Raising Elves

As wild as nature. Myself, parenting and natural remedies blog.


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Childhood memories and Aunty Anna’s buns- gluten & dairy free

I christened today ‘Misery’.

We had one of many tantrums before we even left the bed this morning. 

Then the rain never stopped and I discovered that my wet gear no longer fits over my bump.

Then in between tantrums the Elf grettled and growled- Klingon was the only language spoken today.

Despite all this I decided I was going to be positive and kill Misery with kindness.

Then I broke my favourite china plate.

Then Elf fell.

Then my neighbour decided to tell me all about the rugby even though I told her I don’t watch sports and couldn’t give a fiddlers fart if Ireland were playing.

Then I got locked out of the house.

Misery won.

***************

Before Misery won, I set up the kitchen like a cafe and played ‘I can cook’ (Elf’s favourite tv show).

I emptied the shelves and found the makings of some buns and even a bit of topping.

I was reminded of our Great-aunt Anna’s baking. Every Sunday we would go to Nana’s for tea and Aunty Anna would fill the table with freshly baked apple tarts, jam and coconut buns, chocolate buns and real top quality ham for the sambos. I used to set the table, carefully choosing the china and designing where they would go. Anna taught me where everything goes. Mam tells us about how growing up only the men were allowed the meat and the women got the cheese because ‘Men need their meat’. Aunty Anna started bringing the ham to tea so that we could all have some. That was her solution. That was the kind of person she was.

Aunty Anna is so fondly remembered in our family. She never married nor had children. She baked for Heuston station until her retirement. She was very intuitive and was known to arrive at our door unannounced only to give my Mam a few bob (on the very day my Mam had prayed for help). Anna’s house smelt like baked goods- all the time. My Mam nursed Anna as she was dying. She slept in our living room until she passed on. It hit us all hard, especially Mam as they had a very special bond.

I’ve never been able to recreate her baked goods. I don’t know if that is because of ingredients or just her years and years of getting to know a recipe without having to measure up. I decided to make an alternative out of whatever I found in the press to keep Elf occupied and to provide myself with a little bit of comfort on this miserable day.

Image

                                      Aunt Anna’s jam & coconut bun (credit: @myinternalworld)

 

Of course, these will taste a million times nicer if you can eat regular flour and butter but as I avoid wheat and Robotman avoids dairy I had to adapt. Also, these were just remnants of what I had up in the press- seen as I couldn’t go out. Normally, I would halve the sugar and add stevia. I would use all coconut oil or just pure butter if Robotman wasn’t getting a look in.

  • 150g Doves Farm white self-raising flour blend
  • 1 tsp GF raising agent
  • 150g butter (I used the last 50g of coconut oil and the rest was DF margarine I found in back of the fridge)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g caster sugar (I had 25g caster sugar, 25g granulated sugar and 100g soft brown sugar)
  • 5 tbsp rice milk (or normal milk)
  • Paper cases
  • Jam, desiccated coconut, chocolate for the topping
  1. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I use the blender as the coconut oil is very hard to beat (or else I melt it first) 
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sieve in flour and mix thoroughly. Lash in the milk.
  3. Half fill paper cases.
  4. Put in pre-heated oven (180’c for a fan oven) for 15 minutes.

I would prefer these with less oil and would definitely avoid using the margarine next time. I literally only keep it in the fridge for emergencies. I would also prefer less sugar and I must say they were gorgeous with the soft brown sugar.

The toppings give them the nostalgic flavour.

I still haven’t worked out what Anna did with the jam but I just can’t repeat it. Her jam was always thin, sweet and seed free. Maybe it was catering jam from her job, I don’t know. I just boiled 1tbsp of strawberry jam with a little water and some icing sugar. This definitely thinned it out and gave it that cake sweetness. I then just topped it with the desiccated coconut.

I had to melt the chocolate for the Elf. She only likes chocolate ‘sweets’. She doesn’t even eat the bun- she just licks the chocolate off. Now come at her with a pack of cheese and onion crisps and she’ll lick the foil clean. 

Image

You’re supposed to leave the chocolate to cool. Ours didn’t last that long.  Can you spot Elf’s finger? (Credit: @myinternalworld)

 

 

 


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Creating Christmas

In my last post I talked about my struggle to bring the religious tradition from my childhood into our family Christmas.

It’s especially hard when we are specifically non-religious yet love to fill our home with what we see as an undefinable Spirit.

I have been feeling drawn to bringing a little of my Christian heritage into The Elf’s life. Not the ideology. Just the concept of unconditional love, avoiding judgment of others and forgiveness. I took great great comfort from the spirit of ‘Jesus’ as a child.

Although I would be more attracted to the pagan tradition of celebrating Solstice (I do have a deeper connection of awe and instinct with nature than I do any form of human ideology) I recall comforting childhood memories of playing with the crib my dad made, the nativity and the Christian orientated music of this time of year and I feel it would be lovely to give The Elf an opportunity to at least have access to her religious heritage.

I debated about bringing her to Mass. Our local priest says a lovely Mass. I’ve had the opportunity to hear his Mass during my nieces and nephews christenings so if anything was going to bring me to church it would be this lovely person.

As it got closer I realised it just didn’t feel right. I am not searching for religion- I am searching for a way to recreate my Christmas feelings of wholeness and bring them into our home.

We are still a young family, you see. Although the robotman and I have been living together for seven Christmases, this is the first year where I have felt the innate maternal desire to create Christmas for my girl.

Granted this is our third Christmas with The Elf but this is the first year she is actively taking part in the Spirit of Christmas.

Every day for the last three weeks we have danced to ‘Now that’s what I call Christmas‘. We’ve baked gingerbread families, collected pinecones by the lake, done Christmas crafts, watched Christmas movies, done the advent and eaten plenty of Christmas goodies. We’ve read Christmas books in the library, visited Santa and decorated our house.

This year I had to create Christmas- The Elf’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Aside from all the activities, I have been seeking ways to create Christmas for us- our Christmas.

I have been remembering my childhood Christmases. Christmas Eve with its anticipation, the frantic last minute cleaning, the movies, the smell, the twinkling lights, poking at presents under the tree, new pyjamas, drying our hair by the fire, early to bed and lying in the top bunk with the curtain open and searching the sky for Santa.

Christmas morning up at six and sneaking down the stairs avoiding the sixth step because it squeaks and the excitement of opening up the door to see if Santa had been. Mam would leave the lamp lit and the gas fire was on low so the room would be toasty. We would sit in the low lighting and explore our surprises. The surprises were always the best because we weren’t expecting them. One year I received a hand crafted dresser made with paternal hands and still to this day, twenty odd years later, grandchildren are playing with it. It will be handed down to The Elf in time.

At nine o’clock we were allowed to go up to Mam and Dad to wake them. The four of us would pile on their bed (the ‘good’ duvet was white with blue flowers) and excitedly tell them what Santa brought. I always waited for the moment when Dad would pull out a gift for Mam, kiss her and tell her that he loved her or something lovely along those lines.

We’d all be ushered off to put on our Christmas clothes after our ‘sausies’ (known as sausages elsewhere) and all clamber into Dad’s big orange Opel Record and drive down to Mass in the days of no seatbelts or booster seats. We were allowed bring a toy to Mass until we made our communion, then we had to pretend we were listening. I loved the music: little donkey, silent night, hallelujah.

We’d visit our very warm hearted Aunt and cousins who lived nearby after Mass and then go home for dinner. We’d play with our toys in the living room while Mam got the last few bits ready. When dinner came we all (and still do) would light a candle and make a prayer before dinner made its way to the table. We’d fight over Mam’s croquettes, roasties and stuffing. Trifle was for dessert which I never liked so I would have a bowl of cream instead. Yum yum.

We’d all sit around watching a post dinner movie. Mam would have a rest until half seven when we got to watch someone die in Coronation Street. We would go to Nana’s house at night, in these days. These were great nights when all our cousins would be there and the adults would have a few drinks so be all relaxed and cheery. When we were old enough we could sit in on the game of cards which was paid for with coppers. My great aunt (who The Elf was named after) would bring a giant bag full of copper coins for us and the excitement at counting out your winnings at the end of the night was the highlight.

Stephens’ day was more relaxed. We’d get up and play with our toys, watch some great tv (why is Ste’s day tv always better?) and eat our selection boxes for breakfast. We’d have another delicious Christmas dinner and maybe go for a walk. In the older years we’d go up to the Dublin mountains for a walk by the reservoir, if weather permitted. That night we’d go to my aunts house but it would be a quieter night.

The days after the 26th would blend into one another until New Year’s Eve when our relations would come to our house for a big hooley. My brother, cousin and I would all play (marbles, GI joe, wrestling) and the adults would chat and drink. If my girl cousin came the boys would be dumped and we’d play in our ‘apartment’ with our dolls. She would be married to Mark Owen and I would be married to Robbie Williams. At 11pm Mam would make ham sandwiches and tea or minerals for us kids. Then at midnight we’d do the usual round of Auld lang Syne (which I never really liked) and we stayed up late until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.

New Year’s Day would see another big ‘Christmas’ dinner. Then it’d be all over.

When I think about it the Jesus fella didn’t play a huge part in all that made Christmas, Christmas. Despite this, I feel sad that I have preserved the crib my Dad made thirty years ago and yet have not bought any figurines for it. I am sad that my Christian heritage is falling away and I especially feel it at this time of the year.

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But then I think that it’s a bit hypocritical that it is just my heritage I want The Elf to know rather than the actual religion. Truth is, she’s too young anyway. She barely grasped the idea of Christmas Eve never mind anything else (aside from the idea that Santy might bring her chocolate).

I look forward to adding to the traditions I grew up with. I look forward to keeping it simple and remembering that it was all the small moments I remember to this day- the pyjamas, the smell, watching out the window, the creak in the stairs, playing with my brother and cousins, tv, lazy days and most importantly of all: relaxed parents just going with the flow.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you so much love and peace this Christmas. Thanks for reading xxx


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What Autumn gives

I love-love-love this time of year.

It has been my favourite season since childhood. The fresh, crisp air, the damp grass, the light wind and the sound of the leaves dancing. The darkening nights combined with mild temperatures (in comparison to Winter).

When I was a child I loved listening to the early Autumn wind while writing my name on my fresh books and copies- excited to go back to school. Not out of love for school, I think, more out of love for routine. I’d smell the new pages as I’d flip them front to back with my thumb.

I’d reach home with the heavy school bag on my back and Mam would have a bowl of soup on the table ready for us. I remember dipping my bread in and the Flora margarine melting into the soup bowl. No real butter in our house growing up. My cold feet warmed by the time I’d reach the end.

(Image by MyInternalWorld)

Do you remember these? (Image by MyInternalWorld)

In my late teens I remember walking my dog in the evenings with Damien Rice or The Frames pumping through my earphones. The air crisp and the moonlight brightening the community as early as 7/8pm.  Those nights were my favourite.

Shedding like the trees, I spent my time mourning something.

Mourning myself as I grew into adulthood, I guess.

Leaving behind the freedom attached to being a child and entering into the complex world of adult relations.

********************

Not long after I would meet my husband (at 22) and spend the next few Autumns curled up on a couch watching sci-fi and drinking tea. Or, being the celtic tiger years, we’d waste away an hour and a couple of hundred Euro in HMV. Or go to the cinema.

I remember cycling home from the city after work, hating the wind with it’s howling in my face and spitting at me with sharp cold cuts of rain.

So, I didn’t see Autumn from a child’s eyes for a few years.

These were the years I experienced heightened depression, anxiety and weight gain. I was disconnected.

********************

Then I had The Elf.

The first Autumn after I had her is a haze but I do recall walking to the village each day with the leaves bustling around my feet.

It was the second one after her birth that I rekindled my old love of Autumn.

I watched the leaves change while running up the canal in West Dublin. Luckily, the wind was mostly behind me in those days. The Elf had turned one that June and was walking. Not a day went by, rain or shine, where she hadn’t taken my hand and led me outside.

(Copyright: MyInternalWorld

The Elf aged one in August 2012 (Copyright: MyInternalWorld).

We would play out on the cul-de-sac with our pup. Our pup had a pup-friend who was five times the size of her. They would chase each other and the leaves in between. The Elf and this magnificently gentle Bull Mastiff struck up a wonderful friendship.

(photo by MyInternalWorld)

Missy and her old playmate (photo by MyInternalWorld)

Closer to Winter, last year, we moved to where we are now. We have a big green behind our house with giant, hundreds-of-years-old trees which I can see from my kitchen window.

instakitchenview

A peek through my kitchen window (Photo by: MyInternalWorld)

I open my window and listen to the leaves dancing in the wind. I get that feeling again.

The feeling I used to get when I was a kid.

It’s like my heart is opening and the wind blows through it and cleans it out.

The sound of the leaves on the street is the sound of any heart-carried worry and cynicism flipping away.

Autumn makes me feel like a clean slate.

It blows away everything I don’t need and makes room for Winter silence and Spring regrowth.

How lovely to feel it again.

I hope you let Autumn in too after reading this. Go out for a walk and listen, smell, see. Allow Autumn to gift you with a clean slate. Or even, at the very least, dust off those cobwebs.

Laura xxx

(copyright: MyInternalWorld)

The Elf is enjoying the early offerings of Autumn already (copyright: MyInternalWorld)


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When dogs die

I got Dolly when I was sixteen.

dol

Dolly on Portmarnock beach (North Dublin). One of her favourite spots.

I had been through a rough year.

I had experienced my first bout of depression and although it was left undiagnosed at this time, a counselor suggested a dog to my parents.

Dolly was ten months old when I got her. She was unsure of herself, like me.

She was dropped off before my parents got home from work so I had her to myself for an hour or so.

She hid under the table.

I crawled under there and pulled her in real close.

Real close, this was a term we would use for her lifetime.

I told her not to worry, that I was hers and she was mine. We had each other.

Something clicked- our souls?- and that was it. Dolly followed me around from that moment on.

Dolly was different than my first dog, who was pretty feral.

Also, as a family we were more mature and able for her.

My dad took over the training and soon had her well behaved.

Even my mam (who is not an animal person) found a place in her heart for Dolly.

It was not long before she was sleeping by the fire at my Mam’s feet when I was out teenagering.

I used to sneak her upstairs some nights. We slept together and I used to worry that my Mam would hear her snoring, but she never did.

I got up with her at 6am to let her out for a wee.

The only other person I would be up that early for is Elfie so, you can imagine how special that makes Dolly.

I used to even talk for her. I put on this voice for my nieces and they would have conversations with her.

When I went travelling for a few months at twenty-one, Dolly went a bit depressed and gained alot of weight.

Mam was probably feeding her into a happy coma.

Mam heals with food, ha-ha.

When I got home I promised never to leave her again.

********************

When I met Robotman and knew he was a keeper I brought Dolly out to meet him.

We stayed overnight and Dolly had a bed in the hall downstairs.

Dolly kept sneaking upstairs and making a nest out of a brown paper bag out on the landing.

Boy was that a noisy process.

Eventually we left her. Then all went quiet.

So we lay there, just about to nod off and ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ.

Did I mention Dolly was a snorer?

World famous.

********************

Of course she came with me when he and I moved in together.

Dolly started to branch out her affections with Robotman and he quickly became no2 (or even, no1.5).

Robotman fell in love with her.

We soon added two cats to the equation.

Dolly loved cats.

We used to volunteer in the cattery up in the DSPCA each Sunday and Dolly would circle the cattery- protecting them from teasing dogs.

********************

As she was getting old she went blind and a little bit deaf.

I used a training clicker so she could hear me.

When she went fully blind I created scent paths in the house for her.

I rubbed cinnamon along every door arch and furniture corners.

I ran a line of peppermint in a clear path, connecting her food/water with her bed.

She very quickly copped on and started using her nose instead of her eyes to get around the house.

I also used a leg lead to keep her close.

Real close.

In my pregnancy she went downhill. She got very quiet and spent most days sleeping.

She didn’t really like her walks anymore as I assume she was insecure sensory-wise.

After Elfie was born we brought her home and let Dolly meet her.

Dolly gently licked Elfie’s feet and sniffed her nappy.

That was it then, after Elfie’s birth it was like she was there in body only.

********************

We brought her to the vet when she had a bloodshot eye.

Doc said it looked like a tumour.

We set up our appointment for a scan- a desperate attempt to see if her life could be prolonged.

We knew though, that if she needed surgery we wouldn’t put her through it being quite old and frail.

Her scan was booked in for the Tuesday.

On Monday, Elfie slept all day.

I mean literally- all day. She wouldn’t wake for a feed and slept through her nappy changes.

We even had her at Our Lady’s hospital that night we were so worried (first time parents and all).

Nothing wrong of course and, typically, she became all lively once the nurse came in to check on her.

Anyway, the kid slept all day. I was lying on the sofa trying to rest when Dolly came up and lay on me.

Real close.

Just like that moment we had ten years before- when my heart spoke to her heart- she told me she was going.

I cried and cried and cried.

All that day, Elfie slept, I cried and Dolly silently sang goodbye.

I knew she would not leave me until I had my new soul-friend.

The next morning we awoke to a ruptured tumour. We didn’t even make it to the scan.

Doc recommended to put her to sleep.

We knew anyway. She had told us.

When I was holding her time really did freeze.

Doc said, ‘she’s gone’.

I had a delayed reaction and eventually I looked at him in shock.

I wasn’t ready.

No.

I stayed with her until she went cold. I couldn’t leave.

And I couldn’t cry.

*******************

I went home and took up my four week old baby.

Distraction.

Elfie is two this June.

This is the first day since Dolly died that I have resigned my soul over to grief.

I have been carrying this burden for so long but now it’s time.

It’s interfering with my life.

I am physically in pain ALL the time.

My muscles and joints ache, I am cranky, I am lethargic and I have what appears to be a mighty hernia growing inside my torso.

But I haven’t been ready.

They say there is no timeframe for grief.

Today, Robotman took Elfie down to see her ‘Ninny and Gaga’.

He told me to stay and do nothing.

It’s like he knew I was close to exploding.

So he left and I pottered around the garden planting a few strawberries and veggies etc.

Then I tried to download Paulo Coehlo’s new book and for some reason ibooks wouldn’t give me the English version.

Then I went in and made lunch.

Then I realised I wasn’t hungry but just looking for distraction.

I haven’t ‘done nothing’ in a long long time.

It’s amazing how easy it is to distract yourself when you are avoiding your own soul.

Then I sat out in the garden (thank you Spring! You have finally arrived!)

And Missy. My new dog. My hairy little shitehawk brat of a pup.

Missy lay in front of me, after licking the residue of the tuna salad off my plate.

I can proudly say she waited for permission first.

Anyway, she lay there. The exact same way Dolly used to lie when the sun came out.

And that did it.

Niagara Falls.

Missy

My new heartbreaker


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Peeking into the world of a three year old

One of my earliest memories is of when my brother was born.

It was 1987 and I was three years and three months young.

I was not much taller than the mahogany coffee table.

The perception of this memory is overwhelmed by the brown velour sofa, the gingery-brown swirl patterns on the carpet and the brown velvet curtains.

I remember following some commotion over to the sofa.

My two older sisters were crowding around, looking down at something.

When I got closer I heard my dad’s voice.

In a gentle, high pitched voice that us adults use when talking to toddlers, he said something about a little baby.

The words are just a muffle- it is the tone of voice that I heard.

I assume he asked my sisters to step aside as they step back when I get up to the sofa.

There, on the couch, lay my mam.

Her hair was in a bob, she wore a brown stretch-cotton skirt and there was a bundle of blankets on her lap.

I couldn’t see anything else.

Dunno what the fuss is about, thought I. Just blankets.

And then I go off back into what is now a puff of air.

When I return, my mam had disappeared from the sofa and I was in the room with my middle sister.

I could hear my (very excited) eldest sister talking with mam as they walked up the stairs together.

Dad came in with two boxes.

He was showing them to my sister.

He was asking her to choose, using that sweet voice that I had never recalled hearing before, and I don’t think I ever heard it again.

There was something new in this voice- a deep peace, serenity, love.

Sure hadn’t his first son been born.

Or was it just that another person had been born?

Anyway, as I got closer I saw that they were two of the most beautiful barbie-style dolls wearing magnificent ball gowns.

One of the gowns was black.

WOW.

I had never seen anything as beautiful on a doll.

My sister, of course, chose the black one but I didn’t seem to mind.

The pink one was just as beautiful.

And that was it.

That is my memory from when my brother was born.

My brother would grow up to be one of my closest friends and all I remember about the first time I met him was brown decor, my dad’s beautiful voice, a bundle of blankets and a couple of prettily dressed dolls.

I seemed to have missed the point but despite that I think that is beautiful.

That is the mind of a three year old and I will hold that memory tight as I watch Elfie’s processes when we bring baby no2 home.

Wait! Hold your horses, I’m not preggers.

But I am announcing a couple of births.

On the top right hand corner of my blog you will see the badge for the Irish Parenting Bloggers Group.

Joining this group has been so enjoyable and enlightening.

It has been great to meet fellow bloggers and delve into their worlds for some inspiration and even a few giggles.

I love reading all the different writing styles and the wide variety of topics including opinion pieces, parenting tales, recipes, crafts and money saving tips.

Two of our bloggers (who are also our super group admins)  are experiencing the excitement of bringing another little being into their family and so we are throwing a virtual baby shower in the form of a Blog March. Aine (of AndmyBaby and currently on bloggy maternity leave)  had her lovely little girl in January and Lisa (of mama.ie) is due in March. Lisa has announced that she too is expecting a little girl.

I would like to send you both my heartfelt congratulations and lots of excitement your way.

I must say, between all this baby madness and the announcement of lots of friends expecting, I am getting broody.

So watch this space!

If you haven’t yet explored all the great Irish parenting blogs out there then I would be delighted to introduce you to these guys. I will add links to the list as our Blog March progresses.

12th Feb. Mind The Baby

POST: http://mindthebaby.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/a-mother-blessing-for-my-blogger-mama-friends/

13th Feb. Wonderful Wagon

POST: http://seriouswagon.blogspot.ie/2013/02/valentines-day-used-to-suck.html

14th Feb. That Curious Love Of Green

POST: http://thatcuriousloveofgreen.com/2013/02/14/one-billion-rising/

15th Feb. Debalicious                             

POST: http://www.debalicious.com/2013/02/new-mama-fuel.html

17th Feb. Awfully Chipper              

POST: http://awfullychipper.blogspot.ie/2013/02/perfect-two.html

18th Feb. Go Dad Go

POST: http://www.godadgo.ie/dads-have-babies-too/

19th Feb. The Dare Project

POST: http://thedar.es/bring-a-book-baby-shower/

20th Feb. The Clothesline                     

POST: http://theclotheslineie.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/a-wish-for-irelands-little-girls/

21st Feb. Dreaming Aloud

POST: http://www.dreamingaloud.net/2013/02/a-virtual-mother-blessing.html

22nd Feb Kate Takes 5

POST: http://katetakes5.blogspot.ie/2013/02/10-things-they-should-tell-you-about.html

23rd Feb. Ouch My Fanny Hurts!!!    

POST: http://ouchmyfannyhurts.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/this-much-i-know/

24th Feb. Pomp                                        

POST: http://thisispomp.com/sweet-dreams-baby-girl/

25th Feb. Musings Of A Hostage-Mother

POST: http://musingsofahostagemother.blogspot.ie/2013/02/i-send-virtual-best-wishes.html

26th Feb. Wholesome Ireland

POST: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=2167

27th Feb. The Nest      

POST: http://blog.thenest.ie/2013/02/27/an-irish-baby-blessing/

28th Feb. Proper Fud

POST:  https://properfud.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/theres-no-i-in-team