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 😉

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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.

 

 

Stick To Your Guns

I wanted to make 2016 a different year. For as long as I can remember January was always the time when I made resolutions I knew I would never keep. It’s always been the usual resolutions – losing weight, start saving more, stop buying unnecessary items etc. This year I was dead-set upon one thing. I wanted to focus more on me.

I was going to be my own priority.

Nearly two months into the new year, I am thrilled to have stuck to my guns. I have started and continued new rituals which are helping me in more ways than one. I have stopped finding and using silly excuses to get out of doing something which may not be that easy.

I have started training. Yes, me, training. Bar a couple of years doing aerobics, I have never consistently trained in my life. My body had become one big mass of laziness. I was 35 years old and I was struggling to walk uphill. I knew something had to change when mornings had become my own personal hell, with nothing fitting me well and everything straining to contain the whole of me.

Then, six weeks ago, with the help of an awesome friend, we both started training. We are each other’s rock and help, and we now do what we never thought we could even start. We wake up at an ungodly hour yes, but we manage to spend a whole hour sweating our arses off. And finally, after six hard weeks, my body is starting to change. My tight trousers are now a little loose, and my mummy-tummy (16 months after giving birth) has finally started to go in, without me straining to hold my breath in to contain the whole of me. But more than the physical aspect of it all is perhaps the realization that we are truly helping our body change for the better. With the help of our trainer and the beautiful ladies who attend training with us, I have come to realize how pathetic the excuses I would say to myself really were. I used to complain with not finding time to work on myself, but I now know that it was just an excuse to not wake up early. We all have time to do what we want or what needs to be done. We just need to find it and use it. Nowadays my days start earlier, but the positive outlook the rest of the days have is truly amazing. My days are more productive and strangely enough, I am more recharged and ready to go. Only now can I really understand the difference exercise makes to our mental health. For that alone, waking up early is worth it.

I’ve also started trying to stick to small rituals which might seem insignificant to some, but to me it means a world of difference. I go to yoga every other week, I have made it my own personal mission to properly cleanse, tone and moisturize my face every day. I’ve invested in some products which help me take care of the physical me. My nails are getting done regularly now, and I had some inches cut from my hair which have made me feel lighter and younger.

One other thing I’m trying to do is to stop being a people-pleaser. I am trying to do what I like and enjoy doing, and I try to stop myself from going out of my way to please others who I know aren’t appreciative of the fact. God knows how many times I’ve said yes to people, only to have that fact gone by without a single thank-you or an inch of gratitude. So nowadays, I don’t respond ‘yes’ immediately. I still struggle yes, but I pause and think about whether I really want to do that particular thing or not.

Coming to think of it, we spend so much time focusing on others – be them parents, children, spouses, friends. Is it so bad to want to be a bit selfish in your behaviour and just please no one but yourself?

 

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.

Straight Out

Perhaps many of you know by now that my eldest daughter is the outspoken one. She is the one who knows no boundaries when it comes to social skills. Whatever one thinks and keeps in for himself (for fear of fighting with the whole island), she says out loud and clear. For this reason she is perceived as arrogant and sometimes rude. I disagree because I know that what she says isn’t meant with maliciousness or bad intent. For her what is white is white, and she will tell you it’s white, and she wants to be assured that you heard her telling you it’s white. As you can see it’s not just her stating the obvious in a blunt manner. It’s also making sure that her audience has heard and understood her. It is perhaps more the latter which makes us, her poor and silent sufferers, cringe and constantly apologize to people who either don’t know her, or perhaps more correctly, are not used to having children around. Mothers understand me when I tell them about this trait of hers. I have had some of my friends nod in embarrassed understanding. I have been told not to make a big deal out of it in front of her, and I do try to. I really try. But sometimes, in certain situations, I have snapped at her, I have apologized to people and I have become so red in the face I thought I’d actually, physically burst.

Cesca’s latest question, to anyone who looks a bit different to her in her books, is “Are you a boy or a girl?” She has asked it to men with long hair and women with short hair. She accompanies the question with a pointed finger to ensure that the recipient of her question hears her and answers her. For she does not budge before she gets an answer. And when it’s one she doesn’t agree with, she will go on. “But you have long/short hair?” If you know me or my husband you may understand how we react…

She has starting catching on any physical features which are not right in her books, and asking about them too. She has asked people why they have thin eyebrows, why their boobies are so big (“they’re huge mama’!!”) and why the boys at her school use the toilet standing up when she has to sit down. She once mentioned the words “elephant trunks” when discussing the latter, but thankfully (very much thankfully, eternally grateful and much obliged) she never again talked about it.

On one of the very few instances I let the television on E! Entertainment and a trailer for the new Caitlyn Jenner programme came on, Cesca came running to me, dragged me in front of the television set and asked me why that lady was talking in a man’s voice. “She had the flu and probably lost her voice with all the coughing”. She stared at me and back at Caitlyn, and that awkward moment passed to. I have never ever switched to E! in her presence ever again.

At the beginning of this scholastic year, she wanted to know all about babies. “How did Bettina get into your tummy mama’?”, “How did she get out of your tummy?”, “What instruments did the doctor use to get her out of your tummy?” I have to admit that these are questions I never expected from a 4-year old. I found myself at great difficulty trying to explain things to her without properly explaining them (I’m sure you get my drift), and not lying at the same time. Somehow she was satisfied with the short answers I gave her, and that uncomfortable chapter is closed. For now at least.

During a recent school holiday we went to Malta for the day and in a restaurant we went to she struck up a conversation with the waitress, a young girl of around 20 who unfortunately for her, was wearing a neon-orange top. Cesca had to ask her why she had chosen ‘such an ugly top’ to wear. The waitress told her, “You don’t like it? But why?”

“I don’t like that colour. It isn’t a very nice orange. I think you should go and change”.

“Oh, you want me to go change it?”

“Yes, I think that would be best”. (Her exact words).

The waitress looked at her, at my mum and myself (at that moment we were red on the verge of turning purple), and told us “Ommi ma, xi hlew ta’ tifla!” (Oh my, what a cute little girl!”) Better than being told off I guess.

Her latest fascination – poop. Poop and colours to be precise. She is now preaching to us her faithful audience, how snowman’s poop is white, Santa’s is red and the Minions poop blue poop. So now you know too.

These moments are (unfortunately) very frequent. Nearly daily to be precise. But as much as I sometimes foresee and dread certain situations, I would not change them for anything in the world. Cesca has a particular character, for as much as she is outspoken, appears confident and strides on without any fear, she is a true soft girl at heart. She is sensitive and kind, and these features are sometimes hidden by her blunt nature. She is the girl who can keep you entertained for hours at end, and you perhaps won’t want her near you when suffering from a headache, but I promise she will make you smile and laugh with her words. She is my own personal radio station. She tells me everything about school, who wore what, how their hair was, what they had for lunch, who wore a jacket, what coloured chair they all sat on – and I have no reason to doubt her word. Her most adorable feature is perhaps her relationship with her sister. They do fight don’t get me wrong. I do sometimes catch her pushing Bettina out of the way of her toys or telling her to go away. But I don’t worry too much about Bettina because she is our little warrior, always striding onwards and onwards, fearing very little on the way. When they start playing together, giggling together, chasing each other and laughing at something one of them does, I feel like freezing that moment and holding onto it forever. Time passes too quickly with them.

So if you’re ever one of Cesca’s recipients for certain comments, please just go with the flow. We don’t teach her to point out certain things, to talk about them, ask them and question them, but she is who she is. It is just her curiosity talking out loud. She might point out at you in the middle of the road and loudly say that you’re following us and she might ask you why you are wearing those funny shoes, and for this I apologize. Half my time with her involves apologizing to strangers. I’m trying to teach her not to be too outright and blunt when talking to strangers, but it’s proving to be a long and hard lesson. In the meantime, we are being very patient, much embarrassed and constantly apologizing. But that’s parenthood for you 🙂

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!