Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Ovarian Pangs... What is it like to have three kids?

Is three the magic number? 

Do you have three kids? What is it like...?

Everybody is preggers! Well not everyone but something is clearly in the air and people around me are announcing that they will be expecting the pitter patter of tiny feet in a few months.

My ovaries have noted this and have acted accordingly, punching me repeatedly.

My ovaries have chosen only to remember the new baby euphoria (and smell - not dissimilar to buying a new car) and not the exhaustion, the constant feeding and worry that comes with having new babies. It has been happening quite frequently. Every time I see a baby, something in my gut goes awwwww... I know I'm only having that moment most women will experience when they realise that they will have no more children than they have already. Given that this hormonal/emotional craziness is happening now that Miss B is nearly three and a half years old and declared today during her second session at preschool that I was no longer needed and could go home, I now realise that this must be why other people (more normal people than I) have three year gaps between children!


I must keep myself occupied! I had a five year plan that was derailed by my PND and I'm struggling to get back on track. I'm trying really hard to formulate a new plan and to push myself in that direction but I suppose it's natural to wonder what a slight diversion would do to this plan. Would it derail us completely? Would it make us stationary? What IS with the all the railway metaphors?

From my own experience, I am one of two and I see how our relationship works and doesn't based on this number. OD is one of three and the middle child so probably the wrong person to ask about things coming in threes. Given A's autism we knew that we were taking a gamble having B. This would change if I had any more kids and we would be going through that period of uncertainty again and it was hard enough this time around

People often ask if we're having anymore and I give a nervous laugh. There are few decisions in life that can make even the strongest woman flip-flop like a fish out of water. But ask one if she's totally done having children and, more often than not, you'll get a complicated answer filled with contradiction and confusion.

I suppose rather than running around in circles rationalising things by myself, I'll throw this out to those parents out there with three kids. Is it true? Is three the magic number? 


I should make it clear that I'm not asking for advice on what to do. We've made our decision to have NO MORE KIDS but hormones and general nosiness make me wonder what it would be like. I only know of one other couple who have two kids, the rest have three or more. There must be something in it, I guess. So did you plan three or was your original plan infinite? Was having had enough at three, the decider?




Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Edinburgh's Hard Rock Cafe - The Legendary Burger


What a fabulous Easter break that was!

Apologies for the radio silence but the kids and I were keen to pack as much into the two week break as we could.

Once of the highlights of our break was being invited along to Edinburgh's own Hard Rock Cafe to test out their new Legendary Burger.



We have fond memories of the Hard Rock Cafe as it has always been one of A's favourite places to eat in Edinburgh due to the atmosphere and portion sizes. As a family music fans, the memorabilia that adorns the walls has always been an attraction to the whole family and A has his favourite table that is overlooked by memorabilia from his favourite band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 


                                                  A at the Hard Rock Cafe Edinburgh aged 7

The kids were immediately excited by the atmosphere in the restaurant and after we were shown to our table, A went on a hunt to see the memorabilia and Boo settled down to draw on her activity pack that our waiter supplied us with. 



The staff were phenomenal and receptive to the children, in a town or rather, a country that is not often hospitable towards pint-sized diners. Our waiter managed to talk A into ordering a mocktail and Boo ordered from a very varied children's menu for lil' rockers. She decided to go with the "Boo-sized version" of their burger. 


                                               A at the Hard Rock Cafe aged 14 having a mocktail

We ordered the local Legendary burger. Although there are many Hard Rock Cafes worldwide, each is unique, getting involved in their community and using local produce. Check out their Facebook page for events in Edinburgh. Each Hard Rock Cafe’s Legendary Burger menu features a local specialty, with ingredients reflecting local culinary flavours and foods, as well as showcasing a fantastic line up of mouth-watering ingredients.

Being Scotland our Local Legendary Haggis Burger combines a slice of Haggis smothered in melted Mull Cheddar cheese, served with Whisky Maple mustard glaze and deep fried turnip frazzles. 

What a size! A, of course being a growing lad ordered extra bacon on top of his burger. We consider ourselves burger conoseussieers and the kids love my homemade burgers so we dove right in. 

The burger was delicious, the combination of the sauce, haggis and neeps worked really well and the 10oz burger was well seasoned and tasty. A ate every single bite and said it was the best burger he had ever tasted (much to my bruised ego's dismay). But I have to agree with him on this occasion and he already has me looking at my diary for a return visit.

                                                                 "Umm..."

                                                                     "Yum!"

We couldn't fault the service and both myself and the kids felt at ease. We would definitely visit again and recommend this branch to our friends and family.





From Friday 1 March until mid-April 2013, all customers to Hard Rock Cafe London, Manchester or Edinburgh who order a Legendary Burger and nominated local beer will get the chance to enter a raffle to win a phenomenal trip for two to a Hard Rock Cafe in Europe. Also up for grabs is an amazing 100 meals for two at Hard Rock Cafes worldwide. Prizes available at Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Florence, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Manchester, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome or Venice. Conditions apply, please visit www.hardrock.com for details.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Budget 2013

*Deep breath. The Budget has just been announced. 



The Government has just announced a new Childcare subsidy. Unfortunately, for people like myself, trying to get back into work but the rising costs of childcare causing a barrier, this scheme doesn't kick in until 2015 and will take a year or so to reach school age children. 


These tax-free childcare vouchers, worth £1,200 per child, will be on offer, along with increased support for families with children on universal credit. From the autumn of 2015, working parents will be able to claim vouchers to subsidise the cost of childcare for every child under five. Parents earning up to £150,000 will be able to claim back up to £1,200 of childcare costs a year. The byline for this measure on Tuesday is that the Government are paying for 20% of your childcare but in reality by 2015, this 1,200 will not reflect anything near 20%. 

This move seems to reflect the governments inconsistent approach to supporting families in the face of last year's measures. Why to stop Child Benefit for families where one earner who earns over £50,000 per annum are no longer eligible to claim Child Benefit when families with a combined income of up to 150,000 can claim tax free childcare?

Also for low income families affected by the change in benefits to the Universal Credit means that any measures to help with childcare are effectively cancelling each other out. The most benefit felt from these measures will be directed at the 'aspirational' lot while those on the lowest incomes suffer. Those at the top and those at the bottom are the hardest hit again even according to the Governments own assessment on impact

This diagram by the Joseph Rowantree Foundation shows the changes and their effects:

Copyright JRF


The rest of the key points of Chancellor George Osborne's Budget.

FUEL, ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES

September's 3p fuel duty rise scrapped
April's 3p rise in beer duty scrapped. Instead, beer duty to be cut by 1p
Annual inflation +2% rise in beer duty to be ended but "duty escalator" to remain in place for wine, cider and spirits
Cigarette duties unchanged - continuing to rise by inflation +5%

INCOME TAX
Limit at which people start paying tax to be raised to £10,000 in 2014 - a year earlier than planned

HOUSING
Shared equity schemes extended, with interest-free loans for homebuyers up to 20% of value of new-build properties
Bank guarantees to underpin £130bn of new mortgage lending for three years from 2014

STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Growth forecast for 2013 halved to 0.6% from 1.2% in December
Office for Budget Responsibility watchdog predicts UK will escape recession this year
Growth predicted to be 1.8% in 2014; 2.3% in 2015; 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017.

BORROWING
Borrowing of £114bn this year, up from previous £108bn forecast
Borrowing set to fall to £108bn, £97bn and £87bn, £61bn and £42bn in subsequent years
Borrowing as share of GDP to fall from 7.4% in 2013-14 to 5% in 2015-16
Debt as a share of GDP to increase from 75.9% in 2012-13 to 85.6% in 2016-17

SPENDING AND PAY
Most government departments to see budgets cut by 1% in each of next two years
Schools and NHS will be protected
£11.5bn in further cuts earmarked in 2015-16 Spending Review, up from £10bn
1% cap on public sector pay extended to 2015-16 and limits on "progression" pay rises in the sector
Military to be exempt from "progression" pay limits.
Proceeds of Libor banking fines to be given to good military causes, including Combat Stress charity

JOBS
600,000 more jobs expected this year than at same time last year
Claimant count to fall by 60,000

TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE

HELP FOR BUSINESS
Corporation tax to be cut by 1% to 20% in 2015
New employment allowance to cut National Insurance bills cut by £2,000 for every firm
450,000 small firms will pay no employer National Insurance
Government procurement from small firms to rise fivefold
Tax relief for investment in social enterprises
Stamp duty axed on shares traded on growth markets like Aim.
Tax avoidance and evasion measures, including agreements with Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, aimed at recouping £3bn in unpaid taxes

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Tax incentives for ultra low-emission cars
Pottery industry in Midlands to be exempt from climate change levy
Tax allowances for investment in shale gas

INFLATION
2% Bank of England inflation target to stay in place
Bank remit to be changed to focus on growth as well as inflation

PENSIONERS
Single flat-rate pension of £144 a week brought forward a year to 2016
Cap on social care costs confirmed

FAMILIES
20% tax relief on childcare up to £6,000 per child from 2015
£5,000 payments for those who lost money on Equitable Life policies bought before 1992. Extra money for those on low incomes



For a full view of the Budget see here.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Boys will be Boys? Well...Women will be Women!

Cue time for another post of the politics of blogging. Oh well, it has been a while...

I attempted a while ago to break into parent blogging networking with disastrous consequences. My face didn't fit and all attempts at communication were ignored. I didn't really put a serious amount of effort into this so I wasn't gutted when my attempts elicited little reaction. I tried to reach out to find way to promote my blog and was barked at by so-called experienced parent bloggers. My questions were derided by one high priestess of bloggers and so I couldn't be bothered pursuing it. My questions weren't banal nor stupid but genuine, I'm not exactly as thick as mince as we say here in the North. I wasn't kissing someone else's feet for information that if I spend half an hour on Google, I could work out for myself. This post in no way reflects sour grapes regarding my experience but a general dismay and musing at the unsurprising (gendered) politics that have invaded and taken over the blogging experience for some.



My readership is wide and features people from all walks of life and I like it that way. My blog is read by cooks, by academics, by parents, by my parents, in laws, friends and writers. This mix makes comments and feedback a challenge which apparently helps to bump up your stats, but I'm not that bothered. I don't bother manipulating a post so that it requires comment. I don't really write constant developmental posts and posts about all of the cute things that Miss B and A do. I would never be off of the computer and would miss all of the things that they do as a consequence. I can take or leave my blog sometimes and don't stress about lacking the inspiration needed to write. As I watch others go through all of this stress over boosting stats and getting free stuff, I ask can they really be enjoying their blogging experience? It looks so stressful worrying about all of this peripheral stuff. I occasionally pimp my blog but see blogs with huge readerships implode as the pressure to post becomes too much, too time consuming.

Despite my half-arsed approach to blogging, this my numbers keep rising and falling and I meet new bloggers all of the time. I am happy and proud of my blog. I am zen about my blogging experience but have discovered that a blogging war has been going on in the background.

Maternal mafias have sprung up all over the internet. A kind of Calabrian vs Sicilian factional war. Ruling one network or another and making the lives of other bloggers unpleasant. For the uninitiated I'll give you a quick run down of the various networks.

There is:
BritMums
Netmums Bloggers Network
Parent Bloggers
BloggerEd
Mumsnet Blogging Network
Twitter
Facebook
Bebo
(I'm sure there are others but you get the point)

So what you (the blogger) do is once you have created your blog, you enroll it on one or all of these networks. Now given the number of networks it may come as no surprise that it takes a HUGE amount of time and energy pimping out your blog on these networks. Creating contacts, bonding with other like-minded bloggers. The amount of time this takes (I don't do it but occasionally trawl through the days events when the kids are in bed) leaves me wondering when do these parent bloggers get time to blog or in fact, parent the kids that they are writing about? This is not a slight, just a general wondering about how these women manage this. I barely have time to blog and I'm not working outwith the house at the moment and I only have two kids. Answers below if you are one of these fantastically multi-tasking women.

Rather depressingly, these networks have bloomed and now because there are so many of them, you get groups of women using whichever one suits them best. From this activity you get cliques. Cliques who decide who is worthy and who is not, crowding round anyone who has an alternative opinion to them. One of them attacks another saying something about their parenting skills or opinions and then a whole crowd come out of the woodwork, reciting "yeah, that's what we think too!" until said blogger is pushed out of the network or banned altogether. There is a general muttering amongst those who have found this activity distressing that have suggested forming new network, creating new cliques because they didn't fit into another one. You can see the vicious circle happening...

I find this depressing because it's such a stereotypical gendered activity. If we were men, we'd all be punching each other and then having a pint afterwards but no, words are exchanged cutting deep and wounding the reputation and pride of others. Why is it in our natures to behave like this? There should be a modicum of solidarity  Although I have tried to keep my blog genre neutral, I am a parent and it is what I post about the most. We're all parents, grandparents, step-parents and we all have aspirations, goals and dreams. To steal the words of a cruel and unusual dictator "we are all in this together", however insincere his words were. I have watched this crap happen online and in real life and it depresses me. Some women are horrid, nasty creatures who keep a lid on things until they pick a moment to unleash their nastiness. It may have nothing to do with you but you might walk into the firing line of their frustrated, angry existence and so kablam! You get it.


We are all women are we are all mothers and this aspect of womanhood should be celebrated. It’s obvious that gender equality is still misunderstood by many, including women. Gender equality doesn’t give women the right to male-bash and womens’ rights is no more a man’s responsibility as it is a woman’s responsibility to propagate. Equality isn’t just about being equally good, it can also be about how both sexes are equally flawed. This aspect of celebrating womanhood intrigues me more.

I love being a woman. I celebrate it when I look at my children and I am continually in awe that my little, knackered body has produced these two wonderful things. This is what makes women special. Nevertheless, I myself know that women aren’t always united. I come from a family of strong women and they fight more than I like. I suppose it’s nature for us lionesses to fight, to compete, to be wary of all others and to circle our prey before a vicious attack. But perhaps we should strive to be more. 
It is most important that this support comes from within not only when necessary but in case it ever becomes necessary. Women are natural nurturers and protectors. Under what circumstances do these instincts diminish?

Is there really no way of avoiding this behaviour? What do you think?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New Year, New Me and Benefit UK Product Launch Fine One One at Edinburgh's Hard Rock Cafe

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited along to the exclusive launch of a brand new Benefit product, Fine One One at Edinburgh's Hard Rock Cafe.

What a great night we had!

The Benefit gals were so welcoming and the Hard Rock team headed up by Lesley were very very hospitable. No sooner had I taken my snow drenched coat off than I had a delicious raspberry French Martini in my hand, mixed by one of the Cafe's dedicated mixologists.




I was most interested to learn that Benefit have opened up a brand new Brow Bar in Edinburgh inside John Lewis. I love their Brow Bars but had previously only visited my nearest one in Glasgow.

We were given a tutorial on how to obtain the perfect brows (yes, I was hiding my slightly sparse and misshapen ones under my emo fringe and had extreme brow envy) and was convinced that my next visit needs to be here.

I have been a huge fan of Benefit products since they first came to the UK. As I have eczema I cant wear make up often. Most brands either dry my skin out or irritate it. Not Benefit! Over a decade ago I became a convert and every member of my family knows where to look for gifts for me on birthdays, Christmases and for the occasional treat.


After our host Lesley had been treated to the full Benefit Brow treatment, she talked to us about the Hard Rock Cafe. As a family we have been coming to the Hard Rock for years as it was A's favourite place to eat for a long time. Our love of music, guitars and Americana make it a great setting to eat. We balanced out our martini's with delicious mini burgers, spun sugar brownies and key lime pie. All of which was delicious and I know where I am hosting my next social event...


After this the new product was unveiled, Fine One One and I love it! Benefit make the best products ever and this is no exception. It is a sheer brightening cheek and lip colour that give you an instant shape, pop and lift. The product can be used to achieve a natural look to a more dramatic one. We were very lucky to be allowed to see this ahead of its London launch tomorrow and were gifted one each at the end of the night.


It was great to meet everyone involved, not only the great staff at the Hard Rock and Benefit but a whole hosts of other bloggers from Glasgow and Edinburgh. I had forgotten how fun networking could be and it was great to hear everyone's interests, angles and inspirations.


I think it's time to come back to blogging and will be revitalising the blog over the next week or so and catching up with you all.

I'm back and now with highlighted cheek bones...


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