Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

Find out more.


recent | random





Tuesday 16 May 2017

Lunch ideas for toddlers

If there’s one area of food I would fail at pre-baby, it’d be lunches. I think this stems from a couple of things: not being bothered about lunches much myself, and also being pretty happy to settle with something unadventurous like a sandwich or a soup. Now that I’m a mother and I am required to produce nutritionally-balanced meals three times a day, I have taken it upon myself to get a bit more adventurous.

We baby-led-weaned with BabyVP and loved it.  I felt like I was giving BabyVP the tools to discover, through play, the joys of taste, texture and satiety without anything being imposed upon her. Feeding times became a big adventure. It all happened in a natural, organic way which meant there was no stress around meal times.  It was also easier not having to make two meals/purees, and I could control the whole process and ingredients etc.  In short, it worked really well for us. If you’re considering it yourself, read up, watch a LOT of YouTube videos explaining the pros and cons. None of my mummy-friends decided to BLW because they were either short on time, planning to use nurseries/creches or wanted to do what their parents had done, so I was a bit alone when it came to research but I found this video, this video and this website/forum amazing. Most of all, go with your guts, but also do some research however you plan to do it.

We’ve made quite a list of foods that are quick and easy yet also wholesome and healthy, but they have to be quick, as I often had to try to keep Baby VP interested in something to allow me to get it ready. I try to limit bread to one serving or less per day, which has also meant I have had to come up with some new ideas out of necessity. We’re also mostly-veggie/pescetarian (we only eat meat a couple of times a week), so we have had to factor in nutritionally-dense alternatives to meat when necessary.

  • Homemade smoked mackerel pate (whizz up mackerel and cream cheese with a bit of lemon juice in a blender – great source of omega 3s) on crackers/oatcakes/melba toast
  • Olives, tomatoes, cucumber sticks, peppers sticks, hard boiled egg etc with humous
  • Couscous ‘salad’ with tomatoes, cucumber, peas, raisins, apple, cheese cubes etc. A bit like tabbouleh but more toddlerified.
  • Bean and quinoa salad.
  • Baked beans on toast
  • Mini crustless quiches (made in a muffin tin – speedy and very healthy!). Alternatively in a cup in the microwave. Also free on Slimming World.
  • Pâte on crackers/oatcakes/melba toast
  • Cheese scones with soup
  • Big medley of roasted veg (either root or Mediterranean) with quinoa/couscous/pasta
  • Omelette with a variety of toppings (our usual is mature cheddar and mushroom)
  • Poached/scrambled/fried egg on toast
  • Savoury pancakes. I don’t have a recipe, I just eyeball it. If you need a recipe, there should be one out there if you have a look around. Make a thick pancake batter with eggs, self-raising flour and milk. Add grated cheese, defrosted peas, onions, grated carrots and sweetcorn. Fry off over a medium heat until cooked through. These freeze really well and can be microwaved to reheat. Excellent for speedy lunches.
  • Blended bean spread. Fry off some onions until soft and golden in a little butter. Add some cooked and drained/rinsed kidney beans and some seasonings of your choice to a food processor. Add the onions and blitz until smooth-ish.
  • Cheesy pasta.

Soups (all homemade and very quick, often made the night before):

  • Leek, spinach and potato
  • Lentil
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrot and coriander
  • Tomato

Sandwich options:

  • smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • cheese and tomato
  • cheese and chutney
  • egg mayo
  • banana (and if over one, with a smidgen of honey)
  • Yeast spread/Marmite (we use the reduced salt type from Sainsbury’s and very little of it. To help with portion control, mix the marmite with butter until the butter is uniform brown colour and then spread that).
  • Pate
  • Peanut butter and jam

Monday 15 May 2017

Music for Toddlers (great for dancing and car journeys – that parents will like too!)

I think one of those universal truisms is that children love music. From the earliest weeks, whenever music came on Baby VP would perk up and take notice, often waving hands and legs and then as she got older, dancing to the beat. I think it helps that we have sung to her all the time – and still do. We found quite early on that putting on some of her preferred music would instantly make her smile and so we got quite good at finding music; but gosh there is a lot of really rubbish children’s music out there! So I set to work rooting out the good stuff because there is only so many times I can bear the happy-hardcore version of If You’re Happy And You Know It (sorry Justin Fletcher – no one needs to hear that!)… It’s worth also noting that playing any sort of music (with the exception of death metal or sweary rap?) is great for children.

  • The Rainbow Collection by The Rainbow Collection/Sophie Barker.

This is the first album we bought for BabyVP when she was about 5 months old. It’s sung by Sophie Barker, one of the singers along with Sia and Zoe Johnston from Zero7 (which is probably why I like it so much). The songs are old favourites, so parents can sing along too, but unlike many which are either saccharine or very cheaply orchestrated, these are done well and are not unbearable after, say, the 700th play. Favourite songs? Dream A Little Dream, Teddybear’s Picnic and Lavender’s Blue.

  • Julia Donaldson’s Treasury of Songs.

Any parent from 2003 onwards will be extremely familiar with Ms Donaldson’s work, mostly from The Gruffalo or any other countless children’s books she has produced – as Julia has to be one of the most prolific children’s authors around. It helps that she’s really good at what she does – I mean, who doesn’t love the Gruffalo? Or Superworm (my fave)? Or The Snail and The Whale? I can recite them perfectly (!) we’ve read them so much (“Superworm is super strong/Superworm is super long…). And so when I saw a copy of her Treasury of Songs with a CD of her singing said songs in the sale, you know that we had to get it. And since then, I have had each of her songs etched into my memory! As Donaldson started off as a songwriter for CBBC, it seems fitting that most of her stories either started off as songs or became them for this book/CD. The book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler (who else?) along with the lyrics for each song. It’s lovely, it really is. I laughed as the Amazon reviews say that they love the songs except for Julia Donaldson’s singing; but I think it’s a bit like a favourite granny singing your child a song. The child doesn’t care that it’s not being done by a professional singer – and neither do I. Despite starting to twitch if it’s on its 20th rotation of the day, I still like it. Favourite songs: The Snail and The Whale, Fox and The Crow and A Squash and A Squeeze. Props to Malcom, Julia’s husband, for singing on most of the tracks and occasionally dressing as a fox…

  • Pretty much anything by Laurie Berkner.

We tend to shy away from the American singers as I am aware that linguistically there are enough differences to make me want to stay mostly-British where possible. Having said that, Laurie Berkner is a really good songstress (regardless of some of her songs sounding like other peoples’) who makes songs for children to dance along to. She has a great YouTube channel (so by the magic of Bluetooth you can attach your device to speakers and play that) and her songs are on the whole pretty original (lyrically), upbeat and fun. There are certain songs that Baby VP now requests, particularly These Are My Glasses, We Are the Dinosaurs and Bubbles. Definitely one to get moving to!

  • Renee & Jeremy

When you want something a bit folky, these two are the two to go for. Upbeat, mostly original works with minimal orchestration and a lovely message. We really like them and particularly the songs Night Mantra, It’s A Big World and Share.

  • Putumayo Lullaby by Various Artists

I got this CD years and years before BabyVP arrived because I loved the songs. If you’re a fan of the World music genre or want your child to be, these Putumayo compilations are the place to start. Great songs.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

An acorn in the yard (and other moments)

The jays that otherwise-invisibly inhabit the woods behind the house have been more active in the last few weeks. I sometimes see a magpie-shaped bird flying out of the trees, with a pinky, buff-coloured chest and know it is not a magpie or a wood pigeon but one of their majestic blue-flecked cousins. Often heard but seldom seen, except now. Coming out of the house the other day, with a well-coated toddler in one arm and a changing bag in the other, I looked down to see an acorn. Quite odd, given that most of the trees around us are ash or Scot’s pine.  I knew who’d left this precious little arboreal offering. It reminded me of reading that jays are responsible for planting more oak trees than squirrels.  A couple of days later, I saw one flying right over our house.  I knew a jay had dropped it, just for us.

Another day I was driving in the tail-end of the afternoon and already it was starting to get dark; to soon, too early.  I was driving to run some errands, baby and husband esconced in the warmth of the house, playing on the floor. I drove a while and noticed that in the valley nearby, the fog was starting to form. It was as yet confined, the sides of the hill keeping it contained. Thick, grey wisps moving slowly, hanging low in the air.

A little further in my errands, I came around a corner and the view was lovely; very wintry, very familiar, very hygge (a new word in our collective lexicon for something I’ve been trying to do for as long as I can remember). A row of old Victorian terrace houses in silhouette, with chimneys peeping out, some of them smoking, the ladders of smoke climbing heavenward. Behind them the sky, almost dark, held the remnants of the day’s sun; lemon-yellow with a teeny bit of blue, edged with grey clouds. The church in the distance with its castellated tower watched regally from its promontory, back-lit by the same lemon sky.

A different day, this time grey and wet, with the first really cold chill on the breeze. Driving down into a little valley with a river at the bottom – it sounds like we live somewhere hilly, but we don’t, just a few river valleys – we pass under a canopy of trees. High enough so that the branches just skirt tall double-decker buses and thick enough so that it’s quite dark at the bottom. As it was windy, the trees were blowing and it looked for all the world like we were driving into a snowstorm, except these were yellow and brown ash leaves fluttering down before us. I called to Baby VP in the back of the car and told her to look at the leaves falling. I watched BabyVP in the mirror looking around her with a smile, before going back to the song we were singing.

I found a new classical piece, or rather, new to me thanks to ClassicFM. The piece is Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch. The ending, the last two minutes, is something quite magical.

Today we went for a walk around our local town. After a coffee with granny and sorting a few necessities, we all headed off for a walk in the park. Most of the trees are now bare, the leaves thick and yellow-green, red and brown at our feet. Soon to become soggy and slippery. We stopped by the swings so that Baby VP could get her fill of laughter and we could revel for a moment in her joy. A robin came to sit on a nearby hedge, watching us intently. He flitted from branch to branch, eager to see if we would drop something or reveal a tasty grub in the leaflitter. As we moved around the park, he followed too; his bright red chest and quiet, subdued tweets mingling with the human giggles and goosanders and ducks nearby.  A cormorant swooped through the trees above. I’m always surprised to see a cormorant so close to trees and town, but he has become a bit of a regular face. No rough seas or isolated lakes for him! Sensible bird.

It never fails to surprise me that so quickly the nights can get so long and the days so short. You’d think that by now, in my 31st year, I would have learnt the seasonal changes, but each year I am stumped at how quickly November becomes dark, December darker, and January icy-cold and grey and dark. And equally, how February starts to bring the first hints at the longer days to come. How quickly it all comes and goes; how quickly now, with a baby, life is flying and time is not an endless stretch any more, but sand that slips away before I can catch it. Breathe and appreciate every single moment.

Friday 11 November 2016

One year (and a bit) later

It has been a while (the longest blogging hiatus in my 11 years of blogging!) but I am not really sorry for my absence.  Even though I said I’d be back in March, I found that as my world had shifted so completely when I had Baby VP, I felt I needed to rearrange my life and priorities and spend time just enjoying the first year of her life. We’ve had all the ups and downs you expect but I just felt the need to take a step back, cancel all of the extraneous stuff and enjoy the time we have together, because this time will only come once. Not just in Baby VP’s life but in our life. And this last year has been the most emotional, tiring but also wonderful, amazing and rewarding year of our lives. It is amazing, that I suddenly have a one year old who is independent; wanting to do her own things and discover the world around her in her own way. I am in awe of her every single day.

They say a baby changes your life and I laugh to think of it now, because that’s like saying that childbirth is a bit painful or jumping out of a plane is a little daunting: it’s the world’s biggest understatement ever. It took me until Baby VP turned one to realise that I have to start taking care of myself again (not least because a mummy who looks like she’s been dragged backwards through a hedge just isn’t de rigeur). I ventured out to get my hair cut the day before Baby VP turned one and went for a brilliant sleek bob with a new hairdresser. My hairdresser said he’d never seen such a transformation. I agreed.  In the maelstrom of having a baby I think I forgot that I probably need to sort myself out at times, too. Lest I end up walking out of the house looking like a family of starlings has taken up residence in my hair. I want to feel a bit more together and I am now to the point where I do (though not every day and certainly not all the time!).

We even went on holiday, to lovely Scotland, where I feel equally at home with my even-more-northern kinsmen. It was wonderful.

So I would like to take a pause here and apologise to everyone for not replying to emails/texts etc. It’s not you, it really was me! But I’m trying to carve out a little time to get back into blogging (and photography – my poor camera had barely been used in the last few months!). Emails will be responded to (definitely yours Marie) and I will make more of an effort. I hate being a ‘bad friend’ and so I will pull up my socks!

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on. In the last year we’ve gone from a gorgeous but immobile little baby to a full-on, mobile, giggling and talking toddler. How that happened, I have no idea. There’s a saying going round: ‘the days are long but the years are short’ and never has a truer word been spoken. And truthfully, it’s been the best year of our lives.