Christmas traditions

One of our little traditions is that at some point during the year when on holiday or visiting somewhere special or new, we buy a new decoration for our Christmas tree. 

We’ve been doing this since we bought our first house together in 2003 and so as you can imagine our tree is now full of these random decorations. It doesn’t make for a ‘styled’ tree but it does mean that looking at the decorations on our tree always evokes lots of happy memories and conversations about where we got each of them. 

As our girls are growing our tree is also becoming populated with homemade decorations.

Our most recent addition to the tree is a Pinocchio that we bought when visiting Sienna. 


So, our tree might well look a bit mismatched and out of sync with the rest of our decorations but it’s like that for a very good reason.

Finding my way back to me…

Having my first baby was a bit of a shock. Labour was long and difficult and the reality of caring for a newborn after such a gruelling time certainly wasn’t quite how I’d imagined.

I thought I would spend my days baking fresh bread, cooking delicious meals and cuddling a happy cooing baby in a spotlessly clean and tidy house. It took about six weeks for me to realise that my life was no longer my own. Breastfeeding is the ultimate act of selflessness. Of course you want to do it because it’s the best thing for your baby but accepting that you can’t wear what you want, go where you like or do what you want when you want can be quite tricky to deal with. Never mind the initial pain and discomfort. Trying to bake a cake for your soon to be two yr old when your newborn wants to be constantly attached to your boob for hours can be a bit challenging. Once out the other side I realised that like all things baby related, it’s a phase that is relatively short lived but in the midst of it all when missing out on weddings, parties, meals, hot drinks etc it can feel a bit frustrating.

Of course I adored my baby and every cuddle is precious. It was all just soo different from our quiet, relaxed lifestyle before baby. No more lazy Sundays with long lie ins, cooked breakfasts (more like lunches), pouring over the weekend papers with steaming mugs of coffee and boozy sunday roasts. No more going to the toilet on my own and in peace.

By the time my little bundle was around 12 weeks old I felt like I had this motherhood lark sussed. My daughter slept well, fed well and was happy to have a cuddle with anyone accept bearded men. Fair enough. Life got easier and easier and I started to do a lot of the things I had done before: go out for dinner, hang out with friends, work out, watch tv, work.

Then when my daughter was 13 months i fell pregnant again. By seven weeks pregnant i was feeling sick and shattered but with a job that was a 3hr commute away from from home and a lively toddler to look after there was little time for relaxation. The exhaustion pretty much went on from there.

The first six months of my second child’s life is a total blur. Labour was quick and easy this time but the months that followed turned out to be the hardest time of my life. My husband was out at work from 6am-7pm and often stayed away too. My mother and sister both work and don’t drive and my in-laws live on the south coast so it was pretty much just me and the two little ones all day every day. My littlest one wasn’t a fan of sleep and so only really napped for 25mins at a time and was awake to feed multiple times throughout the night. My two yr old slept well but was up and ready for action a 7am each morning and would then be full on all day until  she went to bed a 7pm.

Second time around it has taken much longer to feel like i’m back to my old self and some days were pretty challenging as you can read more about here . It was more like two and a half years rather than three months this time. Looking after small children is stressful and tiring and if you add sleep deprivation and all the usual worries and stresses of motherhood it can really have an affect upon who you are. Instead of being, thoughtful, cheerful, and capable of reasonably intelligent conversation I know that I was irritable, forgetful, distracted and easily upset.

Its only now that I’ve come out of the other side of this fog that I can see I was there. I’ve lost a friend or two along the way. One who I thought was a really good friend. Hard times certainly show you who your friends are. I’ve changed jobs and the way I think about lots of things and people has changed – for the better I think. I’m a kinder, softer more sensitive version of my former self but ultimately I’m still the same old me just with quite alot more responsibility. I still have the same interests and sense of humour and I still like to dance, drink good wine and eat great food.

I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, i don’t have to cook a perfect home cooked meal from scratch every night. It’s not the end of the world if i haven’t changed the flowers in the hanging baskets. The hoovering can wait until tomorrow. Let the weeds and the cobwebs grow for a while. They’re not hurting anyone.

So, much like most things when children are around. The ‘new baby fog’ is another phase to get through but there is a light at the end of the sleepless tunnel. Just sometimes it takes longer than others. I’ve learned my lesson and wouldn’t have such a close age gap between children again. But it hasn’t put me off having any more…….

 

Food, food family food: Slow cooker Chinese ribs. 

Its no secret that we love meat in our family. Both my girls will happily munch on a chicken drumstick or a rib bone.

Ribs are a favourite in our house and so finding a way to make authentic tasting ribs without having to spend to much time checking on them. These ribs really amazed me. The meat just fell off the bone. Yum!! No need to order a takeaway.

Ingredients

700kg of pork ribs

2 tbs tomato ketchup!

3 tbs soy sauce

1 heaped tablespoon pureed garlic and ginger ( you can buy jars of this brilliant time saving stuff)

1 table spoon rice wine vinigar (optional)

1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1 spring onion

1 tablespoon honey

sesame seeds

Method

Depending on your slow cooker pot the best thing to do is throw all the ingrdients except the meat and spring onion, into the bowl and give it a mix. Then add the ribs and leave it all to marinade in the fridge over night.

You can then put the bowl into your slow cooker the next day and either leave on low for about 6hours or i tried putting them on the high setting for about three hours.

Just before we were ready to eat i transferred the slow cooker pot to the oven which had been preheated to 220’C. Doing this thickens the sauce and allows the ribs to take on a bit of colour which is much more appetising. This takes around 20mins which allowed me time to lay the table, put the rice on (for husband)and cauliflour cous cous (for me) on.

When you take the ribs out of the oven snip little discs of the spring onion over the top. This will allow the veggie to warm thorugh a little before eating but also retain plenty of crunch and freshness.

I like to put my rice or cous cous on the plate first and then pile the ribs on top. If you like, you can add a sprinkling of sesmame seeds.

Enjoy!!!

Today’s slow cooker dinner…..

Baked potatoes!!!

We don’t own a microwave. After our last one broke we never bought another and haven’t really missed it except for doing jacket spuds. Discovering that they can be done in the slow cooker has been great. They’re ready to go as soon as we get in with the children in the evening and the slow cooker uses waaaay less power that the oven – convenient and environmentally friendly = winner!

I scrunch up the foil to put in the bottom of the pot for the potatoes to sit on, pop the taties on top put on the lid and that’s it! If I’m going to be out for a full day I put them on low but if it’s only for about four hours them I put them on high. 

I like crispy skins so when I walk in the door I whack the  oven onto its rapid setting at 220’C and pop the spuds in for about 15 mins while I prepare my fillings or get the kids washed up and the table set. 

We serve jkts family style in our house so everyone gets an empty spud and fills with whatever they like. My children both love tuna and prawns in their potatoes, my husband likes cheese and I like a mixture of grated apple and cheese with a squirt of mayo, yum!!!

Food, food family food – Lamb Balti

I’ve had a few requests for this one from friends. It never seems to hang around long enough to be photographed so there are no pictures at the minute but i’ll add some next week when i next cook it!

My children really like curry. Is that unusual? My littlest one isn’t a huge fan of meat so will often just dunk a naan in the sauce but because the meat is meltingly soft in this she will give it a whirl. This sauce is quite mild in my opinion but its best to test it out yourself first. Ovens and slow cookers differ quite a bit so the timings are what works for me but you should keep a close eye the first time you try it to avoid it drying out. If you need to loosen it up a bit you can always add a little water.

Ingredients

1/2 jar Pataks Balti spice paste

450-500g diced lamb

1 medium onion, diced

Thumb sized piece of peeled fresh ginger/ 1 tsp lazy ginger

2 fat cloves of garlic

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

handfull of mangetout or sugar snap peas (optional)

Method

Heat a little vegetable or sunflower oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion for around 5-10mins or softened. Add half of the jar of balti paste and stir. Make sure the heat is on low and then grate in the ginger and garlic cloves. Stir around in the pan for around a minute and then add the tomatoes. turn up the heat and give it a good mix.

Transfer the whole lot to a cooking pot and throw in your lamb. If you’re cooking it in a slow cooker then half fill the tomato tin with water and add that then just give it a good stir, pop on the lid, switch it to low and leave it to cook for about 7/8 hours. If you’re cooking it in the oven then fill the tomato can with water and add that to the mix before putting the lid on the pot and popping it in the oven at 140’C fan for at least 3hours ideally 4. Thats it!!

Its ready when the meat is soft and just falls apart.

Just before you’re ready to serve mix in your peas or beans so they’re heated through but still crunchy.

This is a great dish for when you need to feed lots of people at different times because you can just leave it in the oven or slow cooker on the lowest setting until you need it. The longer its cooked the better it gets. If it dries out slightly just stir in a couple of table spoons of water and leave to cook for a few more minutes.

Sometimes we have ours with basmati rice but we also have it in jacket potatoes or just in bowls with naan breads and spoons.

 

 

 

 

All ready for school


Each night I lay my daughter’s clothes for the next day out on her floor for her to put on when she wakes up. Tonight’s floor lay was a very special one because it’s the first time I’ve laid out a school uniform. 
A big day for her and us – firsts for all of us. Her first day at school, our first time taking our first born child to school and my little ones first time taking her big sister to school. 

She’s excited, curious and apprehensive. Her two year old sister is jealous and wants to go too, her dad is proud and I’m ….. not sure. I just want her to be happy.

 I don’t feel worried about her growing up – that is exciting and interesting – I suppose I’m just nervous for her. I know what the fear of the unknown is like and I remember how mean and spiteful children can be to each other. I’m acutely aware that I can’t protect her there and I’m not in control of who she spends time with. She’s on her own making her own decisions – aged four. So we just have to hope that we’ve equipped her with all she needs to choose nice friends and be happy. 

Here’s hoping she skips in with a smile on her face tomorrow to prevent me from shedding a tear with her….