The beauty of every day family life

….well, there was a warning a week or so ago that as my pregnancy progresses I *may* get a little gushy and emotional!

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about attending the wedding of our wonderful friends Suzi and Sarah in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire.  What I didn’t mention at the time is the fact that they are incredibly talented at documenting the beauty of every day life.  They have a real knack of seeing the good in everything, everywhere they go.  They are those glass half full types of people.  Their wedding was reflective of that.  As are the images they shoot.

A couple of months ago, Sarah started a hashtag on Instagram – #storiesoftheeveryday. We are very fortunate that the last time Suzi and Sarah came to visit us they took some beautiful shots of the kids, documenting just that.  What I really love about Sarah’s photography is that she really captures the connections between people.  Here are some of the wonderful images Sarah sent me today, along with some from a shoot she did with the girls and my Dad last year.

You can check out more of their work here

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The Calais Jungle: help build shelters NOW!

So here’s the thing – I’m not going to get into politics, or religion or anything else that people seem to be spending a lot of time discussing when it comes to the situation in Calais.  Not because I don’t have an opinion, but because my opinions don’t matter.  People are dying.  Children are dying.  Children who could have been my children at another time, in another place.

My eldest daughter Diya is vaguely aware of what is happening in the world; mainly due to the fact that she devours every single written piece of material that comes into the house including our newspapers.  She saw the pictures of Aylan washed up on the beach.  She saw the images from his funeral.  She has seen many images of people crammed into tiny dinghies.  She tells me she hopes they will be safe.  She tells me that she is worried for them.  Of course, she doesn’t really understand and I’m not sure how much detail to go into, lest her tiny mind fills with horrid thoughts that keep her awake at night.

How lucky am I to be able to choose to censor the information she has access to.  How lucky am I that at 23 weeks pregnant, I don’t have to cram myself and my little girls into a dinghy to make one of many treacherous journeys.  And how lucky am I to know people who are actively making a difference.

My friend John D McHugh recently got together with his family and friends to ask for help in purchasing winter sleeping bags and tarpaulins, which they were going to personally deliver to ‘The Jungle’.  In just under 72 hours they received donations of nearly 150 of each which were delivered to Calais back in September.  His facebook post read  “Yesterday was a blur of editing images and video, while fighting exhaustion with coffee. I’m still working on all my material today, but wanted to share this photograph. This is home for over 3,000 people, in the EU, in the 21st Century. Seriously, what the actual fuck???”

JOHN D MCHUGH FOR VERIFEYE MEDIA 2015

JOHN D MCHUGH FOR VERIFEYE MEDIA 2015

And now there is a new Calais Project from the same group of people.  They are going to build wooden framed, plastic covered shelters, with raised floors to protect from the cold, damp, and possible flooding. The shelters will be 3.6 metres by 2.4 metres, with a pitched roof, and will house 4-6 people, which will cost approximately £550 each.  You may have read about the huge explosion in one of the camps over the weekend, making this even more important. 

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Unfortunately, the crowdfunding page they were planning to use want to take almost 7% in fees, so they are asking for direct bank transfers instead.  An order needs to be placed for building materials in 24 hours.  This is happening.  And it is urgent.  

Please, if you can, email John D with a commitment and tell him how much you are willing to pledge: johndmchugh@yahoo.co.uk.

Thank you.

Hotline Bling: her response

OK, so I get that I’m essentially too old to be listening to Drake or really having an opinion on anything he does.  But now that Hotline Bling seems to be on loop on the radio and my six year old is attempting to sing along, I thought I’d check out the lyrics.  He’s no Robin Thicke but I do find them surprisingly outdated, sexist and – well – utter tosh.

So, just because I can, here’s a response (although probably not one I’d tell my daughters about):

DRAKE: “You used to call me on my cell phone, late night when you need my love”

WOMAN: That’s right, I did.  I didn’t want to call your landline number in case I woke up your parents in the middle of the night.

DRAKE: “Ever since I left the city you got a reputation for yourself now, everybody knows and I feel left out”

WOMAN: Feel left out of what exactly?  Pretty sure I don’t have any more of a reputation now than I did when you lived in the city.

DRAKE: “You started wearing less and going out more, glasses of champagne on the dance floor, hanging with some girls I’ve never seen before”

WOMAN: To be fair, when you got late night calls from me I was just in a dressing gown so you don’t really know how I dress when I go out.  For the record, I like showing off my gym toned abs.  And the girls you’ve never seen before?  They’re my mates – why would you have seen them before?  I’m confused. It sounds like you thought we were dating?

DRAKE: “Ever since I left the city you…make me feel like I did you wrong, going places where you don’t belong”

WOMAN: Er, nope.  I don’t think you did me wrong.  I don’t really think anything about you at all if I’m honest.  No real opinion.

DRAKE: “Ever since I left the city you got exactly what you asked for, running out of pages in your passport”

WOMAN: It’s true, I do enjoy a weekend break.

DRAKE: “These days all I do is wonder if you’re bending over backwards for someone else, wonder if you’re rolling up a Backwoods for someone else, doing things I taught you, getting nasty for someone else, you don’t need no one else”

WOMAN: Well a) that’s none of your business b) you didn’t teach me anything you big-headed prick and c) I don’t NEED anyone at all, I just enjoy the company of other people

DRAKE: “Used to always stay at home, be a good girl”

WOMAN: No, I didn’t always stay at home.  You’re mistaken.  I was just home when I called you. FYI I’m a woman, not a girl.  I can only assume you wouldn’t do ‘nasty things’ with a girl because, well, that would be plain wrong.

DRAKE: “You should just be yourself.  Right now, you’re someone else”

WOMAN: Let’s be clear.  You don’t really know me that well.  You used to get booty calls from me.  But obviously now that you’ve moved away, I don’t call you because I know other people who live closer to my flat.  I’m still the same person I was when you lived in this city.  But, like I’ve said, you and I were never a ‘thing’ and so – obviously – you wouldn’t really know.

Due to the track and video being released on Apple Music, I can’t actually post the video here.  But here are some hilarious memes prompted by his terrible dancing.  I know.  I’m old.  Don’t be a hater.

About A Boy

On the night of our wedding, nine years ago, Mr S and I were welcomed into the family home with a series of traditional Hindu rituals. One of these – which I had not come across before – was to place a baby boy on my lap in the hope that our first-born would be a son.

A couple of years later, when we became pregnant with baby #1 we were keen to find out the sex – simply as there would be enough surprises surrounding the labour and becoming parents for the first time. I was over the moon when it turned out to be a girl but a little disheartened when older members of my family said “never mind”. A couple of years on we were pregnant with baby #2. This time we didn’t find out the sex. Given I knew what I was really letting myself in for this time, I thought it would be a nice surprise at the end of the labour! I felt I was in a ‘win/win’ situation – another girl would be totally awesome as I’d always wanted to have two little girls and I thought Diya would enjoy having a little sister. A boy would have been great because, well, we didn’t have one and I already had the daughter of my dreams. I was overjoyed when #2 turned out to be another little girl. In truth I had been secretly hoping for a girl but again, was dismayed to hear that members of my family asked whether I was disappointed. Of course I wasn’t. I am one of two sisters myself and as far as I’m concerned, girls rock. In any case, I don’t really like boys or men that much so two little girls was – and is – perfect.

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We never got to find out the sex of #3 as we unfortunately lost it just after Christmas 2014. Again, though, I was secretly hoping for another girl – just to fulfil the dream of creating my own girl band ‘The Saul Sistas’.

Well 2015 came and has nearly gone. As you may recall, my gorgeous husband and I spent a couple of nights in Sitges in June – hanging out with fabulous people and attending a fabulous wedding. We found out in July that our trip would be all the more memorable because we were now pregnant again!

Fast forward to today, and I am 22 weeks pregnant with a ‘Funk Saul Brother’, that’s right A BOY. As you can imagine, Mr S is hugely excited and relieved that he will no longer be the only male in the house. The girls are pleased to be getting a little brother, although Amba does keep suggested girls’ names for him. I will just be thankful to see a healthy baby pop out at the end of February 2016 and – unlike my pregnancies with the girls – this time around I really am not taking that fact for granted.

What I have taken for granted this time around is that some people’s comments would be a little irksome:

“Why are you having a third child? Is it because you want a boy?”

“Wow, a BOY. You must be so happy!”

“Oh, FINALLY, you are having a boy. You must be relieved”

“Oh my God can you IMAGINE if it was another girl?? Thank goodness for that”

Just to set the record straight:

Yes I am utterly delighted at the thought of adding a third small person to our family. That goes without saying.

Am I ‘relieved’ it’s a boy? No.

Have I been waiting my whole life to have a boy? No.

Do I feel I have fulfilled my duty as a wife and daughter-in-law by bearing a son? No.

Am I pleased it’s a boy? Yes. (But I would have been just as pleased with a girl).

So, now I find myself on the journey towards bringing another small person into the world – this time, one with a ‘woolly’ (as my daughters say). What are my hopes for the little Prince? That he is respectful of women. That he is not the spoiled ‘only son’. That he will appreciate all forms of disco music in the way only a gay man could. That he will take me clubbing with him – thereby extending the period of time in which I am still able to frequent G.A.Y.

Over the next few months my posts will undoubtedly become gushier as my hormones go haywire. Bear with.

Spelt fusilli. Discuss.

So I have gone a bit healthy recently and attempted to produce culinary delights such as Black Bean Brownies (my dad spat his out), a multiseed loaf (I spat it out) and – last night – spelt fusilli with herby courgette ricotta (we ALL spat this out).  There is a reason, it would seem, my home economics teacher recommended I did not take the subject at GCSE level.

I’ve never been one to enjoy being in the kitchen.  When my husband and I first met, he was appalled that there was never anything in my fridge apart from vodka and champagne.  When a former, very generous boss treated me to a cookery course at the famed Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, I was pretty scared.  I had to try my hardest on the day not to just get stroppy at the fact I couldn’t boil water and didn’t recognise Raymond Blanc when he paid us a ‘surprise visit’.  (This was before his guest appearance on ‘Miranda’, obvs).

However, with two children to feed I’ve obviously had to roll up my sleeves and get on with it.  I followed Annabel Karmel’s book religiously with no.1 and with no.2 decided to try out Baby Led Weaning.  I have perfected the art of making a bolognese sauce, a cheese sauce and a huge array of pasta based dishes.  But when a nurse suggested recently that I ought to seriously cut down on carbs to avoid Type 2 diabetes in later life (particularly prevalent amongst Asian women), I started to get a little worried.

As if my magic, around the same time a friend got in touch offering us the chance to try three weeks’ worth of Marley Spoon meals completely free of charge – in return for filling in questionnaires about the product and service.  I was a little reticent due to my fear of cooking but resolved to at least give it a try, not least because I needed to find alternatives to the huge amount of carb-laden meals we’d been consuming.

Apart from the spelt fusilli, I’m pleased to say the meals I’ve produced have been really yummy and even my two fussy monsters have tried most things and liked elements of everything.  We’ve had delights such as:

Baharat lamb cutlets with chickpea salad and coriander yoghurt (aka lamb burgers and baked beans without the sauce).  The kids were particularly keen to help out with this one.

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Sardine and lemon spaghetti with garlic crispies (the kids refused to eat the sardines but that’s not unusual, right?)

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Cauliflower pilau with orange and cucumber salad (even my father-in-law ate this and he rarely eats anything I’ve cooked)

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Turkey chilli with basmati rice and soured cream (so incredibly tasty and the kids ate most of it)

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Thai beef curry with aubergine and green beans (felt very luxe if a little too spicy for the little monsters)

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Lemon chicken with fennel and potato salad

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And a few other dishes that weren’t ‘camera-ready’ by the time I’d finished them.

I mean, CHECK ME OUT!  I’ve actually nearly enjoyed cooking over the past few weeks as the steps have been so easy to follow and I’m looking forward to trying out their new family plan which will be available in November.

What’s really lovely about Marley Spoon is that all the ingredients are responsibly sourced and everything is done with sustainability in mind – by that, I mean the packaging is 100% recyclable or reusable.  I have to say, as a bit of a brand-whore, the branding and overall look and feel is amazing.

 If you fancy checking them out too, just go to Marley Spoon and choose the number of meals you’d like, which meals and what day and time of the week you’d like them to be delivered.  Simple. (And don’t ever say I don’t ‘do’ positive, upbeat and light-hearted, cos look I just did!)