health · top tips

Coronavirus Second Wave: Surviving Lockdown 2.0

2020 has been a pretty crazy year. I can’t say it’s been a bad year, because my lovely son was born in January, but it’s definitely been a mad year. And now it seems that we’re heading for the second wave of coronavirus… and another lockdown. The first lockdown back in March was a bit of a shock. None of us had been through anything like that before. Will surviving lockdown number 2 be easier, because we know what to expect, or will it be harder – for the same reason? It’s difficult to know, especially as we don’t yet know what a second lockdown will look like.

So in preparation, I’ve pulled together a round up of some of my favourite blog posts about surviving lockdown with your well-being intact…

Surviving Lockdown 2.0 And Maintaining Wellbeing

1. Coping with social isolation

One of the most difficult things about lockdown is the social isolation. It’s particularly tough if you live alone, but even those of us living with family, friends or housemates can struggle not being able to see the people we’re closest to, or even have those everyday interactions with other people that you don’t even notice under normal circumstances – a chat with a friendly check-out clerk, a quick gossip in the office, even just a smile in the street. Humans just aren’t made for social isolation.

This blog post gives some great tips on coping with social isolation, and the impact on our mental health. Check it out!

2. Creating a wellness retreat at home

My idea of maintaining wellness at home is agreeing with my husband an evening that I can have a bath while he feeds Little Man and puts him to bed (Little Man’s room is next to the bathroom and our pipes are super loud, so I can’t bath after he’s gone to bed!). I run a hot bath, add some bubbles, make a mug of herbal tea and grab a book to read while I soak. Luxury!

But this blog post made me realise I was aiming wayyyyy too low. You really can create a luxury wellness retreat at home – it just requires a bit of planning! Even if your family commitments mean you can’t quite clear your schedule for a while day of home spa relaxation, the links at the bottom of this post give some great ideas for lovely ways to boost your wellness when you have less time available. During coronavirus lockdown when you can’t go out or meet friends, it’s so important for your mental health to carve out some time for yourself, and this post is great inspiration for your next block of me-time.

6 ideas for surviving lockdown 2.0 coronavirus second wave mental health and wellness

3. Mindfulness meditations to combat Covid-19 lockdown stress and anxiety

Linked to the above, lockdown is inevitably stressful. Not being able to go out and spend time with friends and family is stressful in itself, let alone worries about catching coronavirus, managing food and medication shortages, employment issues and more. Mindfulness is a great way to combat stress and anxiety, and even as little as a ten minute mindfulness session every day can make a real difference to your mental health and wellbeing.

As we go into Lockdown 2.0, I’m going to be proactive about using mindfulness to manage stress, and working my way through this list of 10 minute mindfulness meditations.

4. Managing lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips

If the newspapers are to be believed, panic buying has already started in advance of the second lockdown. Back in April, I set out some of my top tips for managing with lockdown food shortages and limited shopping trips. I’ll be revisiting some of those tips, and trying to make sure we have a well-stocked freezer before Lockdown 2.0 hits!

5. Improving Wellness At Home

I like this round-up post about improving your wellness at home. Some things are so simple and yet they do really make a difference to how you feel… Like making sure you get outdoors every day if possible. During the first coronavirus lockdown, we always made sure to pop into the garden every evening with Little Man, to spend a little time with nature, and it always really lifted my mood. Unless it was raining, of course!

6. Tips for mamas to survive Lockdown 2.0

Of course a huge focus of this blog is on parenting and being a mama, so I loved this blog post about how mamas can beat the lockdown blues. Of course a lot of the tips will be great for dads too (although probably not every dad will want a mini makeover). There are benefits to being locked down with kids – at least the time goes quickly as you’re caught in the constant whirl of feeding, naptime, playtime and tantrums – but there’s no denying it can be stressful and exhausting.

What are your top tips for surviving lockdown… again? Let me know in the comments!

coronavirus covid 19 second wave surviving lockdown 2.0 with good mental health and wellness
coronavirus · health

Please Become A Blood Stem Cell Donor

Normally when I write my blog, I just hope that my readers take time to read my posts and enjoy them. Today’s a bit different, because today I’m asking you to do something. Please, please, please sign up to be a blood stem cell and/or bone marrow donor.

Why am I asking you?

This is Adeline

She’s nearly four years old and was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow failure almost two years ago. Ever since, Adeline has been waiting for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. Recently, it seemed a donor match had been found, but her family have now heard that this has fallen through, and once again no matches are available.

This is what Adeline’s mum has to say:

“One 3 minute phone call, I expected to get a date for transplant but instead heard the words: ‘The donors we have are not an option any longer,’ and ‘there are currently no matches for Adeline.’ It felt like a dagger in the gut and in the heart. Back to the start, just with far less hope.”

“The only way of saving Adeline’s life is a bone marrow transplant. So we need all the help and all the sign ups we can get!
Please register with DKMS, Anthony Nolan or any stem cell/bone marrow registry. All it takes is a few mouth swabs and you can save a life like Adeline’s.”

You can follow Adeline’s journey here.

Did you know?

Because of Covid, nearly 19,000 fewer people joined the stem cell register this year. That’s a massive drop, and given that many people struggled to find a donor match even before the current crisis.

Already, only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best possible stem cell match, and that drops to just 20% for people from black, Asian or ethnic minority backgrounds. More donors from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are desperately needed.

What does blood stem cell donation involve?

90% of blood stem cell donations are done by Peripheral Blood Stem Cell collection, a straightforward process similar to donating blood, although you will need injections in the days leading up to your donation. There’s no need for an overnight stay in hospital.

10% of donations are done via bone marrow transplant. This requires a general anaesthetic and a couple of nights in hospital. You can find out more about each method of donation here.

What if I can’t donate?

Not everyone is a suitable donor due to age and/or health conditions. If you can’t donate, please share the word on social media and in person to encourage others to sign up, and consider making a financial donation to the charities that run the donor registries.

Plus, remember to wear your masks, wash your hands, and social distance to limit the spread of coronavirus. A Covid infection could be the difference between life and death for someone waiting for a blood stem cell transplant.

So please do consider signing up to the donor registry today. You might just save a life.

baby · food · parenting · top tips

My Top Weaning Tips So Far

We started weaning Little Man at six months, so we’re now about seven weeks in and having two solid meals a day as standard (I’ll be honest, we could be doing three a day, I just can’t be bothered cleaning porridge off the walls that early in the morning). That means it’s time to share my top weaning tips so far, based on what I’ve learned!

We’re following a mix of traditional weaning (where the food is puréed or mushy at first, gradually increasing in chunky textures, and you feed baby with a spoon) and baby-led weaning (or BLW – where baby is presented with solid food options from the start and has to feed him or herself). This seems to be working just fine, despite some evangelists on the BLW side saying it’s all or nothing and you must never mix the two approaches for fear of confusing baby. Maybe some babies are more easily confused than others… Mine just seems to treat all food of all textures and presentations as an opportunity to coat himself in muck from head to toe.

In general, lunch is more of a purist’s BLW approach, where Little Man gets foods he can pick up himself and the time to have fun with them. Sometimes they even go into his mouth. Then at dinner, he sits in his high chair at the table with me and my husband, and there’s more of a concerted effort to get some food in his tummy.

Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on our weaning journey so far, and I thought I’d share some weaning tips that I wish I’d known when we started!

Don’t make assumptions about what they will or won’t like

Little Man has consistently surprised me with what he enjoys eating. The other day, I was eating some very strongly flavoured salt and vinegar crisps. Little Man was on my lap, and he was reaching for them. We don’t normally let him have any kind of junk food, but I let him have a crisp, on the basis that I thought the flavour would be way too strong and acidic for him and he wouldn’t like it. I even thought it might put him off asking for crisps in the future! Predictably, I was 100% wrong and he loved it… Oops.

Other foods that he has liked despite my expectations have included raspberries, broccoli mash (come on though, broccoli is grim… I practically made myself ill from the smell when I cooked it for him!), risotto, Japanese-style pork croquettes, and more. Now, I just let him try whatever and see what he thinks. Fingers crossed it works and we avoid having a fussy eater later on in life!

Help them get started off

I often offer Little Man one or two pieces of his finger food before leaving him to try to eat himself. Giving him a piece straight to his mouth at the start of the meal helps him get enthusiastic about feeding himself the rest. I then often give him one or two pieces to hold, as he often struggles to pick things up initially and it seems to help him get the hang of it for the rest of the meal.

Weaning is tough

Don’t start sweet (unless you mean to go on…)

The other day, I gave Little Man some raspberries to start him off while I made veggie omelette for his main. Oops. He loves veggie omelette, but after the raspberries he was in no way interested. Every time he put a piece in his mouth, he just made a sad face. Now we don’t do sweet things until the savoury is out the way first…

Let him have his own damn spoon

Little Man ALWAYS wants to hold the spoon. He struggles a lot with his teething and loves chomping on our wooden spoons. He’ll take a bite from a spoon, then if his teeth are bothering him, he’ll get very angry if you try to take the spoon back to give him a second bite. So now I have a back-up spoon on hand, and I just let him keep the spoon he wants. It’s much easier all around.

Brace yourself for those first weaning nappies

Little Man has always had trouble with his stomach, but as his tummy had improved by the time we came to start weaning, I have to say I wasn’t fully prepared for the violent and explosive nature of the poops he produced after starting weaning. We went through a couple of weeks where he was routinely experiencing such forceful poops that they completely escaped his nappy and went right up his back. He’s also been quite windy, but fortunately doesn’t seem to have tummy pain like he used to when he was smaller. Luckily for us (and our washing machine), Little Man’s digestive system does seem to have begun to acclimatise to solid foods, and poops are now normally being contained within the safety of his nappy. But I really wish someone had warned me about those first few weeks!

What are your top weaning tips? Share them in the comments!

Blog post image for top weaning tips using a mix of baby led weaning and traditional weaning
Just for fun · mermaiding · top tips

How To Look Amazing Underwater (Tips From A Professional Mermaid)

Whether you’re a model heading for your first underwater photoshoot, or just going on holiday and dreaming of getting some awesome underwater shots in the pool, getting a good picture in the water is very different to getting a good photo on land. While I’m not performing now I’ve had my son, I spent years working as a professional mermaid and underwater model, so I’ve pulled together this short guide for modelling underwater, to help you get the pictures you want.

Underwater Modelling Top Tips

1. Keep Track Of Your Location Underwater

Being underwater affords so much opportunity for creative, gravity-defying poses. When you’re getting into position it’s helpful to be aware of the frame that your photographer is shooting into, to ensure that you know whether you can stretch out your arms and legs and still stay in shot, or whether you need to stick to more compact poses. For underwater modelling, aim to keep diving in the same spot unless your photographer wants you to move, as otherwise you’re likely to get a lot of blurry pictures. It can be tricky to keep track of this in swimming pools, as there’s always a tendency to drift in the water, so try to get your bearings each time you surface.

2. Relax Your Face And Open Your Mouth

One of the things that can make your face seem tense or unnatural in underwater pictures is the fact that most people naturally want to keep their mouth closed when they’re underwater. When you’re holding your breath, you’ll naturally want to close your mouth, and most people aren’t that comfortable at first with letting water into their mouth, especially if it’s chlorinated.

But you’ll find that if you can open your mouth underwater, it will help your facial expressions to look relaxed – and gives you a much wider range of expression in your underwater modelling photos. It’s actually probably more important than being able to open your eyes underwater, as closed eyes don’t necessarily make you look tense.

At first, the fact that you’re holding your breath may mean that even with your mouth open, your facial expression will still look a little stiff or unnatural – I recommend just practising at home in the mirror. When you’re doing your breath hold practice, try using a range of expressions, and you’ll find your expression quickly becomes more natural and relaxed.

Photograph by Gregory Brown

3. Getting The Poses Right For Underwater Modelling

You’ll find it helpful to go into an underwater modelling shoot with a mental checklist of poses that you want to try. It’s easy for your mind to go blank when you’re underwater, and communication with your photographer is much more difficult than on land, so it’s useful to be able to work through a set of poses that you’ve planned in advance.​

Make sure you try each pose several times, to give your photographer the best chance of getting a good shot.

It’s also handy to be able to work through a mental checklist of key points as you’re getting into each pose (having something to focus on will also distract you from the fact that you’re holding your breath!):

  • Point your toes (assuming you’re not in a mermaid tail!).
  • Shape your hands – flat paddle hands won’t look good in a picture. Relax your hands and create some space in between your fingers.
  • Relax your face – check you’re not squinting or pushing your lips out.
  • Check your hair – if it’s not floating up, try running a hand up through it for that magical underwater look.
  • Move slowly – give your photographer plenty of time to capture the shot.
  • Use props – props can look amazing underwater! A simple piece of fabric will transform your shot.
  • Think about your lighting (see below).
Photograph by Chiara Salomoni

4. Manage Your Lighting

Just as with normal modelling, it’s important to be aware of your light sources. Underwater lighting can be more complicated, particularly if you’re relying on natural light or surface light, rather than using underwater flashes.

Using surface light in your photography creates that beautiful marbled lighting effect that can be one of the hallmarks of underwater photography.

The side effect of this marbled lighting is the weird shadows that it casts, quite unpredictably – there’s an example of this in the photo to the right. This means that it’s a good idea to have a few takes of every shot – even if your pose is spot-on, the lighting may not be!​

If you are relying on surface lighting, remember to tilt your head upwards and towards your light source, to maximise the light falling on your face. But even if you do this, I guarantee you’ll get some strange shadows in your shots, so make sure you take plenty of photos!

This photograph by David Ballard shows typical dappled underwater lighting

5. Beware Of Bubbles

Unfortunately, bubbles have the propensity to pop up and ruin an otherwise awesome shot. If they’re in the right place, they can add to that magical underwater feeling in the photograph – if they’re in the wrong place, they will cast weird shadows and distort your facial features. When you’re doing underwater modelling, the key is to try to be aware of them and control them as far as possible.

When you first submerge under the water, the dive will usually create a cloud of bubbles and you will need to wait until after these have cleared to get the perfect shot. You can minimise this by diving into the water more slowly, and by getting your clothing and costume fully submerged beforehand, ensuring there aren’t any air bubbles trapped within the fabric. Checking your costume for air bubbles is a good idea in any case, as these can create peculiar floating bits of fabric in the picture.

So far, so straightforward. But now… introducing the ninja nose bubble! When you drop below the surface of the water, pockets of air are trapped in your nose and sinuses. These have a tendency of creating a surprise stream of bubbles from your nose at unexpected moments, particularly when you tip your head backwards in the water. The best thing to do is to just to be aware of the possibility of this happening when you tip your head back – if a ninja nose bubble does appear, just hold your pose and be prepared to wait for the bubbles to dissipate. You may need to repeat the pose a number of times to get the shot you want.

If it’s really ruining your shot, the best thing you can do is to get underwater, tip your head really far back, let the bubbles out and the water fill your nose, and then take your pose. This is not particularly recommended, as the sensation of water pouring into your nose is pretty unpleasant, especially if it’s chlorinated.

A nose bubble ruining this great shot by Shamira Crivellaro of MiraMarc Studios

And those are my top tips for your next underwater photoshoot! I’ll be continuing this series of tips and tricks for underwater photography, so keep an eye out for the next blog – and let me know in the comments if there are any aspects of underwater modelling that you’d be interested in finding out more about.

cocktails · food · food storage · recipes

How To Make Hawthorn Berry Gin – Foraging Recipe

Basically, foraging is like shopping – except everything is free, so it’s better. As I’m on maternity leave, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to pick berries this year, so I wanted to share some of the recipes I’m trying out. I’ve heard that hawthorn berry gin has a taste a bit like sherry, so of course that was first on the list to try. Whether you live in the town or the countryside, chances are you’ll have a hawthorn bush nearby, as they’re one of the most common types of plant used for hedges in this country.

This is a great way to transform a bottle of cheap £10 supermarket vodka into a bottle of gin you’d pay at least £25 for. Because yes – gin is basically just vodka that’s been flavoured either during or after the distillation process. Who knew?

Fair warning: this is my first time making hawthorn gin, so it’s not exactly a tried and tested recipe just yet! I’ve tried to read through a number of different recipes and select the “average” set of instructions to follow…

Hawthorn Gin: The Recipe

1. First, pick your hawthorn berries

It’s the perfect time of year for picking hawthorn berries! They’re also a great thing to forage, because unlike blackberries or even damsons, they’re not that popular, so it’s unlikely that other people will get there before you and pinch all the ripe berries.

The berries are ripe when they’re a lovely bright red, from late August through to October depending on where you live. If you’re not confident identifying hawthorn, you can find a guide here. It’s not likely that you’d mix it up with another plant, so it’s a pretty safe bet for a new forager! Remember not to pick all the berries you find – they’re important food for wildlife too.

Some people say you should wait for the first frost to pick hawthorn berries, but it’s not really necessary for making gin. If you want, you can freeze the berries and defrost before using them, to achieve the same effect.

foraging for hawthorn berries to make hawthorn gin uk

2. Prepare your hawthorn berries

Sort through the berries to remove any that are discoloured, and give them a wash.

Ideally at this point you want to top and tail the berries, cutting off the stems and the little brown bit at the bottom. You don’t have to, but apparently if you remove these parts, it reduces the amount of sediment that you have to strain out later. Some recipes leave the berries whole – others cut out the stone in the middle (but that seemed like too much effort to me) – this seems like the most popular approach though.

preparing hawthorn berries to make hawthorn gin recipe

3. Bottle it

Pack the berries into a sterilised bottle or preserving jar, adding sugar between the layers as you go. I find a lot of homemade gin too sweet, so I’ve not been over-generous with my sugar, but done recipes recommend vast quantities of the stuff. It’s basically just there for flavour, so you can add it to taste.

Leave a space at the top of the jar so you can give it a good shake. Then fill the jar or bottle with cheap supermarket gin or vodka.

making hawthorn gin at home recipe with hawthorn berries

4. Wait for hawthorn gin

And now… We wait! Leave the gin for about a month, giving it a shake every few days. Then, strain your gin. You can do this the traditional way through a muslin, or through filter paper.

Next, let it mature for 2 – 3 months before drinking. It will keep for about a year after that, so make sure you label the bottle.

how to make hawthorn gin at home with hawthorn berries

Now, I can’t report back on the flavour just yet because my gin is still infusing, but I will let you know how it turns out when we crack it out in the winter!

baby · parenting · top tips

How To Save Baby’s Clothes After A Poo Explosion (And Get Them Good As New!)

When you become a parent, regrettably dealing with your offspring’s explosive poops is a part of the package. I’ve come across lots of mummies both in real life and online bemoaning the fact that their kids have had such a severe poonami that they’ve had to throw their favourite clothes straight in the bin.

What a waste! The thing is, you can easily get those clothes looking good as new, and no-one will be any the wiser that they were once quite literally covered in crap. Some of Little Man’s nicest outfits have been coated in turds three or four times (when we started weaning, it had quite the volcanic effect on his digestive system for the first month or so). So for all the other mamas (and dadas) out there, I thought I’d share how I deal with poopy clothes. I’ve never come across a poo stain this couldn’t deal with (yet…)

1. Initial de-pooping

As you’re getting baby out of the poopy clothes and nappy, use an extra wipe or two to wipe down the outfit and get as much poo off as possible.

2. Soak in cold water

Get the clothes in cold water for a soak as soon as possible. We have a bucket on hand for this purpose (for god’s sake don’t use the kitchen sink! Unless you want to give the whole family dysentery). You can soak for half an hour, but can also leave overnight if e.g. it’s not practical to put a wash on straightaway.

With your rubber gloves on, give the clothes a gentle scrub in the water, to get as much of the remaining poop off as possible.

3. Vanish pre-wash spray

Not an ad, I just love this product! Vanish pre-wash stain remover is great for these kinds of stains, but also for mucky bibs and muslins etc. as well. After removing the clothes from soaking, wring them out and generously spray the affected area of fabric on either side with Vanish spray. Leave the poopy clothes to soak in the spray for 5 – 10 minutes.

4. Normal wash cycle

Then in your washing machine just run a normal 40 degree wash and voila – your poopy clothes should be good as new. If the stain hasn’t completely gone in one wash, reapply the spray, leave for ten minutes and wash again… But you probably won’t have to!

how to save baby's clothes after a poo explosion laundry tips
baby · child development · parenting

Choosing Whether To Use A Dummy (Pacifier) For Your Baby

Before we had our son, my husband and I went to ante-natal classes. The main thing we got from them was a lovely social circle of other expectant parents, but the second useful outcome was the fact that it prompted lots of useful discussions that we probably wouldn’t have thought to have otherwise.

One of these was about dummies (or pacifiers, if you’re an American reader), and whether to use them. After one class, on the drive home, when it came to discussing our feelings on this potentially controversial topic, we looked at each other and pretty much shrugged. Neither of us really had strong feelings one way or the other about whether or not to use a dummy. We concluded we would just see what happened…

How we ended up using a dummy

In the end, the decision was more or less made for us. Little Man ended up in neonatal intensive care (NICU) for several days, with a very bad case of jaundice. Dummies are commonly used in NICU, especially for premature babies, as dummy use helps to soothe babies and develop their sucking reflex.

When Little Man was first rushed into intensive care, I was asked if he could have a dummy. I said yes straightaway. We weren’t allowed to hold him as he had to stay under the phototherapy lights, to reduce his bilirubin levels, he was covered in wires and tubes with a mask over his face. So I was very keen for him to have anything he might find comforting, and agreeing to the dummy was an easy decision.

Once he left intensive care, he kept the dummy he had been given, as we could see that it was something he found soothing. And he’s used a dummy ever since.

What are the benefits?

Dummies help a baby satisfy their sucking instincts. Because I wasn’t able to breastfeed, this was especially important to us. The sucking reflex is soothing and helps Little Man fall asleep – we find that he resists sleep much longer without a dummy.

There’s also a slightly reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in babies who use a dummy during sleeping and naptimes, although the reasons for this aren’t fully understood.

For us as a family, I’d say there are three further benefits that you don’t usually read about in lists of dummy advantages/disadvantages: firstly, the dummy seems to be soothing for Little Man when he’s teething. Secondly, it’s been good for his fine motor skills as he’s always trying to pick it up, hold it, and manipulate it to get it in his mouth and chew on. And thirdly, I’ve got to be honest and say that Little Man is a VERY LOUD baby. He obviously screams when he’s upset, like all babies, but he also screams when he’s happy, or when he’s just bored. Having a dummy to hand can help to reduce the cacophony…

What are the disadvantages?

Using a dummy does have some potential disadvantages. They’re hard to keep scrupulously clean so can transport bacteria and germs to your baby’s mouth. There is evidence of increased rates of some minor infections in babies who use dummies.

It’s recommended not to give babies a dummy until they are a couple of months old and breastfeeding is well established. Dummy use may interfere with breastfeeding and is associated with a reduced rate of breastfeeding at 3 months of age. As I wasn’t able to breastfeed anyway, this was less of a concern for us, which I’m sure does make it an easier choice.

There are also concerns that prolonged dummy use can have negative effects on your child’s growing teeth.

How to decide whether or not to use a dummy?

Some people seem to have pretty strong opinions on dummies one way or the other… But then, that’s probably true on most decisions you make as a parent. Ultimately, it’s your choice (and you’re allowed to change your mind, as well). Not all babies are interested in dummies, while others really love theirs. There’s no right or wrong answer either way – the main thing that matters is what works for you and your baby.

how to choose whether or not to use a dummy pacifier for your baby
baby · child development · Just for fun · parenting

Inventions All New Parents Need

Since becoming a parent, it’s become clear to me that the inventors of the world really need to get cracking and design some new products for new parents. Forget baby monitors and nappy bins. I’ve come up with a list of the top inventions for new parents… that haven’t been invented yet!

Snoozetime Indicator

When you put baby in his or her cot for a nap, wouldn’t it be great to know whether they’re going to sleep for an hour or drag you back with a full-scale meltdown in five minutes time? The number of times I have assumed that wee man would only nap for half an hour and then he actually sleeps for three times as long, and I just think of all the useful things I would have done, if only I’d known I had the time (let’s be honest… I would have napped).

A Pause Button

You know when you’re halfway through feeding the baby, and the doorbell rings? What you need is the option to press pause on baby and leave the room, safe in the knowledge that nothing can go wrong. Plus, when they’re screaming the house down, you could just take a break with a nice cuppa.

An Automated Burping Machine

You know those machines that promise to help you lose weight by vibrating the fat away? Surely someone could repurpose this Ultra Powerful Professional Vibration Massage Trainer into a machine that gives baby a little jiggle and shakes all the burps out in one super-efficient go?

Early Warning Poo Alarm

Wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a two minute advance warning that baby was about to poop? Then you could remove them from your lap when you’re wearing that lovely white dress. Ideally, this would also come with a built-in seismometer telling you how severe a bumquake to expect, and whether or not the nappy defences are likely to hold.

What inventions for new parents would you find most useful with your little one? Let me know in the comments!

health · medication · top tips

How To Decide Whether To Have Surgery/Radiation/Take the Medication…

I’m a member of lots of Facebook support groups for people with pituitary tumours and other chronic or long-term illnesses. One of the most common types of post is people saying they’re not sure whether or not to go through with whatever treatment has been recommended by their doctor. It’s a big decision, and not something that strangers on the internet can really answer for you! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any process or technique you can use to make healthcare and treatment decisions… That’s why I’m writing this blog.

I want to share a process I learned doing National Childbirth Trust classes when I was pregnant, which I think is a great technique to follow to help you make these kinds of decisions. It doesn’t have to be restricted to use in healthcare settings, either.

The process is called “BRAIN” and it’s an acronym to help you to remember the questions you should ask about your recommended treatment. You should consider:

  • Benefits – what are the possible benefits of this treatment?
  • Risks – what are the risks of doing this?
  • Alternatives – what alternative options are there? Why are they not the recommended option?
  • Intuition – what does your gut feeling tell you?
  • Nothing – what would happen if you don’t do anything?

I think this provides a really great format to have a constructive conversation with your healthcare provider, and to ensure that you’re fully informed about your treatment. It can be helpful to take this list to your appointments so you can work through each question when you see your doctors (if you’re anything like me, you forget what you want to ask if it’s not written down!), to inform your treatment decisions.

I’ve also written previously about my experience of pituitary tumor surgery and making the decision to go ahead with surgery (twice) – you can read about that here.

food · reviews

Review: Ai No Mochi

So recently I ordered us a set of mochi from the London-based Ai No Mochi, who supply freshly-made Japanese mochi across the UK. My husband and I love eating mochi when we’re visiting family in Japan, and their flavours looked so exciting, I just had to order! So I’ve written a review of Ai No Mochi and their delivery service.

What are mochi?

Mochi are traditional Japanese treats. They consist of a soft and chewy outer layer of rice flour, around a sweet filling (savoury options are also available). They’re typically formed into little ball shapes – although in Kyoto, they go for the frankly lazy option of just folding them into triangles instead.

Mochi are a super common and popular snack in Japan that you can find in any convenience store, although they’re particularly associated with New Year festivities. In fact, they actually come with a health warning, because the glutinous rice flour used can be difficult to chew for elderly people or the very young. Every year people are taken to hospital after choking on mochi. One woman saved her elderly father’s life when he choked on mochi, by literally hoovering it out of his throat. So… You have been warned!

Ai no mochi review of Japanese mochi rice cake delivery in London
Some of our mochi

Ai No Mochi Flavours

Ai No Mochi offer an extensive list of flavours, from the more traditional Japanese (adzuki bean, toasted sesame) to the more modern and, indeed, Western (cookies and cream cheesecake, Nutella and Biscoff biscuit). You can select four flavours for your box, so I went for a mix of traditional and new:

  • Raspberry and Coconut – both my husband and I agreed this was the best flavour. Tastes like summer in a mochi.
  • Matcha (Green Tea) and White Chocolate – the matcha used tastes like it’s good quality, and the white chocolate lifts it nicely, as traditional matcha mochi can be rather heavy and cloying.
  • Toasted Sesame – I love sesame flavour so the texture of the sesame seed coating, along with the sweet adzuki bean filling, is very pleasing.
  • Salted Caramel – a yummy chocolatey and caramel-y flavour, but could have done with more salt (perhaps in the rice flour wrapper) to enhance the flavour.

The filling of the mochi is mostly very light and creamy, compared to the heavier fillings you tend to get in Japan. If you like Japanese mochi, you’ll like these – and if you’ve never tried them, they’re probably a good introduction to mochi for a more Western palette.

Ai no mochi box of Japanese mochi for delivery in the UK
Our mochi when they arrived

Ordering from Ai No Mochi

Ordering was super easy, I ordered on the website and was emailed with a projected delivery date, which was then confirmed by the courier. The mochi were delivered overnight, so they were super fresh and still cool when they arrived. We also got two free mochi on top of what we ordered, as a taster of their new summer flavours (yuzu cheesecake, and mango) which was a lovely bonus. I’m not a cheesecake fan personally, but my husband said the yuzu cheesecake really did taste just like cheesecake!

The packaging was very nicely presented, and each mochi was individually wrapped in cling film to keep it fresh. Although it looked beautiful, like an expensive box of chocolates, it did feel like a lot of single-use plastic was involved (in fairness, this is pretty consistent with what you tend to see in Japan!). It would be nice to see some more eco-friendly packaging being used, even if the overall effect isn’t quite as attractive.

In Summary… My Review Of Ai No Mochi

We really enjoyed our mochi, and it was fun to have a taste of Japan in the UK. I would definitely recommend Ai No Mochi to any other mochi lovers out there, or as a fun gift to surprise a friend with something new.