Five things to do when stuck on a train

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This morning I made a concerted effort to get out of the house that little bit earlier with the intention of getting into the office that little bit earlier. Because I know it’s going to be one of “those” crazy days. Not only will I need to catch up with what I’ve missed in the office from my two non work days last week, but I have a course first thing in the morning. Oh, and I wanted to go to the gym and at some point squeeze in some lunch. So yes, it’s definitely going to be one of “those” days. The plan was to sneak in early, get everything set up and maybe check a few emails before my course. But right now, at the time that I should be pretty much sauntering into the office, I am still stuck on my train. Because it seems that train network too is just having one of “those” days. So if I have to be stuck on here I want to use that time productively, and with that comes a list of five things to do when stuck on a train!

1. Catch up with your emails and texts. I don’t know what it is, but I pretty much always have an email or text that I’ve forgotten to go back to. So all this extra “free” time being held captive on a train is a great time to catch up with them.

2. Blog. Well, I figured I may as well blog about this unforeseen, everyday situation. But you could also use this time to check your stats or catch up with your favourite blogs.

3. Sort out your photos. Urgh. The limited memory on my iphone is the bain of my life these days. I forever have an alert reminding me that I have just about no memory left, and I know that if I just sorted out some of my photos I could fix this. But I just never seem to get round to it. Since I’m stuck on a train I suppose I could go through them *sigh*.

4. Have your breakfast (I would if I had it with me), do your make up (I don’t but plenty of others do!), paint your nails (if you’re feeling ballsy enough) or whatever it is that you would usually do first thing when you get in the office that you could do on a train. If you’re feeling gutsy or pissed off enough you could claw back some of the precious time that the train company has stolen off you.

5. Catch up with the news. I love reading the daily mail online. At one point I was even a bit addicted to catching up with its trashy news reports. I can’t help it but I love it. I definitely have a good excuse to read it now, what else am I going to do once I’ve finished actions 1 – 4?!

So there you have it, five things to keep you occupied when your local train provider decides to hold you hostage. At least today we have decent air con, aren’t packed in like sardines and have 3G – it’s practically first class, NOT.

photo credit: psiaki via photopin cc

Five things to do when baby sleeps

Number 5 Brick

Since I went back to work three weeks ago it feels like I have literally had no free time. Because no sooner do I get home from work does the bath and bedtime routine begin, swiftly followed by dinner and unfortunately at the moment, more work. So whatever minuscule “free” time I previously had, has been completely obliterated. But whilst I am ridiculously tired most of the time, I am also very happy. So this isn’t a complaint, more of an explanation as to why my blogging presence has been so lacklustre of late. With that in mind, I have decided to start of a whole new series of short blog posts focused around “five things/reasons/tips/tricks” that will allow me to still blog with the very little time I have available at the moment.

So while I write this on my day off sitting on the sofa with the little lady snoozing on me, I find the inspiration for my first post in the series; five things to do when baby sleeps!

1. Paint your nails. A difficult feat for any parent, especially a new one. It must be timed precisely. Ideally at the start of what you anticipate to be a long nap. A bottle of seche vite, or equally super duper I can’t believe its dry already top coat is essential. As are your wits about you. Not to be attempted by the faint hearted.

2. Have a brew, and chuck a biscuit in while you’re at it. Because there’s nothing more annoying than the million and one cups of half or even a quarter drunk cups of lukewarm tea that you’ve consumed since becoming a parent. Theres always something standing in between you and your cuppa these days; a nappy, the washing, lunch.. So sit down and take a load off. Because you’re worth it.

3. Online RETAIL, I repeat, that’s retail, not food shopping. This time is not about maintaining the household, however tempting it may be, it’s about you! I must admit, I seem to do more browsing than actual shopping these days, but it’s almost as fun putting things into your basket before you close the tab. I mean, I actually impressed myself the other day when I recalled the exact shop that someone in the office had brought their dress from. I spend a lot of time online. Don’t judge me.

4. Go to the toilet. I’m not usually one to talk about my toilet habits, but after being reduced to sometimes going to the toilet whilst the little lady is in her bath makes me feel like this is worthy of a place on the top five things list. You know the saying that you don’t know what it’s got till it’s gone? Well I didn’t realise that applied to going to the toilet on your own until I became a parent.

5. Blog, read a blog, read a book, watch tv… Ok, so this ones a bit of a catch all, but whatever your thing is, do it. For me its blogging and reading blogs. Take some time out to catch up with whatever it is you like to do. Even if it’s just for five minutes. You’ll instantly feel a little bit more connected to the world and in a different head space.

And that’s about it folks! Because no sooner will you have you finished going to the toilet whilst your nails dry, will your little bundle of joy be conveniently rousing from their slumber. I don’t know how they do it, but their timing is always scarily impeccable. So heed my words people and be quick about it, because there is no time for dawdling!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/5122442725/”>Leo Reynolds</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Old receipes, bank holidays and Morrisons

When Morrisons and Brit Mums selected me to be a Morrisons Mum over the May bank holiday weekend I was pretty ecstatic. I never seem to be one of the people who gets picked to do things like this, I’m usually one of the people observing others on the sidelines with a slight tinge of envy. So no sooner had the working week come to a close on Friday, had I raced down to Morrisons on Saturday morning. I was there for about an hour, with the little lady patiently sitting in the shopping trolley probably wondering why mummy had a slightly crazed, excited look at her face whilst we zig, zagged up and down the isles.We had been once before but had to cut our trip short and never made it past the first few isles. Since I had the luxury of time this time round, and no husband to make sure we went round in a logical (and probably sensible) way, I found myself doing a few circuits of the store. I particularly loved the presentation of the fruit, vegetables and herbs at Morrisons and found myself returning to it quite a few times during the shop!

Fresh veg

Fresh spices

Fresh herbs

When I finally conceded that we should leave, it was the little lady’s lunch time after all, we (ok, I) had managed to spend £102 (£22 over the £80 vouchers from Morrisons, whoops!). In all fairness though, it was all very, very good value because of Morrisons new lower everyday prices. I picked up some pretty amazing bargains which I like to call “mum’s star buys”, including an eight pack of coke for £2.64, a four pack of Plenty fat rolls at £2.93 and a bumper box of Twinings Everyday Teabags at £2.00 (an essential purchase, ahem) so I think its fair to say that the slight overspend was completely justified.

All in all, I managed to do a weeks worth of shopping with all the things we would usually buy, but for a fraction less than what we would usually spend which I was pretty happy with. I decided before we went into the store, that I wanted to make a bit of an event out of the bank holiday and invited some family round for Sunday dinner, and a dish that I hadn’t attempted to make in six years – beef bourguignon and potato dauphinoise. One of the best dishes I have ever made, and was too scared to attempt again after its critical acclaim many, many moons ago. The timing was right so I went for it. I got three of Morrisons best cuts of braising steak fresh from the Butchers counter for a very reasonable £6.64, a lovely bottle of red wine which was a bargain at £5.99 and a slab of Morrisons Emmental at £2.05 amongst other ingredients. To go with it I decided to make a fresh fruit salad and picked up some pineapple £0.69, strawberries £1.69, blueberries £2.00, raspberries £0.99 and mango £0.69 to go with the kiwi I already had at home. I was going to attempt to make some chocolate fondant, but my track record with them is a bit hit and miss so I decided to pick up a few at Morrisons instead for £2.50, along with a couple of Creme Brulees £2.00 and a tub of Kelly’s (straight to your thighs) Cornish clotted cream ice cream on offer at a bargain £1.99. There were six of us at dinner which meant it worked out at an unbelievable £3.24 per serving for dinner and £1.92 per serving for dessert. That’s just over £5 a meal per person!

After pretty much half the day in the kitchen, a lot of it trying to make head or tails out of my vague six year old recipes, I finally had a meal that lived up to its reputation. The beef was thick, tender and “melted in your mouth” as my husband put it, the dauphinoise the perfect accompaniment. Dessert went down a treat. The fruit was ripe and fresh and “how a fruit salad should be” according to my sister-in-law and the puddings just the right touch of sweetness after the richness of the bourguignon. The pictures I took don’t really do the meal justice (I can’t say im known for my blog photography!), but lets just say that I didn’t have any regrets about reviving one of my favourite dishes for the bank holiday weekend. Thank you Morrisons and Brit Mums for making me a #MorrisonsMum!

 Beef Bourguignon

Fruit Salad & Chocolate Fondant

 

DISCLAIMER: we were given £80 in Morrisons vouchers to spend in store on a bank holiday shop as a Morrisons Mum.

 

Five tips for returning to work after maternity leave

Maze

Two days into my return to the office and I’m in my element. But I know that it’s not like this for everyone, and with that in mind I thought I’d share how I managed my transition back to work in case it is useful for any other parents out there. I really do feel that this “transition” is massively attributable to how I’m feeling about work right now. Of course there are other elements that contribute to how you feel about work after returning from maternity leave, but I feel like the right type of transition back into the workplace can help soften the blow of returning to the office after a long period out of it. So here are my five tips for returning to work after maternity leave in a nice short list, because everyone loves a good list, especially us time pressed parents!

1. Arrange childcare as soon as you can bear to think about it. Dont leave it to the last minute, especially not a month or two before you are due to go back to work. I know you don’t want to think about leaving your child with someone else for a whole day, let alone potentially a whole week, but it makes sense to start considering your options early on. By early on I mean six months to a year before you think you may go back to work. It may sound a bit extreme, but a lot of nurseries and childminders have waiting lists, especially the good ones. You can register and put your child’s name down on waiting lists and with childminders early on without having to commit, so it makes sense to. That way you can buy yourself some time and start thinking about it more seriously closer to your return to work. We were lucky in that we have been able to arrange childcare with family nearby, but before we started exploring that as an option we considered nurseries and childminders, all of which seemed to have children booked up a year in advance. Once you make the decision about when to return to work you need some time to get your head round it, so the last thing you want just before you go back to work is the stress of ringing around and finding out that most places are full already.

2. Use KIT days if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to. Early on during my maternity leave I thought that I would try to use all my KIT days. But as time went on and it came to actually committing to using a KIT day, I actually found I was very reluctant to do so. I mean, who actually wants to go back to work when they’re on maternity leave, even if its only for a few hours. Not me. However, I realised that I did actually need to speak to HR and my managers about when and how I would return to work so I used a few to have these types of conversations. I also used one or two of them to spend a few hours going through the extraordinary number of emails that had built up in my inbox over the year. So using a KIT day doesn’t have to mean actually doing a typical days work. If your employer is happy for you to use them as you need to as I have been able to, then they are actually pretty useful in helping you get things in place for your return. Plus you get paid for them. What a great way to bump up that SMP pay!

3. Phase back your return to work if you have the option to. I have agreed with my employer a phased return over a few months, starting with a three day week, then building up to four days a week before returning to a full time five day week. I was pretty anxious and stressed about when the “right time” was to return back to work, until I realised that there would never be a “right” time to return to work. Once I thought more creatively about how I could try to have the best of both worlds and proposed a phased return to work to my manager I felt instantly more relaxed about returning to work. This way I get to still spend time with my little lady each week, I can ease myself back into working and I get paid. Winning.

4. Do a few practice runs. I may be stating the obvious here, but its a good idea to test in advance what your child is going to be like without you for a few hours or a full day. It also gives you a chance as parents to start working through any feelings and emotions you might have about leaving your child in someone elses care. From a practical perspective, you can start to get an idea about how the work day routine might work; who’s going to do pick ups and drop offs, how you’re all going to get ready and out the door in time and what things you might need to make it all work smoothly. We did a couple of practice runs the month before I went back to work, first starting with a few hours then building up to a full day. I think this really helped us all settle into our new routines gradually, but with our eyes wide open.

5. Go back on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I returned to work on the 1st of May which was a Thursday. It was purely coincidental that my first day back was a Thursday, but on reflection it actually worked out really well that my first week back was a two day week. It has given me a taster of what it is going to be like going back to work, how tired im going to be and how much more organised I need to be. Although it has been quite nice going back to work, it is a massive shock to the system, one that I’ll be much more prepared for this week because I had a sneak peek last week.

These are the five things that worked really well for me. If you are starting to think about the return to work, then I hope you find at least one or two of these useful. If you have previously done the return to work, or are preparing to return to work then I would love to hear from you with the tips that you would add to this list. I always find it really helpful to learn from others experiences, especially as a new parent!

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyberslayer/952153409/”>Cyberslayer</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Working Maman

St Pauls Catherdral

So, the first day back to work after a much anticipated few months is over…and I have to say, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that I can still hold a decent conversation, I can still have lunch with a friend without talking about all things baby, I can still walk in high heels, and I can still find my way around this wonderful city. I almost forgot how much I love the city. Theres nothing like hearing a saxophone player at Bank station in the middle of the day to make you realise how much you missed London.

But being back at work today made me feel alive again. It’s not that having my daughter hasn’t made me feel alive, because it most definitely has. But in a different way. Going to work today revived a part of me that I had forgotten about. I had got so into the groove of routine and being a parent that I forgot about the professional, working woman that is a very big part of me. As much as I needed and welcomed the 11 month break from work on maternity leave, and as much as I love and adore my little lady, I have to say, being back at work today made me feel reinvigorated. I’m very aware of the fact that im probably in some kind of honeymoon period at work. After all, at the moment I am just getting to enjoy the nicer side of work. Coffees, lunches, “catch up” meetings. It’s almost fun. In my line of work, until im assigned to a project and a client I virtually manage myself and my own time. Nice work if you can get it, I know. So right now I feel like I have the best of both worlds. But I realised today that I want the best of both worlds. I want it all. I want to be a great mummy and wife, and a successful working woman. So im going to do everything in my power to try to have it all. Of course it’ll be difficult at times, and of course it’ll be tiring. But I have a great husband, supportive family and friends and the best sister-in-law looking after our little lady, so I genuinely feel like it is a real possibility. So here goes nothing, watch this space, there’s a brand new working Maman in town!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/markspokes/6231619057/”>MARK-SPOKES.COM</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;