Monday, 30 May 2011

Nectar for a Goddess

So sorry for the quietness here this week. We are au famille this bank hol weekend and so kicking back and, well, not relaxing that much actually. It turns out family visits are still rather stressful but hey ho, and what better way to destress than with a lovely bath and a honey face mask?

Oh yes, honey is my new beauty miracle. Skin feeling tired, stressed, dry, sensitive? Slap some nectar on it! It will leave your skin feeling plumper, softer, soothed and all round a whole lot more like the goddess you are at heart.

I've tried several different potions - favourites below - or you can simply use it straight out of the jar! I use Equal Exchange Fairtrade Organic Set Honey which is lovely and creamy (and very tasty too) but any honey will do!

Nourishing Oaty Scrub
1 tsp honey
Few drops Evening Primrose Oil
1 tsp oats, ground up roughly
- Mix all together and slather on your face. Watch our for dropped bits on the carpet! Leave on for 10-15 mins then use a warm, damp and soft face cloth to remove. Moisturise as normal.

1 tsp honey
1/3 ripe banana
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- Blitz all the ingredients together (or mash/mix very well) and slather on whilst a servant paints your toenails and feeds you grapes.

Don't forget your eyes! Cucumber slices, potato slices or good old tea bags are all excellent for rejuvenating tired baggy eyes!

Go, go, now, off to the bathroom and pamper yourself. NOW!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Me Made June: In at the Deep End!

Ok, so I''m planning to do something really brave/exciting/foolhardy, and that's to participate in Me Made June. Why is it so foolish of me? Oh well, you know there's two good reasons why not for a start. And then there's the others:

  1. We have one table space on board the boat. It's a fold-down one of which we only currently have space to use one leaf. And that is used for everything: meals, computer work, games, preparing food, artistry, storing mail/receipts/books and other randoms currently in use. So it's not ideal, shall we say, for creative projects that take time. And it's certainly not anywhere near big enough for sewing!
  2. I don't have an iron. Our inverter goes up to 500W. Travel irons start at 800W. Oh yes, I could go the old fashioned route and will probably have to at this rate, but it is a bummer!
  3. Every time I get my sewing machine out (invariably late at night when kids are in bed) something goes wrong and I spend the whole evening trying to fix it, without managing to sew a stitch.
  4. My enormous stash of homemade jewellery is... somewhere. Between having babies (jewellery and babes just don't go together for lots of reasons) and moving from camper van to boat it's got stuck away in storage.
  5. As you already know, I get about 10 minutes to dress/wash/brush my hair in the morning. If I'm lucky.
But those reasons are precisely why I want to give it a go. Earlier in the year I had a dream of taking the time to spend on my appearance to make myself feel better. But it hasn't happened. And as I feel I have less and less time to make things I find myself wanting to buy stuff - which is not how I want to feel at all. So I need to just make more effort!

Given my constraints I want to try and be realistic so my pledge will be a small one to most others taking part, but it's huge for me. Oh and I'm a novice so anything I make that's wearable is/will be a miracle! But here goes:
'I, Zoe, of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-June '11. I endeavour to wear at least one self-made garment or accessory each day for the duration of June 2011'
Who fancies joining me?! I plan to post some pics here (gosh how brave am I?) so you can tell whether I've managed it or not ;)

Friday, 20 May 2011

*That* Kind of Mum

This post is inspired by an impromptu blog carnival which I discovered via MJ at Wander Wonder Discover. It really sums up some of the things I'm beginning to learn about parenting, especially with my sensitive little boy.

This weekend I was on baby duty again* as Father Earthly did some more boatbuilding so that one day we might actually have a home (this time it was clearing out the bow in preparation for "the big move" - more later).

And, like so many times before, I struggled. Baby Earthly no. 1 was in a highly sensitive mood and I couldn't get him interested in anything. He just whinged, moaned, screamed, pulled away, flopped down, or just sat, inert, shy, or plain uninterested (so I thought). I tried to play with him at the park. Ordinarily he loves the slide but with me he just didn't seem to know what he wanted. He sat at the top of the slide, getting in the other kids' way and refusing to budge. I cajoled, I played silly, I tried to help him down, offered to catch him, teased, diverted his attention, climbed up to be with him (bearing in mind I had baby no. 2 strapped to me this was no mean feat) but all to no avail.

It was like that the whole day. And it has been like this many times before too. Last week I was in tears because he'd successfully screamed the local library and garden centre down. Oh the shame, of looking like the worst parent in the world! Not because he was "making a scene" but because I felt so utterly disconnected from him, my little boy. He just didn't seem to be part of me any more.

I always wanted to be a "natural" parent. Unfortunately it hasn't always worked out that way. I have found myself wanting to control, to coerce, to reprimand when things aren't going how I want them to. I've struggled against the urge to snap or shout or even (gulp) be vindictive (no you can't have that toy because I've had enough and because I say so) when my nerves are frayed and I'm entering meltdown. In fact, I've learned a whole lot more about myself as a person since becoming a mum (and particularly to no. 1). And I've been surprised at what I found: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I've read a lot about sensitive kids since we realised that's what baby no. 1's "problem" was. There are so many great resources out there, not least those bloggers (and the commenters too!) who have dared to bare all and speak candidly and openly about the topic (wonderfully, there's too many to mention, but do visit the Natural Parents Network for support). Books worth mentioning are Playful Parenting (on my reading shelf currently) and The Highly Sensitive Child (which I don't have but have seen recommended a lot).

But somehow knowing and even recognising the underlying causes or issues has not helped me to deal with the resulting behaviour. Even through all the times I've been 'playing at' the good mum, the tuned-in mum, the sensitive mum, I think it's been somewhat mechanical, a means to an end and no more. Because I've felt frustrated, fed up, disappointed even. I've been grieving over a sense of severe disconnect.

Until now. I hope. The last few days I've really been trying to look beneath the tantrums and 'oddities' to discover afresh my baby boy. And the more I look, the more I see. The more I see, the more I want to delve deeper. I've realised, in fact, that the "problem" may have been mostly with me after all. I so desperately wanted to "connect" with him that I was ignoring his needs and desires, feeling them somehow inferior or just a plain nuisance. So he wants to guddle in the gravel rather than plant seeds with me; so he'll have a cuddle but only when he wants to and for as long (or as short) and as often as he wants; so he doesn't want to play in the park because actually he's really tired and feeling overwhelmed; so he will insist on watching 'Thomas' at every possible opportunity; so he will sit and move his crayons between containers rather than draw me a picture; so he will pick the banana off his sandwich and the veg off his pizza. So what? Just because those things don't tally with my desires doesn't mean they are wrong.

Before I became a parent, and indeed until my little one became a toddler, I had all sorts of ideas about how things should or could be done. Most of us do. And we are all guilty of a bit of parenting snobbery. But the biggest thing I've learnt as a mum is truly, what 'natural parenting' really means. It does not mean being the greenest or most alternative parents in the neighbourhood with your home-birthed, fully breastfed, organic-real-nappy-wearing, co-sleeping offspring (however commendable those things are in themselves). It does not mean 'permissive parenting' or 'spoiling' or simply being lax and irresponsible. It does mean dropping down to their level and learning to understand them through play. It does mean communicating effectively with your children (like ECing, it's all about cues) and parenting in a mindful or conscious manner. It does mean following your intuition and realising that actually it's so much easier to win 'good' behaviour when you're not at loggerheads, and so much more pleasant all round!

Today I feel closer to my little boy than I ever have before, simply through re-evaluating my own expectations and desires. I would like to think, now, I am that kind of mum.
* In saying this, I'm not in any way saying Father E doesn't do his share of childcare duties. He does. And way, way more than most men would/could/should. He is truly wonderful.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Don't Trash it, Refashion it!

This year I made a vow to myself not to buy clothes unless I felt they were essential. Instead, I wanted to try and make myself things as I needed or fancied them.

All very well, but I hadn't reckoned on having zero time or opportunity to make said items! And whilst lack of money has certainly prevented me from splurging much, I have had the odd relapse, though only ever an extremely bargainous (or essential, preferably both) one! In fact I think I've bought about 6 items of clothing this year so far, which truly isn't bad, particularly as three of those things were underwear - tights, socks, bra.

I have also been helped by two major factors. Firstly, I've been able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes again (bearing in mind I've spent 2-and-a-bit years being heavily pregnant or recovering/breastfeeding, I've been my normal size 10 for about 4 months of that!). Secondly I don't have much peer pressure being on maternity leave, so ordinarily I can sit around in my pyjamas or throw on whatever happens to be closest/clean/suits my mood, regardless of whether it is fashionable/responsible/fit to be seen in.

But we all like new things and I've had so many ideas for garments recently it's silly. Unfortunately two small babies and a partly-finished boat have confined the ideas to my head, some escaping onto paper but not much further. Well I'm determined that's all to change and even as I type I have a couple of projects under way, which I hope to share with you really soon...!

I'd love you to join me for some fun refashioning old, unloved garments (or other textiles) into new, funky, and totally wearable wearables :) From time to time I'll be posting tutorials and sew-alongs (or make-alongs!) so look out for those and send me your pics!

I would also LOVE to have your guests posts on things you've refashioned - just send me your ideas/posts to giveanearthly [at] gmail [dot] com.

Let the refashioning commence!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Mastering Love and Fear

Fear vs Life
I've been thinking a lot about happiness this year. Well, it's a recurring theme for us all really isn't it? Every day is evaluated by how well we think things are going for us, how lucky we are, what pitfalls have stopped us short (or temporarily holed us), what achievements we've managed despite the competition/weather/economical situation etc etc etc.

Is it me or has it all gone quiet on the "David Cameron wants to know how happy you are" front? Popping over to the Office for National Statistics site, I see that they're now in the process of evaluating all your comments and "expect to report on the findings of the debate in July 2011". Oooh, I can't wait.

Yes, you did read that right, the cynicism in my tone. Not usually noted for being so (I tend to believe cynicism is self-destructive and pointless), I can't help it in this case. I will be genuinely interested to hear the "results"; however I do believe the subject of the country's happiness, and particularly the method for gathering information on it, is not something we are exactly experts at on the whole. Quite apart from us being duly noted worldwide as "a bunch of whinging poms", there is the small matter of the questions you were asked. Sadly I can't see the questionnaire now it's closed, but I remember looking at it a few months back and seeing the same old leading questions on health, housing, economy etc etc etc. Well, you say, aren't they what's important? Well, dear reader, that's rather up to you. But my point is, that by forcing you to answer questions on such topics, they are making you feel as if they ARE important to you, whether they really are or not. 

The political satire Yes, Prime Minister, gives a wonderful sketch demonstrating how leading questions can achieve either a "yay" or a "nay" from you in the same sitting:

But at risk of encouraging mass egocentricity, if you were to forget about all our societal structures, can you make an honest and raw appraisal of your real happiness goals? Or do you struggle to think outside the confines of those structures? In his blog, the Moneyless Man Mark Boyle claims we are all "addicted to civilisation". Defining addiction in his own terms as "'any behavioural pattern that persists despite the person being aware that it is harming their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well-being and/or is killing them'", he summarises that
"Addicts effectively keep refusing to let something much more fulfilling into their lives, probably because they no longer have a real sense of how good life could be without [their fix]."
Now I happen to know a family member who fits this bill exactly: her life revolves around the negative and what kind of sensation she can cause or glean from it, whilst at the same time bemoaning how torrid her life is. She happens to be a particularly case, but we are all guilty of it.

David Sye of Yogabeats
Similarly, on his Yogabeats blog, David Sye also speaks of 'addiction', this time to "life as an item", where 
"Western life is built around the ability and concept of controlling everything.  For we are terrified by what we cannot control, so life itself poses a real threat"
Attacking those age-old hang-ups we all succumb to ("I can't do A until X, Y and Z happens.."), Sye rightly points out that 
"Nothing NEEDS TO HAPPEN for you to remember that you are life itself, showing up (whether you like it or not!) through the little idea of who you imagine yourself to be."
Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with both takes on this essential message, Sye really nails it for me in outlining his current workshop From the Mastery of Fear to the Mastery of Love. He claims we have to learn how to:
"recognise the addiction we have to the "emergency emotions" of fear and our emotional wounds and how and why they keep repeating throughout our lives, until we learn the cognitive skills that can transform us from the mastery of fear to the mastery of love".
In other words, before we can selflessly care 100% about the planet or even how much "civilisation is killing us", most of us will need to look to ourselves first. Honestly, openly, and without preconceptions, excuses or prefabricated societal constructs.

Anyone who knows me knows I can preach till the cows come home about finding your true place in life no matter what. I annoy my friends and family daily with my evangelicism whilst struggling myself with the subject. A wise teacher I once knew said that we all study what we are most lacking in ourselves. It's so true. But nobody said the path to "happiness" was finite. The route between mastering "fear" and "love" is completely organic, flowing, elusive at times, confusing and often changeable. So nobody - no government official, no yoga master, no psychiatrist or teacher or parent or friend can TELL you where to find your own happiness. You have to go looking for it yourself.
What will you choose?

If you need guidance you won't be short of finding some on the web. Start off by checking out The Happiness Project, Blacksburg Belle and The Goddess Guidebook. But ultimately you've got to follow your own intuition. Those who lead the happiest lives (and recognise it) have found what works best for them and are always open to re-evaluating that, within certain limits. For example, whilst some days I dream of running away to join the circus and somewhat lessening my responsibilities, in my saner moments I acknowledge that such a move would only make me temporarily "happy" at best, thereafter reducing me to a life of misery and regret.

I feel that personal happiness in today's world can be best achieved through an alchemical mixture of self-control and empowerment: learn to recognise what you love and what works for you within your given limitations (see above!) but don't over-indulge (or at least not too often). And allow yourself to feel empowered, strong, capable. All too often our best efforts are belittled in one way or another - it is not a British trait to "be proud" of yourself. But proud (not gloating or domineering) you must be. You've come this far, you've achieved this much. You are you and nobody else. Of course you should be proud.

And don't think for a minute that I'm saying you should all do what you like and forget about community values and the state of the world at large. Of course I'm also appealing to your moral nature and societal values. And I'm also trusting that you will find the balance "between constructive attempts at greater self-knowledge and pointless rumination" and not go down the self-destructive path of "overthinking". 

Learn to master your fears; learn to master your loves. Learn to be you.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How to be a Super Woman: Meet Gina from Happily Poddling Along...

1. Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself
If you break down my days I'm primarily a mother (my daughter, Midi is three and a half and my son, Mini is three months) and home-maker. However, I tend to fill every spare minute with something and as an avid crafter I always have several creative projects on the go too, some of which are usually freelance graphic design jobs. Just in case I ever get bored I also help run the local parent & toddler group, the local play group and the home birth support group, and there's also the charity myself and few others are in the process of setting up to support parents with learning disabilities.

I've worked as a doula since 2005 and as a breastfeeding peer supporter since last year and although I'm currently officially on maternity leave I still regularly talk to expectant parents on the phone and volunteer at the local breastfeeding support group and parent-craft classes. I originally trained as a graphic designer and have continued to undertake freelance design jobs as and when too.

Vintage dress for a toddler, Made by Gina.
2. Do you have a 'grand plan'? Do you think this has changed at all over the years?
There is always a grand plan, otherwise I'd have nothing to work towards! It has evolved over time and I'm sure it always will, but these days there is a lot more enjoyment of the here and now and a lot less pressure to get somewhere else. There was a moment a couple of years ago when I realised all my big dreams had come true – I had a wonderful life partner, a child (now two, which is even better), a job I adored (being a doula) and we'd found our dream home (a gorgeous 200 year old stone cottage in the country, with land and woods to work). I still have things I really want to do, such as actually make some money from my crafting and further into the future to train as a midwife, but it feels as though the Big Things have already been achieved so in some ways the pressure is off. That's not to say I'm complacent, but I am able to really appreciate the things I have now and enjoy these precious times with my young family without yearning too much for what I may be able to achieve in the future. I actually have to hold myself back from grieving for the loss of these magical (if manic) days before they have passed so, for now, my grand plan is to make the most of now and create the wonderful memories that will make me smile for the rest of my days.

3. What gets you up in the morning?
My kids, literally, usually at the crack of dawn. And then I grunt and thump around until the lovely Dr Poddle hands me a cup of tea and I gradually begin the metamorphosis into something more human. In the psychological sense, it's usually the latest creative project and the hope that maybe today I'll get a slice of time to devote to it that gives me that little extra oomph when I'm dozy-headed and craving more time under the covers.

4. Run us through a typical kind of day
After a start much like the one above we'll run through the morning mayhem of getting us and the kids breakfasted and dressed, the dog walked and fed, the chickens out and fed and anything else sorted. On the days when Midi goes to the local play group I drop her off after Dr Poddle has left for work (unless the timings work out for her to do the dropping off) then it's either home to attempt to keep on top of the chores with a bit of crafting/designing/interwebbing thrown in if the time/baby/inspiration is present, or we're out running errands or meeting up with folk. On the days when Midi is home based then the day will be some random mix up of shared activities like baking or child-centred craft and independent play for her while I try to keep the cogs going around the house as well. I've been surprised at how easily Mini, our three month old has fitted in to everything. He really does. He just comes along with me when out and happily watches me get on with things at home as long as he gets plenty of chat and feeding in between. I know I'm extremely lucky to have such a chilled out baby and although life still feels chaotic, I know it could be much worse.
Wax Crayon Batik: Gina has fun crafting on her blog

By mid-afternoon I'm starting to get my head into how to play out the evening. Midi is an early riser and if she doesn't have her tea by 5 and be moving into bedtime by 6-ish then we risk some serious tantrums and a much more interrupted night, so the clock starts to tick about 4:30. I used to really enjoy our family meal times but they just don't seem to fit her pattern at the moment given that Dr Poddle usually gets home from work not much before 6. So, kiddy tea happens, then Dr Poddle returns and we take it in turns to help Midi to bed: bath, stories and cuddles. Then we get to chill out, eat, and catch up with each other whilst cooing over Mini. Our evenings these days usually involve watching some TV or DVDs as a way to wind down and I'll usually be doing something crafty at the same time.

Weekends are the fun times and can involve anything. We try to give each other at least a little bit of child-free time every weekend, even if it's just an hour or so. Often we'll see friends, but we also really enjoy spending quality time at home. There's a lot of work to be done planting, caring for the animals, keeping up our wood stores etc so we're not short of things to do.

Cradling. View more of Gina's birth art here.
5. When you experience a setback how do you pick yourself back up again?
I had to think about this one. I have to find a way to lessen my emotional attachment to the setback, whatever it may be. I often find this quite easy to do by remembering the faith I have in the universe providing whatever I need, whether or not I can see why or how at the time. So faith plays quite a big part in it for me. My faith has evolved a lot in the last ten years or so and I now identify broadly as a pagan leaning in a shamanism direction, but the specifics fluctuate and combine many other things too. I don't undertake much ritual or formal practice but life and the universe now has a structure in my mind and heart that resonates with my soul and that brings me a lot of peace.
Once I'm able to see the setback more objectively it's usually possible to figure out a solution. Talking things through with my very wise Dr Poddle is often helpful as well. She's very good at cutting through crap, whether it be mine or anyone else's so she's a great sounding board.

6. Who or what inspires you the most?
Gosh, all kinds of people and things! I've become increasingly addicted to other craft blogs so I'm always stumbling across amazing ideas for practical things I want to make or do too. I also find my daughter's creativity to be truly inspirational so engineering environments where we can be creative together is something I love to do and gives me plenty of inspiration – I'm sure it will be the same with my son in due course. I'm also blessed with an amazing network of friends and colleagues from the world of doulaing/home/natural birthing and deep, engaged conversation with these wise women (and the odd man) helps fill my soul and keep me energised.

Experimenting with finger labyrinths
7. We all have bad days when we doubt ourselves and our abilities. How do you get through yours?
I usually run crying to Dr Poddle who gives me the cuddles and pep talk that I need. My sister and one of my cousins also get leaned on if I need them – and I try to offer the same in return. So seeking support is usually my first action. I don't seem to have a problem asking for help which is a good thing for me, though possibly not for everyone else... Other than that, it's a faith thing again. That deep rooted belief that the universe knows what it's doing, and if it doesn't then there's nothing I can do about it so I might as well make the most of what I can gets me through.

8. What do you feel are your greatest achievements and why?
Somehow managing to manifest my dreams by my early thirties, particularly conceiving, carrying and home birthing two wonderful children with dodgy fertility and the need for donated sperm ranks high. I've also felt enormous satisfaction from some of my doula work: witnessing someone go from anxious and fearful to an informed, empowered, roaring birthing goddess and knowing I may have helped play a part in that transformation makes me very happy.

9. Tell us what you think constitutes a "Super Woman" and list 3 key ingredients for success.
Most of the women I know are superwomen! A couple of months ago I met up with a group of about 8 friends for a group lunch with our assorted kids, all under 6. It was only afterwards that I realised that all but one of them was also either running or setting up their own business or enterprise as well as being the primary carer for their children and keeping a household ticking over. It made me feel very proud of all of us, even though we all run round like headless chickens most of the time to do it. Some of them even manage to look extremely glamorous while doing it, unlike me who wears make-up maybe twice a year and regularly goes out forgetting to brush my hair or even look in a mirror to make sure my top is on the right way round (it isn't always).

As for ingredients for success I'd say that setting reasonable goals, nurturing oneself (in whatever ways work for you) and doing one thing that makes you happy for every one thing you do that feels a chore would be a good start. Now I just need to remember those things myself...

10. Final words of wisdom?
Just surrender to the present. It's a beautiful place to be and so easy to miss.

You can find Gina over on her blog and her doula, graphic design and craft sites.

Do you know someone who fits the bill of Super Woman? Even yourself - don't be shy! If you would like to take part or recommend a friend, please send a message with the details to me at giveanearthly at gmail dot com.

What We Planted Wednesday

I have obviously been visiting far too many national trust properties recently for I seem to have my heart hung up on the the perfect English idyll... a lovely walled garden filled with endless clumps of fluttery, buttery wildflowers and herbs, punctuated in an orderly kind of haphazard way with meandering pathlets which lead to secluded corners where greenwood benches and willow arbours nestle in the dappled sunlight...

Back in my real life, we have a bundle of coir pots, seedtrays and growbags scattered atop our boat, and that will have to suffice garden-wise for the forseeable future!

Rain glorious rain! The salad leaves have sucked up the moisture gladly and are chunking up nicely. I think some thinnings might be on the menu for a nice cheese salad and chutney sandwich for lunch :)

Rocket is... rocketing, basil is blooming, in fact everything is doing really well. We had a bit of a disaster with our tomato seedlings - or should I say seedling? I think the frost must've got 'em. Anyhoo I quickly replaced them with a tumbler plant from the garden centre, which promptly got "hurricaned" in the strong winds last week. Third time lucky, we have purchased another 3 tumbler plants and hope they will survive long enough to give us some nice fruits!

Carried away with our progress so far, we picked up some "heritage collection" squash seeds (squash! On a boat!!), parsnip and purple sprouting broccoli. I don't have high hopes for the broccoli but you never know!

Yum yum yum. I can't wait for my country garden to start producing :) How is yours coming along?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Goodbye Baby, Hello Person

So that's it. My baby is already growing up. Not yet 6 months and she has discovered the wayward delectations of crispy apple, slurpily juicy watermelon, and pleasingly baby-mouth-sized grapes. Despite doing baby led weaning with our first, my heart was literally in my mouth earlier this evening as I watched her contentedly suck all the lovely goodness out of half-grapes, one after the other.

And despite my joy, my pride, at her accomplishments, her progression, part of me feels just a little teary. That's my baby... it still feels like she was only born a few weeks ago and suddenly she is eating solids! And with such quiet confidence too. One day a few weeks ago she was starting to grab at objects, and for the last week she has been practising bringing foodstuffs to her mouth for exploration, and in the last few days she has decided that actually this stuff is darned tasty and yes please I'l add that to my daily ration of motherly milk. All without the slightest hint of surprise or melodrama. 

I don't actually remember what the transition was like with baby Earthly no. 1. Maybe because he was our first everything seemed to take longer, or maybe it just did. In retrospect it feels like we gave him little sticks of things for months before he actually started realising this stuff was food, and therefore edible. But maybe not. The way he eats now you'd think he was born on solids.

Oh baby how I shall miss thee! Despite everything - the wriggles, the pinching and nipping and pummelling and kicking, the lack of bed space and being stuck for hours at a time virtually completely immobile and helpless, not to mention the endless fatigue - I am already missing in anticipation the closeness and comfortable regularity of full-on breastfeeding. And there's that thought, that really tugs on my heartstrings, that now, she is no longer just made of me... she is taking on foreign substances. She is slowly becoming independent, and her own person.


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Make a Wish... On Being Me

Pissenlit: Illustration courtesy of PrincesseCamCam

Today I am not a good mamma. I'm feeling tired and frazzled and selfish. Father Earthly is being wonderfully patient and showing baby Earthly no. 1 how to make cookies for grandma and how to blow dandelion clocks whilst I have grumbled constantly about my maternal duties and have been neglectful to the point where I've just found baby Earthly no. 2 chewing on my HMRC employer payslip booklet.

On days like this I really struggle to like who I am. I've come a long way in terms of self-acceptance over the years but still I have days, weeks or months when I wish I was an entirely different person. My shyness - which frequently passes into the anti-social - and my lack of self confidence are traits which I would willingly wish away like the spokes from a dandelion clock.

I often find myself looking at people in the street and imagining them with a different hairstyle, a complete change of wardrobe, a change of demeanor.  It's a game which is so absorbing because as an objective outsider, you can see the endless possibilities for others. In theory I know we can be whoever we want but in practice it's never an easy task. 

I know all this and whilst I've achieved many of my dreams, aspirations, goals, I feel I still cannot change the fundamentals of who I am, and sometimes that really gets me. So, you say, I shouldn't want to change but rather accept who I am. I've tried that too but unfortunately being anti-social is not a very positive trait!

And I worry. Because with my babies I know - in the first I'm already starting to see it - that they're likely to share some of those traits, in one form or another. And my job is to guide them through life in the most positive way possible, allowing them to come to terms with their own shyness but not letting it hold them back... how can I do that if I feel I've failed in my own life?

Our children teach us so much - I'm already learning that lesson. So here's hoping that my kids will teach me to accept myself for who I am and figure out the best path for ME that will lead me to be the best I can be...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wild Garlic, Courgette & Lime Salad

I hate courgettes. There now, you didn't expect that, did you? Well it's true. In fact neither Father Earthly or I are very keen. But a couple of years ago my brother (of all people - an avid meat-eater!) made us a side salad out of raw grated courgette, and we loved it.

What we both normally dislike is not in fact the poor humble courgette itself but how it is usually cooked - in thick wedges until all squashy ('scuse the pun) and slimey. Eurrrgh. However we've also had it cooked beautifully, especially good on pizza as thin slices. This is how courgette does best - thinly sliced and either raw or minimally cooked. Stewed is an absolute no-no in my book (unless it's well hidden).

So with all this in mind, I wanted to create our own raw courgette salad. Walking through our local woods recently I was struck by the sheer bountiful volume of wild garlic which seems to have sprung up this year. Acres of the stuff! A veritable paradise of starry white parasols all nodding in the breezy Spring sunshine.

Well it just begged to be added to my salad. So here we go:

One large courgette, grated coursely or put through a spiralizer
Handful of pumpkin seeds
About 8-10 wild garlic flowers, nipped off the stem and papery leaves removed
Juice of 1/2 lime
Black pepper to season

Mix all the ingredients together and serve as a side to barbecued 'meats' (veggie or non, whatever your preference!), or any salad dish.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Into a Canopy of Trees

I'm so pleased. This weekend and a little bit of last bank hol weekend we have finally managed to shrug Winter from the boat and get quite a bit of spring cleaning done, but more importantly to get more of our lining boards up. Now, instead of gazing at walls lined with dustsheets, I can lie in bed in the morning and look out through our portholes to the sky (and trees) above. It reminds me of days in the van when we woke up in the forest - days which I sorely miss. 

The beauty of our portholes is that, because we're so low down in the boat, people can't really see in so easily and see you lounging around in bed breastfeeding and looking at the sky ;)

We've also almost - but almost - finished the first coat of exterior undercoat so the boat is now proudly and beautifully green rather than camo grey and green patches! Only another 6 coats to go...

Our visible progress is small and there is still tons to do everywhere, but after months of imposed boatbuilding inertia it feels like we've moved a mountain!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Ginger Spice To Go

My god my head is buzzing with potential posts and posts-in-the-pipeline but you'll have to wait for them because quite frankly there isn't enough time. Like, right now I have to go as baby Earthly no. 2 wants food... Ok, back again. So yes, coming soon: an upcycled dress project; corset progress (including all the fun and faff I've had in fitting it without a dressform!); a design for a bee-yoo-ti-ful fitted crocheted waistcoat and about a dozen recipes.

But first. A ginger recipe. Ginger has been big in our house (er, boat-thing. You know what I mean) recently due to all the colds and germs, and also because we happen to love it. Actually I've grown to love it. Maybe, like olives it's an 'adult' taste (though I know a fair few kiddies, including my own son, who love olives). Anyway, fresh ginger really is awesome and if you haven't tried many recipes using it, I suggest this is the perfect introduction. Because it is just danged well tasty.

Ginger Spiced Tofu
This is based loosely on our all-time favourite dish (Pad King) from our local Thai restaurant. It's a dish we kept coming back to and wondering how they got it so darned tasty (at the same time trying to ignore the fact that the stock tasted almost too good to be vegetarian). So after many experimentations in our own kitchen, we arrived at this recipe which may not be authentically Thai, but is nevertheless tangtastically tasty and endlessly moreish, not to mention 100% vegetarian (and vegan too).

Deep fried tofu (available ready-made from Asian supermarkets)
Red pepper, cut into large pieces
White onion, cubed
Broccoli florets
Handful of mushrooms
Tin/packet soy beans
2 spring onions, chopped into large segments
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
About 4 inches of root ginger, sliced into thin strips
1/4 pint veg stock thickened slightly with approx 1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tbsp honey
Black pepper to season
Holy basil (if you can find it) or normal basil

If you can't get the ready-fried tofu you can of course make your own but unless you're Asian or simply have superior wok skills the chances are you just won't get the same texture, but it will still be tasty! Throw the pepper, onion, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic and ginger into a wok or frying pan with some oil and sauté for a few minutes without browning the garlic. Add everything else, except the spring onion and basil and simmer for about 15 minutes until all of the veg is tender but not mushy! Before serving add the spring onion and basil (if you have the patience, deep fried holy basil adds a real authentic touch and is extra yummy). Serve with rice and a nice Thai white wine :)

And yes, I know the picture is awful. Give me the time (like more than 2 seconds) and I'll give you a decent food shot (maybe!)
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