Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Meal Plan #6


The weather is feeling decidedly like Winter rather than Spring at the moment - so much rain, wind and grey skies. I feel half tempted to start eating soups and casseroles again, but instead, I am going for good hearty meals, not much meat and plenty of flavour, with a little bit of Summer fruit thrown in to help bring the tastes of Summer to the table, even if the sun is not shining and I am still donning my Winter boots every time I leave the house. 

Meal Plan #6
Monday: Loaded jacket potatoes (mix the cooked potato with tuna, spring onions, cream cheese, cucumber and any other delights we fancy)
Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday: Rainbow salad & bean burger falafel in wholemeal pitta breads
Thursday: Salmon Carbonara
Friday: Easy Pasta Bake (Make a sauce by mixing lots of finely chopped veg - carrots, celery, mushroom, courgette, sweetcorn, peppers, etc with a can of Campbell's condensed mushroom or chicken soup.)


Also eating for lunches...
Sweetcorn fritters
Quinoa & spiced chickpea salad
Homemade bread with mushroom & goats cheese dip
Cheese & Tomato on Toast
Watermelon, Feta & Mint salad

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Don't forget the roses

I started writing this post at the beginning of December 2016 in the week leading up to us moving house. It has taken me a long time to finish writing it for so many reasons. I needed the dust to settle after moving house and I needed time to adjust to life in a new home before I could finish writing this. The wonderful thing about a blog is that the stories shared don't have to be complete because they are part of a bigger story that is ongoing. It's the details of our days that become part of a greater story and I want to paint those stories with words and pictures, so that in the years to come, when these current stories become old memories, we can look back and remember with greater clarity than our memories allow.

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'Don't forget to pack the roses' I think to myself as I walk down the garden in the dark, making a mental note of what not to forget when we move house. We built this garden from scratch - it was just a rubble yard when we moved in three and a half years ago. Those David Austin roses were a present from my parents and their beauty astounds me. I will happily leave everything else in the garden - even my beloved peonies - but not the roses. I need to bring that bit of beauty with us. I collect the warm laundry from the tumble dryer in our garage at the bottom of the garden and wonder how many more trips I will do from the house to the tumble dryer in these last days before we move.

We have chosen this. We didn't have to move house - no one made us, or forced us to, but still, it feels bittersweet. There is often a sadness that comes with leaving something behind. Last night I dreamed about sleeping in our new home, with the sound of rain pounding on the skylight Windows. I am looking forward to that. It's such a comforting sound to me.

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One week into living in our new home and I find myself parked by the roadside, holding my screaming baby and crying myself. I miss my old house. I miss the light and space. That golden light that flooded in whenever the sun shone. Why hasn't the sun shone yet since we moved?  I miss being able to walk around my bed without cracking my shin on the corner of the bed. Again, we have chosen this. But this feels a little like mourning.

That was the home where we brought home our babies from hospital. It was the home where we had lovely neighbours and a good amount of space. We thought long and hard about moving, and even once we had sold our house and had our offer accepted on the new house, I questioned time and time again whether this was the right move. John was always more certain. He took the attitude of, 'if our things don't fit in this house, just get rid of them! We don't need to live with much!' We viewed other houses that offered far more space for the same amount of money, and after each viewing, I would say to John, 'are you sure?' Then we would discuss the pro's and con's again. Every time, we decided that this would be a good move for us in terms of location within the city. But I struggled to get past the space we were losing for the benefits we were gaining.

Those first few months in our new home were hard. We moved in the Winter when the trees were bare and the rain was relentless. There were so many days where it felt like the sun never fully rose and I wandered around this house that was yet to feel like a home, wondering, 'where is the light?' on a daily basis. I didn't venture into our garden for a good long while. But when I did, I discovered a whole wall of climbing roses. I couldn't help but smile and think of the two little rose bushes that I had been so desperate not to forget. I wanted to bring life and beauty into our new home, and those roses represented that for me. And yet, there was beauty already here. Much to my delight, I discovered that the previous owners had also left a potted peony. They could have taken it with them, but for some reason, they didn't. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.
As Winter made way for Spring, our walls slowly filled up with pictures. We still have a big pile of unhung photo frames in the loft, but what I have realised is that new spaces call for changes. I loved all of the photos and artwork we had in our old home. But somehow, they don't all quite seem to 'fit' in our new home. Not in terms of space, but feel. Life has moved on and changed a lot in the time we spent in our first family home, and our photos weren't really representative of that. I realised back in December that we hadn't printed a single photo of Jude since he had been born in May. 

It takes time for a house to feel like a home, and slowly we are getting there. Where our last house felt like a ready made space that required little changes, this new house inspires me in ways that our last house didn't. And that surprises me. I don't know why, exactly, but it does. Spring is now in full swing and we have grown accustomed to our new home. We have plans and dreams of how to put our own mark on it, and that feels exciting. The birdsong is so much greater here than where we used to live, and we never tire of watching the squirrels scurrying up the tree trunks and along our garden wall. (We do, however, tire of them digging up our strawberry plants!) The clematis and violas are in full bloom and our daily trips to the park are so enjoyable. We have precious friends living round the corner and it truly is a gift to live in such close proximity to people who we can share life with. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Meal Plan #5


It's been a while since I shared my meal plan, hasn't it? Having a plan for what we are going to eat helps me enormously in that it means I rarely let myself get to 5pm when both children are starting to fall apart, and find myself standing in the kitchen and eating peanut butter sandwiches instead of cooking anything because all cooking inspiration evades me at 5pm. I have also found it really helpful to prepare as much of the meal as possible in the morning, when both children are happily playing, I prioritise cooking over any other housework, because ultimately, bellies need to be fed more than floors need to be cleaned. Here's what we've been eating this week.

Meal Plan #5
Tuesday: Orzo pasta with roasted cherry toms, mozzarella & spinach
Wednesday: Bean Burgers on homemade Granary rolls
Friday: Lasagne (from the freezer)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

running + perspective

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I started running again back in December. I would set the alarm for 5.45am in order to be out the door and running with my friend Rozey at 6am. Those early morning Winter runs were fun, but they were also hard. Jude's sleeping patterns were incredibly hard going at that point, and I have lost count of the number of times I sent Rozey a text at 3am to cancel our run for the following morning. Some days it felt like pulling my body through sludge. Other days it felt great to just breathe in the cold Winter air, have a break from my children and just to move and get some exercise before spending the day with my children. I cannot emphasize enough how much difference it makes having a friend to run with. I don't have time to think too much about how running feels because I am so busy chatting. Little by little, we have run further and faster, without trying particularly hard to do so. We have just put in the time and the changes have happened. Sometimes all I have felt able to is just show up, but that is enough.

Yesterday, within half a mile of running, my thoughts had transitioned from, 'I can't do this, I don't want to do this. My body hurts and I'm not even running yet' to 'this is amazing! I feel free! I want to go faster!' It doesn't mean that I then feel pain free or fast for the entire run. It doesn't mean that I don't stop and walk and have to find momentum again. But it reminds me that I don't have to go far to see a shift in perspective. It's always there, just on the horizon. Sometimes the horizon disappears from view, but it's always there.

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I have written about running many times over the years if you fancy a read, just click on the 'Running' tab in the sidebar. Alternatively, here are the links to a few of them...

Running in Scotland 2011

Running while pregnant

Running when Ruby was little and I entered the season of feeling like my body had aged 30 years over night (I am still in that season now...)

Running & capacity

Sunday, 9 April 2017

creativity


'The world is filled with to many unfinished manuscripts as it is, and I did't want to add another one to that bottomless pile. So no matter how much I thought my work stank, I had to persist.' - Liz Gilbert, Big Magic. 

I have 101 blog posts sitting in my 'drafts' folder in Blogger. That is the exact number 101. One hundred and one pieces of unfinished writing. Over the last couple of years my writing here has fizzled out and boiled down to just my 52 Portraits project. Even those posts have dried up (although many of the 101 drafts are weekly letters to my children that I have either not finished, or just not pressed 'published' on. Writing here had to take a back seat while I completed a year of studying Montessori Education, I needed to write 8000 words worth of essays, and finding those words then managing to connect them up into something coherent and academic took a lot of effort. The effort spent on that, while growing and raising a tiny human (Jude) and running a baking business with no child care for my daughter meant that I had no capacity to write here. Or desire, really. I had kept this blog for a decade and my momentum had gone.

But now I find myself in a place of wanting to get those unfinished words to a finished state, if nothing more, than to get them out of my head. There is one post in particular which I started writing in the lead up to moving house at the end of last year, and those unfinished words keep coming back to me, like they are needing to be written and dealt with. 

The quote I included at the beginning of this post is from Big Magic, which I am currently reading. It is a truly fascinating book on 'creative living beyond fear', and of the many things I have taken away from the book, this is one of them: creativity matters. Prior to reading the book, I had been feeling very lacklustre about creativity, I would look at the pile of beautiful fabrics stacked up on my sewing box and think, 'I could sew something, but what's the point? I won't be able to finish anything in one sitting, and I don't want more unfinished projects hanging around...nobody needs another quilt, so why bother making one?' And yet one of the lessons I learnt very early on as an Early Years teacher is that the process is often more important than the end product. Time and time again, I have known this to be true for children, so why not apply it to myself? I recently had a conversation with my Mum (a brilliantly creative person, but calls herself 'not very creative', who said she found it hard to sew or paint things if they didn't have a useful purpose, to which I told her that doing it simple for the enjoyment was a valuable process. I absolutely believe this to be true. That's one of the messages of Big Magic, and it's exactly what I needed to be reminded of myself. What we create doesn't have to change the world but it does change us as artists when we engage with it.

This book has also reminded me that inspiration only stays with us for so long before moving on if we don't welcome it and use it. I am conscious with these unwritten blog posts that some of them won't ever be published, because when I return to them, the inspiration will have gone, and I will not be able to pick back up where I left off. But there are others that still need to be written, and it will help me to do so. If nothing more than to help me process what I am thinking about. One of the reasons I had grown dishearted with writing this blog was that I had written for so many years and so few people read my words. Deep down, I knew this did not matter - I am almost certain I would not have carried on writing for an entire decade if I really cared about how small my readership was. But for a time, it bothered me. If I did not care for the words I wrote, why would others want to read them? I was not motivated to write for myself, and I had to stop. During this season of mothering two young children, I do not have the time or energy in the evenings that I once had. But, I have realised over the past few months that I need to write. Just for myself. And if others enjoy reading them, then that is wonderful, if not, I have lost nothing, and it matters not. Here's to getting back to writing and making space for being creative, because it matters and I need to do it. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Meal Plan #4

Hello and Happy Monday! You know how there are those phrases like 'creativity breeds creativity' and 'sleep begets sleep'? I am wondering if there is something similar to go along with thinking about food more deliberately resulting in more meal ideas? Completely uneloquent, I know, but I am sure you catch my drift. My point being, as I write this, it is Thursday 9th February and I have already written the meal plan for next week, rather than waiting until Sunday, or half an hour before I go to the supermarket on Monday. I don't think this has ever happened before. Here's the plan for this week:

Dining with The King's
Monday: Sausage Casserole
Tuesday: Takeaway (Perhaps this is a cop out to put on a meal plan, but there we go. Once a month when my in laws come to stay, we have a takeaway curry, and that's happening this week. Such a treat!)
Wednesday: Feta Fritters with rainbow salad, sweet potato fries and pitta bread
Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie (similar to this one but without the lima beans and with extra veg)
Friday: Bean Burgers with homemade red cabbage coleslaw (shredded cabbage, grated carrot & red onion mixed with creme fraiche)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Meal Plan #3

Here is our meal plan for this week. I have every intention of sharing the meal plan at the start of the week, but right now, time for blogging is limited to evenings, and my current bedtime is as close to 9pm as possible, due to sleep deprivation. Needless to say, this does not leave much time for sitting
down and writing a blog post. So I'm writing this with Jude trying to climb up my legs and Ruby is watching TV. The mushrooms are simmering and I'm counting down the minutes until my husband gets home. What's gracing our table this week...


Dining with The King's
Monday: Cheese & Roasted Tomato orzo
Tuesday: Chicken Divan
Wednesday: Thai Green Curry with noodles
Thursday: Dahl with rice*

As for our lunches, we're enjoying plenty of homemade sourdough with leek & potato soup, or quinoa with scrambled eggs and goats cheese. 

*This meal is being cooked by my good friend Hannah - we did a swap which involved her cooking me a meal in exchange for me cooking her a cake. She loves cooking, I love baking. Everybody wins. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Meal Plan #2

When it came to finding a photo of something savoury for this post, I had nothing. The reality is that I take photos of cake far more than I take photos of dinner. So, cake it is! Ruby took this photo on my DSLR (aged 3 years 2 months). I love that she sees me taking photos and wants to learn how to do this too. She handles my DSLR remarkably well considering it is so heavy for her tiny hands, but her increased interest in photography has made me think it would be very worthwhile to buy her a little point and shoot camera. The satisfaction of capturing photos is one that lasts a lifetime, and so worth investing in.

Onto this week's meal plan. I realise that it is almost the end of the week, but I wanted to make a record of this week's meals, because I have no doubt in my mind that I will forget by Sunday what we have eaten, and the whole reason for writing these meal plans is to save me some time in coming up with meal ideas. Last week in my post about our meal plan, one thing I didn't mention is that while I love a good plan, I am also very good at veering from a plan. I like to think that this demonstrates my ability to be flexible, rather than flaky. I veered away from last week's meal plan a couple of times, but with good reason. I had roasted a chicken for Monday's risotto, and there was enough meat left over for two moremeals. So rather than waste perfectly good meat, or put it in the freezer, I made a couple of other meals with it. (Chicken, pesto & pasta and rice pilau with chicken and sausages that I had in the freezer.)


Dining with The King's
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Homemade Quiche (onion, chorizo, spinach)
Wednesday: Roasted salmon & sweet potato bake w/ rice
Thursday: Lasagne
Friday: Slow cooker sweet potato chilli

If you're wondering what we eat at the weekend, I leave the cooking to John, who doesn't plan but comes up with really delicious meals. So, I have no idea what we will eat on Saturday and Sunday, but I have no doubt it'll be wonderful. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Meal plan on a Monday



Do you ever find yourself thinking, 'hmmm I have decide what to cook again?' If I don't have a meal plan, this is a daily thought for me. I have to admit that while I really love great food, and I quite enjoy cooking, I do not really enjoy the process of deciding what to cook. For many years of our marriage, John has been responsible for cooking our main meals, but with changing family rhythms, this responsibility is now mine. If I am not deliberate in creating a meal plan before I go food shopping, I can pretty much guarantee that at least three nights of the week, you will find me standing by the fridge and the oven, pondering what to cook before reaching for some cake (which I never have trouble baking) to console myself that I need to put food on the table again and the children needed to eat fifteen minutes ago, so are losing the plot with hunger and tiredness. Yep, the truth is not pretty, but there it is.

When I create a plan, it makes the world of difference to my food frustrations. That's not to say it's all smooth sailing and that I manage to make beautiful food that's on the table on time every night, but it is a vast improvement from the days when I procrastinate from thinking about dinner until ten minutes before John gets home. Take this evening, for instance. Cooking dinner involved balancing a baby on one hip, overseeing a three year old ladling very hot stock into our risotto, attempting to flip sweet potato fries without steaming myself or the baby, burning my thumb in the process, and stopping to nurse the babe while kneeling on the kitchen floor. I imagine that the slight chaos that surrounds my cooking is not unique, but I thought I would share a little of the realities of life, because I think that makes for slightly more interesting reading than just a list of what we ate.
So here it is, folks. Our meal plan for the week.


Dining with The King's
Monday: Risotto w/ peas, carrots, chicken & sweet potato fries
Tuesday: Sweet potato & spinach frittata
Wednesday: Toad in the hole (tend to do this as yorkshire puddings baked in a muffin tray w/sausage on the side)
Thursday: Homemade pizza (probably with sweet potato fries again. I love them.)
Friday: Falafel w/ pitta breads & salad

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Jude at eight months

Dear Jude,
At eight months old you are our early rising, cable chewing, stair climbing nappy flipping babe (as in, you flip over and crawl off as fast as possible during each nappy change). You love to put things in your mouth then crawl around with them. This resulted in an A&E trip last month after you swallowed a tiddlywink. 

You like to rise between 5 and 5.30am.  Although this is slightly painful after a broken night of nursing you, I enjoy the quiet that comes with us being up before Daddy & Ruby. It has also resulted in a significant increase in my caffeine intake in order to make it through the day.

You love to explore and are so focused on your play when you can do so without interruption from Ruby. Speaking of Ruby, she adores you and this tends to translate into her constantly picking you up and moving you from one place to another, much to your frustration. Despite this, you clearly adore your sister and are completely delighted to see her when she comes downstairs in the morning. 

This month, I have finally learnt the art of getting you to sleep, thanks to a training session from Daddy, who's had this skill mastered for months. It takes a good amount of patience, but I cannot begin to tell you the difference this makes to me. This process involves holding you close, singing Brahms lullaby and bouncing, swaying, walking until you become calm. Then we lay you on the bed on your tummy (your favoured sleeping position since you were twelve weeks old) and jiggling you gently with a hand on your back. You often sit bolt upright at this point, which is when we start the process of standing, singing and swaying all over again. (I am writing this very much for my own reference as I am in no doubt that this process will change and evolve as you grow, and I will forget the details.)

You have learnt how to pull yourself up to standing and practice this all day long. As for your crawling and climbing adventures, I frequently hear you call out when you've got in a tangle between the chair legs under the dining table. 

This has been the month where you contracted experienced your first house move, first hospital trip, first Christmas, first trip to the Science museum in London, and caught chicken pox. What a month! Keep growing strong, little one. 
All my love,
Mama

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

some thoughts.

For anyone who stops by this little blog of mine, you might have noticed that things have slowed down - perhaps you could say they have even ground to a halt - around here. I have thought a lot about removing this blog from the internet lately. I started blogging way back in 2004 as a means of keeping in touch with my family while I was away at university. Twelve years on, and it all feels a little bit tired around here. I am a little bit tired, and I am not sure that I really have the energy to give this blog a face lift. For a long time, I have not felt the need to change the layout and design of this space, but now when I look at it, it just doesn't feel like an accurate representation of what life is like now for me. (That photo of me in the sidebar? It was taken back in 2012 back before I had been pregnant, had children, knew what sleep deprivation was like. These days I most certainly look a little more tired than the fresh faced Hannah in that picture, and bearing children has changed my hair, adding many more waves than I ever had before, not to mention the few pounds of weight I have gained since the days when I used to run half marathons, ate a lot less chocolate, and hadn't grown two babies...)

I often think about how many photos I want to share of my children in this space. While they do not understand the need for privacy now, they will eventually, and I can't help but wonder if they will feel saddened that I have shared so many images of them on the internet in the years where they could not give consent to do so. My children are the people I spend every hour of my day with, and so to imagine blogging and not writing about them feels strange.

And yet, there is something about the way I think that makes me feel like I need to write. Perhaps no one else needs to see these words? I don't know. Perhaps it is my extrovert tendencies which mean that I am an external processor, and getting the words out in some form - be it in spoken word, face to face with another human, or typed into this little white box - helps me process, and maybe more significantly, it helps me to remember. While I have not really missed blogging during the last year, there have been multiple occasions where I have said to John, 'what was the name of that place where we stayed with those friends? Which year did we go to Cornwall and go on that beautiful walk in whats-the-name-of-that-gorge?' My mind does not retain the detail it once did, and I have always loved blogging as a way of recording where we have been. Perhaps it is this desire to remember that compels me to write once again.
As I was thinking about this desire I still have to write down the details of our days, my thoughts turned to my teen years and the subjects I chose to study at A Level. I remember having a conversation with my tutor who taught Maths, who commented that all of the subjects I had chosen were essay based assessments, which would equate to a lot of writing. Even then, although I had no clue what I wanted to study at university, I knew that words did not evade me - that I could make sense and be creative with words in a way that I simply could not do with mathematical formula or scientific principles. I have changed in countless ways since those days - my ability to string a sentence together has matured and then crumbled as I wade through sleep deprivation. Sometimes I cannot remember what the washing machine is called, and other times the words I want to pen flow so freely in my mind that I long for just a moment to write down those fragments of life.

Last year was filled with many wonderful things - I completed my Montessori studies, grew my baking business, had another baby, and just to top it all off, we moved house in early December. Time felt precious and squeezed, and there just wasn't the time to write anything other than my assignments.

I recently read a quote which said,

"Writer's block — so what? Write something bad. Just throw it in the trash can when you're done, you're always improving. That kind of writing is like doing a bunch of push-ups. Every individual push-up is not the important thing. On Tuesday you're going to think, "Is it really important that I do it today?" No, but the collective impact is. If you write every day, you will improve." N.D. Wilson

So perhaps I will carry on penning words in this little space, for the cathartic effect it has on me; for practise; for my remembering, and for anyone who might enjoy reading them.