Thursday, 25 February 2010

Somewhere between darkness and light.

A sleeping child.
It is such a universal image of peace and the time for parents to relax.
Isn't it?

Now look at it from the point of view of the parent of a child with Type 1.
What's their breathing like? Shallow? Are they heading for a crash and coma?
Are they low? Too low?
Is the bed flooded and they are high? Too high?
Can I have a glass of wine or might I need to drive to the hospital later?

I don't wish to be negative and maudlin but life will never be the same.
It goes on and it is good for absolutely the most part, but it cannot be compared to that of the family of a child without this condition.
Friends have been asking me this month whether I am avoiding them.
Not consciously, has been my reply.

We have had two hypos late at night this week and I am not resting easy.
I'm tired and emotional and close to tears.
And yet this week has held more moments of pure joy at the humour and fun oozing out of my son than of sadness.
We have a beautiful child that to all outsiders is developing just wonderfully.
He is funny and crazy and imaginative and lively and our best friend.
He wakes me in the morning wanting to be a digger and for me to be the crane.
He does fake falling over in full drama-queen-stylie.
It makes me roar with laughter.
This evening at dinner he couldn't sit still but instead rolled around the dining room floor play fighting with the two brooms we keep by the door.
I laughed so much I think some of my food came out of my nose!
The boy is barking mad, methinks.

And yet, there is a precariousness to it all that I still can't get to grips with.
When you have a child you are much more aware of this and when your child has Type 1 diabetes that awareness is multiplied.

I would not wish this on anyone.

BUT life is good.

I am happy.
I am coping.
And coping well.
The truth of it all lies somewhere in the middle of the sadness and the joy.
And surely this is true for all of us?

I ask any of my wonderful friends to bear this in mind when they wonder why I haven't called.

I am a pancreas and we don't rest.
Or indeed get to the phone often.

30 Days of Beauty : Seven

Beauty and Bliss today in a cup of coffee in town with my love and the new Debbie Bliss magazine.
I love the way the bubbles catch the light.

I am nearing the end of my second little new born hat for my friend Beth, due to have twin boys any day now.
The days are lengthening here and I am longing for some time in the garden with Frank and Andrew.
February is a deceptively long month here in Northern Europe, despite its apparent shortness!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Mersea Island

With a change of plan due to Sev feeling unwell we spent yesterday morning at home making a crown for Franks' Cabbage Patch doll, Chloe-Baby. Doesn't she look fine?
Then it was off to Mersea for fish and chips and my oh my they were goooooood!
Just look at the picture and weep!

It is such a lovely place.
One of the many beautiful but mostly unsung areas of the UK.
We enjoy such beautiful coastlines here in Essex and Mersea holds a very special place in my heart.
As do fish and chips... Ahem ...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

30 Days of Beauty :: Six

After his short day at pre-school Frank and I spent some time painting with the little watercolour set we really like.
We made invitations for Severine to ask her if she would like to come with us to Harwich for fish and chips tomorrow.
I love his choice of colours, he is always very specific and yet also random!
It has been cold and wet today, unlike the balmy sun of yesterday, and we felt a trip to celebrate a good week was in order.

Frank painted the pictures that I drew for him and I took the opportunity to knit a bit more of the wrap I am working on for Sue.

Then it was supper and Frank's new Brio bell train (thank you, Aleksi!) took centre stage, closely followed by a dinosaur, as he ate his fish cakes and beans.
It made me smile when I looked at this photo as I hadn't noticed the diabetes bag and Glucogel in the background!
More pictures tomorrow, whatever the weather, of Historic Harwich and general East of England beauty...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

30 Days of Beauty and a walk

Beautiful Colchester...

On Monday I was granted a day alone to go for a walk.

Budd took Frank to the zoo and Sev lent me her i-pod.

I'd been feeling a bit blah.

Just aware that the day in day out, hour in hour out and minute in minute out care of a diabetic child has really taken its toll.

I recently saw photos of myself when Frank was just six months old and I look like a different woman.

This year has aged me. Hugely.

How could it not?

So, the lovely people I am lucky enough to share my life with gave me this day.

A stolen day.

I left the house at around ten and was only out for three hours.

In that time I listened to wonderful music, walked in a steady rhythm and looked around me at the sharp blue sky.

I had a green tea in a cafe and read a lovely book about T1D for teenagers by Fibi Ward, herself a teenager, called "No Added Sugar".

I bought Friendship Day gifts and had a salad in another cafe on the way home.

I breathed in.

I breathed out.

I returned home ready to be strong again.


My blog is where I focus on the positive. It would be wrong, however, not to be honest too and say that I still cry, am still horrified and still feel a surge of relief EVERY MORNING when Frank pads into out room.


The he jumps on my head and says "Mummy, you be the digger and I'll be the dumper truck" before proceeding to move all my bedside books from the floor to the bed and back again.

I struggle to maintain my equilibrium and to join in when I am so tired, or more specifically before the tea has been supped.

However, I never lose that feeling of recognising who the teacher really is of the two of us when he comes in with his mussed up hair and beautiful morning face forcing me to face a new day with no cynicism but just joy in the moment.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!
Our day began with small friendship gifts and a yummy breakfast.

Frank and I walked along the road to the park for a quick play on the swings and slide this morning before heading home to make dessert. Frank wanted to help me this time. Normally he likes to play on the kitchen floor with his cars and trucks as I cook. But today he did a fantastic job of making the yoghurt fruit sundaes. He had already helped me yesterday to make the chocolate shortbread biscuits that were going to accompany this.

He did a beautiful job of making the yoghurt and fruit desserts. He had already helped me yesterday to bake the chocolate shortbread biscuits that were to accompany this.

Mark and Lisa came along and we all tucked in to crudites and homemade hummous, white wine, coconut beer, Adnams beer, water (we are WILD!) followed by a roasted vegetable salad with feta and then Frank's dessert.

A relaxing afternoon in front of the fire followed, marred only by Frank having a hypo just before supper. As I write though, he is well and sleeping soundly after a mammoth evening of stories from Mummy's head involving magic puzzles of trains that come to life once the final piece is placed in them.

I hope you had a good Valentine's Day.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Plastic Creatures

Over the past week I have noticed that whatever I am doing, and wherever I am, I am never alone.
I came home from cycling into town to make a big salad for Severine and myself.
Andrew and Frank had gone to Harwich to romp on the beach and watch the big ships and cranes
I was merrily chopping veg when I realised I had a little helper in the shape of Bob the Builder's friend Lofty. I'm quite fond of Lofty as he lacks self-assurance and so I gave him a pat on the head and chatted to him about the salad.

He seemed pleased to have been noticed.

When you have small children there is no adult only space.
Most of Frank's toys are in baskets and on shelves but there are always a few strays that keep me company when I am doing something grown up.

This lovely little scorpion appeared to help me read my new bread book.

I have yet to work out whether Frank puts them all around the house to surprise me or they just wander off of their own accord when no one is looking and they just want to get in on the carbon-based action.
I have to admit, the little scorpion does look rather like he's about to read the book.
Perhaps he has the soul of a baker...

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

30 Days of Beauty

"without knowing it, man composes his life according to the rules of beauty, even in the moments of deepest hopelessness"
Milan Kundera

This quotation has been up in my kitchen for a decade, and before that it was up in my classroom where it helped me greatly in the teaching of large groups of 11-16 year olds! I have been looking at it a lot these past couple of days with the 30 Days of Beauty on my mind.
The sun hit a few things this morning and made breakfast a warm and glowing affair.

Whilst I was chopping the fruit for the whole family to munch on Frank busied himself making a "breakfast a-chine" (he doesn't put the "m" on "machine" yet and pronounces it rather like a small sneeze; too cute) using all his shells and stones from his nature table. By the time the tea and muesli and toast all arrived the table looked very splendid.
I struggled over the past couple of days to find beauty and yesterday was difficult as we had a hospital appointment for a simple blood test for Frank.
There are suspicions that his thyroid might be having problems.
It went rather traumatically and he cried a lot. He was so brave but clearly felt rather violated and I just don't know how to help him with that other than all the stuff I am already doing.
Lots of hugs and love and reassurance.
He said he didn't want people to see him crying and feeling so bad.
That just about broke my heart.

And yet he bounced back and was marauding around the house yesterday evening wearing his "I've been super brave" sticker from the "hopsital" with pride.

Lots of people tell me how resilient children are.
I can see it in motion in all its beauty in my gorgeous little boy.
Maybe they should do stickers for parents too?
But what would they say?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Why muffinmoon?

(Emily and her boys at the birth of Zakir)

( Me and my boys at the top of Brea Hill in Cornwall)

The other day someone asked me why I had chosen the blog name "muffinmoon". It was a fair question as my husband had just given them his blog address and it consisted of his real name. Nobody calls me muffinmoon. At least not more than once!

So, I'll tell you how it came about.
My good friend Emily and I were chatting about two years ago about wanting to do something creative and fun and that would make a tiny bit of money for us.
(Graham Coxon in ginger biscuit form)

We settled on creating healthy baked goods such as muffins, biscuits and birthday cakes and wanted to have a strong focus on the homespun, healthy aspects of the food we cook and love. Organic ingredients wherever affordable, low or no sugar, fresh free-range eggs, butter not marg and wholewheat flours. We both feed our children in similar ways. Very little packaged food. Lots of cooking from scratch. Also I love baking. My students were very used to me arriving for my Thursday evening class laden with muffins for them to try and give opinions on. They were hard working people and they looked forward to the perk of a muffin at the end of a long week and to help them through the NVQ course I was teaching at the time.

For Emily and I our first job was to come up with a name and then get business cards printed. We had a few ideas with the word muffin in them, muffinmothers, muffinmums etc.

(Chocolate fudge cake for a friend's birthday)

Our first big gig was going to be the Woodbridge Christmas Fayre that December and so we settled on Muffin Moon to give a kind of ethereal baked goods vibe.

Labels were printed, brown paper bags bought and around 300 muffins baked in one day. We had such fun as we were child-free that day and just spent the day baking and chatting.

The day of the Fayre dawned deeply grey and the rain fell in stair rods the whole time we were selling. We shared a stall with Emily's sister Bess who was selling her homemade jams.

But we practically sold out and had a good time in the process.

A couple of other gigs and a few birthday cakes later and my boy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. (Frank Zappa rolling his eyes heavenwards at being reduced to a biscuit)

It's fair to say I lost my mojo for peddling cakes to people and had a big rethink.

Now, don't get me wrong.

Diabetics can eat muffins.

Frank does eat cake and he helps me with baking and loves it.

It just felt wrong for a while and to be honest it still does.

Too many people were asking me about his condition as I was handing them a piece of cake!

So, we let the whole thing come to a rest.
My poor students lost out on all the muffins I used to bring to class to get opinions on new recipes.
I worked on bread recipes and soups and salads instead.

Emily had another baby and we are now both of us so busy that our little venture seems like a million years ago!

So, when I began my blog I wanted something that reflected a part of me that was more than just my name. I wanted to blog about my family and my knitting and diabetes as well as good food from time to time. Muffinmoon came back, reincarnated and creative as ever.

If you google muffinmoon, however, you get dogs in Croydon as well as me.
Don't you just love the Internet?!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

30 Days of Beauty

A short post this evening as I am fighting a heavy cold.
My weapons of choice are green tea, oatcakes and Manuka honey.
Oh, and knitting.
Sounds so wholesome but we had a huge lunch out at a friend's house today and I am still full of roast potatoes and crumble.
Oooh, and chilli chocolates.
Other news:
I have signed up for a great project.

30 Days of Beauty.

It is the brainchild of Erin at
The idea is to find beauty for thirty days and to photograph it.
What a great idea for February!
So, watch this space for some beautiful images of the world here in the East of England. If my camera helps me out.
The above photo is from last February in Dorset. Such great light came into the kitchen in the mornings.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

What we do

I was reminded today when Shelagh, the fab diabetes nurse, came to visit us that I had intended to do a quick post about what we do when Frank has a hypo.
We always have juice on us but for Frank a whole carton can be a bit of an overload after a drought.
So, we also carry these with us. Ella's Kitchen brand fruit and veg purees.
The Cat in the Hat does not always accompany them however!
There are lots of fruit purees out there but we like these because they are organic and have vegetable puree in them as well as fruit. I get them in the baby aisle of the supermarket and Frank will always accept one, no matter what mood he is in. They are less messy than opening a carton of juice and can even be sealed if he doesn't finish them.
The packaging says they are suitable as a weaning food from 4 months of age! We are way past that but he did love them when he was a baby (he was 6 months before he tried them) and still does.
The one in the picture has 11.6g carbs per pack.
What do you carry for hypos?
I'd love to know.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mersea Island

Yes, rub your eyes and blink!

This is England.

In February.

OK, so we needed our coats and hats but it was just so uplifting in what can be an interminable and grey month to see the sun so bright and the sky over Mersea so blue.

We collected some shells and stones and made a turtle and a peacock in the sand.

After a good hour of collecting and making and running around we retired to the camper van and made ourselves cosy with coffee(Severine and me) herbal tea (Frank) and oat biscuits (all of us).

Life is good.

On the way home we called in at The Company Shed for fresh prawns and salmon pate for lunch and some smoked mackerel for a big salad the next day.

Life really is good.

Frank's blood sugar is beginning to come under some form of control these past few days. We are seeing progress. My hair is greyer and I don't rest easy at night. I remain scared he has died in the night when he sleeps through and hasn't padded into our room in the early hours.

But we are getting there and focusing on the good and the bright is keeping me going. I am slipping the horrified part of my brain (because it is still there and it is still horrified) into a drawer and looking at my boy as he runs around roaring like a dinosaur and playing hide and seek ("I'm somewhere behind this curtain, Mummy").

Our fab Diabetes nurse, Shelagh, often tells us to take diabetes out of the equation and just look at Frank.

She's right.
P.S. If you are wondering about Mersea Island, check this out

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

First recipe!

OK, so here it is, as requested by my numerous readers (two, to be precise!): my recipe for Walnut maple syrup rolls.
A bit of background first.
We LOVE bread.
Just love it.
Around two years ago we bought a bread machine and have used it a lot to make the wholemeal bread with various seeds and nuts that we love.
However, our bread machine makes bread with the same texture, all the time. No matter what ingredients we use it's kind of the same.
It's great but we do love open-textured sourdough and nutty chewy breads and the machine just isn't up to the job.
We probably should get a different machine but it seems a lot of expense when our one is fine for what it does.
So, in comes the machine-mixed and kneaded but hand-shaped bread that I tend to make now.
The dough for these rolls is made in the machine but I have made it by hand and it's just lovely.
You will need:
1tsp (purists look away here) fast acting yeast
350g strong wholemeal flour
100g strong white flour
50g medium oatmeal
2tbsp maple syrup or Agave nectar
2 tbsp oil
1.5 tsp salt
320ml lukewarm water
100g walnut pieces, roughly chopped
In the bread machine use a "wholemeal dough" setting, ideally the longest one you can as this gives the bread time to develop a good flavour.
The hand method would be done by putting all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mixing gently. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl or jug and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well and use your hands to knead for at least five full minutes. The walnut pieces will make this a little tricky but you will know when the dough is ready to have a little nap and "rest" when the dough becomes much softer and more pliable in your hands. It's a great feeling. A kind of alchemy and one of the reasons I love cooking so much. Good food is so much more than the sum of its ingredients.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a wet tea towel. Let it rest for an hour or so until it has almost doubled in size. It needs to be in a warm place and will take longer to rise if it's cold.
Once it is ready for the next stage you need to do what in the UK is called "punching it down". Using your fist you give the puffy dough a good few punches to knock the air out of it. Picture whoever you like for this. It's cheaper than therapy.
Then give it another quick knead and form the dough into a rough round loaf shape. You can make the rolls any shape you like and I am incredibly quick at making my rolls as I have tried many times to make perfect sized little round rolls and failed every time. I now don't care what shape they are. So what I now do is cut the round shaped dough into chunky strips and then cut these strips into kind of triangular or diamond shapes (see photo, which helps, I hope).
Place the rolls onto a baking sheet and leave them covered with a tea towel again to rise for another thirty minutes or more if they are slow to rise.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm with butter (oh, yeah!).
Or with a strong cheddar and pickle.
Or Stilton and fresh pear slices.
Or Brie and apple slices.
Or goats' cheese and blackcurrant jam.
Oh, and with a smug "look what I just knocked up" smile.
I may have opened a flood gate here as I have lots of recipes flying around my head, many of them family recipes and low in sugar as I tend not to use much and never have, even before Frank's diagnosis.
Watch this space!