About Me

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I live in Kent with my husband, toddler Tilly (henceforth known as Monkey) and another baby due in November. We have two cats, Duncan and Lady Macbeth, and four chickens who kindly lay us eggs daily. We live in the picturesque seaside town of Broadstairs. I enjoy reading, knitting and cooking. I'm trying to be a bit 'greener' (not sure how successfully), and to be a gentle parent. Extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping don't freak me out, we use cloth nappies and try to follow some of the ideals of Attachment Parenting. If that sounds as if I know what I'm doing, I don't! I am also a psychotherapist with an interest in Focusing-oriented therapy, and I have a small private practice in the area.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Still here! (and some snow pics)

Long time no blogging, eh? Have you missed us? We've still been reading our favourite blogs, and Twittering and Facebooking- although I must confess that my Twitter addiction and my absence from blogging are probably connected. I've been having a very fallow period in terms of creativity, and so far this winter there hasn't been a single stitch knitted or a novel read. A good magazine is about as much as I can manage (and I'm really enjoying 'Red' magazine and 'Olive' at the moment).
Life by the seaside is going very well. After a busy first couple of weeks in the new house we have settled in and established new routines. Dave is commuting into London each day, so Monkey and I are on our own for much of the week. I work on Tuesday mornings and the babe goes to a good childminder we have found locally, and on Wednesdays I go to work near our old house and my Mum looks after her. It works out well and I enjoy having a day away from home. I don't find it easy going from 'mama' to 'therapist' at the moment, being a mama is such an all-encompassing job and I seldom feel there is much of me left for my clients.
We are going though another difficult patch with the Monkey's eating. She had been doing fairly well with the new food supplements prescribed by the dietician but this last week has been dreadful and very stressful. I *think* it's another tooth coming through, but it's always a worry when she stops eating. We are also continuing to have frequent breath-holding spells with full-on passing-out, I think this is just something we will have to live with as we progress through toddlerhood.
So that was just a little update from us, and some photos we took of the Monkey enjoying her first snow today. I will try to pop back in soon but if I don't, Merry Christmas or season's greetings to you!

Sunday, 1 November 2009


I was going to come on here and rant about the Monkey's weight and food problems, and about the upsetting appointment we had at the paediatrician the other week. I *might* still do the ranting but right now, for the first time in a couple of days, I feel the beginnings of a sense of peace and acceptance, there is calm in the storm that has been raging around here. A couple of things have helped: reading this piece from India Knight about her daughter's open-heart surgery (it's an old article but I follow India on Twitter and like her writing, I was just randomly flicking through some things she'd written). Also, thinking about friends of ours whose 6-week old baby died last year. So here's the thing, yes, our little girl is tiny, petite, she may even be unhealthily underweight (I don't know) and she has these breath-holding spells which are currently a huge challenge... but... she is here, she is not chronically ill, she is strong and characterful and she has shiny hair and eyes. Those who know her say she is thriving, and she is doing the right things at the right time. There may be some underlying reason for her smallness, or this might just be how she is. This evening it just struck me that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Spooky Day!

What a strange weather experience we've had today! This morning, up at our house, the sky was clear and the sun was out. We walked ten minutes down the road to the sea-front and this is what we found:

Thick sea fog rolling in

Monkey had a little wander on the sand and a dig with her bucket and spade, there were lots of little girls and boys enjoying climbing up the sand banks. We walked back home and sat in the garden in the sun until the mist made its way up to us, at first I thought it was someone lighting a bonfire as it wafted across like thick smoke. Very apt for impending Halloween!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Beach Fun

We've had lots of beach fun this past week. Monkey is still getting used to her wellies (they fall off CONSTANTLY despite being padded out with socks and mama's handknitted babylegs!)but she loves her wet weather suit. We've been on the beach at Viking Bay and Botany Bay, the weather has been fantastic and we've been playing in the sand and having a paddle. We have an intrepid little explorer on our hands who loves to clamber over the rocks, it's a shame she is so light though, the wind almost blows her over.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Finding a new groove

Monkey models her new wet weather suit!
Wow, I am seriously tired this evening. I'm sitting at my kitchen table, a cat skulking around my feet, and my belly full with warming chicken casserole (sadly a ready-meal though, it's been one of those days). Although we are more-or-less unpacked there are still some random boxes sitting around, and in the den all of our books, CDs and LPs are waiting patiently for the delivery of some shelves from Ikea. Today I must have emptied about a dozen large boxes and stacked the contents up neatly. I finally found a GP who would register us as new patients (don't get me started on that one), and I had a stroke of good fortune at the florist, who gave us 5 extra beautiful yellow roses for free because they had opened up a bit too much for her to keep them on display. I just love having flowers around the house.
This has been my first week at home alone with the Monkey while DH goes to work. It's been much better than I had imagined, and we seem to be finding a new 'groove' here beside the seaside. The days, however, feel really long. DH has been getting up shortly after 5am to get the 6am fast train service, and the babe has been waking up early also. I am NOT a morning person and I really struggle with being up before 7.30am. Because her waking has been so unpredictable I have found it hard to get back off to sleep when DH leaves. There has been no Squirreling for me (that's how DH refers to my late-evening blogging/ Twittering activities), and we've been heading up to bed after catching up on the evening's Masterchef episode. Our bed (the same bed we had at the old house) has somehow been transformed into the most wonderfully sleep-inducing bed ever. As soon as our heads hit the pillow we are out. Perhaps it's the Feng Shui, or the sea air, or just the fact that we are both exhausted!
I've taken Monkey to a new toddler group this week and it was fantastic, far, far nicer than the one we went to last week. This one just felt right, I chatted with other mums, there were babies being breast-fed, and at least one toddler (mine!). Monkey settled in after a short while and even sat at the table with the other children at snack time. They looked so sweet! It's on a Wednesday which isn't the best day for me as I will be heading out to work in the afternoon, but we will definitely be going again.
This weekend we are busy with visitors so there will be lots of cooking, I hope. I've almost run out of chilli jam and have a new preserving pan now so there will be a new batch coming soon. I also want to get back into breadmaking and don't even ask me where my knitting needles are! Hope you all have a lovely weekend, I'm sure we will.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cancel that Ark

Yesterday I was convinced that we would be building an ark after three days of near-constant rain. This morning dawned fair and sunny, and the Monkey and I went for an early morning stroll down to the seafront:
It was the perfect morning to appreciate our new surroundings, with the sun glinting off the sea and the beach empty except for a few dog-walkers:
Oops, posted the same photo twice!
Monkey gave us a little lie-in (well, 7am but that's a marked improvement on the last few days). She is showing off her new haircut, courtesy of Grandad, a professional barber whose skill and fearlessness with a pair of scissors and a wriggly toddler far surpassed any of my previous doomed attempts!
Our new home
I love Autumn, and I hope that wherever you are today you are enjoying this beautiful season.

Friday, 2 October 2009

We're here!

Just a very quick update to say that we are now the proud owners of our lovely new house by the sea (well, ten minutes walk from the sea!). The move on Wednesday went very well, considering we were all suffering with the 'flu. We picked up the keys at 4pm and the removal men finally finished unloading at 11pm... oh my goodness how tired were we? Yesterday was spent getting my kitchen unpacked and in order, I felt very happy when I popped out this morning to our local florist to get some flowers for my kitchen table. Monkey has been pretty unsettled and not the happiest, but I arranged her room today and she must have liked it because she has gone to sleep in her cot in her bedroom this evening, yay! We collected our cats and they are sniffing around the lounge, where they will be confined for the next week or two. And we are waiting for our dinner, Indian takeaway, mmmmmmmmm.
More soon, and photos....

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thank goodness for Mummy Milk

Poor Monkey is suffering this week with her teeth and a cough & cold. She is barely eating and as a result we are breast-feeding LOTS. Which I need to keep reminding myself of, because I do worry when she doesn't eat. And I get to eat lots of yummy things because I'm feeding both of us :-)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Almost there

We have exchanged contracts on our house and moving day is scheduled for next Wednesday! I can't possibly convey to you the stress of the last couple of weeks. At more than one point it looked like it wasn't going to happen. We had a deadline of 30th September before our mortgage offer expired. Last Friday we found out that our vendors had lost the house they were planning to buy. Thankfully they have decided to continue with their plans to move and are renting a house in the interim. Yesterday, after trying to exchange contracts for the previous two days, we were informed that our buyers had lost their buyer. Yep, they just decided not to proceed. The English system is appalling, it is a disgrace that there is no commitment until contracts are exchanged. You are relying on someone's word and planning your future lives with no guarantees whatsoever. With great relief we found out that our lenders were happy to proceed on the basis that we would be renting our house out, and even better news came when our buyers indicated that they would like to rent the house and buy it when they had secured another buyer. So now we have a week to pack our lives up and prepare for seaside life! Here's a few pics of our destination:

Mmmm, chilli jam!

Inspired by Nina over at Tabiboo (a soon-to-be neighbour in Broadstairs) I decided to have a go at making my own chilli jam. I wanted something piquant and sweet to accompany cheese, cold meats, sausages etc. This was my very first attempt at making any kind of jam or preserve, so I borrowed my Mum's preserving pan and hey presto:

A deliciously sticky chilli jam! I used Sarah Raven's recipe which you can find online here. I changed the recipe very slightly, using 3 regular red chillies and adding 1 Birds Eye chilli for some extra heat. I also used one of those sweet pointy red peppers. It set beautifully after an hour or so bubbling away, and the spicing is just right, a nice heat but it doesn't send you rushing to the tap for water (not that water helps but anyway!).

Unfortunately the recipe quantities only made one jar (plus a tablespoon leftover which was very quickly devoured!) so I will be making it again very soon and sizing up the quantities.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Just Because

And I'm out...

I'm sorry to say that I've given up on my second Booker Prize novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, by Sarah Hall. Sorry because I absolutely hate giving up on books, but life is too short and too busy, and this one has been sitting by my bed for 2 weeks now and I've had to force myself to read further. It's also a shame because the writing is beautiful. This, for example:
Still, there you were, together, from the very beginning. You shared a pillow of placenta, pedalled in tandem against your mother's belly. You heard concurrently the wet chamber music of her body, shared nutrients, and dreamt the same hermetic dream.
Elegant and poetic, but ultimately the narrative was just not strong enough to maintain my interest. There are four strands to the novel, each concerned with art and it's place in the world, but I read a third of the novel and became frustrated that there was no plot to speak of and nothing to urge me forward. I guess I need a good story. Maybe I should get the new Dan Brown (JOKE).

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Knitting: The Proof

Some knitting to show you, at last! Here's my most recent project, a pretty teal bolero for the Monkey:

Nanna had to finish it off, however, because I couldn't work out the reverse shapings on the collar. Boo. Feel like a bit of a cheat.

How cute is she in her play buggy?!

My current W.I.P is another one of these contrast-edging cardigans.
Nanna knitted this one in white and green.

And I am knitting the next size up in a lovely grey and dusky pink. Let's hope I actually manage to finish it all myself...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Another foodie weekend...

This weekend was a rather successful foodie weekend. Successful for the tastebuds, deadly for the diet, that is! We had a lovely takeaway Indian meal on Friday evening, and on Saturday we pizza using Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall's recipe from the Guardian magazine a few weeks ago. Now I was a little dubious about pizza-making, never having made a dough from scratch before. Deciding that this MUST be done properly, I nipped over to the food hall at John Lewis in Bluewater to purchase a pizza stone. This nifty bit of equipment gets preheated in the oven at the highest possible temperature and is supposed to ensure that your pizza gets a crispy base. Hugh F-W does claim that the dough recipe is foolproof and he turned out to be right. The pizza was incredible, as you can see from the photos! Light and crispy dough, just perfect. We were so pleased with ourselves. I also made a roasted tomato sauce and we topped the pizzas with chorizo and hard goats cheese (the winner) and roast peppers and feta (a worthy runner-up). Saturday nights are now Pizza Nights, and we have spent today dreaming up our next batch of toppings. Controversially, we are both in favour of pineapple on pizza (Hugh is NOT), so that will be featuring next time...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Loving this... Florence and the Machine

I don't tend to listen to much music because I'm a Radio 4 gal at heart, but I have fallen head-over-heels for this amazing girl and her band, Florence and the Machine. Look at her at the Reading Festival, isn't she the coolest chick with her flaming red hair and her bat costume?! I've got a huge girl-crush on her. Click on this link to go to the Performance Highlights, at 26 minutes in you will find my favourite song, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up). I must have listened to it about twenty times in the last few days! It's so uplifting it makes me want to jump around the room...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Day(s) From Hell

Okay, hell might be a slight exaggeration, and of course there are many people far worse off than I but crikey it has been a trying 24 hours or so. I am renowned for being calm under pressure, and five months of being in the house-buying process is pretty darn testing, but after three weeks of being told that we would have a date imminently I finally lost it. I need to know when we are moving! I wouldn't even mind if that date was two months away, I just want to know. As it is, we keep hearing soon, soon, soon... but no word comes. We are living in limbo: making preparations; changing arrangements for work; living amongst boxes of flat-packed furniture; lusting after interiors and beautiful Danish furniture on eBay; fending off endless "when are you moving" questions; vaccinating our cats in readiness for a stay in the cattery; Freecycling things, like spare beds, which it would still actually be quite helpful to have in the house.
We made our offer on the house we want to buy before Easter. In that time we have managed to sell two houses, completing on one and hopefully tying the other one in with our onward move. Our vendors haven't even managed to get their sodding mortgage approved and appear to be the last people you could possibly wish to find yourself in a life-changing house purchase transaction with.
Deep breath. This too shall pass.
The dishwasher has packed up, and fused the electrics in the process. I am now having to empty it and wash the contents by hand, which does have the advantage of at least ensuring that the dishes are clean, a basic requirement which said dishwasher appears not to be particularly fussed with.
I've got fleas. Well, not me exactly but the cats do, and yours truly is the only one in the house with bites. Lots. Of. Bites.
Oh yes, and did I mention that my baby passed out for a minute this morning?
Yes, this is now the third episode of breath holding, this time triggered by her being angry rather than having a bump or being in pain of some sort. It was a total nightmare, we were in a busy restaurant having lunch and Monkey was getting fed up of not being able to run around. I tried to pop her back in the highchair, she let out a cry and then... no breath. And still no breath. And floppiness. My friend and I are calling her name, shaking her, trying to rouse her. It's less than a minute and she comes round again, promptly projectile vomiting the contents of her stomach across me and the restaurant. Jeez. She was fine after I'd cleaned her up. I even managed to eat the rest of my pasta. Bless the waiting staff, they were very tolerant and kind, I was of course mortified. I got home and researched breath-holding spells in toddlers, which turned out to be quite reassuring. I learned that it is reasonably common, and that the child will spontaneously start breathing again in a minute or less. I learned that I don't need to rouse her, shake or splash her with water, and that I should just lie her flat until she comes around. I also learnt that it can run in families, and yes, I was a breath-holding toddler! It can also be linked to anaemia, so I will be taking Monkey to the GP to get her iron levels checked out and to get a second opinion. It aint easy being a parent, is it?
My prescription then...
DH is out tonight so I will be trying to relax by having a bath and casting on stitches for a new knitting project (not whilst in the bath). The diet has gone out the window and is legging it up the street so I'm treating myself to Indian food from Waitrose. The Monkey was gently encouraged to have an early night. Fragranced candles are burning on the mantlepiece. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Booker Prize Challenge {Review: Me Cheeta}

Cheeta and Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller)

My first read from the Booker shortlist is 'Me Cheeta' by James Laver. This just happened to be the first novel to arrive in the post from Amazon, and it is an unusual addition to the Booker shortlist in that it is a comic novel, a spoof Hollywood memoir 'written' by the chimpanzee Cheeta, who starred in the Tarzan movies of the 30s and 40s. The strength of the novel lies in Cheeta's uniquely bitchy, scathing voice and razor-sharp comments about the movie stars of the day. He hates Chaplin with a passion ("a mono-maniacal bore unstoppably propagandizing his own sexual status"), sees Mickey Rooney as his unworthy rival and has a bad word to say about just about everyone except his beloved Johnny. Some of the gossip is breathtakingly outrageous (a chapter on Esther Williams, titled "Fucking Bitch!", is "removed on legal advice").

But this is not just a scurrilous attack on the movie stars of the Golden Age. It chronicles the loving friendship that Cheeta shared with Tarzan (swimming star and actor Johnny Weissmuller) and there is a real poignancy to Cheeta's attempts to become one of the family, a companion to Weissmuller, rather than, as seems to be the case, something of a variety act that gets wheeled out to do party tricks (drinking and smoking being his particular vices, along with a propensity for masturbation). Lever heavily critiques the use of animals in showbusiness, with Cheeta's fantasy honorary Oscar acceptance speech being dedicated to "every animal that has ever suffered for its cinematic art". Cheeta considers himself fortunate to be 'rehabilitated' from his early life in the jungle of Africa, and welcomes the human race's attempts to remove animals from- nay destroy- their natural habitats:
You know there are slightly more tigers in America today than there are left in the wild? It should be stressed that that's not a cause for celebration just yet: the job's only half-finished... Yes, destroying the forests themselves helps, but we need to get those percentages turned around.
There are some beautiful passages at the beginning of the book describing Cheeta's pre-Hollywood life in the jungle, although his time in the wild is by no means romanticised, it is quite literally a fight for survival.

There are, then, two very different 'sides' to this book: a satirical view of our treatment of animals, and the bitchy spoof Hollywood memoir. They work well together but the limited storytelling potential of a chimpanzee's imagined life experience isn't quite enough to keep the momentum going and I found my interest dipping a little about three-quarters of the way through. I know that some Amazon reviewers have questioned why it is in the Booker shortlist, for me I think the writing is actually very beautiful in places. It is a clever and funny book but not one I would pick up to re-read. I don't think it will win the prize but I can see why it was well-received. It's just not a big enough book to be a winner.

Style Statement {Friend Survey}

Ok, so I'm still doing this Style Statement process. Slowly, because I have a toddler and an imminent house move and the Booker shortlist to read (!) but I am still thinking about this stuff. In the Style Statement book there is a short survey you can ask your friends or loved ones to complete in order to get another perspective on your personal style. So here's what my husband had to say about yours truly:

How would you describe my style? - cautious. a little scared to take risks but when you do it works

What do you think is my greatest personal strength?
- dedication to make yourself and those around you better people.

What do you think it would be good for me to 'let go of' in my wardrobe, home or psyche?
- there isn't a great deal in your wardrobe and there's certainly nothing that offends me. I don't think there's anything in the hom either as you're not a great horader of rubbish or trinkets. It would be good for you to get rid of the worry that you're not good enough at stuff. Less internal competitiveness

When do you feel I am at my best?
- when you're being funny. You are the funniest woman i've ever met and it's one of the reasons i married you.

What do you wish I was less of, for my sake?
Less of a worrier. We're not all judging you.

When have you seen me looking my most fabulous?
On both our wedding days. At [a friend's] wedding you looked absolutely stunning. I was really proud.

What do you think I could give myself more credit for, or celebrate more?
Credit yourself more with the amazing job you do with Tilly She's the most amazingly loved, cared for and nurtured baby. Celebrate your skill at talking to people, don't be shy with them. You've got so much to say and you say it so well. Speak like you write in your blogs. Don't be afraid to say what you think. You've got great breasts so maybe wear lower cut tops, flash them a bit more.

(Did I get the bestest husband in the world or what? He 'gets' me, I know that much)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Booker Prize Challenge

I always have a pile of books beside my bed (how could you not?) but my current pile tells a rather disappointing and sorry tale of books begun and abandoned, novels-not-finished and a couple of occasional-dip-into books on creativity. My most recent acquisition is a really rotten 'chick-lit' book that I really need to just let go (it's this, supposedly one of the better examples of the genre but it is tosh). Leafing through the Times magazine this evening I came across a special offer for the entire Booker Prize shortlist, and a quick read of the summaries convinced me that for once it might be a good year to dive in. So, in an attempt to raise the bar and remind my poor brain that I did actually get a degree in English Lit in the not-so-distant-past, I hereby announce the Booker challenge. Yes, I am planning to read the shortlist, one novel a week, for the next thirteen weeks. Yikes. I've ordered the first three from Amazon. Some of them are still only in hardback, which I can't get along with at all, so I am planning to start with How to Paint A Dead Man by Sarah Hall, The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey, and Me Cheeta by James Lever. I'll check back in and let you all know how I'm getting on. And do let me know what your summer reads are...