Saturday, 24 August 2013

New Website!


If you've found your way to my blog from an old link, you may like to know that I have a brand new home...

Hope to see you there!

Emma x

Monday, 19 August 2013

Are We Nearly There Yet?

The countdown has begun...Four days this week, three and a half next week (fingers crossed I have a babysitter on Thursday for a few hours), one the week after, and blast off! It's back to pre-school/nursery they go! We've recovered from our collective end-of-term exhaustion and spent the last few weeks making and breaking things, fighting like cat and dog one minute and being best buddies the next, all the while laughing and crying in equal measures, and that's just me and my husband. We've had fun in the sun, paddling pool and several parks, been on holiday, had lazy days, borrowed countless library books, performed pyjama drama, chalked all over the flags/fence/garden wall (& kitchen when mummy wasn't looking), painted, coloured, stickered, done jigsaws, lego, play doh, rode our bike/truck/tractor/scooter, played with moon sand, playpit sand and beach sand, learned new words (not all of them suitable to repeat when back at kindergarten), grown a bit (the kids), shrunk a bit (me), and all got a little bit older and wiser in the process. It's been fab, not nearly as bad as I feared, better than I could have hoped. But...orrrrrr [aaargh]....are we nearly there yet? [please hurry up 3rd September]...I'm hungry [my enthusiasm is diminishing]...I'm bored [I need some head space]...I WANT THAT! NO I WANT THAT! IT'S MINE! NO IT'S MINE! [I really really really need some peace and quiet!].

So we're pushing on through this week, with a busy schedule to get us to the weekend! Another weigh-in this morning and another two pounds lost. Critical me couldn't help but be a little disappointed that it wasn't more, obviously I want to be slim again, like, now. I know, I know, losing two pounds a week is perfect. I've got to keep going, there's no quick fix (if only), and I would really like to be able to wear my wedding and engagement rings again. I can't remember what my weight was when they became just too uncomfortable, but I was able to wear them at the end of my last pregnancy so that is weight goal number one. Watch this space.

It was health appointments galore last week whilst my husband was still on holiday from work: dentist, doctors, opticians, chiropractors; even the car got a once-over. I must admit to having a little wobble (mental health speak in our house for having negative thoughts that spiral into a minor meltdown) on the day of our dentist appointment. I had made us a family appointment, mainly because I find it easier to manage potentially tricky situations if my husband is around, particularly as an extra pair of hands and eyes on the boys, as well as for moral support. However when the receptionist called us to go up to the dentist, she asked us loudly across the (full) waiting room to go up two at a time instead of all together. Well if you could see hackles rising, you'd have seen mine from space. The lioness in me roared at the receptionist (who is going to manage my youngest cub whilst I'm lay back looking at the ceiling with my jaws wide open???) whilst feeling humiliated at having to justify why I wanted us all to go together, in front of the waiting room audience, then promptly leapt up the stairs (husband and boys in tow) and roared at the dentist before he could even say come-in. Of course, the dentist was politeness personified and coaxed the lioness back down from fight mode quite easily whilst my husband looked on and smiled that knowing smile. (Luckily his 'would like to meet' profile included 'Latin temperament'). Of course my over-reaction stems from anxiety (This was not as planned/something bad will happen/ I won't cope). Most of the time, my anxiety level is very low, but at vulnerable moments I struggle. Mind (mental health charity) explain anxiety better than I can here. I relate to the paragraph explaining about being distressed and unable to cope in a particular situation in the past and then if a similar circumstance arises it can trigger the same feelings. The amateur psychologist in me thinks something about having to leave one child and keep the other one with me could have stirred up distress from my hospital admission.

I am sharing my little wobble simply to encourage awareness of anxiety and its symptoms (explained in the Mind link - if you haven't looked already look now!). I know it is impossible to expect people to know what someone else is thinking or feeling. I just hope that openness may encourage understanding which may inspire compassion.

Working on my pledge - Time to Change.

Emma x

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sun, Sea and Sand!

The perfect summer holiday combination and we've been lucky enough to have experienced all three in Scarborough last week. Better than expected weather, a fabulous sea-view apartment and technology-free time together was just the tonic we all needed. It really is true what they say about sea-air - my husband and I slept so well! I can't say the same for the boys - endless excitement, sharing a bedroom, and lack of routine meant they slept much less than normal and have come home exhausted. So the sleep catch up begins, and the purging of sand from every item we own! It was soooo worth it though and particularly as this was our first family holiday since our youngest was born over two years ago. Due to my postnatal depression (The Summer I'd Like To Forget) going on holiday just hasn't been an option before now.

Managing my stress levels and accepting my limitations is still an integral part of keeping myself well. It must seem strange to those without experience of anxiety and depression, surely a holiday would be just what you'd need? Wouldn't it be great if you could cure people of depression with a good holiday beside the sea?! Stuff the pharmaceuticals, get the travel agents in! However, what is really an obvious symptom of depression - a loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities and withdrawing from social contact - rules out holidays during a depressive episode. If I'd have been offered a month in the Maldives during my illness I'd have either have said that I couldn't give two hoots about the Maldives (less politely) or anywhere else for that matter or agreed if I could have had assurance that the plane would crash and finish me off. Recovery from depression is also a slow process and regaining self-confidence to get back 'out there' requires baby steps. The process of recovery includes redeveloping life skills, regaining control of your life and goal-setting. I can still remember going out of the house on my own again for the first time last year as vividly as I remember going on a bus for the first time with my friend on our own aged eleven! It's scary but you have a sense of achievement with each step forward you take. I felt a foreign holiday would probably have been too much for me this year - the thought of packing with restrictions, managing myself and the boys in a confined space like an aeroplane, and worrying about the unknown could cause enough stress to ruin it. But I knew I could manage filling the car to the roof, a car journey across Yorkshire, stopping whenever needed, and staying in accommodation we have previously visited on a day trip. In actual fact, I just got on with the planning and organising, even feeling excited about our holiday. It still surprises me when I am able to feel really like 'me' again. Now I can say 'I did it!', without a meltdown in sight, I feel proud of myself and the icing on the cake is that we all had an amazing time. Here's to the organic process of recovery and proof that it really does 'get better'.

As for my dietary challenge, I can also report progress there too! Last Monday's weigh-in showed another 2lb loss and despite abandoning the diet and calorie-counting in order to make the most of our holiday (ice-creams on the promenade in particular), yesterday's weigh-in showed I have just maintained, with no weight-gain! Thrilled to bits. I think the dragon boat pedalo helped - I had thighs of steel after that! Well perhaps not quite. Back to it now and hoping to get a bit more walking in this week.

Onto my card therapy of the last couple of weeks. Before the holiday I had been working really hard on my latest creation and managed to complete it yesterday.
I would like to enter this card into the following challenges:
'Make it Festive' blog challenge by Lili of the Valley. There is an amazing prize up for grabs to become a member of their Guest Design Team!
Winter Wonderland Challenge Blog - Cute Christmas
Cute Card Thursday - Challenge 281 - Die-ing to punch
As You Like It Challenge #8 - Favourite Ribbon or Twine - I really don't have just one favourite as I adore using either on all my creations but my favourite colour of ribbon or twine is red so here it is! I desperately wanted to use some beautiful red velvet ric rac on this card but just couldn't fit it in anywhere. It WILL feature somewhere soon though!
Christmas Cards All Year Round - August Challenge - Christmas Extravaganza Make It Fussy and Fancy
Crafty Hazelnuts Christmas Challenge 137 - Picture inspiration - Trees and snowflakes

I created my own card blank for this one from Centura Pearl pastel blue in an 8x8" size. I matted some dark blue pearl paper and paper from LOTV 'Frosty Christmas' pad which I won last year!

The stamped image is LOTV 'Decorating the Tree' coloured with Promarkers, a real bobble for the hat, bit of obligatory glitter, and glossy accents on the baubles. I die-cut around the image with Spellbinders Lattice rectangles and also two smaller sizes in the dark blue pearl paper again with more 'Frosty Christmas' matted inside. 

The border at the bottom was created with Tonic Studios mini tree punch with border system and sponge daubed with Brilliance Moonlight White ink to give the effect of snow. I also used a Brilliance Dew Drop in Pearlescent Thyme to ink the edges of the trees from the back of the paper. You can see some red Craftwork Cards Candi in the bottom right.

Next I added wooden snowflake embellishments that I double embossed (I like the depth and coverage double embossing gives) in +WOW! Embossing Powders in opaque bright white and clear sparkle, and threaded them with some baker's twine. I always make little notches in the card to hold string embellishments in place.

Lastly I added the sentiment, this probably took the longest of all, as I tried several different colourways, shapes and sizes, but eventually settled on this pre-printed sentiment from +Craftwork Cards mounted on a punched dark blue pearl paper circle with white inked edges and then mounted on white pearl card die cut with Spellbinders Lacey Circles and hung with more baker's twine. This swings freely like a tree ornament!

To my uncrafty readers please accept my apologies for the summer Christmas card, whilst the crafty readers among you will know I am very late getting started!!!

Thanks for reading, next stop - the Maldives,

Emma x

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Confessions of a Secret Eater

Good news was certainly not expected as I stepped onto the scales in Boots on Monday morning. As discussed in Can I do the other five? I had started to think fighting the flab was a losing battle. But it just goes to show how negative thoughts can become utterly convincing truths, despite that not being the case, as it turns out I have managed to lose 4 pounds on the previous week! Of course my first thought was 'the scales can't be right, I won't believe it until next week when I weigh myself again'. Typical negative thinking - must stop that! In reality though, using 'My Fitness Pal' (calorie-counting app) is such an eye opener, I honestly didn't know there were so many calories in bread! Apart from chocolate of course, bread is my biggest sacrifice now. It is such a help to know exactly what I am consuming and to keep track, it really has motivated me to reduce my intake. I would hazard a guess at 1000-1500 calories-worth of a reduction (I probably wouldn't have said that much before watching 'Secret Eaters' but that was another eye-opener!) Not only that, but obviously improving the nutritional quality of my diet goes alongside with calorie counting so I have dropped the butter from my potatoes, reduced my portions, dragged myself away from the oh so lovely chocolate hobnobs and cut out the stress-relieving/end-of-the-day/serotonin-inducing chocolate binge boo hoo (apart from last Friday of course ha, I'm no angel). Despite what some people think (Big Food and the Calorie Trap), I'm pretty sure the vast majority of consumers understand the importance of 'healthy' calories versus calorie counting four Mars bars and calling it a day. Thankfully the scales sang me a happy song because it has given me another kick and I've been full of renewed enthusiasm this week. I WILL lose the flab!

Anyway another benefit of card therapy is keeping my hands busy of an evening! So I have been working hard on my latest creation, very hard indeed! I have seen a couple of inspiring craft magazine articles about pinwheels and finally gave it a go myself.

I made the pinwheel first, using paper from Dreamcatcher by First Edition and curled it gently as I folded the corners over. I covered a straw with similar washi tape and attached the pin wheel by pushing the tiny brad into the straw and folding the brad arms inside the straw so it can actually turn round. I inked up a doily with Brilliance pearlescent purple and my card blank with VersaMagic Pink Petunia - the finished surface with these chalk inks is so lovely. I die cut the paper for the sentiment with Spellbinders labels 16, used Kanban clear stamps from a set, and embossed with pastel pink Wow! embossing powder. The ribbon was just a short piece from my stash but the colours matched perfectly. I struggled a bit with the bow, I originally wanted a real bow around the pinwheel 'stick' but had to settle with a false one stuck on with double-sided tape. The flowers I made from a sheet of white die cuts from +Craftwork Cards which I again inked with VersaMagic Pink Petunia, Perfect Plumeria, and Purple Hydrangea (love those names!) and finished with Card Candi centres. My husband doesn't like it. I do though!

Over the hump now, 2 days to the weekend!

Emma x

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Can I do the other five?

Well I hold my hands up; bloody hell I'm relieved it's Saturday. Five whole days with a 2 and 3 year old ALL day has near dun' me in. Yes I know I should consider myself lucky, I have two beautiful children, and I do, I really do. I love them with all my heart and soul but by heck they're hard work. Please can somebody tell me I'm not on my own?

The week started out great - my tolerance level for the fighting, the mess, the noise, the demands, the irrationality was pretty high and I was calmness personified. By midweek the decline was underway, and by Friday it was serious meltdown "I can't do this" on the phone to my husband at work. I consider myself pretty strong in character, I've survived too much to be anything less, but no-one can prepare you for the relentlessness of bringing up children.

There have been some hairy moments this week - "I've breaked your compooter mummy" shouted up the stairs to me as I put the laundry away; a potty training disaster "But he's sitting on my BEDROOM CARPET!" reported the panic-stricken big brother (leave that to your imagination); and the wrestling that gets out of hand just as I've made it to the bathroom to avoid my own near-miss. Of course, some magical ones too - my eldest helping me out by putting his and his brother's shoes on as we got ready to leave the house; when he finally learned to actually balance on the balance bike and the ear-to-ear grin that went with it; and just watching them enjoy each other's company and make up games together ('dinosaur-hunting' was a good one). If only you could have a lunch break with this job, I'm sure it would be easier to get through the afternoon, surely there ought to be a European Directive. 24 hours a day for 18 years can't be optimum working conditions.

Anyway the weekend emergency respite team (aka hubby) has arrived and thankfully I have had some head space this morning. It may sound selfish to those that don't need 'head space' from their children or anything else for that matter, but I can't live my life to only please others. It isn't about being selfish anyway. Another great comment from my therapist was "Your children's needs are 100% important and your needs are 100% important". I used to argue against that sentiment - well if my children and I are both hungry, I would always feed them first. But the sentiment is not about prioritising, of course I will always prioritise my children's needs over my own, that is a mother's natural instinct I think. It is more about meeting your own needs in addition to your children's. It's a juggling game, and some days their needs take priority all day long, so that by the end of the day it feels as if there is nothing left of me. My resilience to these stresses is not as good as the twenty-something mum that can home birth seven children, breastfeed them all, cope with all the washing, and home-school them, then be filmed with a big smile on her supermodel face for a documentary on top (did you see that programme, on ages ago, astounded me?!). My resilience against stress did not develop fully in childhood, hence my predisposition for depression (postnatal depression wasn't my first incidence). That resilience guards you from depression is well documented. I wish I could be Monday-morning-calm all week through, but in the absence of that I do the best I can, even though sometimes I feel that is not good enough, and my heart feels selfish for even needing/wanting a break this morning. In my head I know I am a better mother after a break than I was before it.

So I managed a little card therapy this morning to help focus my mind and clear my head. I have re-worked a butterfly I previously made but didn't like on its intended card, and put it on a different card. I have done a bit of quilling too, which is just great for relaxation.

I have used +Craftwork Cards scallop and sentiment die-cuts, butterfly stamp template and Card Candi, all bought at their factory outlet clearance sale a few weeks ago. A stripe of washi tape and there is my card.

I would like to enter this card into the Polkadoodles Blog Challenge - Let it Fly and
A Creative Romance Blog Challenge - No Designer Papers, many thanks!

I have also finally managed to make a pin-wheel, which I have been meaning to do for ages so that will be the focus of my next card when I get chance for it!

Diet update: well that was another thing getting to me by Friday - despite being strict with myself I still don't feel like I am losing any weight and I'm sure I would be aware if I was, and given my low mood by the end of the week I fell off the wagon spectacularly last night to the tune of copious amounts of Minstrels and chilli peanuts. I am more convinced than ever that I am fighting against the effects of my medication particularly since reading this blog post on Evolutionary Psychiatry (although point to note - don't bother reading her last judgemental, patronising paragraph). Frighteningly - in the comments section - posts the marathon runner who went from having a six pack to putting on 25lbs of fat on antidepressants. I am no marathon runner so what chance do I have? Anti-depressants and weight gain as a side effect is obviously not a pressing concern for the pharmaceutical industry, and I'm sure they are probably working on a drug they can sell you as an add-on for this, just to make a few more billion out of those of us that have dysfunctional brain chemistry. Anyway, I'm back on it today and we'll see what my Monday morning weigh-in brings. At the very least I need some evidence to take to my GP if I want her to re-investigate my thyroid or last resort - consider changing my drug.

Would love to hear your experiences if you stop by, and hope your weekend is an enjoyable one,

Emma x

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Boy oh Boy!

The little Prince has finally arrived and my goodness you couldn't have missed it if you tried! I must admit I was keen to hear the news and get a glimpse but "we still haven't got a name yet" by every reporter on every channel every five minutes was ridiculous. I am more interested in the nitty gritty reality of birth but that is their private story and I'm sure it will stay that way. I found myself wondering about the risk of postnatal depression for Kate - is it greater or lesser than the 1:10 incidence? Hopefully less, with the high level of support at her disposal. But perhaps more - the immense pressure must take its toll and surely feel heavier right now than ever before. Good luck to them though, that first night at home with your new baby is amazing and terrifying!

Diet update - day 8 done and I have been under my calorie goal every day but boy oh boy it's hard! The hunger pangs are definitely diminishing as my stomach and body adjusts to less food. However the psychology hasn't changed and I still have carb cravings and want to self-medicate with chocolate in the evening as a stress reliever after the boys have gone to bed. Although I don't think the side effects of the medication are actually as bad as they used to be perhaps 6 months ago and more, as even my husband doesn't think I could have managed dieting then. I don't even feel like I'm losing any weight yet which is a little demoralising but I will hold out until next Monday morning until I take a trip to Boots for a weigh-in. Still giving it my best shot though.

Summer holiday update so far so good, we're having fun and I'm enjoying the time with my boys. We started Pjama Drama yesterday with a little reluctance at the start of the class but by the end the eldest was developing his theatrical side and the little one had found himself a girlfriend and was playing hide and seek in the curtains. Today was a trip to feed the ducks and a scooter/bike ride round the park. We had to watch where we were treading though as there were thousands of teeny weeny frogs jumping all over the place. Weird! The red bit is my welly boot:

As for crafting, well I'm going to struggle to find the time over summer so may not have too much to upload. Since we're on the subject of miniature things, I received a pre-order this week from a couple of months ago:

It's a Memory Box Die - Auto Parts. I knew it was small but didn't realise it was so small! Very cute though so I am looking forward to making use of it. Wish it had three pairs of wheels though, I'll always be two short! Got a couple of boy's birthdays coming up so they will come in handy.

Fingers crossed for another good day tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by,
Emma x

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The F Word...

You could hear a pin drop right now - I'm enjoying some Saturday afternoon peace whilst all the boys have gone to the park. It has been a relaxing morning too despite a 5:45am start; leisurely breakfast, excited car washing (a must-do activity for any little person), a bit of Peter Rabbit and  - the pay-off for the early start - much needed naps all round. I think we're all suffering end-of-term syndrome here and a little heat exhaustion. Luckily the sun has relented today providing respite from the intense glare of the last couple of weeks. It is great to have unobscured sun but we do seem to have had everything in its extreme form this year haven't we? A little moderation would go a long way methinks.

Which links very cleverly to my subject matter of the day - the F word - have you guessed it yet? No not the mutterings of parents who stand barefooted on stray lego, but even worse, dare I say it - FAT! Yes the time has come for me to finally get proactive and do something about my weight. My recent back injury has been the straw that has broke the camel's back - pun intended. I know my weight has exacerbated my injury and prolonged my recovery which has given me the motivation to challenge myself. Without disclosing my actual weight, which would be far too mortifying, I can tell you that I have put on 3 stones since starting on my anti-depressant medication, which is a whole 5 stones more than my pre-pregnancy weight. That is a depressing fact in itself, one which I have not been in a position to face until now. I have done and still do blame a good proportion of the weight gain on the meds, however as my GP so aptly (bluntly?) stated "the only thing that makes you put on weight is eating too many calories" and although I don't necessarily completely agree, it's a fair point.

I am not one to be overly concerned with my weight, I have actually always quite liked my womanly figure, hourglass shall we say (Marilyn Monroe in my head), child-bearing hips (proved when my second child was born looking up, which gives a wider diameter of the fetal skull than the natural looking down position - ouch); the product of strong Italian and Lancastrian heritage, genetically skinny I am not. I have never dieted, only the occasional teenage starve/binge/purge phases, in-between boyfriends probably. But now, with the help of a fantastic app called 'My Fitness Pal', I am calorie counting. It also links with the 'RunKeeper' app, which thankfully doesn't just Keep Runs but Walks too, so I can earn myself some more calories by having a nosey at the rest of the village of an evening. Just as I did not want to let postnatal depression beat me (I considered it a fight between it and me), I also do not want to feel the medication has such a hold on me that I feel disgusted at my reflection. I'm sure many people have experienced the intense hunger cravings some anti-depressant medication gives some people, and I am certainly one of them. It was a strange sensation to me as I have always weirdly enjoyed the feeling of being hungry, maybe it was the sense of control over my body. If that's the case then I feel the medication has taken away my sense of control of my appetite. I have found the hunger pangs actually painful, become extremely irritated when hungry and also cannot tolerate any waiting time to eat. It has given me symptoms of hypoglycaemia - shaking, sweating, and light-headedness after just 3 hours of not eating even though I have tested negative for diabetes. I am certain the medication has some sort of pseudo effect on my blood sugar/insulin levels, although I have no evidence for this. I do feel I know my own body very well and have experienced two previous episodes of significant weight gain, which I felt were caused by hormonal contraceptives, and were followed by significant weight loss back to my 'normal' when I stopped those contraceptives. Two attempts at coming off my medication, primarily motivated by my wish to lose weight, have proved extremely detrimental to my currently stable mental state and without wishing to get into the discussion about coming off anti-depressants and discontinuation syndrome, I have decided not to try again for the foreseeable. Common consensus is that it is still too soon for me.

Must continue later - the boys are back!

So I am now at the end of day 5 and despite going into the red with our tapas dinner, I have managed to get back into the black with an evening stomp up and down our nearest steep hill. That is what I love about these apps - you can see in an instant where you are up to and seeing the numbers right in front of you makes it so simple. Plus now I have written it down here, that means I have to keep going so this is another motivational tool for me. I am going to manage the hunger pangs better and choose my food more wisely. I watched a fascinating programme about foods that may aid weight loss this week, not that the title hinted at that at all - 'Britain's Favourite Supermarket Foods', worth a watch if you are interested.

Whilst I am recommending programmes - an amazing documentary 'Diaries of a Broken Mind' is must-see tv for those interested in mental health, if only to follow the story of Jess, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder - she is amazing! Stick with it despite the wobbly self-filming, it is worth it.

Finally my card therapy for the last few days has been working on a card for Mary Poppins (The Summer I'd Like To Forget). It is a bright summery card using my latest Spellbinders dies:

They are Whimsical Tree and Flower Burst and this is the first time I have used them. I tried about 6 different colours of tree and finally settled on this copper mirri card. Cut-rite is absolutely brilliant to use with these kind of dies - makes life much simpler. I added the sunshine-of-the-scene sentiment on some lovely orange Papermania card and die-cut that with Ribbon Tags Trio Two and attached it with WRMK washi tape. The butterfly was a wooden blank that I inked up with Dew Drops - Memento Morocco & Brilliance Rocket Red, and embossed with Wow! clear gloss and clear sparkle embossing powder. I've used a mix of powders for the brown body, just leftovers from a previous endeavour! I've also used Brilliance inks and finger sponges to colour the flowers. The paper is from First Edition Spring Drop. Hope you like it!

I would like to enter this card into the following blog challenges:
Wow! Embossing Powder Challenge - Summer & Sunshine
Polkadoodles Challenge Blog - Summer Fun

Thank you for reading. Enjoy the rest of your weekend whatever the weather!
Emma x