Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've lipped mmy chaps

Trying to explain to L a problem I'm having with the cold weather. Hmmm...not my only problem methinks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bread - v. 1.3

My third go at bread last night was better than the other two although I'm still not completely happy with it. I followed Delia more closely this time, even giving it a second kneading, but still not great.§ I probably should have left the dough to prove for longer...or I used too much yeast (see notes in the recipe below). Am planning to give a different recipe a go next time - the one on the Hovis packet of yeast itself. There's no proving stage i1n that recipe - may have more luck??

(Delia - slightly adapted using a kitchenaid)

Ingredients (makes 2 1lb loaves or 1 2lb loaf) :
1lb 8oz strong white flour (700g)
1 tbspn salt or less according to taste
1 teaspoon easy-blend yeast (I have been using a whole packet)
1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
about 15 floz hand-hot water (425ml)

Using the dough hook, mix all the dry ingredients together using the mixer. Then use setting 2 and slowly pour in the water to form a dough. I found that this amount of water tends to make the dough a bit too wet, so for this bread I stopped when the mixer formed a dough ball which cleaned the sides of the bowl.

Knead on setting 2 for 3 minutes.

Place into bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

Take the dough out, knock back and then knead again for 2 minutes.

Split into 2, form into loaf shapes and place into the tins. Cook at Gas 8 / 350F / 230C for 30-40 minutes for the smaller loaves or 35-45 minutes for the larger until the bases sound hollow when tapped.

Turn out on wire rack to cool

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thank you Asda!

Z lost a shoe in Asda last week - I called in today and some helpful, kind soul had handed it in to customer services - thank you!!!

I also went a bit mad on Hallowe'en...

Today's baking

Well...not quite as much as I hoped, but today have managed to make a fruit compote thingy for Zachary (cooking apple, pear and dried apricots and then whizzing together in the food processor), and a cheesy spinach sauce for pasta (called Popeye pasta obviously. It took me far too long to get the connection...!). Was planning to make some lemon biscuits, but the chocolate mousse went hideously wrong so panned that idea, made the mousse and a mug cake (more below). And finally am now halfway through my third batch of bread, for which I am holding out no hope whatsoever!!!

The choc mousse was Nigella's instant mousse from her Express book - the idea being to replace the whipped egg whites with melted marshmallows and it then needs virtually no chilling at all - certainly not as long as would normally - and the prep is quicker too. I had been obssessing about making this for ages, and we've had a packet of small white marshmallows in the cupboard for a long time specially for this recipe. However from my attempt today I have learned that although the melting pan needs heat, it needs a v low heat - everything separated and I ended up with cups of mousse with lovely pockets and puddles of solid butter in them!! Also, the mousse is pretty rich - I was experimenting with having it in tea-cups, but that would be far too much. Espresso cups much more manageable I think. Need to give it another go :

Ingredients :
150g mini marshmallows
50g soft butter
250g good dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
60ml hot water from a kettle recently boiled
1 284ml tub double cream (although Morrisons only seemed to have 300ml tubs..)
1 tspn vanilla extract

Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a heavy-based saucepan. Put the saucepan on the hob, over heat, though keep it fairly gentle, to melt the contents, stirring every now and then. Remove from the heat.

Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until thick, and then fold into the cooling chocolate mixture until you have a smooth cohesive mixture.

Pour or scrape into serving vessels.

Final baking effort was a mug cake! A friend has been evangelising about them on his blog and I had a go tonight with the basic recipe. Not bad tasting - would be ace with vanilla ice cream or custard. But more than that I was just astounded that it worked! The mug was so full I felt sure I was headed for disaster, but no, it all turned out well!

Cake in mug (having quickly deflated after leaving the microwave)

and turned out (with helpful finger for size comparison...)

- put 4 tbspn plain flour, 4 tbspn sugar and 2 tbspn cocoa in a mug and mix thoroughly

- add 1 egg and mix thoroughly

- add 3 tbspn milk and 3 tbspn oil - mix again until well combined

- can add choc chips or a splash of vanilla

- microwave for 3 minutes at 1000 watts or 4 minutes at 700 watts (our microwave is 800 watts so I cooked for 3 mins 40 secs and it seemed to come out right). The cake will rise above the top of the mug - don't panic!

- allow to cool and turn out on a plate if you like

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bread is my jam

Kneading is the bit I really hate about breadmaking and has put me off for a while. So when L's new Kitchenaid arrived resplendent with dough hook I thought - Hurrah, now I can make perfect bread.

Unfortunately my first two attempts have not been highly successful. First attempt, the oven was too hot in the baking...still haven't got the hang of a fan oven! Second attempt, the oven was too warm when the dough was rising and I think I killed off all the yeast. It didn't rise at all during the proving phase.

So I;m not putting any pictures up until I get a loaf I'm happy with - although they do make great toast!

(BTW L had a 'jam block' a few years ago - consistency wise it seemed to turn out either like tar or water. Eventually he achieved success. I'm hoping the same for my bread)

Bad day, good day

Wednesday was a bad day. I was tired and headachey from Z's recent nighttime shenanigans (he's had a cold complete with phlegmy cough) and my mind really wasn't on the job. Zachary was due a blood test at Derby City General Hospital - I left the door on the latch on the way out, fortunately L was still in. The blood test itself went really well - Z was more upset at having to relinquish the Duplo he was playing with than by the nurse squeezing blood from his foot! We then went over to L's brother's house to drop off my car which is going to be sold. Goodbye to my vehicular independence. Dropped the car off, L picked me and Z up, asked me several times if there was anything left in the car to which I said no. Half way back home I remembers I'd left a buggy in the boot of the car. Bah! Got home and discovered I'd left the patio doors wide open after putting the bin out in the morning.

Got a bit stressed at dinnertime trying to make dinner and rice pudding. Why rice pudding? I'm not sure. I think I heard someone mention it the previous week and I have been obssessing about it since then! But got everything made, although I'm not sure the pudding is quite right...

It looks okay and the flavour was great, but I'm not too sure that it should really be a thick layer of glued together rice with the milky liquid no thicker than when it went into the oven underneath. I think my basin wasn't the right size.

So with all this annoyance going on I went out for a haircut after Z was in bed. Now I'm not sure if it was the haircut (which looked great), the caffeine in the coffee at the shop, or just being on my own and having an hour's break from the house, but it really refreshed me and I returned home a changed woman. Well, almost!

Thursday much better - actually managed to get more baking done with Zachary and went out to a new playgroup in the morning. Fantastic.

Mission Impossible

In the absence of a proper blog for now, here's a text I received from my sister this morning which made me laugh out loud

"Have introduced inlaws to hole in the wall, harry hill and the train game - mission accomplished!"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's the most interesting thing you've found in your pocket?

I wore my mid-weight coat today, the first time since Spring. Delved into one of the pockets only to find that what I thought was wadded up tissue was in fact 3 breast pads. Nice. No idea why I had three in there.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can you tell what it is yet?

I have finally, finally managed to get back into some cross stitching and pick up a picture I started before Zachary was born. Here it is as yesterday - any ideas?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Today's little attack of the clumsies

I used the self-serve checkout at ASDA today, which always gets me unreasonably excited! I had the tank with me (our affectionate name for Zachary's big pushchair, which, I discovered today, won't fit through our patio doors) and was planning to just pack my shopping away in the under section to save on bags. Got to the third item merrily skipping bagging, but had to wait for assistance and was advised that it would carry on doing this every three items and it would be easier for me to stack everything on the carrier bag shelf and then pack into the pushchair once I've paid for it all.

Thinking this was a bit of a waste of time (although noone behind me in the queue fortunately - for several reasons) I piled everything onto the shelf, was choosing my method of payment when heard a quiet thud behind me. Looked round to see broken bottle of balsamic vinegar and a little sea of black liquid slowly seeping towards my trousers. Whooooops! Fortunately was not charged for that and the staff very kindly got me a replacement.

On the John Lewis front, I've now had confirmed to me (not from John Lewis themselves though) that although they can't heat up my pot of food, they should be able to offer me a bowl of hot water that i can warm the pot with - so I need to make sure I take food that can be eaten cold or at least hasn't been frozen and doesn't need to be heated to piping hot. Would have been nice if the staff there had suggested this themselves though...

Finally, also managed to get a replacement pair of trainery-type shoes today. Spent an unfruitful time in the Westfield Centre in Derby yesterday looking at shoes and tutting at the prices (£45??) before leaving without any. I sent L a text message from the Westfield Centre in disgust at the time saying "Am I behind the times? ...[general complain about prices]" I think if I'm using phrases like "behind the times" that pretty much speaks for itself.

Resigned myself to the fact that in the shoe shops I like I'm not going to get anything cheaper and bought some today - a lovely purple! I'm very much a Clarks and Jones girl - a product of my childhood. There are some things you can't skimp on and shoes and bread (unless it's for bacon sandwiches in which case only a plastic loaf will do as my husband has taught me) are two of those things. My mum was always very careful to make sure my sister and I had good shoes and we never complained at going into Clarks and using the electric foot-measuring device! The only slightly disappointing thing was that my foot was such a wide fitting that I only ever had a choice of about 2 styles of shoe. Ever. And they were both dull.

Had another nasty price shock today in Clarks looking at baby shoes - now I have heard mums complaining about prices before so I was non-plussed by the £20 price tag I saw on some, but I was quite surprised to see a little pair of boots (Clarks claiming that the ankle supports help children in their first few months of walking) for £34!! Almost as much as my shoes...mind you they were Goretex so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

House History

We've been receiving a bit of post for previous occupants of this house - the Wands (people we bought from) obviously, but also for a Mr Wilcockson and this morning a Mrs Morley-Ramage. Nice. I'd be interested to try and find out who's owned/lived in this house since it was built - I really enjoyed Julie Myerson's book "Home" which explored the history of her house.

It would take a bit of work if I really wanted to do this and it might be a good project for when Zachary's a bit older and he can help me (ha ha!). I thought I'd have a quick troll through the Land Registry website and the 1901 census to see if I could find any immediate information there. Nothing from HMLR (which to be honest I was expecting) and nothing found on the census either. I seem to vaguely recall from the conveyancing that this house was built around 1910 so there may be nothing to find on that census anyway. I then tried to look up the 1911 census and discovered it's still being digitised. I have signed up for updates.

All the other websites I came across connected to this type of thing were offering services rather than information. If I do anything I'd rather have a go myself. That reminds me, must chase the solicitors for confirmation of the HMLR change confirming us as owners...

The second move

As part of their advice to reduce the risk of cot death, the NHS suggest having your baby sleep in the same room as you for the first 6 months. This is only advice and I've spoken to lots of mums who moved their baby out earlier and had no problems. We decided to stick with the 6 months though and actually it's not been too bad - it's certainly been much more convenient for breast feeding in the night.

We knew the house move would happen about the time Z was celebrating his half-year and with all the other upheaval going on decided to delay moving him to his own room for a few weeks until we were more settled.

So that happened this week. It's been an interesting few nights and on the whole Z seems to have settled well in the new cot. In my mind, the fact we'd put him to bed at 7 normally and so he's been having the first few hours of the night alone anyway has helped, although I really have no idea! So far we've had a really disturbed night (waking every half hour between about half one and four), followed by an okay night, a really good night (slept from one til about six with no waking) and then we hit Saturday. What on earth happened on Saturday, we're still analysing - but again there's no real way we can know the answer!

Z ate late in the early morning on Friday so didn't really want a proper breakfast, and I don't think I boobed him afterwards as I normally would because he gorged himself on the earlier feed. Lunch was late (see post below) and then he didn't eat much dinner either. His naps were a bit out of kilter too and we tried to change the positioning of his bedtime feed so that he didn't feed to sleep. All in all this led to a good 45 minutes of howling and wailing when we tried to put him to bed. Checked for physical injury but could see none and he was warm, nappy dry. Gave him some calpol in case his cold was causing some unseen pain and I fed him to sleep. And again when he woke shortly afterwards. He slept with us that night, but still woke more often than usual for feeds. I think he must have just been desperately hungry.

So Sunday we reset everything to the way it used to be, made sure we had meals and naps at proper times and had a much better night. And no repeat of Saturday last night either. Thank goodness.

It is quite strange with him sleeping in another room though - I can't just lean over to check he's still breathing and am trying to resist the urge to go into his room frequently to check up!

We are starting to think also about how we get Z to sleep in the evenings. We reached a point in Ipswich where we could lie him down in his cot awake, read him a story and he would drop off to sleep himself. However now it seems that he'll only drop off if fed or rocked to sleep, which clearly needs to be got out of eventually as I'm planning to stop breast-feeding when he reaches a year. I'm not planning to consciously do anything about it just yet - until he's had several good nights in the cot at least - but last night it happened. Z fed, didn't fall asleep, I put him in his cot awake but tired, turned off the light and after a few minutes he dropped off. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ever so slightly disappointing

Headed off into Nottingham today for some shopping - I wanted to try out the bus route and wanted to go back to John Lewis to look for a winter coat for Z. Bus journey was fine, if long, and Z had a great time playing with the sticker on the window and marvelling at all the other passengers. That said, I don't think I'll be using the bus again until Z is happy to sit in a seat on his own as he would not sit still for much of the journey!

We'd also decided to be brave and try and feed Z out and about with a 'proper' lunch (as opposed to just milk). This is something we've not really tried yet and have timed other expeditions to either be home by his lunch time (12) or going into town afterwards. Usually, it's a bit of a hassle managing the time so we've not really done the 'pop into town for lunch' thing for a while.

I tried feeding Z in Norwich Debenhams weeks ago and was pleased to find they have a kind of baby station in their restaurants with a microwave, kitchen towel and sink, which makes things lovely and easy. We thought we'd tried John Lewis today but were really quite disappointed. Yes they have lovely highchairs, but they refused to heat up my homemade baby food ("health and safety or something") and said they could only heat up food they sell, pointing to a range of jars behind them. There was no station where we could sort out the food ourselves. So we didn't eat there and hurried home instead.

Disappointed because while I know jars are convenient etc etc, we have made a conscious decision to try and make Z's food ourselves in an effort to hopefully make things easier when he starts eating the same meals as us, and to be honest, think our meals are possibly more tasty? Having taken our own food to the store (lovely beef stew), we didn't really want to then buy something else and don't know whether he'd eat it or not.

So we won't be going there again for food just yet and it's putting us off trying other places for lunch. I feel a letter coming on (oh dear, I'm so turning into my mother!).

Despite this, it's a really good thing that John Lewis isn't in Long Eaton - I would be in there every day...bought a sewing machine today...whooops!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Can you overdose on Petit Filous?

Hmmm I'm starting to wonder. Zachary's feeding is going really well except that I keep defrosting a whole pot of fruit intending to use half for breakfast and half for lunch and then microwaving the whole damn lot at breakfast. So he's ending up with 2 yoghurts a day. Is that bad? I'm consoling myself with the thought that at least he'll be getting his calcium.

I was going great guns with Annabel although we've had a few days of rejects. Chicken, sweet potato and apple - lovely. Courgette and pea souper - lovely. Braised beef and sweet potato - lovely. Salmon, carrot and tomato - reject. Broccoli, sweet potato and green beans - reject. Leigh's pasta and tomato sauce - first night lovely, then rejected. But back on track with a chicken and rice thingy yesterday. We're trying him out on baked potato with a bit of tuna and sweetcorn tonight (yummy) and are trying to gradually get to a position where we can make Zachary a meal from what we're having for dinner, which will save on a lot of preparation and freezing of tiny containers.

I think finger food's still a way off though as no teeth in sight yet, although Zachary does seem to be chewing more and is starting to make 'ro-ro' type sounds when he talks which move his mouth in a chewy action. Tried bread the other day - Zachary touched it to his lips, pulled a face, tried to bang it on the table and then scrunched it into crumbs. Maybe another day.

(Oooo brief break there while I rescued Zachary from investigating my pile of papers and then clearing up the large pile of vomit he immediately produced!)

He's also now discovered the joy of rolling. We'd been waiting ages for him to start rolling and to be honest I'd just about given up and decided perhaps that wasn't something he was going to do. But after a few unexpected rolls (which produced a very startled expression on his face!) Zachary is now taking full advantage of his new movement capabilities, which combined with shuffling backwards and spinning on his tummy mean that he's now about as mobile as he could be without actually crawling! This is making for some very interesting (challenging!) nappy changes and dressing him in the morning. I'm having to learn to fix the nappy upside down, or else L helps me so we have one person distracting (or holding down!) at the top end while the other tries to clean and apply new nappy. It would be easier if he wasn't so bendy and didn't take such delight in everything!!!

Finally, Z is spending a lot of time on his hands and knees rocking forwards and back. No actual forward movement yet, but soon. Very soon.

On a non-baby related note it's been the first sunny, windy day for a few days so I put my washing out. Watched from the window as 2 tea-towels and a pair of L's pants went for a little flight round the garden. Nice.

There's something about Zachary

Poor little Zachary picked up a cold from my brother-in-law at the weekend (which I suspect I have now also caught - sore throat this morning) and has had a runny nose and cough for the last couple of days. Sadly the little snotty boy doesn't like me wiping his nose and consequently it goes everywhere when he's trying to get his head out of my reach, or decides to wipe on my trouser leg instead. This morning he achieved a "There's Something About Mary" moment... You know what I mean.