Archives for April 2014

Making a splash! | From Mushroom’s mouth

Last week I swam by myself for the first time.

What no applause? Ok, let me start again. *drum roll please*

Last week I swam BY MYSELF!

I know, I know. I’m awesome. Actually, I’ve been quite capable of this for a while but I don’t like Mummy to know too much or she might raise her expectations of me. You see, for the past month I have been clinging to her for most of the swimming lesson each week, crying that ‘I can’t do it by myself!’ Some weeks I’d give her a treat and use both my arms and my legs while she holds my waist. But if Jenni* gets out the floats and I’m supposed to let go? No Way. I need to hold on to Mummy or she might let me go forever. Can’t be having that.

Anyway, last week I was selected by Jenni to be her special helper*. So Mummy wasn’t needed for a bit. When it came to being a space  rocket she had disappeared!** She wasn’t there to hold me so I ended up with Jenni, who saw right through me. ‘I know you can do this,’ she said, and just held my hands so I had to do all the work. I quite enjoyed it a actually. After that we did some kicking with floats… and Jenni LET GO OF ME. It would say it was cruel but I kept kicking and swam a bit – by myself! So this post is basically a Yay Me post. Feel free to send chocolate and flowers to congratulate me. I like tulips. And dandelions.

This is not me. I’m not that confident! Yet. Give me a week.

*Jenni is my teacher. She is special. I think she likes me the best so I told Mummy I don’t want to move up a class
**Mummy came back in the end and said she’d been watching me the whole time. I think she’s telling the truth. I’ll ask Jenni next week.


Photo credit: arztsamui at

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Big boys don’t cry | From Mushroom’s mouth

Yes, they do. Big boys cry big tears. Big fat hot salty tears that make your face all wet and sticky and – importantly – make you feel better when you’re done. There are a few grown-ups who would feel much better about life if they just had a good cry about all the crap they’ve dealt with over the years instead of stewing in it. Go on, let it all out. Then move on. I know it’s hard though, especially if you’re a man and you’re concerned about what people will think.

I’m only three and already I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me ‘big boys don’t cry,’ when I am upset about something. First of all: Yes, I am big. I am three. But I’m not that big! Mummy only just took away my dummy (I’m not an idiot. Dummy fairy? Please. But I was ready. Sort of) and I’m not even at school yet. I still don’t have all the words I need to describe my feelings (and even if I did sometimes they are just too big to deal with in the moment) so I cry to release them. Sometimes I lash out and hit but I’ve been told that is not okay so what am I supposed to do? Swallow my feelings deep down somewhere so that they can bubble up later on? Add them to the mix of hormones and parental resentment I’m told comes during my teenage years? That doesn’t sound healthy to me.

This is not me. But I feel his pain. There is no need to hide your tears.

This is not me. But I feel his pain. There is no need to hide your tears.

To that guy who told me  was ‘crying over nothing.’ Did you ask? It might seem like nothing to you but it was something to me. And besides, it was none of your business. Judging by the look Mummy gave you, I’m surprised you were still standing after that to be honest. I’m not going to tell you why I was crying that day but generally, I cry for a whole lot of reasons: I’m hurt, I’m scared, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry (ok, I can say when I’m hungry but sometimes I’m so tired I don’t realise it), I can’t understand why I can’t have a lollipop for breakfast/stick my finger in the plug socket (it’s just the right size!)/play with the oven… Or I just don’t feel right. So I cry. And then I get on with life. Or fall asleep. 

I don’t care what you think (yet – so be mindful of the messages you’re sending). Big Boys DO cry. And it helps.

This post was inspired by a recent post over at Redpeffer, on gender stereotyping.

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici at


Dear Mushroom – you’re three years old!

Dear Mushroom,

Mushroom 3rd birthday

Looks nice and calm doesn’t it? There were plenty more kids out of shot! But Chloe (the entertainer) was great and keeping them all under control. Definitely worth the fee!

The last time I wrote you a letter like this you had just turned two. Last month, you turned three. You had your first birthday party and it was brilliant to watch your reaction as one by one all your friends turned up. You introduced some of them to each other, saying proudly ‘that’s my friend!’ of each one. You joined in enthusiastically with the singing entertainer and it was a joy to watch you. I loved how you tried to make sure everyone was ok, even going to find a friend who had hidden out of sight and sit with him for a bit, getting him to join in. I thought you might find it a bit overwhelming but although exhausted afterwards, you were fine. I think we’ll do a smaller scale celebration next year though!

In many ways you are much the same – you still have similar interests; all those I listed in your letter last year remain the same: An interest in anything to do with transport (you love riding your scooter everywhere and your balance bike, although you’ve been dropping a lot of hints about a bike with pedals lately! You’re ready but you might have to wait a bit), music and dancing, cooking and cleaning (you’re forever trying to ‘help’ me – I hope this interest continues into your teenage years!), making things with play-doh, drawing and painting. You have also started singing around the house just like Auntie L used to at your age. Most of the time I have no idea what you’re singing but it’s pleasant to listen to. I especially love your rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle,’ – the one I do recognise!

Of course some things have changed. For a start, you were potty trained this year so we are no totally free of nappies – day and night – and you rarely have accidents. Yay! That was quite a relief. I do not miss nappies and neither do you. In fact, you request privacy when going to the toilet, telling me ‘close the door properly Mummy,’ or telling me not to look at you if we’re both in the bathroom at the same time. I’m not sure how you’ll feel when you look back and see I’ve written about this! So, moving on…

You’re not as cautious as you were a year ago but still just as adventurous – if not more so! That wobbly bridge was replaced with a high slide – a very high one – that you negotiated first time with no help (you refused my offer) and you now fly down it head first with your ‘go faster’ face on. I don’t share photos of your face here but ask me about it and I’ll show you. The ‘go faster’ face is reserved for when you want to move at great speed (you don’t actually go any faster, you just think you do!) and when running it’s accompanied by a cartoon style pose that reminds me of the road runner cartoons (you’re too young – look it up on YouTube). You’re still just as adventurous with food and will eat anything (provided I explain what it is if it’s new), which I am so thankful for as I know many kids go through a fussy stage at three! You’re not keen on couscous (the texture I think) but if you’re hungry, you’ll eat it.

You remain cautious over some things – you are very good at crossing the road safely, often telling me I ‘didn’t look properly!’ if you haven’t seen me visibly stop and do so before crossing small roads. You’re also still cautious around strangers but much more confident than last year. It’s lovely watching you walk up to other kids in the park and say ‘Hello?’ to see if they’ll play with you. It’s not so lovely when they don’t respond how you’d like and occasionally you lash out at them. I understand that it hurts and you don’t yet have the words to describe these feelings but we’re working on this.

Although you do occasionally lash out in frustration, you are still just as loving as you always have been. You love to kiss and cuddle family and friends but you also have strong appropriate boundaries. Your desire to reach out sometimes means you cross others’ boundaries though – not everyone wants to be touched all the time! – but you’re learning more every day and as your emotional vocabulary expands and you can put your big feelings into words, they won’t spill over so often into tantrums and/or tears.

You talk a lot. A lot. Possibly more than me, which is saying something! You tell us everything at the moment. You’re just learning how to lie be creative with your storytelling but your honesty always wins out. If we ask ‘are you telling the truth?’ You’ll laugh and say ‘No,’ but continue with your story anyway before eventually giving up and being honest. Your vocabulary is wide and you’re adding several new words or phrases every day but you still get upset if you can’t quite explain what you mean. You’ll start with ‘wait a minute, I thinking,’ and have a serious look on your face. Then you stutter a little as you stumble over a few words and decide they’re not quite right. You’ll try and talk around the subject – you’re becoming very creative with this, saying things like ‘We go there with Strawberry last time’ to describe the farm, for example – but if you can’t find the words you either get tearful or grumpy, stamping your feet and crossing your arms as you say ‘I don’t wanna tell you! I not talking any more!’ I try not to laugh.

You are still a little comedian. You parrot other people, as all kids do, and sometimes your impersonations are spot on. You’ve got Grandma down and your ‘Daddy face’ (his stern/grumpy face) is hilarious. You impersonate yourself pretty well too and love it when people laugh at your jokes. You’re not so keen when you think people are laughing at you, saying ‘Stop laughing! Not funny!’ But if we quote Peppa Pig and say ‘It is a little bit funny,’ you end up if not laughing too, then at least smiling with us. Let’s face it, with a bit of distance, most things are a little bit funny in the end, aren’t they?

Well that’s all I can think of for now but I’m sure that’s enough! You’re growing into a real little man and I love watching you grow – just slow down a bit, ok? I don’t want to find I’ve gone to ‘threenager’ to teenager too quickly!  I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings. So bring it on!

Love as always,


This post is part of Flashback Friday over at Mummy Mishaps. Flashbacks can be any time, from the past week to several years ago and can be about you, your partner, your children or your friends.

mummy mishaps


Slipping in to spring

Spring is almost my favourite time of year. If pushed, I would say that I love summer – the heat of the summer months (when we get it!) is what swings it for me but there’s something special about spring. I feel happy, I’m more creative, I write more poems… It’s just generally the best time of year for me.

So it won’t surprise you to learn that Easter is my favourite holiday. I associate it with the new life, and the start of something more to come.

To celebrate the start of our favourite season (it’s Mushroom’s too until he tells me otherwise!) we have been making the most of the lovely weather this week.

We had friends round on Thursday and spent the morning playing over on the big pirate ship that some of you might have seen before. We stopped for lunch and ate pizza and cadbury’s creme egg chocolate brownies. Mine didn’t look as good as Jenny’s at Mummy Mishaps (which is where I got the recipe) so I didn’t take any photos.

After lunch we headed to Brook’s Farm – our local city farm. We were hoping to see come lambs and ‘baby chickees’, as Mushroom calls them but the only babies there this week were goats.

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As they saw us coming they ran to their mother to nurse and Mushroom said ‘Look they are drinking Mummy milk like baby Chickpea!’* He was very excited and asked whether all animals have Mummy milk and if mine would ever come back. Erm… That was a tricky one as at the moment we don’t plan to have any more kids but I explained that the milk comes with the babies and goes when they stop drinking it (and he definitely doesn’t see himself as a baby any more!).

The afternoon was spent eating ice cream and playing in the brilliant adventure playground outside the farm.

On Saturday we met up with my sister and her boyfriend, who had been instructed not to buy Mushroom sweets for Easter… So he got George Pig (who now goes everywhere with us) and a travel play doh set… He was made up with these but much more interested in getting to the ‘Special park’ (the Olympic park in Stratford) where he spent an hour playing at the Tumbling Bay adventure playground before we headed home.

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The view from the playground! I couldn’t use any of the photos I took in the end… I will take more next time!

Sunday the weather was a bit disappointing but we spent the morning playing with his new travel play doh, making ‘birthday cakes,’ and we went to a family christening in the afternoon. He was a nightmare in the church but luckily he wasn’t the only toddler who wouldn’t sit still for 2 minutes and the service was short! It was raining when we got to the reception but when it cleared Mushroom was so excited about playing outside in the dark that he stayed in the little playground with the big kids from when we got there (about 6pm) til we left (after 11)!

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Shame about the weather but Mushroom loved being in charge of the umbrella

What did you do with your long weekend?

It might be a little late, but I am linking up to Coombe Mill‘s Country Kids  with this post. Click on the image below to find out more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

*Baby Chickpea is Peanut’s little brother (find out more about Peanut’s Daddy in his Daddy Plus interview!)


Banana and raisin pudding muffins

Black bananas. Yuck.

Neither Mushroom nor I will touch a banana if it’s got more than the tiniest hint of brown on it’s skin. Mr B prefers them sweeter but we don’t like the texture as they turn, so we tend to use them a lot in baking. Sometimes we simply mash them with blueberries and zap them for 20 seconds in the microwave for a healthy, tasty dessert but when we have the time we like to make banana bread, or, in this case – pudding muffins. I call them pudding muffins because although we used a bread recipe, the consistency of the end result was more like pudding (and tasted delicious served hot with custard). Here’s how we did it:

Ingredients: 3 ripe bananas, mashed, a cup of raisins (about 200g), a cup of flour (about 2oog), 1 egg, beaten, either 200g sugar OR 100g sugar and about 50g honey or agave syrup , a drop of vanilla essence and a teaspoon of baking soda. We add a splash of milk (for the pudding consistency) and touch of cinnamon too.

Method: Start with the bananas, then add the egg, sugar (and agave syrup if using) and vanilla and mix well with a wooden spoon. Then add all the dry ingredients and stir well. You can use a mixer for this but we prefer not too as we like the lumpy banana bits you get when you mix by hand! We put the mixture into silicone cake cases but you can just use a muffin tray if you have one. Pop in a pre-heated oven (350 degrees/Gas mark 4) for one hour. Et voila!

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We ran out of silicone cases so we put the rest of the mixture into a square cake tin and cut the end result into slices – bigger portions for bigger appetites! They kept in the fridge for about a week.


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Karen – A Mummy Plus interview

I haven’t had a ‘Mummy (or Daddy) Plus’ here for a while so thought it was about time I introduced another one…!  Back in November we met Mummy Plus Melissa Hanks, who, aside from being Mum to two children under five and having a part-time ‘day’ job, is also a qualified Sport Massage Therapist, Pregnancy Massage, Reflexology Practitioner, Fitness Instructor and Cake Maker. Wondering how she manages it all? So did I! Pop back to her interview to find out… Be sure to come back now!

This week’s Mummy Plus, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, also makes cakes…  Beautiful, delicious cakes that are also low sugar (or even sugar free), wheat and gluten free and full of natural healthy ingredients. That’s right, cakes that are good for you! And they do taste great, honest – I have sampled a few! They are perfect for any occasion and adaptable to any dietary requirements.  Karen Mullen set up Fine Fettle Cakes in 2012, following the birth of her son, Bobby. Prior to this, Karen worked at St. Vincent’s hospital in infection control, while she was studying for her Naturopathic Herbalist qualification, which she completed just before she got married in 2010. Karen fell pregnant with her first child, four-year old Amy, immediately after the wedding.  After Bobby was born Karen found juggling part-time work, childcare and a fledgling private practice didn’t quite work for her family so she decided to quit the day job, combine her qualification with her natural artistic talent and love of good food, and Fine Fettle Cakes was born!

So, you’re a qualified Naturopathic Herbalist. What exactly does that mean?
The belief behind naturopathy is that your body has the ability to heal itself; our job is to find the tools to do this using natural means.  I use herbs, nutrition and look at lifestyle – it’s a holistic approach. There are so many applications, I could talk about it forever! But a good example would be if you get a headache, then rather than treating the pain I’d look at the reason behind headache and fix that, then the headache will go. A common cause of headaches is simple dehydration so I’d recommend drinking more water instead of taking a tablet, as the latter works on your liver, creating a toxic environment that your body then has to deal with on top of the dehydration.

How did you come up with the idea for Fine Fettle Cakes?
I love baking, design and nutrition.  Since having the kids I’ve been at home and I wanted to do something that I could manage from home that interested me.  I make all kinds of cakes as well as desserts and a range of breads.  The reason for specialising in healthy cakes came about when I started to realise how little choice there is out there for people with food intolerances and for those who just want a tasty cake without all the sugar and fat, so that they can indulge more often without the guilt! They are also great for kids parties as they don’t get that sugar high that makes some kids so hyper.  The parties we’ve catered (with around 20 children) do seem to be calmer for having less sugar!

Easter cake - wheat free fruit cake - low sugar

A low sugar, wheat free Easter cake…

How does running your own business compare to what you were doing before?
It’s completely different but I do find myself thinking of how I dealt with certain areas, such as marketing, in previous jobs.  Working in a pressured sales environment at Dell computers was great training for all the pressured multi tasking I have to do now.

What are the biggest challenges you face now?
I’m very time poor so it’s always a challenge to get everything done!  I also find I want to experiment more with new ingredients but the costs for multiple bakes using really good ingredients such as spelt flour really add up, especially when it’s not to sell and as a family we suddenly have six carrot and seaweed cakes to eat!

The award winning cake! Contains no sugar, dairy or wheat.

One of your cakes won an award last year. Tell us about that.
The carrot and seaweed cake won a prize at my husband’s work in a blind taste test. It was also the only one with no sugar, wheat or dairy in either the cake or the ‘icing,’ which tasted like cream cheese but was made of a lengthy list of healthy ingredients including cashew nuts!  This recipe has also received recognition from Paul Kelly, one of Ireland’s top pastry chefs.

Who or what inspires and/or motivates you?
My family definitely does, especially wanting to make them proud.  A lot of my motivation is also internal; I want to feel I’m doing the best I can with my time – something worthwhile that’s also enjoyable.

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
It’s difficult but it is getting easier now that my youngest is over two. I’m also blessed, they both get on so well they will happily play in the playroom for a couple of hours with their toys so long as I’m around.  Our kitchen and playroom are open plan which works well. I find if I can keep the TV off most of the time they play much better too. It also helps to have playdates and planning, so that there are definite times of the day when they have 100% of my attention. Getting out with them as much as possible is important too…  It doesn’t always work so well but that’s the plan!

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
When my husband comes home at about 6pm I usually stop working and once the children go to bed we either chat or watch TV and go to bed early.  Finding quality time as a couple is difficult. We have started doing ‘date night’ this year to make sure that we have at least one date a month.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
I’d definitely still bake!  I love it, especially coming up with new recipes and designs, but I’d do it in a much bigger nicer kitchen!  I’d also have a cleaner, not a nanny though, I just prefer to be on top of looking after the kids myself.  They are small for such a short time I don’t want to miss out.

If you had to describe your children in just three words (that’s three words each!), what would you say?
Amy – vivacious, caring, smart
Bobby – sweet, stubborn, much easier! ( I know that’s 4)
Ellen (my husband’s 18 year-old daughter) – strong, smart, lovely

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
Wife, baker and cleaner, stepmother to teenager and very very busy!

Towering inferno – One from the decadent range!

Fine Fettle Cakes is based in Dublin and delivery can be arranged to anywhere across Ireland (a delivery charge will apply). If you mention Mothering Mushroom when calling, Karen will give you a 20% discount on your order. If you like the sound of Fine Fettle Cakes but it’s too far away for you (unfortunately delivery to the UK is not possible at the moment), be sure to go and like the Fine Fettle Cakes Facebook page and pass it on to your friends (especially those based in Ireland!).

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for recommending Fine Fettle Cakes and will not receive any commission should you make a booking. Read my full PR and disclosure policy for more info.


Crunchy cornflake chicken nuggets

Mushroom loves chicken. Which is just as well because we eat a lot of it at Mushroom Mansions.

Very occasionally, I will treat Mushroom to chicken nuggets from a fast food restaurant but these occasions are rare and I don’t buy them to have at home. So, a while ago when we had some at a birthday party that actually tasted like real chicken, I wanted to try and make something similar at home. Around the same time, I saw a recipe for cornflake chicken nuggets in a free supermarket magazine I thought I’d give it a go.

The ingredients couldn’t be simpler: Chicken – cut into bite sized chunks, flour, eggs and cornflakes. That’s it. You can even use organic cornflakes – the ones that contain nothing but corn – if you want to completely cut out salt and sugar from the recipe.

To make, just roll the chicken in the flour, dip in the (beaten) egg and then coat with crushed cornflakes (we added a little cayenne pepper to ours). Pop in the oven for 20 minutes at gas mark 4 and that’s it!

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To try and keep it relatively healthy, I usually serve these with sweet potato (orange and white flesh) chips and salad (honest, I just cut it out of the photos because it didn’t photograph well!). They taste lighter than the breaded kind and are very moreish! We had them cold the next day for lunch as well. Yum.

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What’s on their plates?

I have recently got into bento. Inspired by Grace at Eats Amazing, I have started to get out little cookie cutters when making Mushroom a packed lunch for days out. Also the recent discovery of his Gruffalo plate (which I though we’d lost long ago) has made me get more creative with his lunches at home.

However.. . On showing off a lunch I was particularly proud of to a friend, they were impressed, but relieved to know it’s not something I do all the time. In  fact, although this friend enjoys blogs such as Eats Amazing and the Lunchbox Doctor, they said they felt a little ‘inadequate’ in comparison, for not making these amazing lunches every day.

I personally don’t feel this way – yes, Grace is amazing. But I’m sure there is something I can do that would seem equally amazing to Grace. We are all awesome in some way (go on, click the link and revel in your awesomenaciousness) but I do get it. Although I get really excited by my creative genius when I do make an brilliant bento, I also make pretty boring (although I hope fairly healthy) lunches for Mushroom, and occasionally I also feed him junk.

So, as a reminder that we’re all ‘good enough’ mothers (that’s better than it sounds – click that link too to find out more), I want to start a linky. It took me a while to figure out how to do it but here we are! It won’t be weekly because I’m a bit flaky with such things but I will tweet it whenever a new one is up (probably once a month I should imagine, depending on the appetite – excuse the pun – for this one). This linky will be open until 25 April and you can post anything you like – from your amazing bento boxes (be sure to link up to Grace’s Fun Food Friday linky as well if they are) to KFC snackboxes –  let’s be honest about not being perfect when it comes to feeding our kids. Here’s a selection of what I’ve recently been putting in Mushroom’s mouth:

And finally, my brilliant (well I think so!) bento lunch to wave goodbye to daylight saving and welcome the first days of summer – the ladybird garden. Yay me.

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Egg, ham and leek ‘cakes,’ on a bed of spinach leaves with a broccoli tree and sweetcorn sticks. Tomatoes with chilli tortilla star and butterfly crisps, ketchup and salad cream ladybird. For dessert, apple stars with grapes and frogs in the pond with tadpoles (raisins).

I am also linking up to Fun Food Friday with this post as I am proud of my bento effort. Click the link below if you’d like to be inspired by even more amazing efforts.

Eats Amazing Fun Food Friday

And… drum roll please… Here’s my badge! I am pretty proud of this too, for you to add when you link to Whats’ on their Plates?

Mothering Mushroom


I’m going to BritMums Live! 2014 – Meme/Linky

I am going to my first blogging conference this year! I am, in equal measure, very excited and terrified! I haven’t mentioned it much up until now but I’m starting to think about what I want to get out of it – learning more about blogging (I’ve been blogging a long time, here and over at Honest Speaks but have always just figured things out as I went along. I’m looking forward to learning more from the experts!), connecting with brands, raising my profile… and meeting some of the people I have connected with online in real life! Which brings me to the purpose of this post…

BritMums has organised a linky for all those going to the conference, to introduce oursleves, get to know each other a bit better and arrange to meet at the conference… I know I need to be more proactive than I usually am about such things so here goes…

Name: Rachael

Blog: Mothering Mushroom

Twitter ID: @mushroomsmum

Height: 5ft 8

Hair: Red/Black provided I dye it close to the conference! Otherwise just black

Eyes: Brown

Is this your first blogging conference? Yes!

Are you attending both days?
Yes, that’s the plan but I haven’t sorted childcare for the Friday yet :-/

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2014?
Learning new things and meeting some of the people I have connected with online. I live in London so will be going home each night but it’s still two days just for ME! Can’t remember when I last had that 🙂

What are you wearing?
No idea. Ask me nearer the time! It depends on the weather, my mood and whether I’ve managed to shift a few pounds between now and then!

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2014?
To learn more about blogging, especially the technical side as I rely heavily on techy friends at the moment… I also hope to make some of my online relationships more three dimensional! I’m mindful that it’s only two days though and I’ve been advised to plan well so I don’t feel overwhelmed or miss out on things I really want to do.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?
Well, as I’ve never been before I wouldn’t know! I guess if I was my own (coaching) client I would say it’s important to work out what you want to get out of the day and then think about how you can achieve these goals. And remember to drop your shoulders and smile (I can look very moody when I’m nervous!).

So if you see me (there’s a pic here) looking moody, I’m just nervous! Do say hello – I’m looking forward to meeting you!