Friday, 31 December 2010

Legs Eleven...

And so 2010 is nearly over. 



It's been a funny old year. Big changes. New beginnings. Mostly it has been filled with love and laughter and not forgetting...food!

I had hoped to write a reflective piece on the last year but I'm far too busy cooking!

We hope you have a wonderful Hogmany and wish you all the best for 2011. See you in the New Year.

Love

Oh Mammy. xxxxxxx

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Autism (Scotland) Bill

A PLAN to boost the quality of autism care for children in the Lothians has been rejected by the Scottish Parliament.

It was hoped that the Autism Bill, which had considerable input from Edinburgh experts, would remove barriers for families with youngsters with the learning disability.

But ministers, while praising the Bill's intentions, rejected its implementation at the first stage.

Committee convener, MSP Karen Whitefield MSP, said: "We recognise the good intentions and goodwill behind it, and that this Bill has led to a number of significant steps being taken by the Scottish Government on autism.

"However, the committee is not convinced the proposed Scottish Government strategy on autism would be improved by passing autism-specific legislation."

The Autism (Scotland) Bill has now reached its most crucial and important stage – its first Parliamentary vote. 
On the day that guidance was issued for England as a consequence of the Autism Act there was a significant setback for the Scottish Autism Bill. The Education, Lifelong Learning & Culture Committee has decided not to support the Bill believing instead that sufficient legislation already exists.
Despite this disappointing report we want Members of the Scottish Parliament to know that things need to change for people with autism across Scotland.
In January MSPs will vote on whether or not they agree with the general principles of the Autism Bill.
Please, email your local MSPs by filling in this form and ask them to back the Bill.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...





Weirdo...

Xmas preparation is in full swing at OhMammy towers.

For the last wee while, the baby has been ultra clingy and I wasn't until I started getting bit ratty with Miss B this afternoon that I realised that she was interrupting my unconscious festive OCD. I suddenly realised that I have the weirdest Christmas preparation rituals that I do every year without fail.

 So I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on and share my weird Christmas rituals.

1) I always change the bed linen. It doesn't matter whether it's not that old, I change it anyway. It's as if I think Santa Claus appreciates the fact that we have crisp and fresh linen on the beds.

2) I clean the whole house from top to bottom. Again, I do everything again. Whether the bathroom floor has just been mopped, I do it on the 22nd...again.

3) I wash all of the dirty washing and iron it. I even go through the odd sock bag in the hopes that I'll find another match.

4) I buy poinsettas. Ugly, ugly red plants that always die before the 25th.

5)I buy a fresh pair of Christmas pyjamas for everyone that are laid out on their beds on Christmas eve.

6) I bake cookies for Mr S. Claus.

I'm sure there are others that will appear over the next few days... It's not just this weirdness but it is accompanied by the following behaviour. I growl at people who put dirty clothes in the basket. Nobody is allowed to make a mess and on no account is anyone allowed to eat said cookies...

Is it just me?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Shopping...

Now I've had my fair share of grumpy posts of late and was saving this one as a back up. Just in case you lot think that I'm mellowing in my old age.

Years ago with the birth of A I learned that although shopping for kids is one of the most fun activities a parent can have whilst carrying around grumpy kids, it is also a nightmare during the festive season. I know a few of the readers here are native Edinbuggers but just to illuminate what Edinburgh's Princes Street is like from the months of November to January:


Alright...while this shopping district in Quiapo, a district in the centre of Manila, Philippines is half the size of Princes Street, you get the point...

So when A was about 3 years old I acquired internet access and every year since while friends huffed and puffed their way through the various shopping spots in the Edinburgh and the Lothians, I sat back with my coffee and biscuits, logged on and completed the whole task in less than 24 hours. The next few weeks would be spent making Christmas decoration and receiving packages from the post person.

Until this year that is.

Edinburgh has been hit really hard by the snowfall.

The army had to be brought in to clear the streets, schools were shut for an entire week and none of the pavements were cleared or gritted. With a baby in a buggy I was housebound for a week! The snow meted and then turned to ice and after witnessing a few people fall with baby's in slings, I stayed in the house. With the snow crisis we have been having here all of the parcels I ordered in November haven't arrived! I have none of the kids Christmas presents and have had to face the terrors of Edinburgh shopping to buy back up gifts and all of the relatives gifts.


It has started to snow again....

Festive fodder...

Erm, well I've you've paid any attention to this blog then you know that I love cooking. Just below this on my list of passions is eating so I am gearing up for the festive food frenzy to come.


While Christmas day is spent with my immediate family, the festive season sees the appearance of my in-law-equivalents (had we bothered to get married), our extended family and our very dear friends and I love cooking for each and every one of them. Had I not traced my ancestry already (very Scottish, not a hint of continental flavour in there at all) I would convinced that I was an Italian Mama in a previous life as my heart is warmest when people are gathered around our table with bellies as full as eggs.

Of the dinners I am planning to cook over the season, a few stick out for differing reasons. My family is large and that can make dinners tricky. We have to cater for a fussy sister, an elderly Grandmother and several kids so our dinner is a pretty traditional affair. Every year I order a capon for dinner and to be honest we're all so knackered with wrapping and opening presents that it very much is a case of filling your belly and watching the telly. Last years gravy had the addition of wine, garlic and bay and I was busted straight away. So the subsequent dinners are where I really get to have fun...

This year I am particularly looking forward to a special Christmas Eve get together with my best bud. Seeing as she's from Down South, we haven't spent much of the festive season together for the past few years. In a rather surprising turn of events she is staying in Edinburgh this year and will be joined with her parents for the holiday and so straight away I offered them dinner to mark this occasion. Now this dinner poses a challenge as my buddy is a Vegetarian (should that be capitalised?). I love her despite this obstacle! Now I could cook a traditional dinner and accommodate her but I want to make the dinner about her so I've made the menu completely vegetarian. It is much easier to construct a meal that accommodates meat eaters than the reverse. So a snapshot of the meal is the main course centrepiece which is Wild Mushroom and Port Stuffed Brioche.



Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 225g chestnut mushrooms , quartered
  • 115g shiitake mushrooms , halved
  • 2 large field mushrooms , sliced
  • 3 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300ml red wine
  • 1.2l hot vegetable stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 150ml port
  • 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 6 brioche rolls ( I got them from Waitrose)
  • flatleaf parsley , to garnish 
Method                                                

  1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan, then fry mushrooms for 4-5 mins, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon, then set aside. Add remaining oil to the pan, then fry the celery, onion and garlic over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 mins. Add wine, stock and thyme and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Add the port and redcurrant jelly. Bring back to the boil, then boil for 10 mins until reduced by half and thick and syrupy. Season to taste, discard the thyme and stir in the mushrooms. Simmer for 5 mins.
  3. Meanwhile, pull the tops off the brioche and reserve, then pick out dough from the centre to leave a thick shell. (Process remaining dough to make breadcrumbs, then freeze for future use.) Place rolls on a baking sheet, then bake for 5-7 mins until hot and crisp.
  4. Spoon the mushroom mixture into the brioche rolls, then garnish with the flat-leaf parsley. Serve immediately with any remaining gravy, potato wedges and green beans.   
While me and my bud differ on our views regarding the eating of animals, there is one major food group that we agree on and both love, cheese! While technically cheese is not a food group, we consume so much of it that it should be. So I'll be preparing some cheesey canapés to have with our fizz for the evening. Mini cheese fondues with grissini and dried figs stuffed with dolcelatte are the main stars of the show.

Another occasion we're looking forward to is catching up with a very dear best friend and his partner. As the lot of us are voracious meat eaters I am particularly looking forward to making my Ham Hock Terrine with Homemade Piccallili. Now a terrine really isn't a big deal to make but it does require time and a bit of patience. Now you can, as I have here, buy and boil hocks especially for this recipe but similarly if you go a bit mental with your festive gammon or ham, you can use the left overs to produce this. Serve it with the finest bread you can find.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Ingredients
  • 1 large ham hock, or 2 smaller ones, about 2kg in total, soaked overnight if needed
  • 2 carrots , peeled and halved
  • 3 celery sticks, peeled and halved
  • 2 small onions, peeled and halved
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 8 coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 leaves gelatine
  • small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp chopped gherkins
  • piccalilli and crusty bread, to serve                                                  

Method

  1. Put the ham hocks in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 10 minutes, skimming off the impurities. Add the veg and spices, then simmer gently for 3 hours, skimming as necessary. Don't let the liquid boil as it will make the stock murky.
  2. Take the hocks out of the pan, then strain the liquid into a bowl (line the sieve with a clean j-cloth or muslin to get a clearer liquid).
  3. Put 800ml of the strained stock in a clean pan and boil until reduced by half. Season well, then add the white wine vinegar. Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until soft, then add to the ham hock liquid and stir to dissolve. Cool so the gelatine starts to set a little.
  4. Strip the meat from the ham hocks and put in a bowl. Mix in the capers, gherkins and parsley. When the liquid looks like it's starting to thicken, pour over the meat and stir.
  5. Line an approx 900g terrine or loaf tin with a double layer of clingfilm, leaving some overhanging - tip in the meat mixture. Pack down and cover loosely with excess clingfilm. Cut a strip of card the same size as the top of the tin, cover with foil, then press on top and weigh down with some tins. Chill overnight. Serve sliced with piccalilli and crusty bread.
You can buy pretty decent jars of piccalilli these days. However, if you fancy having a go at making your own, here's a recipe:
  • 2 small cauliflower , cut into small florets
  • 400g silverskin or pearl onions
  • 600g courgettes , cut into small chunks (about 2cm pieces)
  • 6 firm pears , cored, and cut as the courgettes
  • 100g salt
  • 1.7l cider vinegar
  • finger-length piece fresh root ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp brown or black mustard seeds
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 8 tbsp cornflour
  • 5 tbsp English mustard powder
  • 3 tsp turmeric
  1. In a bowl, mix together the vegetables, pears and salt with 2 litres of cold water, then cover and leave overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the brine from the vegetables, rinse briefly, then tip into a large saucepan with the vinegar, ginger, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 mins until the veg is just tender but still with a little bite. Drain the vegetables, reserving the liquid, and set aside while you make the sweet mustard sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the cornflour, mustard powder and turmeric, then gradually pour in the hot vinegar while whisking, until you have a lump-free, thin yellow sauce. Return it to the saucepan and bubble over a low heat, stirring constantly, for 4 mins until smooth and thickened. Stir in the veg and spoon into five sterilised 500ml jars while hot, then seal. Once cool, enjoy straight away, or store in a cool, dark cupboard for 2-3 months. Refrigerate once opened.   

This recipe should make about 5 500ml jars, I probably eat half a jar while making it and again as with all of these recipes, play around. Pears in this recipe are a very nice wintery addition but use apples if that's what you have. If you can't get silverskin onions, used shallots but adjust the amount to half. Cooking is meant to be fun and enjoyable!

What will you be eating this year?

xx

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Festive Frolicking FAIL!

or otherwise-known-as "why I can't drink anymore"...


Every year our festive season is fully booked with social events, dates and get togethers as well as family gatherings. Each year we usually manage a good mix of alcohol-fuelled events coupled with grown-up dinners. Looking through my diary for this year and I've noticed that it seems to be only food-centred occasions this year. Have I planned this unconsciously? Part of this might be due to the addition of Miss B this year and so our babysitting privileges are once again limited but part of it I think is due to my lack of capacity for drink.

I don't know about you but the birth of another child brought the forced abstinence of pregnancy and the combined abstinence of breastfeeding and tiredness from all alcoholic substances. And so again I find my tolerance for drink has gone through the floor. Not that I'm in the habit of getting pissed on a regular basis but when I drink I feel tired and I can no longer with the accompanying hangover which lasts for days (to be fair, the last one did merge into some kind of stomach bug). 

Given that I have such a huge gap between kids, I was getting into the swing of things again after having A. I was wearing heels again, I was vaguely aware of fashions although I choose not to follow them. I could stay up later and later and survive on very little sleep and had quite a stockpile of make up and invitations to nights out. 

Now I'm back to square one again! The only make up I wear these days is cover up and of course mascara if I can find it. If I do have the time, which usually means forgoing everything else on my list to do while B naps to put on a full face, I end up going to bed with it on and end up looking at a smeared version of myself in the morning accompanied by a giant plook! I haven't worn a pair of heels for months and so have no idea where they are an on the odd night out I do go to, I don't have the time to look for them and so go out in flats and am the shortest person there. Also time being short when dinners and bedtimes have to be done means no consideration can be given to my wardrobe and I'm still wearing things I wore when I was pregnant. 

Also I'm constantly knackered so if I am invited out by the time the event actually comes around the corner I really can't be arsed and have fallen asleep on the couch before I've gotten my tights on. But on those magical nights where I do make it out of the house past 7:30pm and I am fully clothed and presentable what then? As much as I love to dine out, a full belly makes you tired and shouting over terribly loud background (yeah, it;s meant to be in the background) music makes you horse. At least at a meal you can behave yourself but what if the evening descends into drinking and dancing?

Well all hell then breaks loose as you start to drink like you would pre-pregnancy and you dance around the place like you would pre-children! All sense of embarrassment goes out of the window. And some dear friend puts up the evidence on Facebook the next day...


"Oh, the Who-manity!"


I live with the Grinch.

Perhaps that's a bit too harsh. It's not like he wants to steal Christmas, he would just rather it happened on a smaller scale in our house or at all. So perhaps we'll just settle for calling him Scrooge McDuck...



Now to understand the nature of Oh Daddy and I's relationship is complicated so I'll cut it short. We're very similar in some respects  but for the majority, we are complete opposites. It keeps things interesting and in fact we first fell in love whilst locking horns over some political hot potato of the time. Me with my naive liberal Left Wing views and him with his institutionalised Centre-Right Wing opinions. Oh...the folly of youth and hormones! Over time we have simultaneously influenced each other to form our own distinctive brand of thinking and we live in peace and blissful harmony for the majority of the year....until Christmas time that is.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I LOVE Christmas! Yes, my feelings regarding the festive season warrant the use of capital letters. My Christmases get bigger and grander as the years go by. And I say my because he just comes along for the ride, sighing and tutting his way through the holiday, looking for batteries, cutting toys out of packaging resembling a puzzle out of the Krypton Factor. I will also point out that his humbug attitude quickly dissolves on Christmas morning when Santa has been good to him (again!) and he sits back, loosens his belt and eats his way through two weeks of holidays from work. 



I go totally overboard every year with presents and food and I even sing carols whilst (tastefully) decorating my tree. Perhaps overboard is underestimated how carried away I get with the festive season.... Our house even has festive fragrances splashed liberally everywhere as a constant reminder that Santa is on his way. I should also probably direct you to a previous post of mine on the dilemma that we faced this year regarding our eleven year son, who coupled with ASD and an over-zealous mother who thinks she's one of Santa's elves STILL believed in Santa until said mother had to reveal the awful truth...

Every year I think he's going to get into the swing of things and every year comes out with ridiculous things like "Do we really need a Christmas tree?" and "Why does it smell like a forest in here?" while I threaten to strangle him with my wreath if he rolls his eyes again!

He loves it really....

Ho ho ho!

Feeling Cheated....

I consider myself cheated out of Miss B's first Christmas...

On Christmas day last year she was only four weeks old. It was a magical time, a time to reflect on the past year and our lovely new addition to our family. It was also a time of burning the goose fat for the roast potatoes and ballsing up pudding due to breast feeding on demand. But on reflection Miss B was just a dribbling potato-headed ball of poop and spit. Lovely with it but far too small to take in the significance of the event. We bought her a few trinkets and excitedly opened them up in front of her and the fuss, unaccustomed as she was, just made her cry.

This year I was ready to buy all the trimmings for her, a stocking, some baubles etc etc but all the baby ones are marketed only towards Baby's First Christmas! Trying to buy something special for Xmas this year has been a drag and I still haven't found anything I liked. When I moaned about this with some of the mothers at our local M&T group I found that many others shared this pain. Adorning your kid with a babygrow exclaiming baby's first Christmas when they sleep through the entire event is a bit of an anticlimax. No that our little darlings could manage to be lucid for more than ten minutes at a time, the solution they proposed was to fake it. To recreate Baby's second first Christmas complete with all of the trimmings. But as I stood in JL looking at the stockings and commemorative photo albums, it all felt a bit fake. What did these women do with the evidence of last years festivities, however momentary? Burn them? Hide them in the attic?

I wish someone would create a line of gifts declaring Baby's first PROPER Christmas!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wordless Wednesdays - Bedtime Stories 2

Being told off...

I've just read a post over at BabyRambles that I completely identify with.

Now I don't know about you but I get told off by the various adults and children in my life on a regular basis. Even though I am advancing in my years I still get told off by my mother, by Oh Daddy, by A and I suspect, very soon Miss B. I also get old off by A's school, by B's activity leaders and by just about anyone.

The mothers I mix with on a regular basis are older than me and I tried to imagine anyone of them being told off and I couldn't. Is it because these women are seen as older women so people wouldn't dare speak to them in such a manner? Is it because I am younger? No, I have come to the conclusion that it's my guilty expression. And I suspect that they might get a telling off once in a while, just perhaps in a different method to myself. As the eldest child, I was regularly the fall guy for my younger and wilier sister who needed to be constantly rescued from mischief and who seemed to take great pleasure in getting her big sister into trouble. So my default position is one of guilt. I automatically think I have done something wrong!

I remember one incident when we went to visit our Nana. She had just had her bathroom redecorated and I took my little sister to use the toilet. I sat outside for ages and started to hammer on the door and shout in the usual elder sibling irritated tone, for her to hurry up. When she eventually emerged from the bathroom, I asked her what had taken her so long to which she replied "well...duh!" and ran down the stairs. I followed her and went about my business. Later on during the visit my mother called me up the stairs to the bathroom, took me inside and demanded to know why I had done THIS (stage direction: my mother, very red in the face pointing to the wall above the toilet roll holder). The THIS that she was referring to was MY name carved into the wall! The offending weapon was lying on the floor, a par of metal tweezers. Flabbergasted I tried to tell her that I it wasn't me and that really did she think that I was stupid enough to scratch my own name on the wall and demanded that she carry out a forensic investigation to match up the handwriting. These requests only inflamed the situation and the child from the Omen appeared behind the legs of our mother smiling...


You would think that as an adult you move past being told off and feeling very small and child-like but no. I used to be a very punctual person. I lost it temporarily when I had A but regained it quite quickly once I had gotten to grips with life with a baby. Again with the advent of Miss B, my punctuality has disappeared but at a year, I seem to have lost it completely. I hate being late and my friends know that I can't stand people being late, I get jittery, snap and shout at people so I completely understand when I get a row for being late. I still feel like a small child when I've been scolded though.

I've been five minutes late for a doctors appointment and had to endure the ice-cold stares of the reception staff who make you wait to see if the incredibly busy and overworked GP can fit us in. I slope off to the corner of the waiting room and hang my head in shame.

We've been late for school numerous times and again I hang my head as A does the walk of shame along the school corridor to class. Or forgetting that today was the day that something was happening. The something they had told us about three months previously and I had chosen that day not to look in my diary.

Things like this make me feel especially bad but the maddening ones are the things I automatically take the blame for only to then realise that, as we say here "it wisnae me!". A few weeks ago, I attended one of Miss B's activity groups and near the very end the entire class of 30 received a telling off as some people hadn't been clear about their attendance and had paid their fees. Instantly my eyes dropped to the floor, I did my shame filled shuffle and slopped off to the corner with B to play with the toys. It wasn't until we had left the class that I realised that I had filled in all the appropriate paperwork and paid my fees up until the end of term!

Pah!

What about you?