Halloween Lanterns

I know Halloween is over now, but Lola and I made these great Halloween lanterns using tissue paper, baby food jars, and Mod Podge.


First, make sure the jars are clean. Then paint Mod Podge on the glass and start sticking pieces of tissue paper all over. Doesn’t have to be neat – Lola is only three, and she did a great job!





Once all the tissue paper bits are on, paint one final coat of Mod Podge all around to seal all the paper.

Finally, since it was Halloween, we used googly eyes to make a ghost (white) and a monster (purple), and used a black permanent pen to draw jack-o-lantern faces on the orange ones.

Pop a tea light inside, then sit back and enjoy the ambiance!



Writing Again

So… I’m on month eight of maternity leave (I went on leave a month before Ava was born), and find that I constantly have ideas buzzing through my head, so I want to try to start blogging again. I hoping (fingers crossed) to blend writing with cooking and craft projects we do at home, until I go back to work.

On the topic of work, I was made redundant from the job I had before Ava was born, so I’m trying to find a job to start in January. As a parent, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to find a job that fits my “brief”.

Before kids, my job brief would look like this:
– Good career progression
– Good pay

Now, with kids, my job brief looks like this:
– Full or part-time
– Flexible hours
– Close enough to nursery. If local, hours could be 9-5:30, but if I’m in Central London, it would have to be more like 10-4. Reduced hours = reduced pay.
– Earn enough to cover the cost of childcare, plus travel

How do both parents work full-time with kids? It has been almost impossible to find a job that is flexible around the opening times of nursery. Part-time is ideal, but most part-time jobs are very low pay: teaching assistants, receptionists, retail. Jobs with wages that are so low, they wouldn’t even cover the cost of childcare, so we would lose money.

I don’t think this situation is unique to us, and I think it’s often the case that, when both parents work, the lower earner has to make adjustments to accommodate the higher earner – which often makes sense, financially. For example, Sam (the higher earner) has to be at work at a certain time, so he has to get the train before nursery even opens, in order to get to work on time. This means that I have to eliminate jobs with early start times, as Sam wouldn’t be able to take the girls to nursery in the morning.

It works for finishing times as well – Sam would have to cut his hours (and therefore earnings) if he had to pick up the girls from nursery by 6pm.

My complaint isn’t that Sam works; my complaint is that it is very, very difficult to find employment that ticks all the boxes: childcare-friendly hours, close location, salary enough to pay for childcare. I’ve lost track now of the number of jobs I looked at recently for which I would be perfect, companies that want to interview me but I have to turn them down because the hours and/or location doesn’t fit around nursery times.

It’s difficult, and I think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed: more employers should be flexible to allow parents to work AND care for their children.

Dieting Challenge!

Lara here, and I’ve almost finished Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet.  It’s been really hard, I’m not going to lie – the lack of carbs and sugar has made me feel a little spacey at times, but I think it’s been worth it.  I could never eat this way all the time, so happy it’s just two weeks!  So far, I have lost almost seven pounds!  I feel a lot better, too.  Eating potatoes and pasta nearly every day was making me feel really heavy, especially around my mid-section.


One of the greatest things about the diet is that it forced me to get creative with food.  The book gives full meal plans and some recipes, but I looked online for inspiration as well.  A good site I found is Kayln’s Kitchen: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2012/02/south-beach-diet-phase-one-recipes.html

A few days ago we tried the Baked Pesto Chicken recipe, and it was great!  I made it for Sam and myself, but Sam had mashed potatoes with his.  Super, super easy – put pesto in the bottom of an oven dish, slice some chicken breast and put in the dish, then season with salt and pepper and spread over more pesto.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins, then remove the foil, add some mozarella (I also put sliced tomatoes on top, yum!) and bake for a further 10 minutes.  It was sensational.


I must admit that I’m looking forward to re-introducing more foods to my diet next week – like fruit, red wine, chocolate and whole grain things like oatmeal, whole grain tortillas and whole grain bread.  My cravings for things like pastries (my ultimate weakness) has subsided slightly, but last week I went into a store and saw a ton of pastries and felt like a vampire.  If you’ve ever read the Twilight books, they talk about how when vampires want blood, their throat gets all hot or whatever and all they can think about is “feeding”.  Well, that’s exactly how I felt, except it was over some chocolate-caramel shortbread biscuits.  I was actually salivating.  BUT, I resisted and stuck with my salad.


My BMI (if you agree with the BMI, which I sort of don’t) is now 25.13, which still puts me in the “overweight” category, which kind of sucks.  “Normal” is considered 18.5-24.9 BMI.  Hmmm… so not too far to go then….

South Beach Diet

I have properly indulged myself over Mother’s Day! After letting me sleep in until about 9am, Sam cooked me an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and sausages. Lunch was leftover pizza, then there were home-made brownies throughout the day. Dinner was BBQ shredded chicken sandwiches (yum!) and Sam even set out a Sol with a lime wedge – perfect!

And now I start my long-overdue weight loss journey! I’ve had that “last ten pounds” or so ever since Lola was born, and keep meaning to do something about it but never do. I’ve been doing Zumba for about a year, but still have that extra jiggle.

The latest fad is the 5:2 Diet (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/05/diet-feasts-fast-days) where you eat however you want for five days and then fast to 500 calories a day for two different days of the week. But the diet that gave me the best results was South Beach Diet. I learned about it when my Lil’ Sis (from the sorority) tried it and lost a TON of weight. You just feel better too, and at the end of the “diet” you end up just eating healthier all together. It’s not like I’m going to do a 10 day cleanse surviving on lemon-honey-cayenne-pepper-water and expect to keep the weight off. But it’s time I shed those last few pounds and started eating better, too!

Today is Day 1 of the diet. Breakfast was just tea, because I was meant to have an egg and realized we don’t have any. So that was a bit of a mess-up (I’ll get some eggs on the way home). I weighed myself this morning and I was 140.6 lbs fully-clothed, not counting shoes. At 5’1″, that makes my BMI 26.46, placing me in the “overweight” category. Yikes.

So here we go…. hopefully in four weeks, when I start Phase 3 of the plan, I’ll be at a healthier weight! Watch this space….

Are Women Programmed to Cope?

Lara here… I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything!  Must try to do that more… which sort of brings me to the reason why I wanted to make this post in the first place.  I recently read a post on LinkedIn in a “Working Mums” group that addressed the issues facing women today – are we programmed to cope?  Why don’t we ask for help until it’s too late?

I call this the Superwoman Complex.  Many modern women today are fighting to “have it all” – family, career, friends, hobbies, home, fitness – and are prepared to give the middle finger (sorry Mom) to anyone who dares suggest that it isn’t possible.  It wasn’t that long ago though that a more traditional role was expected of women; it wasn’t even that long ago that we weren’t allowed to vote or inherit lands and property.  Instead of shifting roles around between genders, women have taken on more and more to prove to ourselves and the world that we CAN do it.  We try to fulfill the traditional roles – wife, mother, housekeeper, seamstress, cook, chauffeur – in addition to having a full-time career, being a good friend, having a good body, and finding some time to ourselves.  When we fall short on any of these, we see it as a massive failure – we are Superwomen, we can’t fail!  So…. we don’t ask for help… we cope.

Is it any wonder we are so stressed out?  And it’s true, I don’t ask for help – that would be failing, right?  According to society, the media….. according to myself.  Also, asking for help can be interpreted as nagging (depending on how stressed/annoyed I am, of course), so sometimes it’s easier to not say anything.

I’m one of the lucky ones – my husband cooks dinner most nights and my MIL (mother-in-law) helps look after Lola during the week.  But I still struggle.  There is a “modern woman” pressure that says I must be a good mom, a supportive wife, an outstanding marketing exec; I must have the dishes done, fold and iron the laundry, clean the bathroom, take out the recycling, figure out how to organize/decorate our house, and look good doing it.  It’s exhausting.

When I walk into the kitchen and see the pile of dirty dishes, I feel like crying.  Sometimes I DO cry, because it just gets to be too much – the dishes are everywhere, the car is dirty, I made a mistake at work, Lola’s books are all over the floor, there is dirty laundry spilling out of the hamper, my nail polish is chipped, the stove is splattered with grease again (I just cleaned it!), I’m late getting Sam from the station because Lola won’t put her coat on…. and I’m STILL overweight, according to the “official” BMI chart.

So, yes, I think this woman on LinkedIn is right – we ARE programmed to cope.  We cope because we want to prove that all those decades of campaigning and fighting for equal rights and opportunities for women weren’t wasted.  We wanted the right to work, to have it all, so we are going to prove that we can do it.

Maybe I should “cope” less and ask for more help.  Maybe I just needed to rant 🙂


Growling is Grrrrrrreat!

Lola is quickly developing her verbal skills.  She has been able to say what resembles “yah yah,” “Da Da,” “Ma Ma,” and “wow”.  She is also able to express herself through growling – yes, growling.  We’ve discovered that, when she likes playing with something, she growls.  Here she is in action:

Lola can now sit very well (as you can see from the video) and, when she was sitting in her crib, leaned over and pulled herself up on the railing.  We’re really proud of this new ability, but we’ve also taken the proper precautions and moved her mattress down a level so she can’t pull herself OUT of the crib.