Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Rocky road

I know a woman from the playground whose husband has just lost his job. It's not a big deal, he'll get another one. But for the moment he is unemployed, getting under my friend's feet in the house, driving her nuts.

"He just hangs about," she hissed hysterically to me at Babygym the other day. "He doesn't DO anything all day. I mean, I don't really fucking do anything all day either, but I know how to do nothing. Do you know what I mean? That's what kids teach you, how to do nothing and make it look like something."

Oh yes. Yes I know what she means alright. I have been thinking a lot recently about why baby no.2 (unless it does some awful screaming/no-sleeping/reflux thing) is so much easier than no.1 - it's because you know how to do nothing.

When no.1 comes along, you've probably just come off some job, or at the very least, come out of a place when you could do what you liked and basically kept yourself quite occupied, doing meaningful things out of duty, or fun things at the drop of a hat. Then a baby arrives and you are required to be in its constant attendance, but you don't really have to do anything. Feed it occasionally, change it. Some laundry maybe, get an Ocado order in. But you don't seem to be actually doing anything. It's just baffling. You cannot get your head round the idea that you don't actually need to do anything, except sit there. And wait for it to start talking.

I dealt with this doublethink by inventing all sorts of utterly bizarre rituals, mostly based around things being incredibly neat and tidy and a light obsession with germs, which then descended into a full-on neurotic breakdown when Kitty was 10 months old. Doing everything and nothing, holding something faceless, nameless and unidentifiable at bay... sitting around making sure the sky didn't fall in, or warding off some other potent disaster I couldn't describe, sent me crazy.

But slowly, gradually, I learnt that that is not what you are doing. You are just doing nothing. No wait, you are not doing nothing, you are bringing up a child - but it feels an awful lot like nothing most of the time. And now I am an expert at getting busy killing time. I potter like a pro. We go to the bank, we pick up some groceries, we are the go-to people if anything needs to be taken to the dry-cleaners or posted in complicated way. We rule the high street with our Maclaren and jute shopping bags. We are always busy, busy, busy - but busy doing nothing.

As Kitty has become gradually more and more genuinely demanding as she reaches the peak of what she can do at home and at playgroup and starts needing, desperately, to go to nursery five mornings a week, I have learnt how to absolutely 100% savour actual quiet, downtime, relaxed time. I sink into it like a £500 Hungarian goosedown duvet. I do not fidget and twitch and feel like I ought to be doing something. I drink in the quiet like a massive gin and tonic and feel as at peace as a master yogi.

And the acres of downtime with a newborn, (when you manage to palm off your toddler onto someone else), is unbelievably luxurious compared with the 8 second interludes you get with a screeching toddler.

Newborns are just SO undemanding! They don't fucking ask you for things all the time; sometimes a series of bizarre requests in a row you can have no hope of fulfilling. Newborns don't want to do fingerpainting, or want to have a long rambling chat with "Rabbit" (i.e. me holding Rabbit) about whether or not he wants a biscuit, or watch Peppa Pig at 400 db, or flood the downstairs loo. Newborns just sit there and let you get on with gazing at them, or poking about on your iPad, without saying the dreaded: "Can I play Happy Mrs Chicken?" in a shrill little voice and then drinking all your caramel frappucino.

Sam just lies about with his lips in a little "O" of wonder, gazing peacefully around, weeing gently into his nappy, occasionally screwing up his face bravely at a particularly troublesome fart - or he is sound asleep with his mouth hanging open.

And now I am not only used to being confined to the house, I am used to being confined with a fractious toddler, which is only slightly less nice than being in one of those POW bamboo cages where you can't stand up or sit down. So being confined to the house with nothing more tricky than a sleeping newborn is just bliss. And, unless I experience serious rush of blood to the head Sam will be my last child, so in the moments when I am alone with my youngest child, I open my arms wide and embrace the nothing. Then I lean over and give my sleeping son a little lick.

As it happens, I have elected not to do much cooking recently with my downtime, even though I could have done while my husband was on paternity leave looking after Kitty. But the other day someone brought round for me something called Rocky Road, which I have heard many things about, but have never been that interested in.

It's just sugar, isn't it? Put together in a slightly different way and thus not interesting. But I ate some, because I like this woman who brought it round for me. (If I didn't know she was nice, I would have labelled this Rocky Road a hostile gift - i.e. "Eat this, stay fat and I hope all your teeth fall out".)

Anyway it was just mind-blowing. I couldn't really believe what I was eating. It was like sweeties from OUTER SPACE and I ate the entire bag and wanted more. MORE!

I imagine I'm the last person in the world to discover Rocky Road, which is basically broken up biscuit and marshmallows held together with chocolate, but I am including a recipe for it here anyway because I've got some time on my hands at the moment - and the Lord knows I am an expert on finding things to do.

Rocky Road
Makes about 20 bits depending on how small you cut them up

300g milk cooking chocolate - I use the Menier stuff from Waitrose, but their own-brand milk cooking chocolate is really good, too.
2 full-size Crunchie bars
5 plain digestive biscuits
a handful of full-size marshmallows
3 tbs golden syrup

Line a small square or rectangular tin (the actual dimensions don't matter - I'd say roughly 7in by 7in) with a triple layer of clingfilm to make it possible to lift the Rocky Road out later.

1 break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl (i.e. not metal) and add the golden syrup. If you dabble the spoon in a mug of hot water for a few seconds, it makes getting the syrup out of the tin much easier.

Set this bowl over a pan of cold water, about 2 in deep.The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Set the pan and bowl over your smallest burner on the lowest available heat and wait for it to melt - it might take about 20 mins.

A direction in a lot of recipes for melting chocolate that irritates me is "set the bowl of a pan of barely simmering water". This is an insane thing to say as any rational person will then fret and fret about keeping the water "barely simmering". Don't worry about it. The water doesn't need to be "barely simmering" it just needs to be hot so just dump the bowl over the hot water and forget about whether or not it is simmering. The chocolate will probably have melted by the time the water gets to simmering point.

2 Into another bowl break or smash up the Crunchie and digestive biscuits into small pieces.

3 Tip the biscuit pieces into the chocolate and mix to combine. You will worry here that there is not enough chocolate to go round everything, but there is. At the last moment, tip in the marshamallow and give a brief stir. What marshmallows like to do on contact with warm chocolate is melt, which although still gives the Rocky Road a lovely chewy texture, what you're after is actual bits of marshmallow whole.

4 Spoon your unwieldy mixture into your tin and smooth the top with a spatula - it's easiest to do this if the spatula is wet. Chill for 2 hours and then cut into bits.

Toddlers like this.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: BABY ESSENTIALS

When it comes to baby kit, especially with your first baby, I say get everything. EVERYTHING. A tummy tub? Why not. An £8,000 buggy? Go for it. Fourteen different kinds of dummy? Great!

Because all babies are different and they like, weirdly, different things. And some things might work for you, others not. Both Kitty and Sam for example like Avent bottles and dummies and immediately spat out any dummy that was not made by Avent.

Avent's anti-colic bottles do, I think, work in reducing what is known in my family as "squirty tummy" in newborns. ALL BABIES have "squirty tummy" to varying degrees, whether you use an anti-colic system or not because they are new and rubbish at everything and their stomachs don't work for ages, resulting in "squirtiness", which is an unspecified gas/digestion problem that makes them screw their faces up and go "meerrggghgh" or even "WWAWAAAHHAHHAHHAHAH!!!" I like to try to avoid this.

So I also use Infacol, which is an orangey-tasting liquid that helps babies bring up their wind. You can give it to babies from birth, but I find that wind problems only emerge at about 3 weeks onwards. You give them a little dropper of it before a feed and then they bring up lovely rich, orangey burps and sleep like logs and are less "squirty". Kitty lived on it for about 3 months.

I also believe, with swivel-eyed evangelism, in swaddling. This, for the uninitiated, is when you wrap a newborn up very tightly in a long strip of cloth to replicate the squashed-in feeling of being in the womb. There are some cloths specially designed for swaddling called Grobag, which are very good

and also the terrific giant muslins from Aden + Anais, which used to be very niche and hippy when I had Kitty, but now everyone uses them. They are absolutely brilliant for all sorts of things, from swaddling to using as a blanket, a sunshade, rolling it up into a sausage to wedge newborn into sleeping on its side if you feel a bit neurotic that the baby is going to puke in its sleep and choke on it, (but are too scared to put it down on its tummy), using as a vomit sheet to stretch over the bottom sheet of a cot belonging to a child with noro - you get the idea. They are quite expensive but they will last you for years.

There are millions of swaddling tutorials on YouTube - I urge you to look them up if you are about to have your first. Just do it before every naptime until they are about... I dunno... six weeks old.

Chloramphenicol antibiotic eye drops.

Available over the counter at any pharmacy. If your baby's umbilical cord is taking its sweet time to come off and is starting to stink, slosh this over it to prevent any infection. It is mild enough to go in your eye, so it's perfectly okay to use on a tummy button.

Lansinoh cracked skin balm

This will rescue your nipples if you are breastfeeding - put it on every time you breastfeed or any time you express, or any time you remember to. Buy one for every room in your house so you are never without it. You can never have too much because it has a million other uses - it mends cracked heels overnight, works as a basic but effective night eye cream and is officially the world's best lip balm (second only to Lanolips - available at Waitrose).

Gap make the only socks that babies will not kick off.

Seraphine make very nice nursing bras. They have one that comes in a small, medium and large and another that comes in traditional bra sizes. I'd say that the one that comes in traditional sizes is better.

I've got this bra in a size 1 million. And also some others that I had specially made... BY NASA

Aptamil formula. I fed Kitty a combination of formula and breastmilk from pretty much day 1 and have done the same with Sam. My personal attitude to breastfeeding is this: I do not like hearing babies cry and if I don't have to, I don't want to. So if my child is crying or unsettled because it is hungry, and I do not have enough breastmilk to sort it out, I give them formula. I partly breastfed Kitty for about six weeks and will probably do the same with Sam, unless with two children in tow breastfeeding and expressing becomes completely impractical, in which case I will stop sooner.

For expressing, I use a Medela Swing, which is about 10 years old, but gets the job done. Muy sexy, no?

I must also give a plug to a company called notsobig.com, which sent me a lot of babygros for Sam. They couldn't possibly have forseen that babygros with slogans on the front are my least favourite thing ever, but it was a kind and thoughtful gift. And one with LOL on the front, did make me smile, although I cannot guarantee that Sam will wear it. Looking at their website, they have all sorts of terrific things on there without hideous slogans, so do give it a go. 

Little Clothes Mouse - littleclothesmouse.co.uk - sent me some excellent newborn stuff for Sam, including a Petit Bateau hat that actually fit his weeny head (he was not born small - 7.5lb - but 0-3 month stuff was HUGE on him). In general, the website sells discounted designer childrens' clothes and is a small company run by a very nice lady, so I heartily direct your business to her. She has also kindly and generously offered Rifle Readers a 10% discount at checkout with the code RIFLE. Use it or lose it ladies (and germs). 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: JEWELLERY

Everyone said "The second baby will be so much easier" and I prayed they were right and I knew they would be. And so far, they are.

I mean, in my experience the fun, (and when I say fun I mean nightmare), doesn't really start with babies until they are 3 weeks old and don't do that thing anymore where they'll just sleep any on any old warm, stable surface for most of the day.

But for now, while Sam is doing this lovely thing that newborns do, I can actually genuinely appreciate it because I know it changes. And, unless I experience a serious rush of blood to the head, Sam will be my last child, which I now - released from the horrors of pregnancy - feel sad about, but in a good way. If that makes sense.

Kitty, (poor, poor Kitty), when she was born, signified the end of my life as I knew it. Sam is the beginning of my future; he is the first day of the rest of my life. Yes, I've got a newborn again, but I have never felt so free. I never left the house with Kitty when she was small because I couldn't quite believe the hassle of it and there were all those what ifs - what if she's sick, or screams, or does a poo? What then?? Easier to stay at home, thanks. Sam and I are out all the time: we take buses, we sit in cafes. Why did I not do this with Kitty? What was my problem?

And it turns out that I have remembered some valuable lessons about babies it took me months to learn first time:

1) if you put a baby down for a sleep and you know it is not hungry or cold or ill, it will eventually nod off, even if it squeaks and grunts and squirms or, even, emits the occasional bloodcurdling yelp.

2) if it's not crying, it's probably ok. Leave it alone.

3) give it a break, it's only a baby. Even if you are a total routine freak like me, deviations here and there - or entire days when absolutely everything goes tits up, don't matter. You have to just write the day off as a fucking disaster and start again tomorrow. Babies and small children respond best to persistence. It has taken an entire year to teach Kitty to say Please. Thank You she had no trouble with, but we've had to hammer Please into her just by saying it over and over and over and over again. Babies and little children are stupid, you need to repeat the things you want them to do, like, a billion times.

4) tiny babies do not get bored.

5) it's probably not meningitis.

Anyway, what OF Kitty? I have been asked over again what she thinks of Sam, how is she taking it? And I reply with what I always say about Kitty, which is that she doesn't give much of a fuck about anything, except the whereabouts of Rabbit, her blanket, Mr Tumble and the availability of biscuits.

She understands Sam is a baby, she gives him kisses, she only tries to jump on his head out of sheer exuberance, rather than malice, and knows that he doesn't like having his nappy changed. Other than that, she's unbothered. I think problems of jealousy and anger come later.

In the meantime, life for Kitty is simply super: her Daddy is around a lot on two weeks' paternity leave and they disappear together, scampering across London all day having an awesome time pointing at animals and eating chips. And most days a present turns up for her at the house, in commiseration for her having this "brudder". So in all, it's pretty nice for Kitty right now.

Me? I got jewellery. I don't understand especially the recent fashion for presenting one's wife with an expensive gift for having a baby. You are only fulfilling a biological imperative and it's not like a pregnancy isn't utterly miserable for fathers, too. (I bought Giles a pair of £140 sunglasses from Zadig & Voltaire to acknowledge this.) But still, I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to direct my husband and his Amex to Selfridges, so I requested this Anina Vogel charm necklace that was quite astoundingly expensive. It did for a birthday, wedding anniversary AND "baby" present, it was that pricey. I love it.

Here it is. You buy a naked necklace and then fill it with charms. Giles chose these - the Star of David is his idea of a joke (he is Jewish). The others are a cat (Kitty) and frying pan (cooking) a pistol (there were no rifles) a moses basket (new baby) and a typewriter (obvious).


And from lovely Babes With Babies I got THIS little beauty, which I really love. At £158, not as ruinously expensive as the Anina Vogel and if I was on a slightly tighter budget I would have requested this from my husband instead, you can have up to 20 characters engraved on it and Posh Spice has got one.


My readers get a 10% discount at Babes With Babies by typing RIFLE in at checkout. Don't say I never give you anything.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: CLOTHES BAGS AND SHOES

I spent so long during my pregnancy longing for it to be over that towards the end I suddenly developed a terrible fear that once I was no longer pregnant I would STILL be fat and miserable with aching feet, reflux and getting up 80 million times in the night to wee.

"What if..." I would fret during the long dark insomniac hours of the night "I have the baby and life is still shit? What if... all those clothes I have bought for myself to celebrate not being this incredibly weird shape never fit?"

But you have a baby - especially your second - and life improves immeasurably. Night feeds are a piece of piss once you can get in and out of bed reasonably easily. And, second time round, a bit of broken sleep is nothing. NOTHING. When you had your first baby you didn't understand what it meant to be tired and it freaked you out. Now, being a little bit tired is normal. Having too much sleep is weird.

Anyway, so although I can't fit into all of my new threads quite yet, I quite often open my cupboard and stroke them lovingly, as I channel daydreams about my future through them.

We'll start with my favourite thing ever, which is actually a handbag. I bought FOUR new handbags in the darkest hours of my pregnancy, because they are a thing you can use no matter how fat you are. This is from Kate Spade and it's the first "expensive" handbag that I've ever had - I say "expensive" because it was not wildly so - it was not £500, it was £178 in a 25% off sale.

Anyway I LOVE IT. If I had been braver, I would have got it in green. I still might. This will be irritating for my readers who are not in London, but you cannot buy this online - only in one of two Kate Spade stores - one in Westfield and one in Sloane Square.

BOUGHT THIS WITH MY OWN MONEY - it is called a "Little Curtis"

Next, my obsession with Hush, a sort of upmarket Gap I suppose. It's a catalogue-based company and they really work that catalogue - it's just really nice, I totally fancy all the models.

I bought a scarf from there, which is really brilliant - called the "Leo" and it's neon pink-and-orange leopard print and even if you're in your pyjamas it makes you look quite "current". A note: it is huge, so when it arrived I cut it in half with the kitchen scissors as it arrives with artfully frayed edges anyway. So now I have TWO and very pleased with them both I am.

Here is a link to the scarf - I'm just waiting for a press image from Hush - I'd take a photo of it for you, but my photo will be bad and won't make you want to buy it. 

Another thing I have bought from Hush are these "New Vanessa Trousers". I cannot vouch for them as I am still to big to get into them. But I love the look of them and desperately hope they "work" on me.

I love these neon trainers from New Balance. If you feel like doing a sports-chic thing, wear these with ankle-length black leggings (mine are from this darling little place called Hennes) a coral or grey sweatshirt and a jazzy scarf. I saw next-eldest sister work this look a few weeks ago, (though her trainers were not New Balance, they were similar), and it looked AMAZING. 

This "Lady Penelope" dress is just so terrific. A lovely girl at a preggy clothes website called Babes With Babies sent it to me. I can't quite wear it now, as it's quite clingy, but I tried it on - manically - during my last three days with a bump and it's very, very good for anyone pregnant up until about 7.5 months I'd say, (if you're doing a thing where you are wearing tight things - "I'M PREGNANT NOT FAT"). It is not cheap, but it is very nice - it has a slit roughly to the knee up one side, which is very chic and not slutty. Excellent 3/4 sleeves, too. 


Babes with Babies is, generally, a very nice website. I don't mean to knock Isabella Oliver or Seraphine, but their websites occasionally feel a bit... draughty and abandoned, if you know what I mean. Anyway, have a look. 

THIS denim dress from Mango is just ace - the fabric is really lovely - sort of slithery and flippy. There is probably a name for it that I don't know. A problem with wearing full denim is that it can be a bit stiff and uncomfortable, but this is silky and lovely but doesn't crease especially badly. It works as a kind of throw-over while pregnant and also later as a VERY "now" denim dress with a belt and your new neon Leo scarf (see what I'm doing here?)


Ok this is technically not clothes, but I am in love with this nail varnish from Mavala. I won't show it to you on my fingers because I have the ugliest hands in England and it will put you off buying it. And nothing ought to put you off buying it - it's terrific.


The jury is still out on these lime green asymmetric sandals from Zara because my feet are still a bit fat for them, but I like the IDEA of them very much. Generally-speaking, I like the idea of this "brights" thing a lot, because it means you can accessorize quite boring clothes like mad, meaning that you don't have to freak yourself out buying neon trousers, or yellow dresses. 

And that concludes this post on clothes, bags and shoes. Coming soon: jewellery and baby essentials (not in the same post).  

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Recipe Rifle goes shopping: FACE

In the last two months of my pregnancy I went quite bonkers about stuff. No wait, not just stuff, but the right stuff, quality stuff. I think this is what some people refer to as "nesting", but my house was already totally nested-out, I didn't need any more muslin squares and a new baby bouncer had been purchased. So my mad, rolling, panting, grasping eye turned to dresses, bags, sandals, jewellery, skincare...

The moment I had Sam, at 4.45am on Bank Holiday Monday, 6th May. I ceased to crave any of it. I'm really, really pleased that I have it all - (I don't think I bought a single new item of clothing after Kitty was born that wasn't just hateful, draggy Mum-Wear) - but I no longer just sit about wanting things. No more this "fiesta" shirt from Anthropologie will change my life, this bright green box bag from Zara will change my life.

It's nice. Peaceful. Like being unchained from a different lunatic.

It coincided, in some kind of cosmic dream, with a lot of companies wanting to send me things to write about.

I don't know why people want to send me things in the post to write about. All I ever talk about is how shit I am, how ugly fat and useless - this is hardly an "aspirational" blog, but nevertheless I have started to be offered some stupendously wicked stuff that I can't turn down.

Anyway it comes attached with a certain moral tricksiness - is it okay to accept things for free and then not write about them if they are no good? Or what about if you're a bit ambivalent about them but you say you like them because, fuck it, why not?

What I have decided to do - and I'm sure you are fascinated - is take everything, with egregious thankings, but only put things on here that I like, that I would spend my own money on. I also feature here some things that I have, actually, spent my own (or my husband's) money on, which I can recommend to you or warn you off accordingly.

We start today with the FACE - i.e. cosmetics and gadgets.

I say gadgetS, I really mean gadGET - the Clarisonic face thing, that my husband bought me for my birthday. I love it: get it. Like a massaging, rotating brush for your face. You only need to use it once a day, keep it in the shower, run it over your visage once you've massaged a bit of cleanser in. It's about 1m% less hassle than cleaning your teeth and it improves skin tone, clarity, colour, all that bullshit. DO IT. If my husband hadn't bought one for me, I would have spent my own money on it. Get the most basic model if money IS an object - you don't need anything more snazzy.


Next, please turn your attention to Benefit. They very kindly sent me all sorts of stuff, the best of which was this very pleasing crease-free eyeshadow in Bikini-Tini and, below, a lipgloss in Fauxmance.

The eyeshadow is the sort of thing that you can smear on with a finger in 2 seconds that helps you look less dead, without making you look a bit inappropriate and drag-queeny for a day of gooning around with a two year-old or lying prone under a 3 day-old. On my favourite TV series ever, Friday Night Lights, they coat the lids of their lady stars with something very similar and it looks terrific. It looks a bit orange in the picture below but it's not really, it's a sort of pale gold.


I don't, generally, like lipgloss because it's a it drying and your hair gets stuck in it. Plus my mouth is massive and I don't need to draw attention to it. This is moisturising with a nice sheen rather than sticky shine and my hair doesn't get stuck in it. The colour really suits ME, but I have got red hair and sort of weird bluey-yellow skin and purplish lips (think Eddie Redmayne) so maybe visit a counter before buying. Unless you are Eddie Redmayne, in which case, this is the colour for you.


I bought this Garnier BB cream in total despair when still pregnant and my face was simply some eyes and a nose painted on a balloon. Since having Sam, my face has changed beyond belief - I no longer face the morning with weird bloating and blotching, an oil-slicky sheen and terrifying blue-black circles under my eyes.

But when I DID have all that going on, this BB cream helped smooth things out and made me less suicidal. I never really understood BB "beauty balm" or CC "colour correcting" creams before, but they just sort of make you look better, in a way that foundation doesn't and can't. So, I like this as an entry-level BB cream, (I picked slightly the wrong colour, a bit too pale, but this is a constant hazard when you have red hair because your colouring is inconsistent to put it mildly), but I can see myself spending quite a lot on something highly recommended - the one I keep hearing good things about is by YSL - called something like All-In-One BB cream or something.


I hope you enjoyed that. I did. Next: Recipe Rifle goes shopping for CLOTHES.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Baked aubergine

There are very few things I feel genuinely guilty about - especially when it comes to parenting. Sometimes I pretend to feel guilty, but actually I don't. There are things that I do with Kitty that I know are not ideal, but I do them mostly knowing why I'm doing them and being okay with the consequences.

For example, Kitty probably watches more TV than she ought to at the moment, because I am so immobile I can't sit on the floor and play Megabloks, or toss her in the air or chase her round and round the garden. But I am okay with the odd bad mood and screamy bedtime brought on by too much telly because I don't really have a choice right now.

But there's one thing I do, that I do endlessly, even though it makes me feel really guilty and I'm not okay with the consequences - and that is fucking about with my iPhone while I am supposed to be looking after Kitty.

I mean I love, LOVE my iPhone. It makes me about 70% more productive because I can do an Ocado order while hanging about waiting for something to boil, or reply to emails in the car while Kitty is kipping in the back.

But it also makes me, I think, a 70% less good parent because when I am supposed to be concentrating on Kitty, I am usually scrolling through Twitter. I also love Twitter, by the way. I think it is a brilliant resource filled with excellent people and endless, helpful information. Without Twitter this blog would have fewer readers and it would have been significantly harder (i.e. impossible) to sell any copies of my book, as most sales have come off the back of tweets and re-tweets.

At times, I think Twitter is the only thing that has stopped me from going mad during this most recent long, dark winter - but in fact I now suspect that it may have made everything harder. Trying to combine childcare with absolutely anything else - making dinner, ironing, working, Tweeting - turns something occasionally boring into a real chore just because you are suddenly trying to do two things at once.

Housework and childcare mostly have to go together but anything else that doesn't absolutely have to be combined with childcare, shouldn't. Especially the childcare of toddlers, who have a witchy sixth sense for when they are not your priority; it makes them incredibly nervous and liable to fling themselves down the stairs, or draw all over your Dune embellished pink suede loafers with green Crayola felt tip. For example.

And Twitter has just become a habit now, for me. In any lull I will automatically have a quick poke about and see what's going on - because there's always something going on on Twitter. But the compulsiveness of it now makes me feel a bit ill - staring into that tiny screen, poke, poke, poke. Not looking up, not looking around me. And Twitter sucks me into other areas of the internet that make my day jagged and stop-start, (mostly online clothes shops), rather than relaxed and linear. Rather than surrendering to childcare, I find myself fighting it. And it's not working.

Added to this, Kitty has just got into the nursery at the top of our road and will start in September. Although I don't feel remotely sad about it - she will love it and it won't come a moment too soon - it does make me realise that we have a limited time left together and I should probably be more mindful of what I do with that time.

I don't say all this to sound martyrish or holy: I am never motivated by anything other than laziness. I don't want anything to be hard that doesn't have to be - the Lord knows that life is full of necessary hardships without creating more for yourself. I want anything that can be, to be easy and convenient. Any fool, as soldiers say, can be uncomfortable. If I thought looking at my iPhone a lot made childcare easier, more relaxed and less onerous, I would do it. But when you've only got half a brain to start with, letting half of that half wander off into the internet is the equivalent of a brisk trepanning.

So last weekend I took Twitter off my phone and have a rule now that I don't look at my phone at all unless I get a text message or a phone call, which is hardly ever. Twitter is reserved for when the nanny is here and I am working at my laptop. It's much better already. When I get to the end of the day I don't feel so twitchy.

I'm also allowed unlimited access to newspapers, magazines and my Kindle as a compensation. I have blamed my failure to do any reading recently on being pregnant, but it's not that. It's that I'm always on bloody Twitter. If Kitty is engaged doing something else, like messing about in the garden or drawing, I reckon it's alright to be reading a book because it's not so blinkering, so tunnel-visioning. And it doesn't set quite such a ghastly example to Kitty that one ought to constantly have one's face lit up by a blue screen, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, endlessly scrolling.... if she wants to grow up with her face in Kindles or newspapers - god rest their souls - that can only be a good thing.

Having Twitter on my iPhone also makes me a shit wife. Any second that my husband is not talking - and sometimes when he is talking, frankly - I've got half a mind on Twitter, which isn't fair because my husband is not boring and doesn't ask for much in return for providing me with a roof over my head and private healthcare, other than my complete attention when he is saying something to me.

Other than taking Twitter off my phone, I'm making amends to my husband by being supportive about the no-carb thing he's doing at the moment. Cooking without carbs is a fucking chore, but I might as well get back into the swing of it as once this kid is out - if it ever comes out (despite my due date still being 5 whole days away) - I plan to diet myself out of existence. I want people to say "Oh my god she's got so THIN!!!!"

Anyway, the other night I made for Giles a baked aubergine, which sounded absolutely disgusting from the recipe, but I was running out of ideas, (if we have another chicken salad I might DIE), and I actually managed, using a bit of store-cupboard cunning, to turn it into a really quite appealing thing.

I have used parmesan to top this, but equally you could use goat's cheese. I, personally, ate this with some pitta bread because let's not get too carried away - but Giles skipped it.

Esther's low-carb baked aubergine of devotion

1 aubergine pp
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tsp capers
2 tbs pitted black olives
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 clove garlic, peeled
4-5 anchovy fillets (non-essential, if you are a hater... but if you are ambivalent, I urge you to give these a try - they will not make everything fishy and disgusting, they will just add a salty, savoury interest)
2 sage leaves (if you have)
1 tbsp vinegar - red wine for preference but any old shit will do
some plain yoghurt (again, if you have)
a few strips of lemon zest
1 small handful chopped parsley
1 handful grated parmesan per aubergine half

preheat your oven to 220C

1 Slice your aubergines lengthways and score through the flesh with a small sharp knife to produce a lattice effect. Then sloop over a lot of olive oil and put in to roast for 35 mins.

2 Meanwhile chop up on a board the anchovies, olives and capers. Gently fry in a small pan with some groundnut or LIGHT olive oil. Tear in the sage leaves and squeeze or grate over the garlic. Let this cook together for a bit until the anchovy fillets have disintegrated.

3 Now plop out the tomatoes into a sieve and shake over the sink to let the tinny tomato juices flow away (but don't rinse). Add to the pan with the tomato puree and leave to cook for a few mins. Throw over six or seven turns of the pepper grinder. Now add a dribble of water - maybe 2 tbsp - just from the kettle and give it all a stir.

4 Now add a dollop of plain yoghurt if you have it, the lemon zest and the vinegar. Stir together and leave to cook very gently without drying out. The composition you are after is spreadable and juicy but not too wet. The consistency, I suppose, of bolognese.

5 Take the aubergines out of the oven - they ought to be a bit collapsed and blackened in places. Spread with the tomato mixture, top with whatever cheese you like then finish off under the grill.