, things got a little out of control.  Not binge-level cray-cray, but just…ugly.

I don’t want to turn this into a confession booth or anything. But a cheeseburger, prosecco, birthday cake, cheesecake, wine and chocolate biscuits all happened.  I was at a kids’ birthday party, a night out and a family fun day, none of which had healthy options and none of which I prepared for.  Or gave any more thought to other than nomnomnomnom.  I’m fine with it though.  Life happens, and I like to enjoy it when it does.


getting back on track

The party has to stop some time though.  A little of what you fancy is good for you, but too much can actually make you feel gross.  I felt sluggish, cranky and basically yuck when the school run dragged me out of bed on Monday morning.  Some of that was down to a broken night of sleep.  After sleeping through for four whole nights, the baby decided that I’d had enough sleep and is back to 4am snack attacks.  But I do think that a lack of nutrients and too much sugar wasn’t helping either.

Instead of writing off the rest of the week, I decided to hit reset.  And it got me thinking about the five healthy things that always make me feel good.  They make me feel as if I’m treating my body right, and get me back in the healthy zone.  And they’re so easy to do.

I also think they made the difference between a bit of overindulgence, and an all out binge.  I’ve battled with binge eating my whole life, and a weekend like this would easily start me off in that direction.  But because doing these five healthy things is now almost second nature, I was able to stop myself falling down that particular rabbit hole.


my five healthy things

Starting the day off right

Maybe you eat breakfast, maybe you don’t.  But if the first meal you eat in a day is healthy and balanced, you’re much more likely to keep making good choices.  My morning bowl of porridge sets me up well, and makes me feel a bit smug and virtuous.  And even if the rest of the day doesn’t exactly go to plan, at least one meal will have been healthy – damage limitation, people!

Drinking water

I know, I know, everyone bangs on about this one.  But think about it – dehydration can make you feel lethargic and sluggish.  I don’t know about you, but when I feel that way I just can be bothered making any healthy effort.  I’d rather sit on my arse and reach for quick-hit junk food.

Hydrating gets me out of that slump.  Not only does it boost energy and help clear you out (yeah, I’m talking poo), but it keeps your mind sharp too.  Science says so.  If that isn’t a good reason to get glugging, I don’t know what is.

Getting active

Exercise.  I never really want to do it, but I never regret it when I do.  In fact, I feel a million times worse looking at a low step count at the end of the day than I ever would after working out.  But you don’t need to be killing it in the gym every day.  Walking is so good for you, and most of us can fit it into our day somehow.  I’ve ditched the car for most of the school runs this year. Whilst we may need to leave the house a little earlier, it’s worth it not just for the exercise but the time I get to spend with my middle son.  It actually doesn’t even take that much longer, if you consider what a faff parking can be.

A few workouts and daily walking in your week can make a huge difference.  Not just to your weight loss and body composition, but to your mood.  And if you feel better, you’re more likely to make healthy choices.  It’s a win-win cycle.

Eat your greens

And your reds, and your yellows, whites, oranges, purples…  I try to make sure that every meal has a fruit or vegetable component.  And if there are veggies in a recipe, I’ll still either add more or have veggies on the side too.  They’re yummy, they fill you up and they’re packed full of all the good stuff.  A meal packed with veggies makes you feel as if you’re really treating your body right.  But more than that, adding a chaser of goodness to even the cheatiest of cheat meals can work wonders for your mindset.  It’s hard to feel as guilty about eating a big dirty cheeseburger if you also munch on a salad.  Which leads me to the last of my five healthy things you can do every day…

Be kind to yourself

This is probably the most important of the five healthy things I’ve listed.  If you have had a cheat meal, or even if you’ve had a cheat day…week…month, cut yourself some slack.  Maybe you nail all four of the other healthy things and more besides, or maybe you really don’t.  But either way it is not a reflection of you as a person, just a reflection of where you’re at.

I find the easiest way to be kinder to myself is not to look at what I ate or the workout I skipped, and to instead look at the why.  I ate that cheeseburger this weekend because there were no healthier options, because we didn’t have time to prepare something healthier at home that day, because I didn’t think ahead.  So, I’ll learn from it.  Draw a line under it.  And appreciate the fact that although it wasn’t ideal, I still enjoyed it.

It’s taken me years to separate those things, my food choices from my self.  Even now I still catch myself thinking “I’m a bad person” sometimes, where what I really mean is “that wasn’t the greatest food choice.”  There’s so much guilt around food, and for some of us it gets absorbed as guilt for who we are.  Fuck that.  Shake it off, and show yourself some compassion.

The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it becomes to make healthier choices because putting your health first becomes an act of kindness.


healthy foundations

If your day has as many of those five healthy things in it as you can manage, you’re on the right path.  I know that by hydrating, moving, eating my veggies and still making some good choices, I managed to give my body what it needed.  Sure, I may not see a loss on the scales this weekend after my indulgent weekend. But I’m not carrying any baggage about it, because I’m kind enough to myself to be ok with that.



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what I’ve read in 2017 so far

I know we’re now far past the mid-point of the year, but when Emma-Louise from Read, Write, Inspire tagged me in the Mid Year Freak Out tag I had to join in.  It’s a book tag, about what I’ve read in 2017 so far.  The only thing I love more than reading books is talking about them, so lets get cracking!

My prized possession is my book collection which dominates a corner of our living room. I keep most of the books I’ve read, unless I really hated them.  I also have well over one hundred books still waiting patiently on the shelves to be read, and that’s after a bit of a clear out earlier in the year where I got rid of unread books that no longer suit my tastes.  I have a serious obsession, and have had to ban myself from buying any new books as I have nowhere else to put them (or time to read them!).

But reading is my safe haven, my sanity saver and the way I switch off at night.  Through books I learn more about others, the world and myself.  You’re never alone when you have a book.  I don’t see me getting over my obsession any time soon.

I decided to use the Pop Sugar reading challenge to help me chose which books to read in 2017.  Forty books which fit into categories such as “set in war time” or “has a red spine.”  With a newborn thrown in to the mix since June, I know I’ll not get close to the target.  But I’ve made a good try, and am currently sitting at 23/40.  Hopefully I’ll get to at least 30 before the year is out, so look out for a post about the challenge then.

Without further ado though, here’s a bit of a summary of what I’ve read in 2017 so far.

read in 2017


Best books you’ve read in 2017 so far

read in 2017 - the handmaid's tale

I’ve been lucky, I’ve had quite a lot of good reads.  I don’t usually re-read books, but because the challenge asked for a book from childhood I re-read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aitken.  I also re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale after watching the tv adaptaion.  Both were just as good as I remembered.  But the best new (to me) books have been Life of Pi by Yann Mantel, Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love and Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

read in 2017 - go set a watchman

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017

I don’t usually read series of books, but this year I read the second book in the Miss Pereguin’s series.  It was ok, though I preferred the first book.  If it counts, I’d actually say Go Set a Watchman was a good sequal to To Kill a Mockingbird, although I think Harper Lee actually wrote it first.  It was cool to revisit Scout as a grown up, and to see Atticus in a different light.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to

I try not to look at other books, as I have so many of my own still to read!  But I did like the sound of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.

Most anticipated release in the 2nd half of the year.

I don’t tend to keep an eye on what’s coming out, for the reason I mentioned above.  I don’t even check if my favourite authors have got anything in the pipeline, the temptation would be too strong.

Biggest disappointment

Speaking of favourite authors…maybe not knowing what they’re up to isn’t awlays a bad thing.  I read Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last and was really underwhelmed.  I was a bit gutted, as she is one of my favourites and this story sounded like it was going to be so intriguing.  But there just seemed to be something missing in this book, it lacked soul. I really didn’t like how current it was either.  I know that sounds funny but I don’t mean current as in finger-on-the-pulse.  More like current in a way that was going to date it very quickly.

read in 2017 - the history of love

Biggest surprise

Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love.  This was given to me by a friend who was having a clear out, and he’s pretty hip so I couldn’t understand why he had such a chick-lit sounding book in his stash.  I only read it because it ticked one of the reading challenge categories.  But I’m so glad I did, I was under its spell from the first page.  It was not chick-lit at all, but raw and human and heartbreaking.

Fav new author

In line with my favourite books of the year it would be Nicole Krauss, Yann Mantel and Joanne Harris.  They were all new to me, and when I lift the ban on buying new books I’ll be looking to see if they have any others I can add to my collection.

Fav new crush

No character in the books I’ve read this year has made me think “I want to be loved the way he loves her.”  I was curious about Reuben in Clare Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days but the ending made me reassess that.

read in 2017 - the book thief

Fav new characters

Who doesn’t root for Pi, cast adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger?  Or Christopher as he tries to solve Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? Probably the one I’ll remember the most is Liesal Meminger from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, because even though I hated the ending of that story I rooted for her the whole way through.

Book that made you cry

The History of Love actually had me in tears by page 10.  And Toni Morrison’s Beloved had me crying at various points for various characters.  That book is full of pain.

Book that made you happy

Chocolat, and not just because of all the delicious images it put in my mind.  It showed that “good” can come in a whole range of guises, and I quite liked its feminist leanings too!

read in 2017 - our endless numbered days

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year

I’ve not bought any books this year…at least not for myself!  But at the end of last year I changed jobs and my leaving gift was a very generous Waterstone’s voucher.  I bought about eight new books (a treat for me as I usually go second hand).  So if by beautiful we mean cover design, then Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller wins that.

What books do you need to read before the end of the year.

Like I said, it’s unlikely I’ll manage the 17 I need to hit the target of 40 books read in 2017.  But I’m at least hoping to get the following under my belt – Hotel World by Ali Smith, Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Francaise and The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  I might also give Mark Twain’s  The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula a go too.


So that’s my thoughts on some of what I’ve read in 2017 so far.  I’m excited about the books that are waiting for me!  Have you read any good books this year?  Feel free to tag yourself in this, and let me know if you post about it.  I love to see what other people are reading.  Let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned here, I’d like to know what you thought of them.

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weight loss wardrobe limbo (or, why I’ve been wearing the same jeans for 11 weeks)

Writing about the five essentials you need on a weight loss journey last week lit a fire under me.  I feel unstoppable with my weight loss right now, because considering each of those five things really focused me.  My results on the scale were better than I’d hoped.  And I’m so glad, because I am sick of being in weight loss wardrobe limbo. Confession?  I only have one pair of jeans that fit me…and I wear them every damn day.

weight loss wardrobe limbo


I wear my jeans for two (ok…three) days, then have to wash and dry them strategically so I don’t end up doing the school run in my pants.  Right now they have mud on the bottom of the right leg, so I’m going to have to baby wipe that away because I can’t fit in a wash and dry before the school pick up.

I’m aware I sound like a tramp.


how did it come to this?

I’m not sure how I ended up with only one pair of jeans to wear.  Pre-pregnancy I had a few pairs I could rotate.  I can only assume that in my one attempt to Konmari my life (which even nesting couldn’t force me to sustain), I binned all the jeans that didn’t “spark joy.”  Let me tell you, being left with only one pair of jeans that fit ain’t exactly sparking the joy right now either.

weight update

this week’s result

I lost 2.5lb, which takes my total to 7lbs.  But best of all…it means the pregnancy weight is gone!

I also got Slimmer of the Week at SlimmingWorld.

moving forward

I have finally channeled the motivation that I had been struggling to find.  I’ve seen that weight loss is possible and I have my sights firmly set on seeing that number drop each week.  I’ve been keeping track of everything I’ve eaten, and even though I’ve not been on plan all the time I’m confident that the scales will make me smile this week!

Why don’t I just buy more pairs?  Because I do not plan on staying this size long enough to make that a worthwhile investment.  I find it very difficult to justify spending money on clothes, and when I do it’s because I know I will wear those items to death.

The other issue is this.  I’m a size 14, and I have at least two other size 14 jeans in my wardrobe.  I honestly thought once the pregnancy weight was gone I’d fit back in to all the 14’s.  But I forgot that clothing companies are fucking crazy.  So whilst this current pair of size 14’s (Primark) fit me and have done since a week after giving birth, my other two (New Look and George…I know, I’m the style queen) don’t.  I’m not even looking at my 12’s.


there are no other options

And I do have leggings, and dresses, and skirts.  But I’m a jeans girl.  If I did the school run or Baby Sensory in a dress I’d feel a bit overdone.  And wearing leggings in public makes me feel as if I forgot to get dressed.

I scoured the charity shops at the weekend, but it would appear that size 14 jeans that fit are something no woman wants to part with.  Even for cancer research or homeless people or heart conditions.  Though I did get a cute little knitted skirt with snowflakes on it for Christmas.  Priorities.


the weight loss wardrobe

When you’ve yo-yo dieted the way I have, you can end up with a weight loss wardrobe.  A closet that covers all bases.  Mine has ranged from size 22 down to size 8.  When I lost weight the first time I gleefully chucked away all my “big” clothes as the weight came off.  But I had to replace items all the way back up to a 16 after gaining weight in pregnancy.  When I lost the weight again, I was too scared to chuck away too much in case I needed them again.  But at the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to chuck out my “skinny” clothes either, as I hoped I would one day wear them again.

A few years ago I wondered whether part of my yo-yoing was because of my weight loss wardrobe.  Every time I opened the doors I simultaneously felt guilty for not being slimmer and reassured at still having clothes to wear. I’d diet to slim down, get disheartened at still not fitting in to my old clothes, and gain weight again with clothes waiting which provided a crash pad.  My weight loss wardrobe was not helping me at all.

So I decided to take some action.  I sent all my size 8, 10 and 16 clothes to charity shops – I didn’t want to be a 16 again, and the smaller sizes were unrealistic.  The size 14 clothes were what fit me and I decided that a size 12 was my ideal, so I kept those.

So that’s why I’m now in weight loss wardrobe limbo.  Too stubborn to buy bigger clothes, too big to wear the clothes I’ve got.  But it’s serving as a motivator.

And at least it takes the decision making out of getting dressed in the mornings…

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home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies

Before our youngest son was born, I blogged about my plans to give birth at home.  It had been my hope all along to have a home birth, and I was very lucky that my dreams became a reality.  Now that our baby is nearly three months old, I wanted to reflect on our incredible experience…and the bullshit that comes with wanting to give birth in the comfort of your own home.

I thought I’d turn this in to a mini-series. In this first post I talk about why home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies.  Look out for future posts about my own experience, and why I think every woman should consider a home birth.

home birth - not just for crazy hippies


only hippies home birth

Thanks to stellar “news” sources such as Channel5 documentaries and the Daily Fail, we know that childbirth is a traumatic and dangerous experience.  So it stands to reason that only crazy hippies who care more about their birth experience than the safety of their unborn child would plan to give birth beyond the safety net of a hospital.

It may come as some surprise to you that I shave my armpits.  Or that I vaccinate my kids.  Or that I don’t breastfeed, I’m not vegan, I send my sons to mainstream school and I have never eaten/drank/planted any of my placentas*.  I also most certainly don’t think I know more than any midwives or obstetricians. Have I forgotten any stereotypes of your typical home birthing woman?  No?  Good.


what kind of weirdo are you?

I trained as a midwife many moons ago, so know that most of the time birth isn’t traumatic and it isn’t dangerous.  I also didn’t think that only deluded eccentrics gave birth outside the confines of the labour ward. But I’ll admit, home birth was something that was never on my personal radar.

Until I gave birth in a car park.

Trust me, that will change your perspective on most things.  An unattended delivery in my husband’s car with an audience of strangers was not on my birth plan. It made me certain that next time around I would do all I could to have a calm, positive experience.  It made sense that being in my own home would be the best way to ensure that happened.


announcing our home birth plans

I was embarrassed to tell people about my plans though, out of fear of what they might think.  I’m lucky that I don’t have many people in my life who are straight up arseholes, so I was never treated to some of the choice comments I know other home birth mums have received.  Like being accused of wanting a home birth purely to have a dramatic story to tell when it all went wrong.  Can you imagine saying that to someone?

But what I did experience a lot was The Look.  That split second where a person’s thoughts are displayed on their face before they remember to rearrange their features.  The Look is usually followed by “oh really?”  And about nine times out of ten the person then goes on to tell you they would never have a home birth because they/their partner/someone they met once on the bus had a horrible 5 day labour which ended up with failed forceps and an emergency Cesarean under general anaesthetic with a three week stay in hospital for an infection.  Thanks Belinda, for sharing your experience.

It took me a while to feel confident enough to state our plans.  I had a store of responses for the comments I was likely to get.  Most of the reactions focused on pain relief, so the fact I’d had a drug-free labour previously made it easier for me to prove to others that I was just fine on that front, thanks.  My midwifery experience also came in handy to bat off those who tried to scare me about safety aspects.  I was able to stop them in their tracks with the fact that in a healthy pregnancy with a history of uncomplicated previous deliveries, giving birth at home with a midwife was just as safe as delivering in a hospital1.


getting midwife support

I was still scared to tell people that I wanted to give birth at home, in case it didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to build up an image of the birth only for people to say “I told you so” if plans had to change.  Not just for my own self-preservation, but on behalf of home birthers everywhere.  I didn’t want to let the side down.

When a hospital birth doesn’t go the way the parents hope for, there is (quite rightly) sympathy and morale bolstering.  But when a home birth has to be abandoned or transferred to hospital, there is a lot of tutting and “well what did she expect” type comments.  Not always, not from all, but audible enough.

I was even nervous to ask the midwife if it would be possible.  As if I had to ask permission. I was worried that she’d see me as a trouble patient.  Someone who was going to be difficult or demanding or who would refuse all advice.  Because that’s what a typical home birth mum is like – tv tells us so.  Home birthers only believe in alternative therapies, and if they don’t agree with their care providers they’re liable to go rogue and freebirth in a forest somewhere.

I didn’t have the most supportive of midwives, either. The one I saw most frequently made a point at each appointment of up-selling the birthing unit.  She always cheerfully reminded me that if someone else went in to labour at the same time I’d have to go to hospital because there would be no staff.  Her argument was that I might want to save myself the worry and just go for a hospital birth anyway.  She sent me for growth scans, and started pushing for induction as soon as I went past my due dates2.

Thankfully I did also have some supportive midwives, as well as a close friend who is a midwife passionate about home birth.  I also joined various Facebook groups to get advice and reassurance from some incredibly knowledgeable women.  I was able to counteract the lack of professional support, but I don’t think it’s always so easy.


support women’s birth choices

Women – all types of women – deserve to have their birth options open. For some, a medical condition or a complication with their pregnancy means that hospital is absolutely the safest place to give birth.  But for so many other women, a home birth can be perfect.  It reduces their risk of medical intervention3, can help them cope better with labour and is ultimately more relaxing than being in a medicalised environment4.

Stereotyping those who chose home birth as weird or selfish means that so many women who might chose a home birth just wont even consider it.  We live in a society which is obsessed with negative birth experiences.  Many times I’ve seen people claim that women who share their positive experiences are showing off.  That they’re rubbing it in the faces of those who had more traumatic routes into motherhood.  But focusing on what can go wrong blinds so many to what goes right, the majority of the time.

Why perpetuate a myth which cheats a woman out of a positive birth experience?

If someone tells you that they’re planning to birth at home, the correct response is “good for you.”  Not “wow, I couldn’t do that…but good for you” or “you’re brave…but good for you.”  Just “good for you.”  Because after all, home birth is good for her.  Whether she’s a hippie or not.



* I’m not bashing any of these things, they’re all valid life choices.**  Except not vaccinating your kids…that just makes you dangerous.

** Whilst I shave my armpits, I have been known to leave it a very long time between shaves…


1 NCT – home birth
2 Home Birth Reference Site – you can’t have a home birth because…
3 “Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.”
AIMS – benefits of home birth

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