Day 3, Friends Visiting For The Day

I sit here, early evening! The children running wild. That is 3 of them at least. Amritsar sleeping on the sofa in daddy’s arms, Aaliyah snoozing on the other sofa.

Friends Thea and a John left a little time ago with their four children after a day of mayhem and frolics, here in North Cornwall on the beach. Lunch was had, a walk on the windswept beach with almost cyclonic winds and drizzle to boot. Further grazing of the large left over buffet lunch and finally this period of exhaustion and the hope the children settle soon!

Now all wandering around like the drones from the matrix movie, just awaiting their pre programmed commands for finally settling!

All just heading to their rooms – kiss and hug later! Let’s look at an image or two of the day!

Thank you for reading!

Day 2, Golithia Falls

Just back from a day out to Golithia Falls near Bolventor. The home of the ancient travellers resting stop in Daphne du Maurier‘s famous novel of the same name, Jamaica Inn. Of course a hideous tourist trap serving miserable food and offering a dismal service to the unsuspecting fools that happen to stumble upon the windswept moors of Bodmin!

On our way back to the car, Thor hung back a little. He found a packet of something. A few rustling’s later caught up with something he was clutching tightly! Look dadda he whispers, look, a mouse, I found a mouse! I look down to find Thor coveting a tampon (new). The 4 women passing us noticed our conversation! Much laughing was had to be sure.

All now in their bedrooms shouting from the rafters! I’m sure, give it an hour or two, some peace and quiet for daddy and dadda.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Some fine dining options this week, though I am not sure that daddy always appreciates the trouble one goes to! But isn’t that the same in every house?

Wholewheat spaghetti with clams

Salmon en-croute with petit pois a la Francaise and butter braised Jersey Royal potatoes

Lamb Filet with dauphinois and garlic green beans

Pulled braised pork, beans, potatoes and crispy cracklings

Sea Bass and Prawns, purée peas and potatoes

scallop, black pudding, peas and dauphinois

A take on a cottage pie. Beef, 3 hours braised in a tomato and onion sauce, sliced potatoes and a mountain of grated cheddar.

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance When You Work at Home

Today’s guest contributer is Lacie Martin. So a big thank you to her for sharing her wisdom through this well researched article. See more of her great ideas and parenting tips at:

http://raisethemwell.org/

Working from home promises a great deal of freedom and flexibility, but it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. Boundaries are often non-existent or easily crossed, which can then result in extended work hours or subpar work quality on the one hand, and unhealthy routines and a less-than-ideal lifestyle for the family on the other. Thankfully, there’s more than one way to avoid such scenarios and, instead, strike a successful balance at home.

 

Improve How You Work

 

When working full-time from home, it can often be hard to recognize where work ends and home begins—and vice versa. For this reason, it’s an absolute necessity to recognize opportunities where you can improve your setup. 

 

● There are steps you have to take to consistently stay efficient and productive.
● Delegation can be a wonderful way not just to get more work done, but perhaps even to improve the quality of your work. It can, indeed, be worth hiring top freelancers for tasks that you can outsource, so you can focus on the work that you do best.
● It can also be a very good idea to set up a home office when you work from home full-time and long-term to minimize distractions and keep you productive and inspired.

 

Install Helpful Tools

 

In this day and age, you know what they say — there’s an app for that! Indeed, there’s no dearth of tools like software that can help you streamline your work.

 

● With all the distractions of home, the internet, social media, and more, productivity apps can be a real godsend in helping you stay on track.
● Depending on the work that you do, it’s wise to have a solid toolset of work-from-home apps that help you collaborate, automate, communicate, and so much more.
● There are also amazing home and family apps that you can use to keep your home life drama- and fuss-free, running the gamut from scheduling to meal and chore planning.

 

Implement Healthy Routines

 

True, a healthy balance between work and home life when you do both at home full-time can be challenging. For this reason, it’s important to maintain healthy routines.

 

● Your morning routine essentially sets the tone for your entire day, so it’s important for the entire family to maintain a fruitful one to make the most out of every day.
● Make it a point to spend time outdoors with your kids, not only to keep spirits and energy high but also to boost the immune system.
● Keep your kids engaged the healthy way, so you can work distraction-free without relying too much on screentime.

 

Ultimately, it’s not how well you juggle but the measures you take to keep everyone and everything in their places that allows you to successfully balance a full-time work-from-home career and family life. Indeed, it’s more than possible, so take stock of what you can improve, install, and implement to achieve that elusive work-life balance.

 

Photo via Pexels.com

Eighteen Moons (A Loving Family doesn’t come easily)!

I just looked out of the midnight window! My bedtime is inevitable. What I saw was wondrous! A full moon, beaming, no, pulsating with all of its radiance, beauty and might! And I dared to remember!

My story, Eighteen Moons was a reflection of this beautiful, celestial wonderment! I find myself in this precise moment, completely in awe of it, transfixed with this moment.

So here is the first chapter of my family story, ‘Eighteen Moons’. The chapter is entitled ‘The patter of Tiny Paws’.

‘He’s adorable!’

‘He is. Perfect.’

We looked at one another and grinned as a small bundle of white fur crawled steadily towards us. We had both fallen instantly and totally in love.

We were in the large garden of a house in West Sussex and the two of us were peering over the top of an old-fashioned pigsty on stilts. Inside were twelve perfect white puppies, just a couple of weeks old.

We’d asked the breeder, Mrs Bennett, how many boys there were. ‘Just the two,’ she’d said, pulling out one pup after another and turning them upside down. When she’d found the two males, she placed them at the opposite end of the pigsty. One began crawling straight back to his sisters while the other, steady and determined, headed towards us.

We’d found our boy.

We’d agreed on a name before we met him. Remus. And it suited him.

‘Come on Remus,’ I whispered, as he reached my outstretched hand and was rewarded with a gentle scratch behind his tiny ear.

‘By the time you collect him he’ll have his spots,’ Mrs B said.

Yes, our ‘first-born’ was a Dalmatian. Known for being a lively and intelligent breed. Also, as we were soon to discover, hyperactive and ferociously needy.

Tearing ourselves away we arranged to pick Remus up in six weeks’ time and set off on the two-hour drive home. I was beside myself with excitement, already planning my trip to buy a bed, blankets, toys and treats for the new addition to our family. John, at the wheel, was quiet, focussing on the road. But I knew he was as happy as I was. We’d waited a long time to make this commitment but now the time felt right and we both felt good about it.

Both in our mid-thirties, we’d been a couple for eight years. Buying our London flat after three years had been part of our decision to settle down together, although I think we both knew from the moment we met that we’d stay together. Creating a ‘nest’ for the two of us was the next step as we made the inevitable transition from being young men partying about town to a couple who preferred quiet dinners a deux or curling up on the sofa and watching a film.

That had been five years earlier. And not long after we put the finishing touches to our flat, we had begun to hanker for the patter of tiny feet or, in our case, paws. We’d put it off because we were both out all day; I was working in clothing design, with a small workshop of my own while John was an accountant. We both worked long hours and we didn’t want to leave a dog cooped up at home.

But as time passed, we began to feel seriously broody. This was only made worse when a friend gave us a Disney Dalmatian toy one Christmas. She did say it was probably as close to a real dog as we should get. And we did listen to her, for a bit, but in the end our longing for a real canine to cuddle won over all practical considerations. The flat just didn’t feel right without a dog.

Fast forward and here we were, delighted with our boy and counting the days until we could bring him home.

Little did we know that those weeks up to his arrival were the last moments of peace and quiet we would share for quite some time. And that the flat, with its carefully chosen oak floors and antique tables, would soon be a battered shadow of its former self. From the moment we picked him up, Remus, a non-stop whirlwind of high-velocity energy, launched himself into our lives with such face-licking, tail-wagging exuberance that we were both left reeling. He never stopped racing around apart from when he was chewing the furniture, books, CDs, shoes – in fact anything that was chewable and quite a few things that weren’t.

He was constantly hungry and constantly demanding attention, co-opting both the sofa and the bed and insisting on endless cuddles, inserting himself between us whenever he felt he wasn’t getting his fair dues.

He cost us a fortune in damage, food and vet bills but despite all of it we adored him. He was lean, strong, glistening white with inky black spots and a handsome head – a showstopper of a dog who got compliments wherever he went. But most of all he was our boy; he had a way of looking up at us with such innocent cheerfulness that we could never stay angry with him for long.

We hired a dog walker to come and take him out for long walks while we were at work. But after a couple of months she told us she was spending so much on headache tablets because of the stress of managing him that she couldn’t walk him any longer. After that we paid a friend to dog sit him, but she didn’t even last a month. She couldn’t get anything done when he was around, he was all over her, constantly.

Our next dog walkers were a couple. We hoped two people might manage him better than one. But a couple of months on they told us, ‘We’ve just changed our catchment area and you’re no longer in it – sorry.’

The lengths people went to in order to avoid having Remus were quite funny. Except that it left us needing to find a way to manage him ourselves. He couldn’t go to work with John in the corporate accountancy firm where he worked, so we decided he’d have to come with me to my small studio in Southwark. Each morning we set off for the tube, where Remus entertained fellow passengers by tearing up any newspapers left on seats and spinning in dizzying circles on the platform – earning himself regular applause from laughing tourists.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of work done, since I ended up taking him to the park about four times a day to try to tire him out. I met another dog-owner there one day who told me he’d given up on his Dalmatian and given it away. ‘Just too needy and energetic mate,’ he said, shaking his head at Remus, who was trying to badger a sedate old spaniel into playing with him.

‘Tell me about it,’ I thought. We knew by this time just how full-on Dalmatians were. Once used as carriage dogs, they are happy to run literally all day long. Sitting about just isn’t their thing. But we never once thought of giving Remus away. He was ours and we loved him, uncontrollable wretch or not.

Then, when Remus was three, we compounded our foolish choice of dog by taking on a second one.

I know.

But in our defence, we thought it might calm him down to have a companion.

At two years old we’d listed him on a dog studding website and when a local couple got in touch, we took him along for his first romantic encounter. Things started off a tad shakily, Remus clearly had no experience in the ways of amour and just wanted to play. But he got there eventually, without the use of the electric prod the couple suggested we insert in his nether regions to prompt ejaculation, which I politely declined. A few weeks later a pregnancy was declared and Remus earned his first wage. ‘We’ll put that towards some of the repairs,’ John muttered to him. ‘Not to mention your food bills’.

His third liaison, with a Dalmatian from Essex, produced a litter of pups. The owner suggested we take the pick of the litter as our fee and, thinking we’d sell her, we agreed and picked a bouncy female puppy. We took her home and called her Gracie.

Big mistake that. Once we’d named her, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sell her. And once we realised that we were keeping her, it was inevitable that I start working from home. I couldn’t have managed both of them on the commute or in my workshop.

Truth to tell, business wasn’t going well. I’d already downsized from my overpriced premises and small staff team to just me in the workshop. I had trained in the garment industry, learning everything from the conception of a garment to pattern-cutting and I was still designing my own range, but the recession of the late 90s had bitten hard and by this stage I was only just about covering costs. At the same time John’s career was soaring, he’d started his own firm and it was successful from the off. So, I let my workshop go, downsized again to the dining table as my ‘office’ and, while attempting to do a bit of work, became a more or less full-time dog parent.

Clearly our dog-training skills had not improved one iota. Gracie was, if anything, worse than Remus. She chewed absolutely everything and nothing we tried made any difference. Her speciality was phones. She chomped her way through a Blackberry and an iPhone in her first week alone. Not only that, but she was impossible to house-train and our solid oak floors were regularly soaked in dog pee. We were horrified, but being two big softies, we couldn’t get rid of her, Gracie was ours, just as much as Remus was. They got on extremely well and when they did – finally – settle down at the end of each day it was together, curled comfortably side by side on the sofa. Leaving precious little room for us, of course. But we, with paternal indulgence, simply squeezed ourselves into the remaining few inches of space at either end.

Our two hounds did satisfy our longing to be parents, at least for a while but, perhaps inevitably, our thoughts strayed towards babies – the human kind – and we wondered whether children might ever be a possibility for us.

John came from a big, warm Irish family and while my family set-up was a little more complex than his, we both felt that having children was something we would love.

It was also a promise I had made to my father. When I told him, as a teenager, that ‘I might be gay,’ there had been a long pause before he said, ‘Son, what you are and what you are not, you will figure out in the goodness of time. So be gay, as long as you are happy and safe’.  There was another pause and then he had added, ‘I don’t mind what you are, as long as you give me a couple of grandchildren at some point or other’.

A few years later, not long after I met John, Dad was killed in a car crash, along with his third wife, who was also my mother’s sister (I said it was complex). They were coming back from a night out and their deaths came as a terrible shock. By that time my mother was living in Australia with my older half-brother, Paul. When Mum and Dad had got together it had been a second marriage for both. He’d had a son, Brandon and a daughter, Shae, and she had Paul and then together they’d had me. I didn’t know that the other three were only my half-siblings until some rather unkind, or perhaps thoughtless grandparents, pointed out that I wasn’t actually their grandchild.

I was heartbroken when Dad died and what he said to me about grandchildren stayed with me through the years. Perhaps because it was something that had clearly meant a lot to him. And perhaps because it was something I wanted too. I loved the idea of having a child. So did John – both of us felt that we would be good fathers. We’d certainly had a dummy run with the dogs, who required more patience and time than most of the children we knew.

As a gay couple we couldn’t become parents without intervention from outside. We thought about adoption, but we both felt that we would like a child that was biologically ours. So, although the idea of parenthood was dusted off from time to time, we never got any further with it. Until one night I saw a documentary about surrogacy in India.

John had an early start for work most mornings, so he would often go to bed before me, taking Remus and Gracie with him. One night, channel surfing for something to watch, I came across ‘Made in India’. It was about a Western couple who were able to have children with the help of an Indian surrogate and it said that India was a hub for international surrogacies. I was fascinated. This was an ordinary couple and if it had worked for them, why not us? For the first time I had discovered something that seemed to hold the real possibility of providing us with our own children. I went to bed, squeezing into the small space left on my side by the dogs, and lay wide awake with excitement.

Of course, we knew about the existence of surrogacy, given high profile cases like Elton John and David Furness, singer Ricky Martin and actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick, all of whom had children using surrogates. But until that documentary I had never thought that it might be a route open to us too.

I decided to do some more research before putting the idea to John. I needed to know what would be involved. I knew it would be costly, but by this time John’s business was doing well, he had new offices in the city and, despite the recession, plenty of clients.

One evening, a week or so after I saw the documentary and had my parenthood epiphany, I decided to broach the subject with John. I had looked into it enough by then to know that it was potentially viable for us. We talked for a while, drank some white wine and talked some more.  It was all positive, but at that stage very contemplative. He was keen, but more cautious than I was; he had a lot of questions. However, we both realised that, give or take a few reservations and concerns, we wanted the same thing – to become fathers. The logistics might take some time to plan and our concerns might not all be identical, but the idea had the green light from both of us.

It was probably the most significant conversation we’d ever had in our lives together.

Since it was important to both of us to have a child that was biologically ours, we agreed that we would like two children, one John’s one mine. We would hope to have them conceived at around the same time by two surrogates so that they would be born at the same time, perhaps even using the same egg donor. That way the children would be both genetically related and genetically ours.

We set out to discover everything we could about surrogate babies. There were a few countries where the surrogacy business was thriving: Ukraine, India, America and, of course, the UK. There were also different kinds of surrogacy. In the UK there was only what was known as altruistic surrogacy in which the surrogate was not allowed any financial gain, only expenses. The danger with this was that the surrogate mother was more likely to feel she had a claim over the child or children and in several cases the surrogate had refused to hand over the child. The law was on the surrogate’s side for the first six weeks, whether or not she was the egg donor. She was the one who had given birth and she could keep the child if she wished to. Even after that, the surrogate could stay involved if she wanted to. This idea might have been perfect for some couples, but we were both worried about possible problems at a later date.  We didn’t want a part time ‘mummy’ calling in every now and then to check on us and we didn’t want any confusion for the children. Our children would have two parents – us. Two daddies who had planned to have them and who would love and support them always. Of course, we would explain how they came into the world, but we would be the ones raising them.

Despite this we did look seriously at the altruistic surrogacy option. John felt that it might work for us, and at one point we had a cleaner who we were pretty sure would gladly have offered to be our surrogate. But before we could ask her, we discovered that she had been stealing from us and we had to fire her. After that the altruistic route seemed just too fraught with danger, which meant that we needed to choose the alternative – compensated surrogacy. More expensive but cleaner and simpler. You paid the surrogate a fee and the child would be legally yours. This was not legal in the UK, so we needed to look abroad.

John told me not to rush into anything, but that was like telling a full-speed express train not to rush, I was already so excited I could barely think about anything else. And I was aware that time was not on our side. We were in our forties and getting on, in new dad terms, so we needed to get going.

We decided that if we went to the Ukraine, we might have language problems, so I started looking into surrogacy in America and in India, where English is widely spoken. After a lot of research, we narrowed things down to the Fertility Clinic of California and the Rotunda Clinic in Mumbai.

I started by calling the Californian clinic. As I dialled, I was rigid with nerves – this was going to be the first time I would tell anyone that we were planning to have a baby. What had, until then, been an idea was about to become very real.

‘Good morning, Fertility Clinic of California, Tammy speaking, how may I help?’

My heart was pounding as I blurted, ‘Hello, I want, no we want a baby, we’re going to have a baby, I need information, we’re in the UK, can you help us?’

‘Please Sir, slow down, you are sounding rather discombobulated.’

Discombobulated! What on earth did that even mean?

I took a few deep breaths and started again. ‘Please, can you send us some information? We are a gay couple in the UK considering having a baby (or two) via IVF and surrogacy.’

At this point, I barely understood the meaning of phrases like IVF Cycle and Gestational Surrogacy, although I would later get to know them and their connotations inside out.

Tammy said she would send us the catalogue and the price list and moments later they pinged into my email inbox.

We knew that whatever route we took would be expensive. But the Californian clinic’s price list shocked us. It was endless; consultation fees, clinical fees, IVF fees, legal fees, donor fees, surrogate fees, hospital fees… the list went on and on. And every section had perhaps 20 additional sub-categories with even more fees listed. On top of which there were insurance premiums for just about everything.

Reading through it all we could see our nest egg evaporating – and then some. We were looking at $150,000 per pregnancy. It was scary.

India, then.

My next call was to the Rotunda Clinic, where I spoke to Doctor Somya. She sounded very friendly and she reassured me that the cost of the whole procedure would be in the region of $55,000 per pregnancy. A third of the cost in America. She said they were very supportive of same-sex couples and she made it all sound very straightforward. The first step was for us to go over to India to make our sperm deposits which would then be frozen. After that they would inform us when suitable surrogates were found. And in the meantime, we would be sent a choice of egg donors.

By the time I put the phone down I was euphoric – we had lift off!

(Eighteen Moons is available exclusively through Amazon as Ebook, paperback or audiobook. Just google or search Amazon for ‘Eighteen Moons’)

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Do you like Chinese Food? Daddy and Dadda absolutely adore it! The thing is, the local town has a pretty ropey take away, that is probably best avoided! Okay, so if you want to eat a decent Chinese menu, the only choice is to make it from scratch! Minus the MSG of course!

Always best served with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc!

Beef and black bean sauce

Egg fried rice

Stir Fried vegetables with soy and pepper

Chinese Broccoli in oyster sauce

Just be sure you don’t leave the dogs alone in the room as you are bringing it in from the kitchen

Another Visit from Jeanie the Tooth Fairy

A very happy Amritsar last night as 20 minutes before bedtime there was a surprise event! Her right small incisor finally gave way. It has been loose for some time now.

Once again there was a picture drawn for the illusive Jeanie, Amritsar’s tooth fairy to the good and righteous children of the land. Thankfully not a list of questions for her on this occasion. Daddy was grateful for that as he stole into their room at 11pm last night, in order to leave a shiny one pound coin!

I am starting to worry that sooner or later, the three little ones will start loosing theirs too! Oh dear, I’m thinking that we are going to be in for quite a bumpy ride!

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Well, being a man of relatively few words nowadays, I have chosen to highlight another ‘Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner’.

Mind you, we have dined out thrice in these last 2 weeks or so! Fine dining in the Egyptian inspired tent at the Vineyard near Newbury amongst other gastronomic destinations that are not too far away from us in ‘The Shires’.

Always a memory of the years we holidayed on the ‘Costa del Sol’. Spanish Tortilla and Frits.

Though on this occasion, some of Dadda’s Triple cooked Chips!

A family staple of Red Shrimp Bisque, fine beans and boiled potatoes.

A Beef and Mushroom pie is always a good idea! Hold the milk or beaten egg on the pie topping. For that extra special, slightly blistered effect, brush with double cream before baking!

Spaghetti and Dadda’s meatballs are always well appreciated!

As you know, we love green beans and this dish of Lebanese green beans were an amazing side dish to Dadda’s Moroccan lamb (not pictured).

How do you serve Trout? I prefer simply.

Lamb filet with Dauphinois potatoes is worth pushing the boat out for. Though I should have used that pun on the previous Trout entry! Elevated of course with Dadda’s home made mint jelly. A condiment of pure bliss.

That’s all for now! The children are all well and today we are enjoying the garden in sunshine. There is talk about bike riding in a bit! Did I mention that both Aaliyah and Thor have started bike riding without stabilisers! Well done both of them.

Sunshine Blogger Award

Well, a big thank you to Ingrid from 

www.experimantsinfiction.com for putting me forward for the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’. I love reading her posts. There is poetry, words of optimism and the most beautiful imagery!

The Rules Are:

1.Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.

2.Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3.Nominate 11 people and ask them new 11 questions.

4.Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their posts.

5.List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award in your post.

Ingrid’s questions were:

1.Who is your all-time favourite writer?

You know what! I’m gonna say it! Charles Dickens. I love ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ so much. But then again Oscar Wild’s ‘The Happy Prince’ melts my heart every time!

2.What is your all-time favourite poem?

My favourite poem has to be Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It is such an epic story. And if truth be known I did live a few houses away from his blue plaque in London for many years! But can I add, my favourite quote from a poet is in fact Lord Byron ‘Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine’. Something we can all learn by…

3.What is your all-time favourite novel?

After some debate with John that non-fiction is not a novel, we googled and found out that it is! So my answer to this one is obvious. And that would be ‘Eighteen Moons’ my family story, quite unlike any other. Search Amazon for details. It really will fascinate you from cover to cover!

4.What is your favourite quote from a movie?

Well, another quote! My own personal favourite would be Ripley from the Aliens movie, ‘Get away from her you BITCH’! But John has just shared his and I smiled. So I am also including it in my answer! ‘When Harry Met Sally’ is the movie. And the scene at Katz restaurant on the lower east side. We dined there ourselves once and enjoyed the most amazing salt beef sandwich! In the movie, the character Sally emulates an orgasm whilst sat down to eat! The waiter stops at the table opposite and asks what the young lady would like. She replies ‘I’ll have what she’s having’! Lol

5.Can we save planet Earth from ourselves?

NO sadly.

6.Are you religious? If so, what religion do you follow? Tell me a bit about it, as I like to learn about different religions. 

No thankfully. But if truth be known, I’m a bit of a tree hugging pagan! Mother Nature is as high as it gets in the ‘Godly Realm’!

7.What languages do you speak?

I’m An Englishman! Guess?

8.What do you look for most in someone else’s blog?

Emotion. Pure and simple. And hopefully a smile! Refer back to lord Byron’s quote…

9.What is your main aim in writing your own blog?

To promote my book of course, that’s the reason why I started to blog almost 2 years ago! Yes, I’m in it for the long haul.

10.What is your favourite food?

Celeriac mousse!

Just kidding. It has to be ‘Shellfish’ for sure. Oh! And Chips… see below for tonight’s dinner! Crab cakes and Chips! Pure bliss.

11.Would you go to space if you had the chance?

I think so, who wouldn’t! Though I am sure my 10 year old self would have shown so much more enthusiasm about it!

Okay that’s it from me! Did I find my mojo again? Can I associate myself with words once more?

Okay! Now my questions to whom I am in turn nominating!

What brings you the most happiness in life?

If you could ‘do it all again’? How would you have done ‘it’?

Following on to that. Who would you be now?

What makes you get up in the morning?

Do you like Dalmatians? And if so, why?

Apple’s IOS or Android? And why the preference?

What’s your ‘Porn name’? Add your first pet’s name to your mothers maiden name!

Do you ever give a political opinion on your blog? I choose not to. So, why do you (or not)?

I have a design degree but also did year 1 of a geology degree! What 2 opposites make you happy?

What started you blogging?

Now, we have all engaged with the image of the rainbow over the lockdown period! I want to see a real myriad of colour now, so my final question is ‘what is your favourite colour? (Hehe.)

Okay, my nominees are:

Greg Vessar

Macey Wilkie

Sandomina

John Malone

Trè

Kristie 

Ab 

The Tiny Potager

Blogs by J

Josef Havelka

Shaheen 

P.S. I remember that I blogged every single day through the months of lockdown in the UK! I think that now that lockdown has been eased here and after my quandary of several days of questioning my words! I would once again love to find them within my diary posts a few times a week at any rate! No pressure on the days, no absolute rules! A few times a week, a few days off here and there That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Updates on family life, here in ‘The Shires’ to follow

Weekly Update

It is true that I have been grappling to find words this last week. Sadly this is still the case! I did think that I would be re-engaged by this point, but sadly not.

I can only ask for you to bear with me.

The family are all happy with no major tantrums this week. And these final weeks of the little ones attending school comes to an end on Thursday as the summer holidays begin.

Homeschooling the girls feels so much less pressure now than it did mid lockdown.

Have to dash as Remus is making demands on me to go out for a run in the garden.

Everyone in the throws of getting ready for bed at the moment, though they will be coming back down for an hour of television in a short while.

Again, sorry for my absence of late! As ever, thank you for reading.

Last nights lamb curry saw the chance to use my new stainless steel ‘Thali’ plates from India! Though I did have the feeling of international flying before the meal was done!

I really must invest in the more traditional round tray with the individual bowls I think!

One Year Ago Today!

The biggest birthday cake I have ever made. Yes four layers opposed to my usual three. Home made chocolate ganache and not just home made black current jelly, but home grown, homemade black current jelly lavishly spread between each layer.

We had a great party in the garden and invited around 30 children and their parents. We even hired a children’s entertainer to occupy them for 2 of the 3 hours.

You might see in this next picture, how nicely piled and ordered the children’s gifts were.

But this next photo shows you what I awoke to. John had allowed them to play in the garden before I arose and this is what I came down to!

This was just the beginning. I managed to tidy up as the day progressed, again and again, in different areas, but it was like a landslide, completely fighting against the laws of nature and physics. Aaliyah had even ripped the head from her doll in the frenzy to release it from the packaging!

By 1pm I had had enough and escaped to the bedroom for an hours resbite. What I returned to was a house, completely trashed… whoever gave the sticky mosaic craft gift, well, I would like to know your name as I will gladly reciprocate in good time. The sticky mosaics are everywhere. I am reminded of the forensic tidy and clean up after the kinetic sand incident…

It’s now late and John has just managed to get them into their jimjams and up to bed. I have locked myself in our bedroom, refusing to see anyone or say goodnight to anyone at this point. I feel like a broken man. I do not want to venture back to the ground floor due to the amount of mess, destruction and pure, unadulterated chaos that still permeates there.

I completely give up and I prefer not to leave the relative sanctity of my bedroom. I am sure that I will update you as to the situation tomorrow and can only celebrate in the idea that this is the last birthday party in our immediate family for the next six months. Enough is enough, today I really draw the line.

Please remember that this post was one year ago today. Hahahahaha…

Birthday Cake

What with 5 children, though 2 sets of twins and Daddy and Dadda’s Birthdays, I do find myself baking birthday cakes quite a lot over the year. I have been known to bake twice on Amritsar and Tara’s birthdays, as they generally have an official birthday on the actual day and then another for the day of their party.

Of course, this year the girls just had their birthday with the family on the day itself, due to lockdown. And the same will be so of Aaliyah and Caleb’s special day, this year falling on Sunday.

So just the one cake to bake today. All a bit last minute as I usually bake a week or so before and freeze the sponges x 3. This cake however will be just the 2 layers as I only had 6 eggs and there’s clearly less people involved, just a neighbouring family.

The second sponge is almost done. I’m just waiting on Alexa to ping the 22 minute alarm. The ‘All angels’ are singing through Alexa, something or other from the musical ‘South Pacific’.

I am now remembering our Lū’au earlier in the spring when we had such magnificent weather. I did homemade Hawaiian Pizza on that day. A barbecue for us however on Sunday! I think more grey weather is forecast sadly, so cooking it all on the Aga inside might just be more appropriate.

Okay Alexa is telling me the cake is now done, so I had better wrestle it from the oven!

The children are presently in the park beside their school with Sindy and 5 x packed dinners, celebrating a friend Nancy’s birthday. Possibly appropriate given my afternoon bake. I should really thank Nancy’s mum for buying Eighteen Moons and Thirteen Moons More a few weeks ago. I believe she loved both books so I’m hoping for a review perhaps on Amazon.

Did I say that the audiobook is now live? So, for those of you who don’t really read books or novels, it’s the perfect escape with nothing to do, just close your eyes and join me on my journey of ‘Eighteen Moons’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B08B73G6L3/ref=tmm_aud_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Back to birthday cakes! The request this year was Strawberry and Vanilla opposed to the usual chocolate ganache. And that’s what they’re getting. Though I can almost hear Caleb’s bleats of ‘But I want chocolate Dadda, I want chocolate’, just before he throws a tantrum…

No doubt more on the Birthday celebrations on Sunday. As ever, thanks for reading.

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Moules Mariniere and frits

Roast Beef, garlic French beans and boiled potatoes

Salmon with clams and muscles with mash, sugarsnap peas and a white wine and cream reduction

Nutloaf with bubble and squeak and a tomato sauce

Roast Duck leg, potatoes and beans

Steak and onions, chips and Dijon mustard

Fish Pie with sautéed vegetables

A Luncheon of Samosas

Well, I am back after my two day break from blogging. And rather than give you an update on what’s been going on, I have decided to take a trip down memory lane as I am frying samosas for lunch. Well drained of course and dried with plenty of kitchen paper!

I am reminded of a blog entry that I made a little over a year ago, all about my regular stops to eat samosas (and drink sweet tea), whilst living in Mumbai, India.

It’s funny how food transports us back to a moment or a place, isn’t it? Just by making the choice of samosas rather than the usual sandwich and crisps, I find myself back in the hustle and bustle, the thronging streets of Mumbai. Towards the end of my time on the Indian Sub Continent, I often shared my time with a taxi driver known as Ram. He was a ‘kind hearted’ fellow, something that was very sadly in short supply in those times. On our many trips to the ‘Foreigners Regional Registration Office (F.R.R.O), he would show me both sympathy and support. He would also sing ancient songs in Hindi that, with his whispering, reedy voice, had the effect of halting my tears and making me stop worrying of what was happening in the ‘NOW’ and transport me to a mindset of relative serenity. Maybe more about remembering the trips to the F.R.R.O on another occasion, but today it’s all about samosas. Ram and I would always stop at one or two street vendors and enjoy a lunch, or afternoon tiffin of samosas with a small cup of extremely sweet, milky tea. He had a very good heart. And I will never be able to eat a samosa ever again without him in my thoughts.

Happy Father’s Day to all You Dad’s Out There

Today I would like to wish all Dad’s a happy Father’s Day.

It is late in the day here in ‘The Shires’ and we are just about to sit down as a family and enjoy a roast leg of lamb in celebration. Accompanied of course by roast potatoes, glazed carrots and petit pois.

Bike riding on the driveway again and Aaliyah pipes up that she would like to start riding a bicycle without stabilisers! Good for her!

Another grey and cloudy day today, though we have had some sunny spells. I believe our 2 week spell of rain is at an end and we should be enjoying super sunny days again tomorrow onwards, with temperatures up to 30 degrees centigrade! Summer has arrived!

Aaliyah has just grabbed Amritsar’s old blue bike from the entrance hall and is wheeling it into the garden to try to cycle on the grass. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! No screaming as yet. Daddy is just making his way to the door as she is now arguing with Amritsar!

Better go wrestle our dinner to the plate!

Thor and Caleb running around with their arms in the air, screaming rather loudly.

Happy days hey, today, tomorrow and into the future. Fingers crossed!

I did get to thinking about when John and I became father’s, so here are a couple of images from that time in India. These are all from Goa except the one of me in a rickshaw. That was definitely Mumbai!

Am I All About Food or Family?

Just looking back the last week of my blog and it looks as if it is all about food, food, food! Okay, I am going to remedy this and put these Instagram pictures on my blog also! So here we go! No explanations, just raw, happy memories…

Oh do excuse the final 3 seconds of video, it kind of works on Instagram with the repetitive playing of a clip! I had to smile.

And because of that I just strung 4 of the video’s together, just to give you a flavour. However, I think you have to walk away from it after 4 plays!!! Haha…

Don’t judge me please! 😉

Ready for the Weekend

But first a roundup of the week! All started well enough. Thor and Aaliyah are happy to be back at school, though Thor has taken a few steps backwards regarding his focus and general learning. Aaliyah seems to be flourishing. Caleb joined them on Wednesday as his plaster cast was finally removed on Tuesday. I am so very glad all is now well with him! Two broken arms in one year. Mind you his auntie reminded me that her son had a total of nine breaks throughout his childhood. He was certainly a little ballistic, just as Caleb is, so I’d better get into the mindset of dealing with life’s ups and downs as they happen!

Lots of cooking as ever, I’m sure you’ve seen my earlier blog. Favourite dish has to be the long denied ‘doner kebab’, recipe to follow. Lots of jam making too! Though the recipes for these I have earlier covered!

Tara and Amritsar’s home schooling is going just fine. We made a family tree today that went back from them, all the way back to my mother ‘Gramdma Jean’ and John’s mother ‘Granny Hazel’ (haha Mr Chiddicks). John just through the door with the three little ones, all full of smiles. It seems that Aaliyah and Caleb worked extremely hard today and received certificates. Thor in the other hand worked through one of his break times due to messing around and not applying himself. Naughty Thor. Aaliyah now playing with the dogs.

All the children excited now as my reply to ‘what are we having for dinner’ was ‘PIZZA’! It’s been quite a while. Mind you last time was homemade and today is shop brought!

Aaliyah is trying on a new tee shirt and yellow bloomers that arrived in the post today, she’s all smiles. I am reminded of my slightly ‘hippy look’ when I lived in Bangkok. I really must find out some of those photos and publish them for you to see! I have to smile.

Okay Wednesdays Donor Kebab recipe…

500g or 1lb minced lamb was placed in the food processor along with 2 x teaspoons crushed garlic, 2 x teaspoons cumin, 2 x teaspoons coriander, 2 x teaspoons paprika, salt and pepper.

Blitz in the food processor and place in a small to medium loaf tin. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes on around 160 centigrade. A moderate oven.

Meanwhile slice a 1/4 white cabbage as thinly as humanly possible. Set to one side. Slice some cucumber and tomato. Also finely slice half an onion. Big chunks don’t really work, slice very thinly!!!

Now, you will need a couple of condiments, a jar of pickled green chillis, a squeezy bottle of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a chilly sauce of choice! We love the Thai Sriracha in this house.

As for pitta breads, purchase the super large ones or as I did, 2 regular smallish ones each. Now, toast on a skillet / frying pan lightly and slice alone one of the long ends. Or microwave for 40 seconds turning half way.

Your neat should be drained and left to sit for a few minutes. That fragrant aroma will immediately take you back to your last doner kebab infidelity! Slice your meat and fill your kebab with all the listed ingredients. Enjoy, but you’re gonna get dirty so don’t forget plenty of kitchen roll.

The Doner Kebab

It’s that shameful acknowledgement of ‘A good night out with your mates’, isn’t it? Mostly consumed by the 20 somethings that revel in the entertainments of indulgence!

Now, mostly I’m a stay at home dad. But I do remember this food in my youth and also my later, crazy meet-ups with old friends from childhood!

Turkish kebab shops seem to have always been there for the late night revellers, always a little bit tipsy and also the ones who have completely forgotten their indulgence (the next day) of that very naughty / dirty food that they consumed on their way home from their good night out.

The Donor Kebab has a very bad name. It is almost infamous within its relevance of that ‘good night out’.

What with fast food takeaways being closed these last 3 months! I could not bare it any more.

I was in fact planning on not blogging today. But my absolute and complete enjoyment of tonight’s homemade ‘ Doner Kebab’ insisted that I make this diary entry in complete homage!

Should I give you the recipe? Are you missing this ‘wonder food’ of the ‘good night out’? If so, more than three requests in comments and I will share my recipe with you tomorrow!

Bon appetite or just get home safely if in a parallel universe, you are wandering the streets looking for a doner kebab.

What’s better than a Doner Kebab you might ask? My answer is, two Doner kebabs! Hahahahaha.