Monday, January 15, 2018

sunday sense check #2

(I know it's actually Monday, but I had a spare 5 minutes to write this today, and I like my alliterative title too much to change it so forgive me the slight artistic licence!)


This weekend we watched Concussion with Will Smith, curled up in bed on Saturday night (just re-read that sentence and should clarify Will Smith was in the film, not curled up in bed with us). It was a film I had seen the trailer for a good year or so ago and I really enjoyed it. It was the true story of an immigrant pathologist who identified the disease process that caused long-term health problems in American Football players due to their numerous head injuries, and the difficulties he faced trying to get the findings taken seriously by the profession. It was  involving without being too dark, and I thought it was brilliantly acted. On the subject of dark, The Husband has been watching the latest series of Black Mirror. He tends to filter the episodes for me, as it is often over the edge of what I find entertaining, as thought-provoking as they are. I thought the ones I did watch were as clever as always, and am intrigued to see where it goes next.


Still coughing. T is mostly better but still is prone to coughing until he vomits each night so we are getting through a lot of washing. The Husband is still going with it too, especially at night, so not much sleep is being had round here one way or another. I'm feeling much better now though, which is something positive! On a chirpier note, I can't get this song out of my head, and there have been lots of dances around the kitchen with T when it comes on the radio. I'm usually a stickler for lyrics, if you've ever seen the film I Give It A Year, there is a running joke about misheard lyrics that is very true to life. The Husband's inability to ever sing the right words to a song is hilarious or frustrating depending on my mood! I was guilty of it myself with this song though, singing quite enthusiastically about being a "rebel with a kickstand" for rather longer than I care to admit.


Candles again, I have a "Relax" candle lit as I type, and it is lovely. It is also helping disguise the pervading smell of the fish we had for dinner. I always wonder why I don't cook more fish and then the aroma clings afterwards and I remember!


We went out for breakfast on Sunday to our local garden centre. I had been up since 5 with T, and we had our first breakfast around 6, so when The Husband suggested a trip out at 10 I was more than happy to let someone else cook a proper breakfast. I did do dinner for us and Grandad later on, so I got some time in the kitchen, having reflected on Instagram this week that I miss it when I don't make time to cook in a more relaxed way.


I'm feeling a little done with January already. I try very hard not to wish time away, ever conscious of how precious it is, but I am ready for us all to be feeling back to full health and getting a bit more sleep. I've got an exam in a week that I haven't started revising for and I've also got a hospital procedure due at the end of the month which I'm keen to get over and done with just so that I can stop worrying that something might go wrong. It feels like there is a lot to "get through" in the next few weeks, and as though we are just trying to survive the days rather than being the shining examples of ourselves we hope to start the year as. However, it is good to be here, taking a little time to light a candle, snuggle with the dog, and write a few words. The house feels like home, we have a gentle week ahead and I am headed for a reasonably early night after a lovely day spent with T. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

sunday sense check


Yesterday The Husband and I went to watch the latest Star Wars film at the cinema while my parents kindly had T for the day. The Husband despairs at how many classic films I have not seen, so over the Christmas break he brought me up to date will all 7 Star Wars films so that I could go with him to see number 8 and fully appreciate it! I really enjoyed it, and it was lovely to have some time just the two of us, even managing to go for breakfast before it started.


Coughing, mostly! Mine has gradually settled after a few sleepless nights, but as I write this T is napping and his coughing is punctuating the silence. I'm hoping it won't be long until we have all beaten the bug once and for all, I don't know many people who haven't had it and it seems to be lingering a little.


Freshly made coffee, courtesy of The Husband. This week I've also been making more of an effort to use some of the beautiful candles I have in almost every room of the house. I'm terrible at actually getting round to lighting them, but it makes such a difference to the mood.


We seem to have eaten a lot of pizza this week, and we are rapidly discovering that what used to serve two of us comfortably is now having to be portioned out for three, as T has decided he takes after his daddy in his love of pizza. After lots of treats over Christmas I am having another period off sugar, just to break some of the habits I had returned to.


I've been a little out of sorts these past few days, and it's been hard to put my finger on why. On a very superficial level I got a new phone and I always find the few days of transferring my number and getting re-set up can be a little tricky, especially at the moment while some of my accounts seem to be struggling to migrate across. I think more than that is the self-imposed pressure to start the year off on a positive, which for me means productive, note. I've devised a carefully drawn up plan of how and when I'm going to achieve all the different things I want to each week, be that calligraphy, photography, blogging, running or a host of other things. While I think it's good for me to recognise what things matter to me, and make time for them, I can start the year feeling under pressure to fill every minute. Particularly as we recover from our bugs, and get back into the swing of daily life after the break, I've gradually this week realised that it's just as good for me to have some earlier nights, later starts, and some moments of quiet that don't need to be filled with achievements. On that note I might make the most of what is left of nap time and sit peacefully with my book!

Monday, January 01, 2018

first things first

The first of January, the first day of a new week, month and year.

The first post for some time. It is strange to be back, I don't think I've ever had such a lengthy absence from blogging since I started, and I'm not altogether sure what happened. I suppose it was the realities of returning to work, balancing being a professional and a parent and the myriad of minutiae inbetween that insidiously absorb time until suddenly whole months have passed. In another way, though, I never really stopped. I have taken so many pictures, captured so many moments, written so many words in recent months, but all in my head. My commute to work is a particular source of creativity, as I have drafted whole posts, walked across a city playing with words and phrases that never made it beyond my imagination. I have stopped, for a fraction of moment, to notice a skyline, a shadow, a sunrise and taken a mental image, having neither the time nor the confidence to stop amongst the rush hour crowds and capture it properly.

I have often reflected that in some ways that is enough; to have developed the reflex of noticing, and appreciating, the tiny moments of the world around me, is positive in itself without actually needing to record it. In some ways it feels more genuine to acknowledge such sights, indulge in some internal wordplay, for the enjoyment alone, and not out of a need to share it, or in the hope of some form of feedback. Yet, despite that, here I am, because I missed the act of making some of those words and pictures more permanent, and in a time of promising to start new habits, I felt strongly that it was time to revisit one that has brought me joy.

This is the first post written on my new tablet-laptop hybrid that The Husband kindly got me for Christmas, having listened to me lament that if I was ever going to manage to blog again I needed to work out a way of doing it more efficiently. It is not the writing that I have issue with (ok, sometimes I dither and fret about whether the whole thing is cringingly self-indulgent as I hover over the publish button), but it is more what I believe is technically called workflow. I'm hoping this new set up might well make things more straightforward, but we shall see. I'm still wondering whether to move from blogger, and whether to scrap the whole thing and begin again, as there is so much I would change if I was starting from scratch now, but we shall see.

I also had my first ever attempt at a bullet journal today (blogger cliché bingo anyone?!). Rather than a whole new journal I have used the neglected squared paper in the back of my Filofax, yes I am still old-school when it comes to stationery, and have drawn up a few rudimentary pages. I will see how it goes, I can see it being a wonderful source of procrastination as I face an imminent exam in January.

And so the first awkward attempt at ending a blog post for 2018, hopefully I will be back again soon. Hopefully I will also revisit some much-loved and much-missed blogs in the coming weeks too. There is much to catch up on, but for now, Happy New Year.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: July

Hopefully I'll manage to sneak in this entry just before the link-up closes for this month's Cookery Calendar Challenge. I am somewhat short on pictures, not because I didn't take some, but because I could not find a way to make the dishes appear photogenic and I was wary that my photography might do a disservice to the recipes!

This month I used a new recipe book that The Husband bought for me. It is the recipe book that goes with Eat Well For Less, a television programme that we sometimes watch. I commented that it would be interesting to see some of the recipes they use, and The Husband proved himself to be a better listener than I sometimes give him credit for and got it for me.

Overall, I found this book really impressive. It is a very different style of book to the beautiful Rick Stein one I loved a few months ago, far more functional and practical, but a lot of thought has gone into how it is written. There is a lot of basic information at the start, and then some of the recipes have clever adaptations, such as making three different meals out of one base recipe. Additionally, it has a full meal planner for two weeks at the back, which includes plans for using leftovers of certain dishes, and a full shopping list to go along side them. I feel like it's a genuinely useful book, really accessible, and would be great for anyone who wants to improve their confidence with cooking in a structured way.

As a result, some of the recipes are incredibly basic, so much as I liked the sound of the chicken and pesto pasta, I didn't follow the recipe for this challenge as it was as simple as it sounds. The recipes I did choose though were all really successful, though as with other books, I was surprised that the curry dishes didn't include more vegetables, particularly for recipes that are supposed to be healthier where possible.

First up was Chicken Tikka Masala. Other than the lack of vegetables, it was a really simple, tasty dish.There was a little bit of marinating involved, but all of the ingredients were ones I already had in, and it made for a really enjoyable meal.

The Husband picked Chickpea and Sweetcorn Burgers, which were an amazing success. I didn't have bread rolls when I made them, so used wraps instead, and served them with some sweet potato fries, and they were brilliant. I was surprised that The Husband had picked them to begin with, but even more surprised by how much he raved about them, though I was inclined to agree with him. The flavour was great, and they were reminiscent of falafel, though far more successful than last time I tried to make it. The recipe also included a lovely salsa which was a nice addition, and I would like to try these again very soon!

Finally I made the Chicken Dhansak, which was a good dish for using the lentils sitting in the cupboard, and was also a really enjoyable way to cook chicken thighs, which I don't usually enjoy. Having made rather a huge amount as an attempt at batch cooking, I didn't end up eating it that night. However (and this gives you an insight into the lack of organisation in my freezer), I lifted out what I thought was chilli for tonight's dinner, only to find upon defrosting that it was in fact this dish. So I am able to report back and let you know that it was another really lovely meal, the honey adding a hint of sweetness and the chicken having become really tender.

Overall I was really pleased with the recipes I made from this book, and there are plenty more that I would like to try. Do head over to Penny's page to see what else people have been cooking this month, meanwhile I will go and pick out a book for August!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

first things first

The first of August.

The first year of parenthood is almost complete. I can't even fathom how we are here already! I am officially already back at work, although I'm actually using up annual leave before I return in September. So this is my final full month at home with T, and in these next few weeks he will have his Christening, his first birthday and his first taster sessions at nursery.

So many firsts ahead, but there were also plenty to be had in July. We had our first night away without T, who was beautifully behaved for his grandparents and barely noticed our absence. We, of course, spent the majority of our trip talking about him and looking at pictures of him and generally being the stereotypical parents away from their baby for the first night.

This last few weeks have also included our first real experience of a poorly baby. Nothing major, thankfully, but there have been high temperatures, and rashes, and copious amounts of coughing and snottiness. It has been more than a little worrying but he is absolutely back to full fitness now and as he gets over closer to taking his first steps he clambers about the house at increasing speed wreaking havoc at all times.

This weekend also brought another first for that beautiful dog in the picture. After eight weeks of training my lovely Millie passed her Kennel Club Bronze Award on Sunday. The examiner even commented on how exceptional her recall was for a beagle and I practically exploded with pride. She has definitely had her life turned upside down since T has arrived and has taken to it all with her typical good nature and so it was such a lovely moment for the two of us to have achieved something together and to be able to make such a huge fuss of her, putting her centre of attention for a little while.

I don't know how this blog will go in the coming months, I feel like each time I come to these posts it is the first time I have written in weeks, but the fact that I am still here tapping away means that I still plan to keep trying to stick with it in some guise or another.

I'm looking forward to August, even if it holds a few lasts as well as lots of firsts. I think back to this time last year and the waiting, and am so grateful for where we are today. Hoping you all have some lovely summer plans for the month ahead.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: June

Based on how well used the other books in the series are, I bought the latest book in the Hairy Bikers' healthy eating series as soon as I realised it had been released. The latest one is The Hairy Dieters Go Veggie and, as the title might give away, it is a vegetarian cookbook. I was excited to try this, especially as I've been gradually increasing the amount of meat-free cooking I do, but I really struggled to find two recipes I actually wanted to make.

Firstly, it is one of those irritating books where the list of ingredients include a "sub-recipe". For example, I was going to make a chestnut and mushroom pie until I realised that the already long list of ingredients included a portion of potato pastry. This is one of their healthy adaptations which involves making pastry from potatoes to reduce the calories, but it also added more steps and ingredients, as did the inclusion of mushroom stock, which was another sub-recipe listed at the back of the book. More than in other books, I also found that this one included some unusual ingredients that weren't readily available. Mushroom ketchup, for example, and Kashmiri chilli powder, both of which proved elusive when I did an online shop. 

So I wasn't particularly hopeful about the recipes I picked, as they felt like the best of a very limited bunch, and The Husband's face looked less than enthralled at the idea of a veggie tea when he got home from work. However, the Sweet Potato Saag Aloo was absolutely delicious. It even prompted The Husband to admit that he had enjoyed it more than he was expecting to, and I found it really simple to make. The sauce felt a little thin as I served it up but it was fine, and this was well-flavoured, hearty dish that we would have again.

The next dish was curried pumpkin fritters with coriander dipping sauce. I substituted the pumpkin for butternut squash, which was suggested in the recipe, and doubled up on the ingredient quantities. I expected The Husband would want something else after, but they were nice enough to be considered a meal in themselves. Again the flavours were really impressive, and the recipe was really simple and a definite success. T also enjoyed trying these, and the leftovers stored in the fridge and were handy for his meals, and my lunch over the following few days. I'm glad I doubled the quantity up, both because there was more than enough squash, and because it made a lovely meal.

So, overall, I don't know where I am at with this book. I've been really impressed by the recipes I tried but I'm still struggling to find many dishes that don't require obsscure ingredients or sneaky additional recipes, which means I don't feel particularly tempted to try many of the others. It's been a real contrast to last month's book when I couldn't stop making dishes from it, and still have some I want to try.

I'm not sure what book I shall delve in to next, but I shall definitely be joining in again next month. In the meantime, do check out the challenge on Penny's page, and see what other people have been making too.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

first things first

The first of July.

I'm feeling good about July. June was not a great month, there were plenty of great moments, but overall it was, what I believe is formally known as a bit of a flop. Right at the start of the month we met a friend for breakfast, and the waitress put the teapot down right in front of T, who promptly grabbed it before we could and scalded his hand. I'm only grateful that he only managed to slosh a little out of the spout rather than tip the whole thing over himself, and that autopilot kicked in and I got him to the toilets and under cold water almost as soon as I registered it was happening. He is absolutely fine now, and the blister has disappeared entirely, with no scarring, but much of the month was filled with bandages, dressings, appointments, worry, and a huge cloud of parental guilt. Add in my first visit back to work, which went brilliantly, but was hanging over me until it happened, lots of other niggles, including the most obnoxious cold-caller I have ever spoken to, and it made for a tense month over all.

However, today is a new month, and things are feeling much brighter already. This morning our beginners' running club did their first 5k of non-stop running, and as we rounded the corner to the finish, the rest of the club who had set off on their usual run ahead of us, were stood applauding us home. It was such a lovely, happy moment, and having for so long thought of running as a solo activity, I am thoroughly enjoying seeing it as a social sport.

July is my mum's birthday, and our wedding anniversary, and this will be our first as parents, and her first as a gran. We have a week away with T planned for our anniversary, followed by a night away just the two of us, our first time away from T overnight! 

July is also, officially, my first weeks back at work, as my 12 months of maternity leave comes to an end (how time has flown!). I am very lucky because I accrue my annual leave and bank holiday entitlement, and so I now take that in one block, which means although I will happily start to get paid again, I won't be going back to work physically until September, which I can still pretend is ages away yet.

This week will bring with it a trip out with a new friend, the first time we will have made the jump from chatting at various baby groups to actually socialising just the two of us (and babies too!), and also my first trip to the second of two book groups I have joined at the library. After a visit from a friend from work on Friday, catching up for the first time in months, I'll also be seeing another old work friend for her birthday tomorrow, and so its the first time in a while I've been feeling rather sociable.

So yes, July is feeling good, today there was ice-cream, and the park, and The Husband tidied while I was running so the spare bedrooms suddenly look like bedrooms rather than storage rooms for the first time since T was born. Tonight there has been Dr Who, and now a movie night, with our furry girl snuggled between us.

Wishing you all a very happy July.