Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Of Baby, Adventures, Cakes and Being at Home

The greatest adventure of my life to date happened recently - my husband and I welcomed a little baby to our family. There was so much advice and help for us along the way. That was a good thing, but it was also confusing. Sometimes I appreciated the information that was coming my way, sometimes it was pure opinionated fiction. Sorting the wood for the trees has been a constant part of pregnancy and early parenthood.

Here are some of the myths I have come across, and how Mr. Cloister, Baby Bertie and I have responded:

1. Once you have a baby you will not be able to cook a meal: order take away! Cook for the freezer while your expecting! - Every book, blog post and person I spoke to mentioned this. It made me nervous. What would we both be doing? It may well be true that one of us cannot cook, but there are two adults in this team - right? Right. Mr Cloister made me steak, chips and green beans on our first night home with little one. Not a day has gone by where we have sat down, looked at each other and declared 'we cannot cook, we must starve!' Cooking is a life skill that does not disappear. Thank God.

2. You'll not leave the house for weeks. I was honestly frightened of this. It turns out, it is rubbish too. Basically, if you want to go out with your newborn baby, you go out. Yes, you have to think about what to dress your baby in, and how to keep him clean and comfortable, but no one is going to force you to stay inside. In the same week Bertie was born Mr Cloister and I walked round the local farm, went to Church as usual, went to the shops - you know, normal living. That was essential for me, especially post C-Section. Since then, wherever we have wanted to go, Baby Cloister has joined us. Simple.

3. There is a right way to do everything (and you're probably doing it wrong). We have broken all the 'rules'. Baby B feeds when he wants, sleeps on the sofa (before we go to bed) and in our bed (when we are there), hops in the bath with me, goes out in cold weather, and sometimes even sleeps outside too - he seems fine. Meanwhile, we eat what we like, drink as we please and share the many jobs (washing nappies, mainly) - we are fine too. Pah! to rule books. Following our parental instincts and keeping things simple works for us.

Some things have been really important to keep in mind, and I've found them helpful. For example, everything can't be perfect so don't try and make it that way; your family is made of love, keep loving; my husband, my baby and I are all beautiful (and I'm not just being big headed); snoozing in the middle of the day is not only okay, it is essential; sleeping through the night is overrated, the medievals never did it; complaining ruins morale, keep chipper; do nice things for your partner; hug whenever you get the chance.

On sleep, I admit, that Mr Cloister and I love snoozing and so have adapted very quickly to a routine of eat dinner, tidy house and do chores, take peppermint or chamomile tea (wine on Friday's) to bed and listen to audiobook story really rather quickly. We are normally all three tucked in by 9pm, but then we don't worry about being up changing a nappy at 2am. From the cosiness of bed we conduct our evenings, chatting, listening the radio, even folding nappies and laundry when needed!
Well, that's my baby post. I don't think I'll do another - there are too many out there. 

Being at home has its challenges for me, I find four walls difficult to handle. For this reason, Baby Cloister and I have been going out on some adventures. I have asked the other mums I know from antenatal class to let me plan a little walk (with buggies or slings) for them every now and then. They will do the same for me sometimes, I'm sure. Here's a picture of us out and about enjoying ourselves.

Cake is the other essential to motherhood. And lots of it. I make cake all the time, but try not to eat it all myself. I made these mini bakewells to send into my husband's work and they got a good review! Enjoy.

225g / 8oz plain flour
110g / 4oz butter
80g / 3oz sugar
1 egg

Crumb together the butter and the flour by hand, add the sugar. bind the mixture quickly by mixing in the egg, and a little milk if needed, to form a soft dough.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a baking tray with 12 x fairy cake tin. Roll the pastry out and use a round cutter to cut shapes a little bigger than the pattie rounds. Place the round pastry shapes into each space and leave to one side (in a cool space preferably). I cut little star shapes out with left over pastry for decoration later.

Strawberry or Raspberry Jam
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
almond essence*
1 lemon zested*
flaked almonds*

*all optional

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the 3 eggs, whisked, slowly. Add the last egg yolk, slowly. Fold in gradually the ground almonds, almond essence and lemon zest. To your pre prepared pastries spread a little strawberry/raspberry jam at the bottom of each tart. Add a little of the cake mixture to each and smooth out. Add flaked almonds or pastry stars to the top. Bake for 20 - 30 mins, until soft, golden and springy.

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