A List of Very Useful Things to Do on Your Maternity Leave / In the Last Month of Pregnancy

10 (3)Ahh, the final month. It’s here! I’m finding that whilst I have plenty I want to do, I’m just not capable of doing it all (energy levels, lack of sleep, that whale of a bump). I’ve come to realise that I should listen to all the people telling me I should “rest”, and then I use the times when  I do have more energy to be productive. I hope you can find this balance, too.

Taking this time is really important to set yourself up for success in the first few weeks / months after the birth, and ready yourself mentally, as well as physically and practically, for all the changes ahead.

Here’s a list of things to shop for, along with things to do in these last few weeks before you get to meet your little one and life changes for the crazy better!

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A Sense of Perspective Can Fix Just About Anything

One deranged gunman, 50 beautiful lives cut short in a few short minutes. A sense of perspective.

Ugandan children abandoned by their birth mothers yet still singing and dancing because love and generosity defies biology. A sense of perspective.

Hundreds of migrants still making the dangerous crossing everyday, not knowing what lies on the other side but firmly believing that ANYTHING is better than this. A sense of perspective.

THERE IS ENOUGH TO GO ROUND.

A less than perfect house: A sense of perspective. (You have a safe, warm roof over your head.)

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9 Things I Learned About Happiness from Living in Japan

japanFrom 2006 – 2010 I lived and worked in Japan; 2 years in the remote countryside and 20 months in the busy metropolis of Tokyo. The two places and experiences were so vastly different that they felt almost like living in two countries, but in both situations I observed and absorbed a lot about what can contribute to daily happiness.

This is not to say that the Japanese are a particularly happy nation; according to the 2016 World Happiness Report published by the UN each year, Japan ranks 53rd in terms of happiness sentiment amongst its population. This is quite a bit lower than the UK (23rd), Canada (6th) and the US (13th).

I can see why Japan ranks so averagely. It’s true that just observing many sectors of the population leaves you a little depressed: the middle aged man who works stressful, high pressure 16 hour days and never sees his family, the teenager who is too shy to leave his room, the woman who married too young and not for love and who was forced to give up all her hopes and dreams to attend to the house and kids. These are stereotypes, yes, but all characters I encountered frequently during my time there.

At the other end of the scale are some of the happiest, most at peace and self-aware people I’ve ever met. Many parts of the culture are just set up and designed to make you feel content. Japan is also the place where I figured out a lot about what made me happy (and quite a bit about what didn’t – perhaps I’ll save that for another time!), so without further ado, here’s my personal list of what Japan taught me about happiness.

ise-udon-696853_6401. A Passion & Gratitude for Food: No deprivation, no guilt, just real food and smaller portions. Japan has a phenomenal food scene. Despite the abundance of fish on every menu, it didn’t matter that I was a vegetarian; I still really, really enjoyed the food. It was seasonal, fresh and appreciated. When you grow up surrounded by rice farms, you know how precious and difficult to harvest each grain is. The same can be said for the fruit, vegetables and fish that make up the diet, and not a spoonful is wasted or thrown away. Each month there is a new fruit in the supermarkets to try, and my coworkers would often bring in boxes of fruit or vegetables sent from relatives elsewhere in the country. We’d all share the food and it was glorious. We all know that food can make us happy; eating healthily, seasonally and sharing food without guilt or counting calories only enhances this pleasure.

2. Bathing (and nakedness) is Great.  Continue reading

Product Review: Freida’s Pantry Breastfeeding Bars

Yes, you read thfreidas barsat right: breastfeeding bars, not breastfeeding bras! Both staples in every new Mum’s arsenal, but perhaps you didn’t know about the former yet?

Well I’m here to show you the way, dear busy and tired and energy-less new Mummy! All courtesy of these yummy snacks from Freida’s Pantry.

Sometimes, you have to take in more calories than you feel like eating to stay healthy, whether it’s during pregnancy or afterwards. Sharon, the founder of Freida’s Pantry breastfeeding bars, had what she describes as a “traumatic birth experience” whereby she was left not being able to consume the necessary calories needed to breastfeed after birth. Breastfeeding can require up to 500 extra calories a day, and for those Mums like me who have smaller appetites and find big meals, erm, difficult to swallow, getting those extra cals can be a challenge.

nuts and seed barsBecause her under eating meant that she wasn’t producing enough milk, her midwives recommended that she top up her breastfeeding with formula milk, which is something Sharon didn’t want to do.

Luckily her Mum came to the rescue with a great post-birth and nutrient-rich recipe to help her recover from the birth, produce more milk and stay nourished for both her and her newborn.

That recipe, using ingredients and wisdom from Asian cuisine, would form the basis of the nut and seed bars she sells today. The varieties available are designed to encourage a healthy pregnancy, help women recover from birth, replenish energy levels and help establish breastfeeding and milk supplies afterwards.

My review of the bars + ingredients & nutritional info

I’m writing this from a more unusual perspective; at 36 weeks I’ve not popped the babe out yet, so I’m obviously not breastfeeding and can’t comment on the bars’ ability to help mothers lactate. (For testimonials on the bars increasing milk flow, see here.)

But I am enjoying the ‘Tasty & Nutritious Super Charged Bars‘ that are one of three products available, and I’m enjoying them on a regular basis! This one is specifically designed for pregnancy, and as any preggo knows, any help increasing energy during pregnancy is much appreciated!

At almost 200 calories a pop and with 10 grams of healthy fats (i.e. the kind you and your baby want not the kind you find in chips and cake), they are also a great way to up my nutritional requirements without having to resort to nutrition-less food or giving myself a poorly tummy from eating too big a meal.

The taste test

The bars have a great texture – not too chewy, not too crunchy, just a good mix of both which makes for a satisfying munch. They are also healthy tasting without being boring – i.e. the sweetness level is just right and satisfies the mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack attacks that I tend to suffer from 😉

The Feeding Food bars have fennel in them, which is quite a strong taste and one that I know some people don’t prefer. I will lap up anything licoricey and like the unusual flavour, but it’s something to think about it you don’t  particularly like that taste.

Ingredients + Nutritional info

All ingredients are ethically sourced, and are organic where possible.

Super Charged Food Bars – A mix of oats, seeds, almonds, oil, quinoa, pistachios, raisins and goji berries. 186 calories, 9.7g fat (0.9g saturated), 4.4g protein per bar.

Feeding Food – Oats, nuts, raisins, linseeds, oil, quinoa, sunflower kernels, chia and fennel seeds. 186 calories, 9.4g fat (0.8g saturated), 4.2g protein per bar.

Overall Verdict

I love the philosophy behind Freida’s Pantry, and definitely see a market for a nutrition-packed product that is nourishing whilst also filling and especially crafted for Mums-to-be and new Mums. My go-to snack is usually a cereal bar, but I know that most on the market are really just glorified biscuits, with very little in the way of nourishment or sustenance.

BREASTFEEDING BARS (2)These bars, on the other hand, are packed full of ingredients that both Mum and baby can benefit from, and I’m really excited to try the breastfeeding bars once baby is born and I need an extra boost to help encourage healthy milk supplies. I think these bars will go far!

Whatever stage of the journey you’re at, there’s a bar for you – Fertility, Super Charged (for pregnancy and beyond) and Breastfeeding. You can shop the range – or order a monthly subscription – here. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Freida’s bars in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own; I only endorse products and companies I like. 

7 Tips for Finishing that Book

blur-1283865_1280Here’s something I’m a little embarrassed to admit: my novel has been in a work in progress for 6 years.

6 years!

Except really, it’s been in such fits and starts that it’s not like I’m writing War and Peace. I haven’t really been writing it for 6 years, that’s just how long it’s been in existence, mostly horribly neglected and forgotten about. In the meantime, I’ve finished 6 non-fiction books, ghostwritten a book, written countless articles and blog posts, and published 12 magazine issues.

So, it’s not for lack of time that I’ve been putting off finishing the book.

And the weird thing is, I really want to finish it! Figuring out why I can’t (or rather, don’t seem to want to) complete it has been the first step in getting into a rhythm with it again.

Me, staring at a closed book with a cup of coffee, not writing like I should be.

Figuring out the Resistance

I was on FaceTime to my dear friend Ingrid Ricks the other week, and our conversation forced me to take a step back and examine what exactly is preventing me from just getting it done. Ingrid is a New York Times Bestseller with several published books, so she’s been through the process many a time. That conversation was eye opening and fire-up-the-arse igniting, and ever since our chat, I’ve been working on it a little almost every day. Continue reading