Expat holidays

Expats are experts at the little traditions we have to weave into life abroad to remind us of home. In ours, we have the 13 Icelandic jólasveinar, who make an appearance every year from 12 December (not sure who gets more excited about the little gifts they leave, daughter or husband). And our family birthday rituals, which include cake and hot chocolate for breakfast; yes, Icelanders love sugar!

This year, I turned the tradition on its head. We had not one, but two, cakes, for the 9 year old! An Icelandic marengsterta filled with salted caramel & cream, and a peppermint fridge tart, from South Africa. My darling daughter dutifully had a few bites of each before sweetly reminding me that she does not have a sweet tooth, and could she just have a cup of tea with some plain biscuits? Next year, I’m going back to the regular cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Why mess with success?

Birthday Collage

Potato, leek & pancetta mini-pies (GF, DF, SF, SyF, NF, PF)

Mini-pies, rosti, muffins…the jury’s out on the name, but it’s unanimous: these are delicious! You can use sweet potatoes & red onions, *skip the cheese … the variations are endless.

Prep: about 20 mins /  Cook: 30-40 mins / Total time: 50-60 mins
Makes 9-12 mini-pies


2 medium sized potatoes – grated
1 leek – finely chopped (I like leek, you can use less)
A handful of pancetta, lardons or chopped bacon
1 medium egg, beaten
½ cup grated cheese*
Any herbs – mint, thyme, sage and chives – finely chopped, if fresh
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or a squidge of garlic paste

Salt and pepper to taste



Preheat the oven to 180C. Grate potatoes & pat & squeeze them dry.


Brown the pancetta & add the leeks. Add in the garlic, herbs & season to taste.


Cool the pancetta & leek mix before adding to the potatoes. Add the grated cheese & mix. Add the egg & mix. Put the mix into muffin tin (do not fill to top, press down to bind ingredients together) & pop in the oven.


Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.


Serve with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise or brown sauce!

Domesticated Momster

Almost-New Year resolutions

I was so going to post yesterday. I really was! And then I got stuck into reading (decadence!) and researching and as my daughter succinctly put it,”Yeah, you got distracted and lost track of time.” Busted! (I didn’t add I was watching her Sea Monkeys get jiggy; I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a grandma soon!)

Anyway, back on track now….

I don’t really do resolutions. I do ideas of resolutions. It’s easier for me to stay focused on general concepts than one specific thing. It’s kind of how I cook, knit, craft…I’m always adapting (but I don’t mess with baking recipes). I’ve been inspired by all the great blog posts this month about resolutions, so here are some of my favourite ideas for this year….

Stick with the coaching: I’ve been working with the most amazing coach for the last 9 months. She’s made me dig deep & work through some really uncomfortable issues that I could easily have avoided for the next 20 years! But she’s also made me recognise my triggers, my values, my strengths. I can’t recommend her enough! (If you want her name, Contact Me; we use Skype for our sessions, so she is well equipped for international clients)

Catch up with friends & loved ones (face-to-face, if I can): we moved back to London almost 2 years ago, leaving behind good friends. Facebook & Twitter & emails help, but they’re not actual face time. My back-up plan is to send random I’m-thinking-of-you postcards because it gives me an excuse to indulge my stationery habit.

Use Yes & No with a bit more conviction: as a consultant who works on contract, turning down opportunities might mean that no one will ever ask me to do anything ever again! Ridiculous. Get ready to hear I’m-delighted-you-want-me-to-consult-but-I-am-fully-booked-until-(insert date)-Let’s-talk-again-then. Stretching myself thin just results in nasty panic attacks and a half-ar$ed job done. I will learn to say Yes to foods I haven’t tasted before, new coffee-shops, new sports…anything to step outside  the self-imposed barriers. Continue reading

Communicating with my child

It is widely acknowledged that good communication skills help us to solve problems successfully and maintain good interpersonal relationships.

Communication with others begins at birth, through verbal and non-verbal output. I remember my baby girl used to stick her finger in her ear to tell us she was tired and due a nap. Our communication skills continue to develop through childhood and into adulthood, and as a mother, I want to make sure my child is equipped to express her needs, wants and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.

As an only child, her frame of reference has not including sibling banter, and she’s had to pit herself against two fairly outspoken parents. Knowing this, I took the time to get down to her level when talking to her, I would sit her on my lap when I was correcting her, or discussing her behaviour, and try to make it as safe as I could to say what she needed to say. None of this came easy. As a full-time employee that commuted long hours, my nerves and patience were pretty stretched when I had to tackle these issues. Yeah, I yelled a few times (and felt wretched afterwards, as all parents do!). But for the most part, I truly attempt to keep our chats calm and open – I’m playing the long game and I need to know she’ll still be talking to me when she’s a teenager!

I usually let her know how I’m feeling about a situation, and then let her respond. Something like,”When you did this, it made me feel/made me wonder…” and she has a chance to explain why she did or said something. Sometimes she’ll say,”I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act on it”. I respect that boundary (unless someone is in danger, when all bets are off).

Recently, we instituted a journal (we got the idea from here). We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes, if she’s too mad to talk, she’ll write, and it calms her down. She leaves it by my bedside, and then I’ll read and respond. It works for us. It teaches her that communication is a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.

We’ve stuck to a few simple rules to help us:

  • Think before you speak
  • Don’t shout or speak in anger
  • Speak clearly
  • Tell the other person how you feel – use “I feel” instead of “You did/said…”
  • Say all you want to say, but take turns
  • Listen carefully
  • Hug it out!

And of course, we make time for dates, where we hang out, drink tea & eat cake. Mmmmm – we cake!