Monthly Archives: February 2015

It Is What It Is

When I first told my husband over the phone that I had a positive pregnancy test I cried and kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again. My husband laughed about my reaction, he was instantly delighted. As my tears slowed I started to realise I too felt happy. Later we would both laugh about my seemingly irrational reaction to being pregnant. My husband would ask me what on earth I felt I had to say sorry for and I could never really answer him.

For some reason, 7 years later on a train home this memory came back to me and I finally felt like I knew why I had been saying I was sorry. I think now that I was apologising to myself. The pregnancy was not a planned one. We had been married less than a year. I was 27. I had just gained a more senior Physiotherapy role in the NHS. I had started my Masters degree. When my husband and I had discussed children we felt we had plenty of time to think about these things. We had agreed to leave it for a few years. We had even had a frank discussion of what would we would do if it never happened for us. We had decided that if we found out we couldn’t then we would be happy to be together, childless. And if I’m perfectly honest I had no maternal feelings. The sound of a baby crying would make me cringe and shudder. I would decline offers to hold babies, making my excuses while looking for the nearest exit. I wasn’t even sure I liked children. Even my own mother, when I told her I was pregnant, admitted to me that she never expected for me to make her a grandmother.

So when I was saying sorry seven years ago, I wonder if I was saying it to myself for the things that I was going to miss out on, that I might not be able to do. As far I was concerned being a mother was the end of so many things. For many things it would be. I didn’t complete my Masters then. I ended up with a Postgraduate Diploma. Still not too shabby I guess. I became less focused on progressing at work. Mainly I think because sometimes my personality is a bit all or nothing. Or possibly because I also found motherhood and trying to be a good mother all the time overwhelming. I read so many books and internet sites on parenting that it sometimes became difficult to know where to turn for advice. Or maybe motherhood was like a mirror being held up to me showing me what I disliked about many aspects of my life, including the place that I worked.

What I have learned is that women, mothers or not, are the great adapters. We are malleable. We can transform and adjust and find other ways of doing things. The plans I had originally made were no longer feasible. My job made me unhappy and I realised I didn’t want to stay there, becoming ever more resentful and bitter. It had taken the extreme of motherhood to reveal to me that there wasn’t one ‘right way’ to do things: full time job, employing child minders and nannies, holidays, cars, having stuff. Motherhood revealed to me that I could do things a bit differently. I might not have ‘it all’ but I didn’t know what ‘it all’ was and I didn’t know if I wanted ‘it all’. There were other ways of doing things: be self employed, budget, take different kinds of holidays, network, make new friends, go back and study on my terms. I was seeing things from a totally different perspective.

I admit it was never that simple in coming to this conclusion. I think many mothers would be lying if they didn’t think ‘what if?’. The jobs I could have had, the holidays I could have gone on, the sports car I had been looking at and all the nights out I could have had. But I was never a corporate ‘yes’ person. I loved my vocation but I had developed a dislike of the organisation I worked for. I was never a massive traveler and I was never a ‘ roll in at 6am’ kinda’ gal. I have thought many ‘what ifs?’ but I realise that I’m wishing away 7 years of love and joy that I could never have predicted in a million years. I never planned for the last 7 years but I feel so blessed that they have and that I have two amazing little boys in my life. What ifs and what were and what could have beens become irrelevant and pointless. It is what it is.

Motherhood has really brought home to me how judged women are whether they have children or not. I can’t say I have ever really given much thought to whether female friends have children, want children or have made a decision not to. I’ve never felt it was any of my business. Occasionally I have felt judgment from colleagues and strangers about the fact I had my first child at what would be considered a young age now i.e under thirty. I remember a female patient, who on realising I was pregnant, inquiring as to my age. When I told her I was 27 she looked at me with such a mixture of pity and disgust that I may as well have been a 14 year old in trouble. People are obsessed with when the ‘right’ age to have a child is. I know that there is an ideal biological age, but even that age can shift between individuals. But it’s weird that the choice to have a baby at any age, to not have a baby, to not know if you want to have a baby can stir up so much in complete strangers who then feel compelled to share their opinion with you.

I wish women didn’t have to justify their decisions constantly. I wish that our fertility wasn’t always the focus for media outlets. I remember watching a documentary about so called barren women in India who were attending fertility clinics and having babies into their sixties. My husband pointed out then that none of the men were tested for their fertility. It was always assumed that the woman was barren, she was the one who was at fault for failing to conceive. Yet during that documentary men’s fertility was never up for discussion.

Going back to where I started this post originally I know that I really had nothing to apologise for. Yes, having children has altered the path that I had set for myself but there is no shame in the fact that this changed. I do not have to justify why I did not follow the original path I had set for myself. Instead I veered off from life’s sat nav and paved a different way. I have achieved things that I’m not sure I would have if I had never had my first son. I have run two marathons. I have met fantastic people through school. I have even reignited old friendships. I have discovered an inner strength I never knew I had. We even doubled the amount of love in our little family. I don’t know what would have happened if I had not had my first son, my happy surprise (never, ever ever a mistake). But it is what it is. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The Lardy Runner: Something For The Weekend

I haven’t posted a Lardy Runner post for so long. I’ve been run off my feet with my post grad studies, assignments and kids’ stuff, not to mention getting back into running and exercise. So with the weekend coming and a huge number of recipe ideas that I want to share I’ve decided to pop a few of them into one post! By the way, if you’re ‘eating clean’ or cutting out sugar or any other food stuff at the moment you may want to look away now.

Thai Butternut Squash soup.

I was given this recipe a long time ago and I think there are very similar incarnations all over the web. I’ve since lost the piece of paper that I had it written on so it is now all from memory which is probably why it tastes different (in a good way) every time.

What you need:

1 large onion sliced and diced.

Roughly 1 kilo of butternut squash cubed.

Red thai curry paste or tom yum soup paste (I’ve used both and both work).

Vegetable stock or Bouillon.

400 ml tin of Coconut milk.

In a little bit of oil fry the onion until it softens. Throw in your cubed squash and cook for a couple of minutes. Take your curry or soup paste and add to enough to the pan to cover the onion and squash. If you like things extra hot you can add more paste. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Add your stock until all the onion and squash is covered. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer until the butternut squash is soft.

Get out your hand held blender and smoosh through the squash and onion until you are left with a smooth soup consistency. Set to one side to cool. Once it’s cooled slightly you can stir in the coconut milk. Heat through and serve with lovely crusty bread.

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Rachel Khoo’s Croque Madame Muffins

I was given the Little Paris Kitchen book as a Secret Santa book. This recipe jumped out at me immediately. What’s not to love? Eggs, bread, ham and cheese. I made these for my parents the other day as brunch and served them with wilted spinach but they are equally yummy on their own. I haven’t tried it with anything fancier than cheddar so far and it’s been delicious but I’m sure cheese lovers can be far more adventurous than me. Find the recipe and video here. It really is a perfect Saturday brunch dish. If you want your egg runny reduce the cooking time slightly.

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A First Go At Meringue and Pavlova

After making the Croque Madame Muffins I had some egg whites that I had left out so as not to over fill the bread cups. I was loathe to throw them away and for some reason I decided to have a go at meringues even though I’ve never attempted them before and quite frankly the thought of it terrified me. GBBO always makes them look so easy but so difficult at the same time! I did a bit of internet research and had a look at my books but really in the end I pretty much did my own thing while looking out for the key signs of a good meringue.

What you need

Egg whites (I ended up with about 5 or 6 left over from my Croque Madame Muffins. This makes a lot of meringue mixture!)

Caster sugar.

Aaaaaand that’s it.

I preheated my oven at 100 degrees C (which I think is roughly Gas Mark 1. Basically a cool oven).

I have a mixer so I popped the egg whites in the bowl, set it to the highest setting and stood back until the egg whites became stiff peaks. I didn’t hold the bowl over my head, I was too chicken. If you don’t have a mixer, an electric whisk would do the job too. It might just take a fair bit longer.

Continue to whisk the mixture while you add the caster sugar a dessert spoonful at a time. Continue mixing and adding sugar until you have a nice thick, shiny, glossy mixture with stiff peaks. My method is very unscientific because I had no idea of the exact number of egg white I had!

Depending on what you are making, either spoon or pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet (covered in parchment paper) for small meringues, which the kids LOVED or make two big circles for the beginnings of a pavlova.

Cook for an hour if you want them hard on the outside and sticky on the inside. My first batch went in for 90 minutes which left them hard all the way through.

For your pavolva, whip some cream, get some fruit and construct!

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Alex Hollywood’s Sticky Chicken

I would have posted the link to the recipe but it’s on a certain newspaper site and I really can’t bear to give them more traffic. I’m not sure I can give you the recipe either because it’s from her new book. However I was sent a photo of the recipe from the newspaper’s Sunday supplement, tried it and it is absolutely gorgeous. The basic ingredients for the marinade were tomato ketchup, maple syrup, ginger, soy sauce and lime or lemon juice. I semi-followed the recipe but like I do with most of my cooking I went by taste as to the proportions of what I added. I think it makes cooking more fun. I’ve made two batches of this chicken and now have no ketchup left. As a basic marinade I think it gives you plenty of scope for adding your own splashes of inspiration to vary the dish a bit: chopped chillis to spice things up or maybe a bit of lemon grass possibly for an oriental flavour. What I do know is that this recipe will definitely be coming out for the BBQ come summer!

If you really fancy the recipe google Alex Hollywood Sticky Wings and Drumsticks. Picture below is my own.

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So there you have it, my Lardy Runner, long over due round up. Hope you find something you like or something you want to try!

Be More Dog

Yes, I know that’s a phrase from an advert but it really, really fits with this post.

On Sunday we went to watch our eldest son play tag rugby. We were way up in the valleys. The wind was like ice but the scenery surrounding the rugby pitches was stunning. As we made our way over to the pitch my son was on I spotted a gorgeous brown and white Springer Spaniel. We’ve been pondering about getting a dog for a while so I find myself drawn to almost every dog I see. The dog spotted me looking and I automatically reached out my hand to pat its head.

‘Your dog is gorgeous’, I said to the owner.

‘You can have him’, she shot back, in a joking tone (tinged I thought with a hint of resentment).

‘We’ve been looking at getting a dog’, I replied.

‘Well don’t do it’, she retorted ‘They’re a tie and you know, you have to walk them REGARDLESS‘.

‘Er, okay, obviously I need to think a bit more about it’, and I patted the dog and hurried off to the pitch.

This exchange was so bizarre. Besides the fact that this woman obviously wasn’t keen on her dog (which baffled me, he was lovely) and probably shouldn’t have a dog, the other bit that bothered me was the bit about ‘walking the dog REGARDLESS‘.

Humans are endurance creatures. We are built to roam and walk and hunt and gather. Or at least we were. Our anatomy, physiology and bio-mechanics lend us so well to long stints of endurance activity. But somewhere along the line this has become an abnormal notion to us. So much so that the thought of getting out and being active for a couple of times a day is so clearly abhorrent to some of us, dog or no dog.

We were never designed to sit on the couch or slump on a sofa for hours. We have an amazing muscular system that is built to be stressed and developed for better function for our everyday lives. The human body is a phenomenal piece of kit and I just wish more people would realise that it’s not just dogs that need to get out for walks REGARDLESS but us too. Maybe that’s why dogs and humans are such a good fit, because we are both essentially endurance animals who need to be up and moving throughout the day.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that woman on the rugby pitch and many more of us need to take a leaf out of our canine friends’ books and ‘Be More Dog’. It would be much better for so many of us.

(I think I’ve just answered my ‘do we want a dog?’ question).