Intentions for May

May 4, 2018

Life / Wellbeing

May Intentions Tree stump bark

The thing about wanting to live more intentionally, mindfully, gently or slowly is that it’s a constant work in progress. For me, it’s a balance between cultivating the habits that help me feel more aligned in my day-to-day but also learning to let go of internal expectations that cause frustration and stress. So often it’s much more about a mindset rather than anything practical. My intentions this month are all about working on that mindset shift and reminding myself that it’s ok to prioritise the things that fill me up.

I’ve purposely steered away from goal-setting so far this year during the first part of my maternity leave, but inspired by Jen Carrington’s weekly letter I decided to add some goals to go along with my intentions for May. Aligning with my intentions, these are gentle goals and things that will make me happy to achieve.May Intentions red leaves tree over lake

My intentions for May

Let go of the of-do list stress – House chores, life admin, Instagram posts…all the things that “need” to be done will be there whether I stress over them or not. I’m always coming back to trying to accept the fact that I can’t do ALL of the things and if I don’t prioritise the stuff that fills me up and feels good then I’ll never find time for it.

Practice presence – It might not always be the easiest thing but I know I’m always happier on the days I spent living a little more in the moment and not with half a mind on that aforementioned to-do list.

Make time for creativity – For their May ‘slow experiment’ the hosts of The Slow Home Podcast are doing something creative every day this month, with the point being that it’s about enjoying the process rather than creating something to share. This week’s episode made me want to crack out my sewing machine and material box, but I think I’ll have to find something that fits in a bit better with the baby.

More reading (less scrolling) – I recently joined our lovely local library. I would like to use some of that time I’m spending stuck underneath a feeding baby to slowly but surely make it through a paperback!

My goals for May

Write my birth story –  I’m heading into the sixth month since Casper arrived and I’d love to write up the story of how he joined us in the world in time for his half-birthday.

Make a start on a new project – My friend Franky and I have been hatching plans to launch a new creative project together (you can probably guess what!). This month I’d like to flesh out our plans and set a schedule for launch.

Back up and print some photos – Always a job I say I’ll stay on top of but it gets out of hand so quickly! I’d be heartbroken if I lost all the baby snaps so it’s definitely time to back up those memories.

Plan and book our holidays – Over the years we’ve been pretty ‘last minute’ when it comes to booking time away. It’s always worked out fine for us but I’m certain that now we’ve got a baby in the mix we can’t really continue with such a laid-back attitude. We’d like to get away for a mini-break soon and plan a longer trip in the summer using the remainder of my husband’s generous paternity leave.

Pump it up! – I’m yet to pump a drop of milk or try Casper on a bottle. While this has been fine for us so far it would definitely be nice to let Dad do the odd feed here and there!

Do you have any goals or intentions for this month? I’d love to hear about them. Let me know on Instagram and use #MyIntentionalYear for any posts.

Embracing The Fourth Trimester

March 22, 2018

Pregnancy + Parenting / Wellbeing

Maternity Photography, Floaty, feminine, baby bump

Early in March my baby turned three months old, this means I have now come to the end of my ‘fourth trimester’ – the last stage of pregnancy. The fourth trimester is a phrase coined to acknowledge the significance of the first twelve weeks after birth for both mother and baby. There’s plenty to read online about a baby’s development in the early months and how certain things may help ease their transition into life outside the womb. However, that time after birth is also a period of great change for a woman and embracing the concept of a fourth trimester can help us connect with the idea that birth is not quite the end of our pregnancy journey.

While I was pregnant, I set the intention to really let these first few months be a time for recovery and adjustment. To go slowly and not to put pressure on myself (or my body) to do or achieve too much. For me, this has meant deciding not to worry, or even think about certain things during this fourth trimester. It hasn’t been a time for routines, to-do lists or getting back to pre-baby shape; but for bonding with my baby and gently adapting to a new way of life.

Maternity Photography, Maternity Photography, Floaty, feminine, baby bump Maternity Photography, Floaty, feminine, baby bump

This is not to say that embracing the fourth trimester has meant new parenthood has been easy. I’ve had days when I’ve been blue, felt exasperated and overwhelmed, have fought with my partner and cried over the tiniest things…basically, I’ve been as exhausted and hormonal as any other new mamma. Surrender is the word which has accompanied this time. I’ve done my best to surrender to the extreme tiredness, the three-nappy-changes, being covered in puke and screamed at. “This too shall pass”…and all too quickly. Surrendering to the tough moments may not make them any easier but it has definitely helped manage my wellbeing and my headspace.

Now I’m three months postpartum I’m not planning on changing things suddenly. I’m not about to go on a diet, become obsessed with getting into a routine or returning to starting an exercise regime. To see the three-month mark as some sort of end point, I feel, would somewhat defeat the point of a gentle transition period. This is only the beginning of this parenthood journey and I know the adjusting and adapting is now pretty much a constant, life-long process.

I do believe embracing the forth trimester has helped see me through the crazy newborn haze and I would encourage any pregnant women or new mammas to do the same. It’s been so important to honour the final stage of pregnancy.

Images by the brilliant Kasia Kiliszek (www.kasiakiliszek.co.uk) shot for an upcoming story on thisiswomb.com.

Read on… Me & My Bump: Body Confidence In Pregnancy

The 52 Project: January 2017

February 4, 2018

Pregnancy + Parenting

52 project one month baby and daddy A portrait of my baby every week for a year.

I definitely day dreamed about joining in with The 52 Project way before Casper was a twinkle in my eye! I discovered the photography project back in the day through Bleubird Vintage blog and James’s gorgeous portraits of her kids. I’ve always enjoyed watching others bloggers document their little ones growing week by week. I’ll admit that I’m pretty excited to join in with a blog series that has contributed to a fair amount of broodiness over the years!

52 project one month baby and daddy Week one // Our little squidge in Daddy’s arms

52 project one month baby on daddyWeek two // Those eyes. Sometimes they are the deepest blue and sometimes grey. At times like in this photo they make him look quite solemn. They always make my heart burst.

52 project one month babyWeek three // Our baby seems to live in a cosy cloud of grey and white. It’s all very calming and angelic…and super handy for hiding at those milky stains.

52 project one month baby on sheepskin rugWeek four // Suddenly so awake and engaged. I can tell we’re gonna have fun this boy and I!

Are you taking part in the 52 Project this year? Let me know so I can follow along.

My Intentional Year: A Gentle January

January 27, 2018

Wellbeing

A Gentle January blog title

In my last post I shared that I’ve not made any resolutions this New Year, instead of focusing on plans and goals I’d like 2018 to be the year for being more mindful and intentional. Rather than think about what I want to achieve each month, when I take some time to set my intentions for the coming few weeks I’ll be thinking about how I want things to feel and what mindset I want to cultivate as I navigate through my days. To help guide me I’m choosing a word for the month that encapsulates these feelings.

This month, I knew that more than anything I wanted to prioritise going slowly, taking things easy and being kind to myself and my family as we adjust our new lives together. So my guiding word for January has been gentle. Although you’d hope a new mum would know not to put too much pressure on herself I’m afraid it’s all too easy to let those nagging, negative thoughts creep in. When overwhelmed by tiredness – thinking I should be doing better or achieving more, it’s been helpful to come back to the idea of gentle and g e n t l y reassess how I’m approaching or feeling about a moment or situation.

bunch of gypsophila baby's breath lace ribbon handsbunch of gypsophila baby's breath lace ribbon

New baby aside, I think we all need a reminder, especially at this time of year, to approach things in life more gently. You’d think that after a month dedicated to spreading joy and cheer it wouldn’t be so difficult, but it seems as though after the excess of the festive season, January brings about a collective guilt trip. Dry January, Vegan January, a plastic-free month – as worthwhile as these lifestyle changes may be, I can’t help but feel that they still come from a place of beating ourselves up!

Last week’s Blue Monday may be mainly there to give marketers something to Tweet about during a slow season, but there certainly seems to be more people suffering from the blues during January. Even us ardent winter-lovers are searching for signs of spring! When things seem a little bleak ‘gentle’ seems to be a good solution. Gentle doesn’t tell you to “cheer up” or “try harder”; Gentle instead speaks of not being to hard on yourself and of sitting with those uncomfortable feelings knowing they will pass.

And yes, I know there’s only a few days left of January, but maybe, as we come to the end of this long month, it’s the perfect time to have a little check in. And if your 2018 hasn’t got off to the best start I hope you can choose to be gentle with yourself.

Join the conversation on Instagram using the hashtag #myintentionalyear to share your gentle moments this month.

My Intentional Year

January 8, 2018

Wellbeing

My Intentional Year

It’s that time of year for reflecting on the past twelve months and making plans for the next. Although I love that fresh start, clean slate feeling that January brings, it seems these days, we’re mostly in agreement that a ‘new year new me’ mentality is not a sustainable way of bringing about real change. Read more, eat well, buy better, declutter, write more, exercise – whatever your list looks like, a generic and vague set of life ‘improvements’ only serves to become something to beat ourselves up about come the end of a long winter. That’s why this new year, I’m choosing to focus on intentions rather than outcomes or achievements.

If there are goals, dreams or habit-shifts you’d like to see come about in 2018, then by all means, lay them out and take steps to work towards them. However, I think it’s important not to get caught up in the big picture and be sure to focus on what is needed for this particular season, month or moment of your life.

This is especially apparent for me right now as I start the year as a new mum with a one-month-old baby. I have no idea what the next couple of weeks will look like or demand from me, let alone the next few months or rest of the year. That said, although I might not know what to expect from our day-to-day, I do have an idea of how I’d like to navigate our new lives together.I want to prioritise quality time and connection. I would like to be present in the moment as much as possible; to remember all the fleeting little details and find meaningful ways to document them. I want to be mindful of my emotions and ride out the tougher times without spiralling into negativity and becoming overwhelmed.

dried hydrangea petals in hands dried hydrangea petals

I know that when I’m living more intentionally I’m calmer and more content. Not mindlessly scrolling on my phone; knowing my limitations and not trying to do everything at once, taking time for reflection, meditation and mindfulness – the actions that help me feel aligned may well look different now my priorities have changed but by keeping intentionality at the forefront I hope to be able to bring about that same sense of calm.

I’m starting my intentional year by deliberately taking January gently and slowly. If you’re not feeling the New Year buzz (or maybe you’ve already lost it) then I recommend emerging into 2018 gradually, without putting pressure on yourself this month. I’ll be publishing a post later this week on having a gentle January.

My plan intention is to share my journey into a more intentional year here on the blog and over on Instagram using the hashtag #MyIntentionalYear. I’d love it if you would like to join in with the tag to share your own moments of intentional living this year.

How are you feeling about the new year? My friends online seemed to fall into two camps –  those who are raring to go and those who would rather ease themselves gently into the new year.

The Babe With The Power

January 7, 2018

Pregnancy + Parenting

New Born photography baby boy

Casper Bowie Swift, our baby boy, made his grand entrance into the world a month ago on December the sixth at 4.06 in the afternoon, weighing in at 6lb 6.

He was born in water and delivered at the wonderful midwife-led centre in Bristol, Cossham Hospital. I’ll save my birth story for another time, but the experience was everything I could have hoped for – natural, intimate, intense but also very calm.

With a due date of the twelfth, we had spent much of the last nine months worrying that our baby’s birthday would be very near or even on Christmas Day. I joke about it, but I honestly would not have believed any child of mine would be early. Anyhow, at 39 weeks he was good and ready to join us Earth-side, in plenty of time to be completely oblivious to our quiet Christmas Day celebrations a few weeks later as a new family of three.

A month in and he’s already changed so much. Our diddy delicate little newborn is transforming before our eyes as he grows. His kicks are getting strong and those little headbutts he throws hurt!! I must have already kissed that head over a thousand times and have taken hundreds of photos. I want to remember all the little details of this first stage; his little hand gestures that seem to convey so much expression; the manic wild thing he becomes when he’s ready to feed; the sweet satisfied coos and sighs; the way he stares with his old-soul eyes, taking in the new world around him.New Born photography baby boy

New born photography baby boy

The first month of parenthood has been beautiful, raw and humbling. I’ve quickly surrendered to being woken after 45 minutes sleep, being covered in bodily fluid and having to do most things one handed. There’s been tougher times and tears but the magical moments have far outweighed the overwhelming ones.

I’m already bursting with love and pride for this little person I’m only just getting to know. As we pack away his first newborn outfits the feelings are bittersweet, I can’t believe how quickly this first month together has flown by but I’m so excited to see him grow and see my little Starman’s personality emerge.

Taking Stock: The end of the third trimester at the begining of December

December 5, 2017

Pregnancy + Parenting / Writing

Taking Stock December

Back with Blogmas day five. I maaay have cheated a little and backdated the last couple of post to catch up but hey, done is better than perfect and all that.

For today’s post, I’ve taken inspiration from my friend Franky who recently shared a Taking Stock post on her blog Love Audrey. I believe the original prompt comes via meetmeatmikes.com. I thought it was a lovely way to have a little catch-up and capture a snapshot of this moment in time. Of course for me right now that means all things nesting, christmassy and waiting for the arrival of baby swift.

Here’s what I’m…

Making // A birth playlist. Going for mellow, chilled out folky albums and some favourite soundtracks. What did you have on yours?
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Cooking // Hearty dishes batch cooked and frozen for eating during those postpartum days, although our tiny freezer is now full!
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Drinking // Raspberry leaf tea as I’ve heard it helps to strengthen the uterus wall! Might as well give these things a go eh?
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Reading // ‘The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother‘ and rereading Northern Lights for some cosy non-pregnancy related escapism.
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Trawling // Online for a unisex baby sleep sack which isn’t overly cutesy and not too pricey. Went for this one, our baby’s wardrobe features so much grey!
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Wanting // To sleep through the night, pregnancy insomnia is still going strong. And, yes I know, sleep is soon to be a thing of the past anyhow.
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Looking // Forward to this new chapter of life.
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Deciding // To join Me & Orla’s new ‘Gloom & Grow’ course. Even though I know I’m not be able to follow along in the next few weeks.
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Wishing // My tax return could do itself.
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Enjoying // Stocking our cupboards with Christmassy treats.
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Waiting // For any signs of labour. Could be tomorrow, could be another three weeks – it’s a funny time not knowing when it will happen.
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Liking // Getting friends and family to place their bets on when the baby will arrive. You can add your guess to my Instagram post here.
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Wondering // Who’s in there?!
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Loving // Our new La Redoute rug and leather vintage armchair – upping the cosiness of our living room ten-fold.
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Pondering // On the culture of ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ and how to achieve a balanced gender-neutral approach without going OTT and driving myself mad.
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Listening // To our Hypno-birthing relaxation track and birth affirmations.
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Considering // What to cook for a Christmas for two. We’ll be at home with a newborn so I know it has to be easy and simple but still…it’s Christmas!
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Buying // Oh so much – even trying to keep things minimal this baby-prep requires a whole lot of stuff!
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Watching // The OA on Netflix finally.
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Hoping // That I get to enjoy a little while longer on maternity leave before the baby arrives, but also that they are here before Christmas…asking for too much?!
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Marvelling // Constantly at just how chilly our house gets!
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Cringing // At the idea that people are going to hear me on Lucy’s What She Said podcast – but honoured to be interviewed!
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Needing // The last couple of items for the hospital bag – big black knickers and nipple cream…TMI?
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Smelling // That real Christmas tree smell!
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Wearing // Stretchy trousers, my new Mere Souer tee and a big cosy cardie.
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Noticing // Little feet in my ribs and baby hiccups almost everyday.
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Knowing // Life is about to change forever.
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Trouble-shooting // Our central heating.
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Thinking // About everything and everyone I’m grateful for. Especially such a wonderfully supportive husband, who is taking his role of birthing partner very seriously.
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Admiring // Everything in the gorgeous new collection from A Woodland Gathering.
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Bookmarking // Instagram posts from amazing, inspiring mammas. I love the way the IG community shares their struggles along with the joy and I’m saving posts I know I can return to for a boost of support and solidarity when needed.
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Opening // Chocolate that I was saving for Christmas.
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Closing // Up shop. After just over a year of being self-employed I’m taking stock and taking a break as I start maternity leave. It’s scary and exciting!
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Feeling // Full of energy on some days and all tuckered-out on others.
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Dreaming // About birth a lot, some are amazing empowering dreams, some straight-up nightmares.
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Hearing // That husband of mine learning to play Christmas songs on his ukulele.
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Celebrating // Good friends getting married and a fair few baby showers too.
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Embracing // Nesting and resting on repeat!

My Winter Playlist

December 3, 2017

Music + Playlists

It’s all a bit “here’s one I made earlier” for Blogmas post day three. This is a playlist I return to every year around this time. A playlist of songs that aren’t quite Chrismassy but seem to evoke the seasonal spirit.

It’s perfect if you’re feeling festive but you have already had your fill of Mariah…maybe you’re a Grinchy Christmas music hater, or maybe you just love folky types singing about winter – either way, this one’s for you!

Winter Winds: Track List

Kate Bush – Army Dreamers
Antony and the Johnsons – For Today I am A Boy
Mumford & Sons – Winter Winds
Laura Marling – Goodbye England Covered In Snow
Martin Grech – Push
The Staves – Winter Trees
Joni Mitchell – River
Matthew and the Atlas – Come Out Of The Woods
Rufus Wainwright – Hallelujah

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Check out my other playlists and recommendations in the Music + Playlists series.

Pregnancy Massage with Relax Bristol

December 2, 2017

Pregnancy + Parenting / Wellbeing

Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage Table

In collaboration with Relax Bristol.

Trying out Relax Bristol’s pregnancy massage could not have come at a better time…As I headed into the third trimester those aches and pains associated with pregnancy that you hear about, really began to kick in. I had to quickly make a few lifestyle changes, choosing the bus or train where I would have usually rushed about on foot and I had to start leaving my computer at home instead of lugging around for meetings and later pay the price physically. Despite doing my best to make sensible decisions not to push myself I’d often wake up feeling achy and sore after a bad night’s sleep with my hips, back, shoulders and neck reminding me that they’re baring the strain of growing a little human.

A local independent company, Relax Bristol offer massage treatments in your own home. With customers being able to book a massage treatment at a time and date that suits them, including evenings and weekends. Alongside pregnancy massage, Relax Bristol’s therapists can provide a whole range of therapies including Thai massage, reflexology, sports massage and bespoke treatments. The online booking process is super simple and with a just few clicks, you’ll have a confirmation that an experienced massage therapist will arrive at your preferred time, ready with their equipment and oil to effectively transform your living room into a home spa. You can even book a massage for the same day!

I decided to book my treatment for the Friday before we headed off on our babymoon. My thinking was it would be a lovely way to begin a week dedicated to relaxing, self-care and quality time unwinding with my husband. It turned out that Friday would also happen to be the end of a very stressful week. After days of battling a broken computer and feeling like I was falling behind on my workload, let’s just say I was *tense*! Certainly not the productive week I’d planned in order to feel good about taking a week off. Although I was tempted to cancel my appointment and use every last moment to play catch up, I’m sure glad I didn’t as, of course, it was exactly what I needed to release the tension and help let the stress go.

Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage Candles at homeDining room Relax Bristol Pregnancy Massage

Relax Bristol had included suggestions for how to prepare myself and my space for receiving a treatment at home and I decided to fully embrace the idea of creating a spa-like environment. I lit candles, burnt my favourite essential oil and chose some relaxing background music. When my therapist Olga arrived right on time, she effortlessly set up her table, finishing my dining room’s transformation into a treatment room.

Before she began Olga was sure to check on the details of my pregnancy, confirming how many weeks along I was and if I’d experienced any particular issues that she should be aware of and checked if I was happy for her to massage my bump – understandably, not all pregnant ladies like having their tummies touched. Olga, and the other Relax Bristol therapists that can be booked for pregnancy massage, have gone through training to provide a treatment that is specifically comfortable and safe for pregnant women. The treatment felt mostly quite similar to other massages I’ve had before, apart from having to lie on my side opposed to my front to allow Olga to work on my back. I was instructed to lay on my left side as this improves circulation and blood flow to the placenta and a cushion was placed under my bump for extra comfort.

As I closed my eyes and relaxed into receiving the massage, I can’t quite explain how wonderful it felt to not only have the tension of the week melt away but also have all this attention given to my aching body that has been working so hard and going through the most intense period of change. Instead of letting my mind wander whilst receiving my massage, I chose to focus on my body and cultivate some internal loving kindness – something I’ve learned through my meditation practice. I extended gratitude to the part of my body being worked on and consciously released any tension I was holding.

I felt so relaxed after the hour-long treatment and having a therapist come to my home meant that I could fully enjoy that post-massage feeling. It really was the perfect way to let go of all that stress ahead of our babymoon week away. I would urge any fellow pregnant ladies to think about booking a massage for themselves or better yet – wouldn’t it make a perfect baby shower or Christmas gift for a mum-to-be friend?!

If you’re local you can book with Relax Bristol here: www.relaxbristol.co.uk and readers of my blog can receive 10% off any treatment over 60 minutes throughout December using the code SNOWFLAKE.

Relax Bristol kindly offered me this complimentary pregnancy massage, but all opinions are my own. 

Blogmas… am I mad?

December 1, 2017

Writing

Well probably, I appreciate that attempting to make any sort of commitment is a bit mental when I have a baby due on the 12th of the month. However, hear me out…

Now I’m all done with client work and on maternity leave, I actually have quite a lot of free time while I’m playing the waiting game. The urge to nest has got me hell bent on tiding the house from top to toe, which is great but a little tiring so it’s actually a good idea to have something to focus on aside from cleaning out cupboards.

I also have a fair few blog posts that, aside from a few tweaks, are pretty much ready to go. So I’m hoping that an attempt at Blogmas will mean I hit publish on those posts that have been languishing in my drafts folder for far too long. Plus, as I’m such a sporadic blogger I have so much that I’ve been meaning to share that I’m definitely not going to run dry on content ideas.

That said, I’m aware it’s highly unlikely that I’ll manage to get *so* ahead with scheduled posts that I’ll post every day up until Christmas so I’m gonna go for something more manageable… twelve days of Blogmas here we go!

Are any of you doing Blogmas or Vlogmas? Do let me know and I’ll be sure to follow along. Also, I’d love to know if there’s anything you’d like me to blog about.

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