FAMILY MEAL PLAN #8

So, I'm back with a food haul and meal plan. I didn't do one last week as we were onboard Anthem of the Seas at the weekend and I didn't want to waste food. We actually used lots of things up and I did a lot of freestyle cooking, which was not only lovely for me, but saved us pennies too! 

This week's shop was at Waitrose, as I had a voucher to use up, and we got a free bottle of champagne if we spent £100 on our first shop. I needed washing powder and all that jazz, and we had to restock some items after a 'using up' week, so we went for it! Plus, using vouchers always makes me feel like we're saving money too! 

Watch the haul:


Meal Plan:

Saturday - Steak and gorgonzola flatbreads (recipe for flatbreads coming soon).
Sunday - Honey mustard pork chops, a warm potato salad and vegetables.
Monday - Salmon Tagliatelle for the boys, parma ham for me! 
Tuesday - Pancetta and mushroom risotto.
Wednesday - Keema naan kebabs.
Thursday - Loaded nachos.
Friday - Lentil curry, rice and chapatis. 

We also have things for lunches like:

Roasted red pepper and butternut squash on crusty bread.
Couscous salad with lemon, parsley, tomatoes and olives.
Quinoa salad with cider vinegar, coriander, sundried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. 
Houmous and crudites. 

What are you eating this week?


View Post

My Surname Doesn't Make Me His Mother

When my son was born, and he was handed back to me, once I'd been tended to, all wrapped up, I noticed the little tag around his ankle.

William Taylor.

To match mine.

And I remember panicking - I was young and didn't understand at the time - because I thought that meant he might not have his father's surname as we'd planned.

Back then, I assumed we'd all be Darrochs one day. I wanted my son to carry on his father's name, and I was quite happy to give that name to my son. In any case, it certainly sounded a lot better to me and it felt right.

Since I split from my son's father, that decision sometimes comes back to haunt me.

As fate would have it, or maybe just coincidence, I have met a man with the same surname as me. And I fell in love with him. To most, particularly in paperwork, we're husband and wife. And we don't mind that. We just smile and go along with it, because explaining our story of how we met and how many strange coincidences we have, is just too long. So, our house is full of Taylors. Even the cats.

Aside from one.

And that's so strange to me. My closest family member of all and, on paper, it's almost like he's part of a different family.

And then there's the little things Like - I can't buy signs that say daft things like "Christmas with the Taylors". Because it's not. And at the same time, it would be weird to celebrate another name, a name whose family I don't belong to.

Then there's the nursery invoice that I pay every term. And still, every time, I get confused when I see  that surname pop up.

Then there's imagining a future sibling and worrying that there would be an odd-one-out.

They are all such little things, I remind myself, because that doesn't make a family. Day-to-day, we're just Mama, Marky (or sometimes Marky Sharky if Bill has his way) and Bill (or William when he's being naughty).

Over the weekend, we queued up with our passports, ready to board a ship. We were chattering away excitedly and Mark was making Bill laugh with his toys, making them tickle him, and I remember handing over the paperwork absentmindedly, expecting to be on our way.

The first one she picked up was William's. And she processed it, ticked his name off the list, and stamped his set-sail pass.

I remember thinking how much quicker it was, more relaxed, than when we went on holiday last year, and flew on a plane.

And then she picked up mine. She opened it. And paused.

She picked up Mark's. And she opened it. And paused.

And then she looked up and asked me what relation I was to my son.

And I remember my face dropping.

I felt it. My cheeks just lost their smile. I couldn't get them to go back up. I tried to explain. I ended up panicking and feeling nervous and sometimes, when that happens, I babble. I tried to be honest and explain the long story of me and Mark, and then I had to, in turn, tell her our family makeup.

And she and two other colleagues just stared back at me.

She took Bill's passport and boarding details away to discuss with her boss, and we waited.

At that moment I tried really hard not to cry.

I kept trying to swallow. And blink. And breathe.

I just wanted to enjoy our little break with my family. Just five minutes ago we were a normal family. We were excited. And carefree.

She came back and told me that, on this occasion, as it was organised and a press trip, it's fine, but next time I should bring some proof to say I'm his mother.

At that moment, I have to be honest, I hated her. I know that she was just following protocol, and that it was her job, but I felt rage and shame bubble up in my chest.

I wanted to show her the stretch marks he gave me. I wanted her to know I breastfed him for 18 months. I wanted her to see the letters I wrote him every week for the first year of his life. I wanted her to see the tears I'd cried for him, pool at her feet. I wanted to remove my makeup and show her the dark circles that never leave. I wanted to show her the bills I paid on my own, as I struggled as a single parent. I wanted her to know how unfazed I am when he misses the toilet, or the potty. I wanted her to hear the range of voices I can use when I read a bedtime story. I want her to see the pile of washing I'd left at home, how many tiny tops I'd folded, and tiny socks I'd paired. I wanted her to look, just for a moment, very hard, and see how, actually his face, may as well be mine, how, while he certainly resembles his dad in many ways, he's my double. And I wanted her to look deeper, right into my heart, right into the very core of me and feel how much I loved him.

I walked away and wiped a tear from each cheek. It's all I would allow.

I've had moments where I've felt like a guilty mother, a part-time mother, a defensive mother, a frustrated mother, but I've always been a mother.

Except in that moment, I felt so desperate for her to believe me. For her to just know, as for me, it's so obvious. My love for my son is so raw and open. Like a cut that won't heal.

I felt a genuine sense of panic and I had to work really hard to push it from my mind for the rest of the weekend.

And it worked. Until this evening, when I checked my emails and saw a nursery invoice with that surname.

And I was reminded.

And so I wanted to write. Not because it will make any difference. Not because protocol will change. Or it will make it better.

But because it needed to be said.

I am his mother.

No one else.

For him, it doesn't matter what name I was given, because there's only one I will answer to when he calls.

Mama.


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet." 

- William Shakespeare.



View Post

We've All Grown Up



Everyone is growing up around me. And I feel a bit like I'm standing still.

It's not a bad feeling, I feel like I've paused my life, almost like I've stopped for a breather in the race against time, and my friends are starting to catch me up.

I keep seeing proposals, ring shots, flushed and happy faces. Weddings. Love. Families. Tiny squishy newborns. Milestones. Toddlers. Children even.

And I've never been the person to find them annoying when they fill those social feeds, in fact they make me smile.

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know that we've decided not to tie the knot because we already have matching surnames and we just feel (in no way negatively towards marriage I might add) that we've got all we could want in each other, just as we are.

But it doesn't stop me from imagining how I might look, whether my hair would be up and down, and how I'm certain I'd do my own makeup. Where we'd go on our stag or hen do (I'd love a weekend somewhere warm). Or where it might be, what theme I'd have, whether I'd have a naked cake, or bunting, or fairy lights, and what our first dance might be like (one fact I do know is that he won't manage the Dirty Dancing lift with me as his partner).

The other weekend, Mark and I were catching up after he'd been away and he was telling me about one of his friend's future weddings next year. It will be abroad which will be amazing, but his friend pointed out that there might be a clash with the whole baby thing.

Yep, it may well end up clashing. At least that I hope I'll be heavily pregnant by then, but I also hoped we'd be jetting off somewhere warm to celebrate love - I mean, that's a pretty nice experience all-round isn't it?

The general consensus was, that, all being well, I should be soon to pop, and there's no way they would let me near a plane. But I really want Mark to be present at both things, because he's been friends with this particular friend for years, and he just can't miss it. So he's going to go and I'm going to sit down on the sofa and not move until he comes back. Well, I'll have Bill to keep me company, but I'm hoping my then four year-old may be happy to help his rolypoly mother out.

But that's it isn't it? I'll have a four year-old. And soon another baby perhaps. We'll go to weddings. I might even have a fascinator.

It's weird to think my age group - of 27 year-olds - are all slowly pairing off and tying the knot and starting families. Those people I used to eat lunch with. Do projects with. Share secrets with. All growing up.

I was talking to a friend last night and she's heavily pregnant and I just kept imagining this lovely smiley girl who I used to sit next to in English Language and Science.

She'll always be that girl to me. As I expect I'll be to her.

In fact, I can tell she still is, she's just older and wiser and very content. She found her place. It makes me smile.

We're all growing up. It's crazy. Lovely. And  it's actually quite comforting to start the next chapters together.
View Post

Pigs & Pennies



When I fell pregnant with William, money was very tight. I used everything I had to make sure we could do up the house and his nursery and then the rest went on my maternity leave. I couldn't afford to have very long off, but we managed and, honestly, I couldn't buy extra time with my son. I wish I could have.

Since then, I've had a rollercoaster journey to get me to where I am now. Particularly where finances have been concerned. But managing alone gave me an incredible sense of pride. Last year I learnt the value of money. It took me a long time to fully appreciate what goes into making it. And it's something I want to pass on to Bill.

At almost three, while he thinks he knows all there is to know about the world, his knowledge of money is very slim.

One of the first ways he bonded with Mark was by thieving the coins Mark would empty from his pockets every time he got home from work. He'd get to keep one from time to time. And sometimes I'd let him pick something to buy with it.

Every time we go to the shops, I'm forever pointing out ingredients to Bill, and asking him what we need. Invariably, the response is "a Kinder Egg" but he can find the ginger, or the garlic for me, and we'll talk about how many we need, and what we need to get next.

He also has his own till and play money at home, and sometimes he'll stuff it all in his Mickey Mouse wallet and exclaim: "LOOK MAMA! Look at my coins!" In fact, I spied an Early Learning Centre note in our hallway as I left for work this morning.

We've been telling him about the work we're having done to the house, and we're trying to involve him so he understands the hard work that goes into having a nice new bedroom. He's always taught to say thank you, and if you ask him where Mama, Mark and Po might be the answer is usually:

"They are earning me some pennies!"

While, for now, he thinks pennies should be invested in Kinder Egg shares, I'm hoping he'll understand more in the future and start saving. I'd like to get him a piggy bank for his third birthday and I'll encourage him to start, now he knows a little more. And then, when he turns 11, I could set him up with a proper savings account of his own like the TSB Under 19's Account.

My dream is to start saving away a little money every month while my children are at home, so that, once day, I can give them a nest egg to invest into a home of their own. I'd love them to go travelling and spend it freely, but I also want them to have that security. And I hope they will thank me when they are older!

Do you save for your children? 



View Post

My Spring Style


This sunshine has made me so happy recently. I've finally been able to wear the clothes I've been buying for my smaller size and I feel pretty happy! Even if I am still trying to drop a few pounds. 

I always love the Coachella/festival styles that come out every year. I'm really glad to see floral crowns are slowly on the out and instead 70's style and tassels are taking over. That easy, Bohemian, romantic style is much more me. 

I am trying my best to stay away from buying anything else because I don’t need anything at all, but a fringed piece or two would make me really happy. I also really need some new sunglasses, and I’ve been trying to find a pair of cheap glasses online. Let me know if you’ve seen any that would suit my round face. 

I hope you like posts like this – I think having your own style is important anyway, but even more so when you’re a mother, and people think it’s okay to put you into a bracket and pass judgement. Even if you prefer to rock leggings and a t-shirt (like I do at the weekend), you should be able to do it freely! 

You can see two of my latest outfits here and here. As you can tell, I love a good crop top and maxi or midi skirt! 

What will you be wearing this Spring and Summer?

*PR Collaboration.

View Post

The Weekend Post #15 (Anthem of the Seas Part 2)


We woke up on the Sunday morning and we had no clue where we were! We knew we were headed towards the coast of France and, while windy, the sky was blue and the sea was just beautiful. 

While you couldn't feel the ship rocking to and fro, there was, if you stopped to feel it, a gentle lull, where you could almost feel it - almost like it was in your bones! I found it quite comforting. 

And the sound of the sea - you just can't beat it. 
View Post

The Weekend Post #14 (Anthem of the Seas Part 1)


So, the last weekend was probably one of my most special to date. 

Not so long ago, I received an email. An email that made me squeak and then forward it straight on to Mark. For some bizarre reason Royal Caribbean wanted to know if we'd like to be part of the press launch for its latest ship. 

The Anthem of the Seas.
View Post

Some New Home Bits

I'm in such a state of limbo at the moment, house-wise. We have all of our funds ready-to-go, but our builder has gone a bit quiet on us. I know he's really busy, but I'm itching to get started. Whether that means ordering something or picking out a bathroom suite or some tiles.

I have all of these grand ideas - you can see my Pinterest boards here - and it's hard to rein myself in when we're so close! I have, however, been buying a few bits here and there - I actually updated our conservatory recently, with some new throws and pillows (let me know if you'd like a post on that), but I think I'm going to have to hold-off in future and start saving for when the rooms are finished instead. You know that excitement though? It's hard to control yourself.

That said, I thought I would show you a few home bits I was sent recently from Flamingo Gifts, which is a gorgeous site for any gifts or knick-knacks that you might want.


First up is this gorgeous little Owl Ring Holder*. I am a bugger for leaving jewellery all over the house - especially the bureau in our hallway. But the problem with that is that they all end up lost or stolen by a toddler. 

So this little dish is ready to keep everything safe. I don't tend to wear much jewellery, aside from rings, which I always have on. Especially midi rings from ASOS or Primark. I'm a sucker for them. 




Next up, and quite befitting given the name of the site, is this gorgeous candle from Flamingo Candles. I've wanted to try these for such a long time, especially as they are soy wax candles, which burn for longer, with a supposedly stronger smell, as well as being better for the environment.

This scent is Coconut Milk & Honey*, which is perfect for summer. When I was poorly, at the start of last week, I had this burning as I lay on the sofa. While I was feeling weak and a little bit sick, this scent was so soothing and I really do like it. I might have to check out more of these candles soon - as you know, it's my weakness! 



Possibly my most favourite thing is this retro blue telephone*. Oh my goodness, I love everything from the nostalgia it brings me, to the proper buttons, to the gorgeous blue shade, and the trill of a proper phone. 

It's so lovely, it looks absolutely beautiful and I love the idea of creating a nook to sit and talk to people. I also love the freedom of not having an answering machine. Is that strange? I just found ours was getting clogged by cold callers, and now, if someone really needs me, they will call me back, or they will know me well enough to have my mobile number. Simple! 


And finally, I couldn't resist getting Bill a little something too. This Gruffalo Cutlery Set* is absolutely adorable. Mark and Bill have this thing where the Gruffalo comes to visit and Mark has to go and tell him off and chase him away. I don't know how this started but it always happens at dinner time or bath time, so I leave them to it. Either way, this set is perfect and Bill loves them. They are good quality and the knife actually has some purpose for once. Some toddler sets just supply you with a blunt piece of metal, which doesn't do much for a frustrated toddler wanting to use a knife properly! 

What do you think? 

*These items were kindly sent to me to review. All thoughts are my own - aren't they lovely! 
View Post

Salted Caramel Oreo Pie

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc (#CollectiveBias). and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.



An amazing chocolatey, salted caramel Oreo pie, that only needs five ingredients. 

Yep. You read that right!

At the weekend, I saw a link for this, and I clicked on in excitement to discover it was one of those "pay now for the recipe" scam sites. I was gutted. Luckily the teaser mentioned five ingredients:

Oreos
Butter
Sugar
Chocolate
Cream
And a little salt of course. 

But I had no recipe. And I certainly didn't have the patience for making my own caramel. 

So I think I might have made this even easier.


Ingredients 


1.5 packs of Oreos.
Two thirds of a cup of melted butter
250g of chocolate. I used an equal mix of milk and dark, which I'd recommend.
¾ cup of double cream
A tin of sweetened condensed milk
Sea salt - I used Maldon


Method


Crush your biscuits to a fine-ish crumb. You can do this in a food processor, or with a sandwich bag and a rolling pin.

Melt your butter and stir into the biscuits. 

Press this mixture into a cake tin. I used a spring-form one, which I'd recommend. Add a little more butter if you need to. This will depend on how chunky your crumb is. 

Pop this in the fridge. 

Pour your condensed milk into a small pan and heat on a low heat for around 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until it darkens into a caramel shade and is very thick. Sprinkle in a good pinch of sea salt.

Pour onto your base, leaving an inch or so gap around the edge. 

Pop your chocolate into a mixing bowl. Break this up into small chunks. Take a pan and warm up your cream to a simmer. Pour the warm cream over your chocolate. Leave this to melt the chocolate for a few minutes and then give it a good stir to combine. This is essentially a ganache. 

Pour over the caramel layer. And pop in the fridge to set. 

After a couple of hours, it will be ready to eat. 

Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

And don't blame me for the calories. Or the sugar high. 



View Post
Previous PostOlder Posts Home
BLOGGER TEMPLATES BY pipdig