Mummy Mondays - three baby/toddler cookbooks, reviewed!

Monday, 27 October 2014


Do you know, of all the cookbooks I have in my kitchen (Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Nigella, Mary Berry ...) I use my baby and toddler cookbooks way more often. I don't know why. Because the meals are simpler, I suppose? Or more family-friendly.

Anyway, I have been given a few recently and bought one a while back that I use all the time, so I thought I'd give them a review for anyone who is looking to buy a good cookbook for babies and toddlers:


This book is written by a mother whose baby would not be spoon-fed. Literally: she refused to eat if it involved a spoon. So she got creative, dreaming up a whole array of interesting and balanced finger foods for her child to eat instead.

I got this book just at the right time, as right now Jellybean can handle quite a few different things in terms of taste/texture, but I was starting to get stuck for lunch and snack ideas of her. I'm bored of giving her sandwiches and rice cakes, and the pre-made baby stuff is either really over-processed, or quite expensive. This book is perfect for us now, as I can make a whole load of healthy snacks and lunches for her (and me!) that aren't too complicated, costly or fiddly to prepare.

As well as the recipes, the writer also tells you why that particular food is good for your child, how to store it, and variations to try once you have had enough.

Another huge draw for me is that this book is really nice to read. It's illustrated, which is really unusual and cute. I would really recommend this one - it's my current favourite!

Buy this if: you need some finger food recipes. This book has it all!


The version I have of this book was published in 2001, so some of the guidance is slightly outdated. However, it is so informative that I am willing to look past it. The first part of this book explains the concept of superfoods and how to introduce them to your baby. I found this part really interesting. My knowledge of superfoods doesn't go far beyond goji berries, so it was nice to find out that there are actually a lot foods you could class as superhealthy, and a lot of them are really affordable.

Annabel Karmel is (or was at this stage) all about purees for babies, and if you're going down the puree route (which we did) it has some really nice recipe ideas. Also it has a huge section of toddler/small child foods - which would actually be good for the whole family.

(As a side note, Annabel Karmel's website is literally packed with recipes. I typed in 'pasta' because I had a bag of baby pasta to use up a few months back, and it was literally full to the brim with recipes to try. You should check it out here).

Buy this if: you're going down the pureeing route, and you want to know about superfoods.

3) The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

This book is packed with information. The first half, basically, is all about nutrition, organic food, baby-led weaning and purees, plus breastfeeding and formula feeding. I was a little worried that the whole organic-baby-led-breastfeeding thing might be shoved down my throat, but it wasn't; the book is pretty balanced about everything. Plus the whole thing is peppered from quotes from real parents, explaining their experiences with weaning, which I found interesting.

It has a pretty good section on purees and first finger foods for babies, and then pretty much launches into a selection of recipes you can cook for any age range, explaining how you can vary the meals for babies, little kids and grown-ups. I have cooked a lot of these meals. As you can see I use it a lot by the amount of post it notes I have stuck in it:


Yes. The best thing about this book for me? The bread dough recipe. I use it to make bread, pizza, breadsticks ... and it freezes and defrosts really well.

Buy this if: you want nutritional info and good family recipes.

So there we go: Mummy Mondays. Again! The weeks really fly by, don't they? Have you got any good book recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments :)

7 quick takes #21 - 'duhhhh' moments

Friday, 24 October 2014

1.

A totally normal 7QT today! I'm getting back on track! Kind of. It's been an exhausting few weeks. Our thirteen month old has decided that actually, 5am is a perfectly acceptable time to be wide awake, thank you very much, even if we were already up at 11.30pm and 2.30am with her.

Funnily enough, I was using a rare moment of quiet and calm (baby's nap) to do a manic downstairs tidy up when my own words popped into my head, for once not in a 'Oh Lord, why on earth did I say that' way. I remembered the post I wrote a few weeks after giving birth, about being a mother and how hard it is to keep getting up every two hours to feed, but how I felt God say to me, essentially, that I am privileged to be able to get up in the night with her.

Fair enough. I'll try and stop complaining so much. About that, anyway

2.

In the above point, I contemplated writing 'toddler' instead of 'baby' and it made my heart ache a little bit. Oh, she's definitely ... toddling. Today is the first day so far where she has walked more than crawled, and seeing her wobbling around the house makes my heart swell with pride. I love this age ... they're still cuddly and cute with big puffy cheeks and, in our case, not-very-much hair, but they start to become their own little people. And her tantrums have not reached the level of 'horrific' yet.

It's lovely hearing her talk, too. She has her own little language I have to decode. 'Daydee!' = 'Upsy Daisy'. 'Doyee!' = 'Dolly'. And so on. Today she said 'Teddy!' which I stupidly mistook for Daddy. When I said 'Daddy's at work, sweetheart' she looked at me, held out her teddy and repeated, 'Teddy.' I could practically hear her thinking 'Duhhh.'


How is she this grown-up already?!

We're getting to the stage where people start to ask me if/when we're having another one, too. You know, the stage we were at before when relatives would say upon seeing us, 'So, any news...?' in this kind of hopeful way. Also, I apparently can't ask my parents round for dinner without them presuming we're going to announce that I'm pregnant.

So let me clear this up now: no, not pregnant, please give me a chance, I'm still a bit traumatised by giving birth.

3.

We're currently in the midst of our most successful attempt at healthy eating so far. Essentially we are achieving this by pretending we're not doing healthy eating.

No, that's not quite true. We are going by the theory that if you introduce loads of nice healthy things to eat, the good stuff will start to crowd out the bad stuff. I'm also purposefully not buying crisps, chocolate, or going anywhere near shops if I don't have to. The worst area (for both of us) is snacking, particularly in the daytime (me) and in the evening (Chris) so we're trying to prepare healthier things for us to eat instead of reaching for pre-made stuff.

We've also established a kind of loose 80-20 rule: eat good stuff 80% of the time, enjoy less-good things 20% of the time. It works. Kind of. I still get to have the odd cake when I'm out and about. Which is good, because Bible study wouldn't be quite the same for me without some sort of baked good.

I've also replaced any milk chocolate in our cupboards with super hardcore dark chocolate. Like 85% cocoa solids. It kind of hurts to eat it. But it's good for your heart, apparently! And I can't eat more than a few squares at a time without feeling sick, too, so that's a (kind of) bonus.

4.

All that healthy eating immune-system-boosting stuff obviously hasn't kicked in yet, because I'm having to take these bad boys:


And Jellybean's nose is running like a tap. Literally, I cannot stop the flow of snot. This along with her need for extra long, snuggly cuddles is a rather unfortunate combination. I think if I manage to start any day this week by finding a top that isn't caked in snot, then I will call that day a success.

Earlier the thought occurred to me that because of us all being ill at different times over the past few weeks, I haven't actually been able to start doing Zumba again like I said I would, and part of me was actually thankful for it. Something is seriously wrong with me if I would rather have a horrible cold than do exercise.

5.

The main thing that is keeping me eating nuts and seeds and stuff instead of crisps is by finding lots of inspiration online. A lot of these bloggers, like for example Green Kitchen Stories, and Deliciously Ella, are enjoying a healthy lifestyle and making money out of it - good for them, obviously. But it's a little harder to be able to be able to achieve that kind of lifestyle on a budget. While I firmly believe you can afford to eat healthily even with a limited income, it's definitely more difficult than if you had a bigger amount to spend on it. And it can leave you feel kind of defeated if you read these blogs and end up thinking 'But I can't afford a personal trainer/to go to the gym/masses of green veg to put in a smoothie each morning.'

When you're on a budget, it just becomes ... harder to justify, I suppose. I can go into the supermarket with a range of healthy things on my list to buy, but then I remember that I have to buy nappies or Calpol or whatever, and suddenly the choice between organic vs non-organic becomes clearer, and the avocados and blueberries get dropped from the list.

The trick is, I think, to try and educate myself further on ways to be healthy on a budget: part of this includes reading blogs like A Girl Called Jack, and finding super-cheap but wholesome recipes. Part of this includes drawing on knowledge from my own parents on how they managed to fit veg into us on the cheap: buying frozen vegetables, for example, or bulking out meals so they last longer. And part of that is reading up on why it's important not to fill our bodies with rubbish. I'm reading a book called Salt, Sugar, Fat at the moment, which is all about the processed food industry. It's based in the US, but obviously we share a lot of food brands with them. It's been an eye-opening read so far. And it's made me want to make my own meals in a kind of defiant stand against the big food companies that purposefully make their foods so flipping addictive.

Anyway, I'm waffling. Maybe I'll write about this properly another time!

6.

I feel like feminism has been in the news a lot recently. This is obviously a good thing. I'm now pretty up to date with what's going on with Gamergate and obviously, being a woman who enjoys games, I do care about this quite a bit. I fear for these women who are standing up against blatant abuse and sexism and are having their personal information distributed and their lives threatened as a result. It's awful. The more I read about it, the more I feel like just never playing videogames again. Ever.

Unfortunately I'm still hankering after Skyrim after all this time (was playing it whilst pregnant) so I really don't think I'll be giving them up soon. I just hope people don't think all gamers are like this. There are people who believe that videogames are not, in fact, a legitimate form of entertainment (like television, or films) and are instead for nerds that live in their parents basements. This whole Gamergate/internet troll thing really isn't helping matters. Hopefully, though, it is all coming out now for a reason, and the gaming industry will be a much female-friendlier place.

7.

I've had what I've decided to call a 'Duh!' moment with God recently. Where everything - literally everything - clicked into a place. In a message about timing, His timing was literally perfect down to the second in this moment of utter revelation. I am very very grateful and very blessed. It's nice to know He is with me - even when I'm just at home hoovering or whatever.

I will definitely write more about this another time ;) in the meantime, I've been playing this song loud:


Have a lovely weekend!


Mummy Mondays - a to-do list for your to-do lists!

Monday, 20 October 2014


Do you ever feel like you just can't do it all?

There's just too much to do. Not enough time.

Sometimes, Jellybean comes toddling up to me to get my attention and she will tug on my jeans and call 'Mum, mum, mum, mum!'. That's how I imagine the various pressures in my head at any given time. Dozens of hands, tugging me, each pulling in different directions. 'Hey! Hey! I need you!' Because it's impossible to be just a mother. You also have to be, depending on your home set-up, a wife or partner. A sister. A daughter. A friend. A professional, dedicated to your career. You have to be a cleaner, an entertainer, an organizer, a budgeter, a cook, an events planner, a counsellor, a mediator, a shoulder to cry on. It feels like a lot. Because it is a lot.


*I feel I should add a disclaimer here: the oven was not switched on!*

I am a list writer, but the biggest to-do list is in my head. It keeps getting bigger. And bigger. And suddenly, the to-do list starts to shape and define not just my life, but who I am. I wonder on those particularly bad to-do list days: have I actually stopped to think about anything other than the next place to be, the next deadline, the next task to complete? Have I stopped to even be aware of what's happening around me? To give thanks?

Here are three things that I am writing out to remind myself when I start to feel my to-do lists taking over me, a to-do list to rule them all ;)


Do you know what? That's okay. The things will be there tomorrow. Also, sometimes, things have to be done at the same time as other things. You can't always be 100% focused and attentive to your child, savouring each moment with them - because you have other responsibilities. That's fine. As long as you know they're safe, they will learn to play independently without you watching their every move. Doesn't make you a bad mother. Doesn't mean you don't appreciate your child - and that they don't appreciate you. The way I see it, there are moments for tea-parties and block-building, but there are also moments for phone-call making and appointment scheduling and toilet-cleaning. That's just life. Which brings me to point #2:


If you feel guilty about something, take a moment to consider it. Is this something to be concerned about? Guilt is sometimes a good prompt to make a slight adjustment, to make a change, or to reorganize your priorities. I call this functional guilt. ;) If it's pointless guilt about how you didn't manage to put that load of washing on, then let it go. No-one will give you a medal for having a list of uncompleted household tasks and feeling guilty about it. And chances are your other half/children won't care if it gets done anyway


Does that sound corny? I'm sorry. But I am guilty of being far too sarcastic and cynical, and I'm trying to, you know, stop that. Life is beautiful! Don't feel guilty about not appreciating every second - to-do list days are too crazy and busy to 'be mindful' of everything. But if you go to bed at night with your heart and mind racing when you should be resting, I challenge you to do this:

Stop it!

Instead, think about a beautiful thing that happened to you today.

They can be small (the unexpected presence of chocolate) or big (a heartfelt conversation, a stunning sunset on your drive home from work, a breakthrough at work or in a relationship). They don't have to be written down or very well-formed. Just a brief thought. Like the way your child leant into you while you chatted to another mother at soft play, a moment of brief reconnection in the midst of play. The way it feels to be curled up on the sofa, drinking ginger and lemon tea, and listening to the rain pour outside. The way your husband made you snort with laughter because he made a hilarious but kind of inappropriately timed joke.

Small things. But nice nonetheless.

Appreciating the beauty in life doesn't have to be reserved for exotic, far-flung places, or for Important Life Events. Ann Voskamp puts it like this in her excellent book 1,000 Gifts:

'Isn't it here? The wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice?'

We do. We do.

The truth is, life is really complicated and busy and chaotic and sometimes all you can do is just grit your teeth and get on with it. That's okay. But to-do lists don't have a place running through your head in the small hours. I have to learn, instead, to embrace the day that has just been, the beauty in normality ... and to remember I am not superwoman.

I hope you all have a good week :)

7 quick takes #20 - 7 tested Pinterest recipes

Friday, 17 October 2014

It's a quick one today! I often spend a few minutes in the morning perusing Pinterest. I have a pretty good obsession with Pinterest recipes. Unfortunately I hardly ever actually cook them (!) so to spur myself on (and maybe to inspire you), here are seven things I have actually made from my Pinterest boards:

1. Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole - oh yum. This is not particularly low fat, but it's soooo good. Fills up your tummy with chicken, rice, cheese, and broccoli. Pop it in the slow cooker and enjoy!

2. Freezer-friendly Cookie Dough Balls - Unfortunately these never made it to my freezer because I baked them all. And ate them.

3. Slow-cooker Lasagne Soup - Anything with that amount of cheese on it is a good thing in my book.

4. Cake batter cookies - This is a really unhealthy post isn't it? But these look really cool with all their sprinkles and stuff.

5. One-tray Chicken, New Potatoes and Green Beans - pretty self explanatory. But good!

6. Marinated Feta - I thought feta couldn't get any nicer. I was wrong.

7. Chocolate and Roasted Pear Scones - Apparently these can be frozen too, but again, I didn't have to ;)

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Check out other 7 Quick Takes posts by lots of awesome bloggers, started by Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary.

the sacrifice

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Did you know that reading a physical, hard copy of a book improves your memory skills? It's true. According to this study, anyway. There are a whole host of benefits that you can get from picking up an actual, physical copy of a book, including reduced stress and improved sleep patterns, as well as helping to remember what you've read. Holding a book in your hands and turning pages helps create a kind of tactile experience, a physical sense of progress, which will help your brain to more easily recall what you have read.

There is something ... more about the physical. Do you know what I mean? I find this to be true of memories. Sometimes, a physical presence - a smell, a touch, a taste - will bring back a memory so strong that I can't believe it was previously hidden.

Today, I took Jellybean out to the shops to pick up a few things for dinner. Not normally a problem (I walk everywhere) but today it was both pouring down with rain and pretty windy. I cheerfully told Jellybean that it wasn't a problem, that I have a raincoat, that she has a raincover for her buggy that turns it into a cosy, warm little pod, that we can handle a bit of rain.

Trudging through a muddy puddle in the park on the way, unable to keep the rain out of my eyes, getting the wheels of the buggy stuck in a hole in the ground, I muttered through gritted teeth 'I can handle a bit of rain.'

And suddenly I had a sense memory of walking with my Mum. Everything seeming big and looming on a dark grey day. Trees being whipped around by the wind and leaves falling around me. The wind and rain battering us as we went, gripping onto her hand tight, thinking just a bit further and I'll be at home. Just a bit further.

It's funny, isn't it? Some small thing - rain in your eyes, wet hands gripping the handle of a pushchair, the howl of wind in your ears - will trigger off a little memory you never knew you had. And I think the same thing again. Only this time from a mother's perspective. Just a bit further and I can get her tucked into her bed. Just a bit further.



***

It is Sunday, and we are about to take communion. We have just shouted in the church as one. Yes - shouted. Not one specific thing, just whatever came to mind. No quiet mumbling of hymns for us. We all send up a collective roar to heaven. It rings in my ears, still, as I wait in my chair with a little cube of seeded bread clutched tight in my hand. Waiting for everybody to take a piece. On the pastor's word, we eat it as one.

Then the cups are passed around. Fruit juice. I stare at my little silver cup as I wait for everybody to take one. Vivid scarlet liquid trembling in the cup. I stare and stare. Suddenly noticing, for the first time, how very red it is. How much it actually resembles blood. I have a strong picture in my head. Not a memory, like before. But something triggered by the physical presence of that cup. The image of a man with ragged holes in his hands. The pastor speaks of love and sacrifice. Of love like no other. I look to our baby, sleeping on her grandmother. I look at my husband. Would I die for them? The most painful death? If it meant saving them? Yes, of course. Yes. I wonder if God gives us love so we can have a brief glimpse of His love, like a portion of it. Here is a taster. The people that love you most in the world? I love you even more. You know that love you feel for them? That love that burns so fierce in you that you can almost feel it in your bones, in your chest?



I love you even more.

Even more.

Even to pain, torture, death.

I love you even more.

The pastor tells us to drink and I drink it up, and I suddenly marvel at it, this strange and sad and yet jubilantly wonderful love, love like no other, like nothing else. All the pain and joy and wonder of it. And I look at my shining silver cup, empty, and suddenly I am empty of worry and all the things catalogued in my head, the things that keep me awake at night: bills and comparison and career and future and houses and ambitions, the things that tie me up in knots. It all comes undone. I just look at my empty cup.

I consider the cost.

***

I've never fully understood communion. I know it is important. I think of it as a ritual, something I do once a month at church. I try to think of Jesus when we walk around to get our bread and wine, but I don't always, if I'm honest. My mind wanders. But not this time.

Our pastor describes it as a feast of love. Sometimes you disconnect yourself from it, see. From that love and sacrifice.When life is full of those mundane, catalogued, knotting things I spoke about. Faith is a hard thing to grasp in your hands and there are not often physical, tangible moments to hold onto. The love of God, I believe, permeates my whole life, a fact that is woven into every second of every day. But sometimes you need that physical moment. A trigger. A sense. A memory from a family that is mine through a kind of supernatural adoption. When I took the bread and wine on Sunday, I remembered the disciples sat around the table with Jesus. How strange that moment must have been. How much love they must have felt for Him, as they sat holding their bits of bread, waiting for Him to speak. And for Him to say:

'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'

What a strange moment for them.

I wonder what they thought. How they felt. As they listened, and held their cups. Waiting to drink. Trying to understand it.

I realise the importance of communion, then. How we are called to be still and think.

And the next time I take that cup, I will think of that day, and I will become undone again.

***


I think of that study about the physical presence of books and how turning actual pages helps the brain to make connections, to remember. And I want to go and get a book and get lost in it. But more importantly, I want to feel that connection. Some books I have read bring back a memory. I can turn a page and remember where I was ten years ago when I first read it. Not all books. Just the good ones. I read the words and I can nearly feel them.

The thing is, I think I, along with a lot of people of my generation, have just become numb to a lot of stuff. We don't like to feel things. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes I live in a bubble, of my family life, my activities, my hopes and dreams. I get to the end of the day and I have rarely stepped out of my comfort zone, if at all. I want to be comfortable. I want to be secure. I want to live my life and let everyone else get on with theirs.

But I don't think we're built that way. I think we're built for connection. For giving. I realise that I don't reach out often, for friends, and I think a lot of that is fear of rejection. Of being hurt. Living a life that is open to others will inevitably lead to hurt and frustration and discomfort. But that is the life I believe I am called to live.

Not necessarily a comfortable one. But a vibrant, full one. Full of relationships and connection and hard work and giving and getting in return.

I am praying to be more open. Not just with my life and time - I know that if I pray for people to meet, God will send them. He's done that before and I have close friends because of it. But also with my heart. Sometimes, you need to feel stuff. Sometimes, you need to allow yourself to be broken with the truth of it, to wallow in the baffling, astounding pain of it - of His sacrifice - of this broken world we live in - of love. Love so fierce it glows bright. I cannot be silent, we cannot be silent, as the sound of hearts overflowing reaches the ceiling.

Love so fierce it bursts like a firework, in a quiet church on a Sunday morning.

Mummy Mondays - Pumpkin Play

Monday, 13 October 2014

I bought a weird selection of squashes this year - some tiny pumpkins from Sainsbury's, and some crazy lookin' squashes from Abel and Cole. They're all gnarled and weird and I'm not sure what I'm going to actually do with them.


Except play with them, of course!




When I was at work, we prepared a big basket of interesting fruit and vegetables for them to play with. Squashes, swede, sweet potatoes, even a coconut ... they all enjoyed feeling their different textures (and trying to eat them).

Inspired by this, I gave all the squashes to Jellybean to see what she'd do with them.



It kept her occupied for way longer than I thought it would. Mostly she picked up the pumpkins and plonked them in the basket with a loud 'huarrghh!'sound in the style of a weight lifter (to be fair, some of them are quite heavy). Then she emptied the basket to start again. Every now and then throughout the afternoon she'd take them all out and then tidy them all away again.


Anything that keeps a one year old away from plug sockets and other dangerous things on a rainy afternoon is a good thing in my book.

Plus we played with the insides when I eventually chopped one up. Which was utterly gross. She enjoyed it though. I have saved the seeds to roast for extra virtue points but at the moment they are draining in my kitchen and I can't get all the pumpkin slime off them.

If you decide, like me, you want a weird knobbly collection of vegetables to give to your child to play with (or just to look cool in your kitchen), here are a few recipes to use them up:

Hubble Bubble Pumpkin Pot (I've made this - it's so easy!)

I hope you all have a good week :)

Mummy Mondays - The New Mother Survival Kit

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


This time last year, I had a five-week old baby. Already, the days of wistful daydreaming, planning, nesting, buying and (yes, I know) ironing tiny little babygrows were over ... and I was in the midst of the exhausted, house-turned-upside-down, washing-pile-the-size-of-a-mountain, sick-of-the-sound-of-the-breast-pump stage.

And as much as I loved having a tiny little wiggly baby to coo over and adore, parts of it were really hard. Like, really hard. I was having to adjust to life with a new little person, who despite being so small demanded everything, and my emotions were all over the place, and I didn't know who I was supposed to be now. Do you know what I mean? I flip-flopped from blissful highs to crazy, scary panic-stricken lows for those first few weeks.

So with that in mind, I've come up with a list of practical things you can buy for a friend who is about to have a baby, or for yourself. Here are the essential things that helped me to survive that crazy newborn stage:

1) Breast pads



I once told a colleague that I had been to Boots to stock up on baby toiletries. She asked what I bought and I reeled off a list and ended it with 'oh, and breast pads.' She said, smiling, 'Oh yeah, you'll need loads of those!'

So I went and bought a couple more packs. I had, in total, 200 breast pads. What more could I need? I was quite smug in my confidence that I had not only enough to last me this baby, but maybe even some left over if we decided to have another one. I mean, who uses 200 breast pads?

Er. Two weeks in and I was chucking box after box of breast pads in my trolley at the supermarket like a woman possessed. What did we go in there for? Food? Forget it. Breast pads are all you need. I spent a tense afternoon of shopping praying that my baby didn't cry (or come to think of it, any other small baby within hearing distance) because if she did, I would have been in trouble, and I didn't think I was emotionally capable of running to the toilets in Morrisons to stuff my bra with loo roll.

The moral of the story is this: breast pads. Buy them. Buy them for your friend. Don't let her have an unexpected-wet-patch moment.

2) Lansinoh cream




Should we have another baby, this will be the first thing I buy. In fact, such is it's importance that I feel it will take precedence in my hospital bag over anything else, including my phone, and food, and money.

Really, this stuff saved my sanity. While it didn't make breastfeeding sustainable in the long term, it helped to calm down the searing agony I felt. Your friend will want to have this stuff already bought and ready to take to the hospital. Believe me, you don't want the alternative, which in my case was begging my husband to buy it with a look that suggested that, if he didn't find the exact right cream that the midwives suggested, I might possibly explode with pain.

Don't be fooled: no other cream will do. It's expensive, yes. What is it made from? Flecks of gold? Unicorn tears? Who knows. But it's worth it.

3) Chocolate


I had visions of laying on the sofa in pristine loungewear, breastfeeding, eating wholesome but filling snacks, smiling peacefully at my baby whilst glowing with this natural beauty I saw in all the mothers in the baby magazines I bought. All I can say is a) LOL and b) my healthy snacks sat uneaten in the cupboard while I sent my husband out for packet after packet of chocolate digestives.

Healthy snacks are a good thing and should be there as an option, but sometimes, all you need is a bit of chocolate.

4) Money or vouchers for a takeaway, or a homemade meal



When we got home with the baby I was baffled as to how we would possibly get everything done. Sometimes we went for hours without eating at all. (Except, obviously, chocolate). Cooking was literally the last thing I could think about.

Thankfully my saint-like friend (who had a baby only ten days older than mine and seemed to be coping suspiciously better than I was) bought over an enormous pasta bake that she and her husband made, and it lasted us two days. Honestly, when she presented me with the pasta bake I wanted to cry (I might have cried, actually, it's all a bit hazy). Thank you Sarah ;)

If you don't know what to give a pregnant friend: try vouchers for her favourite takeaway. Or cook her a meal. She will love you forever.

5) Practical help, and maybe sometimes advice



If your friend is obviously struggling and say, thinks it's okay to hold the baby upside down by its feet or something, you may need to intervene. If not? Seriously consider whether the advice you are about to give her is necessary. If ever there was a time to be sensitive with your words, it's around a new mother. Maybe I'm the only one, but I found the advice I was given by people to be wildly conflicting, to the point where I just stopped listening to it and made decisions myself.

The most helpful people came over, tidied up a bit, and took the baby when I asked them to so I could have a sleep. Sometimes, though, I didn't want to be told what to do, and I didn't want to pass her around to everyone (especially when trying to establish breastfeeding), and what I now see as kind words of advice I saw at the time (in my hormonal state) as rage-inducingly interfering.

Give your friend a text, see how she feels. Ask her if she needs anything. And don't comment on her use of a dummy/the way she responds to the baby/how she's feeding her: just be there for her, and offer your experiences if you feel it is right. Let her learn to trust her own instincts. And maybe offer to whip the hoover round or something.

6) Photobox vouchers



Your friend will take approximately 8,000 photographs of her baby within the first few months, and all of them will be precious to her (even the ones where the baby has a weird, squinty, drunk-old-man face). Give her some vouchers to get the pictures printed, and she will happily display them around her house and give loads of them to her loved ones whether they want them or not.

And as a little break of number 5, the one bit of good, solid advice you could give is this: the days are long, but the years are short. Sometimes in the midst of a day on your own at home with a baby, it feels like the hardest thing in the world, and you wonder if the day will ever end ... and yet you blink, and suddenly a year has passed. Taking lots of pictures will help to ease that baffling feeling of time slowing down and yet flying by at the same time.

So there we are! Helpful things for a new mother. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there any essential bits I have forgotten? Comments are welcome as always!

All photos except for the top one are from Google Images!

I've changed my mind, the internet sucks

Sunday, 5 October 2014

I'm not really joking either.

I mentioned on Friday's 7 Quick Takes that I had a post about feminism and videogames lined up. Because I did; it was written, I just needed to put in a few links and pictures. It was a time-sucker of a post. A couple of evenings literally melted away while I wrote, deleted, rewrote.

I kept putting off posting it.

I did a bit more research.

And now I have deleted it.

For two reasons:

A) I don't know enough about it. All I know about the portrayal of women in videogames is from playing them myself, so I wrote from that perspective. When I started to research this, I realised that it is a hugely emotive issue, extensively researched and written about, and suddenly all I had to say was kind of pointless.

B) The amount of hassle that women get from daring to comment on the gaming industry makes my blogging about it not worth it.

Although thinking about it, I'm kind of blogging about it right now. The crux of the post was: I enjoy videogames. I do not enjoy the way women are sometimes portrayed in said games. I do NOT enjoy the way female gamers are treated by some male gamers.

And I feel like saying that alone, if I was at all popular on the internet, would be enough to get me into trouble.

During my research, I got sucked into a baffling world of darkness and hatred. That sounds like a blurb for a terrible horror novel or something, but it's true. I read about women in gaming, and women speaking out about gaming, and I read about what happened to them, the hatred that spewed forth from what seems like a literal army of trolls, and I literally felt myself recoil in disgust, physically leaning away from the computer.

Because it's awful. The way that people treat each other is disgusting. Somehow, with real life removed and replaced with a screen, people seemingly turn into monsters. Their humanity gets taken away. And words scream out like they mean nothing. To call someone a bitch, or a whore, or a slut, or much worse, is normal. To threaten someone with publishing nude photos, with stalking, with violence, with rape, even with death, is, to a small but very vocal part of the internet, acceptable.

Listen: I like videogames. But my life doesn't revolve around them. In fact, the last game I played all the way through was Bioshock Infinite, and that was quite a while ago. I just don't have time any more. But even I am dismayed by how women are portrayed in some games. To the point where I would turn to my blog, and write about it. To the point where I would happily support gamers who are calling for equality in the games industry. What would it be like if videogames were more of a hobby for me? Or even a career? How would I feel working in an industry that has so many issues still to resolve?

I hope I'd feel determined to make a change. To make it easier. To make young women feel welcomed into an industry that is flourishing hugely.

But would I?

Or would I be bombarded with death threats, like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn? Would I be harassed if I wrote about problems in the games industry, like Leigh Alexander? 

And would it make me back down?

I don't know. This past week or so, I have been pondering the issue of feminism a lot. I am a feminist, in its purest sense of the word. I believe in equality for both genders. I don't believe that all women and all men fit into rigid personalities or roles; I say that as a stay at home mother relying entirely on her husband's income, I know, but it was my choice to do that. There is a massive, massive problem facing women around the world: we are marginalised, threatened, belittled, mutilated, silenced. Daily. All over the world, young women are being treated as objects, as commodities to be passed around, to be sold and bought.

Talking about something as trivial as videogames, then, seems almost pointless.

But do you know what? It isn't. And I back these women, that are calling on the games industry to make changes. I might not agree with everything they say or do, but I applaud what they stand for. No, I don't think all gamers are hateful nerds, sitting in their parent's basement with nothing better to do than harass girls online; I know that most gamers aren't like that. Partly because I am friends with some of them, partly because I married one of them, and partly because if I had more time, I'd consider myself to be one. 

Gaming has gotten a pretty bad press recently, I know. I'm probably not making it look any better. But the industry has serious, serious issues. Women should be able to talk about videogames without being threatened with rape. Girls should be allowed to play games online without being sexually harassed.

These things are important. Because they reflect an underlying view of women as lesser, weaker, smaller, dumber. Things to look at, to use, and to be put neatly back in their box, quietly putting up with blatant misogyny, or else.

Or else we'll send you threatening messages.

Or else we'll stalk you.

Or else we'll threaten to rape you.

Or else we'll threaten to kill you.

For those that are calling on huge changes in gaming culture: I applaud you. I stand with you. To the women that call out sexism in the industry in which they work, the women that continue to do so even though it would be totally understandable if you quit: I'm with you.

Hey, it looks like I've written a post about feminism and videogames after all!

7 quick takes #19 - play

Friday, 3 October 2014

1.

Hi! It's been a while since I've written a post that isn't Mummy Mondays or 7QT. I know that. Believe me, I have ideas coming out of my ears. Out of my ears, I tell you! I just don't have time.

Okay. I do have time. But sometimes, when I write my posts, I get kind of caught up in the passion of it. That's good, but I'm trying to improve my writing, so after I've written these long impassioned posts, I have to go back and edit them. I must read them ten times before I feel that they're right for posting, and then I make Chris read them too. I love to write, and I try to be honest on my blog, but I do feel that words are powerful, and need to be used with care.

The Bible says that the tongue has the power of life and death. I believe that is true. Hence, my careful words.

But I've got a fairly ranty post about feminism and videogames coming up, if you're interested ...

2.

Jellybean and I have been playing a lot recently.


She's at a really fun age now, where she doesn't automatically eat everything that is in front of her (finally we can play with playdough!) and she's starting to understand how to play with her toys. And I tell you, for all the exhaustion that I feel, I laugh every single day when I'm at home with her - she is like a little ball of fun. Whether I'm chasing her, singing with her, watching her knock down wooden block towers with brutal efficiency, or making her little toys talk to each other, I'm loving it.



(This tower stood for approximately 5 seconds).

3.

The weather is still gorgeous here, but I'm starting to long to eat things that are warming and filling and comforting. I made balsamic roasted sausages with red veg (using red wine vinegar instead of balsamic and no honey - pinch of sugar instead) and it was so good. Warming, filling, and lovely. I recommend it!

4.

Also, because I'm awful at remembering to defrost things when I need them (unless Chris leaves post it notes on every available surface reminding me to do it), I made an emergency vegetarian curry the other day which went down pretty well with everyone. It involved softening an onion, a red pepper and some garlic in a pan, then adding mild curry powder and frying that for a few seconds, then adding a couple of handfuls of chopped-in-half new potatoes, a tin of tomatoes, some water, and a few cubes of frozen spinach.

I may have also put in tomato puree.

After about twenty minutes of simmering, it was done. We had it with rice. Jellybean liked it so much she ate it whilst dozing off in her high chair (literally snoring and chewing at the same time).

Sometimes emergency cupboard food is the best food.

5.

I really want to snuggle down and watch a bad movie.

This sounds like it could be the one. Anything with Nic Cage in it is bound to make me laugh. This guy is just ... there are no words.


Christianity Today gave this version of Left Behind half a star and I get the feeling that's because the computer won't let them give it a 0. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 3%. I must see it.


Neither of these screen shots are actually from Left Behind, but still. This guy!

6.

On a totally different topic, I've been really inspired by the women at my church recently. I see their acts of kindness and love, and they are genuine - a real overflow of the love of God in their hearts. The things they do are not fake, not done because they feel obliged to do it, or to look good - they literally open up their lives and share everything with the people around them. Every Thursday I am inspired by them. I'm enjoying the example that they set for me. Not only to be generous, open, kind, and caring, not only to juggle busy lives with such efficiency - but, more importantly, to seek God above all else.

7.

I'll end this one with a nice autumnal scene:

Over on Pinterest, I have collected an Autumnal board full of a) impossibly beautiful autumn scenes that make you want to go outside and find something similar, b) activity ideas for when you're stuck indoors with small children, and c) food that made a bit of dribble actually escape from my mouth just by looking at them.

Enjoy, have a good weekend!

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