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Our Tiny Home: Kids

It’s a funny thing what we, as adults see now when we look back on our childhoods. I grew up in a lovely, but not massive three bedroom house in the South East of England. All of my childhood memories in that house, where my parents still live, involve my mum and dad working their arses off to decorate, improve, maintain and make that house a beautiful, adapted home for our needs as a family. It never felt small or anything less than perfect to me. Now, when I return as an adult, the house seems huge, the up-keep of it overwhelming and never ending. I have far more comprehension of my parent’s never ending demands to keep it tidy – letting standards go for a little while results in a whole day of playing catch-up. This is, of course, because I choose to live with my two small children and husband in an apartment approximately the size of my parent’s living room.

I’ve spoken before about why we choose to do this and, yes, one of the biggest reasons is necessity. We need to live in central Paris for work and central Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world right now. We cannot afford anything bigger. However, SINCE we’ve been doing this, some reasons to continue have become clear – not least to do with our children. When I was pregnant we started to think about what children really need to thrive and, although it’s still very much a work in process, we came to some different conclusions.

Bedrooms

I’ve written before about how we don’t have a bedroom. We sleep in our living room and have given the bedroom of our apartment to the boys. For someone else who does this, check out the wonderful Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. It’s been an interesting experience, mostly when having guests over but we’ve only really found it problematic when I need to sleep in the mornings (my husband could sleep through the apocolypse!).

Fred currently sleeps next to us in the Chicco Next to Me Co-Sleeper but as of next month will move in with Arthur and share the bedroom with him. I really really think that shared rooms are so great for kids. I shared with my eldest brother for a while and my brothers shared a room until one of them moved out at eighteen. I like the idea of them having a camaraderie and a space that’s theirs away from adult life.

We try to keep the space as simple as possible, rotate the toys out and available for them and easy to keep tidy and clean. 

Kid Spaces

Something that takes up alot of space but I really love is our toddler size table and chairs in the kitchen. This was such a great addition to our home when we were really struggling with Arthur needing to have one of us close by (another advantage of a small space is, let’s face it, that we’re always close by!). With the table in the kitchen I can cook, Fred can be in his chair and Arthur can be playing or drawing at his table and we can be spending time together whilst doing our own things. 

We try to keep the living room/bedroom space toy and kid stuff free. This is firstly because there’s already so much of our life jammed in there and secondly because it’s where we sleep – I like it to be as calm and clutter free as possible. We keep a play mat and baby-gym in there and that’s about it. 

We try and keep things as accessible as possible for Arthur around the home. He can help with dinner & chop vegetables at his table or he has a step to get up to the kitchen counters. His bathroom stuff is in a cupboard at his level and he can use his step to get to the sink. 

Small living is constantly forcing us to redefine what we think of as necessary space. What do we need to have a satisfying home life? I don’t think that having children means that you need to immediately move into a bigger space, or that you suddenly need more storage to store all the extra stuff that traditionally comes with having children. As with all things, a little shift in thinking, a movement in the right direction is all it takes. 

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Pelvic Floor Re-education…What, Why & How?

Today I want to write about a topic which is always surrounded by much intrigue in our English Speaking Mums in Paris facebook group: Perineal re-education. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a question about this mysterious therapy asked by a mum who’s been prescribed it after giving birth. I asked the lovely mums in our group what they’d like to know about re-education and got some fantastic responses. It seems that there’s a lot of mystery and myth surrounding re-education, what to expect and why it’s practiced so widely here (hint; it’s not, as the myths might suggest merely to make monsieur feel a little more snug!)

I’ve enlisted the help of three experts in their fields to explain to you all the what, why and how of Perineal re-education.

  • Vicki is a UK based physiotherapist specialised in female health care and she’ll be telling us all about the amazing muscle, or group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor and why it’s considered so important to re-educate them.
  • Sharon Bales is a wonderful yoga teacher whom I’m sure many of you know personally. She specialises in fertility, pre and post natal yoga and is also now teaching hypnobirthing classes here in Paris. She’ll be talking about how we can care for our perineal muscles in our daily movements and how to keep them healthy.
  • Diana Powell-Bodrone is a midwife and lactation consultant who works here in Paris under the French healthcare system and is going to tell us all about how to get your free re-education sessions.

Vicki

  1. What is my pelvic floor and why might it need to be “re-educated”?
    The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles within the pelvis. Its functions include support of internal organs (bladder, bowels and womb), maintaining continence of both the bladder and the bowel, assisting in bladder emptying and sexual function.

    It can be weakened by both pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, recurrent coughing, constipation/straining, lack of general fitness and neurological damage and the common conditions associated with pelvic floor weakness include incontinence, prolapses of bladder, bowel and womb and faecal incontinence. 
     

  2. Why do I need to worry about this if I’ve given birth, either vaginally or by c-section?
    When you’re pregnant with the growing foetus inside your womb, the muscles are stretched significantly over a long period of time. Without muscle retraining, they will not necessarily spring back into place following childbirth (whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section). Therefore exercise is needed to shorten and tighten the muscles again, reducing your risk of the above conditions associated with a weakened pelvic floor. 
     
  3. Why have I never heard of this reeducation where I am from?
    Unfortunately, lack of education. This country (The UK) is particularly poor at education in the ante natal period. People are handed leaflets within a pack of information regarding childbirth and pregnancy by their midwife but are not specifically trained or educated regarding the importance of this muscle. 
     
  4. Why is this so important?
    Leakage of urine is a common and well known problem for women following childbirth. It is known to affect 1 in 3 women.

    The incidence of 3rd degree tears is as high as 1-9% of all vaginal deliveries, as recognised by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG). This could have a huge impact on a women’s continence, both bladder and bowel in the short and long term. It can also affect sexual relations due to pain. The incidence of faecal incontinence as a result of these tears is as high as 50%, but is not discussed as openly as urinary incontinence. Failure to manage these conditions at the time of injury could be detrimental to a women’s quality of life and many become socially isolated as a result.

    The menopause can highlight problems with discomfort, leakage, pain and prolapse as a result of hormonal and vascular changes. These symptoms can be minimalized in the future with regular pelvic floor training immediately following childbirth and for life. Up to 30% of women who attend physiotherapy on their first session are not correctly performing a pelvic floor muscle contraction. It is vital that you know how to do this correctly for long term protection.
     

  5. How common are these problems?
    1 in 3 women suffer with Stress urinary incontinence
    50% of women have some degree of prolapse
    1 in 10 people suffer with some form of bowel problem
    21.8% of women complain of pain with intercourse

Sharon

The first step in maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is to establish a healthy connection to it.  There is so much bad and old information out there about the pelvic floor.  Many women never even consider their pelvic floor until pregnancy or post-birth recovery, and many, many women honestly have no idea what the pelvic floor is.  Understanding that these muscle bundles, which should operate in harmony with the respiratory diaphragm are in fact an integral part of your core strength is key.

Another great myth of the pelvic floor is that every woman needs to tighten and strengthen and do kegel exercises to achieve this.  Oh dear, this is such an oversimplification that it is simply worthless information.  It’s important for the pelvic floor to not only be able to contract and be strong, it is just as essential to be able to relax these muscles.  In fact, a “too-tight” pelvic floor, or what is called a “hyper-tonic” pelvic floor, is often the culprit in pelvic pain and other pelvic issues.

Once you can connect with your pelvic floor and it’s clear which muscles we’re talking about, learning to engage these muscles in movement will make you feel stronger… because you are stronger when using these muscles correctly!  We have so many movement habits in our lives, it’s important to start thinking about the way we move, sit, stand, and carry things and how this impacts the balance of those muscles.

Connecting with and maintaining the health of your pelvic floor will not only strengthen your core power, but will also do much to prevent prolapse of pelvic organs, allow you to breathe more deeply and efficiently, prevent and resolve some pelvic pain issues including pain during sex.  Training those muscles to engage and release properly will usually resolve problems with leaking pee when you laugh, cough, jump, etc.  

Diana 

  1. How can I obtain my free re-education sessions in France?
    Usually you will be given a prescription when leaving the maternity. This is however, changing a little and is not always prescribed upon discharge to mothers who’ve had “normal” complication free births. This does not mean that you’re not qualified for it. Ask your midwife or gynaecologist at your six week check up for a prescription and they’ll be able to give it to you. You can also ask your general practitioner or gynaecologist at any point for a prescription and they will give you one for ten, or more sessions. 
  2. What are the methods of re-education? 
    On the prescription there is usually three things:
    Sondre (this is a wand used for internal muscle stimulation when there is no feeling)
    Manual (this is the part when the practitioner goes through various exercises using their fingers to work the internal perineal muscles)
    Abdominals (It’s really important that this is included in the re-education programme as these are the support of the pelvic muscle)
    Both sage-femmes (midwives) and kinéstherapistes (physiotherapists) can perform just one, or a combination of these techniques to achieve results. You should ask, upon meeting your practitioner, which techniques they practise and make a choice based off of your preference.

Ladies I just cannot over-state the importance of these re-education sessions, if only if as a tool to get to know your pelvic floor. If a medical environment is not your thing, get yourself to one of Sharon’s classes, take a beginners pilates class (lots of pelvic floor connection!) do some reading about your muscles and learn about how your amazing bodies work! Putting some good work in now can truly make a difference in the fight against some of the above listed conditions and, as women we need to take the time to take care of ourselves and do some preventative healthcare! 

If you need any help or advice about pelvic pain, incontinence, pain during or after sex or any other problems, do ask your gynaecologist, midwife or general practitioner what can be done to help. There are options out there!

You can find all of Sharon’s details here.

And all of Diana’s details here.

And finally, these gorgeous designs are by Duvet Days and you can get them here. Designs by Duvet Days Is a subsidiary of DuvetDays.org – An organization that uses design to create awareness, self discovery, and a space for self-love while supporting those affected by rape and domestic abuse. 

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Toddler Life: Audio Books & Quiet Time

It’s finally happened. Nap time is totally off the table. To be totally honest, it’s been off the table for a while now but naps were still happening occasionally and when they did, choirs of Angels sang praises from the skies. I loved nap time. 

However, we’ve transitioned to “Quiet time” and while it’s not always quiet…and not always a lot of time…it seems to be working for us. The basic concept is that Arthur does a quiet activity in his bedroom for one hour. It sounds simple enough but finding a way to keep him chill and happy for quiet time has taken a while to get right. That’s where audiobooks have come in. We get our audiobooks from a variety of sources, but first – why have quiet time at all?

  • For your own sanity. Now seriously, life in a tiny space with a tiny tornado of a two year old can get a bit intense. Throw in a husband who works at night and sometimes needs to sleep during the day, a baby who needs to nap, no second bedroom and a thousand tasks that need to be done & quiet time is literally saving lives. 
  • Allows children time to reset, be with themselves and rest. Important stuff for little bodies and minds that are on the go and learning all day long. 
  • It increases confidence, creativity and independence. This is the time of the day that Arthur is really alone to play. I’m not there for him to bounce ideas off, play with, or even talk to. This is generally the time when he does his most imaginative playing, challenges himself with what he plays with (our dominoes, lotto and matching cards get used a lot in this time) and also what books he looks at. 

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have been a fantastic addition to our quiet times. We use a wireless bluetooth speaker that I control from my iPad or phone. This has been useful because I can control the volume, turning it down or off totally if Arthur, by some incredible chance actually falls asleep. As the stories for his age group are generally shorter than one hour, I can also control what he listens to next. We get our audiobooks from a variety of places:

  • CDs that come with books. Yes it’s still possible to buy books with audio CD’s attached! We don’t have a CD player but I just pop them on the computer and then onto my iPad or phone. We’ve got a few lovely ones like this including Emma Thompson’s Peter Rabbit stories and a really gorgeous version of Peter and the Wolf. 
  • YouTube. Often it’s possible to listen on YouTube. We just play the sound on the wireless speaker while the video plays elsewhere. It’s not our favourite way to listen but it works and we’ve found some lovely classics like Wind in the Willows and lots of Beatrix Potter stories. 
  • Record yourself or a loved one reading. This is currently our favourite way to listen to stories. My Grandma recently found a recording my Grandpa made in the eighties of him reading bedtime stories to my eldest cousin Hannah. Hannah’s managed to put them onto a memory stick for a few of us cousins who have small children and so, often Arthur will be read a story by my grandfather, who died when I was thirteen. It really is incredible and heart rending to hear his voice reading to my son, whom he never met. I wonder when he recorded it, if he could have imagined that Arthur or any of his other five great-grandchildren would be listening to his stories fifteen years after his life had ended. It really is magical to me that Arthur can hear his voice and it has encouraged me to record myself and others reading stories too.

With an audiobook playing in the background, Arthur will happily play in his room for at least an hour at a time. We try to time it for just after lunch, when everyone needs a break before diving into the afternoon’s activities. Do you implement a quiet time in your house? Do you love audiobooks too? Let me know your favourites & where you’re getting them! We’re always looking for more.

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Paris Kitchen: Spice Up Your Leftovers

If you’re anything like our family, you get to the end of a week and the vegetable tray of the fridge is left with some sad looking strays. A bunch of coriander you only needed a couple of stems from, an ambitious aubergine not yet used, some slightly wilty spinach, an extra avocado, you get my drift. For us it varies from week to week but there’ll generally always be some spare veg lying around. 

For this exact situation, I always keep various things in my freezer and cupboards to transform sad, wilty leftover veg into sexy, healthy bowls of goodness. It obviously depends on your taste, but I like to keep around:

Freezer

  • Beef, Chicken and mushroom broth, frozen in portioned baggies
  • Seven veg tomato sauce, frozen in portioned baggies
  • Pesto, chilled, rolled into sausages and frozen in parchment paper
  • Herbs, diced, frozen on a baking sheet & then put into paper bags or boxes

Cupboard

  • Soy sauce
  • Tahini
  • Sesame oil
  • Miso paste
  • Olive oil & balsamic vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Herbs and spices (Turmeric, coriander, fennel seeds, paprika, chilli flakes, cumin, masala etc)
  • Buckwheat noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles etc
  • Couscous (so quick!)
  • Brown Rice and risotto rice

With a decent stock of flavourful ingredients on hand, it’s possible to make a delicious; healthy meal out of the very dregs of the veg drawer – no meat needed! The bowl pictured above was a sweet potato, spinach, coriander and a slightly over ripe avocado that got roasted, sliced and sautéed in sesame oil, turmeric and chilli flakes and popped in a bowl of mushroom broth miso and buckwheat noodles. Today’s bowl is going to involve some kind of roasted turmeric cauliflower, sweet potato, red and yellow peppers and whatever else I can find! Cooking like this turns me into a braver cook, trying more varied flavours and combinations of ingredients that I would normally overlook. Give it a go & see what you come up with! 

PS. For the Parisian cook; I get all of my soy, tahini, sesame, miso & seaweed at the Japanese supermarket on Rue Levis 75017. xx

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When Wine 0’Clock Becomes a Problem

I’d like to preface this post with an admission. I’ve been avoiding publishing this since January. I’ve been worried about what the reaction might be, I’ve been worried that people might feel judged and I’ve been worried about my own reaction. Because here’s the thing, by publishing this I have to really step up and tackle my own relationship with wine. I have to draw some lines. If I’m calling out a culture that is hurting and affecting women, I need to not be a hypocrite in my own life and I need to cut out the thing that’s hurting and affecting me. Although I’m not in trouble yet, how far will I let it go? How far would I let a friend go?

Let’s get this out of the way. I love wine. Love love it. I come from a family of wine lovers, I live in France, my in-laws have spectacular taste in wine. I am not standing in judgement of any wine lover, any mother, or any drinker – addict or otherwise – at all. I’ve spent most of my working life in pubs, bars and restaurants – as has my husband – and we have both, at different times been heavy drinkers and tee-total.

This is not a post about wine per say. It’s more a post about the things we as mothers are using as crutches and wine happens to be the biggest one and, in my opinion, the most dangerous. Because let’s be honest, when we’re counting down the minutes until we can pour ourselves a nice crisp glass of white every single day, there’s a problem.

This whole issue stems from something good – the honest mother bloggers, the mum’s who tell each other the honest truth, that parenting – particularly motherhood, is hard; here, have a glass of wine. Relax, un-wind. You deserve it. I get it. And you DO deserve to treat yourself, you DO deserve something adult that’s yours. We spend so much of our lives now tied so closely to our children, never alone, their music on the radio, their toys littering our previously glamorous lives that that six o’clock glass of wine has almost become a symbol of our old selves. An act of rebellion, an act of freedom that our children cannot partake in. 

The thing is though, with this wine o’clock rhetoric is that it’s dangerous. Whilst you – the generally happy mum who finds motherhood challenging, but is not depressed, who has a messy house, but is not about to be evicted with your three children and nowhere to go, who likes a glass or two on the odd occasion, but does not struggle with addiction – you can moderate, there are 100 other mums who can’t. I realise that this is a point of personal responsibility, but we also have a responsibility to each other. When every single mother on social media seems to be declaring Wine O’clock every single night at six PM, heavy drinking seems normalised. Well – everyone else is doing it, so I can’t have a problem. The thing is that I know at least three of these lovely ladies who are huge Wine O’clock proclaimers, who in fact rarely drink and have zero problems regulating themselves. 

My wonderful, sensible friend Michelle would point out here that your treat might not necessarily be booze related. The “You Deserve It” mentality is giving us free reign to hurt ourselves. YES you deserve a treat, NO you don’t need to eat a whole tub of ice-cream every night. YES you deserve a nice glass of wine occasionally, NO you don’t need one every night. YES you deserve nice clothes, NO you shouldn’t go on a spending spree with money you don’t have.

Alcohol in general is certainly socially acceptable in most places now and, along with food and shopping,  is an addiction that has become socially acceptable too. I think it’s very easy to forget that alcohol is a drug and when we replace “I’ve had a hard day and I need a glass of wine now” with “I’ve had a hard day and I need a line of coke now” suddenly that doesn’t seem OK. Are we getting to the point where we as mothers need to re-evaluate what we use at the end of the day to relax?

For all of these reasons, I’m calling an end to my personal Wine O’Clocks. No more cheers selfies sent to my Whats App groups. I’m not going to celebrate addiction anymore – even when it’s wrapped up in the pretty packaging of a deserving, over-worked mother. 

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Paris Kitchen: Sweet Potato & Spinach Soup with Salmon

It’s February! I’ve been reading everywhere that people have found this January to have really dragged on and on, particularly in Paris where it has rained every. single. day. Honestly I’ve not found it so bad, but I’ve been in a slight new born haze cosied up inside! 

Anyway February is here and with it, the hope of Spring in the air. If you had good healthy eating resolutions for January but actually just ate the Christmas season leftovers all month long, you are not alone! February is an excellent point to really commit to nourishing your body with excellent, wholesome food. The celebrations tins are empty, the Bailey’s is finally finished and the promise of warmer days are just around the corner.

Here’s a gorgeous and SUCH an easy lunch recipe to keep you excited for fresh produce and leafy greens; Spinach & sweet potato soup with a side of grilled salmon. Enjoy!

For Two Servings You’ll Need:

  • One medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 500ml good quality, low sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • Three big hand-fulls of baby spinach leaves
  • Slivered almonds or mixed seeds (optional to serve)
  • Pesto (optional to serve)
  • Two salmon filets
  • Olive oil, salt & pepper

How to:

  • Boil your sweet potato in your stock until soft. Add your spinach, cook for a further two minutes and remove from the heat. Blend until smooth with a stick blender.
  • Meanwhile, heat up a little oil in a pan and fry your salmon over a medium heat for about four minutes on each side, or to your desired cuisson. I like mine still pretty rare in the middle!
  • Serve your salmon with a tablespoon of pesto (I used some spinach & walnut pesto I made earlier this week) and your soup with a sprinkling of slivered almonds or mixed seeds.

This whole lunch takes 20-30 minutes to make and is really so filling and delicious. There’s so much scope for playing around with it too. Change up the veg depending on what’s in season, throw some fresh ginger in there to spice things up a little, experiment with different fish. 

Let me know what you end up with! Enjoy!

 

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Three Plus One Makes Four

Here we are, deep into the fourth trimester. I wish I could say it’s been slow, sleepy and spent mostly in bed – but that would be a lie. Such is the fate of a second child (and mother of two!). 

Luckily we’ve found Fred to be generally calm natured. He’s slotted in nicely to our small, toddler dominated space. Arthur’s somehow found it in him to make some room for his brother, even asking me if Freddie can share his bed this evening (hard pass; too much risk of erratic kicking from both boys). I was worried about this dynamic; that my precious first born would feel ousted, that our firm routine would suffer, that our apartment would descend into a molten pit of dirty nappies, dirty dishes and disturbed sleep…and don’t get me wrong, things have changed but here are my thoughts on how to have a calm, restorative fourth trimester with a toddler in tow:

Let go of any and all expectations

You have two children now – it will take some getting used to. When they both cry at the same time you will momentarily have no idea who to go to first. If you have a partner around – divide and conquer, if you don’t – prioritise. I find everything generally goes better if I put my boob in Fred’s mouth first. The situation immediately drops a couple of decibels and I’m able to tend to whatever Arthur needs (learning how to breastfeed while baby wearing really REALLY helped this one.) It doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable, you don’t look glamorous or Instagramable and your apartment CERTAINLY doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable but the baby is fed, the overall volume of things has massively decreased and your first born is getting attention. That’s a win in my books. 

Nothing will look anything like you expected. Which is why you must…

Accept all offers of help 

All of them. Including the things you thought you’d never accept. Like a long bubble bath at your mate’s house while she holds the baby because you don’t have a bath and your back is SO stiff from all that falling asleep upright. 

Let your mother-in-law hold the baby, let your friend do your washing up, eat the cake that people bring you even if you’re freaking out about the baby weight. Nobody will ever bring you baked goods over in such quantities with no judgement at how fast you eat them ever again. Take advantage. 

Let the little things go

No. You don’t need to mop the kitchen floor right now. 
Yup. Your toddler can in fact watch Cars 3 for the second time this week and it will not kill him.
Who gives a sh** that it’s dry shampoo? (I HIGHLY recommend H&M’s dry shampoo.)

Cling to the structures that help

Having said all of that, if you have systems and structures that keep you sane already in place, cling to them. For example, I made an effort to shower & put my makeup and clean clothes on every day in the couple of weeks postpartum when you don’t really feel like doing that. It helped me feel fresh on next to no sleep, prepared for the day with my kids and happy about myself. I also like my environment to be tidy – so I take at least 10 minutes a day to do a superficial tidy away of surface mess (hide it in cupboards). Do what works for you and don’t apologise for it. Sometimes self-care is a reluctant shower and a speed clean. 

Nourish and love your body 

The big one. You just had a baby! Your body is incredible! Reward it with nourishing food, warm drinks, hearty soups, stews, casseroles and stir fry’s. Hopefully some kind soul (or yourself) have filled your freezer with at least a couple of meals that take minimal effort from you and only require one hand to eat. Treat your body with respect and love – it’s just given you the greatest gift and does not want to hear any “Snapping back” “Shedding the baby weight” bollocks the Daily Mail might want to throw at it – in fact, just step away from tabloid newspapers and “Women’s magazines” altogether. 

Finally, give yourself a massive hug. This mum stuff isn’t easy, but you’re going to be just fine.

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Paris Kitchen: Batch Cooking

When I was about twenty-five weeks pregnant with Fred, my friend Jenni and I got together to cook. She had her six month old daughter playing nearby and we managed to shop for and cook twenty eight portions of food (four different recipes!) in an afternoon. I have always batched cooked, but we currently have a tiny freezer in the top of our fridge so I’ve felt a bit limited with it. As far as space goes, I really shouldn’t feel limited – I have the scope to do so much when it comes to preparing meals in advance, as do you and here’s how:

Why batch cook?

Batch cooking for me ensures that I always have a healthy meal on hand and ready to go. I can host toddlers for tea or a friend for dinner at a moment’s notice. I rarely ever have to make a dash for the shops in the rain, with a baby strapped to my chest and a wilful toddler asking constantly for chocolate cake. Making things like sauces and pesto means that my cooking time during the evening is drastically reduced and I have more time to play cars on the kitchen floor. It means that my husband (or the person who doesn’t normally stock or run the family kitchen) can serve my kids healthy food that they enjoy without having to think about it and the whole thing reduces kitchen induced stress dramatically!

 The lovely Emily & Sarah releasing their inner Chefs
The lovely Emily & Sarah releasing their inner Chefs

Planning

  1. Gather your team
    Maybe it’s because I’ve always cooked in big family kitchens or restaurant kitchens but I like cooking in a team. Find some other like-minded friends, or mums who have kids the same age as yours (similar portion sizes) and cook together! This is especially great in Paris because we don’t all have fully equipped or big enough kitchens. Choose the friend with the biggest and most equipped kitchen and get together.
  2. Menu plan
    I never batch cook for the whole week ahead as we dont have the space, but make things that I use a lot of (the seven veg tomato sauce – recipe below), meals that I know are always a hit when I do them (the fish pie – recipe to come next week), or things to bring out in a no food in the house crises (meatballs, fish fingers, crackers, pesto, soup etc). Be sensible about what you’re actually going to use or you’ll end up with a freezer full of bone broth because you’ve read about how awesome it is for you but you’ll realistically never use. 
  3. Shop
    To save time when I batch cook I make sure to shop somewhere that will definitely have everything I need, which is not as easy as it sounds in Paris. When I do our weekly shop I go to the market/cheese-monger/butcher/baker etc. but for batch cooking I head straight to the supermarket. The list is split into the ingredients for each meal and whatever containers I’m going to need to store them.
  4. Storage
    Generally I try to eliminate plastic and disposable containers as much as possible using mason jars and IKEA glass storage boxes. However, we do use ziplock freezer bags for the soups and sauces as they freeze flat and save us so much space. I’ve also just found some excellent toddler portioned size foil ramekins.

Execution

Some general advice to consider:

  • Rather than cooking one recipe at a time, I like to wash, chop and cook all the veggies first. Especially if I’m doing seven veg tomato sauce or a vegetable soup. That way I can get the sauce on the go quickly while the onions and leeks are sweating in olive oil for the fish pie. 
  • This doesn’t have to be your technique. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll find your own rhythm and flow for the process. 
  • I like to clean as I go, it keeps me calm as I cook and means that you don’t extend your cooking time with clean up.

Seven Vegetable Tomato Sauce

We use this sauce as a base for practically everything. I keep it un-seasoned in portioned bags so that it can be transformed easily into soup, pizza base, pasta sauce, curry, tomato base for chilli and spaghetti bolognese or anything else that calls for a can of tomatoes.

  • Two 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 small sweet potato 

Roughly chop all the veg into cubes.
Fry the leek, onion, garlic and carrots in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat until they start to soften.
Add the rest of the veg and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add the cans of tomatoes. Fill each can up 3/4 of the way with water, swish around and add to the pot too. 
Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for an hour or until the vegetables are soft.
Blend the sauce with a stick blender, divide into portions, let cool and freeze for up to three months. 

The fish pie, meatballs, pesto and crackers are all recipes I’ll be putting up on the blog in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled on instagram and Facebook!

Happy cooking!

xx

 

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Paris Kitchen: Quick Chocolate Orange Cake

Stan’s love language is not gift giving. He doesn’t see things and think that I’ll like them, it’s just not in his nature – so generally I’m pleasantly surprised when he gets a gift so spectacularly right , it’s as if he was in my head. Obviously my favourite gift this Christmas was the Harry Potter wand that controls the TV (all my Witching dreams come true!) but my runner up was the absurdly lovely book “Feeding a family: A real life plan for making dinner work” by Sarah Waldman.

Christmas day was just a week ago and I’ve already made three dinner recipes and three desserts from this book. They’re all healthy, packed with nutrients and what’s more, Arthur has devoured all of them. As I might have mentioned, we’ve been going through a bit of a vegetable dry patch with Arthur. I’ve tried to remain calm about it, tried to remember that it’s just a phase but, as a cook it’s been really disheartening and my passion for cooking family meals has suffered as a result. 

Well, long story short, I think Arthur’s eaten more vegetables this week than he has in the whole of the rest of December. Basically this book is the inspiration I’ve been searching for and I encourage you, if you want to up your kitchen game with ease, to get this book and follow Sarah Waldman’s blog too. You won’t regret it. 

I’ve included in this post her recipe for quick chocolate citrus cake. This dense, delicious cake has been a massive hit in our house (particularly with Terry’s Chocolate Orange loving me and Arthur!). Just to clarify – this ISN’T my recipe and I want to give full credit where credit is due.

Recipe

  • 200g dark 70% chocolate
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Whipped cream & sliced orange for the top
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210° Celsius and grease an 8 inch cake pan. Line the cake pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Slowly melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat until smooth. Add the coconut sugar to the chocolate mixture, stir well, and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one by one to the chocolate mixture, whisking well after adding each egg. Add the flour and the orange juice and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 25 minutes or until the center of the cake looks just set.
  4. Once removed from the oven allow the cake to cool for ten minutes or so still in the cake pan on a wire cooling rack, then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and peel away the greaseproof paper. Allow the cake to cool completely before topping with the whipped cream and oranges.

This cake is decadent enough to be served as dessert at your next dinner party, but equally just as easy to whip up for your kid’s gouter or evening dessert. It was such a treat to have chocolate cake mid-week that Arthur thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I!

Happy baking!

 

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A Simple Christmas

Another Christmas over! For all the build up, Christmas day really does fly by and because France doesn’t do boxing day, it’s back to business as usual over here. 

This year we had our first Christmas as a family of four and for the first time, we celebrated as our own family unit. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or great-grandparents at all! While we certainly missed being with our families at this special time of year, we had such a simple, relaxed Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t end up over-eating (although Stan made us THE most delicious roast beef and Yorkshire puddings – I contributed M&S mince pies and Paxo stuffing from a box!). We also had time to enjoy our gifts and time spent with eachother as we had no schedule, no commitments and nothing to do other than kick back and enjoy our days

As we head into the New Year, our Christmas experience got me thinking. What do I want more of in 2018? It’s set to be a pretty exciting year work wise for us, we have two children now and life needs to shift a little again to reflect our new addition and commitments. What I want more of is:

  • Space – not physical, but time in our schedules to explore Paris, get out to the countryside more and spend my maternity leave focussed on the boys. 
  • Spontaneity – I really do thrive on structure and routine, but, as usual, the best parties and days are those where plans are made last minute, meals are thrown together and schedule goes out of the window!
  • Simplicity – as always, I’ll be looking for places to simplify. Whether that’s in my home-making, my parenting, my creativity, our living space or my work, I’ll still be seeking the simplest solution.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, with your loved ones – or without! What are your hopes and wishes for 2018? How will you be using this coming year? 

xxx