lifestyle · sport

Running 22 Miles For The British Red Cross Miles For Refugees

So in September, I took on the challenge of doing Miles For Refugees, a fundraising event for the British Red Cross. I committed to running 22 miles during September – that’s the length of the English Channel. And as of today, I’ve clocked in at 23.28 miles run in total across 17 runs in 30 days! Whoop whoop!

My fundraising page is here if you’d like to donate – or read on to find out more about the challenge and why I did it.

22 miles in a month for the Red Cross

Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much, considering some people run 26 miles in a day (and some absolute nutters apparently run 188 miles in a day… Seriously guys, you make the rest of us look bad). But I’ve never been a runner by any stretch of the imagination, so this is a big deal for me and by far the most running I’ve ever done in my life! Plus since having Little Man and being in lockdown, the most exercise I’ve done has been the odd half hour of yoga, so I’m definitely out of shape.

My experience with the Miles For Refugees challenge

Before I started doing Miles For Refugees, I had no idea how I’d manage with all the running. My hypermobility spectrum disorder means I have to be careful of high-impact exercise because it’s harsh on the joints. Plus, my undiagnosed asthma was the reason I never did any running at school or in my twenties – I couldn’t work out why I seemed so unfit that I was out of breath almost instantly when I started running. Surprise – I finally got diagnosed with asthma a few years ago and it explained so much!

I took due precautions, bought new running shoes, and was careful to take my inhalers religiously. I picked a distance that I hoped I could do within a month while allowing myself days off when my body just wasn’t feeling up to it. And I did okay! My very first run was 0.91 miles (1.5km) according to MapMyFitness, the app I’m using to track my runs. I was absolutely knackered by the end. My final run today was 2.15 miles (3.5km) and I was nowhere near as exhausted when I finished.

Plus, I increased my average pace from 12.55 minutes per mile on my first run to 11.54 on my final run (actually more impressive than it sounds, because on my final run I stopped for a quick chat with a lady who complimented my Studio Ghibli t-shirt). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sloooooow, but I’ve definitely improved my ability to pace myself as I go and not end up totally exhausted after the first few minutes.

I discovered some new routes around my town, and found myself running at all times of day and all weathers (obligatory photo of me looking awful after getting absolutely drenched on a run, in the official Miles For Refugees t-shirt, is provided below). Sometimes it was fun, sometimes I absolutely hated it, but I’m proud I managed to complete it!

Why am I doing Miles For Refugees?

There’s been so much negative press about refugees and asylum seekers recently. A lot of the news coverage is pretty hysterical and completely loses sight of the fact that refugees and asylum seekers are human beings who are trying to find a better life for themselves and their families in a safe place. Isn’t that what all of us would do, when faced with conflict, poverty, persecution or unsafe conditions? Many refugees are fleeing war and conflict, have lost family members or been split up from them on the way. They are unlucky enough to find themselves in situations that most of us hope never to have to face.

The British Red Cross provides support to refugees in the UK and abroad, and also campaigns for a fair, effective and efficient asylum system in this country. That’s what Miles For Refugees is all about supporting! You can read more about the work of the British Red Cross here.

How can you help?

If you’d like to donate, my Miles For Refugees fundraising page is here. Alternatively, you can donate on the British Red Cross homepage here.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s already donated. It really means a lot to me. This has been a great experience, and I’m so glad to have raised this money for the Red Cross and for refugees who really need support and understanding right now!

running miles for refugees 22 miles for the british red cross fundraising the sickly mama
days out · Just for fun · lifestyle · parenting · reviews

Review : Lavender Picnic at Castle Farm Kent

Queen Victoria allegedly loved lavender, even eating lavender jelly with her roast mutton, rather than the more traditional mint. When my mother plans a picnic, it’s typically on a similarly extravagant scale, and to be honest you’re guaranteed a grand feast even if you end up eating it in a car park. So when we set off for a ‘lavender picnic’ at Castle Farm, the UK’s largest lavender farm, we knew we had the ‘picnic’ part covered. It was up to Castle Farm, Kent to provide the lavender.

Booking Your Lavender Picnic

I had booked our picnic at the last minute, thinking it would be something fun and a bit different to do after months spent in lockdown, while remaining safely outdoors and socially distanced. Tickets were £10.25 per adult, which to be honest is pretty darn steep for the privilege of spending two hours in a field. In fairness, the price does include access to a porta-potty. I’m charitably assuming that Castle Farm need to make a bit of extra cash after the impact of coronavirus.

Our Evening At Castle Farm Kent

But if the ticket price matched the rather steep gradient of the lavender fields themselves, we were far from the only ones prepared to pay up. Although the event was definitely busy, the field we were in was so large that there was more than enough space for everyone to set up their picnic rugs at a safe distance from each other, but right up close to the rows of lavender plants. This was no mean feat when some of the picnics were as lavish as ours (for context, the meat selection alone included roast beef, corned beef, salami, ham, chicken drumsticks and scotch eggs).

lavender fields at castle farm kent during sunset

Of course, it’s possible that we actually had no need to worry about coronavirus transmission, as the ancient Greek surgeon Dioscorides noted lavender’s protective effect against the plague, and centuries later during the Black Death, plague doctors stuffed their masks with lavender to try to prevent themselves from catching the disease. Castle Farm make no such claims about their lavender. Perhaps their gift shop is missing a trick, given the new requirement for face masks to be worn in shops.

Instead Castle Farm, Kent emphasize the relaxing properties of lavender, even marketing their own range of natural sleep products. Relaxation was certainly in the air as we sat and enjoyed our picnic in the gently cooling breeze. Little Man had a very cosy nap in my arms, meaning I had to ask Martin to cut my food up for me so that I could eat it with one hand. Before we knew it, an hour and a half had slipped by and we had barely stepped beyond the first two metres of lavender.

mum and baby in the lavender fields at castle farm kent

So, with a newly-awake Little Man, we set off up into the heart of the fields. If the scent of lavender on the breeze was beautiful at the site of our picnic, it was incredible when you were right in the middle of the field. Along the rows of purple flowers, there were hundreds of bumblebees and honey bees hard at work; when you stood still, you could hear a gentle buzzing in the air. Little Man was fascinated by the flowers and the bees, and he enjoyed smelling the lavender as well. Older children from other parties were having a wonderful time running up and down the neat rows of plants.

baby close up in the lavender fields at castle farm kent

The views across the purple hillsides were stunning with the sun just starting to set, and the bullocks in a field nearby were in a playful mood, treating us to the sight of them gallivanting about and going for a swim in the river. It seemed only fair that they enjoy life before achieving their ultimate destiny as Castle Farm Beef. I haven’t tried the beef myself, but I can attest that it does indeed seem to come from happy cows.

Picnicking on a slightly overcast evening, amongst cascades of British lavender, felt like an experience that was at once very English (the weather), very French (a la Provence’s purple fields of lavender*), and somewhat Japanese (a la hanami, the celebration of the transient beauty of flowers).

Overall, it was a wonderful, memorable experience that was more than just the opportunity to get some instagramable photos. I’d be interested in the future to try one of the Castle Farm lavender walks, and learn a little more about the farm and how they produce their lavender and essential oils.

enjoying a family picnic in the lavender fields at castle farm kent review

Accessibility at Castle Farm, Kent

The car park was nice and close to the field, so if you have reduced mobility, it would still be possible to access the site – although the ground is uneven and flinty, which may be a challenge for wheelchairs or anyone very unsteady on their feet. There are no designated car park spaces for disabled vehicles although you could park away from other cars if you needed the space. We put Little Man in his carrier rather than test the pram’s off-roading capabilities.

Toilets and baby change facilities were provided, albeit as temporary portaloos with steps up to the door, which again could prove challenging if you have mobility issues.

* Actually the “lavender” in Provence is lavandin, which is distinct from British lavender. Both are grown at Castle Farm, so let’s not quibble too much…

baby · lifestyle · parenting · pop culture · sport

Surviving Lockdown With A Baby Through SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS

When I found out I was pregnant and worked out when my maternity leave would be, I was super excited. And not just about the baby. While on maternity leave there would be an Olympics and the Euros, two major sporting events that I normally only get to watch bits of, and I would get to watch it all – or, you know, have it on in the background while wrangling a small baby.

And then – coronavirus! Which has conspired to ruin literally every plan I had for my maternity leave, including the more minor plans regarding televisual entertainment (although in fairness, BT also had a good stab at ruining those plans before coronavirus even really arrived on these shores).

Coupled with this, over the last six to eight weeks or so, Little Man has gone from a baby who often fusses with a bad tummy, to a Mega Fuss Machine 3.0, who is just so grumpy and fussy that it’s basically impossible to follow anything happening on TV when he’s in the room. Even when he’s in a good mood he now just shrieks. Apparently, he enjoys shrieking. So, given that he’s also not sleeping well, we are really struggling to watch anything other than nature documentaries. And, honestly, if you can’t actually hear the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough, is it even worth it?

So – how to survive lockdown with a baby?

Well, recently the Bundesliga returned! Actual real-life football, the perfect entertainment for looking after a grumpy baby, where you don’t need to hear the commentary to follow the plot. Except, obviously, we couldn’t watch it because the days of football betting available on terrestrial TV are long since gone.

So, we’ve cracked and got a subscription to BT Sport, and I’m now rapidly becoming aquatinted with the various teams and players of the Bundesliga. Thank God we have something we can watch (but not hear) while endlessly bouncing the wee man on one knee. It’s the perfect solution for lockdown with a baby.

You can read more about my experiences in lockdown with a baby here!

surviving lockdown with a baby through sports sports sports - the sickly mama blog

environment · lifestyle · top tips

Easy Swaps We’ve Made To Reduce Our Plastic Waste (And What We Have Left To Do!)

So over the last year or two we’ve been really trying to be more conscious of our plastic waste output and to reduce it where we can. For the most part this has been through small swaps of products, done one at a time. It can feel like it’s not making much of a difference, but actually when I sat down and started working out how much plastic we were saving over the course of a year or more, suddenly even the small swaps started to look significant.

So, I thought I’d share what we’ve done to reduce plastic use in our house, and also some of my thoughts on what we still need to do to make more of a difference. There’s still a long way to go – it’s just amazing how much plastic we use every day without even thinking about it.

1. Soap and Shower Gel


We’ve stopped using liquid soap from a plastic dispenser in the bathroom and started using bars of soap instead. I was slightly sad because I love love love the smell of Bayliss and Harding’s Ginseng and Black Pepper handwash, but it’s not environmentally sustainable! We’ve also stopped buying bottles of shower gel and switched to soap in the shower. We were buying our soap from the local packaging-free shop (which we’re lucky to have!), but since the coronavirus lockdown I’ve purchased online from andkeep.com.

Plastic saving: I estimate that we used to get through 2 bottles of hand wash per year, and maybe 12 bottles of shower gel, as me and my husband would have a bottle each. So that’s a saving of 14 plastic bottles each year. And yes, that might be modest, but it still adds up to 280 bottles over 20 years!

Yet to do: We’re still using Fairy liquid dish soap though, so the next step is to find an eco-friendly dish soap that I like using.

2. Shampoo and Conditioner


Actually one of the first swaps I made to reduce plastic use was starting to use solid shampoo bars from Lush. I really like the solid shampoo and a bonus is that it lasts ages – way longer than a bottle of shampoo would. So if solid shampoo seems more expensive on the face of it, trust me – it lasts so long that it works out cheaper overall.However, I have still been using conditioner from a bottle because I couldn’t find a solid alternative I liked. I’ve just bought a new solid conditioner bar from andkeep.com, so I’m planning to ditch the plastic bottles from here on out.

Plastic saving: I estimate I used to use about 6 bottles of shampoo per year and the same of conditioner – perhaps a little more. So it’s a 12 bottle saving per year, or 240 bottles over 20 years.

Yet to do: I guess the next step is finding plastic free hair styling products as well!

3. Toothbrushes


We’ve just switched to using bamboo toothbrushes. They’re about the same price as plastic toothbrushes and you can get them in soft/medium/hard bristles as well. We’re using brushes from Truthbrush.

Plastic saving: You’re supposed to change toothbrush every three months, but I probably only remember to swap them three times a year. For me and my husband that’s six toothbrushes per year, or 120 in 20 years.

Yet to do: You can buy plastic-free toothpaste in jars or tablet form. But I have quite sensitive teeth and currently rely on using Sensodyne regularly, so until I can find a plastic-free option that is formulated for sensitive teeth, I will probably stick with tube toothpaste.

4. Plasters


Did you know you can get plasters made out of bamboo? I sure didn’t! We’ve bought these bamboo plasters from Patch. They’re 100% biodegradable, including the packaging, with no plastic content at all.

Plastic saving: Okay, realistically we get through a few plasters a year, so the saving is negligible. But perhaps as Little Man gets older it will make more of a difference!

Yet to do: I’m not really sure where else we can take this one. Plastic-free antiseptic cream maybe?

5. Nappies and Nappy Bags


We’re using Kit & Kin nappies. They’re not quite 100% biodegradable but they are much more eco-friendly than a standard nappy and they aim to use sustainable and plant based materials. The packaging etc. is all biodegradable as well. Plus, if you’re a Spice Girls fan – the company is owned by Emma Bunton!Then for nappy bags we use Naty nappy sacks, which are made from corn starch and are 100% biodegradable.

Plastic saving: I won’t count the nappies as they’re not 100% biodegradable even though they’re a massive improvement on most nappies. But we get through probably a minimum of 7 nappy bags per day, so over the course of the year that’s 2,555 plastic nappy bags that we’re not adding to the planet’s plastic waste problem.

Yet to do: The most eco-friendly option is reusable nappies, but I have to admit I’ve not been brave enough to try them yet. Especially as our washing machine is on its last legs.

6. Baby Wipes


According to Friends of the Earth, not only do non-biodegradable wet wipes contribute to our marine plastic problems, but they also make up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages in the UK.We use Mum & You biodegradable baby wipes, which are great. The last time I bought a box, the plastic wrapper they came in was not recyclable, but writing this article I’ve just checked – and they have changed their packaging material, so it’s now recyclable and I can give them an unambiguously glowing review.

Plastic saving: We get through probably a minimum of five wipes a day, although usually I would say it’s probably more. At five a day though, that’s a saving of 1,825 plastic-containing wipes per year.

Yet to do: Friends of the Earth still say that it’s best not to use single-use wipes at all, even biodegradable ones. They recommend making your own wet wipes out of flannels. To be honest, that sounds like a mission, you’d probably still need to store them in plastic tubs, and if you left them too long they’d probably go mouldy, so not sure how I feel about that one…

Have you made any swaps to reduce plastic that have worked well for you? I’d love to hear what other people are doing and share ideas! Leave me a comment below.

coronavirus · food · Just for fun · lifestyle · recipes · top tips

Dalgona Coffee – Fun Korean Coffee Drink You Can Make During Lockdown!

So my awesome husband came across this great recipe for an awesome chilled coffee drink you can make at home. It’s called Dalgona coffee, it’s Korean, you can make it with ingredients you already have, and it feels like something super fancy you need to go to a coffee shop for!

He got the recipe from this website and I’ll direct you there as well for the full details. Essentially you make a meringue-style coffee foam by whisking equal quantities of good-quality instant coffee and sugar with a little bit of water, until it forms stiff peaks just like a meringue. Then you dollop it into cold milk. You can either mix it in with the milk or leave the foam on top and drink the milk through the coffee foam – I recommend the latter option because not only does it taste great, but the velvety texture is very satisfying.

It’s very quick and easy, and you can make a large amount of coffee foam and refrigerate it for a couple of days to use later. We made dalgona coffee over lunch one day and it was a great afternoon treat and something a bit different to do during quarantine.

A picture of our dalgona coffees is below…

baby · celebrations · Just for fun · lifestyle · parenting

Little Man’s First Easter – Lockdown Special

We had big plans for Little Man’s first Easter. We were going to go stay with my parents. My father-in-law was going to come along too, as were my sister and auntie. On the Saturday lots of other aunties and uncles were going to visit to get their first chance to meet the little dude. And as my parents live in the countryside, we were going to chill in the garden, go for lovely walks, visit the local pubs… Etc etc. Then coronavirus hit and instead we’ve had to spend Easter at home, just the three of us.

So it wasn’t quite what we planned, but we still had a fabulous time. Some of my highlights were…

Little Man’s First Easter Egg Hunt


Martin and I took it in turns to hide eggs in the garden and then search for them. Little Man was absolutely useless at finding eggs. He spent most of the time just squinting in the bright light and dribbling. He’s seriously going to have to up his game for next year.

Eating, Drinking and Baking


We’ve had some really great food and drink this weekend! Particular highlights: Martin made me a fabulous gin and lemonade with mint leaves on Saturday, and made incredible lamb neck fillet kebabs on Sunday. He put a dry rub on the meat and let it marinade overnight and it was dreamy!

I baked a delicious gluten free Easter chocolate cake from this Nigella Lawson recipe, which I highly recommend! I also think it will be fabulous in the summer with raspberries instead of mini eggs.


Family Video Calls


We had some lovely video calls with family over the weekend and it felt like we had fun together despite the lockdown. We chatted to family in Japan on Saturday morning while they had their dinner, and it was their first chance to meet Little Man albeit remotely! It’s crazy how our nieces in Japan grow so fast, every time we see them, they seem to have grown so much. Another highlight was family Easter quizzes with my family over WhatsApp/Kahoot, masterminded by my awesome sister. It was fun to do something different and interactive together.

Playing Dress-Up


Obviously Easter means bunnies, which means a great excuse to dress Little Man up in an adorable costume! He was our Easter Bunny for the day on Sunday and it was ridiculously cute.