Thursday, 28 February 2013

#one week - self reflection and hibernating

This winter has mainly involved reading - reading for fun, reading for academe, reading with Pickle, addiction to blogs, I think you get the picture. Maybe I should post some comments on my good reads, they won't be reviews, but my personal perspective. My blog is nothing if not personal, I was rather horrified when BBF told me how much she learnt from the blog.

At the end of Autumn I wrote about starting 'an introduction to counselling' course. I loved it! I felt I had the passion and the skill to make a great pyschodynamic counsellor, aka a shrink. Sadly while I what I lack is time and money, I am 42 and working part time I would be unlikely to repay the almost £20,000 it would cost to train, so I could not pretend it was to be a profession not a hobby. I am still fairly torn and have a few weeks left if I want to get my application in to study properly.

In keeping with the personal nature of this blog, here is a synopsis of my course walk talking about my personal journey. It defines my life as well as my winter and seems to a good way to say adieu to the winter and #oneweek.

My Personal Journey
Recognition can sneak up behind you or it can hit you with a thud, such that you can not believe that you did not see it coming. In the first session we talked about links, and I suddenly perceived with utter clarity how I had misinterpreted an oft repeated conversation with my mother-in-law.
When revealed my family background can often define me in the minds of others, particularly as I have never really spent time with people from similar families. Therein could lie the source for another essay, but I will focus on my relationship with mother-in-law. I have lost count of the number of times she has fixed me with a long look and then laughs and starts a story saying: 'you are lucky that I did not know that you were a family like thatwhen I got to know you'. She recounts how that last time she met someone 'like me' who took advantageous of her and was rude. After the first few times of hearing this story I started to take exception to it. I felt that even after years of knowing me, and being happily married to her son, I was being punished for someone else's misdemeanours. I accepted that she disapproved of me, because of my back- ground, and felt marginalised.

It just took a second to make the personal link when discussing it in general on the course. Having been brought up by a Nanny, who although excellent and present from almost birth, has left me with a [jargon alert, glaze or gloss over] mildly ambivalent attachment pattern. There is fairly clear transference of the rejection that I assumed from my mother to my mother-in-law. I can now quite clearly anticipate that she had been intended to be complimentary rather than a rejection. Now that we can discuss this, free from heightened emotion, my husband can reinforce my new understanding of the situation.

....As with many blended families communication can be a darkly comic affair. I had a loud eureka moment when reading Patrick Casement. His use of language is so clear, the information so vital, that I would like to reread this quote prior to every family event to better evaluate my understanding of situations and the reaction of others around me.

It is this mis-perception of similarity as sameness that brings about the phenomenon of transference, whereby previous experience and related feeling are transferred from the past and are experienced as if they actually were the present.
I love that last quote, it can explain so much!

If you made it through that blog and need light relief can I recommend the other blogs participating in #oneweek

one week

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

#one week - new beginnings

This winter has been bitingly cold - the days where the cold pierced my gloves I have had to take pity on the little man and head home for the warmth. But winter is not just about endings it is also about new beginnings. I love dashing out to the garden to see the first flowers, planting early seeds in anticipation of plenty. It is also a time where we take stock of life, everything seems so still but that is just the veneer, underneath nature is getting ready for the summer show.

Looking back at Autumn's #oneweek I can see the dramatic changes in the trees on my favourate walk Autumn Colours and since the last leaf dropped the trees have been dormant. Looking close I can start to see buds and the cycle will begin again.

Roses seem to be another great metaphor for life in so many ways, and see these arterial shoots giving us hope for the summer.

The big question is, am I ready to come out of hibernation yet?
If your sofa has eaten you whole and you need the excuse for five more minutes, way not pop over to Older Mum's one week linky and it will happily devour and hour. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

#one week - Laksa Mondays

Mondays are Rainbows nights, which makes them VERY special. Pickle has tea at her best friend's house and the little brothers join in too. As a consequence it is the one night I am not catering for little people so I can up the chilli and go for it with the spices.

I have been honing down my version of a Laksa - slowly dragging it around the world from Vietnam to dear old Blighty and rendering fairly unrecognisable but alternatively delicious. So with this in mind I am going to write a homage to noodles, inspired by a recipe request on a previous post and the fact that this Winter found the local Chinese supermarket!

A Reading Laksa

My laksa paste
Two table spoons of each peanut butter and cashew nuts
One chilli (I have tried with both green and red - fresh and dried)
A clove of garlic (if it is not a school night)
A table spoon of lime leaves if you can find them
An inch of ginger
A lemon grass stalk, but I use lemon grass paste as I am lazy
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Up to one tablespoon of palm or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons of turmeric
One spring onion

Blitz the ingredients in a food processor then add about half to a pan (storing the other half for next week) and stir while it starts to release its flavours. Add a selection of vegetables. I have been saving the brocoli stalks and adding them, it works well and helps the veg box go further as well as carrots, leaks and anything that I fancy that has a bit of crunch. next add the coconut milk (a 400ml can) and then your noodles. You may need to top it up with boiling water to ensure that the noodles are well covered.
I tend to add any protein (prawns or tofu) towards the end of the cooking.
The next stage is important: TASTE. You can add sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce or lime juice to taste. Top with fresh mint and serve.

Recently I have been using rice stick noodles for this recipe, so I need to remember to soak for about five or so minutes before using.

Soba Noodles

These can be quite handy as they are often made with 100% buckwheat so are gluten free. These are normally used in Japanese soups. I tend to cook them up with so batons of veg and sesame seeds in a miso based soup or just tossed in soy / shoyu sauce.

Rice Vermicelli

These are conventionally used in salads, cooked and refreshed. Naturally I buck this trend. I cook up some salmon with mixed seafood (whatever mix is readily available) and add some creme fraiche and saffron (pre-soaked with then water it has soaked in) and serve with the vermicelli noodles.

Chinese Noodles

I always used to use the medium egg noodles by brands such as Amoy or Sharwoods but recently I have discovered some fairly generic egg fre noodles in the Chinese supermarket. when I am not using them as a side dish (to go with something else) here is my quick and dirty recipe.

Cook up the noodles while stir frying your random selection of vegetables, and maybe even prawns or other meat. Spring onions and ginger add extra flavour. Mix together a base of ketchup and soy sauce, about a tablespoon of each and head for your spices - curry powder and oyster sauce give it a Singapore noodle edge, sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce and chilli flakes can also make an appearance as could a little peanut butter if you are feeling controversial and have no other source of protein.

By writing up my bastardised recipes I am doing my bit for global disharmony. Us Brits have a history of destroying good working formulas and replacing them with aberrant colloquialisms: spaghetti Bolognese anyone?

It does seem appropriate that food makes an appearance in me of my posts for #one week. I am looking forward to reading the other posts, I hope you do too.

one week

Let me know if you have any noodle recipes or if you would like any culinary inspiration (as this was for Janet).

Monday, 25 February 2013

#oneweek - Dino boy grewed up

My snuffling little Dino Boy has turned into a fully fledged Destructo Boy. I must have blinked and he grew up, or maybe a just kept on feeding him, either way it happened and it is a big part of the story of my winter.

Last week growing up went on warp speed as he had his first haircut. (I was meant to show a before and after pic but the middle photo of him wearing big sisters trainers just jumped into the frame.)

Rather skilfully *ahem* I have segued into a commentary or review of his first haircut, one of the adventures from half term.

With Pickle we have a rammed memory box; tokens from so many special events from her first years and photos of her every breakthrough. With DB the mementos have been a little scarce as I juggle with children, dog and handbags (you ought to see us when we go out on roller skates, then it gets down right comical). To counteract this parental deficiency I decided to make a big deal of DB's first haircut, inspired in part by find out on Twitter that special children's hair salons exist. So after hours of surfing I finally decided that a trip to Happy Faces was a must.

We travelled into London full of anticipation. I had checked and double checked, planned the day around their having two stylists so both DB and Pickle could be coiffed simultaneously. At the allocated time we ran excitedly so as not to be late. Then we arrived...oh!

The wheels fell off our metaphoric pushchair. They had no record of our appointment, then disdain gave way to a sneer as she suggested we had booked at the wrong branch. I had checked a few times but the stylist was not hearing me, it was clear she thought that I was a fool.

[For the record their website is totally misleading if not plain wrong - if I had clicked in the 'contact' page I would have found the correct number, but the site seems to work on a generic template for all branches so despite having the details of the branch on the page clearly displayed they have then main branch number listed on the internal pages so I did call Clapham not Fulham.]

I resisted the urge the have a tantrum and asked if she could possibly cut my children's hair and so the game was on again. A sullen flick of the switch and Peppa Pig was on whether we wanted it or not, then a few snips and the baby hair was on the floor.

By now I was on critical mode and my mind was thinking bullet points. Why when he had a fringe down to his chin did we get a few random clippings as our commemorative lock of hair? Why did they do Polaroid snaps as before and after shots when digital gives more flexibility if the first shot is blurred? Why was the laminate on the surface visibly chipped where the cables had been fitted for the TVs? Why was the no light or towel in the loo?

Why were there a few half eaten rice cakes on the worktop? Why, if they promote first hair cuts, were there no change facilities (but we could use the red leatherette sofa in front of the windows)? Why are they so proud of their kids nail varnish then they suggest to the Pickle that she would like her nails painted in a fetching shade from Barry M?

It was not cheap, overall I spent almost £80 and it seemed to forget that if you are offering a luxury service it should make your feel like a Princess?
Am I slating the place? No! I would love to hear from Happy Faces and to know that they have updated their site and I will be able to update this post. I am now tempted to visit Tantrums to see how it compares with the market leader.

I really want Happy Faces to do well, I believe that a gentle nudge in the posterior could be what they really need. I visited during half term when the rest of child orientated London was heaving and we were the only clients for that hour with no more appointments being made by phone; this should not be the case. Life should be fun and I love the idea of hair cuts being something to be looked forward to. Please Happy Faces up your game, your owe to yourselves!

There are some real treats to read on the #oneweek linky.

one week

#one week - and breathe!

Half term was busy, very busy! Today gives me a chance to breathe and recoup.

I love @older_mum 's blog and her #oneweek prompt. It is a way of summing up the season, and for the Autumn week I was well prepared with a handful of half written posts ready to go. This week I am determined to join but, apologies, I will be winging it as well as desperately finishing my book for my book club. Gulp!

This week is starting with the theme of recovery from half term and taking stock of good fortune. DB is no longer a baby but a great handful of destructive energy. Pickle adores him until he manages to trash her carefully laid plans and games.

Normally I am an advocate for simple play as I think that is what childhood is all about. However, this half term I got carried away. This morning we were writing bullet points for Pickle's school news book so that she would not forget what we had been up to.

How was your half term? I hope you had a good one. How about popping along to Older Mum's site and seeing some of the other blogs at she has inspired, she has collected some mighty fine writers and you get a chance to see the cutest pic of Little A and catch up on the wobbly seat saga today.

one week

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hail Sofia the first

I finally did it...I dipped my toe in the swamp of commercialism and it was really rather fun. I blagged an invitation for Pickle and I to attend an event to celebrate the launch of the new Disney series, Princess Sofia.

It was a little girls dream come true. we were greeted at the doors of the May Fair Hotel's crystal Ballroom by footmen baring wands and tiaras. This was Disney selling the dream, and they were doing it well.

Pickle had colourful hair extensions set in a cloud of glitter, a balloon sculptress extraordinaire made her a fairy, she was photographed on a throne and best of all she attended Princess Felicity's Princess school. (oh don't mess with Felicity, she was discipline in a satin frock). There was shrieks of delight as little girls had glitter tattoos, made wands and crowns and raided the fancy dress boxes for feather boas.

A treasury of Princesses then proceeded to the screening room to see the presentation. You may be surprised that we subscribe to Disney Junior already (but I am careful about being an active Mum and not TV before bathtime in the evening), but she is too old for CBeebies and too young for CBBC and now Disney Junior is her channel of choice. She has already seen the introductory episode about Princess Sofia and she loves it.

The next episode we saw brought to mind Dorothy Parker's review (in her Constant Reader column) of Winnie the Pooh (now, groan, part of the Disney stable too) 'Tonstant Weader threwed up'. Dear old Sofia is so perfect, the story lines so moralistic that it is quite vomit worthy, but then everything for children seems to aspire to be either educational or a morality tale. What wrong with things just being fun for the sake of it, like Elouise who is roundly condemned on Amazon for being profane but makes me laugh like a drain.

Having said that I am a filthy hypocrite, the last film she saw was Barbie and the Popstar that had me cringing to the core! (Although I did laugh at the scene Barbie walked through her wardrobe commenting on all the costumes for her past careers astronaut, doctor, Olympic rider etc.) I don't really want this kind of Barbie crap in my house, although I know the time will come when I can resist it no longer so Princess Sofia is a great alternative

As we left the Pickle mentioned the central theme of the episode 'it is just like you say Mummy, girls CAN do anything that boys can'. What can I say but cynicism be damned: all hail Princess Sofia, she has made am unwilling concert of me.

Finally thanks to the lovely people at,Disney, they made Princess Pickle feel regal beyond compare - she floated out of their event on a cloud of glitter and pure delight!

Thursday, 21 February 2013


There is a very special bond between a boy and his Dad; I love seeing DB trot off with the Hubster. I was about to post a delicious photo of them fast asleep together, but then remembered that the Hubster has reservations about privacy and my blog, so here is a pic illustration of the additional issues of being a younger brother.

He idolises his big sis and wants to emulate her in every way - including carrying his hand bag and putting her clips in his hair.

As a younger sister it was all different for me. I had to face anatomical embarrassment. The differences were soggily apparent when I tried to follow his lead and wee against a wall but my joyous arc of wee did not materialise, just a dispiriting downpour into my pants.

If you would like to see more photos inspired by the 'boy' prompt head over to the StickyFingers blog by checking in the badge to the left. Enjoy!

Monday, 18 February 2013

February Glossybox

After last months beasting you may be surprised that I was still looking forward to my Febrary Glossybox, but I am shallow and the allure of the surprise box still makes my heart flutter (well it was a Valentine's box).

What, a heart shape lolly? That is to show that Glossybox really cares! But i love the Valentine's box, perfect to store my nail varnishes.

One way in which Glossybox have been really successful has been to get me to try mid range cosmetics. I seemed to vacillate wildly between Space NK and the supermarket (Simple, Nivea etc) as I have been genetically blessed with good skin but cursed with luxury tastes. Dr Renaud is a new brand in the expanding portfolio at M&S where you can now find favourites like Nuxe and REN. This cream is unctuous your skin seems to drink it in with a sigh of relief. The Hubster says that it makes me smell like a boiled sweet, but I can cope with that. £25 for 50ml - definitely one to consider.

Well, nothing wrong with this, but nothing really right either. Sure it is free from parabens, but if I were buying something for myself it would be something better. Also as for the so called 'blooming' funny packaging text it makes me consider how do you make a marketeer cry? Send her a witty p45. jokes need to include humour or they are just annoying, get it?

A eye shadow duo. Handy for the handbag, as the colours are easy to use. A little glittery for my taste and age, but I am quite pleased to have this.

Helen e red lipstick. Last month I should have been careful what I wished for as 'ta da' is that red lippy. Glossybox were giving some poor sods Miners lipstick, a brand that I discovered that is cheap for a reason; on the recommendation of Sister Sally of the immaculate complection I bought some of their nail varnish and discovered it chipped faster than I could apply it, so it is the only varnish I have ever binned!

Back to Helen E. It looks mid range and miles off the quality of my prefered Mac but I was quite surprised by how well it lasted. For £8 it is worth remembering. I checked it the marketing so you don't need to. They are the proud sponsors of Miss England, need I say more? Well, of their initiatives is Beauty in a Box: it seems to be to cosmetics what petrol stations are to floristry and look as if they were assembled by embalmers inspired by looks from back copies of the weekly celeb rags.

Mica Bella blusher - I really like this product. The sample size is just plain annoying as you can not get a decent sized brush in it, but apart from that it is first rate.

Overall, Glossybox has redeemed itself this month. It was a few heart beats short of swoon, but I will let my subscription tick along.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Pickle and I are a team. We go on adventures and have fun!

I was worried that we would loose the edge of our special bond when DB came along, when I could not dedicate myself to her 100%. But as I think the second photo shows, my fears were almost unfounded. sure, I am more tired and my patience sometimes wanes, but that bond is still very much there and as special as ever.

I never anticipated leaving London and all my friends, but life takes over where (good) intentions run for cover. the luscious Aunty Goth and the ever resourceful Aunty Booshka have been the most amazing constants in my life.

This is a very special pic of friendship that makes me very proud. It so the second generation bonding, Pickle and the gorgeous Ms D's equally gorgeous girls.
Now I was going to mention DIY Janet, my first wife, but again that must wait for another day.
What can I say, but Girrrrls Rock!
This was inspired by Tara's prompt for the Gallery. click on the badge to the left and have a look at the other lovely entries.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Valentine craft part 2

We have been making hearts, which I mentioned earlier then we got out the paint and ....hyperventilate...the glitter.

Taa daa....a valentine display. Few finishing flourishes to come and it will be moved to its final destination. A surprise for Daddy!

Happy Valentines day.

Monday, 11 February 2013

My Food Week 4th February

I visited the farm shop so last week was a little more meaty. It was also a week pretty devoid of major culinary flair. I can't give my recipe for a laksa as I am still tying to perfect my cottage version of it - albeit one that may not be recognised in Vietnam. As well as suppers I have been doing a great line in celeriac salad (or remoulade to give its proper title) for lunch and endless Scotch pancakes for breakfast and snacks. as it is a few hours off Shrove Tuesday I will share my recipe for that, but first here is my food week.

Monday - Tofu laksa
Tuesday - Tractor wheels (whirls of puff pastry and beef sausage made at our local farm shop)
Wednesday - Marinated salmon with mild spiced noodles.
Thursday - Fish fingers and beans.
Friday - Mac and cheese with red peppers and tomatoes (I was out and so the Hubster can have his fave without me)
Saturday - After our excellent Chinese lunch we just had jacket potatoes for supper.
Sunday - an indoor picnic for lunch and Toad in the Hole for Supper.

I am a little bit addicted to Felicity Cloake column in the Guardian goading us to cook the perfect....well this week it was Perfect Toad in the Hole! so I had to try it out.

Scotch Pancakes

225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
2 medium eggs, beaten
150ml cold milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Sift the dry ingredients together then add the wet ingredients a little at a time, whisking it all up to a thick batter. In a hot pan with a little butter start making the pancakes, a tablespoon per pancake. Watch carefully, you want to see the bubbles on top and flip them before they get to look charred - it is not to delicate a process unless the children a fractious from hunger....then cook on other side.
Enjoy warm, but I pop them into a airtight container and toast at a later point.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


My first thought was to take a picture of DB's nose. It really tells quite a story of my life at the moment, but it is quite gross! It is scabbed from when he did a perfect swan dive onto the path, scraping his cheek and cutting his nose. That adds to the general encrusted nature of his little snotty little hooter.

So instead we have the Pickle. A few seconds before she a wicked little grin, but in the time it took to grab a camera I got the teenage look, you know the one 'oh, Mum!'.

It is a Veg Box moment. We always get quite excited about seeing what is in the veg box every week, and I believe in making food (particularly the healthy stuff) fun.

She was asking what the pepper was - so we had to think of what it could be. If it wasn't a nose we had to sample it. A few minutes later she had demolished half of it and was grinning again.

This was inspired by The Gallery. Click on the badge to the left and take a look at some of the other entries. Xx

Sunday, 3 February 2013

My Food Week - quick and child friendly veg cous cous

Monday was a case in point, we are normally out with the children but DB was off colour so it required instant food from the remnants of the fridge, and it needed to be ready in minutes.

A veg stew is always so much more amenable to little people with a lift for, dried fruit, sometimes apricots but today some lovely fudge like dates I had in the cupboard. Here is the recipe. I am hoping to do a supper diary and add one recipe a week, so here does with week one.

Veg and date cous cous

One onion chopped
A tea spoon of cumin seeds
Half a tea spoon of paprika
Half a teaspoon of ground coriander
Any herbs you like
(You could use garlic but we don't on school nights)
4 spring onions chopped
The left over green bits of leek (the whites used previously)
A couple of carrots
A small handful of chopped dates
Half a red pepper (held back when the previous nights super did to really need it)
A hand full of well rinsed red lentils
A cup of veg stock (I use low salt Swiss Bouillon by Marigold)
A tin of chopped tomatoes
A tin of chickpeas
Chili flakes to add later for the adult seating of supper

To make it quick chop all the veg up front. Add the onions to a pan with some oil (I like rapeseed, good quality stuff is still much better value that olive oil). Stir frequently to avoid burning, add the spices to toast, then add the rest of the fresh veg and stir for a few more minutes. (If you have time doing this over a gentle heat makes sense to bring out the natural sugars - but this was instant food and I had translucent onions, toasted spices and glossy looking veg in just over five mins).
Add the lentils, dates, and stock and still. Taste and add spice as required.

Pomegranate molasses is a great addition, but it is not cheap and can be difficult to track down - I bought a bottle an age ago and use sparingly and it does add an additional layer of flavour).

We were away this weekend, so it was short and sweet. I hope this may be a give a we ideas. As Mums we seem to spend so much time cooking, I love ideas that help enhance my repertoire (otherwise boredom creeps in). I would live to know what you think and if it is worth me snapping my suppers daily :)

China Palace

Are you celebrating Chinese New Year? Any excuse! We try something new every week, which led the Pickle and I into some amazing taste adventures. The rules of the game are that we need to try everything, but if we don't like it we can leave it. We are old hands at Dim Sum after being inspired by Chinese New Year a few years back. Pickle tackles new flavours and cuisine with gusto. DB is more reticent. His standard reaction to anything other than smoothies and Babybel is to grin and shake his head engagingly saying 'No'.

Dim Sum was a risk, but I am a bit of a gambler. I could not resist scoping China Palace on TripAdvisor and it was worth a laugh. It was not so popular! Surly service seems to be the main complaint, like the incensed family who barely got a discount even when the adjacent table started vomiting into the bowls

Rarely has DB been so clucked over as at lunchtime, each one having a new and game to play that generally involved prodding or stroking him. He looked patronising and indulged the attention.

What can I say about the food? Clear plates! It hit the spot. It is not the best, and the worst - looking at the clientele it seems to keeps the local Chinese community happy. The atmosphere is light and airy, with the black lacquer panelled friezes with pictures of water lilies and cranes as well as the obligatory paper lanterns.

The cheung fun is a family favourite and this was enough to give DB the confidence to tuck in. It was soft and gelatinous and so soothing. We also had some Vietnamese spring rolls, steamed buns and a selection of steamed dumplings. Simple, formulaic and very satisfying and it avoids the worst excesses of catering for Western tastes.

At £23.50 for the four of us including a tip, I really could not fault it. We had great fun, DB has developed his confidence and I have to agree he is a little fella with most excellent tastes in life.

P.s. since his experience the other day at the China Palace DB has turned the corner with his pickiness. He seems to have decided that trying new foods can be fun.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Something for the weekend - hearty craft pt 1

Pretty Good Life's Rules for Craft:
It has to be fun - and that normally means make it in bite size chunks. Who wants meltdown followed by lone papier mâché-ing long often a disheartened child has gone to bed?
Always put all the bits in a zip lock bag, tin or lidded box. Otherwise I get policeman's heal retracing my steps and we all loose interest.
With that in mind this is part one of our Valentine project.
You will need:
Two contrasting colours of felt - we are using a conventional red and white
Embroidery thread
A darning or embroidery needle (larger and feasible to thread)
Fabric scraps / old socks or tights to cut up as stuffing
Pretty ribbon
This is the first home project we have undertaken when Pickle has used a grown up needle. She has progressed via big plastic ones through to a small one that she used for weaning and now she is ready to show her needle work skills she has learnt.

Cut out hearts, sew on a small contrast heart or ribbon onto one heart, the put together with another plain heart. make a knot about 5cm in from the end of the thread. Start stitching at the centre of the top, stitch around stoping a few cms before you complete the edge to stuff lightly then sew up. Use the 5cm tail to knot the ends together leaving a long loop.
It really is that easy and looks that good!
Part two when we have completed it next week :)