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Getting Wild…

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunny day, and took a walk to a nearby park for a picnic and George’s first go on a swing (he loved it)…

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Since getting back from our holiday (more about that soon) we’ve not gotten out and about much, which makes me very sad. It was lovely to get outside, do some walking (and some sweating!…I wasn’t prepared for how warm it was), eat some food (very high up my list of interests), and have some fun as a family.

It was also the start of 30 Days Wild for us (a few days late, but that’s pretty usual for me). We’ll be doing something “wild” every day of June…just to clarify, that’s something outdoorsy and fresh airy, not dancing on tables in a bar at 3am.

I’m not sure what we’ll be doing today, but at the moment it seems fun (for George) just to blow raspberries on my leg and test out newly emerged teeth…so we’re not in any rush!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2016 in Baby, Days Out, Life

 

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And I Would Walk 500 Miles…

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I can hardly believe it, but we’re now in week eleven of 2016…that means there’s only 40 weeks of the year left.

With that in mind (and my previous post) I’ve signed myself up for ViewRanger‘s Walk 500 Miles in 2016 Challenge. If I had the whole year, it’d only be ten miles a week, but at this point I need to do twelve and a half miles a week to stay on target. It’s definitely doable, and I could possibly, maybe, even make it to the 1000 mile mark, but I’m trying to be realistic about what I will actually do. Twenty-five miles a week might be a little high-reaching…

I’ll (hopefully remember to) Tweet my progress!

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Life, Plans

 

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H-App-y Hiking…

 

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We’re lucky enough to live right on the edge of the countryside but, other than taking the dogs around a couple of fields, we never really taken advantage of it. There’s loads of footpaths leading off our usual dog walk and we wanted to go exploring, so I started looking online for maps of local footpaths…and I stumbled across an app called ViewRanger GPS

To start out with we were only using the free maps on ViewRanger to plan our walks (hikes, rambles, slogs through the mud…call them what you will) on public footpaths and bridleways, but there’s a lot more to it than just maps (although I didn’t know this at first).

I wanted to track our route and see how far we were going, so I downloaded Map My Walk (an app I’ve used before to track my walk to and from work) to use alongside the maps…

It tracks you every step of the way and at the end of your “workout” it highlights your route on a map (predictably) and gives you a whole load of information once the “workout” is done…how far we’ve walked…how long it took us…where we went…approximately how many calories we’ve burnt (it doesn’t know we’re lumbering through mud, climbing over stiles, battling dogs and carrying babies on our chests)…how quickly we walked each kilometre…the elevation of the hills we’ve climbed up and down…and I’m sure it has loads of other features that I’m neglecting to use/mention.

It was only recently that I discovered you can do pretty much all that using ViewRanger itself…

It’s not a spectacularly easy app to use, but after taking a bit more time to look around it properly (i.e. when sat on my sofa, rather than being pulled through mud by an overly enthusiastic Cockapoo) I figured out that I can use it to record the route as we’re walking (and later look back at how far we’ve come, the speed we went at, and the hills that we have walked up and down), follow a previously recorded route, and even plot a route for future walking. This last feature is interesting as (with a bit of practice at using it) I’ll be able to properly plan a route and know how far we’ll be walking before we walk it.

You can also follow tracks that other users have recorded (some are free, others cost a nominal fee to access), which might be useful when we’re not so close to home.

Getting out in the fresh air and (sometimes) the sunshine has done wonders for my low mood, and I’ve found that just making this one change has helped me to make changes elsewhere. Not only do I feel like I’m achieving something, but I’m more motivated to do things around the house and I feel fitter, more capable…it’s amazing what some fresh air and beautiful views can do.

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We’ve had some really lovely walks, even when they’ve been hard work…and some have been harder than others! Stiles are hard enough as it is when you’re:

  1. overweight
  2. carrying a baby in a carrier on your chest

…but when you are having to lift a 20 kilo Staffy and an 11 kilo Cockapoo over them too it starts getting a little bit silly. What’s even sillier is when someone (me) says “Don’t worry, they won’t ALL be like this…” and then six stiles later that same someone is apologising profusely to their fellow walkers and the poor confused dogs. I was very glad that my little sister was with us for that particular expedition. We won’t be walking that track again…

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Days Out, Life

 

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Cloth Bottys!…

At the moment you can buy Bambino Miosolo nappies for just £7.99 from Aldi (fabulous when you consider that they can be twice that price!) and you have three designs to choose from…

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…we got two each of the ‘little birdy’ and the ‘up up & away’ patterns.

We haven’t started using cloth yet (much to my chagrin) as I’ve just not been in the right place in my head to deal with the extra work. Even now, we’ve only got these four (plus the prefolds I’ve talked about already) so we have a way to go before we’re totally weaned off ‘sposies.

These nappies are all-in-one so they have a waterproof cover that has intergral absorbant material (thick microfibre in this case) rather than separate inserts. The insert can be pulled out to make washing/drying easier, and the pocket it goes in can be boosted with extra inserts, should you need to.

At first glance, they look great…

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The velcro fasteners can be secured back on themselves (top picture) which is really useful to keep the nappies from getting stuck to each other when washing. The insert has a handy little loop (right) to make pulling it out easier (for washing purposes), and it also has a little ‘glove’ pocket at the end (bottom left), to help push it back into place once they’re clean and dried.

Nappy Prep…

Cloth nappies need to be prepared before you can use them.

All nappies should be washed at least once to get rid of any manufacturing dirt/chemicals before use. Natural fibre cloth (like cotton and bamboo) has natural oils that will repel water (and, therefore, pee and poop) so they need to be washed on a hot wash two or three times to get rid of the oils and improve their absorbency.

Miosolos are completely synthetic so I put them through a 40 degree wash with a bit of Ecover laundry liquid, followed by a rinse to get rid of any leftover detergent. In the future (when they’re dirty) I’ll rinse them first to get rid of excess pee/poop, then put them through a 60 degree wash. I’ll probably follow with a rinse then too.

Note…you must wash natural and synthetic nappies separately until you have stripped the oils from the natural cloth so that the synthetic fabrics don’t take-up the oils as they are released.

I dried them on a radiator rack (so they weren’t directly touching the heat) and they were dry by the morning, but you can put them in the tumble-drier on a cool cycle if you want to.

Ready to go…almost…

So! The nappies are washed and ready to be used, but I don’t have any liners for them. Liners not only wick the wetness away from baby’s skin (which the fleecy material of the pocket also does) but they also make it a lot easier to deal with poop…

With liners, I’ll be able to throw (disposable liner) or wash (reusable liner) most of the poop away.

Without liners, I’ll have a pail full of lots of VERY poopy nappies. There will be staining. The bucket will smell a hundred times worse. I will be putting a LOT of poop through the washing machine.

At the moment I don’t know what direction to take with liners. Disposable ones seem easiest as they just go out of the nappy and either down the loo or into a nappy bag and into the bin. Reuseable ones mean less waste of course, and I kind of feel that if I’m going to be washing nappies and wipes (we use reusable wipes already) then I might as well be washing liners too…but I’m not sure I want to be rinsing poopy liners out.

I already have a big sheet of fleece (a cheap Ikea blanket…far FAR cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of fleece fabric) to make more wipes out of, so I may as well make nappy liners at the same time. It’d make more sense to do that than buy liners.

…I’m also waiting for a lidded bucket to arrive. I searched online for a “nappy bucket” and found several options, the cheapest being about £7. I searched again for a “lidded bucket” and found this white one for £4.99 (with free delivery) that I can decorate with Sharpies, should I so desire.

We’ve only got the four at the moment, and I’m loathe to buy any more until I know how they work for us, but we should be able to do the best part of a day in cloth once the bucket arrives.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Baby, Life, Parenting, Plans, Reviews

 

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It’s Not As Easy As Giving Up Milk…

I’m on lots of “mommy” groups on Facebook, and most of them are also to do with breastfeeding. There’s always someone talking about being asked “when are you switching to formula?” which invariably inspires people to say how cow’s milk (and that’s what most formula is made of) is for baby cows, not for people.

At the moment there is an horrific video going around these groups that shows how badly dairy cows are treated. It’s awful…it really is. Most women are commenting saying that they couldn’t watch the whole thing, and I cried while I was watching it. Unsurprisingly, it is inspiring an awful lot of my fellow group members to say that they’re going to stop drinking milk. They all start discussing alternative milks and how to make your own nut milk and how much better they’re going to feel.

Great!

…but it’s not that simple.

I don’t want to be Polly Partypooper about it, because the dairy industry IS barbaric, and going dairy-free is MUCH healthier, and wanting to stop drinking milk is VERY admirable, but bottles of milk aren’t a stand-alone product.

Milk is in absolutely everything.

Cutting out milk means foregoing butter, it means no cheese, it means reading the ingredients for every processed food you buy (milk in sausages and ham is totally a thing), it means asking to see the allergen folders in supermarket bakeries and delis, it means going to a restaurant and only having one or two dishes that are safe for you to eat, it means endlessly googling “restaurant name + allergen info” before you go out or having to rely on waiters to know their stuff…it usually means no dessert (next time you’re eating out try to find one that isn’t made with butter or milk or cream or cheese).

I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s a massive chore but it’s a MASSIVE chore.

I have to be overly cautious because eating dairy will mean pain for George to deal with, and lots of screaming and horrible poop for me to deal with. It perhaps wouldn’t be so difficult for you if you didn’t have to avoid milk so stringently…

The trouble is that now the dairy is out of my system, I also get sick if I eat anything with milk in it. It’s a common problem. When your body stops dealing with lactose it stops being able to process it, so reintroducing it can be problematic.

Life is harder for us in some ways because we can’t have soya either and lots of dairy-free stuff (like chocolate, spreads, ice-creams) is made with soya, but there’s people who have it a lot worse than me. I can’t imagine how difficult eating (especially eating out) is when you can’t have eggs, nuts, coconuts, fruits…

I don’t want to put people off because I think that removing milk (and related products) from your diet is a great thing to do. It is also a difficult thing to do, and often a demoralising one too – especially when you are watching people eat pizzas and creamy desserts.  If it weren’t for the fact that eating milk would hurt my son, I’m not sure if I would have had the will to keep going this long.

We’ve only been dairy/soya-free for about eleven weeks, but I’m immeasurably proud of myself for every day that I keep going, and I might even take it past breastfeeding…

…it might just become a way of life.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Baby, Breastfeeding, Dairy-Free, Food, Life

 

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Dairy-Free Cream Tea…

Being dairy-free is a pain in the arse at the best of times (because cheese), especially if you love cake (and cheese). Unfortunately, most cheese alternatives seem pretty awful (I’m sure they’re not as bad as I’m imagining, but cashew cheese just doesn’t do it for me on a theoretical level…I’m not going to waste my time making it just to find out that it is, in fact, terrible) but DF baked goods can be just as good as their buttery, milky counterparts. In fact, most cakes you buy from shops are made with margarine or oil, but they invariably have milk based stabilisers or use soya products (and George is intolerant to them too).

We’ve recently become the proud owners of a kitchen mixer, so I decided to start some baking experiments. I have an awful lot of weight to lose, but I like to bake so sod it. I’m going to bake!

One of the things I’ve been missing the most is cream teas, so this is where I started!…

THE CREAM…

You might be thinking that a “cream” tea is pretty hard to do without cream, yes? Well no, not really…not when there’s such a thing as coconut milk (and therefore, coconut cream).

I’m not talking about the “coconut milk drink” that you can buy to put in tea/over cereal here, I’m talking about the canned stuff that settles into two layers (cream and water) if you leave it to stand. I got mine from Aldi because it’s quite inexpensive and I already knew it settles into two layers.

Some websites suggest that you chill your cans of coconut milk overnight but I hadn’t realised this til 5 minutes before I wanted to make it. Whoops.

First I opened two cans and scooped out the cream…

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…saving the water (and a few splotches of cream) for porridge (oats and coconut water are supposed to be great for breastfeeding mothers to increase milk supply).

I added two tablespoons of sifted icing sugar and about a tsp of vanilla extract before beating it with the mixer’s whisk attachment.

I had visions of it turning into softly peaking clouds of cream, but no…it just crumbled up and looked like cottage cheese in the bowl. Sad face.

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I switched to the beater attachment and had a little more luck, but it started to separate a bit and I now had semi-fluffy clouds amidst an off-white puddle. Nice.

On the verge of admitting defeat, I popped the bowl into the fridge to chill it all while I regrouped and thought about making scones.

DAIRY-FREE SCONES…

I found a recipe that called for:

250g plain flour
40g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
45g butter
1 medium egg (beaten)
75ml whole milk
100g sultanas

…and I substituted Tesco baking fat in place of butter and Koko Dairy-Free instead of the cow’s milk. I always have Koko around because I drink it in tea, but I went with it (over other type of alt milks that I have) because my friend, Sarah (who does lots of vegan cooking) says that, in her experience, it behaves similarly to cow’s milk in cooking and baking.

I put all the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl along with the (cold and cubed) baking fat before trying to mix it.

I got flour everywhere.

I soon gave up and rubbed the fat in with my fingers like I should have done to start with, chiding myself for being lazy.

Then I added the sultanas, egg and milk, beat it until it turned to dough, rolled it out and cut it into squares before baking at 220°c. The recipe said to bake for 15-20 minutes but after 12 I noticed that they were burning (golden brown scones with black sultanas)…it was then I realised that the temperature was for regular ovens and not fan assisted. Whoops.

They were also a little dry and crumbly…possibly because the omission of full fat milk meant that they were lacking in fat content. Next time I make them I’ll use a little more baking fat and a drop more “milk”. I’ll also only cook them at about 200° to try and avoid the charcoal-tanas.

I then left them – in all their black-studded and crumbly glory – to cool…

BACK TO THE CREAM…

I got the cream back out of the fridge (it had hardened off now) and set about whipping the life out of it with the beater. Even though the beater had worked the first time I just got cottage cheese again (no matter how long or fast I had the mixer working). In frustration I switched back to the whisk head, just to see what would happen, and BOOM! Whipped cream. Ish.

It took a while and it was still a little separated, but I poured the watery stuff into another bowl (again, saved for porridge) and was left with something that didn’t look too dissimilar to whipped cream…and it tasted bloody fantastic!

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It was sweet and rich with a hint of vanilla and it was AMAZING with raspberry jam, even though the scones were exceedingly crappy.

It was a cream tea!

I haven’t had anything even vaguely like clotted cream in over 10 weeks so I wasn’t sure if my taste buds were lying to me, but my sister (who had been all “I’ll just have a small scone” skeptical-face about it) asked for a second helping, and Luke (who had been all “I’m not eating that” mocking-face) was lured into joining us. They both agreed that coconut cream is a lovely alternative to clotted cream, and that it more than made up for the rubbish quality of my scones.

Note…I stored the leftover cream in the fridge overnight and it hardened off quite a bit. I had scones again yesterday and had to scrape the cream and kind of modge it onto the scone. It still tasted just as good but it wasn’t as spreadable as it had been the day before.

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…apparently it softens up after being re-whipped but I wasn’t going to get the mixer out for just that so I settled for modging.

RESULT!…

Dairy-free scones were NOT a win on this occasion, but with a bit of tweaking (or a better recipe) I’m sure that they could be great. I’d like to have a go at an egg-free version too so that I can see if a vegan cream tea is within my capabilities.

Whipped coconut cream TASTED great, but was a bit of a challenge to make. I think I need to work on this part too.

…my next challenge is going to be a dairy-free chocolate torte. I’m planning on using amaretti biscuits for the base, so it’s going to be quite an involved make! Watch this space.

 
 

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Rolling, Rolling, Rolling!…

George rolled over ALL BY HIMSELF for the first time today!!!

…this is how it came about…

I took a trip to Ikea last week (to pick up a highchair…more about that soon) and got this play rug…it was only £14 and is HUGE. It’s also lovely and soft with a low looped pile, and it has SO much going on on it (roads, a beach, a castle, a volcano, shops, houses…it’s going to be the inspiration for many a game in years to come).

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Previously we’d only been doing tummy time on the bed, reasoning that it was nice and soft, and cleaner than the carpet (we have dogs), but it has always been pretty unsuccessful. He would just bury his face in the mattress and shriek in temper and frustration.

George hates tummy time…

He hates it so much that, to be honest, I’d rather not do it. In fact, most days we only managed a minute or two all day long, and I was starting to feel like an awful mother because he still couldn’t hold his head up off the bed for more than a couple of seconds.

Anyway. I bought the rug, and I bought it with the future in mind…after all, what use is a townscape playmat to an infant? I actually thought that I might be jumping the gun by buying it. It turns out to have been the best “toy” that I’ve bought so far.

The looped pile means that George can lick it as much as he likes and he won’t get a mouthful of fibres (always good!) and the fact that it’s firm (unlike the bed) means that he has far more support.

He did have a bit of a cry when I put him on his tummy but it wasn’t long before he was propped up on his elbows and reaching for toys…

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…and he stayed like that for ages

I called Luke to come and see because I couldn’t quite believe how well he was doing – how strong George was despite the lack of tummy time. We stood there smiling, proud, happy to watch him enjoying his toys from a new perspective, and then suddenly he just flipped over onto his back!…

I’m not sure who was more surprised, him or us!

We rewarded him with a chorus of cheers and his shock turned to smiles almost as quickly as he’d flipped over. He’s done it a few more times as the day has gone on, as well as almost managing a back to front roll on a couple of occasions.

All hail the Ikea play rug 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Baby, Life, Parenting

 

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