Saturday, 18 July 2009

Freebie fun with tiny babies

With a new baby, you will want to be getting out and about, meeting other parents and babies. There are lots of classes on, such as baby yoga, baby signing and singing groups, but these can be quite expensive; yet with a bit of hunting and asking around, fun activities can be had for free.

The first port of call is the local library, many of which hold weekly ‘rhyme time’ sessions, where parents and babies can meet and sing nursery rhymes together, led by a member of staff. I also found it was great to get into the habit of regular book-borrowing, because even if you have some baby books already at home, it is good for you and for the baby to have access to a greater variety!

The health visitors are a good source of information on local activities. Ours directed me to our local family centre, which hosts a number of different baby and toddler groups weekly. Although I only went a few times, these occasions were invaluable to me in terms of getting out of the house with a newborn, and the kind members of staff will make you a cup of tea and give you a little break. The family centre also held a free baby massage group, which I really enjoyed and learned a lot from.

Not free, but pretty cheap, swimming is fun with a small baby, and some cinema networks hold showings especially for parents with babies (for example the Picturehouse network). Seize this opportunity to go and catch a film, because it won't be easier once your baby gets more active!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Broadbean and potato frittata

This was the solution to the "broadbean problem" in the end. Broadbeans grew particularly well in the allotment and their weird green colour is really interesting!

Blanch the broadbeans by dropping them in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then in cold water before shelling them (a little painful but worth it). Be warned though: it takes quite a lot of broadbeans to get enough.

Dice an onion and fry. Add some pre-cooked, sliced potatoes and season with salt and pepper. (For baby portions leave the salt.)

Whisk 4 to 6 eggs until well mixed and even, add a little melted butter to prevent the frittata from sticking.

Add the egg mix, broadbeans and a handful of feta to the pan and cook (covered) on a low heat until the top starts to set. once it reaches this stage remove from the heat and put the pan under a low temperature grill to finish cooking.

The end result is healthy and delicious.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The peas from the garden.

I picked a very healthy helping of peas from the garden today and made dinner...

out of all ingredients that I had anyway:
Onion (from the allotment)
Good handful of potatoes
Garlic (allotment again)
Yellow pepper - green, red or orange would work just as well
4 rashers of bacon (the leftovers from Saturday's Bacon sarnies)
1/2 cup of black pitted olives
peas (from the garden)
oil for frying

Peel a handful of potatoes and dice into cubes (about 1cm). Pre-cook these in the microwave. It's really easy - cook on full power for 2 minutes at a time until they go soft. Everytime the microwave stops stir. In our microwave it took 8 minutes.

Fry a roughly diced onion in a little oil with garlic, to taste (I used 3 v.small cloves)

Add the potatoes to the pan and season, I used paprika and a little black pepper.

Add the olives, dice the bacon and add that as well.

Turn down the heat and leave to fry slowly until all of it is cooked, stir occasionally - I used this time to shell the peas.

Once cooked add the pepper (diced) and a bowlful of peas to the pan, switch off immediately and serve.

The peas and pepper does not cook, just has enough time to warm up.

The green (fresh) peas and the pepper made for a very interesting looking dish and it tasted good too! It took me less than 20 minutes and cost next to nothing.
I have to find something to do with the broadbeans next...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Camping bloggery

Went camping this last weekend and as a result we are tired, relaxed and have a huuuge pile of washing.

here is what I learned this weekend...

It is important to be comfortable, our friend Simon never was a fan of camping, at our last trip he could be heard saying to his girlfriend 'this is fucking shite' ... at about 1am and at top volume. This time round however they had a decent tent, decent chairs and decent mattress. And I'm quite sure he'll be back for more next time.

It is important to find a moderately flat space, we didn't and I woke up with wet feet...

You should share (i.e. steal) ideas. we now have a box for storing all of our gear in which fits straight in the car. I wish I'd though of it myself as it's so simple.

Have a fire. It is for far more than just cooking and smelling of smoke is a small price to pay.

Go somewhere with decent toilets (even chemical ones, when cleaned regularly) and at least the option of a hot shower, I walked about 3/4 of a mile for a shower at 1.30am on Sunday and it was well worth it.

Decent coffee is priceless... we don't have one of our own but friends had an Atomic coffee machine and the smell of coffee in the morning is a godsend for any hangover.

Buy the best stuff you can. I'm not a fan of cheap short-lifespan goods. Quality tells and over the long term it is better than to replace something lots of times.

Go to charity shops. Instead of spending a fortune on a camping bbq (although I was very jealous of other people's) I bought a £3 metal wine rack that acts as a stand for the grill on top of the camp fire; also takes up less space than the BBQ would.

Big parties are great fun! We had 21 adults, two-and-a-half babies and several dogs and we all had a blast!

Learn an inappropriate song to recite around the campfire, Happy's tune about diseases was particularly amusing!

And finally, pray for nice weather! A (teeny) bit of rain is okay but you do need to be able to spend a lot of time outside.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Nearly free, nearly seedless raspberry jam

When we took on our allotment a year ago there were already lots of raspberry canes on it, bearing fruit. For a total £7 rent a year, this more than pays to keep us in raspberries for the summer! I was a bit clueless last year, but this year I have got right on to it and made some raspberry jam.

I got Preserves out of the library and got to work. Although the recipe was for seedless jam, I kept on pressing the fruit pulp through the sieve to get a bit more texture, without making it too pippy. I found a used a huge amount of raspberries only to get two thirds of a jar of jam, so I’m going to try again with bigger quantities. Luckily there is a seemingly endless supply right now.

Nearly seedless raspberry jam
Adapted from Preserves by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew

450g raspberries
About 450g granulated sugar

1. Use a mixture of just-ripe and a few underripe berries to ensure a good set. Put the fruit in a large heavy pan and crush to release the juices using the back of a wooden spoon.
2. Gently heat the fruit mixture to boiling point, then simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the fruit is really soft.
3. Tip the mixture into a fine nylon or stainless steel sieve placed over a bowl and push through the fruit purée using the back of the wooden spoon. Keep on until a few pips have come through too, then discard the remaining pips.
4. Measure the fruit pulp into the cleaned pan, adding 450g sugar for each 600ml purée. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached (105 C/220 F). (I don’t have a thermometer, so this entails a lot of guesswork about when the jam starts to stiffen a little!)
5. Using a slotted spoon, skim any froth from the surface, then pot the jam, cover and seal.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘school run’

Determined not to join the ranks of parents driving their children to nursery and school, I was met with a challenge when I signed Alice up at a nursery in a neighbouring village. It’s only two miles away, but when you have to get on to work, you don’t have time to waste. I am lucky enough to work at home though, so one day, when the roadworks were getting stupid, I gave it a shot. Forty minutes to push her there in the buggy, twenty minutes running back. Even with a shower, I can be at my desk working by 9.30am. Three weeks in now, three days a week, and I am loving it. We stop to look at birds and fields full of blue flowers along the way, and getting back to my desk so as not to waste my working day is a good motivator to run faster!

I’m not saying I’ll do it when the mornings get darker and rainier, but even to do it some of the time is better than nothing. I’m on the hunt for a cheap, working bike (after I bust mine in an accident a while back), and a child seat to go on the back: hopefully that will be the plan when the autumn comes.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Start ’em young

Rudi was very pleased with the homemade burger he made for Alice. It went down a total storm. Check it out on the braai:

It's just finely diced onion, finely diced red and yellow peppers, minced beef and curry powder, shaped into patties. Leave out the salt for a baby's portion.