Aprons & Heels

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I should be working…

I should be working right now.

I should be writing a pitch document to a major arts grant organisation basically begging them to let me use some of the funds we were awarded to do something slightly different than our original pitch. I should be socialising with my parents friend who came over for dinner or tucking my darling daughter into bed.

But I’m not.

I can’t.

Because I’m sat here in a million little pieces. And I don’t know what to do.

 

Just over two weeks ago a series of unfortunate events transpired. Which one tripped up which exactly is still a bit of a mystery but regardless the dominos fell. My show, the “thing” that I have been working on for two years, which I have sunk my separation settlement into, which contains my blood, sweat and tears, my creative DNA, for which I sacrificed my time with Maisie, my sleep, my life for, was cancelled two weeks before going up.

 

To say I’m a wreck is an understatement. I cried for 48 hours straight. I didn’t sleep more than four hours a night for a week, less than six hours in one 72 hour period as I desperately combed through budgets and schedules trying to pull together some scenario, ANY scenario that would let us move on. But I couldn’t.

 

I have failed.

 

I’ve failed the people who came on this journey because they believed in me, or the project or both. I’ve failed the venues who booked us fully expecting us to actually show up with a show. I failed Maisie for everytime I said “one more email, one more minute, one more page, one more day”, I’ve failed mums in the arts, I’ve failed women with post partum depression for not being able to show how it is, I failed the me who risked everything, I’ve failed to secure Maisie and my future, I’ve failed our cast and crew, our cheerleaders, our team, I’ve failed all the mums who feel alone who the show was supposed to reach out and touch, to show that there was another way. I have failed those near and far. No matter how you look at it I. Have. Failed.

 

I feel like there has been a death. I want to punch the people who say “it’s not so bad, no one’s died!” because someone HAS died. I have died. The me who actually gets to achieve this, achieve something, to accomplish something important, who rose out of the suffocating pitch black swamp of post natal depression and psychosis to do something good. That person has died. She went down in a fiery inferno fighting like hell but she’s dead and what’s left of her right now is not what you would call “pretty”.

 

I literally do no know what to do or how to move forwards at the moment. There are still a lot of things that need to be cleaned up. I need to be propped up. I have returned to my family & friends in Canada for a few weeks to attempt to recover, to try and be gentle with myself, to find my center. To try and shift this bowling ball of knots I have anchored in my stomach. Nothing’s worked yet but it’s early days. So I’m grateful for a place to plant my words. Once again.

 

ShutterBaby Photography

I don’t know about you, but something about this time of year makes me think of getting photos done. Maybe its the whole autumn/back to school vibe or that Christmas is just around the corner (yay!) but it always seems like the right time to to find someone to capture the change in time. For Maisie. I obviously have no desire whatsoever to record my own changes in time!

This year the lovely Sara-Jane from ShutterBaby asked if I would be willing to review her services in exchange for a shoot for Maisie. I seriously got the much better side of this deal!

First off, Sara-Jane comes to you. Which is all kinds of awesome because last year I nearly lost my mind trying to keep Maisie clean & not looking like the world’s klutziest child (which she is). But also it meant that there were some great spontaneous moments – for example Maisie really wanted to put on her “ballet outfit” (her petticoat & shoes from the wedding she was in six weeks ago) which ended up making for my absolute favourite photos of the whole shoot.

Second, she had absolutely no problem getting down to Maisie’s level or letting Maisie suggest what to do next. Maisie’s not an easy kid to photograph (which is why I have next to no good photos I’ve taken) but she also LOVES taking photos so has lots of ideas of what she thinks *should* happen – it was lovely that Sara-Jane worked with Maisie to get the shots we wanted.

Third, the shots are beautiful. Maisie was well captured (see above!) just chilling at home as much as she was jumping in muddy puddles which means I have beautiful momentos which capture several different sides of her – which is priceless.

One thing I think is really cool is that Sara-Jane offers Group Bookings (Baby party package) which is a half hour photo session (per child), and you receive ten digital images on CD all for only £100 per person. A really great way to get some shots done reasonably and… with Christmas coming a great way to get some images for creating photo cards. (I was kicking myself that I hadn’t grabbed some Santa hats for us to do something with!)

Was there anything I didn’t like? No, not really – there was a bit of “beautiful princess/model” chat which makes me kind of ill but most people seem to like all the princess/beauty rubbish which makes me slightly furious so that’s just me being difficult. Sara-Jane was a delight to work with and I think you’ll agree the photos below are wonderful!

If you’re in London, Kent or Surrey I highly recommend Sara-Jane & ShutterBaby!

 

On Bullies and Parenting

Yesterday my timeline was full of stories of Amanda Todd (the Vancouver teen who killed herself after a campaign of bullying) but the stories were preceded (literally) by a series of pics of children at a PRE-SCHOOL graduation complete with cap and gown.

I can’t be the only one to see that this is part of the problem??? We are raising children who think learning to ask to go to the toilet and (mostly) listening to a teacher deserve celebration and constant praise for everything they do. These aren’t amazing achievements, these are things that they will need to do as HUMAN BEINGS in order to function in our world.

One of the things that shocks me about the Amanda Todd story is the complete lack of understanding that ALL actions have consequences. She didn’t understand the possible consequences of flashing someone on webcam (nor did she have the self worth to say no but I’ll get to that), the bullies didn’t understand the consequences of their actions (because, until Amanda killed herself there weren’t any) and the dickhead that started it all didn’t understand that there actually are legal and social consequences of being a morally irreprensible asshat.

And do you know why these children don’t understand consequences? Because WE don’t teach them any. They make a mess, we clean it up. They can’t fail at school, they get a ribbon at sports day even if they finish last, if they don’t do well at something it’s the teacher or coach or boss’ fault (never the parents and never the child’s!) And I know loads of you have told me stories of parents who call you (their child’s boss) to deal with issues or find out their schedules – for kids that are OVER 16!!!

Our children are unable to cope with adversity because we never let them struggle. Why are we doing EVERYTHING for them? I saw a woman cut up her 10 year old’s food the other day! Kids must learn to sort things out for themselves – this is partially where they get a sense of strength – from knowing/learning how to do difficult things. Every time we do something for them we’re telling them that they can’t, that they aren’t capable and that erodes their sense of self. We need to teach them to take care of themselves in all ways.

As parents we must also accept that it is our job to make difficult choices for our children, to do things they don’t (or won’t) like. Amanda didn’t want to press charges against the kids who physically assaulted her but as a child that’s shouldn’t be her call to make. Yes its hard to go against something your child wants (whether thats pressing charges or staying out till 3 am or cleaning up the mess they made) but that is our JOB. I imagine its a damn sight harder to bury your child. Its our job to make hard calls and then stand by our actions – simply in doing so we show that WE understand consequences but also sometimes we have to do things that we don’t necessarily like or are incredibly hard because they are the RIGHT thing to do.

No parent is perfect (god knows I’m not) but we need to start supporting each other and change the way we parent. I’ve spoken to several people about the whole preschool graduation thing and do you know what I’ve heard back almost all the time? “Yeah I think its stupid but the whole class is doing it and so you kinda have to go along with it don’t you?” Isn’t that what the bullies think? Isn’t it worth showing kids a different way?

Spiced Courgette Cupcakes – Gluten Free Yumminess!

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In an effort to make up for the horrendously distracted Mama I’ve been this week (a combination of sleep deprivation, work & The FEAR) I promised Maisie we’d bake today. Only to discover the only thing I really had in the fridge were a couple of courgettes that needed eating.

Amazingly I discovered this delicious recipe in my Cake Angels cookbook and considering that Maisie’s already eaten two and wants another I reckon they’re a hit!

A couple of tips – grate your courgettes with as fine as a grater as you can (I used a parmesan grater) and they may need a bit longer than the recipe calls for – ours did but I’m not 100% sure about our oven. The recipe calls for walnuts but I supplemented raisins & if you don’t want to make wheat free ones just use self raising flour and omit the xanthan gum!

Ingrediants

50g raisins

215g wheat & gluten-free self-raising flour (Dove’s farm all the way!)

1 tsp of Xanthan gum

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

160g soft light brown sugar

100ml vegetable oil

1 large egg

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon zest

325g courgettes, grated

  • Preheat oven to 180C, line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases
  • In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use a balloon whisk to beat together the sugar, oil, egg, vanilla & zest until well combined and smooth. Stir in the grated courgette.
  • Gradually fold in the flour mixture & raisins using a large spoon until just combined.
  • Divide the mixture evenly amongst the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  • Let cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack

You can also make a lovely orange glace icing by mixing 1tbsp of orange juice with 100g of icing sugar (we did – DELICIOUS!)

So there you go – yummy cupcakes FULL of veggies. How brilliant!

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Body Image(s)

I generally can’t stand to look at photos of myself.

This isn’t exactly a new thing but it is definitely one of the scars I carry from my PPD. The stubborn weight I gained from the medication I took is a constant reminder of how ill I was and despite doing incredibly well with my recovery, I can’t see anything but illness when I catch a glimpse of my reflection.

So when I was offered free fitness classes throughout September in exchange for social media reviews I was thrilled. I was promised I would drop a dress size in a month if I did the classes three times a week for the month – which was perfect, as one of my best friends was getting married at the end of the month (this past weekend). Unfortunately, despite doing all the classes, I did NOT drop a dress size. I did lose a few inches (and shockingly gain some on my hips & thighs) but not quite the “total body transformation” I was promised.

I was crushed. I knew how special of a weekend the wedding would be – three days with the gang of my closest girlfriends and all the partners and kids is a rare thing – I also knew there would have to be photo evidence.

The funny thing about photos (and facebook – bless it’s cotton socks) is that sometimes they can surprise you. Or rather, the opportunity to see yourself through someone else’s eyes (or lens) can have surprising results.

I don’t hate the photos from the wedding.

In fact, I actually LIKE some of them. I like how happy I look, how invested in other people’s happiness I am, that I’m not thinking about how my arms look fat or that I STILL haven’t lost this bloody weight. I like the light on Maisie’s face and the overwhelming fun on my own. I like how the photos capture my spirit, as well as my image. And that’s worth sharing.

 

On Violence

*Apologies to those who saw this on twitter or facebook but I wanted to use my blog as a talking place too.

Last night I witnessed a woman shout & abuse her daughter (8/9 years old). She pulled her backwards by her hair (she flew about 3 feet), smack her, yank her arm & throw her to the ground. All while people walked by.

After shouting at her (the woman) from my balcony that I thought that was enough and if she hit her kid one more time I would call the cops (which funnily enough didn’t go down very well) she kept screaming. I sat down for a minute, realised I was shaking and then I started crying.  So I called the cops, who were wonderful, compassionate and actually made sense of what I was saying between my sobs & they sent a car right away. I just kept thinking if she could do that in broad daylight in front of plenty of strangers what did she do when no one was looking.

This all happened in front of her 2 other kids (11 & 18months) and her husband/boyfriend/kids’ dad and a variety of people passing by

I can forgive shouting (even when it makes me uncomfortable) because we all have bad days, but that sort of physical assault literally made me sick. How could other people walk past that?

I’ve been pretty shaken up just by seeing it and can only hope that if the police didn’t find them at least I managed to publicly shame her and/or show her poor daughter that someone finds that behaviour despicable.

What would you do/what else could I have done?

Big Fish, Little Pond

 

When I was at Uni and pondering some offers my favourite prof (my acting prof) sat down with me over a cup of earl grey and laid the land out before me. “You see Emily, you need to decide what size fish you want to be and in what size pond.”  I think, back then, most people would have put money on me wanting to be a big fish in a little pond but four years later when I upped sticks & moved to London I was probably the most surprised to learn I loved being a little tiny fish in a (very) big pond.

This has been on my mind a lot lately for oh so many reasons. On the personal front I’ve just moved to Nappy Valley where every mum drops their kids off at nursery looking like they just stepped out of the Boden catalogue or a Vodaphone advert. And on a professional level I’m trying to work my way back into a side of an industry I’ve had a break from for between six – ten years. The things I need to sort out – headshots, memberships, classes, representation  - are all familiar but also different with the gift of time and hindsight. I’ve changed. The industry’s changed. We kinda need to figure each other out again. And so there’s uncertainty and fear but also an understanding of what it all means to my/our LIFE which makes me think that if I wasn’t scared I wouldn’t be taking it seriously.

And those perfect mums? I’m not competing. In fact I drop Maisie off in sweats and shabby workout gear because I leave her to go straight to my training sessions. I’m doing something for me. Which is far more important than looking nice for other mums who probably feel insecure about themselves.

I can’t explain why but being a small fish in a big pond makes me very happy but it does. I can make mistakes, I can be silly, I can feel unsure and I can look like shit at 9am in the morning without feeling self conscious or like I’m being judged. Sure, those mums might be judging – I don’t stick around long enough to find out, but also, it doesn’t matter if they think I’m stylish or pretty because right now I’m being more true to myself than I have been in years and the road to authenticity hasn’t/isn’t an easy one.

This little fishy likes it’s big pond sure enough.

 

Paralympics

I took Maisie to the Paralympic cycling today at Brands Hatch (which, as it turns out is nowhere near Sevenoaks where they tell you to get off the train!)

It was incredible. Inspiring, heartwarming, hardcore, competitive, patriotic – you name it. Honestly it made the Olympic football we watched look like whiny fatcats. Sarah Storey, the Team GB Paralympic cyclist (C5), not only came in a whole 7:22 faster than her closest female competitor – she also literally passed the mens’ race (C1 – 3) -twice – who started 5 minutes before her.

It made me think about how when a lot of those athletes were born with their disabilities their parents must have felt the crush of not having a “perfect” baby and how these “imperfect” babies became amazing athletes who’s determination, grit and strength are awe inspiring.

I guess it made me realise how easy it is to give up and how much more we can become when we persevere. Something I really needed reminding of right now.

TK Maxx #shopsavvykids Challenge

I am thrilled to be taking part in the FAB #shopsavvykids TK Maxx 3 outfits for £30 Challenge. Not only does it involve shopping (RAD!)  at one of my favourite stores (AWESOME) but its also my first UK blog campaign (Super COOLIO!) I love TK Maxx (and its homewares sister store HomeSense now coming to UK shores!!!!) from my time in Canadia so was thrilled to take part spreading the word about their fab cheapness!

The challenge was to put together 3 outfits for Maisie for £30 and it was REALLY hard. Choosing! (Although I will say that we ended up doing our shopping at the Clapham Junction branch of TK Maxx rather than our closest store, Brixton, because the stock in Clapham was far better.)

When putting a new outfit together I often try and keep in mind something that I already own so that I know I can wear it more than one way. The problem we had when we got to TK Maxx was just how many beautiful things we had to choose from – all within our price range! Maisie & I both love to wear dresses – in fact she’ll choose dresses over everything else most of the time – and we were spoiled for choice.

This one actually made me teary when she tried it on:

 

But in both the spirit of the challenge and the fact that I wanted to flesh out her wardrobe for autumn a bit, I decided that dresses were of limits. Instead I based our outfits around a t-shirt her Papa brought her from Canada which she adores: white, short sleeves, sparkly neon flowers.

After LOADS of trying on we bought a set comprising jeans and a hoodie (£9.99), a short sleeve grey cardigan with pink accents (£10) and Maisie chose a slightly ridiculous fun “twirly” skirt (£7.99). The tops work with both bottoms but they also work well with existing items in her wardrobe which, I’m sure you agree is a lifesaver!

Here are some pics of Maisie (reluctantly) modelling her new outfits:

 

In the end we spent £27.98 on the challenge but I’ll admit that we came away with 3 other dresses, a fleece-lined waterproof fall coat, some birthday presents (5 hardback books, some note cards, a Cars mug, 2 rolls of designer wrapping paper), Argon facial oil,  Aveeno moisturizer and a gorgeous Orla Kiely duvet cover (for moi!) all for just over £120 – pretty damn amazing if you ask me!

 

For taking part in the challenge I received a £30 gift voucher from TK Maxx to spend on clothes for Maisie. As usual all thoughts & opinions are my own and are not for sale.

 

 

Letter to My Daughter on her 3rd Birthday

Oh my darling girl – how can you be three already? The last year has held so much -  so much joy, so much change, so much growth. We moved (twice), you rolled in piles of leaves, made me a snowman, gave up your soother to the dot dot fairy, learned the single ladies dance, made new friends, climbed to the top of the climbing frame, mastered your scooter.

I went back to work and then we went to Greece on holiday. We spent a whole week swimming during the day and at the show in the evening. You were very upset that you weren’t allowed on stage with the dancers. Seems you got that gene too.

You are fiercely independent. You want to do everything on your own or to help me with whatever I’m doing – which often ends in disaster, But we’re good at laughing at disaster. In fact you’re great at laughing. You crack me up on a regular basis.

You’ve become inquisitive, not just the “why” stage, but about people and emotions. You’re phrase of the moment is “are you happy?” Which you ask me a lot. Particularly when you’ve been naughty.

We’ve ended up co-sleeping again – out of necessity but I’ll tell you a secret, I love it. There’s something delightful about your long limbs lost in sleep. And every morning I awake to your demands for a ‘cuttle’ (cuddle). There will be a time when you won’t want to be in the same house as me so I absorb these moments in my soul as protection for my heart.

You have a wonderfully bizarre love of Poirot. I’m pretty sure it came via Mr Potato from Peppa Pig but we now have a Friday night routine involving Monsieur Potato the great Belgian detective.

You have an intense love of learning – you know your colours, numbers and letters. You really want to learn to write your letters, you like to ask me how to write my name and when I tell you how to spell ‘mama’ you cock your head to one side and say ‘Emily’?

The other day, after trying repeatedly to put your flip flops on yourself  you manged it and you looked up at me with such intense joy in your face as you said “I can learn Mama, I can learn!”

Oh yes my darling girl you can.  You teach too – every day you teach me the unbound capacity of my love, occasionally the limit of my patience, and always immense gratitude that I am lucky enough to be your mama.

All my love my little girly goo…

Mama xoxo

 

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