A week in Daddy Day Care!

Seven months into maternity leave and finding my feet as a new mum, I am facing a role reversal. I have been fortunate enough to take the last 7 months “off work” to raise our tiny chick into the round-faced babbling baby we have today.

All of a sudden its Sunday night and tomorrow I have work. Work in the sense I will be paid for my labor in pounds and not poopy nappies!

My husband Ben has been holding the fort monetary wise while I have been living the dream of ladies what lunch and play groups. Now, with holidays he needs to take and my keeping in touch days to do, we are swapping roles for the week and he will be playing mum to our 7-month-old daughter Scarlett.

So we begin this adventure on Sunday night:

I feel like I’m on my holidays. Tonight I can go to bed and know when I here that inevitable squawk over the monitor I can roll over and give my partner and firm nudge in the side as he is off tomorrow so is responsible for the night time care. I cant help but smile in anticipation of the conversation that will come on Friday when he hands our beautiful daughter over with a wipe of his furrowed sweaty brow and says, That was HARD work!

After Scarlett has been put to bed for the night the first thing I do is unplug the charger for the baby monitor and casually move it to my partners side of the bed. Job done I turn my attention to opening a bottle of red wine whilst catching up on various texts, emails and social media whilst I race through the recorded x factor shows of the weekend, it’s the only way to watch it. A fine example of multi tasking.

I go to bed and think of how Ben will get on in the week ahead.

Will he know how to dress her? As stylish as my partner is I wouldn’t let him dress me. Any top I wear is called a dress and anything worn on the lower half of my body is a trouser, whether its a pair of tights or a pair of jeans. Unless it’s a skirt and that would come under the “dress” category! Ben has dressed Scarlett in a pajama top and a pair of tights before.

Have I reminded him to feed her? Not that I think he would intentionally starve our child but we are all new to the wonders of weaning and I often need to remind myself that solid foods are required along side milk!

Naps? Well his guess is as good as mine.

I push these thoughts to the back of my mind and relax into bed as tomorrow Im getting up only once, to go to work!

Monday:

I give myself an hour to get ready. 20mins in and Im done. Washed, dressed and make up on. My brain and body have been in training for the last 7 months on the art of speed dressing. I don’t remember how to get ready in a leisurely manor.

I contemplate going into Scarlett’s room and choosing her some clothes for the day then think better of it. So her tights wont match her dress today whats the harm in that! I leave it to him.

Instead I put on some coffee. Ben kindly has a ritual of bringing me a lovely cup of coffee before he leaves for work each morning so I shall stick with tradition and return the favour. Experience tells me he wont get to drink it while its still hot.

I do the first nappy change of the morning as a gesture of goodwill and then leave amidst breakfast chaos. I dodge a porridge-laden spoon and a buttery hand and kiss my baby goodbye. As I walk out the door I push any fears aside as I remind myself what a wonderful father Ben is; he will always have our daughters best interests at heart.

Its astonishing how little luggage single me requires. All tucked away nicely in a tan leather satchel that hasn’t seen the light of day since the bean was born. It feels good not to have to wear a bag that is made of patterned wipe clean fabric.

Work is a pleasure. Catching up with friends and colleagues, lots of jobs to do but under my own steam and with little interruption they seem a breeze.

All is going well until I crack about 1:30 and call home to check everything is going okay. I get no answer, which I half expect. I never manage reach my phone in time anymore and what usually happens is I do a mass response to text messages and emails at the end of the day in bed just before lights out. So I go with the theory that no news is good news.

Around 3pm I get a call from the other half. They have been to soft play, ambitious for a first day. Im impressed. He tells me she is quite wingy as she is teething and I can here her crying in the background. The conversation is short due to the teething baby and Im left wanting to drop everything and race home to hold her in my arms. But work I must, so I solider on. Only 3 hours left!

Six o’clock comes and I race home, observing the speed limits of course. When I burst through the door I’m greeted with calm not chaos. He makes it look like Jo frost and one of the people from the show Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners has been and visited. The whirl of the washing machine was going, the floor had been swept and mopped and the baby was napping sweetly in the pram as he prepared dinner. Bonus points for the boy.

What a joy it was to spend the evening giving Scarlett her dinner and enjoying bath time rather than it being the final chore to a long day.

After she is put to bed Ben spends the rest of the evening under quiz fire where I ask him for details of when she pooped (an obsession with her bowl movements has stuck with me long after a bout of constipation) what she had eaten and if she had smiled in the ball pond at soft play. Had she been teething badly? Did he need to use Calpol or was it just teething rings? The questions went on until I had built a picture of the day Id missed. Satisfied I retired to bed myself.

Tuesday:

I wake with what feel like bedsores. I cant remember the last time I spent 8 hours horizontal! I feel bad as I am aware that Ben had got up at least twice last night and I tell myself that tonight I will definitely do some of the night time care. I kind of miss it.

She makes us aware that she is also awake and I go and collect her from her cot for some of the sweetest cuddles of the day. This sets me up for another day at work. The weather is brisk and blustery as you’d expect for October and as I leave the house in barley any day light a part of me wants to stay in the warm cosy home with my two favourite people. Shitty nappies and all.

A proper coffee from our on site canteen eases the urge to dash home and the friendly banter from work colleagues has me relishing my adult life again.

By lunchtime on day two I have to call home to say I will be late. Typical in my line of work but this is the first time it really matters to me. Every extra minute in work is a minute taken from the precious little time I have before Scarlett goes to bed.

I get home one hour before bedtime and make the most of it by getting right up in her face and kissing those chubby cheeks! Ben gives me the highlights of the day. My favourite is the poo in the bath. Wow she has excelled herself! That is something even if haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing. The bath seat came off worst effected.

Wednesday:

I send a text out to my nearest and dearest to see if anyone will take in a lost soul for dinner tonight. Ben is taking our baby down to London today to see his mum for a few days. I will join them after work on Friday. Not only is this the first time I have stayed in a different location to my child it will be for a total of 60 hours! Two and a half days! Hundreds of minutes! Not that Im counting.

Now as far as Daddy Day Care goes you could say that a trip to see your mum could be classed in some circumstances as reaching for a helping hand. Not I. Have you ever tried to pack for a child? The endless list of “what if” scenarios. What if its cold, she needs that special teddy, that colourful blanket, various carriers and chairs, eating equipment and a toiletries bag that would rival even the most pampered lady. Good luck with that one. Oh and have I mentioned that Scarlett hates her car seat?

They set off for the big smoke and I for the office.

So far I have had a fairly straightforward forward week of prop buying. However Wednesday throws me a curve ball that catches me in my coffee drinking, socialising stride. A simple can you get me 20 meters of 3 inch plastic hose by the end of the day turns into a manic hunt across Liverpool for the elusive hose. I had forgotten that feeling of rising panic as the time ticks on and your shopping list is growing by the minute. I ask myself if this is the better end of the work/child care deal?

Even in my sweaty, panic stricken shopping state I think I still get the better end of the deal. Ben’s normal 3 and a half hour journey home to the mother land takes him a total of 7 and a half hours. One massive traffic jam, two stops at service stations and three shitty nappies later and they arrive in London.

I was greatly appreciative that evening for the safe arrival of my husband and daughter, for the free dinner and glass of wine at my sisters house, and for the fact that Ben left the heating on as I didn’t feel cold and deserted when I crawled into bed. On my way to bed I checked her cot even though I knew she wasn’t in it.

Thursday:

I feel cheated. I have dreamt for the last 7 months, longer if you count the months of sleepless nights towards the end of pregnancy to get a full 8 hours sleep. So I get my wish for a full nights kip and I wake up feeling rubbish! I have one of those headaches that I have a vague recollection of getting when I was a teenager and could sleep in until gone 12pm.

The morning is busy and by 1:30 I am still suffering from my sleepy headache. I decide that a strong coffee and a bit of sugar might shift it so I head into Leaf on Bold Street, one of my favourite cafes in Liverpool. Whilst waiting for my order I spot a baby who is so like my daughter I cant take my eyes off her. She even has the same jumper. The mother looks fantastic, hair and makeup done, meeting and friend for lunch. I want to be her with my baby. I watch as she struggles to hold the child whilst removing her coat. All the while said “friend” just watches her struggle, obviously she hasn’t had any kids yet. The mother then does a sweep of the table moving all objects out of reach from the little grasping hands of her baby. I remember that lunch with a baby is not what its made out to be. I bet she orders something lovely to eat and barely touches it. I head back to the office to eat my lunch in relative peace while I type up my expenses.

Second night home alone I decide to treat myself to a bath and a glass of wine. Do I drink too much wine and coffee?? I guess that is another blog post all together. I try to relax and remember what I did with myself when I did’nt have a kid and chores to keep me busy.

I use the rest of the free time to clean the kitchen properly rather than the rushed daily effort it normally gets. I go to bed rather satisfied and realise I enjoyed sorting out the kitchen more then the bath. Amazing how your priorities change. At the beginning of the week I had planned to go out with friends, I heard Thursdays are the new Fridays, but I go to bed more content knowing the marmite finger prints have been removed from the kitchen cupboard handles.

Finally Friday:

I wake up excited to crack on with the day and get on that train to London and back to my baby. I sweep up all the loose ends in work before I wave goodbye to friends and colleagues for another couple of months. My work here is done for now, I will rejoin them in January when my maternity leave is well and truly over.

As the train whisks me away from Liverpool to London I reflect on the week I have had. I am thankful for the keeping in touch days, as am more confident than ever about my return to

work once my leave is up and the anxiousness about how I will do two jobs (earning money and looking after a child) are put to rest. I am also thankful for the opportunity Ben had to bond with his daughter and spend a very special week learning about how to handle a poo in a bath and nightmare car journeys. It’s what makes us stronger.

As for the debate on who works harder? I still think it’s the stay at home parent who bares the emotional and physical brunt of the workload. But we cant live off fresh air either! I think you just have to do what you need to do to get by and luckily we make a good team Ben and I.

I have to admit I am secretly happy that on Monday I am “off work” to look after Scarlett J

Ooops there’s the wine again…

Winter Juicing

winter-juicing

“It is health that is wealth, not pieces of gold and silver” Ghandi

I first came into juicing a year ago when I stumbled across a fascinating documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” where a man called Joe Cross reverses his crippling medical conditions and loses a lot of weight through merely juicing for 60 days. Its a brilliant documentary and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about juicing to watch it.

So, step one I bought a juicer there are many options on the market with prices ranging from very high to very low, but to get me started I went for one in the £40 region.

I then researched fruit and vegetable juice recipes and experimented by making new and colourful mixes of juice, I felt like Roald Dahl’s character George in Georges Marvellous medicine. At first my body was not sure but after a couple of days juicing the benefits in my skin, hair and nails really did show. I also felt an increase of energy as you juice you are taking in lots of minerals and vitamins that are usually lost in conventional shop brought juices that are also laden with artificial sweeteners and sugars (and are super expensive) so you really feel all the benefits when you juice at home.

Some top tips before you start :

  1. Always wash out your juicer once you’ve made the juice otherwise its going to be a mission to clean.
  2. Use a straw when drinking juice and place behind teeth so the acids in the juice does’nt erode the enamel of your teeth.
  3. Drink your juice asap after making it as every hour passes the juice can loose its benefits.
  4. Be careful with beetroot and carrots they stain and they will not come out in the wash so wear an apron for those juices.
  5. Recycle fruit and veg peelings in your own home made food compost the worms love it.

I’ve listed my top 3 winter juices to ward off those germs and to give your skin a well deserved glow for all the Christmas and new year parties.

So let’s juice 🙂

Winter Blues

This juice will make your skin glow and give you instant energy while improving your immunity for the cold and flu season.

Pack of Blueberries

3 Passion -fruit ( flesh only scooped out)

1 Mango (peeled no stone)

Cantaloupe melon 1 peeled

Morning Zinger

I Love this juice its tasty and a great skin drink and the ginger will soothe your throat.

5 carrots

3 oranges

root ginger you choose how much depending on how spicy you like it

2 apples

Throat Soother

This isn’t the tastiest juice but it really helps with tonsillitis, sore throats and the sage is great as it acts as a powerful antiseptic and a traditional remedy of all mouth and throat problems.

Half a Cucumber

1 small Pineapple

6 Sage leaves

2 Celery sticks

3 Carrots

Last but by no means least…

Popeye Shots

Now a Popeye shot is taken from the lovable character Popeye the sailor man who would eat spinach for strength (I like this man) so if you feel your body is out of sorts this winter invest in Wheat grass and Spirulina powder. Its a great supplement to your diet and really helps detoxify the body and holds keys ingredients such as B complex vitamins, vitamin E and also Beta-carotene. These vitamins are good for overall health. Its also high in protein and is full of antioxidants which is a must in today’s hectic lifestyle.

Start off with a teaspoon mixed with water a day as the taste can be best described as displeasing but after a couple of weeks taking this I am sure you will start to see the difference and may even feel as good as Popeye.

Good luck, Happy Juicing Days xxxx

Five things you never realised before becoming a mum

5-things-you-never-realised-before-becoming-mum

Being a Mum for the first time was an overwhelming experience. I thought I was ready – I’d read the books, I’d watched Super Nanny, I’d helped out with my niece and nephew I knew what to expect. How wrong I was. I’d say it took me a good 4 months to truly get a handle on being a Mum but even now, three kids down, I still have days where I think ‘What the hell am I doing?!!’. Here I have listed my top 5 (there are many, many more!) of things I never realised before becoming a Mum for the first time.

1: That at some point, usually in the first few months when life is generally quite confusing, you will either answer the door or go to the shops with one boob not secured in your nursing bra. And it will probably be leaking.

 

2: That you will become so tolerant to projectile vomit, projectile poo and snot. Only your own child’s though. Other peoples baby’s bodily functions are utterly horrifying.

 

3: That you will think nothing of scooping up your baby, flipping them over and giving their bum a good long sniff, even when in polite society.

 

4: That you will become quite so obsessive about sleep, and be capable of so much silent loathing, anger and resentment towards those mums with their perfect sleepers, or that well-meaning family member who regards your screaming, overtired baby who wont sleep for love nor money and remarks Oh, he looks tired to me. Really? REALLY???

 

5: That you were able to be so desperately sleep deprived that you start to hallucinate, have boobs that look like the London underground map and hurt like hell, be horrified by the state of your house and body, feel constantly guilty and emotional but not entirely sure why, but when you get that smile, meant just for you, even at 4am with bleeding nipples and sick in your hair, you become so overwhelmed with love that nothing else matters.

Love, leaks and achy bits,

x

Button Art for a Little Button Nose

button-love-card

It’s been an exciting week, one of my closest friends wife has gone into the early stages of labour! This fills me with excitement, partly because soon well meet the little fella (we know its a boy!) and partly the joy of knowing its not me about to go into the labour room. I know that seems a bit mean, but Im not that many months past forgetting the whole ordeal myself (you do forget, right?).

I wanted to make them a little handmade present and given the fact they are soon moving house and haven’t had chance to decorate the new nursery, I thought that would be a good starting point. This is a really easy and effective way to create a 3D Picture and there is something fun about the design that makes it ideal for a nursery (although I think this is a lovely gift idea for any one).

I got a bumper bag of buttons on ebay, if you buy them individually or at craft shops they can be quite expensive and I liked the randomness of the buttons that came in the pack, although you can order colour specific, or even themed buttons if you wish.

So, here’s my step by step guide to creating the heart picture above.

What you need;

  • A Frame (remember it must be a deep frame, not flush. I got mine from www.Ikea.com, they have a fairly large range of sizes and colours)
  • Some felt
  • a selection of buttons (lots of different shapes will help)
  • Scissors
  • needle and thread
  • super glue (the very strong liquid glue works best I used Loctite presicion super glue)
  • Some paper or card for your template (use the insert paper from your frame if its new)
  • Board to glue on this glue has ruined my Kitchen table. Ooooops!

Step One

Draw around the inner square of your frame if using a boarder, if not draw around the frame itself. You will then have a piece of paper that fits to the size of the frame so your heart fits perfectly.

Step Two

Fold the paper in half and draw half a heart, therefore when its cut out it will be symmetrical.

Step Three

Once you have your cutout place it on your chosen choice of felt and arrange the buttons within the stencil. I find it easier to arrange them first, so you know how it will look at the end and that the buttons fit to the size, this may need a little bit of juggling around. If you have particularly small buttons tweezers will help.

Step Four

Once you are happy with the arrangement of buttons, put a very small drop of glue to tack them into place, be careful not to cover the holes with the glue. This will just make it easier when sewing them on.

Step Five

Sew each button on.

If you use a contrasting colour it will be more effective. A nice idea is to match the colour of the thread to the wall colour of the room, its surprising how much it makes the picture pop!

Step Six

Glue the felt to the backing card and pop into your frame and there you have it (Pictured with handmade Booties).

A perfect Button picture for a perfect Button nose!

Let’s just hope that baby has arrived before I put this post up

With Love and Buttons,

x x

Faking it..with Flowers!

faking-it-with-flowers

Fake. Artificial. Synthetic. Mock.

Hardly conjures up a positive image does it? But that needn’t be the case!

There has been a surge in popularity for the fake flower. It coincides with enormous improvements in the manufacture and design of artificial flowers and the vast variety in the specimens available to florists and customers alike.

Faux is no longer Foul. Gone are the dusty bunches of forever carnations that you would find in your Nan’s parlour and en-vogue are bright beautiful blooms that will transform your interiors with their colour and vibrancy.

Even the bridal sector wants in on the act. Testament to the quality of the blooms on offer brides are more than ever choosing to have their special bouquets made in artificial flowers and I have seen a marked increase in the number of customers wanting an artificial hand tie for their big day.

For the bride come some great advantages to this. You can have exactly what you want when you want it. Nothing is more disheartening than explaining to an excited bride to be that if they are getting married in December they simply cant have the blousy summer peonies in the picture torn from the pages of a well-thumbed wedding magazine.

With artificial flowers you can have that dream and you can rest assure your flowers will look their very best on the wedding morning and throughout the day. No wilting in the heat of the day and no browning edges from hours out of water. Better still you can throw your matrimonial spray high over your shoulder into the waiting hands of your single female wedding guest safe in the knowledge that it will survive the wedding tradition unharmed! It’s yours to keep forever.

So, with that in mind here are my hints and tips for creating your perfect plastic posy!

There are some golden rules to creating an artificial bouquet. The number one rule is to remember that this isn’t a cheaper option to fresh flowers. It can be a more expensive alternative but you have to weigh up the positives as mentioned earlier. Yes you can buy cheap artificial flowers but if you only buy cheap then the finished product will look exactly that…. cheap!

I think the best way is to invest in some flowers that are of a high quality and mix these in with some cheaper versions. Just like wearing your designer handbag with your high street heels.

Single stem flowers are more expensive than the ready-made bunches so I would use a combination of the two. Buy gorgeous high quality statement flowers and mix them in with the bunches for bulk. Good quality, realistic foliage is also a must!

Keep your colour pallet tight; this bride wanted a nod to the nautical so I have used mainly whites, creams and green with a touch of blue.

So you will need the following:

* Glue gun and glue stick

* Florist tape, you can get this from either a wholesaler or ask if you can buy a roll from your local florist. Hobby craft also sell if for a couple of pound.

* Pearl pins

* Florist’s wire. You may not need to use this but if there are any stems that are too short you can extend them with this. Also available from Hobby craft.

* Scissors and secateurs

* String

* Wide satin ribbon in your colour choice.

Start by laying out the flowers

Creating a bouquet layout of flowers

Then using the secateurs separate all the flowers so that you can work with single stems, one flower at a time.

Once all your flowers are separated and in piles of like type flower you are ready to start building your hand tie.

Pick a central bloom and you want to work the flowers around in a kind of imaginary circle crossing the stems at an angle as shown in the picture.

It can be quite tricky holding the stems in place so when you have a nice cluster tie it off with string so you can put it down and place the next circle of flowers around it without any of the original stems moving out of place. You won’t see this string at the end as I will bind the stems with a satin ribbon when its finished.

Keep checking the shape either in a mirror of by holding it at arms length and looking down the top of the bouquet.

Next task is to trim the stems to the correct length.

Now we use the ribbon to tidy it up, hide all those ugly wires and make the handle comfortable to hold.

and that’s it! Job done!

Hope this has inspired you and given you a fresh outlook on fake flowers.

Enjoy! x

A Winter Garden

winter-gardening

“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus

So it’s that time of year when the deck chairs and garden furniture are put away for another six months, the tomatoes are harvested and the leaves fall off the trees. So to the garden how do we keep the garden in top form over the next chilly months of autumn and winter.

For many, it’s just too cold to venture to the garden but talking from experience I love a bit of winter gardening a break from the stuffy central heating, exercise and the thought that you can grow your own home grown produce is very rewarding.

I am a big fan of growing my own fruit, veg and medicinal plants which is a fascination for me. The fact that food and herbs can heal the body is just incredible. I have recently taken up membership at the Chelsea physic garden in London which is London’s oldest botanical garden (chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/) . I visit each week to learn about new types of exotic plants, medicinal plants, edible and useful plants with over 5,000 different plants to study within the garden. Armed with the knowledge I learn from this incredible garden I am able to apply it to my own small garden in the east end of London.

winter-garden

So with all this experience and knowledge I wanted to share my top tips to planting in the winter.

Even if you have a small area like myself its surprising what you can plant.

Top 5 veg to sow now…and benefits for health

1)  Asparagus Supports the gut, boosts energy, anti-inflammatory & good for skin health

2)  Peas – aids digestion, energy boost, helps fight infection and promotes healthy sperm. 

3) Winter Lettuce –natural sedative properties, eases bloating and strengthens blood vessels 

4) Spinach strengthens bones, anti inflammatory, good for heart, has anti cancer properties 

5) Garlic strengthens immune system, detoxifies, removes toxins and pollutants from the body

Top 5 herbs for winter:

1) Winter Savory anti-oxidant, disease prevention. may reduce LDL or bad cholesterol 

2) Sageaids hormonal balance, antibacterial good for throats 

3) Thyme helps fight colds and flu treats sore throats and gum disease

4) Bay anti fungal , gastric tonic, mild sedative

5) Rosemary helps fight inflammation, calms nerves and eases stomach upsets.

 

A Winter garden is certainly not dull.

Good luck with your planting and please do not be disheartened with your crops, some plants make it and some plants don’t. ;-(

It is all trial and error but, when you do see how the plants grow and flourish you will be extremely proud and your friends and family will be very impressed next time you serve your food with your own grown produce.

Easy Peasy Tomato Sauce

easy-peasy-tomato-sauce

I will cook all Franklyn’s food fresh. and probably organic, were words I uttered once while ushering Steve (very patient hubby) past those (glorious) brightly coloured squidgy packets of baby food. Then Franklyn was born and life happened. Unfortunately my idealistic view of motherhood had a very quick slap in the face. When that miraculous thing happens, of having a baby, you dont miraculously turn into a perfect mum. Damn. When I left the hospital, very loved up with my beautiful baby in arms, I was still the very unorganised, chaotic, last minute, messy human being I went in as, albeit a mum to add to the list too hurrah! All the perfect things I was going to do remained in the how to books I read during pregnancy and I get through each day doing the best job I possibly can, which although is certainly not perfect, is a lot of fun.

I do try and cook fresh food for the little man, however I confess I have a wonderful cupboard full of those squidgy packets of food and when it all gets too much, my inspiration for inventive foods for a 10 month old wavers or were stuck on the M6 motorway and need to pull in to the services for a very tired, hungry boy they are my saviour!  But, for those who, like me have spent many years believing homemade meant popping open a jar of Dolmio or relying on your sous chef Mr Llloyd Grossman who happily sits in your cupboard, here’s how you actually make tomato sauce. Its (nearly) just as easy as popping open a jar and this one has NO ADDED SALT, so perfect for little mouths.

Ingredients

Knob of Unsalted butter

1 onion

1 garlic clove 

Carton of tomatoes

Any veg that needs using, diced finely courgettes, carrots and mushrooms work really well

Some fresh basil

CHEATS TIP: yep, there’s even a cheat to save time. Check the frozen section of your supermarket, you can often get chopped onion or stew based veg which is very finely diced carrot, celery and onion. Perfect for little mouths, poor choppers (me) and for around the same price as fresh has all the goodness and wont go off in your fruit and veg bowl!

Method

Put the unsalted butter on a low heat in the pan and add your onion, garlic and any veg. Let this really, really soften it will be key to a lovely thick sauce. Dont be tempted to whack up the heat. The garlic will burn.

Add the carton of tomatoes, stir and leave to cook down into a lovely thick consistency. You can add some freshly chopped basil toward the end.

If using for babies/young children serve with some very well cooked pasta. It can also be a great base for ratatouille, served with very soft rice and fish.

That’s it.  I’m not sure that even constitutes being a recipe, but if Ive helped just one lost mum or dad who have a sudden anxiety over salt content and dont know where to start when cooking from scratch, then Im happy. This will actually give you time to bask in your newly found virtuous parenting ways but not for long, a nappy will need changing very soon.

Happy parenting,

x

P.S. here’s Sam’s recipe too!

Tomato Sauce – or Ragu as the Italians call it – is a staple part of my recipe repertoire. You can add meat or extra veggies, serve it with pasta, rice or a jacket potato. It even works well as a base for family favourites like lasagna and chilli con carne.

So how do I make my tomato sauce so easily? Here’s my method (note: there’s no need to get specific with weighing out the size of tomatoes or garlic cloves, just use more of the ingredients you enjoy!).

Ingredients:

1 can chopped tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes (the riper the better), chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 garlic clove, chopped into teeny tiny pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
Dash of olive oil
Optional: dash of balsamic vinegar or pinch of brown sugar

Method:

Heat the chopped garlic in olive oil (you can use butter if preferred) until softened.

Add in the onion and cook until clear. Don’t have the heat too high to avoid burning the garlic and onions.

Add in the herbs, fresh tomatoes and tomato puree and mix together.

Add the tinned tomatoes and mix.

Once the tomatoes start to bubble, turn down to a simmer and leave (uncovered is fine).

The longer you simmer the tomato sauce, the nicer it will become. If I’m short of time, I like to add in a dash of balsamic vinegar or brown sugar to help take the edge off the tinned tomatoes. Red wine works well too, plus it’s a good excuse to pour yourself a little celebratory glass!

Enjoy and happy cooking! xx

A Birdy Buffet

Autumn has very much landed, and we at Blackledge Towers have been thinking about our wildlife, in particular our garden birds. We love birds, but due to our cat, Merkin, most birds have more sense than to venture into our garden. But, as it is getting chillier and wetter, and our beloved kitty is far too precious to get his paws cold and damp, Merkin is far more inclined to be snuggled up in his basket rather than being out harassing the local wildlife. So with this in mind we decided to create a Birdy Buffet in our garden. We made fat balls out of pine cones very simple to do and fun for all the family, and fat balls give birds a welcome energy boost in the cold weather.

a-birdy-buffet

You will need:

* A pack of lard at room temperature

* Bird seeds

* Pine cones

* String

* Bread

Firstly, tie string to the top of the pine cones.

Stage one

Then tear off bits of bread and stuff them into the sides of the open pine cones.

Stage two

Stage three

If you are peckish, help yourself to some of the bread (like my 3 year old).

yummy

Next, take chunks of lard and using your fingers press it all over the pine cone and make as smooth as you can. Try to ignore the amount of lard your children wipe on their clothing.

Stage four

Take your lardy pine cone and press it into the seeds. Roll the pine cone around until it is covered.

Your fat ball is complete!

Hang them from your free, fence, bird table, balcony or window sill.

Enjoy your crisp and cosy autumn days, knowing that you’ve done your bit for your local wildlife.

With love, lard and impending boil wash,

x

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