February 28, 2013

the last day of summer

The last day of summer (phew!).  And so it seemed fitting to make this mango and aubergine soba noodle salad by Ottolenghi.  Some tried and tested variations (and in my view improvements) to his original recipe:

 - Be generous with the aubergine.  He says to use two, I would say use two of the biggest bad boys you can find.  Or three normal ones.
 - Cube and toss the aubergine in olive oil and roast for 25 mins in a hot oven.  It's easier and less oily than pan frying in the 300ml of oil he suggests, though I don't for a second disagree that a well fried and daresay oily piece of aubergine is something delicious.
 - Use less sugar in the dressing.  He suggests 40g.  I used 20g and still thought it was too sweet.
 - Use more lime, the tanginess is deluxe and I think much nicer than the taste of the rice vinegar.
 - Thinly slice the red onion and steep it in the lime juice.  It's less oniony and goes a nice puce pink colour.
 - Don't bother weighing the herbs, just use what you think looks right.  Life is too short to weigh basil leaves.
 - Don't believe him when it says 'serves 4'.  The two of us ate the whole lot within minutes of me putting down the camera.  Incredibly, the recipe in the book (a bible of sorts in this house) says 'serves 6'.

The end.

February 27, 2013

tweet tweet

It seems we are always planning a birthday party.  That's what you get when your family's birthdays are as spread out as ours are.  October, December, March, April and now July are all birthday months, and then of course there are the anniversaries that some of us forget.

Next up, it's Max, dear little Max with his fiery temper but sweetest of natures and his love of all things wild (he has asked for a toy duck and a toy birdie to join his toy lambie, toy froggie and toy bear).  He wants a birdie party, and while I'm not entirely sure how we'll make it so, it is a sweet theme and one we should be able to do plenty with.  We've already tried our hand at a bird cake - not a cake for birds (there's an idea), but a bird shaped frosted cake - anything in the name of practice when it comes to cake.  And this weekend just gone, Will put up with my bossier than usual instructions on how I wanted the invitation to look and knocked the basic idea out in his usual casual style, while I then agonised over fonts and text size and whether I should round the corners or not, all of which seemed pointless when the colour printing woes started.

Cute?  I think so.  It's not going to be long before cute doesn't cut it with my kids, and everything will need to be boy flavoured, so I'm making the most of the sweetness of something as simple as a birdie party, even if it does have more than just a hint of putting a bird on it.  And this invitation indulges my love of that cute little birdie, the robin red breast, possibly my favourite of all the feathers.

In other news, this is my last week of maternity leave.  Next Monday I'm back to work (the kind that pays).  It's mixed feelings all round.  I'm going back to a new building, desk, outlook, probably a new set of clients, there will be many many faces I don't recognise, problems to solve, an inordinate amount of juggling and my age old inability to switch off from work... but then there'll be people I love there too, colleagues I'd call friends, a renewed appreciation for weekends and the opportunity to drink coffee (real coffee) and enjoy the odd lunch with my husband who'll be just a few minutes stroll away.  But the overarching reason I have this nagging feeling of anxiety that's been swelling over the last month or so is knowing I'll be away from my children.  Lord knows I am not the picture perfect mother I want to be, but every day I'm away from them is another day gone by that I miss out on trying my best again.  On the days when they are at kindy, I long to be with them again, even though I need the break so badly sometimes.  I pick them up early, let them play in the mud, spoil them a little with ice-cream for dessert or a new Matchbox car, knowing that before long, I won't be able to pick them up before the end of the day, take them for a drive to the scrap yard (it makes them so happy to see the material handler!) because I'll be rushing around trying to do a million more things all at once.  But me going back to work, it's happening and I need to deal with it and dwell on the positive change it will bring to my life and theirs too.

But I digress, as this post is about the party that is coming and I'm not talking about the one that involves me eating a lot of Easter chocolate.  In a month, Max of the fuzzy hair and inexplicably beautiful eyes and twig legs (not unlike a bird's) will be three.  Three.  THREE.  Now I'm no scientist, but surely this means the end of the terrible twos.  Right?

February 8, 2013


Ollie: (to Max) Now Max.  You get what you get and you don't get upset about it.

Me:  Ollie, don't be so rude!
Ollie:  But mum, you're rude sometimes too.
(it's true)

Me: (very frustrated) Oh Max, good LORD!
Max:  Mummy, no don't say good lord... say BAD lord!

Ollie:  (after he was back from looking at the neighbourhood Christmas lights with his dad) Mum, I had a lovely time light spotting around the neighbourhood
Me:  That's great, I wish I could have gone with you.
Ollie:  When we were walking around, quite a strange feeling came over me.
Me:  Really?  What sort of feeling?
Ollie:  (speaking very slowly and quietly) It happened when I saw a teeny tiny creature crawl out of a hole and land in the middle of the pavement!

Ollie: (after we gave him a peanut m&m) Can I have one of those little round things?  A P&M?

Ollie:  (as I was bringing Hugo out of his room after nap time) Mum!  Look who it is!
Me: It's Hugo!  Isn't he lovely?
Ollie: Yes
Me:  Do you love him more than anything in the world?
Ollie: er.... Yes
Me:  Really?  More than garbage trucks?
Ollie:  (thinking for a moment) I love them both.  I love garbage trucks AND babies.

Ollie:  It's the day before Christmas Day
Me: Yes, what does that mean?
Ollie:  We have to get a lot of things ready, like drinks and milk and carrots for Santa
Me:  What do you think Santa would like to drink?
Ollie:  Something like.... maybe something that only adults drink.

Ollie: (unwrapping his Christmas present and hopping from foot to foot) It's a side loading garbage truck! It's a side loading garbage truck! It's a side loading garbage truck! It's a side loading garbage truck! It's a side loading garbage truck! It's a side loading garbage truck!

February 6, 2013

must try harder

I'm not sure where to begin with this one.  It's not easy to write about, which means it can't be that easy to deal with.  It is something that I should have known a long time ago, before Ollie was born, before he was even an idea, but in truth, it's only in the last few months that I've realised it, and only in the last few weeks has the realisation been strong enough to leave me feeling very shaken.

So, this big realisation?  It's the realisation that parenting, at least parenting the way I want to parent, doesn't come naturally or easily to me.  A fine thing for a mother of three sons to admit, but here I am while they are sleeping, thinking about nothing else but my influence on their lives and how much better I know it could be.  I resort to snapping and yelling and time-outs way too often, forgetting to listen to the boys, to let them speak, to treat them the way I'd want to be treated.  It sounds so simple but the reality (for me) has been very different.  Getting them to listen is hard.  Then, getting them to do stuff they need to is hard (you know, eating, going to the bathroom, putting on sunscreen, bathing...).  By that stage, you've gone hoarse asking them time after time to put their shoes on because we are already running 30 minutes late for kindy, and then you yell.  And there's no turning back from that one, once you yell, it's hard to be calm again and then the affection you want to show your kids... well, it's there but it's hard to get out.  And after a tough day I'm not sure they want it either.  Never mind the impact of constant barking of orders on the kids, I have ended many an evening feeling very, very inadequate, exhausted and very unhappy, knowing I've not done all I can to bring out the best in them.  I don't want to be that mum.  I want to be the affectionate, happy, nurturing mother that enjoys her kids rather than endures them.  I want to be the mother they want to be with, not the one they want to avoid.  Above all else, I want them to be their happiest selves and to know I am doing everything I can to make that happen.  If I'm not going to try 100%, what's the point?

So, a few weeks ago I did what I have always done when I feel this way, and resorted to books.  Books on pregnancy, babies, toddlers are all part of our odd repertoire of architecture, cookery and history books, but it didn't feel like what I needed was there.  So, to the library, and we came across this book, the title of which pretty much hits the nail on the head when it comes to what I'm trying to achieve.  Correction, what we're trying to achieve. I've had it now for over a month, renewing it last week so that I could absorb as much as possible and so that my husband could do the same.  At first I was skeptical, it seemed a little simplistic and it wasn't telling me what I didn't already know, but really, it's helped enormously to be able to read, and read about something I care so much about, and to know my instinctive response isn't always going to be the right one.  By using case studies that I can completely relate to, I'm learning that there is always a way of dealing with things, of getting my point across, of communicating and getting the best out of my children.

The best part (after the fact that it seems to be working) is that we are doing this together.  Reading the book together has given us some clarity over how to do things, we talk a lot more about how to deal with situations we know are going to be tough, we are enjoying the kids a lot more and dare I say it, the kids seem to be happier too.  The consistency, the shift in gears, the change in attitude and the step back we've taken has had an impact almost immediately.

Anyway, it's not that they are bad kids, far from it, and there are so many marvellous moments we have with them that are completely devoid of frustration and angst, moments that are really quite wonderful and I wouldn't want this post to detract from any of that good stuff.  They are great kids, it's just that I'm not a great parent and probably never will be but just as I learned to read, to write, to cook, I can learn to be a better parent and be the mother that raises three kind, compassionate, open-minded and respectful men.  Books or not, I do know that for that to happen I need to be kind, compassionate and open minded first.

It's a long road this one, but there's no turning back and neither do I want to.  Those days of yearning for my independent self are long behind me, all I want now is to know I'm doing the absolute best I can as a mother and wife.  It's a slow journey but I'm hoping the track we're on is now the right one.
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