Sunday, 29 March 2015

What might happen on your first day back at work after maternity leave

Our very own 'last supper' this week

Arlo and I made a trip across the water to Southampton this week for lunch with my brilliant sister and equally brilliant nephew. It was kind of a 'last supper' because next week she goes back to work after maternity leave and we're going to work opposite days which means mid-week meet-ups will be a thing of the past. I don't think she's exactly looking forward to returning to work at the moment, and it's got me thinking about when I went back and left little Arlo for a full day with the childminder for the first time. It felt pretty scary. Scary and unknown. So I've been thinking about what I wish someone had told me when I was in the same boat, 18 months ago. Just so I had half a clue of what it might go like. So here goes:

What might happen on your first day back at work after maternity leave:

You might have a little cry when you drop him off for the first day. And it's totally cool to have a little cry when you drop him off for the first day. And any other day after that too, if you feel like it.

He might feel a little nervous when you drop him off. But there's a whole new world of toys to play with and friends to make that will distract him in no time.

You might have a little stomach lurch when you walk through the office doors and wonder whether you're actually able to function as anything other than a mum these days and whether you've completely forgotten how to do your job.

You might forget some things. Things like; your computer password, how your colleagues like their tea, how to have a conversation with an adult that doesn't focus on sleeping patterns and nappy contents. But lots of things come flooding back really quickly.

You might look round the office and wander what the F you're doing here when you could be at home cuddling on the sofa, reading Dear Zoo for the fiftieth time of the day and loving it as much as you did the first time round.

You might forget where you are for a moment and say something like "silly mummy!" loudly when you accidentally close the file you're working on, instead of something more office appropriate like "oh god what a terrible dick I am" (that might be specific to my office only).

You might find the day goes a lot quicker than you thought it would.

You might remind yourself how shit hot you are at your job and feel quite satisfied at the end of the day.

You might end up enjoying yourself (a little bit). And he might too.

But whatever does happen on your first day back, there are some things I can almost guarantee: 

You will finish the day.

You will see him afterwards and he will give you the best smile you've ever seen.

He will be OK. And you will too.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Friday I'm in love... with Spring cleaning

Our dining room on the first day of Spring: yay for natural light, boo for impending home improvements.
Something's been happening round here lately. There's lots more light about. I've been buying flowers. Arlo's been running round the garden like a mad man. It's Spring! And I am so bloody chuffed about it. The house is looking lighter and brighter, which is always a good thing, but the changing of the season, combined with a few home improvements of late (hello new old Ercol dining table and chairs, you're lovely but please stop showing up the rest of the place) has made me notice all the things that still need doing around the house. I'm not talking Spring cleaning as much as Spring changing, chucking and improving. Which is great because I have loads of time on my hands to potter around doing such things (jokez, loool etc etc).

So I've started a list (all the best intentions start with a good list, after all) and am making it public here in a bid to try and actually stick to it. Hopefully I'll be able to do updates on all the things that improved as and when they get ticked off the list. I'll try to avoid anything embarrassing like that time I publicly pledged to start a new patchwork crochet blanket project, and just got as far as two squares and never ever mentioned it again. Ahem.

So, here's what I want to focus on this Spring/ Summer:

  • Finish the patio - finally. We're so close
  • Sort out the rest of the garden so it matches the beauty of the patio. painted fences and walls, flowers everywhere, grow something we can eat - some herbs AT LEAST
  • Get round to painting the alcove in the front room that isn't the same colour as all the other walls (can you spot it!?)
  • Arlo's bedroom door has had a coat of primer on it for months now. It just needs to be painted. I really want to do it because I've got his name sign all ready to go on it. It just seems like such a boring task. Must make myself do this.
  • Paint the bathroom. I've already done it once since we moved, but it was a bad impulse colour choice. I'll never be sharing pics of the bathroom unless they're the 'before' images to illustrate how much it's changed and is newly-beautiful because it would be too distressing for you all to witness it in its current state.
  • Do SOMETHING to the front garden. Lick of paint on the front of the house. Some plants. I like the idea of window boxes too. Just something!
  • Get the spare room painted so you don't see the edges of where we removed the wall at the end of last year. This is the room we've actually done the most to since we moved in - walls knocked down, upstairs loo removed, carpet removed, floorboards sanded and painted. It's getting there!
  • Pipe Dream #1: some fantastic wallpaper in the bedroom. Inspiration here
  • Pipe Dream #2: new tiles on the kitchen floor. Been pinning pics like a mad woman while dreaming about this. Further inspiration here.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015


We spent an impromptu morning at the park this Saturday, where Arlo spent most of the time going backwards and forwards inside this green hexagon. We followed his hexagon adventures with a visit to the library. I have to say, the library was AMAZING and I can't believe we've never been - it's not our local one which we've visited a few times, it's the 'main' one I suppose, probably the biggest on The Island. It was brilliant to have a gazillion new books to choose from, as well as some massive bean bags to snuggle into and make a little reading nest together. It still amazes me how happy Arlo is to sit on my lap and read books together. He never seems to tire of it. We spent a good 20 minutes quietly reading together and his concentration didn't waver - it's something we've done since he was really little so it's probably a comforting place to be for him.

Other things he loved about the library: playing hide and seek behind the rows of books, sitting at the little child-sized table and chair to do some crayoning, discovering Sticklebricks for the first time. We will be going back soon for more of all the above for sure.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

My son the feminist

I was lucky enough to spend some time in the presence of one of my lady-heroes last week - Caitlin Moran. She's written things that have changed me. She says the cleverest things in the funniest way and makes things so strikingly simple - I fell in love with her a bit just listening to her discuss the things she cares about. She talked about reclaiming the term 'feminist' so that it's accessible and something to be proud of being.

When I was growing up, being a feminist had some negative 'man hater' / 'burn your bra' type connotations that I didn't really understand or identify with. And it confused me for a while because men and bras are two of my most favourite things. But I love how it's now becoming increasingly ubiquitous and understood a term. To paraphrase (and for the avoidance of doubt, as I've heard some questionable definitions lately) a feminist is someone who thinks men and women should be treated equally. It's simple. It's obvious. It shouldn't really need a term of its own if you think about it, because it should be given. It should just be everyone.

But it's not - not yet anyway. I was thinking this week about what it means to raise boys and how the concept of raising a feminist applies as much to boys as it does girls. Of course it's important for girls to be raised by strong women, but it totally applies to boys too. Let's not forget that feminism isn't gender-specific, it's not just something that only girls and women should be - yes the world needs more strong women, but it also needs more men to respect them. Men that get it. So I'm hell bent on raising a little boy feminist of my own.

It occurred to me that I'll probably need to explain the concept of feminism to Arlo at some point, like when he discovers a love of Beyonce (which let's face it is an inevitability one way or another), or hears something in the playground and comes to me to ask what it all means. I'm thinking that actually might be harder than it sounds due to the beauty and simplicity of child logic. Picture the scene: "mum, what's a feminist?" "well, it's someone who believes that women and men should be treated equally" "what? Why wouldn't they be?" "well, at the moment for example, some women are paid less than men are for doing the same job. And more of the people in charge of running the country are men than women" "but why? Who decided that?" "well, quite." It doesn't really need a toddler's beautifully simple logic to show that it doesn't make sense though, does it?

As a proud feminist who chose to procreate (and that's the first and last time I'm using that term to describe what happened, don't worry) with a fellow proud feminist I hope to raise a little feminist who loves and respects women and men just the same. And all the things I'd like to think I'd teach a little girl about the subject, I shall be teaching Arlo too. And I have a feeling he's going to do me proud.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Friday I'm in love... with London

I got to have one of my all-time favourite dinners at one of my favourite places in London this week when I met a really dear old pal of mine at Southbank. We sat on the terrace and had the whole of the London Eye as our view. I was a real 'I miss London' moment - and I haven't had many of those since we moved. It was really nice to be out in a place packed with people, which may sound strange but you're just never really part of a crowd here on the Isle of Wight. It's pretty sleepy. On the train home I was all WHY HASN'T PING PONG OPENED AN ISLE OF WIGHT BRANCH AND WHY DO MY BRILLIANT PALS HAVE TO LIVE SO FAR AWAY AND I MISS PEOPLE AND HAVING THE LONDON EYE IN CLOSE PROXIMITY AND ALL THE REST OF LONDON TOO, ALL PLACES SHOULD BE MORE LIKE THIS PLEASE.


So I could never choose between London or the Island (and you can't make me!) But I'm very happy I get to hang out with the city once a week before coming home to the sleepy country for all the relaxings. But if there was a Ping Pong on the Island I'm sure I could cope with the ensuing crowds in return for the little steamed parcels of deliciousness. I need more of them in my life.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Mother's Day recipe: cheesy smoked salmon tart

I celebrated Mother's Day yesterday by cooking my lovely mum some lovely lunch, and I ended up taking some quick snaps on my phone as I went, so I thought I'd do a little recipe post to remember it by. I've never done a recipe post before, but because this was all my own creation (essentially made up as I went along - this may become more apparent as you read on) I thought I'd share.

I made a big cheesy smoked salmon tart - it was so easy and really yummy. This would make an egg-cellent Easter family lunch too - it had bonus points for being something you could cook beforehand and have ready and waiting to go, plus Arlo loved it just as much as us so we didn't have to faff around with separate toddler dishes (although he steadfastly refused to eat anything green with it. Sigh.)

What you'll need:

  • A roll of ready-made shortcrust pastry
  • Smoked salmon (the pack I used was 120g, which was about right for us. You could adjust that up or down depending on how fishy you'd like your tart)
  • Five large free range eggs
  • Cheese of your choice - I used grated cheddar. I had fancied using something a bit softer like ricotta, but Alex vetoed that while we were shopping, so cheddar it was! 
  • A decent splash of double cream - I sloshed in about a third of a 300ml tub
  • Salt, pepper and herbs of your choice (I used some dried basil, but wish I'd had some dill)
  • A sense of adventure

And here's what you do:
  • Stage One: get your pastry ready. Unfurl your pastry on the counter. Grease your tart dish and pop a piece of greaseproof paper on the bottom. Lay the pastry over the dish, and press it into all the edges so it's nice and snug all the way around. Cut off the edges round the top with a knife, and use a fork to prick little holes in the bottom (I found this bit strangely satisfying)
  • Stage Two: blind bake your pastry. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on top of your pastry, and put something on top to weigh it down while it bakes. A seasoned baker may well have special baking beans in the cupboard to do this very job. I used the dregs of a pack of pearl barley that'd been knocking about in the cupboard since 2011. Now, we don't have a fan oven, just an electric one that I suspect doesn't get quite as hot as it says it does. I baked the pastry for 12 mins on 200c, but lucky people with fan ovens may want to adjust the heat setting down a bit.
  • Stage Three: put some fillings in. In a separate bowl with a picture of a small horse on it, I whisked up the eggs, cream and seasoning with a fork. Then I assembled the rest of the fillings into the pastry case - about half the cheese on the bottom, then the smoked salmon, ripped into bite-size chunks and laid in little folds and curls, then the rest of the cheese on top. Then just pour the creamy egg mixture all over the top, making sure it goes right to all the edges. Final touch is a sprinkle of herbs on top. If I was doing this again and suddenly became a much more organised person at the same time, I'd throw in some fresh dill. Then I cooked the whole lot at 200c again for 25mins. Nb. I rotated it halfway through cooking to make sure we had even 'brown-ness', because our oven really isn't the best.
  • Stage Four: wolf it down. We had some salad and asparagus to go with. Polished off by three generations in less time that it took to bake!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Friday I'm in love... with charts and lists

Happy friday pals. I was all ready to write today about how excited I am at the prospect of Spring, but it is well and truly gloomy outside and not-at-all Spring-like, so instead I've collected together a few things that have made me smile this past week or so. And in the meantime, COME BACK SPRING!

  • If there's one thing I love in life, it's a list, and if there's two things I love, it's a good chart (pie, venn... i'm not fussy) so imagine my joy at discovering a nice list of charts that so accurately capture British awkwardness. Every single one is me.
  • These should be part of the NCT programme to help you prepare for baby times. Numbers 1 and 2 are SO MY LIFE.
  • I'm not showing any of these to Arlo for a while - the realistic cover of The Tiger That Came to Tea might give him nightmares.
  • I challenge you not to laugh at number 4. It may be the only case in history of comic sans making something better too. 

It's been a really busy week with some long days at work, so this Friday I'm also in love with the weekend. Today is the start of a 4-day weekend for us and as it's rainy and grey outside I plan on being lazy and snuggly at home with Arlo. Key agenda points include: playing with trains, drawing pictures of animals, watching Dumbo on the sofa. Happy weekending all!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Glimpses of Arlo caught this weekend on a day out to the mainland. Alex celebrated his thirtieth this week, and we had many a get-together to celebrate - one of which was in Winchester on Sunday, spending a long boozy lunch with family who'd come down from London to meet us in the middle. After lunch we headed to the park so Arlo and his little cousin George could run around for a bit (or crawl, in George's case) - the bigger George gets the more the two of them properly interact and play and it's the best thing to see. Time seems to be moving a little faster than I'd like at the moment - Arlo's growing in front of my eyes and sometimes I wish I had a pause button so I could stop and savour things when they happen. I'd rewind this weekend and do it all over again for sure. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Who run the world?

So it's International Women's Day today, and in the spirit of celebrating it, here's a little collection of some of my favourite things by some of my favourite women, that I've been looking at this week:

  • I love this illustration, above - taken from the brilliant series on the subject here
  • I get to meet my lady-hero Caitlin Moran tomorrow for work, which will make it a Very Good Day At Work indeed. If you haven't read How To Be A Woman, then what are you waiting for? Every woman human should. 
  • I worked with Plan UK on a big media campaign a few years back and they remain one of my favourite charities. Looking back it was one of my madder/ more stressful periods of work, but one that taught me a lot and was rewarding in a way my job usually isn't because I could see the results directly in the brilliant stuff they do. The work they do to empower girls in developing countries is so so needed. 
  • And while we're on the subject, this video from The Girl Effect is so eloquent and simple and powerful. Never fails to bring a tear.
  • Lucy Mangan is very clever and very funny, and this piece she wrote about international Woman's Day this week is just so spot on it hurts.

Right, must dash - I need a good nights sleep for Important Day At Work tomorrow. Will probs be listening to this and this on repeat the whole way there.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Friday I'm in love... with new threads

I do love a good shopping spree. Sadly, my spree-ing days are long behind me, so these days I get to shop vicariously through Arlo. It's actually loads more fun because the clothes are cuter, cheaper and you don't have all the changing room faff to contend with, so you can get a satisfying amount of shopping done in no time at all. We popped into H&M the other day for a browse and came away with loads of stuff - including the selection above, all of which fell into the 'can't resist this' rather than 'well that will prove very useful' category. Mind you, if a t-shirt featuring a bee in a beret surrounded by some solid gold word play isn't useful, then I don't know what is...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

My favourite corners #2

Ever since I wrote this post, giving a little glimpse to one of my favourite corners in the house, I've been enjoying thinking about the other little places around the house that are my favourites for different reasons. I'd love to think that one day I might take some proper pics of the house, but for now it's much easier to clear one corner for a quick few snaps rather than trying to tidy up all the duplo/ crayons/ farmyard animals/ squashed raisins from every surface (I sense that task would be akin to painting the Forth Bridge).

So here's another of my favourite spots in the house - Arlo's reading corner. We've only lived here for a little while so our house is still very much a work in progress, and I have grand dreams of proper, chunky, fitted shelving in the alcoves either side of the fireplace, but for now these shelves fit in pretty snuggly. Arlo is slowly but surely taking over the space on this bookshelf - you can see in these pics that the shelves used to store useful adult things like books and dvds, but because Arlo can now reach them (and therefore trash them) we keep his stuff on there instead. He's got a shelf for his own burgeoning book collection (a few faves of which you can find here) and another for a selection of toys - I find it helps to keep different toys in different places around the house so you can focus on each on their own for a bit and have a good play, so we rotate the toys on this shelf from time to time so there's always something new to discover.

So this has become one of my favourite places in the house to hang out in with Arlo - he reaches up to choose what he wants to read, and we curl up with a book or ten. Many times I've left him in the front room and found him sat at his end of the sofa, covered in a mound of books, quietly just making his way though the whole shelf's worth. We'll need to clear the top shelf for him too soon, either when his book collection starts overflowing, or his legs grow long enough to so he can reach the top. At this rate, I don't think either are far away.

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