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.