Ghosts in the House.

Do all mothers have this feeling when the house is empty? Mister is away and girl-child is at her Grandad’s and I have this empty house and all these hours. I knew it was coming and I’d thought of all the brilliant child-free things I was going to do: knitting, writing, cleaning, baking, studying, crafting, meditating, yoga, Pilates. But now I feel panicked by what to do first. All these things I dream of doing when I don’t have time to do them (well maybe I don’t dream of cleaning ha) and now I have the time, I don’t know where to begin.

Last night when I went to bed, I thought how strange it was not to hear the distant rumble of Mister watching a film downstairs. I went into girl-childs room and closed the curtains, looked at her bed, her things, wondered if she was asleep yet. In the night I awoke a couple of times thinking I could hear her sleepy sighs through the baby monitor.

I’ve always known that I like to be alone. I need to be. At times, I crave it so much it drives me mad to not just have it. So it’s a bit of a mind-boggler to find that when I am alone, I just miss them.

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Autumn

The garden is damp. The plants have flopped over, or been battered down by the rain. The earth has tilted, so light becomes scarce. There is a 4ft sq of light that spans the edge of the garden and the hedge, and it creeps silently along that one edge of the garden from morning until mid afternoon, when all light is gone completely. I don’t love my garden in Autumn, it has to be said. The grass never dries out, the dew sits on the branches all day, quietly dripping onto the humus below. There are glimpses of joy – fat garden spiders hanging out in their copious webs, the leaves on the potted blueberry, which turn all the colours of autumn. The magenta stars of the asters, and the small blue flowers of the borage that has self seeded itself in the bath. The bath, which I planted earlier in summer to be a sensory seat – chamomile, lavender, thyme – is gushing forth, still. And the birds visiting the fat balls and peanuts we put out together. They peek their little heads out gof the hedge first to see if the coast is clear, then out they flutter for a nibble or a drink.

Generally though, I have to go a bit further afield than my garden in order to enjoy the splendour of the season, and so far I haven’t. I’m not sure why exactly. Mister and the girl child have – but I’ve opted to stay home and nest. To be alone, pottering, listening to podcasts, gathering my thoughts. It feels right somehow.

On a bright day, I have sat on the bench outside the back door, with steaming tea, breathing in the wet air, and I like that. When the heating comes on, and we must enshroud ourselves in restrictive layers and coats, those damp micro-droplets in the air feel so thirst quenching to my skin and my lungs. Maybe I will take off my shoes and socks and spread my toes out in the wet grass. Yes, I should do that.

In the meantime, here are some photo’s. Fat berries and luscious light *sighs*

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Did you see the little hairs on the Borage? In my lightless garden… Hmmm – insert meaningful Pinteresty quote here _____ (or below…?)

Bye for now – hopefully I will not leave it as long between posts this time!

Happy Things #6

  

1 // Reading. On my bookshelf at the moment I have ‘Sane new world’ by Ruby Wax and ‘The Jewel Garden’ by Monty and Sarah Don. Knowledge is power and, as it happens, out of my three years of undergraduate Physiology, neuroscience was the most interesting module to me. As a Physio too, the physiology of pain fascinates me, so this was never going to be a tricky read for me… If anything I’m left wanting. Recognising there is a physiological process contributing to my low mood is helping me to accept it and move forward. The Jewel Garden is inspiring me to get my hands dirty to cleanse my mind.

2 // The garden is looking lovely, as I’ve already posted. Since then, the French lavender and our dusky pink aquilegia have exploded bringing some very definite floral focal point to the garden. 

3 // The first of the summer swallows arrived and I feel hopeful in my heart just thinking of lying in the garden looking up through the trees to watch them swoop and dive for flies. 

4 // Cow parsley and Lilacs frothing over the edges of our nearby cycle track, and Hawthorne blossoms filling the air with summer scent that reminds me of childhoods playing in the fields near our home. 

5 // Bringing some regularity and importance back to my meditation and mindfulness practice. Ruby Wax proving some practical tips in her book, Headspace guiding me in my meditation practice and Lotus Bell app reminding me to breathe and take a mindful moment at random times through the day. Discipline is all my own. 

What are you happy about or grateful for this week? Any recommendations for further reading…?!

My top 5 meat-free meals.

It’s Nation Vegetarian Week! Still. Just. We are not vegetarians, but we have gradually cut the frequency that we eat meat, primarily for health reasons. We eat more fish than we used to, and when we do have meat we try to buy higher welfare. I’ll be honest though – it’s not always convenient to source it as part of our weekly shop without going out of our way. We started the year trying to make January an almost meat-free month – saving meat only for weekends and trying new veggie recipes each week. I wanted to explore some different veggie options to the ones we usually fell back on. We did find some new recipes that we loved (Ottolenghi’s green couscous in ‘Plenty’) but were just too much of a faff for everyday cooking. Also, a fussy toddler meant I was making two separate meals, and her diet became very freezer based, so I reverted back to hearty stews and casseroles that we could all enjoy without too much fuss. I still go easy on the meat, but also bulk out with pulses, pearl barley and loads of veg.

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Anyway, back to the veg-a-thon. We still fall back on a few meat-free delights on a regular basis, so I thought I’d share them here. I’m not going to give you exact quantities, but I will link to recipes where I can.

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Let us meat-eaters try not to get to stressed about this whole thing & reinvent the wheel, okay? But also, don’t just stew all your veg in tinned tomatoes and then feel disappointed with the whole watery mess and order a lamb curry delivery instead. You’ve got to think flavour and texture at every step and this method keeps the bite on the veg and brings out their flavours too. Yes it’s an extra pan, but who really cleans griddle pans anyway?

Chuck a few sliced garlic cloves into a couple of lugs of oil, maybe a pinch of dried chilli and a spoonful of smoked paprika to boot. Once it become fragrant, add a tin of chopped tomatoes. While this grooves on a low heat, prepare some courgette, onion and pepper for griddling. I like mine chunky, so I go for half moon-ish courgette slices, onion cut into eight segments with root still attached, and peppers in approximate 1″ x 2″ pieces. Some might say you should toss the veg in oil before griddling. I couldn’t possibly comment*. Actually I can – I don’t bother. The veg gets smokier quicker as long as you don’t try to move the veg about until its got properly black lines on it. Otherwise its all a sticky mess. Once griddled, chuck the veg into the sauce and season to taste. Lob some fresh basil in just before serving. I prefer Penne.

Lentil Dhal with Veg Shashlik

This is now one of our top meat-free meals. There are loads of variations on dhal. I can never remember which one I used the last time, so it’s different each time, but always scrummy. Amoung our shelf of chefs we have Hugh F-W’s one and Jack Monroe’s version. In my experience, there isn’t much that can’t be tweaked or saved at the final stage anyway, so just Google one and start trying. Just don’t scrimp on the salt.

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For the shashlik, cut your veg into large chunks, eg. onions quartered, small tomato halves, pepper quartered, courgettes 2cm thick slices. Use whatever you have or like – cauliflower & aubergine are other good flavours if you have them. Place chunky veg pieces into a bowl and coat in oil, a liberal sprinkling of paprika (I use a mix of regular and smoked) and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or squeezy lemon if you don’t have fresh). Salt to taste – don’t scrimp! Once coated, griddle on a medium heat until cooked. You may have to batch cook this and remove to a warming drawer or low oven. Serve the shashlik with the dhal and rice.

I also like some fresh chopped tomatoes and onion, and some home made cucumber raita: Dice a few inches of cucumber into 1cm cubes, then sprinkle with salt. Leave for five or so minutes so the salt can help the juices to flow. Dollop on a couple of tablespoons or more of plain yogurt (I use Greek). Add a little splash of milk to thin if necessary – depends on your preference.

Broccoli Pasta

Ok this one is not 100% meat free due to the anchovies, but I have heard some people say you can make it without. I wouldn’t dream of it, but maybe you don’t like anchovies. Anyway, I like to court controversy, so here it is!

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It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe from Happy Days and is another regular on our meal plan. It’s thrifty, tasty and quick. At Christmas we subbed the broccoli for shredded sprouts and it was even better! A tip – I find I need a full tin of anchovies and more garlic and chilli than he suggests, but you know, thats just me. If Jamie can’t handle it….

Salad

Sounds boring doesn’t it? We call it mega-salad and in this house, it is never anything less. I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs here, but use your imagination and choose flavours you enjoy. There is a great infographic to help you hone your salad-building prowess. A typical meat-free example in this house would be Spinach leaves, cucumber, spring onions, green beans, soya beans, boiled eggs, toasted walnuts or pistachios, basil and mint leaves, roasted butternut or beetroot, grilled halloumi, toasted seeds. Sprinkled with fresh chopped red chilli and large salt flakes for crunch, then drizzled with a dressing like this one or this one or just a good shop-bought one. Don’t make life too difficult for yourself. The virtue of the salad outweighs any slacker-guilt you may experience.

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I know I said five meals, but the salad counts as at least two because it is so infinitely adaptable (see photographic evidence above).

So, there you have it carnivorous compadres. My meat-lovers meat-free must-munch meals. You’re most welcome.

*still loving House of Cards.

Garden happenings.

Girl child has fully embraced gardening this year and asks “can we garden mummy?” as if she is asking for chocolate treats. Win! Bits of tidying, planning and some planting have been like a salve for our occasional tempestuous relations when the weather has allowed. I learned last year, that gardening with a small child involves a large degree of letting go. Gardening is always teaching me about life. I learn to grow, nurture, watch, be patient and trust. There no other option really, nature will have her way.

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I’m not setting high hopes for vegetables this year, save for trying a few seeds I have left from last year – beetroots, lettuce and salad leaves. I’m focussing on the herbs this year. I have a small patch of the sunny border which has accidentally evolved into a herb patch over the years. This year I’m sowing some annuals like parsley and coriander, but having listened to Gardeners Question Time on Friday afternoon, James Wong suggested that germination of herbs is so hit and miss, the better approach may be to buy supermarket herbs and then divide up the plants from the pot and pot them on. The phrase “it couldn’t be simpler” drives me insane when applied to anything, but growing basil is my gardening nemesis and in fact, it seems anything could be simpler. I have read about a method (also using supermarket herbs) where you make a clean transverse (I imagine) snip in a stem and then pop it into a glass of water until it sprouts roots, then pot it up. It’s got to beat poor germination, damping off, growing leggy or just plain  s l o w  growth, so I’ll give it a try.

Elsewhere in the garden, the concrete area outside the back door is looking happy now that the evergreen shrubs I potted up last year have established, reducing the need for loads of pricey annuals and keeping the area looking cheerful all year round. The lavenders which I gave a good haircut to last summer are also lush with little purple spikes. A friend gave us a lovely but leggy sedum last year, and it has redoubled its energy over the winter and is now growing bushy and bold. All being well there will be a mass of little clusters of bee-friendly flowers later in the summer.

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Compost has been a bit of an issue. I prefer to buy peat-free unless I am desperate or completely skint, so I decided this year it was time to harvest the compost bin which has lain abandoned since parenthood came along. I was stopped in my tracks by an apparent Yellow Jacket nest, which by all accounts (Dr. Google) is best left alone until they leave by themselves, usually after a year. I bought New Horizon Organic peat-free multipurpose which has been fine for general garden planting, but I’ve found it moulds over when left in the bag or in the seed pots. My seeds have still germinated but it ain’t pretty. Does anybody have any experience or tips for sowing in peat-free mediums? I know Monty Don says it’s no problem, but I think he blends his own, which is not feasible for those of us not producing acres-worth of garden waste!

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Looking back at this time last year, so much more is still to come into flower – It’s been such a cold May!

How does your garden grow? Any tips to share? Please leave a comment below!

Happy Things #5

I haven’t written much lately or taken many photos. I guess I am trying to be more in the moment and using any spare time to read, stretch, potter. I’m doing what feels good to me, and it’s thrown up some more happy moments… Hurray! 

   
1 // Girl Childs first trip to the dentist – she was awesome. Hopped straight up into the chair, chatted away with the dentist and didn’t even flinch when he examined her teeth! So proud!

2 // Might sound weird, but sharing my post about my low mood last week. It opened a door for me and I started to reach out a bit more. I’ve felt more positive and more hopeful since that day.

3 // The following words: “Whats this for?” *indicates garden wire* “Just thought it would come in handy for little garden jobs. Why?” “I might make a selfie helmet.” *Cue lots of running up and down stairs and then out of the front door* Maybe you had to be there but it tickled me all evening. It was a bit of a Tom and Barbara moment! 

4 // Being sociable and having our friends round for a curry night. Remember the times when you used to hang around with your mates talking all kinds of crap, dreaming, laughing? Well, we set the world to rights and we now know what that dangly thing at the back of your mouth is for. It’s called an uvula and it stops food going into your nose. Nice, eh? 

Have a lovely weekend folks! X

Coming clean.

I read a post this morning which inspired me to write this. Beth’s honest post on why it’s okay if you don’t enjoy every minute of being a parent mainly focuses on the newborn phase, but I think it’s still relevant in this toddler phase. Every stage of being a parent has it’s challenges, at that moment that I opened the link, it just made me feel like I was not alone.

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Mostly on this blog, I write about, and photograph the snippets of life that bring me joy. I sometimes write about parenthood and occasionally about Mum. Lately I’ve mainly being writing up my Happy Things lists and my instagram account reflects the same ethos. Why? Partially because we no longer have nap times and I’m too knackered in the evening to even think about anything else. But also, because I have to. I need to remind myself of those things because right now, I’m depressed. There. I said it*

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Looking back on that first year of motherhood I can’t help experience a pang of regret. About all the ways I believe I failed my daughter, all the things I did wrong, the expectations I’d set for myself that were not achieved, the tears, the endless days at home alone, depressed, but unable to put it into words. I feel guilty about not enjoying it more (you *should* enjoy it, right?) I feel guilty about not being able to see the positives so clearly, because when I scan the photo library for evidence, there were some really fun times (albeit with unkempt hair and unwashed clothes). I began writing this blog (and simultaneously wearing red lipstick) as a catharsis, as a way to motivate myself to have things to write about (i.e. get out of the house), and as a way to have something positive to look back on. I wish I had started it much sooner, because, those early posts offer me some concrete evidence that it wasn’t all bad. Indeed, things got much better.

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When I’m feeling low, I find it extremely difficult to write about anything apart from how rubbish I feel. So I blanket censor all of that stuff, because I worry about how family or friends might feel. I worry about the girl-child reading it one day and feeling upset or to blame. Frequently (daily), I wonder who my own mother really was – did she have these experiences? Is that why I get like this? Am I going to pass this on to my daughter? When I was about 8 years old, I saw my Mum through a crack in a door, crying. My Grandma was sat beside her, comforting her. I’d never seen my Mum cry before. To my knowledge she was the life and soul of the party, always encouraging me to get involved and make the most of life. As an adult, I miss her in every possible way. I miss her stories and I crave to know more about her. One of the reasons I began to write was to cope with losing my Mum in those early months. One of the reasons I kept writing was in case I died young and left any future children clueless as to what their mother thought, felt and experienced in life. So, I am going to try harder to write more honestly. I think it’s important for myself, my daughter, and for any struggling parent who (like I once did) stumbles across a blog post looking for some hope, some solidarity.

We are not alone.

*It’s like Voldemort. He whose name shall not be mentioned. Only the more I say it, the better I feel. Duh. Obvs, innit.

Happy Things #4 

Er, May? What the Billy-o?

Also: Spring where have ye gone? Nevermind… Still plenty to be thankful for of late methinks.

1 // Lots of garden activity at the weekend. Tidying, planting, buying too many plants… Oops. Hearing the girl-child asking if she can “do gardening” and standing there with her little watering can and hopeful eyes, as if she was asking for the best, naughtiest treat that she’d never be allowed.

2 // Chasing butterflies in the garden and, rain or shine, watching the birds poking their little head out of the shuddering hedge before visiting the bird table. Girl child, if she is in the garden, will talk to the wildlife as if it’s a baby “hello little bird. Are you ok? Do you want a cuddle?”

3 // Lovely new bright yellow raincoat for the girl child. Is it wrong to wear the same as your daughter? She looks awesome, and the colour of sunshine was invented solely for her.

4 // Getting a little time out for a bike ride along the river for some much needed head clearing. More please!

5 // Getting into some box set happiness. How is it that I am so late to the Girls AND House of Cards parties? House of Cards is so intriguing and Kevin Spacey is brilliant.

Bring on May!

What’s been putting a smile on your face lately? Let me know in the comments below!

A visit to Yorkshire Lavender.

In a sleepless haze of nap-less desperation I bundled the girl-child into the car in the hope she would fall asleep. I wound through lanes and villages around York for half an hour before she finally closed her eyes. Being lost* I carried on driving looking for somewhere to pull in and close my own eyes for half an hour. We happened upon Yorkshire Lavender in Terrington near York, and it was the perfect spot for a bit of aimless wandering once she awoke.

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Obviously we bypassed the natural splendours and headed straight for the tea room, which serves an assortment of savoury and sweet foods. Not all the sweet treats are laced with lavender, but we chose the lavender and raspberry Bakewell tart, and a lavender and blueberry muffin for the girl-child.

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The lavenders are looking lush with new growth at this time of year, but no flower spikes yet. Still, there are enough spring flowers to make the gardens worthwhile if you love flowers. And taking picture of flowers… Ahem.

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Coming as I do, from a hilly Pennine village, I find a proper hilltop hard to come by in these parts *sobs*. Terrington sits atop the Howardian Hills and the views from Terrington Bank back towards York are stunning, especially on a day like this one. The gardens are well maintained and landscaped in a way that I think makes them really toddler friendly, but without losing any adult appeal. We had enormous fun running up and down the “wobbly wobbly path” and when I stopped to take pictures, I knew that the girl-child couldn’t really roam too far out of my sight.

The staff were really friendly and happy to indulge the girl-child in a bit of “helping” with the weeding. Visitors are actively encouraged to touch the plants, and girl-child really enjoyed being able to wander among the lavenders and the gravel paths that wind through the herbaceous borders. At the bottom of the hill is a small paddock with a herd of deer, and along with the sculptures, giant gates and pergolas, it’s a really fun, sensory way to spend an hour or two with an active toddler. As well as the tea rooms there are a gift shop and a modest plant nursery, but entry to the gardens is free.

*I’m never lost. I’m just enjoying being on an unfamiliar road.

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Happy Things #3

I felt like the last post was a bit moany, so I looked back through my photos and found loads of really happy sunny times! Classic example of how the brain can cling to the negatives. Those seductive little blighters. So here are some happy things from the last few weeks. In your FACE, pesky brain poo’s!

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1 // The sun is here! The sun is here! The sun is here!

2 // Wriggling my toes in the sand. Eeeee!

3 // Lying on a soft mossy leafy wooded hillside in the quiet morning, listening to nothing but the birds and the sound of a nearby stream. Wherever it is, it’s the best place on earth.

4 // Eating fresh, simple, summery flavours again, like avocados and tomatoes on garlic toast. Quick, simple and delish.

5 // Feeling the motivation to move my body again after a few weeks hiatus. Boom shake shake shake the room. Or the wobbly bits. Whatever.

What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below!

p.s. Linking this post with Mum’s Days & YouBabyMeMummy’s #TheList!

 

You Baby Me Mummy