June 30, 2024

Sunday Randomness - Hair, Running, Sleep, Food.

On Friday I decided it was time to cut Lilah's hair.  I set up mommy hair salon in the kitchen.  It included the following hair cut menu:

Lilah picked curly hair.  I cut it exactly as I planned to (slightly shorter than it was)
We are not a big TV family.  We watch half an hour sometimes before dinner, and sometimes a little more if we are watching a film in parts.  Although I have a tablet the kids have never seen me use it and I've told them that our tablet doesn't do TV.  I have a kindle which Lilah has tried and failed to play music on (somehow she did factory reset it once??)  I debated letting lilah watch TV while I cut her hair since daytime TV is a general no... but I decided there is no reward for cutting a kids hair while they flail about.  I put on Bluey and she sat SO STILL and I was able to actually measure and cut and it turned out pretty OK (I mean, it looks basically the same, but it way easier to comb).  Next time I do Isaac hair I will definitely be using tactical TV.

[Also, If I cut both kids hair, and Andy's hair, then I can *definitely* spend more money on my hair.  I'm also wondering whether my hair cuts (at £35) or colours (at £80 - but I've only done this once as I'm trying to grow out my natural colour now) should be going under a different budget category.  It currently sits in Rachel Hobbies... but is having decent hair a hobby or a requirement?  I do enjoy some parts of the hair cut, but if Andy could make my hair look as good as the hair dresser then I would be happy to not spend the money.  Things to ponder.]

Saturday was a rough morning.  We are trying to get Audrey to sleep longer and I'm trying to drop the 5am feed.  on Friday she did great.  On Saturday she decided she did not want to drop or shorten the 5am feed and she let the whole house know.  Everyone was awake from 5am onwards.  And I had foolishly tried to go back to sleep after she woke me at 4:30, which meant that when I was awake again at 5:30 I was extra annoyed.  My mantra is "there is no sleep past 4:30" because at 4:30 or 5:00am it's so easy (especially on a Saturday!) to think "if only I could have another hour of sleep!"... but realising there isn't another hour to be had takes that decision away.

I don't look at the sky at 9:30pm and ask for another hour of light.  I can't look at the clock at 5am and ask for another hour of sleep.

Also, there are always earlier bedtimes! There have been a slew of bedtime related posts recently on the internets which I am very much interested in.  Apparently 9pm is not the terribly early adult bedtime I thought it was.  For some reason I've always felt 10pm is a good solid adult bedtime.  But maybe 8-9 is the way forward.  Maybe evening social activities are not a thing of the late thirties and early 40s era of lots of young babies.

But back to Saturday.  Because everyone was in a terrible state we all stayed home, the babies went down for a nap early, and I decided to go to Parkrun - a free local 5K.  This is my first 5k since having the twins, and part of my goal of doing 4 5k races this year.  It went way better than expected, mainly because I ran right behind two runners who had a perfect 11:45 pace which kept me from going out too fast and then walking.  I didn't walk.  I actually felt good the whole way, and picked up the pace for the last quarter of a mile.

I came in at 35 minutes, which is basically the same time I had on my last Parkrun (early March 2023... right before I found out I was pregnant).  It's also the same time I had when I did a Parkrun 3 months postpartum with Isaac.  At least I'm consistant?

It's been a while since I've stuck a meal plan on here.  So why not?
Sunday: Fish Pie
Monday: Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
Tuesday: Tray bake (Aubergine? Chickpeas? Onion? Mushroom? I should have got tofu)
Wednesday: Toad in the hole
Thursday: Jacket Potatoes and Tuna or Beans
Friday: Macaroni and Cheese

This is a very aspirational meal plan, and I highly doubt we will actually make all these things.  Often one night becomes leftovers or something else easy.  The later in the week meals (Jacket Potatoes and mac and cheese) can always be moved into the future.

Also, although it's June, its raining and 65 degrees.  I bet you can tell it's not warm from that menu.   

What are you eating this week?  Is it raining where you are?  If you do a budget, where do you allocate your haircare?

June 27, 2024

Evening Routines and insect infestations

One of the things I've learned from my time log is that we have a pretty set evening routine at the moment.  Here's a snapshot.

  • 5:30 Eat dinner
  • 6:00 Kids Upstairs & baths if needed
  • 6:25 Kids into pyjamas, I read them a story
  • 6:30 Andy gives Audrey Bottle
  • 6:40 Andy swaps to finish kid bedtime, I feed Nora.  Andy puts Audrey to bed
  • 6:55 I put Nora in Bed
  • 7:05 Andy and I tidy up dinner and do a quick house pick-up
  • 7:35 Plug in phone downstairs and finish screens for the day
  • 7:40 Upstairs for yoga (new addition!)
  • 8:15 Meditate
  • 8:30 Finish upstairs, brush teeth and get in bed. 
  • 8:35 Read
  • 9:00 Sleep

I do like an early bedtime but this fees stiflingly early.  I miss my weekly evening writing buddy.  I miss evening walks.  It's still light at 9pm!  However,  I've realised that right now sleep after 4am is just not a guarantee. Even if babies don't need feeding they sometimes gripe and sometimes need nappies and often they will be doing random baby stuff for up to an hour from 4/4:30 on which then brings the morning so close to kid wake up that I can't get back to bed.

I complained to Andy that I feel like we are still in baby survival mode, because I feel the pressure to get to bed starting around 4pm.  Andy noted that baby survival mode meant that we were going to bed at 7pm having not eaten a home cooked meal or done yoga or meditated (or probably brushed teeth).

Also, this yoga and meditation thing is new since starting Peloton App, but I love it.  I have never gotten into meditation before (after trying headspace a few times) but I think that Peloton meditation works for me because I do it in my office (A space I love) and in the evenings.  It turns out meditation is just breathing, and I really like breathing!  I'm not sure it's making me a better human, but I don't think it's making me a worse one.  

I am also hoping an evening Yoga routine might make my morning back pain better.  But probably what would make my morning back pain better is not manoeuvring a 20lb and 17lb baby all the time.

Im the spirit of "there are no normal days" here's what the routines have included for the last few nights.

Monday: Andy found a wasps nest in the shed.  After some googling and some youtube he decided to use a vacuum to remove it.  I thought this was ridiculous so got a quote from a pest person - £88 to remove a wasp nest!  On Monday evening I heard the hoover going during my yoga.  7 minutes into my 10 minute meditation Andy asked if I wanted to see a queen wasp.  He had accidentally knocked the whole hive off (once empty) and it was pretty cool, and the queen was still alive, and there were gross baby bees, and the whole thing was 90% gross/creepy and 10% interesting.  I definitely wasn't as relaxed and chilled and ready for bed after looking at a Wasps nest though.

For the kids, wasps were 100% interesting and 0% gross, so we had a lesson in hive building the next morning.  Wasps are actually cool and interesting and I am happy for them to exist not in my shed.  I am also lucky to have a very handy husband who can clear a wasps nest! Here's Isaac checking out the queen bee in the morning (she did not survive the night):

Tuesday: Isaac had beens scratching his head a lot and so I decided to run the lice comb through it at bath time. Then I did Lilah's hair.  I am still not sure if either of them had lice, although I think Isaac may have had a nit or two?  I assumed there would be either lots or none, so I'm not sure "two nits" is a thing. Another reason I am so ready for summer holidays - school is gross.  I need to get Lilah's hair cut soon, or cut her hair myself, because she has long curly hair (which has been trimmed once in her life) and pulling a nit comb through it was hard.  Andy nit combed my hair just in case (I mean, that's love right?  wasps then nits?) and hopefully we have avoided any potential problems.

Wednesday: Andy went biking in the evening and it was 27c/80f.  The kids did *not* want to sleep. I finished Yoga/Meditation at 8:30 and then continued reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  I pulled this recommendation from Kyria's blog and I could not put it down.  So I ended up finishing it at 10pm, which is a late night for me.

Today: I am meeting friends for dinner at a restaurant.  I am excited to see my friends but already worried about not being in bed by 9. I guess I can always be in bed by 8 on Friday.  Or maybe the babies will sleep until 5am tomorrow? Or later??

What's your evening routine like?  What's your ideal bedtime and your ideal wake up?

June 22, 2024

Retail Therapy - Planners & Shoes & Kitchen Appliance Update

I've done some shopping lately. 

We ordered our new family planner!  For the last 5 years (at least) we have used Personal Planner for our family planner.  We do September start weekly layout and I just ordered the 2024-2025 version.  So excited!   It's 13 months long, and includes friends birthdays, yartzeits (date of death) and anniversaries.  I think it's pretty.  The Personal Planner website even gives you a imaginary photo of what it will look like

(I do not have fancy scissors or clothes pins.  I do have washi tape)

I also took advantage of the Ashley Shelley sale ($10 for all 2024 planners!) and ordered a 2024 weekly vertical layout for myself.  I am currently using a 2023 daily, but my days don't have much in them, and sometimes a continual blank daily is just not inspiring.  Using a 2023 monthly layout in 2024 is not very helpful either.  So for $10 I figured I could play with another layout for the rest of this year and see what it's like.  

Switching gears - I recently decided it was time to retire my all time favourite running shoe - the Pearl Izumi N3. I bought these in 2016 and I remember they were sooo expensive, but now I don't know whether that was $80 or $100.  Would I have spent $100 on running shoes in 2016?  probably not.  I loved these shoes and thought they were the COOLEST.  
However... they are now 8 years old.  And although I have been rotating through 3 different shoes in the last 8 years I finally decided it was time to say goodbye to this pair.
I still have my Merrill trail shoes from around the same time, but I have done *far* less trail running than road/combo.  I had a pair of road shoes which I threw away about 2 years ago so I've been using these as road shoes since, but shoe technology has moved on!  

I know I should have gone to a running store and tried on different shoes and checked fit, but I did the inadvisable and googled "running shoes" and bought a pair of Asics Novablast 3s since they were on sale and also had good reviews.  I've made it out for one run so far but it's amazing how bouncy and light they are.  It seems like streamlined thin-ish shoes are out and massive supportive shoes are in now.  I remember Hokas looked silly to me in 2016 but I bet a Hoka of 2016 is probably the same or smaller than these new Asics.  Either way, they are a fun shoe!
(This is not my usual aesthetic but it works for me and also was on sale for £84 rather than £135)

Finally - I decided I did need a new food processor to replace the broken immersion blender attachment and I bought a Kenwood MultiPro food processor. 
No, I have not made that salad.  I have not even used the "forever chopper" technology.  However I have used it to make Tabouleh salad, and it's pretty cool how fast it shreds things.  I also grated a whole block of cheese for mac and cheese in less than a minute!  I know it had a lot of features I haven't used yet (dough? pastry?) but I am pretty happy to have a functioning food processor.  Also, it turns out the food processor attachment to the immersion blender is a very poor substitute for a real food processor.  OMG did this thing make quick work of parsley and mint.  

And in good news, everything still fits in the same cabinet.  Also, I make hummus with the immersion blender now.  

Have you bought anything new recently?  Are you a "buy when you need it" person or a "wait and do all your shopping at once" person?

June 20, 2024

Thursday Ramble

Currently posting during afternoon baby nap.  We have had some HARD times with babies recently.  The babies have been generally unhappy, which has made me generally unhappy.  Or potentially unhinged.  It doesn't look so bad in time log format, but it has certainly *felt* bad.  

A few weeks ago I decided to make a list of pros and cons of having twins.  The cons side said "everything" and the pros side said "good if you wanted more children in fewer pregnancies"

[I'm going to assume this internet will be gone and disappeared before the twins ever read this blog.]  

It's just sometimes too many babies.  I also think that there is no way to *not* live close to the margin with this number of small kids.  I am mostly fine, but a few nights of <5 hours sleep sets me back and there's not really time to recover.  Morning naps that last 90 minutes and screaming wake ups are more than twice as hard with twice the babies.

So anyways, before I ramble about other things, I want to acknowledge that it's not all super-mom "twins are great!" over here.

With that in mind, some things *are* great.

  • Our nanny did a settling in day with the twins and Lilah on Monday and she seems like a great fit for our family.
  • I signed up for Peleton app (the classes, not the bike) and I *Love* it.  I might be over-loving it.  I want to sneak upstairs and do a class All The Time. I want to look at the app and pick out future classes (I don't actually do this, because I still try not to use phone for stupid things, and this is definitely a stupid thing).  I don't know how long this will last, but doing exercise is great
  • I've been using said app to do 20 minutes of yoga and a 10 minute meditation every evening for the last week and I really look forward to it.
  • I have been working out with my gym buddy once a week for over a month now
  • My physio said that I am recovering well from having twins and I currently have a 1.5 finger diastases (gap in stomach muscles from where babies grew.  Bodies are crazy).  I had no diastases at 7 months with my single babies so I was worried but apparently this is normal (FYI I am not a skinny human and when I do a plank I definitely still have substantial twin tummy so the diastases is not an indicator of physical look.)
  •  I think one of the reasons the last month was so hard (in addition to grumpy teething babies) is that help is on the way.  We found a babysitter to come in the day for a few hours and watch the twins, and the nanny starts in August.  Perhaps I just didn't have the energy to make it to the finish line of 100% twins 82% of the time (actually it's just 54% of my time, or 82% of my waking time)
  • Our babysitter came on Tuesday so I could go get a blood test and then I cycled to a local beauty spot and did a 22 minute run.  It was supposed to be a 30 minute run but I ran out of energy.  It was still nice to know I wasn't on twin duty for 4 hours.
  • The sun is out.  It's meant to stay out.  It's been so cold - we actually turned on the fire last week because we were so cold and wet.
Also, since this blog has basically become free form problem solving for me, I think I *expected* things to be easier by now.  And when they're actually harder (teething babies, not sleeping babies, relentless rain) I sometime just can't keep feeling good about stuff.  

Some things are noticeably easier - the kids and twin combo isn't a red alert horror combo it once was.  The big kids are playing with the twins, and twins seem to really like big kids around too.

Have you had a hard month or an easy month so far?  Have you ever tried the Peleton app (fitness classes or bike?).   Do you like online classes?

I would be remiss not to mention that I didn't realise Peleton had so much stuff if I wasn't reading San's great blog here

June 15, 2024

Friendship Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about friendship recently and figured I could jot my half formed thoughts here.  Some of this comes after listening to an interview with the author of Modern Friendship.

(These two are pretty good friends)

For being someone without WhatsApp and without group text and without facebook or instagram or social medias I feel I have a pretty good friend group.  But I also feel like I'm falling out of the loop with many of my friends.  I am aware already that my net is too wide... In a perfect world I have at least 20 local people who I would love to see more and continue to call friends.  Obviously I don't have room for 20 close friends.

I also know that having babies put you "back" a step into baby stage.  Having twins is even harder.  With one baby you can strap them on your back and follow your big kids around.  You can feed on the go.  You can throw nap schedules to the wind if needed.  I did this with Lilah, and it was fine, although with Covid it mostly meant I was waiting in line with her or freezing outside on a patio. [Not fun fact: Lilah did not go into another humans house until she was 6 months old.  Not because we were cautious, but because Wales had some of the strictest covid laws in the world.  We were legally banned from entering another person's home from March 2020 until sometime Summer 2021]

That was a tangent.  My point there was, I can't just join my friends with 5 year olds right now and plop a baby along.  I am embedded into baby schedules, because half my children are now infants.  That wasn't the original plan.  So while my friends are getting out and about, to museums and hour drive away adventures, I am still in the "hey do you want to play in my garden?" phase.

Playing in gardens is great. But most of my friends who finished the baby stage a few years ago are now over the "play in my garden" phase.

I know I need to be patient, the twins will be done feeding soon and I will be out and about again in a few months. Unfortunately, I always have the fear that everyone will find new friends while I'm being patient.  On the other hand, I've made some great new friends in the last few years, and those friends obviously had other friends, so my fear is probably unfounded.

One of the topics of the Modern Friendship book is that friendship bids (asking people to do stuff or be your friend) need a "why"

Not just "do you want to come over" but "do you want to bring your kids over for a Halloween craft day" or "do you want to meet me for a walk up a hill".

Little kids give an easy why "do you want to run your two year old around in my garden until nap time" is perfectly acceptable. 

A five year old parent is less interested in that bid.  Why make the trek to my house so a five year old can play with my son's trains? A five year old probably has their own trains.  A five year old can go to a theme park a few hours away.  A five year old can entertain themselves at home while mom gets some desperately needed alone/down time, or just gets some things done in the house.  

My Gym buddy Geraint - who I have seen for nearly 15 years almost weekly when not having babies or living in the US - is my friend because we both love fitness and we both live by our schedules.  It is a perfect combination.  We also have lots of other things in common, but if we didn't have the basic "we will make our calendars line up" and "we like going to the gym" then we may not have lasted.  We have both acknowledged this.  It doesn't make us bad friends, it makes us great friends.

Also, I know not being on Whatsapp makes my experience slightly different.  However I still don't think whatsapp filled a friendship void.  I think WhatsApp kept me from noticing a friendship void.  Do I want more texts? Not really.  Do I want to see people in person? Very much yes. 

    Some thoughts about my current friendship state.

    • I have a SAHM friend who comes for walks with me weekly and I need to tell her how much I appreciate these walks.  We struggle to get together often when I'm in work but maternity leave means this person plays such a HUGE role in my life
    • I currently miss my writing buddy but I can't stay awake in the evenings now because baby sleep is terrible.  How can I get that friend back in my life not at 8pm?
    • I miss my pilates buddy but I can't do a 10:30am class due to baby feeds.  Figure out a way to get them back in my life.
    • I would love a scheduled get together with different friend groups every few months but I don't think other people work like that.  Could I make it work eventually?  Perhaps we (moms of 5 year olds) are all a bit *too* close to the baby stage to realise will probably drift without anchor events? 
    Some Ideas:
    • Make a list of little adventures and possible friends to go on these adventures.  Realise these adventures may not happen this summer.  But if a time opens up on a weekend I can be ready with a a social bid.
    • Plan/consider the babies first birthday/pumpkin carving party, so I have a large event to look forward to and also reconnect with friends I haven't seen much since the twins were born.
    • I still want to start a professional women's development book club.  Or potentially eventually a parenting book club.  Possibly when the twins are two years old
    Note to self: Time moves so differently on Maternity leave.  I have 7 days a week of time to fill.  When in work I have 2 or 3 days a week to fill.  So even with the same number of play dates and social interactions as working people, I will feel like I am not seeing people due to the volume of time I have to feel.

    I don't really have a takeaway here, expect that I'm probably doing pretty well for a person with so many children, and I probably need to be patient.  And, in writing that, it's really the takeaway for literally every part of my life right now. 

    Do you think about you friendship groups a lot?  Do you wish you had more friends?  I would love to hear your thoughts on friendship too!  

    June 13, 2024

    The Best Worst Gift

    Elisabeth recently asked "What is the best gift you ever received" and I gave a rather rambling answer that concluded with "I am not really a gift person".

    However, before we got there, I named my two worst-received gifts, which were a Tupperware set and then a peanut butter stirrer, both from Andy early on in our relationship.

    After posting about this, I realised that had I not been gifted a peanut butter stirrer, I would have no idea what a peanut butter stirrer is.

    First, I have to say that both these presents were very thoughtful. I actually love putting things in Tupperware.  The set Andy got me had two small containers and one larger one, perfect for a sandwich and some snacks.  It was also pink and green, both colours that I like.  Sadly, one of the tuppewares broke THIS MORNING which means it's a gift that's lasted 10+ years.

    And second, I love peanut butter.  I try not to eat palm oil (sometimes I try harder than other times.. why do all affordable crackers have palm oil??!) and so often our peanut butter has separated a lot by the time we open it.  We also buy peanut butter in either 1kg or 1.5kg tubs.  And we eat a lot of these tubs.  

    To solve the problem of peanut butter separation, Andy found this:
    He was SO pleased with his purchase.  It was ordered from a vaguely Amish website that had a very awesome catalogue printed catalogue.  

    I had dropped "hints" that what I really wanted was a Patagonia Better Sweater. I wish I could tell younger Rachel that "Hints" are a terrible idea.

    So hopefully you can see why, when I opened a peanut butter stirrer rather than a cosy sweater, I was less than impressed.

    Also, this is the same birthday a family member gave me 10 expired protein bars as a present.  Although I appreciated the bars, it was also a little underwhelming.

    I was lamenting this gift to a friend, who then asked me "do gifts really matter to you?"  

    I realised that gifts are not a big deal to me.  I could buy myself a Patagonia better sweater.  I don't need things.  I don't need people to guess what I want.  I am not particularly good at giving gifts.  I know what I want and what I like and I can buy myself things.  I'm an adult with a bank account. 

    I told Andy that he doesn't have to get me gifts anymore. The best gift I can get is financial stability combined with us trusting each other enough to buy what we need/want (by sticking to our budgets and generally making enough money and spending less than that).

    But back to the peanut butter stirrer. I think the main problem was that it didn't really fit all the peanut butter jars.  I guess I could have decanted from one jar to another?  I think we used to buy the trader joes or the Whole Foods 365 jars and it definitely didn't fit on those.  It probably fit on the Adams peanut butter in the glass jar.  So we didn't end up using it.

    There's a culture here in Wales, especially in younger years, about being "Spoilt Rotten" on your birthday.  I always felt uneasy about this because Andy and I were never "Spoilt Rotten" people, and even as I write this it seems... odd.  Being Spoilt (or Spoiled?) Rotten isn't really an aspiration is it?  I know the sentiment behind it can be good... but it's not me.  

    So really, the best gift I ever received was realising I didn't have to be a gift person.  

    But those Tupperware lasted a really long time too.

    What's the best gift you ever received? What's the worst?

    June 10, 2024

    Time blocking - productivity hack or normal babylife? Plus a review of my last 168 hours.

    This morning I enjoyed a 45 minute workout at a friend's house.  Here's how the morning went:

    4:30 Nurse twins
    5:30 Back to sleep
    6:15 Awake, kids awake, Audrey awake
    7:00 Breakfast
    8:00 Get kids ready for school, get bike ready, tidy up breakfast
    8:45 Leave for school with big kid, then cycle to friend's house
    9:30 Workout at friends house!
    10:15 Cycle back from friends house
    10:45 Nurse twins

    I would say my husband and I put in 100% effort from 4:30am to 11:00am for me to enjoy a 45 minute workout with a friend.

    While on my bike ride I thought a bit about Cal Newport and the concept of Time Block Planning.  I personally love time blocking, I remember as a kid I used to make half hourly schedules of my time and was always amazed how much more time I had when I made a detailed plan.  Usually this detailed plan revolved around getting my homework done in time to watch certain TV shows.  [Probably Sister Sister or Full House?]

    I find it somewhat funny that the idea of time blocking, through the lens of "productivity gurus", is new and exciting.  

    There's a whole time block planner for purchase!  

    I'm not sure time blocking is that new... I think perhaps it's just newly applied to the productivity sphere.  Almost every mother has had to live a life of time blocking.  I don't need a calendar to tell me what's happening next week.  I can tell you now:

    4:30 Nurse twins
    7:00 Family breakfast
    10:30 Nurse twins
    11:30 Twins (and Rachel) lunch
    3:00 Nurse twins
    5:30 Family dinner
    6:30 Nurse Twins

    And that's without school runs (9am and 3:30pm, or 8am and 5pm depending on the day).  And without baby naps (current put downs around 9am and 1pm).  

    If the goal of time blocking is to give every minute a job, then small children and babies are particularly adept at structuring my day!

    I am not trying to dismiss Cal Newport - I adore so much of his writings and obviously Digital Minimalism was a life changing book for me.  But I still can't shake the feeling that the Productivity world may be adopting and coopting lived experience and packaging it for consumption as something new and exciting.  

    I am really looking forward to The Plan - the Kendra Adachi / Lazy genius book coming out in the fall.  I think there's a huge gap in the productivity sphere for women authors.  I've also started listening to 4,000 Weeks again on Audio, and thinking about how one of the major points in Oliver Burkeman's work and Laura Vanderkam's work is that it's not exactly important how we spend every hour or every minute, but it's vitally important how we *feel* about how we spend our hours.

    Right now, my hours feel very... hard.  My days feel very kid-busy and me-light.  I looked over my time log from last week and calculated that of my 168 hours, I spent 91 hours engaged in direct childcare & family responsibilities. [My husband's total is also high.  We are not in a scenario where I am default parenting and my husband is playing golf... we just have a lot of small children right now] 

    I spent 53 hours sleeping - mostly due to my 8pm bedtime.

    In the remaining 24 hours I spent 2 hours doing active exercise (1 run and 1 trip to the gym] and 1 hour getting a pedicure.  I spent 7 hours reading!  And I spent 5 hours tidying.  So while I feel like I mostly do endless babies... there was some not babies.  Although the time log doesn't show it, I'm sure I also showered.  And clearly I wrote a blog post or two.

    I don't have any profound end to this meandering post, except to say I am super honoured that Elisabeth over at OptimisticMusings invited me to her blog today for a guest post.  For all the typos and tangents here, Elisabeth is a blogger inspiration with her interesting, thoughtful, and spellchecked posts on incredibly varied and fascinating topics.  Thank you Elisabeth!

    How do you feel about your time right now?  Do you "time block plan"?  Does thinking of time in hours and weeks feel weird to you?

    June 6, 2024

    Hello June!

    Hey! It's June!  It's a week into June!

    June is starting out... tired.  Nora now has two teeth, Audrey has one tooth.  Audrey is learning how to roll over.  Nora is still sicking on everything in the house, but is very happy about it.  Audrey wakes up at 4am every day for a feed.  Nora sleeps through the night.  Both babies love food, but I don't love the current state of their digestion. I don't sleep through the night and I spend a lot of time cleaning up baby mess [Also, people with kids talk about their kids a lot, but I have now realised that this is just a proxy for talking about ones self.  Because while all of the above is about the twins, it's mostly about why I am so very tired and why my house is arguably somewhat gross.]

    Looking forward to in June:

    Summer reading.  The great news about having such terrible sleep is that I am reading a lot.  I've already finished two books this month and am 25% of the way through a third.  I'm leaning into summer books now and have picked up 5 Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand.  I read Hotel Nantucket and enjoyed it but didn't immediately grab the next book... but if this isn't some light summer reading then I don't know what is.

    Spending time outside.  We have a great garden for the summer.  Last weekend we had our first paddling-pool party, an impromptu gathering of 3 of our friends and their kids (our friends all. brought 1 or 2 kids, so by the end we had 4 families and 8 children in total... which is a much better ratio than 1 family and 4 children total).  I recently got some mats for the babies to hang out on the patio, and a "outdoor rug" because the kids wanted something to sit on as well.  I'm hoping June brings more outdoor meals too, and more sitting on our garden bench.  Lets cross fingers for less rain.

    Rachel Mondays: Andy is off work on Mondays so I have booked one Rachel thing every Monday in June.  Next week is a massage - the last of a pack of 6 I bought while pregnant.   I'm also getting my first ever facial at the end of the month.  

    Sports: I'm so happy to be back with my gym buddy on Thursdays.  Last week we did walking lunges, 4 sets, across the gym, and my legs hurt for 5 days.  The great thing about having low levels of fitness is that everything has that high impact muscle fatigue feel.  I'm also hoping to do a 5k this month so I can get my baseline (will it be 50 minutes?  45? The worse I start the more I can improve).  There is a 5k every Saturday at the park behind our house and I might end up taking the babies in their pram and pushing them while I run, which will definitely help me achieve a personal worst (and make room for lots of improvement, such as not pushing twins in a pram)

    Other thoughts on the start of June: 

    I need to spend slightly less time with the babies.  My time log is basically "baby baby baby baby" which makes sense because of maternity leave but I know I am walking straight into some serious separation anxiety.  Also, it's not good for me to spend all my time around babies.  I know this. And yet, I am becoming super adept at moderating my daily energy levels to suit the babies... which means I don't often have enough energy to transition back and forth from big kids to babies.  Big kids (ie the 3 and 5 year old, who are not actually that big) energy is big energy and rest.  Baby energy is a constant 18-20 hours a day low level input. 

    Although babies are arguably good sleepers, the combination of two pretty good 7 month old sleepers is probably equal to one normal/bad 7 month old sleeper.  I need to remember I am still in the baby year and that going to be at 8pm (with 30-60 minutes of reading) is what needs to be done right now.  

    I love reading content from people with lots of kids, but I forget sometimes that I am often reading from people who have 4-5 kids spread across 8-12 years, and often their youngest is a few years older than zero years old.  There aren't that many people trying to live my life with four kids spread across 5 years.  For us, this is a time of being at home, of playing in the garden, of not going out for big adventures.  Maybe scheduling a trip to the park is too much right now.  Maybe planning 7 nights of dinners is too many nights of dinners.  Maybe we need to take a step back and include sandwiches in the meal plan and realise it's fine to have cereal multiple mornings. (although my main issues with cereal is I don't eat it myself and I don't like making two breakfasts... so even on cereal mornings I still have to figure out my own breakfast.  Also cereal mornings mean we go through our milk faster and then we have to buy more milk at the store.  Sometimes easy solutions aren't always... that easy.  Also, have you seen a baby eat cereal? It is messy)

    (Not cereal, but carbonara is also messy.  This is a before photo)

    I can see why parents with many kids can feel like they are failing all the time.  The babies are having hard days.  Isaac and Lilah need more attention than they currently get.  I need more sleep.  But on the flip side - usually at least one kids is happy.  Often more than one!  If one kids is losing the plot I generally have three kids who *aren't* losing the plot.  

    I hope your June is shaping up well and that you are getting summer vibes and (if wanted) big adventures.  What are you looking forward to in June?

    June 3, 2024

    Lets take a tour of small kitchen appliances & a food processor conundrum

    Let's take a tour of my kitchen appliances!

    First, we have a small kitchen.  In fact, it's 10'11 by 8'11 (or 3.3m x 2.7m).  The kitchen also has three doors into it (unlike the drawing below, which for some reason omits the door from the kitchen to the dining room):
    It is awkwardly small and we try and fit a lot into this space, and but all appliances need to be somewhere.  With that in mind - here is our appliance tour:
    Kettle: No British house is complete without an electric kettle.  This must be our most used appliance.  We don't have a coffee maker so it's always my first stop for my morning coffee (I use a drip filter/V60).  Then my second coffee, and endless cups of tea.  We also use it to boil water before cooking as it heats up much faster than the stove.  
    Toaster.  Everyone needs a toaster right?  This is a two slice toaster.  It is... fine.  It was on sale and definitely not worth kitchen-aid prices.  We could probably use a four slice toaster someday but we don't have the space right now.
    Microwave.  We didn't have a microwave for about a year in our 20s.  I'm not sure why.  It was silly.  Microwaves are the best.
    Bread-maker.  We use this A LOT.   We bought this bread maker second hand right before Isaac was born (in 2018).  The person selling it had labeled the plug, which Andy and I really appreciate.  I was worried we wouldn't use it at all, but we actually use it about 2-3 times a week.  We also have a back stock of about 15kg of flour, for making bread.   The white tub below is about 30% of our flour backstock.
    Slow Cooker.  We use this pretty frequently too.  Andy wanted a big one, which is good for making lots of food, but I miss my smaller slow cooker.  In my dream kitchen I would have a small slow cooker and a big slow cooker for different sizes of food prep.  I get the feeling that we will need the big one more often with our giant brood.  Last week I cooked a whole chicken and carrots in the slow cooker.
    (left to right)
    Waffle Iron.  Recent addition because I love waffles.  I didn't want to spend a lot on something I wasn't sure if we would use, but this one is somewhat plastic-y feeling.  I can see the benefit of removable plates now for easy washing.

    Hand Mixer.  I had a very cheap "stand mixer" for ages, which I spent £40 on in 2012.  That was a lot of money for me in 2012!  It could be used as a hand mixer or it could be attached to a bowl that would rotate.  It didn't do either thing very well and it took up a lot of space.  Eventually we sold it (for £20?) and I bought a nice hand mixer that was more expensive I am very happy with the purchase.  Someday I would like a kitchen aid mixer.  First I need a bigger house.  The £300,000 for a bigger house at least makes the £400 kitchen aid seem more reasonable though?

    Blender.  We LOVE smoothies in the summer and I bought this blender a few years ago.  I only use it for smoothies so we only use it half the year.  I feel like I did a lot of research on blenders before we bought this and it's not quite as great as the £44 price tag should have indicated.  I like it because it does blend - but I feel it needs lots of liquid and it is very LOUD.
    Immersion Blender.  In the winter we often use the stick blender to make soups. Right now I mostly use the food processor attachment to make hummus.  I use it A LOT and it's starting to fall apart. Every time I use it I think it's probably the last time... Its starting to make a grinding noise and even Andy has noted that it's going to completely fall apart (Andy is usually a use it and repair it guy).  The stick/blender piece is great, but the mini food processor attachment probably wasn't meant to be used as often as we do.  I also try and use it for making falafel and fritters, which requires multiple transfers to a bowl since the processor is so small.

    (also once I broke the hand mixer by following a Ottolenghi recipe for hummus which burned out the motor.  I thought it would be strong enough to work through the chickpeas but the chickpeas won.)

    This brings me to the problem at hand... I "need" a new food processor.  I am not keen on buying a standalone food processor because I feel we already have too many appliances in our storage spaces.  Also what size do I need?  The current attachment is mini but sometimes I wish it was less mini.  I'm wondering whether a combined food processor and blender is a better option? Or can I use a blender to make hummus?  Can I use a blender to make salsa?  

    Our house has no storage so Andy and I bought this unit in 2019.  Andy actually drew it and measured it and a company in Bath built it for us.  We recently realised we may have fit it upside down.  Also, it took 4 of us to mount it to the wall.  We had two friends come over to lift it.  I am not keen on glass cupboards but if we kept it a bit more organised then it would probably look better.  A project for another day.
    Also, counters are not storage.  That is a project for tomorrow.

    What is your favourite appliance?  Should I get a new food processor?  Should I get a combined food processor and blender?  Should I make do without a food processor?  Do you use a food processor and what do you use it for?