Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cooking

I love cooking. Most of the time. Sometimes I wish someone would just serve up a plate in front of me. But I do love cooking.
When I cook I think, I daydream. It's a bit like having a bath, the way I let my mind wander I mean. Because I don't really have to think about it. It just sort of happens.
And there's nothing better than cooking with my son. Tonight he has chosen the herbs to go into our meal. I have no idea what our dinner will taste like because he had complete control of the herbs (smells good though!). Well I suppose I did tell him to be sparing with the celery salt!
I learned to cook through watching my parents. My dad is the son of a baker and all his family apparently cooked well. Dad taught me how to make soups, roast dinners, macaroni cheese, lasagne, bolognese, shepherd's pie, bread... anything as long as it was savoury. Dad taught me how to season without a recipe, how to taste and add more and that you can't take it out once it's gone in.
My mum showed me how to make cakes, biscuits and desserts. I love cooking these things. They're a treat. It's not something I cook every day so it's a welcome change. Every Christmas when I was little my dad's dad would make the Christmas cake and Mum would ice it.
So now I'm grown up I really want to share that passion with my son. I'm sad my husband isn't that fussed about cooking. It's his choice but it's a great enthusiasm to have. My son seems to be very excited about cooking but he's only young. I hope I can foster that interest he shares and that he doesn't lose it as he grows up.
And the dinner? It was perfect!




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Friday, 10 December 2010

The Coalition

Doesn't anyone understand? Whether you voted red, green, yellow or blue we didn't get what voted for because noone had enough confidence in any party. This is a coalition - a compromise and neither the blues nor the yellows can get everything they want - no matter what their pre-election manifesto was.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Social Networking

I'm quite a big fan of social networking. My husband's really perfected the art but I have to admit I was the first of us to try out Facebook. I like to post the odd status - some days I post nothing, other days a fair bit. I'm on Twitter and LinkedIn and I use all three slightly differently.

I like to see what my old classmates are up to these days. I like to hear that someone just got married, had a baby or suddenly changed career path. Some people I speak to once a year, others almost daily. It depends whether I have anything to say. Or not.

But it also depends on what someone else has to say to me. Take today: after I quoted something really funny my son had said to me on the way home from school I had quite a lengthy conversation with a friend about nativity plays then someone else wrote me a personal message, completely unrelated to the topic in hand, at the bottom of that conversation.


Fortunately I was able to remove that message before too many people saw it because, out of context, other people's interpretation of it could have been detrimental to me. It would have been awful though to switch off for 6 weeks and come back to find that message plastered there for any of my connections to see.

For years we've been told don't write down anything which you would not want the world to see but it becomes difficult to control if someone else is doing the writing. People need to think before they write: not just "Would I like anyone else to see this?" but "Would the person I am writing this to want it written publicly or personally?"

Responsible social networking is a lot more sophisticated than owning a computer with internet access. It is not as easy to gauge as face-to-face or telephone communication. But it also isn't that difficult to stop and think before we post about the consequences of our words upon others' feelings.




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Equality in the home

RELATED LINKS
Heidi Cohen: Social Media's 10 Commandments
DavePress: 8 tips for beginner bloggers

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Missing Child

It's been a hard few years. It shouldn't have been like this. But this is how it is when you get an idea in your head. Life doesn't always work out the way you intended. Life doesn't just happen the way you plan. The best laid plans don't always work out.

When I grew up I used to talk to my dad a lot. He told me over and over to marry someone who wanted as many children as I did - mainly because my mum wanted more than he did. I did exactly that - in fact I think he'd probably like even more children than I would!

When our son was 2 years old we decided he needed a brother or sister. Three and a half years later we are still waiting for that baby and emotionally I have moved on to the next one. In my head babies should be 2-3 years apart. I know it's not always the case - I don't have to look far to see something different - but in my head it's always been part of the plan.

It's really painful - a lot of people don't understand that. Many think those who find infertility difficult are those who never had a baby before or those who had them removed and taken into care. But it still hurts. I am so glad our son is part of my life. Without him my life would be half as rich. But there is something missing. When I was growing up I assumed I would have 3 children and since I had my son I have even wondered if I would have more than 3.

There is not a day goes when I don't think about it. I can't deny that my career has benefited from the gap in having children. My son and husband have benefited from increased money I can bring in and I have also benefited from education I have gained which, undoubtedly I couldn't have if we had been successful in having another baby. But I feel I was born to have children rather than to be a career woman. However, if I am to be unsuccessful having further children I don't want to die having not furthered my career. Who knows where I will end up, how successful I will be? I want to live my life to the full - not at the expense of having several children but not to spend my life chasing an impossible dream.




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A lovely weekend

It's not been a bad weekend. Admittedly I haven't even begun to do my usual weekly big clean (and my housemates haven't stepped into the breach in my absence either) so I can tell what I'll be doing tomorrow...

Yesterday my husband and I tackled a range of jobs that were outstanding so I feel we achieved something - always makes me feel positive.

We followed it up by going to see one of his friends in a concert. I couldn't actually isolate her voice but the choir together were lovely and if you like choral music I would definitely recommend them to you: Wooburn Singers.

Today I went to a meeting for SurvivorsUK (a charity I am a trustee for) which again made me feel I had done something useful and worthwhile.

Finally this evening we went to see one of our friends for a flying visit. They have just had a baby so it was cuddles all round and a chance for our son to get excited about babies since we haven't yet been lucky enough to have one for him to brother. I really enjoyed this meeting because we haven't see our friends in ages due to hectic lives on both sides and I very much valued the chance to catch up.

So now I am rejuvenated and ready for the week ahead - including tomorrow night's cleaning!




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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Parenting

I have a lot of interests in my life but the most priviledged role I maintain is that of a parent. My other roles can come and go but no matter how awful or how well I feel I must always do my best for my son. I could be sacked or asked to leave another role but my son assumes I will always be there for him and he looks up to me to help him.

He tells me I'm unkind when I enforce boundaries but the truth is the extent of the damage or good I do to him through my parenting will not be noticed by him for another fifteen or so years. I expect I will hear about it in the same way my mother heard it from me in my early twenties!

Boundaries are important to me. I don't believe it is possible to be a good parent without certain boundaries. My son doesn't miss out on having a few treats here and there but he does miss out when he's naughty. My husband and I have extensive chats about boundaries because we don't exactly agree when to enforce punishments or even how to. It's hard as a two parent family where that sort of discord exists because consistency is at the heart of good parenting but we have very different parenting styles.

One thing we do seem to agree on is the level of information we give our son about life. As he grows and develops we are changing the amount of information we give him and, both of us being interested in education, we both want to teach him as much as we can about life - whatever is age-appropriate.

I feel very strongly that I mustn't say bad things about my husband to my son. Whatever is going on between my husband and me - and let's face it, all relationships have their difficult times - it is for my son to make up his mind about other people rather than for other people to make up his mind for him. I hate the idea that I could manipulate him into thinking bad things about other people and I don't want to encourage him to be intolerant or rude to people. I would like him to respect people even if he does not really like them and I hope I am proving to be a good role-model in this respect.

Responsibility is another area I am really keen on. I hope my son will grow up to understand that he contributes to the mess in the house and that if his partner is also working hard bringing in money that he should help support with housework. Teamwork is the only way to make a partnership work and he needs to be responsible for making that happen otherwise his relationship will develop into an unhealthy one. That doesn't mean everything has to be split down the middle, rather play to both partner's strengths and for those tasks noone likes ensure both sides are doing their fair share. Life is full of tasks we hate but as long as noone is overburdened a good attitude will take care of them and the rest of our time can be spent having fun.

I suppose ultimately my son will learn how to parent his own children from my husband and myself. Whether he adopts the same sort of parenting styles he has been brought up with, or he rebels against it, what he is learning from us right now is framing the way our grandchildren will be brought up and subsequent generations too. That is a huge responsibility!




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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Conflict


I hate conflict. I really hate it. At the moment I have a lot of conflict I my life. It's all coming from one place but it's a big part of my life. I'm not the sort of person who wants to play games or manipulate situations but I find myself looking for the next step the player will make and trying to be one or two steps ahead of the game. It's not going to work because this isn't my natural state and it's very hard to second guess a natural player. My whole world has become infected by this conflict. It's never far from my mind, I can't sleep properly and I can't concentrate. It's never far away. And yet, the person I am in conflict with apparently does not want this conflict either. I think that is the turning point, or at least a start in the right direction. I am worn down by this. I just want to be able to be me again. I like smiling!




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Three weeks in

I'm now three weeks into my MSc in Corporate Governance. I'm enjoying it. It's something different from my usual and it's getting the grey matter working. But I can't deny I'm tired after a full day at work - sometimes the last thing I want to do is go out again. It's nice to meet new people. People with a different focus and a different perspective. And now the coursework is coming through I really have something to get my teeth into.




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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Barnet Carers' Centre


Just been to Barnet Carer's Centre. Very interesting, very informative. I would definitely recommend the service to anyone who feels they could benefit from it.




RELATED LINKS
Great Big List of Caregiver Blogs

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Relaxing Times


Short post. Just thought I would share a few nice moments in the middle of what has felt like a horrendous few weeks. Back from day at work then evening at college and now about to do something for work for a deadline tomorrow. Just had a few minutes out relaxing and feeling the best I have in weeks. Earlier I was not far off a panic attack but I managed to calm down some how. My husband and I are both in his office, both on computers but he has music on and there's a companionable silence with gentle tapping on keys. I feel calm and my breathing is unrestricted. Just reminded myself how important the odd break is in the middle of the mayhem.




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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Next step on the educational ladder

I started my Masters tonight. It's 2 years part time and luckily the first lecture wasn't so scary that I never want to return. I've done Masters level study before so I have a fair idea how challenging this course will be - though previously my study has been in the area I've been practicing which I'm sure was an advantage.

I feel bad though because this is two nights a week and I didn't know until last week what my course night were going to be - despite booking on back in May. This means my husband and mother-in-law are picking up the pieces where my diary has fallen apart and the charity SurvivorsUK I volunteer for has suddenly lost me on the night they usually meet.

This level of study could lead to excellent career prospects in future - I say could because nothing's certain in this life - but I still feel guilty about being away from my son because I have a job, I don't need this course to get a job. In the long run I may bring in a better salary because of this course but for now I am pulled away from my son and I do feel bad about it. So all in all my anxieties are around my family relationships rather than about the course. Weird huh?




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Monday, 27 September 2010

Equality in the home

When I was little my dad used to help my mum round the house. My dad worked full time and my mum dabbled in a few things but was essentially a full time house wife. I assumed that was how things were in everyone's house. I took for granted that my dad got involved with the cooking and that he would clean the fridge out now and again. He washed the car and mowed the lawn until I was big enough to help with it. We children took on age appropriate chores without question - even if we needed a bit of nagging to get on and do it!

My house isn't like that. I work full time. My husband works too. I can't stand mess and clutter but I have had to learn to live with it in times of stress and pressure. I hate crumbs and dirt. I am able to go to bed knowing there are dirty dishes in the sink but I know I'll cringe next time I walk into the kitchen. The main issue is that, without fail, I will crack before my husband when the housework needs doing. He doesn't notice or always has something of a higher priority to do. This has led to a complete imbalance of housework in our home.

When I left home for college in 1998 I decided I would not let my new flatmates take me for granted and that I would do my share of housework but no more. Largely I was successful in this. Until 2004. When I moved into the same house as my husband I knew he was self-sufficient (something I had had grave concerns about with a previous boyfriend) so I assumed he would do his share of the housework. We didn't discuss it or make any verbal agreements.

Over the past few years it has been a source of great tension. I did more when I was on maternity leave because I felt I ought to since I wasn't tired from work. During a few weeks off for illness I also expected to do more. When my husband has had periods off work he makes more mess because he's at home to make mess but he doesn't do much to sort it out. It feels like I go to work and then come home to a heap more work.

We had a cleaner for a couple of years - this was a double-edged sword: on the one hand it was lovely to come home to a sparkling house knowing I hadn't spent a minute on it. On the other hand I felt like my husband didn't care at all about supporting me with the housework because he still made no effort with it. He felt no need to lift a finger because it could all be left to the cleaner. He didn't notice how much work I was still doing on the days the cleaner wasn't there.

Sometimes I have just got on with it all, after all it is impossible to live in conflict with someone all the time. We all need a break from it now and again. I have left sticky notes all over the place, sent reminders texts and e-mails. This works some of the time. We've had so many conversations about it that I think I have finally got to the bottom of why I am doing the majority of our housework. My husband is not a lazy person but he doesn't feel the housework is as important as any of the other things he does. When I am not under pressure to clean the house in record time I can find housework therapeutic, my husband doesn't get any satisfaction from it at all. He doesn't get irritated by untidiness or uncleanliness as quickly as I do. I have tried leaving bits of the house in a state for ages - occasionally it has become too much for him and he has given in and sorted it (or, in his words, something among that mess became a high priority). I can rationalise until the cows come home - the work still needs to be done!

Have I created a rod for my own back? By having high standards and refusing to leave stuff building up for other people to complete I think people around me have become complacent. When I find it too much noone steps in to breach the gap I leave. By spending only my time on our housework I am freeing up other people's. I don't notice anyone else in our house worrying that they won't have time to clear up before the weekend's over or that they're out too many nights a week to complete the basics.

My housemates know I am a mother and I feel like they presume I will clear up after them. Prior to moving into our current house I was not a mother so I think people's perception of me was not the same.

My son is getting old enough to do some jobs around the house so I do ask him to do things and make sure he is involved with the routines we have. I also talk with him about respecting other people, acknowledging their feelings and treating people in the way you would like to be treated. I hope he will respect people he lives with in future but also that he manages to find a happy balance with housework in his subsequent households.




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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Big day tomorrow

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I have my very own student and she's going to be with me for a whole academic year. That's a long time in nursing because we have 52 weeks in our academic years. My student is already a qualified nurse who is specialising in public health. Tomorrow is a big day because it's the first time I will meet her.


I'm sure she will have a lot of similar anxieties to me: will we get on well, will we have similar working styles etc. I hope I sleep well tonight because I want to be fresh and alert for her and I want to be able to give her the very best learning experience I possibly can.

I am going to be learning a lot too. This is a new job for me. I am an experienced nurse and I am experienced in my field but, though I have had students for a day here and there or a week here and there, never have I had so much responsibility for one nurse's learning. But I am keen and I have a good idea of what I need to do. I also know who to ask if I don't have all the answers.

I am also an ambassador for my place of work. Frequently, students who enjoy placements apply for jobs in the same places. My workplace will be hoping to recruit my student at the end of her course when she successfully completes. If she does not get along with me, or I offend her, I could put this at risk. But I am not so awful so hopefully this will not be a problem.

Of course I am worrying for nothing. My team is great. They are welcoming, supportive, fun. If I need support I will receive it. If they need my support they can count on it. There is no reason to believe my friendly team would not get along with my student.

Still, tomorrow is a big day for me...




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The spiral

Sometimes things just all seem to get out of hand. This weekend's been a bit like that. Yesterday I was able to kid myself that there was another day in the weekend and I'd get loads done. Today my husband and I got up late. We were both miserable because we both have cold and flu symptoms. I don't care what the medication says on the box - it is impossible to function 100% when you have a cold. Both of us had loads to do this weekend and both of us were irritable because we knew we couldn't perform at our optimum levels. I think we've sorted it all out now because emotionally I feel a lot better. My husband's in bed early and I'm just having a few minutes "me time" with a cup of decaf to relax before I turn in.




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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sometimes it's all just too much!

I have a headache from sinusitis. I've had it all week. I can't sleep because I can't breathe. It eases when I take the medication but it wears off before the next dose is due. I have just had enough.

I'm supposed to be really excited. I have a new job which I have been looking forward to, potentially, all summer and now it's finally here - I've had the interview that nearly didn't happen and succeeded - I am shattered beyond all belief. I would love to curl up in bed for a week.

We have the builders in. The landlord is making extensive changes to the house. As builders go they're doing an excellent and speedy job and they're not making too much mess, considering. But then you would expect a lot of mess when a builders come into your house and add an extra staircase above your current one. The bathroom, toilet, hall, landing, stairs, kitchen - just thick with a layer of dust. Not even worth starting cleaning because the following day it'll be back and I don't even know where to start!

My husband's ill at the moment, he is really struggling so I can't really lean on him. I've been supporting him a lot emotionally the past few weeks which is another reason I am exhausted. He's recognised I'm struggling to give him support the way I have been and he's being lovely about it. We both know the other one needs more support and we both know we're unable to give it. Even with all that understanding it's a real shame we're both so worn down simultaneously.

My son has just started Year 1 at school. It's his first proper year. He's getting homework and needs help with his reading. School's being amazing with me because they can see I'm not managing things the way I usually do. They know it's not for the want of trying. It is so hard not to feel like a failure.

But I have been here before: A few years ago I had a community staff nurse job but felt I wasn't far off doing the job the specialist community practitioners were doing. Why be away from your child on less pay when you're pretty much doing the job the next level up? The only way to get the next job up, and there were vacancies, was to go back to university to do a year long course. As a determined individual I was quite sure this was what I wanted to do. My family supported me. My husband was keen for me to make a career for myself. My mother-in-law made it possible by having my son to stay at all sorts of strange times of day depending on my course requirements. My ambitious streak coupled with my inability to accept that I was finding life challenging pushed me into depression. I started my course in September. By January I was taking antidepressants and had lost 4kg I could ill-afford to lose. By August I had failed 2 out of 6 modules and been signed off work on long-term sick.

So how do I know 4 years on that I will not go down the same road? I have very similar symptoms to those I had in September 2006 right now. How can I have the confidence to know I will be okay? There has been a lot of water under the bridge since my illness. During my sick leave from August 2007 to December 2007 I was given some counselling which helped me see that my priorities were wrong. It was impossible to keep my private life at work private any more and when I came back to work I would talk to people when things became too heavy. When the workload was too much and I couldn't see how to get all the work done I would speak to my manager. When people tried to offload work on me I would only say "yes" if I knew I had the capacity. I stopped trying to undertake everything in my in-tray and began to delegate sensible tasks to healthcare assistants. I liaised with my employer and with the university about how to complete my studies in a manageable way - work were only too pleased to support me because they had sunk a lot of money into my studies already and they had no intention of letting me drop out unless I felt unable to complete. I started to confront my husband when I felt pressure to do too much. I am the type of person who takes on too much. My husband is proud of my achievements but a little overzealous about me achieving even greater things. He knows I only tell him it's all too much when it is. He no longer pushes me when I say "no" to plans beyond my ability. I am happy to dream and to make those dreams a reality but I am now capable of listening to my body and stopping when it gets too much.

With all that learning I did when I was ill comes great responsibility. I will always push myself to succeed. I love a challenge. I feel a great sense of achievement when I complete something I really struggled with. But I have my health and a family to consider. Never again do I want to be so underweight I can feel my body using up reserves while I am eating a meal. Never again do I want to only have the energy to achieve taking my child to school and collecting him in the whole day (the rest of the day spent with my coat still on, sitting on the sofa staring out of the window). Never again do I want to drive to work only to feel physically sick when I see the office building. But since I am not content to be a only a housewife or only a person with a job and I will insist on taking on too much I must find some coping strategies within me:

  • Acknowledge those first symptoms of depression (sleepless nights, not eating properly, worrying rather than wondering how on earth I'm going to fit those little jobs into the week, always feeling something's been left off the to-do list and worrying when it's going to come back to get me, feeling out of control beyond my capability).
  • Talking to colleagues sooner rather than later about clashes, seeking support as required (and recognising when I am fine that I have capacity to take on extra from colleagues so that they don't feel hard done by when I need their support).
  • Accepting that I can't do everything and saying "no" when required.
  • Being open and honest with my family (both mine and my husband's) because other people really will support me as long as I am genuine and don't take the mick.
  • Talking to a few really close friends and seeking some wider support from people who have similar personal problems to me.
  • Not being too hard on myself - why shouldn't I want to achieve in life? That is healthy. Taking on too much is the unhealthy part.
  • Recognising that I am not a failure. Okay, the going gets tough at times, but I have come so far already by succeeding. I don't always succeed first time round but I do get there in the end with patience and determination.
  • Recognising that drugs are not going to work for me - my depression is due to my social situation, the pressure I put myself under. The only way to help it is to reduce the pressure. No amount of drugs are going to help me.
  • Sharing my experiences with others - because they will open up about their own coping strategies and I will learn a lot from them.
  • Some things don't matter. If my son goes to school with a blob of bolognese from the night before on his T-shirt, if the dishes didn't get washed for 2 days last week, if I was 5 minutes late picking my husband up from the station, if I have a hole in my sock but I am wearing boots, if the lawn hasn't been mown this particular summer - no one else cares (and if they do they have too much time on their hands).
  • Some things really do matter. I show my son and husband I love them, I visit my family in the north now and again, I attend weddings, funerals and other celebrations that I'll regret missing in the long run, I e-mail friends or send letters or phone, I get my son to school on time and read him a bed time story.

Depression and coping with it is a very personal challenge. It's important to listen to other people's advice but only to take on what I feel comfortable with. It is important for me to discover what works for me and what doesn't. That discovery will continue throughout my adult life. Though I imagine the steepest part of the learning curve has already been undertaken, I must remain open to new ideas. You never know - one day I may become symptom-free!

Roll on half term when I will have a week off (though I doubt I'll get that chance to curl up and sleep...)




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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Victoria Sandwich - and some of its twists


Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Effort: minimal
Makes: 1 cake

Ingredients:
6oz self raising flour
6 oz caster sugar
6 oz margarine
3 eggs
Jam
Icing sugar

Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 356F / GM4.
  2. Line two 7" round, shallow cake tins with baking paper.
  3. Put flour, sugar, margarine and eggs into a mixer and beat until just mixed together - don't overbeat! The mixture should be creamy looking and there should be few lumps of flour. Once it reaches this stage do not beat any further or the air which helps it rise will be lost.
  4. Tip into the tins and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden brown, you can put a skewer in it and it comes out clean, you can touch the top and it springs back or the edges start to shrink away from the sides.
  5. Cool on a wire rack
  6. Place one cake on a plate. Spread jam over.
  7. Place the other cake layer on top of the jam and sprinkle with icing sugar using a sieve.
Note: If you have no mixer use the following method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 356F / GM4.
  2. Line two 7" round, shallow cake tins with baking paper.
  3. Put margarine and sugar into a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed together.
  4. Break in the eggs and mix again, incorporating as much air as possible.
  5. Sift in the flour then fold it in until it is fully mixed in. The mixture should be creamy looking and there should be no lumps of flour. Once it reaches this stage do not beat any further or the air which helps it rise will be lost.
  6. Tip into the tins and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden brown, you can put a skewer in it and it comes out clean, you can touch the top and it springs back or the edges start to shrink away from the sides.
  7. Cool on a wire rack
  8. Place one cake on a plate. Spread jam over.
  9. Place the other cake layer on top of the jam and sprinkle with icing sugar using a sieve.
Twists:
Chocolate cake:
Remove 1oz of flour and replace with 1oz of cocoa. If you are sifting your flour, sift the cocoa too.

Lemon or Orange cake:
Grate the rind of 1 lemon or 1 orange. Add it to the mixture with the other ingredients if using a mixer. If beating the mixture by hand, add to mixture at the same time as the flour but not sifted.

Vanilla Cake:
Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence to the mixture.

Springier sponge:
For even springier sponge replace a third of the margarine with the same quantity of olive oil spread.





MORE RECIPES
Natalie's Carrot and Coriander Soup
Natalie's Loaded Potato Skins
Jonathan's Ice cream with Crushed Biscuit Topping
Joshua's Lamb Stew
Pancakes recommended by Judith
Roast Potatoes
Lamb Tagine

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Why I am a nurse

Last Friday I came home from work knowing, understanding and remembering why I ever wanted to be a nurse. It is so funny that a few days later I have lost comprehension of how that feels. I didn't have a bad day today, it was just an ordinary work day. Those amazing days are few and far between but they keep me nursing day after day because I never know when I will feel it again. Any day could be that day.


If I ever stop having amazing days at work it will be time to stop nursing. I am extremely privileged to have this experience now and again.





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