What I’ve learnt in the last year

This isn’t a post about me learning a language in lockdown, baking a tonne of banana bread or undergoing a major body transformation. On the contrary it’s about the struggle I think we’ve all felt during the last year since lockdown was announced in 2020.

To be honest 2020 started well for me. We’d just moved into our new home in December 2019 and it was in my plans to spend time getting the house exactly as we wanted it, little did I know we would be spending more time at home than usual!

Getting the keys to our house on the 20th December 2019

The first time I remember any mention of a virus was around the end of January and to be honest it sounded like things were so far away from us in the UK it wasn’t going to be a problem here.

How wrong can you be?

I’m incredibly blessed to be healthy and have a home and a family I love. But it doesn’t mean I’ve had an easy ride during this time. Much of the social media posts I read implore us to be kind to one another but often times it seems we forget that each person’s situation is unique. I’m not blind to the fact that many people, including those in my personal circle, have been made redundant, actually had COVID and been suffering with ill health and not been able to get the treatment they needed. And of course not forgetting the lives that have been lost both here in the UK and around the world due to this virus.

Like everybody our family has been through one of the strangest times we have ever and probably will ever experience in our lifetime. So as I mentioned earlier I’m not going to wax lyrical and say I’ve baked banana bread, tie dyed my clothes or had some kind of amazing body transformation. I’ve done nothing of the sort! It’s been bloody hard. Working a full time job and homeschooling a six year old is not something I’ve enjoyed. Splitting my time has never been more demanding and difficult as well as both physically and mentally draining.

Found objects collage became a thing as we’d pick things up on our walks!

Don’t get me wrong Homeschool was incredibly rewarding when we had those ‘a-ha!’ moments with Daniel and he just ‘got it’. But equally frustrating for us both when I had to split myself in two and try to set him off with a task while I got some work done. I know it was difficult for him to understand and it’s the hardest thing about the pandemic for me the guilt I’ve felt at being at not being able to give enough attention during those times. I have always had the greatest admiration for teachers and am so grateful to our school for their support.

The hardest part of it all for me was when I realised I was experiencing burnout. After going through first the lockdown, then a bereavement, caring for our family, a redundancy consultation, psoriasis flare up and homeschool by the time September came around and things started to look a bit brighter I was just exhausted. Keeping all the plates spinning is hard at the best of times but to be honest I just couldn’t wind down. Again I know I am incredibly lucky as I didn’t end up being made redundant and I wasn’t furloughed as many others in my sector were.

So what did I learn during this time? Well, the biggest thing for me was that it’s ok to say NO! It’s ok to ask for help. And it’s ok to feel the way I did. I was trying to push through getting irritable, not sleeping well and never feeling like I’d accomplished anything. But as soon as I started to realise how it was affecting everything around me I knew I had to get some support.

So I did a short counselling workshop over the phone after being referred by my GP. I had reservations- what was this stranger on the phone going to think of me? Would they think I was ungrateful for my blessings , they must have clients with much bigger problems. I shouldn’t waste their time.

The first session I had is one I will never forget. They asked me why I was seeking help and what I wanted to achieve. I blurted out a lot of the things I just mentioned above, apologised as I am sure you’ve got clients much more important than me and said I just wanted to be happier.

The first words I heard were, “you’re going through an awful lot there in one go. It’s not surprising that you are finding things hard right now.”

Just hearing this stranger tell me that it was ok to be overwhelmed and ok to be there getting support was a weight lifted. Over the weeks I worked on various things and put different techniques into practice, something I am still doing, in order to make sure I am happy. Not just for myself but for my family who were the best support system I could’ve asked for. The best advice my counsellor gave me about worrying was this.

Will it matter tomorrow?

I was constantly worrying about every little thing but not focusing in the present. Now I take a step back when that thinking comes forward and give myself some breathing space because most of the time it doesn’t matter. You need to allow yourself to make mistakes, pick yourself back up and carry on.

Ultimately I’m so proud of the way we as a family have handled things. When the going got tough we pulled together and made the best of it. And as we head toward the future and lockdown is lifting slowly I know that if we can get through this we can get through anything.

Lockdown Partying with my boys !

If you are struggling with any of the issues I mentioned please consider seeking support from a healthcare professional you trust like your GP. You can also call the Samaritans who were recommended to me by my counsellor if I ever felt I needed to talk. Call 116 123 for free or visit their website for more information on services they can provide.

Stepping forward for Crisis

Throughout March I will be taking part in the Step Forward campaign for Crisis, and I’ll be aiming to take 270,800 steps.

I’m going to be walking everyday throughout March – with my trusty sidekick Chip, and I’m sure Daniel and Phil will be with me too!

My dream team !

I’m aiming to smash my target of 270,800 steps–to represent the number of families and individuals who will experience the worst forms of homelessness in England by 2041. This truly saddens me and is something I want to try and change with support from my family and friends.

The funds raised from donations to my sponsorship page will help people like Jana.

After her mother died, Jana was constantly moving around and was eventually sofa surfing. Her health declined and she couldn’t work and got into debt. The local council helped Jana and placed her into a hostel, but unfortunately she had to leave her beloved dogs behind. Crisis helped when she was in the hostel and Jana took part in a number of courses including arts and crafts and a Renting Ready course which helped prepare her when moving into her own place. It was during the first lockdown in 2020 when Jana got the keys to her own flat and Crisis provided support with furniture and money management.

Stories like these are the inspiration for me to make sure I keep myself on track with my target. Everyone deserves a safe and secure home and the pandemic has made me feel even more aware of that fact.

If you’d like to find out more about the Crisis Step Forward for Homelessness campaign please click here

If you’d like to donate to my fundraising page please visit my fundraising page.

Love the skin you’re in

It’s ok to love your body just the way it is.

Sounds simple right? But it’s something I’ve struggled with pretty much since being a teenager. Over the last few years I’ve been on a mission to accept myself flaws and all, not always an easy thing especially when you are dealing with psoriasis and all of the perils of autoimmune disease. After all Psoriasis is so much more than just what you see.

I’ve become braver in speaking out about my psoriasis, something I was so ashamed of and never liked to draw attention to. But slowly I’ve become a little more confident, and unashamed to wear a T-shirt and bear my flared skin or wear a skirt without also thinking I have to wear thick tights to cover up. I’ve seen days in the height of summer when I’d wear a cardigan just so people wouldn’t see my skin.

Seems crazy when I think about it now but it took a long time for me to accept that I was never going to be “cured” and this was a condition I’d just learn to manage.

There’s no miracle cream that’s going to make it go away. There’s no tablet or injection that makes the fatigue and joint pain disappear, you just get good at managing with a combination of all of the above treatments. And a lot of family support. 💜

The difference within months can be dramatic at times

I am delighted to be part of the @_restingitchface #FlawedButBeautiful project encouraging people with long term conditions to know their worth and accept themselves. Because we all deserve to be happy.

There’s some amazing stories and people over on Instagram as part of the project so please do check them out. Psoriasis Association has lots of resources for anyone needing support.

I rarely discuss my specific treatment as I believe it’s important to work with a dermatologist but I do share moisturising creams and alternative therapies which have worked for me.

If you’re struggling with diagnosis or just want some perspective from someone who’s been through most of the treatments available via the NHS do get in touch.

Dog days

So our cockapoo Chip is now 6 months and not so little anymore!

As he’s getting bigger he’s even cuter if that’s possible? We’ve been getting to grips with some basic puppy training at a local class. He’s mastered sit, lie down and giving a paw 🐾 as well as getting much better at not barging through doors straightaway. We’ve mastered the class and Chip got his very own rosette!

He was super proud of his rosette!

Hmmm what’s for tea!?

Chip knew someday he’d catch that toy

He’s started settling really well and we are loving having him as part of our family !

If you’ve got any training tips or advice for puppies do let me know.

Through the Looking Glass

This Thursday I’m throwing back to an afternoon to remember at The Looking Glass, Sunderland.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Looking Glass for an afternoon tea themed hen party. The cafe/bar is a fantastic venue with quirky accessories befitting it’s name. Each way you looked you seemed to see something different with rabbits, mad hatters and playing cards galore!

The delicious afternoon tea had the usual sandwich selections along with quiche, macaroons, sweet and savoury scones , cakes and tea served in china pots, with real cups and saucers.

Each treat was more delicious than the last with my favourite definitely being the scones. I know there’s debate about whether the cream or jam goes on a scone first (answers on a postcard please!)

There was so much included in the afternoon tea we ended up boxing some to take home. My 4 year old was really excited to find mini battenburg and cupcakes when I got home!

I would highly recommend a visit to the Looking Glass and I will definitely be back to try more of their delicious food.

The Looking Glass is in Sunniside, Sunderland city centre.

For more information visit their Facebook page by searching The Looking Glass, you won’t be disappointed!

A new addition, meet Chip!

Chip at 8 weeks old!

So it’s been a busy time in our house. The end of the school holidays, an adventure to Crete and now a new addition to the house, Chip the cockapoo!

We fell in love with him way back in July and it seems like it’s been ages to wait for him to be ready to come home!

He’s a chocolate brown cockapoo and growing all the time, chewing everything in sight and generally being cute!

He came home with us a week ago now and honestly it’s like he has always been here, settled in brilliantly and starting to master toilet training like a pro!

Chip at 12 weeks

Now he’s settling nicely we can’t wait to start walking him properly once he has his last set of vaccinations. We got him lots of chew toys and different softer toys too but I think he really is ready for a few walks now.

So I’m after any puppy or dog tips you might have, please leave a comment or email if you have any special things you did with your pet!

Spice up your life

Why is the world going crazy for the Spice Girls?

Don’t worry this isn’t a negative post – I was front and centre at the show a few weeks ago in Sunderland, singing along at the top of my voice!

Spice World 2019 at Sunderland Stadium of Light

It’s amazing to me that a girl group who last toured back in 2007 still holds such a dear place in the hearts of us 30 somethings that grew up with their music.

The Spice Girls were built around Girl Power and friendship, two decades on from their debut in 1996 and its still the core of their performances.

Theres been much debate over whether Posh was a spoil sport not joining them on this tour, and as much as I missed her ( yes I am a massive VB fan) I understand her reasons. However it certainly doesn’t spoil the show and I loved seeing all the old footage of SpiceWorld and photos from the height of their fame with Victoria still featured.

Geri was so emotional at the Wembley show given that last time the girls were there she missed it due to having left mid way through their world tour. Even resulting in an apology for leaving the first time around. It really highlighted that friendships, especially ones that have been as long as theirs, have ups and downs but a simple apology is sometimes all you need to weather the storm.

I was about 13 when the Spice Girls burst into the music scene, and I think they were probably one of the first experiences I had of feminism.

I know there will be many people who don’t view the Spice Girls as feminist and to that I say there’s no one way to be a feminist.

The Spice Girls pioneered a movement in the Nineties which reintroduced and created a modern form of feminism. One which emphasised that being a feminist was to be worn as a badge of honour.

The Spice Girls represent to me a time when you were proud to stand up and be a girl, unafraid to be yourself. In those five characters they created we all saw ourselves and were one or a mix of a few, you didn’t need to be perfect you just needed to be you. Bringing a generation of girls (me included) into their world and believing we could achieve anything we wanted to put our minds to.

They spread the word that women are strong and confident; that women are stronger together and friendship and love are key to your life, something we should all hold dear .

So there will always be comments like, they can’t sing, they’re too brash, loud, annoying but for me the Spice girls will always be my first real experience of feminism.

Something I think in the modern world we forget, real women fix each other’s crowns.

And friendship really can last forever

Viva Forever 🦋

A few of my favourite pictures from the Sunderland concert!

Sporty and Ginger

Rainbow 🌈 confetti

Girl Power!

Skin Deep

I’ve suffered with Psoriasis for a long time and so I’ve always been on the look out for products that would be gentle and effective. Skin condition aside I do tend to struggle with real combination skin, the classic oily t-zone and dry in other areas which can be a bit of a nightmare.

Oily skin can be a nightmare for makeup application and I always use a primer to prevent shine as much as possible. This The Ordinary primer is fab for keeping my makeup put and again great for sensitive skin even when I’ve had flare ups on my face it’s never exasperated the problem.

Some skincare favourites

I discovered the Alex Steinherr range at Primark and have really enjoyed the products which are well priced and effective especially the Micellar cleansing gel from the Maximum Moisture range. It’s basically a version of micellar water but in a gel form which is perfect for when my skin is feeling on the dry side.

One of my favourite shower gels is this Westlab Himalayan Salt wash. It’s not as foamy as other gels but it does cleanse nicely and it doesn’t dry my skin out when it’s flared up with psoriasis- bonus it’s only £2.99!

Aveeno and Oilatum are lifesavers when itchy!

My final skincare saviours are Aveeno and Oilatum. I actually use the Aveeno Dermexa Wash in the bath as I find it really effective to soak in. It sits really nicely on the skin and is gentle to sore patches of Psoriasis, the texture is almost like a yoghurt and it has a lovely smell of oats which is the key ingredient in this range to help with itching. It’s not for everyone but it definitely helps me.

Oilatum has been around for a while now and is one of the few liquid paraffin treatments that works well for me in the bath. A good 20 min soak in a warm bath works wonders on making me feel a bit better when I’m having a psoriasis flare, combined with some emoilents like Doublebase it gets me back on track and ready to face the day again!

A mix of favourites to hydrate and revitalise

Having a good set of basics to get you on track is so important, I tend to mix my skincare up depending on whether my psoriasis is flared or not. There’s no point in applying makeup to unprepared skin so I use products which will help with moisture when needed or primers to help with colour correction- this Rimmel CC Primer in Peach was a great find as it works well with my skin tone and texture but helps reduce redness.

I’d love to hear about any skincare favourites you have !

What’s in your bag?

It’s a bit of a running joke with my husband that my handbags weigh a ton because of how much stuff I carry ‘just in case’.

I’m a mum so I pretty much always have things like tissues and wet wipes although it’s amazing how many times these end up not being used on my son!

What’s in your bag ?

I had the Soap and Glory advent calendar at Christmas and really enjoyed getting all the mini versions of things like Hand Food hand cream and Original Pink body spray. I was never sure whether the beauty advent calendars were worth it but I really enjoyed mine, and I am still using the products which were perfect for throwing in your handbag.

I’ve always got a lipbalm, nail file and my 4Head stick. I used to carry loads of painkillers incase I got a migraine while out and about, but I’ve found this little stick amazing for keeping the worst of the symptoms at bay and it means I don’t have to take as many paracetamol.

My Minnie Mouse mirror and a couple of lippie options go everywhere too- a gloss and a matte just in case! Really enjoying the lip crayon from my December Glossybox from Doucce Cosmetics in shade Winterberry a gorgeous red which really suits my skintone.

Finally I always have my diary, a pen and a notebook. Yes I still love a paper diary, even though I put all my appointments in our shared calendar on my iPhone as well! Paper chase is one of my favourite shops!

What’s your handbag essentials and is it as weighty as mine?!