Monday, 31 January 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged....

that if you are married to a man, even if he is a good man, you do struggle somewhat not to nag.

Mr Jones is a very good man. of course, otherwise I wouldn't have married him. He makes breakfast for me and Rufus every morning, he puts the bins out and unloads the dishwasher, he gives Rufus a bath every night, he goes to work all day, occasionally he'll even run the hoover round - and for all of this I am very, very grateful and appreciative.

But there are times when I have to dig my nails into my palms, cross my toes, bite my tongue and resist the urge to tear out my own hair. You see, helpful as he is, very often he never quite finishes a job.

Take this morning for instance - he made his lunch and took the last yogurt from the cardboard outer carton. He removed this from the fridge, but instead of putting it in the bin, he left it on the side. Ditto the empty juice carton (which actually was an improvement to last week when it was left with barely a dribble in it in the fridge). When he cleans up after dinner he won't always wipe down the side or the top of the cooker. He'll put the bins out, but won't have emptied the various bins throughout the house. He'll load the dishwasher and put it on, but somehow fail to have noticed a stray knife, a glass or as of yesterday lunchtime - two empty tuppawear boxes and a mug sitting on the kitchen side.

All of this means that I spend my life in a constant state of "picking up". I find myself scurrying around after him collecting the left over debris and tidying it away. It basically means that every chore takes twice as much effort.

SO my question is - do I nag about this. or, do I keep on biting my tongue and continue to pick up the pieces while thinking myself lucky that he does anything at all? Am I expecting too much? Is finishing a task just beyond men, like multi-tasking? Or is it just down to training? Will I be able to train Rufus not to be a pain in his future wife's ass? (I realise this is more than one question).

Answers on a postcard please!

(PS - I do of course realise that Mr Jones will read this - I'm wondering if I should have been more subtle??)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

What can only be described as a classic....

I went to see the Health Visitor this week - it was a different one to normal. I had Rufus weighed, he was 17lb 9oz - up from 15lb 14oz just over a month ago. For the last week he has slept through the night - but then he has had a virus and been a pretty sleepy boy anyway. But still - hurrah, hurrah, hurrah.

I asked the Health Visitor what I should do about his night feed. Prior to the sleep throughs he'd been waking up between 4.30am and 6am for a feed. I was wondering if this was just habit or whether he actually really needed the food now that his weight is heading back in the right direction. She told me to press on with weaning and to try not to let him have his night feed back if he started waking up for it again.

That night he slept through, the following night he woke up at 5am. I went in and changed his nappy and tucked him back in to settle himself (he won't settle if we're holding him - he's too used to doing it himself). He proceeded to shout for the next hour with a few fits of crying and a few momentary dozes in between. Not fun.

The next night he slept through and we hoped that he'd learnt that waking up was a bit pointless. Last night however he woke up at just before 6am. So I went in and changed his nappy and put him back to bed. He started to shout, then to cry. I lie in bed squirming in agony feeling hideously guilty.

Mr Jones started chuntering about whether it was all worth it and asking how many nights we had to continue with this until we gave it up for a bad job and started feeding him again? I repeated the Health Vistor's advice and the fact that I thought he was feeding out of habit.

The crying continued. Mr Jones and I started a terse exchange. "This is ridiculous," says Mr Jones. "I didn't think there was anything wrong with the routine we had going before."

"No, love, I bet you didn't - you weren't the one getting up at 5am everyday to feed him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Rufus loves these, I was quite surprised, I thought they might be a bit "sophisticated" for a baby palate, but no, he can't get enough. He evern ate them in John Lewis' cafe while people watching and being told not to judge others by their table manners (I fear I maybe rubbing off on him just a bit too much!)

Make up a batch of baby pasta sauce (detailed directions to come next time I make some but basically stick a whole load of finely chopped veg such as onions, carrots. courgettes, leeks and peppers in a pot and saute until soft, add garlic and tinned toms and whatever herbs you fancy and then blitz until smooth - a sneaky way to add in extra veg). Spread a tablespoonful over half of a wholewheat tortilla wrap. Grate over a whole bunch of cheese and fold in half. Pop in a dry frying pan on a medium heat and fry until the cheese melts and the wrap is on the way to crispy. Turn halfway through. I have also made these with blitzed up bolognaise to get meat into him and it went down a treat.

I cut it into fingers and top the fingers with gucamole. Just mash a quarter of an avocado in a small bowl. If you have a set of Nigella mixing bowls then the smallest one is perfect for this. I used to have a set of Nigella mixing bowls until Mr Jones broke the smallest one. But I'm not bitter about it. In case you were wondering it can't be replaced, they aren't sold individually, you have to buy a whole new set. I'd like to add that I was very brave on the fateful day - I didn't even cry. Anyway - mash your advocado in a small bowl and spritz on a little fresh lime juice. I add the merest smidgen of a dash of sweet chilli sauce to mine - but you can leave it out - and a bit of pepper.

Courgette and feta fritters

Now these are lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely. In the summer when Mr Jones and I had courgettes coming out of our ears these were a staple part of our diet. Perfect with a crisp green salad and a hunk of crusty bread. Or with pitta breads and houmous.

If you're a baby you tend to ignore the salad (lettuce makes you gag) and just go for the fritters - which is good because they're full of vitamins and calcium and are a good introduction to cheeses other than the humble (but actually quite heavenly) cheddar.

Rufus loves them - possibly because I went through a stage when pregnant when all I could stomach was pasta with lightly fried grated courgette.

The recipe is borrowed from Nigel Slater whose books I love to read, but whom I cannot stand to watch on television.

Grate two or three large courgettes into a colander. (In the grown up version sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for 30 minutes before squeezing out the juice - in the baby version, just squeeze out as much juice as you can now). Pat dry in kitchen paper.

Finely chop an onion and fry in a little olive oil until softened and starting to turn golden brown. You can add garlic here too if you like. Add the courgettes to the pan and fry gently until everything is lightly golden. Sprinkle over a heaped tablespoon of flour and about half a slab of crumbled feta cheese (or less or more - it's up to you). Season with pepper (should be salty enough if you've salted the courgettes and if you're making for babies you don't need the salt). Whisk an egg and gradually add it to make a stickyish mixture. You might not need it all. If it seems to sloppy just add a bit more flour.

Put some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and when it's hot drop in dollop fulls of the mixture and fry on both sides for a few minutes until lightly browned. They are very fragile so take care when frying and turning. Leave to drain on kitchen paper. Lovely hot or cold.

Savoury flapjacks

I promised recipes - so here we go. Sorry for the delay - the boy is poorly still and I've had work to do. But now I'm done and he seems to be on the mend. We missed a get together with his bestest friends yesterday, but we dropped off some of these flapjacks so we weren't missed too much. They seem to have gone down a storm and I've had many requests for the recipe. It came from the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook - which on first glance appeared disappointing, but on second perusal appears a bit more promising.

Please note - I am no food photographer - and I'm lazy and couldn't be bothered to do a step by step - but it's fairly simple.

Preheat your oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Melt 100g butter in a saucepan. Take off the heat an add 300g porridge oats, 350g of cheese (I used cheddar) and two beaten eggs (don't forget these - I nearly did). At this point you can add in optional veggies for a lighter and slightly more nutritious flapjack. I added 300g of grated carrot, but you could do grated sweet potato, parsnip, courgette and the book even sugests red onion (but I think I'd be tempted to fry it off a bit first in olive oil to take some of the strength out of it and release the sweetness). Press the mixture into the greased tin using the back of a spoon (or your fingers, which I found easier), it should be about 1cmthick. Bake for 20 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for five mnutes, then cut into slices and cool on a rack.

The oats in this mean that they're a bit more filling than your average flour based bake and add plenty of veggies and you have a good dose of anti-oxidant vitamins too. There's calcium from the cheese and protein from the eggs - so a pretty balanced little recipes really. And if you don't have a weaning baby on your hands they're still tasty - although if you're on a diet they're probably best avoided because all that cheese makes for a pretty hefty calorie intake.

Master Jones hasn't given an official verdict on these yet because he's been off his food for the last three days, poor little mite. But we're hoping to tempt him with one tomorrow - luckily they keep well in an air tight box.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Seven months old - it's all a bit backwards

Seven months ago around about now Rufus was born and I was in a morphine induced haze - hurrah! Mr Jones and I just watched One Born Every Minute as if to relive the whole thing - I cried, Mr Jones mocked me (with tears in his eyes!!).

How things have changed in seven months. This week small boy has become a whole lot more mobile. He commando shuffles on his tummy - backwards - and round and round in circles. Every now and again he buries his nose into the rug and gets up onto his knees and makes crawling motions. He can sit, fairly reliably, on his own - although there have been several bumps to the head when he loses focus and dive bombs the floor. He's started reaching his arms out to me when he wants to be picked up - it breaks my heart everytime - I am quite pathetic.

After a long and slightly stressful search we have found a childminder and I have started to accept that I need to let him go. Today I got my eyebrows waxed while his Nana looked after him. No one was killed!

I know I promised recipes - and they are coming. There are many pictures on the camera, but between cooking and backwards shuffling there hasn't been much time for blogging. Plus we all have colds so the added chore of snot mopping has been a bit of a bore.

Auntie Rowena - the picture is for you - another dungarees shot - I hope you think it's "awesome" - or indeed "rather delightful" if you're feeling all English and not in the slightest bit Californian. xx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The hair

Right I have truly had enough of my hair. Whatever I do to it looks horrendous. I was never going to be a yummy mummy - frankly I had enough trouble getting out of the house with make up on and my hair beautifully styled before I had a child let alone now I have one. (Yes I understand the irony - I write beauty features for a living - but if I'm honest life is just too short to spend half an hour applying guff to my face and blow drying my hair - but don't tell the readers).

Anyway in life BR - my hair was always just there. It was never spectacular - apart from maybe when I was about 17 when I recall it being all long and wavy and marvellously coloured - but it always looked ok. A mite fluffy at times and prone to misbehaving in humidity (that's enough from you sister - before you start telling stories about holidays and hair straighteners!!), but in general it never looked skanky.

Now it looks skanky. It's falling out in handfuls thanks to the raging post pregnancy hormones and it gets greasy in seconds. This might be due to the fact that there is a small boy hanging from it at any opportunity - but truly it is quite hideous. My forehead seems to grow bigger everyday - which is clearly down to the flat, ugly dullness of my hair. Just call me slap head.

I have hair envy. Where ever I go I see people with glossy hair, fabulously styled and I just want to grab them, grill them about what products they use and how long they spend back combing, poofing and blow drying every morning to procur themselves such a glamorous do?

The chances are they spend hours (or even minutes) that I don't have in front of the mirror making sure their hair looks great. I'd love to wash my hair every day - but I just don't have time. When it does get a wash I spend a good five minutes untangling lose hair from my fingers and then another five unclogging the shower drain and trying not to gag. Then I blast it (still sopping wet - tut tut) with a hairdryer while Mr Jones scowls at me for taking too long to get ready. If I'm lucky, and I've remembered to turn them on, I might even get to run the straighteners through it before I scrape it back into a pony tail in the hopes of preserving some of the shiny cleanliness before it's pulled, chewed and covered in whatever Rufus is having for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I am tempted to have it all cut off. But I am terrifed that I'll end up with awful Mum hair, or something so high maintenance that I have to spend the next six months in solitary confinement until it grows back out again into something slightly managable. Something has to be done. I can't go on looking like I've been pulled through a greasy hedge backwards everyday. But what?Suggestions please......

Friday, 7 January 2011

An ode to chocolate

Well not really, because who writes odes these days? But anyway - I can't get enough of the stuff. Green and Blacks Creamy Milk is my current drug of choice. This might not sound weird to you because after all I'm a girl and most girls like chocolate - but not this girl. In life BR (Before Rufus) I'd have the odd daliance, eat a square or two. feel sick and then vow not to eat chocolate again.

However, I have just, this very moment, eaten six squares of creamy milk. And - I could eat more. The rest of the bar is in the cupboard and it's calling me. Begging to be melted on my tongue and washed down with a chaser of super cold milk. I find this new addiction disturbing not to mention fattening. I don't feel the slightest bit sick. It's most odd.

It's also odd that I now eat two slices of toast for breakfast every morning - one with marmite and one with marmlade - I like two courses in a meal. Again - probably not odd to you (the toast bit, not the two courses). But BR I didn't really eat bread - not unless I wanted to pay for it with a twisted gut or at the very least a stomach so bloated that I used to pat it and rub it like a pregnant woman in the hopes that people would mistake my errant wind for a small child.

Maybe I'm making up for not having cravings during pregnancy, maybe I'm having them now? Maybe broken night's sleep and days spent with a very busy little boy mean I need the carbs? Somehow I think the last stone of baby weight (it used to be half a stone - but then Christmas happened) might take a while to shift. I may have to go cold turkey on the chocolate. Not sure I could go without the toast. I crave it at 2am and at 3am and sometimes I get up at 5am and make myself a slice. In the middle of the night I forget two courses and just have marmelade. Mr Jones makes the best toast - I don't know what he does - it's just perfect.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The stew

If you make this recipe your baby will end up looking like this

Rufus loves stew. As a rule I never used to eat them. Then it started snowing and I dug out the le creuset and felt the need for something warming. It is a Jamie Oliver recipe in truth - I find that a lot of his recipes can be adapted - just take out the salt and make the bits easy for small paws to grasp. In order not to be "done" for infringing copyright laws here is a link to Mr Oliver's website and a big plug for all of his books - they are marvellous. Other recipes will be all my own work - I promise. This is just Rufus' favourite - besides eggy bread (or French Toast if you're being all American and posh).

One quick word - I am happy to use wine in cooking for Rufus - the alcohol cooks off and that just leaves flavour. If you read the Daily Mail and would like to comment on this feel free. If you write for the Mail and would like to do an article on the state of motherhood today feel free to quote me as a lush.

Now to the stew - there is no pic for this - it looks like a stew. It tastes good. It's from the Jamie's Dinners book.

Beef Stew
• olive oil and a knob of butter for good measure
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves (I didn’t have sage so I used thyme instead and it worked well)
• 800g/1¾lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (can leave salt out)
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
* 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock (use baby stock if you are a true salt nazi)

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110°C/225°F/gas ¼ and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

I left the veg fairly chunky and Rufus just helps himself to chunks of carrot etc – I always give him bits of beef too but he tends not to pick them up so I pop little bits in his mouth if he’s in the right mood. often he chews them for a while and then spits it out because I think even meat this tender is hard to keep chewing with no teeth. It’s great re heated too. I made the whole lot and froze half and it’s fine once frozen too.

The wonderful world of food

If you know of me at all you will no doubt be aware that I like a good meal. I do not under any circumstances understand people for whom food is mere fuel. To me food is the world's greatest pleasure. I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to eat. So it was not without excitement that I approached the whole weaning thing.

There are two schools of thought these days when it comes to introducing your baby to food. The traditional way with all the purees, Annabel Karmel books and a bit of mess; and the new fangled. hippyish, baby led weaning way - which involves no pureeing, letting your baby feed itself from a very wide range of "normal" food and a whole lot of mess.

Now, keen as I was to start Rufus on his life long journey of eating and hopefully enjoying food, I decided that despite the fact I could have started it all off at 17 weeks, the whole puree thing really wasn't up my alley. Who wants to eat pureed swede for a week with only a bit of pureed apple to spice things up? Certainly not me. Nope it was going to be baby led weaning all the way for me. So we waited until he was six months old and then went for it. (I will add that after much pressure from members of the older generation we did try purees at about 22 weeks but luckily Master Jones, clearly a gourmand from birth, was having none of it).

Anyway I had visions of myself in a pinny (indulge me in a bit of 50s housewife imagery if you will - see the perfectly coiffed hair, the impossibly slim waist, the big old American style fridge and the shiny faced children sat around a formica kitchen table) whipping up culinary master pieces for my son to scoff down with gusto. I saw the satisfied smile on my face as he's lean back at the end of each meal, let out a small, but satisfied burp and smile adoringly up at me as if to thank me for the tasty feast I'd set out before him.

I read the book - it all sounded good to me. Rufus would be eating our leftovers, nibbling morsels from my plate and would gradually introduce himself to a wide variety of foods ensure that he will never become a picky eater. So far, so marvellous.

We began tentatively with toast. It seemed a natural progression since he'd been trying to eat my breakfast for weeks. He squished it a bit, and then a bit harder until it crumbled into bits and made for the floor. A few bits got as far as being sucked - which was an improvement on the previous week when we'd given him a bit of apple to play with. He understood that it needed to go into his mouth - but hadn't quite worked out how to get it there. Instead he took him mouth to the apple and ended up bent over double gumming the apple that he held firmly in his lap - bless.

Sticks of roasted veg went down well, as did bits of poached pear and the odd slice of mango. But I couldn't help thinking that the floor was getting a better diet than he was.

The Health Visitor, she who was not concerned about his weight in the slightest, told me to go for it. To get as many calories into him as possible. She recommended that the only thing I spoon feed him should be porridge made with full fat cows milk. She sent me out for normal porridge oats, warning me off all forms of "baby food". I served this up for breakfast - the first spoonful was met with a wince, the second with a full on gag and the third with a flat refusal. Hmmmm not so good.

After a few days I worked out that he could handle chunks and chewing if they didn't come on a spoon. But anything that came his way travelling on a piece of cutlery had to be super smooth and bordering on liquid. So I sieved a banana and made up some baby porridge and it went down. I could hear the cries of the baby led weaning purists growing louder with every mouthful.

These days I can hear them tutting at every meal - because while he is utterly marvellous at feeding himself and has come on in leaps and bounds, he does tend to get bored/lazy before he's filled up his tummy. He starts off ramming food into his mouth at a pace. He usually has something in each hand and often tries to cram everything in at once. Then he gets tired and sits with his arms out to the sides twisting his hands at the wrists and making a funny groaning noise. And because he has been a skinny bean for so long and because I want him to be heading the right way on the weight charts for once I tend to help. Which I'm sure is very naughty - but I just break up piece of food into bite sized chunks and hold them in front of his face, if he opens his mouth I pop them in, if he doesn't open I don't. What is not baby led about that.

SO we are cooking without salt (a revelation for me - Miss Sodium 2010), we have resigned ourselves to the fact that the kitchen rug will at some point in the not so distant future need replacing, we have informed everyone that houmous/gucamole/toast/stew/fruit puree is indeed the new black and is all anyone with a small child will be wearing this autumn/winter - and probably spring/summer too. And of course we are in constant search of new recipes to tempt him with.

While the book suggests that your baby can at six months eat whatever you're eating we're not quite sure that he could manage a fajita, or would particularly like a Mauritian prawn curry, or steak and cannelini beans. Nor do we want to live on stew, pasta bake or homemade fish goujons. Plus Mr Jones and I are back on a healthy eating mission - and Master Jones needs full fat, not low fat - so I've ended up doing a fair bit of extra cooking - but at least it's not purees.

I love cooking for him and it's fun coming up with new baby friendly recipes. He doesn't love them all - meat usually brings forth a rage and broccoli isn't a big hit unless it's carefully disguised. I do like to share a good recipe, so the ones that are a success I shall post here - along with step by step pics if I have time.

The best news is that it's working - the little man is putting on chunk sharpish and I love blowing raspberries on his little pot belly.
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