Wednesday 31 July 2013

What's in a (sur)name?

There was an article published on yesterday (a reliable source if ever there was one) about a woman who was travelling with her children overseas. The woman had remarried and hence had a different surname to her children. On going through border patrol, the children were separated from their mother and asked to confirm that she was indeed their mother and not a random lady abducting them. The end result was that for future travel she needs to carry a letter from her ex-husband granting her permission to travel with the children.

This made me think. When I married Mr Fork, I chose not to take his surname. It was just easier for me – I had an established career, my own asset base and frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to go through all the hassle of changing it. Nor did I see any reason why I should have to – I’ve had my name since birth, it’s how everyone knows me and I’m quite attached to it. And I think it’s better than his. Anyway, whatever my reasons, Mr Fork was fine with them as long as any children we had would get his name. I agreed, and so Ellie and he have the same surname, and I have my own.

It doesn’t bother me, although some people were a little offput with my decision and it does seem to confuse a few individuals. My father sends all mail addressed to Mr and Mrs Fork. Sometimes, I’ll get referred to as Mrs Fork when I’m at something to do with Ellie. At the hospital giving birth, I was checked in under my own name, and everyone called him Mr Lisa* (*my surname). That bothered him more than it did me.

I got to thinking though. What makes our society so patriarchal that fathers need to give permission for anything? What makes my husband’s surname better and more meaningful than mine? I actually lobbied quite hard for both of us to change our names when we got married and combine our names into something new (not one of those awful hyphenated names). I was shot down. Turns out, Mr Fork is attached to his name too – while he couldn’t care less about my name, he didn’t want to change his either. Further research showed it would be quite difficult anyway. Did you know that if a woman wants to change her name after marriage/divorce, it’s a simple document and showing of your marriage certificate? If a man wants to do the same, he has to do it through deed poll and all the old certificates (birth etc) are declared null and new ones issued!

What a crock. Just another example of inequality of the sexes. I guarantee you, if a man was travelling through security with children of a different name, I’m sure he wouldn’t have gotten the same treatment as that poor woman. Shame!

Do you have the same name as your children? Has it been a big deal for you?

Monday 29 July 2013

Salt dough keepsakes, attempt #1

When it comes to presents, I like the home made kind. Well, I also like the shiny kind if you happen to be reading this Mr Fork! But... home made are great too. There is something about a home made gift that says, I took the time to think of you and make this specially. With that in mind, Ellie and I have started thinking about Father's day. Yes, I know it's early, but I like to be prepared in case things don't work out. Lucky, as this idea didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.

I already used my matching daddy/daughter pyjama pants idea. I then thought that making imprints of Ellie's hands and feet might be fun.  I looked around the Internet for some home made mixtures, and what kept coming up was salt dough. 3 ingredients, what could be easier?

This is how my first attempt turned out
Pink salt dough hand and foot
It's not bad, but I definitely thought it would be easier. The mix above was made with equal parts flour and salt and half the amount of water. I used 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup water, plus a few drops of pink food colouring. Kneaded together, then rolled smooth, I pressed Ellie's hand and foot in then used a small plate to cut the edges for a clean border, before baking at 100C for 3 hours.

I found the mixture dry and crumbly, as evidenced by the rough edges. It never got to the smooth consistency called for when kneading. After baking it the salt crystals are really obvious and make the finished product look grainy on close inspection. That's what happens when you blindly follow a random recipe without further research!

Puppy paw tester

  • Further searching has shown me that my dough measurements were a bit off. Apparently the best results come from equal parts salt and water, double the flour. So I think my second attempt will be 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup flour. That makes sense and it should provide a smoother textured end result
  • The next time I do this, I'll be sure to wear gloves. I had some small cuts on my hands from gardening earlier, and kneading the salt dough was NOT kind to them. Also, it was very drying, so if you try it at home, be sure to moisturise after.
  • I guess it should be obvious, but this mixture is decorative only - the high salt content makes it not for consumption
  • Apparently you can air dry these babies over a few days instead of using a slow oven. I might try that technique too and see how it works out
  • I'm not sure about the longevity of the dough, so when I'm happy with the final baked product, I'm going to spray with a clear sealant. In the meantime, I think some grandparents might be getting these first attempts for their own Ellie keepsake
Watch this space for the next attempt!  Have you done anything crafty lately? 

Sunday 28 July 2013

Sunday silliness

I mentioned on Saturday post swimming lessons, we have a cheese and vegemite scroll tradition. This Saturday was a little different as we had a change in routine. Some poor child (not mine thank goodness!) had a little... accident in the pool so our lesson was aborted midway. I have never seen a pool empty so fast let me tell you! Anyway, they scooped the offending object from the pool, but everyone had to leave and lessons are off until the pool has been drained and refilled. I was actually a little speechless that there was such a big deal but on further reflection I'm glad the venue takes hygiene so seriously. I'm not sure what I thought would happen but I suppose I thought they'd add extra chlorine and everyone would carry on. Given that I have to stick my head in that water and blow bubbles at Ellie, yes, I am glad the water will be cleaned.

Instead of our scrolls, instead we went to visit family and take the opportunity to cross a few household chores off our list.

Ellie might have missed out on her scrolls, but our little girl can eat and definitely won't tolerate any type of deprivation! Instead, she was spoiled with home made noodles for lunch.

To make up for it, I was going to make something delicious for Sunday breakfast today, but instead I was spoiled by Mr Fork getting the morning routine started while I got a rare lie in. I was treated to a cup of hot coffee in bed, and when I walked outside, I was greeted with this sight:

For those wondering, that's a piece of Vegemite toast in her hand, and a mixture of Vegemite and banana over her face. And she wonders why I wouldn't kiss those pouty little lips! After breakfast, our house was filled with plenty of giggles and the smell of popcorn as Mr Fork and I introduced Ellie to Monsters Inc, the movie. Maybe she is a little young to appreciate the antics of Scully and Mike, but I know she loved the snuggles and family time we had (truth be told, so did I!).

How was your weekend?

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Easy cheesy vegetable muffins

I'm always looking for new ways to tempt Ellie's appetite. She isn't by any means a picky eater (yet!), but I figure, the more things I can get her to eat now, the broader her palate later down the track. I also really appreciate recipes that I can make ahead of time and pull out of the freezer when needed. So with that in mind, I jumped right on these muffins, especially because they're so adaptable and you can add whatever you have to hand.


1 cup SR flour
1 cup milk of your choice
1 cup grated cheese
1 tsp seeded mustard (and salt to taste if you choose)
Assorted vegetables

Mix together all the ingredients. Add whatever veggies you have on hand. The ones I made recently had a small grated zucchini, a fresh corn cob and two small diced red capsicum.

Depending on the veggies added, you may need to add extra flour or milk if the mixture is too wet/dry.

Heap the mixture into your muffin tin. It will make 8 regular muffins or lot of mini muffins (perfect size for little fingers!). Bake at 180 for 25 minutes.
Excuse the picture, Mr Fork helped me fill the muffin moulds and he's not as tidy as I am
I will add that if I was baking these for myself, I'd add more flavour, maybe some sauteed onion and/or some paprika and cumin. However since these are for Ellie (and her developing tastebuds!), I leave the flavours a little more on the bland side, even leaving out the salt.

Just quietly, they're a bit of a hit, and I cheer on the inside when she picks the vegetables out and eats them first.
Do you have any recipes that are a hit with small eaters? Do you need to encourage your children to eat vegetables?

Thursday 11 July 2013

Review: Fitbit Flex

Anyone who knows me in real life knows a few things about me:
  • I'm a competitive sort.
  • I'm a bit retentive – if there is a set of things to collect, then I need to have the whole collection.
  • I'm an unashamed geek – I love technology and gadgets.
For these reasons, as soon as I learnt about Fitbit, I knew I had to have one. What could be better? A little device that links to my food consumed and exercise apps, counts my steps, monitors my sleep and then, links to my iDevices and provides me with funky dashboards? And achievement badges? And lets me compare myself to friends? Hello! I am in geeky device heaven!
"But, you're a sensible sort," I hear you say, "so why did you spend an obscene amount of money on a glorified pedometer Lisa?" I won't lie. Like FourSquare which sucked me into visiting places and checking in to earn badges and free samples, Fitbit has done the same with their achievement badges. That, and I can compare my stats against friends, and what inspires people more than a little real-time friendly competition?
I'm not a particularly fit person anymore. I'm not fat by any means, but nor am I fit. Post baby, I just want a little motivation to get moving. I used to be quite active and since Ellie came along, quite active now means "I carried her around and did a few lunges at the same time today" instead of "I cycled 100km today". So I need a push to get moving.
I was tossing up between the Flex and the One, and in the end, while the One has more features at the same price point ($119), the Flex won out because I can wear it all the time without having to remember to transfer it between outfits.
It records a bunch of cool stuff: distance travelled, number of steps, calories burned, and sleep quality. It's extremely minimalist. It looks like one of those charity wristbands and 5 little lights tell you how you're tracking along against your daily step goal. I've had the device a week now and I've only needed to charge it the once, so I'm getting well within the stated 5-7 days of battery life from mine.
I can see when I walked to and from the bus and did a lunch time walk
It even syncs in nicely with apps I already use such as myfitnesspal and runkeeper. So although it doesn't have the best food tracking system or a GPS onboard, I can use other apps to do that, and it accepts the data onto the dashboard when I sync.
I have to remember to turn it over to sleep mode but even that isn't too much of a hassle, just tapping a few times on the band. It doesn't bother me to wear it while I'm sleeping, and that data collected is pretty neat really – I can see when I went to bed versus when I woke up, and also how many times I was restless each night. The silent alarm gets a round of applause from me – it's a nifty concept that it awakens me by vibrating quietly. Mr Fork appreciates it I'm sure, as I generally wake before him and now he can actually sleep in until his own alarm goes off.
Apparently I sleep more efficiently than I think I do
I am curious about the statistics. I mean, what constitutes "very active minutes" and "restless" while sleeping? If I roll over, or scratch my nose, is that restless? If I jog on the spot, does that count as a step? What about if I wave my arm up and down? Despite my questions, once I'd calibrated the device, I have found it to be relatively accurate. I compared by counting steps manually and then comparing the results to the measured statistics. I can see where I walked to the bus stop and went to get lunch, and even when I stirred at night when Ellie cried out.

Although, when I set my daily goal, I added an extra 10% to what I wanted to achieve as I figure it tracks an awful lot of erroneous gestures when I wave my arms around.
It's an encouraging and friendly little device. When I sync to my phone and I'm close to a goal, it lets me know. It tells me when friends are catching up (or I'm catching up to them) and the allure of badges is pretty sweet, such as the 5000 and 10000 steps, or 50km.
Badge achievements
I find if I'm close to hitting a big number like 10000 for example or nearly caught up with the person in front of me, after Ellie is in bed I'll pace around the house trying to get my count up. I make sure I go for a stroll around the office so I don't get told off for inactivity. It's sneaky the way I have made exercise more a part of my day simply by wearing my Fitbit!
Friend leaderboard
So I think it was a good investment for me. Sure, it's a glorified pedometer. Do I wish it had more features? Absolutely. In the future, I can see that this little device is going to be fantastic. It's going to be a completely ubiquitous fitness tool that everyone wonders how we ever did without it. But now, I'm addicted to the badges and the friendly competition. Had it not been for those friends, sure I mightn't have been walking laps around the veranda while I checked my Facebook updates but on the other side of the coin, I walk a lot more steps than I thought I did!
Being a nerdy sort, I have a wish-list of features I'd love to see included in future Fitbit iterations:
  • For me, a fitness band should be ubiquitous. If it senses when I'm moving, why do I need to tell it when I go to sleep and wake up? The Fitbit should detect this and record appropriately.
  • Borrow some features from the Jawbone Up. If it can tell when I'm restless, then wake me at the appropriate spot in my REM cycle if it's within say, a 10 minute window either side of my programmed silent alarm.
  • Add a better display on the band. As it's taking up valuable permanent wrist space, the least it could do would be include a time display
  • I'd love to be able to count my stairs as well, so is there any way to fit an altimeter in?
  • The designers missed a golden opportunity to use the charging cable to also sync the device. I mean it's plugged into the computer already, why not sync then too?
  • Why can't I export my statistics from the dashboard?
  • Please bring in some decorative accessories! A black plastic band doesn't go with a cocktail dress really, but why should it be one or the other?
  • I'd love to see a dedicated iPad app instead of having to use my iPhone one.
Do you have a Fitbit? If so, add me and we can be fitness friends!

Sunday 7 July 2013

Kid-friendly cheese and vegemite scrolls

I don't know if I've ever mentioned if before but I am vegetarian (vegan at home), and Mr Fork is a raging carnivore. When I got pregnant, we were adamant that Ellie could decide what she wanted to eat. It wasn't going to be a drama for us anyway, although we cook in themes, we do cook separate meals, one with and one without meat.

Turns out, that for now at least, Ellie likes meat. I offered her tofu, and she wouldn't have a bar of it. Mr Fork offers her chicken and she gobbles it down. This may or may not have anything to do with daycare. The child care centre I eventually chose for Ellie has an on site chef who prepares meals for all the children daily. They put out a meal plan each week and it really is quite gourmet - tuna pasta, beef and bean burritos, exotic fruit and vegetables etc. Anyway, Ellie is given meat at daycare too which may have influenced her preferences. It's never been an issue for me being around people who eat meat, but I am a little off put when Ellie tries to share a chunk of chicken with me for example.

On the days that she isn't at child care, she is obviously with me. Day care days are such a rush that I like to put a bit more effort into her meals when I'm home. For that reason, Saturday usually means pancakes for breakfast in our house. I love pancakes, and since Ellison has swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, I think its a good energy boost for her as well.

After she has had her post swimming nap, we've started another food tradition: the cheese and Vegemite scroll. It sounds difficult, but I cheat. In fact it's so easy I'm embarrassed to call this a recipe.

Take a sheet of puff pastry, you know, the sort you buy in the frozen food section at the supermarket. Let it defrost on the bench while you assemble everything else.

Spread Vegemite on the sheet, to the edges. You don't want any empty scrolls.

Sprinkle cheese on top. It works better if you grate your own but feel free to use pre-shredded to save time too.

Roll into a log, keeping everything fairly tight (think, like a sushi roll).

Cut into slices. I like to make them about 1.5cm thick. Put them onto a tray lined with baking paper and put in a moderate oven for about 15-20 minutes.

I have also made adult versions of these for party snacks. The big hit seems to be the Mexican themed ones. Retried beans, salsa and cheese filling. Yum!

Share with me - what do you feed your children? Are weekend snacks any different from weekday snacks?


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