There’s no place like home…

There's no place like home

This week’s Theme Game theme is ‘home’. It’s funny how, no matter where I go, or where I live, or where I choose to settle, there is still a little corner of South West London which will always be my true home. My parents still live there, perhaps without them there it wouldn’t be the same. I know that when they sold my childhood home, 11 years ago now, I didn’t mourn for that particular house the way I thought I would.

But now, when I visit Teddington, Hampton Wick, Kingston, Richmond and Twickenham it does feel like going home. Places like Bushy Park (where I learned to ride my bike), The Teddington Cheese (which used to sell coal!), the Anglers pub down at Teddington Lock, the Broom Road ‘Wreck’ (as I always used to think it was spelled) where I swang almost high enough for my feet to touch the branches, before running down to the riverside to feed the ducks and make swings in the fronds of the many willow trees lining the banks, or climb into their gnarled branches for an impromptu picnic – all these places are a part of who I am.

I have seen the way Kingston town has developed and this sense of bearing witness to the history of a physical space makes it feel like home.

I remember once, when I was about 22, going with one of my best Uni friends to stay at her Grandad’s house in the mountains outside Perpignan on the French/Spanish border. He was a world renowned doctor and had another home in Paris. He had obviously travelled the world and lived in many places. We got talking and he asked me where in the world I had lived. At that point it was literally my childhood home in Teddington and my Uni digs in Brighton. He was shocked! I guess by my age he had travelled and moved around and re-located several times. For me though, that made him a nomad. I think there is something a little poignant in the expression ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’. It speaks of rootlessness and transience.

Last time we visited my Mum and Dad and passed through Teddington, I pointed out my old childhood home to JJ and explained that ‘that’s where Mummy grew up’. A few beats later he said ‘Mummy, is that where I grew up?’ and I had to explain that there was a time in my life when he didn’t exist, long before I ever met his father. I think this was a bit mind blowing for him and I’m not sure he accepts the validity of it even now!

It makes me feel a bit weird to think that his childhood memories will be of the town we live in now – about 30 miles from my old stomping ground. We have only lived here for 6 years and whilst I know a lot of this, and the surrounding areas, intimately, and feel AT home here, I don’t think I will ever think of it as my ‘True North’. But maybe my children will.

Underneath all of these ponderings though, I realise that home is where you feel safe and comfortable. And most importantly home is where your loved ones are to be found. Maybe, at the root of it all, ‘home’ is ultimately about people, and not about places at all…

 

The Reading Residence

Homity Pie #TastyTuesdays

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Homity Pie is an old English classic. I first heard of it back in the 80s when my family had a Cranks recipe book. I’m not sure if the younger generation will have heard of Cranks – I read today that it was shut down in 1991 by it’s parent company – the owners of Nandos. It’s a shame really because Cranks were pioneers in wholefood, vegetarian fare and one of their specialties was the Homity Pie.

I decided to attempt to broaden the range of food I offer my family and as my boys are very much lovers of ‘cheesy potatoes’ (baked potatoes cooked in the microwave in five minutes, skinned and then mashed up with grated cheddar), I thought this might be a winner. This is also pretty versatile and you could add just about any other ingredients – mushrooms, bacon, or other root vegetable – if you fancied.

I wanted something that would be easy and quick to cook but tasty. I could probably have attempted my own pastry but I decided to opt for some Jus Rol premade instead.

I used a small bag of medium sized salad potatoes but it is probably better with an older, more floury variety.

I rolled out the pastry on a floured surface and buttered a pie tin. Then placed the pastry in the tin and chopped the excess from round the edges. I then tried to do something a bit more interesting than nothing at all by cutting a bit of a wave design round the edge but it wasn’t exactly a roaring success decoratively!

Next, peel and cook potatoes until tender. Chop a large onion and fry until soft then add two crushed cloves of garlic. Then mix in a couple of tablespoons of milk, a beaten egg and half of your grated cheddar (about 350g). Add seasoning and mix all together.

Place the filling in the pie case and cover with the other half of your grated cheese.

Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until done.

I had some offcuts of pastry after I’d rolled it out so I decided not to waste them and knocked up some simple jam tarts using my dad’s homemade blackberry and apple jam (made from produce from his own allotment). As you can see below, EJ was really quite pleased with these when I got him up from his nap!

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Ode to a horse chestnut

When I was growing up there was a large, majestic horse chestnut tree growing directly opposite my bedroom window. These trees speak to me of home, and are abundant around the places I have lived, but particulary the Royal parks of South West London which formed the backdrop to so many summer days of my childhood.

Every April something miraculous happens overnight and it seems stark branches suddenly bush out into lush newly formed leafy oases, white ‘candle’ blossoms abounding.

I took a walk along the riverside in the rain and the opposite bank, lined with these wonderful trees, presented a magical aura through the misty haze. They trigger in me a yearning down the years, a romance, a snapshot of a perfect Spring day in the leafy provinces of an English country garden.

I’m sure they exist in other countries but for me, they are forever England, and, done up in their spring finery, they whisper secrets from their hundreds of years of existence. Did they witness Henry VIII galloping past to shoot down a stag? They are part of our past, present and future and are as much about the experience of high summer to me as a the smell of mown grass, barbeques sizzling or the lazy progress of the bumble bee as it drifts from bloom to bloom.

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I know, I know, I’ve come over all poetic!

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‘In-cot’ hilarity

Sometimes when you have a second child you wonder what you were thinking during those fevered days of family planning. It’s double trouble. It’s mischief and mayhem. It’s refereeing and fending off the green eyed monster. And it’s twice as tiring and demanding (goodness knows how people cope with more than two!). But then there are those moments of sheer wonder – the growing bond, the teamwork, the companionship.

For me, the first signs of brotherly love began to show the day JJ came running through to the room I share with EJ (and still do now) and jumped into the cot with him first thing in the morning. Of course initially I was a bit worried about EJ’s safety – JJ was a boisterous 3 year old and bounced around that enclosed space like Tigger on acid. But as EJ has grown and developed he began to beam as soon as a pyjama-clad JJ came bounding into the room shouting his name gleefully. A bit of cot wrestling results in them both collapsing in fits of giggles and JJ sometimes even brings his portable DVD through and plays EJ a bit of his favourite – Chuggington. I actually overheard him the other day saying to EJ “you like Chuggington don’t you?” to which EJ readily responded “Yeah” – so cute when you consider that EJ probably had no idea what he’d just been asked but it demonstrated this companionable togetherness and made me feel just a little bit more in love with them both (if that’s possible!).

On Wednesdays my mum arrives to look after the children after I’ve left (but whilst hubster is still in bed sleeping on for a late shift). JJ has a tall stair gate across his doorway as his room faces the top of a steep flight of stairs. He’s never tried to climb over it before but last week she reported that he had pulled his little table/stool over, somehow flung himself over the top and she found him lying next to EJ in the cot! I do believe the time may have come to put them in together!!

I don’t have any recent pictures as I generally don’t have my camera with me first thing in the morning, but here’s an older one which demonstrates those ordinary moments of morning ‘in-cot’ hilarity:

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Friends

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Sometimes I wonder if there is some sort of gene I am lacking which enables people to effortlessly make friends. Sometimes I feel like I am on the outside looking in – FaceBook and Twitter can be so blooming cruel sometimes 🙂

I was pretty introvert growing up but I know that I have never suffered from the kind of social anxiety that some people seem to be affected by. I started at the London College of Printing, Sussex University and City University on my own without knowing another soul and made friendships each time – some of which have lasted the course and some not so much sadly. I also went on holiday to Australia on my own in 2005 and I enjoyed meeting new people on my (organised) trek up the East Coast. I am perfectly happy in my own company but sometimes that is not enough and those are the moments that you look around and wonder what sort of friend you are and what you have done in your life to feel so out of so many loops.

When I had my first baby I found the baby & bump groups to be a godsend – I didn’t have too much trouble meeting new people and making friends. I don’t think I would have any friends where I live now if I didn’t have children. But people move on and sometimes FaceBook is not enough. Having said that I do have a handful of people I’ve met in the last 5 year who I consider to be best friends now but sometimes it is hard to forge an unbreakable bond when your interactions mostly take place at Soft Play with random and regular interruptions for toilet breaks, boo boo kisses and refereeing…

I guess a lot of my problems stem from the fact that I feel I am better one-on-one with people than socialising in a big group. I don’t have a big enough personality to make myself heard in a crowd and I tend to find myself on the sidelines. I think this is why I never really pushed myself to make it in a journalistic career because ‘media types’ are loud and pushy and ambitious and I lack those traits. I remember when I was a teenager a close friend dubbed me ‘Mingle’ in an ironic way because she was a lot more of a social butterfly than me!

A lot of the people I consider to be my lifelong best friends now live great distances away from me – some don’t have partners and children. I find myself with much more intimate knowledge of the lives of mere acquaintances from the social media than I do with these people with whom I have shared the funniest, most intimate, happiest and saddest moments. And I forget the birthdays a lot which I know is crap and it breaks my heart to think that they might assume I don’t care.

Maybe its not just the birthdays, maybe I am just rubbish at all the little gestures – the effort, the extra mile –  that make up peoples’ minds about wanting you as a part of their inner circle. I admit that I have fallen short.

And how do you balance friendships once you have children with being there for your partner? Even if you did have the spare £20-£30 quid a week to pay for babysitters… Not to mention the fact that life with little children seems to sap away so many things that make you who you are – or who you were before they came along.

Blogging has brought me new ‘cyber’ friends – I feel like there is a group of people out there who are sharing similar experiences – with their children, with the experience of having life rail-roaded by the blogging process – one of those hobbies that takes over! But I am scared silly about what will happen when I meet some of these people from this world in real life in June when I attend BritMums Live.

Is it too late for me to be a better friend?

A healing holiday?

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This week’s Prompt from Sara over at Mum Turned Mom is this quote: In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius! Mehmet Murat ildan. Well, to be honest I’ve never taken a holiday to heal either my mind or body. I did go away on a family holiday with a five week old baby in 2012 though, and that was healing in many ways.

In those early days with my eldest I was pretty desperate and time with constant support from my family would have been amazing. Obviously that was never going to be the case as he came at the beginning of September. EJ on the other hand came at the end of July – the two of them bookmark the school summer holidays perfectly!

I was worried when my Mum first suggested a holiday at the end of August 2012 – the initial plan was to go to a fun holiday camp somewhere in Holland and it occurred to me that it must be pretty difficult to get a passport application (and photo) sorted for a couple of week old baby (although I’m sure people do it all the time!). Soon though the plan was changed to good old Devon – bit of a staycation instead.

My mum found a fab holiday farm which would accomodate 9 of us. It included an indoor pool which was fab for the kids but not so much for me. Women are generally advised not to go swimming much before six weeks after giving birth. I really had fun watching my brother in law fling JJ across the pool though much to his delight and hilarity – I’d never seen him so chilled out in the water before.

My mum cooked a few big family meals for us all and I’ll never forget one evening sitting down to a big cheesy cottage pie and JJ piping up by saying “mm this is Berry nice Grandma” – He was just about to turn three and it was the cutest little compliment ever!

We went on steam trains and the Rare Breeds farm near Totnes, we visited Salcombe Bay and went for a walk through Dartmoor (where JJ whizzed along so fast and furiously on his balance bike and managed to fall off grazing up his face in the process!).

We took a long boat trip down the Dart river from Dartmouth to Totnes and spent our evenings chatting amiably and taking it in turns to rock and cuddle the baby.

I think that, as women, we naturally go through a healing process after birth, physically, but it can take a long time to adjust mentally – first time round especially, but second time round there is also the adjustment to being a mum of two – learning how to deal with a toddler and a baby at the same time. Having something to look forward to and then company, support and people there to share in the lovely bits, if only for a week, was perfectly timed to make the adjustment a little easier and I will always treasure the memories of JJ’s last real holiday as the centre of attention in everything he said and did.

 

mumturnedmom

Word of the week: Limitations

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This week I have been attempting to work within my limitations. Here are some of them:

  • The weather
  • A mobile toddler under the age of two
  • Time
  • Money
  • A tendency to procrastinate
  • Fear of failure
  • A lack of forward momentum…

I have thoughts and plans and ideas – for the blog, for a family holiday, for things to do with JJ in the next few months before he starts big school – but there is always something holding me back.

Of course some limitations are external and there’s nothing you can do about them but some are internal and I need to work on that.

At the other end of the spectrum I have been spending my one day off running myself ragged these past few weeks trying to squeeze 101 things into a few short hours. This week I decided to give myself a break and just put one or two essentials on the To Do list. This made much more sense because, let’s face it, finishing your day with only three things checked off a list of ten feels like a bit of a failure! It also occurred to me that there is no real urgency on many of these tasks and if I concentrate on doing one thing at a time, and doing them well, then I will eventually reap the rewards.

(PS – I have of course finally prioritised booking myself in for a cervical smear and that will be a weight off my mind!).

 

The Reading Residence

The trickiness of treats

Pick your battles

My children are still very young but they are very lucky – to live in the western world, to come from a happy home, to be loved and doted on, to never have to worry about where the next meal is coming from or whether or not they will have somewhere to sleep at night or a roof over their heads.

They have already been given so much, so many treats (although not as many as some) and sometimes I wonder at what point they will realise that they have so much to be grateful for and that the treats they receive are very special and to be treasured.

When it comes to ‘spoiling’ a child everyone has their own opinion. Giving them everything they demand, willy nilly – well, I certainly try not to do that but sometimes when you’re choosing your battles you have to just cave once in a while (OK more than once in a while!!) and that can lead to short term peace but possibly long term moody, self-righteous children with an over-riding sense of entitlement and nobody wants that! I admit I teeter on this line all the time and overall I’d say that I tip over into lavishing treats more often than is probably acceptable. What’s that? Ice cream just before dinner? Oh go on then! Another fruit pastille at bedtime ‘”to soothe your cough”? What they hell! Your seventh episode of Chuggington in bed before lights out? If it means I can go and swig down a glass of Sauvignon uninterrupted, I say YES!

But seriously, I don’t give in to every demand – it wouldn’t be physically possible and I would be stony broke – its the knowing how to handle the fallout when the treats are denied – that’s the tricky part and I worry all the time about my lack of any kind of consistent strategy. This is one of those bits of parenting that doesn’t just kick in when you have a baby. Its the part where those self doubts kick in: “I’m not a natural mother”, “I wasn’t cut out for this” and perhaps my own reactions just reinforce a negative spiral down into the depths of bratty behaviour…

When the treats become the norm there is nothing left to offer, no bribe, no reward… So maybe what we need are less ‘magic’ moments and more ‘ordinary’ moments. Or another glass of Sauvignon (mummy’s treats!) and some earplugs!!

This post was inspired by this week’s theme at the The Theme Game (‘Treats’) devised by Jocelyn of The Reading Residence and Iona of RedPeffer.

 

The Reading Residence

TTFB Easter Round Up

023Here at TTFB (Then The Fun Began) we like a bit of chocolate. I say ‘we’, the children in particular like to indulge! As we’re pretty secular people Easter then, like for so many others I’m sure, becomes a festival of the egg-shaped variety.

I have to admit that I’ve had a bit of an epic fail on the Easter crafts front and just oohed and aahed in awe at all the lovely stuff all you talented people have been up to (footprint chick cards, toilet roll Easter bunnies and chocolate nest cakes to name a few!). Fortunately my munchkins don’t know any different so they were just happy to be introduced to the concept of the Easter bunny (although the thought of a giant bunny lurking around your house after dark apparently does have sinister overtones…).

So here is some of the stuff we’ve been up to:

Our Easter fun began on Monday with a little impromptu egg hunt at my lovely friend Vicky’s house with her two gorgeous girls.

On Good Friday we visited Clandon Park, a National Trust property where they were holding one of Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trails. We visited with another best friend and her two boys and I finally paid up for NT membership and received an exciting pack of booklets, maps and stickers.

For the trail, you are issued with ‘Eggsplorer’ passports, maps and do-it-yourself paper explorer’s pith helmets and follow six clues leading you to cross off one of six Easter egg pictures one at a time leaving only the magic Lulu bird’s egg and proving that you are worthy of delving in to a large cardboard treasure chest full of funny face chocolate eggs and having your passport duly stamped.

Here is a picture of the boys in their helmets with Clandon House in the background:

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JJ came across this gigantic Lulu bird footprint:

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And EJ was let off the leash for a run in the fresh air  (completely disappearing for a heartstopping five minutes!):

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It was a lovely day trip and the boys had so much fun.

Then this morning the munchkins awoke to find little eggs hidden all over the downstairs of my parents’ house and JJ (extremely quickly it has to be said) rounded them all up, dishing out a fair share into his little brother’s easter bucket. Then it was chocolate for breakfast all round.

Later on my sister, brother in law and nieces joined us for a lovely Sunday roast and we exchanged even more chocolate!

I have already researched what to do with leftover Easter Egg chocolate as this much in one go frankly, scares the pants off me! I shall shortly be attempting chocolate chip cookies made with smashed up eggs which can then be divided and conquered by whoever fancies a nibble!

All in all a lovely (if somewhat pagan!) celebration with friends and family!

Linking up with Charly over at Podcastdove.com for What’s the Story?