Mindfulness on Arran

I didn’t take my phone with me when we walked to Kings Cross point.

When we reached the bench at the top of the hill I sat down and let Rod and the boys carry on down to the beach.

I’ve been sitting on this bench since I was six years old. I considered this as I gazed out over the bay, across to Lamlash and up to Goatfell. It was so quiet. The only sounds were the insects zipping past my ears or hovering in the gorse behind me. Occasionally I’d hear a seagull down at the shore or the engine of a far off boat.

It was really hot today, I was in a vest top and shorts and could feel the warmth of the sun on my left side. It was almost completely still, only a light breeze made the leaves nod vaguely.

I was completely in the moment, but the worn wooden slats of the bench were hard and rough, so I stood up and followed the grassy path between the ferns to the beach, enjoying the relief of the dappled shade. I heard animals scurrying in the undergrowth and then laughter as I turned a corner to spy Rod and the Wee Man ankle deep in the sea. The tide was in and KD was asleep in his buggy in the shade of a gnarled tree.

I watched them for a moment, smiling, then picked my way across the stones to join them. I realised Rod had a beer in his hand and shook my head. I slipped off my trainers and stepped into the Firth of Clyde. It was catch-your-breath cold so I stayed in the shallows, scanning the sand for hermit crabs. The sea snails had left long tracks behind them and the cockles clung to the smooth stones – I could see every detail because the water was so clear. My eyes suddenly fell upon three bottles of Corona nestled in the rocks, keeping cool.

“You’re nothing if not resourceful,” I called to Rod.

“I’ve got a bottle opener in my pocket,” he called.

“Of course you do, “ I replied, selecting one. He popped it open for me and I took a slug. The rim of the bottle was salty. I stepped out of the water and selected a flat rock on the beach to sit on, listening to the dry popping of the seaweed around me. The tide was going out. The sun beat down and KD slept on.

Two women and four dogs appeared. We knew them, of course. They stripped to their swimsuits and waded in for a swim, shrieking that it never used to be this cold and beckoning their dogs, who sat resolutely on the sand. I listened to their chatter and watched Rod and the Wee Man play football with a rainbow ball and thought, “I’ll remember this moment as clearly as I can, so that when I’m old and lonely, I’ll feel happy.”

 

 

 

 

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The Kitchen Cafe radio appearance

It’s been a while since I’ve been on the radio – yet I was nearly on twice today.

Kitchen Cafe radio

If I’d known we were going to take quite so many pictures I would have done something with my hair. IT’S RADIO!

I was just parking outside the New Town Cook School when an unknown number flashed up.

“Hi this is Leslie from BBC Radio Scotland…”

“Hi, I’m just parking I’ll be two minutes!”

“Oh, I was calling to see if you were free to comment on a show at 11.45…”

I mean how weird is that? Has someone been doing some secret SEO on my blog? Why have I suddenly become a spokesmum? Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted – today was so much fun!

For a start I was recording an episode of The Kitchen Cafe, which is a really cool cookery show on BBC Radio Scotland – and I love to cook. For another thing I was doing it with my pal Lisa, over at Palompo PR and – perhaps the best bit – I got to meet Gill Sims, the genius behind Peter and Jane, the blogger who makes me laugh out loud each evening with her Facebook updates.

Kitchen Cafe radio

Neil and Gill

The subject of this show was ‘back to school’ – transmission is August 17th at 1.30pm. Chef Neil Forbes was showing us quick and easy meals for those days the kids come crashing in from school demanding food NOW.

He was kind enough to make the first one gluten free – as both the Wee Man and Rod can’t digest it. The second was spaghetti with pancetta fried in garlic oil and parsley. “I’ll sell that as Shrek spaghetti,” I announced, which wasn’t as weird as it sounds considering Lisa had just told us she needs to call quesadillas “Daddy sandwiches” if she’s going to get her kids to touch them.

The format of the show is really conversational, with chef Neil doing that amazing multi-tasking of cooking, questioning and keeping the show on track. The producer Phil was brilliant – as it was pre-recorded he would stop us occasionally and remind us to describe what we were seeing and smelling.

kitchen cafe radio

Chick peas with red onion, red pepper, courgette, tinned tomatoes, chorizo and paprika

Kitchen cafe radio

garlic oil and pasta simmering

I think some of my favourite lines were ,”I can’t put soft fruit like strawberries inside my son’s lunchbox as he uses it as a football” from Gill.

“My children would have spaghetti bolognese for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I’d let them,” from Lisa and “Of course, there is a rumour a child went to school with egg and chips in their lunchbox. Not my child, I promise,” from Neil.

I’m definitely going to use the tips in my kitchen and change up the Wee Man’s gluten free lunchbox a bit too. Also, I’m pleased how well the conversation flowed and that we didn’t all talk at once. Three women in a kitchen could have been noisy – but Neil kept us on track and threw in our names pretty frequently to avoid confusion.

I think it’s going to be a fun show to listen to, once Phil has worked his magic in the editing suite. Make sure you listen –  August 17th, 1.30pm, BBC Radio Scotland 🙂

Kitchen Cafe radio

What’s cooking good looking?

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8 stress-busters for busy mums

I live a pretty stressful life.

Some of the factors are just modern life, others are personal circumstances and that last group is the one I’m constantly working on – the choices.

As much as I try to simplify, plan ahead and ask for help – I accept that stress is a big part of my life so I’ve developed some strategies for dealing with it. Here are eight.

1 The gym

Keeping your patience, holding your temper and remaining calm take incredible willpower and involve squashing your inner rage. With me, the result is a lot of pent up energy. On Sunday I was on the treadmill at 8.45am. I don’t say this to impress you – I was up at 5 and I needed to GET OUT THE HOUSE before I exploded. A flat out run and a one-on-one with the punchbag sorted me right out. Plus I wore my new leggings.

mummykimmy gym leggings

2 Earplugs

No really. Rod came back from a “work trip” to the race track with a cute wee keyring tube containing earplugs. One particularly screamy morning I reached for it and was astonished how quickly my blood pressure dipped. It just takes the edge off.

3 Crafting

OK, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I read a lot about art therapy for an article once and it fucking works. I used to mindlessly colour in Johanna Basford’s creations – a few weeks back I started making greetings cards with the kids’ abandoned art supplies. It’s a moment of calm, the use of a different part of my brain and the pride of creating something pretty in the general chaos – not to mention the money saved.

mummykimmy crafting

4 Wine, beer and rum

Occasionally it crosses my mind that I may be overindulging, but I can go days without it so I don’t think I’m an alcoholic…. A wee beer while I make dinner, or my husband appearing with a dewy Cuba Libre when he finally gets the kids to sleep are just magic. I’ve also started popping round to fellow harrassed mums’ houses with a bottle (or demanding one) in the evenings and it’s very pleasant indeed.

mummykimmy rum

5 Netflix and chill

There’s something nice about eschewing the TV schedule and suiting yourself….and bloody binging on three episodes of Orange is the New Black (where life is infinitely worse) should the mood take you.

6 Disney Emoji Blitz

This wee app has honestly saved my sanity more times than I care to mention. It’s a bit like Candy Crush but with Disney characters – and you get extra emojis with every level. It’s probably in that crafting cringe category, but it zones me out and my texts are a bit more colourful.

mummykimmy Disney emoji blitz

7 Whatsapp

My best girls are all over the world and yet they’re right there in my pocket, especially when I’m losing my shit. From Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Fife and Dunblane, they’re ready and waiting to support me, reassure me and tell me to wind that neck right in.

8 My imaginary golden network

OK, now you’re really going to think I’m nuts. When I’m trapped in the toddler’s room, in the dark, waiting for the deep breathing that signals I can make my escape, I imagine ornate bars above my head. They’re the network of parents through the centuries who’ve struggled to get their kids to sleep, through illness and war and countless horrendous things, whose strength I can tap into. I imagine reaching up and holding the bars, feeling them glow and knowing I’m one tiny person in this enormous world. It gives me an almost tangible perspective and comforts me.

I could do with a few more – if you’d care to share?!

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It’s like living with chimps…

It was while I was fitting a Houdini clip to KD’s carseat that the Wee Man escaped.

The neighbour rang the doorbell and returned my free-spirited six year old – not for the first time.

“Your side gate is open,” she explained, smiling sympathetically.

“How did he…” I trailed off, laughing because I was embarrassed, torn between admiration for the Wee Man’s skills and sheer exasperation.

He had pulled over his bike, climbed up on it and pulled back the latch.

I am beginning to resign myself to the fact I have two sons.

It’s taken me six years, but three smashed tellies, four indelibly marked walls and a stained carpet later I’m losing my fight for domestic bliss. I can no longer afford to replace expensive things in the vain hope that destruction was a one-off accident. I’m getting fed up cleaning for hours only for mud to be traipsed through the house, juice to be dropped and Hula Hoops to be joyously stamped on the minute they come home from school and nursery. I’ve tried for years to discipline them, ration them, deprive them, ban them – my house still gets trashed.

Don’t misunderstand, I am no pushover. We have a zero tolerance policy on bad behaviour, a zealously-enforced naughty step procedure and a highly effective cold shoulder when all the low-level naughtiness mounts and I silently lose my shit. I say silently because I have found, over the years, that shouting at them only escalates a bad situation. It makes them cry louder, slam more and generally prolongs the hell.

I’m adjusting. Places like the playroom get a cursory tidy and a weekly hoover. Rooms like my bedroom get a lock. The kitchen is a constant sweep-wipe-mop cycle and the bathrooms get a daily spray and wipe due to two little toilet-trained willies now misfiring. Nothing gets left lying that has the potential to cause mischief (knives, pens, expensive digital equipment) and any work bags get dropped in the dining room, not the hall, as it too has a lock. The garden, much as I would love to landscape it, is their domain. They can drop gravel on the grass, stamp PlayDoh into the patio and pull out the remains of the daffodils to their hearts’ content. Why? Because they’re outside, happy and exploring in a safe environment – thanks to our expensive but effective new fence – and that means a few minutes of peace for me.

The gap between the slats is exactly half the width of KD’s leg

One day I will live in a house with white sofas, plush carpets and a ladies-only bathroom full of expensive products that no one will squirt down the toilet. But until that day, I shall muddle along in my noisy, vibrant semi-detached – which may not stand up to Instagram standards, but which is full of laughter and love.

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Day 5: Enough’s enough

Getting out of my bed is hard when there is no coffee waiting. Breakfast is almost impossible if you’ve forgotten to soak your oats overnight. Lunchtime, when your kids have been fighting all morning, and there’s no food in the house except questionable Quorn which has eggs in it anyway, is just too much.

I scrambled some eggs. In butter. Then I put cheese on top.

I managed four and a half days of being vegan. My children are the reason I failed so early. My greed is the reason I didn’t get back onto that rickety wagon.

Tonight I ordered a plain cheese pizza. It was f***ing delicious.

Tomorrow’s dinner is this:

Oh the relief!

I felt bad for as long as it took to leave my lovely Mags of The Newbie Vegan a voicemail apologising – then I felt set free. Coffee! Cheese! A big ass steak! Nothing was beyond me now!

In all seriousness, I’ve actually learned a lot this week.

1 I eat too much crap for snacks when I genuinely love cucumber, carrot and celery sticks

2 Tofu is delicious stir-fried and much cheaper than meat (£2.50 per packet)

3 I drink too much coffee

4 I don’t drink enough water

5 I need to be more organised when it comes to food generally

6 As with most things in my life, being a working mum really constrains me. When mums say “I don’t have time”, they genuinely mean it. Neither can I pop to the supermarket to buy specialist ingredients because that involves taking two small rutting stags and shoehorning them into a trolley so they don’t run off while I search the shelves.

7 I need to be extra careful about where my food comes from. I already order my milk direct from a farm – it gets left on my doorstep at 5am – and I try to always buy Scottish meat.

8 I need to eat more fish and make less stuff with mince

So although I technically failed the Vegan Challenge (let’s just see how many of my goals I achieved here. Oh. One) I still think it was worthwhile.

 

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Day 4: God this is tough

Another morning coffee avoided. Another morning of weird breakfast because I forgot about my overnight oats. Dragging a reluctant six year old around Tesco trying to work out which aisle the bloody tins of chickpeas live in was a low point. But I’m hanging on in there.

I think, given my conversation with the farmer yesterday, the only reason I’m continuing with this challenge is for re-education purposes. I’ve gotten into bad habits and I want to reset. I’m enjoying eating lots of fruit and veg, particularly cucumber and carrot sticks, I’m feeling the benefit of not drinking coffee four times a day and I’m relishing the challenge of creating tasty evening meals using new ingredients. I mean, I had never bought tofu before this week.

Today I also bought quorn. I figured if I enjoyed my stir fry that much, I should just repeat that meal with other meat substitutes. These are the habits which are likely to stick. I cannot wait to use milk again and I am definitely going to bake myself a camembert when this challenge is over. Mmmmmmmm camembert…

Oh. I’ve just checked the label and Quorn contains egg whites. Crap.

Well, dinner was delicious. More stir fried tofu, this time with spring onions, beansprouts, carrots and courgettes.

tofu stirfry

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Tin of mandarins, fresh orange juice

Snack: Cucumber and carrot sticks, red pepper humous, water

Lunch: Vegetable soup, a banana, water

Snack: I didn’t have time for a snack today

Dinner: Stir fried tofu, spring onion, courgette, carrot, beansprouts, rice, Prosecco (don’t worry, I checked, no animal products were used)

 

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Vegan Challenge Day 3: The Farmer Speaks

I was skunnered this morning when Rod handed me a coffee, forgetting I was off the milk. I’d forgotten to soak my oats and was running around trying to get kids ready so ended up comforting myself with a trip to the local inconvenience store.

Yep, breakfast was two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Nutritious? I think not. I was racing to finish writing a press release before my nail appointment, so my snack was 20 Pringles. Not a good morning.

My fortnightly nail appointment is always a highlight. I travel halfway across Edinburgh to see this woman because she is excellent. She is also a character – obsessed with 195os style, owner of a gorgeous bulldog called Rose who smiles at me from her dog basket and, I found out today, she used to be the head bouncer at a notorious Glasgow nightclub called Archaos. She also grew up on a farm and spent five years at agricultural college, so I should have known better than to mention my vegan challenge.

Her rant lasted through the soak off and the first two coats of the new colour, but she made some excellent, and heartfelt points. The main one was: “The thought that farmers, whose livelihood depends on the animals they look after, don’t care and don’t look after their cows and pigs, is actually offensive. And I don’t use that term vey often cos people get too offended these days.”

She explained how strict the regulations are in the UK. There are actually laws about how much daylight, space and stimulation animals must have as a bare minimum. The picture of the sow separated from her piglets in a small pen that does the rounds on Facebook got her particularly riled up.

“Do you know how much a sow weighs? They’re twice the size of a coffee table and have about 20 piglets, if she rolls over she’s going to squash them and kill them. She goes in the farrowing pen for the piglets’ safety. They feed, they’re observed to make sure everyone gets enough, then the sow gets her own pen so she can move about safely – and can still snuffle her children through the barrier.”

Organic farming was another passionate subject for her – she derided the practice of depriving a cow who cuts itself on a fence from receiving antibiotics because lavender cream allows the farmer to claim organic status – meanwhile the cow suffers. She also pointed out the joy of UK farmers at leaving the EU because the regulations are ridiculously complex and actually prevent them from farming properly.

I won’t go on. She made some very interesting, and informed, points and given that I was still in mourning over my morning coffee, really struck a chord.

I was all set to give up on this challenge, but tofu turned my head. It’s delicious! Stir fried in soy sauce with a tonne of veg and some gluten free noodles? YUM.

I shall fight another day. Day 3 complete. And aren’t my nails gorgeous?

Today’s menu

Breakfast: Two morning rolls dipped in olive oil and Balsamic vinegar; pint of cucumber water

Snack: Pringles

Lunch: Vegetable soup, Bourneville chocolate bar, pint of cucumber water

Snack: Raisins

Dinner: Stir fried tofu with veg and rice noodles; glass of red wine

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