Too many questions, too little sleep

I’m feeling particularly intolerant today. Husband and I had an all-too-rare night out last night. On a Tuesday, I know! It was a proper night out, too, I got the train into London and everything. We live less than half an hour away from London by train so it is ridiculous that I don’t do this more often. In fact, it is going to be my New Year’s resolution to do it far more often. So anyway, we had a lovely dinner with friends and got home a little worse for wear at about midnight.

Obviously, the kids decided this would be the perfect night to both be total pains in the arse.  At 4am, daughter came into our bed.  We both assumed it must be morning so let her snuggle in, have a chat and a monumental fidget while we tried to catch a few more minutes of hungover sleep.  I then heard husband, “Aaaarghh! It’s 4am! Get back in your own bed!” We then tried to get back to sleep. At 4.45am, as if pre-planned, small boy starts kicking off.  He has only one speed, fast, and one volume, loud. It is impossible to ignore.  I tried anyway. Husband cracked first, he’s a far lighter sleeper than me (result!) and off he went to try and settle him. I knew it wouldn’t work, hence my masterplan of ignoring him for as long as possible instead.  Poor husband then ended up having breakfast at 5 am with little boy 😬

Daughter awoke some time later, particularly bright-eyed and bushy tailed. FFS. She bombarded me with a million questions. The highlights of which are as follows:

“Mummy, do you think you have chicken pox? They are really big spots on your face”

“Really though, could it be chicken pox?”

“If Jesus was alive, how old would he be?”

“How long has there been Christmas for? When was the first ever Christmas? How old is Father Christmas?”

“Which do you like best, poo or wee?”

“You know the elves left me a note telling me to be good? And to be kind to my brother and not hit him…..? Do you think really they didn’t mean it and they meant to tell him to be good….? Yes, I know I hit him, but still… I don’t think that note was really for me…. Yes, I know it had my name on…. But really, they didn’t mean me, did they?”

She is like a dog with a bone. She doesn’t even listen to my answers, she just carries on firing questions. And, even worse, if she doesn’t like my answer, “YES the bloody sodding note was for you, quite clearly!!!!” She will just keep going and going until I eventually break, “ok, ok, maybe it wasn’t for you!!!!” She even carried on asking me questions whilst brushing her teeth, literally mouth full of toothbrush and toothpaste, “Mummy…”

Me:”Why don’t you brush your teeth, then ask me… Brush your teeth… I’m not listening until you’ve finished brushing your teeth!”

Its going to be a long old day. And the children will most definitely be getting pizza for dinner. And will watch too much TV whilst I feel sorry for myself and brace myself for further questions.

 

 

Gluten Free Super Seed Goujons

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I absolutely loathe unloading my dishwasher.  I know it’s not the worst household chore, not by a long shot. I think it’s the mundanity of it, the fact that I do it every single godforsaken day.  I remember when my daughter was very small, washing bottle after bottle and staring down the barrel of another long day on my own with this tiny little person.  I had no idea what I was doing and no idea how to fill day after day, each one the same as the last.  And each and every Groundhog Day began with the dreaded dishwasher.  I could have cried (I think I probably did a few times) just with the boredom and repetition and the futility of it.  Sometimes, just for a treat, I would load our dirty breakfast things on top of the clean things and put it on again, just to avoid unloading it for another few hours. What a thrill! Ah, those heady, reckless days!

Even though my days are now much more interesting than back then, and I have no qualms with how to fill time, rather with how to make more of it, the dishwasher-hatred has never quite left me.  It’s one of the reasons I try to cook one pot dishes and adapt my recipes so I can make cakes in one bowl where possible.  I have little interest in a recipe that’s going to mean I have to unload my dishwasher even more often.

So you can imagine my horror, then, when the husband made pesto pasta and brocolli for the children at the weekend.  He used 3 pans!!!  Who does that?  One for the brocolli.  One for the pasta.  One to mix the pesto and pasta in.  WTF?!!!  I have gently suggested to him on several occasions, through the medium of four letter words, if making pasta, PUT THE VEG IN WITH IT!! And then when it’s cooked, stir through the sauce in the same pan. It’s not rocket science!!!

Mr Intolerant makes amazing roasts and no one can cook a better steak than he, but he does like to use rather a lot of utensils.  His favourite trick is to use a slotted spoon to dish out something highly inappropriate, say, a casserole, or bolognese, and then a second serving spoon to dish up the actual sauce.  Cunningly, I recently melted our plastic slotted spoon on to the hob, so that’s put an end to that! Ha! Oh yes, I’m no fool! The acrid smoke, molten plastic and gloopy hob were a small price to pay for marital harmony (well, for one less thing to argue about).

So…. these gluten-free seedy Chicken Goujons have to be something really special for me to go through the faff of using two or three plates. These went down a storm with my kids. I’m rather partial to a chicken nugget myself and have to say they were really, really good.

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One of the few things that small boy is virtually guaranteed to eat is breaded chicken.  It’s a shame no supermarkets seem to make organic or even free range chicken nuggets.  Making my own means I know the meat is good quality and organic. The other benefit of making these is that you are upping your protein and omega content with all these seeds, rather than breadcrumbs, which are pretty void of nutrition. My kids aren’t big fish fans so I love recipes like this that increase their Omega 3 intake. It’s worth the faff, I promise. The sesame seeds, in particular, make these really tasty.  Use chicken mini fillets rather than strips of chicken breast as a) it saves you chopping and b) they are so lovely and tender.

PS The first time I made these I coated half of the chicken pieces with seeds and then mixed breadcrumbs into remainder of the seeds and made the rest with a mixture of breadcrumbs and seeds, just in case my kids didn’t like 100% seeds, so that’s worth a try to avoid any potential wastage or fussiness.

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Gluten-free, low carb, high protein, high in omega 3, paleo, nutrient dense, super tasty chicken nuggets… need I go on?!

RECIPE (serves 4)

1 packet organic chicken mini fillets (about 400g)

1 large egg

40g ground almonds

50g golden linseeds (approx)

60g sesame seeds (approx)

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1. Whisk egg briefly with a fork in a large shallow bowl or plate.  On a separate plate, mix together sesame and linseeds. Have a lightly oiled baking tray nearby to place the newly made goujons on.

2. Tip ground almonds into a large plastic bag and season with salt and pepper (omit salt if making for young children).  Place mini fillets in bag, close and shake well, separating the pieces to ensure they are well coated in almonds.  You may prefer to do this in two batches.  Or you can do this on a plate, but that would entail more dishes to wash.

3. Next, dip the goujons, one by one, briefly into the beaten egg, allowing excess to drip off, and then into the linseed and sesame seed mixture.  Roll them around and make sure they are fully coated   Place on baking tray.  Repeat with all goujons.

4. Fry on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, trying not to turn or move too much as you risk losing your coating! Or bake in oven at 180c for 10-12 minutes. These will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking so you can make a big batch in one go.

5. Curse, mumble and moan whilst loading all plates into dishwasher.

Perfect with chips, peas and ketchup or my kid’s favourite “wagamama” katsu style with rice, carrot, cucumber, sweetcorn  and a homemade amai sauce (honey and soy sauce mixed together) or for grown ups with a big salad…or chips 😍

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Good Gut Recipes. Chicken Pho, Pickles and Lashings of Ginger Beer, hurrah!

 

The Norovirus has swept through our house this last 10 days.  Daughter and I have both been ill and it will be an absolute miracle if the boys don’t get it too.  No doubt small boy will get it over half term so I will spend a third week confined to the house 😫  On the plus side, there’s nothing like a good tummy bug for weight loss and I have lost 4lbs.  Hurrah!  Sadly, this weight loss seems to be focused almost entirely on my boob area.  Why is life so bloody unfair??!!

So, anyway, this weekend I have decided we need a some extra nourishment and I’m going to make plenty of things which are good for gut health.  The main one is bone broth, see my recipe for Brilliant Bone Broth Bone broth contains Glutamine which helps maintain the function of your intestinal wall; Glycine which stimulates production of stomach acid and aids digestion and Collagen which can heal the gut lining.  Scientists are beginning to realise just how important gut health is to our overall health and wellbeing, and poor gut health is being linked to an increasing number of diseases as well as obesity and even depression. Did you know 80% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in your gut? Nope, me neither. It is the largest sensory organ in the body and apparently  70% of our immune system is in our gut.  So it’s pretty important to look after your tummy.

How do we do that?  Taking good quality probiotic supplements will improve your gut microbiome.  As will eating naturally probiotic foods, which include garlic, leeks and onions, artichokes, bananas (I’ve been having them on my porridge every day this week), natural ‘live’ yoghurt, and fermented or pickled foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kimchi (they mustn’t be pasteurised though, as this destroys the good bacteria).  So, as well as making bone broth and OD-ing on probiotics, I have made a homemade pickle, and for the kids, a fermented fizzy ginger drink.

Here come the recipes…

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GINGER POP

Enid Blyton, eat your heart out. The famous five would have loved this shit. Fanny and Dick would never have caught the Norovirus if they had drunk this.

Jolly hockeysticks!

INGREDIENTS

large root of ginger (about 5 thumbs in total)

1 tbsp unrefined sugar
spring water

METHOD

This takes about 10 days to make in total. Hopefully it will be worth the ball-ache.

Day 1: You need a clean bottle with an airtight stopper. Rinse through with boiled water to sterilise.  Grate about 1 inch ginger into bottle and add 1 tsp sugar and cover with spring water. Leave in warm place for 24 hours.

2. Repeat process for 5 days until mixture begins to bubble. This is your ‘Ginger Bug’. I love that name!

3. You can use your Ginger Bug to make any flavour Pop you like, add some cooked rhubarb, orange juice, lemon… The world is your oyster. I’m just sticking to the ginger to begin with. So, add any extra flavourings, then top up your bottle with water and ferment for a further five days, then it’s ready to drink. It should be slightly sparkling. I will let you know how ours is doing in 10 days time…

VIETNAMESE CHICKEN PHO

 

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is actually pretty quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS (serves about 4)

2 litres bone broth or chicken stock

2 litres bone broth (or chicken stock, it just won’t have quite the same gut healing capability)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely grated or crushed

2 thumbs of ginger, finely grated

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 star anise

veg – we like sliced Pak Choi and a mixture of different types of mushrooms, you could also use courgetti noodles or just throw in a bag of pre-prepared stir-fry

To serve

100g beansprouts

small bunch roughly chopped coriander

1 lime

1 red chilli, chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

soy sauce

METHOD

1. Bring bone broth to the boil in a large pan. Meanwhile prepare and chop veg.

2. Add whole chicken thighs and all other ingredients apart from veg. Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Remove chicken thighs and shred using 2 forks.  Whilst you are shredding chicken, pop veg into pan to cook.  Return shredded chicken to pan and cook for a further minute or two.

4. Ladle generously into bowls and serve topped with beansprouts, spring onions, coriander, chilli, soy sauce and a wedge of lime.

 

PICKLED VEGETABLES

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I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut or kimchi, or anything too pickle-y or fermented come to think of it, so I hope I like these.  They look very pretty sitting in the jar, so that’s a good start.  Raw garlic and onions are supposed to be brilliant probiotics but can both be a bit harsh on the tastebuds, so fermenting them shound give them a more mellow flavour whilst retaining all their raw benefits. Best of both worlds!  PS You must use spring water for this as tap water contains chlorine to kill bad bacteria in the water supply, but that also means it will prevent the very bacteria we are trying to create in this process. Doh!

INGREDIENTS

veg – anything you like… I used 2 cauliflower florets, baby corn, green beans, 1/2 red pepper, small red onion, 2 garlic cloves,  1 small carrot.

1 tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 star anise

METHOD

1. Wash a kilner jar and rinse through with boiled water.

2. Fill with veg, leaving a 2cm gap at top to allow water to cover completely and to allow room for the veg to swell up. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt. Close lid and shake jar well, this ensures salt fully covers the veg and preserves it and also helps to break down the cell walls of the vegetables, which will accelerate the lacto-fermentation process (I know, get me! 🤓 )

3. Add star anise, pepper and mustard seeds.  Top up with spring water until veg is fully submerged (if it’s not, mould can form).

4. Keep in a warm place for 3-4 days and then it’s ready to eat.  I’ll let you know how it tastes on Wednesday…!

 

 

 

 

 

Being A Mum

This morning my daughter wanted to wear her trousers for school. They were not officially on the uniform list until this year and it hadn’t really occurred to me to buy them until I saw a very cute slim leg pair in M&S. I thought daughter would be a bit dubious, but she was thrilled with them! We talked about how they would keep her warm in winter and be SO much easier and quicker than a skirt and tights. How I loathe tights, the time it takes to put them on, the gusset hanging down below her school skirt, how they seem to shrink and go all bobbly no matter what you do. Daughter also has swimming at school for the first time this year and I know how painfully slow she is at getting changed. I love my daughter more than I could ever put into words, but she has the concentration span of a goldfish and is pretty lazy to boot – she tries to get dressed using just one hand a lot of the time, it is beyond painful.  So anyway, I think it’s clear I was looking forward to the school trousers.

So, as I said, it was her idea to give them a go today. She was very pleased with them and looked so sweet and grown up. As we were running out of the door (still brushing our teeth) I pointed to her zip, as she was flying low. “I didn’t know they had a zip,” she said. “they’re like boy’s trousers”  A few minutes later, as we are gently jogging to school (it’s 8.40am now) she says “I think everyone is going to laugh at me”. She is pink-eyed and chewing her lip. “They will think I look like a boy with long hair.”

“Does anyone else wear trousers?” I ask, slowing down my jog to a brisk walk.

“No. Well, I think one girl in another year”

Oh shit. I want to run home and get her changed. Or perhaps I could take her to school and then go back and drop a skirt off for her to change into? What should I do?

I take a deep breath. Daughter is not me. I spent all of school trying desperately to fit in, to say the right things, watch the right TV shows so I could join in the conversations, wear the same sort of thing as everyone else. But I always got it a bit wrong, I always felt on the back foot and left out, I was always a bit too much of a nerd. But daughter likes to be different. I ❤️ that about her. For Roald Dahl day recently, she wanted to dress as Matilda, until she found out lots of other girls were too. Then she decided (the night before -helpful!!!!!) to be Miss Honey. She was so proud of herself, and I was too.

I sometimes used to find myself cajoling her to do – or not do- things by saying “well everyone else will be going”, or, “fine, but you’ll be the odd one out (e.g. wearing shorts in February)” And then one day, I heard myself, and thought What Am I Doing?  Why am I encouraging her to be ‘like everyone else’, or to feel embarrassed to be different?  Since then I have been trying to encourage her to be different and to have the confidence to make whatever choices she wants to make. I may still draw the line at shorts in February mind you. Yes, daughter, even if you wear long socks with them to keep warm. In fact, definitely if you wear long socks with them. This is not 1973.

So, with this in mind, I took a deep breath and told daughter she looked fantastic, and if anyone laughed at her they were just a very mean person. And probably jealous that she had warm toasty legs.

At the door to her class, I told her teacher she was a bit worried. Miss Teacher was AWESOME. She was outraged at the thought that any child would be so mean and said she wouldn’t just keep an ear out, as I’d asked, she would MAKE SURE no one said anything.  I give daughter the thumbs up through her classroom window.  Teacher could obviously tell I was a bit worried too and reminded me it was Harvest Festival day. The class would be walking to church at 10am if I wanted to walk with them, i.e. check daughter was ok.

So, I cancelled small boy’s usual music singing group thing and raced home for half an hour to tidy up, and then raced back to school again. And there she was, gorgeous daughter, with her shiny plaits and gappy smile. Her teflon trousers billowing gently in the breeze. So happy and excited. I walked to school next to my daughter and a new friend of hers and they told me all about how they had to stand on the stage to say a prayer together. Daughter hadn’t told me she was saying a line.

And I thought, this is it. This is why I didn’t go back to work. To be here. So that I can listen to her momentary fears; so it’s me she tells when she is scared; so that I can walk her to school and tell the teacher; so that I can drop everything and go back to school just to walk her 5 minutes up the road.  Sometimes I would give anything to have a career again, to turn back the clock and make a different choice and work part time. To put my suit and heels on and catch the 7.27 to Waterloo. To have meetings, to get pissed off with clients, to laugh with colleagues and have after work drinks. Oh, after work drinks!! And Christmas parties! And just to have something to say when you meet someone new, “what do you do?” “I’m a mum” is a total conversation killer when the other person doesn’t have kids, I’ve found. The money would be nice, too.  But then, at times like this, none of that matters, and I am SO glad I’m here. Every day.

Sometimes my world feels as though it’s become very small, but today I don’t feel quite so insignificant after all.

 

 

 

Class Rep Catastrophe

This is my daughter’s fourth year in school, she is in Year 3. Why do they make it so confusing, can’t they just make it year 4? Anyway, so far I have successfully dodged the bullet for dreaded class rep as some other sucker/Alpha Mum/perfectly nice helpful and organised person has wanted to do it.  This year, we are three weeks in AND STILL NO ONE HAS VOLUNTEERED!

I am feeling the pressure. I don’t work, I have 2 kids (as opposed to 3 or 4) and, mainly, I haven’t been rep yet. I can feel eyes on me. About a week ago I stupidly confided in a friend that I was feeling the pressure. Said “friend” thought it would be hilarious to therefore tell the outgoing class rep to talk to me as I was keen. Ha bloody ha. Fucking hilarious. I stood spluttering, cornered, in the playground, blabbing about how terribly forgetful I am and how I hate organising things and how I really REALLY didn’t want to do it.  Outgoing Rep seemed to take this as a sign of apparent modesty, or else just didn’t give a shit and wanted to pass the baton on at all costs. “Oh, you’ll be great!” she smiled, “it’ll be the making of you!”

I must have looked so terrified she then took a step back and, looking a little confused, and undoubtedly concerned about my mental health, said not to worry about it, she was sure someone else would step in. Great, now I look like a lazy bitch and a psycho. So that was a week ago, and I have spent the last 7 days hoping, praying, someone else would answer their calling and enthusiastically jump in. No such bloody luck.  Meanwhile, word has been spreading, and several mum-friends have given me a nudge and a wink, “I hear you’re class rep?” I have been truly stitched up. So today I finally cracked and said I would do it. What other choice did I have???!! Arrrghhh!!!

So I’m going to have to get my act together. This was, in fact, a resolution for this new school year anyhow, but it hasn’t got off to the best start. So far I had to have 3 reminders from the, frankly, terrifying school receptionist to pay £16.20 dinner money.    I also missed the deadline for returning the letter for violin lessons.  Perhaps this was fate intervening to save me from the tortuous practice I will have to endure?Even so, the lessons are free and part of the Y3 curriculum so it’s not really something you don’t do.  I had a humiliating lecture from the school receptionist about how I had missed the deadline and she would have to contact the violin lesson providers ESPECIALLY for me to see if they could perhaps, just this once, make an exception to the deadline. I stood in the office, palms sweating, feeling tearful that daughter might be the only one in her class to miss violin lessons because her stupid mother couldn’t be arsed signing a form in time. WTF is wrong with me? Why can’t I be more organised?

I have also had to pop into the office on two occasions with a PE kit and a fruit snack, respectively, that were forgotten in the morning rush.  The morning rush, incidentally, that involves us racing into school, just in the nick of time every morning. I am pathologically late.  These are not isolated incidents, this is generally how I have scraped by over the last three years.  Interestingly, at no point have I set my alarm earlier/packed bags at night/made myself a foolproof filing system; I’ve just carried on bumbling along.  So, you can see, I am perhaps not the best qualified rep out there.  But I have promised that what I will undoubtedly lack in reminding our class of dates, times and events and generally being a fount of all school knowledge, I will make up for in organising lots of mums nights out.  Here goes… 😁😁😁😁

 

Update

Pee Surprise

It was an uneventful school pickup. We made it home unscathed, no tales of best friend woes, no trips or falls and no tantrums from small boy wanting to escape the buggy. We successfully ran the gauntlet of the ice cream van who shamelessly loiters by school and we even spent an enjoyable half an hour in the park en route home. So far, so good.

Daughter hurtled inside, shouting “I need a wee!” She HATES the school toilets so tries not to use them.  They are pretty rank: picture the worst public loos you can, then just imagine small children using them largely unsupervised all day. Exactly. Daughter tells me they are smelly, nobody ever flushes and there is never any toilet roll.  You can see her point. So, the poor soul will often go all day without weeing.

Now, our downstairs bathroom has a lock on the outside, a relic from when it was in fact the understairs cupboard, before becoming a state-of-the-art teeny tiny saniflo.

Daughter is unable to open the door in time.

She pees all over the floor.

I do what any loving and understanding mother would do, which is to scream  “STOP WEEING! JUST! STOP! WEEING! Why can’t you STOP WEEING!!!”

We look at each other in horror as it cascades down her legs, hitting the  expensive wooden floor laminate in thunderous torrents.  She wees for what feels like forever. How can a seven year old child contain so much wee? Does she have a pelvic floor of steel? A bladder the size of a football? I stand watching helplessly, wondering when on earth it will stop.  A small lake is shimmering on the hall floor.

Small boy, meanwhile, runs to see what all the commotion is about.  In perfect slow motion, he glides through the enormous puddle of still steaming pee. He flails and crashes down on his back.  He is soaked, even his hair is dripping. FML, is this really happening?!!!!

By now, both kids are crying. I mop up the wee with about 26 kitchen rolls. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT IS STILL WARM. Is this superhuman wee?  I must tell her never to wee in a wetsuit, she may boil herself alive.

Both children were immediately thrown into the bath and I toyed with the idea of   pretending it was in fact bed time. There will be no cooking tonight

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Watermelon Ice lollies

I LOVE these ice lollies, they couldn’t be easier, or healthier!  Plus, I think they look really pretty too.  Push a lolly stick into a slice of watermelon, and freeze.  Ta da!  My daughter and her friends loved them.  Predictably, small boy took a few bites and then asked for a “choc lolly”… Cunningly, I melted some chocolate and drizzled it on top of the frozen watermelon.  He licked it off and dropped the watermelon on the floor. Gah! I give up!!

If you’re a watermelon fan you should try this smoothie, too         I carried a watermelon…