Vegan Challenge Day 1: Haribo horror

Today was going swimmingly until I caught sight of a packet of Haribo in the cupboard and realised it was off the menu.

Other disappointments included coffee made with almond milk (I mean really, vom) and grating cheese onto my son’s baked potato with beans while personally abstaining. But other than that – it was honestly no big deal. I had a wee bit of a headache today, but perhaps my ponytail was too tight or the wind on the mountain hurt my ears.

Yeah, we climbed a mountain today, my six year old son and I. We took a football with us. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. A mis-aimed kick on the ridge meant the ball disappeared and only a lunge from me stopped my child from following suit. He then threw an epic tantrum about finishing the climb, forcing me to put him on my shoulders in order to make the summit. There is a metaphor there for our relationship… Many Americans high-fived me and one lady offered her dog’s lead to tempt the Wee Man to climb up on his own, but no. Thighs burning, we reached the top of Arthur’s Seat and tucked into an Alpro plant-based dessert. I’d forgotten spoons, so we basically slurped it then I had to carry an open pot back down the track.

I mention this urban mountaineering only to illustrate that I did not faint from hunger nor suffer prolonged fatigue – in fact, I wasn’t hungry at all today. Not even after an hour of football in the park. I’m trying to figure out how I feel. Not really any different, to be honest. If anything it’s the lack of feeling that’s remarkable – no “crap I wish I hadn’t eaten that”, no full feeling, no pleasant tipsiness coupled with guilt that I’m potentially becoming an alcoholic. In fact, it’s quite a nice simple feeling. I gave my body what it needed today. I drank loads of water, ate loads of fruit and veg and that’s all there is to it. Hmmm.

Today’s menu:

Breakfast: overnight oats soaked in almond milk with half a tin of peaches; peppermint tea

Snack: Carrot and celery sticks with humous; pint of squash

Lunch: Two seeded rolls with humous, cucumber and spinach; apple; Alpro dessert; pint of water

Snack: Walnuts and raisins, pint of squash after almond coffee rejected

Dinner: Baked potato with baked beans and spinach; pint of squash; two bananas

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Filed under Edinburgh, Going Vegan

The One Week Vegan Challenge

I love meat.

The vegan lifestyle was something I was always aware of but paid no attention to – a bit like Morris dancing.

Over the last year I’ve become more conscious of food choices. We discovered the Wee Man was gluten intolerant, then about six months later Rod accepted he was too. I have two close friends who, over the same period, have been through hell with their newborns, only to trace it to a dairy intolerance. What is going on? Are we simply becoming more aware of allergies? Or is there something up with the food chain?

I’m a journalist, not a conspiracy theorist. I like facts. I know how high the food standards are in the UK, in comparison to many other countries. In Scotland, in particular, we have an amazing larder and wonderful farms offering full traceability. And yet modern society demands convenience and cheap solutions – so there are bound to be consequences for the health of the animals who provide our food.

My wonderful friend Mags, who’s always been vegetarian and a campaigner for animal rights, last week went vegan. Talking to her on the phone was kind of eye-opening. I was honest with her – I wasn’t going to watch the documentaries or read the horror stories. Neither was I prepared to give up meat and dairy for good, because I love them. What I did want to do was educate myself. What does being vegan entail? How easy is it to find alternatives and make moral choices? So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I’m going to go vegan for one week.

I’m not going to force it on my family, but I will try to integrate it where it’s practical.

I’ve done a big food shop – online so I could find the right stuff easily – and I’ve done a bit of research into vegan recipes. It’s the Easter holidays so it’s either the best or the worst time to try this… Tomorrow I’m going to drop off KD at nursery then the Wee Man and I are off on an adventure with a packed lunch. Mine is two seeded rolls with houmous, spinach and cucumber – no butter – , his is a GF wrap with grated cheese and salad cream. We each have an apple, a banana and an Alpro chocolate dessert, plus a box of carrot and celery sticks. It’s a colourful lunchbox.

My overnight oats are soaking in almond milk, so breakfast is easy, but I’m really going to miss my coffee in the morning. I mean I can try it with almond milk, but I’ll probably have to substitute peppermint tea. Well, I like peppermint tea, so maybe I’ll be OK.

My goals this week are:

  • to succeed in eating only vegan food for seven days
  • to drink loads of water
  • to avoid alcohol
  • to record how my body reacts – specifically improvements in sleeping and mood – but any difference to my skin, weight or general well-being will be very interesting to monitor.

Just as well I had a barbecue and meat overload today, not only am I all proteined up, I have three baked potatoes left over which will probably turn into three dinners. What on earth am I getting myself into?

Wish me luck!

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Filed under Edinburgh, Going Vegan, health

20 life hacks for stressed out mums

1 Clothes pegs to keep boots together

If your cloakroom/under stairs cupboard is a riot of wellies and waterproofs and things your other half has “tidied away”, like mine, I find pegging boots together an absolute sanity saver.

2 Ikea pockets

In the same kind of vein, little feet tend to shed shoes all over the house and who has time to hunt for them? Especially when you’re already late for school and they’re knocking lumps out of each other. I hung up an Ikea pocket hanger on the back of the door so now I can *almost* always find a matching pair per child.

3 Newspaper at the bottom of your bin

Simple really, soaks up all the liquid that comes from who knows where and makes changing bin bags slightly less disgusting. I mean it should really be a blue job…

4 Crocs by the back door

Once you get over the shame of actually buying them, you realise they cost the same as a large Starbucks and prevent little dirty stockinged feet traipsing mud into your carpet. They can also usually put them on without help.

5 The sacred comb

If, like me, your kids have unruly wavy hair and risk being dispatched to nursery/school looking like ragamuffins, you need a sacred comb. It lives downstairs in a nominated cupboard and never shall it be moved. Ever.

6 The 5 minute menu

Here’s a two-for-one life hack. Do your grocery shopping online (saving the list in “favourites” saves even more time each week) then as you unpack it, scribble down the use-by dates. Voila. Menu for the week.

7 Stock up on yoghurts

They’re usually on special offer so just buy more than any human could possibly consume in a week. Then, when they throw your painstakingly made lasagne at the wall or turn their noses up at that thing they loved last week, you can stuff them full of Yeo Valley. Also very useful for disguising any medications.

8 Use the time delay

One of my kids is such a light sleeper he’ll be up if a mouse farts, so I can’t do washing after 8pm. The machine’s time delay – a new revelation when we moved house – means I can load it up at night and set it to come on at 6.30am and if I’m REALLY organised, hang it out before we go to school. Just make sure your other half doesn’t hit the off switch in a fit of fire-safety smugness before he goes to bed. Sigh.

9 Embrace tupperware

I mean don’t go to a party or anything, just buy tonnes of matching ones from Ikea or B&M so that ALL THE LIDS FIT.

10 Have a Sharpie handy but for god’s sake out of reach

Mine lives above the oven and is used for just about everything in the world from naming clothing to marking those tupperware to signing parents’ slips.

11 Buy this stamp

12 Put a lock on your bedroom door

Enough said.

13 Invest in a good quality vinyl tablecloth

Not a £3 stretch of cow print plastic from eBay that neither covers the whole table nor withstands sharp pencil points, but a proper, huge, maybe even £15, tablecloth. Then tape it down.

14 Have a no-banana rule in carpeted rooms

When it dries in, it looks like shit.

15 Always carry wipes

Even when your kids are out of nappies, hell, even when you’re going to a business meeting, carry wipes for snotty noses, grazed knees and that moment when you realise there’s banana (or is it shit) on your suit sleeve.

16 Get one of those magic erasers for walls

They’re pretty good on scuff marks and not-too-aggressive colouring pencil. On pen and on tantrum-induced expressions of rage, not so great.

17 Teach your kids to pair socks

Turn it into a massive game and sit back and watch while the worst chore of them all is taken care of.

18 Find 5 good babysitters who drive

Save their numbers on your phone and don’t share them with anyone. Pay them well and leave them brilliant snacks.

19 Double up

Sometimes, hell quite a lot of the time, you have to throw money at a problem. If you’re constantly transferring things – shampoo from shower to gym bag, car seats between cars, the good water bottle from the school bag to the weekend bag – just buy more. Use Gumtree or Ikea or whatever but seriously, make life easier for yourself.

20 ALWAYS KEEP THE IPAD CHARGED

Add your own life hacks in the comments and let’s save our sanity together x

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First Aid for babies and toddlers

Unless your workplace offers it, it’s surprisingly difficult to organise First Aid training.

It’s something I’d always intended to do, but time flies in and suddenly you’re phoning an ambulance and fully aware of your ignorance.

The British Red Cross was my first Google, though I was also aware of St John’s ambulance. There was a centre near me, but it was going to cost £45. If I could get 15 people together and find a suitable venue I could bring that down to £25 each. So I did.

Luckily the Wee Man’s school was happy to host and other p1 parents were happy to come and so there we all were, grinning at having a child-free Saturday morning, and feeling rather smug to boot.

Our trainer, Steve, was excellent. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect – perhaps some lying on gym mats performing CPR? But no. It was all very professional and informative. Plus there were adult and baby dummies, so no embarrassing close encounters.

Steve took some time at the beginning to find out what we wanted from the course, which was enlightening. Most people said their main priority was to learn how to not panic. When it’s your own child, it’s your worst nightmare to have to give first aid. I’m not a panicker, but I am someone who will hesitate in case I do the wrong thing, so my main priority was to feel confident in my skills, so I don’t waste time second-guessing myself. Others were more specific – “how do you treat a burn?”,  “what do you do when your child is choking?” and “what if someone has a seizure in a swimming pool?”

The biggest chunk of the course was concerning what to do when someone is unresponsive but breathing and then unresponsive and not breathing.

From memory, here’s what I learned.

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Roll them onto their side and tilt their chin up or, if they’re under 12 months, hold them like a rugby ball, on their side, tipped slightly downwards
  • Call an ambulance

If they’re not breathing

  • Call their name and give them a little shake
  • Check if they’re breathing
  • Tilt their chin up pinch the nose, administer 5 breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions using the heel of one hand (or two if they’re larger) directly in line with the armpits
  • Administer two breaths
  • Administer 30 chest compressions
  • After one minute call an ambulance

In the case of a baby, we have to create a seal over the nose and mouth and breathe into them.

I think focusing on these key skills before our coffee break was a good way to do it. We practised on the dummies and talked about using your body weight instead of arm muscles for compressions – it can be quite tiring. We also received a handy wee mouth guard in a packet to stick in our wallets, in case we ever had to do this to a stranger.

I found it quite sobering practising these life saving skills on a little baby doll.

We chatted about it over carrot cake and brownies. Everyone has a story about a child’s head needing glued, or a burn or broken bone – we all just wanted to feel like we could handle whatever our kids threw at us. Other tricks we learned included:

  • hold a burn under cold running water for 10 minutes then wrap it in cling film
  • if a child is choking give them five hard smacks on the back, between the shoulder blades, with the heel of your hand, then two Heimlich manoevres, which are copywritten, so I think the Red Cross call them chest thrusts. With a baby, hold them down your leg and support their chin while you smack their back
  • If a child won’t let you use ice or cold water, cuddles, kisses and reassurance are just as good. It’s important to keep them calm.
  • If a child has a temperature, strip them down and open a window. Cold cloths on foreheads are for comfort only
  • if a child has a seizure, put something soft under their head, clear the area of any obstacles and don’t interfere while the seizure is ongoing. Afterwards, lay them on their side with their chin tilted up. Call an ambulance or for help if necessary.

I mean, this is for reference, I’d really recommend doing a course for yourself. We all agreed we felt more confident afterwards, especially as our children have more playdates now and more independence from their parents, so we need to feel confident looking after kids that aren’t our own. Steve’s mantra “Doing something is always better than doing nothing” has stuck with me. I just hope I don’t need to use most of my new skills any time soon.

Hey you know what we didn’t cover? What to do when your child slams a car door on their thumb.

Which the wee man did, precisely 24 hrs later, in a car showroom. I was distracted by his brother, who had locked himself inside another car.

Of course he was too upset for cold water or ice – so it was kisses, cuddles and McDonalds.

Some things you don’t need a course for.

ouch

ouch

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Filed under Edinburgh, health

What Would the Wee Man Do?

When I found out Edinburgh schools go back on the 10th of January, I was tempted to call the council.

What on earth was I going to do with them? When would I ever get back to work?

When in doubt - balloons

When in doubt – balloons

Rod probably wouldn’t admit it, but he must have been glad to get back to work on the 3rd. No one pulling anyone’s hair, repeating his name over and over and over or undoing everything he did… Actually, he works in the car trade, maybe that’s exactly what he went back to.

Thank God the nursery reopened on the 4th – only the Wee Man to entertain for three out of the six extra days.

Two days in and I’m kind of astonished to realise I’ve loved it.

What? So we're at the park again...

What? So we’re at the park again – what’s your point?

If anyone is struggling to stick to their “Healthy January” resolution, may I suggest hanging out with my son? He makes every minute of the day count – and I love that about him. Some of my friends’ kids are content to watch movies, play with their Christmas presents and generally hang out at home. Not him.

Yesterday, after dropping KD at nursery, we went straight to soft play. We were the first ones there and he whooped with delight. One other family arrived, with two small kids, one of whom introduced herself to the Wee Man and off they went. She was adorable. I played football with them and cheered them coming down the slides. They got on so well that her mum and I swapped numbers and arranged a playdate.

After a couple of hours at home we were off again, to visit Auntie Kaka and play with all her daughter’s toys. Then it was the big one: his first swimming lesson. That half hour in the pool made me so proud I could burst. For once his general lack of fear played in his favour – he was leaping into the water, swimming valiantly as he sank lower and lower and laughing the whole time. I think his instructor fell in love with him a wee bit – I could see she was proud too.

Today we went back to the pool after the nursery drop off and practised. To say he was delighted was an understatement, I actually feel bad for keeping his arm bands on this long. There was an aqua aerobics class going on at the same time and he kept trying to join in, dancing even as he drowned a little bit. There’s a soft play at the gym so I managed a quick coffee as he played, but soon we were off again, home for lunch and a wee bit of telly before donning full waterproofs and heading to the park.

A dot in the distance

A dot in the distance

As he shot off across the field with his football in the sunshine I thought “He’s just a free spirit,” somewhat indulgently. With no KD to slow us down we must have covered the length and breadth of that huge field several times over. He only stopped to hang over the fence and chat to the woman poo-picking in the horses’ field. She’d heard the rumour JK Rowling owned the sprawling stables across the bypass too and we commiserated in our jealousy.

After an hour in the zero degree cold we headed back to the car and popped in to see his great pal and her brother who, in his mother’s words, is “mad on the Wee Man” (rather than mad with him)… His energy was undented. They tore around the house, laughing their heads off, as Allison and I drank tea and discussed whether boys or girls were more of a challenge to parent.

"You be Anna and I'll be Elsa"

“You be Anna and I’ll be Elsa”

In the end the only thing that stopped us was a clamp on the wheel. Yes, they may be saving paper by doing away with tax discs, but they have opened up a whole new cash generator. I had just loaded KD into the car seat and was going back for the Wee Man when I realised the junk mail on the windscreen was in fact a £100 fine.

Drinking through the pain...

Drinking through the pain…

We have a joke in our family. Whenever we’re stressing about something we think of Big B, my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal brother in law, and say “What Would Brian Do?” I’m thinking of adapting it to “What Would the Wee Man Do”? He is joy personified. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all about him, it’s incredibly uplifting. And fat burning.

So whenever you’re fed up, go ahead and borrow my new catchphrase. At least it will get you through January.

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Filed under Edinburgh, health, holidays, sport

The gift of sleep

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God knows how Santa got it all down my non-existent chimney – but I was thoroughly spoiled this year.

Most of the best gifts were sleep related; A White Company dressing gown (thanks Mum <3), an electric blanket, PJs, a new mattress…

That last gift arrived on the 27th and had been a very hasty iPhone purchase. Rod has been moaning about the mattress ever since we moved down from Aberdeen and the removal company placed it directly under a leak. One of our children also peed on it recently so – repulsed, when I changed the sheets, by the yellow stain – I hastily Googled “mattress sale” and PayPaled one that had a memory foam layer and hefty discount.

It was delivered rolled tightly into a tube by an Indian guy in a beany hat.

“Look boys it’s Santa!” I cried, so delighted was I to be sleeping hygienically. They looked at him, puzzled, but were happy to share in mummy’s joy.

Unwrapping it was like opening an adult-sized jack-in-the-box. It boinged as I cut through the shrink wrap and then bounced upright, terrifying the smaller one and sending the bigger one into hysterics. It smelled like fish.

“So did my flower necklaces when we opened them for my party,” the Wee Man’s girlfriend informed me when she came to play an hour later.

“It goes away.”

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So I left it lying on the bed frame and dragged the old one into KD’s room where the three kids discovered it was the best toy in the post-Christmas household. For hours they bounced on it and dragged it around, making dens and slides. Donutters, Duplo and Doh of the Play variety all lay untouched. At least there was minimal mess I told myself as I strictly supervised the jumping, convinced one of them would break a bone.

Later, as I un-boxed the new electric blanket, and made up the bed with freshly laundered sheets, I had a moment.

How old was I?

When exactly did shit like this start to matter to me?

I sat down on the showhome bed and couldn’t help but notice it was now lower with the new (cheap) mattress, so the reach up to the tallboy bedside tables was even more of a stretch. Rod was going to kill me. He hates my tallboy bedside tables. “I can’t reach shit,” he frequently complains, oblivious to the aesthetic.

AFTER: Bedroom

I bounced up and down experimentally. Not bad. Lower to the ground definitely – and therefore closer to the 85 chargers. Aha! I realised Rod would be pleased. A Kindle Fire and Apple Watch had also been in the Christmas haul, so two more chargers were joining the cable party trip hazard. I looked fondly at the Apple Watch charger. I was the proud owner – but had actually trumped his gift by also giving him a watch. His surprise had been delicious – after all, I’ve spent most of 2016 telling him we can’t afford a Tag Heuer. We still can’t, but when you choose a classic and finance it, rather than falling for the top of the range and wanting to buy it outright, we almost can.

Maybe we’re not completely pathetic, I reasoned, swaggering around with our wrist candy, eye bags reduced by our posh sleeping attire and cosy pee-free bed.

I wonder if my Apple Watch has a sleep app?

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-19-29-23

 

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Playroom renovation COMPLETE!

A year ago today – exactly – we moved to Edinburgh. To mark this anniversary, we can FINALLY say our house is finished! The boys have a new playroom and we have a whole new room in our house.

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I am SO EXCITED about picking up the Wee Man from school – he’s going to burst. Then we’ll have the best job ever of filling it with toys!

It’s been a fun journey – here it is in pictures.

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So my top tips based on our renovation?

  • Get good tradesmen and pay them promptly – the plumber must have been back and forth five or six times, but he was always very obliging because I transferred the money for his bill the same day each time.
  • Take advice even though you had a pretty fixed idea in your head
  • Shop around online – I ordered the staircase myself and saved hundreds of pounds. Of course, I didn’t tell the joiner until after he’d put it all together. He actually said: “You’ve just risen in my estimations”
  • Make lots and lots of tea and coffee and always buy the good biscuits
  • Make “how could I save a bit of money on that?” your default phrase – even when you’re in CarpetRight and everyone’s listening and the assistant is getting more and more pissed off as their commission shrinks before their eyes
  • If you don’t understand what your tradesman’s on about, say you’ll get back to him and Google it. I had to tell the painter about PVA for sealing brickwork – he thought I’d have to buy a specialist substance at £50 per tub.
  • Use PVA for sealing brickwork
  • Make sure your plasterer wears safety goggles – mine didn’t, even though he was doing ceilings, and had to go to the eye hospital leaving shite all over the place for two extra days
  • Humour people. No matter who you have in, they should have been in before the last guy. Just agree and offer more biscuits.
  • Offer lots of praise and then swiftly remove it when they’re not up to scratch – I’ve found it makes them much more eager to please. Yes I know this is coldly calculating.
  • Order wallpaper online. Never buy it from a shop. Ever.
  • Be prepared to get involved if it keeps everything on schedule. I was painting skirtings the night before the carpets came.
  • Locks. Put locks on as many doors as you can, especially if you have young, curious trouble-making children.
  • Be super nice to your neighbours throughout.
  • Make sure there is a spare key with a neighbour at all times.
  • Save everyone’s mobile number into your phone. Seems simple, but honestly saves your sanity.
  • Don’t let your husband do a dump run in the middle of any renovation, ever.
  • Take photos of every stage
  • Have fun with it – it can be a huge pain in the arse but it’s so worth it!

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Filed under Edinburgh, Edinburgh renovation, Uncategorized