Friday, 29 June 2012

Parenting - not for the faint-hearted

The other day, I noticed a tweet from another blogger who said that her daughter thought she was evil, because she had said no to ice-cream. I replied to her that my kids think I'm evil daily but such is life. She replied that it's hard not being liked but that it must be part of being a parent. 

And it's true. You can't be your children's friend all the time. You love each other, but there are a lot of times when you just don't like each other very much. The old phrase "tough love" rears its ugly head. 

Little did I know that this would come back to haunt me so quickly. That afternoon, I went to collect the children from school and Monkey was being challenging to say the least. The current focus is my old laptop - it hasn't been working for months, but I've recently had it repaired and have cleaned it of my work data, so now it's designated for them to play on and both children are beyond excited. Both had spent a considerable amount of time on it since, but I had said the night before that we were going to get reading out of the way first before any screen time, and Monkey had said OK to that. 

On the way back to the car, Monkey was already asking if he could play on the laptop. I reminded him of the deal and he threw a tantrum, claiming he didn't remember the deal we had made. His tantrums are very vocal and he starts blaming everyone (except himself) and everything for the injustice in the world. This one was so bad, I stopped the car after pulling away because he was making me angry. He went on so much, I decided I had to act. "OK then, there will be no laptop at all for you this evening. I am not standing for behaviour like this."

This was not received well. We had tears, recriminations, screaming, kicking of legs for the duration of the 5 minute journey, clearly because he thought he could change my mind and I would relent. I stood my ground. 

We got home and one of the neighbour's children appeared as we got out of the car. I explained to him that Monkey couldn't play with him. Monkey went mad. Shouting, screaming, kicking, crying, you name it, he did it. I tried to calm him but he was pushing all my buttons and winding me up (plus, it's not fair on Missy Woo, she loses attention and it's not her fault; she is much less antagonistic although liable to whines and sulks.)

Eventually, I cracked. I told him he was not staying up to watch any football, sent him to go and get his pyjamas on, he would then do his reading and have some tea, then go straight to bed. This was met with even more recriminations but I stood strong. He came downstairs to read and obviously thought he was on safe ground as tea was not made. Wrong. I made him toast. He ate it sobbing. He kept saying sorry, but it was obviously done in such a way that he hoped I would go back on my word. He read his book, had a drink and I sent him upstairs. 

By the time he did get to bed, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Obviously, it was still quite early and there was no way he was going to sleep so he sat in his bed, shouting screaming and crying. He demanded to see Daddy when he got home, but then proceeded to blame his behaviour on him for getting the children up early which meant he was tired. Husband left him to it. More shouting and crying. 

Several times over, he found reasons to come out of his room but he got sent back. He demanded to see husband once again but he didn't really have anything to say. Eventually, I had to go upstairs to the spare room and Missy Woo was getting ready for bed too. He opened his door for something and so I asked him to do a couple of jobs, then I put him back into bed. Much calmer now, he said sorry and started to cry again. Hugging him, I asked him what was the matter.

His reply said it all. He told me, "I'm crying because I'm cross with myself for getting sent to bed and now I've missed the football." 

I may not be the perfect parent and yes, my children think I am evil daily. I say no to them. But that means they know what the boundaries are and they know the consequences if they cross them and that they can't have everything whenever they want it. It's hard not being liked, being blamed for the faults of others, having the product of nine months' incubation that you love dearly telling you that they hate you, but the end result is worth it. 

There will be parents out there who read this post that will think I could have done it the nice way, but the only result Monkey would have been happy with would have been to play on that laptop - and that would have meant giving in and rewarding what was pretty awful behaviour.  Much as it was hard, I couldn't do that because that was the best way to guarantee a rapid re-occurrence. My reaction might have been extreme, but I felt it was proportionate to the behaviour. Since this incident, he has been really well-behaved and much less argumentative about things that are regularly flashpoints with him. I think the penny has finally dropped. 

Parenting isn't about being their friend all the time. It's being the critical friend, who has their best interests at heart. It's hard. It's relentless and it's not for the faint-hearted. But if you think you are right, it's worth standing your ground. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Getting my goat

No, I'm not annoyed at anything. Far from it. I mean, someone sent me some food to try!

Those people were from St Helen's Farm, who despite the name are in Yorkshire, not Merseyside. They sent me lots of different goat products to try out. Now, in this house, we don't really need them as none of us have any dairy allergies but I thought I'd give them a try out as there are a lot of benefits of trying a goats milk diet which husband sometime mentions.

When the box arrived, there was a slight problem with one tub of yogurt which had got squashed in transit but we were able to try what was left in the pot and everything was pretty unscathed. I didn't expect that I would be sent so many different varieties - whole milk, semi-skimmed, skimmed, butter, yogurts and a hard, not soft, cheese, just like cheddar, but cream in colour rather than yellow.

There is no doubt that goat products do have a strong taste to them. Personally, I found that the goat's milk was fine for putting in tea - although I have very little milk in tea - but not for coffee; well, I largely have cappuccinos which are very milky. I could definitely pick up the taste of it and personally, I don't find it pleasant. The yogurts have been used in cooking and mixed with fruit puree for the children to eat and we find that palatable. The butter has a strongish taste too, but I'm yet to try it in cooking.

What I did really like was the cheese. I like the taste of goats cheese, and it was fabulous in toasties with some sliced spring onion. However, I thought I would try this polenta dish out and adapt it - because let's face it, plain polenta doesn't taste of much and is pretty bland so I thought adding the goat's cheese would pack a punch. I have upped the cheese slightly compared to what I actually made as husband made the comment that it could do with being a slightly stronger taste. Of course, with the polenta - which is corn meal - this is wheat free and cow's milk free so it's a nice meal for someone with two of the most common allergies.

This is a very informal dish and can be served as an appetiser, with antipasti, for a larger meal with friends. However, we just had it for tea, sat around the table with spoons scooping it up. It's adapted from a Gennaro Contaldo recipe that I found and have been meaning to try for ages. I changed it because there was loads of oil in the recipe, and I didn't use wild mushrooms; I just used a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and the usual sort you get in the supermarket. It's also pretty quick to make.

Goat's Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms

Serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetiser

For the mushroom sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped (I use frozen mostly!)
1 tsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried (optional)
600g mushrooms of any sort, sliced thickly
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml veg stock

For the polenta
1 litre water
200g quick cook polenta
25g butter
150g hard goats cheese, cut into 1cm cubes or roughly grated, plus a few shavings.

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and thyme (if using) and cook over a low heat until softened. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat, and stir fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to brown.

2. Stir in the tomato purée, followed by the stock. Cook for a few minutes to reduce the liquid and make a sauce. If the mixture looks too dry, add a bit more liquid but the liquid from cooking the mushrooms should help.  Set the sauce to one side whilst you make the polenta. (This can be done in advance and heated through gently when you are ready to make the polenta.)

3. Now, make the polenta. Place the water - and a good pinch of salt - in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time to avoid lumps. If lumps do form, beat well and the lumps should break up. Keep stirring until it starts to come away from the side of the pan - this should take around 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and then add the cheese, stirring to distribute.

4. To serve, you need a lightly oiled wooden board. If you don't have one, try a pizza stone or similar, which is what I used. Pour or spoon the polenta onto the board - you want to spread it out to a circle around 20cm in diameter, about 2.5cm thick. Place the shavings on top of the polenta, then top with the mushroom sauce.

5. Place the board in the centre of the table and allow everyone to take their share. If liked, you can serve with a plate of Italian antipasti.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the family favourites edition!

Another week, another dollar. Or something.

Every now and then, I lose inspiration and ask the family to suggest meals to have that they liked. I am very lucky in that the children often say, "Can we have this again?" when we have new things but I like to try new things all the time (if you hadn't noticed!) and when I do get round to this , I've forgotten which ones were such hits. I figure that complete favourites will really stick in their minds.

This is one of those weeks. Trying to plan a week of meals at short notice as we got a voucher for Ocado late on Friday for delivery Saturday necessitated this strategy. I was expecting pizza and pasta and to be fair, the first thing they said was pasta based but different - as in not bolognese, pesto or carbonara based. They came up with a couple more but needed a couple of  prompts from me, we picked out a few other things we have had recently that we all enjoyed.

So, then, here is our week. Think I'll leave Sunday open because it's the Euro final and I'm going to Clandestine Cake Club early evening. Saturday is probably going to be for grown ups only, as the children are going to a party.

Monday - Toad in the hole
Tuesday - Sticky marmalade chicken
Wednesday - Butternut squash, ricotta and sage pasta bake
Thursday - need I tell you? Butties again!
Friday - Moroccan meatballs with eggs
Saturday - Spanish omelette (possibly)
Sunday - keeping free

That's us. How about you? I would love to know what you are having this week, to give me inspiration for next week, although it's Missy Woo's birthday and party next week and the second week of WImbledon. Once you've done that, don't forget to check all the Meal Planning Monday entries over at Mrs M's place for more meal planning ingenuity.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Photo credit - John Nettleship
No, not of that sort. I hate cleaning anyway - I will never be house proud, but then, nor do I live in a complete tip but it is like fighting a losing battle sometimes.

I did, however, have a certain amount of tidying up of loose ends to tackle that have been building up. They sat there niggling at me, occupying a little part of brain that nags me as I'm going to sleep, or when I'm trying to have a quiet moment.

No more. Yesterday, without too much work on and alone in the house, I set about my chores.

First, I filled in my tax return. My affairs aren't too complicated and I had everything I needed. At least I thought I did, until I realised I needed the PAYE reference of the people I've been doing casual work for so I fired off an email and got my answer in 10 minutes.Racing through the rest of the form, I signed and dated the form with a flourish, and placed the form in an envelope on the side.

Once that was done, it seemed natural to continue on to renew our tax credits claim. I had husband's P60 but had to ring him to check some details, then I had to guesstimate our income for the coming year. (Oh yes, I am a pro at this now.) No real form-filling this time - I prefer to ring up. Ringing up at lunchtime is always a bit of a lottery but after a lengthy recorded message, part of which warned I may have to wait some length of time to speak to a real person, the call was answered within two seconds. After ploughing through the information, I gave her the numbers I had for last year and this year and we were done in 10 minutes.

Two tasks done and I was on a roll. There was only one thing for it - tackle the filing. Eurgh. I fortified myself with a sandwich and a brew, before heading up to the spare room and sorting all the paperwork into piles. It would appear I haven't filed since last August - how the hell did that happen? As ever, it took less time than I think it's going to do, probably the reason I left it so long. Another job ticked off. Surely I couldn't  get anything else done?

You'd be wrong. My old laptop has been lurking around since it failed last November, waiting for me to afford a repair and find someone local who can do it for me. Months ago, someone recommended a local company to me but I couldn't remember their name but a quick Google threw up their website. I tried calling the number and there was no reply.Ten minutes later, I tried again and this time, someone answered. I explained the problem to them and they told me they think it's a simple repair and probably won't cost more than about £50. Result! All I have to do is get the laptop to them. So, after a quick dash round, I picked up laptop and envelope containing tax return and headed out, stopping to buy a stamp for the tax return and posting (another job ticked).

So, tax return sent and the laptop got dropped off and I still made it to school in time to pick up the children without suffering the indignity of turning up late and having to collect the children from the main door instead of their classroom. In fact, I was early!

Since then, I've made tea, had Missy Woo read to me, tidied up the kitchen, stacked the dishwasher, and answered some emails about work. I'm thinking of having the night off. What do you think? Where do I get my medal from? 

That little part of my brain been silenced, for now, at least. Until the next thing crops up, that is. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Just to prove that it didn't rain every day on our holiday

Here are the pictures I took when we headed to Bigbury on Sea. Believe it or not, it was raining until a couple of hours before, but we took full advantage of the sun - rightly so as that was it for the week.

Bigbury-on-Sea takes dedication to visit. It's a good half hour from the A38 and is now single track roads for most of that time. I wouldn't like to do it in a big car, or when it's raining, put it that way. It is worth it though - the bay is beautiful and across the sand is Burgh Island with the beautiful (and expensive!) hotel that you can only reach by sea tractor at high tide.

This was our view from our spot looking towards the island next to the rockpools, which the children enjoyed exploring. And yes, the sea was not far away.

After a couple of hours on the beach, we wandered up to Bay View for - you guessed it - cream teas. The views were even more stunning - Bay View really lived up to its name, and the scones were fab, still warm from the oven.

Tip - take change for the car park; it's £6.50 for all day and £3.90 for 3 hours. Pretty much everything you need is there - shops, cafe, toilets, cream tea.

A beautiful spot.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the is it really June edition!

Well, is it? The weather has been very strange of late. Our holiday was interrupted by a few days of terrible rain and the same has been happening since we returned. One day, it might be nice and then it's awful. Saturday was one of those days so it was a good job we were planning to spend most of it inside, what with Missy Woo's dance show.

So, I'm planning for another week and I'm not entirely sure what to expect. Normally, I'd be cracking out the salads and stuff, but I am really not sure what is going to happen so I'm still planning to cook. Apart from that, I don't think we have much on this week, apart from Saturday when husband and I both have separate commitments in opposite directions at roughly the same time so the children are going to Granny's until I get home, so no cooking will be planned.

Here's our week anyway. Monkey has requested honey and mustard pork for today but I've decided to try something new to go with it.

Monday - Honey and mustard pork, slow cooker garlic mash, broccoli
Tuesday - Smoked haddock and leek baked risotto
Wednesday - Goat's cheese polenta with mushrooms
Thursday - Sandwiches (yawn.... )
Friday - Sloppy Joe bake
Saturday - free
Sunday - One-pot chicken and chickpea pilau

So that's our week. How is your week shaping up? Do tell me, and then head over to Mrs M's to find the other MPM entries this week. May the rain on you be brief and the sun be warm and plentiful.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Learning to be a ballet mum

When I was small, dancing lessons weren't an option for me. I remember asking when I was small but my parents couldn't afford it - for a start, I'm one of four girls -  so it was off the agenda. I never got to experience classes, exams and preparing for shows.

So, when Missy Woo wanted to start doing dance classes, I was a bit lost. We are very lucky in that there is a lovely, small dance school that meets just around the corner from home. It's run by a lovely lady who is not pushy but great with the children and is universally known as "Miss Lizzie" (yes, even the parents seem to call her that!). Missy Woo started at class and I really didn't know where to start, but somehow, a spare uniform became available and we found ballet shoes so she was all kitted out. A few weeks in, we found out they were doing a show, and we bought her costume.

On the day of the dress rehearsal and show, I was asked to put her hair in a bun. Now, my hair currently is about the longest it has been since I was around Missy's age. I don't do things like that - I just about manage to put her hair in a ponytail of a morning for school and even then I struggle because she has a double crown. Thankfully, Lizzie - being a lifelong dancer - is an expert in doing buns and put her hair in a bun for me. Problem solved.

This year, the annual show rolled around and this time, Missy is in two numbers because she now does  modern classes as well as ballet. Costumes have been bought again and I was asked to put her hair in a bun once more.

I could have chickened out and asked someone else to do it this time, but figuring this is not going to go away, I thought I had better learn how to do it myself. In order to do my training, I did what I always do. I turned to the Internet! I spent Friday evening looking through several different videos on YouTube of people doing  a "ballet bun". What struck me was that the basic method was the same, but everyone had their own little ways.

This time, I figured I had better be prepared. A quick trip to the supermarket yielded some 79p hairspray and some grips that match her hair colour, to add to the bun net I'd kept from last year. I decided to do her hair at home so we weren't in a rush and there were no smug parents around doing theirs in 5 seconds flat. I went for the twist the ponytail then pin it like mad as it twists in on itself method. It actually took me much less time than I thought, and my first attempt stayed in place for the whole afternoon and the first half of the show until she had to take it out for her second number (which needed a ponytail.) So, I'm quite proud of that, given how ham-fisted I am.

And, in case you missed them - I've tweeted these twice - here is Missy Woo in her costumes ready to perform at dress rehearsals. First, her ballet costume for "Zip A Dee Doo Dah".

And second, her funky 70s costume for "Carwash".

I still haven't seen the full show as we're going today, but she was very excited to discover when she went to get ready for her first show that some of the mums that they were putting make up on the girls.

She's a proper little ballerina now. And me? I'm not quite a ballet mum, but I'm getting there.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Photo credit - immrchris
In order to ease myself back into blogging (if you don't use it, you lose it and I seem to have lost a few blogging muscles recently!), I have got myself tagged in a meme to make me get my finger out and write. It doesn't really help that I have quite a bit of work on at present and my head is full of other people's words as one of my assignments is typing up a manuscript over 25,000 words long.

Anyway, I was tagged by Very Bored in Catalunya to take part in this one, originating from the good ladies at Mummy Central. The idea is to turn the tables on your children, who constantly ask why (and God knows, my two do) and have your own vent.

Here goes.

Why do you wake up so early the morning after we've let you stay up late?

Why do I send you to find something, only for you to come back and say you can't find it, yet I find it straight away when I go to look?

Why do you squirrel things away in your school bag in the hope I won't notice when I can tell just from picking it up what it's got in it?

Why do you want a toy every time you enter any retail establishment, whine or stamp your feet if I say no, but if I say yes, you play with it for an hour then never touch it again?

Why can I not go to bed and sleep earlier in the night so I can get a decent night's sleep and get up at a reasonable time?

Why do you not want to hug me until I want to sit down and get on my laptop, then you insist on sitting right up close to me and lean over my shoulder?

Why, when you go out to play, do you come in and go back out again several times an hour until it's time for tea, or bath, or bed?

Why do you only want food when you don't have anyone to play with?

Why are you complete angels at school and the teachers not recognise the children I describe when I tell them what you are like at home? Why can't you be angels for me?

Why can't you learn to shut doors, turn lights off, wash hands, flush toilets and tidy rooms without me having to remind you every two minutes?

Why do I have to start every day you're at school by clearing up the mess you have made in the living room?

Why are you last out of school on the days we have to be somewhere by 4, but first out if we have nowhere to go?

Why do you spend all day complaining that Daddy is not here but once he's home, only want me?

That's better. I feel cleansed.

Do you want a go? I'm tagging a few people but *hangs head in shame* I've not quite reached the requisite 5 so I might get told off! Here are the guidelines:

1. Post your whys – as few or as many as you like.
2. Link up your post below, and it would be great if you could leave a comment too.
3. Tag 5 bloggers to keep this going.
4. If you’re not a blogger, leave your whys as a comment below. We’d love to read them.
5. Show your support by reading a few others and commenting on them.

So, my taggees are:

Sally from Who's the Mummy?
Sonia from This Mummy Loves
Rachel from Mummyglitzer
Dave from The Big Div

And if you want to be a fifth, just tag yourself. What are you waiting for?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday - the getting back to normal edition!

Right, I'm back to it today. You remember me, don't you? What do you mean, no? Hmph!

The blogging (rightly) took a bit of a back seat on my holidays - yes I managed the grand total of one post, done on my iPad, whilst I was holidaying. Maybe I'll do another post about it, but we had a very mixed week of weather with more rain than not. Two days were completely awful weatherwise, three were OK, one started badly but improved drastically but none were completely gorgeous days from start to finish. Still, we had a lovely time and I ate way, way too much. I will have to watch what I am eating very very carefully over the next few weeks.

So, today we're back to normal. Not totally, as the children don't go back to school until Tuesday but as good as. We seem to have quite a few things on this week, what with it being Father's Day on Sunday, and Missy Woo is in her annual dance show. It's a lot earlier this year because they couldn't get the hall they wanted on their preferred dates so they have had much less time to rehearse, and it comes straight after half term - plus Missy Woo was sick on the day of the last rehearsal before holiday. I'm sure she'll be fine though - she received her costumes on the day she was ill which cheered her up immensely. We're going to see her dance on Sunday afternoon but I have to spend Saturday afternoon watching her final rehearsal so food over the weekend has to be quick and simple to do, which means beef twice in a row.

So, here's our week in meals. What's yours?

Monday - Sticky sausages with potato and sweetcorn salad
Tuesday - Sweet potatoes with mushrooms and rosemary
Wednesday - Fried fish and tomato curry
Thursday - the usual exciting sandwiches!
Friday - Sticky chicken drumsticks with coleslaw
Saturday - Burgers and salad
Sunday - Slow cooker chilli with tortilla chips

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Devon so far

Haldon Forest Park
Ah yes, blogging. I remember that. If you are wondering why I haven't been posting, it's because we're on holiday in Devon this week. We've returned to Finlake Holiday Park that I blogged about last summer.

We travelled down on Friday and stopped over in Bristol so that the last leg wasn't too onerous, which was a good job as it took us nearly 3 hours thanks to a van fire. We still arrived very early so we had a few hours to kill before we got our lodge which is nice but not as nice as the one we had last year as it's smaller although it has a hot tub but that's not much use when you have no washing machine.

We've made a few discoveries of new places, thanks to my sister who lives down here. On Sunday, we went with them to two places that I had barely registered before. The first is Haldon Forest Park which we must have passed several times as it's just off the A38 but never realised was here. There's miles of tracks for walking and cycling, there are zip wires, you can even try out Segways and maybe archery. The kids loved it and we need to go back to explore it some more as we were soon off somewhere else. However, Monkey didn't like all the walking which is odd, considering he is the more active of the two.

After our walk, we set off in convoy for Shaldon Zoo. Poor husband (who was driving) thought it was just down the road, but it's not, it's near Teignmouth. I knew there was a Zoo in Paignton, but not here. It's really small as are the animals; mostly small primates and a few birds but it was a nice place for an afternoon. It was raining by then but it was fine to visit as you're sheltered by trees. Monkey Ioved doing the quiz and they both loved the macaw whose only word was "Hello"! We thought it was a great little activity for a morning or afternoon: oh, and we can recommend the cream teas from Ode True Food just off the car park!

Tiger at Dartmoor Zoo
Whilst we were there, I got a tweet from a lovely blogger, Jenny asking me if I'd like a voucher she couldn't use for Dartmoor Zoo that had to be used by this week. Risking animal overload, we said yes and thanks to the lovely receptionist at Finlake who printed the voucher for me, we set off on Monday to give it a try. It's tucked away on the edge of Dartmoor but was very busy when we got there, it being a bank holiday. The story of the current owners and how they took on the zoo became a book and then a film starring Matt Damon, albeit the zoo in the film is in the USA. Whilst not the biggest zoo, it certainly has some of the crowd pullers: lions, tigers and an enormous old brown bear.

The children were fascinated although once again, Monkey's patience wore thin and he kept asking how many more animals we had to find, before finding them and being utterly fascinated by them. The only thing that took the shine off or visit was their "restaurant". I put it in quotes because there is no way it's a real one. The queues were enormous, largely because they only had one small self-service coffee machine for dispensing hot drinks - despite there being a massive commercial machine sat gathering dust behind the counter. And the coffees we did get after waiting for 15 minutes were tiny. I am now so glad we took a picnic!

So, that's what we've been up to so far. The next few days look to be difficult weather wise so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the usual things the children like to do here, like golf and swimming, along with meeting up with more family members will keep them amused and make the weather less of an issue.

I've blogged about these places because we enjoyed them, not because I was asked to. All opinions are my own.

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