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The best thing we can do to mark World Mental Health Day is to look after each other even more carefully. It's not easy to know what to say or do for someone who is experiencing a mental shit storm, but staying schtum and keeping our distance can leave folk feeling more isolated and crazy. After my second child I had crippling depression, anxiety and a stint at a MBU (Mother Baby Unit). Obviously, everyone is different but here are some suggestions to help you support someone who needs a friend.
Just be there
You don't need to offer up advice or conspicuously try and cheer your pal up Pointing out all the jolly marvellous things in their lives may well make them feel even worse as sufferers of depression frequently feel guilty or inadequate for not being able to 'see' the good stuff. Instead try and accept that this is shit for your friend. Look them in the eye, tell them that you are there for them and that you will get through this together.
There is nothing wrong with polishing off packets of biscuits and drinking all the wine, however good nutrition is an important part of recovery. I used to forget to eat ( very hard to believe these days). Bringing over good home cooked food or going out for a meal will help your friend feel better. Comfort food is comforting.
I am not suggesting that you plan a schedule of activities in the manner of Heidi Hi. However follow your friends lead, if she suggests going to the park, go. Other activities you may like to suggest include a feel good movie, a cuppa in a nice cafe or a rummage in a cool shop. Your friend may feel anxious about crowds or groups of people, therefore gentle activities that ease isolation are best.
Do nice things
A mental health nurse once told me that one way of reversing the cycle of depression is simply to do nice things. Therefore it may be helpful if you could do some of the boring chores that will enable your friend to do things that she/ he enjoyed before they felt so bad. Offer to take out the bins, do some laundry or tidy up. Jobs can seem very overwhelming to someone feeling unwell.
Nature and Exercise
Both of the above have been known to ease depression and anxiety but it can be difficult to get motivated and easier to stay home and feel sad. Breathe some fresh air together and suggest a walk or bike ride. Being outside and around nature can be very calming to a shouty mind.
You don't have to commit hours of time to supporting your friend. Short regular bursts of contact will make them feel supported and loved. Remember that you aren't their doctor or counsellor and point them in the right direction for professional help.
It's all gone a bit Dr. Phil here but mental health illnesses are horrible, stigmatising and debilitating. It's amazing how a small kind gesture can make a difference and I really feel that little cups of tea and outings with my girl gang helped me to recover.
I had better sign off now before I get too cheesy and start quoting the lyrics to Heal the World.
Poppy and Honesty are proud to be partners with Lobella Loves, a beautifully curated website that makes a donation to maternal mental health charities with every purchase made. Head on over to their pretty pages.
Halfway through the school hols is not the ideal time to write a blog on traveling with kids. However some of you may be fortunate enough to swoop up good deals outside of the holidays and it's always nice to hear that wanderlust doesn't have to stop after procreation. With family on opposite sides of the globe, we have traveled on 9 long haul flights to and from Australia with our little nippers. A bit battered but still here to tell the tale, I thought we'd give you a little insight into these bonkers adventures.
Plane travel is the least civilized way to travel with kids. After being confined to a germ box for numerous hours you may end up hating your children, partner and questioning all your life choices. When children are old enough to be plugged into games and movies, plane travel is so much easier. However you'll have to be an expert in fixing gadgets that have been pressed and frozen three million times. I'll put a list of survival tips below, but most importantly if you are traveling alone, you must tell the airline staff as they can provide amazing support. After 16 flight hours of breastfeeding/baby passed out at the boob bar, a sympathetic stewardess took my little one for a walk. This potentially saved me from a complete public meltdown or throwing myself out of the plane. The lovely staff will look after your kids when you need the loo and bring your food out at a different time so you can feed the nippers first and don't have to negotiate towers of trays on your lap.
Our family enjoys traveling on boats and trains. We can all move around and the journey is most definitely part of the adventure. Boats often have very questionable cabaret/clown acts which are always entertaining. Some even have cinemas and designated kids play areas. There is always the danger of a rough crossing. but the bonus of many travel sickness remedies is that they may make your child sleep all the way ! On trains, the buffet carriage is a highlight as is the fantastic treats trolley. Board games can be spread out and dare devils will enjoy crossing the wobbly bits between carriages.
We've always felt that the benefits of exploring new places and seeing loved ones far outweighs the challenges of family travel, even if we are hissing at each other and the kids learn some more bad words along the way.
Top Tips for Long Flights with Small People
1. Loo always just before boarding.
2. Games/Toys that won't end up immediately under seat (stickers, etch-a-sketch things with pens attached)
3. Change of top for yourself if you are feeding a baby on your lap.
4. Buy large kids headphones that will fit the tv jack. Also be prepared to bolster them up on cushions so that they can see the screen.
5. Millions of snacks.
6. Valium .......
Rain most certainly did not stop play at Port Eliot Festival, however those still standing on Sunday night deserved a medal for epic British spirit or at the very least a laminated certificate. At first we were all soooo cool, tipsy and glittery that it was fun to dance in the rain but then the biblical storms started and some of us stayed and some of us ran to Premier Inn which felt like a 5 star holiday resort in Barbados by comparison.
We thought that folk would stick with their mega Sipsmith bloody Marys rather than brave the swamp to the Workshop Barns, but no, you came and we had a great time at our Liberty Print Workshops. The Grown ups made fabulous sequinned Liberty Print Corsages which glistened against the mud and the kiddos made regal feather headdresses adorned with jewels, liberty prints and beads. Everyone was fantastic, confirming that you can't keep a crafty minx down and blinging accessories are part of an essential Quagmire survival kit.
Poppy and Honesty were in such great company at Port Eliot. Some of our highlights included modern calligraphy with A'Laise, poetry from Lachlan Murray Young, food from the epic Bhangra Bus and music from Son of Dave and Sister Cookie. We're already thinking about the gorgeous things we want to make with you next year and will let you know when the first wave of tickets are on sale.
Yours with damp feathers and sparkly sequins,
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I have fleeting Enid Blyton daydreams about the school holidays where my children go on wholesome adventures to catch butterflies with picnics consisting of homemade bread, jam and lemonade all wrapped up in a checkered tea-cloth. But then reality kicks in and I actually feel a bit sick. I meet lots of enthusiastic Mums in the playground who relish the school holidays' lack of timetable and ample pj time. I am most definitely not one of these Mums, what is the secret to their sparkiness?
I don't have a strategy other than booking the odd holiday programme. With Mr. P away for most of the hols (inciting giant green envy) I know that I will need a break to get on with Poppy and Honesty stuff. However I have my reservations about plugging the kids into devices as I am not sure the knock on effect is worth it.
Just talking about screen time opens up a can of worms almost as wriggly as breast feeding or childbirth. I am certainly not going to judge anyone using screens to entertain, educate, or buy themselves some time to go to the loo alone or call the emergency plumber. However we've got rid of the screens for a while and the kids have been much nicer. They seem less reactive and more able to engage. Perhaps because they are not thinking about their next move on Clash of Twats or hilarious emoji to send to their pals? Also their testosterone levels appear to have slumped as they are no longer busy wiping each other out on computer games. They are having to do 'other things' and entertain themselves, even if this involves maiming each other with a tennis racket, surely it's better than watching a bored teen fidget spinning on You Tube? Maybe this is just my own self fulfilled prophecy but family life certainly seems a lot more harmonious without the plug ins.
We've been Device Cold Turkey for x 4 weeks and so far so good. Obviously I will probably break after Week 1, when I have to locate a Poppy and Honesty order that has gone awol. However, it has definitely been an eye opener and something you may want to consider for a while to change things up.
May the force, all the wine and deep breathing be with you for the next 6 weeks. If you are a sparky school holiday Mum, can you let me in on the secret, pleaaaaase?
During the summer Mr P and I adopt a very popular parenting strategy known as 'Icecream Parenting'. This involves bribery and threats based on icy treats and is typically manipulated very successfully by the little moppets. Last summer they managed to extort at least 1-2 cones a day, increasing to a rather shameful 3 whilst on holiday in Spain (how else do you get them around a Sevillian market?) July is the official month of the ice-cream and so we thought we'd give you a couple of recipes that are marginally more healthy than the staple Fabs, Magnums and Feasts. They are so easy it's almost an insult to call them recipes, but when the kids are climbing the walls during the school hols (around day 2 for us), these icy treats might just provide 10 mins peace
Strawberries and Cream
As a nod to Wimbledon, this strawberry gelato is so yummy it may even heal Andy's hip. You will need : A fierce blender; a bag of frozen strawberries and 100 mls Double Cream. Shove all the ingredients into your blender and cone up. Top with more cream and strawberries.
Banana Choc Chip
This is a great recipe to use up the over-ripe bananas. Chop them into small chunks and put them in the freezer. You will also need 100mls nut milk and some dark chocolate chips. When you are ready, put all of the ingredients into your blender, blast it until the ice-cream is nice and smooth. Top with a splodge of peanut butter for extra scrumptiousness.
Don't have any cones? These ice creams will be just as delicious sandwiched between two biscuits. They will keep for a couple of days in the freezer before getting too frosty, but best scoffed immediately.
Not been to a festival since your free and single days in the 90's? Neither had I. Let me tell you, taking the kids is a whole different ball game. I'm no Edith Bowman, but I have talked to my family festy friends and we've come up with some tips....
Back in the day, you were all too pissed to get the tent up, so you slept underneath the ground sheet and it was surprisingly comfortable. We are terrible campers but the only camp craft you need at a festival is to be able to put the tent up. To avoid divorce proceedings, attempt this at home first and put it up immediately on arrival at the festival. As everyone has bought the same tent on sale at Halfords, it's a good idea to put a up a flag or something bright so you can find your tent again and the kids don't get too lost.
Unlike Reading in the 90's when you lived off fags, booze and the occasional Ginsters pasty, you are going to need some real food this time around. Many of the family festivals have fancy schmancy food outlets (Fortnums at Port Eliot this year). Buying the kids aged-venison and gruyure waffles may feel like setting fire to your hard earned cash. As most festy meals cost around £8, we recommend packing a cool bag of rice cakes, peanut butter, muesli bars or whatever will keep your kids going, without having to partake in any camp craft cooking.
The main flaw in family festivals is that the party doesn't stop until the wee hours and yet the kids are still up with the sun. Tip from the mama ravers, ear plugs for you so that you can get some kip, eye masks for the kids (put these on them after they have gone to sleep) and all the coffee in the entire world.
There's a lot of stuff for the precious moppets to do at family festivals. Some of it is free and some of it you have to pay for. To avoid meltdowns and being totally skint, look at the program with the kids beforehand and agree on a couple of things a day. You may need to book into workshops in advance.
Tired Little Leggies
It's often a long way between the different stages at festivals. Little leggies may benefit from a good robust buggy or a cart that can be rented from most festivals. You will inevitably end up carrying them at some point as well as lugging around the buggy/cart.
Other things you may want to bring along are loads of baby wipes (festival shower), head torches and ear defenders (even though our children make more noise than a death metal band).
Best tip of all, have tonnes of fun ..
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Mr. P and I celebrated 10 years of parenthood last weekend. We've been chatting about the ups and downs and having a chuckle about the nutty stuff we did. If I was able to steal MJ Fox's time-machine and go back to 2007, these are some of the things I would tell my rookie parent self...
Choose your girl gang carefully
I felt a huge pressure to socialise my children regularly. If I wasn't attending playgroups. gymbaroo (?) or god awful singing in the library, my kids were definitely going to be sociopaths or psychopaths right? Subsequently I ended up hanging with some quite judgy women and through the fog of tiredness/PND and trying to navigate my way through the early years, I didn't recognise that this wasn't a supportive or healthy place for me and the sprogs. Thankfully, I had a couple of amazing queens on my side. They always lifted my spirits and didn't give a monkeys if you bribed the kids into the bath with jelly babies.
Always chose fun
I missed out on seeing the late George Michael sing Wake me Up Before you Go Go because I had to do the night feed. There is so much boring shit that you have to do as a parent. The housework is endless. Given another chance, unless the house was about to be condemned a slum, I would ditch the dishes in favour of drinks with the girl gang and give the babe a bottle so that I could shimmy on down to Club Tropicana with George.
Mummy - tummy? Whatever.
It is a bloody shock to see your post pregnancy stomach. I can liken it to the dimply party pasty available in our Cornish bakery. Tip to former self- don't look at it. There are so many more important things to do (like have fun) and you are so much more than a wobbly tum.
Stop analysing the elusive 'bond'
I bought into the idea that I had to feel an automatic, unstoppable, all-consuming connection with my babies as soon as they were born. Subsequently I spent such a long time looking for this and became more and more anxious that it just wasn't there. Given the opportunity, I'd definitely tell my former self to take a step back, be patient and watch the relationship blossom over time. My big kid was recently very poorly, we spent the whole time together watching telly and having fizzy drinks. There is no doubt in my mind that we go together like a good gin and tonic.
There is suffering in parenting
An SAS soldier recently told me that sleep deprivation was the WORST part of his interrogation training (am not sure that included water boarding). Being kept awake by a baby for years is torture and so is being told to F*** off by children that have been your life's work. The only book I read as a Mum was Buddhism for Mothers. I'm not buddhist but totally subscribe to the idea that as a parent you have to accept a level of suffering.
I can think of million more things, but that will do for now. To all Poppy and Honesty's pixelated young mummies, you're doing a fabulous job. We are bringing out a new grown up range just for you guys, Why should the moppets have all the good stuff when we do the school run with rice crispies in our hair ?
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Here at Poppy and Honesty HQ, we are obsessed with the colour orange. No, I'm not ranting about the President Elects skin tone (much), but the gorgeous and under-rated colour that will feature strongly in our next unisex collection. I have a Paddington-like enthusiasm for Marmalade, so it is only fitting that as a tribute to 'The Donald' we make a sticky orange mess to mark his inauguration.
If you have the time or the inclination, making Marmalade is a very satisfying way of passing a lazy afternoon - and the recipe below is pretty fool proof. Do make sure that you test the Marmalade properly for the elusive skin, which indicates that it has set. You can get the darling moppets to help with the orange squeezing and the cutting if they are older too. They can also make pretty labels and think of imaginative names for their pots of gold (Donald's foundation?).
Yours with zestiness,
Recipe for Marmalade (makes 6 x 450g jars-ish)
800g Oranges (Seville if you can get them)
x1 Pink Grapefruit
2kg Preserving Sugar
Method : Put a saucer into the fridge to cool. Wash and dry the fruit. Pour 2 litres of water into a big pan and add all the squeezed juice from the fruit. Chuck away the lemon but keep all the pith and skin of all the others fruit. Scrape the pith and pips into the centre of an old clean tea-towel. Draw up the corners of the tea towel and secure with a good knot or a bit of string to make a bag. Pop the bag into the pan. Cut the fruit peel into small strips and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1.5 - 2 hrs.
Squeeze your tea towel bag into the pan and discard the bag. Add sugar and heat until dissolved. Bring the boil and boil rapidly for 15 mins. Get the saucer out of the fridge. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by placing a teaspoon of it on the cold saucer. After a few seconds push the marmalade with your finger tip. If it wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not boil for a further 5 mins, Leave the marmalade to rest for a 15 mins and then spoon into sterilised jars.