Recapturing the innocence of childhood

Although Belle is 13 now, and has moments where she looks at me like I am possibly the most embarrassing parent ever to have walked the earth, she has always had a strong streak of concern for others.

If I’m upset about something, she knows. If I’ve been crying, she sees it, and does what she can to make me feel better. Basically, she cares about other people. She may be super bossy with her friends, and genuinely believe that she shouldn’t ever have to do washing up, but essentially she’s a thoughtful child.

I will always remember picking her up from nursery one day, when she must have been about two and a half years old. To help you picture the scene, I looked up this picture, which was one of those standard portraits they make everyone sit for at school and nursery. When I saw it then, for the first time in a while, I felt my chest constrict and my heart rush up into my throat. Where have my babies gone?!

recapturing childhood innocence View Full Post

Dairy free chicken korma curry recipe + video tutorial

dairy free chicken korma curry recipe

This dairy free chicken korma curry recipe is so easy, a child could do it.

I mean literally, a child did do it – I got Belle to make it for me, as you can see in the video below. I’ve never really understood the whole ‘curry sauce in a jar’ thing, when a simple curry like this is so straightforward. Sure, we’re not crushing up our own blend of secret herbs and spices or anything, but why would you do that when you could let Schwartz do it for you? 

Chicken korma curry is a favourite in our house, as I have bred children with zero tolerance for spice. Belle once refused cucumber sticks on the grounds they were ‘too spicy’ – I kid you not. This korma recipe is flavoursome, without any of the heat, so even the wimpiest of family members should enjoy it. 

Because we have lactose tolerance issues in our household, we adapted this Schwartz recipe to use coconut milk instead of natural yoghurt and cream, but here’s the original in case you fancy making the dairy-tastic version. View Full Post

7 Slummy Single Mummy anti-ageing tips

A lot of people tell me I look young for my age. This is me, sporting a rather fetching Christmas pudding hat:

Jo Middleton Slummy Single Mummy

I’m actually 57. 

Not really. I’m 38 though. I have a bit of a party trick when I meet new people – I casually mention that I have children, and they say ‘Oh right, how old?’ expecting me to say three and one, or something like that, and I say 13 and 20, and watch them wrestle with their face, not sure if they are allowed to say anything.

It’s funny. I deliberately say 13 first, as that seems to shock people enough, and then when they are on the back foot, I go in with the 20. Boom. 

Often here they will gasp and say “God, you don’t look old enough to have a 20 year old!”

“I’m not really,” I will say, smiling knowingly, and making them even more confused.

So, I had a genius idea – I thought I would have a bit of a think, and put together my very own anti-ageing tips for you! Like a proper beauty blogger, only more disgusting, as you will see.

Don’t wash

An easy one to start with. Let those natural oils flow guys! Your skin doesn’t want to be getting wet and dry again all the time now does it? Washing your hands all the time is just going to leave you looking like one of those old ladies with wrinkly hands and lots of gold rings. No one wants that.

Avoid the sun

Everyone knows it’s bad for you, so scrap the picnic, skip the trip to the park and stay in and watch Peppa Pig instead. Your skin will thank you for it.

Train a child to wash up

As with point one above, you really don’t want to be sticking your hands into hot soapy water day in day out, so assign washing up to one of your children as a chore as soon as possible. Stand them on a chair and turn it into a game. They’ll soon learn to be careful with the knives.

Try not to care too much generally

That worry will show on your face! Instead of bothering about which schools your kids will get into, or whether or not they’ve had enough fruit and vegetables, concentrate on the trivial things, like which of your spider babies needs repotting next, or whether you want to read Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys in bed tonight.

Avoid crafts with children

GLITTER!!! ARGH!!! Seeing your kitchen covered in red paint and cornflour will age you by at least five years, instantly. Avoid it wherever possible.

Use your natural oils

If you find yourself sat on a train with a spare moment, take the opportunity to use what nature has blessed you with and rub some of the grease from your nose and other oily bits of your face onto the drier areas, like the skin around your eyes. It’s fine, it’s natural. 

Moisturise

Every day. It’s very important. Choose a moisturiser with built in sun protection.

What are your favourite anti-ageing tips?

Cash versus card – could you take the challenge?

This week I’ve been undertaking a challenge. You know I love anything with a competitive element, so this was right up my street. Not that there really even was a competitive element – not against anyone other than myself anyway, but that’s enough for me! 

The idea behind the challenge, which was set for my by NoteMachine, was to see how spending habits have changed, and to what extent we now use card rather than cash, or vice versa. I must say that I’ve never really given much thought to how I spend money, unless I really want a sausage and onion bap from the little sandwich bar around the corner, who only take cash, and so I was interested to see how I got on.

Here’s a diary of my challenge…

Day one – cash

My challenge is to spend three days using only cash and three using only card, but it’s the first day and I’m still not sure which to do first. As I do with most of my serious life choices, I ask Twitter. Consensus seems to be that I should start with cash, as this will be the hardest, and I’m very pleased with this idea indeed, as it’s a Thursday – farmers’ market day in Taunton. The farmers’ market is about a two minute walk from my office, and I do quite like to treat myself to a teeny tiny Japanese chicken curry on a Thursday, and possibly a chocolate brownie. (If they are home made they are wholesome, and therefore terribly good for you.)

I have a momentary panic when I realise I had gone to work without card or cash, but Bee comes to meet me for lunch and saves the day:

So far so good, although there are a couple of things I notice just after one day of cash only; firstly, I took a lot of cash out, because I was afraid of not having it when I needed it. I don’t always carry a bag, and have a tendency to stuff money, old tissues and scraps of paper into my pockets, and then forget about them. I feel immediately like the potential for me to end up out of pocket is greater with cash, as it seems quite lucky that money might literally fall out of my pockets.  View Full Post

Competition – win fantastic football experiences with Barclays

Ask any group of children what they want to be when they grow up, and ‘professional athlete’ normally tops the list. More often than not, what this really means is a footballer.

There’s no denying that if you make it big in football, you’re not going to be doing badly financially, but I don’t think it’s about this for kids. Children were dreaming of becoming professional footballers long before they all started earning such ridiculous salaries, so I think it’s something much deeper than money. Football for many is a passion, something that stirs the emotions, engenders a sense of loyalty and determination, and provides a focus.

Barclays’ sponsorship of the Premier League is about more than money too. Since Barclays became the title sponsor in 2004, they’ve been working hard to champion a generation of football. For starters, they’ve worked with the Football Foundation (the largest sports charity in the UK) and invested £40 million, setting up over 200 sports sites for young people across the country, largely in deprived inner city areas. This kind of support is often invaluable to these communities, providing young people not simply with a space to take part in sport, but somewhere to go to feel part of a team, and to develop all sorts of other social and personal skills.

Barclays also support employability programmes for young people, most recently Barclays Premier League Works – clubs that use football as the catalyst to get young people trained and ready for work.

Who knew Barclays did so much to support young people? View Full Post