Monday, 29 May 2017

Choosing clothes after losing weight

Last year I lost 3 stone in weight (42lbs).  It took me the whole year to lose it by following a simple 'easy less and move more' approach and I plan to lose another 3 stone, which would make a whopping 84lb loss altogether.

One of the unexpected pleasures from losing weight has been shopping for clothes.

When I was at my biggest I was a size 22, pushing a 24 if I'm honest, and having to choose clothes was excruciating.  I hated trying things on, they usually didn't fit or didn't suit me, but if I could get into them I'd buy them purely because it was a relief to find something, anything, that fitted me.

At size 18 there are a lot more options, but it's also more fun to try things on.  I don't need to shop at specialist shops anymore, and the pleasure in finding clothes in a regular shop still hasn't lost it's appeal.

I spend most of my time in jeans and trousers, but if we get a summer this year I want to stay cool without getting my legs out (not my best asset) so the answer has to be the summer maxi dress.
I love this Joe Brown's slightly retro style dress. It's cotton so would be lovely and cool to wear, and what a great colour. Would be perfect for a summer BBQ, weather permitting of course. 

Wrap front jersey maxi dress

I love a monochrome dress, and this one has my name all over it.  I like this wrap over bodice and the stretch jersey fabric would pack easily into a suitcase.  What's not to love?
Pink floral maxi dress
I love a hot pink, don't you? I never used to wear it but now I have several pink items in my wardrobe.  This floral layer dress has the most flattering bodice and would be very easy to wear - I think it'll be coming with me on holiday this year, and it won't break the bank (I had to look twice at the price).

Ironically, all of these maxi-dresses are available up to a size 32 which would have made clothes shopping a whole lot easier if I'd known!

How do you keep cool in summer?  What are your essential summer items?

This is a collaboration post with JD Williams, words and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Making slow progress in the garden

The curved border

Canes for the sweet peas

Sweet peas


Alice watching me in the garden

Making progress in the garden

Well, since my last post about the garden I've kept to my word and done 20-30 minutes gardening a day.  It's about the right amount of time to fit in with everything else, but still have an impact on the garden.

I've tided the curved border, and cleared out quite a few of the hellebores - they had taken over the whole border!  I've planted three lupins, plus some irises and a couple of other plants (the names of them escape me at the moment) but it's looking much better.  I also made a space to plant out the sweet peas and put some supporting canes in place.  I'm hoping we'll have a really good show of sweet peas this summer.

It's at times like this I miss my dad, who was a very good gardener.  He would have had a look around the garden and tell me what I should be doing,and give me some handy tips.  So I'm very excited that later this week I'm going to be talking to Katie Rushworth* who is one of the gardening experts on Love Your Garden (along with Alan Titchmarsh) and she's going to be giving me some much needed advice about my garden.  I can't wait!

What's the best gardening advice you've ever had?

Jean x 

*In collaboration with Tesco

Forgive the quality of the photos but they're from my phone, I still haven't bought a decent camera.  I have the money saved but can't bear to part with it!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

5 ways to keep depression at bay using natural methods

5 ways to keep depression at bay using natural methods

For #mentalhealthawareness week I thought I'd share some thoughts on how I have dealt with my own experience of depression, which I've written about before.  I took anti-depressants for several years without a break, but taking them over a long period of time isn't ideal for most people, and I wanted to see what else I could do to improve my mental health.

Before making any changes to prescribed medication I recommend speaking to your GP first.   I spoke to my GP who suggested weaning myself off them slowly, and introducing the new natural methods at the same time. I did a lot of reading on the subject before taking the plunge and when I was ready I tried out different methods for preventing depressive episodes.

Listed below are some of the things that have worked for me, they're all easily achievable and can be incorporated into a busy lifestyle without too much effort.

I've been doing them for so long now that they've become habits that I don't have to think about, they're just part of my regular daily routines and I'm pretty sure it's what's prevented me having any major depressive episodes for the past 3 years.   I'm not saying they will work for everyone but I hope you find something useful here.

1.  Try herbal supplements

After being prescribed anti-depressants for years and wanting to try something else I did some research into herbal supplements, and found that St John's Wort is regularly prescribed by German GPs to patients with low levels of depression, and so I decided to give it a go.  I started off by taking one a day, and would occasionally increase the dose to two on days when I felt my mood dip or felt a bit low.  I took St. John's Wort for a couple of years without any side-effects, and they worked well for me.  

I took them for two and a half years without having any dark episodes of depression, although I didn't just take the medication - I also used some of the other natural methods listed below.   That's not to say I don't feel down occasionally, I do, but having fluctuations in mood is normal (something that's easy to overlook when you've had depression) and although I no longer feel the need to take a daily dose I keep them in the medicine cabinet for times when I'm feeling a bit down to give me little boost.

You can find more information about using St John's Wort here. They're easy to get hold of too - you can buy them in health foods shops, pharmacies and supermarkets.

2. Get out in the fresh air
This seems pretty obvious, but getting out in the fresh air is one of the best types of medicine for good mental health. Even a 15 minute walk can be enough to clear the mind and there's nothing like getting outside for a brisk walk to blow off the cobwebs.

Not only that but daylight is the best source of vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Our bodies create vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we're outdoors.

As a dog lover you know I'm going to say that the ideal answer is to get a dog because they demand to be taken out at least twice a day, in all weathers.  I do my best thinking when I'm out walking my dog Alice: it's a great time to mull things over and make decisions without the background noise that we become so accustomed to in our daily lives.

You don't even need to have a dog you can borrow one, or just get outside and walk, cycle,  go for a run, do some gardening, watch the seasons change, do anything but get out in the fresh air and get that vital boost to the emotional immune system.

Getting outside for a dog walk

3. Do something for someone else

It's always good to do something for someone else, and the reward is that warm and fuzzy feeling when we've done it.  I started volunteering for my local Royal Voluntary Service befriending service last year, and I get just as much out of it as the lovely lady I visit every week.

There are always loads of volunteering opportunities (contact your local CVS for volunteering ideas) or just do the occasional random act of kindness.

You'll reap the benefits, I promise.

4. Take a break from social media

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media. Most of the time I love it, and have been known to spend far too much time on Twitter, Facebook and (my favourite) Instagram.  The problem is that it's not real life, and we're only seeing a carefully edited version of people's. The continual flow of images of lives that always seem so perfect can make it a little hard to take sometimes. There's always someone who is richer, happier, thinner or better looking than us on social media, but it's not always as it seems.  Or usually isn't.

Take a break from social mediaI had a chat with a blogger friend recently whose life seems to be made up of exotic travel, glamorous parties and exciting events, but even she told me things weren't as they perfect as they appear to be, and that travelling brought its own set of problems with family logistics and strains on her relationship. It's so easy to believe everything we see, but it isn't real life and for most of us it's also unattainable.

 If it feels like it's getting too much take a short break, maybe a day or two. Or make a rule to turn all social media off by, say, 7pm every night for a week.  I stepped back from Facebook six months ago, and apart from an initial Fear Of Missing Out,  I really haven't missed it much.  And as friends and family know I'm no longer on there, they send their news by text or email or, and this is very old school, they tell me in person!  I might return to FB one day, but I'll limit the amount of time I spend on there.

5. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for keeping everything on an even keel, and I don't know about you but I don't manage well if I'm not getting a decent night's sleep on a regular basis.  Invest in a good mattress, adopt a sleep routine, turn off the telly and tablet, put your phone away and get an early night.  A bit of relaxing reading in bed is enough to make me nod off after a few minutes, but do whatever works for you.  You deserve an early night.

If you or someone you know is depressed please take the first step and speak to someone about it. Speak to a friend or family member or see your GP.  There is more information about Mental Health Awareness Week here.

What are your recommendations for keeping depression at bay?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Making plans for the garden, and a return to blogging

I've spent most of this bank holiday weekend trying to get the garden under control.  As you can see from the photos above, the garden has become a bit overgrown and neglected.  It has the bones of a good garden but for several reasons last year I hardly touched it, which has meant some borders are overrun with hellebores (and their giant leaves), nettles or weeds.  The lawn is very patchy, a vine has grown so wild it has strangled (and killed) a beautiful choisya in the main border, and a dogwood tree has grown so tall I don't even know what to do with it.  The paths and patio are covered in moss, the decking, fence and pergola were badly damaged in the recent Storm Doris and needs to be replaced, and the shed needs some repairs to the roof.  

The only thing I've done to improve the garden was to book a tree surgeon to prune the huge cherry tree in the garden.  It was much too big and meant that 75% of the garden was always in shade, making it difficult to grow some plants and causing the lawn to be patchy and full of moss.  The canopy of the tree is now much more in proportion and is letting the light back into the garden.

I'm kicking myself that I let the garden get into such a state, but last year my priorities were elsewhere and there was little time or inclination for anything else.

So, my plan is to do it in small bite size chunks.  

I'm going to try and tackle it for 30 minutes at a time.  Thirty minutes is short enough to fit into a busy weekday schedule, and long enough to tackle one job at a time.

I have a list of things that I need to do, some of them more pressing than others:
  • get the small curved shaped border thinned out, it has become overrun with hellbores;
  • plant out some favourite cottage garden flowers, such as lupins, delphiniums, foxgloves, sweet peas and dahlias;
  • clear the paths of moss and weeds
  • clean the patio
  • repair the shed roof 
  • tidy the border under the living room window, which gets full sun, and choose some suitable plants to go in
  • dig up the roots of the choisya, and replace with another shrub (possibly another choisya or perhaps a ceonothus, we had one in our last garden) 
  • plant up some tubs
  • renovate an old bench I bought, which has seen better days
  • paint the garden gate
  • replace the broken fence panel
    There are also some bigger jobs that need a bit of planning:
    • plan what to do with the damaged decking and pergola
    • get estimates for replacing it
    • repair the lawn
    • buy and install some garden lighting
    I'm already nervous about the amount of work ahead but hopefully doing it in smaller chunks will help make it more achievable.  Watch this space!

    I've enjoyed my prolonged break from blogging, but just recently I started to miss it again.  The blogging world has changed considerably since I first started 10 years ago, but even so it's still cheap therapy and an enjoyable hobby, and that's enough for me. 

    So although there won't be any international gallivanting (unfortunately!), fancy photo shoots, or award-winning blog posts, there will be the occasional ramble about parenting, gardening or life in general and the odd photo here and there. It'll be lovely to have your company again.