Wednesday, 30 November 2011

It's that time of year again...

Oh the unescapable-ness of Christmas.
Last year I wanted to miss it. I did have a four week old baby who was still waking twice in the night for feeds so perhaps you can understand how I felt.
This year I have a bouncing eleven and a half month old and between now and Christmas I have a lot to do. There's the Ladies Christmas Lunch my church holds, an event that involves me decorating the church and making seventeen centrepieces. I love doing it, don't get me wrong, but it's a lot to do. Josephs birthday is right after and we are holding his party on the following Saturday. That week will also see me returning to work so I will be feeling the pressure. Yes, I know it's only one day a week but it's still one more thing to do.
I also have to do some sewing between now and then. I want to make a little jacket for Joseph, it will have something of the lion about it as we're having a jungle theme for his party.
Ok, for the more pedantic of you out there I do know that lions are not found in the jungle, they tend to live on open plains like the Serengeti, but this is a kids party and I didn't think the tiger print suited him so well.
I also need to either purchase new or alter my work trousers. Whilst trying to become pregnant I went on a diet and have continued to do so since giving birth and although my weight loss has now stalled I am still a good two stone lighter since I began the process getting on for two years ago. My work trousers have an air of the elephant about them and when I put them on last my lovely husband pointed out that I looked a lot like Charlie Chaplin. I guess it's all the time I've spent on my step-a-cize machine, it really has done a number on my glutes. So that's one more thing added to the heap of things I need to fit in soon.
The net result is that I've forgotten about Christmas. Two years ago, by the time advent had started I was a good 75% through my Christmas shopping, I had made a fabric advent calendar and filled the pockets with Quality Street and I was planning how to do the Christmas dinner as I had decided to take over the kitchen and do all of the cooking. It was a fine spread that included a massive turkey named Gerald (a long story for another blog) and not a single unadulterated vegetable in sight. I'd even honey glazed the carrots.
This year I'd like to cook again. Joseph is kindly letting us sleep at night so I will be safe around machinery and sharp knives, but finding the time to plan is hard. My Mum has ordered a turkey and that's about as far as it goes. She's also requested tiramisu for pudding for a change. I like tiramisu, and I especially like putting plenty of amaretto on the sponge, but I like Christmas pudding as well and I can't help but wonder if it might cause a bit of a family rebellion.
Oh, just the thought of fighting round the supermarket for the food in the week before Christmas is making me a little nauseous. Perhaps I will fit a cow-catcher on the front of the trolley this time so I can get through the crowds. Tis the season to fight over bags of sprouts and discover that there's no smoked bacon left and all the cashiers are forced to wear jolly Santa hats. There's something about a bright red hat that gives an air of malevolence. It's not a fun job at the best of times but when management force you into silly head gear it's nigh on impossible to stay positive.
I'm looking forward to the new year. So far January is promising to be a very boring month.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Back to Work

Hey ho, it's that time again.
I've submitted my form to request the reduced hours I want to work and now I'm waiting for a call to arrange my "back to work" interview.
Am I looking forward to it?
To be brutally honest, not really. Well if you think about it, right now I spend all day with my little boy who is a lot of fun. Yes I have to get up early so a lack of a lie in isn't a problem, but mornings can still be a bit on the lazy side if I want them to be. I do a little bit of domestic work and then settle down on the sofa with Joseph to watch Timmy Time or Rastamouse. He has a nap then we might go for a walk depending on the weather or we'll make biscuits. He he, when I say "we" make biscuits, I make them and he eats them. Actually, when I say "he" eats them I eat them too and I have to be careful I don't eat them all or my post pregnancy weight loss will be all for nothing.
It will only be one day a week, but I will miss him. My main worry is that the day he spends at Grandmas will be the day he has a big development and I will miss it. I'm thinking something along the lines of his first word, or something like that.
I'll also have large degree of new mum paranoia. It's not that I don't trust you Grandma, but I will worry about him regardless. I'm sure you know what I mean. Is he eating his dinner, is he being good, have I remembered to put in enough nappies, does he miss me?
To be frank, with the last question I don't know if I'd actually be more upset if he didn't miss me. He will, no doubt, be having a whale of a time and I'll be in a corner softly blubbering.
Having had a discussion with some other mums it seems there's a big split between those of us who really don't want to part from our young offspring and those who are itching to get back to being a productive member of society. Neither side really understands the motivation of the other it seems and each thinks the other either cruel or silly.
Hey ho, we need a bit of extra cash right now. That's the motivation for me, regardless of anything else. It's probably the motivation for most working mums, now I think about it.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Toddler

Yes, at eleven months and two and half weeks, he's finally joined the world of the walkers.
More or less. We've been playing about for quite some time, with one or the other of us holding onto his hands and him staggering along. We've even done it outside and this has generally been greeted by loud "aaahs" from the neighbours.
Putting one foot in front of the other with no support has been the goal and I think it's a mental thing rather than a physical. I think he has simply been scared of balancing, he probably could stand up on his own but has got so used to the idea that he needs a prop that it's got a bit stuck.
Today, at last some progress. Andy was home for his lunch break, but he didn't get any lunch. He was playing with Joseph by standing him up on his feet and then pointing him at the sofa. Joseph decided that he really wanted to go to the sofa but instead of doing his usual trick of bending down to crawl or just plain sitting down with a well padded thump, he just walked.
It was about four or five paces, the furthest he's ever managed and he didn't look as unsteady as he has done before.
To follow the example of CERN and the neutrinos (sounds like an eighties electro-band!) a one-off doesn't prove anything and we set to repeating the experiment. There were a couple of false starts but Joseph did indeed walk again and even stood still, unaided and unsupported. I have never seen him do that before, not even for a second. Today he managed to stand up for a good five or six before suddenly realising what he was doing and keeling over.
We'll keep practising and Joseph will probably keep falling over, but we'll get there. Perhaps I'll have my wish of him stumbling about at his birthday party!
Got to go, he's making a mess again.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Home Baking

I've always been partial to a nice home made cake. This has been especially true since I discovered a better recipe for sponge cake. Previously I had been using a ratio of 4oz flour to 2oz sugar and fat with one egg. It works much better if you use 2oz of everything to 1 egg, the sponge is moister and generally tastier. Of course, you get slightly less mix and if you're adding extras then a little extra touch of baking powder sometimes helps.
There you go, some baking tips. This blog isn't a total waste of time after all.
This last week has been biscuit week. I bought some funny shaped cookie cutters as the big craft fair held in the NEC a little while ago and they came with some basic biscuit recipes I wanted to try. To say that they had turned out well would be a bit of an understatement as the first batch lasted about twenty four hours even with a break to ice some of them. Joseph loved the biscuits and the icing even more. Well, he's a little boy - what's not to love about fat and icing sugar mixed together with a little artificial flavouring? It's probably the least messy finger food I've had, not that it doesn't make crumbs but he seems determined not to waste any.
Cheese straws are another hit. They're dead simple too - twice as much margarine to flour and mix in as much grated cheese as you fancy (lots). Roll out and cut up into small pieces, bake at gas mark 4-5 depending four about twenty minutes.
I started making them small and finger shaped but Joseph seems to prefer them cut out into rounds and not too crispy. I have to admit though, if I didn't have a great little food processor then I probably wouldn't bother with the home baking, I'm very much of a "throw it all in there and press the button" sort of person. It's one of the reasons I bought a bread maker many moons ago. Anticipating a fresh loaf of bread early in the morning I eagerly put all the ingredients in the evening before and set the timer.
Alas the mixer on it wasn't as good as I'd hoped and did not to a very good job. The "dough" was risen twice and baked in the machine and when I got up in the morning I opened the machine and found -
It had more in common with poor Joseph Merrick than bread. Whenever I can be bothered to make bread, which isn't very often now, I have to watch it all through the mixing process lest another mutant loaf be born. It is quite good at pizza dough, I have to admit.
I'll have to set too and make one of the cakes for Joseph's birthday soon. I'm doing a mix of cakes as there's no family consensus over what makes a good cake and a good fruit cake is best made some time in advance. I like my fruit cake with lots of cherries and almond flakes and some treacle to make it rich, I can't stand those so called light fruit cakes, in my opinion they're just too dry and a cake isn't good if it's dry.
Joseph likes cake. I'm yet to find a cake he'll refuse. I'm going to trial bake a chocolate cake next and I'm sure that will go down just as well as the others.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Little Fingers

I'm about to give up on having a bin in my living room. There just doesn't seem to be anywhere I can hide it any more that Joseph will not manage to spot, wriggle up close to and then manage to get his little fingers all over the rubbish. Perhaps my own dirty tissues aren't all that disgusting and there's probably no more germs on them than he's already been exposed to but I still don't think it will be all that healthy for him to eat them. I dread to think what will happen to his nappy contents if he did manage it!
Tissues are the least of my worries - all sorts of things have ended up in the bin, be it old socks with holes where the toes should be, defunct batteries, small pieces of craft wire, junk mail.... none of it would be terribly good news if found in conjunction with a small child's digestive system.
He now seems to have a knack for always knowing what he shouldn't be getting into. We have some black storage "cubes" in our house to keep our extraneous clutter at bay. One has a lot of Josephs toys stored in the top and one has all our various electrical chargers stored in it, along with some paperwork. You can probably guess which of the two he is most interested in getting in and which he almost totally ignores. I'm trying an experiment today, I'm swapping them over. You never know, it might just work.
I'm also calculating the "zone of reach" on all our higher surfaces. When not in use this keyboard shelf must be firmly put away or Joseph can now reach it. I was browsing the internet this morning when a little hand reached up and began patting the keyboard and before I knew what was happening the internet page had been zoomed in up close. He's tried to add extras to this blog from time to time, but I have deleted them.
It gets difficult sometimes. I'm working on some Christmas decorations for our church hall. This is a job I do every year now as we have a Christmassy event at the beginning of December and it all stays up until I get organised and take them down in January. I have been creating a some things at home and this has included painting a few things. All items including the newspaper to protect the new table must not encroach closer than two inches from the edge or a little pudgy hand will reach up and pull on it. I'm not convinced newsprint is good for the stomach and believe me, silver acrylic paint is very bad for the carpet.
I just hope that when he starts to pick up words that he will be an understanding child and not a terror. Sometimes I think he knows full well which of the black cubes he's not allowed into and goes for that one just to get my attention. Let the manipulation begin.....

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Crab

It's time for walkies...
Mmm, not quite, but we're practising. If you hold both of his hands he will totter along quite happily and doesn't put all his weight on your hands so he's trying to balance. I even tried this outside recently as I thought it was time for his shoes to be used for the purpose that they were originally intended and not just to make his feet look cute.
It didn't work. He saw a leaf on the ground and wanted to play with it. Nothing would persuade him to stand up on his feet and I didn't want him crawling along the pavement. When Joseph decides he's not going to stand up then there's nothing you can do about it, apart from stand there holding the hand of an unhappy child who will do nothing other than be permanently bent at the knee. You can carry on trying if you like, but the results would be a little to similar to those infamous American "nanny-cam" expos├ęs for comfort. The poor child would end up hanging from my arm like an ungainly fashion accessory.
In the house things are a little more successful. When you hold both hands he walks quite well, but it's a bit tough on the back. If you hold one hand he's a little less sure, but will walk along in a sideways shuffling motion rather like a crab.
We have decided to be more pro-active with Joseph learning to walk. He's eleven months old now and I'd really like him to be able to totter about at his birthday party so we've been propping him up on a chair and trying to encourage him to take a brave bold step towards us.
He's managed about two steps in a row on one occasion, but nothing more successful than that. Mostly he just leans forwards to make a grab at our hands and then brings his feet into play when he's at a 45 degree angle. Several times he has reached out, missed and done a face-plant into the carpet.
Perhaps we're trying to hard. He's shown no inclination at all for wanting to balance on his feet on his own at all. Sometimes, if he forgets for a moment that he's got no support he can almost do it, but it inevitably ends up with him buckling at the knees and sitting firmly down on the floor with a thump.
He'll do it in his own time and whilst the encouraging might help I do wonder whether hurrying him into it is asking for trouble. I can remember the days when I could put him down and he'd still be there when I came back, how I didn't have to worry about leaving a pair of trainers by the door getting played with and covered in dribble and there was a time when he wasn't able to pull himself up and constantly get into things I'd rather he wouldn't.
With him walking a few things might be easier, but it's a whole new kettle of fish and I'm suddenly not too keen to hurry the last of his baby-hood away too quickly.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cat Flap

He's got a new skill.
I remember, quite some time ago now, I was newly pregnant and we'd gone out for a meal at Nandos. It's not exactly the heights of culinary excellence but it's good comfort food especially when you're feeling a bit wobbly. On the table next to us were two women and a little boy who was somewhere between one and two years of age. The tables were quite close together and the little chap was clearly quite eager to meet new people and share things with them.
I was handed the childrens menu, the main menu and several items of cutlery. I probably would have been handed the cruet as well if his mum hadn't got a handle on things.
Yes, Joseph has now mastered the art of handing me things. It started out as him just holding things out to me, but he hadn't got the idea that he needed to let go. Now he's quite happy to hand me toys quite a lot and even some of his finger food, a concept he finds quite hilarious. A few days ago he held out one of his baby crisps to me and I leant forwards to jokily try and eat it. As I did so he shoved it quite firmly into my mouth. Well, I've been doing the same thing to him for months now so I can't really complain and they were quite nice crisps.
Handing me things goes hand in hand with "putting" things. Toys are picked up and put places where, to be honest, you don't really want toys. Mostly it seems as if he's trying to hide them in the manner of a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter. Perhaps he's trying to get a toy stash for the lean months ahead!
No, I don't think so. He's just not that tidy and his favourite place for depositing toys wouldn't lend well for the location of a secret stash.
He's discovered the cat flap. More importantly he's discovered that he can open the cat flap and post things out of it. So far we have had a muslin (twice), several soft toys, one of his little shoes, a broken handset from our cordless phone (he likes toys with buttons, it's a useful distraction), some plastic rings, some wooden blocks and my mobile phone which I had been looking for and it was making me a bit cross that I couldn't find it and in the end had probably been on the front step for quite some time and it's a miracle it wasn't stolen.
If I lock the cat flap then Joseph can't post things through it, but it's only when the cat flap is locked that The Cat decided she wants to use it. Normally she completely ignores  it in favour of scratching at the back door or jumping up through the kitchen window if it's open. My kitchen window is covered in muddy footprints now thanks to that annoying animal, but it's better than having to deal with her constantly being on the wrong side of the back door.
So, you see the dilemma. Cat flap open - toys on the front step but no annoyed cat. Cat flap shut and no risk of toy loss, but cue one irritating little moggy having a whine by the front door. Also, whilst she never uses the cat flap to exit the house, she occasionally uses it to enter quickly when being chased by other feline members of the community. The sight of her slamming into the cat flap at full tilt, totally unaware that it wouldn't open was both tragic and quite funny. The cat that was chasing her caught up with her and was so confused that he'd done so he didn't know what to do. They both sat there looking a bit embarrassed until I let The Cat in the house where she turned and hissed at the chaser safely through the locked cat flap.
Right now the cat flap is in its usual unlocked state and I am keeping an eye open for anything that might get sent through it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The big day....

The invites have been made and distributed. Plans are afoot and I have done a trial birthday cake as I've never used roll out fondant before now. The cake seems to have been something of a hit, I took it to a Mums group and almost all of it went. I'm sure all of it would have gone if one little boy had got his way, he really wanted some more but his mum very sensibly decided that any more would spoil his lunch. I'm sure there are lots of  little boys out there who would rather lunch on sponge cake than anything else, but it's not what you'd call a nutritious meal. I have managed to discipline myself and save a small slice for Andy. It's only a small slice and I don't feel too guilty that it's small, he's said himself on many occasions that he prefers fruit cake anyway.
I've even had a couple of responses to the invitations already! Clearly the prospect of a jungly themed party is attracting some interest, it will certainly be a break from the relentlessness of Christmas.
I'm hearing more Christmas music than I would like. It's only November, and early November at that and there are already so many ads on the telly that are so relentlessly Chrismassy that it makes me want to vomit. I know the festive season is probably closer than it feels, but I really have my limits. Some retailers simply don't get that with all the forcefulness of the marketing that most people are sick to the back teeth of Christmas well before it arrives. This rather takes the fun out of it and sure makes it less likely for me to waste my money on anything festive.
Also, has anyone else noticed that the awful Slade classic actually has hidden messages in it? If you play it backwards through a filter it says "Noddy Holder is the Dark Lord of Beltane".
Enough Christmas rant save for this one point - in America the main purpose of thanksgiving is to keep Christmas at bay for a bit longer.
At least I've got a good distraction in the shape of my little boys anniversary of arrival. There will be fun, balloons, jungly games and jungly mask making. There will be cake, but there will be nothing Christmassy about it. Right, I'm going to order the paper plates for the party. Bye now!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Big Bang

Well I was assuming he'd be scared.
There's a local fireworks display near us that happens every year. We've been a few times and it's pretty good. We didn't go last year as I was past eight months pregnant at the time and I didn't think I'd cope well with the press of the crowd and standing up in the cold for that long. You can see some of the aerial stuff from our bedroom window though, and it was still nice - but warmer!
I had assumed Joseph would find the noise as distressing as The Cat, who has a tendency to hide behind furniture and be incontinent on soft furnishings. She beetled straight behind the sofa as soon as the first pop was heard and didn't come out again. I have checked and this year she's managed to maintain bladder control, which is a relief.
Andy decided to let Joseph see a few of the big fireworks from the window yesterday evening. He was all dressed and ready for bed in his baby sleeping bag and Andy took him to the window for a look.
As soon as he saw the pretty colours he was entranced. Joseph ended up stood on the window sill (with one of us holding him) for the best part of twenty minutes as the big fireworks went up, big splashes of pink and purple with sprays of orange and sharp white streaks of screaming rockets. He loved every second, although I do wonder was passers by must have thought, this ghostly white shape of a baby in a darkened window! Perhaps next year we'll take him to a display if we think he can cope with the standing around.
We had small firework displays quite a few times when I was a young thing, but it doesn't seem to be quite the fashion any more. The price of getting anything decent has really shot up and all the really fun stuff has been banned for being too dangerous. They have a point, I have to admit. I remember one year we'd bought a special rockety sort of thing that was supposed to shoot up in two directions. One part did shoot up in the air, but the other shot sideways and landed in the bonfire, narrowly missing my brother. At the time I remember we found it all quite hilarious and then chowed down on some home-made doughnuts (thanks Mum, they were yummy) but it could have been different.
Who knows, with modern technology they might find a way to make them a lot safer in the future. Still, it is fun to celebrate the anniversary of something in our nations history that could have been quite significant except that it wasn't because they failed. Instead we burn effigies of a single member of the group who could perhaps be described as the worlds most hapless terrorists.
They really were awful. While the group hid out just before their capture they realised that their gunpowder was damp. Some 'bright spark' had the idea of drying it out in front of the open fire. Sometimes I think they were not executed for treason but humanely euthanised for the safety of those around them.
Long live bonfire night and the perils of damp gunpowder!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Strawberries and Bananas are the only fruit

Well, here's a little bit more about weaning and getting my son to feed himself.
It's going pretty well some of the time. He'll happily sit and gnaw on a rusk until it's all gone, but then they're quite sweet, even the reduced sugar versions that I buy. The really sweet thing is that he's started handing me things including his dummy when I was holding him - he put it in my mouth and it was the most hilarious thing ever according to him - and his finger food. Sometimes he's just being sweet and he's tried to feed it to me a few times, but other times he's being.... well, a bit naughty. It's a lot to say of an eleven month old child, surely he hasn't any concept of that yet, but let me explain.
If he decided he's had enough finger food it isn't simply a matter of sweeping the bowl away or crying until I let him off. no, he gets hold of the finger food and drops it over the side of his chair and I can only assume that for him "out of sight is out of mind". Perhaps he thinks that as he can't see it any more then neither can I and I wont make him eat any more.
I have started picking the bits up as he throws them but when I bend down he throws another, clearly thinking that if I can't see him do it then I wont realise what's going on. Now I am in a situation where if I am giving him finger food I have to give him only one or two pieces at a time as that way he seems to get through a bit more of it before it is flung.
Currently he is eating a rusk, the last of his lunch. He's not totally convinced by it today, he's tried hitting it on his food tray, the chair and the table. I'm not sure what he's planning to achieve by this, apart from a lot of crumbs in a lot of places, but there you go.
He's never been too much of a vegetable fan, he tends to get bored of carrot very fast and spuds are only really useful as a bulking agent. He's even not a massive fan of chips! He'll have one or two, but only if they're crispy fries. No, where things are going well with his diet is fruit.
For breakfast he has half a banana, chopped up. Sometimes he has it with some baby breakfast cerial and sometimes with porridge. Either way the banana is good. The only problem I have is gauging how many to buy as I'm never sure if Andy or I will suddenly have a banana craving in the week or not. I have run out of bananas half way through the week before but on other occasions I find myself looking at a heap of brown soft festering banana on a Monday morning.
Strawberries always go down well. He can't feed them to himself yet, which is a bit annoying. He generally needs them quartered to be small enough not to gag on, but he can only manage to pick them up whole. Perhaps now his front teeth are pretty much through he'll be better, but the strawberry season is over now and I really must switch him to something cheaper. Saying that, given the odd weather we've been having it wouldn't surprise me if there's a southern farmer desperately clinging on to his poly-tunnels because the strawberry bushes are still throwing up the odd fruit here and there. Two of my rose bushes are still flowering - in November!
I think I'll get some of those mandarin segments in cans, I used to love those as a kid. I don't think he's up to real oranges yet, too much pith and chewy bits and pips.
Well, Joseph is really making a meal out of this rusk. There seems to be more of it crumbled to dust around him than in his mouth. Guess I'll have to vacuum again.