Photo by Holly Bell
It was my youngest son's first birthday today. My grandmother had two children in her early twenties and two in her thirties. She swore her forties were her favourite decade; I'm not sure what that says about early years child rearing back in the 40s/50s! Here are my observations and learnings from raising a baby from 0 to 1 in my mid thirties, the third time round:
- I like routine, my babies like routine. I used to be embarrassed about this, that I wasn't some kind of earth mother who just went with the flow. I'm not embarrassed anymore. My baby, my family, my rules.
- My husband and I will, without fail, have a shouty row on about day 4 after each of our babies are born. Bad things will be said. All should be taken with a huge pinch of salt.
- Sleep is all. For me. For Lawrence. Without it we are miserable. So I guard nap times like a prison guard.
- This too shall pass. I remember the angst related to weaning the first time round. The worry that he wasn't getting enough of the right stuff. This time... well, today may well not be a tomato day, but tomorrow could be. Or the next.
- And on the subject of feeding - this time I have not engaged with the breast versus bottle debate with anyone. My boobs were my private business before I had babies; they remain my concern and mine alone.
- I dislike baby related group activities that involve drinking luke warm tea, singing nursery rhymes and sitting on a cold wooden church hall, so I no longer frequent such groups. If I want to hang out with other babies (and their mums) we do it at my house. With hot tea.
- Baby weight (or rather eating enough Malteasers to feed a small town related weight) makes me unhappy. I therefore reserve the right to lose it fast and feel more sunny.
- A trampoline (with a net guard) is a very good play pen for a crawler when pegging out the washing.
- Specialist baby toys will almost always be ignored. A shoe box with a calculator, hair scrunchy, some plastic spoons, a coaster or three and some empty yoghurt pots is a fine brace of toys for a little one.
- It's totally okay to think your newborn looks a little squashed and septuagenarian like.
I filled the freezer with portions of my favourite food when very heavily pregnant and my goodness was I glad I had. Here's a recipe for a takeaway classic that's incredibly easy (plus cheaper and healthier) to make at home, whether looking to fill the freezer or just wanting an easy mid-week supper. Serve with the veggie ribbon noodles to get all of your five a day in one meal. (I first made this on This Morning. If you want to take a look at me making it just click here).
Sweet & sour pork
- 700g pork tenderloin, diced into 2cm pieces
- 3 tbsp malt vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 500g fresh pineapple cut into 2cm chunks
- 80mls pineapple juice
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 medium red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into 2cm pieces
Place the pork in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the vinegar and the salt. Stir well and leave for 5 minutes to marinate. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high heat then add the pork (including the marinade) and fry until lightly browned and cooked through.
In the meantime make the sauce by mixing together 2 tbsp of the vinegar with the soy sauce, cornflour, tomato ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and the pineapple juice.
Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the juices in the pan. Add the garlic, fry for 1 minute, then add the onions and peppers, fry for 3 minutes, lastly add the pork back into the pan, the pineapple chunks and the sauce. Stir well and simmer for 2 - 4 minutes until the sauce has thickened, then serve.
Veggie Ribbon Noodles
- 200g egg noodles
- 4 carrots, peeled, topped and tailed
- 2 courgettes
- ½ cucumber, cut in half lengthways and deseeded
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions then drain, toss in ½ tbsp. of the sesame oil and set aside. Prepare the vegetables, by either using a vegetable peeler, mandolin or a very sharp knife to cut lengthways along the carrots, courgettes and cucumber to create very thin ribbon strips.
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok until it's very hot, then add the ginger and garlic. Fry for 20 seconds before adding the carrots. Fry for 2 minutes, tossing or stirring continually. Add the courgettes, the chilli and the noodles, stir well and fry for another minute.
Remove from the heat and add the cucumber strips, stir and dress with the soy sauce and the remaining sesame oil. Toss the veggie ribbon noodles a little before serving with the sweet and sour pork.
Variations and notes:
• If you have one large frying pan or wok then make the sweet and sour pork first then transfer to a saucepan and keep warm on a very low heat whilst you use the frying pan/wok to make the veggie ribbon noodles.
• You could use pork escalope's cut up in place of pork tenderloin if you prefer.
• Cut the cost of this recipe by using tinned pineapple rather than fresh and use the juice from the tin instead of buying separate pineapple juice.
• Swap the pork for chicken or even make this completely veggie by using lots of mange tout, mini sweetcorn and broccoli.
• The pork recipe freezes really well for up to 3 months. The veggie ribbon noodles can be eaten cold the next day as a salad, but don't freeze well.
• Run a teaspoon down the centre of a halved cucumber to remove the seeds easily.
• Did you know you can peel ginger with a teaspoon by simply rubbing it on the skin? It's a lot easier than using a knife to cut the skin away.
• Sesame oil has great flavour but if you can't find it simply leave it out. Instead toss the noodles in olive oil.
Here's the obligatory pic of me with Phil & Amanda:
Holly blogs at Recipes from a Normal Mum
Her first book is out now, also called Recipes from a Normal Mum