Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faintly ridiculous

Today has been one of those days where you feel life is slipping every so slowly from your control, but you have absolutely no idea why!

Zachary woke up with 2 bloodshot eyes this morning. Great. Phoned nursery to let them know he wouldn't be in and phoned the doctors for an emergency appointment. I already had two appointments at the surgery for this morning - Leo was booked in for his 12 month booster jabs and then separately I needed a checkup for my (ahem) 'regular medication.' After much wheedling to the receptionist I had managed to get us back to back appointments (even though 'the nurse doesn't do pill checks during vaccination clinic'). Sadly however no such luck with Zachary's appointment. There was no flexibility for me even though I already had 2 appointments booked in and his was scheduled for 10.20. The other appointments were at 11.20. But not too bad - we turned up, had conjunctivitis confirmed, medication prescribed, and got some more bath stuff for Zachary's eczema while we were there. Then went to Asda for a cuppa and pharmacy. Back to the surgery an hour later. Zachary appeared very confused.

My appointment was fine, then at Leo's the nurse said that although they used to just do one set of booster jabs at 12 months and then we would come back for the MMR in a month's time, now it is preferred that they do them all at the same time. So, given that Zachary had a bad reaction to the MMR (fever and listlessness for 4 days) I had mentally prepared myself for Leo to have this in the new year! But hey ho, should all be out of the way by Christmas. Although hopefully Leo won't react the same way. He was brilliant - only cried at the last of the 3 injections, but after a minute it appeared that he was crying more because he wanted to be put down where he could play with the desk keys again than from the jab! He's gone to bed with Calpol so fingers crossed.

I went to the pharmacy to get my medicine only to be told there's some kind of national shortage of the particular brand I take. Boots apparently have heard some 'whispers' (what??!) that they'll be getting some in in the next week but can't confirm. Also they wouldn't recommend I try another pharmacy because there's likely to be a shortage there as well. So as I only have a week's worth left, I need to phone the pharmacy on Friday to find out if they have any and if not go back to the doctor/nurse to get a prescription for something else. Apparently the GP practice is aware of this shortage but is still prescribing. Hmm, helpful.

So a busy morning and then I decided to make some biscuits after lunch. Leigh had made some with Zachary at the weekend from Economy Gastronomy. The mix makes a roll of dough which you can then freeze in clingfilm and use on another day. Now, I have not used biscuit dough from frozen before and the only instructions in the book were that I would be able to freeze the roll, then when I wanted to make more, simply slice biscuits off the roll and cook for 8 minutes at 180C. Sounds easy - grrrr, should have just made a new batch!!!!

I think I must just attract ridiculousness, or else have no common sense at all and make a meal out of things which everyone else finds a doddle. My first difficulty was getting the frozen clingfilm off. It kept breaking into small pieces and one section was entirely underneath the top layer of dough. So I sawed that off, carefully examined the roll under the light and decided that I wasn't going to poison anyone with melted clingfilm in my biscuits! Slicing off biscuits from the roll was a nightmare - I had huge difficulty cutting through the frozen roll, and even when I did manage to get a knife through, no whole biscuits came out - the dough would just crumble and break off in the middle. I also managed to give myself two cuts on my fingers when the knife slipped. And I'm doing all this with Zachary and Leo in the kitchen trying my best to a) not swear and b) prevent Zachary eating all the smarties before I've managed to get anything remotely resembling a biscuit onto the baking tray!!

I'm sure it's me making life harder for myself but I wasn't sure I could defrost the roll and then refreeze. Especially since the book appeared to suggest that the roll could be sliced from frozen. We're choosing to blame an over-efficient freezer!

So here's what the biscuits looked like when they went in

And when they came out

I love the 'super biscuit' made from the melty bits of crappy biscuit all joined together! The biscuits tasted great by the way.

Oh and see if you can guess which film Zachary watched at the weekend from the way he describes it. This'll give you a small insight into the daily guessing games we have trying to work out which TV programme he wants to watch and is desperateley trying to convey to us without using its name...

The one with the man and the mouse
One man and 3 mice
Blue, red and green mice
One man and three mice (pause) monks
Three monks

Yes, it's Alvin and the Chipmunks!!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday, Monday

Two interesting things happened today. Firstly I received the photo calendar I'd ordered for Leigh's Nan from Vistaprint..along with 2 other random calendars! As I opened the envelope and saw three calendars my heart sank - ordering too much of something has been known to happen with me and the interwebs!

But as it turned out, it was nothing to do with me - our calendar had been sent along with one belonging to Theresa & Ingo (I know this because their names are emblazened across the front cover) and one of some other babies and children. Of course we had a nosey at the pictures. Now I'm not making any comments here about the attractiveness or otherwise of the subjects of the calendars, but I'm just bemused by the choice of some of the pictures, mainly from the baby one (unless of course the calendars are presents from friends/relatives who only have a limited selection of photos to choose from...). There are photos where the subject is half hidden by a sofa, or is not centred properly and is right at the bottom of the picture or where the camera has focussed on the mobile in front of the baby's face, rather than on the baby's face! But hey, they're not my calendars - I mean I would take care over my choice of photos and certainly not do anything as ridiculous as say, using the same photo for 2 months in a calendar for my Mum or anything...

And the other thing which happened was typical me. I was looking for a birthday card for my niece who'll be 1 in a couple of weeks. Now I was specifically looking for a 'niece' card and I'm usually averse to sentimental, flowery, twee poems in cards. So I found a card I thought looked great from the outside - said 'niece' and had some pics of flowers and butterflies. Great. Came to write it this evening, opened it (yes I know, I didn't check in the shop...) and found these words...

Thinking of you
on your birthday -
with fun memories
of the little girl you were
and with loving pride
in the wonderful person
you are.

Hmmmmm. Not the worst on the words front (although wouldn't usually be my first choice) but I can't possibly send it to a baby!!!! Perhaps I should stick to a card with '1' on it. Can't go too wrong there, surely??

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stained Glass Window biscuits

I had a go at these for Leo's party too. Leigh tried them last year, but something went a bit wrong somewhere and they didn't end up as they should have at all! I used a recipe I found on the BBC website from Annabel Karmel - ginger biscuits with the little windows of melted boiled sweets. The first batch...

look great. The windows came out really well, although I was slightly concerned that they might have been a bit pale and undercooked. And I forgot to add the sugar. Biscuits came out more like slightly stodgy cake and did not taste good. I was very disappointed, particularly as Zachary had been really helpful and done a huge amount to help make them. But first batch binned, I had another go...

These don't look as pretty and the window parts did not come out as well as the previous biscuits - I think I must have used too much sweets for the thickness of the dough. But the biscuits themselves are much better - nice and crunchy and tasty, if possibly slightly overdone! Must try another time soon to get it right!!!

350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
100g/3½oz butter
175g/6oz soft brown sugar
1 free-range egg, beaten
4 tbsp golden syrup
packet wrapped fruit-flavoured boiled sweets in different colours

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. For the biscuits, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger together in a bowl.

3. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

4. In another bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix to make a smooth dough, kneading lightly with your hands.

5. Crush the sweets in their wrappers using a rolling pin.

6. Roll the dough out on a floured work surface to about 0.5cm/¼in thick, then cut into shapes using a selection of Christmas-themed cookie cutters. Transfer the biscuits to baking sheets lined with baking paper.

7. Cut out shapes in the centre of each biscuit, making sure you leave a good edge all around the biscuit. Completely fill the hole in each biscuit with crushed boiled sweets.

8. Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown.

9. Remove the biscuits from the oven. Do not remove the biscuits from the baking tray until they have cooled because the boiled sweets need to harden. Once the sweets have hardened, gently lift the biscuits onto a wire rack with a palette knife to finish cooling.

10. If you like, you can decorate the biscuits with piped white icing, thread ribbons through the holes in the biscuits to make loops for hanging from a Christmas tree.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

3rd time lucky

Hurrah! The third version of the cake (and the one I baked this morning for the party this afternoon) has turned out the best of the three. Same recipe with Nigella, but a few changes - I used fat-free yoghurt instead of our home full-fat yoghurt, used a spray oil in the tin and then tapped it thoroughly to get rid of excess flour. The cake itself actually tasted better too. Great. Here it is unadorned...

and decorated.

This is the best of the 'decorated' pictures although you can't see my clever use of a McDonald's sauce pot as a crow's nest at the top of the mast!

Monday, November 15, 2010

And second attempt...

Okay, I think this will be the one. Had another go at the cake using Nigella's Spruced Up Vanilla Cake recipe from Nigella Christmas. Her recipe suits a 2.5 litre Bundt tin (hers is little fir trees standing in a circle) and it seems to fit this tin too. There were some small patches of uncooked flour on the outside of the cake (you can see that it looks a little patchy in places) so I'm going to use less flour when flouring the tin next time and also invest in some spray oil which might give a more even and lighter coating than brushing round with vegetable oil.

Still need to work out the decoration...but have tonight roughed out some flags and now need to print some Jolly Rogers to go on them - no, I'm not confident enough in my artistic abilities to draw them by hand!

By the way - my favourite instruction in this recipe is number 5. Nigella, I rely on you to be more confident than that!!!

225g soft butter
300g caster sugar
6 eggs
350g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml (250g) plain fat-free yoghurt (I must confess that I didn't use fat free yoghurt - we regularly make our own yogurt with full fat UHT milk and I just used a cup of that. Will buy some fat free for the real thing)
4 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 x 15ml tbspn icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4 and put a baking sheet in at the same time. Butter or oil your tin very very thoroughly (Nigella uses oil-sodden kitchen paper - I brushed oil round and then floured the tin also).

2. Put all the ingredients except the icing sugar into a food processor and blitz together.

3. Pour or spoon the mixture into the greased tin and spread about evenly.

4. Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45-60 minutes until well risen and golden. After 45 minutes push a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked (mine was not - took another 5 minutes to cook through). Let it sit out of the oven for 15 minutes.

5. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then turn out the cake, hoping for the best (!).

6. Once cool, dust with the icing sugar pushed through a small sieve - representing snowfall on the Alps with this particular tin.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yay for Clue

Clue has been my favourite movie for ages - a friend of mine on Facebook posted this link today from the AV Club. Finally the world is realising its genius...well, that might be going a little bit too far, but it is a mighty fine film.

Attempt numero uno

We bought a Nordicware pirate cake tin ages ago to use for the boys

and I'm getting it out for a pirate cake for Leo, who will be 1 on the 22nd. Getting family and friends here to celebrate his birthday has been a bit of an undertaking and in effect there will be 3 - yes, count them - 3 parties. Well, opportunities for tea and cake more like.

Having had some difficulty with Zachary's train birthday cake

(it took me 3 attempts to get the cake mix the right consistency, the right amount in each little section and to make sure I'd greased and floured everything sufficiently!), I thought I'd have a trial run today to see how I got on. So here is attempt 1.

Not too bad, but could be better - by the way, all the cake showing at the left side of the cake is where Leigh snagged some for sampling it came out of the tin fine! I'd had in mind to simply put my usual Victoria sandwich mix in the tin and see what happened, but Leigh thought a Madeira cake would be better. Having failed to find a pirate cake recipe on the internet I got out my Madeira cake recipe today only to discover I don't have an ground almonds or a lemon. So back to Victoria sandwich. So, a lot of detail came out well, the cake fairly slid out of the cake tin (thank goodness - that was my worst fear, a sticking cake) and it tastes good, although my 3-egg mix is clearly not enough. I now have this link to read for some help and Leigh found a recipe in Nigella Lawson's "Christmas" book in which she gives her recipe for a tree Bundt tin cake. The tin seems to be similar in approximate size so I'm going to give that a go for a second run through and then make a decision... Hopefully it will also survive longer than the sandwich would out of a tin, and here's a piccie of a suggested decoration.

Oooo - look at all that piping. Hmm...not sure I'll stretch to that - this one looks more manageable!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And shorn

Went to a great little local hairdressers today called Kidz Kuts to get Leo's hair cut. It's got to the stage now where it definitely needs doing and my hairdressing 'skills' are without a doubt not up to the job!! I keep passing the sign for this place when I go the back way into Spondon so I made an appointment with the hope that they would be well used to dealing with young children and that they might be able to help with Leo. So off we went - it's a very small salon, with just three stations, but the middle one is a car! So Leo was very happy sitting up there, there's a TV screen in front of the chair rather than just a mirror and the stylist had a variety of toys he could just keep on coming as Leo got bored with the last. In all, Leo seemed pretty much unconcerned with what was going on on his head and sat very well for most of the cut - just got to his feet towards the end. At the end of the salon there's a play are with another great selection of toys so Zachary was well occupied and quite throughout the whole visit. Success. And here he is

Monday, November 08, 2010

Big boy pants

Tried and failed. Two wees and two poos in the pants - Zachary seemingly unconcerned by these events and they certainly didn't prompt him to let us know next time he needed a wee. So decision taken to step back from potty training til after Christmas. Although intellectually he seems to understand the process, I don't think he yet really relates it to himself somehow and I'm guessing he still doesn't recognise the signs which tell him he's ready to do a wee or a poo. So we'll see how we get on in a couple of months.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Had a great weekend, all the better for being at home. Saturday we visited Hobbycraft - always a mistake even with list in hand! Came away with much more than we went for, but all will be useful in time. Several things were returned to the shelves!! Unfortunately my handbag got left in the car park and when I rang the store after we got home to see whether it was still there, I thought for a moment the manager was going to refuse to go and look as she told me 'we are very busy here!' It wasn't there, and hadn't been handed in at the store next door either. So I rang my phone, not really expecting any luck, and it was answered by a kindly gent who had found the bag and taken it with him. Leigh went out to collect it and it is now safely home all complete. Phew!

I should say here that there has still been no progress on the potty front. Was intending to try big boy pants this afternoon, but didn't quite get there. Am going to stay in and try tomorrow morning...

In the afternoon it was the 1st birthday party of the little girl of one of my friends - lots of cake, pass the parcel and presents! Today I went to church with the boys, then we had a spontaneous lunch in Tesco, spent far too much in the toy department, dressed the boys up in their Christmas kits for a photo session when we got home, and then I made a lovely hazelnut cake. The recipe is at the end of this blog.

The next cake in Bake we cooked was actually the coconut macaroon tart

which Leigh made last week, and let me tell you it was absolutely delicious! He put a layer of jam on the pastry under the coconut topping and it was totally brilliant. So next cake is the Italian Hazelnut cake - lighter than you think it'll be. I had been putting this off to a weekend as on re-reading the recipe I realised it was quite fiddly, rather than one of my usual 'tip everything into the Kitchen Aid and beat' cakes! I also found we had enough kitchen gadgets to make the cake without having to wash anything up in between - not sure whether that's good or bad! I ground the hazelnuts in our stand blender, then used a hand-held electric beater to whisk the egg yolk mixture, and the Kitchen Aid to whisk the egg whites. It cooked in the allotted time and is very tasty. Just waiting to see how it is on the second day...

200g hazelnuts (with skins on)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g butter, softened
5 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Grease and base line a 20cm diameter spring-form tin. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/325F.

2. Grind the hazelnuts with the baking powder and ground cinnamon in a food processor until fine. Combine with the butter.

3. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric food mixer or use a hand-held electric beater. Add the sugar and whisk until the mixture becomes slightly 'moussey' and the mix holds a trail when you lift the beater. Add the hazelnut mixture and the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

4. Whisk the egg whites and salt together in a large, spotlessly clean bowl until stiff peaks form, then gently fold into the nut mixture in three stages so as not to deflate the whites.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the surface and bake in the oven for 55-70 minutes (it took 55 mins at 150C in our fan oven) or until the cake feels firm and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The mixture is quite delicate so don't be tempted to open the oven until close to the end of the cooking time.

6. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then very gently ease the sides of the cake out of the tin using a palette knife. Remove the base after another 15 minutes and leave to cool before cutting into slices.

We served with vanilla ice cream - also homemade!!

Friday, November 05, 2010

In Leo and Zachary world

Today and yesterday no joy on the potty. We read Pirate Pete's Potty and Zachary seemed to connect really well with it - he appeared to understand the concepts, identified with Pirate Pete who has a Mummy, a Daddy and a younger brother (and an older sister, but we glossed over her!), engaged with the pages where he's invited to pick his favourite potty and pair of pants, and loves the page which has a picture of the poo Pirate Pete did in his potty, but still hasn't managed anything himself. One time when I asked him if he needed to do a wee he said "not today Mummy." Hmmmm.

He's also started using an 'f' word. Now I'm not saying it's the 'f' word because it's not completely clear what he's saying, although it sounds suspiciously like it! He seems to use it when he's throwing or flicking things (ah, could it be 'flick?') and gives a really cheeky grin when he says it like he's knows it's dodgy. He certainly hasn't heard the word from us and I hope not from nursery (unless it's another child) so I suspect it's something else that he's just not quite saying properly. At least that's the basis we're working on and trying not to make a huge fuss about it.

Leo can now climb an entire flight of stairs, has worked out posting letters into the wooden post box and can hammer balls into the toy chicken (which is what you are supposed to do!). He's 1 in 3 weeks and I really don't know whether Zachary was doing these kind of things when he was 1. I think he was. But my recollection of Z at 1 is of a child more mature looking than Leo and seeming more grown up - I suspect however that my thoughts and memories are coloured by the fact that he was my first child, and now when I look at Leo I have a 2 year old to compare him against so he may seem much younger anyway.

In my world I've had an annoying time with Mothercare. In the store they didn't have the size I needed in the vest I wanted to buy. So I thought I'd order it through the shop as it then doesn't cost me any postage!! But their computers were playing up so I ordered it from home (complete with £2 delivery charge - scandalous!). The internet said it would be in on 3rd November. So I dutifully turned up to be told that it wasn't in yet - apparently they'd had an audit the day before so there were no deliveries and anyway I should have waited for an email to confirm. But the computer was checked, and delivery the next day was confirmed. I got an email the next morning to say it had been delivered. Went to the shop - shop assistant spent 20-25 minutes in the storeroom with 3 colleagues looking for my item of clothing. No joy. Added to which I had both boys with me who were getting increasingly bored. Leo did not want to sit in the trolley any longer and Zachary was running across the store to fling the toilets door open every so often. We rode the Iggle Piggle machine, ate a cereal bar and played with the display of electronic books which were by the tills. Also by the tills were a large array of chocolate lollipops and jelly lollipops - not tempting in any way at all...so spent another few minutes dragging them out of the grasp of my children and trying to keep the trolley far enough away so Leo couldn't grab them while not blocking the exit for all those lucky people who had actually been able to buy what they wanted.

Not frustrating at all. I was advised to come back again another day - at which point presumably another 3 assistants will spend another fruitless 20 minutes searching through stock. I'm going to ring first.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Still no luck with the potty although Zachary seems happier to sit on it - at times. I've been getting Leo to sit on it as well when they're getting dressed, and did again at bathtime tonight to try and encourage Zachary. He seems to respond to "look, Leo's doing it too," more than "you're doing it on your own because you're the big boy" type stuff. Leo thinks sitting on the potty is hilarious and at bathtime I almost thought he was going to do a wee! Would be one up on Zachary..

Also bought a book today - Pirate Pete's Potty to read with him. But I'm getting more convinced that while the pull-ups are catching everything, he's got no motivation to use the potty or toilet. I suspect that I'm going to need to move on to proper pants soon and see how that goes when he starts getting wet. An afternoon in our kitchen with the tiled floor I think, although it won't be for a few days. Will stick with the pull-ups in the meantime - I don't want to go backwards just yet.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Day 2

Still no deposits in the potty although apparently Zachary did ask to use the toilet at nursery. At which point he declared that the wee and poo weren't coming. Nice. Am trying not to make him fed up of the potty at home before he's even used it - if I ask if he needs a wee, he usually sighs, rolls his eyes and says no. Although I think I caught him unawares this afternoon - he actually said yes, then when I suggested he sat on it, he quickly backtracked!!! I suspect that he thought going to the potty would mean missing Mister Maker! Need to put TV in the toilet...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Girding my loins

Right, well we've decided to start potty training with Zachary. Bit apprehensive about it really, but I have in mind that I'd like to at least have a go before Christmas, with an ultimate aim of having him potty trained in the day by Easter, which is when he will hopefully be starting a different nursery. Now, I know that this may not happen but I feel I need an aim otherwise I'll just keep putting it off!! We've not got any trips away planned for the next few weeks, so it seemed like a good time.

So today I cracked open the pull-up pants, and if all goes well this week hope to move on to training pants next week. Zachary sat happily on the potty for me a few times, but no actual wees or poos made it in there. I'm also asking him fairly regularly if he needs a wee, but I think he's fed up with that already! Tiny steps though and I'm pleased I've made a start, I just need to be patient. See how it goes at nursery tomorrow too.