Toddler Selfie Mission!

I like to use this space to write about things that matter to me. Sometimes, however, like tonight, I have just been having a giggle to myself and really wanted to share these hilarious pictures with you, as it’s the light-hearted moments that get us through life and allow us to see that although life isn’t perfect it can be really very special at times.

Tonight I posted a series of gorgeous selfie photos onto my Facebook account. My daughter happily pouted and posed for several to get these gorgeous gems….

Looks pretty carefree right?! Well it was, in the end! I thought this bit of honest behind the scenes look at the reality of photographing a toddler might make a few of you fellow parents laugh or at least smile;-) Looking back at them myself I cant help but smile. Because photographing any child is never easy, especially a three-year old. They do not sit still, so most of the time, you will have to take about 100 frames to get 3 decent ones…as I will demonstrate ;-)…..

First attempt: Emi come here, lets take a picture together….fake sarcastic smile follows….WP_20160530_08_23_53_Pro[1]

Mom, catch me on the camera as I jump past!……WP_20160530_08_26_30_Pro[1]WP_20160530_08_28_04_Pro[1]WP_20160530_08_28_41_Pro[1]WP_20160530_08_29_49_Pro[1]Mid air dive onto bed….WP_20160530_08_29_52_Pro[1]

Finally get her standing still after much laughing and messing about….. Moody face for the photo, then ran off in fits of giggles…oh it is all a game when you are three ha….

To get her to stand still and smile, I did something that none of us parents like to admit to…I bribed my kid…nothing major, just with a square of dark chocolate…call me wrong, call me whatever you like, but it worked ;-). She was in a playful mood and was playing me through the whole session ha…So I played her back ;-)…and it worked a treat….I got some gorgeous results after that…if you say you have never done it , I am sure you are not telling the truth! 😉 Its amazing what she pulled out of the bag for a square of chocolate xxxWP_20160530_08_32_05_Pro[1].jpg

Parenthood: Is it worth it?

Is it all worth it? I bet it’s not something you really ask yourself. Its one of those questions in life that you are not supposed to ask yourself. But I bet you do, in quiet times, when you are folding the washing or feeling stressed about the house being a constant bomb site. Why do we put ourselves through it? Because there is no doubt at all that parenthood is both highly stressful and incredibly tiring. Those are the two main words I wold use to describe it. Yes, it is also rewarding, heartbreaking, time-consuming, happy, funny etc. But the two words that will impact your life the most are stressful and tiring. We are all supposed to say having a baby made us nothing but happy and we should be grateful as others out there are not as fortunate as us to have been blessed with children of their own.I think there is a huge taboo with questioning it and saying to yourself, actually, did I do the right thing? I know we all must have done somewhere down the line. I have.

It is not a question I asked myself whilst I had a partner. There is a lovely sense of security when you are fortunate enough to have a family unit and are raising your child together daily. I was happy with that. I had a partner, a beautiful daughter, a family unit, I had no reason to question anything other than the week ahead and what we were having for dinner each day! With her being so young too, I hadn’t reached the difficult toddler stages yet whilst her dad was still here. It was a lovely bubble that was soon to be popped.

Being initially left alone and in shock with a two-year old suddenly solely dependent on me, it really made me question everything in life, from love,location,loyalty and then at why people have children to then give up on a family so easily and walk away. I felt bitter disappointment towards how let down I felt as a joint parent to my daughter.This path wasn’t what I signed up to. I still do feel that way some days. It should have been the start of a new chapter but for me it became the end of my relationship. To get your head around how two people could be so happy with a joint decision like having a baby for one partner to then not live up to their title of either partner or parent is really hard to come to terms with. I instinctively put my daughter first and tried to continue to be everything to everyone else as I had been before. I could have been Mother Theresa but it wouldn’t have mattered. He wouldn’t have noticed. Before her second birthday he had met someone else, switched off and was mentally gone anyway. I often wonder if we hadn’t had our girl if he might still have loved me as he used to. Then I tell myself what is the deserved answer. I should have been more to him with every passing day after having her together. But the sad truth is, some people are just not cut out for the full-time job of being hands on parents and relationships are often sabotaged along the way. The initial rush of a newborn is often viewed as a chore by some after the exciting new thrill of a baby has subsided and I find this very sad but it does happen. altAqKSNz3QC4ltXi90m48uXacOmOXJ2SwUUaxAuy0h6-ib

Above: Our tiny bundle. Very small, very real and rather life changing x

Since I had my daughter, I have been overwhelmed with love and contentment with regards to my feeling towards her personally. I adore that girl. It’s pretty plain to most. However, to have been given the gift of love, at what sacrifice has that come to me personally?

A relationship gone after eight years is loss enough and one that I will struggle to come to terms with. However, would I ever wish I didn’t have my girl in order to have kept my man? Not a chance. We both equally wanted her and I wouldn’t change that. Unfortunately, only one of us had realistic expectations about the work that is needed to support a family and new baby. I was, am and always will be prepared to put her first. If im not stood by for that, it’s better to be alone I imagine and focus on the true love my daughter sends my way each day than to be in a relationship where neither me or my daughter are properly supported.

I do feel sometimes we all get so carried away with the idea of a new baby when we are in a relationship that I don’t think many of us can honestly say when we plan for our first that we think about the practicalities too much. I say this because you simply don’t know how a child will affect your life until you have one! Yes, the thought is exciting,the pregnancy is special,you adore your partner and want an extension of that to bring you closer together but the reality unfortunately is that a child will either take you as a partnership one way or the other.Effect_Photo_18.jpg

I know of some parents who after the birth of their first completely united and stuck with each other,are completely on the same page, raising their children in dedicated unison as a tight-knit family full of love and support. Thats the ideal and obviously what we all hope for. On the flip side, I also know of people who often wonder why they had children because all they seem to do is bicker with their partner, the children scream all day, they don’t feel happy and often find themselves leading separate lives with one parent focused on the kids and the other, often the man, feeling trapped and missing his single life back when he could watch the football without being hit on the head with a balloon over and over again. This is sad but it’s what happens sometimes. I have come to the conclusion that people either come together or get torn apart by the constant tiredness and stress that comes with having kids. We sink separately or we swim as a team.

When that child comes your world changes forever. Relationships are tested, parents snap at little unimportant things and most of all a persons inner strength and commitment are tested like never before.Some people have the strength and complete unselfish nature to be parents, choosing to nurture that child to their full potential without feeling like they are missing out themselves. They happily and without question put that childs needs before their own and think of their family unit before themselves. Other people, once the baby comes, feel a little let down with having to put their desires last to a child and simply cannot handle the massive adult responsibility that comes with having a baby. The thought was nice. But the reality for some is too much. Much better to leave and have a stress free life and see the child a few times a week instead. It is sad but true. Some people just are not cut out to be full-time parents.

I would like to think I am in the first category. I do put my daughter first and 95% of the time I wouldn’t change what I have for anything. But I am human. There are those rare moments when I think about what could have been had I not believed that love and family was a genuine option for us both.

  1. I gave up my job I loved to support her father and relocated 300 miles away from mom and childcare help to be a family here. I often do miss my independence, the feeling of freedom you have before someone else devoured all your free time and energy. I miss my job but I traded it in for the hope of having my own family and doing at the time what was right for us. If I turned back the clock, it would have still felt the right thing to do and I don’t think I would change it because I was human to have hope and want better. I  loved that my sole focus got to be supporting my family and raising my daughter. I would not trade in that time for anything. I don’t envy women in high-flying careers for a second, the ones who feel they have to return to work 6 weeks after having a baby so that they remain relevent in the workplace. Boy, have they missed out on the many amazingly precious moments that come with spending that important time with a newborn.  WP_20150111_11_45_27_Pro.jpg

As many of you might know if you have been in a similar situation, as a single parent who isn’t working, with a child under five, I can now either work full-time and pay most of my wages on childcare, never see my daughter apart from bedtime and weekends and be so run down I don’t enjoy that time. Or I can try to enjoy this precious time until next year when she has decent hours at school and it pays for me to be away from her and she’s that bit older and wont destruct the house so much and it wont be such hard work cleaning up after her. So for now, especially after everything this last 12 months, I choose happiness.

Some of you might disagree with that. I didn’t plan to be in this situation, quite the opposite in fact. I often have to laugh at the stereotypical view on what is it to be a single mom. I was at the chiropractor this week and he told me I had extremely weak glutes, saying “more than likely from all the sitting around you do not being in work”. No ladies, I didn’t slap him, but I wanted to! Single parents don’t get to sit down if they are doing the job properly! Yes, there are ones that watch tv all day, neglect their kids and spend all their weekly maintenance on cigarettes and drugs. Or there’s the rest, trying to come through difficult times, trying to be somebody again, getting out into the world again and keeping their kids happy, healthy and active. These, Mr chiropractor, don’t get to sit down much. WP_20140719_13_48_16_Pro.jpg

For every hater that calls me lazy, I am certain that there are women out there who are envious of the time I have been fortunate enough to spend with my daughter and wish they had experienced that with their own. I know her inside and out. We respect each other. We go out on adventures. She wants to be around me. Nothing is a greater compliment than that. She enjoys her time with me and me with her also. She wouldn’t settle tonight and simply wanted me to lye with her. She just stared at me, looking right into me, smiling, just happy I was there. She asked me to rub her back and I watched as she drifted heavy-lidded into a really peaceful happy sleep. That to me is magical. I wouldn’t choose a night out, a child free life or anything else over moments like that. Children really do change your outlook on life if you are the type of person that can put a child before yourself.

So am I constantly shattered? You bet! I am both physically and mentally drained by the end of the day! Do I wish I had a proper family unit for her? Of course I do. But she still has everyone around her she loves and it’s about trying to accept a new structure for her, which is hard for me but whats best for her so that’s what happens. When I feel at my lowest, I try to look at what I do have. And that is her ;-). She is amazing. She teaches me so much about myself and life in general each day. Just seeing the world as she does through new excited eyes is a pleasure. So many people are missing out on the simplest of pleasures in life and children are really great at opening your eyes to these things. WP_20140902_16_11_41_Pro.jpg

So was it worth it? Damn right it was. Even just in the last few months she has grown up so much, she is a proper little person and I can see only good things ahead for her as she grows up. Everyone will have times they feel like they are drowning. Everyone will answer the question differently and unfortunately some people will feel that having children wasnt the best choice for them. And I wouldn’t judge them. Because until you have the shock of having a child, you simply don’t know.

I think I always knew. I adore my baby. Shes the best thing ever. An amazing little person who I have felt blessed with since I held her in my arms three years ago. I guess life makes you doubt yourself and your abilities when there are stressful situations at play. However, I truly believe she was my saviour. I feel content with her. You will never know love like that of your child. Make the most of it. I am xxxWP_20141118_12_23_26_Pro.jpg

A Weighty Subject…

Weight.

I think it’s probably the thing we dread hearing most at the doctors when they ask you to jump on the scales. It’s the type of moment, as a woman, when you wish the fire alarm would go off or something to avoid the embarrassment of being told you need to lose a few pounds! Unless you are one of those lucky ones that claim to eat what you want and never put an ounce on (hhhmmmm), then weight is a sensitive subject for most! Especially after children!

During my pregnancy, I put on one stone. Not a great gain for a pregnancy, but on my nearly five foot frame, every pound makes all the difference. You taller women are so lucky, I have known of women putting on about three stone who are tall and they carry it off so well! Shorties beware! I looked like a beach ball at the end of mine, perfectly round ;-). I gradually lost this weight over the next two years (and even more when my partner left me, good old heartbreak diet.) But I have noticed it lately creeping back on and it’s not something that’s too welcome!

I don’t live by my weight, I like to think I am not ruled by it. Until very recently I did not even own a pair of bathroom scales because I would rather know that what I was eating was right rather than the numbers some chart somewhere says I should be!

However, just recently, I have been thinking about weight, my body, my health, as we all do at times as women who are self-aware. I started to look up what my weight should be and found that a lot of people still base the ideal on BMI. Now, this is something that for a long time I have not really agreed with. It angers me slightly that the health service lumbers everyone into the same brackets of an ideal, regardless of lifestyle, family similarities, diet or body features, such as big breasts (which would obviously add significantly to a persons total weight!).

How can you measure someones health etc based on strictly their height and weight. After all, at only four foot eleven, I am the height of a ten year old child. A few of you might get a laugh in there. Go on, get it out your system, everyone else does. Shall I continue? 😉 My point is we all come in a vast array of shapes and sizes and this BMI theory just does not work in my mind!

I have large breasts, I have muscular thighs from doing lots of sports as a child. I have a round firm bum and hips after having my daughter. I think my boobs alone are probably a good bag of sugar or two in weight at a guess! Yet I am told that for my height, I should be around 7 stone. 7 stone!!!!!! The same weight as a pre-pubescent child. I don’t recall ever being 7 stone at this stage in my life come to think of it! Ha!

This is why I simply can’t follow these guidelines because I do not think they are realistic! I wont shock you all by revealing my true weight (A lady’s prerogative) but on the chart I am classed as obese. This might be embarrassing to admit for some but to hell with it! In BMI terms, I am a fatty! Yet I wear a size 12 (my current jeans are a 10), I walk miles each week, I eat all my fruit and vegetables and I cook as healthily as possible with low salt, nothing processed, all the right steps to take that health professionals would advise for a healthy lifestyle. You certainly wouldn’t look at me in the street and say I was fat. Curvy, yes, but certainly not fat.WP_20140521_001

I fear that today we are all expected to look like the stick insects we see airbrushed on the front of magazines. Yes, some women are naturally very slim and have to do little if nothing to maintain that shape and size. Lucky them. The majority of other women, after childbirth especially, will struggle that bit more.

For breakfast today I had porridge, made with half water, half goats milk, served with fresh raspberries and strawberries. Lunch was mixed beans, chicken and cucumber and dinner was a homemade mushroom and spinach risotto. Hardly the diet of a fatty! Ok, I like a bit of a treat and today we made cakes to pass some time and I had half of one. I also had a square of dark chocolate. Hardly the devils work at play there. The naughty stuff is in moderation, as they suggest.

So, I found myself asking, why don’t I lose weight if my diet is consistently healthy? Firstly, I have always eaten well. It is much easier for a very overweight person to stop drinking Fanta for breakfast and watch as the pounds just melt away. That is not to sound sarcastic, I am being genuine in that processed, chemical laden food and drinks will clog your system up and if you go cold turkey on them, you will see a dramatic difference even before you start thinking about throwing exercise into the mix.  I wasnt putting loads of sugar or processed stuff into my system before I had my daughter, so still having the same consistent diet as before, I am not going to see any results through diet alone.

This can mean only one option to lose a few pounds for me then…EXERCISE!

The thought of this word after a 14 hour shift on your feet each day is horrendous. Surely I do enough exercise having a three year old hanging off me for most of the day. My god, by the time she has finally decided to stop jumping on the bed and singing Let it Go and collapsed into a heap, I am just about dead myself!

What I want to know is, how do women do it?! Maybe it is easier when you have a partner to do shifts with? All I know is, in my position, I wake around 6.00am and I sit down to inhale my lunch around 12 before chasing her to stop her smearing Bolognese up my wall and then I don’t sit down again until at least 8.00pm! How do women find the strength to then do butt crunches and sit ups after that?? If I have not already passed out asleep on the sofa I am like a zombie after a hot bath, not moving, just lying there, waiting for my rest.

I thought with the warmer weather coming, it might motivate me to push myself into doing an evening workout. It did. I tried yoga at 9.00pm. I got into child’s pose on the floor. And stayed there for ten minutes, relaxed in the pose and started falling to sleep! So I gave up and went to bed.

So evening exercise is out!

I then considered the obvious, the morning, fresh from a 9 hour sleep. I tried it. I had my daughter hanging off one leg in a yoga pose, demanding breakfast and Pinocchio on the tv, finding it funny to use me as a horse during one already particularly strenuous pose. It just doesn’t work.

As some of you may have read on my very first blog on here, I tried going to yoga classes too. I loved this. It felt amazing. But I was going on my only free two days when my daughter was at nursery. Going to the 10am class meant being ready and on a bus at 9am, the bus back at 12.30pm, getting home at 1.00pm, then having to leave at 2.30pm to collect her from nursery. It effectively took up my two days off, and although it felt great, all the other jobs I would usually get on top of when she’s not around simply didn’t get done. Meaning more work at the weekend, which cuts into precious bonding time together. I will go back to yoga, but I think its more realistic to think that I can manage just one day from now on.

So I have come to a conclusion, for the time being at least, that I am not going to bow down to any pressure from society to look the way it thinks and says I should! As a single mom, I think I have enough to be getting on with without throwing vanity and stress into the mix.

My body really isn’t that bad. I am healthy, it all works ok, I eat well, I have a waist still, my legs are firm. The only part im not happy with really, like most women after having a baby, is my stomach. But until I have more time to myself, maybe in a year when she’s outgrown the cling on stage, there’s really not a lot im going to stress myself over. I don’t eat rubbish and I walk absolutely everywhere. If I can manage only ten minutes of yoga two times per week, I will accept that for the time being and stop beating myself up about it. Yes, I would adore a Britney Spears circa 1998 washboard toned stomach but if it means that my life is made any more stressful and my child goes without my time then it simply doesn’t factor into my life! Plus I love cake on a Saturday and I don’t intend to start giving that up 😉

My daughter has a healthy attitude towards food and quite frankly that’s more important to me than showing her I can look like Cheryl Cole (I wouldn’t trade my curves in for a models frame.) Food should be enjoyed and todays society just gives young girls a complex! I would hate for my girl to have her life ruled by numbers.WP_20150930_10_02_26_Pro[1]WP_20140522_027

Life has to work around you. And if that means the only exercise I can manage right now is walking a lot and weight lifting my daughter then so be it. I would rather be a little obese on record,happy and healthy, than follow anyone elses guidelines.

So on we go x

 

 

Lemon and Bramley Apple Curd Review

As it’s the weekend again, we did what we do every Saturday, me and my girl. We got into the kitchen and we cooked together. She is only three but she adores helping to prep anything we decide to give a go and I love to watch her exploring cooking methods and trying everything along the way.

A few weeks ago I dusted off a preserves book I have had sat on my shelf for years. I remember attempting this recipe with my then partner and had wonderful funny memories of the handle falling off my pan right when the curd was at its hottest, scolding him, my hands and painting my walls a lovely sticky yellow splodge pattern in the process. Good times. That was a first attempt of course and I am sure if you have a decent pan your first attempt will be a success! The curd worked a treat, what was left of it!

I don’t want to get into the habit of sharing other people’s recipes but this one is tried, tested and tasted and is simply so delicious you must try it, hence why I ma sharing it with you. It’s not at all sharp like standard lemon curd with the addition of Bramley apples making it sweet and mellow. I have made a few slight amendments to the original recipe too as I tend to use what I have got which doesn’t always match the quantities of the original recipe but it still works.

This is my absolute favourite thing to make if I have a quiet moment and doesn’t take too long either. You end up with five jars full, although saying that, it doesn’t last long once you have tried it! I tend to keep two and give three away to family. WP_20160514_08_24_37_Pro[1]

Above: My helper x

Use it on toast, with cream and meringues or experiment like we did straight after making lemon curd cupcakes. It’s very versatile and it keeps for 4 weeks unopened in the cupboard.

You can get these jars from Wilko for about £4 for 12 and I ask family to keep returning them once finishing so its only the initial outlay I have paid and you should recycle where you can!

Original recipe taken from River Cottage Handbook No.2-Preserves.

Ingredients

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons (you need 100ml strained juice)(I had 2 medium lemons which only made 90ml juice so use large lemons or you will end up needing another spare!)

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped (Weigh them after chopping!)

125g unsalted butter (At room temperature melts quicker)

450g granulated sugar

4-–5 large eggs, well beaten (you need 200ml beaten egg)(I used 5 medium eggs as that’s what I had in! It still worked out great!)

Method

Put the chopped apples into a pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest. (I did 100ml as suggested but found the water had evaporated a little quicker than the time needed for the apples to soften enough so towards the end added a further 50ml water to finish cooking without them burning or sticking!)Cook gently until soft and fluffy, then either beat to a purée with a wooden spoon or rub through a nylon sieve.(I used metal, use what you have.)WP_20160514_08_18_35_Pro[1]

WP_20160514_08_35_50_Pro[1]Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and apple purée into a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.(I don’t have a double boiler, a pan of water and a heat proof bowl is just dandy.)As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve, and whisk with a balloon whisk.

If the fruit purée is too hot when the beaten egg is added, the egg will ‘split’.(I was terrified about this part but as long as you are simmering the mixture rather than boiling it should be fine, I hae not had a split batch yet!)

One way to guard against this is to check the temperature of the purée with a sugar thermometer – it should be no higher than 55-60°C when the egg is added.(My thermometer is broken so I used common sense and did it by eye and it worked for me.)WP_20160514_09_40_42_Pro[1]

If your curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy.(Dont be tempted to stop sooner if you feel it’s getting no where, it does thicken nicely right at the end, it will still be soft enough to pour so don’t expect a thick-set like a jam.) This will take 9–-10 minutes; the temperature should reach 82–-84°C on a sugar thermometer.WP_20160514_09_42_50_Pro[1].jpg

Immediately pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal.(To sterilise your jars wash them in very hot soapy water and rinse, then put them in a low oven, I use Gas Mark 2, for about 8-10 minutes. Use a funnel to pour in the mixture, there’s no mess or wastage!)WP_20160514_10_15_02_Pro[1].jpg

Use within 4 weeks. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

Enjoy finding new ways to use this up. I used my favourite cupcake recipe (see Vanilla Cupcake blog post.) Yum x

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Single Parent Weekend Blues

I like to write about anything that interests me really, from recipes to crafts to my daughter and her development.

As I am sharing this blog with you all, there are also things that are harder to write about, but I feel will resonate with other parents out there. Life isn’t just about sharing the ideal picture of the good stuff, as Facebook and other places would have us believe, with people’s carefully chosen and edited posts and pictures. We choose to share only what we want people to see and that is completely human and acceptable. I do it all the time. But with this blog,  I like to think people will be thankful of the honest and brutal truth of some of the other stuff I write that people often conceal and pretend isn’t happening. I just know others are going through similar experiences where they might feel alone in the world and I think it’s a positive thing to share those aspects of life too. Because life is the good and the bad. Its real.

I am a single parent to my three-year old daughter. Not by choice. You can give everything to someone and they can still be completely blind to your worth and dispose of you like you were never there. Last year I learned that life was just that cruel. His loss, as they say.Although, we all know it’s the very real loss of the person left behind that is felt for time to come, with the one having left being happy with their new status and oblivious to the destruction they cause along the way. Which isn’t unusual, but throw a child into the mix and you are faced with having your own life and this tiny persons life solely in your hands, it can be a daunting prospect for even the strongest of people.

Having had some time to try to get my head around things, I have made a sort of unsaid vow in my head to my daughter to keep busy, stay active, keep her mind focused on good things, regardless of the daily struggle I feel inside still at times.It also benefits me in not giving me too much time to sit and think. I literally don’t sit down all day, which, tiring as it is, is probably a really good thing. WP_20150925_15_17_24_Pro[1].jpg

We do lots of things together, me and my Emi. Walking in the park, picnics, feeding the ducks, garden time with messy water/sand play, visiting our adopted donkey at the local sanctuary, seeing family and friends where we can for tea and play dates. We are busy, all day, most days. Doing this, during the week at least, the days pass by pretty quickly.  You tend to find that routine and structure that keeps you alive. Get up, clean, dress and feed your kid, tidy up, pack lots of snacks, get out exploring, then all of the above in the opposite direction to wind them down for bed again. From about 6.00am until about 7.30pm, the day is filled up with everything that comes with caring full-time alone for a three-year old menace! The evenings are eerily quiet but as I am so tired from the long day I fill them and go to bed.I do gentle exercise, hobbies, a bit of boredom snacking, hot baths. Sleep is always welcome.WP_20150915_10_33_38_Pro[1].jpg

I am happy with my daughter and love our time together.

However, for some reason, the weekends, as a single parent, seem to last an eternity. Does anyone else feel like this? I mean, they are long! I used to wish along the week days for the weekends to come when I had a larger family unit with a partner and step son in tow. Sundays were exactly as they say, a day of rest, a day for family, a day to recharge your batteries. It’s not like that anymore. It’s not that I am wishing them away now. Far from it. I have a beautiful healthy daughter who I adore spending time with and who makes me laugh daily. Our time is precious, she will be older and moving out before I know it. I value and appreciate my time with her, but at the weekends, the world seems to slow down. I can’t in all honesty say that I look forward to them. I don’t really. Maybe that will get better with time. I am only 9 months into this single parent life, after all.

I think im not enjoying it because people associate the weekend with rest,love and security. Young couples cuddling up together all weekend with no responsibilities. Family units with young children snatching precious moments together whilst the children are young enough to still enjoy their company and attention. Older couples relishing their freedom, pottering in  the garden, going for a walk together holding hands to their own time tables. WP_20150928_10_48_47_Pro[1].jpg

For a single parent, it is honestly very hard to look forward to the weekend because it’s no different in terms of the constant work you have to put into raising a child than it is on a week day. It is a constant treadmill of endless washing, preparing meals that are hardly touched, piles of washing up, running around clearing up whatever they have smeared up the walls, endless tantrums over trivial matters etc. The only difference is that you feel alone. There are no play groups on to mingle with other mothers in the same position. Family is often tied up with their own lives and partners. You don’t get to have a weekend lie in as the kid is still switched on to wake up at their usual time (5am-6am at the moment!). It is just me and her most of the weekend and much as I love it at times it can be very lonely. It’s not a sob story, it’s the harsh truth. When you choose to raise a child together, you have some respite, some support. I used to be able to have an hour to myself to go and have a bath in peace. I could go out shopping knowing she was safe at home with her dad. After a long day of tears and tantrums I would get a foot massage on occasion, a supportive cuddle and a cup of tea made for me. It’s the little things in life that get you through as a parent and adjusting to doing all those things yourself is really hard. It’s just the way it is. WP_20151231_10_51_06_Pro[1].jpg

I think more than anything, once you hit a certain age, around thirty (Fast approaching in July!), adults your own age usually have a family and children. Most will work in the week and appreciate that time at the weekends to spend with their families because they simply don’t have the time in the week. This is lovely, but it does mean that no one has time for you on a weekend as they have their own lives to pick up after. And why not. I relished being in a relationship and looked forward to cosy evenings or trips to the park with the kids. All that simple stuff that mattered, I lived for. Now its just me and Emi, I tend to hibernate most weekends because the two weekend days are rife for family spotting! Parents and kids out for lunch, shopping together, raising their children together. No matter how well a single parent is doing on the surface, that is always a pain in the back of their mind and heart alike, something they wanted themselves and worked towards also that just didn’t work out for one reason or another. Personally, for now at least, I would rather not see it.

On the flip side, the weekends are not all bad. There are no nursery runs, no busy supermarkets to fight my way through, we bake scrummy cakes and spend hours in the garden come rain or shine. She gets tired and its me that’s here to comfort her. She wants a cuddle and I am here for her to reach out to. Those are the moments that I would not trade in for anything and am so glad im not missing out on. Real memories are made through persistence, blood, sweat and tears and through it all I am grateful for all of the incredibly happy moments I have with my amazingly intelligent and loving girly. I see all of the new language developments, personality traits, funny little quirks, I get to see every one of them first hand. I love that.WP_20160512_16_22_16_Pro[1].jpg

At the end of the day, it would have been nice to have someone who had my back and who was as interested in our family as I was. This didn’t happen for me. We don’t all get the ideal happy ending we are fed in all the nursery rhymes at school. Life just isn’t like this for some people. I am having to accept that life is not how I planned. I might not like it, it might get me really down some days, but what can I do about it?

For now, at least, I just look at this smile and that is enough to keep me going through today and to get up for tomorrow. xWP_20160420_06_33_40_Pro[1].jpg

 

 

Learn to Love your Freezer!

Before my daughter came along, I had a small fridge with a flip open freezer compartment at the top. One of those very small box like spaces that fits about two bags of frozen peas inside. I still have that fridge. However, the freezer in unused these days. Once I started weaning my daughter onto solids, I invested in a small chest freezer and I can honestly say I do not know how on earth I survived without it!

In the age of convenience food being so readily available and pushed onto the public as the quick, easy and hassle free route to an easy life, I really feel people are being generally quite lazy and missing a few tricks when it comes to having a quick meal without a lot of time or hassle. Trust me, there are times I walk home past the local fish and chip shop and am drawn in by that heavenly smell of curry sauce, but nine times out of ten I try to find my will power and carry on home to feed my daughter something filling, nutritious and cheaper instead. Yes, a £1.10 bag of chips makes a quick cheap supper. But it’s just carbs, you will be hungry again in an hour and they cost the same as a whole bag of potatoes, which lasts me about two weeks. See my point? Once I started looking at it like that, there was no competition really.

It angers me so much when people say that being healthy costs more. Yes, I agree, if you are going all out and eating expensive nuts, extras, alternatives and organic everything, then your food bill will mount up, massively! (Deliciously Ella, your recipes are beautiful but just not affordable for a normal family on minimum wage.) However, if you meal plan, choose healthy, basic ingredients with a few special extras that are versatile, you can save loads of money and have the means to make several 15 minute meals without a lot of effort!

My freezer has become essential for this! I used to really look down on people who bought frozen pre chopped vegetables, thinking they were simply lazy. Then I had a baby! Shes a toddler now, I have to make 10 minute meals whilst shes annoying me, usually wrapped around one leg or banging my kitchen utensils onto pans annoying the neighbours, so us moms need to speed things up sometimes. If someone has done the time-consuming bit for me I am all for it these days. I never used to look too much in the frozen isles of the supermarket but its amazing! I have been missing out. A lot of the big supermarkets have a great range of things like frozen herbs, chillies, ginger, along with smoothies mixes and even things like avocados!

I buy things like ready diced onions, sliced mixed peppers, sliced mushrooms. I know it doesn’t take long to peel and chop an onion and I do still buy fresh ones but when you have a tired toddler after nursery and want to get them fed quickly, take the short cut! There is nothing added, I buy just the frozen vegetables, which to be honest, being frozen quickly probably makes them far more nutritious than the week old peppers I used to keep in my fridge and use just because I had to before they went off!WP_20160506_20_33_50_Pro[1].jpg

I now have a bit of a fascination with what I can find frozen and pre prepared, it actually excites me! I know I am getting old when I get excited about pre peeled and chopped butternut squash (anyone else HATE chopping these up too?!) I almost never buy these things fresh anymore because I can stick them in the freezer and have less of a time limit on when I use them. They are simply there when I need them and a bag of frozen vegetables last so much longer than a smaller container of something fresh waiting to go off within days. It just makes sense!

So, take tonight for example, we didn’t get home until about 6pm. I needed something fast! I raided my freezer and cooked some frozen peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach until softened in the pan. In another pan I did some turkey mince (reduced to £1.10 in Asda today ;-))with passata and in another pan some pasta. It took about 12 minutes to cook, filled my daughter full of goodness and tasted delicious! It would take longer to walk to the chippy and order your favourite grease fest. And it made enough to refrigerate for at least another 3-4 more servings for the next day or two. So good for the finances also being very cheap per serving.

WP_20160506_17_52_22_Pro[1].jpgWP_20160506_17_54_48_Pro[1].jpgWP_20160506_18_01_52_Pro[1].jpgI love thinking of new uses for my frozen goods.

Frozen fruit can make great puddings, smoothies, or just be defrosted to top your porridge or eat as they are!

Frozen butternut squash and mushrooms make for great risotto ingredients!

And a lot of what you make can be refrozen in its finished form, such as vegetable soups.

Leftover bits of cheese can be frozen and grated onto pizzas or to finish off pasta dishes.

Supermarkets always have a reduced stand with short date meats and bread, which I buy them when they are cheap and freeze them! Saves on the shopping bill!WP_20160506_20_34_23_Pro[1].jpg

My freezer has transformed my eating habits and I wouldn’t be without it these days. The only problem is it’s not quite big enough for all my bargains. 😉 xx

 

Saying Bye to the Bottle

I was looking back through all my photos last night on a bit of a tearful trip down memory lane. As you do.

I noticed that a great deal of my photos were of my daughter with her bottle hanging out of her mouth. Now those that know my girl know that she is an avid follower of the milk diet! In a bottle, no cups, no beakers, it has to be the bottle. She will drink milk in a beaker at nursery with her friends but at home she associates the bottle with her comfort and happiness. Up until the age of two and a half, she seemed to have the bottle hanging from her teeth all day, carrying it around like an old friend, refusing to be parted with it.WP_20140701_014.jpg

And if I am brutally honest, which lets face it, most of us are not with ourselves, it was easy. Easy to keep giving her something she was used to. Easy to give her instant comfort. It’s not something I am proud of but it’s not something I am going to beat myself up about either. From when she was about 18 months old, I have basically been on my own with Emi, so being a single parent, quite unexpectedly, is somewhat of a shock to the system. Through life’s other busy goings on, sometimes you are just plain too tired to fully promote change.The time has to be right for everyone. I have been happy to allow this up to now, as we have been both going through a difficult change in circumstances with lots of uncertainty and heart ache, so, in my opinion, lets face it, that girl has probably needed every home comfort she could get to get her through that difficult period. And she is coming through it with flying colours thanks to my love and support, I am happy to say.

However, as a mom, we all have to face some difficult decisions regarding our children’s health and happiness. It can be so hard for parents to know if they are doing the right thing and there honestly is no black and white answer. You want your child to be as happy as possible but you want whats best for their health also. Taking away something that gives them so much comfort and familiarity can often feel like you are being somewhat cruel to the child in changing what they know and love. But as the child develops, life has to as well, and it does get to a point where a bit of tough love and persistence needs to come into play to move the child on a bit if they are not doing that naturally for themselves. You have to go with your heart, use common sense and listen to your instincts telling you that what you are doing is best for your child in the long run. WP_20140630_013.jpg

With that bit of self-given advice in mind, along with her recently turning three, for the last few months I have really made a conscious effort to try to wean her off the bottle using nothing less than a bit of tough love and persuasion. I am very aware that using a bottle for too long can damage speech development as well as cause tooth decay. My daughter, as anyone that knows her will testify, has no trouble with her speech, she in fact gives me a run for my money and doesn’t stop talking from about 6am the second she wakes up! So there’s no worries on that count.However, the tooth decay is something that bothered me along with the dependency she had on her bottle as her main source of comfort.

IMG-20160304-WA0001[1].jpgIt didn’t start well. At all. She basically had withdrawal symptoms, she was cranky and crying when she got tired, something that was usually eased by shoving the bottle in her mouth and allowing her an hours nap. I wanted to give up. I had a constant headache. I doubted myself and my reasons for trying to get her away from the bottle. I thought if it made her happy maybe I should stop trying to remove it if it upset her that much. Then I would do all I could do, step back, think of the health reasons of why I was doing it, take a breath, have a brew, and carry on.Weaning your child off anything that they love is horrible. That is the honest truth. There is no easy quick fix. But perseverance does pay off. You wont believe it at first. But it does.

WP_20150925_08_18_07_Pro[1].jpgFrom having the bottle several times per day, and if I am honest, having far more milk than she needed, I have managed to wean her down to one bottle per day, a few hours before bedtime. In a few months, this is a massive achievement for us both and I hope to continue it so that she eventually does not even need that one bottle. She has started to drink juice, squash or water from a beaker or cup and is happy to do so now with no arguments or complaints. She occasionally asks for the bottle in the day when she gets a bit tired and it’s not something I feel bad about anymore when I say no. Also, she accepts it now, because it has become the norm. She says ok and carries on with what she’s doing.

WP_20151029_08_18_50_Pro[1].jpgAs an added bonus, she told me she didn’t want to wear her bedtime nappies anymore, so I cautiously took them off expecting a lot of wet sheets and in the last 9 nights she has been dry every night. The weaning of the milk has helped with this as she no longer takes a bottle to bed and if she does want a drink before bed I explain that if she does that she might wet the bed and she just accepts it. I truly believe that kids will follow your lead if you give them a stable and consistent environment to do so.

I am so proud of how far she has come in such a short space of time. And now I can get photos of that beautiful face without a bottle covering half of it. Now its lipstick she’s taken to instead. 😉 xWP_20160330_09_05_45_Pro[1].jpg