Monday, 17 April 2017

I'm a working mummy; do I have it all?

Returning to work post maternity

Before you have a baby you have whimsical dreams of maternity leave, lunches,reading books and catching up on the latest box sets. You very quickly realise within the first few weeks to have even contemplated this was daft and that the reality couldn't be any further from the truth. Having a baby is a full time job and more, it's hectic and unrelenting. 
Maternity leave
Motherhood is a feat of endurance, I have experienced more emotions in the last year than I ever thought was possible. There have been massive highs, beautiful firsts, lots of laughs but also tears (both from laughing and from pure exhaustion). It is definitely the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Does that mean I was a dull soul before, absolutely not but experiencing the world through different eyes. Spotting things that your grumpy older self has long since forgotten is beautiful. 

This post is honest, some of you might not appreciate it, for those of you that this applies to there will be happier posts to follow. So come back then. 

When looking at the prospect of whether I wanted to return to work post maternity leave I struggled to find only a handful of websites and posts that shared advice. More importantly had mothers directly share their experiences of what the reality was like. 

I have now returned to work and thought I would share my experiences in the hope that those who like me are dreading the prospect of returning to work, can see how it pans out. 

Leaving the most precious thing in your life with someone you don't really know is like climbing Everest with no air in your lungs. It is an absolute wrench and I've  found it one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The months leading up to my return to work felt like an vulture circling over head, with an impending sense of doom. 
Returning to work post maternity

Now I should clarify here that prior to having Noah I had a job I loved.  I was successful and had achieved a great many things I am immensely proud of. 

But even with the prospect of returning to a job I love, it broken my heart into a million pieces. I'm giving my little boy, the one I love with all my heart to someone else to enjoy. His cheeky antics, funny moments that we have shared all of which I will miss. 
Returning to work post maternity
But I'm realistic, will my career wait for me, if I take an extended period of leave for a couple of years, sadly not. The dilemma is real and I have played out every conceivable angle and version a thousand times. What is the right thing to do? I have really mixed emotions. 

Now before people shout "do you know how lucky you are to have a job, a baby" etc. Yes I do, I'm grateful beyond belief for what I have, I am incredibly thankful. 

Returning to work or not is a divisive topic amongst mothers and can cause a heated debate. Everyone has different views about the best thing to do and where to place your child.

For some friends the thought of going back to work has been a positive step for them they have enjoyed the thought of mixing parenthood with work. But I guess we are all different, the world would be incredibly dull if we were all the same. 

One thing I have learnt is that as a mother there is always guilt, there is no better choice or decision above another. Both have their challenges and difficulties. There is no judgement from me for whatever path you decide is right for you. 

Returning to work you suddenly realise how many hours there are in the day. Hours that you will be without the little person you love the most. Noah and I have spent 365 days together, we haven't been apart at all. 
Parent guilt
Nursery feels like I'm renegading on my responsibilities giving him to someone else. I lost my dad a few years ago and know only too well that life is too short and precious.They grow up so quickly, you don't get a second chance to relive the memories you miss. 

So I opted for flexible working in the hope of trying to get the best of both worlds. Working more hours in a condensed period to have more time with Noah. 

Being without your little one is strange, it feels like your life did before you had a child. Your life feels oddly similar but whilst you have dreamt of five minutes to yourself, the silence is now totally unsettling. 

In true Noah fashion the night before my return to work Noah decided to pull his worst no sleeping antics yet. The little man decided that he didn't want to sleep, leaving me at 4.30 am thinking desperately how this was going to pan out. 
Returning to work
So the morning came, I got dressed and left the house. I stood on the platform in exactly the same place I had a year earlier, shuffled onto a packed train and began what would be the longest day of my life. Ironically I was crammed next to a lady who was heavily pregnant and ready to pop. Nothing like a cold stark reminder of the wonderful year you have had and what an exciting journey she has ahead. 

The process of doing things from my previous life seemed strange. Not as hard as I had imagined, the months of worry and anxiety that had lead up to this moment. In a strange way you feel like you are in a dream, did the last year really happen, do I have a baby? Returning to work suddenly gives you an old normality that you have been missing. It's like an old distant friend, feels comfortable and strangely reassuring. 

My aching boobs are a reminder that I have a little baby. We have successfully weaned in the day, but the constant night feeding is still very much part of our lives despite every effort to stop.

So it's now been a couple of months and here are my survival tips should you decide to return back to work: 
  • Put one foot in front of the other, even if you are faking it. The rhythm will become reassuringly familiar. 
  • Planning is the key. Get clothes and bags packed the night before. Plan all meals for the week ahead. 
  • Don't be too hard on yourself, I have learnt things are rarely perfect. The weeks leading up to my return to work Noah stopped eating and drinking, when I mean stopped I mean stopped. He would consume nothing. He stopped sleeping the little bit he had slept. I got an awful gland infection in which I was impersonating a hamster. 
  • Don't torture yourself you are not a bad parent. Thinking you are because you have gone back to work is futile. You will become your own worst enemy, you are doing the best you can do for your family and personal circumstances. Remember to be kind to yourself. . 
  • It's ok to have down days, we all have ups and downs.
  • The job might seem the same but the reality is the job you left behind is unlikely to be the same. People will have left, new people will have arrived and politics will have played out. Relax. 
  • Nothing is forever, if you really are unhappy a couple of months in, make a change. A different job, something with more flexibility or redo the maths and stay at home. 
  • Book your little one into nursery at least two week before you go back to work. One for settling in, getting used to a new routine and the other to do all the jobs you have been putting off for a year. This I found really hard to do as I wanted to spend more time with Noah. The reality is this gives you both adjustment time without the additional pressure of work. Babies within their first couple of weeks pick up every germ going and being off means you have the flexibility to pick them up.
If you have any survival tips or suggestions please add them to the comments below. 

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Monday, 20 March 2017

May Lindstrom

May Lindstrom
I generally steer clear of cult beauty products for fear that they just won't live up to the hype and I'll be left disappointed. 

May Lindstrom has a phenomenal number of beauty products to her name.  As a former model she originally started making her skincare in her kitchen; she is a woman after my own heart as I love making avocado and honey face masks at home. 

The Problem Solver (£96) has been one such cult product that I have wanted to try. Its received absolutely rave reviews and is adored by industry insiders but the bitter cynic in me thinks it's just not possible for a product to be that great. It is after all just a face mask and priced at over ninety pounds it's a very expensive one. 
May Lindstrom
As time has gone on I've become inquisitive and relented, keen to give it a go. Resembling something from a lava field, this jet black, charcoal powder seems a strange and potent problem solver. 
The Problem Solver
On opening the jar it gives off a spicy exotic aroma, of antioxidant-rich raw cacao, bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients and exotic spices of Cinnamon and Cayenne. It's not like anything I have tried before as I've never tried a powder form face mask. 
The Problem Solver
Taking a spoonful of powder, it is bought to life with water which transforms it into a bubbly mouse; with a the additional brush it is easily applied to the face. 
May Lindstrom
Over a forty-five minute period it goes from a wet face mask to a dry chalky consistency. There is something very therapeutic about it cracking as it dries. I couldn't hold a smile long enough for it to set!  
May Lindstrom
So does it live up to the hype?
On applying the mask I could instantly feel the ingredients working; it gives off a warm slightly stinging sensation. I was concerned the first time I used it that it would dry out or react to my skin but in fact on removing the product my skin felt softer and looked brighter. Over a couple of uses my spots have improved and overall appearance of my skin is healthier looking. It has made a remarkable and noticeable difference my face glows!

Whilst no one can deny the mask is expensive, you get a considerable amount of product for your money and for me it is a face mask that really works. It's also made from the finest organic ingredients, which are sustainably sourced and suitable for Vegans too. 

I like to follow the face mask up with The Blue Cocoon (£174).
The Blue Cocoon
The colouring of this product is beautiful it reminds me of the blue lagoon in Iceland. 
May Lindstrom
It is a solid which melts on touch to a gorgeous liquid. A little bit goes a really long way, so again whilst expensive it will last an age. When applied to the skin it is wonderfully calming, it smells divine (Geranium and Lavender) and has helped to reduce my rosacea on my cheeks. It has blue Tansy in it which is a natural anti-inflammatory and has antihistamine properties.   

So does it live up to the hype?
I have used this balm for just over three months, I use it at night as I find the consistency too thick to use at any other time. It also takes a really long time to sink into the skin due to the Shea butter. I was initially undecided what I thought about this product, mainly I think because of the price. 

It has been brilliant at hydrating my skin, if you have oily skin I'm not sure this product would work for you due to its consistency. I have definitely noticed a difference in my dark circles under my eyes and the redness in my skin has reduced. It is perfect for when you have a red or raised blemish too. I will be saving this little beauty for the winter months when my skin is at its worst and based on how little product has already disappeared I expect the jar to last me at least a year. 

I'm really pleased that I waited, did my research and opted for the best products for my skin type. I have been really pleased with the May Lindstrom products; I can well and truly see how they have received such attention. Next on my wish list is The Jasmine Garden Facial Spray 

Have you tried any of the May Lindstrom products? What are your beauty must haves?


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Monday, 6 March 2017

Teeth Whitening - Smile Brilliant

Teeth Whitening
Prior to having Noah I didn't really drink coffee, but after a year of very little sleep it has become a very familiar friend. The challenge with drinking coffee is that over time it has stained the front of my teeth. Would the stains stop someone in their track and stare probably not, but when I talk I am self conscious of my teeth. I have tried in the past whitening toothpastes and strips and whilst they work to some extent the overall whitening hasn't been amazing and it doesn't last very long.

So when Smile Brilliant got in touch and asked if I was interested in trying their home whitening kit, I thought why not. They offer a number of kits, for those with sensitive and non sensitive teeth, you can also pick the number of applications based on how stained your teeth are. 

I opted for a home whitening kit with eighteen applications. 
Smile Brilliant
It's low in costs at £130*($165) in comparison to a dentist and the process was easy too. If you live in the U.K. you have to pay import tax as the package comes from the United States which was around £11. 

The box when it arrived had absolutely everything that I needed to get me going, one set of custom impressions, 18 whitening applications and 18 desensitising applications.
Teeth Whitening
This is the perfect set for those with average staining on their teeth but have some sensitivity. So let me share the process with you...

1.Making your impressions at home: 
The first process on receiving my box was to make two sets of impressions of my upper and lower teeth. 

For those of you who have had braces in the past the above process will be a familiar one. I really enjoyed making my impressions. A mini science experiment at home. 

Before making your dental impressions you need to make sure you have clean teeth. Start by brushing and flossing your teeth. 
Teeth Whitening
To make the dental impressions you have one minute to mix the catalyst and baste paste together, place in the impression tray and gently close your mouth to form indentations of your teeth. 
Teeth Whitening  
It's important to do one impression at a time. The company has also supplied a spare in case you make a mistake. When making the impressions it is important to not bite down or wiggle the mould, it takes 2 minutes thirty seconds. 
Teething Whitening

2. Sending your impressions off so your custom trays can be made:
Within the pack you have everything you need to return the impressions. As the impressions are being posted back to the United States you do have to pay for the postage roughly £8. The return postage to send your impressions back to you is covered. If you live in the US postage is paid for you to send your impressions back. 

Given the distance the impressions are travelling, the lab turned them around quickly and my custom fitted trays were returned in two weeks. 

3.Whitening your teeth: 
As my teeth are a little sensitive I chose the pack with desensitising gel to help remove teeth sensitivity, whilst whitening my teeth. Now time for the whitening treatment.

Making sure that the trays are clean, take the desensitising gel and apply a thin line along the front outer part of the trays. Each syringe has enough for 3-4 applications so keep this in mind when applying. 
Teeth Whitening

Brush teeth with water (no toothpaste) and dry teeth as much as possible and apply the desensitising solution to your custom trays, wear for about fifteen - twenty minutes. 

When completed spit out any remaining gel. Now for a foodie I struggled with not be able to eat or drink for thirty minutes. 

It took me the first couple of days to get the timings right and work out when in the day it was best to do it. I personally found about an hour or so before bed was the perfect time to do it. 

Repeating the same process apply a thin layer of the white gel to your impressions and apply. 
Teeth Whitening
Its important not to put too much on. The whitening solution can be left for forty five minutes - three hours. I personally refrained from leaving mine on to long and opted for fifty minutes. 


The Results: 
I wasn't expecting a massive change to the colour of my teeth over night. But I absolutely love this product it has been so easy to use and I have been pleasantly surprised with the results, by the third application the yellowy tones to my teeth had gone and after ten my teeth had changed considerably to a much more vibrant white. 
The best part for me however had to be the discolouration on my front teeth which disappeared. If your looking for a professional teeth whitening treatment at home at a fraction of the price a dentist would charge, Smile Brilliant is perfect. 

This was an easy to use product, at a great price and I was really pleased with the results. 

If your looking for a teeth home whitening kit Smile Brilliant have offered my readers a 5% discount using coupon code: FoodieForce. 

www.smilebrilliant.com

How do you keep your teeth white?

*I was kindly gifted the Smile Brilliant home whitening kit but as always this is an honest review. I loved how easy this kit was and the results speak for themselves. 

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Lush Valentines Haul 2017

Lush Valentines
As all I have time for now are showers, I can't remember the last time I used a Lush bath bomb. Sad times as its definitely my guilty pleasure. 

So as Valentine's Day approached, I thought why not treat myself to some Lush Valentines treats. 

Cupid bath bomb (£2.95):
Lush
This little beauty didn't last long but the smell of rose, bergamot and lime more than made up for it. The bathroom smelt absolutely heavenly and it left the bath a beautiful pink. I hope that this is a keeper for Lush as I love the smell. I already have a bathroom stocked up just in case. 

Lovestruck bubble bar (£4.25):
Lush
An emoji with hearts for eyes now who couldn't love this cheeky little fella? Well it would seem me. Let's start with the positives like their other bubble bars it makes great bubbles. But that is where the complements end, as what is meant to be a fresh floral smell of lemon smells synthetic and my lovely bath was overpowered by a smell that was not pleasant and at £4.25 definitely better bubble bars in their range.

Two Hearts Beating As One bath melt (£3.95): 
Lush Valentines
This is a lovely product smelling of Rose, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine and apricot. I managed to get three baths out of it which was fab, the only challenge is where to store it, with the central heating on the little blighter kept melting. 

Over and Over bath bomb (£4.25):
Lush Valentines
This beauty is definitely my favourite of all the Valentine's Day offerings. The addition of cocoa butter to the outer part of the bath bomb is ingenious, not only does it mean the bomb is slower to fizz but it also is wonderfully moisturising and softening on my skin. A wonderful citrus smell and turns the bath a vibrant orange.  

Lover Lamp bath bomb (£4.25):

Lush Valentines
I have to admit that I picked this up because of how cute it looked. It reminded me of love heart sweets, on melting it gives off a warming vanilla and orange scent. It is a wonderfully moisturising bath bomb with cocoa hearts and red confetti as it melts. 

A common complaint with Lush bath bombs are that some of the ingredients stain the bath. This is no different with the red confetti in this bath bomb, sticking to both me and the tub. But i'm pleased to say a little bit of elbow grease and it cleans up a treat.

I'm making a speedy dash to my nearest Lush at the weekend to stock up on Over and Over. 
Lush Valentines
Did you try any of the Lush Valentines offerings?

What is your favourite treat for Valentines? 

Wishing you all a lovely Valentines...

www.lush.co.uk




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Monday, 23 January 2017

Aromatherapy Associates

Aromatherapy Associates
Aromatherapy Associates is a brand I've loved for years, starting with their essential bath oils many years ago; divine scents in a bottle, that instantly help relax my mind and body. If you want to read my review on the essential bath oils have a look here

Over time I've been lucky enough to try other products in their range. They have been so lovely that I thought I would share them in a post with you. 

Aromatherapy Associates
In the winter I suffer with very dry skin. If left to its own devices it becomes dry, flaky and I suffer from rosacea. For the last couple of months I have been using this face mask once a week. It smells divine; Rose, Bergamot and Geranium enriched with Aloe Vera and Chamomile, it's wonderfully hydrating and a perfect pick me up for my skin.

Aromatherapy Associates
During the winter I get these annoying little bumps on the top of my arms. I have no idea what they are but this little beauty is wonderfully moisturising and makes my skin look noticeably smoother. The Shea and Coco Butter soften and brighten my skin and the essential oils of grapefruit, juniper and rosemary make you smell divine, good enough to eat. 

Deep Relax Balm (£19)
Aromatherapy Associates
Since having Noah relaxing has gone out of the window. In part because I used to have a relaxing soak in the bath as my means of unwinding and with a little one in tow, long lazy soaks are definitely a thing of the past.That is where this little beauty comes in. Even the art of opening it up and smelling the essential oils of Sandalwood, Chamomile, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang bring a reassuring sense of calm. It is an ideal size for my handbag and helps to gently soothe my mind. 

Have you tried any Aromatherapy Associates? Or other beauty pick me ups? Let me know in the comments below. 

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Ottolenghi Spitalfields

Ottolenghi Spitalfields
Since the birth of Noah, going out for meals as a couple have been a scarcity. But as Noah is getting older it is becoming far easier to sit down and enjoy a meal with the little man in tow. 

As a foodie I have really missed eating out and as a consequence have created quite a long list of restaurants that I want to try. Well I have been dreaming of food offerings for well over a year. 

Last month the restaurant abstinence was broken with a visit to Ottolenghi in Spitafields. Hidden down a side street away from the hustle and bustle of the thriving market, Ottolenghi's window of cakes is positioned beautifully to entice you in. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields 
The menu whilst concise offers creative food utilising exciting ingredients. Salads here take centre stage, now before you turn your nose up the salads here are wonderfully fresh, using imaginative ingredients and offer an interesting change to the usually stodgy wintry accompaniments that come with some meals as an afterthought. 

I was a little bit disappointed that starters don't exist here but the mains more than made up for this. Here you have the choice of hot mains which come with two side salads (£21.75). Cold mains from the counter with two salad accompaniments (£15.70) or a selection of three or four salads on their own (£12.90/£15.50).

The menu offered quite a few mains that I would have happily tried. I settle in the end on the cod cakes in mint and tomato sauce. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields

I'm pleased to say that the fish cakes maintained their crispy outer crust with wonderful moist flakes of cod despite being in a tomato sauce. The sauce whilst nice had no taste of mint and was reminiscent of tomato passata; but the fish cakes had more than enough flavour that this didn't really matter. 

To go with my main I chose toasted Orzo pasta, red onion, sundried tomato with goats cheese and hazelnut salad. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I really love Orzo pasta and the addition of soft gooey goats cheese and crunchy hazelnuts was the perfect addition.

My second salad was green beans, mangetout, pickled cucumbers, mustard seeds, chilli and peanuts. Whilst this was nice it wasn't an amazing salad. 

Friends settle on the pan fried grey mullet with pickled beetroot and sunflower seed salsa.  
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I am reliably informed that the mullet was cooked perfectly and the addition of the beetroot really added to the dish. The only complaint was that the portion size was just not sufficient as a main. 

I would have to agree that at a £21.75 price tag this main was overpriced with the serving more reminiscent of a starter. 

The remaining member of the table opts for sun-dried tomato and ricotta croquettes with basil and lime yoghurt. 
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
In comparison to the mullet the croquettes were huge in size. I am told these are delicious.
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
The two salads of choice to accompany the croquettes char-grilled broccoli with chilli and garlic. Hummus, with zhoug, crispy chickpeas and roasted peppers. 

The hummus with the pomegranate is an absolute delight an explosion of flavours. If your interested in making some Ottolenghi salads yourself at home have a look at their website for some divine inspiration. 
  
Our mains went perfectly with a cold crisp bottle of Barbera Bianca, Castello di Cigognola (£35).
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
I really enjoy Italian wine and this bottle was wonderfully fruity perfect with the fish and goats cheese in the salad.

The star of the show however has to be the desserts. I will be dreaming about these for quite a while. 

I instantly knew what I wanted passion fruit meringue .  
Ottolenghi
This was the perfect combination of sweet from the meringue, pastry, mixed with the tartness of the passion fruit. Definitely one of the nicest dessert I have had in a while. 

The wonderful thing of dining with friends is you get to sample all the desserts. Next up was carrot and Walnut cake with cream cheese icing (£5.50). 
Ottolenghi
The cake was lovely and moist but best of all was the quantity of cream cheese icing. No scrimping here. 

Next up was Vanilla Financier with plum, mixed berries and poached pear (£5.50). 
Ottolenghi
The sponge was deliciously moist and the tartness of berries against the poached pear yummy.

Last in our dessert offerings was apple and sultana galette (£5.50).
Ottolenghi Spitalfields
Now whilst I wouldn't have picked this myself I am reliably informed it was delicious. 

So there you have it, Ottolenghi offers a relaxed family friendly restaurant, with good food and service if you love your salads and smaller portions.  

The temperature in London has certainly dropped over the last couple of weeks so salads are off the menu for now. Any other good foodie suggestions to add to my ever growing list?


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