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.