Wednesday 31 May 2006

because you're dying to know

Last night's supper was mint, pea, and prawn risotto served with a lovely green salad. Congratulations to Shauna for giving me the idea to make risotto! Thanks for playing and please join us again next time.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

ready steady blog

Here's my dilemma: I can't get to the supermarket before suppertime so I need to figure out what to make out of the contents of my kitchen cupboards. Please help - think of this as an interactive online experience that will undoubtedly enrich your life, make you better looking, and possibly help you lose 5-10 lbs.

Fridge/freezer contents:
  • parmesan cheese
  • milk
  • various condiments (an assortment of mustards, mayonnaise, ketchup, and some suspicious-looking chutney that's probably out of date)
  • a few vegetables: carrots, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, a bit of salad, and cucumber.
  • some herbs: parsley, basil, mint, and coriander.
  • bread
  • peas
  • cooked prawns
  • tortillas
  • ice cubes
  • food for Jack stored in bags and little plastic tubs*
    *(I'll only break into these in case of emergency)

Cupboard contents:
  • more herbs and spices than you can shake a stick at
  • various oils and vinegars
  • rice (basmati, brown long grain, and arborio)
  • pasta
  • lentils
  • porcini mushrooms
  • lots of alcohol
  • tinned chickpeas
  • baked beans
  • eggs
  • one sad clove of garlic
  • sushi rice, pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and seaweed (nori)
  • miso soup
  • tinned stock
  • tuna
  • soba noodles
  • several varieties of flour and many other things to make baked goods

Answers in the comments by 5pm GMT, please. If you come over to our house and cook for us, we'll provide wine.

Friday 26 May 2006


After several weeks of practicing how to knit rectangles, I've moved on - to squares. But wait, these squares actually have a purpose because I've got a project. Oh yes. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that the project may go exceedingly well and I will present it with pride, or I'll be running over to Mothercare to buy a 6 pack of infant sleepsuits and stuffing my project into a carrier bag behind the sofa. It could go either way, really.

I'm pleased to say that I've managed to get most of it done without having to call my mother-in-law once. Mind you, I am going to embark on another smaller project soon that requires weird things like increasing and moss stitches, whatever the hell that means. Maybe I should just make a scarf.

Of course you do realise that all of you are getting knitted socks with giant pom-poms on them for Christmas this year.

Wednesday 24 May 2006

child's play

I've always maintained that a lot of things aimed at children are pretty damn terrifying. Take things like Teletubbies, for example - what the merry hell is that supposed to be about? Then there are nursery rhymes ("Let's all sing about the plague, children!"), fairy tales involving witches eating wayward children who have wandered into the woods, and don't even get me started about clowns.

I have recently made a frightening discovery involving several of my son's toys: they beckon you when you leave them. He's got a stuffed puppy that sings and plays games when you press its paws, and if you leave it alone for a few minutes, it cries out in an artificially created mock child's voice "I love you!" It's not cute; it's like something out of a horror film. I'm waiting for it to creep up the side of our bed late at night and softly sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" at us while its eyes glow bright red. Jack's got a plastic farm that plays a few tunes and makes animal noises, and after it's left for several minutes, it shouts out "YEEEEHAAAAW!" The first time it did that, my heart leapt out of my throat.

My uncle got a Furby for his kids a few years ago, and he said that it used to make noises and move its eyes all by itself. I'm still traumatised by a toy I once had called "Baby Alive", a doll that contorted its mouth while you shoved something resembling orange custard in its mouth and then deposited it out the other end. I'm not sure what people in children's toy marketing are trying to do with our offspring, but it's scaring the crap out of me. That's it; I'm only buying Lego and Playdough for my son.

Tuesday 23 May 2006

my little street urchin

Jack models this season's hottest outerwear: a ratty old dog blanket.

He's the littlest hobo.

it's got fruit in it, so it's good for me

I have just made a very exciting discovery: Waitrose sells Cartmel sticky toffee pudding! This tiny shop in the Lake District has been featured on Rick Stein's "Food Heros" and BBC's "Great British Menu" recently, and I made a mental note to check them out the next time we're up there. As if by magic, they have come to me. Surely it's a sign, and as such, I felt it best not to ignore it and purchased some yesterday.

I need a moment to compose myself, as I'm having sticky toffee flashbacks.

It was, very simply put, the best sticky toffee pudding I've ever had. If I wasn't already married, I would have run off with it and made little sticky toffee babies with it. For those of you who aren't aware of this dessert, it's a wonderfully moist sponge cake base (made with dates and more sugar than most humans should consume in a lifetime) doused in a toffee sauce. If you live near a Waitrose and you like sticky toffee pudding, give it a go.

Yeah, yeah...I'll get back to the running this week.

Friday 19 May 2006

it's highbrow, really

Oh yes, oh yes: Big Brother has returned! Some of you are excited as I am, some of you don't live in this country and have no clue what I'm talking about, and the rest of you are looking down your noses at this uncouth broad. I care not a jot; I like trashy television, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Heat magazine, and buying shoes. Deep as a puddle, I am.

As is tradition, here is my summary of this year's housemates (in order of house entry - see if you can detect the logic behind this):

Bonnie: That's pronounced "bon-aaayyy", but must be pronounced "bonny" immediately after introducing herself to anyone, because no one can decipher her accent.

Pete: He's got Tourette's (no, really), but that's actually the least of his difficulties. He's more hyperactive than a toddler on Coco Puffs soaked in a triple espresso, and is more than just a little bit scary. We like him.

George: Claims to be posh and also claims to dislike very camp gay men.

Shahbaz: A very camp gay man.

Lea: A "35-year-old" (my eye) "model" (again, I direct you to my eye) who's had a little work done. Imagine if Dolly Parton and Pete Burns had a child, and you're pretty much there.

Imogen: A young looker and a former Miss Wales. No sign of artificial enhancement, but there's still lots of time for that yet.

Mikey: Model and software developer, which has got to be the strangest combination of occupations to date. He hates feminists and thinks women should "know their place."

Dawn: She doesn't like people. I think someone may need to sit her down and explain the Big Brother concept to her before things go horribly wrong. I vote her most likely to stab someone in the head with a potato peeler.

Glyn: He was voted the hottest lifeguard in North Wales, despite being built like a runnerbean.

Richard: Canadian, and I really can't apologise enough for that. He's a self-confessed "maneater" and goes for guys who are "big and dumb". Shahbaz almost wet himself when Richard entered the house. Richard looked frightened and moved away quickly.

Grace: Supposedly a Sloan Ranger, but is actually just a daft bird with rich parents and likes to shop. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Lisa: Very, very chatty and hyper. I vote her most likely to be stabbed in the head with a potato peeler.

Sezer: That's pronounced "Ceasar" like the salad. The salad is actually a lot more interesting than this man.

Nikki: If Vicki Pollard lost about 6 stone, we'd have this contestant. Hmm Nikki...Vicki?

Let the fun begin.

Thursday 18 May 2006

crafty girls

My lovely friend Melanie (whose mummy makes the best cheesecake ever) and her friend Karen are the owners of K&M Beadshop, where you can buy all sorts of funky beads online. Mmmm sparkly. If you ever want to make your own jewellery, check it out. Very handy when you need something special and personalised (like our bridesmaids' necklaces). It's also great fun for kids who are into jewellery making. Melanie's a top bird (lookit me being all British) and she deserves loads of support.

Go now! Buy things! Lots of things!

Wednesday 17 May 2006

the running diaries, week 2

Ran once. Got a cold. Breathing went wonky due to rapeseed attack. Didn't run again last week. Feck.

Now about this rapeseed nonsense. Look, I know that most of you reading this are likely rapeseed farmers because there must be approximately ten billion of you in this country, judging by the number of rapeseed fields I've spotted. I really don't mean to berate your crop of choice, but it really buggers up my asthma and makes me sneeze. Could you please grow something more allergy-friendly, such as moss, cotton, or perhaps some lovely root vegetables? Thank you.

no soup for you!

Jack and I got back in the pool on Monday, after a bit of a harrowing journey (i.e. bad directions + a tired mummy = circling many roundabouts several times while trying not to swear). Upon arrival, the 103-year-old instructor said to me, "Do you want a vest and armbands [water wings]?" which I declined. She looked slightly taken aback and said "But all the children wear them" and again I declined explaining that we didn't need them. I am of the opinion that babies and toddlers need to understand that they must do something (like kick their legs and move their arms) in order to prevent sinking to the bottom, as opposed to doing absolutely nothing yet still being able to float on the surface. Jack never used them before and the people who ran our last classes didn't promote their use. Call me a mad hippy, but there you go.

We swam around for a bit, mostly chatting to my friends and catching up, and then we were broken up into groups. They held hoops in the water for the babies to "swim" through, most of them bobbing up and down on the surface totally unable to move, much like a fishing lure. Parents pushed their kids across the water through the hoop, and then it was our turn. "See, this is why we use the floaties - we don't want them to get their faces wet", the old trout woman scolded. "Jack can get his face wet, and he's been underwater before" I said, trying desperately not to shove this woman's head under the water. Reluctantly, I allowed her to put armbands and a vest on Jack, both of which were far too big for his age and he couldn't move his arms at all. He kept trying to pull the vest off, so I removed everything and got ready to take our turn through the hoop. He floated through the hoop as the old bat had a panicked look on her face and had her claws within reach should Jack suddenly plummet to the bottom for no apparent reason. "Next week" she said, "ARMBANDS AND VEST." Fine.

After mulling it over, I decided that we can still enjoy these classes despite the complete lack of structure and the Floatie Police. In fact, the lack of structure is a good thing because it means I can take him aside and go through the swimming techniques we learned before. The important thing was to get him back in the pool, and I will simply have to grin and bear the armband rule. I bought him a more reasonably-sized vest from Splashabout and will get him smaller armbands somewhere else, which should hopefully interfere less with his ability to move.

I am seriously hormonal right now. Maybe I should steer clear of nasty old witches just in case I get the urge to see if she floats.

Friday 12 May 2006

return to the water, anxiety, and becoming a little man

I found a swimming class for us on Mondays, thanks to a friend and her adorable twin girls. I really want to get Jack back in the pool again, especially because he doesn't seem to like getting his head wet anymore. I think he isn't used to it now, so I want to get him swimming again before he develops a fear of water. Plus, Jack looks so damn cute in his little swimming trunks.

I mentioned the 6am wake up calls, but we've had an unpleasant development recently: nightly screaming for several hours at a time. Jack's been very unhappy when first put to bed and sometimes wakes again in the evening screaming his fluffy head off, and has treated us to a couple of late night/early morning waking sessions, during which time he alternates between screeching and deciding that it would be a really good time to play. He's tired; he puts his head down and settles down when we're next to him, but as soon as we take one step away from the cot, his tiny head pops up like a gopher's and yells out WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! until we return to his side. It's all been a barrel of laughs, let me tell you. I suppose this might be separation anxiety or teething (he's been dribbling like a fiend lately), but either way, it's been tough to deal with. I think when you don't have bouts of sleeplessness for a very long stretch they become much harder to deal with when they do happen. Plus, it's that much worse when you've got to work the next day. Bleah.

Otherwise, Jack's life goes merrily on and it's been amazing watching him develop into a little person of his own. I always thought that this phase in Jack's life would be more demanding on us because small babies just sort of lie there and don't do a lot, but it's actually turned out to be easier. Jack can feed himself, plays quite happily on his own and doesn't need our attention constantly, has a pretty regular routine, but best of all, it's an absolute joy simply watching him be Jack. He makes us fall over laughing, he amazes us with the things he's learned, and he's such a happy little chap (when he's not up all night screaming, that is). There is nothing better than seeing my son's face erupt into an enormous toothy grin as he comes running towards me with his arms wide open, giving me a "kiss" that involves an open mouth and a lot of slobber.

The occasional sleepless night really isn't a big deal in the larger scheme of things, is it?

Wednesday 10 May 2006

c'est chouette!

I don't usually post about cool mummy finds, but perhaps it's time I started. Lisa from Chouette Design Group (that's pronounced "shwette" for you non-Francophones) does some gorgeous photo birth announcements and adoption announcements over at Modern with nice clean designs, she takes a photo you send to her and does fantastic things with it. Seriously, I would have used her when Jack was born but I was so disorganised and late in getting something out, I had to cobble something together myself.

I'm a bit biased about this company because the person who runs this business is a) called Lisa and b) is lovely. Now scamper on over there and order lots of things from her. Even you people outside the US - she ships overseas, ya know.

Monday 8 May 2006

highchair high jinks

Jack REALLY likes raisins!

Jack didn't find my dinner conversation terribly interesting.

Friday 5 May 2006

the running diaries, week 1

On Sunday, July 2 (the day after our Canada Day BBQ, at which point I will be hungover and bloated) I will be running the 5k Race for Life. That's right, running. I should explain that I loathe running and in fact, I'm not even that fond of walking. The only walking I enjoy is on beaches or if I decide to embark on a journey from the sofa to the fridge, and my husband is not available to make the trek for me. When sadistic gym teachers forced us to take part in a diabolical form of torture called "cross country", I would wave my inhaler at them and wheeze heavily to get out of it. I. Hate. Running.

So this week, I started running. It hasn't been too bad, actually. I'm following the Runner's World's 5k beginner's training programme and have just finished week one. With just over 8 weeks to go, I hope to get to the point where I can a) finish the race in less than an hour and b) finish the race without dropping dead. Not asking for much, really.

Week one in summary: I followed the run/walk training format when I trained for the Moonwalk in 2003, and very surprisingly, I felt better my first session this time than I did three years ago. All that toddler lifting must be accomplishing something - and the fact that I'm on a superduper new inhaler (it's purple and has a counter). After the first session, my legs hurt. After the second session, my legs hurt. After the third session, my legs sort of hurt. I couldn't make it through today's session because my asthma was getting grumpy. I'm thrilled to be able to run for a couple of minutes fairly easily, but at this point, cannot imagine running non-stop for more than about five minutes. On race day, I hope to run for approximately 40 minutes non-stop. I know, I'm laughing too.

friday afternoon at the movies

*Apologies if you weren't able to view these movies over the past day or so - this should be fixed now. Please drop me a note or leave a comment if they're still not working.

Jack gets funky to the retro sounds of DeeeLite:

Jack likes to stomp when he wears his Clarks shoes:

(Apologies for the poor picture quality. My digital camera either takes movies at a stupidly huge resolution, or a fuzzy small resolution.)

Thursday 4 May 2006

maybe baby

Last night, we talked about a sibling for Jack. We talked about finances, whether we'd keep Jack in nursery after the baby's born, and when we will start "working on" #2. We also talked about the niggling worries that have been swimming around in my head lately, like how to cope with pregnancy woes and discomfort when you've got a toddler and flopping on the sofa isn't an option. In second pregnancies, do you not notice as much about it because you're too busy toddler-wrangling? When the baby arrives, are you able to give child #1 as much attention and devote as much energy to him as you did before? How well do you cope with the physical demands of pregnancy, birth, and sleep deprivation the second time round? Does it get easier? Or is it harder because you've now got two children? Should I do the testing I refused my last pregnancy because I'll be older and higher risk? What if I'm not even fertile anymore because they cut the wrong thing out of me during my c-section or all my eggs have expired? How on earth am I going to lose this last bit of weight before I get pregnant (the ticker only shows my first goal - I really need to lose another stone) when I keep succumbing to the temptations of ice cream?

I need help.

Then again, I feel like it's going to be a breeze compared to the 63-year-old woman who recently got pregnant via IVF. And here I was thinking that I feel a bit tired and lacking energy at 37. Gracious.

...but in a good way

During a meeting yesterday, a workmate said to me: "I saw you in the paper. I never thought that you were that old!"

I took it as a compliment.*

*(The workmate quickly realised how it sounded and was very sweet in trying to explain what he meant. Apparently he thought I was in my 20s, and that's a lovely thing to hear. I would like to thank good genes, quitting smoking, avoiding sunlight, and Oil of Olay for this moment.)

Wednesday 3 May 2006

Tuesday 2 May 2006

old broad has kid, story at 11

For those of you who only read this blog and not my main site, go take a peek to see today's exciting news. For those of you not based in the UK and wondering what the hell The Guardian is, it's a national newspaper. For those of you who came here via a Google search for line drawings of talk show hosts in the buff, move along - nothing to see here.

my 15 minutes

'A child has to benefit from having parents who waited'

Tuesday May 2, 2006
The Guardian

Lisa Durbin became a mother at 36 when she gave birth to Jack, now 14 months. She is Canadian, a technical author and lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, Paul, a software test manager

When I was in my 20s, the longest relationship I had lasted eight years - and that was with a man who didn't want children. It wasn't a serious issue; I didn't feel ready to have kids, but couldn't say that I never wanted them.

My 30th birthday came and went and I was single. I met my husband when I was 33 and when things started to get serious, I was pleased - and relieved - to learn that he wanted kids. I still wasn't sure that I was ready to be a mum, but at least it was an option in this relationship. It wasn't until various things fell into place that I became certain I wanted to have a child. We got engaged, I had a job I thoroughly enjoyed, I bought my first car and house, but most importantly, I felt secure about my life for the first time.

In my 20s, I was in no way prepared to have a baby. I barely took care of myself - I smoked a packet of cigarettes a day and was four and a half stone overweight - how could I possibly be responsible for the welfare of another human being? I made a meagre hourly wage at a bookshop and my partner only worked part-time. I had two pet turtles; they both died from neglect. Now I can afford to take time off work to care for my son, and I am in an amazingly strong relationship that has endured the many stresses of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. Almost all of my friends didn't become mothers until their 30s for various reasons. Mostly they didn't meet their current partners until later and that had a big role to play in their decision to wait.

I am the daughter of young parents (my mother was 19 and my father 21), but this is a different era. How can children not benefit from having parents who waited until they were ready to have a baby, rather than women getting pregnant simply because they are a certain age? It boggles the mind. [source]

I got an email last week from Audrey Gillan, who identified herself as a journalist from The Guardian and was interested in what I had to say about being a mother in my thirties. She came across my blog (specifically, the ranty post I made in response to an article about "older" mothers "defying nature" by waiting to have children) and liked what I wrote - which I thought was a great compliment. It was all terribly exciting, especially when the photographer, David Rose, arrived unexpectedly and I looked like a dog's dinner and Jack was covered in a layer of yoghurt from supper. I said "Could I have five minutes, please?" and I dashed upstairs to slap on some makeup, comb my hair, and hose Jack down. Some 200 plus snaps later, David took some great shots and was absolutely lovely with Jack.

The whole experience was fantastic and Audrey is a hoot. I'm pleased that the blurb I wrote for the article is there in its entirety and wasn't edited down to three buzzwords. How wonderful that blogging can lead to something like this; allowing the opinions of an average person into a national newspaper. I never thought that I'd end up in a newspaper without the headline "Have You Seen This Woman" and accompanying article about the horrible crime I'd committed. My mother will be so proud.