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Eat the hot chips with joy and other lessons from my 3 year old

 Oh hi! It’s been a while since I penned any words here. Life’s gotten in the way and I have been contemplating much internally and my thoughts are not formed in a way I have felt ok with sharing. My boys are bigger. Their stories are so much more personal and I am protective of where they each are. 

Last night though, I took them out for a pub meal. And by pub meal I mean a bowl of hot chips and a juice. Both quite the treat. They’d been ratty. Mr 3 spoke so loudly the entire time I physically winced several times. Oh hey, guy in the back sitting quietly with your beer, I hope you don’t mind hearing the inner ruminations of my three year old! 

One of the things that kids have an uncanny knack of doing though is inadvertently showing you lessons for yourself. Things that only your adult gaze can “get”. I had cause to teach them about double dipping. Cos you know, it is gross and who needs them to be sharing their germs? Mr 3 was taking a chip, dipping it in the sauce (as an aside I feel aioli is the only true dipping sauce for a chip!), biting, then dipping again and biting. Gross. After a chat about it Mr 3 was all, “Ok mum, I get it! It’s pretty disgusting really.” Score. Parental lesson got through. Successful parenting tick.

The boys ate and drank, argued over a minor thing that I can’t remember now, as siblings are want to do. 

Mr 3 then giggled. “What’s so funny?” His brother asked. “Well, my hand wanted to put the chip in the sauce again but my brain said, “No! That’s bad news bear. Don’t do that!” He looked at me, grinning, “I did good telling my hand what to do didn’t I?” Praise, heaped. 

A few minutes later, his cheeky grin and a whisper, “mum, I told my hand what to do but it just did the dip twice all on it’s own, I promise.” 

“These things happen buddy.” I smiled. He’s pretty hard to get mad with. It’s the face he has.  

“Mum, mistakes happen but I will do better and learn.”

And that, I think is a pretty good life lesson. Try. Learn. Make mistakes. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Accept your mistakes. Try harder. 

The joys of parenthood. 

And also, eat the hot chips with joy. 

Making memories, homemade pop tarts and Narnia

054It’s the last day of the summer holidays and I’m feeling sad that it’s all drawing to a close.  Things for us all are going to change a lot in the next month (more on that another time). And though we all do well with a bit of structure around here the chance to play, relax and just be together has been wonderful.  My boys are, after all this time, firmly attached and entrenched siblings.  And as with every sibling relationship there is a lot of love together with annoyance, frustration, screaming and in spite of their ages, mutual respect.

Yesterday Mr 6 remarked that the summer has been his best yet, bless him. We took the foot off the pedal a bit and relaxed our pace and in so doing created opportunity for us all to be a family.  To let the boys be kiddos, get dirty, do things at their own pace.  It’s worked too and I sense they’re energised and refuelled for the year ahead.  There have been some beautiful memories….like this…..

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Mr 6 is a voracious reader and for Christmas we bought him several books including, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” which, along with Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair and The Secret Garden, was my favourite childhood book.  Though he could read it by himself we’ve been reading a few chapters at night together and it’s been such good fun.  It also happens to tick off another challenge on my reading challenge list, “a book from my childhood”. I have to say that I loved this book just as much now as I did when I was 7. And the words are incredibly beautiful. Case in point:

“Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning – either a terrifying one who’s turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life

and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now.”

When we read this, Mr 6 looked up at me and said, “Woah Mum, that sounds like the way you talk.” which is quite the compliment but maybe reading things like this is part of the reason I do, in a way, talk like this.

It’s a pleasure of parenthood to weave your own childhood loves through the narrative of your own children’s lives which is what I do with books and food.  That’s easy for me to do with my beautiful firstborn as he is so like me in many ways.

And in thinking about the year ahead this week I got my baking back on to prepare for the return to school days. Mr 6 is as much of a fan of breakfast as I am (which is to say he isn’t!) so when I spied these homemade pop tarts from My Whole Food Life I wanted to give them a try. My kiddos are pretty good with healthy versions of not so healthy things like pop tarts (especially as they’ve never tried the original!) but I knew a hybrid of healthy and not would work best so I combined the original recipe with this one from Smitten Kitchen (which by the way is a blog that never steers me wrong).

Homemade pop tarts adapted from here and here

Pastry

  • 2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil/butter – soft but it doesn’t have to be totally melted
  • Teeny dash of honey or other sweet syrup as you prefer
  • Teeny dash of cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (you could do normal milk if you don’t have almond milk on hand)
  • 1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry), beaten and set aside

Filling

  • Your jam of choice – we had raspberry on hand and also some homemade stone fruit jam
  • Your choice of nutella or other awesome-y goodness – I used the natural cacao and hazelnut spread but won’t next time as my loved ones acted as if I had poisoned them when they tried this version

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Combine flour, cinnamon and coconut butter in a large-ish bowl, when it comes together add in the honey and egg and knead the dough (I kneaded in the bowl but whatever you like). You could do this in a food processor but I couldn’t be bothered washing mine so did it by hand, it didn’t take long.
  • Refrigerate dough for around 10 or 15 minutes until it’s feeling quite solid
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench until it’s quite thin – I think around 1mm is optimal but I’m not an exact cook
  • Cut the dough in pretty even rectangle shapes – you need to have enough to make a top and a bottom – I think mine were around the 7 cm by 5 cm mark.
  • Place about a heaped teaspoon of your preferred topping in the middle of one of the rectangles and brush around it with egg wash
  • Place another rectangle on top and use a fork to press the edges down together and prick the top of the pop tart a few times – this is to let the steam out and it helps them stay crunchy
  • Continue until all are done and then brush the top of them with remaining egg wash
  • Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown and cool on a rack
  • Try not to eat them the minute they come from the oven!

Loverly food: Ricotta, orange and cranberry cake

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I’ve made this cake twice now and it’s a hit with all four of us. So, I thought I better blog it before I forget how I actually did it!!

I LOVE ricotta. It’s actually one of my favourite foods. Yes, I know it’s a bit bland but it’s just so much about what you put it with and it’s very versatile. Plus, I love that once upon a time someone thought to make something so delicious with the “waste product” from making other cheeses.

• half a cup of honey
• 3/4 cup softened butter – you could try with coconut oil if you want though I haven’t yet
• a heaped cup of ricotta cheese – the fresher the better though I don’t recommend you buy the mass produced supermarket stuff it is not at all the same
• 3 eggs
• juice and zest of one orange
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 cups plain flour
• half cup dried cranberries (add more if you like)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Cream the honey, butter and ricotta in a bowl – I did mine in my electric mixer but you don’t need to.
When nicely combined – the ricotta will still be lumpy – incorporate one egg at a time.
Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and combine.
Lastly add the flour, baking powder and cranberries and try not to over mix.
Cook in a loaf tin for around 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. A round or square pan may take a bit longer to cook through.
Leave to cool in the tin for around 10 minutes and invert on a cake rack.

I am actually thinking of making this cake in to mini-cakes with some chocolate chips and in it for Easter gifts!

This cake also keeps in the fridge really well in an air tight container.
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A “milk and cookies” Mama

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As a small girl I never dreamed of something specific like getting married, having a baby or being a Dr. I think I have always had a feel for the way I wanted to “feel” when I grew older. Settled, happy with my choices, loved. That is what I envisaged. And really, those are things I have, lucky me.

As I grew into my 20s I knew one day I would want to be a Mama. And as I frovolised (new word there see?) my way through my 20s and in to my 30s that time of Mama-ness came closer. As an aside, I highly recommend frivolising your 20s away, within reason!

When I was pregnant with Bebito I thought ahead to the type of Mama I wanted to be. The baby phase and I are not the best of friends, in spite of having had two of them. Instead, I come in to my own when they hit their first birthday and beyond. My boys as babies taught me a lot! But as they became toddlers is when the real fun began for us. I’ve developed my way of parenting them based on who they are, who I am and the many mistakes I’ve made along the way.

My Bebito has now been at school for almost two weeks. He was completely ready for a new challenge and has done incredibly well in spite of being anxious about starting this new chapter. I think 5 days a week is so very much though and secretly wish he could just attend for 4 days so we could have more time together. It’s a new chapter for us all and we are finding being organised is the easiest way to get through with smiles.

This time in his life is something I did look ahead to and I have made deliberate choices in my life to be the Mama I want to be at this time for him and for Little Lion. As Little Lion and I stood baking biscuits this morning I was struck by what we were doing. We were making biscuits for an after school snack and that very thing is an analogy for what I want to be for my boys, “a milk and cookies Mama”. Someone who takes care of them in quiet ways, nourishes their souls and allows them to open up and be who they are. Milk and cookies indeed.

Loverly Recipes: Zucchini bread

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Yesterday was one of those rare, amazing days where the stars align and all are happy and smiling at ours. The fighting was minimal, the sun shone and for the first time in his 2 and a half years Mr 2 slept for 12 hours overnight. It’s a tad boring for me to write about my constant sleep woes with him but the nights are long and often dreadful.

I also had brunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends at a cafe I love. I ordered a zucchini bread with whipped ricotta, honey and walnuts and it was delicious. It got me to thinking how it would be a great lunchbox item and veggie smuggler for Mr 2 so I was determined to make it with the homegrown zucchini my grandma gifted us.

After searching my recipe books to no avail and chatting to Amy she suggested this recipe via kitchn. It has however, got a super lot of sugar so I wanted to experiment a bit.

Here’s my version:

400gm (ish!) grated zucchini
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup seeds – I went a mix of sesame and LSA mix – the original recipe suggests nuts or sultanas but I wanted to keep it simple and nut free for a lunch box experiment – I think walnuts would rock especially!
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (my mix was a bit dry so I added this at the last minute) – you could do plain yoghurt or even some milk with a dash of lemon juice as a substitute
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place zucchinis in a muslin, chux style cloth or even kitchen paper and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Preheat oven to 175 Celsius.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together – flour, spices, baking powder and baking soda & seeds.
3. Mix eggs, oil, vanilla, buttermilk and maple syrup together.
4. Add zucchini to the flour mix and lightly mix.
5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix gently. Like muffins, if you overmix it’ll be stiff.
6. Pour mix into two greased loaf tins and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, testing with a skewer in the centre to see if it comes out clean.
7. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then invert on to a cooling rack to allow to cool completely.

Our family of four ate one loaf today!!!! Suffice to say it is rather yum. I’m going to try a more savoury version adding cheese and spices like cumin and paprika next.

Jump up and grab it….

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Over the weekend the boys and I were playing in my Mum’s backyard, as we do rather regularly. Little Lion kept pointing to the sky saying, “Get it, get it!” It took me a while to realise he was asking me to get the moon for him.

I tried to capture the moon in a photo but as is always the case it never appears clearly when I take a quick snap on my phone.

I wanted to capture the moment forever though.  That sense of trust that only small children have in the ones they love.  That the things they imagine can be gotten.

Sometimes, the weight of parenthood feels heavy on my shoulders.  I constantly ask myself if I’m doing the right thing for my boys.  Are they watching too much TV? Am I teaching them enough? Are they getting enough time with me? How’s their diet? Are they sleeping enough?  I question myself about everything really so it’s hardly surprising I over-analyse  Mama-hood.  I don’t rest on my laurels but nor do I feel completely confident with my choices a lot of the time either.  I run by instinct a lot when I answer these questions of myself.

Moments like this remind me that my boys feel safe and loved. That they trust me and don’t expect perfection. Instead, they follow the path I’ve cleared whilst forging their own way too and that over time their path will diverge more from mine.

And, that there was an element of the gorgeous Oliver Jeffers picture book, How to Catch a Star to this moment was not lost on Bebito…as he too understood what his brother was asking he softly spoke, “Yes Mama, can you jump up and grab it?” Life, imitating art. I should worry less.

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