Yearly Archives

2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies

May 29, 2017

chocolate chip cookies 1
I have crumbs on my neck and down my back. I noticed them while singing Joan to sleep just now, and realised they must have come from the cookies we baked this morning. We’ve baked a lot of cookies this past month. So much so, that if I were to offer Joan a cookie upon waking, there’s a good chance she’d say no*, because she’s entirely sick of them. How’s that for food habituation?

Cookies began covering my counter following a craving for chocolate chip bites. And then I got to thinking it would be neat to create a nut-free version of this recipe (which I adore and make often) for my clients with nut-free kids. Over the weeks, I trialled many different recipes and received vastly different results, ranging from “fine” to “oh good Lord, no”. We ate batches made with regular wholemeal flour, wholegrain spelt and unbleached white spelt (unbleached spelt, either wholegrain or white, won); with and without tahini (it’s a great addition), using honey instead of maple (the honey cookie was baaaaaaad, so in order to compensate for the price of maple syrup, I reduced the portion); with baking soda and with baking powder (soda works best); and with cacao nibs in place of chocolate (dark chocolate, all the way). It seems I won’t have to tire Joan with constant offerings of “choket chip cookie”s for a while, because, friends, we have ourselves a winner. The cookie I crowned is simple to assemble, bakes in no time, is nut-free AND egg-free (which means Joan’s egg-free pal can eat them), and, most importantly, fulfils the expectations one develops when those three glorious words, “chocolate chip cookie”, are paired together.
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Happenings 18.5.17

May 18, 2017

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* written over the end of April/beginning of May, in dribs and drabs as I catch moments here and there.

DOING: sitting in bed, next to sleeping Joan and a mound of soft toys. It’s 6:47pm. Ben and I planned a date dinner, so I fed Joan early and got her to bed. A pot of water for pasta is coming to the boil as I wait for him to get home from work.

HEARING: the white noise app, “Heavy rain”, drowning out the noise I make while typing on my laptop.

READING:  In my last post, I mentioned that I wasn’t super into this book, but it really picked up towards the end and had some good twists. I also liked reading about the frosty Icelandic setting while tucked up in bed. Yesterday I got an alert from the library that this book is ready for me to collect, so that’s next on my list.

LOOKING: forward to dinner. I am HUNGRY. Whenever Ben and I decide to have a date meal, it’s usually pasta. Yesterday I took a portion of lentil + tomato ragu from the freezer, and we’ll eat it with spaghetti and, as always, a greedy portion of parmesan cheese.

And right in front of me is a vase full of green and white. Flowers in my bedroom make me happy.
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A simple crumble

May 7, 2017

crumble

I had a cookie recipe all lined up to share with you (a chocolate chip cookie recipe, at that), but then I went and made crumble for breakfast, and here we are. After sharing the process on Instagram stories, I received a number of requests for a more detailed recipe. Ben and Joan have gone to the shops for bread, spring onions and a vegetable juice, and I stayed home to write. The Amélie Soundtrack is playing in the background, only slightly louder than the rain hitting the windows, and I’m hoping to get this done before they return. Today feels like a lazy, woollen jumper-wearing, ‘Joan take the lead and order us around’ kind of day. I expect we’ll be having tea parties and pretending to cook scrambled eggs. We may even make real scrambled eggs for lunch.

I grew up eating apple crumble regularly, at least monthly. Does my memory serve me correctly, Mum? It was our most frequent dessert, that I know for sure. Mum’s crumble uses butter, as do most recipes out there, however, months ago, when I saw a recipe that required neither melting butter nor working it in with my hands, I jumped at it. Any recipe with olive oil and maple syrup tends to be a favourite in this house (in fact, those chocolate chip cookies are made with olive oil and maple syrup, too). And although it doesn’t taste quite as delicious as my mum’s crumble, the process is so incredibly simple and satisfying that it has become our default recipe. Here it is. And a happy Sunday to you.

p.s. cookie recipe soon.
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Lentil salad

April 26, 2017

cardboard car
Joan calls condiments, “soup”. Whenever there’s a bottle on the table, be it a chutney, hot sauce or apple cider vinegar, she will continually ask for “more soup!” until I end up having to put it out of sight. The funny names for seemingly ordinary things is one of our favourite things about this age, as she learns to speak. Ben and I grin like love-sick fools whenever Joan asks for “patate” on her toothbrush. One day, probably soon, she’ll realise it’s called “toothpaste”. One day she won’t call tomatoes “naipoes” or orange “onu”, and she’ll ask for peanut butter instead of “peanie butter”. For now, we’re soaking it up, encouraging it, even. “More soup, Joan?”, I asked over the weekend, as I drizzled more apple cider vinegar on my lentils. “More soup! Joanie, soup!”, she replied.

The three of us spent Anzac Day pottering around the house, building cars from cardboard boxes and cooking lentils. There was a block of haloumi in the fridge, which I fried, and used to create a little salad with chopped vegetables from our farm box. I made a simple, sharp dressing out of apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, and decorated it with fennel fronds and toasted seeds. When we sat down to eat, I decided the dish needed even more acidity, so I drizzled extra vinegar over the lentils (not before offering Joan more soup, of course). It made for a lovely lunch, so I decided to share the recipe with you today (which means, hurrah! After multiple requests, I am finally describing my lentil cooking process. Though be warned, it’s terribly simple). I can imagine plumping up this dish with fish (whether fresh, cooked fillets or canned+oil-packed), diced boiled eggs or shredded chicken. Some quinoa would work, too, though then you would would certainly want to double the dressing. And do scatter a little more apple cider vinegar over the dish while you eat. The lentils soak it up and beg for more.
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Easter 2017

April 18, 2017

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Our little family of three had the loveliest Easter long weekend. After a busy and full couple of months, Ben and I were craving a longer break than our regular Saturday, Sunday, back to work on Monday. Four free days were just what we needed to fill up our cups and find our feetEach morning after breakfast, I retreated to my writing desk and dove into work, leaving Ben and Joan to do chores, make cubbies and eat snacks. Building Duplo houses for her soft toys was the only pressing task at hand, and by giving Joan his full attention he was able to step away from his to-do lists and have a proper mental break. Meanwhile, I was able to create and find fulfilment in that area of my heart, which allowed me to come back to my loves refreshed and ready. Ready to eat, as it were. This weekend was filled with long lunches and easter eggs. In order to avoid dealing with caffeine + sugar highs, I chose carob eggs for my 19month old. After tasting one, any guilt of depriving her of a Lindt bunny evaporated because, dang, that “chocolate” is TASTY. A few days before the weekend, I purchased a bunch of little carob eggs, along one with one giant egg, and on Easter Sunday I brought them to Red Hill for our family lunch. Long before my brother and his girlfriend arrived, Joan spotted one nestled on the windowsill, its shiny wrapper shimmering in the sun. What a lesson in patience that was. Joan waited by the front door, listening for his footsteps on the stone path and every now and then exclaiming, “Jackson! Come on!”. She knew that when they arrived, that egg would be hers. As they walked through the front door, Joan grabbed her basket and made a beeline for the back door, running past the eggs I had hidden in clear view, towards that shiny egg by the window. Watching her look for little treasures and put them in her basket filled my heart with more joy than I ever knew a person could experience. That is the magic of childhood, isn’t it? After most of the eggs were found (thought there may still be one hidden in my father’s shoe), we sat down for lunch, which included woodfired pizza, Anna Jones’ greens pie and Autumn panzanella, and homemade sourdough hot cross buns. Ben and I brought a bottle of Moët to share, which we were gifted 8 months ago. We were saving it for a special occasion, and I cannot think of a more special day than this one.

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Happenings 14.4.17

April 14, 2017

laundry

* written over the month of April, in dribs and drabs as I catch moments here and there.

DOING: sitting next to Joan while she naps and typing on my computer. She’s still not sleeping for longer than 40 minutes for her day nap, however by parking myself close by I can sometimes encourage a longer snooze if I rest my hand on her belly when she rouses. I’ve spilt a lot of coffee on her bed sheets this past month.

HEARING: the white noise app. I think Joan must expect that it always rains heavily when she sleeps.

LOOKING: at the coffee stains on Joan’s sheets. I’m still working my way through our laundry after camping last weekend (I had a decent pile waiting even before we left), so these sheets are not a priority. Perhaps they should be, but a coffee-scented room is a touch more enjoyable than a nappy-bin scented one, so I haven’t rushed to clean them. Also, I’m a big fan of drying our washing outside on the clothes line, and there’s only so many sheets one can hang while avoiding downpours.

DRINKING: coffee. How many times have I mentioned coffee in this post?

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The start of something wonderful

April 4, 2017

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Each year, a few days after Christmas, my family of five would pack our car and head up the coast to Depot Beach. The nine hour drive was a fine price to pay for weeks of freedom in nature with friends. Our days were spent swimming, playing, refuelling, creating inappropriate songs and singing them in the shower block, chasing the daily newspaper delivery van to purchase Killer Pythons and Nerds, and on the occasional rainy day, reading books in our tents. At night, we slept soundly, having exhausted ourselves in the great outdoors. I have fond memories of this time, and always imagined I’d offer my kids the same experience. Ben didn’t camp as a kid, and if he’s honest, would prefer to spend the night in a hotel, however I continued mentioning the idea, determined to show him how great it can be. I wanted our little family to begin creating precious camping of our own. Recently, when friends invited us on a trip, Ben immediately said, “Great!”, and didn’t hesitate when I showed him the tent I wanted to purchase. I think he did it for Joan. Like most children, she adores the outdoors, and the thought of making her happy was reason enough to agree.

The tent of my childhood was large, green and canvas. It felt secure, spacious and cozy, and I wanted the same for our family. My friend Vanessa, who had invited us camping, raved about her Canvas Camp tent, a big, bell-shaped beauty, so I followed her lead. The weekend the tent arrived, we assembled it in our backyard. The set-up was straight forward and didn’t take long at all. As Ben and I secured the base, Joan skipped along the edge, announcing, “Hammer! Hammer!”. I had forgotten how satisfying it is to hammer tent poles into the ground. When it was up, we lay inside and marvelled at our portable home. I told Ben I could imagine Joan having backyard sleepovers with friends in the coming years, which made him smile. We both agreed we’d made the right purchase. This tent is not a couple of hundred dollars, it’s decently more than that, however we saw it as an investment in comfort and happiness, and a push to get out there and create memories – to camp often and to camp well. To help with the cost, I contacted the company and asked if they’d be keen to give a discount in exchange for some pictures here and on Instagram, and they kindly agreed. Well, upon Ben and my mum’s encouragement I contacted them. I’m not in the habit of asking for discounts, and I don’t enjoy doing it, but I asked politely and explained that I’d totally buy the tent regardless and they were casually cool about it all. I guess that’s a sign to put myself out there more? Perhaps. Anyway, there’s my full disclosure for you! If you’re considering purchasing one of these tents, I want you to know that it is the bee’s knees, and you will be thrilled. We bought the 5m variety, which is huge and gave us an incredible amount of space, even with our blow-up Queen bed from Aldi. I’m looking forward to making our tent even more homely on our next trip, perhaps with a little reading chair and table, and a cabinet for cups and pots.

So where did we camp? Vanessa found a stellar spot along the Blairgowrie foreshore that was an ideal mix of green, dirt and beach – the perfect, gentle introduction for our first family camping trip. On our camp stove, which we’d borrowed from my parents, we made meals of porridge (with dates and coconut milk), scrambled eggs (with toast cooked over the camp stove in one of these things) and pasta (with jarred pesto, spinach, canned chickpeas and tuna). We went into town for takeaway coffees and sipped them as our babes played in the sand. When the kids went to bed in the evening, we sat outside under twinkly lights with wine, cheese and chocolate. It was lovely. I’m pleased to say that Ben is now a camper. As much as I hoped he’d enjoy himself, I didn’t want to force my passion onto my husband, so it was wonderful to see him “get it” on his own. Relaxing in a chair with a mug of tea that he’d made by heating water over the camp stove, I saw him watching Joan. She was soaking up every inch of space, exploring the bushes and running around the camp site in waterproof pants, a cup of water in her dirty fingernail hands and wet shoes from running in the water. She was in her element and we were happy. This is indeed the start of something wonderful.

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Happenings 19.3.17

March 19, 2017

desk
* written over the month of March, in dribs and drabs as I catch moments here and there.

DOING: sitting at my writing desk in the corner of our bedroom. Joan is napping in her room and I’m taking a moment to write. This past month, we moved Joan into her own bed for naps (see this post for more details), and while she falls asleep happily (her very own “Beddy!” is still a novelty), she rarely sleeps more than 45 minutes. This means I only answer a handful of emails and barely finish my coffee before we’re back at it, but it also means that she’s sincerely ready to conk out by 7pm, and that is AWESOME. Ben has been away for work a bit lately, usually for 4 nights at a time, and on these occasions it is always a treat if Joan goes down easily. And you know, what? I have been really enjoying my evening solo time. I have a shower, then spend a crazy long time stretching and moisturising, getting clean and relaxed and comfortable. I’ll get myself a snack and quietly cozy into our big bed, beside Joan, and watch a show on my computer. Little things like fresh sheets, clean feet and a bowl of yoghurt + honey are my bliss.

HEARING: Vallis Alps. I found these guys over the summer and have been listening to them on repeat. “Young” became my Summer anthem.

LOOKING: at the light on my desk. It’s mid-morning and the sun is shining through the trees, causing shadows of leaves to sway over my desk. Autumn is my favourite time of year. The air is clean and crisp, and the leaves are yellow and orange and brown and crunchy. Collecting and crunching leaves is something I love to do, and this Autumn I plan on making Joan my leaf-collecting + crunching sidekick.

DRINKING: coffee. My weekday routine of late has to make a coffee as soon as Joan naps, which tends to be around 11:30am. I usually have a green tea in the morning, which keeps me going until my beloved, peaceful coffee moment.

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The Big Sleep Post, part 2.

February 27, 2017

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If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, I insist you go back and start at the beginning.

When we left off, I had transitioned Joan from baby-wearing, to napping in a bed without me. We were also feeding a lot less during the day. Everything was going really well, but we still needed to address the night stuff.

NIGHT WEANING

Offering Joan breastmilk when she woke overnight had been an easy and effective way to keep us all happy and well-rested. Until it wasn’t. Somewhere around the 10th month of her life, Joan began waking more and more, and by the time she was 13 months, she was sometimes waking every hour. And it was different to when she woke due to developmental leaps or teething, she appeared to be waking out of habit. We were exhausted, and I knew that Joan needed better rest, too, so I spoke to friends who were going through (or had already gone through) similar things, which is how I came across Dr Jay Gordon’s recommendations for night weaning babies over the age of 1 (side note: this guy is pro co-sleeping, which is rad, but he’s also anti some vaccinations, which is not how I feel). I showed the article to Ben and we agreed to try it in December, when Joan would be just over 15 months old. I insisted that Ben take some time off work or work from home, as I expected we would be up for hours in the middle of the night, and I didn’t want him driving into work excessively tired. I also didn’t want to do it alone, and assumed he would need to take over the role of comforter, as I worried Joan may not be able to separate me from milk. You can read more about the process Dr Jay Gordon recommends via this link, but essentially you select a 7hour period where you won’t offer milk (we chose 10pm-5am), and either side of that you feed as much as you want. Over 10 days, you gradually do different things when bubba wakes. For the first three nights, you still feed them when they wake, however you remove the breast before they nod off completely, so that they begin to get used to falling asleep without it. After that, you don’t offer them milk when they wake, instead you pick them up/rock them if they need comfort. Three days after that change, you don’t get out of bed when they wake, you just pat their back or verbally tell them it’s time to sleep. Eventually, they start waking less (what’s the point without milk, right?!) and when they do wake, they are used to falling asleep without the breast. There’s a reason Dr Jay Gordon suggest waiting until babies are older and ready, as they are very secure and it is easier to comfort them in other ways. As he says, they may be upset and annoyed when you don’t give them milk, but they’re not distressed. They just need some time to learn the new routine. I still worried, however, that Joan would be distressed if I refused milk, and I knew in my gut that if she was, I would give it to her and wait a couple of months before trying again.
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The Big Sleep Post, part 1.

February 26, 2017

I haven’t wanted to write another post about sleep. It’s a loaded topic and I wasn’t sure I could convey my feelings accurately. I also didn’t want to be another voice in the sea of advice that is given to parents, as loving and caring as most advice is. Sleep, or lack thereof, is an overwhelmingly popular topic of conversation in the baby world. First-time parents expect to be tired when their newborn arrives, but nothing can prepare you for how the sleep deprivation will truly feel (well, besides getting a puppy, perhaps). And when you’re deep in the sleepless days, it’s difficult to trust that you will ever sleep solidly again, even when you are reassured of the fact. Sleep is a big deal. It is crucial to keeping everyone happy and healthy, and it’s a tricky one because babies’ sleeping habits change all the time, as they go through developmental leaps and grow teeth and get sick… and each family contains multiple individuals with different personalities and schedules, attempting to co-exist in harmony. What worked for one family, therefore, may not work for another. And though we may acknowledge these differences, when we are tired and hormonal, we don’t always respond the way we should when receiving advice (even if the advice is respectful and legitimately helpful, and even if we asked/begged for it), which is to take the ideas that resonate with you and tune out the rest. It is very easy to compare your baby and feel like you’re doing something wrong. Joan was never a baby to happily drift off to sleep on her own, Ben and I were always keenly assisting her, and very few of the tricks people suggested worked for us, which made me feel worse. This is why I have been hesitant to share more of our sleep story, as I don’t want anyone to compare their baby or question their gut, because that’s your guide, not me. You can learn very useful tips from gentle parenting books, like those written by Pinky McKay (clearly I’m a fan of gentle methods, here), such as learning how to swaddle and rock your baby, and encouraging a night-time routine. But you need to implement these strategies alongside the knowledge that your baby is unique and they may not take to these suggestions in the manner, time-frame or consistency that other babies do.

When Joan was around seven weeks old, I attended a New Parent Group session that was run by my local council. The topic was sleep – what was good and healthy sleep behaviour, and what not to do. As I stood in the circle, rocking and feeding my baby to sleep, I learnt that you shouldn’t rock or feed your baby to sleep. I understand where this thinking comes from, I do. It is GREAT if you can put babies down happily in their bassinet/cot when they’re drowsy yet still awake, so they learn to fall asleep on their own and don’t wake up going, “Hang on, where am I? Where’s my mum, I was just snuggling her!?!”, but that was never, ever going to happen for us without Joan screaming, and my instinct was to not put her through that distress, so we didn’t. Much advice given to new parents aims to help them survive those early, gruelling days and acknowledges the fact that many mothers won’t be staying home with their babies as long as previous generations (the going back to work thing is another loaded topic, and I won’t get into that now. I’ll simply say, wouldn’t it be great if we were all able to choose whether we wanted to go back to work or stay at home with our children, and for that choice to be properly supported by society and each other?) These days, many families have two working parents because they want to and/or they have to, and a baby who sleeps independently will be supportive of this. However, it was absolutely the wrong advice for Joan and I, and I left the session feeling ashamed and conflicted. I was vulnerable and lacked the wisdom that comes with time, when you see that eventually it all works out and none of the things you did in the early days spoiled your baby.

As Joan has grown, I’ve become more protective of her privacy. I post few shots of her face and I pause before sharing too much of what she says and does, even though I want to scream it loud and proud, because she’s so darn amazing. I adore seeing other families on Instagram, and if my gut told me to keep sharing lots of photographs of her cute little face I would, but it’s not. She’s not a baby anymore, she’s a little girl, and I’m feeling the pull to protect. Me? I’ll keep writing and sharing because it makes me happy, but her? That’s Joan’s call now. Despite all of this, Ben and I are very happy to flow freely on the topic of sleep and gentle parenting methods. The sleep stuff, especially newborn sleep, is less about personality anyway, and more about basic, primal needs. I think the main reason I started sharing my thoughts on the matter is simply because it was a big part of my life, as I wore Joan in a sling/carrier for practically all her naps until she was 14 months old. And it turns out that by sharing our reality, Joan and I have helped normalise the fact that some babies require a lot of assistance and patience when it comes to sleep. I think bubba will be chuffed to learn the number of mothers who have been in contact with me to say, thanks. I know I’m chuffed, because goodness me, I was not prepared for this. I thought babies just slept in a cot when they were tired. Right? Isn’t that what babies do? I know that some bubbas do actually sleep this way, however I now also know that some need a little more help, and some need a lot more help, and that is totally normal. And so I share, because I remember how it felt to see pictures of babies sleeping blissfully in cots and feel like a failure. I share to help shine light at the end of the tunnel, because as lovely as baby-wearing and non-stop sleep snuggling is, you don’t want to have to do it forever, nor do you want to waste those precious moments worrying that you’re doing something wrong. I share so that others will feel reassured that by responding to your child’s needs, you are not creating bad habits, you’re actually helping them thrive.

This post is a long one. Too long, probably. And while I did edit it down, in the end I decided to stop cutting the content. As I said, sleep is a big deal, and to share only part of our story is misleading. So, this will be a two parter. To those with babies who happily sleep independently, don’t worry about reading this post, read something else. And to those with wakeful babies who are requiring a lot of patience, please don’t hope for bundles of helpful tips. I’m not an expert, I have only one experience and you and I (and our babies) will be different. But I’m sharing our story all the same, in the hope that it feels like a giant hug of recognition and reassurance to those who may need it.

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