Friday, 30 May 2014

Just Be Good

My sister has a blog, 'Geraldine Jayne' which I absolutely love. She blogs about her experiences, through her eyes as a Christian. So the fact that I am not religious in any way (in fact I love my science and nature programs about evolution), you'd think it would surprise me that I love her blog so much. But it doesn't, because her posts have a theme - a theme I feel strongly about - and that is growing 'spiritually'; learning how to better yourself, showing compassion for others and focusing on the positivity of things. I literally get excited when I see she has just posted on her blog - I sometimes even save it until I can't resist a good read!

I love our chats, too. We don't push our beliefs on each other, however we do share them and often agree, replacing words like 'ego' with 'flesh' and 'Mother Nature' with 'God'. There is a quote from my favorite show of Ricky Gervais', 'Derek', that reminds me of our relationship:
"I've met people who believe in God that are good and that are bad. And I've met people who don't believe in God that are good and that are bad. So, just be good. I'm good. Not cos I think I'll go to heaven but because when I do something bad, I feel bad. And when I do something good, I feel good."

And that's it for this post... so for now, just be good :-)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Getting the Best Out of a Situation

I have a wonderful friend, who is one of- no, let's say 'the most', balanced person I have ever known. She embraces everything that life throws at her, and with a smile on her face (a cheeky-up-to-mischief grin actually). I could not put a price on the advice she gives, it's invaluable to me.

When I've found myself stressing over a particular problem, there has been one phrase that she has said to me (on more than one occasion), and that is; "Realistically, what do you want to come of this situation and how can you best achieve it?". I've been thinking back to this phrase a lot recently... in fact it can be applied regularly each day. It seems too simple, but it does a few things for me. Firstly, it makes me pause to think, before letting my ego control a situation. Secondly, it changes my mentality from idly complaining, to getting proactive and making changes to make my life happier. Thirdly, the "how can you best achieve it?" part forces me to really try to understand another's viewpoint.

With each time I have asked myself these questions, I feel my understanding of others comes about more quickly (it's amazing how this makes your feelings of irritation just melt away!). This doesn't necessarily mean I agree with them, and that's ok, but that I can at least be more willing to see their point of view. Once I have put myself in the other person's shoes, I find it enables me to think up more realistic compromises. After all, It would be extremely narrow-minded to assume we could alter another's viewpoint to match ours, so we should never aim to 'win'. Eg, in an argument.

A quote from Steve Pavlina:
"In a typical argument, each person tries to prove themselves right and the other person wrong. Of course, we all know what happens in the end — each person only ends up more entrenched in their views, regardless of who seems to deliver the most dominant argument. An argument cannot be won with resistance. You will only strengthen the other person’s resolve. At best you will both leave in a state of stubbornness, but little communication will have actually occurred."

 Once I have a good compromise in mind, I then have a think of the personality of the person in question. For example, politely and quietly informing a boot camp sergeant that it upset you a bit when he called you 'weak' will likely have little to no effect whatsoever. By the same token, shouting at a timid individual will probably have too strong an impact on them.

My wonderful husband is a cheeky, lovable so-and-so. A few years ago, it really irked me that although we both worked full-time, it was me that did the vast majority of housework. I desperately wanted to change this, but how? I tried a rota. Of course he found loop-holes, as he did in any agreement of this sort. On the rare occasion that he carried out a chore, it wasn't quite up to standard (he lacked the no-need-to-iron-this-shirt-if-I-hang-it-out-properly skill). So what did I want to come of this situation? Reward or appreciation of what I do would be nice, at least some kind of balance, in a clean home. Realistically? He simply wasn't as driven as I was, he just wasn't bothered, so I couldn't expect him to do a great job, especially frequently. And anyway did I really trust him with the delicate clothing items? Honestly? If him doing laundry made more ironing work for me, I'd rather it not be done by him at all. Hmm, did he fake a bad job? I had to play him at his own dirty (excuse the pun) game.

Now I do all the laundry. That was the compromise. BUT... If he rolls up his dirty socks before throwing them in the laundry basket (I hate that!), they get put back in his drawer and, my favorite bit coming up right here... If he doesn't empty the pockets of the clothes he wants to be cleaned, I reward myself with their contents. That's my housekeeping money (and cotton buds!-ew). But here's the really dirty bit... If he's had a heavy session one evening, his dirty clothes will get a little strewn across the apartment. So early the next morning "Do you want these washed darling?" (I know his answer will be yes) and there's the housekeeping bonus! I'm sure most husbands would avoid any conversation with their wives regarding how much they spent on alcohol the night before, so both parties will keep quiet, the poor (another pun, sorry!) husband too afraid to ask how much, if any, money was left. Luckily for me, as my husband's friends will agree, he often (somehow!) comes home with more than he went out with!!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Baby on a Pedestal

Recently, my baby has started to cry when he is being handed over to others who want to hold him. At first my head told me 'he should get used to it' and I'd let him cry with the 'stranger' for a minute or 2, going against my heart's wishes of holding him close to me while I reassure him. Well that idea didn't last long and I started to have a little think about things.

Having a baby with you seems to give genuine strangers a license to make a bee-line for you and interrupt your current conversation with a friend so they can interact with you and your baby. I'm learning to be more open with folks like this as I know they do this with a fondness for children (although I still get an automatic response of feeling rather irritated by their lack of regard for my or my baby's personal space).

If I had little control over my body and I was still in the survival mode that I believe babies are in, during their first stage of life on the outside, I too would probably be horrified if I was taken away from my protector/s. In fact, force me into a room now, with someone I don't know and you're putting me into an extremely uncomfortable position. Get me to embrace them? Haha, my inner hippy wants me to say yes but being honest I'm too reserved for it to be genuine. Cringe.

I've come to realise that many of us expect quite a lot from babies. In fact I bet some mothers have been made to feel awful, that they have 'created' this whingy 4 month old, by lack of socialization. Not me, thankfully as I have caring people around me and anyone who would attempt to imply this to me wouldn't get taken notice of anyway, but I do hope these other mothers gain the confidence they need to take no notice and keep doing their thing.

Having had little to no experience with babies in the past, I tend to think "how would I feel if I was him?" regarding my baby in certain situations. One of these situations I include here is when he is tired. I think, 'ok, no noises too loud, although some noise is good... erm, let's see... not too much "in your face" stimulation, certainly no intense playing of any kind'. This has worked well for me so far. Something that surprises me then, is the behaviour of the other mothers or grandmothers who I don't know that come up to me. For example, if I say "Oh he's tired at the moment" suddenly a big grin and an "Oh! You're tired little one are you? Oh! Lovely! La la la la goo goo gaa!" aaand cue the discomforted noises of my little one. Sometimes I've even had "oh let's have a cuddle then if he's tired!". So what I would like to know is, what is your experience? Is this what worked for them when their babies were tired? Or do they just want to be close to this baby knowing that they don't have to handle the consequences of an irritable baby? It's only strangers that do this, so perhaps there's also an element of them getting the most out of this (likely only a) one-off event. Maybe it's been that long that they've forgotten? Unless they are simply just not thinking at all?

For now I'll give these folk a break and embrace (ha!) their friendliness. And to all the mothers out there; give yourself and your baby and break and just keep doing your thing. Let's stop expecting too much from our little ones, after all it's a pretty dangerous image; a baby on a pedestal.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Busy Mum's Cupcakes ('Lazy Cakes')

Having simple go-to recipes doesn't only make my life easier, but I like to think that one day when the little lad is a little older, a fun and fuss-free recipe will encourage him in the kitchen by boosting his confidence. I already have a really cute apron for him, waiting to get messy!

I test recipes and when they are both tasty and mega easy, I jot them down in my little blue book. In this book is a quick and easy vanilla cupcake sponge that I'm sharing with you today! There is also a simple buttercream frosting, but I still struggle to spread it on the cakes nicely, so I recommend Nutella, Peanut Butter, or even Jam, but I'll include the frosting recipe at the bottom of this post anyway.

This sponge recipe is so easy, there's no careful folding with a metal spoon or being careful not to curdle the mixture, you literally just whisk all the ingredients together!:

90g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
2 eggs
150g (1 cup) self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius. Whisk all ingredients together, divide among 12 cake cases and bake for 20 minutes!

If you want a little something extra than simple vanilla sponge cakes, add any one of the following!
     > Chocolate: 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk
     > Rainbow Speckles:  3 tablespoons of Hundreds 'n' Thousands sprinkles
     > Chocco Speckles: 3 tablespoons of chocolate sprinkles
     > Lemon: 3 tablespoons lemon zest
     > Orange: 3 tablespoons orange zest
     > Lime: 3 tablespoons lime zest
     > Coffee: 1 teaspoon coffee extract (or mix a tablespoon of coffee granules with
         a little water)
     > Passionfruit: replace the 2 tablespoons milk with 60ml passionfruit pulp
     > Cherrie: 100g sliced glacĂ© cherries

Here's the yummy frosting that I struggle to decorate the cakes with.
Beat all ingredients together and try to spread on the cakes:

125g butter, softened
240g (1 & 1/2 cups) icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk

Happy baking!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Procrastination & Unnecessary Worry

I procrastinate. I'm currently trying to change this statement to 'I used to procrastinate' (oh the irony). The fact is, I like to be laid back with things. A bit too laid back according to others, and the law. My husband used to take care of things like banking/insurance/bills but as he works away now I'm going through the process of organizing everything to change this and become familiar with these 'mundane' (but highly important) tasks myself.

I also worry. Mainly about official stuff, but also about small simple tasks. I tend to think of myself as happy go lucky and laid back, although my worrying side would seem to contradict this. For at least 10 years I've been practicing 'positivity' and my life has reaped the rewards of this. But this slight worry is so automatic that it hasn't really taken a back seat yet, but at least I can recognize it and change my thoughts. I'm currently doing an application for my baby's first passport. I'm totally legit and so is he, but I still worry about what could go wrong, so I've prepared for every eventuality (actually I can't as the passport office still writes annoying stuff like "it is within our right to ask you to send us further information and documents if we feel it is required"... the buggers).

One example of a simple task in which I find myself a bit panicky, is finding a place to park. The thing is, I know the roads well, I know where the building is, but still, I seem to care more about the (not-so-skillful) driver behind me, worrying that I might add a minute of slight inconvenience to his journey (even though he's been driving as if searching for something in my car's boot - er hello, baby on board!). It starts with a heavy thumping in my chest before I realise what's happening. Really quite pathetic, but like I said, I cannot control it, only recognize it and tell myself to grow a pair and behave.

Another task I seem to dread and put off, is withdrawing money from the ATM with a baby. Get in car, baby in car seat, 2 mins down road baby falls asleep, reach bank, hmm do I leave baby in car with door open? Of course not you fool! Take the baby to the ATM! But he's asleep! So! You need money!.... and it goes on. Then I get back in car with baby and money and it really was no big deal.

So I've done my spring clean, organized my files and bills, got a diary on the go and I'm feeling pretty confident. I really ought to get a calendar out with big clear boxes for me to write future tasks in, but I've been kind of putting that off...