It’s not really carrot cake

Been struggling to write this week. Feeling a little bit lost and not sure how to put it into words. Last week my eldest had his last ever sports day. No matter how much you enjoy all the moments you can the time when your children are small the time still goes super fast and they are big and growing up so soon.

It’s a long time really until I’ll be finished with small people as my youngest is only just starting school in September but that does mean the pre-school baby days are all gone for me and the countdown feels like it’s on as this time next year we will be waiting for the first big set of exam results and school will be over (just school, not full-time education but still -college is a whole new thing).

It’s been 19 years since I left full-time education and I still feel like I don’t really know what I want to achieve with my life, what I’m going to be when I grow up. Making three people and trying not to ruin their lives before they reach 16 is amazing as well as really hard and often frustrating but even when you stretch it out by having a big age gap it doesn’t last forever. I wouldn’t have my life any other way than revolving around these three wonderful people but I still feel the sense of panic that haven’t really got a plan for what comes next for what it means to be just me when they don’t need me so much anymore. It’s a strange job parenting, you’ve only really succeeded when you’ve made yourself redundant. It’s so hard to want to reach that point, that feeling of success while also never wanting to reach it because it feels like part of who you are is not forever. We will always be their parents and always care for them and look after them of course but it won’t be the same. So who will I be, what will my time be spent on, how will I know I’m still me.

I can’t answer these questions and letting them run round in my head is making me anxious so I know I need to fill my days and really focus on enjoying today and making the most of these moments which are not forever.

This week I’ve made more bread -it was too crusty. Also, I found the cookbook I got for my birthday, so here’s a way of having more vegetables for breakfast. Having made it I think maybe it should be renamed just carrot granola because there’s really no cake involved.

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Drying the carrot was OK much like drying the almond pulp in the previous granola recipe but there were too much of the other ingredients to mix on the tray this time.

Luckily I have such a lovely bowl I love to find reasons to use it.

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I mixed once during baking but think maybe should have mixed twice because it got a little overcooked at the edges.

 

 

 

Still, it tasted good and made a healthy breakfast so that’s what counts.

 

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Pizza

Parenting challenge this week -when the news is pretty scary how do you help your 13-year-old with a tendency to be anxious and an interest in current affairs not let it overwhelm them? I don’t know the answer, I’m working on not letting it overwhelm me and remembering that a loving gentle home environment and a safe space are the things I can control when I can’t control what’s out there. If anyone has the answer please let me know I’m always keen to learn.

In our little home bubble, we’ve had a lovely weekend. All three children worked together on a meal for father’s day without arguing which was a minor miracle. Friday we had pizza for tea. Making pizza is pretty easy and fun if you just use a bread mix for the base and let people choose their own toppings and don’t make the people who have very strong views on how much sauce a pizza should have share with each other.

The challenge comes when you’re trying to cut down on gluten. I’ve tried a gluten free scone pizza base, too dry for me and a commercially prepared gluten free pizza base, tasty but not so fun from a cooking point of view. So this week yeast and gluten free flour like this recipe.

There’s milk in it which I think could be substituted for a non-dairy alternative but I thought on the first go I’d not change too much. Making the yeast bubble was fun and looked cooler than the photo shows.

It wasn’t too sticky and formed a dough nicely but didn’t rise as well as I hoped. It did look more different than the photo shows. Think I need to do a food photography course next.

Rolling out was not too difficult but picking it up to put on the tray was practically impossible without it falling to pieces.img_20170616_173712.jpg

The one on the left I managed to get on the tray almost in one piece but the one on the left fell apart completely and ended up as a pile on the tray with the result it was a lot thicker.

They looked good once the topping was on and they had been baked.

The thinner pizza was pretty good just a little floury if it had been just a bit thinner it might have been just right. The thicker pizza was just too floury and I mostly just at the topping.

So the search for the perfect gluten free pizza continues.

In other news, while I was making pizza our new budding foody was making Mary Berry’s ‘Can’t go wrong chocolate cake’. Which was very yummy. It’s two layers in the recipe but he’s of the opinion that two cakes are better than one!

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Chocolate Quinoa

It’s true what they say, who you are matters more than what you say in determining who your children will become. It’s a slow and steady process. I’m six months in to eating differently and paying more attention to my health (some weeks it goes better than others but there are no failures when you don’t give up) and my super fussy eater has not only tried and even liked a few new things but has been reading and thinking about allergies and food that makes you feel better. Now if only I could find a way to cope better with them being really irritating so I could pass that on to them too. Or maybe siblings will just always get wound up by each other no matter what. 🙂

The last few weeks I’ve also started consciously working on not letting anxiety stop me from achieving what I want. I know that doing the thing that makes me anxious is almost always not as bad as not doing it and getting anxious over what might happen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I need to head back and re-read The Opposite of Worry and maybe get on and write my diary so I can move on to the next part of the CBT course rather than continue to just avoid it by starting other courses. At least the learn to code HTML and CSS course is really interesting and making my brain work hard and being encouraged by my son to give it a go and keep going is super special.

Despite prevailing opinions on quinoa in the household I decided to give a quinoa experiment a go this week. So I made some for my lunch which was yummy and then made the rest into quinoa crispies like this it wasn’t the weather for having the oven on for longer than necessary so I took the opportunity to slow roast some veggies which means that my dinner is under control for today. Not often I’m that organised so feel pleased with myself!

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The quinoa didn’t all get the same amount crispy but it was sticking to the tray more and more so I decided it was time to move on.

To make it into Quinoa Crunch Bars.

These are so simple. I didn’t have (and don’t like) stevia but I’m also used to things not so sweet now. If you’re not used to being sugar-free or don’t want to be then a teaspoon or even half a teaspoon of icing sugar would work really well.

Decided to be extra decadent and put some melted chocolate on top before they went in the freezer. When they came out they looked great.

They taste like a chocolate bar. The only issue for me was a little bit of getting quinoa stuck in my teeth, worth it for the kick for sure. Two of the taste team found them a little too chocolatey but the maybe not so fussy anymore one wanted a second piece!

Three weeks in one go

I’ve been making positive decisions over the last three weeks. Some of them have been decisions to do things other than spending time on the computer which is why the baking has happened but the blogging hasn’t.

It’s been a few weeks of thinking about so many things that are completely out of my control. The things that are either shit that happens because that’s just how the world is and the things that are the consequences of bigger life choices that I’ve made. My heart is very much in one day being able to go back to my job of being a birth doula -if you’re saying ‘a what?’ click here. But not dwelling on that as it can’t happen in the next couple of years is easier said than done. Making smaller positive choices within the confines of what is possible for me right now does help but it doesn’t quiet the longing in my heart completely.

In our wider family we’re being forced to face the fact sometimes people have to leave you before you’re ready to let them go and cancer is really shit. There are positive choices you can make to value and love people but sometimes hard times come and it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to not be ok.

When things are not ok chocolate cake can’t fix anything but it’s still nice to have some.

This recipe hasn’t got eggs and I made it with almond milk so it was completely vegan. I was also in a hurry and I took it out the tin too quickly so it crumbled but it still tasted really good.

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The next week my project at the insistence of my kitchen assistant was strawberry cupcakes. They tasted amazing, too amazing, the taste team was either not available or apparently don’t like strawberries, except the kitchen assistant who didn’t like the icing and then refused to eat any more cakes. Long story short I ate them all. It wasn’t a good decision but I couldn’t help myself.

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And it led to a very positive decision to stop saying I need to do something about my health and start actually doing something. And so the last week has included a lot of making smoothies and salads and no coffee drinking. I’ve gone a bit hardcore to start off but I’m working on a new lifestyle, not a temporary quick fix so I’m planning to mellow as I  learn.

We did a little Easter Baking. It was fun and I think we did a good job of making them like the picture but I don’t know what they taste like.

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Killing the perfect

I’m reading a book at the moment. I like reading but I struggle with reading good novels because I like to get absorbed in the story and carried away with reading and real life is always getting in the way. But right now I’m reading a book of ideas, it’s challenging but I’m persevering. I reached a point where the book told me to put it down and go kill the perfect person I want to be -in my case the perfect mum and the perfect friend have got to go. I can’t move on until I kill off the people who don’t exist, who I will never be.

It said to not come back until I was done but it’s a long and winding road and I want to read the book. Because, like I said, it’s interesting and challenging. I do know I need to stop trying to be the perfect – that what I’m trying to be isn’t even perfect really just an image in my head built on so many things, many of which aren’t even fully true. I’m so good at recognising how great other people are but I really find it hard to appreciate myself. I don’t think I’m going to be able to switch off the perfect image I can’t measure up to just like that but I’m committed to the positive decision to step back from it and teach myself to be kind to me.

Today’s recipe is applesauce muffins to use up the leftover applesauce from last week’s flapjacks sugar-free and low-fat, how healthy.

They mix up nicely. Only problem I came across was probably because I need some proper muffin tins, the muffins stuck to the inside of the wrappers.

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They rose beautifully and cooked in the time suggested. It’s past the taste team’s bed time so they weren’t available (and are sceptical about apple flavoured thing apparently) but I liked them. They are really not very sweet at all and taste better with a little butter but overall will make a good breakfast I think.

Simple pleasures

This week’s blog is a little late, the baking challenge is still on track it’s just the writing that’s been pushed back by illness and crazy painting lady trying to get ready for carpet fitting which is happening as we speak.

This week we’ve had a lot of struggles with our natural tendency to be perfectionists and feel down on ourselves when we do things wrong. It’s an ongoing issue for both the adults in the house although we’ve both come a long way but it’s a whole new thing to teach our teenagers about how to work hard but be gentle with yourself and not put yourself under pressure or think that you will never be good enough. It’s a real reminder that what you tell your children is not as important as who you are, they will follow your example, not your teaching. There’s not a whole lot of joy in the feeling of your child struggling to see how awesome they really are but the joy has been there so much in having friends to turn to who can say in truth it’s ok, it’s normal. Also, a good time to remind ourselves that it really is difficult being a teenager and being there for them is important even when it’s hard .

This week my commitment to bake was challenged by not finding it fun, we made carrot cupcakes midweek. It wasn’t fun, the kitchen assistant didn’t like the smell and it all got a bit stressful. The cakes were ok but not really delicious and we still have some left. Made me remember the whole point of the challenge is to do something for me, something fun. My small person loves to bake too so I fell into the trap of feeling bad if I didn’t include her. But the point of the challenge is not to exclude her but to have fun and find the joy for me as there’s already plenty of joy in her life -it’s really an inspiration how much she loves the things she loves.

The second lot of baking this week was much more fun. I did lots of prep myself and asked for help with mixing which went well. I was looking for a low sugar flapjack recipe but I didn’t have dates or bananas. So I ended up mixing it up with several recipes as ideas and making my own one.

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50g coconut oil

2 tbsp nut butter

4 tbsp honey

1tbsp brown sugar

Mixed :

1 apple -peeled and grated

250g Oats

Added the wet ingredients to the dry and mixed some more.

It was a bit stiff to mix, probably not quite the right balance of wet and dry ingredients.

We baked it for 20 minutes at gas mark 4 in our extra hot oven so probably higher or longer. Looked good and was yummy enough to be gone within 24 hours. It was a little dry so I’ve got plans to adjust the ingredients and try again soon. It’s not perfect first try but that’s ok we try again and keep working and remember we are still awesome 🙂

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One of those moments

Warning to those expecting a blog about baking the first bit is a birth story. If you want to skip to the baking scroll to the first photo.

There are moments in life around which everything else seems to revolve where everything changes, where who you are and everything that’s important shifts. Tomorrow will be the 15th anniversary of one of those moments in my life.

15 years ago yesterday I was ‘just’ pregnant me. Then that evening we went to our friends’ house and before we got our dinner I stood up and pop water was flowing out of me like a tap had been turned on in my pants! Everyone panicked a little bit, we phone the hospital they said don’t panic but maybe pop in and get checked out.

I got checked out, we went back to ours and got take out. No contractions started, it was a bit of an anticlimax, I wish I’d enjoyed that last night of sleep and quiet even more than I did, it’s not really been quiet in our lives for any of the following 15 years.

We pottered around at home 15 years ago today, in the afternoon I had a few contractions and then about 8pm they started to take my attention and take my breath away. We phoned the birth centre, they said come and see us. We got there and everything seemed to slow down again, they said you’re probably not in labour it might be better to go home, but they checked anyway and my cervix was doing its job -4cm dilated, we could stay, I could relax, we were left in a lovely dark peaceful room and gradually through the night everything went as it should. Except one thing, my baby had done what so many babies do when their water’s go before they’ve  got in the best position to exit, he got stuck with his back next to my back and his head tilted.

My very own midwife arrived in the morning, I was one of the lucky people even in those days it wasn’t that common to have your own community midwife look after you in labour. I was the magic 10cm. I started to push. It didn’t get us very far. After longer than the officially recommended amount of time my midwife said she thought we should go to the main labour ward and see if there was more that could be done to help me get this stuck baby out.

There was a lovely midwife and a junior doctor who didn’t get her hand out of me when I said stop. If you’re ever having a baby don’t feel you can’t say stop and make sure you have someone like my midwife with you to get their face in and say stop means stop. Just because someone has a white coat on doesn’t mean they have rights over your body, only you can say who’s in your vagina and who’s not. Don’t ever feel bad for saying no.

Well, baby was very well stuck and starting to show signs he wasn’t happy there. So we were off to theatre to try assisted delivery and if that didn’t work have a c-section. That was where I met my new best friend the anaesthetist who gave me a spinal block, up until all the fiddling around had started I’d been ok with labour but after all that I was so grateful for the total sensation block. Well the junior doctor didn’t have any luck with the the vaccum cup and thought she better go for the c-section but the midwives had called in the senior doctor by that point and I was very grateful again that as I’d already torn up pretty badly down there she made sure I was only going to need one set of stitches. Baby arrived with the first go with the forceps but all we got to see was his testicles before he was whipped away to the resus area. This was that pivotal moment that changed who I was and came back to haunt me for many years. I’ve never known a fear like the fear that your baby might die and I’ve never felt so helpless and so confused. I got to see baby as he passed through the recovery room in his incubator on the way to the special care baby unit but just for a moment and it felt so wrong, everything in me wanted to hold him to me and never let go but I couldn’t.

Over the next couple of days as my baby recovered from the infection that had developed in my placenta another change came over me more gently, the centre of my world changed and I knew I would now live and die for someone else without a second thought. By the time baby was back with me in the birth centre I was ready to go home and start my new life. With hindsight I can tell you if your waters have gone you don’t have to let anything in your vagina until after baby comes out, it’s very possible to have a baby without a single vaginal exam (I know I’ve done it twice since) and infection is much less likely to get in if nothing else goes in.

I always suggest that pregnant women listen to the positive birth stories, not the horror stories and I’m sometimes careful who hears all the details of this birth. But it’s important to know that things don’t always go according to the birth plan but even then you and your opinion experience and feelings are still important, a healthy baby is important but it’s not the only thing that matters. If you find you can’t control the return of the overwhelming feelings that happen sometimes when birth doesn’t go how you thought it would then talk to someone about it. Having messed up feelings, panicking, not feeling like a good mum is something that happens to lots of people and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Look for the help that’s out there. PANDAS Foundation is a good place to start.

So back to the present. I’m amazed by my first born each and every day of my life, I worry most days that I’ve not loved him enough. It breaks my heart when he can’t see how wonderful he is (even on the same days when he knows he’s right about everything and everyone else knows nothing) and I’m motivated to learn to love myself to set a better example to him.

Kind of timely this came out today http://www.fowllanguagecomics.com/comic/a-greater-love/a-greater-love

Baking today is all about a Birthday Cake. I’ve made quite a few over the years, some more elaborate than others but this year I thought I would go for some simple fun.

 

This recipe is an old favourite, a Mary Berry Fast Cakes chocolate cake. It’s easy to make and almost always turns out well. It took about half the time the recipe suggested to bake partly due to my hot new oven and partly as I put it in three smaller tins rather than one big one.

Managed to catch them before they over cooked and having taste tested the bits I cut out of the middle of two cakes to make a doughnut shape they taste amazing as usual. Cheated with the icing because it’s been a very full-on week in our family (more another time) and I’m not sorry!

Looks great. Hopefully, it won’t be too embarrassing for a 15-year-old to share with friends.

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10 observation points to you if you spotted the new scary cooking companion. 4 year old kitchen assistants are fun!