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28.11.11

Turkey: How Do You Cook Yours?

As previously mentioned, when I was little cooking the turkey always seemed like such a mammoth task for my mum in particular.
4 years ago my mum then informed me of a new, almost stress free, way of cooking turkey.
She'd seen Phil Vickery (on This Morning I expect) share his way of cooking his Christmas Day Turkey and said it was genius and really quick.
I didn't quite believe her.
Approximately 2/3 hours cooking and then its done? How could this be? How can it go from taking hours to cook this sometimes beast of a bird to just 2/3 hours?
I had to try it.
My husband wasn't so sure but once I'd convinced him to at least give it a try we went for it.
And success!!

Every year we now cook our Turkey "The Phil Vickery Way" (we make some adjustments in that we don't use bay leaves or add stuffing but I believe the key to a good recipe is room to adjust it to suit your families needs and likes)
Our Turkey is ordered from the Butchers (after our Fresh Free Range Delight last year long are the days of hunting the perfect frozen Turkey from Supermarkets-fresh if we were lucky!) so I have dug out this recipe from my recipe folder in preparation for the big day!
I use a large foil tin, the ones which only seem available in the supermarkets around this time of year, as its perfect when boiling and adding the double foil covers.

Taken from his website this is the way you SHOULD be cooking your turkey this year...and every year!!

Serves
8-10 adults
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Cooking time: 2½ hours, approx

1 x 5 kg just under 12lb, Bronze turkey, with giblets and the wish bone removed.

2 large carrots, peeled
2 large onion, peeled
6 sticks of celery
leek        
2 bay leaves

2 chicken stock cubes
½ bottle dry white wine
2 pints cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g melted butter
2 tbsp roughly cornflour
4-6 tbsp cold water

Methods/steps
Pre heat the oven to 200°C gas 6.
First job is to remove the giblets from the bird, and if you are using a frozen bird then make sure that it is fully defrosted.
Season the bird well inside and out well with salt and pepper and pack the stuffing into the body cavity.(see recipe)
Tie the legs and the Parsons nose together with a piece of string and secure well, so the stuffing is held inside the bird.
Chop all the vegetables into large chunks and place in the bottom of a large baking tray place the turkey on top, the tray should be large enough so the bird has at least 2 inches gap around.
Pour in the white wine, cold water and chicken stock cube, and place the whole tray on to the stove.
Bring to the boil and cover tightly with two layers of foil and pop into a preheated oven.
cook the bird for about 2 hours, approximately.
To check if the bird is cooked, remove from the oven carefully as there will be a lot of stock, wine and turkey juices.
Remove the foil and insert a knife where the thigh attaches itself to the body of the bird, the juices should run clear. If not, then cover again with foil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
When the bird is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 230 degrees C, Gas 8, brush with the melted butter and cook until browned, about 15 minutes.
When nicely browned, remove from the oven and carefully, tip off all the stock and keep warm.
Wrap the turkey in foil to keep warm, it will keep perfectly wrapped for 1 hour.
Re boil the stock and juices, you may need to add a little more water in a saucepan and skim well.
Mix the cornflour and water together and thicken the bubbling stock, don’t go mad.
Carve the bird the flesh will be soft and juicy, and serve the gravy and stuffing separately.
Additional Tips
The above recipe was for a 5kg bird.
For a 8kg bird I would steam it for 2 hours and 30-45 minutes,and then brown it in the same way.
For a 10-12kg bird I would steam it for 3 hours and 45 minutes, and then brown it in the same way.
Please remember that times will depend on each individual oven, but the most important thing is that you seal the turkey well (use a tin with a lip) with foil so that you steam the bird.

Turkey, The Phil Vickery Way! www.vickery.tv

2005: A Christmas Day Disaster.

I remember when I was little, Christmas Eve would consist of us [me and my twin brother] going to bed early awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and our gifts. My mum would head to bed soon after us as she would have to wake at around 4am or 5am to prepare the Turkey and stick it in the oven ready for Christmas dinner.
Christmas Day was spent opening presents in a house with windows covered in a misty condensation covering. It was part of what Christmas was about. One of the little things that made Christmas Day what it was.
Sometimes it'd even be put on the night before, we'd wake up, head downstairs, and after we'd opened our presents round the tree with the video camera aimed at us, my parents would head to the kitchen to carve the turkey and prep the vegetables before my grandparents arrived.

I remember when I left home and faced cooking Christmas dinner for the first time. Cooking a Turkey made me panic. Could I live up to my mums standard and get up early just to put the turkey on?
I longed to be the perfect Fiancee/Wife.

As it happened my husband had to work the three Christmasses when we lived away.
We'd wake up early, get dressed up in our nice clothes, and drive along the quiet streets from St Neots into Bedford for my husband to entertain those listening to his radio show on Christmas morning.
2004. We bought our Christmas Pudding early and had it sat in the cupboard. One night, 3 days before Christmas Day infact and feeling peckish, we decided to eat it and planned to get another from a shop in Bedford before Christmas Day.
Big.
Fat.
Fail!
Nowhere had any left! And Bedford is a big town!!
Due to busy work schedules we couldn't even travel that far out of town to see if there were any other puddings waiting to come home with us.
Christmas Day dessert was a cheap supermarket trifle.
It just wasn't the same.
2006. The Turkey hadn't quite defrosted so we spent 3 hours once we got home from his show with it sat in a bowl of water whilst it thawed.
Then there was 2005. Good ol' 2005! Everything was perfect. It was our first Christmas as husband and wife, we'd had a tough few months but now everything was great. I had a lovely job, had made some great friends there and felt almost settled in this new town. We were having a lovely morning, again my husband was presenting his show on the local radio station. We got home, put the turkey in the oven, put the vegetables on, opened a bottle of Champagne and opened our presents.
Except halfway through opening our presents we'd finished the champagne.
"Should I open the Sparkling wine?"
"Yes, why not?!"
So, the Sparkling wine was opened and away we went. Within no time this was also gone.
Now, we have never been BIG drinkers, and never really got drunk together as such. We never went out drinking unless it was a special event and others were with us.
But this day we really let our hair down.
By the time dinner was ready to be served we had consumed so much alcohol that we were ready for bed...to sleep, nothing else!
So that day our lovely turkey and trimmings were wasted and instead were consumed the following few days, whilst nursing sicky hangovers.

We've yet to make the same mistake!

23.11.11

My Mummy Tummy: My Sons First Home

A couple of years ago I was taking part in a photo a day project on Flickr and one day was feeling particularly brave and decided to post quite a personal photo. I just let the words flow as I looked at the photo. Nothing inspirational but exactly what I think.

I've just been able to find this again after trying for so long and wanted to share it here too.  


20.11.11

Today Is The Day



After months of planning, meetings and phonecalls with the Reverends, emails to and fro with the pub, outfits dry cleaned, a dress search, cake discussions, chocolate truffle testing and making, haircuts, invitation creating and sending, lack of rsvps sent back, (seriously people, etiquette?!) reception venue decorating, Itks finally Harrys Christening Day!


My camera is charged, lens' have been cleaned and an empty SD card at the ready.
Outfits are hanging in the wardrobe.
My husband, Charles and I all have new hair-do's. Freshly cut and in my case coloured.
Balloons and banners await our arrival at the pub. As will a table full of food.
Added to that table will be my homemade coconut chocolate truffles, hazelnut chocolate truffles and white chocolate drizzled truffles and a 10 inch Christening cake made and decorated by my step-nanny.
Two helium balloons will be placed on this table too.

In the corner, a small table decorated simply with one single Christening balloon and some 'Christening' table confetti, ready to also include some cards and gifts.

In my lounge are two black bin bags filled with pearly blue, green and purple balloons ready to be kicked, thrown and no-doubt popped by the 5 hyper young boys attending.

All that is left is to work out a way to get all four of us ready and out of the house by 12 noon at the latest, without a smear or smudge on our super clean outfits. To get to the church on time and ready to greet our important (and some not so important) guests.
And most of all, celebrate a special day for a very special boy.

18.11.11

10 Questions

Ages ago I was tagged by Mum 2 Baby Insomniac in a 10 Questions meme. Due to being laptopless I've only just been able to get access to a computer to write my long overdue post!

1) Answer the 10 questions
2) Tag someone to do the same
3) Go and leave a comment on the original blog post over at Super Amazing Mum and comment that you have done so in order for us to find out who has been tagged and therefore find out more about our fellow bloggers!

1: Describe yourself in seven words:
Mummy, housewife, twin, blonde, funny, oversensitive, hollywilloughbywannabe.

2: What keeps you awake at night?
Not wanting to stop staring at Harry or Charles.
And my busy head.

3: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be and why?
Holly Willoughby. I heart her.

 4:  What are you wearing now?
Skinny jeans, tunic and a cardigan.

5:  What scares you?
Death.
Something I can't talk much about at the moment.

6:  What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?
Best: Its like therapy for me sometimes, being able to write down things I can't say to people face to face.
Worst: The fact that people seem to think there should be "rules" when it comes to blogging. No, my blog is my space. My online diary. I wouldn't have rules if I wrote a diary at home so why should I for my online diary?
I'll only follow rules if it concerns a linky/meme.

7:  What was the last website you looked at?
Other than fellow bloggers sites and the usual social media ones it was Daily Mail. Catching up on the celeb gossip with my hairdresser!

8:  If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would be tidier and not so trusting.

9:  Slankets Yes or No!?
Probably yes. I'm all about comfort when I'm at home and at night rather than being sexy. I get annoyed at blankets falling off every time I shift a bit on the sofa so a Slanket is probably right up my street!

10: Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
Mum 2 Baby Insomniac is a fab blogger, one of my favourites although I am very slack at commenting on her posts but enjoy each and every one.She is a really lovely girl, funny honest and she also has amazing eyes which she has admitted to not being so keen on. WHAT?! Seriously, they are beautiful.

I think everyone has been tagged now as I'm so late to this so if you haven't, but want to be, then let me know.

The Things My 2 Year Old Says...

One of my favourite bloggers, Jenny from Mummy Mishaps has tagged me in a super cute and potentially hilarious linky all about "toddlerisms". The linky originated at The Crazy Kitchen. Helen says:
As I was getting Jack ready for bed tonight he said said something to me and it struck me that he often says things that I may have said once...but you will never hear me say again.
Our Task, as written by Helen:
Come up with 5 things that your 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 18 year old says that you never say....I'm not a stickler for rules so if you want it can be things that your husband says. If your baby doesn't yet speak then you can make them up based on what you think they would say if they could speak. Then tag others to do the same - you can tag 1 other or 10 others, again I'm not going to make you stick to any rules on that.

If you haven't been tagged and you want to join in then please do.

The only rule that I would like to make is that you come back here and add your post to this Linky so I can laugh at them read them too, and ask those that you tag to do the same please.

So, five things Charles says/has said that I never will/have/or will say again!....

* In the middle of a shop/public space: I done a poo!! (Or) I need a poo!!

* Mummy, I love your boobies.

* My poo looks like a crocodile/snail/frog/jellyfish/octopus/etc

* Mummy, kiss my bum/willy better please.

* The Rhinos/Elephants/Giraffes/any zoo animal have very big willies!

I tag (sorry if you've already been done)
Seasider In the City
SAHMLovingit
Not My Year Off

Things I Said....

...Before I Was a Parent.

My child will NEVER watch that...upon first viewing In The Night Garden. I was pregnant with Charles and my husband just happened to find it whilst having an explore on the childrens channels.
"What on earth is that?" We both said.
Guess what happened? It became a favourite programme for the three of us when Charles was around 12 months old.

My child will NOT have toys in his/her room...surely they'll never go to sleep and will stay up all night playing. Naps would be non-existant just due to being distracted by toys and wanting to play.
Guess what happened? We let him take cars to bed, this at one point was the only way he would sleep. Some children like to have teddies as a comforter, dummy, muslin but for Charles it was cars. And it had to be seven cars. Not five, not six. Seven.
He would go to sleep with them by his head and in the morning would wake up and check he had them all. If we put him on his change unit with six cars he would know one was missing.
We gradually let him have other toys in the room, nothing huge, nothing noisy, not lots of toys. Just a couple. Along with books, which are the things that are more likely to keep him up at night.
If we put him to bed and he isn't tired or quite ready to settle we know that he will play with his toys until he is ready to go to sleep.
He's always been really good at settling himself down, recognising when he is too tired to continue playing and will put himself to bed and fall asleep.
He used to fall asleep on the floor by his baby gate but we have since moved his bed near to the door and everytime he now gets into bed.
Naps have never been affected by the toys in his room either.

We will always sit up the table to eat...Sometimes its far more convenient and easy to just sit on the sofa and eat dinner whilst watching tv.
In the mornings Charles is placed in his high chair, in the playroom in front of Cbeebies whilst daddy is in the lounge eating breakfast watching the news.
It works.

I'll never send my children to their room as punishment....I had a feeling that using their room as punishment would mean that bedtime would become hard work and that their rooms would just be seen as the place to go when they are naughty.
I do this now though. I have found, for us, that this is effective. Its not a straight "you've been naughty, time to go to your room". I give 5 chances and if I feel the only way a problem will be resolved is for us to have a bit of time away from each other to calm down then I will take Charles off to his room and shut the baby gate.
Once we've calmed we then cuddle, talk through what happened, what went wrong, he says sorry, we kiss and say we love each other and then everything is ok.
Or, he will go to sleep. Which is a good thing because it shows his behaviour is due to tiredness.
How people use the naughty step I do not know. I tried it Wednesday to see if it was for us, next time I checked on Charles he was on a completely different step and we both just started laughing.

16.11.11

The Number Taker Strikes in Suffolk!

 I was really proud when I realised all the counting as we climbed up and down the stairs around 8 times a day seemed to be paying off.
Charles could count.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 (he always left out number 8 for some reason)
Nothing else helped his development with counting. It was simply down to me and my husband teaching him (ie no influence from television programmes)

Then he started watching Numberjacks. I thought this would be good as he could remember what numbers look like due to the characters.
After much trying and asking him "who's that?" "Which number is that?" I realised it wasn't going to be as easy a task as I first thought, which was fine. I printed off some of the Numberjacks colouring in sheets from the Cbeebies site and hoped it would help.
He was more excited at the paint than what was on the picture. Fair enough I thought and decided to test him when we went to the theatre show.

When at the show he couldn't tell me which numbers were which I wondered just how educational the Numberjacks actually are.
As I said in my "Numberjacks Live Round-up" post I found it hard to follow the show and realised that its the same when I'm watching at home...I'm 26 and if I struggle then so is my 2 year old surely?

The next day I was watching Charles obsessively lining up his toy cars and listened to him counting.
2, 5, 2, 5, 7, 2, 5...
What happened to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10?
Has the Number Taker been to our house and taken away all these missing numbers?

It was at this point I realised that the random orders of numbers featured in Numberjacks had basically "undone" all his previous counting development.
Rather than his almost perfect 1-10 and 10-1 counting, random numbers were continuously being called out, as it is when the characters are featured in Numberjacks.

Not that I'm saying Numberjacks is bad for children to watch, just in our case we have found it to halt, and rewind, his learning rather than improve and progress.

We've made the decision to stop him watching Numberjacks for the time being and have already found a huge improvement.
Not only that but his new obsession with Show Me Show Me has helped a lot too as we count up and down the lift.

11.11.11

Mealtime Meltdown

Tonight was the second night in a row that a plateful of Toddler dinner was placed in the bin untouched.
Reason given by toddler: nothing.
No alternative dinner requested. No "I don't like it" comment made. Just a simple "NO!".
Tonights dinner was a homemade burger. First time I'd attempted homemade burgers and they were delicious. But he wasn't interested at all.
He ended up going to bed having just eaten 2 yogurts as I bare sending him to bed with a totally empty tummy.
Yesterday was the more adventurous Duck Stir Fry. This didn't seem a problem as he'd tried duck last week and surprised me by asking for more! And he likes noodles so I really expected this to be a hit.
Two noodles were eaten and pieces of duck were hidden in his bib!
We are trying to make an effort to sit up the table and eat at the same time. Normally my husband and I would eat after Charles was in bed but we wondered if us eating together would encourage his eating better.
It hasn't.

He's quite a small boy and we struggle to find clothes that fit him.
All jeans/trousers require a belt and pyjamas are a size smaller than usual, and still are a tiny bit big around the waist.
When he was first weaned it was all over the place. Never consistent.
Sometimes he would eat. Sometimes not.
There was never a food, other than garlic bread, that he became a real fan of.
His other friends were miles ahead when it came to eating and would polish off a pot of puree, a yogurt and a 5oz bottle of formula, Charles would polish off a breast full of milk.

Breakfast is the only meal which is eaten with no problems.
He surprised me one day this week by eating a ham sandwich! An "adult" sized one too. Ie/ ham between two sliced of bread. Not one slice of bread halved.
He normally asks for Soreen and will eat this either as his lunch or as a snack.
Another lunchtime favourite is Nutella Sandwiches (don't tut or turn your nose up at me please)
Other snacks include grapes, raisons or bananas.
We dont have biscuits here. He hardly touches crisps and he eat cake!

Potatoes are a no go area. Which shocks me.
I love potatoes. Mashed. Boiled. Roasted. Wedged. Chipped. Etc.
He won't touch them. He will rarely have chips either.
He loves Macaroni Cheese but some days he won't even eat this.
I guess its the same as us in that some days we don't fancy certain things for dinner but it annoys me greatly when he has asked for Macaroni Cheese or if simply he has fussed so much in the week that it is my final option.

I would love for him to sit down with us and eat a roast dinner.
Sunday I cooked us a chicken roast dinner. We used various methods of getting him to eat. Simply ignoring him. Asking him to copy us. Offering treats if he eats certain things. Chris Jarvis [Show Me Show Me] "phoned daddy" asking if "Charlie could eat dinner if not there wouldn't be anymore Show Me Show Me" This worked for one Yorkshire Pudding then failed afterwards. We also played Show Me Show Me with our theme being "Show Me Show Me Eating" (this works well with brushing teeth and putting toys away!)
He ended up sitting on the dining room table and eating 1 and a half Yorkshire puddings with hidden sweet potato and some chicken. Our way of getting him to do this?
The Lee Nelson Peer Pressure Challenge.
Basically we sit there and chant "Do it! Do it! Do it!" Until he eats something. When he eats something we go mad and praise him a lot.
He loved this yet it hasn't worked for further meals.

Other meals which (sometimes) guarantee him going to bed with a full tummy but certainly not something I want to give him regularly are Pasta N Sauces and Supernoodles.

So, what do we do! Persevere, throw away food everyday and just hope one day it clicks and he becomes a super eater? Or do we speak to our Health Visitor to see if we can see a Dietician?

Is this a problem other people face too?

10.11.11

Minarni and Abodys.

Never heard of those words have you? Don't look them up in the Dictionary as they won't be there. Or if they are, they won't have the same meaning as in our house.

One thing that my husband and I have found most fascinating about having a child is speech.
Charles is exceptionally good and has always seemed ahead of other boys his age that we know.
His speech tend to confuse people because he is a little boy (petite) and has a baby face so looks very young yet can talk very clearly and I rarely have to play translator. People were also shocked at his walking because of how young he looks.

When he started off communicating with us certain words meant different things. It was him grasping the language and putting certain words to actions or objects.
Food was known as "more". If he wanted to breastfeed he would ask for "booba".

Eventually food became "yum yum" then "num num" then "nummy num" then "manum manum" and then the word which to this day is still used commonly, despite him knowing the names of most foods, knowing breakfast, lunch, dinner etc.
Minarni [min-are-knee]
It refers to all food. If you are hungry you ask want Minarni. Animals eat their Minarni too.
A cow eats grass for his Minarni.
Our cat eats cat food for her Minarni.
Our rabbit eats carrots for his/her Minarni.
And so on...
Its become everyday language for us that its bizarre when someone questions the meaning of it.
"What does he want? What is he saying?"
"He's saying Minarni of course! He's hungry!" Then we realise that actually this is our own word.

We also havme one of our most puzzling words. Puzzling in that we are not able to work out its origin or the actual meaning of it.
Abodys. Pronounced three ways "a-body", "a-bod-eeee" and "a-bud-eeee".
This word I believe may mean simple "to fall, fallen, to drop or to have dropped, to jump or to have jumped"
If we jump up and down on the bed we are "doing abodys". If Charles decides to perform fake falling over and he runs into the lounge or dances he has "done and abody". If you throw something you shout "a-bud-eeeeee" as you throw it.
Its very bizarre but again has just become part of our day to day language.
I'm not talking about cute words replacing the normal ones, mispronounciations, such as 'cuggle' instead of 'cuddle' or cute words like 'bangings' instead of 'fireworks'. I'm talking about proper, made up words.

It got me wondering at the weekend whether or not Harry will say these words too or if we will have grown out of them and moved on by the time he talks.
He must certainly be aware of these terms as he hears us say them everyday. He has "mummy milk minarni" anyway and has been informed of this by his big brother.

And another word which is just between me and Charles really is "dibdab" or "dibberdab".
Mostly used when he can't think of a word to say or has forgotten what he was going to ask for, or is his answer after replying no to my questions.
Me: What would you like for dinner?
Charles: eeeeeerm....
Me: Sausages?
Charles: noooooo
Me: Macaroni Cheese?
Charles: nooooooo
Me: Pizza?
Charles: nooooo
Me: Pasta?
Charles: noooooo
Me: dibdab?
Charles: yes please!
Or
Me: what do you want then?
Charles: dibdab
(*not those dibdab sweets by the way)

Or tv channels/programmes
Me: what would you like to watch?
C: errrrrrrm
Me: Nemo?
C: noooooo
Me: Toy story?
C: nooooooo
Me: Night Garden?
C: noooooo
Me: Pat?
C: noooooo
Me: Gruffalo?
C: noooooooo
Me: Storytrain?
C: noooooo
Me: SHOW ME SHOW ME? (Our current favourite)
C: noooooo
Me: what then?
C: erm...dibdab please?
Then we end up with Show Me Show Me.

I guess its our own version of upercalifragilisticexpialidocious [which you will find in a Dictionary]

I wonder if we will go through the same with Harry also and end up creating our own family dictionary.

9.11.11

The Dreaded Collection Tin

You know those moments, when you're sat at a Christening, Christmas Church service, etc and you notice in the pews behind you that something is being passed around. 
Its the collection tin.
You hurry to get hold of your handbag, fumble around and grab your purse and then open it to be greeted with three 2p coins, a 5p coin and a couple of 10ps. 
You discreetly grab these coins tight in your hand and place them in the tin, amongst all the £1 and £2 coins and £5 and £10 notes, hoping no one would notice how little you'd put in.
What must the money go towards anyway? 
Teabags, coffee and biscuits for afterwards? Prayer sheets? Candles? Or just into a pot for a rainy day?
I always thought the same. 
I always forget about the tin and go to church totally unprepared. 

Tonight we had a meeting with the Reverend who will perform Harrys Baptism. He is "second in command" at the church we will be attending and has a day job. His work as a priest is unpaid, yet he has the same passion, if not more, than other Priests we've met.
He was a lovely man and we talked about how the church has changed over the years, the meaning of Baptism, the roles of Godparents, the running order and "script" for the Baptism, as well as other things.
He pointed out the time when the collection tin will be passed around and mentioned to us about pre-warning people of this so as to not cause embarrassment. 

He then went on to tell us where this money goes. And we were quite shocked at what we were told.
There are three churches in that particular area and they have to pay £30,000 a year to the Church of England just to have 'membership'. 
On top of this are the costs to have a Priest stationed and placed in these area to run the churches. 
He mentioned another area close by which has similar costs, yet one of the churches has a congregation consisting of just 4 people! Yet they are able to raise the minimum needed to get their membership and to have their Priest. If not, the church wouldn't run and within no time at all the buildings would simply be ruins. 
I was gob-smacked.
I never realised a church had to pay the Church of England a "membership fee" Let alone such a high fee at that.
Even more gob-smacked that the church doesn't charge for Christenings, although I knew we weren't charged for Charles' Christening I wasn't then aware of the amount they had to pay out just to keep their doors open. 

We aren't regular church goers. My husband, although he has been Christened, is not really a believer and I 'have a foot in the door' so to speak.
It is important to us though to have our children Christened and certainly important to me that they know the key stories from the bible.
I am embarrassed and ashamed that I don't know some of the most popular bible stories.
I think that, Christian or not, bible stories should be taught to our children just to widen their everyday trivia and knowledge. Not only this but the stories from the Bible are actually quite lovely.
Whether or not you believe in it you can't tell me that Noahs Ark isn't a cool story?! Or even Mary and Joseph and the birth of baby Jesus.

I think that these days we are quick to criticise and condemn Christians, and religion. I honestly don't know many people at all who regularly attend church or believe in God. Most wouldn't dream of attending a Sunday Service or even be interested in reading even one chapter of the bible.
Yet, the majority of us celebrate Christmas. CHRISTmas. A celebration started of due to a Christian story. It essentially is a Christian Celebration. Take away the tinsel, the presents, the trees, the baubles, the pretty flashy lights, the Christmas pudding and so on. Strip it down so all these things are gone and keep the real celebration of Christmas. Most people I'd know would be back at work living a normal day. Not celebrating the birth of Jesus. 
Easter. Its not just about chocolate. Or an Easter bunny. Its also a religious celebration. Again, something a lot of people I know fail to recognise.

I'm not preaching and telling everyone to go to church. To believe in God and be good Christians.
But I bet all of us notice churches as we drive or walk past. 
I bet at some point all of us comment on the beauty of at least one church.
I love visiting new churches and seeing how they are decorated inside and soaking up the atmosphere inside each one. Although some are not as good as others! 
I couldn't imagine our landscape without churches. Especially the older style ones. So much history and so much work gone into ever inch of its beauty and structure.
Not only this, but church [religion] can provide a lifeline for so many.

One of my nans is a Jehovahs Witness and I know how important her religion is to her and although I am not part of it, I get comfort from the fact that its a key element in her everyday life.
Without it she would be lonely and would struggle to get through the day.

One thing I will do is to teach our sons the story of Christmas and the real reason behind it. I don't want them just to think that Christmas is about presents.
The last two Christmas Eves I have taken Charles to Church, along with my mum. Last years wasn't as great as the first one but this was simply because we wanted to attend another church to see how they celebrated. We didn't enjoy it as much and the atmosphere wasn't as joyous and magical. 
My mum is always well prepared for the collection tin and has let Charles place the money in each time.

If you won't give to the collection tin to keep these churches alive and open, then why are you there in the first place?

After finding out tonight just how important the collection tin is I will also be prepared with money when I visit church in the future. 
They will open their doors to anyone so why not give a little something back. 

8.11.11

Personalised Cake Ribbon

Before you think I am showing you how to make your very own personalised cake ribbon I'll be honest, I'm not.
Instead I am telling you of a company you must use if you need such a product.

As I said before, we are planning Harrys Christening which is to take place in just under 2 weeks time!
My step-nanny is making the cake and after originally planning on buying a "spray" for the top which we could then use for Harry's birthday cakes, we have instead left it up to her to make a sugarcraft crib [or similar] for the top and to stencil on his name. I have left it up to her to surprise me on the day.
I still had the job though to find a personalised ribbon.

Back in April I had started to plan the Christening (yes, even though Harry wasn't even born) and headed straight to eBay to search for banners, balloons, confetti etc.
Personalised cake ribbon was also on my list. I found a few which were nice but not perfect enough and then found one which really stood out.
A wide selection of ribbon and font colours. Hundreds of font styles and a choice of symbols to use at the beginning and end of the wording (cross etc)

Two weeks ago, after finalising the plans for the cake, decided it was best to buy the ribbon so it would arrive on time.
After asking about measurements on Twitter I decided in the end to go for a 2 metre long ribbon. Enough for the cake and some spare.
With the item paid for I sent over the details for the ribbon and expected a delivery within a week or so.....

The very next day the ribbon was with me! How is that for quickness?!
I was excited to see the quality of the ribbon, font, design etc and was so pleased when I realised how fantastic it actually is!
The ribbon colour was perfect and just as I imagined rather than a shade lighter or darker as others experience with other companies. The font was crisp and clear.
Overall the ribbon is seriously perfect and just what I wanted.

I was really glad I used this company rather than some of the others.
In with my ribbon I noticed a leaflet with a web address and had a look at the company website.
I was amazed at the variety of special occassion products they have available and could spend a fortune there.

For great products and great communication I highly recommend www.pawzandribbon.co.uk
Cupcake makers you should check out their personalised cake toppers! Amazing!

* I will post photos of the ribbon afer Harrys Christening.
* I received nothing in exchange for this post. I bought the ribbon myself and chose to write this post. I believe in sharing great products and experiences to help others. The company will only be aware of this post when I point it out to them.

7.11.11

The Letter That Came Early

Sitting having a natter with a friend whilst our boys played nicely together I heard the postman deliver some letters through our door.
With Charles busy making his friend some cups of tea and they looked over his toy cars (he normally grabs the letters from the door and sorts them into mummys letters, daddys letters, charlies letters and food letters) I went to the door myself.
Straight away I noticed the envelope with NHS stamped in big blue writing on the front.
I felt sick.
The only letter I was expecting was the one with the results of my Cervical Screening Examination from last week. I was told the results would be with me in 14 days...not 5.
So obviously I thought the worst.

The morning of the examination I sat in the bath for an hour. Followed by a shower. I then waited until I needed to be out of the door until I got dressed.
I cried just before I left but pulled myself together and headed out. My life, my health, my boys, Jade Goody, all ticking over in my head. And yes I'd even put on some of my Jade Goody perfume just so it kept her fresh in my mind.
I got to the doctors surgery, signed in at the electronic screen and was informed of a 19 minute wait.
Not good.
I didn't want to be able to sit for 19 minutes and think about what was going to happen. And what happened last time I was examined.

Then the board bleeped and my name was written in small red led lights.
Its time to do this!
I walked towards the doctors rooms and went to head right down a seperate corridor to the nurses rooms, I was called by a lady and told to follow her into a room which was in amongst the doctors rooms.
I'd seen this nurse recently when she diagnosed Harrys oral thrush and I warmed to her immediately.
I walked into the room, and didn't know whether or not to sit down or strip off straight away and get on with it.
I sat down.
"So how are you?"
"Nervous" Then the tears came.
"Ok, we're doing a smear test then are we?" She said in a soft kind voice.
We talked about my concerns, about my labour.
She told me I didn't have to do this.
I told her I did.
We to'd and fro'd for a while with this until I said "I'm doing it today. I have to" and with that she said ok, locked the door, drew the blind around the bed and shut the window.

As soon as I sat on the bed I gave myself a pep talk, in my head of course.
Just relax. It'll be done soon. She does this everyday.
I looked at the wall as the examination took place. Although I was ok with her doing what she was doing I just couldn't look. I'd then not be able to relax.
We were talking through some of the examination and I was surprised at how much it didn't hurt.

All I had been told by women before, for years, is how much a smear hurts, how humiliating it is, etc. Never hearing of a positive story.
Sometimes I think women can be far too dramatic. I think its just in our nature to be like this. And sometimes we can't just say "actually it wasn't that bad". We have to, instead, talk about how it hurt, how we were embarrassed, how the nurse was rude, and just the bad points.
Sometimes I think we need to "man up" and look at things from a mans perspective and just say "yeah it was ok, done in 2 minutes, nothing to worry about".

And that's what I'm saying now.
Ok its not comfortable and I expect the device placed in could hurt depending on your body and the person placing it there but we have a voice.
If its uncomfortable, then say so.
If it hurts, then say so.
I was surprised at how quick the examination was.
I had 3 swabs taken and it lasted all of 2/3 minutes.
The nurse said she was done and I asked what the fuss was all about.
And felt silly for crying.

As I got dressed she explained about when I would get results back and about a possible small bleed.
I thanked her for being so kind and admitted I was glad when she called me through as I found the other nurses can be quite hard and harsh and thinking I'd be seeing them made me nervous.

She then said that for future examinations to ask for her if I want to if it makes me feel comfortable.
I said I would.
Then as I left she said something we can all relate to...
"Its your body and your choice"
She was right. You decide what to do with it, who see's it and who touches it.

I did have a little cry of relief in the car and when I got home.
It did bring back some memories of Harrys birth but more so at how rough one of the midwives was and how her actions could of ended up with the vessel being broken and Harry not being with us.

So then I relaxed, thinking that I might as well relax for 14 days as there's no point in worrying until the letter arrives.
I thought surely the letter arriving today must only be a bad thing.

"The results were normal. This means you are low risk at developing Cervical Cancer"

Now I wait another 3 years until my next one and I do feel relaxed about it.
Its daily routine for the nurses and will now become a 3 yearly routine for me.
Nothing to get worked up about. Infact I wouldn't even feel too disappointed if the tests became yearly.
I will try and make sure I can again have a nurse I am comfortable with and I do believe that we should fight to be able to choose who see's us for private consultations.

As for the examination. 3 minutes of feeling a bit uncomfortable for such an important test is so worth it.
Seriously, if you're putting it off for fear of embarrassment then pick up that phone when the surgery opens tomorrow and book your Cervical Screening Examination PLEASE.

Nanny X's Comforting Turkey Soup

Every Christmas my nan (and granddad when he was alive) would come to our house for dinner.
My mum would always hand my nan a bowl containing the Turkey Carcass and some meat.
A couple of days later the bowl would be returned filled with a thick homemade soup. Mmmmm. It was always the best part about Christmas, food wise, when I was little.
It was always such a warming thick soup. Great with a slice or two of bread. Perfect for cold winter days and nights.

When I moved out of home it was quite a quick decision. My fiance (now husband) had got himself a job in Bedfordshire. I didn't want a long distance relationship and it was a case of let me move with you or we split up. Delighted at the fact he chose for me to move with him, once my A Levels were done, he moved first, I had to set about learning how to do certain household jobs. I could already cook but wanted to learn how to make this beautiful soup.
My mum also made it and gave me the recipe. Its so simple and a great way to use up leftovers from a Sunday Roast or from Christmas Dinner.
Its now part of my Christmas routine and Boxing Day morning is spent making a batch of soup.
Three years ago my nan lost her second daughter in the March and had a pretty tough time, understandably, and became a bit frail. We saw her at Christmas and on Boxing Day I sent her home with a bowl of Turkey Soup. I felt so good about myself, knowing I was giving my nanny a lovely comforting meal, which would fill her up and put a smile on her face.
Suitable for a snack, lunch, dinner or supper. Roast dinner-Soup Style!

What You'll Need

Chicken or Turkey Carcuss (with tiny bits of meat left on if poss)
1 or 2 stock cubes (chicken or vegetable)
Vegetables (leftovers or whatever veg is in your cupboard-for this batch I am using potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots. I've even added yorkshire puddings before)

Put your carcass into a large saucepan (break it up to fit it in)
Fill with water until the carcass is covered or almost covered.
Boil for 20-30 minutes, until the water has changed to a beigy colour and the meat is falling from the bone.
Then either, *remove the bones and place in a bowl or another saucepan to make another batch *or sieve the stock into another saucepan and start a new batch in the original saucepan.
Then add your stock cube and vegetables to the stock. If using leftovers then boil for 15-20 minutes. If using fresh vegetables then boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Once this is done then mash the potatoes and vegetables or whizz in a food processor until you are happy with the consistency.
Serve with thick bread.

You'll be surprised at how much meat falls off the bone. Don't throw this away. Save as much as you can and add it to the soup.

To make the soup thicker add more potatoes, add more water to make it thinner. I tend to make a thick batch to begin with as I like my soup really thick. I then add water to my husbands batch as I cook it to make it thinner (as he likes it).

For an alternative to bread why not dip in some Yorkshire Puddings.

When boiling the carcass for a second time you'll need to boil it for a little longer and possibly need to add an extra stock cube.

I find I can make 2-3 batches from one Large Chicken carcass.
Easy to freeze and reheat when needed.
Sorry for lack of photos but still laptopless and having to using my Blackberry.

5.11.11

First Theatre Experience (and Numberjacks Live roundup)

So yesterday Charles experienced his first theatre trip. I posted previously about my excitement and nervousness.
As soon as we arrived and headed towards our seats I realised we were sat next to a friend of mine...who also happens to be my French teacher from High School. Immediately I felt comfort that if Charles was to play up I wouldn't be so highly judged.
Charles sat on his seat and concentrated on drinking his Fruit Shoot and I caught up with my friend.
Charles then decided he wanted to sit on my lap, which I didn't mind. Those theatre seats can be quite heavy and he's just a tiny boy so hardly has any weight to keep it down, besides I wasn't going to turn down those extra cuddles.

There were numbers 1-6 on the stage. Just foam (?) numbers which would come up to your knees. The Numbertaker came on and took away Number 4.
Charles did not like this and proceeding to shout "Bring it back. Bring it back" whilst holding back tears. A simple fib of telling him the man had taken the number to the toilet seemed to calm the situation.

I don't want to ruin the story for anyone but sadly have to report that there wasn't much of a story.
I expected it to be almost like the TV show, heavily featuring the Numberjacks at least, but found it to be too focused on two adults who seemed to be auditioning for a Disney show! I am a fan of over-acting in the right show and where needed but this was a different level. I also cannot stand children being patronised by adults and found this happening. It seriously made me cringe.
The only Numberjacks that came onto stage was Number 4, Number 3 (sort of, a lady burst out of the costume and proceeded to overact to extreme proportions. So much so that I had to not look at her for fear of making eye contact and her realising how unimpressed I was) and Number 1.
These numbers didn't talk, other than the human version of number 3, which I also found frustrating because they do in the programme.

There was no flow to the story, and at times just seemed to be rushed and involved the 3 adults just shouting over each other.
It was very 'mishmashed' and at times I couldn't even follow what was going on. It was almost like there was no script and they were making it up as they went along.
At times it seemed that the adults just wanted to stand on a stage and throw themselves around. I looked at Charles and even he seemed confused by it all so I tried to encourage some emotions in him by saying "oh look at that lady dancing, that's funny isn't it".
Other Numberjacks featured briefly on a big screen.

And something which annoyed me the most, the quality of the costumes and props. The foam numbers were battered and dented. Now I realise these items are transported from town to town and will have the odd knock but, to me, these looked like they weren't looked after at all. And when 'Number 4' turned round the costume was really quite dirty at the back. Again I realise about transportation but this character doesn't lay on the floor at all or rub against a wall so the dirty-ness surely occurs when in transit. I'm sure this could be avoided, or even a quick sponge clean would've got rid of the marks.

Now, I realise this is aimed at children and, ok they may not notice these issues I've addressed, but paying £10 for my son to see this show I expect it to have a proper story and to have clean costumes and almost immaculate props.
As well as this we paid £12 for my seat, so I don't feel it unreasonable that I also expected to be entertained.

I *think* Charles enjoyed it. He wanted more when it finished and told his daddy about it when we were picked up.
He wasn't disappointed as such but I do think though that he expected to see more of the Numberjacks and the evil characters too.
There was an interval 30 minutes in and I personally don't think this was necessary and found a lot of the children became impatient and agitated. It was hard for some of us to distract our children and make them realise there was more to come.

Aside from this it was great to spend time with Charles and for him to experience the theatre for the first time.
He says he had fun, which is what counts and he got a free poster at the end which made him happy!

3.11.11

The Numberjacks Are On Their Way...

I'm so excited. I'll get straight to the point.
I am taking Charles to the theatre for the first time tomorrow to see NumberJacks Live.
I simply cannot wait.
Part of me is nervous, that he won't behave. Won't sit on his seat (I imagine he will sit on my lap as he is scared of those fold down seats). Worried he'll be so distracted by the children around him.
We're in the second row, close to the middle. Something I'm now expecting to be a mistake on my part. Should I of asked to be on the end so we can make a quick getaway should his behaviour let me down?
Not that I think a quick getaway would be possible. I expect we would experience a full on tantrum if I tried to remove him from the room.

I'm also hoping no children around us have chocolate or sweets. I fear a major meltdown if they do and I don't supply some myself. I also am not totally keen on having my child sit through a theatre show and stuffing his face with sweets.
Although sadly I fear this is unavoidable and dinner will be well and truly ruined! (4pm show)

Before I had children I visited the theatre regularly with my mum. We'd see a variety of shows, comedy, drama, thriller, musicals. And it is something I miss.
As a child we would visit the Pantomime a a family, around Christmas and this was something I desperately hoped I would do with my children and really look forward to being able to do it.
Tomorrow will be the test to seeing if Charles is up to visiting the Pantomime this year too.

I personally am not a fan of Numberjacks. I find them quite annoying (sorry Writers of Numberjacks) but I am hoping I can use them to aid Charles' development.
(I would much rather be going to see Show Me Show Me!)
He loves them too and informed me yesterday that "We're going to see Numberjacks Mummy" "yes we are, on Friday" "yes, my very excited".

For the past 4 months I haven't had a solo trip with just me and Charles so I'm very much looking forward to spending some quality time with him.
I can't quite believe I feel a bit nervous about having that time just the two of us. Not in a "will be behave" kind of way, but in a nervous excitement way.
Butterflies in your tummy nervous excitement.

The Numberjacks are on their way....

2.11.11

A Broken Bed and The Secret Book Place

When Charles was born we agreed that, because I was "in charge" of feeding him, my husband would be "in charge" of nappy time (which he never minded) and bath time.  
He's also always been head of story reading, well as he's a voiceover in the daytime it seems only right that he would use his talents at home too.

There have been times when I've been downstairs cleaning or making dinner, or just having a 5 minute sit down after a busy day and felt the need to rush upstairs to be with them both at storytime.
Not because my husband is that good at reading stories (although he is very good but that's not the reason I rush upstairs)
But simply because I get a bit jealous. I hear them both having fun, giggling away, making little jokes that I don't understand. But also I just love listening and watching them bond.
I love seeing this strong father/son relationship build and get stronger and stronger.

Imagine my shock a week and a half ago when I realised that Charles' bed had somehow broke. I asked him if he knew what had happened and he told me "nanny sue done it" (my mum had been changing the bedding when I found the bed broken)
I told my husband who simply said "I didn't do it" Giggled and scuttled off. When I asked him to explain the giggle he told me that Charles has pushed him onto the bed and it had split.
Surely a toddler couldn't push a grown man hard enough that he could break a bed?
Staring at him I eventually got the truth.
"I might of jumped on his bed when we were playing"
Oh dear!
That night I tried to get the truth out of Charles. He looked at his daddy not knowing what to say. It was quite a sweet moment. He didn't want his daddy in trouble, but at the same time, knew he had to tell me the truth.
He gave my husband a "please forgive me" smile and turned to me and said "oh no, daddy broke the bed".

Other than this secret, they also share another secret.
Secret book place.
I remember putting Charles to bed one night and he kept mentioning "book place".
I had no idea what he was talking about.
My husband then told me it was the place he keeps his current favourite book, rather than with the rest on the shelf in his bedside table.

Although I don't want to encourage Charles fibbing and keeping secrets from me I do love Secret Book Place.
Every night I sneak into his room whilst my husband is getting him ready for bed and ask where Secret Book Place is. Sometimes he'll tell me.
Sometimes he'll tell me he doesn't know, or gives me the wrong answer.

I truly hope my husband is able to build this same sort of relationship with Harry too when he's older.

1.11.11

Almost.

Looking at memorial photos.
Writing messages of support.
Reading miracle stories.
Reading tragic stories.
All I can think about is that it was almost him.
It was almost Harry.
He was almost a Vasa Praevia Angel.

It was almost my fault.

It's not as easy as people think.
To move on from that situation.
To accept that he is here, and he is ok.

Everytime he smiles at me my tummy fills with butterflies and my eyes fill with tears. Realising how close we could've been to not experiencing these moments.

You can't just move on.
Not just like that.
It's not easy knowing your body almost let you down, right at the very end.
It helped to grow, protect, nourish, love this baby then....
It's almost like a punishment.
Like building your perfect, dream home. Then right at the last minute, it all crashes down, with no warning. Leaving you with nothing.

I realise how lucky I am.
How lucky I was, that my body almost fought against itself. Not pushing hard enough, just incase that vessel burst.
At the same time, my body had planted
the vessel there.
Its hard to decide how you feel about yourself after that.
How you feel about your body.

Ashamed. Respected. Disappointed. Proud. Angry. Joyous.

Its not a case of "just don't look" at the photos and the stories.
I was one of the few lucky ones. (95% mortality rate) and feel that its my duty to show respect and support to those who weren't as lucky as us.

Something I can never get my head round is how hard it would've been to have to come home and explain to Charles that Harry wouldn't be coming home.
I am so grateful that this wasn't the reality.

I'm so grateful that I can look I both boys, smiling at me, smiling at each other, cuddling, babbling/talking to each other.

I'm feel so terribly lucky to have Harry here, next to me...
Every
Single
Day.

The Jade Goody Effect

I've mentioned before and am not ashamed to admit that I was (and still am, despite her no longer being with us) a Jade Goody fan.

I'll never forget the images of her so poorly during her tough battle with Cervical Cancer.

I was pregnant at the time with Charles.
It was hard to know that she would be leaving behind two boys, especially a I was due to welcome my first into the world soon.

I remember the moment my husband came into the bedroom on Mothers Day 2009 and told me that she'd lost her fight. I cried all day.
The day of her funeral, I cried all day. My husband ended up taking me out for lunch when he got in from work that morning and tried to keep me out of the house for the remainder of the afternoon so I didn't watch the tv footage of her funeral.

Last year I received my letter inviting me for a Cervical Screening Examination. I was, at the time, going through an abnormal bleed which turned out to be a chemical pregnancy but my plan was to have the examination once the bleeding had settled down and my periods were back to normal. This was also agreed with a doctor.

I then fell pregnant with Harry so didn't get round to booking my appointment and having the examination.
And I will be honest, I was quietly relieved.
I don't understand though why we are so self-conscious and shy about "that area" of our bodies.
Why do we treat it any differently to our hands? Knees? Feet?
Since breastfeeding I feel more comfortable showing my breasts to a doctor if I had a problem but still feel tense and anxious about them giving me a vaginal examination.

I'm incredibly self-conscious about "that area". Especially after having two children, and especially as it was only recently that I gave birth.

Last week I received a letter.
It was an invite to a Cervical Screening Examination.
I immediately went all funny and my mind was telling me not to pick up the phone and book an appointment. Just rip up the letter and ignore it.
But I couldn't.
One name popped into my head, Jade Goody, and that was it. I had to book it.
I figured I had to book it there and then before I changed my mind and put it off.

"Next Wednesday at 9:50?"
"Yes, ok. I'm free."
I felt an odd weight lifted from my shoulders yet a sick feeling.
The last time I was examined "down there" was when Harry was born and it brings back awful memories for me due to the trauma I suffered.
Thankfully I know that on the system at my doctors surgery they have noted that I had a traumatic birth so I hope the nurse is aware of this and isn't so harsh when I cry and tense up.

When I was 21 I asked my surgery if I could have a smear test and was told no, because the age in England for smears is 25+.
I honestly think this is disgusting.

If it wasn't for Jade Goody though I doubt I'd of seen the appointment as terribly necessary. Especially as my previous smear test request was brushed off and made it feel as though it wasn't important.

With two young boys now and not being that much younger than Jade was I know how important it is to get seen, to get tested and to seek help when there is an abnormality.
Thankfully this is just a routine test and not due to any abnormalities I have sensed or am worried about.
Before go into the room tomorrow I will think of Jade, her boys and my boys and know that this 15 minutes of discomfort and embarressment will be totally worth it.

If only they supplied gas and air to make it a little bit easier.....