What NOT to expect when you’re expecting

You’ve all heard of the book ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ right? Originally published in 1984, and now in its fifth edition, the book consistently tops The New York Times Best Seller list and has helped tens of millions of expectant parents worldwide. Following the book’s success, in 2012, What to Expect When You’re Expecting was adapted into a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Chris Rock, and followed the lives of five interconnected couples as they experienced the thrills of having a baby.

But here’s what that book doesn’t prepare you for – finding out you’re having TWINS!

It was at the 12-week ultrasound appointment that we found out. My partner and I were sat in the waiting room and the last thing I said to him before our name was called was “Imagine if it’s twins…” I laughed as I said this knowing it not to be true, after all, twins don’t run in either of our families.

I awkwardly climbed up onto the examination table, lifted my shirt and felt the cold jelly hit my tummy. With any pregnancy, the first ultrasound is nerve-wracking. Not only is it the first time that you get to see your baby, but it’s often when potential problems are discovered. My partner and I waited with bated breath for Grace, our sonographer, to tell us if there was a heartbeat. Instead, with her wand moving across my lubricated belly, she said, “Did you know there’s two?”

When I say my response was “No there isn’t” while laughing uncontrollably – I’m not lying. My partner responded “Two?!” Only moments before we were joking over such an occurrence, and now that joke was our reality!

After the ultrasound, we sat in the waiting room while the images were analysed and my file was updated. “Twins” we would suddenly announce, like saying it aloud, and repeatedly, would make it seem more real. “There’s two!”

I won’t lie and say that I was over the moon because I wasn’t. My partner and I knew that taking care of one baby, in a small apartment, would be difficult, but two? I had years of experience in caring for newborn babies, but never two at the same time! And, what about money? Twins mean two of everything

Soon, quite literally, every aspect of our lives was about to change. It was overwhelming.

A pop-art Christmas

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a multi-coloured Christmas tree – and when I say tree, I mean decorations. However, the thought of it being all mumbo jumbo causes my OCD to peak, I also had visions of it looking like it had walked out of 1990, and so when I saw this Christmas tree featured within John Lewis and Partners’ 2020 Christmas campaign, I fell in love.

Here are some of my favourite ornaments and baubles I’ve added to my tree:

Pop art rainbow bauble: with 25% of the retail price being donated to NHS Charities Together, this brightly colour ornament not only makes you smile, but it’s doing its bit for charity too!

Pop art crayons bauble: Bringing back all the childhood nostalgia, this crayon ornament makes me want to stay within the lines!

Say thanks to your delivery drivers this holiday season

Let’s face it. 2020 has been one hell of a year, however one thing that’s been consistent is our delivery drivers. Come rain or shine, throughout lockdown, they’ve delivered our not so necessary ASOS and Amazon orders.

So, this festive season I’ve created a snack basket, and designed a cute poster, offering our delivery drivers and postal workers a snack and drink for the road – to thank them for delivering all our parcels.

It didn’t cost much to put this together, just £5 for all of this (and more) and so if you can, it’s something I’d recommend doing. Let’s sprinkle kindness everywhere!

You can download my thank-you poster here:

Christmas adverts 2020: a review

Now that Halloween is done with, we can really start looking forward to the festive period and with the arrival of this year’s Christmas adverts, it’s well and truly underway.

I’ve taken a look at the Christmas adverts that have been released so far:

John Lewis: Give a Little Love

I think we all expected a lot from the John Lewis Christmas advert this year. For me, it missed the mark.

The theme of this year’s advert, “Give a little love”, was inspired by the kindness shown by the British public during the pandemic.

The storyline illustrates how acts of kindness, large and small, can multiply and positively impact the world in which we live as we pass them on to others, and so it’s fitting that the advert has been released on World Kindness Day.

The advert is different from John Lewis Christmas adverts of recent years, and because of that, it just didn’t stoke the chord that I was wanting it too.

Score: 3/5

Disney: From our family to yours

Highlighting the importance of family and tradition, the heartwarming Christmas advert from Disney was inspired by nostalgia, particularly in the festive season.

The three-minute animated short, featuring Mickey Mouse, tells the story of grandmother Lola, her granddaughter and the family traditions that have connected them through the years.The storytelling in the advert is very powerful and I may or may not have shed a tear while watching it.

Disney fans can purchase the Mickey Mouse toy featured in the advert from the Disney Store and shopdisney.co.uk, with proceeds going towards Make-a-wish, which has been working with Disney for 40 years. In addition to this, the advert is backed by the vocals of UK rising artist Griff, who sings original song ‘Love Is A Compass.’ The track is available for sale and every track downloaded before December 31, 2020, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Make-A-Wish.

I think this is going to be the one that John Lewis has to beat.

Score: 5/5

Argos: An Evening with AbracaDaisy & The Incredible Lucy

Argos’ Christmas advert was the first one I watched this year and I have to say, it’s one of my favourites. 

Argos announced earlier this year that they would stop production of their iconic Argos catalogue (my 7-year-old self did shed a tear) however, the Christmas gift guide dubbed the ‘Book of Dreams’ has returned and features prominently in this latest advert. The opening scene features two sisters circling their preferred choice of present in the Book of Dreams, a magic set.

Their living room then transforms into a glamorous theatre as the sisters delight their family with their impressive magic skills – which become bigger and better.

The catchy song, Incredible by Gary Barlow, adds to the uplifting mood of the advert, and indeed the festive season.

Score: 5/5

ALDI: Where is Kevin?

Am I the only one that is fed up with Kevin the carrot?

Kevin is on a quest to get back to his family in time for Christmas. The storyline and the voice-over rhyming story, told by Jim Broadbent, remind me of the children’s Christmas storybook, Stickman, by Julia Donaldson.

I enjoyed the references to iconic movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, E.T. and Home Alone, and the advert as a whole.

Score: 4/5

Amazon: The Show Must Go On

This year’s Amazon advert reminds us all of the challenging year we’ve had, and while it could have come across as upsetting to watch, it’s beautiful, powerful and inspiring.

Set to an original arrangement of Queen’s ‘The Show Must Go On’ the advert features a young ballerina who is cast as the star in a dance show. As a result of the coronavirus, the show is cancelled; her neighbours and sister, however, help to put together an outdoor show where she showcases her talent on a rooftop, in the snow, for everyone to see.

For me, this advert captures the magic of community that so many have witnessed this year.

Score: 5/5

TK Maxx: The Lil’ Goat

I love this one, and that surprised me. It’s incredibly silly and super random – everything that we need in 2020!

It starts with a goat in a hot pink jacket, an emerald green blouse and a red beret, strutting her stuff like she’s walking for Fendi at Milan fashion week. As she passes a heard of sheep, her owners discuss her unexpected outfit.

‘Did you buy the goat a designer outfit?’ the woman asks who I assume to be her husband, to which he replies: ‘Yes. She’s had such a hard year. She blooming well deserves it, if you ask me.’ As he sheds a tear…

Amazing

Score: 5/5

Marks and Spencer: This is M&S food

We get it, M&S has launched a light globe gin liqueur with edible gold leaf. It’s everywhere. It also features heavily in this years Christmas advert.

The first in what appears to be a string of adverts, with one released each week in the leadup to Christmas, features the voice of Olivia Colman who does a good job at delivering the M&S aesthetic. Aside from that, it’s just another M&S advert. 

Score: 2/5

ASDA: That’s an ASDA Price Christmas

It’s a conventional Christmas advert. It’s not memorable in any, way, shape or form. That’s it. That’s the review.

Score: 1/5

Very.co.uk: Christmas is this Very Moment

I enjoyed this advert. It shows a variety of little moments shared between a family on the lead up to Christmas.

It’s not memorable by any means, but it’s simple, and it works.

Score: 3/5

To be continued…

6 ways to create summer holiday vibes in your living room during lockdown

I recently applied for a role with a brand that I love. I went above and beyond in making myself stand out at the application stage and I’m pleased to say that my efforts didn’t go unnoticed. I was one of 13 people chosen to attend an interview – of over 1,100 applicants – and although I made it through to the second round of interviews; unfortunately, I wasn’t successful this time around.

One of my interview pre-tasks was to write a short blog post about ‘How to create summer holiday vibes in your living room during lockdown.’ The blog post had to be 300 words or less and as I was writing for the brand’s website, I had to keep in mind their aesthetic and tone of voice. I’d like to share my final version with you here:

It’s November; we’re eight months into a global pandemic, the nights are pulling in, and if you’re like us, you haven’t had a summer holiday since what feels like 1992.

There’s nothing better, or more awesome than travelling. While we can’t travel (without a negative coronavirus test) for the foreseeable future, we can pop a brightly coloured, stripy and sand resistant towel over our shoulder and head into the living room. That’s right; we’re here to tell you how to create summer holiday vibes in the comfort of your own home!

  1. Create your own cabana – it’s like fort building, but for adults. Use your favourite towels to turn your sofa into something that looks like it wouldn’t look out of place on a beach in Bali.

  2. Listen to our Summer Holi-stay playlist – we’ve created the ultimate playlist for you to jam out too. Dance like you’re in Ibiza or, like no-ones watching. Listen here.
  3. Put together a fruit platter – is there anything better than fresh fruit on a beach in 30°C heat? Fresh pineapple, coconut, watermelon. DROOL!
  4. Cocktail making – we can’t promise unlimited alcohol or  even a bar, but making your own cocktails can be fun! Margaritas anyone? And if you don’t drink alcohol, there’s always Fanta Lemon.

  5. Transport yourself with flavour – why not re-create a meal from your favourite holiday, or try cooking something new. All else fails, there’s always a takeaway!
  6. Watch the perfect sunset – on YouTube, that is. Transport yourself to anywhere in the world and watch some of the best sunsets, from your sofa/newly built cabana. Santorini, South Africa, Australia – the (virtual) world is your oyster!

For more staycation inspiration, updates and offers, follow us on social media.

28 things to do at home during lockdown 2.0

When the UK Prime Minister announced over the weekend that England would enter a second nationwide lockdown later this week, a collective sigh could be heard across the UK. ‘Not again.’

The previous lockdown impacted everyone in some way, shape or form and mentally, it was tough on a lot of people. 

My friends and family are somewhat divided on whether or not they’re for or against this second lockdown, but regardless, it is happening. However, something that I have noticed to be different than the previous lockdown is the sense of community on social media. We’ve acknowledged that yes, we have done this before and that yes we are more prepared than the first time around, but that yes, it will be tough.

So, with the help of my Instagram community, I have put together a list of 28 things that you can do by yourself, as a couple or with your family over the next 28 days:

  1. Couch to 5K – this running plan for absolute beginners involves three runs a week and is a great way to get you outside and active. Remember: fresh air is so important!
  2. Scrapbooking – scrapbook your previous adventures or make an online photo book. Not only do you get to re-live some great memories, but you’ll have something you can look back at again and again.
  3. Upcycle furniture – set yourself a limit, for example, £10, and use your free time to turn an old piece of furniture into a masterpiece.
  4. Host a games night – it doesn’t have to be a quiz. You can host charades, bingo and even drinking games virtually.
  5. Bake beyond banana bread – I think we can all admit to baking banana bread at least once during the last lockdown. Why not try a new recipe this time around?
  6. Learn to play an instrument – one friend of mine learned how to play the ukulele last lockdown – using YouTube!
  7. Host a virtual wine/cheese tasting – my friends and I did this during the last lockdown, and I have to say it was one of my highlights – and I don’t drink alcohol! Our fabulous friend arranged for us all to receive a tasting box and became a connoisseur of all things wine and cheese for the evening. I tasted cheeses I’ve never heard of before and learnt the difference between old world and new world wines.
  8. Edit your home – watch The Home Edit on Netflix, and the rest is history.
  9. Host a Pizza making night Jus-Rol Pizza Dough Thin Crust with Tomato Sauce is currently on offer for $2 in Sainsbury’s. Arrange a night for you and your friends to virtually make pizzas together – and of course, enjoy them afterwards.
  10. Learn calligraphy – I did this during the last lockdown and found it so therapeutic.
  11. Learn a language – this is your chance to actually learn a language with the spare time that you have. There is a wide selection of apps and youtube channels to choose from.
  12. Make s’mores – bring the outdoors, inside and toast your marshmallows using your grill!
  13. Paint with numbers – it’s like what we did as kids, except way more intense!
  14. Secret Santa – re-named Lockdown Lovers by my friends and I, we used an online platform to randomly allocate everyone a name and gifted each other something that we would enjoy doing at home during the lockdown.
  15. Christmas shopping – wrapping, decorating and planning. 
  16. Learn a TikTok dance – or the tango?
  17. Visit the ‘spa’ – otherwise known as your living room. I’m talking a face mask, manicures, pedicures and a luxurious bubble bath.
  18. Massage Night – a fun date night could be learning and practising massage on each other. It’s fun (tick), it’s romantic (tick), you learn a new skill (tick), and you get a massage out of it (HUGE TICK).
  19. Macrame – make your own macrame rainbow or wall hanging.
  20. A night at the cinema – download a movie poster, create tickets and set up a little a concession stand.
  21. Watch the Marvel films in order – my boyfriend and I did this during the last lockdown, and I have to say, I loved it. Maybe I’ll convince him to watch all the Harry Potter movies in order this time around!
  22. Host a Netflix watching party – an app extension of the famous streaming platform is available to download, allowing you and your friends to watch the same movie, at the exact same time! While it does not support video chat, it does offer synchronised video playback and a chat box so that you can interact with those watching the movie.
  23.  Design your own doughnuts – that’s right, Doughnut Time are now delivering countrywide and have seven different DIY kits, including one vegan kit, for you to choose from.
  24. Make pasta – if you still have a ready supply of flour, it might be time to start making your own pasta from scratch.
  25. Draw portraits of one another – and share the results to social media because we will all need a laugh!
  26. Participate in a challenge – there are several challenges that you can get involved in; 30-day squat challenge, the pull-up challenge and the plank challenge, for example.
  27. Educate yourself on race – you may have posted a black square to your Instagram grid back in June, but do you know why you did it? And what have you done since? By reading, listening and watching, we’re coming to terms with our own privilege, sitting with our discomfort and our anger and our guilt, and using it to support black communities. We may not always get it right, and we certainly won’t ever properly understand how it feels. But what we can do is use this time is to listen, learn, and start our long-term strategy of anti-racism and non-optical solidarity and this time is the perfect opportunity. Here are the best books, podcasts and films to help educate yourself about race and anti-racism.
  28. Watch the Northern Lights – because we can still see the world from our living room. This webcam is set up to capture the Northern Lights under the aurora oval – one of the best places on the planets to see the stunning display.

Furlough or fur-low

It’s always been shit to lose your job, but to be made redundant via a zoom call scheduled 30 minutes prior, it feels even worse.

Like many, I’ve suffered at the hands of the coronavirus epidemic. I lost my dream job, one that took four interviews and a lot of hard work to achieve, within the space of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, the length of my redundancy call.

I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting it, I had been in my role less than one year and worked in one of the hardest-hit industries, travel and tourism. My employer, a small-group adventure travel company, was no exception to the impact of COVID-19 and had to make some difficult decisions to survive.

My redundancy call happened five days before the UK government announced their plans for a coronavirus job retention scheme. Unfortunately, my initial request to be furloughed was denied, however after three weeks and some divine intervention, I was placed on furlough and was so, up until August 31st.

So what’s it like to be furloughed? In short, not all that it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve never been without a job. At the age of 14, I had a paper round. Each morning before school, I would cycle around my neighbourhood, delivering news hot off the press. I worked weekends in retail up until the age of 17, when I got my first full-time job. Now, suddenly, and for the first time, I was without a job. In the time that it takes to load a dishwasher, I not only lost my job, but I lost my routine, my community and a bit of myself.

I knew keeping busy would help and so I threw myself into reinventing my CV. Within two days of being made redundant, I had a CV that I was proud to call my own. I then began the tedious task of looking for a job, but unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. As the UK entered a full-scale lockdown, companies unsure of their future began to make large scale redundancies. The few companies that were recruiting started to receive hundreds of applications for just one role. The quality of applicants was high, and so employers could afford to be picky.

The new reality of staying home, with no set routine, and the radio silence that I was receiving from potential employers had a real impact on my mental health. I found myself waking up late, not wanting to get out of bed. I napped regularly, even though I wasn’t tired. It was just a way of passing the time. I was worried about money, how would I pay my bills? I hated not knowing what each day would bring, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I look back now, I know that I was depressed. I felt like a failure; I felt that there must have been something more or something better I could have done. In reality, there wasn’t. I wasn’t made redundant because of something I had done wrong. It wasn’t me or my work ethic. It was a virus.

At this time, my request for furlough status was denied. The hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. I had already completed an online course in digital marketing, and although I felt some sort of accomplishment at this, I needed something more structured. I reached out to my network of friends and family and asked if anyone knew of any jobs locally. Two weeks later, I had given up on the possibility of finding anything when I found a note under my door. My neighbour, manager of a local Sainsbury’s, let me know that he had an opening for an Online Assistant. Twelve hours a week, 2 am – 6 am. Although the hours were ungodly, I jumped at the chance of having a purpose – helping to feed the nation – as well as a routine.

To start, it wasn’t easy. Although I was only working four hours a day three days a week, (a stark contrast to 12 hours day, five days a week), it took a while for me to find a good work/life balance, let alone a manageable sleeping pattern. I persisted, and I found a routine that worked for me. Five months and approximately 40,000 items picked later; I’ve been offered a permanent, 16-hour contract at Sainsbury’s. To say that this job saved my life is a little dramatic, however, to an extent, it’s true. Sainsbury’s gave me a purpose when I didn’t have one, and for that, I’m so grateful.

I’ve seen many meme’s and posts on social media poking fun at those on furlough, and in theory, yes it sounds great. You get paid 80% of your wage to stay home, but people face other challenges, and it’s important that we, as friends and family members, recognise this and support those that we love.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. Mind, the mental health charity is there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. If you need non-urgent information about mental health support and services that may be available to you, you can call their infoline on 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk.