Thursday, October 29, 2015

Today, you turn one

Jimmy, today you are one. Well, technically, tonight you will be one, but we can celebrate now.
38+3 pregnant
It's been a crazy year.

I can count on one hand the number of times you have slept through the night. And I mean that in the traditional "a sleep through for a baby is anything longer than 5 hours" logic. Since I also had chronic insomnia at the end of my pregnancy, do you know what that means little man? It means that I haven't had a decent night sleep in over a year. That's a long time sweetheart. Any time you want to sleep a little longer, I'm all for it. I'm sure your daddy can attest that I'm not my best (nor is he) without good sleep!
You still aren't walking, but you're really close. You will take the occasional independent step, but you don't trust your legs to fight against gravity yet. That's ok. There will be plenty of time to run later.

You love food. As in, you get a serious case of "hangry" if I don't get something edible in front of you pronto. And forget feeding you, you are all about doing it yourself. You have nearly brained the ever hopeful hounds multiple times throwing your bowl/spoon/fork/cup as they mill hopefully under your chair for the inevitable scraps. Your favourite foods at the moment are blueberries, edamame, watermelon, fruity sourdough, pasta, and stolen licks of frozen iceblocks. It's amazing really considering you still only have two teeth (and about 8 more all reallllly close to cutting through, Mr Grumpy!). Oh, and you love your milk. Lots of milk!
Your favourite place to be is with mama. As soon as I walk into a room, your eyes fix on me. If I'm not speedy coming to greet you, you wail and crawl on over to throw yourself at me. As though I had forgotten you or something (like I could!). You need to be constantly touched; you're a real limpet baby. It's ok, you're only this little for such a short while, I love the snuggles. Mostly. I'm a little over the fact that no matter how many soft silky things I offer, your favourite comfort item is my hair. No style is Jimmy-proof and my ends suffer for it. Lucky for baby wearing, otherwise your poor sister would never get any attention.

Speaking of hair, yours is so fine and light that there isn't enough volume or weight to hold it down so it just grows vertically. I love it, even if your one majestically long hair has now been absorbed into all the others. Your grandparents want to shave your head (as they wanted to do at your red egg celebration) to encourage it to grow back thicker and darker. We aren't talking a buzz cut here but really shave, down to the skull with a razor. I don't know how that would happen as you're so wriggly, but I have said we can have that discussion after your birthday, however, (not so secretly) I hope the idea falls by the wayside.

You aren't speaking much yet, but you understand a lot, I can tell. In fact, you respond to both Cantonese and English, and you're already more fluent than your mama you clever boy!

I had real problems thinking of what to get your for your first birthday. You don't want for things, and your sister is so good at sharing her toys with you. Your favourite thing to play with at the moment is an old birthday card of mine. It's one that plays sounds when opened (sheep noises) and you spend ages opening and shutting it and baaaa-ing right back at those sheep.

You're growing up to be such a lovely little human full of personality and fierce determination to get what you want. It's been a lovely (sleep deprived) year.

Love, mama 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Loving right now...

Netflix
I don't know why it took me so long to get on board with this, but I wish I'd done it sooner (especially in those early days when Jimmy was feeding 2-hourly-around-the-clock and wasn't so mobile!)

Orange Is the New Black
Related to my first item; I decided to pop my Netflix cherry with OITNB, and it's pretty good. I probably should have paid attention when everyone was recommending it to me when it came out years ago, but on the plus side, I now have three seasons to binge my way through. Yay.

Almonds
Odd inclusion I know. However, they're my snack of choice at the moment and I've always got a little container of them hidden away in my bag for when I get peckish. I go through food phases and I'm definitely loving almonds right now.

Fresh eggs
I don't eat them mind you, but there is something marvellous about collecting an egg that is still warm from being laid. I had thought the chickens had gone off the lay recently, but I was mistaken... when I was cleaning up the side garden, I found a secret nest and a hidden stash of eggs. Those hens had been holding out on us!!
Free things
I love it when something is unexpectedly free or cheaper than expected. This week I got a free bus ride because the machines weren't working, and yesterday at my local coffee shop I chose the correct colour playing card during happy hour and scored myself a free soy hot chocolate, which was exactly what I needed to get me through the afternoon. Winning!!

And just as a bonus... I'm totally not loving Apple iPhone earbuds. Despite having had my current iPhone for ages, I recently unpacked the earphones that came with it so that I could take advantage of the included microphone and volume control. The iPhone is so stylish and well designed, would it really have killed them to put a bit more effort into the earbuds? They are too big for my small person ears, and after a short phone conversation or a few songs, my ears are sore. Poor form Apple, poor form.

What are you loving on right now? Any recommendations for shows I should add to my Netflix queue?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finish dishwashing tablets

When I first moved out of home, I took great pride in keeping my house clean. Vacuuming was done regularly, bathrooms were wiped down after every use, spills were cleaned immediately, and dishes were never left to sit around in the kitchen.

Fast forward a few years, add a husband, two hounds, two small children and some very messy chickens, and my standards have relaxed. Some might even say deflated. I do stand firm that I like to wake up to a clean kitchen however. I just can't cope waking up to dirt and clutter first thing in the morning.

Thank goodness for my dishwasher. It certainly gets a bit of a workout these days. Also, it takes FOREVER to empty it as Ellie likes to help (and I'm certainly not going to stop that!) but she can really only cope with one item at a time. Maybe two. Heaven help you if you try to assist though - often I get told to "stop mama, I will do it myself".

Those of you with dishwashers of the machine variety, I'm sure we can agree that not all tablets are created equal. While I used to be a fan of buying whatever was on sale, these days I'm a bit of a fan of Finish Quantum Max tablets. They seem to cope well with whatever I've thrown at them - dried on cereal clumps, leftover coffee dregs, remains of Mr Fork's bacon and egg fry up breakfasts, and, my personal gauntlet, baked on cheese after making a lasagne or a macaroni cheese bake. It's handled all of those with gusto and given me sparkling results.
Wins all around, especially for this time poor mama who loves to cook but hates waking up to a feral kitchen!

Do you have any tips for keeping your kitchen clean?

**Disclaimer: I was given a pack of dishwasher tablets to use, but no compensation was received for this post.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Acknowledging good customer service

If I receive shabby service by a business, I'm not backward about coming forward. I will often, if I have time, raise it at the time, and failing that, will write directly to the business management to let them know what happened. If there is no way to contact them privately, I'm also ok posting about my experience on social media and tagging them appropriately.

Having said that, I find that lots of people don't feel the same about acknowledging when a business does something good for them in a customer service capacity. Which is a shame, as if someone does a good job, I think they need to know about it. I'm certainly praising my children every time they do something remotely wonderful.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my recent experience with FitBit.

Back in 2013, I talked about getting my FitBit Flex. I've pretty much worn it fairly regularly ever since, although I have stopped tracking my sleep as it's just depressing with Jimmy.

I had a bit of trouble finding a picture of myself wearing it actually, but here is a sad example focussing on a large bunch of parsley harvested from the garden...
Last weekend I noticed that it wasn't on my wrist. I could pretty much narrow down when I lost it, as I remember trying on a bracelet at a shopping centre, and it was definitely on then. We then went back to the car, I unwrapped Jimmy and put him in the car seat and then we drove home. It wasn't anywhere in the car or at home, and I couldn't find it using my phone to try and sync, which meant I never got into BlueTooth range of it. As a last resort, I emailed FitBit, knowing the device was low on charge, to ask if there was any way to locate it while there was a tiny bit of juice left.

They responded a few hours later saying, well no, not really. But could I please upload a copy of my receipt and a few other details, and they'd see what they could do about "getting me back on track".
Lo and behold, despite my receipt showing that I purchased the device in July 2013, as a gesture of goodwill the company is going to send me a gratis replacement. In fact, it's already been processed and is on it's way to me.

Completely over and above anything I expected for something well over two years old. Well done FitBit - that's outstanding customer service right there and I'm a very happy stepper!
Have you had a great customer service experience lately?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dining at 5 Boroughs Stones Corner

Stones Corner is going through a bit of a revamp at the moment. Previously full of brand outlets, it had a period of being quiet and a bit rundown and now it's starting to become a delicious foodie hangout. Which makes 5 Boroughs (9/401-405 Logan Road, Stones Corner) a perfect fit - casual, friendly, good value American street style food.
Double beef burger
Dining with the family for Saturday lunch, the fitout won us over with the mix of large and small tables, all undercover and just perfect for sitting and watching the street view.

Diners place their orderat the counter for a selection of burgers, hotdogs, sides and drinks. There are also vegan options. Say what? There is a vegan burger and a vegan hotdog, so this little eatery is perfect for catering to all tastes. Our order included a double beef burger (the meat patties are preservative free and served medium so slightly red in the middle) ($15), a 5B vegan burger ($12.50)  with a housemade quinoa and black bean patty and a childrens beef slider ($10) with a serve of chips and a juice included (not shown).
5B vegan burger with cute quinoa tails
The buns were fresh and soft, the filling tasty and very moreish. We also indulged in a side of ale battered onion rings ($8) and at Mr Fork's insistence, a plate of ginger pepper caramel chicken wings ($15).
The standout for the table was definitely the onion rings, which were crunchy, golden and one vegetable that Mr Fork was certainly happy to eat more of!

5 Buroughs is unpretentious and a hit with diners, so I'm glad we got there early. I'll be back to try the vegan hotdog because I have a thing about supporting restaurants that offer vegan options.

5 Boroughs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's in my kitchen, October 2015

October sort of snuck up on me this year. I was happily plodding through September, and before I knew it, it was a whole new month! Early September was my birthday, so there were celebrations for that, and then late September was Ellie's birthday, and that turned into a bit of a birthday extravaganza. We had a weekend away to go to see LahLah in concert (my favourite of all the children's performers!), lots of cake, and extended celebrations what with immediate family, extended family, friends and daycare. Then I blinked, and it was a whole new month!

October has brought an obvious change in weather, with lovely hot sunny days. Of course, it means early sunrises which means the children wake earlier, but it's easier to leave the bed when it's light and warm. It's also school holidays and while that doesn't affect me yet as my children are too young for school, it means parks are more crowded, parking is harder to find at shopping centres, and the sounds of children playing are everywhere through the neighbourhood. It's a lovely time of year.

In my kitchen is...

Fresh eggs! Yes, two of our four chickens have finally become productive members of the household. On Ellie's birthday, we got our second ever egg (the first was a few days prior) and since then we have regularly gotten one egg a day, recently increasing to two. They are averaging about 53g, so slightly smaller than regular eggs, but they certainly (I am informed) make up for it in flavour.
In my kitchen is...

Fresh made, rustic looking banana bread. Made with the first egg our chickens laid (a double yolker no less) and the black bananas I rescued from the fruit bowl at work. I loathe bananas and I don't eat egg, but Jimmy and Ellie loved this loaf. Half of it is still in the freezer, sliced up and ready for when I don't have any fresh baked goods to give them.
In my kitchen is...

Moon cakes! Not the traditional type though, instead these ones are handmade for me by my mother-in-law. They are vegan friendly, made on a seaweed (agar) jelly and filled with bean paste. No egg yolks in sight. When I regularly travelled for work there was a lady in Sydney who would make me the most delicious vegan moon cakes, with layers of flaky pastry surrounding a bean or taro paste. I can't find any commercial ones like that locally, so I've missed out for a few years. Not this year though!
In my kitchen is...

Birthday cakes! Ellie had two this year... one was a puppy cake that she'd insisted on ever since she saw them at Bread Top. I'm all for it if I don't have to make it for her! This was the cake we shared with family and friends.
She also insisted on taking a chocolate cake to daycare to share with her class (I think she just wanted to extend the birthday celebrations). A simple mud cake decorated with smarties. It was a bit of a hit with the other 2 and 3 year olds in her class I'm told. A friend of mine told me afterward her son asked her if he could bring a cake "with buttons" for his birthday. Ellie overheard him and apparently corrected him, with much attitude that, "those are not buttons, they are decorations". My three year old with attitude.
In my kitchen is...

Vegan meringues. Finally I jumped on the aquafaba bandwagon and tried some meringues. While they were a success, I'm not sure I'll make them often as I found them super sweet.
In my kitchen is...

Coconut yoghurt, by Nudie. I'm super chuffed with this find. It's quite new and only available in Woolworths at the moment, but it's very affordable (6.99 for 500g) compared to other brands. It's also not too sweet, so I can make savoury and sweet dishes with it. There are currently 3 flavours available (natural, vanilla and blueberry) but hidden in the vanilla and blueberry "natural flavourings" is honey, so only the natural flavour is vegan friendly. Nudie have said they will look into making the others vegan friendly, perhaps switching to rice malt syrup instead. Yay for companies that listen to their consumers!

I am linking this post in with Celia of 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?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Meals wrapped up

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Mission Foods.

I've written before about the lengths I'm prepared to go to in order to make lunch exciting for Ellie. If I'm honest, I just like making sure people around me are eating good food. It's why I use refillable pouches instead of buying ready-made. It's why I'm happy to spend ages boiling and shaping eggs, and cutting shapes into sandwiches.

When it comes to food, my philosophy is everything in moderation, and mostly whole foods. In practice, this is actually pretty easy. If a product has too many ingredients and I don't recognise most of them; I'm probably not going to eat it. If I have a choice between buying a commercial cake, or whipping something up at home, I'm going to (usually) whip up the home version. And I'm going to use good quality, real, whole food ingredients to make it. Sure, I'll switch some things around. Probably use something a bit more nutritional than plain white flour. Switch copious amounts of regular sugar to a smaller amount of rapadura, coconut sugar, maple syrup or the like. If it's for me, I'll switch eggs to something else, and more than likely I'll add a bit of this and a pinch of that as well.

In our house, fat is not a bad word. Fat is a good thing. Avocado and good quality oils are encouraged in our house. Those that eat it get real butter slathered on toast. So, my home made cake will be good. It'll be chock full of yummy real ingredients with minimal processing. Then, I'll just make sure I have people on hand to help eat the delectable creation. Or, I'll freeze half of it for later. Because… no one NEEDS an entire cake… and everything in moderation right?

Real food to me is recognisable. It's a tomato that is red because it was ripened in the sun and is bursting with flavour. It's nuts, and grains and gorgeous colourful fruits and vegetables. Although I make my own bread at home, if I'm out and I get a choice, I'm always going to pick the seedy loaf because I just think, if I can see seeds and grains and goodness because it isn't too processed, then YAY!

So I was delighted when asked to try some of Mission's Red Quinoa and Chia wraps (available in WOW and selected supermarkets for $4.79). Hello! Chia! Quinoa! Wraps! Wraps are a great excuse for everyone to do a make-your-own lunch or dinner. No excuse for not eating what's on your plate when you constructed it all yourself. And something about a wrap just screams EXOTIC over the poor old sliced bread. Especially when you can see the seedy goodness!
I have to be honest. These wraps are amazing. There's no artificial colours or flavours. They had visible seeds all over so I just felt extra good about getting lots of omega-3 fats, calcium, dietary fibre and protein (from the chia version) and plenty of amino acid goodness from the red quinoa. Sure, it's probably a negligible amount but every bit helps and THEY TASTE SO GOOD!
Red quinoa seediness
I had mine stuffed full of avocado, fresh tomato, refried beans, fresh greens picked from the garden, corn kernels and some hummus. For extra decadence, when I took some to work the next day, I also tried toasting it in the sandwich press. So good, and a tasty, healthy lunch to boot.
Ellie and Jimmy didn't eat theirs as a traditional wrap. Jimmy doesn't have the dexterity and Ellie likes to deconstruct everything. But the both loved the meal and ate everything in front of them. That's a win, wrapped in a great big dose of healthy!

I envisage these would also make a great treat option too, served with some banana and Nutella, then cut up into little mini scrolls. I'm sure they'd be devoured in no time.

Are you a sandwich or a wrap person? If you love wraps, I highly recommend Mission. I'd love to hear what your favourite filling is in the comments.

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