Monday, 30 July 2012

Where do YOU do it?

With 2 pre-schoolers (1 for not much longer, sniff), a job and home to look after I don't have an awful lot of time left for hobbies. Luckily I can fit fitness into my life by combining it with the other stuff, like cycling to work and taking the boys to play in the gym creche but other things, like knitting and crochet are much more difficult. If any of you have under-fives and have also ended up with mummified children, you'll know exactly what I mean.

The ONE occasion this actually happened
So once the kids are in bed, I have my tea then use the peace and quiet to get some hooking (no, not that type of hooking, filthy) done in front of the TV until I fall asleep. Which admittedly isn't very long these days. It does mean that projects take a bloody lifetime to finish though and often I then get bored and start new projects all the time. Cue about 5 items on the go at any one time.

Our holidays often involve long drives (camping in Scotland, anyone?) so I now use the opportunity to grab my crochet hook and usually manage to get at least 1 project finished by the end of the holiday.
The Mama One. Modelled by a sleepy Max (this doesn't happen often either)

As we had the mother of long drives this month I took the opportunity to not only start but actually finish a blanket I've been wanting to make for a while. I have a Mama-sized one which I made ages ago and still have lots of yarn left over so made a shrunk-down version (with a few changes) for the shop. I'm really pleased with it and have it up for sale over on Etsy already.

Baby-sized version
I started a similar one in 2 colours with some oh-so-soft Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarn I had left over from yet another abandoned project. I may have to wait until the next road trip to get it finished though. That's not an excuse to book another holiday is it? Really?

So I'd like to know, where do you do it? On the bus? On your lunch break? Weekends and birthdays only? Do tell, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, 29 July 2012


I tried to do this before we went away, to post on his actual birthday but it turns out preparing for a 2 week break with 2 children takes up quite alot of time. Who knew?

Anyhow, here is a clip of my boy's life so far. 3 years in 3 minutes...

P.S. How do I make it smaller so it fits better - anyone know?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Spanish-French adventure

This week we returned from probably the best holiday we've had in years. My brother got married just outside Girona and we took the opportunity to make the most of it and have a 2 week Spanish break.

Thanks to my fear of flying (and not being able to pop valium or get wasted on vodka as I would have in times gone by) we booked a ferry to France, 3 stops on the way down and prepared ourselves for a 4-day adventure with 2 under-5s.

I was apprehensive about the car travel and wondered how the boys would be but I prepared activity packs for them, plenty of snacks and drinks and an iPad loaded up with Peppa Pig and they were fine. They slept ALOT in the car which was great for the journey itself but my God did we pay for it in the evenings when they became incredible non-sleeping children.

We stopped in Tours, Sarlat-La-Caneda and Carcasonne on the way down. We then crossed the border and drove to the wedding venue in Fares and from there spent a week in Crespia. We only had 2 days to travel back up so 2 looooong days of driving took us to Limoges and finally Caen to get our ferry early morning.

We stayed in some beautiful places. Notably Les Petites Chamilles, just outside Sarlat, run by the parents of a friend I met through Twitter, L'Arcada which hosted the wedding and Hostal Nou where we spent the largest chunk after the celebrations.

The wedding was incredible, a 4-day celebration surrounded by friends and family. My parents are divorced and, though amiable, it's not often I get to see them both in one place so to have them, my brother plus my aunties, uncles, cousins and step-siblings not just together in one place but all dancing, laughing and enjoying each other's company was something special indeed.

All 3 places were located 'off the beaten track' and run by the most friendly, welcoming hosts we could have hoped for. Hostal Nou is owned by a Catalan family. As well as her day job as a teacher, Elena cooks the most amazing meals for the guests in the evening (saying they're 'amazing' actually doesn't do her justice. She went to cooking school for 2 years and the standard was unlike anything we've had for a very long time) runs the business with her husband and looks after her boys, age 2 and 5. The word 'superwoman' doesn't cut it for this lady!

The boys fell into a routine of waking at 9 (heaven after years of 5:30 starts!) having a siesta in the afternoon, eating with us at 9 then going to bed at 11. It worked really well and what struck me most about both France and Spain is the inclusion of children in everything. Going out of an evening, familes are all out together and it's perfectly acceptable to have toddlers at the table in restaurants at 9/10pm. They were given much attention everywhere we went with a pat on the head and a 'guapo' welcoming them in.

I won't drone on any more about the holiday itself, just to say that we had an amazing first proper family holiday. Lots of fun in the pool, taking in some beautiful parts of the country, immersing ourselves in the culture and eating some fabulous Catalan cuisine.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A (fake) 3rd birthday

Because we were travelling on Max's actual 3rd birthday yesterday (I can't imagine being stuck in a car for 8 hours is much fun on your birthday. Or any other day for that matter) he had a fake birthday whilst we were still in Spain and my Mum was there.

I had a few birthdays on holiday when I was little and remember it being more special than a dreary English birthday so we packed a load of pressies and made a right old fuss of my favourite 3-year-old. Who was actually still 2 but hey, like he knew.

The owner of our B&B is a chef and we had our evening meals there each night. She made a massive chocolate cake especially for Max and the highight of the day (his and mine - for different reasons) was all the other guests gathering round our table as the cake was bought out and singing happy birthday in variations of broken English and then one of the Belgian teenagers bringing him a card she'd made. Very special indeed. I even managed not to cry.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Oh, Brother

Brothers are funny creatures. Especially big brothers. In my experience big brothers fart on your head, make fun of you in front of your friends and blame you for their wrongdoings in front of your parents.

Then you grow up. Since the ages of 17 and 18 my brother and I have lived apart and actually have only spent about 4 years since in the same country. We're now 33 and 34 and other than my parents he remains the one constant in my life since birth. He is the the one I shared my secrets, my childhood with and in many ways, knows me better than any other. We have a bond that I'll have with no other for as long as I shall live.

What I love most about my brother is how, though we see each other barely 3 times a year he never changes. As though no time has passed, we revert to teenagers, making up songs and laughing at our poor Dad's expense as yet another practical joke is played on him, followed by much eye-rolling from the rest of the family.

He got married this weekend. Sometimes, especially when someone's always been there, we don't stop to think what it is that makes them special. What I guess I've always known and loved about my brother was apparent in the best man's speech. Far from regaling the guests with drunken escapades and tales of girlfriends past, one of my brother's best men gave a heartfelt speech on a true friendship they've shared since becoming roommates at uni years ago.

One of his lines was that nobody has a bad word to say about my brother. I've never thought about it before this week but it's totally true. He has time for anyone, will do anything for anybody and has a pure heart which sees only the good in people. He's the best friend you could ask for, an amazing Dad and now, a husband who I know will look after his wife as he's looked after us in his own unique way all these years.

His own speech further confirmed this. His new wife is Spanish and he took the time to deliver his speech half in English (as James) and half in Spanish as Sombrero James complete with 'traditional dress' (his words) of a giant hat (they took the sarcasm in good humour, thankfully). He spoke about how each person in your life touches you in a way and shapes you into the person you are today and thanked my parents and myself for each of our roles in making him him.

He and his wife have never said 'I love you' to each other. As he says, you demonstrate your love for a person through actions not words and as such they feel what they do for each other is more significant than those  words which are all to easily uttered. He went on to make one final statement which was to have the male guests line up and place all manner of ridiculous paraphernalia upon his new bride, each with a special meaning, a little but of their history, to the soundtrack of 'Baby I Love You' by the Ramones. The single most touching moment of the day.

There were many tears shed that day. Most of joy, some of sadness for those lost who couldn't be there but in my case, of pride. I love my brother, was proud to stand by his side, proud to be his sister and privileged to have shared my life with him. He is without doubt the coolest person I know. Besides, who else would walk down the aisle to the ET theme and take their first dance to 'Earth Angel' from Back to the Future?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Mars Bar biscuit cake

After a run of posts on health and fitness I feel I need to redress the balance and add some sugar to the blog. I had a recipe in an Asda magazine yonks ago for a refrigerator cake which I'd made and loved.

I've since lost the magazine but thought I'd try to recreate it this afternoon. It's deliciously decadent and not for the faint hearted (or dieter, diabetic or those on a budget for that matter) but y'know, sometimes when it's cold, rainy and the kids need entertaining so you just have to chuck out the rule book.

You will need:

3 Mars Bars, chopped into small pieces
80g Butter
6 Digestive biscuits, crushed
Bag of Malteasers (I had a big bag but only used half in the cake. The rest went in my tummy)
40g Raisins
Large bar Galaxy

1. Melt the Mars Bars and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring frequently (mine curdled when they melted, I just removed them from the heat and whisked rapidly until they combined and it was fine)

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the melted chocolate and stir well

3. Pour the mixture in a suitable dish and spread evenly until about 1cm thick

4. Pop in the fridge for 3-4 hours until set

5. Melt the Galaxy in a bowl over a pan of simmering water

6. Pour over the now-set biscuit cake

5. Devour heavily, guilt-free. Cos sometimes you've just gotta.