Monday, 31 August 2009

A new term, a new me

It's nearly time to go back to work (Wednesday). It always feels like a new start, a new year and time to assess.

Over that last few months I have felt like a change. A change of me. Slowly I have reawakened an interest in how I look and how I feel. I've been more energetic, I've lost a few pounds, I feel better. I have made a conscious effort to change my wardrobe, introduce more colour into my life. I've splashed out on fabulous funky jewellery in a myraid of colours and I've even bought new glasses in purple and pink:

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My new work wardrobe for this term is not three suits and five V-neck sweaters from the Next Directory as it has been for the last five years, no, I've bought a coordinating work wardrobe of trousers, skirts, blouses and a jacket in a mixture of greys, purples and berry colours. I've only allowed myself one suit (for Parents' Evenings).


What has prompted this metamorphis?

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with my birthday next month (the big four-oh!). I know it is normal to take stock when reaching a milestone birthday, but to be honest, it really doesn't bother me being 40, it's an excuse for a weekend away and a meal with family and friends. No, I think it's more to do with the stage my daughter is at.

When she was younger she took up all my spare time. It felt like my life was either working or looking after her (hence Working Mum on the Verge!). There was no time for shopping, for haircuts, for exercise, manicures, pedicures, ie no time for me.

Now she is able to play independently (indeed she now shoos me away from her room!), I find I have some time for myself. I have time to blow dry my hair, paint my nails, apply body butter!

Not only that, since she started school I haven't had to hand over £6500 a year to my fabulous childminder (not that I begrudged a penny; she was truly fabulous and I still miss her support and advice). And although most of that is now going on this money pit of a house (slight caustic tone there), there is now some extra cash for holidays, clothes, haircuts and make up that wasn't there before.

Is this a normal stage for mums to go through? Have I just emerged from a phase that women go through following childbirth? Is this Working Mum on the Verge of a breakthrough rather than a breakdown?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

How to cook Sunday lunch without using an oven

I took on board your suggestions of dialling for a pizza or getting fish and chips, but I felt I had to conjure up a homecooked meal for my family this weekend. If you've missed what I'm talking about - I've cleaned my oven and now want to create sunday lunch for my family without using it and getting it dirty again. I had a little think and I've come up with this:

Salmon baked on a bed of leeks with a honey and mustard glaze
(cooked in microwave; fish is always better cooked in a microwave)

Leek and Gruyere Tart (for vegetarian sister-in-law)
(bought from Tesco and cooked in combination oven in microwave)

New Potatoes
(all cooked on hob)

Delia's Tiramisu
Good Food's White Chocolate & Berry Cheesecake
(both made the day before and kept in fridge)


Do you think anyone will notice?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Just call me Nigella

I think I've been possessed by some weird Domestic Goddess Spirit now. Following on from my cupcake course and revamping the kitchen, I felt inspired to do some baking. Looking through my bible:

I read a note from the Goddess Nigella about making muffins for breakfast by weighing out your ingredients the night before and just mixing it all together in the morning and baking them.

So, yesterday, daughter and I went and picked some more blackberries and after she'd gone to bed I weighed out the ingredients for the muffins.

This morning I put the oven on, mixed the wet and dry ingredients together and 20 mins later we were eating blackberry muffins for breakfast!

Domestic Goddess or what?

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(Don't worry, it won't last, I'm back to school next week and it'll be Weetabix again)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Everything but the kitchen sink

While work on the hall, stairs and landing has been halted pending the arrival of a plumber to fix the shower, I thought I would get on with my other summer house project - finishing the kitchen.

The kitchen was one of the first rooms to be done in the house two and a half years ago and, sufferering from decision overload, I just painted it cream and put all the kitchen paraphenalia from our old house in it. It's a gorgeous kitchen, but I felt it needed a bit of dressing.

So, this summer, I introduced some colour by painting my photo wall a lovely colour of green/blue (Crown Fashion for Walls in Carnaby):

Then I set about accessorising with a modern twist on traditional farmhouse picking out the cream colour to contrast with the black granite:

I invested in an Aga hob top kettle to free space on the worktop (and be more energy efficient) and I decided to create a little 'cupcake baking' area in the corner (inspired by the course I went on last Saturday) with kilner jars of marshmallows, dolly mixtures and love hearts:

I also spent hours cleaning my oven which now looks like this:

So you can see I've been rather busy for the last few days.

Now, my family are coming for lunch on Sunday, what can I cook that won't require the oven?

Well, I'm not getting it mucky again now I've cleaned it!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Cupcakes Galore!

Look what I did!

I've had the best day ever!!!!

I've been to Leah's Pantry at Harrop Fold Farm, Macclesfield for the "Cupcakes Galore" course and it was fab!

(I must point out that I haven't been asked to write a review for this, I just went with my friend for fun and had such a good time, I had to blog about it)

Everything about the day was just so perfect, from Leah's fabulous kitchen, to the wonderful lunch in the award winning B&B at the farm, to the great time I had making and decorating cupcakes. There were only seven people on the course held in Leah's own kitchen so it was lovely and intimate and we had her undivided attention as we attempted to make fondant icing roses or watermelons. All our ingredients were weighed out ready for us and there was no washing up at the end! Now that's what I call baking! I really couldn't fault anything on the course at all.

Now, I'm sure you want to see the results (luckily husband and daughter were out at the football when I got home so I was able to take some photos before they descended and ate them) so here's what I came home with:

Now, ready for a closer look?

Fancy a chocolate brownie cake with rocky road topping?

Or how about a lemon meringue cake?

Blueberry cake with frosted blackberry?

or chocolate dipped strawberry?

Or how about my favourite - the fruit cocktails?

How fantastic are they?

And what fun I had making them!

Now, time to book on the Christmas Cupcake Course, I think!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow ......

Here's a clue:

(Working Mum and Daughter's Valentine Cupcakes)

I'm going on a cupcake course!

I'm so excited!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Working Mum Tip - Free Food

In these credit crunched times we could all do with a little financial break, so here's a WM tip - get some Free Food! Grow your own, beg from family and search the hedgerows!

We have a plum tree in our garden (inherited with the house) that has just given a bumper crop and we've enjoyed plum cobblers and plum crumbles galore.

I have a rhubarb plant that my dad gave me (for free) which we can start harvesting next year. Yummy rhubarb and strawberry cobbler!

My mum and dad have a bramley apple tree and have just given me a huge box full which I have wrapped in newspaper to last the autumn. They also have some blackcurrant bushes and usually pass me a pound or two.

And finally, daughter and I have just started our annual blackberry picking trips. Just find some open land with a hedge or a fence and you'll probably find some blackberry bushes. Even as a working mum, I can pick the blackberries in the still light evenings after work.

As an aside, if any of you saw that programme on Wednesday with the Duchess of York rewriting the Geography of South Manchester (Northern Moor is not in deepest, darkest Wythenshawe, she stayed in Baguley and she drove around Altrincham!) then daughter and I went blackberry picking round the back of Northern Moor, so even quite built up suburban areas have blackberries.

Just pick a load, rinse them, dry on kitchen roll, spread out on a baking tray and freeze for a couple of hours. Transfer to freezer bags and Bob's your uncle!

Apple and blackberry pie, blackberry and raspberry crumble, Nigella's Anglo Italian Trifle, Summer Pudding ............. mmmmmmmmmm!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Not what I had in mind

I'm beginning to regret buying husband a Wii for his birthday. I had this image of a happy family playing sports and doing fitness exercises while the rain poured down outside (yes, I was taken in by the Rednap family on the advert). Unfortunately, it hasn't quite turned out like that. The problem was, I forgot that husband was an independent entity who could go on the internet and buy other games for it without asking my permission.

He has now bought himself "Tiger Woods Golf" game. While the sun shone last week, he was practising his golf swing ....... indoors!

I've threatened to cancel his Golf Club membership.

He has also bought daughter "Me and My Horse" so she wants to groom and train her horse, Sandy, all the time. I've practically had to force her out of the patio doors into the garden.

She has now been limited to one hour per day on the Wii.

I wanted to use Wii Fit to get a bit fitter and healthier, but I can't get a look in. I can't get on the thing except after daughter has gone to bed and the minute she hears me doing the Step Aerobics she comes downstairs to tell me it isn't fair that I'm playing on the Wii while she has to go to bed. Don't worry, she got short shrift.

What happened to my vision of a happy family bowling together?

I'll tell you what.

In an effort to have my happy family bowling experience, we all went to TenPin Bowling Alley at Cheshire Oaks!

Not what I had in mind!

Monday, 17 August 2009

My Birthday List

Thank you to all my bloggy friends who put up with my last miserable post and let me know that it's okay to feel like that once in a while. I feel better about it now. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself, count my blessings and look forward to my up and coming birthday (next month).

Husband has asked me to make a list of what I want for my birthday. Don't think he's copping out of thinking of something, he isn't. He's usually quite good at thinking of presents, but he's very wary. You have to understand that I am a very particular,(some say picky), person who can be very difficult to buy for, so a little point in the right direction can help. Especially when it's a big birthday and I'm likely to remember this one for a very long time!

So I had a little think about a few things I'd like that I wouldn't buy for myself and this is the list so far:

Ipod Touch
(I'm being optimistic here, it won't happen)

Madeleine Peyroux CD

Christian Dior Dolce Vita perfume

Thornton's Continental Chocolates

Wii My Fitness Coach Get in Shape
(for after I've eaten the chocolates)

Boots Ingredients Mango & Orange Blossom Shower Gel, Bath Foam and Body Butter
(ooo, I'm relaxing just thinking about those)

Ainsley Harriott's "Just Five Ingredients" Book
(to make life a little easier)

Mini Cooper with Union Jack trim

* * * * * * * *

Just thought I'd slip that last one in; well, a girl can dream, can't she?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Doing up the house part 764

I seem to have given the impression in my last post that I am sweetness personified whilst doing all these jobs on the house. Well, I'm not, I'm fed up. It it feels like we've been 'doing up the house' for ever. This house is a big factor in how down I feel at the moment so I thought I would blog about it and get it off my chest:

When we bought this place we did the sums, we made lists, we got quotes. We estimated two years and £50,000. Even though we knew it would be a lot of work, it was the only way we could afford a family home in a nice area and at least we'd have our choices and not someone else's. It's now been nearly three years and I am not going to admit how much over budget it has gone.

It's taking such a long time, so much money and all my energy and enthusiasm to turn this neglected 1950s detached house into a beautiful family home. We started by getting the whole place rewired which created mess in every room as the electricians channelled up walls, pulled up floorboards and cut holes in ceilings. We replaced the rotting windows, the inoperable kitchen and two condemned bathrooms and have worked our way round the house having every room gutted and replastered before decorating and having new radiators, carpets and light fittings put in. A lot of the work we have done ourselves to save money, but specialist work required many tradesmen with whom we are now on Christmas card exchanging terms!

We are, however, getting closer to the end (0f the inside, at least). We've destroyed and rebuilt all of the rooms and we are on the last indoor part; the hall, stairs and landing. Now this involves a lot of work, tradesmen, coordination, time, money and effort and I'm not sure I can keep going.

Firstly we've stripped it all and got the plumber to remove the radiator. We've had a new front door and frame fitted and the old one and the old porch door taken away, but now the old silcone needs removing from the bricks in the porch and that will take some time. We've had a disaster with the shower leaking into the hall and have had to pull part of the hall ceiling down. The plasterers are booked to replaster the whole place in two weeks, but they can't do that until the bathroom company fix the shower. The bathroom company are refusing to do it under the warranty even though our plumber, Keith, has looked at it and said that the shower screen was not fitted correctly in the first place. I can no longer speak to the bathroom company without being near to tears, husband has taken this job on.

Our joiner (who, btw, is my fabulous childminder's husband) is going to cut out the plywood from the staircase and replace it with spindles, but, to save costs, I am stripping the fifty year old paint from the newel posts and handrails and this is taking forever. And I can only do it when daughter is out of the house because I'm not sure if the paint contains lead and I have to wear a mask while I do it. I've also been out looking for interior doors and having to replace ten doors plus a fire door for the garage is going to cost us £1000 before fitting costs. I'm sorely tempted to compromise and buy cheaper doors and handles, but we agreed to renovate this house with good quality fixtures and fittings and I would spend years wishing I had done if I don't. (We intend staying here until we retire)

I know doing up a house is not a major headache, it's not life and death, there are worse problems in life. I know I'm very lucky to have such a house and that we both have jobs to pay the horrendous mortgage and to pay for the renovations, especially in these times where people are losing jobs and homes. My motto for the past three years has been "No-one's ill, no-one's dying" to try to put it all in persepective, but I just feel so fed up with the whole place at the moment.

One day I will look back on this and laugh.

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I will, won't I?

Friday, 14 August 2009

While the daughter's away .......

Daughter has been safely delivered to grandparents who will entertain and spoil her for two days before depositing her back at our door and then collapsing in an exhausted heap. Husband was quite right, in her absence, there are jobs to be done:
  • clean patio
  • paint daughter's playhouse in garden
  • supervise installation of new front door and frame
  • strip paint from staircase
  • argue with bathroom company about their liability for our leaking shower (we've had to pull down the ceiling in the hall where the plasterboard has now rotted from the leak)
  • organise under stairs cupboard
  • pursuade, cagole, threaten joiner to come and fix architraves and skirtings before plasterers come
  • clear out and fumigate daughter's bedroom and try to throw away assorted crap and baby items while she is away and hope she doesn't notice (not a chance)
So far:
  • husband has scrubbed patio and painted daughter's playhouse
  • new front door and frame have been successfully installed and are looking beautiful (photos later)
  • I've spent two hours stripping paint (in a fetching respirator mask) and have done one newel post and about 1.5m of handrail (it's going to be a long job)
  • husband has argued unsuccessfully with bathroom company who want £50 to come and find out why shower is leaking (ie what they've done wrong)
  • joiner promises to call this weekend to sort out a list of jobs (not to do them, you notice, just to make a list!)
  • I've spent two hours in daughter's bedroom cleaning, tidying and throwing out stuff. It now looks like someone could sleep in there (is she a teenager before her time?)
Then we kind of went off the list:
  • husband has beaten my scores on several balance games on Wii Fit (although he can't beat my ski jump!) and is now shooting people in "Call of Duty"
  • I've been drawn, like Odysseus to the Sirens, to the laptop to do a bit of blogging
So I guess that's the end of the jobs for today!

However, despite the jobs, we are taking advantage of being childless by treating ourselves and going out for a meal tonight.

Yes, going out, in the evening, for a meal, together.

Quite a novel experience.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ulterior motive? Moi?

Last weekend I was talking to my mum and I mentioned that daughter hadn't been to stay with them for over a year. It's not that they don't want her, but both my parents still work (dad full-time and mum part-time) and with daughter at school now, it is just difficult to fit it in. We visit a lot at weekends, but Izzy loves to stay there on her own and be spoiled rotten (grandparents' prerogative).

Suddenly my mum jumped up and said, "We could have her next weekend!"

"Great!" I said, "She'll love that"

"Uh, oh" said husband.

"What?" I asked.

"Well, if Izzy is staying with your parents, that means you have a list of jobs for us to do"

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Damn, he knows me too well!

Monday, 10 August 2009

More trophies!!

Must be the award season as I've received the following from Maternal Tales and Catharine Withenay:

and this one from (Very) Lost in France:

I should pass them each on to five other blogs, but as I've just spent the last two hours catching up on all the blog reading I missed while I was away, I'm just about blogged out. (I had unfettered access to the laptop because husband is out celebrating City's last season with his mate - Speedway at Belle Vue followed by a curry in Rusholme - you can see why he didn't invite me)

First ten commentors can choose which they want - you're all fabulous!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Conversation I had today

Husband: What's for tea tonight?

Me: Gigantes

Him: What's that?

Me: It's a Greek dish made from butterbeans cooked slowly in tomatoes, onion and garlic

Him: Any meat?

Me: No, it's vegetarian, the beans provide protein

Him: Anything with it?

Me: There's some wholemeal soda bread, you can toast it if you want

Pause for thought...........

Him: So that's baked beans on toast then?

I just despair!

Friday, 7 August 2009

You know you've accepted Motherhood when ....

This year, in September, I reach the ripe old age of 40 (more on that milestone later). So husband asked me what I would like to do to celebrate. I suggested that we go away for a weekend to a posh hotel in the Lake District.

"Just the two of us?" he asked.

"Oh no, the three of us!" I replied.

That's when I realised that I'd accepted motherhood.

It's no secret that I found it difficult to adapt from DINK to Working Mum. I'd often hanker after my old life: gym membership, lazy weekends, exotic holidays, lie ins, posh restaurants, etc. But those days are gone. Now, given the chance of a little bit of my old life back, a weekend away with husband in posh hotel, what do I want? To take daughter with us!

So husband has done a fantastic job of finding somewhere suitable and has booked us a weekend here:

Children welcome. Family rooms. Aftenoon tea for children. Babysitting service while parents have dinner in restaurant. Swimming pool for daddy and daughter while mummy has massage in spa. Free entry to local animal park for fresh air and fun. Perfect!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I'd have got less for armed robbery!

Sixteen years ago today.......

Yes, it's our 16th Wedding Anniversary today.

And for all those friends of mine who read my blog and are looking at those photos and laughing, these are for you:

Also sixteen years ago today.............

Still laughing?

I thought not.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Izzy the Mad Scientist

Has anyone watched "Bang goes the Theory" yet? I had to record it with being away, but now that I've seen the first episode, I can safely say that I love Dr Yan! Who wouldn't? A man who can fry eggs in a piece of newspaper!

The best bit for me (and Izzy) though was the vortex cannon. How much fun is that?

The programme was a little reminiscent of Tomorrow's World, but with a more modern look and feel. The crazy experiments were just the thing to inspire and excite me when I was younger and they are doing the same for my daughter:

Today I caught her in the bathroom mixing shampoo, soap and bubble bath together like a mad scientist saying things like "And that's how you get carbon dioxide. Yes, dioxide!" to her teddies!

She then came and showed me the resulting 'gel' mixture she'd made which she informed me was green because she'd used blue Matey and yellow banana bubble bath.

What will she be like after we've visited the "Bang Goes the Theory Roadshow"?

Think I'd better hide all the cleaning fluids!

(Next episode tonight at 7.30pm on BBC1)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Laugh? I thought my sides had split!


I have not laughed so much in ages.


One word:


I bought husband a Wii with Wii Sports and Wii Fit last week for his birthday. He's wanted one for a while and I thought that the horrible, rainy summer holiday we're having could be brightened up by a bit of lounge sports, given that we can't go outside to play. (Welly wanging practice has been suspended)

I just didn't realise how funny it would be.

Just the sight of the Miis alone makes me giggle to start with. He's made ones of my mum and dad and his mum. Seeing my dad playing baseball is funny enough, but my MIL making home runs...... priceless!!

But nothing compares to watching real people doing the sports:

There was the sight of husband doing the ski jump. I was on the floor laughing with tears rolling down my face.

My attempt at the slalom was equally debilitating as I couldn't sway for laughing.

Watching Izzy trying to do step aerobics by following her Grandad's Mii on the screen had me in fits.

I am now aching all over from the tennis, skiing, boxing, aerobics, baseball and football, not to mention the laughing.

But the best bit...........

........... watching Izzy beat husband at golf!!

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What is his golf membership for?

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Izzy the Fish

This week daughter went for an intensive week of swimming lessons at the local pool. She has swimming lessons every week at school and husband takes her swimming a couple of times a month (their "daddy and daughter" thing), but she didn't seem to be making much progress. She wouldn't put her head under the water and she wouldn't swim without arm bands. She was happy in the water, but not really learning to swim.

As a working mum, I couldn't fit in extra swimming lessons each week during term time (I had hoped the school lessons would be enough), so I thought the intensive week in the holidays was worth a shot. Here's how it went:

On Monday she was very wary.

On Tuesday she took off the arm bands.

By Wednesday she was jumping in and getting her head wet.

On Thursday she got her 25m badge.

Yesterday she got her 50m badge.


(Many, many thanks to swimming teacher Jean at Trafford Leisure Centres)

I think I live in the 1950s

Just to return, ever so briefly, to the little girl down the road who came to play.

Yesterday her mum and dad got married.

No mention of it on Tuesday when they brought the five year old to play. I found out when I walked past their house yesterday and saw the 'Just Married' signs. I was talking to another neighbour today who confirmed that they had got married yesterday. Five years after their little girl was born.

I had assumed, in my old-fashioned, 1950s world that I live in, that because they had two children, and they were together, that they were already married.

Sometimes I'm so naiive.

Do I have out-dated values?

Is it old-fashioned of me to expect people to make a commitment to each other before they commit to having children?