Elf is back. Why do I do this to myself?

IMG_5111.JPGNow in his second year of visiting, Mr Old Elf had been knocking round for the past ten days. He hasn’t wreaked any major havoc but he’s keeping a close eye on the Jordan lads. Dominic appears at the side of our bed by 6am each day in December pretending he needs a wee. It’s an entirely transparent ploy to get us up and sure why don’t we have a look at what elf is at on the way back to bed (if we’re lucky). You know what? I’m not going to fight it, the eye-rolling four year old (who claims to know absolutely everything) eyes light up when he sees what Mr Old Elf is at. IMG_5112.JPGExcept for that night I came home after a few glasses of wine to my husband asleep on the sofa. Off I went to the scratcher, oblivious to Mr Old Elf’s whereabouts. 545am the next morning, I respond to Dom’s arrival and a sudden moment of clarity by kicking and hissing at my husband. “Where’s the flippin’ E. L. F., find him!” I went downstairs, where Dom turned to me in the living room after a thorough scan of the room. I was sure we were rumbled. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the fairy door…”Mr Old Elf must be still in Santa’s North Pole.” I start to correct him that Santa doesn’t actually own The North Pole, then realise that’s terribly pedantic and I’ve gotten away with it. IMG_5113.JPG We set off up the stairs and he sees the light on in the office (er, box room), and there Elf is, looking at Lego online. He had been retrieved from under a sleeping two year old, FYI. High five husband, high five. So we’re doing okay.  He’s just as popular a ritual this year as last, I just really have to watch out for weekend wine interruptions.

Here’s what he’s been up to so far:

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Mr. Old Elf, our seasonal visitor

I have a small bit of creativity in my blood.  My Mum taught primary,  Junior Infants mostly – so finger paints and leaf rubbings were par for the course in her working life. I know she’s busy knitting matching jumpers for my 2 boys as I type too.  My lovely dear departed Dad was a textile designer, so had more of an eye for design than your average straight man.  His opinions on his daughters’ clothes extended beyond “You’re not going out in that belt.  What?  That’s a skirt?”

I flit between activities and crafts, a Jill of many trades, a mistress of none.  I have a sewing machine, I have a large jar of ironing beads, I have a million tiny ziplock bags of sparkly beads, wooden beads – every kind of jewellery finding imaginable.  I’ve done a metalwork course in the NCAD and a dressmaking course in the Grafton Academy.   One year I knitted 30 tiny hats for a smoothie promotion thing, having not lifted up needles for about 20 years at that point.  It’s safe to say I’ll turn my hand to anything, but as soon as it gets difficult, my eye tends to turn to the next task.

Christmas brings out the latent craftiness in a lot of people, and for me, it ramps up a bit.  In the last couple of years I’ve made felt owls for our tree, and as gift tags for the nieces & nephew.  Last year the creche staff got individual Chocolate Biscuit Cake Christmas Puddings.  (This year they should be getting Chocolate Peppermint Fudge if it isn’t a complete disaster).

I have attempted salt dough decorations with the boys – we managed one to be precise before there was dough everywhere. The less said about that the better. But this years biggest project has been our elf.  Mr. Old Elf to be precise, which is a more imaginative name than most soft toys get in this house. He’s here to keep an eye on the 2 little boys that live here, to make sure that Santa knows that they belong on the nice list.*  I was going to wait, and post the whole month of elven activity in one go, but then I thought that some of my little tricks (none of them very elaborate) might help anyone else who’s finding themselves a little short of inspiration with barely more than a week to go.  Like me!

So here he is. Since December 1st, when Mr. Old Elf has arrived at our door – apart from a couple of forays into the kitchen he’s been knocking around the living room creating mischief and having fun.

*any and all attempts to invoke the man in red’s name as a discipline tactic have utterly failed. I cannot in good faith recommend you try and use an elf for this purpose.

‘Tis the season. Except it’s not.

It’s really not.  I’m not at all bah humbug, but I’m a pretty firm believer in keeping a lid on the excitement until December.  That’s not to say that the man in red hasn’t already been informed about what he might need to pick up for the junior Jordan’s.  I gather he’s busy, good to get in there with him early.

Throwing shapes

Incidentally Dominic’s playschool hit the celebrations early and they hit them hard.  There’s a ‘Santa please stop here’ sign in the window, and he sang We WiSHhhhh you a Merry Christmas’ in the car last week.  I made a meek objection at pick-up time, but it fell on deaf ears.  I guess if you have the patience to listen to and deal with squalling babies and squabbling toddlers all day, it doesn’t bother you to have to listen to unseasonal songs for approximately 16% of the year.

Why do I digress so? To give context to today’s foray into baking. It was a simple project – more craft than baking.  A few weeks ago in the hallowed (food)hall of Ikea, I picked up some cookie cutters and some Pepparkaka Deg (pre made ginger cookie dough).  The Scandanavians love gingerbread, and so do I.  A match made in heaven.

And on this cool and windy November day with our outdoor trip for the day done, and little brother asleep in his cot, I dug out the dough for the big fella.  It’s lovely texture and easy to roll.  I’d like to find a recipe for dough as malleable as this stuff because it got bashed and prodded, and re rolled a billion times.

Baking with Dom is a test of my patience though.  I gritted my teeth and praised his work as he put the wide side of the cutters down in the dough and proceeded to lean on the sharp side for the millionth time. Then he followed that with a wonderful idea of ‘let’s throw the dough in the washing up water mammy’.  I did waylay that one, but luckily I only produced half the dough to use today so I would have had spare.

Fat snowflakes. The best kind!

We got through it anyway, and these were really tasty.  The instructions are fairly vague – 6-7 minutes at 175-200 – so you’re required to “know” your oven.  Anyway, I wrecked a batch of cookies on saturday night – had to throw them straight out – so I went with 175 for 7 minutes, and I think 6 would have done! The dough spreads more than I expected – so the shapes went a bit splodgy.  What kind of dough doesn’t actually do that?  Maybe icing them is necessary for better identification?  Or is it an indication of the dough not being rolled thin enough?

I know I have some baking readers, so tell me your ginger biccie recipes & tips?

Jill

Can’t keep up.

A long time ago, back in the mists of time, I wrote a post about Dominic’s foodie accoutrements.  We’re overdue an update.  He loves to use cutlery now.  Not always for its intended purpose, but he’s getting really used to it either way.

Too much like hard work

The spoons we’ve been using till recently aren’t really doing the job.  They’re too small and shallow, so if he does get food onto it, it can often fall off on the way to his mouth. Frustrating for him, frustrating for whoever has to clean up afterwards.  So we’ve picked up a new big boy set of cutlery.  And, best of all, they’re Moomin.  I loved The Moomins when I was smaller.  I don’t know that they’re on english language tv at all anymore. Anyway I’m not the most grown up of grown ups and was very excited to see lots of classy Moomin merch on a recent trip to Malmo & Copenhagen.  And though I wasn’t willing to stretch to a €17 mug I don’t really need, a set of cutlery that will be used time and time again for about a tenner – no problem.  Sure it can’t all be Ikea.

Which brings me neatly to his nib’s bibs.  Ikea, Ikea, Ikea.  Bibetta ones are still good for drier meals, where they just have to absorb water spills.  These Ikea ones speak for themselves in the outfit-saving stakes.

Staying with Ikea, the Kalas range of plates & bowls get used a lot too.  They’re great for bringing out and about, and handy for snacks like some raisins or toast fingers.

We’re still using the Avent freezer storage kit.  I puree pear to mix in with natural yogurt & ground flaxseed most weeks, and these little tubs are perfect for freezing the pear.

More to come…

official Dominic sanctioned BLW accoutrements

There’s very little you need to do BLW.  A baby with hands and some food pretty much covers it.  But, if like me you like to buy nice things, then here are some of the handy things I’ve got for Dom for his foodie journey.

Since some point in the middle of my pregnancy I have funneled any and all spare money towards baby things, and mostly spend my days in jeans, tshirts & converse.  I’m hoping at some point very shortly after my return to work (6 weeks eeek!) I might cop on and buy myself a winter coat, or I’ll be shuffling round in my 2 sizes too big duffel coat I wore for the last couple of months of pregnancy.  In the meantime, here’s some of the official Dominic-sanctioned good-for-BLW kit we’ve been spending our money on.

This was the big ticket item, our Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair.  I bought this from littledreamers.ie for the best price I could find anywhere.  I got it in walnut, with the Green Tales cushion & harness.  And believe me, I research everything to the nth degree, so this was absolutely the best deal I could find inc shipping all over Ireland & UK.  There’s no need to bang on about it’s brilliance, but quickly the things we love are – pulls up to table for family fud, small footprint for our small house,  supports baby brilliantly, looks gorgeous, lasts for years (having seen it in action in my sisters houses).  Its admittedly horribly pricey in high chair terms though it was the one thing that I really wanted to spend the money on.

We also have two Ikea Antilops for the grandparents – it also supports baby really well, which is the one thing that most cheap highchairs lack. There’s nothing more annoying that rolling up towels ineffectively around babs and watching them clearly uncomfortable trying to eat.

Sometimes when it comes to baby led weaning, you’d wonder why you bother with bibs at all it can get so messy.  But you can’t actually change outfits on baby 3 times a day, so its bib on, sleeves rolled up, and if he gets squished berries on the soles of his feet, well, no bib is going to prevent that.

I got these Bibetta bibs on amazon.co.uk.  I bought two, and kinda wish I’d got 5 or 6.  They’re neoprene, so he doesn’t get soaked with enthusiastic doidy cup action (that comes later).  They were also the bib of choice on the day he had the big throw up last week, and there was not a drop spilled.  Euuuwww. I know. They’ve washed really really well, the velcro is holding up perfectly, and they dry quickly.

I also have Ikea bibs, which are cheap & cheerful.  They’re quite big, but they’re soft so they don’t get in the way of little hands and small spoons.  This is a problem with the Tommee Tippee roll n go bibs.  They’re too stiff and so they move about too much.  Even on the smallest neck setting it can ride up onto his chin and the crumb catcher bit gets caught over his arm.  They might be better size wise in a few months.  Also, they’ve stained a bit from tomatoey foods, not a fan of that, but probably nothing a bit of Milton wouldn’t sort out.

I love this thing – its the Skip Hop Mate stay-put Plate! The bottom is rubberised, the plate part clips in and out.  My sister in law picked in up in America for us but I think you can get it on amazon also. I don’t use this all the time, because he just doesn’t eat too much yet but it’s great.  He hasn’t worked out how to throw it.  Which is essential.

Unlike the Ikea bowls.  They’re rubberised too, but they’re small and light so although he can’t push it around, he can just pick it up in half a second if he decides.  I dunno what it says about our cooking that he prefers to chew on a melamine bowl.  However I use these, day in, day out.  They seem to be gone now from the Ikea site, but you can see them in lots of the pictures on here (white & red).

The matching spoons are really great – I can’t believe how I can pick out what’s a good spoon and a bad spoon for self-feeding.  If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d be like a spoon is a spoon is a spoon.  The one that comes with the Mate Plate are a bit deep and round yet.  The Ikea ones are long and shallow – they just fit better for an eater with L-plates.

Every meal needs an accompanying beverage.  And between bottles and boobs and sippy cups, the boy has a lotta ways to drink.  We also made the decision to start him on an open cup early.  The Doidy cup is fierce clever – the slant means you can see the contents, and it doesn’t need to be tilted too far back to drink from it.  Parental supervision is most definitely needed, we hold it, and Dom has a little go of holding one side too.  Sometimes he just hits it instead, and then we all get wet.  I got ours on amazon, but they’re widely available on Irish websites too.  Gotta love that super saver delivery, I tend to keep adding to basket…

I got this Avent kit for freezer storage and the spoons that come with it are similarly good.  We don’t really need that kind of thing as much as spoon-feeders would, as we don’t make up very many batches of food to freeze. There might only ever be 4 or 5 in the freezer at any one time.  But I’ve been using them for small bits of leftovers for us anyway.

And finally, to protect our kitchen table from several soakings/spraying & wiping sessions every day, I bought an oilcloth tablecloth from Cath Kidston.  You can buy by the metre or they have finished ones also in a smaller selection of fabrics. In Kildare Village they have last season fabrics for €29 (finished) as opposed to €44 in the Dundrum store.  Bargain.

Along with my trusty insulated M&S lunch bag & numerous zip lock bags we’re good to go.  I think that’s everything!  Have I left anything out or given waaaay too much info?  Don’t answer that…