The one where Tom forgets his vows

Anyone who knows me knows what a huge fan of the TV sitcom 'Friends' I am; quoting phrases from the show and likening scenarios to it on a daily basis.

So, when Tom started flapping that we'd have no rehearsal for our wedding, I couldn't risk throwing in an absolute gem.

Over tea the other night, the conversation went something like this: "Doesn't it worry you that we won't have a rehearsal for the wedding?"

I assured him that our wedding coordinator at the venue would tell everyone where they needed to be in terms of seating, and would ensure everything ran smoothly.  In terms of the vows, I said all we need to do is repeat what the registrar says.  Simple.

Unless, of course, you're Ross Geller.

I said to Tom: "It's easy, all you need to do is repeat everything the registrar says.  I, Thomas William Kershaw take thee Natalie Jane Derham. Just don't do a Ross and say the wrong name..."


While I thought I was a comedy genius, this wound Tom up even more.

"Oh Nat why did you have to say that?? Now I'm going to be thinking about it panicking and worrying I'll say the wrong name," he flapped.

After repeating my full name about 10 times he decided he might just "say that bit really quietly" to avoid doubt.  Years down the line, when we sit down to watch our wedding video with our children, I look forward to explaining to them why daddy suddenly goes so quiet when saying what is, arguably, the most important part of the vows.

Our friend joked that she would sit in the (I almost typed crowd then, as if we're getting married at Wembley stadium in front of thousands!) congregation (is that right?) with cue cards to remind him to say the right thing.

One of our tasks for our upcoming week off is to fill in all the paperwork for the registrar to decide the components of our ceremony - whether we want any readings/who we want to do them; how we want to be introduced after the ceremony; whether we are writing our own vows etc.  Hopefully, after we have done that, Tom will feel much more at ease about the whole situation. Bless him.

I mean, it's not like we haven't known each other for years.  And been engaged for two years.  And lived together for over two years. It's understandable how he could forget my name...

When we get to that part of our vows I know we will both be thinking of the conversation we had over tea and trying not to laugh/say the wrong name.

You may also like: The year of the wedding is here!


Everyone needs to watch Kayleigh's Love Story and teach youngsters the dangers of the internet

I've been a teenage girl, I know how much of a confidence boost it is when someone compliments you, pays you attention and shows an interest.  When this comes from someone older, it can be even more exciting.

When it comes from someone older - someone much, much older - who is a complete stranger, that's not so exciting.  Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

It's so unbelievably easy for children to engage in a conversation with an older man or woman online.  Whether these people are posing as someone else, pretending to be younger, or simply making out like they're just being kind, it can take just seconds for a child to be lured into dialogue.

I've seen firsthand how easy it is.  Someone I know posed as a 14-year-old girl online and it was terrifying what happened.  Most people were put off when 'she' revealed she was only 14.  Some, however, continued the conversation and began the grooming process straight away.

More and more children - both girls and boys - are being groomed online every single year.

In 2015, 15-year-old Kayleigh Haywood from Leicestershire chatted with an older man over Facebook for two weeks before being raped and killed.  The teen chatted with Luke Harlow on Facebook before they swapped numbers, exchanging 2,600 messages.

She went to visit him at his flat, telling her parents she was staying at a friend's house, in November 2015.  Her body was found in a hedgerow about two weeks after the first message was exchanged.

Harlow, who admitted grooming and engaging in sexual activity with Kayleigh, was jailed for 12 years.  Stephen Beadman was jailed for 35 years for the rape and murder of the teen.  He admitted to raping her after she fled from Harlow's flat, eventually battering her to death.

This week, Kayleigh's Love Story was released online. Leicestershire Police produced the video to warn other children about the dangers of speaking to strangers online.  It was shown to 35,000 school children last year.

The video is heartbreaking.  It demonstrates how easy it is for children and teenagers to be drawn in by these adults.  Every parent needs to watch it. Every teenager needs to watch it.  Every school needs to show it.

Kayleigh's devastating story needs to be shared far and wide to warn children about the dangers of speaking to people online.  To warn them of the signs that they are being groomed and to warn them of the dangers of speaking to strangers and arranging to meet up with them.

Grooming is defined as someone building up an emotional connection with a child in order to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual exploitation or abuse.  To the child, it may seem perfectly innocent.  A kind older man/woman offering to take them for pizza or bowling, showing an interest in them, telling them they look nice, building their confidence.  Before long, the trust is built and sexual references will begin, the whole time the child thinking the older person is just being kind.

Children are often unaware that they are being groomed, often believing that a genuine relationship is being forged.  They are left unaware that what is happening is classed as abuse.

Kayleigh's story aims to highlight to children the signs and urges them to report anything to their parents, guardians, a teacher or the police.

It's so, so important parents drill this into their children.  However, they can preach all they want but there's only so much they will take in and put into practice.

I remember when I was a teenager and my parents first let me get MSN.  I was under strict instructions not to accept anyone I did not know.  Even though my mum and dad told me this time and time again, I still did.

As a teenager - particularly the ages between 13 and 16 - we all think we're invincible.  Thinking we're so grown up and know it all, and that we can take on and handle anything that the world throws at us.  But this is totally not the case.

I was sensible and would never, ever arrange to meet up with someone I didn't know.  Even at 21-years-old when I got Tinder I never arranged to meet up with anyone I'd met through there on my own.

But not everyone is of the same, cautious mindset.  Teenagers nowadays are even more grown-up than I was.  I still was stuffing my bra with tissue, unable to quite find the right shade of foundation to suit my skin tone and passing through the incredibly awkward teen stage with spots, greasy hair and clothes from Tammy.

Now, teenagers are there with their contoured faces, brows 'on fleek', high-waisted jeans, crop tops and could easily be mistaken for being over 18.

It's scary.  Really, really scary.

By them feeling older, acting older, and being perceived as older, it makes them feel invincible and less cautious about speaking to and meeting up with strangers they've met over the internet.

I had incidents when I was on MSN back in the day where someone I didn't know added me on MSN.  I accepted, they started a conversation - the usual 'hey, you ok, what you been up to?'.  Sometimes it would continue: complimenting me on my picture, asking how old I was, asking more about me, asking me to send photos of myself, my interests and hobbies.  If the conversation didn't die out - either due to dial-up internet failing/mum needing to make a phone call/my tea being ready/me getting bored of the incessant questions and intrusions - I'd sometimes chat to strangers for a while.

Then would come a webcam request.  Being young, naive and stupid, I accepted.  As the image loaded, it was usually an old man sat there pleasuring himself in the nude - webcam pointing straight at his private parts.  Straight away the chat was closed and they were blocked and deleted.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Engaging in any kind of conversation with a stranger was not, and is not, a smart move.  Even though I had my head screwed on and was cautious - never ever meeting anyone I met online - I still was incredibly stupid to strike up any kind of conversation in the first place.  I realised that when the penis pictures/videos started, and I always blocked and deleted anyone thinking that was ok.

Children and teenagers are exposed to even more scary corners of the internet than I ever was as a fresh-faced 15-year-old, a whole decade ago.  With Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Kik, Whatsapp and a whole host of other social media outlets, it's terrifying how open children are leaving themselves.

I had MSN, MySpace, Bebo and a Piczo website, all of which needed a computer to be accessed.  Everything now is available on a phone, making it even more accessible to kids.  They all have fancy, top of the range phones now and are all as glued to them as I was to my computer and MSN.

The ease of access to this grown-up, technological world makes the prospect of them being groomed all the more real and all the more scary.  Blanket banning access to these social networks won't stop it happening.  It will only cause resentment, because all their friends will be on it, so they'll actively look for secret ways to create a profile.

Education is one of the only ways grooming, child sexual exploitation and abuse can be prevented.  Sharing heartbreaking, harrowing stories like Kayleigh's to remind these 'grown-up' and 'invincible' teenagers that the internet is a dangerous place.

Please, please watch this video if you haven't already.  Share it with friends who are parents, share it with teenagers, share it with everyone.  If this video can stop one more child being groomed, one more child losing their childhood - or worse their life - then it saves one more young life being needlessly changed forever.


The little aid that helped get me back on track after Christmas

Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself; to eat, drink and be merry.  I certainly did all those things over the festive season.

I'm an advocate of following a healthy and active lifestyle, rather than searching for 'quick fixes'.  Quick fixes are just that - they give you a temporary solution to a long-term problem.  I've tried them before - pills, shakes, wraps - and the results, while fab in the short-term, are not sustainable.

There's only so many times you can pump more air in your car's tyre before admitting you have to get a brand new one.  That's similar with a lifestyle change, weight loss and body transformations.  There are only so many quick fixes you can try before admitting you need to make a permanent change.

While I don't think quick fixes are the way to go, there are things that you can use to help you get on your way.  Just like using a personal trainer at the gym to get yourself into the swing of working out.

I had never heard of Essential Teatox before and assumed it was like all the other detoxing teas on the market; some of which I have tried and reviewed before.  I knew, already, what they could do and how effective they could be in helping with weight loss and kick-starting a change.

Christmas left me feeling really sluggish.  It wasn't just Christmas that I over-indulged, it was the weeks and months leading up to it.  I felt bloated, constantly tired, and just generally bleugh.

After losing two and a half stone from November 2015 to March 2016, I was left about 10 pounds away from this by the time Christmas was over and done with.

I knew that just eating right could shift those excess pounds and reduce the bloated and sluggish feeling I was experiencing, but it was getting my head back into the right space to encouraging myself to make better food choices that I was struggling with.

After first discovering the teatox concept a few years ago I actually grew to really like green tea and am now a semi-regular drinker.  It has so many health benefits, which kinda makes me want to drink it (even though it can taste a bit funny!)

I decided to combine my relative enjoyment of green tea with this new Essential Teatox to give myself a kick up the bum and get myself back on the right track.  And I've been pleasantly surprised.

There's a whole long list of ingredients (many of which are tricky to spell, so I won't even bother trying to copy them down here) which are to increase the results from the teatox.  These include reducing cholesterol, detoxifying the liver (much-needed after way too much Amaretto), soothing the digestive tract to relieve bloating, reducing stress and maintaing healthy skin.

After suffering horrific acne as a teenager, bad skin is not really something I ever struggle with now.  I occasionally get the odd pimple around the time of the month, but nothing bad.  After Christmas, I had a whole episode going on on my chin, it was horrible.  I was so unprepared for a situation like this!  Within a few days of starting the teatox this cleared up.  My skin felt smoother, healthier and brighter.

New Year didn't get off to the greatest of starts and I didn't get a right lot of sleep for the first few days, but my skin still stayed healthy and bright despite this.  It was like a miracle!

In terms of the teatox, it's a 14-day programme.  It's essentially the same format as all the others on the market: drink the AM tea when you wake every morning and enjoy the PM tea a few hours before bed every other night.

The difference I noticed with Essential Teatox was the taste.  Green tea, while I can drink it now, still doesn't have the nicest of tastes.  It's no chocolate milkshake.  This tea, however, was beautiful.  I actually really, really enjoyed it.  I'd definitely buy it in future just for the tasty tea.

It was really sweet and fruity.  I was gutted every morning when I came to the end of my cup!  Some mornings, if I was in a rush for work, I'd take it to work in my travel cup (which is about twice the size of a normal one) to enjoy while walking in.  This was great as it meant I got twice as much to enjoy!

The AM teatox explained on the packaging.
The night time tea was also really nice.  I tend to go to bed around 10.30pm/11pm so, providing I remembered, would drink the tea around 8pm.  It recommends to drink it a few hours before bed and states on the packaging that laxative effects can be experienced around seven hours after drinking.

Some nights I managed to remember to have it at 8pm.  Other nights, when Tom had been late home from work and tea was much later than planned, it was more like 10pm.  I don't think it really mattered too much, though.

The PM teatox explained.
The laxative effects weren't all bad, either.  Not as bad as some of the other teatoxes I have tried.  I don't want to be too graphic, but it wasn't like I spent the whole next day on the loo.  It was pretty much just like a normal day, it really is nothing to worry about.  That's one of the things that put me off doing other teatoxes again, the laxative effects, but honestly this one was no bother.

I started to feel better in myself after a few days of the teatox.  I was slowly encouraging myself to start eating right again and exercising more, but the teatox gave me that push I needed.  Because I had committed to doing that, it made me less inclined to dip into the remaining Christmas chocolates.  It encouraged me to plan my meals better and have a more positive outlook on life.

One of the ingredients is apparently known to lessen the cravings for sweet foods and help regulate excessive appetite.  Whether or not this is the reason I've been less inclined to stuff my face with chocolate and biscuits, I'm not sure.  I wouldn't say I haven't craved them, but certainly not as much as I had been doing.

My appetite has also returned back to normal, thank God!  While I suspect the teatox may have had a role to play, I am also pretty sure this is because I am eating proper, nutritious, square meals once again and not eating bad things.

The Essential Teatox is the perfect thing to kickstart the 'new year, new me' mantra that everyone has this time of year.  It is a great motivator to make changes to your lifestyle and improve health.

On their website, they say: "We began with the philosophy that detoxing, weight loss and improving energy levels is often done in an unhealthy way.  Fasting, low calorie diets and energy drinks can all have short-term effects but are mostly unsustainable and make you miserable in the process.  We formulated Essential Teatox as the complete opposite, something that could be enjoyed daily and coupled with a healthy lifestyle, would aid better quality sleep, increase energy levels and deliver natural and maintainable weight loss.  Of course, there is no 'magic' solution to weight loss and feeling great, so Essential Teatox is at it's most effective when combined with regular exercise that's fun and enjoyable and a commitment to take good care of yourself in a holistic way."

I must say, they sum it up pretty well.  It's not a quick fix, it's an aid to help you make the right changes.

I can't say I did all too much exercise, other than walking to work and one session at the gym, for me it was more about encouraging myself to eat healthier alongside it.

In the first week, I instantly noticed I felt less bloated.  My stomach was flatter, my clothes felt comfier and I immediately felt happier as a result.  I'm almost at the end of the two weeks now and have lost five and a half pounds.  I wouldn't say this was totally down to the teatox, it's likely it's more my meals, but it certainly helped me to re-focus and gave me a nudge in the right direction.

I would recommend if you were to try the Essential Teatox yourself that you don't rely solely on the teatox to experience good results.  The teatox is a great aid, but a good diet and active lifestyle will make the results better and far easier to sustain in the long-run.

I read online somewhere that it takes 21 days to turn a lifestyle change into a new habit.  The 14-day teatox is two-thirds of this.  If you can introduce healthier lifestyle changes and stick to them for the 14 days during the teatox, you're well on your way to a healthier, happier you.

The Essential Teatox is priced at £19.99 for the 14-day programme or £34.99 for the 28-day.  There's also the option to purchase a three month and a six month supply for £88.99 and £165.99 respectively.  Delivery is free, too, which is always a bonus.

If you'd like the chance to win your own 14-day Essential Teatox, to find out for yourself how it can open the door to a healthier and happier you for 2017, I am giving one away on my blog.  The competition will close at midnight on Friday, January 20.

The prize will be a 14-day Essential Teatox which will be sent out to the winner.  Please be advised may take up to 28 days for delivery.

To enter the competition click on the competition link below.  All you need to do is like Essential Teatox on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or follow them on Instagram.

Good luck with the competition and happy teatoxing!  For more information about Essential Teatox follow this link.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

While I received a free 14-day teatox for this post, all views expressed are my honest opinion.


It's finally here, the year of the wedding!

The Chinese say that 2017 is the year of the rooster.  I, however, have branded it the year of the wedding.

The year that I feel like I've been waiting for forever is finally here: when Tom and I tie the knot and I get to stand beside my best friend while she marries her soul mate.  We've been counting down to it for so long it almost doesn't feel real.  It's actually 2017.

I had all the intentions of writing this post on New Year's Eve/Day, to coincide with the start of 2017.  But New Year wasn't exactly a great time, so it doesn't feel like 2017 has really started for me until today.

But, after a really rough start, I finally feel like my normal self again.  I swear I've counted five new wrinkles since Saturday so it's a bloody good job!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - 2017 is here!

In just over 100 days I will marry the apple of my eye and I am so excited.  It'll be almost two years since we got engaged.  I remember our wedding date feeling like such a long time away, but it has honestly gone so fast.  I can't believe this time two years ago I was still trying to keep the surprise trip to Riga under wraps, while Tom was planning a whole surprise of his own.

The wedding planning side is essentially complete now, thank God!  While it was fun going dress shopping for me and my bridesmaids, trying cake flavours, discussing flowers and picking our wedding rings, it wasn't half a stressful process.  All that I have left to do now is find my bridesmaids some shoes and find us all a make-up artist.

I swear I didn't realise how expensive make-up artists were.  I was prepared for the cost of everything else, you expect things like your photographer and cake to be a certain price, but I was so not ready for how expensive a make-up artist is going to be.  One person quoted £100 for my make-up, which included a trial.  For bridesmaids, it was £75 per person (which also included a trial) or £40 just for the day.  The same person was then offering full face of make-up for less than a third of the bridal make-up cost during the festive party season.  I get that everything attached to a wedding is inevitably more expensive, but that just seems a bit extreme to me.

The cost aside, I am still struggling to find someone.  I know absolutely nothing about make-up, it's really not my forte at all.  Day-to-day I wear the absolute minimum, taking probably less than two minutes to slap it all on.  When I go out I, of course, make more of an effort, but even then I have no idea what I am doing.

So when it comes to the wedding make-up I don't know what I want, other than to look pretty.  I don't want anything too dramatic or theatrical, but I don't want to look like I haven't got any make-up on.  If anyone knows any make-up artists local to Selby/York/Leeds who could help me realise what I want and doesn't charge the earth then please do let me know.

We also have our honeymoon left to book.  We know where we are going, we just need to finalise the dates and hotels with the lovely lady who is sorting it all out.  Hopefully we should have all that done by the end of January then it's something else for us to look forward to.

As if all the exciting things me and Tom have to look forward to this year weren't enough, my best friend is also getting married.

Soph and I have been friends since high school.  Since then, we've gone through college together, survived me moving away to university for three years, and celebrated all our landmark moments together.  The last two years have been so exciting as we've planned our big days together.  We're very, very similar in ours taste, likes and dislikes, so we were both conscious of wanting the same thing.  Thankfully we have avoided any Bride Wars-esque incidents and it has been such a special time.

To be able to plan your own wedding with your best friend is special.  But to both be planning them at the same time is amazing.  I do worry, though, when they're both done what our next project will be.  I'd like to say babies, but I'm not sure whether we're in sync enough to time that to coincide together.  I wouldn't put anything past us, though!

This year is going to be so, so exciting.  It maybe didn't get off to the best of starts, but there is so much to look forward to.

Here's to 2017, may yours be wonderful and filled with love and happiness.

You may also like: I'm pretty sure staff at our wedding venue think I'm a psychopath

Confessions of a wayward Slimming World target member

I've been so, so rubbish at posting anything recently.  Life has been so hectic and crazy in every way imaginable, I just don't know where the time has gone.

I remember my new year's resolution last year was to post on my blog more.  I did really well, too, up until November time.

I think I'll set a similar one this time around.  Posting on my blog is, in some ways, like therapy for me.

It's not only my blogging that fell by the wayside towards the end of 2016.  My Slimming World dedication got lost along the way too.

After I reached target in March I think I went to group three, maybe four, times.  After a couple of busy weeks I stopped going and just stuck to it on my own.  This worked okay.  I would have a week with hiccups, followed by a week back on plan, then another hiccup.  But I managed to remain in my target range all the way until September.

When I was in hospital I lost lots of weight and fell out the bottom of my target by quite a lot.  The week after I came out, Tom and I had a week off from work which had been booked for months.  All we did on that week was eat out.  From there, it was a downward spiral.

My birthday came in October and, again, all we did was eat and drink.  Every single thing, good or bad, that happens in my life is celebrated/marked with food.  I have a bad day, I reach for food.  If there's something to celebrate, we go out for a meal.  My life literally revolves around food.

By the time Christmas came I knew I had put more than just a couple of pounds on.  I hadn't weighed myself since September and, while I didn't want to become obsessed with the number on the scales, I knew I couldn't say the weight gain was anything to do with gaining muscle through exercise.

I cancelled my gym membership at the end of October because it was going up by £10 a month, so haven't stepped foot in there since.  I've been walking to work as many days as possible but even that couldn't counteract the food I've been stuffing in my face.

Part of the problem, food wise, was that I stopped being so organised.  I used to plan the meals for the week when I was doing the shopping list, so I knew what to buy and what I was cooking.  When I stopped doing this, I stopped thinking healthily.  Instead, I started thinking quick and easy.  While quick and easy can be healthy, my choices weren't always great.

To make matters worse, my wedding dress came into the shop just before Christmas.  It fit me perfectly, just a teeny bit tight around my hips, but it was literally the perfect fit.  The only problem with that was that they had ordered me a bigger size, and if I had been the same size as when I ordered it it would've been too big.  They ordered me a 12 to fit my bum and hips in, but everything else measured as a 10.  I know wedding dress sizes are usually smaller, and my size 10 jeans still fit me comfortably, but it's never a nice feeling.

I knew there was no point me trying to get back on the Slimming World train a week before Christmas.  But I did think carefully about what I was eating, trying to enjoy things in moderation and still get plenty of fruit and veg in me.

Once Christmas was out the way I braved the scales.  To be honest, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  I have put 10lbs on since I reached my target weight.  I felt like it was more like a stone and a half, so I was pleasantly surprised.  But I knew I had to take action before it was more.

I could lose 10lbs in two weeks with real ease when following Slimming World 100%.  My biggest loss was 6lbs, and another week I lost 5.5lbs.  I didn't do anything different those weeks.  I didn't deprive myself or only eat lettuce or only drink shakes.  I just followed the eating plan.

On Monday I boarded the Slimming World train once again and I already feel better for it.  I got organised with meals for the week, batch cooking and preparing as much as I could to make tea easier when I get in from work.  Last night we had the Caribbean Pepperpot Stew which I had prepared on Monday and put in the slow cooker yesterday morning.  All I had to do when I got in was do some rice to go with it.  Easy peasy.

For tonight's tea we've got some speedy bolognese which will just need some pasta and vegetables making to have with it.  I've also got everything to make a chicken casserole and a lovely sausage and gnocchi dish (a Lean in 15 special which is Tom's current favourite tea).

I will try and go it alone with Slimming World to get me back into my target range but I know group is the way to speed the process up and increase my chances of succeeding.  When I read my blog posts from last year about Slimming World I feel so inspired and motivated to get back on it.  Then, next thing I know, I'm covered in crumbs after demolishing three chocolate digestives.

I have renewed my gym membership this week and started drinking some really lovely green tea, which I am hoping will all work together to work its magic and sort me right out.  It's 10 weeks until my hen weekend and just over 100 days until the wedding, it's time to get my bum in gear!