Heat the grill and cook the bacon on each side until very crisp. Chop into small chunks and combine with the bread crumbs and ¼ of the cheese then set aside.
Boil the kettle to fill a large pan. When boiling vigorously in the pan add a pinch of salt and the macaroni. Cook for 9 minutes then add the asparagus and cook for a further 2 minutes.
While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a small thick-based saucepan, sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook whilst stirring for a minute then add the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously so it is absorbed into the flour and slowly makes a smooth sauce. If you get any lumps, don’t panic, just beat vigorously with the wooden spoon and they’ll disperse. Stir in the mustard, some black pepper and the remaining cheese.
Once the macaroni and asparagus are cooked, drain well and return them to the pan. Pour over the cheese sauce and stir to coat well. Tip the macaroni into a large oven dish, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mixture and return to the grill for the top to melt and brown.
The Happy Diet is a four-week, step-by-step guide to a total happier existence available from Amazon from 29th September and written by Tamara Armstrong who has kindly shared her story with me.
“Looking back, there were many things that contributed to the decline of my mental health. At 14 and what is probably the most pivotal age with regards to development, I was sexually assaulted and because of how it happened I felt I had to keep it a secret.
I also had never met my biological father and having an absent parent often makes a child feel as though they did something wrong or were not good enough. Team those things together and you had one very hurt, angry and depressed little girl.
For years I battled my darkness on my own and it just existed silently in my mind. I am now a mother of 4 amazing children and it was shortly after the birth of my first son (12 years ago) and death of my brother that I finally sought help. I had never touched hard drugs but had always smoked cannabis because it helped to quieten my thoughts. However, it got to a point when it was no longer quietening them andsomething had to give.
So I started to see a drugs counsellor and after seeing him for about 8 months I finally hit rock bottom. Things were so bad, I didn’t want to exist anymore and I was on the verge of ending it all.
I called my counsellor the day I was going to kill myself and told him I wanted him to help me get care for my son and asked him to call child services. I think he knew what I was going to do and he asked me to go in and see him straight away.
That’s when he gave me the book that saved my life. He handed me a small book called ‘The Secret’ and begged me to read it. I went home and that night I sat on the floor of my bedsit kitchen and read the book cover to cover. The book changed EVERYTHING and in 4 hours my life was suddenly very different. I realisedthat we are the creators of our life and that we are the ones who have control over it. I realised I had caused all my own problems and as hard as that was to swallow, I had finally found hope because I knew that if I had caused it I could just as easily change it. From that moment everything was different. Something just clicked. I knew I couldn’t change the past but I felt powerful knowing I could change the future. I had spent so many years being angry and not living that I now wanted to know everything about being happy and living with love and purpose.
10 years on from being on the most immense personal growth journey, I felt it was time to start helping others by sharing what I had learned. I didn’t want the pain I went through to be pointless, I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to help inspire others and give them hope. My book the Happy Diet is EVERYTHING I have learnt over the last 10 years that actually keeps you happy and sane.
Doctors are very quick to put us on medication that might not be needed if we all had the right tools to begin with. The book is like a giant tool box and even though it’s called ‘The Happy Diet’, it’s about a lot more than just food; it’s a way of living that will genuinely help people feel better mentally, physically and spiritually. Eating clean, meditation, yoga, gratitude, social media restrictions and television bans are just someof the wisdom I share in this book. People wonder why it is so cheap but as a single parent who has suffered mentally and never had much money, I know a lot of the people that need my book can’t afford it which is why I kept the price low-everyone deserves to be happy regardless of financial status.”
The Happy Diet
I am going to try out the book and report back because I like what Tamara has to say about the Happy Diet.
“I’ve discovered that finding true happiness doesn’t mean you have to crush your current life and rebuild it from the ground up, but instead make some simple shifts to a more mindful and active routine,” explains Armstrong. “The book walks readers through a host of incredibly easy changes to diet and perception, as well as some amazing mindfulness exercises and an exploration of “going vegan”. Everyone deserves to be happy, and this book is their blueprint.”
What I would do if I won the Lottery is a question I have given a lot of thought to because I am aware that the family members would have different priorities.
The first thing on my list would be to buy a home that could be a safe haven forever for any family members who needed it. I remember my parents selling their home to fund travels around the world and I realised that I would not inherit property and was quite shocked by that at the time. I know exactly the type of house I would buy as I know what works well for us as a family. Having said that there would be one indulgence for me which would be an indoor swimming pool. Whenever the children complain about not having anything, I always say “I would like a swimming pool in the basement but we don’t always get what we want!” I sound like my Mum who always wanted a trip on the Orient Express but I made sure that happened for her in her Golden Wedding Anniversary year.
My husband did not surprise me when I double-checked what he would want from the Lottery winnings, It is always the same as he loves cars although on this occasion he fancies a Land Rover rather than the usual Mercedes. We would probably need a Lottery win to keep it on the road with his track record with cars.
My teenage son would like the biggest gaming computer than money can buy and also dogs. I think he would live quite happily with a job that involved loads of contact with dogs.
My daughter has her spending all planned as she wants to live on a houseboat with a fluffy cat called Coco.
My other son would want some gaming gear and then like me would probably want to give a lot of the winnings away.
I would like to set up a foundation of sort to support a student to go to my old college. I would probably support cancer and children’s charities like my parents did too.
Finally there would be little guilty pleasures like fresh flowers every week and good perfume.
Please tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
My name is Maisie. I’m a 23 year old new mum to my 7 month old baby boy, a blogger at Love Maisie, social media manager and caffeine addict! We currently reside in the beautifully historic city of Gloucester.
How did you feel when you became pregnant?
I felt overwhelmed with emotions. There were so many things going through my mind when I saw those little blue lines appear on that pregnancy test! I suppose the two emotions that stood out were excitement and fear.
How did you feel after having your baby?
Immediately after I just wanted to go home. We ended up being in hospital for a week with a long induction, complicated birth and blood transfusions. Although I was unwell and did need to stay in those two extra days, I just felt like a bit of a prisoner and wanted to get back to my “normal” life. I was very tearful the week that my son was born, but of course I felt that this was completely normal, baby blues and all that.
What made you suspect you had PND?
It was actually my partner that suspected it first. I think that’s because I was in denial. I was in denial when I was pregnant that I had Pre Natal Depression but I just kept trying to fight it and ignore it, so I don’t think it really came to us as a surprise when I found that I was struggling with my mental health post partum. It wasn’t until one day that not only was I feeling overwhelmingly low, but also angry(very out of character for myself) that I started to actually believe that I was suffering with PND and needed to get some help.
Who did you ask for help? Who supported you most?
Initially it was my partner and my mum and I honestly don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for them. I then went on to have appointments with my GP and my mum and my partner were there for me every step of the way and still are to this day. My partner has been the biggest support as he has been so hands on with our son and is always trying his very best to make sure that I am okay.
What made you decide to seek treatment and what was that treatment?
As mentioned, it was the overwhelming feelings of being low followed by the constant anger and angst I had against the world. I felt like everything and everyone was out to get me because I was a “bad mum.” Upon having the appointments with my GP I started a course of sertraline anti-depressants and CBT over the phone.
How are you now?
I’m definitely doing a lot better now compared to how I was 6 months ago. I still have my down days where I can get really low, but I’m finding ways of coping with them and helping myself to get out of them. It’s a daily battle but it’s one worth fighting.
What would you say to a mum who feels she has lost all hope?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I felt so alone, as if I was the only person feeling the way that I did and struggling, but the more you open up, the more you realise that actually, there are(sadly) so many other women who feel very similar to how you are feeling. You are NOT a bad mum, even if it feels like you are.
Why do you think it is important to speak out about depression and similar issues?
I think it is so important to speak out about all mental health issues to raise awareness and to let people that are struggling know that they are not alone and that the fact that they are perhaps reading something like this or googling things like this is proof that they are strong and that they have so much worth fighting for. Depression takes over too many lives and ruins some too and I can honestly say that it nearly took my life. I am so thankful that it didn’t and I just wish I could speak to every single mum out there that feels lost and hopeless, just so that I can try and help them, even if in a very small way.
Do you have a post-natal depression story to share? Please leave a comment or let me know if you would like to share your story on my blog.
Being honest and open about your post-natal depression story takes a lot so remember that sharing is caring and click one of the buttons below – it might just reach the mum who needs it most today.
Summer is over which means autumn is here (almost) now we welcome the arrival of the autumn season and it’s time to capture those memorable autumn photos of your kids and family. Getting natural looking photos can be tough, no matter what time of year. Luckily, the vibrant colours and amazing fall foliage provides a stellar back drop to even the most awkward poses.
Here are some of our favourite tips for the best autumn photos
If you have school age children the first item on your to-do list should be dressing them in a fabulous fall outfit like this one from serendipity clothes for girls
Adding some fun accessories can be another classic way to spice up a more basic top and give your outfit some autumn flare, we are loving the idea of adding this pin (pictured above) to any outfit. Once you have the perfect wardrobe options picked out, think of some fun activities to have your kids participate in. Avoid the forced awkward poses, everyone loves a leaf fight, or jumping in a big pile of leaves. These are some of our favourites when it comes to ‘action’ shots.
Ever considered having a scavenger hunt for you kids? This helps make taking pictures less about actually taking pictures and more about having fun. Have your kids look for certain colour, shapes, and sizes of leaves or find a buried treasure. These create picture perfect moments and keep your kids happy too!
Depending on the age of your children certain activities may not be age appropriate so it’s important to find something that works for babies and toddlers too. During the autumn months how can we resist a baby playing peek-a-boo with a big leaf? Get those sweet baby and toddler giggles out by building a leaf tower on your head and pretending to sneeze so they fall off.
Just as with school-aged children, finding the perfect outfit for your baby or toddler is important, especially since these will be the photos your kids. One thing we like to advise against is having your kids all be in matching clothes. Avoid having everyone blur together by finding similar colours themes to dress each child in, without having them wear the exact same thing. Try looking for a unique baby outfit at a local boutique for young kids you might stumble across some gems like these!
Have you given some thought to staging some props? We agree, certain props can be tacky during autumn photos. Let’s be honest how many times do we have to see your baby inside a pumpkin? Consider using props but choose more authentic and natural pieces to add to your pictures. Add mums, haystacks, a bucket of apples, gourds, pine cones, or even a scarecrow into the mix. While props are not completely necessary they give another element to your photos and can be fun for kids to explore during the session.
Of course, after all is said and done when it comes to autumn photos don’t forget to have fun! Hit up the local cider mill for a delicious donut and fresh pressed cider after to reward everyone for their winning smiles and making lasting memories!