Thursday, November 2, 2017

Where is your busy?

Oh, we're all soooo busy, aren't we? It's not a new conversation, nor is that fact that most of us choose the level of commitment we have. That discussion has been done to death and will continue as we get busier and busier.

But what I want to ask is, do you know where your time goes? Do you ever chat to someone you haven't seen for a while and say "gee, I don't know what we've been doing, we've just been bus-eee"? 

(We'll get to that in a minute, but can we pause to laugh at the ridiculousness of stock image captions? This one is called "Casual Business Woman Typing On Laptop Whilst In Bed", but the real hoot comes if you check out this one: "Dedicated adorable mother starting an active day". It's useful lesson in how working mothers CAN have it all...)

Just sitting down and trying to catalogue the last seven days is tricky. We had an extra child last weekend as her parents had gone away for two nights, so that led to a hectic weekend. There was a lot of tending to baby Audrey while the twins and their sleepover friend followed Dad, Nan and Pa around the garden. A new sandpit was built but I can't claim any credit for that. I did make a cake and prune some lavender but I'm not sure what else sucked up Saturday.

Sunday we went to brunch at the fabulous Goonoo Goonoo Station. Tamworth is so lucky to have such a great venue in town and we went with Mum and two international visitors who were staying with her. Don't ask me what happened after brunch. We arrived home and the sandpit was finished so I think the kids passed a lot of time in there. Maybe it was actually Sunday that I did the pruning. So what the hell did I do on Saturday?

Is it a challenge of the memory or do we genuinely have large gaps in our day, voids that are caused by pottering and social media.

Today I played with the kids for a bit until their Nanny arrived. Then I came down to do a bit of work at my little bookkeeping-slash-real-estate-mogul job, helped mum with a few jobs around town, returned to do a bit more work, ate my lunch, picked up my car (which I'd left at mum's), [fill large gap here], inspected a leaking toilet, called a plumber, stuffed around looking at emails and sat down to write.

The main inspiration of this post is that it's been a while. And instead of the usual "sorry guys, I've just been bus-eee", I decided to put a bit more thought into it. On a macro I can totally account for the busy-ness (kick-started a side hustle, returned to my comms job 2 days a week, went to my sister-in-laws wedding in Sydney) but isn't it hard to narrow that down to the day-to-day.

Do you have to bill your time at work? I am so good at it. But imagine if you had to bill your time at home. What would be your go-to for those voids? "Unproductive"? "Filing"? "Team meetings"?

I'm probably all of the above. Because social media is totally "filing", right?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Rosy Cheeks Muesli

This post was meant to be about breakfast. But Oh My Goodness have I been sidetracked!

I love my breakfast, and that love has grown even more since having kids. You can read about it here, here and here. There’s something special about getting up before everyone else so I can savour my bowl of muesli (in summer) or porridge (in winter) in the peaceful early light. That morning space before the kids rise has become so important to me that it’s seen my alarm creep further and further forward over the last 3 years.

With priorities like this you can understand how much I enjoyed meeting Katie Godden, creator of Tamworth’s Rosy Cheeks muesli, at a recent Savvy Birds event (if you live in or near Tamworth and haven’t been to a SB event you’re missing out!)

I told her about my blog and my pre-Tamworth life as a brand ambassador for delicious goods and she generously sent me home with two bags of her “delicious nutritious”, paleo-inspired, health promoting muesli, one of them being Primal Cheeky Choc.

What? Yup, that’s right. Chocolate granola. I didn’t think it would be my thing. But I was so wrong.

Boasting coconut flakes nuts, pepitas, raw cacao and more, I am seriously addicted. I don’t eat it for breakfast, instead I sprinkle it on yoghurt as an alternative to the sugar laden snacks that I’m STILL eating, despite being off the “breastfeeding diet” for nearly three months. I’m also partial to eating it like trail mix, returning to the pantry again and again for a nibble. To be fair, I think that’s how Katie intended for it to be eaten, as opposed to a standalone breakfast product. Her serving suggestions include:
  •           Straight from the pack
  •           Blended in a smoothie or milkshake
  •           On top of your favourite smoothie bowl
  •           Combined with other puffed cereal products at breakfast time
The other product she shared with me, Primal Granola, is a more traditional breakfast but no less delicious. Muesli and porridge is a weekend treat for me and I love a fruit-free, granola style muesli topped with yoghurt and berries.

Packed full of cashews and almonds, Rosy Cheeks’ Primal Granola has a great crunch and texture and delicious hints of coconut oil and maple syrup.

I’ve been blessed with relatively good health so far, so I’m all about flavour, but Rosy Cheeks was inspired by Katie’s own health journey, after battling poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes and asthma. You can read about this journey on the Rosy Cheeks website, but in a nutshell Katie cut out gluten, dairy, processed food and refined sugars. She also cut back on carbs. Essentially Katie adopted a paleo diet, raved about the health benefits and created her delicious Rosy Cheeks range to ensure she could eat delicious, wholesome food, even on busy days.

If you’re after health benefits, read more on Katie’s website and buy Rosie Cheeks. If you’re after flavour, take my word for it and buy Rosie Cheeks – visit the website for stockists or to buy direct.

Now excuse me, I need to get to bed early so I can enjoy my breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Strawberry and rhubarb crumble

Strawberries have been super cheap these last few weeks. Anyone know a reason for this? I thought this meant they were currently in season, but a quick google tells me that between Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland there’s pretty much “strawbs” in season somewhere in the eastern states all year round.

From here we could launch into a conversation about buying in season, buying local and ensuring a fair price for the farmer – all of which are important issues, but it’s late on a Friday night and I’m single parenting three under three this weekend so let’s just talk dessert, ok?

For some, cheap strawberries means jam. I don’t have time for jam. Maybe one day, but in the meantime, cheap strawberries mean strawberry and rhubarb crumble.
If I’ve been to your hens party and was asked to provide a recipe, chances are you already have this one. It’s my go-to for bridal shower shares. Everyone loves a crumble (right?) and I like to think the strawberry and rhubarb filling makes this one just a little sexier. What’s more, it’s super easy to make and a lot of the prep can be done in advance. Sound like perfect dinner party material?

I can’t remember when I first started making this dish. It started out as “strawberry, rose geranium and rhubarb crumble” from The Good Weekend’s “Any fool can cook...” section. I think it was written by Matthew Evans but I can’t be sure. I still have the original clipping but my version is now considerably different. The original had very firm views on the crumble:

“This one doesn’t resemble a muesli topping, relying on coconut or rolled oats. It’s simpler, more classical and far better in my view.”

But somewhere along the lines I put the rolled oats back in. Does that make me a radical? I just like a bit more substance in my crumble. If you’re in the traditionalist camp, or any other crumble camp for that matter substitute in your own mix. The crumble here freezes well so you can whip up a dessert in a hurry and works just as well with a traditional apple filling (try 8 sliced red apples, 2 Tbsp sugar and juice of ½ a lemon instead of the fruit mix below).

Strawberry and rhubarb crumble

170 g plain flour
65 g self raising flour
170 g raw sugar
pinch salt
170 g softened butter
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 bunch rhubarb, chopped into 2-3 cm pieces
1 punnet strawberries, hulled and halved
2 Tbsp honey, warmed
1/2 tsp vanilla
A splash of rosewater

Combine flours, sugar, salt and 120 g of butter in the food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add oats and pulse briefly to combine.

In a medium casserole dish, toss the rhubarb and strawberries with honey, vanilla and a splash of rosewater then press the mixture down.

Just before baking, sprinkle the crumble mixture over the fruit. Chop the remaining 50 g butter into small cubes and scatter across the crumble.

Bake in a 200 degree C oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is browned.

Serves 4

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Food and flowers for grief and joy

What a fortnight it's been. I have met new babies, sent my own baby to daycare for the first time, celebrated an engagement and farewelled a friend's father, taken before his time.

Over the last three years I have seen life's book ends first hand with the birth of my twins in 2014, the untimely passing of my own father in 2016 and the arrival of our third baby at the beginning of this year.

When Dad died close friends and kind acquaintances alike came forward with baked goods, casseroles and flowers. I couldn't help but think back to when the twins were born and I realised that  life begins and ends with food and flowers. And kindness.

It's easy to extend kindness and joy when life begins. Cute baby presents and cheerful flowers. But when life ends there can be an awkwardness surrounding what to do and say.

Most of my friends are in their mid to late thirties and too many of us have already lost a parent. Some of them have lost siblings and others have seen children, nieces and nephews battle serious illness.

When anyone you know experiences these heartbreaking life events, don't be awkward. Just remember: kindness.

Send flowers if you like. Or a plant if you know it won't burden the recipient. I'm a big fan of plants and take comfort in caring for those I received last year after dad's passing, but not everyone's life's circumstances suit plants. I was immensely touched by those who went to the expense to send flowers or the effort to cook, but a simple phone call is just as powerful. Don't know what to say? Well say that.  "I don't know what to say but I am thinking of you", or "there is nothing I can say to fix this but please know I'm here." It need not be a long conversation and chances are your friend may not pick up the phone. But they will know that you care. And trust me, it means a lot.

Have you experienced loss? What did you find comforting and/or useful?
Do you have a go-to gesture that you call upon when friend's experience heartache?

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Sydney birthday party

This weekend passed we took our three children – two and a half year old twins and a seven month old – to Sydney. A whopping 810 km round trip for a two night stay. I think the time it took me to pack was greater than the time we had on the ground. It’s a far cry from child-free days when we used to jump in the car Friday night after work and whip down for a party or two before making a leisurely (and often hungover) trip back up the highway.

But you know what? It was worth every whingy car trip moment.

We went down for a party, but not the type mentioned above. It was a party to help our nephew Oliver celebrate his first birthday. He won’t remember that we were there, but the fact is, we were there. We had a nice time catching up with Sam’s sister and her husband and their friends, as much as is possible in between keeping tabs on children, and we got to demonstrate to our family that we value them and want to share in their joy as much as they share in ours. 
 The car trips weren’t quite as painful as I would have expected, the twins did well sleeping in big beds (our first trip since we took the sides off their cot four weeks ago) and we had a wonderful morning before the Saturday afternoon party. Sam and I got to enjoy great coffee and Georgina and Thomas got to experience a fun new park, not to mention all the planes flying overhead. PLANE!
Just as Oliver won’t remember our presence, the twins probably won’t remember the trip in years to come (and Audrey certainly won’t) but I hope that if we can make these trips now, when life is seriously hectic, then it will only be easier to continue as our family grows, and we can show these malleable little creatures of ours how important it is to value those who value us.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Traybake meal ideas

I love a one pot, set & forget meal. Less washing up and less time spent prepping. I sound like Suzie Homemaker but it's true!

Now that the weather is warming up, hearty stews on the slow cooker are a little less appealing (although, only a little...) so I've been seriously hitting up traybakes in the oven. And you know what? I think they're even easier than the slow cooker. Much less chopping and no need to brown any meat.

Roast chicken pieces and baked sausages are high on rotation at our house right now. Below is an adaptation of a sausage and fennel recipe that my mother in-law snipped from Good Weekend magazine way back in 2008 (pictured above). Bonus points if you can find pork and fennel chipolatas.

I'm also loving Baked ratatouille with snags, another Fairfax recipe from way back in 2008. It's a Jill Dupleix dish that I clipped from Epicure  and then subsequently lost. Now whenever I want it I google "oven lovin' sausage". I really should write it down in case it's one day unavailable.

And then there's chicken. Any variation of chicken and chorizo is a winner in my book. Bonus points if you can get hold of chicken pieces with bone in and skin on (actually not always that easy here in Tamworth). I'm loving these recipes:
  • Spanish chicken traybake with chorizo and peppers (pictured) from BBC Good Food. I allow an extra serve of chicken per person so we all have enough to eat without carbs.
  • Chorizo chicken from BabyMac. You might like  to whip up a salad or steam some greens to complete this meal but no need to cook spuds, they're already included.
  • Mediterranean oven-baked chicken drumsticks from Annabel Karmel. Ok, there's no chorizo in this one but it's super easy and the kids love it, as you'd expect from AK. I often cook thigh cutlets for the adults as well as drumsticks.

And in case you can't be bothered to follow the links above, here's the sausage and fennel recipe.

Baked sausages fennel and tomatoes

1 small fennel bulb
2 red onions, peeled and sliced into rounds
4 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Half a bunch of thyme
5 sprigs of rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
12 pork chipolatas
150 ml white wine

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the fennel vertically into wedges, keeping a little bit of the base on each to hold it together. Arrange in a roasting pan with the onion and tomato. Scatter with thyme, rosemary and fennel seeds and drizzle over the olive oil Season well then tuck in the sausages, add the wine and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until sausages are browned, tossing the veges and turning the sausages after 20 minutes. 

Serves 4.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ways to move. Or not.

Well would you looky here. This is me. Dressed! In something other than what I can scrape off the floor. For the last 2 weeks we have been moving out of our house and then back into it. What? I know. Read on.

We stayed at Mum's for two weeks during the whole pallaver. Two toddlers, a sleepless baby, three cots, two adults (Mum was away), three cases of croup, two cases of gastro (one of them mine) and a house move (multiple, really). Man, it was hell. And somewhere along the way I packed clothes for all the kids and none for me. Except a large suitcase full of scarves. Huh?

I'm pretty sure moving from a four bedroom home to a five bedroom home with a pool is right up there on the list of first world problems, but indulge me a little.

In October we put our first home on the market, which of course involved a lot of boxing and decluttering. I LOVED the minimalist existence we created for ourselves to be honest - so easy to keep clean and tidy and organized - and it paid off with a quick sale.

In December, now eight months pregnant, we moved most of our belongings into storage and bunkered down with Sam's parents for what was to become to craziest phase of our lives to date.

In January, baby Audrey came along and three under two-and-a-half got real. SO grateful for the in-laws' extra hands (and for Mum just down the road). I lost count of the number of times Sam and I looked at each other in terror as we realised we were in well over our heads.

July saw the in-laws' downsizer reno nearly complete and planning for operation move began.

We temporarily moved to Mum's on a Tuesday. The in-laws moved out permanently on the Friday after which the carpets were sprayed for carpet beetle. Have you heard of it? A nasty little critter that eats carpets and woollen jumpers. I know, right! These guys were the reason we moved to Mum's. Carpets were cleaned the following Tuesday, our furniture and stored possessions came in on Wednesday and we had our first night together here on Saturday. Cue flowers and bubbles from my mother-in-law (and a bell to summon the children).
So what is that? A three day move? Or 11 days? Or maybe eight months.

When considering "ways to move" this is probably NOT one to recommend. But is there any way to move easily? Like so much in life, everyone's circumstance is unique and demands it's own strategy. With it's own set of challenges and hiccups.

The move also came with its joys. Not only was it immense helpful living with my in-laws, watching the children interact with their Grandparents on a day-to-day basis was a real gem. As a society we've lost that "family all in" way of living that was so common generations ago, and this was a rare opportunity to experience it (not to mention far more efficient than running two households.) And somewhere among the sleepless nights, chaotic breakfasts and general carnage everywhere, I'm pretty sure the Grandparents loved nearly every minute, too.
Now it's just the five of us, on our own, unpacked enough to live day-to-day. There's still a lot of work before I can say the move is "complete" but we're thrilled to be finally starting this next phase of our lives. It's been a long time coming.

The view out the back aint bad, either.