Friday, 7 October 2011

Been a bit quiet round here

I've been crap at updating the blog lately. I've had a bit of a crafting frenzy and was at markets both days last weekend, and now my creative writing course has started so I've been busy with that all week. It's really good having all this stuff going on, but I do neglect the blog a bit. Will try to cook up something interesting soon!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Beating the heat

Ye gods it's hot. Hotter than most days we had this summer, and isn't it supposed to be nearly October? I am not ready for this! I was in cardigan mode! I'm knitting a scarf and making Christmas cards! On the plus side, it means I get to wear my swishy extra-extra-wide palazzo trousers again. And the oven gloves I washed yesterday have dried in double-quick time.

In other news, we found weevils in all our bags of flour last night, which means we have to chuck all the open stuff on our shelves, clean clean clean, get some storage jars for flour etc. and hope the little buggers don't come back. Urrrrgh. I am horrified. At least it apparently has nothing to do with whether your kitchen is clean or dirty - not that our kitchen is especially clean, it's just nice to know I didn't bring this upon myself.

Friday, 23 September 2011

My little mimic

Having the Bat around is like looking in a mirror sometimes. I didn't realise just how often I say "There!" when I've finished dealing with something - changing her nappy, wiping her nose, putting on her socks - until she started saying it too. Now I can't do anything without having it punctuated with a quiet little "Dere!"

Of course, it can be more embarrassing to have my behaviour reproduced in public - like the time she demonstrated to Batgran exactly how Mummy slouches down on the sofa and grabs the TV control. :-/

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Some very belated photos

OK, so it was two months ago now that we went to Avebury for the day (whaaaaat?) but I've finally managed to download the photos, and I want to put them up here because it was just such a nice day out. So here we go! I've done them small because there are so many, but I *think* you can click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Madam is getting choosy about her meals

I should definitely not have bragged about Bat's capacity to eat anything and everything. She has got a lot pickier recently. It's not that she seriously dislikes the food, it's just that she may or may not choose to eat it on any given day. So after being obsessed with raisins for months, she now just throws them all on the floor whenever she's given them. The same with toast - she used to scoff it happily and now she turns up her nose more often than not. She had an unbuttered crumpet the other day and loved it, but when we tried it again last night, I had to coax her to finish it and she still ended up feeding me half. The banana fixation is still holding strong but I don't know what we'll do when that's over.

I mean, it's perfectly reasonable if you think about it from her point of view - I'm not always in the mood for a particular food, either - but since she can't tell me what she wants yet (unless it's a "marmer"), we end up throwing away quite a lot of food that she's rejected before we hit on the right thing. Her diet ends up pretty well balanced overall, though not at every meal or even every day. Today her breakfast was a banana, some cold chicken and a bit of the chocolate orange cake I made last night.

I've got a ten pound note burning a hole in my pocket so I may take her out for lunch, either to the pub or the Sainsbury's cafe. She's often better about eating when we're out, I guess because there's stuff to distract her from exerting her mighty power of NO. And I'm pretty sure I deserve a treat after dealing with her through a really whiny week.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


I really like this time of year. I suspect it's partly because I still think of it as a new school year and a new start, even though it's four years since I graduated university! I also like the changing weather, where we might still get some hot sunshine but I definitely need to know where my cardigan is. In another few weeks the leaves start changing, and then we get Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night, my birthday in November (obviously a very important event), the winter solstice and finally Christmas, which I love and am very excited to celebrate with the Bat. I do miss the light evenings, but the darkness only really starts getting me down in January and February.

The one downside of September is the SPIDERS. Augh. The great big hairy brown ones that keep themselves decently hidden all summer so I can pretend they're not there. Suddenly they come out and start roaming my walls looking for a shag. I am getting less phobic and can tolerate small spiders now, but these big buggers are too much. Urrrgh.

Monday, 5 September 2011

General update

Owl had last week off work, and as usual all our grand plans (days out, take the Bat swimming, sort out the flat) didn't happen. But we did have a lovely time sitting around together and I got lots of writing done, so that's all right.

On the Tuesday we took Bat to the optician to follow up the initial "yes, she's a bit squinty" diagnosis we got a couple of months ago. She had to have eye drops to dilate her pupils, which she did not love, and then little lights shone into her eyes which she hated. The guy got a good look in the end, though, and concluded that things weren't as bad as we thought - no sign yet of long- or short-sightedness. I think the woman we saw before jumped to conclusions when Bat failed to look at a picture of a boat on the other side of the room, when actually I don't think Bat had learnt the word "boat" at that point and so didn't know what she was looking for. If it had been a cat or a banana, we'd have been well away. Anyway, we're just monitoring the squint for now and we'll take her back in January.

Other than the medical stuff, we got to see lots of Owl's family. The new profile pic to your right is from the first weekend of Owl's holiday, when we went to a 65th birthday barbecue and had a great time. In the evening we got to see a guy doing a one-man Midsummer Night's Dream, but Bat was tired and we had to go before the band came on. Then the next day we were at another family barbecue, which has inspired us to try making baked sweet potatoes ourselves. They were fabulous.

Now Owl is back to work and so it's back to reality for me too, being alone with Bat during the day. She's going through a very whiny stage. Why is Mummy being so slow with my breakfast, whine whine whine. Why can't she see I didn't want THAT breakfast, grizzle grouch moan. *fling food on floor* Get me out of the high chair this instant, woman! Then when I do it's WAAAAAH, why are you stealing the rest of my toast? *seize toast and stuff into mouth, glaring tearfully*

Thursday, 25 August 2011

More words

I just love the Bat's increasing vocabulary. She's using more words regularly and unprompted - hello when her dad comes in the door, bye when he leaves, blech when she's done a poo (hilarious!), shoe, ears, baby, banana, woof, watch, teeth, yay - but also mimicking just about everything I say, even if she doesn't go on to repeat the word later. So we've recently had birds, trousers, clever, food, plum, poppers (she goes "pop, pop, pop" as I do up her vest after nappy changes, which is ADORABLE) and lots more. The other day she was cruising round the room singing "Oh no! Oh no!" The latest is bum, which is very popular. And this morning I tried her with a bit of Italian and French - she admitted to being bella, and pointed to her pieds.

Oh, and apparently seagulls say woof, or rather "voof" in a slightly Germanic way. Who knew?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

First steps!

Sorry for making two posts one after the other, but I think this deserves a special mention. Bat has taken her first unaided steps! She's been doing more and more independent standing lately, and yesterday she just let go of the coffee table and shuffled the five steps over to the TV. I'm as pleased as punch.

At almost 17 months, she's taken her time with this - she's always been that way with gross motor stuff, though. She was at the very late end of normal for rolling and crawling. To be honest, I think she's just more interested in dissecting a minute piece of carpet fluff or playing peekaboo. I can't wait for her to be walking consistently, just because I think it'll open up more activities for her to do outdoors. Of course, it will also mean getting her measured for some proper shoes... there goes another lump of Child Benefit! :D

Thanks for that, subconscious

I had a very weird and vivid dream - you know the kind that bleeds over into the rest of your day, and you keep half-forgetting that it was just a dream? That kind. I won't take you through the whole plot, because hearing about someone else's dream in detail is completely mind-numbing. But the basic premise was that I'd decided to parent a baby together with another couple, who were the baby's birth parents. We were all supposed to be equally responsible for the baby, but I never seemed to get any say in what happened to him. In the end I decided to leave the family and let the others get on with it by themselves. It's gone noon, I've been up for hours and I still feel upset about abandoning that little boy. Argh.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The ultimate instant comfort food

I don't think I'd ever bought tinned apples before Bat was born. I didn't think they would be that great. When we started her on solids, though, I was on the look-out for things that I could blitz with my hand-held blender and turn straight into puree without any cooking and cooling. Tinned fruit in juice was a popular option and we ended up trying the tinned apple. Turns out it's actually quite nice, though freshly stewed is nicer. Anyway, now I go off with them myself in times of need and turn them into instant comfort.

1. Fill a mug about halfway with tinned apple slices, not too much juice (or a bowl, obviously - I just like eating out of mugs!)
2. Microwave for a minute or so, just until heated through
3. Add a good pinch of cinnamon and a teaspoon of sugar, stir to coat all the apple
4. Add a splash of cream or a spoonful of vanilla ice cream (I am not in a position to judge you for having both)

I have also chopped them up and used them in a cake, which worked quite well.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Trying new things

I've been making jewellery for most of this year, and selling it online. You can see my stuff here, in my Folksy shop. (I don't want this blog to turn into one long advert for my jewellery, because that's no fun to read and not at all what the blog is meant to be about - plus I end up holding back on things I want to say, in case people don't want to buy jewellery from a swearing ranting loon. But I figure one link is allowed.)

Anyway, I've been in a bit of rut with it, not making anything and not selling much either. So on Thursday I decided to apply for a pitch at the Harbourside Market in Bristol. I found out I'd got in on Friday, took my stuff down on Saturday and had a go at running a market stall. We spent Friday evening rushing around to buy a table and some stuff I could use for artistic draping of jewellery. I ended up with a couple of cork boards propped up on an empty wine bottle and a multipack of tinned tuna, plus a basket that I usually keep my spice jars in and a double bedsheet folded in half to make a table cloth. I also bought some pretty little butterfly cut-outs to decorate the cork boards with, but people just kept looking disappointed when they realised they weren't brooches, so I've enterprisingly ordered some brooch backs to glue on them for next time.

Aaaaand...I sold one pair of earrings for a whopping £7.50. Nothing else. But I'm not disappointed - I mean, of course I had grandiose dreams about being a huge success, but this was mostly about getting my feet wet and having a go. It was a horrible rainy day and nobody sold very much. I've got lots of ideas for how to improve my stall and I've just ordered some proper display stands. The idea this week is to make lots more stock, and I'm going back this coming Saturday. Cross your fingers for me!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Bat has learnt how to say "no". Not just the concept (which she's been expressing very effectively for months already, believe me) but the word. I think we just managed our first proper conversation held all in words:

Me - Aren't you going to eat up your tasty crusts?
Bat - No!
Me - Oh, all right then. What would you like to eat now?
Bat - Marmer.
Me - A banana? [holds up banana]
Bat - Yeah yeah yeah!

It sounds like such a little thing but I'm actually quite excited.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Everything's good except for the bad stuff

Sorry for the week of silence. Since Monday I've mostly been slumped in front of the computer, reading about the riots and getting steadily more depressed by both the violence and the kneejerk reactions on each side of the political spectrum. I don't really drink much any more, but if I did I'd have taken a drink every time some pontificating muppet said "Bring back National Service" or "Take away their benefits!" The petition to take away rioters' benefits is making me crazy - we shouldn't need to make up special, new, extra-nasty punishments for these people, and in any case I think it's horrifying to create punishments that can only apply to the poorest rioters. The hand wringing about "see what happens when you take away the kids' youth centre" is just as far wide of the mark (though I do worry about the Sure Start cuts, because I think we need to be there for kids from the beginning if anything is going to change). If someone is so detached from their community that they can cheerfully smash it up, there's more wrong than just having nothing to do in the summer. I believe the ConDems are doing serious harm with their spending cuts, but social inequality in this country goes way beyond the current austerity measures.

ANYWAY. I'm trying to avoid thinking about this because it's getting me down, so end rant and move on.

I went out for a meal and drinks with some of my mummy friends on Saturday night, and really enjoyed myself (despite the cheeky bugger who, hearing that we were a group of mums, asked me whether I'd had my baby yet. I know I'm fat but I do not look pregnant!). I hardly ever go out in the evening and I don't think I'd realised how much I was missing it. I had three whole beers! Talk about living it up. I delighted the Spanish bartender by drinking Mahou, a lager made in Madrid. It wasn't entirely my kind of beer, but nice enough. I almost dropped out at an early stage, because the bar we were in was too noisy for a proper conversation, but we moved on and ended up sitting outside having a great chat. A taxi home turns out to cost around £18, which I certainly can't afford every week but is less expensive than I feared. Hoping to do it again soon.

Batgran is coming up this weekend (sorry Mum, I can't resist), which will be nice. We need to do some serious tidying today and tomorrow so that we can make her up a bed on the living room floor, since Bat now has the second bedroom. Characteristically, I'm ignoring the tidying and thinking instead about what I might make us for dinner on Saturday night. It's all right though, Owl will be home soon and I can make him do it! Though I've now dreamt two nights in a row that he's planning to leave me, so perhaps I shouldn't - maybe my subconscious is telling me that I'm a rubbish wife.

In other news, I'm trying to get back into fiction writing, with a short story and a longer project in the works (I can't say the word "novel" at this point, I've only just started and it feels like tempting fate). The short story is about a luxury wallpaper designer who casts spells on her distinguished clients, and it's shaping up OK. I've also registered on that OU course I was wailing about a few weeks ago - Batgran very generously stumped up half the course fees so I can do it after all. It's a creative writing course, it starts in October and I'm excited already.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I will never be a yummy mummy

I had this idea that for the month of August I would wear something nice (or at least not pyjamas) every day and do a weekly photo round-up on the blog. Well, it's the 3rd today and I've already failed spectacularly - I can't find the charger for the camera batteries, and I spent yesterday in jeans and the oversized stripy nightshirt that I'm wearing in the picture to your right. Today I wore a proper top with my jeans, but only because we were going out (to an IKEA crayfish party, of all things).

I've been quite lucky in that my dress size didn't change drastically with pregnancy. In fact I shrank while pregnant, not counting the bump, and then shrank more during the first weeks of breastfeeding. When the constant breastfeeding eased up a bit, the weight started to come back and I've resettled at precisely the same weight as when I got pregnant two years ago. Not exactly the same shape - some bum and thigh have relocated to stomach and, unfortunately, boob. Which might not sound all that unfortunate, but I'm now a GG cup and it's getting difficult to find bras that fit. Some of my old clothes have had to be discarded because I've changed shape, but lots of them still fit me. I have lots of lovely things, I just don't bother wearing them any more. Sigh.

Before I start talking about body image and clothes, I should probably say that I'm fat (not oh-dear-I-can't-button-my-size-12s-I'm-so-fat, but proper size 22/24 fat) and into body acceptance for many personal reasons that I won't go into here. I don't regard being fat as a major problem in my life, I don't think it's inherently ugly or some kind of moral failing, and I don't go in for euphemisms like chunky or *gag* fluffy (I had no idea that was a word anyone used until a year or so ago. I mean, WTF?). Just so we're clear. :)

Anyway, being fat does make it trickier to find nice clothes that fit. As a student I couldn't afford much, and my self-esteem was kind of shot besides, so I wore lots of jeans and shapeless tops until they were bobbly and ragged. When I got my first proper, full-time job I went a bit crazy on eBay and tried out lots of different new styles to see if I liked them. Skirts! Dresses! Things that aren't black! A few years on, I now have tons of things to choose from and the task before me is to whittle them down to what I'll actually wear and enjoy. That's the idea behind dressing up for a month - to try things out, see what I still like wearing and hopefully give myself a confidence boost as well. Er. Maybe September?

Monday, 1 August 2011

Children's menu? What children's menu?

We've been seriously blessed with a baby who eats whatever we put in front of her. Currently the Bat is having some falafel, herby focaccia and red pepper hummus left over from Owl's and my supper last night. Yesterday Owl was feeding her bits of marinated olives, which even I don't like. She loves dark chocolate, will cheerfully eat liquorice and enjoys stinky cheeses that I run a mile from (only ones that are safe for her to eat, obviously). The one thing that really bothers her is too much chilli, but even a little bit of that seems to be all right. Oh, and she once turned her nose up at a Brussels sprout. That's it.

I daresay she'll learn to be picky at some point, even if it's not until she gets the idea from other kids at school, but for now I'm just enjoying it! We can take her to any family-friendly restaurant and order her a starter or just let her share our food, knowing that she'll like pretty much all of it. We don't give her rare meat, raw eggs or blue cheeses, we don't overdo the sweet stuff and we pay attention to her salt intake, but that's about it for limitations. Owl is very proud of his cheese-eating daughter.

Sunday, 31 July 2011


I have a theory that hiccups are my body's last-ditch attempt to get me drinking water. You win, body! I'm hydrated! You can STOP NOW.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Feminist Friday: things I am not proud of

I was almost relieved when the Bat turned out to be a girl. Not because of any particular quality that I believe girls have, but because I think this way I have a better idea of how to be a feminist parent. I know some of what she'll encounter as she grows up to be a woman (assuming she does turn out to be a woman, which is a whole other post), and it breaks my heart - but at least I know. And while there's not always much social support for teaching girls that they can be and do whatever they want, I believe there's even less support for teaching boys the same thing. For all that we've achieved, we still idolise the traditionally masculine end of the behavioural spectrum and treat the traditionally feminine as second-best (that goes within the feminist community, too. I've never felt so dismissed by some other feminists than since I became an at-home mother).

It's more socially accepted for a little girl to wear rugged trousers and climb trees than it is for a little boy to wear dresses and play with Barbie. In the last couple of months I've decided that I probably do want another baby in the future, and it pains me to realise that if my next child were a boy, I'd feel odd about putting him in some of the Bat's hand-me-down clothes. She has plenty of stuff from the boys' section and plenty from the girls', and I have no qualms about that whatsoever. I feel like I'm offering her more freedom. But when I think of my hypothetical future son looking through his baby photos and seeing himself in pink and frills, an irrational part of me feels that instead of offering him equal freedom of choice, I'd be imposing something on him. If he chose those things for himself when he was older, I'd be delighted, but I feel inhibited from putting him in them before he's able to decide. Because masculinity is the default, right? And for a man to deviate from that is not currently seen as just another personal choice, but rather a statement. I worry that he'd look back and feel that I crossed boundaries in some way, forced him into an identity that he didn't want, even though I've no earthly way of knowing what his identity and presentation would ultimately prove to be. I hate that I think like this. I hate even more the real possibility that I might be right.

I see boys learning that there is only one way to be, that they are not free to choose to be "unmanly" (whatever that even means), that such a choice is so extreme that their whole identity must be at stake before they even think of going there. I see them learning lessons about sexuality that scare the hell out of me - learning that as a guy they must always want sex and that missing an opportunity to get laid is weak and shameful, even if it means pestering a woman who really doesn't want to be pestered (or worse). I don't know where it comes from or how to counter it effectively - and given my unexpected qualms about baby clothes, for god's sake, I don't even know how much of it would unintentionally come from me.

Don't get me wrong, if I ever have a son then I'll be over the moon and love him to pieces, and I'll raise him according to my ideals. But the task is still a little scarier for me to contemplate.

See everyone else's Feminist Friday posts over at Transatlantic Blonde.

Friday, 22 July 2011

A contentious subject

[Image description: the Bat, a one-year-old with a mop of red hair, is wearing a pink T-shirt and standing with her back to the camera. She is holding onto the TV for support and gazing raptly at the screen, which is playing Show Me Show Me, a children's TV programme.]

Children's TV! It's a topic of hot debate among most of the parents I know - we're all much more opinionated about it than the kids, in fact, who will sit down in front of pretty much anything.

Bat and I watch CBeebies almost exclusively, because it means I don't have to sit through any irritating ad breaks. My favourites are Show Me Show Me, Octonauts, Rastamouse, Mr. Bloom's Nursery (because it's made in Salford, where I was a student, and also because Mr. Bloom is preeeetty) and Tinga Tinga Tales - and I do have a soft spot for In the Night Garden. I know lots of people don't like it, but I think the characters are appealing and I like the idea of all these different creatures having their homes in a garden. I think it could spark some lovely imaginative games with a child's own toys. The only time I have to hide behind my book is when Upsy Daisy has a dancy day, because that does get a bit repetitive.

Bat's favourite is - *spit* - Waybuloo. She tends to lose interest in the middle, but rushes back at the end to shout "Ba-ooooo!" as they all float up into the sky. It was practically her first word. I put it on because she loves it, but it's just so bloody twee. Thinkapow! Peeka! Yogo! Oo, Lau-lau find sparkly fairy thing! Soooo happy! I find it nauseating.

I have to turn the TV off when it comes to Teletubbies - or Gigglebiz, pleh. I just can't take it. I put up with Justin Fletcher doing Something Special, because Bat seems to like it and practises her "hewwo" and "bah-bye" while it's on. And I certainly see the value of a programme for and about kids with disabilities. But something about him freaks me out. Some presenters manage to do the giant-grin-and-giggle thing without sounding maniacal, but not him. The laughter doesn't reach his eyes and it all feels so forced, even though he's technically really good at the physical slapstick.

Oh, and talking about creepy, I really can't watch this new Baby Jake thing. I'd be so up for a good programme about an older child's relationship with their new baby sibling, but the animation and narration of this make me want to stick my head in a bucket of bleach. I have nightmares about Baby Jake setting that googly-eyed rabbit on me. Goggy-geeah! Urgh.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lemon drizzle fairy cakes

I've just finished making these and they turned out pretty well! I kind of amalgamated two different recipes and made some bits up, and I'm pleased with the results. I made these for Owl's office - I do them cakes once a month or so and people make charity donations in exchange. It's meant to happen on payday but I've gone off schedule the last couple of months because of having colds and not wanting to commit germ warfare on the entire company. Anyway, because of baking for so many I doubled the recipe below.


Cake mixture:
125 g butter, softened at room temperature
125 g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (get an unwaxed one or you'll end up with wax in your cakes! You could use a little lemon extract if you can only find waxed lemons)
2 large eggs (to double the recipe I used 5 medium eggs cause that's what I had in, it worked fine)
125 g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tbsp milk

Lemon drizzle topping:
Juice of one lemon
45g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 (or 180°C for a fan-assisted oven).

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and mix well.

Add the eggs one at a time, following each with a spoonful of flour and mixing in.

When all the eggs are in, add the rest of the flour and fold to mix. Add milk little by little as needed for a soft dropping consistency - you may not need it all.

Line two 12-hole mini muffin tins with paper cases. You probably won't fill all 24 holes, but I definitely got more than 12 cakes out of this much mixture. Dollop the mixture into the cases, making each case around two-thirds full. I only have one tin so did this in batches.

Bake for approx. 15 minutes (start peering at them after 10, depending on how ferocious your oven is) until risen and golden. Stick a skewer into a cake to test - if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

While the cakes cool slightly in their tin, make the lemon drizzle by mixing together the lemon juice and sugar. Prick each cake a couple of times with a fork, then use a spoon to trickle a little topping over each one. Leave to cool completely.

STUFF FACE Feed to admiring friends and family.

In which I am forced to admit I don't have green fingers

The Owl and I are not very good at gardening. Or rather, we're not very consistent. We've lived in four different rental properties since we first moved in together, and all of them have had gardens of some description. Sometimes we have a fit of enthusiasm and decide to Do Things In The Garden, which lasts all of a week or two before the plants start, like, wanting stuff and we give up. (As for our indoor pot plants, it's a case of "abandon hope all ye who enter here".) During our first summer living together, when we were still all excited about doing the grocery shopping as a couple, we went to Homebase and bought a fork, spade, trowel, gloves etc. I haven't seen most of them since, other than when packing up to move house.

The second place we lived in was a nightmare for many reasons, and we didn't have access to much of the garden for much of the time, so our efforts there were mostly confined to hacking down the buddleia when it started peering through the windows on the upper floor. Eventually the builders hired by the fiendish landlady (long story) decided to destroy the back lawn without warning and leave us with a kind of muddy swamp, at which point I burst into tears and we handed in our notice.

The third house had a garden that was really just a lawn with a bunch of easily-ignorable shrubs and bushes. Owl mowed the lawn, and I occasionally picked up the crisp packets that blew in. That was more or less the extent of our efforts, and to tell you the truth, the garden didn't change visibly over the two years we spent there.

Now we live in a ground floor flat with a little paved-and-gravelled yard out the back. It's a bit dreary to look at, so this spring we decided to grow some things in pots to brighten it up. We had a few different kinds of salad leaves, some coriander and lemon balm, two tomato plants, some lavender and a pink daisy-like sort of little bush thing (the proper name is Daisius thingius, I think). Well. We had a few tasty salads before the plants started to flower. That was weeks ago and we haven't chucked them out yet, though they're now several feet tall and almost dead. The coriander bypassed leggy long ago and is probably now capable of jumping the fence and sprinting away, and the lemon balm is not far behind. I'm not sure what we did wrong with Daisius but he is basically a bunch of brown sticks poking sadly out of the compost. Every so often we look out of the window and remark that we really ought to do something about the garden. Then we forget about it for another fortnight.

The lavender and tomatoes are doing quite well, though. We do grow tomatoes quite successfully most summers. And the seed that the fat pigeons drop from the bird feeder is growing like stink, unfortunately. I've just spent half an hour pulling up grass from the gravel and you can't really tell that I've done anything at all. Plus it's taken me as long again to get the pigeon shit out from under my finger nails. Urgh.

The thing is, I love gardens and I really want to be the kind of person who has a beautiful garden and knows all about plants. This may be up there with my fantasy of being an incredible novelist with good hair who never shouts at her children and whose house always smells like fresh-baked bread. Hm.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


Wow. Can you say language explosion? Bat probably can.

She's picking up and mimicking absolutely everything at the moment. We realised how good she was getting when she spontaneously produced a realistic "me-e-e-e-eh!" on seeing some sheep at Avebury (photos of that day to come, by the way), and since then she comes up with something new every day. I got quite excited when she said "mama" before realising she was talking about a banana. (She'll say "daddy" on occasion but never "mummy", though she will point at me if someone asks where mummy is.) We've had hello - hawwo! - and bye bye, "dut" for ducks, "teece" for teeth, "doh" for toes and loads more. Her animal noises are coming on a treat, with "mow" for cats, "wuv" for dogs and a great big "NAY" for horses, as well as the original sheep sound. Bees apparently go "bschhhhhh" and land on her nose.

I sang "Row, row, row your boat" to her earlier (along with all the new verses that seem to have sprung up since I was little, when did that happen??) and have just overheard her softly chanting "roh, roh, roh, roh, roh. Meh, meh, merramee, meh. Roh roh roh!"

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A baby photo from long long ago

Here's a photo of me in my first pair of glasses. (I don't actually have that mark on my forehead, it's dust or something on the film.)

[Image description: a baby, around one year old, is lying on her front and looking up at the camera through round metal-framed glasses. She wears dungarees over a long-sleeved top and is clutching a wooden toy. The photograph looks somewhat old and grainy. As mentioned above, a mark appears on the film just over the baby's forehead.]

My poor squinty baby

I've been wondering whether the Bat's left eye was turning inwards for quite a while - then my mum remarked on the same thing, so I asked for a referral to get it checked out. This was months ago and we only had the appointment yesterday, but it's not a tearingly urgent thing, so I have been reining in my unreasonable instinct to bitch and moan because my daughter is CLEARLY the most important and why is there a waiting list and WHAT DO I PAY MY TAXES FOR.

For once I was actually hoping for the opthologist to do that patronising doctor look and tell me I was imagining things, but it turns out I'm not. Arse. Next we have to see an optician at the end of August, who will take a closer look and decide what to do next. She'll probably have glasses and maybe an eye patch. Arrrrr!

This is probably the same condition I had when I was tiny, which in some ways is reassuring because I know the ropes and in other ways makes me quite sad for her. If I'm honest, it's partly because I know that at her next appointment they're going to use eye drops to dilate her pupils, and I hated having that done when I was little. I'm also ignobly fed up because I remember that for the first few years, my mum had to trek to the nearest hospital with me on the bus for my eye tests. I don't drive either and am hoping there's somewhere more local that can do them!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Magpie Monday

My first Magpie Monday! I'm a bit of a fiend for second-hand bargains so this is right up my street.

Now we're spending more time outside, both at home and at the children's centre, I've been worried about the Bat's knees getting scraped or her leggings being ruined as she crawls on the paving (we've got no lawn at home, just paving slabs, which makes me a bit sad but hey ho). So I've been on the lookout for some tougher denim or cotton trousers she can rampage in. I got some in the Mothercare sale, but despite being sized 12-18 months they're far too big and long for her so we've had to put them aside for a few months. The shops are all full of lightweight little shorts now, but I turned to eBay and got a couple of things in good nick for way less than retail price.

Baby Gap jeans - they fit her well with a little room to grow length-wise, and cost me all of £3.99 including postage. Plus the embroidery is really pretty.

[Image description: a pair of baby's blue jeans with a button fastening. They have embroidered flowers in brown, blue and white on the right knee and left hip pocket.]

And these Mini Boden trousers (boys' ones, strictly speaking, but so is a lot of her stuff - I really can't see that it matters). They're made from tough cotton and lined, so I defy any stone or pebble to get through them. There's a little wear on the knees from their previous owner, but plenty of life left in them, and they cost the princely sum of £3.54 including postage.

[Image description: a pair of baby's trousers in brown cotton, with a button fastening and hip pockets.]

We've also got the Bat quite a decent haul of new stuff in the sales, including a swimsuit at last (from Monsoon, no less!), but since that's not second-hand I'll leave it for another day.

See everyone else's Magpie Mondays at Me and My Shadow

No fighting, no biting

Hm. The Bat is starting to bite when she gets frustrated. (In related news, her first molar is coming through! Hooray!) She's only nipped me a couple of times, more often it's something she's holding or even her clothes. I'm just not looking forward to the day she chomps down on another child - although to be fair, she's spectacularly chilled out around other toddlers and never seems to object to anything they do, so it's hard to picture her getting angry enough to bite. A couple of weeks ago, one of the kids at PEEP rooted both fists in Bat's hair and started shaking her head up and down. His mum flew over to stop him, but the Bat didn't make a peep, just looked bewildered.

We're at a stage where she thinks our efforts to correct her are just a game, so though I am talking to her about the biting, it's unlikely to sink in for a while. I know I shouldn't wish her babyhood away, but sometimes I really look forward to the day she can understand explanations.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A tempestuous afternoon

The Bat is really figuring out that she can press my buttons. Not that she understands it properly, she just knows that if she does a particular thing (current favourite is pulling my books off the shelf and making like she's going to tear the pages - which she would if I let her carry on), I start making the funny NO noises and eventually come over to intervene. Then she looks at me and laughs. I know it's beyond ridiculous to get angry with a 15 month old who's just playing a game, but there are only so many times I can do this patiently before it starts winding me up. She tends to do it in the afternoons and it can go on for hours.

If it hadn't been chucking down with rain today, I would have bundled her into the pushchair and gone out to give myself a break from rescuing books. As it was I got upset, raised my voice, then sat at the other end of the sofa like a sulky teenager, had a little cry and refused to read her Happy Baby board book with her. Eventually I gave myself sixty seconds to stop being an arse, which I timed on my watch. Then I picked her up to read her book and she hit me in the face with it. Poor Owl came home to find us both in a properly foul mood.

Happily it turns out that IKEA do cupboard doors that we can attach to our book case, so my sanity will be saved.

There's something about Bristol takeaways

I know takeaway portions are generally ridiculous anyway, but I swear they're bigger in Bristol than anywhere else I've lived. It's the same whatever we get and wherever we order from, other than the chains which all do things the same (though our local Subway is pretty stingy with the fillings, cough cough). We had Chinese last night and it was very nice but holy cow, HUGE. We had a spring roll each to start and that would have done me for a normal supper all by itself - they were vast. Then Owl dished us up humongous amounts of noodles and meat and veg and nuts and sauce and, well, MSG. You know when you've been eating for about fifteen minutes and you look down and the plate looks no emptier than when you started? It was like that. I left half of mine and Owl ate it. He's got hollow legs, the lucky so-and-so. I weigh loads more than he does but he can demolish stacks of food that defeat me easily.

Up the road is a chippy that apparently serves up this beast - the Super Scooby, comprising "four 1/4lb beef patties, eight rashers of bacon, eight slices of cheese, 12 onion rings, heaps of salad and three sauces" and coming in at 2,645 kcal. Plus chips. You get a free can of Diet Coke if you manage to finish it in one sitting. We haven't made the attempt.

In other food news, I'm planning to make stuffed parathas this week (after first wanting to make dosas before realising that dosa batter is a faff and requires planning in advance). It's a first for me, so we'll see how well it turns out.

In other other news, the OU course I'd set my heart on doing turns out to cost £700. Arsecakes. I can't possibly justify dipping that far into my savings. Feeling a bit mournful about it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Out and about

It's the last session of PEEP today, and we've all arranged to meet up at a local playground instead of the children's centre. Though rain stops play and we've had a couple of showers already this morning, so it may yet get cancelled. *squints at the sky* I've never been to this park, but I think I've found it on the map and it's only about a mile away, so we can go on foot. It's possible that I'll end up hopelessly wandering the streets of Bristol, but frankly that's a risk whenever I set foot outside the front door. My sense of direction is Not Good.

I hadn't really got involved at the children's centre until recently, just popped in every so often to get the Bat weighed. PEEP has been really nice, though, and I'll definitely start going to a weekly Stay & Play session from now on. I hadn't quite realised how much I missed the company of other adults during the day. Owl gets home from work as early as he can, but I can't make him be my entire social life - that's not good for either of us. My last office job was in a small, really close-knit team, all of us around the same age and with loads in common, and it was lovely having people to joke around with. Life gets a bit one-dimensional when you don't have that regular social interaction. I've met some lovely people through Netmums and we all try to meet up regularly, but things come up and at least one baby seems to have a cold in any given week, so not everyone makes it each time. It'll be good to get something really regular and structured in place to boot my arse out the door, because I'm quite introverted and I quickly turn into a bit of a loner if I don't make myself do stuff.

Edit: bugger, after all that it's started raining again.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Summer's here for real

We are roasting in this heat. (My computer is trying to tell me that it's 13 Celcius where I am - whut??) I always feel like a total wimp for complaining about the heat, because I've got loads of friends scattered across the US and most of them get much hotter summers than we do. Crucially, they also have air conditioning in their houses. This summer is the first time I've appreciated having a bathroom with no windows. It's like a little tiled cell right in the heart of the building, insulated by other rooms on all sides, and it's lovely and cool in there right now.

Sadly I'm not allowed to spend the whole day reading on the bathroom floor in my underwear. The Bat requires feeding (like at LEAST three times a day, how demanding) and I've got to get some passport photos done so that I can renew my provisional driving licence. The nearest photo machine is at Sainsbury's, so I'm promising myself that we can get ice lollies for the freezer while we're there.

I'm not cut out for hot sunny weather. I'm one of those people who overheat really easily, so I go all red and blotchy and awful long before anyone else. And I don't much like wearing summer clothes. Ideally I want to be in a big cardigan and stompy boots at all times, otherwise I feel kind of exposed. Today I'm in a T-shirt and long cotton skirt, but am still trying to figure out whether I can wear jeans to the shop without melting.

I really want to get a paddling pool for the Bat. Plus she still needs a swimming costume and swim nappies - I can't really swim, so I always chicken out of taking her swimming on my own even though we'd probably just splash around in the baby pool. We meant to do it last week while Owl was on holiday, but got caught up in other things and didn't get round to it. Oh well.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Huh. I heard that the Oxford comma is not dead after all. Well, I'm going to carry on not using it anyway.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Holidaaaay, sort of

The Owl has got this week off work, so we're mooching, doing fun stuff with the Bat and generally having a chilled-out time. Today is especially good because a) I handed in a German assignment yesterday and don't have another course deadline for ages, b) I had jam doughnuts instead offor lunch and c) the Oxford comma, which I hate, has been dropped from the Oxford style guide. See me not using it! This is the kind of thing that makes me happy.

Tomorrow I think we're going to Avebury, so that I can look at the standing stones and be all ooOOOOooooOOOooooo. I might remember to take the camera, in which case you'll get some family photos. Maybe Westonbirt or the seaside on Saturday, then lunch out with in-laws on Sunday. It's all v exciting.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

On being a pro-choice mum

Trigger warning - this is a post on abortion from the pro-choice perspective. There's also detail about pregnancy and birth.

(I've written this - slightly later than I meant to! - for the theme-free Feminist Friday over at Obviously the opinions here are all my own.)

My baby was really, really wanted. I was dead lucky and fell pregnant in our third month of trying, which is pretty quick. Right from the start, I thought of the wee zygote as my baby. It had a dozen different nicknames before we even had the first ultrasound. I loved my baby. I cherished every somersault and every prod to my internal organs (for the first six months or so, anyway). I sang to it before it even had ears. It was the beginning of our relationship, and it was right and happy and good. For us.

My strong loving feelings during my pregnancy were perfectly valid and natural. That doesn't make them some kind of objective truth that can be applied to all women and all pregnancies. If a woman doesn't think of her own embryo or foetus as a baby, that's entirely her prerogative. My emotions about my pregnancy are completely irrelevant to anyone else. If you don't want to have a baby, if you don't picture yourself holding a child and caring for it and picking the lint out from between its ickle toesy-wosies, then naturally you might not feel emotionally attached to a bunch of dividing cells. That little peanut-with-legs is only a baby if you think it is, and you don't get to make that decision about any peanut but your own. Women run the whole gamut of emotions when it comes to pregnancy, whether they're planning to terminate or go full-term. My own feelings are not universal and there's no reason they should be.

For me, pregnancy and birth were wonderful but terrifying. If you didn't want to be a mother at the end of it all, I can only imagine what a headfuck it would be. It's a big deal. It changes you and your body in ways that you can't always predict. In the last six weeks of my pregnancy, I had bad SPD. My pelvic joint got too loose, which was incredibly painful and meant I needed crutches to walk. It improved as soon as the Bat was born, but it's only in the last month or so - over a year after the birth - that I've been able to walk two or more miles without pain. Some women don't recover to the extent that I have, and I'm at risk for earlier and greater pelvic problems in subsequent pregnancies. We're not 'just' talking about saggy skin and a few stretch marks here (though adjusting to sudden physical changes can be bloody difficult, and a good self-image is not frivolous or unnecessary). Some people have severe tears. Some people lose continence to various degrees. And let's not forget that even an 'easy' birth usually means a lot of pain and a lot of strangers doing stuff to your private bits. It's commendable to go full-term and let someone else give the baby a loving home - you'll make an adoptive family very happy - but it's hardly a straightforward option. Should unwilling women have to risk all those problems when it's still early enough to avoid them, just because I happen to like babies? Hell no.

Women matter. Women's thoughts and feelings matter. Women's physical autonomy matters. My emotional response is not a moral imperative, and it doesn't justify forcing anyone through the danger and trauma of an unwanted pregnancy.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


I formed the cunning plan of hoovering while the Bat was down for her morning nap in the other room, because otherwise she gets scared of the noise. She's fast asleep, all is in preparation - EXCEPT for the hoover, which I left in her bedroom. Bugger. Do I sneak in and risk waking her up?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I hate low-fat alternatives

Out of curiosity, I bought a low-fat Milky Way thick shake with no added sugar when I popped to the corner shop after PEEP. I couldn't really see how it would be good but I was willing to learn different. Well, I was right. It's rubbish. It smells chocolatey, it tastes sweet when it first hits your tongue and then just kind of... disappears into weird floury nothingness. I'm popping the rest of it in the fridge for now and frankly I may have to doctor it with a splash of cream if I'm going to finish it. Yuck.

The one exception to my rule is, as you might have guessed, Diet Coke. I think it's way better than sugary Coke, which I really dislike. I need that aspartame zing. Oh, and low-fat cottage cheese is OK, because it tastes low-fat even when it isn't, so you really might as well get your fat in a more delicious form.

In which I kind of have a social life

We're off to PEEP later. PEEP stands for something about Empowering or maybe Educating and one of the Ps must surely be for Parents. Anyway, we all trundle down to the Sure Start centre, do some songs etc. with the toddlers and then they play while the mums (yep, it's all mums) chat with the staff about a different topic each week. Last week we talked about Tantrums, which was popular - we almost ran out of time for a story at the end. Can't remember what it is this week. Maybe feeding? Not sure. In previous weeks we've talked a lot about how they play at this age and what they get out of it, which was interesting. One of the staff also tipped me off to start shortening the Bat's naps during the day and see if that helps her go to sleep at night, which does seem to be working. It's been days now since we had an epic four-hour battle over bedtime, and she's even slept through the last few nights.

So! Yay for PEEP. There are some really nice people there. It's quite a diverse group as well, other than us all being white and female - lots of different ages, and we're scattered quite widely on the crunchiness scale, if you know what I mean. That scale where one end is putting McDonald's milkshakes in your newborn's bottle, and the other is weaving your own cloth nappies from home-grown organic flax. Obviously I consider myself to be perfectly balanced in the middle and doing everything just right. :D

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

This is as close to Supermum as I get

Well, I didn't make it to the library. But I did hold a fridge amnesty and dealt with the Things in the salad drawer that I've been avoiding for too long. That lets me off all chores for the rest of the day, in my humble opinion. But despite that I am STILL voluntarily making delicious cake for Owl's office. I'm that awesome. You can bow down and kiss my feet if you like.

Summer Solstice

I have to say, I think the solstice should be a bit more bloody summery. *glares at clouds* Not least because I've got to walk up to the library this afternoon and return the books that I've been repeatedly renewing online since, um, February. We tried to do some messy play in the garden yesterday with that wondrous cornflour-and-water mixture, but the rain started bucketing down after five minutes and we fled back inside. This is not the June I ordered!

I've been flipping back through our photos of the Bat with a view to getting some printed up for her great-grandparents, who aren't online and get a bit left out of the loop. It's very, very odd to realise how much she's changed - when I look back at earlier pictures now, I'm amazed that she was ever so bald and chubby, but at the time I thought she had tons of hair! Here's a recent shot;

[Image description: the Bat, a pale-skinned one year old with red hair, is sitting in a baby swing in our back garden. She is dressed for summer in a skirt and T-shirt. She is grinning at the camera.]

Here she is just before six months, having her first ever bite of solid food;

[Image description: the Bat, age as described above, wearing a red babygro. She is sitting in an infant high chair with a mouthful of food and pulling a disgusted face.]

Just a few months old, flat out in her Moses basket (to think she was ever tiny enough to fit into it!);

[Image description: the Bat, age as described above, lying fast asleep in a Moses basket that is lined with white spotted cotton. She wears a colourful babygro and is covered with a white blanket.]

And four days old, not long after she came home from the hospital;

[Image description: the Bat, age as described above, fast asleep on her back in a classic newborn pose with fists curled on either side of her head. She is lying in a Moses basket, covered with a white blanket and wearing a red and white babygro.]

TINY PERSON. I had a sniffle over some of her first babygros the other day. They're so little! I still can't believe I was allowed to be in charge of this fragile wee thing, or that I've successfully seen her through the last 15 months. When are they going to realise that I'm not grown up enough?

Monday, 20 June 2011

My secret shame (well, one of them)

Hi. My name is Sarah and I'm a Diet Coke addict.

I hate this! I hate Coca Cola as a corporation. I hate the sheer amount of plastic that comes into our house as the result of my insatiable need for Diet Coke. I hate the vast sums of money I spend on it. I hate that it's probably eroding my tooth enamel all to hell. (I have bad dreams about all my teeth crumbling away, seriously. I inherited stonkingly sturdy teeth and I have horrendous guilt about wasting this genetic boon.) I don't always enjoy the taste of the stupid stuff, even. It can be the flat horrible end of a bottle but I'll still drink it rather than pouring it away.

I have to face facts. For me, Diet Coke is the new Marlboro Lights. I quit smoking five years ago, and have always figured that if I could do that successfully then I could do anything. Apparently I have met an even greater foe.

More food - I've got a one track mind

I'm currently eating Nutella with a teaspoon while wondering whether to also make some real food for lunch. Pretty soon the Bat is going to start picking up on my horrendous eating habits. I don't want her to think this how people are supposed to eat! So it really is time to get my arse in gear and have proper meals along with her. (Don't worry, she's currently having homemade cheese and pesto muffins with fruit for afters. I do know about food, I just don't apply the knowledge to myself.)

Right, I've decided. I will have soup like a normal person.

This morning has been semi-productive for once - Bat and I are both bathed and fragrant (yes, that counts as an achievement, thank you), a cot blanket is out on the line to dry and I'm planning another laundry load soon, and some necessary emails have been sent. This afternoon, when the Owl gets back, I'll skim and freeze the stock I made yesterday and try to work a bit more on the story I'm writing.

Goals for the week are:

finish spiffing up my translation CV and contact some more agencies
tidy up before a friend comes over for dinner on Thursday
plan meal for the same
bake carrot cake for Owl's work, which I promised a fortnight ago but was ill and germy when the time came to do it
wash, dry and pack up all my maternity clothes to be stored (why yes, it is about time)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lazy Sunday

The chicken and ribs turned out quite nice. I'll probably futz with the oven temperature next time. We ate half for supper last night and half just now for lunch (I did slightly less meat than Nigella does - still whopping amounts, though). The Bat has some chicken that I stripped off a drumstick, but she's mostly pushing it around her tray instead of eating it. Ingrate.

The weather today is a massive improvement on the last week or so. I feel like I should be heading off for a sprightly energetic walk, but I also feel sufficiently oogy that we had to cancel going out for lunch with the Husband's family, so it's probably not a good idea. Instead I'm going to make some stock from the leftover bones and do laundry, both of which make me feel productive but don't require all that much physical effort.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


I'm trying a new recipe tonight (yes, I'm cooking it at 10.45 pm, why do you ask? All adults eat dinner at midnight. True fact). It's this one from Nigella, more or less. I'm incapable of taking a recipe and not tweaking it at all, but this is fairly faithful to the original. With it we're having crusty rolls and lemony green beans. And there'll be loads left for tomorrow, too, which makes me feel pleasantly organised and somewhat makes up for the ridiculously late suppertime. It's the Owl's fault, I swear. He came home late! A mere four hours ago!


The Bat is flat out in her cot after a walk in the fresh air, so here I am, using the free time to write my first post. Hello.

I'm an at-home mum to the Bat, an opinionated 14-month-old redhead. Her dad, the Owl, is an engineer with a massive beard and we all live together in Bristol, UK. When I'm not changing nappies or dangling the baby by her ankles, I like to read, cook, make jewellery and waste my time online. I'm also a linguist, gearing up for a career as a freelance translator with the aim of going full-time once the sproglet is at school (unless I've made my fortune as a novelist by then BWAHAHAHAHAww c'mon, a girl can dream).

Today the Bat and I went down to a barbecue/fete/whatchamacallit, held as a fundraising effort to try and save a lovely local building (possibly the only old-ish building in the area) that the council are after selling off. 50p to get in, 50p for coffee and 30p to buy the Bat a cuddly toy off a stall. I'm not sure my contribution is going to single-handedly rescue the building, but every little helps, right? The Bat charmed the socks off all the old ladies while I had my coffee. We were only out for an hour tops, but she fell fast asleep in the pushchair on the way home and I managed to transfer her into the cot without waking her at all. I don't often get to hold her while she sleeps - she pretty much stopped falling asleep on us months ago, and I only realise how much I miss it on the few occasions when it does happen. Awww, warm heavy sleepy baby.