Books I finished in May 2017

Books I finished in May 2017

I’m not sure what happened to my reading in May but the only book I finished was a short one read on the train to London and back. I must have dipped into lots of others and spent way too much time faffing around.


Book read

The Good Skin Solution: Natural Healing for Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea and Acne – Shann Nix Jones

I’ve had rosacea for years (I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog, particularly when some friends and I were doing the H2Only challenge in aid of the RNLI) and have tried various creams and potions, long-term antibiotics and prescription gels to get it under control. The antibiotics worked to an extent (but who wants to take them indefinitely?), the rest not so much. Since being pregnant with my second child (who is now 20 months old) I’ve been taking an “ignore it and pretend it’s not there” approach but the time has come to wrestle with it again. I’d been looking into the link between rosacea and our gut microbiome and when I saw that this book was on offer on Kindle for less than £2 I decided to check it out.

Shann Nix Jones is the co-founder of Chuckling Goat, supplying freshly made goats’ milk kefir and natural kefir skin care products from her family farm in Wales. Kefir, a probiotic drink made from live culture fermented milk, is said to help restore the balance of the gut microbiome, having a knock on effect on your skin and general health.

The book goes into detail about the importance of the 2kg of bacteria that sit in your gut and I must have been convinced, because I am now a fully signed up Chuckling Goat customer. Apparently rosacea is a very stubborn condition and will take at least six three-week courses of kefir (and some dietary changes) to tackle, but I’m willing to give it a try. And that’s a post for another day.

Also on the go


H2Only Day 10: We did it!

H2Only Day 10: We did it!

I’ve taken the H2Only Challenge with three friends to raise money for the RNLI. This means we drank only water for 10 days from 5pm on Tuesday, September 13th, until 5pm on Friday, September 23rd. No coffee, tea, squash, pop, wine – even fizzy water was banned! It had to be just plain water, “H2Only”. You can sponsor me, Beckie, Karen and Keith at


5pm, Friday September 23rd.

Wow, the day we thought would never come is here! It’s 9pm on Friday, September 23rd, four hours since I gleefully poured myself a cup of strong coffee in my favourite mug and found it tasted, well, a bit bitter.

It seems that my taste buds have adjusted over 10 days of drinking only water (and having a rotten sinus infection, but let’s not whinge about that again). I had a second cup an hour ago (yes, I know, I won’t sleep tonight) and that tasted more normal, so I expect shunning the water-only experience for a more varied menu of drinks will be just like riding a bike.

Much to my delight my husband came home from work armed with bottles of sparkling water, cloudy cider and Coke as a treat (he doesn’t read my blog to know that I was planning to pass on Coke completely from now on and apparently we don’t actually speak to each other!). While I really fancied the cider I’ve been doing admin for the baby and toddler group I help run and didn’t think that two cups of coffee AND a bottle of cider would help me handle the finer details. But I’m going to get my husband to make me a hot toddy (lemon, honey , cloves and whisky) in a minute, for purely medicinal purposes, of course.

So what I have learned from drinking only water for these 10 days?


Husbandly treats

Well, it’s had no effect whatsoever on my skin, despite me having high hopes that it might improve the redness and bumpiness that comes from rosacea. I’m inclined to think that having a sinus infection which has left me extremely run down hasn’t helped there. I wonder whether I’d be glowing radiantly if that hadn’t hit me at the same time. My daily photos were meant to capture a big improvement but never mind. I have at least learned to take a half-decent selfie (my top tips: good natural lighting, hold the camera so you have to look up a bit, go for an enigmatic smile rather than a massive cheesy grin), which is a good skill to have in 2016 if nothing else.

My weight has bounced around a bit over the 10 days but I started out last Tuesday at 170 lbs (darn that baby weight!) and ended up today at 167.8 lbs, so 2.2 lbs lighter. I’m quite impressed with this because I’ve definitely eaten more cake and chocolate in these 10 days than I usually do. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all, so I had to fill the gap left by restricting my drinks choices with lots of sugary goodies (sorry, mum). I didn’t make any other changes to my activity levels – if anything I have been doing less, thanks to the afternoon naps I’ve needed every day due to being poorly – so a 2.2 lbs weight loss is pretty good.


Day 10 (167.8 lbs) – still rosy faced but 2.2 lbs lighter

I’ve also learned that I actually can decide to do something and stick to it. Although I did miss some drinks and just having choices, I never doubted that I would get to the end of the 10 days without cheating or giving in. It just wasn’t an option. I will do well to remember this in my daily life, when it’s all too easy to quit if something’s a bit hard or inconvenient. No more excuses, I just need to decide what I want to do and then do it!

Blogging every day has been great fun. I haven’t blogged for a long time as this website is usually just a portfolio for work, and it’s hasn’t even been used much for that recently as I’ve been on maternity leave for nearly a year. I’m tempted to keep it up if I can think of things to say, although definitely not every day! That level of commitment was definitely just for H2Only.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that this was a fundraising challenge and not just an interesting experiment. My friends and I have (so far?) raised a grand total of £226.53 for the RNLI (it’s not a nice round number because my sweet friend Kate down under donated in Australian dollars – thank you, Kate!), which is enough to buy five pairs of the RNLI’s special £42 non-slip reinforced wellies worn by volunteer lifeboat crew members. If you’d still like to contribute, you can give online on our Just Giving page or if you see me in real life, ask me for the paper donation form.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all of our donors and our friends who have supported and encouraged us in this harder-than-you’d-think challenge over the past 10 days!

Day 9

H2Only Day 9: A peek inside my drinks cupboard

H2Only Day 9: A peek inside my drinks cupboard

I’m taking the H2Only Challenge with three friends to raise money for the RNLI. This means we will drink only water for 10 days from 5pm on Tuesday, September 13th, until 5pm on Friday, September 23rd. No coffee, tea, squash, pop, wine – even fizzy water is banned! It has to be just plain water, “H2Only”. You can sponsor me, Beckie, Karen and Keith at


Some decaffeinated goodies in my drinks cupboard

I’m still not feeling great but no one wants to hear me whinge on again about my sinuses, so I thought I’d take a look at a question that a friend asked me yesterday.

She has been following our H2Only challenge with interest (and has sponsored us as well – thank you!) and was curious about whether my usual caffeine intake affected my breastfeeding.

I love any excuse to do a bit of research (I am a Questioner, after all!) so I enjoyed thinking about my friend’s question. I’ve definitely found that this challenge prompts people to look at themselves and work out what works and what doesn’t. The H2Onlies Facebook group is full of people who are planning to make permanent changes once 5pm tomorrow rolls around.

I probably hadn’t made it clear enough that I generally don’t drink a lot of caffeine. Well, not too much. That’s one reason I’m sorry that I never got to feel if I got any withdrawal symptoms during this challenge (“No moaning about your sinuses today!” – Ed) – I would have like to know if not much was actually too much.

I normally start the day with a mug of “proper” coffee (usually what’s left in the coffee maker by my shift-working husband, who has often gone to work by the time I wake up) and then for the rest of the day it’s good old Sainsbury’s decaf all the way. We switched to decaf teabags when I was pregnant with my five-year-old and never went back, and I will usually make decaf coffee during the day. I generally drink normal coffee when I’m out and about. I do love a tall Starbucks fresh filter coffee.

My (formerly) beloved Coke was a chemical-sugar-caffeine-infused guilty pleasure, but that was an occasional treat rather than an everyday drink. We switched to Coke Zero a while back to try to be healthier but I didn’t like it much so that tended to be for my husband. He’s developed a taste for sugar-free squash (which I also don’t like) so we’ll probably steer clear of Coke from now on. As I mentioned before, it’s easier for me to abstain completely than just have a little bit. And yes mum, I do know how bad Coke is for you.

I’ve got various yummy herbal teas in my cupboard, including some chocolate and vanilla rooibos teas that a friend gave me in a new mum care package when my youngest was born. And then there’s chai, lemon and ginger, peppermint, green tea, the list goes on. I can’t wait to try some of these again after tomorrow. And I’ve asked my husband to pick up a big bottle of sparkling water on his way home from work from tomorrow.

I love a hot milk and honey in the evening before bed (rock and roll!) and I only drink alcohol once in a blue moon.

Which brings me to breastfeeding! Note, I am not a trained peer supporter (although I would LOVE to be) or anything formal, just a mum who has breastfed two children and believes in encouraging women to trust their bodies and give it a try.

Caffeine does get into your bloodstream, and then about one per cent of that gets into your breastmilk. The NHS website suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women should stick to less than 300mg per day, and gives a few examples of what that means in practice.

Babycentre says: “NHS guidance is to have caffeinated drinks occasionally rather than every day while your baby is young. In the US, women who are breastfeeding are recommended to have no more than about 200mg of caffeine a day. That’s about two mugs of tea, or two mugs of instant coffee, or one mug of filter coffee, a day.”


Day 9 (167.4 lbs)

The superb KellyMom website agrees that “most breastfeeding mothers can drink caffeine in moderation” and provides some interesting tables about the caffeine content in various (American) foods and drink.

A breast-fed baby whose mother consumes too much caffeine might be particularly wakeful and restless. KellyMom quotes from The Breastfeeding Answer Book: “A baby who is being overstimulated by caffeine is a wide-eyed, active, alert baby who doesn’t sleep for long. He may also be unusually fussy” and, interestingly in the H2Only context, says “it may take a few days to a week after mom eliminates caffeine for baby to become less fussy”.

My 10-month-old is generally a very laid back little man who doesn’t show any signs of caffeine stimulation, and hasn’t been any different during this challenge, so I don’t think I need to be concerned – unless I go absolutely crazy on the caffeine at the end of this challenge! (Not likely – it’s a sad truth that I am boringly sensible).

Thank you, my friend, for your question! I really enjoyed looking into it – and hope it might be useful to others too. It sure beats complaining about my sinuses!

Day 8

Day 10







H2Only Day 8: Bleeurgh

H2Only Day 8: Bleeurgh

I’m taking the H2Only Challenge with three friends to raise money for the RNLI. This means we will drink only water for 10 days from 5pm on Tuesday, September 13th, until 5pm on Friday, September 23rd. No coffee, tea, squash, pop, wine – even fizzy water is banned! It has to be just plain water, “H2Only”. You can sponsor me, Beckie, Karen and Keith at


I imagine this coffee and walnut cake was delicious.

Get ready to give me some sympathy – I think I have sinusitis. I feel rotten. It’s even worse than man flu. I have been poorly throughout this whole challenge. I have missed out on the withdrawal headaches and the renewed burst of energy once the fog clears. I have just felt awful the whole time. I’m breastfeeding my 10-month-old so I wouldn’t have been knocking back the Lemsips anyway, but I reckon a few good strong cups of coffee would have pepped me up a bit. Thank goodness for afternoon naps, giving me the chance to lie down too. It’s a challenge in its own right to get up again for the afternoon school run.

But, as everyone knows, a mum doesn’t get to stop for long and I have more or less carried on as normal despite the full body aches, fatigue and the copious tissues full of snot. I went to the women’s group at church this morning and forced down, FORCED I tell you, a piece of coffee and walnut cake. I normally would have gone for the lemon drizzle but I felt duty-bound to get a coffee hit where I could. I’m sure it was delicious, but I couldn’t really taste it at all.


Day 8 (167.6 lbs) – my big boy wanted to be in today’s picture

Interestingly, I’m still not missing Coke at all. If you’ve been here from the start of the H2Only challenge, you’ll remember me (almost literally) kissing my Coke goodbye. I just don’t fancy it. I could really really REALLY drink some sparkling water right now. Oooooh, bubbles. Fizz. Carbonation. “Give her effervescence, she needs a little sparkle.”

By the way, thank you so much to all the people who have said they are reading this. I haven’t blogged for a long, long time (this website is usually more of a portfolio for work) but it’s been a lot of fun, and it’s nice to know that people are enjoying it. And thank you also to all our generous sponsors who have taken us past our £100 target!

Day 7

Day 9

H2Only Day 7: New tactics

H2Only Day 7: New tactics

I’m taking the H2Only Challenge with three friends to raise money for the RNLI. This means we will drink only water for 10 days from 5pm on Tuesday, September 13th, until 5pm on Friday, September 23rd. No coffee, tea, squash, pop, wine – even fizzy water is banned! It has to be just plain water, “H2Only”. You can sponsor me, Beckie, Karen and Keith at


Ah, Volvic! (Excuse the mess – and Gilmore Girls – in the background!)

To try to avoid the whole “not drinking at all” thing from yesterday, I decided to try a couple of new tactics today.

When I got back from the school run I downed a glass of tap water, then set a timer on my phone for an hour. When that went off, I drank another glass straight down. And so on and so on, every hour, until the afternoon school run came around. Then another glass just before dinner.

Drinking a glass down in one go rather than sipping from a bottle all day seemed to make it a bit more palatable. I was becoming so tired of water but I think doing it like this might make it easier to get to the end of the week without shrivelling up into a husk through lack of drinking.


Day 7 (168.8 lbs)

In the interest of “drinking more water in the eternal quest to try to improve my skin”, I’ve tried before to drink a glass of water every hour on the hour (alongside a normal, delicious variety of drinks!) and never succeeded. Maybe I’ll manage it in the future.

For my second new tactic, I am treating myself to a big bottle of Volvic straight from the fridge. This is going down surprisingly easily. I don’t know if it’s the coldness or the magical French volcano springs (as an aside, I spent a month working for Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, not far from the source of Volvic, during my degree), but I’m already halfway through a litre bottle with no effort at all. Tomorrow’s experiment – put my normal water bottle in the fridge and see if that helps.

[Congratulations to my friend Karen, who started the challenge early and finished today! She celebrated with a decaf coffee. Well done, Karen!]

Day 6

Day 8