Have you ever wanted to start your dream business?

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Dream businesses are meant to be things of dreams, right? Things for the people who are financially able, have funding or investment. Not for the ordinary folks with kids and bills to pay. I seriously wish I’d had the impetus to do what I did in a few months of this year a long time ago because I cannot imagine what I could have done with the time and lack of responsibility freely available to me then.

I have thought about this a lot since having my kids because work as I knew it just wasn’t working for me. At the same time I couldn’t work out how in the precious little time between the kids going to bed and my falling asleep on the sofa I would muster the energy and motivation to do something for myself that needed, you know, brain power.

I couldn’t quit my day job to chase a dream because then how would I pay rent, cover child care and eat? I had an idea, a great idea that was eating up at me and itching me to be done but where would I even start?

Then I did this one great exercise (plus a bit of squirreling away of the wine money) and a few months later I launched my own business that I love, that motivates me and gives me energy to do because growing this thing is one of the best things I have done in a long time.

Here is step-by-step what I did and I hope you find it useful too:

1.Write down the big things you want to achieve

This should be a short list of the great big things that you want to do, like now. Mine was a list of three but that was probably two things too long. Those things were launch my knitting business, expand the types of events I worked on to include subjects I love and write.

2. Take note of the first thing you need to do to make progress

Don’t make a full on list of everything you need to do to achieve your dreams, that will overwhelm you and totally sap at the motivation. Just put on the page the very first thing you need to do to take a step forward in your plan. For me that was make a budget for the knitting business so I knew how much I had to save, how long it would take me to save it and what date I could have that cash ready by. For the other two things I wrote down ‘pick a date for a craft event for my husband’s marathon fundraising’ and ‘spend the first 15 minutes of each day free-writing’.

Each of those three things were really simple and probably don’t take up too much time. I will be honest, when it came to the next step I was surprised at how much of the above I didn’t get chance to do.

3. Check in on yourself

On the last day of each month I go back and I check in on how I have progressed on the last step. Did I do that one thing in the space of the month? Most often it was no because I made my list two items too long and instead of wanting to complete one thing that month, I was trying to complete three. Make the list short. This is important else you will have completed something but not everything and that doesn’t half sap at your motivation levels. Then, and this is very important, if I hadn’t done my list from the previous month, I just accepted that and tried again the following month.

4. When you complete something, add one more thing

This bit is obvious but when I finished one step, I added another and would aim to get that one done in the same month if I could. Before I knew it those snatched minutes here and there were really adding up. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the mammoth ideas, I didn’t set myself unrealistic deadlines and most importantly…

5. Roll with it

When I look back now at that first page I wrote in January, it looks nothing like I expected it to right now, today. It is better and different. It is bigger than I could have hoped. It also moved so much faster than I anticipated.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past 8 months (which is more than I’d done in the years previous):

New Logo

Put on a crafternoon at my local community rooms and raised almost £200 for MIND.

Created my own website from scratch and launched my craft business http://www.sonicknits.com

Grown my list and following from zero to the hundreds

Interviewed lots of women who run their own craft business and learned from them.

Written a synopsis and outline for a book plus three chapters.

Filled three notebooks with writing.

Shipped out three months of craft subscription boxes and have a queue of people lined up to work with me.

Given myself the confidence to grow with my goals and acheive what once seemed impossible.

Set a fantastic example to my kids

Started to learn to drive.

I’ve learned a lot on the way these past few months and I want to share some of that too in future.

 

Vegan Recipe Swap

Vegan Recipe Swap

 

I love food. I love great food, even when it turns out as a disaster.  Such as tonight’s attempt to master the aquafaba meringue. Total and utter failure plus a kitchen covered in sugar and aquafaba. It went down the sink but it was fun trying. On the flip side, I did master a brilliant toad in the hole tonight, which coming from Yorkshire is a part of my childhood relived.

I want to try more things, new things. I want to know what the favourite meal is for everyone else out there and I want to try it. So, I am setting up a vegan recipe swap to expand my evening cookery repertoire. Who is with me?

Here’s how it will work:

  1. You send me an email with your name and address on by the 1 April.
  2. I send you an email back with the name and address of someone else.
  3. You send that person your favourite vegan recipe.
  4. You will get a recipe in the post in return.
  5. You get to make and eat some scrummy food plus the pleasure of something fun through the post box.

Feel free to write a short note to the person you are sending your recipe to. You may not be directly swapping with that person, so feel free to write back to them with how your recipe turned out.

Share how your recipe turned out on Instagram or Twitter with #veganrecipeswap and I’ll share mine too.

So, let’s go – email me at veganrecipeswap@gmail.com

How To Have A Baby And Not Lose Your Shit – A Sort of Review

HaveABabyMy good friend and excellent blogger over at Eeh Bah Mum has only gone and written a blooming fantastic book. Yes this is not really a review because  a. know the writer and b. I get a mention on page 2 (plus elsewhere but why spoil the plot for you?). Although I am going to review it because today I finished the book on the train whilst simultaneously laughing and crying.

Kirsty has always been one of the mums I’ve held in high esteem for just making it all look so easy, natural and being a normal human being at the same time. When I would return her daughter from a particularly disastrous walk, covered head to toe in mud, she’d be there with a coffee on offer and a funny story from earlier in the week to counter it. I figured she’d just got the whole ‘being a mum thing’ instantly and calmly got on with it. Instead, the book tells a different side, a touching and honest side that every single mum and mum-to-be should read. If only to know that no one just ‘gets it’ however much it looks like they do from the outside.

I first met Kirsty at the wedding of mutual friends around 4 years ago. We found ourselves getting drunk over nice food while our respective children caused some manner of chaos around the room. Being from Yorkshire, it is vital that you announce such a fact when meeting new people at places like weddings and we therefore figured out that not only were we from the same place in Yorkshire, had kids but we also lived on the next street to each other in North London. A friendship was formed.

I don’t particularly need much in a friendship; the ability to see the funny side of things and a willingness to go to the pub will do. As one of the funniest women I know and her London leaving drinks being up there in the top nights out list, Kirsty has made a pretty solid friend over the years. She has given me sterling advice about second kids, relocating and doing the 30 Day Shred with a newborn. Had I listened to her at the time, I could have saved myself a lot of crying about why my 4 month old won’t sleep long enough to let me work out; why for the past year I have felt like I am losing the plot because the first 6 months of a second child is a false sense of security; and I wouldn’t have spent the past year desperately trying to win the lottery so I could return to North London.

But I didn’t. Instead I read the same wonderful, funny outlook on motherhood in her book while kicking myself for being an idiot. I knew she talked sense when she was telling me it, I was just too wrapped up in baby world and sleep deprivation to remember.

How To Have A Baby isn’t just a funny, honest account of parenting though, it is more than that. It lays bare how having kids challenges you and how you view yourself as a person. Kirsty manages to voice the thoughts that went through my head about kids before I had them, about careers once they do arrive and also nails the first post-child hangover with alarming accuracy.

This is not your usual, ‘how to raise your kids’ book. The advice is simple: chill out and make friends. Something you don’t find in the wall of other baby books telling you about routines, naps, development, and all the other stuff that won’t necessarily apply to your baby because someone forgot to tell your baby to read the book. So in the truest sense, this is a book about how to be a parent and not how to look after a baby or raise a child.

I do wish I had read this book when I was pregnant with my first child. It probably wouldn’t have saved me from new mum craziness but it would have helped me realise I wasn’t on my own. Heck, I needed this book a year ago when I was struggling with two kids in a new place and then I wouldn’t have felt the need to drunkenly apologise to half the mums at the playgroup night out for being an emotional wreck when I first met them. But it is here now, in our lives and will be the gift I give to all new mums.

You can buy the book here.

Guest Post: Jo Giroux on Weight Loss Exercise

Jo Giroux is a personal trainer, weight loss consultant and nutritionalist. She also runs the fabulous Park Fit class that I attend every Monday in the Derbyshire Dales. Jo is a wonderful trainer, incredibly motivating in the face of mass cynicism and has really helped bust my body back into a recognisable shape. Jo has kindly posted about the best ways to shed fat while exercising.

Get Fit

I’m often asked what’s best for fat loss or weight loss, and it’s a been the hot subject for years. As somebody that runs, I’m a big running supporter. But for fat loss? No. It’s resistance and HIIT training that’s key.

I hear the same thing time and time again – “I want to lose weight but I hate running”, ” want to shift a stone so I’ve started going running”. If this sounds like you and your goals then read on.

It’s very easy to assume that running will single handedly shift the pounds because you see how many calories you’ve just lost on your little running app or watch and think that’s it. The thing with running though is once you stop, so does the calorie burning. There is very little Exercise Post Oxygen Composition (EPOC) with running (or any other steady state cardio) – so you only burn calories whilst you run. There is no doubt that you’ll burn calories, which is fab, but it will take longer.

You see that woman (lets use a woman for this scenario) who runs and runs and runs, has slim hips, lean muscles etc etc. Trust me, she’s been running for years, probably since school. And she’s like that because of her GENETICS. Not because she runs for hours on end. Don’t compare yourself to that woman – you won’t get her figure because we’re all different. It’s about being the best YOU can be.

So in Park-Fit we do a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and there’s a reason for that. When it comes to efficient calorie burning HIIT is leaps and bounds ahead of standard cardio. Why? EPOC! That thing I mentioned before. When you do HIIT your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards. What does that mean? It means that whilst your sitting with your coffee post Park-Fit you’re still burning calories. HIIT forces your heart to adjust to the changing conditions: sprints, hill runs, fast feet etc. Your heart learns to operate outside its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes. All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you’ve finished exercising.

Studies have shown that participants who did integral training as opposed to steady continuous exercise lost THREE TIMES the body fat. I’d take that option every time. The bad thing about HIIT is that it’s exhausting. Your body wants to give up after 20 minutes and it takes time to recover.

So where does resistance/weight training come into it? Simply put, the bigger the muscle, the more calories it needs to work and keep being efficient. Big doesn’t mean you’ll turn into Arnie – as women we don’t have the physical capacity to get like that. But we can become lean.

Which exercises in particular are best suited for weight loss? Exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles – squats, lunges, burpees, kettlebell swings, push-ups etc. Hence the reason I like to do these most sessions. Get them in your workout, mix it in with some HIIT and you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you’ve finished.

This is all good and well, but if you don’t eat properly all the above means nothing. Eat right, eat real foods. Don’t miss meals – you may see weight loss but not necessarily FAT LOSS. If you skip or miss meals your body will hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a weaker metabolism. If you want advice about your food – just ask. I’m happy to help whether you come to a Park-Fit class or not.

So, my ultimate advice? Establish your goals, but be realistic about it. Do a variation of exercise if you can, and pick something you enjoy. If you want faster results in less time – do HIIT and resistance. Run if you like. I run because I love the feeling of running, but it’s not for weight loss reasons. That’s why I do burpees😉

For more details about Jo Giroux, please visit her website: http://www.jogirouxfitness.com/

The 30 Day Shred and Lying.

Push ups = nemesis

 

Today I have completed the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. If there is a woman in her 30s who hasn’t yet heard of this workout I would be amazed. It’s a Mumsnet favourite for a reason: 20 minute work out from start to finish. I’ll be honest, I missed one day due to complete exhaustion and illness but otherwise I did it. It wasn’t easy, I lacked time, motivation, fitness levels and enthusiasm but I did it. If you’ve followed any of my Insta-spam you’ll see I put my all into it.

So here’s the thing, why do a 30 Day Shred? When the 30 days are up, then what?

This is what I’ve learned over the past month:

  1. Women tell lies.

I’m guilty of this myself. I was in the pub with friends right at the start of the month. As we were in the pub it is safe to assume these were childless friends and the subject of post-partum bodies came up. They talked about how their mothers still had great bodies after birth and didn’t know how they managed it. Then asked me how I managed it.

For a second, I was about to tell that great lie that sometimes we tell “it just happens”. Like there is something great about you if you find things effortless. No there isn’t. I shocked myself that I almost said this because a. it’s not been effortless and b. I’ve grown two humans inside of me, my body will never be the same again. I have no idea why for that split second I wanted people to think it was easy to lose the baby weight, like there is a shame in working out but it was there. Instead, I broke the news to the childless that my body has changed shape and I work damn hard to get somewhere near to my 20-odd year old body.

I try to be okay about stretch marks but I know that it is okay to be upset by them too. For all the wonderful things that happened to make them, it still doesn’t mean I like them any more. I don’t love my children any less if I get upset that I look like melted Barbie.

2. It will take more than 30 days to look like Anita, Natalie or Jillian.

Bless Jillian for her boundless motivation on the DVD. I love it, I push through the pain but somewhere in the Level 3 circuits she says that if you’ve been working hard and following the diet plan this is where you’ll start to see the 6 pack. And I believed it. I eat well, really well and I put so much effort into the work outs but I have not got a 6 pack or anywhere near. I still have a post-pregnant pouch.

And when I took mid-shred challenge measurements and found I’d lost 2 inches from my hips in 15 days, did I celebrate? No, I cried because nothing, absolutely nothing had gone from the part of my body I hate the most: my stomach. What on earth is wrong with me? I truly believed that it didn’t matter how fat I was on day 1, by day 21 I would have six pack. No, the 30 Day Shred will not give you a six pack in 30 days but it will give you the kick start you need to make that (or something else) your goal. It will take more than a month to get the body image you want, but if you get a kick start then the end goal doesn’t seem so far away.

3. Self-confidence is everything.

If you’d met me you wouldn’t think that confidence and self-esteem were something I struggled much with but beneath the outer presentation to the world is a very shy person who battles against all natural instincts to go up and talk to people. It might be why I feel so chilled out in London; no one wants to talk to me. When blogging this shred on Instagram, I really struggled with the sweaty selfie. There is something quite self-indulgent about it and also, I don’t want anyone to see me in my workout. I would rather hide in a darkened room alone to do it.

I was horrified last week when three people saw me jogging into town from the school run. Horrified. I struggle to do my runs after the school run because I feel so exposed in the playground in my running clothes. I hate it. It took me ages to build up the the selfie on instagram. So, not everything that is put out in the world is a real, honest document of life. There are the bits that I didn’t show. I showed my arms because I was so impressed with them taking shape. If I could have photographed my legs, I would have done. I got my husband to take a photo of my press ups because I could do them. Did I get any of the things I struggled with whilst struggling? Any of my podgy tum? Nope, I only gave you half a story, half of the reality. It is just another way of lying.

One of the great things about blogging all of this is that I’ve met some great people online. I am in a shredding group on facebook. As everyone was posting their ‘before’ pictures, they would comment on how much they hated their bodies when in fact they were normal sized and shaped bodies for women who had quite recently given birth. All this sharing will hopefully let women see what is normal post-pregnancy. And so here is my before and after. Suffice to say my anxiety levels are sky high posting this:

Before and After

4. A kick up the arse is needed.

I love this 30 day shred because it kick starts putting exercise into the daily routine of my life. After a month, I have finally figured out I need to plan my workout into my day as much as I plan my work into my day. I stick to my plan too. If something comes along and derails my day, I put on my gym clothes anyway and do it when I can.

I started this shred struggling with level 1. Today, I ran up a big old hill in the rain. That may not seem like much but I detest rain, running and hills more than anything. I get up and I do it not because I want to be skinny but because I want to be strong. We have a newly installed pull up bar in our house. I can barely lift off of the ground but I try each day because I know being strong is a realistic goal.

This is the point of the shred, not to just lose the weight but to know that a daily piece of exercise is a good thing. This is my ‘what next?’. The final few days of this challenge were the hardest because I was so ready to move on to the next thing. I now run home from the school run, do some work out before starting work, have picked up a yoga class on a Friday evening with friends and even do some strength work outs with my husband. I have 6 week abs, kettlebells and ballet arm challenges all lined up next plus runs getting booked in. I cannot wait.

5. Your body is the only one you need consider for goals.

It is very hard not to compare yourself to others, especially if you have groups that are doing workout challenges with you but your body is unique and special to you. Your fitness is like no one else’s and the only person you should be in competition with is yourself. Wise words that I should heed sometimes as well. Not sit on my phone after 3 glasses of wine being miserable that other people have lost more weight in the same time. We all tell lies about our bodies in one way or another, we only show what we want other people to see.

So what is next?

Well, I’m not going to bore everyone with daily photos of my 6 week abs, goodness knows I was bored of my instagram feed by the end of this month.  But I am going to keep working out and striving for my goals. I am also speaking to some women who have inspired me over this past month to talk about what keeps them going, how they’ve felt about their post-birth bodies.

A Trifle Unhealthy

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As the title suggests, I have been a trifle unhealthy of late. I am not proud of it. Personally, I blame the fact I have been using snacks to placate the children on trips and outings during the holidays and therefore chowing down on them myself. Although really it is all my own fault.

I don’t actually feel guilty about this because a. that creates a bad relationship with food and b. I simply refuse to look at instagram and therefore cannot see all those rainbow bowls of fruit and vegetables which sometimes make me feel inadequate. I love bread. There I’ve said it.

So, to celebrate this I am giving you my vegan trifle recipe that I made for my daughter’s first birthday. I admit, I cheated by buying instant jelly and pre-made custard* so it wasn’t really that complicated but I needed uncomplicated. We had a house guest the night before when I tasked myself with preparing a triple layer, sugar-free, vegan vanilla cake that all went tits up when I didn’t clasp the cake tin together properly and one layer leaked all over the freshly cleaned oven. I wasn’t the one who cleaned the oven so decided to let the other layer bake. My husband was less impressed with burnt on cake mix at the bottom of the oven. However, it all turned out for the best.

This trifle brings together a number of recipes from other sources including the vanilla cake recipe on the Vegan Society, custard from The Good House Keeping cook book**

Ingredients:

For the sponge layer:

100g self raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

50g sugar (or enough agave to make it sweet if not using sugar).

60ml vegetable oil

160ml cold water

1tsp vanilla essence

For the Jelly layer:

1 sachet of vegan jelly

A handful each of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

For the custard layer:

Either vegan pre-made custard such as Alpro or:

2tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 tbsp cornflour

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

300 ml soya milk (use vanilla if you want)

1 x banana***

For the cream layer:

1 x carton of coconut cream. You could use the tinned coconut milk too. Pop two in the fridge the night before to ensure good separation and then spoon out only the hard cream at the top. I just bought a carton of solely the hard cream.

1 good squirt of agave

sprinkles

Method:

  1. Following the instructions to make a vanilla sponge, pre-heat your oven to 375 /gas mark 5. Mix all the ingredients together  in a bowl.
  2. Depending on size preference either spoon the mixture into a yorkshire pudding tray to make 4 discs or into a cupcake tray. Make sure you grease the bottom with oil or non-dairy butter before hand, even if it is non-stick. Bake for approx 15 minutes or until your knife/skewer pokes into the middle and comes out clean.
  3. While the sponge is cooking, prepare your custard. Mix the cornflour and sugar together with a little (put in by the teaspoon) milk until a smooth paste is achieved.
  4. In a non-stick pan heat the milk until boiling and then add the cornflour mixture. You must stir all the time from this point. Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes where a custard consistency should have formed.
  5. Put the custard into a jug or bowl. Allow to cool a little and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Once your sponge has fully cooled you can start assembly and jelly making. Place the sponge layer at the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle your fruit over the top.
  7. Prepare your jelly grains according to the packet. Normally this involves stirring water into the grains on the hob for 5 minutes. Once ready and before it has cooled, pour over the fruit and sponge. Place in the fridge to set.
  8. Once the jelly and custard has set, pour the custard layer over the jelly. Then slice the banana width way and layer on top of the custard.
  9. Put your coconut cream into a bowl with a good squirt of agave and maybe some vanilla essence if you wish. Using a hand blender (you can use a whisk but it will take longer) blend the cream until it is a creamy consistency. Pour over the banana and smooth down with the back of a spoon or a knife.
  10. Add sprinkles and refrigerate until serving.

So, after a summer of baking and eating it is time for me to start another 30 Day Shred. Follow my progress on here, Twitter or Instagram. Feel free to join in too. I’ll be tracking how I physically look rather than my weight because I can be the same weight and widely differing dress sizes. This is about confidence, health and completing the challenge.

* I have managed to make custard before from the Good House Keeping recipe and it turned out great.

**A note on this cook book belonging in my collection. It was a christmas present from my step-Grandparents one year. I think I may have been 14 years old. I was neither in the least bit interested in housekeeping or cooking and thought it was black humour on the part of my grandmother. My mum assured me it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have been so ungrateful as to laugh aloud at such an expensive and thoughtful gift. Given that my grandmother had a wicked sense of humour and often took the mick out of my parents, I still feel it was a joke present given to a teenager who could burn a pan of water. I shall treasure this book forever.

*** I have no idea if banana belongs in a trifle. I had a long drawn out discussion about this with a friend before the making of said trifle. However, I believe that bananas and custard belong together like tea and cake.

A confession

park fit

I have a confession to make: I hate exercise. Pretty big coming from someone whose blog is about losing the baby weight and being healthy. Although it is true, I dislike the actual doing of exercise. I have pretty much zero motivation to get my butt up and do something and I very much wish I didn’t have to. However, there are some things I hate more than doing exercise and it is these things that I think about when I am not feeling it about jumping about.

1. Never having any time to myself.

Okay, this is changing now the littlest one is getting bigger. I’m writing right now, right? The thought of an hour and a half each week where I don’t have to keep checking where the little people are, sorting them out or wandering around with a backpack of poop is more than enough to get me out of the house and into an exercise class. I love my children and bedtime is often a wonderful part of the day but once a week I feel the sheer elation of sharing that time with my husband, who single-handedly gets them to bed whilst I go jump up and down in the park. It is pretty much my favourite evening each week.

2. Not fitting into my clothes.

I live in fear that if I stop working out then my newly purchased size 10 clothes will start feeling tight on me and that fills me with enough dread to keep moving. The clothes in my wardrobe range from 8-maternity size 14. Actually, that’s a lie as the other week I chucked out all the size 8 stuff because I am a 32-year old wearing the clothes of a 21 year old. I also sent the size 14 and maternity wear to charity because I am not getting that big again. Having a moon-face does not suit me. Keeping only clothes suited to my current age and body shape keeps me going to fit into those clothes.

3. Having arms that keep waving after I have stopped.

I am getting guns. Badass guns and I want to keep them. I don’t want to be stick thin, I couldn’t care less about between-thigh space. I want to be healthy. I want to be able to backwards superman lift my 1 year old over and chuck her upside down; not feel like she is superglued to my back because of some little used, flappy muscles.

4. Not being able to eat cake.

I love cake. With the cream and the sugar and all its fatty calorie goodness. I don’t want to gorge on it. Well, I do but I won’t. I just want to have a slice of it now and again knowing that its not going to become an extra layer to the belly. I don’t want to spend my life on a diet, counting calories, watching what I eat. I know I eat well and eat lots. I just want to enjoy food without a bad relationship with it. To do that, I need to exercise. If I wanted to be thin, I would do some daft starvation diet. I want to be strong so I work out.

 5. Giving Up

It’s kind of easy to put off doing an exercise DVD or give up half way through because it is hard and makes you sweaty. I now go to Park Fit at our local park and make friends with other mums who also want get strong and healthy. It’s great, we keep each other motivated. When there is a new person who is struggling then they get encouraged along to finish. It’s too easy to give up on your own. Go for a run, feel your lungs are going to break out of your chest and quit is something I’ve been known to do before. I can’t quit in class, everyone is watching. When the teacher does a particularly difficult circuit she tells us we’ll thank her in the end and I honestly do. I have guns.

And so every time I think I simply cannot be bothered or do not have it in me to get off my butt and do something, I think of all the reasons I love what exercise does, the way my body has been changing, that I can run faster, lift heavier and do more.