Leyas Unicorn Party.

Party planning for the girls is something I really enjoy.

This year Leya turned five and she asked for a unicorn party. In actual fact, her first choice was Moana, but the entertainer who played her had recently left the company, so unicorns it was.

I booked a party package with My little princess parties.

http://www.mylittleprincessparties.co.uk/princess-parties-berkshire-surrey-hampshire/

They have various options, but the full party package works well for me, because I know the children are looked after and entertained.

I like to start planning a good few months in advance, and begin with a venue. Next come the invites, and once the RSVPs are back and I know how many children are coming I can order the tableware and party bags. This year the decorations were mostly from Pretty Little Party Shop (https://prettylittlepartyshop.co.uk/), and I went for a magical, pastel coloured theme.

I knew I wanted to get a special unicorn cake, but I looked for ages and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, then I remembered how much my family loves Lolas Cupcakes. I went on their website and found the perfect cake.

https://www.lolascupcakes.co.uk/Ordering/1688/Unicorn-Cake.htm

Not only did it look great, it tasted so delicious.

My brother-in-law created a gorgeous cake table, with a pretty unicorn backdrop which he made. He’s quite the arty/crafty one in our family and the effort he put in really paid off. Thanks Guv!

The helium balloons, some large foil ones, some filled with confetti and some sparkly, completed the party decorations and we were good to go.

Sam from My little princess parties was brilliant. I knew she would be as she had been Tinkerbell at Leyas 3rd birthday party too. The children danced, played games, there was a pass the parcel, and a special wish with some fairy dust.

I tend to stick to a simple party food menu for the kids, including sandwiches, crisps, pizza, sausage rolls, fruit, cakes, and biscuits, with squash to drink and some refreshments for the parents.

Leya had a wonderful time, and she went to bed one very happy little girl, all unicorned out!

I can’t wait to start planning Arias party in a few months!

 

Peppa Pig World.

As a rule, I generally avoid theme parks. To be honest they’ve never really been my thing. I’m not big on thrill rides, and even baby rides make me a little bit queasy and anxious – motion sickness is not my friend.

Our daughter Leya turned five last week, and when we had asked her what she wanted to do, in addition to the family get-togethers and party with her friends that we had planned for the weekend, her response with no hesitation at all was ‘I want to go to Peppa Pig World’. I tried to change her mind over the course of the next few days, by making alternative suggestions, but she wasn’t biting, so that was that.

I was pleasantly surprised by the location of the park itself, it was lovely, and felt like taking a drive through a little country park. The large car park had ample space, and our early arrival at opening time, meant that we were lucky enough to get a space very close to the main entrance. There were lots of turnstile entry points, so we didn’t have to queue at all to get in, which is surprising for the summer holidays.

The first thing we were greeted by was the huge gift shop. You can’t exit the park without going through it, so it’s strategically located for the children to point out all the things they wish to take home. Leya, of course, wanted to go in right away, but we managed to bribe her with the promise of a present on the way out. This guarantee was agreed to, reluctantly, and so into the park we went.

The park itself has a lot going for it, There are a number of things that make it a fun family day out.

  • It’s flat, which, if you’ve been to other large theme parks, you will know to be a rarity.
  • It’s small enough for the rides to be close to each other, so that little legs don’t get tired walking around from attraction to attraction.
  • There are lots of things to eat and drink, including sit-down café/diner style options, as well as shack/stalls selling hotdogs, donuts, ice-cream, candy floss, sweets, popcorn, hot and cold drinks and so much more.
  • The rides are fun, but relaxed and calm enough that even babies can go on most of them, with a couple of exceptions.

We had a really lovely day, the girls laughed, enjoyed the rides, ate well, and left with a gift each from Peppas huge toy store.

The rides were well managed, and we didn’t have to queue long for anything. I would definitely recommend a day out here with the kids, even if you’ve shied away from theme parks in the past.

 

 

 

The Book That Changed My LIFE.

At the beginning of last year, I made a decision about my life. It was a long time coming and a change was definitely needed.

2016 had been a particularly difficult year for me. A traumatic labour had caused the anxiety to sky-rocket. Leaving the house alone had become impossible. I couldn’t walk to the end of my street for fear of having a panic attack and passing out or getting into jsome kind of medical emergency with no-one around to help me. I had started feeling panicky any time I was out of my comfort zone. Trips to the cinema, and eating out, became things I avoided, instead of enjoying them like I used to. The anxiety had got so bad that I couldn’t understand how I was going to get through life, and at my rock-bottom moments I even wondered if my children would be better off without me. All I did was worry, all day, everyday. I avoided car journeys, driving by myself was out of the question, even just to the local shops. I could only be a passenger in the car if my husband was driving, which meant I couldn’t even go anywhere with friends. I missed family gatherings and birthday dinners because I couldn’t face the journey or the venue, and I would find myself making up one excuse after another out of shame.

I really was so ashamed of myself. I saw what I was going through as a weakness. I felt like a failure for having got myself into this situation, where life just felt exhausting. Don’t get me wrong- I wasn’t unhappy with life, I was loving being a mum, but being anxious all the time was so overwhelming and I was tired. I felt safe in my little bubble and everything out of my comfort zone felt terrifying.

Then when my babies went on their first holiday abroad without me, I decided I needed to get some level of control back in my life.

That was when I found this book. Or should I say THE book.

‘Anxiety; Panicking about Panic’ by Joshua Fletcher.

This book hit the nail on the head for me, because Fletcher, having suffered from anxiety himself, understood that my situation wasn’t caused by unhappiness with my life, it was caused by me being scared of my next panic attack occurring. Anyone who has ever suffered a full blown panic attack will know why- and if you haven’t you’re really not qualified to pass judgement on the matter, or make assumptions about how it feels.

Someone finally got it! I was scared of panic attacks and had begun to avoid any situations where I feared I might have one, and not be able to control it.

This book really helped me to understand what was happening to my body during an attack and the quickest way I could allow it to run it’s course and pass. At  the time that I turned to this book, I was having attacks almost daily, and although they haven’t completely disappeared, I recognise my triggers now, and instead of avoiding them, I use the techniques I’ve learnt from this book, and I’m able to stop a full blown attack from occurring, or when I do have one it’s not as bad. They have also reduced in frequency by about 90%.

Anxiety has always been with me, it walks with me and does it’s job when it’s needed, but it doesn’t make any decisions for me or control what I do or where I go anymore. I refuse to give it that power. I feel able to do this, and be strong because of this book. It gave me the push I needed, to take the steps to tackle my situation.

The book taught me that no matter how awful an attack feels, it’s not dangerous, and it is going to pass. I learned that if I gave into the sensations, rather than trying to fight them, they passed a lot quicker. Fletcher helped me to remove some of the fear from the attack and helped me to get my life back.

The road to recovery isn’t only long, it’s permanent. There is a continuous need to remind yourself that everything is ok. The key to doing that effectively lies in arming yourself with knowledge about what is happening to you, and also meditating and reflecting to keep levels of stress hormones in your body low.

If you feel like this book could help you too, it’s available from Amazon. I hope it helps you the same way that it helped me.

 

 

 

 

 

Dubai.

My first holiday with my husband and our girls.

Before I tell you all about the holiday itself, let me be clear that this trip required me to face many anxieties and fears, not just flying, but many other things that may seem trivial to some, but were a huge deal to me. I had to confront my anxieties about airport queues, due to fear of having a panic attack and not being able to escape, or have anywhere to calm myself down. I had to confront my fear of being a passenger, both in taxis and transit trains, for the same reason. I had to confront my anxieties about medical emergencies or incidents involving my children, in a place far from home, where I didn’t know how the medical care system worked. These were all very real, very scary fears for me. They were things I had avoided for a long time, I mean, prior to travelling this year, I had managed to avoid cabs and trains for well over a decade (yes really). This holiday really has marked a huge shift in the way I choose to live my life, and I’m so grateful for support I received from friends and family, and particularly my husband. I also recognise and feel proud of myself, for the hard work it took, the difficult personal journey I came through, to get to the other side of my fear. I finally feel like I’m starting to live again.

The flight to Dubai was an overnight flight with British Airways and it was pretty uneventful. It was tiring though and I found myself wanting to nod-off, but kept jolting back to reality, worrying about the girls. They managed to get a little sleep, and Leya entertained herself with the IFE, however Aria found the headphones uncomfortable and wanted to sit in her dads lap for most of the flight (not so much fun for him).

We landed in Dubai at around 8.30am local time, and the airport was quiet. It’s a long walk and a short transit train ride at DXB to passport control. One thing -possibly the only thing- that impressed me about the airport, was that they opened up fast track family lanes to get you through immigration as quickly as possible if you had children with you. We collected our bags and headed to the taxi rank.

The Dubai heat hit me like a blast from an oven full of hot air! I was NOT prepared for how hot it was. However, we were soon in an air-conditioned taxi, on our way to the Hotel. Our driver was a friendly woman, and I immediately felt at ease in her cab.

Sofitel Dubai Palm Resort and Spa was beautiful. Adorned with palm trees, and designed with a Polynesian theme. There was a real ‘Island’ feel that I think hotels on the main land would find difficult to rival. The welcome in the main lobby was warm and friendly, with an efficient check in and a delicious cold beverage, which was very much appreciated. Our room wasn’t ready, due to us arriving significantly earlier than the regular check-in time, but we were invited to make use of the pool while we waited. When they did call us an hour later, we were delighted to discover that we had been upgraded to a suite. The room was gorgeous, with a huge bathroom and our own private terrace with comfy seating and a dining area, surrounded by tropical greenery.

The pool was fabulous and we spent our days cooling off, taking in the beautiful views and sipping cold drinks in one of the poolside cabanas. We would take late afternoon naps with the girls, and then shower and dress for dinner. The dining at the hotel was lovely, with lots of choice and something for everyone. We mostly ate at the buffet restaurant Manava, as it was the most convenient option with the girls. We tried the Porterhouse Grill one evening, and the steak was delicious.

As it was so hot (being the Gulf in the middle of summer), we weren’t interested in the usual Dubai excursions of shopping malls and sand safaris, this was more a chance for us to spend some quality time together as a family. That said, I had to visit Dubai Mall once, to see what the hype was about (Don’t believe the Hype), and to eat some cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, The peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake was amazing. The mall-not so much. Dubai is extortionate to shop in and I refuse to pay double what I would here for make-up. perfume, clothes, shoes and handbags.

Our flight home was delayed by over five hours (thanks BA), and we spent hours waiting around the airport. The girls were irritable and we were all extra exhausted by the time we eventually got back to London. This was further exacerbated by the fact that they couldn’t find anyone to attach the jetty to the aircraft, and then there were only two customs officers working in passport control. We had to queue for ages, as we couldn’t use the e-gates, and all families and non-EU passengers were sent the same way-bizarre!

I loved every minute of being in the resort and spending time with my family. Would I go back to Dubai? Maybe. I’d like to experience it again when it’s cooler, and maybe try a different resort, but I don’t think it will be until after I’ve been to some of my other dream destinations. The architecture, although impressive is a little over-bearing, and the dusty atmosphere with it’s never-ending construction just isn’t for me. They know how to create fabulous resorts though, I’ll give them that.

Facing Your Fears.

Fear feels real. It does.

Fear has an important job to do. It protects you from danger. When you’re in a dangerous situation, fear kicks in and your fight or flight response is triggered.

Fear becomes an issue when we attach it to situations where we aren’t in any real danger. If you allow that fear to hold you back from going to certain places, taking part in activities, or prevent you from being social, you limit yourself, and you limit the level of enjoyment you’re getting from your life.

Having been anxious to a degree, for most of my life, and having multiple phobias, I have first hand experience on how fears that are out of control can take over your life. All fear is learnt. We learn it through observation of other peoples reactions to things, or from the things they say. We may learn fear by being in an unpleasant situation, and then associating those feelings with that which we fear, and being worried about it happening again. No matter how your fear comes about, there will, at some point, have been a triggering event, observation or statement.

When we fear something, we begin to avoid it. Avoidance brings temporary relief, but is by no means, a permanent solution. Avoiding the thing you fear is stressful. Having to overthink and question things all the time in order to practice successful avoidance is difficult and time consuming, wasting valuable time that could be better spent enjoying life.

Facing your fears really is the key to overcoming them. I was first told this as a young child, and immediately it made me more terrified and unsure – facing my fears seemed like the worst idea imaginable – like hello? I’m trying to stay as far away as possible from things that scare me. Over time, and as I grew older I realised this advice had been one of the most accurate and helpful pieces of advice I had ever been given.

Sometimes, facing your fears might not eradicate them completely, but it will make them more manageable. It gives you more strength, self-belief and a sense of pride in your abilities.

Some of the most beautiful things in life are waiting just on the other side of that fear. If you can push through those few minutes of intense, dread and panic, you’ll find that once your fear reaches its peak, down is the only way for it to go. When your heart rate and breathing begin to return to normal, you start to realise that you’ve achieved something you probably never thought you could. Your new found confidence gets you thinking about all the future holds for you, now that you hold the key to overcoming your own personal hurdles.

I’m a prime example with my fear of flying, which was so crippling it affected almost two decades of my life. I’ve only been back three days, and I’m already planning my next holiday!

Facing your fears is hard work, but the rewards are so worth it, and we all deserve a life free of fear.

It’s ok to ask for help.

It really is.

It’s ok to reach out and ask for assistance when things are getting a bit too much.

Life can be stressful, and everyone has their own ways of managing stressful situations and periods in theirs. Some seem to take everything in their stride and others are natural worriers who feel a constant undercurrent of anxiety. However you handle stress, there are times when we could all do with some extra help.

Many of us can feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. You might feel that you’re admitting defeat, or showing people that you can’t cope.

Firstly – not coping is ok!

Secondly – It’s a brave step to take, to put our hands up and say ‘I can’t deal with this alone’

In my opinion, having the courage to take that step and reach out is admirable. It signifies that you’re not satisfied with living in this state of stress and anxiety, because you deserve so much more. You deserve to be happy. Wanting to change things for the better, and seeking a way to make that happen, shows that you’ve discovered your self worth and you know how important it is for you to be well, for yourself and your loved ones.

Help can come in many forms, but my advice is to always make a professional your first port of call. They are best qualified for your personal situation. Asking friends and family for help may seem easier, than talking to a stranger, but I find it’s more effective when the person helping us on our journey is impartial and not passing any judgements. When people care for you deeply and have a personal connection with you, they lose some of that ability to be impartial.

Whether it’s your GP, a counsellor, a life-coach, a midwife, a tutor or mentor, you can rest assured that the advice they give you and the steps you work through together will be confidential and private, and suited to your individual needs.

If you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence. Taking that step, and beginning on the path to changing things, will be the best gift you could possibly give yourself. Look after yourself and be the best version of you. Be healthy and happy. You’ll have so much more of yourself to give to those you love and care for.

This is your life, make it great, and don’t settle for anything less than emotional freedom, and the tools to face the challenges life brings.

Fragrance.

I LOVE perfume. Anyone who knows me, knows about my serious obsession with those little bottles of gorgeousness. The great thing about perfume is that although certain scents are unmistakeable, and undeniably familiar, each one smells slightly different depending on who is wearing it.

I want to run through some (only some) of my favourites with you. These are not in order of preference

Black Opium (Yves Saint Laurent) –This delicious scent smells sexy, dark and sensual. It’s the perfect date-night perfume, and is ideal for evenings in general. I wouldn’t personally go for this during the day as its quite a deep, strong scent, but it makes me feel beautiful and confident.

Mon Jasmin Noir, L’eau Exquise (Bulgari) – This perfume is summer in a bottle. Light, citrus-floral notes that remind me of white sands and crystal clear turquoise waters. If there was ever a perfect summer holiday scent, then this is it.

Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune (Guerlain) – In keeping with the summer in a bottle theme, this scent brings a similar memory of the beach, sea breezes and palm trees, however it leans more towards the citrus elements than the floral. You would be at home in an Orange grove in Seville with this fragrance on. It smells gorgeous and a spritz or two of this on a bright day always lifts my heart.

Flowerbomb (Viktor & Rolf) – If I had to pick a signature scent, this is the one. Perfect for the day or night, it smells like you took a bath in some nostalgic baby bath from your childhood, and amped up the fragrance with some candy sweet fruit, kissed by sexy, spicy undertones. I wear this one so often the seatbelts in my car smell of it.

Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel) – Again, another perfect day to night scent and the one I always seem to reach for when I’m goin to a wedding because of it’s romantic nature. Its a sweet, subtly fruity fragrance that lingers behind you as you walk. I’m often asked what perfume I’m wearing when I’ve got this one on.

Lovely (Sarah Jessica Parker) – I love this for a day-wear perfume. When I’m going out for lunch or a shopping trip, this is what I reach for. It’s very easy to wear, not too strong, and it has light spicy notes that carry you through whatever day time activities you have planned.

Blonde Rose (Clean Reserve) – This fragrance in its simple packaging and understated, minimalist look isn’t something I would usually look for in a perfume. I like pretty, classic looking bottles full of pink or gold liquid, giving me that feeling of luxury, something really special. This is the total opposite, but it’s my winter go-to. What it lacks in design it more than makes up for in perfume. It’s strange to associate a scent with winter, but for me this is a jumper and boots kind of fragrance that I like to spritz on before heading out on a cold day. It’s a floral musk, not sweet at all, but reminiscent of flowers in the rain.

Sexy No.9 (Trish McEvoy) – This is another one for winter. The delicious blackberry and vanilla musk is perfect for cold rainy days. Although it has hints of fruit, the vanilla musk keeps it from being too sweet. Another one for those dark mornings.

Bombshell (Victorias Secret) – I happened upon this by accident. I had gone into a VS store to pick up a body lotion of theirs that I like (Love Spell), and came across a wall of perfumes. I spritzed some testers and fell instantly in love with this one. For me it’s day wear with a naughty edge, perfect for a day out with someone special. It’s floral and spicy but not overpowering.

Botanical Essence No. 20 (Liz Earle) – This is a scent like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Its smells clean, sexy, powerful and pretty all at the same time. The pink packaging is ideal for the scents of damask rose, pink pepper,  Indian jasmine, hibiscus, patchouli and sandalwood. The woody muskiness is perfect for day or night, winter or summer alike. Its a really versatile fragrance. Love it!

Mon Paris (Yves Saint Laurent) – Alongside Black Opium, this is another evening go-to. No dinner in a fancy restaurant, or a night at an evening reception is complete without this for me. On the sweet side, it might seem an odd choice for an evening, but the slight underlying notes of woodiness make it spicy enough for the evening, and a little too heady for day-wear. This is definitely one of my ultimate picks.

I hope this little review has given you some inspiration for the next fragrance you want to try.