Road Safety


Tootling around the B roads round here in the car, I’m starting to get used to coming head-to-head with joggers. They’re easy to spot: dressed head to toe in the winter-spring season rural camouflage (shades of grey, black and washed-out white (and that’s just their faces…)), headphones on, oblivious to anything except their pounding feet. Don’t get me wrong – to paraphrase the latest FB status that’s gone viral, joggers rock! But it would be really cool if some of them realised that sometimes I can’t always see them in time to avoid them. I can’t always swerve past Ghost-Joggers them if I suddenly happen upon them, right in the middle of my lane, just as I round a corner, past a stream of traffic coming the other way. Raises the old heart-beat a bit.

Anyway, so I think that’s me established that nowadays I tend to deeply annoy other road-users by taking blind corners at the kind of speeds where I can come to a sudden stop if a hidden, camouflaged jogger suddenly reveals themselves. I am no longer Mondeo Mummy (Mondeo Man but with more hormones). I don’t drive like a granny (jeepers, have you seen the speeds some of these elderly mamas career around the countryside?!), I drive like a learner.

I may now take to sounding my big old car-horn as I go round these corners – it’s not just the headphoned joggers I need to watch out for! I’ve seen a fair few grandparents pushing babies in buggies along these same B roads (to quantify: I drive past 3 or 4 a week. So not hordes, but it’s not an isolated incident). Today’s sighting was pretty typical:

I drove past a wee old man tottering down the road with his grandchild (great-grandchild?) in a black buggy. He was in this season’s rural camouflageI’m not saying that the buggy was replacing a zimmer frame, but he didn’t look steady or strong enough to hoik the buggy onto the verge if he came across a lorry going in each direction at the same time. Or maybe he was so unsteady because he was walking 3 over-excited dogs at the same time, who were twirling and spiraling round his legs and the buggy wheels…? Never mind, at least the baby was getting some Nice Fresh Air, head roughly car exhaust height, hoovering up all those lovely fumes from cars accelerating and braking round the road bends. Excellent!

Of course, don’t forget that these people walking babies have successfully brought up one or more kids themselves, as they’re wont to remind you, so they’re perfectly safe, responsible child-minders, and how churlish of you to question otherwise?

Meh. I miss getting to 5th gear.

Sunny Spring Evening

Half past 9 at night, and all 3 minxes are snoring – I think we got today right!

(Well, ok, me and The Boss didn’t have that much to do with it – it was just the lovely weather: sunny, cloudless sky except for a bit of evening lenticularis, tiny breeze, warm, warm, warm!)

For the first time since the girls’ first week at their new school, they all got up, got ready, and off to school without me being driven to yelling and/or screeching. I put it down to the sunny morning, beckoning the girls outside with its promise of warmth and interesting nature-things to explore.

Mini and I couldn’t hang about spotting bumble-bees, though: once her sisters were safely in school, we had to zoom back to unearth swimming stuff for Mini’s swimming lessons. She’s just started Big Girl Lessons, where she can swim with an instructor instead of being accompanied by her Horrible Mother forcing her do terribly scary things like jump in, go for a shower or actually swim. I’ve blogged loads of times about how traumatic other pool-users find going swimming with Mini. I pre-warned her teacher: she hated water on her head, in her eyes, her ears, in fact anywhere on her face; she hated jumping in; she absolutely would not put her head underwater; she’s refused to swim on her back for 4 solid years… The swimming instructor listened to me reeling off my dire warnings, her eyes getting rounder and rounder (the poor soul also has the ‘pleasure’ of teaching Midi and Maxi swimming). I handed Mini over for her taster session, sat back and… Mini made a total liar out of me, ducking and splashing and jumping and blowing bubbles underwater. And swimming on her back with a noodle. Afterwards, as I showered a child who absolutely was not sounding like she was being flayed alive, I asked what had changed.

“I a big gell now”, she grinned winningly.

Well, blow me down.

So, her first ever actual non-mummy-accompanied lesson was last week. The Boss had had a mandatory day off work, so he and me sat in the gallery, studiously saving £3.78 by not having coffees, and watched Mini. Both totally agog. This week, I ignored all the little lazy voices in my head (“You’re too tired; you’re too unfit; everyone will laugh at you in your bulging swimming costume; having a coffee in the cafe would be much, much cheaper than a swim”) and went for a splash about while Mini swam. I’m glad I’d already paid for the swim before I unexpectedly bumped into my friend and her beautiful little newborn – it was a real struggle to drag myself away from them and go do something vaguely resembling swimming. I may not have drowned, but I’m typing this with my elbows tight in to my waist, and I may struggle to dress myself in the morning. Or move my arms and shoulders at all. Maxi had given me lots of advice about how to swim, and was very complimentary about my half-length of crawl, 2 lengths of backstroke and 20 minutes of flailing breast-stroke. It’s strange being patronised by a serious little 8 year-old… But I must admit I do feel good. This is the perfect little regular chunk of the week when I can exercise regularly without having the additional expense of a creche or stop everyone else doing something fun while I disappear to go to the gym or the pool.

It took ages to get out the leisure centre and it was a 30 minute drive home, so when we finally got there with only 20 minutes to go before we had to be heading back out again I decided we should play hooky from nursery. OK, so that now gave us 25 minutes before we had to be at the *next* appointment – dentist. With Mini helping by grating and eating half a block of cheese, we made the quickest omelettes in the world, glugged some water, spent more time brushing teeth than eating lunch, and back off in the car.

It’s taken me 3 years of being on different waiting lists to get to the top of the queue and get an NHS dentist – one waiting list was a sham one that didn’t actually exist (it’s a long story…) – but apparently all I need is a scale. Bonus! I think the dentist was in a bit of a rush because he caught the inside of my cheek with his sharp pointy stick thing (youch! Blood!) but with Mini sitting in the chair I normally sit in, watching me intently, I couldn’t flinch too much. She asked if she could have my sticker for being brave, then threw a mini-strop because she had to settle for Tinkerbell. Well, I mean, what’s the NHS coming to, not having princess stickers?! Actually, in hindsight, maybe he was getting me back for unleashing the minxes on him last month.

Quick mooch round the local supermarket, planning dinner based on the contents of the half-price fridge (homemade stovies with goats cheese and beetroot chutney pizza. Em, maybe yum?) and back home, to finally have a coffee and a proper lunch. Mini was very subdued and quiet for an hour, not quite napping, but not totally paying attention to CBeebies. Good decision to avoid nursery this afternoon, then – she’s really tired after swimming and gymnastics. Must feed her more lard…

After school and making sure Midi’s new glasses were put away safely (my wee baby! Looks 6 going on 11 with her lovely dark pink glasses on), I pretended to be an indulgent mummy and gave the girls a cornet with a scoop of ice-cream pressed into a bowl of sprinkles, with a dot of strawberry sauce on top. I say pretend: it was *me* who wanted the ice-cream! The elder 2 played a bit outside then settled for zonking in front of the TV. When it looked like the stovies weren’t actually going to burn through metal and spontaneously combust (my stovies are a wee bit hit and miss…), I dragged the minxes out to play and had a cup of tea on the garden bench and watched them scoot and cycle up and down the cul-de-sac.

I love the garden bench! We managed to sell the dishwasher and spent the cash on a really sturdy wooden bench. I’ve had some purple, pale- and mid-pink wood stain lurking in the garage for 3 years, so painted the bench purple, with the 2 sets of slats in all 3 shades. I think it looks really pretty. I’ll add a photo over the next week and you can tell me how much of an eyesore it truly is.

After dinner, we went for a wee explore past the end of the street, where the builders have levelled the earth mountain and put down a sharp sand track through the fresh loads of topsoil. The first track took us down the edge of the estate to the shallow burn. What a pretty spot! The minxes spotted rabbits while I eyed up an awesomely fun-looking rope-swing. Definitely worth coming down tomorrow in wellies with Mini after nursery. The Boss and I strolled down the other track (dead-end), watching our shrieking, skipping girls, with the Grampian Mountain foothills as a backdrop.

“Not too shabby a view”, exclaimed The Boss.

I waved back at one of our neighbours, and ambled back to the bench, drinking decaf beside The Boss in the evening sunshine while the girls scooted and cycled and taught new friends how to skip. D’you know, I don’t think evenings get much better than this?

Happy, happy, happy.

Love Geek in the Shire

I should point out that I’m not being paid or persuaded or bribed to write this post by anyone. I’ve just found my Ultimate Sling Ever and want to tell everyone about it, as well as leave a record for the minxes to understand why their mother treasured a piece of fabric.

After 8 years of slinging my minxes, with a mixture of success, I honestly thought my buying days were over: we had the Wompat for ‘buckle’ days, the Connecta up for sale, and the unused Didymos Indio Cypress and Natibaby Pao Graphite just waiting for the right moment to sell. Plenty of carriers when your children are 4, 6 and 8 years old! So I thought. And then the sling company my Imaginary Online Friend had been building for years with her real-life friend started to look like it was about to be ready to trade soon. Well, you’ve got to show a bit of support to your friends, so I volunteered to help with a wee spot of proof-reading. I looked at their 2 designs with a passing interest. And oh my word, they bowled me over! Absolutely blew me away! Beautiful, original and with lovely, lovely stories* (see bottom of post) behind them. The idea behind Love Geek reduced me to immediate, hormonal tears. However, I sensibly wished them luck in their new business and concentrated on raising cash to fund a house-move instead of spending it. Then suddenly they decided to weave the 2 designs in coincidentally my favourite colour-combination. Ever. Oh no! I could feel the iron-strong Trout resolve bending… I crumbled and bought Love Geek in a size 6 from Shire Slings, one hour before Mother’s Day, and on the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death. My last sling, the one I will keep forever, and that I hope my own grandchildren will be carried in some day, whether I’m still around to see it or not. 8 love geek design

Read the story behind Shire Sling’s Love Geek and Russian Doll designs at the bottom of this post, but here’s what Love Geek means to me. The design shows DNA, mitochondria and oxytocin molecules: the chemicals that make us all up, that we inherit from our mother (and her mother; and her mother, etc), and that we feel when we’re in love. The shapes spell out mother-love in the language of geekery. If my obsession with precise numbers hasn’t hinted at me being a geek, my assorted academic qualifications nail it. My relationship with my mum was troubled to say the least, yet I miss her badly. I criticised her parenting of me, but I’d give anything to be able to ask her advice on mothering just one more time. She was diagnosed with lung cancer when my first daughter was 8 weeks old; she died when my second daughter was just short of 6 weeks old. The last time we spoke was on my birthday: her own anniversary of becoming a mother. I struggled with being a natural, instinctive mother – still do! – and am battling my own way through a ton of mothering fails. The only time I’ve felt in my bones that I’m being a good mum is when I’m carrying my daughters in a wrap: kissing away hurts, stroking away fevers, chatting to them on my chest, or letting them sleep on my back. The idea of having a sling that managed to encapsulate all of these ideas whirling around in my head was just too seductive – of course I had to own it!

1 first wrapping2 muslin wrapping3 fresh Love Geek

4 unrolling love geekSo, the Love Geek sling arrived and I unwrapped my not-as-expensive-as-I-feared present to me us! “Brown paper packages tied up with string” – oh yes, this layered confection was worth waiting for! The shimmer was incredible, the colours vivid, and Mini approved: she spontaneously kissed “MyLovelyGreenSling” when she saw it. I had to have a quick play with her (this sling is most emphatically a ‘her’!) before giving her a quick bath, tumble and steam iron. The shimmer faded after this wash, leaving a delicate sheen.

9 first love geek wrapI imagine that most people buying this or any wrap will use it with babies and toddlers. My youngest minx, though, is 4; the one needing most Mummy Cuddles is a very accident-prone 6 yo, so I need my woven wraps to be tough. My ideal would be almost canvassy in durability, but soft enough to go next to the minxes’ sensitive skin. My Love Geek is certainly all of that! I hear from other owners that it breaks-in to a soft texture that loses none of its grip. I’ve always been rubbish at breaking in slings and do it just by plain old wearing and using them. I’ll let you know how I get on with that, but right now I’m valuing its new, fresh stiffness – it’s cushy on my shoulders even with a 4.5 stone burden, and it doesn’t slip or slide despite skipping through the spring flowers (The witnesses have been bribed; they won’t tell. The video is under strict security. The flowers won’t talk. It was a moment of euphoric mummy madness, I tell you!)

6 shire slings logo7 care label

Mini has declared it her “Favourite Sling Ever. Really. Ever”, but hasn’t got the vocabulary to say exactly why. “Comfy” and “green!” were the only sensible words I could catch. Midi, however, thoughtfully explained that it felt better on her legs than other slings: it didn’t dig in and it didn’t sag. It made her back feel “strong”. It felt nice against her skin: softness with inner strength. She loves the colours, too.

11 grippy love geek

So grippy that you don’t have to tie-in! Obviously you should always, always tie-in securely, especially with babies. I just wanted to see how grippy the sling was: very.

As well as its grip and sturdiness – the often over-used ‘work-horse’ is perfectly apt here, though – I found its width perfect for wrapping my big girls securely. I wore Mini or Midi interchangeably for an hour-long walk which I’ve not been able to do with other wraps. I do find wrapping kids older than 3 years old a bit difficult because they’re so large compared to my stumpy arms, so usually have to get The Boss to help by hand me ends behind my back. Despite 3 years of helping me, I usually still find myself growling in exasperation: “No! No! Tighten the top rail! The top one! The other one! Can’t you see? It’s just a simple reinforced ruck! Och, follow it with your hands… No, now you’re loosening it!”. But a feature of Shire Slings is that the rails are differentiated. Even The Boss could see. So when I said: “Flip the end over so we can see the green side too, tighten the top rail, then put the bottom rail in my left hand, please”, he complied instantly. No more shouting. So he’s now a big fan, too.

breaking in 7breaking in 8breaking in 210 strong enough for big kid

The story of how Shire Slings came to be and how they chose the designs is really interesting, but you’ll need to check out their Facebook page for that. Do, do, do: they’re also running a brilliant competition with Natural Mamas to win a Russian Dolls wrap at the moment. Say hi from me while you’re there.

breaking in 1

Mini, did you fart…?!

shire slings love geek


breaking in 3   * Stories behind the wraps, quoted directly from the Shire Slings website,

Love Geek Woven Wrap

Apple and petrol

DNA, oxytocin and the mitochondria cell. Brought together in this stunning woven wrap design that spells out mother love.

  • 50% combed cotton
  • 50% cotton
  • 241 gsm

The Love Geek story.

DNA contains the hereditary material used to encode the genetic instructions used in the development and function of all known living things. Oxytocin is the love hormone. We feel its effects when we fall in love with our partner and our babies. Mitochondria cells contain one piece of DNA that is inherited only down the female line. Every person alive today has inherited their mitochondrial DNA from one single great-great-great-. …..great-grandmother, nearly 200,000 years ago.

Scientists have discovered the mitochondrion cell from the growing baby in mother’s heart and other organs, and it has recently been found embedded in the mother’s brain. It is believed they may be acting as stem cells sent from the baby to repair the mother’s body. There is also some evidence that mitochondria are transferred from mother to infant during nursing. Some scientists believe there is an exchange of mitochondria between twins in utero and there is a possibility that younger siblings have their older siblings’ mitochondria.

Russian Dolls story, also from the Shire Slings website:

Apple and petrol

The Russian Dolls woven wrap is inspired by Spring, new life, mother love and family connections.

The two doll families depicted here represent our families; the stars and flowers our children.

  • 50% combed cotton
  • 50% cotton
  • 241 gsm

The Russian Doll story.

Matroyoshka or Russian nesting dolls were first made in 1890. Traditionally they are carved from a single piece of wood, just like families from the same grandmother. They usually contain no less than 5 dolls. The first Doll is female with the inner dolls being either sex. The final baby doll is a solid wooden shape.

Fish Birthday Cake Tutorial

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Happy birthdayI made Maxi a fish birthday cake and it seemed to go down quite well… I took photos along the way to remind me how to make it next year, so this is a wee photo tutorial in how to do it. I bet you could make it far, far better! Maybe next year I’ll do an all-chocolate one, with gills made of Flakes and flat scales made of white and milk chocolate buttons. Yum! Can’t wait!

You can base this cake around any round cake you like: sponge cake, Victoria sandwich, pound cake, fruit cake, etc. I made a Madeira cake (recipe at the end). Partly because it makes a dense sponge that’s really easy to cut, partly because I know I can make them easily and they turn out the way I want every time, and partly because I’m greedy and I love them.

1. Start with your round cake.

1. Start with your round cake.

Anyway, the cake can be any size. This one is from a 9″ cake tin.

So: start with your cake. It’s up to you whether you level off the top or not. I didn’t bother.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

5. Smother in buttercream.

5. Smother in buttercream. No need to worry about a crumb-coat and no need to be neat – just smother that fish in buttercream (I used 200g butter, a little milk and about 450g icing sugar).

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as 'bubbles'

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as ‘bubbles’. I used a shop-bought tube of icing: they look like big toothpaste tubes, come with 3 different shaped nozzles, and are sold in the home-baking aisle. The pink buttons were in the home-baking aisle, too.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye. I used a few little packets of Fruit Buttons as fish scales. I thought they might be in rainbow shades of pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, but they turned out to be various shades of orange. And they were a nightmare to stick in the icing: too soft. Meh! Next time I’ll use Smarties or chocolate buttons.

Close-up of the scales

Close-up of the scales

fish cake tutorial 11

I added little wave wiggles and some writing and details using a little tube of chocolate icing I had leftover from another cake. I admit that I only added them because stupidly I’d placed the cake too much to the left and had a big gaping space (doh!), but it made the whole cake look pretty good.

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Madeira Cake Recipe


  • 300g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 400g plain flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon


  1. Put oven on at 170degC/340degF/gas 3. Line a 9 inch round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and airy.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Add big spoons of flour any time the mixture even hints at curdling.
  5. After that, add the egg and flour alternately.
  6. Stir in the lemon rind.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  8. Bake for about 1hr 10 mins. If the top is getting too brown, put some foil over it. At the end, check the cake’s cooked the whole way through by putting a skewer / clean knitting needle in the centre and checking that it comes out clean. If mixture sticks to it, it needs at least another 10 mins baking.

Chimps Tea Party

Today I was supposed to go to a lovely-sounding Daffodil Tea at Mini Minx’s nursery, but I spent the entire day pouring coffee down my neck and chasing around (school run, then Gym Teds half an hour away, then boringboringshopping half an hour away from that, meet The Boss for lunch, 40 minute chase back home, chuck cold food in the fridge, school run, stuff food down the minxes, half an hour drive to gymnastics, hang around for an hour, then back for dinner). This doesn’t include the Standard Daily Fights to have the girls dress and eat on time… I decided to do something about feeling overwhelmed (and knock 12 miles off today’s taxi route), so I ‘forgot’ the Daffodil Tea.

tea party 1Mini looked a bit crestfallen when I confessed what I was going to do. She certainly wasn’t on top form anyway – she’d come thundering into our room last night and clung to my neck for a few hours before she settled enough to go into her own bed at 5.35am. In a bid to cheer her up and make up for being selfish, I said tea party 2we could have a tea party of our own. It was a surprise success!

I bought some cheap strawberry tarts from the supermarket and opened a packet of Party Rings I was stashing for Maxi’s birthday next week. I put them on white plates, added some napkins that we’ve been hoarding for decades in case we ever have a dinner party again (maniacal laughter), got out some tiny cups and saucers (espresso ones – same future mythical dinner party) and put some fruit tea in a little tea pot. I helped Mini rip out the tea bag and brew the tea party 3tea – the wee soul thought she had to empty the bag into the pot. I chose fruit tea because (a) I don’t want the minxes to drink tea and coffee when they’re children, and (b) it’s pink: perfect! I took out the bag when it was brewed enough then left it to cool in case one of the inevitable spillages happened quickly.

After that, I sat back and let her pour me cup after cup of tea! She was in Girly 7th Heaven: real tea pot, real (pink) tea, real (pink) biscuits and no sisters to fight with. She’s begged me to let her have afternoon tea tea party 4tomorrow morning when her sisters go to school. “And I can make scones to go with a tea? A lovely big pink tea?” she asked. Oh go on.

Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.

I can’t wait!

tea party 5