Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wave Hello and Say Goodbye

If you follow me on facebook or twitter you will already know that I've succumbed to January madness. Having kept my head together during the snow chaos and toddler tantrums it would appear my sanity has finally ducked out the back door while I was otherwise occupied. Yesterday morning I was searching for my keys (which is a daily activity since I started locking the front door at night) and having been to all the usual locations I finally noticed the "clink clink" coming from the spinning drum of the washing machine. I looked at my son, he looked at me and then we both took a deep breath as I stopped the machine mid-cycle to retrieve them.
heart shaped pancakes in pan
Despite this sounding like a desperate cry for help I am glad it's come at the end of January as for some people it's been like that all the way through. Thankfully for all of us we can now look forward to the days being light for longer, the impending half term holiday and the delights of Shrove Tuesday and Valentine's Day. So as it's the last day of January I thought I'd take this opportunity to revisit my resolutions and update you on how they are going so far.

Making time to read - I'm going great guns with this one having already finished more books in January than I did in the whole of last year. Bearing in mind I used to be able to finish a book a week when I was commuting it's been a readjustment to only reading a few pages a day, but at least I am reading again so that's good. Of course it helps that the books I got for Christmas were by the likes of  Danny Baker and Caitlin Moran - I have decided that if I'm struggling to want to read a book then it's just not worth the effort.

Trying a new sporting activity - Until a few weeks ago I thought Kettlebell was the whistling sound coming from mother in-law's kettle when it makes a whistling sound as the water comes to the boil. Then I went to a free trial of kettlercise a few weeks ago. It is good old fashioned hard work using weights and performing a series of exercises to thumping music - I loved it !! Combined with the five week boot camp I'm currently doing I am definitely getting fitter. I spent last Sunday at lunch with the in-laws pulling my jeans up constantly - cursing the quality of tailoring these days. The next day I dug out a smaller pair of jeans and managed to get into them comfortably so it would appear that the hard work is having the desired effect - hurrah !

Go to the cinema once a month - Well if I go tonight I can still get this one in under the wire, but it is pretty unlikely. So let's just say that I have two willing movie buddies now (thank you Sarah and Vicky). Having Sky movies and on demand has meant I've been watching films at home and have caught up with the Harry Potter series having lost track of the plot a few years ago. Of course watching them in the wrong order isn't helping, but finding a 2.5 hour child-free space to watch a movie has been a feat in itself.

Cook a meal from one of my many recipe books - Ok this one I confess is still a work in progress. I've been consulting the books, but haven't actually made anything yet. I did enter a competition with a family favourite recipe (see previous posts), but haven't ventured too far from the usual menu that's scribbled onto a sticky note on the fridge. I have seen some lovely meal ideas in the latest Waitrose magazine so I'll be trying those for Chinese New Year. I will report back on how the crispy tofu pancakes turn out.

open daffodils in garden with a low wall in the background

So, that's how I'm doing so far - not too bad I think.

Well, I guess it's farewell January.

Here's to a fun-packed February !

Monday, 28 January 2013

Man flu vs Mum flu

toddler looking out of the front window - sun is shining There was a bit of winter media madness last week as we saw various 'news' headlines claiming that "man flu is real." Now I know that real flu is pretty awful for anyone, but when we refer to man flu we're not talking about that, what we mean is the man in our life has sniffles or is feeling 'a bit off' and takes to lying on the sofa holding his head and moaning.

Of course if he's genuinely ill I'm sufficiently sympathetic, but only for so long. Hubbie takes great pride in not having taken a sick day off work - like ever - but he is still prone to bouts of the dreaded man flu. When he does it's usually in response to my having been poorly - I should be flattered really the poor mite doesn't like to feel left out.

I caught norovirus a few years ago, you know the proper 24 hr vomiting flu. As I was doubled over in pain I told him it was fine to go to his school reunion as he wasn't really going to be able to do much for me and I would just rest anyway. So he drove down to Hampshire and had a great evening, then I got a call the following morning with the plaintive cry, "I've caught what you've got <cough>" I managed to stop retching long enough to correct him, "No dear, you don't have norovirus - what you have is a hangover."

Of course as parents when we're ill we still have to do everything we normally do. It's never that bad (compared with norovirus that is) and I can't bear to sit around being sick. However, we still have different approaches to being sick:

Man Flu: He starts to dig the car out of the snow, but decides to drive it first, getting it stuck in the aforementioned deep snow

Mum Flu: I push the buggy in deep snow up the hill and take 8 buses to get the boy to nursery and back as the car is snowed in

Man Flu: He gets the shopping and leaves 6 bags of shopping on the kitchen floor for the unpacking fairies to deal with (they do)

Mum Flu: I prepare all the meals, do all the washing etc. as usual - oh and put away all the shopping instead of resting while he 'takes care of it.'

Man Flu: He goes to bed early leaving the front & back door unlocked, all the lights on and yet more items of shopping in the stairs

Mum Flu: I take my son to all his usual activities including baking bears where he keeps running off and takes advantage of my weakened state to flatten me on the floor so that I want to leave him there

Man Flu: He snores so loud it sounds like the churning of gears in a car being driven by an incompetent learner

Mum Flu: I've been awake since 4am (see above) so I'm really not in the best state to do anything all day, but I still get all the swimming kits ready, the car packed for a visit to Grandma and Grandpa and manage to keep my wits about me through lunch even though I'm dead on my feet.

Man Flu: he says, "I'll look after the boy this weekend so you can rest"

Mum flu: I don't say "I'll look after the boy, the cat and take care of the house so you can go to work."
White cat sitting on black leather sofa
Because that's what I always do.

Right, I'm off to bed now. Do you have any earplugs I can borrow please ?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Foodie Friday: The Gastronomic Oscars

Earlier this week I posted a recipe for our favourite family meal (it was for a competition - I won't make a habit of recipe posts). Choosing a favourite family meal in our house is a moveable feast (if you'll excuse the pun). Mostly this is due to my fads and fancies in what I cook. I wracked my brain to narrow it down to one meal, so as it's foodie Friday here are the nominees in full.

Most suited to faddy family members: When our son was weaning I tried a range of treats to tempt him within the recommended suggestions of baby rice, fruit mush and purees until I realised that he spat them out because he preferred indian food with some flavour and texture. Then when he got teeth it was all crunchy foods and he devoured chappatis, breadsticks and the best of all apples just like Daddy. Of course now he's a busy boy it's whatever he can eat quickly so he can get down and resume whatever he is doing so busily in his play room. This is often spaghetti or "spsghetti" or meatballs which he can wolf down fast and not notice I've snuck a load of veg in with (although he does love vegetables).

Masala dosa with a bowl of sambar (lentil dhal) filled with spicy potato
Best dish tried on holiday and made when back at home: A while back I decided to try and make a dish that Hubbie and I love to have when we go to India - masala dosa. It is a pancake made of rice flour with a spicy potato filling accompanied by a lentil soup (sambar)  and some delicious sides of coconut and a dip thing that I'm not sure about. As you can see from the photo the pancake did break up a bit, but it tasted very good and it is one of those dishes that we love to eat, but is a bit too faffy to do that often.

melted mozarella, cherry tomatoes and vegetables on homemade pizza Best supporting cast of five a day vegetables: I've written before about how the children are encouraged to prepare snacks at nursery and my son's first experience of cooking outside the home was pizzas. He ate most of the ingredients and didn't actually eat the finished product, but he does like homemade pizza. I made this only realising too late that it was a bit overloaded with vegetables, but the cherry tomatoes and melted mozzarella were a big hit. Hubbie is always happy to eat pizza and now there is a quorn alternative to pepperoni the world of pizza is even more exciting !

quesadillas made with quorn chilli, sweetcorn, guacamole, soured cream & salsa dips Most colourful and diverse plate of food: We seem to have a fascination with lots of colour and variety on our plates which is why the big favourite meal is veggie quesadillas made with the leftover quorn chilli from tacos earlier in the week and accompanied by guacamole, soured cream dip and salsa. I'm pretty sure that's a few of our five a day right here on this plate isn't it ? Sometimes we also have a lovely side of tilda mexican rice with it for another texture and flavour hit on the plate. It's a fab way to use up leftovers and the 'pocket' style presentation of the quesadillas is very appealing to small fingers while the range of dips and accompaniments makes Hubbie happy as he feels he's involved with his food.

a stack of heart shaped pancakes with sliced strawberries and maple syrup
Naughtiest sweet treat: Of course no meal is complete without a sweet and February is the best month for our family favourite which is pancakes. My heart shaped pan comes into it's own on this day. I make small pancakes served with bowls of fresh fruit, lemon slices and maple syrup to choose for toppings. My son loves his with banana and strawberries and Hubby sneaks in some chocolate spread while I go for traditional sugar and lemon. I know we can have pancakes any day we like, but it's nice to have a designated day set aside for them isn't it ?

blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit and waffles And the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award goes (maybe surprisingly) to our best breakfast which we have when Hubby is on hols and we are all at home - a drum roll please for….

Waffles and fruit ! As you can see it's not a meagre portion of fruit, we go all out on this one. Me and the boy have one waffle piled high with delicious fruits and Hubbie has two (he is a growing lad and needs the vitamins - or so he tells me). This is a firm favourite and I like to think it is healthy and satisfying as well.

So those are our red carpet choices. Until the baking Oscars that is...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Blue Monday has me seeing Red

red sled in the snow with toddler pulling it along So last Friday it snowed and we spent the weekend playing in the snow and borrowed a sled from a kind neighbour so my boy and Hubbie could ride downhill in the powdery stuff. Then it was Monday and our car was so deeply buried (and we live on a steep hill which meant I wasn't going to drive to nursery) that we took two buses to drop my son off then I took two buses back then the same again to pick him up in the afternoon. It wasn't so bad and pushing a buggy uphill in deep snow is pretty hard work for the buttocks, so I feel quite virtuous.

Pretty much everyone else I've spoken to has felt that last Monday was hideous and dreadful and depressing. Then I was reminded that it was officially the "most depressing day of the year," you know the one:
  • the day people give up their NY resolutions - especially the not drinking one ! 
  • the day gyms see a drop off in new members who've paid up front for the year 
  • the day we give up the diet as it's just too difficult and we want to curl up with a cuppa and some biscuits to keep warm
  • the day we realise that being paid early for Christmas wasn't so great now we still have another ten days before the next payday 
I have mentioned Blue Monday in a previous post. It's the day that we supposedly feel that sinking post Christmas dread and fall off the wagon of resolutions rashly made in December. Well if you felt a bit crappy this week or were unexpectedly down in the mouth on Monday that's probably why.

Only it's not really. Blue Monday was a PR creation years ago to sell holidays to people in their January gloom. You know how Christmas adverts start in November and then the commercials to entice you to the sales are on just before Christmas then traditionally on Boxing Day we see beautiful beaches, elegant cruises and glamorous aircrews ? Well this whole 'Blue Monday' myth (complete with the 'scientific study' claim that has no basis in reality) is a deliberate effort to get you to book your holidays. It isn't real people so don't buy into it.

I say let's reclaim it and make Blue Monday famous only for being a song by New Order. Let's make it about something else. So if you've been feeling a bit down this week here are some suggestions of things to shake off the blues:
snowoman with dried flowers for hair and carrot nose and pebble eyes.
  • change your resolutions to doable ones - like I'll bring the wheelie bin inside the same day it gets emptied
  • take up something new - not a life changing thing necessarily, maybe start small eg. different bread  
  • let go of our wishing away last year and embrace this one instead - it's only January, don't be so hard on yourself 
  • put all the festive paraphernalia away - accept that all the leftover Christmas food has to go, yes even the peanuts, pretzels, etc.

Oh and pop on New Order's Blue Monday (the 12") just to remind yourself that it's a song and not a marketing agency's ploy to part you from your holiday fund. 

Here's to a Happy Monday (maracas optional) 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Veggie chilli - versatile, delicious and simple

veggie chilli quesadillas with dips and jalapenos

I make this veggie chilli almost weekly as it's a firm favourite in our house. It's packed with veggies and is all made in one pot so it's really easy to do and you get some of your five a day without much effort at all. This recipe makes enough to feed a hungry family of two adults and one toddler as a filling for tacos one night and in delicious quesadillas with tilda mexican rice another night so you get two meals for the effort of one !

one onion
a slug of vegetable oil
6-8 mushrooms chopped
one pack of quorn mince
tinned kidney beans
small tin sweetcorn
fresh or tinned chopped tomatoes
chopped peppers (optional)
pack of fajita mix herbs

quorn mince, peppers, onion, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes Fry the onions lightly in the oil and add the mushrooms (add peppers now if you are using them) let them cook on a medium heat for a few minutes.  Add the quorn, the fajita mix and tomatoes and give it all a good stir - pop the lid on the pan to let the mixture take on the flavours - remember to keep stirring regularly so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. After about 15 minutes add the sweetcorn and kidney beans then turn the heat low and let it all simmer for as long as you like. I let it cook for about 30 minutes then leave it for a few hours before reheating to eat. This lets all the flavours really take and makes it much richer and tastier.

tilda mexican chilli and bean rice and fajita seasoning mixLike any good chilli this gets better with time so using it a few days later with some delicious rice makes for a great follow up meal. Also, without the dips it's pretty low in fat too.

If I'm feeling adventurous we use the wraps to make enchiladas instead of quesadillas, but small hands love the 'pocket' feel and the crunchiness of the quesadillas so they tend to win out.

Honestly, this is a simple one pot meal that my family love - try it :o)

This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Foodie Friday: Snow day, cooking with kids

It started snowing just as we were getting ready to go out for week two of Baking Bears at the local children's centre. It's a popular activity with a waiting list so I was delighted when I got the call before Christmas telling us we'd finally made it onto the toddler cookery course. It is a shame we're missing it this week, but I don't feel so bad because I do bake with my boy at home. Nothing too taxing, biscuits, cupcakes and occasionally something exciting involving pastry cutters, but he does like to stir things and help with measuring out ingredients. Of course the best bit is the tasting at the end.

ELC toy baking set with mixer, weighing scales, mixing bowl, measuring spoons and rolling pin
Great British Bake off here we come !
In the early days of going to playgroups he was always a big fan of the kitchen activities and would always make a beeline for the 'home corner' so we decided to get him a toy kitchen to play with at home. My kindly cousin had to rehome her daughter's kitchen so we acquired a very pink and purple Disney princess cooker which he loved. He's also recently been given a brilliant toy baking set by my sister which he is fascinated by. The hand mixer is just like Mummy's and you can add batteries to make it work to give an authentic feel to your play baking.

At nursery earlier this week the pre-schoolers prepared their own snacks using safe knives. They often prepare fruit or bagels for afternoon tea and learn how to use kitchen utensils safely. The experience of real food preparation helps children to understand where their meals come from and also helps develop their manual dexterity. I know my son recognises that when the microwave pings it usually means something is cooked, but he also knows that the saucepan on the hob often has hot soup or boiled eggs in it, the rolling pin is used to prepare chapattis and that the oven is where the yummy cakes and biscuits come from.

When I spoke to Mother-in-law earlier she recounted that Mary Berry says instead of giving children playdoh why not give them actual dough so they get a feel for cooking and baking real food ? Of course that would make the playdoh barber shop a bit like Sweeney Todd's, but you get the point. And it's not just the queen of the Great British Bake Off who thinks we should cook with our kids, Cbeebies has a plethora of cooking programmes aimed at little ones. Our snow day viewing has included I Can Cook and on Something Special Justin was making shortbread with his friends. In the past my son has watched Big Cook Little Cook with fascination (much like I watch Come Dine With Me) and the lunchtime song is a favourite in our house.

I'd recommend introducing cooking to young children - and I hope these tips are helpful:
  •  Be prepared for mess - if it bothers you put a lot of newspaper or a sheet on the floor first.
  • Relax if they eat the ingredients - tasting is all part of the learning and a bit of raw pastry isn't going to do any harm 
  • Make a game of the practical activities - washing hands at the start and the implements at the end. If you put a washing up bowl onto a low table covered with lots of tea-towels it gives little ones the chance to have lots of fun.
  • Reward your little chef with first taste - I always make a smaller version of everything so that he has his own ones 

toddler wearing an apron washing up using a grey bowl on a table with tea towels underneath.
My little washing machine
It's with all this in mind that I took my boy for his first session of Baking Bears last week and it would be fair to say he was underwhelmed. I'm not sure if it was because we usually go to the children's centre for stay and play and he wanted to go outside to drive the tiny tikes cars or because he was just too tired, but he was as moody as Gordon Ramsey and as energetic as Jamie Oliver in his attempts to escape the kitchen. The first session was preparing a fruit yoghurt and he enjoyed 'sampling' the fruit (some of which I managed to salvage for the recipe), but his favourite part was definitely the washing up at the end.

He may not be the next Heston, but then I'm no Nigella.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The evening I spent with Jay Rayner: and he didn't even buy dinner !

lined notepaper and pen and pencil At the end of last year I made a promise to myself to make a go of writing - not in a 'this is the year I get my novel finished / published' way more in a 'am I actually any good at this ?' kind of way. I was feeling a bit under-employed what with not being a 'mumpreneur' and thought I needed to be doing something useful. It was in this vein that I asked for a ticket to a Guardian masterclass with Jay Rayner as a present for Christmas. Now if you don't know Jay he writes restaurant reviews for the Guardian and Observer and is on Radio and TV and is the son of the much loved national treasure Claire Rayner.

As the genius and global icon that is Rayner strode into the room the air vibrated with the sound of quivering loins. Ok he told me to say that - yes really he did. Jay actually opened the class with a reference to those who had tweeted saying that they'd been given him for Christmas and how it was a sign of dark humour in the relationship. I slunk down in my chair as I was one of them, but I can also vouch for dark humour in a marriage being no bad thing.

Jay Rayner the Man who ate the world  book cover So to the skill of writing. We all think that because we like to eat out that we could be a restaurant reviewer. This is like saying, because I make dinner most evenings I should be a chef and open a restaurant. As Jay pointed out food reviewing is not about putting bums on seats for restauranteurs, it's about selling newspapers or magazines. For that reason what you know about food or restaurants is of little importance, but being able to write well is vital. Otherwise we're all just (insert name of mindless reality show here) contestants who want to 'be famous' without specifying what for exactly.

We did a writing exercise where we tried to compose the opening lines to a piece of writing. It was deceptively difficult. Maybe that was the glass of wine I slugged back in the break though - Mum's night off and I wasn't driving so why the hell not ? I would recommend a Guardian Masterclass if they do them again. It wasn't expensive, they provided wine and it was at the very fancy Guardian offices near King's Cross. There was some homework before the night, but it proved very helpful as we dissected some articles Jay had written and he explained how they were constructed. He's an engaging speaker and I had no idea how diverse the range of his writing was. I was far too sheepish to stay for drinks afterwards, but I did say thanks as I shuffled off to get my train.

I have been hard on myself for 20 years for not being able to fund a postgraduate course in Broadcast Journalism that I had a place on. I told myself that was the reason I wasn't able to break into my dream career. Jay, however, made a valid point that rather than having a qualification in the process of journalism the main requirement is to know 'stuff' (he was more eloquent than that though). Having subject knowledge and being able to write about is more important than knowing the history and mechanics of writing or the media. Experience will eventually give you this information anyway. This one comment was a bigger kindness than Jay could have known. I now understand that what has stopped me from making a career in journalism isn't a lack of training, it's me.
large sunglasses on sunlounger on a beach in Kerala
So, instead of dismissing my radio show as a 'hobby' or my writing as 'nothing' I'm going to be more positive about what I can do. You know like when people say 'dress for the job you want' or 'act happy to become happy.' So from now on I'll be wearing big dark glasses and a massive fake fur coat and am auditioning for an entourage to follow me around and make me look like 'someone.'

Please form an orderly queue.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A cat, a fish, a Baker and the Bloggess...

The cat has started sleeping on our bed upstairs. He used to do that in the old house and before the boy was born, but in this house he has a few chosen spots to sleep and our bed hasn't been one of them. Until now. I wasn't sure why this was, but thought it might be that the room is warmer than downstairs, or he might just like sleeping where we've been. Then I spotted the him standing on his back legs with his front paws reaching up the chest of drawers at the top of the stairs. He was straining to look at something and then I realised what it was. The goldfish.
goldfish in blue bowl with gravel
Vince the fish has lived with us for almost two weeks now and he seems to have settled in nicely. My son enjoys watching him swim and talks to him in 'fish talk' ie. making a face like a fish and going 'pop' a lot. He loved going out to get a fish tank for him and even picked up some cat food for the other family member so he is doing well in his ability to care for pets. I don't have a glowing record as a fish keeper - having overfed goldfish in the past - so when Hubbie said "there's too much food in there for him," I looked sheepish and felt guilty. I don't want to have the death of another fish on my conscience so I'm being much meaner with the fish flakes than I was before.

Overfeeding is a common theme for me so it's not surprising that this latest lesson coincides with my new year weight loss regime. I am resisting the urge to polish off all the leftover mince pies and had my first session of bootcamp last week so I'm feeling quite virtuous so far. The freezer is now bulging with yummy food that I've stored instead of 'getting rid' of it by eating it. I realise how uninteresting this must be to you so I promise not to bore you with the details of how it's going.

I may, however, make reference to how my resolutions are going. For example I've almost finished reading Danny Baker's autobiography and have already started on the Bloggess's book (which is great by the way). That's the reading resolution sorted. I've signed up to try a session of Kettlebells next week so that's trying a new exercise. Finally, I am delighted to report it looks like I have a movie buddie (thank you Sarah - you are indeed a Champion !), so I may have the going to the cinema one sorted too. Not bad going for the second week into January is it ?

Now if I can keep the cat from attacking the goldfish he might make it to February.

Monday, 7 January 2013

My secret diary… aged 19 1/2

yoga mats, shack in Kerala During my January sorting binge I was going through some under bed boxes and bags. This is why we used to have divans - at least you can't see stuff when it's in drawers under your bed. All I need is a horse called Hercules and the comparison with Steptoe's yard under my bed will be complete. I haven't even started on the paperwork in the spare room - which is the task I keep putting off hence it still needs doing 15 months after we moved into this house.

The reason it takes so long to do any sorting  is that I am:

a) a compulsive hoarder. I mean total rubbish stuff like the place names from weddings we've been to, the ribbons from Christmas crackers and even the crappy gifts you get inside crackers. I see you shaking your head there and before you tut as well, the reason is because I have a lovely advent calendar for both son and Hubbie with pockets so those little silly gifts are just the right size to fill them with.

b) very easily distracted - one minute I'm sorting papers then I'm reading a diary from 24 years ago (more of which later), then I'm wondering what happened to the people I knew and googling them to see what they're doing now. Then I spot that someone has looked at my LinkedIn page from a company I applied to work for and I realise that my profile needs to be updated and so it goes on.

c) obsessive compulsive, so tidying a shelf becomes cleaning it then tightening the screw that holds it together and relocating the whole until to another wall so I can have a bit more space. Then I find the floor underneath needs vacuuming and so it all begins again...

greek urns, sunshine and shadows in Zakynthos
What with all this nonsense and finding an old diary I wasn't destined to get anywhere with the clearout plans so I just settled down to read what my 19-20 year old self had written. Surprisingly I couldn't remember the details despite remembering almost everyone mentioned - apart from Bella, sorry whoever you are I have no clue who you were in my life back then. I do remember being completely infatuated with a particular guy, but not how it panned out. In my head it was terribly tragic and he rejected me for not putting out (I wasn't that sort of girl) whereas actually it sounds like we had a very sweet courtship dance which ultimately came to nowt.

Then there was the chap who was a complete tool and in my memory he takes up no space at all, but he covers a fair few pages in wasted calls and pining. He was also more callous than I realised. When I saw him years later and I was in jogging bottoms and wearing glasses at the petrol station (I know - sexy right ?) I was civil, but didn't smack his stupid face with the petrol hose as I clearly should have done from reading what he did.

It's amazing how much time I devoted to documenting my non-existent love life. I was crippled by my hormonal desires being tempered by my massive guilt as I knew my parents would be apoplectic if I had a boyfriend. I didn't dare do anything beyond be friends with men / boys so I developed some wonderful friendships, foregoing the possibility of it becoming anything more as it would cause friction at home. As a result the pages are filled with pessimism and drama that belie my belated adolescence.

rooftop bar in MarrakechThe best thing about finding that book, though, was that I can see how much I've learned and how far I've come since then. If I'd tidied up and thrown that book out I'd have no idea who I was back then. Instead I am feeling kindly toward that young woman and am optimistic for her as I know she meets and marries a fabulous man, goes on to have a gorgeous little boy and has great friends including some of the wonderful men she met back then.

If I met her now I'd also tell her to calm down, be nicer to herself and to reconsider that final year decision to wear glasses in order to improve her grades. It was a dead loss and the photos aren't flattering.

Now, back to the sorting out...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Well, thank goodness that's all over !

Firstly Happy New Year !! I hope you've had a super Christmas and that your New Year Celebrations were enjoyable. I've been a bit quiet for the last few days as I've been pondering some things that I've learned from this holiday season (to get all american about it). I have also started planning next Christmas and New Year. If you think this is a bit keen you have to understand that I am not really a long term planner, but I'm not leaving it too late for a good reason.

christmas tree with fairy lights and decorations - beads In the past we've alternated visiting parents to make sure no one feels left out. Both my Mum and Hubbie's say they don't mind when we visit so long as they see us, so we decided that this year we would make sure that all the grandparents got to see our son on Christmas Day. We had to be especially organised about it so with a Travelodge booked for me and Hubbie on Christmas Eve the boy stayed with my parents and we collected him in the morning to go to the in-laws. I cried buckets watching the Snowman and the Snowdog and we had a lie in while my parents were treated to a 6am wake up call from the smallest snowman. We came to get him and he fell asleep on my shoulder so all the plans for him to sleep on the long drive to Granny and Grandpa's house were dashed. He was delightfully sociable in all settings though and entertained everyone and made me and Hubbie smile as he said "oooh" while opening all the lovely presents he received. We took him for a Boxing Day walk with Grandma to see the ponies in the New Forest and he was adorable. My son being so gorgeous and friendly made being with the family bearable. 

This is my guilty secret and I am going to share it with you: I don't do well with family gatherings. In my head they seem a good idea and I forsee a fun time for my son and for those we visit as they seem to enjoy spending time with him. What I don't factor in is that I don't really want to be there. Hubbie is the most patient man on the planet and he sees it coming from a mile off. The impatience on the morning before we leave to visit, the increasing stress levels and I am pathalogical by the time we leave the house. He knows it's going to happen so when I say "shall we visit my family this weekend, they haven't seen the boy for a few weeks," he looks at me to see if I'm being serious and then says, "if you like." He knows I don't like and I'm doing it so that my son has a relationship with his wider family. He also bears with my insanity when they come to visit us as I invite all the parents over twice a year. If we didn't host them they would only see each other when a family member gets married.

The highlights of the family visits this year included: 

- My father saying he didn't want the gifts I'd bought him before he'd even opened them. (Me saying I'd return any he didn't like was deemed 'rude' apparently)

- Father-in-law widening the conversation from his usual four topics ("why do people insist on having a dinner table in their kitchen ?", his sister & her husband, his medical ailments and Hubbie's weight) to include the Paralympics - he didn't approve of them. I took a large gulp from my mug of tea and went back to watching the TV. 
- My own mother telling me I'm a horrible person, I always have been and she should have told me years ago. (For the record she has told me many times over the years and I'm clearly stupid as well or I'd have learned by now not to be such a crashing disappointment and all round rubbish person). 

I will explain this personal horror a little further in case you think you misread that. On New Year's Day I called my parents to say "we're on our way" and my Mum launched into a tirade at me because I asked why she had changed the plans we had made for the day. I actually wanted to take my son to watch the New Year parade in London on New Year's Day, but I always visit my parents so I decided that it would be nice for them if they saw him and we'd take him to the parade next year instead. 

I was in tears when my son wandered in to the room where I was talking on the phone and said "Mummy sad." As you can imagine I then didn't want to go any more. I mentioned previously that Hubbie is actually a saint and thanks to him being a calm and patient man we did go. I kept myself to myself and as soon as it was polite to leave we came home again. 

garden foliage christmas holly, berries and fernsSo this is what is going to to happen in December 2013. Me, Hubbie and the boy are going to San Francisco for a Christmas holiday. They boys can go the home of the Giants and I can go skiing at Lake Tahoe. We have friends who live in San Francisco and we've been before so we know we like it there. I'll pop some cards in the post before we leave and tell the family that we won't be doing gifts this year as we're not going to be here. I get to spend the time with the people I love the most and I won't be tempted to make any obligation visits to anyone. 

That's my plan.

p.s. If you're a blogger who's in San Francisco send me some tips over the next year and help me plan my itinerary please.