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Just a homemaker

Keeping it simple

An energy boosting breakfast… for days when you just don’t feel like it…

I hate Wednesdays.

For 12 years on a Tuesday night I have to take a toxic medication before I go to bed.  I take it before I go to bed so that I can sleep the majority of the side effects off.  But they are still there in my system for 24 hours after I’ve taken.

It’s a bit better these days as I’ve had the disgusting tablets that used to make me vomit reduced and to help control the side effects they are now in injection form.  Better.  But I still don’t feel great.  I wake up with the worst feeling of fatigue, similar to that of a hangover. I generally just feel rotten.

It’s the morning when I don’t want to eat due to the nausea but I know I have to.  If I don’t I’ll get steadily worse.

I drag myself out of bed and make a quick and tasty breakfast that will help with the day.  Generally I need something sweet.

Serves one

Half a cup of porridge oats

One and a half cups of semi skimmed milk

2 teaspoons of light golden sugar

1 tablespoon of peanut butter (energy!)

half a teaspoon of cinnamon

Method:

Place all ingredients in the pan and gently heat for approx. 5 mins, stirring all the while.

Pour into a bowl and top with a sliced banana.

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Serve with a glass of pure orange juice.

Oats, peanut butter and banana.  Real energy boosters that I need this morning.  Orange juice, the much needed vitamin C. Mine is cooling while I type.

 

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Disastrous kitchen in the process of a dramatic makeover

I moved into my house nearly five years ago with very little funds.  In fact at the time we were just living hand to mouth.  The kitchen wasn’t great when we moved in.  A council property.  The fitted kitchen consisted of two and a half floor cupboards, a larder cupboard and very little work surface space.  It’s a fairly spacious room – classed as a kitchen diner.  But it was unworkable and unpleasant to eat in because everything was on top of each other.  To serve meals up for myself and children I was using an old ironing board as a serving side board.  Later I progressed to a breakfast bar.

I managed to get the funds together to paint the kitchen at the time.  The walls looked nice and fresh but I have always been dismayed by the kitchen tiles, the lack of work surface space and cupboard space.  I had to keep half of my kitchen plates etc… in a cabinet that I bought and made over for the front room.  The kitchen never felt pleasant to work in at times, fairly impossible.

As you can see from the picture – stuff everywhere because nothing had a home!

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I phoned the council and I’m not due a kitchen upgrade for several more years.  I’m not patient enough to keep my kitchen as it is so it’s time for a revamp!

This year I decided that I would turn the front room into a front room diner.  Bought a lovely second hand oak table and mix matched chairs.  Got rid of a sofa and I am now in the process of trying to get funds together for a  corner sofa.

This decision has meant that my kitchen can now be ‘just a kitchen.’  My daughter and I love baking so how I’m designing the kitchen means that I can incorporate this.  I also want it to be the sort of kitchen that means I can utilise from the garden (simple herbs, veg and flowers) to the kitchen.

My funds are in much better shape than five years ago but I’m still not in a position to pay for a new built in kitchen.  So I’m rolling my sleeves up and making changes, challenging myself with DIY.

I’ve re-sprayed the tiles.  First using a primer followed by spray paint.  Having never done anything like this before, I was a little worried about the outcome but I told myself that it couldn’t be worse than the current condition.

I’ve gone from a harsh grubby white. 22894248_1952400064976851_8468624229811465681_n The tiles really reminded me of those from a public toilet block.  To a much warmer antique white.  23031308_1952399978310193_8313141226400982136_n

The walls I have opted for a strong matt kitchen paint in Barbados blue.

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Very bold but vibrant.

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I’m still keeping a section of retro tiles.

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I adore those tiles.  It’s funny how our tastes change.  I had these tiles in my first house and totally hated them.  But now vintage is very in.  I think they look great with the choice of paint.

I then took the top off my old living room cabinet and painted the cabinet with a chalk and clay paint, topped off with finishing wax.

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I’ve had a habit of picking up bargains over the years.  A few years ago somebody was selling some tiles they had left over.  I adored the colours so snapped their hands off thinking how one day I would find a use.  I now have a use.  They are in the process of being stuck to what will be my kitchen island.

I’ve decided to match my dated fitted kitchen cupboards with the kitchen island colour scheme.

22894365_1952400208310170_6549749386655936998_n I have started painting them with the chalk and clay paint but this time rather than wax, I want them to have a sheen so I’m going over those with clear varnish.  It’s going to take roughly four coats but we are getting there.

Still more jobs to do in the kitchen.  These include:

Finishing the kitchen island.

Painting the work tops with floor paint.

Creating a kitchen blind.

Putting up a fancy shelving unit – which I’ve again bought second hand and will shabby chic.

The glossing of paint work.

Making over the fridge and doors.

Plus all the finishing and fancy bits.

All a work in progress which is being fitted around current commitments.

I do feel like I’ve cheated slightly on my makeover.  I’ve bought a wonderful stand alone oak cabinet which is already painted in grey for cooking utensils. Brand new!  I think it’s the only piece of furniture in my house which has been bought brand new!

But as you can see, I’m going to have much more to blog about over the coming weeks.

A kitchen makeover which will mix the old with the new and gain, five new cabinets, a new work surface, five new drawers and four new wall shelves!

I must go and get on with it!!!

 

 

Celebrating small victories and learning from failure…

IMG_1023I haven’t written many blogs this year… in fact I’m not sure I’ve written any.   Possibly because it has been a highly chaotic year.  Therefore, it’s not that I haven’t wanted to blog, I have but life has had other priorities. Parenting teens is proving as challenging as ever and definitely a full time job and I also started tutoring.  Tutoring is a new challenge.  I have the knowledge but teacher training experience is occurring hands on, with the comfort that I have raised and continue to raise children and we have gone through a lot educationally together.  Never underestimate the power of parenting and the valuable skills you gain.

Chaos often means growth.  Problems arise and the only way is through them (something I’ve been telling my son this year). You know you’ve stopped growing when it levels out and things move slow and you get into a comfort zone.  In my mind that’s the time to try and go up a notch as it’s all too easy to sit back and stay in safety.  When really it could be the time to expand your wings and try for better.  I kind of guess it depends upon your level of ambition.

So if like me, you have taken the leap to a new challenge or challenges this year.  Either in romance, career, hobby, home etc…  Remember that reaching out and trying new things can result in failure which isn’t bad as it gives the chance to bottom out, learn and start again.  But they could result in a victory, whether it’s a small victory towards the big victory.

Today I’m celebrating a victory.  My first student has made a massive turn around.  Not just in subject knowledge but in perseverance and enjoyment of learning.  It makes me feel good to realise I’ve helped contribute towards encouraging somebody to keep going and not stop.  This is the first step to a positive spiral upwards and I’m elated with the result.

Private tutors can often get a hard time – we’re seen as assisting pushy parents.  But I’ve seen a different side.  I see it as being a parents support, support during times that often mean both parents have to work and can’t physically fit the time in to cover everything.  There are not enough hours in the day.  I know that one too well.

Chaos means growth.  You’ve got to want better for yourself to get better for yourself.  I feel like I’m growing (gaining experience) into a good direction and that feels good.

Now back to my blogging and many writing projects.  Hopefully the start of getting it back because like I tell my students ‘You shouldn’t stop.’

 

 

Getting up and showing up… even when you don’t feel like it…

1930873_26182604247_6957_nPositive people are annoying… Right???

They get up, make the best out of bad situations, have a smile on their face and give it their best shot.

Really annoying.  Especially if you want to be just like that and wonder how you can be just like that.

But why is it that while some people can shrug off life’s challenges as blessings in disguise?  Others view the same picture through a foggy lens?

The foggy lensed person is thinking how things could be better while the other is focussing on how it could be much worse.

Perceiving how life is tough and most of the time there is truth in it.  But here’s the truth, nobody has a perfect life.  But when a person is having a rough time they may sit and compare their life to somebody else’s.  Positivity is annoying, especially when you’re experiencing a rough time. Instead of being inspired, the resentment and self-loathing kicks in.  People are human it’s natural and a lot of the time we all want what somebody else has without thinking what we have ourselves. We forget that the moment in our life is just that.  It’s a moment and things can change.  The negative thought processes then leads to gossiping, belittling what others have worked hard for or achieved. Negative actions because we don’t believe we can do it our self.

The negative, self harming thoughts that turn into negative actions are wasted emotions that block the positive energy channels from filtering through to your own life. Then indeed, we don’t get because we don’t believe.

We don’t get or attract what we want, we get and attract what we are.

But like I’ve said, we’re all human, it wouldn’t be natural to have negative emotions from time to time.  It’s natural.  What we can do is work on that negativity to turn it positive and turn our lives around.

None of us are hopeless cases.

Everybody deserves happiness and inner peace.  It’s a feeling that’s the best in the world. If you’ve been living with a black and dark cloud around you, here are some pointers to start lifting that cloud and bring a bit more sunshine back in your life:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Often we’re just a bunch of competitive souls and if we feel we’re not measuring up then we begin to doubt ourselves and become fearful.  Remember  you’re brilliant just as you are.  Social media can be to blame for this.  People posting pictures or sharing sections of their lives.  Always remember that is just  section of their life and their perception and that is fine. In actual fact they’re doing what social media is designed for.  Switch your perception too and you’ll have no need to compare.
  • Take time to be quiet.  Very difficult in the modern world where we are taught to multi-task to the max.  But taking time for yourself, whether it’s walking, sitting down and staring into space, pottering around a town centre on your own, walking your dog, gardening or any hobbies that allow you to drift off.  They’re good for you.  Sometimes we’re too busy for our own good.  Switch off your busyness (if you can, I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past) it’s at those switch off moments that potential solutions to your problems can come to you. Otherwise, the negative alternative are those sleepless nights when you’re churning everything around in your mind.
  • Explore and question any self limiting beliefs that you may have about yourself.  Society conditions many to think a certain way – not that way then once again, you’re less than perfect.  And with that in mind, we can be tough on ourselves, turning ourselves into our own worst enemy.  Not taking the time to really ‘love yourself’  Question, what if those thought processes are holding you back.
  • Loving yourself is as important as loving somebody else.  Often we can give others good advice on how to take care of themselves and be gentle with themselves.  We put ourselves on the back burner.  Speak to yourself like you’d speak to somebody else.
  • Keep a personal journal to write those thoughts out and be honest.  If you feel negative towards somebody or have found yourself with negative actions.  Write them down, it’s the first step to working out why you feel that way.  I can’t praise free writing enough, it’s like unburdening the soul.  You can burn the pages afterwards if you really want to ensure that nobody reads it.
  • Accepting some things you can’t control.  You can’t control another persons behaviour over you but you can control your behaviour over them.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  That doesn’t mean be a doormat.  But it means, should you really allow them to take away your inner peace, you’re bigger than that.  Keep doing your thing.
  • Similar with circumstances.  You can’t always control your current circumstances but you can change how you view them and work upon changing them.
  • Let go.  Forgive yourself and forgive those around you.  Forgiving others doesn’t mean you have to allow them into your life but it certainly gives you peace of mind.  And really, life’s too short to be holding grudges against anybody it hurts only one person and that’s yourself.  Forgive yourself too.  Everybody is learning and making mistakes.  But yesterdays mistakes shouldn’t define or label you or take you to your future.  Each day is a new beginning.
  • Have an attitude of gratitude.  So you might not have everything in your life right at this present moment.  But you’ll have something to be grateful for.  Remember just because you haven’t got something in your life now doesn’t mean you never will.  It is always the bigger picture.

The more you practise the art of positivity the more you’ll become aware of the negativity within your life and how to change it.  Remember you can’t change everything but you can always change how you think about it.  Choose an attitude of gratitude and watch it change.

 

 

 

 

Studying as a mature student… Is it worth it?

 

11391776_1606920132858181_2293318505982797895_nA couple of years ago I graduated with an Honours Degree as a mature student.  I was immensely proud of myself as it had taken many years to achieve.  Years achieved while facing adversity that would have made many crumble, accept their lot and forget studying.  But I wanted to do it and though my adversity started midway, I just couldn’t give it up.  It was a goal and I wanted to achieve it.

All the way through I worked jobs to keep my family and my head above water and there were so many times when I wondered “What was I doing it for?”  Studying doesn’t give you the guarantees in the field of your chosen study. I wondered if I’d be labelled forever by the job I was in.  I was being told by negative people “What are you doing it for?” “Why are you pushing yourself?”  “What are you going to do with yourself, you’re getting older now.” But I just couldn’t give it up.  I just loved my subjects.

My adversity changed a lot of my initial plans as to why I was studying.  It also meant I was told off by my Specialist. “No.” She said. “No studying around working and three children.  It’s too much.” I ignored her. I’m glad I did.

I continued and eventually graduated and I can honestly say it was one of my proudest moments.  Made more special that my children were there with me.  More special knowing it had been a huge mountain to climb.

But once it was over, I felt left with a void.  Still stuck in the job that had satisfied a requirement.  Payment.  A job that fitted around school runs, an element of flexibility which ensured I got that qualification and attended every sports day, nativity play and parents evening etc… I thank my old employers for that.

But I was so disgruntled.  You see, the job, it felt like a prison sentence that I couldn’t be released from. If my circumstances had been different I could have run like the wind.  I’d worked so hard, gained so much knowledge and it wasn’t being used in my job. Plus the age of my daughter and changes in circumstances and not real hands on support meant I knew it wasn’t the right time for any major career.  I still needed a flexible job – career jobs and flexibility do not always go hand in hand.  I had this massive fear that everything I’d done and worked hard for was for nothing.  It made me quite depressed.  I’d go out of the door in the morning, show up and turn up but each day – I was looking at my shoes, just getting on with it, going through the motions.

You see, work, it’s not everything but it’s a major part in life and work for me is something that must make me feel stretched not suppressed.

I looked at every work at home opportunity to see if I could gain a bigger income over less time.  You see I always wanted to be a Writer but most of us know that Writing isn’t always the profession to make money in abundance.  It takes time.

But the at home jobs, there were clues that felt as though they just were not the right path.

Then something hit me.  I needed to leave my job but I didn’t know how.  You see when you have dependents you just can’t walk out of a job.  Then out of the blue one night I had this dream.  I can’t describe how it felt fully.  But it was a dream that I left my job and had a new job and was happy.  I woke up with dread that morning.  Thinking “Do I really have to go to work?”  Once again, thinking how I could change it.

I went to work that day and I was given redundancy.  Rather than worry.  It was like the clouds had parted.  Many shocked at my calm reaction.  A single mother of three and walking out of the door, happy to be released.  But you see.  I knew it was time for change and I knew that everything I’d learned was being wasted.  My wings had felt clipped, that was the moment of release.

You see, I wanted to be a Writer or a Teacher.  So when I walked out of that door, I told myself that I was going to find a way to do both.  Writing.  It’s difficult to make an entire good income from writing but so far from the beginning of 2016 I’m doing pretty much ok in many of the Women’s mags.  Lots of opinions flying out there and I’m on the readers panel for others, which means I’m paid for opinions.  It was a good starting block. Not to mention my book reviewing.  (I’ve not forgotten, I’ve got one in the pipeline – New Year, new start)

I’ve got a fab little job in a Museum which enables me to keep on learning and be surrounded by a subject I enjoy which is local history.  I’m meeting fabulous people who are teaching me wonderful facts.  I learn something new each time which was something I was lacking previous.

I’m typing for an author and I’m home tutoring English to teens.

I now realise and have the relief that my studying wasn’t wasted and flexible opportunities to fit around my circumstances that are fulfilling are out there.  I just needed to get into the right environments and have the chance to find them.

I no longer feel held back by a job.

Most of us work for the need of money.  But as Richard Branson says:

“Do what you love and the money will come.”

Dear Mr (Philip) Schofield… You have turned ‘This Morning’ into the new version of ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show…’

Dear Mr Schofield,

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I was always a fan of yours.  I remember running home from school to watch yourself and Gordon the Gopher.  You were fun, jolly, cheerful and always had a joke.  I loved you with brown hair, I thought you were so handsome.  Then I still loved you when you became a silver fox.

But it’s past tense.  Over the past year.  Yourself and Holly Willoughby have turned what was once a day time favourite into a new version of the Jeremy Kyle show…  Richard and Judy the nations favourite.  Judy was such a feminist and actually if she disagreed with Richard, she’d argue and set the record straight.  Compassion was there.  The lovely Denise the Agony Aunt – helping people with problems.  Helping people – help, what a lovely word when used and put into action.

I no longer watch your show.  I can’t stand the fakery of it or the fact that yourself and whoever is beside you acting as your puppet Gordon the Gopher, no longer sit and debate or give a fair story – nope, this is no longer the case.  Forgetting your privilege and forgetting your viewers.  The vast majority who will receive some sort of household benefit or if not at present might do in the future or might have done in the past.  The very people who without, you wouldn’t have a wage and you  would be sat in your underpants on benefits with your curtains closed.  You’re lucky and privileged and that is because of your audience so I think it’s time you showed a bit of respect to the people who got you there.

Like I say, I don’t watch the show.  But on waking today and feeling all positive about life and the future I then turned on my social media and you were there with your angry face!  What happened to you?  You were once so cheerful.

Deborah Hodge was in the spotlight and sat on your blue sofa in front of yourself and Davina.  Judging by her shell shocked face she got a grilling like she was being told off by a Head Teacher.  Why does your show do that?  If you want to pick on somebody when you have your back up (ie Davina) then I think it’s time you stuck somebody on the sofa with her to back her up.  From what I saw on the small clip, you did nothing but judge.

You judged an ex Teacher with four children.  She had to give up teaching which she did for many years and she gave up her profession because her partner had a break down and her children had suffered ill health.  Yet you sat on the sofa opposite her and you were angry and without compassion.

She spent benefits money on Christmas presents for her children, quite a substantial amount but actually you can’t judge, she’s paid into the system and is now in it for a good reason.

After yesterdays blog you will see that I personally don’t believe in ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ even at Christmas.  But anybody in their right mind can see that she’s trying to soften the blow to her family who were once wealthy.  I daresay as her partner has been in the Army and has left due to a breakdown that the money from benefits will more than likely have topped them up and it is their entitlement to have just that.  Just as it would be if you were to lose your job and what a great lesson that would be for you to learn.

I know I’m not the only person who disagrees with how you handled an ex Teacher and current Writer on your show.  I’ve read the hundreds of comments and people are not impressed.  I think you were looking through a lens that had obscured your view.  For a man on television you displayed lack of vision.

Making a mountain out of a molehill:

“You got your £10 Christmas bonus from your benefits and you bought two bottles of Prosecco with it, which you’re perfectly able to do.”

But then your voice it became angry as you quoted her words:

“So cheers to the tax payer for my Christmas gift…”

Most of us can see she would have said that in jest or in mocking the measly amount, she’s making the best out of a bad situation.  Let us remember, it’s not a good place to be what with austerity cuts which you never seem to discuss.  Your place of privilege seems to have removed your humour and you have forgotten, she’s been a tax payer and she’s working on being a tax payer again.  Yet you want to whinge about a £10 Christmas gift.  Twist the words that she’s proud to be on the benefits system.  Probably said because she realises the stigma out there.  I hope she gets something good from her experience on your show and as she’s a Writer, comes back at you in years to come, sits on your couch, less shell shocked and more prepared…  And talks about her successes and how her struggles, adversity and time on benefits made her and her family strong in their time in need.  Because that’s what the system is about.  Putting in when you can and taking out when you need, then putting back in when you can.

Perhaps you’d like to trade places with Deborah for say six months – see how you get on.

Yours sincerely

Resourceful Shelly

ps once upon a time I’d have ended with a kiss.

 

 

Peer pressure – the Christmas present comparisons… and it isn’t pretty!!!

46523_431591714247_385207_nMany of us as adults have this understanding.  Not enough money and we have to go without until we do.  It can often be difficult explaining this to children and as parents we can feel the frustration.  We’re doing our best and following our beliefs to get our children moving on in the world with the realisation that life isn’t about ‘Keeping up with the Jones.’  But we’ve all been children and can no doubt have that empathy with them.

It was my daughters first day back at school and she started secondary school in September.  The Primary school she went to was not about ‘Keeping up with the Jones.’  A small school with the ethos of fairness, kindness and equality. It was not ‘show offy’ in the slightest.  But she’s now at an all girls secondary, a much bigger school and the girls are all trying to find their feet.  Not quite young children anymore but not that age of independence.  They’re not teens, they’re what I class as tweens, they’re in between.  Forming their beliefs about the world around them.   And naturally one of the things that young girls and indeed boys enjoy doing is showing off to their mates about what they have and what they got for Christmas.

I read an article a while back about parents not posting pictures on social media of presents around the Christmas tree as it might make other parents feel bad.  I could see the reasoning behind it but I generally have friends who enjoy posting their children’s presents on social media and I would say that many of us are on the same wavelength with what we can and can’t provide.  Christmas is about festivities and enjoyment and no doubt if any of us were aware of our friends struggling at Christmas, we’d be mindful.  It doesn’t take much to work that out.

Children on the other hand.

I thought I’d done well to provide for three children this Christmas.  As pointed out in other blogs, it’s a struggle every year (same as for other parents) and sometimes making sure the children have a great Christmas or the best I can provide has caused burn out.  This year I was clear in my thinking.

I’ve talked in my previous blog about the struggle with teens and gadgets.  How it’s difficult to monitor screen time and have time together as a family.  Single parent family, it falls on my shoulders and my shoulders are only so wide.  I’m not complaining, I do have a boyfriend, my life is good.  But the running of my house and providing for my children that falls solely down to me, particularly as our family circumstances completely changed the end of 2014 and then completely changed again the beginning of 2016.  I found myself completely playing mum and dad.  Going from single parent to sole parent is a big change – not only do you have to deal solely with life and problems but money becomes tighter still.  And don’t forget mid-way through the year I experienced job loss.  A lot of changes in one year – I can confirm in many ways for the better.

I decided this Christmas to battle the gadgets and go for a Christmas providing for the teens and tween with presents that catered to their other hobbies and interests.  To be fair I spent less money and had much bigger piles of presents and all of them, they were happy with the presents that they got.   We had a lovely Christmas.

But my daughter went to school yesterday.

“My friend has a lot more Zoella products than me… My friend she got…”

And she started reeling off the list of presents that her friend had got, lots of expensive gadgets and designer brands!  There is no way I can compete and as an adult there is no way that I want to compete.  And to be honest when I look back to my own childhood, I’d considered that she’d done very very well…

We live in a town where we have a Foodbank and  a Toybank.  My daughter is aware but in her circle of friends she doesn’t see it.  In her young mind, she got less than her friends.

But then I started to think about the area that we live in.  The divide between the people who need the Toybank then the people who don’t and I thought about the people like myself who are the ‘just managing’ and I thought there must be more like me.  So I explained to my daughter that nobody knows a financial situation in a household, people are often working extremely hard for not huge pay and debt in the country is rife!  I started to think of the lessons we’re teaching our youngsters if we’re just managing and pushing ourselves beyond our limits to provide ‘stuff’ ‘stuff’ that depreciates in value and is often cast aside.  I’ve explained that life isn’t just about ‘stuff’ that life should be more than just that, but try explaining that to an 11 year old. An 11 year old who no doubt loves the Christmas presents she has got (one was a sewing machine) but is just feeling that peer pressure.  No doubt a couple of years down the line and she’ll have a greater understanding and appreciation of how lucky she is in many ways but right at this moment she wants an IPhone 7!  Oh and to have her hair dyed because her friend does it and to go to the nail bar for acrylics!  It won’t be happening as I’m already concerned about the rising generation of mini Kardashians – they’re 11!  I’ve talked in the past about ‘capping the wealthy’ helping the needy.  I’m reaching the conclusion that maybe children should be capped at Christmas because the competitive ‘stuff’ ‘keeping up with the Jones’ it starts young.  And it’s teaching them just that.

We got over it, life goes on, it’s always best to get the issues out as a family and talk about it.  Then my son went to school today.  He’s fourteen.  The same problem, but it wasn’t really a problem ‘my wealthy friend got..’  However, he’s that bit older and has been fortunate enough to master making his own money.  For him it was easily dealt with, he easily shrugged it off.  He’s happy with what he’s got, he’s modest enough to know he’s smart enough to make his own.  Just as I’m sure my daughter will learn in time.  In his words… “Sometimes it’s better to get a bit less in life as it makes you appreciate what you have.”  Besides he’s not bothered about ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ I guess he’s lucky enough to be the Jones…  Just as is his older brother and I know my daughter will too. I think we’d all rather be the Jones and I’m not talking about accumulating ‘Stuff.’

 

Happy New Year to you all!

 

 

 

 

 

Mumsnet advice, ruined my cake toppers… When Christmas baking sends you to tears

15621657_1803187323231460_4337851962698204881_nI like many others get this image of Christmas perfection.  Home baked goodies, Christmas cards out early and presents wrapped.  Thoughts of Christmas eve chilling out, feet up, watching tv, enjoying all of the hard work.  For me it never happens.  Though I have made Sloe Gin this year.  I’m normally wrapping presents Christmas Eve.  And as for the baking I try, I try very hard. If God loves a trier then God will love me!  I get a picture in my head of perfectly baked mince pies or cakes with perfect little swirls on the top – Instagram and Pinterest worthy.  But they never turn out like the cakes on blasted Instagram. I’d like to blame my difficult kitchen but I guess ‘a poor workman blames his tools’ But I’m an ambitious girl.  Not deterred by the birthday cakes I’ve attempted this year.  It started with my sons cake, 13226940_1716666578550202_5605386369255904797_nthen I decided to make a birthday cake for my boyfriends daughter, then I had to make one for my oldest son and now just my daughter to go before I make the decision as to whether to go back to shop bought.  The faff and the mess that I create each and every time, followed by exhaustion and a patient boyfriend who comes in to the house, just as I’m questioning my sanity in attempting to bake cakes – he’ll kindly come in and start cleaning up the mess…

So I spoke to the company ‘My Cake Toppers’ specialists in Cake Toppers.  Pre-printed designs available or you can design your own which are perfect for businesses or charity events.  They very kindly sent me some Cake Toppers.  15590355_1803187416564784_7859927405278688042_n

I opted for a Christmas design and I was delighted when they arrived.  So colourful and I set to work with my plans of creating Orange and Cranberry Muffins topped with a Cinnamon.  The sponge themselves, they were perfectly fine.  But by the time I came to ice the cakes it was dark and I’ve had problems with my kitchen tube light so I attempted to ice them in the dark.  I wasn’t patient enough to wait until the next day.

First mistake… I used Chinese Five Spice instead of Cinnamon! This has had my partner laughing for a week and he did tell the tale to his work mates who still insisted that they would eat them! Well there is only a shade difference between the spices… But not only did I stick the wrong spice into the icing, I also stuck quite an amount of it in too.

I managed to blob the icing onto the perfectly fine cakes, feeling slightly irritated that once again they didn’t resemble anything that I’ve ever seen on Instagram.  How do they do it?  I need the secret.  But I shrugged, I’m a beginner, I told myself.  You don’t need to be an expert to use Cake Toppers.  Or do you?

Second mistake…

The Cake Toppers had arrived in perfect condition.  I thought how much nicer they would be than using say… Chocolate Buttons.  Surely their decorative appearance can improve any less than perfect iced cakes?  You can be a beginner and use Cake Toppers!  Well I thought so but it proved to be wrong.  You see I’d left the cake toppers at room condition for a couple of days so peeling them off proved disastrous, they just wouldn’t peel off.  Realising that maybe it was the room temperature, keeping them stuck to the sheet of paper.  I thought maybe putting them in the freezer might harden them off.  But before I did that I decided to go on Mumsnet… Mumsnet have advice for everything and sure enough there was advice.  Stick them in the oven to harden.  So I did it.

Big mistake…

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The paper was of the plastic sort and I ended up with a  shrivelled up mess… Another tale for my boyfriend to delight in. Thanks Mumsnet…  My boyfriend now thinks I’m Bridget Jones the second! Sure enough the cake toppers which had survived did peel off easy enough.  Thankfully ‘My Cake Toppers’ had been generous and sent me several sheets so I stuck those sheets in the  freezer for 10 mins and they peeled off with ease.

So never one to give in and to show the cake toppers I continued with the Chinese Five Spice iced cakes – they were terrible!  But the Cake Toppers – very pretty.

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There is still time to order yours for your Christmas Baking.  Who eats Mince Pies anyway?

Pretty Cake Toppers from mycaketoppers.co.uk

My partner said that for Christmas he is going to buy me baking equipment so that I don’t become deterred.  I think he secretly likes me covered in icing sugar.. Which brings me onto my next blog post.  A review about a book called ‘The Elephant in the Mirror’

Hopefully once I’m through my abundance of wrapping and organising.  I can start working on plans and goals for 2017 and this is the book to offer guidance.  To get the most out of what you want out of life and to step out of your comfort zone.  Even if it means potential fail.

Tips for organising Teenagers… Motherhood = PA/Lifecoach…

15327459_1797298080487051_9116961038374384576_nI was quite an organised teenager. I pretty much organised my entire self.  My experience of my eldest son is that he too is very very organised.  So it has come as a shock to me with my second son.  Organisation is just not something he grasps and I’m not sure they teach it in schools.  Teens have a lot of distractions and organisation may not be top of their priority list.

With the start of GCSE’s it’s important to be organised.  Many of us realise that to keep on top of our workloads we need to be organised.  For the average teenager who perhaps is plodding along, they are not realising the importance that organisation brings and how it can be a positive in everything that they do.

If like me, you need to give your youngster a push in the right direction, here are my tips:

  • Talk to them about the importance of organisation and how it can be a positive in making everything so much easier.
  • If you live in a confined space and don’t have the luxury of a desk with lots of lovely storage space.  Keep a school subjects box. We have large clear plastic boxes with lids. Many parents may have experience of teens throwing work around their bedroom or starting work in one area and leaving it laying around.  Hence the school morning struggle.  It is so much easier for teens if their work is in one place, ready for when they pack their school bag.
  • We had got that far.  All of his work was in one place.  However, inside the box was a mingle of Chemistry papers with English and History.  So we moved onto the next phase.  We needed to get inside that box, organised, like a filing cabinet.
  • Colourful envelope folders.  We’ve labelled each one with each subject.  For English, we’ve got one for each component, for instance, Macbeth, Jekyll and Hyde, Creative Writing, Poetry etc… The box was instantly looking much better.
  • Inside the envelope files, date order and attach work with paperclips.  Like I’ve said, when I was a teen this came naturally.  But for many it doesn’t.
  • I’ve then asked my son to create on word a homework time table.  He has one in his planner but I’ve said it would be a good idea to see it on his bedroom wall.  Nice and clear.  He’s artistic and creative, I think the visual will help.
  • We’re armed with colourful post it notes and he has nice pens.  Post it notes for reminders to go on his wall or around his computer screen, reminders for when he becomes distracted.   I think it makes a difference to youngsters in doing their work if they enjoy working with their materials.  Again, he’s artistic so I think that makes a massive difference.  But even for those who aren’t nice pens are nice to use.
  • I’ve also invested in lots of reporters notebooks.  One for each subject and to keep inside his envelope files.  To freely write notes, especially useful for revision.
  • Lastly, we’ve created a ‘Personal Development’ folder.  This is for us at home so that we can keep information and can pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses to help him get through the next two years.  He can also keep any school letters etc… or information that he needs to hand to me.  I bet many parents have had those letters – 5 minutes before they are due to get out of the door in the morning.  I can now actually check his file for him if he forgets.

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I’ve spoken to many of his teachers who have said ‘he lacks organisation’ now rather than see this as a negative, I’m now seeing it as a positive.  It’s feedback as to what needs to improve.  And that’s the thing with motherhood, it’s a challenge each day and we have to prioritise with the demands from the day.  This is just another.  Motherhood = PA/lifecoach.  But I’m confident that the organisation is now in place to push forward from.

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