Sunday, 29 May 2016

Meal Planning Monday: Monday 30th May

Well last week was the best ever on the blog - my post on breastfeeding really resonated with readers and I was and am so happy about that. This week is (as always it seems) a busy one - Harry turns 2 next weekend so it's all go.

I rejoined Slimming World last week, and haven't had the best week but have made a concerted effort with my meals and haven't had ANY chocolate which is a huge achievement. I've still eaten biscuits but will do without those this week.

Breakfasts: Harry as always loved the baked porridge so I'll be doing another batch of that. I simply make it up on a Sunday night, roughly to this recipe - last week I added apple, sultanas and a pinch of cinnamon. This week I think I'll so the same.

Lunches: I've been having smoked salmon with either a salad or a couscous salad. I always have lots of cherry tomatoes (my pregnancy craving has never really left me), and am enjoying Aldi's sweet bite peppers too.


Monday: Tomato, lentil and veg sauce with what I've learned are called 'boodles' - Spiralised butternut squash. I'm sure I'm the only food blogger not to have a spiraliser and so discovered these on a trundle around Sainsburys. I also picked up the courgette ones which I had last week with this sauce. Harry and M have this with pasta.

Tuesday: Heck sausages (which are dairy and soya free so Harry will have one too) with baked potatoes, and veggies. This week Aldi had green beans on offer so we've got those and I'll probably do some peas and sweetcorn too.

Wednesday: I think we'll have pizza night, with sweet potato wedges and salad for me.

I recently made Harry a dairy free, puff pastry pizza that I'll blog soon as he loves it. It uses Jus-rol puff pastry which is (possibly accidentally) dairy and soya free, with topped with the sauce from Mondays' dinner, pureed down so it's like a pizza tomato sauce, topped with Violife cheese. I portioned it off and froze the portions separated with squares of greaseproof paper and it defrosts beautifully - I simply reheat it in the oven for 5 minutes at about 200 degrees fan.

Thursday: Courgetti Spaghetti Harry has this with the courgettes, grated Violife, and a couple of dessert spoonfuls of Oatly cream. I leave out the pine nuts for him as I'm not convinced they're not a choking hazard.  I'm going to use up the other half of the packed of Boodles (that name makes me smile - go Sainsburys!)

Friday: We have my inlaws visiting for Harry's birthday weekend so I'm going to do us baked salmon with Lucy's Halloumi and Sweet potato bake that I trialled the other week. It was lovely, full of flavour and super fresh. Harry adores salmon but he'll have it with sweet potato wedges and some peas as he's a huge fan of peas. 

Saturday: We've got a family BBQ at church in the afternoon, so I'll wing it a bit(!) and see what, if anything everyone wants when we get home.  I'll take Harry a packed tea as I can't guarantee there will be safe food for him and I don't want to put anyone to any trouble. 

Sunday: We're having a little tea party/ picnic for Harry so I'll be doing my standard buffet fare - a roast chicken, Ham in coca-cola, French bread, salad and cake. Aside from the bread all is Harry friendly and I'll butter him some of our favourite Waitrose essential brown bread which is dairy and soya free. Please don't EVER change the recipe Waitrose.

That's our week - as always, don't forget to hop on over to At Home with Mrs M to see the other people joining in the linky 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Living Lagom with Ikea: the final post

Disclosure: I've been an Ikea, LiveLAGOM ambassador for the past 6 months

I can't believe that the project is coming to a close, that our 6 months of focussing on making our lives more Lagom is nearly at an end. That said, I think the sponsored part of the project is wrapping up, but there's plenty that I hope will stay in our lives for the months and years to come.

I'm writing this on a gloriously sunny early summer afternoon with the sun pouring through our open patio windows. Outside I can see our potatoes growing in bags, our planted up veg patch, apple and damson trees, a peek in the distance of the gooseberry bushes and around the corner are my pots of herbs. Harry's paddling pool and sandpit are on the lawn, and his toy watering can and the trug of compost we've been using for him and his friends to plant up their sunflower seeds is still on the patio.

 The cold of those winter nights seems a long way behind us, yet I'm working on another crochet blanket to layer up on our bed this year to mean those radiators stay off (or at least down). The thermal linings on our curtains are now keeping lots of heat in too, and the beautiful Cath Kidston-esque blind in the kitchen does the same. 

We've changed energy supplier recently, but a couple of months after starting the project our direct debit was reduced considerably and we were sent a rebate because we spend so much less on gas and electricity than was expected by our old energy supplier. We've also invested in a wireless programmable thermostat that means we're managing our central heating even more closely. A bit like an intelligent version of a Nest it helps us to ensure that the central heating is only as warm as it needs to be to keep our house warm. This is a much more efficient way of running the boiler.

There's no doubt our new bulbs and light fittings have helped - we're now totally LED lit, and I have to say I much prefer it to our old CF lights. They're so much brighter and the light is cleaner which if you're a crafter like me is of no end of help.

One of the things I've noticed a huge change in is our rubbish production. Prior to the project our bin would never quite fit a week's rubbish in - there was always one bag to carry over into the new week. Which was an annoyance as far as I was concerned. Now, our bin is only ever about two thirds full. Our food waste and recycling bins have made all the difference.

I've always been quite good with food waste, but was pleasantly surprised at how our new dishes made me even better. Leftovers no longer languish at the back of the fridge, waiting for me to chuck them out because I've forgotten to use them, but are neatly portioned up and labelled before being frozen for M's lunches - which is another area we've saved money, as sliced ham and packed lunch bits are one of the most expensive parts of our shop.

I've also made a conscious effort to cook more veggie and vegan dishes. They're allergy friendly for Harry and I'm a keen advocate of 'one family one meal' style cooking. They're also so much healthier - recipes I've recently blogged include:

Overall - our LAGOM experience has been a definite success - we were already a fair way into sustainable living so were never going to have enormous changes, but to us the changes have still been significant and I would say to anyone interested in a more LAGOM lifestyle to definitely embrace it.

Thinking of the future, things I'd like to do to maintain and move forward our LAGOM ethos:
  • For any future babies - I'd like to cloth nappy. Because Harry was premature, it wasn't possible at the start for us, and then when we'd finally got a handle on his allergies our local nappy library has shut down. I'm currently looking at training pants with reusable inserts for when we start toilet learning this summer.
  • Our spare bedroom - this will eventually be Harry's 'big boy' room when he moves out of the nursery. We've such a lot to do in there - the window will need to be replaced, so we want to make sure that it's incredibly thermally efficient. The walls need stripping, skimming and repainting, and I don't want to spray paint his wardrobe doors as the smell lingered in our room for ages, so we're keeping our eyes open in Ikea's 'Bargain corner' for some that we could replace them with.  Truth be told, Harry's room is a project in itself - I'd love his bedroom to be sustainable, so furniture that transitions with him as he grows. But for now, we just need it clean, safe and livable. 
  • Our kitchen is my dream. I firmly believe that redoing our kitchen will push our focus for living LAGOM right ahead. New lighting (which we have partly done), replacing the door and window from the metal framed ones that lose so much heat, and designing a space that really works for us. I'm not thinking just of day to day living, but to enable us to grow herbs, and cook and pass that love of cooking onto Harry. For us at the moment, whilst it's on the list... it's not high up because of the cost. 

I have loved our time working with Ikea, it's been such a fun project, and I've thoroughly enjoyed our workshops too - making Terrariums with Harry was just a joy. I hope that it's something we can continue in the future.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

10 things I learned in 21 months of breastfeeding

Our breastfeeding journey ended shortly after Harry turned 21 months: a huge period of stress meant that my letdown was severely affected and Harry chose to self wean. I still feel conflicted about it - like I should have persevered, or done something to make it better but in actual fact I was a little relieved. Don't get me wrong, I loved feeding Harry - and the bond we share from that is so special, but I was ready to stop. And that's important - breastfeeding is a relationship and both parties have to be happy with it for it to be successful.

I am incredibly proud of my achievement however. I worked so, so hard to establish breastfeeding, and then to eliminate all Harry's allergens from my diet. Obviously it's no more than millions of women all over the world do every day, but for me it was something I wanted to do and something I'm happy I persevered at.

Over the 21 months I fed Harry, I learnt loads - about my body, and about his. It's a shame some of that knowledge isn't on the curriculum in schools as it would have been far more useful to me than trigonometry has ever proven to be (I can assure you my husband is gasping in shock at that statement). I thought I'd collect some of that knowledge here today to pass it on, in the spirit of 'it takes a village to raise a child' It's just this village is virtual.

  1. Breastfeeding is hard. At first. Give it at least 6 weeks to get latch and positioning sorted. Give yourself that time to adjust - it's a whole new skill that you and the baby have to learn, and quickly. After (roughly) six weeks it gets massively easier, and then at three months most people hit their stride. Harry was born in June and by October we were off shields and feeding on demand as, when and where necessary.  
  2. Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ Iplayer/ All 4/ Box sets are your friend. Furnish yourself with plenty and cwtch down for the ride. Personally I skipped over the kind of programmes that teach you things, or that enable self reflection or personal development and went straight for the trash: Vampire diaries, Once upon a Time, Orange is the New Black, Lucifer, The Following, Man in the High Castle, Outlander, Big Bang Theory and Melissa and Joey. Yes, trash. 
  3. I didn't really get on with nursing covers - I always felt it drew attention to what I was doing in a way I didn't really want. However, massive muslins were my friend if I did feel that it was more appropriate to cover up a bit - at least until Harry was about 5 months old and played peekaboo with the vicar at church with it. And yes, he was latched on at the time. 
  4. Nursing clothes - a lot of the time I just popped a vest top under whatever shirt, t-shirt or jumper I wanted to chuck on. That said, I had a few nursing tops - including a beautiful one from Frugi, that really did help with feeding in public and feeling more comfortable. I like stripes, but beware that for some reason people that make nursing clothes thing all breastfeeding mothers are blooming in Breton! 
  5. Advice - now, ironically I guess as I'm giving advice here (well - I prefer to think of it as sharing knowledge) I found it helpful to smile, nod and ignore a lot of the (unsolicited) advice I was given. It's worth remembering that if you're in your thirties like me, our mother's generation were educated by health professionals who were heavily encouraged to push formula. The perception that scientific formula had to be better than breast milk was (and sadly, is) very common. La leche league, NCT and our breastfeeding support workers were where I got good advice from. Midwives, well meaning friends and relatives, people on the bus less so. Do your own research, seek out support. 
  6. Babies have tiny, tiny tummies - in the early days it's the same size as a marble. This means that they need to fill it frequently, as it empties quickly. This is not a sign that your milk isn't good enough, or that you're not producing enough. Babies are supposed to feed all the time. The reason we don't think this is because of the history in the UK of formula, given in too large quantities, stretches baby's tummy. This takes a long time to break down, so they sleep heavily while their body focuses on doing that. If you're formula feeding, which is both a necessary and entirely valid choice (not that you need me to tell you that) for many, many women - please consider looking up paced feeding. 
  7. Your supply increases when your baby makes it. So, in the early days you'll suddenly have a day, pinned to the sofa when baby wants to feed for hours (or for ever). What he's doing is putting in his order for the days to come. Telling your body, he's growing and needs more milk. You then produce milk in larger quantities for him. How amazing is that! So cluster feeds are nothing to do with you not producing enough milk - but your little one's way of ensuring you are. 
  8. Your diet does not have to be perfect - far from it. Eat what you can, when you can. Sure a diet of Dominoes and Macdonalds isn't going to do anyone any favours in the long term, but contrary to what people tell us - it doesn't affect your milk which is actually made from our blood not our digestive system. Drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly and keep on feeding. 
  9. You can have a drink. Now I'm not talking about binge drinking on a Friday night, but if you'd like a glass of wine, or a G&T or a pint of cider you can. There is more alcohol in an orange than in your breastmilk after an alcoholic drink. Drink responsibly - you're caring for a baby after all, and need to ensure you're safe to do so. But a glass of wine with your dinner won't hurt baby. There's also no need after that drink to 'pump and dump' as previously believed. 
  10. It's actually really rare (in my experience) at least that people comment on breastfeeding in public. I've fed in church, on a train, in too many coffee shops and cafes to count, at Wembley stadium, in a Slimming World meeting, at Carfest, on the beach, on Brownie holiday and Guide camp, and in several meetings about redundancy.  No one has ever commented to me, or even in my hearing. The worst thing I ever had was at a friend's wedding when the staff suggested (when I asked if there was anywhere comfortable I could breastfeed) that I used the accessible toilet. No thank you.
  11. OK. I know I said 10, but I forgot about this. Enjoy this time. Now I know that breastfeeding isn't the only way to bond with your baby, but it's one on one time you have together. Time you can't get back - now with a rampaging toddler, who never sits still  - I miss those quiet moments, just drinking Harry in from the top of his head to the tips of his eyelashes to his tiny toes. He used to hold onto my finger while feeding and at that moment, nothing else in life mattered. Nothing. 
Why not pin this post for later?

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 23rd March 2016

In a hitherto unheard of fit of organisation I'm typing this up on a Sunday afternoon sat in the garden. Harry is sleeping, I've done both the shopping list and meal plan and am now ready to head off to Aldi once the grumpy one awakes. 

This week is fairly normal - about a 7 on the hectic scale. I've got a bake sale at Guides on Tuesday to raise money for our local campsite so a couple of local Brownie units are coming for campfire fun and to spend their pocket money. 

I'm planning to bite the bullet and head back to Slimming World this week - I'm just feeling a bit bleurgh and suspect eating fewer fruit and veggies and much much more chocolate is to blame. Plus I didn't fit into my size 14 jeans that I wanted to wear for Blogcamp yesterday. 

Onto the meal plan. 

Breakfasts - baked porridge/ overnight oats. I picked up some reduced raspberries in Waitrose on Friday and Harry seems to have gone off blueberries (Shock. Horror!) so I'll use those up too. 

Lunches - couscous salad - with smoked salmon or leftover roast chicken. 

We're having a roast chicken tonight - mainly for the leftovers I must admit as I'm actually craving steak, but chicken goes so much further. 


Monday - leftover roast chicken, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and carrots

Tuesday - Chicken, broad bean and mushroom risotto (my challenge is to get a decent picture of this!) 

Wednesday - Leftover risotto or Tomato, lentil and veg pasta sauce as I made an enormous batch last week and have portioned it up nicely in the freezer

Thursday - If we don't have it the night before the pasta. If we have the pasta then leftover sauce as a pasta bake I think

Friday - Pizza night! With sweet potato wedges and salad. 

Saturday - baked gammon with egg and syn free chips, peas and sweetcorn

Sunday - Roast something, either pork or beef, to give us leftovers for the week ahead. 

That all feels very organised. Especially for me of late, but I've taken up journalling/ planning in a big to help keep on top of the varying levels of chaos that make up our lives. Whilst I'm not particularly artistic, I am incredibly visual and a huge fan of colour and stickers to keep me focussed. 

That's us for this week - busy as always. You'll notice I'm not cooking too much for the freezer at the moment as the one we use for stocking up died a death a few weeks back and we can't really stretch to a new one at the moment. It doesn't seem to be affecting us too badly, but has made me much better at using up our leftovers rather than just chucking them in the freezer for another day. 

Have a good, healthy week all - and be sure to hop on over to Mrs M's linky to see what all our other planners are up to. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Love, life and little things for April 2016

This month I'm tired, and I don't just mean physically, I feel utterly exhausted and drained. We've all had a silly virus/ infection type thing which robbed me of my voice for a few days and it seems to have really wiped me out. I've cracked open the Berocca and the Floradix and am plodding onwards. Onwards and upwards or at least forwards. I'm taking pleasure in the simple things - putting my feet up for half an hour, with a hot coffee and a Trio being my treat of choice at the moment.

I've got a few posts in the offing, but Harry's having a funny few weeks with his naps. Since he dropped to one nap, it's almost solidly been at least an hour and a half after lunch. Just lately - and probably to do with the change in the weather or being poorly - or the dreaded back doubles which are starting to make their existence known - he's managing an hour at best, and sometimes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon, and on really scary days... neither. Please don't mention nap dropping to me, he's not even 2 yet!

My favourite recipe of the last month has to be my Chickpea and sweet potato curry - we've eaten it more times than I care to admit - not least as it's syn free, and Harry loves it. The punchy flavours of the chilli, garlic and coriander really sing to me at the moment, and as a bonus it's cheap, full of veggies, and relatively quick to put together.

Once again Harry's language has come on in leaps and bounds over the last month - developmentally this is such a huge time for him - it's no wonder his daytime sleep is all over the place. And with those words, a growing obsession with modes of transport - especially trains - is emerging. Similarly, his imaginary play has come on in leaps and bounds - his chick, and bunny are frequently fed, offered milk, have their nappies changed and last night his sheep was given his dummy.  It's so lovely to see this development, and watch his awareness of the world around us change day by day.

I have the joy of starting a new blanket - this one is hopefully to be a new baby gift for a dear friend who's expecting. However, originally I thought it would be relatively gender neutral but it's turning out to be very girly so I think something else may be in order, just in case she has a boy. The blanket is Lucy's Harmony - and I'm thoroughly enjoying working the granny squares in such glorious colours, it's a really pleasure to sit quietly and make.

 There's been a distinct shift in the weather this month, in the space of a week we went from snowsuits  to sunhats. Last year I sewed elastic on Harry's sunhat, this year I'm unashamedly using bananas & biscuits as bribery. We use a sunblock from Superdrug - in SPF 30 which I religiously apply every half an hour - in an ingenious roll on design. It's fantastic as whilst Harry is quite used to having creams applied because of his eczema,  but the novelty of a rollerball keeps us all a bit calmer.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 9th May 2016

It's been a few weeks since I last published a meal plan - we've all had variations on a sinusitis-y type bug and it hit me much harder than I'm used to. However, I'm back on form so am enjoying the cool of the early morning and tapping away whilst drinking tea.

And yes, you read that right - I can now tolerate tiny quantities of dairy. It seems I'm not producing enough lactase to manage some higher lactose products, but I've successfully got about halfway up the lactose ladder. I'm mainly still dairy free, save for those splashes of milk in my tea but am infinitely less concerned than I was about accidental consumption.

This week is a busy one for us (when isn't?)

Breakfasts: Overnight oats made with almond milk and fruit

Lunches: Coucous salad


Monday: I roasted a chicken yesterday, so we'll be having roast chicken, baked potatoes and lots of veggies

Tuesday: Leftover roast chicken and broad bean risotto

Wednesday: Leftover leftovers of the risotto

Thursday: I'm out for a ladies dinner at Church so M is having pizza

Friday: We have a pescatarian friend coming to stay - and M has requested courgetti spaghetti - I must remember to get the veggie version of parmesan in this week's shop.

Saturday: Baked fish, salad, and the Halloumi and sweet potato bake from the lovely BakingQueen74

Sunday: I haven't made fishcakes for Harry and I for ages - so I think I'll do those with potato wedges and lots of veggies/ salad

Baking wise - there's cake to be made for one of the ladies at my Friday class whose birthday it was yesterday, and I'd like to try making some low sugar, dairy and egg free gingerbread/ cinnamon biscuits for Harry.

Have a lovely week - hopefully at least some of the sunshine will stick with us. As always don't forget to hop on over to At Home with Mrs M to see what the other planners are all up to.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Tomato, lentil and vegetable pasta - a syn free, dairy free, vegan recipe

These days my diet is best summarised as 'nearly vegan'. Health wise, I've not noticed any particular benefits, although I'm sure my weight loss is connected. The main focus of my diet is that it's sensitive to Harry's allergies and whilst there is plenty of processed food that is allergy friendly, I mainly focus on whole foods, cooking and eating a wide variety of beans, vegetables, lentils, fruit. That's not to say I'm perfect by a long shot - vegan cake is a food group as far as I'm concerned.

Making filling, healthy food that appeals to a toddler's burgeoning taste buds and my husband's carnivorous tendencies whilst being allergy friendly is not easy. I was over the moon at the reception this pasta dish got - Harry inhaled his, M did similarly(and he didn't even suggest it could have been improved with chorizo or bacon) This is based on a recipe I've used on Brownie holiday - so for the Guiders out there, it scales up to feed large quantities easily and, topped with grated cheese is a favourite with our girls. 

Tomato, lentil and vegetable pasta
Dairy free, vegan recipe. Syn free
Serves 8

Fry light/ olive oil
2 red onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery
4 small-medium carrots
3 peppers - I only use red & yellow as a personal preference
2-3 small to medium courgettes
150g mushrooms
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen sweetcorn
1 cup of red lentils
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 400g carton of passata
large splodge of tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Handful basil, shredded

I prep all the veggies for this in the food processor - but if you're not, then finely dice everything aside from the carrots, and grate those.
Liberally spray a pan with Fry light (or add a good glug of olive oil) and when warm add the onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat until softened
Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes of so
Add the rest of the veggies and cook down for another 5 minutes
Add the tinned tomatoes, passata and tomato puree and stir well.
Bring to a gentle simmer, and add the lentils, oregano, salt and pepper

The next two steps are purely optional - for me I do this for the Brownies, but don't bother at home - 
Cook down well for about 30 minutes or so
Take off the heat and allow to cool before blitzing with a stick blender

Add a good handful of fresh basil, before stirring into pasta


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