7 quick takes #23 - Can we talk about Christmas yet?

Friday, 28 November 2014

1.

It's not even December yet. And my Christmas shopping is ...

...

...

...

DONE.

Okay, it's not. But it's nearly done. I've got, like, three presents left to buy, and two of those are joint presents we're buying with other people. So essentially, everything I am personally responsible for buying is bought.

Almost.

That's the most successful I've ever been at Christmas shopping, ever.

I draw the line at wrapping them. It doesn't feel right to wrap them before the tree is up. *Twitches in anticipation*

2.

Do you remember last week I had the revelation that babies' vests can be taken off downwards instead of over their heads? Totally blew my mind at the time. Well, I've found out another parenting fact for you today: plug socket covers are dangerous (in the UK).

You know, the things that are designed to make plug sockets safe? Totally dangerous. Maybe this is one of those things that everyone else knew but me, but as far as I know, every childcare setting I've worked in has used them in some capacity, and Ofsted don't officially endorse their use. Because they are dangerous.

You can find out more here. Chris immediately removed the one remaining plug socket cover we were using. I still have no idea where the others went. But it turns out I didn't have to worry about them anyway. We are like the Accidentally Super-Safe Parents.

3.

Our Esther study has come to a close. I loved it. I've got loads to say about it, but unfortunately I haven't actually finished it yet as I was massively behind everyone else in the homework. I've actually studied the book of Esther before, but not in this depth, and once again I was totally floored by the story.

There will probably be a long waffly post about this coming up in the near future. I'm sad it's over. What will I read over Christmas?! Other than the two books I've been meaning to finish and probably still won't finish even though I have more time

4.

I've been thinking a lot recently about the balancing act that a lot of people - particularly mothers - do on a day to day basis. I'm writing a few things about this, so you will probably see something about it next week. 

The thing that I'm really thinking of today though, is hobbies and creativity - how do I balance doing things that I love, creative things that inspire me (like blogging, for example) with motherhood and family life? I feel like there is a lot of guilt tied up in seeking things that make you happy, instead of working tirelessly to make everyone else happy all the time.

Does anyone else have this guilt? I'd be interested to hear from other people about it.

5.


I went through phone photos just now to dig out all our Autumnal-leaf-crunching-joy pictures, and I found the above. Totally forgot about the time that I bathed Jellybean in the sink in the middle of the day because she got caked in paint. It turned out having a bath in the sink was about ten times more fun than the educational, sensory painting activity I laid out for her.

Which is usually the way.

I'm totally going to dunk her in the sink again when she wakes up from her nap. Who needs toys?!

6.

Speaking of autumnal joy photos:





These pictures make my heart happy.

7.

Today, I finally got round to sweeping up the leaves that had literally carpeted our garden over the past few weeks. They were going all slimy and horrible, so it felt like the right time to at least tidy them up a bit. I strapped Jellybean in her wellies and she stomped around in them. She also sat in puddles, said 'UH-OH!' a lot, pulled apart leaves into tiny pieces, found some rather pointy sticks and disturbed some pretty scary looking spiders.

She didn't want to come back inside.

It's made me determined to sort my garden out so she can enjoy it more next year. It needs a bit of an overhaul. I need to remind myself of this post when I'm being all girly and freaked out by worms.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! :)



7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary. Go check out her blog!


The view from my kitchen floor

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I hope you'll forgive me for this: it's a post about Jellybean. Just to chat about her.

Is that cool? Frankly if it is or not I'm still going to write it, but you know, it's polite to ask.

We've had a fairly busy weekend. Sunday came in two halves: a morning of joyful celebration, having Jellybean dedicated at church along with our friends' daughter, promising to raise her well, surrounded by friends and family, praying God's blessing upon her. Followed by an evening of discovering a non-blanching rash, a phone call to NHS 111, and an all-night trip to the children's hospital.

Parenting, I have decided, is quite like that sometimes. Pride and fear rising up in equal measure. I am so, so proud of our daughter, of the funny little person she is becoming. Some days the pride and love I feel for her leave me awestruck. But I also have the fear that comes in the night: how can I protect her? What happens when I can't protect her? How do I live with the knowledge that this person that once lived in me is now walking on an earth that can be so unfriendly and harsh? That people might hurt her, that life won't always be in her favour?

I have heard from people I know and trust that this feeling never really goes away. Like a funny little creature in your heart that occasionally makes its way to the surface. Even when your kids are grown and don't rely on you like they used to. You still have the pride, and you still have the fear.

I guess Sunday was like an extreme of both. Our pastor asked the congregation to stand if they agreed to look out for, teach, guide and pray for our babies. And to see the whole congregation stand as one was quite an awesome moment. Over the past couple of nights as I have drifted off to sleep I try to think of that moment, like a healing balm for the other image that keeps popping into my head: my daughter screaming and writhing in her Daddy's arms while they tried (three times!) to get blood from her. I have never heard her in that much pain and frankly I never want to again. I can't look at the bruises on her feet from those blood tests without feeling like bursting into tears.

It's one of those hopeless, helpless moments as a parent: something bad is happening to your child and they are hurting and you can't make it stop. While my head was driven by the knowledge that we needed to find out quickly if this rash was something bad (it wasn't), my heart was screaming at me to make her stop crying.

The thing is, bad things need to happen sometimes, and the rational part of me understands that. Had I not been through bad things in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Theoretically, this makes sense. At the time though, seeing your child in pain is the most awful thing you could ever imagine. Finding a rash that won't fade away when you press it is terrifying. And I would do anything in those moments to make it stop, but sometimes I can't. All I can do is love her.

Whilst running around getting things done in preparation for our busy weekend, I stopped for a moment in the bathroom to read a scripture I have stuck to the mirror. I often do this, but soon, sadly, they become part of the background, a feature of our house that I hardly notice. Today I thought about it a little longer:


The part about being quietened with love brought back a strong memory. I was sitting cross-legged on our bed in the early hours of the morning, rocking Jellybean in my arms, days after she was born. Barely home from the hospital and a little dazed, I stared at her while she whimpered, and I started to shhh her. I sang her a song I made up on the spot, a song of an almost desperate joy at the sight of her, at the same time feeling totally overwhelmed and under prepared, thinking This is all I have to offer you.

Love pouring out of me was all I had to offer, and I had to hope it was enough.

Now we have a silly, funny, sweet toddler. She has little tantrums sometimes. She laughs at silly things. She says 'uh-oh' and 'Daddy' and 'Doggy' what feels like a thousand times a day. She can point out her eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, head, hair, belly, and toes. She is obsessed with books. She is obsessed with Peppa Pig. She either eats like a horse or eats barely anything, depending on her mood. She can hear us opening a packet of crisps or sneaking a biscuit out of the tin from a mile off. She dances, sings, and claps to a beat. She loves us, and sometimes it seems to burst out of her: I'll be in the kitchen and suddenly there's a little pair of arms wrapping around my legs and I can hear her muffled, pressed-into-my-legs voice saying 'Ahhhhh.'

Love. It hurts, but oh my goodness, it pays off, big time.

Recently I read a good blog post over at Enjoying the Small Things about loving the stage you are in with your children: enjoying memories, and enjoying the now, without the sense of panic that your babies are growing up too quick. It heartened me to read it. Because as much as I loved Jellybean's baby stage, and as much as I feel a little pang of wistfulness when I look at photos from when she was first born, I am totally loving this stage.

This morning, for example, I was laying on the floor listening to music in the kitchen. Jellybean is currently obsessed with stacking things, or placing things in and out of other things. This morning she was putting her toys inside the washing basket and then making a pile of them in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then the game changed: she took a plastic bowl out of the cupboard, one at a time, and made a pile of them right in front of my face. This made me laugh, and then it made her laugh, and soon she was toddling over quicker and quicker with a kind of wild giggle, making a bigger and bigger pile of stuff next to me.






We don't own magical colour-changing bowls, by the way, it's just that the first time round I started laughing and my phone fell out of my hand!

The more I learn about life in general (more specifically life with God, and life as a parent) is that you can't control everything no matter how much you'd like to. No amount of photographs you take can freeze time, no amount of planning you do can stop curveballs from coming your way, no amount of worrying and overthinking can make you prepared for everything.

While the fear makes you want to obsess and plan and wrap cotton wool around everything, sometimes the only thing that makes it fall silent is just enjoying your life right now. By, you know, laying down on the kitchen floor and laughing until your stomach hurts while your child builds a pile of plastic tat next to your head.

Thanks for listening to my waffle, as always :)

7 quick takes #22 - it's mostly about poo

Friday, 21 November 2014

1.

It's been aaaaaaaages since I've done a Seven Quick Takes (or so it seems). Sorry if I'm a little rusty. I have a lot to talk about, and my body and mind are on shutdown mode for the night, so we'll see how it goes.

2.

I keep referring to Jellybean as a 'toddler' on the blog but I still can't quite bring myself to do in real life. I still call her 'baby' just as much as I call her by her real name (which, in case you're new, isn't Jellybean). I had a conversation with a Mum recently in which we discussed the strange in-between stage of being a baby and a toddler. She coined that precious few months as the 'tot' stage which I think is quite cute. I have a tot.

3.

Although thinking about today I don't think it will be long until we enter full-on toddler mode. I actually said the phrase 'Mummy said NO and that's the end of the matter!' today. It was like a brief glimpse into my near future.

Seriously though, the levels of strop have been intense today. Here are some reasons why my daughter has been angry today:

  • She didn't want to stop digging out my blusher with her fingernails
  • She didn't want her cheese sandwiches
  • She DID want her cheese sandwiches
  • She wanted to hang around by the toilet seat and I wouldn't let her
  • She also wanted to rip apart a whole toilet roll and I wouldn't let her
  • She wanted to get out of the trolley at the supermarket
  • She wanted to get back into the trolley at the supermarket
Etc. To be fair the postman knocked on the door about forty minutes into her nap and woke her up, and it seems to have triggered in her a kind of primal baby rage.

4.

I've seen this blog post being posted on Facebook recently - did you know that you can take baby's vests off down over their body rather than up over their head? This doesn't sound that interesting but in a poo-up-the-back moment it can make the world of difference.

It's funny, because when I read that blog post the thought 'Hmm, we haven't had a poo explosion in ages.' popped into my head.

Guess what happened tonight?

No, go on. Guess.

When I heard Chris say (to Jellybean!) 'Oh, you've done a poo,' I didn't think much of it. When I heard him say 'Oh, it's not a nice poo,' I thought he was just being a bit of a wimp. When he said 'OH NO, IT'S EVERYWHERE, IT'S REALLY BAD' I realised that I could no longer pretend to be busy elsewhere and I had to go and help him.

Anyway, the poo-caked vest came off much easier than if I had lifted it over her head. Crisis averted, you say? No. Obviously. That would be too easy. Poo was firmly attached to our beautiful baby's back. And just as I went to get a flannel with the idea of standing her in the bath and washing her, Chris shouted 'OH NO SHE'S WEEING!' and my night was complete.

She did manage to aim her wee at the changing mat, which was helpful. But now I have a poo-soaked vest to boil wash, a wee-soaked changing mat to deal with, and a bath that has, you know, seen better days.

That was my Friday night in a nutshell!

5.

On a totally different non-bodily-fluid-related note, I am totally stuck into Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. I mentioned months ago that I had bought it as a summer read, and well, you know, it's nearly Christmas and I'm still reading it. This is taking a shamefully long time to get through.

But not because of the book itself! Just my lack of discipline. Every time I pick it up I learn something fascinating and I call Chris over to read it out to him. The food industry is so interesting. I'm starting to get the sense of the incredible power held by these big companies (Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola etc) and how the decisions of a marketing department can have a serious impact on the purchases, behaviour and health of all of society. It's more technical than I thought it would be, going into detail about food science, how tastebuds work, how our brain reacts to certain foods, and how companies have maximised that information to get us, essentially, hooked onto junk food.

It's really, really good. I recommend reading it. And I will finish it by the end of the year!

6.

Talking about books, I'm thinking of doing a roundup of good reads from this year. I love reading book-related blog posts on other people's blogs, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on a few great books I have read this year. I love getting book recommendations! If you have any, send them my way and I can get cracking on my 2015 book wishlist *sigh*

7.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about my blog and I've got plans for it for next year. So yay to that. I'm really loving blogging at the moment. And some exciting things have been happening for me recently. I've been learning about the blogging community in the UK, particularly parenting blogs, and I've been discovering some excellent writers, so that's good.

I've said blog way too much. Sorry.

My post about why I love blogging was featured on Mumsnet's Bloggers Network today, which was extremely exciting (I actually squealed when I saw it). I'm feeling really grateful for that.

Mostly though, I've been reflecting on why I started this in the first place (a creative outlet for connecting with God, worshipping, and asking questions about my faith), and I've got a whole load of things to write about on that front, so hopefully inbetween the mad Christmas rush that is coming up I'll be able to sit down with my Bible and the laptop.

Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely weekend. 

Why I love blogging.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

When I was a little kid, my favourite book was Matilda. Literally, I wanted to be her (minus the whole neglectful parents and crazy headteacher thing). I saw myself in her; in those illustrations, of a little tiny kid with long scraggly hair and an insatiable love of books. I fell in love with reading at the same time she did, and I remember looking at an illustration of a tiny little girl with her head peeping over a huge book and thinking: 'That's me!'. I wrote my own stories, on paper and on our ancient PC (hilarious stories, either to do with a girl whose parents decided to open up a pet sanctuary, or a girl standing up to bullies and also, weirdly, surviving freak hurricanes).

Yes, I have always been that nerdy and sentimental. And I still have that copy of Matilda on my bookshelf.


I think that love of a good story has always stayed with me. I always, always wanted to write in some way, shape or form. I felt more myself when I was writing. But I never felt I had what it took, and more importantly, I never felt brave enough to share what I wrote. So it got lost. Real life happened instead.

But that need to write never left me.

***

I recently went on a blogging break. Only a week or so. It wasn't really to do with the blog, really, it was more to do with ... the whole internet. I think I had an 'oh, wow, the internet really sucks' moment (again). I caught a load of intense snark on Twitter, and then I read a deeply cynical and almost angry blog post written by a Christian (whose entire blog was pretty cynical actually). To be clear: I don't expect Christians to be happy go-lucky, fluffy cloud-nine types, all the time. I don't mind people feeling angrily cynical sometimes. It just ... wow, those words, you know? You can't take them back. It's like being passive-aggressive but to thousands of people at the same time.

I am fed up of cynicism.

I am fed up of trolls. I am fed up of sexism, rape threats, death threats (not to me, you understand, but to other women). I am fed up of narcissism and self-centredness, I am fed up of judging and criticising, I am fed up of the pressure not only to look a certain way but to own certain things, too. I am fed up of a million voices shouting 'ME! LOOK AT ME!'

In other words, I am fed up with the internet.

I told Chris about this today as we were driving. It turned out he had been feeling the exact same way. He, too, was fed up of seeing the worst parts of humanity, the meanest, sickest, darkest, most self-centered, egotistical parts of the human race having such a huge voice, because we are all connected to each other, and we can't get away from it.

Plus I get fed up with the fluff of it all. The endless haul videos and selfies and stuff. I'm not saying I'm better than it, you know? I have plenty of selfies scattered around the internet, and I certainly like to buy things. I'm just saying when you see a million people taking photo after photo of themselves it starts to make you question where everyone's priorities are.

Including mine.

I took a blogging break because I didn't want to add to the endless noise all the time. To the pointless white noise.

I am afraid of what it means when we all strive to be heard. When we all feel that recognition is owed to us; when we all invite people to look at us, to observe our lives and our food and our habits and our clothes and our make-up and our parenting because we want ... what? Praise? Acceptance?

I don't know, for a moment it just sickened me. I had to step back.

***

And yet.

There are parts of being online that I really, really love. I met two girls on an AOL chat room (talk about old school) when I was thirteen or so, and they became firm friends throughout some really horrible teenage stuff (and yes, I did see them, I knew they were who they said they were!). They were just part of my life, you know? And I'm starting to connect to other bloggers now, too, and it feels nice to get settled into a new community of like-minded people.

Plus I am curious. I like to see how other people live, what their traditions are, what is important to them.

Creatively, too, the internet is a massive resource: going beyond 1001 uses for a mason jar, Pinterest-style (although I do love mason jars). The internet provides a platform for some crazily talented people. I have a ring and a pair of restored vintage earrings from Etsy, made by two girls who run a little business in some small town in America. They are so talented, and I would never have known about them had it not been for the internet. Being able to post your stuff online is kind of a game changer for small businesses like that.

Most importantly though, the internet gives a voice to people who would otherwise not have one. The internet encourages talented people to step out of their comfort zones and try it. The risk feels smaller, but the payoff can be huge. And for introverts (like myself) who find job interviews and exams and public speaking to be terrifying, you can potentially make a living speaking to millions of strangers without having to feel that same level of fear.

***

So here I am. Writing again. Back online (after reinstating Screen Free Mondays, starting again from next week, to give ourselves a break from the noise all the time). Because I am still an insatiable reader, and that includes other people's stories. I have read blog posts that have made me laugh out loud, and blog posts that have made me cry. Reading someone's thoughts and being able to see the raw talent in them (even if they can't) is amazing. And it's free! Bonkers. We are spoilt for choice for illuminating, beautiful art online ... you just have to look in the right places.

The other thing is, I'm still a writer. I write in my head all the time. You know J.D from Scrubs, constantly narrating everything? That's me. I need to get it out. I'm not sure where it's going to lead me, or whether, indeed, I am good enough to be bothering people with it ...

But I have to. It is a compulsion. So unfortunately, if you read my blog (or are related to me and therefore feel obliged to), I'm not giving up any time soon. I have a voice. It's not more important than others, but it is one, and I would like to offer it up as an option for people to consider.

I hope that I am not snarky or cynical. I will try my hardest not to be. There is, to be frank, quite enough of that out there already. If I start to get really sarcastic and downbeat, you know something is wrong with me, and I welcome you to come and tell me off.

I want to tell stories. Sometimes my stories might revolve around God. Sometimes they might revolve around tiredness, or cooking, or the-baby-has-pooed-in-the-bath moments.

I'm still trying to figure out what it is that drives that need to share, and whether or not I am walking along the right path or not. But for now, it feels right again. And frankly, that feeling I get when I'm sat here typing, and the rest of the world seems to fade away a little bit, and my brain seems to kind of settle down and focus so intently ... that feeling is kind of awesome.

So there we are. That's why I love blogging!

Mummy Mondays - the best playdough recipe?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Playdough. It's messy. It's smelly. It gets stuck in the carpet. And it is a childhood staple. When I crack open a bright plastic pot of playdough as an adult all it takes is a quick sniff and it transports me to sitting around the dining room table in our house in Hastings when I was a kid, making some unrecognizable creation (and probably mixing up the colours, gahhh).

I always wanted the weird dentist set where you use playdough to put fillings in teeth in a giant mouth. Do you remember that? I am pretty sure I circled that in the Argos book a few Christmases in a row.


Of all the cool playdough toys you could get, why did I want this one so much?!

Anyway, I have since discovered homemade playdough, which has the same therapeutic qualities as the store-bought stuff, but is cheaper. I've tried a few recipes out now - some that you have to make on the hob (disaster) some that involve boiling water and cold water etc ... but I believe I have found the easiest and quickest option.


You can find the recipe here. It is ridiculously easy and has the added bonus of not needing cream of tartar, which I always forget to buy because, what do you actually use it for?! (Other than playdough). It keeps nicely in the fridge for a good week I'd say - although you might need to knead a bit more flour into it when you want to play with it again.

It's also easy enough to make with a small child if you have the patience of a saint and don't mind children making a hideous mess.



(I would say Jellybean helped me make this and that's why its so messy but she totally just watched me while I sprayed flour everywhere).




Jellybean is at the age where she just sits and prods playdough or squishes it up a bit, but she still enjoyed it, while I made the only thing I ever make when I play with playdough (snails).

The cool thing about homemade playdough is that you can make it any colour/flavour you want. And you can add things to it. Like glitter and stuff. Pinterest is bursting with ideas for playdough flavours. I have even started my own board just for playdough recipes. That is how much choice there is.

It stores pretty well, too. I kept ours in little glass jars in the fridge and we played with them on and off for a couple of weeks. I just kneaded a bit more flour in each time because the cold makes it a bit too wet.



You can find the super easy recipe I mention above on From the Mrs, which is a great blog.

Wishing you all a blessed and potentially playdough filled week :)

#Flying 100 challenge - memories of California

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

This post is an entry for the #Flying100 Family Holiday Challenge, celebrating how flying allows us to make memories and ‘be there’, in association with #Flying100. Find out more at http://bit.ly/flying100

****

My husband and I went to California in 2012. It represented a lot of things. It was my first time flying since I was a child; my husband's first time flying, ever.

It represented a huge break from normal life, which as well as being wonderful was sometimes stressful financially. We got married young (20 and 23 respectively) and I lost my job a week before our wedding, which was not exactly a happy moment. Talk about being thrown into the deep end.

We got married in 2009, and 2012 was our first proper holiday (outside of quick camping trips to Devon or other places in Somerset). We are not naturally adventurous types. We are cosy, snuggle-on-the-sofa types. But there was part of us really longing to just do something big and exciting, something out of our comfort zones, something to spend our money on that would make memories instead of just more ... stuff.

It was also, secretly, a goal, and a kind of bookend to the first part of our marriage. The goals for 2012 were to move house, go on holiday, and get pregnant. Surprisingly we managed all three of them ;)

I can't really tell you how I felt when we got into the airport after being too excited to sleep in our Premier Inn room the night before. We walked into Heathrow, looked at the little map to get our bearings, and were suddenly launched into a world that neither of us had ever experienced before. Just wandering around Heathrow (and eating bacon butties) was exciting.


Pre-flight nerves at the Premier Inn!

I got really jittery and worried when the plane took off. Think clutching-onto-the-seat scared. But it was so worth it. So worth the nine and a half leg-cramp-inducing hours to get to California. So worth it for the surreal sight of a massive picture of Barack Obama in LAX, bearing the words 'President Obama welcomes you to the United States of America.' I was too exhausted to get my camera out, but I wish I had done. It totally hit me then: I'm in America!

We stayed with friends, whom we were desperate to see. That night we went to In-N-Out Burger after being awake for more than 24 hours. The waitress exclaimed over our accents, and weirdly, how nice I smelt, which was quite a nice compliment considering I had been travelling for over a day.




We squeezed in every drop of adventure that we could, big and small. We saw landmarks. We went to the tourist-crammed Hollywood and checked out the sizes of famous people's hands and feet. We had a picnic on the beautiful Venice beach and gawped at the mansions we saw on the drive there. We went shopping in Target and Walmart and I exclaimed over the amount of choice in the cereal aisle. We ate churros and enormous burgers and tub after tub of frozen yoghurt and weird flavours of Ben and Jerry's. Chris won a t-shirt for eating a ridiculously huge steak (and got jawlock in the process).



He really, really wanted that t-shirt.

Most importantly, we spent time with amazing friends. I will never forget one particular night with them: a late evening in the hot tub, an impromptu Nerf gun war, an even-later visit to get some good old Frogurt, and then we sat down around the sofa and made predictions: what did we think would change the next time we saw each other? Some of these predictions were really specific. And they remain closed in a box, ready for the next time we go to visit them.





Our friends now live in Florida, enviably close to Disneyland. They also have a baby, a boy a few months younger than our girl (we joke that they are betrothed. I think my husband is quite serious about it actually). We have seen them once this year when they came to visit rainy Somerset to show off their gorgeously smiley baby boy, which was lovely.

Chris and I still talk about our holiday all the time. When we are feeling a bit glum about our financial situation, or when we are on a rare 'date' away from our daughter, we pull out memories from sunny California. 'Do you remember when I ate that burger almost the size of my face? Remember when that guy totally conned you out of five dollars for a copy of his crappy rap album on Hollywood Boulevard?' Or we recall feelings: how it felt to drive out of L.A and see the beautiful mountains ahead of us. How exciting it was just to roam the streets and see real mailboxes and beautiful houses with big American flags waving in the breeze. How it felt to leave our friends at the airport, sad that it went by so fast, but with the idea in our heads that maybe soon we'd start a family.

Sometimes we just like to remember how adventurous it felt to pack everything up and go somewhere completely new. For some people, hopping on a plane is just normal and nothing to worry about. For us, it was so unusual that it involved a bit of courage, to embrace change, to try something new.




I think it made me realise how important it is to make these memories. How we can have precious moments and big adventures at home, but we can have even bigger ones a little further afield. It made me realise how sometimes, you need to make decisions for the good of your heart and soul, not just the good of your bank balance.

So eventually, one day, we want our daughter to experience the thrill of adventure, the experience of 'being' somewhere completely new. We want to take her to Florida, see our friends, let our children play, maybe fit in a quick trip to Disney. And maybe, open that box and see if our predictions were right.

Quick Recipe Saturday?! Bean and Chorizo chilli!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

I would say this is a warming recipe, but really, do we need to be warmed?! It has been freakishly warm for the first of November. Or it is in Somerset, anyway. I'm not sure what to do with these beautiful sunny days. I've heard a couple of people say in a kind of dark, brooding way 'we'll pay for this warm weather somewhere down the line, you know.' Which is kind of foreboding.

Anyway, here's a recipe for you. I bunged this in the slower cooker at nine o clock this morning and it's still simmering away at 4.30pm. It's kind of a storecupboard thing. And yes, it is packed with fat-tastic chorizo, so sadly cannot be called healthy, but it has dried beans instead of mince, so in my head it all balances out.

Quick side note #1 - the thing about the dried beans is, they are a bit of a faff. I'm not gonna lie. But soaked and then boiled and then slow-cooked dried beans are really nice (and really cheap). If you don't want the faff, used tinned, but don't leave it on all day or they might dissolve into mush.

Quick side note #2 - sorry about photo quality. To be fair, I have a toddler who notices and takes advantage of my distraction. During the making of this dish she put her toy pig in the washing machine, smeared weetabix over one of the xBox controllers (which remains crusted on, argh) and unsorted the recycling I had just sorted. If it helps, imagine me taking these photos whilst yelling 'Noooooooooo!' and running off to stop her from cleaning the floor with my face wipes.




Slow-cooked bean and chorizo chilli



You will need:

1 large pack pre-sliced chorizo (or one whole chorizo sausage)
1 large red onion
1 pack dried beans (most beans work well, I used pinto beans this time, have used haricot and kidney before which work too).
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 squirt (!) tomato puree
600ml beef stock
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes (optional! This is quite spicy ... you may wanna leave these out if you're not so keen on spicy food. But if you're not keen on spicy food chilli might not be the best choice for you anyway).
Generous pinch of sugar
  1. The night before you want to make the chilli, put the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, put the lid on, and leave overnight to soak. In the morning, drain and rinse beans, then pop back into the saucepan, cover with boiling water, and boil for ten minutes. This is an annoying but important step. Uncooked dried beans contain horrible toxins which, if not killed by heat, will, you know, make you really sick. Boiling for ten minutes will kill them all off. I always put my timer on to make extra sure, because I am paranoid very responsible. When they're done, drain them and put them in the slow cooker.
  2. Finely chop the red onions and soften them in a frying pan. When they are nearly done, add the chorizo (snipped in half with scissors or peeled and chopped depending on what kind you use) and the spices, and cook until the spices start to smell really good (whatever you do, don't take a huge deep breath over the frying pan, it will end badly. Trust me).Tip into slow cooker.
  3. Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. The chilli will be fine to be left on low for longer if needed, although I find with my slow cooker that the ceramic pot keeps everything hot for a bit even after it's switched off.
  4. Serve with wraps, on top of jacket potatoes over a layer of cheese (drool) or with rice.
Hope you enjoyed this! Shout out to our awesome dinner guests Dave and Carmen. Who completely refused to be photographed for my blog. But made up for it by bringing an excellent selection of snacks :)
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