Friday 17 June 2016

Being a new parent tips

Being a new parent
This is a long post so in true FoodieForce style grab yourself a cup of tea, cake and settle somewhere comfortable. 

So I have been a new parent now for just over six months and I thought it would be useful to share some of what I have learnt so far. 

1.There is absolutely no right way to do things. Do what makes you happy and you will in turn have a happy baby.
First few weeks with a baby

2. Absolutely everyone will offer advice, they mean well but you know your baby best.  
becoming a parent
3.You will be told by everyone except mothers and those with children that breastfeeding is easy.

Breastfeeding is actually very difficult and that's without any additional challenges. It can be one of the most stressful things about being a new mummy. Those who come to it easily are absolutely in the minority. If you manage to do it, you learn quickly that it is bloody hard work, in the early days it's painful and very tiring to have a little person constantly feeding (cluster feeding).

So do I have any pearls of wisdom, not really; more survival tactics. Buy at least two tubes of Lansinoh cream, use it regularly after each feed, even if you don't have pain to start with. 
Breast feeding
Treat your boobs like the Crown Jewels. The point of using the cream is to prevent sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. Yes that really does happen.

In the early days you will have engorged boobs, this is uncomfortable (it is where your milk comes in on mass and your boobs become swollen and heavy) but can be eased with massage, hot showers and compression. Lansinoh do great hot and cold compression gel pads

Breast feeding
At the first sign of engorgement or mastitis use these. 

If all else is not working for you and breastfeeding is too painful and your about to give up try breastfeeding shields.
Breast feeding
Regardless of how you feed your baby you will need breastfeeding pads, they are not all equal. Find those that are right for you; they are as much for keeping milk in, as they are for protecting your nipples rubbing on clothing and getting sore. 
Breast Feeding

Get yourself at least two good breastfeeding bras and make sure you get measured (this can't be done too early, around 38 weeks is fine). Invest in a breastfeeding cover which will be useful in a variety of situations in the early days. Later on you just won't care about showing your boobs.

It's tempting to express early don't resist the urge at least till you are in a routine with your feeding and milk supply. That is unless there is a medical need to do so. I expressed early due to Noah having a tongue tie and having to finger feed him. Much of my additional breast pain came from expressing. Invest in a decent machine trust me it will be money well spent. I went for two different ones, one for when on the go and another for being at home.  

Breast pump
If you need any help, advice or support on breastfeeding visit a breastfeeding drop in centre, call the National Breastfeeding helpline, visit the Kellymom and lalecheleague websites. The drop in centre also has the additional benefit of being able to meet other new mummies.

If your a mother support others. There is a huge stigma that if your a woman you should be able to breastfeed, if you can't you feel like a failure. Being open and honest about your experience will help others. Support one another. 

Britain is definitely not breastfeeding friendly. But I'm a great believer that people can change this. If you are where someone is breastfeeding don't stare or make them feel uncomfortable. It takes huge courage to get your knockers out in public. 

The one thing to remember is regardless of how your baby is fed they will love you just the same.  

4.If you live in London put your name down asap for a nursery. 

It's a game that I didn't really understand or appreciate the rules to. So whilst this sounds like madness and I agree with you that it is, to get a good nursery you need to act quickly. Many nurseries have a years waiting list. You will um and ahh! Don't worry about the small deposit that you might have to put down, just do it. Be guided by parents reviews and Ofsted inspections (you can find these by searching the nursery name and Ofsted result). 

Unsure what questions to ask have a look here. If you don't have the energy to visit in the early days get them to send you the paperwork, fill it in and you can visit later.

5.Think wisely about your pram purchase, it is very easy to get carried away, big is not necessarily beautiful. Do you really need those off terrain wheels in the heart of London? Think about your lifestyle where do you live and what do you like doing? Buy with this in mind. Read reviews and go for something that suits your life. I know many friends who have purchased ridiculous buggies, only six months on to be replacing them. 

We did absolutely loads and loads of research to find one that met our needs and I haven't lived to regret my purchase. Our purchase was the new Babyzen Yoyo+ and it definitely was the best purchase we made and still is six months on. 
Best pushchairs
Its easy to assemble, super light, folds to be incredibly compact and everything goes in the wash. It also converts into a buggy as your baby grows.

As an added bonus if you travel a lot, it fits in an overhead compartment in the cabin of an aircraft as it is small enough to be classed as hand luggage. 

6.Babies aren't babies for long, they grow quickly so make the most of every second.You will spend hours talking about your baby, constantly taking pictures, I have reams and reams of pictures of Noah. Months fly by and before you know it, your baby will be out of their small crib, their 0-3 month baby clothes and cutting teeth. Everyone will be talking about weaning and returning to work. Make the most of them whilst they are little. 

7.Take fifteen minutes to yourself each day, let other people in your life share the work. If they aren't forth coming, tell them what you need. I was really bad at this and as a result have spent the first six months of Noah's life shattered. 

8.A little person will find delight in everything and anything. Seeing the world through their eyes of firsts will make you feel alive and young again.

9.You will learn new things about where you live that you previously had no awareness of. Your local area has so much to offer you and your baby, you just need to get on out there.

10.Being a mummy can be very isolating and getting out is the best thing you can do. You will make lovely new friends. Look for NCT Bumps and Baby groups, activities like baby massage, Hartbeeps, Monkey Music and your local libraries have some great offerings.

11.You will do anything to stop your baby crying it is like a dagger to the heart, but you will learn that they won't self combust if left for a second.

12.For a good while things that you love to do will have to be put on the back burner, but this will change in time. It doesn't last forever. 

13.You will change as a person, having a baby alters you and who you are. That's not a bad thing.

14.The world will put huge pressure on you that within a few months of birth you should have lost your baby weight. I say CRAP! You've had a baby, carried a little person around for nine months, your body performed magic, with organs and body parts shifted to new places. Your body has been stretched out beyond all recognition. It will come off in time but don't put additional stress on yourself.

15.Buy a children's first aid kit and some things that you might need for your little one at different stages. Infacol, calpol, bonjela, teething granules, cheeky monkey organic cheek rub, gripe water, snuffle rub, cradle cap shampoo to name a few. 
Baby medicine
If you have a little one who is two months plus that struggles to take an oral painkiller, ask the doctor for paracetamol suppositories. I wish I had asked for these sooner.  

16.Immunisations are hard going both to have done and afterwards when your little one feels rough. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding straight afterwards can be a great help. If your breastfeeding, express some milk in the days leading up to the injections, so if your little one refuses the breast you can still offer them your milk in a bottle. Take Calpol with you for the first and third immunisations.     

17.Be kind to those that come after you as mothers. Share useful information, be honest, share tips and a kind ear to listen to their worries. The labour horror stories are totally not needed or helpful. Everyone's experience and journey is different. Help one another out to prepare rather than scaremongering.

18.If your a friend, family member to someone who has just had a baby, come with food and you will be welcomed with open arms. Load or empty the dishwasher for them. Make your own cup of tea/coffee and be gracious enough to know when it is your time to love and leave.

Are you a parent or have siblings/friends with babies? Have any tips or pearls of wisdom to share? 

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Friday 3 June 2016

How to make a cake fit for a Queen

A couple of weeks ago I got an exciting email from Tesco Finest inviting me to a royal cake decorating master class with award-winning master p√Ętissier Eric Lanlard. The evening was to jointly unveil and launch a new Tesco Finest cake specially created by Eric in celebration of the Queens 90th Birthday (If you didn't know it was the Queens birthday where have you been!).  

I didn't have to ponder very long over the email and returned my acceptance within a few seconds. Eric you see is a kindred spirit, he loves afternoon tea almost as much as I do! He has just launched an entire book dedicated to the subject of creating the perfect "Afternoon Tea", with ninety savoury and sweet treats. 

The cake "Fit for a Queen" has three wonderful layers of sponge, two pink velvet soaked in raspberry coulis and one chocolate with the addition of real chocolate flakes. Each layer is lovingly divided with raspberry conserve. 
cake decorating
The cake has been finished by hand with Madagascan white chocolate and prosecco flavoured pink butter cream. 
cake decorating
The cake was truly delicious, the sponge was wonderfully moist and the tartness of the raspberry and prosecco in the butter icing helped to really make the cake light and refreshing. Perfect for summer!

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know I love cooking but I am very much a savoury chef. Whilst I enjoy eating and making cakes and yes I have a few signature bakes the skill just doesn't come naturally, I have to work at my sweet masterpieces. 
Cake Baking
I think in part this is because I like a cake to look aesthetically pleasing to the eye and my skill just doesn't match up to making it look as beautiful as I would like when it comes to finishing a cake off. 

So the thought of spending an evening with Eric who has created many a masterpiece for celebrities such as Madonna, the Beckhams and none other than the late queen mother herself, combined with learning a few trade secrets was something I was looking forward too. You really cannot beat watching a master craftsman at work. 

Eric shared how to turn a normal four layered sponge with jam and cream into something considerably grander.
Cake decorating
For a foodie there is nothing better than spending an evening with those who share your love and passion for food (that is unless there is a competitive element to the evening).

Well that's exactly what happened! After Eric had shared some cake decorating tips with us he set the challenge for us to layer and decorate a cake against the clock (within 30 minutes). In the row directly behind me I had Jack Layer the runner up in this year's Master Chef as competition, oh and the pressure of being judged by a master p√Ętissier

I started by layering my cake. 
Cake decorating
Perfect Sponge

I wanted to choose an icing that would stand out so opted for violet, pink chocolate and lustre dust.
Cake decorating ideas

I'm sure all of you reading this would have made a better job of icing this lovely cake, but just in case you need some additional help here are some tips from Eric.

Eric's top tips for making the perfect cake:

1. Get organised: A little bit of preparation goes a long way. Make sure you have a tidy and clean workspace before you start. Weigh out all your ingredients and make sure you have everything before you begin. The process of making your cake will be less stressful. 

2. Don't rush: Let your cake rest before you begin to add icing or frosting. Ideally a cake should be left over night before you decorate. 

3.Before you begin decorating: Add a small bit of icing to your stand to hold the cake in position. 

4. Icing your cake: Be sparing with the food colouring, you can always add more but add too much and you can't take it away. Do not overfill your piping bag when piping icing. Instead it is better to refill frequently as it gives you more control. When refilling, try placing your piping bag into a measuring jug so you have two free hands to do so.

5. Use the right tools for the task: If colouring sponges make sure that the food colouring is bake stable. If it isn't you will end up with a distorted 

6. Make the cake and tools do the hard work: When decorating your cake, spin the cake rather than moving yourself you will get a smoother finish to your icing or frosting. Dip your palette knife in hot water to get a super smooth finish to your icing. 

7. Don't crack up: When rolling icing on a surface, swap your icing sugar for a light dusting of corn flour…it won’t dry out your icing and will give you a much smoother result without cracks.

I had great fun attending Eric's decorating class, but was seriously outclassed when it came to completing the challenge myself. Have a look at some of the other finished cakes, put yourself in Eric's shoes and decide which one you would have awarded the first prize. 

Cake decorating
Cake Decorating

The delicious limited edition Tesco Finest cake "Fit for a Queen" is available nationwide from today (3rd June) until 16th June (£10).  

Fancy watching the man in action yourself? Check out his YouTube channel here

Do you have any top tips for decorating a cake fit for a queen? Share in the comments below or on Twitter with #CakeFitForAQueen

*I was a guest of Tesco for the above event but as always my opinion and views are very much my own. 

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