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Friday, 15 February 2013

How to poo like a parent

Every parent knows that, once you've created a new human in miniature form, simple pleasures like going to the loo alone and in peace are distant memories.

But I've cracked it (ahem) and here I can share with you the step by step methods required. You will be grateful - this is foolproof.

(this isn't the answer - but maybe it should be! Image from http://www.amummytoo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/loo-lane.jpg) 


1: prepare a snack. Not for you - that would be pretty nasty: for the children.

2: take snack and a drink to the children. It should keep them pretty still and quiet for a few minutes.

3: add an episode of their favourite cartoon and the chance to sit with a blanket over their knees whilst they indulge (no? Just my kids?)

Now you are practically GUARANTEED a peaceful plop - but just to be sure take these steps too:

4: tell the children you just need to go and get an additional few blueberries/biscuits/small dead souls for them to snack on and will only be a minute.

5: do not - I repeat - do NOT tell them you are going to the loo. They WILL follow.

6: shut the door to the room they are in, and every other door you have to pass through.

7: resist locking the bathroom door - you can guarantee that the one time you do will be the time the lock breaks and the kids set something on fire.

8: very quickly do your business. Quicker than that. QUICKER, they're coming!

9: get sweaty palms as you try to poo without breathing so they don't realise where you are.

(http://i2.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1386281.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/The+toilet+man+scene+)


10: wonder how painful it would be if you stop halfway through and just give up on the idea of a poo

11: shout "DO NOT COME IN HERE" when you hear someone rattle the door. A small voice will say "but Mummy I need the loo loo". Swear silently. "Mummy what is fox ache?"

12: try to convince the child to wait outside so you can finish. Finish with a child holding your leg and asking you if they can watch the poo come out of your bottom. Beg them not to climb onto your knee. Wipe with a child on your knee.

13: put child on the loo whilst you wash your hands. Obviously flush it first. No need to be nasty.

14: wonder what the hell that huge bang from upstairs was.

15: think it can't be anything too bad because there was no smashing sound and there is no crying. Ask child on the loo to hurry anyway. Wonder why they insist on maintaining eye contact whilst they poo. Remember the golden days before children where you could not only poo in peace but also have a flick through the Reader's Digest whilst you were in there.

16: hear the delayed screams of a scared child upstairs who has been doing the breathe out cry for at least seven minutes before the gulp of air and scream.

17: panic and try to find a towel - fail to find a towel - wonder where the hell the towels are as you start running to the screams

18: hear more screams behind you as the other child slips and dunks their bum in the loo

19: grab the screamer and do a lightning check for the three B's - blood, bruises, bumps - wonder abstractly what the huge bang was whilst dashing back to the bathroom to rescue the other child

20: wipe a bottom comfort two screamers and go through the process of washing everyone's hands

21: repeatedly should "DO NOT PUT THINGS IN THE LOO" whilst wrestling one child away from the scalding hot tap and watching the other put things in the loo

(http://images.essentialbaby.com.au/2012/07/12/3449185/toilet-training-boy-620x349.jpg)


22: cry when you see the broken antique table that caused the huge crash - apparently the child had tried to stand on it.

23: suddenly remember the entire loo roll in the loo and go to rescue it, with a child attached to each leg. Wish you were allowed gin in the daytime. 




Ok...not so foolproof after all...sorry, I have no answers.

Pie - LOVE pie!

Last night I made a pie for our Valentine's dinner - with it being Midget Gem's birthday too we kind of let the day of mushy lovers slide us by, but I wanted to make some effort with a nice dinner, cooked from scratch, to show my husband how special HE is too, and I thought a pie would be nice - but I also wanted it to be the whole meal in one dish, so I made love pie - the greatest pie I've ever tasted, super delicious, and straight forward.

This is a big pie and would serve 6-8; unless you're greedy like us, in which case you can eat a quarter each two nights running. 


I made the pastry from scratch using the recipe in (of course) my handy Be-Ro recipe book (if you haven't stolen your Mum's copy yet get on it!) 

If you HAVEN'T stolen it I discovered something almost as wonderful - the recipe book is ONLINE now and you can find the recipe for the rough puff pastry I made here - hurrah for Be-Ro recipes! 

I used butter in place of lard/marge because it tastes nicer and I had it - I don't have lard very often and marge is minging. 

Once that was made I rolled out two thirds of the pastry to make the pie bottom and lined the dish I was going to use, which was a pretty big one, then popped that and the pastry for the top into the fridge. 

Then I made the filling - here's what you need to do. 

Bottom layer - mash! 

I peeled, chopped and boiled two big potatoes (this is a pretty big pie) then mashed them with a splash of milk, dash of salt and some butter. I spooned this into the pie base and squashed it all flat then popped it back into the fridge whilst I made the meat layer. 

Ingredients:

>2 onions finely chopped
>400g steak diced (I used stewing steak, you can use whatever you have, if you want a veg pie replace steak with thickly sliced mushrooms or some kind of pretend mince if you're AN ANIMAL.) 
>two beef stock cubes 
>half a pint of water
>2 tbsp of Henderson's Relilsh or Worcestershire sauce
>half a cup of port
>1-2 tsp black peppercorns bashed a bit to crack them but not powder them
>two cups of diced carrot/swede mix (I always buy this mix for Geordie mash pre-cubed because find chopping swedes tiresome and the kids eat it a lot) 


Method:

In a great big heavy bottomed pan, splosh a dollop (that is a technical cooking term) of whatever oil you like and cook the onions for the endlessly long and tiresome period it takes to soften them. 

Add your diced meat and brown it off. Pinch a bit back out to eat rare because my goodness it's delicious. 

Add your stock cubes, crumbled up (unless you have those posh gooey ones) (as an alternative you could use a spoon of marmite which gives a really good, rich flavour without any actual beef or animal, of you're one of them there vegetarians) then your Hendricksons and your port. Stir it all around to make a nice paste on everything, then add your water and peppercorns. 

Add your vegetables and stir it all together and simmer for as long as it takes to get your veg softened. I like my veg quite crunchy so I didn't cook it for too much longer at this point. 

Pop your oven on to 200c and get your pie base and extra pastry out of the fridge. 

Spoon your delicious meaty goodness onto your pie base and roll out your top, brush the edge of the base with milk and pop the top on and squish it all around the edge to seal the pie up. 

With a sharp knife whip off any pastry that's poking over the top of your dish looking messy, then use that to make a heart (or whatever shape you like) for the top. Cut a little cross into the pie in the centre of the heart (to let some steam out and stop it going soggy) and brush the top all over with milk. 

Cook for 20-30 minutes (or as long as it takes to get two small, very excited boys to bed with a couple of stories - if you take too long your pie will burn so consider bribery/threats if necessary) then serve with a glass of port, a big snog and lots of happiness. 

Birthday excitement

It's official - my BABY is not a BABY any more, he is a walking, talking, cheeky TWO YEAR OLD. 


Yesterday our little valentine baby turned two, and it was a VERY busy VERY exciting day - and I am so, so proud of my boys. All of them!

The day started with a room full of balloons and presents wrapped in left over christmas paper (I would love to claim thriftiness but actually I just forgot to get some, and was thrilled to find it in the cupboard!)




All kinds of wonderful gifts were opened, and the postman brought even MORE gifts when Midget Gem thought he was done, and there was a great deal of excitement and some wonderful sharing and kindness, with no bashing of any sort, between the brothers. 


Jellybean loved helping Midget Gem open his presents, and Midget Gem was very good at letting Jellybean play with the new toys too. 




I can't quite believe that it's been two years since I was wheeled into the theatre to have a tiny (giant) premature baby heaved out of me and was all new and whole and different to all of us, but made of parts of all of us. 

We swapped around some names we'd chosen, but were glad that we'd thought of Jasper (that morning, in fact, after both deciding we hated the previous option!) because his little face just WAS Jasper. 




Hours and hours of balloon baseball and new toys were really good fun, the meals of the day were mostly ignored in favour of bananas and cake pops, and everyone was happy. 

Then we had dinner, lit the candles, sang the song and blew them back out, and Midget Gem ate his cake in true my child fashion!



The cake meant a later than usual bed time (as they got so hyper from the sugar - lesson learned - cake is for LUNCH time) and then, after some particularly boisterous and silly play occurred, the blue car that had been such an exciting present was thrown down the stairs and broke - and both boys had a matching, synchronised melt down. Bed for all! 


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Pocket Money Changes - Poppy's chair

This is a quick update to say that, thanks to all your kindness and your generosity, we did it! We can buy Poppy's chair! Thank you thank you thank you!

Last year I wrote a few posts about Poppy, my friend Sophie's baby girl. 





Poppy was born with a tumour on her liver, which, after many complications, was removed and she is one of the youngest babies in the world to survive a liver transplant. Not just survive but thrive. 





Because of Poppy and her story I know that a great many more people have registered as organ donors, which will change and save so, so many lives, and began giving blood and saving even more lives. 



Over the last couple of weeks I have, thanks to you who read and follow this blog, raised money for two very deserving families, for two incredibly different reasons. 




And now, with Poppy in mind, I'm asking you to think about popping another pound into the pot. 

You see, Poppy is amazing. She is thriving and growing, laughing, smiling, a little beam of pure joy in everyone's life - but she was left with complications after all her illness when she was born. 

Poppy has cerebral palsy and she sees her care team regularly, her Mum is dedicated to her physiotherapy and she has a lot of equipment which makes her day to day life and her physical development easier. 




The thing is that the equipment is very expensive, and though some is provided by the NHS the family have to buy a lot of it themselves. 

As well as that a lot of what IS supplied is the bare essentials and some of it is fairly horrible for poor Poppy, and better options have to be bought privately. 



This is Poppy in her original standing frame, as you can see she HATED it


This is Poppy in her NEW standing frame - MUCH more popular, she is giggling her head off!


Poppy's family are determined, despite the difficulties that Poppy still has, to live a normal life with her and give her all the same experiences her big brother Hayden gets. 

But to do so they do need some additional equipment to help Poppy. At the moment they are trying to find a better solution to mealtimes - both at home and out and about - so that Poppy can sit at the table with her family. 


At the moment, at home, Poppy sits in her brother's old high chair propped up with a cusion. This isn't ideal, but Poppy lights up when she can sit up and see everyone else at mealtimes, and eats more when she is with her family than if she is fed alone. 



When the family go out to eat Poppy can't sit in a highchair, because she can't sit upright alone, so one of the family have to hold her. Again this isn't ideal, and it means that the family don't get to go out together to eat very often. 

To be able to sit Poppy on a chair at the table - either at home, beside her brother who she ADORES, and who just worships his baby sister - or out and about on family days out and celebration meals - the family need a specialist seat support, designed for children with special needs such as Poppy's.


The problem is that these chairs are made in America - and cost $240 - around 150 pounds, plus the cost of shipping the chair over to the UK. 

In total this is around two hundred pounds. 

Sophie gave up work when Poppy was born so that she could care for her full time, and her husband Steve works hard but doesn't earn enough to pay for the chair and the shipping on top of all the other additional costs that a child with special needs brings. 

The family just want to be able to live as normal a life as they can, for Poppy and for Hayden, who is missing out on a lot of trips and days out because Poppy can't access the places he wants to go or her needs simply can't be met there. 

Something as simple as this chair could change their lives, because it would mean that Poppy could sit up with the family, could go out to restaurants with them and sit on any chair there, and she will be comfortable, supported and - most importantly - happy, because she can sit at the table and share a meal with her family. 

If everyone who sees this shares the post and pops just one pound into the pot - the button to donate is at the top of the side bar on my blog - we will be able to buy the family this chair and give Poppy a little more happiness, making her beam that incredible smile, and make her family's lives just a little less 'raising an ill child' and a little more 'happy family'. That's all they want. 

If you can't see the button it is a link to a paypal account for Pocket Money Changes, and the address on paypal is mommatwoblog@gmail.com. 

Every penny raised will go to Poppy's family. Every penny you donated for 'Jack' went to his dance costume. Every penny donated for Matilda Mae went to her star and a donation to the family for every day costs and their chosen charity. 

This isn't about anything other than raising enough to buy this chair for Sophie, Steve, Hayden and Poppy to have an easier, happier life. 

As soon as enough has been raised to buy the chair I will update this post so that we all know the target was met. 

Thank you all so, so much for reading, for sharing this post and for your donations - every penny donated takes us closer to being able to get Poppy her chair. 

Thank you. Poppy says thank you too.


I wanted to add something else to the end of this post - Sophie and Steve, and a big gang of Steve's friends, raised money for Leeds Hospital after their incredible care of Poppy and after saving her life. 

They raised over twenty thousand pounds for the ward where Poppy had her transplant and has ongoing aftercare. 

That is an AMAZING feat and they are a wonderful group of people who have achieved an incredible thing - and the family didn't keep a penny of what was raised for themselves, despite knowing the costs of raising Poppy with all that she needs. 

Because they are so completely selfless I want to give them this gift, and show them how caring other people can be too, and they truly deserve happiness and ease in their lives. 

Day one - at the end of the day this is our total. Thank you - please keep sharing the post. 




At 10.15am today (Friday 15th) this is our total: I am only showing the total because I want to protect identities for people who want to stay anonymous - I will post the transactions when we reach our total with the names blocked out.  




9.30pm update 


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

How we do pancakes

Pancakes in our house are not just about lemon and sugar in my house - and they certainly aren't just about sweetness.

Instead, I give you (and you will be ever so grateful) mushroom stroganoff pancakes.


And here's how you do it. 

The pancake mix was from my ancient Bero cookbook (thanking you Mum!) which I go to for ALL my best things. 

The recipe was:

50g self raising flour,
1 egg
1/2 pint milk
pinch of salt

I trebled the recipe because we are greedy so and so's.

So whisk that all up, feel all wholesome and earth mothery, pop it in the fridge (I think this causes actual voodoo) and get on with your filling. 

Ingredients.

2 onions, finely chopped
1 big heaped tablespoon of smoked paprika
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced (my original recipe said 2, but that is NOT ENOUGH)
400g of whatever mushrooms you like, or a mixture, sliced
200 ml of beef stock - or veg stock if you don't do eating animal, even in juice form
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce - or if you have a friend as awesome as Mother Scuffer replace this with Henderson's Relish, which I will ALWAYS pick over others now after she bought me some.
3 Tbsp of soured cream


How you do it:

In a splosh of whatever oil you have in the house (apart from baby oil, that wouldn't work) gently fry your onions until they go all soft, which as I've said before, takes FOREVER, then add your paprika and garlic and cook for another few minutes.

Add your mushrooms and cook until they're soft. 

Add your stock and Henderson's relish, and stir and simmer until it's thickened into a nice gloopy texture. 

Take off the heat and stir in your soured cream.

Pop this to one side whilst you make your pancakes. Feel very smug, because it is delicious.

Now the fun bit...

How we make pancakes:

1: Wonder if it matters that your frying pan is bent and just has that one strange hot spot that touches the hob.

2: Heat the pan and brush oil all over liberally. 

3: Pour one ladleful of pancake mix onto the pan and do that twisty thing you do with pancakes to spread it around. 

4: Use lots of words you hope your Grandparents don't know you know, scrape the first pancake off, bin it, take a deep breath, try again by repeating steps 2 and 3.

5: Repeat step 4 with longer, more imaginative streams of swearwords.

6: Burn your hand on the pan. Stick another pancake. Have a strop, throw the pan with cemented on mixture into the sink, run the taps, pour a coffee, dig out the griddle which actually IS flat, take another deep breath and prepare to do steps 2 and 3 again PROPERLY. 

7: Stamp your feet because in your mad rush to stop the stupid bloody pancake sticking to ANOTHER pan you knock your coffee over and there is NO MORE IN THE HOUSE. 

8: Tell your husband to sod off after he politely pokes his head in the room and asks if you need him to do the pancakes.

9: Try steps 2 and 3 again. Fail. Wonder whether you should cry. Your husband asks if you used a recipe, because your mix looks runny. Contemplate drowning him in the effing mix. 

10: When your husband offers to help again open the kitchen door and throw the griddle, complete with glued on BLOODY PANCAKE MIX, into the garden. 

11: Sit at the table sulking whilst your husband cleans the first pan, adds some flour to the pancake mix and proceeds to effortlessly produce a stack of perfect bloody pancakes. 

12: Try to sound anything other thank sulky as you apologise and thank him for saving dinner. 

13: Take the stack of perfect pancakes (sheepish look optional) and spoon in the mushroom stroganoff, roll the pancakes, and pop in a nice ovenproof dish. 

14: Once the dish is full of stuffed pancakes spoon the excess stroganoff over the top, add some grated cheese and a sprinkle of smoked paprika because who doesn't like cheese, and pop in the oven on around 200c for twenty minutes or so to heat the stroganoff through and melt the cheese. 

15: Wish you had actually taken ID to the supermarket so you could be drinking wine right now. 

16: Serve! 

17: Contemplate giving up swearing for Lent. Realise this is impossible. Decide to give up making effing pancakes instead. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Wild - a review and giveaway

My degree is in creative writing. I chose it because writing is like a disease that crept under my skin in childhood and I couldn't do anything else. 

The disease was caught from reading. Reading books that opened a world to me that nobody else could see, and where I could do, see and be anyone, anything. 

Books, reading, writing, all gave me something I couldn't explain and made me happy in ways I couldn't explain even now - and discovering new books and new writers who inspired me to try to do the same myself was exciting.


Then I got older, and my confidence in what I was writing wobbled around, and I stopped trying to do it so much, and though I blog and do freelance articles I am cowardly about fiction, and about letting the stories out of my mind where other people could judge them.

There are very few people who I read books from now who give me that itch again, who write SO well that I can't NOT write, that I can't stop myself from grabbing a pen and paper at three in the morning because their stories have woken my mind up from the locked away stupor of parenthood, fear and 'being a grown up' about my dreams. 

This week I found a new one. 

I was sent a copy of 'Wild' by Gill Hoffs (don't forget the 's') and I just could not put it down. 

I wasn't sure what to expect - I've followed Gill on twitter for a long time and chatted now and then. I've admired her red hair and poked around her website and wondered how I could begin the same journey of writing fiction that people read, but I hadn't actually read her stories. 

I have fallen into a reading rut recently and tend to stick to a handful of writers and, I have to admit, I've become bored of it. Once you read four books in a row from the same person they kind of merge into one long, slightly confusing tale that you can't be bothered to finish.

Then my letterbox popped open to show a copy of 'Wild' and I cracked the spine as I waited for my tea to brew. 

My tea went cold, because I couldn't stop turning pages. 

This isn't chick lit, it isn't fluff, it isn't all sparkles and happy endings. It's emotional, sometimes dark, it wakes your brain up and leaves you breathless and desperate to see more of the world Gill leads you into. 

A lot of the stories are very short, just a few pages. They pause, rather than stop, and you are given an opportunity to create the images yourself, you're awoken, in a way that only a truly excellent writer can do. 

Some incidents are so exquisitely detailed that you can taste the air, smell the grass, hear the sea. Some are so carefully hinted at that you witness them happening from a shadow and hope the characters can't see you. 

Of all the stories in the book 'The Rabbit and the Dam" stays with me most. I'm a mother, and you cannot switch that off as the story unfolds, and I held my toddler that night with the feeling of water lapping my toes. 

Gill's dedication to her craft, and to her research, is inspiring. Her stories give me hope. 

Very few things I've read in the last five years have made me want to pick my pen up and open my mind to the whole world. Gill has made me dream, again, in a way I had lost, of being a REAL writer. 

I carried this book around my house, I stayed awake when I should have slept, I waved it at my husband and repeatedly told him to read it, to listen to parts. My copy is embarassingly dog eared because I've been back through and re-read stories when I should have been watching the pans boil and doing my housework. 

You can't have my copy. 

But I do have another, fresh, pristine copy that you COULD have, if you fancy it. 

If you don't win the giveaway you can buy your own copy from here, and I strongly recommend that you do.


I'm not even going to make it hard for you - just leave a comment below, ask me nicely, and the rafflecopter widget will pick one of you at random.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway