Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Jimmy: Today you are 9 months old

I don't usually do these sorts of posts, but this is my last week of maternity leave and I'm feeling a bit emotional about going back to work and leaving Jimmy with someone who isn't me.

Dear Jimmy,

Today you are nine months old. You have now been on the outside longer than you were on the inside (by four days!). This photo was taken a few hours before you were born. I was 38+3 days pregnant and complaining about how uncomfortable I was at the most pregnant I had ever been. I'd tried a lot to encourage you to arrive, but you had your own schedule in mind.
38+3 pregnant
You are standing now, and trying to walk by pushing things around the house. Ellie walked the week before her first birthday - I predict you will do it sooner. You babble constantly, although you have yet to say any recognisable words.

You are sleeping better (by your standards) and you're pretty consistent with timings now: in bed by 7pm, awake for a nurse around 11pm and 2am. You wake up with a roar at 5am and refuse to go back to sleep even though 5am is cold and dark. As soon as daddy picks you up and puts you in bed with me, you crawl over and raspberry my face. It's extremely cute if I overlook the fact that I wake up covered in your slobber. You often try to eat my face. I tell myself this is you learning to kiss me.
learning to kiss
Your big sister adores you, and I know you adore her too, because when she comes near you, your eyes follow her around the room. You are the perfect pair - she is my picky eating child, and you devour what she will not. She loves nothing better than to shower you with kisses (and yes, occasionally she sits on you, but you don't seem to mind that too much).

You have two teeth now; you still think you can eat anything and usually you do. Your favourite things to eat are pear, banana, broccoli, avocado and biscuits. You might well turn out to be my vegetarian child after all! Of course, you are still an absolute breastmilk monster, which completely thrills me after all our troubles to establish nursing. Since you refuse to take a bottle or a cup, I will be pumping at work and asking your carers to stir it into your food while I can't be there with you.

You are so smiley. You love anything that makes music. You can't stand to be too far away from me so I have become accustomed to cooking while you systematically pull everything out of the cupboard I have allocated to you. You are still happiest when you are touching me and I am happy to oblige by wearing you often. I don't know how I will cope while I am at work and no longer the absolute centre of your universe.
baby's own cupboard
In the nine months you have been with me, I have forgotten that I am a separate person to you, just as you will soon have to learn that you are a separate person from me.

The past nine months have been some of the hardest, and most sleep deprived of my life. Although sometimes your daddy gets demonstrably cross when you won't go to sleep, we both love you anyway. Thank you for choosing me to be your mama.
nine month old you
All my love,
mama

Monday, July 27, 2015

5 things I've learnt from keeping chickens

So we've had our chickens for awhile now. Despite a somewhat rocky start, I think they are now well established. I've had a few people ask me what keeping backyard chickens is like, so I decided to put together a little list for those people who are interested. Here are 5 things I've learnt from keeping chickens...
They are destructive

These chickens have selectively destroyed all the best bits of my backyard. We let them free range during the day, so I perhaps naively expected them to range happily around the yard eating bugs and weeds. I was never told they would dig up my organic vegetable beds and strip all the fresh young growth from my fledgling vegetables. I didn't expect them to dust bath underneath my eggplants, and kick up soil all around. Despite preparing them a dusty area, I wasn't prepared for them to decide to remove all the mulch from my garden to make the entire bed their chosen dust bath. I did expect them to poop, but not on everything in sight.
They eat anything

I'll be honest, a big draw card of getting chickens for me was being able to use up some more food scraps by feeding it to them. It's sort of worked out. I mean, if we have some food that's about to go bad, I have the option of feeding it to the chickens before putting it to the compost heap. They are doing quite well at eating the weeds from the backyard too. Apparently they are also excellent for gobbling up ticks, flies and other bugs (I hate bugs). The thing is, they're not really particular about what they eat. I didn't know that styrofoam was like crack for chickens, and I've had to re-pot everything in my thriftily recycled foam boxes as the chickens were pecking holes and eating it with gay abandon. I've also caught them indiscriminately chomping on newspaper, the plastic bag their chicken pellets arrived in and various detritus that has blown into our yard.
They think they are people

Our chickens are quite social. They are now big enough to have learned to climb up the stairs to our back deck, where they like to frolic around merrily, pooping with gay abandon and eating the dog food. They respond with shame and disdain to being shooed back downstairs, leaving smelly little deposits behind. Although I have a gate at the top of the stairs to keep Jimmy inside, it also keeps the dogs inside which just makes it messy and annoying for everyone when I have to keep opening it on demand. I need to find a better solution to this!
They are smelly

I've had birds before, so I know what birds smell like. Actually it's quite a nice clean sort of dusty smell. That doesn't bother me. I also knew from gardening that chicken poo is quite stinky, but fabulous for the garden at the same time. The big surprise came in just how smelly fresh chicken poo is. How can it possibly smell so bad? They are eating plenty of greens and good fresh food, getting plenty of water, but it is seriously potent stuff. I was pooped on plenty when they were little chicks, but now that they're bigger, the output has also increased along with the smell. There sure is a lot of it! I've taken to watering it into the garden nightly, so that I can let Jimmy and Ellie play out on the grass the next day without fear they'll step in little chicken 'gifts'. I have to be honest, our dogs are much tidier poop wise than the chickens.
They have cool relatives

Apparently, they are apparently the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex! That will certainly come in handy in a few years for impressing my children with "cool stuff their mother knows"!
source
Finally, to be fair, I will note that although I've been quite critical, they are lovely things and they've got loads of personality. They've quickly become part of the family!

Please share your stories in the comments so I know my chickens are not unusually wilful!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Rabbit Hole Cafe - Bean Scene #3

When Mr Fork sends Ellie in to ask me what I want for breakfast, what he generally means is "do you want to go out somewhere to get {him} a big meaty meal?" However, often I'll have been up late feeding Jimmy, so I give him the hairy eyeball and try to close my eyes for 5 more minutes of peace. That idea goes out the window when a certain toddler starts jumping next to me in bed chanting something about babycinos.

At that point I give in and get dressed, leaving the decision of where to go up to Mr Fork and his pint sized babycino-guzzling partner in crime. One of the places that we know has something to suit everyone in our family is The Rabbit Hole Cafe.
Located at 5 The Corso, Seven Hills, parking is easy, and the Campos coffee is always speedily delivered and unfailingly good to drink. They're open from 7am every day - just pick a table and order at the counter when ready. I  like to sit inside so I can look at the pretty wallpaper.
The all day breakfast menu has never failed to disappoint (Ellie is a big fan of the children sized pancakes with strawberries ($10), while Mr Fork loves the big breaky ($22), not pictured as he started gobbling before I could get to it).
Of special note, this is a dog friendly cafe, and there are always diners there with well behaved hounds in tow, which is a trend I fully support. It also helps to amuse Ellie and Jimmy as they like to point (and squawk in Jimmy's case) at the doggies outside while we wait for our meals to come out.
The smashed avo ($14) is a bit fancy here, served with fresh sliced tomato, lemon, sprinkled feta and some rocket.
It's the perfect meal to start the day, and keeps me going nicely without snacking, until lunchtime and beyond. I love a cafe that's equally lovely for adults, children and hounds, which is one of the reasons we keep coming back. And I have it on genuine toddler authority they do a great babycino!

Do you have a favourite local cafe?

Click to add a blog post for The Rabbit Hole Cafe on Zomato 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Conversations with my toddler

Sharing for general amusement, here are some conversations that I've had, or overheard Ellie having lately.
While I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, everyone else was sitting in the lounge room
E (to Mr Fork): Daddy, can you sing ABCD with me on my piano please?
She proceeds to start tinkling on her little 4-note toy piano. Mr Fork dutifully sings along, a letter to each note (it's the alphabet song). On completion, Ellie proceeds to end with a flourish of notes and then starts her own round of applause
E: That was really well done, great job Ellie, Jimmy and Daddy!
###

Jimmy and I were picking up Ellie from daycare and I told her that I'd baked her a cake for afternoon tea.
E: Mama, did you bake me a cake?
M: I did, baby!
E: Did you?
M: I did!
E: Is it for me?
M: Yes it is for you. I made you a chocolate banana cake all for you.
E: Did you?
{ponders} Oh mama, you made me a cake!
###

I was trying very hard to still be asleep in the morning, but I couldn't help but overhear Mr Fork talking to Ellie and Jimmy in the lounge room.
Mr Fork (MF): Ellie, can you go and ask mama does she want to go out for breakfast?
E: Ok daddy! {
pitter patter of little feet into our bedroom}
E: Hello mama! {
hands reaching up and patting me} Mama?
M: Good morning Ellie.
E: Mama, can I come in and snuggle with you? {
climbs in - her feet are freezing}
E: Mama, can I put my cold feet on you and you warm them and then you have to cuddle me?
MF: Ellie where are you? {
he comes in and she pretends to be snoring in my arms}
E: Daddy, can you bring me toast and mama a coffee please? I want peanut butter!
I love a girl who knows what she wants!

###

It's cold in the mornings and Ellie is a bit of a princess. I was in the kitchen cooking porridge when I hear the following from the bathroom:
E: Daddy, the seat is cold.
MF: Ok I'll warm it for you {
I have no idea what he does}
E: Daddy, it's still cold. Can you use your big bottom and warm it please?
{
pause}
E: Thanks Daddy!
I was giggling uncontrollably wondering what was happening as since she knew to ask for it, it's presumably happened before. Later I asked how his "big bottom" warms the toilet, and was tartly told that he sat on her training seat to take the chill off first. Now that's love!!

###

Last one! I will note that at the moment, the sun doesn't really rise properly until about 6am. At the moment it's 5:30 and it's cold. Ellie sprints into our room and shouts way too exuberantly for when it's cold and dark:
E: Gooooood morning mama! It's a beautiful day! Can you hear the birds singing? It's going to be a beautiful day! Can you get up and make me breakfast mama?
Have you overheard any funny conversations lately? 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Baby massage: our experience

I have mentioned before that Jimmy is not an easy baby. Prior to correction of his tongue and lip ties, he would wake around the clock every 1.5 to 2 hours. He also had digestive issues and was quite gassy and uncomfortable. After correction, he still wakes quite often, but thankfully not as much as before. I would call it a good night if I only had to get up to him twice, but it could be as many as six times some nights. I could probably count on one hand the times that he has slept through the night since birth (I count a sleep through as five hours), and he is just over eight months old now.

He has always been a difficult baby compared to Ellie. She was calm and would melt against you, and was quite happy to sleep alone, for decent stretches of time. Not my little man. He is quite a tense baby, and I find it very hard to help him soothe and settle on his own. This is why I do wear him a lot, but it's becoming a concern for me as I will go back to work soon, and I would love for him to be more relaxed without relying on me quite so much.

I've heard lots of good things about infant massage, so when Deb from Maternal Touch Baby and Kids Massage told me about her upcoming massage for digestive relief course, I was very interested.

The one hour class with Deb was a great bonding experience for Jimmy and I. Deb was enthusiastic, supportive and understanding. She explained the reasons for each part of the massage and demonstrated the techniques with patience and obvious knowledge. When Jimmy was distracted or wanted to feed, Deb encouraged me to attend to him and reassured me that it was not a problem. I learned ways that I could calm my baby when he was uncomfortable, and also a few relaxation techniques as well. At all times, Deb was really respectful of Jimmy and making sure he was comfortable with what we were doing.

After the course, Jimmy was so relaxed that he transferred beautifully from the car to the cot and then proceeded to nap for three hours. This is absolutely unheard of for him - I'd usually be lucky to get a transfer from the car and when sleeping, a single sleep cycle, maybe two if I got to his room in time to settle him before he fully woke.
Sleeping like a baby
zzzzzz
That night, he went to sleep at 7pm as he has done his entire life. He did wake briefly at 9pm but settled quickly and then... he slept through until 5am when I desperately had to wake him for a feed. This was the first time ever that this has happened. It was like a miracle, as for the first time since he was born, I got to sleep for longer than a three hour stretch. I felt like a well rested, new woman.

Since then, I have been doing the digestive and relaxation massage techniques daily. I've had some glorious nights of sleep, and some not so good nights too, but to be fair, Jimmy has also cut his first tooth, so some discomfort and waking is totally expected. He's a baby, and I do admit to generally loving our night time snuggles as well, even if he is so very cheeky during the day!
Best 'who me' face

Baby massage is a fascinating aspect of infant health, and research has shown that it can help to:
  • reduce baby's crying time
  • assist sleep, sleep patterns, settling and soothing abilities
  • improve wind, reflux and constipation
  • reduce stress hormones in children and their parents
  • enhance physical and motor skills
I'm so glad that I tried it out and I am loving the bonding time with Jimmy. Ellie has even been asking me to do it for her too, and of course I'm happy to oblige. I'd always touched and massaged my children but it was very good to learn some formal techniques and of course, I was over the moon with Jimmy's immediate results!

*Disclaimer: I attended the course as a guest of Maternal Touch Baby and Kids Massage, however I was not obliged to write this review and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How does your garden grow, July 2015

It's really the middle of winter now. If I'm honest, I'm rather disinclined to be outside, pottering around in the garden. The only times I'll willingly venture out are to hang washing or to tend to the chickens or dogs. Oh, and to harvest some garden produce, although there really isn't a great deal out there are the moment.

Here's a little tour of what's going on at the moment.

Chickens! We have them! Read more about our chicken keeping story here. They've only just gotten all of their feathers and so have finally been removed from inside and moved permanently outdoors. I'm a little relieved actually, they were starting to really have an obvious chicken odour! I'm very grateful for all the chicken poo and other compostable matter they're producing. Mr Fork would also like me to point out how luscious and green is lawn is looking too...
Parsley is growing by the armload! I don't know what to do with it all to be honest. Can I freeze it nicely somehow? I've tried making pesto (it was delicious!) Any other ideas?
The bok choi is coming along nicely too. I pick leaves off it piecemeal as I need it, and so far it's holding up nicely. I've been using it in soups and stir fries and it's yummy!
Carrots are growing. I mistakenly sowed them way too thickly and close together, and then couldn't separate, so I'm sure that beneath the surface there are lots of misshapen little growths, but I'm certain they'll still be tasty. There's a few little weeds poking through there, as well as a lot of self sown coriander seedlings.

I've planted out some lettuce and mixed greens, but have yet to see any shoots.

Still to be done:
  • Make a decision about whether to keep the eggplants in or not
  • Fertilise the citrus trees 
  • Take the finished compost from the bottom of the heap and distribute before turning the remainder over

What's growing in your garden this month?

I'm linking this post into the Garden Share Collective, hosted by Lizzie from Strayed from the Table, Kate from Rosehips & Rhubarb and Krystie from A Fresh Legacy.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

What's in my kitchen, July 2015

Just like that, half the year is over. Where did that half a year go? Getting up in the mornings is just that little bit harder now... not to mention getting up constantly overnight is just awful! There is a reason they make small people so cute and loveable isn't there?! Since I'm mentioning cold nights, I need to work it in somehow that it's pretty hard to top the combination of snuggly winter pyjamas, ugg boots, a nice fuzzy blanket (and a warm body to share it with, in my case it's equally likely to be Mr Fork, a toddler, a nursling or even a fur baby) and a cup of chocolate in hand... but I digress.

In my kitchen is...

Lots of lurid coloured pancakes. Ellie and Jimmy love pancakes. I make them pretty often, either with my leftover sourdough starter, or just regular pancakes. We have them for breakfast and for snacks. Lately, I'd been adding some colours to make them a little more interesting and fun. See below for green, blue, and plain examples.
It was a good experiment, but I'm ceasing the colouring now because let's just say it made for interesting (and slightly panicky!) toilet talk. Plain and equally delicious pancakes it is then! I feel that I need to mix up what I do with my sourdough starter leftovers though. It is delightfully crumpet-like weather...

In my kitchen is...

Sourdough experimentations. I've recently become more confident with my sourdough making. My loaves are turning out with more consistency, so I've started to experiment a little. I'm playing with different flour mixtures, adding fruit additions into the loaves, and the deliberate inclusion of extra steam and moisture into the baking process.

I'm currently loving the addition of buckwheat flour into the mixture. It seems to make my loaves just a little bit denser with a much firmer and crustier crust (I also use a cornmeal coating as well). The crustier crust may be due to extra steam as well, it's hard to isolate the variables as I want to try so many new things at once!
With the fruit, I'm still perfecting when to add it to the mix, and how much is a good amount. My first attempt, with just figs added after the first rise, turned out to be a bit stingy and not very evenly distributed. My second fruity attempt (shown above and below), I added figs, apricots and pepitas at the time I was adding starter and flour etc to the bowl. This was much better, and I even remembered to add extra water to the mix as well. The fruit plumped up more, distributed better and was a much tastier, if slightly more solid loaf. It could probably have done with more liquid in it to be honest.
Experimentation is fun (and delicious!)

In my kitchen is...

Beetroot and apple juice. I have cut down on drinking a lot of fluids unintentionally, as it's so cold and I don't reach for them as often. This was my attempt to kill two birds with one stone and up my vitamin and fluid intake at the same time. I wouldn't say that this is something I could drink in large quantities, but it's a nice change every now and then. I certainly can't comment on it assisting athletic performance (seriously Sunraysia?!), but it does have an earthy, sweet sort of taste that makes me feel like I'm being healthy. I water it down a bit to be honest as I find most commercial juices a bit too much for me in their pure state.

Please excuse my little photo bomber in the background. Seems whenever I pull the camera out, she thinks its for the express purpose of photographing her...

In my kitchen is...

A collection of blossoming tea balls, sent to me by a dear friend who knows how much I love a good cup of tea. Especially welcome in the colder months if I do say so myself! The pink bloom is lotus, the yellow is camomile and the plain is jasmine.
I find that this style of tea doesn't taste any different from loose leaf varieties, but it is lovely to watch brew. Basically, it's tea leaves shaped into a flower shape and then a decorative flower added on top. I believe they are generally hand shaped and then lightly steamed to hold the ball shape. You need a clear teapot to get the full effect, but as you brew it for the first time, the ball unfolds and 'blooms' into a flower. The hot water makes the tea flower move around prettily. I keep meaning to get a video of it, but I watch in awe each time and forget to sit watching behind a screen. Each ball is good for maybe three tea infusions, but it's the first brew that's the most visually stunning.

In my kitchen is...

Parsley pesto. This was a bit of a made up recipe, mainly to cope with the abundance of parsley that is taking over one of my garden beds.
It turned out surprisingly delicious, although if you are not a parsley fan, it's definitely not the sort of thing you should be making. I made it fresh and served over some rigatoni pasta that night, and since then I've been adding the leftovers to sandwiches for a burst of green freshness, and also dolloped over homemade pizza. It really added a touch of refreshing taste of summer to what might have easily been stodgy, carb-heavy meals. I'll be making this again for sure!

I am linking this post in with Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Recipe: Parsley Pesto

My garden is overrun with a prolifically producing parsley plant (try saying that three times quickly!). Much as I love parsley, adding it to sauces, stews and other meals as a seasoning just wasn't cutting down on the supply as quickly as I'd hoped. I thought about making a tabbouleh salad, but when I checked the meal plan and saw we were having pasta that night, the idea of a parsley pesto was born.

It's not a very traditional pesto - I didn't have any nuts to add to it, so I substituted tahini. I also left out the cheese, choosing instead to use nutritional yeast. Despite all of that, or perhaps in spite of the changes, it was a delicious concoction, tasting fresh and green and yummy. It made way more pesto than I needed for pasta (I filled a 250g jar), so I've also been eating it in sandwiches and dolloped on top of pizza.


Parsley Pesto
printable link

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups parsley leaves
  • 1 tblsp tahini
  • 2 tblsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon (or to taste)
Method:
  1. Place everything in a processor and process until desired consistency.
Notes:
  • This will keep very nicely in the fridge for some time (although I don't think it will last long at the rate it's being eaten!)
  • I hate waste, so I froze the parsley stems for use in a soup or stew or to make stock
Do you have a favourite, non traditional, type of pesto?

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