Muddy boots

Muddy boots
Messy hands

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Don't you forget about me

Dear Muddy Bootsters,
I am writing to apologise for my severe lack of posting over the past month or so. I know there are no real excuses and, yes, having a blog is a big responsibility which should not be taken on lightly.
So what can I say? I have been busy with the day job, with developing my online craft business, with looking after the incredible edibles over the summer holidays, and, sadly, I have had an unexpected bereavement. At present I don't want to write about the sad things, but they are there as a constant, affecting my thoughts, dreams and actions.
There is so much going on in my life at the moment and I do find writing therapeutic but I cannot currently seem to find the time. week my lovely little Sausage will start school (a rather exciting but heart-wrenching time) and I will find myself, very temporarily, with a few more windows of time. So I will, I hope, be able to catch you up on some of my happenings and musings and get back into the swing of writing.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from any readers that may still be hanging on in there in the blogosphere. What have you been up to over summer? Do you have any goals or dreams at the moment? Do you have a child just about to start / just started school? Just a friendly 'hello' would be lovely ;-).
Yours apologetically,
Green x

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Turning a gloomy day orange

Phew, I have not had time to post for ages as I have been rather busy with work,  craft fairs and life in general. Family life as been tricky as Cheese is currently wading through a sea of tweenage hormones and causing arguments and rifts. There have been end of term activities such as sports days and dress up days and Sausage has had his starting school introductory sessions.

I have been feeling utterly exhausted due to a combination of the littlies' night time waking shenanigans and associated musical beds, plus a new episode of anaemia.  I have had some long, tiring days at work and I think, even though I only work part time, I really 'feel' the generalised increased irritability and fatigue that comes towards the end of term.  Having a husband who works in education seems to amplify the end of term feeling as he gets busier, then suddenly  there is a lovely lull.

Things have been feeling rather gloomy of late due to health niggles,  the things mentioned above and some awkward friendship moments. So, as ever, I am trying to be positive and appreciate life's simple pleasures.

Today I am thinking about orange!  Orange is a lovely bright colour and it was my favourite as a child. Orange is (sort of) the colour of my lovely dog Wobble and of foxes who have today received a temporary reprieve with the government's decision not to repeal the fox hunting ban (hooray - for now!).

It is a very drizzly, gloomy day here in Cornwall so I have raided the fridge and have turned a pile of slightly wobbly carrots into carrot and lentil soup and carrot and orange cake. Yum. I love soup and cake and they will both be ready soon to warm and cheer. Sausage helped to make the cake and that made him happy as we haven't baked for ages. In case you are interested here are my recipes:

Carrot and lentil soup:

I am not giving exact quantities here as I am a 'bung it all in' kind of soup maker but I used, approximately, 100g red lentils, 3 medium carrots,  one onion,  one clove of garlic,  a slice of ginger,  a teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin seed. This makes approximately 3 portions.

Cook the onion in a glug of olive oil until soft, add the spices, ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the rinsed lentils with enough hot stock to cover plus a bit more. Bring to the boil then simmer until soft, adding the carrots after about ten minutes. Add more stock as necessary.  When cooked allow to cool a little then puree, taste, reheat and season to your liking.  Serve as it is or with chunky bread and butter, cheese scones oe similar.  I like it with a topping of toasted sunflower seeds and some grated cheese.  You may want to experiment with more garlic or some chili.

Carrot and orange cake:

175g each of sugar (I use brown), selfraising flour and sunflower oil
3 eggs
140g carrots,  finely grated
Grated zest of one orange
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk all ingredients except carrots together unit smooth and well mixed. Fold in the carrots.  Add a splash of orange juice to loosen if necessary.  Pour into a prepared tin (I make this in a 7" round tin but it works in a loaf tin). Bake for approximately 45 minutes until well risen,  golden and a skewer comes out clean. Top with a simple orange icing or buttercream. Enjoy with a cuppa whilst waiting for the sun to come back out.

Since starting this post I have prepared and eaten lunch with Sausage,  taken a phone call from the school nurse, been used as a ladder and resting place by a small kitten and taken the cake out of the oven. I was going to photograph the soup but, erm...I was too hungry.  I will try to photograph the cake in between icing and eating it!

It is still raining and grey outside but my tummy is full and warm and I am snuggling up with my littlest. I need to make the most of these times before he starts school. But that is another story.

What do you do to brighten up gloomy days? Until next time,

Green x

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

It seems to be party season for the children at the moment, with a party each to go to for the next few weekends. This is lovely for them but with it comes the inevitable gift giving.
I love presents and genuinely love the feeling of giving somebody a gift. I also enjoy receiving presents - who doesn't? But...I tend to suffer from 'present angst', in that I so desperately wants to give a present that is just right that I sometimes end up not giving one at all. Then I feel terrible. But, that is another story. For now we are dealing with birthday gifts for children we barely know.
There are several issues for me and one is of consumerism. If my child is attending a party with between ten and thirty children then the party boy / girl will be receiving presents from ten to thirty children, as well as from parents, grandparents etc. The thought of that big pile of 'stuff', half of which may not be wanted, fills me with horror. I would never turn up empty handed but our gifts of choice tend to be books, partly because we are a family of book lovers and want to share the joy, and partly because it is usually appreciated and used or at least re-gifted. If we know the child well we will buy something relevant for them that we know or hope they will like. My children have only ever had small parties but even so the pile of gifts has seemed huge.
The next issue is financial. We are not well off and like many families we sometimes struggle to make ends meet. We don't want to disappoint the children by saying they can't go to a party but when the expectation is to turn up with a proper present, gift wrapped with a card it can be tricky. There have been times (now) when we are counting the days until payday so we can go food shopping, so to buy a present involves spending on the credit card. This ultimately makes things worse. So, do you turn up with nothing, buy on the credit card or... take something homemade?
The issue of homemade or even second hand presents is a tricky one. The word homemade is often synonymous with substandard, undesirable, even shoddy. It doesn't have to be that way though. Even if you are not a 'maker' there are things that can be made, repurposed or re-gifted. It still feels difficult or even slightly shameful though, but why? I make things that people are willing to pay money for, but I still feel a but awkward about giving homemade presents! There are prejudices, snobbery and the idea that people will think you are cheap. Also, just because some people like what you make it doesn't mean everyone will. As for second hand presents, I personally don't see a problem with this if the gift is something that you think the recipient will love. But what would you think if you opened a gift that was obviously second hand? There have been some positive developments in gift giving with the popularisation of charitable donations and poverty busting gifts such as those available through Oxfam. (other charities do this too).
There is a lot of emotion tied up with gift giving. I can remember feeling physically sick one Christmas when a scary relative gave me a nasty brown jumper and I could not say thank you. My mum was great at knowing what I would like, but again I felt a gut-wrenching sadness on a couple of rare occasions that she have me completely inappropriate presents. Maybe that's partly why I agonise so much about what to give people.
It can't just be me that has this problem, and I am sure parents everywhere struggle with birthdays. It would be great if we could all work together to change the focus of gift giving. Here are just a few of my ideas for non purchased gifts (there are loads online so I won't go on forever).
Homemade foodie gifts such as fudge, cookies, chocolate bark wrapped in cellophane or little treat bags. Penny sweets in a pretty/ decorated jar.
A simple notebook covered in pretty fabric or paper and a pencil decorated with washi tape, tied together with ribbon.
A favourite book of yours that you think the recipient would love, with a handwritten note attached.
Handwritten or printed vouchers for e.g. babysitting, cooked meals, cleaning, playdate or other 'services'.
Framed drawings / photos.
The most important thing is that the gift is given with love and not just for the sake of it. Obviously it's a bit different for Children's birthday party gifts but if your child knows them well enough then with a bit of thought you should be able to come up with something together that their friend might like. How about your child writing a poem or story about their friend and framing it? Or any of the above ideas would work if relevant and tailored to the child.
On a final note, we are going to a party tomorrow for a little girl we barely know. Will I be 'brave' and give her something homemade, or will I rush out and use the credit card? What would you do?


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Striking a balance

My little world had been changing recently.  We had the big move to Cornwall back in December and that was a lot of upheaval but the good kind. Mr Green has his new job  which has already expanded and the children have their new schools and nursery.  I have a new part time job in which I get to indulge my foodie passion and experiment with new recipes.  I have the blog which is slowly coming together (I now have some pictures,  woohoo!) And I have my felting.  I have taken the plunge and launched a facebook page and etsy shop which feels both scary but exciting.  I am networking and trying to be proactive.  And finally,  we have a new addition to the family,  a gorgeous baby boy. Ok, no I haven't had a secret pregnancy - he is a gorgeous little kitten who is a furry bundle of love and mischief.  He is already enriching our lives and improving my mental health.  However,  it's very hard to get things done in between cuddles and playtime.


So, although things are going in the right direction I still feel a little like a headless chicken.  I seem to have lost the ability to prioritise and sequence.  It is tempting to keep checking page views on my blog, tweaking my layout, check likes on the facebook page or activity in the etsy shop or editing my listings. And it is tempting to keep cuddling the kitten. 

The house is a mess, Sausage is watching too much tv, we are going to bed too late and I'm not devoting enough time to actually making things.  I need to get organised and feel that I almost need a military precision schedule in order to accomplish all my daily tasks from the mundane to the more exciting.  I have a lot of balls in the air and I don't want to drop any. So I need to become more organised and productive and stop procrastinating.

It would be wonderful to hear tips and advice from my readers if you have any gems of wisdom.  Right,  I'm going to put down my phone and the kitten and start on my jobs. Maybe I'll just make a cuppa first...;-).

Monday, 15 June 2015

Mr Bloom's garden of Eden

We watch a fair bit of Cbeebies in our house and Mr Bloom's Nursery is a bit of a favourite (not just with the kids). I love the fact that there is a children's television programme about vegetables that is successful enough to be award winning and have spinoff shows and live tours. We were very excited to hear that Truro born Ben Faulks (aka Mr Bloom) was coming to the eden project for their green fingers gardening festival.  We love the eden project and visit regularly,  but despite having only just visited during half term for their science event we found ourselves back again yesterday. 

We arrived in time for the last show of the weekend by which time it was fairly quiet.  We bagged some seats,  bought the obligatory delicious ice cream (highly recommended) and waited in eager anticipation.

Pop along and say "'ello"

 Ben appeared in the potting shed promptly at 3.00 pm and began the show with a song. He spent the next 40 minutes engaging children and adults alike with songs,  games and humour.  Sadly he did not have his entourage of talking veggies with him but instead brought out a series of baby veggies complete with dummies and swaddling blankets.  The children took turns babysitting Beverly the cauliflower,  David the marrow and Cindy the pineapple to name a few.

Mr Bloom with David the baby marrow

Vegetables were discussed,  both the growing and eating of them, and a few children were given vegetables to take home.  We marvelled as one boy steadily munched his way through an entire green pepper!

The atmosphere was lovely and children and parents joined in with singing and clapping.  At the end of the show everyone seemed happy. I'm sure there are a few mums whose hearts were a flutter being so close to the twinkly eyed celebrity in his trademark combats and tank top. It's great to see that someone who started out doing street theatre has done so well, and fantastic that he has made kids more interested in vegetables. Does it work? Well, when I asked Sausage what he would like for dinner his reply was...cauliflower!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

All the small things

I try my hardest to be a positive person: I count my blessings and try to model kindness.  I try to solve problems rather than dwell on them. I do struggle to maintain the positivity though, especially when I am tired and hormonal.  I desperately try to use positive parenting but feel very guilty when things go wrong and I shout, nag and become negative.  I try to keep my words kind but sometimes they are not. I want my children to know I love them and believe in them, but there are times when actually they are really annoying,  unkind and rude and I want to hide or run away!

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for more than half of my life (on and off) and can easily feel overwhelmed by challenges.  The challenges seem to be growing at the moment,  especially as we approach the teenage years at the same time as having a preschooler. There is a lot of fighting,  negativity and general bad feeling between the siblings.  This saddens and frustrates me. In order to prevent 'going under' I want to rekindle some good feelings. If I feel better myself I can be more positive around the kids and maybe some of it will rub off on them.  So here is a list of my top 5 warm fuzzy moments from the last week:

1.Whilst on a walk with Sausage he commented on how lovely it was going for a walk together. He stopped regularly to look at plants and insects and was sad when we found a dead bumble bee and this sparked a lovely conversation about bees and why we need to care for them..

2.The other morning Cheese came into my bed for a cuddle for the first time in several years and he has been particularly cuddly and has told me he loves me several times. 

3.Apple, on discovering that Sausage was poorly,  put him to bed, gave him a cuddle and offered to be his nurse.

4.Every time I made something new all the family were really kind,  positive and encouraging.

5.When I went for a blood test Apple and Sausage were both worried that I would be hurt and after reassuring them they were still really kind and Sausage held the tubes for the nurse and was really interested. 

There are lots of other good moments and Mr Green has been lovely as ever. I still really appreciate the fact that I live in a beautiful part of the world and can reach fields,  hills and beaches by walking for a few minutes from the house.  I get to see a huge range of flowers,  plants,  butterflies and wildlife every day.

I really, really want to try and encourage the children to be kinder to each other and to others. I know all siblings argue but I really find it sad when I see how negative and unkind they can be. I want them to have happy, supportive relationships. After reading this post we are going to start a family 'kind club'. Our first mission is to write letters and draw pictures to send to friends and family members we feel we have neglected recently.

We are going to make positive place mats - each of us writes our names and draws a self portrait then hands the paper to each family member in turn. Everybody writes down something good about each person so they end up with positive statements about themselves from all family members.  These can be laminated and used as place mats.

I would love to hear how you find ways to nurture positivity and promote harmony in your families. I'll let you know how we get on.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sleeping with the lights on

I should be asleep,  or at least trying to sleep instead of tapping away on my phone.  But it is tricky you see, as Mr Green is away with work.  I am lucky as he rarely has to go away, but it is very strange without him. We're a bit soppy and do like to be together (I do find it strange when I hear people moaning about their partners and actually relishing time apart). We go to bed at the same time as each other every night and I genuinely struggle to sleep without him. I think that apart from missing him I must have that heightened state of alertness that you have when it is just you in charge.  And I do tend to fret generally about whether doors are locked and gas rings turned off. I worry a lot so having nobody else to reassure me can be difficult. 

I have Wobble to keep me company and she is noisily chewing something under the bed! Sausage has already been up once and Apple was awake until ten. Small changes in routine can affect the children more than I expect sometimes and the absence of Mr Green from the house is a tangible feeling.  I am very much looking forward to having him back and hopefully tomorrow will run smoothly. I am feeling slightly queasy,  which I desperately hope is due to anxiety rather than the tummy bug that Sausage has just had! Looking after children and animals whilst unwell is not an easy task.

Once again I will look on the positive side and count my blessings rather than dwell on minor issues.  Hopefully I will get some sleep,  not be ill and manage to keep everyone fed, cared for, educated and happy until Mr Green returns. I fear I may be rambling now so I am sending positive,  happy,  supportive vibes to anyone out there with worries or struggles and wishing you all a good night! 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Running to stand still

I am busy! It has been over a week since my last post and I have things I should be doing right now instead of writing this.  It feels strange however not to write now I have become used to regularly airing my thoughts to the world (or the small corner of it that reads my blog).  When I first started blogging I was always nervous about hitting the publish button and it has taken a while to find my voice.  I am still a newbie and have a lot to learn but it feels more natural now.

I have had lots of drains on my time recently which have prevented me from writing.  I am always busy but can usually carve out little pockets of time to write.  The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic however.  I have been away (see this post ) which was fun but also quite emotional. It has taken time to process my reaction to the visit - more on that soon. On my return I had to catch up with all the things I hadn't been around to do (although Mr Green did a great job while I was away). Since then I have had a poorly Apple home from school,  which was tricky because it coincided with Sausage's non nursery days and we had to contend with being stuck in the house for three days solid. Needless to say we all went a bit stir-crazy! Thankfully Apple is now better but Sausage is unwell. Oh the joys of sibling virus sharing!

On a productive note, I have a job! I am currently 'between careers' and trying to really think carefully what I might want to do when Sausage starts school.  Idle pondering does not pay the bills though so I have found a local part time job that fits into nursery days.  It will be busy and at times hectic as the job is a tearoom supervisor and we live by the sea! It is far removed from my previous career jobs but it is only a temporary measure to bring in some pennies.  Hopefully I will feel more useful and start to meet more people. I have already been asked to contribute some recipes to the menu so I will post some on here soon too.  I will continue to create things and attend craft fairs and hopefully improve my skills. I still feel tempted to pop back into education for a while too...

I have been busy preparing for a recent craft fair which I attended but didn't sell much. I am inspired to continue though having received some lovely feedback and some bespoke orders. I can be so self critical and really struggle to believe that I have any talents,  but when people want to buy my work it gives me a spark of hope that maybe my work is desirable.  Maybe my little hobby could turn into something more. I recently read a blog post that highlighted the battle between having big dreams and the regular bouts of self doubt. I will try to maintain a positive outlook.

Among all these things are the mundane realities of laundry,  cleaning, cooking,  admin, dog walking etc. And these jobs mount and grow when you add children into the mix. So, I started this post feeling that I was on a constant treadmill or running around aimlessly,  trying so hard to do everything that nothing was getting done. Clearly I was mistaken as reading through I see I have achieved things and will keep marching on. I must now return to my domestic drudgery after attending my poorly boy who is stirring from slumber.  In the meantime,  why not let me know what's going on in your lives x

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Back to my roots

Today I am embarking on a journey,  a physical and metaphorical one. I am leaving the bosom of my family for a couple of days to visit some special people in my life.  I have been meaning to do this journey for some time but it comes with very mixed feelings. 

I will miss Mr green and my incredible edibles (Cheese, Apple and Sausage) very much. And of course my furry woofhound. I am not used to being away from them and it feels very strange.  I know that Mr Green is ultra capable when it comes to childcare,  but since giving up work and spending so much time with them I feel it is me that is aware of their foibles, sensitivities and needs and me that can read their signs and plan ahead for their needs. It's me that understands the hideous monsters that are the clean and dirty washing piles. And me they want all the time. This is another good reason for me to go - I can feel swamped and suffocated and Mr Green can feel rejected.  The children adore their dad but if I'm around he often doesn't get a look in. So, we will miss each other (and I will very much miss Mr Green! ) but they will be fine and we can all have a good cuddle and catch up when I am back.

I am also excited to be seeing my lovely friend whom I have missed very much since moving.  She is someone I can be myself with and I can't wait to see her. I wrote recently about friendship in my post "let's be friends" and if you have read this you will understand how much this means to me.

And now for the tricky part. I am going to visit my dad. My dad who has lost himself to Alzheimer's disease. I don't want to visit him because it is so very painful seeing someone you love decline in such a cruel way. But I do want to see him because he is still my dad and I love him. He is in there somewhere. He doesn't know who I am anymore but I know who he is and I care. A lot. We have been through some tough times but he has done an awful lot for me over the years. If I didn't appreciate it at the time I certainly do now. And I am so glad that he and I resurrected our relationship before he became ill. I was able to tell him I loved him while he still knew what it meant and who I was. I was able to give him three grandchildren. So now when I see him I find myself thinking about the man he was before he was ill. Before he had children.  About the adventures he had and the challenges he overcame.  And I think about the love and care he has been given by my lovely step mum. We are both lucky to have her.

The final leg of my journey will be going back to my childhood home.  Back to where I grew up. The house carries some powerful memories and emotions for me and it has been several years since I stayed there.  I am looking forward to embracing the memories rather than fearing them, and looking forward to time with my step mum. 

Family is important.  Families can be odd, difficult,  annoying and hard work but they can be fun, comforting, helpful and a source of joy. It is easy to criticise people when you haven't been in their shoes. Parenting is one of those things. It's so easy to be hard on your parents but when you become one yourself you understand their struggles and understand that like you they are real people with their own needs, desires, dreams and worries. And you understand the enormity of the parenting role. So, why not be kind to ourselves and each other. Show our appreciation before it's too late. And spread the love :-) x


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Let it flow

I have always been a creative person but have often struggled to find the right outlet.  At school I loved English and Art and did very well in those subjects. When it came to choosing A levels I found it really hard because I wanted to pursue a science career but didn't want to let go of the Arts. Let go I did however as there wasn't space to fit in these other subjects and it wasn't seen as appropriate to mix the two disciplines.  

As I embarked on my studies through college and University I took delight in making careful drawings of cells, insects and fungi,  but that was the only drawing I did (apart from illustrating the letters I sent home). I continued to read novels but missed discussing them. Science was great though and I had no regrets.

Fast forward several (ahem) years and I find myself between careers. I have worked in science and healthcare and then decided to take time out to look after the children.  Over the last couple of years I have been feeling increasingly creative.  I have tried several things including starting a novel, blogging, making novelty cakes,  bento lunches,  loom bands (!), weaving and felting.  I have found a love for felting and really enjoy the magical process of turning a pile of fluffy wool into a beautiful creation. I am self taught and have recently taken the step of trying to sell my work at craft fairs. I have had a lot of positive feedback about my work and it's great.  I have struggled with perfectionism and low self esteem all my life and it took a lot for me to show my work in public.  The fact that people have bought things and ordered things has given me some positive affirmation.


I love the creative process and would continue regardless of possible sales. But I can't help dreaming and wondering whether I could turn my hobby into something more. And, furthermore,  what direction should my career head in next? Do I return to health / science,  or try something new? I have learned a lot about myself during this hiatus and I fully admit that I don't cope well with 9-5, 5 days a week and I do bring work worries home and take on board a lot emotionally. I also need to be around for the children. I will need to work when Sausage starts school as we need the money and I need to do something meaningful. But I need to fit in work around the family. I do genuinely experience a sense of flow and positive energy when creating, so it would be wonderful if I could incorporate this into a career.  Who knows what the future will hold. I'm ready for a new challenge.  Who's with me...?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Birthday bonanza, not blues

May is a big birthday month for us so it is busy, expensive and fun. Very soon it will be Cheese' s turn and he will be 12. I cannot believe he is nearly a teenager. I bought him some new shoes the other day and they are almost big enough for me! How on earth can I have a child who is nearly as tall as me with huge feet? A child who goes to the park to meet his friends without me. A child with his own debit card! It is amazing how time flies with children.  

People always tell you to cherish the early years but it wasn't that simple for me. I really,  really wanted a baby but from the moment he arrived my body,  mind and life were completely changed and although this happens to every new mum I really,  really struggled. The tears came on day one and didn't stop. We went home on day 4 and I clearly remember sitting down at my kitchen table for dinner and properly breaking down. I was monstrously overwhelmed and couldn't believe what we had done. I loved him and was happy he had been born but oh my goodness I felt awful!  And then I felt guilty. Mr Green was great,  a natural father,  and I was a mess. When I was left alone after paternity leave I had no idea what to do with this screaming bundle. I was incredibly isolated with no family around,  my friends were all at work, I couldn't drive and the nearest bus stop was 20 minutes away with an hourly bus into town. I would find myself crying while he was crying.  He wouldn't be put down,  would only sleep on the breast and for the first few weeks feeding was agony. I used to find myself feeling 'locked in' - I would summon the courage to go for a walk but would find myself unable to go beyond the end of the lane.  One day the health visitor arrived and found me crying inconsolably on the sofa. Generally she was pretty ineffective but she did put me in touch with a local mum who agreed to give me a lift to baby group and also invitef me for lunch. She was lovely but her baby was 'easy' and I don't think she understood my difficulties.  I met another lovely lady at baby club who became a friend but again her baby was also 'easy'. I would marvel at the way her baby would sit in his bouncy chair gurgling away while I endlessly paced around with Cheese or fed him. Again.  I honestly don't know how I got through those months. I felt lost and useless and exhausted.  I also felt incredibly lonely.  

When maternity leave ended I was sad and worried but once I was back at work and Cheese was at nursery I felt that actually the nursery staff could look after him far better than I could.  He was the one child who cried when I picked him up. It became quite embarrassing. I didn't ever want Mr Green to do anything without me at weekends because I felt I couldn't cope alone. I didn't feel comfortable being alone with Cheese until he was at least 4, maybe 5. So no, I didn't cherish those early years.  They sucked.  And I regularly worry that our difficult start has / will have affected him. But here we are, birthday time again.  And the years have not been without their troubles but I have a loving,  intelligent, caring boy and I love him immensely.  So I am living in the present and looking to the future.  I hope he knows how loved and treasured he is. Life is for living and for learning and loving.  So I will do my best to be the best mum I can and when his birthday comes we will celebrate heartily. 

An interesting point to note is that when I started this post it was completely different in my head.It was to be a light hearted, brief post about family birthdays with no mention of pnd or struggles. I let it come though,  as it seemed to be necessary.  I hope maybe some of you reading may be encouraged or that it may help to provide understanding. I hope I haven't depressed anyone.  But hey, if you're out there let me know.  And take care x Happy birthday! 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Go bananas!

Good morning.  On this drizzly day I thought I would share a couple of recipes. Bananas feature heavily in our househould and the fruit bowl is rarely free of them. I eat them fresh,  but only when they are perfectly yellow as I find them far too sweet when overripe. The children are less fussy but don't like them too brown so we often have squidgy specimens perfect for baking. 

I have been eating banana cake all my life.  My grandma was a great cook and her banana cake was the ultimate comfort food.  It was simple and only adorned with a few flaked almonds but the whole family adored it. When I left home for Uni she presented me with a handwritten copy of her recipe and I have been baking it ever since.  Sadly,  with the passing of time I have lost the original recipe and having modified it over the years I don't properly remember it. So now I make a version of a basic sponge recipe with a mashed banana added.  It's nice but bit tired.  I have recently developed a new, lighter version of a banana cake using oil instead of butter.  It's lovely topped with a white chocolate and honey icing. If I can ever master how to add pictures to the blog using my phone I will include one, but until then I will just share the recipe with you. Here it is:

Banana cake

2 medium ripe bananas
125g brown sugar
180g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
100ml oil (sunflower works well but you could use coconut)

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c (160 fan). Mash the bananas really well then whisk in the other ingredients and mix well. Add a pinch of cinnamon if you like.  I cook in a round baking tin for about 45 minutes.  Test for springiness or a clean skewer. Leave to cool then top with icing of your choice or leave plain.  I melted white chocolate with honey,  a little butter and milk and sieved in some icing sugar.  I'm sorry I can't give you quantities but I tend to make icings by eye. Enjoy.

The next recipe is for a banana granola.  I love granola but don't love the cost and sugar content so this home made version is great.  It's not very sweet so you may want to add more honey or syrup.  I like it how it is and Cheese and Apple love it.

Banana granola

1 ripe banana, mashed really well
Approx 300g / 3 cups oats
60ml oil (sunflower / olive / coconut - I use sunflower)
80 ml maple syrup, honey or a mixture
Approx 100g / 1 cup nuts and seeds of your choice
Vanilla , cinnamon or other flavourings - optional

Preheat oven to about 150 degrees c (140 fan), grease a large baking sheet or line with baking paper. Mix the bananas with the oil and syrup then stir into the oats with the nuts and seeds. Add spices if using. Mix everything really well then spread out on the baking tray. Bake in the centre of the oven for approx half an hour but check and stir at least every ten minutes to allow even cooking. It needs to be a lovely golden colour but burns easily so be careful.  It will crisp up as it cools. Eat with milk, yoghurt or nibble from the tub! Keep in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Let's be friends

Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult?  I know it can be hard for children too, but generally things get harder once you leave education.  It doesn't help if you lack confidence or have anxiety issues. Some people say it's easier when you have children as you have a route into conversation and at least one thing in common.  If conversation dries up you can always bring up topics such as sleep,  eating,  bowel and bladder functions or school / nursery places and quality.  But I think it is still tricky and complicated by the fact that either you or your potential friend has to run off every couple of minutes to wipe a nose / bottom / item of furniture,  push a swing,  solve an argument or dry tears. When your child is hitting,  blowing raspberries, being rude and / or not taking turns the stress levels can reach new heights. The internal panicky self talk doesn't help as you desperately try to recall the correct positive but firm phrase that will effectively guide your child towards the right course of action.  what kind of judgement is your now slightly less potential friend making about your strength of character, parenting skills and moral fibre? What do they think of your child?  And why is their child so bloomin well behaved? So many times I have scuttled away after hastily making excuses and dragging Sausage away from the situation.  

I don't know what it is that helps you get past those first few awkward encounters and really get to know someone well enough to call them a friend.  To know that they 'get' you and you can let down your guard.  I have never had lots of friends but really value those I have. Since moving I have met several nice people but there is nobody I can yet really relax with. I miss those easy conversations and exchange of gossip, advice  and ideas. I miss the company of women in general and I miss my mum. 

So, who is out there reading this?  Do you struggle with friendships? Does anybody have any advice?  I think as mums we especially need to be understanding and kind to each other. We need to be more forthcoming and honest.  And we probably need to leave the kids with a significant other from time to time so we can bond over a child free cuppa or glass of wine!  

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Brothers, babies, burgers and baking

It's been a while since my last post. It feels like forever. It has taken several attempts to find time to complete the post. Apple is finally in school,  hooray!  Not the local one but a very good one and she seems happy.  We're just waiting to hear whether she gets a place on the school bus - fingers crossed. Sausage seems happy to have his 'mummy days' (just the two of us) back and we are slowly settling into the rhythm of a new routine. We particularly enjoy it when the days involve café trips with cake but these are expanding my waistline and depleting my bank balance so will have to be limited!

I had the great pleasure of a visit from lovely brother a couple of weeks ago. We hadn't seen each other since Christmas so it was great to catch up. We had an evening of pizza and wine with Mr Green then the next day deposited the children at their various establishments before heading to the beach with Wobble. We walked and talked among the rock pools and waves,  putting the world to rights and discussing our own dilemmas. One of the topics for discussion was parenthood. Lovely brother is used to a lot of freedom.  Now he is in a healthy, long term relationship he is pondering the prospect of bringing a child into the world. He is a fantastic uncle and his niece and nephews adore him but would he make a good father?  Could he cope with the permanent momentous change in his usually predictable life? As introverts we both struggle with noise, decisions, assertiveness, and need moments of peace and solitude.  We both need lots of sleep. I cope because I am mum to children who need me to cope and need me to be there; because I love my children beyond measure and because I have a fantastic husband who supports and loves me and knows my needs. I love watching the children grow, change and develop and love being there for them when they need me. But there are times when it is completely overwhelming, I don't know how to handle things and sometimes have a desperate need to run away.  It's hard to give impartial advice when you are in the thick of it, so I just gave the unedited version of reality.  I wonder what he and his partner will decide. Parenthood is so special but it is not for everyone and I believe it should not be entered into lightly.  

And now onto food. Whilst together lovely brother went for lunch in one of my favourite cafes and had the most delectable burgers - smoky black bean and beetroot.  They were wholesome and healthy but very tasty and I will try to recreate them at home - recipe to follow soon!  I have also sampled a tofu and cashew burger at the same place which was delicious.  I have had some baking successes recently including carrot and chocolate cake,  raspberry bakewell cake and chocolate brownies. I will share some new recipes soon.


A lot has been happening recently but I will try to resurrect the blog and add some photos,  recipes and more musings.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Reasons to be cheerful: 1, 2, 3...

Yesterday has been and gone and I got through it.  Today is a new day so I am going to start on a positive note.

Things I have to be thankful for:

  1. I have a loving family
  2. I have a decent place to live
  3. I have my health (if you ignore the current virus attack)
  4. I have food,  warmth and clothes
  5. I am well educated
I could go on, but you get the picture.  I also like to notice life's simple pleasures,  which for me include the sound of the sea, the smell of warm privet, the sight of a conker nestling in its case, acorns, lambs, forget me nots, tea in bed, a spontaneous hug, being creative.

Another one which is pretty rare is not being woken up at night,  and last night it happened!  Ok so Apple woke up just as I was going to bed and I didn't leave her room til nearly 2am after trying to resettle her, but that aside, Sausage slept all night. Hooray! I did have to clear up dog poo when I took him downstairs this morning as Wobble's sensitive stomach is playing up again,  but it didn't diminish my joy!

This coming week I need to do battle with two different councils about school places and council tax refunds,  and will need to entertain the troops whilst feeling under the weather,  but hey ho. It's nearly February,  I am expecting a visit from lovely brother soon and I can feel a baking session coming on. Onward and upward.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Should I stay or should I go?

It's been a tough week. Fevers have flourished,  snot has poured,  nights have been broken and tantrums have reigned. I have been screamed at for such long periods I am surprised that the screamers can still speak and I can still hear. I have been bitten,  pummeled, pushed, scratched and jumped on. The dog ("Wobble"), has looked on in forlorn bemusement.  She has missed out on walks. I have tried to be a model of calm, sympathetic motherhood, but failed many times. It has been relentless. Now it is Saturday,  there is no work for Mr Green so he has taken Wobble to the beach with Middle child and Littlest (known henceforth as Apple and Sausage respectively). I am home with Firstborn (AKA Cheese) and the messy kitchen.

It has got to the point where I am feeling claustrophobic and ratty and need some space. Mr Green has offered to have the children for the day so I can go out and 'be'. This is a lovely offer,  and I should jump at the chance,  but I know he has had a busy week at work and seems to be coming down with the dreaded lurgy. I have therefore stalled in my decision making and after a slow start to the morning it is now lunch time and I am nowhere near ready to go anywhere!  Go, I must however.  Everyone needs space and I have decided I must get out for the rest of the day. Today is one of those difficult January anniversaries I mentioned in an earlier post - the most difficult in fact. I will go and be and Mr Green will cope admirably. Then I can come back to the bosom of the family with renewed positivity.  Hopefully. . .

I apologise for the gloomy mood of this post but I hope to be rid of the January blues soon. Why not take a moment to comment and let me know what you do to lift your spirits or deal with tantrums.  It would be nice to know who is out there :-).

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Guilty pleasures

It's 9am and I have lots to do. Unusually,  for the first time in years,  I am not doing regular school runs as Firstborn gets the school bus, Littlest just has a couple of days at preschool and Middle child is waiting for a school place to be available.  This,  coupled with the fact I am still being woken up by Littlest every night means I am struggling to get going in the mornings. I am determined to be better and provide more structure for the children,  but after several days of tending to fluey children at night I am exhausted.  So, despite my long 'to do' list I find myself back in bed with a cup of tea, waiting for the bath to run. I may have accidentally tidied up the last sliver of coffee cake too... (try adding a couple of squares of melted white chocolate to coffee icing, it's delicious). I have given this post the title 'guilty pleasures', but actually I am not guilty about it. I am learning to be kinder to myself and if I am more relaxed the children will be too. The dog will get walked, the children will learn useful things,  my admin tasks will get done and food will be cooked. Just not yet!


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sunday baking

I am not a cook, baker or nutritional expert, but I am interested in food and nutrition. I constantly strive to feed my family a healthy, balanced diet but we are all a bit partial to the things that are supposedly not so good for us. So I do a lot of home baking in order to control the ingredients and amounts of fat, sugar and salt in things.  Today I want to share two recipes, the first probably can't be labelled as low sugar or fat but it does provide nutrients and a good hit of energy,  ideal for taking on chilly walks. The second is something my kids love for breakfast or a lunchbox snack and is certainly healthier than a bowl of sugary cereal . Here goes:

Peanut butter oat cookies

90g oats
90g natural peanut butter (no added sugar,  salt or oil)
90g pear and apple spread (available from most health food shops)
30g brown sugar
I egg
Handful of chocolate chips (optional)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan) and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper
  2. Mix all ingredients together well
  3. Dollop heaped teaspoons / half dessert spoons full of the mixture onto the paper and flatten slightly with a fork. The cookies don't spread much and you should get about 14.
  4. Tidy up ragged edges and bake for approximately 20 minutes. They should be firm ish.
  5. Transfer to a coolng rack and they should firm up as they cool.

I am still tweaking this recipe and find them quite sweet,  so may reduce the sugar further.  You can replace the fruit spread with more peanut butter as long as you keep the amounts the same. I have used both crunchy and smooth pb and both work.

Breakfast scones

8oz flour (I use 3 of wholemeal or spelt and 5 of white. If it's not self raising add 3 tsps baking powder)
2 oz butter or marg
1 egg made up to 150ml with milk
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 a very ripe banana,  mashed
A handful of nuts, seeds or both
A handful of chocolate chips (optional)
A tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees,  grease or flour a baking sheet
  2. Add baking powder to flour if necessary then rub in the butter
  3. Mix in the banana,  carrots and nuts / seeds (and optional ingredients if using)
  4. Gradually mix in the egg and milk mixture until the dough comes together and is not too sticky to handle. Don't overwork the dough. You may not need all of the eggy milk
  5. Tip onto a floured board, form into a round with your hand (about2cm high) and cut out circles with a cutter or glass. Repeat until all the dough is used up (I normally have one misshapen mini one at the end!). I usually get 6 to 9 scones depending on the size of the cutter
  6. Place on the prepared tray and brush the ops with some of the remaining eggy milk
  7. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden.
These scones are lovely warm with butter and are best eaten within 24 hours. I have added various ingredients in the past including blueberries and blackberries, cinnamon and vanilla. You can also swap the banana for grated courgette and add some grated cheese for a savoury version. Happy eating!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Wet January?

I wasn't expecting to have such a long gap between posts, but life has been hectic.  As well as having Christmas and all of the associated delights and duties we have also moved house. We are now in a different part of the country with a new job for Mr Green and new challenges and opportunities for all of us. We are having fun exploring the area,  trying to make friends and trying to be involved in our new community.

I am trying to keep my head above water and not succumb to the January blues but it's hard.  January sucks. Its post-festive, grey, cold, soggy, austere qualities are depressing enough but I have some difficult anniversaries to get through.  So...I need a strategy,  and that is as follows:

  1.  Forget any notion of 'dry January' and embrace merry consumption of wine (in moderation of course! )
  2. As above re diet and chocolate etc
  3. Enjoy simple pleasures
  4. Make time for my creative pursuits
  5. Make time for fun with the kids
  6. Arrange things to look forward to
  7. Be mindful
  8. Do good deeds.  
January needs to be filled with cosy evenings, warm hugs, yummy (albeit frugal) food and good friends / family. I have been grumpy and irritable today due to various worries but pausing to reflect (instead of tidying the house) has helped to put things in perspective.  This is a very general post with lots of unsaid things,  but that's ok. Moving is tricky but exciting. I will do what i can to help the children settle.

So, sod the tidying,  forget all the worries for now, I'm going to go and hug my kids and look forward to a cosy Friday night in with Mr Green. And maybe wine. And chocolate...

Monday, 12 January 2015

Smile and the world smiles with you..

I still seem to be grumpy today,  partly due to cabin fever with a house full of fluey children and partly due to sleep deprivation,  as well as the January slump. I have lost my mojo and extreme inertia has set in. But, slowly throughout the day my energy levels have increased, I have dispensed calpol and cuddles and improved the state of the house along with Mr Green.  Despite being a bit scared of the dark I took the dog out so Mr Green didn't have to. I started thinking about my January strategy and life in general. I am saddened every day by the bad things that happen in the world. I am always counting my blessings and appreciate my lot in life. I would like to do more to help others,  but don't always know what I can do. But I always try to be kind and compassionate. Although it is a small thing, I always try to smile at people and be polite and courteous.  I teach my children these values too. I am far from perfect but feel so much better about the world when I know I have done my best. When I have smiled at people in the street,  offered my assistance to those who may need it, thanked the shop assistant, sent a friend a good luck message.  Maybe if everyone smiled more and were a little less selfish there would be fewer bad things happening.  Smile,  give, hug, help, forgive, live. Make the most of the life you get and take opportunities.  Get off your bum and do something useful ;-).