Things my kids happily ate this month 3

Apart from chocolate, that is.

Sticky chicken  

This is quite sweet but not sickly. I roasted some peppers and carrots in the same pan and served with steamed rice and peas.

Mix together orange juice, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar and dijon mustard and coat the chicken with half the sauce. Roast at 180C for 35 mins.

Remove the tin from the oven and poke some orange slices in amongst the chicken. Drizzle over the rest of the orange sauce and roast for another 15 mins until the chicken is sticky and golden.

Banana peanut butter muffins

A good way to use up bananas on the turn if you don’t fancy yet more banana bread. I adapted this from a few different recipes to pack as much in as possible. The peanut butter and yoghurt provide some extra protein and I snuck some courgette into mine, as per (you could use carrot instead). You can wrap and freeze these individually, too, so make a full batch and put some aside.

Preheat oven to 220C and grease your muffin tins.

Mash two bananas and add a handful of grated courgette, a beaten egg, 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, a good squirt of honey, 1/3 cup milk, a splash of vanilla and a few heaped tablespoons of peanut butter. Beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups plain flour, a teaspoon each of baking powder and bicarb and a pinch each of salt and cinnamon.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together very gently until just combined.

Bake at 220C for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C for another 12 minutes – test to see if a skewer comes out clean.

Chicken and veg hand pies

Hand pies are the best. You can use pretty much anything in them, the kids can help make them if you are so inclined, and there are no soggy bottoms or  scrubbing of pie tins after the fillings leak.

Mix some diced meat and veg and add a little sauce. For these, I used leftovers from the Sunday roast – chicken, roast potatoes, peas and creamed leeks – and stirred it into some tinned chicken soup.

You could use steak or roast beef and a little gravy, lamb and pea, or an all veg filling with broccoli and stilton soup. You could do an Italian-y one with leftover bolognese, or chicken, tomatoes and pesto. You get the idea.

Add a spoonful of filling to a square of puff pastry and fold one corner over to its opposite corner to make a triangle. Press the edges closed with a fork and brush with milk or an egg wash.

Bake at 180 for about 30 minutes.

Slightly-satay noodles

I made these veggie, but you could add prawns, ham or chicken. I used green peppers, mushrooms, frozen peas and tinned sweetcorn because that’s what I had the day before the weekly shop, but any veg that would work in egg fried rice or a stir fry could be used.

Mix together a good spoonful of peanut butter, some orange juice (you could use lime if everyone will eat it), a blob of sweet chilli sauce, a touch of garlic and ginger and a splash of soy sauce. Microwave the mix to soften if required.

Cook your egg noodles ( or super noodles, let’s be honest). In the meantime, steam, boil or nuke your veg. Make a very thin omelette from one egg and slice into strips.

Mix it all together – that’s it.


Why parents make great employees

I start back at work next Monday.

Usually about this time, mummy bloggers write a long, heartfelt post counting their blessings for having had a year off with their kids, (unnecessarily) justify their decision to put their child in care and then add a little LOL about drinking hot tea and going to the loo in peace.

WTF, parents? If you can’t organize things so you can drink a hot cup of tea or have a wee without an audience how in the hell are you going to manage your professional life and its multiple demands?

However, assuming that one can actually walk and chew gum at the same time, there are plenty of great reasons that employers should hire parents of small children.

They are super efficient.
G Minor had an hour nap this morning. In that time, I did my hair and makeup; prepped her lunch; had a chat to my mum on the phone; completely blitzed the study, filed a years worth of bank statements and threw away an entire bin bag of crap; cleaned the loo; and labeled some things for when she starts nursery. All the parents I know do this. Now imagine if all your employees worked at that pace.

They multitask like a mofo
Watch any parent in the half hour before the kids eat supper. They’ll be making the kids’ food, prepping their own dinner for later, feeding the cat, updating the shopping list, messing about on social media, setting the table, refereeing a fight, wiping a nose, changing a nappy while the pasta come to the boil and fielding a call from their partner. I know the research says multitasking at work does not necessarily produce the highest quality work but at least that shit gets done, right?

They are great at organising team events
Ever had to entertain two small children in a tent in the rain? A parent will EASILY find ways to occupy rational adults for a half day of team building. And team meals out will booked weeks in advance, menus circulated and choices made, without anyone filling their drinking glass with tomato ketchup or popping their balloon in the restaurant toilets.

They are great value at the Christmas party
They get a free pass from home on this night. Pass them the cheap wine and let them run wild. Fun for the whole team.

They are always prepared
The parents in your office will always have a clean tissue and a plaster for a blister. Their bag will be a mini-pharmacy of cough drops, cold and flu tablets and paracetamol. They’ll keep a hairbrush and a spare plastic shopping bag to carry things home in their desk and will usually sling you a fiver when you don’t have money for lunch.

Young kids mean elaborate parties. And parties means cake, and sweets, and bright orange maize-based snacks. Maybe Rice Krispie cakes. Mmmmm. You should sit next to the parents in your office.

Do you work out of the home? What special skills do you bring to the office?

Practical tips for partners to help with breastfeeding

Jamie Oliver last week announced that his next campaign is to get more mothers breastfeeding. There have been plenty of people who have already addressed his mansplaining, who have questioned whether people actually aren’t sufficiently informed or who have spoken out in support of the idea.

It’s great Jamie has seen breastfeeding happen successfully for his family. To be honest, I suspect Jools has found breastfeeding easy, or Jamie wouldn’t be so casual about it. She may have boobs that just do it easily, and babies who take to it enthusiastically. They have the luxury of time and money and can buy in support, whether that’s childcare for the other kids or breastfeeding support. So Jamie may well have his rose-tinted specs on.

But I don’t think it’s a bad thing that there is a man talking about breastfeeding.There is a lot that the non-breastfeeding partner can do to support a breastfeeding mother. Even with all the information and support in the world, it can be hard to get started.

So here are some ways you can help your partner in the early days of breastfeeding.

Do your research
When mum is crying and fighting a squawking baby, she may not remember everything she read. You are more likely to. Go online; read a book. Go to the antenatal breastfeeding sessions and pay attention. Before the birth, make sure you understand how milk is produced and what happens to boobs and milk production in the first few days. Learn a few different breastfeeding positions.

Know where to get support
Find out where your local breastfeeding café is and have a few pound coins ready for parking. Make a note of your NCT breastfeeding counsellor’s number and the La Leche League helpline. Bookmark some websites.

Know where to get supplies
Find the nearest 24 hour supermarket and pharmacy that opens late. You might need to get breast pads or breast shields. Probably Lanisoh. Maybe a dummy if you have a very sucky baby. If you decide to switch to or top up with formula , you’ll need to buy that, and bottles. Be ready to get in the car and go, with a minimum of fuss.

Ask what she wants to do
If mum is struggling, it’s likely that she will just wail at you, “I don’t knoooooooooow” but you still have to phrase this as her choice. Ask how you could help her to position baby, ask where she would be most comfortable feeding, tell her you are ready to hold baby for a while as soon as she is ready.

Act as gatekeeper
You may need to keep visitors away while feeding is being established. It often involves full boob exposure, pillows, sodden breast pads, squirting nipples. Not something I wanted to share with my father in law. And there is nothing quite as miserable as sitting in a bedroom, struggling to feed, while visitors sit on your sofa eating all your cake and impatiently waiting for a cuddle with the baby.

Help her feel less like a skanky milch cow
Breastfeeding can initially be messy and sweaty. Put clean sheets on the bed. Wash her jammies and her feeding bras and tops. Give her loads of time to shower and make her body feel her own again, to dry her hair properly, to put some makeup on if she wants to.

Nourish her
Make tasty, wholesome food that can be eaten one-handed if necessary and stands up to being reheated. Bring her snacks. Keep her water bottle filled up and within reach. Have a look online for foods that can help with milk production. Remind her to take her vitamins.

Wake up in the night with her
You don’t need to sit bolt upright to prove you’re in it together. But an acknowledgement that baby is still slurping away at 3am, an offer to get food or water, or rocking baby while mum has a quick wee will reduce her murderous, middle-of-the-night thoughts.

Pull your weight around the house
You’re all modern men and I’m sure you do this anyway. But no one wants to be pinned to the sofa with a baby looking at your dirty socks and the Xbox controller while there is washing to be done and kitchen surfaces to be wiped. It’s much nicer to deal with leaky boobs and cracked nipples in a clean, calm environment.

Keep your hands to yourself
If baby is feeding for 20 hours a day, it’s likely that mum will be touched out. Some women want a cuddle, massage can help with milk production and if that’s what she’d like, that’s lovely. I personally wanted to lie spread-eagled on a cool tile floor and have no one come near me for 20 minutes. You should facilitate that.

Don’t comment on the breast pump
No matter how noisy it is, how funny it looks with both sides going at once, how far her nipples are stretching into the cup. Absolutely no good can come of you saying anything about the pump.

Don’t worry, it does get better. Or else you switch to a bottle. Either way, baby is fed. Most of the above applies to both breast and bottle feeding, actually. Pull your weight, be kind to mum, nurture your new little family.

Was your partner a godsend in the early days? How did they help with breastfeeding? What advice would you give to new parents?

Easy Easter baskets

Do you have a big extended family? I’m one of only two, with no nieces or nephews, so I only have to consider my brother and mother for birthdays and Christmas and so on.

Big G is one of three, and all have children, so at full strength we’re 15 for high days and holidays. I know it’s tiny compared to some families, but it still seems like a LOT of people.

It also means a lot of chocolate at Easter. So this year we’re giving a basket of assorted chocs per household, rather than individual eggs for each person.

And because family is usually willing to indulge a three-year-old, I got G Major to help me make some baskets. I did the cutting and fine assembly; she did the decorating and supplied a non-stop commentary. I’ll spare you the commentary and just tell you how to make the baskets, shall I?

What you’ll need

2 sheets of paper or card per basket
Glue and scissors
Something to use as a circular template
Decorations. (I went to Poundland, spent a fiver, and came away with pompom chicks, ribbon, shredded paper and two packs of self-adhesive stickers. Bargain. You can buy some of these online)

What you do

From one sheet of card, cut a circle and a long strip to use as a handle.

Fold the other sheet of card in half lengthways and cut along the fold to make two wide strips. Mark a line on both and make small snips up to
the line (much as you would to line a cake tin with greaseproof paper).

Glue the two strips together and trim to just a little longer than the circumference of the circle you’ve already cut out. Attach one end of the handle at the join.


We decorated the basket at this point, as it was easier than trying to attach things to the upright sides of the basket.



Brush a wide strip of glue around the edge of the circle of card. Fold the cut edges of your basket sides flat to the circle of card and shape the sides to fit around the circle. Glue the edges together and attach the other end of the handle at the join.

Once dry, fill with shredded paper and eggs.Or, leave it out for the Easter Bunny to fill.

Father Christmas gets a wee snifter on Christmas Eve. Having made these baskets, I’m thinking perhaps the Easter Bunny deserves the same. What do you think?

Oh, naps, how I love thee

I go back to work in three weeks time and have started the difficult process of winding down afternoon naps.

Not the kids – me.

I bloody love an afternoon nap. I do it properly, too – none of this lying on the sofa in front of the TV nonsense. I draw the curtains, take off any clothes not conducive to sleeping and get right into bed. I have a little sign I pin up by the front door, warning delivery men not to disturb the sleeping baby. G Minor, of course, will sleep through the door bell – the note is purely to preserve my quiet time.

I am obviously grateful to my children, who obligingly sleep after lunch, allowing me to do the same. Nursery tried to drop G Major’s nap before I went on maternity leave and were met with a panicked demand to keep the sleep at all costs.

All the science is on my side. All other mammals take short sleeps during the day. When was the last time you saw your cat sitting bolt upright all day? Naps can:

  • reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • boost creativity at work
  • improve working memory, as well as retention.

Big corporations, most famously Google, have dedicated areas for employees to catch 40 winks while at work.

But as I’m pretty sure my boss won’t countenance a duvet and pillow under my desk, a la George Castanza, I find myself in the awkward position of re-learning to stay awake after lunch and then feeling grumpy and tearful about half an hour before dinner, in the manner of a small child. I may need to block out an hour in my diary each afternoon as nap-withdrawal periods, to spare my colleagues.

In the meantime, I shall look forward to a summer holiday in Spain, where siestas will enable my napping.

For the mums that I know 

Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday in the UK.

So on a day when my kids thank me for general mumming, via the medium of a handmade card and breakfast in bed, I would like to thank some of the mums that I know for being pretty amazing.

My mum, who raised my brother and me despite some pretty terrible crap going on in her life. And who is a dedicated grandmother despite being half a world away.

My mother in law, who is aways available to me and my girls. And who had a kitchen where the tea and sugar and mugs lived exactly where I would have put them myself.

The single mums, who raised some absolutely spectacular kids despite endless dickishness from the fathers of their kids.

The divorcees who power on in the face of exes being hard work, who agonise over the daily experience of their kids and who never fail to exceed their own high expectations.

The stepmothers who have taken on their partners’ kids and made themselves part of their lives with grace and tact and unconditional love.

The mums of preemies who struggled through the early days and weeks and months and expressed milk til their boobs bled and carried their babies like wee joeys through the night until they were heavy enough to go home.

The gay mums who have to deal with the everyday shit that women face AND have to deal with crazy bigots asking dumb questions.

The mothers who have battled through serious illness and rained sunshine over their children while undergoing debilitating treatment.

The mums of children with chronic conditions who manage their extra needs with patience and good humour, and who find the fun in hospital visits and jolly their little bears along. 

The single dads who do just what the mums do.

You are all an inspiration and I hope to do half as well as you have.