I love Autumn. I love the possibility it heralds; like January 1st only without the Christmas hangover and with crisp sunshine days and crunchy leaves. Most of all I love the opportunity to buy new stationary that each academic year brings. And I know I’m not alone in this. This year, however, I was mostly buying name-tags, seemingly hundreds of them, for Little BB has now started pre-school. It’s only 2.5 days a week, and those are short, school days, but it feels like the end of an era, which it is in a way, and I’m not ashamed to say I had a quiet little sob when I dropped him off on his first day. Not that he was in any way bothered. As soon as he saw the trikes and cars in the pre-school playground he was off without a backward glance. Which is obviously brilliant, but at the same time a little dispiriting. Even more so when I discovered at the end of the week that he didn’t want to come home!
How time flies when you’re having fun/raising children. Little BB turned three recently, and as well as suddenly becoming very expensive to take to pretty much any activity, the arrival of this magic number also means -according to Holly Bell, finalist in the original Great British Bake Off – that I have only a limited amount of time before I am forced to start making birthday cakes which are three parts sugar paste to one part cake; aka a superhero/cartoon cake. As I hate sugar paste with a scarcely believable passion, this news is most depressing to me, and I fear this may be my final window of opportunity to make an actual edible cake, hence this old school chocolate cake which I have covered in sweets/chocolates in an attempt to disguise my inept icing.
We are now into week three of potty training Little BB and think it is fair to say we, or rather he, have (fingers crossed and touch wood) cracked it. Hurrah! We have even retired the jar of chocolate buttons, which were in my view an essential feature of the whole enterprise. Star charts and stickers are all very well, but they had absolutely no effect on Little BB; delayed gratification being very much a concept with which Little BB has no desire to become familiar.
Ever keen as I am to share the parenting love, for those of you yet to embark upon this most fun of activities, here are my top Potty-Training tips (remembering that every child is different, yadda yadda):
- Wait. We waited until Little BB was almost three and would have waited longer had I not been shamed into attempting it by the fact that all of his little friends had managed it months before. Note: this is not a reason to try. As my friend sagely remarked: ‘Potty train at two, dry by three. Potty train at three, dry by three’.
It’s Bake Off time again, or the Great British Bake Off to give it its proper title, and I for one could not be more delighted. I have been a devout follower of this, frankly ridiculous, show since it started. Any thoughts of applying to appear on it have, however, entirely vanished thanks to a former contestant’s candid behind-the-scenes portrayal of life under the big tent; since mysteriously deleted from the web. Hmmm.
That said, I am pleased to see the finalists in years gone by, the ones that were any good at least, doing well, and I feel a particular kinship for Holly Bell, runner up in series one. Like me she is not only an avid baker, but also an only child and mother of young boys (it was two and is now three, so I have some catching up to do). Her blog, Recipes From a Normal Mum, has now, inevitably, spawned a cookbook, which I am pleased to report is full of lovely sounding recipes that look both achievable and delicious, and crucially do not require the sourcing of a gigantic list of obscure ingredients, yes I’m looking at you Mr. Ottolenghi.
These biscuits have now joined my repertoire of go-to weaning snacks for MiniBB and LittleBB, thanks in particular to their limited number of ingredients, pretty much all of which I always have in the kitchen, and the fact that you can make them from start to finish in under half an hour. They are also good for getting small people involved in the baking process as there really is almost nothing they can do to make them go wrong. I said almost.
We are currently in the midst of Potty Training, something I have been dreading for as long as I have been thinking about it. Actually it seems to be going okay (touch wood), but for the moment let us turn our attention to a more wholesome small person activity: weaning. Somehow I had conveniently forgotten how much time this takes up and how much mess it makes. Even having carefully batch cooked and pureed a variety of fruit and vegetables in advance, I still find myself casting around for yet more food to give the insatiable eating machine that is Mini BB. And according to the books I will soon have to drop his morning bottle and replace it with actual food; something neither of us is looking forward to. Or wouldn’t be, if each of us had a concept of the future.
One of my friends, well a Facebook Friend essentially, has recently told me that she is ‘with child’. Obviously I’m delighted, but also a little sad. Not because she is about to discover the joys (and horrors) of motherhood for the first time, whereas if I have any more it will (according to Mr. BB at least) very much be for the last time, but because it reminded me that once, long ago, we were actual friends. Who actually spoke to each other. Mostly by telephone – a land-line no less, this was the 1990s – and we would spend hours dissecting the minutiae of our (frankly not-very-interesting) lives and those of our (equally uninteresting) friends and sworn enemies. My mother always said that she knew I was talking to her because I would be crying with laughter. Somewhere along the years, however, we drifted, and became people who wrote birthday messages on each others’ timelines and the occasional (not very) witty comment under the more outre status updates. So I’m hoping that her imminent induction into the secret world of mothers will allow us to reconnect. And for those already in the club, here is a blogpost which I dare you not to snort out loud at.
Oh and here’s a recipe too. It doesn’t look remotely like the photo in the book, but tasted nice all the same. Just so you know.
When I made this cake it was for our annual street party, which was a happy, sunny event on a Friday evening, even if Little BB did try to scooter down our road/hill on a borrowed scooter several sizes to big for him. I even used blueberries picked from our very own blueberry bush (singular, one of them died) in our very own (patio) garden. Supplemented by some from Ocado – 250g is a lot of blueberries I soon discovered. Then at the weekend I made the mistake of reading an article about Japanese Knotweed, a plant so awful even the Royal Horticultural Society describes it as a thug, and ever since I have been obsessed by it, to the exclusion of almost all else. I see it everywhere. And I am afraid; very afraid. I have taken to inspecting our garden almost hourly to ensure it hasn’t crept in to destroy all the equity in our house and my dreams of one day moving to somewhere with two bathrooms. I scan hedgerows and paving slabs for sign of its insidious tentacles, lest they should spread towards my front door whilst I am sleeping. I know this is not normal, but I simply can’t be stopped. Much like the plant.
My belief that IKEA truly is the seventh circle of Hell, was borne out today when I spent 20 minutes waiting in a queue, indeed the queue, whilst the poor beleagured checkout operator was forced to manually enter the barcodes of all the customers’ items because the scanner had broken. Only on this till, mind. The other tills were all working perfectly, as was amply demonstrated when after 20 minutes someone had the bright idea of actually opening them. Aarggh! Every time I go I swear it will be the last time, and then they suck you in with their reasonably priced flat-pack furniture (reasonably priced that is, until you factor in the cost to your relationship/sanity of attempting to assemble it) and their crazy Scandawegian foodstuffs (miniature Elk sausages!) and somehow despite only going for one or two items that absolutely cannot be sourced elsewhere, you end up leaving having spent a minimum of £100. It is physically impossible to spend less than this in IKEA. Fact.
This super simple and tasty cake was very nearly ‘emergency chocolate button traybake’ (utilising the jar of chocolate buttons purchased for Little BB’s potty training bribes) because of a basic baking error on my part; namely a failure to ensure that I had all of the ingredients before starting. Somehow it never occurred to me that desiccated coconut might not be a staple of every mini supermarket and 24-hour convenience store in Bristol. Poor Mr. BB is yet to recover from my frantic (and quite shouty) directives for him to scour the city centre for the stuff. Fortunately, however, it happened that my lovely friend B had some in her cupboard and was able to bring it over when she brought her daughter for a play date with Mini BB (by far the most popular member of the BB family at present) thus very much saving the day.
The moral of this (frankly quite dull) story, is therefore, check that you have everything, or can get everything you need for your recipe, before deciding to make it. Especially if it features desiccated coconut.
For those of you living under a rock, this past weekend was Glastonbury weekend; aka the Festival of Mud. Generally speaking it is possible to predict the weather for the last weekend of June based on the fact that it pretty much always rains at Glastonbury (and indeed Wimbledon), and this year looked to be no exception, with a glorious spell of summer sunshine set to end in a spectacular thunderstorm just in time for the festival. And yet I was forced to put my schadenfreude on hold when the sun shone and the rains stayed (mostly) away and everyone looked to be having a very lovely time indeed. Still, there’s always next year.
And so I stayed home with the little people (as I would in fact have done absent the little people. As well as mud, I hate massive crowds, sleeping (or not) in tents and very loud music not of my choosing. All in all not a festival match made in heaven you’ll agree) and made this cake for a friend of Mr. BB’s 50th birthday. As the cake is made with oil not butter it keeps well in the fridge, which given our recent lovely weather is just as well. I can’t vouch for how it would do under canvas, however.