Thursday, 30 May 2013

Rebel rebel

Last night me and Hubbie went to a work in progress gig by Mark Thomas called "100 minor acts of dissent." The last time we saw him was at the Tricycle Theatre in North London here he was launching his manifesto shows. There was a very serious policy in terms of holding the Mayor of London to account for failing in his promise to fund rape crisis centres in the city, but the one I recall most was the one to standardise the colours of crisp packets so that Walkers can't just randomly decide that salt and vinegar is green when - as everyone knows - it's blue. The politicians present were all in favour of this.

Belching out the devil cover by Mother Jones
Over the years I've been influenced by Mark Thomas's work as I've boycotted products from certain companies and taken a stance on issues he has highlighted. In terms of ideas I like his approach that asks the audience to participate and get involved. Now, I'm not about to walk the barrier that separates Israel and Palestine, but I am very much on board with his new project.

The idea is that we do small things to show we're not in support of how things are. So when bankers or tax avoiders say they're going to leave the country if they're called to account we offer to drive them to the airport. You can go online and sign up to be a designated driver - seeing as we live only half an hour from Gatwick airport I feel it would be remiss of me not to sign up to do this.

spoof stickers for books One of my favourite ideas is to sticker bomb books in the big bookshops using these specially printed stickers (made to look like the originals). The idea is to do it surreptitiously and to take a photo that is shared to show it's been done.

Another idea I loved was to heckle books by including little pieces of paper that spoil the ending for you in books that aren't worth the effort of reading. I won't tell you too much as he tells it so much better in the show.

Bastard trade badge - sillhouette of rich man stamping on poor childIn the past Thomas has confronted Nestle and Coca Cola for their less than ethical stance on working practices. Now he's gone a step further and taking a policy from the manifesto shows has produced the opposite of the fairtrade logo in the form of the 'bastard trade' logo for firms that are the antithesis of fairness. The idea is you pop these stickers on items and take a pic to add to the others that will form this year long project. Of course it's not all stickers and petty vandalism. It's also about being part of a protest movement, but one that middle-aged people can feel good about.

I managed to interview Mark for my radio show and was delighted to be able to follow up on some of the things he talked about - from taking his teenage son to watch the Fall to regularly being mistaken for Mark Steel (who I'll be interviewing early next week).

make tea not war nostagia badge The main purpose of this post though is to reiterate the message that a lot of small actions can have a big effect. It won't necessarily change the world, but it might just reawaken the rebellious teenage spirit that you thought was long lost with that pair of Dr Martens that are gathering dust because you can't wear them to an office job and be taken seriously.

I'm also a sucker for small badges with slogans on them - what can I tell you ?

To find out more about this go to:

Monday, 27 May 2013

Eat, drink and keep the boy happy: how to enjoy a birthday lunch

blue sky and sunshine
Why is it a bit of sun makes us all go a bit mad ? We've had unrelenting miserable weather for months - with the occasional excitement over snow and days off of course - and now we've had more than two days in a row of sunshine. So today we were in a pub garden with climbing equipment for kids and a giant connect 4 (that we thought was broken, but just had some bits missing which two bigger kids noticed and fixed) where we were having lunch to celebrate my birthday. Only we spent the first 20 minutes hovering between staying inside or sitting outside as it was that typically British scene where it was sunny and bright then there were spots of rain so it looked like it was all over. We decided to risk the outdoors just for a change and were eventually surrounded by people wearing cagouls and waterproofs in a kind of reverse curse where they hope to keep the sun out by dressing for monsoon weather.

I had picked this pub for two reasons. Firstly it was on toptable and enabled me to earn 1,000 points in one meal (kerching !) bringing us ever closer to a dining cheque to spend on a future meal - usually at the end of a month when there is more month than salary. Secondly it promised a garden suitable for children which considering our son is now constantly on the move and always on the verge of a tantrum seemed a good compromise enabling us to all enjoy the afternoon. As it was we have learned that if he has the option to play he won't eat. No matter how hungry he is nor how delicious the food we've chosen for him.

garden toys in an outdoor space with astroturf
As the gastro-pub was in Dulwich (naturally) we also had to contend with the locals and their kids. The twin girls in matching padded gilets - Olive and Laura - whose parents had no interest in supervising or playing with them. The boy wearing the same outfit as his dad who proceeded to throw the counters from the connect 4 set at the other kids and laughed when his friend hit himself in the face with his toy snake while trying to whip the other kids in the face with it. The bigger girls who looked far too old to play with the littler kids, but who certainly didn't deserve to have big plastic counters thrown at them. The crawling infant who my son went up to and asked why she didn't have shoes on. All human life (and some pond life) was here.

It made me realise why I can't live in a place like Dulwich. I was in a shop yesterday in another chi-chi part of London and overheard a mother with her children in Fat Face where they were trying on clothes and the poor staff were trying to keep track of what they were buying as they insisted on keeping the items on complete with security tags. "Livvy you can wear that to Switzerland." and "Sebastian do you want to keep that t-shirt ?" called out the well-heeled mother oblivious to the growing queue behind her or the existence of anyone other than her brood. I just don't have that sense of entitlement.

a ride in kiddie car
I've said before I don't negotiate with toddlers or felines. I do, however, bribe both. I find it's a convenient short cut to prevent the whining and meltdown that will ensue if I hold out over something that frankly isn't worth it. The last few weeks I'm delighted to see that Hubbie has also given in to the baser instinct to buy his way to a pain free shopping trip. My son has proudly shown me his new toy car when they boys get back from doing the weekly shop.

If he ever drives home in this I'll know we've finally lost the plot (and probably all our marbles too).

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Candles, cake and a cup of tea in bed (please)

It's my birthday on Monday and I'm spending all weekend celebrating with meals out, afternoon tea and fun things with my boys. I'm very lucky to have a birthday that falls in the school half term so in the past have had the chance to spend it in fun places or at least not at work as it's a Bank Holiday. I've been to a Metallica gig at the NEC, had afternoon tea at the Grand in Brighton, been scuba diving in Egypt and been to Paris with friends.

baby on wall in Brighton
So, in this lazy birthday post I'm counting down my top five birthdays:

5. The school trip to France where everyone sang happy birthday to me after our first meal and I got a gift of a pencil that Madame Gilmour - the French teacher - bought on the ferry over. 

4. My 30th which was spent on the London Eye (the first of many trips on it - it's fab !!) followed by food and drinks and finishing at the long gone piano bar on Coventry St where Maureen Lipman turned up after a show and we just stared going "is it really her ?" until around 2am and stood in Trafalgar Square at 3am waiting for the night bus home. 

3. Las Vegas with Hubbie. We went on a gondola at the Venetian casino and ate lunch at the Paris casino. The waiter looked us up and down when we ordered a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape as we clearly didn't look like we could afford it. We took a trip to the top of the half size Eiffel Tower and watched the Bellagio fountains for ages and ages. Then we went and looked at them from street level too. Magic !

Slice of cake saying birt on it 2. My 40th birthday party when I was pregnant and the theme was purple. The weather was gorgeous, we sat outside most of the day and I saw lots of friends who I hadn't seen in ages. At one point everyone was sitting outside chatting and eating and I felt so lucky to have so many lovely friends and family around me. 

1. The Champagne Bar at St Pancras Station with Hubbie and son. It was my first birthday after our son was born and we took him to Searcy's restaurant in the newly refurbished St Pancras station. He was his smiley, gorgeous self, won over our waitress and all the other staff and I had a wonderful time with both my special boys in a beautiful location. 

So, in case I'm too busy having fun to remember to blog - here's my favourite version of Happy Birthday by the divine Altered Images. Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend y'all :o)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Rock-a-bye-baby in the puff pocket

baby sleeping under a yellow cellular blanket in a cot At night just before my son goes to sleep we have a ritual he calls 'little baby in the chair' where he lies in my arms like he did when he was a baby. We sit in the chair I used to feed him in (which is the story chair now) and we talk about our day. He starts with "I had a nice time at nursery" - every day, even when he hasn't been to nursery and if there are any 'issues' to discuss we talk about them.

On Monday there was an incident at nursery where he pushed his friend Finlay so I talked to him about this and explained why it isn't nice to hit our friends. It seemed to do the trick as the next day when Hubbie went to pick him up he got an exemplary report on his behaviour. I have also found this bedtime chat helpful in the past when he's been fussy about food at nursery or seemed upset about something.

image of mother and child on rocking chair The bedtime ritual is ever evolving as he grows and the newest addition is where we talk about things that happened when he was a baby. He loves to see photos of his baby self and will ask to watch videos of himself over and over again. This week I told him about when we were in the hospital for the first few days after he was born and he used to fall asleep lying on my chest. He smiled at the thought of falling asleep on Mummy and it was a lovely way to say goodnight to have a cuddle 'like we did when you were a baby.'

Telling him stories about when he was a baby also makes me and Hubbie revisit memories of the early days. In particular Hubbie remembered how on the first night we came home he spent what felt like hours trying to get our newborn baby boy to sleep. He tried everything and was exhausted himself so when he finally succeeded he panicked that something was wrong and woke the baby up to make he sure he was still breathing.

Most new parents have similar experiences of sleep deprived madness - I referred to our boy as 'her' a few times, but was far too tired to correct myself. In my half awake, half asleep stupor just being able to function was a miracle. I perfected the zombie walk of the sleep deprived new parent. You see it in cafes, on public transport and in soft play centres everywhere. We're all just doing what we can to get through the day and night with this person we adore and who we would do anything for, but who doesn't respect our need for sleep or personal space.

image of mother and baby lying next to each other sleeping
So, it's with dismay that I heard earlier this week that according to new research co-sleeping with your baby increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. A lot of parents co-sleep because they want to bond with their baby and it does make breastfeeding on demand easier. When my baby son was next to me I never fully slept anyway as I was so aware that he was there. We didn't put him in the bed, but on top of our duvet in a creation of Hubbie's making he christened the 'puff pocket.' This was a snuggly sleep space just for the baby fashioned into a sort of papoose that meant he was warm, but separate. I can't recall moving at all never mind rolling anywhere near him and spent a lot of time just watching him sleep and listening to him breathe. Now he is in his own room I still go in during the night and check my son is breathing - every night. It is no hardship for me and it reassures me that he is fine.

Fear of sudden infant death is so paramount for already frightened new parents that anything that's identified as a risk factor will cause them to be on high alert. I just wish that advice for new parents was presented in a kinder and more helpful manner. I remember how scary it is being responsible for this tiny person for the first time. If only every other news story didn't make me want to cry or hide my child indoors for the rest of his life.

Monday, 20 May 2013

I'm a Mum slash Blogger slash DJ slash ...

Ben Stiller as Zoolander Do you remember that bit in the movie Zoolander where Derek has just lost the award for Male Model of the year to Hansel ? He looks into a puddle in the street and asks his (really, really, really, really, ridiculously good looking) reflection "who am I ?" then he goes back to his hometown to become a miner.

Well, I had a Zoolander moment today - except for the really, really, really, really, ridiculously good looking part and the being a miner part - I stopped for a moment and asked myself 'Who am I ?" I have to conclude that I'm a bit like Derek in my confusion right now.

First thing this morning I was outraged as I thought someone had tried to pinch my interview with Mark Thomas for my radio show - it was a misunderstanding, but for a little while I was Mrs Angry

When I dropped off my boy at nursery one of the staff was overjoyed that I'd brought her the new Avon book - she is a big fan - so at this point I was the Avon Lady

On the train to work I called my parents to sort our the logistics of the boy and Hubbie visiting them without me later in the week. My Dad got all confused when I said I wasn't going and asked "How will the boy get here on his own ?" I said, "He'll take the bus of course" - this was me as the Joker

As usual I was first into the office and I was firing on all cylinders from the minute I walked in, replying to email, phone calls, popping the kettle on and even found time to visit the venue for tomorrow evening's event. Yep it's  Me the Multi-tasker

I rediscovered an old uni friend on Twitter who said that my being a DJ bestowed coolness on me which I don't think I deserve really. Even so I'm fairly sure I can claim my status as Radio Presenter 

I went to pick up my boy at nursery and as I walked through the gate I heard him being told off - I then had to have the conversation with a staff member who told me that he's been pushing and hitting other children today. I was Mortified Mummy

Hubbie and the boy were not getting along during bathtime and bedtime and there was a lot of shouting going on. I spoke to both of them separately to explain that they needed to be more patient with each other and to make up by being nice and kind from now on. I'm the Peacekeeper

Finally dragged myself to my exercise class for the last of a 6 week course of high impact interval training. At the start I thought I was going to fall asleep, I was so tired, but by the end I was exhilarated and good tired. I think that makes me a Loony in Lycra

multitasking Mummy cartoon So my conclusion at the end of all this self-reflection is about as profound as Derek Zoolander really. I'm a lot of different people in one day. It's just that today I've been a few more than most.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the one that you know me as most of all - Blogger 

No wonder I'm so tired all the time !

Saturday, 18 May 2013

I'll give it 110% Lord Sugar

It's Apprentice season again and in our house this means avoiding Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday night (and sometimes Metro the next day) until we've managed to watch the recorded version we have on the telly box. This year the first episode was on a Tuesday night and I had a residents' meeting AGM to attend, so we recorded it and intended to watch before the next night. Only due to some Sky box mix up and a Hubbie confused by reminders it didn't actually get recorded. Then to make matters worse the chap next to me on the train the next morning had the Metro open on the full page story of the first to be fired - thanks mate ! Instead we accepted that at this stage there are too many of them to try and remember so we caught up on Wednesday instead.

First impressions: 
  • The women are all terribly young and for some reason really false looking with fake hair, eyes and skin - I kid you not. I'm not about putting women down, but they do look like a new range of Bratz dolls.  
  • The men are the usual mix of arrogance, badly fitting suits and Brut. Apart from Myles who is the hottie silver fox who was shown in just a towel to keep the women interested. 
  • All contestants are practised and fluent in the hideous 'business' phrases that have created "Bullshit bingo" and "Suralan" drinking games across the nation. 

Karren Brady making a face while on the Apprentice TV show
Of course the real stars are actually Nick and Karen and Hubbie pointed out that she has stolen my trademark 'unimpressed face' and head shake. In the spirit of taking it back I gave him a few simple chores to do while I was out at a yoga course today. I've measured his success in terms that an Apprentice candidate would understand. Judge for yourself how he did:

Task 1: Buy more cat food. The boy loves going to the pet shop in town and he likes to chat to the parrot so it's a win all round. 
Outcome: Cat food bought and delivered safely home.
Success rate: 100%
Boardroom Explanation: I've got the instincts of a tiger and I'm hungry for this opportunity Lord Sugar. I'm a finisher.
Reaction: Smug smile from contestant - grimace from Lord Sugar and "I don't like a one trick pony, cos he's probably a phony."

Task 2: Buy a birthday card for the boy's uncle and post it to go before last post at lunchtime. 
Outcome: Bought card, put in on table in lounge. 
Success rate: 50%
Boardroom Explanation: "I'm a procurement specialist with a good eye for time management. The boy was in charge of postal logistics and I just can't see what he contributed to this task Lord Sugar."
Reaction: Karen shakes head and Nick rolls eyes to ceiling.

Task 3: Clean the downstairs loo - that only he uses. Including the bit where a magazine got stuck to the windowsill (no I didn't ask how) and he left it there so I wouldn't notice it was stuck fast. 
Outcome: Poured toilet cleaner into the pan… erm that's it
Success Rate: 30%
Boardroom explanation: "I get right into a task and I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, but I'm an ideas man with a head for the bigger picture. I left this to the team and thought they had it covered."
Reaction: Lord Sugar "Those that can't teach, bleach - is that right ?"

So the conclusion here is that if Hubbie was a contestant on the Apprentice he'd be averaging a 60% success rate by now and his piece to camera from the taxi home would go something like this.

Hubbie: "I know I have what it takes to do the chores without being watched over. If I just had a bit more time I could have shown what I'm capable of. I'm not going away though, it's not the last you've heard from me."

Me: I hope not, who's going to bath the boy if you flounce off mate ?

Black London cab in the street at night

Thursday, 16 May 2013

It's Wednesday so it must be date night !

What did we do before the Orange Wednesday offer of 2 for 1 cinema and 2 for 1 pizza at Pizza Express ? We didn't go out on dates that's what.

orange lamps hanging in restaurant viewed through window There was a time before we had our beloved boy when going out for the night wasn't such a mission. We'd play softball together one evening a week during the season, we'd go out for dinner quite often and we used to go to the Clapham Picturehouse for free previews or occasionally we'd pay for a movie.  The only time we ever paid full price for a film was to watch In The Loop and thankfully it was worth every penny.

Now if we want to watch a film together we usually have to wait until it's on DVD or - as we discovered recently - we can pay a small fee to watch it on TV and have our own home comforts while we watch Argo from the sofa in our pyjamas. The gold standard of date night, however, is when we have childcare and can go out to eat and watch a film both on the same night. Tonight was such a night.

We do make the obligatory calls to ask the babysitter (my sister) if our boy is being good. Of course being modern and high tech parents we have a teleconference with our son from Pizza Express direct to his cot and can check if he has toothpaste on his pyjama top or if he's playing up while he's supposed to be drinking his milk. With these duties done and pizza and doughballs wolfed down and paid for it's to the cinema for the main event.

Now I used to go to the cinema every week come rain or shine and watched a new movie each week. In recent years I watch fewer than 3 films a year in the cinema, so when I do they had better be good. The trailers give me the impression that my attendance is hitting the most likely candidates for films I can sit through. Apparently, upcoming delights include; Fast and Furious 6, another new Superman (Kevin Costner is his Earth dad this time, not a Duke of Hazzard), a zombie apocalypse movie starring Brad Pitt and something about a magic trick / grand larceny involving Woody Harrelson, the kid who invented Facebook and Borat's wife. It really didn't inspire me to return to the cinema again any time soon.

The last cinema visit we made was to watch Avengers Assemble which was brilliant. Cracking dialogue, great action sequences and lots of super heroes. I have to say that Star Trek: Into Darkness was no less impressive. It gave me laughs, thrills and a story I could actually follow (no mean feat these days !) We upgraded to the premium seats for a treat and if we'd had any snacks we had two places to store them and extra wide arm rests too !!

Benedict Cumberbatch doing Vulcan greeting to camera In a return to my movie reviewing past after a 22 year hiatus here are the highlights:

  • Chris Pine giving it the full Shatner 
  • Bones played with tongue so far into his cheek it was poking into his ear
  • Spock, Kirk and Uhura having a domestic in a small shuttle while trying to avoid a Klingon attack
  • Scenes on moving vehicles reminiscent of Blade Runner 
  • Costume changes so ridiculous that at one point Bones appears to be wearing his Gran's best dress 
  • Benedict Cabbagepatch in action mode and giving it large with his dulcet tones and dreamy dark hair 

The best moment, though, was when Benedict's character reveals who he really is. In the hush of the cinema a lone voice said - with feeling - "oh Shit !!" it was what we were all thinking and it relieved the tension of the moment, albeit temporarily.

I love date night.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The modern poem for busy children (and their parents)

Monday's child is knackered from a weekend of activities organised by overzealous parents terrified of causing childhood obesity if their offspring spend any waking moment not playing a sport or learning something.

white cat hiding under a stuffed tiger toy Tuesday's child sleeps in late causing chaos in the morning as Mummy tries to get him to nursery and herself to work on time. 

Wednesday's child has chilled out and gotten cocky - by the evening when Mummy leaves for Kettlebells he's run rings round Daddy at bathtime and even causes the cat to run and hide.

Thursday's child spends the day with Daddy or Auntie while Mummy goes to work - it's like a weekend with fun food and day trips.

Friday's child hangs out with Mummy at home - they're both quite tired so they stay in pyjamas until far too late and might eventually get out to the shops, but not always. 

toddler yoga image Saturday's child goes to the park, plays football and goes to the library with Daddy. Mummy spends the day at a yoga course and comes home enthused and hippie-like.

Sunday's child goes swimming first thing - then shopping with Daddy and flirts with Maureen the lovely checkout lady at Sainsburys. After a fun family lunch everyone gets ready for the week ahead and it all starts again.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Learning all the time...

It's always nice to have a Bank Holiday as just that one extra day makes all the difference. Now I'm working again it also means a bonus day in the week that I can spend with my boys. This week we made the most of our long weekend doing lots of lovely things together. The best thing, though, was that I learned a few life lessons and had time to appreciate them. In the spirit of shared learning I thought you'd like to hear them.

A waitrose store front artist's impression I've been pondering the origin of the name Waitrose for a few weeks now. I mean all the other supermarkets are pretty well known, but I've never known where Waitrose came from. Until we were sitting in traffic for three hours on Bank Holiday Monday and I had time to look it up. Apparently the store was first opened in Acton (close to where I grew up) and it was started by Messers Waite, Rose and Taylor. When Mr Taylor parted ways with the others it was named Wait(e)Rose after the remaining partners. Pretty obvious really.
Lesson One: Sometimes things are as simple as you think they are. 

I thought I'd try an experiment with eating as a family this week. On Thursday Hubbie was at home with our boy while I was at work during the day and I suggested that we all have an early dinner in the evening when I got in. Usually Hubbie is home later than the boy can wait to eat, but on Thursday I got back, prepared hot dogs and fries for all of us and we sat to eat together. Usually we only get to eat together at the weekend so this was a bonus family meal. It was pretty successful actually with the boy loving that we were eating with him and he had great fun adding mustard to his hot dog, which he didn't eat, but small steps.
Lesson Two: It's worth trying something new and if it works it might become a regular thing. 

wind turbines in a field
My father-in-law and I rarely agree on anything at all, but this week he surprised me. In discussing the recent local elections he shared his dismay that they had no UKIP candidate locally that he could vote for so he settled on the Green candidate instead. Now I'm all for votes for Greens and think the more the better, but I was highly amused that he'd go from a party that loathes wind farms to one that is all about sustainable energy. An almost complete volte face if you will.
Lesson Three: An old dog might not learn new tricks, but if it's confused it might surprise you with a new trick anyway. 

Then there were the really quick ones:
  • Any and all community meetings are boring - this does not bode well for a future in politics ! 
  • Badly made toast is unforgiveable. 
  • There is no new music - all the fuss about Daft Punk's single Get Lucky is just proof that old school disco music really is foot-tappingly addictive. 
  • Brushing the cat does not mean he won't immediately shed tonnes of white fur when he sits on my jeans. 
And most important of all:
  • Laughing and playing with Hubbie and Son are my favourite pastimes.
Learning is great isn't it ?

Disco image of sparkling rainbow and three sillhouetted women dancing

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Arriba Arriba it's Cinco de Mayo (sort of)

I've heard of Cinco De Mayo, but it's not on the roster of celebrations we mark in our family - and we pretty much do them all if food is involved - but we do love our version of Tex-Mex food.  I say our version because it's made with Quorn instead of chicken or beef (I'm the veggie) and is always popular in our house even though the authenticity and similarity to actual Mexican food is questionable at best.

We were lucky enough to be sent a fab bag of goodies by Discovery to make a meal for Cinco De Mayo. Now in the interests of full disclosure I didn't make this on the 5th of May as I spent that afternoon with lovely friends in a sunny garden eating and drinking. Instead I cooked this meal the following day to have with my lovely boys at home. So we're calling it our Seis De Mayo meal instead.

As we like assembling food ourselves (and anything you eat with your fingers is always tastier isn't it ?) I decided to make fajitas.


ingredients for making a meal - fajita kit, quorn chunks and fresh onions, mushrooms and peppers.Discovery fajita kit: includes wraps, salsa and seasoning mix
Quorn chunks (in place of chicken)
A little oil

To assemble: 

Grated Cheese
Mexican dips incl: guacamole, Salsa, Garlic and herb soured cream
Red Jalapenos


Quorn chunks, peppers and onions cooked in seasoning mixChop the onions, peppers and mushrooms into similar size pieces - we prefer it quite chunky, but you can chop them finely if you like.

Fry the onions in a little oil, add the mushrooms and peppers. Once the ingredients are softer add the Quorn chunks and seasoning and mix well then pop a lid on and turn the heat down to let it all cook in some steam.

I like to let this sit for a while to soak up all the delicious flavours before warming the fajitas.

To assemble: 

Fajitas on a plate with jalapenos Warm fajitas either in a large pan or microwave. Add the quorn mix, some grated cheese and dips. Hubbie and I fold them differently from each other, but they get eaten the same so it doesn't matter really. I also like to add some jalapenos to my plate for and extra bit of spice.

I have used the fajita kit before and like that it has been updated so the box is made of less cardboard. The contents provide the right amount of wraps for our little family - there are 8 of a medium size - and the seasoning mix is good for two lots of mix as I only use half a pack at a time.

For convenience and ease this kit is great and the additional ingredients including dips and jalapenos can be resealed and used again so there is little wasteage. If you don't cook Mexican (ish) food yet do give them a try.

Sombreros are optional :o)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

How you like me now ?

Mother and baby group - NCT image
"No, my NCT group didn't bond at all." It's the truth we don't tell isn't it ? We're supposed to say that they are the backbone of our friendship group. The ones who kept us sane during the baby bit and who we still have coffee with once a week even though Sabrina went back to her job straight away and Melanie and Mike (the nice ones) have twin babies now as well. Well my group didn't get on from the first meeting - we were all perfectly civil of course (we're not animals), but we weren't about to start meeting up for tea and baby chat and that was clear from the off.

I hadn't actually expressed this out loud until last Friday night. I met up with a friend I haven't seen for years - well not since she had the first of her two children - and we were trying to catch up on around 5 years in a few hours. We had a rapid and wide-ranging discussion that encompassed; our kids, our husbands, going back to work (or not), how long was it since we last saw each other ? the family support we have around us and the groups that we take our kids to. It was during this that she asked me if I had bonded with my NCT group and I uttered the words that you're just not supposed to say. Now, I realise that not all parents choose to go to the NCT pre-natal groups. If you do there is this mythology that they will become your best friends throughout the whole birth and after process and you'll be friends for life (well until you go back to work anyway).

illustrated images of family tree
Then it occurred to me that our parents didn't have this option and both my Mother and Mother-in-law have been very honest about how lonely it was raising their first child. Neither of them had family nearby to help and both of them were isolated and caring for a baby without having their own mother around to help or advise. Neither my nor Hubbie's family live nearby so we don't call on them for day to day childcare, but they have been massively helpful with raising our son. My sister still takes care of my boy which enables me to go to work knowing that he is with someone he loves and who loves him. As we are fortunate enough to have families that are pretty internet savvy we use Skype so that they can chat to our son and see him running around playing at home when we can't get to them in person.

We have a great relationship with our neighbours who are very kind to our boy and help us out with childcare so I haven't really felt the absence of that group support that the NCT gathering is renowned for providing. I'm not critical of the NCT, far from it I think it's great and the course we did was invaluable in teaching us so many things we had no idea we didn't know. In fact I still keep in touch with my tutor and have met up with her a few times as well as interviewing her on my radio show. The other parents though, were a different story. I think it comes down to the twin issues of Hubbie's disinterest in 'joining in' and my seeming incompetence at 'fitting in.' Hubbie isn't bothered about making pals with new people so he is friendly, but not trying too hard. Me, on the other hand, I'm trying far too hard. I offer to make tea for everyone, make crappy jokes intended to lighten the atmosphere and talk far too much. It's only when I see people glazing over at another 'interesting' bit of info I just had to share with the group that I realise I've done it again.

What I've always wished for is that effortless cool that I observe in others. Those folk who just ooze confidence and social magnetism and whose entourage hang on their every word. I always desperately wanted to be non-conformist as I knew I wasn't going to be part of the popular crowd. At school this meant making my own clothes (not all of them, just the crazy stuff like a puffball skirt that I'd seen on the Clothes Show), spending ages on decorating my nails and doing my hair differently every day. At university I went a whole other way and found a few groups that I could be part of - the university newspaper, the radio station and my friends who I went to gigs with and dressed the same as. The latter were also the friends I lived with and it was very confusing when the washing consisted of similar goth skirts, black tights and floaty tops only discernible by the different sizes.

image of my tweet from Gedge of the Wedding Present Now that I'm a grown up I have learned to embrace my conformism. I like it actually. I still talk too much and I still share too much. I still think that people who like me must have got it wrong. I slightly mistrust them for not knowing better.

So imagine how amazed I was that one of my Twitter followers is Dave Gedge of the band The Wedding Present. Then last night during a radio show I was presenting I tweeted him to say I was playing one of his songs and he tweeted this:

I'm not sure it makes me cool, but it does make me very happy indeed.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The princess and the pea revisited

body hanging off a clock Being back in work has given me a finer appreciation of the time management issues required when every member of the family has a separate schedule.

Hubbie is first up and has the longest journey to work, as a result he's the most tired of all of us. He leaves for work so early that he has to tiptoe around the kitchen making his packed lunch and having breakfast so as not to wake the boy too early. I get up a bit after him and try to get a few things done before the boy does wake up and starts yelling, "Good morning" from his bed.

On the days he goes to nursery the boy needs to be there at a certain time so that he can have breakfast and has decided this week to wake up at 6.30 (Mon) 8.00 (Tue) and 7.00 (Wed) then this morning because my sister was taking care of him he was up at 6am calling her to come and let him watch Postman Pat on her iPad. Tomorrow I'm at home with him so he's staying in bed until I'm ready for him no matter how early he's awake.

My schedule is looking a bit like the cereal advert where the Mum has already done half a day of sorting out before she gets to work. Don't misunderstand me, the boys are very helpful and pretty self-sufficient in the mornings. It's more the logistics of getting myself ready, the boy ready and to nursery, getting to work and then realising I haven't eaten yet and it's already ten o'clock. I used to get to work early so I could leave early in the afternoon. I'm not a desk hanger and have no qualms about leaving before everyone else, so arriving at work at 9.30 is entirely alien to me. I mean half the day has already gone !!

I'm not working on Fridays which is a blessing as I want to still get to have a day with my boy and it gives me a weekday to do things at home. Tomorrow we are having a new alarm fitted - with pet friendly sensors, so if the cat wanders round he won't set it off. Admittedly his manoeuvres are pretty limited at the best of times, but I don't want to be charged with wasting police time if we call them out to attend a moggy crossing the living room for a stretch and some cat treats rather than a burglar.

Princess and the pea image
We will also be waiting in for the nice chaps from John Lewis to deliver a replacement mattress. I'm looking forward to a proper sleep again after a failed attempt to order a new mattress. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to get a new mattress for our bed and Hubbie pointed out that John Lewis were doing a free collection & recycling offer at the time. We had some vouchers kicking around so I ordered what I thought was a nice looking mattress for us. It arrived all rolled up and despite the kindly assurances of the delivery guys as they took our old - and four times thicker - mattress that it was meant to look like that I suspected something wasn't right. After a week of sleeping badly - and being increasingly bad tempered as a result - I finally checked John Lewis online only to find that the mattress I'd ordered wasn't intended for every day use, but as a guest bed (hence it arrived rolled up - that was my first clue).

Now being responsible types we had arranged for the old mattress to be collected and recycled at the same time as our new one was delivered so it's not even like we could put the old on back on and sleep on that. No, we've been sleeping on what is in effect a camp bed arrangement (albeit a king size one) until JL could arrange another delivery and collection of a proper mattress.

What this has taught me is:

  • Ordering online late at night is not a good idea and simple things can go wrong
  • A good night's sleep is more valuable than pretty much anything else
  • All the planning in the world cannot compete with a toddler's body clock 

So fingers crossed that my boy decides to sleep in (at least a little bit) tomorrow.

Until the new mattress arrives I need all the rest I can get, even if it is on a camp bed !