The tropical green giant smoothie…

It’s a new week. The holidays are over. First gymnastics class nailed and of course it’s raining in Glasgow. My sidekick and I have been back in the kitchen, while my littlest sidekick naps and we’re bringing you our new favourite green smoothie recipe to kick off your week. So at least you can pretend to be wholesome for one day and the kids will love blitzing all the ingredients together. It’s another easy recipe to get little cooks into the kitchen.I’m looking forward to bring ing you lots of  new recipes more regularly now, specifically to encourage toddlers and children to get involved in the heart of the home.

We’re off to shelter from the rain in the transport museum!

1. Place half a fresh mango, one frozen banana, 2 good handfuls of spinach and pour 500ml of pineapple juice into a food blender.

2. Blitz until smooth and divide between four small cups. Feel free to serve over ice if you wish.


Sweet dreams at No 15 the sleep boutique…

Over the course of the last week I’ve had two guys in my bed, neither of whom have been my husband. The joys of juggling the two year old night owl and the eight month old sleep thief and milk monster. So it’s understandable why my my current fantasy is crisp white sheets, a dark room, a long lie, an undisturbed shower, breakfast brought to my room and hot coffee.

My wildest fantasties became a reality just last week and I would give my left arm to be back in our suite at No 15, the award winning luxury boutique B&B in Glasgow’s West End. This beautifully renovated 19th century townhouse has had a new lease of our life injected into it by the creative and talented Lorraine, who after 30 years away from Glasgow working as a dentist in Trinidad, has returned to the city and delved straight into a new career, hitting the road running. 

No 15 is just the tonic for exhausted parents, who get one night away each year without their children. A home away from home, which combines luxury with comfort and the interior design wouldn’t look out of place in a homes interiors magazine. Infact I jotted down notes for my forever home.

The house and each room, whether it’s a luxury double or suite has been individually designed, retaining the traditional features and character, such as the intricate cornicing, stunning fireplaces and ceiling to floor windows with wooden shutters, which make this house so appealing. 

We stayed in the Charles Rennie MacKintosh room, which has been designed and decorated in keeping with the works of the 19th century artist, architecture and water colourist who is an icon of Glasgow’s style and art scene.  As soon as you walk into this spacious room, overlooking Park Circus, you won’t want to leave. Stylish and relaxing, you are immediently able to switch off and unwind. Sumptuous super king sized bed, comfortable L – shaped sofa, dining table and an endless supply of dvd’s and large large walk in shower make for a pretty good over night stay in this welcoming hidden gem, which won’t remain that hidden for much longer I’m sure.

You could easily slip on a bathrobe and not leave the vicinity of your room but with so many great restaurants on your doorstep, including Ox and Finch, The Butcher Shop Bar and Grill, Stravaigan  and the Left Bank, it would be a mistake not to take advantage of Glasgow’s great dining scene. And we did just that, by taking a walk down memory lane with an early supper  and cocktails at The Left Bank on Gibson Street, where my husband and I had our first “official”  date nearly 8 years ago. It didn’t dissapoint. Great food, great staff and a cocktail menu that we would very much like to delve a little further into. So we’ll definitely be back.

With a belly full of food we strolled back in the evening sun to our nest for the night. Having the luxury of not having to do the bath, book and bedtime routine we could watch an entire film without falling asleep 10 minutes into the action. An uninterrupted sleep followed, which is the stuff of dreams. But the cherry on the top was the delicious cooked breakfast pre ordered, which was delivered to your room at a time of your choice. The best bit, there were no dishes to clean and no food to scrape off the floor.

Sleep is most definitely not for the weak. It’s a necessity and No 15 definitely lives up to it’s reputation as the sleep boutique, a must stop destination for anyone who just wants to take some time out and leave with a spring in their step and feel a little more human. A great find if you’re looking for an independent B&B with charm and character that so many bigger hotels lack in spades.

Top tips: stirring up homemade memories…

It’s a well used cliche but the kitchen really is the heart of the home, no matter how big or how small. It’s where the first coffee of the day is drunk, food is cooked, food is eaten, homework is done, mess is made and all the best parties end up in the kitchen – fact.

Encouraging children into the kitchen from an early age is something i’m a huge advocate of. My two have been in the kitchen by my side since they were hatched and one of Otto’s favourite things to do in the day is to help me prep and cook food, whether it’s measuring out ingredients, pretending to cut vegetables with a butter knife, stirring, whisking, blending or generally just making a mess. If you have OCD tendencies it’s best to take a sharp intake of breath, let the mess and chaos unravel, and be prepared to clean up afterwards. The fun and the memories are well worth it.

As food is such a big part of our lives and I love cooking I wanted to share this passion with Otto, and hopefully Reuben, early on, as it’s a vital life skill that should be nurtured as soon as possible. An appreciation of food, where ingredients are sourced and come from and how meals are made can be combined to become a fun daily activity as well as allowing you to put food on the table at meal times. Whether or not they’ll eat it, is another matter. Let’s just say Otto is going through a rather long fussy stage.

It is of course important to ensure young children are supervised while in the kitchen. Ensure hot ovens and sharp knives are kept out of their reach as well as hot pots on the stove. However, the kitchen shouldn’t become a no go danger zone. I met one mum who kept her children locked out of the kitchen using a stair gate and she was slightly horrified by the fact Otto was in the mix stirring and blending. Unless their exposed to things, they’ll never know and learn about the risks associated.

The key is to make sure it’s a fun environment and they have an opportunity to explore their curiosities. Give them their own drawer, home to their own equipment as well as their own apron, which will allow them to feel involved and part of the bigger picture. They will also love having their own stool, allowing them to reach up to the work surfaces.

Involving children from an early age in the supermarket shop is also a great way to teach them about different ingredients. However pick a quiet shopping time and to avoid trolley meltdowns it’s a good idea to give them a piece of fruit or keep a stash of treats in your bag while you do the supermarket sweep. Trust me, this will prevent tantrums and panic buying.

Supporting your local farmer’s market is also a great way to explore seasonal ingredients and get kids to taste interesting and different foods. Everyone loves free samples. It’s also a great way to meet the producers behind the food and learn a little more about where our food comes from. Similarly fruit and veg farms, which allow you to pick your own are not only a great fun day out but also educate children that fruit and veg doesn’t magically appear onto the supermarket shelves from no where.

Gardening and cooking go hand in hand and another great way to get them involved in cooking is to plant a mini herb garden growing coriander, mint and basil or a chilli plant. You don’t even need a garden. All you need is a big enough plant pot for each of the herb plants and a window sill. You can water the plant daily and pick the herbs to add flavour to meals. It’s another great way to explore new tastes and smells.

Encourage older children to get involved in meal planning by going through recipe books with you. Meal planning is a clever thing to do before you go food shopping as it prevents food waste and again allows children to feel involved and try new recipes. If like me you have fussy eaters,  one of the most frustrating things about parenting, involving children in cooking and meal planning is a step towards exposing them to new foods and hopefully in the long run their taste buds will appreciate more than pesto and pasta. I live in hope. 

Even from as young as two, toddlers can learn new skills in the kitchen. You’ll be amazed by how much they can actually help. While you chop vegetables, they can place the chopped pieces into the roasting tin or they cash bash the digestive biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to make the base of a cheesecake. 

Measure out the ingredients you need in advance into small dishes and allow them to add each ingredient to a mixing bowl. This is an easy way to get them involved and they’ll love mixing everything together. If it’s a cake mix however the chances are they’ll be keen to taste test first before it’s spooned into the cake tin. Blending the ingredients together in a food mixer to make smoothies is another winner in our house, as is rolling out pastry dough, using a cookie cutter to cut out biscuit shapes, kneading dough for bread and making pancakes.

Going forward each week I’ll be sharing recipes specifically designed to get children into the kitchen. These breakfast pots using pouches from my favourite baby food brand Piccolo are quick and easy and taste heavenly in the morning. Feel free to half the portions for smaller tummies. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my belly.

1. Add 1/2 a cup of porridge oats to a jam jar, cover to the top of the oats with full fat milk and stir in 1/2 a tsp. of cinnamon and a handful of sultanas to each jar. Allow to soak overnight in the fridge.

2. The following day divide a Blushing Berries Piccolo pouch between each jar on top of the oats. Top with full fat Greek yoghurt and fresh raspberries and blueberries. Ideal for breakfasts, snacks and puddings! 

Real beauty uncovered…

In the ‘real’ world, not the flittered, shiny, air brushed version of the world, real beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes.  Something which should be celebrated not agonised over. Yet sadly for many, insecurities surrounding body image prevail. Affecting, the curvy, the skinny, those who have had children, those who haven’t and everything in between. I’ve been there and worn the T-Shirt.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in the third Warrior Woman project, organised by the inspirational London style blogger Nat who writes Style Me Sunday. In partnership with Dove, the perfect fit for such a project, the theme was the importance of being fierce and overcoming insecurites and vulnerabilities, putting your best foot forward and being the best version of yourself. Encouraging positive body image and high self esteem the day involved, inspiring talks, comedy for the sensational Scummy Mummies and a photo shoot like no other, a first for me, bearing my soul in my underwear.

Easier said than done when you have to get your kit off in front of strangers and stand in your over sized Bridget Jones knickers, seven months after giving birth to your second child. But it’s one of these things that has strangely been on my bucket list and was an important milestone in terms of my own self esteem and self confidence and I hope it sends out all the right messages at a time when both men and women, girls and boys are living in a culture obsessed by appearances and not in a healthy way.

The photos arrived in my in box on Friday evening. Your gut instinct is to scrutinise over them in agonising detail, magnifying all the flaws which only you can see. However, given that just over 10 years ago size 6 clothes were too big for my tiny frame, my periods had stopped and I had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, I took a step back and saw my body in a whole new light. 

Having had two boys 19 months apart I have a new love and appreciation for my body. This has been a slow burner but pregnancy has allowed me to develop a much healthier appreciation of my body. It’s a pretty awesome tool and one that should be celebrated and as I’ve written before the lumps, bumps, and stretch marks are positive reminders that I have housed and grown a tiny human for nine months. 
Admittedly since Reuben was born I’ve made an effort to keep fit and active and generally eat healthily, as although I’ve fully recovered from the demons that haunted me in my early 20s, there is an element of control that never quite vanishes, after the hangover if you like, of an eating disorder.

But equally I have a healthy appetite for food and a love of cheese, bread, pasta and G&T’s by the bucket full. My tummy is squishy, my boobs are exhausted, my but is wider and my thighs chunkier but I’m not going to loose sleep over any of this as I don’t get enough sleep as it is. And actually since having children I have actually uncovered a new level of confidence and can love myself a little more than I used too. My priorities have changed and my focus has shifted. My new body shape is just perfect the way it is thank you very much. It may not be cat walk worthy but it’s worthy for the path I’m walking.

I also want my two sons to realise real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and shouldn’t be measured by your waistline or the size of your thigh gap. Equally I don’t want them to grow up scrutinising their own bodies. By being confident in my own skin I hope I can inspire them to be as confident in their own.

Real beauty doesn’t come in one size. If we were all carbon copies of one and other the world would be a pretty desperate place. Being human is about having imperfections. Striving for perfection is exhausting and comes at a price. Our imperfections instead should be embraced as they make us who we are as individuals. I may have been the second person to stand in front of the camera but despite the nerves the Warrior Woman project certainly uplifted my mood and boosted my self esteem, standing along side a wide variety of talented and inspirational women, who shouldn’t be defined by their dress size or their body shape. Their individual characters bring so much more to a room and make a bigger impact.
A big thanks to Style Me Sunday, The Tape Agency, Dove and Imogen Loveday.

Photo credit Angela Dennis.

Vanilla quark chocolate muffins…

One of my earliest memories of helping my mum in the kitchen was ensuring I got hold of the wooden spoon to devour the left over cake mixture. A trait that my two year old, Otto, has also developed. I’ve indoctrinated him early. He is now officially my sous chef in the kitchen and loves nothing more than mixing, blending, sifting and of course making a mess. Stirring up messy homemade memories is almost a daily occurrence.

Our most recent endeavour came off the back of a tub of Graham’s vanilla quark, a recipe for chocolate muffins, which Otto loves baking as much as he loves eating. Give them a whirl. 

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep muffin tray with silicon cases. The recipe makes about nine muffins.

2. Sift 175g of self raising flour,  50g of cocoa powder and 1tsp. of baking powder into a large bowl, stir in 175g of dark brown sugar. Add 1 tub of 250g Grahams Vanilla Quark, 75ml of sunflower oil and two large eggs, then use an electric whisk to beat all the ingredients together for about a minute until they are smooth and fluffy. Stir in 25g of dark chocolate chunks or chips.

3. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake for 25 mins or until they have risen and are firm to the touch. Serve warm or cold. 

Motherhood is not always a walk in the park…

I often get asked how do you do it? How do you manage being so far away from friends and family with two small humans to look after? Do you really enjoy being a stay at home mum?

Firstly I hate the label ‘stay at home mum’. In fact I hate any sort of label when it comes to defining motherhood and the choices you make. I don’t actually stay at home all day. If a I were to do that I would actually go bananas as would my children.

The truth is motherhood is no walk in the park. It’s a tough gig that doesn’t resemble the filtered squares of Instagram. There are days when I would very much like to resign and hand in my notice. But the reality is I can’t do that. This is a contract, which can’t be terminated. Instead I manage. I never leave the house without my war paint on, it’s the perfect disguise to hide my tired eyes. And when people comment how calm and collected I always appear, the truth is I’m like a swan. 

On the surface I’m gliding through motherhood trying to keep up appearances. However, beneath the surface I’m paddling ferociously trying to keep my head above water, dealing with a toddling dictator, a sleep thief and a milk monster, whilst I crave adult conversation and try to remember what it was like to go on a proper date as your sex life is comparable to the Sahara Desert.

This week is Maternal Mental Health Week. I thought long and hard whether or not to write this post and I should say from the outset this is not a cry for sympathy but an attempt to raise awareness and highlight the simple fact that it’s okay not to feel okay. It’s okay to feel a bit shit and as I can testify it’s normal to feel isolated and lonely. Ironically being a new mum in such a wonderfully diverse and bustling city such as London, can be and is isolating. As a result I’ve felt low and questioned whether or not I’m cut out for this job. The truth is I am and I’m pretty good at it and I have two gorgeous boys who I love more than I could ever describe on paper. But there have been periods when it’s been tough.

Our first pregnancy didn’t reach fruition, which planted the seeds of doubt and worry throughout my second pregnancy. Every scan that followed was never pleasant, only anxiety was felt. Otto however arrived safe and healthy in 2015 and I through myself into my new role but when he hit the six month mark I hit a low. Geoff was in France, my family were 400 miles away. I was exhausted and sleep deprived and felt so low. I was terrified that those I loved were going to come to harm. I spoke to my GP and it was at this point I realised the importance of talking about my anxieties and not bottling up my feelings when I felt down and blue.
In the middle of my third pregnancy my anxieties escalated once more. This was a period of huge change. Not only was I pregnant, but we were moving house from one side of London to another, my husband was transitioning from one career to a completely new one, we had been told Reuben only had one kidney (the missing one was however discovered at my 30 week scan) and we were also involved in a car crash. Consequently I had a series of panic attacks but my family were quick to encourage me to seek the necessary support, which has given me the tools to deal with periods of uncertainty. As well as the occasional stretch on my yoga mat, mindfulness, cooking and long daily walks help me to keep my mind clear and focused so I can do the best job possible.

On paper it’s understandable that sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and the addition of a new life into your own life may cause you to feel like your old self has been abducted and replaced by someone you don’t recognise. This is normal but it doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Maternal mental health matters, before you give birth and after. Long after your six week check I might add.

It’s okay to ask for help and to talk. In fact it’s not heroic to keep anxieties and feelings of depression bottled up. It’s heroic to speak out and and say; “You know what I feel pretty shit, it feels like it’s getting a bit much, I need a little support and help.” 

You’re not the first to go through this rollercoaster but at the same time you feel you are very much going it alone. But dig a little deeper and you’ll soon discover you’re not alone.

At a time when mental health has never been in the spotlight as much as it is now, it’s time we keep dismantling the barriers, which prevent so many from seeking the necessary help. It’s okay not to be okay. We’re in this together, so if you’re having a crap day, phone a friend, tell them how things really are and that you need a shoulder to cry on and a large cup of hot tea. Trust me I’ve been there and got the t-shirt. I have a supportive and patient husband and some wonderful friends and talking and opening up to them is one step towards feeling human again. 

Travelling with Tots…

Apologies for the radio silence over on the blog. I’m a little focused on getting my head around our relocation back north, having spent the last three years in London. And as we have acquired two new members to team Cross during that period, we have quite alot of packing to conquer. 

In the meantime as a distraction I’m dreaming of our holiday in April to Treworgey Cottages. It’s one of those magical hidden gems you don’t want anyone else to get wind of. However, I must share it with you, especially if you have young children but you don’t want to relinquish a little bit of luxury….

When you go on holiday on your own you can be selfish. When you go on holiday with a newly turned two year old and a five month old it’s a game changer. But if like me you’re not quite ready to embrace a Bultlins type holiday and you’re still in need of a dose of luxury, which also caters for children, Baby Bolt Holes is a must for choosing a self catering holiday, delivering all the necessities for travelling with tots and allows you to travel a lot lighter. No travel cots, high chairs, potties, extra entertainment, sterilisers, stair gates, changing mats required

Three generations have lovingly restored and brought back to life Treworgey Cottages,  set in 150 acres of Cornish countryside. With 15 cottages, each with it’s own private garden, it truly is a rural idyl, yet only a short drive from the sea.  And you know you’ve stumbled upon a gem when everyone you meet has been coming for a number of years. This wasn’t there first rodeo.

img_4880This was our first holiday as a team of four and the idea of jetting off on a plane to a hotter climate really doesn’t appeal to me with two little people in tow. I’ve struggled with the heat wave that has embraced London. But set me up in a beautiful house in rural Cornwall, with all the mode cons, stunning 360 degree views and a four poster bed as well as a conicopia of things to keep our toddling dictator entertained, I’m all game.

Our home for the week, Honeysuckle Cottage, was the stuff of dreams. Beautiful, comfortable but practical. Super kitchen and heavenly bathroom. The private garden off the lounge allowed Otto to explore freely and safely and alfresco dining was irresistible, with picture postcard views, making it easy to not even leave the vacinity of the cottage.

The welcoming Cornish food basket was a great touch and to ensure we had a great start to our first day I preordered a Cornish  breakfast hamper, which showcases a small selection of Cornwall’s top class food and drink products.

As well as your own garden to explore, Treworgey cottages has some fantastic woodland walks, ideal for big and little legs. There are also tennis courts, a riding school, a heated outdoor pool and a pretty spectacular adventure playground all a stones throw away. Every morning children can feed the wide selection of animals, which was one of the many success stories of our trip. It really is the simple things that make memories.

Thankfully the weather gods where on our side, but for rainy days there is a beautiful indoor play area and a comfy stove room with books, dvds and an honesty cafe and farm shop.

Everything has been thought of including a home cooked meal delivery service, which I fully took advantage of for our final evening. This was one of the highlights and a definite bonus to any self catering holiday, especially if like me you do the cooking. Foood always tastes better when someone else cooks it and the team at Coombe Kitchen certainly know a thing or two about satisfying healthy appetites like ours.

No trip to this part of the Cornish coast is complete without a trip to Looe. The beaches at this time of year are still pretty quite and relaxing, adding to the charm of this village. And when in Cornwall one should not leave without sampling a Cornish pastie or two as well as a traditional Cornish high tea, fish and chips and ice cream. It would be rude not too.

Relaxed holidaying with tots in tow is a rareity but Treworgey Cottages has certainly gone to a huge amount of effort to reduce the stress, making for a pretty special holiday in a spectacular part of the the world. Of course there were tears and tantrums but the highlights wiped these out from our memories. We’ll be back just like everyone else who visits. There is an irresibiable charm.

Treworgey is a real family affair, which puts families at the centre.