Breasts, crochet and another, different, red pepper and walnut pate

 On Tuesday I got my breasts out in the local church hall.

Oh, you want more? An explanation for my heathen behaviour? While I don't, as a rule, go around exposing myself in religious establishments I was in a room full of other women who were proudly getting their breasts out. Finally the BfN (Breastfeeding Network) have set  up a local group and I no longer have to be regarded as unusual or eccentric for breast feeding my baby. Up until now I was the only person I knew who chose to breast feed in my local area. The only one! Its been a surprisingly isolating experience on some levels but I'd never change it.  I'll be back next week to talk with people who don't react with disbelief and horror at terms such as 'attachment parenting', 'baby led weaning' and *gasp* 'co-sleeping'.

Other stuff:

Small successful crochet projects have included these balls:

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I'm pleasantly surprised at how much baby enjoys them. Usually she'll chase them around the room like a cat but we also play throwing and rolling games with them. Homemade hippy type entertainment right there! Oh! Maybe I could turn my granny squares into stackable cubes for her?!

For my next crochet project I have my eye on a tutorial from (a different) Lucy at Attic 24 for covering containers.  So many amazing free projects and her instructions are incredibly clear. She also has the most homely looking house that I have seen. I want to move in now. Thank you.

Finally, after yesterday's post I was reminded of a red pepper and walnut pรขtรฉ that we made constantly over the summer when we had a 3kg bag of walnuts.  It contains pomegranate molasses which everyone has in their cupboards right?  You bought it from an Asian/Middle Eastern grocers didn't you? Yeah. I thought so.

 

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100g walnuts

50g fresh bread (crust removed)

1 roasted red pepper (skin and seeds removed)

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses*

1/2 tsp ground cumin

pinch of cayenne or a splash of hot sauce (optional)

4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of salt

Put everything in a processor and blend until desired texture. It gets thicker the longer it is blended as the walnuts turn to a nut butter. If you want it more of a dipping consistency add some water a tablespoon at a time and adjust the seasonings.

 

 

presents and mincemeat

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(me and the best present ever…the tree house)

This will probably be mainly about mincemeat though.

I bought my presents back in October. I don't really know why, I just felt that for once organisation was important. I did not go mad with gifts even though it's baby's first christmas because, well,  there's not a whole lot you can buy a not quite one year old. I have a bit of a list of ideas but it is mainly baby specific I'm afraid so feel free to scroll down to talk of mincemeat. They're also not brash plasticy disposable toys…most aren't toys at all.

I wanted books that weren't too…normal. So one was Andy Warhol's Colors . Purple horses? But of course! I also bought Daddies . This book makes me laugh because of it's ridiculous stereotyped jobs that the daddies do but I adore the illustrations.

Nic Nac Noo do fabulous toys. I love them, all wooden and bright and gorgeous. Oh and Myriad, love their wooden toys too especially this rainbow.  

Etsy is a great place to find the unusual and the handmade. Artwork by The Black Apple was bought but who is it really for? Um, me just now but I like to think it will become a treasured item.

What I desperately want are these blocks or these ones! The benefit of a wooden toy like this is that a) child gets to use imagination b) they will last as a play thing for years and c) child gets to build towers and then knock them down ferociously while chuckling. Fun!

And, not for baby, but I got this as a gift for mothers day and, well, I love it…The Kindle . I don't think it is an appropriate format for all books but for a basic novel it is excellent. It has turned out to be the best thing for this breast feeding mummy. I can hold it and turn the pages with one hand and baby doesn't try and grab it. Well at least not as much as a normal book. Plus, as I'm impatient when it comes to books, I can download them instantly. Hurrah!

On to mincemeat!
Ok, so as a child I had a deep distrust of a mincemeat pie. 1) I thought they were meat pies 2) when someone explained they were sweet I then thought they were meat pies with sugar in them and 3) when I was finally convinced to try one it was despoiled with chunks of peel.

I've moved on since then and love some homemade mincemeat and like the cake and pudding its best if made in advance. Last year i made the mincemeat recipe from this book . It doesn't have suet in it for those not keen on saturated fats (or, it now occurs to me, palm oil. There are environmental reasons not to use palm oil). Previously I used to always use this recipe (scroll down) which is more traditional. We have also been gifted about 8 jars of it and I'm now desperately trying to think of ways of using it all up. A normal mincemeat pie is all well and good but there must be other ways. 

If you don't want to make it most supermarkets will sell a vegan option (in the UK anyway) and Goodness Direct sell a sugar free mincemeat (sweetened with apple juice and all the dried fruits)

Another  thing:
The cake turned out great. I ended up using a general cake recipe and just left out the eggs and added a splash or two of soya milk. I made up the mix and put it in the lined tin the day before I baked it. I have been told that it can be left like this for up to 3 days. Apparently it produces a flatter topped cake which is easier to ice. I don't ice my cake but i found it easier to do it this way. I also baked it at 140C rather than 160C as my oven is fierce and I despise burnt cake.

 

in the bleak midwinter…

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A frozen stream in the woods a couple of Solstices ago. Bleak or beautiful?

Christmas. Yule. A time of celebration, feasting, lights, sparkle and joy, rest and relaxation and all your favourite people, food and activities. Is it? Is that what it really is for you?

About seventeen years ago I was hugely pregnant with my daughter who was due on Christmas day. My GP told me he would be on call that day. I voiced the idea that surely that must be quite nice, I mean who would call the doctor out at Christmas except for the most dire of medical emergencies? He looked at me bleakly, and then dashed the whimsical, possibly pregnancy hormone influenced *snow outside, doctor warm by the fire with a glass of mulled wine* vision out of my head. (soundtrack to vision: 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire', played very mellowly on an antique grand piano)

His Christmas would begin at midnight when the elderly and infirm (who should not be out of their warm beds in the middle of the night, midwinter, Northern Scotland) started collapsing in church before, during and after Mass. The daytime was mainly filled with people who have conditions that negate the eating of rich foods and drinking of alcohol who were then suffering the various consequences of having done so.

But the evening was the worst. All day long family members who rarely see each other and like each other not at all had been suppressing their bitterness, gritting their teeth at Great Aunt Mildred's jibes and generally seething. By about 6pm things were breaking down. Literally. He was expecting nervous breakdowns, domestic violence, suicide, murder attempts and sobbing. Lots of sobbing.

People. It's not worth it. Think about the Christmas you really want and have it. Make it happen. It took me almost forty years to achieve it. Don't wait that long. It was scary. It faced opposition. I mean could it really be Christmas without 48 hours of food preparation for extended numbers of people? Without cleaning the house top to bottom early in the morning? Without having to get dressed up? Without bribing children to demonstrate orthodox ideas of good behaviour? Without complete exhaustion? Without having nearly bankrupted yourself to buy ridiculous amounts of presents for ridiculous amounts of ridiculous people who probably won't like them anyway? Umm…

It's so simple now.

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Authentic picture of the fire last Christmas Day ๐Ÿ™‚ Snuggling up in front of it is so good, as are: normal quantities of good food; closeness with the people you cherish most; crap on telly and festively shaped chocolate. The beauty of midwinter is much easier to see in these conditions.

Of course some do thrive on stress… if that's you, well, great ๐Ÿ™‚ If not…

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Ice Cream Bombe that was consumed on a perfect, peaceful Christmas. Recipe here (is very easy and can be made much in advance), extra preparation pics here.

Disclaimer: The Modern Housewife Series Vol I can take no responsibility for any consequences that come about as a result of following the advice above or discovering the Power of No. Wheedling phone calls of the 'we'll just pop in for a little while' ilk are not our fault. Conversations urging you not to streak naked through the woods are not our fault (fiction for humorous purposes of course, that one… err…)

The fact that putting your foot down over your Christmas may extend out into the rest of your life leading to much self authentication, joy and freedom? Again: all you.

I will be more positively festive and less Grinchy in the next post… promise ๐Ÿ˜‰

Does ‘toyless’ equate to ‘soul-less’?

A worry I had about my house recently. Not a huge worry, I didn't lose sleep. But for a few moments, anticipating the arrival of a friend with her eighteen month old, I looked around and wondered. The small child was going to be bored here, in the abode of adults and teenagers who now play with ipods more than playmobil (a strange and sudden metamorphosis that was). A swift march to younger teen's wardrobe, a frustrated dig and pull later (more project action babe press ups needed) and toyboxes had been unearthed.

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Ring Wraith Horse – why was this ever put away??? The keeness with which we set about arranging and playing with miniture equines was quite heartwarming…

I looked around and found other ensouled objects sitting about anyway:

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John Lennon and the Beatles within were actually the most favoured toy of the day by visiting little person ๐Ÿ™‚

And then I looked out and blew up this:

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Wow. So many years since I've been on one of these, what a workout! It's amazing the difference a pair of antenna make to a gym ball… however a sports bra is essential here too. Leaping across the dining room on it in a Tesco balcony bra causes VERY BAD THINGS to happen and these words to be said: "there was no point you turning away to fix yourself, we all saw you in the mirror anyway". I have lovely friends ๐Ÿ˜€

Breastfeeding- it’s all instinctive. Right…?

Bficon-medBefore I ever got pregnant there was no doubt in my mind that my baby would be breastfed. I knew all about the health benefits to mother and baby and as far as I was concerned formula milk was not a food for a human baby. As I progressed through my pregnancy I met an increasing amount of women keen to share their knowledge but also to share their experiences of breastfeeding. What came out was grim. The majority of women that I spoke to had either not tried breastfeeding at all or had breastfed for a few weeks or maybe a few months and then stopped. The reason that came up time and time again was "breastfeeding was difficult". The more I heard the more I worried and as I hit the third trimester of my pregnancy I suddenly developed a major fear…"what if I can't breastfeed"?! 

The constant barrage of negativity surrounding breastfeeding was getting to me.  Surely women all over the world breastfeed? Surely generations of women before me breastfed? Surely it couldn't be that difficult? Could it? To find out I spoke to as many women as I could who I knew did breastfeed and did so successfully and continuously for longer than a few months, I spoke to my midwife and asked questions at ante natal classes, I went to every breastfeeding group in my area and I bought a book. I found out two things 1) There are frighteningly few women who breastfeed and 2) breastfeeding is difficult. I really had not wanted to find out either of these things.

Then I had my baby…

…and breastfeeding is difficult but not impossible. It is not a wondrously instinctive behaviour which mother and child instantly take to it has to be learned and both mum and baby make mistakes.

I believe that it is difficult because we have, in this country anyway, lost a few generations to formula feeding or to the misguided timed approach to breastfeeding (where the baby is limited to the amount of time it can feed. No wonder they failed to thrive, the milk dried up and they were put on a bottle!). We don't see women breastfeeding anymore and it's not the social 'norm'. This is so incredibly sad as it is the most natural of things to do. We have also lost the support network due to not living in extended families and growing up surrounded by breastfeeders. The reason so many of the women I had spoken to had discontinued breastfeeding was because they expected it to be instinctive and easy and it wasn't so they stopped. The reason the successful feeders managed was because they had either grown up with it being commonplace, had a support network in their local community or knew that it was going to be difficult so persevered.

While the classes had vaguely prepared me for what was to come it was a lot like driving a car for the first time…so much to remember, so many checks to make! The key to my successful breastfeeding was 1) getting the help of every single midwife, nurse, nursing assistant or breastfeeding helper that I could while in hospital and not leaving until I understood what I was looking for when the baby latched on correctly and 2) staying calm even when baby was screaming and refusing to latch on and 3) leaving modesty by the door and allowing every midwife etc to grab my boobs and show me what to do with it to make baby stop screaming.

In the end it's been a roaring success and yes we have off days as her feeding patterns change and we both adjust but I am convinced we succeeded because I expected it to be difficult…and I quite enjoy getting my boobs out in public places.