Friday 31 January 2014

Gong Hey Fat Choi

Gong Hey Fat Choi! Today marks the first day of the Chinese (or Lunar) new year, which we started celebrating with a family dinner last night. I love this time of year because to me, it means lots of food, family time and a whole new year brimming with possibilities and promises. Of course, for Ellie, it also means lots of red packets (and as her parents, lots for us to hand out too, which is less fun for us!).

May the year of the horse bring happiness, health, prosperity and good fortune to you and yours!

From, me and mine xx

Thursday 30 January 2014

Beach getaway

Over the recent long weekend, Mr Fork had a boys' night scheduled, so instead of staying home alone, I decided to take Ellie on a road trip up the coast to visit my aunt for a few nights.

It was really lovely for Mr Fork to have some man time, but I think I was the real winner getting a happy, snuggly toddler all to myself. We shared a room there, so in the mornings, she would wake and I would lift her into bed with me for some quiet snuggles (and to allow everyone else to get a little more sleep before loud toddler shrieks of joy rocked the house!).

We went to the beach and explored. Although a real water baby in the pool, Ellie was not too impressed with the waves and much preferred the sensation of sand on her toes I think.

We explored local markets and my aunt bought Ellie a gorgeous little sundress.

There was also lots of food consumed (and not just by Ellie!). Tapas and wine was had.

Farm fresh figs.

I think Ellie could get used to a holiday lifestyle, with soy babycinos (I discovered she's not so good with cow milk babycinos!) and almond croissants for breakfast!

How did you spend the long weekend?

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Lots of firsts

It's been a momentous couple of days lately!  Just before the long weekend was quite a day of firsts for Ellie.

She had her first babycino, and devoured the included marshmallow as well!

And she had her first haircut! I was scheduled for one so I took her along with me for a tidy up, Such a curious one, she was looking around at everything that was happening. Lucky my hairdresser is a patient lady; she just did things in Ellie's time when she was comfortable. Now, no more mullet! She looks like such a grown up little girl!

This week marks her first official week in the toddler room at daycare. My little bean is growing up!

Tell me about any recent 'firsts' for you!

Thursday 23 January 2014

Paralysis ticks - the aftermath

Thank you to everyone who has asked about Yuki.

She is finally back home again and on the mend. She came home late last week but had to be admitted again the next day as she still wasn't quite strong enough to be home yet.

She has lost a fair amount of weight and her appetite is very small, but she's being coaxed into eating a special bland food diet (although Ellie insists on offering whatever she is having as well). She still can't blink properly and her face is still partially paralysed so we put in eye drops every four hours, and she has a course of antibiotics to finish off still too.

However! She is home now. Much balder, a little shaky when walking but pleased to be back and reunited with all of us. The vets said she was a lovely patient and even gave her a little bandana!

Just home from the vet
In related news, we found out that our next door neighbour's dog also had a tick recently (when we went to tell them about Yuki). They had removed the tick, shaved their dogs, and even identified the possum carrier, which liked to run between our fences all the time. Yet they didn't think to mention it to us! Not cool, neighbours.

A week or so before the tick incident
The vet told us to give it a week or so before she'd likely be back at 90% and then at least a month until she'd be 100% herself. She's a fighter, and I think she's secretly loving all the extra attention she's getting.

This got me thinking, how do you get on with your neighbours? Do you chat to them much?

Tuesday 21 January 2014

What makes a blog readable

I've been doing a bit of thinking and analysis lately into what makes me want to read a blog, and cross referencing my thoughts with which of my posts seem to get the most interest.

I've narrowed it down to six main characteristics:

1. Be honest. The things that I like reading about the best are real. I don't want to read about a perfect world, because that only makes me feel bad when my own goes pear shaped or doesn't compare. For the same reason that trashy magazines sell so well, I want to read about something honest and real, warts and all. I love peeking into other people's worlds.  I don't think that anyone has a perfect life all the time, and if yours is, then I don't really want to hear about it! Only joking, but really, the most appealing blogs are honest about what's going on with them and for bonus points they have a bit of meat to them and give me something to think about.

2. Be yourself. If I'm reading your blog, it's because something in it grabs my attention. I like reading about you. Tell me about your life. Use language that you'd usually use. Write the way that you speak and inject your own personality into your prose. This also links into the topics you choose. Write about things that interest you, because when you're interested, other people will pick up on that enthusiasm and passion too. Besides, who wants to write about something that isn't interesting to them? Let alone read about it.

3. Be timely. If you're going to post about say, a summer heat wave, make sure that you do it when it's still summer and still hot (for you). Sure, some of your audience might be in a different hemisphere or weather pattern, but if it's timely for you, that's going to show through in the language that you use. I can't even tell you the number of times I've had a post sitting in draft for so long that it's just embarrassing to post. More often than not, I junk them, but sometimes I can re-write it to make it more topical and relevant. Also, when writing about a recent topic, it's going to be fresh in your mind and you'll have a much better ability to make it sound interesting and appealing for your audience.

4. Be relevant. Sure, maybe I'm harping on the same characteristics, but hear me out. Think about the audience that you're trying to appeal to, or the readers that you have. What sort of a blogger are you? Are you a food blogger? A mummy blogger? A fashion or lifestyle critic? Are you aiming to appeal to others interested in the same things? Then write about things that are going to appeal to your audience. People come to your blog because they want to read about what you're up to. You've obviously written something they want to read about... so keep on with that relevant writing!

5. Be consistent. There is nothing more annoying than finding a good blogger, only for them to post sporadically. When this happens, I tend to stop checking them regularly, and drop them off my feed. If they do post something else, I'm now likely to miss it and they drop off my radar completely because I just stop caring. So if you've hooked me and I care about reading you, don't hang me out to dry waiting for an update! Share what's going on!

6. Involve me. Blogging isn't always just a one way interaction. My favourite bloggers have built themselves a little community of people who feel like they know this person. Friends if you will. Friends converse. They ask each other's opinion and they talk. Involve your audience. Let them comment on things, ask them questions and interact with them. Who knows, you might even gain some new real life acquaintances out of it all!

What hooks you on a blog? Where do you spend your valuable internet time?

Thursday 16 January 2014

Paralysis tick - a cautionary tale

This is Yuki, our silky terrier/maltese cross. She's three years old and pretty much the best natured dog I know, loves affection and wants nothing more than a scratch behind the ears and a soft bed because she loves to laze around. She's an old soul but a beautiful, affectionate hound.

On Tuesday as I was coming home from work, Mr Fork called me and said that Yuki was having trouble walking so he was taking her to the vet. She was fine when I'd left for work that morning, so I asked what happened and he said he thought she'd injured a back leg running up the stairs. Five minutes later, he called back and said he'd found a tick over her eye; we couldn't go to our regular vet as she needed to be admitted for overnight and immediate treatment.

She was admitted as soon as we got there and was already going into shock - she couldn't walk, and was starting to shake and have trouble breathing. The vet told us that it's not the worst case of paralysis tick they've seen and she looks good to recover but it's going to be a long road.

Yuki will hopefully be home with us tonight, after having spent almost 48 hours under around the clock veterinary care. When admitted, she had no gag reflex, could not walk or blink and was shaking and in shock. She could not toilet by herself. The vet will not let her come home until she can eat, walk and toilet on her own. 
She's so tiny (only 4kg!) that small amount of time the tick was on was enough to get to her. Where the tick was over her eye, she can't blink. Apparently that will correct over the next few weeks, but until then we will have to put in eye drops to keep her lubricated. She will come home half bald, be weak and need to rest. Toby will be glad to have her home as he has been beside himself without her, but I don't know how much rest she will get with him around!

We did everything right. We treat them, clip them short, worm them and check them for ticks regularly. Apparently ticks are becoming immune to lots of treatments and it really was rotten luck to get one in the suburbs, especially as we don't have much bushland or long grass nearby. Our dogs rarely leave the yard and we are told the most likely possibility is she picked it up from a possum, who are immune and can host the ticks.

So please, if you have pets, check them daily. Especially with the heat, make sure your fur babies are clipped short. Tick paralysis is life threatening and I'm so grateful we caught it early enough for our little girl. I can't wait to have her back home.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Satay sauce goodness

One of the few meals that Mr Fork and I both agree is delicious (and therefore we eat a lot of), is satay. What's not to love? With plenty of peanutty goodness, it goes with just about anything! We often use it as a marinade for protein (chicken or tofu, depending on who is doing the eating, are the choices at our place), and I've also been known to use it as a salad dressing or a quick and easy noodle dish topping. It's not the healthiest of meals, but it's yummy and a hit with everyone at chez Fork.
Here's how I make the sauce. Note I'm not really a recipe kind of girl, so the measurements are approximate - feel free to adjust to your own taste.
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red chilli, chopped finely (we love chilli in our house so adjust to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of ½ lemon (or lime is nice too)
  • tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • tbsp brown sugar
Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion using medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and chilli, cook another minute or so. Remove from the heat and stir the peanut butter in (trust me, take it off the heat, otherwise it will burn and be terrible to clean!). Add the lemon, water, vinegar and sugar. Place over low heat and stir until the sauce thickens and combines. You may want to add more or less water to achieve your desired consistency.
That's it! There is your basic satay sauce.
Here's how I used it last night to make a satay tofu and vegetable dish.
I had some firm tofu in the freezer which I defrosted and cubed. Side note, but when tofu is frozen, the texture changes and it goes a bit spongier which makes it PERFECT for soaking up delicious flavours!
I added this to a pan with some oil and some garlic and stirred it around until the cubes were lovely, crispy and golden. Then I added some chopped vegetables (carrot, cauliflower, peas, corn – what I had in the fridge essentially) and the satay sauce, and left it to simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. This was then served on top of some rice, and garnished with spring onions (from the garden) and some extra chopped peanuts. I also added extra chilli on top of mine, as Ellie doesn't like things as hot as I do yet.
What are your go-to delicious meals?

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Summer heat

If you live anywhere in Queensland, but especially Brisbane, you'll know what I mean when I say, how hot has it been lately?! Seriously, until the massive storm hit yesterday, it was really feeling like spontaneous human combustion was not only possible but becoming extremely likely!!

I'm not talking regular summer heat here, but 40C plus (that's about 104F for my American friends). Holy melt the tar off the road Batman! Mr Fork and I tried to hang out at the shopping centres to take advantage of free air-conditioning, but Ellie was having none of it, and threw one of her biggest tantrums yet. She really just wants to be independent and walk around on her own, but as she won't hold hands, she is constantly running in front of people or off into the opposite direction because she has seen something interesting. If you pick her up, it's an even possibility she'll allow you to wrap/carry her, or she'll scream and thrash around randomly. Toddlers, gah!

Anyway, since we couldn't have free air-con, we grudgingly came home and made ourselves a cool little nest where we all just hung out. The house, except for Ellie's room was locked down and we ran the massive air-con in the lounge, which kept everything at a tolerable temperature and cooled Ellie's room down enough for her to nap away the grumps. Hurrah!

How else does one keep cool in such monstrous heat? Well, ice blocks help. Even better if we got many ice block moulds for Christmas and got to make awesome delicious fruity concoctions.

Mango, kiwifruit and pineapple deliciousness
The blow up pool got a workout too. Even I stood in there and splashed around a bit. Ellie thought that was hilarious. She just loves this towel that packs into a little butterfly backpack that her grandparents got her for Christmas.

The pool actually came in handy when Ellie was scoffing down her mango and pineapple ice blocks. She's not the tidiest eater, or the fastest, so she was a sticky mess at the end of it, and could not be dissuaded from sticky kisses or cuddles... not that I minded (too much).

In the 40+ heat, there is nothing worse than being unnecessarily hot. Even lying in air conditioning, it's still pretty hot. Which is why it was annoying when the puppies and Ellie also chose to lie either on top of me, or right beside me. Lucky they are cute and I love them...

However, not everything hates the heat. Although lots of my garden wilted during the day and perked up again overnight, my eggplants seem to thrive on the heat. They've shot up loads and I can even see a few flowers already. I think I'll need to stake up these babies soon! I do love home grown eggplants too.

How are you coping with the weather where you are? 

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Looking back and looking forward

As the new year dawns, it's time for the obligatory review of the year that was, and the highlights (and lowlights) that it brought.

My new year view
2013 was a pretty good year for me both personally and professionally.

I didn't really set a series of goals at the beginning of the year, but I did commit to doing 101 things in 1001 days. I just did a quick tally and I'm sitting at approximately 42 of them complete. I was quite strict in marking them off, if I've committed to doing something for a period of time and it's not finished yet, that doesn't count. It deserves a post of it's own so I'll do a detailed update on my progress at another time.

Personally, I hit my motherhood stride and we also transitioned through from the newborn stage to infant and then toddler. Ellie has been a constant source of delight. Every time I think that I'm doing a terrible job, something will happen to make me think that hey, this motherhood gig isn't that bad and I don't totally suck. This year saw Ellie develop in leaps and bounds. We went on our first plane trip with a baby in tow. She started to crawl and the week before her birthday, she started to walk. Now, three months later, she can run! We've had stormy periods but we've also had some sunny ones and right now is a real joy. I say that about every stage, but it's true! She talks constantly now. Sometimes I can understand her, sometimes not. She understands so much - she will literally read books now - she points to words and says them, and can associate concepts. If I point to a dog, she says puppy. She loves lift the flap book and the touchy feely ones, especially ones with furry patches in them. She plays games and giggles constantly when we play hide and seek or peekaboo.

My breastfeeding journey may have ended, but Ellie has a deep love of food and will try pretty much everything in sight. She loves the water, and she loves people, offering kisses and hugs to her favourites. She is confident with her boundaries and with saying no, although hilariously, beards are still a source of trepidation.  If she doesn't want to give a kiss when you ask for one, she will often proffer her cheek so you can kiss her! Like I said, an absolute delight!

She's a party girl
Ellie aside, I think motherhood has changed me too. I've had to dig deep to find strengths I didn't know I had. I've realised that no matter how tired, no matter how sick or sore I am, I can always find it in me to summon a smile for Ellie, to play with her and tend to her needs before looking after mine. I've come out of my shell in ways I couldn't even begin to describe except to say that sometimes, I definitely feel like a tigress protecting my young! I broke my toe, my first (confirmed) broken bone in over 20 years, which is not something I'm that keen to repeat. 

Professionally, I started back at work part time this year, which was a real eye opener for me. It's hard to reflect in detail on an open blog, but I will say that when I had Ellie, my priorities shifted. Work is still a passion of mine, but now I balance that with being a mother, and all that entails. It's not work that has changed, it's me. I often have some time to myself while Ellie is napping on my days off, so I made sure to balance my part time work with some professional development too,  finishing a certification this year. Nothing special, and just qualifying what I do already, but I do like adding to the formal qualifications I have! Of course, there is also time for sewing and cooking as well!

For 2014, I don't really have specific goals. However, broadly:
  • I'd like to get my fitness levels back. I miss my cyclist physique and muscles and I loathe the way parts of me jiggle and sag that didn't jiggle and sag before. So I'd like to do something about that. I constantly make excuses saying that Ellie gets in the way, but really she doesn't, and it isn't as though I couldn't incorporate her into my exercise, so in 2014, I say no more excuses and I'm going to work on fitness. Also I'd like to improve my posture which I realise is a tough ask with a child who loves to be worn and a job that involves copious computer work but I'm up for the challenge.
  • Focus on doing more of what makes me happy and less of what doesn't. I know that's vague but I've just decided I don't have time to waste on the things that don't matter. What matters are friends, family, and opportunities to do things that I love. So that's what I want to surround myself with.
  • Create a calm space. For me, calm means tidy. Not excessively dust-free, unlived-in, too-scared-to-touch-anything tidy, but a place where everything has a space and it's not too cluttered. So I'm going to work on making sure the dishes are done and the benches are clean before turning off the kitchen lights so I wake up to a clean space. Clearing the dining room table and my desk of clutter and putting things away. Putting Ellie's toys in her toy box and putting away the things she no longer plays with. Sweeping the dust bunnies and vacuuming a little more regularly. Just enough to help me keep my sanity, not to rival Suzie Homemaker at all.
Magnetic Scrabble letters are the best
How was your year and what do you hope to achieve in 2014?


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