13 things for 2013

Is it wrong to be entering the new year a little afraid of what’s to come? I can’t even begin to predict where I will be this time next year, and that is scary. Will the self-employment work? Will I have survived the 3pm – 6pm daily Oliver scream-fests? Will Isabel have driven me to an early grave with her regular meltdowns? Will I ever decide what I want to do with my damn hair?!!

Anyway, how best to kick things off than with a little todo list… 13 things for 2013, to make sure I get something done.

  1. Finish at least 1 personal web project

    Converting rev.iew.me to WordPress, finish re-coding the theme for this blog (porting to Genesis), finish relaunching GirlsWhoGeek, get Jem On WordPress properly / regularly updated, finish the breastfeeding group / location review project I started eons ago. Any one of these things will do (and countless others I’m forgetting no doubt).

  2. Take up an outdoor activity

    I need to get out of the house more — for both my sanity and fitness — even if that just means going for a long walk every week. I could do with shifting about 10-12lbs but that’s secondary to just not being stuck on my arse all day to be honest.

  3. Go one month without using a supermarket / chain store

    Tesco and stores of that ilk have started to creep back into my every-day life. This is costly, and ridiculous considering I have a baker, butcher, greengrocer etc all on my doorstep. I want to see if I can avoid all supermarkets and chain stores (Co-op, Spar etc) for a month. If it works I might make it a more permanent thing. Not sure which month? January perhaps…

  4. Take more pictures

    I bought a new camera so that it could easily fit in my pocket allowing me to take more pictures, spontaneous pictures, pictures at the park or of my surroundings. I’ve mostly not done this yet, it needs to be remedied.

  5. Put up my prices

    Nobody has turned me down yet when pitching for work. This tells me I’m not pricing myself high enough. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to start turning me down, but if everyone is happy to pay my rates that’s a sign that I’m on the wrong side of cheap. (Hand in hand with this, I also need to stop doing ‘mates rates’ because it’s not going to pay my mortgage.)

  6. Acknowledge one positive from every day

    I’ve had a tough few months which has seen me mostly whining on facebook & twitter about how crap things are. It’s not ‘bad’ 24/7, so I need to start focussing on what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong.

  7. Get my budgeting back on track

    I don’t know if it’s the recent stress or a lack of inspiration but the hardcore budgeting bits have dwindled to nothing-ness. I’m back to taking ages in the shower, overfilling the kettle, forgetting to water down the milk, over-buying food etc.

  8. Reach ‘inbox zero’ on my personal email

    I can’t remember the last time I had an empty inbox. I think we’re talking 8-9 years (in fact, some of the mails in my inbox at the moment are near that old!) I need to reply to the things that need replying to and ditch the rest.

  9. Finish a job to a deadline

    Self-explanatory, see ‘The Ugly’

  10. Give up sugar for a month

    This is probably the biggest challenge in my list. I consume quite a lot of sugar: in my coffee, my baking, in chocolates and other sweeties. I think I’m getting the sweats just thinking about this, actually. Ergh.

  11. Finish a project around the house

    The living room is still half-decorated, the bedrooms need finishing, the hall needs another coat of paint, there are curtains to sew for the hatch between the living room & kitchen, and the gardens are both still a bit of a mess.

  12. Sort out my junk & sell it off

    I’ve got a shit ton of maternity clothes (some in packaging still), books, DVDs etc that can be sorted and sold on ebay etc and it’s all sat around gathering dust. I have a feeling I can combine this with some renewed budgeting vigour to get some pennies back in my rather empty bank account.

  13. Think of a 13 – and do it!


Happy new year folks!

Photo Friday: Men

lego men


I’ve been thinking about baby-proofing recently, as Oliver is showing signs of trying to crawl. @dark_eyed_white‘s tweet on a similar vein got me pondering on the subject again and inspired me to waffle a bit about ‘baby-proofing’.

Thinking back, I remember not being too fussed about baby-proofing with Isabel. That’s not to say we deliberately left sharp or hot things within reach — that would be stupid — but we didn’t go out of our way to remove things from her environment or wrap them in bubble-wrap.

I like to think that if you expose kids to things early enough, they lose their appeal and so don’t become “something to play with” because of the novelty factor. Case in point: my laptop has been within reach of Izz every day since she was born. She’s never damaged it or mashed the buttons. She did accidentally drop a toy on it once, but that was my fault for juggling both of them (‘them’ .. like the Vostro is a person, ha) at once.

However, given that Oliver has managed to disprove all of my genius parenting theories thus far by being the complete opposite of his sister, I’m a wee bit concerned that if we take this lazy, laissez faire approach to baby-proofing a second time round there could have disastrous consequences. I already spot things dotted about (small coins, Lego) and see choking disasters waiting to happen; dangly cables too low to be any risk to a walking preschooler but at head height for a crawling babe; etc.

The boy isn’t daft… I mean, it only took a couple of times of rolling too swiftly on our hard floor for him too figure out how to tuck his head in so it doesn’t go thud. I just have this sneaky feeling he’s going to keep me on my toes.

December Meal Plans

A wee bit late typing this up but here’s this month’s meal plan…

  • 1st: Chicken & chips
  • 2nd: Lamb chops & mash
  • 3rd: Chicken soup
  • 4th: Toad in the hole
  • 5th: Spaghetti bolognese
  • 6th: Mince & tatties
  • 7th: Homemade pizza
  • 8th: Corned beef hash
  • 9th: Roast chicken
  • 10th: Baked spuds & homemade coleslaw
  • 11th: Leek & potato soup
  • 12th: Ham, leek & potato pie
  • 13th: Chicken curry
  • 14th: Freezer leftovers
  • 15th: Steak & chips
  • 16th: Belly pork
  • 17th: Veggie stir fry
  • 18th: Cottage pie
  • 19th: Meatloaf (I still haven’t been able to make this – keep forgetting to get the mince out of the freezer!)
  • 20th: Veggie curry
  • 21st: Fish fingers & sweet potato chips
  • 22nd: Cheese & tomato toasties
  • 23rd: Sausage & broccoli carbonara
  • 24th: Baked salmon & mash
  • 25th: MEGA FEAST (Slow roast lamb shoulder, sprouts, mash, roast potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cherry bacon rolls, stuffing, yorkshire puddings.. you name it, it’ll be served!)
  • 26th: Leftovers / mum’s boxing day buffet
  • 27th: More leftovers
  • 28th: Leftovers pie
  • 29th: Sausage casserole
  • 30th: Pork shoulder(? not 100% decided on this one)


Self-employment 6 months on: the good, the bad & the ugly

It’s roughly 6 months since I registered as self-employed and told my mostly-fantastic (he’d kick me for the mostly part) boss of 6 years that I was going to leave. Now’s as good a time as any to give you an update on how that’s going.

The Good

I have spent the past 6 years protesting about interacting with clients, thinking that talking to people was something I was no good at, something I needed someone else to guide. One of my biggest worries about being responsible for myself was that I would not have the motivation to talk to people, to sell myself to them, to help them choose me. Despite this I have managed to secure 2 ‘big’ website contracts, ongoing work with a local company I’ve been working with over the past 6 years and multiple small jobs offline and through social networking.

The Bad

I’ve made mistakes: mistakes that have cost me money. Two ‘big’ ones that spring to mind (that could have been worse, thankfully):

Mistake 1: I entered into my first job, albeit a small one, with no contract or list of what I would and wouldn’t be doing. I had to wait for nearly 2 months to be paid. It ended well, but more out of luck than judgement.

Mistake 2: I have underestimated the amount of time I would spend on back-and-forth communications with clients. Getting specifications finalised, agreeing development schedules, bug testing and feedback, etc. I know this stuff ate a lot of time when I was employed, but when you’re working 9-5 it’s easy for it all to blend into the background. I need to make sure there’s more time for this so that deadlines are not abandoned later on as unrealistic. This brings me to…

The Ugly

I have yet to meet a set deadline. It’s not all been my fault: client hold-ups (deposit payment, tweaks to original spec docs, changing of minds etc) are a big factor — not a problem but ever present nonetheless — but I seriously underestimated the effect that juggling kids and work would have on my ability to a) concentrate and b) get something done. Oliver’s daytime sleep “problem” has been particularly damaging to my estimated timelines! Thankfully, everyone I’ve worked with (or am working with) has been fantastic & supportive. I can only hope that this continues, and that I can use this knowledge to create more realistic schedule in the future.

WordPress Multisite Shared Media Library

Dearest WP users and developers, this post is a plea for help.

I am trying to create a WordPress Multisite Shared Media Library. I want to be able to upload content (PDFs, images etc) to the main blog of a WP Multisite install, and access that media from other blogs on the same network (there’s a plugin for this already). However, I need to be able to attach that media to a post/page, NOT just insert it. I want to do this without duplicating the actual file… i.e. if I replace the original file, all posts/pages that have the media as an attachment will be looking at the new file, not a copy of the old file.

I have already created the functionality to duplicate the database info (copying from attachment info from the main blog to the sub-blog) allowing WordPress to see my new child attachment. The attached media shows up in the Gallery for the relevant new post/page that I’ve attached it to. The GUID for the attachment points to the file in the original location on blog #1. However, WordPress does some fancy footwork with Multisite URLs to turn the file path into the sub-blog URL upload path instead.

File location is actually "URL/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Chrysanthemum.jpg", not "URL/files/ etc..."
File location is actually “URL/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Chrysanthemum.jpg”, not “URL/files/ etc…”

I am fairly sure I need to filter upload_dir (add_filter('upload_dir' ..) to make WP look in the right place, but I don’t know how to do this conditionally for certain attachments, without affecting the attachments that need to be (or are already) loaded to the sub-blog.

I am hoping that all makes sense, and that someone out there has an idea of how to help! :)

The Royal Baby

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are apparently expecting a baby; Kate Middleton has been admitted to hospital with “acute morning sickness”. I wasn’t going to post, ’cause everyone’s talking about it at the minute and I’m not one to jump on moving bandwagon generally, but it’s a subject close to my heart: hyperemesis that is, not pregnancy.

When I saw the news I was happy to chuckle at the mock outrage tweets… “woman in pregnancy shock” etc. Yes yes, another woman having another baby. But the more I think about it, the more I really feel for the woman.

Hyperemesis typically hits at 6 weeks and is constant. If you’ve not been through a hyperemesis pregnancy, imagine having food poisoning. Then imagine having it every day for nearly 9 months. Anyway, because of this early attack, it’s likely that she is less than 12 weeks (when the risk of miscarriage is higher). When I was hospitalised with my first pregnancy, I was only 8 weeks. When I lost it, the sense of letting people down (even people who didn’t even know I was pregnant) was there in the background. I can’t imagine worrying about worst case scenario and the potential feeling of letting down a whole nation.

Then there’s the barfing. Vomiting is not classy. It’s not befitting of a lady like Kate. I can’t imagine her slumped on the sofa, tweeting to her followers (is she even on twitter?) that hot chocolate and sugar puffs don’t taste too bad coming back up like I did. I had to barf in public on a couple of occasions, and did so without worrying that there was a photographer about to spread my puke across the front page of newspapers (figuratively speaking, of course).

I often joke that the best thing to come out of hyperemesis (apart from my kids, obviously) was the weight loss. I weighed less after having Izz than I did before I got pregnant, despite having carried a baby and waters etc for 9 months. Kate… well, she’s not exactly got extra weight to burn, has she?

I don’t know. I get that she’s a royal now. She’s got servants and nannies and probably private healthcare too, but that shit ain’t pretty for anyone; I certainly wouldn’t wish HG on an enemy let alone a woman unfortunate enough(?) to have married into the royal family.

I can only (selfishly) hope that her high profile raises awareness of hyperemesis gravidarum and how damaging it can be. Maybe then I can get through another pregnancy (hahahaha) without being told to stop bitching because it’s just a bit of morning sickness.

Sleep, or the lack thereof

(Warning: this might get long.)

When I was pregnant with Isabel, I frequently joked that I was owed a sleeper. After months of being woken hourly by Izz, thanks to a combination of constipation and god knows what else, I figure I was due a baby who could at least maintain a sleep period of more than one sleep cycle.

And so it came to be: Oliver was born, and right from the off seemed happy to go 3, 4, 5 hours at night. Honestly, 3 hours is a blessing in this house. Except there was a ‘problem’: he would not be nursed to sleep. This was my biggest #1 sleep tool with Isabel, so I had to relearn a whole chunk of parenting all over again.

Not a problem, or so I thought… because Oliver was happy to *shock* self-settle. You could put him down and he would fall asleep. By himself. You could have knocked me over with a feather! When this didn’t work, he was happy to be rocked in the crook of my knee and transferred to the sofa beside me. Bliss, a happy sleeping baby.

And then the 4 month sleep regression hit, and teething, and cold after cold. And after week on week of finding ways to settle the uncomfortable boy he seemed to forget how to self-settle. He would happily bridge the gap between sleep cycles, but when it came to going to sleep in the first place he would — does — everything he can to resist.

Except now that the sleep regression is long gone, the first teeth are through and he’s not suffering from a cold we’re left with an over-tired, constantly screaming baby. I am spending day after day trying to get him to sleep. On the plus side, he will often nurse to sleep now (yay). However, when I finally do get him to sleep, he is so over-tired that it actually wakes him up (yes, baby sleep is a mystery to me too) and so I then spend another half an hour or more trying to get him back to sleep but I can’t nurse him because he’s fed and isn’t hungry, and angrily rejects the breast. I end up rocking, pacing, jiggling and jogging to get the boy to resume napping, but unless you’ve run around recently with a 10kg sack of potatoes you might not appreciate how hard that is to maintain (he’s on the 91st percentile for weight).

The day before yesterday I decided to hell with everything that needed doing and I just watched him. It became clear quite quickly that I was missing his early sleep cues and so he was getting overtired before I was even trying to get him to sleep. Aha! I’m a genius I thought, and promptly declared to twitter that I’d fixed my baby. For the first time in months he had PROPER naps. I woke yesterday morning ready to do it all again.

But it’s never that easy, is it? Because he showed his sleepy cues and I offered him the breast but he’d fed already, so wasn’t interested. So I rocked him, but he arched his back and shouted protest, getting increasingly more pissed off. In the end I gave up, put him in one of our carriers on my back and mock-jogged back and forth in the hallway. After 30 mins he gave up protesting and went to sleep. But he was already over-tired and so we ended up back in the same cycle of short nap, waking over-tired, short nap, waking over-tired.

When Isabel had issues with sleep I just went with it. I’m not a believer in “you must force them to sleep for their own good / you must teach them to self settle otherwise they’ll never learn!” — Izz demonstrated that was total bollocks herself when she just randomly started sleeping through at about 18 months. However, I wasn’t trying to launch a website and make a living from home when Isabel was a baby so I was a little more flexible in that regard.

And so I try things. I’ve tried slinging him and walking round and round the block. I put him in his car seat and rock him, and it works maybe 1 time in 10. I try methods I’d have not touched with Izz, methods that I swore I’d never do; I’ve tried a dummy, not interested; I tried pushing him in the pushchair I bought for Izz when I was pregnant with Oliver (used all of twice) and he either outright refuses to sit in it, or sits in it but still will not sleep. I looked into commercial swings and bouncers but he’s such a porker he’s already way over the weight limits for them. When I get really desperate I put him in the car, that works, but I can’t afford the petrol to do this regularly.

I read Ask Moxie’s post on tension decreasers after numerous people linked me to it, and left him to cry for 7 minutes. Seven long minutes. He didn’t magically fall asleep after a whine, he got increasingly more hysterical until I went in and picked him up.

So now not only do I have to deal with the guilt of not being capable of getting my tired baby to sleep, but also guilt about leaving him to cry when NOT letting my babies cry is the core of my parenting ethos.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is. I am not seeking an answer from you guys (unless you have one — you’re welcome to make suggestions). I guess I just need an outlet. I have a sneaking feeling the only thing that’s going to solve our little ‘problem’ is time. I’m just not sure how to manage the working and the crying while he sorts himself out.

I guess I should just be grateful that he’s not waking hourly at night.


I’ve been working on this during every spare moment since my Scrap or Save post

Unfortunately, what with Oliver’s ridiculous sleep habits of late and an abundance of work, spare moments have been few and far between. I’ve been snatching time which would otherwise be wasted: journeys in the car (when I’m a passenger!) and as 10 minutes downtime before I sleep at night (to ‘switch off’ after having spent all evening at the screen).

Still, I’m really quite pleased with it. It was a bit of an on-a-whim project; & I’ve only made a few mistakes which is nice :) It’s going to be for my bed, which is a super king, so quite a way to go before it’s finished…


I got the judgey death stare from another mum in Tesco this morning.

I can’t quite figure out if it was because Isabel was stropping, or if it was because I told her that if she didn’t stop stropping I was going to put her back in the trolley seat (Isabel, that is, not the other mum).

I’ve not done too badly I don’t think, this is the first one in 3 years. That’s not to say it’s the first I’ve had, just that I’m usually oblivious. Still, it could have been worse. Imagine the look she’d have given me if she’d heard our giggling 10 minutes earlier about the willies on her anatomically correct Schleich horses.

Organise Your Evenings with Meal Plans

Picture the scene: it’s 4pm, it’s been a long day of juggling work, clients, customers, kids. I’m standing in front of the cupboards while the sound of hungry children fills the air. Despite full cupboards and a full fridge, I haven’t a clue what to cook, nobody knows what they want to eat and it feels like there “nothing in”.

Sound familiar? This was my evening, every evening, for nearly 2 years after I went back to work following the birth of my daughter. By the time I’d figured out what to cook for tea, everyone was that tired they wouldn’t have any interest in the food anyway! When I got pregnant with my second, I knew something had to change. Now I work from home this forward planning is even more important because it maximises the time I can spend either working or with the kids.

Meal planning saves both time and money. It allows you to know and prepare in advance exactly what you are going to cook, and can save you money on the shopping too (no more chucking out moudly veg and half-finished cans at the end of the week). Below are my tips for making the most out of meal planning.

1. Create a master list of meals

Start off by writing/typing a list of about 40-50 meals which you know most of your family is going to eat. This might sound like a lot but when you add variations to a few basic meals you will soon have your list full, e.g. casserole – can be chicken casserole, sausage casserole, vegetarian casserole and so on. Fried mince makes up spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, or just plain ol’ mince & potatoes.

Once you’ve got your master list of meals, you can slot these into your meal timetable.

2. Plan for as far ahead as you can

I originally started meal planning weekly, but found that by the end of the week I couldn’t fit in time to do the next meal plan for the following week, so we’d have 2-3 days of non-planned days and this defeated the point altogether. I now plan a month in advance, and check the meal plan each Saturday to figure out if I need anything from the shops for the following week’s meals.

3. Plan meals that logically follow on from one another

You get more meals for your money if you plan meals that can be used as the base for the next meal – i.e. meals that follow on from one another. For example, if on Sunday you have a roast chicken, you may plan a chicken & veg soup for the Monday with leftover meat and veg making the bulk of the ingredients, and the chicken bones for stock.

This tip is especially important if you’re on a budget (who isn’t these days?)

4. Plot in simple meals for busier days

Fridays are always my most hectic day. Isabel is not at preschool, we’ve usually done “making baking” at some point and by 4pm I’m exhausted. I keep simple, kid-friendly meals for these days: beans on toast, homemade pizza from a very basic dough recipe, cheese toasties & homemade coleslaw, and so on.

If every day is a hectic day for you, it might be worth preparing some bits in advance. Chop the veg during nap time, fry the mince while the kids are having their lunch… whatever makes things work for your family.

5. Be flexible

Meal plans are probably the best thing I’ve implemented into my household routine, but there are times when sticking to it is not practical. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two.

That time again

Oliver is a few days off 6 months, which means at some point shortly he’s going to be introduced to the wonderful world of food. I’m in no hurry — I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve grown over 9kg of baby all by myself so far — and indeed neither is he, having twice grabbed food from me and on both occasions thrown it to the floor.

It has got me thinking about the family diet again though. The way we eat has improved by leaps and bounds since Isabel came along: from the days of subsiding off large quantities of pre-prepared, pre-packaged foods like chicken dippers and pizza, to primarily homecooked food (although that is as much about budget as it is things like salt content etc). However, we have slipped… Isabel eats more sugar than I ever anticipated, and she’s shown an interest in salt (my fault, I cover my chips in it). I am thinking now’s a good time to pull the family up again and get us on the right path food-wise.

December’s meal plan will be an interesting one…