Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Requested Review - Garofalo Pasta

Specialist Foods sent me a package of Garofalo pasta to try, and to review here, as I'm a bit of a pastaholic.  I put it down to my student days, when I only ate things that were very easy to cook (i.e. pasta), and spent much of my time working in an Italian restaurant.

My package arrived and contained a pack of spaghetti, and a pack of radiatore (right).  Have you seen them?  They're possibly my favourite pasta shape, though one I rarely buy, because they only seem to come in expensive packs.  They're meant to look like car radiator grilles, in the same way that most pasta shapes are meant to look like something, but only really do if you close your eyes a bit and squint.

Well, radiatore they are.  And lovely.  The packaging of both was a good place to start, authentically Italian looking, looking like good quality pasta, classy-like, with a handy resealable sticker on the bag in case you don't use the whole pack in one go.

Easy to cook, and kept their shape well.  That's always my concern with delicate shaped pasta, will it just disintegrate into blobs (messicani, I'm looking at YOU).  Holds a sauce well, because of the shape.  The radiatore are definitely the sort of pasta shapes to use with a creamy sauce, not one with huge lumps of veg or meat.  The grille, and the curve of the back hold the sauce in them, and they taste LUSH.

So there you have it.  Pasta is a good thing.  Go eat some.  Or come round to my house, and I'll make a spag bol.

Disclosure: I was provided with 2 packs of pasta free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Om Nom Nom

We're making progress, you know.  Squeaky has moved on from a single teaspoon of baby rice in some breast milk, to more than one teaspoon, to baby porridge, and in the last week, to VEGETABLES!!  So far, she's tried carrots, butternut squash, a jar of Heinz veg medley (or something along those lines), with pretty good results.  The pre-made jar was the least appreciated, while she liked her first meal from it, her nose was firmly turned up at the second.  Butternut squash is definitely the front runner at present, and is also the most likely to stain clothes, furniture & anything else it lands on.  I wonder if the two are somehow related.

And today, for variety, we had apple, mixed with a little baby rice to thicken it up.  As usual, the first couple of mouthfuls are met with confusion, and a look that says "What ARE you doing to me, mother?", but then she soon realises that it's food and it tastes good, and rather than complaining about being fed, she'd rather complain about not being fed fast enough.  Back on the veggies tomorrow, but I wanted her to try a little bit of fruit, just so I know that she'll take lots of different foods.

I'm going down the (nowadays) old fashioned route of puréed vegetables, and spoon feeding her.  I've got friends who've recommended Baby Led Weaning, where everything is finger foods, and what goes in, goes in.  But to me, that seems a) chaotic, b) messy as hell, and c) likely to be really wasteful.  At least if she doesn't want the purée, there's only a couple of spoons of it to throw out, and the rest can go in pasta sauce (more on the subject of pasta to follow), but if she's squishing broccoli florets into her hair & throwing carrots across the room, that's a lot more food to get through without eating it.  YMMV and all that, but my hand blender is my best pal, and I'm going to use it til I burn the motor out.

And I'm making a chart.  With what foods she's had on each day, written if necessary, but with lots of pretty clip art pictures of carrots & apples & etc.  Then I can print it out and put it in her scrapbook.  Oh yeah, I made a scrapbook too.  And every time we go somewhere and she gets a sticker or similar, I make a page in the scrapbook for it, stick it in, and write about what she did to get the sticker.  I think that means we should have more outings.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Free Reviews, baby food & tea bags

Well, you can't say I didn't warn you.  Freebie reviews, of some of the stuff I've received for nowt, for the sheer fun of it, and so that when I can't remember what was good and what wasn't, I can check it here.

  • HIPP Organic Baby Rice.  Squeaky's first non-breastmilk meal.  And her second, third, fourth... until the packet ran out.  Really nice.  Bright white, which was kind of reassuring, it looked as though it was something pure.  Mixed easily with breastmilk, and no complaints from Squeaky in the taste test.  Looks a bit like wallpaper paste when it's made up, but so do most baby cereals, I've found.  My only real criticism is that I can't find it in the shops.  Every other brand of baby rice, most of the rest of the HIPP range, but not the rice.
  • Aptamil Baby Creamy Porridge.  One of Squeaky's more recent forays into the world of "real food".  This doesn't make up quite as well, if you follow the instructions it comes out no thicker than milk, so you kind of have to feel your own way to how much is right.  Smells lovely, like "proper"adult porridge, made me feel quite hungry actually.  Again, no complaints from Squeaky on the taste test.  I probably won't buy more, the randomness of the mixing ratios is a bit too difficult when my brain is only operating on 25% power.
  • Clipper Organic Tea Bags.  Something for me at last.  I'm not a big tea drinker. The last cup of tea I had was the morning Squeaky was born, because I'd been off coffee during pregnancy, but I had to have something.  However, these are NICE teabags.  Unbleached, old fashioned big square bags.  The tea is quite smooth, no nasty tanniny aftertaste in your mouth, and no nasty tannin stains in the mug.  If you like your tea builders' style, you'll hate it, but for me, they're about as good as tea gets.  Mmmm.
Feel free to send me free things, I'll happily talk about them, even if you don't want me to.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Don't throw it away...

I have slightly less than zero qualms over second hand baby gear.  They outgrow clothes, and toys so quickly nothing gets the chance to wear out.  In fact I have very few qualms over second hand grown-up gear either (I couldn't find a way to use the word adult there without it sounding like I meant 2nd hand sex toys), except when it comes to things like underwear.  I'd like to keep that new TYVM.

But yeah, otherwise, second hand is good.  We've been given a load of used baby clothes & kit from friends & family whose children have outgrown them, and I've picked up more on my travels.  I don't really see the point in paying for second hand supermarket clothes, they aren't that well made, and they're so cheap new, I don't mind buying them.

However, we've scored some lovely bits & bats in car boot sales & the NCT nearly new sale.  A LaMaze spinny toy for £3 (about £15 new), a VTech apple thing for £1 (about £10 new), clothes from OshKosh, Oililly, Next & Rocha Little Rocha for £1 or so each.  All looking as good as new, and in some cases, I suspect they probably were unused.

They all get a good wash, or a good going over with the Dettol, as appropriate, before Her Squeaky Highness gets anywhere near them, just to be on the safe side.  But who's going to know whether her things are brand new or not, and who's going to care?  She doesn't, I don't, it shouldn't matter to anyone else.

Weight, revisited

I nearly forgot this, you know.

Way way back in the mists of time, when Squeaky was just a tiny squeak, the midwife decided that she hadn't gained enough weight. So she sent us off up the hospital *now*. Amazingly in the time between the midwife weighing her, and being weighed in the hospital, she'd gained about 3oz. ::eyes roll:: In other words, the whole fiasco was just because of calibration differences between different sets of scales.

But still. At that visit to the hospital, the doctor said she'd still like to see Squeaky again in "4 - 6 weeks", just to follow it up and monitor her. So we sit and wait for an appointment letter. And wait, and wait. 4 -6 weeks come & go. Injections come & go & my gp chases up the appointment, but still we hear nothing.

I was up the hospital myself a couple of weeks ago, and decided to take matters into my own hands. Strolled up to paediatric outpatients, and said "Errrr, this is Squeaky. She was meant to have an appointment in 4-6 weeks, and that was 14 weeks ago. Wha'happen?" The receptionist had a look on the computer, said "I can't see anything, but you'd have to go to Aberdare, not here, because you're under Dr So-&-So. Here's the phone number for medical records, phone them." Next day (it was late afternoon, ok?), I phone the other hospital. The person I spoke to said "Oh, you had an appointment on X/X/10, but you didn't turn up". Me "Excuse me?? I wasn't told about that appointment." She confirms my address and says that's where the letter would have gone, I repeat that no letter was received. Audible sigh. She then says she'll speak to the clinic, but it'll probably be tomorrow before they can answer anything. 5 minutes later, she phones me back, very apologetic, apparently they had anew computer system, and a load of letters got missed, would we be able to go {last week}. Of course.

Last week, off we went at last. Squeaky was perfectly behaved, charmed everyone as usual. And the upshot is, her weight's fine. She was little, she remains little, but she's perfectly healthy, gaining sufficient weight, and developing just as she should. And is discharged from the hospital.

Even though I knew her weight had sorted itself out, and it was just a little blip, it's a huge weight (ha ha) off my mind. Hooray for little Squeaky!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Quick fixes, and Oh-So-Simple ideas

Aside from my botch-job covering the sharp bits on the futon, as pictured, I thought I'd take the chance to share with you a few other of the "Now why didn't I think of that" or "I wish I'd thought of that sooner" type ideas that motherhood has made part of my world. You know, those kind of things where you just want to *kick* yourself because they make life so much easier, and really, they're so obvious!

1) The little net bags you get for putting washing powder tablets in. Use them to put baby's socks in when they go in the washing machine. Keeps them together & you can find the socks again. Tiny socks have an amazing way of disappearing at the best of times, but if you can stop them escaping in the wash, then you stand half a chance of keeping your baby's feet matching.

2) Those silicon charity bracelets? Like the Livestrong ones? You know. They make brilliant reminders as to which breast you started the last feed from. And no-one looks at you peculiar for wearing one, or swapping it over from time to time, which they do if you use other things. And you can keep a bracelet on in the shower, which you can't with a safety pin.

3) Baby dislikes having their "wrinkles & crinkles" dried after a bath? Try using the hairdryer on a cool setting. Make sure your hand is in the line of the air flow as well, to make sure the delicate skin doesn't get too hot, but it's no different to a hand dryer in a public loo, and if your baby's anything like Squeaky, they'll love it within a couple of days. You might want to cure them of the Pavlovian reaction to spread their legs every time they hear a hairdryer before their first trip to the hairdresser, but other than that, it's genius, I tells ya!

4) A hi-ball sized beaker with a lid is just the right size to keep a packet of baby rice or cereal in it, and keep it dry. Cut out the name & mixing instructions from the packet & tape them to the outside as a reminder if you've got different packets on the go.

5) Nappy bags are just the right size to carry one baby swimming costume & one mommy swimming costume home from the pool when they're all wet, so you don't end up with a wet swimming bag. They don't fit the towels in though, you'll have to roll them, unless you've got a better idea?

And a completely unsponsored, unrequested, genuine recommendation, that fits with the oh-so-simple ideas theme. Sock-ons Seriously, how genius, and adorable, are they? A friend whose baby was born 6 months before Squeaky gave us 2 pairs as part of a Squeaky-welcoming gift, and I'm a convert. I've become this Sock-On Evangelist! I even managed to dye a pair blue-grey to match her eyes, by using the tried & tested method of leaving them in the pocket of my new jeans when I put them in the wash. Ooops. No, honestly, they did change colour, but they are still adorable, now unique, and still perfectly functioning.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Botch Jobs - I'm not spending money on THAT!!

Our living room sofa is a metal frame futon. Mostly because our house is so bloomin' awkward shape, it was the only one we could be sure of getting into the house. But being a metal framed futon, it's got quite sharp metal bits at the front, where it folds. As Squeaky gets bigger, and moves rapidly towards sitting, crawling and generally being all mobile-like, I figured it would be a good idea to find something to stop her being able to fall on them and cut herself open. I've bashed my ankles on them a couple of times, and they really do hurt.

Nothing exists for that, you'll be thoroughly unsurprised to learn. Until now. Take two bikini tops, of the triangular & padded variety (two tops, because there are three sharp thingies). Cut the triangles apart in the middle, so they still have their back and neck ties attached, and remove any extraneous bits of metal. Use the ties to tie the breast bits (cups? whatev.) around the futon, covering the sharp metal thingos. Be mildly amused at how your sofa is now wearing a bikini or two, but relax in the knowledge that the bikini cups are so padded you'd have to put some serious effort into hurting yourself on that bit at least.

It may not be stylish, but it works.

A couple of announcements

As I've signed up to a multitude of newsletters & the like, and am always on the hunt for something for nothing, I've been lucky enough to land myself quite a few free samples. Nothing too exciting as yet, sadly, but free is free is free, and that's good enough for me.

I haven't been asked by any of the people who've sent me free stuff to review it, but I figure, what the hey? So, coming soon, reviews of free stuff. Not only baby things, but the other stuff I've had free of late (tea bags, hair dye, etc). Consider yourself warned.

And secondly, the biggie! We're TEETHING! Oh, I am just so happy about that (where's the sarcasm tag on this thing?) Actually, so far, she's not doing too bad, I just have a mildly grouchy and very dribbly Squeaky on my hands, and Calpol & Calgel within reach at all times.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Swimming revisited

So today, as previously mentioned, we gave our usual swimming session in Aberfan a miss, to go over to Aberdare, where I'd been told the pool was warmer.

Drove half an hour to get there, and found. The pool was closed. For a school swimming gala (i.e. booked months in advance). Nothing on the website, nothing outside the leisure centre, nothing told to the other mums in previous weeks. Nothing. And as you can imagine, that lead to quite a number of upset children, and parents, who'd planned their day around a swimming trip.

That was their one & only chance. I'm going back to Aberfan next week, and staying there.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


When we went on our little jaunt to North Wales last month, we took the opportunity to introduce Squeaky to the joys of swimming. While both of us are swimmers, me moreso than SqueakyDaddy, we both learned late in childhood, and wanted to avoid the same happening to Squeaky. As per usual, she charmed everyone around her and took to it like, well, a duck to water.

On returning home, I popped into the council pool in town, looking for a parent & baby type session, or at least a good time to visit with a small squeaky creature in tow. The answer I got from the receptionists? "Just put her in the bath, she won't know the difference"! Honest! I only wish I was making it up. Most unlike me, I was too shocked to reply, and too shocked to make a scene, demand an apology, speak to the manager. So instead, I'm just telling everyone, in person & on the wilds of the internet. Don't go to Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, ok? (The fact the pool was closed for AGES due to a cryptosporidium outbreak they couldn't kill doesn't add much confidence either).

Fortunately, due to my good friends at the breastfeeding group, I've now found not one, but two, baby swimming sessions. One in the slightly closer to my house, Aberfan community centre pool, and one in Aberdare. We're going to try Aberdare tomorrow, as all the reports suggest the water's far warmer. Splish splash.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Food, glorious food

Since the Throwing Up Our Breakfast Adventures of last week, we decided to try a little experiment. Thanks to my joining Every Single Mailing List Evar, I had a load of free samples, including a small packet of HIPP baby rice. Just enough for a few days' of trying.

Honestly, Squeaky never ceases to amaze me. Not only did she love her baby rice, but within 5 minutes, she was trying to help me with the spoon! None of the dramas, tears & refusals I'd heard of from others, just plain old enjoyment. We've been eating it for 5 days now, and not a problem in sight. I was slightly dreading telling our health visitor, being as they recommend 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, but she was all for it. As long as Squeaky's happy, growing, and doing all the right things (and believe me she is, now), and she clearly wanted more than just milk, then they're fine with it. Just a warning not to expect her to be wanting a 3 course Sunday dinner by next week.

Now, as the freebie is running out, I've been shopping today, and we've got more rice, as well as baby porridge & some banana & peach breakfast stuff. The experiment continues, wonder which will go down the best, and which will just go down her vest.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Oh! I forgot to say!

We've been going to baby signing classes for 3 weeks now. I've been going to BSL classes for the last 4 years, though I'm only finishing my 3rd year right now, thanks to the broken ankle saga. So I thought it would be good if Squeaky & I could find some way that she could learn as well, so she could talk to me before she can actually talk, y'know.

And so far, she loves it. She's the youngest in the class, by a good few months, all the rest are sitting up unaided and crawling, at very least. But that doesn't stop her. She's fascinated by the class leader, she stares and beams at her throughout, interspersed with giggling at me. No actual signs from her yet, which is to be expected, it's only been a few weeks, and she's still very young, but she's getting the idea of waving hello/goodbye, and starting to watch and lift her own hands when I sign things to her. I'm really excited about it, truth be told. And wondering what her first sign will be.

Ah, but this week is half term. And I hate half term, because our schedule has fallen apart. No signing class, we couldn't go to our singing & exercise class because it clashed with my dental app't, and then we couldn't go swimming today because I still feel like I've been kicked in the jaw by a very angry donkey. When we go back next week, maybe I'll remember to describe a typical class. Or maybe some of our other groups too. You'd enjoy that, wouldn't you?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Will Not Fuss Part Deux

So, after her vomitous start to the day, madam was still hungry. And for the first time, I had to give her a bottle of formula, because she'd already cleaned me out. Typically, she took to it with no complaints or fussing. Makes me feel like a bit of a cheat, but I'm glad a) that she did take it without bother, & b) that it was on my terms, rather than under medical instruction.

Will Not Fuss

I will not fuss over every little thing.
I will not fuss over every little thing.
I will not fuss over every little thing.
I will not fuss over every little thing.
I will not fuss over every little thing.
I will not fuss over every little thing.

Right. Now that's out of the way. GAH! Squeaky has discovered a lovely new habit. She's decided that breakfast is for wimps. She'll either refuse to eat at breakfast time, after squawking for food, but then lie there smacking her lips in that "feed me, I'm hungry" type manner. Or, and even better, she'll feed. And then throw it all up. All over me, her, the sofa, the bed, whatever happens to be available. All the rest of her meals stay down, she feeds absolutely fine the rest of the day, but breakfast is for wimps.

Part of me thinks she's eating too much, because she's hungry, and her little stomach can't cope with all she's feeding, so maybe it's time to start adding some baby rice (weaning, yayfun!), but then the other part of me says "But she's throwing up already, is adding something new actually going to help with that? Or am I going to be cleaning up baby rice sick as well as milk sick?"

And unless I bump into her out walking like yesterday, I'm unlikely to see the midwife for another 2 weeks, by which stage I will have washed everything in the house every day. And still smell of baby sick.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Squeaky keeps on growing, as a good baby should, I guess. And now she's getting almost too big for her moses basket, or at least to be in there safely all night, as she's fidgety. About a week ago, then, I put up her cot. So rather than being flat-packed & blocking the bedroom door a bit, it takes up most of the available floorspace that wasn't already filled with bed & wardrobe.

That's not the point though. The point is, last night, my little girl spent her first night in her big girl bed. Admittedly in her moses basket in the bed, but in her proper big girl bed, on her own.

How did I get such a placid, accepting baby. All the books and the people tell you that "Oh, she'll be all freaked out by the big bed, and not being RIGHT next to you", but she was absolutely fine, calm & sleeping peacefully. The only one who was freaked out by her not being RIGHT next to me was, errr, me! I think that's probably going to be the pattern for the rest of her life - she just gets on and does, and it's me who freaks.

Oh, and right now? She's grabbing Tigger's tail on her play gym, blowing raspberries and growling.