Monday 30 December 2013

Belated Christmas post

I've left it a bit late to do a detailed Christmas post so I thought I would summarise some of the highlights through pictures.

We had a marvellous time. It was a bit of a food fest stretching over several days, kicking off with a dinner on Christmas eve. In all the excitement, I forgot to take pictures of the entire spread but on the dinner table was: roast lamb, honey and soy chicken wings, cider ham with a cranberry glaze, roasted vegetables, honey and fig damper, mushroom gravy, onion gravy, and my vegan contributions, walnut and lentil balls (courtesy of Oh She Glows) and pumpkin and spinach croquettes (based on vegiehead's recipe). As usual, I ate way too much but it was all worth it!
Croquettes and lentil ball goodness
Dessert consisted of many yummy things, but one of the highlights for me were these delicious dairy-free, gluten-free vanilla cupcakes my friend brought. AMAZING! (and just quietly, also delicious for Boxing Day breakfast....)

Christmas Day itself was full of presents and family time. This year Ellie discovered the joy of ripping paper, so she opened ALL the presents. It was lovely to see her face light up with it all, and I can safely say she had a marvellous time. She was also extremely spoilt, not by Mr Fork and I who stuck to our Ellie gift manifesto) but by friends and family who assure me they couldn't help it. This is her, dressed in Christmas finery heading to lunch with the family.

Those sunglasses! I die!
In our family, we do a secret santa for the adults and mine was sneakily also addressed to Ellie. This is what I got (ok, along with a gorgeous door hook thing), because every little girl needs a pink tennis dress right?! I don't even feel ripped off that Ellie got my present, so it must be love. Isn't it adorable!?

Pink tennis dress cuteness overload
Those pineapples I've been growing? Yeah, I cut those up. I don't want to toot my own horn but they were the best pineapples I've ever tasted (since the last one I grew anyway). Tiny, but so sweet and no acid in them at all. Ellie pretty much ate the lion share of them but I did get a morsel. I've saved the tops, so hopefully I can increase production!

Nothing beats home grown produce!
Christmas in QLD is hot, hot, hot, so we're also getting a lot of mileage out of the blow up pool, especially on Boxing Day. My little water dragon is such a water baby. This photo says it all. Mr Fork was filling up the pool with the hose and she insisted he spray her so she could dance in it. Look at that joyful expression!

Loves the water, just loves it
Speaking of dragon babies, I couldn't resist showing off this cool shirt the1337mum gave me as a present. Yes, it's a geeky Game of Thrones shirt, but it's also a nod to my little girl, who was born in the year of the dragon. Appropriate, no? I paired it with my Black Milk year of the snake leggings to keep with the theme. Eagle eyed readers have also made comments about my bean necklace. That was a Christmas present from Ellie to me (it makes me feel better about buying it when I say that). When I was pregnant, I always called her my little bean, and when we knew she was a girl and we'd decided her name, she was my Ellie bean. What better way to commemorate that than with a bean necklace? I love it!

Dragon, snake, bean
Hope you had a merry, happy Christmas!

Saturday 21 December 2013

J for Juggling

Sometimes I think that motherhood is one intricate juggling act. It's a delicate balance of making sure there is enough of you to go around while being a super mum, a loving wife, a strong career woman, a good friend and trying to get a little personal time in there as well. But can we really have it all? And if we can, is it even worth it?

Before baby, I worked as an IT consultant. I did, and still do love my job. I worked long hours. When clients said jump, I said how high, and worked the time needed to deliver exceptional results. I would travel all the time, and happily live out of a suitcase and eat hotel meals for months. And then I got pregnant. And I had Ellie. Suddenly my priorities changed. We never had titles where I work. We fill whatever role needed, whether that was a manager, a tester, an analyst or something else. Now, as I tell everyone, the title that gives me the most pride and joy is "mama".

Coming back to work was a huge adjustment. A spot at daycare came up when Ellie was seven months old and I took it, because everyone knows you don't turn down your daycare of choice. I'm not going to lie, there were tears from her, and lots from me too. It was really hard to leave her with someone else after I'd spent the last seven months living and breathing her. It was really hard to come back to work while I was still breastfeeding and deal with everything that involved, from logistics through to clothing. It was excruciating not being able to see my mother's group whenever I wanted, as we splintered into the 'mamas who work' and 'mamas who don't' groups. It was just a frame of reference as those who hadn't gone back to work didn't really understand what it meant. It was hard to hear about what the mamas at home were doing when I was at work away from my baby.

I'll be honest though. It wasn't all doom and gloom. At work, I get to mentally stretch myself. I get to eat my lunch without sharing, and I get to go to the toilet whenever I want without someone trying to unroll all the toilet paper. I can leave the room and no one screams in outrage and demands to be carried. However, I don't really travel now, although I have done a couple of short trips for a few nights. In those cases, I Facetime with Mr Fork so I can talk to Ellie when she wakes and before bed. I don't work the long hours anymore, and I don't go to as many functions as quite frankly, I'd rather be home spending quality time with my family. So life has changed. Obviously for the better!

Mr Fork and the hounds are very understanding, as a change in my routine inevitably means a change in theirs. We have all had to make adjustments and take extra responsibility to make it happen. At the beginning we were all so exhausted that we would practically fall asleep in our dinner (which we all would eat at separate times anyway). Now, we have it down pat. I will get Ellie going for the day and we will eat breakfast together while Mr Fork works out and then gets ready for work. He will dress Ellie and help brush her teeth while I get ready. When I'm ready, I will pack her daycare bag and he will go to work. Ellie and I play at home and then we're out the door by 7:15. Mr Fork picks her up at 4:30, empties her dirty nappy bucket and gives her a bath. If he gets time, he will start dinner based on our meal plan or I do it when I get home around 5:30 on a good day. Somehow everyone is fed in the storm of evening activity, and Ellie is in bed by 7. Then we have a chat and catch up on our day. Rinse and repeat each day.

I am back at work 3 days a week, and I resent it when someone says I only work three days. No, actually, I work full time, seven days a week. I only get paid for three of them. I know which days are my favourite ones though.

Life is very busy now, in ways I never expected. People think that on my days off, I can swan off to the hairdressers and just get things done. I can't. My day works around Ellie's routine. Let me tell you, my 14 month old wouldn't sit still long enough to let me get my hair dressed. I can't take her lots of places for the same reason. My days not at work are spent playing with Ellie, because that's her job and because I enjoy watching her discover new things. There is no *me* time and some days, I breathe a sigh of pure relief when Mr Fork comes home. Some days I wonder where all the time went because it just speeds by. 

Look at that face! Why would I want to miss moments like this?
Weekends we have swimming lessons and then commitments vary. This time of year is very busy with lots of social gatherings bus usually weekend days are a little more relaxed. I sometimes even get to spend a few extra minutes in bed while Mr Fork entertains Ellie and brings me a coffee. Those few minutes help me keep sane and remember that I am more than a wife and a mother and an employee. It reminds me to take a few moments and just focus on me. And, it's lovely. But nowhere near as lovely as cuddles from my husband, child and furbabies. Life might be busy, and it might be a big juggling act, but I wouldn't swap it for anything.

How do you juggle everything that needs to happen in your life? Do you have help?

Wednesday 18 December 2013

A reversible drawstring Santa sack

So the next time I say, "I can make that!" followed by "wouldn't it be neat to make that reversible!", somebody remind me of this Santa sack. Especially if I shun a pattern and say "how hard can it be?" thinking I'd just do it myself. Somebody remind me of this Santa sack!

I thought that I would be crafty, and make Ellie a Santa sack.

Aside: I was gleefully showing Mr Fork the end result feeling really proud of myself until he asked me what on earth it was. So for those who don't know, the Santa sack gets left at the foot of the bed on Christmas eve for Santa to put the loot in. Mr Fork said he didn't get Santa as a child... which makes me sad. However, he did perk up when I mentioned Santa gets some milk and cookies left out. He suggested "Santa" might prefer rum instead. Right. 

I also thought it would be really neat if I used opposing fabrics and switched the top panels. You know, for a bit of a challenge... WHY DID I THINK THAT?!?! Why did I shun the pre-printed Spotlight material that just had to be cut out, given a seam and a drawstring?

Anyway, it took me a long time (much longer than I think it should have) to figure out how to do it all. I was going to do a tutorial, but I didn't take pictures along the way and I don't have it left in me to make another. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, this is what I've been making! One gloriously festive, pillow case sized, multi panel, reversible, drawstring Santa sack. I'm pretty proud of it too, if I do say so myself!

Santa sack, in all its glory

What have you been making lately?

Monday 16 December 2013

I for Intuition

When I was small, I thought that my mother was magic. If I was hurt, she could make it all better with a kiss and she seemed to have eyes in the back of her head… she just knew when I was up to no good! Now that I'm a mother myself, I realise that my mother was probably just as scared as I was half the time. That she couldn't magically make things better but the simple act of her acknowledging my hurt usually took most of the sting away. That I wasn't half as good as lying to her as I thought I was and she didn't even need a second set of eyes to catch me out.

Ellie often thinks she is being discrete when she does something, but discretion couldn't be further from the truth. I'm teaching her to play hide and seek at the moment, and sometimes her idea of hiding is to turn her back on me. I guess the old "if she can't see me, I can't see her" trick!

Anyway, the point of this post is intuition. Strange as it may seem, mamas just have it. I don't know when it turns up, probably about the same time as the hormones. When I was still pregnant, I just knew I was having a girl. Mr Fork was certain it was a boy, but I knew my Ellie bean was in there.

When she was just a few days old, we had been home from hospital for two days. I still didn't have the feeding down yet, and she was so new that she didn't have a routine, so nothing stood out, but I just knew something wasn't right. We ended up in hospital. She had very bad jaundice and they ended up having to intubate her and feed her through her nose. It was heartbreaking to see her looking so tiny and helpless and attached to machines under that blue light. We spent several nights back in the children's hospital but I'm so glad I followed my gut and took her there. She's been to hospital since then, but that first time was especially wrenching.

Mr Fork and I have a fairly relaxed parenting style. We basically follow Ellie's cues – if she's hungry, thirsty, tired, wants affection or help, she lets us know. Some things though, she can't cue us into, because she doesn't understand yet. And that's also where the intuition kicks in. Maybe it's because she and I shared a body for 9 months that it happens. When she was small, I just knew when she needed feeding, or comfort. If she was about to wake up, often I could be there just as she was wriggling around to look for me. Mr Fork sometimes says I'm coddling her, but I don't think of it like that. I think of it as giving her support until she's confident to do things her own way.

Sometimes, I think parents can get into the mindset that doctors, daycare people, teachers and other people know best because they deal with children all the time/had children before/speak loudest. I say, no one knows your baby better than you do. Especially when they can't talk yet, we need to listen to them (however they communicate) as well as to our intuition.

I'm happy for people to give me advice, but I will choose which of that advice I listen to. The person who counts, the person who knows best, is Ellie. She tells me what she needs to be a cheerful, thriving and confident person. I think she's doing it fabulously!

Do you trust your intuition?

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Men with beards are scary

I had my work Christmas party recently. The company goes to a lot of effort to make it a family day, I guess to recognise that as a consultant, long hours happen, so let's reward the partners and families and recognise it takes effort from them too. Anyway, they pick a venue where there is plenty of room and make sure there is appropriate entertainment. This year there was a live band, a giant slide, a jumping castle and a face painter.

The band was a bit of a hit. Ellie was toddling around and walked in front of them and just started dancing. It was all kinds of cute really. We also tried out the face painter. I had to bribe Ellie to stay still with a biscuit but we got there in the end. I think she looks adorable!

Unfortunately it didn't stay put for long, and to stop her looking like some sort of swamp monster with smeared colours everywhere, I relented and wiped it all off again. Mr Fork took her on the jumping castle, but I don't think she really enjoyed it with all the bigger kids making it very unsteady for her. We didn't even attempt the slide. It really was one of those giant ones you slide down on hessian sacks, and even the bigger kids were getting huge amounts of speed on it. Neither Mr Fork nor I could be convinced to give it a go.

After the lunch, Santa came out. A few months back, Ellie went through a phase of being afraid of men. I don't know why, but it was especially apparent at day care where she would scream as soon as a male walked into the nursery. Which was annoying as I'd specifically chosen her centre because they had males on the staff. It also happened when going to people she knew, even my dad, which he found hurtful. She has mostly moved past that stage, but we did a lot of work with respecting boundaries and not forcing her to go to people she didn't like. There is still a lingering fear of men with facial hair.

Which, I totally forgot when it came time to take Ellie up to get her present from Santa. I just didn't think and put her on Santa's knee for a photo. He did have a magnificent beard. I think this picture says it all:

Look at that look of abject fear. Santa was also taken aback at the loud and piercing screams she emitted. I had to zoom in on this picture so far to get that expression that it reminds me of a grainy still from Monkey Magic... is it terrible that it makes this picture even funnier to me?

I suppose in some ways, it's a good thing that she is leery of strange men who try to give her presents for no good reason. The girl has smarts! One of my Facebook friends commented that the world is changing and that even Tom Baker's (Dr Who) offers of jellybabies wouldn't fly these days. Makes sense really - we spend all our time trying to teach children stranger danger, but it's ok to sit on a fat man in a red suit's knee and accept presents? Exactly.

How are you coping with the Christmas party season? Any fearful moments for you yet?

Monday 9 December 2013

Nothing says summer like a blow up pool

Ellie has her swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, and she just loves the water. We've had lessons since she was about 3 months old and they're definitely paying off. She is a total water baby... if there is any around, she is right in it. This includes the hose when I water the garden, to splashing in mud puddles, to dashing back and forth from under cover out into the rain. I'm glad for that, because when I was little I was scared of water. My dad is always telling people that I even had to have a special hat for when they washed my hair so that water wouldn't touch my face. I later grew out of that and became a swimming champion for my school - who would have thought?!

I think the lessons are paying off as well, as the girl has no fear of water. We have a large spa bath in our bathroom, which, since it is so large, we don't fill very often. When we do, Ellie demands to go in and out all day. Last time, she slipped and fell in it (under supervision of course), but it didn't panic her at all. She took a breath as she was falling and calmly closed her eyes then found her feet. That's my brave, fearless adventurer!

Now that Summer is here and the days are warming up, Mr Fork has relented and blown up the (rather large) pool that Ellie got for her birthday. She was so excited to see it and wouldn't even wait to get dressed in swimming clothes - she insisted she be put in RIGHT NOW and proceeded to have a grand time splashing around.

I grew up near a beach, so to me, summer always meant water fun - either at the beach, on a backyard slip and slide, or just running in and out of the sprinkler. I think for Ellie, summer is a blow up pool on the balcony.

What says summer to you?

Saturday 7 December 2013

A handbag!

When I was younger, my uncle gave me a collection of the Adrian Mole stories. I thought they were fabulous and hilariously funny. There was a line in one of the books making fun of the Oscar Wilde play, "The Importance of Being Earnest". I've not seen the play so that's my frame of reference when I hear the line about a handbag. Anyway, every time I watch Ellie with her latest obsession, it's the line that runs through my head.

For lately, Ellie is obsessed with handbags. I think it started at daycare, but she brought it home with her. I would often catch her carrying around a shopping bag or dragging my (very heavy) computer bag along the floor. Finally I relented and gave her one of my less used smaller handbags (a very nice red one I might add).

She loves it. She carries it around all the time, draped over one shoulder, or across her body. All the while, she does this very queenly wave. I'm sure that I don't do that myself, but she must have picked it up somewhere! Sidenote, but it's very funny the way babies see the world. For example, Ellie also believes that when people talk on the telephone, the correct location of the phone is at the back of one's neck....

I digress. What I wanted to share is this photo that cracks me up, because it is so Ellie. Here she is, pootling around the house with her favourite red handbag accessory. She is having too much fun to stop and let me take a non-blurry photo. Stuffed into her bag are all of life's essentials. Her toy mobile phone (for talking from the neck back, naturally), a single toddler sized shoe, and a handful of sultanas. Every so often she will run up to me and demand kisses and then resume dashing around, handbag in tow.

I do love her so.

Does your child imitate adult life in amusing ways? I'd love a giggle if you'd like to share.

Friday 6 December 2013

Mango and coconut mini wacky cakes

After the success of my first wacky cake, I thought I'd experiment with a variation. What better excuse than a play date to make some mini cakes?

I omitted the cocoa and apple puree this time. Instead, I used maybe a quarter cup of shredded coconut and a mango, which I cut into small pieces. I used some coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil and baked it in small muffin moulds. Because the mango was so moist, I also didn't need the full cup of cold water.

I think next time, I'll puree the mango. While it would have been fine in a big cake, the mini moulds weren't very forgiving with space and there were a few that had big chunks of mango at the bottom which meant that they were a bit soggy and didn't hold their shape (I ate those!). 

Apart from that, these were delicious, and a big hit with Ellie and her friend (and the mummies!). Wacky cake - forgiving and delicious.

How has your week been? After my rant, we managed to get our Christmas tree up on the 1st. Just.

Mr Fork and I remembered about an hour before Ellie's bedtime, so we hustled to get the tree, unpack it and get it set up and the lights untangled. At that stage, Ellie was too tired to care, so we finished it all after she went to bed. Every night afterwards though, she's been entranced with those lights. I can't wait to take her around to look at all the decorated houses!

You might also notice that all the decorations are up high. They were spaced beautifully on the tree, until we realised that Ellie was pulling them down and stashing them around the place. We've yet to find them all again, but those that we have are now beyond grabbing range. For the same reason, presents are not under the tree yet. I just don't trust her and the hounds.

How do you child proof your tree? Is it up yet?

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Wacky cake - strange name, great taste

Recently one of my mummy friends put me on to a great recipe: wacky cake. It's egg free, soy free and dairy free and actually, it's not really so much of a recipe, but more of a guideline. You can vary it to suit tastes and I think it's one of those glorious mixtures that is hard to stuff up! Even better, it's not finicky at all, cheap to make and it's child friendly!

Taking approximately 5 minutes to whip up and 25 minutes to bake, this is a winner in my books.

Here's what I did:

  • 1.5 cups plain flour (I used one cup white flour, half a cup of wholemeal)
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil *
  • 1 cup cold water
That's the basic recipe. You mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet, mixing gently until just combined. Put into your tin and bake at 175C until it springs back when touched. 

Now, as you can see, mine looks a little different from the ingredients indicated! I switched it up a little (because we know I can't help playing with a recipe to make it 'mine').

I added:
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • * approx 1/2 cup of apple puree (and then I reduced the oil and water added to compensate)
As with any vegan cake mixture, you need something to bind it instead of egg. As well as moisture, that's what the oil and water are doing in the original recipe. I used apple puree to make it a little healthier, and also reduce the amount of oil needed. As with regular baking, the tip is to mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet. Once that baking soda is wet, it activates and that's what helps your cake to rise so you want to avoid over mixing so you don't end up with baked concrete, and get it into the oven as soon as possible.

So, the verdict?

Delicious! Quick, easy, and a bit of a hit with both the adults and Ellie too. Hurrah! I'm going to add this one to my regular baking rotation and have some fun with it. 

I also think it would be great with some of the following added:
  • cherries
  • shredded coconut
  • pineapple
  • dates
  • berries
  • mashed banana (I have it on good authority from aforementioned friend that 2 bananas makes it a little stodgy so one sounds just right, although I don't care for banana myself)
  • sultanas
  • cacao nibs
  • apple pieces
Do you have a go-to baking recipe? Or one that you use as a basis for adding other flavours to? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Garden visitors

I mentioned a few days ago about how my garden grows. Well, as much as possible, I like to sit out on the deck and enjoy the breeze (and check out the plants).

These little guys came for a visit and a chat as Ellie and I were having morning tea. We're also lucky enough to get some lizard visitors and it's not unusual to see skinks sunning themselves (while the hounds are distracted elsewhere naturally).

I love that our garden attracts wildlife. I grew up in a rural area where it was not unusual to have kangaroos in the backyard and to see kookaburras, frill neck lizards and the occasional echidna. Not to mention the snakes and spiders the size of my father's hand.... ugh. While Mr Fork gets to deal with any creepy crawlies we get, I'm so glad Ellie can experience some of the nicer visitors!

What kind of animals visit where you are?

Friday 29 November 2013

Eco heroics

Recently I was a finalist in the ettitude eco hero awards. I lost my category by one vote, which was disappointing, but it got me thinking about my eco footprint and I thought I'd share a little about how we live.

I don't really think of myself as an eco hero, per se, just a regular mum who sets a good example for her family. As you know, I use cloth nappies on our daughter and when we wash, its full loads only. Speaking of cloth things we are also big users of cloth for washing dishes, drying dishes and cleaning instead of using paper towels. Living in QLD, I don't own a drier as we get plenty of sun and I think laundry smells nicer dried in fresh air. We meal plan to avoid food wastage, and any food scraps are composted or fed to the dogs. Any paper scraps are likewise shredded and composted. We recycle, freecycle and bicycle as much as possible, and buy second hand where feasible. We have solar panels and our lights and appliances are off when not in use (although I think that's just financial sense!). I also sew, so old clothing generally gets upcycled into something new.

One of the big things that I think makes us eco friendly (and definitely helps the budget) is that I grow as much of our veggies as possible. We don't have a huge yard, but I try to make it as productive as I can - we have a dedicated veggie patch and a fruit section too, which hopefully should start producing in a year or two. Everything is looking lovely after all the rain we've had so I seized the opportunity for photos.

As well as flowers, our front garden has a basil plant which is so top heavy I needed to stake it, as well as that glorious purple chilli plant you can see there. These two are decorative and useful, especially for pasta dishes!

Wider view of the front - the garden behind the hedge is lime, lemon, mandarin and passionfruit vines which I'm gradually training along the fence. This is a slightly old photo and everything is a bit larger now. Mr Fork was a bit vigorous trimming the hedges, so they're looking a little worse for wear.

Here's the raised veggie patch, looking sparse at the moment as lots of it is still underground. There are some rangy cherry tomatoes climbing around the fence, some eggplant, some cucumber, celery, leek and a few other goodies hiding in there.

Beside the house is an area which we don't use very often so I'm making it productive. This boring looking patch actually has some galangal growing beautifully (yet invisibly) along the fence, and then in the mound beside it I've planted sweet potato. Sweet potato is awesome because you can eat the leaves above ground while the potato does it's thing growing underground. Very useful!

Gardens aren't restricted to just the ground either, you can grow lots of things in pots and containers! Styrofoam containers are great for growing lettuce - I plant a variety of types and just harvest the leaves as we need them.

In a sunny place under the stairs I have spring onions in a pot. Fabulous and pretty much ever lasting - I snip them off as I need them. Occasionally I'll do a huge harvest and chop and freeze them in bags for cooking with later. Also some pineapples. These babies are slow growing - it took a year to get my first one, and this is year two, when I get another two! These are seriously the sweetest pineapples I've ever tasted. There used to be rosemary in another pot. People say it's easy to grow but I just can't seem to keep my rosemary cuttings alive at all!

Here's the compost bin. Not very exciting, but it does make exciting things for the garden. I move it to a new position every time it's ready and full and the old position gets used to plant something yummy. You can also see some aloe in a pot in the background. It used to run wild in the garden, until it really did run wild and amok requiring much effort to control, so now it's contained safely in a pot for when we get sunburnt.

So that's some of my gardening and eco heroics. Do you try to be eco friendly or sustainable? I'd love to hear about it (or see your garden if you're keen to share that too!)

Tuesday 26 November 2013

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Is it me, or do the Christmas decorations go up earlier every year? It's not even December yet and I swear, for the past month, every time I venture to the shops I've been assaulted with Christmas carols, decorations and reminders that there are only X number of days before Christmas and better get organised!

Ok I get it, I need to start thinking about preparation, food, shopping and presents. I'm not really a grinch but it seems like we jump from one 'special' day to another and because there's no down time between them, they lose their 'specialness' a bit. Wasn't it only just Easter? Ok I joke, and maybe I get jaded as I get older but this commercialism is insane!

Ellie on the other hand, loves it all! She's is in love with the shiny decorations, the flashing lights, the ho-ho-hoing of a wandering shopping centre Santa. Her little eyes just don't know where to look as she feasts on all the visual gaudiness. It's lovely as this is really her first Christmas where she can start to appreciate it a bit (last Christmas we couldn't even tempt her to play with the wrapping paper on her presents). So for her, I'll make sure I hide my inner grinch and make Christmas magical. Which I will start to do. But not before the 1st of December.

How do you celebrate Christmas? Are you organised already or just starting to think about it now? 

Monday 25 November 2013

Go ahead, make my day

A few weeks ago, I was having a bit of a tough week at work. Usually, I make a big effort not to bring work troubles home with me but I just couldn't stop thinking about the could have/would have/should haves and I have to admit, I took my horrid mood out on Mr Fork a little bit. The poor man, he's not one for the sympathy and the listening and the talking and analysing like my girlfriends are and he didn't quite know what to do as I babbled and vented about things that weren't his fault at all. When I was done, I went to bed in a huff so that I could stew in my bad mood in peace. Mr Fork came in later without any prompting, bringing me a cup of tea and proceeded to give me a shoulder massage to make me feel better. He might not be one for words, but he does redeem himself with gestures.

So, this post is about those things that someone does to help change your mood from a frowny face to a smiley face. Those little things that give an opportunity to grab that warm and fuzzy feeling and share it around some more. Coming into the festive season, moods start to get higher, and tempers sometimes get a little stretched - so here are eight ways you can make someone's day a little brighter:

  1. Check in. Sometimes all it takes is a friend to ask a simple "are you ok?" or, "how are you?" and be willing to listen to the response. 
  2. Listen. Continuing on from #1, honestly, if you ask the question, be prepared to invest a little time into hearing the answer without vacant nodding and mm hmming. 
  3. Have coffee (or beverage of choice, bubbles are also nice!). I have a coffee at home to help get me moving, but by the time I get to work, I'm ready for another, so I've gotten into the habit of going for a second cup with colleagues. It's also a quick opportunity to catch up and have a bit of a vent or chat out of the office. On non-work days, I love nothing better than the excuse to catch up with people over coffee and cake...
  4. Little acknowledgements. It doesn't have to be something bought, a post it note with a smiley face on, or a chocolate biscuit can bring a smile. I have a colleague who brings me slices of homemade loaf, and bags of home made trail mix sometimes. I love it! (I bring her bagels and slice). Apart from satisfying my constant need to eat, I feel super chuffed that someone was thinking of me enough to pack me a snack.
  5. Go for a walk. Apart from working off the snacks and increasing those all important steps,  with the weather getting sunny and warm, it's nice to see a bit of sun and absorb some vitamin D. Plus its a great opportunity to talk or even just walk in companionable silence.
  6. Make them laugh. Tell them a joke. Send a funny email or a voicemail. Put on an accent or do an impression... the possibilities are endless!
  7. Shop. Sure, it's not as easy on the wallet, but shopping doesn't have to result in buying something. Window shopping is almost as therapeutic, and hey, it's called retail therapy for a reason!
  8. Give them a hug. Obviously don't go hugging people randomly, but sometimes a little human contact does wonders. The best part of my day (sorry Mr Fork!) is coming home to snuggles with this little person

What brightens up your day when you're feeling down?

Thursday 14 November 2013

The 'town bike' slice

Let's be honest here, with a name like the town bike slice, how could I not want to make this as soon as I saw it pop up on a newsletter from Stay at Home Mum? I was especially tickled with the explanation for the name of the slice: "Because it’s cheap, easy and everyone can enjoy it!"

It really was easy too. I was able to whip this up while Mr Fork and Ellie enjoyed some daddy/daughter time playing with her balloon balls. No need to mix or stir this recipe, it's as easy as measuring out a cup of each of the ingredients, layering then baking. My kind of recipe!

Chocolate chips - I used a mixture of milk and dark here.

Desiccated coconut.

Nuts - I used finely chopped peanuts and slivered almonds.

Rice bubbles.

Topped with a can of condensed milk.

Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees and allow to cool before slicing - that's it!

Now the most important part, the verdict. I'm a little sad to say that the town bike slice wasn't really a hit with Mr Fork and I. It was too gooey to take anywhere, so my plans of taking it to work to share were shelved as it really needs to be stored in the fridge and eaten straight away while cold. It's also  a little too sweet for our tastes (and Mr Fork loves his sweets so that's saying something!).

It's probably not something that I'll make again but it was nice to try something new.

Have you had a disappointing food experience with something that didn't match your expectations?

Monday 11 November 2013

Fabric balloon balls

Ellie still loves to put things in her mouth. Seriously, it feels like every time I turn around I catch her eating something she shouldn't be. Most things are fairly harmless - various toys, books (this I'm trying to curb, telling her that we respect books in this house!). Some are gross - my slippers, the hound's pork skin chew toys. Some are just plain dangerous - the dishwasher tablet wrappers and small rocks and other things unidentified.

That being said, she also loves balloons. However as we all know, balloons can pop quite easily. Add an inquisitive toddler with sharp fingernails, an insatiable need to put things into her mouth and an inquiring mind into the mix, and I'm just not comfortable letting her play with these things unsupervised. Enter, the fabric balloon cover!

I'm a little chuffed with this sewing creation, as it lets me tick a few things off my 101 things list, it lets me be crafty and it lets Ellie have some sensory fun.  

What is a fabric balloon cover I hear you ask? Simply that, a cover that allows you to enclose a normal balloon inside. This results in several things:

  • If the balloon pops, no problem! All the pieces are contained inside so exploratory small people can't eat them
  • The cover gives the balloon really cool properties - one being, they now bounce!
  • For extra sensory and educational fun, I like to add some dried beans to the balloon before I tie it off inside. This makes it roll in unexpected ways and makes the entire item into a giant maraca
  • The covers are washable and easily portable for instant amusement  
It took me a long time to get the pattern right for these covers. I can't even tell you how many attempts I made! Some shapes were too big for the balloons, some too small. Some were the wrong shape entirely and some didn't fully enclose the balloon when tied up, negating the purpose. I even tried different materials until I found ones with the right properties.  But! Trial and error paid off and now I have a pattern I'm happy with (and Ellie has lots of draft covers to enjoy too!).

The covers here are off to a new home soon... I hope their new owner loves them.

What about you? Made anything crafty lately?

Friday 8 November 2013

H for habits

When Ellie was still brand new and we were still in the getting to know each other phase, I joined a mother's group. It was one of the best things I did as a new mother, because it gave me something to commit to once a week (therefore making me leave the house), and it allowed me to connect with other new mothers in exactly the same situation as me. The mother's group I joined was one organised by a community health nurse, so for the first four weeks, we had someone come and talk to us about various topics, provide some gentle education and generally make us all feel that we were doing a good job and all these new feelings and emotions were completely normal.

One of the things the nurse said sticks with me through until now, almost a year later. I'm paraphrasing, but it went along the lines of, there is no such thing as a bad habit. You simply raise your child in a manner that you can accept. That resonated with me. How often has someone told you to put your baby down and let her cry herself to sleep? That, if you go and pick her up or rock her when she is sleepy, she is just manipulating you? Children are only small for a short time. They are born innocent and don't understand the concepts of 'winning' or 'manipulation'. A baby will cry because it needs something and why should you feel guilty for holding her and providing comfort if they ask the only way they know how to?

I have used that as my parenting mantra… that it is all about the habits that I am prepared to accept. There was a time when Ellie would only fall asleep during the day if she was lying on me. I loved that time, it was lovely to have that close connection and watch her peacefully dream and sleep in my arms. After a week or so when I hadn't gotten anything done because I was watching her sleep and couldn't move around, that habit stopped working for me… so I started to transition her to something else and found another sleeping habit that worked for both of us.

Similar story with co-sleeping. We tried having Ellie sleep in the room with us, and it didn't work at all. She didn't sleep well, I didn't sleep well (although Mr Fork slept beautifully), and so we found a solution that worked for us. I am actually a little jealous of those that can make it work for them as it would make feeding and resettling overnight so much easier.

Ellie is going through a phase at the moment where she wants to be close to me  all the time. She is almost like a little barnacle - if she isn't being touched, she is unhappy. I know that there is advice out there that would say, teach her to be independent. But why should I, when she likes to be cuddled and I like to give cuddles? She learns by being with us and seeing the everyday things that we do. This is where baby wearing - wraps, slings and the Ergo come in ever so handy. She gets to be close, and I still get to go about my day and get things done. Win all around!

Another habit which I really love at the moment is what I have dubbed the "Ellie tax". Our morning routine goes a little like this: Ellie wakes up at 5, and I change her nappy then get her bottle ready. While she is drinking that, I make my breakfast and coffee and sit at the dining table. When she has finished her bottle she will walk over to me, raise her arms to ask to sit on my lap, where she will then proceed to talk to me and tax every third bite or so of what I am eating. Sure, it's probably not the best habit to get her into, but I love a few extra minutes of closeness in the morning, and I've noticed that she is getting much better utensil control because she can see how I feed myself (and her) from the correct perspective. She won't be small enough to sit on my lap forever (she is already half my height!) so I'm going to treasure it while I can. After eating my breakfast, she will move to her highchair and eat her own food (which she sometimes will generously share with me too).

So that's what I ask myself all the time now – is this a habit I can live with? Does it work for me? If not, how can I modify it so that it does?

Do you have any habits which mightn't be very conventional?

Monday 4 November 2013

Real nappies - super sized flats

I've mentioned before that we use mcn on Ellie. Getting to a stage where we found what worked for us was a real journey though. There was a time when she was just too small to fit her nappies well and we had leaks galore. There was the time when she switched from sleeping on her back to sleeping on her stomach, and the positioning of the boosters stopped being so absorbent in that position. As she grew bigger, her liquid output grew to suit and we had to put extra boosters in to cope. After certain meals, she would need several rapid changes... anyway, you get the picture. My point is that even after you find something that works, things change and you may need to revise your idea of success.  We tried a lot of different types of nappies and even though something didn't work at one stage, as Ellie grew and changed, we found nappies which previously didn't fit right were suddenly exactly what we needed.

One of the benefits of a flat nappy over a mcn, is that you can avoid a lot of the changing around and experimenting. A flat nappy is what most people think of when you say 'cloth nappy' - essentially those old school, towel like, massive nappies that need to be wrangled on, folded and positioned just so and pinned in place. Except these days, they're not so massive. And there are fabulous devices which means you don't need to use pins (like a snappi). And because you fold them to suit, there are SO MANY ways you can fold it that you can cope with newborn through to toilet training, front sleepers and back sleepers, boy or girl.  

Now, having said all of that, I looked at flat nappies and decided against them in favour of the less fiddly mcn. I still think they're fabulous though, and I actually have some in my stash. Just in case I need them, but they also have so many other non-nappy uses:
  • Burp cloths
  • Clothing protectors when you're cuddling 
  • Padding a change table
  • Lining the bed
  • Light blanket in the pram and car
  • Emergency towels
  • Cleaning up spills and milk overflows
  • Sunshade
  • Bib
  • Baby to sit on when playing
  • Rolled up to help with tummy time
The list is really as long as you can imagine. So I was super chuffed to get a few Real Nappies in the mail because, even if I don't use them on Ellie as a nappy, I use them for so many other things.

These nappies? They're fabulous. First of all, they're huge, at 27" square. They also come in a cute reusable calico bag.

They're 100% cotton, but not a heavy towelling material, they're a lovely soft birdseye weave - just look how soft they are!

You can see how light the fabric is, so if I was using these as nappies, I can just imagine how lovely and soft they'd be against a baby's skin. It's almost a crime not to use these for their intended purpose... but I'm quite attached to my mcn, so I don't think I'm a flat nappy convert yet. I do have them stashed around though - in the car, in the nappy bag and around the house. They've come in handy when needed, clean up beautifully and dry in a jiffy. Love!

Do you have any items which you've repurposed to suit yourself? 

Disclaimer: I was provided with the nappies as a consideration.

Friday 1 November 2013

Cuteness overload

There is so much cuteness in this picture I just don't even have words. I look at this photo and I just get a huge goofy smile on my face. Baby in a towel display. Love it! Clearly she does too!

What is making you smile today?

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Slung, with love

I've talked about baby wearing before. I find it much easier when it's just me and Ellie to wear her, rather than getting the pram and pushing it around. It's comforting for me to be able to talk to her and drop little kisses onto her head when the mood strikes. I also think its nicer for her to see things from my perspective as well. I already have the Ergo and a wrap (or two), but I've been curious about ring slings and when one of the sites I stalk had a sale, I couldn't resist.

Although I can tie the wrap that I have into carries similar to a ring sling, it's quite a long wrap (size 5) and I find that I have meters of fabric that I have to wrap around me and tie into decorative styles to keep from stepping on it. I then have to untie them when I want to make adjustments, which can get annoying. I just love the colour of this wrap though and it's my go to for doing back carries (Mr Fork prefers the Ergo for everything).

Rocking a robbins hip carry on one of our walks
I bought a linen Sakura Bloom ring sling. It is unpadded, comes in one size and is lovely and thin, so it folds up small, but it's also very supportive and I have no hesitation in carrying Ellie in it (she is about 9kg now at 13 months old). It doesn't have any patterns in the Irish linen fabric but they do come in a choice of colours. After much deliberation I chose twilight, which is a dark blue and I think is quite versatile to pair with a lot of my wardrobe (so vain). The photo below has a lot of sun coming in - it's not so light in person. I even got a tea sample with my order (I love freebies!).

I'd done a bit of research into the fabric type I wanted and I figured linen was a good choice, despite the crease factor. As it comes from flax, it's a nice strong, natural fibre that wears well and is supportive, definitely something you want when you're carrying a child in it! It is also antibacterial and has great wicking properties, both of which are fabulous features which you have an infant who will spill things and maybe overflow a cloth nappy on occasion. The fabric is breathable and dries quickly, perfect for hot Brisbane weather and for when it needs to be washed. It is a sewn ring sling, which means that the rings are built in. I'm ok with that as I'm not one of those who need to change patterns or wraps all the time anyway and I don't want to be messing around setting up my sling with a new wrap constantly. The rings on the Sakura Bloom are made from aluminium so they're very light and since they're continuous, also very sturdy.

I know that many people have said that wrapping is uncomfortable, but honestly, that hasn't been my experience. With the wraps and ring sling essentially being long bolts of material, they are really adjustable and easy to make them sit just the way you like it. It's sort of like origami-ing your baby onto you. Ellie looks really pensive below, but she was just fed up after a long day out. The colour is a fairly accurate representation. Unpadded, I still find it very comfortable, even for long periods of time, and it's easy to get Ellie positioned nice and snug.

Too tired to look at the camera mummy
Long story short? I love my Sakura Bloom ring sling. It's portable, easy to carry around 'just in case', and very simple to use. Ellie loves it and I love having both hands free while I carry her and not have to mess with the longer wrap. Win all around. I've found that the more I use it, the softer it's gotten, and it wasn't even all that stiff to begin with so I'm really looking forward to having it fully broken into delicious softness. 

What's your favourite way to take bub out and about?

Monday 21 October 2013

Things I wish I'd known about cloth nappies from the beginning

I've mentioned before that we use modern cloth nappies (MCN) for Ellie. It was something I felt strongly about, so I took Mr Fork and myself off to an education class while I was still pregnant. It was an eye opener and very useful, but there are things I know now that I do wish I'd known from the start. Here goes:
  • They aren't that much more work than disposables. With a baby, there is lots of washing - clothes changes, burp cloths, bibs, sheets. What's a little extra work to throw in some nappies?
  • The thought of being up close and personal to bodily excretions may seem gross, but you're actually supposed to flush solids from disposables down the loo anyway (most people don't do this). After a few weeks, let's be honest, you're a parent, nothing is going to seem disgusting after you've seen it all, smelt it all and been covered with it too.
  • Try different brands and types of nappies. There are so many options: snap ins, pop ins, all in ones, all in twos, minky, PUL, sized, one-size-fits-most... and the thing is, you won't know until you try them which will suit your baby. They all have the same purpose, but some are better for tummy sleepers, some work better on chunky bubbas or at night, some are designed to wick away moisture faster or contain poosplosions... and what works well while they're a newborn might not work a few months (or weeks!) later.
  • There is nothing wrong with buying second hand. After all, I keep telling Mr Fork, these things are just pretty poop catchers! As with anything though, do your research. Know what the going rate is for brands and types and quality. Learn what the acronyms sellers like to use mean, and ask questions. Make sure you get full disclosure about any stains, smells, crunchiness etc. Buy from a trusted source where the sellers have some kind of verification and safeguards in place. Of course, this means that you could sell yours off when you're done too. There is a genuine market for these items.
What's not to love about a cute fluffy custom butt?
  • Strip wash. Especially if you're buying second hand. This term is thrown around a lot but it took me awhile to figure out how to do it right. Essentially it's a washing process to help break down any buildup in the nappies and assist in getting rid of stains or smells. If the nappies stop being absorbent or start to stink - it's time for a strip wash. It's also the sort of thing that you only do a few times a year. You do a wash using plain old dish washing detergent in warm water, then rinse, rinse, and rinse some more until there are no more bubbles.
  • Sun! Oh my, the sun is your friend. It gets rid of some truly heinous stains. Sun those nappies well because along with being a fabulous stain remover, it's also a great sanitiser and the fresh air makes those babies smell fresh. (On this point too, don't use a drier. It is not your friend although you'll wish it was as you desperately try to dry nappies during rainy winter weather!)
  • Nappy safe products. Nothing will ruin your (admittedly sizable) investment faster than using the wrong products. MCN are quite sensitive. You don't need to use a nappy cream as this can create a barrier in the inserts to stop them absorbing wetness. If you do feel the need to use something, make sure it doesn't contain zinc. I like MooGoo. Washing powders - you don't really need them, just plain water and sun will do the trick. If, like me, it's habit, make sure you use one without enzymes, as that deteriorates the plastic waterproof coating and rots the elastics. I use Aware, or Rockin Green. Canestan is also handy for killing any nasties.
  • On the topic of cleaning, something like a Little Squirt will be your friend. I held off getting one for ages because I was outraged by the price. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw one pop up on my local Freecycle group. Now I couldn't live without it. If you're handy, I've also heard of people making their own, and it really does make fast work of cleaning out nappies.
  • Hang them right. I mentioned elastics earlier, well you want them to last. So don't stretch them when you hang those nappies. Hang your nappies lengthwise to avoid putting unnecessary strain on them.
So many small, cute things in this picture!
So share with me, what kind of nappies do you use? What influenced your choice? Anything you would change? Any questions I can answer about cloth nappies?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...