Category Archives: Blogging

Cooking with rhubarb and small children

Since my headline is anything but, I’d like to make it absolutely clear I didn’t cook Ramona. The idea is occasionally tempting.

So, for the full explanation of our adventures in growing rhubarb, and a great recipe for stuffing apples with rhubarb, see Great British Chefs. Because, yes, I’ve been lucky enough to get another post featured and I am One. Happy. Woman. With any luck – and if I can pull my finger out – this will be a slightly more regular occurrence. I’m feeling sufficiently buoyed by my unusually positive experience with an almost-three-year-old in the kitchen that I might let down my guard further and attempt something a bit more complicated.

It might also involve rhubarb, because I’m getting a little wee bit obsessed with it. Every time a tiny shoot of it gets large enough to munch on, I rip it up, slice it fairly thinly and simmer it in a small puddle of melted butter with a sprinkling of sugar so that it becomes a soft, eye-wateringly tart and delicious compote for porridge or yogurt – and even, one morning, a toast topping. Sadly, I can’t much get Ramona involved in this process – knives! hobs! hot butter! – though I did use the magic of Sam I Am to get her to try the resulting gloop after she announced without tasting it that she didn’t like it. She then stole the remainder in my bowl and snaffled it happily.

As an aside: she’s actually not at all a fussy eater – her key list of dislikes at the moment amounts to peanut butter and bell peppers, and even then she’d eat the latter if they were cooked and concealed. Not exactly things she can’t live without, anyway; we get no-sugar-added peanut butter, but it still has plenty of unnecessary salt.

My challenge now is how to eat more rhubarb without eating more sugar. I already eat far too much and am looking to make some reductions; nothing terrifying, just making sure most of the sugar I eat comes from vegetables and fruit, rather than being added, and that I reduce the amount of baked goods I eat in general, including bread.

So how is unsweetened rhubarb to be eaten, short of wincing and gulping until my battered taste buds learn to cope (that’s an option)? In a fit of attempted common-sense thinking, I loaded up the fruit bowl with apples, on the basis that perhaps mixing the ‘barb with sweeter fruit would increase the fructose content overall and balance out the tartness. Perhaps a few berries in there as well?

And what about potentially including it in savoury food? Or is that too Masterchef? All suggestions welcome.

When we moved in, back in September, there was still loads of rhubarb growing, so I’m hoping we’re going to get the Doctor Who of rapidly regenerating crops here. There are at least four crowns of it growing away, and one even survived my ill-conceived (and, it must be said, ill-intentioned) butchery in those days before I actually tried eating it and discovered its awesomeness. It’s possible Green Eggs and Ham has struck a chord with more than one Goldstein.

And to finish this vague ramble about what I reckon could be the most divisive vegetable since Brussels sprouts, some photos I didn’t use for GBC. Outtakes, if you will. No, I can’t explain the random heap of aubergines in the background, and yes, I would normally use actual butter but we’d run out.

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Great British Chefs: Summertime, Action Against Hunger and Blogging!

I’m really very excited, as my very first post for Great British Chefs has appeared on their blog today! Being me, I managed to combine social media and food in a post, asking about the future of food programming and the role of platforms like Twitter in developing the competition and campaigning side of things.

I consider myself extremely privileged to have now appeared on four sites I regularly enjoy reading (BitchBuzz, Bea Magazine, The F Word and now GBC), talking about all my favourite things.

And speaking of GBC, campaigning and privilege, have you downloaded the new Summertime app yet? You should, because it’s ace.  One of the things I really love about GBC apps is the emphasis on really beautiful design; I don’t think I’ve ever actually made anything from Feastive which is not a failing of the app’s, but entirely my own; still, I could look at it all day. Plus I think I’ve mentioned before – about four million times – what a Wareing fangirl I am, and his recipes appear on both. But what’s really special about Summertime, apart from its current relevance, is that it was developed in partnership with Ocado which has allowed GBC to donate all the proceeds to Action Against Hunger. It’s priced at £1.99, of which at least £1.20 goes to the charity. Just £36 can provide a month’s supply of therapeutic nutritional products (such as Plumpy’nut, for example) to nurse a severely malnourished child back to health. That’s maybe thirty app downloads – and of course there’s nothing stopping you heading to their website to donate too.

Food! Technology! Non-profits! Blogging! It’s a Christmassy day in August. And now I’m off to write a review of Brave for BitchBuzz, which means two more of my very favourite things in the world: reviews and Disney.

Bloody hell, I’m a lucky woman.

Running, Mumming and Baking: It’s all go here…

Today is one of those days when I want to blog about six different things, and I only have time to blog once – if that. It’ll be a miracle if I get to say everything I want to say and considerably more miraculous if anyone’s still with me at the end. For ease of skimming, therefore, I’ve split things into three categories: running (as in the exercise), mumming (as in a made-up word for parenthood, not a seasonal, traditional folk play) and baking. Baking is the shortest, so we’ll start there, in reverse Miss World (ugh) order:

Baking

I haven’t had time to do much baking at all since Ramona’s been born as she’s a light napper during the day and I’m freakin’ exhausted at night. But I’ve discovered she’s not much of a breakfast eater, except if it’s toast, eggs or yogurt. In a bid to get her to eat a little more, I’m investigating some low-sugar banana bread options. All the recipes are online, so once I’ve decided which one to make and I know how it’s turned out, I’ll post links and descriptions. Cake is certainly the quickest baking option, non-iced cake even quicker and loaf-style bready cakes the easiest of all as the vast majority of the time is spent with it maturing in the oven. Plus they freeze and keep really well, so if she likes it I can churn out a bigger batch next time and freeze it in 1/4 or 1/2 loaf batches for occasional breakfasting / dessert.

She loves bananas, so it should go well; plus it’s never to early to get her in on the Roumbas family addiction to cinnamon. (The Goldsteins are a bit indifferent towards it, but some of them are also incredibly fussy eaters which is not going to be tolerated from the smallest Goldstein).

Mumming (and a bit of Working)

Dear God, it’s been a trying few weeks. I refer you to BitchBuzz and my ‘Stay Confident Through Baby Phases‘ post to see what I mean, although recently we’ve had an unwelcome addition to the fun and games – as the screeching has started to recede – just to keep us on our toes: waking up in the night. It’s only twice so far, and she is only eight months old, but it’s all the worse for being somewhat unfamiliar to us (yeah, I know, there are going to be parents out there thinking ‘cry me a river’ as they go through their 300th consecutive disturbed night. Sorry guys. I feel for you, I really do).

I’m not even sure it’s a good thing for the baby if she sleeps through the night early but ours did and we were bloody grateful for it. Unfortunately it means that when she has been waking up recently, we’re slightly at a loss as to what to do because it’s not like at the beginning when all she wanted was a drink and a burp. We usually tick off the checklist first: water, milk feed, change, cuddle and shushing, soothe. Once we’re sure her basic needs are met and she’s not ill, we try a bit of gentle ignoring for a few minutes at a time, stroke hair, ignore some more. But last night she built up to a fever pitch of upset which culminated in a river of projectile recycled milk all over her dad’s chest. We should be thankful it was a warm night and he wasn’t wearing a top.

Funnily enough the vomiting seemed to calm her down. After a cuddle and some more milk she was out for the count until her normal waking up time. But meanwhile she’d been awake for two hours in the middle of the night. I should be sleeping now as it’s her nap time, but can’t, and Ash is at work. He adores his job; and thank goodness, as it gives him a reason to be upright and alert!

So, yes, mumming is being rather challenging at the moment.

But on the other hand, the last thing I do at night before I go to sleep is cast an eye into her cot, and there is simply nothing in the world more beautiful to me than the site of my snoozing, pouty-mouthed little bundle of gorgeousness looking calm and quiet, arms flung out to the side, or occasionally raised to either side of her head as she used to have them when she was really tiny: the traditional baby ‘pea on a fork’ pose.

I do so adore being a mummy. Although I am also looking forward to being a worker ant again. April 7th marked three years at Dogs Trust, and I have missed the digital team and the exciting and fun things we get to do. It will be a wrench tearing myself from Ramona just as she gets even more independent and interesting, but it would be a wrench to tear myself away from the things that I’m good at: community management, customer service and all that jazz.

Running

I’m not a runner. I’m barely even a jogger. But it seems to be the Done Thing at the moment, doesn’t it? People are giving up the gym left, right and centre – I’ve just quit after going twice in three months and simply not having the time or inclination to make more of an effort – and taking to the streets. It’s cheap; all you need is a pair of decent running shoes. It’s less time consuming; just exit the door of your house, go as far as you can and come back again. It’s flexible; no peak times, opening hours or people taking up machines you want to use. It’s less pressured; little if any comparing goes on, as the other runners are far more focussed on themselves than you and you all look equally red and sweaty. But it’s also quite hard. Running outside is harder work than running on a gym treadmill for all sorts of reasons, including the weather, uneven terrain, not keeping to a steady pace and a harder surface not taking the impact from your joints so well.

So, anyway, I started ‘running’. Actually what I do is interval training, similar to week one of the couch-to-5k (C25K) programme, only it’s the ‘easy’ (ha!) workout on RunKeeper. Basically it means brisk walking for one and a half minutes and then jogging for one minute and doing that eight times, with five minutes walking at the beginning and end for a warm up and cool down respectively.

I’ve been seven or eight times over the last three weeks which is something of a record for me. And though it was impossibly difficult at first – I could only do three-quarters of the workout and just added ten to fifteen minutes of as brisk a walk as I could manage to try and make it up – it got a little easier every time. After one more workout I’m going to start adding 5-10 seconds of extra jogging to each fast interval, so the whole exercise is only about a minute longer but it’s harder work. I expect this means my pace, which is poor but improving, will dip again but now I’ve seen how it can keep going up from session to session I have more faith that it will go well. I’ve found my speed slightly increased even after several days’ break, and even on a day when I felt tired and demotivated but forced myself out of the door so I wouldn’t have any excuse to feel guilty and beat up on myself.

So many people have told me that they couldn’t run to the end of the street when they started but improved very quickly once they got into it. I’ve started exercise programmes over and over again and hardly stuck to them, but this does feel a little different. For one, Ash said he felt a sort of ‘joy’ (his word, not mine!) radiating from me when he saw me running. I can’t say I exactly felt that, as I was desperately repeating ‘you gave birth to a child, you can do another interval’ over and over in my head, but I do feel a sort of determination that I hope will stay with me. I usually don’t say this sort of stuff publicly so I don’t feel all humiliated when I give up, but maybe humiliation will keep me on track. If I can’t think positively, maybe fear of negativity will keep me going instead! I prefer to try and focus on the former, though. I know from HypnoBirthing that positive thinking and mental preparation can do amazing things, so here’s hoping.

And in the meantime, I try to inspire myself by reading posts like this, by the lovely CupCate, who is the founder of and my editor at BitchBuzz, and one of life’s good guys.

And I wrote that literally just as the Ramona alarm went off from her cot. Nap time is over, and so is blogging time. Ding.

BitchBuzz: Is Shared Parental Leave Bad for Business?

After a three week break (and a column about sales bargains I didn’t post here as it was really only timely at that moment), my bi-weekly column is back. Here’s a snippet from 19th of January. The next subject I plan to write about is weaning… that should be fun in the comments thread.

Mention maternity leave and small business owners will be the first to wring their hands over costs and inconvenience. With UK law changing  in April to allow extended paternity leave, the litany of complaints is getting louder. It’s reached fever pitch with the beginning of a consultation to grant even more extensive rights. Do businesses have a point, or is this exactly what 21st century parenthood should be like?

From the 3rd of April 2011, UK fathers will be able to take 26 weeks leave at the same rate of pay as Statutory Maternity Pay (currently £124.88 a week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, if that is less) between 20 weeks and one year after the birth or adoption. This is in addition to the two weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave already given. But on top of this, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a soon-to-be launched consultation on much more flexible leave between parents– perhaps shared and split into smaller chunks, taken simultaneously or even taking in other family members – and that’s really got some businesses worried.
Read more: http://news.bitchbuzz.com/is-shared-parental-leave-bad-for-business.html#ixzz1ByPPhkjl

 

BitchBuzz: Breastfeeding – The Good, The Bad and The Guilt

This has got to be the hardest of the BitchBuzz columns I’ve ever written. I don’t usually use a professional site for such a personal outpouring, but when it comes to parenting it’s all personal; it’s one of the things you really can write about from the heart. So here goes, my column from 15th December. And please, if you have strong feelings about the topic read the whole article – including the rest at BitchBuzz – carefully before you add your comment!

Everyone knows – or at least is told – that breast is best. But what happens when the most natural thing in the world becomes the hardest thing to achieve?

It’s been over three months since I stopped breastfeeding, and only now can talk about it publicly. Giving up was traumatic. Not because my baby was harmed in any way, but because of the tremendous feelings of failure that came with it.

I’m not here to tell anyone they shouldn’t try breastfeeding. It is the most wonderful thing when it goes right; it’s convenient, it’s reassuring and the composition of breastmilk is undoubtedly perfect for any baby. It’s also great for mum, helping your body recover from pregnancy and potentially offering protection against certain illnesses. I would certainly try again, but this time I would go armed with what I know about what can go wrong. And that’s why I’m writing this. It is not about breast vs bottle or even about my circumstances. It’s about addressing the fact that for some people things can go wrong, and resentment and guilt will interfere with your parenting more than sterilisers and bottle warmers.

Read more: http://life.bitchbuzz.com/breastfeeding-the-good-the-bad-the-guilt.html

 

BitchBuzz: Baby Maths and Milestone Envy

My parenting, pregnancy and baby column appears every other Wednesday. Here’s a taster from the 1st of December:

When four weeks are no longer a month and every movement had better be the sign of a genius in the making.

The minute you get pregnant, conventional maths goes out of the window. The day you conceive, you’re two weeks pregnant. Even though there was nothing there for two weeks before. In fact, you’re pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period even though by definition you couldn’t have been pregnant then.

 

Read more: http://life.bitchbuzz.com/baby-maths-and-milestone-envy.html#ixzz182Ce18x3

BitchBuzz: KidStart, Parenting Clubs and Other Ways to Save

My parenting, pregnancy and baby column appears every other Wednesday. Here’s a taster from the 17th of November:

Everyone knows that babies can help you burn through cash, so here are some ideas to help you store up pennies for a rainy day.

During any pregnancy you’ll be plied with lots of packs of this and that and memberships to baby clubs like Bounty, which offers mounds of free samples, or those at major retailers like Boots or Tesco. You might also hear about KidStart, an affiliate shopping programme that lets you get a little cash back when you shop through links in emails and on the website.

Read more: http://life.bitchbuzz.com/kidstart-parenting-clubs-and-other-ways-to-save.html#ixzz16EYQi8b4