Saturday, 31 January 2015

Seedling in SA

Hello Cape Town!

Still at the airport and we found green juice at Woolworths. Think we're going to like it here! I cropped myself out because I don't look half as fresh as she does after an overnight flight in economy.

Camps Bay. The light is insane. Everything looks overexposed.


Taken from the car. That's how pretty Cape Town is.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Everybody Has to Wear Pants

No, I will not let you change my diaper.
Still no. I have to understand this box first.
It's flippin' freezing in our house (it's old and draughty), but I still find myself daily struggling to get the babe to submit to a full outfit. Everybody has to wear pants, kid. Sorry. She blows on her pretend cooking, btw, and I die.
We're loving having fresh bread. It's just a part of the routine now. Next stop, sourdough!


I got a new Japanese vegetable knife, and it makes me feel like a goddamn ninja. I had my eye on a Wusthof, but decided to go for a cheaper one. Still, sharp as all hell. That squash took like 30 seconds. NINJA.

Clearing the fridge before we go away is making for some pretty random meals. Tofu scramble with toast and sweet potato fries.
When will this cold go away??? Lemon and ginger tea, F. likes it too.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Gingerbread Porridge

It's a bit embarrassing to call this a recipe - it's more like a good idea, or a template for wild experimentation. It's yum, whatever it is. Great for a cold; the molasses is loaded with minerals and the spices cut through congestion.
1 cup of jumbo rolled oats (look, steel cut are delicious, but ain't nobody got time for that.)
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Blackstrap Molasses
1 tablespoon Brown Rice Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
About a teaspoon of cinnamon
About half a teaspoon of ground ginger
A sprinkling of ground clove
A crack of black pepper (black pepper? YES.)
To serve:
Non-dairy milk
Vegan margarine
Seeds, nuts, etc.
You basically cook it all for 10 minutes, at a good simmer. The spices are to taste, this is just approximately what I end up with. You may like it spicier. I'd only venture that it ought to be cinnamon > ginger > clove > pepper. Nutmeg or Allspice could be fun too.
Pumpkin Pie: Add leftover cooked squash, blended. Use a little less molasses.
Carrot Cake: Add grated carrot, raisins and walnuts.
We've had it twice this week. It's so comforting!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Nap Snaps

Boo! We still have a cold! I got it this time too, which is such a drag. Not like the old days when I could stay in bed and binge-watch old episodes of Buffy. So the time I'd been using to write and study has been spent resting, which is probably sensible. Just counting the minutes until we go away!
She's lost her voice, so today she sounds like she's speaking parseltongue. Nerd-lol.

Naptime. Thought we'd try to elevate her head with a pillow. So not into it.

Golden Healing Soup. We hope. That's what I'm calling it, anyway. It's turnip, sweet potato, golden beetroot and kale with a little onion. Also turmeric, fennel seed and coriander. Every week they make this fab soup at playgroup, and F. actually eats it! So I was trying to recreate it.

Another nap snap. Aw.

Forgot about these little shoes. Perfect for our trip! They were too big in the summer, but aren't the best for winter weather. No leather, obvs.
And yay! We finally got around to baby-proofing our kitchen cupboards properly. She's going to be monumentally pissed when she finds this.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Picture Post - Cold, Cold, Cold

It's freezing! Fire required.

Aaand, we have another cold. This is the business for chapped noses.

Or, to put it another way, 'Uncomfortable with the idea of veal? You shouldn't drink milk!'
Can I get these popsicle socks in my size please?

Sweet little table at playgroup
Don't know what the bear did to deserve this...

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Summer in January: Packing and Planning for a Long Flight with a Toddler

God, I love packing a suitcase. Almost as much as I love travelling. It's, like, my special skill. I like to travel light, taking only a perfect little capsule wardrobe, daily essentials, and a few feel-good luxuries - anything else we can pick up there. It's a little trickier with a baby in tow, but not impossible. If I ran my whole life the way I pack a suitcase, I'd be unstoppable. And packing for hot weather in the dead of winter? Heaven.
We're preparing to take our first big trip as a family, besides trips to visit people, and it's going to be someplace warm - hurray! Since the birth of the babe, we've been to California twice to visit my folks, and to Spain once, to visit some of the in-laws. It all went very well, but travelling with a small baby is a LOT easier than with a toddler, and this is going to be a long haul flight. In fact, I'd venture that between 1 and 2 years old is the worst time for long trips - they are too old to spend the whole journey snoozing and breastfeeding, but too young to be plugged into video games or whatever. They want to explore, and are famously pretty unreasonable.  Luckily this is a night flight, so I'm hoping we might just get away with it. This is the plan:
Snacks: Can you pack too many snacks? I don't think so. Packing for a vegan adult usually always involves snacks, so add a toddler and it's going to be half my carry-on. Sorry, aromatherapy facial mist - you've been bumped. Nothing revolutionary, rice cakes, raisins (for once! We don't keep them in the house because of our dog.), granola bars, cereal - anything else I can get at the airport. I aim for tidy and tasty rather than most-nutritionally-perfect, after all it's not every day.
Books: Books are better than toys. They hold her attention longer, are easier to pack, and are less likely to be flung about. Also, much less annoying to fellow passengers than the play phone that is calling the rabbit for the 300th time. I know this is controversial, but I think they are far superior to an iPad. Books are quieter and don't require charging. They don't have to be switched off for take-off and landing, risking a tantrum, there's nothing on them that they aren't allowed to do, risking a tantrum, and we never have to take them away to check our email, ensuring a tantrum. In fact, iPad sessions pretty much always end in tears, come to think of it.
When in doubt, get 'em out: When F. was 4 months old, I flew to California with her by myself. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't THAT bad. Reason? Almost constant breastfeeding. If I was a fellow passenger, I think I'd prefer a little nudity to 11 hours of screaming. Won't be as simple this time, as we aren't boobing nearly as much as we were, but I do still have that ace up my sleeve and I intend to use it.
Accepting Help: Airline staff are always amazing helpful, I've found, especially if you're on your own with a child. If someone on cabin crew offers to hold her while I go to the bathroom, I'm going to gratefully take them up on that.
The Leash: Yes, I have a toddler leash. Not one that pretends to be a backpack either. It's just a leash, and it's 100% essential at this age. Sometimes the girl needs to stretch her legs! If that happens to be at a time when Mommy needs to watch the departures board, she's going to be on the leash. I have zero shame about it.
What else would help with a long haul flight? Tips and tricks?

Friday, 23 January 2015

When Your (Vegan) Kid Won't Eat Vegetables

For the juicer: Broccoli stalk, celery, cucumber, kale, ginger and one apple. 

I serve my daughter greens every day. Every day of her life, she sees me eat green vegetables. And every day, she throws them on the floor. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

To Wean or Not to Wean

Just reading, chillin' out. Looking super grown-up.
I've mentioned it in an off-hand way, but our sleeping schedule is terrible. A long stretch of sleep is rare, and I can never seem to recreate the exact conditions the following night. Some nights I'm up hourly. She's going through a picky stage, eating-wise, as well - and both problems would be easier to deal with in isolation. I've been trying the No-Cry Sleep Solution, but I think she has it figured out and is NOT IMPRESSED. In short though, I'm inclined to blame the boob. Don't get me wrong, I am pro-breastfeeding. I've loved feeding her, and was so happy to do it. It was really, really tough for us to establish in the first place and I don't take it for granted. But she used to sleep through the night, until I got her exclusively on the boob (I wrote about our problems in depth here. Short version: no latch AT ALL, so she was mixed-fed, then problematic latch and bottles of pumped milk, then finally our troubles resolved into easy, exclusive breastfeeding by 3 or 4 months.)  I just think they love it so much, and it's so easy to fall into a routine of co-sleeping and feeding multiple times a night. Again, I was happy to do it! Now though, I'm starting to come to the end of my tether.
At nearly 15 months old, we are in a parenting no-mans land; "natural"-type mamas might wonder why we'd give up so early, while "mainstream" parents might think it's gone on a bit too long already - after all, she's walking and talking and has 11 teeth. Attachment-style advice is usually a variant of "Why do you want to wean?? Is night waking really a problem??", and the other side might say "Ah. You've created a sleep crutch, and they must be broken of this pleasant, comforting association." Gah!
Enough moaning. We are basically day-weaned, so she only has it in bed or in the chair in her room, but I just don't know how to gently night-wean at this age. Will update with our progress!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Nursery (On A Budget)

With all the renovations needed on our house, we've kept things cheap and cheerful in terms of decor. Here is F's room, as it is now - if you're into nursery design, you'll notice that pretty much everything new is Ikea. I ain't ashamed. When you save (big time) on things like the cot and chair, you can focus a little more on a few details, which I personally think is what makes it special.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Weekday French Toast: Easy, Lazy, Healthy(ish), Vegan

There are a few lots and lots of vegan French Toast recipes out there, but this version is so incredibly simple, I can throw it together in 15 minutes on a weekday. It's also relatively virtuous (as virtuous as fried bread can ever be, I suppose) - no sugar or salt for weaning babes, and can be made with just a handful of cupboard staples (at least staples in our house!). This is a small batch. It's a weekday, remember? Can easily be scaled up.

A few tablespoons neutral cooking oil.
3 thick slices of sturdy bread. Stale is fine, even better. I used some homemade malthouse from Friday, but Sourdough would also work well. The flimsy, shop bought stuff probably won't work.
Half a cup of non-dairy milk. My top choices would be almond, hemp or soy. We used almond today.
1 Tablespoon chickpea flour
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
Generous sprinkling of cinnamon
Ok, first things first, before even putting your coffee on, get your pan and oil pre-heating. If the pan isn't good and hot, these bad boys WILL stick. My kitchen is unheated, and in the winter it's freezing in there at night, so I don't judge if my pan is pre-heated by time, but rather by the way the oil behaves. I pre-heat my cast-iron skillet on medium low, until the oil swirls around quickly. Sluggish oil = ruined toast.
While your pan is getting good and warm, lazily mix together the milk, chickpea flour, flaxseed and cinnamon with a fork on a shallow serving plate. Give it a minute to come together - if you don't already know this, ground flaxseed adds a viscosity that is not unlike egg, you just have to give it a little time to work its magic. Soak the bread, both sides. Now is a good time to make coffee.

As appetising as wet bread is, don't taste the batter. Chickpea flour is foul when raw. I found out the hard way.

Fry 'em up! You obviously want them browned on both sides. For me, that's about 3 minutes a side. They shouldn't stick if you follow the golden rules I just made up:

Pre-heat well - have I mentioned that?
Don't mess with them until you are fairly certain they will be browned. If you try to flip them too early, or sneak a peek before they are browned, the pan won't 'let go'.
Use a metal spatula, and really be careful to get under there.  
Any number of toppings would be delicious, and as they aren't sugary to begin with you can be as decadent or abstemious as you feel that day. I had brown rice syrup and pumpkin seeds with mine, the babe had some banana slices. It's a big hit in our house!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Green Lasagna

My senior year of college, after my initial stint in London, my class schedule was too erratic to go back to my normal, well-paying bank teller job (I worked through college, I'm proud to say), so for a while I worked as a technician in the University Theatre's costume shop. The pay was low, but the hours were flexible and it was possibly the most fun I've ever had while earning money. Anyway, one of the actors once brought us hard-working seamstresses a green vegetarian lasagna, and it was so delicious I've always remembered it! I know it had broccoli and spinach, and probably heaps of dairy (I was vegetarian, but not vegan at the time). This is my vegan version of that memory.
Green Lasagna Sheets
Small Block of Tofu, crumbled to resemble ricotta cheese
Cup of cashews, soaked for a few hours, for an Isa Does It-style cashew cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch - for the cashew cream
3/4 cup of water - for the cashew cream
1 medium white onion
3 cloves garlic
A few tablespoons of oil
About 50g plain flour
4 cups of veggie stock (I used powdered)
Big bunch of fresh spinach or other tender greens
Head of broccoli
A few slices of mozarella-style Violife vegan cheese (optional)
Pumpkin seeds
Cook the onion and garlic in a few generous sploshes of oil, then add the flour and make into a paste. Slowly add the stock to make a thick, lazy-person sauce. Let it simmer and thicken for a bit. I suppose you could use unsweetened soy milk for a super creamy sauce (or indeed, make a proper non-dairy bechamel), but this was plenty creamy for me and its very easy. Meanwhile, you are steaming your broccoli, chopping your spinach, crumbling your tofu and blending your cashew cream. The cashew cream is from an enchilada recipe in Isa Does It. She uses creamed cashew all over that book, and at first I was like  'nah, that sounds hard', but it isn't! You just blend your soaked cashews with the cornstarch and water. She adds salt, but I didn't because of the babe. And just so you know, I have a rinky-dink blender - you don't need a Vitamix for this one.

Layer it up! As long as there is plenty of sauce under and on top of the lasagna sheets, you can't really go wrong. I added some Violife cheese underneath my top lasagna layer, but that is totally optional. If you want it to be purely whole-foods, it's plenty creamy without it. Also, I personally wouldn't put fake cheese on the very top - I just think it never looks very appetising. Top layer of sauce, cashew cream and some pumpkin seeds (another idea ripped off from Isa's enchiladas), then bake in the oven at 180C (350F) for about half an hour. 

Lush. We had it with a simple raw tomato salad on the side. My husband ruined his with truffle oil, which he insists is delicious but I think smells like motor oil. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Day Off

Oh, lucky lucky me. My husband, who is actually ill at the moment, has taken it into his head that I really need a day off now and then. He's right, of course - with the hours he's working, and our sleep schedule being so bad, I'm basically on duty 24 hours a day. So he's off playing with her at the London Docklands Museum (free softplay, South Londoners!), like a trooper, and I'm genuinely struggling to relax. I slept in, had a bath (by myself! With very hot water and grown-up soap and razors and coffee!!), had lunch, bought some vegetables, did some boring paperwork, and now... I don't know - watch a movie?? I'm planning to make a green lasagna later, and maybe have a nap. God, its so luxurious. What did I do before I had a baby?

The light in my bathroom was just so pretty this morning. Mostly Ikea houseplants.

And the face that makes it all worthwhile. That face!!

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Gauntlet

Our lunch today. It was a pudla (yes, that one), with greens, veggie sausages and avocado. Mine had my last couple slices of Violife and some Tapatio, hers came with a side of sweet corn because it's a vegetable she will always eat. I realise that it's January, and so that corn must have travelled a long way to get to us here in the Northern Hemisphere, but you guys, I have to get some veggies in that kid. Don't tell Al Gore.

In other news, I've enrolled in a photography course. You see, I quit my job after my daughter was born. It was a cool job. I loved it, and I was good at it. It was the kind of job that hundreds of people want (or think they want), and I'd worked hard to get there. But I just didn't see how I could make the hours work. In fact, I suddenly realised that all the parents I knew in that field had a house-husband or wife. When I quit, I said to myself, I'd love to be self-employed by the time I'm 40. 10 years. 10 years to either take a sidestep in my old field, or find something new. I had an idea as to how I could make that happen in a job similar to my old one, but it would probably involve long, inflexible hours and low pay, which I might be able to do in a few years, but not right now. In the blink of an eye, one year has already passed. So in the interest of making the most of the time I have, I'm a student again. If nothing comes of it, I will still improve my personal photography and hopefully take some great snaps of my family. I hope to improve this blog, which, I won't lie, I wouldn't mind monetising. And if things really go well, maybe some freelance work will come my way. I really, really wouldn't mind that. Self-employed by 40. 9 years now. Gauntlet laid down.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Sometimes I notice some small detail, like a pile of books, and it hits home how much my life has changed. No Anais Nin, no Dawkins - here we have Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.
Today is my husband's birthday, and its a big one. I think he's feeling it a little more than usual this year. I don't see why - he should be proud of everything he's accomplished. I'm proud, anyway.
Yesterday's white bread, bad lighting:

It was a success. Next stop, sourdough!

An exceptionally lazy lunch of canned soup and grilled (Violife) cheese. I was feeling a little conflicted about serving my kid something so borderline unhealthy, but she didn't eat it anyway. The tantrum began as we left playgroup, and continued until she fell asleep. They are so cute, it's easy to forget that toddlers can be assholes challenging.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Bread and More Bread

But first, a little hat modelling:

I got a Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas - extravagant, I know, but I've wanted one for ages. I used to say that I was like Wayne, you know, with the guitar? Oh yes, it will be mine. And now I'm like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty - the mixer I've always wanted and now I have it, I rule! Enough with the 90's film trivia? So far, it is the difference between making bread twice a year, and twice a week. It's the difference between thinking about making seitan, and making seitan. It's mashed potatoes on a weeknight. It's also deep teal and deeply sexy:

This is actually my first plain white loaf - I tend to use whole-grain flours, but I wanted to try my hand at the fluffy stuff. I also want to make Violife grilled cheese sandwiches, and for authenticity you need white bread. 

Someone trying to sneak a peek (yes, there's always a baby on my hip while I do this stuff):

I almost forgot! On Sunday I went with some of my in-laws to the most fabulous Persian store and vegetarian cafe in Peckham, called Persepolis. The owner (and cookbook writer) makes all the food in the tiniest little kitchen, and it's wonderful. Vegan options are clearly (proudly!) marked - I had Vegan Moussaka. In the shop I bought some tahini and some Turkish delight for my husband (which is vegan, made traditionally. Bears no resemblance to the Cadbury's junk), and my mother-in-law got some barberries and giant flat breads. This was very restrained of us, we could have bought up the whole shop!

Definitely worth a visit if you're in London!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Birthdays and Mondays

This weekend we had a surprise birthday party for my husband, it was hectic, but fun. Leftover cake:

And having houseguests, I made my normal batch of spelt waffles:

We also started attending a Steiner playgroup today, which I quite enjoyed. The first time I went to it, to see if we liked it, I thought it was a little bit crunchy, but then so are we - so we decided to give it a go. It was such a success that F threw a full-on tantrum when we had to leave. :/ The play space is beautiful (I will ask them if I can take a snap or two), and they burn incense and light candles, they sing songs and all the food is vegetarian - it really is lovely.
Lastly, one of my wonderful brothers sent us some late Christmas gifts, in time for a "Merry Ides of January", and they are merry indeed. A hat:
And a very sweet inscription for her:

Love my brothers! Thanks Uncle Will!