Tag Archives: mutha thunka

An almost guilt-free solution for my unmade meals: Brixton People’s Kitchen

8 Jul

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I cannot believe I’m admitting to this, but last week I reluctantly threw all this food away.  It felt really weird and wrong and was definitely a record for the amount of food I have ever thrown away, but it has to be said that I do throw food away every single week.  (Feeling very ashamed right now).

So last October I went back to work after having my baby.  It was such a crazy change of lifestyle and routine that finding time for everything was pretty difficult.  But you’d think that nine months later I’d have cracked it, super mum style?  Well I definitely don’t aspire to being a ‘super mum’ at all, but things do happen a lot more smoothly these days and most of the time I manage to balance most things including the grocery shopping.  I always manage to plan our dinners and book a delivery.  Progress.

BUT.  Do I have time to cook them?  Well this is the problem.  I’m determined that we will all eat healthy, well balanced meals with lots of fruit and veg.  But the problem is I often have to work in the evenings or only have the energy required to throw some fishcakes in the oven or put on some tortellini.  So that’s what I do more of the week than I’d like.  Leaving a load of unmade meals sitting there all sad, lonely and starting to wilt in the fridge.  So when the following week’s delivery arrives I have to clear it all out to make space for the new stuff.

Now I know that I really need to either:
a) Stop living in denial and just buy a load of fishcakes and tortellini.  Or…
b) Forget work or sitting down for a few minutes and get chopping.

Forgetting work isn’t an option, I kinda like sitting down, but I also want to get some goodness inside us, so I’m aiming for a balance of both.  However, this whole thing did remind me of a local project I came across recently that turns food that is unwanted but perfectly good enough to eat into delicious meals for everyone!  The Brixton People’s Kitchen mainly gathers food from the zillions of restaurant, cafes and things that exist within Brixton, but you can also take your own leftover ingredients along to their regular events.  Everyone is welcome to come down and help prepare wonderful recipes from the food they collect and of course eat it too.

The Brixton People’s Kitchen believes that sharing food with strangers is one of the nicest ways to spread happiness.  Their events get people together to meet and enjoy the company of the those living around them, allow people to learn new cooking skills from each other and of course reduce food waste in their area.  A very worthwhile cause as it turns out that 36% of Brixton’s household waste is food!  So it’s not just me then…

They have lots of exciting things coming up including a bike kitchen, a pop-up restaurant, a collaboration with local community project, The Remakery as well as their usual monthly event in Myatt’s Fields.  I shall certainly be making my way down to check out this wonderful project with my leftovers in tow, which will hopefully have reduced somewhat!

A little film about them here…

Can art change the world?

15 Mar

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JR’s ‘Women are heroes’ project in Favela Providencia, Rio

I haven’t posted for quite some time.  And although this week I wrote two or three drafts to explain why and to start writing again, I just wasn’t happy with any of them.  I was either complaining about how tough it is to be a working Mum, or moaning about how exhausted I am after dealing with illness-after-illness.  And if the last couple of months has taught me anything, it’s that a calm state of mind and a positive attitude is the only way to get through these phases with my sanity, relationship and well everything really, in tact.

So I’m not going to talk about it at all.  Instead I’m only going to focus on the things that make me feel happy, inspired, balanced, calm.  For good.

With that in mind I thought I’d share a video of this man I absolutely love.  He’s one of the most inspiring discoveries I’ve ever made – French Artist, JR.  In this video, which he uses to announce his incredible project – Inside Out, he asks ‘Can art change the world?’

Now since I had Nancy, I see her in the face of every vulnerable person or cat (!) I see.  I can’t help but think of the woman (or mama cat) somewhere out there who thinks about them constantly and whose greatest wish is for them to be safe and happy.  Someone who, like me, wants to believe that the world is a great place; full of love, opportunity and fun that means their child’s future will be great.  That all that is wrong with the world can be fixed.  That people are inherently good, if sometimes a little ignorant or misguided.

TED 2011 TALK – ENGLISH SUBTITLES from SOCIAL ANIMALS on Vimeo.

JR says “Art is not supposed to change the world.  Or practical things.  But to change perceptions.  The fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchange and discussion which then enables you to change the world.”

So what this reminds me is that moaning gets you nowhere.  Being angry changes nothing.  In fact, this negative energy is most likely to push people away from you and your issue.  If you really want to change it, channel that energy into something that makes people stop and think.  As JR says ‘what we see changes who we are’.  Art, creativity, ideas draw people in and make them to come to some kind of conclusion on their own.  Don’t be angry, don’t spell it out for people, but appeal to their curiosity and you can make a change.

So now to use Inside Out to change the perceptions around working Mums?!

The secret to calm (and hilarious) mornings

9 Jan

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I discovered the secret of the universe this morning.  Well actually I discovered something pretty bloody obvious this morning, but it felt like a huge revelation to me.   I discovered that it is possible, with everything that has to happen in the morning just to get everyone to work / childcare, for it to be a chilled and even pretty wonderful time of the day.  To the point where I was able to do the above on the way to work.  I spotted a nice looking bench on Clapham Common and got off my bike and sat on it.  I then opened my current book (Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’), laughed a lot (I actually laughed on my morning commute – unheard of) before getting back on my bike to cycle to the station.  I was so early for my train that it was sat there waiting for me and offering me a seat.  An actual seat!

How did I manage this?  It was very simple, I got up 30 minutes earlier than usual.  Correction: Nancy woke me up 30 minutes earlier than usual.  I think that due to the sleep deprivation I suffered for most of last year, I’d never considered sacrificing 30 minutes of my now full nights sleep to ease the hecticness of the morning.  ‘Sleep when she sleeps’ is advice I’ve continued to take, even now when I’m actually getting plenty.  Crazy really because what I hate more than anything is being in a rush.  Normally I’d do anything to avoid it.  I’d rather be late than run for a train and get hot, angry and caught between two closing doors.  If I’m rushed I clam up and freak out and am pretty much in a bad mood and good for nothing for the rest of the day.  I’m much calmer, happier and better at things when given sufficient time to do them.

This ‘revelation’ of getting up earlier to take the morning slowly has inspired my ‘word of the year’ – an idea put forward by the always-inspirational Anna at Skin & Blister to give you focus for the year ahead.  I like to think of it as a more focused and sustainable version of a list of resolutions, that can be built upon year after year.  But more on this later…

Yellow knickers for a ¡Feliz ano nuevo!

30 Dec

ImageI’ve never been more excited about spending New Year’s Eve at home as I am this year, as we’ll be celebrating Mexican style!  Complete with delicious food that couldn’t be less like Christmas dinner (thank goodness), plenty of rum and tequila, cut paper decorations and a few of the bonkers rituals the Mexicans practise.  Which is why I need to find some yellow knickers.  Where do I find yellow knickers in the Dulwich area before tomorrow evening?  A tricky one that, but I must find them because according to our Mexican friends, I won’t be granted my wish for 2013 of happiness and prosperity without them!

Mexico is the perfect place to look for New Years Eve inspiration because everything about Mexico is just FUN and bright and beautiful.  We were there a couple of years ago and totally fell in love with its warmth, colour, music and creativity, and we found the Mexican people to be friendly, relaxed and delightfully resourceful.  We were there just after Día de los Muertos, so we missed the celebrations, but one night we went to a wonderful restaurant in Tulum which was in the owner’s garage.  She’d decorated it with cut paper-bag lanterns, sugar skull skeletons, paper chains and battered old furniture.  Eating our dinner in a garage by candlelight whilst being watched over by a trio of guitar-playing skeletons was both cosy and fascinating at the same time.  The food was exceptional too and the whole experience perfectly reflected the friendly, laid-back, handmade, rich and creative Mexican culture.

Having looked into how the Mexicans celebrate New Year I thought I’d share it on – they really are a bonkers lot!

Traditions and rituals

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Papel Picado is the Mexican folk art of paper-cutting.  The colourful, intricate designs are traditionally cut into tissue paper using a variety of tools including scissors, chisels and hole-punches.  They are made to celebrate religious festivals and national holidays and can be hung on string to create banners, turned into lanterns, napkins, tablecloths and so on.  Here’s a simple how-to to follow to make a colourful banner.

Colour of Decorations.  Just in case the knickers fail to work (!) people in Mexico people make decorations in the colour that reflects their wish for the year ahead:

Red: General improvement in lifestyle and love
Yellow: Blessings of improved employment conditions
Green: Improved financial circumstances
White: Improved health

The Twelve Grapes is a Spanish tradition that dates back to at least 1895.  The Spanish, Mexicans and other Latin American countries eat a grape with each bell strike at midnight to bring prosperity in the New Year.  Mexicans make a wish with every grape and each grape represents a different month of the year – get a sweet grape and it’ll be a good month, get a sour grape and it’ll be a bad one.  I’m going to give this a go but have to admit I am worried I won’t be able to think of wishes and eat so quickly, especially after a few too many drinks, but we’ll see!

To banish all negative energy Mexicans like to write a list of all the bad things that happened in the previous year and ceremonially burn it before midnight arrives.

Taking the suitcase for a walk.  An obvious one this?!  Mexicans can be found taking an empty suitcase for a walk at midnight to represent the distance to be travelled in the new year.

Sweep in good fortune.  Others will open their front door at midnight and sweep out the previous year, then drop coins outside and sweep them in for prosperity in the new year.

Food and Drink

Mexicans traditionally have a late dinner with family to celebrate the New Year. Bacalao is the staple New Year meal in Mexico – a dried salted codfish.

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Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings cake) is a Mexican sweet bread that is generally baked in the New Year in preparation for the Epiphany on 6th January.  It symbolises both the crowns of the Three Kings and God’s unending love.  They bake a charm or a tiny figure of baby Jesus into it and the person who finds the charm is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day. In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party!

Ponche Con Piccante is a hot, spiced cider that is traditionally drunk on New Year.  Sounds yum to me.

We’re going to mix this up with a few Mexican faves such as pulled pork, tacos and of course, churros!  I’ll post some pics afterwards.  ¡Feliz ano nuevo! may all your New Year wishes come true.

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Brand love: Coco De Mer’s Pink Japan – Contemporary Sex Culture Salon

23 Oct

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BRAND LOVE: Coco De Mer’s Pink Japan Salon

I LOVE this.  I think many brands would do well to consider doing this kind of stuff.  After all, every brand does, or should, stand for something.  Believe in something.  Be into something.  They can, and should, use their passions or their purpose to engage people.  To inspire, to inform, to involve.  By doing so they’ll attract people who share their interests and want to interact with them – just as with any relationship between real people.

Coco De Mer does a lot of this kind of stuff.  They’re never your standard branded experience.  They’re never (obviously) linked to the launch of a product or ram endless brand messages down your throat.  They’re interesting, insightful, delightful experiences that enrich you in some way – allowing people to experience the brand and its values in a much deeper and more meaningful way.

In this case they’re working with Midori – a Kyoto born, Tokyo-raised, Japanese-American author and sex educator based in San Francisco. She is well versed with the contradiction that is 21st Century Japan and possesses a keen insight into culture and sexuality.  In this funny and insightful presentation, Coco De Mer invites you to join Midori for a double-expatriate’s personal tour of Japan’s hidden sexual culture today. And to browse through her collection of naughty magazines, rare books, unusual flyers and other goodies from Japan.

People pay to come to these events.  £75 in this case.  You get champagne (winner) and at the end of the presentation you can, of course browse the Coco De Mer collection and receive a discount on any purchases made that night.  The event is listed on Run-Riot (a listing of cultural happenings in London) along with exhibitions, theatre, club nights.  This alone says a lot.

So yes, I love it.  But no, I probably won’t be going myself 😉

Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part two

17 Oct

So yes.  My heartwarming discoveries.  Here they are:

1> The amazingness of nature

This is of course, the big one.  Despite feeling the kicks and seeing the scans, I never *really* believed that a perfectly perfect human baby was really in there.  But it totally, totally was.  After a gruelling 27 hour labour, Nancy flew out (kinda) and was handed to me – an absolutely perfect example of a human being.  I was in shock.  My body is a-maz-ing.  How did it know what to do to create such a thing?  And then how to eject it from my body (well, it got some of that bit wrong to be fair).  She had everything – fingers, toes (complete with nails), hair, a perfect pair of lungs.  Incredible.  I was suddenly a mother and I always would be.  In that moment I realised how incredible nature is, life is, the world is.  All those silly things that bothered me before, gone.  Insignificant.  Just like that.

2>  The kindness + generosity of people

Wow.  Where do I start with this one?  From the day I went into labour, I was exposed to a whole new level of human kindness.  Maybe it’s just that ordinarily I’m immersed in a world of deadlines and pressure where people really aren’t operating at their most calm, kind and caring.  But wow, the midwives, the health visitors, the GP who treated me with even more care than usual post-labour – what incredible people!  I know it’s their job – but they gave me so much time to make me feel at ease in an alien situation, to listen to how I felt about my labour and experience as a new mother.  To give me all the information and support I needed and reassure any concerns I had.

And then there’s the PRESENTS!  I actually got to know my Postman as packages arrived every single day for weeks!  We received so many flowers that we even had to buy more vases.  One of my school friends arrived at my door with two black bags full of amazing baby clothes that her little girl had grown out of.  I felt quite embarrassed when I realised the number of presents we’d failed to buy for friends and relatives when they had babies.  And also noticed how a large majority of the gifts were from people who’d had children – some of these people we hardly knew at all!  But I guess they knew quite what a big deal this whole thing is. And quite how hard it is in those first few weeks – when the kind wishes of the people around you go such a long way.

3> The wonderful community on my doorstep

This was something I hoped I’d discover on maternity leave.  Being around just in the evenings and the weekends doesn’t give you the chance to *really* get to know your area. I was excited to spend some proper time here – getting to know the people, the groups, the stuff that happens in the daytime when I’d normally be on the other side of town.  After I’d had Nancy I was amazed to discover so much more than this.  Those first 10-12 weeks were incredibly hard. But what helped is that all these lovely people would come and visit me.  The midwife came a few time, then the health visitor.  Then there was the weekly baby clinic where I could go for advice and to weigh Nancy.  I quickly learned that there was so much out there to help Mums deal with the many challenges of early motherhood.  Here are some of the things I came across:

Breastfeeding Cafes There are two ‘cafes’ (not actual cafes) each week that you can go to to get guidance and support from midwives on breast feeding.  How incredible!  I tried to go once and well, it didn’t quite happen.  Turned out I’d left it too close to feeding time and so I quite quickly had a screaming Nancy in the back of the car.  I then didn’t know where to park near the library it was taking place in, and I also realised that I wouldn’t actually have enough time to feed Nancy before it then closed.  So I ended up feeding her in an actual cafe instead.  But the point is that it was a huge comfort to know that it was there and lots of friends who had real trouble with breastfeeding would’ve given up if it hadn’t been for the cafes.

Sure Start Centres These are ace.  They are located all over the place (although due to cuts they are slowly disappearing 😦 ) They offer FREE classes, courses, groups that you can come to with your baby and meet other mums, learn all sorts of things or just get a change of scenery.  We did a baby massage course for nuffink!  Amazing.  And just so lovely that it makes this kind of stuff accessible to all.

The Nappy Lady  There is an actual nappy lady!  Again, I didn’t actually use her.  But awesome to know that she exists to help you with the whole disposable vs. washable nappy dilemma.

There’s also a Sling Library where you can go to to try different baby slings to find the right one for you.  You can even borrow it for a week to make doubly sure.  The actual library is of course awesome too.  They do baby groups, singing sessions and obviously you can also join and borrow books for free.

On top of all this baby stuff there’s everything else.  And when you have a baby everyone talks to you!!  People at the bus stop, people in the doctors, people on trains.  Also when you have a baby you feel braver to just talk to anyone too!  You just get to know everyone and everything.  Where to get the best coffee.  The best brownie.  That there is even a pub near here that runs a group called Crumpets – a playgroup for babies and a breakfast club for Mums!  Complete with pastries, coffee and of course, crumpets!  Omm nom amazing.  Anyway you get my point – you get to know where you live better and it’s ace.

4> The kindness + support of other Mums

This is the sort of comment that I know now really pisses off non-Mums.  But it’s true – Mums are amazing.  Of course, it doesn’t apply to every single Mum.  And many non-Mums are also amazingly understanding and supportive to new Mums.  But there’s something about other Mums with babies at the same stage and also those with older babies / kids.  They know.  They know how exhausted you are.  How unsettling the dramatic change in your life is over just a few short weeks is.  How hard it is to remain patient while your darling child screams in your face for hours.  How you sometimes question yourself.  And they listen.  They empathise.  They know how desperate you can become, and they offer their help.  Even though they have their own things to deal with.

There was a time when Nancy would be awake at night and asleep in the day.  Just to get her off to sleep would take forever and a great deal of effort.  I was a mess.  My kind NCT friends offered to come over and watch Nancy while I slept.  These are women I’d known for just a few months!  I also had other friends in the area who’d had babies too and we’d all email at all hours – ‘Has anyone’s baby done this’.  ’Did you know that’.  ’He’s doing this, should I be worried’ and so on.  We’d all have read something or been through it already and be able to offer an answer or reassurance. Now that I’m back at work and am having worries about Nancy’s childcare, my Mum friends are all offering to get together to look after Nancy if I ever need this.  WOW!  It’s just incredible.  But I think, going back to point no.1, once you’ve given birth and been through this you suddenly realise what is important and what isn’t.  Being kind, listening and offering help and support to each other – these are all important things.  Normally many of us don’t find enough time to focus on this stuff.  Or don’t prioritise it.  But this is something that I really want to retain – in my personal life and at work.

5> A new, more confident, kind and patient me

I’m going to be quick here as I’ve written enough already.  And it kinda relates to no.4.  But yes.  To make this point, here are some things I have dealt with in the last 11 months:

  • Nancy screaming in my face for seven hours (yes SEVEN) while we try to work out why
  • Singing and rocking a screaming, overtired baby to sleep for up to an hour for her to then fall asleep but then wake up 45 minutes later.  An hour or so later I would then have to repeat this
  • Waking up every 3 hours through the night to feed her – after a day doing the above
  • Breastfeeding and cooking soup at the same time because clearly we were both so damned hungry!
  • Spending precious sleeping time chopping, steaming, blending various fruits and vegetables for Nancy to then just turn her head away in disgust

I mean these are just just a few things.  But the point is, I’ve had to find a way to deal with all these things whilst remaining patient, loving and comforting for Nancy.  I’ve therefore learnt a whole new level of patience, tolerance and consideration.  Being so out of control, vulnerable and in need of help and support has made me consider other people in my life who might be in need like this for all sorts of reasons.  We’re not all strong all the time.  And we have to be there for each other.

So that will do, I think.  It’s quite a lot.  And I know it’s all very soppy.  But that’s what happens to you when you become a Mum. And I’m glad of it.  I feel better, stronger, kinder and who can argue with that?

Sorry Kirsty-of-the-past

8 Oct

As I lay on the sofa cuddling a very sick Nancy to sleep in front of In the Night Garden earlier on today, I thought about what the Kirsty of six months ago would have to say about all this.

I’m sure that having spent weeks trying a number of different, inventive ways of just getting Nancy to go to sleep please; on her own, and for longer than just 45 minutes – she’d be none too pleased.  In fact I think she’d break down, hands over eyes, forehead on floor, foetal position and in a fit of frustrated tears.

But all that seems a long time ago now.  And Nancy has an ear infection.  She’s in pain and she doesn’t know what’s going on.  Who wouldn’t want to give their little one bundles of warmth and cuddles and reassurance when they’re feeling this way?  It’d be wrong not to.  And I have to (secretly) admit, it has been lovely having cuddles with an otherwise very wriggly little bug, who just wants to scurry around the place rather than have cuddles with her mama.  Even though it means I can literally do nothing else – if I try, she screams.

So I’m happy to deal with the consequences and go through a bit of pain once this is all over to get her sleeping well again as Kirsty-of-the-past achieved before me, all those months ago.  Which will probably mean being woken every 45 mins between midnight and 5am if last night is anything to go by – with Nancy needing my help to get back to sleep.

I only wish this had all been timed much, much better, as Tom is away and it’s my second week back at work.  How single parents do it I have no idea!  Those cuddles must have to be particularly incredible.