Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Pancakes, perfume and pizza

Sometimes it takes the visit of a friend and her young family to help us take stock and really appreciate the lifestyle we have created for ourselves. Rather than charging around trying to fit in as many jobs as possible whilst constantly risk assessing the situation as my kids get bored and start entertaining themselves with axes, chainsaws and the like, we have spent the past week showing our friends what our place and the surrounding area has to offer: a much-needed break from the sometimes seemingly monotonous daily routines.

For example, whereas it takes around an hour of cajoling, shouting and, invariably, some kind of bribery to get my kids to put on a pair of wellies and dawdle (whilst moaning very loudly) up the short hill to feed the pigs and the hens, with two other little girls on the scene they are literally falling over themselves to get there first and then squabble over who gets to put the pig nuts in the bucket. Ditto the dog who has been largely ignored for the past two years and all of a sudden there is never a moment when he has either a lead or a small child hanging round his neck.

It also gave me a well needed kick up the arse to get away from my computer and checking my phone for ‘critically important’ emails every three minutes and actually start focusing on being a good (or at least better) mum. So one day this week I surpassed myself by making pancakes for breakfast without once losing my cool or muttering anything about the sake of foxes under my breath as my kitchen disappeared under clouds of flour and puddles of milk. Almost. And I actually managed not to destroy a frying pan or any other piece of kitchen equipment. Get Me. 

The Great Welsh summer - 3 jumpers and a coat...

Of course I had forgotten that a breakfast consisting of largely white carbs dowsed in alarming amounts of maple syrup and topped with sugar is a recipe for total disaster. Especially when your Supermum ideals have led you to book tickets on a charming little steam train down the side of the lake. All was going well until said steam train broke down. “First time this has ever happened in 150 years”, said the overly cheerful guard. “We’ll be getting going in no time”, he said. “Wrong coal”, he chuckled as he continued to poke his smiley face in through the window of our carriage. Meanwhile, the temperature inside the carriage is by now approaching 30c and we are togged up in three jumpers, coats and scarves to guard against the -5c wind-chill on the lakeside only hours early (God love the Welsh summer weather and its four seasons in one day). To boot, our kids, confined to the carriage of a narrow-gauge train carriage of what can only be described as toy-like proportions got increasingly more hyper – launching themselves off the seats, trying to poke their fishing nets through the roof before finally launching an all-out war offensive with their various soft toys before one (of course, the most favourite) sailed merrily out of the open window and onto the tracks opposite, just like the dog in There’s Something About Mary. Fortunately, Mr Smiley Guard was on hand to save the day, just before the train shuddered back into action.

Toy train - not so much fun in 30c heat...

Undeterred from our steam adventure/trauma we spent the afternoon in a soft glow of floaty skirts and pretty flowers, selecting the nicest smelling petals from the garden from which to make perfume. In my new Zen Mom state I tried with all my might to ignore the trails of destruction being wreaked upon my garden and focus instead on the bucolic sight of creativity and engagement happening in front of me. And lo, not an hour later each little girl, beaming with pride and excitement, produced a vial of slightly brown liquid smelling a bit earthy and putrid, but from which they were not to be parted for the rest of the holidays (even insisting on taking it on the plane home).

Roses - before the mashing started...

To round off our day of full-on Enid Blyton parenting I handmade (YES HAND MADE, if a bread maker doesn’t count) wholemeal pizza dough and then had each child design their own face pizza topping using homegrown vegetables (and ok then, a fair few shop bought ingredients but who’s counting?). Wow, my creativity really knew no bounds by this point. Having dispatched the kids back to their stations in front of the TV (well, come on, you wouldn’t want this to be too nauseatingly wholesome would you?!) I then set about cooking their masterpieces. Only I slightly cocked it all up, somehow setting fire to the grease-proof paper and then wrecking their beautifully arranged pizza faces so the end results was less Mr Happy and more a charred Edvard Munch. Oh well, the kids seemed not to notice, and wolfed down the lot, before quickly falling fast asleep. No wait, that was the parents... And the summer holidays have not even begun! Heaven help us…

Pizza masterpiece - pre-conflagration

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