Archive | February, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

29 Feb

Leaping Lizards, it’s Leap Day!

I love the Leap Day. I love the extra day-ness of it. I had a neighbour growing up who was born on a Leap Day and I found it incredible that he was older than me but technically younger in age years…

I have a friend from university who proposed to her husband on this day 8 years ago. It makes me smile to remember how happy they both were when she did.

I’ve been so busy these last weeks that I appreciate the extra day more than ever. I worked late tonight as this Friday is my last day in the office before maternity leave starts (and I don’t work on Thursdays) so this was my last chance to just get my head down and wrap up as much as I can. And I finally feel like I’m ready to go on maternity leave. Well, as ready as I’ll ever be (ie I’ve accepted that some things can’t get finished in time and that’s Not The End Of The World – instead they’ll become Someone Else’s Problem).

I’ve been so busy that I’ve not even had time for the internet. So my poor blog has been neglected somewhat (blows away any lingering tumbleweed) let alone with properly keeping up with my favourite bloggers or Twitter. But I’ve been preoccupied with finishing work, with turning a breech baby (which I’ll blog about properly some other time) and seeing as many friends as I can before baby number 2 arrives and makes traipsing around London a little trickier.

But thanks to this extra day I feel like I’ve turned a corner. I’m ready to leave work behind and focus properly on looking forward to meeting the newest member of the family. That’s my great mental leap today.


Liebster love

11 Feb

The lovely Tracey over at Single Married Mum has very kindly sent me a Liebster Blog award. I was absolutely delighted to find out yesterday, as it brightened up my week no end (it’s far more fun than the poorly, vomiting toddler I’ve spent my week with!). I’m honoured that she thought of me, as I’ve not been blogging long and it’s great to get some virtual blogging love.

Tracey is a very talented writer and she blogs about life as a parent when her husband is overseas with the armed forces. Join her at Single Married Mum while she counts down the days until they’re reunited and you’ll enjoy her funny, witty and touching insights into life (though you may be jealous of her ever increasing number of crochet granny squares – though that could just be me and my guilt at the unfinished granny squares blanket I’ve now been storing for, oh, 12 years…).

Now, according to the rules of the award I’ve got to nominate five other blogs I love that have 200 followers or less. I’ve got no idea how many followers the blogs I’m going to nominate have, but they’re such lovely bloggers that I don’t really mind if I bend the rules slightly!

So here goes:

For parenting with a Montessori twist, check out Rachel over at Sparkling Bay. She writes beautifully about raising her young daughter and her posts often leave me with a smile on my face, as she reminds me of the value of enjoying the small moments in life. Her weekly “Living, Learning” posts about how our children learn through life are particular highlights.

For funny (and useful!) posts on life as a working mother check out the wonderful Yummy Mummy, really?. She writes brilliantly about the realities of juggling a family and work while also maintaining a sense of self. Her posts really brighten up my day (especially as I usually read them at work!).

Ruth over at Mixed Bag of All Sorts also writes a lovely blog about her life raising her young son while also being a wife, a linguist, a food lover and, most importantly, herself. Warning: her recipes will leave you with cravings for delicious food! Not that that’s a bad thing…I just wish I had the time to try them all!

For a French slant on raising a family in Britain check out the excellent A Frog at Large. I love reading her thoughtful posts on raising her baby daughter. She has a refreshingly practical approach to parenting that I really enjoy. Plus she’s currently on the baby led weaning adventure with her daughter and I’m jealous of the foodie fun they’re having!

Finally, for another “foreign” view on Britain, check out the lovely Living Life as an Expat Parent written by an American woman married to a British man. I particularly enjoy this blog as my husband’s American, so her American view on Britain resonates with me. Her writing is very funny but remains thoughtful and insightful too.

I really hope you go and check out these wonderful blogs – may the blogging love go forth and prosper!

Taking the time to count my blessings

6 Feb

Things have felt quite hectic recently. As my pregnancy progesses, the to-do list before the baby gets here seems to be getting longer and longer. I’m starting to look around our flat and just see things to decluttter and organise to make some much needed space for this little one.

I’m washing and sorting bedding and 0-3 month clothes (they are so tiny! I have such fond memories of my son in them! But where the devil will we store them?!). As part of decluttering, we’re freecylcing and ebaying anything that can’t be passed onto friends and family.

Luckily, we’re remembering to practice our hypnobirthing so do relax a little (even if we sometimes seem to tired or stressed to actually practice in the first place!).

I have now got less than 4 weeks to go at work before maternity leave and still have a lot of projects to wrap up. I know that things will get done in my absence but I want to leave things shipshape for the colleague covering for me.

So many things to do, so little time…

We’re also planning to move to the States in September (though no dates are confirmed yet) so that looms on our horizon too. I worry about my greencard and sorting the children’s medical records creep. I worry about whether this is the right thing for our family – are we mad to tear up our roots in London in order to make new ones? How will I handle leaving Britain, with its beloved NHS and a job I love? How will I feel being so much further from my family in Ireland?

But today I read this post over at Salt & Caramel and it made me stop and think: wait a second, my problems aren’t problems at all.

I am in fact incredibly lucky. A husband I adore who adores me back. A son who we both adore, and who continues to delight us every day, with another baby due soon. We have each other and we have our health. These things are priceless, so it doesn’t really matter what we do or where we do it.

Our “problems” seem so trivial in comparison to other people’s. Other people like Aillidh Kinnaird.

Aillidh is 8 years old and seriously ill. Very seriously ill. She has Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and is going through yet another round of chemotherapy. She desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.

Her parents are doing everything they can to find a donor for her – see their Facebook page for more information. She has a mixed heritage (white Scottish & mestizo), which makes it hard to find a match for her.

Unfortunately no one in her family matches. So the net needs to be spread as far as widely throughout the world to try and get her the life saving treatment she needs.

This is where we come in. We can help Aillidh and others like her.

If you’re not already registered, please sign up for bone marrow register where you live (see Anthony Nolan in the UK or Be The Match in the US or the Bone Marrow Registry in Ireland). The more people sign up the better the chance for Aillidh and people like her. I signed up with the Anthony Nolan trust several years ago and it’s an easy process.

If you’re on Facebook, then please Like Aillidh’s page and share it with your friends. If you’re on Twitter, spread the word by tweeting about this. Email your friends and family and ask them to sign up and to spread the message in turn.

The more potential donors sign up then the higher the chance of helping Aillidh or another Leukaemia sufferer.

This is a blog hop – check out Salt & Caramelfor the code and link up.

Take this chance to help save a life. Take the time to count your blessings.

How to Make Seville Marmalade

5 Feb

It’s Seville orange season. Seville oranges appear in December and disappear in February, so this is the time to stock up on these slightly odd looking, bitter oranges so you can make delicious marmalade. It’s the perfect way to brighten up a winter weekend. They’re not good for eating (I like to nibble a little flesh and rind as I go along but definitely couldn’t stomach a whole fresh one!) but wonderful for marmalade, as Seville marmalade has an intensity of flavour beats other marmalades (especially shop bought ones) hands-down. It just tastes so very orangey

Seville marmalade

1.5 kg Seville oranges
1 lemon
2 regular oranges
About 2.8 kg of caster sugar (you can mix in a little demerera if you prefer a darker coloured marmalade).

Makes about 9 decent sized jars.

(Tip: I always prepare more jars, as better to have too many ready than not enough! I save jars, so my jars are all different sizes).

Scrub the fruit, cover with water and boil whole for about 2.5 – 3 hours until totally soft (your kitchen will smell divinely orangey!). Leave to cool completely (either overnight or for several hours). Do not throw away the water!

Once cooled, remove the fruit from the water and reduce the orange infused water massively (by at least three-quarters). You may find that some fruit has split during boiling – if this happens, strain the water through a muslin before reducing (as you don’t want any pith in the marmalade).

Meanwhile, chop the oranges and lemon in two, scoop out the centres, seeds and as much pith as possible. Gently strain the centres/seeds/pith through a muslin into the orange water. You can also use a sieve but push it through gently, as you don’t want any pith in the water.

Discard the lemon and regular orange rind (or use in another recipe if you can) and all the pith/centres/seeds.

Thinly slice the Seville orange rind (willing and helpful children come in useful for this part!). Add the rind to the orange water.

Bring to the boil and add most of the sugar (tip: warm the sugar gently in the microwave first).

Keep boiling (and stirring) until it’s sticky – about half an hour to an hour. As it’s boiling, taste and add more sugar if needed.

While it’s boiling, put a plate in the freezer so that it’s nice and cold for when you need to test if it’s set. To test if it’s set, place a small spoonful of marmalade on the cold plate. Let it cool and then run your finger across it. It it wrinkles then it’s ready.

Be careful that it’s not too set/over hard, so it’s better to start checking early. If it’s too set, then just add a little more water.

Ladle into sterilised jars (I sterilise jars in the oven, as I find it the easiest way to sterilise while also making preserves – see here for great tips on how to sterilise). Leave to settle for 15-20 mins before sealing.


St Brigid’s Day

1 Feb


Today is the feast of St Brigid (or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish). It’s also the Celtic festival of Imbolc, so it marks the start of Spring in the Irish calendar.

My (American) husband thinks I’m mad, but I really do think of Spring starting on 1 February, Summer (Bealtaine) on 1 May, Autumn (Lughnasadh) on 1 August and Winter (Samhain) on 1 November. In fact, it was only when I moved abroad to study as a teenager that I realised other countries didn’t see it that way! And I’m still never sure when my husband thinks seasons start (is it at the solstices? Or on a particular month day?).

Anyway, St Brigid, the female patron saint of Ireland, featured quite prominently in my childhood as the primary school I went to was named after her. We always made St Brigid’s crosses around her feast day every year. We’d collect reeds from a marsh near our home and weave them together to make the cross, like this:


The cross would then hang in the kitchen for the year, gradually drying out and turning brown, before being burnt the following St Brigid’s day and replaced with a fresh cross. I’ve not made a cross in years, but my mum still has an ancient one from when we were still at school hanging way up high in the kitchen.

While St Brigid is an interesting early Irish saint, she shares her name with the mother goddess of Celtic Ireland – the goddess Brighid. I was definitely taught more about the saint, but she and the goddess are bound together in my childhood memories so I can’t really separate the two in my imagination.

For me, this day is a day to reflect on the gradual lengthening of the days, the return of light to our lives after Winter’s darkness. I leave for work at 7.30am and these days it’s now bright (sun isn’t officially up yet but it’s inching closer by the day). I love this time of year, as I can’t help but be cheered by the days getting longer.