Archive for October, 2010

Recently I was tagged in a meme by Kate at The Five F’s. Suitably pleased and excited, I rushed off to make soup so that I could share the recipe with you on here. However, it’s taken me a little while to get round to writing it up. My cooking is mostly of the “chuck in a handful of whatever’s in the fridge, taste it lots and maybe chuck in a bit more”. I’m inspired by Nigella’s take on noodle soup for my soup-making attitude. So rather than a clear, step-by-step recipe, you can treat this as a blueprint for something that could be referred to as minestrone soup.

I make this recipe for two, but my husband and I are greedy buggers who are used to big portions. You could probably feed two adults and two kids without much bother.


Three slices of bacon

One onion

Two or three carrots

One tin of chopped tomatoes

Chilli flakes

Stock cube/powder





Slice the bacon into strips and start frying it in a large pan with a bit of olive oil (I use garlic olive oil for things like this as I hate washing the garlic crusher; thanks again to Nigella for this one!). Chop the onion into quite chunky pieces and add it to the pan.

Stirring occasionally as you go, peel and slice the carrots and add them to the pan. Let everything cook for a few minutes so that the onion and carrots soften and the bacon starts to brown.

Add the tomatoes, then boil the kettle and top up the pan until you’ve got a decent volume of soup (I warned you it would be vague!). (You could use tinned plum tomatoes and just break them up with a spoon, or fresh tomatoes if you don’t mind preparing and skinning them. You’ll want to top up with more water if you do this.) Add some stock powder or crumble in a cube. I like Marigold Swiss vegetable bullion, but I’ve also made this with a beef Oxo cube (probably better if you’re using a lighter veg than kale otherwise it might all be a bit strong?). Add some chilli flakes (or don’t) – anything from a pinch to a teaspoon according to taste. You can add pepper here too, and salt if you need to, although taste first as the bacon and stock are both salty. Ooh, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

Add some pasta. If you’re organised and have well-stocked cupboards you can use special little baby pasta shapes designed for just this purpose. If you’re like me, break up a few strips of spaghetti. Add a couple of good handfuls of kale – it’ll wilt down so you may want to add a bit more once the first bit has wilted. You could use any spring greens/cabbage instead of the kale, or maybe broccoli. You could also add any other vegetables you have lurking in the bottom of the fridge. Just remember that the smaller you chop things, the quicker they’ll cook.

Leave to simmer for 15 minutes or so. I generally serve soup with those part-baked baguettes from the supermarket, which I love. You may want to make your own delicious fresh bread? If you do, please can I have some? ūüôā

So, this is a meme, I now have to tag people. If you’d like to be tagged, please comment or tweet me and I’ll add a link to you here. In the meantime I’m going to tag

Dawn at Knees Up Mother Brown

Lizzy at Quest for Yummy Mummy Status

I know that these ladies have done recipes on their blogs in the past, so hopefully they’ll be happy to share some soup with you.

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My son has some beautiful toys (ok, he has plenty of plastic crap too, but he does have a few lovely things!). When he plays with them, they can get a bit battered and bruised; a once-pristine gift ends up with a few battle scars.

But even though his wooden dog doesn’t look as shiny and new as it once did, I’m glad that it’s well used. If we’d kept it looking perfect, we wouldn’t have had walks like this.


I should add that again I was inspired by Spudballoo’s guest post on Red Ted Art. Her posts are full of simple tips to help you take better photos. This photo wouldn’t look nearly as good if I hadn’t read those posts! So many thanks to Spudballoo and Maggy at Red Ted Art.

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Since my baby turned six months a couple of weeks ago, I’ve started baby-led weaning. We did baby-led weaning with our first son, who is now nearly two and a half. He started slowly, and seemed to take a couple of big leaps at around eight months and ten months, when things seemed to ‘click’ a bit more and he started eating more food. I’ll be writing more about baby-led weaning in the coming weeks; this post is an introduction to the practicalities.

First, resources. I started with a bit of research online. At the time I was on a wedding forum with a great baby section where I read the experiences of a lot of people trying baby-led weaning. I haven’t been on there for a couple of years now so I can’t say for certain that it’s the same, but at the time it was a great resource for weaning and other baby-led, attachment-type parenting methods. I’m more of a Mumsnet girl these days¬†and you’ll also find good advice and a variety of experiences in the weaning section on their talk boards.

Next I bought the book.¬†I can’t recommend this enough – it has a very clear explanation of how to do baby-led weaning, how to deal withany problems, what to say to sceptical grandparents… you get the idea. I think it’s really important because it talks about the science and philosophy behind a baby-led approach as well as the practicalities.

I’ve also read a bit of Aitch’s excellent baby-led weaning blog and the associated forum. To be honest, I got on so well with baby-led weaning that I never really needed to look on here, but I have used it occasionally as a recipe resource.

So, the practicalities. We have an Ikea Antilop highchair, which seems to be a favourite with baby-led weaners due to its remarkably simple design. The first highchair we had for our now-toddler was a huge padded throne, but we quickly realised that padding and frills just means more places for food to get stuck.

I had the Antilop tray for Baby1, but I prefer to have my kids sitting right up at the table with the family, so this time I bought a stick-on place mat from Kiddicare. It’s very flexible, which means that baby can easily empty the contents of the food-catcher into his lap, and it can stain easily, but apart from those minor quibbles I really like it so far. It’s definitely easier than seeing a whole plate of food slung on the floor.

If we’re eating something with sauce I’ll use a bib with long sleeves. If it’s something dry then a plastic bib with a scoop is better for catching things that otherwise might end up on the floor (Tommy Tippee ones are popular, although we get on fine with Tesco Value range).

I don’t bother putting a cloth on the floor. If he drops something I either pick it up quickly or just leave it. He does tend to drop the majority of his food at the moment, but then picking up four bits of broccoli doesn’t take much more effort than picking up one, and they do get better as the months go on. Cleaning up can be a bit of a hassle; this is how I do it:

1. Wipe the baby (I’ve used the same batch of muslin cloths from toddler’s birth, and am still using them for all sorts)

2. Baby somewhere safe out of the way, clear the table (big bits in the bin, most of the rest on the floor)

3. Wipe the highchair (as above)

4. Pick up the big bits from the floor

5. Wait a couple of hours for everything else on the floor to dry out, then hoover up. I have one of these and I totally love it.

I realise that I haven’t actually discussed the food that I offer. Basically, he has what the rest of us are having, as long as it’s sufficiently low in salt and sugar, and isn’t too hard to squash with his gums. Top successes so far have included tuna sandwich and sweet potato wedges. But I’ll save a proper food post for another day.

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I know that the majority of people reading this blog at the moment are probably bloggers themselves. In the months that I’ve been blogging I’ve chipped away at the edges of the ‘mummy blogging community’, and I’ve learned that it’s tightly knit, but at the same time made up of a diverse range of people. The single unifying factor for mummy bloggers is that we all have children; within that set of people there are a mass of different opinions, attitudes and ways of dealing with conflict.

I read a few posts today about recent ‘disagreements’ and bitching in the mummy blogger world. Frankly, I wish I hadn’t. As I said on Twitter, I’m interested in reading intelligent, creative blogs. I absolutely have neither the time nor the energy to get sucked into the dense soap opera that lurks below the surface of British mummy blogging. I don’t care who said what to whom, who might be jealous or who whispers ‘satirically’ about it. I’m interested in people who have something interesting to say about their lives or about how they see the world.

This afternoon, after wasting 40 minutes of my life (that’s time I’ll never get back!) reading various tweets, posts and comments about the whole saga, I suddenly saw sense. No more. I’m not engaging with it any more and it won’t take up any more of my valuable time.

Instead, I’ll be doing things like this.

We had a lovely walk through the forest. The weather was cold but gloriously sunny and clear. My firstborn son gets more independent every day; the recurring refrain this afternoon when I asked if he wanted me to help and hold his hand was “No, my try it first”. We took a circuitous route home so that he could point out the numbers on the houses, one of his new favourite pastimes. I also had fun getting to grips with my Hipstamatic iPhone app.

Back to the 70’s. I like to think that my finger in the corner gives that ‘authentic’ feel!

The early evening sunshine beyond the trees.

The light and the trees again, this time with the ‘John S’ lens.

A little tree (a bush?) framed against the evening sky. I love the vivid colours with this lens. I think this iPhone app may be a bit of a novelty, and at the moment as I’m learning the differences between the lenses it’s definitely more a combination of luck and trial and error rather than any planning and skill going into the images, but I like it.

So, I didn’t change the world, I didn’t resolve an argument (or make one worse). I went out into the fresh air with my family and I had fun.

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This week I have been mostly thinking about red things. We spent another Sunday at Beamish Museum and I took photos of lots of things that were red, as the theme for this week’s Gallery is The Colour Red. The best one turned out to be a shot that I¬†¬†snapped on my iPhone.

We were on the tram and the light was shining through the coloured windows. To explain, this shot shows the tram windows, though into the next tram as we were parked up waiting to go.

I also took a shot where his face was bathed completely in red, but it just didn’t look as good (in fact, it looked really weird and spooky – maybe what the Halloween gallery is looking for?!). I think this one shows that to see a colour properly, you need to contrast it with something else.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the photos in this week’s Gallery, if you’d like to take a look you can find them here.

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Today my baby is six months old. The time has gone quickly – it doesn’t seem so long ago that you and I first met, in a bright, white room surrounded by doctors and midwives.

At five days overdue and weighing in at 10lb 14oz (yes, you read that right!) you were quite a sight to behold. The newborn clothes that we’d brought to hospital didn’t even fit you. I’d never spent a night apart from your brother then all of a sudden here I was, starting all over again with a brand new baby. I’d never been one of the mothers who wonders whether they’ll love their second child as much as their first. I always knew I’d love you, but still I’ve been surprised just how much it is possible to love. Our little family is complete.

Of course, in other ways the time seems to have gone slowly. When I think of the early days, of all the times you screamed while I frantically tried to get your brother dressed, of the times you wanted feeding all day or the times we all shouted and cried… those days sometimes seemed to last for years.

Yet for all the challenging times, there have been wonderful moments that make up for the tears 100 times over.

My poor baby has suffered indignities at the hands of his big brother.

He has been squashed, bitten and enthusiastically licked by a toddler learning to express his love and affection.

He has stretched, reached, rolled over.

He has spent hours and hours drinking litres and pints of breastmilk.

Most of all, he has smiled his way through life.





Today my son has reached the grand old age of six months. So today we start a new adventure. Baby, welcome to the world of food!

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Baby’s first nightmare

All was tranquil in the Imperfect household. Picture the scene. Rogan lamb, sag aloo and a Peshwari naan from the local curry house just about polished off. Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop on the telly (which, I must say, is well worth a watch!). We were finishing the remains of our supermarket Merlot when suddenly a scream pierced the air. The lights on the baby monitor flashed into life as the wailing continued. My husband rushed upstairs to find the toddler half-awake, half-asleep and clearly very distressed. Over the monitor I heard the little one mutter the words

“Sheep not nice. Sheep not nice.”

We’d been talking about sheep just that afternoon. We live in a semi-rural village and outside our house, just across the road, there’s a field which is home to a small flock of sheep.

Apparently, according to the toddler, these sheep are nice. The sheep at Adventure Valley, however, are Not Nice. Our local sheep are calm and sedate, generally too preoccupied with munching grass and taking in the view to give you a passing glance. The sheep at Adventure Valley, a nearby kiddie farm, are a whole different ball game. Perhaps because their small indoor pen isn’t quite as interesting as a large grassy field, or perhaps because their unusual lifestyle has removed their natural aversion to humans – either way, they like to greet visitors enthusiastically. For a toddler whose main experience of sheep is watching Timmy Time and singing Baa Baa Black Sheep, apparently this presents quite a scary prospect.

Who knows what a toddler nightmare is like? I read today in The Baby In The Mirror that toddlers can’t centre themselves in their memories until they’re two and a half. So presumably it was just the sheep. Jumping sheep, gnashing their teeth?¬†¬†Sheep with gleaming red demonic eyes? Hundreds of sheep closing in from all angles? Sadly, his explanation didn’t stretch beyond “Sheep not nice.” After a cudddle from Daddy he was sound asleep again within minutes, the scary nightmare forgotten. We’ll never know what his first nightmare was like. But next time we’re at Adventure Valley, I think we’ll stick to the duck pond.

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You might remember last month we were lucky enough to review the Playskool Ball & Gear Centre. That post features a link for 50% cashback on Playskool toys which is active until the end of October. Now the lovely folk at Playskool have asked me to run a giveaway of the Ball & Gear Centre too.

The Ball & Gear Centre is suitable for babies from 9 months up (although as you can see, our then-five-month-old rather liked it too!).

For a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post, telling me what toy you’d like to get for your kids for Christmas.

The competition is open to UK residents only. Entries will be accepted until midnight on Saturday 23rd October. The winner will be selected using a random number generator and will be contacted by email on Sunday 24th October. If they have not responded within five days then a new winner will be drawn. The prize will be sent directly to the winner from Playskool.


Since posting this I’ve discovered that some other bloggers are giving away Playskool toys this week too. For more chances to win, check out

There’s an Explore & Grow Activity Tower at Making it up

A Step Start Walk & Ride at Transatlantic Blonde

A Gloworld Musical Gym at Typecast

Susan K Mann is giving away another Ball & Gear Centre

There’s a Chase Me Critter at Glowstars

And finally, a super-cute Lullaby Gloworm at Cooking, Cakes and Children

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Our homework for last week’s Taking Charge of Your Life class was to think about some possible goals that we might want to achieve by the end of the course. I had intended to blog about this last night, but I got caught up doing some real work (ok, it’s unpaid work at the moment, but hopefully it will develop into new things…) and the need for sleep won over the need to blog. I’m glad I didn’t get round to blogging it, as in class today we talked through how to set goals effectively and I now have a definite goal I want to achieve.

These boots are my goal.
Aren’t they gorgeous? They’re on trend but, being DMs, also a bit classic. They’re built to last and they’ll keep my feet warm and dry as I tromp along bridle paths with the off-road double buggy. I want want want them. I need them.
But given that I recently imposed a new, fairer personal budgeting system on myself and my husband, my monthly ‘personal allowance doesn’t even cover half the cost of those boots. And given that I spend most of that allowance on socialising (i.e. toddler groups, parking costs and an occasional lunch or tea and cake with friends), if I tried to save up ¬£130 from what I have left at the end of the month, I’d probably have the boots by Christmas 2012.
So, using our handout on Key Criteria for Setting Goals, goals must be:
Written down
My goal is to have enough money to buy these boots.
Have target dates by which you will achieve them
26th November – the last day of the course.
Be expressed in the present tense, as if they were already real.
I have made enough money to buy these boots.
Be reviewed daily.
I’ll review progress on an evening. I’ll keep a list of tasks so I know where I’m up to, and keep a running total of the cash. I will tweet updates every evening.
Have a clearly defined destination.
£130 in the bank.
Have means of measuring progress towards your achievement.
What’s next on my list? How much money is in the bank?
Have a tangible reward for achievement.

So, let’s go for it. Of course, there are other goals I have in mind too. I need to get some new clients for freelance work. There are various vague wants and ideas that I need to pin down into measurable, realistic goals: dreams of a tidier house and a more organised life. But let’s take it one step at a time.

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Being a mother, you might expect that my favourite photo would be one of my kids. And it would be, except that given that one can’t yet sit unaided and the other can’t stop moving, it’s impossible to get a picture of them both together looking half-decent. My best attempts are probably this one, snapped with my iPhone when the baby was just a few weeks old (he’s a big baby!),

and this one, taken on holiday a couple of weeks ago. The baby is saying “Yikes, another cuddle!”.

As you’ll probably agree, neither of these are up to favourite photo standard. Instead I’ve gone back to my childhood again, and scanned in an old photo (or technically, set of photos) for you all.

This is me, my Mam and my little brother. The date written on the back is 6/4/89, so I would have been almost 6 and my brother 3 1/2. I love this photo because I think we all look fresh, happy and beautiful. These days I’m blown away by how much my brother looks like my son (who is also pictured on my blog here and here); it could almost be the same person.

I love the way this photo tells a little story, of the moments in between each photo as well as the moments captured on camera. Photo booths in the olden days took a set of four photos, so my Mam was willing to take the chance on just one potential passport shot and squeeze us in for the other three. Imagine the scene, my Mum trying to manage a three- and five-year-old: “You need to both wait nicely while Mummy gets her photo taken…” *FLASH* Then quick, quick, everybody in, balance on my knee, look forwards… *FLASH* Five-year-old out, but don’t wander off, three-year-old in, look at the camera (or don’t!)… *FLASH* Toddler out, other one back in, eyes to the front, everybody smile! *FLASH*

Then waiting for an age for the pictures to print, flapping the strip about to get them to develop quicker, all with two impatient children eager to put their greasy fingers all over them. What was she thinking? But she clearly had the right idea, as they’re a lovely set of photos. If you look closely you can see a little hole at the top, made by the pin that held this strip to my pinboard for many years, at home and at university.

I’m sure I’ll see some technically brilliant, carefully lit and perfectly composed photographs as I look through this week’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers, and I recommend that you check them out yourself. Maybe one day I’ll take one like that of my children, good enough to earn the title of ‘My Favourite Photo’. But for now, these ones suit me just fine.

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