Inner Stregth is Quiet

It’s funny isn’t it, how the person you feel you are can change in a moment. In the time it look for a doctor to utter a single sentence, I went from someone who was trying for a baby to someone who is facing a very different journey to becoming a parent than I ever imagined. From the day we heard the words ‘so IVF treatment will be your only option’ we’ve become part of a whole different community of people, thrust out of the ‘normal’ circle into a place that we didn’t even really realise existed - and it’s lonely out here. 

Nobody really knows how it feels, and sometimes we don’t really know how we feel either. A single word suddenly has the power to have me holding back tears, and sometime I feel like if I hear ‘you’ll get there, it’ll happen’ one more time I might give up altogether. Because it might, but it also might not, and being out of control is something I don’t deal well with. I stumbled across this 'Notes To Strangers' note in London, Inner Strength is Quiet, and it really spoke to me. On the outside, I’m dealing with this whole journey. I’ve been promoted at work, I’ve been optimistic and glad that we’re moving forwards. I’ve not cried in public or cancelled plans. Some days though, on the inside, it feels like I’m using every bit of energy I have not to literally crack into two. 

People ask if I’m ok, and the reply is always ‘yeah I’m good thanks.’ If I tell people that I almost cried on the train because a grown man pulled a carton of Ribena out of his pocket and every missing thing about having a child came crashing down around me then they might start thinking I’ve gone round the twist! 

Some days it’s the truth and I really am fine. This time last week, after a day at the beach, some laughter and sunshine and a pie for dinner, I felt like this was just the way things are meant to be for us. Optimistic. Hopeful. Today, after hearing that there’s likely to be travel chaos because of the snow and we have to go to Cambridge and there seems to be nothing but bad news everywhere, I feel like at any moment pieces of me might start floating away, like Voldemort crumbling at the end of The Deathly Hallows and all I want to do is wrap myself in a duvet to hold all the bits of me together. 

Of course, does any of this really make up who I am, or is it just the stuff the ‘who I am’ is dwelling on and being consumed by at the moment. The latter, mostly, but being a Mum one day has been so deeply engrained in me for so long that it feels hard to detach the fear, and the sadness of the situation from my everyday life, and remember that there are things that still bring joy and happiness. I am a wife, and a sister, and a daughter and a friend. I love food and art and sewing and decorating our house, going out for breakfast, growing house plants, writing. I am chronically late, excellent at procrastinating and terrible at saying no. The the list of things that make up who I am, underneath the thing at the forefront of my mind, goes on. 

Yesterday we popped into the Tate modern and, although brief, it was enough to top up the feeling that there is more to me than this. 

It’s important, I think, to try to remember that we have so much to be grateful for, and still so much to look forward to. To try and fill our days, where we can, with dreams and plans that are separate from being parents.

But right now, we're off to Cambridge in the snow, in search of the last of the answers, a therapeutic hot chocolate, and mostly, in search of a plan. 

DIY Tutorial: Faux Fabric Cable Light Fitting

I have something of a thing about light fittings. I feel like they're a really important feature in a room, and in most of the rooms in our house we've completely changed them for something that's a focal point. However, striking light fittings aren't cheap, and if they are then they're almost always striking for the wrong reason, so in our two spare bedrooms we've left the plain white fittings up, and with a little help from some cotton yarn given them the look of fabric cable without re-wiring anything! 

As you can see, it wasn't the most attractive thing, but wrapping the cable is quick, relatively easy and after changing the discoloured part of the lamp holder for a new white one, and hanging a new shade, it look significantly less...blah. 

First, unscrew the ceiling rose, and thread the end of the yarn up through the hole. Tie it to the top of the cable, then screw the rose back up.

Then just get wrapping! Keep the loops as tight close together as possible, sliding them up the cable to close up any gaps.

Your arms will definitely ache, but it's much easier to wrap the cable with it still attached to the ceiling - in our other spare room I took the fitting down to wrap it and everything kept getting tangled up.  If you need a rest, stick the yarn to the cable with a piece of masking tape and let the ball trail to the floor (watching out for any cats who may have come along to "help")

Keep wrapping until you reach the bottom, then tie the yarn off with a knot. 

Cut off the excess, add your shade (ours is from Next) and you're done!

Much better I think you'll agree.

I'll be sharing a full reveal of this room soon. One day it will be our first child's room, and it feels like a really positive thing to be getting a room ready for whenever and however they arrive. If you'd like to read our IVF journey so far you can find it here.

Finding An Old Film

Last week I met up with a friend who I've known for 11 years but somehow hadn't seen in five! We were at uni together in Leeds, and he now lives in Ipswich which is about an hour and a half from us, and where D goes to work every day so there's really no excuse, but somehow it had still been half a decade since we'd spent any time together!

We both did Fine Art degrees, and Rob is now working as a photographer. Meanwhile, all knowledge about photography (other than auto mode) has drained out of my brain so we planned to meet up in Norwich and play with cameras, particularly D's late Grandad's old SLR.

I had totally forgotten there was a nearly used film in there! It's of nothing very interesting, just D and I posing in front of trees and drinking but I had it developed and Rob scanned the negatives for me and I thought it'd be fun to share.

I think it was around 2008/9, so almost a decade ago. I think I look like a totally different person, all oily and forehead spots and dishevelled hair, and D looks like a little boy with no beard, but these years were some of our happiest.

Some Grateful Thoughts on Friendship

I've never been one for big groups of friends. I am a definite introvert (well, webtrovert really but that's a different story) and crave my own company, so without really being aware of it, I've always been quite selective about who I choose to open up to and spend time with.

I've been thinking in the last few weeks about the types of friend I have in my life. One of the lovely, and absolutely unintentional things that happens when you're honest about struggling with something is how many people rally round to prop you up. I've been feeling so lucky to know so many people who may not have any idea what this feels like, but who somehow seem to know just what to say...

There are the friends who were once colleagues and who I miss everyday. The ones I cleaned up bodily fluids with, looked out for and kept safe, argued with over the best approach to a situation, and compared bruised shins with after one of 'those' days. To quote J.K Rowling 'there are somethings in life you can't share without ending up liking each other' and it turns out working in SEN is definitely one of them. When you've wiped someone else's spit off each others faces, laughed till you've cried about how ridiculous your job is, asked 'is my forehead bleeding?' and inadvertently shown them your boobs while trying to prevent a child pulling you over by your clothes, there really is no going back.

There are the friends who were once 'best' but who, as often happens when you go on separate adult journeys, I don't see very often anymore. Every few months, or maybe even longer, we meet up for a catch up and put the world to rights over eggs benedict and tea, and at the end of the conversation she simply says 'let me know if you need anything.'

There are the friends I call family, the ones I've known since we were both babies. The ones who I forget to reply to and catch up with via our parents letting me know what they've been up to but who still know exactly what I'm thinking. The ones who pop in to see me at work, and forgo all the 'stay positive, it'll happen, at least you have an answer' conversation and just go right in with 'this is shitty isn't it, and it's bloody unfair that it's happening to you'.

There are completely unexpected friendships. One of the people I most enjoy spending time with is 13, a big fan of sausages and Mr Tumble and technically my employer. I love hearing about his day, teaching him how to buy his shopping, watching him carefully make choices and most of all hearing his jokes. He is the epitome of doing what makes you happy without giving two ticks about what anyone else thinks; whether that's echolalia re-runs of countdown, jumping, flapping and clapping as fast as you can or telling me, with half a grin and twinkle in his eye 'giraffe, hippopotamus and elephant are too big for a pet.' He has no concept of the worries of adult life, as long as there is gravy, he's happy and that's so refreshing to be around.  

There's the friend affectionately known as 'work-mum', who would be the first person I'd call on if my  actual Mum was away. The one who I have the same shared experiences with as my other colleagues but with whom I also share a love of sewing, house plants, swapping books, drinking coffee and 'putting the world to rights in a safe space' (read: bitching) Always on hand to help me out with the above friend, and he loves her just as much as I do.  

There are the friends I talk to everyday and who I tell absolutely everything to. The ones I send pictures of my dinner to, who know when all my appointments are. The ones who's conversations start with 'what's a Prince Albert?' and who I messaged within 30 seconds of flushing my moon cup down the toilet. The friends who talk so often I wake up with 85 unread messages if I have an early night, and who I can message at midnight with 'who's awake' when I'm feeling like a horrible jealous person and someone will be there to say 'I get it.' These three girls get me through my days.

There are friends I haven't known for very long in comparison to some, but who I knew immediately would be in my life forever. Who I can be completely honest with, cry in front of and tell off for not eating any lunch! The type of friend who knows the minute they look at you that you're not ok, and who will rush over to give you a hug.

There's the friend I hadn't seen for five years, but who can still effortlessly teach me things just like when we were at uni together over a decade ago. Who I can talk with all day as if we've never been apart, and who I'm still convinced lived a parallel childhood to me.

There are the friends I've met online who I've never met in real life. The ones who message after I've shared a vulnerability to say, "me too, I know just how you feel.' The internet has many flaws, and I've fallen victim to lots of them, but one of the things I have always found, particularly on instagram is how supportive the community is, and I'm still always surprised by the number of people who pop up to say, "I'm with you. I've got your back."

There's my best and oldest friend who I sometimes don't see for months or speak to for days but it just doesn't matter. Long distance friendship is a tough thing to deal with sometimes. It's rubbish when all you want is a Chinese and a chat with the person who knows you the best of all, but when you both understand that life just gets in the way sometimes, when you've both got jobs and mortgages and no money left to buy fizzy sweets, never mind train tickets or petrol, you get by with making plans and reminding the other that you love them lots.

I'm pretty lucky, don't you think, and I'm grateful for that every day.

Letting Go Of What Was Supposed To Be

D and I met when I was 14 and he was 15. He was older and cooler and two years ahead of me at school. I took GCSE music in a bid to impress him (daft idea) and we quickly became pretty inseparable.

He asked me to be his girlfriend in April 2003, when he had just turned 16 and that was the beginning of the last fifteen years. In 2007 we went to university in Leeds and in a damp and draughty back to back terrace we made our first home together. In 2011, in the week before we came home from Leeds, we bought an antique diamond ring and managed to keep it a secret from everyone until D proposed on a clifftop over a year later. We had an engagement shoot in that spot a few weeks later, and swiftly went into full time wedding planning.

Little did we know that the planning would be somewhat interrupted. In 2013 we bought our first house. We'd fallen in love with it and somehow managed to completely miss that it needed a huge amount of work doing to it. We spent the next year, and rather a lot of money, completely overhauling it and ended up with a beautiful, very stylish, teeny-tiny home that wasn't big enough for a normal sized sofa but which we were so proud of.

In 2015, 12 years after we first got together, we finally got married and as much as I know it's the worlds most often used cliché, it really was the best day of our lives. I said in my vows that on that day, we became part of the same team, and we had a pretty clear vision of the next move for our little alliance...

I remember asking D when he was about 17, 'You do want to have kids one day, don't you?' and can still see the look of fear in his eyes as he tried to work out what the right answer was! I'm pretty sure at that point he said 'yes' just to make sure I didn't break up with him, but over the last decade we've moved on from discussing names and cooing over tiny clothes. We've imagined Christmas morning, discussed our thoughts on schooling, dreamt about teaching a little tribe about life and generally planning for our lives as parents.

Just a few weeks after we got back from our honeymoon we put our tiny cottage on the market and sold it in less than 48 hours. After an incredibly long and stressful few months of arguing with the land registry and spending half our waking hours on the phone to the solicitors we moved into our current home. It has three bedrooms and a downstairs toilet, a safe back garden and double doors into the living room that we immediately pictured throwing open on that fantasy Christmas morning. We'd bought our family home, team Nickerson-Smith HQ, and all that was missing were the final members.

We'd decided when we were planning our wedding that we'd start trying for a baby the January after we got married. When January 2016 arrived and I didn't fall pregnant straight away we remained excited, optimistic. My Mum had fallen pregnant with both me and my sister in the first few months of trying and I was sure I would too. We started talking names, looking at nursery decor, even buying the odd tiny item of clothing. I bought D a mug with the words 'The Adventure Begins" emblazoned on the side and imagined handing him a coffee with a grin on my face and watching comprehension dawn.

But then six months went by. Then nine months. In September 2016 one of my best friends had her baby girl and it hit home then that whole human lives had been created in the time we'd been trying to make one of our own.

It was around this point the we started to feel a bit panicky, and that I started to feel emotions I hadn't expected to associate with starting a family. Guilt, fear, resentment, even jealously. It's the most horrible feeling when you realise your first reaction to a family member announcing they're pregnant isn't joy, but to burst into tears because you wish it was you. Of course the joy and happiness is there, but it's accompanied by a bitter side note of 'it should be us by now.' I think I'll write in more depth about this as it's been something I've really struggled with. D has continually tried to remind me that we don't know everyone's stories, and as more and more people around me (both in person and those I follow online) seemed to be announcing they were pregnant, I've tried really hard to remember that not everyone shares their story and they might have gone though the same torment as us before sharing their joy. That's part of why I'm so keen to talk about our journey. Every time I've mentioned it briefly on social media I get messages from people saying 'us too' and while sharing is a completely individual decision, I think we'd all feel less alone if more people who felt able to talked about it.

I've been through numerous cycles of thought about changes I can make; I've given up caffeine and drunk green smoothies, cut back on red meat and spent £30 a month on the best fertility supplements I could find. I've practiced fertility yoga, carried crystals in my pocket, used a fertility monitor and hounded D the minute he got through the doors because 'the egg is showing today and we only have 12 hours before we've missed this month'.  On the other hand I've also somewhat hit the self destruct button, thought 'f**k it, it's not working anyway so I'm going to drink all the coffee and wine I like and see if that works because celery and water clearly doesn't!'

Of course, none of this made any difference, and in February 2017 we decided to start investigating. My first round of blood tests came back fine and it appeared I was ovulating normally. The doctor told us that 80% of fertile couples will conceive in the first year and that of the 20% that don't, half of those will conceive in the second year. He told us that in his experience, once couples start looking into why it's not happening, the reassurance that everything seems to be fine is enough to take away the stress that was preventing them falling pregnant. I went away feeling sure that it would happen soon - what were the chances of us being in that 10% that don't manage to fall pregnant in the second year...

We carried on trying for another nine months, all the time getting more and more certain that there must be something going on with one or both of us that was preventing us from becoming parents. We started decorating the smallest bedroom in the hope it might instill some positivity, and every so often I'd get out the little collection of tiny clothes and blankets we'd accumulated and hope it wasn't all pointless.

Then, in November last year, we got the results back from another round of tests and discovered that we were indeed in that 10%. There's a reason is hasn't happened for us and without intervention there's no chance at all of me falling pregnant naturally. It's been bizarre to realise that all the stressing and worrying and day counting and supplements and laying upside down would never have made any difference.

I'm still not sure it's really sunk in. We have our first appointment with the fertility team next week, and after that we'll being the process of IVF.  I feel like we've suddenly become part of a whole new community, and while it's a relief that we don't have to 'try' any more, it's going to take a while to come to terms with the fact that our journey to become parents now will be largely a medical process.

Mostly we're hopeful, a bit of us is even a little excited. Meanwhile a lot of us is terrified and there's definitely still a bit of us both grieving for the way we thought it was supposed to be.

But theres no point dwelling on that. This is the way it will be and as usual, we'll meet each new challenge together.

The Future of The Salted Tail

Well hello there, it's been a while. I like to give myself a few weeks away from the internet and (any particularly considered) social media generally over Christmas and it always feels really good to miss writing and to be excited to get back into it again.

Something has changed this time though. When I left my job at a special needs school nearly 18 months ago, I set about trying to monetise The Salted Tail. I had visions of waking up early and being at my computer by nine, writing four posts a week, photographing tutorials and recipes and working with brands. Somehow though, it's just not gone that way. I never expected it to be easy, and I certainly didn't expect it to happen overnight, but what I did expect was to love doing it. The truth is that, for a lot of the time, I haven't loved it at all.

You see, the blog that I have constructed and the way I feel about creating content for it aren't the same. I wanted a place that was all about sharing joy...and that's not the overriding emotion I've been experiencing this past few months...

I feel guilty when I make something and don't take photos, and I've found myself feeling cross about not sharing something when someone else then shares a similar idea.

I've felt frustrated because I generally feel most inspired to make things in the evening, when the light is non existent and taking photos for a tutorial would be pointless. So I end up not making anything at all because by the morning when the light is better I'm not in the right space for creating anymore. I've ended up making less since I left my old job than I did while I was there, and that wasn't the idea at all.

Mostly I've felt an overriding pressure to make it pay. For some reason when I read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert (which if you haven't read you must post-haste) as much I shouted "YES" over and over, for some reason there were a few bits that I just thought didn't apply to me, and not trying to make my work make money was one of them. When I left my last job and announced "I'm going to be a blogger" I immediately felt like I wasn't doing it properly if I wasn't making money from it, and that was always going to be a disaster. Liz explains it better than I ever could:

"I held on to those other sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all."

Guilt, frustration and pressure aren't exactly what I was hoping for. 

Also, I've been thinking a lot recently about why I started all this in the first place. It wasn't about teaching anyone anything, it wasn't about working with brands and it definitely wasn't about trying to figure out who my audience were and not sharing something I was passionate about because my imaginary audience wouldn't be interested in it. It was about documenting our life, quick posts about how much I'd enjoyed a meal we'd made, or a place we'd visited. Book reviews and boot sale finds and whatever else I fancied. It was a record of my life, and not an influence on it which it's definitely become.  

I spoke to D about this before Christmas and it was such a relief to remove the pressure from the situation. We went to a makers market shortly after and he said he could see the difference in me already. I wasn't looking at the work and wondering how I could fashion it into a post, and I wasn't forcing myself into introducing myself as blogger while reeling inside because I secretly can't bear the word

So, as for where things go from this point, I'm not going to be giving myself, or any of you any expectations.  The posts I enjoy writing the most are the ones I'll be writing, and I'll be doing it for me. I'm taking away the stress about numbers and followers and all that nonsense that's really quite unhealthy. I mentioned my state of mind over on Instagram briefly and so many people agreed with me that I'm guessing I'm not the only one feeling less than in love with the internet - and you know what, even if I am, thats fine too! 

There might be some noticeable changes, or there might not be and this whole post might have been completely unnecessary - we'll see.

But I'm doing me again. No apologies.  

Christmas Gift Guide Volume Three : Experiences Not Things

It seems the Christmas build up is well and truly underway and it's time to start stepping things up with the Christmas Gift Guides.

This third guide focuses on experiences rather than material things which, lets face it, it's all too easy to get hung up on at this time of year. We've all panic bought more gifts because it doesn't feel like we've done enough, and I've already had to be reminded that it doesn't matter if I've spent different amounts of money on friends children if they both love the things I've chosen for them.

I love a gift that extends beyond Christmas day, that gives the recipient something to look forward to, something to make or learn and, more importantly, facilitates the making of memories rather than clutter!

Some of the things I've listed here, such as workshops or nights away are ideas rather then specific items as they depend on your location, but I've mentioned some of my favourites too! Also, some of the prices I've listed are very much 'ish' depending on where you get things from and again, where in the country you live!

I hope it inspires you to buy a few less things and a few more things-to-do...

Outdoor Hot Chocolate Kit - £40ish

This can be done really inexpensively but is a gift I would really love to receive! A hot chocolate on the beach (or the park/woods/riverbank/garden etc etc) on a crisp winters day is such a treat, and would definitely brighten up a dull January or February day. Grab a nice jute or hessian bag for life (you could of course choose a more expensive receptacle for your bits and bobs, a nice cool bag or rucksack would be lovely, but a hessian bag for life is cheap and will do the job!) and fill it with the following:

- Camping Stove (unless you know the recipient has one) - Approximately £15
- Flask (or glass bottle) for milk - Less than £5 at Ikea or similar
- Milk pan (optional) - I've found these anywhere from £6 for a basic one to £30 for this lovely one from the Hambledon. Obviously everyone has a pan they could use so you could leave this out, but I think it's nice to have a special one for taking out and about, and enamel is nice and light. We have this one and we use it all the time A spout is also very useful!
- Enamel Mugs - super cheap and indestructible. Falcon are my favourite but I've spotted them in the pound shop recently.
- Jar of hot chocolate mix - I really don't think you can beat Jamie Olivers Epic Hot Chocolate recipe, and a big jar would add about £5 to the cost of the whole gift
- Marshmallows, sprinkles, and if you're feeling extra generous maybe some miniature spirits too, I'm rather partial to an amaretto hot chocolate myself!

All in, this could be done for around £40 - not half bad for a gift for the whole family which can be used again and again!

Festival Tickets - £350ish for a family of four

I've spoken at length about my love for The Good Life Experience so obviously I'm going to recommend you buy tickets to that, but I'm aware there are other good ones around the country too and I've heard excellent things about Camp Bestival, and Just So Festival. How exciting to unwrap a gift will give the recipient something to look forward to throughout those cold winter months before Spring arrives. Expensive, yes, but so much more worthwhile than a mountain of plastic or another device.  

Cookery School Experience - £variable

Do you have someone on your gift list who would love to be more confident in the kitchen? Or, do you know someone who is already excellent but has always wanted to learn a specific skill? There are hundreds of cookery schools throughout the country and many run day classes as well as courses spread out over a few weeks. Before I started working there part time, I spent the day leaning to make macarons with Macarons and More and it was so much fun (plus everyone got homemade treats as presents for the next year so this definitely benefits you as the gift giver too!) 

Some other options that look amazing (and which I would totally love to receive, just incase Santa happens to be reading this) are:

Rick Steins Cookery School - As you would imagine, a celebration of fish.
River Cottage Cookery School - So much to choose from, from baking to fishing (this is top of my bucket list)
Hunter Gather Cook - specialising in foraging, game and cooking over fire. Oh, and its in a tree house! 
Hobbs House Bakery - Obviously lots of baking, but also BBQ, butchery and pie making!

(above image from

Recipe Book and Equipment or Ingredients - £20+

Sticking with the food theme, a recipe book is something of a Christmas gift stalwart. You can make it even more of an experience (and encourage the recipient to actually use it) by pairing it with a piece of kitchen equipment used frequently in the book, or maybe specialist ingredients needed for some of the recipes. For instance (I've linked to a few of my favourite books):

Italian + pasta machine
Bread + proving basket  
Wild Baking + fire pit (sounds extravagant but ours was only £30)
Baking + natural food colourings
Meat + Thermometer
Comfort Food + Casserole Dish
Healthier Choices + Suitable seeds/grains
Healthier Baking Choices + A sugar alternative such as rice malt
Hot Chocolate + Cocoa and Marshmallows

You get the idea!

Katie and Kirstie of The Workbench have been teaching ring making workshops for over three years, and have recently launched their at-home-workshop box containing everything you need to make a wax version of your dream ring. You then send it off to be cast and it comes back to you all res-life and shiny. Doesn't that sound like the best fun!  

Fort Kit £10+

This is such a fun idea for children and families and while you can buy fort kits that are already put together, I think it would be great fun to choose all the bits and bobs yourself. The options are pretty endless for things you can include, but the obvious starting points are:

- Blankets and flat sheets (Ikea usually have them for about £3, and charity shops would be an even better option)
- Battery Operated Fairy Lights
- Pegs

But to make it really fun you could also add:

- Stick on hooks (for when you run out of places to peg your blankets to!)
- Curtain rings with clips (attach the clips to your blankets, and hook the rings on your adhesive hooks)
- Bunting
- A custom banner to hang outside (I like this one)

I could go on, but I think you get the gist! Pack everything into a tote bag and get set to invited to play!


I've got lots more ideas for this one so keep checking back for more updates! I really hope you're finding these guides useful - let me know if theres something you'd like to see!