Self-care

I’m liking the way my year is turning out to be. For the first time in a really long time, if ever, I am in a happy place. I’m appreciating my life and those in it. I’m proud of myself for taking the step of ridding myself of what I do not need. I’m embracing the positive and shunning the rest. I’m moving forward, skipping actually, perhaps with less people around me but with an overall much better aura.

The decision to stop pleasing others and focusing on myself proved to be the turning-point. Perhaps it’s my age or reaching a saturation point of sorts, but my priorities have changed and with them, my life has shifted. I have come to realize that any time spent on things or people who are not worth it, is wasted time. I have given up on past friendships not with any antagonism, not at all. I just choose to spend the time I have with friends and family who give me something worth holding onto. It is a hard decision giving up on something or someone who meant so much to you in the past. But when you do so, the feeling of lightness and rightness which accompanies the action, is mind-lifting.

I do not care for any bull in my life. At 36 years of age, I finally know what I want in my life. And I consider myself fortunate to have people in my life who can and are giving it to me. Gone are the times when I used to set off, going out of my way to please someone, without any acknowledgment, thanks or reciprocated action. How many times have I done something for someone, only for them to shun away when I used to ask for something in return? We are all humans. We all expect help from our close ones in times of need. And when your priorities are not theirs, then there is a problem.

In every post I have written this year, I have always said how this year was going to be my year. I made it a priority to better my life and myself . It was not easy and it took hard work and keeping my eyes on the prize to move forward. Today I am with less people around me. I probably come across as sometimes direct and abrupt. But I am no less sensitive. than I was before. I am not crass or arrogant.  I only choose more carefully when to show what side of me.

I have, in a way, spring-cleansed my life. I have opened up myself, let the negative air and presences go out, and allowed the positive in my life. I have found the courage to admit to myself what I want out of this life, whom I want in my life, and what I need to do to achieve my own peace, and I’m slowly getting there.

I will not apologize for this. I am looking out for myself and my own. I suggest you try doing this. Clarify what and who you want in your life, and set out the way to achieve it.

I am telling you – the feeling is great.

I may not be doing it right. This may be the least correct way of doing it, but what works…works.

 

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This is not about hate or disrespect. It’s about self-care.

 

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Five

My little (more properly, eldest) daughter just recently turned five. Five years of motherhood, of learning, of making mistakes and growing up. She is, as always was, my sensitive one. The one who needs to know that all is okay before being content. She needs to have a routine and stick by it, and she needs to be prepared and warned of any changes or unusual events. She’s a moody pain first thing in the morning, and won’t even tell her sister good morning until she’s ready to start the day and face the world. She’s the one with a hundred questions, all becoming more and more difficult to answer as time passes by. She goes with her guts, she rarely changes her opinion about someone, and she is, at moments, embarrasingly honest. Time spent with her is precious. Never a dull moment, and the words never stop. I will never tire of her spontaneous kisses and telling me what a beautiful mama’ I am. Her words and actions always put a smile on my face, no matter what.

She recently finished her kindergarten years, and my heart grew heavy as I saw her leave the school for the last time last week. I can’t even begin to explain the difference these past two years of school have made. I am only praying that next year a new school building and a new routine won’t have any unwelcome effects.

Five years of being a mother and two children later, what can I say?

Nothing is easy. Nothing comes handed out to you on a golden plate. We are terrifyingly given, in our exclusive care, these tiny beings without any real knowledge how to handle them and take care of them, and somehow we have to make the best job out of it. If that is not scary than I do not know what is. Then the worst is when you try really hard, you’re probably feeling desperate out of lack of proper routine, sleep and hormones, and you get judged. Judged by close-minded bigots who probably have no idea what this job really entails.

So my advice? Just move on. I have felt overwhelmed by motherhood on countless occasions, probably more with Cesca than Bettina. I have doubted myself and my abilities so many times that I was going crazy over it. We are our own worst critics. Nowadays I go with whatever works. You only want a banana for dinner? Fine. You want to take off your shoes and run outside barefooted? Go ahead. You want to eat yoghurt all on your own? Just do it.

Do enjoy little children. Before you know it, they’re all grown up. I’m dreading the moment Cesca will want to wash herself, or dress herself, or do her own things by herself. I don’t want her to stop closing her bedroom door or insist on reading by herself. I naively want to keep doing it all for her. Because stopping these mundane things, is so very scary.

 

Don’t let anyone tell you motherhood is easy. It’s the toughest. It’s one obstacle after the other, one challenge following the other, but the cliche is true. Nothing is as rewarding in life. By some unexplainable theory, the same small beings who drive you crazy and who you’d willingly rent out at times, just to get away from them, are the same ones you can’t do without.

So I will answer Cesca’s questions with a smile. I will try and find an explanation why it’s not always sunny on Sunday and why she’s never seen a fairy before. I will enjoy every embarrassing episode because I know I will smile later about it later on. I will allow her to help me with my makeup and choose my shoes for me, without flinching when she does so. I won’t get impatient when she won’t give me a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but insists upon showing me Dance A which means ‘yes’ and Dance B which means ‘no’. Who knows if she’ll still be doing these same things next year?

So my little free spirit, keep smiling!

 

Where there’s a will…and all that…

A couple of months back, at the beginning of 2016 to be exact, I posted how I wanted this year to be about me and my well-being. I had arrived at a point where I was a bit low on the dumps, I had stopped doing things I loved, and I honestly felt ten years older than my age.

So I promised myself that I would start introducing some changes to my life.

The most important was starting to exercise. Proper physical training which would make me swear and sweat and get in shape. Needing to stop to catch my breath after going up a flight of stairs was not okay anymore. I felt like a big blob of nothing, and I finally realised that I truly wanted to change.

So I started.

Nearly six months down the life, my early morning training session has become a part of my life. A very important part of my life. I’ve shed most of the weight gained after two pregnancies, and I can run during the exercises without feeling as if I’m dying. The big flabby parts of my body have finally started hardening up and looking a bit leaner. I’m loving the results, especially from the health aspect of it all. Getting your heart pumped up and sweating like a pig can only mean you’re doing it right.

Mentally, exercising is the best remedy. I have to say that I have found so much support from my better half, who recently admitted that he would have sworn good money that I would stop after a couple of days. I am more relaxed with him and the girls, and my sleeping patterns have improved so much.

And surprisingly enough, I found a great group of ladies who I now consider as good friends. We see each other at our worst really – early morning workouts with a sweaty face and frizzy hair is not the best of sights. But these ladies are real motivation. I do admit that they kept me going back, even when the exercise was sometimes too much for me to take. We now organise birthday dinners, we chat regularly and share some good laughs. I’ve met new people I never knew before, and got to better know others I previously just said ‘hi’ to.

If you’re thinking of starting to exercise or train, I’m telling you – don’t give up. I am no expert on the subject but I can tell you from my experience that unless you really REALLY want to change things, and unless you arrive at that point where you know things can’t get any worse, then it will not last. My turning point? Buying a pair tummy-tucking pants, and feeling like I was going to burst from other parts of my body. Always wearing big, flowing tops over trousers because I was so conscious of my waist. Being a size 8-10 when I got married and arriving at a point where a size 12 was starting to feel too tight. Being 35 years of age and feeling like 45.

So really, don’t give up. When you’re hitting rock-bottom, the only way is up. And if you’re lucky to find good friends to help you along the way, then even better 😉

Bear with me

I haven’t stopped writing due to lack of words. Just shortage of time.

I start a post in my head, but then life takes over and I only remember about my forgotten post when the girls fall asleep. It’s then postponed to the day after, which never ever arrives.

So many words, so little time.

Therefore today I chose to the let the girls run riot in our living room. They’re currently throwing soft toys at each other and I’m sure Bettina just spilt the glass of water I gave her, on the carpet (baby cups are not enough for her). But I’m staying here.

And allow me to say the following:

Children are exhausting.

I said that to someone today, and I received an arched-eyebrow look, followed by, “But the feeling they give you when they give you a hug is irreplaceable”.

Yes I know, I replied. But one can’t deny that children are tiring, expensive and noisy.

At that point the lady in question gave me a (very short) nod and changed the conversation, and I decided to shut my mouth, because any more words from me and I’d probably have been reported to the child protection unit for lacking in my maternal duties.

But be honest – children consume everything. Mine do at least. As much as I adore these two little munchkins, I have to admit that sometimes they’re nothing short of little monsters. They choose the worst moments to start a fight, they never seem to tire, and someone always is hungry at the very moment they’re put to bed, or dirty when we’re just going out.

I repeat the same words every single day, every single hour.

“Not now”, “Can you put your sister down please?”, “Your food is getting cold”, “Bettina, spit that coin out!”, “Cesca, where’s your sister?”, “Chocolate is not proper food”…I can go on and on.

By the time they eat, wash, change and put to bed, we the poor parents are exhausted. But then duties never stop, because then you have to read them a story-book, pick up the toys, tidy the living-room and hope you get a couple of minutes of quiet-time on the sofa and say a word or two to your partner before one of you falls asleep. Unless one of the girls has a nightmare, or insists that one book is not enough because it was a short story etc etc etc.

I sometimes start thinking of how much the girls cost us. Which I stop doing after a couple of quick calculations, because I start feeling guilty and panicky. Bad mummy moment, I guess.

I write this post after a crazy day at work, with two kids who have now thankfully been mesmerised by Nick Jnr, and a house which needs a good tidy-up. Is there any mother who has a tidy house, or is it just me? The laundry bins are always full and there’s always something on the floor. And when I stop and think for a moment that, “Oh, I seem to be on top of things at the moment”, I totally jinx it all. Everyone is suddenly hungry, fighting, crying, thirsty, dirty and only mama’ can fix everything.

Nowadays my idols are mothers. I see them, hear their stories, see them rush about, work and cope, and they give me hope that I can do this as well. I see fellow mummies with a toddler throwing a tantrum, and I give them what I hope is a look of solidarity and courage. We’ve all been there sister. We all try and emerge from the crazy moments in one whole piece. We have no choice really, but we manage. That’s why we rock.

I’ll stop writing this rant now, just in time to perhaps enjoy a minute or two or quiet before Wallykazam finishes.

All facts narrated are true ones. No children were harmed during the writing of this post. Despite their messy and loud nature, they’re still queens of the household. No need to call the police.

 

 

2016, here we go!

It (only) took me eight days to wish you a happy new 2016! With work, some travelling, Cesca having her Christmas holidays, some new teeth for Bettina and preparing for Christmas, life was pretty hectic, hence my absence.

We had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Tuscany, this time round going to Lucca, Montepulciano, Cortona, Montalcino and the picturesque Pienza! The scenes, food and wine were beyond great, and thankfully everything went well. There were some uncomfortable moments flying out to Italy with Bettina when we had to tie her in the plane seat with me and her seat-belt, but thankfully food won her over and proved to silence and quiet her for a couple of moments.

Everyone is settled back into their routine now. I started work again, as did A, Cesca is back to school and Bettina is back to staying with Nanna during the day. Also, our kitchen is functioning once again after a much-appreciated break. Since all our bodies were all craving some simple soups, I wasn’t in for that much work. However after three soup meals, we needed something more concrete than a liquid meal, so yesterday I tried out this recipe, choosing to leave out the rice and leave it a prawn and potato dish. I added some thyme, some substituted the fresh coriander with the dried bit, and it truly came out delicious! The best part is that it does not take up that much work and you can leave it cooking slowly whilst you do something else (in my case it was feeding the girls and tidying up the kitchen).

As for new year’s resolutions I haven’t done any really, knowing fully well that I always fail in keeping them for more than a couple of days. My only wish is that I take care of myself, physically and mentally, a bit better. So I will try to properly wash my face every other day, instead of using the lazy girl’s option for cleaning my face – make-up removal wipes. I am not going to use the word ‘diet’ because that never works. But I will try and be more away of what I consume and eat. And as hard as it is, I will start finding half an hour a day, at least a couple of times a week, to go out for a walk. My level of exercise is sadly zilch. To be honest, it is not something I can do anything about, because my day is fully packed and jammed between school, work, the house and cooking. I sometimes joke that I need to set in toilet breaks in my schedule. Which in all honest would not be a bad idea. But I will try and find thirty minutes, children-free and just get out and walk. The weather is really beautiful at the moment, and I do believe that nothing works for

a healthy mindset than getting out in the open and wander around. So this I will truly try and hold on to.

Is there something you’re holding yourself to do/not do in 2016? Yesterday I read that if you keep doing something regularly for thirty straight days, your mind sets it as a habit and you become accustomed to doing it. So I’m setting small goals so hopefully I’ll have small victories to celebrate.

So stay healthy and happy dear friends. Let’s hope 2016 will be a peaceful ones, for us, our family and friends.

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Cesca’s eyes speak volumes about the way she feels about her sister 🙂 

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No filter needed.

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I swear her clothes, her Dumbo and her hands managed to gather every speck of dirt Tuscany had to offer.

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A beautiful read. If you can translate it, I suggest you do so. Wise words!

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Cortona’s hot chocolate.

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It’s like we wind them up , and then zoom they’re off!!

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Chickpea soup never looked so good.

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My everything.

 

 

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She’s a lucky girl indeed.

Writing’s On The Wall

There is something terribly fascinating about James Bond and the 007 brand. Be it the image of the forever-dapper English gentleman, always clad in impeccable tailored suits, with models (literally) falling in his arms, and his constant shield of calm and cool, never dripping one speck of sweat, not even after he’s fought and beaten a whole army of villains. Whatever it is, I love it.

Yesterday, hubby and I went to see Spectre at the local cinema theatre. Coincidentally enough, the last film we went to see at a cinema together was Skyfall, and that was back in England. Wanting to see the latest Bond film was on top of our to-do list, but somehow life took over and we forgot about it. Till yesterday. In 45 minutes we managed to get ready, leave the children in the hands of their loving grandmothers, and catch the movie from the very beginning.

I like Daniel Craig. I love his build and features, his haughty look and confident walk. The majority of people I’ve talked to don’t agree with me. Most women mention Pierce Brosnan, someone whose charm I never saw or understood. It’s all about preferences. You can keep Pierce Brosnan. I’m just fine with Daniel Craig.

Spectre starts off in Mexico, and continues in Rome, Tangiers and of course, London. A James Bond is nothing without the exaggerated fights and the last-second miracle which always saves him and the woman accompanying him. Agent Q features again this time round, in a more important role than in Skyfall – something I’m not complaining about. And this time round Christoph Waltz is the 007 villain. I loved him in the Tarantino films, especially in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, and I did a small ‘yay-dance’ when I saw him this time round. Monica Bellucci doesn’t appear for as long as I thought she would, and instead we see more of Léa Seydoux. She gives this Bond film a feel of 1940s elegance, with her looks and outfits and way of moving.

Yes as with all James Bond films, I did enjoy this 007 film. They’re never meant to be award-wining films, but they’re meant to entertain you and watch it with a smile, because you know that whatever happens James Bond always ends up with the girl, the crease-free suit and the car.

 

Autumn Simples

I love the in-between seasons – spring and autumn are my all-time favourites. New seasons equals new foods, new recipes and new ideas. Autumn is particularly abundant in beautiful colourful foods, and the recipes are equally pleasant. I love this season because it means that the oven is no longer off-limits, and I can once again start baking.

With work and a family to take care of, I can not prepare complicated recipes. With Bettina now crawling all over the place and having just discovered the wonders the inside of a fridge has to offer, I have to be quick in the kitchen because otherwise it’s having her grab the insides of my knees and following me around, begging me to give her a piece of whatever I’m cooking. Girl loves her tummy.

So my recipes have to be quick, uncomplicated but as tasty as can be.

Through Facebook and several cooking groups, I’ve discovered several recipes which I have tried out and am so happy to share with you because they’re not fussy at all, and the result suggests otherwise.

I’m cooking this Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce every week now. I was promised a restaurant-like plate and I have to say, it is true! The oven-baking gives it a great effect, and if I have to suggest one small thing, it would be do use less sugar than said. I found the chicken to cook more tenderly with less sugar to caramelize the whole dish. You can add pineapple bits which I think fit in just perfectly! I added some jasmine rice cooked in cloves and cardamom seeds with some peas to give it some colour and it came out just right.. As always, it’s all about preferences 🙂

Pasta is always a winner in our house, and in fall I love the combination of pumpkin, sage and walnuts, or pancetta, mushrooms and herbs. I love combining the sweet with the salty, fruits with vegetables and meats. One pasta dish which is my fall-upon dish whenever I’m totally stuck is an easy plate pasta with red sauce, red wine, black olives, anchovies, some chili, raisins, and topped up with toasted breadcrumbs and pine nuts. Divine!

When I lived in England, I discovered a pork recipe which I love, if only for the sweet scent that fills up the kitchen whilst cooking it. I often hold myself back with the dates and apricots here, because it can come a bit too sweet for a dinner dish.  I’ve recently discovered a grain mix, just right to substitute rice – spelt, barley, durum wheat, rice and oats all come together for a great nutty taste, and it goes just right with this dish!

I can’t mention cooking with giving you a cake recipe. I found myself with extra apples the other day, and together with figs and walnuts I baked this cake, which is simply perfect for winter. The only problem I found with this cake was that I could not stop eating it. So be aware that this cake is seriously addictive. If you’re counting your calories, I don’t recommend this. You won’t be able to stick with one small piece.

So roll those sleeves and start cooking 😉

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Oven-Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken. Photo doesn’t do it justice, I promise!

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Apples, walnuts and brandied figs about to go in the cake mixture!