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

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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.

Are You Feeling Less Than Festive This Christmas?

single mum's survival guide logoThe countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. Whilst shopping one day (and walking past row upon row of Christmas “bargains”) I overheard a woman talking to her friend about trying to get into the festive spirit for her children’s sake; it was obviously proving to be a struggle, because she herself wasn’t feeling full of Christmas cheer. Remembering past years when life was a struggle and I wished that Christmas could either be cancelled altogether or at least put on hold, I really sympathised with her sentiments.

I know that many parents – single mums in particular- feel under tremendous pressure at this time of year. Will the tree be sparkly enough? Will the meal be delicious and served on time? Will everyone get on? Despite the budgetary cuts suffered by Father (and Mother) Christmas in recent times, will the stocking at the foot of the bed and all those gifts under the tree be amazing enough to satisfy this new generation of technology-hungry children? For a time that’s meant to be merry and full of goodwill, Christmas certainly comes at a price in more ways than one.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible.

Click here to access your free audio guide to Coping With ChristmasSMSG webinar pic 1

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. 

Stick To Your Guns Or Go For The Popularity Vote?

As a parent, especially as the lone parent it can be quite wearisome to always do the right thing. After all, you are the one who has to play both good cop and bad cop and do rules, playtime and hugs – sometimes all in the same day! That old threat that our mothers used – “Wait till your father gets home” is clearly not relevant here, as he’s never coming home…So do you give in because it makes things easier in the short run? Here’s what one of the single mums in my book had to say:

The biggest mistake that I made was over-compensating with things to make him happy for that moment. But it continued on and that’s when I go away from what I thought my true parenting skills were, you know–being so diligent about making sure that he had his chores and making sure that he appreciated money. I think at that time I was so tired that I started falling away from what I really believed I should be doing as a parent, and that’s when I just started spending the money on him. It would make him happy and then that would make me feel so happy but then 2, 3 weeks later he’d start again and he’d want something else to make him feel better. Of course he was just a kid and he didn’t realise that it was just a Band-Aid, and it’s not going to make it better in the long run. I knew that too but I think it was just easier to do. I don’t think I was trying to take the easy way out but I was tired and that became the new normal for me, just to hand things over like that. So at this point even now he’s struggling with the value of a dollar and how to balance his cheque book, and I ‘m trying to help him be good with his money and to help him realise that it’s not a free ride- you don’t just stick your hand out and someone gives you something. So that’s something I look back on and really wish that I’d reached out to someone and gotten help sooner or stopped it early on.

So don’t be afraid to do the right thing, even if it’s tough. parenting isn’t a popularity contest and your children need loving but firm guidelines to help them feel secure at this challenging time for all of you.

Visit my website http://www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com.

My book, “THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon.

A Rich Inner Life

At my book club this evening we were discussing “Clever Girl” by Tessa Hadley. Although we all found the central character -herself a single mum- profoundly unsympathetic, the author described particularly well what it means to be clever and imaginative and how this needs to be nurtured. Indeed, I believe that this inner life of thoughts and daydreams and self-talk is especially vital for single mums. Somehow you can get through the hours of drudgery which are unavoidable with children if this aspect of you is alive and well. For me, one of my greatest treats was enjoying a glass of wine and a book whilst soaking in a long hot bath once both the boys were safely tucked up in bed. It restored me to adulthood after a day of baby talk and gave my poor brain a rest from its endless reliving of the day my life changed inexorably. If I wasn’t immersing myself in fiction then I wanted to read a book that would help me to find some answers to the endless “why”s and “what-if”s of the end of my 15 year relationship. One of the reasons that I wrote this book, however, was that at the time there just weren’t enough books that really spoke to me of what I was going through at the time. Sometimes I felt like reading something wry and lighthearted about life and love’s ups and downs, whereas on other occasions I really wanted some purely practical and no-nonsense advice written by someone who really knew single motherhood and who preferably spoke from personal experience.

“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How to Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available now on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July.