Friday, November 30, 2012

Baking with Children... and a giveaway!

My girls and I enjoy baking. Or rather, my girls enjoy baking and I enjoy eating cake. Today I'd like to share with you some suggestions for baking with young children. Caution! Only attempt this at home if you are completely barking mad... but don't worry too much... if you're not at the start... you will be by the end! 

This recipe will make 24 cake pops (assuming that all of the cake mixture survives and doesn't end up on the floor).

Ingredients:
60g butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 free-range egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup plain flour
1/3 cup milk 

Directions:
1. Preheat the Kambrook Cake Pop Maker.

2. Before you ‘invite’ your small children into the kitchen I would recommend getting all your cooking utensils ready and weighing out all of your ingredients. Toddlers & Pre-schooler’s do not have a great deal of patience so it pays to be organised. Plus you can pretend you are the star of a TV cooking show…… no?..... just me then…

3. Unless your children are very tall you will probably need something for them to stand on. There are lots of stools on the market designed for this purpose. We use a chair for the Pre-schooler and a high chair for the toddler. Easy!

3. Brace yourself.

5. It is now time to begin! I usually say something like “Girls! Would you like to bake some cakes?” to which they screech with excitement and run to the kitchen in a frenzy yelling “Cake! Cake! Cake!”





6. Instruct your children to place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl. I usually offer some guidance such as; “Carefully! CAREFULLY!” and “No! Don’t eat the sugar!”

7. Give your pre-schooler a wooden spoon and instruct them to stir… remind them not to eat the mixture. Intercept spoonful of sugar before it reaches her mouth.

8. Try and involve the younger one as much as you can, I do this by giving little C an empty bowl and wooden spoon to play with. It is only a matter of time before she wants to join in with gusto. (shudder!)

9. Now for the eggs. Allow your pre-schooler to hold an egg in one hand and a teaspoon in the other.  Instruct your pre-schooler to break the egg with the spoon. Try and remain calm as your pre-schooler smashes the egg to smithereens. Catch the egg whites and yoke in a cup. I would recommend fishing out any bits of eggshell before tipping into mixing bowl. Unless you like your Cake Pop’s with extra crunch.


10. Add the milk and flour slowly, a bit at a time… or… just chuck it all in at once and hope for the best.

11. Using an electric whisk beat the cake mixture until light and fluffy. If you’re game, let your pre-schooler have a go too… what’s the worst that can happen?...

12. At this point I like to distract the girls by allowing them to lick the beaters. Do remember to turn them off first.



13. Spoon the mixture into the wells of the Cake Pop maker and close the lid.

14. Remember to make a mental note of the time. Five minutes can pass awfully quickly when you’re wrestling sticky beaters out of your children’s hands. 

15. Give your little ones a quick wipe down and send them off to play elsewhere while you keep an eye on the time and lick the bowl... er, I mean clean up the kitchen.

16. After five minutes or so, check on the cake pops.

17. Using a pair of silicone tongs, remove the cake pops from the Cake Pop maker and place on a wire cooling rack. It is best to do this whilst your toddler is distracted, hot ovens and toddlers do not mix well and the last thing anyone needs is a trip to Casualty.

18.  Quickly and with great secrecy prepare the chocolate by following the instructions on the packet.

19. Taking great care, place a cake pop in the melted chocolate. Pierce it with a cake pop stick (provided with Cake Pop maker) and swirl it round to ensure even coverage. Try and do as many as possible before the children notice and want to ‘help’.

20. Once the cake pops have been coated in chocolate ask your Pre-schooler to gently sprinkle hundreds and thousands over the top. Your toddler will be amusing themselves by now by rifling through your handbag and hiding your car keys.

21. Adopt the manor of TV Chef personality and give your toddler a quick demonstration - gently shake hundreds and thousands over one of the cake pops. It looks pretty good! Stand back and admire your handy work… enter brief MasterChef-victory type fantasy… suddenly realise that your pre-schooler has been shaking hundreds and thousands all over the floor.




22. Take a photo of finished Cake Pop’s and share with friends via your choice of social media.

23. By now your children will be experiencing a massive sugar high, your kitchen will be unrecognisable, and you will probably have large quantities of hundreds and thousands in your hair, down your top and embedded in the souls of your feet.

24.  Eat a cake pop. God knows you deserve it. Tea is optional… but strongly recommended.


**  Give-away!  **




I'm giving away a Kambrook Cake Pop Maker to one lucky Cup of Tea and a Blog reader


To enter: 

1. Please use the comment section below to answer the following question:

"What is your earliest memory of baking?"

2. Please include an email address with your answer.

3. Please 'like' the Cup of Tea and a Blog Facebook page.


Terms & Conditions:
1. This give-away is only open to Austrailan Residents. Sorry about that international readers. 
2. Giveaway closes 5pm AEDST, Friday 14th December 2012
3. Winners will be chosen based on creativity and originality
4. Winners will be announced on the Cup of Tea and a Blog Facebook page 9am AEDST, Saturday 15th December 2012 and via email. 
5. Judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
6. Winner must make contact within 3 days of being contacted, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.
7. Prizes are not transferable, changeable or redeemable for cash.
8. Prizes will not be replaced in the event that they are stolen, lost or damaged in transit.

Disclosure: 
This is not a paid sponsored post. I was delighted to receive a Kambrook Cake Pop Maker when I attended the Bloggers Brunch via Kids Business. All opinions expressed are my own. Especially the ones about cake. 


Aussie Giveaway Linky
Hosted by Three Lil Princesses

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gender neutral

This morning I read a fascinating article about a Swedish toy company that has defied typical gender stereotyping by switching girl models for boys and vice versa. In their new Christmas toy catalog, Top Toy pictures young boys playing with dolls and girls holding toy machine guns.

At first I reacted with glee. ‘How wonderful!’ I thought. I pondered the implications of a similar move here in Australia and started to wonder how long it would take for this idea to trickle through.

But as the day wore on I mulled it over again. Something didn’t sit right. I read the article again. The rationale behind the move was sparked by criticism from Swedish advertising watchdog Reklamombudsmannen (RO) who felt that Top Toys had fostered old-fashioned gender stereotypes by featuring pictures of boys dressed as superheroes and girls as princesses in their catalogs.

I can understand the logic behind the new catalog – “Traditional gender stereotypes you say? No problem! We’ll reverse them!” But it doesn’t really get to the crux of the matter does it?

You can picture boys playing with dolls and girls playing with guns, but while strong gender stereotypes exist in society then it’s really just that – a picture.

There are differences between girls and boys, their preferences for toys and the way that they play…but these differences are not as simple as ‘boys like blue’ and ‘girls like pink’. I wonder to what extent we condition these preferences… you only need to take a look at the selection of clothing available for newborns to see that tradition is still very much at large.

My eldest daughter has always shown a strong preference for toys that would traditionally have been classed as ‘boy’s toys’ such as diggers, trucks and trains. I guess you would call her a ‘tom boy’, she likes running and climbing and rarely sits still. My youngest daughter prefers dolls and would rather sit quietly with a book than run around in the park.

It has been fascinating to watch my girls develop, each has a different personality and different toy preferences. By allowing them the opportunity to explore a variety of toys each has developed their own preferences independently.

What does ‘gender neutral’ mean anyway? When I think of ‘gender neutral’ toys I picture things with no gender connotations at all such as building blocks, spinning tops and bouncy balls. Many toys such as kitchens and shops should also fall into this category… but many toy shops pitch them at girls by making them pink.

Perhaps we can start by removing the labels. Rather than department stores advertising  ‘toys for girls’ and ‘toys for boys’ we could use signs such as ‘role playing toys’ and ‘action toys’. Stores such as Ikea are already doing just that and producing a wide range of toys with no clear gender bias.

I’m all for challenging traditional gender stereotypes, but would argue that it’s not as simple as giving all the boys doll houses for Christmas… It is our responsibility as parents to allow our children to explore their own inclinations by allowing them to experience a variety of toys without the confines of gender stereotyping.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life changing moments

Have you ever looked back on your life and been able to pin point a single moment in which everything changed? A defining event, that led you down the path that led to where you are today? We all have them, perhaps they didn’t seem very significant at the time, but later when you looked back you said;

“Yes! That was it! That was the moment that changed my life”

In February 2007, shortly before my 29th Birthday, I took a phone call from my boss. He asked me to pop up to see him in a meeting room on the 5th floor, ‘right away please’. It was odd, since his office was a stone’s throw from my own. Normally when he needed a word he would come in, pull up a chair. We never had formal meetings.

Tea was served in fancy cups, like this one photographed by Kimba.
I hated that job. When I started I thought that I would love having my own office (which turned out to be bigger than my apartment (it wasn’t a particularly big office… it was a particularly small apartment), but I hated it. I felt lonely and isolated. I missed being part of a team, I missed the chitter chatter of working open plan. It was a great opportunity, but really, in my heart I knew it wasn’t for me.

And so off I went to the meeting that would change my life. My boss had arranged tea and biscuits on the table along with a box of tissues, or at least he had asked his PA or one of the many receptionists to do it for him. It was a nice touch. 

 He shifted in his seat, uncomfortable and I started to realize what he was about to say. His words were awkward and he looked down a lot, eventually getting to the crux of the matter… ‘we have to let you go’…. He went on to explain my ‘redundancy package’… totting up fingers as he went…’a bonus’… ‘holiday entitlement’… 

 
I bit my lip. He nudged the tissues closer to me. But I wasn’t about to cry. I was trying to stop a big joyful smile from spreading across my face. I wasn’t concerned about finding another job, I had good experience in my field and a gift for winging my way through tricky interview questions. I was walking away from a job that made me miserable.

Back in my office I started browsing travel websites. My heart started racing. I’d always longed to travel but had somehow never got round to it. For the first time in my life there was nothing holding me back.

I sometimes wonder where I would be right now if I had stayed in that job. No doubt I would have continued climbing the career ladder. I’d probably still live in London. Maybe I’d have met someone significant and started a family. Maybe I’d still be a girl about town, burning the candle at both ends.

I don’t believe in fate as such, but I do think that life has a way of working out for the best. And that afternoon in the dreary offices of a swanky law firm, my life changed direction. Just. Like. That.

Can you pin point a moment that changed your life? 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Children welcome here?

Yesterday I braved our local shopping centre armed with a shopping list, two small children and just a whiff of a hangover.

I took deep breaths as we negotiated the crowds, pushing little C in the buggy and keeping a close eye on G who happily skipped along ahead of us.

We visited the art shop to gather supplies for our homemade Christmas cards. We chose a birthday gift for one of G’s friends and we picked up some essential groceries.

I then braced myself for some serious drama and took G for a haircut. You know, exuberant, energetic, G?... The one who can’t sit still…

Outside the hairdressers I told G that if she sat very still while she had her haircut we would go and have a baby-cino afterwards. 


To be honest, I didn’t expect it to work. G is so full of energy that even with good intentions she can’t help herself. But my little girl did me proud. She sat statue still. She moved her head when directed and she politely thanked the hairdresser at the end.

And so off we went to the little café with the best baby-cinos in Sydney. 



We got a table and I popped little C into a highchair. I caught the eye of the waiter and put our order in. I know that the girls can only sit still for five to ten minutes before they start to get restless.

While we wait I read the girls a book and we talk about the story, make animal noises and generally enjoy ourselves in a quite and orderly manner.

I couldn’t help noticing a gentleman of an older generation glancing over every now and then. He didn’t return my smile and instead gave me a look that can only be described as withering.

I get it. He’d come into the café to enjoy a coffee and some time with the paper. He wasn’t interested in listening to a story about how Dora the Explorer had helped a mermaid clean up the sea following a heinous atrocity by a mean octopus… and who can blame him?

Our drinks arrived. Little C stuck her hand straight in and shoved a fistful of milky foam straight into her mouth. G scoffed the marshmallows first and then sipped her baby-cino straight from the cup creating a delightful chocolate moustache in the process. 

  
I downed my latte as fast as I could. The girls were starting to get the fidgets and I was planning on paying up and making a hasty exit.

As we left I almost heard the collective sigh of relief from the remaining customers. Peace had been restored.

I started to wonder about small children in cafes and the impact it has on the other patrons…

Maybe a designated child-free area would help…?

 Or perhaps a warning sign…?

Or maybe, we just need to be a little more understanding of one another…

In café’s…

And in the rest of the world.

My week in pictures #11



Can you see my messy desk? that's where I sit when I'm writing. It's under the stairs... so I'm a bit like the Harry Potter of the Blogosphere.


It's been another hectic week full of bouncing and baking and babychinos. 

Did you have a good week?

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Don't worry. Be happy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tired toddler who had a very busy morning, must be in want of a nap…

Or at least be in ‘need’ of a nap…

But it doesn’t always work out like that does it?

In fact, sometimes I’d argue that the opposite is true… as their level of ‘tiredness’ increases, the chance of them actually nodding off decreases.

This morning we enjoyed a play date with good friends. G and O are two peas in a pod, full of cheeky beans and way too much energy.

What do you do with two manic (nearly) 3 year olds?

You wear them out of course!

My friend is lucky enough to have the loan of a bouncy castle at the moment, so whilst we sipped cups of tea and caught up on news (albeit with constant interruption from little C and little M) G and O bounced their metaphorical socks off! 

There was bouncing. There was hand holding. And there was rolling around in fits of giggles. 



By the time we left, G was a mess of sweat and hysteria.

I’m conscious of getting the girls home by noon so that they’re down for their lunchtime nap at more or less the same time each day. I follow the same routine everyday as consistency seems to be the key for good day sleeps.

But today it all went tits up.

I left G’s precious teddy in the car.

Little C filled her nappy with the most offensive pooh imaginable (eating an entire punnet of Blueberries will do that)

G had to get up for a wee.

Little C started crying.

I was up and down the stairs. Up and down. And up and down again.

As time passed the window of napping opportunity narrowed.

Grumpy at the prospect of spending the afternoon with two manic children I pleaded with them to go to sleep.

It didn’t work.

I struggle when they don’t nap. It means I don’t have a break, and I stress about my ever-increasing things to do list.

The girls ran riot, they fought over toys, they overreacted to little things that they’d usually shrug off. I boiled the kettle three times but never did make that tea.

G asked for music, so I switched the radio on…

“Don’t worry… beeeeeeeeeeeee happy……”

And just like that everything changed.

And we sang.

And we danced.

And we fell about laughing.

Plus, as a little bonus, they were both sparko by half six…

Don’t worry. Be happy.



                  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Talking through the baby


There was a new mother in the Tadpole’s swimming lesson this morning. To be clear, the new student was the small baby the mother anxiously clung on to. I’m sure the mother can swim admirably… definitely well enough for the Tadpoles…

Anyway. The baby was probably around six months, maybe a little older. I’m not very good at guessing as my two were always big for their age. But this little one had a few teeth, could sit well on the wall for ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and all in all was a pretty happy little fellow.

The mother looked tired. It kind of goes with the territory I guess. I’m sure I look tired 99.9% of the time. I certainly feel it.

The baby started getting cranky. Swimming lessons will do that to a little one. The mother, jiggled the baby through the next exercise and remarked, very loudly

“Oh you’re tired are you? Well you should have slept last night! You wouldn’t feel so tired if you actually slept at night!” 


All the other mothers in the class smiled sympathetically. We’ve all been there. Sleepless nights are tough. Months of sleep deprivation can send even the sanest of mothers doo lally tap.

The funny thing was, she wasn’t really talking to the baby at all. She was talking through the baby. She was communicating to anyone else in earshot, using the baby as a way to voice her frustration.

I’ve done it myself.

“G, if you would stop running off at every opportunity I would let you walk instead of strapping you into the buggy”

It was my way of explaining myself to passers by who looked over when G protested. Now that I look back I wonder if any of those passers by were really that interested in whether I let G walk round the shopping centre or not. When people looked over I just assumed they thought that I was a terrible mother.

In the early days of parenthood, my husband and I had entire conversations through our newborn baby.

“Well, if Daddy had got up to see you in the night then he would be feeling grumpy this morning too…” 


It’s a somewhat passive aggressive tact, and possibly a little confusing for the poor baby stuck in the middle. I’m fairly confident that this practice is wide spread amongst new parents, tired and overwhelmed it’s a way of breaking the ice, of saying what you’re thinking without picking a fight.

As my children have grown older, I’ve grown wiser. I no longer feel the need to explain myself to the people who pass me by. And if I want to communicate my feelings to my husband I do so directly and not though the medium of a cute and cuddly baby.

Unless of course… “Mummy really needs a cup of tea”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday afternoon at the Newtown Hotel


On Sunday, I escaped. I met my friend at the Newtown Hotel. We stood at the bar and discussed the merits of Sav Blanc on tap (surprisingly quaffable) over cocktails before touring the building for the best possible spot. 


Having been recently refurbished it was full of Newtown’s young and trendy residents. My friend and I (neither young or trendy) soaked up the atmosphere with the sort of joy one would experience on release from a long stint in prison.

Not that being a stay at home mum is anything like prison. The food is better for a start. But sometimes, despite the overwhelming love we feel for our children, life can be a little lonely.

My life is full of people. I am constantly interacting on various social media platforms. I exchange text messages. Sometimes I even talk on the phone! But none of that can compare to sipping wine with a friend in the Newtown Hotel on a Sunday afternoon.

It felt like a holiday. Like an extravagance. For two whole hours we talked about life, and love and babies and the relentless slog that is bringing up children.  


Our wine evaporated. I went for more, standing at the bar between impossibly hip students, comfortable with who I am.

My friend and I talked and laughed and shared stories, good and bad. The acknowledgement that sometimes it’s a bit shit. The pride we feel as our children blossom. The exasperation of the daily battle over dressing and feeding and making it out the door.

Two hours (and a fair amount of wine) disappeared and our batteries were re-charged with laughter, and friendship.  

What do you do to re-charge your batteries? 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for another week of IBOT! 

 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My week in pictures #10


How an earth is it Sunday again already?! The highlight of our week was a trip to the zoo! The girls were beside themselves seeing all the animals and really wore themselves out running about (I must admit that I slept pretty well that night too). 

What have you been up to?


Friday, November 16, 2012

Naughty Mummy!

I don’t like using the word ‘naughty’. Children are not ‘naughty’, sometimes they do ‘naughty’ things – but there is a difference. It is a word I try and avoid, but sometimes it slips out.

G is a pickle. She isn’t deliberately ‘naughty’ she just has a tendency to ignore everything I say and/or do the opposite. It pushes my buttons. Sometimes I snap, I yell at her, I lose my patience.

When we’re out in public I pray to the gods of toddler behaviour that we’ll get through our outing without a tantrum. Now that I have two toddlers the odds are pretty slim.

G is a big girl now, just three weeks from her third birthday. She doesn’t want to sit in the buggy – and although it is stressful for me to have her roaming free, I can’t make her. 

This morning we popped into the supermarket. I pushed little C in the double buggy, G’s empty seat a convenient place to stash my handbag (until little C got stuck into my make up bag) and G ran around ‘helping’.

We only needed a few bits and pieces, but the experience was akin to goat herding. G threw random items into her basket. When it got too heavy she pushed it along “Look at me Mummy!” she sang out, having the time of her life. She opened a loaf of bread and tore some off for her sister – I didn’t even try and stop her – I have become a firm believer in that old nugget ‘pick your battles’. 


When I made it to the check out with both girls and (nearly) all the items on my grocery list I felt pretty pleased with myself. This really highlights the extent to which my life has changed, making it round Coles with two toddlers is now a major achievement.

I decided to roll the dice and pop into Target. I’m taking a rather haphazard approach to the Christmas shopping this year and randomly picking up various items when the mood takes me. This plan could go tits up when I’m wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve only to discover I have brought a dozen presents for my gorgeous niece and nothing for my five nephews.

Temptation started to get the better of G. She started picking things up, she wandered off. She hid. I huffed and puffed and gave up on the idea. Let's quit while we’re ahead.

As we left Target, G waved merrily to the check out staff.

The car park was in sight.

I piled the girls in to the car and dished out snacks and drinks before unloading the content of the buggy into the car.

I then made an alarming discovery… 


I had left Target in possession of a pair of shorts that I had neither picked up, nor paid for…

“Oh no! Mummy did something very naughty!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Grave danger!

My exuberant daughter G is going to be turning three next month. She is as much of a pickle now as she was this time last year. She is bigger, and she knows a lot more words. But she is still as cheeky and defiant as ever. People say she is a ‘character'. People say she is ‘spirited’ and that’s totally fine with me. It's who she is and I wouldn't have her any other way.

A consequence of G’s personality is that she often gets into mischief. I’ve learned to give her space to explore in the park. I back off and let her do her own thing. I keep an eye on her as she climbs and runs and hides and merrily introduces herself to anyone in the vicinity. 

It is shocking that children try and climb these, erm, climbing walls...

But parks are funny places. I’m not one for categorising parenting styles, but if I were – parks would be the place to see them all played out together.

G started climbing the rope ladder up to the slide. She called out “Look at me Mummy!” I held my breath as she climbed, but she is bold and adventurous and actually rather proficient when it comes to climbing.

“Look at you!” I call back.

Little C, now very much a toddler likes to stay close to me. She holds my hand and pulls me to the swings. She loves the swings. I push her and she laughs her delightful laugh. I pull my phone from my pocket; I need a photo of this gorgeous girl!

Meanwhile, back at the rope ladder G is stuck.

But I’m faffing about with my phone (trying to take a photo of little C laughing on the swing), it can't have looked good. 

Without using a label I dislike, another mother of the over protective variety swooped in to rescue G from the top of the ladder. She then escorted her to my side.

Your daughter got stuck!” she informs me, her tone says it all. She may as well be saying “You neglectful woman! Your daughter was in grave danger!”

Now this is the part where I normally get defensive. Where I make apologies. Where I thank the other mother. This interaction would normally end with me feeling judged by the other, more protective mother.

But I'm sick of judgement. You can go ahead and judge me all you like. I know I’m doing my best and really, that’s all that matters right now.

So I politely explain that G is a good climber, that she would probably have worked it out on her own, or called for me. But thanks anyway.

And then I take a photo of C on the swings and get on with my day.



Linking up with Essentially Jess for another fantastic week of IBOT! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What you focus on expands


We have new neighbors. They moved in a few months ago. I haven’t met them face to face yet. When the quiet elderly Korean couple moved out I wondered who would come along and fill the big empty house. I hoped it would be a family with young children, potential friends for my girls. I had visions of inviting them round for a cuppa and chatting with my new neighbor while our children splashed about in the paddling pool.

When I heard voices in their garden I resisted the urge to climb up the fence and instead listened out for children. I started mentally baking a batch of welcome cookies.

The voices that drifted over the fence were tense and grumpy, which seemed logical – moving day isn’t the most joyous occasion. But their language was pretty shocking (even by my standards), and after a few minutes I took the girls indoors, the last thing I want is for G to start using the ‘C’ word (and no, I’m not talking about Christmas). 


It’s been a few months now, I haven’t popped round to introduce myself and I never did bake those cookies. We hear them often. Their colourful language floats through our windows as we sit down to a family meal. Their voices wake us in the night.

I huff and puff. I glare at them through the walls. ‘Why does it bother you so much?’ My husband asks.

Because they are invading my personal space with their foul language, that’s why. Because it’s just so inconsiderate.

And there it was… the magic word. The bottom line of my huffiness.  Inconsiderate.

As I’ve got older I’ve become increasingly aware of the way human kind interacts with one another. And a general lack of consideration bothers me more and more. People in their cars who won't slow down to allow someone into their lane. People in shopping centers who push past others on the escalators. Little things. Small gestures.

I tried to explain my point of view to my husband, who being rather laid back by nature isn’t so bothered by the constant stream of profanity drifting over the fence. He told me to let it go. Forget it. Ignore it.

Hurumph.

I have a tendency to mull things over and just as I was ready to go bang their door down and tell them to shut the fuck up (yes, I know, I know….) I had an epiphany.

“What you focus on expands”

Do you know that one? It’s a universal law and it’s so bloody true (yes, I know…). The more I acknowledge all the little, inconsiderate actions I encounter the more disheartened I become. Because I putting my energy in the wrong place.

So today I tried something different. I focused on the good stuff. On the people that return my smile as I pass them in the street. The man that waved back at G when we were held up in traffic. The kind lady that held the door open for me at the post office.

When you focus your attention on all the positives then all of a sudden those inconsiderate things don’t matter so much, and all of a sudden the world is a little more friendly.

And as for my neighbors, they can fuck off. The cunts. 

My week in pictures #9


We've had another action packed week. A visit to a family friendly pub for some lunch with the grand folks, G got dressed up for Melbourne Cup and I had a wonderful time at the Bloggers Brunch.

What have you been up to?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

"What's my pin number?"

Or, What I know about remembering  

There are days that I can’t remember my pin number. I hold up a queue of shoppers as I try again, the figures on the key pad blur in my confusion. My husband says I’m getting worse. Maybe I am. I am quick to blame ‘baby brain’, or sleep deprivation, but really I’m just a bit crap at numbers. 

I’m better with words. I can recite the opening lines of all my favourite novels. Several Shakespearean soliloquies are still with me, years after memorising them. Lyrics to songs come back the instant I hear them. Music has a power like that.


 I’m pretty good with people. If we meet I will remember you. I’ll file you away somewhere in my mind and years later will recall what you drank or said or how you made me feel.

I’m great with stories. Real life stories. From the chronicles of my early childhood to the tale of my first kiss. The stories I’ve been told over a cold beer or a cup of tea. Stories stick.

Sometimes these stories are emotionally charged events, lodged forever in my heart like shards of glass. I could tell you in graphic detail what I did on Feburary 13th 2001. I went about my day, unaware that my father was living his last day on another continent. I remember everything, from what I had for lunch to the itchy grey woollen polo neck I wore. The look on my mother's face as she delivered the news, and the sensation of falling…

I remember the day I met my husband. Our first kiss. The things we talked about as we held hands across the table that night at the Green Gourmet. The births of our daughters and their early milestones are recorded forever, filed away, never to be forgotten. First steps. First words. A mixture of joy and pride and chronic sleep deprivation.

But I also remember tiny details of my youth that bare no real significance at all. Things that just happened. Buying penny sweets from the paper shop. My lines in the school play. Earning swimming badges treading water in pajamas. Gardening with my great uncle Emrys. Making a snowman at the crack of dawn and warming up with hot porridge and golden syrup. Learning to ride my bike. The first mouthful of steak and kidney pie.


Scent is the most powerful of my senses. The smell of cress seeds transports me back to school in an instant. One moment I’m standing in the kitchen, the next I am five years old prodding damp cotton wool and making notes in an exercise book. The smell of jasmine will always remind me of the final stages of my first pregnancy, hanging freshly laundered baby clothes on the washing line.  Lavender brings me to my Nana’s garden, All Spice to her kitchen. The smell of the rain makes me homesick.

I could tell you a thousand stories from my life. The highs and the lows and the utterly mundane.

But I still can’t remember my bloody pin number. 


Linking up with Sarah at That Space in Between 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!

Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot!

When I was a child my family and I celebrated Guy Falks Night at a local farm along with the rest of our community.

The children at the village school I attended were responsible for making the ‘Guy’ who was usually the size of a grown man and dressed in a suit stuffed with newspaper. His head would be made of paper mache and then painted a gaudy shade of pink. Once complete he would sit in the school foyer holding a little our sign that read ‘ penny for the guy’.

As children the symbolism of sitting the lovingly assembled Guy on top of an enormous bon fire and then standing around watching as the flames took hold went ever so slightly over our heads. Which is just as well really.

Having seen off the Guy, we would walk on to a near by field to watch the firework display. I recall the excitement of the crowd as Tom Eves and a few other members of the local dads club set off the fireworks. The crowd would ‘Ooo’ and “Ahh’ over Rockets and Catherine Wheels and gasp with a surprise as a Roman Candle lit up the sky.


My sister and I would be bundled up in all our cosiest clothing, woollen gloves and ear warmers over our hats. We would clap our hands together and hop up and down. Our breath hovered in the cold air before evaporating into the night. We waved sparklers around, mesmerised by the flickering and crackling. We wrote our names in the air our smiling faces illuminated for a moment by the glow of the sparks.

After the fireworks the crowds would amble back towards the farm, gathering in a large barn for piping hot tomato soup and jacket potatoes. We sat on bales of hay and warned our chilly fingers on polystyrene cups and talked about the fireworks and the sparklers and the bon fire. And then we would go home and get warm and fall asleep with the sound of fireworks ringing in our ears.

Right now there are bonfires and fireworks lighting the sky across the UK. I could not feel further away.

This is my beautiful friend Ellie enjoying a bonfire.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

A very witty post from the illiterate infant

I am delighted to introduce you to my first ever guest blogger, Kevin M, from the Illiterate Infant. 


So about week ago I got a message from Catherine asking me to write a guest post for her blog. All good I thought, I’ve often been on the receiving end of her generous re-tweets and post promotions. I replied with a yes, thinking that I’d quickly knock something together, chuck in a cute story about being a first time dad and bob’s your uncle. That’s when Catherine replied with this message:


It’s wasn’t an in-laws phobia or a hatred of emoticons but the request for something witty that’s caused a mild performance anxiety (obviously it was only a writing one – yes the rumours are true).

Obviously I think I’m hilarious however that goes with being a dad. We get to comment on cemeteries being the dead centre of town, talk about fungi that can’t go to parties because there isn’t much room (he he) or walk up to any kid under 4 years of age and say “got your nose”!

But witty? Witty sounds a little more high-brow than my (and most other dads I know) material. Witty precludes me from using toilet humour and most of the material I’ve hijacked from Flying High (a hospital what is it? It’s a big white building with patients inside but that’s not important right now). Witty also sounds a little bit light hearted and maybe uplifting which counts out my Black Adder material (“We've been sitting here since Christmas 1914, during which time millions of men have died, and we've moved no further than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping”).

Luckily for me, and others that have had to put up with my recycled routine of dad jokes, I have a new source of hilarity in my 2.5yo daughter. Maybe she is gifted with comic timing or maybe it’s just her way of interpreting her new world but she has an amazing ability to remind her parents not to take life to seriously. This was shown in it’s finest a couple of weeks ago.

We are currently going through the “What’ this mummy?”, “What’s this daddy” stage where everything needs to be explained. Yes it’s great that she is taking an interest in her world and yes it’s wonderful that her little brain is obviously growing at a million cells per second but there are times, every now and then when it’s really, really annoying. Last Saturday morning we were trying to get out of the house, hustling our miss 2.5 with the added frustration of having to explain what the TV remote control was, why the curtains were open or why she needed to wear shoes.

Tempers were fraying as we were getting later and later when miss 2.5 walked in the room and said “what’s this daddy?”

“It’s a shoehorn, now hurry up” I snapped back before she turned around, skipped out of the room pressing her hand on the shoe horn laughing as she yelled “beep-beep, beep-beeeeep”.

***

Kevin is a relatively new daddy blogger, writing about the adventure that is kids. His blog talks about everything from out of control shopping trips to his new found (dis)-ability to cry when he watches X Factor. Mostly though he's talking about what it's like to be responsible for a gorgeous bundle of excitement and unpredictability without an instruction book. You can connect with Kevin on Facebook and Twitter.