Burning Lies

Something a little hilarious for your Monday morning! When I was in uni I modelled a little in my spare time. One of my favourite photographers to model for was Rebecca Parker she contacted me the other day to say one of my pictures was on this book! My elder brother finds this very funny and has tracked down a page where you can read an extract..turns out i'm meant to be a 30 something called Kaitlyn! You cant get this book through the internet so if any of my Australian reader want to pick me up a copy I would be grateful xoxo


Vegan Chocolate cake

Vegan Chocolate Cake

OK this one isn't from the Royal Recipes box but it pretty much the only cake I know how to make. When I was teenager I was BIG into animal rights, I still am but now my stance is pretty much I feel passionate about certain things but it is not my place to try and convince any one else to (unless they are genuinely interested). I rarely tell people I am a vegetarian unless it comes up (like if we go for food together) it still puzzles me why people take issue with this and I wrote about it here, but there you go. 

But where was I? When I was about 14 I became vegan for a couple of years (I still agree with the reasons to be a vegan and as a vegetarian I often feel like a bit of hypocrite as there is a LOT I disagree with about the diary industry). I held a bake sale around this time and made this Vegan chocolate cake, I decided not to label it as Vegan and sold it all within about half an hour with people even coming back for more. When they did I told them it was Vegan and every single person was surprised and admitted that if I had labeled it as such it would have put them off. True story 

So here is the famous recipe: 

(plus one teaspoon of salt)

3/4 of a cup of vegetable oil - essential 

put in oven for 40 mins - 190c 

and ta-da!
If you want to make icing too (and who doesn't) then you need...

and you have yourself a chocolate cake! 

And there you go! You don't have to a vegan to enjoy this cake, I prefer it to a traditional chocolate cake in that it is more dense like a brownie consistency.

Link up your recipe of the week


Pro Choice

I have wondered about sharing this on my blog and making public what is one of my deepest secrets for a long time..
I worried about it as it is opening myself up to potentially receive criticism and hurtful comments and with sharing anything on the internet you should always be sure you are really strong enough to receive them. Today SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) a frankly ridiculous name as my mum says ''if you are going to describe and promote to treat a fetus as an 'unborn child' then you could describe and aim to treat us all as 'undead corpses' - in fact more so as it is 100% certain that we will all be dead, whereas only a percentage of fetuses would ever become babies/children naturally ...'' 
Anyway today the SPUC held a vigil in the centre of Bristol. I was hoping to make it down to pledge my support as a pro choicer but circumstances meant that I was unable to make it. I kept up with the pictures from my friends through twitter of the demonstration and the brilliant Bristol turn out (I hear it was 80 pro choice demonstrators to 20 SPUC's). The placards 'keep your rosaries off my ovaries' and one pregnant twitter friend of mine with a placard 'This was my CHOICE' filled me with great happiness and the confidence I felt I needed to write this post..

At 17 I had finished my GCSE's and was attending 6th form collage I was also involved in my first serious relationship. A man 7 years my senior and who my 17 year old self believed the love of my life. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, it was a weekday afternoon I have skipped my english class and sat in the Dr's office on my own whilst she explained my options. I then spent the next 30 minutes desperately ringing my boyfriend's phone from the nearest phone box as I had no credit. It was 2pm and he answered on the millionth repeated call rather grumpily as he had just woken him up, he met me a couple of hours later in which time I had just spend sat on a bench in a stunned stupor. My thoughts as I waited for him to join me went from excitement to terror. I had always for as long as I remembered wanted children in my life..I also wanted to go to university to be an artist and to see other countries.. 

When my boyfriend finally arrived and I told him my news and he told me in no uncertain circumstances at 24 he was not prepared to be a father. I knew if I was going to go ahead with this I would have to do it myself. At 17 years old I received £5.50 a week pocket money and earned at further £25 at my Saturday job, £12.25 of which I saved for my university fund. I didn't want to do this on my own, I think single mothers do a brilliant job, my own mother was one for a good few years until she met my dad but I didn't want that for my teenage self. And did I really want to be a mum before I had even had become an adult properly? Before I had even taken my A Levels? It would be unfair to ask for my parents help as my youngest brother was only 3 at the time. I was not financially or emotionally ready to continue with the pregnancy, it wasn't an easy a choice to make but I know for me it was the right decision. 

The process from what I remember was varied in that parts such as the appointment with the Dr to tell her my decision was fairly painless but in others I felt like I was being judged. The Dr was respectful and said she would a write a recommendation that I was not emotionally ready for a child, and that due to my age it was a unwanted pregnancy. She would need to write to another Dr for a second signature, this process I think took at further two weeks or so..although as it was 9 years ago these details do become quite blurry. I was then sent a letter advising me of my appointment at the hospital, by this time I think I was roughly 8 weeks pregnant. I attended the first hospital appointment with my then boyfriend who waited outside as he thought people would 'judge him'. I was given a scan and a picture was printed out, a student was also attending and she left the image on the desk in front of me. I don't think this was in an attempt to make me look at the evidence of the foetus, certainly no one actually presented me with it which makes me think this may have been an error on their part? Its certainly an image which is etched in my memory.

I was given a pill that would induce a miscarriage and sent home, my mum had worked out (due to the amount I was being sick I guess) the circumstance I was in and confronted me in the kitchen. I told her my decision and she was very supportive of it, I was embarrassed I think that I had 'gotten myself into this position' but I would like to point out that it was a circumstance I was in not due to any lack of precaution. I was due back in the hospital at 8am where my then boyfriend was supposed to meet me a few hours later..I was shown to a private room and given another pill which would complete the miscarriage and left alone with the instruction to press the button for a someone to come once it was over. The main thing I remember about this period was the TV being set on Diagnosis Murder on repeat...I'll spare you the details but when I had finally 'pressed the button' it was a good while before anyone turned up and when they did it was made clear to me the nurse/midwife did not approve of what I was doing. In fact at one point before I was discharged I was told 'not to get myself into the position again'.. 
By the evening I was still in the hospital and worried that my boyfriend would have been waiting in the waiting room for a long time by now. I pressed the button a few times to ask for them to find him to be told they couldn't. I thought it was due to them not looking very hard. I was allowed to be discharged by that evening but told they couldn't let me go until they saw I had someone to pick me up. I kept telling them my boyfriend was here somewhere but in the end they got my parents number off me and called my dad to collect me.

My dad arrived at the hospital shortly after and I asked him if he had passed my boyfriend in the corridor somewhere as he promised he would be here. I still remember his face when he told me he wasn't. He was right when he said he wasn't ready to be a father as he wasn't ready to support me in my termination. 

Having a termination is something that will stay with me my whole life, of course it will. It wasn't an easy decision to make but it was the right decision for me and I am grateful I was able to make that decision. Every September 1st I think about my then due date and what my life could have been like. At 18 I passed my A Levels and went to art collage something I had wanted to do my whole life and which I passed with a 2:1. At 22 I met Thomas and at 26 we had our first child. A very wanted child. Whilst we are no means 'rich' I know we able to support our child financially and at 26 far more emotionally equipped that at 17 I ever would be. I am so grateful I was able to make the choice...and as a wise woman said (OK my mum again) "Terminating a pregnancy you are not able to continue with adequately (emotionally and practically) is as important a sign of 'good motherhood' as continuing with a wanted pregnancy, and caring for the child as best you can ..."

(Me at 17)


A Collection

We have been moving around our living room 
1, Maddie cat
2, Vintage pots
3, Watching for enemy cats in the garden
4, Suitcases
5, Globes
6, Art wall
7, Vintage chair


What Wilf Wore 06

No Wilf isn't dressed like a member of Mumford and Sons to celebrate Marcus Mumford's wedding this weekend..he is in fact dressed like that to attend my cousins wedding.
We all got up bright and early on Saturday to catch the 8.45 bus to Clevedon, it was Wilf's first bus journey and he seemed to like it. We arrived at the church in plenty of time and was able to show Wilf off to my various aunty's and uncles and speak to my cousin before the service (who was looking remarkably calm!). We sat at the back in case of screams but Wilf was quiet throughout, enjoying the songs (All Things Bright and Beautiful - Classic and Morning Has Broken) and only gurgling slightly when the vows were being taken. 

We were invited to the reception but thought we would quit while the going was good in terms of how well Wilf would take it. We also don't drive and although my uncle (the father of the Groom) offered to drive us to the venue and back to Bristol in a few hours we didn't want to put anyone out, especially as they would want to celebrate. 

Instead to walked back to the centre of Clevedon and explore some of the charity shops whilst we waited for our bus. Clevedon has amazing charity shops (as lots of small towns seem to) and I picked up a game that was a childhood favourite of mine and a cute skirt. We saw a vintage Fisher Price garage in one of them but it was a little battered so we left it, it seems like the kind of place you could find gems like that though so I look forward to going back one day for a proper trawl. As we were heading towards our bus we also found a really nice looking cafe that served lots of vegetarian food (and the best looking waffles!) so we have already decided a trip is due in the summer so we can take Wilf to see the sea too!

'Downfall' one of my favourite children's games (Tom and I have played it four times since we bought it) we also found 'Hungry Hippos' but Tom said there was a one game limit..how mean is that??

When we got back (and had a quick game of 'Downfall') Tom's sister came round to watch crap TV with us and eat pizza and drink wine which was a lovely end to the day (I stopped at two glasses). It is really starting to feel like everything is falling into place with family life and balancing being parents and also being adults and having a bit of normality back too. Tom's family live locally and are kind enough to offer to babysit Wilf but I'm still not quite ready to make that leap. And whilst he is so little and portable I don't really see much need, if we eat out he is happy to sit on my lap and watch the other customers and most places are baby friendly these days. I also feel that while I'm not craving anytime apart from him there is no need to push it. I'm sure there will be a time (soon maybe) where I will feel like I want a bit of time to myself or with Tom but whilst I'm not feeling that way I can only envision enforcing it for the 'sake of it' to both be of little point and also not being very nice experience if I am not feeling that way inclined.

I've been reading a few books to do with parenting, one being Attachment Parenting by Dr Sears and the other Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson (I tend to read a couple of books at a time!). Although I tend to agree with a lot of 'attachment parenting' theories I am not reading it as a guide more to back up a lot of the things I do instinctively. Its interesting to hear the science and benefits behind such things but I thats not to say I agree completely with everything they say. Both books speak about using a dummy in a negative light, Dr Sears notes that it can affect breastfeeding meaning your child will want to stop breastfeeding sooner than usual. Deborah Jackson I find so far describes it as a aid to plug up your child. I don't agree with the later, we give Wilf a dummy when he is over tired and on the verge of sleep or when he is suffering with teething and not to plug him up. When he is upset I pick him up/sing to/feed him or try to distract him with a book or toys. To suggest parents that use dummies are effectively being lazy parents irks me a little. The former statement that babies who use dummies breastfeed for shorter amounts of time may well be true and that is a worry to me, I would like to breastfeed Wilf until he wants to stop but I would be sad if that was because he wanted a dummy instead. That being said I do find both books an interesting read, especially 'Three in a bed' which has extracts from various parenting books/manuals over the past 100 years or so, its sometimes a little terrifying the advise some of them gave!
I leave you with some pictures of our cats, Rockie and Wilfy were trying to be matchy matchy..Rockie LOVED I can assure you..

And Maddie stealing our Mini Chedders 

My Little Boy

Wilf and my elder brother Keir
I love this photo so much but it makes me cry at the same time
As my friend recently said I think its because you can see the boy he is going to become. That's both exciting and makes me want to hold on to him so tight and keep him this way for ever.
My happy little boy 


Joc's Baby Shower

OK anyone who knows me knows I am RUBBISH at keeping secrets. If its like your deepest darkest secret then sure I'll keep it, I'm not a bad person but with anything else..I just cant keep them. Usually if you tell me a secret I will share it with one other person (Tom) as it physically hurts me to keep it quiet. When I was pregnant with Wilf we were going to keep his name a secret..but within about a week of us agreeing that I had already told two people. If I buy Tom a birthday or Christmas present I beg him to let me tell him what it is, I just can not bare not being able to share.

I repeat I am rubbish at keeping secrets.

So the fact I have not only managed to organise a surprise baby shower but to keep it secret from the recipient for about two months is nothing short of a miracle.
My sister in law Jocelyn is due with her baby girl in July and was kind enough to throw me my shower back in November (see pics here). In fact she was actually pregnant at my shower but only found out a few weeks later!

Before my shower I had never really been or heard of a baby shower as they are only really starting to take off now in the UK. I knew (or thought I knew) how big they were in the states though (they are bigger than I thought!) Either way I knew Joc definitely needed one! Joc's best friend was visiting the UK from the states in April so it made sense to find out if it was something she would be able to attend whilst she was in the country. I contacted her to ask if she would be able come and if she had any tips to host a successful shower. We then decided to organise it together, I also enlisted my brother Keir's help in getting a list of who to invite. After contacting the guests with the provisional date and the location of 'somewhere in London yet to be confirmed' I took to Twitter to ask for their suggestions of nice cafe's in London that could host something like this.

I got a few good suggestions from my Twitter friends and also one of the guests who lives in London. After contacting our favourite three we settled on Mouse and De Lotz who as well as being a cute cafe were by far the best customer service and most accommodating for our ideas.

We decided upon a book themed baby shower as it seemed most fitting. With the help of my little Sister Serin and brother Madog we made up the invites.

(I did have pictures of us making them but they are on my non-working hard drive). Unfortunately my mum and sister couldn't make it as they were going on holiday at the time.
The idea was that everyone bought a book instead of a card and we could build baby Strickland a little library. We bought her 'Green eggs and ham' by Dr Seuss as Joc's had mentioned before it was her favourite book and she couldn't find it anywhere. In fact the weekend before they had been down visiting us and we had popped into a book shop for her to find it (thank god she didn't!)

We commissioned Abi to make a blanket as the gift as we love the one she made Wilf. I love the idea both cousins will have boy and girl versions of it.

Joc's friend Meghan ordered some favours for the guests (personalised M&M's with Keir and Joc's name and 'it's a girl' written on them). We bought some bottles of champagne and I made some bunting and two months later we had a shower!ha

We knew Keir and Joc needed a moses basket so decided to bring it up to the shower so the guests could put their gifts in there as well. We put Wilf in the sling (which ended up being the best idea yet, I have no idea how we would have worked the tubes with a pushchair, Londoners how do you do it?) and had one small bag of (5 different outfits for Wilf and spare underwear for Tom and I) my hand bag of baby changing bits and our gift and another side bag containing three bottles of champagne!

Getting to London Paddington was easy, we then got a tube to Liverpool Street as thats where the internet told us to go..but it turned out to be a 30 minute walk from there to our hotel, ordinarily this would be no problem but carrying a baby plus a bunch of luggage..it was hard!

Finally getting to the hotel we could relax, the room was massive and a bit of a treat as I booked it 6 weeks in advance on a offer so we got a good deal. I'm not really all that used to Hotels and even asked Tom if we need to bring towels (I think this is the third time I've ever stayed in one, travel lodges don't count) We all had a little nap on the bed (finally room enough for the three of us!) and got ready for dinner. Walking out in the evening with Wilf in the sling was surprisingly stress free, although unlike baby friendly Bristol we only saw one other baby. In fact a lot of people in Shorditch made me feel really old, I dont know if i've ever been as young or as cool as East London hipsters ;)

We settled on a nice Thai restaurant where Wilf was happy to stay tucked up close to me and watch the other dinners, we even managed to have three courses and a beer. The owners kept coming up and talking to Wilf, I'm sure if he wasn't in the sling we would have had lots of volunteers to hold him.

We even stayed out past mine and Wilf's usual bedtime of 9pm!
The next day we woke at Wilf's usual time of 6.30ish and got ready slowly, we went down for the overpriced breakfast and tried to eat as much as possible to make it worth while! My brother snuck out to the hotel at 10am to give us a few peoples gifts and we checked out.

Here's where it went wrong.
The overground by our station was cancelled (which we only discovered once we had got there) we then walked to our nearest tube to find we would have to get three different tubes to our destination.

Wilf decided he was starving and I didnt have enough time between tubes to feed him so I sang 'The Grand Old Duke Of York' over and over at the top of my voice instead. Meghan (Joc's friend who was helping to organise the shower & get Joc to the venue) txt me to say they were nearly there (we were no where near!). We were still carrying a moses basket, three bottles of champagne & all our clothes (well Tom was) and were getting later and later!

One of Joc's friend who I had been in contact with before (she was kind enough to source champagne glasses) had managed to get to the venue early so was keeping me updated as to who was there. I felt a little less bad as three of the other guests were also delayed but I was stressing out that Joc would get there before I could finish setting up and the other guests arrive.

We finally got to the venue (half an hour late) I sat down with Wilf to feed him (poor baby) & Joc's friends and Tom took over to get everything in place. As soon as the table was set I looked toward the front of the cafe to see Joc heading through the door. We were in a separate room so we all stood away from the door to semi hide as she walked through.

I guess you could say she was surprised!
Joc confessed afterwards that she knew something was up (what with Keir sneaking out and Meghan getting them lost on purpose to delay them) but had no idea it would be this. Some of her friends had travelled in from Brecon & Oxford so she really was not expecting to see them.

Love this shot!

These were 'Wishes for baby' each guest was given one and we had complete sentences such as 'I hope you love..' these are mine below (I hope you laugh - at your daddy's jokes and I hope - you get Monty Python jokes are a must for this little girl, poor baby!)

This one made me laugh 'I hope you grow - no-one likes a shorty' 

Red Velvet cake made specially as its Joc's favourite, I had never had it before but can confirm its really good!

The beautiful baby blanket I commissioned Abi to make as I loved the one she made Wilf so much. 
This was a bit of a running joke as Joc had just said she wasn't going to buy any shoes for her little girl as a new born and then pretty much every gift included shoes!

I'm pretty sure Joc had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed meeting all her friends and having the odd few glasses of champagne! Wilf made lots of friends and had lots of volunteers to hold him!
We gave ourselves two hours to get back to Paddington and got there with a half hour to spare..to find out our train was cancelled! We ended up getting two different trains home making our journey about and hour longer but we got there in the end. We all flopped into bed at 9pm totally knackered but I think it was a success! 
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