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‘My adoptive parents took me from Korea to rural Australia, but made sure I never forgot my roots’

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Jessica Danaher for Metro.co.uk Adoption Month.
Jessica was adopted by her parents from South Korea in the 80s, growing up in Australia

When Jessica Danaher asked her parents, ‘why South Korea?’, as they chatted about how they’d adopted her from Seoul and took her back to their home in rural Australia in the 80s, she was expecting ‘something deep and philosophical’.

‘Instead, they just said, “oh, there were a list of countries and we thought South Korea sounded good,’ Jessica laughs, as she recalls her own tale of being adopted at four months old in 1984, for Metro.co.uk’s Adoption Month.

Now 36, she knows little about how she came to be in the orphanage – called Angel Babies Home – only that her biological mother was an unmarried woman, and in the 80s to be single with a baby ‘was a big no-no’.

At the time of her adoption, Jessica’s parents had tried multiple times to have their own biological child, with her mother going through ‘four or five’ heartbreaking miscarriages.

Since Jessica’s adoption turned out so well (and by all accounts, with them having all documents sorted before arriving in South Korea and returning to Australia two weeks later, incredibly breezy by some adoption standards) only two years later her parents returned to the country to adopt another child, a son, Grady, who, at the time, was six months old and in the care of a foster mum.

Jessica with her parents and brother.
Jessica, with brother Grady, and their parents

Jessica says her parents were content with their brood – when, lo and behold, her mother became pregnant, soon welcoming a daughter, Phoebe.

About 18 months after that, Maddy came along.

As their family was made up of both adopted and biological children, Jessica’s parents made sure adoption was always an open subject in the Danaher household, with it made clear there was also no dodging her Korean heritage.

‘When we were kids we used to travel for Korean lessons. Mum learnt more Korean than we did,’ Jessica remembers.

‘We had the Korean alphabet and she’d quiz us; and she’d cook us Korean dishes. When we made our Holy Communion, I wore a traditional hanbok – which I was okay with, because traditional Korean dresses weren’t girly.’

Jessica with her siblings.
Jessica’s parents had two more children, after adopting Grady from Korea

Growing up, though, Jessica recalls having no idea what ‘race’ was and, not realising she was born a different one to her parents, figured she would ‘grow’ a Caucasian nose that looked like her parents.

She explains: ‘The adoption stuff really wasn’t an issue and I don’t know if that’s because Mum and Dad never made it an issue. But they were told early on in the process, especially seeing as they’re white, ‘don’t lie to your kids, it’s better the earlier they know’. So I was less than a year old, they sat me down and told me I was adopted. It’s always been a known fact.

‘I do remember growing up and, not understanding the concept of race, seeing mum and dad with their big, Caucasian noses and then assuming when I get older, my nose will grow in. I thought it was an age thing. Then I got confused because I saw a kid who was younger than me and had a bigger nose than me.’

Jessica rememebrs that her sister was also a little baffled by the concept.

She says: ‘I remember once we’re in the car, all four of us, we’re waiting at the shops and having a chat. I was maybe 12 and I can’t remember how it came up, but Maddy, who was about five, said, “ohhhh is that what adopted means. I always just thought mum and dad were in Korea when they had you”. She thought because we were born in Korea, they were holidaying in Korea when they had me and Grady.’

Jessica with her mum and brother.
Her parents were always keen to make sure their knowledge of Korea was strong

In a landscape where odds are the only Asian families in town are the ones who own the local Chinese restaurant or Vietnamese bakery, Jessica says that while she never had to deal with ‘rampant’ racism growing up, she can recall moments of casual racism that dotted her upbringing.

‘I was once at a school with only 30 people, and I was clearly the only Asian,’ she says. ‘A few people would say “go back to where you came from”, racial things, or you’re walking through town and they’re saying, “ching chong”; just saying Asian-y things. It was here and there, but it wasn’t rampant racism. It was a thing you would almost learn to expect.’

While Jessica says she and Grady learnt to handle the comments or slurs, it was their parents who took on any prejudice or teasing to heart.

Jessica and her family.
Jessica with her family now

She says: ‘I remember travelling around Europe with Mum and we went to Dachau concentration camp. We were walking through and these German kids on a school excursion yelled out to me, and my mum asked what they shouted. I said, ‘it’s fine, leave it, put it down to ignorance’, but mum turned around and gave them a mouthful, saying ‘that’s my daughter, how dare you, especially in a place like this’, with angry tears in her eyes.’

Jessica goes on: ‘Grady and I leant on each other, because we both unconsciously understood what it felt like. Parents get defensive and make it a bigger deal and you get a bit embarrassed. It was nice to have someone who knew what you were going through.

‘I used to get a bit embarrassed when Mum or Dad would ask who [had said something]. It wasn’t nice but you also can’t live your life going after it, you become bitter. I think in that sense we leant on each other heavily.’

Even at the height of her angsty teen years, Jessica put it front of mind to never use her adoption to one up her parents in a fight.

‘I was very conscious of never saying “you’re not my real parents” as angry as I got, it was always front of mind to never cross that line,’ she says. ‘They are my real parents. It might be different for those who were adopted later and have a memory, but for me, that is my life. I remember thinking that would kill them to hear that.’

Still, it sometimes came in handy when wanting to shut her younger sisters up, adding with a laugh, Jessica says, ‘I’d fight them and they’d call me ‘flat face’ and I’d get really offended and say, “well at least mum and dad chose to have me!”‘

While kids have never been a priority for Jessica and her partner, who both relocated from Sydney to work in Switzerland for a few years, she’s open to the idea of adopting one day.

She explains: ‘Seeing people around us have children we’re more open to it, but we want to achieve so much together as a couple and know the responsibility of kids changes your life. For one, we wouldn’t be living in Switzerland – it’s just us making that decision, ultimately.

‘But if it came down to it, I would be totally open to it.’

MORE: Saira Khan reveals why she’ll never shy away from speaking about adoption

MORE: Four months after adopting my seven-year-old son, he tried to strangle me

MORE: I’ve spent over 30 years tracking down my birth family

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else's child into their family to others who were that child.

We'll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at adoptionstories@metro.co.uk.

What is embryo ‘adoption’– how does it work, and is it available in the UK?

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a pregnant woman
Embryo adoption is not a commonly used term in the UK. What does it mean? (Picture: Getty)

For many, having their own family by biological means is simply not possible.

There is an increasing number of options available to those people, from adoption to surrogacy or egg or sperm donation.

In the US and other countries, the topic of ’embryo adoption’ or donation is coming up more and more.

But what does it mean, can you get it here, and what are the benefits of this procedure?

What is embryo ‘adoption’ or donation – can you do it in the UK?

Widely referred to as embryo donation – but sometimes ‘adoption’ – this refers to the process of donating, or being a recipient, of an embryo.

Although it’s sometimes referred to as adoption, this is not a legal or technical term as adoption refers to a live child after birth.

However, some people who have gone through the process refer to it as such, with the US National Embryo Donation Center saying that ‘many parents describe it as giving birth to your adopted child.’

As a result, the phrase has slipped into common parlance.

Birthing centre
The process allows mothers to carry the baby (Picture: Getty)

However, the term is contested in the States – where it is more common – with many scientists saying it should be seen as a medical procedure rather than a form of child adoption.

Experts in the UK resist using the term too, with some claiming it is ‘misleading’ because the child in question would be carried by their so-called adoptive mother, who would also assume all legal responsibility for them.

Therefore, ‘donation’ is the more accurate term.

Fiona MacCallum, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Warwick University, previously wrote in Bio News: ‘Children conceived through embryo donation do resemble adopted children in that they are reared by two parents with whom they have no genetic link.

‘Significantly though, the situations differ in that the recipient mother in embryo donation is also the gestational mother.

‘Due to this biological link, embryo donation and adoption differ from each other legally and psychologically.’

A spokesperson for the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK fertility regulator in the UK told Metro.co.uk: ‘We generally don’t use the term ‘embryo adoption’ in the UK.

‘If someone donates their leftover embryos to someone else’s treatment we’d refer to this as embryo donation in the UK, whereas in the US its commonly referred to as ‘embryo adoption.’

Embryo donation is available in the UK at licensed clinics.

How does embryo donation work?

Embryo donation is when another couple’s embryo is implanted in your womb during IVF.

People may decide to donate their embryos if they have frozen embryos after fertility treatments that they decided not to use themselves.

Donating them to give another family a chance is a route many take, rather than discarding them, or donating them to research.

The procedure allows the woman to experience pregnancy herself – something which wouldn’t be available with options such as adoption.

Embryo donation follows the same principles as egg or sperm donation. If the embryos are donated through a licensed fertility clinic, the donor won’t have any legal responsibility for any children born as a result.

young couple with a doctor
It is important to go to a licensed clinic (Picture: Getty)

However, under law, donors can not remain anonymous and when they turn 18, anyone conceived with a donor is entitled to ask for their name, date of birth, and last known address.

According to HFEA: ‘In the UK, any patient who has undergone treatment and has embryos left that they don’t want to discard, can consider donating them to someone else’s treatment, fertility research or training.

‘We encourage anyone who chooses donation to use a licensed clinic. Clinics are required to screen and test any donation, including donated embryos, for a wide range of infectious diseases and genetic illnesses which offers protection to health of the recipient and future children who may be born. Clinics also ensure that the legal parenthood implications are understood and consented to by donors and recipients.’

You can search for clinics that offer embryo donation on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)’s website.

MORE: Can you put yourself up for adoption?

MORE: What could go against you in the adoption process?

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Share your views in the comments below.

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else's child into their family to others who were that child.

We'll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at adoptionstories@metro.co.uk.

New mums open up about the impact following mummy bloggers has on their mental health

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Mum working from home
Comparison is often a surefire route to feeling rubbish about yourself as a parent (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

When I got pregnant a year ago, alongside preparing the nursery, deciding on names and watching my baby’s development on pregnancy apps, I also started following mummy bloggers on Instagram.

I thought this would be both a helpful source of information on becoming a new mum, as well as a chance to have a sense of community – especially during my last months of my pregnancy, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the UK.

But soon after I had my baby, who is now six months old, I realised that following Instagram mummy bloggers had given me a set of false expectations – and in turn, made me feel like I was failing as a mother.

I would see mothers preparing many different fruits and vegetables all throughout the day – carefully positioned on bamboo plates for the perfect photo. I would see mothers breastfeeding like pros. Some mothers would already be back to their pre-pregnancy bodies, seeing a personal trainer and watching what they ate. They all seemed to have it together.

It made me feel guilty that I often use pouches for ease. My son also has a range of fruit and finger foods, and things like porridge and toast – but it’s a far cry from dragon fruit smoothie bowls.

The breastfeeding posts would make me feel inadequate because I chose to formula feed – something that still seems to be looked down upon despite it being very common. And due to postnatal depression, I’m actually heavier than I was during pregnancy – it’ll take me awhile to get back to my usual size.

I soon realised that following these types of bloggers wasn’t beneficial to me. I’m sure they are to many, but the picture-perfect, posed photos were a constant reminder that that’s not me – and that maybe that meant I wasn’t a good enough mum.

The big business of adoption Youtube
Mummy bloggers share picture-perfect versions of their lives (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

So, I decided to unfollow them all. I felt remarkably better very quickly, and without the constant comparison, I started to realise what a great mother I am. My baby is safe, healthy and very happy. He doesn’t stop smiling, and lights up when I walk in the room. That is now my reminder – a positive one – that I’m doing my job right.

I’m not alone in experiencing negative feelings from following mummy bloggers on Instagram.

34-year-old Jen Davies, from Cardiff, started following mummy Instagrammers during her pregnancy. While she found the breastfeeding advice helpful, the accounts started to make her feel inadequate.

She says: ‘I don’t think I noticed immediately how I was being affected by them. What did strike me first was the amount of advertising there was, together with gifting. Then you see endless perfected highlights of their days or lives and it’s difficult not to compare when their houses are pristine with a lot of high end items then you look around at your messy house and piles of laundry, you’re tired, raw and vulnerable.

‘I think the way a lot of Instagrammers grow and maintain a following is by bringing the viewer in and making the person feel close, familiar. It’s impossible not to compare that this person seemingly in a similar position has it together – why don’t you?

‘Why doesn’t their child cry when it’s all yours seems to do? And I think that breeds resentment, hurt and jealousy – it’s such a hard time anyway, that none of those feelings are helpful in the short or long term.

‘I’m not sure what the catalyst was for removing those accounts but I do feel better for having done it. I only tend to follow a select few now – I know she doesn’t fit the mould necessarily but Stacey Solomon is an absolute joy. I definitely feel a bit better about my parenting – I try to approach it as “never mind what they’re doing, concentrate on what YOU’RE doing”.’

illustration of woman holding baby
Is it time to hit unfollow? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Stephanie*, 28, followed mummy Instagrammers after having her first baby in 2013.

She said: ‘Honestly with my first baby I did not notice how much it impacted but reflecting on it, it made me miserable. I would wake up and see how smiley they all looked, how beautiful the homes looked, the mums amazing and I would just sob because I felt like I was in a black hole, I was in a bad relationship so I used to think I deserved to be struggling.’

When she had her second baby during lockdown, she started unfollowing the accounts as she realised she was constantly comparing herself to other mums.

She says she ‘didn’t feel good enough’, and even found herself obsessing over the clothes she dressed her babies in.

Without this influence, she feels a lot better. She said: ‘Concentrating on myself and my family feels amazing. It’s so easy to get bogged down looking at everyone else on Instagram, feeling jealous, feeling hurt. Like, why it can’t be you?

‘Now I understand life as a mum is hard, we are all winging it to some extent as long as my family are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.’

Laura Clinch, 36, from London, has been a blogger for years and has always enjoyed reading other blogs – so with Instagram an extension of that, she felt it was only natural to start seeking out mummy bloggers to follow.

‘At first it was fine,’ she tells us. ‘Lovely squishy baby in cute outfits. Where could you go wrong?! It’s as the children have got older and I’ve returned to work. The first one is four now and the second is 18 months.

‘Mum guilt is a real thing and it’s made worse when I’m watching these perfect mummies that snapped back into their pre-baby jeans or an even smaller size in a matter of weeks. They prepare these fantastic fun snacks and amazing meals that their children devour whereas my eldest survives on beans on toast, mac and cheese and spag bol and the youngest pretty much solely eats yoghurts and custard (they’ll eat at nursery and school but not at home!).’

Laura ended up suffering badly with anxiety and decided to take a step back. With a supportive husband, she took time off work and didn’t look at social media – and realised this was helping. So, she started to curate her feed, and those who were making her feel bad about herself were ‘the first to go’.

She says: ‘It just happened that most of them were mummy accounts. It wasn’t that I had gone in intending to unfollow those accounts specifically, it just happened to work out that way.

‘It’s definitely helping. I don’t have so much to compare myself to and so I feel less of a failure and an imposter when it comes to being a mother.

‘My girls are happy and love what we do. Whether that’s watching Frozen and Moana for the millionth time and singing at the top of our voices in our pyjamas or even just going to the park. I’m not actually failing them and I’m enjoying spending time with them much more because I’m allowing myself to be in the moment and not second guessing myself constantly.’

Dr Rachel M Allan, a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and mother based in Glasgow, says that it is ‘natural for us to draw social comparisons to evaluate ourselves’ and that ‘social media is one environment that gives endless opportunity for comparison’.

woman on laptop
‘Social media is one environment that gives endless opportunity for comparison (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘Becoming a parent is a life-changing event, and often a complex time on an emotional level,’ says Rachel.

‘It is a time when we can feel at our most vulnerable. As new parents, many of us can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, or as if are in over our heads.

‘Context and timing is significant because when we are new parents, we might be most likely to look at social media when we are sitting doing a night feed, or having a moment’s breather during the day. In other words, we might look at social media when the contrast between our reality and what we see on social media is most stark.

‘So we compare that version of ourselves – as we sit exhausted, covered in sick, and perhaps feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed – to the cherry-picked and edited version of someone else’s parenting experience.

‘At a time when we might already feel unsure, or lacking in confidence, making comparisons with families who seem to have it together can push us further into despair.’

Rachel suggests taking ‘control’ of your Instagram feed and being ‘selective with what you follow’.

She adds: ‘Notice how you feel when you scroll through your social media feed. If what you see brings up a sense of inadequacy, failing, or hurts your confidence, consider whether you want to continue following certain accounts.

‘Ultimately, take control of your feed and be selective with what you follow. And always remember to be careful when comparing your true reality with someone else’s edited and filtered version of reality.’

A spokesperson for the Maternal Mental Health Alliance adds: ‘When you’re a new mum, everything is so new and it’s natural to look to others for validation that you’re doing a ‘good job’.

‘Pregnancy and early motherhood can also be a time of immense pressure. Even in normal times, more than one in 10 mums experience a mental health problem.

‘For anyone out there who is struggling: you are not on your own. Please speak with someone you trust and do what you can to look after yourself, your wellbeing, and your family. You’re the expert on you, so if you think social media is doing more harm than good, take a break.

‘Despite the changing COVID restrictions, health professionals are still available, services are open, and they want to support you. If you’re not sure where to go, please take a look at the Maternal Mental Health Alliance website for guidance.’

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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Are dermaplaning razors worth the faff?

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Are dermaplaning razors worth the faff?
Perhaps it’s time we all started shaving our faces? (Picture: Amazon)

From puberty, when girls are told about hair removal, we’re told that shaving makes hair grow back faster, thicker, and more stubble-like.

So on areas like our face, we stick to bleaching, waxing, and threading off any hair we wanted to hide.

That was until dermaplaning came on the scene, and we saw beauty influencers using shaving tools to remove not only their facial peach fuzz but their dead skin cells too.

For the sake of Is It Worth the Faff? – our weekly review series where we test out hyped-up beauty products – I knew a time would come where I’d have to brave the worry that I’d end up with a full beard. And that time is now.

What is a dermaplaning razor?

These plastic-handled disposable razors are less sharp than the ones you’d use for legs or armpits, and are designed to remove hair and exfoliate.

The blade supposedly sloughs off dead skin to reveal a brighter complexion, as well as helping makeup go on smoother by removing the tiny hairs around your top lip and sideburns.

You can have this done professionally as part of a facial or on its own, and a dermaplaning tool without a guard will usually be used by your aesthetician. Or, you can try these at-home options.

Are dermaplaning razors worth the faff?
It is impossible to be photogenic while covered in oil and shaving your face (Picture: Jessica Lindsay)

Faff involved

After cleansing, I covered my face in my favourite oil (Aldi’s Lacura Rose Oil – if you know, you know).

Then, you simply swipe the razor over your face, going downwards at a 45 degree angle.

The faff is exceptionally minimal, but you do have to ensure you don’t cut yourself (which is why I took the above fetching illustrative picture rather than taking one while I was actually dermaplaning).

The results

This made my skin feel lovely and soft, and thankfully, I do not look like teen wolf after a couple of days regrowth.

I don’t feel amazing about the fact they’re single use. I’ve seen people say they use them a couple of times, but every aesthetician says that you shouldn’t use a blade like this on your face more than once as it can spread germs. So into the bin it goes after just one shave.

I still do have a little bit of peach fuzz, and I didn’t get the satisfying results I’ve watched on dermaplaning videos, but I’d use again (albeit not regularly because they’re not recyclable).

If you have easily irritated skin or severe acne, perhaps chat to a dermatologist first to ensure you won’t make things worse. For those with normal skin, though, you should get the brightening and smoothing effects.

Is it worth the faff?

These were bought from Amazon for the princely sum of £2.99 for six (with free next-day delivery on Prime) and are easy to use with nice results.

All in, I really like them, and would say that they’re worth the faff.

However, I’ll probably invest in a reusable tool with interchangeable blades in future to assuage my guilt about disposables.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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Single people are struggling with money in the pandemic – an expert shares her tips for financial independence

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Business woman with money and laptop, sitting on pile of money
Single people are feeling increased financial pressure amid coronavirus (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Single people are feeling increased financial pressure as a result of the pandemic, new research from Lloyds shows.

That makes sense when you think about it.

When you’re coupled up, it’s easier to split the costs of essential bits – like the big food shop, rent, and so on – and share the stress of money in the process, as you always have someone to lean on and chat things things through with.

When you’re single, you can feel like you’re all alone. When coronavirus hit and jobs were lost, earnings were depleted, and lifestyles changed, single people had to ride the tide solo.

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Research from Lloyds estimates that 17.5million single Brits are under more financial pressure than ever before, due to Covid-19.

Their survey of 2,001 single people found that 25% are more worried about their financial situation as a result of the pandemic, with concerns around being unable to make ends meet, spending all their savings, and job stability, while 24% say they’re worried about covering the costs of weekly shopping.

When reaching important life milestones, over half of Brits (51%) agree it is harder for single people compared to those in a relationship. Of the major milestones, 44% of all respondents agreed that buying a house is easier in a relationship, and a quarter (24%) believe it’s easier to deal with financial difficulties when you have a partner.

Jo Harris, managing director at Lloyds Bank, said: ‘No matter your relationship status, the last few months have been incredibly tough, especially when it comes to people’s financial affairs. Single people are undoubtedly more hard-hit when faced with a financial shock, as often, financial independence also means not having a back-up plan or someone else to step in and help.’

We spoke to Lucy Vine, the bestselling author of Hot Mess, for her tips on how singles can make financial independence feel achievable.

‘As someone who has lived alone for the past nine years, I’ve always made being financially independent a key priority,’ she says. ‘But like many others over the past few months, I’ve felt the pressure of the current situation on how I manage my money.’

Give yourself a break

‘First and foremost, stop giving yourself a hard time,’ Lucy says. ‘We’ve all been in the same boat throughout all this, and – whether you’re single or have been married for 20 years – it’s been tough for everyone.

‘Remind yourself that’s OK, and give yourself the time and space you need to regroup.’

Break the money chat taboo

Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you have to tackle financial stress all alone.

‘As someone who’s lived on her own for nine years, I know better than most how important it is to talk to people – and ask for help when I need,’ says Lucy. ‘Throughout lockdown, I found nothing more effective at taking the pressure off money worries, than talking things through with family, friends or an expert at my bank.’

Talk to someone you trust, whether that’s a friend or a family member, to lighten the load. And don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to money – most of us don’t.

Daily life, a Cashier and a client buying groceries at the supermarket register counter, zero waste shopper, organic food, farmers market
A new study says nearly a quarter of single people are worried about affording their weekly food shop (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s never too late to start to start saving

Lucy says: ‘Let’s face it, I’m no financial guru. In fact, I’ve pretty much emptied my savings pot this year, thanks to a lack of work during lockdown. But I’m not going to let it stop me starting again.

‘I transfer £50 a month – more when I’m able – into a savings account I call my Adventure Fund. It makes me feel much more secure knowing it’s there, and there’s nothing more satisfying than watching it grow.’

Start small with your savings and keep your goals achievable so you don’t get demotivated. Anything you can put away is great.

Cut down on those late night shopping binges

‘A lot of us have been re-examining our budget these past few months, and research shows more than half of us are cutting back on non-essentials,’ says Lucy. ‘I’ve also found it helpful to go through my online banking statement, making a list of everything I spend in a month.

‘And once I got over the shock of how much I waste on lattes, I found it really helpful in keeping a lid (coffee pun?) on my spending.’

It’s been tempting while we’re in lockdown to go hard on the online shopping. Take a moment to reflect on how much you’re really spending, and try following the three-day rule – whenever you’re struck by the impulse to buy something non-essential, wait three days. If you still want it, buy it. But you might find the urge disappears.

Let’s call a lottery win Plan B

You have to stop pinning your plans on an unrealistic ideal.

Yes, there’s a chance you could win the lottery. But it’s teeny-tiny – and in the meantime, you can’t keep putting off sorting out your finances. It’s time to plan for the future.

Lucy says: ‘OK, so let’s pretend for a second that you’re going to win the jackpot at some point in the future – what are you going to do about money when you’re older?

‘These last few months have finally kicked me into action when it comes to sorting out my pension, and I have to tell you, it’s made me feel so much better about my future. Because, if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that absolutely anything could happen and I need to be ready (2050 – the year of the zombies, I’m calling it now).’

If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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How to use carving leftovers to make a pumpkin pie this Halloween

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Maple pumpkin pie
The finished pie (Picture: Jude’s)

Halloween falls next weekend so this might be the time to pick up a pumpkin in your weekly shop.

If you’re carving out the inside, use up waste by making something like a pumpkin pie.

You could also try our recipes for pumpkin loaf or scones.

This recipe, from Jude’s Ice Cream, is really straight forward. You need to make a base, a little like a cheesecake, make the puree and then they add the streusel topping.

The topping adds a crunchy texture but you can leave it out if you just want the creamy pumpkin filling.

Ingredients

  • 225g ginger nut biscuits or ginger snaps
  • 75g butter
  • 500g pumpkin flesh, deseeded
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons single cream
  • 5 medium egg yolks
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g light brown soft sugar
  • 75g pecans, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4 and base-line a 20cm (8in) loose-based flan tin with baking parchment.
  2. Begin by making the crust. Tip the ginger biscuits into a food processor and process to a crumb before transferring to a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan – don’t be afraid to keep cooking until the butter browns slightly, this only adds to the overall taste. Pour the butter over the crumbs and mix well.
  3. Press the buttery biscuit mix into the lined tin and, using a spatula, push the mixture about 2cm (¾in) up the sides to form a rim. Chill the crust in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to harden up.
  4. Place the tin on a baking sheet (this makes for a more even bake) and transfer to the oven for 8–10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, for the filling, bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the pumpkin. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the flesh is tender and cuts like butter. Drain well, allowing the pumpkin to steam dry for a few minutes before puréeing until smooth. Mix the purée with the spices, maple syrup, cream and egg yolks. Pour into the crust and bake for 20–25 minutes until just set with a slight wobble. Remember, the filling will have a second bake once topped with the streusel.
  6. Meanwhile, make the streusel. Put the butter, flour and sugar in a mixing bowl and rub together using your hands until the mix has come together. Stir through the pecans and cinnamon.
  7. Remove the pie from the oven and top with the streusel mix. Return to the oven to cook the pie for a further 15 minutes. Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving in slices with a scoop of ice cream.

Do you have a recipe to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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How to cope with the fact the pandemic may go on for an indefinite length of time

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How to cope with the fact the pandemic may go on for an indefinite length of time
The monotony can make time feel like it’s dragging on (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Each day a new announcement is made. Each day plans are cancelled and big life events get a little further from our grasp, as we’re told to limit contact with others in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

If you’re feeling despondent without a set timeframe to when we’ll ‘go back to normal’, you’re not alone.

New levels of alert in Scotland have been put in place until a vaccine is distributed, and in England there has been no clarity on when the tier system may end – or when certain areas may be moved to lower tiers.

Couple this uncertainty with the fact we’ve been cooped up in our homes without much interaction and the real-life consequences of the pandemic including job losses and health worries, and it’s understandable that people’s mental health might suffer.

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Dr Laira Gold, Babylon Health Psychotherapist says: ‘The fact that people have been locked into confined spaces with no real end in sight, 24/7, day in, day out made a lot of people reflect on their lives and their sometimes really desperate circumstances.’

Babylon found that more than half of people they surveyed had struggled with their mental health at the start of lockdown, with certain coping mechanisms – like drinking – exacerbating problems.

‘Alcohol was readily available and drunk as early as could be in quantities unmeasured, without the thought of having to remain sober for work the next day, as many people had been furloughed or lost their job during the pandemic,’ adds Dr Gold.

According to Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health, there are ways to reduce the toll this seemingly never-ending pandemic takes on your mind.

‘It’s been a tough year for everyone – with the coronavirus pandemic bringing fear of illness, drastic changes to our lifestyle and constant negative news flow,’ he says. 

‘Many of us feel like we don’t have control of our lives at the moment, constantly asking ourselves ‘what if?’, without an answer. This ongoing uncertainty can spiral out of control, leading to long-term stress.’

His tips on how to look after yourself amid the uncertainty are as follows:

Switch off

‘In uncertain times, checking the news is common,’ says Brendan.

‘We’re searching for answers and we feel like news updates will provide them. But for many of us, gluing ourselves to the TV and endlessly scrolling social media only fuels feelings of anxiety.’

The overload of bad news can drain you, particularly when you’re seeing it on a live feed on social media.

Illustration of a woman in child pose against a colourful background
With no official end in sight, we need to take care of ourselves (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

To avoid becoming bogged down in the feeling that the world will never return to how you once knew it, Brendan advises only checking one trusted news site once in the morning and again in the evening.

This way you can keep up-to-date with the announcements, but not be glued to a rolling cycle of doom and gloom.

Start healthier habits

One of the problems with being furloughed or working from home is that we lose our sense of routine – potentially creating a feeling that the days all roll into one.

Brendan says: ‘While there are many things we can’t change, creating a routine shows us it’s not all up in the air. 

‘Start creating healthier habits. For example, setting your alarm for the same time each morning, going for daily walks and cooking a nice dinner each night. You could even prepare meals in bulk at the weekend, so you know they’re ready. 

‘Not only does exercise help relieve feelings of stress by giving us a mood-lifting dopamine spike, but enjoying a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep help balance our brain’s chemicals to give us much-needed mental clarity.’

Focus on your breath 

‘When we become stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode, which can lead to sensations like increased heart rate and faster breathing,’ says Brendan.

While we might not be able to change the trajectory of the pandemic, we can use techniques to improve our mental state in the moment.

Brendan advises: ‘Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take long, slow inhalations through your nose, hold for a few seconds comfortably and then exhale out through your mouth.

‘Not only will this take your mind off the uncomfortable feelings, but research suggests around six exhalations a minute can trigger a relaxation response, which helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.’

How to cope with the fact the pandemic may go on for an indefinite length of time
Try to add something new to your days to break them up (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Challenge unhelpful thinking

The first step in recovering from stress it to notice when it happens and challenge it.

‘Try to understand your common unhelpful thought patterns,’ says Brendan.

‘When you feel stressed or anxious, write down the trigger, associated thoughts, and the mood you experienced. Also note how the situation turned out. Often, we read back through our experiences and learn, while our thoughts may focus on the worst-case scenario, things rarely turn out like this.’

Babylon Health call it ‘the power of reframing’. For example, if your initial thought is, ‘This pandemic will never end. Life will never be the same,’ try to think instead, ‘This pandemic won’t last forever, we will emerge from this experience more creative, innovative, and resilient.’

Experiment with small changes

It may feel like the world has flipped in a matter of moments, with your life going from carefree to the exact opposite almost overnight.

That fear of change might seem like a protective instinct, but it can be detrimental long-term.

Brendan says: ‘Consider ways you can make small adjustments to activities you otherwise feel confident about. This may include switching up your usual running route or volunteering to help with a new task at work. 

‘You’ll start to learn that you can cope with uncertain outcomes and that allowing yourself to release some control doesn’t always have to be a trigger for stress and anxiety.’

Adding a little variety to your day helps bring you back to a more stable state and see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

We will get to a stage where life is ‘normal’ again, and looking after yourself in the meantime is the best thing you can do.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

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There’s nothing more romantic than a long distance relationship

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There is a common narrative in popular culture that being in a relationship means losing out on other parts of your life. 

In Friends, Rachel never starts her dream job in Paris because she runs back to New York for Ross. In How to Be Single, the lead character Alice doesn’t climb the Grand Canyon because she has a boyfriend. 

Love is found at the expense of success and adventure. You cannot, it seems, have it all.

To me, this was always a frustrating storyline to follow. Raised in a matriarchal family, a man was considered a luxury rather than essential, and life never pivoted around them.

Perhaps this is why I’ve always wound up in long-distance relationships: No matter how much I’ve cared for someone, a boyfriend never seemed like a justifiable reason to shy away from new experiences or forget about personal goals. 

I stumbled into my first long-distance relationship (LDR) with my sixth-form boyfriend when I moved away for university and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Both freshers in new cities, we would call each other every day, speaking over ourselves in our eagerness: ‘One of my housemates boils chicken and it’s disgusting’; ‘There was a micro pig outside the library this morning’; ‘Shall I come and visit next weekend?’. We used up hours of phone minutes and gigabytes of data. 

There were flowers, letters, handmade gifts, intense pining, and relief-filled reunions. We had a newfound appreciation for each other’s company that prevented us taking each other for granted. Then after three years, joy dwindled, visits stopped, and bitterness ensued.  

But the end wasn’t a side effect of the distance, and space just made it easier to move on after the fact. There was no risk of a messy backslide when one of us felt lonely and I never had to watch him snog someone else across a crowded dance floor. 

Still, each time an LDR fails you swear you’ll never do it again because of the ungodly amounts of commitment and conviction they require.

Lydia Spencer-Elliott
It’s a scary reality that ease can so often take the place of real adoration (Picture: Lydia Spencer-Elliott)

So, when I found myself in another one just a few months later, my friends grew suspicious. ‘Why do you get these boyfriends and then run away from them?!’ interrogated one. The truth was that I loved the boy, which made it illogical to give up on the relationship because of mere geography. 

It’s a scary reality that ease can so often take the place of real adoration; I’ve watched my friends slip into relationships based on convenience so many times.

Being in a relationship gets comfy. You live in each other’s pockets next to the packet of gum and the house keys. There’s a groove in their sofa that matches the outline of your body from Sundays spent lounging there. You know what’s in their bed side drawer. They know what snacks you like.

I understand why people feel the need to stay in close proximity to their partners: you’re no longer just ‘you’ but ‘us’. Plans and friendships get intertwined and soon people consider you a package deal. It can be hard to find the courage to untether yourself from the routine of another person.

In young adult life it’s borderline essential, but this doesn’t mean the couple you’ve become has to cease to exist at every crossroad.  

Every relationship I’ve had has been long distance for at least a third of its duration. But I would happily take this demonstration of commitment over a situationship: genuine love doesn’t depend on the close proximity that casual sex does.

In LDRs, there’s no need to safeguard against romantic opportunists. They require such persistence and are so wildly inconvenient, that no one other than a love-drunk idiot could be bothered with the absolute hassle of it. 

I met my second boyfriend at a fancy dress party – I was a mermaid, he was a scuba diver – and after 10 gallons of vodka we thought our matching outfits indicated fate.

After four months joined at the hip, we weren’t ready to cut things short so started an LDR from Devon to Montana, where I moved for a year to study. 

From different sides of the Atlantic, we tackled a seven-hour time difference by giving up a regular sleep pattern: I was awake well past midnight and he set his alarm for 6am.

We counted down to Christmas in messages so horrifically cringey that those with a sensitive gag reflex would have retched at the exchange.  

I was entirely obsessed with him, so the mileage between us acted as a handy barrier that stopped me spending every spare second I had swooning. While I didn’t necessarily prefer to be away from him, I liked the independence that living on separate continents had granted me. 

In an alternate reality, I could have stayed by his side but wouldn’t have been able to shake the resentful and ugly thought that he had held me back. 

Still, we argued bitterly – just as we sometimes had when I was home. Texts were misinterpreted, call timings confused and tensions high. We’d wind up in a blazing row over something easily solved in person by a peace-offering cup of tea or an affectionate squeeze of an arm. 

I was more jealous than I had ever been. He was more controlling than I’d expected. 

But these weren’t problems that went away when we lived in close proximity for the subsequent two years. Back home, I felt smothered at times, while he felt regularly neglected.  

Lydia Spencer-Elliott
When the pandemic hit, I realised how accustomed I was to be being away from the people I love (Picture: Lydia Spencer-Elliott)

When I left England once again to travel, I made the cowardly decision not to talk to him about the fact I was wondering if our three-year relationship was already over. Instead, I let things fragment until he also agreed we were done. 

This is the most shameful perk of being separated from your boyfriend by an ocean: when things go wrong, you can hide. 

When the pandemic hit, I realised how accustomed I was to be being away from the people I love. Group Zoom calls were fun, penning letters to my friends was soothing and I happily Facetimed my current boyfriend from our separate households until one day he said: ‘This is horrible, I feel like I’m homesick… But I am home.’

Missing me was making him miserable, I realised sadly. Distance isn’t for everyone, no matter how much freedom it affords. 

I missed the minutiae of his affection: the forehead kisses and the hand squeezes. 

But after five months, post-lockdown, of us living on top of eachother and learning the off-beat rhythms of the other’s routines, I left London for Spain. I had been offered a job there, which he generously told me to take. 

Unlike Rachel Green, I stayed on the plane. 

Slowly we started to navigate the push and pull of being together while being apart. It’s undeniably difficult but it’s not something that I regret. 

I might never understand how hard it is to be the one left rather than the one leaving, to notice the gaps in your old routine while the person you love is making friends and memories without you. 

Ultimately, LDRs are not radically better than any other type of relationship, but nor are they inherently worse. Although it might seem backwards, it’s the men I’ve left behind I’ve always loved the most. Why would I panic about a few months apart when I believed I could be with them forever?

Besides, yearning for another person is fundamentally romantic. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like encouraging someone to fly and believing they’ll come back. 

Last week on Love, Or Something Like It: I wasn’t expecting to find love after being paralysed at 21

SHARE YOUR LOVE STORY

Love, Or Something Like It is a regular series for Metro.co.uk, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day. If you have a love story to share, email rosy.edwards@metro.co.uk

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Behold the £54.5million property that’s the most expensive home to go on sale since lockdown

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mansion for sale on upper grosvenor street
The massive mansion is split across the main townhouse and mews (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

This incredible Grade II listed townhouse in Mayfair, London, is listed at the highest asking price since lockdown began, at an astounding £54.5million.

The home, which spans six storeys and 14,500 sq ft, was previously rented out for £27,500 a week, and is now being sold for 32 times more than the £1.7million it cost to buy back in 2008, the Evening Standard reports.

It’s been around for a while. The house, which sits on Upper Grosvenor Street, was built back in 1732, then refurbished by Chelsea-born architect Ralph Knott in 1908.

The property went on to be restored and modernised by its current owners, Boss Holdings Ltd.

So, what’s this house offering for that immense asking price?

Quite a bit, to be fair.

Not only does the house have twelve bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and an enviable location in central London, but it’s also home to a massive 73ft long swimming pool.

swimming pool in most expensive house to be listed since lockdown
The property is home to a massive 73ft long swimming pool (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

The property includes a main mansion building and an additional mews house on Culross Street, which is connected through a large basement and the ground floor.

The swimming pool is on that below ground level, which also has a wellness centre, a jacuzzi, a fitness studio, a sauna, and a private cinema.

jacuzzi in amazing mansion in mayfair
The basement also has a jacuzzi, a sauna, and a home cinema (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

Also on that level are two bedrooms, in the mews.

Go up a level and there’s a family kitchen – although actual cooking can take place in a second ‘dirty kitchen’ on the floor below.

 kitchen in grosvenor street house
There’s a gorgeous family kitchen (pictured) and a ‘dirty kitchen’ for actual cooking on the floor below (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)
living room in mayfair mansion
The living area (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)
study on the ground floor of the mayfair mansion
That’s quite the home office (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

The ground floor has a study, a dining room, – which can fit 20 guests – a gym, and garage space, then on the first floor is a large L-shaped reception room, – which leads out to a large terrace – another smaller kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

There are five principle bedroom suites, including the master bedroom, which takes up the entire second floor – and comes with its own roof terrace, of course.

Mayfair's most mega mansion! ?54.5million property split across a townhouse and mews boasting 12 bedrooms and largest private swimming pool in the area is the most expensive home to go on sale since lockdown Palatial Grade II listed townhouse on Upper Grosvenor Street in central London's Mayfair was built in 1732 Spans six storeys and 14,500 sq ft and has been gloriously restored and modernised by its current owners Previously rented for ?27,500 a week and price tag is 32 times higher than the ?1.7 million it sold for in 2008
There are 12 bedrooms in total (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

On the third floor there are two more bedrooms with their own dressing room and a bathroom each, then on the fourth floor is the same.

Yep, that means there are twelve bedrooms in total. Maybe it could be a family home? Or you could go splitsies with 11 friends?

Rob Windsor, director of agents Clifton Property Partner, who are selling the house along with Knight Frank, said the property hadn’t been in great shape when the owners bought it.

Mayfair's most mega mansion! ?54.5million property split across a townhouse and mews boasting 12 bedrooms and largest private swimming pool in the area is the most expensive home to go on sale since lockdown Palatial Grade II listed townhouse on Upper Grosvenor Street in central London's Mayfair was built in 1732 Spans six storeys and 14,500 sq ft and has been gloriously restored and modernised by its current owners Previously rented for ?27,500 a week and price tag is 32 times higher than the ?1.7 million it sold for in 2008
The main bedroom takes up the second floor and has its own terrace (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

‘You could stand on the ground floor and look all the way to the top through the rotten floorboards,’ he said. ‘Now it really is the whole package, large freehold house, mews and lots of outdor space.’

Rob also says he’s already seen ‘strong interest’ in the home from people with millions to spare.

dressing room in mayfair mansion
One of the dressing rooms (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)
Mayfair's most mega mansion! ?54.5million property split across a townhouse and mews boasting 12 bedrooms and largest private swimming pool in the area is the most expensive home to go on sale since lockdown Palatial Grade II listed townhouse on Upper Grosvenor Street in central London's Mayfair was built in 1732 Spans six storeys and 14,500 sq ft and has been gloriously restored and modernised by its current owners Previously rented for ?27,500 a week and price tag is 32 times higher than the ?1.7 million it sold for in 2008
The property has nine bathrooms (Picture: Clifton Property Partners/ Knight Frank)

‘Mayfair houses offering impressive period grandeur, self-contained leisure facilities, extensive private gardens and interconnecting mews accommodation are exceptionally rare,’ he explains.

‘The immediate vicinity is presently undergoing an astonishing transformation with the Rosewood Hotel soon to open its doors on Grosvenor Square, and the Square itself also set to be radically improved and enhanced, surely positioning Upper Grosvenor Street as one of the most sought after addresses in London.’

If you do happen to be wealthy enough to afford the most expensive home in London listed since the pandemic and fancy putting in an offer, you’re best off putting in an enquiry through Clifton Property Partners’ website.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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Creative mum upcycles dining room furniture for just £50 rather than buying new

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Creative Mum Upcycles Dining Furniture For Under £50 Rather Than Buying New For £££
Victoria completed the project for her parents (Picture: LatestDeals)

Buying new furniture can be pricey, and if you have perfectly good (albeit maybe a bit dated) pieces in your home already, it’s hard to justify that high cost.

Victoria Tullett, 42, a recruitment officer and mum of two from Brighton, decided that she’d save her parents that cost when they considered buying a new table and chairs for their dining room.

Instead of splurging on a new set, Victoria transformed the existing dining table and chairs for under £50 using Frenchic paint. 

Victoria told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: ‘I began following the Frenchic fan page. My parents had mentioned that they wanted to get a new table and chairs and I just thought “why not try to transform them instead?”. 

‘There was nothing wrong with the actual set, in terms of stability and build, just that the colours didn’t work with our new scheme.’

First off, Victoria used sugar soap to clean the furniture, before lightly sanding (‘as if you were wiping it clean’) and dusting off the debris.

Creative Mum Upcycles Dining Furniture For Under £50 Rather Than Buying New For £££
The table was originally a dark brown and the chairs were black (Picture: LatestDeals)

She then used three coats of Frenchic paint – which has won fans for its durability and versatility – in the shades Dazzle Me and Swanky Pants.

Victoria says: ‘I used very thin coats of paint, and although I had nothing to lose, I have to admit after the initial coat it was an “oh my gosh, what have I done moment”!

‘I waited the two hours in between coats and set about on the second coat. By the third and final coat, the magic had taken place and it had been totally transformed.’

Creative Mum Upcycles Dining Furniture For Under £50 Rather Than Buying New For £££
After the first coat, Victoria was worried she’d done something wrong (Picture: LatestDeals)

In total, Victoria spent less than £50, just needing to buy two tins of paint (£17.95 each) and a tin of finishing coat for the tabletop (£12.95) to keep it looking great for years to come.

‘In terms of tips, I would say preparation is key,’ says Victoria.

‘Take your time, use thin coats and wait the two hours between coats if not longer. If the first coat looks dreadful, you are doing it right! I cannot stress enough how much you need to do thin coats only. 

Creative Mum Upcycles Dining Furniture For Under £50 Rather Than Buying New For £££
But by coat three, they looked great (Picture: LatestDeals)

‘I found the chairs to be a bit tacky afterwards, so used a paintbrush and coated them in talcum powder, which did the trick.’

And she’s clearly caught the DIY bug, with Victoria having painted her lounge furniture in Frenchic and created a seating area with pallets in her garden.

She adds: ‘I plan on doing my kitchen next. I have a fair few cupboards, so I need to do it in stages. I am just working out colours before I begin. 

Creative Mum Upcycles Dining Furniture For Under £50 Rather Than Buying New For £££
The finished product looks amazing (Picture: LatestDeals)

‘What I love about this paint is how you can take something drab and change it into something you love and on a budget.’

Victoria is delighted with the final outcome of the project, and says it was a good anxiety reliever during the stresses of the lockdown. 

‘I do suffer from anxiety and depression and lockdown hit me quite hard,’ she adds. 

‘I find painting is my happy place. The sense of achievement at the end is worth the hard work.’

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.

MORE: Behold the £54.5million property that’s the most expensive home to go on sale since lockdown

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Sainsbury’s is selling pigs in blankets flavoured mayo for Christmas

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sainsburys pigs in blankets flavoured mayo
Behold the latest festive creation from Sainsbury’s – mayo that tastes like pigs in blankets (Picture: Sainsbury’s/Metro.co.uk)

We’ll put it bluntly: brands kind of lose their minds a bit as we approach Christmas.

They do things just because they can, not because they should, like making crisps that taste like Christmas trees or putting a vegan Christmas dinner in a can.

Overexcited by the festive season and its commercial opportunities, they go mad with the power of Christmassy flavours. Sometimes this works wonderfully. Sometimes it’s a horror show.

Which category does this creation fall into? We’ll leave that up to you.

Behold: Pigs in blankets flavoured mayo, by Sainsbury’s.

This is pretty much exactly what you think – pink-tinged mayonnaise that’s made to taste like sausages wrapped in bacon.

For what purpose, you may ask? We truly don’t know. Perhaps you could put it on your Christmas dinner, inside your Boxing Day sandwich, or you could dip your pigs and blankets in the pigs and blankets flavoured mayo for a sort of pigs in cocoons situation.

sainsburys pigs in blankets flavoured mayo
The product doesn’t actually contain pigs in blankets (Picture: Sainsbury’s)

While the mayo is pigs in blankets flavoured, it doesn’t actually contain pigs in blankets.

Instead the mayonnaise simply has some smoke flavouring, tomato paste, and paprika extract to create that smoky bacon effect.

This also means that pigs in blankets mayo is suitable for vegetarians. Win.

Oh, and it’s 95p for a 280ml squeezy bottle, so it’s decent value, too.

The mayo isn’t the only pigs in blankets flavouring Sainsbury’s is bringing out in time for Christmas.

The supermarket has also launched a ‘sprout sprinkle’ that has ‘pigs in blanket style seasoning’.

sainsburys sprout sprinkles
Top your Brussels sprouts with this seasoning mix (Picture: Sainsbury’s)

Again, this is suitable for veggies and just gets that pigs in blankets flavour from a blend of onion, garlic, and smoked paprika. The idea is that you chuck it on your Brussels sprouts to make them taste glorious. A box of 35g is 80p.

Elsewhere in the sauce range is Brussels sprouts ketchup (£3) and Boxing Day Curry Sauce.

Merry condiments, one and all.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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You can rent a private island with up to five others for around £36 a night each

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a private island in florida
Did someone say social distancing? (Pictures: Hotels.com)

Ever wanted to stay on your own private island? Your chance could be right here.

For a limited time, Hotels.com is offering the ‘Friendsgiving’ island for $2,000 plus tax (approx. £1533) in total for a week from November 14 to November 21.

If six people stay there, that comes to roughly £255.50 per person for the week, or £36.50 a night.

If your household is smaller, three people can stay there for £73 a night each and two people can have the island all to themselves for £109.50 a night each – still a pretty great bargain as far as we’re concerned.

The usual cost of booking the island for a week is upwards of $9,500 (approx £7,282).

The island, which includes, a 5,000 square-foot house, a pool, a moat and a helipad, is located off the coast of Marathon, Florida,

inside a house on a private island off the coast of florida
One of the bedrooms (Picture: Hotels.com)
inside a house on a private island off the coast of florida
The kitchen/dining room (Picture: Hotels.com)
inside a house on a private island off the coast of florida
The wrap-around veranda gives you views for days (Picture: Hotels.com)

Whoever books the Friendsgiving package will also get a private chef to cook you a Thanksgiving dinner and a personal boat service to take you to the island.

The island, called East Sister Rock Island, also houses a two-bed guest cottage – perfect if you want to bring a second household and socialise outside on the main house’s wrap-around deck, outdoor dining area or by the pool.

However, booking the guest cottage will cost an extra $3,250 (approx £2,491) a week.

a pool on a private island off the coast of florida
Not bad views really (Picture: Hotels.com)
a private island off the coast of florida
You’ll get your own boat to take you to the island (Picture: Hotels.com)

The main house also comes equipped with a full-sized pool table on the deck, a fully-equipped open plan kitchen and living room with a fireplace, satellite TV, and couch, three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

More adventurous guests have access to a kayak and paddleboards, and you can also book kiteboarding lessons and take a boat to check out the nearby coaral reefs.

You’ll be able to book this Friendsgiving deal from October 27.

This deal is being offered on a first-come-first-served basis so you’d better be ready to act fast when the deal goes live.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk

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My mum abandoned me in a toilet cubicle at three weeks old – but I still forgave her

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Stood by my birth mother’s grave, all I could think to say was ‘I bet you didn’t expect to see me here, Mum’.

In 1956, when I was three weeks old, she’d left me in a cinema toilet cubicle and it took me until 2017 to find her.

As a young boy, there were times when I had been deeply upset at her. I raged against the injustices of being abandoned and I was a troubled child.

After she left me I was placed in a children’s home until I was adopted at seven and a half by a wonderful couple, Irene and George.

While I only stayed with them for seven years, before joining the Royal Navy, it was through their love and support that I learnt to forgive my birth mum.

I developed so much respect for Irene, who taught me what unconditional love is for the first time.

It made me realise my birth mother definitely loved me too, even if she left me. After all, she put me in a place where she knew I would be found by women, and according to reports I was wearing expensive clothing. She definitely cared.

As a teenager, I felt a nagging connection and desire to meet her. I wanted to tell her I didn’t need to forgive her as there was nothing to forgive, and I was keen to share with her a few things about myself.

Paul with George and Irene
Paul with George and Irene (Picture: Paul Aston)

I felt a bond with her, something I later discovered probably came from the two weeks we spent together in hospital after she had me, where she nursed me. I genuinely felt love and affection for this woman I had no recollection of.

Not long after I left home, I started my search. My adoptive parents knew I was looking, and supported me in my endeavour, but I had too much respect for them to invest all my energy into it while they were still alive.

At first I started by putting adverts and telling my story in local papers in Birmingham, where I was found, asking if anyone knew any information.

My story started to garner interest, and in 2005 I took part in a BBC documentary, hoping that it would result in more information. It did just that, and not long after I was put in touch with a lady called Mavis Smith.

She was the one who found me down the side of the toilet. She was 17 at the time and on a date.

We met in person in 2006 and she is such a great woman. She’s in her 80s now and we still speak regularly. She calls me her eldest son.

For a long time after that, I thought Mavis would be the only person I would find on my search for my mum.

Paul and Mavis
Paul and Mavis, who found him (Picture: Paul Aston)

Being without answers is a hard place to be, but I never gave up hope that I would find her.

By this point I was a father myself and I felt I didn’t have anything to hand my children in terms of a family history. More than that, I felt like I didn’t really know who I was. It was an uncomfortable feeling.

I didn’t even know my real name. For all intents and purposes, I was Robert Bruce Weston. Robert was the name of the policeman who Mavis handed me to, Bruce was the doctor who looked after me, and Weston was Irene and George’s surname.

To try and give myself some sense of history, I’d created scenarios in my head about my parents’ story. I thought I was really prepared to accept anything – including rejection – and I felt in a good space to face what lay ahead.

It’s only now that I can see that I wasn’t. The truth was completely unexpected.

I finally got some answers when my daughter shared my story on Facebook in 2015. An amazing DNA researcher called Julia offered to help and before long she had found a third cousin, who asked one of their relatives to do a test.

newspaper clipping
I started by putting adverts and telling my story in local papers (Picture: Paul Aston)

He did and it turned out I had a half-brother called Tommy on my father’s side.

I hadn’t really thought about my father – who was called Charlie – much, I was far more obsessed with meeting my mum, but he was the first of my parents we found through DNA tracing.

I assumed that he would have had no idea who I was, but it turns out that he was well aware I existed. Tommy, and my other half siblings, hadn’t grown up knowing about me though.

My five half-brothers and one half-sister didn’t quite understand how I could exist as Charlie was a married man from Scotland and there wasn’t much of an age gap between myself and Tommy – only a couple of years.

They had, however, become suspicious after Charlie died in 1996 when they found a letter in his wallet from a woman saying the two children were well.

Unfortunately, the letter was lost before I ever had a chance to see it, as it could have provided a clue about my mother.

But at the time, I was just very excited about meeting the new family members I had acquired overnight. It felt like I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I spoke to Tommy on the phone for hours, as we got on so well, and I made my way over to Scotland in 2017 where we had a nervous but very exciting first meeting. Lots of family came and it was fantastic.

Charlie, Paul's dad
Paul looks a lot like Charlie, his biological father (Picture: Paul Aston)

But then came the first feelings of rejection I thought I had prepared for. A few of my brothers didn’t want anything to do with me. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll have to deal with that’.

I was still trying to process having siblings – especially after growing up alone – and now I had to cope with the immediate loss of some of them, too.

But that is the reality of finding people through DNA. While there are more positives than negatives, the downsides have to be dealt with.

Because everything with DNA testing is new and fast moving, there isn’t really a system in place to prepare someone, and no duty of care after.

It’s not just the person doing DNA testing whose life is shaken up, but I empathise with my relatives who have decided not to pursue a relationship with me, because their lives changed overnight as well. They had to confront the realisation that their dad wasn’t the person they knew him to be.

For me, one of the big mental challenges came when Tommy gave me a tour around where they grew up. I walked around and could imagine what a childhood alongside my siblings would have been like.

And just because I had now found them, it didn’t mean I didn’t have questions.

Firstly, how did Charlie and my mum meet if he was married and living in Scotland? Secondly, who was this second child referenced in the letter?

Paul as a baby
Paul, aged two, in the children’s home (Picture: Paul Aston)

I felt like I was putting together a jigsaw and DNA was supplying me with the pieces.

After speaking with Tommy and Pat, my half-sister, we worked the first part out. Charlie had been working in Rugby for a few years, which is where he had an ongoing affair with my mum, before returning to Scotland.

The second part was up in the air.

Later in the year, Julia contacted me again to say she had found three sisters, and that one of them was almost certainly my mum.

Then she found a third cousin of these women in Australia. She asked him whether he had a cousin in the UK, which he did. That is how we found Larry, my full brother.

It was another case of an outcome that I had never envisioned.

We connected on the phone almost immediately, just as I had with Tommy. We had a million questions for each other and both of us provided answers that the other one had been looking for for years.

Larry was four years older than me, was also Charlie’s son, and unlike me, our mother – whose name was Betty – did not give him up for adoption or abandon him.

He grew up searching for a sister, thinking our mother gave up a baby girl because that is what he had been told by our mother’s family.

In 2006, he even put out a Facebook appeal for any information.

He told me that after giving me up, our mother had moved to Wales, where she had married and had two more children. Larry also grew up believing this man – Harry – was his real dad.

Betty, Paul's mum
Betty, Paul’s mum, died when she was 31 (Picture: Paul Aston)

I went to Wales and met Larry and my half-brother Brynn and that is where I got to visit my mother’s grave for the first time.

I had longed to meet her my entire life, but I found out that she had died aged 31, of meningitis, long before my search began. I would have been five at the time and still in the children’s home.  

Standing next to her headstone was a profound experience. It’s the only way I can think to describe it.

The only time I have felt anything like it before or since is when I stood in the spot where Mavis found me, feeling like I was finally standing somewhere she had all those years before.

While finally discovering who my parents were brought me some peace, I still had thousands of burning questions.

Why did she panic? How could she go off and create a new life and not tell anyone? Where was he? Why did he not step in to help?

In the years since I met my wider family, we have pieced parts of the jigsaw back together.

My father had apparently asked friends and relatives in Scotland whether they had room for a female friend and two of her children to stay for a while. Not knowing who this woman was, they said no.

We suspect that my mother, who lived at home with her parents and Larry, was told not to bring this new baby back with her.

She had arranged to meet Charlie at Birmingham station to travel with us to Scotland, but Charlie didn’t show, so she was left with no option but to give me up.

Once I had her name, I found my birth certificate. The police were looking for anyone who hadn’t registered a baby, so my mum went to the office three days after she left me and registered my birth.

That’s when I found the name she had chosen for me – Paul Aston.

Tommy and his brothers
From left to right: Tommy, Paul, Larry and Brynn (Picture: Paul Aston)

It was another sign that she had cared about me. She clearly had a name picked out and had thought about our life together.

It’s why I’ve been in the process of formally changing my name to Paul Aston for a year. It feels good to be using the name I was meant to have.

I’ve now seen pictures of my mother and father, and it’s fascinating – not just because I look more like him than any of my other siblings.

Of course, it’s not all been plain sailing. I went through a lot of trauma as a child from the children’s home and some foster parents who mistreated me before I was adopted.

Delving so much into my own history brought back painful memories and PTSD.

Just like when I went to Scotland, it was also hard visiting Wales and seeing what could have been if my mother had kept me. I was putting myself into a childhood there and trying to taste it and experience it, realising that I would have loved to live there, too.

With both my parents deceased, I can’t get complete closure. I will always have questions that can never be answered and I have to try and make my peace with that.

Then I have to contend with knowing that my decision to find my family has had a big impact on lots of other people.

Family members have had to learn the hard way that their mum or dad had hidden sides to their lives and secrets, and that’s not an easy thing to reconcile.

Still, I don’t regret it for a minute because there have been so many positives. I not only have siblings for life, but have managed to connect Larry to them. I speak to them all regularly and I couldn’t be happier with our relationships.

After growing up alone, I now have seven brothers and two sisters. I had my wonderful adopted parents, I had my birth parents, and Mavis. I have my name. I can trace my family history back to 1700. I know who I am now.

It’s all I ever really wanted. 

MORE: Can money really help Angelina Jolie, Madonna and other stars adopt children quickly from abroad?

MORE: What support is available for parents and children throughout the adoption process?

MORE: I adopted a baby with Down’s syndrome and I’d do it again

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else's child into their family to others who were that child.

We'll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at adoptionstories@metro.co.uk.

Influencer lives with 80kg pig she treats like her child

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influencer simone with her pig, milo
Simone Partner, also known as Eltoria, lives with a 80kg pig called Milo (Picture: Jam Press)

When Simone Partner, 28, was growing up on a pig-filled farm in Bath, she fell in love with the idea of one day having her very own pig to hang out with at home.

The day she bought her first house three and a half years ago, Simone, known online as Eltoria, decided to make her wishes come true.

She bought Milo, a cute little piglet who cost £500.

Now, Milo is all grown up. He’s a massive 80kg porker – but that doesn’t stop Simone treating the pig like her baby.

Simone takes Milo on walks, cuddles him on the sofa, feeds him a special diet, and gives him plenty of kisses.

‘People think we are mad, especially when they see him happily sprint across the patch of grass by our home,’ the blogger and YouTuber said.

‘But mostly people are fascinated by Milo and they are always asking to come around and see him.

‘We get asked if we can take him on walks just like a dog, but you need a special license to do that, believe it or not!’

While Milo is huge, he’s still counted as a miniature pig, as he’s smaller than a regular breed.

Simone is keen to emphasise, though, that this isn’t a story of someone buying a micro pig and being shocked when it grows to full size – she always knew she was getting a hefty boy.

‘I always knew the size that he was going to be as we saw both his mum and dad,’ said Simone.

‘People should do their homework if they are looking to buy a pig.

Simone Partner with her pet pig, Milo
Milo is totally house-trained (Picture: @eltoria/Jam Press)

‘Micro pigs just don’t exist and it is naïve to buy a pig thinking it is going to stay tiny and then complain when the pig grows.’

While Simone doesn’t have plans to get more pigs any time soon, one day she would like to provide a home for all those ‘micro pigs’ who turn out bigger than expected.

‘If I am able to buy a bigger home with a spot of land, I shall most definitely get Milo some brothers or sisters,’ she says.

For now, though, Simone focuses on giving Milo a gloriously pampered life.

The pig is fed fresh fruit, veg, and special pellets, and is allowed in the house as he’s completely trained – although he has his own den in the back garden where he sleeps.

‘He loves sleeping on the sofa, snuggled up to the pillows, his mermaid blanket and squeaky toys,’ says Simone.

‘He can sleep there for hours at a time. He really does have the life!’

Story from Jam Press (Supermarket Bottle Smash) // Pictured: Simone Partner with her pet pig, Milo. // Pig-obsessed influencer treats her 80kg porker like a child ??? with cuddles on the sofa INSIDE the house, a special diet and kisses // A pig-loving influencer has revealed all about life with her 80kg pet pig, Milo. Simone Partner, 28, from Bath grew up on a farm in the English countryside and has always wanted a pig to hang out with at home. When the young woman, known online as Eltoria, bought her first house three and a half years ago, she decided it was time to realise her dream of getting a hog and bought Milo, who cost ??500. The huge animal was just a cute, tiny piglet back then but has since grown into a huge size. But that doesn't put off his owner, although she admits the pair often get strange looks from people when out for Milo's walks. ???People think we are mad, especially when they see him happily sprint across the patch of grass by our home,
He loves cuddles with Simone on the sofa (Picture: @eltoria/Jam Press)

Simone and her fiancé Joe take their parenting very seriously and have even changed their diets to accommodate their new housemate – cutting out bacon completely.

She said: ‘We just couldn’t face a bacon sandwich or any kind of pork for that matter.

‘It just didn’t feel right, so pretty much as soon as we got Milo, we turned “porketarian”.

‘Milo is a part of the family and he is like a son to us.’

The couple make sure to give Milo a proper routine, starting every day by going to his ‘toilet space’ in the garden, having breakfast, then enjoying a morning nap.

Every Sunday the family cuddle up on the sofa and give each other kisses.

Simone says having Milo around is great, but he does pose some challenges.

‘The only annoying habit Milo has is when he is cleaning his teeth and chomping when he’s relaxing,’ the influencer said.

‘It sounds a bit like a washing machine and can drive you up the wall.

‘We have to watch him when he is sunbathing as he is a sun obsessive and will lie there for hours.

‘He is literally like a tourist in Benidorm and we have to slap loads of sun cream on him constantly, so he doesn’t get sunburnt or overdoes it.’

Story from Jam Press (Supermarket Bottle Smash) // Pictured: Simone Partner with her pet pig, Milo. // Pig-obsessed influencer treats her 80kg porker like a child ??? with cuddles on the sofa INSIDE the house, a special diet and kisses // A pig-loving influencer has revealed all about life with her 80kg pet pig, Milo. Simone Partner, 28, from Bath grew up on a farm in the English countryside and has always wanted a pig to hang out with at home. When the young woman, known online as Eltoria, bought her first house three and a half years ago, she decided it was time to realise her dream of getting a hog and bought Milo, who cost ??500. The huge animal was just a cute, tiny piglet back then but has since grown into a huge size. But that doesn't put off his owner, although she admits the pair often get strange looks from people when out for Milo's walks. ???People think we are mad, especially when they see him happily sprint across the patch of grass by our home,
Simone is writing a book about Milo’s adventures (Picture: @eltoria/Jam Press)

The strangest situation the family have seen was when Milo was picked up by the police.

‘We had just moved into our new home and we were getting the shopping and he managed to sneak past us and two gates,’ said Simone.

‘Milo was basically on the hunt for some food and had managed to get onto the road (not a busy one, luckily), but he smartly stuck to the curb (which we know because there was a trial of pig poop!). A family luckily found him and lured him in with apples and they called the police.

‘When the police arrived they tried to pop him into the back of the car but one very mischievous pig resisted arrest.

‘At this point we had realised that he had escaped and were frantically searching for him. We saw a post on our local town’s page (which ironically, is historically a pig town) asking if anyone knew who the owner was. The post started going viral with our names tagged in it so we were able to locate where he was.’

Simone hopes that Milo’s story will encourage people to give pigs a chance. She’s even writing a children’s book about her pet’s adventures to spread his story further.

She added: ‘Pigs make amazing pets as they are really intelligent, full of personality and extremely responsive towards humans.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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Dessert shop shares recipe for Terry’s White Chocolate Orange hot chocolate

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Terry's white hot choc recipe pictures
Positively sinful (Picture:@Dollysdesserts/Tiktok)

A dessert shop in Barnsley has shared the recipe for their very indulgent looking Terry’s White Chocolate Orange hot chocolate

Dolly’s Desserts in Barnsley spread the joy via TikTok, with owner Charlie Smark taking to the social media platform to show us how its done.

In the video, which has been liked 52,200 times, she can be seen smashing a white chocolate orange and putting four pieces into a mug.

She then heats some milk using a coffee machine milk frother, with her voiceover saying you can use a microwave at home.

After the milk is hot, she adds a bit of it to the mug and stirs until the chocolate melts and the mixture is like a ‘paste’. Then in goes the rest of the milk.

She then adds whipped cream, chocolate shavings, orange sauce they have in her shop and another segment of the white chocolate orange for good measure.

Terry's white hot choc recipe
Heat up the milk and pour some over the chocolate (Picture:@Dollysdesserts/Tiktok)
Terry's white hot choc recipe
Mix until it forms a paste (Picture:@Dollysdesserts/Tiktok)

In the video the drink is dusted with what looks like cocoa powder or cinnamon to finish it off.

Charlie says: ‘I can confirm the white chocolate orange is as nice as it looks, so making it into a hot chocolate, you can’t really go wrong.’

Terry's white hot choc recipe
She added some of her shop’s orange sauce (Picture:@Dollysdesserts/Tiktok)
Terry's white hot choc recipe
The finished product (Picture:@Dollysdesserts/Tiktok)

She ends the video by saying: ‘I promise you, this does not dissapoint’.

The Dolly’s Desserts TikTok account, which has 280,000 followers, is full of videos showing how they make their desserts.

Charlie also uploaded a video showing how to make a standard Terry’s Chocolate Orange hot chocolate, which involves all the same steps just with a different type of chocolate.

She describes it as ‘definitely a must for autumn/winter’ – hard to argue with that!

If chocolate orange isn’t your thing, just replace that ingredient with your favourite chocolate and give it a try!

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk

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Why going running with your partner could strengthen your relationship

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couples running
Couples who run together… (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

If there’s one thing that fills me with dread, it’s the thought of sitting down to have a DMC (deep meaningful chat) with a partner. 

I’ve tried to have them in the past and always ended up choking back the tears (when I wasn’t even sad), having a full-blown row (having not started off feeling angry) or fully chickening out.

But in recent months, that’s changed – I have really deep, insightful conversations with my current boyfriend on the regular. In fact, we have them weekly. Why? Because we run together.

For many years, I’ve spent Sunday mornings running. No matter where I’m living, whether I’m training or something or not, Sunday is run day – a chance to get out in some greenery for an hour or two.

The only difference these days is that I’m not alone. Instead of waking up early and loitering in bed deciding which podcasts and radio shows I’m going to tune into, I wake up to make a tray of coffee and overnight oats for me and my boyfriend to share, before we head out on the road – together.

We’ve been running on Sundays pretty much since the beginning of our relationship. We’ve run in the scorching sun (during the heatwave) and in pissing rain (every week since), and we have every intention of carrying on our canters into the winter. 

While running with someone else can be a pleasant break from solo jogs – particularly when the weather’s not playing ball – our runs are more like chicken soup for the soul. 

Jo Hemmings is a celebrity psychologist and dating coach who believes that trotting and chatting can be seriously healthy for abled couples.

‘Research has shown that when couples run together, they report feeling more fulfilled in their relationships and more in love with their partner,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘It’s the physiological arousal that drives this, with sweaty palms, shortness of breath and a racing pulse mimicking the thrill of attraction – perhaps sharing a running goal, or simply supporting and motivating each other through the out-of-breath moments, simultaneously showing both empathy and competitive spirit.’

It seems odd to feel more in love or more attracted to someone when they’re drenched in sweat and wearing a LA Lakers jersey that’s seen better days but there we are. I find that running really does make you feel more enamoured with one’s paramour.

Illustration of a woman and man working out and flirting.
A workout date can make your bond stronger (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

We’ve discussed everything on these weekly rambles, from our dating histories and families,  to how ridiculously fit everyone is in Victoria Park and why lamps are a non-negotiable part of interior design. The conversations that happen are like a hoovering up of everything that’s happened over the previous week, dissected and enjoyed slowly over a ten-mile stretch. And while most of the time these conversations are lighthearted (we are generally quite happy, content types), they can also be pretty deep. 

As Jo points out, ‘there’s something rather formal – and often slightly unnerving – about the phrase “we need to talk”, even if it’s not something of any concern’.

Who hasn’t freaked out at the prospect of having a serious discussion with their partner? But the ‘informality of chatting together, while focusing on exercising, can make any important chats seem much less intimidating’.

Of course, running or exercising together isn’t just about mulling over deep subjects. There’s the whole thing of sharing goals, lifestyles – doing something that benefits you both and together keeps you mentally and physically fit. I track all of my runs on Strava and my Sunday run with Lorin is undoubtedly the most impressive canter of the week – often winning me umpteen PBs or silver medals on the app. He pushes me to run stronger, faster and longer without me even realising it. Once we finish, we bathe and eat beans on toast – the best meal of the week. This bonhomie is what Jo calls ‘tag spirit’.

‘Looking out for each other, showing support and encouragement, and slowing down or speeding up as you sense your partner is wanting or needing boosts both your energy output and nonverbal mirroring,’ she explains. ‘That helps people feel more in tune with each other, adding to the bonding effect.’

Clearly, running can have a powerful impact on our relationships. Plenty of couples run together or come together through running, like personal trainer Hannah Lewin and her partner Tom, who started running together back in early spring.

Tom tells us: ‘I’ll be honest and say it was a pretty horrifying thought – running with a partner who is a PT and runs all the time, but we gave it a shot and it was surprisingly good fun. It forced us to think more about where we wanted to run, as opposed to just taking the easy option of doing laps round the local park.

‘Having fewer options to socialise and do things together this year (because of Covid) meant we had to be a bit more creative, and embracing the fact we both run made sense as a way to spend time together and be a bit more constructive than simply working our way through hours of boxsets.

‘It’s certainly helped us see more of the area in which we live and has helped provide me with a bit more insight into the amazing work Hannah does with her clients – she offers me plenty of tips and it pushes me to go that little bit further each time.’

Scott Dutton and his partner, who he met through the Bath Half, had a run as their first date and ran from the finish line to their wedding last March. They still make time to do regular runs as a couple.

running wedding
Scott and his partner ran to their wedding having first met at Bath Half (Picture: Scott Dutton)

And Steph Finch and her husband run together once or twice a week.

‘We have a 10-month-old, so we find it’s a great way to spend time together and keep an eye on her (he pushes her in the pram),’ says Steph. ‘We don’t listen to music and instead go at a slower pace (my pace!) so we can talk to each other. Sometimes we talk about the future, our goals, what we want from life – and other times we just talk about friends/gossip/funny podcasts! 

‘We both love exercising and being able to do it together is a super convenient way to tick the exercise box and quality time box. It’s really fun to do on holidays together as a date-activity that explores the local area as well. It’s super wholesome but very rewarding.’

Moving together gives you a ready-made opportunity for a regular check-in with your partner. If you’re the sort of couple who regularly goes down the pub or out for dinner together to catch up, all power to you. But many of us – particularly in this era of Covid – lead separate social lives or aren’t able to go on traditional dates. A Sunday morning (or whenever you exercise) is far more realistic.

‘Regular check-in maintains the bond between you; it increases communication which therefore increases connection,’ explains Madeleine Mason Roantree, a psychologist at the Vida Consultancy.

illustration of two women running together
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

She says that since 1975, the amount of time couples spend together without kids has decreased from 35 hours a week to just 26. Making time to check in ‘allows for couples to discuss their needs, what’s going on in their head, experiences, feelings, which are important aspects that combat relationship loneliness’. 

Obviously if you do have kids, it’s going to be a lot harder to find that time but if you’re both working from home, you could always go for a lunchtime jog together or simply catch up once the children have gone to bed. Stick on a yin yoga YouTube instead of slouching in front of Netflix and then have a check-in session once you’re finished and feeling all stretchy and mellow.

‘Checking in can be through touch, words, acts of service, giving gifts and/or spending time with each other,’ Madeline explains – referring to the five love languages.

If your partner responds better to quality time and words, for example, be sure to turn off your phone and be ready to chat and give them some affirmation. If their love language is acts of service, you might decide to run a post-run or yoga bath for them. Find out what you both like and be open about it so they can talk in your love language as much as you can theirs. 

But what if you can’t run or your partner simply refuses to lace up with you?

The effects are going to be similar whatever you do – as long as you enjoy the activity and enjoy doing it with your SO. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously cardiovascular but I’d opt for something outdoors where you’ve got access to some green or blue space (which is proven to boost mood and reduce anxiety) and something that gets your heart rate up a little. A weekly walk or cycle is great, or a regular cold dip could be good if you live near the sea or a safe body of water. 

As Jo points out, exercising together ‘reduces stress, improves self-esteem and research shows that 66% of couples say that exercising together has improved their relationship’.

And let’s face it, a jog is far cheaper than a date night dinner.

As Hannah’s boyfriend Tom says: ‘It’s certainly not for everyone and running is still a great way to zone out on your own…but I’d definitely recommend giving it a try together as you may just find it helps you get more from it overall.’

Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you. Get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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Rollerblading the length of one of the world’s smallest countries to avoid quarantine, passing mountains and fairytale castles along the way

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Bam! I’d fallen over for the second time wheeling down a small hill and I was starting to think maybe skating the length of Liechtenstein wasn’t the wisest of ideas as I surveyed my legs for damage and was relieved to find none. 

But, determined to see my wacky plan to transit the pocket-sized principality through, I continued wheeling along, with my friend Marjolein leading up the front. Her far more experienced on six wheels than myself.

I had originally planned to spend a few days in Liechtenstein to enjoy some fine alpine views, fine food and some fine hikes. 

But now a constant hazard in the times of Covid-19 my travel plans were scuppered, with the tiny country introducing a mandatory 10-day quarantine for visitors from high-risk areas.

Sadie before setting off to skate the length of Liechtenstein (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)
Sadie before setting off to skate the length of Liechtenstein (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

Liechtenstein, which has a population of just over 38,000, has had 183 confirmed Covid-19 cases in total with one death.

The current rules for Liechtenstein, which follow Switzerland’s lead, state that any tourists entering the country from high-risk areas must report their arrival and stay in a hotel or rented apartment and self-quarantine for 10 days.

I am currently based in the Netherlands, one of the countries on the mandatory quarantine list.

Not fancying the idea of being cooped up for 10 days, plus the bill at the end of my stay in the notoriously high-priced country, a friend tipped me off that transiting through the place would still be possible.

I checked with the local authorities in Liechtenstein and was told this would be fine if we did not stop and were merely passing through. 

Determined to make the weekend a real adventure, I came up with a plan to make my transit on rollerblades, an activity I loved during my childhood and started to revisit during lockdown. 

Wheeling along on skates would enable me to soak up the mountainous scenery while maintaining social distance. I let the local authorities know of my plans and they gave it the green light.

The skating route in Liechtenstein was pretty picturesque with the Rhine river running alongside it (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)
The skating route in Liechtenstein was pretty picturesque with the Rhine river running alongside it (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

My friend Marjolein and I found a route running the length of Liechtenstein. 

The course, just short of 18 miles, ran from Austria where we would camp to the southern tip bordering Switzerland. We would then arrange return transport from there. 

We drove some ten hours from the Netherlands to the Austrian-Liechtenstein border where we set up camp for the night.

The next day, we got up at 7:30 am sharp. Thankfully the weather was pretty splendid, with the sun peeping through and temperatures tipped to reach 18 degrees Celsius.

We were unsure what our skating route would be like and if the track would be navigable on wheels, but we set off to walk through the morning dew to the borderline and go from there. 

We were pleasantly surprised to find a finely tarmacked track, the smoothest I’d encountered in a while.

A view of Vaduz Castle which dates back to the 12th century (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)
A view of Vaduz Castle which dates back to the 12th century (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

What to pack for a rollerblading adventure

  • K2 Skates Trio LT 100 Women’s, from £199 – Great fit for wider feet, with good stability and smooth action
  • Finisterre Waterproof Roll Top Backpack £135 – A comfortable fit, with lots of room and pockets for laptop and drinks bottles
  • Smartwool Women’s Merino Sport Tee £54.99 – Sweat-wicking and soft fabric, can be worn for a few days while adventuring without smelling
  • Smartwool Socks from £21.95 – Feature cushioning to protect the feet from friction and ventilation to allow the feet to breathe
  • North Face Teknitcal Leggings £85 – Designed for maximum movement and stretch with quick-drying fabric
  • Canada Goose Gilet £395 – An investment piece perfect for changing seasons and easy to move in while hiking or skating
  • Honor Watch GS Pro £249.99 – Latest smartwatch to hit the market, to track your progress with an impressive 25-day battery life

Another thing we were relieved about was the lack of border police, albeit we weren’t on the main road. The UK Government’s foreign travel advice website states that ‘inspections may be in operation’ but the coast was clear and we could start our transit without being quizzed.

With the skies clearing, and the snow-frosted mountains gleaming in the distance, we steadily started wheeling along. 

The great thing we discovered about the track, which is also used by cyclists and cars at certain points, is that it is very flat, making it perfect for skating.

There were only a handful of downhill bits where we had to wheel through underpasses and sweat our way back up again.

Passersby on bikes and foot gave us inquisitive smiles as we wheeled by on our bright pink and blue skates. 

Along with the mountainous scenery, the fast-flowing Rhine river that ran alongside us was another source of entrancement.

Snow-dusted peaks seen beyond the fast-flowing Rhine river (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)
Snow-dusted peaks seen beyond the fast-flowing Rhine river (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

Occasionally we caught glimpses of Liechtenstein’s fairytale-like interior with breaks in the trees lining the other side of the track giving way to church spires and tiled rooftops. 

We also got a good look at Vaduz Castle, which dates back to the 12th century.

The grand building, perched 120 metres above Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, is the palace and official residence of Hans-Adam II, the current Prince of Liechtenstein.

Another historical feature we came across during our skating expedition was the Alte Rheinbrücke, a covered wooden bridge linking the municipalities of Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Sevelen in Switzerland.

Spanning 135 metres, it was completed in 1901 to replace a previous bridge and today it’s the only remaining wooden bridge spanning the Rhine. 

Eventually, we saw on our GPS that the end was in sight, and we upped our pace a little. 

The route Sadie took running the length of Liechtenstein (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)
The route Sadie took running the length of Liechtenstein (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

After turning a corner, passing some cornfields and a picture-perfect farm with cattle grazing in the front paddock, we reached a small car park where our return ride was set to pick us up. 

We completed the 17.98-mile journey in 2 hours 34 minutes with an average speed of 7 miles an hour.

We hadn’t got to explore Liechtenstein as thoroughly as we’d hoped, but we’d had an awesome time transiting through the country soaking up the sights, smells and sounds.

It was a charming journey I’ll remember for years to come. I’m glad we didn’t let Covid-19 completely scupper our plans.

It was my first roadtrip since the pandemic hit, and it was interesting to see that none of the borders were monitored as I feared they might be.

There was nothing to stop people with Covid-19 driving in and out of places.

With it being impossible to contain people, I guess the most important thing as a traveller in today’s climate is to take responsibility for your own actions and not to put others in danger. 

But there is still lots of adventure to be had, even transiting through a country can be fun!

How to plan your own Liechtenstein adventure

For when rules around the coronavirus pandemic allow, here are some top things to do while staying in Liechtenstein:

  • Car hire can be arranged with Europcar with the nearest airport being Zurich
  • Stay at the Landhaus am Giessen hotel, which is located an easy walk or a short bus ride from the centre of Vaduz
  • Visit Gutenberg Castle in Balzers for a great viewpoint 
  • Stop by at the Ruggeller Riet, a nature reserve in the north of the country where you can take a walk and enjoy the nature
  • For hiking, the Liechtenstein Trail connects all the villages of Liechtenstein and is 75 kilometres long. As it doesn’t go up too high, it is also possible to do the trail – or parts of it – during autumn, winter and wet conditions
  • Recommended restaurants include Gasthof Au and Restaurant Kainer
  • The Adventure Pass gives visitors admission to 30 great attractions and sights throughout the country, along with free use of public transport

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Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son’s bath toys

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Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son's bath toys
What a horror show (Picture: Facebook)

A mum has shared disturbing photos of the inside of her son’s bath toys to reveal black mould growing where she couldn’t see.

After reading about another little boy who almost lost his eyesight after he squirted himself in the eye with one of his bath toys, she decided to cut her son’s toys open to check inside.

She was horrified to find that black mould was growing inside the toys, even though she washed them regularly.

She shared the pictures and a warning on Facebook, writing: ‘Please throw these bath toys away it’s disgusting – I feel sick looking at it.

‘For those of you who saw the post I shared the other day of the little boy who accidentally squirted himself in the eye with one of his bath toys and it got really bad infected, y’all…

‘I just cut my kids bath toys open and needless to say, they are all going in the trash and I will never buy another and I would suggest you all do the same!

Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son's bath toys
Disgustang (Picture: Facebook)
Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son's bath toys
She wrote: ‘They say mould grows in them because they’re never able to fully dry out! I’ve never been more disgusted in my life!!’ (Picture: Facebook)

‘They say mould grows in them because they’re never able to fully dry out! I’ve never been more disgusted in my life!!’

She then received backlash from some commenters, so added: ‘**DISCLAIMER FOR ALL YOU PERFECT PARENTS**

‘Yes I clean my kids toys but you cannot dry them out fully, therefore mold grows because it’s wet – I’m sure y’all don’t cook your kids Dino chicken nuggets either’ [sic].

Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son's bath toys
Bathers beware (Picture: Facebook)
Mum shares horrifying photos of black mould growing inside son's bath toys
Nasty (Picture: Facebook)

If you want to look for bath toys that won’t get mouldy, you should try getting something that’s made of just one solid piece of material, which would indicate that there’s no place for water to get inside.

You should swerve any toys with holes in the bottom, as is common with squeezable plastic toys, as water can get trapped in there and not dry out.

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One of London’s newest churches is a custom designed canal barge

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pictures of a new church barge
Through hell or high water, apparently (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)

Between the devil and the deep blue sea now lies this swish new church barge.

The boat has been aptly christened Genesis after the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament (you know, the one with Noah’s ark).

The Genesis was designed by London-based architects Denizen Works and was commissioned as a mobile assembly space.

The wide-beam canal boat has a pop-up roof to allow for more head-room and can fit two vertical rows of benches with six rows.

There’s also a skylight to get in some natural light from the heavens.

It’s currently moored on the River Lee Navigation alongside the Here East media complex at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

pictures of a new church barge
The minimilist design is very pleasing (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)
pictures of a new church barge
The roof expands to make extra space (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)

It will be the home of new worshiping community St Columba East London, which is led by the Reverend Dave Pilkington.

The barge church is run in partnership with the churches St Mary of Eton and St Paul Old Ford, and serves areas around East London, Sweetwater, Hackney Wick, Eastwick and, of course, Here East.

pictures of a new church barge
People will also be able to hire it out (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)
pictures of a new church barge
It does look pretty serene to be fair (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)

Rev Pilkington, who was ordained in 2019, said: ‘The sight of Genesis on the banks of the River Lee Navigation is fantastic. With so many changes happening in Hackney Wick and Fish Island, we must constantly seek ways to help build community, so I am pleased to report that St Columba East is a community going from strength to strength.

‘With Genesis now in situ we can look forward to the next phase of growth, now with a space to support our desire for action, reflection and contemplation.

pictures of a new church barge
Would you go to church on a barge? (Pictures: Gilbert McCarragher/Denizen/Cove​r Images)

‘Despite the milestone of delivery being met, current circumstances require that we must take the necessary steps to manage risk and protect people by limiting access to the vessel.

‘Nevertheless, St Columba East met for the first time aboard Genesis two weeks ago and we can all look forward to a time when we the whole community can utilise this vessel to its full extent.’

Genesis will also be available to hire out for things like children’s theatre, interfaith celebrations, art exhibitions and business functions.

It’s due to stay on the Lee Navigation for three to five years before casting off in search of other places to park.

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Sex kinks quiz – What’s your kink?

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Illustration of a woman masturbating with an open laptop covering her vagina, against a yellow background
What gets you in the mood? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

The world of kink isn’t quite as simple (or uncomfortable) as 50 Shades of Grey might have you believe.

In fact, it encompasses a wide variety of human sexuality that’s slightly outside the ‘mainstream’ – aka missionary with the lights off.

While there are more hardcore and regimented parts of the kink community, you might find that you enjoy something as simple as being tickled in the bedroom or watching someone put on a lacy pair of stockings.

Absolutely none of this is anything to be ashamed of, and if you do have a predilection for the non-vanilla type sex, you can find a rich community online and at sex clubs who should help you understand everything from safe words to nipple clamps.

If you err on the side of vanilla instead, that’s also no problem. Never let anyone coerce you into doing anything you feel uncomfortable with – sex should be enjoyable and on your own terms.

For those who are somewhere in the middle – wanting to spice things up but not sure which way they want to go – this quiz might help.

It’s all a bit of fun, but it can show you where your personality lies in the kink sphere.

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Here’s what living under the threat of extinction is doing to our brains

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Illustration of a woman sat on the ground, looking sad and holding her hands in her hair, with her shadow visible, along with an orange round circle and a blue background.
Climate change is real, it’s here and it’s terrifying (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Feelings of anxiety and dread over climate change are not uncommon and as global warming continues to worsen, the toll that it’s taking on our mind is likely getting worse too.

From the ongoing pandemic to the atomic fear associated with the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, modern humanity is no stranger to living under the threat of large scale calamitous events.

But while other dangers have had defined end points where things will go back to ‘normal’, climate change has all of humanity living under the constant threat of eventual extinction.

What is living under this constant and ever-increasing threat to our way of life doing to our brains?

A survey by Gumtree found that, of 2,000 British participants, 74% said they feel climate anxiety. This anxiety is particularly strong among 18-24-year-olds, with 51% saying they felt they weren’t doing enough to be sustainable.

A relatively new branch of the mental health profession focuses on the impact climate change is having on our mental health and helps people cope.

Broadcaster and author Britt Wray has a PHD in science communication and is currently writing a book on the mental health impacts of climate change. She tells us ecoanxiety is ‘a kind of trauma that threatens our ability to feel safe in the world’.

A woman lying in bed looking despondent
The study found ‘Denial and avoidance are some of the worst results’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘It is a kind of existential pressure,’ she says. ‘It can manifest in many different ways, from very severe and chronic distress to fleeting feelings of worry and overwhelm that one cycles through.

‘It can affect one’s personal relationships, their ability to sleep or work, and the decisions one makes, like whether or not to have a child, or where to move to (in order to get out of the way of extreme weather events, like recurring wildfires, for example), what food to buy, and how to get around (no more flying or only electric cars).’

Seattle-based therapist Andrew Bryant manages a site called Climate & Mind, which seeks to ‘explore how climate change impacts our thoughts, emotions, and behavior’. He tells us: ‘Everyone, I think, experiences [climate anxiety] differently. For some it can be nervous avoidance; for others it can be manic action that can lead to burn-out.

‘Others experience it more as a depression about the world, a hopelessness and sense of defeat. Others get caught up in the news cycle and social media, constantly checking for the next piece of terrible news about the planet.

‘Many feel guilty for existing, for not doing more, for having kids, and so on. And many of us are simply in denial, which I think takes a lot of mental energy in itself.’

Counselling Directory member and eco-psychotherapist Tim McLoughlin tells us: ‘There seems to be a thread of powerlessness in clients who present as being the most anxious.

Black woman looking fed up with her hands in the air
It can feel like others aren’t doing enough to help (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘When someone feels powerless to stop what looks to be an impending catastrophe this arouses significant anxiety.

‘Some will become motivated to “do their bit” to help the situation. Though at first, this might seem laudable, it can lead to an even greater sense of frustration when they perceive others, including large corporations, not doing enough.

‘Some clients dread, almost continually, a so-called “tipping point” which they view as signalling impending disaster and causes a background anxiety over which they feel they have little control. 

‘The size of the problem seems to affect some people differently. Some are able to “bracket” their worries but readily talk about it as they are aware that, like an spp, it is running in the back of their minds all the time.

‘Others, who might choose to become more active in supporting green causes, often find the political aspects both cathartic and a source of camaraderie so that their feelings are useful and shared with many others in their work or social network.

‘To some, there is a real sense of disassociation. There is an unwillingness to engage with the issue, due to the sheer enormity of it and the existential threat it presents. This can sometimes manifest in a psychological shrugging of the shoulders, which can appear dismissive, though is perhaps more likely to be a defensive positioning.’ 

Britt, who also runs a newsletter all about ‘staying sane in the climate crisis’, tells us that ecoanxiety isn’t a disorder as much as an ‘appropriate type of distress’ given the current situation.

Counselling Directory member Kate Graham agrees, saying: ‘The challenge for our mental health is that while climate change anxiety is similar to other forms of anxiety, in terms of compulsive worrying, feeling powerless, frustrated and depressed, it is actually very different. 

Illustration of a half-naked man lying in bed with his arms over his face.
‘Climate anxiety is not a disorder and rather is a perfectly appropriate type of distress’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘Climate change is real, so while a troubled childhood, or greater sensitivity might increase levels of anxiety, they aren’t the cause of it: climate change cannot be argued away. For young people in particular this can lead to depression, despair, cynicism and apathy.

‘In fact feeling worried about climate change is essentially a positive, healthy thing to do. It takes courage to come out from the relative safety of denial to be willing to make contact with this very difficult reality. However some of us do find it harder than others to cope with such an apparently overwhelming fear.’

Andrew confesses to us that he experiences climate dread himself, but it’s still hard to know exactly how many people suffer from ecoanxiety.

He says: ‘I am hoping there are people doing research on that as we speak, because it would be great to know. According to the Yale Program on Climate Communications, in the U.S. at least, 26% of those surveyed express alarm and 28% express concern about the climate. This is up significantly since 10 years ago.

‘I also think that climate anxiety manifests in different ways, so is hard to measure. I think it manifests in overt ways – such as, people saying they are worried about climate change; and subtle ways – such as in people’s avoidance and denial of the topic.’

He adds: ‘I think we should all be more anxious. The fact that we are not is indicative of how hard it is to grapple with such a huge issue.

‘I don’t think we should be helplessly anxious, or panicking, but just seriously recognising the risk we are facing. The situation calls for fear because it raises questions about our existential safety and the health of our only home.

‘Hopefully fear, when dealt with, can lead to action.’

Illustration of a woman holding her face in her hands
What can people do for relief? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

So what can people do for relief if they feel climate anxiety?

Andrew says: ‘I recommend that they allow themselves to feel their feelings, and not judge them or push them away.

‘Then I recommend that they talk with others about their feelings – it could be a friend, a therapist, a neighbor or co-worker. This tends to help people feel less alone. Then I recommend that they find a group of some sort – and climate activism group, a climate support group, an outdoors group.

‘If there are none around, there are online resources, or they can form their own local “Climate Cafe” or “Climate Circle” (our website, Climate & Mind, has templates for such groups). Uniting with others who have common concern can be inspiring.

‘Once people have gone through those steps, they are in a good position to find an action that is in alignment with who they are, their skills, resources, and so on.

‘I try not to give people suggestions for how to act, but help them go through a process so that they find what feels meaningful and effective for them. So the four steps are: Feel, Talk, Unite, Act (and back to feel – it’s a dynamic spiral).’

Britt agrees that connecting with others who feel similarly is a good way to go, telling us: ‘First and foremost, connect with others who are similarly awake to the severity of the threat humanity is now facing and can mirror your concerns.

‘Too often, people with climate anxiety feel isolated in their feelings since there are no social norms yet around how to discuss these psychological experiences of relating to what is happening to the earth (with family, friends, co-workers, etc). This sense of aloneness makes the distress much harder to deal with.

‘They can look for groups like the Good Grief Network, or emotionally intelligent friends and environmental groups where people know how to talk about – and sit in – these feelings.

‘When you connect with others who “get it”, you have more support in how you cope. Coping with climate anxiety involves finding meaning in the difficult feelings, and allowing the feelings to transform you into a more purpose-driven human being. This means finding the authentic role you have to play in bringing solutions forth, even if you can’t solve the problem itself.

‘And just know that when you first have your awakening to the full extent of the crisis that brings on the climate anxiety, it can be extremely painful and even fill you with grief, but you won’t always feel that intensely; it can get better once you learn how to mourn what is happening, build some new forms of resilience, and find some purpose from it all.’

illustration of a man comforting a white woman
Finding and talking to like-minded people can help (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Tim meanwhile describes various approaches which can be taken in therapy by saying: ‘Some will find taking direct action helpful, though others will need to deal first with the presenting anxiety. 

‘The anxiety, from a psychodynamic perspective, may have its origins earlier in the client’s life. Any unresolved difficulty may be triggered by talk of climate change where the role of parent, for instance, can be substituted by world government. Neglectful, unreliable and motivated by greed. 

‘Some clients will need some help overcoming their anxious feelings and perhaps even overtly challenging negative feelings through some form of self-talk and remaining mindful of their own internal processes.

‘Do they react to climate change in the same way as other aversive events? Working with the client’s preferred coping style can give rise to useful material as for some issues as big as this they may need to evoke more appropriate ones…they cannot do it alone! 

‘Clients whose family systems do not share their views feel particularly isolated. They may spend a significant amount of time and energy looking at source material to validate their feelings. This too can exacerbate the situation and simply incite others to prove them wrong and evoke feelings of shame in the client. 

‘Clients who are warm to a more Buddhist approach can find the idea of interconnectedness really helpful. This will help the client see that every small action an individual takes can have a lasting impact on those around them. Buddhist thinking can also help clients to realise that from a meta-perspective really nothing is in our direct control.’

students metro illustrations
Young people seem to be particularly susceptible to ecoanxiety (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

When asked what the general public needs to understand about climate change above everything else, Andrew tells us: ‘At the most basic level, they need to know that it is real, and poses an existential threat to us (humans) as well as the ecosystem that sustains us.

‘They also need to know that it is not hopeless, and that there are things we can do collectively to slow the process down.

‘Once that is covered, I think it’s important to remember that climate crisis is on one level an issue of science – physics, chemistry, ecology, etc. – but on a very important level it is an issue of psychology; because how we respond, or don’t respond, will be determined by how we feel, think and act, individually and collectively.’

When asked the same question, Britt says: ‘The world we each grew up with is not the world that we are going to be able to hold onto. Everything is changing due to climate change: food and water availability, the frequency of heatwaves and other extreme weather events, infectious disease, mental health problems, international conflict, gender equality, you name it. It touches everything, and it deepens existing injustices.

‘Our job is to face up to this fact, mourn what’s being lost and use the power of those feelings to move us into action so we don’t forsake what can still be saved.

‘At this late stage in the game, we have an opportunity to plant new seeds for positive societal change that give us a chance to foster mutually beneficial relationships with each other, other species, and the planet.

‘Whether we like it or not, we must transform our economy, society, and way we see ourselves as humans in the world because the climate crisis has already changed what it means to be human, and we have to catch up.’  

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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What it’s like becoming a single mum by adoption during lockdown

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metro illustrations
Jenny welcomed her son home in June (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

After hitting 40 and still finding herself still single, Jenny decided to adopt alone.

Throughout the process of applying, she always thought she’d have lots of support around her.

But the day before she was meant to meet her little boy for the first time, lockdown was announched.

The process was postponed but wanting to bring him home as soon as possible, Jenny (not her real name) isolated in June and was finally able to meet her son. A week later, he came to stay for good.

But with widespread restrictions still in place, adopting alone has been isolating.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk for Adoption Month, Jenny says: ‘Lockdown has really helped our bond and his attachment to me but the hardest part has not been being able to share him with friends and family like I had hoped to.

‘Social distancing and restrictions have made that hard, which takes away a little of the joy of becoming a mum.’

Jenny had always wanted to be a mum but relationships hadn’t worked out for her.

She explains: ‘I assumed I would meet a guy, get married and have children but life hasn’t turned out that way for me. I have done so much online dating in my time but relationships just weren’t right and I found as I got older that my desire to become a mum was greater than my need and want to meet a partner.’

Although she considered other routes, she decided that adoption was the right thing for her.

Jenny had some experience of the process as her sister and brother-in-law and some close friends had welcomed children into their lives.

She chose to go to an information evening with Coram Adoption Agency in November 2018, which was the agency her sister and friends had adopted through.

Jenny says: ‘I was the only single person there but they were very good at being very inclusive and focused on adoption being something for anyone regardless of relationship status, sexuality or ethnicity and I found that really encouraging.

‘I was also impressed that Coram offer lifelong support to adoptive families so I know that even when the legal parts of adoption is complete I will still have support as my little boy grows older.’

Just before Christmas 2018, she sent in the paperwork and was accepted onto Stage 1 in January 2019, which involved filling out more forms, a DBS check , a pet and home assessment and a full medical. By Easter, she was accepted onto Stage 2.

She explains: ‘Stage 2 is the more intense stage where I had weekly two hour meetings with my social worker and we spent time exploring EVERY aspect of my life.

‘It felt a lot like therapy and I am sure my social worker knows more about me than my closest friends and family.

‘I would need a good workout at the gym afterwards to try and let off steam or process what I had just explored during our sessions.’

In July last year, she finished Stage 2 and was sent to an approval panel in September 2019.  After that, it was about finding the right child for her.

She explains: ‘In early December I got a call from my social worker to say that the family finder had found a child who she thought I would be interested in. I knew straight away as soon as I read his profile that this was my child and tried not to get too excited.

‘Due to it being Christmas everything got put on hold until January 2020 when we had the link meeting and I was linked with my little boy by mid-January.’

In January, no one had any idea of the huge impact coronavirus would have and Jenny prepared for her son to come home in March.

The matching panel took place on 11 March and Jenny was given a unanimous yes, with 25 March as the date for introductions to begin.

Jenny explains: ‘I had left work, my adoption leave had begun and everything was ready to bring my little boy at home but the global pandemic had other ideas. 

‘Up until March 24 when lockdown was announced it looked like my introductions would go ahead but once the PM announced a lockdown, everything got put on hold. I was told that it was all on pause…indefinitely. 

‘I was mentally, emotionally and the house was ready to bring him home. To have everything on hold with no idea when things might proceed was just heartbreaking.’

As a teacher, Jenny was able to go back to work and taught online lessons until May half term, where she started her leave again.

She also spent the time trying to help her son understand who she was, even though she could now bring him home. Her son was still under one so it was more difficult to explain anything to him.

She adds: ‘I recorded videos of me singing nursery rhymes, reading stories and introducing myself and our cat so that his foster carers could play these to him and start introducing “mummy” virtually. 

‘I was sent photos of him clapping for carers, celebrating VE day, reacting to my videos and it was really lovely to be able to see him through videos and photos. 

‘These helped me to keep hopeful that I would meet him and I really do feel that when we did finally meet he had a recognition as to who I was (mummy from the phone).’

With lockdown restrictions easing slightly in June and a realisation that coronavirus was going to impact us long term, they decided to look at ways the adoption could go ahead. Jenny and her son’s introductions were the first the agency went ahead with during lockdown.

Jenny and his foster carers had to isolate for over a week beforehand and had to follow strict rules.

A week after the first introduction, he was able to come home and has been with Jenny every since. She is now waiting for his adoption to be finalised.

Although she was delighted to finally have her son, coronavirus and lockdown made it very different to anything she had expected.

She says: ‘In hindsight, I am very glad that my little boy didn’t come home at the start of lockdown because your support network is such a huge part of adoption (and any parenting). 

‘It’s been a struggle even with restrictions eased so it would have been incredibly lonely and hard without people being able to support.

‘A few weeks after my little boy came home, support bubbles were introduced which has been a godsend for me. Having friends around the corner who can be our extended household has been so needed. 

‘When my little boy came home his sleep was pretty bad and so I had numerous weeks where I was struggling to get through the day so having our support bubble to go to for help was the lifeline I needed. 

‘My support network of friends and family did provide me with frozen meals and were always at the end of the phone which has been amazing but not quite the same as having them visit in person. 

‘I had no options of soft play or swim lessons or taking him to groups so it has literally just been the two of us for the majority of the time.’

Due to the unusual circumstances, her adoption team have made sure to check in on her mental health in the months since her little boy came home.

She explains: ‘I was told that it is very common for adoptive parents to get the adoption blues after the excitement of bringing your little one home has worn off a little and this could be even harder when the support networks you were looking to for help are no longer around due to the pandemic. 

‘I definitely went through a few low patches, partly due to lack of sleep and missing family and friends. Single parenting is very lonely and life can feel incredibly monotonous when you are doing everything without many breaks.

‘I am fortunate that I have been able to exercise during the pandemic by working out in the local park with my PT and I was able to keep this up when my little one came home by taking him with me so I know that has helped me mentally and has been great for him to watch me and he loves being outdoors.’

Almost five months since her little boy came home, Jenny says it feels like he has always been with her.

She says: ‘He definitely knows I am his mummy and he gives the best cuddles…something I have really missed in lockdown.

‘We had a connection from the start but it felt odd referring to him as my son and my child. I definitely feel that now and I am in love with this little boy who has totally changed my life and completed me and my little family…our cat still needs a little more convincing but I think she secretly loves him.

‘I have submitted my paperwork for the adoption order and I cannot wait to legally be able to give him my surname, he is mine already but this will be the bonus.’

MORE: What is embryo ‘adoption’ – how does it work, and is it available in the UK?

MORE: ‘My adoptive parents took me from Korea to rural Australia, but made sure I never forgot my roots’

MORE: Four months after adopting my seven-year-old son, he tried to strangle me

Adoption Month

Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.

For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else's child into their family to others who were that child.

We'll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.

If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at adoptionstories@metro.co.uk.

How to make easy gingerbread for Halloween in six steps

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Halloween gingerbread biscuits
The finished biscuits (Picture: Carr’s Flour)

You might think gingerbread is just for Christmas but with some decorative twists, it’s perfect to make with kids for Halloween too.

You can used traditional gingerbread people cutters and just round shapes, but decorate with skeletons and spider webs instead, or add some white teeth to the face to create Dracula biscuits.

This recipe, from Carr’s Flour, is really easy with just six steps and the ingredients are hopefully things you have in the storecupboard.

Ingredients

  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 85g golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 350g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • Icing pens or an icing bag and icing sugar
  • Any gory or goolish decorations!

Method

  1. Over a low heat, melt the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a small pan. Set to one side, then in a large bowl, mix the spices and flour together. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1tsp of cold water. Make a well in the flour and tip in the melted butter mixture, the bicarbonate and the egg. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined and create a smooth dough.
  2. When cool, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to cool for around an hour or until firm enough to roll out.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190˚C (170˚C Fan, Gas Mark 5). Lightly sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface and knead the dough for a few seconds. Cut the dough into two pieces and roll out one half until aprox.3-5mm thick.
  4. Cut out your chosen shapes using cookie cutters and lay onto a lightly greased baking tray. Make sure you leave room for your biscuits to grow in size! When all the dough is used up, repeat with the remaining dough or keep in the fridge for upto a week.
  5. Bake for 12-15mins or until they are a dark golden colour.
  6. Transfer to a cooling rack to harden up before decorating. Decorate with icing as we have or let your imagination run wild with spooky ideas!

Do you have an easy recipe to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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I’m HIV positive and I don’t just survive – I thrive

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Young man sits smiling on the back seat of a bus or train lit up in neon lights
If somebody has a problem with HIV, that’s not about me, it’s about them (Picture: James Hawkridge)

I’m proud to be HIV positive. 

I was diagnosed with HIV this time last year, at age 25. At first, my diagnosis was almost too hard to handle. I wrote suicide notes and planned my funeral via my notes app, fuelled by my belief that I wasn’t strong enough to cope with HIV, that I deserved this.

I never thought I’d be comfortable enough to tell people that I was positive, but I have not only accepted my situation, I’ve embraced it.

This hasn’t always been easy, and is a journey that has taken a whole year.

I’ve been the boy who hid for months from his family, refusing to visit home because I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to keep my diagnosis a secret and be judged (when really, I knew I wouldn’t be). 

I’ve served as the messy, complicated raver who would hit up the warehouse every week just to pop a pill or two and forget all about reality for a few hours – a habit that would ultimately lead me to love, and show me just how much more to life there was than continual, and dangerous, drug usage. 

I’ve been the new boyfriend, sat anxious and scared at the end of the bed, knowing that I have to tell the guy I’ve been seeing for two weeks that I’m HIV positive, because we’re both gay men and PrEP, which prevents HIV infection, just came up organically in conversation.

And I’m my current self: the man who has shared his story publicly, to family, friends, and the internet. A man who wears his heart, and a quite ironic seven-year-old ‘+’ tattoo on his sleeve (which I got on a whim one day, because I was going through a bad spell of mental health and I wanted a physical reminder that I possessed all the positivity I needed within me), discussing the path he’s found himself walking down and how living with HIV affects him on a daily basis. 

The fact is that, at this point, it kind of doesn’t.

I now wear my status as a badge of honour. It’s my super suit. It’s not about the cavalier nature in which I got it (I slept with somebody unprotected one time, and waited a few days before getting an STI test… haven’t we all been there?), but how I have reacted to its presence in my life. 

I’m undetectable, which means that as long as I’m taking my daily medication, there’s zero risk of passing on the virus to anybody, even through unprotected sex. That’s not like those Dettol adverts, where there’s a 0.01% chance… there is effectively a 0% possibility.

Young man in cap cradles small dog to his chest
I now wear my status as a badge of honour. It’s my super suit (Picture: James Hawkridge)

I’ve used HIV as motivation to find out and understand more about my body, and keep better track of my sexual health. 

In early June, I was moved by stories of LGBT+ support and community during Pride Month, and so I made a PDF document containing a summary of my journey and understanding of HIV, accompanied with verified facts from trusted sources, and threw it onto my social media channels, waiting for the influx of messages. I’m not sure where the courage came from, but I knew I was ready to begin telling my story.

It seemed an easier way, to just drop a booklet and allow people the time to read it, rather than have a hundred of the same conversations with everybody close, or semi-close, in my life. 

The support I received was overwhelming. I have cried with happiness, too, and I feel so accepted in my circles, which is something I once feared I would never be able to say.

The most surprising outcry of strength has been from straight friends; lads, who, quite maturely, realised far sooner than I did that a HIV diagnosis does not mean what I thought. They all became accustomed to my new reality instantly, and even though their educational knowledge was limited, proved themselves pillars of strength to lean on, and pledged to be as open and willing to educate themselves, so that they could better understand my experience.

My education on the matter has been very, very limited until last year, when I researched for myself, and I think that, especially for gay people, we need to address this further. I assumed that HIV would never stray close to my circles, given that it originated in the eighties.

The truth is, it can be anywhere. You cannot tell. 

I’m undetectable, which means that, as long as I’m taking my daily medication, there’s zero risk of passing on the virus to anybody, even through unprotected sex

As long as you are taking your medication as required, and following the advice of your doctor, while maintaining your check-ups to monitor your diagnosis, then you can stay healthy. It’s so important to stick to your medication. 

My physical health has never been better; I frequent the gym, eat well, and, despite some kind of clinical depression that I’m currently fighting, try at all times to stay in a balanced headspace.

The biggest impact HIV now has on me is mental. 

Catching my reflection in the mirror when I was just diagnosed, and still not yet virally suppressed, I imaginined the virus running through my body, swimming in my veins and underneath my skin.

There was one night this year, back up North, when I was ridiculed by someone who was one of my best friends, called a number of horrible names, and had my face spat on repeatedly as I was told that I should have killed myself as soon as I’d found out.

That one has been a little harder to deal with, and I think I might need therapy for it, to be honest with you.

I know, though, that a lot of the backlash I have received, which has truthfully only been from one person is from fear or miseducation. 

Young man sits cross-legged on a wooden pier into a canal or small river with bridge in backdrop
I’ve used HIV as motivation to find out and understand more about my body, and keep better track of my sexual health (Picture: James Hawkridge)

I know that as soon as I told my mother some facts, her tears stopped and she has since become the biggest advocate for me, proudly telling people of my diagnosis, and using her influence in the pharmaceutical industry to educate others, too. 

I know that my little brother, who is just 17, has used me as an example to his friends, to open up a dialogue about their own sexual health, something I would never have dreamed of possessing the confidence to do at his age. 

I know that people who follow my social media channels tell me that my journey is inspiring them, and they’re sharing my resources with others who can benefit from knowing that one unfortunate event does not need to throw a spanner into the rest of your life.

HIV came to me masquerading as a demon, and has since walked with me, hand-in-hand, as a mentor, a guide and a teacher, for me and many others in my life.

If somebody has a problem with HIV, that’s not about me, it’s about them. If somebody doesn’t want to sleep with me because of my status, I’m not going to argue; I’ll just say that I’m willing to have open discourse when they’re ready.

I went on a first date last night, and he sat across from me in the booth, as we both sipped on pretty disgusting-tasting cocktails. He told me that he was unfamiliar with specifics, but that he was looking forward to learning, and understanding it from my point of view.

Reader, I later took him home.

I don’t just survive with HIV. I thrive with HIV.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing platform@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

MORE: HIV prevention drug to be rolled out on NHS after years of delay

MORE: First person ever to be cured of HIV dies of cancer 25 years later

MORE: My open relationship fell apart after I was diagnosed with HIV

Mum creates ‘candy garden’ to allow kids to safely trick or treat from a distance

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Candy garden for easier trick or treating at Halloween
The candy garden (Picture: Wendy Reeves Winter/Facebook)

Halloween will look a little different this year as social distancing rules means kids turning up at the door to trick or treat isn’t ideal.

Not wanting the children in her neighbourhood to miss out completely, one mum came up with a genius plan – a candy garden.

Wendy Reeves Winter has been attaching sticks to lots of sweets and ‘planting’ them in her front garden to look like flowers.

Kids are then able to walk by and pick a few sweets from the garden.

Wendy, from Denver, Colorado, was worried about kids sticking their hands in the same bowl, potentially spreading germs but this method means they only touch the things they want.

Candy garden for easier trick or treating at Halloween
She taped all the sweets and chocolate to sticks (Picture: Wendy Reeves Winter/Facebook)

Posting on Facebook, she explained: ‘I experimented a little more with Candy Sticking for trick or treating this year and learned a few things.

‘You can use any kind of stick. Popsicle sticks work great if you are worried about impaling children. (yep, I got comments on that!) Plastic spoons, glow sticks, plastic straws, etc. work great too.

Candy garden for easier trick or treating at Halloween
She made sure to only use sticks that weren’t sharp (Picture: Wendy Reeves Winter/Facebook)

‘You can use regular tape and do all of the work ahead of time to affix your candy to sticks. It’s a fun activity with a glass of wine and doesn’t take long at all!’

Lolly sticks or plastic spoons are good as using something sharp like skewers could be dangerous.

Candy garden for easier trick or treating at Halloween
The sticks in the garden (Picture: Wendy Reeves Winter/Facebook)

But Wendy did warn to be careful of squirrels who might be keen to grab some treats themselves.

She added: ‘Don’t put your candy out too early. Squirrels apparently love to trick or treat and will take advantage of any candy forest if left unattended for too long.’

Wendy tried to space them out in her large yard to ensure children didn’t get too close if a few came together.

She plans to keep an eye on the sweets from the front porch on Halloween so she can monitor what’s happening. It also means she can safely see all the costumes, which she said is one of her favourite things about Halloween.

Wendy finished her post: ‘People have awesome ideas for Halloween and safe trick or treating, so get on board with trying something new for 2020. I’m imagining my yard as a Willy Wonka candyland, and think it will be fun to watch kids experience something new.’

Do you have a parenting tip to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

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Chef shares how to make four-ingredient home-made chips that are ‘tastier than McDonald’s’

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Chef making home-made chips
How to make tastier, healthier chips at home (Picture: @morganhipworth/TikTok)

A teenage chef has shared how to make chips at home that are supposedly better than fast-food giant McDonald’s.

Morgan Hipworth might know what he’s talking about as the 19-year-old founded his own food business – Bistro Morgan Bakehouse – in Melbourne.

The teen has now gone viral for his tips on how to get the crispiest and fluffiest home-made French fries.

Morgan also claims that his fries are healthier than McDonald’s as they don’t need to be deep-fried.

Revealing his four-ingredient recipe on TikTok, Morgan said you only need red-skinned potatoes, olive oil, salt, and herbs.

To begin, Morgan cut the potato into sticks, to resemble skinny chips.

He explained: ‘First up, we need to peel and cut the potatoes into fries. Add the fries to a pot with cold water and sea salt.’

After leaving the potatoes in water for a few minutes, Morgan then boiled it for a further two minutes.

This process of parboiling means the potato will need less time in the oven to roast and the insides of the chips will come out fluffy.

@morganhipworth

you can’t beat french fries, what should I make next? 🤤 #foryou #cooking #food #yum

♬ original sound – Morgan Hipworth

The next step is to drain the potatoes and transfer them onto a baking tray.

Morgan added: ‘Bake with olive oil, salt, and your favourite herbs at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.

‘Boom, there you have it. The perfect French fries.’

How to make your own home-made chips

Ingredients

  • Red-skinned potatoes
  • Herbs
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Cut the potato into strips (peeling is optional)
  • Pour the sticks into a bowl of cold water and salt and let it sit for a few minutes
  • Then boil it for a further two minutes
  • Drain the potatoes and transfer into baking dish
  • Season with olive oil, salt, and herbs (you can add extras)
  • Bake for 25 minutes

That’s all there is to it, folks.

You can see why it went down so well on TikTok. On the video-sharing app, one person wrote: ‘OMG, I want them,’ while another said: ‘Perfect’.

Home-made chips
Ta-da (Picture: @morganhipworth/TikTok )

Others said, even though the process is about 30 minutes, that it was too long and simply ordering McDonald’s is easier.

One person commented: ‘That’s too much work,’ while another said: ‘Just be lazy and order some McDs’.

But then where would your sense of achievement come from?

Do you have a recipe you want to share?

Email metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk to tell us more.

MORE: People love this easy recipe for three-ingredient slow-cooked banana bread

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MORE: Baker shares easy five-step recipe for brownies stuffed with Nutella and Kinder chocolate

Adele weight loss: What is the sirtfood diet and is there a sirtfood diet recipe book?

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Adele on SNL
Someone like… who? Adele showed off her weight loss journey in last night’s SNL (Picture: NBC / BACKGRID)

Adele has always been a lauded British talent and beauty, shattering records left and right with her heart-wrenching albums. And lately the singer has wowed fans by revealing a slimmer physique –something which she addressed last night, cracking jokes about the fascination with her weight loss journey as she hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time.

Hosting on the iconic US show SN, she quipped: ‘And I know I look really, really different since you last saw me but actually, because of all the Covid restrictions and the travel bans, I had to travel light and only bring half of me – and this is the half I chose.’

But what is the diet the Grammy winner is said to have followed to achieve her results?

What is the Sirtfood diet?

Launched in 2016, the Sirtfood diet is rumoured to be the diet Adele has followed.

She appears on the official website for the diet, alongside Connor McGregor.

The diet essentially involves adopting a diet rich in ‘sirtfoods’, which according to the dieter’s founders are special foods that activate specific proteins in the body called sirtuins.

Adele on SNL
Proving her voice is as big as ever, the star belted out parts of her hits as she took over hosting duties on SNL (Picture: NBC/Backgrid)

Sirtuins are believed to protect cells in the body from dying when they are under stress and are thought to regulate inflammation, metabolism and the aging process.

The founders claim sirtuins shape the body’s ability to burn fat and boost metabolism, resulting in a seven-pound (half-a-stone) weight loss a week while maintaining muscle.

What are some foods to eat on the Sirtfood diet?

Ten of the most common staples of the Sirtfood diet include:

  • Green tea
  • Dark chocolate (that is at least 85 per cent cocoa)
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruits
  • Parsley
  • Turmeric
  • Kale
  • Blueberries
  • Capers
  • Red wine

Is there a Sirtfood diet recipe book?

There is an official Sirtfood diet book available, written by the diet’s founders Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten.

Both pioneers of the ‘modern day medicine movement’ – a blurb for the book reads – the pair advocate the need to complement medical intervention with nutrition and lifestyle changes.

Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten both hold Master’s Degrees in Nutritional Medicine and are recognised authorities on nutrition and health.

MORE: Adele teases album update as she belts out her hit songs on Saturday Night Live

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Share your views in the comments below.

Man sends picture of himself in a bikini to stranger who asked his sister to wear it

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Man posing in women's bikini
Killin’ it (Picture: Facebook/Tess Wright)

If you’re selling something online then you might get asked to try it on so potential buyers can see what it looks like.

But, usually, this doesn’t happen with pieces of clothing such as underwear or swimwear.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for one woman. Tess Wright was trying to sell a bikini two-piece when a male stranger asked to see her in it.

Deciding to ignore the creepy message, Tess, from Georgia, vented to her brother Kade.

When Kade heard, he had some fun with the guy.

The brother decided to wear the bikini himself and took pictures in hilarious poses showing it off.

Tess then uploaded the photos on Facebook, replying to the man’s message.

Not so surprisingly, the man in question didn’t reply to the pics.

Facebook comment showing man asking to see woman in bikini
The original comment (Picture: Facebook/Tess Wright)

Tess wrote on her Facebook: ‘So, I’m selling a bathing suit on a Facebook yard sale and a man comments and asks me if he can see a picture of it being worn before buying… of course, I was going to ignore the comment but Kade just couldn’t resist.’

She also wrote ‘brothers are the best’ on the post, which received more than 25,000 shares.

Tess shared a few more images of Kade styling the two-piece in various poses, which look all the more hilarious with his six-pack and muscles.

Facebook users had a laugh with the whole thing, tagging their own siblings on the post.

Man wearing women's bikini
Is this what he had in mind? (Picture: Facebook/Tess Wright)

One person commented: ‘Your brother just became my hero,’ while another said: ‘Such a darling brother.’

A third wrote: ‘Super brother. The bikini suits him well. I hope that scared that creep. Probably I would have done the same for my sister, but without those muscles.’

One person joked: ‘Your brother’s bikini bod puts mine to shame.’

Try this next time a stranger on the internet wants to see pictures of you.

Do you have a story you want to share?

Email metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk to tell us more.

MORE: Man pranks his pal by sending ‘will you marry me?’ message on a first date

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Model films from her back pocket to see how many people stare at her when she’s not looking

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Men staring at woman as she walks past
Alexas had several men stare at her (Picture: Alexas Morgan/Instagram)

After seeing a TikTok trend, model Alexas Morgan decided to put her phone in her back pocket so she could film as she walks.

The idea is that the video captured shows how people, mostly men, stare at the person filming as they walk around, getting on with their lives.

The 24-year-old, from Miami, Florida, found that various men craned their necks to get a look at her behind.

In some of the shots, men turned their heads 180 degrees or even moved positions to get a better look at Alexas.

Others gave her a nod of approval as she walked past.

One man crouched on the floor and turned his head sideways to watch Alexas, and two men eating in a restaurant had their mouths agape while watching.

The optimist in us hopes they were just admiring her jeans.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGm_z2TBCBQ/

Alexas then brought the trend to her Instagram, where she has more than four million followers.

The model also played parts of the clip in slow-motion to get a real good look at the men staring at her.

And she added voiceovers to make fun of the whole thing.

In the clip, Alexas says: ‘I’m gonna see how many stares my booty gets, and I’m gonna put the camera right here [in my back pocket].’

In the post – which has now received more than 112,000 likes – Alexas asked followers to rate their fave reactions.

One person wrote: ‘I’m crying the last one,’ and another said: ‘Dude stepped out of the isle.’

Another said: ‘Bro cracked his spine to look,’ while a third person wrote: ‘I’m the dude at the bar, in the black hat, all smiles.’

It’s all fun and games until you see your dad or partner in one of these videos.

Do you have a story you want to share?

Email metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk to tell us more.

MORE: Man sends picture of himself in a bikini to stranger who asked his sister to wear it

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How to go bronde (aka blondette) like Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and get hair like an influencer

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The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the University of Derby to meet first-year students and hear how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the start of their undergraduate life and what measures have been put in place on campus to support their mental health, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday October 10. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 6, 2020. See PA story ROYAL Kate. Photo credit should read: Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire
Kate debuted a new ‘bronde’ do last weekend – an all-over lighter shade that has given her lockdown look a lift (Picture: Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

If you happened to catch the Duchess of Cambridge’s latest public appearance, you may have noticed she has swapped her customary brunette hair for a lighter look.

The hue – dubbed bronde, or blondette – is the look of the season and a neat way to get a golden glow without looking brassy – just take a look at Khloe Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen or Cara Delevigne for more examples of brilliant brondes.

The key to a good bronde is to let your natural colour shine through, giving the hair an uplifting all-over lighter shade using multiple blonde notes, only using 40% blonde to your natural brunette. The colour is created using highlights, but they are ultra-fine microlights that give the golden halo effect we want.

So, what does it take to get hair like Kate?

We asked hair stylist to the stars Edward James (who also knows a thing about styling royals – it’s rumoured he used to do the hair of Fergie, Bea and Eugenie at Windsor Lodge) how to turn a drab brunette (me) into a glossy bronde.

AFTER: The ideal bronde lets my natural base colour shine through while adding multi-tone blonde microlights to give a golden halo effect
AFTER: The ideal bronde lets my natural base colour shine through while adding multi-tone blonde microlights to give a golden halo effect (Picture: Edward James)

He says: ‘Creating the perfect bronde (or blondette) is about getting the proportion of blonde tones to brunette right, and also knowing where the placement of the colour needs to appear for it to look flattering and for it to grow out seamlessly.’

My bronde uses three colours along with my natural base brunette to create a multi-tone bronde that looks natural and will grow out without a dramatic root line
My bronde uses three colours along with my natural base brunette to create a multi-tone bronde that looks natural and will grow out without a dramatic root line

Edward is aiming for ‘seamless colour transition’ from brown to blonde to create a natural look that blends the multi-tones without lines or an obvious ‘stripey’ look. To get the natural appearance, he uses freehand balayage technique to paint a blend of lighter blonde tones through the hair.

BEFORE: I was embarrassed to reveal my drab brown locks to hair guru Edward James - and sure enough, he was horrified I'd been treating myself to a 2-in-1 shampoo and not much else
BEFORE: I was embarrassed to reveal my drab brown locks to hair guru Edward James – and sure enough, he was horrified I’d been treating myself to a 2-in-1 shampoo and not much else (Picture: Edward James)

He adds: ‘Around the hairline and parting, super-fine micro-highlights create a natural-looking shimmer that grows out softly but allows you to inject some blonder tones in a subtle way around the face.’

Why go bronde?

Bronde is the perfect way for brunettes to add a new dimension to their colour – and it is also the easiest way to blend away grey hairs, should you want to. ‘You may only have a couple of grey hairs, but on dark hair they stand out in stark contrast, whereas on lighter shades of hair the greys are not as noticeable,’ says Edward.

‘Taking your dark locks to a slightly softer multi-tonal colour distracts the eye, gives the illusion of more shine in the hair and also allows you to add a bit more excitement to your brunette mane.’

How much blonder do you need to go?

Edward says: ‘As a general rule of thumb, the proportion of blonde tones to brunette is 40% blonde, 60% brunette, and depending on how much of a ‘pop’ of colour you want, the colour placement should be staggered down the hair seamlessly so that it creates natural blended tones that are more pronounced around the edges of the hair and around the front of the hairline.

But beware of going too heavy on the blonde. If you take the proportion of blonder tones higher than 40% of your hair, you will edge towards being more blonde than bronde, so this relies on your colourist assessing how much they are lightening your hair.

You could also do it gradually, going lighter with each visit. This is what Khloe Kardashian did – over the course of a year she went lighter bronde. It will give you more control over the finished result.

Across four hours in the chair, Edward added dozens of microlights in foils across the full head using 3 different shades of blonde to suit my skin tone and avoid enhancing the pink notes. He used a sand tone through the mid-lengths and ends, a muted caramel further up the hair and around the face and a soft, mid-golden brown on the mid-lengths and fringe to soften the contrast with my natural dark base colour and the blonde highlights.

The maintenance

Most of us do not have the time, team or budget for high maintenance hair – especially given the current restrictions. With that in mind, I ask Edward how much work it will take to maintain a high-end hairdo.

While the initial look took 4 hours – thanks to dozens of microlights that take just a few strands of hair at a time – ongoing maintenance of bronde is much simpler and less time-consuming.

Edward is keen to make sure blonde highlights are blended in at the roots so that they grow out naturally rather than with a visible root line
Edward is keen to make sure blonde highlights are blended in at the roots so that they grow out naturally rather than with a visible root line (Picture: Edward James)

‘The initial session takes a while, but you won’t need to come back for two months, and even then it will be quick,’ he says (music to my ears). ‘I am a huge fan of softening highlights in at the roots so that there is no obvious colour demarcation line.’ For that, Edward uses a root shadow technique so that the blonder tones seem to gradually appear through the hair.

That means it not only looks natural, but you don’t get a root line when it grows out – so you can go longer between salon visits.

Styling at home

This is where it usually all falls down for me. I leave the salon with my influencer hair then can never recreate it again. Edward has the answer.

‘Keep it simple,’ he says. ‘Blowdry with a round brush then take straighteners and just bend back the longer layers around the face.’ He demonstrates with small straightening irons – it is admittedly a simple move and one I have managed to do at home in less than a minute.

If you are keen to use a gadget at home to make life easier, Edward recommends the Remington heated brush which rotates and dries your hair simultaneously or at the more expensive end of the market, the Dyson Airwrap, which he says does a ‘great job’.

Get Kate’s gloss

Let’s talk about Kate’s glossy locks – how does she get her enviable shine?

First, let’s not forget that Kate has a professional team to tend to her hair before she steps out in public, which helps with the finish.

Meanwhile, I am even more low maintenance than usual having just had a baby – Edward is shocked to hear I’ve been using a 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner for the past three months – so I’m all for a cheat’s way to get gloss.

In the salon, to help get Kate’s shine, he ran a keratin smoothing treatment through my hair after the colour. This smooths the cuticles and helps them to sit flat, which gives the light-reflecting quality needed to promote shine.

At home, Edward advises using Olaplex No.6 leave-in conditioner on the ends of the hair even if I do nothing else – a shortcut to shine if I don’t have access to Kate’s follicle SWAT team.

For a more lasting shine, Edward James offers a British Blowdry, a treatment that smoothes the cuticles for weeks at a time without affecting volume.

Edward James salon in Balham
The Edward James salon, not a bad place to spend four hours

Maintaining the perfect shade

Edward says: ‘It is easy to lose track of the level of blonde tones in your hair, especially if you have more than 50% white hair, so colour retouches will require a balance of brunette and blonde tones being added back into your hair each time.

However, avoid alternating between being blonder and darker as your colour will fade out more with increased colour processing and colour fade will become a bigger issue.

Edward warns that clients who tend to change their hair colour too frequently often end up with more brassy tones (orange and yellow) as their hair colour fades more quickly. To assist with colour fade, a good colour-balancing shampoo and conditioner which adds subtle ash tones back into your hair will work a treat, as well as using products that offer UV colour fade protection.

Another word of warning, this time for Kate: Edward says that while Kate’s bronde is softer and works with her golden complexion, she has to be careful of orange brassy tones in her hair and will need to use a maintenance shampoo and conditioner to balance brassy tones.

He recommends Aveda’s Color Conserve Shampoo and conditioner to prevent colour fade and Redken’s toner shampoos and conditioners to balance colour.

The cost:

How much silver hair you have will determine whether you need a base colour as well as your lightening shades. Obviously that will require more work and cost more, but generally some face-framing balayage to create bronde will start from around £100 while follow-up appointments will start at around £75 to refresh.

The result:

I have gone from mirror avoidance to mirror addiction and can’t stop watching the video of my hair – which looks like it belongs to some else far more groomed than me.

The best bit? Since getting my royal warrant bronde I’ve been let into the biggest beauty secret out there: I thought going bronde would be high-maintenance when actually the opposite is true. Spend just one session in the salon to go glossy bronde and you look like you’ve made an effort every day. So now (sorry Edward!) I really can just wash and go.

Kate and her fellow blondettes are right: brondes really do have more fun.

Edward James has salons in Putney, Balham and Battersea. Find more information at edwardjameslondon.com

If you have a question for Edward on going bronde, drop it in the comments below and we will do out best to get you the answer.

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