Gingerbread recipe

So this ones a bit different but I’ve had a few comments and messages about my gingerbread recipe so I thought I’d share. So the measurements will be in weight, in grams as that how a roll!

You’ll need-

  • 4 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 175g Butter (any you like, dairy free tip below)
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger (for a milder flavour 1 tablespoon is still plenty flavourful)
  • 350g Plain flour
  • Half a teaspoon of bicarb (too much and your biscuits will not hold the shape, less is better here, if you want to make something like a gingerbread house I would omit the bicarb entirely, so the gingerbread better keeps it’s shape)

For a dairy free recipe use an additional 50g plain flour (and depending which one you’ve used you may need to add more) this also applies if you’re using gluten free flour.

Dairy free butter is much softer and as such won’t firm as much when it cools. Hence the additional flour to soak up the extra liquid.

This will make you a lot of gingerbread, so do feel free to half the recipe. This is a recipe for sharing!

  1. Melt together your syrup, sugar & butter. You can do this on a stove or in the microwave, stirring at regular intervals.
  2. When fully melted together add everything else!
  3. Mix it all together. The mixture should not be wet. You should be able to form a dough.
  4. Tip it onto a dry work top and knead your dough for a few minutes.
  5. Pop dough in an airtight container or in plastic wrap and leave to cool. If you make the dough in advance it can live in the fridge for about 5 days before baking, you must bring it out of the fridge about 5-6 hours before using otherwise it will be too hard to roll.
  6. Roll out your dough! Thickness is up to you! Cut out your shapes and pop them on a baking tray on non-stick parchment paper. Leave a gap between each biscuit of about 2 cms, this allows for spreading in the oven.
  7. When your shapes are laid out and completely flat. Put them in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This will help them keep their shape and stop the shapes from spreading too much.
  8. When they’re frozen put them in the oven at 170° for 10 minutes, they’re done when the edges start to change colour.
  9. When you take them out they will be soft, this is exactly how they should be. Leave them on the tray to fully cool, if you try to move them now, they will fall apart.
  10. Once cooled they will be lovely crunchy gingerbread shapes! Store for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

If you plan to decorate, your biscuits won’t last as long as the icing make a them soft. For icing I usually use a drop of vanilla essence with a tablespoon of water, then about 100g icing sugar. If you add too much water you will need A LOT of icing sugar to bring it back round, so sometimes it’s just easier to start again. Too hard add water, too runny at icing sugar until it’s exactly how you would like it!

Enjoy! Please tag @oddsandtodds on Instagram with your biscuits as I would love to see them!

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A life less privileged

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog piece. Times have been really hard and we’ve just been crazy busy for the last few months. But it’s coming up to the “most wonderful time of the year”, and I’ve felt the need to write!

Christmas for me used to be a time when I spent too much money on gifts, ate too much food and spent the entire time treating myself to whatever luxuries I fancied. Now we have children things are very different. We’re really trying to give our children values rather than worrying about “magic” or keeping up with new traditions. The last few years have made us understand better what a less priveliged Christmas is, and now we’re trying to help our kids understand too.

Christmas Dinner

I had never ever given thought to the fact that some people might actually stress about the cost of a Christmas Dinner. We had always had times of being a bit skint. But never to the extent of worrying about where our next meal was coming from. However, last Christmas that’s where we were at. We ended up going to my parents in Norway (they paid of course) because we didn’t want to stay home with hardly any presents under our tree and not enough money for Christmas Dinner. It’s hardly surprising though, when in the UK 668,000 households regularly cannot afford household essentials such as food. So what can we do?? We’ve started regularly donating to our local food bank, at Christmas we rope in all of our family and friends to clear their cupboards. If you contact your local food bank you can find out exactly what they need too.

Gifts!

I would love to think that no one is ignorant enough to believe that everyone can afford gifts at Christmas (but the cynic in me says otherwise). We (husband & I) haven’t bought each other gifts for a few years now, but I have made the effort to either donate or buy a gift for a child that may have to go without. This year we have cleared out the toys, explaining to Olive we’re giving them to children that might not have any. She’s pretty ruthless with this to be honest! You can also buy toys for a local Christmas gift drive, local radio stations are normally a good one for this.

Having friends & family

Something I think most of us take for granted is who we have around us. It’s easy to forget some people are truly alone. We get Olive to make cards for the older ladies in the street who live alone. They’re always spoiling her with treats, so we make cards for each occasion, and knock on the door to hand them over. This simple act can make someone’s day when they’re alone. There’s a campaign on at the moment in the UK to give a spare chair to someone who is alone. The idea is you invite someone over for dinner who would normally eat alone. Visit http://www.bistotogetherproject.com to sign up.

A warm and dry place

With levels of homelessness in the UK at an all time high, having a place to live is something we should be thankful for. Shelter are an amazing charity tackling this. 125,000 children in the UK are homeless. If you visit the shelter website you can help by either donating or signing their campaigns. You can also volunteer, helping deliver aid to those living on the streets, this does take training, but if you have the time to spare, it is an amazing thing to give.

Not forgetting the animals!

An animal shelter local to us has asked people to make up shoe boxes as gifts for the animals. At this time of year they get an influx of (usually) dogs as families take them on as Christmas gifts and realise they can’t cope. Shelters are always after towels, blankets (including old quilts) and dog beds. If you’re anything like us, you probably have about 15 spare blankets you could happily part with.

For me, there is no better feeling than giving. Knowing I have done something to make a difference in someone else’s life brings me pure happiness. The magic of Christmas is how people come together, give up their free time and help others that need it. We love Christmas and we’re making our own traditions.

~Rachael~

Raising kids without religion

We were both raised without religion. Although, it was a part of our lives, when we were young the British schooling system was quite a religious place even in so called “non-faith” schools, but we never personally followed.

My dad in particular is very open about his atheism. We spend a lot of time talking about religion. We’ve chatted about the realities of living with faith, the stories, the ideals, basically everything to do with religion we have discussed at great length.

Before we had children, I didn’t really know many religious people. However, the world of parenting is littered with believers, Jesus followers, people saved by Grace, God lovers and many many other descriptions people use of ‘having faith’.

The truth of the matter is, religion is mostly a privilege. And of course it is, just like being middle class or white. Religion is a privilege to hold your beliefs close and never allow anyone to question them. It is a privilege because they are allowed to preach about their faith. They preach in the streets, in the shopping centres. If I grabbed a Mic and started shouting “religion is a lie, you’re all crazy to think God is going to save you!” Do you think that would be allowed? People are allowed to try to convert others to their religion, but others are not allowed to convert them to atheism.

The privilege runs deep, so engrained on people’s minds they don’t even know they have it. They are open about their belief systems, to a point where they are unkind or offensive, truly believing that they deserve more rights in some form. Whether that be more rights than homosexuals, other races, other religions, and even other genders.

The world of religion is a tricky place, there are so many strains of it, you have so many people doing good things in the name of their God. And although I wish they were doing it just because of a moral compass, It does not take away the good deed, nor does it take away from their character.

And so this brings me to the people that have religion thrust upon them. Those that do as their families want. Those that are afraid their parents wouldn’t love them anymore if they decided to walk away from their faith. Those that may not believe certain aspects of their parents teachings, but they’re afraid to say so.

And this is why we are proud to raise our children free from the restraints of religion. There are no expectations set out for our children and their future. Our children are free, truly free to explore, investigate, reason, question and find answers to life’s big questions. They have complete and utter freedom to be whoever they want to be, there is no guilt, no conditions, nothing my children could do with their lives to dissapoint me.

We are all fully in control, there is no external guidance, our guidance comes from our own morals, the morals we have chosen. Our children are created by us, in our image, we help them be the best people they can possibly be, without constraints, without judgement, without fear.

Freedom from religion is the truest sense of freedom.

Augusts second hand finds!

We have a lot of second hand stuff. Almost all of our kids’ clothes are second hand. Half of our furniture is used as are toys, games, shoes. Loads of stuff. So each month I’m gunna do a round up of all our finds!

Ikea Poang Chair

This was supposed to be for Olive. But it’s fast become Luna’s favourite thing ever! She climbs all over it, sits in it for a rest and is extra proud of herself every single time! This cost us a total of £0. That’s right! Nothing at all! Someone was getting rid of it and the cover was all ripped. We went to collect it to take it off their hands, and it’s just perfect. I might paint it if I ever get around to it.

Clothes for the girls

So we have kept all of Olive’s old clothes – each time Luna goes up a size I just take a vacuum packed bag of clothes out and we’re ready to go. For Olive we have a few friends that give us their girl’s clothes. My favourite thing this month is a beautiful grey cardigan for Olive. Again, a total of £0!

Pie face!

My personal favourite! Got this from a charity shop for £2!! It was on special offer in the supermarket For £10 the other day.

Basically it’s a giant hand which you put something on (cream presumably), you spin a dial which tells you how many turns you give the hand. With each turn, you have the chance of being hit in the face by the “cream pie”. Olive thought this game was absolutely hilarious, and we enjoyed it too.

Marble Run

This was only 99p from a charity shop. Basically set the course up, add your marbles and they run the course to the bottom. This is possibly a bit advanced for Olive. She enjoyed putting the marbles in, but building it was beyond her, or maybe she just wasn’t that interested. But it reminded me of doing it when I was young and I’m sure it’ll be useful for teaching physics in the future!

Decorate your own dolls house

Olive has had endless fun with this. Just £2 from a charity shop! It came with paints, stickers, cardboard furniture and multiple house roofs and walls so you can redecorate. Olive is slowly decorating this, she does a bit and leaves it to dry and goes back to it every few days. Money really well spent for the the time she’s spent on it. It’s a real Labour of love!

Ker-plunk

Our favourite from childhood, when we saw it for £2.50 we just had to pick it up. Olive loves this game. She doesn’t much care who wins or loses, she’s just happy to play. Each time it ends she asks to set it up and play again! Really helping her with turn taking.

I don’t feel guilty

There are topics that every blog seems to cover. A mothers guilt seems to be a common theme (I presume many fathers also feel guilty, but most people don’t touch upon this, or if they do it’s often derogatory towards fathers). It’s expected that our maternal instinct drives us to feel guilt for simply existing.

Well, I don’t feel guilty! Of course, I’ve had the odd bout of guilt. But I don’t live in a permanent state of guilt about being a mother. Obviously I don’t think I’m a perfect parent. I lose my temper, I get sick of my kids, I swear under my breath, I get sick of my kids, I feed them junk food sometimes and mostly I get sick of my kids.

But I am also aware that I am human. Everything I’m feeling is what every parent has ever felt. (Even though some pretend otherwise). And of course everyone feels differently. We all experience emotions in different ways and we can’t force our way of feeling on to others. People have tried to make me feel guilty several times about the way I care for my girls, but they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Once, another mother tried to shame me for wanting to send my girls to a childminder 2 days a week. Her language and tone was pretty vile so I won’t repeat it. But her theme was that of, I should either not work and be with my children 24/7 or I should send my children to school and I work full time and never see them, because that’s what a good middle class woman would do! Well I’m neither middle class, nor could I care less what some people think I should be doing with my kids. And if I’m honest, by societies standards, I’m probably not “good” either.

When Olive was between 10 and 20 months, I worked a lot. I worked too much. But I don’t feel guilty. Had I not done it. Had I not lived it, I wouldn’t have known what I want and what my child needs from me. It’s a huge learning curve and I am constantly learning. But that’s nothing to feel guilty about. We need to have experiences to grow. How can we know we’re doing everything in the right way if we’ve only ever done what our families have done, what our peers do and what is expected of us. How have we, as humans ever evolved to the people we are today without trying and altering what we do. This is the very basis of evolution. We try, we fail, we change, we try again.

As parents we are shamed for so many things and met with that really annoying catchphrase “no one can make you feel guilt you don’t already feel”, or some annoying words to that effect. Which is usually said by mothers that try to shame vulnerable mothers who may be uncertain about their choices or else suffered through traumas or goodness knows what else.

I know mothers who keep up a “I’d love to work, but we can’t afford it”, charade, because they know that being a stay at home mother is met with shame.

I refuse to bow to the societal belief that if I don’t conform, then I should feel guilty. My children will grow up, knowing they do not have to conform. And that is something that erases any guilt I could ever feel.

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you, except yourself”

Bravery

Last week we took a trip to a park before the heavens inevitably opened (how rubbish is this summer?!). Olive was doing her usual exploring on her own, climbing and running around with reckless abandon. 

We were sitting watching the kids, when a young dad started chatting to us, he asked how old Olive was. We told him she was 3, and he replied “she’s very brave”. He went on to talk about how his son seems to be afraid of everything and hate everything! And screams and cries whenever they do anything with him, he concluded with “I don’t know why”. What this dad needed in that moment, was reassurance that his 2 year old was behaving totally normally. I hope we gave him it. We explained that actually Olives “bravery” was a pretty new thing, only a few weeks old actually. 

We pass a fairground regularly when we go to the beach, and a few weeks ago, just after Olive turned 3 we somehow persuaded her to go on a ride. No doubt, it was because it had a paw patrol cart! From then she was hooked, and even went on a rollercoaster. 

The dad concluded that maybe his son will feel braver when he is 3. The encounter really got me thinking about how we perceive bravery and cowardice. I find it easy to sympathise with kids being frightened of things, because I was an anxious child, I wasn’t afraid of many things, but what I was afraid of made me so ridiculously upset and I remember that feeling well. So when Olive gets upset we just tell her it’s ok, she doesn’t have to do it, and we move on. 

We’ve found over the years, that it’s a bit of a culture thing, some cultures think the appropriate thing to do, is to force the child to do something, and they’ll realise, it’s not scary at all. This was especially apparent when we went on holiday last month and the event staff CONSTANTLY tried to make Olive partake. 

The look of upset and disappointment on her face made me want to wrap her up in a hug and never let go. Which makes me wonder why, as a society, we believe forcing a child to do something they don’t want to do is acceptable.

This has never been more apparent than in clubs, nurseries & classes. We’ve been to these settings before, where they actively encourage parents to leave their children; screaming, crying and distraught. They always assume that because the child stops crying, they are then ok, but what’s actually happening is that you’re breaking that bond of trust. If your partner kept leaving you to cry would you believe them when they say that they’re there for you? Would you trust that they wouldn’t leave you and that they will care for you when you need their support? Why do we think it’s ok to ignore our children’s emotions like they don’t feel just as much as we do?

Olive’s bravery still has a long way to go, but we will be there for her and with her. Giving her the confidence she needs to get through, until one day she won’t need us anymore, but she’ll always know she can come to us, no matter what, because we will always be there to emotionally support her when ever she needs it. 

Our favourite books for 3 year olds.

We read every single day. Olive loves it and so do we. We have a bedtime story every night and then read during the day too if she asks for it. As well as the huge amount of books we have, we visit the library every month and get out lots of new books. As the parents that have to read these books every night we need something that’s fun for us to read too. We’ve read many a book that bores the heck out of us. And they have been promptly “lost” (donated) Or taken straight back to the library. So here are our flavours of the moment:
Stuck – Oliver Jeffers

This book is hilarious, we hired it from the library about 6 months ago, and as soon as we’d finished it we ordered it from Amazon. It’s about a boy that gets his kite stuck in a tree and then goes about trying to get it back down. Entertaining for everyone and a clever metaphor for the adults on how we problem solve.

I really want to eat a Child – Sylviane Donnio

This one we’ve hired from the library about 15 times! I think I might enjoy it a bit more than Olive does. The story is about Achilles, a young Crocodile, who dreams of eating a whole human child one day. Dispite the subject matter, it isn’t at all scary. In the book mum and dad croc try to make their fussy eater eat something. Great story for families with their own fussy eaters!

Paper Dolls – Julia Donaldson


And of course Julia Donaldson is one of our absolute favourites. This one really tugs at your heartstrings a story about loss, tradition, memories & growing up. Another one we first got from the library, then eventually got for Christmas. A little girl makes a paper chain of people and the story takes them on an adventure.

You choose – Nick Sharratt & Pippa Goodhart 

This one is a new one for us. We got this as a gift for Olives birthday, but it’s already a firm favourite. Not a story, but a picture book that inspires imaginations, conversations and discussions. Each page is themed (places, houses, outfits), and they invite the reader to decide from the pictures where they would live, what they would wear etc. Olive really loves making her own stories up with this one and I love listening to them.
Oi Frog & Oi Dog – Kes Gray & Jim Field

A really amusing rhyming book with funny pictures to match. We’ve had both of these books for a long time now (again, one we hired from the library and loved). And they never get forgotten about, we constantly go back to them time and again. We all know both books off by heart, but that doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of these unique books.
The day the Crayons Quit & The day the Crayons came home – Drew Daywalt

These two stories are quite long, so we usually save them for bedtime. Olive got this one for her birthday too and I feel like we’ve read it nearly every day since. The crayons write letters and postcards to their owner with various complaints about their jobs, imploring him to rethink his colouring. A clever story about compassion & inclusion.

Night Monkey, Day Monkey – Julia Donaldson

One we borrowed from our childminder and instantly fell in love with. A story about two young monkeys, one nocturnal, one diurnal. They follow each other’s routine with wonder and amazement, what is normal to one monkey is amazing to the other. The book has a theme of variations of normal and is great for accepting differences.

We would love to hear some more suggestions on your favourite reads, we’re always looking for more.

~Rachael~

A reflection.

Today was Liams graduation ceremony. He graduated with First Class Honours & I’ve been reflecting on the time it took us to get to this point all day.

It started 4 years ago. Before that Liam was in a job where he was completely undervalued and unappreciated. They screwed him over one too many times and he said “enough is enough”, and decided to finally go back into education. He sat a maths GCSE in a local school before the college would accept him, then the education journey began. 

4 years ago to this day I was recovering from major surgery. Taken to hospital for suspected appendicitis, then it ended up being something more invasive. A combination of stuff had lead us to “life’s too short”. It’s hard to remember how we felt then. Remembering who you were before you were parents is an odd thing. I wonder about the former us, what did we do with all of that free time? What did we do with all of that money? Why didn’t we appreciate the quiet?

It’s a cheesey and annoying sentiment. But it’s been a journey. We bought a house, had 2 kids, I went through 4 jobs (3 awful ones), 2 maternity leaves, Liam went through 2 jobs, we sold our little flat, my parents moved to Norway, my brother moved to the other side of the country, our car got stolen, our new car broke down the day after we bought it, we have been the poorest we’ve ever been & we’ve made new friends for life.

Looking back on what we’ve been through, what we’ve conquered together feels amazing. Sometimes you forget where you started. Taking the time to reflect today has really put into perspective what we’ve both achieved.

We are privileged to have each other, and to have supportive friends & family. We may not have money or a fancy house, we may not have high paying jobs & rich families. We may not have fancy holidays and expensive clothes. And we may be living in a house that’s crumbling around us. But we are privileged. 

~Rachael~

Bedtime conversations

For any parent bedtime is their favourite time of the day, for us, it isn’t just because the kids are going to sleep (just mostly).

But because we reflect on our day, I love laying in bed with Olive where she has absolutely no distractions & we just talk. There is nothing more wonderful than listening to the way her amazing brain works. And some of her ideas and questions really get me thinking. I never want to lie to her just to protect her from the evils, but at the same time I never really know how to approach some subjects without total doom and gloom.

Tonight after reading our book ‘The day the crayons came home’. Olive told me that she didn’t like the black pages as there was a ghost. I explained to her that it’s just pretend and the ghosts in the story aren’t real.  “But some ghosts are real, aren’t they?”, now she’s really questioning my belief in the supernatural, so instead I asked, “which ghosts are real?”. “The ones on the tele, like on Paw Patrol, the ghosts on Paw Patrol are real”. I was a bit taken aback, because I suddenly realised that she thinks the things that happen on Paw Patrol are real, and that the pups are real life superhero dogs! The innocence both makes me beam and yet also breaks my heart a little. I wondered for a second whether I should tell her paw patrols not real, but threw that thought away immediately. She’s happy.

Olive then chatted about her books. “We’ve got loads of books”, “yes, I think tomorrow we should go through them and give some away to other boys & girls”. “Why”. “Because some children don’t have any books and we have too many”. “Why”. “Because we’re really lucky & some children just aren’t as lucky as us”. “Why”… How do you explain to a 3 year old that we live in a society that doesn’t care about children living in poverty? Olive has really got me thinking tonight, about us doing our bit. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are pretty poor right now. But for us, it’s just a bump in the road, a minor blip. And we know what it’s like, we both grew up in poor areas, in council estates, with friends who had little or nothing. Friends that only ever ate at school, that didn’t even get a birthday cake, friends that didn’t have socks. Then our country argues about getting a good business deal, while 7 years olds go hungry for another day. How can you bring up a humbled child, but also protect them from awful things? 

Our bedtime conversations are my favourite part of the day, but it’s also the time I realise I can’t protect my little girl forever, and I don’t want to. I don’t want her to grow up thinking all children are born equal, it’s just not true. We are born into the privilege that our parents have created. 

After much thoughtful silence Olive concluded, “yes, I think we should give some books to other girls & boys because some people don’t have anything”.

~Rachael~

The Holiday

Liam was supposed to finish off the holiday blog, but hasn’t! So I’ll go ahead!

On arrival at the hotel we were exhausted! But we’ve only got 7 days so gotta make the most of it. So we got sorted and went swimming! We chose this hotel specifically because it had a giant pirateship water play area, which we thought Olive would love. She wasn’t all that keen on it to be honest. And almost immediately she lost her balance, fell underwater and couldn’t get up. When I pulled her out we sat down and chatted about safety in the water. But we need not have worried because this incident seemed to put her off for the rest of the holiday!

After swimming we got dressed for evening meal, which was really late for the kids at 7pm. We decided All Inclusive would be better for us, but after experiencing it. In the future we’ll either book a villa or go self catering. One of us had to stay at the table with the babies & the other went to get food, then the next parent went. It took so long to get food that the kids were fed up before the last person had finished eating, and I think the manic buzz about the place really made the kids irritable. Luna was fussy all holiday, but always had room for dessert.

After food there was a mini disco each night. I loved this kinda thing when I was a kid. But Olive doesn’t. So we went for a night time trip to the beach instead. We wanted the kids to go to bed late as breakfast didn’t start until 8am the next day and we didn’t want them up at 7am, hungry for an hour.

Within a couple of days we were pretty exhausted. Because you’re in unfamiliar surroundings, you have to be on the ball constantly with 2 little kids. Going without friends and family when they’re so young, is probably something I wouldn’t recommend. Having said this, we have made some completely unforgettable memories.

Luna slept well on holiday!

The sun and constant swimming obviously exhausted her!
Both kids made us realise just how grown up they are. It’s all happening so fast, Olive is a child now, and Luna is 1!! How has this happened? How has it been a year since these wonderful girls met each other for the first time and just fell in love?

Olive was more into running around, whereas Luna loved the dancing! We really did have an amazing time and the girls learnt loads of new skills. It’s making us look forward to all the home education we’re going to do together! The adventures we can have feel endless.

We went on a walk to a castle!
Olive thought it was fantastic.
And now castles are her favourite!

Having said all of these wonderful things, I still reiterate that we will not be doing it alone again!! We never had a nice meal, not even one. And our kids are great eaters and we eat at the table together every meal at home. It was too hot  (Yeah, I said it). Luna was constantly hot and bothered, and it meant we couldn’t really go anywhere for a good portion of the day. It was exhausting looking after 2 little kids with zero rest. Even at home, one adult can watch both kids while the other one gets half an hour rest, but this wasn’t really possible with a balcony, tiled floors, just danger round every corner really!

Proven when Luna cut her head on the sliding wardrobe.
An accurate representation of at least 50% of our holiday.
And if any stranger spoke to Olive, we had a bout of the grumps for the next hour!