Honestly, this is how I felt this morning. Just not as pretty. The 7th Wonder seems determined to remind me how challenging she was once as a youngling by only staying asleep for as long as I am awake. And in close enough vicinity that she is still able to twiddle my nipple. Oh, the joy of breastfeeding.
In case you are wondering about the identity of that handsome dog, he is the resident pet at the Park Tavern pub in Chichester. You will often find him occupying the best part of a leather sofa, gently minding his own business and delighting you with his sonorous snoring. The Park Tavern, incidentally is the place to go for the most PERFECT fish finger butty. I wish I actually took a photo if it. It was splendid. Not only do you get four, yes FOUR (not three) fish fingers in your butty, you also get your own serving of tomato ketchup on the side so you can put just the right amount in YOUR butty.
I’ve also just discovered that my blog has been nominated for a MADS award, which celebrates UK’s best Mummy and Daddy blogs. That actually feels a bit strange as I don’t think I’d set up intending this blog to be a family oriented blog. I suppose I do mention my family, make the odd references to raising and home educating the children but I don’t see myself as a Mummy blogger. Perhaps that reeks too much of perceived responsibility and even worse, SENSIBILITY!!
Despite the 7 children, 15 odd years of (mis)parenting on my part and almost 31 on Slaveboy’s, I really do shy away from engaging in parenting talk. I’ve only just passed that stage where I think someone is going to come take my children away because I let them have too many pyjama days and that Lalla (aged 13) is now the Chief Laundry Sanitation Officer – there has never been clean clothes and matching socks and glowing White bedclothes in abundance prior to this.
Being a rogue home educator too – especially one that cannot fathom whether I am radically unschooling, autonomously educating or whatever the flavour label of the month happens to be – I am loathe to push a method for parenting. I am more than aware that home educating is a privilege and also a choice that many parents choose not to make, or cannot make be it for financial reasons or (even more importantly) for the sake of their sanity.
And sanity is ever so underrated. In the little time I spent reading up experiences of home educating families years ago, I don’t recall reading a bare knuckled fly on the wall accounts. Home educating has suffered greatly from media coverage and there is much distrust from the general public for what seems an unmonitored and unregulated exercise of lawful parental rights that it is no wonder that families are reticent about being open about the mishaps, setbacks and pressures of home educating. If touched upon, these are often sugarcoated as being part and parcel of such choices.
Let me state my bias though.
The first truth is, we (Slaveboy and I) decided that the children would be home educated. And it is unlikely that we would ever allow them back into school.
And I am consciously aware and accept what a contentious statement that might be. What about what’s best for the children, what about the children being able to choose, what about what’s best for them?
And the second truth is, had the first statement read as we (Slaveboy and I) decided that the children would be state educated. And it would be unlikely that we would ever allow them to be home educated, very few would ask the same questions.
Home educating is essential to the integrity of our family life. Our life choices are dictated by our decision to be a home educating family. However, it has and does come with its price, beyond the financial constraints and of children are eating us out of house and home variety.
Never mind about the oft heard whines of woe-is-us we might be getting it all wrong and they’ll tell us that we’ve fucked up their lives navel gazing, introverted, over-analysing monologues. That’s one Birkenstock sandal less of the proverbial let’s all pat ourselves on the back chit chat.
Never mind that aspects of pastoral care that might be shared somewhat with the school is not present in a home educating family. It it just us. For better or for worse, this child carries the reflection of our value system. Our moral stance. Our genius and our shortcomings. But that’s deep psychological mumbo jumbo that I’m not going to have time to reflect upon until I’m good and done.
It’s the intense living in each other’s pocket. We can hardly escape it. Throughout the day, it veers from The Magic Roundabout, a scene from Lord Of the Flies, The Spanish Inquisition to a long, protracted Battle of The Alamo, painfully resolved by some NATO-esque diplomatic negotiations to every single chapter of Winnie The Pooh.
Hence, Slaveboy and I do take time out. From time to time, we venture the 50m (metres, not miles) distance to our local pub and we say our customary greeting to the landlord, buy our drinks, slump into a comfy sofa, play out the pretence of how we really don’t need anything more to eat before succumbing to a Goat’s cheese open sandwich (him) and beer battered fish & chips (me). Then I move on to taking random photos in and out of the pub, like Flopsy the dog (not real name) above and this,
The longer we do it, and the older we get, the more we see the peculiarities and the imperfections of each other. Some days, that can be too much. It must be hard for a child to really see a parent for the human that they really are.
Not the Mummy persona. Or the Daddy persona.
And I suppose, nothing can be more crest falling than watching your parent lose control, rage, inconsolable, humbled, apologising and making amends. (However, I am hoping that this might be the making of more tolerant and forgiving adults).
That is, in my opinion, the biggest pitfall of home educating for us. There is no screen or mask to hide behind from each other. During my period of depression, not much could have been done to shield them from it. To put on a brave face would have been merely shutting the children out emotionally.
But, it’s a big but, our joys are joyous. And magnificent.
And shared. It radiates all over the household, like the tubs of multi coloured shimmery sprinkles and glitter the Small, Shouty One is fond of, and it propels us to our next experience.
The children would refer to it as EPIC.
On to the cake. *Excuse the star confetti peppering the tablecloth* The weather has turned again slightly. We are still getting the sun, but the air has got chilly and I have friends who have started using their central heating again. For that reason, I think it’s pretty justifiable to trump for a spiced carrot cake. Deliciously moist cake robustly spiced but light enough for you to have a second helping (in our household, SniffSnorters, that is a WIN/WIN scenario. I’ve paired it with a rather schleppy, velvety cream cheese icing. Frosting, it is not. This will not pipe. It will ooze mischievously in that,
Go on, you know you want to lick me, I won’t tell anyone
sort of way.
Do preserve your decorum and soldier on.
There is a special ingredient in the list. Lebkuchen powder.
I purchased mine from Steenbergs and it really is just a combination of cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms, mace, coriander, nutmeg and allspice. It’s normally used to make Lebkuchen, a German gingerbread-y type of Christmas treat.
300ml sunflower oil
225g soft light brown sugar
4 free range eggs, room temperature
165g golden syrup
10g blackstrap molasses
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp lebkuchen powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
275g carrots, grated
I tbsp chopped pecans (optional)
– Preheat oven to 170c. Butter a 9inch deep round cake tin.
– Whisk the oil, sugar, eggs, golden syrup and molasses til well combined.
– In a separate bowl, mix evenly the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda.
– Add to the wet mixture gradually.
– Add the carrots and pecans.
– Pour into the tin.
– Take some newspaper or brown paper and fold into 1.5 times higher than the tin. We are going to wrap it around the outside of the tin so make sure it is long enough. Make sure it’s a few layers thick. wet the paper strip thoroughly and secure it around the tin with some string.
– Pop it into the oven on a tray and bake for 1hr 10mins. I advise you check at 50 mins. to allow for self-opinionated ovens. If the cocktail stick comes out clean, then it is ready. If not, pop it back in for another 10 mins.
– Leave it to cool for 15minutes and then pop it on onto a cooling rack.
– If you wish, you can heat up some apricot jam and brush it all over the cake while it’s warm. This will give the surface a lovely shine.
Cream Cheese Icing
150g Philadelphia’s Full Fat Cream Cheese
300g Icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100ml double cream, lightly whipped
150g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
– Whip the cream cheese and icing sugar and well blended.
– Add vanilla extract and double cream to the mixture. The mixture will thicken up.
– Add the butter and whip on a low setting.
– Add a judicious pinch of salt.
Construction (I love this word)
When the cake is cool, and the icing is less schleppy, spread it all over the top. I like to leave the side uncovered as I quite like the colour contrast. I also like leaving the cake whole, without torting and filling it because somehow an unfilled cake gives of that impression that it is ever so healthy.
(And the real reality is, I hate torting cakes a little less than I do gutting pheasants).
Unless your usual naughty cake retreat is here though. If so, I might have some cucumber for you. Let me know if you want me to fish it out of my jug of Pimm’s.