Pregnancy Diary: 23 Weeks

Today, I am 23 weeks and one day pregnant.  I’m more behind with this diary than usual, having missed two weeks, but I did take photos each week.

21 weeks

Week 21

Baby is: about the size of a large banana!  His brain is developing rapidly and constantly producing lots of new brain cells.  I know this is a cliche but it definitely feels as if I am losing mine at the same rate.  I am definitely suffering from baby brain, and really struggling to concentrate now.

I am: fine (apart from the baby brain) though I have several annoying symptoms – dizziness (still), leg cramps and quite severe lower back pain which is making everything more difficult.  As a result I am feeling frustrated about not getting much done.

22 weeks

Week 22

Baby is: the size of a papaya.

I am: finding it increasingly difficult to do anything at all because of the back pain.  Trying not to let it get me down but not entirely succeeding.

23 weeks

Week 23

Baby is: the size of a grapefruit.

I am: hanging in there.  Mainly just tired and grumpy because of the pain, but occasionally snapping out of it and remembering how incredibly lucky I am.  And feeling very thankful for my lovely husband.  As I am writing this, at 10pm on a Saturday evening, he is cleaning the dining room floor – he knows the way to my heart!

 

 

Nigelissima – Instant Italian Inspiration

This post was written by Paul who was also the chef.

Nigellissima most Nigella

The last cook book that came into our house, in March, was Jack Monroe’s “A Girl Called Jack”. At the time we’d been living off tinned tomatoes and lentils for weeks, and fell upon her recipes with the grateful desperation of a family ready to have their lives transformed by adding a beef stock cube and some shredded mushrooms to their terrible attempts at fake Bolognese.

Six months later, on the upward curve of the thriftspend cycle, enter Nigella. Nigella with her simplicity, her glamour, and her insistence on quality. Nigella with her mixture of the commonplace (tomatoes, semolina, lentils), and the expensive (sirloin steak, fresh figs, 70% cocoa chocolate). So, riding the fiscal upswing, we invited friends round and cooked loads of dishes. What’s the point of using a cookbook from a supreme entertainer if you don’t entertain with it?

Nigelissima 3

This was the menu, scaled up for four adults, two teenagers and five children aged 10 to 4:

  • Tagliata
  • Mock Mash
  • Italian Golden Lentils
  • Gnocchi Gratin
  • Meatzza
  • (Broccoli)
  • Instant chocolate mousse
  • Baked figs with honey and cream

Nigelissima 4

Tagliata is delicious. Buy the most expensive sirloin you can afford, make some vinaigrette with added chilli flakes and pour over cherry tomatoes chopped in half, cook the steak properly and slice it after resting, then arrange the whole lot on a plate topped with fresh oregano. Total cost of ingredients £25 – an easy party piece. None left over. Tomato and beef salad – who knew?

Nigelissima 2

Mock Mash was a surprise hit – also none left over. Take semolina and cook in milk, then add parmesan, seasoning and nutmeg. Total cost £5

Italian Golden Lentils was less popular, but probably because we’ve seen quite a lot of our little pulse friends recently. And it wasn’t a fair test as, with an hour to go before the guests arrived, I realised I’d forgotten to buy the necessary Castelluccio lentils and garlic oil, so substituted green lentils and olive oil with crushed garlic in it. But the dish itself was really nice – I’d never cooked lentils with leek and thyme before. Fry leeks, add lentils, thyme, bay leaves and water. Serve when cooked (fish out bay leaves). Total cost only £1.50

Gnocchi Gratin was easy to make and quickly eaten, the only leftovers caused by the abundance of other food on the table. Heat mascarpone and milk in a pan and dissolve parmesan in it. Cook gnocchi, put into oven dish and cover with a mixture of breadcrumbs and more parmesan, put into oven and take out when golden. Total cost £12

Meatzza was tasty but overshadowed by everything else. The concept is simple enough – take beef mince and add herbs and spices (a bit like making lamb kofte mix), then pat down into an oven dish before covering with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella slices to form something that looks like a pizza. We’ll try it again on its own later. Total cost £15

Broccoli was meant to have been Nigella’s lemon and parmesan version, but we ran out of time so it was just broccoli. Take broccoli, chop into florets, chuck into water then guess how long it takes to cook.

The instant chocolate mousse was fab, and easy to make. Instead of egg, use condensed milk to thicken and bind the mixture of melted luxury chocolate and partially whipped cream. Leave to chill in the fridge then top with more partially whipped cream. The recipe called for orange liqueur but I left the booze out because of the children. Total cost £12

Nigelissima 1

Baked figs with honey went down a storm with the grown-ups, less so with the children (although the kids were pretty full by then). Cut and split figs without severing them completely, and drizzle olive oil over them before baking for 10 minutes. Prepare mixture of warm cream and honey, and chop unsalted pistachios in mini chopper. Pour honeyed cream over hot figs, sprinkle chopped nuts and serve. Total cost £12

Nigelissima 5

 

None of the recipes were difficult to follow, although I do wish I’d got the herbs sorted out in advance instead of running around the garden in the dark trying to pick thyme and oregano. I started prepping an hour and a half before the meal by opening the first bottle of Bardolino and finding Don Giovanni on the ipod. Chocolate mousse was next (as it had to be chilled before serving), then the Meatzza (which could be baked at the same time as the gnocchi but I didn’t want to be handling raw beef whilst cooking everything else). Then the lentils were put on, then the gnocchi prepared. Finally the tagliata and mock mash happened simultaneously, and the figs were got ready for throwing in the oven after the main course.

 

Would we use Nigella’s book again? Yes! Could we regularly afford to buy premium cherry tomatoes, sirloin steak, decent mince, pounds of parmesan, mascarpone? No! We could save Nigella’s book for special occasions or we could experiment. Can the chocolate mousse survive the ignominy of Sainsbury’s basics dark chocolate? Can the mock mash be made with ‘Italian hard cheese’ rather than real indicazione geografica typica parmesan? Because given our recent experience you could survive at least a year with just two cook books – Nigella’s and Jack’s – and change the ingredients to suit your budget. Have these two passionate ladies met? Can someone arrange it, and send me a preview copy of the resulting hybrid cookbook? Thank you.

 

 

Parragon picture books, Maths and more

We have received some lovely items for review from Parragon recently, starting with two picture books which the children have really enjoyed.

Parragon Books 1

The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile, written by award winning author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Henry Fisher, is the story of a family’s quest to find the fish with the deep sea smile.  They find all kinds of fish with different attributes – one with “blue-green eyes and whiskers three”, another “With electric lights up and down its tail” and even “a fish with a laughing eye.”  But can they find the fish with the deep sea smile?  With its poetic text and colourful illustrations, this is a great story to read aloud.

parragon books 2

Away in my Aeroplane, also by Margaret Wise Brown and Henry Fisher, is another story which was very popular with the children.  We liked the pictures of the little boy flying in his aeroplane, and enjoyed seeing everything he sees as he goes on an adventure through the skies.  The text is very satisfying to read aloud as you get carried along by the rhythm and rhyme: “Down below the people go, very small and very slow.  They look like bugs and ants and flies – I wonder if they realize what they look like to my eyes.”

parragon books 3

We have also taken up the Parragon #summerwithgoldstars challenge and Owl has worked his way steadily through the age 9-11 Maths workbook.  His confidence in Maths has improved so much this summer and I could not be more proud of him.

parragon stationery

And finally, something for me I think, though I haven’t yet come up with a suitable use for this pretty notebook with matching post-it notes.  Far too good for the to-do list, so I will have to think of something more interesting to use them for before the children get their hands on them.  We are very grateful for all the lovely things we have been sent – we love being a Parragon family!

 

Transformers Magazine Review

Reviews of two issues of the new Transformers magazine – the first by Owl and the second by Monkey.

Issue 1

We have been sent the first issue of Transformers magazine to review.  It came with some free gifts:

  • six game cards
  • a card mat
  • action figure

There is a giant wordsearch and a two-part comic.  It includes a competition plus a poster, and on the back is a supercars page and a page full of puzzles!  There are some character profiles too.  This magazine is quite good, and I will give it a 3/5 rating.

transformers magazine 1

Issue 2

We received the second Transformers magazine.  It came with two free gifts: a figure (called Bumblebee) and some trading cards.  There was also a game (no wordsearch unlike the first issue), a comic strip, a poster and pictures drawn by Transformers magazine.  This magazine is quite good.  I will give it a 3/5 rating.

transformers magazine 2

Pregnancy Diary: 20 Weeks

Today I am 20 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  I had my scan yesterday which was lovely.  Everything is fine and the baby is a boy.  It suddenly seems more real now.

20 weeks

Baby is: the size of a mango.  He is moving around a lot and the kicks are getting stronger.

I am: still struggling with insomnia, and the dizziness is worse when I haven’t slept.  Being half way through the pregnancy feels good though and I’m letting myself get a little bit excited about meeting the boy.

 

Pregnancy Diary: 19 Weeks

Today I am 19 weeks and 6 days pregnant, and behind schedule with this post again.  The photos were taken last Saturday before a garden party.  I was quite pleased to be able to fit into my size 10 East dress (last year’s eBay bargain) at 19 weeks pregnant – I wasn’t sure that I was going to get much wear out of it this summer.

19 weeks

Baby is: the size of a mango.  All the senses are developing now, and baby recognises my voice.

I am: feeling a bit rubbish.  It’s been a bad week, apart from the high spot of fitting into the dress.  Oh and I managed to make a rather good coffee cake for Paul’s birthday yesterday.  Other than that, I think I will draw a veil over it and hope that next week will be better.

 

 

Pregnancy Diary: 18 Weeks

It’s been a very busy week and I’ve suddenly realised that I’m 18 weeks and 6 days pregnant, so I’d better try and get this post published tonight.

18 weeks

Baby is: the size of a sweet potato – these vegetable comparisons are getting weirder I think!  I’m feeling lots of strong kicks now and seeing some of the movements too which is bizarre and quite compelling to watch.

I am: struggling with insomnia again – it’s now been over a week since I had a proper sleep and it’s just so hard to get anything done.  I’m also being bothered a bit by leg cramps, but otherwise physically everything is fine.  I started pregnancy yoga last Friday and I’m looking forward to my next class tomorrow.  It’s complicated to make the time to go to it, and sometimes feels stressful to make it happen, but I know it will be worth it.

Pregnancy Diary: 17 Weeks

Today I am 17 weeks and one day pregnant.

17 weeks

Baby is: the size of a turnip.  Long pause here while I wonder if that’s a Scottish turnip or an English one.  And google it.  Not sure I found the answer, but at least on the way round the internet I was reminded of this useful Scots word – must use it in conversation more.  Anyway I digress…  Baby is very active so I can feel the movements much more clearly, and even see my tummy moving quite often.

I am: still very tired, and not liking the heat – I think it is the reason I’m feeling more dizzy and faint again.  I’m starting to enjoy being pregnant though.  I love feeling (and seeing!) the baby move and it’s beginning to seem a bit more real.

I am getting a bit fed up about people making rude remarks about us having five children, but some people are lovely about it, and actually the “I wish I could have had more” comments are almost as frequent as the negative ones.  I spoke to a lady today who has two children, but wanted to have four or five.  She lost a baby when she was 40 and decided she couldn’t go through it again.  It’ s one of those brief conversations that really touched me and I will probably never forget it.  So today, despite all the minor reasons I am a bit stressed, most of all I am feeling very lucky.

Pregnancy Diary: 16 Weeks

I am 16 weeks and one day pregnant.  I was really trying to get back on track and planned to write this post last night, but it was such a busy day.  By the time I took the photos it was late at night, in electric light, and I looked terrible.  So I deleted the photos, and took some more today which I think are slightly better (though rather blurry – I was in a hurry!) , and were at least taken in daylight.

16 weeks

Baby is: the size of an avocado, and can now probably hear. I should mention this to Paul, as he will want to start introducing the baby to a wide selection of classical and choral works as soon as possible.  Not sure I’m ready to unleash that just yet.  I might get Tiddler to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to my tummy though!

I am: completely exhausted but generally feeling a bit better than I have been.  That’s about as positive as I can be at quarter to midnight.  Hoping for a good night’s sleep, but it might be difficult in this heat.

 

Pregnancy Diary: 15 Weeks

I am 15 weeks and one day pregnant today.  I am probably too tired to be coherent, but I’m determined to get this post up tonight!

15 weeks

Baby is: the size of an orange, and can now control his/her own movements.  I’m still feeling them when I remember to pay attention and I’m trying to do that as much as I can, though I’ve been so busy it’s hard to do, but at night I can feel it and it’s nice.

I am: very tired – I know I have said that every week, but it’s still the only thing I can think of to say when people ask me how I am.  Really all I want to do is sleep, and if I ever lie down in the daytime I can fall asleep easily.  Not so much at night, unfortunately.

I have now seen the diabetic nurse, and got my blood testing kit, because I had gestational diabetes in my last pregnancy.  So far my levels have been fine, but the testing is a real nuisance and quite unpleasant.  It’s also quite difficult being organised with snacks when I am out, and I’m feeling a bit more sick again because I’m trying to eat fewer carbs and fruit which are often the things I am craving to deal with the sickness.  It’s a very tricky balance, but I’m going to try really hard to manage the diabetes with my diet as I did last time.  I really don’t want to have to take the medication which may make it less likely that I will be able to have a natural birth.  I know it’s early to be worrying about that but I can’t help it.  I have had lovely natural births with my last two babies, and felt completely normal straight afterwards instead of feeling like I’ve been in a car crash.  I can only hope I will be so lucky again.