Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pancakes Shmankakes

I have tried, every year since I can remember (OK the last 4), to make pancakes. Normal, thin, crepe-esque pancakes. Not the thick spongey Scotch/American ones. And let me tell you, I am not a crap cook! I'm actually quite good. I have friends who (I think) can testify to this! But the ability to make a batch of crisp, even, round yummy pancakes escapes me every year. Mine absolutely alway end up as burnt fatty lumps of under-cooked-in-the-middle batter. I have tried everything....different recipes, different pan heats, different techniques. I don't think I've ever got it right. I don't get it. I make really BRILLIANT Yorkshire puds.....aren't they supposed to be the same thing? 

My mum used to make the most delicious, delicate pancakes. My brother and I just blindly took it for granted that every Pancake Day we would be shoving our faces full of sticky sweet sugar and lemon juice laden pancakes and we wouldn't even have to have proper dinner first or anything! It didn't occur to me that there would be some skill involved in the creation of these yummy, spherical treats. 

Imagine my surprise when, the first pancake day after having Gus, I faced the disappointing reality that pancakes are actually really not that easy. At least, not for me. I was picturing a fun evening of frying and tossing but NO! The reality was a rollercoaster of tears and anger and shouting and eventually just quiet disappointment. And that's a process that has been repeated every year since, as I just could not accept defeat in the face of something seemingly so easy! 

This year, however, I have given in. I have bought pre-made pancakes. My name is Jess Helicopter and I am a sell-out. But I don't care that I am a sell out because I am going to have a happy house of hungry Helicopters this evening whose craving for pancakes will be immediately sated within 10 minutes of me getting home! Hoorah! 

By the way, if I hear one more person tell me another "fail safe" way to cook pancakes....... THAT SHIP HAS SAILED. 

Don't judge me. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Drugs Saved My Marriage

Drugs saved my marriage.

If you know me, the real life me, not just interwebby, heavily edited, “I’m SO funny” me....you’ll know that I can be moody, stroppy or stressy me. Although, if we’re friends on Facebook you probably do know that as well.

I have also had, from time to time, periods of depression and anxiety. Not just anxiousness about something tangible, like a driving test or 10 (don’t even talk to me about that!) but free floating anxiety that permeates everything, leaving me paralysed with fear for NO reason. Rendering me incapable of concentrating or functioning other than on a very basic level. Thank GOD I haven’t experienced too much that since Gus was about 15 months bar a few wobbly days but I am always aware that it has the capacity to come back at any given moment if things start to overwhelm me emotionally....like being permanently angry for no reason at nothing and then exploding at my husband and my kids and feeling sick, SICK with guilt.....

First, a little background info.

My first memory of feeling anxious (although I had no idea that’s what it was) was moving to a new school in London after moving from Wales when I was 4. Specifically watching my new school doing a version of the Nutcracker and feeling sick and nervy but not really knowing why...the music still gives me the creeps now.

 Another time was when I had a case of cystitis as a kid and I was stuck in an assembly line waaaay far from the exit to the loos and I had a panic attack. This led me to years of associative anxiety if I was ever away from a loo especially being stuck in traffic jams on the bloody M25....leading to much amusement about taking ice cream tubs on even short car journeys JUST IN CASE! 

As an adult, anxiety reared its ugly head in the form of what friends and I would call “booze blues”...if we’d had big sessions on the beer and we’re feeling wobbly or miserable or anxious the next day. But the proper, everyday, hit-you-like-a-ton-of-bricks anxiety came when I went through the time which I like to refer to as Cancer-gate. My beloved Nana (Mum’s mum) was in hospital being operated on for secondary cancer of the womb. That same day, my mum, at 49, was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. Within 2 months my Nana (who everyone expected to pull through) was dead and my mum had had a mastectomy and was on her second round of Chemo. That time SUCKED. It was horrendous and I guess unsurprisingly my tiny mind couldn’t cope!

I didn’t turn to drugs though. It actually never occurred to me at that point. I saw a counsellor but I don’t think she helped much. I just felt like a stupid, blubbing idiot every time I was there. I knew that anxiety was a common side effect of grief and I thought it would go at some point.

It wasn’t until a year later that I started to feel more and more desolate and insular despite my Mum doing brilliantly. I realised I was depressed. I had lost interest in everything. I cried at everything. I just wanted to sleep and never see anyone or do anything. So I went to the doctor. I was prescribed 20mg Citalopram. 6 weeks later I felt normal again. Not super-whizzy delirious and jumping through fields of flowers on a warm sunny day happy....just....normal. It was amazing. I had no idea how not normal I’d been feeling until I felt like me again. I re-emerged into the world as if I’d never been gone. That was 11 years ago.

Cancer-gate left a lot of emotional scars and I spent a few years flailing about trying to find some stability in my life (also a few years of brilliant, happy, drunken, silly times but flailing nevertheless). Of course, at the most unexpected time in my life...when I’d just finished a destructive relationship and had moved home from Oz in a pit of debt and misery...  I did find emotional stability....in the form of my husband. Now PLEASE don’t misinterpret this as some Victorian-esque misogynistic statement that a woman needs a man to be happy! All I mean is that I finally found a relationship that filled my emotional needs. 

But I still didn’t feel like I needed to come off the Citalopram. Some people I know, who have taken anti-depressants to help them through PND or other tough emotional episodes in their lives have been desperate to be rid of the pills. I completely understand that but I’ve never felt like I needed to. That’s not to say that when I was first prescribed them, I didn’t feel like a complete an utter failure in life! Why do I have to have DRUGS to make me feel NORMAL????? OTHER PEOPLE can cope without them! What’s WRONG with me?! WHY AM I SO PATHETIC?! I was so hard on myself.

But over the years I’ve learnt that people are so different in their abilities to cope and that’s OK. I’d never think that about anyone else who took anti-depressants! I DON’T think that about the millions of people who take them, and whatever else they need to make themselves feel OK. So I stopped beating myself up about it too.

Why am I talking about it today though? Well since having Joni, I’ve been steadily getting angrier and angrier at less and less. To begin with, I thought it was lack of sleep, surging hormones, the stress and strain of having 2 small kids (one of whom didn’t sleep and spent the first 4 months crying for 3 hours every evening). Then later, trying to juggle work, and driving lessons, and having a gastric band (yeah great timing on your life choices Jess!) and two small kids....but then I really started to dread weekends. This brilliant post resonated with me. But then our weekends seemed to always ALWAYS end up with rows and fights and tears and shouting. And me shouting a LOT. And loud and scarily and then hitting walls and scaring my kids and making my husband hate me. I was this person but much, much worse. And I was spending all my time thinking that I can’t wait for Joni to be older because things will be easier but then feeling sick with guilt because I want to enjoy her NOW at THIS age.

One of my friends said that I was so lucky to be able to enjoy Christmas with two small kids and how magical it would be. I thought she was mad! It was going to be a hell of fighting and tantrums and shouting and wishing for bedtime EVERYDAY OF THE HOLIDAYS. Thankfully it wasn’t at all...it was lovely...probably because however angry I am, I am still obsessed with Christmas. And booze. Booze helped.

But I knew in the New Year I would have to do something to address it. It was starting to make me feel anxious. And if it wasn't a threat enough that I was damaging my kids and my marriage with my irrational outbursts, the thought of returning feeling of constant terror was enough to make me face it head on.

I thought about seeing my counsellor (I’ve got a great one now) and I've looked into doing some anger management courses. I downloaded some meditation apps to help me relax before I go to sleep but part of the problem was, I wasn't sure if my anger was just from me being overwhelmed by my situation....which even though short term and not terrible, is fairly full on. is it ok to need some outside help to get me through this time of small kids, working life, driving lessons, lack of sleep, constant dieting? There IS a lot of stuff going on. And each time I WAS angry.... and this applies to when I get PMT anger too....I felt totally justified in being that angry. Not so much with my kids....usually I was angry because they were moaning but they were moaning because they were being hurried because I had made us late...and I could see that pattern of behaviour and was trying to change it. But with my husband...I'd be angry because of the most pathetic things and I REALLY FELT I WAS IN THE RIGHT. I'd argue to the death that I was right and that I had every right to be apoplectic because his decision making was JUST.SO.STUPID. What a bitch. What a horrible, horrible bitch. 

In the end, the only thing I felt that would have an immediate effect on my behaviour would be if I went back to the doctor. I asked him if he could up my Citalopram to 30mg. And he did. 

Luckily we had a fairly peaceful few weeks following that visit. I've found that usually making the decision to make the change is the hardest part. The acknowledgment that things aren't ok and they need to change and the fact that I was doing something proactive to change helped the weeks pass more uneventfully. 4 weeks down the line though I DO feel different. I feel NORMAL. Again not skippy, happy, ecstatic. Just OK. And NOT angry. I mean, I do get the angers but over things that are normal to be angry about like my son being rude to strangers, formulas going wrong in spreadsheets at work, the end of the wine etc. But I'm not being mental about ridiculous things like Emlyn buying a ready meal that contains aubergine because EVERYBODY KNOWS AUBERGINE IN READY MEALS ISN'T COOKED PROPERLY...what is WRONG with yOU that you didn't KNOW THAT?! 

The shame. 

This last weekend was brilliant. I didn’t dread it. I didn’t spend my time shouting at everyone and praying for the kids’ bedtime to come around. I didn’t look forward to going back to work on Monday so I could have some peace. I ENJOYED my kids!  I was NICE to my husband. It was a HAPPY house. Thank YOU Citalopram! I think you just saved my marriage. 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

I am a woman of many hats.

So. I am a woman of many hats. I have come to this conclusion only this week. And each one requires completely different skills, socially, emotionally and physically. It’s bloody exhausting! And yet it is the nature of working Motherhood. Actually it’s the nature of Motherhood in general, because your Mum hat is not the same as your Wife/Girlfriend/Partner hat and Friend hat. Anyway, this post is going to be hat-heavy so if you have some weird HAT phobia, look away now.

This is just ONE hour in the life of all of my Hats:

Mum Hat
I am the mum….i am everything that mum incorporates….I am responsible, loving, fiercely loyal/protective, bossy, strict, shouty, short on patience, concerned, caring.  I’m  obsessed with feeding them correctly so I meet all the nutritional requirements that will stop them developing some hideous disease, disciplining correctly to ensure they tow the line but are not emotionally scarred from the shouty mother who loses patience too quickly when at 8.45am with school starting in FIVE MINUTES and they still haven’t got their SHOES ON!!!! In this guise I am theirs completely. We get ready for the childminder drop off for child 2 and school for child 1. (obviously birth orders not orders of preference).
I’m with the childminder, I am talking about my child’s lunch and her nappies and her mood that morning and then me and child 2 are off to school with my Mum hat firmly on my head.
But walking into the playground, as soon as I see another Mum-friend, this hat gets yanked off and I am wearing….

Friend Hat
Friend Hat
I am chatty, “Hi hi” and trying to be funny “yeah my one’s a little shit too” and self deprecating because I want to be your friend “I’m such a LOSER” and we’re talking about some inane crap but it’s fun and I’m enjoying and then a tug on my leg….

“Mummy it’s time to go iiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnn” “Mummy I need a weeeeeeeeee” “mummy I want to go on the climbing frame”

And zooooom on goes the Mum Hat! Which is temporarily confusing and disorienting to my tiny brain….! Wha’? i? Oh yes I’m wearing the Mum Hat. “Ok babes…off you/we go” etc. And then I am fully wearing the hat because I am talking to the teacher about reading or packed lunch or something else equally thrilling.

Then I am back in the playground for more Friend Hat activity and banter. I’ve instantly forgotten I have kids and right in THAT moment I am all about trying to bring the funnies.
Then off I trot off to work…completely and utterly in a world of my own. I have an idea…I’ll just pop into Mum’s for a quick cuppa before work, I’ve got 10 mins. I’ll throw on my…..

Daughter Hat
I am silly, stroppy, bossy, giving my mum unwanted opinions about her decorating choices, asking her advice about disciplining my child or feeding them or whatever and then I am listening and talking and listening and listening and chatting and having coffee and having fun. Then all to soon I have to leave to go to work so I know which hat to choose now obviously but hang on, what’s this?! I’ve had a text from Emlyn….he’s having some work based crisis….i quickly fling on….

Wife Hat
I am concerned, I am being diplomatic, I am trying to rationalise the crisis, I am supportive, I am comforting, I am promising rude things to cheer him up later, and trying to bring the funnies yet again. Husband appeased……I’m reaching for the Work hat…..

Walk along the road, wearing the Work hat, thinking of buying coffee and what spreadsheets I have to trawl through and who I have to pay and Bam! I walk straight into a school mum!

Friend Hat! “Hi Hi” we’re chatting about school places…”I haven’t seen you in ages, oh you didn’t get into Hawthorn? Oh but how is….blah blah blah” but then out of the corner of my eye I spot a colleague coming towards me …this is awkward….i don’t know this woman well and I need to get to work and my two worlds are about to collide but phew! Conversation winds down and I only have to greet the work colleague with a head nod and wave as they cross the road to get milk for the office and I reach the office door and finally put on my…..

Work Hat.
I’m focused, I’m pumped, I’m ready to face my dullsville spreadsheets, I’ve got my coffee, the computer’s on…..text from the childminder. Child number 2 has got a temperature….I need to pick her up and take her home and………I’m swapping my hats once more……

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Bloody Fantastic, Non-boring Kettle Review! With Video and everything!

Hey you guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuys! So long time no see eh? I'm sorry for my huge absence...I've been trying to cope with 2 small, demanding young kiddiewinks, learning to drive (and so far a total of TWO tests...ugh!), trying to manage my eating with my gastric band and multiple other boring things like holding down a job and sorting out a household....you know....the USUAL. 


I've been sent a kettle to review. BEYOND excited! I've never done anything official and posh
like this before. And I fit perfectly into the demographic they were aiming for..... Mums who's kids might be woken by a noisy kettle! I have a 15 month old girl (as you know...the delicious but sleep averse Joni) who often is left sleeping in her buggy in the kitchen with us paralysed by fear, unable to eat or drink for the next however long, lest she wake from the precious sleep. For the last year plus, she's been taken out EVERY NIGHT in her buggy to get her to sleep and then shoved into the darkened kitchen with us tip-toeing around like fools for the rest of the evening. To have a kettle that doesn't sound like a Mississippi Steam Liner going thru the kitchen sounded flipping A to us! 

So I was sent the Russell & Hobbs Buckingham Kettle which claims to have a 75% quieter boil and a lushious press pack which included delcious organic teas, gorgeous little tea cups, some macrons and a vest for Joni Jo. 

But the best way to show you how effective the kettle is (or not, click to find out!) was to do a little vlog. Which I am ALSO super excited about because now you all get to see my massive face bearing down on you! The only slight problem is that I filmed it on my phone in portrait mode and you'll see why this is a problem when you watch my brilliantly edited *cough* film below. Enjoy my big face / chav nails combo and read more about the Russell & Hobbs Buckingham range below.

The Press Release for the range: 

"Picture the scene - it’s 11am and you have finally managed to get the baby to sleep. The slightest sound could wake your little one, but you really fancy a cuppa and don’t want to risk waking the baby with the roaring sound that some boiling kettles make.  

This common predicament faced by many mum has led home appliances expert, Russell Hobbs, to develop its latest breakfast collection - The Buckingham Range - to help parents enjoy their days, and nights, in peace and with a brew in their hand.  
The Buckingham Kettle (ARP £39.99) is the rangequiet champion and with its 75% quieter boil, it is perfect for mothers trying not to stir their baby’s slumber 
Not only will you get more peace, you’ll get your cuppa quicker too, thanks to the Buckingham Kettle’s rapid boil feature. The perfect pour spout and 1.7L capacity mean that the Buckingham Kettle is ideal for tea and macaroons with your mum pals as well as sterilising the baby’s bottle and helping with food preparation, enabling you to really benefit from the key features of this kettle.  
It looks sleek too with its brushed stainless steel finish and the neat light ring which illuminates on boiling, and it also comes with a handy cup volume display  
The Russell Hobbs Buckingham range also features a toaster and coffee maker – both super speedy and equally as quiet.  
ImageTime saving, flexibility and control are key to the Buckingham Toaster (ARP £29.99 2 slice, ARP £49.99 4 slice) making your busy life that bit easier. The faster toasting technology (55% quicker*means you don’t have to wait as long when you fancy that well-earned snack, perfect for in between feeds and changing nappies.  
And whether it’s a crumpet or a teacake, the wide slots with extra lift mean it easily accommodates things other than the white-sliced loaf. The Buckingham offers greater toasting precision too, with its frozen, cancel and reheat functions, variable browning control and indicator light, offering a helping hand when you’re busy juggling other tasks 
Both the two and four slice models are finished in brushed stainless steel and a feature light ring display that tells you when it’s busy toasting.  

ImageWhen it comes to coffee we’re a fussy bunch and quality is our number one concern, especially when you need that extra boost after a busy day and sleepless nightImproved water distribution and speedy heat-up to reach the optimum brewing temperature quicker means the Buckingham Coffee Machine (ARP £49.99) makes a better tasting cup of coffee.  
If it’s your turn to host the anti-natal coffee morning then the large (1.25L) glass carafe holds up to 10 cups of coffee, whilst also offering a 2-4 cup setting if it’s just for you and a friend whilst the baby napsFancy waking to the smell of freshly brewed coffee? Then the Buckingham’s 24-hour programmable timer is what you’re looking for.  
The machine looks great with its stainless steel finish and illuminated ring that glows blue during brewing. The Buckingham will stay looking great too, thanks to its auto clean feature.  
What do you love about home? Go to www.russellhobbs.co.uk and tell us what you love be it bagels in bed, freshly ironed sheets or something else and you we’ll reward our favourites"

I sincerely hope you've loved my return to the medium of blog! Let me know your thoughts, if you have any. 

Do you think you would have liked to have a quieter kettle when your little ones are small? 

Would it be a consideration for you when buying a new kettle now? 
Especially if you have another one on the way/planned? 

Hit me with some comments peeps! And of course, don't be shy about sharing the love! 

Family Fever
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Monday, 6 October 2014


It’s Autumn! Hooray…the weather is finally getting colder and the leaves have properly burst into red and orange flames! Yes I AM being a ponce but I do LOVE the brrrrrr of going for walks through the crisp, spicy-aired park on the weekends and toastiness of staying-in on blustery Autumn nights, snuggling under sofa rugs and drinking wine (Stoptober) de-caf coffee. And this weekend we wandered firstly around Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on a tip off from a mate because we were on a conker hunt….CONKERS!!!!! And after filling our boots (or rather, the bottom of the buggy) we then went over the foot bridge to the Castle grounds for an over-priced coffee as we wandered through the golden-brown trees. It was lovely.

Back to the most exciting part of the walk though…. CONKER HUNTING!!!!! Oh my goodness, the second I squeezed a conker from its spiky green shell, I was transported IMMEDIATELY to my Infant School Playground where loads of Horse Chesnut trees over-hang. I remember we would collect BAGS full of them, in search of the biggest, hardest, shiniest specimen. I was SO excited finding the ground of the park strewn with them! We picked up LOADS.

But of course it didn’t actually dawn on me until we got home that actually we would have to do something with the blighters. So trawling thru Pinterest racking my very creative and original imagination *cough* I came up with a plan to get Gus to decorate them and stick them in a glass vase to show them off. Leaving a few to teach him how to have a proper conker bash-off OBVS. (um, I’m not sure “bash-off” is the correct term in this context….)

The end result, however, is actually a bit rubbish and not massively inspiring. The paint I mixed up wasn’t right for the very non-porous conkers and so mainly slid off. And the glitter just looked a bit garish and silly. The best results came from my new favourite thing….METALLIC SHARPIES! So if you wanted something a bit more tasteful then I would ignore your children’s cries, not let them anywhere near the creative input and do it yourself. I snuck out my favourite conkers and put them in a poncey jar with a candle and whilst being ridiculously twee, I am very happy with the result.

Of course, that’s not really in the spirit of things though and I actually had LOADS of fun doing this with Gus. It managed to keep him entertained for a whole hour which for a 4 year old boy is bordering on a miracle. And I am being mean really because his conkers are fun and colourful.

I hope you are all enjoying the lovely crisp Autumness. Christmas soon….woohOoOOOO!!!!!

#CraftyOctober 2014 on The Purple Pumpkin Blog