Monday, 27 June 2016

Seven Things You'll Discover When You Return To Work After Maternity Leave

 The baby was possibly more prepared than I was, judging by the nursery activites

1. Although you feel properly dressed for the first time in twelve months (no spit-up crusty dressing gown! no nursing bra! no misshapen slippers!) and haven't been anywhere near your baby for eight hours, somehow you'll still find a soggy rice cake stuck to your derriere or the florescent crumbs of Organix carrot sticks (aka fake wotsits) on the shoulder of your brand new suit

2. You'll be the first to shout 'don't worry, I've got a baby wipe!' at the sound of any spillage in the office. And jokingly laugh, to the sound of tumbleweed, that you also have several different sized nappies in your bag should anyone in the team need one

3. You'll glance back in the rear view mirror on the way to work and have a moment of abject panic when the baby seat is empty... before realizing the baby is safely ensconced in nursery and not, as usual, trying to undo the seat belt just as you're joining the motorway

4. You'll spend at least half an hour wondering how far to take the cheery 'no, do phone us anytime!' mantra of the nursery. Or spend at least half an hour thinking up increasingly elaborate excuses to call to check on your little ones progress

5. You'll try so hard not to talk about your baby at every office conversation. Frankly impossible considering every conversation you've had in the last twelve months has been about your baby. You literally have no other material

6. You'll spend most of your first week back wondering how many pictures of your bundle of joy should adorn your desk... And whether it is polite to encroach on your colleague's desk with your variety of pictures frames or whether you could replace the insipid, dull posters reminding everyone to recycle with splodgy paintings of your baby's feet

7. You'll decide it doesn't matter whatsoever if you get a speeding ticket on the way home or a parking ticket from double-parking outside the nursery: HECK, YOU HAVEN'T SEEN YOUR BABY ALL DAY!

Sound familiar? Anything I've missed?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

New chapters, nursery and cheerio to maternity leave

Mornings chilling in our dressing gowns and PJs are soon to be replaced by early alarms and commutes

I'm writing this post in the local cafe. An empty coffee cup and a fully digested newspaper by my side. 

And a very, very empty pram. 

Our little one began her settling in sessions at the nursery this week and it feels odd. Strange. Very, very weird. 

And once I'd figured that pacing the street outside the nursery for two hours was probably not the most... relaxing use of my time I came here. I thought to take the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee that is not only hot but is unlikely to be thrown across the table by the eager, enthusiastic hands of an eleven month old baby, risking third degree burns to anyone within a five metre vicinity. And after a read of the paper I now feel more up to date with the arguments on either side of the EU referendum than the BBC's Chief Political correspondent. Heck, reading a paper that hasn't been copiously dribbled on or ripped into teeny shreds and joyfully stuffed into a baby's mouth as though a piece of prime Wagu beef, is a novelty in itself. 

But my mind drifts constantly to the nursery, my eyes flickering to my phone every second. Keep your phone on, they said, just in case. Just in case what? (My overactive imagination has since gone overdrive...I've actually found myself scouring Twitter and the BBC news for any incidents in the vicinity of the nursery).

How come this teeny little thing that only so recently was utterly dependent on me is now waving bye bye Mama as I hand her over to virtual strangers? Surely it was just yesterday, on a day just as sunny and warm as this one, we were taking her home from the hospital for the first time?  

My mind also drifts to work, starting on Monday. A new job. Because obviously settling a baby into nursery and returning to work after a year in which my brain cells have melted faster than the polar ice caps isn't enough of a challenge. If only the new job description read:

'knowledge of survival skills when sleep deprived essential, specifically excellent ability to rapidly consume considerable volumes of luke-warm caffeinated drinks while ignoring mounting piles of dirty washing'


'desirable qualities include singing 'Row Row a Row Your Boat' and 'The Grand Old Duke of York' multiple times a day'. 

Do wish me luck. Anyway, enough pondering; my two hours are up. 

*manically runs as fast as possible back to nursery* 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Strawberry, Vanilla and Soured Cream Cake

It's strawberry season! Hurrah! My favourite red fruit season! And the competition is pretty stiff; raspberries come a close second... although radishes are relegated to a distant eighth.

The arrival of the first sweet, juicy British strawberries in the shops definitely heralds the start of the summer. Along with digging out dusty bottles of suntan lotion dated 2015 2010 from the back of the bathroom cupboard and the local tennis courts being absolutely packed for the first time for eleven months in anticipation of Wimbledon fortnight in a few weeks time.

And British strawberries are set for a record-breaking year. As though the fruit is going for gold at this summer's Rio Olympics, the British crop is set to reach 74,000 tonnes this summer, up 11% from last year. This is all thanks to our insatiable demand for the strawberry; £564 million pounds worth are sold each season and berry consumption has risen by 132% in the last decade.

Pass the double cream.

To make the most of the season I baked this cake last weekend, a light, moist cake with sweet creamcheese frosting and packed full of juicy strawberries.

Strawberry and Vanilla Soured Cream Cake

175g soft butter
150g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
140ml soured cream
1 punnet strawberries, roughly cut in quarters

100g full fat cream cheese
200g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to fan 160C/conventional 180C/Gas MArk 4. Butter and line a 22cm loose-bottomed round cake tin
2. Place the butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder and vanilla in  large bowl and beat well until light and fluffy. Beat in 4 tbsp of the soured cream and stir in three quarters of the strawberries
3. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes until risen and golden in colour. Cool for ten minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely
4. To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar, cream cheese and remainder of the soured cream. Spread over the cooled cake and use of the leftover strawberries to decorate.

Baker's notes...

  • This recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food and is one of my go-to recipes. Easy, failsafe and really rather scrumptious
  • Once baked, it keeps nicely in the fridge for 48hours. However, if it has lasted more than 48 minutes you have way more willpower than me