ELLA GRACE DENTON

Ella is, quite simply, an awesome chick. I came across her Instagram and immediately felt a really strong connection to her so popped her an email. She soon replied, and next thing I knew, we were hanging out in my living room with my toddler Jack, and pottering in the garden centre down my road all the while sharing our life philosophies. Ella is passionate about veganism, sustainable fashion, conscious living, travel and much more. She is one of a kind – watch this space, world! To read more from Ella, head to her blog (http://www.wntlm.com)

1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The idea of a huge, cold, banana smoothie

2. whats the first thing you do once you are up?

Drink a big glass of water with squeezed lemon in it, put on some music and then get smoothie making!

3. Tea or coffee or ‘erb?

‘Errbbbbbb all the way. Forever a herbal tea girl. Loving Pukka teas at the moment!

4. Fry up or healthy?

A vegan fry up consists of beans, spinach, mushrooms, rye bread and avocado so is pretty healthy! But I’m a big one for starting the day raw!

5. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

I recently found vegan pain o chocolate! (Spellings?!) and let’s just say a few rounds of those have been in and out of my oven recently.

6. When are you happiest?

When I’m in nature. Being outside, swimming in the water, bathing in the sun, lying on warm sand, eating fruit and talking about “bigger things” with friends would be an Ideal day for me.

7. What makes you angry?

I’m a pretty mellow person in terms of anger… My anger comes out as sadness.. But I suppose I’d say, thoughtlessness, betrayal and any kind of bullying or making someone feel lesser.

8. In the last year you have become…

More confident in who I am!

9. If you can pass one piece of advice on to your former self, what would it be?

Just to trust that everything that I dream about is already happening and in motion. If I could tell myself where I am in life now and what’s happening I wouldn’t believe it.. And that happens every year! Just trust! And be free! And keep being ballsy.

10. And finally, crunchy or smooth? (peanut butter)

Crunchy.

Overdue – And So Happy

So, I’ve hit the big 4 0. As I write, I am 40 + 4 – 6hrs. Sound a bit ridiculous and silly? That’s because it is. Your 40 week due date is a date prescribed to you by doctors based on the first day of your last period: it doesn’t take into account how long your menstrual cycle is (mine is crazily irregular…it can be anything from 28-38 days) and nor does it consider when you actually conceived. So although some women have a body that behaves like clockwork, and they may know the date you conceived, the vast majority of us are not so ‘normal’ or regimented. For this reason, only 1 in 20 women actually delivers her baby on her due date – you’re just as likely to go into labour any day during the two weeks before or after. As Hollie from the yesmummum puts it, “your due date means nothing….You are not a robot and neither is your baby.”

Which is why I don’t understand the whole obsession over due dates in the first place. If we know them to be scientifically dodgy, why do we place so much emphasis on them? It is single handedly the most-asked question as soon as people find out you’re pregnant, and indeed throughout pregnancy. People want to know the exact date you’re going to produce a baby, as if they want to schedule it in their diary (let alone yours!) I always went out of my way to just say “the end of May” when people asked, but now that I am clearly reaching the end of my pregnancy, people want exacts.

So when they find out I’m “overdue”, they (friends, dear friends!) react by sending text messages asking boring questions such as “Are you in labour yet”. Even if I were in labour, do they really think I would be texting them telling them? The other thing people do is immediately jump to suggest I take castor oil, consume copious amounts of chilli or have “hard (yes, really!) sex.” Can you tell this is niggling me? Anyway, here’s 5 reasons why I find this attitude slightly irksome and why I’m taking none of their advice – and simply, calmly, just waiting.

1. Without sounding like a whack, I trust my baby. My husband and I have been practicing hypnobirthing through this pregnancy which, even if it all goes to pot in the actual labour and I can’t muster up a single positive thought (please no!), it has certainly helped reinforce the idea that I already knew anyway. It can be summed up in what has come to be one of our favourite phrases we now pass to each other smiling, which is “baby knows best”. I love the fact that my baby is just “chilling” (the word I like to use most frequently), floating about in my tummy, happy as larry (according to the midwife). I’m not worried as I know he or she will certainly let me know once they are ready to make their way into the world.

2. Being “late” has allowed me to really, really prepare for this baby. We are aiming for a home birth, and there is actually a surprising amount to do ahead of one (and I’m still sure that in the moment there will be things that I’ve not thought of) I’m not quite sure what I would have done had I been “early”. It’s also allowed me to do some more things often considered luxuries, such as go swimming, dig out old heirloom cribs and arrange photos into an album. All things that, let’s face it, you just don’t get to do half as easily once a baby comes along. I wrote a blog post here about everything I was planning to do on maternity leave – which coincidentally, I started early in case I wouldn’t have all this time!

3. And most luxurious of all? Being able to spend some amazing quality time with my toddler with him as my only little one. We’ve had some gorgeous slow days together in the garden and pottering in the kitchen – and yes whilst now admittedly I find taking care of him really arduous and am so fortunate to have help from parents and in laws, I love soaking up these times with him. I’ve also been able to introduce the idea of a ‘baby’ and every night we put a baby doll to sleep and in the morning we go and wake her up together which has been really special (and cute!)

4. It is simply amazing being blissfully lazy! By that, I mean having free license to order take aways – and eat them in bed, go to sleep at 9.30pm guilt- free, watch films in duvets, take day time naps. At what point in your life, other than when you are heavily pregnant are you able to really call the shots and decide what you do of a Saturday night? Don’t fancy getting out of your PJs all day? Not a problem. It’s been amazing; it feels so good for the soul and has been so lovely for not just me, but for mine and Sam’s relationship.

5. A bump is for 9 months, not for life. I want to cherish this time being pregnant – I know it is a real honour and not something everyone can go through so why would I wish any of it away? (Fortunately, I’ve felt well throughout and only had minor aches and pains – I do appreciate that suffering from chronic pelvic girdle pain would make this another story.) It is such a special time, that I am patiently riding out and soaking up. Surely pregnancy – however long it turns out to be-  is really the first lesson in learning to practice patience as a parent?

So those are my reasons I want to tell “enquiring” people to politely sod off when they press me to get an induction, or keep asking if I’ve progressed. Of course if the baby is in distress, or I am not feeling movement, or if I go over 2 weeks, I will act and consider my options. But til then, I’m very happy snoozing, opting for pizza over curry and not having someone stick their hand up me if they don’t have to, thank you very much. This is the best waiting game in the world people! Anyway, besides all of that, I’m sure the minute that I press ‘publish’ on this post, something will happen…

An Alternative Baby Shower

Whilst the idea of a baby shower with games, presents and balloons fills me with dread, I think the essence of one – celebrating a mama to be and dedicating a space and time to her and her impending journey – is really special. I love the idea of ‘creating’ something ahead of the birth that may help in labour, being a little arty and actually producing something lasting from it. So one afternoon this week, I grabbed a few friends, brewed some tea and laid down some newspaper so we could all get a little creative. We got most of the materials from Tiger stores as this seemed most economical but you can also find lots online at Amazon too or of course just in your local art shops. The below are all super simple ideas that we brought to life because trust me, we are not artists!

1. Positive birth affirmations

As I am planning a home birth, I want to create as calm but also as inspiring an environment as possible to give me any tools that might help get me through labour. With this in mind, I thought it would be nice to put up a few small signs around my home just reminding me of some simple techniques and sayings that might provide me with a small boost right when needed.

What you will need:

– Set of paints
– Watercolour paper
– Birthing books with quotes / phrases / sayings you already know and like. I have been practicing Hypnobirthing, and am aspiring for a natural birth as much as possible so books I have been reading and really loving which I used for this activity are  Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to ChildbirthBirthing from Within and the Katharine Graves’ Hypnobirthing Book
– Brushes – ideally, with small tips so you can write words clearly
– Wax crayons – optional – use wax crayons to write your words and then use the paints to lightly wash over the wax leaving a beautiful colourful swirly background behind your words

2. Customized baby vests

Yes, we have a tonne of Jack’s old baby vests that I have dug out from the shed, and yes, we might be fortunate enough to get a few new bits and pieces for him / her, but nothing beats something home made and fully customized does it?! These vests are so easy to make, and I think will look super cute on our new arrival.

What you will need:

– Pack of baby vests (long or short sleeved – depending on the season you willl give birth) We used this pack from M&S which seemed good value at £9 for 7.
– Acrylic paints
– Paintbrushes
– Piece of cardboard / bundle of newspapers

How to do it:

Lay out your vest and before getting started, pop your piece of cardboard between the front and back of the vest (this is to prevent any leaks when painting on the front through to the back) Then just get designing! It was awesome to get Jack got involved in this activity too which he absolutely loved – his little handprint features on the front of one of the vests (my favourite one!) Once done, leave the vests to hang to dry for a long time…. smudges are  not a good look. P.S After some research we went for Acrylic paints as these seem the most likely to stay put through washing – when first washing though, I do advise to do on a cold wash.

4. Word cloud

This is a cool one – and so simple. We used this word cloud programme where you simply enter a bunch of phrases in and it spits out the below word cloud. This is a lovely sign full of positive, beautiful words that I’ll put up in one of our rooms to glance at during labour.

5. Belly painting

I bought these paints from Amazon which seemed pretty reasonable though in the end we didn’t get round to doing this activity. However, I did it last time round when pregnant with Jack and created the animation below and can highly recommend belly painting as one of the most fun a pregnant lady (and her friends) can have ! Just make sure you have baby wipes and a friend that can semi paint on hand…

If you’ve got any more ideas for a baby shower that’s perhaps a little bit different then please do drop them in the comment section below – I’d love to hear them and may well just have time to put some of them in action 🙂

A Super Easy Kids Party

For Jack’s first birthday, I went all out (predictable, huh? Over-excited first time parent over here…). I made everything from scratch including a if-I-do-say-so-myself fairly mega monkey cake. It was awesome, and I so enjoyed preparing everything for him but this year round for his second birthday, I find myself 36 weeks pregnant and well, just feeling a little, ummm, how do I put it… L A Z Y. View Post

Why You Need To Get Outdoors Today

My love for the outdoors is all-consuming and ever-growing. Being outside in nature, ideally in a spot where cars and people cannot be heard, is what makes me happiest. Nothing else compares to that feeling of *freedom* that simply cannot be replicated when indoors (especially if you, like me, live in London or another city). This is why being outdoors makes me feel good: there are less boundaries and the opportunities seem endless. As long as you respect the Nature around you, and the strength she possesses, spontaneity and instinct take up the driving seat. You never quite know what you will find when you’re in Nature – and therein lies the magic…

Since becoming a parent (our little boy Jack is approaching two and we have another one on the way, due at the end of May), spending time outdoors has become even more precious to me. On a personal level, there is nothing I love more than watching Jack play in nature, and see him amuse himself with sticks, stones and mud, exploring all the elements before being plonked in a bubble bath at the end of the day. He hasn’t yet fully experienced snow and I am so excited to see his reaction, and watch him grimace at the cold of it (or more likely, cackle with glee). I can’t wait to watch him build his first fire, swim in the sea (so far he loves nothing more than running into the waves) or pick his first wild flower.  Outdoors is such a natural environment for children which is why I hope to send him to Forest pre-school when he is old enough where the curriculum centres around outdoor play and learning through hands on experience with the natural world. Mathematics skills taught through counting stones? Yes please!

But it extends beyond just my fondness for seeing Jack play in the mud and capture cute photos for Instagram. In the wider UK population, there is a real breakdown of connection between children and the outdoors, which is having serious implications. Just last month, the Guardian newspaper revealed a survey showing that three -quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Another government report earlier in the year found that one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. This shows the extent to which time spent playing outdoors has shrunk and is actually quite shocking especially when you consider that increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children is being linked to lack of physical activity (Source: Mark Sears, The Wild Network).

We know that the pervasiveness of technology in our lives has caused much of this, which leads me on to another reason why the outdoors is so crucial. Another poll, led by Persil, as part of their amazing #dirtisgood campaign, found that children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. We cannot stop technology playing such a major role in our lives, and of course it has many advantages but the need to counteract screen time with being outdoors is even more pressing. We need to ensure that we spend time away from screens and get some fresh air into our minds and bodies. With so much digital technology at our fingertips, we NEED the outdoors more than ever.

Finally, Nature affords not just parents – although it has become a huge crutch for me – but any person who might be feeling a little fragile a means to breathe new life into a situation and potentially improve their mental and emotional health. So many days I have woken feeling low and exhausted after a poor night’s sleep and sought solace outdoors in the woods by our house. Things tend to fall into perspective when you realize how small we – and our problems – really are, and Nature can shake us back to this reality in the kindest, most beautiful way. We travel as a family extensively and one day I’d love to visit the redwoods in California, the tallest trees in the world at around 300 feet tall, and just stand beside one. I cannot imagine how intense and calming that must feel.

There is a growing gap between us all and nature as our lives become increasingly enclosed. And yet we know the importance and beauty of the outdoors. To quote the MP Liz Truss, let’s get back to “climbing trees, not walls.” Emma xx

P.S Conversations with a Forest School Leader

On Taking Early Maternity Leave

The day I became a working mum was the day my head space reduced down to the size of a pea. If they talk about ‘baby brain’, I think ironically mine only kicked in once I returned to work and left my mummy life as suddenly I had a gazillion things running through my head, and very little time to compute anything. Hence why one morning I turned up to a very important work meeting with my eye mask still dangling around my neck and a milk-stained top. Let’s just say thank gosh for bladders (obviously I had not had time to use the bathroom that morning so was desperate to go on arrival to work. Well, you can imagine my face when I saw myself in the mirror. It wasn’t pretty)

Working motherhood means being the best juggler in town. The presentation you need to deliver tomorrow morning in front of the entire Sales floor….the milk you need to stock up on for your toddler’s bedtime….the Whooping cough vaccination you need to arrange being pregnant second time round…the gift you need to get for your colleague’s leaving do. It’s a constant battleground of semi-important thoughts and action points fighting to win a place at the top of your head resulting in, for me, frequent feelings of stress.

So when I sat down a month or so ago and computed the fact that we are due to have baba number two at the end of May, not only was I stung by the pelvic girdle pain that had crept over me (but I’d ignored), I was also overcome with strong waves of anxiety. Bringing another human into the world is a BIG deal and not something to be taken lightly. It is bound to have huge changes on our family life and the environment and habits we currently exist in (namely, no bedroom fit for a new baby and being able to generally get a full nights sleep – EEEEEKS! ) and I realised that I really craved time to properly prepare for the next chapter of our lives, and the first chapter of the life of a very important person we were even yet to meet. And so I decided to take early maternity leave at 33 weeks, and writing this on day one of that, I can safely say I think it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. Today I was able to already start clearing the room, listening to BBC radio 2, drink multiple cups of herbal tea and attend a physio’s appointment – all such simple and yet soul-lifting activities.

I’m determined to make the most of this period of time as I’m aware it’s an extremely precious and privileged time so I’ve listed below some of my aspirations for the next six weeks. A public to do list, if you will, which I will keep checking in on over the next five or so weeks.

Spend time with my kiddo  – There’s no doubt about it, however much mine and Sam’s lives will change, someone else’s life is about to change a whole lot mroe. Jack, our two year old, is soon to become a big brother, which means a huge amount of adapting on his part and also inevitably less time  spent just the two of us. I really want to spend the next few weeks soaking him up (sounds strange, but you know what I mean) and enjoying our time together and seriously bonding before a certain new someone makes an appearance.

Start cooking again – Since returning to work, I’ve massively neglected cooking, which is genuinely a passion of mine. Dinner has tended to be at best spaghetti bolognese if I’m feeling energetic or at worst, frozen pizza or a takeaway. Cooking has just slipped through the net and I want to reclaim it! I got the beautiful Hemsley and Hemsley cookery book as a leaving gift so the plan is to dive into that and get experimenting.

Practice hypnobirthing – having been taught by the wonderful Siobhan at the Positive Birth Company, I now need to practice practice practice; this is key to hypnobirthing having an effect as you need to get your body used to relaxing, and get to know the different triggers that get you best into this state. I also need to make a birth plan and be clear on the ‘conditions’ I am hoping for..On that note…

Do a dry run – we are aiming for a homebirth, complete with a birthing pool. I’ve been advised to blow it up and fill it with water to practice before the actual day to iron out any potential problems assembling it! We also need to get some cheap shower curtain sheets to lay down everywhere….

Gardening – I love pottering in the garden, especially with Jack, and marvelling at what is sprouting. We even started growing some vegetables. But it’s another one of my passions that fell by the wayside once I went back to work and our little garden has become totally neglected and overgrown with weeds. So when I say gardening, I actually mean weeding 😉

Work on this blog and my YouTube channel – Again, since returning to work it’s been really tricky to create content. I’ve had to fit it in around working and mummying, resulting in very little time. I have so many ideas for new posts and cannot wait to get going on it all.

Baby shower and belly painting – whilst I am not keen on too much fuss and fanfare, I’d love a small sort of ceremony with some positive affirmations and perhaps a touch of belly painting with some of my closest girl friends. Now’s the time to be surrounded by good female energy and get creative, right? This is what a friend and I created last time round…

Go swimming – swimming is said to be one of the best activities for pregnant women and I’ve heard that it helps the baby get in a good position and given this baby is back to back at present, I need all the help I can get… Just got to find me a cossy (Argh!)

Pack my birthing basket or bag – I have a few goodies I plan to keep hidden away until I go into labour, such as this Neals Yard massage oil which smells divine and which could be a really useful tool for the early stages of labour to help my husband help me relax. I would also like to get some clary sage and lavender to sniff at during labour. Any other herbs/tinctures I should be getting? I need to of course prepare the clothes, nappies and blankets for our new arrival – and clothes for me should I need to transfer to hospital. We also need to get some old shower curtains for laying the birth pool down on!

Bounce on my ball – let’s get this baby moving! Now that getting ready in the mornings isn’t a race against the clock, I can actually enjoy bouncing on the ball…and it makes a great addition to the teeth-brushing experience may I say.

Listen to the radio – This is a real hobby of mine, which being at work running in and out of meetings doesn’t allow for. I have recently discovered BBC radio 2 thanks to my instagram followers so have been really enjoying that – it’s a perfect mixture of music, news and discussion.

Sort out the bedroom – as I alluded to above, we do have a room for the new baby but it is currently, let’s say, under construction, and has become somewhat of a junk room. And though I know the baby will be with us for the first six months or so (Jack moved out at 4 months), I’m trying to be organised and get this sorted now as I know further down the line spare time will be a real premium.

Print off and arrange photos – this is a biggy ! Since having Jack I have of course taken many, many photos – most of which remain on my phone, on Instagram and nowhere really to be seen other than on the Internet. I want to change this and get them printed out and arranged in albums to be able to look back on properly, and not just have them live on a mobile phone.

Take baths – one of the most beautiful things in life (even when surrounded by a tonne of plastic toys) and definitely something I plan on doing more of. Just so relaxing, which is exactly what I need right now…

Arrange Jack’s second birthday – Jack is turning two at the end of the month and I need to do some planning! So far, we have entertainment in the form of my husband playing some nursery rhymes on the guitar and a few paper cups…Hmm.

So these are my plans for the next 4-6 weeks… I’m just so grateful to have this time and want to make the most of it. Please drop me a line with any ideas of other things I should be doing pre number two coming along… I know there won’t be too much time for much once he / she does. And anyway, I think this is what they call “nesting” which you’re supposed to do right? 😉

ON SET WITH MOTHERCARE

It was a typically hectic weekday morning in the Ross household and somewhere between gulping down my pregnancy vitamin tablets and finding Jack’s missing shoe, I saw an email from Mothercare land in my inbox. Whilst pre kids it was just another mummy brand selling nappies and babygrows, now that I’ve become a mum, Mothercare is my ‘go to’ shop where I get everything from breast pads to buggies. And so yes, I cannot walk past without going in, yes they’ve got shit hot baby changing facilities which I love and yes, to receive an email from the shop I like to call the Mothership about making video content together was a good start to the day.

Fast forward a few meetings later and I found myself heading to the depths of East London one freezing dark Saturday morning at 6am to spend the day vlogging behind the scenes at their new Spring/ Summer fashion shoot. My brief was to bring the catalogue stills being shot over the course of the day to life through video and general insider ‘chat’ with the model, stylist and make up artist on site which would then be accessed by customers scanning the catalogue with the app (or on YouTube – see below for links). I’d never seen a mummy brand doing anything as innovative as this with their standard clothes catalogue, and was super excited to get started. We took advantage of the gorgeous bright weather and spent most of the morning filming outside by the Regents Canal, incredulous that so many Londoners wanted to get fit in the depths of Winter (and in on our shoot) and doing our best ourselves not to fall in the water.

The bulk of the day was spent going through the ‘capsule’ wardrobe, or the essential Mothercare items that every pregnant woman needs to own including a gorgeous cotton t-shirt dress in grey and blue pin stripe that I fell in love with. Other must-have items included a pair of jeans complete with stretchy pouch holding bump in perfectly, that I have hardly taken off since the shoot. The stylist talked both me and Lauren through the different items, from casual lounge wear to smarter pieces perfect for (that rare) night out, and I was genuinely surprised by just how many looks your could put together with so few items, and a little bit of clever accessorizing here and there. During my last pregnancy I’ll admit that being stylish was not on my priority list; NCT classes and seemingly endless lists of things we *needed* to purchase were more on my mind. This time round though, and thanks to the Mothercare range and stylist’s advice, I feel far more aware of my new “figure” and the best way to dress bump to make me look and feel good.

The atmosphere on set was laid back but focused. We made a lot of content – stills and video – and it wasn’t long before we lost the light and had to call it a day. We wrapped at 6pm, and with high fives and kisses all round, I headed home to my boys to eat chips on the sofa and get an early night after a long – and awesome – day’s work.

You can find the finished videos and shop the collection below:

Falling in Love with Costa Rica (PART 2)

Travelling slap bang in the middle of the day with the sun at its hottest was not something we’d really thought through. But then again, we’re not necessarily the most forward- thinking people (you may have realized that about us by now). Once we were on board, there was no turning back though and what we didn’t realize was the “party” waiting for us. View Post