Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Gluten Free Baking

My Mum has some sort of wheat intolerance that means she tends to keep her gluten intake down as much as she can, she's recently said she's probably going to cut it out altogether soon. Last year, my sister was diagnosed with Celiac disease so she too, is gluten free.
We're cake people, we like to bake and eat cake (my sister likes the eating better than the baking mostly) and I particularly love baking for others so there's no question I'm going to not bake for them now, I just have to find new ways to do it.
I don't do a huge amount of experimenting in that field but I've already pretty much found that the best gluten-free recipes are recipes that are just meant to be gluten free, rather than normal recipes that have been adapted.
I have a wonderful recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that is adored by everyone who comes into contact with it, I suspect that a few of my friends only stay in touch to maintain the odds of them getting more of the cake. It's a great recipe but if it's the only option, I'm sure even it will get dull. So tonight I'm experimenting with a macaroon recipe.
My sister linked me to it some time ago, a colleague at work had made them and she'd loved them but this is the first chance I've had to give it a go. First batch are done and look great, second batch, with added food colouring, is in now.
Ah dammit. Just got the second batch out and they're not so good. I don't think it's been overmixed any more than the first batch but as I only had one suitable baking sheet available, the second batch waited half and hour longer than the first to go into the oven and I think too much air was lost in the waiting. Will have to find another baking sheet and do the whole lot at once I think.\

If you want to try them yourself, the recipe can found here

Monday, 30 July 2012

I used to craft

Back before Small was born, I was a craft nut. Made my own cards, knitted (poorly), embroidered, made candles, photography, bit of wood working, clothes making, the jewellery business... you name it, I dabbled in it.
When I was pregnant I started knitting a large purple blanket. It's still unfinished. Before I was pregnant I started embroidering a rather wonderful celtic-inspired loch ness monster design that would eventually become a cushion cover.
Still unfinished.
My candle making kit sits unloved in the garage and has done for since we moved in.
I've closed the jewellery business.
And so on.

I could say this is due to the pressures of being a Mummy and the lack of 'me time' now available. To some extent that is true but not in all cases. Small is generally sound asleep by 7:30pm and I don't go to bed until about 10pm, I could at least knit or embroider quite happily in that time but I don't.

I think it's mostly a fatigue thing. By the evening I'm only really in the mood for idle surfing and even idler tv watching. Knitting and embroidery, while wonderful, do rather keep hands busy that would otherwise be tapping keys and sliding around mousepads. Besides, whether it's age or fatigue or perfectly normal, the constant flittering of focus between close up needlework and midrange laptop and/or long distance tv does horrible things to my eyes. So everything just sits around, lamenting the days when they commanded my entire attention. About the only vaguely crafty thing I do now is the baking and cake decorating.

And I'm lazy, there's that too of course! I really should do something about that!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Big's Day

Today is my husband's birthday. It's been very quiet, mostly because he drove for a good ten hours yesterday and needed a good rest and a little because after the holiday we're both a little skint!

He's been gently spoiled and run around after most of the day and the only thing we went out for was a trip up to the farm shop for some good steaks for his birthday tea. He was good and expensively treated for his Father's Day and we agreed then that his birthday in exchange would be a lower-key affair.
As far as gifts go, I got him an Electric Mayhem t-shirt, the food and did him this cake -

It's chocolate underneath all the decoration and the drumsticks are real. He likes it :)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

And home

Spent all day driving home. Stopped often to make the long trip easier on Small, including a couple of hours at White Horse Hill in Uffington, which is always a stunningly beautiful and very powerful place to be. I love it there and loved it especially today. No photos though, too pooped!

Hope you've all enjoyed and not been to annoyed by the last week of photo spamming :)

I really couldn't have asked for a better week. Ah, happiness and afterglow.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Day 8, last day.

Relaxed day today, Newquay and the Blue Reef aquarium then a last lazy afternoon in Perranporth, being lightly sand blasted on the rather blustery beach. Not that Small minded in the least.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Day 7 - Heligan then Towan Beach

Another fab day, last full day in Cornwall tomorrow, then drive home Saturday.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Day 5 - Seal Sanctuary and Marazion beach

Hottest day so far, at 5pm the car thermometer was reading 33C, probably more like mid-twenties.
This is mobile blogging btw, hence brief.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Day 2 - Peppa Pig World

Is awesome. Cracking weather and surprisingly good traffic for the drive onto Cornwall.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Holibobs blog, day 1

On the edge of Southampton, with a toddler well past his bedtime who is delighted to tell us he's wide awake.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Junior Masterchef - ummmmm no.

As regular readers will no doubt have noticed by now, I cook. I love baking especially and I remember baking with my Granny as a little girl. Not surprisingly, I held rosy-tinted visions in my heart of baking with my beloved child, once upon a time. No longer, I'm the wrong sort of Mum.

Back when Small was much smaller, I would sit in him in highchair next to me and put raisins on the tray to keep him occupied and talk him through what I was doing. That was fairly successful when he was all of 9 months old but the older he got, the less time he wanted to spend suck in the chair, watching. I started doing my baking when he was napping or asleep for the night if I could but recently thought it might be worth trying again. Today I thought we'd try making some jammy rock cakes, asked Small what he thought and he was delighted.
He sat on the counter by the mixing bowl and I measured in the butter then went to measure the flour

"arg, Small! No! Leave the butter in the bowl please, Mummy will only be a minute"
"Small! Please! Leave the butter in the bowl!"

Flour added, Small has a moment of consternation at this development and asks for a spoon. Get out pastry blender instead and explain that we're going to 'mash' (Small loves mashing potatoes), he's slightly mollified, until the butter sticks to the blender, then he's upset again and tries to throw the butter out of the bowl.
I do the worst of the butter/flour blending quickly then invite him to join in with his fingers, this works marvellously for about 20 seconds, at which point Small begins dumping his handfuls over the side and all over the floor.
Give up, lift him down onto the floor and try not to throw a freak about the mess and the waste while he throws a freak about not being able to help any more.


Lift him back up, try to interest him in helping me weigh out sugar more than removing more flour from the bowl. Add sugar. Allow Small to mix in sugar with a spoon. He is happy, so happy that he starts spooning out the mixture on to the counter, floor and all over himself. Sigh.

Clear up, add egg and with both participants holding the spoon mix it in with a bit of milk until dough forms - The Home Straight! Whoo Hoo!
We spoon the dough onto a baking sheet, make dents in the top and add the jam, Small tries to eat the jam and thinks once the jam is on the buns, they're ready to eat. Is given spoon to lick as standard perk of the job.

Finally, buns go in the oven, timer set (I won't hear it go off mind, as I'm distracted by both the news of the birth of a good friend's new baby and Small running rampage around the living room) I could swear I've spent more time sweeping up escaped cake mix than I have actually baking.

Moral of the story? I am too much of a control freak to bake with a two year old. I think I did it wrong, focussing on having an end result more than the process of cooking with him but dammit, I really hate waste. I know that some of my friends can do it, they talk about baking with their toddlers all the time. Probably while singing a harmonious duet with a passing bluebird and getting washing up assistance from local wildlife. The cows.

Monday, 16 July 2012


I've never thought of myself as a feminist. I know a few and am often bemused by some of the things they can be upset by. Their ability to see sexism in places I had no idea about, and was quite enjoying without having the faintest idea I was being insulted.
Then I read 50 Shades.

I'm not going to get into a whole lot of discussion about the book, suffice to say I didn't enjoy it and only bothered with the first one. If you really, really want to know what I think of it, google for Cassandra Parkin and Lighter Shades Of Grey. She manages to neatly sum up my feelings.

The main reason I'm not going to discuss it is that I can get a bit rabid - a bit feminist - and I get a distinct sensation of causing in others much the same feeling as good and dear of friends of mine have generated in me when getting upset at, for example, the detective series Castle.

So I thought I'd look it up. The Wikipedia article on the subject ( I know, I know but it suffices for the purposes of a quick blog post for heaven's sake!) says
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is "an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women." 
And also
Feminist activists campaign for women's rights – such as in contract law, property, and voting – while also promoting bodily integrity, autonomy and reproductive rights for women. Feminist campaigns have changed societies, particularly in the West, by achieving women's suffrage, gender neutrality in English, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property.Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women. Feminism is mainly focused on women's issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, some feminists argue that men's liberation is a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles.

Sounds fair enough to me, are there any women out there who think the above listed things are a bad idea? I hope not. Based on that, I think I probably am a feminist then. Certainly I'm very aware that the life women lead today, largely due to the work of determined and awesome women (and men), is a radically different prospect to that of even my Great Grandmother. Probably the thing that chimes most deeply within me is the body integrity issue. I simply cannot imagine resigning ANY choices regarding my own body to someone other than myself. Actually that's not even correct is it? I wouldn't be resigning, I wouldn't have the right even to resign myself to it, it simply wouldn't even be considered that I might have an opinion, possibly even by myself. Imagine someone else deciding to have your hair cut into a style they prefer, so just taking you off to have it done, not a word to you. That's pretty horrific just in itself, now imagine that same attitude in regard to your reproductive system. See, I already want to punch something at the very idea.

So why have been so reluctant to apply the term to myself? Well, Feminists with a Capital F tend to be brighter than me for a start. And more observant. Then there's that wish not be associated with that dungareed, crewcutted, pathological man hater lesbian with a sense of humour bypass image that became so pervasive for a while. I say a while, I think the Daily Mail still applies that very definition. That's telling in itself of course, if there were flaws in the feminist argument, if there was no issue for them to raise and it could be shown by application of facts, drawing outrageous and provocative caricatures wouldn't be necessary. But real feminists always seem so active, so passionate, such achievers. I don't think of myself that way.

It's a simple enough philosophy in the end though, either you believe that no one should have their life determined by societal expectations of their gender above and beyond their own will, or you don't. I do. So I'm a feminist then. As a feminist, I really, really, really, hated 50 Shades of Grey. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Calling Stepford...

Today has been all about the housework. I've cleaned, I've tidied, I've hoovered, I've laundered, I've ironed, I've cooked, I've cleaned again. So long as no one moves or attempts to wear any clothes before we leave on Friday, we're set.
I hate cleaning, I hate ironing. I do rather like the house to be clean, I just wish I could convince the other people in the household to do the actual work. Small at least is always keen to assist but sadly his idea of help only makes more mess, he'd help me better by just not chucking everything on the floor in the first place.

But I can now concentrate on getting stuff together ready for packing, which I have two days to do. Because I'm out of the house for 12hrs a day on Wednesday and Thursdays, there will be little time or energy for it after Tuesday and if I find I need to buy anything, it'll be too late. It's all a bit daunting. I've only ever visited family for holidays with Small up to now and been staying with family when I have so the sheer range of things I need to remember to bring for him alone is terrifying.

I've put a last minute order in on ebay for some very tiny glass bottles with corks. Hopefully they'll arrive before we go because I want them to save some Cornish sand in them, one for a friend of mine who loves Cornwall but can't get there this year and is quite upset about it and one for Small's memory box, just a wee memento of his first real holiday.

Call me a sentimental ole fool if you want.

Anyway, I have lists and things to make. More obsessive brain dumping about my impending vacation tomorrow ;)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Quest

In which your intrepid reporter braves madness and early mornings to forage bargains for her family.

As dawn broke over Yorkshire this morning I was woken by Small calling out for assistance of one kind of another. Having made a commitment the night before to get up and dressed as soon as he woke today and embark on my quest I enquired as to the time. 5am.
Bugger that for a game of soldiers then. Small settled, back to bed.
Two hours later Small woke again and this was much more like it so up, clothes, coffee, toast.
I left Big and Small both far behind me as they are male and therefore not suited to the task that lay before me. Nay, for I was leaving to throw my sanity and financial security to the wind, I was leaving for The Next Summer Sale.
(US and other non-British readers, Next is a clothing retailer who has two massive sales a year for which they open at 5am, it's an event)

I had my game plan, no queuing up at 4 in the morning to be the first through the door, much better to let the first rush pass then rock up at that point where the early birds have gone home but the normal daytime shoppers haven't turned up yet, about half eight. I was a good plan, it wasn't too busy and the next wave of sale goods were just being put out on the racks.
I'd gone to get Small a new swimsuit and some jeans for myself, maybe some shoes.
I came away with two swimsuits for Small, some jeans for... Small, some tshirts for... Small, some sandals for... Small and a pair of red linen trousers for me. There were no jeans in my size that I would want to wear,  unfortunately. But that's ok, there will probably be returns in the next few days where other people got carried away and I might get the things I need then, possibly even cheaper.

People are mad in there though, I queued behind a woman who had taken FOUR bags of clothes up to the till. Bags roughly the same size as those ones you get in Ikea. Big bags, full to the brim. I never saw the final tally as they were still ringing it through even once the rest of the queue were seen to but she must have spent hundreds and hundreds, even considering the sale. Crazy.

 I escaped with my spoils, rejoined my family and lay them before Small for his verdict. He selected the swimming costume in the stule of a pirate outfit, complete with cutlass, demanded to wear it immediately and refused to take it off. And verily, the quest was deemed a success.

Friday, 13 July 2012

This time next week...

We will, most probably, be relaxing in the West Country looking forward to taking Small to Peppa Pig World in the morning. We will hopefully not be stuck in traffic round Birmingham anyway.
After Peppa Pig World, we will be back on the road for the rest of the journey to Cornwall and I cannot bloody wait.
The jet stream still seems reluctant to shove itself up and round a bit in order to bring some lasting sunshine for our holidays but have Eden Project, won't give a damn :) It's too early to say for sure about the weather anyway, we shall see.
I need this holiday so bad, we all do. The last few months have no been easy on either me or Big and it's our first real holiday away with Small where we're not visiting my family so we just want to make it wonderful for him. We've not taken him to the seaside yet, not since he was a just a few months old anyway and Aberdeen Beach in the winter doesn't really count so I'm really hoping we get a few nice days where we can take him to make sandcastles and go paddling. Oh and Boscastle, Marazion, Mevagissey, Heligan, The Lizard.... Ooooooh, love Cornwall so much. Bit excited, does it show?

I have not yet decided what will become of the blog while I'm away. Maybe I'll have a total holiday, maybe I'll just post little photo entries, maybe something else. I don't know. What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Lazy daze

Small's visit from the Snot Goblin yesterday developed overnight via a few wakings into a raging temperture and a rather listless wee boy by today. When he first got up for the day I thought the fever had broken overnight as he was much chirpier but after an hour or so he was hot again, and wanting only cuddles and tv. Even his most tempting toys were ignored in favour of just sitting on my knee and feeling sorry for himself so I got the Cars DVD and tried that. He has a few toys from the film but has never sat and watched it for more than half an hour before, so I've not seen it either. Today we both sat through the whole thing in one go. Enjoyed it too.
It's just not like Small to be so listless and cuddly, he's normally more like a happy Tasmanian Devil tearing around the house. It was actually fairly pleasant to just have a day where we chilled out together, of course I was worried and worked hard battling the temperature, got really quite worried when it got up to 39.6C but thankfully the next dose of neurofen took that down and he actually perked right up from that point. I just don't often get days where he just wants his Mum and as he was eating and drinking well and was fine in himself beyond being a bit wappit and quiet, it was nice to cuddle.

Typically, just as he started to recover (or the meds started to regulate him enough to mask it at least) I started to feel stiff in the neck, sore throat, headachey, exhausted... yeah looks like I've caught it. And I have to work the next two days.

As ever, I can always rely on my innate sense of timing.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A Day Made of Win

Small had his two year check up with the Health Visitor first thing this morning. He's not too well at the moment, running a temp and a bit snotty, a cold on top of nasty molar teething I think. Still he did his normal charm offensive and chatted away to her. He's fine, either where he should be or beyond in all respects. Which I knew, but it's still nice to have it confirmed. That's One.

This morning when I picked up my glasses off the side table, one of the legs stayed behind. That's now the third set of these frames that's done this in less than a year. As we were done with our HV appointment still quite early, I took Small into town and swung by the opticians, dreading being told they were just going to replace the frame again when they've told me before it's a common problem with this particular frame so likely to keep on happening. They didn't even try, the lovely dispenser just said I could go choose new frames and they'd put whole new lenses in, completely free of charge. She even upgraded me to the nice thinned down lenses I couldn't afford to buy with the current ones. And gave me free lens cleaner. And chatted to Small about pirates, dinosaurs and pirate dinosaurs who live on the moon. That's Two

We did some other errands and headed home, walking through warm, even hot sunshine that had not been in evidence a couple of hours earlier when we left the house. Felt a bit of a berk with us both in our wet weather gear until I turned the corner and found we were walking straight towards a very dark, very large, very forbidding cloud. Was just about home before the rain started, tucked Small back into his puddlesuit and threw on my own coat for the last few hundred yards in raindrops the size of tuppences, getting in through our door, home and literally dry just before it really started to chuck it down. It's not stopped since, we timed it that well. That's Three.

Three is more than enough, we'll let the other, even more minor pleasant things go. Nothing earth shattering perhaps, but it's good when your day just treats you well.


Missed a day. I was busy yesterday and didn't get to bed even until midnight, then had a rough night of slighly poorly toddler.

Ah well, I didn't have anything interesting to say anyway, I'd only have gushed about about Andy Murray and the damn good show he put on.

I'll try harder to come up with something worth reading by tonight

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sunshine In Yorkshire Shock!

It was quite pleasant today. Warm even. There was even quite a lot of sunshine.
I did three large loads of laundry and got it all out on the line. Would have got it all dry out there too but for a teasing little shower than promised to be much worse about an hour before I'd planned to take it all in.

After the monsoon conditions of the last week or so, especially yesterday, it was more than welcome. I was not fooled however. As I discovered yesterday that Small's feet have gone up a whole size, we took advantage of the good weather to nip out for some summer fashions for the little man.
Puddlesuit, new wellies and aquashoes.
Ignore the mess, it's after teatime on a Saturday, I have a toddler. Cut me some slack.

Covering all the bases you see.

Now I have these items, I no longer care how the rest of the summer goes, how the weather is when we head of to Cornwall in a couple of weeks time, it doesn't matter. Whatever the weather, Small is kitted out for it and fun can continue uninterrupted.
Of course, now I've spent the money, we're pretty much guaranteed a long, hot, dry summer from here on in.

You're welcome.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Commuting and the art of homicidal rage repression

I don't drive. I've tried to get a licence in the past but failed enough times to accept my role in life is that of passenger/pedestrian.
I live in a medium sized West Yorkshire town but work in a large city 20 miles away.
These two facts mean my commute is done via public transport.
Not the bus, no I thankfully have been through the extraordinary test of human patience and sanity that reliance on Arriva (company motto - "just be grateful we show up at all") entails and found ways to remove them from my life. I use the train and either get a lift from Big or walk to the station.
Now, my bus experiences have one positive, they serve to remind me that commuting by train could be a lot worse. I do not enjoy my commutes. The morning one isn't so bad, I get on the train at 7am and catch a train which arrives just after the express. It's older rolling stock, slower and has more stops but it's not as busy, I always get a seat and can just sit with the Kindle and let the miles roll away.
But going home... oh dear. Come and see

First we have to negotiate Leeds station. Dodge the people standing aimlessly under the departure boards being about as aware of how they're blocking people who know where they're going from getting from the doors to the ticket gates as they are of where they're supposed to be.
Now the ticket gates. Invariably there will be a huge queue formed at the one manually operated gate with the guy who checks those tickets the automatic gates don't like. The queue is actually full of people with season tickets who can't be bothered getting their ticket out of the little wallet. And one person who bought their season ticket at a station that doesn't use gate-friendly tickets. That queue has bunched out after about five people so you can't get to half the other gates. The available gates have one person who is just stood there feeding in a ticket that clearly is too battered to work, over and over again, one person who is just confused by the whole electronic array and possibly suspects that like a T-Rex, if you stand still long enough, they'll wander off and leave you unscathed, and two people with trolley cases. Keep your eye on the people with the trolley cases. Especially if they're that tiny little kind that you don't know is being trailed in your path until you trip over it.
Ok, now the escalators and stairs. It's been a long day and you're tired, achey and only able to force your muscles into doing your bidding on the promise that you'll be home with a comfy chair and a cuppa soon. Oh but the escalator has a queue too. At this point it may be worth mentioning a little escalator etiquette.

  • Don't rush ahead of your party and leap on the escalator, only to then turn around and hold loud conversations with them over the heads of the people now between you and them. 
  • if you are wearing a backpack and the escalator is busy, please appreciate how your backpack is actually overhanging the next step down and occupying the same space as the person behind you. Sudden movements could cause concussion or even a bloodstained domino effect
  • if you have trolley cases (oh yeah, them again) that are too unbelievably heavy for you to consider lifting by the handle, USE THE FECKING LIFT. 
  • If you opt not to use the lift, at least have the common decency not to arrive at the top of the escalator and then faff for 20 seconds getting the handle sorted out before stalking off and trailing it behind you while leaving everyone behind you jogging on the spot in a desperate effort not to fall down the mashy, sharp metal staircase or trample you into the dust.
Sod it, we'll use the stairs.

Ok. Platform and here comes the train. Cue moment where everyone suddenly loses all sense of personal space and bunches up together to where they predict the train doors will be when it stops. Watch the careful assessment of how much space the collective mob is willing to allow for people to disembark without risking not getting on the train first. Doors open, people squeeze out, insane squash as everyone surges forward and you're carried off your feet and into the train in a flurry of elbows.
Oh gods is it over yet?
No, now act quick and grab a seat. Then give it up to the disabled/elderly/pregnant person who is apparently invisible to all the fit and healthy men in business suits carrying gym bags. Stand, again with the Kindle and try to block out the jolting, the sweaty proximity to too many people who've been working all day, the annoying tannoy announcements by the nasal, petty train conductor and transport your mind somewhere more palatable while your physical self is transported home. As this train goes to an airport eventually, there will be people standing in the midst of a fort made of suitcases, they will have blocked the doors. There will be people who will crack open a beer or a WKD before the doors close and Start Their Holiday Right Now, loudly. There will be hapless people who didn't realise this was a heavily oversubscribed commuter service and are trying to squeeze up the aisle to the seats they have booked. Which are occupied by the celebratory holiday drinkers. Who don't want to move. You won't see that petty conductor guy again.

Some random old bloke will try to engage you in conversation. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice your skills at either a) being foreign and not good at english b) being politely reticent in the hope he'll stop or c) selective deafness

At least this is the fast train and only takes 20 minutes. So long as no poor soul has tried to end it all on the line or a train up the track breaks down or they just decide to stop just outside the station for a rest and nice cuppa before having to let all the jittery, repressed commuters out.
The doors open. If you are in a party of travellers of which only some are disembarking at this station, please be aware that now is the perfect time to stand in the doorway and have that vital last conversation, followed by protracted farewells. No really, none of the rest of us really wanted to get off anyway.

And breathe. For we are home. 

Thursday Cute