Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - The Year That Was

2012 has not been kind to my family, to put it mildly.  Plans that were meticulously brought together ended up being trampled on by those around us, with no thought for our feelings.

I was, inexplicably, frozen out by my partner's family, which has made things difficult for us all.  Note to those who choose not to like me - do not take it out on my children, it is not their fault, nor should they suffer for it.

We were evicted, twice, and subject to a nasty case of harrassment by a previous landlord.  During six hellish months, we endured police contact, threatening behaviour and invasions of privacy.  There was a lot of emotional distress.  A lot of stress.

As a result of the aforementioned evictions, we have lived in a total of five different properties this year, with various people.  This has meant a lot of moving round and not much stability.  Particularly, I did not enjoy living in other people's homes, on their terms.

I have had to watch my husband be taken off in an ambulance, once, and had to call one for him on another occasion, for a separate problem.  I do not wish to repeat either scenario anytime soon.

Most recently, hubby and myself have spent 11 weeks apart, in different countries.  A painful separation, by all accounts, but one borne out of necessity. 

So 2012 is a little bit on my shit list.

Here's to 2013.  May it be brighter and better.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Spiced Parsnip Soup

Yesterday, in the lull between Christmas and New Year, I decided to make my first ever batch of soup, and it just had to be spiced parsnip as even the thought of it filled me with warmth.  It was cold, grey and wet outside.  The children were playing happily with their newly-acquired toys.  It was the perfect time to make a hearty, nutritious, HOT meal.

And how simple it turned out to be!

If you, too, get the urge to make soup that just has to be spiced parsnip, here is the recipe:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 parsnips, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 large potatoes, sliced
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
Black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
800ml boiling water

Fry the onion in the oil for five minutes, or until soft.
Add the garlic, spices and veg and fry for a futher 2-4 minutes before adding the boiling water.
Bring back to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the veg is soft.
Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand blender until smooth.

And that is all you have to do to produce a very yummy, and very healthy, soup.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas, and the Suspicious 4 Year Old

This year, I was the only adult in the house for Christmas, and in the weeks preceeding.  It has been tough, I've not enjoyed most of it, and found it particularly difficult in the run up to Christmas.  With two small children in tow pretty much 24/7, I had to take them with me shopping; sneaking items into the basket when no one was looking and hoping for the best.

Occasionally, Jas spotted something in the basket or at the checkout and asked if it was for her, at which point I expressed surprise at its presence and hastily put it back.  I thought I had been very careful.

Turns out not much gets past my daughter. She woke at 4 o'clock this morning, before I'd managed to get to sleep, grabbed her stocking from her bed and raced to the lounge to open it with me, and her brother, who was woken by Jasmine excitedly squeaking that Santa had been.

Within five minutes, I had heard the following:

"Isn't it funny how Santa uses the same wrapping paper as you do, Mummy?"

"Wow, look, Santa got me the same pencil case that you bought me in Morrisons the other day,"

"Oh. This is the Hello Kitty mug that you bought at the weekend. Has Santa been stealing your presents to give to me?"

I didn't say much, to be honest. I was terrified of giving the game away and willed her to just stop talking and being such an inquisitive and intelligent child for once. Question everything, someone once told me. It seems Jas was born with this as her motto.

Eventually, she came to the conclusion that Santa had just been naughty and not only taken some of the presents I had bought her and passed them off as his own, but used up the last of my wrapping paper too. Daddy and I at least now know how careful we have to be next year. This child will not be fooled unless we are meticulous.

Happily, despite the aforementioned rocky start to the day, the children both had a lovely day filled with love, laughter and a fair few presents. Lucky children indeed.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Traditions

This Christmas has been vastly different for the children and myself.  With one vital person missing, everything feels (for me, at least) strange, surreal.  The children are also getting to an age to really appreciate the festivities; to anticipate the 25th with much excitement.

So, this year, we have made new traditions.  Jasmine, for the first time, has written all of her own cards, and mine; a tradition that I hope will continue for many a year!  They have each had an advent calendar, and Jasmine has searched for the correct day's number every morning, now recognising two figure numbers as easily as 1-9.  We have made salt dough handprint tree decorations, stained glass window biscuits, and pretty cupcakes.  Jasmine and Sonny have decorated the tree with no help - the pride in their faces!  And, yesterday evening, they made their own mince pies for Father Christmas to enjoy tonight.

This evening, the children will find new pyjamas on their pillows and we will read a Christmas story, hang stockings on their bedroom door, arrange food and drink for Father Christmas and his reindeer and then they will, I hope, sleep soundly for a few hours. 

What happens between bedtime and sunrise is a mystery to me, but I cannot wait to see their faces when they wake to overflowing stockings and piles of gifts beneath the tree :) 

Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Stocking Fillers

With a two year old boy and four year old girl to cater for, I have been a bit stumped for stocking filler ideas this year.  I did find a great little website that offers an extensive array of toys perfect for stockings but I would suggest that they are really more suitable for slightly older children, maybe five or six year olds.  The toys are too small for my son, especially, as he is not past exploring tiny objects with his mouth.  He can also be a little boisterous with his toys, at times, and these rather flimsy efforts would not withstand his playtimes, I am fairly sure of this.  I also try and steer clear of too many sugary gifts, which are abundant on this site, for the simple reason that my children are spirited enough at the best of times!

I perused the Mothercare website in search of inspiration, but found their produce more expensive than I was willing to pay.  To me, stocking fillers should be small, inexpensive gifts; some may be necessities (socks, soap), others can have a short shelf life and may only be included to entertain the children on Christmas morning whilst breakfast is cooking (spinning tops, bubbles, fruit).  If I am going to spend upwards of £10 on a present for my son or daughter, it is not going in their stocking!  I think this is just a hangover from my childhood when standard stocking fare was an apple, a satsuma, a 50p coin, a small Cadbury selection box, a flannel, a toothbrush and a few small toys.  I think my grandparents filled stockings for my sisters and me; long before I knew the truth, I remember thinking that Father Christmas must have used the same soap as my nan as everything he touched smelled just like her.

Ebay is often an invaluable source of cheap presents that can be stuffed into your child's stocking come Christmas Eve.  I distinctly remember a beautiful, colourful little woven purse that Daddy purchased for pence last year and that Jasmine opened with glee on Christmas morning.  Unfortunately, I have not been too organised this year where Christmas is concerned, and have therefore left it too late to make good and proper use of Ebay (or Amazon, which is equally useful for this purpose).

In desperation, I finally looked to my children for inspiration. It may sound obvious, but I was so busy trying to think of fun, cheap ways to fill their stockings with gifts from the big man himself, that I hadn't simply considered what the two of them would like to receive.  I even asked them, in a roundabout way.  I enquired as to what they were looking forward to playing with at Christmas. 

"Lots of Thomases!" said Sonny, unsurprisingly.

"A dog!" said Jasmine, worryingly.  Thankfully, she later divulged that she was not, in fact, expecting a live puppy in her stocking, just a toy.  Phew.

So, with the above factors taken into careful consideration, I have compiled the following list of my perfect stocking fillers for young boys and girls:

1.  Fruit - now, I'm not suggesting you empty a tin of fruit cocktail into their stockings, but small, non-messy fruits such as satsumas, apples and bananas are perfect.  I can't guarantee you that these will be eaten, but at least you've provided the option.  My preference is the satsuma - if anything smells like Christmas, it's these!

2.  Some kind of chocolate.  I don't think huge amounts are necessary for small children, even at Christmas, but a festive selection box or cute chocolate reindeer will do nicely alongside a bag of gold coins.  I can pretty much guarantee these WILL be eaten!

3.  A small item of Christmassy clothing - penguin boxers, Santa socks or a festive jumper; maybe even jingling reindeer antlers!  Something fun that can be worn on the day, and then probably never again.

4.  A selection of small surprise gifts.  Think little books, toy cars, bath toys, crayons and colouring books, small craft kits, festive smellies, perhaps a DVD; the only limit here is your imagination.  Last year, I made Jas a chocolate brownie kit for her stocking; I poured all of the ingredients into a glass jar, in clear layers.  It looked great and the subsequent baking provided us with a fun morning in the lull following Christmas.

5.  A couple of things they asked Santa for.  This year, Jasmine will be receiving a small toy puppy and a yoyo whereas Sonny will have a a selection of trains awaiting him.

And finally...

6.  A little message from Santa, or something personalised to make your child feel extra warm and fuzzy on Christmas morning.

And there you have it - a perfectly well-balanced Christmas stocking suitable for toddlers.

That's another tick on the to-do list :)

Saturday, 8 December 2012

No Man, No Problem

I am living without a man for the first time in my life. Only for a few weeks,mind, but it has already meant big adjustments. Sleeping with the TV on, for example, because the silence without it scares me. Not cooking when the children have already eaten elsewhere, as well - I just cannot get motivated to make meals for one. It's too depressing and a lot of effort for little gain.

It has been a challenging few weeks.

In some ways, though, it has been a good experience for me. Living alone. Well, not alone. There's the children, of course, but it is my job to comfort them and, sometimes, their presence only makes me feel more lonely. But it has been quite a revelation to me, not to have a man to turn to.

Organising the move into our new home was the first big thing I had to contend with. Then came relying on assistance from someone I know dislikes me because I can't drive myself. Followed by lifting, and lots of it. Asking for help. Painting walls with Jasmine. Plumbing in our washing machine. Finding a way to make Sonny's car work (it needed batteries). Fitting light bulbs and, later, lightshades. Organising Jasmine's birthday and party (which I couldn't have done without a LOT of assistance). Building a drum kit. Cleaning up sick, and poo. Identifying that the U bend in the kitchen was blocked, hence why the washing machine had filled with water and couldn't empty. Cleaning said U bend (not a pleasant job) and putting everything back together so the sink and washing machine can be used again. Viewing several primary schools and submitting our preferences for Jasmine to start next September. Measuring for curtains. Organising Christmas (hubby is a trained chef so at least sorted dinner every year). Putting together the PC and hi fi so that they actually work...

The list probably goes on and is on top of all the cooking, cleaning and admin that come with being a parent.

I am proud of myself. I have done things in the last few weeks that I had never attempted before, and it's gone ok. There's room for improvement, but I'm getting there. I have furniture on its way and I will assemble it alone. I will do it. I will put up shelves and pull up carpet. I will do what needs to be done. I am stronger than I thought I was.

What's become most apparent to me recently, though, is how much hubby does for us when he is here. How often I must have passed jobs on to him because I thought I couldn't do them myself. And he did them all in exchange for our smiles. And coffee. He will do anything for coffee.

So not only have I become stronger and grown up a lot, I have realised that I am one hell of a lucky girl.

Not such a bad few weeks after all.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Happy birthday, Jasmine

Dear Jasmine

So, it would appear birthday number four is on the horizon. I won't lie, I am struggling with this birthday, this number. Four sounds so large. When I remember your newborn self, 7lbs 2oz of pink, sweet-smelling squish, four is too large. Unimaginable.

Yet you fit it well. I may struggle with four but others have seen it for months. Your language, your interests, your maturity. Daddy says sometimes he looks at you and sees five. FIVE! One day.

But today you are three and tomorrow, at 10:51 precisely, you will be four.

Thank you for the last year. For me, it has been a tough one but your humour and love have seen me through. You have made me laugh probably more than anyone else and I am, as always, a very proud mummy. Very.

Despite feeling a little sad that you are getting so big, I know you will continue to thrive. Your love of life and of learning will make you an excellent four year old; my very favourite.

See you in the morning!

All my love

Mummy xxxx