8 March 2018

10 inspirational women I want my daughter to know about

I want to talk about strong women. Of women that are inspirational, courageous, and you probably have not heard of.

Last summer we saw a pilot doing aeroplane aerobatics - loops, rolls, you name it. Our four year old was predictably excited and we talked about who the pilot might be. After we talked about how he must be so brave for doing all those rolls, my husband mentioned, well, it could also be a she. 

My daughter's eyes lit up. It COULD be a she. A girl, just like her. Doing rolls, doing something exciting, scary, brave. And for the rest of the day, and several days afterwards she talked about her, the pilot, how "She was certainly having fun". 

That made me realise that we don't talk about women's achievements enough. We don't make that connection between something exciting and interesting, and a woman doing that. Think about it - if you hear something amazing that has been done and you start thinking who did it, your default option is probably always a male. And that really matters in the way we raise our kids. So for the International Women's Day, I wanted to share ten women, you may have, but probably haven't heard of. Women that were inspirational, that were courageous, and who every little girl and boy should know of.

here's to strong women quote on chalkboard

Irena Sendler - a Polish nurse in the World War II. Codenamed Jolanta, she was estimated to have smuggled 2,500 children (of which 400 directly herself) out of the Warsaw Ghetto as part of her work in the Polish Underground. She provided them with false identity papers and hid them in Christian families. She kept details of their real identities hidden in glass jars buried in secret locations intending to return the children to their families after war. She was arrested, tortured, and interrogated by Gestapo, and sentenced to death, but never revealed her secrets. Almost all of the parents were killed at Treblinka or went missing during the war. 

Nellie Bly - In the late 19th century women rarely worked as journalists, and if they did, they were confined to the society "gossip" pages. In 1887 Bly put herself in jeopardy as a deep cover investigative journalist and set to expose the oppressive conditions in women's asylums. She faked a mental illness and was committed to an asylum in Blackwell's Island. The only guarantee she would get out, was the promise from her editor to come to her rescue. Her expose detailed the brutality and neglect women endured, prompted reforms and additional funding for the "poor unfortunates". 

Katherine Johnson - An African-American mathematician, who worked for NASA and provided critical calculations to United States aeronautics and space programs, including the first moon landing. When she started her career in the 1950's she faced not just gender but also racial biases, and started work as a one of the "computers who wore skirts" (essentially data entry) and worked in the office titled "Coloured Computers". She soon proved herself though. 

Mary Anning - A British paleontologist in the 19th century, who made her living through the dangerous trade of discovering fossils, started her trade when she was just 12. She was nearly killed in a landslide while on her expeditions. She discovered many complete skeletons, including the first complete plesiosaurus, and learned paleontology on her own, through dedicated efforts. As a working-class woman she was an outsider in the scientific community, and in Britain at the time, could not vote or attend university. She is now however understood to have made a lasting contribution to science. 

Ada Lovelace - An English mathematician and writer, she published the first algorithm written for an early computer and is often recognised as the world's first computer programmer. Daughter of the poet Byron, her mother taught her mathematics from an early age in order to "cure" her from her father's insanity, but she often integrated poetry and mathematics, questioning basic assumptions.

mum and daughter in front of chalkboard

Margaret Sanger - Born in 1879, Margaret Sanger is credited as the founder of modern birth control movement. A Nurse in the early 20th century, Margaret fought against the illegal and dangerous back alley abortions and believed the best way to prevent them was to guarantee birth control for women. 1916 she opened the first birth control clinic in United States and was arrested - she later lobbied extensively for legalisation of birth control. 

Alfonsina Strada -  A daughter of a peasant family, she loved cycling even if her family considered a woman cycling to be the work of the devil. She grew up as a tomboy, and as an adult, she competed in three major Italian cycling races, disguising as a male and beating many men. One of her Italian records in cycling stood for 26 years, and her world record in women's cycling stood for 17 years.  

Violette Szabo - After the death of her husband in Second World War Violette joined the British Special Operations Executive. She learned fieldcraft, navigation, weapons and demolition, and parachuted twice to occupied France to gather intelligence - and her reports helped Allied Forces destroy bomb factories. She was captured on her second mission, and executed, at the age of twenty-three. 

Hedy Lamarr - A starlet in the 1940's, described as "the most beautiful woman in the world" also loved science and was a self-taught inventor. Between takes and in her trailer she would concentrate on her other passion, inventing. She is today credited with contributing to the invention of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology through her work on non-jamming signaling system for torpedoes. 

Betsi Cadwalar - Born in 1789, Betsi is today recognised as one of the greatest Welsh of all time. She worked as a nurse in the Crimean War alongside Florence Nightingale, who disliked her for being Welsh and working class. While the two did not get along, Nightingale recognised her efforts in improving the hygiene and fighting the bureaucracy while ensuring her hospital got supplies. Betsi worked close to the frontline, tirelessly, giving up her own health in the process. 

chalkboard wall with here's to strong women quote

So there, ten inspirational women from history, in science, adventure and war. Who inspires you?

28 February 2018

What happened in our lives in February 2018?

This February our monthly family pictures were quickly shot on our way to ballet. It's been a proper snowday here in London, with the Beast from the East )or whatever it was called) brought a flurry of snow. We didn't go out to enjoy the snow though, as I was off sick from work with a chest infection, hubby recovering from surgery and our daughter also off sick, with conjunctivitis and coughing. We felt well enough to walk to the ballet practice and back though later in the day, and took a few sly selfies on the way.  

family selfie

What have we enjoyed this month then?

Me, I have really enjoyed:

  • Finally feeling like I am properly pregnant, with my third trimester starting. 
  • I love Jaffa cakes, and found these really interesting raspberry jelly, Milka chocolate jaffa cakes from our local Turkish convenience store. They appear to be Romanian imports and are veeeeery nice!
  • Finished a big report for work, and got loads of good comments on how interesting and enjoyable it was to read.
  • Margaret Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale - what a fabulous and gripping book. I found it difficult to get to bed at evenings as I just wanted to read on. 
  • My orchid flowering again. 
  • Buying tickets to the next Secret Cinema in London - Blade Runner world, here we come!

Aili has loved this month:
  • Writing and illustrating her own book for the World Book Day. She is going as a cowgirl from "The Happy Cowgirl" book.
  • Writing little messages to everyone she can think of. We get little letters written everyday. Her future sibling has got a few too!
  • Singing to the bump. I love this so much - every evening she sings a lullaby song to the bump, and in the mornings she sings a wake-up song. It is just the cutest thing ever and makes my heart melt. 
  • Kissing and cuddling the bump. And feeling the baby movements for the first time! She put her head on the bump and baby kicked her in the ear, and apparently it was very very funny.  

Hubby has loved:

  • Finishing another client project.
  • Feeling the baby kick and move - some of the kicks are getting very very strong now and my belly can even be seen to move. 
  • Getting his back (hopefully) now fixed, and hopefully getting back to playing rugby again. 
  • Getting our garage cleared of most of the "stuff" and finally being able to use it as intended - as a garage. OK, this may have happened already in January, but the joy continues even now!
  • Crafting with Aili - they spent several hours crafting together a paper guitar, and it looks great, and will probably be part of the "cowgirl" outfit for World Book Day. 

And talk about one of the things I didn't like this month... My damn double-chin in the pictures! Ha ha, I was paying far too much attention into faffing with the phone than checking out the way I was posing. 

So there, that was our February. What were the highlights of your February?

17 February 2018

What is London Zoo's Land of the Lions like?

We visited Land of the Lions in the ZSL London Zoo right after it opened in 2016. It was one of the new attractions in London that had been anticipated for a while. We have always enjoyed visiting the zoo and we also enjoyed the new section, so I thought I would finally share our visit and thoughts about the Land of the Lions. You might also be interested in my top tips on how to get the most out of a visit to the London Zoo with kids!  

indian posters on a wall

lion floor mosaic

looking at monkeys

people looking at monkeys

Overall, we enjoyed the Land of the Lions and I thought it is a lot of fun for the kids. It was quite an immersive experience. You walk through to the Land of the Lions, and you walk through to India's Sasan Gir, vibrant, colourful and exotic. It was almost like walking to a set, transported to a different type of land. Lots of little touches here and there, with posters, wheelie bins and so on making it quite distinct from the rest of the zoo.

builders sign

lions area at london zoo

wheelie decoration

girl in a lion transportation box

safari tent lodge

The lions, well, you might get to see them close by or you might have to peer through to catch a glimpse of them. On the day we visited the lions were just chilling at the back. We did however get to see a moving and breathing lion brought to the main square. It had been injured and the zookeepers told us it needed immediate medical attention. It was oh so very exciting seeing the kids being so keen to go and pet it, and help with administering the medicine to the lion! 

This show (with a giant stuffed lion) was a nice touch and definitely got the kids excited. It wasn't pre-announced or anything but I think they are every hour, on the main viewing square, so it is well worth hanging back to wait for it.

viewing hole for lions

lions through a viewing hole

london zoo lions

I almost didn't spot them, but near the main square are few small huts where you can stay overnight. In the London Zoo. How cool would that be! Listening to the lions roar in the morning... Having breakfast watching the animals... Just amazing. I've been on a safari, sleeping in a tent and being petrified of hippos wandering in my path on a night time toilet trip - now this is the type of a safari that seems pretty chilled out and fun. And easier to organise than a trip to the Serengeti!

Overall, London Zoo is absolutely massive. I don't think we have ever managed to see all that the zoo has to offer on one day - and with kids about five hours is more than enough to knacker them out. My favourites are the lemurs and the monkey enclosures, as you get so close to the animals it actually freaks you out a bit. I have also really enjoyed the penguins, especially hanging back after the show and checking them close-up. I did love the Land of the Lions as well - it was colourful and fun with the immersive experience and the extra shows it was well worth the visit. In fact, I think we should go and visit it again this spring!

standing at the land of lions square

Have you been to the zoo or the new lion enclosure?

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14 February 2018

I'm 27 weeks now - nearly third trimester!

Oh gosh hasn't time just flown by! 

It seems like just yesterday I announced our happy news. I still haven't posted our gender announcement here although I did film a gender reveal video with the future big sister... well over a month ago. I am hoping to get it online before the baby is actually born. This post is actually the second pregnancy post I have done during this whole pregnancy. Not great for a family / parenting blogger, eh?

sister hugging the baby bump

Maybe this is just what it is when you are pregnant the second time? Time just seems to flow by. With my first pregnancy I could always tell how many weeks I was at the time. Now on the other hand if anyone asks, I just tell them it is something like 25 or maybe 26 weeks, not sure but the due date is in mid-May... I had to go online and use a pregnancy calculator to figure out how far along I really was. 

Having an older child and the busyness of life that comes from school runs and pick-ups and the constant laundry distracts you from bump watch. Not to mention the day job as well. Last time I was pregnant was five years back. My job at the time was half the pay and half the pressure of the current one. It certainly left a lot more time for the idle Googling of pregnancy symptoms and day dreaming about the baby. 

wearing best ever sister shirt

So how am I feeling now, being on the final stretches of this pregnancy?
  • I'm developing the waddle. I can feel it and hubby says he has been seeing it a while already.
  • I am starting to find it difficult to get off the sofa / bed.  
  • I am feeling some very strong movements, and hiccups, and some of the stronger kicks can be seen and felt by others. 
  • Compared to the absolute exhaustion I felt in my first trimester, I am not feeling half bad. 
  • That said, I've been marred by colds all winter, battling a chest infection and for the first time in my life having to use an asthma inhaler to manage the constant wheezing. 
  • Other than that, no particular aches or pains, which I am thankful of. 
  • I really wish I could/would do more exercise - but with business of work and the constant colds I haven't managed to go to the gym much, nor do much anything else. 
  • I'm starting to worry about the birth. It was a dire experience last time, with poorly managed pain and ending in a forcible extraction, an infection, several days in a miserly post-natal ward and nearly two months of slightly hobbled walking. I am hoping for something better this time. 
  • I am really looking forward to starting my maternity leave. I am hoping to leave 3 weeks before due date - enough time before the birth, but maximising the time spent home with the baby. 
  • I've already told work that I plan to be away minimum six months and that I want to move to a new position when back. Might as well try something new!  
  • We haven't got anything ready for the baby yet - eek! It doesn't need much, right? Just a crib and some nappies, right? Thankfully, we've kept most of the things from our daughter's baby years. Now, just to find where we stashed it all... 

sister kissing the baby bump

It really feels like this is speeding ahead. Time is passing so fast, and it still doesn't feel quite real, that in just a couple of months we will be a family of four. Just wow, what a change that will be...

Aili, the big sister has been so great and is very excited, and talks about the baby non-stop. She is so keen to help and will not forget to give the baby (or rather, my tummy) kisses and cuddles every single day. She will be such a great big sister! We took a couple of photos together to mark this 27th week - plan is to do a couple more of these photo shoots in the coming weeks. I had originally been planning to take a picture a week, and do one of those speeded-up progression videos but oh well... You can guess what happened to that project ha ha! 

heart sign on a pregnancy belly

Are any of you on the other side of the screen expecting too? How's it been?

1 February 2018

How to choose the best fuller bust and plus size bras: Expert advice

Like many women, I am atrocious at lingerie buying. Pregnancies, child birth, gaining and losing weight (OK, mostly gaining...) and just plain simple ageing has meant my body shape and size over the last five years has been in a flux. You lose touch of what your body needs. But now I have been taught on exactly how to find a perfect bra for a fuller bust (that's DD+ cup size) and/or a plus size lady, and I would like to share this newfound wisdom for the benefit of all you other ladies! And perhaps even some men shopping for their significant others this Valentines?

Last week I was invited to a blogger event with Very, to have a look at Very's Valentine's lingerie collection and to chat with the many lingerie brands present. And chat with the brands I did, and through that I got some excellent expert advice on how to choose a good bra for the bigger boob.

lingerie on a bed

First I had a chat with Pour Moi technical expert on how exactly plus-size and fuller bust (DD+) bras are made. Turns out, there are quite a lot of technical differences compared to "normal" bras:
  • The best support comes from a three-(or more)-piece construction - so for best support look for bras where the cup is made from minimum three stitched-together pieces. 
  • The moulded cups are OK too - some women prefer to smooth look underneath their shirts. I know I do! It is a matter of preference and the quality is still pretty good, but not as supportive.
  • Because there is more filler (so to speak) at the front, the plus-sized / fuller bust bra straps often need to be shorter length and/or more adjustable. 
  • Wider straps are a must with bigger boobs! They are heavier and if load is not spread properly, your shoulders will hurt. 
  • Because of the bigger breast tissue, the middle of the bra (center point) usually needs to be smaller and the cups closer together than in average size bras. 
  • Like with any boobs, also bigger boobs are different in sizes and shapes so to find the best fit you will have to try different models. 

chemise and underwear on bed

I then popped by to chat with ladies at the Freya stand, who suggested I go to a bra fitting with their expert. I came out three to four cup sizes bigger. Mind. Blown. 

At the bra-fitting I learned several tips on how to ensure you have a well-fitting bra, even if they are on the bigger side:
  • When fitting the bra, put it on, put your hand inside the cup and move your boob towards to middle to position it correctly.
  • The band should sit straight around the body and have a secure fit. It is supposed to be quite tight, but if you can fit your fingers underneath and pull it out a bit, it fits. Fit the band on the loosest setting, as over time your bra will start to stretch.
  • The cup should not pinch your boob. Pay special attention to the sides and top of the cup and examine whether it presses down on the flesh on either size making you spill out.  
  • The underwire goes surprisingly far to be able to accommodate the whole breast - it extends well underneath the armpits. 
  • The middle between the cups should lie flat to your skin between your breasts. It there is a gap in the center gore, the cup is too small. 
  • Fit to the bigger boob! Most women have odd-pair boobs, and you have to accommodate the biggest one first. It is a balancing act between finding a cup size that does not create a double-boob for the bigger, but doesn't look too gappy on the smaller side.
  • As you get older, your breast tissue generally expands, so it is likely you will need to go for a bigger cup size. 
I was so comfortable in my new, correct size, that I on my way home I ordered two of the bras (Fantasie Rebecca) I tried on at the fitting. As soon as they arrived two days later, I joyfully threw away my old poorly fitting bras and rejoiced walking around with my boobs feeling nice and comfy and properly supported. Ladies, go for a proper fitting. You will not regret it.

underwear on bed

At the event I got to chat with quite a few brands present and I was pleasantly surprised what a range of sizes and styles they offered. Pour Moi? goes up to 44 and J cup, Gossard up to 38G, Ann Summers up to 44H, Elomi 42K, Fantasie up to 40 and JJ cup, Curvy Kate goes up to 44 and K cup, Wonderbra up to 36 and I cup, and Freya up to 38 and a K cup. All these brands are available from the Very's Valentines collection, although sizes available might vary.

The best thing however was that all these brands had a multitude of colours and patters and beautiful designs available. You know, the type of underwear you don't actually want to wear _underneath_ your clothes... It wasn't just the boring granny-beige, black and white often offered for bigger breasts, but real stunners. Not that there is anything wrong with the granny-beige, hey, they are the most useful underneath white shirts and I'm sporting one right now too, it's just that a girl, even when she's a bigger size, also needs variety!

What kind of lingerie do you like? Any other ladies there who have also been lost with what size they are?

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