Get s**t done: Productivity tips for stay at home wranglers of small children

Stop. Stop right now.

Before you read on I have to make it very clear that this post consists of ways that I have found help me be my most productive self on most days. 

On the days when there has been no sleep the previous night, someone/everyone is sick, or we are thrown some other lifeload curve ball, I am not my most productive self and these tips can, quite frankly (in the words of Justin Bieber) go love themselves.

I am seeing the three year mark of parenthood on the horizon (excuse me while I sob into my cold coffee) and I'm now finally starting to feel like i'm productive on more days than I'm not. I'm flattered to have been told: "I don't know how you do it all" when I've shared projects and plans for my personal and professional life- the truth is: I don't do it all.

Managing motherhood for me has been about moving resources around to where they are needed in the moment- stealing from Penny to pay Paula. I'm never consistently successful, often things fall through the cracks, I crack, and someone cries- but I think i'm getting to grips with it enough to tell you what works on the days that I feel like I've got my shit together.

This is for those that are coming out of the other side of the baby fog and feeling like they need a reminder of how they kept everything straight in the days before your boobs needed an extra supportive bra & each sneeze wasn't a gamble.

Shower/get dressed/feel human

This might sound incredibly obvious to those of you who leave the house on a regular basis, but when you've spent the better part of the last three years at home with babies, the only personal care that happens on a regular basis is wiping a small persons nether regions.

As the hectic schedule of small babies has slowly made its way into the slightly more predictable routine of toddlerhood, I've now got time to jump in the shower most days. Granted, I'm then usually crouched naked post-shower, just out of sight of my living room window to get dressed (so that I'm not out of sight long enough for any serious terrible-two-year-old mayhem to go down), but washing and dressing is now A THING and I'm not mad about it.

The difference this small thing makes to my attitude and readiness for the day is huge- even if it's a thirty second jump in and out of a stream of tepid water, it makes me feel more like a real human.

Productivity at home is a balancing act of doing a lot of things for others whilst not feeling resentful that you don't have time to do anything for yourself- showering is a small but mighty tick in the 'self' column and a great way to get started.

Take vitamins and drink water

One the subject of resentment, it can be hard to constantly feel like your personal needs are at the end of the list- don't get me wrong or start looking in the back of the closet for your tiny violin, I know I've got a good situation going on here. But no one, least of all me, is a saint- I cannot tell you how pissy I was the month I had to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on the health of my washing machine when I knew my own health would benefit for even half that amount of attention.

Slamming a handful of vitamins and chugging down some water first thing in the morning makes me feel like I'm at least paying lip service to my day-to-day health*, and I am no longer jealous of my appliances.

*Obviously, seeing doctors about actual medical issue should go to the top of your list- vitamin C ain't going to solve everything.

Make a list of literally EVERYTHING you want to get done

Every morning (whilst drinking my water and taking my vitamins, what? my halo is showing?) I write a list... of everything.

Every single thing I want to do that day goes on there, no matter how small. The sense of accomplishment I get from ticking something off my list is such a boost, it doesn't matter if it's that I've done my taxes or emptied the dishwasher, I've achieved something.

The visual crowd cheer that comes from a list thats rapidly getting checked is enough to push me to get the less-than-fun stuff done.

Let's also be honest, you're likely mind-juggling one thousand and one things at any given moment, you are human and sometimes things get forgotten. When you've got a lot of things to remember, odds are that one or two things are going to get forgotten. If you're like me, it doesn't matter if you kicked arse everywhere else, it's going to be that one forgotten birthday card, unwashed kid's favorite t-shirt, or un-replied to invitation that'll make me feel like you failed the day. PUT EVERYTHING ON THE LIST, and keep adding to it through the day- everything you think 'i'll come back to this when I've got a sec'- put. it. on. the. list.

Anything that doesn't get done on that days list is the first thing on the top of tomorrow's list. Even if it takes a few days or weeks to check it off, having it as a visual reminder every day means it won't get forgotten- and when you get to cross those bastards off it's bloody awesome.

Use timers

When I start a healthy eating plan I calorie count, use measuring cups, and weight things out on a scale, basically my food intake looks like a science experiment. Not because I'm that concerned about tipping over my daily goal, but because I forget what a serving of something looks like. After I've spent a week reminding myself what a serving of half & half looks like in one of my cups, and that one family bag of crisps is not actual one serving- I ditch the measures and get on with life a little better informed about what it looks like to eat the healthiest way I can- the same goes for time.

I'll use a timer or a stop watch on my phone for a week or so when I'm trying to boost my productivity- it gives me a better idea of how long things actually take, and motivates me to get shit done in a certain space of time. It's a really good way to kick procrastinating habits too. 

If it's been a rough morning, all I want to do at nap time is fall down an instagram scroll hole or binge a Netflix series (seriously, Abducted in Plain Sight, WTF?!), but once I hear those first few squeaks of a waking toddler drift over the war zone that is still my kitchen- all I'm going to do for the rest of the day is feel useless and frustrated (and also keen to steer clear of anyone called 'B'). 

Turn off the 'autoplay next episode' feature on Netflix, set time reminders on apps like instagram, and turn on the screen time logger on your iPhone to visual quantify how much time you're spending doing those things. Zoning out is so important, but finding the right balance is key to those things being escape rather than impediments.

The point of productivity isn't just to get more stuff done, its to get stuff done efficiently to make better use of your time so you have more control over when that time is spent. Netflix and chilling (all kinds) is and essential part of my productivity- if i'm spending all my time getting shit down and not getting time to max and relax then I'm not being productive.

Keep a clean space

My husband will probably be laughing at this one, because I am the queen of mess. No I do not enjoy it, clutter really pisses me off- but my mind is creative and messy so often I get caught up in something else and end up in a bit of a state.

The lists help mitigate the mess. I'm more methodical about how I go about the day- one thing at a time. I'm also finding joy (hello Marie) in keeping things tidy.

Tidiness begets tidiness, it's like one big orderly snowball. Tidy up as you go, keep things small and simple, vacuum a small space each day, wipe down kitchen counters after you prep anything (breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, snacks), and don't leave it all until the end of the day.

Ruthlessness with crap and stuff is also your friend: take photos of notes and messages on scraps of paper instead of having them flutter around, use glass containers for leftovers and food storage (environmentally friendly, keeps food fresh longer, make fridge look sexy AF), chuck away junk mail immediately, throw out unrepairable toys (during nap time), donate clothes that don't fit (tie in a run to the thrift store/clothes bank drop off every time you go grocery shopping), and take something with you every time you go up or down stairs. Little habits make a bit difference.

I find myself better able to concentrate on work or life when my space isn't shouting at me- when I get moments to myself I don't want to spend them feeling guilty for having me feet up because I know the kitchen is a shit tip; or have my creativity by a laundry pile that might kill me if it collapses.

Meal plan

Do furture you a favour by taking away the daily mental load of figuring out dinner. Give yourself the gift of time by meal planning before you grocery shop, so you then have everything on hand and a plan in place each night.

The time I have in the evenings once the children are in bed is now spent on stuff I want to do rather than performing a slightly shitty version of the Masterchef mystery basket challenge.

Not only will you gain back that time each evening, you'll be saving money and (probably) eating better over all. By meal planning you can make a consider choice, rather than a harried grab at whatever is in the freezer, about a weekly menu of healthful meals, you won't waste money on last minute take out, and by planning ahead you can buy in bulk and batch cook which is even more bang for your buck.

Productivity isn't just about how your mind words, its also about how your body works- but fueling it with good stuff, you'll get good, consistent energy out- no matter how well you plan things out if you're too exhausted, drained or sick to make it happen you're playing yourself from the start.

Don't measure yourself against anyone, even yourself

Say this a thousand times over. Then say it again.

I'll be really honest and tell you that I've been in a bit of a funk in February. All through January I felt awesome; really productive, healthy, energetic- and those feelings made me more outgoing, adventurous and organized. Then February breezed in and something went a bit loopy- I think it's hormones but honestly I've not bloody idea (... ha!).

At first I felt like I'd undone all the good work I'd done- I'd lost some weight in January but kind of plateaued this month, I've felt tired all the time, I've gotten things done but not in the same super efficient way I was doing in last month. The thing is, I hadn't undone anything, I just was looking at a C+ average this month rather than a big fat A- having a flat few weeks doesn't take away from the good stuff you've achieved. There is no square one.

Productivity ebbs and flows, especially if your productivity includes a varied spectrum of tasks such as home, family, professional and personal lives. Oh and if you live in New England take some Vitamin D, my Dr said I'm deficient because we basically live in Winterfell so that doesn't help. 

Mama + Bae: Social media and kiddos

I started writing this post over a year ago, life got in the way and now we're here.

I've had 18 additional months of motherhood and insta-twatting to add to my experience and to mold my opinions on social media and children; and I'm still not entirely sure where I stand.

I have my hard and fast boundaries, and I have an idea of the boundaries that are (for now) hypothetical to my parenthood. They may change over time and as my boys are more capable of expressing how they want (or do not want) to be seen by the online world.

I like to share funny moments of parenting, and the things that make me want to play an extended version of hide and seek (with me as a very capable hider).  I'm conscious of protecting them by only making information about them available that would be freely given in conversation if we'd met at a playgroup; and try to be mindful of the grey area when something about me and my motherhood becomes something about them and their privacy.

If you've seen my instagram stories you may have a wry smile on your face remembering a moment that doesn't quite jibe with this personal philosophy- and I'm not trying to pull a fast one on you! Our children, especially in these early years of childhood change by the day, I'm constantly reassessing what's appropriate and fair to share on their behalf before they're capable of giving consent- when does a peachy baby bum become a child's private parts? When does WTF moment of getting liberally doused by a diaper blowout become an incredibly personal moment of learning to manage private bodily functions?

I'm learning and adjusting as a I go, and as the landscape of my parenthood AND social media changes. Currently the boys don't have the verbal skills to give their input but that doesn't mean I'm not in consultation with them constantly about how I share our lives. Their body language, interest, and interaction always informs whether I'll post picture or videos of them, and as they find the words, those will be at the forefront when 'creating content'. Whilst I want to document our life for us and those who enjoy sharing it, at the center of everything I am always trying to make the best choices on behalf of my children's autonomy until they can do it themselves.

I reached out to some bloggers and instagrammers that I love to follow, a big part of my enjoyment of their accounts and blogs is that they have young children, like me. I enjoy seeing how their family works and grows; sympathise and find solidarity in the moments of frustration; and learn and find confidence in seeing how my parenting style differs or matches those that I follow.

Jesse Coulter

Jesse is a lifestyle blogger from Texas. I started following her during her pregnancy with her twins who were born in the same year as my boys! I love her openness about life as a working mother and her honesty about the struggles of balancing family life.

Do you share pictures of your children on social media?:

I'm naturally an open book, and I naturally trust EVERYONE (unless my instinct is telling me otherwise). It's kind of scary, but I don't think much about it. I share pics of my kids on all social channels. I've never had to face someone stealing them, and yes that would be horrible if they did but I would just face it when the time came. 

Do you use pseudonyms for your children? If so, how did you come up with them? 

No, again open book. It would be too hard to not share their real names, especially because of videos.

If your child indicated they didn't want to have their picture shared, how would you react? 

I would respect their wishes, but it would definitely be hard since my blog is so much about my family.

Are there anythings about your child you definitely wouldn't share on social media?: 

I never show their butts in photos, and I haven't had to face a "personal detail" really that I had to question if I want to share or not. I mean my son asks and says some pretty crazy things sometimes, and I don't put that out there (in regards to sexual questions,etc). My twins go to my neighbor for daycare and I've never spoke about that. Anyone could track down where I live based on my photos and where I tag photos, etc so I'm definitely not open with sharing that information. I also don't share where my son goes to daycare. 

Have you ever had any particularly positive/negative reactions to your sharing of your child/children on social media?:

I've never had any negative reactions, most people love when I share photos of my kids.

What do you think the future holds for children that have lived on social media since birth?:

Wow...great question. If everything saves, it will be amazing for them to look back on basically an online journal of their life. I have anxiety sometimes that everything will be deleted, but then again I back up all my photos. I would love to have a look in to my mother's personality when she was younger, a newlywed, a new mom, a working mom and hear her thoughts on life when great things happened and tragic things happened. I don't have that, but my kids will. I journal personally, but I feel like sharing my journey of life w/my kids online will one day bless my children as they get to go back in time and see what our family was like and all the experiences we shared together.  

Emily Abbey

British mum to two, Emily blogged her way through their multi year experience as an expat family in Singapore. Now living back in the UK (whilst renovating a house of dreams in France) Emily has turned her wonderful way with words to her own content creation and copy writing business, whilst navigating the journey of integrating her third culture kids into the English way of life.

Do you share pictures of your children on social media?: 

Yes I do shamelessly put pictures of my kids on social media. I've pretty much built my online presence as a blogger around the kids images, so I use everything I can from them- images, quotes, funny stories, you name it and I'll find a way to use it. That being said, I would never out something of them on my public profiles that I wouldn't want someone to put up of me, so no toilet or naked pictures and nothing too controversial. I save those for whatsapp and private social media profiles. I share an edited version of my life via my blog and it's social media accounts, and then my personal facebook is super private in terms of access but much more honest in terms of my life/the children.

Do you use pseudonyms for your children? If so, how did you come up with them?: 

I don't at all. My husband and I talked about it when I first started blogging, and for a while they were referred to as "the little guy" or "my mini me" but slowly their names crept back into captions or blog posts. It hasn't been a conscious decision really, more that I tend to snap and post on the go with the kids and remembering to type a witty and engaging (?!?) caption at speed whilst thinking up a new way of referring to them was actually too hard! So yes, they went back to being known by their names pretty quickly. For better or worse.

If your child indicated they didn't want to have their picture shared, how would you react?:

Maybe because I don't ever explicitly ask their permission before I post an image of either of them, there have been no complaints here. More likely it's because I have two absolute posers on my hands and they've grown up used to me taking photo's of everything they do anyway, albeit initially for my own sentimental use. If one of them was to ever say they didn't want their photo taken, or they didn't like a photo when I showed it to them, then of course I wouldn't dream of forcing them into anything. But they also have no concept right now of what happens to those photo's I take...

Are there anythings about your child you definitely wouldn't share on social media?: 

Oh yeah I'm quite wary of posting anything too personal- so no fully naked images, no bathroom pictures (toilet or bath), no identifying things like school crests on uniform (although as homeschoolers that's no longer a problem!), if we're taking photo's somewhere public I'll post the images once we're home and not in real time, I try and avoid other children's faces too especially if I don't know the parents or have their permission. I think just being mindful about what/who the image is of, what it represents and what it implies, and being respectful that the image might be around forever before posting anything is a great rule of thumb. If in doubt, don't post it.

Have you ever had any particularly positive/negative reactions to your sharing of your child/children on social media?:

I've pretty much only ever had positive responses publically, it tends to be more on my personal facebook profile that I'm quite sure that people are fed up of seeing images of my kids. But you know what, like anything on social media, everyone is free to pick and choose who they follow. I have no time for negative responses because no one is forcing you to look at anything other than yourself. If you don't like looking at pictures of my kids then you're following the wrong person. I have no issue with blocking people who take the time out of their day to put something weird under a photo of my kids. It takes the same amount of energy to be positive as it does to be negative, so really there's just no excuse for it.

What do you think the future holds for children that have lived on social media since birth?: 

Yikes that's a big question...I have no idea. In the short term my kids are enjoying the benefits of being social media kiddies. They get sent freebies, asked to go places, review things etc. But the long term? I just don't know. If they turn around in a few years time and hate it all then I'll have to ditch the mama-ing from my blog and social media no questions about it. But hopefully they won't, it's so much easier being a mummy blogger when my kids cooperate!

I also asked my instagram followers what their thoughts on children and social media are, the results being as follows:

Do you post pictures of your children on social media?

Yes- 89% 

When posting pictures of your children online so you use a pseudonym?

Yes- 53%
No- 47%

If you child indicates that they don't want their photo taken/posted what would you do?

Post it- 5%
Not post it- 95%

What kind of pictures do you NOT post?

What do you think the future holds for our children's generation and social media?

There were only a few responses but the two that really stood out for me where opposite ends of the spectrum:

"I think it could be good because everything is out in the open, it makes silly indiscretions less taboo"

"I don't know but I'm scared"

What do you think about children on social media, both with on their parents or with their own accounts?

Sweet spooks! Poltergeist puffs (that are more cute than creepy)

Halloween is nearly here and I'm having as much fun as the children! Halloween isn't a big deal in England (which is funny because trick or treating actually originated in neighboring Scotland). Even though most of us made the right of passage from 'Hocus Pocus' to 'The Craft' at some point in our teen years, Halloween really is for drunk uni students trying to wear as little as possible while they queue in the pissing rain to get into the local club's fright night binge drinking session (no judgement- I wore a mini dress made entirely of black duct tape in 2006 that was swiftly peeled off to reveal too much of my pre-babies bod 🤷).

Here in the States, Halloween is a child centric holiday (and not in a crowded around Linda Blair's bed kind of way). It's a night of dressing up in costumes, sugar overloading and giggle inducing spooky fun.

When we moved into our current house two years ago, on October 21st to be exact, the neighbors who greeted us said two things: 'Welcome' and 'make sure you buy some candy'. Having had one solitary 'treater each year previously I was skeptical, but the suburbs lived up to their reputation as soccer-mom (and their soccer playing offspring) territory and we were INUNDATED with all manner of ghostfaces, minions and even a Trump.

The boys still aren't completely caught up with the spooky fun, so we join in but I try and keep my pinterest perfection inclined anxieties locked down. This year they have Woody and Buzz costumes (which are actually pajamas a few sizes too big, so I can dress them warmly underneath and they'll get some wear out of them in the coming year) and my home made crafts are staying simple, with the less said about the Snapchat puppy costume-making-induced-meltdown of 2016 the better.

So if you fancy a little extra 'boo' without the added 'boo-ASTARD MOTHER FUCKING GLUE GUN' burns then these marshmallow monsters should be right up your trick or treating street.

You will need:

  • Marshmallows
  • Candy eyes- found in the cake decorating aisle of most grocery stores or craft stores
  • Food safe black marker- also in the baking section of the grocer/craft store. NOT A SHARPIE.
Dab a little water on to (or if they're for your own/your kid's consumption, lick) the back of the candy eyes and press onto the marshmallow- the location can do a lot for your little ghost's character so chose you close-set-serial-killer eye placement with consideration)

Use the black FOOD SAFE pen(I do not mean a regular non-toxic pen, I mean an actual food coloring pen) to dab a little 'oh' mouth onto you marshmallow and behold, an instagram worth sugar spook!

I think these little puffy poltergeists do their best work floating ethereally in a piping hot chocolate, but should you feel compelled to KILL IT WITH FIRE, they would add a little extra creepiness to a marshmallow toasting cookout.

Why I abandon educational ships multiple times a week, and don't feel like a shitty mum for doing so

We all have best laid plans. Those of us with children try our best to provide fun, educational and enriching activities for them much as we can. Whether it's a trip out to a paid activity, a game set up at home, or a movie you've rented because you think they'll love it, we all try our best to do nice things for our children.

As sometimes they could not give a fuck.

Sometimes the paid activity become a very expensive opportunity to drive to and from a location with a little car seat tussle and a parking lot tantrum in between; a game turns into an exercise in lightning speed destruction; or the movie is of literally no interest whatsoever and the free junk mail that was just delivered is in fact the best toy ever.

I used to get a bit miffed with the old parenting equation that seems to equal: more effort in means less result out. I was never upset at the children, they didn't know they were spoiling mummy's Pinterest perfect vision of how parenting is supposed to go. I mostly just wondered what I was doing wrong that meant they weren't engaging in these wonderful opportunities I was giving them.

More recently I've come to realise that the answer is I'm not doing anything wrong at all, and actually the more freedom I give them to engage with what I'm providing- even if that means wandering off in the other direction and being totally engrossed by a wooden spoon- the more they are getting out of it (and the less I want to bash my head against a brick wall).

There are certain things that as a parent you have to have your limits on: Eating something, ANYTHING, that isn't a carb; sleeping at least a few hours a night; being kind to others; anything that involves staying safe; and that penises (whilst very amusing) do not have a place at the dinner table. We're not talking about foregoing essential social and emotional life lessons in the place of a Disney movie here, we're talking about finding the learning in places and things that your children connect with the most- and you're the one that knows those things best.

How my children engage with an entertaining and educational activity is where I'm relaxing my limits... to becoming fairly non existent- and we're all benefitting from it.

Reading, for example, my children at not readers. They have never been bothered about books, they've not really been fussed about being read to, and trying to get them to look at the pages and pick out the cat is about as likely as getting them to pick out the winning lottery numbers (there was a time I'd have been equally ecstatic about both outcomes). Books and children are like bread and butter, they GO together. Everywhere, everyone is telling you to read with your children, how much children love this or that book, how entertaining and enthralling story time at the library is for all children (spoiler: it's not).

But what if your children just don't give a shit? (I even had a fellow toddler parent tell me my children are 'really odd' for not being into books... Massive thumbs up to you you dick, here's to us all doing our best together eh!).

Serious middle of the night hours went into worrying about 'the situation', the more I tried the more it turned into 'a thing'. And then I stopped trying, I left the books in easy reach and engaged them in the stuff they were showing a massive interest in- anything physical. We stopped forcing the issue and let them do them; and after some time, on a quiet afternoon when I wasn't really paying much attention: Eddie picked up a book. He leafed through, took a look at the pages then toddled off. I cried.

Now books are a part of our world, maybe not as much as they are for other families but instead of becoming something they were forced to do when they really wanted to be jumping off the top of their play kitchen, it's something they've discovered as a fun activity rather than a chore.

That was the turning point for me. I recognize the importance and essential need for my children to be educated, to be given enriching opportunities and to have their developmental needs met and supported... their developmental needs.

My children are my children, they are loud and noisy and never stop moving. Right now they don't get anything out of a book that they won't get from us singing a song and taking a walk (read: run) somewhere fun. They are learning about curiosity from me not from George, they're learning to say goodnight without a red balloon, and they know how much I love them without a nut brown hare in sight.

I know I'm doing a good job providing all the good stuff, the important stuff, the health and wellbeing stuff. So if they don't want to sit and listen to a story in the library to a point where I think they may actually climb a wall (or turn off the main breaker to the projector system... yeah, sorry about that), we'll go play in the playhouse and learn about taking turns and sharing with the other kids that are there. If they don't want to colour in the worksheet and don't understand why its so important to sit still, we'll go climb stairs and count each one up and down. If they think the dressed up story book character is the actual devil, then we'll go run around a field and point out all the birds and aeroplanes in the sky instead.

So if every bone in your body is saying 'bail out, bail out now!' but the little voice in your head (which oddly, sounds just like that arsehole parent with all the opinions) is saying 'you're doing a crap job if you don't stick this out', don't feel bad for hauling arse and GTFO.

As much as it's ok for you to do you, it's ok for your children to do them.

Want to know more or talk about what I've written here? I'll be doing an Instagram story about this post and keeping it in my highlights- I'd love to hear your thoughts about our own self image and when the influences of who we are 'supposed to be' come from for you.

After After Miscarriage

You read that right. I'm not talking about when you get home from the hospital and walk into your house not pregnant any more. I'm not talking about the first few days when you're bleeding and still throwing up. I'm not really talking about the first time you're part of a conversation about children, or there is a real life baby in your vicinity.

I mean the bit when you're just wanting it to be over so you can move on, when you're still going back to the doctor for weekly blood draws and waking up from nightmares every night in a cold sweat.

I had a miscarriage. It's not my first, it might not be my last, and it's still not over. I was told my baby did not have a heart beat (after weeks of good news from blood tests about excellent rising HCG levels and all the appropriate symptoms) more than six weeks ago. When I first started in the baby making game, I knew about the very real possibility of miscarriage- that one in eight pregnancies end in miscarriage. But I didn't really know what it would be like if it happened- I think people are talking more openly about pregnancy loss or maybe I'm just moving in the circle where talking about it isn't taboo.

I thought having a miscarriage would be a bit like having a period, you'd get the bad news, you'd go home, you'd bleed, and it would be over. Any time a miscarriage is shown in a movie or on tv theres the dramatic scene of blood running down legs, the statement 'I'm having a miscarriage", a flurry of activity, tears and hugs and that was that. But that, is most definitely not that.

The first week after I had surgery to remove the failed pregnancy (because having done this few times I know my body does not let go easily and I wanted to start moving on) I was still throwing up like I was hungover on a very small boat in rough seas. My boobs hurt, my tummy was swollen and I could smell anything in a ten mile radius. I was still very much pregnant, I just didn't have a baby in my belly anymore.

After pregnancy loss, the hormone that makes that line on the pee stick show up (hCG) takes its sweet time to fuck off. For some women thats a few days, maybe a week or so, and for some it's a lot longer. After my first ectopic pregnancy it took about eight months for my level to drop to 'non pregnant ranges'. Thankfully pregnancy symptoms don't stick around until that level is zeroed but if the level falls slowly then it may take more time than seems fair to wave goodbye to morning sickness. It's one thing to chat to your belly about how this will all be worth when you're hanging out over the toilet for the fourth time that day, it's less manageable when you're in there alone.

At the time of writing this i'm still no where near zero and at the rate the levels are falling I probably won't be at zero for another month, most of my symptoms have gone which is a huge relief, the only one that seems to be keen on sticking it out until the bitter end is the disturbed sleep. For me that disturbed sleep seems to be giving my rather active imagination carte blanche to think up the most horrific things it can and roll them out around 3am. I knew pregnancy would herald a new era of sleepless nights I just didn't realise it would be from night terrors rather than a mewling newborn.

I think it's getting more acceptable to talk about miscarriage and pregnancy loss. It's not easy to talk about but I have had nothing but support and thanks for speaking about my experiences; from people that have gone through it, from those caring for someone who is, and from those that didn't realise how common it was and are better prepared just in case. I'm sharing because it helps me to talk it all, to give me perspective and put everything in its place to I can move forward. I also hope that it fills in another little empty space on the internet so that someone searching in the middle of the night for how to handle the next day might know they aren't the only one still having a miscarriage.

Paperless Post: There's a time for paper and a time for paperless & BLOSSOM + BLOT GIVEAWAY

It might sound pretty suspect for someone that owns a small stationery business (BLOSSOM + BLOT just so happened to be Rhode Island Monthly's Editor's Pick for best "Whimsical Stationery 2018" in case you didn't know *imagine my eyebrows wiggling at this point*) to say good things about a completely online greetings card service. But hear me out.

I made it clear in my GROUND RULES post that if I have the opportunity to work with a company with whom my interests align, I will. Being that I live 3000 miles away from the vast proportion of my family and that my time management skills have been decimated by two small humans, being able to send a card this simply and quickly via Paperless Post is pretty bloody awesome.

That being said I think there's a time and place for paper vs. paperless.


Wedding, christening, big event for which you have hired-somewhere-and-possibly-employed-a-florist = Paper

Kid's birthday party, back yard hang out, save the date, anything where the postage will cost more than the invitation itself= Paperless


Immediate family (especially if you live in the same country/house), someone to whom's party you've been invited, someone you see on a regular basis in real life = Paper

Someone who's address you don't know, a friend you don't see that often or lives abroad, when you forget and it is their actual birthday right now... = Paperless


Engagement, first child, first new home's address = Paper

Every subsequent child's birth (or, I mean, you do you- if the idea of walking to the post office with 100 birth announcements after tearing open your vagina/being cut in half makes you want to pretend you're still just 4 months overdue and the baby isn't here yet, go with paperless for the first kid too) = 

Unlike the e-cards of yore (because anything pre 2002 is now consider yore in internet terms) Paperless Post has some incredibly beautiful designs by designers such as Kate Spade, Rifle Paper co., and Hello!Lucky to name a few of my favourites.

You can create birthday, baby shower, wedding and Christmas cards (pretty darn excited about this one given the bill for Christmas card postage to the UK the last few years has been so prohibitive that I just ask if they got the card and look disappointed when they say it didn't arrive yet). You can also personalise cards with photographs which is fab for sending to grandparents.

When you sign up your account is credited with 25 coins, and there are some free ways to earn more (such as liking their facebook page). The Kate Spade card below that I sent to Charlie came to 5 coins   per recipient, the cost of the card is itemized in the top right hand corner of the page as you go along so you can keep tabs on what you're racking up. 

Coins cost between $2 and 11 cents each depending on how many you buy- the more coins per purchase the cheaper they are.

Right now Paperless Post don't do discount codes so I wasn't able to get one for you guys BUT this blog is about give and take so I wanted to offer you something to thank you for taking the time to read this. 

I asked the Paperless Post rep lady if they would be cool with me running a giveaway of my own BLOSSOM + BLOT cards as part of this post- like me, they also think there's a time for paper and a time for paperless so it was A OK with them. As much as i'm sure they aren't shaking in their boots at the though of B+B cutting into their margins, I liked their attitude towards staying in their lane whilst my little paper based business tagged along in the same post.

To talk about Paperless Post, which I have done honestly, I've been given some freebie coins in payment. So because I truly believe that there is a time for paperless I'm going to recommend you try out Paperless Post to make use of your free introductory 25 coins, and for the times that call for paper I'm giving away $20 of credit (equal to 100 coins on Paperless Post) to the BLOSSOM + BLOT Etsy store on any non-custom cards and prints minus shipping.

To enter to win, go to the instagram post of the title image of this post or comment below and tell me: Who you would send a paper card to and who you would send a paperless card to. 

The competition closes at 9am EST on August 29th.

Find more about Paperless Post at and more about BLOSSOM + BLOT at

Want to know more or talk about what I've written here? I'll be doing an Instagram story about this post and keeping it in my highlights- I'd love to hear your thoughts about paper vs. paperless and when you think the time for each is.

I'm not a Mermaid Flight Attendant and that's ok

Since Hello Holly (formerly Holly Likes to Cook) has been in hiatus I've been asked a lot "what have you been up to?". The answer isn't a short one really, but ultimately it boils down to:

I have been living.

Since having one of those big life moments last year, when I realized my mental health had taken a bit of a battering postnatally, I have just been living.

Not living it up, and not being entirely down, more like somewhere in the middle. And really, isn't that what many of us really, really want, the middle?

As a child I wanted to be some iteration of a mermaid flight attendant when I grew up; then when I grew up a little bit more and reaslied how hard it would be to be part fish and push the drink trolley my dream idea of being a grown up has something to do with working at a magazine and wearing high heels. There would be shiny offices and glamorous lunches; parties that would require full length sparkly dresses, and New Years Eve would ALWAYS be incredibly fancy.

And then I grew up some more and I was none of those things. I did work in an office, a few offices actually, and they were very nice but not the high gloss and glass confections of my teenage daydreams. I wore high heels but mostly wanted to take them off because my feet hurt; and New Years Eve was only ever once semi fancy... and still involved falling into a hedge.

The thing is, much like my childhood dream of being a mermaid, my teenage one of being a high flying magazine something-ing woman wasn't part of my reality- and thats ok, because as much as I don't actually want to be a mermaid now I'm a grown up, I don't want that other stuff either.

What I actually want is to mostly exist in flat shoes with the occasional pom pom on them; to work very hard every day looking after my family in our not-high-gloss house; and to fall asleep on New Years (and truly, every) Eve before 10 o'clock.

As I snuck past my twenties I had more and more moments of panicking I should do more, be more, hustle harder, lean further in. The irony of it all being that the more you try to be the less you enjoy and appreciate who you are.

For me the turning point was when I didn't just feel like I wasn't enough professionally, it was when I felt like I wasn't enough personally- when my body failed me over and over again at the thing I wanted it to do the most. Even when we finally got there and had our beautiful boys, my mind was so exhausted from feeling at fault for their premature arrival, and the losses of all those before them that the overwhelming intensity of the first year of motherhood with two babes in one go pushed me to the brink.

I'm fortunate to have had all the help I needed to be well and for my family to be well but it was a rough year. Recently we've re-entered that world of frustration and loss, and sad though I am I feel ready to see what happens next, because now I know who I am.

Whilst I can't speak for everyone I speak for myself and many females friends with whom I've had this conversation: I'm now totally ok with what I am now I've grown up; and it's not what I thought I would be.

Rather than not know what I have until it's gone I'm reveling in having a house that's never quite tidy because two small tornados live here; I know that my squashy mummy tummy makes snuggling up to me so much comfier; I don't have a monetary value to apply to the work I do but I'm working harder than I ever have before, and all of that is enough for now. The other stuff will come back in time, if I want it to.

Now I have the wisdom of a grown up I also know that I've still got a whole lot more growing up to do, and chances are that with that will come new things.

If I could choose, those things would be:

-The owning of a perfect capsule wardrobe
-A beautifully organised laundry cupboard
-Time to go to the gym and yoga classes regularly
-A home that has seasonal decor (and if we're getting really fancy) and seasonal fragranced candles

In reality those things will probably be:

-Clothes that are the right size. (the stuff that's the wrong size will be in a bag in the car waiting to be donated)
-a laundry cupboard of any kind
-I'll possibly pay for a gym membership
-A home where the autumnal doorstep pumpkins do not disintegrate and whose seeds do not sprout new pumpkins the following year...

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. I think i'm probably between miles eight and nine. I've got a stitch from running too hard- I didn't quite break an ankle but I twisted it up pretty bad. The next few miles I'm going to worry less about my time and take a slow stroll, I'll catch up a bit later when I've got my breath- right now i'm going to stick with the runners who are in it for the fun of it and know we're all a sweaty mess just trying our best.

Want to know more or talk about what I've written here? I'll be doing an Instagram story about this post and keeping it in my highlights- I'd love to hear your thoughts about our own self image and when the influences of who we are 'supposed to be' come from for you.


I will always be honest with what I write, but I will respect my privacy and the privacy of my family.

I don't just like sharing my experiences with people, I get so much out of it. I get balance and perspective and really genuinely helpful advice. I get the chance to see the big picture and I get moments of realizing that not everyone has is figured out. I see that we are all different but mostly all just trying our best. To that end I promise you my honesty and integrity, on the the understanding that not everything is for public consumption and that I'm the one that gets to make the decision.

I'm no Annie Leibovitz.

I used to spend hours turning my kitchen into a photography studio to take three photos that would end up on a blog post. It was a ball ache and used up so much of my time (and ultimately my sanity when I over promised myself to people based on mental resources I wasn't in the possession of to offer) that I dreaded having ideas for new content and recipes because of the photography standards I'd set.

I'll take nice pictures, and probably focus on making them look pretty but they'll also being a really useful and true picture of what i'm talking about. I'll also take videos if it makes sense, but everything will mostly be from my phone so expect a finger on the lens or a blur here and there.

I want to start conversations.

I want to hear what you think and feel about what I write and say. I am not an expert at ANYTHING, this is not an advise site or a set of rules by which to live your life (the irony of that appearing in my ground rules post). I do not know the answer- you might though.

I will probably get this wrong and I want to know about it. I promise everything I write will come from a place of the best intentions and be considered, but that doesn't mean it'll be correct. I know we're all different, we think and feel very differently about a huge number of things. This blog is from my point of view, I couldn't authentically and truthfully write from the POV of anyone other than me, but that doesn't mean I don't want to talk about other perspectives.

I'll be posting a instagram story, and saving it to the highlights, after each blog post is published. Think of it as the Cliff Notes for the post, I'll talk through what I wanted to say in case my writing missed the mark, and I want to hear what you think on the subject. It won't all be deep and meaningful but it'll always be a conversation.

I will look like me.

Whenever you see my face I will look like me. I might look like shit with my adult acne and unwashed hair; or I might look nicely put together for someone, something or myself. But I will always look like me, it doesn't serve any of us for me to primp and preen before I turn on the camera, or pretend I'm not still 20lbs heavier than before I had babies. I also won't apologize when I do look like me, because that's my face and my mum worked really hard to make it.

I would like to write consistently and build a community that enjoys my writing, photographs and videos, but I won't make myself sick to get a blog post out every Wednesday.

Pop in when you want, see what's new or what's not, drop me an email to say hello or make a date for a coffee (if you're local and not a serial killer), but please don't take my less than rigid posting schedule as apathy toward how appreciative I am of everyone that does read a post, hit like, or send a DM. I'm incapable of underdelivering to the point that I broke myself when I couldn't say no to work because I didn't want to let people down or have them think less of me. I'm not going to do that again,  because it's not fair to my family who put me back together so I hope you can enjoy what I've got when it's there for what it is.

Don't be a dick.

I'm very lucky to have a lovely group of followers and readers that comment and write to me regularly. I want to encourage anyone and everyone to respond and engage with me and each other on instagram posts, in comments on the blog, and (hopefully, you never know!) in real life. But I will insist that all conversation and discussion is done in a respectful and kind way. Life is too short to be a prick on the internet.

I want this to be my job.

At the moment I am a stay at home mum to my twin toddlers, and that is a job in itself. I have worked, lots of different types of jobs, in my lifetime and I am acutely aware of what it takes to earn a wage. I will also not pretend I'm not in the exceptionally fortunate position to be able to stay at home with my children. My family is a team, we all add value to our team in different and incredibly skilled ways, I'm afraid that is not up for debate.

But, I would very much like for writing to become my job.. again. I would like to be paid for my words, my opinions, my thoughts and my ideas. As such if an opportunity to work with a company or brand that I align with presents itself I will do that. If that partnership involves my blog and my audience you will know about it, you will not be used or abused for me to get paid. But right from the start I want to be clear about my intention to pursue a career by writing about what I know.

If a brand or company contacts me and it is not a product or area that I have interest in or affinity with with I will always recommend someone to them to work with if I know the right person- I don't get any thing out of hiding work from someone that would do a better job at it than me.


I'm pretty sure that's it, I hope that's all ok with you. If it's not let's talk about it. 
Find the highlighted story on instagram at @hellohollyblog to hear more about this post, and chat about it if you fancy.

Hello Holly

If you liked my original blog (that used to be right here- don't worry you've not got lost!) I hope you'll like what it has become.

Holly Likes to Cook started in 2012, and since then I've grown up, we all have. We've changed, grown and discovered new things. We've made new friends and found our way in the world. We've seen good stuff and bad stuff, and a lot of in between stuff. We've lost things and gained things, and figured out how to be ok with it. We've messed up and made up and started over fresh, and learnt something new every time.

One thing I've learnt over the past few years is how much I've loved building a community of friends who share my likes, loves and WTFs.

Hello Holly is Holly Likes to Cook all grown up, not just a one way blog for you to read and watch, but a place we can figure stuff out together as I show you what I'm trying, what works... and what absolutely doesn't!

I hope you'll say "hello Holly" as I launch the new site and fill it with content that is completely and utterly me.

I hope you'll come back to read the lifestyle blog of a mum of twins who likes to cook, style, wonder, wander and a whole bunch more.