Archive for Foodie living

Going a Bit Potty

In the interests of squeezing in one more post before my babies turn two (TWO! TWO!?!) in less than a month, this entry is likely to be a bit rushed and all over the place, but bear with me.

Life is as busy as ever chez Becoming Mums but we are now on the countdown to the summer holidays and cannot wait! A lot of the girls’ friends are having birthdays at the moment so they are starting to get to grips with the idea of what birthdays are. They are excited about cake!

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We have had a bit of a lifestyle change in that we are attempting to go Paleo (if I have time I will go back and insert a handy hyperlink here before I hit publish; if not, I’m sure Google will tell you all you need to know). This has involved several major changes to what we eat to the exclusion of sugar, grains and gluten and a reduction in the amount of dairy we consume. At first I was starving, but we seem to have figured it out now – cutting out the majority of complex carbohydrates does mean you need to do something to replace all those calories! Our biggest struggle is that, living on one salary, we can’t really afford the high quality grass-fed meat that should be a major part of the Paleo lifestyle, not to mention organic veg, but with some compromises we are more or less making it work. L has become evangelical about it. In fact the other day she even said – bearing in mind she has always hated organised religion – that she has finally found her religion!

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We bought the girls potties a couple of months ago. I am in no rush to potty train as with reusable nappies we aren’t having to pay out for new nappies each week and I’m also a firm believer that they will stop using nappies when they are ready, but we had noticed that they usually do a wee when they get in the bath, so we thought we’d introduce the idea of their own little toilet and see if they would pee in it before bath time. At first this appeared to be an abject failure and we thought they were a million miles away from them ever being ready to use the potty. But since then – particularly as they often insist on staying “nakey” after a nappy change – we have had a few successes. Still no more than I can count on one – or at a push two – hands, but progress nonetheless. Sometimes, of course, they still wee standing right next to the potty, so I know we’re a long way from nailing it. At the moment we’re just enjoying the freedom the good weather is giving them to run naked around the garden.

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Yesterday Claudia said, “Mummy sit on the grass next to Claudie.” (If you were there, you possibly would have heard “mummy sit on a gahs nex a Daudie” and may or may not have been able to translate the toddler-speak yourself – it kind of amazes me that other people can’t understand everything they say, but of course I am immersed in it day by day!) they have both been speaking in real full sentences for a good couple of weeks, but the complexity of that sentence just blew me away. They are really talking and really able – most of the time – to make themselves understood. I can’t believe that this time last year they were still crawling and cruising around the furniture and could only say a handful of standalone words. Two months ago I started making a note of all the words I heard them say independently and in context (excluding proper nouns) as I had read that the average child should be able to use about 50 words by their 2nd birthday. I was just curious exactly how big their vocabularies are as I felt like they knew tons of words, but had no idea how many. By the time the count reached 200 I gave up! And okay, I know I’m totally bragging now, so feel free to tell me I need to shut up about how brilliant my kids are but sorrynotsorry my kids are brilliant!

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Food glorious food

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Current guidance recommends that you wait until your baby is 6 months before you start to offer them “solid” food (the inverted commas are because what this really means is “food other than breast milk/formula” – it isn’t always solid), so it was with excitement and trepidation we approached the girls’ 6 month birthday.

I didn’t know a great deal about weaning, but I knew there were different ways to go about it.  Some parents make their own purees up by blending food up and adding breastmilk or water, some parents buy pots of specially designed baby food and then there was Baby-Led Weaning.

All I really knew about BLW was that it involved finger foods (and a lot of mess), so I figured that we would do a combination of home-made purees and BLW, however, as the 6 month mark approached, I started worrying about how exactly you first introduce a baby to food.  Which foods should you start with?  How often?  Was there anything in particular you should avoid?  I was clueless.

Thankfully a friend of mine was able to recommend the book ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ by Gill Rapley.  This was a fascinating read, even just from a social history point of view as it goes into the history of weaning – how during Victorian times “bonny” (read: chunky) babies were seen as healthy, so the idea was to fatten your baby up as soon as possible.  This meant weaning was often started at 3 or 4 months, when babies can’t sit unaided or grasp anything efficiently in their hand, so the only option was blended purees that could be spooned into a baby’s mouth.  Now, it is recommended that you wait until 6 months, because a baby’s gut isn’t really developed enough to deal with solid food effectively before then and weaning early is believed to lead to more allergies.

I’m a pretty firm believer in “all things in moderation” – after all my initial thoughts about weaning were to combine the different approaches to give ourselves a more rounded method of weaning – but there are also times when I can be fairly black and white about things and, having devoured (if you’ll pardon the pun) the Gill Rapley book in just a couple of days (how on earth I would read anything without Kindle on my iPhone, I do not know; I absolutely cannot live without it!), I knew that if we were going to do BLW, we needed to DO BLW.

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The principles of BLW are that by spoon-feeding your baby, you are in control: you choose what they eat and how much.  You will hope for them to finish a “portion”, whether that is a shop-bought pot, or a home-made bowl.  With BLW, the baby is in control.  Yes, admittedly that sounds mental, but when you consider that a breastfed baby is also in control of when they feed and how much breastmilk they take, while the parents have no way of measuring their calorie intake, it does actually start to make sense.  You trust your baby to know when they are full and stop eating, the same way they do when breastfeeding.

So, rather than giving the baby blended purees, with BLW you offer finger foods.  By placing a few different sticks of food on the baby’s tray, you are giving them the chance to explore the tastes and textures of different foods at their own pace.  For the first couple of months it is not considered likely that your baby will actually get a lot of calories from the food you offer.  It really is more about them becoming familiar with food and playing with it.  (Again, this is a major difference from spoon-feeding, when you expect a baby to eat whatever you put – or try to put – in their mouth, without them knowing what it is, and without there being any real variety in texture.)  We have been offering the babies their solid food fairly soon after a milk feed so they are not hungry when they sit down to eat.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but actually makes sense as they are still getting all the calories they need from their milk feeds, plus they are happy and in “playtime mode” when they are given the food.  They put all their toys in their mouth anyway, so it is only a short step from that to actually tasting and eating the food we place in front of them.  If they were hungry when we offered them the food, they would be grouchy and get frustrated because they are not able to eat enough to fill their tummies at the moment.

This way, the babies have already tried a real range or foods, and can basically eat whatever we are eating as long as it is healthy, doesn’t have too much salt and is in an easy shape for them to grasp.  So far they have eaten: toast, apple, satsuma, porridge, sausage, stewed beef, pasta, sweet potato, mashed potato, swede, butternut squash, broccoli, carrot, cheddar, avocado, pepper, cucumber and melon.  We entered into it with really low expectations, thinking that they might lick a few things and throw most of it on the floor for the first couple of months.  A lot does get thrown on the floor, but they really are eating too – as the contents of their nappies are testament to!  I felt a strange sense of pride the first time they did actually bring a piece of food to their mouths, and even more when I watch them really sucking or chewing on something, even though it is no different from what they do with their toys.

And I’ve become a real BLW fanatic.  There’s no middle ground on this, I think it’s amazing and I don’t understand why anyone would choose to feed their baby any other way.  Of course, I understand that it is every parent’s choice how they feed their baby.  But seriously.  Why?  The girls are learning to try and enjoy a range of different tastes and textures and they are learning appetite control.

Of course, it is really messy, but they are definitely having a lot of fun!

A first taste from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Love is in the air

Yesterday it was exactly 6 months since our wedding (weird as it simultaneously feels like forever ago and just last week).  To celebrate, we went out and saw ‘Woman in Black’ at the cinema yesterday.  It’s a great film and I highly recommend it, but it is very scary!  The wife doesn’t really do scary films, but she was very brave.  When we got home we had a Marks and Spencer’s Valentine’s meal for two, even though it wasn’t Valentine’s day yet because I had other plans for today.

I’m not a big proponent of Valentine’s day – an opinion my wife has tried to correct – as I am pretty much of the mind that one should celebrate a relationship all the year round and not just on a day fixed to make lots of money for the greeting cards industry.  However, with the twins on the way in July I realised that my wife’s birthday (July) and our first anniversary (August) were likely to be somewhat underwhelming celebrations due to us being up to our eyeballs in dirty nappies and vomit and our beautiful, brand new bundles of joy.

With that in mind, I decided to try and make this Valentine’s day a bit more special.  Without my wife’s knowledge I booked us tickets to Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall tonight.  When she opened her card this morning, the tickets were inside.  I have also booked us in for an early dinner at a restaurant called Gaucho, which has a branch in Sloane Avenue.  This part of the evening is still a surprise to L (and although I normally get her to proof read my blog, this time I won’t and I’m scheduling this post to publish once we’re already there, so the surprise won’t be ruined!).  We’ve never been to Gaucho before, but have heard very good things – and it’s a steak house (L’s favourite food) so I know I can’t go wrong!

I’m also 16 weeks pregnant today – 4 months (give or take) – and this is the current state of my belly:

Beware the weird emerging belly button - do not look directly at it!

I’m feeling pretty good – although I’ve had a cold for OVER A WEEK and just cannot seem to throw it off – and I’m loving having a bump that actually is starting to look somewhat bump-like and not just like I overindulged!  I also got a ‘Baby on board’ badge from TfL which, if you live in London and use the train, tube or buses, is a really good idea.  It basically advertises the fact that yes, I would like your seat thank you very much, and avoids the awkwardness of people not wanting to insult you by suggesting you might be pregnant if you’re not.  I’m planning on wearing it with pride on our way up to Kensington this evening.

Best of all, Valentine’s day or not, I’m just really relishing the fact that it’s half term.  A week off – although it’s passing far too quickly already – is just what I needed and I now have just over a term until I go on maternity leave (probably, I haven’t officially given notice of when I plan to take it yet), which is very exciting.

We’re starting to think seriously about buggies and cots and all kinds of baby accessories, although we don’t really want to buy anything until we have moved – or at least know the dimensions of the rooms we are moving to – so I know the time will start getting away from us and the babies will be here before we know it.

Our flat is going on the market in the next couple of days, so fingers crossed we find a buyer quickly.  Lots to do and think about, but in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy today and the rest of the week.  Half term rocks.

The big question

Today there are officially less than 100 days to our wedding.  O HOLY FUCK!  The time draweth near.

475 days ago I proposed.

L had no idea.  I had been planning it for quite a while.  She’d seen a ring in Paris that she kept going on about.  Of course it was from Cartier and about €40,000, so in other words: slightly out of my price range.  I managed, however, to get a replica made for a fraction of the price as L’s mum has a jeweller friend who can make all kinds of jewellery.  So, in secret, I had the ring made and when it was finally ready I took it home.

I picked it up from L’s mum over Christmas and, having known it would be ready for collection around that time, I had made some plans.

Two weeks after Christmas I packed us a suitcase and made L get in the car.  I told her I had a final surprise Christmas present for her.  As we drove round the M25 she started ruling out destinations as we passed each exit without turning off.  She didn’t figure out where we were going until we were very close to our destination and she spotted a sign for Bray village.

I had reserved an amazing cottage in the village that was hidden in the grounds of a beautiful 16th Century house.  We had a wander around Bray village (which took all of about 15 minutes before we reached open country) and relaxed in our beautiful cottage, watching episodes of Gavin and Stacey on my iPod Touch.

I had booked a table at the Fat Duck for 7:30 (or, rather, my mum had, as bookings tend to fill up quickly and the booking line for each date opens at 10am two months before the required date and 10am tends to be inconvenient for me as I’m usually mid-flow through a literacy lesson by that time).  We got dressed (I had packed a couple of dresses for L – it’s a high-pressure situation packing clothing for someone else) and made our way to the restaurant, me clutching my bag extra tight in order to reassure myself its precious contents were still there.

We arrived and were seated.  I needn’t have worried about ordering champagne as it was one of the first things we were offered.  I ordered us two glasses and waited for it to arrive, my insides doing acrobatics to rival Cirque du Soleil.

The sommelier placed the champagne flutes in front of us and I fumbled over my bag, making sure it was on my lap and open.  I took a deep breath and it was at this point that L says she realised what was about to happen as my mouth went dry and my expression looked somewhat akin to someone smothered in gravy and facing down a hungry rottweiler.

Stumbling over my words, I told her how much I loved her and how amazing it felt to be with her and how happy she made me… and with trembling fingers I pulled the ring box out of my bag, sat it on the table and asked her to marry me.

She hugged me and kissed me and we both got choked up before she actually said yes.  We had the most amazing night.  The food was like NOTHING I have ever had before and, of course, I couldn’t stop smiling all evening.

We had the most incredible time and it was every bit as special as I had hoped.

Hers and hers rings - we had mine made by the same jeweller

(If you want to see photos from our night at the Fat Duck, you can do so by visiting my Flickr album.)

The words piss-up and brewery spring to mind…

On Thursday we headed into London town for our counselling appointment at Guy’s.  Despite having left plenty of time to get there, we foolishly decided to get the DLR rather than the overground train, which left us hurtling out of London Bridge and through the corridors of Guy’s worried we were going to be late.

We arrived at the ACU a couple of minutes late, but were then left hanging around at reception for a good 5 or 10 minutes while the hapless receptionist attempted to deal with the two people waiting in front of us.  Eventually he was ready to check us in and we gave him our names and the name of the counsellor we were due to see.  He looked at us quizzically and then explained – in broken English – that the counsellor we were supposed to be seeing wasn’t in that day.  He checked his list for the counselling appointments and told us we weren’t on the list either.  So he took our names and asked us to wait in the waiting room down the hall.

We waited.  And then we waited some more.  And after about 15 minutes we wandered back up to the reception desk to find out what was going on.

The receptionist still didn’t seem to have much of a clue.  He managed to explain that the counsellor we had booked with didn’t even work Thursdays, so he wasn’t sure how we could have an appointment with her, and of course the department handle their own bookings so he had nothing to do with that side of things.  He said that the counsellor who was in was just with a patient but that he would ask her to see us once she was out.

Luckily at this point a woman emerged from the room behind the reception desk and overheard our conversation.  She then pointed out to the guy that it might be worth walking down to the counselling room and seeing if the counsellor would answer the door as otherwise we could be waiting for another half hour or so.

So we went back to the waiting room while the receptionist strolled down and knocked on the counsellor’s door – he didn’t get an answer, but I wasn’t that surprised; I imagine it takes a real emergency to justify interrupting a counselling session mid-flow.  He assured us that he didn’t think she’d be more than 10 minutes more, but by this point it was well over half an hour past the time our appointment was supposed to start.  L asked him if the counsellor had another appointment at 3 and he acknowledged that she did, so we pointed out the futility of waiting for her to finish; at most, she’d be able to agree that we weren’t on her list and possibly make another appointment for us.  He agreed with us as if we had just unravelled one of the great mysteries of life.

We decided to leave, having wasted a good 40 minutes of our time, but left our phone numbers so that someone – preferably the person we made the appointment with – could call us back to rearrange.  When we did receive a phone call from the counselling department, it became apparent that they thought we were coming on Monday, not Thursday, demonstrating phenomenal organisational and communication skills.

Of course, because they are only available for appointments Monday to Friday 9 until 4, we have had to make an appointment during May half term, which is another 6 weeks or so away.  So you will have to wait with bated breath for details of our venture into the human psyche.

The day wasn’t a total loss, however.  As I mentioned previously, L had bought me tickets to see ‘Wicked’ on the same day.  So from Guy’s we headed across the river and had a very pleasant stroll along the north bank of the Thames, Soho being our ultimate destination.  We got as far as St Paul’s before deciding that Soho was really too far to walk from London Bridge and hopped on the Central line.  We had dinner and cocktails in Balan’s (which was lovely – fantastic food and cocktails were two for the price of one!) and then headed for the theatre via Carnaby Street so L could buy a pair of shoes.  (The ones she had on had turned into devices of torture.)

‘Wicked’ was as brilliant as I had heard, so, with the exception of the lost appointment, the day had been really lovely and an excellent finale to my very long and drawn out birthday celebrations!

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