Anyone for chia seeds and a Millie Mackintosh daily diet regime? Not me, thanks.

It’s January, a crappy month of dark nights, grey weather, empty bank accounts and a huge hangover from Christmas. It’s also the month everyone focuses on getting fit and healthy for the year ahead. No bad thing. Except when you read about celebrity eating plans. This week Millie Mackintosh, of Made In Chelsea married to Professor Green, thin, young, rich and beautiful fame, posted a day in the life of her diet on Instagram.

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What do you think? I worry that this is a very unattainable diet for a young girl to aspire to. No one who works or is a student could stick to this kind of eating plan. I don’t know of any work canteens or student refectories that serve an omelette with only one yolk, but three egg whites, cinnamon and blueberries. Do you? And in between lectures, or emptying bed pans, or at your desk at work having a mid afternoon snack, would you be reaching for a snack of coconut water with added protein powder? The banana is the only sensible suggestion.

It’s reassuring that she goes ‘all out’ at dinner time and allows herself a steak but making sure ALL the fat is cut off, I mean goodness me, who dare eat a bit of fat these days?  Don’t tell anyone that on Saturday mornings I may be partial to placing my bread in the pan of bacon fat for a bit of dippy bread. Lip-smackingly tasty.

Surely we’re all for eating healthily and encouraging our children to eat well, but I also really want them to see food as something to enjoy, not a regime. Even the word itself speaks volumes. An ordered way of doing something. A means of making the body work to its most efficient capacity. Let’s face it, Millie Mackintosh is able to follow this strict eating and work out plan because her working hours (going to watch husband in concert, launch her fashion line of an evening, spot of modelling) dictate that she can spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking about herself and what food she can put in her body whereas a lot of people are grabbing a Twix and a bag of crisps between shifts. Also, her body is her business, so of course it makes sense she puts the finest fuel into it and she has the dollar to pay for all these expensive ingredients.

When seeing this post (on Instagram alongside all the ‘hashtag selfie’ pics of her in the gym working out) it was interesting to see there were hundreds of comments from girls underneath saying things like, ‘ooh she needs a Hob Nob’, or ‘I’ve just been to the gym and had spag bol, some cheese, a cuppa tea and a Frube.’ Halle-bloody-luh-yah. I’m not condoning sitting at home stuffing your face with Hob Nobs and cheese, but isn’t it all about the moment you take a bite into an oaty biscuit smothered with chocolate and let out a little blissful sigh? Or is that just me that does that after chocolate? I wonder if Millie does that with her leafy green smoothie in a morning? Perhaps she does. I always imagine pulped veg to taste of slimy snot, but I shouldn’t knock the green smoothies until I’ve tried them.

When I was going through a ‘must get healthy’ moment, I looked over into the basket of an old couple at the supermarket to see what they were buying. They’ve been on the planet about 80+ years, what do they eat that’s helped them live long lives? Were they loading up their shoppers on wheels with avocados, kale, blueberries and chia seeds for juicing? Nope. Not on your nelly. Sliced white bread, a few slices of ham from the deli, English mustard, packet of custard creams, Yorkshire Tea, white sugar, small joints of meat with fresh vegetables, rice puddings, yogurts, milk.

Meanwhile, at the Mackintosh/Green household I like to imagine Millie counting out her 8 almonds ready for breakfast (or would she have a minion to do that for her?), whilst here we’ve just feasted on a chippy tea. I’m hoping the mushy peas count as one of my five a day.

Happy weekend people.

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Parenthood. It’s going so fast

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This was the view from my bed this morning. It doesn’t seem two minutes ago that I would pick her up from her cot, inhale her baby smell, bring her to lay down next to me and watch her having a ‘wriggle off’. Her little arms and legs flapping like a sparrow trying to take flight.

Here she is this morning after coming in, opening my curtains to check for snow and perching on my bed. We are just two terms away from secondary school. It’s going so fast ❤ ❤

When they are little and you’re up with them every two hours in the night, they’re crying on and off throughout the day and you’ve waved bye bye to work for a while, the days seem so slow and endless. Elders tell you, they’re little such a short time, it goes so fast, enjoy every minute! And you’re thinking, I didn’t enjoy that squishy nappy, the projectile vomit down my back or the fact I’ve only had three hours sleep very much but you smile politely and walk off thinking; I still have five hours to fill before the husband gets home and all I have to do to fill up that huge amount of time is post a letter and push a buggy round the block with tears dripping down my face because I’ve never been so lonely in my entire life.

Oh, but the love. The love for this little person is almost overwhelming. You have a little being that you would die for and do anything to make them happy. The difficult times vanish with the reward of a little smile, even if it is just wind.

Here we are, two terms from secondary school, the love is still overwhelming and I’d still do almost anything to make her happy (apart from buy a mobile phone, let her watch Eastenders, let her eat the amount of sweets she desires, let her have more than one painfully squealy sleepover a year. Hmm, there’s actually quite a lot of things I won’t do to make her happy. Sorry for being a spoilsport).

It’s going so fast. ❤ ❤ Those lovely old ladies were right.

5 Questions with….Violet and Percy

Every so often I’m hoping to do 5 Questions With…my favourite people on Instagram. I absolutely ruddy love Instagram, you can follow whoever you like without having to be ‘accepted’. If interiors are your thing you can spend hours looking at beautifully styled shelves, if blooms are your bag then your feed is awash with tulips and roses. Fashion, well hello there stylish pointy brogues recommended by some hipster fashion blogger.
I wanted to find out a little bit more about the people behind the pictures and the first person who agreed to answer my 5 questions is the lovely Flora, online shop owner of Violet and Percy. Ever since I was little and had a toy cash register I have played at setting up shop and always wondered what it’d be like to launch my very own. Well Flora did just that.
Where did you get the idea for Violet and Percy?
Flora: I’d wanted to open a shop for a while and was initially going to only sell a few handmade items but once I’d started I realised I could do so much more and started sourcing designers and artists. I’m a late starter as I was pretty much a full-time stay at home mum for fourteen years but once my youngest child began secondary school in 2013, I felt that the time was right. I called it Violet and Percy quite simply because they’re the names I probably would have chosen if I’d had another son and daughter – they just sounded right together!
What’s your biggest challenge been launching an online shop?
Flora: I wouldn’t say I’ve faced any challenges as such but of course it’s all about marketing and promotion and getting more people to visit the website. Social media has been my main form of marketing, especially Instagram. It was slow to begin with but things soon picked up momentum and I’m happy with how busy it is now. I’ve never wanted it to take over my life, add stress or interfere with my family life – I have to constantly remind myself of that when my dreams and ambitions start to take over!
Do you travel far and wide to find your products?
Flora: I don’t travel at all! I’ve never been to a trade fair, I’ve sourced all of my products online or occasionally I’ll see something I like in a shop and make a note of the company.
What’s your best selling product and do you have a surprise hit?
Flora: My best sellers have been the Never Grow Up poster (£16), word banners and mini travel guides (£4). I was surprised at just how popular the label makers have been – they’ve sold like hot cakes!
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What advice would you give to people launching an online business?
Flora: I think the only advice I would give is to make your business an extension of your self. I just stick to the ethos that if I like something, I will be passionate about it, it reflects my personality to a certain extent and hopefully people will buy into your personal ‘brand’. I only sell things I would buy.
Click on the links above to visit Flora’s shop Violet and Percy, or follow her on Instagram 
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favourite things…. from Violet and Percy:
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felt ball garland £16
dream big little one wall dec £16.50
blue willow spearhead pendant £24

Raising girls

Do you want to help your daughters to grow up wise, warm and strong? Can I get a, ‘Heeeeell yeah?’ Well luckily for us there is a book that is promising to show us how. After a friend recommended this best-selling parenting guide by Steve Biddulph, I was hoping it would steer me down the road to enlightenment when it comes to being the perfect mother. And boy, does Steve aim his book at Mums. Dads get just one measly chapter at the end as he claims that Mums are their daughters main role-model. No pressure there then.

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I have an older brother, so I assumed, very wrongly it turns out, I’d have a boy first. Out popped a little girl whose ears were stuck to her head like she had two cheese and onion crisps attached. I fell in love immediately. (The crisps unfurled into normal ear lobes btw, the amount of Pethidine I was given during the birth could be to blame for making me see Walkers cheese & onions for ears).

Second time around again I was sure I’d have a boy. I’d always seen myself with a boy or two, running around wildly with sharp sticks and grunting at me as a teenager (bear with me, I only have access to stereotypes). The sonographer exclaimed in my second scan I was, “Having another princess!” Just as the fire alarm went off. Oh. For one, I’m not a member of royalty so that was already completely untrue and for two, I thought I was having a prince. Two girls. Wow. I have no concept of how sisters get along having never experienced it myself. I have friends who are best friends with their sisters and I also have knowledge of women who have slept with their sisters husbands. Yes, really.

Female relationships are so incredibly complex. With my brother, there was never any competition. He was a gun slinging, chaps wearing cowboy, with guns and soldiers, and I had Sindy who sat proudly alongside Eagle Eye Action Man in his army jeep.

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Eagle Eyes.

His menacing eyes moved, he had a tough boy scar and toilet brush hair.

Sindy loved him.

He taught me how to play Slaps and Chess, I introduced him to a friend at my wedding who became his wife. All’s fair in love and war.

But two girls? Sheesh. Where to start? Well, *whispers* it’s all been going kind of OK. I don’t want to jinx it but they are two totally different characters who have muddled along well together and it goes without saying, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way than with these two little beauties.

But things they are a changing. Those tricky hormones are sneaking in and rocking the boat. Plus we have the things like underage drinking, online porn, social media and body image issues right around the corner, lurking with the threat of stealing my daughters away into unrecognisable girls who may aspire to become a reality TV star who wants to bag a footballer and get her boobs done. Of course, if that is their choice I will still love them. Coughs.

Here was a book that reached out to me. I am raising girls. This will help. First, he tells us that their childhood is not like ours, our 18 is their 14, and our 14 is their 10. I’m not sure this is strictly true. I know what I was up to at 14. Bramhope Youth Club disco you have a lot to answer for. My ten year old is certainly not downing Cinzano and smoking ten Consulate, although that time may come, it is not now.

The book is unrealistic in many ways, no mention of single or divorced parents, very little here for working mums, he’s anti-childcare, he has a great idea that girls should be surrounded by aunties, Grandmothers, people they can spend time with and go to for advice, when many of us, unfortunately, don’t have family nearby. He has an idealistic view of no TV for children at all before the age of 3 which is a tad extreme. Setting limits on TV however is doable. This was handily reenforced on us this weekend due to a three-hour power cut, so we dusted off the Scrabble and sat and played as a family of four in front of the fire. Idyllic. It was like 1953 in Technicolor.

Until the kids got bored with us contemplating where we could fit O N Y X on the board and started doing extreme lifts and Strictly Come Dancing moves in the background leaving us parents to battle it out for Scrabble championship. Whilst they were giggling in heap in the background we were shouting asking them nicely if they’d mind terribly keeping the noise down. I was trying to beat their father FFS. It was a bonding time, I can tell you.

After finishing the book I have not really learnt much about how to handle the day to day eyeball rolling, heavy sighs and attitude or the erratic mood swings that have arrived with gusto. In fact, it is like looking in a mirror. Maybe I should ask the husband for some tips on how he deals with it (me) on a daily basis?

What Raising Girls has reinforced are things I perhaps already knew. Not a good idea to have TV in bedrooms, when they have phones limit phone time at night, help them to get regular bed time routines even as teenagers, sleep is important, keep lines of communication open, set boundaries, be a parent not a friend between the ages of 10-16, allow them time to be calm, don’t put too many pressures on them to succeed, feed their soul by encouraging them in things they are good at, try to be aware and know what your kids are up to but allow them privacy. There is a helpful chapter on bullying and friendships, including toxic ones that you should encourage your daughter to avoid. Reading through the book I thought, I’m not sure I am at the point of having the confidence to walk away from friendships that offer little even though I am 40, and certainly after reading a magazine, or seeing a gorgeous celeb I don’t feel I can look in my soul and believe, ‘I am beautiful as I am.’ So to imagine my daughters will have that at 14? I can only hope.

There is no magic formula in Raising Girls but there are helpful hints aplenty, whether they will actually work when we’re screaming at each other and slamming doors, waiting on the stairs at 2am wondering where she is and if she’s safe, only time will tell.  All any of us can do is to try our best. There will be times when we get it wrong, but as long as they are loved and cared for, the kids will be alright. Won’t they?

Friday night tea

My husband has a thing about Friday night food. “This is not a Friday night tea,” he says if presented with a lame bit of dried pasta that has been cooked for 9-11 minutes in boiled water with some supermarket tomato sauce chucked over it, un-lovingly, with a couple of fresh basil leaves and a shaving of parmesan added to make it look better. (My husband is the cook in our household but I’m midweek chef).

He means a Friday night tea should be tasty and fun. Something most probably with chips. Ideally, I suppose steak and chips. He should be so lucky. I gave the family this on Monday night and apparently it was classed as ‘Friday night tea’ worthy. So if you’re tapping your fingers wondering what to cook tonight here’s a crowd pleaser for all the family, small and large.  If I can do it, that generally means there is very little ‘cooking’ involved. You’re welcome 🙂

Fish Goujon Wraps 

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  • 300g (11oz) breaded fish goujons – I used two packs of lemon sole goujons for 4 of us and that was plenty, you could also use fish fingers, or if you’re partial to breadcrumbing fresh fish you could make your own, or use chicken goujons.
  • 1 little gem lettuce, leaves pulled apart
  • 1 ripe avocado, stoned and sliced
  • 8 flour tortilla wraps
  • half a small red onion
  • squeeze of lime
  • a handful of chopped cherry tomotoes
  • mayonnaise
  • squirt of lemon juice

Method

Cook goujons according to packet instructions (I’m best at the warming up things type of cooking so this suits me)

Meanwhile make a fresh guacamole by mashing one avacado, adding a squeeze of lime juice, chopped tomatoes and finely chopped red onion – not too much onion or it over powers it.

Make the lemon mayonnaise by squirting some Hellmans in a bowl and adding a squeeze of lemon and a little pepper

Pop the tortilla’s in the microwave to warm for 30 seconds when the goujons are ready. Bung it all on the table for the kids and husbands to pile up their wrap with fish goujons, crunchy lettuce, homemade guacomole and mayo.

I served mine with potato wedges, (I par boil my tatas for 8 minutes, already chopped into wedge shape with skin on, while they are boiling I warm my sunflower oil in the oven at 200 (gets hotter than olive oil so they go crispier) then cook them for about half an hour. So this step needs doing before the goujons if you’re partial to a wedgie.

You can see Gordon Ramsey quaking in his boots with my culinary expertise can’t you?

Let me know if you have any decent, easy Friday night tea recipes that I can use tonight? Thanks for visiting 🙂

This recipe was from Good Housekeeping with a few additions.

Winter blues

My heart is singing the winter blues as I struggle to open my eyes on another dark morning, especially with the heart breaking events that have been going on in Paris.

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Not long now until spring. My favourite season. What’s yours?

I’m a stationery lover…

My nearest high street is four miles away. It’s a Georgian market town where a high percentage of shops are independents. There’s a Costa, a WHSmiths, a Boots, Waitrose, Fat Face, Sainsbury’s, oh and the hip ‘n trendy* Dorothy Perkins (*if it was 1987 and you were 15).

Independent shops, bars and cafés are opening at their fastest rate in years as customers turn their back on the big retail chains. In my local town there are plenty of twee tea shops and a smattering of gift shops, but one of my favourite discoveries is a fantastic stationers, Little Paperie.

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They stock local designer Abigail Warner, who specialises in luxury paper goods, you will also find her stuff in Harrods & Selfridges. Muted pastels and traditional printing techniques are her forte.

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Abigail Warner wrapping paper

Another favourite is the Rifle Paper Co. Based in Florida, they use FSC-certified paper stocks (responsibly produced wood products) with recycled content, and environmentally responsible printers. Their designs are beautiful, below is their 2015 appointment calendar.

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Unfortunately for me, the only thing my purse strings would stretch to this side of Christmas was some of their home made mini bunting for £4. Now hanging from my kitchen shelves.

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Moving to a smaller town, it feels important to try and support our local independents. That’s not to say I sometimes don’t pine for a Fiorentina from my old local Pizza Express, or some Nars bronzer from Space NK….but at least I’ve found my paper fix.

Little Paperie is at 21 St John Street, Ashbourne