Monday, October 8, 2012

A Heartbreaking Decision

Just over a month ago I came to the very difficult decision to stop nursing, or rather, my son did.  For those of you who know my story, you will know that I have Insufficient Gland Tissue or Breast Hypoplasia, meaning I cannot produce a full supply of milk.  I did everything this time around everything that should help supply for normal mothers coupled with every possible combination of drug, herb or physical remedy known to (wo)man.  For the first three months of his life I was constantly attached to a pump, SNS and/or baby.   It quickly became apparent that I couldn't keep this up with two older kids to look after as well.  For those of you who have never nursed with an SNS let me tell you that a few ounces can take well over an hour for baby to consume at which point it's time to pump then time to nurse again and so on and so forth.  I began to introduce a small bottle after he nursed and predictably he grew to prefer the bottle and reject the breast.  I tried to wean him back onto the breast using the SNS but he was not having any of it.  Nursing became a constant struggle and eventually he flat out refused to latch.  This was so hard for me, because my second daughter had had bottles too, but she always preferred to nurse and comfort nursed even when there was nothing there.

The decision to stop was heartbreaking.  I just wanted to be able to do what nature intended.  When he cried I wanted to be able to comfort him, not frustrate him further.  Although I had been getting donor milk, I didn't feel it was fair to ask other women to pump for me when I was giving up myself, so I knew I would be switching him to formula.  I tried to keep pumping, but without the stimulation from nursing I would maybe get a few milliliters a day. Note on my best supply days I would barely get a full ounce for the entire day, if that gives you any indication of the severity of the supply problems here.

This whole journey has been an incredible one, as each child is.  My birthing experience was absolutely amazing and surpassed any expectations I might have had.  It was empowering and inspiring and made me feel like a strong and powerful woman.  My little boy is absolutely wonderful and makes my heart smile everytime I look into those beautiful blue eyes of his.  But my body let me down and the breastfeeding relationship I longed for never came to be.

In the process of this pregnancy/birth/lactation experience I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing women who suffer with the same condition both at home and abroad through the IGT Support Group and an Ireland specific Low Supply Group I setup earlier this year.  Nothing helps more than a sympathetic ear from someone who has been through the exact same thing.   The four ladies who so graciously gave us donor milk will forever be in my heart.  To think that complete strangers (now friends) took the time and energy to do something so intimate for my little boy is truly overwhelming.  I'm not quite sure if I'll ever be able to express how much their sacrifice meant to me.  Someday when he has his own children and understands about breastfeeding, I will tell him about the women who helped him thrive in the early days.  I will be forever grateful to these women.

I have learned much from this particular journey.  I have learned that although my body lets me down with each child I bring into the world, there is support and people out there who will step in and help you and restore your faith in your ability to mother.  I have also learned that their are people out there who will never understand or care to try to.  Those people are best ignored.

I was in Howth yesterday giving Mark a bottle and I recognised a woman from some of the other "natural parenting" facebook groups.  The look of disdain she gave me when she saw me feeding him a bottle was truly shocking.  How dare she judge me?  She has no idea what I've been through.  It took me more effort to feed my baby for one day than it will her to feed all three of hers for a lifetime.  It's the one thing I've really learned in all this.  You cannot judge, you DO NOT KNOW.  I wanted to shout at her, to tell her how ignorant she was, but really what would that achieve?  We need to support other mothers no matter what their choices and we cannot assume just because we see someone with a bottle that they were too lazy to even give it a try.  When it comes to breastfeeding, Mamas with IGT are anything but lazy.  We need support too, we need to feel welcome into the breastfeeding community without being made to feel we are failures.  We need caring and loving glances from other mothers, not looks of ignorant judgment. I have spoken before how I too am often guilty of this and I know myself that it's something we all can improve upon.  Sometimes I just wonder why I had to care... why I couldn't have been one of those Moms who didn't care at all about breastfeeding?

My little man and I are onto new pastures and I try not to let this all get me down, but sometimes when I get one of those looks like I got yesterday or see another Mama nursing, it sends a regretful chill through my body and makes me question myself all over again.  Baby Led Weaning is proving an amazing success and a great amount of fun, so it's time to move onwards and upwards and explore this brave new world with my little guy.

Thanks to everyone who offered support, advice and loving thoughts on this rocky journey.




Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Famous Daim Bar Cookies

I have to say I'm a little bit reluctant posting this recipe, because it's the one thing that people ask me to bring to parties, BBQs and school events and I understand why.  I used to think proper American chocolate chip cookies were the best cookies ever until one day I decided to smash up some Daim bars and use them instead.  The toffee bit melts in the oven then hardens up again when they cool, the chocolate melts into the cookie as well and the resulting cookie is chewy, moist and truly heavenly.  Everyone who tries these agrees they are the best cookie ever. The dough is very soft, don't worry about that, just plop them onto a sheet and observe the magic! Give them a go, you will not be disappointed!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 3 bags mini Daim bars, smashed up
Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.

Beat the sugars and the butter with a mixer until fluffy and soft.  Add in eggs, vanilla, baking soda and cream of tartar until well combined.

Add in the flour and beat until mixed.  Stir in the smashed up Daim bars.

Drop one inch balls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown around the edges.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing from tray.  Allow to cool completely before serving as the caramel can burn.  

Makes about 60 cookies.  




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Salmon Ramen For One

I've been on a bit of an Asian kick lately it seems and here is another one. This is such a warming healthy soup that really is a perfectly balanced meal. I make this for myself if I happen to get a few moments for lunch without the kids.  You can spice it up as much as you like and change the vegetables to cater to your own tastes.

If you don't have ramen noodles, udon or soba will work fine, so will just plain old spaghetti!  It's very flexible! :)



  • 1 skinned fillet of salmon
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chilli sauce (like sriracha)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 small red onion, thinkly slived
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or dashi
  • Handful mange tout, julienned
  • 1 cup of cooked ramen noodles
  • handful bean sprouts
  • handful coriander, chopped
Marinate the salmon in the mirin, soy sauce, honey, chilli sauce, garlic and ginger for half an hour or so. 

Stir-fry the carrot and onion for a minute or two until just softened. Remove from pan. Add stock and bring to a boil.  Add salmon and marinade and cook 3-5 minutes until fish is cooked. Remove from pan and set aside.  

Add noodles and vegetables to a bowl, ladle stock over them.  Top with salmon and sprinkle with coriander. 


Monday, August 6, 2012

My Cloth Nappy Experiment: Popeazy and Bumgenius V4

"Wee" man in a Popeazy
I've been using cloth nappies now for over four months, it's been a fun experiment that has turned into a permanent change..  I can honestly say I would never look back.  Initially we had some setbacks as we learned how to use them and get around leaks and find the right nappies for our wee man.  When I was out and about originally I reverted to disposibles, but now that I'm comfortable with cloth, I have been using them all the time. Haven't seen a disposable since June!  I've reviewed Fuzzibunz and Little Comfort Bambees, but today I want to review my two favourites, the new Little Comfort Popeazy and the Bumgenius V.4 One size.
The Wee Man in a Bumgenius V4
I've been using Bumgenius since I started and they quickly became my favourite nappy. They are versatile, cute and very absorbent. I use two inserts at night and never have a leaking problem and use one insert during the day.  I still prefer Bambees at night, but Bumgenius is my next best bet. They are great for using out and about when double stuffed as well. If there's a long car journey I know that I will have no problem with leaks or discomfort.  They also seem to fit him the best with no rashes.  The poppers seem to be better than the velcro in terms of comfort and fit, but the velcro option is husband-friendly and is really just as effective.  My little man is not so little and has very chunky thighs, the Fuzzibunz ended up causing rashes as he grew and no matter how much I adjusted them, nothing would help.  Whilst the elastic on the Bumgenius is not adjustable, I have never had a problem with fit.  I also find the nappies to be top quality and made really well. The poppers are very strong and even when you're tugging on them to get him changed, they rarely pop open.  I truly didn't think these nappies could be beaten and they remain the bulk of my (now full) stash.

A few weeks ago Little Comfort announced their new One Size pocket nappy, the Popeazy.  Knowing how soft and reliable the Bambee's were I knew I'd have to try these.  There was an amazing sale on them leading up to the All About Baby Fair which I took advantage of and purchases a 5 pack.  Upon picking them up at the (very awesome) fair, I was immediately struck by the softness and high quality of both the nappy and the inserts.  I couldn't wait to get them on himself. 
You are supposed to wash new nappies before you use them to increase the absorbency but I am both lazy and impatient so I put them on him right away.  Usually with new nappies I would change them more frequently until they reach full absorbency but I kept checking the popeazy and he was fine. I finally gave in and changed him after three hours. Couldn't believe I'd gotten so long out of a brand new nappy.  They've now been through the wash several times and I am seriously impressed with the absorbency.  The fit is just perfect too.  They also feature sturdy poppers and there are loads of versatile fitting settings.  I am absolutely thrilled with these nappies, they are incredibly cute with lovely colours, they are of top-notch quality and have a great fit.  They last quite awhile and seem to be very comfortable on baby. 

They would be my new favourite if it wasn't for one minor flaw.  I suspect this flaw might be more of an issue for boys than girls, but it is definitely problematic and could be improved upon.  That is the fact that the fleece comes all the way to the top of the nappy on the front.  If you look at the picture of the popeazy versus the bumgenius, you can see that the BG PUL layer comes over the top of the nappy on the inside.  The Popeazy has fleece all the way to the top.  With boys and trousers that press against the waist just as the nappy ends, the fleece seems to get pushed up and the trousers/vest get wet.  It's not a major leak per se, but the clothes get wet and make baby uncomfortable.  It's something BG changed from v2 to v3 and it's something I hope the Popeazy will address in future versions.  If it wasn't for this little flaw, I'd be ordering a load more and making it my primary stash as I do think it's a superior nappy on all fronts.  I suspect if you ave girls or avoid trousers, this wouldn't be such a problem. 

So there you have it, two brilliant nappies that I highly recommend. 



  

Proper Caesar Salad

Sometimes the simplest of things can be screwed up so thoroughly. Caesar Salad is one of these. I have yet to have a real caesar salad in this country. Don't get me wrong, I've had tasty salads called Caesar Salads, but they haven't been the real deal.  This is a really simple dressing, but it's authentic, delicious and full of healthy fats.  Add some grilled chicken, fresh cos (romaine) lettuce, crispy bacon lardons, shavings of parmesan and some good croutons and you have the perfect summertime meal.  I like a variety of crunchy veg on top of the basic cos salad, but feel free to omit or add different vegetables to suit your taste.  This is also delicious with grilled ribeye, prawns or even a fillet of salmon.

For the dressing:

  • 3 very fresh free-range eggs
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1-2 anchovies (optional)
For the chicken:
  • 4 tbsp of dressing
  • 2 chicken fillets
  • olive oil
For the salad:
  • 2 cos lettuce, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 100g bacon lardons, sauteed until crispy
  • large handful croutons
  • Handful of parmesan shavings
For the dressing, add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, emulsified and combined.  Refrigerate until needed.

For the chicken, marinate the fillets in about four tablespoons of the dressing for at least an hour.  Grill until cooked through, about 10 minutes a side. 

To assemble, add the lettuce and vegetables to a large bowl. Sprinkle with lardons, croutons and cheese.  Dress at table and top with chicken.


Submit to: Recipe Sharing Monday



Monday, July 30, 2012

Cheater's Sushi Stacks

I had the girls around on Friday night for Wine and hors d'oeuvres and had a terrible hankering for sushi.  Living in the Midlands, that's generally impossible to satisfy without driving to Dublin.  Even to make my own I would have to be extremely confident in the freshness of the fish and being so far inland and having only access to one fishmonger who I don't particularly care for means I won't be making sashimi at home any time soon.  I decided to use some gorgeous Irish smoked salmon instead. I was slightly pressed for time, so didn't want to mess with vegetables and rolls, so I made stacks!  This is super easy and very appealing to sushi newbies with all the ingredients available at Tesco!

Smoked Salmon Sushi Stacks


  • 1½ cups sushi rice 
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons mirin 
  • 2 teaspoons sake (can use water)
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt 
  • 4 sheets toasted nori 
  • 1 tsp wasabi 
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • Pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi to garnish and serve
Bring rice and water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, mirin and sake in a small saucepan and cook until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

When rice is cooked, mix in vinegar mixture and spread out on a clean surface to cool.

Mix mayonnaise with wasabi until combined and light green.

Lay one sheet of nori on a clean surface and spoon 1/3 of the rice on top. Spread out over the nori using wet hands and press down to seal.  Top with a layer of smoked salmon. Using a pastry brush, brush with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Top with another sheet of nori and press down frimly to seal. Repeat twice more finishing with the fourth sheet of nori, shiny side up.

Wrap the square in plastic film and refrigerate for a few hours.

When ready to serve, get a very sharp knife and run the hot water.  Wipe and run the knife under the water before each slice using the wet blade to cut the stack into one inch pieces.  


Serve topped with pickled ginger and leave out soy sauce, wasabi and some extra wasabi mayonnaise for people to add as desired.

Submit to: Recipe Sharing Monday



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Better than Take-Away Cashew Chicken

It's a rare thing that I cook something that everyone raves about.  I've made this before as per the original recipe and it was ok, but this time I added some twists and it was out of this world.  Both the girls raved about it and had seconds and himself kept saying it was better than take-out.  I would have to agree, this is a simple and delicious dish that comes together quickly and pleases just about everyone.  You could certainly add any other vegetables you prefer.

The recipe is a little odd in terms of the oil used, but basically it makes an emulsified sauce that somehow works and isn't at all greasy.  This comes together really quickly as well, so have your rice cooked and ready to go!

Better Than Take-Away Cashew Chicken

  • 4 large chicken fillets, cubed
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 3 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups unsalted cashews, roasted
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, thinly chopped
  • 1 package of mushrooms, quartered
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced diagonally
Marinade chicken by adding oil, tamari, chilli powder, honey, garlic and ginger to a bowl with the chicken.  Stir until emulsified. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better.

Heat up a wok and remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon.  Reserve marinade. Stir fry until cooked through and remove from wok and set aside.

Pour marinade into wok and cook for a few minutes at a high boil to kill any bacteria from the raw chicken.  Remove all but 1tbsp from wok and set aside.

Add carrots and onions and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and stir until cooked through.  Add cashews and chicken and enough of the sauce to coat.  Sprinkle chopped scallions on top and serve with white rice.

Adapted from Simply Recipes



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Messy Tasty Kiddy Fun: Making Truffles

"I'm bored" and "I'm hungry" seem to be favourite sentences around here of late.  I decided to tackle both problems when the girls had some friends over.  I let them make truffles. Pretty gourmet for kids, but this easy recipe is so simple that it's perfect for kids to have some fun with. You can play around with flavourings too adding orange or raspberry extract for fruity versions and you can definitely experiment with toppings. I asked if they wanted coconut but got a resounding "ewwwww!"  For adult versions you could add some grand marnier.



Easy Cream Cheese Truffles

  • 8 oz full fat cream cheese
  • 12oz dark chocolate, melted
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cocoa, icing sugar, sprinkles, coconut etc to decorate
Beat the cream cheese with a spatula until softened. Add in sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.  Stir in chocolate, it should start to thicken right away.  Once combined, refrigerate for 20 minutes to an hour.

Use a teaspoon and scoop out a spoonful of truffle mixture and roll into a ball in your hand.  Roll in topping of choice, eat immediately or refrigerate until serving. Enjoy!




Places to earn money or vouchers online

Pardon the recent hiatus, had lots of stuff to deal with IRL. Been a rough couple of months, but life goes on.  


Was discussing making money online with some other Mammies recently and agreed to come up with a list and some suggestions. All of these are free to sign up for and have no investment as far as I'm aware. I have tried them all at one point or another and still use many. I know there are some other cashback sites, but as far as I know they all use tradedoubler (i.e. they all have the same merchants due to the third party they use to track the affiliate sales) so you get more or less the same benefits from each site and because of browser cookies can only use one at a time per shopping transaction, so I just stick to Fatcheese as I've never had any issue with them.  So for those of you wishing to make a few bob with little effort, hopefully this will help!

Here's what I've got so far. What am I missing? I will edit to add as suggested! 

Volunteer for Panels - A place to sign up for a variety of internet panels, they will contact you when a suitable vacancy is available.

Irish Opinions - Earn money for taking surveys, paid in vouchers.

Toluna - Earn points by completing surveys, participating in polls and their community. Redeemable for vouchers.

RedC - The survey company, earn points for surveys, cash in for vouchers. Probably the more interesting surveys, often political as well as marketing.

MySurvey - Another survey company, earn points and cash in for vouchers.

Fatcheese - Cashback on many popular internet shopping outlets. Great if you buy Groupon or Pigsback deals as well as bigger purchases, Apple and Dell come to mind.

Europinions - Another survey company, earn points and cash in for vouchers.

Gapbuster A secret shopping company. Secret shop for McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Texaco etc. All training is online and easy to pass, payments are swift and I've had no problems, other than the extra calories! ;)

Pigsback - Earn points by clicking on ads, completing offers and shopping. Redeemable in vouchers.

Catalyst - Another secret shopping company. I've done shops for Smyths, An Post and Vodafone. Quite straightforward and decent payment, the Smyths ones also reimburse you for a toy you can keep.

Swagbucks - US based, but becoming more EU friendly, can cash in points for Amazon UK. Earn by completing offers, watching videos, taking surveys, polls and using their search function. Current offer: Use code HOLIDAYSWAG to get an extra 70 points when you join.
Shop and Scan - Scan your groceries with a scanner when you get home. A bit time consuming, but points earned can be redeemed for high street vouchers.

Opinion World - Another survey site, earn points, exchange for vouchers.

WhoseView - Write reviews of local companies and earn points, cash them in for vouchers. Seems to be only major cities for now.

MenuPages - Write reviews of restaurants and earn points, cash in for restaurant vouchers and coupons. Can review all over the country, but unfortunately cash-in offers appear to be mainly Dublin/Cork.



*Disclaimer - one or two of the above links are my personal referral ones, feel free to use or disregard as you see fit. :blush:
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pan Seared Cod with Chorizo and Leek Risotto

This is a glorious evening meal that hubby and I really enjoy.  It's the type of dish that a restaurant will charge you €23 for that can easily be made cheaply at home.  It looks like you've spent hours cooking it too, when in reality it's ridiculously simple!

Risotto is one of those meals that gets a bad wrap in terms of home cooking.  Supposedly it's difficult to get right, but like other notorious tricky eats such as choux pastry and hollandaise sauce, it's incredibly simple once you get the hang of.  This dish comes together quickly, so I recommend having all your ingredients (mise en place) ready in advance.  Try and get fresh cod from a fish monger.  This also works well with Monkfish. The measurements below serve two, any tips on getting the kids to eat fish are always welcome!

Ingredients:


For the risotto -

  • knob of butter
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 large leeks, finely sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 200g Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • glass of dry white wine
  • 1 pint hot chicken stock
  • handful parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the fish -
  • 2  thick loins of cod, skinned and bones pin-picked
  • 1/2 link of chorizo, skinned and cubed
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Season fish with salt and pepper, set aside while you prepare the risotto.

Saute the shallots with the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat until soft.  Add the leeks and cook for a few minutes until leeks begin to soften.  Add rice and stir to coat well. Cook for a minute, stirring frequently.

Add the wine and allow to cook off before adding a ladle of stock. Allow to cook down and repeat.  Continue until the rice is just under al-dente.  Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and another knob of butter if you like.  

While you're cooking the risotto, heat a frying pan and render the chorizo.  You want it to be relatively crispy but not burnt.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a little olive oil to the rendered chorizo fat and sear your cod.  Cook for 3-5 minutes per side until firm to the touch and just cooked through.

To plate, serve a scoop of risotto, top with the cod, sprinkle with chorizo and drizzle with some of the chorizo oil. 



Linking up to: Recipe Sharing Monday

Friday, June 1, 2012

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

The mere mention of turkey burgers just turns me off. It gives me flashbacks of horrible low fat diets and cardboard flavoured meals. Yet I saw ground turkey on offer at the butchers the other day and figured the price was worth me playing around with it.  I made these burgers for lunch and surprised everyone including myself with the wonderful flavours and texture. These are super healthy and incredibly delicious; moist, colourful and tender. We've been avoiding white flour and sugar of late so I used maple syrup in the teriyaki sauce and to be honest it was actually better than a sauce made with brown sugar, it was light and zingy and the perfect accompaniment to the burgers.  You could easily make these into meatballs as well.  The apple is the secret to keeping them moist.  All in all a big hit with young and old alike.

Ingredients:

For the patties:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oats*
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • coconut oil for grilling
For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • clove of garlic, crushed
  • A few thin slices of ginger
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and grease your hands with a little coconut oil. Form into patties and chill while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook until slightly syrupy. 

To grill the patties, brush a grill pan with a little coconut oil and grill over a medium heat for about ten minutes a side.  If you're grilling on a barbecue be sure to grease the grill well as there is very little fat in this recipe and it will stick otherwise.

Serve with wedges of pineapple and the teriyaki sauce. 


* Can use breadcrumbs here as well, but the oats are better for you and keep you fuller longer!

Linking up to: Recipe Sharing Monday,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Foolproof Beef Wellington

You know that one dish that never ceases to please just about everyone? Well, this is mine.  This is our Christmas dinner every year and also tends to crop up for other special occasions.  We do it for Christmas because with Paul being American we celebrate Thanksgiving and a full turkey dinner twice in a month is just too much for me!  This is a very traditional recipe with a beautiful mushroom and shallot duxelle and cheaters (store bought) puff pastry*.  Serve with some pan gravy, roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, some trimmed asparagus drizzled in lemon butter and roasted beetroot for an amazing luxurious (and easy, but no one will be able to tell) dinner!  Apologies for the poor photos, I only had my iPhone at the time.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3lb beef or venison fillet, trimmed
  • 8oz cremini (chestnut) or wild mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or brandy
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 15 slices of prosciutto or serrano ham
  • 1 package of puff pastry*
  • Egg wash**
Heat a large skillet and add a glug of olive oil.  Season the trimmed fillet with salt and pepper and sear each side until browned, about a minute a side, longer if you want your finished fillet to be cooked more than medium rare.  Remove from heat, set aside. 

Add butter to skillet and allow to melt.  Add shallots and cook for a few minutes until softened.  Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has evaporated.  Add white wine and cook down until liquid is gone.  Stir in the garlic and herbs, cooking for a minute.  Remove from heat. 

Unroll a large piece of plastic wrap, thick enough to wrap around the fillet.  Lay out the prosciutto, slightly overlapping on the cling film.  Spread the mushroom duxelle over the prosciutto leaving about an inch at the edges. Coat the fillet with the dijon mustard. 

Place the fillet on top of the duxelle and prosciutto then use the plastic wrap to bring the prosciutto up and around the fillet. Roll the fillet up tight, twisting the plastic wrap at each end tightly to form an even cylinder. Pop in freezer while you prepare the pastry.

Roll out the pastry sheet so that it is large enough to enclose the fillet.  Brush the edges with egg wash and wrap fillet up sealing the edges.  Use any extra pastry to make a decorative topping for the wellington.  Brush the pastry with egg wash and bake for 25 minutes at 200C/400F for medium rare and 30 minutes for medium. Allow to stand for ten minutes before carving.  Enjoy!



* Aldi are doing a butter puff pastry in their chilled section now and I have to say it's very good and much better value than the branded stuff!

**1 egg plus a teaspoon of cold water

Linking up to: Recipe Sharing Monday,

Review: Amazon Kindle

I come from a line of avid readers. My Dad gave me a copy of Jane Eyre when I was about eight and I never looked back. My Grandmother who died this past September passed on her love of reading to my Dad and he passed it on to me. Any time I would visit her I would bring all the books I'd read and swap them with a pile of hers. We'd discuss authors and plots and I would marvel at how lucky I was to have such an astute and intelligent grandmother, despite her physical frailty.

About three years ago Dad got a Kindle for Christmas, the big old ugly white one with the keypad.  I was incredulous, how could he do such a thing? Betray the paper he had always loved? Surely not!  I refused to believe him when he told me how much he loved it. I watched with disdain as he devoured book after book at the pool on our vacation in Portugal. Most of all though, I missed him giving me a big pile of books any time I would visit.

About a year ago my best friend in the states got a Kindle for her birthday and also sang it's praises.  It made me think twice, but still I knew that I loved the feel, smell and sensation of a book in my hands. I liked to dog-ear interesting passages and scribble notes if I so chose. I also loved to have a big pile on my bedside table to peruse at my leisure depending on my mood.  She told me how it was a wonderful tool for nursing mothers as it only required one hand.  That struck a chord and I considered how it might be useful, but dismissed the thought immediately.

Fast forward to last Christmas.  We were all sitting around the tree watching the kids open presents when my parents presented myself, himself and my brother and sister-in-law with a similarly shaped and wrapped present, insisting we all open it at the same time.  There were cries of delight as everyone saw their new Kindle, except from me, still not being convinced.

Within a few days I had started to set it up and ordered a few books.  I started with a Kindle Single by Lee Child, as I didn't want to waste money on something I thought I would hate.  I was pleasantly surprised with the interface and how easy it was to read and use.  Next thing I know I had downloaded The Hunger Games Trilogy (all three for less than the price of one at Easons!!!) and read them all in a couple of days.  I bought a few books suitable during my pregnancy including a Pregnancy Yoga book which was brilliant as I always had the poses with me.  I ordered the breastfeeding essential Motherfood which is also brilliant to have with me on the run and allows me to make good choices of food and snacks on the go. All of a sudden I found my paper book pile dwindling as I purchased more and more of my reading on the Kindle.  It was pretty obvious I was hooked!

I love that I can carry all my reading with me at any given time without being laden down with books.  It's small and sleek and easily fits in my handbag. I absolutely LOVE the prices.  For someone who used to spend upwards of €100 a month on books I have cut down substantially and whats even better is that the books are always there on my device as I need them. I cannot believe how quickly I've converted to a Kindle enthusiast.  It really is a brilliant investment for anyone who loves reading.

I use an American Amazon account as we still have residency there and I use that address.  My Dad does not have residency but also uses an American account as the prices are cheaper. The only difference being there are sometimes titles (often the free ones or deals of the day) that are only available to download to people with confirmed US addresses.  You can get the Kindle on Amazon.co.uk as well, but it's only $79 in the US store versus £89 and the books are cheaper and there is a bigger selection.  A no brainer if you ask me!

My first Kindle stopped working and I have to say that for the most part the customer service was excellent.  They replaced the Kindle and gave me a $25 credit for the inconvenience.  It was a bit of a struggle because I bought it in the US, they wouldn't ship a replacement here, but I got it shipped to my father-in-law who was sending a package here anyway and he tucked it in.

It is a sound investment that pays for itself quickly with the reduced cost books. It's also very green considering the huge cut down in paper use.  If you keep an eye on Amazon you can also get some excellent daily deals and free books.  You can get almost all the old classics for free.  Sometimes authors or publishers make their books free for 24 hours to get up the rankings and you can get some great deals and savings here.  I would go for the slightly more expensive touch version if you had the means, but the basic is just fine and working well for me.  The Kindle Fire looks nice, but it's basically a tablet and I know myself too well to realise that no reading would get done and all the bells and whistles would take away from the primary purpose of an e-reader.  All in all I would highly recommend a basic Kindle to anyone who reads a lot or enjoys reading.   
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Power Bars

Proud Daddy with his girl!
Apologies for being so MIA of late, it's been a busy few weeks. My eldest made her First Holy Communion last weekend and my baby was baptised the next day.  There was a big party on the Saturday followed by a smaller more intimate lunch after the Christening.

It was a wonderful weekend but very exhausting and I swear I'm still recovering.  Baby loved all the attention. I was worried as he was being passed around like snuff at a wake, but he soaked up every minute and was an absolute charmer!  I think he's getting used to just me again.  Ella had a wonderful day and cites the best part of the day being when she took her dress off.  That's my tomboy for you! ;)

Family Picture on Mark's Baptism Day
The week before that we had Ella's eighth birthday party.  That birthday also marked eight years since we became parents, scary to think, especially considering it seems like we've just started all over again.  Having a six year gap really makes you seem like brand new parents and I have to say it's a whole different ballgame in your early thirties than in your early twenties.  I'll actually have to write a post about that, because I find the differences fascinating.  But I digress...

Power bars...where to start.  Well, himself works crazy hours, sometimes 18 hour days with a good amount of physical work thrown in.  He's the most conscientious worker (he's worked for this company for 7 years and has yet to call in sick) and gets so involved that he often forgets to eat or if he does eat, it's a packet of biscuits or similar junk.  He cycles too and from work which helps to counteract his horrible eating habits, but I felt like he needed something to get him through the day so I started experimenting with recipes.  Below is a power-packed whole foods granola bar which really packs a healthy punch and keeps you full for quite some time.  The quinoa and oats form the basic recipe with the binding of honey and peanut butter, but everything else is easily adapted to your taste.  I would also recommend adding some dried fruit, the bars pictured are fruit-free for the kids as they can't stand dried fruit, bt adding some tart dried cherries or sweet apricots would add a lot.  These are also good for those of us who are breastfeeding, as both quinoa and oats are known lactogenic foods. Double win!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup chopped/ground nuts*
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • 2 tbsp linseed
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup seeds**
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
Soak the quinoa in water with a dash of lemon juice overnight.  The next morning, drain and add to the milk. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds, add to the milk with the remaining pod.  Bring milk to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until all liquid is absorbed.

Soak oats in yoghurt overnight. Once quinoa is cooked, mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper and spread the mixture inside.  Bake at 200C/400F for 30-45 minutes until browned around the edges and cooked through.  

Allow to cool and slice into bars.  Enjoy as a power snack, kids brain food, breakfast on the go or with a cup of coffee!

* I used almonds and hazelnuts. 
** I used a mix of sunflower and pumpkin




A sneak peek (and horrible photo) of my eight year old's birthday cake. Recipe to follow!




Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Reading

Some interesting articles and blog posts for your weekend perusal:

An excellent excellent piece on extended breastfeeding, coincidentally written before Time's controversial cover story.

File this one under WTF! The worse PR campaign of all time? You decide!

This analogy really shows how clever formula marketing has been and continues to be.

7 tips for people new to cloth nappies is a good read if that's an avenue you are exploring or considering.

Another pre-Time commentary on attachment parenting and feminism. I love this post, having always identified as a feminist, yet feeling eschewed by said group since becoming a mother.

Loving these recipes for homemade cleaners!

And finally an absolutely delicious looking raspberry lemon roulade. Perhaps a mothers day dessert for my American friends? <3
Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breastfeeding Difficulties: Living with IGT

I'm feeling sorry for myself lately.  The past few days I've been kind of low.  One would think that being surrounded by extraordinary women and their gorgeous children at the Homebirth Conference would have left me on a high and to an extent it did, but it also served to make me feel less of a woman... again. I hate my boobs.

My wee man is two months old and I still nurse him at each feed, but I have to supplement him and as he grows so does that supplement with my supply staying the exact same. I nurse and if I have time I hook him up to the SNS and feed him the supplement at breast, but with two school age kids and their various extracurriculars, I don't really have the time to have a 90 minute SNS session more than once a day, if even, so that means he gets a bottle.  He nurses for about five minutes on each side before getting frustrated and annoyed as the milk dries up.  This is the day to day of Insufficient Glandular Tissue or IGT.  It sucks. A lot.

I want to be able to pick my baby up when he cries and satisfy him.  I want to be able to nourish him by myself as I should be designed to do. I want stains on my shirts because my milk leaks. I want mustard poo. I don't want to smell like curry because of all the fenugreek I take.  I don't want to be hungry all the time because of the high dosage of domperidone I'm on.  I don't want to have to hide a bottle under a blanket when I'm with other breastfeeding women.  I don't want to have to explain my situation to everyone who gives me a dirty look. I want the people closest to me and everyone else -strangers included who feel they have the right to comment - who ask why I bother and suggest switching to bottles to realise they are not helping.  I want breastfeeding "experts" to stop telling me it's something I'm doing wrong.  I just want to be normal.

How can my body make and sustain this beautiful baby for ten months then not continue to do so after he is so beautifully born

I cried my eyes out the entire drive home from Dublin last week not because I was jealous of all those women I saw who were lovingly nursing their babies, but rather because I was mourning the fact that I couldn't do that.  I was sad, angry and frustrated. Why me? What is wrong with my body that my breasts never developed? Why can no one fix it? Why does no one even care enough to try? Why do people tell me not to bother?

The thoughts that go through my head are endless. Nothing can prepare a mother for primary lactation failure.  It goes against every maternal instinct one has.  Putting a baby to an empty breast only upsets him further, it's heartbreaking to watch. It kills me when I see people not even try to breastfeed, or give up for stupid reasons. It makes me mad that women who could easily feed any number of babies don't because they fear they are giving up their freedom or won't make enough or it might hurt or they just can't be bothered.  I would rather have enough milk and raw nipples or permanent mastitis than IGT.  Not being able to feed my babies just kills me and it's so hard not to be angry.  I know I shouldn't judge other women, especially because I believe most of it is due to lack of education and/or support, but still, it's just hard when you have literally tried everything under the sun to no avail.

One of the ladies in the IGT Support Group summed it up perfectly when she said "IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood."  So true. She goes on to share how it has affected her:

To me having IGT is like a silent killer to the wonderment of motherhood. Yes the children get older and nursing struggles become distant memories (I have 7 and 5 1/2 yr old boys too) but for now, right now I am saddened. I struggle with wondering why God would make a perfect beautiful way to feed babies and then not allow me to feed them that way. I never had fertility problems, I had no idea my breasts were empty shells devoid of mammary glands. They aren't huge but they're breasts! I even commented to my husband during my first pregnancy "well I'm leaking colostrum, so at least we know my boobs work..." after noticing there was a lack of tenderness and growth about 25 weeks in. The only reason I keep going with the SNS is for the joy I feel when I see those blue eyes peering up at me. He loves to nurse, all my baby's did. And the little smile in the corner of his mouth when he opens wide to latch on, those few swallows he gets before needing the SNS; it's worth it to me for that calm and peace and unity we have, my baby and I.

Yes. THAT is what I need to focus on. Those loving eyes looking up at me enjoying what little he can get.   I have to remain positive and enjoy the nursing relationship I do have and who knows, maybe as he gets older and adds solids I will eventually be able to eliminate supplements.  I cannot let other people's negativity and "I don't know why you bother" attitude bring me down.  I cannot look at other women who are successful and let it sadden me.  I cannot let blog posts like this make me cry and mourn.  I will continue to do what I am doing because it benefits my son and it benefits me.  Must.stay.strong.
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Homebirth Conference 2012: Ina May Gaskin

I am so excited about Sunday when I will be attending the 2012 Homebirth Association of Ireland Conference.  It promises to be a great day out for anyone interested in natural birth and parenting.  I am a huge advocate for natural birth and homebirth and can't wait to hear the speakers and meet like-minded parents at this event.

The headline speaker is none other than Ina May Gaskin, probably the world's most renowned midwife.  I first heard of Ina May when a friend gave me a copy of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. At the time I was of the persuasion that if I would need to be knocked out to deliver this baby and woken up when it was all over.  My only perception of childbirth was what I had seen on TV and in movies - lots of screaming and pain, frantic medical staff and frustrated Moms.  I already figured myself to have a low pain tolerance and knew there was no way I could do this without copious amounts of drugs.

I had been a bit of a hippy in my youth, following bands such as Phish around during the summer and the friend who gave me the book thought it would appeal to that side of me.  She was absolutely right.  I was only a few pages in when I began to reconsider my attitude.  The first half of the book is filled with birth stories from The Farm, where Ina May has her midwifery practice.  The stories are beautiful and empowering and instantly made me feel like I could do this.  The second half of the book focuses on birth itself and goes through the various modern practices and questions them.  There is no pressure in this book, just a very educated and experienced woman presenting the facts for you to evaluate and decide.  Before I had finished the book, I switched from an obstetrician to a midwife (not too common where I was in the US at the time) and was determined to have an intervention-free natural birth.  Ina May's book was the start of my journey towards an empowering birth and began a journey of growth as a woman.  Despite being immersed in a hospital setting, the knowledge in this book allowed me to have almost the birth I wanted.  I avoided all interventions except a heparin lock, which I couldn't argue my way out of.  It was put in an hour before delivery and I demanded it be removed immediately after, so all in all it wasn't so bad.

The book was pulled out again on my second birth where I had hoped to have a homebirth.  Unfortunately the midwife had to pull out at the last minute, but I was able to have an intervention and drug-free birth in Castlebar.  I re-read every story in the book and again it gave me so much strength.

This past time around I read the book again and I added Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding to my repertoire.  I remember labouring in the pool thinking to myself "I'm going to get huge" just like one of them women in the book.  I truly believe these books helped me believe in myself and be an active participant in the three most important days of my life.

I am absolutely ecstatic to have the chance to hear Ina May on Sunday, we are so lucky to have her come to Ireland.  The Irish Times has a piece about the visit and the conference.

If you're at all interested in natural birth, it's definitely worth a visit.  The conference is this Sunday at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel on the Naas Road in Dublin.  Tickets are available at the door and lunch is included. Tickets are €45 for HBA members and €55 for non-members. There will be lots of shopping opportunities as well.  Further details are available from the HBA website.

Let me know if you're planning on attending as I'd love to meet as many as I can!

My Cloth Nappy Experiment: Fuzzi Bunz One Size Elite

We are on day seven of my great cloth nappy experiment and I still a complete convert! I ordered three brands to try out to see what would work best for us. I've already reviewed Little Comfort and now I'm going to discuss Fuzzi Bunz.

I ordered the three count trial pack of One Size Elite from Hipbaby. I got red, blue and orange and was instantly taken with how adorable they were!  The nappies are "pocket nappies" which Go Real describes as:
"The Pocket Nappy is an All-in-one nappy which holds the absorbent part in a pocket between a fleecy stay dry layer and the waterproof outer. This allows you to separate the absorbent part to aid quick drying."
They came with two lovely soft Minky inserts which you pop into the nappy to use.  The lovely Leona from  Hipbaby gave me a quick demonstration on how to stuff them and made sure I knew to spread them out inside the pocket to prevent side leaks.   The nappies have adjustable elastic on either side that can be changed as the baby grows. Initially I left them as they arrived but quickly found they were a better fit if I adjusted them down two notches.

The wee man in a red Fuzzibunz
These nappies work from birth to potty-training, so you definitely get a good bang for your buck.  They have snap enclosures which also allow you to choose from various sizing options when you close the nappy.  I've figured out what works best for little man after having one leak that was my own fault.  Other than that we have had no problems with these nappies and I am really liking them.  He wore one last night from about 7pm to 3am.  Ideally I would have changed him around eleven but he had been awake the entire day and I hated to wake him.  I was sure I would be facing leaks at 3am, but not at all.  I was very impressed!

I love the fact that I can tumble dry these nappies and with the inserts being separate they don't take very long to dry. At the moment my nappy stash is a limited eleven nappies so I'm doing laundry daily and the fact that the Fuzzi Bunz are ready quickly is a lifesaver.

To summarise:
An excellent pocket nappy with great absorbency. A great selection of colours, highly adjustable and very functional. Will definitely remain a staple in my stash!

Pros:
  • High quality, well-known brand
  • Excellent absorbency
  • Nice selection of colours, very cute
  • Highly adjustable
  • Quick drying time
  • No leaks!
Cons:
  • A bit bulky
  • Snaps can be daunting (well at least himself thinks so!)
Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this review, nappies were purchased from my own pocket. All opinions are my own.Fuzzibunz can be ordered in Ireland from Hipbaby.ie.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Both my girls have eczema on their arms and I have tried literally everything to get rid of it. From over the counter creams to prescription cortisone and steroids and nothing seems to help.

Recently I began thinking about other causes and decided a simpler more natural laundry soap might help.

The following is my recipe for homemade detergent. It's incredibly frugal, making enough for 160 loads and working out at less than three cent a load. Beat that Proctor and Gamble!!! You can customise it to suit your water and sense of smell. I like lavender and find it relaxes the small people, so I went with that.  You could also add a few drops of tea tree oil for it's disinfectant properties.

Borax can be bought at most chemists and if they don't have it in stock, they will order it for you. I got the soda crystals at Tesco and the soap at Dunnes. This is very effective and gets stains out easily. Use a little extra soda if you have hard water and continue to use whatever softening technique you already use, like Calgon.

Ingredients:
  • 3oz laundry/castile soap, approx half a bar (i.e. Ivory, Fels Naptha, Fairy, Dr. Bronners)
  • 3/4 cup borax
  • 3/4 cup washing soda
  • 9L hot water
  • 10-15 drops essential oil
Grate the soap into a metal bowl.

Bring one litre of the water to a boil on the stove and add the grated soap, stirring until dissolved.  Add essential oil to scent.  Remove from heat and add the soda and borax.

Stir until combined, it will thicken.  Pour into a ten litre container* and add the remaining eight litres of hot water.  Stir vigorously until well mixed.

Allow the mixture to sit overnight and it will thicken slightly.  

Use 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) per load of laundry, more for extra soiling.  

* I asked at the local shop for one of those big mayonnaise buckets they use at the deli!




Monday, April 23, 2012

My Cloth Nappy Experiment: Review of Little Comfort

Little Comfort Trial Pack
We are on day five of my great cloth nappy experiment and I think it's safe to say I will not be going back to disposables!  If you'd have told me I would say this two weeks ago I would have laughed in your face, but here I am, a complete convert! I ordered three brands to try out to see what would work best for us.

The first brand I tried was Little Comfort.  I was really excited to try them out as they are an Irish company and I like to support Irish businesses where at all possible, especially when - like Little Comfort - they are competitive.

I ordered the combination trial pack of their economy nappy and their luxury Bambee nappy.  The package came with 4 flushable liners and a cover.  I ordered the burberry cover that looked blue on the website, but is a definite purple when it arrived.  My very manly hubby was immediately put off by the purple, but I promised no one would see it!  The packaging was lovely and came with full colour instructions and a troubleshooting guide. I was a little disappointed because one of the snaps had fallen off the economy nappy before I had opened the package, but I was able to make do.

The wee man in his Little Comfort Bambee Nappy
Both nappies are exceptionally soft with the Bambee being just lovely and luxurious.  They both came with two inserts that just snap into the nappy.  I have used both at night with absolutely no leaks and this being with a baby who would regularly leak through night time disposable nappies.  To say I was pleased is an understatement.  When you take the nappy off the baby there are no red marks, no smell other than a lovely woody scent that I take it comes from the bamboo they are made of.  The cover seems to keep everything contained and both nappies wash up just lovely.

You cannot tumble dry them, which is a little frustrating as they take a long time to dry and in this weather, a line is just not an option. From an aesthetic point of view I think these could be a little cuter, but functionally they are fantastic.

To summarise:
An excellent super-soft bamboo nappy with great absorbency.   I will continue using them for my night time choice as I know I can rely on them and they are soft and luxurious on my son.

Pros:

  • Irish company, made in Ireland
  • High quality
  • Super soft
  • Excellent absorbency
  • Lovely smell
  • Comfortable on baby
  • No leaks!
Cons:
  • A bit bulky
  • Plain looking
  • Slow to dry
  • Can't tumble-dry
  • Requires a cover
Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this review, nappies were purchased from my own pocket. All opinions are my own.Little Comfort can be ordered directly from their website.