Reasons to elope

I think I’ve already alluded to my now husband and I not being married when we had our first baby.

Still reading? Phew.

After a few months of this new family life with multiple surnames we thought, in fact, maybe we actually would like to get married, after all.

But what kind of wedding did we want? I haven’t ever felt a rush of desire for a white dress or a big event, and really I am a (closet? Or not so closet) introvert at heart, so am not particularly drawn to being the centre of attention. Or, you know, navigating family/friend politics, seating plans and the general logistical challenge and financial burden that constitutes a traditional wedding.

On the other hand, we didn’t much fancy signing papers alone like we were doing some kind of under-the-table business deal. We were excited! We wanted to do something romantic!

So… we eloped, to the Caribbean. And, it was total bliss.

I know that an elopement comes with some fairly big implications – that is, forgoing the opportunity to publicly declare yourselves in front of friends and family (and, for some people, forgoing the gift list… come on, just a little bit) but for us, eloping was the absolute dream wedding.

Here’s the lowdown:

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On making friends

After my slightly pathetic – in the truest sense of the word – thoughts on losing friends, combined with an international move, obviously one thing I should be doing – or at the very least, trying to do – right now is making new friends.

…except I just don’t really want to.

The problem is partly – largely – that I have such lovely friends already. They are people who I have been at school with; met at university; worked with, and mothered alongside. They are an amazing group of (mostly) women.

Slightly inconveniently though, they are all in another country(ies), or at the very least, another province. They’re not here! 

My friends are not in the same place as me

We have been pretty busy over the last six years. I made friends (okay, a good friend) through our NCT group when our first was born and I was totally cluelessly attempting to continue living a London lifestyle with a baby in tow. I made great friends when we spent a year in the far north of Canada, my first experience of a life outside London and something of a culture shock. I made a lovely group of friends when I returned to the UK, pregnant with our second baby. And I found more kindred spirits when we moved again, locally this time, after our third baby was born and my son started school.

So, lots of friends, and lots of making friends, meeting mostly via our children of similar ages. It’s an excellent way to meet people, a whole community of people at a similar stage of family – but as anyone knows, and especially after a house move, locally or internationally, it takes energy.

Energy that I’m just not sure I have this time around! 

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Crafts (of the smug and lazy variety)

My 4 year old was given a set of Pompom makers for Christmas and I have totally commandeered it. Normally the children are asking me to make crafts with them but these days I am more likely to be traipsing around after her, casually suggesting we make some pompoms. I feel like I have totally nailed the crafty lifestyle! I could make the whole of Pinterest!

And it’s so easy, even for a total non-crafter like me. Why was this kept a secret for all of my thirty something years?

In any case, in case you haven’t had this epiphany yet (I am under no illusions, I’m sure you are all years ahead of me on this one)…….. this is the set we have been using

With excellent results like this, made this morning while fending off a 2 year old and holding a baby:

I plan on making something like this in time for the 4 year old’s birthday at the end of the month to decorate the room and look festive:

Photo credit: Pinterest

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Fancy dress trouble and strife

I promise this isn’t a huge rant about the excessively gendered world in which we raise our children.

Sometimes though, it all gets a bit much, doesn’t it?

I mean I love the occasional bit of pink and sparkly. I’m not overly didactic about these things. I even admit to finding these toys quite irresistible.

Doesn’t everyone? Just me?

Maybe just me. I digress.

In any case, the point is, I don’t have a problem with overly gendered toys and clothes per se. But there are some arenas in which I think this pathological need to divide by gender is all a bit…well, weird, isn’t it?!

Children’s underwear is a good case in point: a friend recently shared an article on facebook that raised a question I have been asking for the last 5 years: why would underwear for a 3 year old girl be different from underwear for a 3 year old boy? Specifically, why would the girls underwear be made from a thinner material, with a smaller cut, and a less-comfortable lacy trim, in contrast to comfortable boys underwear? 
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On being ill and looking after a toddler

I have been vaguely planning on writing a post about being ill and looking after a toddler – if we’re honest, a fairly awful combination.

And then I actually got ill this weekend – some kind of hideous end-of-Christmas-holidays, back-to-school chest infection, I don’t want to make a fuss or anything, but I got ill and I am still looking after 4 small people so it seemed like an appropriate time to actually write this article. And in fact I don’t want to you feel too bad for me but we are now also in the middle of a power outage and I’m writing this by candlelight so you know, I’m pretty dedicated to the cause.

So here are my 6 essential steps to survival, should you find yourself ill and looking after a toddler or two.

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Vanity and straighter teeth

Despite my grandma once telling me that I had an ‘interesting’ face, I am still prone to the odd bit of vanity (aren’t we all).

Anyway this really peaked after a very hard third pregnancy – I’ll just say swollen ankles and pregnancy acne and you’ll get the general idea. So when our third baby was about 2 weeks old – and I’d watched enough Made in Chelsea whilst trying hard not to vomit in the evenings, that I felt like everyone else¬†had impeccably straight white teeth apart from me – I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t huge and spotty and pregnant anymore and now I wanted straight white teeth!

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Birthday cakes – the easy way

Our eldest was born on Boxing Day, so amongst things like being in labour on Christmas Day (not great) I have also signed up for producing a birthday cake the day after Christmas. And as you can imagine, Christmas requires some pretty big efforts around here with four stockings and four sets of gifts.

What I’m trying to say is that this birthday cake needs to be simple. So simple that on Christmas Day I can get the sponge cake out of the freezer and throw some icing on it ready for the next morning. The freezing realization took me a while – 4 Christmases in fact whereupon I tried to bake and decorate a cake after bedtime on Christmas Day – before I realized the necessity of pre-baking the cake.

Anyway I also had some pretty grand ideas about children’s birthday cakes inspired by my mum’s valiant efforts including a 3D postman pat van (thanks mum). 

Pinterest played a fairly large part in making me think these 3D constructions were in fact a basic requirement to motherhood. 

And then my mother in law gave me an women’s weekly vintage issue children’s cake book – a game changer :

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Convince your toddler to eat something, anything

Is there anything more likely to make you totally insane than a toddler who won’t eat? Or who will, inexplicably, no longer eat the failsafe back-up meal that they would normally always eat?

It’s enough to drive you demented with worry! You just want to nourish them, these children whom you love and want to be healthy. 

Not to mention how frustrating it is when you’ve spent all that time cooking and they won’t even countenance it on their plate, despite your many pleas and negotiations.

I’ve been there. Naming no names, we have had excellent eaters and fussy eaters and all the eaters in between – and when I tell you that I once fed my toddler his supper in the bath in an attempt to get him to eat Something, Anything, you’ll have a sense of my levels of desperation.

Anyway, I’ve learnt a few things along the way and these days I don’t have to chase anyone around to slip food into their mouths when they’re not looking. 

Instead:

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The best Рand easiest Рcheesecake 

A smug and lazy baked cheesecake recipe? Yes please! 

My dessert tastes are fairly straightforward – give me something chocolate and I’m pretty happy. But there are times when serving up a giant chocolate cake for dessert just doesn’t quite cut it, and on those occasions, may I suggest a totally easy and very delicious baked cheesecake?

My best friend at school used to have a Saturday job in a bakery and she would often arrive at our Saturday night plans (big reveal: these plans were almost never cool) – she would arrive with the crumbled ends of the baked cheesecake that hadn’t sold that day and they were always. so. delicious.

But I tried a couple of recipes over the years in an attempt to match them and they were too heavy, too sweet, too complicated and, eventually I gave up.

Until Lorraine Pascale was all over the BBC and the Guardian a couple of years ago with this excellent recipe for an extremely simple cheesecake which she topped with blackberries and fresh figs and it looked a bit irresistable so I decided it was time to try again. And thank goodness I did because it was delicious! Creamy, sweet but not sickly, and looked – dare I say it myself – positively lovely in the middle of the table and covered in fruit.

Photograph: Maja Smend via the Guardian

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