Just Like Mama Used to Make…My Top 5 Comfort Meals

As I touched upon in a previous post, pregnancy comes with it’s fair share of changes. In my case, second to waking up four to five times a night to go to the toilet is my new found appetite.

I say new found, but it’s always been there lurking away in the background. I go through phases with my diet. For instance, for the months leading up to falling pregnant I was a follower of the Raw diet, which you can read about here. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me. I felt good, I had more energy, I lost a healthy amount of weight (and apparently became extra fertile in the process). Then there is the other half of my diet. The little demon that most of us have, telling me that just one more slice of cake can’t stick to my hips that badly. I’ll just do that extra ten minutes on the run tomorrow. Ten minutes later, a whole Battenburg down and dribbling of remorse, it doesn’t seem like such a great idea, does it?

I to and fro with my diet, I’ve never been able to quite get it down to a T. Being pregnant has of course accentuated my cravings for certain foods. Among sour sweets and ice pops, my main cravings are for my mothers home cooked meals. There’s something comforting about not just the food, but the care that goes into preparing them.

My mother is one of nine siblings in an Irish Catholic family. My grandmother, a good god fearing woman has had her fair share of culinary blunders. There was the time when we realized her mash potatoes were so awful because she didn’t know you had to drain the potatoes first. There was the occasion when she made vol au vents for my mothers birthday…instead of using puff pastry she used big Yorkshire puddings for the prawns. Then we have the ongoing battle of the tuna sandwich. We’re still debating how to tell her that you have to drain the sunflower oil out of the tuna first.

I don’t quite understand where my mother has gained her culinary prowess from, but I thought I would share with you my top 5 favourite comfort home cooked meals.

1. Boiled Bacon, Cabbage and Potatoes


If my mother ever wants to see me, the only three words she has to utter are Bacon, Cabbage and Potatoes. It’s like magic- through hell and high water I’ll be there in ten minutes flat. Hell, you can just say Bacon and I’ll pretty much appear in a puff of smoke salivating. You can get an easy to follow recipe from the lovely people at BBC Good Food here.

2. Bubble and Squeak 


Okay, so not the prettiest dish- but what a classic. With the state of the economy at the moment, who can afford to throw out leftovers anyway?! Try Nigel Slater’s painfully quick recipe. For a nice twist, throw some mature cheddar in there too.  Be warned, this does not flip as easily as a pancake. I should know.

3. Shepard’s Pie


Rivaled only by the great Tuna Pasta Bake. The comfort in this dish is almost second to none, especially after a long day or in place of the family Sunday roast. Or on a Monday after the kids have been swimming…or a Tuesday…why not every day?! This dish has everything you want, vegetables, meat and potatoes. Traditionally this English dish is made with lamb mince, although my mother does it the ‘American’ way, with beef mince, perhaps due to spending a few years in Texas. Whatever your preference, Jamie Oliver has a great How-To right here.

4.Tuna Pasta Bake


How did you know that was coming next? This is a great dish for any family. It’s quick, it’s easy and incredibly filling- also great if you’re on a budget, hence being the staple diet of many a student. One tip I’ve picked up from my mother is to avoid the in the jar sauces, especially the ones that say the pasta doesn’t need to be pre-boiled. They never work and you end up with a mouthful of charred pasta akin to glass that will also poke a hole in your culinary ego. I like mine with lots of cheese. If you want a good tip to give it that extra crunch, try crushing up some cheese and onion crisps and sprinkling over the top. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! You can get the basic recipe from Sainsbury’s here.

5. Chicken and Mushroom Pie 


Anyone else starting to notice a carbalicious theme here? Next to Bacon, anything to do with pastry is pretty much a dead cert way of getting my ass at the dinner table. Just last night I had a dream about these delightfully light little puffs of deliciousness. I know pregnant women salivate more than usual, but really… I have had a love affair with pie since an early age, although I shamefully admit that I have never been quite able to master the pie power. My mother on the other hand, can bake pies in her sleep. I do however make a damn good cake and that works out pretty well as she can’t do a fondant to save her bacon. There’s something about James Martin’s pie recipe that makes me think I may just be able to pull something that vaguely resembles this mouthwatering picture together.

So, there you have it. What are your top 5 comfort home cooked meals? I’d love to know. Now, what’s for dessert?


Raising Hell

My nephew is a godsend. He is the most beautiful little cherubic 3 year old with chubby Raphaelian little cheeks and curly yellow  hair that you will ever meet (of course, I’m not biased at all- how dare you suggest such a thing.)

My brother has him two days a week whilst Brandon’s mother has him full time, and since my brother is staying with me at the moment I get to see quite a lot of my favourite little person. As with most 3 year olds, he is a ball of non stop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle loving energy. It’s quite a sight to behold, him jumping over nothing but air, using belts as lifelines to save me from the sofa which is clearly not a sofa at all, but a dangerous life threatening precipice.

When he is here with us, or with my mother he is well behaved- all be it slightly mischievous. He doesn’t hit, he doesn’t shout. He doesn’t push his luck and he is full of sweet innocent one liners. Recently it was his birthday, I took it upon myself to make him a cake from scratch. He was overjoyed. At least I like to think it was joy causing those tears in his eyes and not absolute fear of this blue and white monster of a being with a flame on it’s head lurching toward him whilst everyone did in the room did this strange ritualistic chant.

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We had been at the zoo all day, my nephew, my brother, our parents and I. It was a lovely day. He looked at the Meerkats and was a joy really.

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Seeing him for these periods of time- the high points, the weekends were we do fun things and take him to fun places, I had never really thought how it was when he was at home with his mother. It didn’t occur to me that his behaviour would change or that he would be different to how we see him. I realise now that it was extremely ignorant of me to think that he would be as cherubic as he is with us all of the time. An unfair expectation to say the least- he is a 3 year old boy after all.

There have been a couple of times in the recent weeks that I have been to see Brandon at his mothers house. Cue Jekyll and Hyde toddler tantrums, fist throwing and leg kicking awe. It’s all ‘I want to watch’, ‘I need this’, ‘Stop doing that!’. I’d like to say at this point that Brandon’s mother is a good mother. She is hardworking, she tries hard to give him all the things he wants. His attitude with her is  ‘If I keep shouting, she will give me what I want.’Clearly a tried and tested method, at the end of her tether she will usually give in. She knows that she is a master of her own demise but is stuck in a relentless loop.

It’s not for me to question how she disciplines him- it’s not my place and it would be inappropriate. My main point is that this must be a very common problem among broken families. Whilst the full time parent is there on the day to day school run basis, the everyday days of life, the ‘part-time’ parent often has the time and the opportunity to have the fun days, the zoo and swimming days, the cinema days.

If I look back on my own early childhood, I recall much more vividly the weekends and the smiles and laughter I shared with my father as he made the most of his precious time with me. I do remember good times with my mother- but fewer stick out in my mind.

It can’t be easy to be the consistent one, the one who is there to remind them to do their homework or brush their teeth, or the one who works a lot in order to provide a good life, at the expense of quality time.

This isn’t to say that both sides don’t have their downfalls. I know my brother would give anything to be there to put Brandon to bed every night and wish him good morning. It seems to me this single parent gig is a double edged sword, no matter what side of it you are on.

As I’m 3 months away from embarking on this journey myself, I can only say one thing.

I hope these are tears of joy in my eyes and not fear!

Who Gives a Folk?

Are you superstitious?

The other day a friend of mine was complaining of itchy palms. I instantly cooed ‘That means some money will be coming your way.’

I may aswell have been dressed in rags, peering into a crystal ball and asking her to cross MY palm with silver.

I honestly never thought I was very superstitious until I actively caught myself saying the old wives tale with such excitement and what’s more- actually believing it.

The more I thought about it, the more I started recognising these patterns of superstitious belief in my daily actions.

Three drains? Take a step around, don’t be a fool. Itchy sole? You’ll be going somewhere new soon- maybe that nice restaurant you’ve been begging your friends to try. Black cat crossed your path? Crow on the chimney? Omens of the bad, my friend. Take cover and hide until it’s safe.

I don’t even know how half of these have worked their way into being habitual. I just know that somehow over time they have become little silent rules that I have on repeat in the background. Never ending and always present, these little superstitions that guard me from tempting fates cruel hand.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered how superstition plays such a big part in every day life, not just for me but for others too. My grandmother, for instance. She has to end a telephone conversation with ‘God Bless.’ Part religion, perhaps- but still. If she doesn’t, she feels a bad sense of foreboding.

Where does this need to do certain things for suspected results come from? Is it the subconscious need to feel more in control of our own destiny than we are, to be masters of our own fate?

As superstitious as I am, something tells me that the downfalls in my life couldn’t have been avoided by stepping around that extra drain. However, I will still make my journeys that little bit longer by doing so, whilst merrily saluting every magpie as I go.

Another Link in the Daisy Chain

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When I was little my mother used to take me to the park nearest to where we lived.

We would sit on the grass and play my favourite game- Cinderella. I was always Cinderella of course- my mother still is a bit sore about having to always be the ugly sister (seriously, she always states the unfairness of my childhood games. After all, can’t adults get a good part?)

I just loved to play Cinderella. Weather it was helping with the dishes or at these instances in the park, slaving away at making endless daisy chains for my ugly stepsister to wear at the ball. In these moments, I was happiest.

Those daisy chains. They’ve haunted me ever since- in the best way. I love them. I have a deep rooted loyalty to these little pops of flowers with their delicately juicy stems and happy yellow hearts, to their beautiful halos of white. They will always hold a pride of place in my memory, taking me back to those long summer days with the gentle lift of breeze. In these moments I had my mother all to myself. I greedily gobbled up these times. In these moments, she wasn’t my stepfathers wife or my brothers mother. She was this beautiful entity of motherly love that was entirely and implicitly mine.

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These stolen moments, whilst we waited to pick my brother up from big school, or took time out before a doctors appointment to laze in the shade, I think were the makings of our bond. Don’t get me wrong, as the years ticked by and my hormones raged on we fought like cat and dog. Spatulas were thrown, rooms were wrecked in a pubescent rage, mountains shook and the wrath was felt. There were times when we felt more uncomfortable in each others company than Tiger Woods defending his fidelity.

But in another surge of time, things pass and subside. Normal service is resumed. The unthinkable happened- I grew up. I’m proud to say that my mother is my best friend. In fact, she can’t get rid of me. I call her one, two, three times a day for absolutely no reason other than to be comforted by her voice. That’s not to say we don’t have our moments- we do. We are both of a fiery disposition which sometimes leads to us burning holes in each other, but the constant is always there.

We went for a walk today and chose a spot on the grass in a patch of daisies. I made chains, letting my bump soak up the sun. Instead of playing Cinderella we spoke about life- mainly the new one growing inside of me. Where we would hold the christening, who we would invite, what she would wear…what she is going to look like. Having this moment with her to sit and do nothing was priceless, being able to sit side by side  (not just two but almost three) made me even more excited to meet my daughter.

My mother ate as I plugged on at this daisy chain, adding the links systematically.

I am a bundle of hormones, from good to bad- with a big dollop of excited thrown in.

I’m looking forward to meeting the new link in our chain…we’ll love her right from the centre of our bright yellow daisy hearts- although I may hide the kitchen utensils for the next 18 years just to be on the safe side.

The Art of Doing Nothing



Being Pregnant has taught me many a thing. Allow me to elaborate.

1. Never take normal bladder function for granted. Going to to the toilet every half an hour is highly inconvenient and incredibly costly in terms of toilet paper.

2. Never underestimate the value of a decent pair of shoes. It is true, feet do swell and summer really is the worst time to be carrying the weight of another little soul.

3. Baby brain is a real thing and it is alive and well. Gone are the days where organisation comes second nature. Gone are the days when I could walk upstairs in the house and still remember what I was looking for by the time I reach the top of the stairs. Gone are the days…where was I?

4. There is nothing more blissful, nothing more sacred and more utterly necessary than doing sweet FA.

Before I found out I was a fertile myrtle I was of the opinion, that frankly my life was pretty boring. I’d work, come home, eat and sleep and participate in the rat race of life as we all do. Of a weekend I would see my friends, sink a few wines, dance like it was 1999 and eventually stumble home in the early hours. I felt like my life was pretty standard. To put it in simple terms- I always felt like there was more I should be doing, more I could pack into my evenings and weekends.  If I had no plans in the hours after work I felt a sense of social sadness, and almost even social failure. What was this ‘spare time’? I seemed to have more of it than I liked but I detested it. After all, a busy life is a means of vindication, right?

‘Friends want to see me. I have plans. I’m far too busy to sit at home.’

That was how I thought life should be. Where I got this perception from, I have no idea. I could blame it on social media. The photographs that stream endlessly onto our news feeds, the constant status updates of  ‘I had such a great night last night! I love my friends <3’  that we are all too used to seeing in these displays of social one up man-ship.

My housemate was very socially active, with a wide group of friends and an ever expanding diary. ‘I can do the 15th…but I’m busy for the rest of the month.’

It seems to me than many of us aspire to have that kind of lifestyle, to maintain that level of self righteous popularity- especially in your late teens to mid twenties. It’s almost embarrassing to make plans and reply with ‘I’m free as a bird, I can do any time’, to then be bombarded with a list of dates unsuitable for the other party.

Being a mother to be does change your social life, there’s no doubt about it- especially a single mother to be. Suddenly friends don’t know what to invite you to and what to not invite you to anymore- ‘I wasn’t sure if you would be up to it.’ And most of the time, they are right. Your energy levels deplete. You are incapable of going anywhere that doesn’t have a restroom within arms reach. Alcohol is out and so is dancing- at best you could manage a slow waddle. That’s not to say you’re forgotten about of course. That isn’t the case. They still care, they still pop round, you are still theirs. It is just different.

But, you know what I’ve discovered?

It’s okay. It’s more than okay- it’s delectable to come home from work and be given a reprieve from the go go go of the social scene. You are given a get out of jail free card to sit on your sofa with a plate of strawberries. One hand resting on your bump and another propping up an American Classic. I am a woman liberated from the shackles of ‘I’m running late, I’ll be there as soon as I can!’, of having utter hormone rage in trying to find that perfect outfit that I’m sure I must’ve owned once as there were pictures, and most brilliantly- no more Saturday mornings with my head down the toilet praying to the gods that I’ll never drink again if they offer up some sort of relief.

In retrospect I know now that my life is anything but boring. If anything, I was so caught up in the constant whirring wheel of communal goings on that I couldn’t see the spare minutes ticking by through the trees. I was on a 100% all of the time- I never gave myself a break. If I wasn’t out doing something, anything– I was at home thinking about what I could be out doing. It was a never-ending, sometimes enjoyable but sometimes sadistic way of life. Sailing at full speed whilst never having time to listen to the ocean beneath that carried the boat so effortlessly along.

I used to be so scared, all be it excepting of my own company. I’m not even entirely sure why. I’m sure a fair few therapists would have something to say on the subject.

Now, the really terrifying thing is- Life has never been so good.

Driving Miss Daisy…Crazy


I hopped in a taxi the other day, the same firm that I have used consistently for the past year so.

My parents never drove and this sort of had a domino effect to me, I’ve never really felt the desire or urgency to learn how- although I suspect this may change when I have my little one at the end of the year. I like to walk- I mainly walk everywhere as I loathe to the get public transport. I just hate buses. The smell, the feel of the rough fabric in summer, the awkward ‘Can I sit here’s and the conversations you overhear (Honestly, is nothing sacred?!).

The point being that if I don’t walk, on occasion I will spare the extra few pounds to be able to sit in comfortable peace. I’ve always sort of quietly enjoyed this luxury and the polite chatter with the driver. I’ve had some excellent conversations in the past as a result. I’ve met a self proclaimed reiki healing master who assured me he could cure me of my lifelong migraine condition, a man who had the most amazing tales from his travels in India, a gentleman who did the job as extra income to fund his charity works and many more. I’ve heard great stories on these short journeys of mine- all of which have left me feeling intrigued and generally much happier than I would have been if I had been instead stood on the number 20 with someones armpit in my face.

I had never really had a problem as such until the other day. I was on my way to my grandmothers house to have Sunday lunch with her and my father armed with my 20 week scan photos and in full blooming proud mother mode. The sun was shining (a rarity in these parts). I was ready to enjoy a lazy family Sunday.

Then, it happened.

‘You alright, love?’

‘Yes, I’m fine thank you. How are you?’

‘Not feeling too well today.’

‘That’s a shame.’

‘I called the council the other day, I wanted to go on the sick. They wouldn’t give me nothing. I said to her I should change my *insert expletive here* name to Mohammed, then I’d get everything.’

Oh no. It’s happened. I am stuck in a car with one of them. This was problematic at best. What on earth are you supposed to do when you fall victim to an opinion that you highly oppose when you are trapped in the offenders car? I ran through the options in my head as I sat in stoic silence, as the driver marched endlessly on into the usual tirade of hate.

‘I used to be proud to be British, nothing left for us anymore. They get everything…’ and so on and so forth.

I ran through the options in my head. There was about another ten minutes left on the journey. I could make a stand, ask him to stop and get out of the car. Give him a piece of my mind and tell him that in fact, I’m very proud to be British and part of a country that helps others in need, a country that is a better place for it’s diversity in many way. I could tell him that in fact, they don’t get everything and he should stop reading hoax emails whilst taking them as gospel truth. After all, if it says it on Facebook it must be true. Right?

There were a few problems with this heroic option, one being that I am five months pregnant, it’s a hot day and I was still a couple of miles away from my destination, but the main being- you just don’t know how someone could react and let’s face it, he’s got the upper hand here. He might lock the doors and take me away Nazi Germany with him.

As a woman- and a pregnant one- in that situation, I was highly uncomfortable. I thought it more sensible to bite my tongue and make a note of his taxi number, knowing next time I book to ask for any cab but. The whole situation was extremely awkward, the driver not taking my non responsive attitude as any hint to simply stop speaking or change the subject. He withered on and on with his hate speech for the entire journey, even at one point having the audacity to predict my unborn child’s fate.

‘That baby, that won’t have a future. Won’t be able to get a job.’

I mean really, where do some people get off. At the risk of sounding like a snob- has the line between a taxi being a private hire service and the driver doing you a paid favor blurred? Where has the formality gone? I wouldn’t in a million years ever consider it appropriate to give my store customers an earful of such a controversial and personal nature, neither would I expect it from anyone I didn’t know well enough out of any service industries.

On the subject of immigration itself – to me, it seems a much worse problem to have ignorance plaguing our streets, sowing the seeds of unjustified and uneducated hate.

The most ironic thing of it all, the real icing on top of the callowness cake, was the final thing the driver said to me.

‘Well, if it get’s much worse I’ll be out of here. I’ll move to another country.’



Janis, Janis, Janis…


I have one sure thing that cheers me up, regardless of what frame of mind I’m in, what my ever raging hormones are doing, or what bill I’ve just remembered I’ve forgotten to pay (baby brain is a real thing.)

I am hopelessly in love with Janis Joplin. Nothing lifts the weight of the world off my shoulders quite as well as kicking my shoes off and flicking my record player on. As soon as I hear the first notes, I can’t help but slip painlessly into a pleasure induced coma of the senses.

For that moment, life is good.

I do know that my bump can now hear me and recognize my voice from inside the womb. I should probably be kinder to her than to subject her to my best Joplin imitation…which really isn’t the best of anything at all. But I just can’t help it.

On a live version of Ball and Chain, Janis talks to the crowd. This is a favourite of mine. In that husky voice she implores the audience to live for today- ‘If you’ve got it today, you’re not going to wear it tomorrow.’

Despite her obvious and legendary destructive habits- you have to admire her lust and passion for life, her idealistic view of how we should live. She may not have taken her own advice, but she definitely left a resounding message. She turned life inside out. From the tone of her voice to the expression in her…well, just all of her.

I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me and dismiss her as a misguided hippy. Well, take your ears elsewhere heathens- or watch this. Mama Cass’s face says it all.