Quarantine Diary: Week 10

Sunday 24th May

It’s my birthday! We had SUCH a lovely day! The kid was really excited and helped me open presents in the morning and I baked a fresh loaf of sourdough (one of my best so far).

I got loads of lovely presents and cards, and we picked some of the gorgeous roses from my garden to put in a vase.

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Easy sponge cake recipe

I have always admired those people who can knock up a cake without needing a recipe.
I’ve always known it’s something to do with ratios, but can never remember what the ratios are and how to apply them, so I always end up looking up a recipe anyway.

However, my mum taught me a really simple method which I think I probably could remember, so I thought I would write it down and share it. This is for a plain vanilla sponge cake.

I have read in the past an interesting article about the science of cake, which explained that beating the sugar and butter together first coats the individual granules of sugar with fat, and traps tiny air bubbles in with the granules, meaning that when combined with the other ingredients they retain these little bubbles, making a lighter and fluffier sponge cake. This is also why caster sugar is usually recommended for cakes instead of granulated sugar as it is smaller and finer, and therefore can trap more air. So if you can, always use caster sugar in your cakes, and always beat the butter and sugar together really well before adding the other ingredients.

Here it is:

Take 3 eggs and weigh them.
Measure out the same weight of butter and sugar and self-raising flour. Take the butter (at room temp, or softened) and sugar and beat them together until light and fluffy.
Gradually add in the eggs and flour bit by bit, mixing as you go. You might also want to add in a half-teaspoon of baking powder to help it rise.
Add a half teaspoon (or whole teaspoon depending on your taste) of vanilla essence.
And then split between 2 lined or greased cake pans, and bake at 180 for approx 15-20 mins (check on it and when a skewer comes out clean, they are done.

And voila! Lovely easy sponge cake!

Quarantine Diary: Week 9

Sunday 17th May

Despite falling asleep knackered half an hour earlier than normal, the kid was up at 1.30am and took a while to go back to sleep, though when she woke up again at 6am she came into my bed and we both slept til around 8.30am which was nice. After breakfast we got in the car and went back to Port Meadow, this time to meet a couple of friends from London who haven’t left the city since lockdown began. Was SO lovely to see them and go for a socially-distanced walk (we stayed 2m apart the whole time). It felt so normal to finally be able to see friends again, and go for walks etc.

It was a lovely day, and we got to see all the horses and cows up close this time which the kid loved.

Back home for lunch, but I had a killer headache again so went to lie down for a bit. Couldn’t sleep so just lay there for a while and then came back down. I can’t tell if these headaches are from stress, tiredness, or my sinuses as my hayfever has been really bad this year. Or maybe because I often clench my jaw at night and grind my teeth – who knows, but it’s annoying.

Mum kindly took the kid out for a walk and left me to chill out for a bit, and I made some more bread (I am VERY pleased with this one – my breadwanker status is getting worse….).

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Quarantine Diary: Week 8

Sunday 10th May

Apart from being up briefly at 2am (she went back down very quickly) the kid actually slept through in her own bed until 7.15am. Which meant that for the first time in ages I woke up naturally to the birdsong outside, instead of being punched in the boobs. It’s amazing how quickly you can start to appreciate something as simple as waking up in a normal manner.

It was hot last night, so I slept with the windows open, which meant apart from the bright morning light at 5am, I also heard the 2am shouters further up my street, the 5am birds and the 6am ducks that my neighbours keep. And the 3am cats caterwauling, which sounds a lot like my kid screaming for me, so my body was up and halfway down the stairs before my brain realised it was coming from outside and I could just go back to bed. Continue reading

Parenting Anecdotes

In amongst all the grim lockdown drama, here are a few more little snippets of things that have happened over the last few months, odd little anecdotes from our lives. Spoiler alert – these are mostly boring stories about some adorable thing my precious baby girl did – I’m aware that when most parents get in the zone droning on about their little darlings, most people reach for the sick bag or nod politely while fantasising about pulling the fire alarm to make it stop. In other words, these anecdotes will be mediocre at best, and you have been warned – read on at your own risk.

Here they are, in no particular order:

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Quarantine Diary: Week 7

Sunday 3rd May

Slept ok last night though the kid woke up and screamed in my face and kicked me at 7am to wake me up which was unpleasant. She also had a nappy mishap last night so I had to strip down the bed at 10.30pm and change all the sheets but she barely woke up while I changed her. I’ve woken up with another headache this morning. Feels like I’ve had a low-level headache for days.

Mixed morning – the kid played happily with her cars for a bit, and read some books to herself. Then she screamed and melted down for a while. I made the mistake of digging out her Tiger Trunki suitcase thinking it would be a fun new thing to play with, as she can put things in it and ride it around. She packed with with toys, carried it to the front door and said “Put it in the car! Go Grandma’s house!” which of course I had to say we were not doing. Hence more meltdowns. Eventually we compromised and took the tiger suitcase for a walk down the street. It’s incredibly noisy and not really designed for outside, so I’m pretty sure it will have woken up and annoyed all my neighbours, but nevermind.

Overall the day was tough. The kid was knackered and kept melting down all day. I realised I was also knackered and struggling to play with her – I am glued to my phone or my laptop at all times, desperate to interact with the rest of the world, or to escape from the monotony and boredom, so I am constantly reading the news, checking social media, texting people, and am just too bored and tired to play incredibly dull toddler games over and over. The kid has shouted at me several times to put my phone down, which is telling. I wish I could, but haven’t got the energy or patience to sit and do nothing or play with her. I’m tired and bored and missing all the social interaction and I need to be occupied (by my phone). Ironically a couple of friends texted me today to see if I wanted a chat, but was too knackered to talk to anyone. Can’t work up the energy and don’t have anything at all to say, though I did have brief calls with my mum and my dad in the morning to say a quick hello

I made some more bread dough for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to my remote sourdough class on Thursday. I’ve fed my yeast starter and it’s bubbling away nicely in the fridge. Had some lovely feedback on my pottery catalogue and have sold a lot of pieces to friends already which is nice (I haven’t made it public yet as I wanted my friends to have a chance to buy things first if they wanted, and frankly I’d rather have stuff that I’ve made go to friends instead of strangers. It was hard enough to decide what to sell in the first place, as my instinct is to keep it all, so knowing it’s gone to people that I love really helps…).

My hayfever this year has been really crazy – far worse than normal, with constant running nose and sneezing. I suspect it’s the fact that no-one is cutting back all the verges and parks so the grass and wildflowers are rampant, which is lovely but annoying if you get hayfever! We are seeing so many butterflies that I’ve downloaded an app to start learning how to identify them, which is adding a bit of extra fun to our walks. Continue reading

Adventures in Bread-making

Here is a different kind of diary – one woman’s journey of learning to make bread.

Attempt 1: The wholemeal rolls. 

This was a recipe we were given by our nursery, and we used half wholemeal half white flour, but they still came out pretty brown overall. We added sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and poppy seeds. The kid had lots of fun making this, especially all the kneading and squishing and squashing.

Not looking too good after the first proove.

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No-knead bread recipe

After a few botched attempts I was sent this no-knead bread video from a friend, which has worked really well for us. However I find it annoying to have to re-watch it every time I want to bake bread and need to know the amounts, so am copying it out here, along with my own notes and a few variations for those of you who fancy giving it a go.

Original version – You’ll need:

  • 3 cups (approx 350g) plain/all-purpose or bread flour (you can also mix in half and half wholemeal flour or 1 cup wholemeal to 2 cups white flour – whatever combo you fancy). 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast (she says it doesn’t matter what kind of yeast, can be regular yeast, instant or fast-action dried yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I think it needs more than this so I go for a very generous 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1.5 cups (approx 175ml) of very hot (but not boiling) water (she suggested around 50 degrees, which I think is roughly half cold water half boiling water, or alternatively very hot water straight from the tap, though it depends on how hot your tap gets!
  • Optional: I like to add seeds to my bread, so I add a large tablespoon of mixed sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, but other seeds would work too. You can try a little more or less until you work out how many seeds you like in your bread.
  • Cling film and Baking paper
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large pot (Dutch oven) with a lid that can go in the oven (ideally a le creuset or cast iron pot) – make sure the lid doesn’t have a handle that will melt.

Here is the short version of the steps, with more detail given below (it might help to watch the video once to see how it is done, but I find it super annoying to have to keep watching it every time I make bread….) Continue reading