Back to School

What a shocking start to June hey?! Its blooming awful where we are but I’m pleased to inform you the trampoline is still where we left it, despite the wind. I tell you I’m relieved we had our gutters professionally cleaned yesterday. They’re working over time now!

Oscar’s had a terrible week or so, with all recent the changes in routine. I think he’s just telling me he’s not happy about it. His return to preschool, which I thought would bring him some relief, actually didn’t seem to be the magic wand I hoped it would be. As soon as we turned into the school’s road, he started squirming and crying and shouting ‘Uh Uh’, ‘Uh Uh’. I eventually talked him into getting out of the buggy, but then he insisted on being held and would not get down or even be passed to his favourite Miss Tasha. I guess a lot of children go through this when they return to school after any sort of break, but it kinda threw me. He’s never, ever been clingy to me the whole time he’s been going there. Not on his first day, not after Easter, never. And I guess I handled it badly. I stayed with him, less for Oscar’s sake (I fully appreciate that children are often fine as soon as their parents leave) but more that I didn’t want the staff to potentially have to deal with a true Autistic melt down first thing on a Monday morning!

So I stayed. I went in the garden with him and told his TA all about how amazing he was on our recent trip to WalesΒ and he calmed right down. So then I tried to leave and he started all over again (see I told you I handled it poorly!) Anyway eventually I managed to leave him, and was grabbed for a quick, impromptu meeting with his EYIA (local authority lady) who was visiting that day. Which was fine, until I heard Oscar screaming outside the room we were in.

I know I should have left it. Let the staff deal with it. But I just couldn’t. I jumped up and practically ran to him. Which, of course, made things worse and worse. Eventually I asked his TA if she just wanted me to stay, but she (quite rightly) said it would be better for me to leave, or he’d expect me to be there every session. She assured me she was prepared to deal with any melt downs and so I left. In a great big mental tizzy. I wasn’t upset, so much as confused and.. well no I was upset.

You see I don’t cope well without the surety of his routine either. I’ve always needed to know we had things planned from his earliest days, but the older he gets the more I need the small amount of time I get without him. Two weeks being ‘on’ with him has been exhausting. I feel the disruption in the rhythm of our lives just as keenly as I suspect he does. By the end of last week neither of us were coping very well.

I was totally focusing on him going back to school, rather selfishly, for my own relief. When it didn’t work out how I expected it threw me kinda sideways, I wont lie to you. So when I finally left him I did what every good 21st Century mama who has an hour to kill does. I headed to a favourite haunt, ordered coffee, a granola bar (granola’s healthy right? πŸ˜‰ ) and dived into social media. I thought I might write a post, but it turned out having a rant/laugh on Twitter, was much better for the soul that day.

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I returned to collect him feeling calmer but actually quite apprehensive as to what I’d find and, more importantly, be left to deal with for the rest of the day. His teachers told me he’d calmed down eventually, although had continued to ask to leave. He was pleased to see me and keen to get in his buggy, which in itself is unusual, but they were right, he was calmer. The tears were gone and he did seem much more relaxed.

So maybe it just took him a while to figure it out. To hear the beat that we usually live our lives by and start to dance in to it again. I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. He’s been much calmer the rest of the week too (despite the filthy weather). Monday left me dreading Friday’s drop off. Now I’m just aware it might hard. And being aware means I can change my expectations and plan to act accordingly.

What’s the betting he runs in without a glance back, like usual?

Hope your back to school’s went well and your children are finding their rhythm this half term.

xx

 

 

 

My Cookbook Shelfie

Although I’ve been blogging for over a year now, I’ve been sort of been, well not avoiding, just not really getting into the whole mummy blogger scene. I don’t know why. I guess I just didn’t really feel what I wrote was ‘good enough’ (haven’t we all been there!), and anyway I never really started this to be a ‘blogger’, I kind of started by mistake! Anyway, anyway, recently I’ve been embracing my ‘blogger’ status a bit more firmly and have starting to reach into this thoroughly established community, largely through Twitter. I have to say I’m loving it. I’m finding more posts than I’ll ever have time to read and I’m feeling inspired left, right and centre! It’s just ever so slightly fabulous!

Soooo, this afternoon, I came across the linky #cookbookshelfie started by Penny Alexander, inviting anyone to join in and share their cookbook shelf’s story. I loved the idea and knew I had to join in the fun!

I’ve loved cooking and cookbooks all my life. I started in my mum’s kitchen, with a copy of her Be-Ro Home recipes book. This one in fact (well this edition – the original fell apart long ago!)

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It was battered and torn and I never made anything from it other than a most passable Victoria Sandwich and (if I remember rightly) some pigs in blankets, but I read it over and over. It gave me a cavalier disregard for keeping cookbooks clean and this is absolutely evident in my own collection today. If it’s not stained, it simply hasn’t been loved in my opinion πŸ˜‰ .

So on to my own cookbooks. Putting the shelf up for my cookbooks is one of the first things Ben did when we moved in three years ago. It’s pretty stuffed and slightly bowing, but of all the books I own, these are ones I just can’t part with. Here is the shelf.

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In my old life, my books, were always in height order. Always. Today? Weeeeeell, lets just say there are more important things to think about. I could have tidied it up for the photo but that would have been such a lie πŸ˜‰ ! So anyway, as you can see I am Nigella’s number one fan (more on that later) and I had a bit of a thing for Jamie Oliver before he went all preachy. I don’t mind paperback cookbooks, but I love a hardback, they just feel better somehow. Some of these were gifts, some of them I chose myself. Some I’ve used to death ( I used to use my copy of Nigella Bites so much, I took to leaving it out in the kitchen. Only one day it fell in the sink and got soaked from cover to cover. I was gutted! The copy I have now is a second hand one I got from eBay. It’s never felt the same πŸ™ ), some I’ve never made a recipe from (Gary Rhodes 365 was a 30th birthday present, I’ve still not used it). Some of them are particularly focused on low fat, healthy eating (Weightwatchers, Slimming World etc) others not so much (‘101 Best Chocolate Recipes’ anyone?). But regardless of whether I use them regularly or never at all, I’ve read them all. I love reading recipe books. I think it’s one of the reasons I love Nigella’s books so much. You can knock her TV shows for their food porn qualities, but she is an awesome writer and I can read her books over and over (as you’ll see).

Below are a few that mean something special to me. Hope you enjoy!

Oldest book: The Usborne First Cookbook

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My first ever cook book

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Love the illustrations

This was my very first cook book, bought for me by a close family friend in the late 80’s (probably for my 10th birthday actually). I loved this book, I read and re-read it many times. I made various recipes from it – I even took it to school with me in Year 7 to make the Ice Spice Biscuits recipe in Home Ec. The recipe I made most often was the Apple Crumble. I know it’s not a difficult thing to make, but I could never remember quantities and do you know I still can’t now. I’m terrible at following written instructions usually, but actually I can follow recipes no problem – weird huh! Anyway I was thrilled when I found this book among my mums stuff a few years ago and its had pride of place on my cook book shelf ever since.

Most used book: Nigella Express

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A tatty well loved copy

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I don’t even know what that is at the bottom of the page! Gross!

I’ve loved Nigella Lawson since I got How To Eat, way back when (a present from Ben). But although I found How to Eat great to read, I found it largely inaccessible to me as a fledgling home cook. Nigella Express however opened it’s arms wide and drew me in with amazingly easy and delicious recipes. It was a gift at a time when I was working stupidly long hours, so I loved being able to come home and just throw something together. This recipe for Chicken and Beans has been done time and again (and despite that I still always get the book out every time I cook it!). It’s tasty, filling and with a few tiny tweaks very low fat, not something the Queen of Cream is known for!

Never made a recipe from : Best of the Best from Texas Cookbook

Do you know what Crisco is?

Do you know what Valveeta Cheese is?

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Son-of-a-Gun Stew anyone?

I bought this book on my first trip to Texas in 2008. I wanted to bring home a book that had recipes for real Tex Mex and I loved that this was a collection of recipes from many other local books. My favourite contributor titles have to be “I’m Glad I Ate When I Did, Cause I’m Not Hungry Now” and “It’s a Long Way to Guacamole”. This book has some amazing sounding recipes. Personal faves include Nita’s Hidden Treasures, Better Than Sex Cake and the aptly named Navy Beans for Writers (apparently “a man who can cook his own beans don’t hardly need to ask anybody anything about nothing”!) It’s made me giggle many times but I’ve just never got round to making any recipes from it, despite buying measuring cups specially. I will do one day I promise!

Newest book: Slimming World’s Fakeaways

There's a healthily way to have a takeaway

There’s a healthily way to have a takeaway

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A new fave

I’ve been food optimising with Slimming World for 14 months now and one of the things I love about it is the ability to take it’s principles and apply them to my existing cookbooks. With a tweak here and a healthy switch there I can make a lot of my favourite recipes and still lose weight. However on occasion it’s nice not to have to think about tweaking or switching and just to follow a recipe that’s already optimised for you! I only have a couple of Slimming World cook books and this is my latest acquisition. It’s full of healthy and delicious alternatives to standard Take Away meals. A current fave is the Pork in Black Bean Sauce, but I have also made Thai Yellow Curry (once with just vegetables and once with veg and prawns), Pizza and Indian style curry.

My Favourite Book: Feast

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10522736_10153314125000616_8083799139315164052_nI remember the first time I picked this book up; it was in the (now defunct) Borders in Wimbledon. I’ve never been one to sit down and read in a book shop, despite their strategically placed easy chairs. It just feels like stealing to me so I don’t know why I did with this one, but as soon as I did I tumbled in and was lost. I got it for Christmas that year and it’s been my favourite ever since. I’ve made so much from it yes, but I also love reading it. If you’re like me, any celebration in your always comes with food. This book not only contains masses of recipes fit for any occasion, but also discusses the meaning/significance of food at any given occasion. From a Sunday Roast to Seder Night Meal to my favourite chapter the Funeral, I’ve eaten this book up like the food on it’s pages. The recipe I’ve probably made the most is the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. It’s great for a birthday and I’ve had people mistake it for a professionally made cake, which is always nice. I never put sugar flowers on mine though!

So there you go. My cook book shelf isn’t exactly eclectic, but it’s mine. I’d love to hear what your favourite cook books are, new and old! And the more stained the better. In my opinion πŸ˜‰ .

If you’d like to join in with the Cookbook Shelfie, check out Penny’s original post here .

#CookBookShelfie

 

 

Virtual Family

I don’t have a large extended family. And the family I do have is scattered, fragmented and as generally dysfunctional as most. I don’t think it’s different or special in that way. This weekend my mum was visiting from Devon to celebrate her 60th birthday. I can’t remember how we got onto the subject and maybe it was the passing of such a significant birthday that put her in a reflective mood, but we started talking about ‘the family’ and in particular Cousins.

I have three cousins, all siblings. I was nine when the first was born and in secondary school by the time the third arrived. By then we had also moved away from the Midlands to Devon. Beyond occasional updates from my Nanna, I grew up knowing very little about them. But I don’t feel I suffered because of it. I personally don’t feel there was ever a relationship to be had there. My sister who is closer in age to the oldest cousin may disagree but I’ve never felt I should feel more for my cousins than I did.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. I’m particularly good (don’t ask me how) at internet research (curse my flitty mind that will jump around a problem rather than focus πŸ˜‰ ) and talking about la famillia made me curious. What are my cousins doing now? They’re all in their twenties and yeah they’re all on Facebook. Time for a bit of FB stalking! My oldest cousin has changed his surname, which made it harder to find him, but find him I did. It also made me wonder whether he’d actually changed his name or if it was just a FB thing. People do it. Or if he has, why has he? The youngest two are now dancers/performers, which doesn’t really surprise me. It was something they both did religiously as children, so they’re all over the internet, meaning I found out plenty despite their locked FB pages. Then there’s Twitter. The youngest is an avid Tweeter with over 10K tweets. Most of it was normal 21 year old dancer buff, but I also found out some really personal stuff about her life choices.

I started to regret looking. I felt a bit creepy knowing this much about people I only had a passing interest in. Its not even like we were close or played as children. But the youngest looks so much like my sister I couldn’t stop looking in wonder at her pictures. Was she a nice person, was she happy? I surmised that she’s happy she’s in the business she is, but deeply insecure about certain aspects of it. But then this is social media. Can you ever really tell anything about a person and their life from a bunch of tweets?

It also made me think just how much of ourselves we put out there on the internet. Yes we can change our FB setting to Fort Knox level of security, but that means jack if you use Twitter or Instagram or any other myriad of social media thats out there. I rarely use Twitter (just can’t get my head around how negative it can be) but I have other accounts. I write this blog, which is free and open for all the world to see. It’s my choice to write here, and I have to be OK with the audience it could potentially reach. It’s a truth I think we’re all well aware of, but in order to sleep at night we push to the back of our minds. And the saddest thing for me is it’s not the strangers who could be looking at my pages without me knowing that worry me, but those closer to me, like extended family.

I thought about following my cousins on Twitter, or friending them on FB, but I knew I’d just be doing it out of curiosity. And if it bothers me to think they could be looking at my stuff then maybe it’d bother them to know that’d I’d been looking at theirs. Maybe their parents don’t yet know the things I now do. Maybe they don’t want their parents to know. I hope thats not the case. If I can find out this easily, anyone can.

I closed my cousin’s Twitter page and went to check my security settings.

And Google my own name.