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Monthly Archives: February 2012

A little insight

This is lots of fun. I was tagged by Charlotte, now it’s my turn…

THE RULES
1. Post these rules
2. Post 11 random things about yourself
3. Answer the questions provided by the one who tagged you
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag
5. Go to their blog and tell them they’ve been tagged!
11 Random things…

1. I want a horse so badly
2. My favourite song is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Dire Straits
3. Until I had children I had never changed a nappy
4. I can play the flute (badly)
5. I lived in Dubai for 2 years when I was 18
6. I have a massive crush on Jon Bon Jovi
7. I can touch my nose with my tongue
8. I’m terrified of earwigs
9. I can’t whistle
10. I wanted to be a vet until I did my work experience at a vet hospital and watched a post-mortem on a dog
11. I never drink a cup of tea straight away, it has to be lukewarm

Now for my questions from Charlotte…

1. What is your favourite book?
The Lovely Bones or The Memory Keepers Daughter. Both read years before the films came out and both tainted by the films

2. Who would you have play you in your life story?
Natalie Portman. I look nothing like her but I adore everything she does

3. Heels or flats?
Flats. Unless I’m out without my (5ft 5) husband when I slip on my highest pair of heels. Then fall over.

4. Describe yourself in six words before becoming a Mama.
Ambitious, materialistic, carefree, sociable, impatient, tidy (3 of these still hold true)

5. Do you have any religious beliefs?
Nope.

6. If you could be anything, what would you be?
A cat. They sleep all day for crying out loud!

7. What makes you cringe?
Grown-ups talking baby talk. To grown-ups.

8. Do you have a quote you live by?
Follow your dreams. Not a quote so much as a philosophy I live by. Nothing is out of reach.

9. What is your biggest fear?
Losing my children, and flying. Let’s not talk about what the thought of getting on a plane with my children does to me.

10. Your favourite place in the world is?
Wow, that’s hard. Don’t know if it’s my ultimate favourite but Aviemore in Scotland is up there. Although the landscape is stunning, it’s the memories which make it beautiful.

11. What makes your heart flutter?
A spontaneous kiss from someone I love.

Now my questions for Born in 2011, More Than Toast, and Red Boots

1. If you hadn’t given your child(ren) the names you did, what would they have been called?
2. What’s the funniest thing you’ve done whilst drunk?
3. What’s your guilty pleasure?
4. What did you want to be when you were little?
5. What’s your favourite feature about yourself?
6. When was the last time you cried?
7. What were you doing when you were 20?
8. If you won the lottery, what would be your first 3 purchases?
9. What’s the best present you’ve ever received?
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?
11. What was your best job?

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Cake Club: Apple and raisin cake

If there were an X-Factor style contest for cakes (Cake-Factor, if you will), this would be the one on stage at the end, surrounded by sparkly ticker tape singing ‘You Raise Me Up’. Incidentally, how amazing would a Cake-Factor be? Bagsy head judge.

Yep, this is my go-to cake, the one I come back to evey time I need a comforting internal hug of the cakey bakey kind. I first ate it at the christening of a friend’s baby years ago. Her Mum had baked it, eshewing the traditional stodgy fruitcake and, my what a good choice. I found the recipe online, adapted from a WI recipe from a member of an online recipe sharing forum.

You will need…

350g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
150g butter
150g caster sugar
350g apples (I’ve used both eating and cooking apples and it works well with each)
25g demerara sugar plus extra for sprinkling
1tsp ground cinnamon
115g raisins or sultanas
2 eggs
125ml milk

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees/160 fan.

Peel and core the apples then slice finely. Mix with 25g of the demerara sugar and the cinnamon until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift the baking powder and flour in together then rub the butter in until you have fine breadcrumbs (or make life easy for youself and pulse in a food processor until you have the same effect). Stir in the caster sugar.

Mix the apples into the flour mixture, followed by the raisins or sultananas.

Stir in the eggs and enough milk (you may not need the full amount) to form a soft, gloopy dough which dollops easily of the spoon when you lift it up.

Spoon the dough into the prepared tin, level out and sprinkle with the rest of the demerara sugar.

Bake for 1-1.5 hours until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the top starts to burn, pop a bit of tin foil over the tin.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack. I have never managed to cool this cake completely. It’s at it’s absolute best when served warm, in a bowl, with masses of custard. Delish. Enjoy!

Rainbows apologise for angry skies

This makes me sad

I’ve found the last few months really hard. I’m not good at staying in, less so when I have a 2 and a 3 year old to entertain at the same time. I hear other parents (admittedly usually of older children) talking about things they’re doing with their children all day, having a lovely time painting, making things and generally creating an image of parent-child harmony which, frankly, doesn’t exist in hour house. My two a) don’t sit still for a minute and b) would actually rather be pushing tractors around the floor, mooing at each other.

I’d love to say we all sit at the kitchen table enjoying arts & crafts and doing jigsaws but we don’t. I’ve attempted painting once with the 2 of them and after Max ate a sponge and drank the red paint I decided to call it a day. I frequently feel guilty that I don’t sit with my kids and enjoy this bonding time but it is just. Too. Stressful. No, we prefer to dance like idiots, play hide & seek and see who can make the tallest tower out of giant Lego.

Finn came home from pre-school today with a piece of paper with the alphabet on, with tracing paper stapled over the top. They’ve been spending some time today tracing the letters and one of the staff had written ‘writing free hand needed alot of support’. Cue massive attack of Mum guilt. Are the other kids confidently holding a pencil and writing letters? Writing their name? Reading ‘War and Peace’?

Should I be spending more time with him working on his reading and writing? Will it hold him back when he starts school in September? When I was pregnant I had grand plans of sitting next to my son, teaching him to read and write before he starts school, giving him a good head start, getting ready to receive a scholarship for academic excellence. Well, life ain’t like that. I’d love nothing more than to sit with him and do the above but I have another (very demanding) child who also needs my attention and has NO interest in sitting amusing himself and just wants to play cars with his brother (who would actually rather be playing with his brother than repeating ‘esss for snake, esss for snake’ again and again).

Our idea of fun is being outside. In the summer we play in the garden, we go for long walks with the dog, we go and see the trains at our local steam railway, we go to the park, out on our bikes. This is how we spend our parent/child time and to me, is just as important as the other stuff. They know the names of some species of butterfly, different birds, breeds of dog. They know that the leaves fall off the trees in Autumn and grow back in the spring. They pick blackberries and help me make pies with them. They know to stop, look and listen when crossing a road. They imagine shapes in clouds. They play with shadows. These are as important as tracing an ‘a’, no?

So, I realised this week that this is why I’ve been struggling. It’s been too cold, wet and miserable for us to go out and do our things. We’ve had to learn to rein in the energy and use it for other purposes. Yes, we’ve been totally stir crazy. We’ve shouted, squabbled and tried our best to harness the energy into other activities but I just think we’re made for the outdoors. Next winter will be different, Finn will be at school and more attuned to quieter activities, Max will (please, God) have calmed down and I’d love to think we can sit and get crafty without fighting, stress or, uh, toxic poisoning.

In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for spring and heading off to this (thanks to Jess) so we can make as much mess as we like with full protective gear, more structure and someone else to clear up at the end. And I’ll make sure the red paint stays firmly in the pot, thanks Max.

Seven years…

So today , we celebrate our wedding anniversary. 7 Years ago today, on a gorgeous spring-like day much like today in Bristol we tied the knot. We married in Andy’s family church in Winterbourne, the vicar who married us is the same vicar who christened Andy 32 years previously which I find incredibly romantic.

My wedding present to Andy was an E-Type Jag for 3 days, a car he’s lusted after for years and is what he has in his mind when he’s had a hard day. One day, when we can, it will be his reward for years of hard work. He drove us to a beautiful tythe barn in Tetbury, filled with fairy lights and playing our favourite songs in the background.

It was the perfect venue for our winter wedding. We ate lamb shanks, drank champagne and danced all night to a ceilidh band. We even had snow as I went to get my bags out of the car in the evening. The venue was filled with our nearest and dearest and up until then, it was the best day of my life (I’ve since, of course had 2 children so the best was yet to come at this point!)

We’re not ones for gushing outpourings of love so I won’t start now (and certainly not so publicly!) but I will say that the last 7 years have been amazing. They’ve given us 2 beautiful children, an exciting new start professionally (our ‘third child’), some great travel experiences and many, many happy memories along the way. We’ve gone from 2 people starting out on an uncertain future to one family, sharing the same wishes, hopes and dreams. Here’s to many more memories to be made…

Bye-bye baby belly

I wrote a post for my work blog a while back on how much pressure there is on Mums to lose weight after having a baby. The post got the most hits of all our articles so I thought I’d share it on here too.

I found it incredibly hard to lose weight after each pregnancy. Both times I lost the initial stone of baby, fluid and whatever the hell else comes out after having a baby (was anyone else terrified when they saw what had come out of their body post-childbirth? Another thing they don’t tell you when you’re pregnant: you will sit, clutching your newborn in what looks like a murder scene).

The rest of whatever I put on clung to my hips, boobs, belly and bum for dear life until I finished breadstfeeding. I lost not an ounce until they were weaned. I think in my mind I was probably thinking ‘an extra 500 calories a day-pass the biscuits’ and taking on more than I needed but hey, I was knackered, I was stressed, I deserved a few biccies, right?

Although I’m now the same weight as before I got pregnant, there’s no doubt that my body has completely changed. My hips are bigger and I wonder if my stomach will ever be flat again (it better be by July, I have a pool party to go to don’cha know?)

I’m still working hard to get to a point where I’m comfortable in my own skin again but I wonder if it’s possible after 2 pregnancies? Anyone out there achieved it post-baby? I’d love to hear from other people in my position. In the meantime, take a peek at the article here.

A round-up

I regulary read ’round up’ posts on other blogs (I particularly like Abigail’s) and until now thought my life was too boring uneventful to fill an entire post with our goings-on Chez Sherlock.

Well, after having a quick flick through my photos (turns out I’m pretty snap-happy since getting my new iPhone) it looks like our actually-quite-busy-after-all life is enough to fill a post. So, according to my phone, here was our week…

Got me some new specs (I can seeee!)

I met with a very lovely friend last week for her birthday and we shared an amazing (and very posh) afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols. It’s rare that I get the chance to go out without the kids and be, you know, me again so as her birthday coincided with a work day I decided it’d be rude not to accompany her whilst the kids were in nursery. We had a selection of mini-rolls, fresh (and warm) scones with clotted cream and jam and various treat-sized cakes. If I was rich, I’d do this every week.

Friday was a snow-day. So, the amount of the white stuff was pretty pathetic here but we used it as an excuse to have a duvet day. For the first time EVER, we stayed in our jammies til lunchtime and crawled back into bed after breakfast armed with blankets and DVDs. The kiddos were both feverish so we snoozed and lazed the morning away. So cosy.

Saturday night was a homemade-pizza-and-wine kinda evening. Since attempting a homemade pizza a few years back I can never enjoy a shop-bought one again. It’s so easy to make and I literally just chuck whatever I have to hand on top of it. This night it was chorizo, mushrooms, olives and peppers. Amaze.

Sunday, I got my running Mojo back. Since running the Bath Half Marathon last year I’ve completely lost all enthusiasm for running and have been trying (and failing) to get back into it since the summer. I hit the treadmill, just to test the waters, expecting to do 15-20 minutes but found myself carrying on for 4 miles. 4 MILES! It took 41 minutes and I was chuffed to bits since I’d not run for 3 months or so. I could barely walk for 2 days afterwards but that’s besides the point, right?

The lovey Kimberlee invited us to celebrate her gorgeous son Henry’s first birthday over the weekend. It was at a soft play centre and was manic to say the least with crazed kids, eyes glazed over shooting around the place but the boys loved it. Little Henry seemed to enjoy himself too with a huge pile of prezzies to work his way through at the end.

There are a few people I regularly talk to on Twitter and Kimberlee is one of them. Abigail and Jo were there too and it’s lovely to put faces to Tweeters. I’m still quite new to Twitter but love how it’s bringing me together with such great people and starting you give me (and the boys) a busier social life. Oh, and I can’t mention the party without giving credit to the cake. Kimberlee runs a baking business and that lady has serious talent. Henry celebrated with an amazing chocolatey triple-decker creation and thanks to the run I enjoyed it guilt-free. The best way.

 

 

Cake Club: Ginger cake

 

The recipe calls it ‘Gingerbread’ which, I guess technically it is but gingerbread just makes me think of gingerbread men and other biscuity little guys so it shall henceforth be known as ginger cake. A much more accurate description for it’s lovely, spongy, gooey yumminess.

For the first time in years I actually baked alone. ALONE. No sticky fingers poking into the butter, curious hands scooping out the sugar or small people fighting over who gets to lick the spoon. No, apparently playing farms was much more appealing today so I grabbed the opportunity to have the kitchen all to myself for 20 minutes. Until there was a dispute between the farmers requiring urgent intervention.

I have adapted the recipe from The Great British Book of Baking (I am obsessed with these books, I bow down to the God and Goddess of baking, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry).

You will need:

225g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
115g butter, chilled and cubed
115g treacle
115g golden syrup
115g dark brown sugar
275ml milk (not skimmed)
1 egg, beaten

Grease and line a 900g loaf tin. Or if, like me, you can’t be doing with the faff, just buy some loaf tin liners and bung one in. Heat the oven to 180 c/350 f/gas 4.

Spoon the treacle and golden syrup into a pan and heat until runny. Put the milk and sugar in another pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leave both to cool until lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, do what I did and chuck it all in a food processor and whizz until you have the same texture (seriously, Mary Berry, how much time do you think I have?)

Whisk the milk into the flour mix, quickly followed by the treacle mixture and egg. Continue whisking until you have a thick consistency like double cream. I whisked by hand and stopped when my arm hurt so not for long. My mixture was quite lumpy but I figured it’d still be fine.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning out then wrap in foil and leave for at least a day before cutting*

* Like I’m capable of waiting 24 whole hours to cut into this baby. Enjoy!