Monday, 31 December 2012

Resolutions Schmesolutions :o)

Purple fireworks display
If you'd told me at the start of this year that at the end of it I'd have a weekly radio show of my own I'd have looked at you sideways and smiled kindly. I'd also have been amazed if you'd told me that the most toxic female journalist of modern times would refer to this blog in a column following the fab Mumsnet blogfest event.

So it's with this in mind that I am starting 2013 in a novel way. I won't be detoxing or giving up anything on Jan 1st. Not because I have a perfect life or I am as good as I think I can be, but because I'm coming at this resolutions thing from a different perspective for a change. Instead of stopping doing something I'm going to concentrate on doing more of things I want to do better. By doing that I hope that I will spend less energy and time on the things that I don't need or want.

So, in no particular order:

I am going to make time to read. I was given so many great books for Christmas and I still haven't read the ones I got last year. I'm sure it's possible for me to make time in my day to read a little bit - although this might mean watching less Hawaii 5-0.

I'll be trying new sporting activities that I haven't done before. I've been doing the same exercise classes for almost 4 years now and while they are fun it's a routine for me and I attend because I feel guilty if I don't. That's not a good reason. I used to play softball and scuba dive and ski -  what happened to that action chick ? Oh yes I am a middle-aged Mum now, but that's no excuse is it ?

At least once a month I will go to the cinema and watch a movie - this may entail finding a movie buddie or I could go along on an afternoon when my boy is at nursery. This is all thanks to Hubbie being super generous and getting Sky movies so I can see films at home, but let's be honest sitting in a dark room at home isn't the same if you haven't overpaid for the popcorn.

I'm going to cook at least one recipe from each cookbook I own - and no, not just the baking ones !! Kind people have given me some great books full of recipes which I look at and go "ooh aah," but I haven't actually followed any of them yet.  My aim is to make a seasonal Slater stew, some gorgeous Gok gyoza and anything from the achingly beautiful Lilli Vanilli baking book I won from a fellow blogger. I hope to find some interesting new meals and to use ingredients I haven't tried to cook with before. I will, of course, share how this goes with you for good or ill (preferably not getting ill !)

I'm sure I'll think of other things as time goes on, but these are a pretty manageable start I think. They are already better than my original list which was:

To be able to afford to use Aveda shampoo and conditioner
To have someone to do my hair for me at home
Have a personal trainer to get my backside to exercise when I want to sit on the sofa watching Hawaii 5-0
The beloved Kitchenaid mixer which I really want to own, but I can't justify the cost of 
To be able to travel first class - anywhere

I realised that all of these were materialistic and made me sound like I want to be Madonna - which I used to when she was all cool and wore rubber bangles and lace in her hair, but not so much now.

Thanks for reading my blog and for listening to my show. If you haven't yet tune in at 1pm today or you can podcast it later.

Hope 2012 was good to you and here's to not turning into Madonna in 2013 :o)

Friday, 28 December 2012

Just the socks to rearrange then I can start on the spare room...

It's that bit between Christmas and New Year when I have set myself impossible goals to achieve while Hubbie is at home. Instead of actually sorting out the paperwork in the spare room I'm procrastinating like a professional by rearranging my wardrobes and sorting my son's clothing drawers. Next I'll be baking banana cake and fudge just for the sake of using up the butter !! Actually I did look up a recipe this evening to use up some ingredients I have knowing full well what I intend to do with them, but it kept me busy for over an hour.

my white cat sitting on a beige soft cushion
I always overestimate how much I can do with Hubbie at home. I'm actually far more productive when he's at work and the boy is at nursery as they aren't distracting me with their arguing, mucking around and general 'boy noises.' It's great hearing my son giggling away and the cat usually keeps me company and plonks himself on his beanbag or the nearest soft surface. I know we should probably be doing holiday stuff like trawling the sales for things we didn't want at full price, but I have a garage full of 'bargains' that I have to get rid of so I'm loathe to get any more of them.

Yesterday evening we went for a drive to see the Christmas lights in a street that was featured in the paper for having impressive decorations. When I was a child it was a family tradition that my parents drove us into London to see all the Christmas lights and my Dad would stop the car so we could all get out and look at the windows of Selfridges, Hamleys, Dickens & Jones and Harrods. It was a great night out and we really enjoyed it so I wanted to give my son a taste of what that was like for me growing up.

As we pick Hubbie up from work most evenings me and the Boy look for festive lights on houses and he now yells "Christmas liiiights !!!" as soon as he spots them. I like that he gets excited about the small things in life. Just as it has become a regular thing that we listen to the Big Ben 'bongs' at 6 o'clock in the evening and we both go very quiet just before the chimes then we take it in turns to do the best impersonation of Big Ben that we can. He usually wins by dint of sheer enthusiasm. Daddy is joining in while he's at home and he has a style all his own too.

So, I'll do the spare room tomorrow - either that or I'll rearrange the downstairs furniture again.

If you follow me on twitter or facebook you'll know how successful I've been :o)

Monday, 24 December 2012

It's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaaaas !!!

white cat and Christmas lights in the window with sunshine Well it has been in our house for a while now. This year I put the tree up - with unprecedented speed - on the first weekend in December. If you've been following my foodie posts you'll know I've been baking festive food for weeks now. The presents were all bought and wrapped in plenty of time and we didn't overcater on the food either. We made a decision about where to spend Christmas in plenty of time and now the boy has been deposited with my parents where he will wake up to a stack of presents and some very over-excited grown ups. It's been so long since they've had a little child at home for Christmas that I think he'll be a bit overwhelmed by it all, but he'll have fun. We'll pick him up in the morning and then deliver him to Hubbie's parents for lunch and yet more presents. It's a lot of travelling, but he gets to see all his grandparents on Christmas Day so no one feels left out and we don't get accused of favouritism. We have planned and organised (well I have), so why doesn't it feel at all like Christmas even though it's only a few hours away now ?

I have a few theories:

- Maybe it's the lack of lunacy in the shops this year. I managed to get all my purchases with hardly any queues and didn't feel enraged by crowds at all. That might be a sign that no one has any money, or it might be that we're waiting for the sales (which were actually in November).

snow covered garden - It could be the fact that I'm not at work this year so I haven't been to any Christmas parties or lunches at all. Last year I went to one which was terrible and I wish I hadn't gone, but at least there was one grown up party. Without paper hats and inappropriate speeches it just doesn't feel like there is an end of year occasion coming up.

- What about the strange weather ? It sort of snowed about a fortnight ago and since then it's just been cold and sunny and today it's been raining and windy. That's just not Christmas weather is it ?

Of course it doesn't help that we haven't been to see Father Christmas this year. My son was supposed to meet him at his nursery, but on the day of the Christmas Party there was a power cut and they had to cancel. How prosaic a reason for not seeing Santa is that ? He took his gift gladly enough, but the magic is somewhat broken by not having the man in a red suit there in person isn't it ?

I'm sure there are plenty of people who are excited about Christmas - my son is one of them. Isn't Christmas supposed to be for children anyway ? When we go to pick up Hubbie in the evenings we pass a lot of homes with garish lights outside and I always point them out to my boy so now he gets all excited and shouts "Christmas lights !!" I'm not sure that I've imparted a lot of the tradition of Christmas to my son. My only excuse is that neither my family nor Hubbie's are Christians so essentially it's all about the food and the presents for us. I will admit that is not in the true spirit of things, but it is not uncommon either.

I'm always fascinated by the idea that this is the only time of year when some families eat together and that's why they argue so much. It's also supposed to be the time when warring couples call a truce 'for the children' only to separate in the New Year as though that is somehow better. Enforced jollity is pretty grim at any time of year and when we're all supposed to be eating rich food and watching the same programmes on TV it can be a bit trying.

That's not to say that I won't overeat or whoop with delight when I open my gifts or grit my teeth when my boy opens a noisy toy that he's been given by a well meaning family member (with the batteries already in - thanks a lot !).

And don't even get me started on New Year !

Merry Christmas :o)

Friday, 21 December 2012

Foodie Friday: fudge & fancy gingerbread

Last night I shared my bed with two chaps and there wasn't a lot of sleeping involved.  Before you jump to 'three in the bed romp' conclusions it was my snoring Hubbie and my poorly son - who it turns out has tonsillitis - who kept me from a graceful slumber. What it does mean is that today I'm fairly good for nothing other than mooching around the house mainlining cups of tea to keep me awake and being grateful that I don't have to go to work.

homemade peanut butter fudge
I am so pleased I had the foresight to do my baking earlier this week. If I'd left it until today I'd be in a lot of trouble. Instead I have managed to bake and box up the second batch of peanut butter fudge which is nothing like the first. I have concluded that I didn't boil the mixture for long enough or at a high enough heat the first time so it was gritty and a bit too soft, but it stands alone as a great sweet fix if not an accomplished fudge. This batch is darker, more solid and has the texture of indian mithai with the buttery taste and mouth feel that appeals so much. I also managed to score some fabulous kilner jars to put the fudge into (which I'm tempted to keep for myself actually) so that I don't have to resort to using those take away plastic boxes that always smell vaguely of chinese or indian food even after many washes.

gingerbread tree decorations - not seventies glam shades iced gingerbread star biscuitsThe other less successful bit of baking I did was the long awaited gingerbread kit from Waitrose. The mix was pre-made which required kneading to make it soft enough to roll out, but it was still too dry and kept breaking up. We did manage to get enough stars out of the mixture for my son's nursery party and some to decorate the tree with so it was sort of worth the effort. Once baked though the icing part was the next trial. There were two pre-filled icing bags and a small bag of 'edible glitter,' but the icing was too thick to pipe and did not 'smooth over the top' as the pack claimed. I'm particularly disappointed as this was a pricey £3.30 (and that was on special offer) and rather than being a fun activity to do with my boy it was just a bit too fussy so I won't be getting it again.

mincemeat palmiers alternative to mince pies The surprise of the week was how well the festive palmiers turned out that I had sort of come up with as a way to use up the remainder of mincemeat and some puff pastry I'd bought to experiment with. I popped some in a jar to give as a gift and I think they make a suitably light alternative to traditional mince pies. They're light and just the right size to have with a cup of tea - which for me is the sign of a good snack.

fudge and christmas biscuits in glass jarsSo that's almost all of my Christmas baking done. Once it's over I'm going to feel bereft so I was delighted to receive a call telling me that the boy and I have a place on the 'Baking Bears' course at our local children's centre. It's a course of classes teaching children some basic cooking skills and is always over-subscribed so it's taken us a while to get a place. As we're starting in January it gives us something fun and foodie to look forward to.

That and the boot camp I've signed up to do in January to counteract all the overindulgence !!

Monday, 17 December 2012

The migratory pattern of the tea drinking blogger

My show today was about international migrants' day which is tomorrow. It made me think about the reasons that people choose to leave their home country and live somewhere else. For my parents it was aspirational (well for my Mother it was to join her husband who had already settled over here). For others it is to escape a regime that they don't support or cannot live with for their own safety.

A childhood friend of mine moved to Australia last year after planning the move for around 5 years. I admire the bravery it takes to move your family and start a new life in a different country. I love the idea of living somewhere else, but the move from West London to South London was so traumatic for me at first that I think I'm a long way off from realistically emigrating anywhere. I love some countries that I've visited, but there are drawbacks to living there. Nothing as important as not being able to get Marmite (which you can in most places now) but the trivial things that I've learned are important to me :

cream tea with jam and clotted cream You cannot get salad cream in Romania - on a visit to a colleague she asked for some and was presented with 8 bottles (one from each guest) which kept her going until she came home again.

Tea is awful in America - in fact Liptons is only sold outside the UK and it's not good. They do a nice line in hippie teas, but not a good old fashioned proper cuppa.

It's pretty much impossible to buy tampons in India. I have tried over the years and can only surmise that it's a morality issue and the final frontier for sanitary product manufacturers.

greece - zakynthos Plumbing in Greece can't take toilet tissue (seriously after all these years still ?) I just can't imagine living somewhere where you keep used tissues in the bin next to the loo. Eugh !!

The cuisine in Cuba is inedible. Yes they have universal healthcare and education for all, but no food of note (the alcohol is good though). How did Hemingway cope ?

I'd love to live in Vancouver. It's been rated as one of the best places in the world to live and has clean air, a thriving Sikh community and fabulous skiing an hour away. The honest truth is if I don't see my family for a few weeks I miss them terribly. They drive me crazy after a few minutes of seeing them, but if I couldn't just make the decision to visit, if it took a flight and weeks of planning to see them I'd struggle.

So for now I won't worry about uprooting and moving away.

Oh and I'll call my mother.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Foodie Friday: Festive Fare

This year I've been a bit more prepared than I usually am and have been ahead of the curve on the baking front with Christmas food. Of course it helps that I'm at home and therefore able to prepare food while my son is either at nursery or sleeping, rather than after a day at work and a horrid commute. On cold days like these I prefer to be in the kitchen weighing out sugar and rifling through the cupboard for a suitable baking tin to line for delicious fudge.

Which brings me neatly to the first recipe with I found courtesy of a lovely friend who directed me to the BBC food website where I found Sophie Dahl's recipe for Peanut Butter fudge which is really simple and requires very few ingredients, but enough sugar to make you diabetic with one bite !

The only difficulty was in finding a suitable jar to put it in for gifts, but once I'd located these it was all good. Oh, that was until I discovered that one of my intended recipients has a nut allergy so I've had to rethink that - I mean how selfish is that ?

Homemade sweets are a great luxury item and presented in a lovely glass  jar makes them even more of a treat so I'm dead chuffed that I haven't scoffed the lot as the recipe make a lot of fudge - even for someone as greedy as me !

I had a bit more of a trial with the Christmas cake. I mentioned in a previous foodie post that I bought a mix from Waitrose that I've used twice before - it's been a bit hit and miss for me in the past as it's taken so long, but this time the box said it would take 2-3 hours so I had high hopes - even with an unpredictable oven that I've blamed in the past.

We had a rare night out planned and my sister was coming to babysit so I popped the cake mix into the oven around 2pm thinking it would be done in plenty of time. When it was still soggy 4 hours later I was becoming more than a little concerned that we would have to miss the Idiot Bastard Band to stay in and watch my cake not cooking ! Instead I left the oven on low and gave instructions to switch it off whatever happened after 5 hours had passed.

It did look ok eventually (if a little damp on the bottom, but less said about that the better) so I turned it out onto a board and covered it in marzipan and icing and my traditional snowmen decorations and festive ribbon. All I can do now is hope that when we finally cut into it the middle isn't gruesome !

Then this week I finally got round to making some mince pies and used up the marzipan that was left from the cake as mini stars for the topping of the puff pastry fancies. They're ok, but not quite as neat as I'd hoped they'd look. They taste fine, but I did already buy some fancy ones just in case my homemade ones weren't quite up to scratch. I have a bit of mincemeat left in the jar so I might do some festive palmiers based on the recipe I saw that uses marmalade and brown sugar - I'll let you know how they turn out when I finally get round to them.

So these are the advance guard of the food prep. In a week I'll be making the stuff that won't keep so well. Sausage rolls (meat and veggie) the aforementioned palmiers and the gingerbread stars that I hope my son will help decorate. His budding culinary skills were at the fore today as he created the taste sensation of chow mein with onion bagel (surprisingly good) and then stabbed the leftover bagel half and announced it was a 'helicopter' (propeller).

I may just let him plan our Christmas meal. My lad is a gastro-genius !

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

What was I doing at 12.12 on 12.12.12. you ask...

beautiful orchid on the bathroom windowsill The date today was significant to many different people. From the worrying doom-mongers to the spiritual and fluffy the main concern was that this date will not happen again for a hundred years or something. Well that also applies to yesterday and the day before as well as tomorrow and the day after that so why today has more voodoo attached to it is beyond my meagre knowledge of utter nonsense.

Now I subscribe to plenty of daft ideas (astrology, reincarnation, etc.) and I refer you to my last blog post for some of the inherited craziness that I still indulge in. However, even I struggle with some of the thinking that pervades days like today. So the numbers seem meaningful and hence we're supposed to do something special are we ? Well what's wrong with doing something good, kind, or life changing on any day. How about stopping at some point on a random Tuesday to smell the air or smile at strangers (be careful with that one - it can create confusion and worry) rather than waiting until it is special - numerologically speaking.

It reminds me of the tradition we have of the news story that runs in January on the 'most depressing day of the year.' Apparently it's the day:

-  we give up our new year's resolutions

- the cold, hard reality of winter sets in and Christmas and New Year are a mere memory

-  gyms see a drop off in new members turning up who have paid up front for a whole year (and therefore subsidise people like me who take up free trial days all the time)

- we realise that getting paid early on Dec seemed a good idea at the time, but actually February is still a long way off now that Christmas is over

- we look longingly at holidays to cheer ourselves up

yoga shala in Kerala sunrise And here is the crux of the matter. The most depressing day of the year story was originally run by a holiday firm looking to promote early booking for Summer holidays. It ran as 'news' and took on a life of its own so it's now an annual fixture despite it's dubious origins.

This makes me wonder who is making anything out of the whole 12th of December 2012 story. Is it even a money spinner for anyone or just a convenient run up to Christmas chance to get us all depressed in advance ? I've noticed that shops aren't nearly as busy as I expected at the moment. Is that because we're all skint or because we've not noticed that it's less than two weeks to Christmas ?

I've been baking and making for family and friends - when you're not employed it's difficult to justify spending on gifts - so I've been pretty busy. Hence, the realisation that I hadn't set aside a special moment to do something breathtaking at 12.12 today.

In case you really are interested I was tidying in the kitchen and preparing some soup for lunch which my son took one sip of and pushed away.

Totally worth it :o)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

There is superstition

white cat drinking from blue hippo paddling pool / sandpitOf course the big story this week was the news of a royal pregnancy announced before the traditional 'safe window' of 12 weeks. It became public because the family knew that there would be speculation about Katherine being admitted to hospital. This made me think about the superstition of waiting for the end of the first trimester before telling people. There are exceptions to this rule (family, nosy people, the ones who have to know) and some famous folks can't stop themselves telling everyone early on, but most people I know wait. This idea of 'not jinxing it' doesn't stop things happening, but it is the idea that once you've passed this 'safe' date things are less likely to go wrong and if they do it's more 'real.'

Other baby related superstitions I found out when I was pregnant with my son included the one that says you can't have a pram in the house before the baby is born. In my family this extends to anything for the baby which makes planning and shopping in advance really difficult. We got special dispensation from my Mum to have some baby things otherwise our son would have spent his first 24 hours naked and with no means to travel home.

My family have some odd superstitions that I can't explain with any certainty - all I can admit is that I continue to follow them even though no one is checking.

Washing (clothes and hair) cannot be done on a Thursday. I used to avoid Tuesday as well and some Indian families include Saturdays in the ruling, but I have no idea why. I mostly observe the rule for Thursday, except when my son has vomited all over his sheets and clothes on a Wednesday night and I'm afraid needs must.

Another household chores related ruling is the no hoovering after dark. This may be a common sense reason like you can't see the dirt so well, but I suspect it's far more voodoo than that.

One my Naniji told me that is pretty specialist is you can't store a handbrush handle side down against a wall. the long sweeping brushes they use to clean houses in India don't stand that well so it may be a common sense one again or it might be something to do with dirty side facing down.

My Dad is adamant about this one - if you sneeze as someone is leaving the house they have to come back home and wait a few minutes before they can leave. He is also deadly serious about not calling someone by name as they are leaving and properly loses his temper if you do this to him.

bunny rabbit and dalmation dog kissing under mistletoe Most people know the superstition about magpies and living as I do on a road with so many trees we see magpies pretty much every day. I still don't know if you can add up the ones you see consecutively or if you have to start counting again each time you see them. If it's the latter my day can go something like: Joy - sorrow - letter - joy - girl - sorrow - kiss - boy - joy.

I once bumped into a lad from school holding his collar and he told me he'd just seen a hearse and he had to hold his collar until he saw a cat or something. I don't do this one, but I still remember it.

My point is don't tell me a superstition - I have enough of them to worry about already and frankly they take up far too much room in my brain.

Thank you :o)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

World Aids Day

terrence higgins trust world aids day red ribbon logo Dec 1
In the early nineties I was a volunteer with the Terrence Higgins Trust. I didn't know a great deal about HIV or AIDS and the first weekend I attended to find out more about volunteering I almost turned back at Warwick Avenue station to go home. I was so nervous about being all wrong for it as I wasn't sure if you had to be a man, gay or have a positive diagnosis in order to be a suitable volunteer. Thankfully I met some lovely, friendly staff and volunteers who reassured me that it was more important to be able to commit the time and to be interested in people. I met the most diverse group of people I'd ever met in the subsequent training sessions and in the years that followed I discovered the range of life experiences and challenges that others face.

I was a helpline volunteer and this involved taking calls on all sorts of issues, not giving actual advice, but listening. I spoke to men who had a positive diagnosis, those who had a partner living with HIV and men who had unprotected sex while abroad and who were worried they had risked themselves and their partner / wife. I don't recall women calling that often, if at all. 

Often a person called during the 'waiting period' between a test and a result (which used to be a few weeks) as it was so agonising leading to many calls seeking reassurance and support. If a caller was HIV positive they might call to find out more about networks of support in their area as London was so patchy in the provision of care for HIV and AIDS - what we now call the 'postcode lottery.'

During the nineties it was still considered a death sentence to have a positive diagnosis and as I learned more about the virus - well as much as it was possible to learn - it seemed impossible that one day people would live with effective drug treatment. My mentor was an HIV positive man whose drug regime was so complicated it baffled me. Then there were drug trials and reactions and contraindications some of which meant being excluded from future new drug developments. 

The picture now is very different. The profile of people living with HIV and AIDS in this country is not just gay men. To be honest it never was, but at one time they were the largest single group talking about it and dealing with it. The population of some African nations have been decimated by AIDS leaving orphans to care for their siblings and for a while the phrase 'you look fat' was a compliment as it meant you were not dying. I sometimes wonder if I were still a volunteer whether I would be taking calls from women, or children or young people. 

When I was at school we were told that AIDS would be a massive killer and we had to be aware of our sexual behaviour and the consequences of unprotected sex. This message was terrifying as it was in conjunction with the apocalyptic 'don't die of ignorance' TV advertising campaign including an ad with a Frankie Goes to Hollywood soundtrack (ironically now being used in a John Lewis commercial). This fear of a deadly disease seems to have dissipated over the decades and we now have an upsurge in STIs in young people presumably as using condoms is just 'so old fashioned.'

I've seen a great deal of change over the last twenty years including the merger of many smaller HIV/AIDS charities and improved drug treatment that means people can now live for 20-30 years and have a quality of life that is nothing like the depiction of Tom Hanks' character in Philadelphia which was the closest most people had come to HIV when the movie came out. 

None of this means that the fight for a cure or for better education is over. What it does mean is that World AIDS day can be a celebration of life as well as a memorial for those who have passed. 

If you want to get involved or find out more take a look at - it's not just one day. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

Foodie Friday: seasonal baking

Waitrose heston hidden clementine pudding Apparently last weekend was the traditional time for baking and setting aside a Christmas pudding. In Hubbie's family it was always Children In Need weekend and I understand that mother-in-law has already made a start on theirs. I don't make my own pudding and besides we still have the Heston hidden clementine pudding from last year so we'll probably crack that open at Christmas. It's just right for us and if my boy wants to try some he might prefer the orangey bit (in a jaffa cake sort of way).

Waitrose all butter mince pies
Years ago I used to make my own mince pies and took great pride in sharing them out. Nowadays it seems there are a lot more fussy folks out there as people don't like the mince filling or the pastry or something and with so many types for sale: gluten free, icing topped, puff pastry, etc. I just skip it and if we fancy a mince pie I buy some luxury butter pastry mini ones. I think I might make some with my boy this year. I'm sure he'll love rolling the pastry and spooning out mincemeat. Once I've popped a cute little ribbon on the box they'll be the perfect gift for grandparents complete with teeny tiny fingerprints in the pastry.

Waitrose Christmas Cake making kit In recent years I have, however, taken on the task of baking a Christmas cake as both Hubbie and I do like it. The first year I bought a Delia kit from Waitrose and followed the instructions and it was ok, but massive. The following year I tried the Mary Berry kit from Tesco and it was very good. They also had a kit to make seasonal Mary Berry cupcakes which were sensational so I've kept the recipe to make those again (unless Tesco do a kit again in which case I'm stockpiling those !) I've gone back to Waitrose this year as the kit comes complete with icing and marzipan too - and it was on special offer a few weeks back so it was a bargain.

Waitrose Gingerbread tree kit
I've also branched out with the Waitrose gingerbread tree kit complete with icing and edible glitter. When I opened the box I felt like a bit of an amateur as it wasn't even a mix, but an actual bag of dough ready to roll out. Now I'm all for short cuts, but this was a little shorter than I was expecting. If I'm using a kit I like to be involved in some way whether it's to add eggs and butter or to mix a few packets together. Of course baking from scratch gives a genuine homemade taste, but sometimes it's just too tempting to try a kit and see how it goes. I'm going to freestyle it with the gingerbread by using a fabulous intarsia shaped baking mould that I was given by a friend last year. It is meant for shortbread, but I think this kind of crazy renegade behaviour is what makes home baking so exhilarating !

The fridge is packed with ready made pastry; all butter puff, pizza dough, shortcrust, croissant dough and I think I've got some filo somewhere. I spent last Saturday lying on the sofa watching cookery programmes and Lorraine Pascale was making canapes and treats on her show, so I decided that if ready made is good enough for her (and is on special offer) then who am I to argue ?

So I'll post photos as I go. If you want to know how the homemade sausage rolls (meat and veggie), Christmas cake, Christmas cupcakes and gingerbread tree turn out keep tuned to Comments appreciated, marks out of ten optional :o)

p.s. this post isn't sponsored by Waitrose, but it would be lovely if it was :o)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mothering isn't just wiping snotty noses you know

baby in sling newborn
Mothering Monday is what I'm calling today. At the beginning of it there was my early morning playtime with my little boy before he went to nursery for the day. He loves to lie on mine and Hubbie's pillows and pretend he's sleeping to put me off getting him ready for his day, but ultimately it's a bit of fun for us both. It's my special Mummy time with my son and it sets me up for a day without him.

Then I went to visit a friend who I met when she was our NCT teacher and we've stayed in touch. Wendy helps me to feel better about being at home with my son and not 'doing a job.' It's from her that I've grown to believe that loving my son and wanting to be with him is not a weakness on my part. We also spoke about the phenomenon of the 'Tiger Mama' which there was a big fuss about a while back. The very idea that a parent might push and direct their children rather than take a laissez faire attitude to their education and socialisation was considered radical and controversial when Amy Chua's book was published last year. I grew up in an Indian household where it was expected that we do well at school, but my parents had neither the time nor the money to hothouse us. Instead they took an approach where they trusted the school to direct our learning and made sure we felt bad if we weren't doing well. It wasn't hardcore, but a hard stare from either of my parents is a pretty strong deterrent.

On my show today I referred to me and my guest Sarah Milne as part of the "Mummy Mafia' of presenters on Croydon Radio who present shows during the day covering topics of interest to us and similar families. The main part of my interview with Sarah was about an appeal that she has launched through the charity Williams Wishes which is named after her son who received an organ transplant a few years ago. The appeal is to enable families who will be spending Christmas in the children's ward of Croydon University Hospital to have a nice day by providing them with some christmas treats to have in the hospital environment. When my sisters were young children they often spent the weeks leading up to Christmas in hospital so I know how hard it can be to make plans for a family day when you don't know if all of you will be at home. A child being ill causes distress to all the family anyway and if that child has an ongoing condition or a range of illnesses it can become all you think of. William's Wishes offers children the opportunity to ask for a wish during their illness and to have something special. The charity also supports siblings and family members as it can be anyone in the family who needs cheering up.

blood donation bronze award
We also spoke about the importance of organ donation and how three people die every day while waiting for a donated organ. I carry a donor card and have done for over 20 years. I have discussed this with my family and have asked that in the event they respect my wishes and agree to donate quickly to ensure as many people as possible can benefit. My parents did not want to discuss it, but I reassured them that as they would be asked to make the decision (at the time I wasn't with Hubbie) it was important that they be brave. No parent wants to think about their child dying so it was a tough concept for them to come to terms with, but I think they realised I was only asking so they didn't feel ambushed if it did happen. It amazes me that the national average for being registered to donate is only 31% and in my local area it is half the national average. Once you're gone it isn't going to benefit you to keep your organs and they could save more than one person's life. In the same way that I am passionate about giving blood I also believe it's something we should all give serious consideration to. I used to joke that no one would want my eyes as they don't work properly, but actually if they can be of use to someone who am I to say they can't be reused. After all it's the ultimate adherence to the Green mantra to reuse and recycle isn't it ?

Finally we spoke about her charity record 96th Son which is available on itunes and the profits from which are going to the Hillsborough campaign. The song was written in response to the recent report that found that what the families of victims have been saying for 23 years was in fact true and that their loved ones had died when some of them might have been saved. I spoke with Sarah off air about how I had always heard people say being a Mum opens you up to a different set of emotional responses. I didn't really understand that as I always believed I was capable of empathy, understanding, love and caring, but once I had my son I was overwhelmed by what I called the 'lioness mama' response which for me was to defend him against anyone and anything that could possibly hurt a single hair on his head. I simply cannot imagine how a parent who hears that their child died when they could have been saved must feel or how they process that loss.

So I'm asking that you consider the following in the run up to the Christmas season.
An advent wish if you will:

* Donate to: - the Christmas appeal target is £500 and any amount will help

* Register as an organ donor at

* Give blood: - stocks run very low in the winter months, but the need for donated blood does not reduce

* Download 96th Son from iTunes:

and finally:

* Listen to my show so you can hear a few cracking tunes and some interesting topics of conversation: www.croydonradio.podcast. You don't have to be a Mum to listen, I promise !

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I am thankful for...

a vase of flowers in a restaurant in Edinburgh I'm not American, nor am I especially interested in celebrations that are American in nature, but I like the idea of giving thanks. Whether it's for a safe crossing and successfully displacing an already settled people or for a hot meal on the table I think it's a worthwhile exercise to consider what we have and to give thanks for it.

There are the big things we thank for - like family, health and happiness if we are lucky enough to have those. Then there are the small, but meaningful things like a lovely conversation with someone we don't see very often or a bargain that we weren't expecting to get. In my case having Hubbie at home for a few weeks has made me appreciate how lucky I am that the father of my son is so keen to be involved in his son's life and genuinely enjoys spending time with him (and me).

In the last few weeks I've found a few new things to be thankful for:

- The wonderful community of bloggers I've come to know and love who write beautiful things and share their thoughts publicly so I don't feel like it's just happening to me (about pretty much anything). It's also made me appreciate the women who support each other rather than get upset about the ones who try and bring other women down.

- My fellow presenters and lovely listeners who make me feel less like I'm talking to myself every Monday on The fact that I now have people asking to be guests on my show is wonderful. Today Robert Elms had a guest on who was on my show a few weeks back - I got him first and I'm feeling most smug about that :o)

- The lovely competition prizes I've won in the last few weeks meaning my son gets the Snowman on DVD for Christmas thanks to and a lovely new baking book for me thanks to All without any cost to me - that's a bonus !

- Loyalty points schemes that I've quietly and diligently been saving with for months and thanks to which my son has an enormous garden playhouse (Tesco) and an electronic tablet thing (Boots) that we would never have bought otherwise. Hubbie has a leaf blower / vac thing (Nectar) that he's very pleased with and that means the whole back breaking task of leaf clearing is now less painful, but far noisier, more fun and he looks like a horticultural ghostbuster when he's using it.

The main thing I've come to be thankful for is that I have been doing this 'full time parent' thing for a while now and instead of feeling embarrassed or explaining it away I'm proud of my work as a Mum. In fact I've coined a term for it that reminds me of one of my favourite clothing companies:

The hardest day at home with my son beats the best day at work in an office (original 2012).  

flower petals on bed in Kerala

Sunday, 18 November 2012

I'll be there for you (even if you're not there for me)

white cat sitting in the window nose to nose with a soft toy cat
Apparently Sunday evening at 6pm is when we get that 'school tomorrow' feeling which transports us back to childhood and the doom laden realisation that the weekend is now over. I offer this as an explanation for the 'misery memoir' tone of this post as I began writing it at 6 this evening. I've been pondering the things that disappoint me in life - initially this was prompted by a few instances of food related disappointments:

1. The bottle of water I bought from Boots that smelled and tasted like sewage - I found this out as I took a swig of it during my Zumba class <retch>

2. As I finished tucking into a delicious dish at a ball in a posh golf club I found the bar code sticker that had been left on the stuffed aubergine I'd just been eating.

3. The middle of my pizza fell through the shelf onto the floor of the oven. I was left with half a pizza -  presumably that is why it's advertised as low fat ?

4. I opened a pouch of toddler food to give my son only to find it was mouldy. However, Ella's Kitchen sent me a freepost envelope to return it to them and responded very quickly. All in all great customer service.

Then there are the emotional matters that cause more of a deep rooted upset than these pretty minor irks.

my lovely friends who deserve my love Years ago my Mother told me that I do too much for my friends and when they don't reciprocate I get hurt. Of course she knows me better than anyone and has watched me people please my entire life and get walked over or ignored instead of acknowledged or appreciated. I'm still learning who deserves the time and effort and have realised that in life we have friends we do for and friends who do for us. A friend who is in both categories is a rare find and I'm very blessed to have a few of those too - they're precious and I hope they know who they are (they tell me they read this and that's one of the reasons I love them so).

One of the things that concerns me is when people I think I know and actually like share photos or updates on Facebook that are offensive. In the last week I've had shared with me two posts that are racist, uninformed or just plain wrong. How these people can agree with those views and be friends of mine just baffles me.

Then there are the friends who disappear. When my son was born I met some other first time mums who I became close to and we met up and our children became quite good friends. Then they both fell pregnant again and I didn't so they stopped being friends with me. I'm making a causal link here, but in the absence of an explanation that's all I can do. It hurt and I was upset, but let's face it, if all we had in common was our children then we weren't really friends were we ?

Then the cause of this post in the first place. I was up early and out all day helping someone who has never yet thanked me for a single thing. I always think I'm just being petty for wanting to be thanked, but being actively rude to me when I try to help and making a point of effusing over everyone else and ignoring my contribution is a step too far.

Croydon Radio, DJ, presenting "Are We Nearly There Yet ?"This is also one of two people I've had as guests on my radio show who have shown little to no interest in what I've tried to do to help them. I present a radio show on which I invite guests to talk about their work and to help them promote their local businesses. Most guests are very positive and kind about being invited on and make an effort to get their friends and family to listen as well as using the appearance to build their profile.

I have invited onto my show some folks who I know quite well who have behaved as though they are doing me a favour by being on. One of them completely ignored my questions and just delivered a monologue, therefore missing the entire point of it being an interview. I have also asked them to help me promote my show and blog and they haven't been willing to do it, so clearly this is a one way street in which I mistakenly think we're friends and we're not really.

I'm having a bit of an audit of people who are worth the effort and those who aren't and I'm not sure they will make the cut. Not that they'll notice of course. In case you are wondering why I'm sharing here, I am safe in the knowledge that neither of them read this blog.

Thank you for reading though, you're lovely. Will you be my friend ? :o) 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Foodie Friday: Lovely Leftovers

eggs, milk, whisk and measuring jug baking ingredients You know you've graduated from occasional to full time 'home baker' when you see a recipe you like and find that you've got almost all of the ingredients in the kitchen already. 

A lovely fellow blogger sent me a recipe for caramelised banana cake this week as I'm always salivating over her photos of delicious bakes on Twitter. It's on my list to bake this weekend as I have some bananas to use up (as I always do). Finding ways to use up leftovers is a pet passion of mine. 

A few months ago I decided that I'd got too used to relying on pre-prepared food to make meals with and made a commitment to cooking from scratch again. This means that the weekly shop is made up of raw ingredients which gives me a range of options for meals as well as leftovers to come up with creative new ideas too. 

Only the other week I found some remnants of peppers, soggy tomatoes and sad looking mushrooms. I roasted all of them with some onions and added them to some couscous I'd forgotten I had in the cupboard. Of course now I've opened the couscous and have to use it up, because let's be honest it's like pesto in that you really have a craving for it (sort of) then you're stuck with what's left for ages afterwards. So I decided to pair it with some orange slices I froze a while back - I buy them and then don't eat them, but I can't be bothered to unpack the juicer and wash it after use so they get frozen for 'later.' I've also got some honey that needs to be used up in the next few months so I've googled a fab looking recipe for honey and orange couscous cake - perfect ! 

The occasional foray into home bread making has left me with a few packs of fancy bread mixes and I've found that even when they are past their best they make a brilliant tear and share bread and also enable me to use up the odds and sods of sundried tomatoes, olives and rosemary which I push into the bread mix before it goes in the oven. Even if it doesn't rise much it's packed with flavour and you just call it 'rustic' to cover up any mistakes. 

vintage baking bowl and biscuit tin, rolling pin and measuring cups.Last night I remembered I had some pine nuts left in a tin so I toasted them in a small pan and scattered them over the salad and hummus we ate for dinner. It's only a little touch, but it felt a bit 'cheffy' and reminded me of one of my favourite dishes at Giraffe restaurants

Essentially I hate to throw anything out so if I can use it I will give it a go. I can't be the only one who searches for new fangled ways with old favourites can I ? 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Adults Do Have Disorders too you know

ADHD logo adults and children affected
On Monday I presented my radio show as usual and this week the topic I covered was Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It was suggested to me by my guest and fellow presenter who was diagnosed with ADHD only 2 months ago, even though he believes he has lived with the condition all his life.

Before I spoke about it with him it hadn't occurred to me that adults could also have the condition. In fact I had intended to have a second guest on to talk about being a parent to a child with ADD or ADHD, but he was unable to participate at the last minute. As it turned out this was no bad thing as it gave me the opportunity to really get into depth about the topic with one person which made for an engaging interview.

I was fascinated to learn that it is possible to hide ADHD and not be the 'naughty' child that we have come to expect from the stereotypical idea of a disruptive and noisy presence in the classroom or home. What I also didn't know was whether or not a child with ADHD can be 'cured' or will always have the condition and can manage it as an adult so they can function in society without being singled out. It is not uncommon for parents to worry about the behaviour their children display and to seek answers in order to help their offspring. The difference here is what if you as a child learn to cover up and your parents or carers don't see it so you struggle along without any support ?

While we are familiar with the terms Autism, Aspergers, Bipolar Disorder and ADHD or ADD it is entirely possible that we don't really know what any of them are. In his search for answers my guest was repeatedly misdiagnosed and it was only due to his tenacity and self awareness that he eventually got a diagnosis of ADHD which is now being treated with medication.

In my research process to find a parent who would talk to me on the show I asked around and was told that parents can be reluctant to talk about it as they don't want to appear disloyal to their child. Maybe that was the real reason behind my other guest's non appearance ?

ADHD image of child drawing on walls
I really hope that this show is a good start to exploring the topic and that in a future show I can interview a parent or even a young person with ADHD. If people can move on from the belief that it's just old fashioned naughtiness hopefully we can then have a proper discussion about what is needed to support young people and adults.

If you have experienced ADHD yourself or are a parent or carer I'd appreciate your comments about this show and suggestions for what to include in the follow up I plan to do.

Thank you.

Listen to Are We Nearly There Yet ? every Monday online at or podcast it now

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A birthday, a baby break, a blogfest and a botox fuelled tirade

Phew what a week it's been: Hubbie turned 40, we had our first night away from our son since he was born, I attended the inaugural Mumsnet Blogfest and this blog gained notoriety thanks to a woman who can't move her face. So here is what I learned from it all:

Selection of cheeses - international house of cheese
Artists impression of Hubbie's birthday gift.
The last minute selection of cheeses I bought for Hubbie as one of his 40th birthday gifts seemed a better idea before I sat with it on the train home and all the other passengers thought it was me who smelled a bit funky. He does love it though.

Ordering gnocchi isn't always as safe a bet as it seems. The goats cheese sauce was a big error and I don't think that's because I subbed out the smoked chicken either - who knows how bad that would have tasted (well Hubbie actually, he had that and was belching smoked chicken for hours afterwards !)

My son will stay happily with his Grandparents while we go away for the night and he doesn't miss us half as much as we miss him. Having said that it was wonderful to be able to lie in and have a leisurely breakfast and a swim with Hubbie - even if we did coo over the babies who were having a swimming lesson at the same time.

The Mumsnet Blogfest was in no way scary at all and I needn't have worried about being lonely as it was a genuinely friendly gathering of women, many of whom were just as worried as I had been about going.

I was sitting next to Tanya Byron in the first session and I had no idea until she took the mic to address a point to the panel. I knew I knew her from somewhere, but had no idea where from.

Giving myself permission to eat what I wanted was the best decision I've made in years. I not only enjoyed myself, I also tasted really good food - Beverley Hills Bakery cakes are to die for ! (and don't tell anyone, but I also had a sneaky glass of prosecco !)

A goodie bag can really make or break a great day and the one we got from Mumsnet weighed about half a tonne and was full of proper stuff. Caitlin Moran's new book and a Bonne Maman cookbook, decent chocolate (Divine and Green & Blacks), Nails inc. goth polish, Lush's latest product, a Boden brolly and not just vouchers or samples of rubbish. This was a seriously epic freebie !!

Being slagged off in an article written for the venomous Daily Mail feels completely hideous, but actually I'm being told by all and sundry that it is a badge of honour. I'm now going to order the t-shirt they have in the back of Private Eye that bears the legend "I'm the one the Daily Mail warned you about."

Please feel free to add your own comments below on the journalistic integrity of the botoxed bint :o)

I'm the One the Daily Mail Warned You About! by incurablehippie
It's tempting isn't it ? 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

So where *do* babies come from ?

kerala holiday to help fertility
A holiday might help ?
I've learned a lot of new terminology since becoming a parent. My least favourite right now is secondary infertility which sounds rotten however you look at it. I do, of course, appreciate that having my beloved son is a wonderful gift and am very grateful that we have him in our lives. I guess I just hoped that when we tried to have another baby it wouldn't be quite as fraught as the first time, nor take as long. So imagine how much fun it is to find out that we aren't in the subset that fall pregnant again really easily the second time. Instead we're finding it's startlingly similar to how it was the first time. This time with added guilt as craving another baby makes me feel I'm devaluing my son in some way. I also realise that it's nothing like it was when we genuinely believed that we wouldn't be able to have a child at all. For anyone who is in that situation what I'm struggling with right now must seem a bit 'princessy.'

In the first instance we were able to dodge enquiries about babymaking with the usual 'we want to spend some time just the two of us before we start a family.' or 'I'm concentrating on my career right now.' After a few years had passed though I was reduced to a terse 'we can't have children' in response to any polite enquiry from a stranger who didn't really need to know the details of my life.

The enquiries from family were more difficult. Telling my own Mother that it wasn't about not having enough money for IVF, we'd genuinely prefer to adopt was a repetitive conversation that only really ended when we did in fact find out we were expecting a baby. Whether this can be attributed to a miracle or tenacity I still don't know.

Of course now the questions are, 'will you have any more ?' or 'when do you think you'll have another baby ?' Both of which cause a ripple of panic as I haven't yet worked out a response that isn't tinged with bitterness or tears. Telling people that you're trying and it's making you feel like a failure doesn't seem to be enough to head off an awkward personal conversation.

Then there are the stupid things people say when they find out it's not happening for you.

"My pregnancy was a mistake." In all the years I've been married (and the ones before) I didn't make a mistake that resulted in a baby - this one baffles me. How exactly do you fall pregnant by mistake ? I used to know a woman who would fall pregnant when she suspected her relationship was skittering into the buffers and I'm sure she used this line on the boyfriends/husbands concerned.

"We fell pregnant on our honeymoon. It's funny really as we were hoping to go back for our first anniversary, but of course we'll have to get a passport for the baby now." How unbearably smug are the newlyweds who score the honeymoon baby ? I cannot stand this one, it's up there with always winning the best raffle prize or getting a strike every time they go bowling.

"Have you tried acupunture / shamanistic healing / traditional chinese medicine /  Zita West / co-enzyme Q10 / agnus castus my friend swears it worked for her." I've tried everything - yes even the stupid stuff - and if you suggest another crazy ass idea I'll probably try that too. I'm desperate for something, anything to work. According to one holistic therapist it's about me being honest about wanting another child. Of course I'd never considered that what I think is pain, anguish and desperate sadness might just be indifference and indecision about having a baby. Silly me.

"Oh we just fell pregnant as soon as we started trying. We didn't think it would happen that fast." So why did you start trying then ? This is the person who tells you how easy it was for them to get pregnant every time they tried and is a special from of torture that makes me wonder if they also go up to people who are selling the Big Issue to boast about how big their house is and that they're considering a second property.

Closely followed by the couple who decide to have another child and lo and behold a month later she's pregnant and tells you that she's never had any problems falling pregnant and proceeds to tell you exactly how she does it. For me this is like the person who complains that they just have to eat or the weight just falls off them. If I don't walk away at this point there is a risk that prolonged contact could result in a serious assault.

I have no idea what it was that tipped the balance for us last time - maybe it was the fact that we were in the adoption process, maybe it was one of the holistic therapies we tried, maybe it was the three holidays in a row that we took, maybe it was the champagne that we decided it was ok to drink at New Year. Or maybe it was just the right time for us.
Marty McFly and Doc from Back to the future

Whatever it was I suspect it's going to be like Back to the Future and however much we try and repeat it something will be different. The main difference - of course - is that we have our wonderful son already.

That's a pretty great point to start from.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Seeing red

halloween cat give blood donation Hallowe'en isn't really a British tradition. Guy Fawkes and bonfire night are, but children dressing up and extorting sweets and / or money from people on their doorsteps is not. Of course the tradition of kids pushing a broken pram around with some old clothes in it and demanding 'penny for the guy' while sucking on the tail end of a Rothmans is the seedier side that I recall from my own upbringing. I'm not against Hallowe'en as such, I just find it unnecessary to celebrate in such an American style.

I have noticed, however, that the obsession with gothic and dark topics is a British tradition dating back to Dracula and Frankenstein. Let's not forget either the Rocky Horror Picture Show and it's cult following and the fan obsession that pre-dates all these modern day imposters.

This reminded me that as a teenager I was a big fan of the vampire chronicles by Anne Rice and then of the TV series Buffy. In recent years we have had the TV show True Blood and then the truly awful teenage obsession with the Twilight series. The latter is like Dawson's Creek with blood sucking. The angsty teenage vampires are so dire it makes me wonder if as a teenager I was as morose and I have to conclude that wearing only black and purple for 15 years is a sign that I probably was.

gothic rose give blood donation What I can't understand is why we are so fascinated with the idea of the undead or more likely the immortal. In the Buffy series the relationship between her and Angel was a metaphor for sex before marriage leading to the end of the world. On the one hand Joss Whedon writes powerful women characters and on another he seems to have a whole moral issue with teenagers getting involved with demons and vampires - which I guess I can understand on some level.

It does surprise me that with such an interest in blood we still struggle to get young people to donate theirs. I was terrified of needles when I began donating at university and went with my friend Robin to keep me calm. I'm still not a fan of needles, but the process is so fast and the nursing staff are so kind it's a simple procedure. Also, I break my diet and allow myself a treat of biscuits and tea or a forbidden pack of crisps after giving blood. There is nothing better than the post donation biscuit and brew to make it all worthwhile.

I think the Give Blood folks are missing a trick here - maybe doing a big drive on blood donation on Hallowe'en is the way to go. If the number of people dressed in blood soaked costumes and vampire outfits is anything to go by it's got to be worth a try.

If you have never given blood or haven't given for a while go to

It could save someone's life.

And you can still trick or treat before or after :o)

Friday, 26 October 2012

Breakfast at Tiffanys it ain't

 Hubbie finished at work today and has three weeks off work before he starts a new job. I'm delighted to have all of my boys at home for that three weeks, but it does leave me with a domestic dilemma of some concern. Nothing major really, but enough to make me wonder what I need to do on a basic level. What do I feed the boys for the next few weeks ?

This is how it goes at the moment:
fresh fruit waffle
Yummy Breakfast 

Breakfast: Boy and Hubbie eat together, cat is fed and I eat when they're all done or if I remember.
Lunch: Hubbie takes a packed lunch, the Boy eats at nursery or at home depending what day it is. I eat late in the afternoon - usually leftovers from last night's dinner.
Dinner: the Boy eats early before we pick Daddy up at the station. Then the cat is fed then, once the boy is in bed, me and Hubbie eat together.

My dilemma stems from how much control I have over all their food needs. At the moment I decide what food we buy, plan all the meals and ensure they all have what they need (foodwise) and ration out treats, but have an open policy on fruit. "If it's in the fruit bowl you can help yourself" works pretty well. The cat has two meals a day and biscuits at random intervals yet he still miaows whenever I'm anywhere near the kitchen pleading that he is completely starved and will waste away if I don't relent and put food in his bowl.

homemade pizza
Pizza every day = happy Hubbie 
I have toyed with the idea of allowing them to choose for themselves, but I know that given too much choice this is what would happen:

Hubbie would live on pizzas, sausages, apples and sweets.
The Boy would happily survive on a student diet of toast, spaghetti bolognese, apples and sweets.
The cat would work out how to open those cat shaped boxes of biscuits (or train the others to do it for him) and eat nothing else and look like a white Jabba the Hutt in a matter of weeks.

With Hubbie at home my planning is all shot. I don't budget for him eating at home during the week so I'd end up stockpiling my lunchtime leftovers and cooking a new meal for two or giving them to him and being left with nothing to eat. Bread for sandwiches will sit in the bread bin and end up filling the freezer as I try to use it up before it goes green or I'll make the biggest bag of breadcrumbs known to humankind.
enormous cupcakes
Cupcake chaos

The cat will have another pair of hands to feed him and will become even more insistent. I mostly negotiate with him and insist he's not actually hungry just bored and to do something diverting instead and come back at dinner time.

The boy will manipulate the situation and work out that with us both around he has double chance to trick us into giving him treats or to hide his half eaten apples under the sofa or in his car seat.

On the plus side we can all eat lunch together on days when he's not at nursery. Like I said at the beginning, it's not a major issue, but it's a niggle.

Oh and if I could just eat what I wanted without consequences (to my skin, on my thighs, for my wardrobe, etc.) I'd live on chips, strawberries, chocolate, hot buttered toast and tea.

This is why I am strict with everyone. I bake cakes for others that I won't eat and make meals that are big enough to feed again the next day. I always know what is in the fridge, when it needs to be eaten by and how I'm going to use it.

What we need now is a new plan.

It's going to be a challenge !

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I cook, therefore I am

Apparently we're all in love with baking now thanks to the Great British Bake Off. To be honest I think we all watch cooking shows, but very few of us actually do any cooking. I have been inspired by Gordon Ramsey's Ultimate Cookery Course, not to make any of his recipes, but to properly cook from scratch again which I had moved away from doing once my boy was born. The rise of the 'dine in' offer has also scuppered any creativity in preparing meals other than to choose which side dish goes with which main course. So why are we all so fascinated by watching other people cook ?

nigella, nigel slater, gordon ramsey, lorraine pascale, come dine with me, great british bake off, delia smith, heston blumenthal
Food as love
The massive worldwide success of the Come Dine With Me formula suggests that the appeal is not restricted to watching someone prepare food that we can't make. It's about nosing round someone else's kitchen - just ask Hubbie how often I've said "ooh I love that kitchen, I'd like that cooker and island if we had the space."There's also something about seeing how other people cook at home. Let's face it we aren't buying the whole 'I'm at home and this is how I cook for my family' scenario that TV chefs fake for us. It's a well constructed artifice even if it is in their actual home.

Delia was the original and her no nonsense domestic science teacher approach told us how to do the basics which is why her 'how to cook' series is still the go to guide for a lot of amateur cooks. She appeared to be in her own kitchen at home and we all rushed out to get the exact same muffin tray or mixing bowl so that we could cook just like her. Who can forget the famous run on limes when she cooked with one and all the supermarkets were caught off guard.

The polar opposite of Delia was the manic outdoor cooking of Keith Floyd that showed us how to prepare food while drinking wine at the same time - a more realistic depiction of cooking for most of us. If Delia was domestic science then Heston is food technology. He does the actual science bit and the food is pretty secondary to it all. Then we have Jamie who's more home 'eck than anything else. I'm willing to believe that he's at home, but we all know how controversial the whole 'meal in 30 minutes' offering turned out to be. He's far too heavy handed with the olive oil for my liking and when will he give the oven settings in gas marks please ? Also, stop telling us how good it smells eh Jamie ? It's just not on.

I've always given a wide berth to Nigella (no pun intended), but having watched her newest show I can vouch for her being so gorgeous that the cooking is pretty irrelevant. I don't want to watch someone who is so self satisfied with her own cooking that I feel like a voyeur thanks. Nigel Slater is more my thing. His recipes are unfathomable, with a pinch of this and a handful of that, but his soft spoken delivery and clear enjoyment of food are bewitching. I am baffled at the concept of a 'leftover duck breast,' which he cooked this week, but that aside his kitchen garden approach is a winner for me.

This brings me onto the one sticking point I have with TV chefs - eating on camera. I noticed watching Gordon that he doesn't eat his own food. It's refreshing to not have a chef scoff what they've just cooked on screen. If I have to shout 'don't talk with your mouth full !' at Lorraine Pascale again I swear I will get very cross. I realise that part of the Nigella factor is watching her stuff her face, but I don't go to a restaurant to watch the chef eat his own cooking - why would I do that with TV ?

I cook to make people happy. Whether it's a cake for my boys or to thank the neighbours for babysitting. Indian food for Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law when they visit us. Or flapjacks for my friend SJ to stop her having low blood sugar in the afternoons on the way home from work (well that's more a public service really - you don't want to have a crazed hungry woman on your bus home do you ?)

I may not get a TV show out of it, but that's ok… for now.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Yoga Bunny vs Super Nanny

At around lunchtime today I officially fell back in love with yoga. Of course being taught by Howard Napper who is hunky, good looking and super fit does help. The fact he remembered me from the class I used to attend in Notting Hill was a bonus. In case I sound completely facile, I actually do have a practical reason for remembering why I came to yoga in the first place almost 20 years ago.

Howard Napper, British Wheel of yoga,
At least I'm not drooling :o)
My yoga journey has included the obligatory phase of being obsessed with posture and having a great body - which was what we all did in the noughties. I used to attend an Ashtanga class that was so popular that we'd all arrive early and wait outside for the teacher and fight for a space for our over priced sticky mats in the hideous mirrored room of the gym. My first teacher had been a dancer, my second a super fit ashtanga yogi, then there was Eddie the marine. I don't know if he was actually a marine, but he was the polar opposite of what male yoga teachers usually are ie. long limbed, slim and with that vaguely transatlantic accent they affect to sound more cosmopolitan. Eddie was husky, cockney and also caused queues round the corridors of the community gym that he taught at. He was the teacher who told us it's ok not to bind as some of us have short arms and I have used that excuse ever since.

When I was training to teach I started to attend classes with Howard at the Life Centre in Notting Hill. It was during these classes that my style of teaching began to take shape. It was also when I changed my approach from 'doing' yoga to 'being' yoga. I know that sounds hippy and odd, so I'll keep it simple. Instead of trying to get into Lotus position I began to listen to my body and to enjoy the practice of yoga again. After years of being taught and getting injured here was a teacher who advocated listening to your own body and instead of pushing on through pain and injury backing off and doing less. It was revolutionary !!

So, today I rediscovered this approach and after a challenging week with my son I spent a day finding my foundations, going back to basics and remembering why I do yoga at all. I drove home in the sunshine with a smile and a warm feeling in my heart and head. As I pulled up to the drive my son saw me and screeched "Mummy !" in delight.

Half an hour later there was an upturned bowl of pasta on the floor and a smattering of the accompanying tomato sauce and a few vegetables on the left left leg of my favourite yoga pants. Now I don't really have favourite clothes any more. Since I became a Mum it's whatever is clean or hasn't been spit up on, or had food thrown at it. In his current phase of randomly throwing food and shouting  "NO !" it's becoming the norm to feed him in his vest to save on washing products. After this week I may have to do the same.

My boy is going through that phase of challenging behaviour that all toddlers do. I realise that he is testing the boundaries and that this will only be for a while, but this week I had a very difficult time coping with it. I'm working on being more patient, but I hear myself sometimes sounding like I'm whining at him and frankly I don't blame him for not listening. There's only so much 'don't do that, Mummy doesn't like it' that we can both put up with.

Last weekend I made the mistake of watching Supernanny. Before I had a child I thought it was an interesting show with some good ideas. Now I watch an episode with a Mum whose six year old son hits her and is out of control and I'm terrified that it is a premonition of what my boy will turn into. He doesn't take after his father as Hubbie was, by all accounts, a fabulous little boy and no trouble at all (although Mother-in-law may not be an objective witness). I sometimes think he gets it from me, but I wasn't a challenging child as I was too scared of my Mother to ever tell her I didn't like certain foods so I just ate them. As an adult I am a seething mass of anger about all sorts of things, but I'm pretty sure that isn't genetic.

So this week we've been learning to say sorry (both of us) and to be nice to each other. It's a work in progress and one that is tiring us both out. Even Neo was called in to help the boy learn to be gentle and he did very well not running off as the toddler approached him with a brush to smooth his fur with. As with all things, it's small steps.

Today reminded me that I have to take time to do things just for me and to be 'not Mummy' for a while. It's in that time that small miracles can happen. Like standing outside in the sunshine and not thinking 'ooh I should hang out the washing.' Like making a cup of tea and drinking it while it's still hot.

In all the years I've practised yoga, in all the classes where I've tried I've never come close to achieving the Lotus. I think it was Howard who told me that a lotus can grow in the dirtiest, grubbiest water. It is the beautiful flower that we see on the surface in spite of the grottiness underneath and around it. Today while I was doing less and enjoying some 'me time' I looked down at my feet and saw this.

It's almost a lotus, but not quite. I'm happy with that.

Like I say it's all about small steps.

Then the miracles can happen.