Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday

Now that Miss E has started crawling properly, she's a menace around the home. She's like a little shadow in that if you move, she will follow you around the house. She's also at the stage where she likes to explore by eating everything. 

I've mentioned it before, but in case you didn't know, we also have two fur-babies:

Winter coated hounds
While they are the sort of dogs with hair (and not fur), so that they don't shed, they are allowed inside.  They think they own the house actually, which means they see it as their right to roll around where they please, track dirty paw prints all over the floor and chew their food anywhere except over the designated doggy eating area.  

We also have wooden floors.  Now I'm not much of a housekeeper but these floors are impossible to keep clean.  Something about the way the light reflects just shows up dust everywhere.  

When you take those elements: dusty wooden floors, indoor dogs who think they are human and a baby who eats everything, there really is no other option but to wear these slippers.


Yes, look at me, I'm a fashionista indeed! Don't judge, these babies pick up small pieces of dirt and debris like you wouldn't believe. And using cloth nappies, it's simple enough to wash them when I'm doing a load of other things too.  Comfortable and functional!

Do you have any guilty little fashion secrets lurking around that you feel like sharing?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Top tips for the working mum

Now that I'm back in the workforce again, I've realised that I can't just slip back into the position I used to have. Sure, legally I am doing just that, but in reality, it's not possible. I'm not the same person I was when I last held this job - I have added responsibilities now, and commitments which mean I can't spend the hours that I used to at work.

Here are my top tips for the working mum:

Be organised. I am not even kidding here. I am up feeding at 5am or earlier. I may have even had overnight awakenings. I then need to make sure her daycare bag is packed, my work day bag is packed, I have breakfast, my lunch is packed, I don't forget the breast pump and other related doodads, I look respectable in something without baby spew, my hair and makeup is done, eye bags are covered... well, you get the picture.  All of this needs to happen before I'm out the door at 7:15. I drop her at daycare, find a park, then get the bus in to work. Depending on where my client is located, I might drive but most often it's the bus. Getting out that door on time takes a lot of effort. I try to do a lot of the preparation the night before. I have lists on the refrigerator to help me remember what I need to do. This leads nicely into my next tip.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. That's right. You don't need to be super mum. You just need to be good-enough mum for the most part and spectacular mum when it matters (for me that's snuggling, story time and meals). When people offer help, take them up on the offer - they wouldn't ask if they didn't mean it. This goes for new mums too, a lesson that I learnt too late. When people come to visit the baby and ask if there is something they can do, say yes! They want to feel useful. Let them make tea, do the washing up, hold baby so you can shower and use the toilet. Going back to work, use the help you have available. I've delegated things to Mr Fork because he offered to help me (alright, I strongly hinted, then demanded he help). I've delegated things to colleagues when they offer assistance. They know I'd do the same for them when they need a hand. I've told daycare what they can do to help me and bless them, they do (of course, I'm paying them handsomely so maybe that doesn't count).

Know your rights. I had a heck of a time organising my return to work. I won't go into it because it's not relevant, but I will say, know what your rights are. You are entitled to have lactation breaks at work. You are entitled to specific amenities to do so. You are entitled to work the hours your contract says you should. Don't be put off by the sly looks when you walk out the door right on finish time because you need to do the day care pick up run. People don't necessarily know what work you do. You might sit on the bus answering emails. You might have started at sparrow fart in the am already. You might go home and work extra hours after baby is asleep. There is always more to the story than face value.

Sell yourself. That's right, you had a baby and that's a fabulous achievement but while you were at home raising a tiny human, the work world went on without you. Let the relevant people know you're back! Be active on social media if that's your thing. Reply to emails in a timely manner. Read relevant industry articles so you're across what's been happening in discussions. Be enthusiastic, especially about yourself. People will respond to that.

Not everyone wants to see photos of your child. Yes, you did a marvellous job and created a fabulous person. It's hard to leave that baby behind while you're at work. Of course you have an entire smart phone full of photos. And printed ones in your wallet. And home movies saved on your computer. Of course you're entitled to brag a little about your child. Once. Only if people ask. Some people just aren't into pretending to admire the fifteen different pictures you have from microscopically different angles. That's fine, I feel the same about car pictures. Don't be offended, just put a photo discreetly on your desk so you can look at your child and remember the whole reason you're back at work in the first place.

Don't let the non important things get in the way of the important. Really. Remember why you're working. You're working so that you keep your skills current. So that you have some adult conversation in your day. So that you're setting a positive example for your baby - they can see you're a strong independent woman with a life outside of the home. You're working to make a contribution financially to the household. But don't let work become the most important thing. Remember why you're at work and what your priorities are.

Be there 100%. Whether that is at home or at work. I remember reading some studies that said children didn't really remember how much time parents spent at work. What they did remember was the time that was spent with them. So, when I'm home, I make sure that 100% of my focus is on Miss E. I'm not checking emails while I'm playing with her - I'm letting myself enjoy the time that I have with my child. Similarly, when I'm at work, I try not to let myself get caught up in home tasks and thoughts, and I give myself 100% to the task I'm being paid to do. It's definitely hard, especially in this age of smart phones and push technology, but when you're home, would you rather be doing work or spending time with your baby?  Exactly.

Know when to say 'no'. I don't have to tell you what a hard job being a parent is. To add to that, you're back at work where people don't care that you're a parent, they just care that you get your job done. You don't want to let either side down, so know your limits. Yes, you want to get ahead and you want to promote yourself, but be realistic about what you can achieve. It's alright to say no sometimes.

Tell me, do you have any tips for the returning-to-work mum? Do you work with any mothers and wish you could give them advice? I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wean Meister Freezer Pods

My philosophy when it comes to introducing foods is that 'food before one is just for fun'. So, as much as possible, when we feed Ellie food, we want it to be a fun experience. Ever since she turned six months old, at meal times, she sits in her high chair with us at the table, and gets samples of what we're eating.  We don't puree it, but make sure it's in finger sized portions so she can hold them and feed herself (obviously, anything spicy or not recommended for babies her age is off the menu). She can mash it over her face and gum it to her hearts content, as long as she participates in meals.  Really, her primary source of nutrition is still milk - we're just getting her used to the texture and taste of food at the moment.

Having said that, I also want her to swallow some of it, not just squeeze it into ever shrinking portions, so we do make food purees in various levels of 'chunkiness' for her too. In those cases, I feed her some of it, and then about half way through, she can steal the spoon from my hand and feed herself (although more often than not, it ends up all over her face anyway!). I like to make Ellie her food instead of buying pre-made stuff but I want to give her variety without having her eat the same thing for a week.  Here is where Wean Meister Freezer Pods from Biome come in.


These nifty little containers are perfect baby sized portions - each pod can hold up to 75ml, so, 9 x 75ml gives you 675ml from every frozen batch.

Features:
  • Made of a flexible and durable silicon, the pod tray is safe for fridge, freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher
  • The pods are soft enough to pop out the food yet have extra support so they aren't floppy and liquid stays where it should when you're filling/carrying them
  • The lid has an area for writing on to date/label the contents and is flat for easy stacking
  • Great portion size - 75ml per pod
  • Tray size: 20cm x 20cm x 5cm
Verdict:

I love these trays! Previously I'd been using normal ice cube trays to freeze purees but this had several faults: they weren't flexible so it was hard to get the food out, they weren't really big enough to store a decent portion size and they didn't have a lid so I was getting a lot of ice crystals on the food. I didn't have any of those issues with the Wean Meister pods.


Food comes out really easily because of the silicon, but the tray was reinforced enough that as I had no fear of spilling anything while carrying it to the freezer.  At first I was sceptical about writing on the circles to label food with a ballpoint pen, but I found that it was easy enough to rub off with my finger when done. There was no ink remaining on the plastic, but there was a small indent of the writing, no doubt from the pen itself. It was only noticeable in certain light and because I was looking for it.




I also used these to store my breast milk - which was great as I didn't have to use those plastic bags for it, and it's so much more environmentally friendly. The only criticism I have about that is that the pods are too big to fit directly into the brand of bottles that we use for Ellie, so I had to defrost them in another container and then decant it, but that's a minor issue.

Cleaning of the pod was easy. As it's a non porous surface, food didn't really stick to it at all, so it was quick and hygienic to clean.

I can see that they're going to continue to be useful long after the weaning phase too. I can use them for baking, for making jelly and ice blocks, a snack tray for Ellie and for random storage of odds and ends.

Do you have any tips for helping your baby learn to eat? What foods do your children love?

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Wean Meister Freezer Pods for consideration

Thursday, April 18, 2013

First world problems

Today I thought I would share some of my 'hugely important to me but no-one else cares' issues, also known as my first world problems.

1. The could have, should have

Don't you hate it when hours after a conversation you're still thinking of all the things you could and should have said? I'm having a bit of back and forth discussion with work at the moment, and I'm constantly re-running things in my mind, thinking of all the points I could have raised and questions I should have asked. I'm stressed enough without dreaming about these things and giving myself insomnia. I have better things to think about. Like chocolate. Or shoes!

2. Parents with prams parking
Before I had a child, I wouldn't have dreamed of parking in the parents with prams spots. Now that I have Ellie, I truly appreciate that one of the things which makes shopping with a child much smoother are these parks. It's not easy to manoeuvre a baby in and out of the car while juggling a pram, nappy bag, car keys and handbag. It's even harder to navigate a car park with a baby in tow when you constantly have to be on the lookout for speeding hooligans who think it's funny to race along the aisles. So I definitely appreciate being able to have a park which is a little wider and closer to centre entrances.



That's why it really gets my dander up when I see non parents parking in these coveted pram spots. I kid you not, I have been patiently waiting with indicator on for one of them, only to have an inconsiderate non-parent swoop in and park there. I checked for a car seat and then you better believe I had a few choice words ready. Of course, with Ellie in the car with me, I was unable to use them all but I was boiling on the inside. Really, in the scheme of things it's a minor inconvenience, but it's nice to have the extra room and close proximity available to those who need it.

3. The wardrobe crisis
If you're one of those people who walk out of hospital post baby sporting your pre-pregnancy jeans, good for you. For the rest of us, I'm just going to put it out there that post pregnancy clothing is just as difficult to find as maternity clothing. For the past six months, I've been wearing a mixture of before and during maternity clothes (and loving it!) but with a return to work imminent, I've had to start thinking about what to wear. As I'm still breastfeeding Ellie, I'm going to need to pump, so that rules out all of my slinky corporate dresses, pretty much leaving me with button up, stretchy, or sneaky boob-holed tops as I don't plan on getting mostly naked at work to pump thank you very much.

Does this scream corporate or just scary boob flash top?
Before getting pregnant, I wouldn't have been seen dead in anything jersey, stretchy, or head to toe 'cheap store' clothing. However, it's pretty much my regular wardrobe these days - it's easy to feed in and I don't mind too much if I get the inevitable infant explosions on them. It's sobering to have to figure out how I'm going to tart up these outfits for work though. I'll be honest - at the moment I dress vicariously through Ellie who has an adorable array of clothing which she regrettably grows out of on a monthly basis. For myself, I have a new appreciation of Target, Kmart and Big W options. So I'm just going to throw it out there, would it kill the corporate fashion designers to consider the breastfeeding working mother and design something that isn't all jersey, doesn't double as maternity wear and shows a modicum of style?

4. Childcare germs
With Ellie having her first day of day care this week (I survived, barely, but she had a fabulous time!), I'm super frustrated by the selfishness of some parents who don't keep their obviously unwell children at home. I accept that with childcare comes some illness, and this was obvious when I was comparing centres, with many having signs at the doors warning of head lice, chicken pox or hand foot and mouth outbreaks. I accept that with many children in a shared facility, sharing of sickness is inevitable.

What I am not ok with are the obviously coughing, spluttering and sick children who should a) be at home and b) learn to cover their mouth. Ellie is still at the stage where she explores the world by eating everything (in fact, the other day I caught her gnawing on Mr Fork's shoe - OMG!) - and I am sure that the snotty, germ ridden shared toys at day care will not help. Best I resign myself now for her and I to catch everything and anything going around for the next few months I suppose.

Tell me, do you have any first world problems you want to share?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fresh tomato sauce

What do you do when you have a number of tomatoes which are nearly past their prime, a handful of fresh basil from the hardiest basil plant in the world and a clove of garlic which you discovered while cleaning out the pantry? Of course I could have made a fresh salad, but with a bit of a chill in the air lately, I really felt like something warm and comforting. Something like a batch of fresh tomato pasta sauce!


I didn't have a recipe for this sauce, but made it up as I went... the results though were pretty tasty!
  1. Peel the tomatoes. There is a nice link about how to do so here. I'm a fan of the boiling water method myself.  I also find peeling them quite therapeutic really.
  2. In a saucepan, I sauteed two brown onions (diced) and the chopped garlic clove in some olive oil.
  3. When that was appropriately browned, I added a good lug of white wine from a bottle that was open in the fridge. Boil the alcohol out of that.
  4. Add the peeled tomatoes which have been diced roughly, and a tablespoon of brown sugar to combat the acidity of the tomatoes. I added a chopped chilli as well.
  5. Turn the heat way down, and let this simmer as long as possible to let the flavours develop and the tomatoes break down. Mine was on the stove from mid afternoon until dinner time. Be sure to stir occasionally so that it doesn't burn and stick to the bottom.
  6. Just before taking off the heat, tear up the basil and allow to infuse for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Viola!

Sorry about the picture. The chill in the air also means darkness comes earlier, so there is an extra challenge taking pictures without natural light.

Served with fettuccini, this was an amazing fresh and tasty meal.  I grew the basil and the chilli, and I contributed a couple of homegrown cherry tomatoes in there as well. Yes, it's not the vibrant red of store bought sauces but this is preservative free, tasty and made the entire house smell like an Italian restaurant. 

Tips
  • Peel the tomatoes.  You could probably get away without doing this, but sauces are always nicer if you don't have to pick stringy tomato skins out of them and sometimes the skins make sauce taste a bit acidic.
  • I've always been taught not to cook with a wine I wouldn't drink. Use something halfway decent, or just leave it out.
  • Fresh ingredients make the difference. The basil was delicious in this - I could easily have added more.
  • I think this sauce would be great to puree as well if you're not into the chunky sauces. It stores really well frozen also.
  • I've deliberately left this sauce very plain as I freeze portions of it like this. I then use it as a basis for other meals, and add flavours then for whatever I'm cooking. I use it as a basis for lasagna, more complicated pasta sauces, or even to add flavour to stews and casseroles.
What about you? Are you a fan of fresh pasta sauces?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Simple scones

Whenever I'm asked to take a plate along to a casual social outing, my mind immediately jumps to scones.

They're the ultimate munching food really - plain enough that you can flavour them however you want, yet tasty enough that you could eat them on your own if you desire.

I have many happy memories associated with scones and a hot beverage, and I think most everyone likes a well made scone.  Also, I always think it's nice to put a little bit of effort in and take something home baked when possible (and appropriate).

My scone recipe is based off Bill Granger's recipe which can be found in his book Bill's Food.
I like this recipe because of the simplicity - there are only a handful of ingredients, which I always have on hand, and it's easy and quick to mix up a batch and have them ready for nomming twenty minutes later. The original recipe calls for milk and butter but its easy to substitute those with plant based alternatives and have no one the wiser.
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 30g butter (I use nuttelex)
  • 1 cup milk (soy or almond work nicely)
That's it. Sift the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ones. Mix lightly and quickly then use a glass to cut shapes approximately 2.5cm high by 5cm thick. Bake 8-10 minutes at 220C then serve warm with your choice of condiments.

Tips for awesome scones:
  • Don't over mix the dough. Use a knife to combine things and try to handle it as little as possible so your scones are light and airy
  • Use a warm baking tray. While the oven is warming up, I put the tray in and only remove it once I have the scones ready for baking
  • Place the scones together on the tray so they are touching each other. This makes them rise beautifully as they have nowhere to go but up
The scones below are a batch I whipped up (while Ellie was napping) to take for morning tea with my mothers group today. I served them with a choice of plum or strawberry jam and they were a hit (just quietly). I wish I'd gotten a picture when they were prettily plated but they were nommed much too quickly.
What about you? Do you have a go-to baking recipe for sharing with friends?

Friday, April 5, 2013

A necklace a day keeps grabby hands away

Babies start off as placid little blobs. You can do anything with them at that stage - they're very portable and it's easy to maintain a semblance of a life still. You can put them down and they'll still be in roughly the same position when you come back. They sleep a lot and it's very easy to bundle them up and take them with you. When you're feeding them, they are easily arranged into the ideal feeding position. Then they get older.

They discover their toes, they discover sounds - oh my, is that daddy I hear, what's happening on the TV, oh mum didn't you want to gaze lovingly into my eyes while I tear myself (painfully) off your nipple? Yes, I went there and said nipple on my blog. Ahem. They also start to learn about textures and touch. Your previously gentle baby will move from stroking you lovingly to accidentally slapping you in the face while flailing around. She'll pull your hair, and then try to eat it. If you're nursing in public, it's entirely likely your modesty shield will be torn off exposing everything. Also, if you have my luck you'll be in the ugliest bra you own when that happens. Take my advice, pretty dangly earrings and elegant necklaces are a thing of the past.


Wait, what?! Fear not, I said elegant and dangly jewellery, that wasn't a blanket statement.  

I've got two necklaces I can wear safely that are guaranteed to keep Ellie's attention and help keep my sanity. The first is a Jellystone designs silicon pendant, very similar to the one below except mine is fuchsia. It's my go-to neck ornament when I'm heading out with Ellie for extended periods as it has two main uses - the first is that it's made of a washable BPA-free silicon which makes it perfect for sore gums to gnaw on. The second is that it hangs at a perfect height to be played with while feeding - hello, distraction free nursing and polite latching and detaching! It also has a nifty little clasp which opens if the pendant is yanked or pulled too hard.
The other necklace I have is my pretty, 'dressy mummy' necklace, which is perfect for distracting Ellie while wrapping her.  This gorgeous handmade necklace is by Kim, at deer love, and every time I look at it, it screams "sunny weather days" at me. So I call it my sunny day necklace and just wearing it brightens my mood immediately.  The beads are handmade by Kim from polymer clay, rolled and baked at home before being knotted onto a leather cord, which hangs around the decolletage area on me.  The necklace is delightful and distracts Ellie marvellously so that she doesn't pull on my hair while I'm wearing her. Also, because of where it hangs, it's a great length for her to play with while feeding as well. Wins all around!! And just look at the beautiful packaging - it came wrapped in the gorgeous fabric scrap with an adorable wooden deer brooch as well.



Disclaimer: I was provided the deer love necklace for consideration

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bunny baby

This is a post to say sorry I've been MIA lately. We went away over the long weekend and have had a lot of firsts happen recently.

Ellie turned six months old so we celebrated the occasion with a round of needles and her first plane trip. She was not the best baby ever on the plane. I think it's karmic retribution for those times as a corporate flyer when I'd shoot glares at parents travelling with children. Now I'm the one with the screaming child. I was so afraid of getting glares from people that every time the poor thing opened her mouth I tried to shove in a breast. Or a bottle. Or her Sophie. Or a finger full of teething gel, just so it'd look like I was trying. Frankly we're lucky she didn't explode she must have been so full! Travelling with babies is a challenge all by itself.

It was Ellie's first Easter.

Despite my stern warning to her grandparents that we weren't going to get her anything so don't show us up, my request clearly fell on deaf ears. But just look at that face with her Easter loot!



It was Ellie's first time at the beach. I don't have any pictures of her on the actual sand on my camera, but here she is ready to head out.

She loved crunching her toes in the sand and squealed gleefully when the waves hit her. We also had a pool so she swam every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and despite my best efforts slathering on baby sunscreen she got a little tanned (I can tell because the inside of her neck rolls is still milky white!).

Ellie tried honey and Vegemite for the first time. Strangely she seemed to prefer the Vegemite, or it could just be that her grandpa's fingers were good to chew on for itchy gums.

There was plenty of food consumed over the Easter weekend, plenty of relaxing done and plenty of family cuddles had.

What did everyone else do over Easter? Any firsts for you?

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