Mushroom and spinach stronganoff

Last September, when G Major started reception, I dropped my hours at work a bit to enable me to do pick up three days a week. I have always felt very strongly that it’s a good idea, if at all possible, for an adult to be at home after school in the early years, when the kids are knackered and need a decent feed and help with reading and there are playdates and extra curricular activities and not enough hours in the weekend to do everything you want to do together. I’m very fortunate indeed I’ve been able to wrangle the hours I do.

I rather thought it would be a breeze – I’d pootle home after work, have a chat at the school gates, relax with G Major while providing a gently stimulating environment, serve a balanced hot meal, and then collect G Minor from nursery early enough to also spend quality time with her.


I am running ALL THE TIME. I battle Southern Trains to get home; I race up the hill to get to the classroom door on time; we now have swimming and dance after school; reading is fraught when G Major is tired; she doesn’t want to go back out to nursery; G Major wants her sister’s post-nursery snack and G Minor wants her sister’s supper; no one agrees on what TV show to watch and what bedtime story to have; I have to pick up on work in the evening and connect with my US colleagues.

Part time work does not always equal less work.

I am knackered. So to avoid feeling utterly shattered, I’m keeping an eye on my diet. This recipe is a good boost for iron and vitamins B and D. Clearly, one meal is not going to make any difference to your energy levels, but it’s a good recipe to have in rotation. And it’s veggie.

Serves 2, plus a bit left for lunch the next day

What you need

  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably a mix of different types
  • Half an onion, sliced
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Half a bag of baby spinach
  • Half a small pot of sour cream
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • Same of Worcestershire sauce
  • Ground black pepper
  • Pinch of paprika

What you do

  • Fry the onion and garlic in some oil until soft
  • Add the mushrooms, paprika and a good grind of black pepper and fry the mushrooms for about 8 minutes
  • Add the brandy, sour cream and Worcestershire sauce and allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes, then add the spinach and allow to just wilt.

I served this over rice, but you could also have it as a side with steak or a pork chop. It would also be delicious over a baked sweet potato.

Big G won’t eat mushrooms so I cooked this when he was out at a work do, and ate it slumped comatose in front of some bad TV, while I ignored the washing that needed folding.

Living. The. Dream.

What’s your go-to meal when you’re feeling a bit tired and flat?


Why parents make great employees

I start back at work next Monday.

Usually about this time, mummy bloggers write a long, heartfelt post counting their blessings for having had a year off with their kids, (unnecessarily) justify their decision to put their child in care and then add a little LOL about drinking hot tea and going to the loo in peace.

WTF, parents? If you can’t organize things so you can drink a hot cup of tea or have a wee without an audience how in the hell are you going to manage your professional life and its multiple demands?

However, assuming that one can actually walk and chew gum at the same time, there are plenty of great reasons that employers should hire parents of small children.

They are super efficient.
G Minor had an hour nap this morning. In that time, I did my hair and makeup; prepped her lunch; had a chat to my mum on the phone; completely blitzed the study, filed a years worth of bank statements and threw away an entire bin bag of crap; cleaned the loo; and labeled some things for when she starts nursery. All the parents I know do this. Now imagine if all your employees worked at that pace.

They multitask like a mofo
Watch any parent in the half hour before the kids eat supper. They’ll be making the kids’ food, prepping their own dinner for later, feeding the cat, updating the shopping list, messing about on social media, setting the table, refereeing a fight, wiping a nose, changing a nappy while the pasta come to the boil and fielding a call from their partner. I know the research says multitasking at work does not necessarily produce the highest quality work but at least that shit gets done, right?

They are great at organising team events
Ever had to entertain two small children in a tent in the rain? A parent will EASILY find ways to occupy rational adults for a half day of team building. And team meals out will booked weeks in advance, menus circulated and choices made, without anyone filling their drinking glass with tomato ketchup or popping their balloon in the restaurant toilets.

They are great value at the Christmas party
They get a free pass from home on this night. Pass them the cheap wine and let them run wild. Fun for the whole team.

They are always prepared
The parents in your office will always have a clean tissue and a plaster for a blister. Their bag will be a mini-pharmacy of cough drops, cold and flu tablets and paracetamol. They’ll keep a hairbrush and a spare plastic shopping bag to carry things home in their desk and will usually sling you a fiver when you don’t have money for lunch.

Young kids mean elaborate parties. And parties means cake, and sweets, and bright orange maize-based snacks. Maybe Rice Krispie cakes. Mmmmm. You should sit next to the parents in your office.

Do you work out of the home? What special skills do you bring to the office?

Oh, naps, how I love thee

I go back to work in three weeks time and have started the difficult process of winding down afternoon naps.

Not the kids – me.

I bloody love an afternoon nap. I do it properly, too – none of this lying on the sofa in front of the TV nonsense. I draw the curtains, take off any clothes not conducive to sleeping and get right into bed. I have a little sign I pin up by the front door, warning delivery men not to disturb the sleeping baby. G Minor, of course, will sleep through the door bell – the note is purely to preserve my quiet time.

I am obviously grateful to my children, who obligingly sleep after lunch, allowing me to do the same. Nursery tried to drop G Major’s nap before I went on maternity leave and were met with a panicked demand to keep the sleep at all costs.

All the science is on my side. All other mammals take short sleeps during the day. When was the last time you saw your cat sitting bolt upright all day? Naps can:

  • reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • boost creativity at work
  • improve working memory, as well as retention.

Big corporations, most famously Google, have dedicated areas for employees to catch 40 winks while at work.

But as I’m pretty sure my boss won’t countenance a duvet and pillow under my desk, a la George Castanza, I find myself in the awkward position of re-learning to stay awake after lunch and then feeling grumpy and tearful about half an hour before dinner, in the manner of a small child. I may need to block out an hour in my diary each afternoon as nap-withdrawal periods, to spare my colleagues.

In the meantime, I shall look forward to a summer holiday in Spain, where siestas will enable my napping.