Thursday, September 24, 2015

Five things I need every day

They say all you need is love. Well, that's all well and good, but to make my day run smoothly, I need a few extra things in it too. Here are my top 5 daily needs:

1. Coffee. I just have one a day, but it has to be a good one. No instant stuff. I buy beans from my favourite coffee roaster and make my brew with a plunger, then a dash of soy or almond milk. Once I've had my coffee, the day can start properly.

2. Cuddles. I am a tactile person. I love snuggling and cuddling and holding hands and being touched. Except when Jimmy wants to touch me all. the. time. Then I get over it quickly and start to feel touched out. Still... tactile affection is a winner. This picture makes me smile every time I see it. Jimmy crawled up after his feed and thought this was a perfectly acceptable way to fall asleep. I just love his chubby little arm cuddling my head!
3. Touch free time. Much as I love my babies, being constantly needed by someone, constantly touched, constantly on guard in case they get into trouble... it's draining. I definitely need a few minutes of time to myself each day, usually at night before bed. I have quiet time, read a book, catch up on emails and news, and just unwind from the day.

4. Movement. Working in IT, and having a baby to nurse, huge parts of my day are spent sitting down. When I can, I like to get out and move. This could mean I take the kids to the park. Or I find some great tunes and we all dance like mad things around the house. More trivially, I might get off the bus a stop or two early and walk a bit more. I just feel better if I've gotten up and done some exercise for the day.
5. Order. The state of my house, in particular the kitchen, often reflects the state of my mind and moods. I can't feel restful and calm if I'm surrounded by mess and disorder. I don't need things to be spotless, that's an impossibility with small children, but I need things to be tidy and ordered. Before I go to sleep of a night, I make sure I've done a quick whip around the house to make sure toys are put away, discarded clothes are in the laundry, dishes are done and the kitchen, dining and lounge rooms are looking presentable. I feel much better if I wake up and I'm not presented with a huge visual list of things I was too lazy to do the previous day!
So that's what helps me have a good day. Do you have any things you need to make sure your day is the best it can be?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Servicing the car

Yesterday I had to take the car in for it's scheduled service. Luckily for me, they're close by. Unluckily, they didn't have a way to transport me, Ellie and Jimmy home in the courtesy bus since we needed two car seats, nor did they have someone free who could drive us home in our car then take it back with them.

When I say close by, my Fitbit tells me it was 1.5km. Which isn't really that much... when you're an adult and can walk at your own pace. However, when you are also trying to get the toddler who walks at a snail's pace and the baby who doesn't walk yet home too, the task becomes somewhat more difficult. Cue babywearing for the win!

Both my children have hated the stroller and refused to sit placidly in it. They scream blue murder if I try to put them into it, so, I suppose that gives me a good excuse to buy all the wraps! I packed two to take with me, just in case I'd have to carry them both home. Luckily, I didn't though, as both of them together currently weigh about half of what I do! Ellie was happy enough to walk alongside me and, bless her, stop to look at and comment on every little thing of interest we passed on the way home. Here is a sample of all the "beautiful flowers mama!" (weeds) she asked me to photograph for her...
Jimmy was wrapped cozily onto me, and when he got tired of looking around and chewing my sunglasses, dozed off against me. Is there anything sweeter than a snoring baby and a walk in the sun with a toddler who thinks everything is amazing?
No.

Thank you, babywearing. By the way, for those interested, the wrap I'm wearing here is a Didymos Inka, 100% cotton. It's lovely and floppy now and the size 4 is perfect for me to do front carries and if I wrap precisely, a double hammock or ruck on my back.

On the flip side, how awesome would it be if services could be a little flexible and help out mothers a little instead of sticking rigidly to company guidelines!?

Do you babywear? What has it helped you get done lately?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recipe: Vegan Meringue

I know that I'm super late to the whole aquafaba thing, but it's everywhere, and being the curious sort, I had to give it a try personally. Especially when I haven't eaten a meringue in years, I just couldn't turn down an opportunity to have one!

Let's just say that I am super impressed with what you can make out of chickpea water. That's right, that brine-y, weird water I used to throw out can be made to behave just like whipped egg! Whoa! What kind of magical wizardry is this?

Vegan Meringue

printable link

Ingredients:
  • The liquid from a 400g can of chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup sugar (plus an extra 1/4 cup in case)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla
Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 140C and line your trays with baking paper
  2. Start beating your aquafaba until it is foamy
  3. Add in the 3/4 cup of sugar, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla. Keep beating
  4. It takes a while, so keep on beating. If your peaks are soft but not yet stiff, you may like to add in the extra sugar (it's the sugar plus the bean water protein which is gives the lovely crisp, shiny meringue)
  5. When your mixture is shiny, stiff and doesn't fall out of the bowl when you tip it upside down, you're done.
  6. Use a spoon to dollop, or pipe tidy shapes onto your tray. Bake for an hour until they are set. Cool completely
Notes:
  • Meringues (vegan and regular) hate moisture, so store them in a cool, dry place. Not the fridge.
  • The salt and vanilla are optional. I really like the little salt bits to break up the jaw aching sweetness
Now I want to see if I can take this to the next logical level and make vegan marshmallow! I've seen that there are people using aquafaba for all kinds of things - cookies, baking, and even making vegan quiches.

Have you ever experimented with bean liquid? What's been your best recipe so far? I'm so overwhelmingly impressed with what people are creating!

Friday, September 11, 2015

How I keep the chickens off the balcony

I have spoken before about the annoyance of our chickens coming up the stairs and treating my balcony as their own. I thought it was quite clever when they learnt to climb the stairs. I soon learnt that it wasn't clever, it was really annoying, as once they'd done it the first time, they kept on doing it, popping upstairs, perching over everything and leaving smelly little chicken deposits!
No more!

Behold! I have come up with a low tech solution that works for everyone. I call it... material scraps on string! I had an old shirt that was in the scrap bin because it was too holey, so I simply cut some long strips from that and tied it to a piece of twine. Make sure the strips are long enough that they'll twirl about in the wind.
Tied to one side of the stairs and then looped back around, I fastened the two ends together with a paperclip so that I could undo as required and not have to step over it all the time.
I arranged it so that it was high enough for the dogs to go underneath, but not so high that the chickens think it inconsequential. As I was taking a photo, Toby obligingly trotted down the stairs and posed.

Here is the view from above. I'm getting baleful glares from our still-unproductive chickens, and the two hounds are obligingly posing either side of my barrier. You can also see a trail of deposits I have to clean off the stairs from the last time I chased the poultry down from the balcony. It was that that tipped me over the edge and made me determined to find a solution.
I'm hoping that they will soon learn to stay downstairs and I'm able to remove the string after awhile as I imagine it will get annoying having to undo it to pass all the time. Still, for a little bit of extra effort, I will feel much happier not having to clean poo from the balcony before I let Jimmy and Ellie out to play. Hurrah for that!

It has been up for a number of days now and the chickens seem to be respecting the boundary I've set, most of the time. Now I have a (mostly) chicken free balcony, and garden. I'm open to suggestions that will change the 'most' to 'all the time' though!

Any other tips for deterring chickens other than physical barriers?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Too Busy Sleeping!

Too Busy Sleeping is a children's book written by Zanni Louise, illustrated by Anna Pignataro, and published by Little Hare, 2015.

What I first noticed about the book is the lovely cover art, full of patterns, hues and smiling new baby illustrations. Next, the inside cover, a fabulous double spread of colours, textures and cupcakes. This reflects beautifully the illustrative use of watercolours and collage throughout the pages - all great for visual literacy and discussions ("and cupcakes, mama, cupcakes!"), and we haven't even started reading yet!

The story of Eleanor, who longs to play with new baby brother Reuben on his first day home. It's one that I can surely relate to. I remember well telling my toddler "I need to feed him and then he needs to sleep again" more times than I can count. My toddler Ellie kept exclaiming, "poor Eleanor!" as we read, and talked about what it was like when her own brother Jimmy came home.

We tried lots of things to prepare Ellie for being a big sister, but nothing compares to the reality. I think I'd assumed that my older child would have a hard time and feel jealous, but honestly, she was just excited to meet the baby. In fact, first day home, it was me who was frazzled and worried about coping with two children!

The combination of Louise and Pignataro is perfect - Louise tells a story that many toddlers and second time mothers can relate to with sensitivity. Pignataro's illustrations show poignant emotion and include so many interesting treasures and details that my toddler insisted on reading the book over and over to check for things she might have missed.

I personally was chuffed that there was coincidentally an illustrated toy in the book very similar to one that Jimmy was given when he was born!
Too Busy Sleeping is a beautiful story, full of the excitement and frustration of bringing a new baby home and introducing them to siblings. It's a great book for new and experienced mothers alike, brimming with gorgeous illustrations, loving words, and most importantly, a fun and enjoyable read!

*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book by the author to review, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Birthday spoiling

It was my birthday last week. I love birthdays, and I love them even more now that I have children. They are so excited and it's fun to share special days with them. I was woken early (4am!) by Jimmy demanding a feed, and since he refused to settle afterward I had an early start to the day. Even the fact that Ellie had brought home a cold from daycare and shared it with the entire household didn't dampen my enthusiasm. It was a great day. I am past the time when I thought birthdays were about big parties, late nights and huge celebrations, so I really enjoyed a quiet day spent with my family.

I got out of bed in the morning to be greeted with a  surprise bunch of flowers. Ellie croakily sang Happy Birthday in her creaky morning voice, and Jimmy yodelled alongside of her (nothing sounded sweeter to my ears though!).
Lovely words and chocolate treats, and a new coffee plunger to replace the one Mr Fork accidentally broke a few days earlier.
Plenty of snuggles, plenty of lovely greetings and acknowledgements from special people, as well as some cake! Mr Fork sourced some vegan cupcakes from a favourite baker for the day. This one is a coconut rough flavour and it was deeeeeelicious!
This is a gluten free chocolicious cupcake (I am not gluten free, but this cupcake happened to be). Choc-tastic!

And, well, I may have been gifted a book so I could officially join the adult colouring in craze. Which is probably a good thing because I was colouring some of Ellie's pages before this and getting possessive when she wanted to mess it up join in. So now I have my own book and my own colouring implements and everyone is happy!

Friday, September 4, 2015

What's in my Kitchen, September 2015

September is a busy month in our household. It marks the beginning of birthday season for our family, so there is lots to do and prepare. Ellie has been most vocal in her demands, even though her birthday is not first, but I am well advised that she would like a 'chocolate puppy cake please mama'. Right-o then! Of course, September also means that the year is 2/3 over and that Spring is here. I don't know if it's just me or if the year is going so fast for everyone else as well!

I'm certainly looking forward to warmer weather and a shift toward lighter meals (and better light for photography!).

In my kitchen is...

Coconut iceblocks. I saw these on sale at Coles when I was doing the grocery shopping and thought I'd try them out. I was impressed by the fact they were gluten free, dairy free, lactose free, allergen free and proudly proclaimed themselves vegan too. Sure, Winter isn't the best time to be buying cold icy things, but they were rather delicious.
I can't remember exactly what I paid, but I suspect that, although tasty, these won't be a regular purchase unless I find a super sale. There are three flavours, lime, mango and pineapple, and the pineapple is far and away my favourite. Jimmy seems to think they're pretty good too when I've let him share to help sooth his teething gums. Ellie doesn't care for them, but that just means more for me to eat!

In my kitchen is...

Three bean Tim Tams. I saw these on one of my rare shopping trips to Woolworths and I was so glad that I did, since they're exclusive there (aside, it really annoys me when stores do that!). Anyway, a combination of cocoa, coffee and vanilla beans in that delicious timtam format... these are amazing. I'll say it again for emphasis. AMAZING.

In my kitchen is...

Haighs chocolate peppermint frogs. I'm obsessed with these. I think it started many years ago when I had a client based in Adelaide and would often have to spend a week or two there sorting things out. When I asked for recommendations about what to do over a weekend, someone pointed out that it wouldn't be proper if I didn't take a tour of the Haigh's chocolate factory. I've been a chocolate frog convert ever since. Mr Fork likes the milk chocolate ones, but I think the dark ones are nicer. They are of course both tasty, but I can stop after a single dark frog, and lose my willpower with the milk ones.

In my kitchen is...

Mickey tongs, generously gifted to me by Jimmy's godparents. Just the sort of kooky thing I love, brought all the way back from Disneyland in America. I love these so much.

In my kitchen is...

Disney princess tea towels, featuring Belle and various Beauty and the Beast icons. These were also a gift from my lovely friends. It seems a little irreverent to wipe kitchen things on a princess, but these tea towels are beautiful and fluffy still as new towels are. When Ellie helps me with the washing, she constantly asks if we can use the princess towels, so I'm not the only one who thinks these are fabulous.

In my kitchen is...

White White Cocoa Tea from T2. I hadn't intended on buying more tea to add to my admittedly quite large tea collection but I couldn't resist this one. A blend of white tea, pieces of cocoa, and coconut was too good to resist. Even made on plain hot water, it's yummy and creamy with a hint of sweetness and a taste of coconut. Some might call it overkill but I think it goes nicely with a three bean timtam after I've put the babies to sleep and I'm winding down from the day... 

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?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sinchies review

Being picky about what I eat myself, I'm definitely in the habit of checking out what goes into my food before it goes into my shopping basket. This naturally has extended into monitoring my children's food. Many of the convenient snacks and items marketed at children are chock full of sugar, preservatives, artificial colours and so many unnecessary ingredients. I much prefer to make their food myself, at least then I have visibility of what goes into them, and they start learning good habits about how to cook real food, and what it means to be a 'sometimes' food versus a 'healthy' food. Of course, making their food leads very nicely into the best ways of storing it. Being me, I was just not down for plastic wrap and disposable solutions, so I looked to reusable and eco friendly options.

I found Sinchies. I was particularly taken with the fact that they made more than just spout pouches, so I could use their sandwich, snack and wrap options for Ellie and I as well. I should be clear, that there are two types of pouches I tested. The first were the squeezy type pouches, similar to the baby food pouches sold in the supermarkets. These are made of flexible plastic, and mine were decorated with fun smiley fruit and vegetables and with a lid opening to the side for squeezing the product out.

Sinchies also stock great sip-n-lids, made of silicone that you can add to these pouches. They're  perfect for protecting soft little teeth and gums, and helping Jimmy feel independent when learning to eat.

As I have recently gone back to work part time, my first priority was making sure that Jimmy would have some things to eat while I was away from him (Ellie's daycare supplies her food). I packed him some yoghurt, with some chunks of banana in, for both flavour and sweetness.
I didn't want to pack big amounts of yoghurt, so although I have a large 1L pouch and a collapsible funnel perfect for dispersing, I used a tablespoon to fill the 140ml yoghurt pouches. It was a fairly easy and mess free task, thanks to the nice wide opening. I really liked that the base of the pouch folds out so that it stood up nicely when being filled. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've cursed cheap and flimsy breastmilk bags for falling when being filled, so Sinchies were a great performer for me here. The double ziplock part is suitably firm so that little fingers can't open it easily, which is great. I also liked that the lid opening was to the side unlike with commercial baby pouches, so it didn't get in the way at all when filling.

I've found that the 140ml pouches are great for jelly as well. I mix the jelly up and then decant into the individual pouches to set. Genius and an absolutely hit with Ellie and her friends!
I quite liked the fact that the pouches had characters and decorations on them, as sometimes children feel let down by plain packaging. In this case, both of my children liked the designs and I was quite chuffed with the way there is still a lot of clear window on the fun pouches so you can still see where any product is located. Not only did this come in handy for eating, but also when cleaning so I could make visibly sure I was definitely cleaning all traces of food away.

I also discovered that the 1L pouch is awesome for putting pancake batter in (even storing leftover batter overnight) and perfect for dropping little circles into the pan. Hurrah!

The other type of pouch I tested out were the sandwich/snack/wrap pouches which are clear and a bit more rigid than the yoghurt ones. They are clear plastic with a small section to write content details on, and all open with a double ziplock fastening. I found them great, really sturdy, especially when compared to disposable snap lock bags. Ellie didn't find them very easy to open, but at not quite 3, I'm ok with her not being able to open everything she sets her mind to. I found the snack sized one perfect for packing a few lactation cookies to take with me to work each day.
Pumping essentials!
The wrap/sandwich/snack bags all could have been difficult to clean with the slightly rigid plastic and square corners, but the task was made very easy with the Sinchies brush. Of course, Sinchies are dishwasher safe, so you could easily wash them that way, but it takes us a week to fill our dishwasher, and I was eager to reuse my pouches! I found I got the best cleaning results when I:
  • Rinsed any product before it had a chance to dry
  • Used hot, soapy water and the brush in a twisting motion
  • Dried pouches (with lids off) upside down over knives I had standing in the cutlery drainer
Sinchies are BPA free and reusable, so you are doing your thing for the environment by using them.

** Disclaimer: I was sent an assortment of Sinchies products to trial and review. All opinions are my own however. I was not paid to write this review.

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