Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Farfalle (bow tie) pasta with grated cheese, strawberries, cucumber

Last week the girls turned a whopping six months old. So, naturally, it was time for them to start exploring food. I’d been interested in taking the baby-led weaning (BLW) route for a while, and after I’d read up a bit I decided it was definitely the best choice for us.

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Pitta, avocado, banana

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Dry toast, apple, cucumber

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Baby corn, strawberries, dry toast

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Cucumber, strawberries, avocado

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Farafelle (bow tie) pasta with a simple sauce of onion, celery, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and thyme

In the simplest terms, BLW is when a child is given the opportunity to feed themselves right from the start of the weaning experience. Babies can basically eat everything – as long as there’s minimal added salt and sugar, no allergens (nuts, shellfish, honey etc) and not too much spice. They’re given options to choose from, and they’re encouraged to pick up and try whatever they feel like, and importantly, however much of it they’d like, instead of being spoon-fed purees.

Food before one is just for fun is a key principle of BLW and something I really like the idea of – the babies are still getting all their nourishment from milk at this stage anyway. Mealtime is encouraged to be a positive experience, a time to play and explore, if food isn’t actually swallowed for a few months, that’s cool. Positivity around food is important to us as a family – Matt and I get so much pleasure from eating that there’s no room for stress at our dinner table. The idea that the girls might dread mealtime and be forced to eat things they don’t want to, or too much of them, really doesn’t sit well with me.

There are loads of proven benefits of BLW which is why it’s recommended by the NHS and it’s actually been around for years, despite appearing to be a newish philosophy. These include a lower rate of obesity in children who wean themselves and supposedly less pickiness when eating later in life, but I’ll leave it to Sophia and The Wednesday Chef to share their experiences – both fab posts.

This first week I chose simple foods that I already had in (i.e., things Matt and I were eating ourselves – another benefit of the BLW way), some fruit and veg that are seasonal – I like the idea of the girls learning what foods are best when, and stuff that’s easy to prepare. We ate one meal out, where the girls tried some lettuce, peas and a few chips. For their last meal of the week I went with pasta in a simple sauce, instead of giving them separate items, and it went down pretty well. They had the last of the strawberries for afters.

So far, everything seems to be going down pretty well. The girls both love avocado and find the longer strips easy to hold and get in their mouths. Both enjoy cucumber straight from the fridge – probably because it eases their teething gums. I’m looking forward to trying more variety as we move into autumn.

Any thoughts on BLW? How did you wean your little ones? I’ll be back next week with more updates! 

Gifts for a New Dad

**Disclaimer: this post contains gifted products**

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When people talk about buying gifts for a new parent, let’s be honest, it’s usually the mum they’re buying for and it’s usually bubble bath. Or maybe a new pair of slippers. Or a sleep mask. Don’t get me wrong, of course, all of those things do come in useful during the first few months of parenting, but personally I probably would’ve preferred a bottle of gin or a PS4 game. And usually, Matt got nothing. Very often it seems that new dads get forgotten about in the gift showering, especially by an older generation who for some reason often assume they’re merely “putting up with” this big life change. You know, grinning and bearing it all until their nights are uninterrupted again and their wives remember they exist.

If, like me, you have what your Grandma might call a “Modern Man” under your roof, those new dads often work just as hard as us mums, if not *gasp* a little bit harder. During the first few weeks of the twins’ life, I was pretty useless. I was bed-bound, often with an oxygen mask attached, recovering from major surgery and a nasty bout of pneumonia and bloody exhausted. In those early days Matt looked after all of us. He fed the girls more than me, changed more nappies, even gave more cuddles. So, my point is, if anyone deserves a present it’s him, which made it pretty perfect when Debenhams got in touch with me a few weeks ago to see if I wanted to spontaneously treat him. So here’s my gift guide for new dads, gifted items I chose with my £100 voucher from Debenhams’ Gifts for Him section are marked with an *.

1. Loungewear: I cannot stress this enough. Being comfortable is the number one priority when you have a small baby or two (or three+, you deserve a medal). I loved this post from Amy Antoinette on the reality of parenting, and she’s right, everything isn’t Instagram perfect. You need to be able to move, bend and wriggle with your baby, and you need to rest uninterrupted whenever possible. Being comfy is the only way.

I bought Matt some PJs in prep for this last Christmas, but one pair was never gonna cut it. Even now, once those babies go down at 6.30pm, we’re both in our comfies, there’s no fighting it. For true quality that I knew wouldn’t shrink in the wash or go all bobbly, I chose him these Calvin Klein Dark Grey Checked Pyjama Bottoms* (£29) – they’re pure cotton, machine washable and tumble dryer friendly which makes them top notch all round for me. And why stop there, eh? I also chose the Calvin Klein Black Pyjama Shorts* (£36) which are all of the above, plus they have two slouchy pockets. The last thing I bought were some boxer shorts* (£31.50), cuz let’s face it – who doesn’t love new pants? No one.

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2. Wine: This is, of course, not universal, but if your giftee enjoys the finer things in life then during the newborn months they’re probably going to be indulging in a lot of it, given the chance. We have a membership to The Wine Society, which along with regular catalogues gives you great prices on quality wines, as well as loads of interesting articles and information for fans of the good stuff.

While you’re at it, don’t stop there, get him a subscription to Noble Rot magazine (£37 for 4 issues) so he can really enjoy those quiet moments in the bath with a whisky sour (or wherever he likes to enjoy them). We both read so much more now that we have kids, maybe because there’s this urge to fill your fleeting “free” time with something learned and useful instead of just staring at the telly or messing about your phone (Who am I kidding? We still watch A LOT of Netflix). Hot Rum Cow also deserves a shout-out for being awesome (£24 for 4 issues). Both magazines are also available by the issue at Colours May Vary if you’re a Leeds local.

3. Food that doesn’t require cooking: As above, really. Newborn days are the time to indulge. Unless you’re very organised, you can’t rely on hot, homecooked food for every meal, at least for the first few weeks after you get home. Depending on what your guy likes, this could be as simple as buying him a packet of cocktail sausages and a Dairy Milk, but I’d really recommend anything from Hotel Chocolat, and if you’re feeling super flush, their hampers. The gifts are truly delicious, look super impressive and require minimum effort, a win win in my book. They’ve even got a New Baby section! The Bliss Chocolate Hamper (£155 – pricey but stunning) looks bloody great to me and includes wine, hazelnut spread and drinking chocolate as well as a fab selection of chocs. 

A cheese board is also an awesome option, for an easy tea, lunch or just a bit of snackage. We buy our cheese from George & Joseph who, along with their packed and varied cheese counter, have crackers, chutneys and beers galore as well as much more.

So remember, next time a friend of yours has a baby, don’t forget the dad! Happy shopping pals!

Take a Breath

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Turns out the last time I did one of these posts was a long old time ago – two years and almost two months in fact! The Tour de France was happening and those twins were nothing but a twinkle in my eye. How time flies, eh? Back to 2016 and it’s been a bit of a bumpy few weeks in the Dix household. As well as our daughters turning a grand old six months, we’ve had runny noses and hospital admissions, alongside cozy nights on the sofa, a few good coffees and catch ups with friends after weeks apart.

We’re all safely back at home, with better health in sight, and finally making plans for our garden just as the summer ends. We’re hoping that by this time next year we will have actually spent an hour or two enjoying it. Plans to pull up paving slabs and conifers are on track for next spring, gravelling the whole thing over and dotting around lots of pots with shrubs and herbs. Stage two is a grander affair with some benches, raised veg plots and even a… shed! How exciting. It’s nice to be working on the house again. I seemed to miss that whole stage of pregnancy, what with giving birth early and having a less than satisfactory time towards the end, so it’s nice that “nesting” has finally caught up with me.

I’ve been spending a lot of time inside recently, I guess mainly so the girls can fully establish a napping schedule and also, because you kind of run out of places to go with a double buggy. I’m very much an “always out” person, or I have been previously to having kids, so I still try to get out and about everyday, even if it’s just for a coffee. It’s easy to feel isolated in the first stages of motherhood but I keep myself busy with classes and long lunches with fellow mum and mum-to-be pals. In general though, I’m back home by 2pm with my feet up. The to-do list for the house is getting smaller, and aside from a repaint in a few rooms and a new runner on the stairs, it’s mainly about soft furnishings and putting prints up now. It’s lovely to have seen it come so far in three years. I suppose we’ll finish things just when we find we need to expand space-wise… typical! I really enjoyed Amy’s post Things I Have Learned About House Renovation and a lot of memories from the early days came flooding back!

I’ve started reading quite a lot more, too. In the past month or so I’ve read The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, A Clash of Kings by George R. R.  Martin, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I’d never have usually chosen that last one but I took part in a book exchange on Facebook that ended up with me promising to throw genre expectations to the wind. I really enjoyed it and now I’m part way through The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey and loving it so far. Weirdly, though I turned my nose up at the prospect, a Kindle has really changed the way I read and I’m much more enthusiastic about it somehow. Looking forward to several other novels I have waiting in My Library.

Foodwise, I tried the new I Am Doner via Deliveroo and absolutely loved it. Would recommend the halloumi kebab wholeheartedly. It’s huge, reasonably priced and stuffed with loads of good stuff. The chips travel well too. I’ll definitely be tucking into that again soon. Other than that, I haven’t tried much new recently. I’m a slave to my daily Flat White from Opposite and this summer I’ve really enjoyed sitting on their benches outside, pushing the babies backwards and forwards in the pram and having a bit of quiet time. Matt’s birthday is coming up so I’m looking forward to a meal out then – probably a trip to Ox Club or The Reliance, his favourites. 

I’ve started Baby Led Weaning with the girls this week so hold tight for some posts about that, and I’ve been trying some new recipes at home – hopefully some of which I can photograph and get up on the blog over the next week or so. I’m also heading out to the North York Moors this weekend for a little break so I’ll report back on that too.

In the meantime, let me know what you’re up to down in the comments or come and chat to me over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Photos go up pretty much daily on Instagram and remember you can keep up with me over on Facebook, too. See you soon!

Baby Style: Going Gender Neutral

**Disclaimer: this post contains sponsored content**

Baby Style: Going Gender Neutral

As I write this, I’m in my pyjamas drinking a pint of squash. I’ve just put my babies to bed. Today they turned six months old. I genuinely can’t really believe it, because they’re actually big, you know, and like real people. Their personalities are really coming out and we don’t really get through a day without wondering what they’ll be like when they’re older – what they’ll be into, what they’ll choose to do for a living, even how they’ll dress. Which leads me neatly onto this post’s topic.

Unnecessarily gendered stuff makes me cross. Like, seriously cross. From the word go, Matt and I never placed much importance on what sex our babies were. We decided not to find out the genders at our 20 week scan, mostly because we knew we wouldn’t prepare any differently either way. For us, that was totally the right decision. Not knowing made the day they arrived extra special somehow, a little added bonus during a few weeks of total madness.

In 2016, raising girls is a minefield. There are so many different issues to deal with, as parents it would do our daughters a disservice if we were passive. So, as a start, Matt and I made the decision quite early on that there wouldn’t be any gender restriction on them. After all, they have the opportunity to be whatever and go wherever they want in life (although, as it turns out, maybe not university – thanks government!), and I was keen that just because they’re female they shouldn’t need to wear pink everyday or play princesses and ponies. When they get older and they choose those things, they’ll like what they like and that’s cool, but for now, I don’t want to put them in a box they don’t have the agency to get out of. I know it may seem over the top or sensitive, but I don’t like the idea that they should conform to stereotypes just because their biological make up dictates it. And I feel very strongly that they grow up knowing that although the way they look and their level of femininity may sadly dictate how they’ll be judged in the world, they do have the power not to care.

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When they were born we were lucky to be given a lot of presents by our nearest and dearest, and quite frankly, some people I don’t even know. Turns out I was actually quite shocked by how gendered even newborn clothes are. T-shirts with slogans like “Pretty like Mummy” and pictures of lipsticks and compacts just didn’t sit right with me. I found myself edging towards animals and nature as themes for the girls’ first wardrobe. We also picked toys that are largely gender neutral – the animal kingdom is a pretty unisex area, after all – and they’re encouraged to play with cars and tractors just as much as fluffy bunnies and dolls. 

I think it’s probably important to say that I think parents should raise their children in the best way they know how, and I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone for doing things differently from us, but I think this article What’s wrong with pink and blue? by Let Toys Be Toys can probably say it way better than I can, and it echoes my view that I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with the colour pink. In fact, I quite like it, and the girls wear it, and even some flowers (gasp!) from time to time. However, I don’t think there’s a need to shop for them exclusively in girls departments – far from it. This quote from that article sums things up pretty well:

Anyone who asks ‘what’s wrong with pink for girls?’ is asking the wrong question. What’s wrong with pink for boys? What’s wrong with all the other colours? Isn’t sticking to pink confining children to a strict idea of what it means to be a girl? The world comes in an array of glorious colours, why limit children to just a few shades?

So this leads me on to what I’m really here to talk about: some shops do the whole gender neutral thing better than others. Even if they do have designated “Boys”, “Girls” and “Unisex” sections, there are variations of those parameters. A while back Mamas & Papas got in touch with me and (full disclosure) offered me a £50 voucher to choose some clothes for the girls. I shop there a lot, I love their Leeds Trinity store, and they’re one of the brands I think do gender neutral clothing well – even if it is separated into girls and boys sections. There are floaty Midsummer Nights Dream inspired dresses, a gorgeous collaboration range with Liberty (I have the nappy bag) and even a flash of little Fifi Lapin, all alongside shirts, jeans, earthy colours and woodland prints – perfect for either sex. I actually over-spent on my voucher, and splashed a total of £71 on my picks for AW16.

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Mamas & Papas sizes are generous, so the kids won’t grow out of them too quickly, and their ranges for boys and girls feature a rainbow of colours, designs and are thankfully devoid of sexist slogans. Want to read more about this? Check out Gap Kid’s gaff from earlier this year. They advertised a collection for boys called “The Little Scholar”, with the equivalent for girls labelled as “The Social Butterfly”. Not only that, they actually managed to spell Einstein wrong too.

I spent my voucher on some gorgeous pieces, including some blue printed leggings with pine trees on, a three pack of bear all-in-ones which I absolutely love and will be super snuggly for the autumn and a three pack of bandana bibs. My favourite items were actually these mulberry cord trousers which I think were a real bargain at £14 – they’re thick and hardy (a must for adventurous babies!), plus they come in a couple of different colours – and this beautiful woodland-themed quilted jumper. I almost can’t wait for the colder weather to set in so the girls can wear them. 

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Other places on the highstreet which I think do well for less gendered collections – H&M do a wide range of unisex stuff and their long sleeve vests are some of my favourites, M&S aren’t half bad for the basics, and Zara’s Mini range is great for under ones. I also like online stores like Milk Moustache Apparel and Tobias & the Bear who label all their clothes, accessories and homeware as unisex and have some awesome designs.

Where do you buy your little ones their threads? Are you a fan of neutrals?

Further reading: 

Inspiring organisations:

  • GoldieBox on a mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers. They make toys and entertainment that inspires girls to be confident.
  • Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls encouraging girls everywhere to change the world by being themselves
  • Let Toys Be Toys asking the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable one sex

 xxx

 

10 Minute Lunches: Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’m having a Sriracha moment. Or maybe it’s a Sriracha life. I put the stuff on anything and everything, and it’s bloody delicious. I had some rice left over from cooking Cashew Chicken the other night, and what with a hot dinner being far superior to a lowly sandwich or salad, I took it upon myself to spice it up. 

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’m often in a rush at lunch time. If I’m lucky, the twins will be napping, but more often than not I’m trying to grab a few minutes between feeds and nappy changes, all while keeping a keen eye on the bouncer and the Jumperoo. Ten minutes is often all I have, so I try to be resourceful. This recipe can use any leftover rice you have, along with any stray vegetables sitting woefully in the crisper drawer. Today, I had half an onion, a few wrinkly chillies, a can of sweetcorn and a couple of limp spring onions. You can throw anything in there – some grated carrot, a bell pepper or a handful of mushrooms if you have them lying around. 

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

It takes no time at all, it’s crunchy, spicy, sweet and satisfying, and it only uses a wok – or if you haven’t got one, a large frying pan will do it.

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice
A quick and delicious lunch dish, perfect for those in search of something spicy and warming to fuel their afternoon.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of leftover rice
  2. ½ an onion
  3. 1 small can of sweetcorn
  4. 2 red chillies
  5. 2 spring onions
  6. Sprinkling of parsley
  7. 2 eggs
  8. Sriracha
  9. Light soy sauce
Instructions
  1. Chop your veg. I recommend slicing your half an onion into nice, thick wedges - the heat of the wok means it chars around the edges and cooks super quickly while still keeping a bit of its bite.
  2. Heat your wok until it smokes, then add about 3 tbsp of a flavourless oil - I used veg. Once the oil is hot, throw in your onion.
  3. Leave the onion to char, only moving it after a few minutes have passed. Once it starts to brown and soften, add the chopped chilli and sweetcorn and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Dump in the cold rice and stir. Leave it to cook on full heat without moving it around in the pan - that way you'll get brown, crispy bits as well as soft, plump grains.
  5. After another 2 minutes, add around 3 tbsp of soy sauce and the same again of Sriracha. Mix in well and try it, add more to taste.
  6. Beat the eggs. Tilt the wok towards you and clear a space to pour your eggs. Once you add them, the edges should start to solidify quickly. Leave for 30 seconds to make sure the bottom is cooked, then gently fold it in on itself, as if you were scrambling eggs.
  7. Once the outsides are cooked through, break up the egg. Level your wok again and fold the egg through the rice mixture. Stand the wok on the heat and stir for another 1-2 minutes to combine.
  8. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with chopped parsley (or coriander if you prefer) and sliced spring onions.
  9. Add to bowls and zigzag with more Sriracha. Serve and enjoy.
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It’s really important to use cooked and cooled rice for this – for some reason it just doesn’t work if you cook the rice fresh (and that kinda defeats the point, anyhow). If you have it in the fridge you could shred and add cooked chicken, sliced sausage or even strips of beef to this if you wanted. Plump little pink shrimps would work too, or squid rings if you’re fancy. I prefer the ease of this veggie version and I love that it basically clears my kitchen out any sorry looking leftovers.

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’ll be back with more of these 10 minute lunches in the future, partly cuz I’ve bet myself I can go a whole month without resorting to a sad sandwich. Standing at the stove with the sunlight flooding in through the side window, it feels like there’s no better way than this to prep for the afternoon ahead. What do you eat for lunch?

Play at Home: Sensory Treasure Boxes

Sensory Treasure Boxes

I knew that having kids would unleash the arts and crafts lover inside me. Pasta shapes, glitter glue, pipe cleaners, PVA – I love all that stuff. Give me some yarn to make a pompom and I’m in heaven. I told you all this sensory stuff was as much for my benefit as the twins’ a couple of weeks ago and I really meant it.

So, while I got out and about to classes pretty early after the babies were born (so important in keeping me sane!), I missed a spot at the local Baby Sensory class because it’s always in such high demand and of course we needed two spaces. The course was on my hit list during pregnancy thanks to my sister’s recommendation but our local area is mummy central so you gotta be quick off the mark. We did eventually start in July, so all was not lost, but in the meantime I wanted to do a bit of sensory stuff at home with the girls to get them started. I put these boxes together at 8 weeks, having seen some similar ones on Pinterest and having read all about the benefits in the only parenting book I bothered with – The Gentle Parenting Book: How to raise calmer, happier children from birth to seven by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. 

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Treasure Boxes (often called baskets) are just simple containers filled lots of objects for little ones to feel and explore. Apparently a treasure box with some natural bits in is best, because while bright, clashing colours and manmade textures are stimulating, studies say that babies and small children actually respond better to and learn more from natural materials and muted colours. From my research, I concluded that mix of everyday objects and a few things a little out of the ordinary should do the trick nicely. 

In simple terms, kids learn through their senses, so treasure boxes provide a wonderland of things to look at, feel, smell, listen to and taste. The stimulation they get from what they play with helps them make connections in their brain and gives them an opportunity to learn and remember, applying what they’ve learnt to their experiences going forward. Studies say that watching a baby play with a treasure box gives us an insight into how their physical, cognitive, emotional and communication skills are developing. Putting items in twos and threes is also proven to help develop numeracy skills. It’s advised that as adults we leave them to it, so when the girls and I get these out, I just offer help when it’s needed – that way they can learn to rely on their instincts instead of being spoonfed.

Nina’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a small measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “N”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a pebble from the beach where Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Ada’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “A”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a shell from the beach Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Our boxes are Wham Boxes from Staples (£5.29 for 4) and the initial letter stickers for the box lids were found by the checkout in Topshop!

For me, it was important that the boxes I made for Nina and Ada were slightly different. We try never to match the girls, as we’re keen to help them develop their own personalities and independence as they get older (especially now most school separate twins into different classes from Reception). Where possible I always pick different colours for them, and if possible a different design (like with the dinos). When the twins play with these together they interact with each other and borrow items from each other’s boxes too – double the fun. It’s great to watch them discovering each other as well as the stuff in the boxes!

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Examples of other stuff you could add to your box:

– pine cones
– conkers
– cloth or fabric scraps
– leaves
– fruit
– keys
– bells or shakers
– hair rollers
– scrunchies
– comb
– toothbrush
– rubber duck

and loads more… get creative! I find it’s best to get these out when the girls are fed and rested, to maximise the time they spend playing. Obviously some of the bits are small so they should never play with these unsupervised either. If you get boxes which fasten tightly, they’re great to travel with too and can provide up to about an hour of quiet time when you’re out and about.

What do think? Fancy giving it a go? Let me know how you get on in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Happy playing!

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Weirdly, I’ve started doing a bit more baking lately. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a particularly competent baker. I don’t really have the patience needed for really great results, but I spend a lot of time at home these days and it’s a nice thing to do to pass the time.

Now that the newborn fog has finally cleared and I’m feeling a little bit more “me” again, we’ve been trying to get back on track with meal planning and cooking. This is mainly on my part, Matt loves it and needs no motivation, but I find it hard to think of something new and exciting to make everyday without a bit of forward planning. Buying ingredients for one bake a week with our regular shop means we’ve always got a sweet treat to hand if we want one, and it’s also a great time filler for a dreary afternoon.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Baking is actually a really fun activity for the girls too – I usually sit them in their bumbo seat or lie them on the kitchen table facing me, giving them a little of each ingredient as I go. They just pat their hands in it, get to know the texture and maybe give it a taste (no raw eggs, obvs). It’s fun for them, and educational, and as parents I guess we have a pretty laid back attitude towards weaning anyway so we don’t mind if they give any of it a little try. We’re planning to start Baby Lead Weaning in a few weeks when the girls hit six months, and I think it’s important to get them feeling enthusiastic about food as early as possible.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Tray bakes are always a good option for me because there’s little to no pressure (minimal rising, very few fancy techniques to master, just mix it all up and shove it in the oven etc). Over the past few months I’ve made rocky road, my Fail Safe Blondies and flapjacks. Yesterday was the turn of the Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake. They’re a nice sweet and salty treat and you can cut the pieces as big or as small as you like. Plus the recipe is customisable so you can add all your favourite extras! I’d like to try it with bigger chunks of chocolate and maybe some mini marshmallows for a s’mores-esque vibe.

I basically only use Le Creuset bakeware these days *hair flip*. Because I’m no aficionado, I find I only use a few tins anyway, so I’d rather spend money and get quality in return. So far I’ve got my excellent 9×9″ Square Cake Tin (£20) which I used for these, and I have my Kugelhopf (£30) for cakes, as well as mousses and jellies. Next I think I’ll replace my simple round Sandwich/Sponge Tins, then my loaf tin and my muffin tin and I’ll be pretty much set. The Afternoon Tea Set (£78.40 down from £112) is actually really good value and currently on sale, so that’s worth checking out. I love the Le Creuset bakeware because it’s thick and sturdy, plus it’s really easy to clean. I promise they’re not sponsoring this, as always I just love them!

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake
Yields 16
A sweet and salty treat, perfect for a rainy day.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 250g Plain Flour
  2. 220g Unsalted Butter, melted
  3. 150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  4. 110g Caster Sugar
  5. 2 Large Eggs
  6. 1 Vanilla Pod
  7. 1 tsp Table Salt
  8. 175g Dark Chocolate Chips, split into one 100g and one 75g portion
  9. 100g White Chocolate Chips
  10. 60g Salted Pretzels, in 2 x 30g portions (I used Penn State Pretzels - deelish!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºc or if you're using Fan, go for 160.
  2. Grease a square baking tray (mine's 9x9") and line it with greaseproof paper ready for the filling.
  3. Pour your melted butter into a medium sized bowl (or a mixer, if you have one) and stir in the Muscovado and caster sugar until combined.
  4. Next, add the eggs one at a time, then split the vanilla pod and scrape out its insides. Add it to the bowl and mix in.
  5. Now it's time for the dry ingredients. Stir in the flour, followed by the salt until it's just combined. Don't over-mix.
  6. Follow that with any extras you might like - I used 100g each of dark and white chocolate chips, along with the first 30g of salted pretzels, which I snapped into smaller pieces. Mix well until they're well distributed.
  7. Scrape the batter into the tin (it'll be super thick - almost like caramel!), smooth it and press the remaining 30g of pretzels into the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean.
  8. While it cools, melt the remaining 75g of chocolate chips over a bain marie or in the microwave until smooth. When the bake is completely cool, drizzle over the melted chocolate with a spoon.
  9. Wait for the chocolate to set and cut into 16 squares (or however many you fancy!). Store in a tin for up to 5 days.
Adapted from Just a Taste
Adapted from Just a Taste
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/

I waited until nap time and tucked into two of these with a steaming cup of tea and Lunch Lady – it’s an awesome blog and print magazine all about food and family. It’s packed with fab photography and great recipes, I love it. In Leeds, I buy my copy from Colours May Vary.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Giving these a go? Let me know how it goes! You can reach me easily down in the comments, or over on Twitter or Instagram at @whiptuntilfluffy. Happy baking!

Brunch Club

Brunch Ox Club Leeds

A table full at Ox Club Leeds

What’s better than a Sunday morning brunch? Nothing, that’s what! Who doesn’t love that lazy and slightly fuzzy rise followed by plentiful portions and something strong to wash it all down? When it comes to the menu I’m not exclusively a pancake girl, a Prosecco guzzler or a granola fan, because for me variety is the spice of err… brunch. I love it all. Brunch is my bae. I just love brunch. 

Recently, mostly during Leeds Indie Food back in May, I’ve been blessed to enjoy some seriously delicious late morning meals. Mostly with Jen, my fun-loving brunch companion. Now I’ve got the little ones, I find a brunch break is a super convenient way to exercise my social skills. It’s much easier to leave them with their dad or my mother in law during the day because bedtime is a two man job, and I still get to drink! Wahey!

TO DIE FOR Cheddar Bacon Pancakes with Chipotle Maple Syrup, Green Chilli Mac n Cheese and Black Sauce Hot Wings at the Rita's pop-up at Ox Club during #LIF16 - with a glass of bubbly, of course.

TO DIE FOR Cheddar Bacon Pancakes with Chipotle Maple Syrup, Green Chilli Mac n Cheese and Black Sauce Hot Wings at the Rita’s pop-up at Ox Club during #LIF16 – with a glass of bubbly, of course.

Over the past few months we’ve snaffled a selection of exciting, indulgent plates at the Rita’s Ox Club pop-up, and we ate entirely plant-based at Izy Hossack and Noisette Bakehouse‘s In Defence of Plants (which Emma wrote about it full here). Unfortunately I missed out on BundoBrunch which saddens me greatly as Bundobust and Laynes Espresso are two of my ultimate faves. Last year, during #LIF15, I was lucky enough to get a spot at The Man Behind The Curtain x Laynes Espresso early sitting, where I ate, amongst other dishes, a “steak tartare” of watermelon with a mango “egg yolk” alongside a menu of matched coffees. It was easily one of the most creative dining experiences I’ve had – who said breakfast foods had to revolve around bacon, eh? … though in fairness I do love bacon.

Brunch at In Defense of Plants Izy Hossack Brunch

Oat pancakes, dill and potato waffles, granola, fruit salad and two Cherry Shrub fizzes at In Defense of Plants by Noisette Bakehouse and Izy Hossack at Sheaf Street Cafeteria during #LIF16

Nowadays if you’ve got yourself a hankering for a little avo on toast, you’ve never gotta look far. What a time to be alive! Here are the best spots in Leeds for a late morning pick-me-up:

Coffee and a Bloody Mary at Ox Club

Coffee and a Bloody Mary at Ox Club

Ox Club – Anywhere you can order steak before lunchtime is a winner in my book. Try the Steak & Cheddar Eggs, with meat charred on the custom 9ft grill that sits in the middle of their open kitchen, or go for Korean Fried Chicken with kimchi and wild rice. I fully endorse both, as well as the Corn Beef & Kale Hash and the Ricotta Pancakes. Don’t forget a Bloody Mary either. The simple decor is bright and breezy – a top setting to blow out the cobwebs from the night before, and afterwards you can pop upstairs to the roof terrace!

Those pancakes tho, at The Greedy Pig

Those pancakes tho, at The Greedy Pig

The Greedy Pig I’ve written about this gem before and I need to get back there asap. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure (a double buggy will do that to you) but they’ve since added multiple new strings to their bow with their evening service The Swine That Dines going strong and a whole new brunch menu. No better pancakes in the city (served with fried chicken – hubba hubba), plus a house black pudding that’ll knock your socks off. That house Merguez looks pretty great too… Not open on Sunday, so save your visit for a sneaky mid-week treat.

Deeelish seasonal pancakes at House of Koko

Deeelish seasonal pancakes at House of Koko

Killer_avo_on_toast__houseofkoko__new_to_Chapel_A._Packed_full_of_chilli__Gorgeous_shop_and_dreamy_soundtrack_too____

Killer Avo on Toast with plenty of chillies, plus a smoked salmon bagel at House of Koko

House of Koko – Tucked away at the heart of Chapel Allerton, House of Koko is a relatively new addition to the Leeds food and drink scene but man has it made its presence known. Try the avocado on toast, in its two different guises – the first piled high with chillies and pine nuts, the second with lemon, feta and spinach. Or go for any of the three options on their pancake menu, personally I like the classic with berries. Dip into their impressive tea menu for an unusual brew while you’re at it. 

Perfection on a plate - Avocado on sourdough with lemon and sumac at Laynes Espresso

Perfection on a plate – Avocado on sourdough with lemon and sumac at Laynes Espresso

My fave - Sweetcorn Fritters at Laynes Espresso

My fave

Laynes Espresso – When I’m going solo, Laynes is the brunch for me. Now serving at their original site on New Station Street, having handed the Sheaf Street Cafeteria reins over to The Grub & Grog Shop, it’s my favourite spot in town for a relaxed start to the day. Another top quality avocado on sourdough, this time with lemon and sumac, or there’s braised beans or one of the regularly changing seasonal specials. Basically, if you like Kasundi and duck eggs, you probably won’t leave disappointed. Served up alongside their top quality coffee too, obvs.

Happy brunching!

Play at Home: Hot Weather Sensory Fun

Play at Home: Hot Weather Sensory Fun

Coping with babies in a heatwave is no fun. This week has consisted of relentlessly trying to keep one room as a “cool zone” by blocking out all the glorious sunshine and basically sitting in the dark half of the day. Then there’s worrying about whether they’ve got too many layers on while you’re out and about, and then come bedtime glaring at the sad face on the Gro Egg like it’s your worst enemy. I’ve spent most of this week wishing the hot weather would just do one and praying for that familiar overcast sky with its intermittent drizzle to make its comeback.

We stayed in on Wednesday so I started thinking about some activities that could keep the girls cool. Going outside isn’t really an option for us – our garden is an overgrown, gravelly, concrete mess, plus there’s coating the babies in suncream to worry about – so we took to our conservatory with the fan on full and the back door open. The girls have never been swimming, generally because I can’t do a swimming class on my own with two and the weekend sessions are so busy we’ve not made it down for a family trip yet, but they love their nightly bath so I figured a little water play would be fun.

I love doing sensory play at home because it mostly consists of stuff we already have, plus it gives me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles – trust me, it’s about 75% for my benefit and 25% for the little ones. We all find it really fun, it doesn’t cost much and it whiles away a good few hours, also allowing the girls to discover something they never have before. It seems to be the everyday stuff that babies find the most interesting anyway, things like pebbles and feathers, so there’s no need to spend loads of cash. 

I’m not kidding either, I seriously love this stuff. Before I start, I tend to browse Pinterest for some inspo (mostly for guidance on what’s safe at what age etc, although instinct and knowing your own kids comes in handy there too) and then I run with a theme depending on what I have available to me. This week I did a whole session with tubs and toys and all sorts, but I love sensory bottles and bags too – they’re really fun, can travel with you and the girls love ’em. 

For this week’s play the first thing I did was lay down our big Lamaze Take N Tidy Play Mat. It’s a good base for messy play as it’s easy to clean and dries out really quickly, plus it has it’s own features to keep the babies happy like ribbon tabs and textured parts. It also folds up and turns into some sort of magic bag which you can store stuff in so it’s a pretty good space saver. I’d recommend it, especially if you travel a lot or you’re always round at Grandma’s. 

To that I added a big tupperware of cool water, and sat it on top of a square piece of foil. The foil adds a bit of crinkly fun for fingers and toes while they explore the water tub. Our bath thermometer happens to be a blue whale so I chucked that in too. For the ice pool, I just used the top of a large cake tin. We have an ice machine as part of our fridge so that part was easy for me and I kept topping it up as time went on, although Nina especially was puzzled by how the ice kept disappearing. 

For another sensory element I added a bubble machine that I picked up at Tesco last week – it cost around £6 and I’m sure we’ll use it on plenty of occasions yet so that was an investment well made. I used foam bath letters to spell out the word “Ocean”, the girls love these in lots of different situations (they have their initials as part of their treasure boxes and a 1, 2, 3 in the bath!) they stick to stuff when they’re wet and they’re also safe to chew, which has really helped with teething over the past few weeks. I bought a bag of these a while back and have used them for all sorts of play since – mostly in sensory bags to practice tummy time, mixed with glitter, beads and googly eyes. 

I dotted the rest of the mat with anything remotely water-related we had – including some accessories from our Mama’s & Papa’s Tummy Time Octopus, a few hand bells and shakers, plus the sensory bottles my sister made my nephew and then passed on to us. I let the girls explore on their tummies first, and then when they got tired we flipped over on to our backs and I held up things to look at. I’m really looking forward to the girls sitting up so they can get even more stimulation out of all this stuff. Lastly, I used a spray bottle filled with water and misted the whole room every few minutes, just to make sure everyone was staying cool. This worked really well with the fan and definitely aleiviated the girls’ crabbiness for a few hours.

I’d totally recommend this for a fun, sensory activity on a quiet afternoon. It keeps the babies cool and would be as great outside on a patio (under a gazebo or umbrella) as it is indoors. Looking forward to trying different themes in the coming weeks! I heart maternity leave <3

 

 

New Mum Wishlist

New Mum Wishlist

If you follow me on my various channels, you’ll probably have noticed that just under three months ago my beautiful twin girls Nina and Ada were born. I *think* I’ve finally wrapped my tiny mind around it and things have started to settle, so while I’m absolutely loving life as a new mum I figured it was time to get this show on the road again. You know, now that I’m all about nesting and kickin’ back with my babes.

Now, not to complain or anything, but things didn’t go particularly smoothly for me during pregnancy, which I’m sure you’ll have picked up on if we crossed paths at any time during those 35 weeks and one day (yes, I was counting. Every. Single. Minute.). And while I’m super glad my little pals are here now, those last few weeks got pretty hairy with hospital stays, preeclampsia, diabetes complications and much more besides. I gave birth by c-section thanks to all those issues combined, as well as the fact that Twin 1 (that’s Nina) was breech. We had a pretty lengthy stay on the Transitional Care ward afterwards, thanks to a postpartum haemorrhage which was followed by three blood transfusions and then a brief trip to Critical Care with hospital-acquired pneumonia. *Deep breath* It’s not been easy, but it feels great to finally be at home with my daughters attempting to recover from it all, sitting on my sofa, drinking tea and dedicating myself solely to looking after myself and my family.

New Mum Wishlist

Now, the reason I know I must be feeling better is that I’ve started shopping again. We had no shortage of clothes for the twins when they arrived but sadly they kinda swamped them a bit, seeing as they were born early (37 weeks is full term for twins and that’s when you’d usually be induced or have a section scheduled if you haven’t given birth already) and only weighed 5lb12 and 4lb15 respectively when they arrived. For their first three weeks they lived mainly in plain white Tiny Baby sleep suits and looked pretty damn cute in the process, but after a while I was longing for baby leggings and cute little cardis. Once I could start putting them in proper outfits I absolutely loved it, and I’ve had more than a few late night Instagram sessions during feeds, finding gorgeous things to lust over. These are the items I’m currently coveting:

1. Jazzy Leggings and Matching Headgear

New Mum Wishlist

I’ve been obsessed by cute leggings since I found out I was pregnant, so it’s no surprise that even with a sizeable haul I WANT MORE. My main haunts are Milk Moustache Apparel, Tobias & the Bear and Maebelle & Bo. I’ve just placed a big order from MMA, but next on my baby treat list for a few weeks time will be these Hearts Baby Leggings with matching hats and mits in both yellow and red. These Twisty Headbands from MMA are also on my to-buy list to match the donut, eyelash and feather leggings the girls already have in their wardrobe. Gonna style these up with long sleeve body suits and bandana bibs for ultimate baby-chic.

2. Teething Jewellery

New Mum Wishlist

This is a really awesome concept that has been executed in such a pleasing, design-conscious way. I love a long necklace (my fave is my terracotta tassel by Gem Smith – more on that in an upcoming post on my favourite independent jewellery brands), but I’ve already noticed the issues that crop up during feeding and cuddles. Organic Mama makes gorgeous pieces made from 100% food grade silicone and are completely safe for little hands and mouths. They can go in the dishwasher, they have a break-away clasp for safety and, the best bit, they’re totally beautiful. My favorite is probably the “Indie“, but there’s more than one on my shopping list.

3. Lush Products

New Mum Wishlist

Lush products should by no means be restricted to pregnancy and new motherhood, but right about now they seem particularly necessary. Because of my c-section wound I wasn’t allowed to use anything fancy in the bath for a while, but showers were a-ok and any little treats I could get my hands on felt extra special during those blissful moments alone in the bathroom. My number one Lush lust is the Salted Coconut Hand Scrub. My sister bought this as a present for me during pregnancy, and I’m totes obsessed. I’m washing my hands so much at the moment, plus my skin is still recovering from the dryness of an extended stay in the hospital, so this stuff is a real godsend. It smells amazing, sloughs away dry skin and leaves your hands feeling supple and hydrated. I’d recommend it to all new mums and, actually, just to anyone who wants to indulge in something a bit luxurious.

4. Everything from La La Land

The Nursery

The girls’ nursery as it currently stands…

I first came across La La Land when Jen bought some prints to decorate our work studio. One of them was the “Support Your Local Girl Gang” print, simple gold foil text on a white background, and when the girls arrived, I figured there was nothing more perfect for the wall. I’ve been carefully collecting prints and cards over the last few months, all of which have gone up in the nursery on a few simple picture ledges from IKEA. The nursery has loads of white, grey and turquoise and an awesome wardrobe system for all those cute little leggings. It’s also going to have a jungle/woodland themed mural painted by a friend, as soon as I get my act together and organise it. I can’t wait for it to be complete!

5. Parenting Books

New Mum Wishlist

Despite its challenges, my pregnancy seemed to pass pretty quickly and I barely had time to pick up a book. I did most of my reading on online forums and blogs, but mostly my research was about pregnancy and birth, rarely what comes after. Now the fog of hormones and illness is starting to clear, I’m ready to restart reading around the subject of raising happy kids. One of the best pieces of advice on motherhood I received from a friend went along the lines of “Smile and listen to everyone’s advice, then make up your own mind”, so while Matt and I don’t put a huge amount of importance on rules and plans, I still get a lot from reading about what works for others and then using that to piece something together that works for us. After a couple of recommendations, I ordered The Gentle Parenting Book: How to Raise Calmer, Happier Children from Birth to Seven by Sarah Ockwell-Smith and I’m really excited to get stuck into that. I’ve also just started putting my baby book together. I’m using a SMASH Book with lots of cute, bright stickers and prints ordered from the Free Prints app to record the twins’ first year.

6. A Whole New Wardrobe

New Mum Wishlist

I wore the same five pairs of maternity leggings, five tops and one coat on a loop during the last four months of my pregnancy. I got so big with water retention towards the end that I could barely wear shoes – only wide fit pumps from Primark two sizes too big and my neon pink Nike gym trainers would fit come the last few weeks. I dropped 25kg (I think that’s nearly four stone?!) in just under a week once the girls had come out – I think I literally wee’d it out (soz), but I still haven’t managed to get myself into town to buy some new threads. After being so puffy, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see my waist and my ankles again. The only thing I have treated myself too is this awesome “Winging It” t-shirt from Selfish Mother. I practically lived in their “Human” baseball tee while I was pregnant and I love the ethos behind the brand as well as their designs. And talking about things I love, I’ve recently become obsessed with awesome blogger Dress Like a Mum, so I’m using her as my postpartum inspo!

**

I’ll be back soon with some more posts – who knows, I might even surprise everyone (myself included!) with a recipe or something crazy like that! I’ve mostly been relying on Matt to cook me dinner every night, but now I’m feeling better I’m pretty excited to get back in the kitchen… I eased myself back into baking the other day with a simple Rocky Road, so who knows where I’ll go next – the local Co-op is my oyster!