Christmas in the Kitchen with a Ten Month Old

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When Nino was just seven weeks old, two weeks before his open heart surgery, we hired a professional photographer to capture a morning in the life of our little family of three. Those newborn days disappear so quickly that it felt like a precious and important milestone to mark, and, with the operation (hopefully) far behind us, I can now admit I was also scared that those happy moments could be some of our last. This world we live in works in weird and wonderful ways, and two thirds of a year later here we are, happy as can be. A little sleepless, perhaps, but I’d rather be kept awake at night by a bouncing ten month old with a lust for life than intangible fears for its future.

When the same photographer got in touch to say she was keen to capture the preparations of a few families in the run up to Christmas, we jumped at the chance. She describes her photos as ‘imperfect, real, crazy, messy, funny, impossible, bonkers’ and ‘one of the best future gifts you could give to your children’ and I couldn’t agree more. A baby’s first Christmas is an incredibly magical time, and although it will stay etched in my memory forever, I’m so happy Nino will now have something special to look back on too. Continue reading

Emiko Davies’ Pear & Chocolate Cake

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It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in the little loaf household of late. About ten days ago Nino started saying ‘mama’ in a very deliberate way, calling me back if I disappeared round a corner or snuggling in and saying it rather than the indiscriminate sound making we’ve been hearing a little longer. My heart is fit to burst and it’s literally the sweetest word I’ve ever heard, but at the same time this cognitive leap seems to have brought with it possibly the hardest behaviour we’ve seen to date. Our usually sunny little man has been grumbling and fussing, clinging round my ankles, waking multiple times each night and resisting sleep with a renewed and infuriating fervour for someone clearly so in need of it. Until you become a mum it’s impossible to understand how you could love one little person so deeply and completely, yet at times want to pop them in a padded room, pour yourself a stiff drink and sleep, uninterrupted, for a week.

Today our little sleep resister turns ten months old. I know this fussy phase will pass (until the next one, that is . . .) but am also wary of wishing a single day away. With less than two months of maternity leave left I’m trying to live in the moment and soak up each precious morsel of my baby, so in the spirit of celebration (and because my sleep deprived brain might forget if I don’t write it down), here’s what we’ve been particularly loving about you this month, sweet boy.   Continue reading

Spelt & Apple Star Biscuits

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Last weekend I was chatting to someone and mentioned that Nino isn’t going to be allowed refined sugar until he turns one. The topic came up because we were eating flapjacks which Nino was desperate to try – you know, that full body baby intention with propeller arms and slightly wild eyes – and this mean mama diverted his attention with a crust of bread instead. Lots of people I discuss this no-sugar rule with think it’s a perfectly sensible idea in an era where we’ve come to see the sweet stuff as the root of all evil, but this particular someone looked at me with the weary eyes of a parent of more than one child. ‘Wait til you’re onto littlest loaf number three, you’ll be feeding them birthday cake for breakfast without batting an eyelid’.

True as this may be, I’m sticking with the courage of my first time mum convictions for now and allowing Nino sugar only in the form of fruit, milk etc for the next two months. There’s a whole rainbow of incredible natural sweets he’s been working his way through before anything more processed. And although straight up juice is a no-no for those teeth (six so far with an adorable middle gap), when an irresistible urge to bake takes hold of me, there’s the possibility of naturally sweetened wholesome treats like these spelt and apple stars.

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Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

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A few days before our 20 week appointment when I was pregnant with Nino, I remember reading an article about things you should look out for. After entering into the (relative) safety of the second trimester, it’s easy to think that this second pregnancy scan is all about the gender reveal – a subject of divisive debate between the ‘surprise!’ camp and those who are desperate, indeed need to know – but your stenographer is looking for a lot more than a pair of balls as she swipes cold jelly over your ever-expanding belly. There’s the baby’s brain and spine, fingers and toes, stomach and kidneys, position in the womb and position of the placenta. And then, of course, there’s his (or her) heart.  Continue reading

Fig, Dark Chocolate & Almond Flapjacks

 

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When we were first sent home from hospital with Nino I was tasked by the staff with fattening him up before his open heart surgery. There’s something statistically significant about a baby weighing over 5kg in terms of operation survival rates and, although we weren’t aware of it at the time, Nino’s abnormally complicated network of coronary arteries meant it was even more important that he pack on the pounds. In those early days before his heart was re-plumbed, helpless to fix him myself, food was truly my love language to our little boy. Continue reading

Blackberry & Apple Crumble Ice Cream

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Last night the clocks went back and many of you (most likely those with older or non existent children) may be basking in the hazy glow of a lazy extra hour in bed. Oh how fond yet distant a memory that seems. Now, as we ease into autumn proper with a nearly nine month old in our lives, an hour’s time difference means we may well be woken the wrong side of 6am for the next few days as Nino adjusts to his new routine. Continue reading

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Few things make you appreciate the passage of time like a baby. This time last year I was five months pregnant, just starting to feel the movement and weight of his little life inside me. Now that (not so) little is careering round our kitchen, shrieking with delight as he masters each new trick. Nino’s lived in the outside world almost as long as he spent in my tummy and October has well and truly arrived with its crisp, bright mornings and chill in the air. We’ve started putting on the heating in the nursery again, our families are discussing Christmas and as the nights draw in I’m seeking comfort in autumnal offerings of squash, spice and all things nice.  Continue reading

Coffee & Walnut Cake

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On Saturday we went to a family wedding and had to leave after three hours because Nino (who we’d left with his loving grandparents) had got himself hysterical and was refusing go to bed. He settled, of course, once we were home but this isolated incident sums up the last week or so of our lives – we’re discovering that life with an eight month old baby can be busy and hectic and hard. He’s crawling all over the flat and and attempting to walk, exploring everything and finding it frustrating when he can’t have/reach/walk unaided to what he wants. Sleeping, it seems, is cheating and some of the foods he found delicious a few weeks ago have become a bit of a battleground. That’s not to say he’s unhappy – for the most part he’s the same scrumptious, sunny baby he’s always been – but our little boy is learning to push boundaries, assert his preferences and establish himself as a voice to be reckoned with in our family of three. Continue reading

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate

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Long enough ago to make me feel extremely old, I met my husband-to-be at university. We were young, in love and, being students, didn’t really go on dates. There were late nights clubbing, bacon sandwiches eaten on scruffy sofas and a few ‘fancy’ suppers when housemates were out, but mostly we just spent time together without needing to label it a ‘date’. As we got older there were meals out and tasting menus, holidays, birthdays, trips to the cinema and all the usual things that couples do. It was easy; spending time together didn’t need a second thought.

I’ve owned a copy of Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In since it published a couple of years ago (check out this ice cream cake), but it wasn’t until our little man blazed his way into the world and made us a family of three that I truly understood the sentiment behind her words. Since he started a new job and I went on maternity leave, Luke and I have arguably spent much more time together during the week, yet somehow there are days when I find myself missing him. Or missing the ease of existing alongside him before we had this extra human to care for and entertain. Life as a parent is brilliant and bettering and blissful, but it can also be all-consuming and pretty tough at times. Suddenly you’re sharing not just your heart but your time with this new little life, and making space to appreciate, talk to and love my favourite grown up boy alongside our baby sometimes takes a conscious effort. Continue reading

Oaty Dunkers + WIN tickets to Stylist Live Foodie Friday

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I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve spoken voluntarily in front of a big crowd. The first was at our wedding, where it just didn’t feel right to let the men do all the talking.  My speech was short and mostly centred around our incredible cake (and Luke, of course), but nonetheless I stood up in front of 150 people and said my piece. The second was at the launch party for Homemade Memories (again talking about cake) and the third was Nino’s naming party. I can’t think of a much better reason to stand up and say some words than your first born overcoming ten hours of open heart surgery . . . Of course I’ve spoken at conferences for work and a few other events as well, but it isn’t something I relish or would naturally choose to do. I’m more of a conversation with close friends or pouring my heart out on the internet sort of person, as this space attests.

But I’m happy to say that I’m excited to be speaking at Stylist Live’s Foodie Friday on 14th October. In front of 150 people. Of course I’m a little bit terrified after months of maternity leave (and wondering whether I can do more than blow raspberries and sing a nursery rhyme or two), but I’ll be talking about food and blogging, two of the subjects closest to my heart. There will be a video (to take up some of my talking time), some slides (so you have something to look at when I forget my words) and of course some delicious Little Loaf samples baked by yours truly. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a whole lo of fun and I’d love you to come along too. So . . . Continue reading