Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Chocolate nests for Easter

I don't know why this photo has come out blue

It occured to me the other day that I might be a tiny bit of a control freak. I arrived at this conclusion while thinking the other morning about why is it that I hate being pregnant quite so much.

Because I suspect I hate being pregnant an uncommon amount - I think I hate it and find it more onerous and tedious than other people do. I think I hate it out of proportion to its actual discomforts and indignities.

And I think that I am this way because if you are inclined towards control freakery, pregnancy is like a worst nightmare: your body runs off in all directions like an errant toddler and does all sorts of things you would never allow in real life: it gets fat, it won't sleep, it twitches and jumps about at all hours of the day and night, it becomes tearful and exhausted for no reason, it is forgetful and irritable and slow and late. It does things that a control freak simply cannot laugh off or feel philosophical about.

I was initially rather pleased and smug at this self-diagnosis. Control freakery implies to me a level of organisation and "sortedness" that, as a control freak, I find wildly appealing. But control freaks aren't always successful. My friend the writer Olivia Glazebrook, (her excellent novel The Trouble With Alice is available on Amazon), once said to me "so you're a perfectionist?" and I laughed and said "I can't be a perfectionist- my house is a mess". And then she laughed (we were quite pissed) and said "You can be a perfectionist without having a perfect life."

I didn't really understand at the time, but what she meant was that seeking to control things, or to be perfect, is a psychosis, a sort of madness: and like the lunatic who likes to believe that he is St Jerome, (but isn't and will never be), just because you seek control and perfection, doesn't mean you get it.

It is the action of planning to control or seeking the illusion of control that control freaks need - not neccessarily the end result. It's why I stockpile butter and cleaning products and toiletries: buying and storing them is to me more important a ritual than the actual fact of them being there. And it's why although the last time I was pregnant I planned my hospital maternity bag down to the last can of facial spritzer, I failed to execute it in time and was left post-partum with no clean underwear, no nursing bra and no hairband. And no, needless to say, facial spritzer. I remembered the iPad, though.

Control freaks are often some of the most ineffectual people there are. Not to get too self-important about it, but Gordon Brown was a famous control freak and couldn't get anything done. We are like dogs chasing our tails. It's really quite sad.

All this self-knowledge doesn't stop me from trying. Making lists, hoarding, planning, doing everything in advance: it's soothing. It soothes me in the place of a repeat prescription of benzos.

But I have let go of certain things. For example, when Kitty is ill, which she is now. She has come down with a thing she had last year, which involves a high fever, red sticky eyes, luminous magenta cheeks, a stupendous amount of neon snot, resistance to infant analgesics and a lot of midnight wailing.

This would have traumatised me beyond belief this time last year, so insanely uptight am I about nothing getting in the way of my sleep. In fact, recalling Kitty's selfsame infection last year, I am staggered, in hindsight, at how mean I was about her having to stay in her cot, even though she was weeping and holding her arms out to me and saying "Mummmmeeee". My own mother, not a control freak in any way, was appalled by this. "Why don't you just tuck her up in bed next to you?" she said. My mother never, ever comments on my parenting - she only ever says "Kitty looks well" or "that's a nasty cough" - so she must have been shocked.

I didn't want to put Kitty in bed with me because I was crazy (DESPITE THERAPY) and I thought that if you have a baby or toddler in bed with you even once even for half an hour, they will be in bed with you until they are 25.

But I was wrong. I had Kitty in bed with me for three nights when she was ill last year, I didn't feel nearly as bad as I thought I would, and the minute she was better she went gladly back into her own bed and slept like she always had. It made me understand that there is just no room for absolutism when it comes to children. You have to be flexible. When they are very ill or very scared it's different. There are exceptions.

So now when Kitty is unwell we all three of us just knock about all night, drifting from one bed to another, in and out of rooms, my husband and I silently handing our hot, weeping child to each other as some shared internal timer tells us that a shift has come to an end, giving each other the odd pat on the shoulder. It's fine, we're fine. She'll get better at some point. Sleeplessness will age us, yes, but it won't kill us.

That doesn't mean that there isn't ample opportunity for benign control freakery in my life, like my passion for accessorising Kitty's experience of national holidays.

Kitty has been talking, for a while, about an Easter egg hunt, as this is a thing she has seen on Peppa Pig. Having children gives you a new perspective on the winter: cold wet weather is so particularly ghastly when you have a toddler that you feel as ravingly joyous at its conclusion as ancient farmers on Welsh hillsides must have done 200 years ago.

And Easter really means winter is over - so this year, we are going to go nuts. I am going to have an Easter table centrepiece (fashioned from blossom twigs and hung with decorated eggs and festooned with ribbons) roast lamb on whatever day you're supposed to have it and the most glorious Easter egg hunt you've ever seen.

And these chocolate nests, a forgotten thing from my childhood that I saw in a book. I do love Mini Eggs - with their dusty, pastel speckled shells they really do look like little wild birds eggs, don't they? Or am I just a credulous townie?

Anyway, you don't need a recipe. Just melt some milk chocolate in a bowl over warm water, then sprinkle in cornflakes, turn the flakes in the chocolate until covered (add a handful of raisins for extra pizzazz) then decant into fairy paper cases and dot with mini eggs.

If I can just get myself together to actually do all this and not miss the whole of Easter because I am too busy planning Kitty's amazing bucket and spade summer holiday, we'll be laughing.



  1. You write very well. I couldn't think of a way to say this without sounding gushing, so you'll just have to be assured of the sincerity of my comment when I say how much I look forward to your blog updating, just for the little conversational snippets your recipes and thoughts which preface the recipes.

  2. Crap, I think I may be a case in point. I just had a meeting with my daughter's teacher to explain that I didn't want her swapping her playtime homemade pancake for her friend's twizzle popper e-number snot strings (I literally have no idea). A few hours later, I'm scoffing rice krispies and diet coke for lunch. A neurotic perfectionist where she's concerned perhaps, but a total sloven myself.

  3. Jesus that rings a bell with me. I have an amazon basket full of storage/organizing solutions, a huge list of interior design inspiration blogs yet still have ikea bags full of old holey clothes and unopened bank statements.

    My mum used to go whole hog with Halloween, Easter, Christmas - she once papered part of the living room wall with wrapping paper! LOVED it and miss it now!

  4. We used to do this with broken up shredded wheat - it looks more like twigs/a nest than cornflakes do and there is something very satisfying about smashing up such a dull, uninspiring and grown up cereal and turning it into something so lovely.

  5. I'm like this with Christmas. The idea of a picture perfect table spread with delicious foods, being the perfect mother and hostess with a beautifully decorated home straight from Martha Stewart. The reality is very depressing: half-baked tree, presents bought & wrapped last minute with no food in and me, browned off with myself for being crap!

  6. I live my life by lists. S'all in the planning. Except for the exceptions, obviously. Marvellous post.

  7. Yep - you are right. I have worked out that what I used to think was procrastination, is actually my control freak tendencies. I have a sense that if I can't do something completely, then I can't be arsed doing it at all. For example, if I miss the first episode of something on telly, I can't start watching at episode 2 - thank God they invented catch up television and the box set!

    If you have a brain like that it is hard to adapt to modern techno multitasking which just makes me a bit anxious and feeling like I am not doing anything properly...

    On the upside, I enjoyed being pregnant...so I managed to surrender to that.

    Is there an update on the book?

  8. I had that funny blue light on a cake I photographed recently and couldn't edit it away. Still I like to read posts more than I like to admire photography and I always like to go large on the Easter festivities :)

  9. Yep, control freakery is a massive trait of mine. I too am a list writer, and a toiletries, groceries hoarder (in case of....??? armageddon?! that extra hand wash will be ESSENTIAL!!!!). But I have it mixed with the faffing gene and am under the illusion that I am organised when in fact most days I start 40 jobs and will be lucky to finish one. My husband once told me that if you start and complete each task and don't do a THING until it's done then you get far more done. And I think of this every time I am running around the kitchen, putting the dinner on, whilst changing the washing over, unloading the dishwasher and unpacking the shopping. But of course I never do it. And invariably go to bed with a dirty kitchen with a very clean hob or something equally as ridiculous.