Sunday, 5 March 2017

Self care on Sundays, my plan for the week ahead



I can't remember when I first heard of the idea of self-care, I know I've been thinking about it for a few years now, and do my best to carve out small parts of my week where I can give myself a little breathing space in whatever way, space or form that might take.



I've spoken on the blog before about mental health, and love the fact that self-care focuses on improving or maintaining one's mental wellbeing. It's not going to be right for everyone, and 20 minutes of fresh air a day isn't going to help someone who's in crisis. But, caught at and thought of at the right time, it could help someone stay well, or even feel stronger. 

Each week I'm going to try to think about 7 self care activities I can put in place over the week ahead. Some things might pop up every week, others from time to time and others again could be a one off.



  1. Use my planner to plan my week as an overview, and my daily spread to do the detail.
  2. Find some time to crochet each day, even if only 15 minutes.
  3. Be grateful, whether that is expressed through prayer, or simply noting down what I'm grateful for in my journal I find that the intention behind being thankful and conscious of blessings both big and small is a really positive way of reminding myself of the good things.
  4. Fresh air - even when the weather is foul, try to get outside for a walk with my partner in crime for 20 minutes.
  5. Switch off - after 8pm get rid of the technology. It's so tempting to respond to every notification, but it's important that M and I get time together.
  6. Sunscreen. I have wildly sensitive skin, and rosacea so remembering to apply this every day will do me the world of good.
  7. Sing! I've recently discovered Encore radio - dedicated to musicals - and singing along to showtunes in the kitchen is pretty much guaranteed to make me smile.
That's my 7 for this week. Why not add yours in the comments below?

Monday, 27 February 2017

Meal Planning Monday: 27th February



How on earth did that come around so soon? Last week's meal plan was a bit of a disaster, the meat we bought from Aldi was (despite being well in date)off, disgustingly so - as was, randomly a butternut squash. Necessity being the mother of invention; the Squash and Spring green curry ended up being Sweet potato and Spring green curry, and Shepherdess pie (a vegan Shepherd's pie) made it's first ever appearance. Both were warmly received and will definitely be reappearing on the meal plan and (if I can ever work out how to make a brown meal even vaguely attractive in a photo) on the blog.

My attention was caught last week by recommendations that you should aim for 10 portions of fruit and veg a day. Even I feel a bit daunted by that, but am going to make a real effort to see how many portions I can realistically - bearing in mind our budget - a day. Once more I shall bemoan the fact that the staff in our local Asda are convinced their wonky veg boxes don't exist and be grateful for Aldi's Super 6.

This week then... As normal a week as it ever gets here in the Pantry. Of course it's Shrove Tuesday this week so we'll be flipping our pancakes this week. However, Pancake day, as always, is a Guides night so I'll be pancaking with them. Harry is convinced he loves pancakes, asking for them often, but when made, rarely goes near them, so we'll see.

Breakfasts: Porridge for me, topped with banana

Lunches: Tomato soup

Suppers:

Monday - Sausage casserole, with steamed Spring Greens. I keep making this and find it impossple to photograph. I may just put the recipe up instead.

Tuesday - Leftovers with extra veggies agan.

Wednesday - Pasta and meatballs, using my hidden veg tomato sauce

Thursday - Leftovers baked with cheese on top

Friday - Freezer surprise

Saturday - Gammon, egg, chips and veggies

Sunday - All hail the fact that next week's Super 6 at Aldi means I can justify my Super slow roast brisket

I've got no baking planned for the first half of the week as we did bake some blueberry muffins and an Apricot and cherry banana bread over the weekend. Both decidedly light on blueberries and apricots due to my helper.

As always, do pop around our Meal Planning Monday blog hop in case you're in need of some inspiration!


Monday, 20 February 2017

Still here, and still Meal Planning: Monday 20th February 2017


I promise that meal plans have still been happening in the Pantry, It's just since Christmas, between coughs, colds, infections and now Hand, food & mouth I don't think we've had a week where all of us have been healthy at the same point in time. It's ghastly, I do feel like all we need is a holiday, some sunshine and some proper family time. Pipe dreams though.

Breakfasts: I made porridge over the weekend, of late I've been starting the day with crumpets and marmite, and really enjoyed something that felt a bit healthier, so will be attempting to continue with that. I say healthier, it was topped with a hefty spoon of dark, soft brown sugar

Lunches: I've completely fallen off the soup wagon, but have been enjoying pilaffs, noodles and other quick and easy lunches.

Suppers:

Monday - Leftover sausage casserole, with brocolli

Tuesday - Butternut squash and spring green curry with rice

Wednesday - Leftover curry with roti

Thursday -Emergency pizza

Friday - Breakfast for dinner

Saturday - Gammon, egg, Slimming world chips, peas and sweetcorn

Sunday - Tomato pasta bake

I was going to say no baking this week as I've fabulous birthday cake to eat up, but then I remembered that mean I need to bring cake to bible study on Friday, I suspect I'll make my Apricot and Cherry banana bread as it's dairy free so the children at creche can have some too.


Have a good week - it's back to our normal routine after half term for us, so toddler groups aplenty.

As always, I'm joining up with Meal Planning Monday - do be sure to have a look at what everyone else is up to:

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

We went for a walk in a deep, dark wood... Gruffalo spotting with the Forestry Commission



A few weeks ago we had an exciting day out with the Forestry Commission - Harry, one of his friends, M and I went Gruffalo spotting.


Like so many of our friends' children, Harry is a huge Gruffalo fan, we read both the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo's child pretty much daily, and I can now recite both stories (that's clearly a skill left by a long forgotten Drama degree). Our day out was to test the Grufallo spotter app, taking the lovely Gruffalo trails to a new level with the use of Augmented reality.

On a sunny but bitingly cold February day we donned snowsuits, puddlesuits, welly boots and thermals, ready for adventure to begin. The woods at Wendover are lovely and definitely somewhere you may find a Mouse going for a walk... Off we went, phones in hand (we downloaded the app beforehand), looking for clues that might help us find our Gruffalo.  As we wandered through the woods we found markers telling us we were getting closer to each character, then footprint signposts - holding the app up to these brings up a wonderful image of the relevant character that blends into the woodland, and excitingly, which your child can be a part of. That said, Harry struggled a little with the concept and desperately wanting to see the character while he was in the picture so there was a lot of running back and forth! It didn't diminish our day in the slightest, but I suspect older preschoolers would understand that better.

Harry loved Gruffalo spotting - and we're going to be heading back to Wendover in March for a return expedition. I would say that the trail is fairly long for a toddler - Harry walks everywhere these days but even he wanted his buggy by the end. And the sturdier your buggy, the better - whilst it's not an incredibly challenging trail, there is one significant hill and a fair old amount of going through woodland paths. When we were on Brownsea Island a year or so back, we borrowed a fantastic all terrain pushchair which would have been perfect for Wendover.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The lighter side of being an allergy mum: 10 things I now know


 I've been an 'allergy mum' for a little over 2 years, and in that time we've dealt with what feels like so much. However - and no one prepares you for this - it just keeps coming. Things to learn, to teach Harry to manage himself (and that's a whole post in itself), new allergens, attitudes of others - be they people who mean well, or people who just don't get it. And I don't think at that appointment on the 25th November 2014 I really understood that. It was such a relief to have a diagnosis that didn't involve me being a rubbish mum that it didn't cross my mind that this was something that was going to continue growing far, far beyond excluding dairy and soya from my diet. That sounds terrible doesn't it? But aside from supporting Guides with food allergies (which I always took seriously - but, as we oh so often joke, I get to give them back at 8.30pm) I had really had no idea of the road we were heading down.

Anyway, I thought today I'd post a slightly tongue in cheek view of what we've encountered and learned thus far...

1. Cutlery, crockery, glassware, sippy cups - HOW many do you go through? I've always been hot on food hygiene, but me and potential cross contamination are not friends. Everything gets washed in the dishwasher on the hot setting. Chopping boards, knives, wooden spoons and spatulas all head that way if I'm in the least bit unsure. Whilst most of what we have in the house is safe - M and I do have dairy ourselves, more often than not, when Harry's not around. With the exception of milk in tea that is, no alternative milk has ever managed to make a proper cuppa.

2. There is nothing more likely to have me demonstrate my (non existent) athleticism, hurdling chairs and toys at playgroup in a bid to remove a stray biscuit from Harry's line of sight. Not a drop of grace is present in any of my limbs as I fling myself between Harry and the offending objects. And while we're talking about that...

3. Food in soft play, playgrounds etc. How often I want to be wildly unreasonable, and remove biscuits, chocolate, pretty much anything gripped in another toddler's sweaty paws before they're allowed to smear or spread said item around the play area. I know it's unreasonable, I do, I really do. But sometimes it would be nice to just be able to relax a bit.

4. It's not just nut allergies! From our standpoint - schools, nurseries, playgroups etc... all 'get' nut allergies. Which is awesome. If you have a nut allergy. We don't. Add to which a non-instant, reaction and I feel a bit like my explanations are falling on deaf ears.

5. People don't always have just one one food allergy. Lady in the cafe it's great that you can cater for someone who has either a dairy, egg, soya, strawberry or sesame allergy. But we have them all, and you can't do that. Which is fine, but then let me give my son his packed lunch.

6. And while we're at it a gluten free option is fabulous - it's not the same as a dairy free one! Which is also not the same as a lactose free one, although I'll let you have that as they're so similar.

 7. There are some fabulous sources of calcium that aren't dairy based - but sardines and kale aren't up on Harry's favourite food lists - of course they aren't, why would they be?! So I spend hours on the internet, with recipe books, and pottering around in the kitchen trying to find palatable ways of hiding foods that will help him. It's not that he's a particularly fussy eater - he's just a toddler and if the day has a y in it, he'll find something different that's not being eaten today, despite being last week's food of choice. Peas, I'm looking at you.

8. The trials of allergy testing - in our PCT, until the age of 3, allergies are tested via so called 'Challenges' - you either try your child on something with a small amount of said allergen in, and build up to foods with greater quantities of that allergen. Basically, as a mother, I get to potentially give my child a food I spend most of the rest of my time avoiding for him, in order to challenge his allergy. There is little I enjoy less.

9. And I know I'm going to alienate a HUGE amount of people here, but some of those food writers- you know the ones, heavy on the use of buzzwords like wellness, clean eating, healthful and nourishing - who talk about intolerances because dairy makes them a bit bloated, or gluten is acidic, or sugar the devil... whatever the current default is. Those people make life SO hard for anyone with an actual food allergy by making them seem faddy and in turn making others take them less seriously. As soon as you see the heavenwards glance, the unsubtle eye roll, the sigh of despair when asking if there's soya in bread, it's time to leave. Because whilst you know it'll give your toddler eczema that bleeds through his pyjamas, projectile vomiting and nappies like something out of The Exorcist - that's not what people think of any more. And I know that some people have found a more balanced lifestyle following that kind of eating, but for us and so many families like us food allergies aren't about posting heavily edited photos of us doing headstands in the golden morning light. It's so that we don't see our child writhing in pain, we don't watch them come up in the hives that we're told can precede anaphylaxis, we don't want to have to prop their cot up so that the burning acid reflux stays in their tummy.

Well that one wasn't so lighthearted was it. Oops.

10. And the combination of pride, sadness and confidence when your toddler can say no to a biscuit because it might make him "poorly" or tells a friend he can't have "sova, mik, 'trawberries,egg" For me, that moment was at once heartbreaking and reassuring. And he can also now tell you that if Mummy gets bitten by a bee she needs her epi-pen.

And much like my post on 10 things I've learned in 21 months of breastfeeding, I couldn't just leave this at 10...

11. Having said all of the above - the utter joy at an evening on Pinterest discovering wonderful recipes (that you may or may not ever make) that are safe for your child is wonderful. The moments when you can tell that the allergen has finally left their system and finally breathe a sigh of relief. The weigh ins at the baby clinic when you're told that your tot has finally put on weight, or is finally tracking a centile line. The joy of finding a safe food or recipe that your child inhales. The relief when a mum from NCT or a playgroup leader goes out of their way to be inclusive and ensure there's a safe alternative to whatever food the other children are eating. There is a litany of small moments that as an allergy mum bring me joy, restore my faith in other people and make this whole journey we're on seem manageable, feel less isolating, and give me the confidence to keep on keeping on.

I'm adding this post to Free From Fridays this week, over at Le Coin de Mel

Le Coin de Mel


Monday, 2 January 2017

Meal Planning Tuesday: 2nd January 2016



A new year. A new sense of vigour in the meal plans? Well, a bit. This week for us is a bit of a transition one - we had our Christmas on the 28th so are still clearing leftovers, but as you'll note at the end of the week, we're hitting our stride with some lighter food, punchier flavours and more than a nod to Vegan-uary. 

I'll be talking more about self-care and food later this week, as I'm trying to change my relationship with something that is so fundamental in my life not just as a fuel, but in my writing too. So instead of joining the queue at Slimming World or Weight Watchers, I'm going to be trying to think myself slimmer. But as I say, more to come later this week. 

We've had a few issues allergy wise over December - having eliminated suspect allergens beef and sesame, we had a much more settled time, until someone mugged another toddler for their biscuit. In the Wendy house at crèche. Great! That reaction seems to have passed, but as it does each time Harry goes through a big reaction, he's limited the foods he'll eat. It's a little like a food aversion - the vomitting, upset stomach and acid from the reflux make him so uncomfortable, in a way to control that he will pretty much only happily eat a very small selection of foods. As the reaction passes, he widens his choices again. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I'd doubt a toddler could do that. But he does. 

Anyway, without further ado, on to the Meal Plan: 

Breakfasts: Porridge. All the porridge! With lots of fruit added for me. 

Lunches: Soup. All the soup. I've made some turkey soup, and have frozen all but what we need today - and then I'll make a batch of carrot and lentil soup this afternoon, but I'm procrastinating right now. 

Suppers

Monday: Leftover Turkey, mushroom and leek pie with braised red cabbage and baked potatoes

Tuesday: A dear friend has offered to babysit Harry so that M and I can have our first date night since July which is a huge blessing as we've really missed time together. 

Wednesday: Spaghetti, tomato sauce and meatballs




Friday: Leftover curry

Saturday: Gammon, egg, potato wedges and peas 

Sunday: Freezer surprise, I know there's some smoked haddock in there for Harry and I, but I suspect M will have some of the portioned off chilli that's languishing. 

We've not even cut into the Christmas cake yet, so don't need any baking this week! 


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year


2017: A fresh page in the planner of life. Time to start anew, to throw back the curtains and holler "Here I am!" Or perhaps, like me, you take a peek, make a list of things to do, before cautiously and carefully welcoming the New Year in. 

I know that lots of people will be writing the ubiquitous 'New Year. New you' posts, or those waxing lyrical about detoxes and diets. I'm afraid you won't find that here. Not least because isn't January the worst time to try to change anything and everything about yourself? It's cold, wet, dark and grim, the odd glorious winter morning overshadowed by the need for thermals, waterproofs and everything in between. I find myself more inclined to start changes in those early days of spring, punctuated by daffodils and brighter days.

Whatever mood you're in, however you're approaching 2017, or how life finds you today - here at Penelope's Pantry I wish you a Happy, Prosperous and joy filled New Year. 

Personally, I favour New Year attired in purple penguin pjs with a glass of prosecco, and possibly a board game or two. However, and with whomsoever you celebrate, enjoy. 


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