06 September 2011

Nap Time

Menu du jour

Roasted wild Scottish grouse
Served with foraged cep mushrooms and Laverstoke Park's black pudding (boudin noir)
Les Ceps, our bountiful treasure trove

Be still my heart. 
This dinner was divine! 

I think it was my first time having grouse. Grouse is mostly found in the moorland counties  of Scotland and Northern England. Due to low numbers it has a very short season. Grouse are a great task even for a very seasoned shooter as they can fly up to 70mph.  

We are blessed by beautiful forests on our doorsteps. The cooler temps, rain/sun and change of the moon all contribute to a bountiful array of prized mushrooms for the picking. The King of the fungi is the cep mushroom. At market- cep mushrooms fetch up to £20 per kg ($33 per 2.2 lbs). We have already found well over 25 lbs and it is only the start of the season! Who needs a 9 to 5 when you can find money growing in your backyard? 

Method: Cyrille wrapped the grouse in smoked bacon allowing the fat and flavour to seep into the bird. He first roasted it in the oven and finished the bird on the stove top. Grouse is best served medium rare.

For this dinner, the cep mushrooms were sautéed with virgin olive oil, butter, salt and pepper- allowing the mushrooms to do the talking.
Autumn 2011 Collection

The combination of the rich grouse, spicy black pudding (boudin noir) and cep mushrooms was a well orchestrated symphony of flavours on the palate! A bottle of Burgundy wine finished off this heavenly meal. 

Thought on foraging mushrooms: Cep Mushrooms are Mother Nature's autumn couture collection... They are the rich sexy fungi of the forest floor.  You get giddy butterflies when you spot them hiding under the dewy moss. You boast to your friends and neighbours of your rich findings but never share where "cep alley" is within the forest.  Unlike some fashion trends, these icons never go out of style-- just season. 
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Ah, an unexpected late afternoon cat nap for the baby. Time for mom to have a moment to herself. Cue the ambient music and begin typing. Quickly typing. For a sleeping baby is only as good as the level of her 'tank', the nappy being dry, and the life of the battery in her swinging chair.

When a baby is awake, it is all about multi tasking: balancing the baby on one hip while holding the phone in the crook of your neck trying to schedule the repair man out to fix the boiler; mashing up bananas with a fork for snack time; and yelling at the dog to stop barking at the post man. A lot of women groan on and on about how hard being pregnant is on the body. Seven months with my little pea this side of the womb, I realise babies take their toll both sides of the uterine wall. 

I could draw a road map between the random bruises on my calves, hips and arms. I think I have the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome from using a manual expresser the first three months of Eloise's life before purchasing an electric pump. And I am pretty sure my neck is slightly ajar and the hips just naturally want to pop out to the side as balance beams. I have written off my lower back. I try to give it some needed TLC by laying in corpse position from time to time. The problem with this- it is so hard to get back up.  

It is for good reason that we carry a baby for nine months. Once you have a 17+ pound baby strapped on your chest in the Baby Bjorn, you give a small "amen" that the weight is bearing down on your shoulders rather than the uterus and bladder.  

I'll be the first to admit-nothing gives a mother greater joy than to cradle their child in their arms. That is, unless that little that ball of energy is sleeping soundly in the crib leaving mom hands-free!

Our daughter, Ouisie, arrived three weeks early. I have concluded that she was ready to take on life- full throttle. With a packed agenda ahead- she decided from day one that sleep would not be a major requirement. Just a little recharge here and there as time should be spent getting on with living.  

With each passing week as a newborn, my mother assured me not to worry-- "It will get easier"--- "She will get into a routine"-- "You kids napped twice a day"-- "Once she is 11 lbs-- she'll sleep through the night"..."You'll be able to finish that needlepoint project by Christmas"--- Um. Wrong.

I am not a stickler for a daily routine with a baby. This may be based on the fact that our daughter likes to switch up her schedule. Reveille occurs between 5-7. Bounds of energy and play commence until 9-10. And then... mid morning nap. This anticipated break varies in length. It is my daily coin toss. Do I have 30 minutes... push it to 45 minutes... or throw the wild card and score a 1.5 hour break. 

Never knowing what cards Ouisie has dealt- you prioritise. Shower and shave? Shower, shave, wash hair? Skip shower- splash water on face and just brush teeth? I treat it like a game. Scratch off all on the 'to do' list and JACKPOT! Ready, steady... go!
  • get dressed
  • switch laundry
  • load dishwasher
  • brush teeth while plucking unruly eyebrows and chin hairs that have somehow crept onto the visage over the past 24-hours
  • check email while expressing milk
  • make mental grocery list 
  • reheat 1st cup of coffee in microwave for 4th time 
  • reply back to emails that have been sitting patiently in inbox for over a month
  • take 5 minutes to check Twitter headlines to see if outside world is still revolving only if above have been completed and baby is still asleep. Otherwise assume all is well as the sun rose and you saw the neighbour take out the trash. 
Since publishing my blog on Facebook I feel like I have signed a contract to my (four) followers (one of which is my mother). And once I commit to anything- I have to uphold my end of the deal.     

What I did not fully consider was Ouisie's desire. Was she ready to commit a block of time each day to allow mom to compose coherent fluid thoughts that could transcribe into something that someone might (actually) wish to read? Would her playtime be compromised by mom trying to sharpen her writing skills? And above all--- would mom try and coax her into-- not only-- trying new solid foods everyday--- but crafting a schedule whereby she found herself being put back in her crib for TWO naps a day! Ludicrous!   

I recently reviewed my options for returning back to work. In the UK, mothers have job security for up to one year. Mothers receive 80% of their salary for 6-weeks, then receive the government's stipulated pay through six-months (currently about £500 per month). Many that can, opt to take the full year as childcare (like most places) is so expensive. Wages in the UK are lower than the USA so this combined with high childcare costs often weighs favourably for the mother to take a full year.  

When looking at options for going back to work, my husband thought I should look at working from home one or two days per week. It sounds ideal to those sitting at the office in a windowless cubicle. But one thing that going to the office gives a working mother is the one thing working from home does not-- adult interaction. 

As I attempt to write a blog without a pressing deadline and with Ouisie balanced on my lap assisting in typing; I realise that working from home with an infant is just not feasible. For one, babies have impeccable timing on dirty nappies, hunger pains or just need for a good cuddle from mom. None of which is conducive when on a conference call with a client trying to pitch a luxury Hotel for a quiet corporate retreat. Secondly, let's face it- babies are the best time wasters. Hours of the day are spent transfixed observing your little one in anticipation of witnessing her next discovery. 

Maybe moms cannot have it all? If I had been at the office today, I would have missed Ouisie sitting on her own for the first time. But then, by pursuing a career, I become a role model for Ouisie and can contribute to the family income and have a better means for providing her with activities, education and travel experiences. 

And so, with a grateful heart, I notified work that I would finish out my maternity leave and signed Ouisie and me up for a variety of classes in the local community that all start next week. Monkey Music-- be warned! We have been practising the Incy Wincy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus for seven months. And no baby shakes a rattle with such gusto as Ouisie.

While being a stay-at-home mom has its trials; the tribulations make up for the baby brain and lack of personal time. Personal success suddenly is measured in each little milestone that your baby achieves. How proud you feel when your baby discovers her squeal! And how your heart melts when you get your baby from that ten minute power nap (that only allowed time for you to fold the laundry) to find a drooling toothless grin awaiting you. The first seven months have been a whirlwind-- so I hope to slow time down during these next five. 

And on that note... I hear my sweet pea calling me now. Until next time-- may you be productive and find rewarding success in your own 24-hour day. 

Carpe diem (or whatever you choose to seize)!

                                                                  
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