On 2016 and my hopes for next year

The start of the new year is often time for reflection and new year’s resolutions. An opportunity to start afresh, to assess and set new goals.

I learnt long ago that unrealistic resolutions aren’t for me. Usually centred upon vast weight loss, they were not sustainable and often made me feel miserable at a time of year where we are short on daylight and money post-Christmas, which is hard enough.

So my 2016 resolution was simple – to be kinder to myself. The last few months of 2015 were challenging. I was back to work full time from maternity leave and learning to (try) to balance work with being a mum of two. My son moved schools, our beloved cat died suddenly and we moved house three weeks before Christmas in the midst of my husband’s accountancy exams and a work trip to Edinburgh and a few days before our son’s fourth birthday. 

This maelstrom of chaos led me to skip my exercise classes and eat way more than I should so I started    2016 feeling unfit and awful. So I joined a lovely gym, bought a Fitbit and started walking on my lunch breaks wherever possible.

At the start of the year, as well as moving more I was eating less so I lost 8lbs and felt good for it. I actually found that my cravings for treats reduced, which was brilliant. 

But I ate way more than I should have on holiday in June and I never really got back to my eating less mantra. 

I love food. It’s my comfort when I’m stressed or celebrating, sad or happy. I have had a love/hate relationship with my weight and food since I was a teenager, but my comfort eating has reached new levels since becoming a mum. We get up with our children at 5.30am every single day and between work, studying, exercise and being a mum, I’m usually too tired around the edges to resist chocolate. 

But things cannot stay this way. My jeans are tight and I don’t like the way I look. I haven’t stepped on the scales for months as I know I’ll hate what I see. So, for 2017, I want to stay on track with moving more and get back on track with eating less.

As sad and embarrassed as I feel about my shape at the moment, I am proud of my fitness achievements this year. 

  • I have been to the gym (classes or swimming) between 3 and 5 times a week consistently throughout the year.
  • I have started yoga again and have mastered the plough, a crab and the crow (for a millisecond admittedly).
  • I can survive and enjoy spin class after trying it for the first time this year (I thought I was going to be sick in my first class). 
  • I have kept challenging myself to try different classes at my gym from body pump to circuits to Clubbercise so I don’t get bored.
  • I have done at least 10,000 steps a day on most days of 2016.

I have also been kinder to myself in other ways including joining a choir, reading more and taking up my long-held ambition of blogging.

So, bring it on 2017. I hope to eat less and keep moving more as well as continuing to be kind to myself as much as any mum can be.

I also had a rather awesome Christmas present – a line a day journal – which I plan to start tomorrow.

Happy New Year all! Let’s hope it’s a good one.

What are your ambitions for 2017? I’d love to know.


A jolly holiday with Mary Poppins in Cardiff

Mary Poppins was my favourite film as a child without a doubt. From Julie Andrews’s pitch perfect voice to the mixture of animation and real life actors to the wonderful score and storyline, it was a film never far from our video player (I grew up in an era of VHS). 

So when I heard that Mary Poppins was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, I snapped up tickets as quickly as I could. 

We saw it last night and from the moment the curtain lifted, the show was a delight. Colourful sets, distinctive choreography and Zizi Strallen’s perfect Poppins – as well as that brilliant score – created a fun family show.

Strallen’s vocals were spot on and she was supported by a talented cast. Highlights for me included the chimney sweepers’ fancy footwork in Step in Time and the Jolly Holiday imagination scene, which transformed the stage into bright bursts of colour.

Although it featured the most well-loved narrative of the film, it also had its own identity with new characters and songs. I particularly liked the increased focus on Mrs Banks. The Votes for Women sash was gone and replaced with a more in depth look at the pressures she felt, including a strong addition to the score, Being Mr Banks

It was a joyous show made all the more joyful for having many children in the audience. The young girl sitting behind me was singing along word for word at times clearly transfixed by the performance.

There are some further bits that add to the magic and wonder but I’d rather not spoil it for those of you who aren’t in the know. But let’s just say it’s as magical onstage as it is on screen. Bravo!

Have you seen Mary Poppins on stage? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

Mary Poppins is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 14 January 2017.

Joy and meltdowns

We have had a pretty marvellous Christmas. We’ve seen lots of lovely family and friends and it’s a time of year where we can really make the most of being surrounded by loved ones. 

As the weather’s been kind, we’ve been to some of our favourite places for walks in a mostly futile attempt to work off our overindulgence over Christmas. The kids have torn around parks and a beach and I’ve loved watching their rosy cheeks and hearing their laughter as they’ve done that. It has been a joy to have time together as a foursome.

But today was not quite so joyous. It started when we decided (unwisely) to visit Build a Bear at around lunchtime. We had visions of the children lovingly selecting their favourite bear and accessories with their Christmas money. 

My daughter selected a Frozen bear and accessories whereas my son opted for a black dragon and Batman accessories. They picked out what they wanted quickly and we joined a queue that snaked around the shop. Again, the children were pretty patient and well behaved. But it took around 40 minutes and the store was hot. 

When we reached the front of the queue at last, our daughter decided to go first and her Anna bear was filled. But then, disaster. She spotted Olaf and her mind changed. She wanted Anna no longer. But I was firm that she had to stick with her first choice, which was now assembled and waiting for cuddles.

But hell hath no fury like a toddler who gets told no. She screamed and kicked and wailed and clutched the Olaf she wanted in a vice like grip. So I, laden with bags, had to wrestle him off her and take her outside as my husband and son waited for his choice to be made and paid up.

There was no consoling her. Her tear-streaked face was bright red with fury. I tried calming her with cuddles but she wanted none of it. But I held her close and hugged her tightly.

After a few minutes, she asked to visit a different shop and there she found something that did console her – a £3 pink teddy bear. It’s barely left her clutched hands since.

Perhaps it is the presents, the lack of routine and the Christmas food – or just the fact that she is two – that led to this monumental meltdown. But I hope that she and I will be back to joyful tomorrow.

How are your Christmas holidays going? 

An alternative Christmas song

I love Christmas but have been feeling the pressure a bit lately. 

So here’s my alternative Christmas song. It should be sung to the melody of I wish it could be Christmas every day

Oh when December comes around

You start spending every pound

On gifts for your friends, your kids’ teachers and your family

It’s not what Christmas is about

You feel yourself try to shout

But your kids want a train and your to do list is insane oh yeah


Oh I’m glad that it’s not Christmas every day

Hoovering up gold glitter that’s sadly gone astray

Oh I’m glad that it’s not Christmas every day 

Let the wine come out – it’s Christmas 

Oh when you’ve Christmas cards to write

Every flipping night

And your kids are behaving worse than your elf on a shelf

There’s the house to decorate

But you’re running kind of late

‘Cos you need to make a flipping costume for the nativity

Reprise chorus

Friday nights since becoming a mum

A decade ago, Friday nights were for going out. For digging out my favourite impractical heels, spending ages preparing my hair and make up and going out with friends to enjoy a few unfashionable Malibu and cokes. In fact, it was rare for me to spend a Friday night at home.

10 years on, I am a mum of two who works full time and is considerably more tired around the edges. I can’t remember the last time I had the energy (or inclination) to have such a carefree night out. 

Tonight it struck me how much my Friday nights have changed. Most  involve going to my early evening yoga class, catching up on chores and collapsing in a heap by 10pm. 

Here’s an insight into my Friday night so far.

After putting on my loungewear and making a huge cuppa in my favourite mug, I’ve cleaned the surfaces, bleached the loos and cleaned the kitchen floor. 

I’ve written thank you cards, filed away paperwork, and put a load of washing in the dryer. I’ve given the cat his dinner and put our delivered groceries away. I have sorted through the children’s array of school and nursery Christmas crafts and displayed our favourites on the fridge. And I’ve phoned my Nanna.

Although these Fridays seem entire worlds apart, and make me realise that I really am a grown up now, I wouldn’t change it. Yes, I feel wistful when I think back to Friday nights dancing around my handbag, but life is so much richer now. I just wish I felt a little less tired along the way…

How do you feel about your Friday nights as a parent? 

Brecon Mountain Railway Santa Special – a review

Both of our children are fans of trains so we often do day trips to steam railways for our family days out. So Brecon Mountain Railway‘s Santa Specials sounded like a lovely way to visit Father Christmas.

We tried it last year and loved it so we booked again when tickets were released earlier this year.

The railway station is based at Pant Station in Merthyr and is open on selected dates throughout the year. When you visit for a Santa Special, you walk in to a station decked out in tinsel and Christmas decorations. It had us feeling festive from the outset. 

After collecting our tickets, it was time to make our way to the steam train through a walkway filled with Christmas trimmings. We were greeted by staff in festive garb and cosied in to our seats listening to Christmas music in the background.

For the Santa Specials, the journey leads you to Pontsticill Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s a journey full of gorgeous views, which the children enjoyed.

As we neared the reservoir, the carriage became abuzz with excited chatter as the children waited for their first glimpse of Father Christmas, who greeted us ringing a bell.

We alighted to head to Father Christmas’s grotto, which was decked out with Christmas lights. The adults were offered a mince pie and some mulled wine while the children were given mini train chocolates as we queued.

Then, before we knew it, it was time to see Father Christmas. Although neither of the children were quite sure, they told him what they wanted and how good they had been this year. They were thrilled with their gifts and us grown ups weren’t left out as we were presented with gifts of our own.

As we were fortunate enough to be near the front, and for it to be a sunny day, we then spent the time before the journey exploring a bit and visiting the children’s playground. I also loved taking in the gorgeous views.

30 minutes or so later, it was time for our return journey to Pant. Again, it was a journey filled with pretty landscapes to see but most of the children on the carriage were getting tired by then.

Overall, it was another memorable day out for us as a family. At £43 it wasn’t cheap, but it is a day out that will go in the bank of memories of nice things to do together in the run up to Christmas.

To my son on his fifth birthday

I am not quite sure how, but my son turned five today. Weighing 7lbs 10.5ozs, he arrived with such a knowing look on his face as he took in the world and changed our lives forever. Those five years have gone so quickly just like everyone said they would. 

At five, he is learning to read, write and swim. He loves books, colouring and tearing around with his friends. His favourite programmes are Lego Star Wars and sometimes he is cheekier than he should be. 

He is thoughtful and loyal and kind to his younger sister. At the weekend, he had pocket money for being well-behaved and he counted it out and split it between his money box and hers. We didn’t ask him to, it’s just what he did. Seeing him trying to comfort his sister or make her laugh when she is sad is one of the most heart-melting things I have ever witnessed. 

He is as stubborn as me and can while away hours writing stories and drawing his favourite things. His smile lights up his face and I could listen to his laugh all day.

So happy birthday son. You have filled our days with fun, laughter, and pride. 5 years gone in a flash.