Our festive break back home really was a break in every sense of the word: a geographical break as we left Windsor for the colder climes of Leeds in brrrr (it’s a ‘don’t forget your gloves’ 3 degrees colder over there I’ll have you know), and a much-needed a break from the daily grind of work and a 7 mile round trip school run every single day.
Getting my lazy on in Leeds in the family home I moved to from Ilkley aged 7 gave me the opportunity to skirt some parental responsibility and become a kid again. For a hot minute, I felt free from the mental and physical load of motherhood thanks to grandparents more than eager to lend a hand and I fully embraced the childcare thrown at me, particularly as we don’t live near family in Windsor and there’s nothing more delicious than a Nana Nap at 3pm. Yum.
Happily, I slowly regressed into my teenage self and was positively 13 by the time we left (!). Anyone else find themselves moodier when they return to the home they grew up in? It’s unsurprising really as my parents still treat me like a 12 year year despite me turning 40 in Nov this year. I’m pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy on trips like this.
Don’t believe me? My Dad still reminds me to go to the toilet before we leave the house. Oh yes he does.
Despite the babification, heading home and hitting REST/PAUSE/ WAKE ME UP IN JAN PEOPLE, felt amazing. I clearly didn’t realise how tired I was until I STOPPED (yes, I’m shouting, I’m reliving teenager mode of Christmas past, just writing this). Seriously though, slobbing out on the sofa, the soaps on (I never get chance to watch) and bed before midnight was the Christmas present I didn’t know I needed.
The simplest things that cost a dot really are the most precious.
So, what did I do bar snoozing whenever the whim took me? Perhaps listing exactly what I DIDN’T do might save time here…. ZZZZZzzzzz.
I barely took any pictures so soz about the lack of visuals. I did take the one you see below in my soft and pretty Christmas PJs, a gift from Cyber Jammies.
What else didn’t I do?
I avoided my inbox and my Out of Office was on for the duration (bliss).
I sparingly used social media and most wonderfully of all, I reconnected with some of my oldest friends (Julie, Caroline, Rachel and Louise) and younger relatives too who made me feel all the fuzzy vibes for it.
In a bid to make Pete broody, I only saw friends with babies of course ;)!
I COMPLETELY switched off from work-mode bar a single, fun hour show for BBC Radio 5 Live’s School Runnings I recorded at my old haunt, BBC Radio Leeds.
I ate far too much Bournville chocs, cried ugly tears watching The Holiday (again), got giddy at the crackin’ totally lush Gavin & Stacey Christmas spesh; I finished books I’d previously only snatched moments with on the loo or in the bath and most of all, I lapped up every single second with my favourite human in the whole wide world (after my kiddos), my Mama (I’m literally trying not to sob on my keyword at the fact I miss her so much). Love you too Dad (just not as much as Mum, bahahah ;)!
Pic here with Papa G who only fell asleep the once while I recorded the show live (I said as much on the radio)!
As they’d say on Gavin & Stacey, truth be told it’s hard living so far from the folks.
…Annually Christmas is the longest period I get off work as the media tends to sleep and as with other years at this time of year, I took the opp in between carb coma sweats to reflect, regroup, rant to those I love and plan a bit for the new year ahead, mostly promising more time for self-care and continued work on boundaries. Less taking shit, more doing what I love.
Now before I go on, I want to be clear; I love my job, almost as much as I love Tom Hardy (A LOT) and wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I’ve also damn hard to achieve that elusive work/life balance over the past few years but no career, or life for that matter, can be endless celeb interviews coconut lattes and pretty stationery. It can be draining, tiring and depleting, relentless as the internet can consume and mum duties can feel too much. A breather was just what the doctor ordered. That doctor being my good pal Dr Juliet McGrattan who kindly bought me must-read book Deep Work by Cal Newport (incidentally published by Piatkus who published my own book MUMBOSS) and told me to chill out (in a nice way).
Deep Work is dedicated to turning away from endless distractions, namely digital ones so you can create the work that matters: the deep work. It’s a thought-provoking read encouraging us all to work smarter not necessarily harder, and in more focused periods giving your work the attention and energy it deserves. Thank you JM.
Now, I don’t want to dwell too much on the darker side of blogging and thankfully the kindness and support I receive far outweighs any trolling or abuse but I’m still human, albeit a strong Yorkshire human, and life can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when I have PMT or feel unwell and in pings another dirty dm.
It might seem hard to believe in my line of work but I regularly receive unsolicited porn and in spite of alerting the social media platforms used to harrass me on, and reporting and blocking away, not much is ever done. People open new accounts or find new ways to bother me and it’s far from fun.
I think people often forget I’m just a normal mum with a normal family life who happens to have an abnormal job. I certainly don’t deserve the unwarranted bile that comes my way. No one does.
Thankfully home is where the heart is and my Mum makes everything better. Wrapping me up in a literal and metaphorical blanket of love (my Gran’s crocheted number if you were wondering) while making me eat ALL the vegan comfort food (Hello lentil cottage pie, homemade pasta and vegan crumble to name just a few) meant I soon felt like myself again and now back home, feel fully ready to face the (online) world again.
Looking at Dad’s 80s mullet over and over helped immensely to be fair, bahaha!
Going home can of course be an emotional undertaking, dodgy mullet pics or not, and particularly when you live far away and visits are not that frequent.
This stay was the longest we’ve spent in Leeds in years and I personally felt as if I’d stepped back in time to a simpler way of life to a time my biggest worries revolved around what I was eating for tea and would I miss The Prince of Bel Air if I rang my bestie. BIG PROBLEMS.
Spending time in a time warp, reminds you of your own growth but equally how little has in fact changed. That despite life’s ups and downs, trials and tribulations, illnesses and loss, ME, my quirks, love for my family and feminist views have never veered nor wavered. My sense of self is deeper, my mind and body more steely, my strength tested and stronger for a big op and 5 months of therapy, but I’m still me, just me with more distinct boundaries, greater self-worth and less time for bull with a greater appreciation for my mind and body. Yay!
Memory lane can undoubtedly be a tricky one to tread but flashbacks came thick and fast back home…
Christmases past with loved ones no longer here, my Grandma Annetta, Auntie Zak and Uncle Stewart.
Memories of my own childhood Christmases like the time I spent hours drawing up life size posters I duly dotted round the house one Christmas Eve aged 8 or 9, directing Santa to the spare room where I slept with my Grandma Annetta for the night and feared he might forget my presents. He didn’t. Phew!
The many summer months spent languishing lazily in the garden catching rays, belly button out, friends by my side, Sun-In sprayed locks left down in the hope I might get highlights (I never did).
My now infamous (in North Leeds anyway) ‘Field Parties’ which saw hundreds of teens flock to the farmer’s fields behind our house causing complete and utter chaos ending with a police visit and stern words from my mother.
Then, a decade ago, Peter and I, Baby Oliver in tow, moved in after visiting for Christmas in 2011 and deciding that actually, we didn’t want to leave! I was in the throes of dealing with a traumatic birth and needed to be close to home and honestly, it was one of the best times of our lives. No fall outs (miraculously), the arrival of Xander on a stalk (!) and being able to save up for a house. That time gave us unconditional love, support and stability and recently my Mum said it gave her and Dad the same in return.
And even though that period feels like a lifetime ago (and it is, as Oliver turns 10 next week), some things never change back home be it the nostalgic Imperial Leather soap in the upstairs bathroom my Grandma always loved to the 100 year old antique dinner set that comes out every single Christmas and keeps my clumsy self in fear of breaking something irreplaceable! We might be Greek but those plates are certainly not for smashing!
The house smells so comforting at Christmas too from the real fir Christmas tree in the hallway to the moorish marble cake baking in the oven (another recipe passed down from my Grandma Annetta, updated this year in its new vegan glory by my Mama who rustled up a mere 5 cakes in 2 weeks) and not forgetting the real scent of home: the strong Bergamot and jasmine notes of Mum’s favourite perfume, Coco Chanel which wafts around the house, a floral hug that lingers.
Every wall bursts with vibrant art from my Mum’s own expansive canvases of self portraits and nudes to vast oil paintings by local and international artists collected and curated in the house over decades, visual punctuation marks to our lives, witnesses to our every moment and milestones been and gone. Nursery, Graduation, marriage, births, beyond…
‘Art and flowers make a home’ as my Mum always says.
So does jewellery, if you’re asking me.
Mum’s strings of necklaces, precious and costume hang above statement earrings in every hue and metal decorate on her dressing table and remind me of the many hours, heck, years, I spent marvelling at her gems in bygone years Some I’ve since borrowed (forevs), others I admire from afar that aren’t my style but scream Mum and suit her to a t.
It was lovely to be back chatting style with my Mum and food with my Dad and while there were a few crossed words (are you even family if you don’t argue at Christmas) I’m feel lucky as hell to have two parents still around, healthy, and happy for the most part, a Dad who drove me to a nail shop on Christmas Eve to help me salvage two broken nails (even standing in the cold when he couldn’t the acetone smell), a Mum who lovingly wrapped our Christmas gifts in matching gold and silver reams of reindeer printed paper and purple lace bows (recycled every year), and filled our lazy days with all our favourite things: vegan pizza drowning in garlic and ripe tomatoes and zucchini fries from their award winning Italian restaurant, Giorgio’s, Oreos by the vat-load and vintage Port which got me tipsy with just two sips!
Grateful doesn’t even cover it.
Grateful for my immediate family, my extended family and lifelong friends.
Oh and grateful they’re all feeders too.
One of our holiday highlights had to be our trip to Manchester to visit my wonderful aunts and cousins (my Auntie Lou owns an award winning taverna, Kosmos, and kindly cooked us up a feast of traditional Greek dishes spanning fasolia (beans) and veganised stuffed vine leaves (dolmathes), lentil Wellington and crunchy Greek biscuits we all greedily devoured.
I was too hungry to take photos (let a blogger eat) but here’s one from the week before when I was in the city to appear on BBC Breakfast and left with a stash of plant-based goodies after popping by for tea.
For this trip we returned to the plush Staybridge Suites, an all-suite hotel (since renamed Hyatt House at what was the Crown Plaza and is now Hyatt Regency) for the best zzzz’s of our lives, 9 floors up (in the same suite as last time) which overlooks the dazzling skyline right in the heart of the city.
Thank you Esther Bell of Hello Mrs Bell for our lovely discount too, we all appreciated it.
Waking up to a heavenly vegan brekkie, we worked off the million pancakes in Staybridge Suites’ state-of-the-art gym. My competitive Dad joined me and initiated a battle of who could run the longest on the treadmill which I won…On reflection, I should have let him win really but clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Next time Papa G, next time!
I’m pretty proud of my Dad who has hit 8 weeks vegan after watching movies, The Game Changers and What The Health. I share lots of vegan recipes on the blog if you fancy giving it a whirl too.
Argh what a perfect plant-eating, sofa snoozing, trampoline jumping festive time we had….
Here’s to more fun back home up North this year making memories my own kids will look back on in years to come, as I do, now and here’s to living less online and more in real life. Nothing beats it.
Massive heartfelt thanks to my Mum (my most dedicated reader/follower who was even watching my Insta Stories while I sat opposite her at dinner, that’s dedication for you)…She truly made our Christmas special and every day I try to emulate her in being the best mum I can be to my boys.
Thank you Mum for your selflessness and love and thank you too, to everyone’s continued support towards my book MUMBOSS (loving this pic below by Beth of Being Beth), I was bowled over by everyone’s pics on social media over the festive season and didn’t expect it. P.S.
MUMBOSS isn’t just for Christmas people, so go treat yourselves in 2020 ;). Plug over!
Oh, and big thanks to my pal Marica of Bamboo Flowers for the beautiful centrepiece for our Christmas table, my friends are the kindest!
Oh and one more thing before I go…these are my top 9 pics on Insta! Interviewing Westlife, Kim Cattrall, print-clashing with my cousin Georgia, popping up on the box pretty most weeks, who knows what’s in store this year but I hope it surprises and nourishes me just as much as the last one and most of all everyone is healthy and content.
Happy New Year!
How was your Christmas, people?