Monday, 7 October 2013

Billy No Mates!

I"m the first of my friends to have a baby - to be honest until recently I didn't know anyone at all who had children except for a friend's older sister who had a baby last December. When organising a wedding lots of brides decide to have a "no children" policy and state this on their invites. We didn't need to do this because not one of our guests had children! I don't think 29 is particularly young to have your first baby but it's just worked out that my friends aren't quite there in their lives yet. 

Mr HNW and I chose to have a baby when we did for a few reasons. It was something we'd been thinking about for a little while and I wanted to do it when we were as young as possible (to get the pregnancy and childbirth out of the way!). Also, I wanted to stay at home with any children for a few years and financially, it made sense to do that before we had bought a house (we are currently renting) and had the pressure of paying a mortgage.

Because of this, I've really had to make an effort to get out there and meet some other mums. My friends are great but they all have a lot going on in their lives at the moment which means that I don't really see them that often. Being at home with a young baby means you really need to get out of the house as much as you can. On days that J is being difficult I often find just putting him in the car or buggy and getting out is the best solution. 

So, I've basically been whoring myself around South Dublin for the last few months! I felt like I was starting a new school or something and that I'd have to walk up to women with prams in the street and beg them to be my friend. Luckily, it didn't come to this but I really had to make a conscious effort to get myself out there and meet new people. The good thing is that a lot of women are in a similar situation so having a baby is actually a great way to meet new people and expand your circle. I've met some really lovely people who are now good friends.

I met other mums in a number of ways. I am a member on and started chatting online to a few mums that were due to have babies the same month that I had J. It was great sharing our pregnancies with each other and after we had had our babies, we set up a private facebook group and now chat almost every day. It's been invaluable to be able to talk to other mums whose babies are at the same stage as J and see how they are all coping. Sadly, we're dotted all over the country but we are planning on doing a meet-up coming up to Christmas to meet in person and catch up. 

I have also met up with some other mums who post on  and live in Dublin who have older children which again, has been invaluable. It's reassuring to know that they all struggled too at the beginning but have raised healthy, happy children who are now flying around the place! 

My local health centre has a breastfeeding support group that I go to most weeks. Not only can I get J weighed and chat with the PHN I also get to meet other mums with babies of a similar age, who are also breastfeeding. What's great about it is that the mums all live in my local area so it's been great for being able to meet to go for walks and also when I pop to the shops now I usually meet one of them pushing their prams around as well. It's really made me feel like I am part of a community and I was surprised how much that has helped.

I did a baby massage class with Maggie Burns in Mount Merrion ( While I was interested in baby massage for J, I mainly did these classes as a way to meet other mums. The format of the class is 1 hour of learning the baby massage techniques and one hour to have a coffee and chat. We had a great group and I've kept in touch with a number of the mums. We use whatsapp to keep in touch and we also meet up every week or so to go to the baby cinema in Dundrum or for lunch.

As I'm interested in cloth nappies I also went along to a ""napuccino" - a coffee meet up organised through the cloth nappies Ireland facebook page. It was a great opportunity to meet other mums who used cloth nappies and get some advice. It is a bit daunting walking up to a group of mums who you don't know but I've found everybody I've met so welcoming, I think because we understand what it's like to need some company and reassurance.

There's also a lot of other ways to meet people that I haven't tried yet like local parent and toddler meetings or further classes (you can do classes in baby yoga or cooking for weaning babies). There's a great choice out there.

On that note, I should really get to get to bed. Tomorrow is another day of being out and about, it's tiring being a socialite!


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Blackberry and Apple Jam

It is that time of year again when blackberries appear on the bushes all around (actually it's past that time but I did miss the boat a little bit this year). Last year I went blackberry picking with friends and we picked enough to make jam for the year. I still have a few jars left and it tastes great. I was all set this year to repeat this and add more jam to my cupboards. Jam is a lot easier to make than I thought and great to have homemade stuff to give out during the year (and to eat yourself of course)

After a bit of research as to good places to pick blackberries I went off walk about three weeks ago with my Mum and J in the buggy to see what we could find. The answer, not a lot. The bushes had been stripped by more enterprising blackberry pickers. I actually picked last year towards the end of September but it seems this year the early bird caught the worm, or ate the blackberries if you will. My friend and her mum went off to Wicklow, picking where we did last year and reported back the same news, the bushes were bare.

After 2 hours of walking, including a hairy moment with me climbing behind a tall fence we had picked a pathetic amount of blackberries but we'd done our best. There would definitely be no jam making this year though. Undaunted, I proceeded to make a blackberry and apple tart for my Dad, who is a huge fan. I hate fruit tarts, really they are just a waste of pastry. There are so much more delicious things you could make but Daddy HNW has a sweet tooth and needed his pie.

Here is the finished result. A rather sad looking pie as I had less than half the blackberries that the recipe asked for. I knew this going along so my pastry work got very half-hearted towards the end. I was tired and I wanted to be making something that I could sit down and eat afterwards! Paul Hollywood of GBBO fame would also have been disgusted at the soggy bottom on this bad boy.

So, I was all set to give up on my blackberry jam plans for the year but hope was not lost! Last week my father in law was visiting and we went up North for two days so he could see a bit more of the country. We had a lovely trip visiting the Giant's Causeway and around that area and also a day in Belfast. We stayed in a  little holiday home that was down a country lane and there were blackberries everywhere! I only noticed as we were leaving so was raging at myself for not going out earlier for a long walk to stock up. Still, I picked blackberries for about 20 minutes and got enough to fill a 1l freezer bag. Adding in some apples made a respectable amount of jam.

I picked 1.4KG of blackberries so made jam using these and 600g of Bramley Cooking Apples.

Blackberry and Apple Jam

Cooking Apples
1 Orange or Lemon
2 Cloves


First of all, wash your jam jars and lids in hot soapy water. Then put them all in the oven at 50C to sterilise them. I just left mine in while the jam was cooking.

Destalk all the blackberries and add them to a large soup pot or other heavy bottomed pan

Peel and core the apples and slice them into relatively small chunks and add to the pan.

Add about 150ml of water, the juice of one orange (recipes usually say lemon but I only had orange which I now actually prefer) and 2 cloves.

After this photo was taken I had to remove the apple pieces and chop them smaller, otherwise they never would have softened enough. You really need to cut them into small pieces.

Bring the pot to the boil and then allow to simmer until the fruit is smooth and has a fine consistency. I had to simmer for about an hour due to my big apple pieces. In the end I also had to add the mixture to my mixer to get the consistency fine enough.

Sieve the fruit to remove the seeds and cloves. I like the seeds in my jam so once the cloves were located I poured the rest back in the pan.

Add granulated sugar - you need to add the same weight in sugar that you had in fruit so I added 2Kg of sugar. (A lot of people think you need pectin to make jam but it's really not necessary - why complicate things?)

Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes then test to see if it is "set". You do this by taking a small amount of the mixture out with a teaspoon and dropping onto a clean, cool and dry saucer. If the drops do not run into each other when you tilt the saucer to the side then the jam is ready. If the jam is not ready let it simmer for a further 5 minutes and test again.

Pour the jam into the sterilised jars, close the lids tight and then tip the jar upside down and then upright again. This helps to create a seal. Then, Voila, you have lots of lovely jam!

Here are my finished products (excuse the messy counter behind them!)

It really doesn't look very attractive but I'm planning to get labels and some gingham material to make them look all pretty so I can give them to friends/family. I had some jars saved from when I had used them throughout the year but I'm planning on making more homemade preserves for Christmas presents so will need to buy some more. Allpack is a great place to stock up.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Awfulness of Reflux in Babies - Part Four

So, now that I've shared our story of J's reflux I thought it would be a good idea to put together a post with my top tips for dealing with  it. Obviously I am not a doctor, these are just tips that worked with us and J's reflux:

1) Prop up your crib with blocks/books or use a wedge pillow under the mattress combined with a sleep positioner. Now that Josh is medicated, we decided to try and take away the wedge pillow and sleep positioner as we didn't think he would need them. This was a big mistake, within minutes he was starting to arch his back in pain. They really do make a huge difference.

2) Keep your baby sitting upright for at least 30 minutes after each feed. Longer if you can (i.e. if it's not the middle of the night). I also keep J upright as much as possible during the day. The Rock n Play I mentioned in this post is just great for giving me a break so he's not in my arms. Another option is to get a sling and carry the baby around that way during the day. I'm a fan of babywearing and have a Moby wrap that I use to carry J.

3) If you can get them to use a dummy/soother/dodie/pacifier - whatever you want to call them do it! I know some parents are against them but it is now actually recommended that they are used to help prevent SIDS. They are a great help for refluxy (and also colicky) babies to encourage them to swallow. It is also a great comfort. Luckily J loves his, I don't know what we'd do without it. Refluxy babies often gag themselves with their own fists (which J loves doing) and I'd much prefer he used a sterilised dummy if he needs the comfort.

4) Small feeds more often seem to work better. As J is pretty much exclusively breastfed and I feed on demand this can be hard to control but often refluxy babies feed more often naturally as the milk soothes their poor burned throats.

5) There is a lot of advice online about foods to avoid, most of it conflicting, in my opinion. Dairy and chocolate feature heavily though. I just couldn't face giving these up though, after being so sick during pregnancy it is heaven to be able to eat normally again. I did give up spicy foods though as that was a definite aggravator. If you have more self control than I do this could be an option for you if you are breastfeeding. I know of a mother whose baby has terrible reflux and unlike J, vomits regularly. She gave up dairy and said it made a huge difference to her baby. I could actually physically see the difference in her baby from one week to the next so it can work if your baby is slightly lactose intolerant.

If you are formula feeding try one of the specific formulas for reflux like Aptamil Reflux or SMA Staydown. Some refluxy babies are also lactose intolerant so changing your formula could be a good idea if you suspect this to be the case. Nutramigen seems to be a popular choice but of course, discuss with your GP first.

6) Seek help - there is nothing wrong with giving your baby medicine. I have heard more than once, both online and in real life women who smugly lecture me that all babies have reflux and doctors hand out prescriptions like they're sweets and you should try natural remedies. These are the women I want to punch in the face, repeatedly. It's fine if you don't want to medicate your baby, but a) in my opinion if they were as bad as J was or other babies are then you would have done anything to make them feel better, your baby probably wasn't that bad and b)how dare you be so judgemental, I'm doing the best I can and if the medicine will stop my baby's pain then he's getting it. No mother is going to jump straight to giving their baby prescription drugs without trying other things first. The reflux has been my first experience with the "judgy mummy" and I'm sure it won't be my last.

7) Play around with dosages if you need to (under your GP's supervision). Babies are different and even though there are guidelines for mg per kg of weight it seems different doses work for different babies.

8) Some medical proffessionals advise to wean onto solids as early as possible, but I have also received advice that it is not a good idea. To be frank, I have no idea. J is only 14 weeks old so too young for solids. I'm inclined to wait until as close to 6 months as possible but I really think it is up to the parents who know their babies best. I know a mother who started her son on solids at 3 and a half months due to reflux and swears by it. I'm going to see how we go. It is something to think about though if you have a refluxy baby.

9) Finally, be good to yourself.. I found the lack of sleep so difficult but luckily I have a supportive husband and we worked out a routine where he helped more at night, even though he had to be up for work. I also have a fantastic Mum who came over almost every day so I could have a lie-down while she watched J. Take care of yourself, eat well and try and sleep when you can. It's hard to see your baby in distress but remember it does get better and you are not alone, it really is a very common problem and there are things you can do to help.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Awfulness of Reflux in Babies - Part Three

So, at this stage in the story we were keeping J upright as much as possible and trying to get Gaviscon into him when we could. We were still exhausted and while there was a small improvement this stalled and J still had problems with spitting up, arching in pain and generally having very disturbed sleep.

I had talked to a few people who knew babies with reflux and read pretty much everything the internet had to say on the matter and it seemed that a lot of babies were prescribed proton pump inhibitors. These are drugs that inhibit the production of acid in the stomach and ease discomfort. Our GP had said at our visit that he was not comfortable prescribing these unless a paediatrician had checked him out.

Luckily, due to the previous issue J had with twitching in his sleep we had his 6 week check in Holles Street instead of with our GP. I expected the paediatrician to be quite dismissive as J was thriving in the sense that he was putting on weight and was developing normally and seemed well. The paediatrician was actually lovely about the whole thing and understood that we couldn't continue going the way we were. He prescribed 10mg a day of Losec. The sense of relief I was feeling when I went to fill that prescription was unreal. I was so hopeful that an end was in sight. I informed our GP that the paediatrician had prescribed this and he said he would do a check on Josh in a week or so to see how it was working.

The problem now was getting the Losec into him.The Losec we used was the MUPS (multi unit pellet system). The pharmacist recommended dissolving the tablet in a syringe and putting it in his mouth.The tablet dissolves quite well in water and turns in to a liquidy paste with granules in it fairly easily. The syringe didn't work as a lot of the granules got stuck in the tip. Mr HNW had the great idea of grinding the tablet finely in the mortar and pestle I use for grinding herbs. DO NOT DO THIS!!! I cannot stress that enough. The tablet consists of pellets with an enteric coating that protects the active ingredient from being destroyed by the stomach acid. I had a very bad night with Josh and couldn't figure out why the Losec was not working. Luckily, I re read the instruction leaflet during the night and realised what we had done.

The next thing we tried was placing the tablet on a plastic weaning spoon and dropping boiled water that had been allowed to cool on to the tablet using a syringe. This worked a treat, the tablet dissolves into a watery paste and it's easy enough to get it into J. There's usually a little bit of spillage but we're getting better at it every day.

After a week or so of being on the Losec, I had noticed an improvement but it was obvious that the positive effects wore off during the day, as he was being given the tablet in the evenings before going to bed.. I rang our (very lovely) GP to discuss it with him and he recommended giving him a second dose in the mornings. Since we have started doing this there has been a huge improvement. He is on a relatively high dose for his weight but it is under the supervision of our doctor and we're just grateful that it seems to be working.

While the reflux is still there and causes problems it is much more under control and we are all feeling much more human. J even sleeps more during the day now that he is more comfortable. He is now about 12 weeks old and we're starting to get into a routine, especially with giving him the doses of losec morning and evening. I think things are easier partly because he is getting older and partly because the reflux is much more under control.

If you are in a similar situation, I just want to say please don't despair, things will get better and there really are things you can do, which I'll detail in my next post.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Autumn - The Season of New Coats and Boots

I have a confession, I actually prefer Winter to Summer. I'm not an outdoorsy or particularly active person and I'll always prefer cosy nights in in front of the fire, eating lots of food then being expected to be outside and active all the time. Also, summer clothes don't really suit me and I much prefer what is available in the shops for Autumn/Winter.

So today I was delighted that it was so miserable and cold. It was a bit strange suddenly having to think about keeping J warm enough instead of cool enough but I was thrilled to be wearing warm clothes again!

I've learned the hard way that you need to buy new coats and boots well before it is cold enough to need them, as by the time you head to the shops all the best stuff is already sold out and more of the spring stuff is coming in. So today, I was all ready to get some new items out of the wardrobe.

I recently did a bit of shopping to prepare myself to Autumn/Winter 2013. The first thing I needed was a new coat. I frickin love buying new coats, I think because in the Winter you wear a coat all the time, meaning a decent coat will always make you look good easily. They cover a multitude of sins. I have three coats currently that I still love and can see myself wearing for years to come, a beige wool skirt coat from Topshop that I got on sale 4 years ago and am going to wear until it falls apart, a brown parka with a furry hood from Zara and a short Superdry navy windcheater. Being very practical, I decided I needed a short peacoat type of jacket to wear with jeans and boots. I did a lot of online research before heading to the shops and found the perfect coat. This burgundy number from H&M for €40:

It is also available in beige, black and khaki green and it just fab on, a great fit for the price. The funnel neck can be done up as in the picture or worn down like a normal collar like the below: For that price it's obviously not made of wool but I reckon I should get a few seasons out of it.

Even though I had decided I needed a short coat it was a tough choice between that and this H&M trench coat:

This is €50 and to be honest, I haven't ruled out a trip back to Dundrum to get my hands on it. It was heavier than other trench coats I've seen and also fit very well.

I also considered this boyfriend coat from Topshop:

I ultimately decided it was not a good reason to two reasons, the first being that it is navy. I love navy but I have very strong feelings on wearing navy and black together. I just can't do it, I think it stems from having a navy school uniform. I have two pairs of black winter boots and I knew I just couldn't wear a navy coat and black boots together. Secondly, I think the boyfriend fit would just hang funny on me, I think it's more a look for tall, slim women and would do nothing for a big-boobed shortarse like me.

Last winter I bought an expensive pair of black knee high leather boots so I don't need a new pair now and probably couldn't afford it if I did! I did buy a pair of ankle boots. I'm not a big fan of ankle noots normally, I just don't like how they look with dresses or skirts and I've never felt able to pull off ankle boots with jeans. Looking online recently I decided it was time to give it another try, I like how ankle boots look with the currently popular super skinny jeans and jeggings.

I purchased these from Asda for £18

I figured they were cheap enough that if I didn't wear them much it wouldn't be a huge loss. I wore them today and they are ridiculously comfortable. Mr HNW did say I looked like a pixie but I think I can live with that.

I'm on the hunt for a pair of flat, beige/stone coloured ankle boot with no decorations at all (i.e. studs ands things) but having no luck at all. I did find this pair in New Look:

but they are in their wide feet range so they would be massive on me. The search continues anyway!

My final winter purchase I am sadly excited about. I bought a pair of short Hunter wellies direct from the Hunter website:

Bring on the snow, I am ready! They are having a sale on certain colours in their short boots so these were reduced from £75 to £48 with free delivery to the UK, meaning I only paid €3.50 for delivery using parcel motel. Since I ordered them they have released their new Autumn/Winter 2013 range and there's quite a few pairs that I want. However, I am being sensible. Realistically, how many pairs of wellies can you really wear?

If you are on the hunt for some Hunter wellies I realised recently that in the kids range they do up to an adult size 5. The boots are about 10cm shorter but still, the kids short gloss boots are only £38 so could be a great bargain if you're feet are on the smaller size.

So, I'm off to get in to some fleecy pyjamas and get into bed with my electric blanket on - bliss!


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Cloth Nappies - Baba and Boo Review

I have a confession to make, my name is Niamh and I am a cloth nappy user! While I was pregnant I did a little research on types of nappies and realised how funky, stylish and practical cloth nappies had become. When you say cloth or reusable nappies to people their first thought obviously goes to terry cloths and safety pins and imagining me up to my arms in soapy, pooey water. Cloth nappies have moved on in a big way since then!

The reasons I was interested in cloth nappies was a) to save money and b) because I wasn't comfortable with the amount of waste using disposable nappies produces. I'm not really the hippy, environmentalist type but in Ireland 600,000 disposable nappies are used everyday and 94% of these end up in a landfill. It just seemed like a lot of waste to me and if using cloth nappies also saves money in the long run, it made sense to give it a go. One thing we are not short of in Ireland is rain so I wasn't worried about using extra water. I know parents in drier areas often have to weigh up the environmental impact of sending nappies to landfill versus the increased water using washing the nappies causes. 

I did a bit of online research about the different types and brands of cloth nappies and read reviews of different brands. I decided to start with pocket BTP (birth to potty) nappies. BTP nappies do what they say really, they are adjustable so they can be used as your child grows. Each nappy consists of an outer nappy shell with pockets and then two microfibre inserts that go in the pocket. 

Baba and Boo Cloth Nappy

This seemed to be the best all round option for me and I chose to order from a company called Baba and Boo. They offer a more affordable range than other companies as well as having a starter kit that interested me. Also they have some fab designs which really appealed to me (pic of some of my stash below!):

Baba and Boo Cloth Nappies

I bought a starter kit of 20 nappies, 40 microfibre inserts, two wetbags (for transporting dirty nappies home with you), a nappy bucket and two mesh bags to put the dirty nappies in to. This cost £168 plus delivery. They really are very simple to use, one insert gives you three hours of dryness and two inserts gives you six. The nappies have poppers on them to adjust the size. The nappies are advertised as being suitable from 8lbs to 35lbs but I found that although J was 8lbs 1oz at birth the nappies did not fit him well enough to use until he was about 3 weeks old. 

It took a little bit of experimentation to find the right combination of poppers to fit him but we got there in the end. We do have leaks occasionally, mainly if he has a dirty nappy and I don't change him quick enough after it. We have found that the disposables we use occasionally actually leak more often then the cloth nappies which I found surprising. We do occasionally get some "wicking" on the legs (this is when the edge of the nappy at the legs gets wet and then soaks through to the vest/babygro) but this is mainly at night. There is the option to "boost" your nappies (for instance for keeping baby dry all night) by adding hemp, bamboo or charcoal inserts into the nappy to make it more absorbent. We use charcoal inserts for this and they are great.

With regards to the dirty nappies, we rinse them with the shower head, either in the bath or down the toilet (luckily our shower head stretches to the toilet) then they go in a mesh bag in the bucket which is kept in our bathroom (this is called dry pailing). Once the bucket is full I pull out the mesh bag, put in the washing machine on a cold rinse and then wash at 40C using a small amount of washing powder. You can add napisan or something similar into your wash but the best stain remover is actually the sun. Even though we live in an apartment and therefore don't line dry our nappies the sun can still remove stains through the windows if we place the clothes horse in the sitting room window. 

Using cloth nappies really works for us and I would recommend it to anyone. I like that I don't have to buy nappies (apart from an up front cost) and that our waste hasn't increased. Also the cloth nappies seem to agree with his skin more, when we were using disposables he got an awful nappy rash that we needed prescription cream to clear up. Now, when he wears a disposable nappy it gets stuck to him in exactly the same place that he had the rash so really I think they are so much better for his skin. Yes, it is more work but really not a huge amount  especially if you consider the benefits we get. 

If you are interested in using cloth nappies I'd recommend checking out the Irish cloth nappy library. You can trial nappies from here to see how you get on before purchasing. In hindsight I should have done this as the Baba and Boo nappies might not have suited J and us. Luckily they did but if they hadn't fit him very well I would have been stuck with twenty nappies I couldn't use. There is also a cloth nappy users group on Facebook where you can chat to other women who use cloth nappies. Another option is to buy second hand or "pre-loved" cloth nappies if you want to try any out. Cloth nappies do hold their value well and there is a good market for second hand nappies. There is also a Facebook group for that here. 

Be warned though it can become addictive, there are so many brands of nappies with fabulous designs, styles and structures. It's easy to get caught up and just keep buying more and more! I have my eye on a wolverine one for J at the moment. Mr HNW is a big X-Men fan. There also seems to be a limitless amount of brands and styles so I'm currently trying out some other kinds to see how we get on. 

As you can see J is pretty happy with his fluffy bum:



Friday, 30 August 2013

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Let me start this post by saying I don't approve of fruit in dessert based items. I'm not a big fruit person at the best of times but fruit in cakes and puddings just upsets me. There's nothing worse than getting cheesecake and it has a horrible tart lemon flavour or ordering sticky toffee pudding and it arrives filled with raisins. I love my sweet stuff and for me, desserts should really be made of chocolate. The richer the better. My husband, (Mr HNW) is the complete opposite and our dessert choices rarely overlap which suits me fine. I don't like to share desserts. This probably stems from growing up with a father with an even sweeter tooth than mine who would wolf his dessert down and decide it was time to "help" me finish mine!

However, recently we took J to visit a friend and we were given slices of lemon and poppyseed drizzle cake. We sat in their garden in the sun eating cake that was still slightly warm with lovely, creamy vanilla ice cream. It was heaven. Finally, we had a dessert we could both agree on. Two weeks ago I decided to make a nice dinner for Mr HNW. I haven't done much cooking since J was born and now that he is a little less clingy and will sit in his rocker for a while I thought I'd seize the opportunity to get back in the kitchen. I really love baking but really haven't done much in the last year, I unfortunately suffered from hyperemesis during pregnancy (which I'm sure I will discuss here in the future at some stage!) so cooking and baking took a backseat and I spent my time running to the bathroom to be sick all the time instead.

I used this recipe from the Hairy Bikers with a slight variation. The variation came about because I've made this cake three times in the last few weeks. One time I only had two eggs in the fridge so I used 1/4 cup of vegetable oil instead of the third egg. It made the cake much nicer, with a nicer texture and a bit moister.  I initially chose this recipe because it was so simple and I really didn't know how much time J would give me in the kitchen. The recipe basically involves throwing everything into a mixer (and I'm always looking for opportunities to get my Kenwood Chef out), baking the cake and then pouring a sugary lemon mixture over it and letting it set. It really was easy peasy.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

2 small unwaxed lemons (I actually ended up using three)
275g granulated sugar (I used caster because I really hate the texture of granulated sugar)
175g butter
200g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
3 large free-range eggs  or 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Line your cake tin and grease it well. The Hairy Bikers recipe says to use a loaf tin but I don't possess one, no matter how many times I try to remember to buy one when I'm out. I used a round springform cake tin instead and it was completely fine.

Grate the zest of the lemons. Put 175g of the sugar in your mixer with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs and lemon zest and mix on a medium setting until the mixture is just combined.

Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin and level. Bake for 35 minutes or until well risen and pale golden brown.Unfortunately the first time I made it J decided it was time for a feed in the middle of my cake baking so I took it out and put it back in when he was done.. Do not do this unless you want a cake that has sunk in the middle. It was not a good idea!

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes. One of the cakes I made was a disaster because I a) didn't grease the tin properly and b) didn't let it cool before removing the outer springform tin part. My impatience meant a lot of my cake stuck to the tin and the rest basically fell apart.

The recipe says to squeeze one of the lemons to get about 3 tablespoons of juice. I must have had crappy lemons because I had to squeeze all three (they were small ones to be fair).Mix the lemon juice with the remaining sugar.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack set above a tray or plate. Remove the baking parchment and
gently turn the cake the right way up.

Once the cake is cool, make about 50 deep holes in the top of the cake with a skewer (or a knife if you are like me and couldn't be bothered finding your skewers!)

Slowly and gradually, spoon over half the lemon sugar, allowing it to thoroughly coat the top of the
cake and drizzle down the sides. Leave this to stand for five minutes.

Then repeat this with the remaining lemon sugar. Leave it to set for at least an hour (I'm fairly sure we managed to leave it for only thirty minutes because we wanted it so badly and it was still delicious!)

(Apologies for the crappy photos - I was starving at this stage and just really wanted to eat the cake!)

Mr HNW could not believe his luck when he walked in the door to the smell of baking. He gave me a 10/10 and said that any chocolate cake I baked would only ever get a max of 7 - so all in all it was a great success. It really was delicious and has definitely been added to my baking repertoire of easy things to knock up quickly. Give it a try!

Having watched the recent episode of the Great British Bake Off (I almost wet my pants in excitement when I realised it was coming back)  I'm desperate to try Angel Food Cake. Watch this space!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Awfulness of Reflux in Babies - Part Deux

So, in my last post about reflux we had just started on the road to managing J's reflux and attempting to make him (and us) a little more comfortable. We started by putting a rolled up towel under the mattress in his crib and putting telephone books under the legs to raise the head (actually I tell a lie, they say to use telephone books but who has them these days? Honestly, I used big thick trashy Jilly Cooper novels!). You can buy these if you want to be fancy:

They are little blocks to go under the legs of the cot. However, we have a gliding crib so it doesn't have defined legs (it has bars instead). The Jilly Cooper novels would have to do for us!

Propping up the legs of the crib really didn't make much of a difference to J's reflux, he was still sleeping terribly and was obviously in a lot of pain. We had a few horrendous sleepless nights. We had huge problems getting him to sleep in his crib.Quite a few nights he slept in his rocker. My friend who lives in the States sent J a Fisher Price Rock n Play (see picture below) and it was a lifesaver.

I'm not sure if it is available in Ireland or the UK, I had trouble finding it online or in stores here but honestly we couldn't have done without it. Some nights when J just couldn't or wouldn't lie in his crib because of reflux, he would sleep in the rocker for an hour or two relatively peacefully, as it puts them in a kind of supported sitting position. Many nights I got myself into a tizzy because I know babies are meant to sleep on their backs and I was worried about him sleeping any other way. There are a few articles online about how it wasn't safe for them to sleep in the rock n play which I read with growing horror, in this case Google really was my enemy. Also, many nights when even the rock n play failed us J would sleep on my chest for a few hours. Again, I would tie myself in knots worrying about this thinking I'd wake up to find him not breathing. In hindsight, if that's what we needed to do to get through the night and we were being careful about things then I think it is ok. J needed a mum that wasn't a complete mess and could actually function during the day. As the days went on I got a bit more relaxed about it.

One night during this period I was so sleep deprived I started hallucinating. I took J out of his crib and placed him on the bed while I got ready to feed him (or so I thought). When I went to pick him up off the bed he wasn't there. I was scrabbling frantically in the bed looking for him, pulling back the covers and throwing the pillows off the bed getting more and more freaked out by the minute. Then I turned around and he was still in his crib, I had never taken him out at all. I was so tired I had lost the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality. It sounds so over the top, but it was one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me.That was when I knew we couldn't go on like that for much longer.

The hallucination incident happened on a Friday night so on the Saturday morning we took J to the out of hours GP in St Michael's Hospital in Dun Laoghaire. I had read online that infant Gaviscon was the thing to get for babies with reflux. This is an over the counter medicine but pharmacists are reluctant to give it to babies under one year old unless a doctor had told you to use it (I had been to the pharmacy to try and get it!). We went to the doctor with me hoping he would give us the Gaviscon so we could get J feeling better.

The doctor, after asking lots of questions and ruling out anything more serious said it did indeed appear to be silent reflux and suggested Gaviscon after every feed, but no more than 6 in a 24 hour period. I was delighted thinking it was the solution to all our problems but my optimism was a bit unfounded as it turns out.

The problem with infant Gaviscon is that it is really not compatible with breastfeeding. Gavison needs to be given after a feed mixed with either water or milk in a bottle or a syringe. If you are formula feeding you can mix it with the milk in the bottle before giving it to the baby so it's much easier. You can also get specially thickened formulas for reflux, but you can't mix Gaviscon with these. Anyone who has breastfed a baby will know how unresponsive they are after they have been fed. How on earth do you get more liquid into a full, sleepy and milk drunk baby? It was impossible to get him to take more milk when he was already full.I was very reluctant to give up breast feeding and switch to formula for a number of reasons so wanted that to be a last resort.

Mainly we gave the Gaviscon to him mixed with some breastmilk in a bottle before his feed. Usually this didn't work because it's not designed to be given before feeds and our boy loves his grub and making him wait while we prepared the Gaviscon was not alright with him at all! He'd be hysterical by the time I was ready to feed him, making the reflux worse because he would gulp his feed down really fast which actually aggravates reflux. Sometimes we would wake him up an hour after his feed to give him Gaviscon but it really wasn't an ideal situation at all. If he woke up crying out in pain it was easy to get the Gaviscon in to him but mostly he'd just be groaning and thrashing about in his sleep and waking him up for Gaviscon meant it took a long time to get him back down again, as well as making him very upset.

It did help a little bit but it really wasn't nearly as effective as I hoped. We used the Gaviscon in conjunction with continuing to prop up his mattress and also keeping him upright after a feed for at least 30 minutes before putting him down. This was fine during the day but a right pain in the ass at night when all you wanted to do was to go back asleep. I bought a wedge pillow to prop up his mattress more effectively. There are a lot on the market but I just bought this basic one from Mothercare:

The problem with propping up the mattress was that it would cause J to roll to the side and he'd wake up screaming with his face rolled into the bars on the side. Obviously not ideal - bad mammy territory! To combat this I bought a Clevamama Sleep Positioner (also from Mothercare although many places stock them):

This has bumpers at the side to stop the baby rolling over. It's only suitable for young babies as once they have learned to roll over it's not safe. It did solve the problem of him rolling to the side although he does slip down it during the night, meaning you have to wake up and move him back up every so often. It's also not suitable if you swaddle your baby and we found it didn't really work while using a gro bag so we had to retire that temporarily.

There are also specialist reflux wedges for babies that look like this:

The baby sleeps in a little sling attached to the pillow. How clever is that? They are extremely expensive (about €200) but there was the odd night I'd be sitting holding J up and browsing on my iPhone were I was thinking screw it, it's only money, if it makes him feel better just get one. I would have done anything. In the morning I always saw sense though, to the immense relief of Mr HNW!

So we tried all of these methods over a two or three week period and while there was a small difference in J's reflux we were still struggling. During the day J was a very happy little baby and luckily, we never had any problems feeding him. Some babies with reflux start to associate the pain with feeding and refuse to feed. J has always been a good grubber and was putting weight on well. Still, we were exhausted and we felt like all we talked about was J and how he was. It became a full time job feeding him, trying to fit in the Gaviscon and constantly sitting with him upright in our arms.

To be continued......

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Awfulness of Reflux in Babies - Part One

If there is a word that sends shivers of horror down my spine it is reflux. It's just the most horrible thing and one of the reasons myself and my husband have been in zombie mode for the last 6 or 7 weeks.

Unfortunately J suffers from silent reflux. I had never heard of such a thing before I had a baby but I'm all too familiar with it now. I thought I would share our experiences in case there are any other parents out there reading this in the middle of the night holding a refluxy baby upright and feeling like there is no end in sight.

Most babies suffer from minor reflux. It's what causes a baby to spit up and is due to the fact that the sphincter muscle in their oesophagus is not fully developed, allowing contents from the stomach to "escape" and flow back up. Some babies have it worse than others and it causes them a lot of pain and/or to vomit their stomach contents a lot.  With J, this kicked in at about 3 weeks old. We noticed he seemed to be in pain and was quite uncomfortable. He was arching his back a lot, and had bad smelling spit-up that arrived sometimes 2 hours after a feed and had the texture of cottage cheese. The worst part of it all was his obvious discomfort, I can't describe very well the noises he made at night but they were quite distressing. It was like he was screaming in pain but not crying like a baby normally would, it was more of a screaming combined with grunting, groaning and moaning. Refluxy babies also sound very congested as if they have a cold due to the liquid rising up the oesophagus. At night. J used to sound like Darth Vadar on a bad day. As you can imagine none of us were getting much sleep. J did also not sleep much during the day so I (and to a lesser extent Mr HNW) was completely exhausted.

In hindsight, I know we were actually lucky in some ways because J does not projectile vomit very often (one spectacular time in our GPs waiting room does come to mind though, he managed to cover the walls!). Some babies have such severe reflux they have to have a procedure called a Nissen Fundiplication which involves surgery to reinforce the oesophageal sphincter. This is given to babies when the reflux causes them to fail to thrive as not enough food is staying down.

J's reflux is of the silent variety, meaning the acid goes up his throat and he swallows it back down. Basically it is heartburn and his throat was getting burned by his stomach acid, particularly at night when he was lying flat. Having had bad heartburn when I was pregnant I know how uncomfortable it is. During my third trimester I felt like a dragon breathing fire most of the time and had to sleep propped up on what felt like every cushion in the house.

As most new mums these days do I turned to Google straight away to see what it could be and got a lot of results saying it was reflux. Once I read the symptoms it made perfect sense. This coincided with a visit to the paediatrician in Holles Street for another issue (the Public Health Nurse had noticed some random twitching when she was visiting - it turned out to be nothing). I spoke to the paediatrician who recommended propping up the legs of his crib with telephone books and putting a rolled towel under his mattress to keep him propped up at night. And so our attempts to relieve the reflux began......

To be continued

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Dressing For Mummyhood

So, my little boy is 9 weeks old and we are slowly getting into the swing of things. I'm no longer walking around in a constant state of exhaustion, eyes hanging out of my head and tears constantly threatening to show. I don't think anything can prepare you for the first few weeks and how hard they are. It is worth it though and J is really thriving which makes me feel more confident about my skills as a mother.

Now that I'm more settled and getting out and about I've been starting to think about what I'm wearing and style for Autumn/Winter. One of the things I've found a big change is what I wear on a day to day basis. Previously, when I was working, it was a lot easier to decide what to wear, office attire is pretty straightforward and I lived in dresses - with tights and boots in the winter and sandals or flats in the summer. However, now I find it difficult to dress comfortably for life with a young baby without looking scruffy and un-put together (if that is even a phrase). Feeling like this just really makes my mood a lot lower in general. No matter how tired I am, I feel a spring in my step if I am wearing something that makes me feel good. I'm determined not to become a mum only living in trackie bottoms and covered in baby puke. (Although I do spend a lot of my days in pyjama bottoms with various bodily fluids on me)

Another issue is that I am breastfeeding which a) makes deciding what to wear for someone who lives in dresses pretty hard and b) means a lot of my current clothes make me look like a porn star (I'm currently sporting F cup norks on a size 8/10 frame- they are a sight to behold!) I've been looking around at mummy style blogs (which inspired me to start one of my own) and have come to the conclusion that jeans, comfy tops and scarves with flats are my new best friends.

Luckily I had a little bit of money put away to buy post birth clothes so was able to do a little bit of online shopping. I'm a sucker for a bargain and am always looking for affordable places to buy clothes. Times are tighter now with only one of us working as well so there's even more of a reason to be on the hunt for bargains. So based on my research I made some carefully planned out purchases.Planning what to buy is not my strong point. I have a tendancy to buy things without any thought as to what I will wear them with or how they will fit into my wardrobe. It's a bad habit I want to break.

Here are a few purchases that I'm loving:

First of all I paid a visit to Gap to buy some plain t-shirts and long sleeved tops. A problem I have with buying white tops is they are usually see-through, this problem is made worse at the moment as I am wearing massive nursing bras, the ability to get your boobs out easily being their strong point, not how discrete they are. The Gap ones are great and even thought I bought tops in a size small they are very roomy, great for covering the mummy tummy. I bought a few long sleeved and short sleeved t-shirt in basic colours so I could dress them up with scarves and other accessories. I was well chuffed with my thriftyness with these. If you order 3 or more of their basic tees you get 15% off each one. When I ordered online they were also having 25% off everything, plus if you sign up for their newsletter you get 15% off your first order, making these tops very bargainous! Two of the tops have already been thoroughly puked and drooled on and have held up very well.

I also bought two breton tops thinking they were a good mix of style and comfort. First of all this navy and green striped version from Boden for £15

and this blue and white Falmer Jersey stripe top from Matalan for £12

I don't think Matalan deliver to the Republic of Ireland but I ordered using Parcel Motel (my new favourite thing!) and my long-suffering husband had to pop in on the way to work to collect what he described as a massive package. I also found a promo code by searching online for 20% off my entire order. Bargain!

Also from Matalan was this spotted sweatshirt for £12. I have a bit of an addiction to stripes and spots, I just can't resist either, it's like a disease.

 Luckily for me I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans and have a good stash built up so that was something I didn't really need to buy. I'm a big fan of the Topshop skinny jeans as they do the right length for me so they are getting worn to death at the moment.. Penneys also have a great range of coloured super skinny jeans and I recently bought an olive and a navy pair.  I figured that a pair of casual trouers would be useful though and got these ones from Boden in their sale for £29.40:

I am a right shortarse and hate buying trousers but these have a fab fit, it's lovely to have something to wear with flats.  Boden is not a store I'd heard of before this week and I really love their stuff. Casual but stylish and well made too.

On to scarves now - they are not something I wear that often usually, mainly because I don't know how to wear them without looking like an eejit. I see women who look so elegant in them and then I try it at home and look like a 5 year year old playing dress up in her mum's clothes! I decided to give it another try and spend some precious free time while J was asleep looking at youtube videos on how to tie scarves. So far, I'm doing a lot better with it. I bought quite a few but these two are my favourites:

First of all this cat snood from Matalan which was £6 . I am a bonefide crazy cat lady and things with cat print on them are irresistable to me (hence the name of this blog). It actually works well because the colours in go with nearly everything making it very versatile, plus the fact it is a snood means I don't have to worry about tying it.

Second is this lime scarf, also from Boden on sale for £9.50 down from £19 . You can't see very well in the picture but it's actually got little white polka dots on it which is of course, right up my street.

I went into Penneys in Dundrum over the weekend as well and they have a great selection of scarves, most of them only 4 so I stocked up on a variety of colours. Nice.

Two other fun purchases I couldn't resist due to my crazy cat ladyness are this shirt from Asda for £10

and this hat, also from Asda for £8. There were matching gloves which I didn't get thinking I was being sensible. Being sensible is boring and I have major regrets now, another order may be necessary! 

My final purchase to share is another item I couldn't resist. This little knitted romper suit for J. How cute is this? This is also from Matalan and was £7. It easily looks like it could come from babygap but for a third of the price. I can't wait to get him into it.

All I can say is thank god for online shopping!



So, I've been thinking about starting a blog for a little while. Every so often the idea would flit into my head that I would like to have something creative as an outlet and also somewhere to record my baby journey. I kept dismissing the idea as madness, who would want to read what I am up to? Would I have any time to myself to do it? Do I actually have anything interesting to say? Getting the confidence to set up a blog isn't easy, as I'm sure other bloggers have experienced too.

Over the last few days I've come to the conclusion that even if I am the only person to ever read this it's a worthwhile venture, for a number of reasons. Since having J 9 weeks ago so much has changed and there has been so much I have learned. My head is awash with new things and it can be very overwhelming at times. How much of the next year will I remember down the line? Will I retain anything of my former self and interests? Will I go mad being a stay at home mum? That's why I wanted to blog about what interests me, fashion, cooking and baking and now, the world of having a newborn baby and trying to be a thrifty stay at home mum. To share my experiences with others, to record them for myself and also to keep myself sane by getting things off my chest and discussing what is going on with me on a daily basis.

Fingers crossed!