Today is the day: Sat 27th September 2014

I missed an opportunity today to get a few loads of washing out on the line. The weather’s weird at the moment, isn’t it? It looks grey and dank and cold in the morning and so you assume Autumn is here and slip into your faithful tatty old boots and pop a body warmer over the top of what you’re wearing and then find yourself, half way around Canon Hill Park, on the slightly-sweaty-upper-lip side of flushed fearing that you’re about to develop patches.

Today started in equally unpromising fashion and so I didn’t rush to get a couple of washes through and out onto the line. I just pegged out the one load I put through last night and DAMIT it was good drying weather today! Warm and windy. I take real satisfaction nowadays in getting two or more loads of washing out onto the line – think of the electricity saved! The good I have done for the planet! And OOOOOOOO doesn’t washing dried in the open air smell DIVINE?!

Throughout my childhood my lovely Mum would always make a point of telling me when my bed had been made (SPOILT BRAT that I am, I didn’t make my own bed until I went to University) with air-dried linen. ‘Doesn’t it smell wonderful?’ she would murmur rapturously into the ironing, and I would nod in agreement all the while thinking she was a bit bonkers.

Now though it is a TOTALLY different story because bugger-me but air dried washing smells so bloody good! YOU WERE RIGHT MA! Poor James will stagger through the door at gone 10pm and I’ll be waiting, washing basket in hand, under the pretence of needing some help to put everything out to finish airing on the gigantic, dinosaur sized airers that you just seem to acquire once you have children, all ready to shriek DOESN’T IT SMELL WONDERFUL and be all SMUG and SATISFIED because I got THREE *fist pump* loads of washing out onto the line before 10am and the whole upper floor is now draped with it whilst it gives off its fresh clean scent.

And so here is one of life’s small triumphs – seeing your washing pegged to your inherited Brabantia (had to drop the brand like an ARSE) washing line, whipping round in the breeze whilst you stand in the Conservatory sipping tepid tea, congratulating yourself about how delicious it will smell later. Albeit tempered by minor cursing at yourself for the fact that, if only you were organised, you could have got the towels out and drying too and they would have not only smelt exquisite, they’d have had that delightful crunch that only air-dried freshly laundered towels have. I am bonkers.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Today is the day: Tues 23rd September 2014

I am getting myself in a bit of a tizz about Christmas. We are on the verge of booking a BIG trip in November, a real once in a lifetime kind of thing, that will involve spending C.A.S.H and so Christmas will be a budget affair.

And we’re absolutely fine with that because this trip is the kind of thing we would normally talk ourselves out of, would be prudent about. I would put my much slogged for, hard earned bonus into savings and then inevitably something would break and we’d end up spending it on a Fridge Freezer or a Washing Machine. For once we don’t want to do that and I think we’re going to bloody not do it, because you can live your whole life not doing things, finding reasons to say no, and then feeling disappointed about the opportunities you didn’t take.

And so I am planning that this Christmas will be a home-made affair rather than anything flush. And I am in quite the giddy spin about it. I am all feverish enthusiasm tinged with mildly insane eyes. I have gone to town on Nigella’s Christmas book with a pack of post-it notes, picking out jams and preserves and boozy treats that I will lovingly create over the next three months. The house is full of sterilised jam jars, antipasti jars, spice pots and any other glass thing I can present my wares in.

I was already quite in raptures about the whole thing and then a clever crafty friend told me she would dig out the recipes for home-made bath bombs and Epsom salt candles, and that tipped me over the edge. I am now verging on beside myself. I have set out this Thursday evening as my planning evening. I have the bare bones of a planning spreadsheet in place, where I shall record what I will make each week in the run up to Christmas, and the ingredients I will need, and ideas for nifty ways to present everything. I am starting to search for baggage tags and ribbon and pens and stickers and all other sorts of crap on ebay and Amazon and notonthehighstreet and on and on and on. I have re-loaded Pinterest onto the iPad.

Pinterest. There it is – the word that suggests this can only go one way – downhill. I am so excited and enthusiastic about it all, but at the back of my mind is the sense that the whole thing is doomed. Because while I have lovely intentions and can create wonderful, romantic visions of my home-made Christmas set to the backdrop of snow and crackling log fires and Downton Abbey, the reality is I AM NOT CRAFTY. I wasn’t even allowed to use a glue gun at school. I swallowed a paper clip in Year 5. I’m a disaster. I’d come to terms with this and hadn’t dabbled in anything crafty for quite some time and then I found out about Pinterest. And we had a little flirtation so we did. I was quite convinced I was going to be one of these brilliant Pinterest Mummies who fill their children’s lives with amazing crafty things and bake healthy cookies. But 2 months in and what Pinterest had became was a way to perv on Tom Hiddleston, Ryan Gosling and Rachel Bilson’s style. And so we parted company – a worthy reminder to myself that crafts and I can only combust.

And now Pinterest is back and I am all agog with home-made Christmas wonder! I am about to embark on the mother of all home-made Christmas present missions! So please forgive me, lovely friends of mine, for whatever happens this Christmas. Please know my limitations. You have chosen to be friends with an idiot, or have at least accepted me as I’ve clawed my way into your lives. Know that whatever tat that is thrown your way this December has been lovingly (but poorly) crafted from the heart. That I have made it with love and Christmas cheer. And if you follow me on Pinterest, apologies in advance for the Benedict Cumberbatch overload that will no doubt be coming your way as I try to work out why I find someone with such odd nostrils attractive.

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We interrupt this blog to bring you a recipe: Sat 20th September 2014

Blake ate soup at Nursery last week. Which coincided with me not being so well after our little camping trip and finding the prospect of soup, a thing that normally turns me right off, unexpectedly appealing. And as we are a veg-box household (because I am a pretentious arse and like to coo over my nice brown box filled with nice healthy things) we are often in the position of finding ourselves with some scraggly bits of veg at the end of the week that I am at a loss to know what to do with.

Well SOUP IS THE NEW ANSWER. I have had another entirely unexpected kitchen triumph with my Any Old Veg Soup, not just in my book but in James and Blake’s books too *mummy smug-got-you-to-eat-loads-of-veggies-face.* And actually, as the weather turns drizzly and mizzly and crap, I think that a nice tasty hearty soup, served with some nice artisan (ARSE YOU BOUGHT IT IN ALDI) bread is a thing I have really missed the boat on previously, so here you go…

Any Old Veg Soup

Dig around in the veg compartment in your fridge. Chuck out mouldy beans at the bottom. Grab a courgette, 2 carrots on the verge of going flaccid (feel smug that they will not go to waste), swede (why did you buy this?? What does one do with swede?) and a butternut squash.

Attack the swede. Discover, as your super sharp knife lodges firmly into it, that swede has the consistency of concrete. Wave knife and embedded swede around wildly, punching yourself in the face as you do so. Eventually succeed in hacking it into chunks. Crunch.

Chop butternut squash in half with moderately more success than with the swede. Peel squash and your index finger. Chop into chunks. Chop chop chop.

Put Peppa Pig plaster on finger.

Chuckle at floppiness of carrots. Peel and chop up.

Chop up courgette.

Find an onion and cut in half. Fling yourself at it with gusto and smash it to bits with your knife in an attempt to chop finely.

Grab cheats frozen ginger and garlic (so gooooood for you *smug face*) and dole out about 2 cloves worth of garlic and a cube of ginger.

Find the biggest pan you own. Tip all other pans over in process. Settle your toddler back to sleep.

Daub some coconut oil (*SMUG* ALL THE HEALTH) into pan and bang on the heat.

Gently fry veg in pan while you attempt to find and tidy away all the toy trains littered around the house. A proper recipe would probably say to do this (the frying, not tidying) until the veg is softened. There was so much veg in the pan that I just let it do its thing until it all looked a bit glossy and colourful.

At this point, remember you bought some cheap-as-piss white wine a while ago. Unscrew the cap. Stare in puzzlement at wine as it fizzes (it was flat when you bought it), shrug and chuck a glass load in. Crank up the heat and let it bubble away and reduce.

Root around in spice rack. Grab paprika, cumin, cayenne and chilli powder. Shake in a good shake of paprika muttering shakey shakey shakey. Grab the cumin and add about the same amount. Grab cayenne, lose your concentration and add far more than the pinch you intended. Focus more with the chilli powder and just add a bit. Stir.

Realise you have not made up any stock. Hastily boil a kettle and crumble four stock cubes (low-salt OBVS) into a litre of boiling water. Stir frantically and add to the pan. Slosh.

Bring to the boil, and put a lid on the pan. Turn heat down and leave it alone for 30 minutes while you do Pilates Perfect Body DVD and fall over twice. Run FAST AS THE WIND to kitchen as the timer goes off to avoid waking toddler again.

Take the lid off, season (if you are comfortable to) and turn the heat up a little so you get a simmer. Leave for another 20 mins or so until rock hard swede is soft when you spear it with a skewer.

Either chuck it into a processor/blender or grab your faithful Tesco Value stick blender and whizz it up until smooth.

Remember you have a herb garden since Hubby bought some offshoots home from work! Grab what you think is coriander. Rinse and butcher with knife AHEM CHOP FINELY. Tip into soup PLOP and stir.

Dish up immediately, or cool and chuck in a Tupperware in the fridge, or bag it up and put into the freezer OOOOO CHOICES MARVELLOUS CHOICES.

I thought the spices in this made it really tasty, and I reckon you could sub in any root veg really, and sling in all sorts of other green veg in your mission to turn a bowl of it into your toddler’s 5 a day DO NOT EVEN MENTION IT’S 7 NOW.

For Blake, I stirred in about 2 tblsp of whole milk and a good grating of cheese, and it was inhaled at a speed that made me want to pass out in triumph at the amount of goodness going into him in one go without any bargaining or wheedling.

No picture I’m afraid as I was too sure I’d cayenned it to death to think it worth snapping.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Today is the day: Tues 16th September 2014

Have you missed the tales of me being a berk everyone? Have you? Well then read on dear… er… reader, because today I have excelled myself!

– I have tripped over a plum. A tiny little plum. Doof.
– I have scaled my tongue on hot soup, resulting in me sitting at my desk with my tongue hanging out like a dog with its head stuck out of a car window
– I have choked on a banana
– I have scared the wits out of myself with MY OWN REFLECTION in the Conservatory door

MAR.VEL.LOUS. Just marvellous.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Five years

James and I will have been married for five years on Friday. I can hardly believe it! I know compared to other couples who are ticking off ten, twenty, thirty years; five is barely anything but to me it feels like a big deal.

We won’t actually be doing any celebrating on Friday – in the way of things when you marry a Chef James has an exceptionally busy day at work and will probably not be home much before 11.30pm.

So yesterday we went camping! Several things have happened of late which have made us determined to make the most of our time together as a little family. James always has Sundays and Mondays off, so we hatched a plan that we would buy a load of camping gear and whenever the forecast for the weekend was looking decent I would book us a night away at a local campsite and we would get away and enjoy some family time without TV and the iPad and playbarn after playbarn.

So this was our trial run to see how Blake took to life under canvas, and was also our Anniversary celebrations rolled into one. We booked for Twitey’s Tipis just outside Stratford which is a beautiful camping meadow – pitches mown out of long grass with a warren of mown pathways in between, beautiful sunsets and as luck would have it next door to a local flying club (cue shriek after shriek of AIRPLANE MUMMY! AIRPLANE DADDY!)

I was pretty nervous to be honest – Blake is not always the most adaptable child and I’d unwisely read this hilarious piece a few days before packing up the car.

As luck would have it, Blake was in his element – helping Daddy with the tent, taking Danny Dog and Sarah Snake for a slither around the paths (they have since been washed), having fun with the wheelbarrows provided to guests to take your kit from car to pitch and later helping Daddy to build a fire in the fire-pit that comes with each pitch. And to top it all off, he settled like a dream and despite having a fairly stinky cold and cough, slept straight through the night.

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Which left James and I some time to sit around the fire with a drink. It’s not tea at the Ritz or cocktails at Hotel du Vin but there was a real charm to sitting looking at the stars, reminiscing about our Honeymoon (sitting around camp fires in Africa) and just enjoying a conversation. We’ve come a long way. We are in our 30s. We have a mortgage, a child, responsibilities that at 25 I couldn’t have grasped. That first crazy flush of love has gone and in its place is a deeper love and better understanding of each other. I’m not sad about this – I am proud of us. At our Wedding my Aunt read this poem, which at the time I thought was a really beautiful statement about love:

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven – William Butler Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

It is still one of my favourite poems, and I think it is such a beautiful, masterful use of words, but actually I don’t think it is a perfect description of love anymore. There is something in the notion of giving up one’s dreams to another that doesn’t sit quite right with me – because what I realise is that James has never asked this of me, has never asked me to be anything other than myself.

And Lord knows I wouldn’t have blamed him – I am not naive enough to not recognise the fact that I am a LIVING NIGHTMARE at times. Horrible drunk. Nag. Anxious. Nervous. Totally opposing choice in film, TV, music. Consumed at times by books, to the extent of ignoring him for days on end. Virtually insane when tired. But he’s never asked me to change and I appreciate that more as time goes by. And so sitting and whiling away an hour in front of a crackling log fire with my best friend, reflecting on our five years whilst our child slumbered in the tent next to us felt like a pretty perfect celebration.

Today, I am not very well. Seeing as we had tea at a pub near to the campsite and had to send Blake’s sausages back as they were still partly raw, I’m pegging the blame on them. Either way, we packed up early and came home and I retired to bed while Daddy Daycare took over. And Daddy Daycare has been a total star and looked after me while spending some much needed time with his Son. As a Mum, I am guilty of forgetting sometimes that I am not the only one who can look after Blake. James has been crazy busy at work of late and has missed out on time with him, and he has in turn, in the way of toddlers, punished him for it in a subtly crafted game of emotional blackmail and insults. Poor James has sucked it up well, but it has made me sad. So ten whole hours together today has done them the world of good if the bath time laughter travelling up the stairs and the lovely display of affection I witnessed as I popped down at dinner time to ask James if we would go out and get me some Sprite is anything to go by.

So really James, this is a tribute to you. Five years ago we shared the happiest of days and our time since has been happy. This is not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate it if you could stop leaving pens in trousers that you put for the wash, but is my way of saying that you are a lovely husband, brilliant Dad and you are still the most decent man I’ve met. X

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Today is the day: Fri 12 September 2014

Good grief. I am sure I am not alone in thinking this, but sometimes I really do feel entirely ill-equipped for living in the adult world despite feeding the birds. Since having Blake I have tried SO HARD to make this grown-up thing work, but there is just a link missing in my brain I think.

I can keep my family fed and watered and clothed, I can arrange nice days out for us, but at times the bare bones admin tasks that you need to do to keep your life ticking over elude me altogether. Like changing your address with all of the right people and organisations when you move house. I thought I had this NAILED. I did not. It has bitten me quite royally on the arse three times in the last 2 months and I am so cross with myself, because I genuinely really tried to tick every box and cover every eventuality and I FAILED MISERABLY DAMIT. And I was so pleased at the start of today – THE BOILER MAN WAS COMING! I had got myself organised and got my Boiler Service sorted 2 whole months before I officially needed to. And then it all came crashing down around my ears because it appears I expended every last ounce of my organisational ability booking that Service. Nuts. It is far too sorry and stupid a tale to share on here, I fear you will abandon me altogether if I do.

And so you find me forlornly flicking through the App Store searching under terms such as ‘organise me please’ ‘my app PA’ ‘I am a total dickhead’ etc etc and frantically trying to note important dates in my phone diary.

On a positive note, Blake raided my handbag at the end of the day, grabbed a Tampax (sorry sorry SORRY male sensibilities) and ran around the house waving it and screaming, which cheered me up quite a bit although I failed to get pictorial evidence to embarrass him with when he’s 17.

This this THIS is the perfect bit of writing to draw a line under today:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here’s a photo of a glass of very nice Red, which was a gift from my friend for my 30th. What you cannot see is the SODDING CORK FLOATING IN IT BECAUSE I AM TOO STUPID TO USE AN OLD FASHIONED CORKSCREW WHO HAS ONE OF THOSE ANYWAY OH YES THAT’S RIGHT A PROFESSIONAL CHEF GOODNIGHT

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dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

The gradual acceptance of food

Since becoming a Mum, I have found real delight in Blake’s small triumphs. The completing of a jigsaw puzzle for the first time, drinking from a cup, going down the slide unaided – all manner of little things that mean nothing to anyone else mean a great deal to me.

And this weekend there has been a glut, nay a CACOPHONY of small triumphs in one particular arena: food. When we first weaned Blake we were thrilled with his progress. There was nothing he liked more than to sit like a little King in his Baby Dan high-chair, all chubby cheeks and multiple chins, and have food shovelled into his mouth by his doting servants. And he was a good little eater – you name it, if it was puréed down and spooned into his mouth, he would eat it and eat the most ginormous quantities of it. Extremely spicey lamb curry? Don’t mind if I do. Thai green curry? Mais oui. Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. You are not getting it into my tummy fast enough. Fish pie? Yes. Pork casserole? Yes. Braised beef? Yes yes and yes.

It was when we attempted to introduce finger food that we hit what we now realise was a road-block. ATTEMPT TO FEED MYSELF MUMMY? I think not. I vividly recall chopping up a block of cheese, two carrots, an entire cucumber, two pitta bread and three peppers and entering into a merry conveyor belt game of ‘put it on the table and watch me knock it off.’ Whoever says that a baby’s natural instinct upon picking something up has not met my child. By the end of half an hour, I was flushed and twitchy eyed, every single sodding bit of carefully chopped food was on the floor and Blake was looking at me with I SWEAR a cocked eyebrow and an expression that whispered ‘Where is the Spag Bol you idiot?’

And thus the tone was set for the next 12 months – a weary game of trying and failing to get my child to feed himself, coupled with a growing irritation on his part for any real texture in his food, leading to a rejection-on-sight stale-mate that has lasted, with a few cheese-sandwich based exceptions up until THIS GLORIOUS WEEKEND. Nursery, GLORIOUS NURSERY, cracked the self-feeding for us, as they have so many of Blake’s little quirks. (I am really very hopeful that if I just remain in total denial about potty training they will do this for me too.) But otherwise, If it did not look like Spag Bol, or Tomato Pasta, or Weetabix, it was not going into his mouth. And I cannot tell you how utterly disconcerting this is for a Chef and a woman who would happily eat for four most of the time.

Over the course of this weekend we have visited Attingham Park outside Shrewsbury twice. And we have had major food breakthroughs on both days.
On Saturday Blake and I met a friend from work and her two boys and because I am a shining example of Motherhood and exceptionally responsible, he discovered that he liked Wotsits. He also ate, for his evening meal, barbecue chicken and rice. HOME COOKED I TELL YOU *smug*’ I was so sure he would automatically reject this that I stood gaping like an idiot as he shovelled spoonful after spoonful into his mouth and pronounced THIS IS DEEEEEEELISHUSH MUMMY.
On Sunday we returned to Attingham and met James’ Brother Jon, his partner Ro (I would at any other time refer to her as The Ween but it is her Birthday today HAPPY BIRTHDAY RO so I shall not run with the nickname she hates) and their children Emelia and Benjamin. And we were so thrilled as Blake rediscovered raisins, which he ate with great delight throughout our recent holiday to France and then announced he hated with passion the minute we touched down on British soil, and then discovered Cadburys Mini Rolls (no shying away from how delighted we are that we get to stock those in the snack cupboard now.)
And so riding high on a wave of hope and optimism, I knocked up a cheesy omelette for his lunch today. It took a little bit of persuading EAT THIS TINY BIT OF OMELETTE AND YOU CAN HAVE ANOTHER SPOON OF BAKED BEANS *responsible mother klaxon* but damit HE ATE IT AND USED THE WORD YUMMY. Obviously I have no photographic evidence of any of this beyond the raisins (see below) because I was too busy whooping and punching the air.

And so, in the way of small triumphs, this has been momentous because maybe maybe we are moving ever so slightly beyond the *wince* fussy eater phase and that will be a major triumph indeed.

If you haven’t been to Attingham Park, I would thoroughly recommend it even though I suspect I have only seen about 1/6 of the grounds. They have a massive playing field for children (a field where children can play? HOW NOVEL!) with a great mix of modern and natural play equipment – think tree trunks piled on top of each other to create the perfect climbing frame both in the mind of children and grown men, and joy of joys a catering truck serving tea, ice cream and bacon sandwiches. Spot on National Trust. Here is the raisin moment and a few other pictures of Blake and Emelia enjoying the field.

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dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Today is the day: Fri 5th September 2014

I sense the Time-of-Vegan is drawing to an end. After days of fingernail chewing red-meat cravings, I am waiting for my local fruit and veg AND MEAT delivery person (if you live in or around Harborne check out Mr Robinson – they’re ever so lovely and very reasonable) to arrive with STEAK AND POTATOES.

And in the interim, Waitrose have rocked up with my food order complete with a massive pot of PROPER YOGHURT that I snuck onto the order yesterday morning at about 8am, all rabid-eyed dairy desire, and it as much as I can do to type this post and not sit here on my couch in my tracky bottoms, eating it out of the pot with my fingers. HELP ME.

I am sorry fellow Vegans. Seems it is approximately two and a half months in that the will-power fails and capitulation is a bright, beautiful, meat and dairy and EGG RUNNY EGG temptress. Well done for battling through but I am just a fool bound to my stomach and I am at the point of surrender.

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And also, THANK YOU OH THANK YOU Waitrose Harborne for your policy of employing helpful, charming, pretty young men to deliver my miserly £60.01-to-get-the-free-delivery shop each Friday evening. It is such a super policy. Two thumbs up.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused