Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Our Trip to London with Quorn Kids








I became vegetarian at the age of eight after the rather traumatising death of my guinea pig, Nancy. My mum and dad were supportive of my decision (something I didn’t realise was rare until years later when I worked as the Youth Campaigner for a vegan campaigning charity). My mum used to cook meals piled high with fresh veg and lentils and I never felt like I was missing out on food because of being vegetarian.

When Quorn products became readily available in supermarkets, I started eating those too. Sausages, burgers and sandwich slices were amongst my favourite Quorn products. When I became vegan aged 21, I was a little bit devastated to find out that Quorn products contained egg (the thought of no more Quorn burgers topped with cheese slices was almost too much to handle) and so I wouldn’t be able to eat them anymore.

I heard rumours that Quorn was trying to veganise products but I never really believed them. But then, last year, Quorn introduced a vegan range. They brought out some vegan ‘chicken’ pieces which are great in a stir-fry and spicy ‘chicken’ style burgers. Laurie is a big fan of the burgers and Ebony loves the little ‘chicken’ pieces.

So, when Quorn invited us down to London to find out more about Quorn products, I said yes. It was half-term so Ebony and I headed down to London just the two of us and we had an amazing time stuffing our faces with vegan food and seeing the city sights. The Quorn event was held at the Kids Cookery School, an amazing place with child-sized everything. The children were taken into the kitchen to prepare some food (Ebony marched in loaded up with vegan cheese and butter) and the rest of us stayed put to learn more about Quorn.

Alison Crusher, one of the products developers at Quorn, was on hand to answer any questions. I’m not embarrassed to say that I found it really interesting to find out more about exactly how Quorn is made. I knew it was made from a fungi but hadn’t realised how environmentally friendly the production process is (perfected over many years). Obviously, I am pretty clued up about the environmental and health benefits of eating foods like Quorn instead of meat. Quorn products seemed to go mainstream around the time of the BSE crisis, and I remember many of my friend’s parents switching beef mince for Quorn mince around that time.

As the only vegan in attendance, Alison spent quite a while chatting to me about the veganising process. Would you believe it has taken years of research for Quorn to create a method to successful mimic the molecular makeup of egg using only vegan-friendly ingredients? The company have been funding PhD researchers for a number of years to try and find a way of veganising the products. They have now had some success but are still working on more ways of expanding the vegan range. There are more vegan products due to launch later this year which is exciting and definitely a nod to the fact that veganism is going mainstream.

I’m really pleased that the vegan line is expanding because a lot of catering companies seem to opt for Quorn products now. I know that the vegetarian option at Ebony’s future school is Quorn so it would be great to easily switch this for one of the company’s vegan products when it’s time for Ebony to start having hot dinners. It also means there will be even more vegan products available in supermarkets which can only be a good thing. I’ve been vegan for eight and a half years now and I can’t believe how much things have changed in just that short amount of time. It is now easier than ever to find vegan food when you’re out and about.

Obviously, I used this as an opportunity to emphasise my love for the Quorn fajita chicken strips in the hope that Alison will one day veganise these especially for me. I’m sure she will. It was really interesting to be able to speak to a product developer and find out more about how the products are made, and she seemed genuinely interested in asking about vegan options and the types of vegan products people might like to see on offer so that was really good.

Whilst I was busy learning all about vegan Quorn, the kids were busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen. They made pizza from scratch (Ebony’s pizza was heavily loaded up with pretty much a whole packet of vegan cheese) and then made burger buns to serve their burgers in. She was really proud of her pizza and, to the disgust of those around us, ate it cold on the tube on the way back to Euston.

You can read more about the event over on Quorn’s blog here.

The beautiful photos were taken by Preston perfect Photography.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sleepover Essentials



1. Pyjamas £19.95 GAP I often find myself lusting after Gap’s childrenswear, they have some really beautiful things. It’s important to look wonderful at sleepovers (this is a thing, right?) and I love these striped pyjamas, perfect for summer sleepovers. // 2. Ten Acre Sweet & Salty Popcorn Thanks to my terrible parenting, Ebony has developed a taste for sweet and salty popcorn (why is it so much better than both sweet and salty popcorn?). It’s not something we have very often, but I do usually get us a little bag of popcorn to share whenever we’re having a lazy day and watching a movie. // 3. Kawaii Pear Night Light £12.50 Not On The High Street I love this cute little night light and I think it would be right at home at a sleepover. Ebony doesn’t use a night light usually, but I think one would definitely come in useful for when friends sleepover. // 4. Cloud Cushion £15 Made Comfort is everything, especially when you’re reclining in front of a movie so I think some nice scatter cushions are in order. I love this cloud design, we have a brightly coloured cloud cushion in her room now so I think this would be a nice addition. // 5. The Despina Guest Bed £239.99 Beds R Us I love that this bed makes use of the usually wasted space underneath by fitting in another bed. Something like this would be a great thing to have for future sleepovers and would save the argument of who has to sleep on the crappy airbed. // 6. Crochet Throw £40 BHS This throw caught my eye in the window the other day, I think it would look wonderful in my new living room. But, since I’m already way over budget, maybe I could pretend it was Ebony’s future sleepovers. What do you think?

Ebony has started asking if she can have sleepovers with her friends. Obviously, she’s too young right now, I can’t see any of her friend’s parents putting up with her crawling into their bed at 4am in the morning. She loves the idea of having people stay over, although I have no idea why. When I think back to the sleepovers of my childhood, I am filled with nothing but dread. From what I can remember, sleepovers just extend the amount of time kids can argue for.

My favourite sleepovers were always the ones I would have with my sister. There was no falling out and crying in the garden and I always got to choose the movie (one of the many perks of being the oldest). The only downside was that Rosie would always fall asleep early which was fine until we reached horror movie age and then it was terrifying.

We’ve almost finished decorating a few rooms in our house and, as part of the reshuffle, Ebony’s playroom has moved to the front of the house. Long gone are the days of just an uncomfortable wooden bench to sit on, there’s now a bright red sofa bed in there. Whilst lying on the sofa together yesterday, we talked about how one day she might have sleepovers on that sofa bed when she’s older. And it got me thinking about other things that might be fun for her future sleepovers.



Wednesday, 20 April 2016

On Losing The Only-Child Status
























Until now, I’ve only really thought about how good the new baby will be for Ebony. After all, she’ll be getting a brand new playmate to climb trees with, play pirates with and build intricate Lego houses with. I used to have the most fun playing games with my sister and I am looking forward to Ebony enjoying that same sort of bond.

A sibling is a friend for life. My own sister is a really important person in my life and always someone I can turn to when I don’t want to talk to somebody else. I imagine, as your parents age, this bond becomes even more important. And up until now, that’s what I’ve been thinking about when I’ve imagined Ebony and a sibling. I’ve thought about them appearing at the conservatory doors, covered in mud after an enthusiastic afternoon spent playing at the bottom of the garden. I’ve imagined them having sleepovers together and cuddling up in bed together. I’ve imagined the benefits but haven’t even stopped to consider the other side of getting a sibling.

Of course, having a sibling isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes they ruin your games, embarrass you in public and steal your clothes. Sometimes you hate them. But that’s all to be expected. That’s all part and parcel of family life. It’s the other side of it that has started to worry me.

Ebony has spent over four years enjoying the luxury of life as an only child. She hasn’t had to share her toys. She hasn’t had to compete for attention. She hasn’t really had to do anything,unless she’s wanted to do it. But all that is about to change. Pretty soon, there will be someone else calling some of the shots. We’ll be running out of the door late not because Ebony couldn’t find her school shoes but because the baby forced out a badly timed crap. Ebony will be woken up in the night not because she’s cold but because there’s somebody screaming in the room next door. Ebony will climb into my bed in the middle of the night to find that somebody else has stolen her place.

I hope that, because she’s older, she’ll be better equipped to handle these changes. But I don’t know. At the moment, she is really excited about the new baby. She already thinks of the new baby as her best friend and is so excited to have a baby in the family. But will that change when the reality of what it means to be a big sister sets in? Will she end up resenting the new baby? Will she feel pushed out or rejected by this squishy little person in my bed?

And it’s not just her I’m worried about, it’s me. How will I cope with Ebony no longer being my only baby? For the past four years and three months, she has dominated most of my thoughts and pretty much all decisions have been made with her in mind. How will I cope with juggling her needs with those of the new baby? Will I miss all of the one-on-one time we have always had the luxury of enjoying? Those long cuddles at bedtime, will they come to an end as I rush out of the door to soothe a crying baby yet again? One thing I’ve always tried to give Ebony is time. Time to master things herself, time to explore and investigate and time to spend together, no matter how long it all takes. Will I still be able to grant her this basic right, or is she going to be caught up in the whirlwind of looking after a newborn?

How do you juggle the needs of a newborn with the lifelong expectations of the first child you love so much? And how do you juggle at all, without feeling like you’re about to drop shitloads of balls?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

School Admissions & My Baby Girl



I don’t know quite how it has happened, but that beautiful little baby girl I welcomed into my living room four years ago is almost old enough for school. Time grew distorted as soon as I became a mama. While some days seemed to stretch on for all eternity, four years has flown by in a flash. And now, that clay-covered baby who stared up at me in the birthing pool all those years ago, whilst I unwittingly covered her in happy tears, is growing up.

Long gone are the days of unsure footing as she toddles on the pavements, these days she strides ahead of me, barely stopping at corners to see whether I’m behind her. She doesn’t look back nervously over her shoulder to make sure she’s safely under my watchful eye at the park anymore, instead, she bellows me from the terrifying height of the tree to show me how high she can climb. She doesn’t always need me to cuddle her better when she falls, these days she rubs her own knee before running off to play again.

She loves her independence and enjoys the challenge of doing things for herself. She is strong-minded and is not easily persuaded to do something she doesn’t want to do. This is, admittedly, frustrating at times, but I hope it’s an attribute she carries with her for life. I hope her future friends struggle to manipulate her with peer pressure just as I have struggled to get her to put her shoes on in the morning.

She is a thoughtful little girl and I’m often surprised by how deeply she thinks about things. At bedtime, after stories, when she lies in my arms to await sleep, we lie in silence. Often, that silence is interrupted by a question or a thought from Ebony as she processes her day in her mind. It’s interesting to hear the things she thinks or the events that have been bothering her throughout the day, and it’s very rarely the things I would expect to hear from her. She is unpredictable and even though I feel I know her better than anyone, I am constantly surprised by her.

At the moment, she attends nursery in the morning. I work in the mornings and then pick her up before lunch. Then we have the rest of the day together, just me and her. I feel so lucky to have had all this time with her and will forever be grateful (and proud) that we managed to find a way for me to stay home with her during these early years. I have been there every single step of the way and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have had that opportunity.

But now, it’s time for her to move on. From September, I won’t have her as my afternoon buddy anymore. Instead, she’ll be starting school full-time. She’ll be spending most of her waking hours each weekday under the care of someone. And I find that a little terrifying. She’ll be eating lunch with her friends, playing in the playground and then heading back to the classroom for even more learning. I won’t get to pick her up until much later in the day when we’ll steal a few hours together before bedtime.

She has been offered a place at the school we wanted. I’m pleased, but also disappointed because I was hoping they would respond with “Your child is not old enough for school just yet, please re-apply in three years.” But they didn’t. She’s old enough to join the system and she’s excited to join it. She’s excited about having longer with her friends, going into the class for big girls and boys and learning more. She’s ready. I’m not.

It’s surreal to think that this has come round so quickly. It really doesn’t feel like four years have passed since she changed my world. It all still feels so new, this whole mothering thing. I’m really going to miss my best friend when she starts school in September.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

DIY Disaster: The Time We Sanded The Floorboards



We spent the Easter weekend knee deep in DIY. Well, I say we, I’ll be honest and say that my input was pretty minimum. I helped with what I could, but am a big fan of using pregnancy as my get out of work free card. We sanded and painted our bedroom floorboards and they look so beautiful that I still won’t let anyone in there for fear of ruining them. Since we had the sander for the weekend, we decided to try and get another room done as well.

Doing our bedroom was reasonably straightforward (if you ignore the fact that the first sander we hired broke mid-sanding and put a big dent in the floor), but things became more and more complicated as the weekend went on. Oak Furniture UK recently carried out a survey and found that as many as a quarter of us have abandoned flat pack furniture projects when things got tough. I’ve never given up on a flat pack project, but there were so many moments when we wanted to give up this weekend. I’m glad we didn’t though, because even though the job isn’t finished yet, I can already tell it’s going to be well worth the effort.

The plan is to switch the living room and playroom round before the baby arrives in August (you can http://www.watchingyougrow.co.uk/search/label/pregnancy%20updatefollow my pregnancy updates here). In preparation for this, we decided to sand the floors in there. This seemed like a good idea but has proven to be a humongous ballache. When I pulled up the carpet, I found that the entire floor was covered in 1960s thick vinyl tiles (orange and beige, before you ask why we didn’t just keep them). It took about a day to pull all these up (I think mostly because pregnancy makes me very slow), and then we discovered quite a bit of cement over the floorboards which had to be chipped off. It wasn’t fun, but we (Laurie) eventually managed it.

After that, we had a room of what we thought were black painted floorboards which we decided to sand. Only it wasn’t paint, it was tar. Thick, black tar coating all of the floorboards (not just the edges of the room like I keep reading about online). The wonderful thing about tar is that it immediately melts when the electric sander heats up, and clogs up the entire sander belt rendering it unusable. Great, right? We could have given up then, probably we should have, but instead we persevered.

My wonderful mum and dad came over with supplies (biscuits and a fancy wire brush drill attachment) and helped Laurie to remove as much tar as possible. The job didn’t get finished in time, but by the end of the day, we could see that this pipe dream was possible. With a little bit of hard work, we’d be able to get the floorboards sanded nicely. So, for the next couple of weeks, Laurie’s plan is to clear the tar from a floorboard or two a night. Once they’re all done, we’ll hire a floor sander again to finish the room. I’m hoping we’ll get it done soon, but I’m also making a concerted effort to stay well clear of the tar remover fumes so it’s not really up to me.


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