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Reduced sugar bread pudding recipe

If you ever find yourself wanting to impress a group of new friends I can recommend doing it through the medium of bread pudding.

I first made a variant of this bread pudding recipe on a writing course about a year and a half ago and I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said that for most people it was the highlight of the week. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was VERY good. The bread soaks up the custard and something happens that I think must be actual magic – it’s moist and sweet and tastes of heaven.

The original version doesn’t have any fruit, and goes in a lot heavier on the sugar and butter topping, but as I was trying to create a reduced sugar bread pudding I cut back on this and added peaches and raspberries for sweetness instead. I think it’s better than the original, if that’s even possible. View Post

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different parenting styles

After last week’s very emotional story from the mum who doesn’t think having her kids was worth it, I thought it might be good to tackle a more practical parenting issue in Untold Stories this week – one of internet safety. This post, written for me by John at Dad Blog UK, looks not at how we as parents protect our kids at home, but how we manage online safety in the face of other parents, parents who don’t seem to care as much about keeping their children safe from harm. It’s an interesting angle on a much talked about topic and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. (John was happy to have his name to this one, but if you’d like to contribute a story to this series then you’re welcome to stay anonymous.)

……

Is there an aspect of parenting I find ‘really difficult’? This was the question posed to me by Jo, the author behind Slummy Single Mummy and a blogger I have long admired, not forgetting she’s also a published author. [Flattery will get you everywhere John.]

Well, where do I start with this?

Finding a way to get my kids to eat with exemplary table manners? Dealing with friendship disputes? Stressing about secondary school applications? The list is endless. I worry about my kids all the time, but one issue has cropped up repeatedly and it’s cropping up more and more as my kids get older. The issue I am talking about is online safety and digital resilience. Having rules in our own house is easy. These are straightforward to put in place and keep on top of. It’s having to deal with the rules and standards that other families follow that presents a plethora of issues.

I am going to come out and say it; time and again I have found families not even following the most basic online safety rules. Unfortunately, many mums and dads don’t appreciate the impact this has on other children and the wider community. I struggle with this, I mean really, really struggle with it. Just when I think I have seen it all, I learn of another acquaintance whose child has had a nasty experience online and one that, more often than not, could have been avoided if they’d followed some basic online safety rules.

This is a sensitive subject within our household. A little while ago one of our kids was on the receiving end of some online bullying. When I looked into what was going on, I was horrified at what I discovered parents were letting their kids do online. There’s a particular social media platform (I won’t mention it’s name) that has a suggested user age of 13. I found that many of my child’s friends used this app and often with their parents’ blessing, despite being several years too young.

My child was introduced to a girl, we’ll call her Miranda, at the local athletics club. Miranda had a full, public profile and thousands of followers. At the age of nine, she’d regularly post content of herself with a full face of make-up and wearing short skirts. My child thought this was amazing and that she had a really cool friend. Alas, it transpired Miranda had been self-harming. View Post

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It’s 5.30pm on a Sunday evening and I’m in an old church in Bristol. Long ropes dangle from the ceiling as I stand, 6 feet above the ground, on a trapeze. I lean forward, one leg extended behind me. I crouch slowly and sit down on the bar. I lean back and let go with one hand, twisting my body, my legs stretched out straight, toes pointed.

In that moment I feel powerful, alive, and only vaguely concerned about how sweaty my palm feels on the rope. In my mind I look like this and in lieu of photographic evidence I defy anyone to prove otherwise:

Trapeze artist

Last week, in our first session of a five week aerial skills course, we were on the hoop. With the hoop I felt about as graceful as a badly coordinated toddler trying to zip up a coat. On the trapeze though, (once the instructor has helped me get on), I am a goddess, full of energy and grace.

Now I’m not saying that two weeks of drinking Ensure Max Protein everyday has turned me into a world class circus acrobat, ready to fly through the air, confident in my strength and power, but it has made me a little less tired, given me a little more energy, and that can’t be a bad thing, not when according to research*, around 10.5 million of us in the UK feel exhausted from our ‘always on’ lives.

I don’t know if it’s age, or the midlife unravelling or what it is really, but a lot lately, (the last couple of years if I’m honest), I’ve just felt pretty tired. Worn out with having to DO everything, by myself, all the time. Tired of being always responsible, generating all my own work, having to remember to reply to my Instagram messages and get the car MOTed and have Belle’s eyes tested and, and, and…

*deep breaths* View Post

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having children wasn't worth it

I absolutely love today’s anonymous contribution to Untold Stories. It’s told with such honesty and candour. ‘It feels so miserable though,’ the contributor said to me, ‘do you want me to make it funnier?’ A few people have asked me this already, as though they’re letting me down, but that’s the point of Untold Stories. Sometimes life doesn’t feel very funny, but we go about our days doing all the things we know we’re meant to do and telling everyone that everything’s fine. And probably it is fine, mostly, and sometimes it’s just enough to know that other people are miserable too. You can read more Untold Stories here.

Written by anon

We’ve all heard it said to the new mother, exhausted from sleepless nights, a traumatised body and feeding, feeding, feeding: “Oh, but it’s all worth it!”

After twenty years of parenting, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the biggest lie of all. But worst of all, it is the lie that we cannot speak out loud because the very people who we have created: our beloved children who we worship and live and breathe for, might overhear. And the biggest terror of all is that they might know that if you had your choices again, you might choose differently. You might not choose them.

Every school report described me as ‘full of potential’. After two decades of parenting, I feel I have squandered it all. It is a source of both shame and regret.

My best friend was childless by choice, but often gives my life sidelong glances of envy. Look at the lovely children, gathered around the table, laughing gaily: a real-life Ladybird book of The Family! But she looks mainly by social media, because I am too exhausted to visit her in London, too scared of the tasks piling up in my absence, too lacking in confidence around her highly-paid and highly-made-up friends to join in the way I used to. View Post

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brunch club

A couple of weekends ago I took Belle for brunch at Kitchen at Jordans Courtyard. We ate banana bread, we played cards, we secretly watched a little boy with an adorable bowl cut eat pizza – it was a good day.

I’m a big fan of the original Kitchen at The Wharf in Langport, not least because if I get lucky I can sit at my old kitchen table, which found a new home there after I realised I couldn’t open my back door properly with it in my own house. (It’s a round one with white painted legs and a bare wooden top, should you fancy visiting it.) To be honest I prefer the eclectic, mismatched decor and the cosy atmosphere of Kitchen in Langport, but Belle likes it when things are a bit more in order, and so she prefers the new version of Kitchen at Jordans Kitchen.

They’re essentially both nice though.

(Year 5 level review for you there. Honestly, I should consider writing for a living.)

What’s especially nice about them both is the food. Their menus change with the seasons and they source as much of their fresh produce as possible from local suppliers. They also run their own artisan bakery in Langport, so they really are all about quality ingredients and cooking from scratch.

I browsed the menu at Jordans Courtyard while Belle practiced shuffling cards. She was trying to master the thing where you split the pack and sort of flick the two halves together, whilst trying to look casual and cool. A well-shuffled pack is very important for a serious game of Go Fish.

It took me a long time to decide because basically I wanted everything. I was especially drawn to the toasted banana bread with granola and yogurt because that’s not something I’ve ever seen on a brunch menu before, but also I wanted the big breakfast because FRIED POTATO ROSTI. Any kind of fried potato item on a brunch menu is normally a clincher for me. I think it’s because fried potatoes always remind me of my Dad, being small and dipping bits of crispy potato in tomato ketchup. They’re such a treat aren’t they?

We decided to go with a bit of a joint effort and get the full breakfast to share, with homemade baked beans and sourdough toast, and then the banana bread as a joint pudding. The breakfast would actually have been enough between us as it was really filling. A split breakfast works well for us as I don’t really like bacon and Belle doesn’t like sausage or black pudding. (I bloody love black pudding.)

Brunch at Kitchen at Jordans Courtyard review View Post

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is my child fat?

Following my post about my new Untold Stories feature I’ve already had several people send me their stories, which I’m really thrilled about. It means a lot to have you trust me with your thoughts so thank you! If you have a story or a concern of your own to share then do get in touch. 

Today’s story is on a really interesting subject – that of children and weight. It can be a really tough one to talk about because there’s such an anti-diet movement at the moment, which is fantastic in a lot of ways, but there’s also a fine line between embracing your body as it is and still understanding the importance of eating good foods and treating your body well. With children it’s especially hard because eating habits and the stories we tell ourselves about food embed themselves from such a young age. 

If you have any thoughts on the subject please do leave a comment, or share the post. I’d really appreciate any support you can show for this new regular feature.

……..

Firstly, to be clear, I have no idea how much my children actually weigh or what their BMI is. I just know that since my husband and I separated, they’ve both gradually got a little plumper, to the point that I am now bothered by it. To complicate my concerns, when I raised the issue with my ex, hoping to create some joint rules and strategies about junk food, snacks etc, he responded that in his opinion, the children don’t look overweight, they look happy.

A bit of context – I’ve always struggled with my weight, and so has their dad. As a clever but overweight child, I was bullied and felt different and unhappy. As an adult I lost a significant amount of weight after the birth of my first child. I’m not currently completely happy with my weight but I am more accepting of my body than I have ever been. Knowing that this issue is triggering for me, I consulted a counsellor. At the heart of it, as much as I do worry about my children’s short term and future health, I don’t want them to feel unattractive and uncomfortable as I did for many years. And I don’t want people to look at my children and judge me as a mother.

It really bothers me that I can see rolls of fat on my children’s stomachs, but I also don’t want to give them a complex about their appearance, I want them to be body positive. The older one is starting puberty and someone else mentioned she had a bit of puppy fat. It’s very hard when she complains about her stomach area to know what to say. She needs to understand that there is a correlation between what she eats and the health of her body, so I’ve told her that healthy choices of food will help keep her body a healthy shape, and that planking exercises will strengthen her core, but haven’t made any changes to the way I feed her. She gave up sweets for new year, which I was slightly concerned about, but didn’t discourage. View Post

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So far this year I’ve been quite good at having ideas and less good at doing anything about them. I could make some excuse about Christmas and mince pies and things like that but I felt the same this time last month, so it must just be me. I can’t blame Elizabeth Shaw and her mints.

(Question: Is Elizabeth Shaw actually a person? Did she invent the chocolate mint?)

Last week I told you about my new brunch club idea, and actually I have been busy with that one. I’ve eaten a LOT of brunch this week, I’ve just not quite got round to writing about it. Baby steps though right?

The other idea I’ve been sitting on for a while is about the stories that we tell online and, more importantly, those that we don’t. Increasingly over the last couple of years I’ve felt that I’ve not been able to talk about the things in my life that take up most of the space in my head, and I think that feeling of lacking authenticity and connection with you has contributed to the midlife unravelling, the idea of not quite being able to give a true version of myself.

I wrote about the feeling a little while ago, of telling the truth but not the whole truth, and it got me thinking about what I could do about it. It’s not just that I want to be able to share my own stuff, it’s also that I genuinely think there is a gap in the support available online. I know this sounds crazy – how can there be NOT ENOUGH information online? – but when I’ve found myself struggling, in bad relationships maybe or with things going on with teenagers, Googling desperately for stories of people in similar situations, they’ve not always been easy to find. I don’t want facts, I want feelings. I want to know it’s not just me going through something, feeling a certain way.

As a writer in a public space there is always a balance between sharing enough to connect with people and keeping enough private that you respect other people’s privacy. Talking to other parents and parent bloggers recently I’ve found that it’s not just me that finds this hard.

What I’ve decided to do then is create a space for people to anonymously share their stories – the sort of stories that we normally keep to ourselves but that shape our lives.

Untold stories. View Post

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brunch club

 

I was questioned earlier this week about my PURPOSE.

Not like in a police station, I’d not been brought in for loitering, more in a ‘what drives you?’ kind of way. I wasn’t sure how to answer because what with the midlife unravelling I’m not sure I have one at the moment.

‘Does brunch count?’ I asked hopefully. ‘I really like going out for brunch.’

Apparently brunch does not count, not as a life calling at least, but the more I thought about it the more I realised how much I really do love brunch. You remember when I moved back to Taunton and cried in the street because there was nowhere good to get eggs florentine?*

Brunch matters.

Brunch matters not just because of the toasty muffins and runny yolks, but because of what it represents. Brunch is a lifestyle – I wanted to create a way of working that gave me flexibility in my life to do more of the things I enjoy and to not have to show up for a job every single day that felt like it was sucking at my soul. And I did, which I should probably acknowledge more, and now I can have brunch any goddam day I want and no one can tell me otherwise.

Hoorah!

Brunch is also about people. Working on my own for ten years hasn’t always been easy, but brunch is a way to get that much needed human contact. ‘Do you fancy brunch?’ you can say to someone, and they’ll say yes, and off you’ll go, knowing that as well as the joy of a smashed avocado you’re going to get an hour with a person who adds something to your life and, in return, you can add something to theirs.

And so, new for 2020, I’m introducing my new regular feature – BRUNCH CLUB!

A couple of times a month I’m going to go out for brunch and then tell you about it. It might be in the style of a proper food review, but more likely I’ll get distracted and tell you a story about the time I once tried to make my own baked beans or had an awful brunch related date. I might use it as an excuse to show you how to make the perfect poached egg, or maybe I’ll have brunch with someone incredibly interesting or important and share their story with you. View Post

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New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last? View Post

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When I lived in Bristol I didn’t often venture south of the river into Bedminster. Partly I didn’t really think I was cool enough, but also I wasn’t convinced there was any reason to visit. Bedminster is the grotty bit of Bristol right?

Wrong!

Okay sure, some parts of it are still ‘up and coming’, but in terms of shopping, eating and entertainment it actually has a lot going on. I should probably feel more of a soft spot for it as an area too as Bedminster used to be its own town, separate from Bristol, and until 1831 was part of Somerset. Fun fact for you there.

Nowadays I can’t stake any claim to it geographically, but I went to have a wander around to see how things have changed since 1831, (hint: a lot), and to give you some tips for places to visit the next time you’re in Bedminster, especially if you’re heading to Bristol to do some Christmas shopping.

I’ve been into south Bristol quite a few times, mainly to see shows at The Tobacco Factory or to visit their outdoor market, but I’ve never ventured much past the immediate area around the theatre. The top end of North Street definitely has plenty going on, including the new Greta artwork, painted for Upfest this year, and the amazing Souk Kitchen where I ate possibly the best flatbread I’ve ever tasted.

Greta painting Bedminster

Pay attention to the car to give you an idea of the scale

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honesty in blogging

Honesty has always been incredibly important to me.

That sounds kind of obvious, but when you start to pay attention it’s amazing how many little lies we let slip through just in the course of a day – excuses for not wanting to go out in the evening, white lies to children – it all adds up.

The older I get, the more I try to avoid these little lies, even if they feel like they might not do any harm. It might feel easier to tell a friend you can’t come out because you have a headache, but is it really any harder to just say ‘you know what, I really do want to see you, but today has just been exhausting and I know if we go out tonight I’m going to be rubbish company and neither of us will have a good time’?

I also try to be honest because I want other people to be honest with me. I’d much prefer to ask someone how they are and hear that actually, things aren’t great, if that’s the reality of their situation. I find it hard to be all ‘oh yeah, fine, great!’ with people when that’s not how I’m feeling and it’s through our vulnerability, sharing the bad stuff as well as the good, that we form real connections with people.

When it comes to blogging and social media it’s the same – I want to present a real version of myself so that you feel that the relationship we have as writer and reader is a genuine one. I’m not afraid to tell you when I’m sad, or when I get my vagina rejuvenated, and I like that. It’s like we’re chums.

What I’m finding more and more difficult though is feeling like I’m telling you the truth, but not the whole truth. View Post

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When I mention TikTok to anyone over the age of about 30, the usual response is a kind of blank stare. ‘What’s TikTok?’ they ask, saying ‘TikTok’ in the same slow, confused way that my mum says ‘mobile data’, sounding out every syllable with equal emphasis, like it’s a foreign language.

Chances are though that even if you don’t use TikTok, your young adults do. As we all know, responsible parents take internet safety very seriously and definitely don’t just watch Gardener’s World pretending not to have noticed that their teen is an hour over the screen time limit.

Seriously though, it is important to at least have an understanding of what TikTok is about, and how to use TikTok’s safety and security features, even if you’d rather be planning next year’s borders. It’s important to understand how to use it safely.

I’ve put together a TikTok guide for parents to help you get to grips with what it’s all about.

What is TikTok?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free app for 13+, (available on Android and IOS), that lets you record, share and watch short videos. They often involve goofing around to popular music, (I said ‘popular music’ in my head like an old person – ‘ooh is that in the hit parade?’), and TikTok can actually be influential in turning songs into hits.

Belle uses TikTok a lot for making short dance videos or odd montages where she jumps in the air and lands in a different outfit. The last thing that Belle made and showed me was a short video, set to music, of her pushing one of Joey’s toy cars slowly towards a woodlouse on the carpet. No, I don’t understand either, but this is what counts as funny nowadays apparently. My point is that there is a massive range of content on TikTok and it’s a great platform for exploring your creativity. View Post

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