Review – Made by Raspberry Tart and friends

South Oxfordshire is something of a crafters’ heaven. More than anywhere else I’ve lived it is teeming with gorgeous little fabric and yarn shops, quilting groups, stitch and bitch sessions, yarn bombing and all sorts.  I’m not sure which came first – the crafters or the craft shops, but the two now exist in a blissful symbiosis of supply and demand.

For the disparate crafter, like myself, there’s the holy triumverate of Masons in Abingdon, a set of three shops spread throughout the town selling variously: fabric and yarn, fabric and notions and ribbons, cake decorating and papercraft items.  Lady Sew and Sew is a lush fabric warehouse in Henley – a quilter’s paradise of fabrics – and for the quilter in search of support, Village Fabrics in Wallingford has the most knowledgeable and helpful staff, and they don’t do a hard sell on you. It also runs lots of great classes and groups.

Wallingford also has the lovely Poppycraft – a papercraft shop – but sadly said goodbye last year to Wool and Willow, the only yarn supplier in South Oxfordshire I’ve come across other than Masons.  Luckily for the community there has been a wonderful upsweep of creativity-based shops in Wallingford with three opening in the same week.  I really must review the pottery cafe and local-vendor start-up-pop-up-shop thing, but for now let me focus on the fabby Made by Raspberry Tart and friends.20150722_121425

As I’m sure you’ll agree, ‘Made by Raspberry Tart and friends’ is certainly an intriguing name, but it makes more sense when you understand that it is a shop set up by a one-woman enterprise who sells clothing and other textiles under the name of Raspberry Tart. The shop, however, is not just a showroom for her handmade items, but also a wonderful community enterprise, encouraging other small-time, local craftspeople to contribute items for sale.

This not only allows a stress-free sales outlet for various enthusiasts, but ensures that the products in Made (as the locals are already calling it) are as varied as they are unique. From leather satchels to felt scotty-dog door stops, button jewellery to funky little cookie cutter pin-cushions this is a one-stop shop for those in search of presents for the hard-to-buy-for.  Luckily this includes crafters to some extent as it even has a small selection of yarns and needles. Hurrah! 20150722_122035

We are blessed, in this part of the county, to have so many lovely crafty shops within easy reach and I’ll certainly be doing a more fulsome review of some of those mentioned above (I especially need to check out Lady Sew and Sew as Christmas approaches – have you seen my Pinterest board recently? It’s very, eh-hem, festive).  Perhaps, if we keep our fingers very tightly crossed, we’ll become a destination shopping location for the crafty-at-heart and even more shops and events will flourish. One can only hope…

Until you are grown – a poem

A poem, to my daughter.


I love you more than I can ever own
to you or myself,
for how can I confess, when one day I know
that you will be grown

And I know the things that I would never have known
had you not come along and given me
the painful mother love I will feel
Long after you are grown

Holding you, sleeping by your side, I am shown
a sort of peace and promise in this world that is
When once you’re grown

And until you have a baby of your own
you will never feel what it is to belong
to someone who needs you only
Until they are grown

And this time that we have shared, where neither one has to lie alone
will then be lost and
I will stare at the dark and mourn
That you are grown

But, for now, you cannot even see the line
that separates you
from me.
For now; you’re mine

And that sense of something undefined –
that your soul came looking,
and found me,
makes you mine

And I’ll cling on to every precious second,
every heartbeat of time,
every sweet breath, murmured sigh, soft look, sleepy moan
that tells me
‘You are mine’,
Until you are grown.

Speaking without words, the face of the refugee crisis

There’s an image going round the internet at the moment. Have you seen it? It’s a photograph from a freelance photographer of one of the refugees from Syria, a father, holding his children in his arms, another adult, maybe his wife, leaning in towards him with head bowed. Behind him are other refugees, blurred out of focus, and the great, grey sea. His face is etched with grief, horror, relief and a wild, grim desperation. This man is being held up as the true face of the refugees – a whole horde of humanity determinedly, desperately escaping untenable circumstances in their home country.

How can you look at his face and see an unwelcome scrounger? Can you imagine packing up your family, taking the handful of things you can carry and leaving the home you know, the country you grew up in, your extended family and community to take a chance on an unknown country, a strange language, an unfamiliar culture – can you imagine doing any of that unless your life utterly depended upon it?

I feel sick when I read or hear about these camps in Calais, when I see photos of the people suffering there. We’re not a big country, God knows, but can’t we be a hospitable one? Give people a chance? Maybe swap some refugees eager to earn a living for some of our natives who are less so… (yes, I am joking. Sort of)

Oxfordshire, or at least our little bit of it, is not very diverse. Primarily white and middle class you might be excused for thinking us insular and ignorant, but we’re not. Our hearts ache for everybody escaping terrors we can never imagine. I doubt my little blog post can do much. I’m trying to make some other contributions too. But if all I do is direct you to this image, which you may not have seen, then that is enough. This man’s face speaks volumes more than my paltry words ever could.

Moving on, packing up, saying goodbye to the baby crap

C360_2015-08-18-19-12-51-605The night before I last I packed up all my new baby clothes and things for the last time. The sadness of leaving behind a stage of motherhood is surprisingly strong and I always slightly dread it, but it can still catch me unawares, for all that.  I’m already dreading when I have to pack up the clothes that she’s currently too small for!

I’ve been blessed over the last four years by having some very generous friends with children a little older than my own and now it’s my turn to share the wealth and pass along outgrown items to expectant friends for their babies to wear.

In many ways it’s a positive thing – how lovely to think of your baby’s Moses basket being slept in by your friend’s baby, or that sweet turquoise baby grow you loved stretched taut over the rounded tummy of your little niece. I’m also secretly quite pleased to get back the space I lost to the Moses basket, bouncy chair, playnest and changing table – we only have a two-bed house! In so many more ways though it’s one of the heartbreaking milestones of being a Mama and having your last baby.

I’m fairly sure The Man doesn’t understand and regards me indulgently as a harmless fruitloop. I burst into tears over the little white cardie with ladybird buttons that I knitted for my Boy (and that never fitted the girl) and the babygros that are just too special to give away so have been lovingly folded into a bag until I organise a memory box for each of them.  I buried my nose in a few things I was giving away and, even though they’ve been washed, they seem infused with the sweet, milky smell of my babies and a tight knot built in my throat.

My children are growing up and there are many wonderful things about that, and I’m glad to be helping out some of my friends. I even look forward to seeing those little clothes on other little warm bodies and smiling wistfully at my memories, but by god it was hard to do it.  In my sadness I turned to the lovely women who have been (virtually) by my side over the last four years of pregnancy and motherhood and their words were so comforting and helpful I thought I should probably represent their support in their own words, so here are some direct quotes.  If you’re feeling like I’m feeling then perhaps you can find some comfort there too.

“It’s OK, it’s mourning the days that have passed.  It’s alright to let that pass with some grief”

“Ooh but all the things can go on to have another life where they will be used and loved!”

“It’s only natural, we all do it. You just need to deal with the mourning of that period of your life in the best way that suits you. Look back with fond memories and look forward with excitement of the unknown.”

Thank you, dear friends. How much we mothers need other mothers to give us a hand up the steep bits as we walk the path of motherhood, or just to walk beside us when it rains.

5 ignorant questions about co-sleeping

questionsaboutcosleepingThis started out as yet another “5 stupid things…” post (see ‘babywearing’ and ‘breastfeeding’), but once I started listing the questions I realised they weren’t so much stupid as ignorant about co-sleeping and instead of venting my stored-up sarky responses perhaps it might be helpful to actually address some of the most common concerns I hear mentioned. However, this is me and I do have a sharp tongue when writing, so expect the odd drop of sarcasm here and there, it’s just the way I roll.  So if you want to know about how to make co-sleeping safe, or how to have sex whilst the result of your last encounter snores gently beside you then perhaps you might find an answer or two below… And for the purposes of accuracy, I am referring specifically to bedsharing, as co-sleeping technically just means sleeping in the same room as your baby.

1 – Aren’t you worried about SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)?

No. Not in the slightest. I’m sometimes occasionally concerned about over-lying, especially with my first baby, but over-lying (or smothering) is not the same thing as SIDS.  In fact, the risks of SIDS are reduced with safe co-sleeping and that’s what we practice.  This is borne out by the fact that the lowest incidences of SIDS occur in countries where bedsharing is the accepted norm.  Here’s a bit more info if you’re interested.

2 – Is it safe?

It is as safe as we can make it. We have a firm mattress, a super king sized bed, she only sleeps on my side and I exclusively breastfeed. Neither of us drink, smoke or take drugs (good thing we have a terrible sense of humour and love to eat junk or we’d be so virtuous it’d make other people sick) and our room is cool and well-ventilated.  There are no cracks or gaps for her to get wedged in or fall down.  I tie up my long hair (although this is also because otherwise she rips handfuls of it out with her tiny little monkey hands) and avoid overheating. We have done everything we can to ensure her safety.

You know what’s not safe? Falling asleep over the top of your baby whilst sitting in a hard, upright chair as recommended by my Health Visitor with my first baby.  Or making a nest on the sofa to sleep in so he can stay on your chest.  In fact most of the studies that conclude how dangerous co-sleeping is do not differentiate between bedsharing and sleeping on a sofa or chair. Those are always dangerous to do. If you’re tired and your baby will only settle near you then why not read up here and make sure you’re doing it safely?

3 – But how do you have ‘an intimate relationship’ with your husband?

OK, firstly, do you mean sex? Cos if you mean sex then you should just say sex, cos you know, that’s how we made the baby so it’s not too presumptuous to assume we might indulge in sex sometimes. Sex. Sex. Sex sex sex sex sex. Right. Now I’ve got that off my chest allow me to answer the question.
I would have to quote a blogger friend of mine who said on a post about Attachment Parenting on her blog, Another Bun, that if the only place you have sex is in your bed then she feels sorry for you. So yes, a little inventiveness can go a long way. Plus, you know, babies sleep well and we have a super king size bed with a co-sleeper attachment so there’s ways around these things. Plus, you know, it’s not really any of your business.

4 – Doesn’t she wake you up?

No more than any other breastfed infant. Oftentimes I actually stick a boob in her mouth without fully waking up and wonder the next morning why one of my breasts is hanging out, assuming she’s slept through the night.  In fact sometimes I struggle to get to sleep at night, too many lists and worries whizzing through my brain. At times like these I lie my head down next to her so I can feel her breath on my face, I take hold of her little hand in mine and drift peacefully off to sleep.  She’s a very restful wee person. I don’t wake her up, either, in case you were wondering.  She sleeps best knowing that her source of warmth, comfort and food is right there within grabbing reach.

5 – Are you still going to let her be in with you when she’s a teenager?

Somehow I think she might object to this more than I will. Aren’t teenagers renowned for retreating from the world to fester in their bedroom all alone? My son started flinging himself around and insisting on his own space from about 10 months. I suspect my daughter will want to stay rather longer than this (and she’s certainly more pleasant to bedshare with as she doesn’t hurl herself about in the same way) but, as with him, I’m happy to let my baby lead the way. I sleep better when there’s someone beside me to cuddle up with, why it shouldn’t be the same for my children I don’t know.

5 stupid questions to ask a babywearer

stupidquestionsbabywearerI don’t know what it is about babywearing that invites comment from strangers, perhaps just the mystic nature of carrying a baby close to your body wrapped about by yards and yards of fabric rather than in some hi-tech buggy or buckled contraption with steel struts in – who knows? All I know is that living in a town full of narrow sloping pavements and cobblestones a carrier is not just more attachment-parent-y, but more practical! Whilst I don’t get that many stupid questions where I live (the perks of being a lentil-weaving hippy in Hippyville central) I’m never quite prepared for how many daft queries come my way when I travel abroad. Never quite certain what to say I usually smile politely and say nothing, but I mentally roll my eyes and think of the –rather rude– response I’d like to have made.  This being so, I thought I’d compile a list of the most commonly asked questions and finally lance the boil by answering them as sarcastically as I wish I could in real life. What’s the stupidest comment you’ve ever had when babywearing?

1 – Is she comfortable like that?

Nah, she bloody hates it, that’s why she’s smiling and gurgling at you/fast asleep. Honestly! It’s only holding a baby like you would in your arms, but arms-free.

2 – Can she breathe in there?

Nah. I like to suffocate babies. It’s my dream in fact.  Pfft. Always makes me think of that Eddie Izzard sketch from Dressed To Kill “I put babies on spikes” – I mean really. Not only can she breathe, but her face is just inches away from my face so I can (and do) check on her regularly.

3 – Oh my goodness, there’s a baby in there!

“What?! Where?! Holy hell – where did that come from?!”

No shit Sherlock. What, you think I stuck a sunhat to my chest?  I mean, OK, the baby is fast asleep and kind of concealed by the wrap, but don’t say ‘there’s a baby in there’ like you’re informing me of something I might not have noticed. Trust me – it’s not news to me.

4 – Can’t you afford a buggy?

I can. In fact I own one. It’s great for putting all the slings on when I go to outdoor sling meets…

5 – But what if the knot comes untied?

baby in half wrapped sling

Almost completely unwrapped – but look – no hands!

OK, fair enough, I can kind of understand why people might be a bit nervous of this. If I have time, though, I like to freak these people out by untying the knot behind me and letting the fabric go suddenly and watch as they jerk forwards to catch my baby. Hey – I’m not putting her in danger. She won’t fall, I promise. In fact, I can even untuck these cross passes here and just let them hang so she’s only held in one layer of fabric and what do you know, still not hitting the ground with a loud splat.  Wearing a baby in a wrap is one of the safest ways to carry your baby, especially if you’ve been doing it as long as I have. I understand your concern, but trust me, my baby is safe – look – no hands!

Just editing to respond to a couple of comments I’ve had declaiming this post as (worst insult to hurl in the hippy-lentil-weaver world) ‘judgey’. To those people I would simply ask them to examine the kinds of questions I’ve mentioned and the tone in which they are usually expressed.

These are most often not people with genuine queries, to whom I would obviously explain fully if I had time and by whom I would not be annoyed. No, these are ridiculous queries framed to be funny or mimic concern but portray a whole world full of judginess. I’m an intelligent fully-functioning adult. I know when someone is genuinely concerned for the ability of my baby to breathe (and reassure them) and when they’re just being snotty (and ignore them). Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so polite…

The gift of beauty

Being the mother of a daughter comes with a special sort of responsibility, well, being the mother of a son does too, but it’s daughters I’m talking about here and building their self-confidence and body image so that they have a true notion of their intrinsic value and beauty and as the model of womanhood that they grow up with then that surely comes from us.The gift of beauty

Have you seen that article doing the rounds about a little girl who knows she looks like her Mama and thinks her Mama is beautiful, so therefore she is beautiful? Only the mama in question criticises herself so if her Mama isn’t beautiful, how can she be? You can read it hereIf you haven’t, then you should. It’s an eye-opening insight into how we, as mothers, can shape our daughter’s body confidence through the most thoughtless of comments, without ever saying anything about how she looks.  Yet, we’re so self-critical, often out loud to our reflections or our friends, and how can they not pick up on this?

I took steps to try and change the way I spoke about myself, even before I had a daughter. I don’t want my son to look at women critically any more than I want my daughter to look at herself that way. I made sure to admire the strong legs I used to carry my babies, the stripes they wrote onto my belly as they grew, the creases round my eyes put there as I stayed up all night feeding and soothing them and the lines at the corners they caused with their smiles.

Over time I even came to believe in these truths. I like my thighs in a way I never used to and getting older holds less fear when I think of the history that will be written into my face with the wrinkles.  But these only address the superficial, not how I felt about myself underneath it all.

Then my daughter was born. Now, my son looks like a little Man-mini-me. Everyone who’d met my husband would comment on how much my son looked like his daddy until I began to feel more like an incubator than a DNA contributor. Not so with our Girl. She’s a perfect blend of both of us, though some days she looks more like him and some, like today, she looks so much like me it’s as if a baby photo of mine has come to life a la Harry Potter.

I gaze at her and think what every mother has felt since time immemorial “My God, she’s so beautiful. I mean so so beautiful.” I’ve not seen anything so beautiful since my son was born and when she smiles I feel as though something heavy is pressing down on my chest as it tightens with love so hard it feels almost like pain. But she looks like me. She looks just like me. Now either I can indulge in the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows me to think she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and that she looks like me, but I’m not beautiful, or I can just accept a new view of myself.

That’s the gift my daughter has given me: to see myself as beautiful right down to the bones for the first time since I started to criticise my reflection in the mirror years ago.  A fair exchange for the gift of life I think.

How does your daughter make you feel?

Behind the birth story

So we’re coming up to the five month mark since our little girl joined our family earthside and, since she and I are healthy and thriving you might be excused for thinking that I would have no lingering concerns over her arrival.  Birth trauma is a bitch, though, if you’ll pardon my language and even the most outwardly straightforward births can leave a new mother with anything from a lingering sadness through to flashbacks, post-natal depression or even psychosis, because what so many people fail to recognise is that birth is not a purely physiological process.behindbirthstory

Bringing a baby into the world may happen through a physical process, but that physical process is brought about and supported by emotional and hormonal reactions. Other people* have written far more widely and knowledgeably about the birth process and, as I have no pretension to medical expertise, I’ll leave that to them.  No, I’m going to share something more personal. My daughter was born at home, as planned, with kind and caring midwives who had looked after me throughout my pregnancy. I laboured in a pool, birthed her with no medication at all, even gas and air, and my husband supported me through the whole thing. She had nothing to eat but breastmilk.

This is the story I tell to strangers. It’s all true. It’s just not all of the truth. Even now I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail, but she got her shoulder stuck on my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia). She needed resuscitation as she didn’t breathe on her own for ten minutes. Paramedics were called and responded with urgency.  We transferred to hospital where I had a haemorrhage and a general anaesthetic. She was given donor milk, hooked up to machines, given a lumbar puncture, roomed away from me for the four most painful nights of my life. She’s fine. I’m fine. But that’s not all that matters.

As mothers we have hopes for our births and our babies. Not every mother’s is the same as mine, but I hoped for calmness, peace, an intimate experience and a babymoon at home in my own bed with my new baby. I laboured for 8 hours, brought forth a 10lb baby with shoulder dystocia and had no pain relief. I worked damn hard for the outcome I wanted and I feel cheated. And sad – so so sad.

I’m not sure what I hope to achieve with this post. It’s not really informative, unless you’re desperately interested in my personal life. I suppose I’m just asking for understanding for any woman who doesn’t seem ecstatic about her birth, perhaps there’s a reason. Be sensitive. What she’s telling you might not be the whole story, so don’t assume. Don’t judge. Despite the outward appearance of calm and happy maternity perhaps she, like me, is dreading bedtime because it means being alone with her thoughts and a long, sleepless night of tears and bitterness.  Motherhood is a baptism of fire and it can take a long time to move out of the flames.

*I recommend Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin if you want a beginner’s crash course in birth.

5 things not to do or say to your co-parent (unless you want a slap)

5thingsnottodoorsayIn the game of parenting there are two sides – parents versus kids. In this situation it is vital that you keep your game face on and work as a team to overcome the relentless onslaught brought by the other side.  The last you thing you need is to turn on each other – parents need to work together!  In aid of that happy harmony which will enable you to march to victory, I present a few of the key things to avoid saying or doing to your co-parent, lest you wind up locked in the playpen with the toddler (at best).

  1. I’m sooooo tired today
    Now, I’m an equal-opportunities exhaustion kinda gal, so I’m going to try and see this from both sides, but as a breastfeeding (ie- the only one who can do night feeds) mother, I am sorta more on their side generally. Just a little disclaimer.

    So yeah, never say to a mother who went through labour – one of humankind’s most exhausting physical ordeals – has been single-handedly keeping a baby alive with the produce of her body (breastfeeding is literally draining) and spends all day getting screamed at and all night getting woken for food, cuddles, calpol administration etc that you are tired. You don’t know the meaning of it.

    But working fathers and mothers, well, you have to look vaguely presentable, stay on your game, commute to and from work and hell! No naps for you despite the fact you could hear the wailing too  through your snoring. huh.! Nobody at baby group will judge a parent sitting in the corner rocking wearing three-day-old clothes and food in their hair. Nobody expects them to say anything intelligent. Unlike you…

    I think we can probably agree that there are no winners here, so just don’t say it. Ever. Either of you. Although working mothers who also breastfeed… I think you might have the upper hand in the game of “I’m more tired than you”. Hats off Sista.

  2. Sing any kind of CBeebies theme tune, ‘Let it go’ or any other irritating kiddie ear worm
    It’s not funny. It’s not clever. It’ll really piss off the other parent who spends all day muttering nonsensical lyrics to themselves in a perky american accent.
    Or do what The Man and I do and turn it into a kind of ninja sneak attack, see if you can slip in just enough of a phrase to ordinary everyday conversation that you can’t be accused of doing it, but manage to plant an earworm anyway!
  3. “But you do [insert disgusting, time consuming, fiddly or otherwise unappealing chore here] so much better, that’s why I left it for you…”
    This is not a compliment. This is you evading your duties. Pull your finger out you lazy so and so and do your bit. You’ll never get good at it if you don’t practice.

These final two, admittedly, are specifically from the parent who has not been stuck at home with the children to the parent who has.  Say either of these to a stay at home parent and you won’t just get slapped, you’ll get eviscerated

4 – I  just need some time to myself
Seriously? You get to commute by yourself. You get to pee by yourself. If you choose to skulk away from your desk you can probably even eat by yourself.  How much more time do you need? Huh? huh? HUH?!

5 – What have you done all day?
Now, there are ways and ways of saying this. Asked in an enthusiastic, interested tone, mostly directed towards the three year old then this is just showing interest in your day. Fine. What you never ever ever ever never do is cast your eye around the house and exclaim it in a tone of disbelief. You think this is bad, buddy? You shoulda seen it without all the tidying up I did. Plus, Stay at home parent, not stay at home housekeeper.

I am so tempted to round this list up to 6, as my erstwhile husband has just told the three year old that I will watch a Thomas DVD with him knowing full well that modern Thomas cartoons are my absolute pet hate, but I’ve already made the artwork and can’t be bothered to do a new one for ‘6 things not to….’ so Man – be warned. I do not appreciate your sneaky tactics and I will get my own back.

Ten steps to washing up effectively

washingupNow I don’t know if there is much writing on this matter. It’s actually something I was taught by my food tech teacher when I started secondary school oh so many moons ago, but I feel that knowing how to wash up properly is one of those useful life skills that everybody should know, but that very few actually do know.  So if you’ve spent all your life using a dishwasher, or perhaps you know a teenager who’s had Mummy do it all and they’re just about to head off to uni, perhaps you could pass this handy guide to them to ignore make use of.

My credentials are won over years of experience as, except for 18 months of dishwasher bliss in one flat, I have been having to handwash everything since I left my parents’ house fourteen years ago. So trust me – this is how to do a really good job!

1 – Make sure your sink is clean.
I’d like to think this is so obvious it doesn’t need saying, but I have been in close contact with someone (who shall remain nameless) who runs a sinkful of hot soapy water into a sink that’s rimmed around with orange grease from previously washing up bolognaise plates and pans. Yuck. Goes without saying that if your sink is dirty and greasy, so will your washing up be.

2 – Wear rubber gloves
Yes, they look absurd, but their use is two fold. Firstly – they protect your hands from the rigours of washing up and will hopefully prevent (or at least lessen) uncomfortable and unsightly conditions like contact dermatitis. This is less important when you do the odd pan here and there, far more important when you’re in that sink two or three times a day doing all crockery, cutlery and cookware.  Secondly – they enable you to follow rule number 3…

3 – Have the water as hot as you can
Hence the rubber gloves. You’re trying to kill germs here, not just remove food residue, so you want the water as hot as possible: ideally this is hotter than a bare hand can reasonably stand without rubber gloves. If your taps dont run that hot (personally, our boiler is set to somewhere about molten lava…) then boil up a kettle to supplement it and pour it in.

4 – Less is more
You do *not* need gallons of washing up liquid to clean things satisfactorily. Half a tablespoon is more than adequate for the majority of washing up loads.  More than this and you’ll have to rinse every blessed thing less it taste of detergent, plus you’ll have bubbles to the ceiling!

5 – Establish a hierarchy!
No, this is not a family hierarchy whereby the lowest rank gets stuck with the washing up, but a logical order in which to wash up so you can get everything properly cleaned without running endless sinkfuls of fresh water. This is roughly it:
Obviously there is some wriggle room where you should use your common sense, but if you just chuck everything in together then you end up with everything greasy and glasses that are all smeary and grubby looking.

6 – Rinse rinse rinse before
Scrape off the debris into the food recycling, then rinse everything either into the side sink if you have it, or use a washing-up bowl and rinse into the sink down the side of it. I wish this, also, was obvious, but again I have first-hand experience of someone chucking plates still encrusted with baked beans and fried egg into the sink with glasses and everything else.  If it’s too dried on then soak it a bit first.  This goes double for things like casserole dishes where the food has baked on.

7 – Use the right tools
A sponge, a brush or a cloth are the best tools for the basic washing up. A scourer or wire wool is useful for dealing with baked-on food. Do not use a scourer for the standard washing up. You will wreck the dishes and leave bits of food adhered between the scoured-off bits. Trust me. Pick your tools wisely.

8 – Rinse rinse rinse after
Not everything, certainly, but if you give glasses and cutlery a good swish under some more really hot water then they’ll dry quickly and smear-free which makes them look so much more appealing when you come to using them again

9 – Use your brain to drain
If you leave bowls or glasses upturned not only will they not dry, they will collect drips (and possibly unseen debris) from things draining on top of them.  If you haven’t got a draining board a tea towel laid flat makes a reasonable substitute. Leaving to drain is more hygienic than using a tea towel generally, but if you have to dry immediately then use a clean towel and don’t mix it up with a hand towel. Ick.

10 – Clean that sink
This is especially important when flat-sharing or living in halls, or basically if someone else is going to have to have to use that sink other than you. Remove all large food debris, rinse away scum, if there’s any grease then use some detergent and wipe it down. Even if it’s just you who’ll use it next think how nice it’ll be to look at a clean sink in the interim and have it all ready to use.

So there you go – ten steps to effective washing up. If any of this is unfamiliar to you then I suggest you implement it and see the difference it makes!