Sunday, 27 September 2009

Rear Facing

Quick picture of L's new rear facing car seat, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago... this is a Britax Multifix (fitted in our Multipla, hehe!) and he is currently positioned in the rear, next to big sister Is in her booster, where he can now see out the windows and has a very good view out the rear window (it's a huge back window in our car!) This seat should fit him until he is at least four.

One thing leads to another...

Since starting bread-making in earnest, I have a strange urge to make chutney. After the recommendation of a bread making book by a good friend (River Cottage handbook: Bread), I ordered it from Amazon, along with River Cottage Handbook: Preserves. Both are fascinating reads and have taught me a great deal about the basic processes of bread making and preserving all kinds of foods. There are some very tempting jam recipes.. but we don't actually eat much jam... although maybe I will progress to this in time....

So I ordered some jam jars, and a maslin pan, some muslin, a huge long wooden spoon and a funnel. L thought the maslin pan was the best thing ever and spent a good hour banging out a rhythm with the huge wooden spoon on the aluminium pan! I have to recommend this lovely little company for all things to do with preserve making: Jam Jar Shop , I have had an excellent service from them, they are reasonably priced and have a very informative blog!

One of the first chutney recipes in the book, was for rhubarb relish, and we have a fair amount of rhubarb left in the garden which is only surviving because of this lovely warm, late September sunshine.

Rhubarb Relish:
In a 20cm square of muslin, place 50g of bruised root ginger, 2 snapped cinammon sticks and 6 cloves. Put 500g sugar in the pan, with 100ml cider vinegar, 100 mls water and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Leave on the side for 20 minutes to allow the spices to infuse.
Chop a kilo of rhubarb into 2cm chunks and add, along with 125g of raisins to the syrup. Cook gently for 20-25 minutes until the rhubarb is soft but still holds it's shape. Pour into sterilised jars. And Voila! My first attempt at preserving!

Tonight for tea, we had Quorn steaks, topped with the relish, along with roast potatoes, sweet potato, babycorn, Savoy cabbage and Yorkshire puddings. It was delicious and the relish went really well.

So I am now planning a proper chutney. We are going to Leeds Farmer's Market next Sunday and I hope to buy some of the ingredients there. I have also ordered some more jars! I plan to make an onion marmalade and some mincemeat ready for Christmas.

On the bread front, I have made two loaves worthy of a mention this week. Courgette and Country Grain Loaf and Ciabatta-Style Garlic Loaf. We had the garlic loaf with spaghetti bolognaise and it made a nice alternative to the usual shop-bought garlic bread.

Dylan has just measured the pumpkin and it is now 23cm, so it has had a growth spurt this week.. despite the plant seemingly dying!

I didn't make it to the gym again this week. I cancelled both the Spinning class and an aerobics class after coming down with a head cold, but hopefully I will be back on track this week (although I have to be excused from healthy eating on the 2nd as I will be celebrating getting another year older).

And today we went 'camping' window shopping. We have a few vouchers which were received as wedding gifts and we want to start buying bits and pieces to allow us to go camping as a family. So we went to Go Outdoors in Wakefield and we left truly overwhelmed by the choices we have.

We are struggling to decide what to sleep on. Traditional blow up air beds? If so, how many? Two doubles? Three? One double and two singles ... surely might be fine for our family while the children are so small..... Or alternatively we are looking at the self-inflating mats, such as Therm-a-rest. I have to say, if I was camping on hard ground for weeks at a time, as we intend to, I don't expect they are hugely comfortable, although Dylan disagrees. And again we have the dilemma of how many... a double for Dylan and I... or two singles? And what about the children? We also puzzled over sleeping bags.... double sleeping bags seem easy to come by now, so this seems a good option as no doubt L will still be sleeping with us, so this seems to mean there will be more room for 3/4 etc in a bed!

We also looked at tables and chairs, fridges/cool boxes, tents, trailers and cookers. We bought nothing today but agreed we needed to do a little more research before parting with cash/vouchers.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cook-a-thon Sunday!

Today I have been cooking all day! First thing I made some salmon fishcakes, made with 300g salmon fillets, 300g mashed potato, mixed together with lemon juice, parsly and black pepper. Add a dessert spoonful of flour and a medium beaten egg, then shape into fishcakes. I made them quite small, as they were for the children. Fry for a few minutes per side. These can be frozen and reheated in the oven.

Then I made a very simple spicy chickpea recipe for lunchtimes this week. I liked this recipe because it is low calorie, low GI, veggie, vegan, wheat/gluten and dairy-free. So, fry 1 onion with 2 red chillis and a teaspoon each of tumeric and cumin. Add 2 400g tins of chickpeas and 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add some lemon juice and black pepper. Nice served with quinoa.

Next on the list it was tuna pasta for the children's lunch boxes tomorrow. Simply wholewheat pasta, with tuna mayonaise, sweetcorn and cucumber. I made enough for today's lunch too - it went down well.....

Then it was time to make some garlic and coriander naan bread to go with tonight's tea. Haven't successfully made naan before, but with the help of my bread-maker for the kneading/proving these worked out a treat! Made with white flour, natural yoghurt, water, yeast, honey, salt, black onion seeds, garlic and coriander.. then baked and then grilled and brushed with melted butter. I had a slight mishap when the first one puffed up more than I expected and touched the grill element and set on fire! But it added to the rustic flavour somewhat! We all loved these, even the children who ate them with their fishcakes!

Then I made some vegetable soup for lunches later in the week. It was a very basic recipe... carrots, potatoes, onion, green pepper, lentils, bayleaf cooked in water. Then a small amount of flour gradually mixed with about 5 times volume of milk, and then added to the pan, and stirred until thickened. When cooked, I threw in some grated cheese and seasoned.

Lastly today, I made a vegetable jalfrezi curry. This was based around butternut squash, cauliflower and chickpeas. Recipe from Jamie Oliver's Minestry of Food cookbook.

Also worth a mention is a veggie shepherds pie I made on Thursday. (Mentioned in previous post - here is a picture) This was a different version of the one I usually make, and was based on a tomato sauce with garlic, sweet potato, carrot, bulghar wheat and red lentils. The next day I had some of this sauce left over, so I added a can of chopped tomatoes, some Discovery Fajita Seasoning mix and some chilli sauce. I added a packet of mangetout peas and stuffed the sauce into taco shells and served with creme fraiche and salad.

I also measured my pumpkin today! Still very green and now 21.5cm across! I believe this is a whole half a centimetre since last Sunday... whoooot!

So that was Sunday. Very little time for anything else, other than washing pots and putting clothes away. Luckily I had a doting hubby and father at home to entertain the children!!

Saturday, 19 September 2009


I made it to the gym! I made it to the gym!! On Wednesday, I went to a Spinning class! It hurt :-( It was very hard... any disillusion I had that I was starting to re-gain some kind of fitness, was smashed and it hurt.

But it must have done me good?

I was 11 stone 8lb on 5th January 2009. I wasn't pregnant. On 21st July.. just before we married, I was 9 stone exactly, that's more like it! My goal was 8 stone 8lb. When we got back from France, I was 9 stone 8lb, which is where I still am currently.

I am now, once more, aiming for 8st 8lb.

So, Spinning and this week I am starting an Aerobics class too. I am trying to get back on top of my eating again, but I find this increasingly hard. I am hoping my exercise will allow me to lose again.... we are currently cooking 98% of our meals from scratch.. so virtually no processed foods. However - would I be more successful in weight-loss if I ate more Quorn????

I have made a number of things worth a mention this week. Two loaves.. one was Rustic French - A loaf made from white, brown and rye flour.... beetoot loaf - a loaf made from beetroot, scallions and white flour - makes an attractive pink loaf with a savoury flavour.

I also made a new version of my veggie shepherds pie..... one of those recipes that evolves as you are cooking. It ended up being a sauce based around sweet potato, carrot, red lentils and bulgar wheat, flavoured with chilli sauce and chopped tomatoes... topped with cheesy mash.

Tonight I adjusted the leftover sauce from that, by adding another tin of tomatoes and adding some Mexican spices (courtesy of Discovery), and stuffing it into Taco shells, and topping with cheese and low fat creme fraiche. Yum.

And happy wedding anniversary to my mum and dad!!

I have also downloaded the most recent Muse album.. I am really going digital hardcopy-cd!!

T has completed his first week of full days at school and survived and L has 6 more new teeth (that's doubled the amount he had previously...)

All is well.

Monday, 14 September 2009

One of those change-of plans days

I had been looking forward to today for a while.... it is a school training day, meaning the school is closed, so I booked the day off work so I could look after Is and T. Io and L were at nursery as it was my working day, so I was looking forward to spending the day with the eldest two without the nappies, tantrums, buggies, carrying and breastfeeding that younger children bring along with them. I planned to take them to either Harewood House, Tropical World or Eureka.

T gets up and vomits all over the bathroom... and then continues to vomit every 30 minutes until 1pm. Gah. So day-out-plans slip away as by 1pm although he is better, he is weak and wobbly and only interested in drinking and eating (which he does continuously until tea time!)

So Is and I do some toy sorting, reading and cooking, which were all quite pleasant all the same. We were limited to what we made - Is wanted to make a cake for T for him to eat when he felt better. I had no eggs in the house and limited other ingredients, so I searched my bookmarked recipes for inspiration. I have a few vegan recipe sites bookmarked, and I found an easy recipe for vegan carrot cake... recipe as follows:

225g SR Flour
1tsp baking powder
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
110g golden caster sugar
75g grated carrot
75ml vegetable oil
200 ml soya milk (I used cow's milk as I am not vegan and cow's milk is cheaper!)

Bung all the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Pour into a greased and lined 2 lb loaf tin and cook for half an hour at 200c.

What could be easier?!

We also decided to make a pizza for tea, and I decided to have a go making it using the pizza dough setting on my bread maker.

It wasn't particularly any quicker, but the dough seemed easier to spread out over the pizza disc, and it was probably the first round pizza I have made! We topped it with home-made red pizza topper (onion, garlic, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, tsp of sugar, splash of balsamic vinegar, seasoning and herbs... cook for 20 mins then whizz until smooth in a hand-held blender) then added mushroom, red pepper, sweetcorn, cheese and green pesto.

T was well enough to eat both pizza and carrot cake so all in all a good days work! I am now wondering what flavour bread to bung in to bake tonight for our sandwiches tomorrow...?

Cloth Nappies

I always had an idle curiosity about cloth nappies with my first two children. But having been to a cloth nappy demo, I thought they were pretty unappealing and I didn't fancy the extra washing.

Finding myself with four children, 3 in night nappies and 2 in full time nappies, made me have a rethink.. mostly as the cost is adding up of buying disposables and I also can't help thinking about the impact we have on the environment as a family of 6. This would be one of the changes I was to make to improve our green-ability as a family!

I have a friend who was a nappy rep, and she very kindly send me a load of different nappies to try.

Then I started to buy.. and by August 2008, I had both my littlies in full time cloth. It stopped being a green and practical thing to and started being a bit of a hobby (borderline obsession!), and I have bought/sold a fair few nappies, both second-hand and new over the last year.

Earlier this year Io started to have problems with her nappies leaking... I believe she was starting to get bladder control and she was flooding the nappy. She hates being bulked out with extra boosting (probably as she was used to disposables until we made the change) so we reluctantly went back to (eco) disposables for her, although she still wears cloth at night.

So now I have one in cloth nappies, I have streamlined my collection a little and have got rid of the fancier but less reliable ones. I now mostly use Bumgenius and Fuzzi Buns pocket nappies and Tots Bamboozles (bamboo) nappies plus WeeNotions wraps for L.

I still look for nice designs and occasionally will sneak another new nappy into the collection! I recently bought a Realeasy all-in-one cow print bamboo nappy which fit both Io and L really nicely!

We are currently experiencing a bin collection strike, so I have tentatively put Io back into cloth to try and cut down our waste as much as we can. So far, so good... although it's unlikely she will be wearing them for much longer.... as soon as T is settled into school and his new routine, Io will be wearing pants and using the potty - hopefully she will pick it up over a few days and having two in nappies will be a long distant memory.....

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Stuff from the garden and DIY

Here are a few photos of things we have grown this summer. (We haven't grown a huge amount due to the obvious time constraints of having a very demanding/non-sleeping tot , plus his siblings and planning a wedding, our first trip abroad as a family of 6 etc.....)






So - the first picture of the pumpkin, with my hand.... this is perhaps the only pumpkin we will harvest after the culled lots of them as we had out of control pumpkins... lots and lots of tiny ones which weren't growing. This one is, as of today (13th Sept) 21cm across. It has occurred to me that it looks more like a round courgette rather than a pumpkin at this point, and as I got the seeds from a friend, I wonder if this is the case.. time will tell!

We go on holiday over Halloween, so we hope to have at least one carving pumpkin/courgette for then!

Today i gained a bit of vital cooking space in the kitchen because Dylan mounted the microwave on the wall, above the breadmaker. All is now well in Rickerby country kitchen... here is his handy work

Finally, today's tea, which was lentil loaf with tomato sauce and cauliflower (rye bread on the side), recipe courtesy of Delia's veggie book!

Oh and the hedgehog is back! That's the third day in a row - I guess the cat might start to get skinny!


I started cycling in the Spring to aid weight loss and improve my fitness. I really enjoy it and on a good week, I go out 4-5 evenings for about an hour at a time. I have a very basic mountain bike and we are lucky enough to live in/near some lovely countryside. I tend to cycle over a mixture of tarmac and cross-country/off-road.

I usually go out at the end of the day when Dylan is bathing (all four!) children... it's a nice time of day to escape by myself in the evening sun, and it's become more than just a way to keep fit; it's very much me-time and I find it quite therapeutic. I often see a great deal of wildlife, including wildfowl, rabbits, hares, deer and foxes. I have also watched the fields go through their farmed cycle, and I am currently watching many crops being harvested by the great big combine harvesters. I have also been watching the fields being stripped back by controlled fires and great big stinking piles of horse manure being dumped, ready for spreading (which hasn't occurred yet). There have often been occasions where I want to go and pull up a bit of the crop because I am curious about what vegetable is growing, but have so far resisted the urge!

I have also cycled past some kind of sub-station, where lots of electrical pylon trails start. If you stand at a particular point, you can see the start of a long line of pylons spread out across the countryside... and then if you turn slightly you can see another one start, and turn a bit more, another one etc. Perhaps a slightly odd thing to marvel at, but marvel at it I did, and wished I had a camera.

I have actually been inspired to take photos many times while out on my bike and I do aspire to own a digital SLR, so I can take decent photos and teach myself to capture what I see. I do own a camera at present but it's a 'point and click', intended to capture memories of family life. I hope by next summer, I will go out cycling with a camera slung around my neck... and I can then put photos into my cycling musings.....decent ones too.

I am wondering what to do when the nights draw in as I don't intend to cycle in the dark. I need a replacement form of exercise as I am still losing weight. I have never enjoyed going to the gym, although I am considering looking into classes such as Spinning. I do have my trusty exercise DVD's, but they are hardly the same as cycling..... it has become so much more than 'getting fit'. But I will be retiring the bike over winter.. I reckon I have about 6 weeks left before it's too dark.

Saturday, 12 September 2009


Second day in a row now we have been visited by a hedgehog. We feed Mia, the cat, in a greenhouse/lean-to with a cat flap to the outside. So today, the kids are in bed and I have peace and quiet..... I hear a bizarre munching sound. We have a stable door and the top part is open. I look over and there is the hedgehog. Bold as brass eating and drinking Mia's food and water. Oddly, there is Mia, a few metres away, miaowing for food, as if the hedgehog isn't even there.. not even a sniff. As if he is invisible.

Some say he will be good for slug-eating, I say, unlikely... there is cat food on offer.....

Wedding - 25th July 09

Photo credits (*cough*) to the two Gray men in my life, brother, Michael and dad, Tony.

Rye Bread

I recently bought a bread-maker and have been delighted with the results. We eat a lot of bread and so far we haven't bought a single loaf of shop-made bread (it's been 3 weeks now!) Today I made a loaf from 50% rye flour and 50% white flour and it was a success with everybody here.

Car seat shopping again.

Today we spent £250 on a new car seat for L. Yikes! Until today he was still using his infant carrier/bucket seat and although he is still less than 20lbs in weight, at 16 months old he was growing out of it, and wanting to be upright and viewing the world as we drive, out of the window.

I had recently read a lot about keeping young children rear facing in cars for longer (the average in the UK is 9-12 months, ie most parents turn their children around into a forward facing seat between 9 and 12 months, some even earlier). Many Nordic countries keep their kids rear facing until between age 2 and 4 yrs and there is plenty of evidence to suggest this is the best option in the event of a crash. I am guessing rear facing car seats for the over 1's will grow in popularity over the next few years as people start to catch on. In the meantime I aim to be a trend setter ;-)

Anyway, we decided in the interests of safety, we had to act on this information, even though it is costly (we already have a number of forward facing group 1 car seats that our older children have grown out of). So we bought a Britax Multifit which means L has a lovely view out the rear window and he is sat next to his big sister who at age 5, is forward facing in a high-backed booster... so they are virtually looking at each other, which is quite a socialable position, putting aside my worries that rear facing might not be as practical as they grow.....

This seat should allow L to be rear facing until he around 5, dependent on weight.

This link explains some of the reasons we decided to choose a rear facing chair for our toddler. And I have to mention the most very excellent shop from which we made our purchase today... we travelled to York to Paul Strides shop, where the staff bent over backwards to not only ensure the new chair fitted well, but that we had all 4 seats well-fitted and in the best position. Oh and they sell cloth nappies, so obviously they rock!

I will upload a photo of L and the Tribe in situ in their new positions once I get chance to take a picture.

Jo gets blogging

I realised a while ago that I treat Facebook like a blog... many of the updates and photo's are probably of little interest to anyone other than me... but it certainly helps me collect my thoughts and feel proud of achievements, even the most irrelevant ones. So here I am, blogging for the first time. What am I likely to write about? Food, my children, and family life. So if you ain't interested in babies, children or families, probably best not reading anymore, as this is what makes my world tick!

I recently got married to Dylan ... after 13 years, 4 kids and a mortgage we finally got hitched this summer.

I have a growing interest in cooking (and some baking) and I create many recipes for my family, from scratch.. though I can only claim a very basic knowledge of all things food....but this is slowly increasing as I get more time as the children grow. I should point out that since September 2003, I have either been pregnant, just had a baby (within 8 months) am newly pregnant again..... etc. So it has been a roller coaster 5 years, with very little time to stop and think... but as our youngest is now 16 months old and there are no more babies coming (this is usually the point at which I give birth to the next!), then this is a changing point for us.. we are moving on from the baby days and learning our places in our family aka Jo's tribe.

I am vegetarian, with an interest in and aspirations towards a vegan lifestyle.. though I not close to making that final step just yet. Unsure if I will be.. ever. But it's not an impossibility.

I am also passionate about bringing up my children in a way that respects them, teaches them unconditional love and compassion. I realised when I had my 3rd baby that Dylan and I seem to practise 'attachment parenting' to an extent. This is not something we aimed to do, we just seemed to naturally fall into this category, once we had read and understood what it actually means.

We use cloth nappies (after becoming converts just over 12 months ago) and we carry our two youngest children in slings on a regular basis. I am quite passionate about breastfeeding too, after a long and difficult journey, but i am proud to still be breastfeeding my 16 month old.

I rarely get time to read nowadays but I do still enjoy a good book - am hoping to get more time to do this in the next 12 months as L starts to learn to sleep a bit better...

So these are most likely to be some of the things I will blog about.