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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

step by step : lemon curd

So, you'd like to make lemon curd?  How very fortuitous* ~ I happen to have the recipe right here . . .

three (large) eggs
75g marg
100g sugar
125ml lemon juice (two or three lemons, depending on their juicy~ness.  Or juice from the shop ~ usually in a green bottle and marketed primarily for pancakes!)

This lemon curd is soft and tangy, especially if you're used to eating supermarket versions.  You can have it on hot crumpets for a snack, on toast for breakfast, in lemon curd tarts, or to sandwiching the two halves of a Victoria sponge cake together.  A friend of mine shared her favourite serving suggestion with me ~ you take the jar in one hand, and a spoon in the other.  You could substitute limes for the lemons, and have lime curd, or go with a mixture of the two.  (Shameful admission : the lime curd on the left in the picture at the top had a secret ingredient ~ green food colouring.  Without it it looks pretty much the same as the lemon curd.) The two half litre jars in the photo at the top aren't full to the brim but I've found making more doesn't mean it lasts any longer ~ I think when there's plenty in the jar people (in my house at least) use more generous amounts.  I'm sure there's research on that somewhere on this magnificent inter~web of ours. . .

Saturday, 23 February 2013

I don't know how you cope . . .



Once you’ve been on the ‘disabled child’ merry-go-round for a few years, you get to know what’s coming.  There are trails of thought  so familiar to every synapse within your skull they can work right through from beginning to end in an instant, depositing you firmly in the centre of the quicksand you've been struggling to escape for so long.  No way for you to intervene, nothing you can do to alter your course, no bargain to be made.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

I have a new toy ~ can you guess what it is?



Cat?  Nope.  Meg has been around for a while.


Dog?  Nope.  Eli is looking exceptionally smart though . . . 

Is that a clue?


Nope.


Petal?  Nope.  But she did have a haircut at the weekend too.


Don't run away!  Maybe you could help guess!


Can't be him ~ he's an interesting plaything, but hardly new ~ Mr Manley's been around even longer than the kids!  

Or is he looking for clues too?  That does look like a serious thinking face . . .


A bird?  A bird in a tree?


Just the tree?  A tree definitely isn't a toy . . .


. . . but there's another one . . .


Hmm.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

breaking the poo taboo


            
Personal care.  It's one of those euphemisms that separates individuals into groups, like a picky four year old carefully separating the very squashed baked beans from the slightly less squashed ones. 'Does she have . . . erm . . . you know . . . does she have personal care needs?' hesitantly whispered, as if using even this politically correct phraseology out loud could somehow run the risk of a big pile of poo landing on one's head without warning, in the style of luminous green slime on Noel's House Party circa 1995.

So let's get this out of the way.  Smiler is categorised as doubly incontinent, which means he has little or no control over his bladder or bowel.  So he wears nappies, except once you're talking too big to fit in baby nappies, they are referred to as 'pads' ~ another careful contrivance of language to normalise his needs perhaps.    After all, ordinary women use sanitary pads during their menstrual cycle, and after giving birth those extra large and super absorbent feels~as~if~you're~walking~with~a~mattress ~in~between~your~legs ones are called maternity pads.  Does the word 'pad' somehow confer more dignity than 'nappy', or are differences in language just that ~ non~agenda, non~judgemental, non~prejudicial differences?  Interestingly, I was involved with writing some school policies a couple of years ago, and was informed that for that purpose personal care referred to a child carrying out tasks such as washing their hands and dressing themselves, which in my mind are classified as self help skills.  What I would consider to be (possibly overly) politically correctly described as personal care tasks, such as changing a pad / nappy, were covered by the phrase intimate care.  In my mind the word intimate relates to adult relationships, which are very very separate to changing a child's nappy, or pad, or whatever equivalent word you choose! 

So, to settle on language that causes the least amount of discomfort  . . . not for me, I'm used to the practical shorthand of wee and poo, I'm thinking of you, reading this.  Should I go for urine and excrement, or bodily fluids and faeces?  To name the verbs involved ~ to urinate, to pass water, to tinkle, to spend a penny?  To defecate, to poop, to have a crap?  How about the technical medically and scientifically un~loaded to void the bladder and to open the bowels?

In relation to Smiler, continence was a long long way down on the list of barriers to overcome, we always prioritised communication over everything else, and as he grew and developed we genuinely didn't give much thought to toilet training.  It always seemed like such a wildly far~fetched idea, a pipe~dream, as achievable for Smiler as learning to water ~ ski.

I have a very clear memory of Mr Manley and I exchanging one~eyebrow~up type glances when an extended family member made the (we assume well ~intentioned) suggestion that we just throw out all the nappies and put him in pants, "he'll soon learn then".  This about a five year old child who could stand only if strapped by a thousand pieces of velcro into  a standing frame, and even then only for for a couple of minutes while being distracted by two adults enthusiastically jumping up and down in front of him, making silly faces and singing nursery rhymes, before the discomfort morphed into unbearable pain.  A five year old who would bite his forearms and hands and fingers creating bruises day by day, forming thick calluses week by week ~ later upon layer of extra skin put in place by his body, striving to protect the structures underneath.  He would have quite contentedly sat in a puddle of his own making for hours ~ it wouldn't have bothered him in the slightest.

Noah was out of nappies day and night by the time he was two and a half, Petal by the time she was two.  Why people felt it necessary to make these suggestions was a little beyond me ~ why would we have supported the two younger children but not Smiler?  If it was that straightforward, wouldn't we have done it?  Given the choice, I would rather not, with children in school years four, five, and six, still be putting baby wipes and nappy sacks and neutradol spray into the shopping trolley.  But I would also like to not need to park in an accessible parking space.  I would like to not be on first name terms with all the pharmacists in the local chemist (nothing personal peeps!).  I would like to not own a medical dictionary, or regularly read medical journals online.  You just don't always get the world the way you would like it to be.

            

The truth, as mysterious and unpalatable as people may find it, was that Smiler was simply not ready.  He  isn't constrained by the social nicities ~ he opens his bowels when his body needs to, and if that is in the lift of a shopping centre, with people packed in like sardines ~ well, that makes no difference to him.  Smiler would go bright red in the face with effort, all his features scrunched up, and finally, complete with loud and evocative sound effects, he would achieve his aim, let out a deep breathy sigh of relief, his focus once again on the book in his lap or smiling at the all the people in the lift.  Having put together the facial contortions, the sound effects and (risking offending your sensibilities here) the smell, no one was prepared to meet his gaze ~ they were experiencing an unfamiliar level of discomfort, and the sensation that they had somehow grossly intruded on Smiler's privacy.


There are some indications now that Smiler (at the grand old age of eleven) is starting to become a little more aware of what his body is up to.  He will, with enough support and encouragement, sit (for a short period) on the toilet, and has . . . ahem . . . (what was the phrasing we agreed on here?) . . . oh stuff it.  He has wee'ed and poo'ed on the toilet, but will tell us he has been when he hasn't; and times we know he has, he says he hasn't (that was a lot of he's and has's, but I'm going to assume you're following!).

Of all the foibles (love that word.  Foible.  Go on, use it today.  I dare you.  Great word) Smiler has on his list, his continence, or lack thereof, is one that seems to be more so much more of an issue for others than it is for him, or for us for that matter.  This is a concept that I plan to come back to soon, but for now, for anyone who made it this far, (congratulations!) have a think about the language you use . . . or don't use.  Tell me where you stand (but be sure to check where you're planting your feet), or use the comments box to shout poo with pride!  Go on, pretty please . . . break the poo taboo!

I have a new toy ~ can you guess what it is?

Cat?  Nope.  Meg has been around for a while.

Dog?  Nope.  Eli is looking exceptionally smart though . . . 

Is that a clue?


Nope.


Petal?  Nope.  But she did have a haircut at the weekend too.


Don't run away!  Maybe you could help guess!


Can't be him ~ he's an interesting plaything, but hardly new ~ Mr Manley's been around even longer than the kids!  

Or is he looking for clues too?  That does look like a serious thinking face . . .


A bird?  A bird in a tree?


Just the tree?  A tree definitely isn't a toy . . .


. . . but there's another one . . .


Hmm.  Any ideas?


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

spot the dog


Somewhere, in amongst the shoes and scarfs and torches and leads and wellies and mini rolling pin, there's a dog.
Does this look familiar to anyone else?  Anyone?  No?  Okay.  Just us.  Oh dear.

Apparently if Eli can't sit on our feet, he'll accept sitting on our empty shoes as a slightly paltry alternative.

{this post is part of laugh, casting a wry glance over family life in the abstract household and our day to day lives of chaos}


Monday, 11 February 2013

step by step : seriously chocolate~y brownies

So so yummy, and ( you may well have spotted a pattern by now) really really simple.  It's another one of those 'measure, mix and cook' ones!  Pictures first, so you know what you're aiming for, and the wordy version at the end.


Ingredients:

250g margarine/butter
500g sugar (granulated is fine)
100g cocoa powder
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
5 tbsp chopped mixed nuts (optional ~ if you don't like nuts in brownies, don't put them in!)


Turn your oven on to 180°c

* * * * *


* * * * * 



* * * * *
















wait for twenty minutes

What to do:
  1. Turn on the oven, 180°C.
  2. Put the marg in a saucepan, heat til it's melted, then add sugar and cocoa powder.  Continue heating gently and stir til the sugar is dissolved in the melted marg.  You will be able to see melted butter still, that's fine, as long as you can't see gritty bits of sugar in it.
  3. Take the saucepan off the heat, let it cool for a couple of minutes while you sort out a tin to use - line this with two layers of foil or some of this fantastic stuff
  4. Crack the eggs into the saucepan and beat in - this is why you have to let the mixture cool a bit, as otherwise the eggs will be cooked by the rest of the ingredients, so you'll have stringly bits of scrambled egg in there.  Yuck.
  5. Stir in the flour and (if you're using them) the choped nuts.
  6. Pour the lot into the tin or whatever you're using, and put it in the oven.
  7. Let it cook for about 20 minutes then check it.  The 'stick a squewer in' test won't help, so you'll have to base your judgement on something else.  Brownies are supposed to be kind of squidgy, so if you gently shake the tin you should see it wobble in the centre, but the edges should be fairly solid.  It will firm up as it cools, and undercooked tastes better than overcooked, as then it will be dry.
  8. Slice, eat, share, and sit back and wait for the compliments.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Manley. Mr Manley.



So, Mr Manley.  We've been together for ... um ... er ...well, since 1999, when we meet in Bristol.  I have him very well trained by now of course ~ washing up, cups of tea, remembering birthdays and the like!  He blames me for all the white hairs, but still puts up with everything I've thrown at him over the years.  And believe me when I say that is no inconsiderable feat.  He's not good at having photos taken though.  Really not good.


















I genuinely feel lucky to have found him, especially since we met so young.  We haven't had the smoothest of paths to walk together, but we've held hands throughout.  We can't not hold hands if we're walking together ~ we automatically reach for one another.  A bit sickening I've been told, but never mind.  Maybe because we've had eleven years of pushing pushchairs and wheelchairs and holding tiny toddler hands ~ perhaps we're still a novelty for one another!

He makes me laugh, and sometimes I think he knows me better than I do.  He's much more relaxed about things than I am, and has endless reserves of patience.  Where I get stressed about the details and the potential outcomes, Mr Manley is one of those 'so laid back he's almost horizontal' folk.  By the way, am I the worst person in the world to be irritated by this?  While I like to know all the things that might possibly go wrong, what the implications might be, it's hugely frustrating to be next to someone who is completely relaxed and calm!  Sorry, off on a tangent.  Maybe it works because we are quite different, maybe between the two of us we manage to get through most things.

He's my best friend, my lover, the father of my children, and the person I want to be when I grow up.  He's mine, and I'm his.