Thursday, 31 March 2011

Are you chitting...? Are you asking?

For my stirling work in the field of motherhood, I was awarded a couple of child-free hours. I decided, after a little rest and and some magazine browsing, to make a start on the garden. Other blogs have photos of cath kidston bunting and beautiful spring flowers, I bring you desolate pots filled with plastic children's toys. It will get better.

I have never been confident with gardening and unlike the interior of the house I have no vision but with Freya being so excited and curious about nature I really want to create an interesting, vibrant garden this year. I had already bought seed potatoes and packets of seeds, so it was just a case of getting my act together.

Growing potatoes involves 'Chitting' which is getting the eyes to sprout to a certain length before planting. Here are my potatoes languishing in the greenhouse/ back porch. Alan Titchmarsh makes no mention of how to protect the seed potatoes from their natural predator... the toddler. The ones that don't have their eyes poked out will be going in a grow bag soon.

The two yoghurt pots at the back are pumpkins, one for each of the girls in time for halloween is the plan.

The other seed trays have sweet peas, two varieties of sunflower and the 'Chef's Selection' which Freya helped me plant, when I say helped I mean squashed the seeds and over-watered. The only things that are growing from the Chef's selection are tarragon and coriander. At first it was only tarragon, a flavour that I hate, I thought I was going to be eating fish all summer. Luckily, the coriander has sprung to life. We eat tonnes for the stuff after Craig persuaded me to try it a few years ago.

Watch this space. I also have a chilli hanging basket project underway but that will have to wait for another post as I have to clean, clean, clean because I have big sister and big brother to stay this weekend. Going to be fun but house could do with some titivation.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Potty Training.

It started so innocently... we had a nice spring day and I decided maybe Freya would like to play in the garden in her knickers. Simple. I set up a little potty station with bath mat, wipes and spare knickers and off we went reading 'Dora the Explorer' and playing with bubbles. (P.S. Plastic shoes, what a revelation.  After being filled with toddler wee, these mock 'crocs' can just be sluiced down and back in action seconds later.)

Little did I know that I had just started down a path that I couldn't return from. I had already read good old 'Gina' and knew that if you take the child out of nappies, you don't put them back in. You don't even 'poof out' and put them in pull-ups. It dawned on me that I was going to have to follow up with a week of 'training' which involves watching the child for unnatural quietness, saying "Do you want to go on the potty now?" 6 million times a day and cleaning up the inevitable accidents. I had to cancel a play date with Emily and Amelia, cancel plans with Nicola and keep her out of nursery for an extra day so we could crack it...bugger.

This is what my week was going to look like. We went through eight pairs of knickers on day one, I swiftly ordered a job lot online. Today is day five and we have had two pairs.

Of course I made Freya read the definitive text, enabling her to get with the programme. That morning I had absently muttered to myself "What would Gina do?" to which Freya replied "What would Jesus do?" hope that is not a sign of things to come. She certainly hasn't got that from home. She can carry on saying things like that, it might help her get into St Joseph's RC primary school (ten doors up from Nanny and Grandad's). I blame Nanny.

Luckily she has taken to potty training really well. On our second day, we went for a small trip to Nanny's and she managed to use the potty there but also had an accident (50% success is good enough in my eyes). She went back to nursery on day three. She only wanted to use the toilet there, compelling me to make a rush trip to Mothercare. Sixteen notes lighter, I came home with a Peppa Pig toilet seat insert and presented it to her like it was the best present in the world. She fell for that ... sucker. 

Everywhere we go now requires us to take a potty and she has a 'coaster'. I mean a little cushion that has a plastic insert, lovingly hand appliqued too, I might add.

A bit of a work in progress.

It has been easier than I thought it would be. After messing about for months, trying the potty every now and then, actually you just have to man up and take the nappy off. It is the end of an era but as usual it is exciting to move onto the next stage. Its also nice to see her in little vest and knickers rather than babygro type vests.

I think the memory that I will take away from this whole process is... toileting Freya every fifteen minutes with no joy for two and a half hours waiting for the on-line shopping to arrive. As the Tesco man knocked on the door she just started weeing on the carpet, luckily I have a sense of humour and I also had some lovely messages of support on Facebook from Jussie, Jade and Dawn.

However, I will also admit to having a consolatory glass of white wine at lunchtime on day two. 'Gina's week' is nearly over...Job done.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dungeons and Dragons

It was decided that before I returned to work that Craig would host a D and D weekend. Craig has played online Dungeons and Dragons for years, ever since I hammered the overtime one summer in Oxford to stockpile cash for our wedding. It keeps him out of mischief.

The players... Hannele from the Netherlands, Bert from Northern Ireland, David and Henry from Cambridge and Delphine originally hailing from France but currently living in Germany, play every week. On a Wednesday night at around seven, I lose Craig for a few hours. Playing online can, understandably, be slow. So it is nice for them to get together face to face and have a few beers, pizza and Stroop Waffles whilst adventuring.

I volunteered to vacate the premises, although it has always been great being here when the meet is on, I felt that trying to run round after the kids would be diffucult for everybody. Nic and Nick to the rescue. They offered to put me up for the weekend.

After packing for hours, high chairs, cots, two supplies of nappies, towels, I was beginning to think that it would have been easier to stay. All this stress was remedied with a glass of wine on the Friday night. We had some great food, king prawn thai curry, lasagne, key lime pie and my contibution to the weekend which was goat's cheese tartlets with rocket and caramelised onion chutney. We had long chats, went for walks, the girls played and we got to watch one of the twilight films. (which we all agreed was probably aimed at teeny-boppers but entertaining nevertheless). 

We took a walk on the Saturday behind Nic and Nick's house where there is a great property called 'Thimble Hall'. Its a small stone 'mansion', very expensice too by all accounts. I love the way they have planted the bamboo either side of their back gate.

This is the grand front entrance.

This graveyard is just tucked away behind the houses. There are some really old tombstones. Nic suggested that it would be great to bring the girls when they are older to do some rubbings. You can just see Elodie walking along the wall with her dad.

This is the girls dining outside on the Sunday, in the spring sunshine. In the rear of the shot is Nic and Nick's wood store that I am really jealous of.

By the time I got home on Sunday, I was shattered. A weekend of telling Freya to share and putting her on the naughty step by myself was tiring. Craig made up for that by taking Edie to get her vaccinations the next day leaving me to enjoy a quiet hour in the garden reading, drinking coffee with a left over Stroop Waffle and watching planes go overhead in the perfect blue sky.

This mug was actually bought for Craig by Steve and Sally but I have commandeered it, because it is fine bone china, tea tastes really good out of it. You can also see my 'Mammoth Crocs' which I adore. I had a cheapo pair of fake crocs that I bought for £5 which I wore through... so I knew that the £32 wouldn't go to waste and these are sheepskin lined... toasty for camping. 

Ahh, that's better.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Random Pictures.

My blog comes together around the photos that I take as I go about my business. If I had time to post daily and just slotted the picutres in 'my diary' it would make more sense. Usually, I end up with a memory card full of shots that I need to group together and write a coherent post about. Consequently, I have  got a couple of pictures that I don't know how to put together, so here is some random waffling...

I saw this giant bengal tiger table and had to take a photo of it because it is wonderful in it's ugliness, I just wanted to share it with everybody. I love to imagine the house that it would fit into and the kind of person who would buy it... russian drug dealer's trophy wife sprang to mind. I am strangely drawn to it but I wonder if it's missed it's target market in a working class northern town.

I love writing and receiving letters and thought that I would indulge myself. The Cath Kidston paper is probably overpriced but I love it and it is probably the only thing of hers that I can afford right now. Parker vector fountain pens are just the best. I must admit I have never tried Mont Blamc but what you don't know you can't miss. I hate anyone using my nib though, I have a particular way of writing and can tell if anyone has used my pen, it gets really scratchy. I used to sit next to a girl, Katie Tyler, at secondary school, who used to give me her fountain pens for two weeks to break them in for her because she liked the way mine wrote. First letter on the agenda was a letter to Paul and Liz to say thanks for a great time away. It's on the list of things to do.

This is the picture on my Ideal Home calendar (for february obviously). I love it. It makes me want to tidy up and be domestic. It is hard to stay motivated when you are operating a triage system in your once clean home. Craig and I are currently doing full days from 7 till 7, childcare and Craig's job. I am also back to work two nights a week now. We come down after putting the girls to bed, Craig cooks a meal from scratch, I clean the kitchen and make the bottles up for tomorrow. We eat, then if I have any energy left I will do an hour of ironing... needless to say my house does not look like this picture. However, my family are happy and if I got cancer would I give shit how clean my skirting boards were or would I be mad about time that I wasted? There is a happy medium which I will probably achieve when the girls go to school!

Anyway must go... chinese getting cold on the side and the wine is starting to go to my head with nothing lining my stomach.

Monday, 14 March 2011


It's that time in a young girl's life when she must start to experiment with food. We have decided to wean Edie 'early' i.e. 17 weeks, because she's ravenous. She has been such a peach sleeping through from New Year, but this means that she only manages to fit in four feeds per day. She has gradually drunk more and more and we reached a ceiling where she was taking four lots of eight ounces and waking up in the morning.. oh no no no. That will never do.

Health visitors advise not to wean babies until they are six months but Edie quite eloquently communicates her need to eat something more substantial. I won't tell them if you don't. I tend to take their advice with a pinch of salt otherwise I would have given up drinking during pregnancy and had my baby with me at all times for the first 12 months... and they wonder why one in three marriages ends in divorce.  A little of what you fancy does you good, children should not been seen or heard after 7pm and if the girl is hungry...

Out comes good old Annabel Karmel, not that it is too hard to steam pears. She has some great recipes after the 'first tastes' have been accepted. 'Going Bananas' was  always a firm favourite of mine... bananas cooked in butter mixed with fresh orange juice, umm. It is a lot nicer than it sounds.

The bumbo has been dusted off. What a fabulous design for a chair, basically, a butt mold.

Ah jealousy. I had left the room for five minutes and returned to find Freya sitting in the 'high chair', having finished Edie's baby rice off a rubber spoon.  Kind of glad that we hadn't started potty training yet if regression is the name of the game this week.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Thank Heaven for Blogging.

It had been a rough night with the girls, both struggling with colds and Edie not being able to breathe.

Morning finally arrived and miracle of miracles, Freya was well enough to go to nursery. Off Craig and Freya went, leaving me with a fretful Edie. Remedy: go for a walk. I hooked Moomin up to the pram, grabbed my camera and set off in the murky drizzle bound for the 'top park'. Despite the day, it turned out to be wonderful walk, the kind that makes you glad to be alive (despite having had very little sleep).

I am really thankful. If I wasn't writing this blog, I would not have been looking for lovely things to ramble on about and take photos of. Blogging has encouraged me stop and smell the roses...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What Have We Been Up To?

We have been busy.

I am trying to enjoy time with the girls before I return to work. I don't know why it feels like I am abandoning them, afterall I am only going back for 25 hours, the majority of which will be while they sleep, blissfully unaware of me grafting up at th'ospital. I guess it is just the end of an era. I'm glad I had time to...

1. Make bird feeders.

We made a 'necklace' out of Cheerios and smeared pine cones with peanut butter, then mashed in some bird seed. I had seen different versions of this on other people's blogs and thought what a cracking thing to do.

As a makeshift feeding station I took a 'lantern hook' from the back garden, Freya was then able to hang her own feeders up.

The finished article. I had printed out a chart of common garden birds such as blackbirds, tits and magpies and we had sat and talked about them. What I should have done was printed out a bloody great picture of a grey squirrel and said 'This is the greedy little bastard that is going to come and smack the bird feeders so all the seed falls off like a pinata.' Freya was in bed when 'Nutkin' came, all that was left swinging was the dilapidated cheerio necklace. It reminded me of Jurassic Park when they lowered the cow into the raptor enclosure and then brought up the sling all mangled and empty. Nature is nature at the end of the day. 

2.We made toast by the fire.

Freya had been unwell for weeks and was eating next to nothing. Mealtimes were starting to become a bit fraught so I thought lets do something different.

What an inspired idea, if I do say so myself. She ate four rounds of toast and a couple of large spoonfulls of strawberry jam straight out of the jar.

She kept saying 'Warm' when I think 'Hot' would have been more appropriate. Her clothes smelled like ironing.

Not a bad way to spend a blustery afternoon.

3. We made fairy cakes.

I say we, she actually put the cases in the tin and licked the beaters but 'She's two' as my friend Liz kept pointing out to Craig and myself on a recent holiday.

Just setting tickin' chicken, our handy kitchen timer. This Charlie and Lola apron only came in child sizes unfortunately.

4. We went to the library.

This is the beautiful building that houses Darwen library, I like to think that the small fortune that I pay in overdue fines helps to keep this place afloat. It has a lovely feel to it. The staff are always friendly and helpful, it has a small gallery for local art and photography and a really nice colourful children's section with big hand painted pictures of Pooh Bear and other characters.

Books have always been important to Craig and I who have both been avid readers in the past. I specifically remember when my love of books started, it was a sponsored read when I was in junior school and I read all of the Willard Price books and just couldn't get enough.

I also had a weird 'comfort blanket thing' which involved reading the Wind in the Willows over and over again at one point. So Freya has always been encouraged to read and seems to have developed into a small bibliophile.

The Booktrust is a government funded scheme that gives children free books and associated gifts. Freya is the proud owner of a Bookstart bag which we carry her book and her own library card to town in. Every time we get a book out she gets a sticker placed on her 'loyalty' card thingy which works towards getting a certificate for her wall. I don't know who is more excited.

I was nearly put to shame last time we went to the library. I was sat down at one of the mini tables reading Meg and Mog to Edie and Hairy McClary (from Donaldson's Dairy) to Freya when a woman bustled in with her two children. She proceeded to unpack all kinds of supplies such as a potty and hand puppets. The children chose their books then gathered round for a puppet show. I was about to leave feeling very inadequate when I decided to strike up a conversation with her. It turns out she was a childminder- ha, thankgod. She has to be 'all singing, all dancing' (literally). Real mothers are far more jaded.

In summary, we have had some fun. The list doesn't include everything such as making Jam tarts with Daddy, walking in the Lakes, planting seeds, riding her trike, making cards and 'helping' with domestic life.

I should remind myself that there have also been crap days and plank rigid wobblers to lessen the blow of returning to work. I also enjoyed returning to work last time, it reminded me who I was, I got to talk about nail polish and other non-child related stuff with like-minded individuals, felt valued again and not forgetting, got PAID. After all, child benefit doesn't really cover buying a new Cath Kidston handbag.

Better go get my uniform ready.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Spring has Sprung.

The first day of lovely blue skies. We celebrated by hanging out some washing, planting some seeds and Edie enjoying an outdoor nap. I also got to mess around with the macro mode of the camera. Here is our Kilmarnock willow coming to life.

The lilac tree is also sprouting despite being severely hacked last year. It had been sick for a long time after being strangled by ivy for years. The flowers would appear and turn brown almost immediately and I had started to wonder why people raved about lilac trees. Hopefully we will enjoy some beautiful smelling blooms for longer this year.

We went to the garden centre at the weekend to spend a gift voucher that Craig was given nearly two years ago. I got some spring bulbs, I am hoping that they are a daffodil and crocus but who knows. Mum came with us so I trust her judgement.

We set up a little potting table and slapped on an apron. I am sure that Freya drowned and then mashed the seeds, so anything that grows is a bonus. We planted sunflowers, sweetpeas, chillis and herbs. I think that Freya just enjoyed playing with water and mud.

Freya's watering can is part of her Sponge Bob Square Pants bucket set that we bought in Greece. We considered leaving it behind but I am glad we dragged it home, she has got so much use out of it.

Just a picture of these cute mini tea chests that I found in the back of the garage years ago that I now use for seeds and markers.

As usual, Freya got bored after five minutes and decided to have a quick bounce on the trampoline.

Then, after tormenting the dog for a while, she settled down to cover the garden in chalk, she's no Dick van Dyke.

While all this was going on Edie was enjoying a sleep outside. I follow my mum's lead when it comes to baby naps, wrap them up in lots of blankets and let them sleep outside in the fresh air with birds tweeting above when you can. I am very jealous.

I am off to bed shortly, I am very tired. To make matters worse Edie and Freya have been on opposite schedules today. At one point Edie was grumbling no matter what I did and I felt like I was going to fall asleep standing up. Solution: put her in an inflatable doughnut in front of Independance Day and let Jerry Bruckheimer look after her for ten minutes, she loved it and I had a very short power nap. It's no substitute for an early night though.