Friday, 30 December 2011

We're home

Our week in Queensland has come to an end.

It was nice to go away. Be somewhere different. Change of scenery.

It was really good to share the boys — in more ways than one. Great to share their many wonderful moments... and even better to have help at hand when it wasn't so wonderful!

The water was warm, so it was lovely to wade straight in. Graeme and I got to swim alone in the balmy ocean. Bliss.

Luca caught a mud crab with his Opa whom he cuddled up to and delighted with his endless chitter chatter. All. Week.

On Christmas morning, I loved hearing the sound of Luca rushing out at 5.30am to see what Santa and the reindeer got up to, and seconds later to have him breathlessly and madly announce how Santa had eaten the Christmas cake and drank the beer, and how the reindeer had nibbled the carrots and cherries and left a trail of poo on the decking. It was magic.

Then as the rest of the house still slept, the four of us crept onto the balcony and suddenly caught sight of a beautiful rainbow framing the sky. Amazing complete arcs of colour. I'd never seen a rainbow like it.

But days later when our holiday came to an end and as the plane made its descent into Sydney airport, the pilot announced it was ten degrees cooler here. I felt instantly calmer.

And when we all climbed into the car and started heading to the Central Coast, I was happy.

It occurred to me that this was the first time we'd been away for any length of time (from where we live now), so I was watching to see how I would feel.

I couldn't wait to get home. To see our pooch. To see my garden.

I missed just being in my home. Just us. And I couldn't wait to begin stage two of our holiday. At home.

I'll finish this post with a picture I took of a Christmas present from my sister. I love things wrapped in brown paper, and the red and white string finishes it off perfectly.

Simple. Quiet. Tasteful. Unbusy. And it sings to me (unlike everything at Christmas that shouts and screams at you).

Hope you had a lovely Christmas. One that made you sing...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy birthday Kian

My gorgeous little boy turned one on Wednesday. Can't quite believe a whole year's gone past.

We celebrated a few days earlier at home over a chocolate butterfly cake...

Luca helping to blow the candle out

Then on the morning of his birthday, we flew to Hervey Bay to spend a week over Christmas with grandparents.

Despite what this photo might suggest, Kian didn't really enjoy the flight...

But he was all smiles later that afternoon...

wearing his new elephant t-shirt

And here's the great bit: Kian decided that he would finally sleep through the night before his birthday, and he has done so ever since!

What on earth is that all about? Did he have that planned all along???

"I will allow you uninterrupted sleep as soon as I turn one, and not a minute sooner"?

Can it really be a coincidence?

Well, it doesn't really matter of course. It's just very funny. Don't you think?

P.S. Just as I predicted, I don't feel any better from not having to feed in the night (not least because I'm getting out of bed to check on him every couple of hours! My body's not used to lying in bed for hours on end at night anymore!)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Craft at Christmas

I can't get over how much craft I'm doing lately. I'm discovering a completely different side to me.

I made this set of three felt canvases for my nephew - OK, so Graeme and I did it together.

Love the different textures: paint, felt, buttons. Am planning on doing a similar set for Luca and Kian (if I ever get the time).

What do you think???

Next on the Christmas present list was Luca's teacher. I wanted to make her something very special to say thank you, so I got out some old Christmas/birthday cards, along with magazines and felt.

I painted a large canvas in pale blue, made felt letters, tore up pieces of pretty card, used Luca's butterfly punch and found other bits and pieces in my craft box.

I even found a snail!

Not bad for someone who claims not to have a crafty bone in her body – even if I do say so myself!

I'm really thrilled with how it's turned out... I've got an idea for something similar to hang on the boys' bedrooms now. 

I knew all my bags and boxes of old cards would come in handy eventually!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wordless Wednesday: special moments

Spotting a mass of hydrangeas on a walk

Luca goes horse riding

A long walk with my puppy

I'm a snail

Get back in your shell, snail

P.S. Lots of other wordless wednesdays here

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Learning to accept

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that my littlest pickle likes to 'connect' with his Mummy A LOT. I'm talking in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the early hours of every morning. Yes, after almost 12 months, my body has learnt to cope with waking every couple of hours and starting the day at 5.30am.

I go through phases with our sleep issues. I would often think dammit, I can't go on like this and fight fight fight, trying different approaches, reading every book ever written on baby sleep, talking to so-called experts until I get so overwhelmed with all the conflicting advice. But a while ago, I decided that the fight was causing me just as much stress. It was too draining. I have a terrible habit of needing to understand EVERYTHING, analysing things to death.

I thought back to when Luca was a baby, and how I longed for him to drop his early morning feed so I wouldn't have to start the day at 5am. I felt that if he could just sleep till nearer 7am, I would have so much more energy and be generally better off.

When he was ready, he slept through. And I got more sleep.

But did I feel energised all of a sudden? Did I feel less tired? Did I heck.

If Kian started allowing me uninterrupted sleep, it might be nice not to have to get up four times a night, but I'm not going to feel any less exhausted.

Funny thing is, once I've fed him and he's fallen fast asleep in my arms, I sometimes sit there just holding him, enjoying the stillness. He won't be a baby forever.

I have two very determined, energetic boys and a 5-year-old Labrador with the same energy she had as a mad puppy - and that's why I'm tired.

Once I realised that, I stopped fighting. I'm at the acceptance stage. And I'm all the more peaceful for it. We're all guilty of trying to change things all the time, because we're somehow convinced that once we get what we want, we'll be happier. But once we get what we want, all too often we've moved on to another problem we need to fix.

It reminds me of a friend of a friend who kept moving house. Literally kept moving house. She would make her family sell up and move into another house, only to start looking elsewhere the minute they'd set foot in the new house. There was always a better house.

Image from here

Acceptance is a great word. Don't you think?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Nigel's roast lamb rolls

I had half a leg of lamb in the fridge waiting to be called dinner, but somehow I couldn't face a proper roast. Too tired for all that peeling and chopping this week.

I turn to the expert on all things tasty and quick. Nigel Slater.

The Kitchen Diaries happens to be in the kitchen so I leaf through and find a recipe written just for me: roast lamb rolls with oregano and garlic.

I've got a thick carpet of oregano so after a quick dash down to the garden to snip herbs and salad leaves, I start pounding the garlic, salt and anchovies in my pestle and mortar. I throw in the oregano (and a little mint) and slowly drizzle in some olive oil till it makes a green slurry. 

I massage it into the lamb, put it to one side for an hour or so (while I do bath and story time) then into the oven it goes.

After a wee bit of resting (not before a little sneaky pick), I slice some fluffy white baps, dab them into the salty, herby goo and pile in tender lamb slices and crisp baby leaves.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Slow Christmas

Image above via Pinterest
A while back I wrote about how I miss Christmas when it's cold outside. Funny thing is my prayers have been answered because we are having one chilly December all right.

On Sunday we went out for a walk dressed in long sleeves, cardigans, socks and shoes. Except that wasn't even enough for me and I pinched the wool-lined jacket Graeme was wearing. Brrrrrrrrr. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (OK, it's not that cold, but you'd definitely be asking for your money back if you've flown in specially from the northern hemisphere).

Then we spotted a mass of brambles and started picking blackberries. Such a lovely surprise to find so many ripe berries, and yet it felt odd to be picking blackberries in December. It still feels all topsy turvy!

What I am really enjoying about December this year is that it's quite a bit slower. I don't know if it's because of where we live now, but I'm not finding it as energy-sapping as Decembers in England. (Actually, if I really think about it, it's because one: the boys are sapping all my energy and there's nowt left to sap, and two: we had friends and family close by in England which meant social gatherings, parties, evenings out and lots of baking in the kitchen. If you don't have any of the former, then you don't have much of the latter. Boo hoo.)

Seriously though, I am working towards a Slow Christmas in the same vein as Slow Food, I suppose. Buy less but buy good quality is my thing but it's certainly very appropriate for this time of year.

Have a read of this:
I get overwhelmed at all the gifts my daughter receives at Christmas. I’m sure she does too. I’ve watched her move from unwrapping one gift to the next without pausing to register what she had just unwrapped. I’ve also seen her struggle to decide which new toy to play with, only to give up and play with a box or wrapping paper.

Those are the words of Tricia from Little Eco Footprints. I read this and felt annoyed with myself for not putting a stop to this in our family sooner. Deep down I've known it's not right, but often when you combine presents from different members of the family, you get this scenario. We might set some presents aside for Boxing Day perhaps. What do you do in your family to avoid mass hysteria or do you think that's part of the fun?

Anyway, I'm mindful of it now and while the boys have a few presents to unwrap, they're things I've been collecting over the past few months – some from second-hand stalls, some from markets and some online (anything to avoid noisy shopping centres). Books are always at the top of the present list for us (I don't think you can have too many good books). Also from Santa: a wooden toddle truck for Kian, a clock for Luca and building blocks for both of them to play with. I'm happy with that.

We've decorated the tree. Luca is enjoying his advent calendar from Grandma second time around (above) and I might get around to some quiet baking at the weekend with Luca while Kian sleeps.

With Luca nearing four, I've decided to make this Christmas a time for us to do something charitable involving the boys. I gently explained that some families don't have a lot of money and so we packed a shoe box with toys, clothes and stationery to send to a child as part of the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child. Luca enjoyed helping me pack the box and choosing the toys. We included a little note and a picture and as we've opted to 'follow our box', I'm hoping Luca will get to see a little person opening it soon.

That's definitely been the highlight of my December so far.

By the way, there are a load of drop-off points around Australia. The deadline is Saturday, so you still have time if you'd like to pack a shoe box with a few special items.

P.S. There I was thinking I may have coined the phrase Slow Christmas and then I find it has its very own website. All about slowing Christmas down.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Garden update

It's been a full on week. It isn't just Christmas that's causing chaos. Kian's 1st birthday is in under 3 weeks. Grandparents' birthdays are at this time of year. Graeme's birthday is a few days after Christmas and I'm also planning something special for Luca's 4th birthday in February.

Plus the garden's been keeping me busy. I realise now that I haven't posted anything on the garden since we built the beds and put the plants in over a month ago.

The beds looked like this at the beginning of November. Small tomato plants at the back with clumps of basil. Rosemary, thyme and chives on the right-hand side, with different lettuces scattered around the middle. The black kale was doing OK at this stage as was the watercress in the bottom right-hand corner. There's also some sage on the left and strawberry plants at the front.

A close-up of the tomatoes, basil and cucumber plant which I later had to relocate to a pot - oops!

In this bed, it started off with (starting clockwise from the left) small plants of mint, coriander, baby spinach, French tarragon and parsley.

Fast forward four weeks and it now looks like this!

The oregano and parsley have gone mad and the baby carrots and beetroot are almost ready

The tomato plants are now staked

Heavenly mint and marigolds

One of the main reasons everything is doing so well is because they get a good dose of worm juice every week. Luca has been lovingly tending to his worms and looks forward to our hour of pottering in the early evening when Kian has gone to bed.

A spray of water to keep the worms' blanket nice and moist

Happy worms give us lots of nutrient-rich liquid fertiliser

Graeme's chilli plant on the left has just started flowering this week

I don't remember enjoying gardening in quite the same way in England. Maybe because Graeme was happy to do it all and I was content to just cook with whatever we grew. Or maybe it was because I didn't have a little helper who gets so excited when I mention it's garden time. Hearing Luca say 'look how bushy the basil is Mummy' and 'oh my goodness, the tomatoes have grown' (he really does say that) has made it so much fun.

I've been in my element picking herbs and salad leaves for our dinner every evening. I manage to pick a bowl like this every time I go down there. Tender beetroot leaves, lollo rosso, baby cos, spinach, basil and mint feature almost daily in our evening meal.

Luca isn't yet at the stage of eating anything green and leafy (though he's very good at giving it a try), but he's enjoyed the first crop of strawberries and happily shared the last one with Kian.

He checks the tomatoes each morning to see if they've turned red and shouts 'you're not welcome here!' whenever he sees a snail (I wonder if he's copying anyone).

What I've also been doing this week is thinking about what to plant in the patches I have left (read: where one strawberry plant died, where the watercress strangely disappeared), what to do about the pesky bugs eating away at my basil and how to save my black kale.

This led me to Nicola Chatham whose wonderful gardening blog I follow. Nicola was offering free 20-minute coaching calls this week and I was lucky to get in quickly. I can't believe how much Nicola taught me in 20 minutes.

I learnt how to get castings quickly from our worm farm by giving them a nice layer of cow manure to eat through; that pests attack weak plants so it's best to boost their 'immune system' with some compost or worm castings rather than adopt time-consuming pest control strategies; that it's best to get rid of a sick plant than try and save it; and that the best thing for a garden is a frog pond.

Sooooo, this weekend I'm erecting the black kale and serving it to the worms, and I'm going to look into how easy it is to build a little frog pond. Not that I need to add to my to-do list, but wouldn't it be nice to have little green tree frogs jumping about the place, feasting on slugs and other little critters?

Meanwhile, we have a lot of soil leftover and don't know what to do with it. Is there anyone on the Central Coast who'd like some organic soil? Seriously?