Leggings are not Trousers. Ever.

Since the re-emergence of leggings a few years back (when did this happen again?), I’ve noticed an alarming trend on the streets year after year.  I’m not the first person to blog about this, but I witness this so frequently that I am just compelled to vent.

You see, people (women) seem to think that it is acceptable to use leggings as a pair of trousers.  So they will don a short (not covering the bum) top, a pair of leggings and they’re good.  Unfortunately, they’re not actually good at all.  Ladies, have you ever caught sight of your rear-end with the summer sunshine directed straight at it?  No?  Guess what?  We all have, and oh, our eyes!

I take my camera with me everywhere, but haven’t had the heart (or bottle) to snap the numerous examples of this bizarre fashion faux pas, so if you are confused by what I’m talking about, then here are some examples I’ve pinched from the internet that may enlighten you.

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It actually doesn’t matter if you have the best quality or cheapest leggings, they all behave the same way.  Jersey fabric is just not designed to be used as a trouser.  When pulled tight over the skin, it becomes transparent in certain light (most light), and what looks perfectly fine at home, in front of the mirror from the front, is actually looking rather alarming from behind once you step out of the house.

So if this is something you do and have never realised that you could have been inadvertently flashing your bum to the world, then don’t worry.  You can still wear those leggings, but just make sure you have an adequately long top or tunic on over the top.

Want skinny trousers to wear?  There are treggings these days, which are a skinny trouser (cross between leggings and trousers).  They offer the tightness of a legging with the thickness of a trouser.  Here are some fine examples from Topshop.

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Anyway, I’m pleased I’ve got that off my chest.  Now for the love of god, please share this on Twitter and Facebook so that we can all work together to save our eyes from the horror of bare bums we didn’t want to see.

Till next time.

Heatwave Pizza

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We’re in the midst of a heatwave, which has meant many consecutive afternoons keeping cool in the shade of my parents’ back garden with the kids.  Mum and I tend to cook one-pot dishes for the kids that tick all the boxes.  Meals like stews which are pasta or pulse-based, lots of veg, a protein, enough liquid to make it saucy.  These meals are usually tasty for the kids as well as nourishing and whole.  But in the hot weather, the kids are too busy playing outdoors to care about sitting down to eat, and sloppy food just doesn’t inspire them or us.

So one day this week we decided to make them some pizza.  Pizza is a winner because let’s face it, who is going to refuse to eat pizza?  It requires minimal assistance with feeding – my 1-year old isn’t quite handy enough with cutlery yet, so needs to be fed and my 2-year old is so appalled by the attention that his brother gets while eating that he also requires assistance with feeding.  Headache.

Pizza doesn’t have to be really unhealthy, particularly if it is homemade.  Shop-bought pizza is notoriously high in salt, which is why I wouldn’t feed them to my kids.  You can eliminate ingredients with high salt like cured meats, and you can also limit or eliminate salt from the pizza base mix.

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Pizza is super-easy to make and you can usually whip together a basic pizza with ingredients you already have in the kitchen.

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Mum whipped up some pizza dough using some strong bread flour, Allison’s easy bake yeast and this recipe which you can find on the back of the yeast packet/tin, and on the back of Allison’s strong bread flour bag.  To be honest, you can probably select one of the numerous pizza base recipes from the internet.

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For the toppings, I used:

Tomato Puree

Mushrooms – chopped

Half a red onion – sliced

Grated cheddar – quantity down to your discretion and pizza quantity

Capers

Dried or fresh herbs

Black pepper

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Preheat your oven to high.  The highest ours goes to is 250 degrees Celsius.

Make your pizza dough according to your recipe.  I didn’t bother letting the dough prove as I was in a hurry.  The dough feels nicer when you let it rise, but for pizza, it isn’t essential.

Divide your dough into however many pizzas you want to make.  I made four small pizzas.

On a floured board, roll out the dough until it is roughly 2mm thick – basically roll it out pretty thinly.

Place your bases on your pizza trays ready for toppings.  Spread tomato puree over the base to the edges.  I don’t measure anything, so I can’t tell you how much I used, but you can see the coverage in the photo for a guide.

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Sprinkle some chopped herbs from the garden or dried herbs from the cupboard.  I used fresh marjoram and dried basil on this occasion.

Arrange all of your toppings except the cheese evenly on the pizza.

Lastly, top with the cheese.  I do this last because the cheese protects everything from burning, and it sticks everything together and to the pizza base.

Crack some black pepper over the top if you wish and pop into the top of the oven.

I cooked mine in 10 minutes.  Keep a really close eye on your pizza as when they’re at the top of a very hot oven, they will burn really quickly if you’ve had a lapse in concentration.  Some pizzas may cook slightly quicker than that, or slightly longer, depending on your oven, so do stay close.

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I made mini pizzas and chopped them into small segments, ideal for little hands.  Just as we were ready to serve, the heavens opened, so we ended up dining in the conservatory instead of the garden!

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They were still just as yummy indoors as they would have been in the garden.

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Till next time.

An Electric Evening

I had a particularly rubbish evening today.  I got home after a lovely afternoon with my mum and kids in the garden.  But after a long car ride I was fairly hot, bothered and sticky from the naff journey home, and just needed some literal and mental space.

I decided to go for a walk on the local green area called Figges Marsh.  There were a lot of people on the marsh, enjoying the warm Friday evening and soaking up the chilled atmosphere following a long, hot week at work.  There was a feel-good vibe on Figges Marsh.  People were in a good mood, and the atmosphere felt electric and exciting.  It was great for my previously stressy mood.

As well as being metaphorically electric, the atmosphere was quite literally electric.  Towards the east, a storm was brewing and dark grey clouds loomed on the horizon.  I had a great view of the distant stormy sky from the open space on the marsh.  I normally have my camera with me, so I decided to walk to one end of the marsh to get the best view of the sky.

Only a few moments prior to this, I had been talking to a girl who was also photographing on the marsh.  Her subjects were the wild flowers that had been planted.  She had an awesome camera, and knew what she was doing.  (I don’t).  We had a chat about the stormy sky, and joked about how ridiculously difficult it would be to capture a bolt of lightning.  We said goodbye and went on our separate ways.  I decided to take some snaps of the sky, which you can see below.  I was messing around with the settings, so the quality isn’t very good, but you get an idea of how ominous the sky was.

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Anyway, I snapped a few more, and saw the sky light up.  I quickly snapped, and to my total amazement, I captured this photo:

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I couldn’t believe I actually captured some lightning on my little point and shoot.  I was chuffed to pieces.  My mood was instantly lifted.  I tried a few more times, and got the tail end of a bolt, but you can barley see it:

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It was getting quite late and dark, so I decided to call it quits and head home.  The sky looked so amazing, that instead of standing still and snapping, I decided to video some of it.  You can see the two, brief videos here.  Again, apology for the quality.  I used my phone!

I’m a bit of a weather geek, and really enjoy spotting a huge cumulonimbus.  I would love to be able to acquire some better photography skills and opportunities to photograph meteorological drama in the future.  In the meantime, I’m going to revel in my photography achievements of the evening and hope that you enjoy the view from SW London as much as I did.

Till next time.

Woes of a Sleepless Toddler

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I was horrified to realise that I hadn’t written a blog post in ages.  About a month.  There have been a couple of reasons for this, but one main thing has been sleep, or lack of.  For all of us.

You see, if you know me, you will probably be aware that I’ve been incredibly smug about how well my children sleep.  They’re in bed at 19:00 and sleep through until 07:00 the next day.  Brilliant.  However, in the last month or so, my elder son has begun to resist this magic routine, favouring prancing around his bedroom, emptying the contents of drawers into his brother’s cot, spitting his water out all over the room, waking his brother up if he managed to fall asleep with all of this nonsense going on… Yep – we’ve gone from sleepy bliss to a daily evening nightmare.  And the nightmare drags on until well gone 9pm.  In my book, this is way too late for a two and a half year old to be up and awake.  And his behaviour at the end of each evening is testament to this.  He has been falling asleep in a hysterical, tearful, anxious mess.  He must have such a headache each night before he finally falls asleep.

So with their (on average) 7am rises, he is getting about 9.5 hours sleep per night.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that he has also been presenting with the same behaviour before nap times, which means in a 24-hour period, he is getting about 10 hours sleep.  Not good.

Now all of this prancing around could be interpreted as meaning that he is full of energy, and therefore probably doesn’t need to sleep in the day, and doesn’t need an early bedtime.  Let him stay up.  Don’t put him down for naps.  Right?  Wrong!

You see, since he was born, I’ve become very familiar with the concept of ‘sleep begets sleep’.  In other words, when a baby, toddler, or anyone, for that matter, has a good sleep routine, i.e. they get adequate naps or adequate sleep each day, it brings about sleep much easier the next time they need to go to sleep.  Translated again, the more a baby or toddler sleeps, the more they sleep.  Sounds crackers, doesn’t it?

A baby or toddler who has missed a nap, or is not getting adequate hours of sleep in each 24 hour period, is working up a mounting sleep deficit.  I can see your eyebrows raising in scepticism.  The common misconception is that if a kid has missed their nap, they’ll go off to sleep much better or earlier when it is bedtime.  Not true. The other one I frequently hear is to ‘tire him out’ in the day so that he goes to sleep better at night.  It doesn’t work.

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The theory goes as follows: If babies or toddlers have had insufficient sleep, they become so wound up from feeling overtired, as their adrenalin has hit the roof to compensate for lack of rest.  This adrenalin sends them into a fit of hyperactivity.  So you’re faced with the crazy, hyper child bouncing off the walls at bedtime, appearing full of zest and energy.  What’s actually happening is that they can’t wind down.  They’re stressed and can’t relax themselves into a peaceful state by the time evening hits because the adrenalin is circulating their blood stream, propelling their tired little bodies to carry on with the madness.  They may collapse into a sleeping heap, but the quality of sleep they get will be inadequate, and they’re likely to waken during the night.  Don’t believe me?  Read any of the following articles:  Baby Sense, Canadian Living, Troublesome Tots… the list goes on (see Google).

This mounting sleep deficit manifests itself in some worrying behaviour that will have your relatives talking behind your back about how out of control your child is, or how out of control you are with controlling your child.  Namely, crankiness (understatement of the century), defiance, hyperactivity, night wakening, lack of patience, unable to concentrate, meltdowns at the drop of a hat.  Basically, a lot of seemingly worrying behavioural patterns that may provoke you to seek expert assistance from behaviour professionals (psychologists?). (see Better Health Channel and The Sleep Lady for more information on symptoms of sleep deprivation in children).

So getting back to the original story, my elder son has taken a sleep-nosedive in the last few weeks or so.  I have some insight into why this could be.  We moved home at the end of March.  His little brother moved into his room the day before we moved.  We transitioned him from cot to toddler bed a few weeks later.  Lots of changes, and I guess I overestimated how well he was dealing with all of this.  Indeed, he seemed to be dealing with it well at the beginning, but he is not dealing with it all well now.  He constantly attempts to make a bed for himself in his brother’s cot or on the floor.  He doesn’t seem to want to relax for sleep, no matter what strategies we take.

Since he was a baby, he needed a lot of persuasion to calm down, so I adopted the Dr. Harvey Karp technique of using the ‘5 S’s System’ when I needed to relax him for sleep.  And boy did it work a treat.  I suspect that he still needs strong cues to relax and calm him, but I just don’t know how to trigger them in him.  We’ve always kept the same, traditional routine of bath, milk, story, cuddle, bed.  It has always worked well.  But that no longer relaxes him.  We’ve tried to keep things chilled and calm in the run-up to bedtime, but we end up with a house full of calm, relaxed adults and super-toddler running around us.

I think I do everything I possibly can as a parent to try and help him.  I take him out to places, sit with him, play with him, teach him, encourage independence by leaving him on his own to play, I buy him toys, I make things with him, I give him the best food, I’m kind to him, I discipline him, I’m there for him physically and psychologically, I care for him full-time…  I literally don’t know what else I can do or give to him that will help him be more settled and happy at bedtime.  (Suggestions in the comments box or direct message please).

So here’s where we are now (and you have my permission to chuckle at this); to get him to go to sleep, I am driving him in the car pre nap and bedtime until he falls asleep, and then transferring him into his bed.  I know.  I’m an idiot.  But hear me out.  Because he has had weeks of a mounting sleep deficit, I was keen to get his sleeping back up to scratch, no matter what it took.  I now have to figure out how I am going to wean him from the motion of the car to a different way of falling asleep.

If only he would tell me what his issue is.  He’s very smart – great at talking (just like his mama).  He can talk to me about electricity pylons, double-decker buses and diesel trains, but will not talk to me about what ails him at night.  So in the meantime, it is a guessing game of trial and error as we venture further on the white-knuckle ride that is ‘the terrible twos’ (a term I’m really not fond of at all – two-year olds are gorgeous creatures).

It may be a while before our sleep schedules have recovered, but we’re working on it as always.  If you’ve had struggles with a toddler resisting journeying to the land of nod, I’d love to hear your experiences.

Till next time.