What I did in 2013 mega long post

Posted on 29 December 2013 in Uncategorized

So I read Leonie Dawson’s review of the year and it inspired me to do my own review.

Because this was a big year for me.


At the start of 2013 I had a five week old baby.

This is what my day looked like, in terms of breastfeeding alone:


That was an easy day. Often, I had to go over onto the other side of the page.

It has been probably the hardest year of my life with a lot of change going on.

Cuddling up to mother

I’m a huge fan of Leonie’s planners, and I filled mine in for 2013 as I was determined to have a full, fun year and achieve a lot despite – and because of – having a new baby in my life.

I’ve never done a post like this before. But sometimes it’s really nice to look back and be proud of what you did.

This post is more for me more than anyone else, when I feel that I’ve achieved nothing and progress is glacially slow, I can remind myself that it’s okay and that I done good.

To be honest, even managing to finish this post was extremely difficult.

And when you’ve taken an hour to two hours every night putting a baby to sleep for the last 365 days and are working the ‘4 hour work week’ not because you’re relaxing in a hammock but because you only get about 4 uninterrupted hours a week to work on your own stuff, sometimes you need to feel good about what you’ve managed to do. OKAY?!!!

So, anyway… this is what I achieved in 2013, in no particular order.

(p.s. If you don’t like long posts listing the positive achievements in someone’s life then look away now. I know I’m incredibly lucky, and I’m grateful for it every day. And obviously, some of this is about my parenting stuff and implies absolutely no judgement on anyone who does things differently. And I don’t talk about the hard bits because I choose to focus my mind on the good stuff. So there.).

I survived life with a newborn

I got up every day after a night of no sleep and managed to build back a semblance of a life.

I did it day by day. And the next day. And the next.

With heavy use of reward stickers and the Story of Mum Gold Star Reward Chart.

(I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since he was born.

In November 2012.

Just saying.)

I did a baby parenting course at my local children’s centre

…and made friends with some local mums.

The course was free, with free food(!) and they gave us stickers for turning up. Yeah!

I took up Yoga

Doretta teaches at my local Virgin Active gym. I’d done some pilates with her when I was pregnant and enjoyed being called a ‘pregnant goddess’.

I needed to do something to help me physically regain my strength after the ravages of childbirth and all that. Her classes are fab, and I’ve done it most Saturdays all year. It’s a one and a half hour class, so there’s really time to get into it. And the mental/relaxation aspect of yoga has been really great too, especially in the early days when I’d had no sleep and was so exhausted, to lie on the floor and rest for five minutes was absolute heaven.

She played this one day, and I bought the CD. It’s part of my soundtrack to the year.

I got the hang of breastfeeding

It was painful. Very painful at first. And early on, it was almost constant. We had cluster feedings, which meant that between about 5pm and 1am it was pretty much constant feeding. And during the rest of the day I might get about an hour in between feeds, which themselves lasted for 30-60 minutes.

I went to the NCT breastfeeding cafe and said “is this normal?”. They said yes. Blogs like Kellymom helped.

I started off making logs of the timings, and after about a month I just gave up and went with the flow.

It got easier, much easier.

I’m glad I was able to do it.

This book is AWESOME, by the way:

I implemented elimination communication

It’s been a huge success.

Andrea Olson’s book is amazing. I highly recommend it if you’re intrigued by this whole thing.

Got the hang of cloth nappies

Who needs television when you can watch the washing machine?

I co-wrote a 5000 word new preface to the new edition of Reclaiming The F Word, which launched later that year!

It was mostly done whilst breastfeeding my baby, which as I already said, took many hours each day.

Reclaiming The F Word: Feminism Today

I did some meditations

Turns out that the yoga teacher does meditations in her home, which is just down the road from me. I managed to do a few sessions, and enjoyed it.

I completed the London section of the Thames Path

From the Thames Barrier to Hampton Court, in stages of about 6 miles a time, over the course of the year.

At the start, with Sam aged about 3.5 months

At the end of the London Section, at Hampton Court

We had some Games Nights

Auntie Rachel, Andrew & Sam playing Bohnanza

Not enough though… need to work on this next year!

We traveled to Rachel and Martins wedding reception in our home town in March

…and attended the evening do with Sam – only for hour before he needed to go to bed, but nevertheless! We made it!

I did some learning

I did B School, Nap It Out and Autoresponder Madness. I also renewed my membership with Leonie Dawson’s Amazing Biz and Life Academy.

This is me doing Nap it Out, during which I completed my hiking guides (which were about 40,000 words in total and 200 pages…!)

I maintained the little book of Sam.

This was basically my memory book of Sam’s first year.

Sam journal page

Sam Journal pages

Went up north

Climbed up Mam Tor.

Did a baby massage class.

Did baby swimming classes

This was so much fun.

Finally put up ‘the art cluster’

To make my home more ‘me’

Had lots of visits from family

I wonder what would happen if I pulled this?

Sam with Grandma and Grandad

Visited the Tate twice

Tate Britain, and Tate Modern, to see Klee.

Had intended to go more often, but failed. Need to work on this next year!

Went back up North for an anniversary and birthday party

Had a fantastic photo shoot

In May, from my friend Stephanos

#family #kids #moment #sacred #capture #canon #london

Put my coast to coast zine on the kindle

Details here

A Coast to Coast Journal

Did a term of baby sensory

Implemented baby led weaning

Total convert. It’s awesome.

Completed my London Hiker hiking guides

Details here

Took Sam to the Lake District!

Climbed two new Wainwright fells

Did regular weekly posts on London Hiker for about 6 months

& sent out a weekly email.

Took Sam to meet my fellow Free Range Humans

Amazing friends I’d met through doing one of Marianne Cantwell‘s courses.

Photo by Jessy Paston

Did some painting

Did four guest posts

This relates to my London Hiker website.

I did posts for Baby routes, Tiny Buddha, the PlanetD, and London Bloggers.

Got Sam used to the creche

There’s one in the gym, and he now goes for an hour about three times a week, so I can work.

Took Sam on the train by myself…

Went to Worcester and Clearwell Castle for a wedding weekend

Decided to take extended maternity leave

Made decision to leave work and go self employed


Too big to sum up here.

Visited childrens centres play times

Started the New Mama Welcome Pack

Secret project...

This is my new BIG PROJECT!!

See details here.

I’m so excited about this and am working with 60+ women on developing this fantastic gift for a new mama.

Visited the Isle of Wight

Sam's first sight of the beach and sea

Eating a breadstick

So bright on St Boniface Down, that I'm getting lens flares

Dipping boots in the water

Went back to work to sort out my files

Made some handmade books, and sold them at my local pub’s Christmas Fair

Hand made journals from vintage/recycled paper & materials

For sale on Folksy

Ran a giveaway on London Hiker

Increased my subscribers to London Hiker

Screenshot from 2013-12-29 11:38:33

From 48 to 234.

Mastered wraps and carriers

Heading back home on the Northern Line

Highly recommend the Manduca.

Forget the Baby Bjorn.

Made some videos about gifts for new mums

Went to Selvedge Winter Fair

Taught Sam some sign language

He knows ‘milk’ and ‘more’. We are teaching him ‘potty’ and ‘finished’.

Celebrated Sam’s birthday

Blowing bubbles

Attempt at family portrait #42651b

Started having regular play dates

…with a few friends

Things on my list of things to do in 2013 that I managed to do

  • Go to the Lakes
  • Write guides for London Hiker
  • Finish preface for Reclaiming The F Word
  • Learn baby massage
  • Do a walk with Sam
  • {Mortgage related financial goal}
  • Drink smoothies regularly
  • Climb a new Wainwright fell
  • Meet with my friend Helen
  • Play games (did, but not enough!)
  • Get four massages
  • Walk the Thames Path (finished the London section)
  • Do some ‘fearless painting
  • Try veggie black pudding
  • Do BSchool
  • Do meditation with Doretta
  • Maintain the baby journal/scrapbook
  • Try samphire
  • Get a regular haircut
  • Do exercise class once a week
  • Left work
  • Published London Hiker product
  • Go up north at least twice
  • Do a course/learning

Things on my list I didn’t get to do:

  • Go to Brighton
  • Visit the Tate four times (only went twice)
  • Publish another e-product (started one though)
  • Have a foot massage
  • Paint a canvas for the house (I realised I could use some of my ‘fearless’ paintings for this purpose, so maybe this is half done…)
  • Go to the Lush spa
  • Have afternoon tea
  • Eat at a raw food restaurant
  • Go for a hike on my own
  • Try four new book binding techniques

My word for the year was FUN.

I wanted to really REALLY enjoy this first year of life with my baby.

Yes, it’s been probably the hardest year of my life. But I think I managed it.

Catherine tries some yoga

Sam at Deen City Farm


6 months in

Now I have a toddler.

It’s scary.


Check out Leonie’s planners here if you like setting yearly goals and LOVE writing lists of things to do! I highly recommended them. And they’re an absolute bargain.

(p.s. Links to the planners in this post are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you extra, but if you buy, I get 50%.)

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Announcing my latest project!

Posted on 27 September 2013 in Creative life

Secret project...

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!

I’ve been a busy bee!

This (above) is the temporary ‘holding’ logo for my new project!

It’s called the New Mama Welcome Pack.

Let me explain…

A few months after I had my baby I found myself walking past the hospital where I gave birth.

I wandered in, and took a tour of all the locations I’d come to know over my pregnancy, soaking in the memories and the enormity of what had happened.

As I got to the maternity ward a woman in a hospital gown who had obviously just given birth a few hours before came hobbling out.

I felt so much empathy and compassion towards her and I knew I wanted to make something to help women through their first 3 months of motherhood.

The New Mama Welcome Pack is a multimedia digital product containing beautiful, inspiring, useful and heart-felt contributions from many fabulous bloggers, writers, artists, and entrepreneur mothers, which will be delivered to the inbox of the new mama over the course of three months.

Unlike most gifts after a birth, this will be totally focused on HER rather than the baby.

This is NOT ‘how to care for your baby’.
This IS: how to journey through the first three months with confidence; feeling proud, supported, celebrated, joyful, comfortable with this new part of your identity and navigating your new life, in your own way.

Each contribution will feel like a gift from her personal ‘support team’ of contributing mamas, offering love, inspiration, wisdom, support, encouragement and reassurance.

This would be an ideal gift for a first time mother; one that keeps on giving over a 3 month period.

10% of profits will be given to a maternity charity, working to make birth safe for all.

I’m going to be working on this over the next few months.

As long as Sam doesn’t eat all of my project plan:

The baby ate my project plan

If you’d like to know more, please pop your name into the sign up form below and I’ll update you as it progresses!

Sign up for updates on the New Mama Weclome Pack!

* indicates required

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This to make up for not talking about baby poo on social media

Posted on 21 May 2013 in Uncategorized

So a few weeks ago when my baby was 19 weeks old I was changing his nappy in a pub toilet.

My friend came in half way through to use the loos and started to chat with me.

I took the nappy off, said “hang on a minute I’m just going to do something a bit unusual”. I then went into the nearby toilet cubicle, held the baby over the loo and hey presto he did a wee. And then he did a ginormous poo.

He was about 4.5 months old at that point. However, we’d started using the potty when he was about 8 weeks old (you should have seen my mum’s face when she saw him use it for the first time, now *that* was a picture).

Anyway, my friend was astounded and almost ran out of the toilets shouting about the poo.

So we had to admit it and explain it to our friends. Yes, we are doing ‘EC’.

What the hell is EC?

Essentially it’s about helping the baby to go to the toilet (potty) from birth (or whenever you start it) rather than waiting until traditional potty training. The idea is that babies are born with the instinct not to soil themselves (that’s why they’ll often wee on the changing table when they have the nappy off), and that you can eventually learn their signals to understand when they need to go and then help them. It’s actually how they manage potty training in many cultures around the world.

I hesitated about posting about this because it’s kinda personal, and once you’ve stated you’re doing something like this it feels like a) there is suddenly pressure on you to do it ‘perfectly’ 100% of the time b) you have to carry on doing it and not change your mind c) people might judge you and think you are weird d) people might think I am judging them for not doing it (no no no never!).

There have been a few sensationalist and misrepresentative articles about this recently labelling it as an ‘extreme Hipster Parenting fad’, ‘eco one-upmanship’, ‘a means for middle-class professionals to mitigate some of their first-world guilt by embracing cultural traditions from around the world’ and claiming that people who do it have ‘inherent smugness and moral superiority’ and that’s just from this one piece.

Um, okay. So no judgement there then.

…but I’m sharing about it because although it’s about poo and wee and nappies and shit like that (see what I did there?) it’s actually really cool and interesting and amazing and probably more people should know about it and well, to be honest it works for us now and if it doesn’t work later on and we stop for whatever reason that’s fine too, I don’t regret doing it (as I explain below, you don’t have to be purist about it).

Obviously this is not for everyone and everyone does things differently and manages the best they can and that’s totally cool too. (And for any feminists reading this yes there are certainly interesting things to be said about privilege and parenting styles: Raising my Boychick is useful and thought provoking on the topic.)

I think this might be a bit like baby led weaning; seen as unusual and ‘hipster’ at first but later more and more people catch on to it.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote to my friend afterwards as she wanted to know more.


Dear X


Sorry for the delay in sending you info about baby poo stuff. I could honestly talk about this for ages but it’s not something you tend to raise as it’s kinda unusual…!

Ok so what it is, is a practice called ‘elimination communication’ (or EC).

This is the best summary I have found:

The video sums it up really well (she’s selling her book of course but she’s fantastic and very clear…)

You do NOT have to have your baby naked all the time! I don’t! Do not be put off by the ‘nappy free’ language, you can do it with nappies on or part time.

That website sells a PDF book, video series & forum which is AMAZING and I highly recommend it to anyone thinking of getting into it.* I basically learned how to do it just from her book and website.

Although it’s best to start as soon as possible, most people are too overwhelmed with everything else to start straight away.

We started to use the potty after about two months I think (roughly). You can get special small potties for this which you can hold between your legs and put the baby over the top. We have recently changed to a standard potty.

What we were able to do *before* that was, from the beginning, every time we heard him start a poo (trust me, you can tell!) we held in him the squat/EC pose with nappy on and used our ‘cue’ which is to say stuff like ‘oh you’re doing a poo? any more poo-poo? any more poo?’ etc until he’d finished (usually he’d cry or wriggle when he’d done).

We noticed he’d often wee during a nappy change which reinforced the idea that they instinctively want to do it ‘in the open air’ and not soil themselves (which makes sense). After time, babies lose this instinct because by only being allowed to do it in their nappy, they are effectively trained to eliminate in their nappy. Then, usually, you have to train them back…

Here are my top benefits of it:

The squat pose used in EC helps him do what he needs to do, rather than just leaving him lying flat on his back pooing. Even if you know about this one thing you can hold them in the ‘position’ with the nappy on to help them do their business.

He does most poos in the potty now. Wees are so frequent it’s harder to get all those, but I’m not bothered about doing it 100%, more about him knowing what to do on the potty (which he does).

He hardly ever has nappy rash.

Less dealing with pooey nappies and bum (in a nappy, the poo goes all over the place; if he does it in the potty it’s a much smaller clean up).

He knows that weeing and pooing in a potty is normal and does not only associate those things with having a nappy on.

It’s nice to let him wriggle around naked for a bit after a potty time, getting some fresh air, and knowing that he’s not going to suddenly wee everywhere because he just did a wee in the potty.

It sounds weird but you feel good that you’re helping him to do something he needs help to do. Just like you do with feeding. It is another way to listen and communicate with your baby and deal with their needs.

However, we tend to base our practice on timing and guessing rather than clear signals from him. So, in the morning when he wakes up, we do a potty and he almost always poos and wees. We do it during every nappy change too (as you saw the other day). We offer a ‘potty opportunity’ before we go out of the house and when coming back into the house. This is a cool benefit too as it means less chance of a nappy change needed whilst out and about if he does a wee beforehand. This simple thing alone is worth knowing about! I mean, if you can offer your baby a wee opportunity before leaving the house to save having to change a nappy whilst out isn’t this worth knowing about?

We also do things like: before we go swimming offer him the chance to do a wee in the toilet at the swimming baths (which he often does).

Before doing baby massage class I’d take him for a wee so he’d be comfortable during the massage.

We use cloth nappies at home and disposables at night and out and about. Because we do EC, we have less pooey nappies to wash at home which makes using washable nappies more bearable.

If I’m at home I will periodically offer him a ‘potty opportunity’ when I think he probably wants/needs to go.

It is actually really amazing and cool when your very young baby knows what to do when you put him over the potty…

But if it isn’t working, honestly it’s no big deal at all.

There is a helpful EC UK Facebook group that’s a private group (search for EC UK on facebook) and sometimes there are London meetings!

I’d be happy to explain more if needed.

Hope this helps!

Now you know more about baby poo than you ever thought you would!


Here is a genuine email I sent to Andrea Olson who wrote EC Simplified because I was so impressed with her book:


Dear Andrea

I have been meaning to email for a while to tell you how helpful and brilliant I think you and your book* are!

I bought your book whilst I was pregnant last year as I was interested in starting EC with my first baby. I can’t remember how I stumbled on your website but I definitely remember seeing your introduction video on YouTube and thinking how clearly you explained it and non-scary you made it seem. It didn’t take me long to want to buy your book after checking out your site.

First of all, the book is absolutely brilliant. It is really comprehensive, professional, well laid out, very clear, full of information, fun to read and easy to use. I remember reading it and thinking “even if I don’t end up doing EC, I don’t regret buying this as it’s so informative anyway”. None of the regular parenting books tell you this stuff but it feels like everyone should know this! Even if you’re not doing EC, simple things like understanding why the baby might be crying (for elimination reasons) and using the EC hold to make it easier for them to do a poo rather than leaving them lying down struggling (who wants to poo lying down?!), honestly I’m amazed why this isn’t more widely known.

The pictures and videos are extremely helpful. The gallery of positions is invaluable and SO comprehensive! You went into so much detail and every step is laid out.

When our baby was born we didn’t start EC straight away and kept him in nappies all the time but I used the principles in the book to learn and help my baby and to get him used to the cues we would use. One night soon after he was born I heard a noise from him; I held him in the EC hold I learned from the book and videos and he did his first meconium poo. Since then whenever we heard a poo happen we held him in position (with his nappy on) and said our cue word for poo.

On changing his nappy we noticed that he would regularly wee during the nappy change which convinced me you are right about babies natural instincts not to soil themselves.

We started to try using the potty at about 8 weeks old offering it during a nappy change, on waking, and before going to bed and before leaving the house to go anywhere (e.g. in pram or sling) and on coming back to the house. It has been amazing. It worked almost instantly. He is now 11 weeks old and is doing most of his poo and wees in the potty. He waits until I get the nappy off and sit him on the potty to do a wee! I can hardly believe it sometimes.

What is incredible to me is that I am doing most of this based on timing, instinct and offering regular opportunities to him like you described in the book, rather than following his signals as they aren’t very clear yet – and he seems to *know* that when he is on the potty he can poo. I swear he *knows* what to do and *tries* to do a poo when offered – it isn’t just coincidence! My mum visited me when he was 8 weeks old and was totally stunned by it. It was fantastic.

We are continuing to use nappies and I really appreciate your approach that this is okay – I think you present a great relaxed and laid back attitude about it and you’re not ‘purist’ about it at all. I love that you emphasise that you can do this part time as well. We are now transitioning to cloth nappies because he hardly ever has a pooey nappy nowadays.

(I also think the way you are running your website as a business is really great to observe too.)

You are welcome to quote any of the above as an endorsement.

THANK YOU for such a great and helpful product!

Best wishes


Here are some resources I found useful:

EC Simplified by Andrea Olson (*Yes this is an affiliate link meaning if you buy I will get a percentage of the sales. But as you can see I am *genuinely* embarassingly gushing about this product!)

http://www.bornready.co.uk/ and http://www.nappyfreebaby.co.uk/ – UK sites about this issue with free info!

Brilliant cartoon and really good blog post by Kate Evans: “Parents who practice elimination communication are overachievers.” Discuss. This is great as it discusses some of the possible negatives of doing it in a purist way.

Lulastic and the Hippyshake various posts about doing EC from a Londoner



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