Mermaids Don’t Have Thigh Gaps…

I’ve had the lergy these past few days, a welcome gift from my sprog’s first week at nursery, so my evenings have consisted of light yoga in a mist of menthol crystals followed by early hours Tumblr scrolling whilst my nose streamed.

I like Tumblr, it holds the same ‘non thinking’ allure as those old stereoscopes I sometimes find kicking around my Grandparent’s cellar.

Once you’ve waded through the porn, fancy Bible quotations and cat GIF’s there’s actually some pretty neat compilations out there – more than that it keeps me feeling like I have some vague notion of what’s trendy these days.

I’ve thrown buzz words (amassed from these AM trawling sessions) into conversations with young mums at the local playpark and sat back, amazed, as I’ve suddenly been deemed worthy of a twenty minute conversation rather than an “Uh-huh, yeah, mine does that too sometimes”.

In the predictable way that positive reinforcement often does, one success has lead to a growing obsession – an overwhelming desire to find more bandwagons to jump on…

That was how I stumbled upon the Fitblr community.

Having been an outpatient at a specialist eating disorder unit, fewer years ago than I would like to admit, I intially thought this movement (acting in opposition to Thinspiration and Pro-Ana websites) was fantastic.

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Pictures of muscular, gorgeous women abound alongside Instagrammed plates of nutritious food (coupled with positive affirmations and encouragement to eat).

Undeniably it’s also fitness focussed – the harder, heavier, sweatier the better seems to be the overwhelming message and as such brands like Nike and Reebok are already cashing in.

We’ll forgive them the corporate element though because at its core Fitblr is a large network of real, young people from all backgrounds and locations finding a common goal and high-fiving one another until every single member of that displaced, online ‘family’ reaches the Motherland (or some equally misty-eyed bollocks).

As the internet’s latest offering by way of a ‘diet plan’, because let’s not bullshit – if it contains food and exercise it’s a diet – it seems like a step in the right direction for combatting ED’s of all varieties. It’s just Sargeant Major shouty enough to get you off your arse but also gentle and supportive when you need it to be.

Yeah.

Then the rose tinted glasses came off, the sensible mummy head got screwed on and I dug a little too deep.

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(Kudos, bearer of this bottom, I can’t credit you though because I Googled it).

Those nommy plates of fruit are balanced on impossibly ‘gappy’ legs, the toned beauties are sprouting killer abs from a concave stomach, every butt shot (of which there are many) is a perky little peach atop two twiglets…

The theory might be sound, the statistics actually science based and I’m not going to say exercise (in moderation) isn’t fucking mega but the poster girls are just as realistically unattainable as ever.

It’s part posture, a few photographer’s magic tricks, luck of the draw genetics and most likely a body fat percentage low enough to stop you menstruating that’ll get you that body – no amount of spinach smoothies and hill marathons can beat you out a new skeleton.

I can attest to that.

I’m 120lb. 5’6″ and practice yoga for twenty minutes every day whilst Frankie sleeps. I don’t own a car, I’m too skint for public transport and I chow down a lot of vegetables so I my son can afford to be a fussy eater.

I don’t go to the gym.

You couldn’t pay me enough to exceed anything other than a brisk meander.

I’m fit, healthy and as skinny as I’m likely to get.

Mermaids dont have a thigh gap, why should I?

Ava

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Dear Nursery; An Open Letter…

Dear Nursery,

We’ve only known each other three days and already I can see the positive influence you’re having on my child.

Your team of dedicated carers, even those from other rooms, knew him by name come the end of the first settling in session. Each morning you seem genuinely pleased to see him and he can’t make it out the flat door fast enough at the first mention of you.

Your good friend Pam, a woman who surprisingly shares my rather unorthodox parenting style, has taken him under her wing as his ‘Key Person’ and tailor made each day to be as stimulating as possible within his personal boundaries.

Each slightly iffy, Rain Baby eccentricity has been transformed into a positive learning tool. It’s difficult to get my head around having so many people extolling Frankie’s virtues upon re-entering a building.

Under the tutelage of strangers my son is flourishing and I’ve never felt so completely incompetent.

What I’m trying to say, Nursery, is that you’re a bit of a dick.

I can’t deny your efficiency, the data’s all there and it’s correlating beautifully, but must you slip me the ‘side eye’ with such regularity?

Is it strictly necessary for my son not to cry even a little bit when I leave him, to neglect throwing so much as a backwards glance whilst he skips off into the loving embrace of your immeasurable awesome?

I’ve watched from a Staff Room window whilst he devoured a two course meal of fish pie and fruit yoghurt, a feat that (when attempted at home) would inevitably lead to me wearing an incredibly nutritious food hat.

Oh Nursery, how can it be that for you my stroppy little weasel will decorate fairy cakes? Create collages? Take an afternoon nap, for fuck’s sake?

I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t perhaps a more untoward explanation for your parental proficiency…witchcraft, doping, an intricate fabrication, maybe.

Anything has to be better than sitting back and admitting I just don’t compare.

I want to like you, Nursery, I really do.

The fact of the matter is you’re doing me a favour, perturbed as that leaves me.

I can’t help but wonder, like poor old Faust, what you’ll eventually seek by way of remuneration.

Ava

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On Gifts I Kind Of Wish I Was Cool Enough To Have Bought Myself…

This post goes out to my Uncle Doug and his lovely lady, Meng – ever radiant despite being five days overdue (and counting).

Let me first make something exceptionally clear; my uncle has impeccable taste. This is foremost the reason why, on the odd occasion he informs me I am to expect a surprise present in the mail, I’m never worried.

Curious? Absolutely.

He has a distinct knack for gift giving – one I can only aspire to.

It’s always an object of quality – whether that be a particularly apt, well written book or something that has ‘craftmanship’ tooled into every surface. Often it’ll be an item that didn’t so much as register on your radar previously, but once it’s in your life you’re left wondering how you ever went without.

A number of weeks ago, one such parcel was popped through my letterbox and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

I’m going to hasten through the unwrapping process and tell you right of the bat, it was an apron.

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A beautifully packaged, product numbered, hand signed, specifically tailored for women, Barista apron from a company called Dawson Denim.

I didn’t even have to try it on to know we were going to get along famously but when I did, oh goodness, when I did…

…you know that friend? The one who you would swear blind you were seperated from at birth if it weren’t for the slightly inappropriate feelings you had towards them, yeah?

For me, this handsome bit of Japanese red selvage denim, is that friend.

Most aprons I’ve had dalliances with over the years have adopted a rather teabag-esque drape over my unimistakably ‘girl shaped’ figure – not this time. It’s refreshing to be hugged in all the right places by something so utile.

I’m not suggesting for a second one needs to feel sexy whilst simmering soup, knocking seven bells out of bread or getting caked to the elbows in finger paints but it does make a difference.

As mama to one Frankie Dee-structo baby, I’m in a prime position to road test the hardiness of clothing. My Dawson’s apron has risen valiantly to each challenge so far.

Long story short, sod the Bounty Packs, give every new parent one of these and set them loose on the world of milky vomit and nappy changing, [sensibly] dressed to thrill.

As an added bonus each piece of their workwear, lovingly produced in Brighton, comes with a little booklet that entitles the new owner to free repairs during the first six months – pretty sound, eh?

You can pop on over to the Barista page for the item specifics, or check out the rest of their delightful collection here.

I’m off to get mucky in the garden with my new BFF.

Ava

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Party Time, Excellent *Air Guitar Solo*…

I’ll be blunt, the idea of splashing £750 in one night fills me with dread.

It conjures unwelcome ‘morning after the night before’ images from the first time I ever got a student loan happily stuffed into my account or that recurring dream where I wake up in the back of a stolen Cadillac, with a wedding ring, a spider monkey and no wallet.

In both those cases however, we’re talking about my own money (or at least dosh I’ll have to give back at some point) – being gifted a bundle of banknotes and told to go build a bloody marvellous Big Night In on the other hand, well, that’s food for thought…

Clearly the most important thing about any shindig is a suitable cover story – nobody wants to attend a blowout you’re throwing ‘just because’ and luckily I’ve got that box ticked already.

Frank was born on the 2nd of November, for those in the know that’s All Souls Day over here or Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, admittedly I was aiming for Halloween but it’s gosh darn close enough.

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This year he’ll turn two and be plenty old enough to appreciate the kick ass festival mash-up I could host with some free pennies from Two Little Fleas – it doesn’t hurt that the kid never sleeps so timing a toddler party for after sunset will suit him nicely.

We’ve built a pretty nifty bolt-hole for ourselves up here so I reckon the first hundred or so pounds would have to be spent transporting the family across the border (being that it’s the England/Scotland border it’ll be bandido attire optional).

I’m thrifty to a fault, a return train ticket is £46 with a valid pass – fingers crossed they’ve not lost them yet – we should get two generations safely into Edinburgh (and out again) for less than the petrol money one way.

We’re short of seating in our one bedroom so we would need to ‘pimp our floor’ – a wonderful pretext for investing in those cushions I’ve always wanted, throw in a few imported serapes and we’re on our way.

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Half the fun of festivals are the decorations. These two in particular require going completely overboard without the added fuss of having to grapple a large Fir and its many breakable ornaments.

Colour is the order of the day, paper flowers, papel picado (featured below), beads, candles, merry looking skulls and knick-knacks on every available surface. All this can be ordered online from US based party retailers for about £80 including speedy shipping.

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Traditionally there’s lots of DIY decor involved with both Halloween and The Day of the Dead, we’re not just talking pumpkins here, a quick web search and I’ve happened upon a number of toddler/child friendly crafts – as expected this will entail an expedition to the local craft store and an additional £50 gone from the budget.

Another thing that makes this a fantastic idea for a Big Night In, food I can actually eat!

With the use of maize flour for baked goods and playing heavy on seasonal fruit and veg, alongside a hearty dose of sugar – I doubt there will be an empty belly in the place regardless of varying food intolerances.

If I chuck on an apron and prepare to get down and dirty (with a little assistance from Mex Grocer) it can come in at a budget friendly £70…my one extravagance? Ordering a gluten free, chocolate fudge cake from the artisan bakers down the road…maybe something like this:

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Which leaves us, what, about £450 quid going spare?

Then it’s entertainment time! I’m thinking face painting, flower crown making, pinata bashing jollity with some good ol’ fashioned apple bobbing and (my favourite) a mummy wrap relay…if you’ve never heard of it, let’s just say it involves a 24 pack of loo roll and is best done the other side of something spiced and alcoholic.

(Luckily we have a small garden at the back of the flat, so if the weather is clement our night in can venture briefly out).

Let’s add a new dress for moi, complete with acessories from Diablo Jo’s:

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Doubtless there would be party bags but how about a wee gift for the guests who are out of nappies, seeing as we’re feeling so flush? Something from Neal’s Yard should suffice.

Anything left over once favors were taken care of would, as things often are in my life, be spent directly on Frankie.

A years pass to The Edinburgh Zoo, a passport and a Eurostar to Paris to visit his new cousin, a big boy bed? The present giving possibilities are endless.

I’m sure, even without a monetary windfall, my son’s big day will be awesome but it’s nice to dream…well, as long as monkeys aren’t involved.

Ava

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Competition info can be found at LittleStuff.

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The Higher The Hair, The Closer To Heaven…

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I love having short hair.

From a functional perspective it’s always a winner, especially as a parent. In fact, if I recall correctly, a postpartum pixie crop is usually standard practice amongst those of us not obligated to hold onto our lovely locks.

Since taking the plunge age 14 and having my hair (previously resting somewhere around my upper thighs) lopped off for charity, I’ve never looked back. It’s been all the way down to a number one, a misguided albeit ‘brave’ choice, but never grown in further than my chin.

This has left me free to abuse it with every chemical procedure known to hairdressing, safe in the knowledge that when it becomes the texture of old candyfloss I can just buzz it off and start over.

That being said I do have several sets of hair extensions. Nothing fancy, just the lower end clip-ins that I dye and heat style to lend a bit of variety to my wardrobe.

They live in a box at the end of my bed and maybe see the light of day, at most, six weeks of the year. Putting them in each morning is far too much of a faff, my head tends to ache after a few hours and (most importantly) weird shit goes down when I wear them.

Take today.

I’m writing this from the comfort of my couch, the curtains are drawn (despite the blazing sunshine outside), I’m nursing a cup of sweet tea and contemplating the practicalities of never leaving the house again.

It all started with a well intentioned plan of buying Frank some new trousers. A simple recce mission up town to H&M and back in time for lunch.

As sometimes happens we were stopped within a few minutes by one of Edinburgh’s many homeless, I rarely proffer change often opting for buying them a brew and a sandwich instead but if that’s not possible a bit of friendly conversation never goes amiss.

Twenty minutes, one marriage proposal and an exchange of life stories later something entirely unexpected happens.

‘Steve’ reaches into his pocket and gives my son £1, telling him “that’s just for you, go and buy something to make your day brilliant”.

Initially I wen’t through the motions, got the wee man to thank him in Makaton and then made moves to retrieve the poor chap’s money. “No” he said “I’m fine, you just make sure he spends it on a big bag of sweeties. It’s what I would have done when I was a kid”.

So we rounded up our chat and walked away. With a homeless man’s money.

A few paces up the road was a Greenpeace representative, not surprisingly we were waylaid once again.

My hair is as much a beacon for chuggers as it is wasps.

Except he didn’t want to tell me about the campaign to prevent oil drilling at the North Pole at all. No. He wanted dietary advice, a conversation about spirituality, recommendations on yoga routines and to get half naked in the street to show me his seahorse tattoo.

At this point, I was fairly convinced I had inadvertantly passed through a portal somewhere around the Omni Centre.

During the rest of our jaunt we met an Irish traveller and self proclaimed ‘warlock’ who told me about his past lives and a chap called Billy Boy who “sometimes take[s] valium and rob[s] stuff” but he assured me it’s all in good fun.

For those who are particularly inclined towards being overtly sociable, nattering with the local characters may be common practice. I assure you, for me, it’s not.

This is not due to an innate snobbery. When I go out with my hair in its natural state, people don’t approach me.

I become (in essence) simply another one of the invisible, buggy pushing masses.

Whack in a ponytail that makes me appear something akin to Barbie’s glue sniffing, raver cousin and suddenly I’m Mister Sex.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the difference something so superficial makes in the way even a stranger on the street views me – it’s questionable if I’ll ever recover from today at all.

Regardless of this, one thing is for certain; my extensions are going back in their box lest I inadvertantly start a cult when I venture out for some milk.

Ava

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I’ll Miss Complaining About The Summer Heat…

By way of a welcoming committee, Edinburgh has taken a turn for ‘frostbite on your nipples’ levels of cold.

This will be the first winter we’ve ever faced in both a single glazed flat and one located on the ground floor, meaning we get absolutely no borrowed warmth. Chatting to the other occupants of the tenement (only two of which have central heating) helped put things in perspective; you fork out the cash or you freeze.

I’m not going to lie, arriving home in the early hours of Saturday morning to a bedroom you could see your breath in left me almost in tears.

Luckily Super Moo was on hand to drive us out to Argos (oh, magical cave of wonders) and buy an oil radiator. Immediate hypothermia threat bypassed I was left pondering two things.

Firstly why I don’t seem to have jumpers thick enough, or in sufficient quantities, to stave off the wind adequately so as to go and buy more (the ultimate vicious knitwear circle).

Secondly, coming from a West Coast household, what I’m going to do in regards to winter breakfasts now I’m living 100% gluten free and that traditional staple of porridge is off the menu.

Admittedly the latter was the most vexing.

For as long as I can remember, when the wind changed and the morning light became diffused with violet, my grandmother would get out the porridge pot. This thing was easily eighty or ninety years old, heavy enough to brain a large tapir and never removed from the stove top (save for a quick rinse) a good six months of the year.

“But porridge is porridge, seriously, how complex is it to cook some oats?”

For my ancestors it was – and to this day remains – a fucking art form.

Nana Grace soaks the oats, good quality and ALWAYS Scottish, overnight in water – the cooking process begins an hour (or two) before the rest of us are even contemplating getting up.

There’s no half and half here, it’s whole milk or you can chuff off, with a good pinch of salt regardless of personal preference. Brought to the boil and simmered once, left to cool and form a genuinely delicious skin, then heated again before serving with homemade preserves.

I’m actually making myself hungry just thinking about it.

We Konrad’s wean our children young so porridge was one of the first things my son ate and is now a firm favourite. Who am I to begrudge him that? Admittedly it’ll likely be of the less fussy quick oats variety but he won’t go without this year.

I, on the other hand, have been left no option but to find an alternative. Preferably one which is compatable with almond milk…this health kick is getting out of hand.

Scouring the shelves in the Free From section of mainstream supermarkets there’s several options – from gluten free oats, for pretend porridge which looks the part, to something resembling pudding rice (I believe it’s millet and buckwheat).

Over the coming weeks I’m going to have a crack at taste testing as many as my wallet allows and report back.

Just don’t tell my Nana.

Ava

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