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From the Seychelles to Center Parcs in 5 years

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Once upon a time we had a fairy tale wedding in a castle and a honeymoon in the Seychelles. Beautiful white sand beaches, cocktails at sunset and glorious sunshine. To be fair there was no internet and my husband would have been happier if the local hospital hadn’t been on the next island but in general it was an amazing holiday. This year was our 5th wedding anniversary so naturally we wanted to do something a bit special, but the addition of two little people means that a 10 hour flight to the middle of nowhere is a lot less appealing and a bit too pricey. Instead we went for the less glamorous but much more practical Center Parcs in Sherwood forest. We’ve been before and knew it would be a child friendly, comfortable holiday with a reasonably short drive that potty training toddlers could cope with.

We agreed that we wouldn’t get each other presents as we were spending a decent amount on the holiday, but I found out the day before we left that my husband had been all romantic and got me something as a surprise. Because I never know what to get him I decided to make a cake, although naturally I’d run out of everything so had to make a mad dash to Sainsbury’s.

Apparently the 5th wedding anniversary is wood so I made a rectangular cake and cut it into a number 5. The morning we left involved packing the car and decorating the cake with the “help” of 2 toddlers. The wood effect icing and the ivy were my idea, the butterflies were my 3year old’s.

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Times change and so do holidays but we had a wonderful time as a family. The sub-tropical swimming pool was brilliant, the restaurants had crayons and colouring books for the kids and the wildlife was wonderful for entertaining little ones. At night we sat in front of the fire and just enjoyed relaxing.We had such a good time my son didn’t want to leave. In fact he spent the next week saying he wanted to go back.

I look at the last 5 years and so much has changed. We have two wonderful children, a grown-up house in suburbia and are well on our way to being “middle aged”. It hasn’t always been easy and anyone who has suffered sleep loss from a small baby will understand that it really really really is so much harder than you ever believe it will be. Like most people I always thought parents were exaggerating and that my baby would be different and perfect. But however hard it’s been there are moments when you sit quietly and see how worthwhile it’s all been. I can see the light at the end of the (sleep deprived) tunnel and wouldn’t change it for anything.

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Sweet treats and bribery

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Like all parents I want the best for my kids, I want them to have a healthy diet but I also want them to be able to enjoy treats. I find well timed bribes can work wonders and we are currently attempting potty training with the incentive of a “bedtime cake” for my son if he manages to stay dry for the whole day.

The problem I have with treats is that I am (slightly) fussy about what my children eat. When they’re older I’m sure they’ll point out my double standards to me – I am not a health nut, I eat chocolate and crisps; at the cinema my favourite pick and mix sweets are the neon green apple cables that are packed full of e-numbers and sugar – however, all that aside I don’t give my kids branded chocolate, they never have crisps or icecream in the house and they only get biscuits occasionally – usually when they have friends to play.

My husband would say I’m strict whereas I would say I’m careful. If we are at friend’s party or playgroup and everyone else is having sweets then of course our 2 don’t get left out. I’m not that mum who insists that her children sit on the side while all the others get cake and icecream, but I do see a massive difference in behaviour when my little darlings are up to their eyeballs in sugar. On the way back from a recent birthday party our 3 year old was manic, he kept trying to reach across to his little sister and consequently wasn’t sat safely in his car-seat; cue a massive telling off from daddy and the admission that maybe they do behave a lot worse when they’ve had too much of sugar.

The compromise I’ve settled on is that we make a lot of our own treats. Gingerbread biscuits, cupcakes, brownies etc. If I know exactly what has gone into something I am happier to give it as a treat. I do have a few blind spots – the food colourings and sprinkles I add to the icing for instance, but I hold my hand up about this and am not trying to pretend my cakes are completely additive free. A major advantage of making your own treats is being completely in control of portion size. I can cut my brownies into toddler sized pieces, use mini cutters for biscuits and – as I discovered this week – make teeny tiny cupcakes in petit four baking cases.

I am completely in love with these tiny cakes as they are a way of giving my children something that is recognisably a cake without worrying about splitting it between them or being tempted to have a bit myself. I got to play at icing them prettily and my son got to shake the sprinkles over them which he loved. Both my children enjoy baking and I find it a lovely rewarding way to spend time with them. I find I can cope with mess much better if I end up with something tasty as a result, than if the only outcome is salt dough squashed into the carpet. Fingers crossed they continue to enjoy baking and cooking as they grow up…

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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Baking, Parenting

 

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