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:


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.


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.

This week on BitchBuzz: simple recipes and women’s resources

And no, sexists among you, they’re not the same thing.

I’ve got a bit of a list of things to write about for BitchBuzz and haven’t had the time to do much of it.  I have made a start on a new post I hope to make quite a regular one, which is Simple Recipes for Anyone; basically, if you can’t make these then you should probably step away from the kitchen, never to return.

First up is shortcrust pastry, and in the schedule (but not live yet) is chocolate ganache icing. If you read this blog, you’ll actually already have seen the recipes for both of them… Given that the vast majority of people who come looking for this site are actually seeking buttercream icing, that’ll be next.

The women’s resources, on the other hand, are quite different and much more serious. The post is all about the Women’s Resource Centre and the wonderful things it does to support women’s organisations and lobby the Government.

Oh, and top of those I got in a quick piece about the Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair, which fellow design fans ought to enjoy as it happens over the next few weekends.

Next on the list:

  • Quick travel guide to Rome
  • A piece about a very talented UK baker who’s now launching her own business
  • A savoury recipe (I know!)
  • A post on a cute cupcake bakery (no, there can never be enough)

Just as soon as I have time to write them.

Of gallbladders and film reviews

Well, I’m better. Stones have been whipped out (and man were there a LOT of them… as you can see from this grim picture tweeted from my hospital bed), stitches healed and removed and I am once again fit for human company. I checked with the doctor and exercise is fine so I’m back in the gym trying not to kill my admittedly pathetic but at least existing daily half hour workout habit.

It’s half an hour because I’m too unfit to do more than thirty minutes of cardio in one go, not because I don’t have time. But at least I’m going before work and being all virtuous. And then eating my bodyweight in chocolate and butter.

Anyway, other things that are not health-related have happened, and they were more fun. Here are three fun things:

– We saw Sam Mendes’ new film, Away We Go, for free, and it was ace. I have zipped a review over to Cate at BitchBuzz and will post when it’s actually on the site, with some extra thoughts that I had that were too waffly for the review.

– We went to a Susie Perring exhibition. I own one of her goldfish prints and would happily snaffle up her entire back catalogue. It’s on the When I Win The Lottery list, right after getting myself a green card and having a holiday at the Grand Floridian.

– I started baking again! Rachel Allen’s Sweet Potato and Pecan Loaf (except I used walnuts, not pecans) and it’s the richest, moistest, most wonderful use for a vegetable ever. And it was thrifty – I had three sweet potatoes that had seen slightly better days but that were still usable that went into it. I finished off the loaf experimentation with Nigella Lawson’s Banana Bread, full of sticky, rum-soaked raisins that are just gorgeous. The alcohol burns off, so they’re safe for kids. I’ve frozen most of that as Ash doesn’t do bananas and even I can’t finish it all alone.

To follow: posts about The Hen Do, with pictures, jam tarts, with recipe and stuff. Just as soon as I get round to it. Promise.

Always on my mind… stuff I might blog about

Well, not always*, but these are some of the things that have been on my mind this week and which might well get blogged about soon.

1. Children and Blogging

As in, why do people feel the need to align themselves into mommy or child-free camps. Why is there such a dividing line? Why does it matter?

2. Feline Asthma

One of my cats has it. Inexplicably (it isn’t my fault) I feel guilty.

3. Baking

I’m thinking cookies at the moment, and thus stole / borrowed a star-shaped cookie cutter from my mother. In fairness she’s had it two years and never used it. My sister makes very nice gingerbread, so I figure I should opt for a different flavour to widen the family skillset. On the other hand, I’m still thinking about artful cupcake icing so it might not be cookies at all.

4. Disneyland Paris

Having been back to the absolute pinnacle of the Disney experience, I’m now craving more Mouse. Perhaps a trip to Paris would assuage it? Husband thinks otherwise, and on previous visits it really hasn’t felt the same.

5. The Monster Book

Sickness threw me off balance, but I want Ashley to read it and give me some feedback. I know the tone has changed and need to keep writing before I’m tempted to wade in and start re-writing. Must. Get. Motivation.

*Also, isn’t that song horrible? Maybe I treated you appallingly but, it’s okay, I was thinking of you the whole time. Yeesh.

Weekend Baking: Lemon & Poppy Seed Spotted Cupcakes

Stamping out the rounds

Stamping out the rounds

With Ashley painting the living room and me feeling anti-social, it was time to hit the kitchen. Fear not – I haven’t lost my social media mind entirely. If you’ve been following my Twitter feed you’ll know I recently went to a third sector forum on digital innovation (search for anything hashtagged ‘aquent’), and at some point when I have some better thought out and intelligent thoughts to report on that, I shall blog about them. In the meantime, we’ve just begun work with the CMS for our brand new website, and that’s taking up the majority of my headspace at work.

So… at home. Cupcakes.

The recipe was adapted from some orange and poppy seed cupcakes in Cupcake Heaven. Instead of an orange zest, I slapped in a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. I’d use more next time – I’m not one for subtlety with lemon and it’s barely-there. Otherwise it’s:

Swapping the circlets

Swapping the circlets

– 115g each of sugar, flour and butter plus two eggs and a tablespoon of poppy seeds.

– As usual beat the butter and sugar first, add egg gradually and then fold in flour and flavourings. I used plain flour because I was being absent minded, so I added about 3/4 of a heaped teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt as well to make sure they rose okay.

– 180 degrees C, 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

I borrowed the icing design from a different cupcake recipe in the book, eschewing the creamy topping and orange segments favoured by Susannah Blake for the cupcakes I made (I dare say she wouldn’t mind the liberty if she knew about it).  You use around 2/3 of a 500g block of ready-to-roll fondant icing.

– Divide in two, and dye each half a different colour – two that will go well together. I revisited my pistachio and buttercup colour scheme from the vanilla buttercream mini cupcakes you’ll find buried in the Baking category, and decided I’m switching to paste food colouring cos the liquid’s driving me crazy.

Cupcakes belong in a stack

Cupcakes belong in a stack

– Roll them out either between clingfilm or on an icing sugared surface until they’re pretty thin – say 3-4mm. Try and make them as close to the same thickness as possible.

– Then get a small cookie-cutter (any shape, but I’d stick to simple rounds etc the first time) and stamp out a spotty pattern, gently lifting the cutouts and laying them carefully aside. Do the same to the other piece and swap the cutouts, putting them in the holes you let behind.

– Gently roll over again, so that they stick together as much as possible. Now get another cookie-cutter, either the same diameter as your cakes or smaller, and stamp out a spotty-patterned circlet of icing ready to put on your cake. Smear the cakes with a little warmed jam and carefully put the icing on top.

As I didn’t have a palette knife and this is the first time I’ve ever worked with fondant icing, mine occasionally fell apart but I patched them back up again with little fuss or evidence. I stuck to round on this occasion, but intend to use my feet shaped ones to make pink and blue foot-shaped prints the next time anyone I know has a baby! And I reckon some lovely flowery ones will be just right for summer, perhaps in slightly bolder colours.

Om. And very possibly Nom Nom.

Anyway, the pictures tell the story if my ramblings don’t. Most importantly, they taste bloody good. I also made cheese biscuits from Nigella Lawson’s Feast with the foot-shaped cutters and they disappeared down gullets before the camera could come out, so I dare say they were yummy too.

Om. And very possibly Nom, Nom…


Twitter and weekend baking experiments. Oh, and book clubs.

Richmond Park Deer

Richmond Park Deer

I know – just the kind of header that tells you that this post has no single specific purpose but might cover a lot of disparate topics. I haven’t even included the deer.

Maybe I should divide this up so you can just cast an eye over the stuff you’re interested in.


I wrote quite an impassioned defence of the new-found popularity of Twitter. Far from killing it, I think it might just be what makes it better than other social networks now.

Weekend Baking Experiments

No photos here, frankly because they weren’t the most attractive looking results. And we’ve eated (sic) it. Ashley request oatmeal raisin cookies so I made an oatmeal raisin cake instead and that suited him fine. The random Internet recipe did not – I discovered halfway through folding in the flour – have any temperature, cooking times or tin recommendations. So I put it in a round silicone mould and baked it at 200 degrees, checking every 15 minutes. It took about 45, but eventually burnt a little on top while remaining a little squidgy at the bottom. I suspect, therefore, it’s best off as a tray bake. I must remember to bring back a 13 x 9 x 2 tin from Florida; American recipes so often fit this shape and it’s not that common here for some reason. Anyway, it tasted good. A little like what my cousin calls Dead Man’s Pudding, though I don’t see that as a bad thing.

I decided quite late on Sunday that making soft baked pretzels from scratch for the first time ever would be clever. Despite some sticking-to-the-baking-parchment issues, they tasted great, especially coated in salt (the poppy seed ones were a little bland). Had one for breakfast, and they held up well overnight.

Book Club

The first rule of book club is not making a reference to Fight Club. Oh, darn it.

Anyway, I’ve been invited to join a writers club on Facebook that I hope will make me actually do some more work on the Grown Up Monster Book. Largely it’s making me jealous of everyone else’s great ideas and hard work, but already I feel like I owe the fellow members my hard work which is what these groups are all about, right? Shared guilt is the way to go.


There were lots. In Richmond Park. So I crept closer and closer to try and get a decent photo with a DSLR lacking a proper telephoto lens, and this fellow obligingly let me snap quite a good shot. I have to sort out the rest of them and get them on Flickr. Then you’ll see them appear down the right, hopefully.

So, how have you all been?

First rule of baking: remember the camera!

And I forgot it! So I’ll have to ask you to please just picture to goodies I shall describe, and I will do my best to paint pretty little word pictures.

Today was Mother’s Day in the UK, and accordingly I had my mother and mother-in-law round to tea. Well, the fathers came along as well, of course. Apparently my father-in-law was talking about the cats all the way home; he adores them, but my mother-in-law is a little nervous after an unfortunate run in with some sharp claws as a child which has left lasting memories. To her credit, she did let Casper snooze alongside her, provided we promised not to let him climb on her lap.

Anyway, tea time. Ashley got his best old English butler impression out, and made delicate crustless sandwiches with home made tuna and egg mayo mixes and smoked salmon and cream cheese (well, he IS Jewish). I rolled up my sleeves, tried to ignore my burgeoning grim cold and stuck on my “Mrs Goldstein” apron (a hen do gift); this is what I made, all courtesy of recipes from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess:

1. Scones

A sugar-free recipe was a must given that Dad and M-i-L are both diabetic. These are lovely, light, fluffy concoctions, made with cream of tartar. The dough was as perfect as I’ve ever managed it, which made it all the more irritating when I left them in two minutes too long. They were still very nice, but somewhat more golden than I’d planned. No added sugar jam – raspberry and mirabelle plum Dalfour – and clotted cream (not so diabetic friendly, but it is a treat day) were on hand too.

2. Cupcakes

Plain vanilla fairy cakes, these, with icing-sugar-and-water icing dyed yellow, green and blue or just left plain white. I had some sugared flowers left, plus I’d bought some hundreds and thousands, silver balls and chocolate stars so I got busily creative. They came out a little more lurid than I’d intended, but they tasted good. I had swapped butter for Trex as even though we weren’t having meat I’m experimenting with parev cake mix. They were springy, light, nicely golden and satisfying, with just a light slick of super sweet icing.

3. Rosewater Madeleines

These delicate, springy, pale cake-biscuits with their distinctive fan shape were surprisingly easy to make, though there was no chance of butter substitution here. My mother, who grew up in Egypt on Greek food and understands unusual flavours like rose, loved them. As did I. They were not so popular with the rest of the family because of the ‘weird’ floral fragrance and flavour, so I’ll try a substitute flavour like orange blossom water next time, I think. The texture was liked all round. Dusted with a little icing sugar they looked really beautiful, and with very little effort on my part.

I packed up the leftovers and sent them home with mum so that a family friend who’s staying with them can help himself. Just as well – my birthday Wii Fit was definitely none too encouraging about my fitness! Time to get back into the gym habit; I figure I can keep baking as long as I keep giving the results away.

Mini plain cupcakes with almond buttercream icing

Easter Mini CupcakesMy unofficial motto is “when in doubt, bake”. If any other form of creativity is stifled, if there’s nothing on telly, if there’s any sort of mental unrest, baking is the answer. It’s a science, and the results taste good and give you a sugar rush; what could be wrong about that?

A combination of stress over a family illness, creative frustration and the excuse of friends round for dinner sent me packing to the kitchen. Plain mini cupcakes from a recipe in Cupcake Heaven (with the slight alteration of a sprinkling of orange zest) and buttercream icing with almond substituted for vanilla, dyed pistachio green and sunshine yellow with food colouring. Ready made sugar flowers completed the look, which I subsequently realised looked quite Easter-themed.

Next plan is a more striking flavour of cake or plain cakes again with white chocolate bejewelled icing, I reckon.