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The Little Helper Kitchen Tower Unveiled.

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So here it is…the kitchen helper in its almost final incarnation!

After a total of EIGHT coats of primer, paint and varnish, it finally stands proudly in the kitchen.

The little guy knew straight away how to climb the ladder at the side, and once up on his shelf, he started clapping his hands…congratulating himself, or possibly me, on our achievements!

Then, with his hands on the top bar he started shaking the whole thing a bit too vigorously! Now I can see why those anti tip feet are pretty vital to the construction.  They are all put together, just not painted, I must get them fitted ASAP.

Something that the plan didn’t incorporate, was any kind of safety or support enclosing the upper part of the tower. The Idea of the large opening is that your little helper can find their own way up onto the platform, climbing in though the nice big space.  But once inside, my guy has a tendency to forget he is up high on his new platform.  I need to come up with a removable idea, just to keep him safe while he is learning about his new space.  Any ideas??

For now I will keep a close eye on him, keep the kitchen door shut when I am not in there, and get the anti-tip feet painted and fitted.

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Under construction.

The idea is both common sense and Montessori inspired, helping your little person to help themselves.  I hope that he can join in with the family at the counter top, he can start practising his chopping, mixing, washing and drying with the adults so that he can get a little bit more involved in everyday activities.

For now he will just be eating everything in his reach…and making a whole lot of soapy mess!

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Breakfast at the counter.

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Making a soapy mess!

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Banana attack.

If you fancy a go at making your own kitchen helper tower, have a look at the plans on the AnaWhite website.  Her plans are really detailed down to the complete cut list for your wood.  She has some great ideas and hundreds of other plans varying in difficulty.  I think I might have a go at making his little bed next!!

Has anyone else made anything like this before, how has it worked out in your kitchen?  Let me know

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My Own Kitchen Helper

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Pinterest is such an inspiring platform, from toddler activities to hair-do ideas, home crafting, cake baking and room decorating, one pin leads you on a journey of discovery to as many ideas as your brain can handle. I am a little hooked!

While I was searching for montessori style practical life ideas, I spotted something in the background of one kitchen. It was a wooden step stool on a grand scale, like a personal kiddie castle, enclosed on all sides and perfect for raising any little guy to task alongside you in safety in the kitchen.

After a little Googling, I found the exact stepping stool in question.

The The Learning Tower by Little Partners.

At £100 ($200) it seemed a little expensive, maybe there was a more reasonably priced alternative.

…A little more Googling and I realised it was a fairly unique product.  A few other products, like the FunPod by Little Helper, the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper,  were almost as expensive as the Learning Tower, but in my opinion, not terribly attractive.

But I wanted one now, should I buy it?

Of course not…

Not when there is MDF in the world!

DIY isn’t my strong point, I like to think it is, but it is a bit like baking, I try really hard and the results never reflect my efforts. But I am determined to make this work, the wood is cut, it is laid out ready for assembly, I am now just looking at it…and thinking about it…and thinking about it…and looking at it!

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Getting my wood cut!

Tonight I will print the plans out and take them to bed, this is what I will be dreaming about!

Baby Jelly Recipe. No Junk. No Sugar. No Gelatin!

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Baby desserts can be fun and interesting without being stodgy or laden with sugar.  Sometimes if the little guy has had rice or pasta for dinner, I don’t like to weigh him down with a heavy yoghurt or rice pudding.  This baby jelly recipe is great for a lighter but still nutritional pudding, and it is really easy to make.

We use agar flakes to make this baby friendly jelly at home.  Chemical and bleach free, made from seaweed which is cooked and then freeze dried to make the flakes.  Agar is a rich source of water-soluble, indigestible fibre, and the fruit juice can be a good source of vitamins.

In this recipe I used a red grape juice, we have a guest baby coming for lunch who suffers with reflux, so acidic fruits are off the menu, however, the gelling of the agar can actually be destroyed with the use of acidic foods so be aware of this if you were wanting to make an orange or pineapple jelly…it might not work, or it might need more agar.

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I bought these agar flakes in the local supermarket.

It makes a slightly unconventional textured jelly…so don’t be expecting  the usual wobble, but the little guy doesn’t know any different and he loves it!

The basic recipe is simple, you can vary the concentration of the fruit juice, or add berries, chunks of banana or whatever takes your fancy.

Don’t forget to have a look at some of my other baby treats like wholemeal biscotti and rice pudding.

jelly2300ml grape juice
100ml cold water
1level tablespoon agar flakes

Pour the cold liquid into a saucepan and sprinkle the agar flakes over the surface.  Do not stir.

Bring to the boil.

Once at boiling point, reduce to a simmer and stir the flakes into the liquid.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally until all flakes have dissolved fully.

You can test for how well it will set by dropping a little liquid onto a chilled saucer, it should firm up quickly.

If the mixture is not quite setting add a sprinkling more of the agar and stir until dissolved.  Test again.

Divide into dishes of your choice.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate.

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Do not stir your flakes until liquid starts to boil

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Kinda Crunchy

Mum with a baby sling on kitchen

It turns out I’m kind of a crunchy mum, not as crunchy as the crunchiest of mums, but heading towards it fast!!

Who knew? I didn’t even realise how crunchy I was until I learned what it means and the principles it stands for.  I feel lucky that I am able to take the crunchy path and raise my little guy in the healthiest and safest way I know of.  It has been with the support of my family, when sleeping and breastfeeding have been hard, when my decisions and choices have been different to what they may have known, and for getting on board when my most crunchy moments arose that we are all a little bit more crunchy than we used to be.

So crunchy parenting originates from crunchy granola and the healthy hippie lifestyle that might be associated with it.  That’s a pretty bad definition, and the meaning of it is much broader than that.  For me I guess it is an extension of attachment parenting, and adds another level of trying to live a clean, natural, healthy, organic, unmedicated lifestyle.  I am no hippy, I am a modern, intelligent and informed woman.  I also love technology and science and education, and I think it is for these reason that I can make informed choices and decisions to live in a more natural way.

Here is what makes me kind of cruncy…

I’m a breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping mum.  I tried to cloth diaper but it ended in tears.  I don’t believe in crying it out. We try to be medicine free, plastic free and diaper free when we can.  I birthed natural and I delayed the cord clampers.  I cook as local and organic as possible, from scratch, everyday unless using up the leftovers!  I hate waste, always do my best to re-use, but I’m still trying harder to reduce in the first place.  And watch out, I might inflict one of my home made gifts on you if you are really unlucky!

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New use for the sling!

I make several rods for my own back every day (as people keep telling me), and will continue to do so for as long as my little guy is a baby…it won’t be that long after all!

Choose your food destiny…Choose Baby Led Weaning

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We have had a few comments recently about how well the little guy eats.  Literally…how well he handles his food in his mouth, his hands…his hair!  Actually he is becoming a lot more accurate at meal times, so much so that the shower curtain covering up the floor has been lifted.

It got me thinking back to the reasons why I chose to take the baby led weaning path (BLW), or more accurately, why I let my guy choose his own food destiny with BLW. You can read my tips on getting started here.

Before I start, I have to say that I am of the camp that exclusive breast milk up to six months is essential.  As parents, it is our duty to protect the delicate gut lining of our precious bundles.  Starting to wean before six months can upset the fragile balance of gut flora that is protecting their digestive system while it fully develops.  Too many people confuse a growth spurt at around four months with a hungry baby, instead of the developmental milestone that it is.  Around this age babies may need less sleep than you are accustomed too, they want to explore their world, and they are interested in watching you eating, but they are not necessarily hungry.  It can be challenging, but you are still producing enough milk to totally fulfil their requirements, however big, hungry or wide awake, just maybe bigger feeds from you more often.

That said, BLW works for any breastfed of bottle fed baby, the principles are the same.

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I never want to let my little guy feel left out at a meal time, I never want to trick him into eating just one more mouthful, I don’t want to stress him out or pressure him to eat anything he may not like and I have no real desire for him to wean him quickly from my breast.  BLW addresses all of these issues…here are my favourite reasons to hopefully convince you to give it a try.

  • Babies learn through play, they explore, touch and taste almost everything that crosses their path.  Food should be no different, you can let them play with it, explore the textures, temperatures, shapes and tastes.  This way, they can start to distinguish different flavours, they can pick out things they don’t like, and they can eat at their own pace.
  • Because BLW babies are allowed to explore food themselves, they are less suspicious of food and more willing to try new foods.  They can stop eating when they have had enough and they can demand more if they are still hungry.  This means they learn about their own appetite from an early age and will hopefully carry this through into healthy eating habits later in life.
  • By six months, the digestive system is more likely to be able to tolerate anything, so there is no need to follow the outdated rules of one new food at a time.  This means food can always be exciting, tasty, varied and never bland, mushy and boring!  The only limit might be your cooking skills!
  • You all get to eat together.  Even if its just you and baby, you can eat your meals hot, together, and enjoyably.  Baby can learn about conversation and table manners at the same time as learning about food.   There is no need to feed baby, and then entertain baby while everyone else tries to eat and he will never feel left out at a meal time.
  • Progression happens naturally and safely.  At the start of the BLW journey, very little food actually goes in, most ends up in a gummed up mess back on the table or floor.  Slowly  the gag reflex moves from the front of the tongue, further and further back.  This happens as the baby learns to move food around and break food down into manageable pieces before finally swallowing.  This natural progression is the safest progression.
  • No more revolting bland mush, no ‘baby food’, just one meal suits all.  Meal times become easier, you can create one meal, be it traditional, exotic, experimental or a family favourite.  You can adapt a little portion for baby if you like things particularly spicy or salty but you get  accustomed to lowering your salt intake pretty quickly.

Imagine someone coming at your face with a garden shovel full of food.  They hold it really close to your face so you cant focus on what is piled on the end of the shovel.  They try and get the shovel into your mouth and you try and push the shovel away to see what you are being forced to taste.  This must be what that teaspoon of food  seems like to a little person.  Scary.

Stop the slop!!

Read my tips on getting started on your BLW journey here!

Spanish Chicken Baby Recipe. Spice Party!

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I just can’t do it.  I can’t feed my little guy bland, boring mush.  I have been a hardcore baby led weaner since his 6 month birthday and it has been the most magical thing to watch.  Every meal is still more entertaining than the Corrie Christmas special.  It has given him a pretty adventurous appetite and I just can’t quash his spirits with some unexciting offering.

I usually adapt the family meal so that we can all eat the same thing at the table together.  Decanting some bolognese before the final seasoning or going easy on the soy in the Thai curry.  But when dinner is less than nutritious or just not suitable for the little guy, I love to cook him up his own super tasty dishes.

I was inspired by one of those fajita kits for this one, unsure on the salt content in the seasoning packet I went back to basics for his own Spanish pepper and onion treat.  The smoked paprika is sweet and unique in flavour not too spicy for little tummies.

1 chicken thigh
1/2 diced red onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced potato
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
fresh or dried parsley, thyme, oregano, any or all

Seal the chicken thigh in a little olive oil in a medium sized saucepan until golden.

Add all of the diced vegetables and soften on a low heat for 5 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes, smoked paprika and herbs.

Top up with a couple of cups of water and simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes.

Remove the thigh and shred the chicken off the bone, chop into appropriate sized pieces and add back to the sauce.

Cook out until sauce thickens to desired consistency.  Puree, mash or leave as it is.  Enjoy.

My Breastfeeding Experience

For now I will begin with the story that put me on the path to starting my own blog.  My own journey to becoming a mother and my love affair with breastfeeding.

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I always love hearing stories of triumph and will to beat the odds and succeed at this womanly art.  At every hurdle there is help at hand, in the shape of a tin of formula and a bottle.  Want a good nights sleep…formula.  Faster weight gain…formula.  Mastitis…formula. Pain…formula. It goes on and on.  Even well meaning, so called supporters of breastfeeding are all to fast to sabotage mothers hard work.  Even one bottle of formula has the potential to start a slippery slope of decreased milk production.

The key for me was education.  I spent hours reading everything I could get my hands on.  I searched for information about every twinge I felt, the length of a feed, the space between feeds, breast pumps, nipple shields, blocked ducts, cabbage leaves, thrush remedies, homeopathic remedies…the list of google searches was endless.  The result, I was prepared for the struggle of my own breastfeeding experience and I knew not to give up, on my body, or my little guys ‘virgin gut’.  More on that later though.

In the main my pregnancy was straightforward (read more here).  My own mother had c-sections with my sister (transverse) and I (breech) so for me, it was section all the way, even before I was pregnant, it was all I knew.  Epidural, tidy scar and the clincher… a steely bladder when I need one.  The reality was a lot different, for which I am truly grateful.

I  started pregnancy yoga early, at 14 weeks.  On day one our yogi, Linda, pointed at her groin and emphatically told us that birthing was a primal thing!  I imagined the grunting and groaning and sweating and swearing that I would not be doing.

Pah “I just don’t see me ever getting primal” I declared from my lotus position in my leopard ensemble, waving my manicured hands and flicking my freshly washed and straightened hair.

How wrong I was!

With the training of my wonderful yogi and the support of my class of fellow warrior women, my fantastic husband and my lovely mum, I labored hard and was privileged and blessed to have a very primal (deafeningly loud), drug free, intervention free and beautiful birth.  From the spontaneous rupture of my waters in the midwifes face to the delayed cord clamping and natural placenta birth my every request was met.

Back home things started well.  When the midwife made her first home visit, she asked if this was my second baby?  We looked so comfortable nursing happily in our comfy chair that she assumed I had done it before.  When I mentioned the pain I was experiencing at latch she said it would improve with time and that I was doing everything right.

I persevered.

At each feeding the pain worsened, I would grit my teeth, literally curl up my toes, and stiffen my whole body.  Even with tears in my eyes, no professional could give me a reason for the pain.  Health visitors, lactation consultants, counsellors and advisors… it took nearly six weeks to self diagnose ductal thrush causing the deep tissue stabbing pain and direct those professionals in its treatment and for the symptoms to make themselves visible to the ‘professionals’.

I toyed with the medication I was prescribed.  Tablets for me, cream for my boobs and gel for the little guy.  I cried every time I had to administer him with the gel in his mouth.  I put off taking every tablet I should have swallowed and ultimately I prolonged the whole episode.  It took some stern advice from a fellow lactavist to really knuckle down and beat this thrush from my pounding breast.  The house smelled of vinegar for weeks, the washing machine never really recovered from three weeks of non stop boil washes.

Was it worth the effort…you bet.  I remember sitting in the kitchen nursing my little guy and tentatively asking my mum, “I don’t think this is hurting as much as usual.’  Almost ten weeks of pain that sometimes made even a car journey excruciatingly painful, slowly came to an end.

Only one lady (I like to call her the breast whisperer) got up close and personal with my boobs.  She found the most likely cause of the thrush, as is so often the cause with breastfeeding  problems, was our latch,  To every other health care professional and to myself the latch looked fine, but the pain told a different story.

She watched his sucks intensely, listened to his swallows closely, tried to find his rhythm and pattern of feeding.  She bought him in to land like a plane onto my boobs, released his latch and repeated from a different angle.  Undignified, yes.  But I finally experienced what it should feel like to latch the little guy on correctly at the start of a feed.

It is because of her help that our feeding became enjoyable, and even more than that, became something that I am proud to have continued for so long.  Writing this, I should stop by and say thanks to her, I really should let her know the impact she has had on our lives.

If you are in the swing of breast feeding, you feel passionately about it or you just have more milk than you know what to do with…have you ever considered donating to a milk bank.  Read more about my milk donation journey and learn how to go about donating your own milk here.

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