Sunday, 28 February 2010

Chocolate pudding in a mug, revised

I'm re-posting this as, having used the link several times, it's irritated me that there isn't a list of ingredients.  Plus I've discovered that slightly less cooking ensures a fabulous gooey bottom (for the pudding not the cook).  Plus I prefer the self raising flour version.

  • 4 tbsp self raising flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp oil (preferably corn oil)
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Get a big mug, the sort used on the continent for dunking breakfast baguette or croissant
  • Throw in flour, sugar and cocoa & mix well
  • Add egg and mix again
  • Pour in milk and oil and mix well
  • Add chocolate chips and vanilla
  • Mix, then cook in the microwave for two and a half minutes. Don't panic if it goes over the top of the mug.
  • Cut in half serves 2 adults very well with a dollop of ice cream or cream or squirty cream.
Very yummy.

Friday, 12 February 2010


Apparently there is a school that has banned Valentine cards to prevent the emotional trauma of rejection.

I don’t blame them.  In my experience Valentine’s Day sucks.

The promoted image of Valentine’s Day for the single person is the mountain of cards arriving on the doormat.  For couples the image is one of romantic weekends away and lavish gifts.

These images are not a reality for most people and the problem is men, and women.

Women, generally, are more prone to expressing love.  They are more likely to send Valentine cards, buy Valentine gifts, say “I love you”, prepare a romantic meal or night out or pretty much anything along these lines.

Men are less likely to send cards, buy gifts or put much effort into Valentine’s Day and are more prone to say “ditto” a la Patrick Swayze.

There are exceptions but from a woman’s perspective there is nothing worse than the petrol station or supermarket bought card and flowers which just says “I felt I ought to do this.”

From a man’s perspective I imagine there is nothing worse than feeling you ought to make an effort for Valentine’s Day when you have neither the time nor the inclination.

I have sent more Valentine’s cards that I have received.  That doesn’t make me feel good, it makes me feel awful.  I never awoke to a mountain of Valentine’s cards on the doormat and I don’t know anyone else who has either.

If I were to receive something that matches the promoted Valentine’s experience I don’t think I’d be happy, I think I’d be non-plussed because that is promoted as the expectation.  As this isn’t my experience then it’s just depressing and I think lots of people find the day is a low point.  This is why I can sympathise with the school’s decision to try and prevent emotional trauma.

If you’re single and you don’t want to be then don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to do some wooing.  Woo all the time because it makes you and your wooee happy.

If you’re in a relationship then don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to show your loved one that they are just that, loved.  Unexpected demonstrations of affection are far more effective and will be appreciated more. 

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Parenting tip, number two

Parenting tip, number one received mixed reviews. Undaunted I’ve decided to continue.  This tip helps you to get children to the breakfast/lunch/dinner table when they would normally ignore your calls.  It works for husbands too.
Tip number two is a a little bizarre and it is a bit of a shaggy dog story.  It starts with a visit to the Essex Police Museum which does exist, details here, photos of our trip here.  (Well worth a trip but go on an open day when they have the dogs, cars and helicopter there.)
There’s a shop in the museum.  When I say shop it’s more of a till and a small handful of items for sale.  I bought a bicycle bell, like this one.
I’ve got this vision of what my life should be like and in this vision I ride an old fashioned bicycle with a sit up and beg design, basket on the front and a traditional bike bell.  This vision bears no relation to reality. At all.  But, in a vain hope that someday I will be an environmentally concerned mum who is healthy because I cycle everywhere, I bought a bike bell.  I know that’s far fetched, but it happens to be (sad but) true.
Even before I’d left the shop, as soon as I’d paid for it I had taken it out of the box and started playing.  This is because I’m an activist.  I can’t pick the post up from the doormat and take it to the kitchen without opening at least one item.  My husband, on the other hand, can leave mail for a week without touching it.
When I got home I wanted to put the bell on the bike but the bike was in the garage and that was a bit of a faff.  So instead I attached it, using screwdriver, to the towel rail in the kitchen.  I know nobody ever needs warning that they have a moving towel rail behind them, but it was the closest thing to a handlebar without requiring me to get off my backside and go out to the garage.
And I discovered it’s quite loud.  I also discovered that the children loved it, probably because it’s loud.
I explained to the children that I’d ring the bell when their dinner was ready.  They came running to the table when I rang the bell.  Normally if I’d yell “Dinner’s ready” I would, for the most part, be ignored or get a really delayed response.
So now the bell is used regularly and it works a treat.  I guess it’s just a twist on the old fashioned bells you see in old people’s drawing rooms.  But it works, for us.

Sunday, 7 February 2010



Dear Ann

Your great uncle James opened his tailoring business in Ship Yard Leeds in September 1919.

Your great uncle Frank enlisted in RHA in 1915 and died of wounds 1917.

Your granddad was mustard gassed in Oct 1918 and was discharged in the following January.  He was a wonderful father.

When we are due to meet remind me to show you your grandma’s now tatty “diary” for the period.

Love, Dad”

I just found this amongst some papers that needed sorting.  It was written on a simple postcard.  It made me cry. 

It reminded me of my dad.  I miss him.

It also made me think about the loss and pain caused by war.

It also reminded me of my grandma’s diary which I now have in my possession and which is such a fascinating slice of life in Leeds around the time of the Great War and afterwards.  Dad was right that it isn’t really a diary at all, more of a notebook recording purchases, births, weddings, deaths and recipes, all in one tiny little leather bound book.

One day my daughter may well be sorting through my belongings and find the diary, or the postcard, and maybe she’ll cry too.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Parenting tip, number one

Let me start by saying that I am in no way a perfect parent. In fact, far from it. My parenting is so full of holes it has been called colander parenting, or sieve parenting by more vicious observers.

But there are a few things that I think work well and might be useful for other people. I’m sure they aren’t new ideas and there certainly won’t be anything revolutionary here but if an idea is worth sharing then, isn’t that what a blog is for?

So here goes. Tip number one.

Problem: Your children take forever to get ready in the morning.

My solution:

Firstly there is a rule that breakfast can only be consumed if a child is dressed. I know that risks breakfast spillage on uniform but that’s why wipes were invented.

Secondly go out and buy kitchen timers. The funnier or most appropriate for the child the better. Ask your child how long they want as a time to get dressed. Ideally the timer should be set for 10 to 15 minutes. The aim is to have a time that can easily be beaten. So if your child says five minutes then say “Tell you what, how about 10 minutes? Off you go.”

When your child has beaten the timer, tell them you don’t believe it and demand to see the timer. When they provide the proof tell them how amazingly quick they are.

Don’t be tempted, over time, to reduce the time on the timer.

What not to do:

Don’t get their clothes out for them and don’t help them to get dressed unless they ask for help because they’re trying to do something difficult like tricky buttons or laces. This makes them lazy and more dependant on you.

Don’t get stressed if they aren’t dressed immaculately. You can tidy collars and tuck shirts in without your child even realising it’s happening.


You should find your child loves competing with the timer. You should also find that with more than one child there is the added competitive element of competing with a sibling or two. They get much more satisfaction from sorting themselves out without help. The payoff for the child is lots of praise and achievement and, of course, breakfast.

Also in our house, a session on the Wii in the morning only happens once a child is ready to leave the house (apart from coat, scarf and gloves).

That’s it. If you aren’t doing this right now, and you try it, let me know how it goes. If you have a better strategy then I’m all ears.