Monday, 13 February 2017

Meal Plan #4

Hello and Happy Monday! You know how there are those phrases like 'creativity breeds creativity' and 'sleep begets sleep'? I am wondering if there is something similar to go along with thinking about food more deliberately resulting in more meal ideas? Completely uneloquent, I know, but I am sure you catch my drift. My point being, as I write this, it is Thursday 9th February and I have already written the meal plan for next week, rather than waiting until Sunday, or half an hour before I go to the supermarket on Monday. I don't think this has ever happened before. Here's the plan for this week:

Dining with The King's
Monday: Sausage Casserole
Tuesday: Takeaway (Perhaps this is a cop out to put on a meal plan, but there we go. Once a month when my in laws come to stay, we have a takeaway curry, and that's happening this week. Such a treat!)
Wednesday: Feta Fritters with rainbow salad, sweet potato fries and pitta bread
Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie (similar to this one but without the lima beans and with extra veg)
Friday: Bean Burgers with homemade red cabbage coleslaw (shredded cabbage, grated carrot & red onion mixed with creme fraiche)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Meal Plan #3

Here is our meal plan for this week. I have every intention of sharing the meal plan at the start of the week, but right now, time for blogging is limited to evenings, and my current bedtime is as close to 9pm as possible, due to sleep deprivation. Needless to say, this does not leave much time for sitting
down and writing a blog post. So I'm writing this with Jude trying to climb up my legs and Ruby is watching TV. The mushrooms are simmering and I'm counting down the minutes until my husband gets home. What's gracing our table this week...

Dining with The King's
Monday: Cheese & Roasted Tomato orzo
Tuesday: Chicken Divan
Wednesday: Thai Green Curry with noodles
Thursday: Dahl with rice*

As for our lunches, we're enjoying plenty of homemade sourdough with leek & potato soup, or quinoa with scrambled eggs and goats cheese. 

*This meal is being cooked by my good friend Hannah - we did a swap which involved her cooking me a meal in exchange for me cooking her a cake. She loves cooking, I love baking. Everybody wins. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Meal Plan #2

When it came to finding a photo of something savoury for this post, I had nothing. The reality is that I take photos of cake far more than I take photos of dinner. So, cake it is! Ruby took this photo on my DSLR (aged 3 years 2 months). I love that she sees me taking photos and wants to learn how to do this too. She handles my DSLR remarkably well considering it is so heavy for her tiny hands, but her increased interest in photography has made me think it would be very worthwhile to buy her a little point and shoot camera. The satisfaction of capturing photos is one that lasts a lifetime, and so worth investing in.

Onto this week's meal plan. I realise that it is almost the end of the week, but I wanted to make a record of this week's meals, because I have no doubt in my mind that I will forget by Sunday what we have eaten, and the whole reason for writing these meal plans is to save me some time in coming up with meal ideas. Last week in my post about our meal plan, one thing I didn't mention is that while I love a good plan, I am also very good at veering from a plan. I like to think that this demonstrates my ability to be flexible, rather than flaky. I veered away from last week's meal plan a couple of times, but with good reason. I had roasted a chicken for Monday's risotto, and there was enough meat left over for two moremeals. So rather than waste perfectly good meat, or put it in the freezer, I made a couple of other meals with it. (Chicken, pesto & pasta and rice pilau with chicken and sausages that I had in the freezer.)

Dining with The King's
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Homemade Quiche (onion, chorizo, spinach)
Wednesday: Roasted salmon & sweet potato bake w/ rice
Thursday: Lasagne
Friday: Slow cooker sweet potato chilli

If you're wondering what we eat at the weekend, I leave the cooking to John, who doesn't plan but comes up with really delicious meals. So, I have no idea what we will eat on Saturday and Sunday, but I have no doubt it'll be wonderful. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Meal plan on a Monday

Do you ever find yourself thinking, 'hmmm I have decide what to cook again?' If I don't have a meal plan, this is a daily thought for me. I have to admit that while I really love great food, and I quite enjoy cooking, I do not really enjoy the process of deciding what to cook. For many years of our marriage, John has been responsible for cooking our main meals, but with changing family rhythms, this responsibility is now mine. If I am not deliberate in creating a meal plan before I go food shopping, I can pretty much guarantee that at least three nights of the week, you will find me standing by the fridge and the oven, pondering what to cook before reaching for some cake (which I never have trouble baking) to console myself that I need to put food on the table again and the children needed to eat fifteen minutes ago, so are losing the plot with hunger and tiredness. Yep, the truth is not pretty, but there it is.

When I create a plan, it makes the world of difference to my food frustrations. That's not to say it's all smooth sailing and that I manage to make beautiful food that's on the table on time every night, but it is a vast improvement from the days when I procrastinate from thinking about dinner until ten minutes before John gets home. Take this evening, for instance. Cooking dinner involved balancing a baby on one hip, overseeing a three year old ladling very hot stock into our risotto, attempting to flip sweet potato fries without steaming myself or the baby, burning my thumb in the process, and stopping to nurse the babe while kneeling on the kitchen floor. I imagine that the slight chaos that surrounds my cooking is not unique, but I thought I would share a little of the realities of life, because I think that makes for slightly more interesting reading than just a list of what we ate.
So here it is, folks. Our meal plan for the week.

Dining with The King's
Monday: Risotto w/ peas, carrots, chicken & sweet potato fries
Tuesday: Sweet potato & spinach frittata
Wednesday: Toad in the hole (tend to do this as yorkshire puddings baked in a muffin tray w/sausage on the side)
Thursday: Homemade pizza (probably with sweet potato fries again. I love them.)
Friday: Falafel w/ pitta breads & salad

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Jude at eight months

Dear Jude,
At eight months old you are our early rising, cable chewing, stair climbing nappy flipping babe (as in, you flip over and crawl off as fast as possible during each nappy change). You love to put things in your mouth then crawl around with them. This resulted in an A&E trip last month after you swallowed a tiddlywink. 

You like to rise between 5 and 5.30am.  Although this is slightly painful after a broken night of nursing you, I enjoy the quiet that comes with us being up before Daddy & Ruby. It has also resulted in a significant increase in my caffeine intake in order to make it through the day.

You love to explore and are so focused on your play when you can do so without interruption from Ruby. Speaking of Ruby, she adores you and this tends to translate into her constantly picking you up and moving you from one place to another, much to your frustration. Despite this, you clearly adore your sister and are completely delighted to see her when she comes downstairs in the morning. 

This month, I have finally learnt the art of getting you to sleep, thanks to a training session from Daddy, who's had this skill mastered for months. It takes a good amount of patience, but I cannot begin to tell you the difference this makes to me. This process involves holding you close, singing Brahms lullaby and bouncing, swaying, walking until you become calm. Then we lay you on the bed on your tummy (your favoured sleeping position since you were twelve weeks old) and jiggling you gently with a hand on your back. You often sit bolt upright at this point, which is when we start the process of standing, singing and swaying all over again. (I am writing this very much for my own reference as I am in no doubt that this process will change and evolve as you grow, and I will forget the details.)

You have learnt how to pull yourself up to standing and practice this all day long. As for your crawling and climbing adventures, I frequently hear you call out when you've got in a tangle between the chair legs under the dining table. 

This has been the month where you contracted experienced your first house move, first hospital trip, first Christmas, first trip to the Science museum in London, and caught chicken pox. What a month! Keep growing strong, little one. 
All my love,

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

some thoughts.

For anyone who stops by this little blog of mine, you might have noticed that things have slowed down - perhaps you could say they have even ground to a halt - around here. I have thought a lot about removing this blog from the internet lately. I started blogging way back in 2004 as a means of keeping in touch with my family while I was away at university. Twelve years on, and it all feels a little bit tired around here. I am a little bit tired, and I am not sure that I really have the energy to give this blog a face lift. For a long time, I have not felt the need to change the layout and design of this space, but now when I look at it, it just doesn't feel like an accurate representation of what life is like now for me. (That photo of me in the sidebar? It was taken back in 2012 back before I had been pregnant, had children, knew what sleep deprivation was like. These days I most certainly look a little more tired than the fresh faced Hannah in that picture, and bearing children has changed my hair, adding many more waves than I ever had before, not to mention the few pounds of weight I have gained since the days when I used to run half marathons, ate a lot less chocolate, and hadn't grown two babies...)

I often think about how many photos I want to share of my children in this space. While they do not understand the need for privacy now, they will eventually, and I can't help but wonder if they will feel saddened that I have shared so many images of them on the internet in the years where they could not give consent to do so. My children are the people I spend every hour of my day with, and so to imagine blogging and not writing about them feels strange.

And yet, there is something about the way I think that makes me feel like I need to write. Perhaps no one else needs to see these words? I don't know. Perhaps it is my extrovert tendencies which mean that I am an external processor, and getting the words out in some form - be it in spoken word, face to face with another human, or typed into this little white box - helps me process, and maybe more significantly, it helps me to remember. While I have not really missed blogging during the last year, there have been multiple occasions where I have said to John, 'what was the name of that place where we stayed with those friends? Which year did we go to Cornwall and go on that beautiful walk in whats-the-name-of-that-gorge?' My mind does not retain the detail it once did, and I have always loved blogging as a way of recording where we have been. Perhaps it is this desire to remember that compels me to write once again.
As I was thinking about this desire I still have to write down the details of our days, my thoughts turned to my teen years and the subjects I chose to study at A Level. I remember having a conversation with my tutor who taught Maths, who commented that all of the subjects I had chosen were essay based assessments, which would equate to a lot of writing. Even then, although I had no clue what I wanted to study at university, I knew that words did not evade me - that I could make sense and be creative with words in a way that I simply could not do with mathematical formula or scientific principles. I have changed in countless ways since those days - my ability to string a sentence together has matured and then crumbled as I wade through sleep deprivation. Sometimes I cannot remember what the washing machine is called, and other times the words I want to pen flow so freely in my mind that I long for just a moment to write down those fragments of life.

Last year was filled with many wonderful things - I completed my Montessori studies, grew my baking business, had another baby, and just to top it all off, we moved house in early December. Time felt precious and squeezed, and there just wasn't the time to write anything other than my assignments.

I recently read a quote which said,

"Writer's block — so what? Write something bad. Just throw it in the trash can when you're done, you're always improving. That kind of writing is like doing a bunch of push-ups. Every individual push-up is not the important thing. On Tuesday you're going to think, "Is it really important that I do it today?" No, but the collective impact is. If you write every day, you will improve." N.D. Wilson

So perhaps I will carry on penning words in this little space, for the cathartic effect it has on me; for practise; for my remembering, and for anyone who might enjoy reading them.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

little stories

A text conversation with a friend prompted me to write this blog post. I had shared on Instagram how I love making photo books with my Instagram pictures. She sent me a text saying that this had reminded her of my blog posts, and that she missed them. I told her that even if I wanted to write more on this blog, I am not taking enough photos to accompany posts. She talked about how, perhaps it was to do with the change of light as we approach Winter, and this is so very true. I certainly take less photos at this time of year.

This text conversation came back to me when I went for a run this evening. Almost exactly four years ago, I ran a mile a day for thirty days, and shared a photo on Instagram of each run as a way of documenting the process. It was quite a challenge to find novel things to photograph each day for thirty days, particularly as light was not on my side. Most of my runs were in the dark, but somehow, I managed to complete the challenge. (To give context to the photo at the top of this post, I took it while running this evening.) This got me thinking about why I used to write regularly in this space, and it has a lot to do with stories. I am no storyteller, but I like to record and photograph the simple stories of our days, because my memory is just not reliable. I am in no doubt that in ten years time, I will not remember what our days looked like in this season of life, and that matters to me. Perhaps this sounds a little morbid, but I often think about the fact that if I were to die while my children were very young, they would not remember me. So I want to leave them with photos and stories. Even if I live for many more years, these stories will still be precious memories for us as a family to look back on and see how we grew and changed together and individually.

When I stopped writing this blog, I had been disheartened for a long time that I had such a tiny readership. Although deep down I knew this didn't matter, I couldn't shake the feeling of, 'who am I doing this for, really? If I just want to record what goes on in our family, it really doesn't need to be broadcast to the world.' So, I have spent the last year or so recording family life in a way that works for now - through daily photos, one second videos and by writing a couple of lines in my One Line A Day' diary.

The details of stories are important to me. Fairly early on in our relationship, my husband introduced me to the phrase, 'go to the end now' as a way of indicating that he wanted me to get to the crux of whatever story I was telling. This was not the first time someone had kindly indicated to me that perhaps not everyone cares for all of the details in a retelling of an event. But I do. I want to hear the highs and lows and understand the full shape of a story. One of the challenging things about motherhood and friendship is the opportunity for holding a conversation with friends without interruption. I suppose that is one of the reasons I like writing here. To record the stories of my family that I want to remember. I love stories. I love the details of stories and knowing the whole journey. For me, photos and songs are like landmarks along the way. In this season of life when I have had less time to write, I keep on taking photos and sharing snippets of stories on Instagram, so that I will remember. Photos join up the dots of stories where the words have not been written. And maybe, just maybe, I will return to sharing some of those stories here.