Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ten (nearly) on Tuesday: Fishy Sweets & Dinosaurs

1. Westboy went on a nursery trip last week. They went on a bus and a train to the museum, where they saw bugs and dinosaurs. He would've been thrilled with just the bus and train journeys, and was still grinning 2 days after the experience. It totally wore him out though, and he fell asleep on the buggy board on the way home.... I tried balancing the sleeping boy on the board as I went up and down kerbs, carrying him on my back while swerving the pushchair one-handed around dog poos and across roads, and finally settled on swapping the boys round. So there was a sleeping three-and-a-half year old in the pushchair, and a 13 month old riding on the buggy board. Westbaby LOVED it.

2. There's work going on in the house next door, so lots of building-noises during the day. The smell of the builders smoking somehow seems to fill my house too, which is not nice. Especially as I keep thinking that it's the washing machine about to explode or tea burning.

3. I discovered this blog this week, and love it. I was pretty obsessed with reading about midwifery-stuff even before having babies, and I think they've only increased that interest.

4. It's been a while since i gave anything up for lent. I think last time was when I was a postgrad student and I simultaneously gave up caffeine, make-up, and talking to a boy I really fancied (who is now my husband, so I probably shouldn't give up talking to him for 40 days). Anyway, this year I've signed up for 40Acts, in an attempt to focus on 'giving' instead of 'giving up'. I'm not managing to do every act, but I'm thinking more generously, so it's a step in the right direction. It's not too late to sign up if you like the idea of it and want to join in.
5. I haven't given up social media for lent, which might be why I like this article from Vicky Beeching's blog. (Anyone who has given it up probably hasn't read it, so it's likely to be a bit of a one-sided discussion really).

6. On an entirely different topic.... (that'll be potty training then) ...Westbaby now applauds whenever I go to the toilet (see 8).

7. This Seeds of Courage CD is fantastic. (I've linked to it before, although I've learnt to embed film clips since then, but it deserves another mention anyway because it truly is that good). It's verses of the Bible set to catchy yet remarkably non-cheesy music, aimed at kids, but I'm getting at least as much out of it as the boys. It's actually two identical CDs, the idea being to keep one and pass one on, which is just genius. The verses stick in your head, and are themed around courage, which has been much needed these past few weeks (Westboy's had assessments with a Speech & Language Therapist and Community Paediatrician, and my head's still spinning).

8. I've been giving Westboy Omega 3 supplements that look like shark-shaped jelly sweets. After dishing them out for a few days (& him eating them without complaint), I thought I'd check what they're like. Well, if you can imagine sardine-flavoured-Haribo, you'll be close. EEEEEeeeeeeeuuuw!!!

9. I read this article, arguing that having children might mean that writers and artists produce less, but that perhaps that isn't all bad. One quote that stood out for me was:
"It's not that I don't like a break now and then. I just don't buy the idea that the break is "because I'm worth it" or that I'm taking "the time to be me". What is "me", if not the sum of all my relationships and obligations?"
"Me-time" is something I've been pondering recently. I function so much better if I've had a break at the weekend, -ideally an hour to grab a coffee by myself and process my thoughts. I definitely need time by myself to recharge my energy and enthusiasm (typical introvert!). However, the idea that I might be more "me" when I'm preparing tea with Westbaby balanced on my hip and Westboy leaping around the kitchen than when I'm sitting in a cafe eating flapjack and reading a novel is an interesting (and challenging!) one.

10. And to finish, some photos of the loveliness that is brothers playing happily together. (well, in one of them Westboy is asleep and Westbaby is attacking him, but he's smiling so sweetly that we'll pretend that they're playing happily...)

Have a good week! Check what the other ten-on-tuesday-ers have written (Sarah, Jo, Lucy, Hannah & Britgirl), & give it a go if you like (that's aimed especially at Lyn and Laura this week!) :-)

Friday, 24 February 2012

InstaFriday - West Kirby and Sefton Park

We went on a walk round the windsurfing lake in West Kirby last Saturday.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but with a freezing cold wind.  Joseph was asleep in the sling on my back, Beniah was jumping in puddles of sea water, and Tom and I were taking photos of the beautiful views.  We'd met up with someone else who posts photos on Instagram, and her little boy. It was a strange experience connecting social networking stuff with real life, but a good thing to do. 

This one's from a walk in Sefton Park with the boys one sunny afternoon this week.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ten on Tuesday: Pancakes & Thai Curry

1. Westboy was ill yesterday, so we had to delay the start of half-term by a day. Westbaby was not impressed. He kept bringing his shoes and his brother's nursery bag to me.

2. Smartie sandwiches sound good. I obviously wouldn't put them in my child's lunchbox though. (Yup, that's totally hypocritical).

3. Some music...

 4. Being dairy-free on Shrove Tuesday is a pain. I experimented with oat milk this year. Not entirely successfully.

5. We went for a very cold walk round the windsurfing lake in West Kirby on Saturday. (More photos to follow, later this week). Sunny, but achingly cold. I still hadn't quite defrosted by bedtime.

6.  The Very Lazy Co (the ones who make Very Lazy Garlic and Very Lazy Ginger) have started making Very Lazy Thai Green Curry paste. It's wonderful stuff, so I stocked up when it was on special offer. It's the kind of thing I always intend to make from scratch, but have never managed.

7. More music. Elbow this time. (I saw them play live over ten years ago now, which makes me feel pretty old). This is sublime...

8. I'm reading "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It's excellent, and one I reckon I'll come back to repeatedly over the next few years.

9. I like this necklace but initially thought it was made out of lego. Which might work quite well actually...

10. I love this letter to mums. At the moment I'm thinking lots about this bit: 
"We live in a culture that doesn't value a slow and steady approach to living and certainly not childhood". 
And I'll leave you with this excerpt: 
"God knows the burdens you bear as a mother. If it's Jesus you want to be more like can I encourage you with this - Jesus is in the nose wiping, dirty bum changing, the floor washing, the night time nursing, the mommy snuggles, the tears (theirs and yours). Jesus was a servant and so are you. In the day to day life of mothering you are closer to Him than you realize. You are in a holy place."

Have a good week! Check what the other ten-on-tuesday-ers have written (
Sarah, Jo, Lucy, Hannah & Britgirl), & give it a go if you like :-)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Thirteen on Thursday

A late entry... The predictable consequence of half-term (no preschool), potty training Westboy & a poorly Westbaby.

1. You can generally tell how my week's going by how many "brownie in a mug"s I've made. We're running at one a day at the moment, which is baaaad.

2. I baked banana bread today (Partly to mask potty training odours).

3. Potty training. Urgh. Head here to see what Sarah's written. Timely advice round here, and reassurance that I'm not alone in getting the travel potty out in the weirdest of locations... Yesterday it was in the Mystery (Wavertree Park), attempting to use Westbaby's pushchair to shelter Westboy from passers-by and the icy cold wind. It turned out he didn't need to go after all. 

4. My meal plans are currently revolving around the slow cooker and fantastic new potato ricer.

5. I've been getting the boys to help me make gnocchi.
Potato-playdough, as far as they're concerned. (700-ish-g mash, 150g plain flour, a bit of salt. Mix. Roll into small balls & flatten with a fork. Chill. Tip into boiling water in a couple of batches. Drain when they float to the top. Serve with tomato sauce & bacon). 

6. A lovely friend had her baby shower on Saturday at the London Carriageworks. :-)


7. Random ASDA substitution: 1kg mushrooms instead of a butternut squash.

8. Westbaby applauds his big brother when he uses the potty, then pulls the step over to the sink for him to wash his hands, and passes him a towel to dry them...
I feel redundant.

9. I made one of these for Tom... I'm not sure how relaxing a massage can be with two small boys jumping on your head, but it's worth a try.

10. Westbaby said "apricot" this week (while I was chopping one up for him). His vocabulary generally consists of mama, dada, nana (Westboy), hello (when answering the phone), mwah (when kissing someone or wanting a kiss), and atchoo (when someone sneezes). So it was quite a leap from his usual range of words.

11. Rhubarb & custard Valentines day stained-glass window biscuits <3


12. A friend gave me one of these balls. It goes in the toilet to encourage small boys to wee 'accurately'. It was quite unnerving seeing it staring up each time I lifted the loo-seat, and I was contemplating taking a photo of it for on here. Sadly, before I did, I managed to flush it away. I don't think that's supposed to happen. I feel a mixture of guilt and relief.

13. There seemed to be a lot of dog poo on our walk to preschool last week... I counted (is that obsessive?!) And there were 29 along one road (roughly 600 metres). Grim.

The other ten-on-tuesday-ers are here: Sarah, Jo, Lucy, Hannah & Britgirl.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Instagram shots from the last couple of weeks...

Mmmm... I seem to have done quite a lot of baking recently. Cupcakes, Marmalade cake, the Dedication cake, some flapjack, and a couple of loaves of bread. As Westbaby & I aren't eating dairy products, it means that the only cakes I can eat are ones I've made myself, which is a pretty powerful motivator to bake ;-)

I just liked these green garage doors!

This is part of a fantastic display at Westboy's nursery (he's at the far left in the middle row). Every child's silhouette is up on the wall, cut out of black card, lifesize (or possibly bigger? I'm not sure). They used an OHP and drew round the projected image, -or an enlarged photo if they wouldn't stay still (I'm guessing Westboy was one of those...!). 
It looks stunning.

Westboy and his Daddy looking out over the Mersey as a mist came rolling in across the river at sunset. Eerily quiet, freezing cold, and very beautiful.

The Billy Fury statue at the docks (lots of silhouettes this week!)

My phone lockscreen, for a challenge I was tagged into. A little bit of Orla Kiely loveliness
(actually a photo of some wrapping paper)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. Tonight both boys were in bed and asleep by 7.30pm, and Tom went back for seconds of lentil dahl. #somethingveryweirdisgoingon

2. Even more weirdly, why are Sarah and I simultaneously craving lentil dahl???

3. It was Westboy's dedication on Sunday, and we had grandparents and friends visiting. It was lovely to see everyone & we had a great time. And now I need a weekend to recover.

4. Most people advise waiting for warm weather to do potty training, so that the trainee can run around half-naked without getting too cold. Well, we certainly aren't following that advice. Westboy's getting very adept at adding and removing layers of clothing, however.

5. Yes, the photo is of the WRONG CHILD!!! Westbaby passes Westboy toys and puts hats on his brother's head while he's sitting on the potty. 

6. (...And I really did cover the lounge floor with plastic. It was a great way of avoiding vacuuming for a week, I may try it again sometime).

7. Westboy & Daddy went to Tesco. With the choice of the whole shop, Westboy decided to buy a toy car, a pizza, and mushrooms. Mushrooms???

8. I would like my children to be good and quiet and never embarrass me in public. I don't think that's going to happen though, or even that it's really the best thing to hope for. And maybe it's not a sign of poor parenting after all??  Here's hoping.

9. I keep hearing snippets about dodgy ethics behind mobile phones, but have been choosing to unhear them because I LIKE my iPhone very much, thank you.  Anyway, I can't keep burying my head in the sand, so I've signed the petition for Apple to make the iPhone 5 ethical. Ironically, from my iPhone.

10. We went to the Museum of Liverpool yesterday. The light was incredible, and as we were leaving a fog was rolling in from the Mersey. Stunning! (Westbaby was asleep, hence his absence from photos).

The other ten-on-tuesday-ers are here: Sarah, Jo, Lucy, Hannah & Britgirl

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Chocolate-Marmalade Cake

This cake is a combination of a couple of recipes... A marmalade loaf cake from Nigel Slater's "The Kitchen Diaries", that I've made a few times before, with it's original orange icing drizzled over the top, and a cake called "Nigella's Clementine Cake" from the Green & Black's recipe book.  

The Nigella cake is wonderful, but involves boiling 5 clementines for 2 hours, before cooling and pulping them. This puree is then added to other ingredients, including 6 eggs and 250g ground almonds, -so it's a costly cake, both in terms of time and money. 

Last time I made Nigel's marmalade cake I realised that the flavour was similar to Nigella's, without all the clementine-pulping, so I thought I'd experiment with the Green & Blacks topping. This involves covering the top of the cake with a grated or finely chopped bar of dark chocolate as soon as it comes out of the oven, so that it melts and then solidifies as the cake cools. The ideal chocolate would be Green & Blacks Maya Gold, but normal plain chocolate works well enough. It's tricky to cut the cake neatly once the chocolate has cooled (see photo!), but the crisp chocolate crust perfectly complements the soft, slightly-bitter, orange-flecked cake underneath.

Chocolate-Marmalade Cake
175g butter (or Vitalite in my dairy-free-ness)
175g caster sugar
1 orange
3 eggs
75g marmalade (or "orange jam", as Westboy calls it)
175g self-raising flour
100g dark chocolate

Set the oven to 180C/Gas4. 
Line a loaf tin* (25cmx11cmx7cm).
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Gradually add the eggs, beating thoroughly between each addition.
Beat in the marmalade and the grated orange zest.
Fold in the flour.
Gently stir in the juice of half the orange.
Spoon the mixture into the lined tin, smoothing the top.
Bake for 40 minutes, checking after 35 minutes with a metal skewer.
Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the grated or finely chopped chocolate over the top of the cake while still in the tin.
Leave to cool completely in the tin.
(The original recipe omitted the chocolate, but used 2 tablespoons of orange juice mixed with 100g icing sugar to make a runny frosting, which was drizzled over the cooled cake)

*Part of the reason for all these loaf cakes at the moment is that my Mum bought me some loaf tin liners, so I don't have to do any complicated origami to line loaf tins and save some time. hurray!