Friday, 26 October 2012

halloween treats

Little Miss M and I made a batch of basic cupcakes - with 100g block of melted chocolate added in. i think she ate about three cupcakes worth of batter.
we then went to the corner shop and got some stringy sweets and mini marshmallows. when Little Mr Z got home from school we made halloween spiders by sticking the sweets in to the sides of the cupcakes for legs
covering them in melted chocolate [this avoided the problem of finding or making black icing. the kids are young enough not to mind too much if the spiders were brown instead of black]
and sticking the marshmallows on for eyes. i have to admit these were maybe a little too much chocolate and sugar - Mr Z was wired for hours, popping out of bed and dancing around the living room until 9:30pm(he normally passes out at 8pm).
while the kids were eating and covering themselves in chocolate, i melted marshmallows in a saucepan and used the goo to make ghost shapes on some of the cupcakes... these were very sticky!
i then ran out of halloween steam so finished off the last few cupcakes with a big dollop of melted chocolate and a marshmallow
after eating the chocolatey sugary spider cupcake, Z said he felt really sick. 15 minutes later he was hovering around me begging for more chocolate and marshmallows. i said "no i think you've had enough and remember you felt really sick?" He replied "but God has healed me so i don't feel sick any more!" i wanted to give him more for his canny answer.

now on to pumpkin carving...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


these are the cooking with kids books that i have and i get lots from the library. Can anyone recommend any other really good ones? 
did anyone else read these books as a child? A Wrinkle in Time, Moomins, Hannibal, Narnia, The Hobbit.
my mother is amazing at keeping things - so we get lovely retro hand-me-down clothes, shoes, wellies and toys. and the occasional box of books passed our way from our old bedrooms. here is a selection of my old books. Madeleine L'Engle was my favourite author with Lucy Maude Montgomery coming a close second. I even wrote my own novel which was basically a re-write of Anne of Green Gables - the characters just had different names. Who was your favourite childhood author?

i have just read this book and loved it. every woman should read this - if only for a good laugh and some impressive writing. anyone else like it?

this post is linked up with The Gallery, where others have posted on the theme of Books also

Monday, 22 October 2012


so i'm on the next level of my detox - slightly less strict but none of the good stuff (caffeine, sugar, dried fruit, honey, wheat) - and today i felt desperate for something delicious. Sam had also been scouring the cupboards last night for some sort of muffin or cake or something yummy. so the kids came home from school and i felt like quickly throwing something in the oven for them... and for ME... and for Sam later. so i decided to try to make up a recipe that didnt take me toooo far off my detox. but i really needed a treat! it was so delicious i could eat a whole loaf! Sam & the kids loved it and it kept well and tasted good the next day. it has no sugar and very little wheat. we'll call it apple carrot almond loaf.
preheat the oven to 180C

combine in a big bowl:
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup wholegrain spelt four (or whatever flour you have in the cupboard)
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder

stir together in another bowl:
1 egg (gently whisked)
1 apple (grated)
1 carrot (grated)
1/4 cup agave syrup (or honey)
100g butter (melted)

gently mix the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and pour the mix in to a small greased loaf tin. sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of the loaf.

Bake for 30mins.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

the illusion of the butt-crack

so the bane of my life is low-cut jeans. i love them and i wear them but having become a mum i am permanently bending over - and generally with my arms full, a child crying, another child trying to escape my grasp and some combination of poo, wee, snot or vomit covering me or a child... and we're in central london... running late for a very important engagement... outside a fancy hotel that we have just hurtled in and out of to grab some napkins for the aforementioned bodily fluid disaster. now is not the time for me to be worrying about my trousers sliding down my back and my bum and knickers showing. i am painfully aware that i'm on full display but i can not possibly move or free up a hand to heave my trousers up & over my love handles. this also seems to happen when i am at the front of church or at a new toddler group... or at a kids party where i don't know anyone. 
sometimes when my trousers ride down i get the happy feeling that 'oh my trousers feel loose i must have lost some weight' and then i realise that this is an evil illusion and that in fact i bought them yesterday from Primark and they have already lost all shape and ability to stay on my body - going from tight and sexy to baggy and bum-showing within 6 hours of wearing. why do i fall for it every time?

here's a dangerously easy recipe that will help to refill those now baggy trousers

flapjack heaven

1. preheat oven to 180C ans line a small baking dish with parchment paper
2. in a saucepan melt 200g of butter with 100ml golden syrup

3. measure out 350g of oats and a pinch of salt
4. pour the butter & syrup over the oats and stir well

4a. optional - add any extra bits (i like chopped apricots & almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds) and 3 extra large tablespoons golden syrup to hold the bits in

5. pat the mixture down in to the baking dish
6. bake for 30 mins and then allow to cool before cutting in to squares
7. see if you can eat less than three in quick succession

Saturday, 20 October 2012

starting school

when Little Mr Z started "big school", he got oodles of attention, photographs taken, lunch box made up. we had had a lovely summer as a family and now Daddy was off to work and big brother was off to what looked like a very exciting classroom, in new clothes and carrying an exciting lunch box. i stupidly arranged a play date with a new friend not realising the devastation that M would be feeling from her two beloved boys leaving her behind, at home, with no lunch box... she was a complete wreck. when our guests awkwardly left early because of M's state, i sat on the bottom step and sobbed. this stopped M from her face-down screaming & sobbing on the door mat. she walked to me and we hugged and we talked and we realised we were both missing Daddy and Z and it was quite an adjustment. when she collapsed screaming at the school gate because Z wouldn't let her carry his lunch box i realised it was time for a lunch box for her. i found a lunchbox at home and the next morning Z & M both got a special packed lunch and we took photos of BOTH of them outside the front door. Little Miss M carried her lunch box around ALL day for a week and was so pleased with it and comforted by it's presence.

here's a great hearty curry for kids to fill them up after a big day at school

serves 4 - you can spice it up for the grown-ups

1. saute an onion and a red pepper for 2 mins
2. add 2 diced chicken breasts and stir until chicken is white
3. add 1/2 tsp curry powder, pinch turmeric, pinch coriander, 1 tbsp honey and stir for a few mins
4. stir in a handful of chopped green beans
5. add 1 tin coconut milk and 1 tin chick peas and simmer for 3 mins
6. add salt & pepper to taste
7. serve on rice

Friday, 19 October 2012


yesterday my boy came home from school a little subdued. as he ate a snack and drew a picture he said "mummy i don't want to do full days any more. i want to come home." this was so surprising to me as he has loved every minute of school. i sat down and asked if it was because he was tired... or wanted to have more time at home. but i knew there was something bigger in his little frightened eyes. i asked him if something had happened and he nodded but wouldn't tell me more. "it's a secret. i just want to come home after lunch." i tried again gently.. "no i can't tell you it's a secret".  this is agony for a mother.  i explained that i loved him very much and i would not be cross... that it was important that he tell me and i wanted to help him. i panicked at the thought of a relationship where he felt scared or ashamed to tell me things and i wanted to set the precedent now that i won't get cross. eventually he told me that he and a friend had been playing with a dinner lady - taking the red and green cards out of her pocket and then putting them back. eventually she said to stop and "run along or YOU'll get a red card". he had then seen another dinner lady writing on a Red card. the bell rang and play-time was over. he crawled on to my lap and sobbed with complete terror in his voice that he was going to get that Red card tomorrow and would be in big trouble and have to go in to The Office. He pleaded with me to pick him up after lunch through his heart-wrenching gasps and sobs. my heart ached so much in this moment - i felt such immense and gutteral love for this gorgeous little boy (esp as he hadn't done anything wrong) and an overwhelming desire to protect him from a scary situation. i told him i loved him i was proud of him i would take care of it i would talk to his teacher. all he wanted to hear was that i would pick him up after lunch and not make him face that playground and THAT dinner lady. i promised i would if necessary... i would make it ok. i was fairly convinced he had not got a Red card but he was unswervingly convinced that he was in for the worst. in this moment i was so overwhelmed by the feelings that had risen in me. i cried because his fear was so intense and i loved him so deeply and wanted to protect him and make him feel safe. it was extraordinary what a tiny incident could bring up in me - perhaps because school is his first foray out in to a bigger world on his own, without me beside him. it hit me that we have many years of this ahead of us... and i am going to have to toughen up because the daunting situations or trouble he's in will be a lot bigger than this. it made me realise i am a mum and everything in me wants to wrap him up and protect him from the world... but i can't. instead i need to be strong for him - to help him be strong and make good choices.. and when he makes bad ones and fails and messes up or faces daunting things i won't always be able to remove them like i could this time. i'll need to love and support him and send him out again on his own. this is the very beginning of a journey for me. i dont think anything can properly prepare you for the intensity of love & protection - almost to the point of pain - that you can feel for a child. 

here are some muffins that i think go nicely with the gooey lovely feeling of having my boy curled up in my arms needing me more than ever. they are, yet again, very easy... and delicious... and great for packed lunches. i have to thank Bill Granger for this lovely recipe.

raspberry strawberry yoghurt muffins
185g / 1.5 cups self-raising flour
150g / 1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
155g / 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk (to make buttermilk = combine 1 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice with just under 1 cup milk and let stand for 5 mins)
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups chopped strawberries & raspberries

1. preheat oven to 180C
2. sift the flours and cinnamon together
3. stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre
4. lightly whisk together the buttermilk, yoghurt, eggs and oil
5. pour wet ingredients in to the well and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined
6. add the berries and stir in very gently
7.spoon in to muffin tin and bake for 20 mins

Thursday, 18 October 2012

remembering summer

so we're hurtling towards christmas now and i don't feel i have let go of it being summer. but it is well and truly time to pull out winter coats and hem my boys school trousers so i'm not sending him in shorts all winter. i did make some summer fruit puddings with little Miss M and pop them in the freezer so that in the dead of Winter we can turn the heating up, pull them out, pretend it's summer and perhaps help to relieve our SAD - we can have these little puddings and be reminded of lovely hot summery days filled with summer berries, frolicking in fields and swimming in rivers... and be cheered in our souls.

Mash lots of raspberries and strawberries
whisk a pot of double cream
seive the fruit and mix it in to the cream
squeeze half a lemon in to the mix
add icing sugar to taste
spoon in to little dishes and
place a raspberry on top of each
Ahh those lovely summer days.....
post-ice-lolly wrestle

Monday, 15 October 2012


due to various aches and pains, strange skin rashes and a slight paranoia about what was wrong with me (the doctor found everything to be normal) i thought i would go on a detox and see if i could rid myself of these ailments while also improving my general skintone, vitality, and mood. so i found a cleansing detox that involves a week of eating ONLY green vegetables (plus aubergine and some forms of squash) and lots of garlic and onions. the food should mainly be raw or slightly steamed but i have had the odd sauted meal too. there are a few supplements and a weird cleansing liver flush drink at night that i haven't been able to bring myself to embrace. i thought i would only last a few days on this but i am on Day 6 and i feel great!

the cons:

- i smell like brussel sprouts and garlic
- eating vegetables for breakfast
- constantly chopping vegetables (sore back yesterday)
- overdid it on the garlic one day and had stomach cramps in the night
- extreme tiredness hits me in the afternoon and i have to nap (even for 5 minutes)
- i miss coffee
- i'm addicted to salt
- it is expensive buying SO much fresh veg
- it is more effort in the evening cooking a meal for the family while chopping endless veg for myself

the pros:

- i can eat vast quantities of food
- vegetables have never tasted so good. i notice all their lovely flavours and look forward to a bowl of brussel sprouts
- i can cover my vegetables in olive oil and salt so they taste like a big bowl of chips.
- i dont feel groggy
- my skin is improving
- my ongoing intense hormonal (breast and abdomen) aches have gone
- i was expecting days of intense headaches but have had none! (apparently due to drinking lots of water)
- i'm not eating all the kids leftovers
- i'm thinking about what i eat & practising good discipline
- i feel lighter, more motivated and have more energy
feels good to give the body a bit of a cleanse
- the kids have been trying and enjoying lots of new vegetables

here are some of my meals:

 a shop
 first breakfast
second lunch (same day)
snack (beans and garlic)
 dinner (3 Litres of salad)
lunch (3 Litres of salad covered in coconut oil, salt & pepper)
snack (the orange veg is squash)
allowed myself an egg for breakfast one day because was feeling desperate
this is what i miss and crave in the morning [not allowed anything on this plate at the moment] -

Saturday, 13 October 2012


yesterday i felt intensely groggy, tired and unmotivated and wanted to eat and eat - i did not want to face tidying and cleaning a messy dirty house and looking after a sick two-year old.

i think i felt like this beacuse a.)the kids are waking before 6am - grr! b.) i am anticipating starting a really strict detox diet (once i have gathered enough ingredients, over-priced Holland& Barrett pills, motivation and self-control) to improve my skin, hormonal balance, mood, vitality - in fear of this i want to eat and eat! c.) i have been looking after a sick two year old and a very tired four year old and wondered by the end of friday whether i had lost all control of my kids and where i had gone wrong as a mother as they both yelled at me. i was sure no-one else's kids behaved this badly - had i set a terrible example to them or are they just typical two and four year olds and i'm setting my standards too high? sam says i have to get over the self-blame because it's not helping anyone and it's not true. he is right but i have to convince my gut of that and switch off the chiding voices in my head.

so in my groggy avoiding state sam said he had to go in to london to collect something from his office - he had some spare free train tickets - why didnt i and little Miss M go with him? i jumped at the idea. we spent from 11am until 3pm travelling in to london and back with no time to stop - train, bus, grab a take-away sandwich, taxi, train. little Miss M was an angel - bundled up warm and resting most of the day... or chatting with strangers on the train. weird and strangely enjoyable to spend a whole day riding public transport... one way to avoid getting on with anything productive. it was nice to be with an adult all day too... and a lovely one at that.

here's a comforting carbonara which will probably only add to the grogginess.. but man it is easy to make and does it taste good.

tagliatelle for two
1 clove garlic (chopped finely)
3 slices bacon (chopped in to small pieces)
1 oz grated cheddar and parmesan
1 egg
1 tbsp cream

1. boil up some tagliatelle 
3. fry up the bacon and the garlic
4. whisk together the grated cheese, eggs and cream
5. season with pepper
6. when the pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the hot pan. pour the egg mixture plus the bacon over the pasta and slowly stir it.

Friday, 12 October 2012

dealing with a two year old

i currently would benefit from going on a strict diet for health reasons but i can't bring myself to start because i also need comfort food looking after little children. maybe i'll always find a reason to NEED comfort food but right now the kids feel exhausting to me and require a lot of deep-breathing - and cake eating.
Little Miss M screams - she can utter the most high-pitched shrill scream when she doesn't get her way. what have i done wrong? how can i get her to stop? on bad days she screeches and whines so much i want to shake her. its like a drill in the head and the nervous system! as my husband said it is like sandpaper on the brain. i will hold my hands up - i always looked down on people with ferrel children. i didn't realise i would have one. some days little Miss M's hair is dreadlocked and wild and she wont let me near it (even for chocolate!) and she screams and writhes when something goes wrong. she screeched at the top of her lungs in the supermarket a few days ago - writhing in the trolley with pen all over her face.

on days like today i don't want to be around anyone because i am embarrassed by her behaviour. i know how i used to view children who behaved like that and i'd rather not be around others who might be thinking the same. close friends are fine, new friends not. i know they are probably far more generous-hearted than i ever was and feel only compassion for me and understanding for Little Miss M but i do wonder and i wonder if they don't want their child influenced by M's passionate behaviour! i feel uncomfortable and self-conscious and aware of their alarmed looks..  i'm glad she's passionate - it will stand her in good stead in the long run but man it is tiring right now. she is sick with a terrible cold and cough and i have to remember at these times that she can also have very angelic days when healthy and well-rested. but we've had a string of difficult days recently and its wearing me down. 
i have been attending a parenting course at a local church. another mother said to me recently "i don't know why you are doing this course - your daughter is the best behaved child i have EVER met!" i did feel some pride well up in me (of course) and i realised she can be a delight - very responsive and obedient. i also thought - you have no idea!!

her screaming and whining and crying this week has been hugely exacerbated by her being ill. i feel so bad when i have spent two days being really impatient and spending time analysing whether is it my fault my child a.) is miserable and cross and b.) is badly behaved and impossible to discipline, c.) wont eat her food!! ... it then dawns on me that they are actually really ill... as their hacking cough comes to the surface and keeps us all awake all night and their nose properly starts to stream. those two days of impatient mummy dragging them on playdates and to ballet classes and up to London for the day - were probably when they felt totally exhausted and headachey and sore throatey - like we all do when we are coming down with something nasty.... poor little girl.

so for a little comfort for mother's of two year olds.. or as someone said to me "the terrible twos might be bad but just wait for the F_ing fours!"

this is the best banana bread recipe in the world. it comes from the beautiful book Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros and is an all-time favourite of mine.
125g butter
180g dark brown sugar
350g (3 or 4) bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g/ 2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp warm milk
optional - i made two loaves and added chopped almonds and chopped dried apricots to one

1. preheat the oven to 180C and butter a loaf tin
2. cream the butter and sugar and stir in the bananas
3. add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and pinch of salt and mix
4. mix the baking soda in to the milk and stir in to the batter
5. pour mix in to the tin and bake for 50mins or until brown and crusty on top and cooked through. do not overcook as you want the loaf to be moist.

sometimes i double the recipe to make a few loaves for the freezer. i add some nuts and dried fruit to some loaves.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

conversation with a four year old

Conversation with a four year old:
Z: "If you die before me, who will look after me?"
Me (trying to be as comforting as possible): "You will be a grown-up and be able to look after yourself.. you will be like Daddy and you might have your own children to look after"
Z: "will i be a Daddy? and who will be Mummy? Do boys marry girls?"
Me: "Yes that's right.. so you could marry Suzy or Milly or Jane"
Z (fascinated by this idea): "Who else?" "Who else?" .. until we had been through most of his friends.. "or M!"
Me: "Well no, you're not supposed to marry your sister. You marry someone from a different family with a different mummy and daddy"
Z: "But Aunty Tri married Uncle Nick and he's from the same family"
Me: " No he is in the same family now because they are married.. but he has a different family and a different Mummy and Daddy to Aunty Tri."
Z: " where does he live?"
Me: " He lives with Aunty Tri but when he was a boy he lived with his Mummy and Daddy in a different house"
Z: "I think I WILL marry M"
Me: "well you're not really supposed to marry your sister."
Z: "well, I will tell the police."

Monday, 8 October 2012

september soul searching

for the first year of little miss M's life, i made these all the time - they were very quick, easy, adaptable, fool-proof, enjoyable for Little Mr Z to help with, and totally fulfilled my breastfeeding-sweet-lardy-carb cravings that accompanied my mid-morning coffee. they could be easily whipped up if guests were coming over for coffee or tea. i wonder how many of these we ate that year!
now it is october a couple of years on and i'm making them again - why? i think in september and october i feel depressed and inspired in round-abouts. i start to re-evaluate my life and how i spend my time and how i relate to and care for my family.. some of it gets me down and i want more, i want change, i want to be better. i write endless lists and ideas, goals, dreams and prayers... i plan new businesses, new health regimes, new menus, new attitudes, new activities, new ways of disciplining, new friendships, new routines... a new me! lets see how much of it sticks. it may all fade and i will find all my lists next september and laugh.. or cry! let's hope the best bits and the manageable bits - the inspired and good bits - stick and make a positive difference. 
i start with a big batch of buttery cookies to eat while i drink coffee and write my lists.
this recipe is on a post-it note with 'favourite easy cookies' scrawled across the top. i think it came from my sister - thanks tri you always inspire me. 

3.5 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
1 block butter
2 eggs
optional bits - chocolate chunks, almonds (halved), ground almonds, chopped apricots or raisins ...

1. preheat oven to 150C
2. mix the flour, sugar and butter with your finger-tips until well combined and like a crumble
3. stir in 2 eggs
4. optional - add 1/2 cup of any extra bits (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate)
5. spoon on to a greased tray and bake for 12 mins (remove from oven before they turn brown)

Saturday, 6 October 2012


goodbyes with loved ones who live in far away lands are so very painful... they leave an almost unbearable ache in the pit of my stomach.
 after saying goodbye at the airport to my dear big sister and her gorgeous family at the end of the summer, my head, my heart, my tummy, my feet felt achey with heaviness.
there is something so deeply connected about family. something unspoken and visceral - a familiarity and understanding so deep - the shared heritage, childhood experience, way of thinking, way of being. and a longing for our little ones to grow up knowing and enjoying each other... feeling that cousin connection that also runs so deep.
i wanted to eat this entire pile of pastries to comfort myself... but nothing could really fill the void of wanting their company and wanting it to be less time before i see them again.