We Are Trying To Buy A House

Life could change completely for our little family over the next day or three – but we have no bearing over whether or not that will happen. I don’t think I’ve ever felt less control over a situation that is so important before. I hope never to feel it again.

We are trying to buy a house.

I’ve not written about it much because it’s felt for so long like it might not happen. Now though, it feels like it is so close. Even though it could still all fall through.

We are trying to buy a house.

I don’t write, ‘We are buying a house.” It’s because until tomorrow, we won’t really know if we’re going to pull it off. It’s all been such a process and yet its something we are still trying to do. Like we are playing grown ups at this game between agents and solicitors and deal progressers and sellers. We are just the lowly couple at the bottom of the chain.

Because of deadlines imposed around the chain, we hope to exchange tomorrow and complete in a week. If we manage it, we will all be left confusedly coming up for air as home-owners. If we don’t manage it, we will sulk around for a little while and then wonder what on earth we shall do. There is no plan B.

We saw the little house six months ago. We made an offer immediately. And since then we have tried to push it out of our minds.

I have tried not to imagine the sideboard I’d like for the hall and the mirror I’d like for above the back fireplace. I’ve tried not to see peonies in vases on the dresser and a buggy in the porch. I’ve tired not to see Tony’s prints on the bedrooms walls and our wedding glasses in the cupboards. I’ve tried not to picture our friends around the table and I’ve tried not to see myself in the kitchen, looking out of the window while the children play on the lawn.

For six months, I have been involved in an arduous game of shutting out from my mind the place we want to call home.

In the next day or so, I might finally find out whether or not we miss the deadlines and say goodbye to the little house forever. Or I find out that the next chapter of our lives is ready for us.

It has taken months but felt like years. We still might not have answers, as solicitors drag their feet and agents talk in circles and vendors try to slow things down. But we might finally know where our lives are going. The boxes that have been in the shed for two years, the boxes we never unpacked when we arrived in England, might finally be rummaged through.

The little house with lillies in the front garden might fade from our grasp forever over the next few days. Or it might work its way into our lives and our children’s lives for good. More than anything I’ve hoped for in what feels like an eternity, I hope the little house becomes ours.

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This Is What Sleepless Nights Look Like

world breastfeeding week

The sleepless nights start before the beginning. Before the world changes and your baby is born, you slowly realise you can no longer sleep like you once took for granted. You need the toilet every few hours, your hips ache, your legs cramp, you wake up worrying about not having enough nappies in your hospital bag. You think you are tired.

And then your baby is born and you discover you never really knew what tired was until near the end of that first week you became a mother. You truly haven’t slept for months, you have given birth, your body doesn’t feel like your own, and you know unbroken sleep is very, very far away. Your baby won’t stop crying until you hold her. And you are too afraid to doze off with her in your arms. And so you sit up, with your newborn, for what seems like nights on end. It is.

And you cry. Because you really are now so tired that you don’t know what else to do. There’s nothing else, really, but you and your baby and your tiredness. You don’t think you can keep trying to feed her, you don’t know if you can keep holding her the right way. But, somehow, without you knowing how, you do.

After the first week, you doze off with your baby in your arms because she still won’t sleep anywhere else and you are desperate. Desperate? Yes. Your baby is awake for an hour. Then she sleeps in your arms for two hours. If you try to put her back in her basket she wakes and cries and takes hours to resettle. And so your cycle begins again.

You lie on the sofa exhausted (for yes, now you really are) and watch as your husband walks around the kitchen, up and down, singing, shushing, swaying, rocking… but your baby still cries. More than anything you want to go to sleep, but you can’t leave them because those cries keep you in the room.

These nights do get further apart though and very very infrequently you get a whole night made up of stretches of three hours of unbroken sleep.

Suddenly, you can sleep at any given (or not fully given) opportunity. You never used to be able to take a mid-afternoon power nap. You now fall asleep before you’re even lying down fully, before you’ve propped up the pillows, or straightened your blankets. Wake me up in 20 minutes you say. But your husband leaves you to sleep because you need it and it’s two hours before the baby cries for food again…

As they grow, there are good runs and bad runs. Over winter it doesn’t end, this relay of broken nights. They begin with sickness and end with sickness, the washing machine spins constantly, the soundtrack to dark.

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You cope, somehow, with the new normal. The days start with heavy limbs, limbs that you don’t feel able to stir awake. But you don’t have a choice because the children are already pulling your feet over the side of your bed and lining up your slippers for you to push your feet into. You don’t have a choice even though you know you could sleep for a year.

And through this hazy fog are days that are spent with the children who don’t sleep and for whole hours of these days you forget. Because when they lock eyes with you and laugh at you and hold your hand, you forgive them every minute of every hour.

You put them to bed knowing you have a short time before their cries splice your evening. You rush to do what you need but you never get it all done because there they are, the screams in the night. Even after the back molars are through and the children are well and the night terrors are over, the nights are still broken.

You’ve given up spending hours trying to resettle your baby because you’re just too tired because you really haven’t slept properly for years. You bring her into your too-small bed and try to stay awake while she settles. Quickly, because she can touch her fingers to your face and hold your hand and lie right beside you and squish into you until you almost fall out of the bed. She doesn’t mind that you have work tomorrow or were planning to get up early to finish your paperwork.

You are already dozing off maybe before she is and when you wake up aching and stiff it is night and you still aren’t in your pyjamas and you still haven’t done your teeth but you’re just too tired to get up and move her because she might wake up. And you must have fallen back to sleep but next time you wake up you decide you have to get up and so you chance it and you move her back into her cot. You’ve practised it a million times, lowering her slowly so she doesn’t wake up. Tip-toeing across the hall for the quietest tooth brushing ever. And collapsing back in bed.

You should be able to sleep. The children are in their beds.

But this is broken sleep. It is the awake hours now for no reason.

For a while at least. Because then too soon you’re woken again by cries. Your body can’t move it’s just so tired. But outside it is light.

And they jump on your bed like they’ve slept for a week. And the day begins. With a hazy, blurry start. You hold them to you, breathe in their morningness, and know that one day you will miss these nights when there is just you and them and the night. And all they need is you.

 

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Thomas & Friends Breakaway Bridge Review and DVD Giveaway

thomas break away track

As you know, we’re big Thomas fans in this house. Milin was two when he saw his first Thomas & Friends episode and a year later, he still loves the really useful engine just as much!

We’ve been watching the newest DVD, the complete series 16, and I’m delighted to have one to give away to another little Thomas fan too.

It’s the perfect time for this giveaway as we’ve just helped Thomas celebrate his birthday. It’s been 70 years since Reverend W Awdry created Thomas and the other engines on the Island of Sodor. And we were lucky enough to help celebrate this milestone at a birthday party for Thomas at the British Museum last weekend. The kids had a brilliant time – there was a life-size Thomas which they were both incredibly excited by, and they of course loved meeting the Fat Controller and seeing all the other engines on display. There were Thomas-themed games, there was a Thomas cake – it was basically Thomas heaven for my little ones.

the fat controller

 

We’re always playing Thomas games in this house – building tracks and turning our living room into the Island of Sodor, acting out scenes from the books and DVDs with our toy engines… you get the picture! Still, Milin was incredibly excited to be sent the new Thomas & Friends Breakaway Bridge Playset with a motorized Thomas and Samson to speed around the track.

thomas & Friends breakaway motorised track

It’s a clever little track – and even if you think you’ve got plenty of Thomas tracks around the house – this one really is a little bit different for the kids. It looks like a bit of track which has broken away from the land – yet the trains still manage to cling on and toot around it on just the wheels on one side. Milin and Jasmin were fascinated watching it and they really did think Thomas and Samson were magic. Too cute!

The Thomas & Friends motorized playset attaches to the rest of the Thomas tracks we have so it is great to be able to extend our network. We have an old wooden track too and getting these two to loop over each other and around each other is quite a feat!

When we’re done playing, Thomas & Friends DVDs are among our most watched for down time.

I’m delighted to be giving away the complete series 16 which features 20 episodes and over three hours of Thomas stories. Little fans will love it! There’s the new engine Stafford, Thomas becomes a scarecrow for a day, and the visit of a famous composer. (This is one of our favourite story books so it was fun to watch ‘the noises of Sodor’ on the screen.) Some of Milin’s favourite characters were there too – Salty, Charlie (in the story with the snow – we love this one too!), and there’s also the Fat Controller’s birthday party.

It’s been a pretty amazing 70 years for Thomas & Friends when you come to think of it. It’s such a simple idea for a story, but one which children generation after generation just love.

If you’ve got a little Thomas fan at home like me, enter the competition below to win the new series. Good luck! x

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Working Mum Guilt and the Ideal Mother

Tenby beach south wales

When Jasmin is upset big heavy tears roll down her cheeks, she wails loudly, and she holds out her arms. But often she looks for my mum to console her, not me.

It’s just started happening in the last few weeks – and it’s leaving me with a complicated jumble of emotions. I feel spurned, like she has effectively turned her back on me and walked away. But I also feel relieved. Because on the three days a week that I’m at work and Jasmin is with her grandmother, she clearly couldn’t be happier.

Jasmin’s actions aren’t an outright expression of favouritism though. They are, instead, like a weight that gets added to the guilt I carry around for leaving her on the days I go to work. She is 21 months old. I returned to the office when she was 13 months. I thought in that time I’d made peace with our circumstances. But when she holds her arms out to her grandmother, when it is only she and no-one else who can quell those tears, I realise the guilt probably won’t ever go away.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Jasmin was 13 months and Milin was two and a half before I returned to the office this time. They’d had me at home for their youngest months, and we had all loved it. But our little family couldn’t afford for me to be at home any longer – although I dearly would have loved to have held off returning to work until they started school.

But, to go back, why do we carry around the guilt? Milin and Jasmin are ridiculously happy, content children who don’t need for anything. They probably do miss me a little on work days just like they miss their daddy. I know though that these moments are fleeting – because they’re busy and active and distracted and occupied by the important things like having fun at nursery, with their playdates and with their grandparents.

I love work, I love those hours of stretching my brain, of learning new things, of meeting new challenges head on – and of course, I love reading a book on the commute and wearing make-up and drinking coffee while it’s hot. I’ve recently increased from three days in the office to four – and I think it’s this that’s set off the new wave of guilt.

When it hits me, I try to remember that I hope that I can be a role model for them – a working mother who balances life (sometimes, somehow, with varying success admittedly), I hope that they see one day that I’d achieved things, for them, while always putting them first…

Yet that heaviness in my heart doesn’t go away.

I don’t doubt that part of this guilt comes from feeling like there’s an ideal mother. She’s a myth – yes – but she’s so deeply buried within my consciousness that I can’t help but measure myself up to her. She stayed at home for longer than me in her children’s formative years. She returned to work at exactly the right time, straight into the right job, and breezed through the transition. She stocked her freezer with home-cooked lunches for the kids before she went, ironed her clothes for the week on a Sunday night, and folded laundry each night after settling her contented children into bed after their books. She wore heels to work, remembered her packed lunch, and never looked flustered on the nursery run (on the day she did it), and never forgot to return the library books.

She exhausts me, this mythical mother. I don’t hate her though – I can’t. I created her.

It’s unfair to blame ‘society’, the ‘media’, or anyone else for that matter for her construction. They might have played some part in building up her traits, but I put them together in my head all by myself.

This working mother guilt? It’s mine because I want to be perfect for my children. That’s not so bad, is it? It might manifest itself when Jasmin doesn’t want me to quell her tears. It might manifest itself in my heart when I get home and I’ve missed bath time. But it’s there because I’m trying my hardest to be the best mum I can. Sometimes I just need them to need me back as much as I need them.

When Jasmin cries out at night (she has become increasingly unsettled) I don’t hesitate to put her in our bed. I lie her between us but she squeezes herself against me until there’s no bed left for me to roll over onto. I don’t sleep so well on these nights, but I savour them. Because I know that at night, it is only me that she needs.

In the smallest hours, when my daughter cries, I get a little chance to make up for those four days I’m not by her side. In the dark of night, while all the world sleeps, I make my peace.

 

And then the fun began...

This Week I Love…

this week I love

It’s not been an easy week. We’re incredibly stressed about the house we are trying to buy – it may or may not happen and it’s making us homesick for New Zealand. I’ve had my first week doing four days in the office and I missed the kids like mad, and I’ve also not had much sleep because Jasmin’s really unsettled.

But, it’s not been all bad – far from it in fact!

And so I thought I’d share some of the things that I’m loving this week because they have made me smile…

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Working at Pink Lining means I get to show off this gorgeous Notting Hill Tote every day. I love the new spring summer 15 cottage garden print and use it for far more than a changing bag! It’s been perfect for carrying my laptop, lunch and various other bits and pieces to work each day this week.

I had a sneak peek of the Jacques Vert Autumn Winter collection the other week and can’t believe how stunning this statement necklace is that I got to take home with me. It’s already been on one night out and pretty much every one who saw it stopped me to say how lovely it is. I completely agree, and can’t wait for the rest of the range to come out. I’ve been wearing it with a plain tee and jeans – because it really doesn’t need anything else!

One of the good things about commuting on the tube each day (an hour each way!) means I am forced to turn off my phone and step away from work. I love that I get so much time to read each week now. I’m just over half way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and it’s brilliant. So good, in fact, that I nearly missed my stop last week. I read Laline Paull’s The Bees before this and We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler before that. I’d highly recommend both!

Lastly, I’m more than a little in love with clean eating. I’ve been making a conscious decision to clean up my eating because in the last few months I’ve really started eating quite unhealthily. I think it’s been because of stress, but it’s not me and it doesn’t make me feel good. So, I’ve cut out dairy, junk food and processed food in a big way and I’ve got organised. Dinners have been built around grilled meat and fish with quinoa or green salads, and wild rice and grains like bulgur have been the base of my salads in the day at work. I also made a huge batch of Deliciously Ella granola bars which I’ve snacked on, along with avocado on rye. In only two weeks I feel so much better, less bloated and sluggish, and more like the old me. Phew! (I’ve not cut back on wine though, because you can’t do everything all at once, right?)

What have you been loving this week? x

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Dear New Zealand, I Miss You

tata beach golden bay

When you have children, decisions which were once made on a whim are agonised over for eternity. Your conviction, once unfaltering and unquestioned, wavers at the slightest challenge. Choices take on a significance that would have once been unimaginable.

Three years ago, I agonised over moving from New Zealand to England. As you know, our little family did make the move. We did it almost a year after first thinking about it. And two and a half years after getting on the plane, we are still in London and I am still constantly questioning what we did.

People ask me often whether I miss New Zealand. I don’t ususally tell them just how much I pine for that little country on the other side of the world.

But this week I’ve found myself missing it even more than usual. The reasons why are complicated… but indulge me why I tell you about our life there.

The first year was hard – I was 23 and in an alien land where even though I spoke the same language as people around me, their accents were thick and different to mine, the houses looked brashly coloured, lacking in uniformity and strange, the wind was unrelenting, the clothes in the high street shops were too long and not quite right…

But slowly, gradually, we settled into life.

Golden Bay New Zealand

Tony and I gathered around us friends who we will always love dearly. I  miss them fiercely but the gap between us grows each day. The nights spent over a bottle of wine at the kitchen table, the Saturday mornings spent over coffee and the newspapers, the weekends away spent exploring… I was so damn lucky to spend my days and hours with the people I did. And despite my initial reluctance to even like NZ, I dug my heels in to pursue a successful career as an award-winning journalist. I loved my work. And when the days were done, we explored the mountains, the forests, the vineyards; we made the paradise beaches on our doorstep our weekend stomping grounds.

New Zealand wedding

We bought our first home, we got married, we had Milin.

We brought our beautiful boy home to a historic wooden villa half way between the city and the sea. We celebrated his arrival and became a little family.

Island Bay Wellington New Zealand

Life was lived outside. Washing hung on the line all year. We ate food from our garden throughout every season. The back door was always open. (Often so our closest friends could let themselves in with coffees picked up on the way to these surprise visits.) We rode our bikes, we walked, we ran, we breathed in the sea air and I took it all for granted. Even after Milin, I picked up work where I’d left off – going part-time but gaining a promotion. I made new friends with other new mothers.

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Before I could no longer stand the homesickness, life was not without its challenges, but it was also undeniably good.

And then we returned to England so our babies would grow up surrounded by beloved extended family. I craved support. I felt lonely so far away.

But in moving we lost so much. We are only realising now how much.

Before we boarded the plane, our friends warned us repeatedly of “The $10,000 mistake”. It was a phrase used to describe Brits in NZ who sold up to return home. So many regretted their choice and trekked back across the world to New Zealand. Having let go of everything prior to their move, they had to start all over again.

It wouldn’t happen to us, we said.

Well, who knows what will happen to us? We certainly don’t.

We know that we miss our old life, but that it would be so different if we tried to return to it.

We know that you can never say “what if”, because you just can’t know.

We know that there are many elements of our life now we don’t want to part with. That our children have benefitted so much from the extended family we moved here for. Life here can be grey and hard, but there is also so much potential for things to be better.The opportunities certainly are greater. But are we happy?

I fear Tony and I, from opposite ends of the earth, travellers and adventurers at heart, will forever find our hearts torn between two countries.

These days though, where we live is dictated by what is best for our children. The problem is, knowing what that is and making peace with it.

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I Can See Myself in My Daughter

Jasmin at avenue house

‘I don’t know where she gets it from’, I have joked. Of course I know.

I’ve seen it before – the stroppiness, the grumpiness, the stubbornness, the sheer single-mindedness. I’ve seen it before – the preciousness, the headstrong independence, the refusal to listen to anyone else.

Of course I know where she gets it from. She gets it from me.

And it makes me worried and afraid. It makes me apprehensive. It makes me a little bit sad.

My daughter is 21 months old. In the tantrums she throws, I see my 21-year-old self. Angry at the world, determined to do things my own way, and intent on making my own mistakes at no-matter what cost.

Well at 34, I know now I should have listened. I know now I should have stopped to think. I know now the price of my errors.

And so I see in my daughter the times I got it wrong. I see in her the signs that I was going to do exactly that. I see in her the choices I made too quickly.

Of course I love her for her stubbornness, her quick temper, her determination, her fierce independence. Of course I love her completely and then more again for all the things I see in her that I dislike in myself. I suppose that is the paradox of motherhood.

Because even though I see the parts of me I would never have wished to pass on, I also see how these things make Jasmin her very own little person. Her anger is hers alone, as is her temper and her preciousness. I might see hints of myself, I might fear that one day she will make the mistakes I did – but I also see something else.

In Jasmin I see myself. But I also see promise and potential and all the things I wasn’t. She might look like me when she doesn’t get her way. She might look like me when she storms off in a huff determined to do things herself. But there’s also a subtle undeniable difference.

In Jasmin there is the beautiful unworldliness of a child. She might have inherited the worst of her mother, but she also starts out in her world anew. Jasmin hasn’t made mistakes, she hasn’t rushed headfirst into disaster, she hasn’t thrashed out a path of error after error.

jasmin climbing

She might make mistakes one day, but before then, I can only try to show her my own. And perhaps I can diminish them, somehow, by showing this little stubborn creature of mine what they were, and how they could have been avoided.

I see myself in my daughter. But I also see hope. My mistakes are not hers. And I will use mine to show her a glimpse of a life which won’t be her own. I can see myself in my daughter. But I can see her too, just her, setting out in the world anew.

mum and daughter walking

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And then the fun began...

When siblings become best friends

brother and sister

There is only 18 months between Milin and Jasmin. It’s such a small difference, and, each day, it seems to get a little bit smaller. One day, they’ll be only a year apart at school. That seems strange to thing of now, but it’s really not far away that they’ll be almost classmates.

Jasmin is two in a few months – which in itself seems unbelievable. I’m a little sad at how quickly she is growing up, but at the same time, I’m excited about all that lies ahead. Milin is three – although sometimes I listen to him talk and can’t believe he is only that young. They are growing up.

What is undoubtedly happening as they grow up is that they are becoming the bestest of friends. As that age gap between them seems to diminish, their bond seems to strengthen.

Milin has always been a caring big brother, conscious of trying to protect his little sister and eager for her to be able to play with him. Jasmin has always adored him, watched his every move, wanted to be a part of what he was doing, and tolerated the unintentional roughness that he had as a toddler.

They have truly become partners in crime. They conspire together these days, laugh together, hatch plans, call each other cheeky and giggle and their shared games and little acts of mischief. They play together, build the same train track, feed their toys at the same tea party, jump on the trampoline together and Milin pulls Jasmin into his imaginary games with lions and dragons and dinosaurs.

It isn’t, of course, all laughter. They are still so young and they still struggle at times to share. They feel jealous of each other or annoyed by silly things. They fight each other whole-heartedly, grabbing for toys or screeching at the unfairness of things. But the battles are short and quickly forgotten.

For the vast majority of the time, Milin and Jasmin are best friends. They love each other fiercely and know that they are a greater force together. I love watching them. They make each other smile, entertain each other, and are truly everything to each other.

I love that they have this, and they will always have this. I know that as they grow older and find their own friends this relationship will change and they won’t always have so much time together, but I also hope they will always be the bestest of friends. To watch them together now is to see so much uncomplicated joy, that I wish they keep it with them forever.

kids in sunday best

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ordinary moments

I was wrong

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I’m sorry.

I feel like I should tell myself this over and over again. Because I got so much wrong.

I made myself believe that the hard days were over. I promised myself that the fog would lift. I told myself it would never be this tough again.

But I know now – it’s not fair to believe that any of this is the hardest bit. You don’t know when the most difficult times will come. They might not be the years you thought they would be.

A newborn in a country far away from my family. A second child born 18 months later on the other side of the world to my former life and friends. These were the days I thought would be the hardest.

But nearly three-and-a-half years after I first held my son, I know there is no ‘hardest day’. There is no ‘toughest time’. There is no period in which you can safely say – ‘it does get better’.

Because sometimes it just doesn’t.

Sometimes the bits you wanted to forget come back. Sometimes they’re just there in your mind, reminding you of the moments you weren’t proud of. Telling you that you lived them and they changed you and they will always exist.

Sometimes you go through those times again. The darkest hours. The longest days. Years after you thought they’d passed. They come back.

Sometimes life just gets harder. Even though you had told yourself it was going to get easier. Life didn’t listen.

I thought becoming a mother was the hardest thing I would ever do. I didn’t know that being a mother was tougher.

I thought the hazy sleep-deprived blur of life at the beginning, with the shock of everything that was new and different and unknown, I thought it couldn’t get harder than that.

But. Sometimes, when you don’t know it’s coming, the dark comes up behind you and overtakes everything else you are meant to be doing.

Sometimes, when your children are old enough for you to be feeling like you agree that ‘it does get easier’. you can’t believe how much, actually, it isn’t easier.

Because it changes. You might not have to feed all the time anymore or worry about just. keeping. them. alive.

But you have to do different things.

And that’s the thing. It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.

The children grow. Mothers and fathers grow. Life doesn’t always get brighter. The shadows still get cast. The hazy fog still descends.

I’m sorry to the new mother me who I promised it would get easier.

I wanted to believe it.

But then everything changed. The children grew. I worried about new things. There were more mistakes to make, more lessons unlearnt, more things i just didn’t know.

I’m sorry. It didn’t get easier. I didn’t figure it all out. I was wrong.

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And then the fun began...
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My Easy Moroccan Chickpea Salad Recipe

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I’m trying to eat more salads and this easy Moroccan-inspired chickpea and carrot dish is one of my current favourites. It’s quick to make and really filling – which are two essentials when it comes to salads for me!

While I’m usually quite good at eating my greens, I have been eating too much junk food recently and I’ve got to a point where I need to stop doing it. So, I’m trying to make myself a salad to eat every day. It helps me make sure that I get a good helping of fresh veggies, and it encourages me to eat better throughout the rest of the day.

I served this up at a relaxed family dinner the other night and it went down a treat – it’s also a great one for packing into a lunch box for work the next day. Here’s what to do:

Dressing -
In a container, shake the zest and juice of one lemon, with 1/2 teaspoon of honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, pinch salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika.

Salad -
Slice 4 carrots into thin strips and roast in a little olive oil until cooked.
Rinse two tins of chick peas and mix with one sliced red pepper and 250g baby spinach.
Mix through cooled carrots and add cashew nuts which have been lightly toasted in a dry pan.
Add a large handful of roughly chopped parsley and a handful of roughly chopped coriander.
Stir through dressing and serve.

Enjoy! x

 

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