Monday, 31 March 2014


I’ve been thinking a lot about routines, the big ones and the little ones. How things change over time and how you need to adjust the routine to fit in with the new world order. Some of the routines are for my benefit and some benefit those around me. Some routines are purposefully instigated and some develop serendipitously without great thought or intellectual input. There are some routines which work immediately and some which don’t however hard you try. I like the word routine, as opposed to habit. Habit implies negativity, perhaps even laziness not to change. Routine, to me, suggests a purpose. Routines have always helped me; made me feel organised and assisted me managing my days. When I worked in a lab, routine and order was all part of the methodology. Even now I still bring those aspects of my training (and my personality) to my working world. Routines really helped me with my children. They liked (and still do) our routines surrounding bedtime and mealtimes; I can definitely see the joy in knowing when you’re going to be fed! It helps you to feel safe knowing that some things are unchangeable. Routines are going to change for us. BigR starts school in September. I’m looking into flexible working. The ABO is now based at home. Things are shifting but in amongst this we still have our safe routines and new ones likely to start.

:: When BigR wakes up in the morning (and once her (timer controlled) light is on!!), she’s allowed a little bit of TV. This gives me either time to shower and get ready or time for 20 minutes more rest at the weekend. Everyday she has half a cup of water (I have no idea why half but it’s the routine), some dry shreddies in bowl and a box of raisins. Woe betide the absence of shreddies in the house…other types of cereal disrupt the routine…Once the birthday cards are on cbeebies that’s my cue to get up/go downstairs (!) it’s the routine.

:: Going back to work and starting a new part of my job 2 days a week in a different city in Yorkshire meant I had a fairly long (in time but not in miles) commute with the nursery drop-off in the middle. Usually I make myself a pot of coffee when I reached the office but it’s not as easy to do that here (office shenanigans – happy days). Each day I did that drive, after the girls were in nursery I would go past a McDonald’s on my way to the office …after 2 weeks I stopped for a coffee at the drive thru. It felt slightly odd to be stopping on the way. Surely you only do that on long motorway journeys?? What a revelation! It made the journey easier and improved my mood. It’s harder here to make a ‘nice’ coffee so this routine has really improved my world. I’ve also been unnecessarily overexcited about getting my first ‘free’ coffee…and am halfway to the next one…
:: Starting my 101 days notebook is a new routine but one I still have to be mindful of. That’s no bad thing really. Being present with it is part of what it’s about. I’ve followed Clare Law’s Three Beautiful Things blog for some time. She writes so beautifully about her days. I’m not always managing three things; occasionally it is more but that’s OK this is my 101 days.

I wonder what other routines I’ll think of?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

101 days

It is 100 days until the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire.

The significance of this is that it’s 101 days until my birthday. 

I’m going to attempt to think of and document (at least) one happy thing every day for the next 101 days.

This calls for a new notebook I think. 

I might even try to take a photo of ‘it’ and post them all here.

When lemons are all that's left

Family mealtimes vary. Sometimes we all eat the same thing together, sometimes the girls eat one thing and we eat something else. Often, we eat together when the girls are in bed. If the girls have been at nursery all day they have a smaller meal about 3pm. This means they need a more substantial snack (but not a full meal) so we don’t all eat the same thing…plus I don’t always want food at 5pm!

When I’m on my own, as I’ve mentioned here before, I tend to eat things the ABO isn’t keen on. Occasionally I’ll eat a big meal at lunchtime and then have crackers and cheese or beans on toast. Last night, I was hungry, tired and the fridge was almost empty (we’re due a ‘big shop’) so we were out of my go to quick meal of eggs on toast. What I did have was some leftover cream and some lemons. Not what you would think would make the main basis of a meal. I’ve had this recipe in the back of my mind for a while having made it a few times 2 summers ago. I make no bones about owning it; in fact a quick search reveals the smitten kitchen has beaten me to it by some time…usually I add some peas but we are out of those too. It’s easy to scale up or down. It would be delicious with other green vegetables especially asparagus. In brief, here’s what I did… 

Boil the spaghetti or tagliatelle (or other pasta…I’ve done this with fusilli and penne, but a long thin pasta works best). Whilst this is cooking, zest and juice a medium sized lemon (I used 2 slightly shrivelled small ones- I also heated them in microwave for 10secs to get more juice), grate a good handful of parmesan cheese and roughly chop some herbs…today I used basil as that’s what I had handy, although thyme works well too. 

When cooked drain the pasta. Gently heat the cream (a good glug per person) in the same saucepan, add in the lemon zest and half of the juice. Return the spaghetti to the pan stir through the sauce, add a little water to slacken if you need to (Smitten Kitchen reserves some pasta water but I always forget this!) stir through the parmesan cheese. Add more lemon juice to your taste (I didn’t need to). Add lots of black pepper. Grate on even more parmesan cheese. Serve to yourself on a tray in front of some mindless TV and remember just in time to take a photo on your phone in very poor light

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Small happinesses

It’s been a tiring day. Up at 4am with a child who had ‘finished their sleep’. I managed to convince her to go back to sleep (until 5.30am) but sadly I then just laid there, wide awake, waiting for her to get up again and for the morning to start (I used the time productively and got on with my book!). This evening could only be described as a parenting fail. Bedtime was a bit (ha!) of a disaster and she finally fell asleep (ran out of excuses?) around 8.30pm. So after a pretty exhausting day which included lots of walking in the rain, rushing and the horrors of ‘networking’ (shudder) I’m going to focus on things that have given me a little lift over the last week.

:: A new butter dish. Reduced in Waitrose I couldn’t resist it. I’ve coveted an Orla Kiely one but this one will do just as well in the interim...until my birthday. Actually can you ever have too many dishes? I could always use two butter dishes, one for unsalted and salted butter each. Easy.

:: Daffodils. I’ve barely been able to walk past the flowers in the supermarket. They cheer up the kitchen on a grey morning or on a sunny morning.

:: Just below the daffs...the dishwasher. Also a source of immense joy (sigh). 

:: One of our cacti is flowering. The buds open and close through the day and are longlasting. There are at least 4 buds on this one so we’ll see if they all open.

:: Lemon and lime curd – I cheated and used this recipe (halved) and the microwave. It’s zesty and sharp and delicious on plastic white bread!


:: Train travel with a coffee (black Americano) and a magazine. In this case the journey was short (25 minutes) to York for work. But that didn’t stop my purchases

:: Enjoying my job. Attending a conference. I don’t like ‘networking’. I find it hard and I’m not very good at it but I do like learning and listening to inspirational people and that’s what was good today. That and the coffee at the venue.

:: Walking through Leeds and York at opposite ends of the day, The weather was grey andA rainy. In fact it only seemed to rain when I needed to walk today! But it was time to think and photograph (poorly I know with my phone) ...before heading home.

 The library and town hall at 8am.

:: Planning days out in April...including a baby shower (where we’ll have afternoon tea) and a ‘date’ (getting babysitter!!) with the ABO.
:: Making lists and plans. A trip to Ikea is needed (we need a step stool...I have a bruise on my head and a broken pyrex bowl to prove it). Just how many totally necessary items will fall into my basket on the way round? I like the look of the Brakig collection....

:: Rev – possibly the funniest show on TV. As ever Olivia Colman is superb!


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Back to work, eating and playing

Another week goes by here in Yorkshire. I made it a 3 day week...potentially trialling what life could be like if I’m brave enough to mention flexible working to my boss later this week but that’s another story...

The ABO and I had a day together on Tuesday. We escaped to Manchester for jeans (him), a skirt (me) and burgers (us). The shops are the same shops here in Leeds but arranged in a different order so that we’re never quite sure where we are, it’s not that familiar to us and seems to lend itself to pottering. Even the M62 being closed on the way home didn’t dampen the spirits too much.

Friday we had a family day at the seaside. After a fairly long drive to Whitby, we had fish and chips, ice cream and made sandcastles. The tide was coming in (and fairly fast) so we didn’t linger too long. LittleR had no fear and merrily chased sea gulls and ran toward the waves (in direct contrast to BigR at the same age who on Perranporth beach was scared by the very gentle sea) and BigR attempted to make sandcastles without getting too sandy (this is not usually her fear at nursery where she frequently comes home covered in mud and sand!!!).


The ABO went back to work yesterday. He’s away most of this week and we’re (literally) counting down the days until he’s based locally now...So in his absence (I find it easier if we have a plan one the weekend) we went to see old friends of mine from Un ii Sheffield. Their children are now teenagers (well one is and one nearly is - how did that happen?!) but they entertained my two really beautifully. BigR came away with a whole host of ‘Littlest pet shop’ toys my friend’s daughter has grown out of. She’s gone to bed with them too!


I’ve been enjoying coffee from our new machine....trying out new beans although I’ve been careful not to overdo the caffeine...well not too much...

I’ve been cooking . We made homemade pizzas this afternoon. I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s pizza base recipe which can be found in the river cottage bread book or here. 

For the tomato sauce I used this recipe from Sue at the Quince Tree. I’ve made this sauce so many times’s useful for so many things and the girls lap it up. 

BigR added cheese, mushrooms and ham to hers. I kept LittleR’s a very simple margherita. They were delicious even though I didn’t put as much salt as Hugh suggested into the dough as I was going to be giving it to the baby. Actually I think I barely used10% of his suggested amount. I’m so used to eating food without any added salt (unless it’s butter, I love salted butter!). They were a great success with the girls...even if one did get stuck to the baking tray (why only one?)...

As a little treat the other night we had pancakes again. I bought my pancake pan with a voucher from my birthday when I went to my Betty’s cookery school day. It’s been getting good use. They were delicious. Filled with ice cream and mango. Yum.


I’m itching to get in the garden. I was reminded though that it’s not as warm as you think with some chilly winds. We’ll hold off on the temperate plants for now anyway... BigR planted peas at nursery and came home with her plants the other day. She was so excited that her seeds had germinated and would become peas!!! She checks on it everyday and so far she’s not been disappointed to see a difference. I’m hoping they carry on thriving and we can transfer them to a pot for outside later in April.


Plans for this week are

:: coffee with a good friend I haven’t seen for ages. We used to work together and I miss her. It’s taken us ages to get a date we can both do in the diary!

:: baking a cake for the return of the ABO at the end of the week

:: the usual supermarket type visit but to include some nice things to eat and menu plan for in advance

:: hopefully to get into my new book ‘Raven Black’...having finished ‘The Snow Child’ (superb!)...I’m not sure where my reading mojo has come from!


Hope you have lovely things planned too.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Sunshine, nice things and waking up

Isn’t it amazing how a few days of glorious (in our case) sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures can improve your mood? Even with BigR waking up before 5am hasn’t dented my mood. I’m embracing the start of spring.
We had a lovely family weekend walking, eating out, a trip to town for a birthday present, playing in the garden, a birthday party and enjoying our new coffee machine (the caffeine addiction runs deep).

Even being at work today, in the bit of my job that has the hellish commute, I’m finding beautiful things, such as the view above.

In amongst all this I slept so badly. I’m not usually one prone to anxiety in the middle of the night. Usually it’s only the children that wake me but this weekend I suddenly awoke and was panicked. I’d forgotten to post out packs for a workshop and spent, what felt like hours, awake wondering what I was going to do. Anyway the first time I could rectify it was today. And I did.  What’s the worst that will happen? The packs won’t be available but the sessions can still run. I‘ve decided that:
:: I need to make more lists
:: I need to buy another notebook
:: I must delegate this sort of task to our new admin person who will be much better at this than me
:: I need not to worry about things when there’s nothing I can do anything about it

I’m looking forward to a random day off tomorrow that the ABO and I plan to spend together probably without the girls for a change. A little bit of time off for us all.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cooking and understanding my place in the world

What a difference a few days or warmer weather and sunshine make? I really feel as though Spring has most definitely sprung. Seeing all the fab photos all over other’s blogs is really inspiring. One day I’ll sort out my camera and stop using my phone!
We had a good weekend. I managed to get the supermarket out of the way very early (thanks BigR for the pre 5am wake up!) and we could spend the rest of the time having fun.
On Saturday whilst LittleR napped we made fairy cakes (or buns as my Yorkshire lass says) and some more date and ginger slices for Daddy. She was very excited to be using the pink cupcake cases. We planned to ice them but they hadn’t cooled enough before LittleR awoke, so one had to be taste tested before that happened for quality control purposes.

We decorated them on Sunday…there can never be too much pink glitter. The lack of icing on the cakes is down to BigR not liking it! We used just enough to stick on the sprinkles!

I was inspired by Gillian to make some poached eggs with Colcannon. Usually my poached eggs don’t cut the mustard. I was quite proud of these two holding their shape. I used a mixed bag of cabbage as I didn’t have any Kale in the fridge and lots of black pepper. It was very, very tasty!

In keeping with my try a new recipe each month…for my evening meal, once the girls were in bed, I made Sue’s chorizo and chickpea rice. I forgot to take a picture of finished dish as I was far too hungry!! I used Chorizo from Tesco and found it to be a lot more piquant than others I have used. No less tasty for it though. There was enough left for lunch the next day which I had with a big salad. You can tell spring is here; I’ve bought salad! Also, this picture tells me I need to clean my pan handle more thoroughly!

I’ve had to google whether you should capitalise ‘spring’ or not. Apparently if you give the word a human trait you add a capital letter….everyday really is a school day!

Sunday saw playing with friends at their house due to inclement weather and the making of a Shepherd's pie and a beef casserole. Batch cooking at its best.

All this food activity meant I spent a happy few hours leafing through some cookbooks. I have 2 huge shelves of cook books and can’t stop collecting them. I’m not sure how much of this changes what we cook day to day, sometimes I think just be having them there things will go in by diffusion!  I have very practical books that I use regularly and plenty of fantasy books that I just read for pleasure (and look at the pictures for inspiration). This is what I perused over the weekend.

The Allegra McEvedy book was a ‘getting paid for the second time after going back to work’ treat. It’s got some lovely looking recipes in it that I may even try out!! I like recipes that have a bit of narrative to them as well. Nigel Slater is a favourite cookery writer. He really understands how to marry together words and food. I’m loving the Rose Prince book too! The River Cottage bread book is a staple. We should have made homemade pizzas but we ran out of time!

Once again I’m thinking about work and not working. It’s nice being paid and having that extra cash to buy books and glittery sprinkles, spending time having adult conversation and using my brain in non-childcare/household (read here cleaning) related tasks. I spent so long in education to get into the ivory tower of academia I’m loathe to give it up completely. Being an academic is part of my identity. A really important part of how I define me. So when I read this today I felt a mixture of relief that I wasn’t alone and despair. I earn a good salary but I’ve added up our childcare costs, how much it costs me to commute, and I have to conclude I’m not really in it for the money that’s left! I’m torn between caring for my children myself and having time as a family and being at work and perpetuating that part of my identity. Our School is in the middle of planning for an Athena Swan silver award, I’m part of the steering committee. It’s interesting as the leads are men, the loudest voices are men and they think they understand the pressures and that flexible working policies are the answer (mine could be a parking permit!). I guess it’ll be up to me to tell them where they’re going wrong!