About annaethain

Mum to a crazy little boy. Wife of a bearded dreamer. Teacher to a number of grumpy but lovely teenagers. A traveller who loves home. A lover of hot tea, baking, shoes and photography. A Brit living in Bangkok. This little blog records some snippets of my life. Nothing fancy, just as it is.

Shoes Glorious Shoes

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It all started when l was buying a pair of school shoes in Clarks with my Mum. I was probably about 7 years old and fell in love with a pair on the spot. They were shiny patent black, with a small strap, little pattern on the toe, and, best of all, a ‘magic key’ hidden in the sole. My mother, being a no-nonsense, practical type of person who bought ‘shoes to last’, refused my wishes, and l ended up with an unremarkable pair that l would be disappointed to put on every day.

Of course, when l reached the grand age of 15 and my mother was offering to buy me pretty shoes, l was clomping around in Dr Marten’s and army surplus boots, doing my best to imitate Courtney Love. When she had finally given up nagging me to look ‘ladylike’  (at about the age of 20) l came home from university wearing the pointiest, highest stiletto ankle boots known to man. They were camo-print though, so not perhaps what she had in mind.

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Shoes, Glorious Shoes.

Since that time, my slight (!) obsession with shoes has grown and grown. I love a beautiful shoe, no matter how unwearable they are. My husband, understandably, gets more than annoyed that every house move is accompanied by several boxes full of shoes that l never wear. They are usually labelled “Shoes that are never worn”, “More F-ing shoes”, or “Why do you keep buying shoes?”. So, he was not best pleased when l returned home from ostensibly shopping for a few essentials with not one, but three more pairs of (beautiful) shoes that l stumbled across in the Zara sale.

"More F*ing Shoes!"

“More F*ing Shoes!”

After the ‘conversation’ that followed, l duly removed the pairs of shoes that l have bought, but rarely wear from the wardrobe. I was supposed to get rid of them. I have moved them to a suitcase underneath the bed for safe keeping. Shhhhhhhh…..

A Plum Crumble Of Sorts

It is always a mistake to send the Husband to the supermarket without an itemised list. As he disappeared though the front door l shouted the word ‘FRUIT’ at him whilst trying to stop the Boy eating cat food. On his return l scoured the bags for the usual weekly selection of apples, kiwis, bananas and possibly a mango, only to discover a net full of ‘honey oranges’ and a head-sized bunch of what could only be described as oval persimmons. The sticky label on this mystery fruit said, quite simply, ‘Plum’.

An oval persimmon type of fruit.

An oval persimmon type of fruit.

Never one for turning down a new taste experience, as well as being subject to a ravenous pregnancy based hunger that yesterday saw me mainlining BK fries as if l had not eaten in weeks, l popped one in my mouth. The skin was persimmon thick and tart, but the soft flesh was sweet and juicy. I ate several more, pondering what to do with the copious amount of fruit that now sat on our kitchen table. Only one thing sprung to mind – a crumble.

Crumbles are my favourite dessert. There is something about buttery sweet clods melting into a slight tart stewed fruit, perhaps with some custard, that makes me feel warm on the inside. Not entirely befitting for tropical heat, but hey, thats why air-con was invented, right?

So this morning saw me rubbing flour and butter together – l use more butter as l like a bit of a melty stodgy crumble – and mixing in some brown sugar to create a caramel scented crumble mix. At the same time l simmered the ‘plums’ with a little sugar, water and allspice. The skins separated from the flesh, so before assembling the dessert for the oven l blitzed the fruit with a blender. Once in their baking dishes, they baked in the oven for 10 minutes until the tops were golden. Or a little sunburnt in a couple of cases.

They were tasty. Damn tasty. Tart and sweet, a tropical version of a traditional plum crumble. Something l would make again if l (a) could identify the fruit and/or (b) knew how to ask for it in Thai. I am not sure that ‘it looks like a persimmon and tastes a bit like a plum’ will cut it somehow. Anyway, if you can’t get hold of these so-called ‘plums’ any fruit will do. Oh, but not banana, l tried that once. Disaster.

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The Hiatus

There has been a hiatus in my writing, the pause button has been forced on for the last few months. I really wanted to write, ideas for posts would flit through my mind, but l just couldn’t. Instead, most evenings, l have sat huddled under a fleecy blanket staring blankly at the wall/the television/the Husband, desperately trying not to throw up and counting the moments until l could go to bed.

You may be forgiven for thinking that l have been struck down by a terrible tropical parasite, and that is partly true. I am, in fact, with child again. Which is obviously wonderful and very exciting news, just a bit of a ….. surprise. I have always scorned those women who are somehow shocked to discover they are pregnant, wondering how the physical signs could possibly be ignored or mistaken for anything else. My karma came in the form of the Husband pointing out that my ‘car sickness’ and cravings for anything McDonald related (l usually avoid those golden arches like the plague) was perhaps the sign l should be peeing on a stick. Humble pie humbly (ish) eaten.

For some women, the first few months is full of happiness, excitment and an overall blooming contentment. Not me. I cling on to dear life just willing the time to pass until l can look at a plate of food without wondering how long it will reside in my stomach. My head is full of cotton wool, every limb feels heavy, my temper is short, my skin is spotty, my hair dry. l feel bloated, lethargic and generally hate the world. Kate Middleton l am not.

Thankfully, time has passed and the hormonal fog appears to be clearing. I don’t have to try and hold my stomach in anymore, or try and dispose of my alcoholic drinks in more and more creative ways, nor try and justify my frequent bathroom stops as a ‘persistent bladder infection’. I am, in fact, starting to feel pregnantly normal again. Just in time to have a breakdown about the fact that none of my clothes fit anymore.

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How l learnt to spend money.

I have known my husband for nine years. We have been acquaintances, friends, best friends, flatmates, boyfriend/girlfriend, exes, and, for better and worse, are now married and parents. Our relationship has taught me a lot: a dinner of sweets is not considered a healthy diet; how to cook an omelette with success; the joys of Biffy Clyro; that Pirate Metal is possibly the worst type of music; a love of ale and roast lamb; that bread knives should not be used for anything but bread; the relative merits of a Playstation versus an X-Box; how to lose without throwing a tantrum. Okay, l am still learning that last one.

A bigger lesson l have learnt, however, is how to spend money. Our differing attitudes to finances were clear when we first went grocery shopping together. I headed straight for the bargain bin (my Dad used to buy most of our food from this ‘almost out of date’ shelf – hence a lot of ‘Supper Surprise’) whilst The Husband would be in the ‘Organic Best’ section. This divide was echoed in most things – l would buy a bargain pair of hiking boots while he would spend enormous (to me) amounts of money on a high end pair. But then l would end up with wet feet and blisters whilst his feet were toasty warm and pain free. It has taken a few years, and l still struggle with ‘spend guilt’ but l now understand the wisdom of investing in “good kit” as my stepfather calls it.

Nowhere is this more clear than on my dressing table. A couple of weeks after giving birth, when The Husband had gone back to work and my Mum had returned back to the UK, l was desperate to get out of the house. I popped The Boy into the sling and hopped in a taxi to the nearest shopping mall. Whilst wandering around, bleary eyed, l was asked by one of the make-up assistants if l wanted a make-over. Well, milk-stained, rumpled, sleepless wreck that l was, l just plonked myself on the stool and let her do her worst. After about 20 minutes she showed me my reflection. I had expected to see some hideously over-made up face resembling a drag queen. Instead l looked human again. Like a much improved version of my current self. Well, that had me sold. My credit card was handed over and l have never looked back.

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The contents of my make-up bag.

Nine months on, wearing make-up on a daily basis, the only thing l have had to re-buy is the mascara. It seems that investing once and investing wisely is the way forward. And while l may never be frivolous with money, l have certainly learnt how to spend a little more.

A Life Less Lived

Like a lot of teachers l tend to mark my life in the number of weeks before the next break. 6 weeks to go before Christmas. 2 weeks to go before half term. 4 weeks to go before the end of the year. It is the same with a child – always looking for the next development, the next tooth, the crawling, the walking. Before you know it a year has passed.

But yesterday l was brought up short, quite literally.

I was listening to a Women’s Hour podcast from Radio 4 as l ran last night. It was an interview with a lady whose daughter had passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day. aged only 36 and leaving behind twin 5 year old boys and a husband. The story was so poignant that l had to walk as l wiped away the tears. I couldn’t ever imagine leaving my family behind, not seeing The Boy grow up. The thought of it makes my stomach twist.

Later, when l returned from my run, l had a phone-call with my Dad. My stepmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer and ovarian cancer in December, and is supposed to be mid-way through chemotherapy. I was expecting to hear how the last session went, but instead the phrase “palliative care until the end of her life” echoed through the room.

As l sank into a whirlwind of negative “What If” thoughts, berating myself for wishing my life away and not mentally recording each day for posterity, l was reminded of something someone said at my Granny’s funeral: Life is for Living. I realised, then, that the reason l count the days and weeks is because those are the times l spend making memories with the people l love the most, because l get excited about new adventures, because every day is full of new experiences and l look forward to that.

I just hope these is never a time when someone tells me that the days l count are numbered.

Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 2).

Given that this blog has been silent for the past month, you may be forgiven for assuming that we were indeed hoisted off our plane somewhere in the Middle East and forced to find our way home on camels. Thankfully, this did not happen, and we have had a lovely month of friends, families, food and festivities. Sadly, this all has come to an end and we are back into the normal routine with a teething baby, workloads piling ever higher, and bank balances that are woefully low. It does mean, however, that l can return to the land of blogging, and update you on our plane adventures with The Boy.2015/01/img_5975.jpg

These are the basics of our journeys:

Flight One
Departure time: 13.30 (local). Arrival time: 20.00 (local). Flight Duration: 14 hours.
Baby slept: 4 broken hours. I slept: 2 broken hours.

Flight Two
Departure time: 22.30 (local). Arrival time: 16.30 (local). Flight Duration: 10.5 hours.
Baby slept: 8 solid hours. I slept: 7 solid (ish) hours.

These are the things that l have discovered (and can l say here, many thanks for all the advice l was given – we were certainly more prepared than we would have been).

1.) The Boy LOVES travel.
 He seriously loves it, spending most of our time in transit staring at/ yelping at/ waving at/ dribbling at/ smiling at anyone who looked in his direction, and many who did not. Apologies to the man in Starbucks who was clearly trying to enjoy a pre-flight coffee in peace; to the couple sat behind us on the plane who had to stare at a his face poking through the gap in the seats; to the flight staff who had to keep stopping and playing with him even in the middle of the meal service (and thanks for the toy, by the way); to the airline counter staff who put up with him attempting to eat our tickets/baggage labels and dribbling on the weight counter; to the security staff as he crawled his way through the body scanner, thinking it was a game; and to the passengers on our flight who were woken by a small child standing in his bassinet and waving his arms/toys excitedly at them.

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Distracting The Boy before he disturbed anyone else.

2.) The Boy HATES bassinets.
For a baby that hated being swaddled, and spends his sleeping life either star-fishing or wriggling around his cot, l was sceptical about strapping him in a bassinet to sleep. I was right, he hated it. Even when he was soundly asleep in our arms and we ever-so-carefully- transferred him over, he would wake in the space of minutes, indignantly screeching and waving his arms about in a bid to escape. In fact, the only time he liked it was when he realised that if he sat/stood up in it he got a good view of the rest of the cabin. See above.

3.) You can’t take enough food.
Whoever told me to take more food than normal, l thank you. The Boy became an eating machine, putting away bottles of milk, snacks, whole food and most of my meals at an astonishing rate. Luckily we had also taken a sterilising bag on board as l had to make up a handful of new bottles so he could survive until we got back to the in-laws house. The airline staff (again) were very accommodating as we depleted their water supplies quite substantially. On that note, you can’t take enough water either.

4.) Babies do not understand jet lag.
Babies with jet lag are much like having a child in the first place. Whether it is horrific morning sickness, fatigue, swollen ankles, stretch marks or painful births, the thought of doing it again is accompanied by a lot of trepidation. If you had asked me a week ago, l would have said l would never fly long-haul with Boy ever again. Now we are booking flights for both June and December this year. Somehow we have forgotten about the 2am playtimes and the confused and pretty grumpy child who could not understand why he was in his cot at midnight when he was awake, and then not allowed to sleep at 10am when he was actually tired.

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What do you mean, 2am is not an acceptable time to play?

5.) You will all look as if you haven’t bathed for months.
Within an hour of the first flight, The Husband’s hoodie was covered in baby rice, the boy’s jumper and trousers were covered in vomit stains and l was picking half masticated biscuit out of my hair. Cue 12 hours later with little sleep or time to visit the toilet, let alone pass a comb through my dishevelled hair. The Beckhams (how do they always look so glamorous after a flight?)  we are not.

6.) I will never travel with The Boy alone.
I am often thankful for The Husband, never more so 10 hours into a 14 hour flight with no sleep, an excited baby, tired arms and legs, and a head that felt like cotton wool. He felt like that too and still willingly took charge of The Boy for a while so l could have a rest. It was amazing, as was the beer that one of the flight staff handed me.

Roll on the summer!

Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 1).

I am slightly ashamed to admit that when l was a happy-go-lucky twenty-something traveller, l used to (silently) curse parents who brought small screaming babies onto planes. When my peers started creating ‘mini-me’s in my early thirties l developed much more sympathy, and just turned my headphones up a bit. Nowadays l am the parent in the front of the row of seats, desperately shovelling the hot meal into her mouth with her left hand whilst balancing a baby in the right; walking wild-eyed and wild-haired up and down the aisles trying to calm a fractious monster; performing contortions in the toilet to pee and change the baby simultaneously; and then tented under a blanket too afraid to move for hours lest the baby on her lap awake.

Now l have to do it all again, with a boy who is four months older, substantially larger, more mobile and wilful than on his last plane adventure. I like to be prepared (must be the Girl Guide in me) so have scoured the internet for helpful tips for travelling with a child in general, of which there are many – thankyou all you wonderful parent bloggers out there. Here follows my plan for survival (it will also, no doubt, include at least one beer).

Blanket and PJs. In the vain hope that there might be some sleep taking place.

Blanket and PJs. In the vain hope that there might be some sleep taking place.

Food Glorious Food. And, yes, l have decanted the formula into ziplock bags. Ziplock bags are my new post-it notes.

Food Glorious Food. And, yes, l have decanted the formula into ziplock bags. Ziplock bags are my new post-it notes.

Toys and books. Noisy Farm does what it says on the tin. Fellow passengers are going to be rudely awakened by cocks crowing and cows mooing. It will add a frisson of excitement to their otherwise boring airplane experience.

Toys and books. Noisy Farm does what it says on the tin. Fellow passengers are going to be rudely awakened by cocks crowing and cows mooing. It will add a frisson of excitement to their otherwise boring airplane experience.

The Essentials. Sterlising bags, bibs, muslins (the Aden & Anais ones are huge, we could probably make one into a parachute if we got desperate), and Calpol.

The Essentials. Sterlising bags, bibs, muslins (the Aden & Anais ones are huge, we could probably make one into a parachute if we got desperate), and Calpol.

A travelling outfit. This contains more layers than he has worn in his life. But it also looks cute, which may help me persuade other travellers to look kindly on him when he is trying to throw his rattle at them/wake them up with farm animal noises.

A travelling outfit. This contains more layers than he has worn in his life. But it also looks cute, which may help me persuade other travellers to look kindly on him when he is trying to throw his rattle at them/wake them up with farm animal noises.

If all else fails... have iPad, will distract baby.

If all else fails… have iPad, will distract baby.

Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 2) will follow when we arrive in the UK. In the meantime, if you read of a family that was evicted from a plane as their baby boy attempted to climb into the cockpit and drown the pilot in dribble, that is probably us.

P.S Any more tips from you wise parenting folk are always welcome.