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!