Thursday, 28 April 2016

5 Tunes Babies Seem To Love

And it turns out, whichever song they love, you end up loving too.  Even if you previously hated it!

Kylie Minogue: Can't Get You Out Of My Head

It has that hip-wiggle beat, it's catchy and babies love to join in with the chorus, which is a nice, easy 'la la la, la la la la la!'

Beyonce: All The Single Ladies

The song itself is great, but put a baby in front of the actual dance video and you'll see them working their own moves, just like Bey.

Michael Jackson: Billy Jean

We all love a beat.  But a base beat is the best beat by far.  Stick in some drums and some 'ooh ooh.  Oooh ooh!' and it's easy to see why baby is suddenly throwing some proper moves to this tune.

Any Old Folk Song

My husband seems to know tons of weird old folk songs which I never even knew existed.  Check out this old favourite, which he seems somehow to know ALL of the words to.  No joke!  I roll my eyes, but the kids LOVE it.  And to be honest, they'll remember these long after Bey has left the building.

The Kinks: Lola


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Just give me 15 minutes...

Dave has a half hour in the morning before he has to leave.  Technically, this is his time to do what he wishes with - maybe he will have some breakfast, read the newspaper, maybe he'll cruise the internet before he starts work.

I asked him what he does wih this hallowed half hour.

"Ah, I just start work early"


That is half an hour of pure GOLD DUST, my friend!

When I told him this, he kind of just rolled his eyes and looked at me funny.

I looked back at him perplexed.

I am about to spend TEN HOURS holding a baby and doing everything one-handed, including going to the toilet and cutting cheese.

I'm generous.  I told him, I didn't even want the half hour.

Just give me 15 minutes...

In 15 minutes I will:

  • Find something to wear which is not yesterdays clothes/leggings I've slept in for 3 days
  • Shower
  • DRY my hair instead of letting it dry in that horrible frizzy/wavy shape it otherwise dries into. Or at least the fringe.
  • Pee. Alone
  • Eat the only meal I'm getting until 9pm (if I can be bothered to make a meal by then)
  • THINK. 
  • Clean up a little in preparation for the onslaught of crazy baby mess.
  • Check my emails - maybe I won't miss anything important this week if I can just get 5 minutes to CHECK MY DAMN EMAILS!!
  • Take out the massive pile of rubbish which is taking over my kitchen
  • Let the dog pee - it takes me ages to get to the actual point of being able to take the baby out, to get him dressed, pulled the pram out of the car/located the baby sling and found those tiny little baby socks!
  • Find a pair of my own damned socks!
  • Maybe even have a cup of tea... (I can dream, right?)
Never underestimate the power of a good 15 minutes of baby-free freedom!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Vegetarian Cupboard Staples To Get You Through

Sometimes a wage packet won't stretch as far as you think, for whatever reason.

Sometimes life throws some surprises your way; broken appliances, illness, car trouble.

Don't fret about tough times; why not pick up these staples and keep them in your cupboard to get you through until next pay day.

Baked Beans - So good for adding to a meal, topping on a jacket potato, scooping up with toast or eating on their own.

Frozen Peas - Ah, peas! The bag is good for helping nurse bumped heads and the peas are tasty additions to meals.  Match them with mashed spuds, put them through cream cheese or add them to a pasta dish.  Add a little colour and get some goodness!

Source: BBC Good Food (

Cornflour - Handy as a thickener for macaroni and excellent to use in recipes like this Fatless Sponge

Tomato Puree/Chopped Tomatoes - Handy for curries, stews, sauces - puree is a must for beefing up the flavour.  Check out these ideas for what else you can do with Tomato Puree.


Hot Sauce - Serious Eats lists 25 things you can do with Hot Sauce right here. It's so versatile.  I realise hot stuff in't everyone's thing, but it can add some serious flavour to a jacket potato and cheese, pasta dishes or, well, anything really!

Vegetable Stock - Needed for all things stew, soup, curry and can perk up rice and cous cous no end.  Here I am recommending where you can find recipes based on what you have in your cupboard.  Here's their list of recipes you can make with veggie stock!

Pasta - I find it's always prudent to have a very large bag of pasta in the cupboard at all times.  Maybe this is just a lean back to my student days, but I can do a lot of stuff with pasta!

Rice - Great as a main meal or a side. Risotto is my favourite go-to.  It's filling, tasty and you can add pretty much any veg to it too! Check out my recipe for Comfort Risotto here.

Easy Bake Yeast - Pizza dough, bread...yeast is so handy for making a tasty carby meal.  It's funny, I always surprise myself by how often I find it useful.

Butternut Squash - I buy a Butternut Squash and it can sit there for ages!  They keep really well, they are so versatile and can be used in so many ways. Why not try my Butternut Squash Pie recipe here?

Onions - Onions are the base of most stews, soups, curries etc.  It's always a good idea to have some on standby!

Of course, these are just a few things you can have on standby and different people like different things,but these are the things that I always try to keep handy.

What do you always have ready to go?

Do you have any go-to fail-safe recipe?  I'd love to hear what you prepare when times are tough!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Tingling my Tastebuds...a round up of recipes

I'm Veggie and have been all my days.

It was never a massive decision, more of a happening; being a vegetarian is something that happened to me.  I do not like the taste of meat.  I hate the texture of meat.  I therefore hate meat substitutes.

I am also fairly fussy; I'm getting better in my old age, but being a hater of certain textures, like mushroom and aubergine, it kind of narrows down my choices a wee bit.

I am very fortunate however to live in the golden age of internet, where I can make specific searches for recipes I can actually get excited about, which with my self-placed limitations can be difficult.

Here's a wee round up of recipes I've been drooling over this week, along with links to see for yourself.

1.Tomato and harissa stew with cheddar dumplings
I'm not going to lie - it's the dumpling bit that's doing it for me - check out the recipe here.

I'm a massive carbohydrate/cheese fan, but I love some spice too, so this ticks a lot of my boxes.  It pretends it's a bit healthy with all the veg and the chickpeas, but it's luring you in with the oh-so-yummy promise of dumpling naughtiness.

I've never tried harissa, and being a busy mum of three who rarely has time to shop alone, let alone search for something new, Id probably substitute in red and yellow peppers instead, which would still sit nicely in amongst the tomatoes and chickpeas.

2. Chickpea and Vegetable Curry

Source: The Vegetarian Society (
A veg curry is always my go-to favourite if I can't think of anything else, and it never fails to satisfy.  It's quick, it's easy and it's a really satisfying make, which if you portion up just right,can last a couple of days.

A veg curry is the best - you can pretty much chuck anything in, add some chopped tomatoes or even some coconut milk and you can mix up the flavours no end.  I love a chickpea curry - there's something really satisfying and filling about one, and you can find the recipe for this one from the Vegetarian Society here.

3.Easy Pizza Dip with Cream Cheese

Oh holy monkeys, this really tickles my tastebuds and makes me drool a wee bit.  This is ridiculous - a dip which tastes like pizza, but one which you can dip vegetable crudites into and thus feel a little bit less guilty (just try to forget about the cheese!)

Have a look at this glorious recipe from my good friend Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.  This is definitely a good one to pull out when you have visitors or if you want to settle down to a good movie with some tortilla chips and beer; why no go all out? Heaven in a dish!

4. Greek salad with Feta

Source: Oh, sweet Basil (
I LOVE a Greek salad.  I've been to Greece a few times now, and it's definitely my best and most favourite part about going there - you cannot beat the absolute freshness of the food and the zing of all the different fresh flavours hitting your tastebuds. Delicious!

Coupled with tzatziki and some frsh bread, this has to be my ultimate dish.  Simple, quick, but totally flavoursome - and healthy too. Have a gander at Oh, Sweet Basil's take on this classic, here.

5. Battered Halloumi

Dear good god. Battered Halloumi for the win!

I did say I hate meat substitutes, but I think this is the closest I will ever come.  The texture of halloumi is odd.  It's squeaky.  It's a bit rubbery.

But boy, does it taste good in batter!

I've had battered halloumi a few times - it seems to be quite fashionable at the moment as the vegetarian opton of choice for bar and restaurants, but I am so very glad when I see it n the menu instead of bloody macaroni or stupid stuffed aubergine. Again.

Planet Veggie is right when she proclaims she now wants to 'batter all the things'. Check out her recipe here.

Long live battered halloumi!

Right, now I am very extremely hungry.  I'm off to do some cooking!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The End of Breastfeeding: Need, Betrayal, Freedom

Last week, Owen, my third and almost certainly last ever baby, lay down with me and had his last ever breastfeed.

After-feed coma
I was so very conscious that this would be the last one - though it was with a glimmer of hope that it might not be, that he had somehow decided to carry on.
Very poorly baby :(

He's been quite poorly for the last three weeks; sniffly, sore throat and very wheezy.  It turns out, after a visit to the doctors eventually (poor, neglected third child!) that he had a touch of bronchiolitis, which he has since happily fended off.

He had been refusing the breast rapidly during those few weeks, turning his head, suckling for only a small amount of time, before withdrawing with painful screams and tensing up his body.

Frustratingly, for both of us, what used to comfort him beyond anything else couldn't comfort him this time, and I have noticed a change in him these last few weeks for sure; he's become a lot more indepepndent, a lot more into crawling on the floor, wanting to spend a lot less time in his Jumperoo and getting frustrated in his walker.  He's practicing pushing himself up and trying to stand, however alarming that is for me to watch!

Suddenly, my wee baby is no longer a wee baby, but a bigger baby who is becoming more of a personality.

Hmm, what's this ??

What are they talking about?

I'd just texted my best friend, who also has a baby of around the same age who is also breastfeeding.  We had been talking about it the last time we'd met up; she'd recently started to wean her little girl and asked me if Owen had started to drop feeds.

I knew he had (he'd started weaning ages ago), but I didn't realise quite how much until I spoke about it.

"It's funny", she'd said, as she fed her baby, " you never know when it's going to be the last feed".

So I messaged her, a week on from this conversation, telling her, the only other person who I knew would understand how I felt at this moment and told her that I was almost certain that it was all over.

It felt really weird.

It still does.

When I bought my first box of formula after 8 and a half months of good, solid work, it felt so odd - like a betrayal, like a freedom and like a need.

He needed the fluid - he had been refusing from me and refusing water, something had to give.  I had to satisfy that need to feed my ill baby.  He was becoming dehydrated and I couldn't pump off enough milk.

It felt like a betrayal too though - that was a lot of very hard work.  It was a lot of pride, a lot of love and a lot of tears which had gone into our breastfeeding relationship.  I looked at the ingredients on the boxes a million times.  I went back and forth to that shelf like a madwoman.  It's so silly - my other two boys had formula from a much younger age and I never even blinked, but for some reason I found such a harmonious and rewarding breastfeeding relationship hard to let go of!

I really felt a lot of freedom.  I also bought my first underwired bra for the first time in over a year.  When you have boobs as big as mine - that's a relief! It's amazing how much an underwire can boost your cleavage and make you feel so awesome again! I also felt a kind of release.
I had been this tiny little person's sole source of comfort and nourishment for 8 long months.  His go-to for every upset.  I was on hand 24/7, night and day for food and drink.  Not all babies are as velcro-like as mine, but Owen truly felt like I was the only one who could 'save' him and he was struggling with letting go of me.  Now I can leave him with daddy, and already their bond has grown more.  Already he seeks him out as well as me, which is lovely and, admittedly, a bit of a relief.  I have to go back to work soon and he has to be able to find comfort in others.

The most shocking thing for me is, I keep trying him with the breast with an off-handed hope that he will go back, but he is not even a bit bothered.  He'll nuzzle for a bit, then pull away.  If a bottle is int he room, he'll seek it out and drink it like he's always done it.  I guess I'm glad he feels so confident, givent hat at one point he completely refused a bottle!

Just a few short months ago I was set to do this for as long as he needed it, and I suppose he has decided that was as long as he needed it.

He has most definitely self-weaned, there's no doubt about it.

Am I sad about it?

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  I can't begin to describe how sad I am that it's over so quickly. It was marvellous to think of my wee broken battered body as this strong provider of food for this growing living thing.  It was amazing to be the sole source of comfort, to know that I could cure any ill with my boobs!  It really was magic.  Pure magic.

I'm so proud and privileged to have experienced it.

I was so worried this would be the end of something though - and it is the end, no doubt, of a special time.  But it is a small time.  And it is a memorable time.  And it was a good time.
And something which being a mother of two other children has taught me is, that it is part of a much, much bigger picture and there are so many more memorable, good times to come.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Home At Last

I'm at this weird crossroads at my life at the moment and I feel solely responsible for a lot of heavy things.

Firstly, I'm due to go back to work in the next month or so and I am responsible for finding and engaging childcare for all three children - no easy feat in these parts.   Something I didn't really see clearly a year ago when we were considering  moving to a rural area, was just how it would affect our day to day living and that things such as childcare would be a lot more difficult to come by.

Me, trying to magic childcare out of my ass.
The after school club which was there when I googled last year is no longer running due to low turnout and any available childminders are either full to capacity or only have space for one child.  I kind of knew to expect these challenges and I'm working it out, but heck, it's hard.

Some things of course have completely taken me by surprise.

I never factored in how much different it was going to be living out here, and oddly, how much in love with it I was going to fall.  How spending so much time here, even though for the majority of it I am alone (and more alone than I have ever been) is kind of really good for me and how the weird little things like watching hawks out of the back window or walking in the woods with the dog just outside my front door can just, well, balance things out.

We've had a hell of a year health-wise, work-wise and, well, life-wise, and I think we have boiled everything right down to one thing.

Once we have had all of our arguments, flung out all the rubbish, heaved through the murk and the gloom, come out on the other side and spent some time walking in the light, it seems the answer is fairly obvious: nothing is as important as each other.

No career, no amount of money, no amount of things, no amount of eating out or new clothes or gadgets etc is half as important as our family's health, our family's love, our family's life and happiness together.

We all deserve to be happy.  We all deserve peace.

We all deserve to feel appreciated and loved and respected.

We all appreciate space and time and space.

We all deserve enough sleep, healthy food and warm stuff.

When we moved here, it was a huge risk.  One, because we were moving to a completely new area, changing the kids schools and having to change the entire way we live; no more jumping on the bus to wherever we needed to be, no more quickly popping out to the shops, no more having friends and family being able to easily swing by and visit us.

Everything now must be planned, measured and organised completely, and admittedly, it's taken, and is still taking, a bit of time to adjust to that.  We are so very used to having everything to hand.

After the chaos of 2015, with it's huge massive highs and it's break-neck lows, we are still kind of scrambling through things, albeit with less stressful desperation.  There's definitely a nicer pace to things and a glimmer of what is to come on the horizon, and I have to say, it looks really sweet.

It starts as you take the back road up towards our house.  We've been here for three seasons now and watched the surroundings change with each of them.  It's something really special.

Just now it's winter, and the trees are thin and bare.  The fields are cut and everything is open for you to see.

Birds of prey sit on fence posts and telegraph poles, right out in the open, their huge silhouettes strong against the shadows of the dim morning light - it really is a magnificent sight. They hunt in the field behind our house, a family of them hovering and swooping, like we have our own nature show in our kitchen window.

 Just yesterday while driving along I saw something stirring on the grass verge.  I rolled down the window and there in front of me, just a few feet away was a young hawk toying with it's prey. This bird was huge - a yellow beak, massive wings and huge claws. Stunning.

Take a walk through the fields and you happen upon hares which startle and zip right past you. 

The flash of a deer's white tail as it darts off through the woods is something I've come across more than once while walking the dog on a quiet afternoon.

And there's nothing at all like being present as huge flocks of Canadian Geese happen to start landing in the harvested corn fields right beside you.  All you can do is stand and watch as flock after flock locate each other and all land in a great chorus, suddenly falling completely silent as they complete their number.

It's magic, pure and simple.

I've always been a nature lover, someone who feels more at home in a natural space.

I've moved around a lot.  Been in so many different areas, so many different places; towns, city centres, suburbs, multi-storeys, flat-shares, houses.

But nothing will beat taking the road to our house.

First you hit fields.  Loads of fields. Like the opening credits to your favourite television show, they set the tone and the pace for what is to come.

The fields roll in.  Some horses.  Some sheep sometimes.  Depending on which road you take, there's highland cattle too.

You hit the first village and it's pure idyll - old drystane dykes and pillared walls,  There's history to it.  A really old phone box.  Some hand-painted signs advertising logs and hay bales for sale; and even better, you are interested in this because you know you could use these.  Or know someone who could.

Then an old bridge, more horses. A river.  A long, winding road and then, our village.  Community noticeboards with up to date information about social events, parties, services.  A village hall.  A restaurant.  The wee school.

Out of the village and up the road, past the woods, and suddenly: our house.

Our home.


Sweet, sweet heck, I'm home at last.

There's so much to do here, so much work to be done.  There are whole rooms waiting to be purged and completely rebuilt from the bottom up; this is no mere decorating job!

We will have to work very hard at this.

But,oh my goodness, I am home.

Since we started living here, I can feel my new life creeping in around me, filling up the gaps in whatever was missing.

As I begin to settle and put down roots (and I honestly never ever thought I would ever get to - what a treat) I begin to see the way things are going to be, and it's weird; it's strange to feel so comfortable and suddenly so relaxed.

No wondering where we might be next year, no feelings of unease.  For the first time in such a very long time I can think further ahead than the next year.  Everything we own has been in hibernation, waiting for the day it can come out and be - we've almost forgotten how to use these things.  It takes time to get comfortable with pictures and where things should go; people take years to work out the best way to do things.  We've had to work it out temporarily in other people's homes for so long now, we've forgotten that we are allowed to use our  own stuff.  Everything has been very much make-do, that we've fallen into that mode even now.

It's so nice to remember suddenly that we don't have to make do.  We can use our stuff and make homes for them. We can throw away the stuff we don't need, the stuff we've been holding on to just in case we get a house with or without something and use what we have and what we want.  We can start to make grooves in our lives.

The most travelled Xmas tree in the whole world! Pretty sure it should hold a record! It's going to be really surprised when it keeps coming out in the same house!

As maternity leave ends and I have to try and work out where I want to be - work or home - the pull towards home is so strong.  I've waited so long for this.

My passion for work has always been strong; I love to work.  I love to feel useful.

But I am so aware now of how much work fills up family time.  And now I have more family for my time.

So, here I go.  Building my new life.  Working it out, cutting my teeth. Shaping now and the future, and my childrens' future. Making decisions.  Weighing the balance.

I'm nervous.  I'm not historically good at making decisions.  I have a tendency to think that things are a great idea and then realise with a huge whack that it really, really wasn't.  I live and I learn (thankfully). I grow.  Don't we all?

It feels like I should have a lot at stake, but it also feels like I don't.  After all, I'm now where I always wanted to be. Have my priorities changed? I'm so unsure.

I don't have a magic crystal ball.  I have no idea where I'm going to be work-wise this time next year.

But, oh my days, I am going to be here.  In my home, whatever happens.

You have no idea what difference that makes to my mindset. 17 house moves in and I'm home.

Here goes.

Friday, 1 January 2016


I've talked a little bit about how things have changed so much for us all in the past year, but I've never gone into any detail.  One, because I'm genuinely so tired and time-poor that I just can't fathom how to, and two, because, well, nobody really cares that much, do they?

This time last year, we had no idea that this one even existed!

Life is life is life, and everybody always has their own thing going on which is more important to them, and that's cool by me.

How did this guy get big enough for school?

How in the heck did we end up here?  It's amazing!

I'm  huge believer in change and the ability it has to surprise you out of nowhere.  And I can definitely stand testimony to the fact that things can change incomprehensibly: what might seem crazy one year, can be your reality the next.

I can't imagine not knowing this little guy!

It is important to keep an open mind and embrace change.

My life, our lives, are so completely different to the way that they were this time last year and I guess it's still blowing my mind a little bit.

We've changed cars, lost a family member and gained two, moved house, struggled with ill health, changed schools, and poor Dave has changed jobs 4 times, all in the space of a year.  Yet, if you'd at me down last year and said that any of this was going to happen, let alone all of it, I'd have laughed in your face.

Where will we be this time next year?

I'm almost too scared to ask!
If you'd have told me that I'd have a view like this on my doorstep, I'd never have believed you!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

So, that was 2015...

And another chapter closes.
A year of some really huge ups and some really awful downs.
We've said 'see you soon' to some and welcomed some new faces too.

Thinking back to last year, I had no idea that I would experience half of what we did or that we would end up where we are now. I'm still kind of working it all out in my head!

Happy New Year to everyone here. May it be filled with health, happiness and good vibes.

Lessons I've learned this year:
Never underestimate the power of tomorrow.
 Always stop and smell the flowers.
The days are long, but the years are short. 
Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. 
It's okay to say no. 
Never take your health or that of your loved ones for granted. 
Look after each other.  
Channing Tatum keeps getting hawter.  
Hot tubs are awesome. 
Sometimes people are just shits and there's nothing you can do about it.
Grey hairs can be covered really well with home hair dye.

And as the Wellgate parking machine always tells me, 'change is possible'.

Slangevar! And lang may yer lum reek!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

6 Months

My youngest baby will hit the 6 month mark in a week or so and I have to say, time has certainly flown away from me.  While I cannot quite believe what I have managed to pack into the last half of a year, I am also quite disbelieving that it has been 6 months already!

Look at this guy!

I mean, isn't he just perfection?

Well, I think so anyway.

How is he big enough to, like, eat food and sleep through the night (sometimes) and be using his hands and look like he wants to crawl and stuff already?

Not to mention his brothers.

How in the heck am I now the mother, a MOTHER (scary adult title) of a 7 YEAR OLD, and also a 5 year old?


In the last 6 months we have:

Moved house
Unpacked said house
Started to decorate said house
Had a baby via scary c-section
Got a rescue dog
Tried out another rescue dog (didn't work out, sadly)
Had a hot tub party
Dealt with major illness
Made new friends
Moved the boys school
Delivered 4000 Yellow Pages
Had 8 Interviews between us
Changed jobs twice between us (third to follow shortly)
Learned how to plaster a wall
Learned how to fix guttering
Passed a driving test (husband)
Started volunteering
Collected baby slings for refugees

And now it's 3 weeks until Xmas.

What is even going on?

I am feeling really lucky.  Not only have I got the house of my dreams, in the location of my dreams, I have a gorgeous family who are (mainly) in good health.  We have a world of things to look forward to.  And in the grand scheme of things, well, that is absolutely imperatively, everything.

But, hey - 6 months.  Jeezo - that's a lot of stuff for such a short amount of time.

Dear life, please give me an easier next 6 months.


Hearty Butternut Squash, Caramelised Onion and Feta Pie

I've been feeling a bit glum this week - the winter weather has not been very kind so far and with yet another night of rain lashing and wind howling through the house (turns out old stone cottages are a bit draughty!) it was time to raid the stores and come up with a winter warmer for everyone to tuck into.

So, here's my recipe for 

Serves 2 greedy adults (or 2 adults and 2 not-so-fussy-as-our kids)

Ingredients (fills a 15cm cake tin, so adjust as needed):
4 small red onions, chopped
Half a large Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed into bitesize bits
175g (or half a tub of Apetina Feta cubes, if you want to be lazy, like me)
Pre-rolled Shortcrust Pastry sheet - enough to cover cake tin and provide a lid for pie
3 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
Balsamic vinegar
Sugar (preferably brown, but I used white as I had no brown sugar!)
Olive oil

Grab a bowl and toss the  Butternut squash and garlic cloves in oil. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the top and place on a baking tray.  Roast in the oven for around 20 mins or until Butternut is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, toss your onions in a pot with some oil and fry for about 5 mins.  Add some healthy slugs of Balsamic Vinegar and about a tablespoon of Sugar and watch the onions turn into a deliciously sweet mixture. Fry off a little, then set aside.

Line your cake tin (or an actual pie dish, if you are more civilized than I am!) with the rolled Shortcrust Pastry

Grab your roasted Squash and Garlic.  Squeeze out the garlic from it's papery skin, chuck in a bowl with the Roasted Butternut, Caramelised Onion, and tip in the Feta cheese. Pour into the pastry case and fashion your lid over the top.

Some tasty filling going on in here!

Bake in the oven until pastry is cooked.

Slice and serve.

We had our with some pretty sweet Sweet Potatoes.  Very yummy!

This dish is such a surprise, because of the salty/sweet taste that you get.  The sweetness of the Onions and the Squash is very much challenged by the saltiness of the Feta and the pastry for a perfect combo.