A very nice and rather dishy french journalist came over yesterday to see how we were getting on with our project. “Ow are you managing with ziss extreme move?” he asked. And I realised, after pausing for my first serious think about it in a while, that it’s stopped feeling in any way ‘extreme’. For the most part (and there are always some hideous exceptions) it now just feels like the most natural, practical and easy way to organise our family life.
Granted, this is influenced massively by a number of specific factors in our family life that I didn’t chose or engineer. Johnny’s not a little baby anymore, not growing out of clothes every couple of months, so the hand-me-downs we manage to source free will, for the most part, last him all year. It would be pretty manic – a full time job, in fact – if we were having to monitor online swapping sites to find a new wardrobe every few weeks. On the end end of the scale, he’s not a teenager with picky tastes, meaning I can accept and then dress him up in freebies he’s going to want to burn all evidence of in a decade or so.
And then there’s my redundancy. Thought it means our finances are stretched so thin they’re nearly transparent, it’s given me one serious bonus I didn’t have last year: time.
Strawberry, banana, greek yoghurt and honey crepes for breakfast
I sometimes worry that this whole ‘thrift chic’ trend just peddles another unattainable fantasy, another mirage of perfection for women to aim at before collapsing face-down in the sand in exhaustion. None of us have enough time to really live the ‘homemade idyll’. Time and toddlers are sworn enemies. But I’ve got more of it than I did before.
Time – when I’m not worrying about where the next freelance job’s coming from – to devote to thinking about a free activity we might enjoy together, time enough in Johnny’s company for the possibility of him getting bored for some of it, or for an activity to be a total flop, not to phase me, frustrate me or make me feel guilty… Time enough,
usually sometimes, to sit down, breathe, and think up a cheap supper that’ll be good for all three of us (whether we all eat it is a different matter).
The temptation to shove some fish fingers under the grill is a lot harder to resist if you’ve spent 9 to 5 battling in an office, 5 till 6 battling against strangers arm-pits on the tube, and then 6 till 6.30 battling against time and rush hour traffic so as not to be the last mother, again, to pick your kid up from childcare.
Harmonica at breakfast. Or however you make it work.
So yeah, I may not have had a haircut in four months but time, if you’re not right on the breadline, can be a serious luxury.
He brought some crepes, this French journalist. And after he left, while I was mulling over some of the other questions he’d asked, I also had a little time (before giving in to a vice like grip and icy orders to “help ME Mum”) to wonder what I should do with the ones left over.
Johnny loves a pancake, so that was today’s breakfast sorted – with greek yoghurt, bananas and strawberries (THREE punnets for a pound at the moment, on our local veg stall! GET IN. We’re eating them all day every day till it ends or we die.)
Lunch: broccoli pesto and creme cheese on crepes from the same batch
We’ve also been getting into wraps for lunch. I’ve developed a phobia of going out then getting caught out at lunchtime, and having to buy an overpriced, under-filling, anemic sarnie in some museum cafe. It makes me feel a bit nauseous, these days, not just because the fillings are usually so grey and floppy but because I’m calculating, in my head, what percentage it represents of what I’ve earned that week.
Wraps fit neatly in a handbag, their contents don’t fly everywhere when you drop the handbag to grab a child who’s about to fling himself over the museum’s security rope to deface a Picasso, you can fill them full off leftovers, wrap them tightly to disguise evidence of vegetables inside, and they’re quite discrete so you can even get away with eating them in the museum cafe. If you find a table at the back and abandon your morals.
All mixed in…
Today’s leftovers, from last night’s supper and the back of the fridge were:
1) cream cheese
2) broccoli pesto I’d made because a) broccoli is also in season so practically being given away at our veg stall at the moment and b) the boy hates broccoli but loves pesto and will eat this in buckets if I don’t tell him about the secret ingredient. Which, being no fool, a bit of sadist and a demon for cheap food deals, I don’t.
Instead, I chop up roast up a load of broccoli so that it’s soft inside, a little crispy at the edges but not frazzled. Then I stick them in a bowl with a decent handful of ground almonds and some parmesan in equal measure. Add two cloves of garlic, chopped, a big squeeze of lemon and then whizz up with a hand blender. Once broccoli is decimated, taste add add any of the various ingredients to taste. Then slowly add olive oil till you have the familiar pesto consistency. Add salt if needed.
Wrapped in a crepe and followed by a banana, they made an ace lunch at the City Farm today and a change from the usual tortilla (which is harder to use for breakfast too, so less of a ‘recycling’ time saver).
… And eaten! Sucker.
So thank you, dishy Frenchman, for the crepes and the thought provoking questions. Here’s another thing he asked: “I ‘ave been ‘ere all morning and Johnny, ‘e ‘as been playing all ze time. But never once with ‘is toys. So why do you still ‘ave them in ze house?”
Honest answer? I don’t know. He rarely, really rarely plays with the stuff that’s supposedly his in the sitting room. He loves a couple of dumper trucks, a push bike in the shape of a sheep his grandfather bought for his first birthday, and occasionally plays with an old, ride-along dog that used to belong to his dad. But the ‘toy’ toolbox, the train set, the heap of plastic flashing stuff bought last year and kept in the toy box just in case… They never get touched.
He scorns them in favour of old favourites like a measuring tape and his dad’s spirit level, and odd things that take on magical properties for a day or two, like the rolling pin that was a bulldozer last week or the kitchen roll tube that was, apparently, a snorkel.
So why do I keep this crap cluttering up the house? It’s puzzling. I guess on some level, despite the blog and all this harping on and the knowledge he doesn’t want or need them, I’d still feel like a bad parent if I didn’t have them.
Speaking of which: got any other recipes through which I can force feed my family broccoli and/or strawberries till this deal ends?