It seems apt in the run up to Christmas that I spend some time to share with you what we’ve been up to lately and what I’m planning for 2018. I set myself a reading challenge at the beginning of 2017 and I want to try a new challenge or challenges for 2018! I think being a little competitive, I prefer a challenge. I like the idea of a bigger reading challenge as well as a fitness challenge. Do you have any challenges/targets you’d like to set for 2018?
As I have already mentioned, I set myself a reading challenge for 2017, which was to read 12 books in 12 months. Miraculously, I managed to hit the target and surpass it back in October, and I am current;y searching for book 18 to start. Despite having a large ‘to read’ pile and an uninspiring trip to the library this morning, I am still struggling to pick one. Naturally, suggestions are welcome! I have finished work for Christmas so I have a bit more time than usual to read, although the current 0530 starts from the children aren’t allowing much bedtime reading at the moment, Zzzzzz. Here’s a list of my reads so far:
- Hurrah for Gin, Katie Kirby: a lighthearted book on the trials and tribulations of being a Mum. I laughed out loud and really enjoyed this book. If you’re after a giggle this Christmas, this could be a purchase for you, or wife/partner.
- Shopaholic to the Rescue, Sophie Kinsella: I’m a bit of a sucker for a Sophie Kinsella book and this one didn’t disappoint. I’ve read all the books in the ‘Shopaholic’ series, and I would recommend you read them first as it sets the scene, although not essential.
- Hope to Die, James Patterson: Again I am an avid James Patterson reader, although I am way behind on the Women’s Murder Club series! I find the short and sweet chapters really easy to read and a fantastic help when I’m often forced to put down the book and pick back up another day. Book three was a bit of struggle for me as it took a while to get through, in fact, I was already well into month four by the time I’d finished this.
- Scummy Mummies, Ellie Gibson & Helen Thorn: Yet another ‘Mum’ read, and again an easy read with yet more crazy tales from Motherhood.
- Cross Justice, James Patterson: Shock! Another JP book, similar to Book three, this one is part of the ‘Alex Cross’ collection which are wonderful. They are up to the mid twenties and they’re all still amazing. James Patterson really is a wonderful writer, well I think so anyway.
- A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness: My tutor group at school (yes I take reading advice from 15 year olds!) suggested this one, and my two lovely friends Hayley (hayleyfromhome) and Kat (bookwormandtheatremouse) seemed to agree that Patrick Ness was a good read. It was a lovely book, but I was not prepared AT ALL for the tearjerker ending! (a little prep if you decide to read it, although might have just ruined it!).
- The One Plus One, Jojo Moyes: A Jojo convert after reading this book. A really lovely tale, and although I could see how it might end, the story was beautifully written with some twists and turns along the way.
- One With You, Sylvia Day: Similar to the Christian Grey stories, this one wasn’t the best book, but I got through it.
- The Queen of Wishful Thinking, Milly Johnson: I’ve never read a Milly Johnson book before and I don’t know what drew me to this book in my Amazon order. I think its the colourful front cover, I know the saying, never judge a book by its cover, but I am a sucker for brightly coloured front cover; they always seem a bit more appealing. I’m trying to do better and read the back before I discount them now. This was a beautiful and eloquently written story, a romance novel if you will. I do love a good ‘boy meets girl’ story.
- The First Time Mums’ Club, Lucie Wheeler: I grabbed this off the ‘new books’ shelf at the library and after failing to get on with a few books, this one grabbed me. Was a fun story about becoming a Mum for the first time. No motherhood tales in this one, but just a lovely story about making new friends during pregnancy. I am super lucky to have such wonderful friends, and amazingly we all have children the same age!
- Sunshine at Wildflower Cottage, Milly Johnson: I seem to be a creature of habit and often try and read books by the same author. This was such an easy and enjoyable read. I’m getting to the point where I feel like I should probably branch out and read something a little more thought provoking, but honestly, I don;t know if my brain can manage it!
- Paris for One, Jojo Moyes: I was right when I said I was a Jojo convert! This was a really short story, in fact only 100 pages, so I felt a bit of a fraud calling it my 12th book. I think there is another version of this book which has other short stories in, so it would be nice to read the others.
- Me Before You, Jojo Moyes: This book is so good, it is now a motion picture, which i dutifully watched yesterday in my mammoth 2.5hr present wrapping session. If you’ve not read this, I can absolutely recommend it. I think I preferred reading the book first and watching the film second. It really is a moving story.
- After You, Jojo Moyes: I won’t lie, I preferred the first story to this one, but none the less it was still good. An interesting read: a love story, a broken heart and a grieving heart all wrapped up into one book.
- Triple Threat, James Patterson: Although I have many more James Patterson books on my Kindle, I found this one on the book shelf in our church whilst attending Community Cafe. It’s actually three short stories in one book. The first and third stories were really good, but the middle one freaked me out a little. James Patterson has a similar longer story called Zoo which also freaked me out, so I’m not sure why I continued, but I did.
- Almost a Bride, Jo Watson: Another find from the ‘New Book’ shelf at the library. I’ve never heard of Jo Watson and upon starting this story, I discovered she is a South African writer (the story is set in South Africa). Heartbroken and jobless, Annie is having a bit of a dilemma so books a holiday with her girlfriends as rehab, and the story goes from there.
- Talk to Me, Jules Wake: After I said I was trying to be good and read the back before discounting a book. Well I actually didn’t look at the front, it was the red spine that attracted me to this one. It was until I got it home, did I see the front cover and I thought I’d picked up something a bit more sultry than I had anticipated. But, it was a gorgeous romance novel instead about a girl being in love with someone she couldn’t have.
A BALANCING ACT:
I have had two children for over two years now (I know, still can’t believe it myself!), but I still struggle with the balancing act, and I’m not sure I will ever be happy! I currently work 3 days a week, and have 2 days with the children. Although H goes to pre-school in our village on both days that I am off. I’ve really enjoyed the difference compared to last years 5 days, but I still find myself pining to fit more in or do more with the children. It does make me wonder if I will ever be content with my work:life balance. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a SAHM Mum, but then I wonder if I will pine for the adult conversation, solo toilet trips and the buzz of using my brain I suppose. But then I long for a slower pace of life, and I find myself constantly trying to think of new and exciting ways to entertain H and L, and would they still be happy if we’re at home more. Do you have the right balance?
TERRIBLE TWOS AND TESTING THREES:
I think we have turned a corner with H these past few weeks were he is beginning to understand a bit more and accept reasoning, but I find all of that goes out the window if he is tired. Honestly, you just can’t get any sense from him if he is overtired. He has started accepting that he has to say sorry and learn why he shouldn’t have done the things he’s done and just in the last week or so, he has finally become more engaged with sitting and doing something a bit academic. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re at the MENSA or Nobel Prize winning stage yet, but this is a big leap forward. He is now asking to draw, write his name and is enjoying doing some more thinking tasks. I had been so worried about him not being able hold a pencil at school in September, let alone write his name, but I think I’m ok about it all now.
His younger sister on the other hand is something else. I joke to my Mum that she is a lost cause! I’m not sure if she’s stubborn, strong minded or just the devil child sometimes! Mum also offers zero advice, and just laughs as apparently I was like this as a child. We have got to the stage where she will say ‘Sorry’ now but she is still a little monkey. We still share a bed every night, which as much as it annoys me, I do love having a quick cuddle and a squeeze of squidgy thighs
Ever since the clocks changed back in October I have really struggled to ‘train’. This week I managed two days by myself without the children and I went for a run on both days, but when I’m at work or at home with the children, I have zero motivation. Once my husband is home, and I’ve finished bath/bed time, its 7pm by which time I’m usually starving and going for a run is the last thing on the mind. Most people say I’m fit anyway because of my job. My job is obviously active, but I’m not actually improving my fitness. I think I need to enter a race to set myself a target to hit or even just something to train for. I will have to set myself a challenge for 2018; a race or a number of sessions/miles per month perhaps. What are your fitness aspirations for 2018?
Brownies: I’ve recently been experimenting with some new and slightly healthier recipes, which my work colleagues have been testing out, albeit sometimes begrudgingly! Perhaps the most popular of these new recipes was my dairy and sugar free Avocado Brownies. These have been a bit of trial and error really as the recipe uses coconut flour, after some research I discovered I could swap it out for a mixture of self-raising and plain flour as long as I added extra eggs to compensate as coconut flour is extraordinarily absorbent. This is the recipe I followed (https://www.thehealthymaven.com/2015/08/healthy-avocado-brownies.html), but I had to adapt it slightly, so here are my ingredients:
- 1 large avocado
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 1/2 cup maple syrup ( used a mixture of golden syrup and honey because I had no maple syrup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 eggs
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
- 1 cup self raising flour
- 1/2 cup plain flour
Add the wet ingredients to a food mixer, ensuring you blend after each addition. The recipe states that you should transfer to a bowl before adding the eggs, but I’m a little lazy so I just mixed it all in the blender and it turned out ok. Pour the mixture into a greased dish, I used a square one, and bake for 20-25 mins. If you prefer them slightly gooey, check them after 20 minutes, if you prefer them more well done, leave them for longer. I have a measuring jug with cups on, but if you don’t, here is a conversion website: (http://www.tuscanrecipes.com/cooking-tips/dry-liquid-measures.html).
Breakfast Bites: I tried this last week, and they got a mixed review at work; well actually only 1.5 out of 6 liked/tried them, so not a raging success. Although my biggest critic when it comes to cake (my little H) enjoyed them! These can be used as a cake snack or as a breakfast on the go. The Mango Coconut Bites were quite tasty, if a little out there (I have officially been nicknamed ‘Mrs Cropley’ by my neighbours!). These were super easy to make, and the children enjoyed helping me, even though they bickered about who was mixing!
- 40g raisins
- 1 ripe banana (mashed)
- 195g oats
- 33g of desiccated coconut
- 250ml coconut milk
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 140g of frozen mango
Soak the raisins in boiling water. Add the coconut, oats, desiccated coconut and coconut milk to a large mixing bowl and combine. Now add the mango and stir, followed by the egg. Drain any remaining water off the raisins, and stir into the mixture. Pop into a tin and bake for 25-30mins at 190C. (https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/coconut-mango-oat-breakfast-bites/)
Nutella Christmas Tree: Honestly, this isn’t healthy at all, but my word, it was soon good and easy to make. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry, I then cut out a shape of a Christmas tree and used the cut off triangles as the top (you could use two separate sheets though). Spread a good layer of nutella (or other chocolate based spread on the top and cover with the leftover triangles. Cut slats all the way up both sides of the Christmas tree and then twist the ‘strands’ into a kind of plait. Bake for about 20-25 mins, and then enjoy whilst warm. I am planning this for Christmas Day breakfast! For a youtube tutorial, try this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7So4_MSdjpA.
What are your go to quick bakes or healthy treats? My secret santa bought me a Paul Hollywood cookbook for Christmas and the first recipe is for Churro’s which are high on my list of bakes over the festive period.
I don’t think I could write this post without mentioning the ‘C’ word; I think I am ready. I have bought and wrapped everything, we just have the small matter of building a play kitchen and dolls house, shall we wait until Christmas Eve…..? For children, Christmas is really all about the magic and of course the presents. Our little H is just that bit older this year, and is beginning to get more excited, although I’m still not sure if he’s cottoned onto to everything yet, but he knows Father Christmas brings presents and he has to be on the good list, BUT, I really want to try and make it extra special for 2018. I’m probably crazy for already looking to 2018 when most people still aren’t ready for Christmas 2017! But, I want to get H (and hopefully L) engaged into the meaning of Christmas a bit more. We talk a lot about being on the good list or naughty list, but I want to get the children thinking about how important and special it is to spend time with our families. My family live 150 miles away in the North West so we don’t get to see them that often, so it is always special when we see everyone as we’re not often together with my parents and siblings. I have had a bit of an enlightening week were I am feeling very grateful indeed that we are able to share Christmas with my family and despite all the travelling and traffic, we are really very lucky. Some of us will be missing loved ones this Christmas, or not be able to all be together, so I am hoping to make next years’ festive period more about giving and family. One of my old work colleagues has been telling me about the ‘Kindness Elves‘. Although, not strictly just for Christmas, I really want to incorporate some of their ideas into our next Christmas, so I will researching that in the new year, but for now, I think we will go and pop some food donations into box in our Church.
Thanks for reading