Saturday, 19 August 2017

What's this health kick I've been on?

If you're a subscriber to this blog you will be receiving my monthly newsletters and will know that I've been on a bit of a health kick recently.  (Not a subscriber?  Simply enter your details in the right hand side bar.)



I have been needing to lose weight for years, but the push for me finally came when I agreed to support my husband in cleaning up his diet in the hope it would help heal his Inflammatory Bowel Disease.



We switched to a wholefoods vegan diet (we were already vegan but eating far too much processed food), and I have to say it hasn't hurt one bit. I have lost some weight that I really didn't need to be carrying around and I feel great.


I decided to create a Facebook group called "Happy Healthy Mamas" to get together with other mums to support each other in achieving our own weight loss, fitness and self-care goals.  The group supports a vegan wholefoods diet, if you're interested in joining the group, click HERE

In the group there is a real range of mamas from those transitioning to a vegan diet to those who have been eating wholefoods for some time and are already hitting their goals. 
Some of the mums who are just starting out have asked for a weekly menu that they can follow, so I have spent some time putting one together as a downloadable E-Book.

I have decided to charge for this weekly meal plan E-Book so you know that I believe this is a really good plan that is worth paying money for.  

But because I want to share the love around and help others achieve their goals I am offering it for a limited time as a "pay what you want" price.  This means you choose how much you think a weekly wholefoods vegan menu is worth to you.  You pay the amount you want by typing it into the box below and clicking "Pay Now" and I will email you the weekly meal plan. 

The meal plan includes;
  • Seven different breakfast option,
  • Seven different lunch option,
  • Seven different dinner options with desserts,
  • Different snack options for each day,
  • Photo illustrations of many of the dishes,
  • Ingredients for each meal,
  • Cooking instructions for each meal,
  • A guide on how to use the meal plan day to day and for the future,
  • Other suggestions on healthy living. 


Enter the amount you would like to pay in the box below and click "Buy Now".



I will email you the menu within 24 hours.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Uber Frugal Month Update



So we're into August now and Uber Frugal Month is officially over.  We also dedicated this month as "No Spend Month".  So let me tell you how it went.

We began the month really well, no spending at all.

We immediately switched out my youngest child' disposable nappies at night for cloth which was a super easy swap and I can't believe we didn't do it sooner.  We also took nappies off my 3 year old at night as we felt he was ready to go dry through the night.  This all went well.  I also started using cloths for going to the toilet.  This also went well thought there was a small increase in washing.

We cancelled our Netflix membership so that's a small monthly saving. Then we were invited to a party one of my children's friend's.  I thought at first I would make a gift, but completely left it too late and ran out of time so had to buy something.  I felt ok about this as you could argue it was an essential purchase, but I  was disappointed with my lack of preparation.  We were planning on cancelling our Ancestry.com membership but needed to download to family tree so that ended up not happening. (Still planning on cancelling this as soon as we have figured out how to download the thing.)  Things carried on well after this, just buying our weekly food and other consumables.  Then we got ready for our holiday.

Image may contain: cloud, ocean, sky, beach, outdoor and nature
We did have one sunny day!

We saved a lot of money on our holiday by camping (probably half the amount we would usually spend on a weeks holiday).  Unfortunately things went a bit downhill from here.  I had to buy some footwear for us all that we could use in the showers, so we ended up buying myself a paid of cheapy crocs and some jelly shoes for the boys and some sliders for my husband. On holiday things went even more wrong. We bought snorkels and goggles for the boys and a selection of brightly coloured buckets and spades.  I also made some purchases at a Museum for both myself and the boys (though my purchase was educational so somehow feels justified?!) We also ended up spending quite a bit of money on the camp site washing machines and dryers, and on reflection using cloth over the holiday was probably not cost effective compared to disposables because of the expense of the machines and dryers (it rained so no chance of line drying.) We also spent more on food by eating out and a fair bit was wasted due to not having a fridge. I think this could have been solved with better planning, and now we have done it once, I think we could be more efficient with meals in the future.

When we got back from our holiday my husband bought some new trainers which were on sale and I ordered some too, though sent mine back because, although they were cheap they weren't quite right so decided it was better to get pricier ones that fit perfectly for running in the future when I really need them, than cheaper ones that might bother me (and were also not essential). He also bought some trousers and I bought a new set of paints, (again justified by saying it's for my art business?!)

Unfortunately, because of eating out and other bits and bobs on our holiday we have ended up with both our bank accounts over drawn, but I am hoping that we are less overdrawn than we might have been had we not been "Uber Frugal" this month.

No automatic alt text available.
This in my sold painting, but more paintings available HERE

On the whole it has been a positive experience and I am still taking what I have learnt through August.  I am questioning every purchase rather than just buying things without thought, and looking at things with an is-it-value-for-money mindset rather than thinking "it's too expensive" or "I can't afford it" which are not abundance ways of thinking.



On a positive note, I sold a painting this month!!  And I launched another mama's retreat day, this time an all day art fest!


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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Seven Days of Vegan Dinners

I am so happy that so many of my friends are choosing a compassionate vegan diet.  I have had lots of comments, messages and replies asking for vegan recipes so thought I would put together 7 days of vegan dinners to help people transitioning to a vegan diet.  All the quantities serve about two adults and three small children, but you can easily adjust the quantities to suit your family and appetites.
Some ingredients I haven't given quantities for such as the rice, potatoes and pasta etc, so just use how much you normally would for your family. Apologies for the lack of images for each of the meals. I will try to add images as and when I next do these recipes.



1. Pasta sauce and sausages:

this is a great staple and good for kids, the sausages will probably fool a meat eater in this dish.  You could also swap out the veg and tomatoes for a shop bought jar of sauce, or add a few veggies to a shop bought sauce if you prefer. I have chosen wholemeal fusilli but you can use whatever pasta shapes you prefer.

Ingredients:
Wholemeal Fusilli pasta,
Olive oil,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 Onion,
1 Courgette,
1 Red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 cloves of garlic,
Vegetable stock cube,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pack Linda McCartney sausages,
(Optional) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion, garlic courgette, pepper and mushrooms and fry gently in olive oil until soft, add can of chopped tomatoes, herbs, seasoning and stock cube.
Meanwhile cook the sausages and pasta.  When the sausages are done (15 mins in the oven) chop them up and add to the vegetable sauce.  Serve as you like, I prefer to mix my pasta and sauce together before serving. Add a little vegan cheese on top if you like it.
You could also do this as a pasta bake if you like.

2. "Chicken" curry:

This is a tasty general curry, add or takeaway spices to suit your own taste.

Ingredients:
1 pack Vegan Quorn chunks,
Rice,
1 can of Coconut milk,
2 Stock cubes,
1 Onion,
3 garlic cloves,
1 pepper,
Tin of chick peas,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 tbs tomato puree,
1 tsp Curry powder,
1/4 tsp Mustard powder,
1 tsp Garam Masala mix,

Fry onion, garlic, pepper and the spices in a little olive oil, add chick peas and quorn pieces.  Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stock cube.  Meanwhile cook the rice in the coconut milk and a stock cube (you may need to add a little water). Serve with poppadoms.

3. Hot and smokey chick pea salad:

Image may contain: food

This is a really meaty salad, the flavours in the chick peas and the sun dried tomatoes give a really meaty taste like chorizo.  Then the creamy avocado makes you feel like you're eating some sort of sour cream.  Very tasty.

Ingredients:
Mixed lettuce bag/ chopped up lettuce leaves and a handful of spinach leaves,
Red pepper,
Cucumber,
Cherry tomatoes,
Avocado,
5 or 6 Sun dried tomatoes,
I Can of chick peas,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Smokes paprika,
Pinch of Cayenne,

Arrange the leaves on a plate and add chopped pepper and cucumber, and the tomatoes and the sun dried tomatoes chopped up.  Cook the chick peas in a frying pan with a little olive oil, add the seasoning, cook till hot through.  Sprinkle the chick peas on top of the salad followed by the avocado chopped into cubes.

4. Fajitas,

A fun family dinner.  If you're not keen on the Quorn you could use butter beans or soya meat balls.

Ingredients:
Tortilla wraps,
Vegan quorn chunks,
1 Onion,
1 courgette,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 Cloves of garlic,
1 tsp Tomato puree,
salt and pepper,
1 tsp Smoked paprika,
Pinch of cayenne,
Lettuce,
Tomatoes,
Cucumber,
Avocado,
(optional ) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion and other veg and fry with a little olive oil, add the quorn chunks, tomato puree and seasoning and cook till all soft.
Serve in wraps with finely chopped lettuce, cucumber slices and sliced tomatoes, avocado and a little vegan cheese if you like.  If you're feeling adventurous the check out cashew sour cream and add this.

5. Bean Casserole,

This maybe my favorite recipe (sorry for the poor quality image).

Image may contain: food

Ingredients:
1 can of mixed pulses,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 tsp tomato puree,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves of garlic,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
stock cube,
1 tsp smoked paprika,
1 tbs soft brown sugar,
1 tbs cider vinegar,
Rice,
1 can coconut milk.

Fry all the veg, add the puree and chopped toms, add the seasoning and stock cube and the can of pulses, add the sugar and vinegar for a bbq taste. and cook till veg is soft.  Meanwhile cook the rice with the coconut milk and a stock cube, add a little water if needed. You can serve with some tortilla crisps if you like.

6. Lasagna,

I have been assured by my meat eating friends that this is a very tasty lasagna. You can get dairy free garlic bread in most supermarkets or make your own with an oven bake baguette, some vitalite and crushed garlic.

Ingredients:
Wholemeal lasagna sheets,
Frozen Soya mince,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic,
1 courgette,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pinch cayenne,
1 jar of vegan white sauce (or google a recipe for cashew white sauce)
Vegan cheese.
Garlic bread to serve.

Chop up then fry off the onions, garlic and other vegetables, add the chopped toms and stock cube and seasoning.  Add the soya mince and cook. Layer the mince sauce, lasagna and white sauce as you would normally and top with the vegan cheese.

7. Cottage pie.

Is this cottage pie or shephears pie, or neither?  I am not sure, but it tastes good so who really cares!
If you like you can switch out the chopped tomatoes for gravy granules and a little water.

Ingredients:
Frozen Soya mince,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs Tomato puree,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
Stock cube,
Potatoes,
A dash of Almond milk,
1 tbs Vitalite,
salt and pepper,
(optional) vegan cheese or nutritional yeast.

Chop up and fry the onion, garlic and other vegetables, add soya mince and tomatoes and cook.  Add seasoning.  Meanwhile steam the potatoes then mash with almond milk, vitalite and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Layer in a dish and cook as you would a cottage pie, you can add some vegan cheese on top if you like or some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour.

I hope you enjoy these vegan meals and they inspire you to start including more plant based meals into your weekly menu.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Uber Frugal Month

Hi friends,

In July I'll be taking part in Uber Frugal Month.

This is a month long money saving challenge. You can read more about it HERE, and I'm starting today.



We aren't an extravagant family, we rarely splash out on material things, but recently we have had a lot of payments going out and no improvements on money coming in.

There are several reasons I am participating in this challenge:
  • To recharge my commitment to non-consumerism/ materialism,
  • To learn new ways to save money,
  • To make steps towards paying off overdrafts,
  • To make steps towards putting aside money for things we need (new living room floor, kitchen units) and things we want (holiday). 
  • To be able to put more money aside to donate to charity,
  • To focus on the important things in life that money can't buy, family, fun and friendships. 
By the end of this month I don't expect to suddenly have a bank account overflowing with money, but I do hope that we are able to see a future where we have money to spend on things our family needs and some money left over for the things that make life enjoyable (like more camping trips), unlike our current situation where we seem to be working every month to pay off the overdraft. As well as avoiding waste and needless purchasing. I hope we will have re-focused our minds to non-consumerism, so that we need and want less, this is good for us as well as the environment. 

Where I would like to see us in 10 years time is for my husband and I to both work part time.  I would like to be able to make a living from my art so that my husband can work half as much. This way we can share the massive burden of childcare and home education and there is less of a burden on my husband to be the "bread winner". 

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts HERE  we are living in a very small house in a very pricey area, so another part of my ultimate goal would be to be able to move into a larger house (specifically three bedrooms with a second toilet and utility room, (easily pleased)).  I don't dream of mansions and fast cars and loads of clothes and jewellery (too much responsibility) but on a purely practical note, our house is getting too small for our needs and a little bit more space would make life less stressful.  A lot of boxes would have to be ticked for us to be able to achieve this goal, so in the mean time I would like for us to have enough disposable income to be able to pay someone to look after the children perhaps a couple of days a month so I can work on my art and business. 

In the longer term, I would like to see us being able to take our children travelling, to see the world a bit and to be able to live mortgage free, moving towards self-sufficiency. 

So this month is just the start of a much bigger plan and I know it won't be easy.  Children are demanding and the nag factor is hard to resist.  Buying things is just so easy these days I do it without thinking sometimes, I'll buy a book from Amazon that I could have borrowed from the library, or I'll buy something brand new that I could probably have got second hand somewhere, but that takes more effort. So effort is something I am going to need in bucket loads, but I'm making that commitment to the challenge. (I'm going to miss our takeaways on a Friday evening).

So what am I going to be doing to save money in an extreme way?
  • I'll be eliminating all non essential spending, (I'll be calling this a "no-spend month") so we'll be cutting our things like monthly payments to online subscriptions,
  • Reducing gas and electricity bills by being more careful with gas and electricity use (easier in summer!)
  • Reducing expenditure on food, by eating what we have already got in the cupboards, buying at the market, and having a fast from all processed foods, planning ahead, and by price comparing and buying from the cheapest place,
  • Seriously think about our need for a third car.

These are the steps I have already taken on the first day:

  • Cutting up an old dressing gown to use as reusable cloths,
  • Putting my one year old in a cloth nappy at night to reduce our use of disposables (he wears cloth during the day but disposables at night),
  • Putting my three year old in pants at night with an absorbent sheet to eliminate use of disposables (we already have a pack of the sheets so no extra cost there),
  • Setting up a monthly direct debit for my car tax so I can account for monthly out goings more easily and we can work on getting out of the overdraft,
  • Cancelling subscription to Ancestry.com and Netflix, 
I'll also be hustling to get more money IN through my business and have a variety of things up my sleeve that I am going to implement and put into place in the next month, so stay tuned for that.



In conclusion I want to make it clear that we aren't about being miserly or having an attitude of lacking, I want our family to have an attitude of abundance throughout this challenge and that may well be one of the hardest parts about it, the frugality should be our first step towards wealth accumulation. 

Wish me luck, and let me know if you decide to join in with the Uber Frugal Challenge too. 

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

National Breastfeeding Week




Breastfeeding gets a lot of bad press these days,  so I thought I would take a moment to big it up a bit in honour of National Breastfeeding Week, by sharing 10 things that I love about breastfeeding.

1.  I love that it instantly solves almost any problem, baby wakes in the night, no problem, a few minutes of breastfeeding and he's back off to sleep, it contains chemicals that help both him and me off to sleep, baby falls and bumps himself, no problem, breastmilk has pain relieving properties and the crying stops, teething, same.

2. I love how my breastmilk changes consistency depending on the weather.  During the hot spell we recently had here in the South of England my boobs went into overproduction of watery milk to re-hydrate my baby.

3. I love how it's helped me lose weight, I am back at my pre pregnancy weight, it's taken a little longer after this third baby, but I'm there, and let me tell you, I have not reduced my calorie intake one iota.

4. I love how convenient it is.  At Forest school?  No problem, just get my boob out and give him a feed.  At church?  No fussing, boob is right there, Looking at the skyline on the London Eye (you've guessed it)  boob! Even walking round the supermarket, I have him in the carrier and boob is right there to keep him happy for the rest of the shopping trip.  It's always the right temperature, the right consistency, sterile and it's virtually hands free.

5. I love that breastfeeding reduces my risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis, I know that it doesn't eliminate the risk altogether and that there are other factors involved in these things, but it is great to know that the benefits aren't just for baby, they're for me too.

6. I love that it's virtually free.  You could argue that I need to eat a little more to breastfeed, but I think the financial cost of this is negligible (especially if you go to toddler groups with free biscuits!) The only other cost for me has been breast pads, which are washable, so over a period of 5 years (so far) the cost has been very small.

7. I love that only I can do it.  For me it's a wonderful privilege and blessing that only I am able to breastfeed my baby.  Not daddy or grandma or a childminder, only me. And you know what this means don't you? I get to sit down more! Woo hoo! (I love a good sit down)  "Yeah, sorry husband, can't help with the dinner right now, I'm breastfeeding!".

8. I love that Breast milk is still such a mysterious substance we still don't even know what all the ingredients are.  It's packed with good bacteria, and anti-bodies, it's literally a living substance.  People like to be able to deconstruct everything, medicalise everything, analyse and in some sense, own, it.  But breastfeeding is still full of mysteries and we are still learning all sorts about how it kills horrible bugs, cancer and how it affects children, and only we, the mamas can really own it.

9. I love that I can breastfeed and still have a drink.  The amount of alcohol in your breastmilk is the same as your blood so anything more than 0.4% blood alcohol and you'd be practically dead. This amount is actually less than is in your average glass of orange juice! The main thing to be aware of is your own ability to care for your child under the influence, and of course, co-sleeping and drinking is a no no. Cheers!

10. Finally I love that the fact my being disorganised and forgetful (yes my child arrived at Forest School this morning with no shoes on. NO SHOES!!  I had to put nappy bags on his feet!)  has no impact whatsoever on my ability to breastfeed.  I literally can't forget to take my boobs!

Breastfeeding on the London Eye!



Monday, 19 June 2017

Escape

There is so much horrible stuff going on, all the time, all over the world, but more recently things a lot closer to home, it's scary and worrying, I worry for my children and my husband (who commutes to London daily) and my sister and brother who live and work there.  It also makes me sad and some of it makes me feel ashamed and guilty, and if I think too hard about it my heart just can't take it.  

I can't do anything to make these things go away, I haven't the facilities or capacity to do anything to help, I am helpless and this could well lead to hopelessness.

The only option for me is escape.

So that's what we've done.

For my birthday we bought a tent and every weekend for the last three weekends we have been camping.

It's been mostly great,

It was a lot of work,

There were tears,

There were arguments,

There was cooking in the rain,

There were pancakes and tea in the sun,

There was waking up freezing cold,

There was waking up boiling hot.

There were lakes,

There were beaches,

There were woods,

There were cosy evenings,

There was wine,

We learnt a lot.

The first weekend we went to a campsite just ten minutes from our house, we forgot a washing up bowl, a dustpan and brush, dish sponges and washing up liquid. But enjoyed walking round the lake and the playground, and a good breakfast at a cafe.


The next weekend we went about an hour away to a campsite in Wiltshire in the Savernake Forest, it was wonderful being so near the forest.  I thoroughly enjoyed peeing in the woods in the very early morning with the sunlight shining through the trees and the birds all waking up.





 Last weekend we went further still to a campsite in Dorset, we stayed out late on the Saturday night, having a meal in Weymouth (a restaurant called Restaurant 43 which in spite of a very meat heavy menu made me a delicious oriental stir fry a la carte).  which was a lucky thing because we returned to the tent to the sound of very loud karaoke in the pub just behind our tent, so thankfully we had missed most of it!






So I am loving camping, mostly.   I love the slower pace of life, and how everything just takes longer, in the positive sense of it being leisurely.  Walking to the tap to get water, cooking the meals, even going to the loo.  I enjoy the simplicity of it, you're not surrounded by stuff, you just have the bear minimum.  I enjoy the low-tech-ness of it, I don't use my phone, no hoover, oven or TV (though I do read books on my Kindle) This also means I can avoid any more heart-wrenching news, at least temporarily.

How do you deal with all the trouble that's going on?  Do you escape too?  How?  If you don't escape, what do you do?

Going camping was one of my goals for this year and I hope I will share lots more camping adventures with you over the summer.  I really hope we're going to be a "camping family" and that this will be something that brings us together, can eventually relax us and help us unwind and be an important part of our lives. I am also hoping that camping with friends will be something we will be doing in the future too.



Sunday, 30 April 2017

20 Creative Journaling Prompts for Mums

At the Gentle  Parenting Retreat I ran in February, the lovely mums who attended created beautiful journals to use as parenting or mothering journals. I promised them I would come up with a list of different ways to use their journals to help them reflect on their parenting, to be creative, to provide self-care and find themselves. Well I have finally got round to creating said blog post. I hope these ideas will be helpful not only to the mums who came to my retreat, but anyone else who feels drawn to journaling.


For each activity suggestion I have tried to include reasons why it is useful for mums, and examples of  ways you can make each exercise work for you, as well as tips on creativity and putting the idea into practice.
Where possible I have linked to the original source of the images, just click on the image or the link to take you to the original source.

1. Zentangles, https://www.zentangle.com/
Mothering can be stressful at times and we all need to take moments to relax and unwind. Zentangles are essentially doodles you create from you imagination and can aid with mindfulness, meditation and relaxation.   As you create your zentangle you can focus on the repeat pattern you are creating, the feel of the pen on the paper and the motion of your hand.
It can be daunting to begin your Zentangle, to make it easier try creating a random pattern by creating an overlapping scribble then filling in each section with a different pattern.  Alternatively you can draw round a object, overlapping the shapes then filling them in.
Your Zentangle can be as simple or complex as you like, you might find it inspiring to look on Pinterest or Google for pattern ideas. You might also like to add colours to your Zentangle to make them even more visually appealing.



         

      


2. Identity Star

As mums we often feel a sense of losing something of ourselves.  We put so much into our children we can forget who we are outside of our motherhood journey. By creating an identity star we can take time to focus on our strengths, interests and personality.
Look through magazines and newspapers and choose words which you feel reflect you, anything good about you, this could be things you like about your body or personality, things that you enjoy doing, things you think you're good at, favorite things or hobbies and talents.  You could also print them out or use letter stamps to write the words out.
To make the exercise a little more creative and visually appealing you could create an artful background before sticking your words down.  Take a look at some ideas from number 4 and number 15.

                          



3. Writing is a great way to use your journal. It's great to take some time to write, it can be cathartic, as well as giving you opportunities for self discovery. It can be daunting to begin if you aren't used to journaling, so here are a few links to lists of journal prompts to get you started.

Journaling prompts for self discovery: http://inspacesbetween.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/60JournalPrompts.pdf

Journal questions for memory keeping: http://hayleyfromhome.co.uk/lifestyle/journal-questions-bullet-journal/

More prompts for self discovery: https://www.lavendaire.com/journaling-ideas/

Journal prompts to help you know and accept yourself:   https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2016/09/20-journaling-prompts-to-help-you-know-and-accept-yourself/

Journal prompts for self love: http://www.thetruthpractice.com/single-post/2017/03/26/20-Journal-Questions-for-Self-Love

Journal prompts for when life gets overwhelming: http://reflectionsfromaredhead.com/when-life-gets-overwhelming/

If you feel so inclined you might like to illustrate your written pages or create visually appealing backgrounds.

      



4. Visual journaling prompts:
 Being creative is good for your health, it helps relieve stress, it increases and renews brain function and it can improve your mood, these are all really important for mums who can feel stressed and overwhelmed at times. You might like to develop your creative skills by creating a some very visual journal pages, here are some ideas for the process of creating a visually appealing page in your journal:



5. 100 things that make you happy:
Like focusing on gratitude, focusing on things that make you happy can help you to appreciate all the good things in your life.  It can be difficult to think about all  the things that are good when we become overwhelmed with the basic day to day necessities of everyday life.  This idea can bring you back to your centre.  You can make this age really visually appealing by using some of the ideas for creative background in numbers 4 and 15.


6. Past and Future Hands, art therapy exercise:   http://emerlyearts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/art-therapy-group-my-past-future.html

Motherhood is a time of transformation, this exercise can help you make sense of your past (pre child) verses present (mother) self.  Motherhood redefines who we are and what we hope for our future. Begin by drawing round your hands, then fill each one with words and images that reflect your past and present/future self.   You could use colouring pencil, felt tips or watercolour paints. 




7. Altered book art/ found poetry:

This is a really fun and creative journaling idea.  It can be helpful for expressing yourself, being creative and as relaxation.  Begin with a page from an old book that you don't mind destroying. Go through the text and select and highlight words or phrases (by masking out words surrounding them) which speak to you.  You might like to pick words and phrases at random and see what poem you come up with, or you may decide to be more mindful about it and choose words and phrases that work as a whole and speak to you particularly to form a poem (it doesn't have to rhyme). 
You could use ink, paint, felt tips or colouring pencils.  You could also collage around your words or even do illustrations. 

                             

      


8. Gratitude mandala

Gratitude is really good for you, it improves physical and psychological  health, reduces aggression and increases empathy, helps you sleep better, improves self-esteem, and increases mental strength.  (https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#5393596b183c)

Creating a gratitude mandala not only gives you the benefits of gratitude,but also the benefits of creativity and mindfulness. In Buddhism and Hinduism a mandala is a circular figure representing the universe. In Jungian psychology a mandala as a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer's search for completeness and self-unity.  You might like to meditate on these ideas and what they mean to you as you create your gratitude mandala. 
You could use pen to create your mandala or felt tip, and create it as a spiral or a sun shape. 




9. Wax resist: http://arttherapyspot.com/2014/05/

The process of using a white wax crayon, then painting over it with watercolours is both creative and expressive but also can be very meaningful.  You might like to simply create images and patterns which you paint over to reveal for the simple joy and pleasure for it.  Alternatively  you can use it to create a meaningful narrative.  For example try writing with the wax crayon, expressing things about yourself that have been buried or hidden by the overwhelm of motherhood, the process of painting over the wax with beautiful, vibrant colours reveals and brings those qualities back to life.   


10. Visualisation collages:

Vision boards are really great tools for goal setting and helping us to focus on what we want in life. As mums we often forget that setting our own personal goals is important for maintaining a sense of self and for self care. You can create mini vision boards on any theme in your journal.  Maybe it would be a vision board for the year ahead, or what about a vision board for your birthday or a holiday, or how you would like your relationship to be or your home ed life etc.  Whatever it is a vision board can help you to clarify your ideas and help you to focus daily on what you want to achieve.
You could collect images from magazines, or print images online, you might like to ad words or your own illustrations to your vision board.  You might decide to do your vision board on  a separate piece of paper then stick it into your journal, or do it directly into the journal itself. 

     



11. Journal your affirmations:

I talk a lot about why positive affirmations are useful in my (super cheap) e-workshop.  Why not create a very visually appealing art piece around your chosen word or phrase.  You could use paint or collage on or around your word or phrase, add paint, print into it, add texture, the possibilities are endless, try using some of the ideas in number 4 to help you. 

        

  

12. Identity finger prints:

Like with the Identity Star, the identity fingerprint brings you back to your centre, reminding you of who you are, what your purpose is.  It uplifts you as it reminds you of all your skills and talents and positives about yourself, as well us helping you remember that there is more to you than the mothering aspect, you have many layers and they're all important. 
Take a look at your fingerprints, study them for a while, marvelling in their uniqueness.  then begin writing in a swirling pattern that mirrors the pattern on your own hand. 
You could use different colours, or keep it monochrome, you might even like to create a background for this piece like the ideas in number 15.



13. Self portrait collage,
Self portraits are a really great way to begin thinking about the question "who am I".  By studying your face in a mirror and thinking about your own self you begin to re-discover a sense of self, an awareness of your place in the world.  Creating a drawn self portrait can feel daunting, especially if you haven't used your drawing skills for a long time.  You needn't feel you can't do this exercise though as you can use photographs and collage to create your portrait.  Take a look at the images below for inspiration.  You can include writing and small images to add more meaning to your piece. 


    




14. Word of the year collage/art:

Like with positive affirmations and vision boards you can use you world of the year as inspiration for a journaling page.  Check out my super cheap e-workshop for why affirmations are important and how to use them HERE

A word of the year helps you set a tone for the year ahead, using visual aids via collage or drawing helps you focus on your intention and keep it in the front of your mind. This is especially important for mums who so often put their own goals and targets on the back burner while they focus on their children.  As honorable as this seems it can actually have a negative effect on your family because if you don't take time to focus on your own needs it is difficult to meet the emotional needs of our little ones. 
      




15. Creative backgrounds:

Whatever you use your journal for you can always make a page more visually appealing.  Making it look attractive to you is great because it means you will want to look at it again and again. 

You could try:
Collaging with newspaper, 
Splattering paint with an old tooth brush,
Water colour wash,
Dribbling paint down the page,
Rolling paint on with an ink roller,
Printing with bubble wrap,
Spray painting over different objects i.e. chicken wire, masking tape,
Potato printing a repeat pattern,
Glue down bunched tissue paper,
Collage with vintage maps or music sheet,
Applying paint with a sponge,
Applying acrylic paint with a scraper or pallet knife,
Collage textured wallpaper,

And of course you can combine these techniques and elemntsfor example spreading acrylic paint with a pallet knife over textured wallpaper, or applying potato prints over a watercolour wash.

                       

              


                                      





16. Observational drawing of a natural object:

Creating an observational drawing is a brilliant way to engage the brain in a creative activity without having to worry too much about having ideas, it also has all the health benefits mentioned above. Spending time doing an observational drawing can also be an opportunity for mindfulness and meditation. By trying to apply your focus on the motions of your hand, focusing all your attention the detail of the object in hand and looking carefully at all the shadow and tone can can experience a sense of relaxation and can appreciate being in the moment. 
Choose an object that appeals to you, this could be anything from a shell to a flower, choose something that has a degree of detail so you have something to get your teeth into. Try not to judge yourself on your drawing abilities, this drawing is just for you and no one else, you don't have to show it to anyone. 

      







17. Using photos:

You might like to use photographs in your journal.  You can use photos that have captured a special moment, photos of your family or yourself or just photos that you feel are beautiful.  This is a great way of documenting life, which seems to pass so quickly when you have young children.  We often don't get a chance to print off our photos and put them into albums, so this is a great way to use photos in a creative and visually appealing way.  You could try collaging with them, or even look into using ephemera such as tickets and leaflets as well.  You could look at getting some scrap booking bits to add more interest to your collage. 




18. Self portrait weaving:  
I thought this was a really lovely idea you could include in your journal and a great way to use textile.  As we have already discussed there are great benefits in creating self portraits as a way of considered the self.
To create this self portrait you need to make yourself a weaving card. HERE  are some simple instructions on how to do this.  You then need to print out a photo of yourself and cut it into horizontal strips. As well as strips of decorative paper and yarn, you could use other ephemera such as old book pages, maps, tickets, receipts, leaflets, birthday cards, etc.  Simple weave your gathered items in and out of the wool on your weaving card.  When it's finished, remove it from the card and secure it into your journal.
The process of weaving mirrors the way we weave our lives, we make them what they are, and as we are creating our lives we are weaving stories and experiences throughout it to create a rich tapestry of feelings and experiences.

19.   Drawing with your eyes closed:
Drawing with your eyes closed is a great way to remove yourself from the self judgement you may experience with observational drawing, and takes away any feeling of being "good" at drawing. It is a also a wonderfully meditative way to draw.  By eliminating one of the senses you are able to focus more intently on your remaining senses of touch and hearing; feeling the sensation of the paper or pen on the page and the sound as it moves invisibly across the surface of the paper. This can be a chance to relax  from the frenzy of life as a mother and give you a chance for self care. 
The results of your blind drawing can be really fascinating and freeing.  After you have finished the drawing you might like to embellish it with colour to make a more intentional piece. You could have an object in front of you which you may look at before you begin drawing.  Or draw from your imagination. 

        





20. Continuous line drawing.
On first appearance these seem very similar to the blind drawings. Thought the process of quite different. With a continuous line drawing you keep your pen or pencil to the paper throughout the entire process of drawing what you can see.  This can help free you from self imposed constraints that you may normally experience when doing an observation drawing such as being tentative or hesitant with your mark making or sketching around the object try and achieve a likeness.  It also removes the need for shade and tone. The process can have really fascinating results which again you can embellish with colour if you wish.
     



Well there you have it, 20 ways you can use your parenting journal.  I hope you will show me the results of your experiences and I can share them on this blog.