The Day Elfie Became A Princess

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For reasons I really want to write about at a later date, I’ve become somewhat of a feminist in the last 12 months. It’s been an odd thing – I’ve gone from feeling slightly ambivalent about feminism to being confident that I strongly identify this way. Not to sound emotional about the whole thing but it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster - empowering, scary, shocking, maddening, exciting.

And as such I want to make sure my children, both Elfie and Hux, know they can do whatever they want to do in life, be whatever they want to be, no matter if they’re a boy or a girl. I try not to gender stereotype them, I’ve never dressed Elfie in pink and Hux in blue. Hux loves his tea set and Barbie and  Elfie likes to craft guns out of LEGO (I think she learned about guns from her friends, all boys, at school?) and goes gaga for Spiderman. Yet despite this Hux still spends an unhealthy amount of time banging his head against walls (such a boy) and Elfie has a total love affair with anything Disney Princess.

Which is how I knew she would go into paroxysms of delight when I took her to the Disney Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Harrod’s . I really shouldn’t have told her about the expeirence so long in advance because for two weeks she spoke of nothing apart from the day she would be turned into a princess. All the teachers and lunchtime helpers at school knew, as did quite a few people in the supermarket as well as our next door neighbour. SHE WAS EXCITED!

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And so last Sunday we arrived at Harrod’s looking like this (above), not particularly princessy, I think you’ll agree? We made our way to the fourth floor to see how this transformation would take place.

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Now there is something I find totally magical about Disney. Disneyland Florida 1999 is still in my personal history books as the BEST HOLIDAY EVER and I literally get chills in our local Disney store. The stories, the characters, the music – it’s so wonderful, no matter how old you are.

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When we first arrived at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Elfie was given a buzzer that would go off when it was our time to be transformed. A quick five minutes later and it was our turn – we were off to meet Charlie, our very own Fairy Godmother-in-training! Charlie used her magic to summon up the main woman, the Fairy Godmother, who told Elfie all about what it meant to become a princess. We were taught the magic words, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo! And we magicked the doors to the boutique open. IMG_9840

We’d selected the ‘Coronation’ package, which meant Elfie would be transformed into none other than Anna from Frozen. And upon being shown to her very own changing room – poof! – a few more magic words and Anna’s dress and a beautiful pair of glittery shoes appeared. It was magical!

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The Fairy Godmothers-in-Training set to work. Elfie chose a hairstyle, a nail colour and face paints and was lavished with so much attention. At one point she had four Fairy Godmothers-in-Training attending to her every need: brushing her hair (which I am SO NOT ALLOWED TO DO, fyi), singing to her, reading her stories, painting her nails, talking to her about her favourite princesses… it was wonderful.


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It was an absolutely priceless moment to see, she was so aware of being pampered and to see her feeling like the most important person in that room at that time – I felt so proud. She was beaming, absolutely lit up from the inside. She looked like a real princess, and I’m sure felt like one too, as ‘Princess Elfie’ had been her name ever since we’d entered the boutique. I’m not going to pretend I minded being referred to as ‘Queen’, either ;)

One of the best moments was when she got the first glimpse of herself as a princess. She couldn’t believe the way she looked. And then the seriousness with which Charlie crouched down and explained what was expected of a princess was lovely – that she was loyal, caring, kind and a friend to all. Pretty good life advice, really.

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We were led to the ‘window’, where Elfie had her picture taken overlooking her kingdom, and then on to the royal throne where Elfie swore to behave in a princessly manner. Wide eyed, she was given a bag of goodies (a big cuddly Olaf that she hasn’t let go of since, Anna and Elsa dolls, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique certificate, a framed photo of her as a princess and a little makeup bag) and we slowly wandered through the kids department and out of Harrod’s.

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She refused to wear a coat (it was 6pm and FREEZING) but totally basked in the adoration of all the tourists who kept stopping her and telling her how beautiful she looked. This lasted for a while – two tube train journeys to be exact – until we boarded our train home and she promptly fell asleep. It’s tough being a princess!

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The hair do stayed put for two days (luckily school was closed for training the next day) and the makeup lasted 24 hours. Basically she did NOT want to stop being a princess. She’s taking her princess crown and sparkly shoes into school for her ‘treasures assembly’ next week and hasn’t stop talking about the day since. It has obviously been a very special event for her.

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It’s not the most feminist thing I’ve ever done with her but I would absolutely do it again. As important as feminism is to me I believe it is also important for children to be made to feel special. And on this day I could see that she knew just how special and beautiful she is from the inside out.

I can’t finish this write-up without praising the Fairy Godmothers-in-training. Each and every one we met was so sweet, enthusiastic and captivating to the little girls in the boutique. They were so lovely to us both, even at the end of what must have been a very long day for them. Ten out of ten.

When I found out the price of the experience – £300 – I wasn’t sure I would be able to justify that amount of money on an hour. But for what Elfie got out of it? I think it is definitely worth it. I’m already planning on taking her again for her birthday and I for one CAN’T WAIT.

You can find out more about the experiences (they start at £100) and book online at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique website here. And for what it’s worth, if they did the equivalent adult’s experience I’d be first in line.

Huge thank-you’s for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for having us last weekend. We will definitely be back! 

Mummy’s Day Off

 

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Recently I sat down, scrolled through my calendar and discovered something slightly shocking.

I have not been in my house alone since the 20th September.

Furthermore, thanks to Elfie and Hux’s dad working away for a few weeks (and Elfie’s various 2/4/5am antics) I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 15th November. Factor in the long days and a manageable bit (A LOT) of work stress and I was, by the beginning of this week, about ready to go a bit bonkers.

The one shining beacon in the craziness of the bonkersness was this coming weekend. I’d (kind of) cleared the diary and decided to be as low key as possible. With nothing planned, this weekend was going to be all about ME.

It is now 4pm Saturday and so far today I have: had a lie-in (10am, BOOM), cooked a brilliant breakfast, had a shower, read the beginning chapters of two books, watched my first episode of Made in Chelsea, been invited to a party, baked banana bread, watched a film, done an hour’s work and spent 30 minutes looking at eyebrow shapes.

I’m bored.

I can’t go to the gym because I went last night- after a gin and tonic which was a massive rookie mistake – I don’t want to go swimming because I painstakingly blow dried my hair last night and I can’t clean because that was done on Thursday. I did my supermarket shop yesterday, I don’t want to work because I promised myself I wouldn’t, I refuse to go to the shops because it’s Saturday and I’m not mental and I can’t nap because I’m not tired.

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I miss the kids.

Sidenote: why does Made In Chelsea have a weird yellowy filter on it, like Instagram? It’s really annoying me, real life doesn’t look like this. Or maybe it does when your bank account has lots more money in it? Maybe you just grow yellowy lenses over your retinas and everything literally looks more rosy?

I have three hours left until I leave for Bryony’s house to watch the X Factor and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this time… apart from eat Banana Bread and the block of Duchy Organics stilton I have in the fridge that’s been calling my name all morning. Or maybe I’ll spend those three hours trying to figure out the intricacies of the various relationships in Made in Chelsea? I could be here a while. But then what happens tomorrow?

Don’t get me wrong, I think that as a hard-working mother, or a someone who works hard, or is a mother, WHATEVER, time to yourself is so incredibly important. I sometimes feel like I spend so much of my time serving others – the children or those at work – that I forget about myself. I can go days and days and days without realising that I do exist to relax and spend time on my own and not just to be busy busy busy busy. I know I have my evenings after the kids go to bed at 7.30 but these are invariably spend working, cooking, bleaching or washing. SO BUSY.

Still bored.

What do you do with your alone time? I NEED INSPIRATION!

Am I A Bad Mum, Or Just Busy?

A couple of things have happened recently that have made me wonder if I’m a bad mum.

I’m not being completely fair on myself – I think I’m actually a pretty OK mum most of the time and I even have my moments when my parenting might actually be considered quite good. Not including the moment this morning when Elfie found it appropriate to whack me on the derriere, of course.

But take last Wednesday, for instance. I turned up as normal to Hux’s nursery, popped him in the arms of his favourite carer with a kiss and a “bye bye, love you, see you later” only to be confronted with hugely confused faces. Because Hux doesn’t go to nursery on Wednesdays – he never has. Wednesdays are a pre-school day, in the next village along. Oops.

You think I would have learnt the first time I did this.

Then there was the time that Elfie threw an unfamiliar pair of knickers into the laundry basket. “Where did these come from?” I asked her. Apparently Miss L had to put them on her because she’d gone to school with no underwear on.

That was the last time she was allowed to dress herself.

And then there was the evening she came home from school to proudly show me the book she’d taken to read with her teacher that day:

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But you see, the things I have realized is that the symptoms of being a bad mum seem to be very similar to the symptoms of being a very busy working single mum. Yes, we might dash out the door without their/our coats once in a while or end up having to scribble on the back of an envelope in lieu of the required permission slip that got lost in last week’s ‘to do’ pile… but that’s part and parcel of working 11 hour days, isn’t it?

The key is finding the balance. When I worked for myself it was always really hard to turn off and pay attention to the kids once they were at home. Now, I know that between the hours of 6 and 7.30 we have dedicated family time and that is the most important part of the day. The weekends are even more precious so we try to do stuff as a family; swimming, seeing friends, cooking a big old roast then settling down to watch a film together.

But then there’s  nothing balanced about our mental morning routine, scrambling to find recorders, book bags, water bottles and, erm, the correct knickers, before jumping in the car. I like turning up to work looking vaguely human so need to spend three minutes slapping makeup on and sorting my hair out so we always end up legging it out the door ten minutes late. Then there’s me checking I locked the front door twice and returning once more to make sure I turned my hair straighteners off.

I’m sure this stress could be eradicated by getting up 30 minutes earlier but I literally can’t speak before 6.30am and monster mummy is no fun for anyone.

So for now I will just wear my ‘I’m not a bad mum, just a single working one’ tshirt and hope the rest of the world understands.

Stories of Dishwashing, Garlic and Ginger Chicken and WIN a Whirlpool PowerDry!

Whirlpool PowerDry

Before Elfie and Hux came along I didn’t have a dishwasher. In the series of small London flats I lived in there didn’t seem the need – or space – for such a large piece of kitchen equipment. But having moved to the big city from a house up north with plenty of space for the godliest of appliances it was a really big adjustment. Cooking roasts, washing dirty dishes, saucepans and all those plates and bowls becomes that much harder when you know you need to do the cleanup by hand.

And so when I moved into my little house I made it a priority to shoe-horn a dishwasher into my kitchen in any way possible. I didn’t have a big budget at the time so scored lucky with an £80 secondhand dishwasher from eBay which served me well, though I never did like that it was white when its next door neighbour the washing machine was silver… what problems, eh?!

IMG_9585 This dishwasher, it became a part of my family, churning away every evening after dinner. I am a lazy washer upper though: saucepans would emerge with leftover bits of scrambled egg or porridge on the bottom of them but I’d just chuck them in for a second or third cycle. Anything better than washing up by hand!

So when Whirlpool got in touch recently to see if I’d be interested in test-driving their new PowerDry dishwasher I nearly took their hands off in anticipation. IT IS CHROME, YOU GUYS. My old dishwasher was dispatched for another family to love and the new one arrived to much fanfare. Just see how GOOD it looks!

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Now, this is not just an ordinary dishwasher as we know it. This one has a 1 hour PowerDry cycle that promises to get your load sparkling clean and DRY within 60 minutes. It’s magical – no big cloud of steam, no dripping wet bowls. It’s amazing!

Whirlpool wanted me to create a filling family meal that could be cooked and served in this short time and so we thought – let’s have some fun here! And so we loaded up the dishwasher and raced it to the finish line an hour later.

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As the weather has become cooler my cooking has become warmer, more filling. This Ginger and Garlic Chicken recipe is so simple to whip up but really will comfort you from the inside out. One tip – don’t miss out the crunchy onions! They really take this dish to another level.

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Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Noodles
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 4 nests egg noodles
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small knob ginger
  • 2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • Large handful fine green beans
  • 1 small sliced red onion
  • 1tbsp plain flour
Instructions
  1. Start by chopping the chicken into bite-size pieces and popping in a bowl with your garlic and ginger (minced), soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar.
  2. Put the bowl in the fridge and boil a pan of boiling water ready for the noodles.
  3. Squeeze your lime into a bowl and add your sweet chilli and fish sauce and put to one side.
  4. Slice your red onion and mix with the plain flour. Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan and fry in a couple of batches until golden and crispy. Leave to drain on a slice of kitchen paper.
  5. Wipe the frying pan clean and fry your chicken until cooked through. Top and tail your fine green beans and add a couple of minutes before the chicken is ready.
  6. Meanwhile cook the noodles for around four minutes and drain, leaving a couple of tablespoons of cooking water.
  7. Put the noodles and water in the pan with the chicken and cook off on medium for a couple of minutes. Add the sweet and sour lime juice mixture and toss well.
  8. Top with finely chopped spring onion (optional) and the crispy onions.

And as for the timings? We finished cooking while the dishwasher had 19 minutes to go!

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 What I love about this dishwasher:

- It’s so quiet. I never noticed what a racket my old dishwasher made until this one came. You can’t hear a thing on the normal cycle though there is an ‘extra silent’ setting (which I haven’t felt the need to use).

- This dishwasher has ‘6th Sense’ technology which detects how dirty your plates are and adjusts how much water is used accordingly.

- It cleans really really well. No need for putting your pans through on a second cycle.

- I love the fact the front panel LED counts down to let you know how long is left.

- You won’t get a faceful of steam thanks to the 3D Airflow System which drains the excess moisture away.

- It looks good. CHROME.

- It fits one and a half loads of my old dishwasher in one go.

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What I don’t love about the dishwasher:

- My wine glasses are too big for it. But you can fit a whole bottle of wine in one so they’re probably too big for me too.

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What Hux likes about the new dishwasher: 

EVERYTHING.

How to win a PowerDry Dishwasher from Whirlpool:

All you need to do to enter is tweet a photo of a dish that you’ve prepared with the hasthtag #PowerDryDining. Take a look at my Chinese chicken dish here, or tonights pasta and burrata extravaganza. All terms and conditions can be found over here.

Huge thank-yous go to Whirlpool for sending the dishwasher and the treat of a lovely JosephJoseph nest. 

Home Is Where My Heart Is

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Last week was the one year anniversary of living in my house. The time has flown by and the occasion of 12 months in this space has left me contemplating the concept of ‘home’ and what it means to me and my little family.

In what I now sometimes refer to as ‘my past life’ I never felt satisfied with home. I didn’t particularly feel at home anywhere I lived –Nottingham, North, East and North-West London, Olney. I always felt I was chasing something, a life that would be perfect if only we lived in a better home. I owned a house, that didn’t help. I lived in a big flat, a studio flat, a garden flat. A small house and a big house, an old one and a new one. It still didn’t feel right but I soon got really REALLY sick of moving.

And then I found myself living alone with Elfie and Hux in a rented house and my mum and dad came up with an idea. They’ve owned a house, a small two bedroom 80’s-built house on an estate in Milton Keynes, for about ten years. They said that if I wanted to I was more than welcome to move in as their tenant. Paying tenant, I add.

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At first I said, ugh, no thanks, who in their right mind would want to live in Milton Keynes?! I thought I’d need more than two bedrooms, more than a small open-plan living space downstairs. More than the town of eternal roundabouts.

But then I realized how good a semi-new start could be. In a new place, in a house with new neighbours, close to my gym and the place I always retreat to when I’m having a bad day: WAITROSE. And so I said yes, I would move into the Milton Keynes house, but probably just for a short while as I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to live in the long-term.

It wasn’t an easy move. There were tenants here who didn’t want to leave (and I felt extremely guilty for making them) – they had three months notice and then overstayed that by a month more. Then it was time for my dad (DIY extraordinaire) to knock through the lounge and kitchen to make space for my table, paint the house from top to bottom, fit new french doors and kitchen and re-tile the bathroom.

Our new house was a long time coming.

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But for the first time in my life I feel like I am home here.

I love everything about this house, from the small living space that gets a bit crowded on a rainy Sunday afternoon to my walk-in wardrobe and our dodgy 80s artex ceilings. I love my little office nook in the kitchen and the cupboard I hang up my laundry in. I love the fact that we have been so content here, we feel so settled and safe and warm. I even love Milton Keynes with its hundreds of roundabouts (130, apparently), short 30 minute train journey into London and hugely convenient shopping center.

Some people think dogs are excellent judges of character- well, I think my little house is. I get very territorial (but don’t worry, I stop short of weeing over everything like a cat) and if I don’t trust someone I will feel strange about them being in my house. I dunno, call me Mystic Meg or something, but if a man I’m dating visits my house and I feel weird then that’s them done.  

My house is magic.

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This house, it hasn’t been without dramas. For one the garden is huge and if there’s anything I hate more than cleaning the bathroom it is mowing the lawn. BAD LUCK, Alice. There are also plenty of fruit trees that bear bounties, bounties that go moldy if you don’t put them in the green bin quick enough (nope). I really need to sort out the steamed-up mess that is the greenhouse (or, as Elfie calls it, ‘the shed that is glass’) and I’m currently perusing Factory Direct Flooring for a replacement floor since my new steam cleaner cooked the top layer of my designer Karndean vinyl.

Oops.

So that’s me – insanely happy in this little Milton Keynes home that I moved into as a six month stop-gap a whole year ago. It’s going to take a very special house to make me leave.

What makes you feel like you’re home?

Thank-you Factory Direct Flooring for supporting MTT

 

Toyah Wilcox, Bingo And Me

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What did you do last Thursday?

Watch TV? Eat pizza? Read a magazine? Take a bath?

That’s my usual Thursday regimen, too – yeah, I’m wild – but last Thursday was a little bit different. I’d been invited to take part in a Twitter Q&A with the legend that is Toyah Willcox in association with the team behind The Sun’s online bingo show! You can’t get more modern than that when it comes to interviewing a celebrity, can you?

The last Twitter Q&A I did was way back in my Vice Magazine days of 2009, very hungover, with Mariachi El Bronx, a heavy metal band from New York with a Mariachi side project (well, duh, don’t all heavy metal bands?). I had a feeling this one might be slightly different…

I’m a big fan of Toyah. She lives in the Worcestershire town I grew up in and widely regarded as a local legend so I was really excited to chat to her. I’d been invited down to The Sun’s jazzy studios (plied with the promise of wine, even!) and was excited to meet their celebrity crew – Brian Dowling and Rustie Lee – but as many of the best plans are this was scuppered by a baby with a temperature. Baby Hux: killing off my celebrity social life since 2012 ;)

And so we were to do it over the phone… and here it is! Lovely Toyah on the blower to me! We had a grand old chat with questions being asked of her via my Twitter feed (some more sensible than others)…

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So here it is: 13 things you’ve always wanted to know about Toyah Willcox. All in 140 characters or less.

Q: Who are you backing on I’m a Celebrity?
A: I think Melanie Sykes is amazing!

Q: If you could learn another language what would it be?
A: French. Because that allows you to watch lots of European movies. And my second choice is Spanish

Q: Do you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?
A: As soon as I get up! But then also after breakfast, too

Q: What’s your favourite Tube stop?
A: I love Westminster – you can feel the history there

Q: Have you ever owned a Toyotah?
A: No! I tend to drive Peugeot

Q: Have you kept her ‘Most Fanciable Female’ award from Smash Hits? (Kim Wilde was runner-up….)
A: Yes! I keep all my awards in my London home in my office.

Q: Your brilliant album Desire is the only one to never get a cd reissue. Will it ever see the light of day again?
A: I own the rights to desire & am holding it back for the right time…

Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
A: I’ve never been to Bali and have always wanted to go

Q: Do you keep your ketchup and eggs in the fridge or out of the fridge?
A: both in the fridge!

Q: Which 5 people would you invite to a dinner party?
A: Joan of Arc, David Bowie, Florence Nightingale, Ozzy Osbourne, Queen Victoria

Q: The eighties: which outfit would you bring back and why?
A: Thunder in the Mountains – slashed black suede dress: perfect for rocking out on-stage!

Q: Who was your favourite Teletubby?
A: LaaLaa as I am very short – we had that in common. 

Q: What is your favourite way to relax?
A: I love the simplicity of walking, either in the city or countryside

Next week’s celebrity guest on The Sun’s bingo channel is another legend of my childhood, Dave Benson Philips. Join along at the Romance Room tomorrow from 7pm, and remember – Have A Ball!

Huge thank-yous to The Sun Bingo for supporting MTT and introducing me to the legend that is Toyah Willcox ;)