Letting Men into the Cult of Motherhood

Sara Bran

HiResI’m having a dilemma.

Am I a parent, or am I a mother?

Am I a uterus, or am I a person?

It sounds funny, but actually, it’s quite serious.  From the age of eleven, I have been reminded every few weeks of my ‘reproductive potential’. Now, in my mid-forties, the odd sweat emanating from my left armpit as I embark on an apparently one-sided menopause, reminds me of that potential coming to an end. Now more than ever, I am consciously unpicking what it means to be a woman. What it is that really constitutes the ‘feminine’ and the ‘masculine’ beyond body parts and hormones?  What are the scientific facts about ‘gender’ and how many of my assumptions are the result of nothing more than cultural mythology and social conditioning?*

I have always bought into the idea of ‘the feminine’ as a universal principle. I absorbed the western interpretation…

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The Beauty of Vanity…

Why are so many women unhappy with their bodies? Is it simply the swamping impact of advertising and media constantly portraying the perfect woman at us from all angles?

Or is it more than that? Is it hardwired in us, as a species, to naturally, unconsciously, compete against each other, constantly vying to be the sexual alpha female.

Conditionally constructed to endlessly compete for a healthy alpha mate.

And if so at what moment in our lives can we, finally, let go? Surely, if it is genetics then right after childbearing age we should let it all hang out; let our hair go grey, our boobs head south and our bellies breathe out.

But we don’t – vanity carries us well into old age, along with purple rinses and body-shaping pants.

So it is wrong to be vain? Is it wrong to want to have a slim(mer) body, one which you can, happily, share with your honey? Is it wrong to want to look good – are we really conditioned by the massive slew of advertising thrust across Blighty, or just hardwired to keep it up…Surely, among all this angst and competition we are just trying to be healthy(ier), to look good and do we it for that alpha male?

No. We do it for ourselves.

And that is OK! That is good! Being healthy means being well and feeling more positive and that is all for the good in this age of mistrust and insecurity.

So do it: be vain, eat well, don’t push it – drink wine and scoff crisps, but not everyday – obviously. Exercise, stretch, walk and breathe fresh air; it’ll keep you sane. And, these simple acts of vanity, will help keep your pecker up – and my old mans…

And there is great joy in that.

Look at my muffins…

My muffins rose up into the heady heights at the top of the oven – lordy, they did look mighty fine.

You cannot, quite, see how extraordinarily massive they are – but trust me they were whizz bangers – being of a healthy temperament – they were sweetened not with sugar, hell no, but with banana, blueberries and a squirt of bee juice.

Sadly, los ninos, did not appreciate this fruit-filled humdinger.

In the heat the blueberries had burst and their juice had stained the muff insides with streaks of a green deportment…sadly I had to eat the majority…

So if you fancy a green stained muffin here is the recipe, you could, of course, leave out the blueberries – or just serve them to adults who won’t, presumably…complain about colour?

Banana & Blueberry Muffins

250 g Plain Flour
2 tspns Baking Powder
1/2 tspn Ground Cinnamon
2 Bananas mashed
Handful or so of Blueberries
3 tbspns Honey
3 tbspns Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
185ml Milk

Cinnamon, sugar and oats to garnish

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowel – add a pinch of salt. Mash up the banana and add to the dry ingredients, gently stir through the blueberries. Whisk the honey, oil, egg and milk together before adding to the dry ingredients – combine.

Spoon into muffin cases and sprinkle the tops with a mix of cinnamon, sugar and oats – bake for twenty minutes – serve with a large cup of milky coffee immediately – bon appetit!

Adieu mon LittleLAB…until…February

This week LittleLAB, a dynamic new make-up and skincare brand, said farewell to its customers at Bath’s Little Southgate, before it moves its self, its products and its groove to Milsom Place. The farewell party was aided by a supposedly sophisticated, and charming French cocktail, which proved wicked; one part vodka, one part champagne and one part soda – topped off with a slice of lemon and an alarming amount of sponge fingers, which, apparently, Le Frogs use to dip into said aperitif…

LittleLAB aims to lure the gals, and the gents, out of the traditional department store setting and into its modern and cutting edge pop-up jungle. The store swathed in white with strategically placed vintage shop counters, display, in a minimal fashion, its luscious and high end brands including LA’s Mud, Italy’s Milkshake brand and a host of other delectable, French, LA and NYC goodies.

Dreamt up and founded by, the delightful, Kat Spreadbury who, at just 28 years old, is about to launch her second pop-up shop in Bath’s Milsom Place. Kat, who trained under the auspicious wings of Patrice Miranda – chief make-up artist to Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney – to name drop just a few of her famous clients, learnt invaluable insider knowledge, which she is now sharing with everyone who comes into LittleLAB.
In the back of the store stands a ubiquitous table, surrounded with comfortable chairs, the table-top houses many mirrors, all manner of brushes and, if its the evening, and a group of friends have booked a workshop, there will be a collection of wine glasses, a bottle or two, some tasty nibbles and plenty of giggles, all surrounding this clever and unique aspect of LittleLAB’s brand concept.
During one of the LittleLAB workshops Katherine and her trained team demonstrate how to apply make-up, how to achieve a desired look and encourage customers to re-discover their look at this innovative school, learning some essential, professional tips along the way.
“Our customers love the workshops they think it is fantastic to be in a relaxed environment, making them feel at ease and learning new tricks,” says Katherine of her workshop clients, and her tips for 2013? “Always use a lip brush to get an even application, and mix your lip glosses with your lipsticks to get a sheer finish.”  

Kat aims to make LittleLAB an experience that is laid back, friendly and without the: “dreaded sell”. 
And after my night of French cocktails, hot lipstick and giggles I think she might just nail it. 

LittleLAB‘s second pop-up store will open on February 4th in Bath’s Milsom Place.

Salted Peanut Caramel Brittle

Salted Peanut Caramel – ready to give as a gift

I have become obsessed with the making of this insanely divine but terribly, mischievously, naughty scrumdiddly.

I meant to post this recipe before Christmas, obviously – not after, when no-one in their abstinent, streamlined, January minds is, surely, going to knock up a massive pile of nectarous, crunchy, irresistible manna.

But then again, I thought, maybe they will. 
I have a major habit of making Salted Peanut Caramel as a Christmas foodie gift for friends so they can sink their pegs into this outrageously addictive delicacy. But I often wonder if I make such regular batches of it – just so I can, unconsciously, stuff my North and South with said scrumdiddly whilst packing it for the joy of others…hmmm.
The secret to making this just right is simple. To make a caramel brittle and set you must reach the right super-high temperatures and to do that you must have steely grim determination, as boiling molten sugar is monsterously dangerous, especially with small children around – do not lick the spoon for gods sake!
I live by my thermometer – thanks Lakeland – sorry. But this inexpensive device means you get it right everytime. And that is my simple rule to streamlined perfect caramel brittle, or honeycomb – for that matter, tout le temps.
Salted Peanut Caramel Brittle
250 grams of salted peanuts (you can use any nut here, obviously, donut)
200 grams of sugar
150 grams (or two large tablespoons of golden syrup)
25 grams of butter
1tspn of pure Vanilla paste or extract
1 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda
60 mls Water

Method

Gently heat the sugar, water and golden syrup in a sturdy pan – bring it up to the boil.

When this gleaming golden mixture is boiling – place your thermometer into the pan and turn the heat UP! Stand back and let this baby go wild – it will boil and steam and just about get hotter than is sensible in a domestic kitchen with annoying husbands making tea and tres sproglets – but trust me well worth it – so try and keep the door shut…

Your looking to hit about 155C to get the hard crack, which is what we’re after cadillacs.

When you hit that number take the pan off the heat pour in the nuts, the butter, the bicarb and the vanilla and whisk it up so the butter has melted the nuts are even and the bicarb has mixed and bubbled and done its chemical whoring.

Then pour the golden nutty mixture evenly across that cool stuff you can buy in Lakeland (should they be giving me money for this, constant, blatant spanking?) – AKA magic non-stick liner or bake-o-glide.

Now just walk away – yup, just walk right out of the room close the door go upstairs, or along the corridor if you live in a bungalow – and sort the washing out, brush your teeth, ring a friend, go check your inbox.

Leave the mixture for at least 30 minutes – 40, if you can bear it. It needs to cool right down and harden.

When it has cooled and is rock smashingly hard – you can now re-enter the kitchen. Get your bags or sealed boxes ready and begin to smash this baby right up. Then share it out amongst your bags or boxes and a little for you, of course…see, its good isn’t it? What did I tell you.

The only negative regarding this recipe is that it does not last very well – unless very well sealed in a plastic container – but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Enjoy mon amies!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Bonne Annee, Feliz Ano Nuevo and all that kind of spluttery.

The festive season is officially behind us, and as I laid out the school uniforms last night – and hoovered up after the tree was dragged out this morning, I felt a real sense of relief and a sense of excitement as the new year slowly dawns grey and unsure out of the mist, and into the new calendar of our eyes.

The exhaustion and gluttony is done with and clean living, new beginnings and austerity can commence.

Christmas this year held a dark tinge of unwarranted consumerism to it (for me) – I am not sure why – it was no different to last year and with three young children, buying presents in the name of FC*, is what makes it so incredibly exciting for them.

But in a fit of new hope, and sponging up credit card puddles, I am embarking on a severe no spend scam this year in a bid to save some much needed spondoolicks and to, perhaps, even become a better person for it.

Being a member of the, so-called, middle classes (I think) and dashing towards middle-age (exactly what age is that? Is it 40 nowadays or 50…? hmmmm) I am constantly driven in a consumer-saturated direction which leads one to want to acquire A LOT: a beautiful home, a fridge full of goodies, a wine rack groaning with grapey goodness, several motors, not to mention shoes, jumpers, thermals and an iPhone….with all this STUFF comes a surfeit of splurging and you definitely begin to lose sight of what actually makes you happy. And, it turns out, its NOT this STUFF.

I know all this is obvious – and we all know it makes sense, but you have to remind yourself a lot and actually be looking at some rather large bills to realise that feeling safe and secure is not having a load of goods, but actually some savings, a little candour and maybe, even, some control.

So after reading about the lady who stopped buying clothes for a year and begun to darn, YES – DARN, her socks and stockings. I am going on this mission and I shall keep you well informed of its outcome.

And so in the name of economy I bid you adieu…

* FC – Father Christmas

Cooking up Trouble

Its the school holidays and in a fit of joie de vivre I embark on a mission to bake and blast as many edible goodies as we humanly can in one morning.

Ten minutes into the madness and I’m having palpitations and drinking way to much coffee to keep it together for a situation as ludicrous as this.

 “Whose bloody idea was this anyway?” One rants as the little darlings single-handely cover the entire house in cocoa powder. 

The thing about cooking with your sproglets is that the idea always seems so clever but the scenario is never so sweet.

The most important thing is to expect the mess, the chaos, the licking, the butter-squidging and sugar thieving and get over yourself – it can easily be cleaned up.

If your mentally prepared for the madness then you can cajole and roll amongst the flour storm and sugar frenzy without to much flusteration.