In Praise of Scones

Yesterday was another miserable wet day. I sighed, pulled out the waterproofs and we headed to the park muttering the words 'hopefully it won't get too wet'. When the rain started coming down horizontally, we retreated to cover and munched rice cakes while we gloomily surveyed swings we weren't going to go on again that morning. 

This is having a toddler. Wet days become about the less horizontal parts you manage to grab before retreating to whatever fun you can find indoors. Rain, unless it's 'soak you through to your knickers' wet is not necessarily a deterrent. However, I draw the line at horizontal and soggy knickers. 

Instead, we tried baking......

For our toddler sized baking session I chose scones for 2 reasons: no raw egg, and you can hide goodness in them such as sweet potato, courgette or in this case, Marmite and cheese. I also learned that anything you mix with your hands then 'cut out' is a hit too. 

I use a basic scone recipe but sub in a little wholemeal flour (about 50g) and if I have it in I also use buttermilk too. It makes for delicious fluffy scones. 

Having had a complete success with this activity, here's some top tips for cooking with toddlers:

- Food safety- think dry goods rather than raw eggs or cross contamination. Hands go everywhere and often in mouths!

- Simple tasks that we found easy: greasing the tray, squashing butter, sieving flour, stacking bowls and measuring spoons. 

- Have everything you need ready before you even start- even the washing up bowl of soapy water!

- Make a game of washing up. Washing up is great water play and helps you deal with the tidy up. I use sensitive washing up liquid anyway and she loves the bubbles. 

- Don't wear anything you care about getting dirty (see picture above for further explanation)

- Allow enough time. Flour is great sensory play so let it fly safe in the knowledge you don't have to be anywhere soon

- Secure seating: balancing acts and hot stoves/ flour are not a good combo. We used the tray of the high chair which made clean up easier too. 

Most importantly though is enjoy the scones together afterwards. That's surely the best bit about baking??

You can find a sugar and salt free recipe, suitable for toddlers and babies here

Bottle a Day

Lately I've written a lot about the tough times we've been having and it's dull quite frankly. Last Thursday we had the kind of day that, if I could, I would bottle and store as a reserve. I would lovingly mark the date on the label and tuck it away for those 'oh God I am so bad at being a mum' days. 

Yesterday was a good day. 

It started with little promise: rain, crossing London in rush hour, a failed nap. I suspected doom before I opted for my go to solution on such days and decided to walk it out. I grabbed our trusty sling and popped the Playful One in and took off in the hope that movement would divert us from an irritable tangle that I could see coming. 

I realised as we started moving that we were about to cross part of my favourite London walk. In my pre baby, pre London living days I would commute daily to East London and on Friday I'd pop in my headphones and jump off the train at the Tower of London. From here I'd cross the river via Tower Bridge, move down to the riverside, past City Hall, along past Southwark Cathedral, The Globe, Tate Modern, The Oxo Tower and finally into Southbank where I'd get home via Waterloo. I'd vary this journey by popping to Borough Market or watching some free music at the Royal Festival Hall for example but I loved this ritual. I never wanted to get home, just keep discovering, because every time I did it, I'd find something new. 

So I took the Playful Baby along a variation of it, opting for as many experiences for her as I could think of off the cuff. Here's how it went:

There's currently a herd of painted giraffe sculptures to celebrate Colchester Zoo's 50th anniversary in More London, right by City Hall. Between this and the water features, we were off to a great start with Playful Baby whooping and giggling in delight. Giraffes are very funny apparently. 

We then walked along the river, past HMS Belfast and ducked under a few bridges that I remembered had light installations. Much whooping and leg kicking from the mini one at this too. 

We waved at the knight who guards Southwark Cathedral....

.... Then we were in the midst of the noise, sounds and smells if Borough market. 

Delicious.

I finally tired her out with a train journey home (she loves trains) and we shared lunch and chatted about our morning. She was so tired that she napped like a champion that afternoon and I got in some baking! 

(More to come about these flapjacks- they're baby friendly and I have ideas for how to make them even yummier. Standby for epic deliciousness).

We had lots of fun that afternoon, bombing around the house, getting chores done....

.... And then redone....

We finished the day happily, singing to the radio and sharing flapjack for pudding. While little one dreamt of painted giraffes, I even got some knitting in. 

Sometimes, days like this happen. 

1000

I took a picture a few days ago that I promptly deleted 5 minutes later from my Instagram feed. It felt like too personal a picture in some ways, too full of meaning and yet, it also doesn't mean a thing to anyone else but me. 

Want to see the picture? 

See? Nothing too worrying there other than some clutter in the middle if our living room. They say a picture can say a thousand words and this one has plenty. It's the meaning behind it that caused a friction inside of me about how much I wanted to share and what I think I want to write about now that I've started documenting moments like this in my life. 

Firstly there was a sideboard in the middle of my living room. It's a lovely white side board that a fab friend rescued from being dumped and other friends brought to live with us. It sparked a cascade effect....

When we moved in just over a year ago, I had visions of lovingly creating a home for the Playful Baby to be welcomed into. I would sand down and paint this shabby dresser also captured in the photo. I would knit cardigans for her for each season (note the cluttered knitting baskets). Our house would be a calm and creative place. 

A year later the dresser is fine as it is, thank you. The cardigans? No. The sideboard? Helping to rehome various things that means we can finally get the last boxes unpacked. Yes, a year on we are still unpacking. Mind you I should explain a little more. We have packed and unpacked a grand total of EIGHT TIMES. 

Yes really. 

Our lovely house sprang leaks and we needed some pretty major bathroom sorting before little one even arrived so we unpacked and repacked as builders came and tore down and plastered and tweaked. In the meantime I went in to hospital and held tight- this was one impatient baby! Our little home was suddenly a cause for huge anxiety and we began to panic that we might bring our baby home to rubble!

With the support of wonderful friends and family we were ready just in time for the Playful Baby's early arrival and we hoped to restart on other work once we got the hang of things a bit. In the meantime we set about learning how to best care for a rather active and curious little one. It wasn't calmer but it wasn't rubble that's for sure.

Leaks have an annoying habit of causing damage and worse still, returning. Then there's the neglected hardwood floors that suddenly I decided were a 'death trap' the minute little one got remotely mobile. Suddenly we were back into this urgent state again and what's more with a baby. As combinations go, I can assure you, this is not a great one.

So the end result has been 8 sessions of packing and shifting of furniture and please let's not forget the clean up operation every time. It's been quite a year. 

So we stand at a point where I have declared my sanity can only be saved by unpacking every last box and finishing house projects for 2013. This sideboard meant we now have a functional living room and in turn the loft room can now be sorted till a time when we have the time/ energy/ funds to address it fully. In the mean time, functional will suffice. Cardboard mazes won't. 

That magazine on top of the sideboard? That's me planning for playful times: baking and cooking. Food remains a tricksy issue with PB still struggling with a poor digestion when it comes to dairy. We're getting there and now I'm testing the waters for us both. (Not rewarding myself with super ice creams has been tough, let me tell you).

So this picture tells a tale of a playful woman pushed very hard this year. That's why it felt raw and weird and not really blog worthy. I'm sharing it anyway because you know what? It IS personal........ it's either me or those flipping boxes. Today, I'm going to unpack another. I AM!

Ethical Cookies

Last Friday I decided to invent another cookie recipe as I hadn't experimented for a while. I like to invent new soups, stews or cookies as I feel a quick win from these kind of things. They are not particularly hard, yield a lot of food (I'm greedy, you may have noticed), and are usually delicious.


I was all set, I was ready to go. I had my ingredients all set out and then I realised to my horror I'd made a major boob. My gooey filling was from Nestle. I've not eaten or bought Nestle products for years. For those of you who don't know why Nestle are best left alone, there's some good information here and here.

So what to do? Deny all knowledge? Bury the evidence? Nope. I decided to blog about it and share alternatives. So we will not be naming the offending product for the rest of the blog post. Alternatives that would be good include: Chocos, Reeses buttercups and anything with a nice gooey centre wrapped in chocolate. Feel free to experiment in finding them by eating your way around the chocolates you know of. Call it research.

So here's the recipe and how these cookies are made. For the gooey bit, I've said 'ingredient X'. I will remember to READ labels better in the future. I had a moment, I blame the heat.

Nom Nom Cookies
Makes approx 24 cookies

2 packs of ingredient X
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
125g Unsalted butter (at room temp and cubed)
100g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Grease and line 2 baking sheet and preheat your oven to 180c/ Gas Mark 4. 
2. Sieve together and combine flour, baking powder and salt. 
3. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar before beating in the egg and vanilla. 
4. Mix all of these together. 
5. Using your hands, scoop out a ball of about 1 tbsp's worth of dough, press ingredient X into the centre as pictured and roll into a ball. 


 6. Space out the dough balls on the trays, squashing them ever so slightly flat as you do so. 


7. Bake for 16 minutes and try to allow to cool before devouring. 


 I realised these could be improved further still be adding some chocolate or cinnamin chips because what else could be better to add to a sugary treat than more sugar? 




Of Mice and Men

It's friday?

Wait.... it's Friday AFTERNOON?!?!? Well aside from the alarming fact I've not had lunch yet, I also appear to have lost the entire week. I had plans. I really did. 

I was going to write a detailed post about how I dyed this lovely.....


 .... talk about some fibre....


 ... that I accidentially bought.....


And then talk about how terrifying I found this cake. I have no idea which made it sink first- the amount of fat and dairy IN the cake or the amount on top. For the record it's Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guiness cake and it scares the hell out of a slightly dairy intolerant girl like me. Yow.


But it's Friday? Oh nut monkies I need to go record the podcast!

Have a favourite video of mine instead.'I am a secret agent!'



For the love of.... baking.

I know I boasted about my recent efforts on Twitter and the podcast but I couldn't leave it at that now could I? I HAD to share some photographs of my yummy baking session. 

First there was the wonderful Rye Soda Bread from the Super Natural Every Day Cookbook by Heidi Swanson. This recipe was perfectly written and I had great results as you can see:

Pre oven

Ready for buttering!
Then I made the most delicious snack bars I've made in ages. They are called 'Honey and Peanut Booster Bars' and can be found in 'River Cottage Every Day' by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This is one of my absolute all time favs and I go to this book time and time again for failproof wholesome recipes. 


You may notice this picture shows the uncooked version.... I forgot to take the end result as I was too busy cutting myself some and stuffing it in my mouth but it was good- trust me.

Thoughts

Some random thoughts. I'm in that kind of mood.

1. I am overwhelmed by the comment response to the giveaway- how lovely to see you all. I've had fun following some of you back and yes, if you can answer for each one, it'll save me writing things out before hitting the random number generator. But I'll do that anyway in the interest of fairness. I'm like that.
2. I accidentally took one of my favourite photos the other day. It's a close up of an actress at an event we went to recently. She was 'exploring' my iphone and I snapped pics while we played. Her eye make up was fabulous and there's something about this image I just love. 

3. I love row 27 of my Spring Leaves stole. It's even better than row 11, which is also quite fun. It has a pleasing rhythm. As I'm almost finished, I just realised I knit it for the last time. This made me a little sad. 
4. I finish Cedar Leaves. I just need to weave in ends and block but I'm having a real lazy attack with this- very unlike me. I keep stating it's because I need to clean. 
5. I have not cleaned. Again, not like me.
6. There have been lots of bread making entries on blogs recently. I now have bread envy and will need to make some today. 
7. I am GOING to dance tomorrow. I am. Hold me to this.
8. My sister is the most beautiful person I know.
9. My man beast is the kindest
10. I accidentally found my best friend. She lives so far away, in a different time zone and yet we chat everyday. I am very glad for the happy accident that brought her into my life. 

Have another 'favourite' picture xx

Love you little sis xxxx

Rituals

I've been pondering my next post. I have lots of recipe ideas, knitting news, playful things I've been up to and more Introducing goodness. What struck me today as I looked at images I'd captured to illustrate these posts with, was a sense of ritual. I'll explain.....

waiting
I'm on school break which is just as well because I've been flondering with myself lately and I don't know why. I've been particularly lost as I've NOT been following my usual rituals. Normally I'd get up, make strong coffee, put on some jazz and cook up some eggs or something while I catch up on Ravelry. I'd then knit before realising I'd lost half the day and disappear off to do something domestic or find an adventure. I've not been doing this. I know that I've been doing things but I can't put my finger of what that is right now. 

Today however, I've found my groove. I woke, stretched contentedly and arranged some meet ups later. Then I basked in tea, leftover breakfast muffins and took a bath with a book. (I'm currently reading 'The Concubine', jury's still out but historic fiction is my trashy read of choice so I'll let it pass). I realised I need these little rituals to settle me down before I wander off and find something shiny. Without them, I get quite lost and antsy. 

So I've set myself up for a ritualistic day: the washing machine is slowly winding down and I've got podcasts keeping me company (Never not Knitting is still my favourite but I'm saving the last episode, how sad am I?). As you can see I've hollowed out a knit spot with some baked goods and I fuelled on hummus and veggies. For godsake no one tell the man beast though- I pouted that we ALWAYS have hummus and I wanted a new dip but I'm secretly revelling in the hummus today. I must make some Avocado hummus again soon. 



Yes the recipes will follow and I will have knitting news that involves lace success (ish) but today I'm celebrating rituals, like a recurring cup. Have you noticed it?