I love …….{for a 3rd birthday}

Please tell me I’m not the only one who occasionally writes a post and forgets to finish it off and publish it. This one was actually intending for the beginning of March. Ooops!

The birthday season is upon us. Three birthdays, evenly spaced over three months, that leave me feeling bittersweet and a little exhausted. The first out of the gates is my littlest love. Born quickly and at home, on the most gorgeous, crisp first day of Spring. I remember being amazed that she was a girl (still am!) and relieved that she would always have a March birthday. Now she is three and these are the things I love.

I love that you care. If anyone is upset, you want to give them a cuddle. If I am cross with you, you will tell me “don’t be sad, Mummy” and say sorry…..most of the time. I love that you can tell me and others how you feel. Your speech is amazing, but you can also put words to your emotions and explain when you don’t like something. This makes me so proud.

I love how you move. You adore your gymnastics class and push yourself every week to do something a little new. You can balance really well and climb really high. You will jump from a higher place than when you started and throughout it all you have the most enormous smile on your face. I love that you sort the hoops into colours, before you start playing with them. I love that you want to show the teacher what you can do and ask him how each piece of equipment works. I love that you climb on the end of your bed, to be able to reach your clock and your light at the end of the day and that you insist of doing everything yourself.

I love that you are like my little companion. We don’t do very much, in the way of groups, but you are more than happy to follow me around the house, helping me or doing your own thing, but always nearby. I love that you are easy in the supermarket. You push the trolley and get things we need off the shelves and then when it is too heavy to push, you ask to get in the seat and you stay there until we have finished, helping to put the shopping on the conveyer belt and charming staff and customers while we shop. You will bake with me and help me prepare lunch or a cup of tea. You don’t mind what we do, as long as you can be involved.

I love that you love our cats. You properly look after them. You feed them and stroke them so gently. I love that you don’t rush at them. You know to move slowly and quietly. You talk to them gently. “You’re a good cat, Mabel” “Sophie is so soft and cuddly” and even our grumpy, fat, old man cat rubs himself around your legs for a stroke and a top up of food in his bowl. I love that they are not scared of you. They will jump on your bed, while we are reading your bedtime story and stay while you fuss them and I read.

I love how much you are learning. You can hold a pen and are starting to draw shapes and numbers. I love that you love an activity book. I love that you have started to build Lego……and you are really good too! I love your small world play. I love to listen as you make your toys talk to each other and talk to you. In fact, you talk to yourself a lot and I love it. I love that you want to bike and scoot, run and throw. You just want to be doing something all the time. I love that you scoot so fast down our hill, that I cannot watch, as it scares me too much.

I love your hair. It is all the way down your back now, something that you tell me is “just like Cinderella”. Your most favourite way to wear it now, is in two little plaits. I love that they stay in all day, but are messy and straggley within half and hour. I love that when you do let me brush it, it looks like golden thread.

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I love your relationships with your family. You love so large. Your brother, your Dad and even your wider family. You love spending time with your Aunt, your Godfather and your Grandparents and they all love spending time with you. But I also love that still, I am your person. The one you want to have a cuddle with, the one you need to go to when you are upset, the one you need to make you feel comforted and safe. I am still that person and I love that.

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Me and Mine {March 2017}

I especially love Mini Mck on this one. That kid really doesn’t know how cool he is.

Oh, my poor neglected blog! I feel I am having to blow the dust of it and wade through cobwebs just to get here. I hope you’re up for a bit of a ramble today, because that’s usually what comes after a bloggy break. 

I’m not sure why my writing inspiration seems to have left me. It starts with a busy week and then a lack of ideas, then I find I am too distracted with other things, mostly a knitting project if I’m honest. It’s very easy for a craft project to become like a boxset sometimes, I find I can do little else. Then, after the blogging habit has left me for a while, I find myself becoming disenchanted with the whole thing, wondering if I have anything I really want to say, or anything that people really want to hear and engage with and the final stage is where I start to compare myself to everything that is going on around me and not in a good way. 

As with many things, writing a blog is a habit that I perhaps just need to pick up again. A little every day to keep the muscles working I guess. I haven’t quite found the right time for it. I have been making a real effort this year for us to live in a cleaner, tidier space and I find that Lady Mck’s shorter nap time is taken up by boring chores and lunch. I’ve also been trying to go to bed earlier and that shortens my evening somewhat. I’ve taken to often getting up before 6am, purely to start my day with a little peace and quiet, but this means I want to go to sleep earlier. I’m envious of people who don’t need much sleep. I feel as if I’m the only one who really needs eight hours, or maybe everyone else is simply walking around being very tired. I imagine everyone else putting their kids to bed, doing a little blogging or work, watching TV with their partner and still reading and winding down before bed. I barely have time for an hour of TV and a few pages of my book! 

March was bookended by a birthday for my youngest and Mother’s Day. It felt as if it went by just as quickly as short little February. In the middle Mckdad had a weekend away for a school residential trip. These have been a feature nearly every year and so I’ve got used to them with small children, whilst also dreading them. This year felt so different. So much easier than previous years. I real indication that they are all growing up. It helps that my eldest can now put my youngest to bed and it was so sweet that he happily did so on the Saturday night and that she happily let him. He read her stories, tucked her in, had a cuddle on the bed and sang her songs and then they said their good nights and he came upstairs for his own bedtime story. The big difference when you’re flying solo, I find is how ‘on my game’ I have to be. Organised, always thinking ahead, tidying up as I go, because I know I’ll only have to do it later. That’s the tiring bit and it always makes me tip my hat to those that parent alone al the time. 

I’m really not a fan of winter and the darkness that comes with it, so it’s been such a tonic to have some nicer weather and lighter evenings. I’ve started being much more routines about which evenings the kids can watch TV. We are finding that Nano, in particular responds much better to a routines and so Tuesdays and Thursdays are now no TV days. I’ve been letting them play on the school field and then when we finally do return home, they carry on in the garden. It really makes life so much easier to not be cooped up inside.  Lady Mck got her, much longer for, scooter for her birthday, pink of course and she wants to be on it all the time.  She’s pretty nifty on it too!


Lady Mck’s birthday was a school day, so not much opportunity to take photos of us all together, so Mother’s Day was the perfect excuse to get my family to do what I wanted and my only Mother’s Day request was to go out and take some shots. We were treated to a beautiful sunny day and a clock change, which meant everywhere was quiet. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. We are so lucky to live where we do. We can travel a little and be at the coast or in the middle of a forest or farmland in a sort amount of time, but this month I wanted to capture our more urban setting.  Norwich is such a great place to live and there are loads of great places to take photos, included a car park surrounded by gravity walls. It’s not in the middle of the city and so is quiet enough on a Sunday Morning for us to have it almost to ourselves. 



As ever, not all of the family stuck with the plan, at all times, but with the promise of a trip to the nearby playground and the added bonus of an abandoned shopping trolley, we managed to get some really good photos. I really do love them.  (a photo shoot in a city car park isn’t really complete without a shopping trolley!) 

So, that’s our March. It’s been lovely to be back here and I promise not to leave it so long next time.

 This post is linked up with the Me and Mine project – hosted by Dear Beautiful, Bump to Baby, Capture By Lucy, Let’s Talk Mommy, Mummy Daddy Me, Our Life As We See It and Tigerlilly Quinn – where you take a photograph a month of your family all together.

Baking for After-School Snacks

My children always come out of school wanting a snack and in order to try and avoid some of the post-school ‘let it all out’ meltdowns, I arrive at the school gate well prepared. It used to be a small cake or biscuit or a small chocolate biscuity bar thing, bought with  the weekly shop. 

 About eighteen months ago I had been noticing that whenever I baked, the children would still choose the shop bought treat, if they could. This coincided with a news story regarding the trans fats in snacks and how they make everything taste yummy and a penny dropped. This, together with the extra sugar in shop bought treats was why they were choosing them over my efforts and so I made a commitment that I would no longer buy biscuits and cakes, I would make everything instead.

At first this seemed like a commitment I wouldn’t keep. Where would I find the time? However, with both the boys in school and Lady Mck now at an age where we could make it into a activity to do together, I found that baking a couple of times a week soon became quite normal. I told the children it would be home made treats or nothing and they’ve become quite used to it. I also found the added bonus of eating less of them myself. When I know I will have to be the one to restock the tin, it makes it much easier to limit myself to just one. I posted about this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and loads of you asked what kind of things I make, so I thought I would give you a run down here.


A couple of things to start with. I find it’s a good idea to keep some unsalted butter out of the fridge, so that it is soft enough for baking, although I do have some ideas that use melted butter for emergencies. I would recommend a couple of books as well. The two I use most for this small, bite size baking are Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake book and the classic How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella. Finally, I like to keep portion sizes quite small. These treats are just enough to satisfy hunger kids after school and keep the car peaceful for five minutes.

Sinckerdoodles

These are our absolute favourite bake. They are a small biscuity/cake thing, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, to give a doughnut type flavour. They don’t have a huge amount of sugar and are just the right size for a small snack. My children would probably be happy if I made these or their sister snack, Chocodoodles every week. I use Nigella’s recipe, but there are many more on-line. My tip is to use a tupperware when coating them in the sugar and roll them around by shaking the box. Much less messy.

Flapjacks

These are great if the store cupboard is a little bare and you’ve forgotten to get any butter out of the fridge. They take about 10 minutes to mix up. However, they are packed with sugar and so I cut them up really small. I’ve tried loads of flapjack recipes and have found this River Cottage one to be the best. It still needed some experimentation to get the perfect tin, oven temperature and timings, but now I have, they are a firm favourite.

Chocolate fork biscuits

These are also in the Nigella book I mentioned earlier. They are basically, butter, sugar, flour and cocoa powder. The recipe makes loads and they last a week in the tin….well, they get eaten before that, but they would last a week.
Heather’s Oat Biscuits

My friend Heather lent me this recipe and so they will always be known as Heather’s Oat Biscuits. These are quite similar to flapjacks, but with the addition of an egg and flour they become lovely chewy biscuits. I’ve reduced the sugar in the recipe and got no complaints. These also use melted butter, so are great if you’ve forgotten soft butter.

Cakey Buns

I don’t so these very often, but they use margarine, straight from the fridge and everything is just bunged in a bowl, so they’re super easy. I tend to avoid things with icing and you only get 12 out of this recipe, which doesn’t last long in our house.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

My friend Sarah says she has the recipe for the best Lemon Cake ever. I’m not so sure about that, maybe we should have a bake off one day. For after school snacks I bake the ingredients for a loaf tin, in an square cake tin and then cut into small rectangles. This makes it last longer, as you can get at least 18 portions out of it.


Scones

I love scones. They aren’t packed with sugar and just need a little smear of butter and jam. Again, I use a small cutter and they are then the perfect size for a little treat.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ll be honest I still haven’t perfected these. Sometimes they are amazing, sometimes quite average. I also think they’re a bit sweet, so I am still tweaking. However, I like that you can make the dough into a log, wrap it in cling film and take out and slice before baking. They’re great to make double quantities and keep some back.


So, these are just a few ideas for your weekly baking. I’ve added some links here, but you’ll also find ideas over at my Pinterest Board After School Snacks. I’d love to hear which ones are popular in your house and how you get on with the no shop bought treat challenge.

Me and Mine {February 2017}

February is quick, right? I mean, I know I’m not just imagining it, but it is only a few days shorter than the other months and yet, seems to whizz by in a blur. This is always the case when a school holiday falls in a month, I think. It makes time so funny. You have the wind down week, when it feels as though we are limping towards the holiday, the holiday itself and then the first week back, when it feels that we’ve forgotten our routine and it’s all a bit of struggle.

We were all ill, basically for most, if not all of the month. Just a horrible niggling cold that would not budge. My children are pretty awesome when they are ill, they kind of battle on and really just get on with it, but still it often involves disturbed sleep and plenty of grumpiness. Mini Mck is the most stoical and for the last week of term, he really did look like a pale husk of himself. I even offered him a day off, but he does love school.

I feel like I properly started work in February. I got my child care ducks in a row, found a routine and really got stuck in. I am doing some work for a yarn company! If you are a regular reader, you will know what am absolute thrill that is for me and I am absolutely LOVING it. I never imagined my tentative return to the workplace would be such a great fit and so exciting. I am very lucky.

We packed so much into half-term, without doing much at all and those are my favourite kinds of break. I hate the feeling of going back to the routine and thinking we have wasted our precious time. We decorated with the children at home, which was a first and went surprisingly well. You can see more of that on my Instagram feed. Dan worked a day, while I took the boys to the forest and had a great day with them. I worked a day and left the childcare to Dan, which was nice for everyone and then we spent the rest of the week doing fun stuff. A pyjama day, Lego Batman, lunch out, some time for Dan  and I to do stuff we wanted, while the other amused the kids and lots of playing.


Last month’s photos were a great start to the Me and Mine project. Everyone behaved and I managed to have make up on. This month, they are actually much more us. Messy hair, messy allotment, wellies, no make up, children removing their shoes and refusing to sit still, or pulling a ‘hilarious’ face. However, I love them. They were taken on a beautiful morning at the allotment, right at the beginning of the month. Our first bonfire of the year. You know what they say. The family who burns stuff together, stays together. Probably.

My Dad loves a bonfire. He simply could not resist the opportunity to join us, despite the fact that he’d returned from two months in Spain just the night before. I love the shots of him and Mini Mck running the fire. MM is now at an age where is is real help at the allotment, when he wants to be, of course. Watching him chop sticks and throw stuff on was ace, with much vocal guidance from Grandad, of course. Dan was busy cutting raspberry canes and dismantelling a rundown metal and glass greenhouse, the little ones dug holes and me? Honestly, I didn’t do much except chuck some stuff on the fire and take photos, but I don’t think anyone noticed.



This last shot was really the only sensible one of the whole lot, but that’s the thing with kids, you get one chance and it last about thirty seconds. I like to think it adds an extra challenge to the photography side of things.

This post is linked up with the Me and Mine project – hosted by Dear Beautiful, Bump to Baby, Capture By Lucy, Let’s Talk Mommy, Mummy Daddy Me, Our Life As We See It and Tigerlilly Quinn – where you take a photograph a month of your family all together.

emilyandmore reads….and more {January}

A strange thing has happened over the last year. My brain has shifted and once again made space for things. I feel as though my baby brain has lasted for eight years and as my littlest shifted from baby to toddler I suddenly found that I have the urge to read and watch films that are more than fluff, to immerse myself in challenging listening, reading and watching and to learn new skills or pick up old ones. That is perhaps a blog post in itself, a theme of which I am sure I will return. 

For now I wanted to start recording what I am actually reading, partly because I found myself  not being able to remember a book I read last year and had LOVED. Some of my favourite bloggers already write about what they are reading. Try Laura, Sarah and Hayley for some great reading ideas. I also thought that because I just don’t have time to re-read the stuff I love, but want to tell you about them, I am going to choose ‘One from the shelf’ as well as my current reads. 

My first book in January was Marian Keyes The Mystery of Mercy Close. I haven’t read Marian Keyes for years, so have lots of catching up to do. She is so funny and gets the detail of life perfectly captured. Just for the record I hate the term ‘Chick Lit’ and just won’t be using it here. It suggests a book is somehow less than that written for men. If a book has romance, humour and is about human relationships, it doesn’t mean it is any less well written, just because there may be some pink on the cover. This book is a perfect example of this. It was much darker than I expected, covering depression and suicide, but in no way was it a difficult read. It stayed with me after I’d finished it. Gallows humour at it’s best 

My second book in January and I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to have finished two books in one month, was Rainbow Rowell  Attachments. I first read Rainbow Rowell last year with Fangirl, which by the way was the book I loved, so when I saw this in the library I snatched it up. It took me a while to settle into this book, much of it is written as a series of emails, but as I got through the book it really started to get under my skin. Lots of things resonated with me and I loved that, for me, the main character was Lincoln, a man and I loved following his journey. Utterly romantic in a Brief Encounter/Sleepless in Seattle way. By the end I couldn’t put it down. 

‘One from the shelf’ this month is Persausion by Jane Austen. I am a complete Austen fan and find her books totally re-readable. This one is perhaps less well known and has sneaked up on me as a bit of a favourite. Anne Elliot is my favourite Austen heroine, being less full of her than Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Wodehouse. I would always urge anyone who hasn’t read Austen to give her a try. Her books are so readable and the humour in them is lovely. 

Incidentally, I thought I’d include other culture recommendations in this post and my latest find on Netflix is another Austen classic Amongst all the new ‘must see’ binge watch box sets, you will find the BBC adaption of Emma, another Jane Austen classic. This one has Jonny Lee Miller as the hero and it was all the press around T2 Trainspotting that made me remember it. It is the perfect thing for a February evening when you have a nasty cold, as I have had this week. 

Do you have any book recommendations for me? At two a month, I’m going to need a ‘to read’ list. What’s been staying with you recently?

Some treats for your ears……and your eyes

Hello friends! I hope you are well. As a little thank you for all the positive and supportive messages I received after my last post, I thought I would round up some of my favourite popular culture recommendations for you to enjoy.  I have perfect podcasts, radio, TV and film to brighten up a miserable January. Escape Brexit, Trump and the fact that the Gilmore Girls revival was a huge disappointment and immerse yourself in this little lot.

Podcast, radio, TV and film recommendations for a dreary January
I am going to start with something that I know I’ve recommended before, but it is being repeated from the beginning on Radio 4 extra and I have been re-listening. It turns out that Cabin Pressure is as funny on a second listen as it was the first time. A radio sitcom based in a small charter airline, run by mostly useless staff, Cabin Pressure still makes me laugh out loud. I actually thing it’s  irrelevant what it’s about, the actors are Stephanie Cole, Roger Allum (he of Sarah and duck fame, as well as many other great dramas – I love him!) John Finnemore, who also writes it and is fabulous and the brilliant, pre-fame, Benedict Cumberbatch and they are just a brilliant ensemble. Comedy is such a subjective thing and people often turn their noses up at radio comedy, but I urge you to give this a try. 

Eight years ago I was just starting my maternity leave. Due to lots of owed holiday I had a lovely, long maternity leave before Mini Mck arrived and I clearly remember sitting in my armchair, cosy and warm, on a dark January day, watching Barack Obama’s Inauguration. I cried happy tears and rested my hands on my swollen belly, with a sense of hope. *sigh* Such a contrast to the emotion I feel about the upcoming inauguration ceremony and I know that many of you feel the same. So, I was delighted to stumble upon Malcom Gladwell talking about Trump’s victory and what it means for the future this week. It’s only fifteen minutes long and if you feel as I do, please listen. It is unerringly positive and hopeful, in a way that makes sense and that I haven’t heard from anyone else. 

Finally for your listening pleasure I am going to give another mention to Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s film review podcast. I love listening to their wittering and even though I rarely go to the cinema I love hearing about what is out there. I’ve recently joined my WI’s film club. An outing to the cinema once a month for those of us who like films, but don’t always get to go or have people to go with. It’s been lovely to be able to make good suggestions for what we see and to be able to get back to the cinema. 

Speaking of which. Have you been to see La La Land? PLEASE do. I went last night and it was such a treat. Sublime sprang to my mind in the first fifteen minutes. There were some bits that I want to change, but that has not taken away from the fact that I still loved it. An absolutely perfect way to spend a couple of hours, especially when the news is never-endingly depressing. Think Singin’ in the Rain with a modern twist and a lovely chemistry between the two leads. I really hope it wins big at the Oscars, rather than the usual epics that take themselves far too seriously. La la loved it! 

A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch the last ten minutes of The World’s Most Extrodinary Houses and immediately though how much my eldest would love it. He has a bit of a thing for houses and his last google search is often Mansions or something similar. He is very creative, but also has a real flair for maths. I think he’d quite like to be an architect really. It has become our favourite family viewing on a Saturday Afternoon. Both the boys are transfixed and it is perfect if you like to be nosy in other people’s houses. This week’s episode is Coastal Houses, but you can still find the first tow on iplayer. 

So, there you have some lovely things to immerse yourself in on a dreary January evening. There’s only one that you have to leave the house for and I promise you that one will be worth getting wrapped up warm for. 

The one where I put some baggage down.

Sometimes realisations happen gradually, over many months and sometimes they hit you so hard that you gasp for breath and can’t believe you’ve never seen it before. Last week I wrote on Facebook, that I think it’s time to start thinking about a job and immediately lots of lovely friends had ideas and comments about how I have many skills and things I could do. It was such a boost, but I didn’t really believe it and the next day, while driving with Lady Mck I realised why.

I was thinking about why it was that I felt so unable to do a any kind of job, even though I used to have a big, stressful, well-paid job, that I had been good at and then it hit me. So very, very hard that I physically say up straight and took a sharp breath. Immediately, tears sprang to my eyes. It was quite the extreme reaction. I realised that whilst I did have a big, stressful and well-paid job that I was good at, it was one that ended badly and it became so clear that it wasn’t because of anything I had done.

I worked in a big, corporate organisation where people were no more than a list of figures on a page and my immediate boss was frankly a sexist dinosaur. The only women he had any time for in his team, were the ones who fluttered their eyelashes, wore short skirts and tight tops. The ones who cried when they were short staffed and above all didnt ruffle any male feathers. I wasn’t one of those. I was outspoken, I had opinions. I would challenge and I was clever. I was good and he knew it and he didn’t like it. Of course there were also men in the team like that, but he didn’t have the same rancour for them. They could banter, talk football. He could relate to them. As you know if you read this blog my journey to have children had some bumps in the road and these were treated with absolute contempt by this person.

And so, I finished my first career feeling that I was terrible at the job I had been really good at, that I had nothing to offer and so I packed up and moved on to my next role as a mum, which I have loved. But now, I have started to think about what is next for me and I realise that this work related baggage hasn’t gone away. I have carried it around, locked in a little suitcase for eight years. I will never have the chance to go back and tell this person or this organisation what they did to me, what they stole from me. That time is gone.

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Photo from unsplash.com

I always feel that a blog post should hold some wisdom for the reader. Something from my experience that may help a person reading it and I’m not sure this one does. This one could just be for me. Except to say that, when we realise we have been carrying this ‘thing’ around. When we actually open that suitcase and look inside, we can start to be honest. We can start to realise that what we thought was true, isn’t true. The reality is that I had a really successful career. I got every promotion I ever went for. I finished in the job I had always wanted. My performance was always good enough to achieve bonuses and pay rises and when I was signed off work, due to mental illness, my sexist boss was conveniently and swiftly moved to a new non-people management job, which is how these types of companies deal with difficult situations and speaks volumes.

Now, I have to continue to look into that suitcase. I have to dig deep and remember what I really can do. It is time to start thinking about what comes next for me and that should be exciting and challenging and possibly a little petrifying, but it shouldn’t be coloured by a bad experience that I could do nothing about.

As it turns out, that facebook status has sparked a conversation with a friend that could lead to work and I am excited and scared in equal measure. You see, everyone sees a version of us that we may not recognise. How we feel about ourselves can often depend of who we listen to. I am going to choose to listen to those who see me now, who know me, who value me and there is none of that in that long carried suitcase.