Ok, folks, this will be a quick one. Joan is to my left, napping peacefully after 50 minutes in the bed. See my instagram posts here and here for some details as to why this is such a big deal for us. Actually, you know what? I am going to copy what I wrote and post it below and then throw a few more thoughts at you. I guess this won’t be a quick one anymore (surprise, surprise, the lady loves to talk).
DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps.
HEARING: rain. Isn’t that the best sound, when you’re all snug and cozy indoors and it’s positively pelting outside?
EATING + COOKING: Other than smoothies I’ve been slow-roasting tomatoes and red onions with oregano, then eating them with salads, alongside meat and in quinoa bowls. Joan adores tomatoes and a big batch lasts us a while. We’ve also been eating a bit of rice with greens, fried eggs and chickpeas, and a few frittatas. Oh and I’ve been making sweet potato toast a bit. Lastly, I’ve recently come across Fish4Ever brand filleted sardines, and they are AMAZING. They’re a fabulous way to get in omega-3 fats if you are kinda squeamish about opening other sardine tins to find a head staring at you. My whole family loves them (Joan most of all) and on the weekend we have been sharing a tin in various preparations. I’ll share some recipes soon.
It must come down to control. At least I think it did for me. With babies and birth, a great deal is unknown and unforeseeable. There is only so much you can prepare for and even less you can plan, and they’ll still surprise you and come out bottom first. And even though parents-to-be know this, that we really have no idea what is in store, before our babies are born many of us spend a huge amount of time researching and organising, doing our best to prepare for this new life we are about to find ourselves living. I don’t want to ever know how many hours I actually spent looking up cots and bedding and organic mattresses, because Joan slept in her cot all of three times. In hindsight, I wish I had just bought an IKEA cot and called it a day, but that’s easy to say now, isn’t it? At the time, “non-toxic finishings” and organic mattresses felt exceedingly important. And perhaps it was, for my peace of mind. I certainly don’t mean to patronise my past self or any parents-to-be out there who may be doing as I did. As I said, so much about this baby stuff is unpredictable that I think there’s some comfort in making sure you get a pram that ticks all your boxes and a cot that is safe and secure. It makes you feel safe and secure.
The thing is, and this is something Ben and I didn’t even consider while I was pregnant (though I wish we did), so much of what you find useful when your baby comes will depend on their personality, as well as your parenting style. And these are things you cannot possibly know before they arrive. Cots and prams were not really Joan’s thing, while baby carriers and a high chair that let her sit at the table were. And had we borrowed before buying, we would have saved a little money and our rooms would be less cluttered. So as I write this post on the things that we love and the things we have found most useful as first-time parents from birth-12 months old, keep in mind that this is a very personal thing and what helped us may not help you (and may not even help my next child!). In fact, I encourage you to do as many of my wise friends have done, and wait until after bubba gets here before you make some key purchases (ones that aren’t immediately important, like a car seat and some clothes) and borrow what you can. At least until you find your groove and know your baby. Now, having said all this, does anyone want to buy a cot? I’m not even kidding…
Every now and then, I get a mad craving for hot cocoa. There’s something special about a warm cup of chocolate that makes you feel at once comforted and energised. Years ago, in 2006, Ben and I took a trip to Europe. It was January, and verrry cold. In between brisk walks along boulevards we’d duck into heated cafes and order huge, hot mugs of thick, rich, sweeeeeet cocoa. We would take off our gloves, hug our mugs close and as we sipped we would write in our travel journals and discuss whether to go out for dinner or wander the streets with nutella crepes. Occasionally we would ordering a baguette or pastry to share alongside our drink, but more often than not it was all about le chocolat chaud.
Back home we continue to make this drink regularly, though our version is a little different. Rather than using super processed cocoa powders or chocolate with added sugar, I reach for raw cacao and honey to go with the milk. That’s it, three ingredients, warmed gently on the stove. It’s heavenly.
DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps. I’m 2.5 days into a virus sickness thing and it’s kinda floored me. I’ve been out of action – not doing work besides replying to emails, not going on walks, not doing much of anything. I’m a firm believer in resting when unwell. But today I feel a little more up to things. I’m even typing, look at me go! Update: it’s been a week since I began this post, and I’m all better now. I wrote it mostly when I was unwell, with a few updates here and there.
HEARING: my neighbour take their bin down their driveway.
DRINKING: right now, a coffee with CoCo Quench.
EATING + COOKING: bleh, food has been highly unappealing during this sickness. My nausea was reminiscent of first trimester days, it REALLy took me back and got me both excited to hopefully fall pregnant in the coming years and curious as to how I will manage caring a little person while being sick. Update: over the weekend when my appetite returned I made my favourite banana pancakes and they were gooooooooooood.
I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about their feel good foods. What foods give them the glow, help them thrive and allow them to be their best selves. These are foods that gift you energy, a clear mind and a flowing, well-functioning body, and the cool thing is, this is different for everyone. Some feel amazing eating pasta, others feel crap eating dairy, legumes are power food for some while others cannot even look at them. There’s more to it than just food alone, of course, our lifestyle (stress! exercise! sleep!) plays a huge part in how we feel and function. But I like to start by thinking about food and how it makes us feel.
Most of us know our bodies work well when we eat vegetables, and indeed along with veggies there are a few well-known “healthy” foods that research shows many benefit from including in our diets – oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, fermented foods, etc. But “feel good foods” can also include cake and other stuff that is not given superfood status, yet is important all the same. Tiramisu is most certainly on my feel good food list. However because of cultural diet rules and words like “clean eating” (which encourages all or nothing thinking and assigns a moral value to food, leaving people guilt-ridden any time they deviate), it can be hard to allow these foods into our lives and take them for what they are – something to be enjoyed in a quantity and frequency that truly makes us feel good – and then move on. Because our food choices are largely influenced by external forces (which often come in the form of people who have found something that works for them and who simply want others to feel similarly wonderful by following their path) it can be tricky to hear what our bodies are telling us. But by working on tuning out these voices and diet rules, we can quiet the noise and listen to our bodies…we can hear what it is telling us and figure out what our own, individual feel good foods are in our current season of life (because it does change)… and we can honour what our body is telling us and eat accordingly. It’s pretty neat.
I turned 31 last week. My birthday fell two days after moving into our new home. Rather than tackle the boxes that lay around us, I decided to take the day for me. The older I get the more I realise that birthdays are a really fabulous excuse to do all my favourite self-care practices and fill up my cup, provided I have an extra set of hands around to look after bubba. And because Ben had taken the week off, I could do just that. Upon waking early I snuck out of bed and left my two loves to snooze. This almost never happens, and I relished the opportunity to ready myself before being mumma. I stretched and saluted the sun while the coffee machine warmed up, and then, in my dressing gown and new, olive green slippers knitted by my sweet mother-in-law, I prepped breakfast. Avocado and frozen banana were blitzed in the food processor along with cacao powder, maple syrup and a little milk to make a dreamy morning mousse. Into the fridge it went and I set about selecting my prettiest bowls and spoons and placing them on the counter. Huh… the house was still quiet, despite the whizz of the food processor. I made myself a coffee and grabbed my book and curled up on the couch in our reading room, waiting for Ben and Joan to wake. After ten or so minutes of solitude I could hear my baby’s wobbly yet determined morning footsteps racing down our long hallway towards me, her eager, loud, indescribably sweet chatter disrupting the silence. At last.
Joan is settling into this new space well. Is this a benefit of a baby who prefers to sleep snuggled between her parents, perhaps? As long as we are there, she is home. There are so many rooms and cupboards and corners to explore in this house, and she is having a lot of fun getting to know it. We all are. It’ll take some time before we are set up with furniture in proper places, rugs on floors and pictures on walls, and we need to purchase a few big pieces like a couch and a large wall unit/book shelf thing, but I am so very happy to take my time with that, to save my pennies for special pieces and really consider our purchases. As the years go by, Ben and I are increasingly conscious of where we spend our money and who we are supporting. We like to source good producers who are employing sustainable practices in whatever field they work. I am still learning what this looks like and we are relying on a lot of recommendations from friends who know more than us, but we’re getting there. From food to furniture, from clothes to cleaning products, we’re trying to most of the time spend our money very wisely. It’s a less is more, quality over quantity kinda thing. And while often it may be initially more expensive, when we add up the years of value and the other, less easily seen benefits, it is unquestionably worth it. Interior design is entirely new to me, though, so I feel like I have a lot to learn. I’ve started following blogs and instagram accounts for inspiration and bookmarking producers that look wonderful and who also don’t charge $300 for a pillow.
DOING: typing on my computer while Joan naps. Ben is at our new house putting vents back together after the painter and floor people came. He’s not a handy man, so who knows how it will turn out, but A for effort, right? I’ve been replying to emails after a few days off (we went to Adelaide for a Wedding) and bubba is napping for longer than usual so I thought I’d start another “happenings” post.
HEARING: the birds outside.
DRINKING: Green tea, coffee, water (loads, always) and sometime sparkling water with lemon.
EATING + COOKING: quinoa bowls, lamb stew and sourdough toast with avocado, hummus or nut butter. Sometimes I get wild and do half avocado, half hummus on my toast like below (always with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top). Oh, I’ve also been having a bowl of tart greek yoghurt with a generous heaping teaspoon of honey every night in bed while reading or watching Netflix. Eating in bed feels super indulgent and I’m super into it.
There’s something incredibly freeing about weekend wake-up calls in my house. Even when Joan decides we should get out of bed before 6am, I am relaxed and content as I stretch and yawn. You see, when Saturday and Sunday roll around I have two extra hands to help me catch my up-and-go babe before she walks off the mattress. I don’t need to worry about Joan heading for the stairs while I find my pants, nor do I need to throw toilet rolls at her if she comes at me while I’m using the toilet. On the weekend, there’s no need to endure the “pee while holding a baby” reality of most of my weekdays because Ben is around. Oh, to use the bathroom in peace.
The weekends are also for slow breakfasts that require more than one hand to prepare, and lately that’s looked like a plate of pancakes. In the back of my cupboard sits a perfectly good waffle iron, but somehow pancakes trump the breakfast battle. Saturday after Saturday I’ve found myself folding and flipping with a cup of coffee in my hand, while Ben and Joan read books and make animal noises. Joan’s impression of a lion is quite possibly the cutest thing in the entire world, the way she grooooowwwls with wide, cunning eyes and a cheeky grin. I stand in the kitchen, watching and listening as I sip and smile to myself. Breakfast takes a while to prepare, as I always make a big batch so that we have leftovers to snack on during the week. But that’s just fine…it’s the weekend, and I have two extra hands that are allowing me to watch my sweet, clever, funny girl lost in a world of lions and see all that she does from a different perspective. I also get to cook without a time restraint, without a baby pulling at my legs saying “UP” – one arm outstretched, palm facing the ceiling in a pleading, Saturday Night Fever come STELLAAAAAA pose. Because although Joan’s words are adorable, “ahhPPP”, I’ve come to realise that cooking in a relaxed manner is my ultimate way to “fill up my cup”, to centre myself and relax while also nourishing my family and stocking the fridge with a few leftovers. It’s important to me. Bless the weekends for giving me my peaceful kitchen moments.
These pancakes are our new favourite weekend breakfast. In creating them I had hoped for a wholesome recipe that used nutritious flours and avoided a lot of sweeteners, while still allowing for a tasty bite that had a nice texture. I think I did good with these babies, folks. We all adore them, Joan savours every last bite and won’t share any. Not a single crumb is left behind. I hear you, baby. Whenever I serve you leftovers from the fridge I actually feel full-blown jealousy. Perhaps I should just make a double batch and linger even longer in the kitchen.
People tell you how fast the time goes when your kids are little. In the weeks after Joan was born, countless mothers of all ages encouraged me to soak up the snuggles, while looking adoringly at my tiny baby. “They grow so fast”, I’d hear. With those words lingering in my mind, I insisted on taking things slowly and strived to be present, savouring the newborn days in all their glory, from the “how can this be real? She’s so perfect” moments, to the “how can this be real? I think I slept a total of two hours overnight” moments. Through it all, I knew the teeny tiny baby-phase would not last for ever. Ben and I were encouraged to say no to lots of visitors and stay in our bubble, and for the first few weeks of Joan’s life we did just that. Friends and family gave us love and support, and we gave in to our new life and Joan’s complete dependence on us. Days with our baby girl were wonderfully slow, filled with hours staring at her face, her hands, her belly…I would feed bubba in bed or on the couch, we’d gaze into her big eyes and eat snacks, and then she’d sleep on my chest. Or if I was sleeping, she would sleep on Ben’s chest. We’d do this over and over and over again, as time moved in two-three hour blocks. Loved ones would bring food and do the dishes so we could stay in our world and survive this overwhelming time with as much grace as possible. Having a baby is a time to call on your village, and we will be forever grateful for ours. Their selflessness helped time pass slowly and gave me the gift of being able to look back on those early Spring days and remember it all…the way my heart felt light and bright at the same time as my body felt heavy and hurt from sleep deprivation…the taste of the peanut butter bars and granola bars my friends Hannah and Robin baked that I devoured at 3am….the way Joan’s body felt as she slept on me, small enough (and frog-legged enough from her hip brace) that she fit perfectly on my chest while barely clearing my belly button. I remember it all, how hard it was and how beautiful it was. “That went quickly”, people would comment when hearing of Joan’s impending birthday, and I feel so blessed that I don’t agree, that for the first ten months of my baby’s life, time moved slowly.