A recipe: baby friendly flapjacks

I’ve finally got this recipe right and these flapjacks are going down a storm with the under-twos. A few friends have asked me for the recipe and since it’s super easy, here it is!

You can of course customise this to the nth degree; we sometimes make pear and ground almond, apple cinnamon and raisin, or banana and peanut butter – what matters is the consistency so I suggest you follow this once and get a feel for the quantities, then get creative. You are also welcome to use non-tinned fruit, obviously, but once I ran out of frozen fruit purée from the early weaning days I realised this is much easier. NB when making these with banana you just use fresh fruit and mash it.

Easy apricot and coconut flapjacks

You will need:

  • 400g tin apricots (in juice, not syrup)
  • 30g butter (you can also use coconut oil, yummy), melted in microwave for 30 sec
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2.5 cups porridge oats

Method:

Drain the tinned fruit and blitz in a blender or smoothie maker. Adam hates this bit.

Melt the butter or coconut oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the fruit and stir together.

Add 1/3 cup of desiccated coconut, followed by the oats.  I add a cup of oats at a time and stir so that I can check the mix isn’t getting too dry. As my lovely friend Angela says, you can always add more ingredients, but you can’t take them away. The mix looks like this:

Ingredients mixed together

 

Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper *THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT* and squidge the mix onto it, flattening to about 1cm thick. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave for another 15 min.

Remove from oven and cut into bars or squares while still warm:

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These keep well in the fridge for a few days, probably up to five days but ours have never lasted that long. These are great for a snack on the go, as part of breakfast or any meal really. They’re very portable and full of oaty fruity goodness!

Tips: if swapping out the coconut just add 3 cups of oats e.g. to a tin of apple, and add a handful of raisins to the mix along with a teaspoon of cinnamon. For pear and almond, sub the coconut for ground almonds. I also add a drop of almond extract just because I have some in the cupboard. Vanilla is nice to add too. For banana and peanut butter mash 2 or 3 bananas and add about half a cup of smooth PB, then add oats a cup at a time until the mix comes together.

Thats it! I would love to hear your suggestions for other variations too!

Nesting, nesting, 1 2 3

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Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter N – as in ‘nesting’. Now anyone who knows me will be doubled over at the thought of me on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. It’s hopefully a little easier to visualise me industriously making useful things whilst creating a lot of mess.

My current project is all about reusable baby wipes. Yup. Glamourous.

The ‘cheeky wipes’ system is very clever and also quite expensive. I have inherited a dose of terry squares and I decided to copy that system, putting my ever so basic sewing skills to good use.

Here’s how it works: you have two clip-close Tupperware boxes and two ‘wet bags’ for when you’re out and about. One container or bag holds the ‘fresh’ wipes, which are usually steeped in an antiseptic solution eg water with essential oils or even chamomile tea. The other container is for your ‘mucky’ wipes, and you can either use another solution eg tea tree oil to cancel out whiffs, or just seal it up until you can deposit the wipes into your nappy laundry bin.

The wipes are just cotton, bamboo or microfibre and the boxes are literally the Tupperware tubs you see for £1 each in Poundland. I decided to be thrifty and try to make my own rather than spend a (not unreasonable) £30-odd for a new set. Well, I have the raw materials here in the flat!

I started by cutting out a shape that fits nicely into my Tupperware so I don’t have to double them up. I found that grease proof paper works well as a pattern template! I’ve got as far as cutting a whole load out, and will run a simple zigzag stitch around them to stop them fraying. If I had an overlocker (the holy grail of seamstresses worldwide) I’d use it to do a more thorough job.

Will post pics of the finished job- in the meantime here is the pattern cutting:

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Time slows down, speeds up, clocks go back… Dr Who would be impressed.


What’s been happening in the world of Ruth? Lots, of course. No baby just yet but if the little blighter does turn up early we’ll just about be sorted. Sigh of relief that can be heard from outer space.

I’ve finished work! That’s a funny one to get your head around – after working full time since the day I left education (working part time and sometimes full time throughout that too since the age of 18) suddenly not having a job to go to each day is a strange one. I’m not really on holiday, but I’m not ill. And the baby isn’t here yet to keep me busy so I’ve been filling up my days with lots of lovely catch ups with friends, short and gaspy walks to nearby locations such as John Lewis, and basic sewing projects that have taken up hours and yielded fairly little. And Yoga. And baking. And a wee bit of resting too.

The rest/activity ratio is about to swing dramatically as I’ve just about had enough of ‘keeping myself busy’. I’m lucky to have this time off work before I meet my baby so I’m bloody well going to enjoy it without feeling guilty or lazy for doing as little as possible. Today is officially the first day I’ve not gone outside yet! I’m going out later on to a halloween party so not feeling like a recluse yet. I’ve done three loads of washing (watch as anyone who knows me reels in shock), hoovered, tidied up the spare room and kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. These simple tasks are quite hard work when you’re almost 37 weeks pregnant, have a baby headbutting your bladder whilst kicking you in the lungs, and have hips that feel they’ll give way at any moment. As for picking things up off the floor by hand, that is so last month. I now use my toes to lift a lot of stuff.

So the first two weeks of maternity leave have made a mockery of the concept of time. Receiving my beautiful hand made baby blanket and a gorgeous Narcissus bouquet from my colleagues on my last day feels like months ago. And at the same time it’s like I walked out of there only yesterday! “You’ll lose track of time” Jamie helpfully and knowingly piped up last night. This terrifies me! I need to let go, and not let it bother me. I shall get a diary and keep all my appointments in it rather than in my well oiled machine of a brain. My poor brain. It’s in for a shock I think.

Aside from becoming a time lord, I am upbeat and optimistic about the next few weeks and finally getting to meet our baby boy or girl! I’m carefully filtering negative birth stories, comments and ‘advice’ and focusing on doing things the way that suits us best. We’re stocked up on real nappies (a good lot of second hand and some shiny new ones too) and I’m heading over to the Changeworks Nappuccino next week for a blether with some cloth nappy mums and dads to get some advice. We’ve received lots of ‘pre-loved’ baby clothes from friends and colleagues who’ve recently had their own little babies, and even got a beautiful cot mobile from a friend who was given two for his little girl – we’re very lucky indeed! Our baby will be well kitted out between these nearly new offerings and the lovely gifts we’ve received from friends and family.

Still happy we’ve not made too giant an impact on the environment (yet) as lots of our stuff is pre-loved, nearly new, reusable or at the very least biodegradable. Hopefully this cancels out some of the tumble-drying I’ll have to do over the winter!

And on that happy note, I have to go and walk around – seizing up here! Oh alright then, here’s a pic:36 Weeker

And here are the beautiful flowers I got from work:

Flowers from Narcissus

The mothership

I’ve developed my own gravitational pull now. I’m kidding of course but it’s no joke – I am officially massive. I have hit the 31 week mark and the bump measures 30 cm, which is pretty much bang on what it should be (thankyouverymuch) – but it feels like it really can’t get any bigger. Can it?

Despite me slowing down physically, the world still appears to be turning. Jamie has really driven forward our to-do list and has decorated, built furniture, replaced door handles, sorted through boxes and boxes of stuff, organised and reorganised cupboards, found space for things, hoovered, washed and tidied like a total champion.

Men at workI have feebly washed a few plates and done the odd trip to the supermarket, and written a lot of lists. I’ve also been in charge of Online Shopping. I was busy reclining yesterday and leaving Jamie to his own devices when he called me in to check out the nursery…

It’s been painted for a few weeks; the carpet arrived a couple of weeks ago and the last of our IKEA order got delivered yesterday. It’s also been home to some ‘misc’ items that were waiting to be rehomed or gumtree’d. I wasn’t prepared for the sight that met me when I walked in. Not only had he built the cot, he’d cleared everything out, lit the lamp and put up a few little things to start making it a real person’s room: NurseryI sat in my red chair to take the pic above (which is why you can see my slippers!). You can also see the freaky Cliff Richard calendar hanging on the back of the door. Cliff won’t be watching over Baby Gray, that’s for sure. What a beautiful room.

Its amazing making this sort of progress – it brings us closer to meeting our baby one step at a time; finishing up at work will also be a milestone – I’ve now got less than four weeks to go! Far from feeling guilty or sheepish about stopping work at 35 weeks, I am delighted to be gifting myself some ‘me time’ and some time to rest and prepare for motherhood at my own pace. I will be far from idle – there are loads of baby clothes to wash and sort, bits and bobs to purchase, and lists to make 🙂 I’ll also be practicing my hypnobirthing techniques (laugh if you want – but if you’re pregnant I strongly suggest you buy the book!) and attending late-pregnancy yoga classes just off Broughton Street. I’m expecting a visit from my Mum too.

I’ll also be busy filling our freezer with batch-cooked meals to help feed us when we’re busy/exhausted/bewildered in the first few weeks. As someone who tries hard to eat well and avoid food waste I love the thought of having good nutritional (and tasty) meals in our freezer as a result of forward planning. So far I’ve made extra and bagged some bolognese, two curries, some chilli and some vegetable soup, not to mention some sliced bagels – great for popping straight into the toaster. This will save us a lot of money and energy at a time when cooking and eating are just about fueling your body rather than gastronomy.

On the ‘green’ front, things are going well (despite August’s surrendering to IKEA) and our thrifty low carbon leanings have been well served by the generosity of friends who’ve happily passed on all sorts of things. We’ve hardly bought any baby clothes, having received loads from other parents. We’ve also inherited a baby monitor, bath seat, bumbo chair (wtf is that?), car seat, bike seat, baby sling/carrier and giant bundle of cloth nappies. All without spending a penny! Most other stuff has been bought on eBay or Gumtree, including our beautiful pram (AKA travel system) and cute ‘buggy snuggle‘ – we are saving ourselves plenty of money, and in the process we are keeping our carbon footprint down too. I’m particularly pleased that we’ve got some adorable cloth nappies – the cash saving (between £500 and £1000 per baby!) is one thing, but knowing we’ll be diverting an unbelieveable 120 black bin bags full of dirty nappies away from landfill is a great thought. Working at Changeworks I know that it’s not something to be scared of – we run a real nappy project! I’m lucky to have a fantastic source of support, and intend to use one of their trial packs or lending kits so we can try out various types and see what works best for us. We’ve been given a range by friends – some Bambino Mio, a few Tots Bots, Little Lambs and a load of plain terry squares. I’m also looking forward to going along to the Changeworks ‘Nappuccino‘ coffee mornings once we’re ready.

I’m really looking forward to:

  • Bending at the waist again
  • Being able to put socks and shoes on while breathing at the same time
  • Not caring where I park as I know I’ll be able to get back in the car
  • Getting comfortable in bed, on the sofa, at work, anywhere
  • Going back in the sauna
  • Eating runny cheese and pate
  • Having a few G&Ts
  • Seeing myself in the mirror and recognising my body
  • Wearing REAL CLOTHES and having more than 6 outfits
  • Going for a long walk without a sense of dread

Until that time comes, I am stranded in the body of a giant flump. Here is me at 30 weeks:30 weeksOh, I went to the amazing Lush Spa recently for a treatment called The Spell; it was beyond my wildest dreams! I am usually skeptical and critical of this sort of thing, because I happen to know the best masseur in the business who doesn’t need a spa or any hocus pocus to make you feel good (Hi Yossi). The Spell was incredible though – just enough theatre to make it really interesting, but not too much to overshadow the good solid skill that went into the treatment itself. It’s primarly a foot massage/spa but includes hot stones and a head massage in the frankly stunning surroundings of Edinburgh’s Lush Spa. The spa is set in the basement of the Princes Street store and is like a witch’s kitchen – that’s the best way I can describe it. They gave me a beautiful little affirmation as a keepsake – and I think it’s very apt for my journey at the moment:

Lush Spa

the blank canvas

Progress. Time marches on, and we are busy. Busy getting rid of stuff and accumulating new stuff. Busy growing a new human being. Busy decorating the spare room, which is now a gloriously pale white cube. It’s a blank canvas just waiting for us to put our stamp on it.

A bit like our baby I suppose. 

I must confess I haven’t stuck religiously to my desired ‘make do and mend’ path during  the preparations. I’ve certainly given away lots of things to be reused, or sold valuable things to fund our progress. Very little has gone in the bin, and this Sunday I’ll be at the omni centre at 7am to try and flog what’s left of my frivolous, baby-free life. The ‘misc’ if you will. The white elephant in the room.

My plan was to stick to this ‘reuse’ ethic when decorating and furnishing the spare room, and gathering what we need to be ready for the baby. I’ve done quite well with the small stuff – as with maternity clothes I have been really lucky with friends and family donating baby clothes, toys and cloth nappies. I have enough sleepsuits to avoid doing a single wash in the first three months (should I decide that this is appropriate).

Our pram (or ‘travel system’ as they’re now called) is made up of a kindly donated car seat and a £70 Gumtree steal – worth the trip to deepest darkest Penicuik and the imminent prospect of steam-cleaning it. Likewise some larger stuff like a crib and a baby gym have been generously given to the cause by friends and relatives doing their own clearouts. 

And of course we’ve received some lovely gifts of new things – bedclothes, baby-gros and even a little tiny pair of baby crocs! 

Where I’ve failed to stay on the low-impact bandwagon is the big stuff. Now, if you know me you’ll know I adore old furniture. I have been wittering on about mid-century sideboards and art deco dressers for years now, and I’m quite good at finding spontaneous bargains – the problem is finding furniture to order. And then getting the bloody stuff home, up the stairs and suitably cleaned up and (if necessary) decorated within the next few months, with no van and an increasingly unforgiving ‘condition’ that denies me the fervent energy needed to complete even one upcycling project.

No, forgive me Kirstie Allsopp for I have sinned. I have been to IKEA and drunk from the well of flatpack furniture with free delivery and assembly. So we’re getting a new ‘daybed’ and some drawers, a wing chair and our cot from the Swedish wonder. It wasn’t plain sailing either, but took a lot less time and energy than browsing for shabby chic items that meet our needs as a family. I shan’t apologise, of course, because it’s hardly a crime, but I can’t help feeling a wee bit sad not to have fashioned a nursery out of one-offs that we ‘just stumbled on’ at car boot sales or found in a skip.

In a way it feels appropriate to buy some new things (as in really new) as a gesture that this baby is a long term investment. 

Another area I didn’t achieve the green flag was the decorating. I contacted the community repaint project who sell fantastically cheap paint second hand (it’s remixed from leftover and unused paint and sold by this cool project) to see if they had any white emulsion and white gloss. Alas, they didn’t have at the time. I would have happily traipsed to Glenrothes for some but we opted for good old ASDA who had an offer on instead. But you should check out that paint project next time you’re decorating… it’s very cool.

So I’m not beating myself up – we have saved a fortune in cash and carbon by buying second hand where we can – where its safe, easy and really economical. I shall recline on my pristine virgin IKEA mattress and feel the luxury of having splashed out on something really nice for my growing family – in a few short years it will be our son’s or daughter’s first bed too.

So that’s how we’re getting on – our old spare room has been totally vapourised; the remnants of it’s contents are now lurking in corners waiting to be car-booted. The clearout continues apace, and this Saturday a new carpet will be fitted to replace the absolutely skanky navy thing that somehow went like a proverbial hotcake within hours of going on gumtree freebies. When the carpet is in and the furniture arrives, I think that’s when shit will get real. 

The blank canvas won’t stay that way for long.

Obligatory bump pic. 28 Weeks and having a huge day (I swear I look smaller today than I did yesterday):

(bonus shot of cat mid-fucking-off)

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Green parenthood? Its a good thing we’re poor…

The more I think about it, the more the two ideas marry up in my head. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m on the poverty line – we are extremely lucky to both be working full time in decent jobs, and at the minute we enjoy a pretty comfortable life in Edinburgh. We socialise a lot and just now we have disposable income which is a luxury, I know.

But having done my sums I know that’ll have to change as my income will fall dramatically in early 2014, and even once my maternity leave finishes I don’t know whether going back to work full time will be the right choice – financially or otherwise.

I’m heartened by the fact that lots and lots of people do this, and we’re pretty good at budgeting (our wedding was a thriftful masterpiece, if I do say so myself) so I’m not worrying about it – in fact I’m glad to be prepared rather than approach it ostrich-style, head in the sand.

This brings me back from the future to now – 21 weeks pregnant. We’ve really not done much in the way of preparation; the room is undecorated, furniture unsold, baby stuff bought = 0. But we are accumulating bits and pieces from friends and that has already saved us money – AND it’s helping me on my quest to be a low carbon mum. I love second hand shopping and the idea of breathing new life into things, giving them another chance, appeals a lot.

I totally understand that some people want brand new everything for their baby – I get it – but I think the amount of great quality, nearly new stuff out there for new parents is incredible and can help reduce a household’s baby budget as well as their carbon footprint. The only maternity clothes I’ve bought new have been two pairs of maternity tights from Debenhams (which were dreadful, both split along a seam and are both now in the bin – tights fail) and the rest have been hand-me-downs from friends or eBay gems.

In fact I’ve managed to accumulate so many maternity clothes in this way that today I gutted my wardrobe and put away everything non-maternity, so that all my ‘now’ clothes aren’t mixed up with ‘yesteryear’ skinny jeans and so on. Jamie got a fright when he opened the cupboard and saw the workings of my newly manic pregnancy brain:

from here to maternity

from here to maternity

So I’ll carry on trawling eBay, Gumtree and the fantastic Jack and Jill Market for bargains, and enjoy getting my head pickled deciding on a pram, etc etc etc that does what we need it to do (what do we need it to do?) and fits our budget (what the hell’s our budget?) and rather than feeling a bit disappointed that we aren’t going on a spree in Mothercare or John Lewis (and you know I love a good John Lewis Spree) I feel satisfied that we are both caring for our planet and protecting our bank balance from severe depletion. I mean have you seen what these things cost???

And here’s a bump pic – I put the same top on as last time to help y’all compare. This is 21 weeks and four days. Plump.

Bump. Plump.

Bump. Plump.