Monday, 26 September 2011

A Lullaby for Eddie

This beautiful lullaby first appeared in the film "Long way in the dunes". I often sing it to my own little restless cricket Eddie. When we watch this video on Youtube and Eddie can hear the birdsong, he says "peh, peh" which is his word for birds.
Incidentally the little boy in the film is also called Edgar.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A sunny cake for a sunny boy (Betty Crocker Sunny Lemon Cake Mix review)

There are mornings when you get up and think: "Time for a little something". So for no particular reason rather than having a slice of cake for our elevenses, Eddie and I decided to bake a cake.
Betty Crocker Sunny Lemon Mix with glaze is an easy and quick way to indulge yourself. You will need two eggs, a bit of a vegetable oil and water to add. It takes just over 35 minutes to bake.
Here is our cake.

Sunny Lemon Cake mix is available in Sainsbury's.

Eddie and I used the basic recipe, but suggestions on the box sound good too, so next time we'll try to bake it with mixed peel or finely chopped ginger.
The cake is moist, light, lemony and as you can see, much appreciated by the tester who takes his job seriously.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Pasta alla Genovese

First time I tried this pasta dish, we were staying at my in-laws' house in Italy. My mother-in-law cooked it, and I have been doing it myself ever since. My initial thoughts were of pure curiosity, as I couldn't imagine pasta and potatoes in the same dish, it feels like an overload of carbs, but it works beautifully.
You will need
dried trofie or your choice of dried pasta, such as spaghetti, about 100g per person (for the dish above I used Waitrose organic spaghetti.

1 medium potato, peeled and cut roughly into 1cm/½in chunks

100g green beans, cut into 4cm lengths

For the pesto sauce
75g fresh basil leaves

60g pine nuts

60g parmesan or pecorino (or a mixture of the two)

2 garlic cloves

100-125ml olive oil

Here's how you cook it (recipe adapted from Sophie Grigson, she also likes to add carrots to her dish, while I don't):

1.To make the pesto, put the basil leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Add the pine nuts.

2.Chop the parmesan into small chunks and add to the food processor.

3.Roughly chop the garlic and add to the food processor.

4.Turn the processor on and process until the basil and cheese are chopped finely.

5.Turn the food processor on again and, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream through the funnel in the lid.

6.Check the consistency - it should be thick and just drop off the spatula.

7.Transfer the pesto into a bowl and cover with cling film until needed. (You can keep it in an airtight jar, covered with a thin layer of olive oil, for a few days in the fridge; or freeze it.)

8.To cook the pasta, bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil then add the pasta.

9.Trofie pasta takes about 15 minutes to cook so, after 8-9 minutes, add the potatoes and bring back to the boil (if your pasta takes less time to cook you'll need to add the potatoes sooner).

10.Allow to boil for a further two more minutes then add the beans and cook for another three minutes.

11.By the time the trofie is perfectly cooked but still firm (al dente), the vegetables will be nicely cooked. Drain thoroughly and toss the pasta together with the pesto.

12.Serve with extra parmesan or pecorino and a sprig of fresh basil, if you like.

If you are a busy Mum and do not have time to prepare fresh pesto, do not think twice - Waitrose and Sainsbury's make their own versions of pesto, you can find them next to fresh pasta (plastic tub variety, not the glass jars with the other sauces). In fact, I would be a liar if I said I always make my own pesto, pasta etc Sometimes making everything from scratch is not a priority.
Enjoy your pasta!

Time for pirozhki

Whenever Mum comes to stay with us, I ask her to cook for me. Pirozhki is her speciality. Pirozhki are little pies (in Russian). She makes them with puff pastry, minced beef and rice. The beef is fried with finely chopped onions and herbs, mixed with cooked rice. The pastry is glazed with an egg yolk. They are delicious either hot or cold, and I love eating them with a bit of sour cream. Pure indulgence. This is a kind of comfort food that takes me straight into my childhood.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Eddie and babushka

My Mum stayed with us for a month this summer and we had a lovely time together in Cornwall. Eddie loved having her around, a play mate and a comfort any time he needed it. They spent a lot of time together, and thanks to Mum, Eddie now loves being in the garden. He is forever looking out of the window, saying "peh, peh", which is a bird in Eddinese. But a dog is also a peh, bless him. He doesn't understand that babushka whom he calls Baba has left and won't be coming back until the next year. When I ask him "Where is a bird?" he turns to the windows, points to the garden and says "Peh, peh!" and also Baba, bless him, he must think she has been hiding in the garden all this time. She left two weeks ago, but he still thinks she is somewhere here. Eddie is missing his Baba. And so am I. And just like Eddie, I try to imagine that she is not far away, but is working in the garden. Years ago, when we lived in Woodstock, I played the same games in my mind. We used to have long walks in the Blenheim park with Sasha and my Mum, and when she had to go home and I took Sasha out to the park, I was very sad and tried to persuade myself, that Mum wasn't in Russia, but with us in the park, just a few steps behind, and if I turn my head back, she would be there, smiling at us...
This is my favourite photo of Mum and Eddie, taken in the little garden of the rented cottage in Perranuthnoe.

This is another reminder of our week in Cornwall.
And a photo of my two dearies by the sea.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

First... Then (an amazing poem by Melinda Smith)


First change nappy
Then Thomas the Tank Engine

First clothes on
Then sandpit

First wash hair
Then chocolate frog

First the only baby crying all night in the hospital
Then the only baby wailing for the whole of mothers’ group
First the only mother convinced her child was permanently angry
Then the only one holding him in her arms and doing deep knee bends to calm him down

First thinking it was normal to scream until throwing up whenever we changed routine
Then shocked when I realised other families didn’t have to live like that
First astonished he could read at eighteen months
Then astonished at his shrieks every time his baby brother cried
First proud of every fact he could recite about the planet Jupiter
Then wondering why he needed twelve weeks of physio to learn how to jump

First hair cut
Then play with spray bottle

First stop biting Mummy
Then play with sliding door

First poo *in toilet*
Then flush

First letting his father talk me out of it
Then talking myself out of it
First knowing those therapists just didn’t get my child
Then googling autism with a chill in my heart
First joking about ‘our little Rain Man’
Then realising the joke was on me

First paralysis
Then fear
First incomprehension
Then overload

First Music Therapy
Then Homeopathy
First Triple-P Parenting for Parents of Children with Disabilities
Then Encouraging the Reluctant Eater
First Occupational Therapy
Then the social worker
First trusting the system
Then realising the system didn’t care enough or have enough money

First sit at table to eat
Then spinning with Mummy

First swallow medicine
Then build washing machine from cardboard boxes

First reading lots of parent testimonials
Then feeling like scum for not doing six hours of therapy with him every day
First wonderfully affirmed by Welcome to Holland
Then convinced Welcome to Holland left a lot of shit out
First talking to happy well-adjusted mums of older kids on the spectrum
Then terrified our family wouldn’t survive long enough for our kids to get that old
First poring over Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome for those who love and care for three-to-seven- year-olds
Then realising the only book I needed to read was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

First joining support groups
Then walking out of meetings because the horror stories people told at them could not possibly be true
First counselling
Then drugs
First sobbing to my friends
Then avoiding my friends and hating their normal uncomplicated children
First hearing that carers of autistic children are as stressed as soldiers in combat
Then bawling my eyes out

First thread the beads on the string
Then letterbox-counting walk

First stay at special needs soccer for ten minutes
Then computer time

First nearly destroying my marriage
Then clinging desperately to my marriage
First regretting the second child
Then realising the second child would probably save us all
First wanting my husband to see things my way
Then grateful he didn’t
First mourning my old life
Then understanding you never really get it back anyway
First obsessed with getting the whole family to accept the diagnosis
Then learning to take what help I could get and live with the elephant in the room

First shame
Then resentment
First desperate for pity
Then desperate for respite care
First whining
Then laughing

First crawling through it
Then writing about it
First today
Then tomorrow

© Melinda Smith 2011

Written with the financial support of artsACT

I wish I wrote this beautiful poem. Not everything in this poem applies to us. Sasha was not different from other babies when he was little, it is only around 18-24 months that we started to notice he is regressing. And he never recited any facts, but this poem gives a good insight about what it is to live with a child on the spectrum, and how heart-breaking it could be, and how the marriage is on the point of break-up, and things she said about the second child, and the constant stress, it is all true.
If you want to read more from the talented Melinda Smith, please visit her blog.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Mum's strawberry jam

Mum's strawberry jam, or should I say The strawberry jam, because that is how it should be done. Duchy originals and TipTree, eat your heart out.
I could never understand why it is so difficult to find a decent strawberry jam in any supermarkets, they all sell some red slushy-looking bio-mass where all the berries are smashed into an indecipherable blob. That's not a starwberry jam, that's a spread. The proper jam should have berries that still resemble berries, each one is preserved in its glory. And of course, the best jam is made of wild strawberries. Each year, when my Mum plans to come and visit me, she cooks her jam and takes several jars with her on a long trip from Russia, carefully packing them in bubble wrap and tissues. The aroma, when you open the lid, is exquisite, and the taste is totally heavenly.
This jam works perfectly with clotted cream on scones. In fact, I would say that clotted cream from Cornwall and the Russian wild strawberry jam is a marriage made in heaven. Mmmmmm