Thursday, 19 November 2015

The 8 Best Baby Products (According to Me)

Obviously we are busy getting ready for the new arrival around here, and it had me thinking about what we're going to use again, and what we're not - basically what really worked for us and our baby. They say that you really don't need a lot of baby stuff, but it's also true that the RIGHT stuff can really make life easier. Some of these items are pretty high-end, and while I'm normally quite a thrifty gal, I have to admit that I learned a lesson in false economy when it comes to baby stuff. I also off-set the pricier things in my mind with all the things we didn't buy, like a pram (people couldn't believe we weren't getting one, but seriously, we didn't need it, and the most popular one I see around costs like £1000. When we idly priced them, I think my reaction was just a long string of expletives). Without further ado:

If you don't need a breast pump, you don't need a breast pump (lucky you!), but if you do, you need a serious one. I had originally purchased an inexpensive manual pump, assuming that it would only be for very occasional use, but then we had problems (ALL the problems) and it just wasn't going to cut it. This model was recommended to us by a friend, and we went and bought it immediately. It ain't cheap, but it saved our breastfeeding relationship, and more than paid for itself in savings on formula. If feeding is going really well, a manual might be fine to pump the occasional bottle, or to relieve engorgement (F had a terrible vomiting bug once when she was exclusively breastfed, and I had to borrow a pump while we were waiting with her in the ER! The manual would have been good then, but we were travelling). Alternatively, if you're exclusively pumping for any significant length of time, you'll want a double - again, I think Medela is the bee's knees. For us, this model did the trick. 


So comfy! So convenient! I'd still be using it for dog walks if I wasn't super-pregnant. Again, we purchased this one AFTER trying others (I didn't do much research on carriers beforehand), and the difference is well worth the admittedly hefty price tag. What I didn't know before is to look for a carrier that protects baby's hips rather than leaving them dangling - if you want to wear your baby a lot, it's important. Also, protecting your back! They get heavy amazingly quickly. We used the Ergo almost exclusively until she was about a year, then occasionally until, well, now. 


One of the only things I got right before she arrived! I saw a woman wearing one and thought it looked comfortable, so I asked her about it. It IS very comfortable, especially for the newborn phase and for around the house - and I plan on using it again this time, especially at home. It's also inexpensive - hallelujah! The only downside is that it's a little bit fiddly to put on and off, and I personally don't like to use it once they are a bit heavier - it gets kind of droopy. That said, I don't think there is anything better for the early, early days. 


What the hell is a Poddle Pod? It's a baby-shaped doughnut pillow, basically, which gives them a nice snug feeling. A friend of mine recommended it after trying it in desperation with her son who always wanted to be held. I remember distinctly that I ordered it at around 4am (hence the somewhat reckless leopard print choice), and I loved that it gave me an alternative to co-sleeping at that stage, and it was great for travel. That said, it's utterly useless if your kid doesn't take to it - so it's either a miracle or a waste of space, and there's no way of knowing beforehand. 

God bless IKEA. It's not that this cot is so much better than others, rather it's EXACTLY the same, for a tiny fraction of the price, and still looks great. We've bought another for the new baby. Converts to a toddler bed as well: 

Possibly the single best thing here, along with the Ergo. Before we weaned, I remember thinking, 'it's an effing chair, what could POSSIBLY justify that price'. But there is a HUGE difference. In the wrong highchair, she slumped and wriggled. The wrong chair was hard impossible to clean properly. The wrong chair was ugly, and would only last a year or two. The Tripp Trapp is safe, easy to clean, great for baby-led weaning, attractive, and long-lasting - after it's done being a highchair, it has another life as a... regular chair. Seriously, seriously good design. We're keeping an eye out for another on Ebay, but they go quickly and tend to retain their value pretty well.  

When we finally decided on a stroller (which was a generous gift - thanks Mom!), F was nearly a year old - so our needs were obviously different than they would be for a newborn. I wanted lightweight, and this is the lightest on the market. I wanted portable, and I can take it up and down stairs with one hand if need be, with a baby on my hip, no problem. And while it may be lightweight, it's also sturdy as hell - we've flown with it 8 times already. It also didn't hurt that it came in a cheery orange colour.

8. Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter

Not only is this the best, it's vegan and cruelty-free. Most popular nipple creams are lanolin-based -ew. This is a blend of pland-based oils and butters, it smells divine and it works - I should know, we had actual wounds to contend with, not just a little dryness. In fact, my healing improved from when I started using it (again, I didn't research this beforehand - silly girl).

Those are just my favourites - what gems have you found? What couldn't you do without? I have high hopes for the Milkies Milk Saver this time around, and I've sprung for a Hot Milk sleep bra (nobody told me last time that I'd need to sleep in a nursing bra to begin with! A truly comfy one is going to make my nights a little easier) - here's hoping we're as prepared as I think we are!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Rainy Days and Birthdays

The weather is well and truly turned, my belly is out-to-there, and my darling girl had a birthday. When I was pregnant with her, I remember thinking, 'I don't really need to worry about having this baby until autumn'. And this time, the holidays - which are fast approaching (eep!). She was absolutely showered with love, and our living room is resembling a preschool more with each passing day (but it's all cleared away by the evening, I swear!), which is actually excellent for winter. 

Just some piccies:

On her second birthday. It's hard to describe how I feel about this little person, other than to say: I love her, I love her, I love her. 

On Halloween. We found an honest-to-god pumpkin patch, and I dragged everyone into a muddy field to indulge my American traditions. I thought it was fun, anyway... F chose our pumpkin, no kidding, by smell - at least once she accepted that we were unlikely to find a blue or purple one. Apparently a 'nice one' 'smells like apple smells'. I thought it smelled like mud, but ok. 

She got to see her cousins on her birthday too. She ADORES her cousins. 

A new puzzle, which is a massive hit. 

F's living room toy basket. Have I mentioned the concept of the crap basket before? Our house is tall and narrow, so we often end up with stuff on the wrong floor, and are too lazy to ferry it up and down all day long. So we each have a basket on the ground floor, which acts as a holding bay for miscellaneous crap. Hers is a permanent toy basket, but mine and my husband's are, in theory, cleared regularly. 

Shh. The Play-Doh snakes are sleeping. 

My crap basket. Lists, paperwork, a super-nerdy coupon file. Gotta save dem pennies. 

Wooden toys, cowgirl boots. (Yes, they are leather. They were a gift.)

So we are just rolling along around here, now likely to stay fairly close to home for the next two months while we prepare to meet this new kid. I'm nervous, I'm excited, I'm obsessed with organising the house. Autumn/winter + third trimester = the nesting equivalent of the perfect storm. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Vegan Meringue

It's real, and it works - vegan meringue is here, and the Vegan Internet has lost its collective mind. And it's not meringue-like, or meringue-ish, it's proper meringue, made exactly the same way as a traditional recipe. Secret ingredient to replace the egg whites? Chickpea or bean brine, now also known as Aquafaba. And I do mean the liquid that you drain from a commercial can of chickpeas, or the cooking water from chickpeas cooked at home. Its amazing potential was apparently discovered earlier this year by way of a French chef and a vegan blogger called Goose, and nobody knows why it works, but it does.

Amazingly, you use the bean brine *exactly* like egg whites. It whips to stiff peaks, then you add the sugar and it whips to glossy, hold-it-upside-down perfection. This was simply 1/2 cup (1 can) of chickpea Aquafaba whipped with 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (for stability - cream of tartar works too, apparently, as with 'normal' meringue), and a cup of caster sugar. Boom.

Baked in a super-low oven, 100C, for 2 hours or so.

I even made a little pavlova, which I've never even had, let alone made.

Sweetness-wise, its obviously pretty full-on, but I understand that you can use this magic new ingredient to make mayo, perfect breaded tofu, fudgy brownies, killer waffles - who knows what else can be done! There's an international Facebook group dedicated to 'hits and misses' - and this is one of the things I love about vegan cooking; the creativity, the community spirit, and the willingness to share these crazy discoveries. Until the professional chefs catch up, it's all grassroots experimentation, driven by home cooks and food bloggers. Punk rock.

I, for one, have dug out my French cookbooks and am rummaging for inspiration in the formerly impossible. Index: Egg Whites.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Licking the Bowl

Want to see one of the best things about eggless baking?

And to those who would say, 'I let my kid eat batter with raw egg, nbd!', I say emphatically: ew. Flax all the way, baby.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

English Ambrosia

It's the last day of Vegan Mofo! I have to admit, I struggled with the 'Fusion Challenge'. But come snacktime, I had some fruit, and 10 minutes, so I made this simple, healthy version of Ambrosia. If you're not familiar with Ambrosia, it's a traditional Southern American dessert, and it can be either a delicious fresh mix of citrus and coconut, or a gloopy marshmallow-y monstrosity. I favour the former variety, and I base my recipe off of the one in The Glory of Southern Cooking, but I use coconut milk or cream instead of icing sugar. It's so simple, you won't need precise measurements - just eyeball it!

An orange or two, chopped into pieces. The less pith the better, though I'm not terribly fastidious about this. 
An English Apple or two, something tart-ish like Cox, peeled and chopped.
An English Pear, like Conference, peeled and chopped.
A handful of crushed pecans
A small handful of dessicated coconut flakes (don't go overboard with these - one or two tablespoons max)
A little fresh orange juice, a couple tablespoons will do it.
About 1/4 cup of coconut cream

That's it! It's sugar free, and I swear, my kid thinks I'm the coolest right now. 

Goodbye Mofo, it's been real. I've learned that I perhaps can't keep up with all these amazing food bloggers, but it was fun! 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Posh Cocoa Coconut Granola

Well, hello there! I know, I'm lame - I HAVE been keeping up on Instagram. At any rate, today's theme is... ROAD TRIP! To be honest, when I go on a trip, I tend to just pack some store-bought snacks and drinks - but that makes for a pretty boring post if you ask me. In the fall, my husband and I like to go to Norfolk if we get the chance, for chilly dog walks and cozy fires, and there's this company we sometimes find our rental through that leaves a welcome basket - nice tea, coffee, wine, and sometimes a posh granola. Call me an old-time hippie, but I think homemade granola makes a nice hostess gift, or indeed a nice 'thank you' for a house-sitter, cat-feeder, or plant-waterer. Anyway, want the recipe? Its crunchy, flavourful and indulgent yet relatively wholesome: 

1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 tbsp cocoa nibs
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup mixed seeds (like pumpkin and sunflower - whatever you like)
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/4 coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar (if you sub something else, like brown rice syrup, use 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp brown sugar

Mix it all together, and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C (350F), until browned. Rather than the standard method of sprinkling over a larger baking sheet, I actually like to press it together in a thin layer, break it apart after it browns, then bake again for another 5 minutes or so. I just like the big, uneven chunks I get that way, but it does take a little longer. 

Let it cool, and either gift it or keep it all to yourself!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Scenes From Our Table (Mofo edition)

Little bit of a photo digest post, and again, we're still only on iPhone around here until I get my computer running. So, some piccies?

Breakfast this morning, waffles! For the 'snowed in' prompt. They always feel like a treat to me. 

Snacks. Plants. Table linens. 

I can't remember what this was, but I think she liked it?!

Made my spelt-citrus doughnuts a little less healthy with a lemon glaze, for my WWMD post on Instagram: What Would Martha Do? I love Martha Stewart, and she should totally go vegan. Imagine the food. 

Bad photo, but I had to brag: my toddler was STUFFING HER FACE with this lacto-fermented daikon, alongside her udon and tofu. Dying of pride.

This kid, right here. 

Her breakfast, on a pretty average day. Homemade bread, peanut butter, peach. 

Breakfast, on a less average day. Buckwheat pancakes, figs. 

I like setting the table. I like this early autumn light. 

And I like hearing from you! I haven't been able to keep up as much as I'd hoped, but I will be reading more mofo posts this week. Almost finished, guys!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Soup Weather: Clearspring Miso Ramen

Hey, it's the autumnal equinox! Let's do something pagan about it! Or, you know, we could just have soup. As I mentioned, the babe is starting nursery two days a week, both for her and for me in anticipation of baby brother's arrival. It's going amazingly well; she LOVES it, and I get a couple days a week to nest and look after myself for this final trimester. AND I get to eat what I want for lunch, with no consideration of toddler pickiness (although, I actually think she'd like this - next time I'll share). I picked up this Clearspring Miso Ramen knowing that I like the brand, and hoping for something quick, yummy and wholesome. 

It's ramen, right? So, it reminds me of the the unhealthy stuff I lived on in college, only soooo much better. The noodles aren't fried, and the broth paste is ginger miso, not too salty - just right. Doctor it up with leftovers and greens, and you have a perfect, fast, healthy, midweek lunch.

This is with leftover tofu and carrot, and some fresh curly kale. 

Other toppings and add-ins that would be good (leftovers being a massive bonus):

Sweet potato
Spring onion
Bean Sprouts 
Fermented radishes or daikon
Any other greens
Adzuki Beans
Green Beans

I could go on forever! So well done, Clearspring. I like-i'-a-lo'. 

*This isn't a sponsored post, by the way. Just random enthusiasm. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Kabocha Kale Pasta + The Concept of Squish

Today's prompt: a dish made with seasonal produce. We shop mainly seasonally these days, getting a weekly organic veg box delivery and topping up at the farmers market, with online shops for tins and dry goods. It works for me, as I don't like to plan meals in advance. I'd rather throw together a grain, a protein (usually, not always), and some seasonal veg - whatever needs to be used up first. So this dish is very typical weeknight fare for us, which brings me to the concept of 'squish'. A friend of mine was talking about her mother, who from all accounts sounds an amazing lady, and how she used to make 'squish' for dinner. What the hell is squish, you ask? It's anything, thrown together in a loose sort-of way; in their house I think it was quite saucy like a savoury pie filling. So they would have, say, chicken squish with mashed potatoes. If I broaden the concept slightly, to include what amounts to hash, I realised that all I eat is vegetable squish! It's like paint by numbers. Take, say, 3 seasonal ingredients, cook them together simply and serve with a starch. Or, let's say you made a root veggie squish in white sauce, then maybe you'd serve with greens or seitan instead. You can prepare the same thing over and over, but never eat the same meal twice. For a busy mom (so, you know, all of us), it's a healthy, no-brainer option that allows my kid to try new seasonal food all the time, in the context of a familiar meal (say, pasta). Like so:

Roasted Kabocha Squash (my FAVOURITE. On the off-chance you don't know how to roast kabocha squash, I just cook mine in chunks in the oven with a little olive oil for about half an hour, at 200C. Leftovers are obviously great for this sort of thing.)
Chestnut Mushrooms
Chopped Curly Kale
Half a red onion
1 clove garlic
Your favourite pasta

Pretty squash. The skins are edible, by the way. 

I roasted the squash ahead of time (while my daughter was enjoying her VERY FIRST DAY at nursery. Sob.), then sautéed the onion, garlic, mushrooms and kale together in a little olive oil and lemon juice, adding the squash in at the last minute just to warm up again. So that's my 'squish', combine with pasta = awesome meal. This is how I want to cook on weeknights; I want it to be easy, tasty, healthy, fast, and not make too many dirty dishes in the process. Is that too much to ask? Squish! 

I think the squash is a hit! Between the two of us, we were lucky to have some left for the pasta.