The Journey or the Destination – Which is More Important?

I wrote this while sitting enjoying a refreshing sea breeze on a boat bound for three beautiful Croatian islands. We enjoyed swimming in clear turquoise waters, a lunch of freshly-grilled fish and salad and an unlimited bar.
The last year has been quite a challenge, to put mildly, and I was really looking forward to a week away from it all. For me, the whole process of choosing, booking and anticipating  adds to the experience of travelling. Choosing the destination is exciting. I had never been to Croatia before but from what I heard it was gorgeous (it is!) I’d done lots of research online and I chose a charming old hotel with views of the harbour.

I knew what our view would be like from the terrace and what  we might see from from our sunset walk around the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik. The prospect of this holiday has sustained me for the last few months, and added an extra shape to my days. Having a goal can certainly do this. I also try to savour each step in the lead-up to departure – shopping for holiday clothes, writing a list of everything I need. We got to the airport in plenty of time, so as to allow a leisurely breakfast and a mooch around the Duty Free. My travelling treat is a purchase of my favourite Chanel fragrance. It’s important to treat yourself and this little ritual adds fun to flying for me.

20525964_10155477008263376_2308002772248920820_nLuckily, the reality has been even better. It was my first holiday with my boyfriend and we have had  a wonderfully relaxing, fun time. But I’m glad I have taken time to enjoy the journey, not just focusing on the destination. And rest assured, I made sure to savour every precious moment of the trip, rather than dwelling on how soon we would be departing for normal life back in the UK.

Many parents I meet and work with get a bit bogged down with trying to plan for their future or manage the myriad tasks that being a parent  (especially a single parent) can involve. Occasionally they forget what it’s all for. They forget to enjoy the journey. So take a deep breath today. Slow down, look around and see which bits of life’s journey you could be eking more enjoyment from.

20597106_10155479711798376_7441419123531444209_n  single mum's survival guide logo

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The Secret Recipe For Christmas Happiness

 

Xmas webinar slide 1 001Many families have their favourite recipes at Christmas, handed down from one generation to the next. I know that I was lucky with learning to cook and appreciate food because my mum was a stay-at-home mum who not only came from a proud line of Yorkshire women renowned for their culinary skills but had also done a Cordon Bleu cookery course when she was first married. Even today you could drop in to see my 86 year old mother and guarantee to be served a home made delicacy appropriate for the time of day. If it’s lunchtime it might be a mouthwatering roast with her home-grown vegetables and famous Yorkshire puddings or one of her East African curries. If it’s coffee or tea time it will be a melt-in-the-mouth Ginger Thin or during the Christmas period, a freshly-warmed mince pie. Many of us don’t have the time or the energy to bake these days – I know I often don’t. However, despite the potential sticky mess, it is well worth making the effort to cook with your children. You can involve them with age-appropriate tasks, from choosing the ingredients at the supermarket to preparing, mixing and decorating the finished result; it also pretty much guarantees that they will eat the finished result, which is a sneakily effective way of dealing with a child who is a fussy eater! Moreover, you are creating togetherness and fond memories and developing their skills and confidence.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible, as well as passing on a few treats just for you. I’ll be sending you a little something every day between now and Christmas.

mince piesToday’s gift is the recipe my mum and I always use to make mince pies at Christmas time. In my opinion they are far nicer than anything you could buy and well worth the effort and time spent in the kitchen. Children love to help assemble these and for a fussy eater you could substitute a spoonful of jam for the mincemeat filling.

INGREDIENTS

560 g mincemeat (the sweet variety with chopped fruit, sold in jars)

350 g plain flour

75 g lard

75 g margarine

a pinch of salt

For the top:

a small amount of milk

a small amount of granulated sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

You will also need one (or two) trays of 6 cm pie tins, one fluted 7.5 cm pastry cutter and one 6 cm cutter.

Instructions

Make up the pastry by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in the fats (bring them to room temperature and then cut them into small cubes first, to make it easier to blend). The trick with pastry is not to overhandle it or get it too warm at this point, so mix it quickly with your fingertips by lifting the pieces of fat up high over the bowl with the flour (so you are letting plenty of air in) and rubbing it gently and lightly through your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Use a knife to begin with and then your hands, then add just enough cold water so that the ball of dough leaves the bowl clean but is not too sticky.

Leave the pastry to rest covered in clingfilm (Saran Wrap) in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, then roll half of it out so that it’s as thin as possible but not breaking and cut it into twenty four 7.5 cm rounds, gathering up the scraps and re-rolling.

Then do the same with the other half of the pastry, this time using the 6 cm cutter.

Now grease the pie tins lightly and line them with the larger rounds. Fill these with a good spoonful of mincemeat, but don’t overfill as they split in the oven. Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds of pastry with water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges.

Brush each one with milk and make three snips in the tops with a pair of scissors. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar. Bake near the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown.

Cool on a wire tray and when the mince pies are cool, store them in a Tupperware or airtight tin. To serve: mince pies are best eaten when they’ve been warmed in the oven, either on their own or with cream or brandy butter.

If you would like my help and advice over the Christmas period, do visit my website www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com, where you can find a free audio on Coping with Christmas or sign up for a free one to one session with me.single mum's survival guide logo

A Nativity Nightmare?

single mum's survival guide logoA colleague was telling me about her niece’s Nativity play; apparently it was a little confusing because it was totally non-religious, so there was a Mary but no Baby Jesus! In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure it was called a Nativity play, but she couldn’t think how to describe it otherwise! However, the kids did brilliantly and acted and sang their little hearts out, so it was very heart-warming. I still have a photo of my eldest dressed in his costume as…a camel. He was about three and a half at the time and though I say so myself, the costume was a triumph of ingenuity. I’d cut up one of my Dad’s old dressing gowns and made him a hump and a tail and a pair of camel ears on a headband. In the photo, the headband has slipped too far down over his eyes but he is squinting manfully at the camera and putting on his cheeky grin.

They are far too old to be doing one now, but when it came to the annual school nativity play in their primary school I used to take a wad of tissues in my bag, as it always brought our family situation home to me in a very poignant way. Christmas and other holidays can sometimes present a problem; there are events, occasions and rituals that have a special significance or sentimental attachment for everyone and I have found at times like these that memories and emotions can still knock me sideways–even now. Even when you think that you’re all sorted and reconciled to the way your new life is these days, don’t beat yourself up or feel embarrassed if you occasionally find it’s all too much to cope with. You’re only human after all and you’ve been so brave and worked so hard to get to where you are now. However: not only do our kids have two homes, but they also have two Christmases and for children this can be quite a bonus! So there are always different ways of looking at it.

SMSG webinar pic 1If you’d like my help to sail through Christmas, I am offering a free hour’s Strategy Session via Skype or telephone. It might just give you the strength and the strategies to make it through the holidays in one piece and at peace with your situation. Click here to book your hour with me FREE SESSION.

You might also like to listen to my free audio, “Coping With Christmas”. Click here to gain access to your FREE AUDIO GUIDE.

Watch Your Mouth!

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I set out early on Saturday morning, feeling excited about attending a course run by the incomparable Shaa Wasmund. A glowing example of female business success, Shaa went from journalism to being the only female manager in the male-dominated world of boxing, to helping James Dyson become a worldwide brand with his innovative vacuum cleaners. From there she went on to form Smarta (a UK small business advisory service), become a multiple bestselling author and entrepreneur and win an MBE for services to business and entrepreneurship. She is without doubt an inspiration to working mothers everywhere and I was in a buoyant mood as I pulled into the petrol station to fill up with fuel for my journey to London.

As I queued at the till, I became aware of one of the servers, who was holding forth to his colleagues in a loud voice. He was still talking when it was my turn to pay but by now his diatribe had taken on a rather more disturbing vein. The phrase that stood out for me -and all the rest of his captive audience- was “Women are all thieving b*tches!” His colleague and I both remonstrated with him but there was no apology forthcoming and as I returned somewhat shakily to my car, I looked up to see him glaring malevolently at me through the window of the kiosk.

It’s not the first time, of course, that I have witnessed such blatant misogyny. It soon became apparent that my second husband had a deep-rooted mistrust and scorn for women which bubbled away below the surface only to erupt with frightening consequences and perhaps it was his echo that I heard in this other man’s voice that made me feel so disturbed and distressed. Don’t get me wrong. I have met the odd man-hater in my time too. I was once a guest on a talk show about victims or perpetrators of infidelity (thereby lies another tale!) and a fellow guest had a tattoo on her arm which proclaimed “Trust No Man” in Japanese! The parallel term for misogyny (hatred of women) is misandry (hatred of men). Let’s stop these terrible generalisations right now. Whatever life or one particular member of the opposite sex has thrown at us, surely it’s no justification for perpetrating aggression and prejudice towards an entire gender? We need to watch our mouths before our children mark our words and a whole new generation learns to hate.

For more details of my book, to download my free report:”The First Three Steps To Solving Any Problem” or to book a free coaching session with me please click here http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com/

 

Why Macaroni Cheese Matters

Yesterday my 18 year old made macaroni cheese for the family’s supper. Nothing groundbreaking about that, you may think (although those of you with teenagers may already be recognising how momentous and unusual this event this is!) The thing is, he wasn’t asked to do it, or doing it because he felt he should – he genuinely wanted to cook for us.

To put this into context, my youngest is a keen cook and regularly treats us to home made bread and other delicacies – he made a delicious apple crumble the other day with apples from Granny’s garden. His elder brother, however, is not only an extremely fussy eater with an alarming penchant for fast food and ready meals, but also very preoccupied with girlfriend, work, college and all the important things, like going out with friends, marathon film viewing or X-box sessions. Most weeks now I ask him what his plans are, so that we can make the most of him when he’s at home and available.  I am well aware that my time with him living at home is finite.  Luckily, we love his girlfriend and my house is like a second home to her now but my son is an ambitious and talented young man and he’ll be wanting a place of his own before too long, more than likely with her. I am so proud of the life and career I can already see him carving out for himself, in his deeply-felt values, skills and determination and when he makes his mark on the world (as he surely will) I’ll be there, cheering  him on from the sidelines as always.

I suppose what touches me most these days are those small but important signs that family is still important to him, that he is still thinking of me and appreciating my support and encouragement. A quote I love about parenting is that you must give your children both roots and wings, and that is what I’ve always tried to do as a parent. So, you see, Macaroni Cheese matters  – and guess what? It was delicious!

If you would like a free SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL STRATEGY SESSION with me via phone or Skype, I’d be delighted to speak to you. Book now with this link: http://meetme.so/VivienneSmithsingle mum's survival guide logo

Finances – Keeping Your Head Above Water?

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 5 001Are you dreading the next bill or bank statement that lands on your doormat? Are you drowning in debt or struggling just to make ends meet and provide your children with a roof over their heads?

Being broke makes you weak, vulnerable and miserable. It saps your energy and stops you from enjoying life’s little pleasures. It can be frustrating and deeply embarrassing; you feel ashamed to admit it in case it sounds like you are whining or begging for a handout, yet if you don’t come clean it can make you seem unfriendly, mean or lacking in generosity. When you are desperate for money your options are limited and you can make some very bad decisions when that desperation is your primary guide.

I know all this from bitter experience. Imagine that you have just reached the checkout at the supermarket. You’ve spent twice as long choosing your shopping because you are determined to root out the best bargains and the cheapest goods. You’ve already chosen, then discarded several items on the grounds that they represented a treat, rather than a basic necessity. Feeling proud of your thriftiness, you hand over your debit card, only to be told bluntly by the cashier that your card has been declined. And the other one. The woman in the queue behind you gives you a knowing look, which turns to irritation when you have to start taking items out of the trolley, to bring the bill down to an affordable level and the cashier calls her colleague (again very loudly) and asks him to replace the items because the customer wants them refunded! You flee the shop, cheeks burning with shame. And it’s not even the first time this has happened.

 

If this all sounds too familiar, I really want to help you to get out of the horrible hole you’ve found yourself in. You’re not alone! You can start by listening in to my free online webinar next Wednesday with Karen McGrath, a financial expert and pensions specialist who was once a single mum herself and now spends her time helping clients to take back control of their financial affairs.

Special Guest Karen McGrath

Special Guest Karen McGrath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Register here and I’ll send you your log-in details

 

Back To School

After a long – and surprisingly hot – summer, it’s back to school for many families as term time starts again this week. In the case of my youngest son this has involved some considerable changes; not only have we discovered that he needs glasses for reading, he’s also had to learn to tie a tie as his school uniform now includes a blazer and tie! Being the tender age of 14, once the novelty has worn off he will adapt to both these changes with ease and life will carry on as normal.

Adapting to changes as an adult can be a whole lot scarier and a good deal more difficult. If you are a newly-single mum you may be grappling with emotional changes, financial changes and all the legal implications of separation and divorce. I’d like to help you with these changes, so that you too can adapt with ease and grace and the minimal amount of panic possible. On Thursday 11th September I am co-hosting a free seminar in Brighton with a family lawyer, a financial planner and a mortgage broker. It’s your chance to get informed with free and friendly advice about the best way to deal with financial, legal and accommodation issues you may be facing – not to mention the steps you’ll need to take to build a happy new life. I’ll also be signing copies of my book. So come along for coffee and cake and a chance to “get savvy”! It’s free – all you need to do is to choose the best time for you (10 am – 12 or 7 pm – 9 pm) and book your place by emailing sparsons@mayowynnebaxter.co.uk or ringing 01273 223220. See you on the other side…

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available on Amazon and selected bookshops. For your free audio download entitled “How To Build a Happy New Life”, please fill in your name and email in the form below.