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Box of delights: ingredients for stress-free cooking!

January 15, 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, its important to me that we all eat together as a family at dinnertime. In order for us to have a leisurely, relaxed meal before baby bathtime, this means I need to have dinner on the table the moment my husband arrives home from work. Trying to cook with a tired, grumpy baby pulling at my legs and demanding “up, up, up” with increasing urgency (and volume) can be a tad stressful, so I try to find inventive ways to keep her occupied whilst I cook. In the past I’ve selected a few of her favourite toys to bring into the kitchen but these have never managed to hold her attention for long – I guess because they’re too familiar. I’ve also tried nursery rhymes and dancing around the kitchen like a mad woman – for some reason she wasn’t too keen on this either – perhaps mummy prancing about is again too familiar. What I needed was something new – something interesting that she could examine and safely fiddle with whilst my attention was elsewhere – so I came up with this:


A box of delights – full of interesting bits and pieces. I was keen for the contents to stimulate the senses so the box contains an assortment of brightly coloured, scented and tactile items. I was also keen that it didn’t cost me anything so everything in the box is stuff I’d already got – either in the kitchen or my crafting stash. The box itself was a chocolate box from christmas which I’d held on to once all the chocs had been scoffed (told you I’m a hoarder) and the first two items were also ‘recycled’ from the box – a length of ribbon that had been tied around it (cut short so there’s no risk of the baby wrapping it around her neck) and some of the plastic tray that held the chocolates, cut up and the corners rounded off so they’re not sharp. These have a interesting ridged texture and also make a nice crinkly sound when the baby squishes them. The baby loves to sniff things (in the summer she likes to sniff the herbs I grow outside), so I plundered my herbs and spices draw for things of a sniffable nature that were too large to be inserted into mouth, nose or ear, and came up with a nutmeg and a dried bay leaf. Next I wanted to add a bit of colour so I found out some fabric scraps – some felt and some silk – which had the added benefit of having contrasting textures. Texture is also provided by a prickly pine cone, a champagne cork, a piece of embroidery saved from a greeting card, a foam toe-divider (unused!), an old make-up brush, some butter muslin and some novelty yarn. I’m pleased to report that, so far, the box has been a resounding success and has kept the baby happy whilst I’ve been cooking. I know most of its effectiveness lies in the fact that it’s still very much a novelty, so I’m keeping it hidden away and getting it out only when I’m cooking in the hope that this will prolong it’s usefulness!

Update: I’ve removed the nutmeg after finding it can be toxic in large amounts (thanks CW) – although I think it’s unlikely that the baby would try to eat it, the idea of the box is to contain things she can safely fiddle with without me needing to keep too much of an eye on her – better safe than sorry!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. compostwoman permalink
    January 16, 2009 12:37 am

    Good idea!
    Watch the nutmeg though, I am sure you know why, too much and it is an hallocinogen and a bit toxic…..( hence why old ladies in Victorian times sprinkled it on their tarts at tea time!)

    But if she can’t actually get it in her mouth that will be fine I expect.!

  2. January 16, 2009 12:50 am

    Brilliant idea… and very well thought out. Here’s to many more peaceful cooking dinner sessions!
    Love Jane xxx

  3. January 16, 2009 8:29 am

    Thank you both.

    CW – gosh, I had no idea about nutmeg being a hallucinogen – maybe this explains why I’m so partial to it 🙂 On a serious note, although the baby has never tried putting it in her mouth, that doesn’t mean she’ll never try – so I think I’ll take it out. Thanks very much for the tip!

  4. compostwoman permalink
    January 16, 2009 9:09 am

    My pleasure!

    The box of delights IS a good idea, I always found a “rainmaker” enchanted mine as well ( either home made or bought)

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