* Safe for babies… unsafe for upholstery. Delicious for adults. Vegan!
I love dressing up, festivals and frippery, and most years I manage to attend a costume party or dance macabre to celebrate all that is gruesome, exciting and escapist at Halloween.
This year… not so much! I was home alone with two 7-month old babies, who are now in a fairly set routine of dinner, bath, PJs, feed to sleep (albeit with mighty protests at every transition). It’s a lot to do on one’s own and recently the monotony has been starting to get me down.
Social media was filling up with other people’s party pics, everyone and their gorgeous offspring seemed to be out Trick Or Treat-ing, and I was looking blankly into the fridge trying to plan a nutritious yet mutually-palatable meal for one adult and 2 babies… when a vacuum pack of beetroot caught my eye.
ZOMBIE ATTACK!!! 🧟♀️
Featuring Sleep-Deprivation-Zombie Mummy & the Two TinyTerrors
No make up needed when you haven’t slept in 7 months 😉
Actually the tastiest fake blood I’ve ever made!
2 beetroots (not pickled ones!)
Large handful frozen dark cherries
100ml freshly boiled water
A banana (you might only use half)
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
Put the cherries in a blender (I have a Nutribullet Ninja which I love) and pour on the boiling water. Leave 5 minutes
Add the beetroot and whizz to a smooth, sanguineous consistency
You now have a brilliant, vivid, semi sweet, vitamin-rich fake blood. Remember that actual blood is not bright red once out of the vein. Now think about the consistency you desire, and add the banana accordingly.
If you want smooth, sweet liquid “blood“: whizz in the banana until smooth
If you want semi-sweet blood that is starting to clot: fork-mash the banana then mix in well.
If essentially what you want is a bowl of blood clots, whizz in half the banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds, then fork mash the rest on the banana and mix in. Wait 10 minutes. Stir & marvel at its disgusting gloriousness.
It’s been a road with a few twists and turns… read on if breastfeeding journeys interest or intrigue you!
My tiny baby girls were born at exactly 36 weeks gestation, relatively well for twins – one went to NICU for 3 days with breathing difficulties, and the other became jaundiced so went into an incubator for phototherapy. Neither a great start from a breastfeeding point of view! Both were “prescribed” 100% their daily calories in premie formula, which they had through NG tubes initially, then from bottles.
Day 3, when we were all reunited after Aria came back from NICU
We were discharged on day 5 with two massive boxes of formula, and began the unholy triumvirate of breastfeed/formula top up/express every 3-4 hours… indefinitely. 😶
It was insanely gruelling. We basically didn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time, for two months! But the support I got from a Facebook group devoted to Breastfeeding Twins & Multiples was a godsend, and gave me the will to continue. They provided smart & encouraging advice available 24/7, plus plenty of stories from people who had been through it and survived… and were still going!
Key here was their mantra Never give up on a bad day and their revolutionary view that the use of formula is not literally the devil’s work (the attitude I unfortunately encountered in my NCT breastfeeding session), and in fact that combination feeding is a healthy solution for some mums who are being overwhelmed by the demands of exclusive breastfeeding. They also emphasised that it’s not a one-way street: you can use formula for a while and then gradually work your way back to exclusive breastfeeding. This message was definitely absent from my NCT class! And if I hadn’t had people telling me it was possible, I probably would have given up shortly after we left hospital when it was so, so hard.
There were so many moments I would have given up, if not for that group. When it hurt for no apparent reason; when the babies didn’t put on weight fast enough despite the schedule, so I was advised to top up more and restrict breastfeeding to sessions of 20 minutes max; when the endless evenings of cluster feeding made me doubt my milk supply; when the breast pump made me despondent; when I was excruciatingly tired and just wanted everything to be easier.
Their input, as well as the unconditional support from my OH and my mum, gave me the will to persist. Oh, how we persisted.
Luna, my firstborn, was a great, strong determined feeder, and basically brought my milk supply up single-handedly. Aria, the younger by 1 minute, was a more delicate and sleepy feeder, plus suffered with reflux so half the milk that she did take immediately reappeared. 😫 Still, she gained weight steadily on the 9th centile, so we kept going, feeding on demand, every 2-3 hours and sometimes much more frequently. I expressed using a hospital-grade double pump 6-8x per day, to make up for every formula feed. I ate flapjack accordingly. So much flapjack.
I weaned formula top ups for Luna first, a couple of weeks after their due date [about 6 weeks old], because she was feeding so well. By this point I was expressing over 500ml/day and therefore was able to replace all of Aria’s top-up bottles with expressed milk. Such a great moment when the steriliser moved from the middle of the kitchen counter to the corner to gather dust!
Eventually, after their 8 week check, I weaned top ups for Aria too, and we moved to simply breastfeeding on demand. And it all got a lot more relaxed. 👍
Their weights stayed stable without top ups, and I kept expressing once daily to maintain supply and so other people can give a bottle of expressed milk when I need to sleeeeeeep.
And here we are! SIX MONTHS. It’s been such a rich and amazing experience, as well as being incredibly hard work. Definitely 100% worth the effort though – any version of feeding two babies involves a lot of work, but the powers of the magic boobies are so much greater than just food. They soothe and quieten. They make the babies smile and snuggle in close. They make them fall asleep! And overnight, even if they wake several times each, I often feel the surge of oxytocin that comes with the let-down, a soothing soporific rush that makes us both drift easily back to sleep afterwards. I honestly have no idea how I’d have managed without them.
I have become a passionate believer in normalising public breastfeeding, because it is a hard enough task without women feeling additional societal pressures to keep it private. However, I also don’t know anyone personally who has stopped breastfeeding for any reason other than it being too physically and emotionally overwhelming to continue to struggle with it, and/or futile due to either their own medical history or their baby’s specific problems with feeding.
I think breastfeeding is a normal thing to do, and that it should be accepted in all contexts, but I don’t think it follows that not breastfeeding is an abnormal choice. It is the appropriate choice if the costs of breastfeeding are too high for whatever reason. It is also a choice a lot of women feel forced into making during an incredibly stressful time, and my gut feeling is that with more support and individually tailored advice some of those women would be able to continue rather than stopping sooner than they would like. Others may be able to make the decision with more psychological equanimity, if they knew that for whatever reason it would be unfeasibly difficult to continue.
Meanwhile my two babies are showing all the signs of being ready to introduce solid food alongside milk, so that’s our next step. I’m genuinely proud to have reached the recommended 6 months, and so grateful to everyone who supported me in person, and all the ladies in my phone, who have facilitated us reaching this milestone.
Hello October! 🍁 The season has definitely changed here in London: after an endless-feeling hot summer, there is a chill in the air and it’s downright cold in the shade. There are still lots of bright blue skies (alternating with drizzle and gales) and we’ve had a fair bit of sunshine this week, but the foliage is turning, the evenings are shortening, and – surest sign of autumn setting in – everyone I meet seems to be fighting a cold!
This smoothie is great for a quick cheerful blast of bright autumn sunshine on a dull grey morning, as well as being a delicious powerhouse of immune-boosting vitamin C. The warming ginger spices up the luscious, icy mango and apple, giving their classic pairing an autumnal twist.
200ml fresh juice – apple & pear is wonderfully autumnal, but you could also choose fresh orange juice if you’re fighting a cold
Generous handful of frozen mango pieces
2x cubes frozen ginger purée, or a thumbnail-sized piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced finely across the direction of the fibres (this is why purée is preferable; see pictures below if you’ve not tried it before).
Blend, pour, enjoy!
A note on convenience ingredients: I am all about convenience ingredients! I have two babies. 😬 If it’s not convenient, it’s not getting made!
A note on frozen fruit: I like using frozen fruit for smoothies, because I think if you have a ripe fresh mango it’s best enjoyed there-and-then, unadulterated, rather than blended up with other things. Also a big bag of frozen mango pieces is about £2 in my local supermarket, keeps for ages, and is a pleasing ingredient to have on hand for smoothies, puddings, the occasional Thai massuman curry…
Save Our Stomachs! We are living on coffee and catnaps at the moment… it’s been 3 weeks now of the babies sleeping like newborns i.e. NOT A LOT AT NIGHT. When they do sleep, they take it in turns, so there’s pretty much always one baby on the go.
Time and energy for food prep is in short supply, so I’m falling back on some old favourites. This breakfast/lunch/saviour meal takes 10 minutes, all in. It is protein packed, healthy, hearty vegetarian fare. And it tastes so good.
One pot breakfast: maximum flavour, minimal washing up
1 clove garlic
1 fresh chilli / generous teaspoon chilli flakes
2 Cauldron sausages
2 tortilla wraps
Large handful grated Cheddar cheese – I just buy it pre grated at the moment. If you don’t, you will need to grate it on your own time.
Large handful fresh coriander
Sriracha sauce / whatever chilli sauce you are partial to
A note on Cauldron sausages: these are the best vege sausages on the U.K. market in my opinion. Whenever I try other brands I am generally a bit disappointed. If you prefer something else, by all means substitute it, but you are going off piste and I can’t promise it will work!
A note on proportions: you know how hungry you are; increase portion sizes accordingly. Twice the sausages is good if you have a large enough pan, or you could make fewer eggs if you’re that way inclined.
12:00 Get out in ingredients and a big non-stick frying pan
12:01 Slosh of olive oil in the pan, medium heat, add sausages, shake to coat them in oil. Note: these cook in 8 minutes, turning regularly.
12:02 Mince the garlic, slice the chilli, add to the pan. Stir & shake.
12:03 Chop the mushrooms. Chop the coriander.
12:04 Sweep the sausages to one side of the pan. Add mushrooms to other side of pan and stir to coat in oil. Stir half the coriander into the mushrooms.
12:05 Get out 2 plates and put a tortilla on each. Spread with cream cheese.
12:06 Turn sausages, stir mushrooms, make room in the pan. Carefully crack in the eggs.
12:07 Chop the avocado and scoop out half onto each tortilla
12:08 Turn the sausages, gently stir mushrooms if you think they need it. Everything should be almost cooked; if not, consider turning up the heat for a minute
12:09 Divide the contents of the pan between the two tortillas. Put the pan in the sink and make sure the stove is off
12:10 Scatter on the grated cheese, the remaining coriander leaves, and a generous dash sriracha. Eat!
Do you have any trusty SOS meals you fall back on in times of crisis? Let me know in the comments – we can virtual comfort-eat together 😉
There comes a time when a person stops feeling comfortable eating a tray of flapjack every week (or does there?).
And now that time has come for me, this is what I’ve started making instead: similarly tasty, but lower fat and altogether more wholesome, homemade granola.
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp cocoa
100g chopped almonds
100g chopped dried apricots
50g chopped hazelnuts (optional, but cocoa + toasted hazelnuts = Nutella vibes, so why wouldn’t you?)
50g pumpkin seeds
50g golden linseed
Note: if pushed for time, you can substitute all the dry ingredients for 500g your favourite muesli, plus a handful of any extra nuts or dried fruit you fancy.
Note on ingredients: oats, almonds, apricots and golden linseed have a reputation for stimulating milk supply, however there is no convincing scientific evidence for this. But the tasty, slow-release energy they provide does not go amiss when one is up all hours of the day and night sustaining two small humans!
One of my small humans. Obviously use whatever cocoa you like, but I’m partial to this one.😉
In a big bowl or pan, mix the oats, oil, syrup, honey and cocoa until all the oats are coated. Then stir in everything else. This should smell really good.
Scoop loosely onto 2 lined baking trays; don’t press down, as you want to toast all the individual pieces evenly.
Bake for 10 mins at 150’C. By now it should smell insanely good!
Allow to cool, then stir to break up any large clumps.
Somehow get it into a mason jar (other jars are available). I do this by using the baking parchment as a funnel and pouring it into the jar, which is quick but some inevitably spills…
Consume by the bowlful with milk of your choice, with yoghurt & fruit, scattered over ice cream, or – my fave – dry, by the desert spoonful, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
One of the joyous things about breastfeeding is the ravenous hunger that must be sated with tasty things, which taste all the better because your body is crying out for sugars and fats like it’s running a marathon (which, metabolically, it is!).
The only hunger I’ve felt like it before is post-scuba-dive hunger, where you’ve spent an hour underwater metabolising like crazy to keep warm but too distracted by all the fish and coral and beautiful dangerous things (hello shark! Hello anemones!) to notice, and then you heave yourself and your tank back onto the boat or beach, and peel off the heavy wetsuit, and dry off in the sun, and suddenly: starving. And everything tastes so good!
Anyway, multiply that by 50 and it’s comparable with breastfeeding hunger, in my experience.
And while often I just want to eat, like, several handfuls of chocolate biscuits, or half a tub of ice cream, or cereal bars spread thickly with Nutella–sometimes I have the wherewithal to make a healthy plate like this, which is so good in a different way, and actually sates the cravings for longer.
Note: this is only good if you can get ripe avocados.
Avocado, basil & chilli sourdough
This is the simplest thing in the world to assemble, but as I’m just getting started with recipe blogging I’m going to write the whole thing out. 😊
1 avocado per person (half if barely hungry)
2 slices of sourdough per avocado
1 large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Few fresh basil leaves (coriander if preferred), rolled then thinly sliced, to form ribbons
1 dried chilli, finely chopped
Wedge of fresh lime
The nicest olive oil in your kitchen
Toast the toast
Halve the avocados 🥑, slice within their halves then scoop out with a spoon. Use any remaining avocado as a spread first, then fan the slices on top.
Arrange tomatoes as desired
Scatter with chilli and basil
Drizzle with oil and lime juice
Season with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste