Friday, 26 October 2012

Breakfast at Tiffanys it ain't

 Hubbie finished at work today and has three weeks off work before he starts a new job. I'm delighted to have all of my boys at home for that three weeks, but it does leave me with a domestic dilemma of some concern. Nothing major really, but enough to make me wonder what I need to do on a basic level. What do I feed the boys for the next few weeks ?

This is how it goes at the moment:
fresh fruit waffle
Yummy Breakfast 

Breakfast: Boy and Hubbie eat together, cat is fed and I eat when they're all done or if I remember.
Lunch: Hubbie takes a packed lunch, the Boy eats at nursery or at home depending what day it is. I eat late in the afternoon - usually leftovers from last night's dinner.
Dinner: the Boy eats early before we pick Daddy up at the station. Then the cat is fed then, once the boy is in bed, me and Hubbie eat together.

My dilemma stems from how much control I have over all their food needs. At the moment I decide what food we buy, plan all the meals and ensure they all have what they need (foodwise) and ration out treats, but have an open policy on fruit. "If it's in the fruit bowl you can help yourself" works pretty well. The cat has two meals a day and biscuits at random intervals yet he still miaows whenever I'm anywhere near the kitchen pleading that he is completely starved and will waste away if I don't relent and put food in his bowl.

homemade pizza
Pizza every day = happy Hubbie 
I have toyed with the idea of allowing them to choose for themselves, but I know that given too much choice this is what would happen:

Hubbie would live on pizzas, sausages, apples and sweets.
The Boy would happily survive on a student diet of toast, spaghetti bolognese, apples and sweets.
The cat would work out how to open those cat shaped boxes of biscuits (or train the others to do it for him) and eat nothing else and look like a white Jabba the Hutt in a matter of weeks.

With Hubbie at home my planning is all shot. I don't budget for him eating at home during the week so I'd end up stockpiling my lunchtime leftovers and cooking a new meal for two or giving them to him and being left with nothing to eat. Bread for sandwiches will sit in the bread bin and end up filling the freezer as I try to use it up before it goes green or I'll make the biggest bag of breadcrumbs known to humankind.
enormous cupcakes
Cupcake chaos

The cat will have another pair of hands to feed him and will become even more insistent. I mostly negotiate with him and insist he's not actually hungry just bored and to do something diverting instead and come back at dinner time.

The boy will manipulate the situation and work out that with us both around he has double chance to trick us into giving him treats or to hide his half eaten apples under the sofa or in his car seat.

On the plus side we can all eat lunch together on days when he's not at nursery. Like I said at the beginning, it's not a major issue, but it's a niggle.

Oh and if I could just eat what I wanted without consequences (to my skin, on my thighs, for my wardrobe, etc.) I'd live on chips, strawberries, chocolate, hot buttered toast and tea.

This is why I am strict with everyone. I bake cakes for others that I won't eat and make meals that are big enough to feed again the next day. I always know what is in the fridge, when it needs to be eaten by and how I'm going to use it.

What we need now is a new plan.

It's going to be a challenge !

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I cook, therefore I am

Apparently we're all in love with baking now thanks to the Great British Bake Off. To be honest I think we all watch cooking shows, but very few of us actually do any cooking. I have been inspired by Gordon Ramsey's Ultimate Cookery Course, not to make any of his recipes, but to properly cook from scratch again which I had moved away from doing once my boy was born. The rise of the 'dine in' offer has also scuppered any creativity in preparing meals other than to choose which side dish goes with which main course. So why are we all so fascinated by watching other people cook ?

nigella, nigel slater, gordon ramsey, lorraine pascale, come dine with me, great british bake off, delia smith, heston blumenthal
Food as love
The massive worldwide success of the Come Dine With Me formula suggests that the appeal is not restricted to watching someone prepare food that we can't make. It's about nosing round someone else's kitchen - just ask Hubbie how often I've said "ooh I love that kitchen, I'd like that cooker and island if we had the space."There's also something about seeing how other people cook at home. Let's face it we aren't buying the whole 'I'm at home and this is how I cook for my family' scenario that TV chefs fake for us. It's a well constructed artifice even if it is in their actual home.

Delia was the original and her no nonsense domestic science teacher approach told us how to do the basics which is why her 'how to cook' series is still the go to guide for a lot of amateur cooks. She appeared to be in her own kitchen at home and we all rushed out to get the exact same muffin tray or mixing bowl so that we could cook just like her. Who can forget the famous run on limes when she cooked with one and all the supermarkets were caught off guard.

The polar opposite of Delia was the manic outdoor cooking of Keith Floyd that showed us how to prepare food while drinking wine at the same time - a more realistic depiction of cooking for most of us. If Delia was domestic science then Heston is food technology. He does the actual science bit and the food is pretty secondary to it all. Then we have Jamie who's more home 'eck than anything else. I'm willing to believe that he's at home, but we all know how controversial the whole 'meal in 30 minutes' offering turned out to be. He's far too heavy handed with the olive oil for my liking and when will he give the oven settings in gas marks please ? Also, stop telling us how good it smells eh Jamie ? It's just not on.

I've always given a wide berth to Nigella (no pun intended), but having watched her newest show I can vouch for her being so gorgeous that the cooking is pretty irrelevant. I don't want to watch someone who is so self satisfied with her own cooking that I feel like a voyeur thanks. Nigel Slater is more my thing. His recipes are unfathomable, with a pinch of this and a handful of that, but his soft spoken delivery and clear enjoyment of food are bewitching. I am baffled at the concept of a 'leftover duck breast,' which he cooked this week, but that aside his kitchen garden approach is a winner for me.

This brings me onto the one sticking point I have with TV chefs - eating on camera. I noticed watching Gordon that he doesn't eat his own food. It's refreshing to not have a chef scoff what they've just cooked on screen. If I have to shout 'don't talk with your mouth full !' at Lorraine Pascale again I swear I will get very cross. I realise that part of the Nigella factor is watching her stuff her face, but I don't go to a restaurant to watch the chef eat his own cooking - why would I do that with TV ?

I cook to make people happy. Whether it's a cake for my boys or to thank the neighbours for babysitting. Indian food for Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law when they visit us. Or flapjacks for my friend SJ to stop her having low blood sugar in the afternoons on the way home from work (well that's more a public service really - you don't want to have a crazed hungry woman on your bus home do you ?)

I may not get a TV show out of it, but that's ok… for now.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Yoga Bunny vs Super Nanny

At around lunchtime today I officially fell back in love with yoga. Of course being taught by Howard Napper who is hunky, good looking and super fit does help. The fact he remembered me from the class I used to attend in Notting Hill was a bonus. In case I sound completely facile, I actually do have a practical reason for remembering why I came to yoga in the first place almost 20 years ago.

Howard Napper, British Wheel of yoga,
At least I'm not drooling :o)
My yoga journey has included the obligatory phase of being obsessed with posture and having a great body - which was what we all did in the noughties. I used to attend an Ashtanga class that was so popular that we'd all arrive early and wait outside for the teacher and fight for a space for our over priced sticky mats in the hideous mirrored room of the gym. My first teacher had been a dancer, my second a super fit ashtanga yogi, then there was Eddie the marine. I don't know if he was actually a marine, but he was the polar opposite of what male yoga teachers usually are ie. long limbed, slim and with that vaguely transatlantic accent they affect to sound more cosmopolitan. Eddie was husky, cockney and also caused queues round the corridors of the community gym that he taught at. He was the teacher who told us it's ok not to bind as some of us have short arms and I have used that excuse ever since.

When I was training to teach I started to attend classes with Howard at the Life Centre in Notting Hill. It was during these classes that my style of teaching began to take shape. It was also when I changed my approach from 'doing' yoga to 'being' yoga. I know that sounds hippy and odd, so I'll keep it simple. Instead of trying to get into Lotus position I began to listen to my body and to enjoy the practice of yoga again. After years of being taught and getting injured here was a teacher who advocated listening to your own body and instead of pushing on through pain and injury backing off and doing less. It was revolutionary !!

So, today I rediscovered this approach and after a challenging week with my son I spent a day finding my foundations, going back to basics and remembering why I do yoga at all. I drove home in the sunshine with a smile and a warm feeling in my heart and head. As I pulled up to the drive my son saw me and screeched "Mummy !" in delight.

Half an hour later there was an upturned bowl of pasta on the floor and a smattering of the accompanying tomato sauce and a few vegetables on the left left leg of my favourite yoga pants. Now I don't really have favourite clothes any more. Since I became a Mum it's whatever is clean or hasn't been spit up on, or had food thrown at it. In his current phase of randomly throwing food and shouting  "NO !" it's becoming the norm to feed him in his vest to save on washing products. After this week I may have to do the same.

My boy is going through that phase of challenging behaviour that all toddlers do. I realise that he is testing the boundaries and that this will only be for a while, but this week I had a very difficult time coping with it. I'm working on being more patient, but I hear myself sometimes sounding like I'm whining at him and frankly I don't blame him for not listening. There's only so much 'don't do that, Mummy doesn't like it' that we can both put up with.

Last weekend I made the mistake of watching Supernanny. Before I had a child I thought it was an interesting show with some good ideas. Now I watch an episode with a Mum whose six year old son hits her and is out of control and I'm terrified that it is a premonition of what my boy will turn into. He doesn't take after his father as Hubbie was, by all accounts, a fabulous little boy and no trouble at all (although Mother-in-law may not be an objective witness). I sometimes think he gets it from me, but I wasn't a challenging child as I was too scared of my Mother to ever tell her I didn't like certain foods so I just ate them. As an adult I am a seething mass of anger about all sorts of things, but I'm pretty sure that isn't genetic.

So this week we've been learning to say sorry (both of us) and to be nice to each other. It's a work in progress and one that is tiring us both out. Even Neo was called in to help the boy learn to be gentle and he did very well not running off as the toddler approached him with a brush to smooth his fur with. As with all things, it's small steps.

Today reminded me that I have to take time to do things just for me and to be 'not Mummy' for a while. It's in that time that small miracles can happen. Like standing outside in the sunshine and not thinking 'ooh I should hang out the washing.' Like making a cup of tea and drinking it while it's still hot.

In all the years I've practised yoga, in all the classes where I've tried I've never come close to achieving the Lotus. I think it was Howard who told me that a lotus can grow in the dirtiest, grubbiest water. It is the beautiful flower that we see on the surface in spite of the grottiness underneath and around it. Today while I was doing less and enjoying some 'me time' I looked down at my feet and saw this.

It's almost a lotus, but not quite. I'm happy with that.

Like I say it's all about small steps.

Then the miracles can happen.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Making a drama out of … well not even a crisis really

A week ago I developed an arm pain that reduced my arm movement and made hair washing very difficult. It was inconvenient as it meant I couldn't go to dance, aerobics or swimming and as a result I was very grumpy. Then we had my boy's birthday party at the weekend with family and friends and a full house. It was a busy day and by the end of it I was a bit tired and relieved.

large pants migraine
Feeling a bit pants
Then yesterday evening I developed flashing lights before my eyes while feeding the boy his dinner and a couple of hours later my head was thumping and I thought I was going to throw up. Unfortunate as I was driving at the time. I got home and cried before putting eye drops in for my son and going back to stand over the sink in case I did indeed throw up. I told Hubbie what was going on and he told me I was having a migraine.

I have never had a migraine before, I don't even get headaches often. So imagine what I thought was going on when I had a pain in my left arm and a massive splitting pain in my head and a feeling of nausea. Yes, I had in the ten minutes it took to get home convinced myself that I was either having a stroke or something even worse. Here's what went through my mind:

1. I regret not having sorted out that life insurance I promised I'd get
an imperfect Lotus

2. Oh, I should have posted Mum's birthday cards, dammit she won't get her cake now either

3. Is there enough milk in the fridge ?

4. I'm going to miss the yoga day with Howard Napper at the weekend - so unfair, he's yummy !!

5. I haven't told Hubbie that I was going to get the boy dressed for nursery in a waterproof coat tomorrow morning, he'll send him in his bus jumper… ooh I hope it's dry now

6. At least I remembered to put the week's meal schedule on the front of the fridge so Hubbie knows what to cook when

7. Who will take over my radio show on Monday ? Will anyone even notice ?

8. If I get offered an interview for that job I won't be able to go - they're going to think I'm such a flake

9. I haven't chosen any music to be played in memory of me. I do hope Hubbie doesn't pick The Fall or My Bloody Valentine

10. The moon looks ever so big tonight - I hope the boys have seen it

I got home intact, went to bed early and slept until this morning.

Drama over.

Oh and the arm ? It's tennis elbow. I don't even play tennis.

Go figure !