Day-Before-Payday Baking: No Dairy, No Egg, No Fun Chocolate Cake.

Find a large bowl. This may be a difficult task considering you made a cup of tea in a gravy boat this morning, but press on. Into this bowl place 1 and 1/2 cups of flour. Preferably self-raising because that is one less ingredient for you to forget. Add to this 1 cup of sugar. Let the children sift these ingredients if you must. You can then feel you have done something with them today other than hiding from them in the laundry. Return to the bowl as much of the dry ingredients as the children are now covered in. Tell them they are good helpers. This is called positive affirmation. You no longer recieve this, as you are now a parent. No annual reviews for you, my friend. Welcome to the rest of your life. Now send them away so you can actually bake this bloody thing.

To the bowl add a generous heaping of cocoa powder. By now the children will have returned from the 30 seconds they were not under your feet or at your elbow. Try your best to keep them from the Quintessential Childhood Mistake of shovelling great helpings of the stuff into their gobs; thinking they have discovered endless chocolate riches. Half a cup should do. Throw half a teaspoon of salt in for good measure.

Stir. Remember that the secret ingredient is not actually love; it’s butter. But as this is a Vegan cake, love will have to do. Think about something nice. The fictional Vampire of your choosing; paying off your credit card; not being spoken to for an hour.

Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients. To these wells add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence; 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I use Raspberry) and 5 generous tablespoons of olive oil. Throw 1 cup of tepid water over the whole shebang and get out all your passive agression mixing that shit together. Once combined cook in a greased cake tin of some description in a preheated oven at 190 degrees on fan bake. Half an hour should do it. Enough time to dump another load of washing on your couch and will it to fold itself. Maybe half-ass the hoovering. Or until a knife comes out clean.

Once cooked turn out on a wire rack and leave to cool. Or don’t. But you know the icing won’t set and you’ll wish you had waited. And yes, I know you could just put it in the fridge, but come on. Just do it bloody properly, will you? Or simply dust with icing sugar. I am not here to limit you.

Should you choose to make an icing; mix equal parts ‘yeah, nah, that looks about right’ of cocoa powder and icing sugar and a trickle of water. More dry ingredients if it is too thin, more water if it is too thick. You will end up with far too much either way. But then you can let the children lick the bowl. And they will be quiet. Take a picture.

Time the serving with Sesame Street and you just brought yourself an hours nap. Or, an hours uninterrupted worrying. Which ever is most pressing on your agenda. You’re welcome.

Morning Ritual

“Mama? Where is my tutu?”

“This one?”

“No! Not that one!”

“…This one?”

“No! Not that one!”

“…What about this one, darling? You love this one!”

“No! Not that one! Mae-Mae no love that one!” (she says as she clutches it to her face, stroking it)

“How about this one?”

“NO! NOT THAT ONE!”

“This? Surely this one?”

“NO! NO! NO! NO! NOT THAT ONE!”

“This one, DARLING? THIS ONE? THIS BLOODY TUTU? THIS TUTU IN THE ENDLESS SEA OF BLOODY TUTUS THAT HAS BECOME MY EVERY MORNING?”

“..hmm?…Um. No.”

We collapse. Overcome by tulle and ennui.

She turns to me, angel-faced. Touches my cheek as if to say; such is life, Mama.

And then she roars ‘NO TUTU, MAMA! I WANT POPCORN!’ and we begin our day.

It’s only funny until someone loses an eye.

Theo: “Guess what’s in my belly button!”

Alice: “…is this a trick question?”

Theo: “A train and a lollipop and another train!”

Alice: “That’s amazing, Bubba. I should sell you to the Circus.

Theo: “…Why?”

Alice: “Because of all the things you can fit in your belly button!”

Theo: “…I don’t want you to sell me to the Circus”

Alice: “Sorry, darling. I was just tricking”

Theo: “…Why are you tricking me, Mama?”

Alice: “I was just being silly, darling”

Theo: “Well, don’t.”

Portrait of the Author as a Mother.

Theo: “Mama, I am 3. How old are you?”

Alice: “Yes; you are, and Mae-Mae is 2. How old do you think I am?”

Theo: “I don’t know…”

Alice: “Ever tactful, darling. Have a guess. Do you think I am old or young?”

Theo: “Let me check…”

(Results are in: I am ‘old-young’. Paring down my skin-care routine to moisturising, fretting and 1000 kisses a day seems to be paying dividends)