Three questions this SAHM loves (to hate..)

I gave up work through choice a few months after returning from maternity leave. I’m not the most organised of people, and so managing to be a mum, while also trying to hold down a job,  remain sane and cook edible meals with food that hadn’t yet reached its sell by date was a step too far into the world of multi-tasking for me.

Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve been humbled by the huge amount of concern I’ve received (particularly from other parents) about how I spend my time and how I’m coping with being a lady of leisure. I had no idea that I had such a network of support. The concern is understandable.  After all, there’s only so much housework you can do, and with a pristine bathroom, sparkly kitchen floor and every item of clothing in the house ironed to within an inch of its life, there’s always the risk that I may end up spending a succession of monotonous days lazing about on the sofa with a hot cup of tea, while my toddler plays happily and quietly by herself, tidying up as she goes….

I’ve always appreciated the fact that other people take such an interest in my situation, but I worry that I haven’t always been honest with them. Particularly when I’m asked one of the following three recurring gems.  It’s time to set the record straight:

Question 1: “What do you do with yourself all day?” 

What I usually say: “Ha, ha, I know, I’ve got so much time on my hands nowadays.”

What I want to say: “Are you having a laugh?  You’re having a laugh. Right??”

If I didn’t have any children myself, I’m sure I’d be guilty of thinking that giving up work to look after one mini-human would be nothing short of ‘living the dream’.  In fact, in the pre-baby days, I’m sure this was exactly what I thought. But  what gets me is that this question often comes from other parents, who must surely have witnessed the abject carnage that can be created in record time by a curious little toddler.  Surely they too have forgotten what an empty laundry basket looks like, or what their living room carpet would look like without a peppering of Duplo bricks?  Do they honestly think I’m struggling to find something with which to fill my days?

Question 2: “You’re lucky you can afford to do that!”

What I say: “Well, we’ve had to cut back on our spending a bit.”

What I want to say: “Mind your own bloody business!”

What is it about parenting and child-related conversations that makes people feel they can stray into topics that would be otherwise off-limits? When I bumped into our neighbours just after they’d had a huge extension built, did I say ‘You must be fairly loaded to do that’? No, I didn’t. Why? Because it would be the height of rudeness!

We’re lucky that my husband has a decent income, but at the same time, we’re far from rolling in it. Luckily, we’ve never been big spenders (my husband still has an iPhone 3) and our only extravagances in the pre-baby years were far-flung holidays, but those are now long gone. We’ve had to make a few cutbacks and put a few things on hold so that I can be at home to spend these early years with my little girl, but for me, it’s worth it. And anyway, it’s no one else’s business!

Question 3: “Do you have plans now that you’ve given up work? Are you going to work for yourself?”

What I say: “Oh, I’ll just see how things go. I might look into working from home in the future if I can find something to fit around Little B.”

What I want to say: “Plans?? What do you mean, ‘plans’?? Because my current full time role as mum, cleaner, cook, secretary, driver, nurse, gardener, and teacher might not be keeping me busy enough?!”

Is there something wrong with just wanting to enjoy my daughter’s first years before she goes to school? I know that being a SAHM is not for everyone. As soon as I went back to work after maternity leave, I knew that I wanted to be at home full time with my little girl, but I have friends who were delighted to be back at work and who shudder at the idea of being a SAHM.  Other friends are somewhere in the middle.  It doesn’t mean that any of us are any more or less of a mum. We’re all different, with different situations, needs and wants. Being at home day in day out with a toddler might be a bit mind-numbing for some (and I can completely understand that), but for me, it’s fine.  And there’s nothing wrong with that. OK?

Right, that’s that off my chest. Best get the kettle on before Jeremy Kyle starts!

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So, how did I do?

It’s been over two months since I’ve written anything on the blog. In hindsight, it would probably have been a bit more professional if I’d announced that I’d be taking a break, but the truth is, I never planned to stop writing. Life just got in the way and before I knew it, we were in the middle of the period that will henceforth be known as ‘Annibirthmas’, i.e. the couple of months where we celebrate our wedding anniversary, numerous family and friends’ birthdays, Little B’s birthday  and, oh, Christmas.

I knew it was going to be tough, and so in my last post before going AWOL, I set myself a few goals. And how did I do? Well you can probably guess, but you’re here now, so why not read on anyway?

1. Complete my Christmas shopping well before Christmas

I tried my best with this one, I really did. I bought all my Christmas cards well in advance and almost all my presents were bought and wrapped by mid November, save for a couple of gifts that had to be ordered online.

Unfortunately, however, I fell at the final hurdle.  Having spent mid-November onwards gleefully announcing to anyone who’d listen that I’d never been so organised and that I’d be able to enjoy the run up to Christmas for once, I blindly sauntered into the first couple of days of December, then into the first couple of weeks of December, and then into the LAST ORDER DATES FOR CHRISTMAS. It appears that my best intentions were scuppered by my own smugness.

I got there in the end, but not without spending a full week before Christmas wondering whether to confine myself to the house with Little B and wait for the remaining gifts to arrive, or to venture outside and suffer palpitations every time I saw a Parcelforce van, in case it was carrying our delivery.

Of course we couldn’t stay at home all week so I opted for the palpitations. Luckily, it was only once that I found myself chasing a courier van all the way back through our estate, just in case.

Lesson learned.

2.Hygge our home


Pine cones, pine cones every(bloody)where…

Yeah, this. Well, this stopped being a priority fairly early on, but I had a slight success in that the Christmas tree lights gave me a bit of a hygge feel  – as long as I avoided looking directly at the tree to see the results of Little B’s daily reorganisation of the baubles.  The homeless pine cones which have been scattered about our dining room/kitchen/landing and EVERY SINGLE OTHER ROOM IN THE HOUSE for a good couple of months also helped create a slight ‘bringing the outside in’ feel, while a power cut over the holidays ensured that there were candles aplenty in the living room.

In all honesty, hygge-ing our home was probably not my greatest success of late 2016…..

3.Work on improving my diet


Just so much quicker than making a sandwich

…And neither was this. Unfortunately I had no joy in this area before Christmas, during Christmas, or after Christmas. As is tradition, I eventually planned to start a healthy eating regime on 1st January, but that was a Sunday, and everyone knows that it’s always best to start these things on a Monday. But then the first Monday of the year was a bank holiday, which is surely just an extension of the Sunday, isn’t it?  So I decided to start my new regime on Tuesday 3rd,  but by about 3pm, I’d succumbed to the half finished tub of Roses which I’d previous ‘hidden’ from myself.

I’ll be honest, my willpower is somewhat lacking, but on the plus side, I have made it onto the treadmill for my first run in a very long time.  However, while I felt a huge sense of achievement, to coin a local phrase, I managed to ‘knack myself’.  Turns out it’s not advisable to go from couch to 5k in 50 minutes. It may be a while before my next run.

4.Practice making a birthday cake and know my limits

Making Little B’s first birthday cake last year was an absolute nightmare, but despite all advice and my better judgement, I remained adamant that I would make her a cake again this year. And that it would be a scene from In the Night Garden.

‘Oh, what a fool!’, I hear you shout.  But guess what? I actually managed it! And without any crying, any flying utensils or any threats of divorce!  Granted, I recognised my limits and decided against modeling all three Tombliboos, Makka Pakka, Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy out of whatever type of icing you are supposed to use for such things and instead, cheated by buying a pack of plastic figures from Tesco. So essentially, what I made was a green cake with some stones for Makka Pakka’s cave, a lump of unused green icing for the Tombliboo bush, and a few cut out daisies.  But it looked fairly ok, Little B loved it, and I still have my sanity (which I didn’t think would be accompanying me through to 2017 if I’m totally honest).

And here it is:


So, while I may not have achieved all my goals, I did manage to survive and make a cake, which, in my book constitutes an unmitigated success! And as for the other stuff?  Well…. I can always try again this year!

Happy New Year!

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Holiday No.2: The one with the elephant and the binge drinking

We took our second ever family holiday a couple of weeks ago. Neither my husband nor I are brave enough to take our little girl abroad yet, so for now, we’re limiting ourselves to the UK and this time it was Perthshire in Scotland. We’d chosen the area because Little B is currently in the midst of an elephant obsession. In fact, she has been captivated by elephants since she saw her first collection of dead stuffed animals in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh a few months ago.

We’d shortlisted all the zoos within a 4 hour radius of our house, and plumped for Blairdrummond Safari Park. It wasn’t too far away. It was open. It had an elephant. It met all our key requirements.

The entire holiday would be based around this elephant. Little B would see the elephant and be off her chops with excitement. Throw in a couple of farm visits and one or two quiet, relaxing days and that would be our holiday sorted.  And it was. Well, apart from a just a few glitches, obviously….


1. The cottage and the farm

Our cottage was slap bang in the middle of farmer territory (and on a farm, no less).  We knew this would be the case, but what we hadn’t registered was that it was September (frigging September) and that this was an arable farm. Cue tractors rattling past our cottage at 15 minute intervals. All day and all evening.  And then there was the harvesting of the field, 20 metres from our cottage.  At night.  Thankfully we weren’t woken by this, because we never really got to sleep in the first place. (See below)


Our view. Yep. Fun, fun, fun on the farm.

2. The travel cot

Yes, thank you Mothercare, for your wonderfully designed travel cots, illustrated with bright jungle animals. Toddlers love bright jungle animals. Thank you for encouraging our daughter to repeatedly remove her sheet and mattress from the travel cot in order to view these animals. Thank you for making these animals look so wonderful that she felt compelled to repeat this action on average 6 times per night during our holiday, before finally going to sleep, only to wake up uncomfortable in the early hours because at 2am her parents had had neither the energy nor the will to replace the mattress and sheet for the 6th time.

3. The binge drinking

I should have seen this coming.  On day 2 of the holiday, Little B was indicating a reluctance to take any nap whatsoever. By the evening she was a bit worse for wear, so quite soon after dinner we bathed her and she had her milk. But she had too much milk. She realised this before we did, and just before we put her to bed, she projectile vomited all over herself, me, the carpet, and finally, the bath. At least last time’s holiday vomit was contained within the cot. I don’t think I need to explain the chaos that ensued, suffice to say that the washing machine was switched on. Again. And yes, I cried. Again.

4. My near death experience

Despite having travelled to our cottage looking like we’d just designed and entered a ‘How much crap can you fit in an Audi A3?’ competition, we still managed to forget a few essentials which necessitated a quick shopping trip to Perth.  While there, we decided to have lunch at the M&S cafe which was on the first floor of the store. We waited patiently for the lift, and as the doors opened to reveal what felt like 200 people, our 22 month old shouted (in the clearest and loudest voice I have ever heard her use), ‘EVERYBODY OUT!’. The people in the lift laughed. I almost died.

5. The elephant

Ah, the elephant. This was to be the highlight of our holiday. We arrived at the Safari Park (later than planned and having forgotten spare nappies obviously) and worked out our route so that the elephant would be one of the last things we would see. Imagine how excited Little B would be when, after seeing a whole host of mediocre animals, she would be presented with what in her eyes was the veritable King of the Jungle.

We wound our way through the goats, ponies, pigs, sheep and alpacas, before moving onto the penguins and sea lions. Then, after lunch, we made our way to the bigger animals: the giraffes, lions and tigers. We passed a huge play area, the likes of which I have never seen before (and I’ve seen a lot of play areas), and Little B stopped to play in the sandpit with the buckets and spades. It was a beautiful sunny day, she was happy building sandcastles, and we were looking forward to showing her a real-life, non-stuffed, breathing elephant.


After 20 minutes or so, it was time. I can’t express how excited I was at this point.  We headed off to see the elephant. We walked up the path to the viewing area in anticipation, talking in excited tones to Little B about what she would see when we eventually got there. As we neared the end of the path, there it was. The elephant. Trunk, tusks, the whole shebang. And this time, it was even alive.  As I pointed  towards the elephant, I admit, I may have let out a slight squeal.


Little B looked at the elephant for a few seconds, and as a smile slowly developed on her face, she turned to me, and in the lovely voice she uses when she’s really happy and amazed by something, she said three words that will stay with me forever:

‘Play sand pit?’

Play. Sand. Pit.

I did not cry. Not until we got back to the cottage anyway.

Harvesting, projectile vomiting and sleeplessness aside, we did have a lovely time on holiday and have now reached the point where we can look back and laugh. The Safari Park was a great day out, even if the elephant wasn’t the success I’d hoped for and Little B fell asleep before the start of the Safari Drive.

We managed some other day trips and had a great time at Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre which has the most beautiful view from any play area I’ve ever seen. We also enjoyed a morning at the Beatrix Potter exhibition at Birnam Arts Centre, where Little B had a fun time making cups of tea in their Beatrix Potter-themed play room.


Gorgeous view at Auchingarrich


Knocking back the much-needed caffeine at the Beatrix Potter exhibition

I’m learning to accept that holidays with a toddler are never going to be the most relaxing, but they’re a rare chance for the three of us to spend uninterrupted time together and for that, I’ll take the stress and sleeplessness. But I’d rather not have the vomit next time, if that could please be arranged.



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For the love of tea

I love tea. I’ve always loved tea. I love tea so much that when I left my last job, they bought me a teapot and tea bags (which I’m sure is because of my well-known fondness for tea, and not some sarcastic dig about how long I spent chatting in the kitchen).

The thing is, nowadays, I don’t get to drink much tea at all, and it’s not for the want of trying. I actually almost gave up daytime tea drinking a few months ago, until, out of sheer desperation and a blatant disregard for the health of my internal organs, I discovered the Art of Microwaved Tea.

Before I try to convince you why you should also consider embracing the Art of Microwaved Tea, let me just explain the tea cup travesties which led me to this point.

Firstly, this little gem: The floating tea bag

While ‘floating tea bag’ may sound like some kind of mystical zen-like yoga move, it is in fact anything but.  For a person charged with the care of a toddler, nothing symbolises the abject futility of making a cup of tea quite as well as the floating tea bag. If you don’t have time to remove the tea bag, you don’t have time to drink the tea. End of.


The floating tea bag can typically be attributed to one of the following:

  • Unexpectedly airborne food of the tomato-based carpet-staining variety
  • A toddler suddenly placing themselves at height and threatening free fall
  • A meltdown caused by the sudden removal of Hey Duggie from the Cbeebies schedule
  • Some other equally catastrophic occurrence

The floating tea bag will create a stewed, industrial-strength lukewarm treacle-like beverage.  Aware of the pointlessness of attempting to make a further fresh cup of tea, many will proceed to imbibe the now vile liquid, sip by sip and wince by wince, because, at least it’s tea. Sort of.

And secondly, this one: The full cup (of false promise)


A lucky few embarking on the tea-making process will manage the whole shebang.  Tea bag out, milk in, the whole lot.  These oblivious fools will admire their work and look forward to their first sip. They are basking in the mistaken belief that this full cup of hot, caffeinated loveliness will be consumed in its entirety.  Initially, they do not even entertain the possibility that it will be a complete waste of water, milk and a tea bag.

However, as early as 30 seconds after adding the milk, when it becomes more than apparent that today was not the day to introduce a different breakfast cereal to their highly strung toddler, who is now three quarters of the way through a successful Houdini-like escape from his highchair, the same people will curse themselves for being very silly indeed.

This abandoned cup of tea will stand alone in front of the kettle for the remainder of the morning, a stark, miserable reminder of what might have been. In three hours it will be poured down the sink and the futile act of tea making will begin again.

Sound familiar? Please do not despair. I was in the same predicament until a few months ago, when suddenly, this began to happen:


I am now an avid follower of the Art of Microwaved Tea. Eventually, even the most determined tea-loving toddler parents will reach this point.  It just takes some longer than others to get there. A willingness to microwave your tea signals an acceptance that fresh tea is no longer something which is within your grasp, at least not during daylight hours. I don’t think it’s too unreasonable or dramatic to call this acceptance ‘Enlightenment’.

The difference between a person who has chosen the path of microwaved tea and the non-enlightened, is simple. The non-enlightened still believe it is possible to enjoy a hot, freshly made cup of tea during the day, while in charge of at least one toddler. The Enlightened know that there is not a cat in hell’s chance of this happening.

The Enlightened will make a cup of tea, fully aware that they won’t be drinking it any time soon. Typically, once made, it will remain on the kitchen bench for at least one hour, while they busy themselves with removing fragments of crayon or sticker from their toddler’s mouth, retrieving their toddler from the window sill or wiping an emulsified Ritz cracker from their sofa.

The Enlightened do not feel disappointment when they realise that their cup of tea is now cold and undrinkable. They simply pop it into the microwave for a few seconds, et voilà: a hot cup of tea.

It may be the case that having heated it up, they take just one sip before again leaving their cup of tea on the side to pick up the entire contents of their Tupperware drawer from the kitchen floor (again), to extract their toddler from beneath their dining room table in response to frantic screams of ‘stuck’, or to Google ‘how many crayons can a toddler safely eat?’ (just in case).

The tea will go cold again, but do they worry? Of course not! They simply microwave it for a second time and enjoy a further sip, before the next inevitable crisis occurs. They repeat this pattern for the rest of the day (or until they become ill).

The benefits to following the Art of Microwaved Tea are endless. For example:

  • Time savings: You can have a piping hot cup of tea in a mere fraction of the time it takes to boil a kettle!
  • Less washing up: Why use four cups to make four fresh cups of tea when you know you’re never going to drink them? One repeatedly microwaved cup can last you an entire day!
  • Less cost: One tea bag and one splash of milk is all you need for your entire daily tea needs!
  • Improved tidiness: No more pesky full cups/half cups of tea scattered around the house! And chances are you’ll even forget to take your reheated tea out of the microwave to drink, giving you the added benefit of a tidier work surface!

What’s not to love? Join the Enlightened ones and start microwaving today! I guarantee you’ll never look back!*


*Unless you get really sick, then you may regret it. But for the love of tea, it’s worth the risk. Probably.


Holidays: Oh, how things have changed…


We went here once…

We are going on holiday!

Readers of my previous post will no doubt be asking themselves ‘But what about the apples?’.  And you would be right to be concerned. By some fortunate unfortunate accidentally-on-purpose timing, our holiday this year is going to fall slap bang in the middle of the Hades that is apple season.  Personally, I was all for complete denial and leaving the apples to rot on their twiggy little branches, but my husband is having none of it and therefore responsibility for the apples will be handed to our spare fridge in the garage, which will preserve the little darlings until we return. So rest assured, I will not be relieved from my month long sentence of apple misery. It will merely be postponed.

So yes, our holiday. We’ve rented a cottage and will be travelling up to central Scotland in the next few days to spend a full week doing exactly what we do at home, save for a couple of farm visits, a zoo, and probably the odd ice cream (weather permitting, which it probably won’t).

Embarking upon the 8 day task of packing for a 7 day break with a toddler, I started to think of the pre-baby years and how ridiculously easy it used to be to go on holiday.  For your delight, I’ve compiled a list of all the smug rubbish I used to spout about holidays, before I knew any better. You’re welcome.

‘For me, the journey is part of the holiday.’

It’s no lie. I used to love the ‘getting there’ part of a holiday. I loved flying, long car dscn3676journeys, long train journeys – heck, I didn’t even mind taking the 6 hour National Express to London if I had some decent music to listen to and a good book to read.

Nowadays, a long journey is simply the ordeal which must be endured in order to stand a fighting chance of enjoying a holiday.

Without a doubt, it will involve all or one of the following:

  • My own ‘near-mummification’ by sticker, as I am gradually covered from head to toe in adhesive Cbeebies characters. Ever had to root around the back seat of a car for a rice cracker with a couple of Teletubbies stuck to your eyelids? You haven’t lived.
  • My very accurate impression of a contestant on The Cube, as I attempt to retrieve the world’s tiniest Duplo cat from beneath the passenger seat, whilst going round a hairpin bend at speed.
  • A desperate attempt to blind myself with a used crayon, as the ‘The Bare Necessities’ begins to play for the 17th time.

No, the journey is no longer part of the holiday.

‘I used to always pack so much more than I needed. Now I just take the essentials and travel light.’

Oh, how smug I was.

I realised that our travelling light days were long gone as we set off by car on our first proper holiday with our toddler earlier this year.  We looked like a modern day version of a gold rush family travelling across America in the 1800s, with our roofbox close to bursting, a couple of pillows pushed up against the rear window, and various household items dangling around the car like bunting.  The only difference between us and those gold rush families was that they were moving home permanently, and could justify packing the inside of their vehicle so full that they developed cramp only an hour into the journey.  We were travelling to a fully equipped holiday cottage. We probably did not need to take our own bedside lamp.

‘I have no intention of lifting a finger on holiday’

I’d always believed a holiday should involve absolutely no housework.   I didn’t see why this should change once we had a baby.


Another washing machine, poised and prepped to ruin your idea of a housework-free holiday

So determined was I not to use a washing machine on our last holiday, I packed double the amount of clothes that our little girl would need. I was convinced that the risk of developing DVT and/or gangrene in my feet as a result of spending 4 hours in the back of a car under a holdall of ‘just in case’ clothes, would be more than worth it.

And it would have been, had my little girl not rolled herself out of my husband’s arms as he lowered her into her travel cot on our first night, causing her to free fall the last 5cms. How she giggled, before then projectile vomiting her yet-to-be-digested milk all over the travel cot, the sheets, her grobag, and her clothes.

Three hours after our arrival and the start of our holiday, I was switching the washer on. And I cried.

‘I love arriving at our accommodation and checking out the bathroom and free toiletries’

This one was clearly special enough to warrant a photo

This may just be me, but in the pre-baby years, whenever I got to a hotel room, I loved to suss out the bathroom and free toiletries.  Once that was done, I would then scour the bedroom for the selection of tea bags and biscuits. And if there was something extra, like a bowl of fruit or a chocolate on each bedside table, I’d be fairly happy.  Nowadays, I still get that rush of nervous excitement, but it’s not for anything as frivolous as the freebies or the biscuits. It’s for finding out whether or not the TV in the room has the Cbeebies channel. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the outcome could make or break a holiday. To date, we have been lucky, but I know never to count my chickens.

‘I think you need to read up on the history and culture of a place before you travel there, in order to really get the most out of your holiday’

Yeah, anyway….you get my drift.

Holidays are not what they were, and if you’d said to me a few years ago that one day I’d be spending my holidays traipsing round a muddy farm looking at matted llamas and scraggy chickens, I’d have laughed. But it makes Little B happy, and what I never understood when I was appropriating surplus Molton Brown toiletries from our hotel rooms, drinking cocktails and taking in a bit of culture, was just quite how pleasurable a really simple holiday with a toddler would be. Yes, it’s stressful, it takes more organisation that the Olympics, and there’s very little relaxation. But when Little B goes off to sleep each night and I know she’s dreaming about the amazing day she’s had, there’s no better feeling in the world.

Except maybe making it through a full week without using a washing machine. Because that would be pretty special too…..

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Bake Off? I can do that!

Before becoming a parent, I was fairly convinced that once I had my baby, not only would I become a veritable queen of crafts, but I would also make the instantaneous transition from incompetent cook to all round domestic goddess. Post birth and during our second week of dining on Doritos and grapes in the company of used muslin cloths and empty Twix wrappers, it became clear that this was not going to happen.  I’ll admit it, I felt wholly cheated. But I accepted it.

Then, almost a year later, without any warning and while watching The Great British Bake Off, I became convinced by some internal force that I, renowned burner of pasta and one-time corned beef omlette maker-extraordinaire, had baking skills on a par with a Bake Off finalist, if not, in fact, with Mary Berry herself.

Quite where this conviction came from, I do not know. I am no cook. I can just about make fairy cakes, and I was once so overcome with pride upon managing to make a Victoria Sponge that I cried. Despite this, as November approached, I knew that I had to begin thinking about making a cake for my little girl’s first birthday, and that the cake was going to be special.

This was not going to be a one tier cake with a smattering of icing and a few hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top. Oh no. This was going to be a show stopper piece. It was going to be an absolute marvel of a cake and why not?  People do it on Bake Off all the time, and I was a late blooming domestic goddess after all. How hard could it be? I was going to create a work of cake art, in the form of a bumble bee.

It goes without saying that the cake was going to be delicious. I would bake it in my newly purchased dome tins (which were quite pricey, but an artist needs her tools), ice it with artistic flair, and then display it on a cake board for all to admire. The bee would have wings, a little stinger, big eyes and cute antennae. And it was going to be a joy to make.

But here’s the thing. It turned out not to be a joy.

cake 1 (2)

I call this one: ‘(Not so) Calm acceptance that perhaps the large dome tin did not suit my oven’

In fact, it was as far from a joy as undergoing root canal treatment while watching Topsy and Tim. If nothing else, I was grateful that it took only 4 attempts to reach an acceptable end result.

cake 4

Don’t let that innocent face fool you. This was one evil bee.

You may think that 4 attempts wasn’t too bad for a novice, but let me clarify what 4 attempts actually involved. There were:

  • 5 tantrum-esque breakdowns
  • 1 scratched work surface
  • 2 almost-smashed bowls
  • 1 half-written complaint to Lakeland (because it’s an artist’s prerogative to blame her tools)
  • 1 potential divorce
  • 11 evenings
  • 3 weekends
  • Expenses of £80+ on equipment and wasted ingredients and icing (how was I to know there were different types?!)
  • 2 large refuse sacks
  • a temporary loss of my will to live

I vowed never to do it again.

So why oh why, after watching one episode of Bake Off, have I been revisited by the same internal force that stole both my time and my sanity back in October and November 2015? I’m already thinking about digging out the banished dome tins, and for a fleeting moment, even considered attempting to  create a scene from In the Night Garden in cake form. Am I mad? Quite possibly. But then people do it on Bake Off all the time. And I am a late blooming domestic goddess after all…..

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Supermarket shopping with a toddler – a guide

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This mum is serene. She is shopping without a toddler.

If, like many, you find the experience of supermarket shopping with a toddler to be slightly less pleasant than poking hot forks in your eyes whilst listening to One Direction on loop, then this is the guide you have been waiting for!   Read on to learn how you can minimise the utter misery of the supermarket shop and help make the whole experience partially tolerable.

Step 1 – A warning

Abandon all hope.  One of the key mistakes made by people embarking upon a supermarket shop with a toddler is hoping that the experience will be better than last time. It won’t. Accept it.

Step 2 – Arrive at the supermarket car park 

On entering the supermarket car park, head towards the Parent and Child spaces.  Drive past these spaces slowly, taking time to observe the burly men getting out of their white van to buy a sandwich (without a child), the pensioners hobbling from their car to the supermarket entrance to buy Battenburg (without a child), and the empty, child car seat-less BMW (without a child).  While making a pointless mental note of all the unauthorised parkers, mutter obscenities to yourself.  This will help to put you in the right frame of mind for your imminent supermarket shop with a toddler.

Step 3 – Proceed to the trolley park 

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Accept that you will inevitably choose the trolley with the wonky wheel which will be entirely un-steerable by the time you reach the milk aisle.

It is worth noting that a further common mistake made by many at this stage is inserting the toddler into the trolley seat immediately, without giving full consideration as to just how many dribbling, vomiting, pooing, spitting, rancid, crumb-scattering toddlers have sat in that seat previously.  Never given it much thought before? You will now. Take out your anti-bacterial wipes and WIPE WIPE WIPE!  Then, (and only then), insert the toddler.

Step 4 – Enter the supermarket

Remember: hope is your nemesis, particularly once you have entered the supermarket. Avoid all positive thoughts during this critical stage, and never underestimate the potential for things to go seriously wrong.  Take note of the following:

  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of snacks for bribery purposes. This is not the time to ‘prove a point’ about your amazing parenting skills.  The satisfaction that you are shopping ‘bribe-free’ with a toddler will be of no comfort to you when you’re dragging your screaming child by their shoes down Aisle 17 because they’ve just realised that the little finger on their right hand is not detachable. Bribery can reduce the possibility of a toddler-led Defcon 1 meltdown by a huge margin. Use it.
  • Avoid the magazine aisle entirely. No good will come of venturing down this aisle of tantrums-in-waiting. The lure of the fluorescent covers and attached ‘free’ gifts will be too much for any toddler to bear, and you will be required to make a choice. You can give in to your toddler and spend the next 2 days covered in Twirlywoo stickers, while adding yet more unwanted clutter to your living room floor in the form of a Waybuloo back-scratcher, or a Sarah and Duck miniature etch-a-sketch. Alternatively, you can refuse your toddler’s demands, and await the inevitable consequences.  Rest assured that whatever decision you make, YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN.
  • Buy only pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. It may be slightly more expensive and less environmentally friendly, but for reasons unbeknownst to us adults, pulling a plastic bag off a roll and filling it with apples or potatoes is a pretty exciting thing to a toddler. They will want to participate. You will be convinced that this is a good way of distracting them, and that it will buy you some time to make considered purchasing choices. And yes, it will buy you this time.  In fact, the toddler may want to carry their single onion in a bag all the way around the shop and you may find it quite cute. But it will not be cute when you arrive at the checkout and have to wrestle the onion off them, because in the last half hour, to the toddler, that onion has become so much more than an onion.  It has become tantamount to a limb and they are not going to let you amputate it without a fight.  I bet that extra 50p and extra waste for landfill doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
  • As touched on above, do not permit the toddler to carry any item you intend to purchase.  They will drop it, eat it, crush it, open it, or, if it’s an item in a plastic bag with toddler finger-sized air holes, they will get their fingers stuck in it. This will distract you and increase the amount of time you have to spend in the waking nightmare that is the supermarket experience. And even worse than this, they will NEVER (EVER!) GIVE THE ITEM BACK.  Pity the fools who put themselves in this situation.

Step 5 – The checkout and exit

Well done for reaching this point. You may feel you are now home and dry. However, you are yet to face the biggest challenge of any supermarket shop with a toddler. This is a trial like no other: The Coin-Operated Ride.

The toddler is pulled towards the coin-operated ride in the same way that a crack addict is pulled towards their next fix.  What’s worse is that the toddler almost always detects the hideous mechanism before their accompanying adult.  Once detection has occurred, you will have only the following two options:

  1. You can refuse the toddler access to the coin-operated ride. Note that this will almost certainly provoke a screaming tantrum of epic proportions and may give the impression that you are attempting to abduct your own child, as you run at speed towards the supermarket exit and launch yourself in a frazzled mess through the automatic doors.
  2. Alternatively you can succumb to the demands of the toddler and ‘allow’ them to go on the coin-operated ride numerous times because they refuse to come off and you’ve run out of bribes. As you sit slumped on the supermarket floor, watching your freshly bought frozen food starting to thaw and wondering if you will leave this godforsaken place alive, you will at least have the time to consider whether the whole nightmare is actually worth it, or whether, in fact, you should go ahead and register your family for online shopping after all.

Best of luck!

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