Monday, February 27, 2006
I've made shepherd's pie for tea. With quorn mince - I have not a clue what it was doing in my freezer, but it definitely needed using up (as, naturally, did the tub of Ben and Jerry's I found lurking behind it). Fearing it might be tasteless, I've used some nice chicken stock to jazz it up a bit: bet that's not a combination that gets cooked very often. Pie also has parsnip and potato mash on top as I didn't have many potatoes. No wonder Maggie doesn't eat.
Although, apparently, she eats enough. Despite (my) fears she was starving, she's following her growth curve just fine - we had her "20-24 month" check today. The health visitor (except she wasn't one, she said she was a nursery nurse? I think. Seems a bit strange.) also reassured me that loads of kids her age don't sleep all night long. How come I never meet any mothers to those kids? (Possibly they are all lying down in darkened rooms; only those with the 13-hour-straight offspring actually have the energy to take them out.) And I know, I know it is stupid to feel proud when she's just doing what she does, yet I couldn't help a small smug smirk when, just as the not-health-visitor explained that at her age they would be looking for 20-30 words, and by the time they were two for them to be combining pairs of words, M turned around and said want more toys please. Manners and everything! I always said she was brilliant.

Thursday, February 23, 2006
A dismally cold, wet day has seen all outings suspended. Thanks to Pewari for the brilliant idea of a dining-table tent: M has played happily there for most of the morning. Allowing me to do my ironing while reciting Mr Magnolia and The Gruffalo from memory. Multi-tasking. All those hours slent learning pop lyrics haven't been completely wasted: have a very well-developed bit of brain for that sort of thing now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Off to coffee morning today, which M reliably informed me last night involves: play, drink, biscuit, friends, running around, mummies on chairs.

Monday, February 20, 2006
Maggie is working really hard on learning songs at the moment. I can hear her as I type, singing in her cot. My special favourites go:
  • tinkle tinkle ittle star ba ba ba ba...UP a ba ba ba ba DIAMOND ner ner ner...(trails off)
  • baa baa back sheep...BOY
  • diddle diddle cat and fiddle
  • wiiiiii bobbinup wiiiii bobbinup pull pull ta ta ta
    Had a great time at soft play this morning: M was adopted by a big girl (about 9 or 10? Is half term here) who played with her for 2 hours, leaving me to sit on my bum, drink coffee and chat. Mind you, the decibel levels were such that the chat was of the type we used to have in nightclubs. In the olden days.

  • Sunday, February 19, 2006
    All this just makes me so cross. The government (or, in this case, the IPPR) doesn't seem to actually be asking women - or, indeed, parents generally - what they want. Most people I speak to would like to stay home with their children while they are young: they want the assurance that they can return to work - to proper, mentally challenging, career-type work - at some point in the future and they want support to do so, financial and otherwise, including some sort of status and recognition for a very important job. What we don't want is "free nursery places for two-year-olds" or "three months of paid parental leave".
    "'This is not a report that says to women "stay at home and have children",' said Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR". Yet that is exactly what many women would choose to do if not for financial pressures. Not all, and I am not suggesting for one minute that anyone should be forced to stay home against their will. Goodness knows it can be mind-sappingly dull at times. But many would; even more would choose to go part-time, if they could do so without hindering their long-term prospects; many do this regardless.
    Steve Biddulph seems to be the only person speaking out against the system. As he says, "Nurseries are marketed so well that parents at home have even begun to feel that they are not as good for their babies and toddlers as "experts" might be" - which is very much the case here: I have lost count of how many people have asked, apparently from genuine curiosity, if I don't think M need the stimulation of nursery. Being completely non-confrontational by nature I reply mmm and change the subject but let me state here, just for the record, that NO! No, I don't think she does need more stimulation. I don't believe she needs to "become socialised" by being left to fend for herself at nursery - we don't live in a vacuum, she just does her mixing under my beady eye. Life at home with me may be dull sometimes, but I am not sure constant stimulation is either necessary or desirable. We all have to learn to deal with boredom eventually. And our days are generally filled with plenty of varied activities. I know I am privileged to be able to afford to stay home (mind you, with nursery fees the way they are...) and this is exactly what I think is so wrong. Parents should be financially supported to stay home if they choose, not forced out to work.

    Thursday, February 16, 2006
    An evening out
    I have, in my head, a teeny Trinny and a tiny Susannah. Should never have watched their shows: should certainly not have purchased their book. It makes buying clothes impossible. Last night, toddler-free so free to shop, I spent far longer than is healthy in the changing room debating whether, at my age and flabbiness, a sleeveless top is OK. Conclusion: probably not (but I bought it anyway, at which point tiny Susannah screeched and stomped off and teeny Trinny said some Very Rude Words). I have compromised by wearing it over a sleeved shirt (don't be silly, it is February). Part of the problem with their book is it has all these helpful sections: what to wear if you've got short legs/saddlebag thighs/no waist/flabby arms/whatever, but there is no clue what to do if you are burdened with more than one (or all) of these afflictions. What is a girl to do? Pick the worst and go with that?
    While I was waiting in the changing room for the girl to get me a different size, a woman came up to me and starting asking about the clothes. Eventually I twigged that she thought I worked there and wasn't just being chatty (you can just never tell round here); when I explained that I didn't, she said oh, I bet you get that all the time, don't you. Well, no! Whatever did she mean?
    As someone who claims not to really like telly, I am far too influenced by it. Tonight we are eating Irish Stew for the first time in probably two decades, because the hairy bikers did it and it looked nice. Fingers crossed. What I do like, however, is films. Brokeback Mountain last night: fantastic. Slow-burning and so romantic I kept forgetting to breathe. Some truly dodgy 'taches though.
    Oh, and I lost my car key. Cameron's car key. Luckily it was under the table in the restaurant when I went back and scrabbled around the ankles of some poor chap.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006
    What a fantastic day. The sun is shining, spring is in the air, and a certain young lady slept right through to 5.30 this morning (that's 6 hours straight for me!) then went back off until 8. I don't know what to do with all this non-knackeredness. All manuscripts are finished and returned; the cleaner came this morning; and tonight - tonight - I am going Out. For my tea and then to the cinema. How exciting.
    Went to the gym: increased all my weights one level and ran 5 minutes longer than usual (mind you I skipped the rowing; despite all good intentions to spend longer there and less time in the cafe, I get so bored). Had M booked in the creche for 15 minutes longer than usual: unfortunately she noticed and was howling when I got back. How bad did I feel. I think she'd have been OK if all the other mummies hadn't turned up 5 minutes before me to take their children away.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006
    Much as I love Radio 4, it's those few-and-far-between times that they have a debate about a subject about which you know a little that you realise just how superficial and ill-informed it can be. PM, today. Nappies. Who heard it? The woman speaking against cloth nappies and for disposables appeared to have been grabbed off the street merely because she had children (I think they said she was a comedian so perhaps they were hoping for some humour). Her reason for not using cloth was that it was "so expensive" and that she "couldn't afford the special detergent". Huh? Had she said that she had four children and couldn't face the laundry, that might have been reasonable (poor woman had baby triplets and a 2-year-old; perhaps I should not expect coherence). But everybody knows cloth nappies are cheaper (£600 or so per child) and we wash our nappies in the same detergent as we wash everything else. Mind you, the chap pushing cloth wasn't much better, seeming inordinately proud of having changed a few nappies in his time. Wouldn't you think they could get some people on who actually knew a few facts and figures? (Like me, if they were really desperate.)

    Sunday, February 12, 2006
    We should have named her Mary Mary.
    Or Dawn.

    Friday, February 10, 2006
    Ethical cookies
    This is for Mia, following my telling-off for buying smarties cookies. (And with apologies to Pewari.)
    I made cookies with M&Ms. They are very yummy but I can see why the supermarkets don't do so; the crispy coating goes completely bonkers when heated and slides around quite alarmingly to make unattractive green and blue blobs. Flavour-wise, they were probably better than the smarties ones (although I am comparing fresh and home-made versus supermarket shelf), but I miss the nice orangey bits you get with smarties. A bit too sweet: if I do it again I'll use less sugar.

    100g softened butter
    100g light muscovado sugar
    1 tbsp golden syrup
    150g SR flour
    85g M&Ms

    Preheat the oven to 160C (fan)/180C (normal)
    Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then beat in the syrup. Mix in half the flour, then stir the M&Ms in with the remaining flour. Divide into 14 balls and place well-spaced on a baking sheet. Do not flatten. Bake for 12 minutes until pale golden; leave for a minute or two to harden slightly then cool on a wire rack.
    Now, does anyone know where I can get non-Nestle condensed and evaporated milk?

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    First sign of spring. Unfortunately my heavy-handed toddler got to these tiny new crocuses...but that means I have lovely tiger-striped flowers in the house. Who knew they had a scent?

    Well, we have entered the age of the toddler and no mistake. I have lost count of how many times today Maggie has said no!, and calculate the approximate screaming:not-cross ratio as approximately 2:1. I know she's tired and I suspect she's feeling a bit below par (she has a runny nose and was up in the night. She was too contrary to eat her tea last night so when she woke hungry at 4 am I was not sympathetic and rather I-told-you-so. Reasoning with a toddler: a waste of time. Reasoning with one at 4 am: completely pointless.) And I'm tired too (from aforementioned nighttime reasoning, and also from foolishly starting a new book at bedtime, which was so gripping I stayed up far too late.) Cameron is away so I am being single mum; never much fun. I completely lost my rag and shouted - most uncharacteristic - when she started pulling leaves off my umbrella tree in protest at being told to walk down the stairs. She wanted to be carried but a. I think she *should* walk, especially after the tantrum she threw yesterday when I wanted to carry her in Starbucks and b. I had my arms full of washing. I know, I know: who's the grown up?!
    Anyway. Never mind: she's asleep now and with any luck will wake up full of sunshine. She was fantastic at swimming this morning, all smiles and clinging to my back while I swam under water. Although she did say no! to the teacher a few times.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    First plaits - what a grown-up girl.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006
    February's pictures are up, here.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006
    Maternal guilt is a terible thing. So far today I have unloaded the dishwasher, loaded the washing machine, tidied the house so the cleaner can access, made fishcakes for tea, emptied the compost bucket, taken this month's photos (or most of them, until the battery went), phoned the electrician, paid a couple of invoices, been to the gym and the bank, programmed the Sky+ box for the rest of the week, taken M out for lunch and got her down for a nap as well as catching up with Lisa, Karen and my parents on MSN. I need to finish my book before tomorrow's readers' group, yet I can't bring myself to sit on my bum on the sofa during daylight hours. I know it is ridiculous and that if I was in proper paid employment I would have no compunction in taking a break, yet every time I try I manage half a page before having an irresistible urge to get up and do something worthy. Am currently battling a need to make soup. Must get a grip.