The Thief Who Stole Her Son. SYNOPSIS

When tragedy strikes, newly weds Ben and Daisy are forced to move in with Annie, bens doting mother. Ben suddenly leaves without any further contact and Daisy is left behind to analyse her past and future in the claustrophobic atmosphere of Annie’s secluded beach house.

Here both women are forced to face the memories they tried to forget but the biggest lies are the ones that will find you in the end as Daisy discovers what lengths a mother will go to to protect her son. 

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The Ultimate clean eating shopping guide. 20 foods that guarantee clean meals every time.

Clean foods

There are plenty of foods that can be considered clean and most of them are moreish and delicious, but the variety can be confusing. So just to get you started on the right track I have devised this shopping list of 20 foods that I can confidently say are  considered clean foods and will start you off on the tight track

I urge you to keep this list close to your person. Read it, memorise it, digest it (not literally, ink and paper are definitely not on the clean list) – just keep it to hand and you will forever be able to create gleamingly clean meals every time. With this top 20 clean eating shopping list etched in your brain, you will shop clean, cook clean and eat clean every time.

The supermarket

Supermarkets can at times be the most over whelming places. It’s incredibly easy to get swayed by a bargain and then suddenly before you realise what has happened you have found yourself in the convenience aisle, mindlessly dropping ready-made pizzas into your shopping trolley.

Fruit and vegetable aisles are like small exotic villages and it’s easy to get lost amongst the paw paws, passionfruit and physalis. When you know which fruits work best with clean eating then you are really going to be on your way to eating the way you want to.

Balance and inspiration

Eating an even balance of clean foods shouldn’t rob you of your precious time or money. Clean eating is a fairly straight forward concept, but like most perfectly executed projects, all it requires is a little forward planning.

All of us benefit from a little inspiration and we know how other aspects of life can get in the way of us eating what we truly want to. Remember that clean eating isn’t a fussy approach to food, it is simply embracing food in the natural state it should be, free from chemicals and preservatives and cooked in a way that preserves nutrients, retains and even enhances flavours.

Fruit 

 

1)Avocado

Avocado is top of the list and if you were ever in doubt that an avocado was a fruit, you may muse no longer. The avocado is part of the berry family and is fast becoming one of the most popular fruits amongst consumers. Spread on toast, whizzed in a smoothie or chopped in a salad, this fruit full of happy fats is versatile, creamy and indulgent.

2)Blueberries

Blueberries are still on that superfood list due to their high level of antioxidants and are delicious on their own or in smoothies, opt for organic if you can.

3)Bananas

Bananas are a perfect mid-morning snacks as they are fantastic source of slow release energy

4)Pineapples

Pineapples are a great alternative for your vitamin C intake and 5 times more effective at curing a cough or sore throat than cough medicine due to bromelain, which fights infections and kills bacteria.

5) Apples

The humble apple is last to grace the top 5 fruits on my clean eating shopping list. It’s a hardy fruit which helps combat all sorts of diseases and illnesses and contains a good dose of daily fibre.

Clean proteins

6) Chicken

Chicken is there to kick off the top 5 clean proteins. A firm family favourite, low in fat and high in amino acids.

7) Beef

Grass fed beef contains less fat and is full of omega-3 fatty acids which is what your body needs for cell development.

8) Almonds

Almonds are a great source of happy fats and will keep you feeling full between meals.

9) Peas

Protein is present in freshly podded peas; eaten raw these sweet vitamin packed green droplets are an absolute treat!

10) Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is recognised as a superfood and becoming more popular and if you cook it just right, it is a lovely alternative to white rice and goes with almost all vegetables, meats and fish.

Healthy vegetables

11, 12, 13) Broccoli, Kale and Spinach

Dark green vegetables contain the most vitamin C and other amazing vitamins and nutrients which is why 3 out of 5 of the healthy vegetables on this clean eating shopping list are vibrant green; a visual clue that a portion of broccoli, kale or spinach are not just clean but super healthy too.

14) Beetroot

Beetroot has so many nutrients and vitamins in it and once you learn to love the earthy taste, it will become one of your favourite clean foods to cook with.

15) Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, which is essential for your immune system.

Clean carbs

16, 17, 18) Beans oats and wholemeal pasta

Beans, oats and wheat pasta can be become the base of any tempting clean dish.

19) Leafy greens

Leafy greens may not be the obvious option for a carb alternative, but bulking out a meal with luscious green leaves will keep you fuller for longer.

20) Carrots

Carrots have long been a dinner time favourite and eaten raw, steamed or roasted, these veteran vegetables will continue to grace your clean eating shopping list.

Extra tips

Along with this clean eating shopping list, it is essential to stick to a few other rules to maintain the ultimate clean diet. Below are a few tips to keep you eating as clean and as healthy as possible.

  • Remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Stick to cooking food from fresh and avoid processed and convenience aisles in the supermarkets where possible.
  • Make sure the main meal of the day sees half of your plate filled with fresh vegetables.
  • Taking a portion of both protein and carbohydrates during your main meal of the day will keep you fuller for longer.
  • Always steam, bake or grill vegetables to keep the most amount of nutrients inside.

Now you have your 20 guaranteed clean foods that you can refer to every time you go shopping, I’d love to continue to keep you inspired. Be sure to check back soon to read how to cook your clean food for optimum freshness and keep those nutrients locked in.

Until then, enjoy getting to know the top 20 clean foods and mastering the art of clean eating.

Why we had third child

“Is this your first baby” the nurse asked as I handed her my urine sample wrapped in a sodden tissue. I took a sip of water and allowed for a very pregnant pause.

“No” I cleared my throat “my third”

Holy F***! Only as I finally heard myself speak the words for the first time, did I believe them. I was having a third child. How did this happen I thought to myself.  (I was rolling up my sleeve for my blood sample, I’m still not comfortable at giving blood so I feigned intense interest in the poorly painted sea landscape image too far to my right; I had to strain my neck to focus on it)

Only then, 14 weeks pregnant and having just ended an intimate 8 week relationship with the toilet bowl had I begun to raise my head beyond the level of the bottle of domestos to think about the reality of a third child.


We were certain everyone thought we were nuts. There was of course the usual sing song of “congratulations” and even the occasional “was it planned” (subtext – “oh dear, did your recreational bedroom antics accidentally result in your husband impregnating you?”)

My mother was shocked. But she was shocked each time I told her I was pregnant. As the middle (and misunderstood) child I’m sure she thought I was destined to become an intrepid explorer covering areas of the rainforest previously undiscovered,  enduring bites from mammouth mosquitos and drinking my own urine. Although there has been moments of parenthood when it’s felt this desolate; when getting to the kitchen for a drink has felt like a penultimate scene in He-man as I drag my lifeless body through the house “Must…reach…sword…of…omen”


Motherhood was not something I was destined for in my mother’s eyes, I was the wild child, the one who went against the norm; I had never conformed to what society expected of me yet there I was, knocked up for the third time looking at the nurse surreptitiously wiping my wee off her hand.

“But Nina, you’ve just got Bodhi off to school” were my mums wise but wasted words when I broke the news of the third child to her (“We thought you were going to say you were moving abroad” was the response when we told the fam we were pregnant the first time. Our second pregnancy news was an extension of the word ‘what’ with far too many a’s and went on for 3 extra seconds too long)

It only feels like five minutes ago when we were living our lives for ourselves. Self-employed and living in the Richmond Upon Thames, work ended at 12pm for me and then I was free. Free to play badminton until my wrist burnt, free to swim endlessly with only the silent counting of my lengths to contend with, free to sit next to the river and contemplate my relatively uncomplicated life. And when those activities no longer captivated my carefree mind, it was home for a well earned siesta and tea in bed with the Weakest Link.


Children were always on the agenda. Like every couple we imagined our lives as parents to be much like an Aptimal  commercial. Terry towled cladded infant being gently lulled to sleep by a calm and fully dressesed parent. The reality was alarmingly comparative: wailing infant flailing arms in every direction, my engorged breasts spurting milk into her cross colicely face as I grapple, dressed only in pants and nursing bra for something that resembles clothing.

To quote the line from that once red faced wailing infant’s now favourite film, Matilda, “Babies? You’re better off raising tomatoes”. It’s true that babies are a minefield. You’re constantly guessing and the level of patience required to calm a screaming infant was completely off our radar. Far from our Aptimal commercial image and more a post apocalyptic scene from a Mad Max movie.

So having experienced hell on earth twice already why would we possibly want to bring another baby into the world?


Because no one has a perfect life, because there is no perfect time to attempt any life changing project, you just have to take a deep breath and go for it. I am wise enough to know that behind every perfect profile picture and album of images on social is a true reality of life. Like that swan that glides gracefully across the river, underneath his legs are paddling like hell. We’re all just trying to stay afloat in our own desperate crazy way.  It’s the same for every individual who doesn’t have an entourage of nannies, gardeners, housekeepers and chefs to keep their lives running smoothly. I mean who doesn’t enjoy that sinking feeling after rummaging through mount laundry for 15 minutes shushing a fractious infant in one arm to find something that vaguely resembles an outfit,  only to realise the only pair of trousers that fit you are wedged down the side of laundry basket and in fact, never made it to the wash. I sometimes muse that I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Why would I want a breakfast platter of fruit served and cleared away by a fresh faced nanny when I can only just get round to scraping the welded Weetabix off a high chair by 5pm. Then I slap myself around the face and buy thee more lines on the Lotto.

So how did we end up as parents of three? As a couple, the one thing that has bound us is our outlook on life: slightly out of focus and never quite arriving where we were heading. We’ve always been a slightly left of the middle, fly by the seat of our pants kinda couple. We’ve never been the types to plan things meticulously, make 5 year plans or talk about the ‘what ifs’.

Our Aptimal outlook on life predicted at least 3. In fact I have vague recollections of late night vodka fulled musings of four possibly 5 kids.  We romantically imagined our Larkin Family life in A Darling Buds of May scenario wiping icing sugar off the noses of our pink cheeked brood. The stark reality was arguing in stage whispers at 3am over whether the first born was being rocked back to sleep too furiously and who had stepped on the creaky floorboard to wake her in the first place.
But two was never really an option. It was too blah, too ‘not really us’. We both silently looked on at the two kids and thought ‘There’s not many of them?’

As the woman, I knew I wasn’t done. I had heard women say “no, that’s it, i’m done, no more kids for me” and I could hear the certainty in their voice. But I needed to feel the weight of a new born in my arms again, to experience that slow contented first breastfeed of the night when baby is still dreaming.


We craved the cuteness again. We longed to hear more mispronounced words, we wanted to hear them say they couldn’t get in the bath because they weren’t ‘maked’ yet. We yearned for more little sticky hands cupped around our chin, breathless husky requests for ‘spaceboots that fly’ whispered in our ear.

Because for all the messy inconvenient crazy chaos children bring, they completely take your heart hostage with their unconditional love. They are forgiving of your downfalls and inabilities to hold your act together. They make you realise that you can always be a better version of yourself. Because they remind us how to have fun and live in the moment. “Play with me mummy” as I tear my agitated gaze away from the decomposing courgette at the bottom of the salad tray and lay myself out on the floor with my four year old.

But beneath all of that, it was always going to be three. I am one of three as is Chris. Three feels like family. I collected 5 perfectly white smooth stones from the beach and laid them on the window sill years ago and I knew we were not yet complete as a family.


I also knew when we three siblings rallied around my mum the weeks after the sudden death of my dad, each playing out our roles, that there was something special about 3 children. There was always one of us there to help her make an awkward phone call, walk with her to the shop or make sure she ate something that day. I wanted that for us as we got older. I wanted to know that if one of them was off trekking the Andes and fulfilling my neglected role of intrepid explorer, that I had another two to cook a Sunday roast for.

Now he’s here, the final baby and once I look past the 3 hours sleep per night I get and the mounting stack of unread books and neglected piles of admin, I can see that through all our years of winging it, for once we got it right. We had a blurry vision of something and we made it happen. But I also know I am now that woman who can say with conviction, that I’m done.  We are a family of 5, we have three kids and it feels right.

Raw chocolate and coconut balls 

Makes about 8 – 10 balls 

Ingredients 

8 mejool dates 

1/2 cup of mixed seeds 

40g grated chocolate (70% coco) or coco powder 

1/2 cup desiccated coconut plus extra for coating 

I tsp. Coconut oil

1 tsp. Honey ( optional)

Method

Remove the stones from the dates

Blitz seeds first in a electric mixer 

Add dates and pulse again 

Add all the rest of the ingredients and blend 

Take out small amounts and roll into balls then roll over a scattering of coconut 

Chill in fridge and eat 1 or 2 when you need an energy boost – usually around 3pm/4pm 

The Art of Travel

We can plan a journey for months and the anticipation of what our chosen destination will look, smell and feel like can overwhelm us. We take our time to pack the clothes we imagine ourselves wearing when we take long walks along the beach and the books we will get lost in as we lay by a deserted pool side with the sun setting slowly over the hills. However all this is merely theory for upon touch down the reality of being where we imagined ourselves to be is far from the ideal day dream.

For me thoughts of the menial tasks left behind swirl around in my head, such as my disorganised office and  the evolving mass of weeds in the back garden; although to be honest the worrying begins before and during take-off as we hurtle into the sky at 500 miles an hour in an eighty tonne steel can!

Many of us forget that although we are leaving behind the mundane domesticity to set off for that well earned break, our lives and bodies are inextricably linked together and it may not always be possible to free ourselves from concerns and worries; even when we are 15’000 miles away from them.

When I set off to escape to a beautiful Fijin island in the south pacific, I tried to live in the moment and allow myself the pleasure of just being. I mean, I couldnt have been any further away from my normal life, i was literally on the otherside of the world. I managed from time to time to take in the vision of the unbelievable turquoise waters lapping against a brilliant white shore, the eternal heat and feeling of a simple but worthwhile existence. I only wished I could have shaken off those unwanted feelings and arrived on holiday a carefree earth mother, fleeting around the island, beer in hand, laughing jovially; unperturbed by my disorganised life back home.

The relationship between the idea of travel and the reality can be seen firstly through bodies as they clearly require some time to adjust to the change in temperature or the feeling of a different bed.  But it is our minds that suppress the desire to let go as they are riddled with the monotonous tasks we have neglected or the awkward conversation we need to have with a colleague when we return.  We seem unable to separate ourselves from the intricate task of our daily existence.

We are humans with complex minds and lives, so to switch off from our busy lifestyles full of lists, tasks and the dynamics of our relationships with friends, family and colleagues, is a pretty huge expectation. It was only when I arrived home that it occurred to me; I had indeed taken my whole self to paradise.

I had expected a quick fix and now I realise that planning for a holiday can, for some of us involve a little more than packing shorts and sun cream. I am planning my next holiday as I write and this time I intend to leave my emotional baggage at home.

When the babymoon is over.

It hit me like a freakin’ freight train as I skulked out of the house on that damp and insipid Wednesday morning. Where on Earth am I going to go? I’m a mother, in my late, but still  thirties. I have a my bonny blue eyed baby boy, just three and half months old at the time of writing, a home, clothes on my back, a lanky, slightly scratchy female chocolate Labrador that will lollop all over your lap but protect me and my kids at the slightest hint of danger (dawdling man in late 60’s approaching wearing flat cap and fishing rod flung over his shoulder) and a mildly huffy, often too tired to talk husband and partner of 15 years. Yet I left the house that morning, and I walked. Not knowing where the hell I was going to go.

If like me your second child was ready to start big school and give you all the freedom a frustrated creative  could ask for, but instead you thought, no I’ll have another baby (bag one before i’m 40 syndrome I think we’ll refer to that one as), then you could be feeling my pain at this stage.

I walked out of the house and realised everything had changed. The visitors had stopped, the gifts all found homes and the baby shower clothes already grown out of and sitting neatly in charity pile. Mums had stopped approaching me with that crazed look of a woman in need of gazing at a newborn (it’s innate right?) and saying things like, ‘I love a newborn, but I couldn’t go through it again (Stick to ya guns girl), instead they amble past with a quick “He’s getting big now isn’t he” (yes and he’s bloody heavy when you’ve been carrying him for a mile up the hill cos he aint a buggy baby – care to offer a bicep?).

That’s it, babymoon is officially over. As I left the house that morning it may as well have been announced in a nasaley voice over a tannoy. “The babymoon is now closing.  Could the lady leaving number 60 please just crack on now parenting 3 kids. ”

Where have all the mothers gone ?

It’s not until you are rampantly navigating that three way travel system up a rickety uneven path (I’ve had smoother outings on a Welsh hiking holiday) and the drizzle starts hitting you in the face and the baby is wailing that sort of wail that made you look on unfavourably at the neglectful parent before you had your own kids, that you feel the loneliness seep through. Motherhood can be very lonely place, I’ve been there twice before, this is the third time. You would think I would have learnt by now.

Then it hit me. Communities and society are changing. We no longer live within spitting distance of our families. Our friends are all segregated, many have had to return to work or are running businesses as one persons income is no longer sufficient to keep one parent at home full time.  The mothers with young infants aimlessly ambling along trying to pacify junior with a ‘shhhh’ that creates more saliva than a disgruntled bloodhound are few and far between. They have wisely removed themselves from the streets (in the non prostitute sense) and gone online, where it’s safer, cosier and you don’t have to mount a three way travel system in treacherous conditions just to show your infant the trees  in an attempt to feel purposeful. 

Me “look at the trees” 

Infant “waaaaaa”

Yesterday I wrote a post on my other site http://www.thereddit.blog for my bookie fans about World Mental Health Day. I talked about the importance of emotional cues and how reading fuels empathy, unlike the digital world most of us hibernate in for vast parts of the day. Simply seeing a slight curve of a smile when someone speaks or a raised eyebrow is how we have evolved to relate to and understand our fellow humans.

The old saying “If you can’t beat them, join them’ couldn’t be truer for me right now. As much as I crave real tangible connection with others, I know I have to be where the action is and right now the party is online. So I launched an Instagram page and gave it a name. The Mum Chums. Yes the name bears a hint of a dog food brand but it was all my mangled baby brain could cobble together as I hiked those lonely lumpy streets alone. ( I will be updating the brand name as it evolves so suggestions are welcome) 

My aim 

I am a mum on a mission. Once upon a time I wanted to find some friends who were like me and read lots of books and wanted to talk about them. So I put a post out on Gumtree. This would seem like the days of a carrier pigeon or even communicating with smoke to those crazy millennials but guess what? It worked.  Book fans came forward and then 3 weeks later I was passing a tray of nibbles around to a handfuls of complete strangers whilst asking their opinion on the latest Lionel Shriver novel.

So I don’t see it as an unrealistic challenge to cobble together a group of mums, dads, carers, grandparents…whoever you are (child in tow is the key to this not so exclusive club) who like me,  sometimes feels there’s something missing. A real life conversation, a bosomy hug, someone to hold the baby whilst you try out that new hairstyle you saw on youtube (even though you know it’s two decades too late for that look on you), hearing the words, ‘I’ll get the coffees in’ or just being a pair of empathetic eyebrows, raising and lowering at the right times to woeful tales of calamities.

I’ve never been one for sitting in a chilly village hall in a circle with 10 complete strangers bouncing a bewildered infant up and down to the wheels on the bus.  My mind would always wander to those mums on the bus who would “natter natter natter” and wanting to be one of them with a strong soya latte in my baby free hand. 

So wherever you are, ill find you and I’ll hunt you all down and then I’ll drag you and your eyebrows out into the real world so we can navigate those precarious paths of parenting together. One unpredictable day at a time.

 

 

The inconvenience of grief

In a few weeks’ time, thousands of daughters and sons will be celebrating father’s day.

It will be the 5th time that I will not celebrate fatherhood with the man who raised me.

Four years ago, the first fathers day after my dads death, I spent time with my husband’s family. Upon arrival there was an air of awkwardness as the in-laws shuffled around me not knowing what to say or do. There were hugs and then words.

‘Thanks for coming. It must be hard for you. Especially on a day like today’

I responded too promptly ‘Every day is hard’

‘Yes but it must be especially hard today’ came their swift reply.

Although well meant, their words were for their own sake and not mine. They were worried how to be around me on a day that was all about spending time with fathers. A day where I was not to see or spend time with mine. But it was only back in the comfort of my own home where I could momentarily reflect on the day, that I confirmed again to myself, it hadn’t been one of the hardest days.

I had watched my children playing with their cousins, basked in the midday heat of the sun, nibbled on food fresh from a barbeque and sat contentedly with my husband, who from time to time would slip his hand in mine.

IMG_7218It’s the other days that are the hardest, as I had pointed out to my in -laws upon my arrival. The minute details of a day that catch you unaware like slicing some stilton cheese and enjoying the intense salty flavour that my dad loved so much. It’s looking out of the window at a family of birds in a nearby bush emerging from their nest and tweeting their evening song and remembering my dads fascination with the natural world.

Music is hard to deal with and sometimes2 I will hear a song on the radio that is so familiar, it fills the room with an over bearing presence of my dad. The nostalgia the song evokes is thick and palpable, wavering uncomfortably between euphoria and yearning.

And of course watching my young son giggle and dance, chat and play and know that he was just a 6 month old fetus when my dad passed away and that he will never know his granddad. A man who was worldly, clever, curious, enjoyed food and drink, nature, music and laughter. All the things that make someone human and alive, so quickly evaporated. Never to be again. And then my symmetrical frustration, my dad will never meet his grandson who is also clever, curious and enjoys nature and music the way he did.

39For it’s never about getting through one manufactured day without my dad,  It’s about getting through all the days without him. With the never ending thoughts and feelings that sneak up and surprise me when I’m driving in the car alone and hear a song on the radio and I hear the words count for my own sake. Or I’m reading a story to my daughter and suddenly I realise it is a story about loss death and letting someone go and my voice catches on the last words so I have to swallow my tears.

These are the feelings that I carry day to day, minute to minute. The feelings that those around me, close friends, family and acquaintances are fearful to know. They are unpredictable feelings that are aroused at times that are not always convenient to me or others.

25For grief isn’t convenient. It is raw, erratic, and ill- timed. It grasps you round the throat and constricts your vocal chords when you are sat in a meeting or as you gaze out the window at the sea views, taking in the strength of the waves and the vastness of the ocean. For you see reflected in that vastness your grief.

Time is strange thing and not always a straight forward healer. It is however a reminder that you exist without someone you knew so well and it brings hope that you can carry that grief through life and eventually find some way of existing alongside the enormity of it all.

This year, I am due to give birth to my third child, on fathers day! This will be the 2nd child that my father didn’t get to meet but his memory lives loud and proud in our house through music, toys he has built, endless photographs and of course the cheeky twinkle in the eye of my son.  I am looking forward to meeting our next child and finding in him or her all the things I knew and loved in my father.

I couldn’t imagine a better gift to myself or my dad’s legacy.

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