Baby or puppy?

Puppy pushing pram

I’m about to become a mother. And for those of you who know me, I do hope you weren’t eating when you read that or you have probably spat the food all over the floor.

Although I am nearly 50, I have decided that it is time to do it again. To become a mother. To care for something helpless. To have something love me unconditionally.

I know there will be sleepless nights. I know there may be problems with feeding. I will not look forward to the trying teenage years but I don’t care. I’m ready to do it again. In two weeks time, I will be the proud mother of a nine week old puppy!

This is not a new experience. I owned a beautiful mongrel twenty years ago who I often refer to as ‘my first baby’. She was an amazing dog, pet and member of our family and I trusted her implicitly. With me, she went through four changes of address, numerous jobs, infertility treatment and finally, the addition of twins to our family. None of this phased Bella. I was devastated when she died on Christmas Eve five years ago.

Beautiful Bella walking in wood
Beautiful Bella!

At that time, lots of my friends started to get dogs and although I missed the dog walks and being part of the ‘dog gang’, I couldn’t get another dog, not yet. It hurt too much. Even people bringing their dogs to my house upset me. When a family pet dies, some people get another one straight away. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I ever would be. I’ve never been particularly maternal or broody but would coo over a puppy.

So why do I want a puppy now?

I have to blame the children. My life has definitely been easier without a dog. No worrying about house mess, leaving the dog for long periods and going on holiday at short notice. But my children have wanted a dog for the last few years. Even though Bella was a part of our family, they were too young to remember her. I grew up with dogs and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on that experience. And most importantly, I am ready for another puppy.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this. There are around 8.5 million dog owners in the UK according to the PMF association who carried out research in 2016. This equates to 24% of the pet owning population. The only pet more popular is the fish. This research also highlights the areas of the UK where you are more likely to have dog owners compared to other pets. In Northern Ireland it is a huge 44% whereas in London it is 9%. In 1980 the number of dog owners was around 4.8 million.  Globally, dogs are the most popular pet owned by nearly 33% of the pet owning population according to Petfood Industry.

Owning a dog has become more popular over the years but why?

Puppy was once a wolf

Dogs have a long history with humans. One popular theory is that wolves hung around our campsites, and over thousands of years those who were tamest got closer to us. After dogs entered human society, we started actively manipulating them, selecting them to be better hunters and guardians and companions.

Once dogs became domesticated, there were highs and lows. Romans buried their dogs in human cemeteries and talked about them like children. But in the Middle Ages, when the plague started going around, dogs become scapegoats. They were viewed as filthy animals.  Today, we are very much like the Romans again and talk about our canine friends as though they are family members.

So what are animals to us and what’s the appropriate relationship to them?

The answer to that depends on your history with dogs. Those who have been brought up on a farm or in the country will have seen their dogs used in a working capacity. Those in towns will have seen dogs being carried around in handbags, the ultimate accessory. I believe most dog owners today are somewhere in the middle. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Although I am adamant that my new puppy will stay on the floor when the family are sitting on the sofa, I have a sneaky feeling that this rule will change as she lies there looking at me with her big, brown eyes. After all, she will be a part of our family.

Puppy looking up with big brown eyes
A very cute puppy… but not ours.

So what happens next with the arrival of our puppy?

I am on a countdown to the arrival of our new family member and am amazed at how similar it is to becoming a parent again. You are overloaded with information about the best ways to get through the early nights, toilet training, the correct balanced diet and all the equipment you need in order to survive the first few months. This to me was exactly how I felt before having my twins. I remember feeling overwhelmed and worried that I hadn’t got a divider to put into my twins cot when I brought them back from the hospital! Oh no! What would I do? They would crash into each other and hurt each other, wake each other up or more importantly not be able to sleep!

On the first night, I realised that this was not an essential piece of equipment and my kids were just fine in the cot together. So I am going to treat puppyhood just like motherhood and remember the important things. Care and attention, food and love. What more could a puppy or a baby ask for?

How has body image changed over the years?

How body image has changed over time

In my last post I talked about a positive body image and what we parents can do to help our children (and ourselves.) While researching this topic I was surprised to see how the way we view the perfect body shape has changed over the years.

If you lived during the 1950’s then you might have come across an advert like this.

 1950's advert for body image too skinny
1950’s advert

Or this

1950's advert shows different body image of today
How to put on weight!

Being thin was not considered a good body shape and there were people (men in white coats!) who could show you how to change it using pills. How different to today when you are more likely to see adverts and programmes about weight loss not weight gain. Continue reading How has body image changed over the years?

What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?

 

Decision time at Irish Dancing World Championships

If you have a child who does Irish dancing, you will know that the Worlds are just around the corner. For those of you who don’t, let me explain (and read my book The Reel).

The Irish Dancing World Championships (often known simply as the Worlds) are held annually during the Easter Week. It is the biggest Irish Dancing competition in the World and the main goal of all Irish dancers. Until 1999, the Championships were held permanently in Ireland. Since 2000, however, they have been held in a number of countries including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States and Canada.

The World Championships have happened every year since 1970 except for 2001 which had to be cancelled due to a Foot-and-mouth outbreak in Ireland.

Images of Irish dancing

Continue reading What is the Irish Dancing World Championships?

Why is St Patrick’s Day celebrated all over the world?

St Patrick's Day. Why is it celebrated around the world?

March 17th is St Patrick’s Day and all around the world millions of people celebrate. There are lots of other saint days but none of them seem to have the world-wide appeal that St Patrick’s day has.

With an Irish father, a brother born on St Patrick’s Day (my father was delighted!) and a daughter who loves Irish dancing, it has always been a special occasion in our house. It is, of course, celebrated in Ireland but it seems to be a much bigger event in America.

Continue reading Why is St Patrick’s Day celebrated all over the world?

So why do we celebrate eating pancakes?

 

Pancakes on plate
Pancakes on pancake day

I love pancakes. So having a day to celebrate them is my idea of heaven. But why do we?

Okay, so we’re not really celebrating pancakes. We are celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (sometimes known as Fat Tuesday in America, Sweden and France) and Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago.

The name Shrove Tuesday comes from ‘shrive’, meaning absolution for sins by doing penance. A bell was rung to call Christians to go to Confession, where they admitted their sins to a priest and asked for absolution.

In France, it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because of the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris. The ox was to remind the people that they were not allowed to eat meat during Lent.

So why is it called Pancake Day?

Pancake day came about much later on as a way of using up all the fats and foods that would not be eaten during fasting. In America it is called ‘Fat Tuesday’ because people use up their ‘fatty foods’ before Lent.

I found this explanation of Pancake day in Denmark and how it has its roots in history.

“To the Dutch it is called “Vastenavond” or “Dikke Dinsdag”. It is celebrated in the southern regions of the Netherlands and marks the last day of a celebration called “carnaval”. After this celebration a time of cleansing is done. Traditionally, around the start of February there would be a feast. This was the last opportunity to eat well before a time of food shortage at the end of the winter. On what nowadays is called “Vastenavond” meaning “the days before fasting” everyone ate the remaining winter stores of butter, lard, and meat before it began to rot, as livestock was slaughtered in the previous November.

It can’t be a coincidence that Lent is timed to match these lean months, with fasting helping the remaining food last longer.

Celebrating before fasting

This tradition of celebrating and then fasting happens in religions across the world.

In Hinduism it is believed that many diseases and damages to one’s body come from harmful substances in the digestive system. Hence, by fasting, one can purify himself, put his body to rest, and become healthier. Buddhists believe that fasting shows their determination to stay away from selfish desires, save the planet and all living creatures, and control their own greed. Muslims feel the most important reason to fast is for muslims to cleanse their bodies to present themselves to God and forgiveness for all their sins. Jews believe fasting will help them focus and bring them closer to forgiveness.

And before there was religion, there was nature. Hunting, foraging and storing food occured without fridges and freezers. So it makes sense that fasting occurred around this time, towards the end of Winter ready for Spring and the new seasonal foods she brought.

There is a common theme here. Indulge before fasting. We eat up all the good foods and then limit what we eat for so many weeks afterwards. Now what does that remind you of? Oh yes, Christmas. We eat all the rich and decadent foods and then go on a diet in January. Indulge before fasting. You might not be religious but I’m sure you’ve done this.

Pancakes and traditions

Celebrating Pancake day is a really old tradition but I found some other interesting traditions for Pancake day.

In Ireland, Pancakes would be cooked on the stove, and the honour of tossing the first pancake would go to the eldest, unmarried daughter. If she was successful, she would be married within the year.

In Canada, objects with symbolic value are baked into the pancakes, such as coins, nails, wedding rings and buttons. The lucky one to find coins in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first married, the finder of the nail will become a carpenter and the finder of the button will be a seamstress or tailor.

Dating back as far as the 12th century, many towns throughout England used to hold traditional Shrove Tuesday football (‘Mob Football’) games. Some still do. For two hours, men and women take part in  a ruby type of scrum to claim the football. Streets are closed and shops are boarded up to minimise the damage. Anything goes, and the only rule is that the ball is not allowed to leave the town’s boundaries. When the time is up, the man with the football in his hands is declared the winner, and gets to keep the ball as a trophy.

World record pancakes

  1. The tallest stack of pancakes is 101.8 cm (213 pancakes) and was made by Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, UK on 8 February 2016. (Guinness Book of records)
  2. The most pancakes made in one hour by an individual is 1,127 by Erica Price in Kansas, USA, on 17 April 2016.
  3. The Co-operative Union Ltd based in Manchester, England, made a pancake measuring 15.01 m in diameter and 2.5 cm deep on August 13, 1994.
  4. The oldest pancake race happened in 1445. According to legend, when the church bells rang for Shrove Tuesday service, a housewife wasn’t finished grilling the cakes. Not wishing to ruin her pancakes, she ran to the church with pan in hand. In memory of this housewife, women in Buckinghamshire, UK compete every Shrove Tuesday in a 415-yard race in which they must carry a pancake in a skillet.
  5. The Guinness Book of World Records does not recognize pancake eating as a category, but at an event at The Pancake Parlour in Melbourne, Australia, Hayden wilson ate 80 pancakes in 17 minutes and 26 seconds. That’s about 2.5kg of pancakes in less than 20 minutes.
  6. The fastest flipper of a pancake is Brad Jolly, who holds the record for most tosses of a pancake in one minute. He did 140 flips in 60 seconds during an event in Sydney, Australia in 2012.
  7. Dominic Cuzzacrea tossed his pancake 9.47 metres in the air at the Walden Galleria Mall in New York, USA, in November 2010.
  8. An incredible team made and flipped 76,382 pancakes in 8 hours at Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, USA, back in May 2009. A total of 175 volunteers using 37 griddles cooked the pancakes and dished them out to approximately 20,000 people.

I won’t be making 76,382 pancakes tonight although it will probably feel like it. And if you are eating out here are some ideas happening around London. Happy Pancake Day everyone.