Hooray! Finally a chance to bake something new! My tiny patch of rhubarb was ready for the picking, I had some Greek yogurt to use up and Pinterest provided me with a new recipe to try out. I even got to use my fancy cup measures as it’s an American recipe.
The recipe called for four cups of rhubarb, which I didn’t have, so a rummage in the fruit bowl produced a pear to add to the mix.
It’s a very quick make – using cup measures is super-speedy – and it makes a really thick cake mix, almost like a dough (the recipe did warn this).
I adapted the streusel topping to just cinnamon and brown sugar to try and make it a little healthier and, let’s be honest here, I was too lazy to make the streusel! The recipe said to bake the cake for 45 minutes at 350°F, so I did it for 30 minutes at 180°C which gave the end result quite a thick crust. I divided the cake into 12 ‘fingers’ – it cut well, came out of the tin just fine and kept its shape.
Next time I’d bake it for a little longer as it had quite a doughy, almost bread-like (like those tear-and-share style breads) texture, though that could have been due to the ‘wet’ fruit. I, however, quite liked the stickiness.
Typically, my daughter seems to enjoy ‘non toys’ more than her proper toys – mobile phones, tv remotes, coasters – though she does love shaking her rattles around so I had a little brainwave to make her a simple ‘rainmaker’ rattle. An empty (clean) bottle and some (uncooked) rice later… voilà! She loves it! So I looked on Pinterest for some more ideas…
1. Marbles. I got some marbles and put them in an empty bottle. Simple. This is her favourite as it’s really loud when she shakes it!
2. Water. Just plain old water from the kitchen tap. It makes a great noise when being shaken around, and it can be made more exciting with a few drops of food colouring (or fruit squash even!).
3. Water beads. I have two bottles with these in. One is full of water beads and we can watch the air bubbles weave their way up through the multicoloured beads. The other has less beads in and some baby oil in the water – I hoped to make something like a lava lamp, but failed. It looks pretty though!
4. Rice. Our original rice bottle got pimped with some multicoloured rice (see this post for how I made it).
I haven’t got round to making any of the fancy Pinterest ideas with glitter and tinsel and stuff, but the good thing about these bottles is that they can be changed quickly and easily, so when my daughter tires of these ones, I’ll be able to make some new ones to retain her attention.
Making multicoloured rice is so easy to do, though a little fiddly – an upgrade to the humble grain of white rice!
You need… rice (obvs), food colouring and ziplock bags. Put the rice in the bag, add the food colouring (a little at a time to get the colour just right) and shake the bag. Then comes the fiddly bit: tip the rice out onto a paper plate or some greaseproof paper – the rice likes to stick to the inside of the bag- and leave it to dry.
Is this how you get the grains of pink rice in the Indian takeaway rice?!
For my first attempt I just raided the kitchen cupboard and found some ancient red, blue and green food colouring I had. I didn’t attempt to mix any colours, it would probably be easier to just buy the different colours! The red came out brilliantly but the blue and green are a little pale. Also the red dried so quickly in a few hours, whereas the blue and green took several days to dry out completely – they were different brands (Langdale and Tesco respectively) so I assume that’s why.
For now I’m using the rice in some homemade shakers, but when the baby is older (and less likely to try and eat the uncooked rice) it could be used in sorting or pouring games and all sorts of other activities. If kept in a ziplock bag or airtight container it should last for ages too. You can also do the same with oats, which may be a little safer if the baby attempts to eat them!
At a lot of the baby groups I’ve been to over the past months, sensory scarves have been a common feature, so I ordered a set for home from Amazon (I searched for juggling scarves) for a few pounds. I received more than I expected, with a pack of 12 scarves, so have made two games for my daughter using them.
The first is a simple ‘hack’ of the play arch that she’s no longer interested in (well, except knocking it over or trying to pick it up!) where I threaded scarves through it. She crawls through it or sits in front of it feeling the scarves with her hands or face, or just tugs them all free!The second game uses a carrier bag holder I found in Poundland – originally intended to hold cuddly toys, but they’re too big and too many for it. I push the scarves inside it for the baby to pull out through the holes. It’s such a basic idea but it holds her attention whilst she practises her ‘pincer grip’ to pull out the scarves. When she’s got them all, I celebrate by throwing the scarves in the air for her to watch flutter down, or we play games where I hide them in my fists or clasped hands for her to find.
Drop scones are another of my go-to baby led weaning recipes – the recipe I follow makes a batch of roughly 20 drop scones (also known as scotch pancakes) which can be frozen and defrosted in minutes. I actually got the recipe from the BLW Cookbook but I have posted a link to a recipe on Pinterest that is just the same.
I always start by making up the plain mix, and then I divide it between dishes to add different sweet and savoury flavours. The first time I made drop scones I made four variations: plain, cinnamon, cheese, and cheese and spinach. It took quite a while to do this so since then I’ve always just done two batches. My most recent ones were cinnamon and ginger (good for breakfast) and cheese, red pepper and paprika (for lunches).
Drop scones are so simple to make and it is easy to adapt the recipe to vary the flavours, especially for savoury ones.
Their texture is such that I can slice them into strips for the baby to hold easily, and they retain their shape even when mushed up in her tiny hands!
I also love drop scones from a nostalgic perspective: it was always such a treat when my grandmother would make drop scones fresh for us at teatime, and whilst mine aren’t always fresh off the griddle, it makes me happy to give my baby my favourite teatime treat.
One morning, whilst trying to spoon porridge into my daughter’s mouth and having her outright refuse it, I gave up but was annoyed that I had a wasted bowl of porridge. I had a think about what I could do with it rather than it end up in the food waste bin (affectionately called the ‘slop bucket’ in our house). I recalled a recipe I once made (here) for baked oatmeal, so I bunged the porridge in an oven-proof dish and shoved it in the oven for 20 minutes. The result was a flapjack-style baked porridge, which I left to cool, cut into fingers and… the baby ate it all up!
My initial porridge was simply equal measures of porridge oats and full fat milk. I’ve since tried it out with added cinnamon, apple purée (I wasn’t going to let my frozen cubes of apple purée be wasted) and ginger.
I usually make too much porridge so that I have some to keep in the fridge for the next day, or to have in the freezer for a quick breakfast. The porridge fingers keep their shape well, so I’ve wrapped them in cling film and taken them out with us for a snack-on-the-go too.
I’ve since searched for them on Pinterest and found some good variations on flavours to try out – carrot cake, apple pie, raspberry and coconut are a few on my list for future versions.
I’ve bought or been given lots of books for my little girl but had nowhere to put them in her bedroom; it’s far too small for a freestanding bookcase. Whilst having my daily browse of Pinterest and looking up ideas for nursery decor and baby play, I kept spotting the same pin, which was for a reading corner using Ikea spice shelves as bookshelves.
At only a few pounds each, the spice shelves are so cheap, but really effective as they display the books nicely rather than just seeing the spine of them, and as they’re bare wood, you can paint or varnish them any colour. I chose white as I had a tin of white satinwood paint lurking at the back of the garage, though I do regret using it; gloss paint takes ages to dry in between coats, and these needed three.
I painted each part of the shelf individually before screwing them together, but in hindsight assembling them before painting may have been a better idea.
I chose to turn one shelf upside down to display some kitsch ornaments I had as a child and to hang some decorations from, but it can easily be turned around to use for more books if needed. I think this is a really cheap but effective idea!