Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Sophie the Giraffe

Sophie the Giraffe is apparently one of those 'must have' baby toys that everyone knows about. Except me. I must have had a deprived childhood, because I neither had a Sophie, nor did I know about her existence until someone brought her along to our mother's group.

Having been informed about Sophie, I fell in love with her and knew that Ellie had to have one, especially as she's been drooling, gnawing and showing general signs of teething.  Of course, being me, I was much too cheap to pay the $35 (ok, $34.95) that Mothercare was asking locally, so I turned to trusty eBay. Sure, it took two weeks to arrive from the UK, but when a brand new and sealed Sophie was delivered to my door for $17.05, I was happy to wait.

Here she is in all her unopened glory
Fun facts:
  • Sophie was born in France in 1961 (on May 25 - Saint Sophie's Day!)
  • The manufacturing process used to produce Sophie today is a 'traditional' one involving over 14 manual steps
  • She is made from 100% natural rubber, derived from the sap of the Hevea tree. She is PVC and BPA free, painted with non toxic, food grade paints
  • 9 out of 10 French newborns are given a Sophie la Girafe
  • Her bumpy head helps soothe sore, teething gums
So, the results? On opening the packet, there was no overwhelming 'rubber' smell, or any smell at all really. I tested out the squeaker and sure enough, squeezing the head and tummy makes a cute little noise. Definitely easy enough for little hands to squeeze too. I'd been advised that new babies normally go for the ears, and when they get bigger, the hooves are the preferred chew surface. After a quick rinse, just in case, I handed over the giraffe. 

Ellie has just learnt to hold things recently, so after I held her for awhile and she got the idea, she was onto that giraffe like I'm onto my 5am coffee... which is to say, I think she's a hit! So far there seems to be no preference for chewing ears, neck, or hooves - any part of Sophie seems to be fair game right now. I think we have a new contender for favourite toy (the caterpillar is a pretty big hit too)!   


What have been some 'must have' things for your baby? Any hits? Misses? I could go on for ages about what worked for us and what didn't... a post for another time perhaps!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quick update

Just a quick update to say that despite all the wild and windy weather, we're all ok here.  Our house is on a hill, so we have very little risk of flooding, and we didn't lose electricity at all.  I think the only casualty for us is from a leaky window in the sun room - some swollen floorboards and window sills, but easily fixable when everything is dry.

The biggest challenge for us was figuring out how to dry all of Ellie's cloth nappies in the rain when we don't own a dryer (Mr Fork is forever lobbying to get one, but I like the smell of sun on our things).  We ended up getting a clothes airer from Ikea so our house looked like a laundry with nappies, onesies and sheets draped everywhere.  Of course, Ellie chose the rainy days to wet through all of her sheets as well, so a trip to Target was called for - we purchased extra mattress protectors and since they're having a baby sale, we also stocked up on winter clothes and flannelette sheets for her.  It's so funny buying for babies - when she was born, we were told to take 000 size to the hospital. Of course, she came early so nothing fit and we actually needed 00000. Anyway, each new size has seemed massive and buying for winter, we're buying 6 months in advance - I just can't imagine my baby big enough to fit into these 0 size clothes. Having said that, I'm still glad she was born small and has chosen to do all of her growing on the outside of me!

So the rainy weather was a great family bonding exercise, with lots of movies, baby cuddles and hot drinks consumed.  In the last week, Ellie has also mastered the roll over - although she still prefers to roll only to the right.  She makes it look so easy, like she has been rolling forever; it is hard to remember when she was so small and fragile, holding her head up was a challenge.

Each day my baby changes and grows and I'm so grateful to be able to watch her learn these new things.

How does everyone else spend rainy weather? Any favourite activities?


PS I took this picture with my nose as both hands are in it, but I think it worked out rather well!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carried, with love

One of the best things I bought for Ellie (and me) was her Ergo carrier.  Being a borderline premmie baby, she was small and just wanted to be close to her mama all the time.  Some days, I would wear her from when she got up until when she went to bed, popping her out only for nappy changes and feeds, and she would happily nap in there.  Having the Ergo meant that I could have her snuggled in with me and still have two hands free to do other things.  In the early days, there were many times when Mr Fork would come home and panic over what he thought was cradle cap and I had to admit that it was me, eating toast over our daughter and couldn't he tell cradle cap from toast crumbs?!

She's about 7 weeks old in the below picture. Yes, I may or may not be in my pyjamas. Don't judge.


Anyway, she hasn't gotten over her love of being carried and I have to admit it's not something I want her to anyway.  It's an instant calmer for her - when she's screaming in her pram in the middle of the shopping centre, she'll stop as soon as she's picked up and held.  It's annoying to have to carry both pram and carrier, but really, there aren't many things better than being able to tilt my head down and sniff her baby smell or drop random kisses on her head. When she looks up at me, it's one of the sweetest feelings in the world and makes it all worthwhile.

Lots of people told me that I should learn to let her settle on her own and I'd regret it if I always held her to calm her. The way I see it, I carried her already for nine months and we're pretty used to each other. If being next to me, touching, hearing and smelling me makes her calm down, who am I to deprive her of that? I'll be back to work sooner than I want to, and won't be able to cuddle on demand then... and when she's crying and upset, I'd rather hold her than let her think she's alone. (As an aside, she has learnt to self settle herself anyway, but I don't regret ever holding my daughter when she wanted comfort).

We chose an Ergo for a couple of reasons.  One, with the infant insert, it was suitable for use from birth, and could continue to be used until about 20kg. Two, as new parents, we didn't want anything complicated and we wanted something we both could use. This particular model is suitable for tall people as well as short, so suited Mr Fork and I. Three, the performance model (which we have) has a cool mesh insert which supposedly makes it cooler for baby. I can't really compare to anything, but I know that Ellie is a sweaty bub and even on hot days she loves her carrier. Four, it's easily washable if/when she dirties it and five, it comes with good reviews for infant positioning and ergonomics.

However, now that I am a stay at home mama (at least for the present), I have time to trawl forums and see what other things are out there.  Now that I have a baby and I'm not just buying theoretically, I can evaluate products a little more accurately and think about how they would work for me.  While I still love the Ergo, I find as Ellie gets bigger and heavier, I want something that is a little more multipurpose and portable. It's not exactly huge, but it is bulky to carry around and only serves one purpose. After Mr Fork has worn her, I have to spend time adjusting the carrier back to the exact way that I like it. While it's adjustable, you can only carry baby on the front, back or hip and those positions aren't adjustable. It's not a deal breaker but it is annoying.

So after much thought and research, I made the plunge and purchased a woven wrap.  Essentially, it's a long piece of fabric which you can wrap around yourself and baby.  Yes, there is a bigger learning curve, but I figured it would also double as a blanket, a pram liner and a sunshade if necessary. They're meant to be very comfortable because there are so many different wrap methods and carries - you can even carry a newborn on your back if you're brave/talented enough.  Looking online, they're quite the fashion accessory too, coming in different fabrics, weaves, colours and lengths.  I wasn't really fussed about all of that, but I'm still happy with the one I chose. It's grey with a sort of shimmery pink... I can't wait for my new wrap to make its way to me so I can play.  Expect a review soon!
Didymos Indio Porrinho

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Handwritten, with love

I've always been brought up with the understanding that when you receive a gift, you should thank the giver.  This applies even if you don't like the gift or if you have already got one; you should still be able to find something nice and genuine to say about it.

When we got married, when we announced our pregnancy, and most recently, with Ellie's birth and christening, we were overwhelmed with so many generous gifts.  As the first grandchild on my side of the family, my dad was especially chuffed and I suspect did quite a lot of bragging.  This was very evident right from the beginning when we announced our pregnancy - even though we'd said to keep it a secret until we got the all clear, congratulations poured in anyway.  Consequently, I found myself writing lots of thank you cards. Lots. I can't even begin to describe how tired my hand was after the wedding. Mr Fork has boy handwriting so refused to help and left it all to me (typical!).

One thing that surprised me a lot was how grateful people were to receive a thank you.  Let alone a personalised, hand written one!  I for one, love that they love the effort I went to to write something heartfelt, personalised and honest.  I'm also saddened that people were surprised when we acknowledged their gift. I figure, if they can take the time to shop for me, then I certainly can take the time to write a thank you card. The art of the thank you is dying (or is that the cynic in me saying that?).  The art of hand written mail is dying even more.  When I was younger, I had pen pals from all over the world and a collection of great stationery.  Gradually they changed to email pals, but something was lost in the transition.  I know my heart gives a little jump when I get something in the mail that is not a bill, advertisement or reminder.  Bonus points if it's handwritten.  Maybe that's why I love Christmas cards so much.

Bring back the thank you I say.  Bring back hand written mail that you've taken the time and effort to write!  What are the occasions that you bust out the stationery and stamps?

PS: Here's a cute very hungry caterpillar gift Ellie received.  It's one of her favourite toys and she reaches for it often when having tummy time. The bottom is the thank you card I sent (yes, it's taking me awhile to get through them all)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hairly there

When I was pregnant, I read that one of the symptoms was that your hair would become all thick and lush (love those hormones!).  I have to say, I was excited about that, because I'm one of those girls whose hair goes limp as soon as you look at it.  Fine hair means I can't go longer than two days without washing it, or it becomes oily on top and lank at the bottom.  And styling it?  Well, there is a pony tail or out. And leaving it out makes it greasy in an instant. Oh yes, I've certainly been blessed in the hair department.

So I was very sad when I didn't notice any difference in my pregnancy hair.  It didn't suddenly become all Kate Middleton gorgeous, nor did it happen over any length of time either.  I just chalked it up to another myth that didn't apply to me.  

In fact, after I gave birth, I thought those hormones kicked in and my hair was fabulous.  Perhaps it really was the hormones talking there, because considering how tired, cranky and sleep deprived I was, hair (styling, washing, any attention whatsoever) was pretty low on my priority list, so I'm sure it didn't look as wonderful as I thought it did (or wonderful at all really).

I digress.  The reason for the post is that all that lush hair that I thought I didn't get while I was pregnant?  Well it seems to be falling out now.  Sure, I didn't notice it when I had it but I'm definitely sitting up and paying attention now.  Our robot vacuum cleaner (I call him Jeeves) is vacuuming more hair than ever before; so much so that I have to cut these hairballs from his rollers (below image for display purposes only). 


I get out of bed and there are long Lisa hairs stuck to the pillows. I comb my hair and hanks of it remain on the comb.  And don't even get me started on running my hands through my hair anymore - last time I did that, I had enough strands to make a replica Grug (remember him?)


My point is, all you pregnant ladies out there, treasure your locks (even if you don't think they're doing the thick luscious pregnancy thing).  Treasure them I say!!  Who knows where the hair loss will end now?  

PS: Annoyingly, this hair shedding does not seem to extend to other areas of my body which are as hairy as they ever were.  If hair is going to fall out, if there is any justice in the world it should at least include my leg hairs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Deep dish pizza, Chicago style!

Is anyone else humming 'Cell Block Tango' in their head at the mention of Chicago? It's just me? Well alright then, moving on.

In what is perhaps a damaging revelation given my reputation as the healthy vegetarian, this dish comes inspired by an episode of Man vs Food, which Mr Fork is particularly addicted to at the moment.  I don't usually watch it with him as it's just plain gross, but I happened to be walking past when it was focussing on a deep dish pizza (probably eating five of them knowing the show), and something about it called to me.  I figured, we could do that, and knowing that pizza was on the menu plan for the week anyway, set about researching what we'd need to do.

I decided on the dough recipe from here, and pretty much followed the instructions to the letter, with two variations:

  • I don't own a food processor, so I made the dough by hand - there is something extremely therapeutic about this 
  • Knowing that dinner preparation time is also Ellie's fussy time, I pre-made the dough the night before we were having the pizza.  At the stage where you rest the dough in the fridge to double in size, I just left it in for 24 hours instead.  I don't think it hurt the end result at all.

The night of the pizza, all that was left to do was to let the dough heat up a little before rolling it out.  I don't own any metal baking tins, so we improvised a little here too.  Mr Fork made his pizza in a quiche dish, and I used a cast iron frypan.  My preference was for the way the frypan pizza worked out, maybe because the sides were deeper so the pizza rose more and encased the fillings whereas the quiche dish produced more of a pizza 'quiche' to be honest.

Here are the results, I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Mr Fork's creation.  I think he had pepperoni, beef mince and a whole bunch of cheese and sauce in his. As you can see, it's all one level and overflowed the pan a little (thank goodness his meaty pizza was on the bottom shelf!)

My pizza had tomato, cheese, basil, olives and a spicy tomato sauce. My crust encased the filling and looked more like a traditional, yet very deep, pizza.

Here's an internal shot, after waiting approximately 15 minutes for the fillings to cool to something less than molten. 

What worked: The dough was delicious! I've bookmarked the recipe - perfect and flaky but not oily and overwhelming. The small amount of polenta added is a genius idea. The cast iron frypan was the better cooking method, as already noted. Pre-making the dough made putting dinner together quite easy and we were able to devote full attention to Ellie while this cooked.  Leftovers are also delicious on the following days, and actually, the pizza seems to hold together better and is easier to cut when it's cool.

What didn't work: Next time I make this, I think I'll roll the dough thinner as it was a little thick in some places and took over the pizza. I need to find something else for making a second pizza in, as there was no room for Mr Fork's dough to expand and make a nice crust (he does have a tendency to overfill things though). I think there could have been more filling and less sauce as sometimes the sauce was overwhelming.

Otherwise, this was a delicious, delicious Tuesday night dinner. Will we make it again? You bet! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

New experiences

With Mr Fork back to work, Ellie was still settling back into having just me for company.  So I decided that I should break the normal routine and take her out of the house, conveniently also crossing an item off my list.

We went to see my grandmother, Ellie's great grandmother.  She recently was moved to a nursing home, so it really was a good deed visiting there, because lets be honest, those places are depressing!.  I don't particularly get on with my grandmother, but no one deserves to be in a place like that without things to break up the day, and really, everyone loves a baby right?  So we spent some time there, just chatting across three different generations (yes, Ellie made chat noises too).  It was fine - somehow having a baby around breaks up any awkward moments, and I know it really did make her day to see us.

When we got home, it was hot, hot, HOT!  So much so, that I decided Ellie needed to experience the wonders of a bubble bath (and of course, that I should have one with her).  I think a picture says everything really - it was a hit!  Having a baby is amazing... I get to experience things through her eyes, and re-discover how fun new experiences can be.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oh the places you'll go, there is fun to be done!

Today I made a start on making a new friend (Item 100 on my list).  Oh, I know that it isn't a scientific sort of thing and I can't one day go, 'hey, I've moved you from acquaintance to friend!' because we're not in primary school anymore and labels are bad.  But I digress.

I'm the sort of girl ( aside: can you still be a girl if you're a mum, or is it 'woman' now?) who finds it difficult to talk to people I don't know and to lead the way in starting something new.  I mean, what if they don't like me, or I say something stupid for example?  But somehow, being a mummy changed that.  Maybe it was having to get used to having just my own company while I stay at home with Ellie.  Maybe it was completely losing all my dignity in that delivery room and realising that really, we all come into the world the same way and other people aren't that scary.  Maybe it's the fact that babies need so much care and to get that, you need to a) deal with all kinds of people - doctors, nurses, checkout operators etc and b) get over your pride and accept help if it's offered. Whatever, I've had to get over my hangups pretty darn quick because there is a tiny human now who is counting on me to look after her and make sure she grows up to be a decent human being.

To help with that, and to save my sanity, I joined a mothers group and let me tell you, it's been a godsend for when I can't sleep and need someone else to talk to. Or when I'm not sure I'm doing something right and need confirmation that it's normal. Or even just to compare developmental milestones (and hey, maybe brag a little that my baby was the first to sleep through the night!!).  Usually we meet as a group in a park or at some one's home.  But Mr Fork went back to work yesterday, and Ellie was grizzly with only me for company.  So when this girl asked what I was doing, I took a giant step and met her on my own today (well, with our babies in tow) for a coffee.  And it was nice.  She didn't eat me.  I didn't say anything stupid or walk away with food stuck between my teeth (I checked later). And I even signed up to the same baby swim class as her so that I'd know someone else.

I love the friends I have but as the first in our group to have a baby, it's also super nice to meet new people who know exactly what I'm going through.  And can I just say, thank god for being able to have coffee again!

Monday, January 7, 2013

101 things to do in 1001 days

In lieu of making a list of resolutions that never happen, I thought I'd steal an idea that I came across on a blog somewhere and make a list of ’101 things to do in 1001 days’.  Not only does this give me a longer time limit to get things done, but because it's a little more task oriented than a blanket resolution, I hope that I'll have more success with it.  One of my resolutions (ha!) will be to keep updating my progress here, as being accountable seems to inspire me.  

Start date: 7 January 2013
Mid date: 22 May 2014
End date: 28 Sept 2015

Culinary Exploits

1 . Cook 5 meals from 5 different countries
2 . Try cooking with 10 herbs that are new to me
3 . Have dessert before dinner
4 . Go vegan for a month
5 . Pack home made lunches every day for a month
6 . Photograph my home made lunches every day for a month
7 . Make my own curry paste
8 . Master buttercream icing
9 . Make falafels
10 . Make at least one thing out of each cookbook I own
11 . Preserve my own food
12 . Learn to make spinach pie (spanakopita)
13 . Make refried beans
14 . Make 10 different soups
15 . Make a birthday cake for someone
16 . Bake an apple pie
17 . Make pinwheels
18 . Blog at least one recipe a month
19 . Learn to bake bread
20 . Eat three things I've never tried before
21 . Take a cooking class
22 . Host a dinner party
23 . Use five ingredients which are new to me
24 . Grow my own vegetables and cook a meal with them
25 . Try one new restaurant

26 . Serve a meal plated like it's for a cook book
27 . De-clutter and re-home duplicate or redundant kitchen gadgets

Family

28 . Buy flowers for someone
29 . Send photos to my mother
30 . Take my father out for lunch
31 . Document our family tree as much as possible for Ellie

32 . Dedicate one day a month to exclusive family time

Love

33 . Have a romantic weekend away (with baby)
34 . Have dinner by candlelight

Organise myself

35 . Write a will
36 . Learn basic first aid
37 . De-clutter the spare room
38 . Cull all of the clothes I no longer wear or will never wear again. Donate them. Be ruthless
39 . Organise the 'man cave' and re-home all the textbooks we no longer use
40 . Clean and organise my crafting supplies
41 . Clean our rugs and finally get rid of the stale dog smell
42 . Be more proactive with composting and recycling to reduce rubbish
43 . Clean one big thing a week (an under cupboard space, the microwave, the pantry etc)

Getting in some culture

44 . Read at least 10 paper books
45 . Read 50 new books
46 . Learn all the words to five songs which are not nursery rhymes
47 . Register and release 10 books through bookcrossing.com
48 . See 10 movies I’ve never seen
49 . Watch something at the theatre
50 . Have a movie marathon

Reflect

51 . Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
52 . Leave an inspirational note inside a book for someone to find
53 . Write a list of 101 things I’ve achieved in life so far
54 . Update and keep up to date Miss E's milestone book
55 . Identify 100 things that make me happy
56 . Go back and label each week of pregnancy photos
57 . End each day by reflecting on three things that I am thankful for

Getting healthy

58 . Ride at least 500km
59 . Run for an entire touch football game instead of half heartedly jogging
60 . Practice yoga and stretching at least once a week for 15 minutes
61 . Drink 1.2 litres of water everyday for a month

Keep learning

62 . Learn 50 new words in Cantonese, and use them regularly
63 . Learn to say “Thank You” in 10 different languages
64 . Learn 10 words in sign language

Money

65 . Regularly add to my change jar
66 . Have a 'no unnecessary spending' month

67 . Have one month where I refrain from buying coffee out

Be a better person

68 . Perform at least one random act of kindness each week
69 . Sponsor someone doing something for charity
70 . Give at least one heartfelt and honest compliment a day
71 . Donate $10 to charity for every uncompleted task on my list
72 . Fast for one day of Ramadan

Writing

73 . Comment on 50 different blogs
74 . Write a blog post every day for a month
75 . Post an outfit of the day on my blog once a week for a month

76 . Send at least 10 handwritten letters/cards this year

Pamper myself

77 . Get a facial
78 . Get a massage
79 . Take a bubble bath
80 . Take time out for 'Lisa time' at least once a week

Be creative

81 . Create a flower arrangement
82 . Doodle once a day for 1 week
83 . Make five home craft projects
84 . Sew 5 things from scratch
85 . Organise and present our photographs
86 . Use my hot glue gun
87 . Make at least five gifts for people

Go on an adventure

88 . Go for a family day trip on the spur of the moment
89 . Go on a winery tour
90 . Visit a museum
91 . Go on a boat
92 . See the world through my daughter's eyes and have a children's adventure
93 . Visit an island
94 . Go fishing
95 . See a Brisbane attraction I haven't seen yet

Just for fun

96 . Visit a psychic
97 . Lay in the grass and watch the clouds
98 . Photograph a day in my life
99 . Hug a tree
100 . Make a new friend
101 . Buy something frivolous

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