Friday, 28 June 2013

Soft Play........

I've talked about my feelings surrounding organised 'baby groups' before here, but I decided it was about time I tried something else. She loves climbing and exploring so why not soft play? I thought it might be a good environment for her as she's not expected to sit still!

Where do you go though? I spent ages looking at various soft play centers in our area - there really are quite a few. Most of them say they are suitable for at least 12 months+ but I was really nervous about her getting hurt by older more climby/ walky children than her. A separate baby area would be ideal but it doesn't seem that many have these. Then there is THAT issue. You know the one...... germs and stuff. I'm not in any way germ-phobic or overly crazy about that stuff but given all the children these places must have playing in them even in one day you want somewhere clean.

I think we have still to find our perfect one - I think once we do we'll visit quite a lot. To try out this whole crazy idea I decided on somewhere cheap (though I'd be happy to pay more now I know she likes it). We decided to pick up Aunty K and visit a Wacky Warehouse nearby. Between 9:30 and 3 they have Tot Club for under 5's and it's only £2.

It went...... ok. They had a dedicated toddler area, but really most of the stuff was still to big/unsuitable for her to play on. She loved the ball pit, but that was really all there was. It wasn't really as clean as I would have liked either. I guess my search continues!

Home Made Oat Milk

Every so often, we run out of 'milks'. We like soy - but I usually have almond or rice instead. This morning was one of THOSE days. I poured my bowl of cereal and then discovered we'd ran out. Luckily I had everything on hand to whip up some tasty oat milk.
Once you have soaked oats it's a really quick way to create 'milk' - it takes 5 minutes tops. You can store your 'milk' in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.
This recipe is gluten free as long as you are using oats that haven't been cross contaminated.

Ingredients

1 Cup Oats (I use my favorite Wholefoods 365 Brand Jumbo Oats)
Water for soaking + 3 Cups Filtered Water
2TBSP Brown Rice Syrup
1TSP Vanilla
Pinch of salt


Cover your oats with water and soak for at least 20 minutes, but this can also be done overnight in the fridge.
Using a fine mesh colander drain of, then rinse under cold water for a few seconds.
Add the oats to a blender with the 3 cups of water and pulse. Go slowly, you want it to blend - but not too much.


Place your mesh over a bowl and pour through to remove oat pulp. Give the blender a rinse and pop your 'milk' back in along with syrup, vanilla and salt.


Give it a few more pulses.
Pour it a last time through the mesh and it's ready.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Catching Up

I could say I haven't posted for a week for all sorts of reasons, but really it's because I've been enjoying time with my baby (well ok then, toddler). I guess I owe some of my 'downtime' to the fact I had a laser removal appointment at the weekend. Really painful stuff, and on my arms too so you just know everything and anything has to bump into them. Happy to say that was my last one on the biggest stuff anyway and in August I get to start my pretty cover up sleeve. Bye bye to bad tattoos!


We went to Wing Yip which is almost my favorite supermarket ever. So many unusual and tasty things!


So I've been making huge amounts of Miso Soup. It's amazing.


I've been giving our Tot's Bots V3's another chance (after reaching about 6 months and them becoming unusable due to leaks). I've been using Bumgenius & Close Popin Bamboo nappies in the meantime, but I'm glad to say with the aid of our Little Lamb bamboo boosters they are usuable again! We brought a fulltime set before Small was born so it's nice to know we didn't waste our money! (Although we do have over 50 nappies now... Excessive?)


We've been hanging out in our lovely local park with grandparents.


Well this says it all really. Small's now figured out how to open the curtains in our bedroom from her 'sidecar' cot. No sleep?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Father's Day

These days (now I'm a parent) I really love the days which celebrate all that we do. It's really not about gifts or cards (although they might be nice), it's about enjoying time as a family and how blessed we feel every day to have such a wonderful little girl.


Small and I made (after several attempts!) salt dough hand prints as a gift and we'd planned a day out with my parents so I'd get to see my dad too!
After pigging out on lunch at Wholefoods we headed over to Snowhill Manor.


My dad as usual took comand of the pushchair and ran around on the trails leading upto the manor making Small laugh with delight. She loves her Grandad, so it was lovely to all spend time together.


Sadly we spent a little too much time in Wholefoods and didn't make it in time for entrance to the house, but we had a nosey around the grounds. We'll have to go back when Small is a little older so she can enjoy it too :)


Monday, 17 June 2013

New York! New York.... Part 1

With a young child we weren't sure about having a honeymoon - I mean what do other people do? We wanted to do something really special, and whilst I've been to the USA quite a lot and Mr B is there all the time for work we'd never been to NY and we'd never been together! Small has a fantastic and secure attachment to my parents, she absolutely loves them and vice versa so although I knew I was going to miss her like crazy - I also knew that she would be just find and completely happy with them.
It's taken me a few months to get around to writing this post because we did so much! I think we went to 14 different v*gan places to eat during our stay!
We stayed at the Sanctuary Hotel which was located just off Times Square with a subway station at the end of the street so were really well located to explore the city.
We arrived a bit later than expected due to a delayed flight so we were both pretty tired. We decided on a quick walk through Times Square to hunt out a branch of Moaz.



My only experience of this chain previously is of the one in Soho, London. I'd not been wowed over then but we just needed something quick to eat without having to go too far. The thing is - the Falafel here was really good, so good in fact we went back again later in the week.
After a good nights sleep we decided to jump in feet first and figure out the subway to head over to Brooklyn and check out Dun-Well Doughnuts. 
 


I've just got to say it outright - I LOVED this place. I think it is almost my favorite place we ate at of the whole trip! Who wouldn't love a 100% vegan doughnut shop?!




I had the doughnut sundae with a coconut doughnut and cookies 'n cream ice cream. It was divine! We also got a box of 12 assorted flavours to take away and eat at our leisure.





 
Whilst we are on the subject of vegan treats... my other favorite place was Lula's Sweet Apothecary. 
 It's amazing really. If you are in the area you HAVE to visit! 


I had a sundae with graham cracker topping, vegan cream and a cherry on the top! I chose cookies n cream and mint as my ice cream flavours as they are my absolute favorite.


Another 'sweet' place we visited was Babycakes Nyc. I have to say, I was pretty excited about this place as I'd drooled over their books over the past few years. I had a cookie sandwich, and it was pretty good - but you know what? I liked Dunwell and Lula's better.


 More to come in the next installment!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Salt Dough Handprints


Last year was Mr B's first Father's Day. Small and I made a lovely card with lots of photos, but although it was a very special day we didn't get up to too much. Small was under 1 month old and we were all sleep deprived and very new to being parents!
This year I fancied the idea of making something special. We had brought a hand print mold kit ages ago, but we've been too scared to do it! She's such a wriggle bum I just know it'd be near impossible to get her to hold still for the 30 seconds required. That's why salt dough appealed - it's not as detailed but if it goes wrong you can just kneed the dough a little and start again.
Despite this supposedly being an 'easy' craft and me being quite crafty I have to admit to messing it up a few times. Not on making the dough, but getting the thickness right to get a deep enough hand print without making it so thick it won't dry.

Ingredients
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup fine salt
1/2 cup water


First mix your dry ingredients together, then slowly add the water until you form a nice ball of dough. You'll need to kneed it for about 5 minutes to get a nice smooth texture, if you have them I found it's best to use non stick silicone sheets for this rather than flouring a surface as on my first couple of tries I ended up with flour on the surface of it once dry.
I separated the dough into two and roughly rolled out to about 1/2 inch thick. After a few tries I got nice clear hand prints,  then used a straw to cut a hole for hanging.


I used my dehydrator to dry the dough. It took about 12 hours at about 67c (the highest setting) and I turned them over about halfway through. You can also dry these in an oven set between 50c and 100c for about four hours. Make sure you use baking paper or silicone sheet underneath your dough so it doesn't stick!


Once dry you can paint it however you like (acrylic paints work best) and to really make it last you can use a coat of spray varnish.

The same method can also be used to create lovely footprints, decorations and models.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Whilst My Baby Sleeps


Small and I have been really busy getting ready for Father's Day. I know it's not until Sunday, but it's the last day that I won't have Mr B under my feet! 
After all the excitement I took her for a drive so that she'd nap, and here I am sitting in the car outside the house listening to my Ipod whilst she has a good snooze (today's choice is The Cure BTW. Robert Smith <3 )


I think back to this time last year and Small was TINY!  I remember placing Mr B's first Father's Day card in her moses basket for him to find after a long night of having not much sleep on the sofa and use of the 'white noise' app on my Ipad. Memories are precious.
So as I sit here waiting for her to wake I'm enjoying my time to reflect. I'll let you in on what we've been getting ready after the day.
 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Bed Hogging (otherwise know as Cosleeping)



I've talked about how/ why we co sleep before. We don't do it all the time, but more nights than not in a week Small will end up in her sidecar cot right next to me snoozing away.


I love waking up and seeing her happily asleep by my side (most mornings she wakes me up with a big smile though). This morning actually wasn't one of those. She slept all night in her own cot, in her own room. In fact she actually even slept in until 8:30, and I found her 'reading' her Miffy books in her cot.
I enjoy these nights, because well... I get more sleep. The thing is though I miss the cuddles we might of had if she'd have been in with me. I can't win!
I'm feeling all reflective over our sleeping arrangements as a family this morning because truth be told this is the first time she's spent the whole night in her own room in weeks. She wakes for feeds and/ or cuddles almost every night... And I give them to her. I'm always being told she shouldn't be allowed milk in the night as it 'encourages' her to wake up for it, or I should let her cry when she wakes up so she'll learn to go back to sleep. I could never do any of those things. I don't let her 'cry it out', we cuddle instead.
 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Gluten Free 'Cheese' Rolls




These rolls are best served warm right out of the oven and go great with a burger or lovely bowl of soup. I used Daiya vegan cheese for these - as Mr B makes regular trips to the US we have a good supply in our freezer, but it's REALLY hard to get hold of in the UK normally. A good substitute would be Redwood's Soya Free .
I use my bread machine on a dough cycle for these. It makes it simple and means I can leave it to it's own devices and play with Small or do some dreaded housework instead. If you don't have a bread machine it can be easily done by hand.

Ingredients

450g gluten free bread flour
350ml soya milk (or plain rice milk)
3 Tsp white chia seeds (mixed and left to soak in 10 Tsp water to make an egg replaced mixture)
8 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tsp salt
2 Tsp red wine vinegar (make sure it's gluten free)
2 Tbsp Quick Yeast
 
Handful of shredded vegan cheese of choice.

Place everything except the yeast into your bread machine pan and stir with a spoon well. Put your yeast on top and run a dough cycle.
Once finished divide dough into about 6 rolls, top with 'cheese' and bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes. You might want to use an oil spray to grease the tin and on top of the rolls so that they brown.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Gluten Free Scones


I really love scones. With jam and 'cream' they are divine, I didn't have any on hand for this batch - but Soyatoo Whipping 'Cream' is the best vegan one I've found.

Ingredients

200g Plain Gluten Free Flour - I used Dove's Farm
2 TSP Gluten Free Baking Powder (also Dove's Farm)
2 TSP Xanthan Gum 
1 TSP Ground Flaxseed
15g Sugar
40g Margarine (I use Pure Sunflower)
150ml Almond or Rice Milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Place the flour, xanthan gum, flaxseed and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the margarine and rub in until a 'bread crumb' texture is achieved.
Add the sugar, and then the 'milk' and mix into a wet dough.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut cookie sized circles around 2 inches thick (this is slightly thicker than you would cut 'ordinary' scones, but these do no rise as much).
Place on a lightly greased oven tin and cook for between 10 and 15 minutes.
Serve split in half with jam and 'cream' of your choice. Enjoy!

Yes but this old rocking horse Just nods his head And he's gonna rock back and forth


At Christmas Small was given this lovely Mamas & Papas George Giraffe, though at the time she was a little to young to use it.
A few days ago I watched her climb on his back, happily rock back and forth and then climb off. My baby is growing up. It might sound so simple, but for me it was bittersweet. 
The day she was born, really not long ago at all. She was tiny (well compared to now anyway) & beautiful. I've heard people say all my life that children grow up so fast. They really, really do.
I'm in awe of the beautiful little girl she's becoming, but already miss the baby phase.
I'm also looking forward - to baking, pictures on the fridge, playgrounds, first words, learning to ride a bike - all of it. Motherhood bring it on.

 

Monday, 10 June 2013

London Eats


As it was Mr B's birthday weekend we headed down to London to spend time with family and visit some favorite veggie haunts.

We took a lovely ride on the Thames Clipper to get into central as I really didn't fancy my chances on the Underground with a pushchair in tow!


After a lovely day wondering around (we even witnessed a mass of naked cyclists!) we headed to Mildred's in Soho. Sadly I didn't get any photos of the food as I had a very sleepy baby on my hands as soon as we sat down. We took in turns to let us sleep on us and eat one handed!
 

They had quite a few options that were both vegan AND gluten free. I ate:

Chargrilled roman style artichoke crostini with lemon aioli  (minus the crostini) VO

Sweet Potato Fries with basil mayo V /GF

Stir Fried Asian Vegetables - Cooked in sesame oil and plum sauce with garlic and ginger, fresh chilli and coriander served with organic brown rice, toasted cashews and marinated organic tofu. V/ WF/ GF

Chocolate and Peanut butter brownie with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce V/ GF
 
It was my first visit, although Mr B comes here all the time on work days. I really enjoyed the food - although the starters and puddings were the best bits!


On Sunday before leaving we headed over to Manna V in Primrose Hill. I love this area of London - it has cute little shops and is on the edge of Regent's Park.

I ate:

Nachos Especiales V/ GF

Jalepeno Cashew Cheese Croquettes V/ GF Option

Cashew Cheese Fajitas V/ GF Option

Lemon & Blueberry Cheesecake V/ GF


Everywhere we visited were child friendly (Mildred's had a high chair & we used our own at Manna V) - since having a child I've really noticed those places which are happy to serve families and those who are not. Small had lots of lovely attention and Manna V even has a children's menu.

We had a lovely weekend and plan to head back soon!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Feeding The Ducks


Today we had a lovely visit from my parents. They absolutely adore Small and always make such a massive effort with her.

We headed out to one of our lovely local parks to feed the ducks (well more like Grandad feeding them!). I've never taken her specifically to see the ducks before as I figured she was too young to really understand (and there are some pretty massive swans!).


She really seemed to enjoy if - even when said massive swans got very close!


Afterwards we had a lovely walk around the park to make the most of the lovely sunshine.



 

Spending simple but happy time with family is so important to me and I'm really blessed to be able to stay at home whilst my daughter is little. If I'd have gone back, I would have been at work for over two months already. That's a lot of precious moments I would have missed!
 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Monkeys and a Picnic


The weather had persisted in being lovely the first couple of days this week do for yesterday I'd planned a day out. Small has recently become a lot more aware of animals, so much so that they give her the giggles. She'll spend ages laughing in delight - it could be nanny's cats, horses or dogs they all seem equally amusing for her.
So yesterday my lovely best friend K & I headed for Monkey Forest in Staffordshire. Now I know what you're thinking..... as a vegan I don't agree with zoos and safari parks - animals for entertainment is a no no. As a parent of a vegan child though I face a special dilema - do I stop her going on school trips when she's older? and just how do I let her see animals in order to create an understanding of what they are and why she's vegan.


I know it's not for everyone - but I enjoyed seeing monkeys swinging in the trees and roaming freely around their massive forest area. I admit I'd never seen anything like that before. With not a cage in sight (and it's nice to know they do conservation work too) it was a nicer way for Small to see animals. It's not perfect, but was a nice day out all the same.

What I already knew, but found suprising all the same is just how like us they really are. I saw mommys carrying their babies, first on their fronts when they are small and then on their backs when they are bigger - just as I have done. There is an incredible bond in being a mother, no matter what species.


After a lovely walk around the trail we all sat down for a picnic - which I enjoyed so much I forgot to take any pictures.

After we'd finished up and were so close we decided to check out The Big Strawberry in Stoke for cake & coffee only to find it closed! Not sure what was going on, but according to the advertised hours it should have been open. Fail!
We had a lovely day out - hopefully we'll get to have lots more whilst the weather holds out.


 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Happy Days


Some days are wonderful, but really simple. It's been hard to miss the beautiful weather so far this week so this morning we headed to the park. 
Small has suddenly become very fond of the swings, and we are lucky enough to live near several beautiful parks that we can walk to. 
After much pushing on the swings we pottered about (went to Starbucks) and then headed home with some newly purchased play balls to inflate a ball pit.


She enjoyed it to much in the garden I brought it into the living room so she could carry on playing.
I did .... Erm no housework really, just enjoyed the nice weather and the smiles on my little girl's face.