Sunday, 18 January 2015

Thoughts on moving forwards...

Having spent a few weeks here in 2015, I have been disappointed to discover that there are as few hours in these shiny new days as there were in the 365 days that made up 2014.

I wrote at the start of the month about plans for the year, about the things that I want to focus on over the next six to twelve months. And, seeing as the days and my routine are unlikely to yield any extra time I have given some serious thought as to where I might be able to save some time: where I can find those valuable extra half hours that I need if I am going to get my novel edited before the long Summer holidays.

I can plan better, I can be more disciplined with my time when I am sat here in front of my shiny, new Mac but, in reality, I began to realise that to truly gain some extra time, I was going to have to make some more difficult choices.

At the same time, I was considering what to write here this week and realised that, in all honesty, I am still struggling with so many of the things that I have discussed over the past year.

I could spend another six months talking about the challenges of being present, of how hard it is to stay calm as well as using thinly veiled metaphors to discuss the difficulties of modern life, or, I could spend six months utterly focussed on getting my novel edited and ready to send out.

So, I have decided to take a break from writing this blog. Just for six months. I may even, as I am prone to, change my mind sooner but, in the short term, I need to focus all my writing time on the novel and so that means cutting back on extra projects such as this.

I am fairly confident that you won't miss me too much. I secretly doubt whether you would even have noticed if they had just stopped without my announcing it. I also imagine that I will be back soon enough (since when was I any good at keeping quiet?), even if it is just to tell you that I have missed you, yes YOU, my dear, invisible reader.

And so, with that, and, feeling strangely emotional, I will say Goodbye. For now, anyway.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

On love and loss and a meal plan for w/c 12th January

2014 was an odd year. There was much about it that was amazing but also much that was difficult and unpleasant. The key lesson I learned from the various experiences was this: with every choice there is a loss.

One example of this would be writing. 2014 saw me writing almost every day for the first time and it also saw me very fall in love with writing. I have gained so much from it but there have been losses too. I have lost a lot of my leisure time and, along with that, time to do other things that I enjoy.

Another more personal example is about family. It was so wonderful to see Ian and Danielle marry in Australia last year. It was a delight to meet my youngest niece for the first time as well as to see Charlotte and to see the bonds that cousins make so readily when they are together. It was truly great to spend time with all the Cassidy's together but, after those experiences, we had to come home and with that return came the intense sadness of missing my brother even more than before.

It is easy to forget about someone when they are not involved in your day to day life but, having spent time together, having reconnected, to then have that bond broken again,  made me incredibly sad for several weeks. Was the happiness of seeing him worth the pain of the loss once we had to leave? Yes, yes, it was but that does not mean the feelings were any less difficult to bear. I miss Ian all the time and, yet, I also know I am lucky to have a brother to whom I am close and I have to accept that, for now, at least we cannot be together as a family.

All loves and commitments, all connections and experiences, have loss built into them. Whether you are missing a friend or lover because they have moved on or away, or even something as silly as missing one event because you are attending another, the key is to focus on the gains and not on the losses.

And so it is for 2015, the love of writing brings with it many losses, less time for my friends and family, less time for me to relax and less time to do other things and, yet, on consideration and with much patience and support from my loved ones, these are losses I am willing to bear. For now, anyway. I don't have forever to write this story and it really wants to be written so I have to just get on with it. Hopefully, it will be worth it in the end.


Meal Plan w/c 12th January 2015

Monday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - soup / leek and cheese toasties

Tuesday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - sausages and roast vegetables

Wednesday
Lunch - sandwiches and swimming with Kate
Dinner - salmon and seasonal veg / chickpeas and chard

Thursday
Lunch - eggs and salad
Dinner - breaded fish and vegetables for all before we go to the theatre to see King Charles III

Friday
Lunch - baked salmon and salad
Dinner - sandwiches / chilli spaghetti and salad

Saturday
Lunch - out for lunch...
Dinner - TBC

Sunday
Lunch - beef wellington and seasonal veg and apple and blackberry crumble with Marc's parents
Dinner - cheese on toast / cheese and crackers

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Adding colour to the canvas of 2015 and a meal plan for w/c 5th January 2015


I love this time of year. I love the opportunity that the blank pages of the diary represent and I love the sense of excitement that comes from looking ahead and wondering what the coming months will bring.

I know that, with the children the ages they are (7 and 5 in the next few months), very little of what we do day to day will be very different from 2014. We will still be eating soup most Mondays and Alexander will still complain about eating soup on every single one of those Mondays. We will still be dictated to by the school calendar and there will continue to be the limitations on life that come with having two young children.

But, whether we are 38 or 28, we all have responsibilities. There are, for all of us, and regardless of our circumstances, inevitable and necessary things that we have to do rather than want to do. But, rather than being viewed as limitations these things can be seen as a useful background: a neutral canvas against which we can add colour and flair to make it our own.

One of the many things I learnt in 2014 is that we are responsible for our own experience of life. That no one is spending any time at all considering how to make your life more enjoyable or fun: that is very much down to you.

The key, as mentioned before, is to find what you love to do and then make every effort necessary to ensure that there is time for that in what is, inevitably, already a busy life.

There are no excuses here. This new year is one of a diminishing number of opportunities to create something marvellous: to make the picture of your life as bright and as bold as possible.

So I ask you now to consider how you will add colour and texture to the canvas of our own life. How will you make 2015 the best it can possibly for you and those around you?

For me, I am making the following resolutions:

To write every day

To read more contemporary fiction

To experience as much live music, comedy and theatre events as possible both on my own and also with friends and family (oh, and lots of galleries and museums too...)

To skate, swim and surf with my family

There are others too, other little promises and plans for 2015, but these are the big ones, these are the ones that matter most to me right now.

I know some people are sniffy about resolutions but without a plan, without an idea of what you want and how you will change things to make it happen, it can be too easy to drift through another year and to find yourself, at the end of it, wondering where the months have gone.

So, to make sure you aren’t sitting here this time next year wondering why your memories of 2015 are black and white rather than technicolour, make some time now to think about what you want and how you are going to make it happen. Do it for you, do it for your family and, most importantly, do it now.


Meal Plan w/c 5th January 2015

Monday
Lunch - out
Dinner - soup for all

Tuesday
Lunch - hot dogs and salad
Dinner - roast chicken and seasonal veg (and yes that does mean sprouts)

Wednesday
Lunch - salmon and broccoli and peas
Dinner - sandwiches and salad / out seeing Stewart Lee in Soho

Thursday
Lunch - out at the Courtauld Gallery
Dinner - pizza and salad / thai curry and rice

Friday
Lunch - eggs and salad
Dinner - sandwiches / chicken and cauliflower curry with brown rice

Saturday
Lunch - jackets or me out
Dinner - pasta / mushroom risotto

Sunday
Lunch - pork casserole and seasonal veg and an apple and cranberry pudding
Dinner - cheese on toast / leek and cheese toasties



Sunday, 21 December 2014

Penultimate post for 2014 and a meal plan for w/c 22nd December 2014

Yep. It is that time again (already). Time for the shortest post of the year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I will be having a week off next Sunday and then back to it the week after. Have a great one! See you on the other side...

Meal Plan w/c 22nd December

Monday
Lunch - soup for all
Dinner - breaded fish, home made chips, broccoli and peas

Tuesday
Lunch - out with the lovely Karen
Dinner - beef casserole and seasonal veg for all

Wednesday - Christmas Eve
Lunch - beans on toast... lots of cooking prep to do for tomorrow...
Dinner - pasta / home-made chilli and garlic curry and rice

CHRISTMAS DAY
Lunch - the works for us and my in laws and my folks.... so that is turkey, sausages wrapped in sage and bacon, goose fat roasted potatoes, sprouts with a chestnut and sage and bacon butter, home made stuffing balls, roasted carrots and parsnips, steamed broccoli and gravy...
Dinner - cheese and crackers and salad and sweets...

BOXING DAY
Lunch - buffet with home made sausage rolls, turkey sandwiches, crisps and sweets and home made mince pies
Dinner - pasta and tomato sauce / pinto chilli and brown rice with sour cream and tortillas

Saturday
Lunch - out
Dinner - tbc

Sunday
Lunch - mmmhhh... no idea....
Dinner - cheese and crackers probably

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Best mince pies and a meal plan for w/c 15th December 2014

Less than two weeks to go... This week, I am going to re-post my favourite mince pie recipe. I know everyone is busy but I would say that a home-made mince pie is a marvellous thing and that they are definitely worth the hour or so of your time that they will take...

Other than that I am taking lots of deep breaths now the children have finished school and very much planning to take it as easy as possible this week in advance of Christmas week... I have realised that, with lovely and much wanted family here over Christmas, I need to try and take my breather now before the chaos begins. So, I have cut back on my commitments, cut back on my (ever ambitious) plans and am determined to enjoy the change of routine for a week which for me means watching Elf on a loop and trying to sit the hell down for a few hours every day.

I will let you know how it goes...

In the interim here is a lovely link to a lovely recipe for mince pies...
http://www.foodmyfamilyandme.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/pastry-wars-jamie-vs-nigella.html

Meal Plan w/c 15th December 2014

Monday
Lunch - jackets and salad
Dinner - sausages and veg / paprika chicken

Tuesday
Lunch - out for lunch
Dinner - pasta bolognese / pinto chilli and rice

Wednesday
Lunch - out for lunch
Dinner - fish and vegetables / out at Xfm's WINTER WONDERLAND - woohoo!

Thursday
Lunch - chicken casserole and seasonal veg
Dinner - curry and rice

Friday
Lunch - eggs and salad
Dinner - pizza's and salad

Saturday
Lunch - jacket potatoes
Dinner - sausage rolls and buffet before I go to The Forum...

Sunday
Lunch - shepherd's pie and seasonal veg
Dinner - cheese on toast / leek and cheese toasties

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Disappointments and delays and a meal plan for w/c 8 December 2014

So, this week, whilst still a little over excited from the epic Kasabian gig on Monday night, I received an email telling me that Writer's Forum magazine were not going to publish my story, Red Velvet Heartache.

It seems they have two stages to the process. One person shortlists stories and another decides which ones they publish and that person decided No.

Obviously I was (am) disappointed. I may even have pulled a face. You know the one. The one I pull when I am not getting what I want. Because I want to be published pretty sodding badly and being told No is deeply annoying: annoying and frustrating.

Whether we are waiting for The One or the Good Enough for Now or test results or news on a house move or, whatever, a delay can feel like the worst thing in the world. Being made to wait, HAVING to wait with no idea of the outcome can feel like torture and, yet, sometimes a delay can be helpful.

A delay can help us to see if what we are waiting for is what we really want. It gives us time and space and, sometimes, we might find that, after a while, the thing we wanted is not quite so important any more. Or it might be that the delay serves to tell us that yes, that really is important to us and that perhaps we need to make changes to help it to happen.

During the delay, we can choose to learn and grow. We can try to get better at being on our own, at writing stories or at finding something else to do (which is all that patience really is) or we can sulk, yell and pout. It is all down to us.

For, as Iyanla Vanzant says, in The Power of Patience:  a delay is not a denial.

It is fear that makes it hard: the fear that we will not get what we want. And yet we can never know for sure what will happen nor what is truly for the best and so, when we are asked to wait without knowing why, we just have to trust that it will all work out in the end. It is not easy (not easy at all) but sometimes it is just what we have to do.

Meal Plan w/c 8 December 2014

Monday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - jacket potatoes / chestnut soup

Tuesday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - salmon and veg / haddock gratin and greens

Wednesday
Lunch - sandwiches
Dinner - roast chicken and seasonal veg

Thursday
Lunch - eggs and salad
Dinner - hot dogs and salad

Friday
Lunch - out for lunch
Dinner - picnic / me out for school Xmas thing, Marc to have kievs or pizza

Saturday
Lunch - tbc
Dinner - tbc

Sunday
Lunch - tbc
Dinner - cheese on toast / leek and cheese toasties





Sunday, 30 November 2014

The end of November (and almost me) and a meal plan w/c 1st December 2014

So, I was all psyched wasn't I? For the final push? But, then, I came down a cold. I was tired, I was very happy but I had also had enough. Enough of working every night, enough of feeling constantly time pressured, enough of well, all of it really.

I wrote a 35,000 word novella in 2 weeks. I completed a month long challenge in 20 days whilst still cooking, learning French, caring for my family (sort of...), going to two gigs and having one (slightly mental) impromptu trip to Borderline that led to me going to bed at 6a.m.

So, rather than just keep going for the original (admittedly revised) target of 75k I decided, on Wednesday, after writing nearly 11,000 in 3 days over the weekend, that it was time to take a breather: to say well done me and to reward myself by slowing down. The mistake I made was forgetting that the 50k is a challenge in itself. It has been great to do more but I can't help but wonder that, if I had paced it better, I might not have burnt out in the last week.

However, there was another reason why I stopped. I have, incredibly, finished the first draft of my novel. The big one. The one that I tell everyone is about appetite and then, when I see them glaze over, I admit that what that really means is it is about food. Well, food and sex.

And, do you know what? I love it. I love my characters. I love how flawed they are and I love how their stories have taken me completely by surprise.

So, for now, those 166,000-odd words will be set aside and I will continue to write. I am working on some more short stories right now as well as revisiting the very first one I wrote about two years ago.

Thank-you to the wonderful Marc who always supports me so positively in this mad month and to all the friends that I have neglected for a few weeks. I am looking forward to catching up with you all and to a little bit of a rest...

Meal Plan w/c 1st December 2014

Monday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - soup for all and then I am off to see KASABIAN. O.M.F.G!!

Tuesday
Lunch - mackerel and quinoa salad
Dinner - roast chicken and lots of seasonal veg

Wednesday
Lunch - out at a soft play with Kate
Dinner - Marc out, me to have fish and veg with kids

Thursday
Lunch - eggs and salad
Dinner - Marc out, kids at a party, me to have a curry

Friday
Lunch - tbc
Dinner - sandwiches / out with Matt to see Anselm Kiefer exhibition / Marc to have home made curry and rice

Saturday
Lunch - kedgeree
Dinner - sausages /  out at the Boyes's!

Sunday
Lunch - beef casserole and seasonal veg
Dinner - pasta / leek and cheese toasties