Sunday, 31 August 2014

National Crisp Sarnie Week goes Bollywood

You know how at the weekend some meals are just a put together thing and you don't want to try too hard ? It's usually before or after a Sunday roast for us so it balances out the massive meal with all the trimmings. We either have a leftovers sandwich for dinner or a simple soup lunch if it's roast for dinner.

This weekend, however, I made an indian meal for all of us with masses of food and as usual there was plenty left over. As we're celebrating National Crisp Sarnie Week (yes it's a real thing) I decided to go for a slightly different take on a sarnie. You see Seabrook crisps kindly sent us some of their delicious crinkly crisps to make a sarnie with and they are based in Bradford. As this city has seen such a lot of asian cuisine over the decades I thought I'd celebrate this with my Bollywood take on the  humble crisp sarnie.

We had a delicious veggie curry made of paneer (soft cheese) and mixed vegetables in the fridge. I made this myself and it's not difficult - give it a go with my paneer vegetable curry recipe. Of course that's a lot of effort for a sandwich, but that's what makes it so special, well that and the addition of delicious and decadent crisps. If you want to make your own here is how:


Paneer vegetable curry

Mini pittas



Seabrook crisps - we used sea salted

So firstly heat up a small portion of the curry and pop the mini pitta(s) in the toaster to warm up. This will also help open up the pittas to make filling them easier. While this is going on slice the cucumber and open the crisps - at this stage you can test some of the crisps to make sure they are suitable. Mine were lovely.

When the pittas are done carefully cut open along one side and fill with as much curry as you like then with plenty of crisps for added crunch - the quantity depends on your taste.  I added a small salad of cucumber and tomato to the side rather than into the pitta so that it wouldn't go soggy. There were also some crisps left (amazingly !) so they made a nice side garnish too.

Ok, it's not a conventional sandwich, but it's my portable version of an indian takeaway. The addition of Seabrook crisps is a modern take on poppadoms and if you like a tasty and filling sarnie this one will definitely fit the bill.

Bollywood music and dancing is optional :)

This recipe is an entry into the National Crisp Sarnie Week competition with Seabrook crisps

Saturday, 30 August 2014

"Don't kiss me Mummy, I'm a big boy"

Tonight I've been sewing labels into my boy's school clothes. I had no idea how distressing the entire operation can be until I started - it made me question whose idea it was to get sew in rather than iron on ones. I blame Hubbie.

The preparation for his start at 'new nursery' has included getting his haircut last week. The lovely Emma came to our house to do it for him and he was ever so proud of his 'big boy' haircut. I also had my hair coloured and cut. There is no way I'm going to be the frumpy mum at the playground drop off.
Not an official photo :) 

Then yesterday we went for his uniform photo with my lovely friend Lucy at the studio where she works. My boy was great at posing with his book bag, cap on, cap off and with Jiggles bear as well as some cheeky 'naughty schoolboy' photos. It's just as well we had them done as he came back today from the park with some impressive scars from a fall when he was out on his scooter. He really does look like 'Just William' now.

In the next few days I'm going to find a convenient space for his clothes and shoes so that he doesn't have to rifle through everything to get ready in the mornings. I also have to write his name on his scooter as we will be walking to school and he can leave it there until I go to pick him up. I have it on good authority that nail varnish is the best way to label a scooter.

So that's my to do list for school. Well, it's not strictly school, it's 'new nursery,' but it is very different from what he was used to before and it's a bit of a change for me too. I'm sure you will have seen many posts about the trauma of sending your child to school for the first time. The tears as you leave them in the playground. The disbelief that they are starting school already. The realisation that they will be fine and it's you that is getting all upset about this. Yes, yes it's stressful and yes, yes, it's all very emotional, but let's be honest it's not like you didn't know it was coming and it's not like you don't have a choice. If you really have an issue with sending your child(ren) to school you can always choose to home educate.

I used to think home educating was for weirdos and hippies, or those pushy parents who believed their children were geniuses who shouldn't mix with boring and stupid average kids. Then I met and talked to parents who home educate and I realised that I may have been a teensy weensy bit prejudiced. I've spoken to some lovely (and very normal) parents who have chosen to home educate and I've even done a radio show about it. What I realised from talking to those who do is that I wouldn't be suited to it at all. Well, I knew that already, but it turns out to be for different reasons than I had originally imagined. You see I thought I didn't know enough to home educate, that I wasn't clever enough, but the reality is that I don't want to spend 24 hours a day with my son. I love him, he is my pride and joy, but if he and I spent all day together every day there would be all out war. I want him to go somewhere else, to mix with other people and to come home and tell me about what he's been doing while we've been apart.

You see me and Hubbie both had very conventional schooling in state schools. It wasn't exactly a bundle of laughs being at a state school and getting picked on for being a bit too smart and later full on bullying which I do not want my son to ever experience. What I do want is for him to have a space that he can be whoever he wants to be in. You see however bad it was at school it was away from my parents and their authority and their expectations of me. I didn't get to school and fold over the top of my skirt to make it shorter, or backcomb my hair or put on make up in the toilets before lessons. I did, however, have an alternative personality from home and it equipped me for what life would be like on the 'outside.' My parents wouldn't have done that. They were very protective and wouldn't have wanted me to go anywhere or to talk to anyone they didn't like or do anything they didn't approve of. Being at school was - for me - an escape. A form of freedom that I could not have had any other way. 

So, when I take my son to school next week I will, of course, feel emotional. I won't, however, feel guilty, because that is his space to be who he wants to be and to find out what he likes and what he is like.

Just bear with me while I cry a bit and look at photos of him as a baby and cry, "where did the time go ?"
There he goes off into the world... 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

It's all getting a bit personal.

I grew up in a family that was very private - my parents didn't like talking to people outside the family about personal matters. To be honest they didn't really like talking to each other much never mind to us so we didn't have much knowledge about them. I never wondered if this was normal - it was for us - and didn't really notice it was odd. However, I've realised as time has passed that this is a very un-indian way of being. Sharing too much and asking personal questions seems to be a cultural trait that just missed my family entirely.

I used to go to a salon in Southall where as soon as anyone walked in the woman would say, "You need to lose weight," or, "You want a facial for your bad skin ?" It was like a really bad comedy sketch. However, it's actually not that unusual as my family in India will often do the same sort of thing and think nothing of it. It was when we visited India when I was 11 that I noticed that social distance just isn't a thing. People openly stare and ask questions like, "why aren't you married ?" (erm... I'm only 11) or "is everyone in your family fat ?" (yes, Auntie we are). It is very disconcerting indeed. What I wasn't prepared for was for that to continue over here. 

Of course living in and around London my whole life - apart from a few years in the Midlands at Uni - I often meet other people of indian heritage. The thing is I'm not wearing a sign that says, 'not equipped to handle indian inquisitiveness,' so they just pile in. It's not their fault, they just don't know.  I'm always amazed that some people will say things that are personal and ask questions that are inappropriate as a matter of course and just to be conversational.

Only the other day I was out with my boy and a woman with 4 kids started telling me about her infertility issues and followed me around adding detail to the story. I hadn't asked, but in response to her questioning my having an only child I'd said it wasn't all that easy and it opened the floodgates.  She concluded by asking me not to tell her family what she'd said - I've never met her family and wouldn't know them if I did. 

Then last week we were out at the shopping centre where there is a ride on fire engine and my son was playing on it with another boy. As the kids were playing the other child's mum started off asking if he's my only child, how old he is and why I don't have more. I was a bit taken aback, but politely said that he was an only child at the moment - I'd learnt from the last time. She asked what my husband does for a job, if I work, where I live and much much more. I felt a bit as though I was being checked out, it was quite disconcerting. 

The exchange I really feel uncomfortable with is the typical "where are you from ?" I hate this from anyone. I've known people for years and never asked where they're from as I consider it rude. I assumed my lovely pal Soraya was at least a bit indian and found out in recent years that she has roots in South Africa and Guyana - I had no idea ! It was only when we walked together for hours training for the Moonwalk earlier this year that I finally found out and after years of friendship that I felt I could even ask.

My lovely friend who I thought was called something exotic like Essjai (I'd only ever heard it not seen it written down) and whose dark hair and olive skin suggested some ethnic heritage turned out to be called Sarah-Jane and have some Irish parentage. I knew her for about ten years before I learned the latter.

You see I don't pry. If someone wants to tell me their life story I'll happily listen, but I don't enquire unless we are already friends. I think it must appear rude when someone asks me how old my son is, what his name is and other stuff and I reply politely, but don't ask the same questions in return. It just isn't in my nature to do it, but I think it must look like I'm not interested. To be honest if we just met I'm not really interested unless it's likely we're going to meet again. 

I'm hideously embarrassed when I'm confronted by people in the street, at the gym, in the shops who have no such qualms about nosying into my life. It makes me feel a bit out of touch as I'm using social media and sharing my life, but when it comes to doing it in person I want to just hide.

Here's a hint, if you meet me and want to ask a personal question, just tweet it to me, ok ?

Monday, 25 August 2014

"All I want is a bus of my own" - my boy

On Friday me and the boy had tickets to go and watch The Tiger Who Came to Tea at the Lyric Theatre in London. As it was so close to Covent Garden I told him that if he was really well behaved I'd let him go to the Transport Museum afterwards.

If you are a fan of My Fair Lady you will know Covent Garden used to be a flower market with Eliza Doolittle singing about her hopes and dreams in the early hours. Now it's a tourist destination of choice with street performers (Eddie Izzard used to play the streets here) and many, many stalls and fancy shops. Walking through there in the early morning you no longer see fresh flowers and street hawkers, but some very nice coffee and cake is on offer for those who partake.

Hmm, patisserie for breakfast 
It's also a place with many memories for me. It's where I told my lovely friend SJ for the first time that I was expecting my boy when we went for a pampering evening at the Sanctuary. It's where I spent a Saturday afternoon wandering round debating whether to spend £70 on the Tin tin jumper that I'd seen Sting wearing in the video for "We'll be together." Shuttup !! It was a nice jumper ok ? And no, I didn't buy it in the end anyway. I used to love going to the Covent Garden General Store which was a genuine treasure trove, selling nothing you needed and lots that you thought you'd find a space for, it's now the site of M&S. My favourite pastime, however was spending days hours rummaging through all the vintage goodies at Flip on Long Acre, in they days before vintage was all the rage and it cost very little for fifties Americana chic.

A dog dress-up shop - for real
Old fashioned sweet stall

Now it's the home of many an ad agency and lots of trendy shops, some of which are stranger than they are useful, but they are all busy. There are little nooks and corners with stalls selling all manner of tourist tat and some random elements too. My boy loved looking at all the wares and in turn asked me to buy him; vintage sweets (no), a trilby (yes it looks very cute, but still a no) and finally a dog outfit (we have a cat, so that's a no).

All of this, however, was just the time filling before we got to the London Transport Museum which is our boy's favourite place in pretty much the whole world, so far. We are friends of the museum so we can go as often as we like and it's free. As it's the school holidays everywhere is a lot busier than usual, but it was nice to take in the sun in the piazza itself and not be surrounded by thronging crowds as that was uncharacteristically quiet.

Shadow dancing
Promenading the Piazza

Of course the museum itself is so much fun with tube trains, buses and this visit we went to story time where we met Constance the bus conductor and the children were all given little coins with which to join in. It was great fun - if a little too real for some of the younger children who were upset by the noisiness of the storytelling, but a lovely activity for the older children who joined in with the singing. Since we last visited a cafe has opened in the museum and they do a packed lunch in a bus shaped box which I will definitely get for my boy next time we go. Knowing how much he loves it there, I have a feeling it won't be too far in the future.

An old train carriage 
Organising station names 

Coming home we were very tired indeed, but not too tired to take the secret woodland passage that leads home. Our outdoor adventures were both urban and rural this week and lots of fun.

Woodland walk home

This post is part of the #countrykids linky with the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill.

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

How to stay married and (mostly) sane

It's the August Bank Holiday weekend and me and Hubbie are spending some 'quality time' together while our boy has a mini holiday with Grandma. We did it for the first time last year and despite it being really weird to not have our boy with us we did get used to it - eventually - and had a fab time. So much so that we've decided to do it again this year.

Hubbie pointed out the other day that we've been together ten years and it occurred to me that we must be doing something right. You see we're both on our second (and hopefully forever) marriage. We made some mistakes in our respective first marriages and we hope we've learned enough to not repeat them. We're by no means experts, nor are we saddoes who buy each other teddy bears declaring our mutual love all the time - when a friend suggested recently that we are quite lovey dovey I tried to work out where she had got that impression from and I still have no idea.

What I can do is tell you what I've found helps to keep marital harmony - or at least some semblance of sanity in an otherwise chaotic toddler management programme that we both seem to be entrapped within. I can't promise that these will work for everyone, but here are the main ones I can share:

Don't point out that the gaps (that are still growing) in the kitchen floor are a result of his shoddy work in plumbing in the washing machine. This caused flooding under the laminate boards and they've separated while drying out - and yes, I do realise the irony of mentioning this online. 

I've realised that it's not a good idea to try and hang anything from pictures to coats on hooks that Hubbie has put up. We know that DIY isn't his thing and it takes many attempts to put up hooks, etc and leaves the walls looking like an inefficient and short-sighted sniper has had a go at them.

Don't mention weight gain. This works both ways, of course, but especially as Hubbie's parents like to point out how big he is every time they see him (he's not). They know better than to say anything to me besides, 'have you lost weight ?' He does the classic, " you always look lovely to me," line, but is also honest if I ask him if a dress suits me or not. Honest in a way that won't get a vase thrown at his head, though, not in a, "did you wear that when you were pregnant ?" way.

When we were on holiday Hubbie set the TV in the gym to Radio 4 so I could listen to the Archers while I was on the surfboard thing that he told me about. This was while he took our boy off for a play so that I could have some 'me time.'

When we met I earned more than him and it never bothered him - it might not seem much, but some men don't take too well to that sort of thing. Now I don't earn anything and he's fine with that too - I'm not, but that's another story for another day.

I love dim sum, but Hubbie doesn't do 'communal food' that everyone dips into from the table. If I want to have dim sum I go out with my friends, but sometimes I will buy it from the big Chinese supermarket and make it at home so that he can enjoy dim sum without having to dip in with other people. Same applies to indian food like bhajis.

Shared interests: we present a radio show together - ok not everyone will do this, but Hubbie prepares the songs and does the pre-production and I do the on air production stuff like the desk and mics. We joke that it's the only time we talk to each other, but it genuinely is something we love to do together.

Having separate interests: I have no interest in sport whatsoever. I may have mentioned this before - many times. However, Hubbie takes the boy to football every week during the season and I do things that I like. I might go to a matinee or an exhibition or just go for a nice meal / afternoon tea with a friend.

When we were first dating we went out for dinner one evening and I wanted to order gnocchi, but they had run out. A few days later when I was at his place for dinner he made me gnocchi because he wanted to make me happy. I know, I know it's sappy, shut up it made me happy ok ?

Lastly - and this is either pathetic or romantic depending on what your take is. When we have a bowl of sharing food like prawn crackers or nacho chips or pretzels I eat all the broken ones so that he doesn't have to. I honestly think Hubbie has no idea that I do this. It's daft isn't it ? We both love to eat chocolate, but I don't do pralines so he eats all the ones I don't from a selection box.

Maybe my mantra for a successful marriage should be:

"Share the love, the music and the laughter, but eat the crumbs when he's not looking and he'll always make sure that nuts don't ruin your day."

Have a super bank holiday weekend :)

And matching glasses - natch :)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's only Wednesday...

... and already this week:

  • To save on cooking I bought the bargainous Asda 'vegetable' jalfrezi only to find it contains almost entirely cauliflower - which Hubbie hates. So much for saving time then. 

  • Since we re-organised the sofas in the front room, the cat is able to take up the whole of one of them on his own. As there have been fewer sunny days this week it's been a bit of a bun fight for space on the sofas. 

A sunny spell outside for Neo
  • The DVD player packed up so I swapped out a non-working DVD player and wired up a working DVD player into the TV without instructions and it works - go me !! 

  • My boy took off his armbands in the big pool and stood up on his own in the water. He also learned how to play tennis. He's still not even 4 yet !! 

  • I realised that when I listen to the radio it makes me very sad and very upset - and I'm not talking about the Archers, so I'm spending less time with the radio on these days.

  • We've been very late to the party with Despicable Me, but frankly it is worth it for me just for this clip alone: 

You know what ? It's only Wednesday, but I'm done in. Me and Hubbie have a fabulous weekend planned and I'm calling time on this week already thanks. 

I've decided to let it go:

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Modern life is rubbish (and other outdated musical references)

Modern culture dictates that we should try everything from the countdown telling us what we have to do before we're 30 to having a 'bucket list' to achieve before we die. For goodness sake there are even dictats telling us what we have to do with our kids before they're 4 or 7 or 12. As if parenting wasn't fraught and judgey enough already now there are KPIs checking how fun I am too ?

So, I plan and organise and take time to ensure that my child has wonderful experiences and doesn't miss out on the 'must-do' things in life. If I can get past my pathological aversion to camping we may yet make a go of family festivals. What I'm saying is that I am doing all I can to make sure my son is not left out of the conversation at the nursery water cooler.

I remember Mum once said that she had to start watching TV because she had nothing in common with her work colleagues. She would come home from work and make dinner and get ready for the next day and get us all sorted out for school, work, etc and this left no time for popular culture. To combat her inability to follow the chat about Eastenders she took to having it on in the background while she made dinner. This didn't last long as she had genuinely no interest in people shouting at each other as entertainment.

Much like my mother there are things that I just do not get. Conversations I just can't join in with. It isn't something I mind - I mean I have plenty to say about enough else. I don't mean things I choose not to do, like watch reality shows... any more. I mean the stuff that has entirely passed me by. The stuff that I genuinely don't know anything about and my life trundles on anyway. The look of horror on the face of someone when I tell them I haven't watched Breaking Bad is something I can live with.

I think a musical interlude is appropriate at this point: I'm with Wendy James - of Transvision Vamp - on this one - "Baby I don't care":

Here is my - by no means comprehensive - list of the things I just don't get the appeal of:

Scandinavian crime series: I'm a traditionalist, I like my crime drama wise-cracking and American (although I'm now a fan of Death in Paradise) and sensible knitwear aside I just don't see the appeal. I'm shallow, I need a hunky Steve McGarrett or a twinkly Richard Castle or better still Idris Elba (cop or bad guy I'm not fussy) for a show to catch my attention.

Breaking Bad: I watched one episode and didn't feel the need to watch any more. I'm sure you're all right and it's amazing and will change my life, but it actually took me almost 5 years to get through all 5 series of the Wire and I loved that show. How long do you think I have to devote to 7 series of a show I'm not that interested in ? I've got House of Cards and Orange is the New Black to get through still and I've just downloaded all of Community - it's all just too stressful.

Beards: Yes you with the beard you could lose a badger in, wearing a comedically oversized baseball cap channeling the southern trucker look. Oh and the ironic tattoos - just why ? Bear in mind I come from a Sikh family so I've grown up around men with beards, but they weren't for fashion purposes and seemed a bit too high maintenance for my taste. My Dad used a gluey substance called 'fixo' to tame and then (with the aid of what was essentially a hairnet) 'set' his. This made his beard hard and scratchy and it had the feel of plastic. I'm told when he came back from India and decided to go 'natural' with a long fluffy beard I didn't recognise him and he bribed me to call him Dad again by giving me fresh mango. Give me a break I was only a year old ! 

Fifty shades of grey: a story about a young woman in an sado-masochistic sexual relationship with a man. Yes ? So what ? Even my mother in law has read it - I don't want to know any more than that. If the manufacturers of paddles and handcuffs have benefited and the ticket sales for the Erotica show have sold out even quicker than usual then I'm happy for them. No really I am. Otherwise all we've learned is that people like to read about sex where the woman is dominated by the man - erm... not sure I'm impressed by that or think it's ground breaking. If it's unleashed the hidden sexual desires of Marjorie and Malcolm down the road then woo-hoo ! Oh, and please don't share. 

Cocktails served in Jam jars: are you a mixologist or a frustrated WI member ? Seriously, bring me a proper glass weirdo. I'm all for recycling and always wash jars and reuse them for all sorts of things. At the moment we have a jar each for our 'using our voices nicely jelly bean challenge' - no don't ask me please. What I don't do is think, hmm what this mixed drink needs is an identity challenging receptacle, oh yes that marmalade jar will be just perfect. If you need a gimmick, then maybe your drinks need some work.

spot the extraneous design element here 

Teeny tiny chocolate boxes: why do teeny tiny boxes of celebrations have a resealable tab ? Who is saving the chocolates in a box that small ? Honestly, if the box only has 4-5 chocolates in it is anyone really saying, no, no, I'm full, really I'll have the rest later. I am pretty sure this is a pocket size one use only serving, so creating the tab is one manufacturing process too far. Just give it up as a bad job. 

And here are the ones that had passed me by, but I've tried now:

Loom bands: yes I can loom - no I'm not addicted. It was scooby doos when I was at school (and a weird and pyro-friendly shrinking crisp packets under the grill craze), now it's loom bands. I'm pretty nifty with old school crafts, you know knitting, crochet and that malarkey, but I am baffled by the appeal of loom bands. I mean they are a bit linear aren't they ? I still don't get how (or indeed why) anyone was able to make a dress out of loom bands. They're a nice distraction and yes my son can do them, but it's a bit sedentary for him. He does it for about ten minutes then just wanders off bored by the process. He's no crafter my lad. 

Frozen: nice songs and lovely animation. My boy was singing "Let it go" long before we'd seen the movie - that's how much this movie has become part of children's lives. Yes I have seen it and enjoyed it, but I am also over it. After all it's the usual insanely skinny women with big eyes singing lovely songs and emoting, there isn't even a proper talking animal in this one ! The day Disney go full Bollywood with a cast of thousands, voluptuous women and maybe some diversity in casting I'll sit up and take notice. For now though I've let it go - see what I did there ?

I think Vix, Magz, Jo and Tina - aka 'We've got a fuzzbox and we're gonna use it' - put it best: "There must be more to life, there must be more, than this..."

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Do you know what we've done this Summer ?

This is the first year we've had summer holidays with our boy. Of course we do things with him all year round, but this is the first time we've had a few weeks to fill with activities. He has been going to a nursery that runs all year round, but as he's going to be in school this September we decided to give him a break first to help with the big transition. So now we have first hand knowledge of how challenging it is to fill the weeks of summer when you have a child to entertain. We've planned meticulously to ensure that our boy has enough to keep him busy and the weather has mostly been lovely so we've been able to go out and do some fun things.

My boy rode a Sumatran Tiger (just call him Pi)
We love outdoor activities and as he finished before the official summer holidays we were able to do go on a London Safari before the schools broke up and everywhere became super busy. We also aim to familiarise ourselves with where we live and to try new things as a family so we discovered new places in South Norwood  including a country park that we didn't know about. One lovely sunny afternoon we travelled to Biggin Hill and visited Foal Farm animal sanctuary where we met the rabbit that I sponsor. We also made friends with the other animals that live there including cats, horses and goats.

Keeping things local we are fortunate to have so many activities in our area and one that I only discovered this holiday is Whitgift Weenies. This is club that is free to join and they run free activity mornings for children in the middle of the Whitgift shopping centre in Croydon. The ones we've been to so far have included a loom band workshop and the most amazing children's performers and free face painting for everyone. The best was the chap who made balloon animals and entertained the children then at the end climbed inside the biggest balloon we've ever seen !! He did make all of the children promise not to try it at home, but I admit mine did look like he was considering it *grimace*

My boy shoots hoops
Of course not everything can be free and our favourite local activity is a sports activity for pre-schoolers called Totstars. They have been running Totstars Summer Camp with different sports every day, crafts, quiet time and fresh fruit. My boy comes home after 3 hours exhausted and having had a lot of fun with friends. I also get to do a few things while he is busy - like finish a cup of tea or hang up washing in the sunshine that then gets soaked when it pours with rain - humpf.

Talking of freak weather we have had to make some alternative plans for those inevitable indoor days and one of the best is the Gorringe Park Pub cinema in Tooting. All summer they show free films for children during the day and for grown-ups at night. It's an ideal activity for rainy days in the purpose built cinema downstairs complete with popcorn, cinema seats and massive bean bags or for sunny days in the pub garden with outdoor games too. We've only recently discovered this gem and will be going a lot more often I can tell you !

Setting up the 'pins'
Testing the 'bowling ball'

We like to spend time at home too and I keep cardboard egg boxes, toilet roll inners and all manner of materials for model making or making impromptu instruments - you should see our tissue box guitar collection. The materials pile gets bigger by the day so I was delighted when my boy helped himself to some things and went off quietly to the back room. A few minutes later he called me in to play a game with him and this was what he had created - we call it ten (toilet roll) pin bowling. He uses a lightweight small football as the bowling ball so it's very safe to play indoors, thankfully. I'm so pleased he used his initiative and made a game to amuse himself •proud face*

One of my interests - other than parenting, teaching yoga and blogging of course - is radio and I've produces and presented few about fun things to do in the holidays. My show is aimed at families with children and offers ideas for how to spend time together from days out to unusual activities. You can listen to my latest shows by clicking on the links in the margin just to the right of this blog post. If you can spare an hour make a cup of tea and have a listen. Of course you can pop it on while you do something else, it is radio after all :)

To help get you started here are the links to my guide to all you need to know about family festivals  and the show I did about Open Farm Sunday . Then there's this show based on some lovely ideas from Alison at Not another mummy blog - 50 things to do with a toddler in London . We have tried a few of them, but by no means all, so there are plenty left for us to work our way through.

We grew tomatoes 

At the start of the summer I was walking through Surrey Street Market in Croydon on my way to present my show and I saw a stall selling plants. They had small tomato plants for 50p each and I thought we'd have a go at growing tomatoes. We chose 4 different varieties including two that produce yellow or 'golden' tomatoes. I had hoped that these would inspire my son to eat tomatoes as he insists he doesn't like them, but I'm hoping he will try them if he picks them from the plant himself. So with the alternating wet and sunny weather they have flourished and look absolutely amazing now. I can't believe that I've grown them from such humble beginnings. The real test will be if he actually eats them when they are ready.

Of course it's never a challenge to ask a toddler to eat a biscuit - especially when it's got a big smiley face on it. He'd never tried BN biscuits before so when we got two packs to try he kept asking when he could have one. I told him we'd all have them as a family, not least as I wanted to try them before he got his paws on them and ate the lot ! We tried the chocolate and raspberry flavours and they are delicious and not too sweet - ideal with a cup of tea (for me) or as a treat (for my boy).

A happy alternative to indian sweets :)

Last weekend was an indian celebration that we call Rakri in my family where sisters tie a coloured band to their brother's wrist and exchange sweets and gifts. My boy doesn't have a sister, but he does have a lovely cousin who always sends him a rakri even though she now lives in Canada. As a special treat this year we decided he could have a 'smiley biscuit' instead of indian sweets and his smile was a mirror image of the one on his BN biscuit.

We're having so much fun this Summer - we've even had a chance to sit in the garden and relax.

 Chilling out in the sunshine

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more at 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain.

The sad news about Robin Williams' death on Monday was accompanied by talk about his 'battle with severe depression.' I didn't know him so I can't possibly know how it felt for him or how he dealt with his depression, but I'm sad for his family and for those who did know him.

It does seem that his untimely death has opened up the public conversation about depression and how to live with it. I don't say 'cope with it' as I'm not sure I, or anyone else, does, but I know that I live with it. Depression is a constant in my life and one that has taken most of my life to learn to live with. As part of the general conversation about what being depressed can be like here is my take on it. Please accept this with the proviso that we all have different ways of feeling and managing and at times 'not coping.' These are the things that help me, they may work for you, they may not. I offer them here in the spirit of openness and honesty.

Fake it to make it: 
I smile, I make nice, I meet friends, I post happy photos on Facebook and make jokes on Twitter. It's not that I'm lying about how I feel, but sometimes you just don't need sympathy or empathy or platitudes. You just want to act like it's all ok. Also, when you're around a small child all day there are few opportunities for self -reflection or being morose, so there is a kind of enforced jollity that you find yourself employing. There can be few things more heartbreaking than a toddler asking "why are you so sad Mummy ?" and not having an answer.

Keep on moving: 
I have to exercise every day. If I don't I get agitated as all the anxiety courses around my body and my ability to deal with every day life becomes fraught. The irony is - of course - that with depression can come almost crippling exhaustion so I am constantly forcing myself to go to the swimming pool or to put on trainers to go for a run or a walk. I would much rather lie down on the sofa and try and sleep, but I know that exercise acts as a dopamine hit and for a moment it feels ok. It may not last, but to not exercise is just not an option for me.

Eat well, Sleep well:
I find that I either over or under eat when I am depressed. It isn't an exact science so I can't possibly say what will help me. Some days I want to eat lots of bread others I want chocolate and some days I don't eat for hours and I'm not hungry. I know that I should eat regularly or I feel horrid and that I must drink lots of water to feel well. Instead I often spend an entire day carrying round a full bottle of unopened water and lots of fruit. Then there is the sleep issue. I can be flat out dead on my feet tired and still not sleep. Or I'll get up at an unearthly hour, feed the cat, the goldfish and then go back to bed and fall asleep again for another few hours unaware of the time. There is no 'normal' for me and I'm sure that is not unusual.

Make space: 
Just as I try and keep company and be sociable I know that sometimes I need space. This means asking for help and I don't do that very well. Whether it is asking Hubbie to take the boy out so I can have some quiet time or asking family if they can have him overnight I am only just becoming able to do this. At it's worst a few weeks ago I wanted to take myself away and out of all of it. There are times when a bit of room and nothing to do just makes it all feel different. Not necessarily better, but different and that is ok.

Know who to tell: 
There are people who can hear you be honest and those who just can't. I know who these people are. Last week I spoke for a long time to a friend who I've known for almost 25 years (yes J, it's been that long !) about how it all felt. I spent a lot of the call in tears. In the time we've been friends we've been through and talked about our: 4 marriages, 2 divorces, many miscarriages, post-natal depression, love affairs and indiscretions.

Between us we now have 4 healthy, happy children and we are totally honest with each other - to the point of being beyond embarrassment when asked anything. If I ask J to be honest with me she will be. I do the same for her. It's not easy and it means there are periods of time when we just don't talk for a while as there is a lot to process and we know the conversation will be raw and the questions will be unavoidable. Just having even one person who will not judge when you tell them about the awfulness that is you makes a world of difference.

Knowing who not to tell:
Either because they will judge, or offer unwanted advice or just not listen. I shared a house at uni with 'friends' who sat me down for a chat/intervention and one of them harangued me to tell them "what is wrong with you ?" This neither inspired me to share, nor made me feel it was safe to with such a cold and unfeeling audience. Sometimes you want to spare other people's feelings and not worry them that you can't cope. Most days are functional and fine - some are difficult and require effort. Telling some people that you feel depressed might lead them to picture a neglected infant and to over-react. No-one wants that.

It's not going anywhere: 
Trying to pretend it will all go away and not be there any more is at best a wild dream and at worst a delusion. There is nothing wrong with being depressed. It's not who you are, it's how you are feeling. I've been feeling this for nigh on 33 years and there are times when I believe that it's just part of who I am. It isn't. I can't magically make it go away, but I can do my best to manage how I live through it. It is, however, persistent and always just there waiting to make itself known. Accepting that this is real and owning it is not giving in, it is ensuring that I am able to live with it.

Feelings are ok: 
I spend an inordinate amount of time telling myself not to be angry, or upset or to 'try and be normal' - whatever that is.  Don't punish yourself for having feelings. There are times when it seems like I feel too much, or I feel everything and am not able to disassociate from what is outside my head. Hearing the news at the moment is very difficult for me as I feel angry, sad, upset, powerless and this becomes overwhelming. I'm not alone in that, but if the feelings make you want to harm yourself or others then it's time to tell someone how you feel. That's not easy, I'm not saying it is, but you have to try.

Always look on the bright side:
Ok, this one is partly tongue in cheek. I succumb to such black clouds of depression that I really can't see anything else. While on holiday the boy was having a wonderful time and watching him I appreciated how lucky we are to have him and that he is active, healthy and cheerful. I wasn't always feeling things or wanting to be involved, but I did them anyway. Maybe somewhere along the line in the future I'll have a memory that might feel positive and happy, even if I wasn't happy while it was happening. I might feel it in hindsight because the depressive moods don't remain so photos and mementoes are really valuable reminders of what happened rather than what I was feeling.

I hope that something here might help someone else. I'm not an expert, I'm just another person living with depression and willing to talk about it. 

If you would like professional support here are some links you might find useful:


I wish you the best of luck.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Conversations with my toddler

I don't get to talk to adults that often. When I do I have to adapt to conversation that isn't scattered with non-sequiturs or interrupted for song breaks. Having said that my son provides me with some eminently quotable moments. Here is a random sample of some of his latest conversational gems.

Butter wouldn't melt: 

Nearly 4 year old: Mummy can we go and see your friend and the two mans ?
Me: Who do you mean darling ? 
N4YO: The ones we saw yesterday.
Me: Oh you mean Aunty SJ, her husband and her cousin ?
N4YO: Yes. 
Me: What will you do if you go there ? 
N4YO: I can have cake and a cup of milk.
Me: Really ? Not watch the massive TV screen they have ? 
N4YO: erm... No. 

Comedy genius:

My brother: Does he get on better with Neo now ?
Me: Yes, they're the best of friends aren't you ?
N4YO: Yes
Me: What do you do when Neo says miaow ?
N4YO: I give him biscuits.
MB: No wonder you're such good friends. What happens if you say miaow ?
N4YO: Neo gives me biscuits

Social commentator: 

Hubbie: Oh look the Esso garage is closed
Me: I wonder if it's being closed down or refurbished
N4YO: (from the back of the car) I think it's being refurbished
Me: Really ?
Hubbie: I think it's being refurbished too
N4YO: Stop copying me Daddy !

A born negotiator:

N4YO: Mummy, can I have a snack please ?
Me: Yes of course honey. What would you like to eat, fruit or a hot cross bun ?
N4YO: Can I have sweeties ?
Me: Was that one of the choices I gave you ?
N4YO: No
Me: What do you think then ?
N4YO: Can I have sweeties later if I'm a good boy ?
Me: We'll see (mumspeak for no)
N4YO: Can I have sweeties today and be a good boy tomorrow ?
Me: No.

The apple of everyone's eye:

Me: You know that Nanny and Grandma are coming to see us tomorrow don't you ?
N4YO: Yes
Me: Do you know why ?
N4YO: Because they love me ?
Me: Obviously

Two days later

Me: You know you're going to see Nanny for the weekend don't you ?
N4YO: Will Dash and Masi be there ?
Me: Yes they will.
N4YO: Because they love me. Obviously.

When you talk to a toddler as much as I do it's nice when sometimes it's worth sharing with grown ups :)
Testing, testing, is this thing on ? 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Beautiful creatures, body art and Bill Oddie - not your usual Monday morning :)

On Monday we were up and out early to get into London for a very special trip. I took my boy to the launch of the DVD and blu-ray of Rio 2 which was being held at London Zoo. We got an early train then took the scenic C2 bus which gave us some stunning views of London from the top deck. As we were walking to the event I thought I saw Bill Oddie driving past us and sure enough when we arrived he was there ! A real life Goodie in the same room as me !

Being painted
Breakfast and Bird tattoo 

We arrived in time for some lovely breakfast and as it wasn't too busy my boy had a tattoo painted onto his arm which he was very proud of. It was such a beautiful sunny morning we sat outside to enjoy some juice, fresh fruit and he even had a sneaky doughnut. There is a special Rio dozen from Krisy Kreme at the moment and they are colourful and (from what I can tell) very delicious !!

Body percussion with Barbatuques

Before the movie we had a chance to meet the Barbatuques who are a musical troupe that perform using their bodies to make music. The musical percussion making Brazillian rhythms is incredible and they even did a little audience participation that the children (and adults) enjoyed. Just before the movie started they also performed Beautiful Creatures the song that is featured in the movie. My boy was too shy to meet them, but they were very friendly and did a mini performance for him which he secretly really enjoyed - he has been playing 'body percussion' ever since :)

The movie itself features Jewel and Blu returning to the Amazon with their young family and is beautifully animated with great music and some endearing characters. We met Nico and Pedro and my boy had Pedro drawn on his arm.

Hola Pedro :)

He has watched the DVD a few times since Monday and I'm sure it will become one of his favourites. To give you some idea of how much fun it all was and to witness the amazing Barbatuques performing you can watch this short video all about the launch event.

Disclosure: We were kindly invited to attend the DVD Blu-Ray release of Rio 2 courtesy of Mumsnet in order to write an honest review. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year :)

As we start August the countdown to the start of the football season begins in this house and for Hubbie that means looking at the logistics of getting to away games and for me it's the pure joy of having Saturdays to myself again :)

I love my boys - of course - but I do enjoy having Saturday afternoons to do with as I please. The time is spent alternating between doing the chores and meeting with friends for lunch or matinees at the theatre. Both options are relaxing for me believe it or not.

Stay and play Crystal Palace stylee 
So we've been in the warm up period for his blissful season as there have been friendlies to go to and the boys get back into their regular routines. This weekend they went to Diddy Dinos which is a stay and play at Crystal Palace Park that my boy loves to go to. He often has a football activity there, then plays on the toys and if he's not too tired he goes to the park to play on the rides there.

Nacho Libre
Police speed camera ?

I mean who can blame him loving it there with all the dressing up clothes, role play toys and outdoor space to play in ? On this visit he was at turns a policeman, Nacho Libre and a shopkeeper. Not a bad afternoon's work really.
Managing the car pool 
Easy rider 
Zoom to the moon 
Then on Sunday the boys went to watch a friendly game and my boy saw his football buddie Freya. They've been going to games together for over three years now and are the best of friends. It's a lovely friendship and one that probably wouldn't exist outside of the non-league football world.

Watching the action 

Yes he is in the NUJ

One man crowd 

Post-match analysis 
From next Saturday the season proper begins and I am already planning my days. I can't wait :)

This post is part of the #Countrykids Linky run by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill  

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Summer holidays: A story of claret and gold

So, the Summer holidays have begun and the long stretch of days to fill is before us. I've tried to find lots of fun things to do with my boy and even started a Facebook group to share ideas for free and cheap activities with other local families who might like to join in. It's a fine balance between staving off boredom and over filling the days and I'm already on the verge of a nervous breakdown as the reality bears little resemblance to what I had planned.

my boy hugging nursery staff
Last day hugs 

Here's how the first week panned out:

Plan 1: Go to the nursery leavers picnic and have a nice time then take him swimming with Hubbie and look forward to the holidays.

The Reality: He was so tired out by the 'graduation' (what is that about by the way - he's 3 !!) that he fell asleep in the car on the way to the pool and would not be roused. When he realised he was at home in bed all hell broke loose as he insisted he had wanted to swim after all. Then he had the mother of meltdowns during which he bemoaned, "I don't want to go to big school yet."

Plan 2: Summer Holiday Activities Morning - story time with Betty Balloon the story teller, Loom band workshop and face painting for everyone. In short, fun and games.

The Reality: The boy has his face painted as a pirate, refused to sit for story time and got bored after about ten bands (that's not even enough to make a ring !) I got stuck with an oversharing mum of 4 who I will now have to watch out for whenever I go into town !

Plan 3: Take the boy to the pub that shows kids movies in their screen room and then have a spot of lunch in their pub garden.

The Reality: He befriended the only other boy there and they screamed, ran around and rough- housed the whole time. My boy ended up with a massive nosebleed and 'claret everywhere' (including in my fit flops as I discovered when we got home !) He finally sat down to watch the end credits then asked if he could watch it again, *takes a deep breath.*

Plan 4: Take him to a sports and crafts day camp where he can run around for 3 hours - with a break for fruit - and I pick him up at lunchtime when he will have a nice nap with the lovely neighbour while I go for a swim. 

The Reality: Well when I left he was kicking the ball around and having fun. I got all my jobs done by 10am and am then sat in a workspace cafe with a cuppa and wifi. When I went to pick him up he'd had a lovely time and I was able to go for a swim while he spent some time with my lovely neighbour and her granddaughter. Phew ! 

Plan 5: A weekend of swimming, football and family fun. 

The Reality: My boy has gone from avoiding the big pool to swimming on his own (with armbands) in the space of 2 days ! To say I'm proud is an understatement - given the freedom and space I believe that boy can do anything :)

It would appear that it takes a few days for my son to really relax into his holidays - he is just like both his parents in that regard. As for the meltdown about going to school, well it's hardly surprising is it ? We've been talking about how he won't be going to nursery any more and it's not a bad thing, but it's ok to feel sad.

parragon gold stars book
Hard earned gold star

This week we're going to take him school uniform shopping with both his grandmothers and I hope that will engage him with going to school in a positive way. He's already been writing his name and working on his Parragon Gold Stars book so I know he is more than ready academically, but emotionally he may have a way to go yet.

Last week was sad and tiring for all of us, so I hope that the ones that follow will be happier and more fun. We have theatre trips, a movie screening and a more sports camps to look forward to. I really hope he enjoys them. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

My week in five headlines

Croydon cat captivated by loom band craze

white cat with red rubber band round paw
I think your paws may be a little big for loom bands Neo 

Threenager climbs to new heights at local park 

boy in yellow t shirt on climbing frame
climbing frame boy
boy in yellow t shirt at a climbing wall
he's at the wall 

Blogging moggy internet sensation

white cat lying next to a macbook
Cat and keyboard in harmony 

Mojito masterclass reinvigorates power station  

Battersea Power station
Ooh aaah !!
cocktail making
Muddling like a maniac
Making a mojito
Mixologist in training 

Baby basketball star: he shoots, he scores !!

basketball and boy
He prepares

throwing the basketball
He aims

shooting a hoop
He shoots 

successful basket
He scores !!