I hate February

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a llooonnnnggggg January and I am glad February is here but it’s my least favourite month. Let me explain.

The good things about February are the following;

  1. We FINALLY get some money after what feels like 3 months since the last pay day.
  2. No council tax to pay! (Yayy!!).
  3. Valentine’s day and carnival (IF you are lucky enough to live in a country which celebrates it).
  4. Longer days and shorter nights (just).
  5. Imbolc (half way point between winter solstice and summer solstice).
  6. We begin to see a bit of sun.
  7. It’s short.

Now let me use the counter arguments…

  1. Oh yes we get paid. Then we have to pay back all the money we over spent on Christmas and we are back to being skint again!
  2. Do we even notice not paying council tax? No didn’t think so. What we do notice is April when £100+ suddenly starts going OUT of our account! WTF?
  3. Who actually celebrates Valentine’s day? Me and the husband do our best but it’s quite forced, over priced and over too quickly!
  4. I love longer days when it means I can get out in the garden or down the allotment. I even like the short days when you can light candles, switch on fairy lights and get all snuggly because it’s dark outside. It just doesn’t feel the same however when it’s light but grey and cold outside. Too dark to go out and too light to get properly snuggly!
  5. Imbolc should be a proper celebration here but I am one of only a few I know who celebrate. As I said some abroad get to dress up for carnival or Mardi Gras and eat gorgeous food. What do we get here in Britain? Shrove Tuesday or pancake day! Instead of exotic costumes we get soggy bloody pancakes and a bit of ash on our foreheads!!
  6. But this next point is my biggest bug bear. February is like a naughty glimpse at the unobtainable fruits of spring. “Yes” I say. “It’s so sunny!” I say “I will go out without my coat”. 5 minute later as I strut down the street in my cardigan and sunglasses I realise just how fricking freezing it is and then it rains or snows! You have more chance of snow in February in England then you ever will at Christmas. And the seeding… Oh the seeding… As a gardener I am desperate to start my seedlings but if you start too soon and it’s a rubbish spring then all your hard work can be for nothing if the seedlings don’t prosper and/or are too long and stringy. And that’s a disappointment I can’t take
  7. Lastly it is short. I can’t argue with that! Thank God for that. But soon it will be March and then the summer and finally it’s December and we think “where did that year go?”

I do hate February. To hit a serious note I lost my dad in the month of February and it seems to me that as I have lost quite a few friends and family in this horrid month so maybe just maybe I bare a grudge against it.

Here I am living in February 2018 when others aren’t. Then I remind myself of Mark Twains saying –

“Do not complain about growing old it is a privilege denied to many”.

I think this is how I have to look at my February and force myself to enjoy it for those who can’t any more.

So let me grab my sunglasses and cardigan and get planting those chilli seeds!

Advertisements

An unlikely vegetarian

People usually laugh out loud when I tell them that I am a vegetarian! As a loud, pint drinking northerner I never did look like a stereotypical vegetarian but then who does?

Last month- January 2018 was known as ‘veganary’ as many people tried a Vegan diet. Possibly because of that vegetarianism seems to have cropped up (pun intended) in many recent conversations.

Years ago at a Weight Watchers meeting in Wigan my mum was told that in order to make a certain dish for vegetarians she just had to add chicken instead of red meat. Funny as it sounds there is still a lot of confusion around the terminology.

Basically. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat products including chicken, fish and sea food. But we do eat dairy and eggs. The technical term is Lacto-ovo- vegetarian. Vegans don’t eat any meat products as above but they also dont eat cheese, milk, butter, yoghurts or any dairy produce nor eggs .

Now inbetween these two definitions you have a lot of personal choice. You can eat eggs but not dairy and vice versa. Some people don’t eat red meat like steak but will have white meat like chicken. Some people won’t wear leather clothes and will check ingredients for animal by products like gelatine and rennit. The level people take this to is very personal and varied.

Thinking about writing this blog I wondered just how many people in the UK were vegetarian. I guessed about 10% but was shocked that the total was much less at just 2%

I became Vegetarian in February 1984 I was 12 years old and my friend Anne who was two years older and way cooler told me that she had become one and explained what it was.

My mum didn’t seem to mind when so announced my life change in fact I think she was relieved as I had never really liked meat. As I was only 12 she did take me to the doctor who was really positive and gave me some great advice 1) take a multi vitamin with Iron 2) watch your bowel movements (to check they were ok) 3) Eat a varied vegetarian diet. Plenty of Vegetables, a few portions of fruit and eggs, cheese and beans.

The problem was that as a typical 12 year old I actually didn’t like much fruit or veg! So my diet mainly consisted of cheese and bread in different forms! My mum told me that I would have to prepare my own food as she rightly, was not going to make a separate meal to everyone else. However as this was 1984 in Lancashire there weren’t exactly a lot of vegetarian options in the supermarket! There was however ‘sosmix’ and ‘burgermix’

However from the age of 14 I visited Italy regularly and found the variety and quality of meals I could eat was much wider only of course they didn’t call it ‘Vegetarian’ it was just ‘food’. In fact for many years I had to explain to many older Italians what a Vegetarian was. But the range and taste of the vegetables and fruit was amazing. There I tasted so many different pasta and vegetable dishes and living without meat was easy. Although there were a few problems particularly when I would ask many times if a dish contained meat, always to be told no but then I would sometimes find a chunk of meat in the dish and would be told not to eat it. It was only there to add flavour!

It was a huge problem to my husband when we first met. As a Sicilian, fish is a big part of his diet. He could understand me not eating red meat but no clams, mussels or white fish? Was I mad?

I have never been tempted to eat meat or fish and you may be surprised that even the smell of bacon doesn’t tempt me. You see to me it is about not wanting to eat flesh. I find eating animal parts as disgusting as someone cutting off their thumb and saying “this is gorgeous try this”!

Of course when I was young I was quite militant about my vegetarianism carrying around folders with ‘Meat is Murder’ on them but of course these fell on deaf ears. My friend’s were supportive although one friend’s mum used to give me ‘tomato sausages’ – I chose to believe her that they were vegetarian although they smelled tasted and looked like pork ones!

I am lucky that even through three pregnancies I have never been anaemic and have never needed Iron injections. I also dont ‘present’ as a stereotypical vegetarian . ‘Waif like’ would never be used to describe my physique!

Our children have never shown any interest in becoming vegetarian. I remember them chewing on a leg of chicken and asking me if this was once a real chicken. When I told them that it was and that it was just like one of own back yard chickens they shrugged their shoulders and carried on chewing. I have no problem cooking meat for my family but I wouldn’t like to carve a chicken or fillet a fish! I’m honest with the children about why I am a Vegetarian and I think that hopefully it will in the future help them to think carefully about the food they eat.

Cheese and bread still feature too high in my diet but I do try to eat as many vegetables and legumes as possible. I have to admit to being rubbish at eating fruit though. Well fruit here in England. With the exception of fruit grown on the allotment, most fruit I get here looks beautiful but tastes of nothing. I find it an expensive waste of time.

Having an allotment means we do eat a lot of Vegetables and they are organic, fresh and so tasty but no I don’t think that the plants scream in pain when I pick them!

I always get asked that if it was kill an animal or starve what would I do? Of course it’s a ridiculous question so the honest answer is that I don’t know.

Most of the meals I make are Italian. Indeed this is where I learned to cook. None of my immediate family is vegetarian so meals have to be flexible so that meat or fish can be added. I am very proud of the meals I make and so I will be sharing them on my blog and I hope you like them and try them yourselves! Please let me know what you think. I will be trying to use seasonal food where possible. I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to become a Vegetarian but I think the health benefits from eating some vegetarian or vegan meals regulary can not be ignored.

Here is a link to the vegetarian society website which has lots of information and some amazing recipes.

https://www.vegsoc.org/definition

I am officially the worst mum in the world!

(Above me as a new mum with my first born)

When I held my first baby in my arms. I was really happy. I was going to be the best mum in THE WORLD!

We would create fantastic family paintings together. We would cook and eat healthy nutritious food together. We wouldn’t play with plastic toys! Oh no we would probably make wooden toys together! We would always be laughing and I would be the perfect mum!

It is so easy being a good parent until you have kids.

Actually it’s quite easy being a good parent when your children are babies who don’t move.

I used to see those mothers who judge other mums. I used to be that mum!

The ones with precious new born bundles in supermarkets who look scornfully at the crazy looking mums. Those ones who are waving their fingers and shouting at their poor innocent kids in the snack aisle “Put those pom pom crisps down now or I WILL walk out and leave you here! I WILL !”

What a horrible thing to say! But those words or words like it have come out of my own mouth.

Now I smile knowingly at the mums I see doing this and get out of their way.

Something happens almost over night where you change into your own mum. Things your mother said to you and you swear you will never say come out of your mouth “you want biscuits? biscuits? I’ll give you bloody biscuits, I’ll biscuit you! (?)

It stops being fun as a parent when you have to start disciplining them. First it’s easy things like not too many crisps but that soon becomes not buying expensive presents and not having rats!

When my eldest was six years old she decided she wanted a pet rat and she wanted to keep it in her bedroom. I said no way. This lead to the mother of all tantrums which lasted all night and continued to the next day.

Sat on the toilet the next morning a note was pushed under the door which said, I kid you not,

“I HATE YOU. YOU HAVE RUINED MY LIFE”.

She was 6 years old!! 6!!

The odd time I do try to discipline them now they still tell me that I am the worst mum in the world!

This hatred from my own children used to really upset me. How dare they? I do it for them! It’s all because I love them! Etc etc.

Then I remembered the times I hated my mum. The time she wouldn’t let me go parasailing in Greece at the age of 12 and I didn’t talk to her for the rest of our holiday. The times I made her cry because she annoyed me SO much. That for most of my childhood she was the worst mum in the world (to me) but how I secretly always knew that it was her love for me that made her strict and that sometimes it helped me out of sticky situations. “I would love to go to Manchester with those boys we’ve just met but my boring mum says I can’t go”.

Now of course mum and I laugh about the above and I know one day my kids and I will laugh about the day I ruined their life too.

Until then I wear the “worst parent in the world” badge with pride and don’t judge the shouty mums, the strict mums or any parent. We are all just doing our best. One day our kids will realise that!

Why I make (and usually keep) New Year’s resolutions!

For years I have made new years resolutions but mine are somewhat different. Instead of stopping doing one of my many bad habits I try to start something new.

A few years ago my new year’s resolution was to learn how to put up a shelf. I got a friend to show me and did proudly put up my own shelf. It is however a skill I have now unfortunately forgotten!

Last year I gave myself the ‘resolution’ of starting to drink Brandy! Yes you read that correctly. I had decided that drinking Brandy was a very grown up thing to do and I would immediately look sophisticated and distinguished! However it took me right up until the end of December to achieve my first glass – and then I didn’t like It! But at least I tried It!

I think new year’s resolutions have a bad reputation. Most people use them to say they are going to lose weight or start exercising and that’s completely understandable. After the Christmas holidays nearly everybody wants to be healthier. But it’s also one of the most difficult things to do. More often than not we set ourselves unrealistic goals and the failure to achieve them is horribly demoralizing. We all want to be more healthy but I don’t think it should be a New Year’s resolution. Especially when January is one of the toughest months to get through! I say have the glass of wine and eat the cake if it helps get you through the longest month!

For me a new year’s redolution should be something nice to do. Something you actually want to do and something that will be fairly easy to achieve but perhaps for one reason or another you have been putting off.

THIS year my new year’s resolution was to get another tattoo! I already have two but I wanted another in a more prodominent place. I didn’t have to wait until December to achieve my resolution this time. On January 4th 2018 I went  to see my talented tattooist and friend and she did this beautiful tattoo on my right forearm –

I am so pleased with it! I will be doing a blog about my tattoos but in short for me there is something that gives you an accomplished feeling about being tattooed.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting you get a tattoo but neither am I saying that on January 11th it is too late to choose a new year’s resolution.  But make it an enjoyable one. Make it one that in 2019 you will look back and be proud of achieving. Or proud that like me, with the Brandy, you did it but you don’t want to do it again!

HAPPY 2018!

This Christmas I will not end up in A and E! This Christmas I will wear my life jacket!

For the last few years I, myself, not the kids, have ended up in A and E.

 Last year I was rushing to get into a car and fell over  (tits over fanny- in the middle of the road – and no I wasn’t drunk!) spraining my ankle. The year before that I woke up after putting up the decorations and had pulled a muscle in my neck. Don’t ask me how and the year before that I was trying to make fajitas and a spray of very hot oil caused me a second degree burn on my wrist. Ouch!

The last time I was there – last Christmas – I had a really nice nurse, a woman in her 40s, a mum, I found out, and we had a great chat – 

Use your best Watford accent – “Oh my love! The amount of mums we get in here over Christmas! You wouldn’t believe it! We are all rushing about so much and that’s when accidents happen!”  Of course she was absolutely right. All my previous accidents HAD indeed been because I was rushing about. I looked around and saw another woman my age with her arm in a sling. Ok so mine were only ‘minor injuries’ but excuse the pun they have been a complete pain in the ass – especially at the busiest time of the year.

I love Christmas but it does get so hectic and we end up rushing about and not thinking about ourselves or our safety! I have noticed that road rage seems to be increased around Christmas as everyone rushes around trying to fit everything in. The words ‘Happy Shoppers’ certainly wasn’t invented at Christmas. The amount of bad tempered shoppers  (myself included) is truly amazing considering this is supposedly the most wonderful time if the year!

So here is my ‘life Jacket’ anology.  I have 3 children with only 3 years and 10 months between them  *I’m counting! My way of surviving has always been the ‘life vest theory’ – You know when you get on an airplane and they something like this –

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. “

 I can not look after my own children in an emergency unless I have my life jacket on. Because if I can not survive neither can they. I now use this as my parenting mantra. As a parent my duty is to look after my kids and make sure they are well cared for. However I can not do this if I myself am not well. Having my life jacket on has become a metaphor for making sure that I put myself first in order to make sure I can look after the kids. I will give you an example… It’s been a long day. The kids are hungry and you have a lovely healthy meal planned. But you are knackered and you know that finding the strength to make that lovely fresh healthy meal (that 2 out of 3 MAY eat) will kill you. So you order in pizza, put your feet up and have a glass of wine! Happy mummy , happy kids.  That’s the Life jacket. So is a night out with the girls, McDonalds, a weekend away with the husband and wine/chocolate and shopping. You get the idea.

So as I rush about putting up decorations, buying presents, attending children’s plays, concerts and parties… I am going to remind myself to stop. Stop rushing. Stop stressing and give myself a break – put on my life jacket because if I don’t I may have another minor injury and worse still my kids might not have a good Christmas because I didn’t have my life jacket on as I am to busy worrying about everyone else. Oh who I am kidding? My next post will probably be from a hospital bed after falling off a table dancing. I have done that before….

In the beginning there was Wham

I got my very first house plants when I was 12. I begged my mum to buy them me on a soggy sunday trip to a garden centre. It was 1984 and I named them George and Andrew. Andrew was the taller leaner one but George was my favourite. They lived a long and happy life in my ever changing bedroom and I am told that Andrew  (a yucca) was moved into my mum’s garden and there continued to thrive. 

It would be many years later that I would own my next plants. I worked in Italy for years and was never lucky enough to have a garden. Then in 2000 my dad (who had recently started growing vegetables too) brought me one of those propagator sets you can buy in bargain shops. It had a plastic propagator with lid, tomato and chilli seeds and a small amount of compost.  It was only small but it was not a small gift. My dad brought it over to Italy for me knowing I had a small but sunny window sill. I loved taking care of it and watching the fruit grow. Those tomatoes were the sweetest I have ever tasted and from there grew my love of growing veg. 

A couple of years later I moved back to England and together with my future husband we rented a tiny flat on the ridiculously polluted Camden road. This didn’t put me off however. We had a large sunny window by which I grew many varieties of house plants and I took in sick plants and tended them back to health earning me the nickname ‘plant whisperer!’

Our window in Camden –

From there we moved to Chalk farm and finally I had a lovely balcony! I grew tomatoes and chillies, peppers and even aubergine! There wasn’t much light but I loved spending weekends there and dad gave me some plants called ‘night scented stock’ which he planted under our window so that as evening came in so did this wonderful floral scent. Unfortunately I have never been able to grow it since.

Caring for these plants, planting seeds, watering them, nurturing them also fulfilled another need in me. Following a wonderful wedding and honeymoon pregnancy we lost the baby after an ectopic pregnancy ended in emergency surgery, a removed fallopian tube and a long period of recovery.  I swear that being able to grow these plants and reap their results aided my recovery greatly.

A much wanted successful pregnancy brought us to Watford and our first house and garden! Ok ‘yard’ or ‘rear courtyard garden’ as the estate agent called it! It was small, shady and uncared for but I loved it!

There were no decent window sills so again Dad came to the rescue and in the summer he put up a mini plastic greenhouse for my seedlings.  My Sicilian husband put in a (very optimistic) vine and a beautiful Rosemary bush. I grew beans up the washing line pole and tumbling tomatoes from the fence.  Buckets became carrot and potato beds and every spare bit of soil had a herb!

Our small back yard in Watford –

We found out we were pregnant with baby number two which would mean having  two babies under 18 months old.  We had started to literally outgrow the yard. That’s when my husband suggested we get an allotment, I thought he was mad. Two babies a yard full of plants and he wanted an allotment?! In March 2009 we picked up the keys to our beloved plot on Farm Terrace Allotment but that as they say is another story…

Mother Earth Lush

A blog about a blog? Can I do that? Well I am!

I have been trying to figure out my ‘usp’ My Unique Selling Point for writing a blog. Obviously I would ideally like it to be an account of a paid journey through Italy but 

A) No one is going to pay me to do that and 

B) The family still needs me and so do my child minding families! So I CAN’T  do that.

As you may have read this year has been a year of self recuperation and reflection. I have come to the conclusion that one of the main things I miss about my days of campaigning for Farm Terrace is writing about it.  My first Face Book “rant’  about it was in 2012. My first blog was 2013. But “What exactly is a blog?” this is  a question that I have been asked a lot recently. 

This is the definition according to the wisdom that is wikepedia –

 blog/ blɒɡ/ noun

  1. 1.

    a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

 Conversational style” sounds just like me!  I can do that!  Blogs are hugely popular and lots of the good (and bad) stuff you read on social media probably originated from a blog somewhere. You will find blogs about every topic under the sun. So what’s stopping you from writing one? Nothing! For me it appeals as it is a creative platform to document my life. Hopefully my kids and grandkids will be able to read them one day -should they want to! This of course means that you have to be very careful about what you write as it will always be out there but for me the campaign to save Farm Terrace was a baptism of fire with all aspects of social media. 

So what am I going to write about?

In short my chaotic life. Not a diary but an insight into all the stuff I do or TRY to do in order to achieve my goal of living the so called ‘Good life’ which to me is trying to be as self sufficient as possible and finding happiness in the simple, natural things in life.  However My friends love taking the piss out of me calling me an “Earth mother”!  They laugh because despite of my best efforts to grow and cook my own food etc I am not a hippy or moralistic and I often have a glass of wine in my hand! Is that a bad thing though? At least I am trying to lead an ethical, responsible, organic life for me and my family. The fact that I do make mistakes and am flexible with my morals, have a weakness for Haribos and am often found with a glass of  wine in my hand – is my ‘USP’ and is exactly the type of blog I would like to read.

So I have chosen the name ‘Earth mother lush’ for my blog and I will be writing about the allotment and garden,  how to grow food, vegetarian food, my chickens, my other pets, the stresses of being a woman and responsible-ish parent. All sprinkled with anecdotes, photos, videos and a huge dose of humour  (I  hope!).