14 November 2013

Why don't you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead...

I'm learning that if I really want to be nice to my children, I have to step away from my iPad and spend more time playing good old-fashioned games with the girls.

Yesterday I shouted at Poppy - I 'just' shouted her name (in 'that' tone of voice), and 'just' because she was swinging on our (brand new) fridge door, and 'just' because I'd already asked her nicely twice... She burst into tears... Turns out that in three days of my not shouting, she'd got used to it already, and the sound of it shocked her. Which shocked me and made me think...

10 November 2013

'Be nice to the children' month!!

This month, I've decided to set myself a challenge - to be nice(r) to my children!!

Before you think I'm some sort of ogre - I'd like to think I'm not - let me clarify further. I have two charming, bright, funny little daughters who I adore (and who seem to quite like me back). They're smart and interesting, they have a great relationship with each other, and we try do fun things together. I have never, ever even so much as contemplated raising my hand to them. But this morning, Sadie said something to Poppy, and I heard myself parroted back in a way that made me both laugh, and feel immensly uncomfortable at once.

Times are tough at the moment (aren't they for everyone??) - I walked away from a job that I (mostly) loved, and it turns out its harder than I thought to find another one equally good (there's a global recession... who knew?). Plus dealing with the 'same old same old' that everyone has to - elderly relatives, the flu, playground politics, rising gas prices... So I'm stressed, and sometimes a I'm a bit shorter with my children than I would like to be. Plus, whilst I'm not working, I'm home more, so we see more of each other than we're used to.

So, the challenge - be really, really nice to them for a whole month. Only smile... explain things more patiently (even the for fifth time), take them for extra treats. Don't shout or yell. The challenge begins even as I'm writing this post, with them interrupting to ask me things as I'm typing. So time to put down the laptop and head out to the pool. Wish me luck!!!

5 September 2013

Confessions of a terrible mother #26

I have never taken my children for an eye test. Once Sadie learned to read, pointing at far-away signs and asking her to read them seemed to suffice. My husband is really long-sighted - I'm pretty short sighted. I hoped that this combination would ensure that the kids met somewhere in the middle, resulting in perfect vision.

But, just on the offchance that this wasn't scientific enough, I made an appointment at my local Specsavers to be on the safe side.

I've always had a slight issue with opticians. In my opinion, there's potential for a massive conflict between providing a medical service and providing a commercial one. Previously, working in the West End, frames in my 'local' optician on Oxford Street started from £300. Add a dollop of salesmanship, 'choose' the super-thin, anti-glare, scratch-proof lenses... and voila, great glasses, but no change from £500. I'm also really curious as to why so many children these days wear glasses. Looking back on pictures from my primary school, there wasn't a single glasses-wearer in my class. In my daughter's class, there are at least six - a significant 25%. Better testing, or more pressure from opticians??

My cynicism was unfounded, however. The Specsavers optician was fab, really patient with the girls. Sadie has learned her letters, and was really excited to show off how much she can read. Poppy doesn't know her letters, so she got shapes... She wasn't very accurate - sailboat became rocket, and airplane was arrow. But even allowing for error, they both have better than 20/20 vision. Hurrah!

Me, not so much. Despite frequently lying about my age, apparently that doesn't improve my rapidly worsening eyesight. But the good news is that I got to choose new specs. The fashion for frames seems to be much more fast-paced these days. From the wire-rimmed (2000-2010) to the plastic (2011), geeky (2012) to the round (2013), I'm dying to try a new look... 

I'm terrible at choosing glasses. Without my contact lenses, I'm forced to squint into the mirror. But Specsavers have a genius solution, with screens to take a pic of yourself in the glasses, so you can try on a selection, and then specs back on and decide (note to Specsavers, there should be a tweet and vote option on the screen...). Their range all seems to be great value too. I'm told, (by someone on the inside) that their Osiris range is designed by someone who used to be at Dior. And whilst I'm not normally a massive fan of Gok Wan, his range for Specsavers is pretty good. Anyway, I've been dying to try out a Jess/New Girl style, and Gok had just the thing. In total, the new frames and lenses came to well under £150, which is under half of what I spent last time. 

A week later, here's what I want to look like... 

And here they are...

1 September 2013

How to... Make honey cake

This week is Jewish New Year, and to celebrate a sweet new year, we Jews traditionally eat sweet honey cake. Over the years, I've had a lot, and they're never, ever the same... Some are moist and gooey, some dark and heavy, some light and fluffy, or dry and spicy. Some people like cinnamon, or mixed spice, orange juice, coffee, almonds... My Grandma always made the best honeycakes, but I have no idea what recipe she used.

Over the years, I've tried a few, but this is the one that I always come back to, mainly as it's so darn simple, so I thought that I'd share it with you...

450 grams self raising flour
Half teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
Half teaspoon mixed spice
235 ml vegetable oil
340 grams honey
200 grams caster sugar
200 grams brown sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
235 ml warm coffee
120 ml orange juice

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and spice. Then, make a well in the middle and add all of the other ingredients. Stir/whisk well (it should be quite wet), and then divide into 2-3 cake or loaf tins. This year, I made two smallish cakes, and a dozen muffins for the kids. Bake at 180 for about 30 minutes (maybe a bit longer if you don't have a fan assisted oven, or if your cake tin is a bit bigger). It should look brown and springy and the knife should come away clean.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Wishing you all a happy and sweet new year - Shana Tova U'Metuka

24 August 2013

Lollibop 2013

Last year, friends tried to get us to visit Lollibop, but we weren't keen. This year, it was all about critical mass - so many of our friends were going, we thought that we'd miss out if we didn't. It's moved about a bit - from its first home in a park in Hackney, East London (apparently the best, according to regular festival-goers) to Regents Park (where we first visited two years ago), to its newest home, on the Olympic park at Stratford.

It was certainly popular... tickets for Saturday had fully sold out, and there were thousands of people making their way up from Westfield and queuing to get in.

First genius touch of the day - wristbands.  As soon as you come in, you're given a wristband to write your phone number on and attach to your child. I'm sure this is pretty vital, as there are LOTS of children and LOTS of distractions. Turn your head for a split second, and they've vanished into a sea of legs, never to be seen again... The face painting tent was also near the entrance. If your little one can endure the short 10-minute queue, it's a great way to start the day. Pretty much everything is free (except the stalls where you can buy mostly age-appropriate souvenirs), so take a picnic and you're set for the day. There are loads of things going on... The main stage has a full programme, mostly Dick and Dom, with lots of fun and dancing. There were meet and greets with their favourite cbeebies characters; shows in the Lollipalladium theatre (we saw TicToc and Cloudbabies), story time, Lalaloopsie. There was also a fab-looking cooking stage, although it was always empty at the times we walked past.

The less good stuff... The place is MASSIVE - probably a bit too big for its young audience, and there are lots of areas that sound great, but in reality are just a cheap-looking PR exercise... The Baby Annabel area was prettily set up, but there weren't enough dolls to play with... The kids were happy to stay in the character tents, watching TV and dressing up, but there wasn't actually much to 'do'. There were a few times where we felt that it was all set up to create a captive audience to adverrtise at, rather than the family fun day that its been in the past. There's not a huge amount for older children - our nearly 6-year old loved the science museum tent - but it's mostly aimed at a toddler audience.

The ticket price is reasonable - the first time we went, we paid nearly £100 for 4 tickets and it rained - that torrential rain that thoroughly spoils a british summer day... This time, there were lots of offers, including half price tickets at £11 per person. For virtually the same price as an adult cinema ticket, it was great value for a day out with the kids. 

18 August 2013

Best sushi ever!

Sumo Fresh, Wanstead. It's new... they have a chef from Nobu, and the menu is great value. Go there!