A Postcard From: Sardinia

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Our trip to Sardinia was a kind of ‘Babymoon’, if you like. I was 6 month’s pregnant with our second son, and we decided to take a 3-year old Asher for a week away over Easter.

As a family, we’ve loved Italy for as long as we’ve been together, which isn’t actually that long  – 5 years at the time of this trip – to be exact. But in that space, we’ve seen Venice, Verona and Lake Garda as a carefree couple, Tuscany with a toddler and so a trip to Italy’s largest island seemed like a natural progression. Plus, every Italian we know has had good things to say about Sardinian beaches.

Our hotel was located in La Caletta, a small town on the east coast of Sardinia, about 40 minutes’ drive from Olbia airport. An Italian all-inclusive (yay – Italian red and Peroni on tap… oh, I can’t drink) kept Andrew occupied and kept Asher well fed, for the 6,324 meals that he requires a day.

The local area doesn’t sport the prettiest of beaches – you should hire a car and descend the perilous trip to Golfo Di Orosei for that – but it’s a handy and very user-friendly base, especially for those with young children. I should also say that Asher took a shine to La Caletta’s Salvataggio and called him ‘Jingles’ (??) for the duration of our stay. He had a box of sandcastle making stuff next to his lookout, so you can imagine that he made a friend for life out of our curious little tourist.

Even though Sardinia is Italian, it’s very different in terms of food preferences and temperament of the general public. It’s sleepy, full of cured meats, sheep cheeses and gentle language. Forget the mainland’s hand flinging, exuberant dialogues. It’s a beautiful, special place that I’d love to visit again, when I’m not sporting a large bump and a young boy who thinks he’s a cliff-diving daredevil.



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Summer Nights (In January) @ Pizza Express, Harrogate

Pennette Formaggi

Anybody who’s seen the weather forecast this week, will have observed the lovely swathes of snow banding their way across the country. So far, Yorkshire hasn’t seen massive amounts of snow; just the sludgy jam-your-buggy-wheels-up type of stuff that just makes the school run unpleasant and makes a grimly sloppy snowball. Thanks for that, son *wipes side of face*.

Nonetheless, it has been cold, dark and relentlessly miserable. I’ve also been trying to make friends with my Christmas present to myself: A Fitbit to help me curb my gluttonous ways. To cheer myself up, I accepted a kind invitation from Pizza Express to go and try some specials that have been reintroduced off the summer menu, which would hopefully take the bite out of this grim weather (see what I did there?).

So how would a summer menu work in the dead of UK winter? There was only one way to find out. EAT!

I troughed daintily picked my way through three courses from the specials and really enjoyed the way the menu has been put together. As a driver/Dryjanuaryist (kinda… well ok, I’m not very good at it), I didn’t try the sloe prosecco aperitif, but a late summer berry twist sounds perfect in a dry fizz. Especially on a Friday night like this with friends. At this point, the three of us look to one another and wonder who suggested we all drive into town?

My starter of pennette formaggi (£5.75) was cheesy, oozy and drenched in a super-potent garlic oil. I love the stuff, especially when it mingles with a three-cheese sauce, mozzarella and Gran Milano, over the top of penne. Served in a Le Creuset-style lidded ramekin, it’s a small plate that’s deceptively filling. And oozy. And stringy. And delicious. Don’t tell my Fitbit I’ve just eaten that.

Pennette Formaggi
Pennette Formaggi

Having well and truly said arrivederci to my bikini bod (well, having two kids helped, can’t just blame the pot of cheese), I thought I may as well try the summery-sounding Barbacoa Romana (£14.25). A thin-stretched pizza topped with pulled beef that’s been marinated in chilli, lime and garlic, plus passata, chipotle salsa and a sprinkling of chopped tomato and red onion. The raw veggies and super-thin base indeed make this feel like a lighter and zippier choice for a warm summer evening, whilst the heat from the sauce and the tangy beef gave it the oomph of a stodgy, winter dish. I took my Fitbit off and put it in my handbag.

To finish, I ordered an oven-baked chocolate fondant (£6.40). A hot/cold contrast always makes the best desert in my opinion, and my friends did suffer dessert envy when mine arrived. Cutting the sponge open to allow the chocolate to ooze out was a joy. How many times can I say ‘ooze’ in one blog post? I’ll have to say it again; it was just oozy wonderment, especially as it cut through the cold ice cream.

Chocolate Fondant
Chocolate Fondant

So, I had a cheesy, oozy summer’s night dream in the middle of January, thanks to Pizza Express. I might put my Fitbit back on in a week or two, once I’ve stepped all the ooziness away.

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N&S Featured on Bewildered Dad

I was lucky enough to meet up with Jim Coulson – author of Bewildered Dad and father to three-year old Elsa, and her soon-to-be-expected little brother.

I was asked about what it’s like to bring up kids in Harrogate, and also whether it really is a posh place to live..?

Watch the vid here:

 

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Europe in the 90s as a British Kid

In my life I’ve only really had one super, super best friend, that I couldn’t have lived without. Though I’m quite social, my transient nature probably comes from spending a lot of time ‘away’ from friends during the summer holidays. We’d spend a big chunk of the break in Poland — or should I say — getting to and from it. Here are my takeaways from being a British kid in 90s Europe.

 

Numb Bum Travel

These are the days before Ryanair took us to Poland in under 2 hours. There wasn’t a way around the ridiculous coach ride (excluding ferry, we’re before EuroTunnel too here). I spy with my little eye: the sodding Autobahn for the 12th hour. Who knew Germany was so… ongoing? Does this service station accept Francs, Guilders or Deutschmarks? But I got to eat those huge prezels that would always somehow appear from a Babcia’s handbag, drank vodka and coke on the P&O to stave off tired shivers, have people nod off on my shoulder, the occasional exhaustion nosebleed, and learn to hold my bladder for considerable amounts of time.

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2. All the tapes

As a kid with her walkman glued to her hip, I used to save up my pocket money to spend seriously Zloty, like, a quid’s worth, per bootleg cassette. Who cares if the inserts were a flimsy photocopy, with the worst spelling? Ace of Base, Right Said Fred, Salt n Pepa and a tonne of Eurotrash. It shaped me into the woman with the refined music taste that I am today.76102_story__-sony-walkman

Squared exercise books

Just really exciting to a kid used to writing on boring old lines. My Polish cousins don’t understand this. I’d bring them home and be like ‘who, me? Oh, I’m just writing in my squared exercise book, like the seasoned continental kid that I am’. It taught me to do those cute, loopy French ‘h’s, that even now as a woman in her mid 30s, I can’t not do.

7-mm-squared-exercise-books-80-page-maths

 

Giant Cornettos

When you get a cornetto from a street vendor called a 4×4, and it true to name, it’s 4 times larger than the ones at home. You feel silly, you look silly, but it’s hard to go back to the ice cream vans on your road after one of those.4x4

Cif and Daim

Coming back from the Continent, sometime round the mid 90s, to find that Britain had adopted the European Cif and Daim. Then yelling at your friends ARGHH I TOLD YOU SO! And them not really sharing your release. (Below is Czech, but the Ben E.King spin off music is too good not to share).

Vodka

I got to drink vodka, and not just any shit. Wisinowka, Wyborowa, Krupnik and Zubrowka, though you see that in every Tom, Dick and Revolution Bar these days. And it’s sipped correctly – ice cold, out of beautiful crystal glasses.

crystal-glass-vodka-shots-set-of-6-from-_1

Dubbed Telly

English-speaking Goggleboxers… we are all so damn lucky; lucky that we get to watch our programmes, without ONE GUY just reading a script for every woman, man and child part. It was hilarious for the first thirty seconds, but after that, less so.

 

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On: Working Around The Kids

working-around

Recently, an experienced career lady emailed me and asked for my advice on how to ‘work around the kids’.

I’m no expert. Having been fully self employed for little over six months, I’m definitely a newbie. But if I can help any woman who is at the employment crossroads due to their family commitments, then I’m happy to share my experiences so far.

When to work

Everyone has a different family dynamic, but for me, my sole aim is to avoid childcare before and after school. I have no nearby family to help me in that way, so it’s either work ‘school hours’, or find a full time job at Senior level and pay two lots of childcare.

My core hours are two days a week, 9:30-2:30pm plus one evening, and I get away from my screen for at least 30 minutes each sitting. Being disciplined with work time comes easily, when there’s childcare costs attached to it. Suddenly you become really productive when you know you’d otherwise be paying someone cash per hour, for you to sit there faffing around.

Yup, childcare. There’s a difference between ‘working around your kids’ and ‘working around your kids’. Makes no sense until you try, but things like the ‘Working Moms’ propaganda we see splattered everywhere, are a complete fallacy.

working_mum

I can’t send an email without my toddler son smacking the keys on my macbook. It’s been to Apple hospital because he hit the trackpad with a block and cracked it. Lesson learned. And he’s a kid – he wouldn’t thank me for trying to work whilst managing him too. So whether you have a childminder, family member or nursery, figure out how much you want to work and how much it will cost you, versus your hourly rate…

Your Hourly Rate

Naturally, this will vary massively between industries. I’m not the main earner in my house, but I worked out that by my youngest not doing the full time nursery thing and me working on my old salary, I’m ‘saving’ a significant chunk a month by not giving so much to a childcare setting and me being at home instead, which leads me to…

Self Care

I completely underestimated how mentally consuming self employment is. I have become a lousy wife. I can’t remember when I last watched TV (apart from GBBO. Got to have GBBO). But it’s VERY easy to forget that the extra money you don’t pay out in care to go to work somewhere? Well that should hopefully go some way towards reminding you of the financial value you are providing to the house. Never forget your financial and emotional worth. In your working hours at home, don’t:

Become your other halves’ secretary
Clean the house

But do:

Have a lunch break. You are at work. You are entitled to treat lunch just as others do.
Create your environment. Put your music on. I burn my Lampe Berger that my husband can’t stand to be around, but I love. Or I listen to a podcast, do 10 mins of a language.
Look after your taxes! Which leads me on to…

Taxes and Incoming/Outgoings

Even if you think you’ll earn under your personal allowance, make sure you set aside 20% of what you bill out for. Set up a different account for tax alone (an ISA might be a good idea) and get into the habit of whipping away a chunk each time you get paid. Label outgoings clearly on your statement too. Get advice from a trustworthy accountant and decide how much help you’ll need (I am prepared to get lots of help, especially in these early years).

What can I add to the list to help my contact? I’d love it if you could please leave a comment with your tips for working around the kids!

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