Saturday, 25 April 2015

Baking Bread

I've baked a few loaves of simple whit bread this week. Not because I have any spare time to play in the kitchen-in fact, I have so little spare time that I'm typing one handed as Olivia breastfeeds and Lara sleeps-but because I want my family to eat bread without nasty stuff in it, and I don't want to pay through the nose for the privilege,  In order to create baking time I've been incorporating making bread in to my toddler's interactive learning, and so far she is a pretty good observer who doesn't 'help' (dip the spoon in the water, lick it and then put it back in the water that is going to go in the bread) too often. Not to mention that my food obsessed mini me and Mark loves being involved in the kitchen.

Cold, wet rainy days proved perfect for baking earlier in the week. You don't feel guilty for keeping your kids home all day, because leaving the house means braving the weather, and that is something you just don't do unless absolutely necessary. And there is the added bonus of the grey weather making babies drowsy-truth be told it makes me drowsy too.

Kitchen Aid White Crusty Loaf

As it had been a while since the last time I made bread, and my flour stock was, and still is, very basic during the storm, I found a recipe for a white loaf that only needed white flour. The recipe called for quite a lot of sugar, which ordinarily I would have omitted, but my brain wasn't capable of processing simple baking science at the time, so I followed the recipe to the letter. In the end the bread turned out relatively well, but I decided to try a different recipe next time.

The next time came two days later. I still hadn't bought any new flour, which meant we were looking at another deliciously dirty white loaf. I went to google and gave this recipe a whirl, literally, kneading the bread with my trusty Kitchenaid mixer even though the recipe said to hand knead. And that may be why the recipe failed and I ended up adding more flour, and then hand kneading for a few minutes at the end to rescue it. Yet, as expected, this loaf that will be hard to replicate has been my best so far. However, the search for the best white loaf continues. Do you have a great bread recipe that I should try?

Basic White Bread with a twist.

Now that my flour supplies are almost all used up I need to restock, so I'm about to look at some 'wholefood' options for baking delicious bread. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Don't Hold Back

Eugalo Farm eggs.

A few mornings ago the girls and I had a splurge. We drove to Palm Beach and Lara and I had a special breakfast date at The Boathouse. Why did we do that? Two reasons really, I'm making an effort to still go out and do fun things with Lara now that she has a baby sister (who she loves and is adjusting very well to), and I bought a new car, so I wanted to go for a drive.

Honestly, I was in denial about needing a bigger car once I had two babies. A few people told me I would need to upsize, but I liked my old car and figured it would be a challenge, but I could make it work for a year or so. Thus allowing more saving time, and putting off being a mum with a massive car that I can't park due to sleep deprivation. I was WRONG! (Not about the parking part, I'm going to have to practice). I had forgotten about doubling up the pram and how wide the baby car seats are, and how much crap you cart around with a newborn who is likely to vomit, poo or both all over everything. So, here it goes, I'm going to say it, I bought a Jeep. A total splurge which Mark and I had heart palpitations over, but we love it even more now than we did when we test drove it. At the age of thirty one I am finally driving a brand new car that I chose for me, not a very much appreciated hand-me-down (trade in) from a family member.  and their slogan "don't hold back" was written for me.

The Boathouse breakfast menu.

So Lara and I sat out on the deck and enjoyed breakfast and the scenery at The Boathouse, whilst Olivia snoozed all rugged up in her bassinet. As expected Lara demolished most of our freshly squeezed orange juice, there is no beating freshly squeezed OJ, and devoured most of the pork in my Eugalo Farm eggs. This dish was amazing, the eggs were deep fried with a sesame seed mix, and inside were perfectly poached eggs with yolks that were ever so golden, the slow cooked pork was delicious (just ask Lara) and the chilli sauce was lovely and sweet with the perfect amount of kick to it, even though I only had a little taste to avoid upsetting Olivia's tummy. Not that it worked as she projectile vomited everywhere just as I put her in her car seat. Luckily I caught most of it with her blanket...a minute later and the nice new leather smell would have been masked by perfume a la puke. Maybe next time I will order something less fatty, but that truly was the breakfast of champions and an absolute winner for a breastfeeding mum of two kids under two who needs to eat enough to feed an army, so next time I might just chance it and see if my little lady's tummy has adjusted to fats. If not, we should be fine since my nice new car has room for us to carry spare blankets and a change of clothes for all of us.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Enjoying Life

The no longer forbidden scallops.

Life is good, yet unbelievably busy these days, thus writing, gardening and cooking delicious meals are taking a back seat whilst I adjust to the new pace. We welcomed our second daughter in to the world a month ago today (where did the time go?) in a total whirlwind (I may post the story one day), just like Lara's birth, Olivia's arrival was the stuff movies are made of....I've gotten myself a reputation at our local hospital. Our complete little family is happy as anything, but we haven't stopped-unless you count passing out on the lounge at 8:30pm with Olivia laying on my chest. The fact that I'm stopping to write at this very moment has me joyous, and expecting to hear a baby scream for my attention at any minute.

Daily life with an eighteen month old and a newborn isn't easy, but boy do I love it. My girls are adorable, and are already showing signs of having a very special bond. The times that we do manage to get out and do something special are even more valued these days. For instance we went out for a fancy lunch for Mark's birthday, granted I felt guilty for leaving Lara with her grandparents as we left with Olivia, but fine dining would bore her senseless, regardless of her love of food.

We went to Public Dining Room at Balmoral. It was lovely spending time there again as we haven't been for ages, and it brought back memories since Mark and I ended up walking along the beach on our first date-a whole lifetime ago. The venue was great, the service was friendly and attentive, and the food was delicious. No doubt my entree tasted even more delicious since I had scallops for the first time in at least ten months. They were served with sweetcorn puree and chorizo which completed all the flavour and texture sensations that I needed. I want to eat that dish again. I was having a hard time deciding between the scallops and the Queensland grilled king prawns, but luckily I got to enjoy both since Mark ordered them, the subtle smokey grilled flavour of the prawns was superb-yes, I used that wanky word.

Courtesy of Public Dining Room

For main course I had Barramundi which was the market fish of the day. The skin was perfectly crunchy, but the fish was cooked a little more than I like it. Again, Mark ordered my second choice, and honestly I'm glad I didn't order it. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed tasting his dish, I can understand how the whole thing could get a bit repetitive and oily, it needed something light and crunchy to offset all that salmon.

Courtesy of Public Dining Room

Choosing dessert was tough, don't forget I'm an indecisive Libran at the best of times, but I ended up going with the chocolate indulgence, no surprises there really. Wow! I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The wafer in the chocolate log was unexpected, and combined with the smooth mouse like outer casing and inner layers it was a sensation for the senses. Candied orange added an extra dimension that offset the sweetness of the chocolate, and again this dish was a perfect example of ying and yang. The presentation of the dish also made it extra special, as the macadamias were subtlety dressed up with gold dust.

Valhrona chocolate fondant.

Whilst we won't be rushing back to the Public Dining Room, since every special outing now needs to be a unique experience, I would recommend it to others. We had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch, and every element of hospitality was well executed.

Side note-I finished a post and proof read it whilst two babies slept. I'm also aware of how my writing skills have declined; use it or lose it.

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Mothers Love

Last night my fifteen month old daughter stayed at her grandparents' house, ready for her fortnightly Friday play date with them. The fortnightly play dates became a regular thing a few months ago in order to enable me to prepare the house for the arrival of D2, and because Lara's grandparents think she is a lot of fun to spend the day with. Whilst I love the time to get things done, and have fond memories of quality time with my grandparents that I'm grateful Lara has the opportunity to create, I miss her like nothing else. However, this week I was counting down the days to have a day off, a me day, for the first time since becoming a Mum. I didn't let myself feel guilty for it, I figured 15 months of being a 100% doting Mum allowed me one day of not being always switched on-and ready to engage with another person.

This morning I woke up after a lovely sleep in (6am) and laid in bed for another hour which was bliss, yet when Mark and I got up and had breakfast together I confessed to missing our little girl and feeling lost, and that the house felt empty without her (so much for being desperate for a kid free day). At which point he said that he seriously missed her too, which isn't surprising since Mark and Lara have been spending quality Dad and daughter time together on the mornings when he doesn't go for a bike ride, and I get to fall back to sleep for an hour, after an hour of feeding (growing D2 is making me tired again). The fact that our little lady is rapidly developing her character and communication skills also means that she is an absolute joy to spend time with. She is constantly impressing me and making me laugh.

My kid free day was productive to say the least. I dead headed all the Agapanthus in my front and back garden, dead headed the Bird of Paradise and pulled out vines that were strangling my plants (all before heat stroke kicked in), I did countless loads of washing, and filled four garbage bags with things for charity. Somewhere in amongst all that I even sat my fat, lazy 31 weeks pregnant bum on the lounge to watch an hour of trashy TV whilst I enjoyed a berry and banana smoothie for lunch (its too hot for real food), followed by litres and litres of water. I had a rather successful day and was feeling rather proud of myself. Yet nothing compares to the feeling I get as I am moments away from picking up my daughter who I've missed like crazy (sometimes I have to remind myself that she isn't sleeping in her bed), or the adorable "Hi" with the biggest smile and baby elephant run that comes to me with open arms when Lara and I set eyes on each other. Cuddles with my baby girl are always special, but after a day apart they are magic, no doubt for the two of us.

Cleansing-things for charity.
After giving Lara dinner ( we shared her carrot sticks) and playing blocks together she started her routine of saying goodnight to our dogs and giving them kisses, so we got her ready for bed (yes, she calls her own bed time and helps put her sleeping bag on) and read one of her Peter Rabbit books, before we had lovely cuddles and kisses and I put her to bed..even though I was really tempted to keep her up for a little while longer just so we could spend time together. As she is growing up so quickly I find myself hoping that our unconditional love for each other and willingness to spend time together will only grow. I'm also wondering how things will change when D2 joins our play group in a few short weeks.

Lara and Baxter also missed each other today.

Not a day goes by when I don't think about how lucky I am to be a full time mum, but days like today make me really respect the strength of working mums, I would be a babbling mess if I had to leave Lara on a more regular basis. In my mind, there is nothing better than being a full time mum-probably because I have the best kid ever.


After six days away on the boat, during stinking hot weather I expected to come back to a struggling veggie patch. Instead I was greeted by a rather reasonable harvest, which was a lovely surprise. What wasn't such a lovely surprise was the way the garden started to show me the signs of neglect over the next few days of me being home. Unless you have a self watering veggie garden it needs your attention daily, even if it is just a two minute check up to see if the watering system needs to be turned on for ten minutes, or if last nights rain was sufficient.

For the next few days I watered, fertilised, weeded (read, pull out the mint that I let spread as a ground cover-in hindsight I will never plant mint in a garden bed again) and mulched the garden, until I thought it was ready for some new seeds to be planted. So on the 11th January, whilst Lara slept, I got planting; black beauty zucchini, cucumber, beetroot, bean, pea and lettuce seeds were all sewn. Since it looked and felt like it was going to rain that evening I didn't bother wasting water to water them in, and just waited for mother nature to do her bit. That she did, and the next days was disgustingly hot with a light shower that night so I assumed that the veggie garden was relatively happy whilst I was dying from heat exhaustion on the lounge in the air conditioned house, too scared to venture out in to the sun as opening the back door was enough of a shock. Then yesterday I forced myself outside (to look for the neighbours' escaped rabbit-no sightings) and was utterly shocked by how much the garden had dried out and was struggling, so I've got my fingers and toes crossed that the seeds I'd sewn at the beginning of the week will forgive me for the neglect and sprout in the next few days, because we need food. The two cucumber plants gave up on me, the eggplant whilst still hanging around (she is much more upright this morning) isn't feeling up to putting out, and the beans have slowed down. That said, our strawberries and tomatoes are keeping Lara and I very happy....even if our clothes are covered in exploded tomato seeds from Lara trying to bite off more than she can chew.

And this morning I have an escaped chicken running around the veggie garden....I don't want to go and see if she has upset my seeds. Ggggrrrrr.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Cleaning Sickness

When cleaning physically makes you feel sick.
I didn't think it was possible, even for me. But the combination of light morning sickness (in the third trimester no doubt), low blood pressure and wiping down the outside of all the kitchen has me seriously wanting to puke everywhere. Thus I'm sitting at the computer to distract myself from the terrible feeling just below my throat, and procrastinating from any further housework...something tells me the whole looking down for too long issue isn't exclusive to housework, and I should probably wait for my coffee to kick in and drag up my blood pressure before I go and play in the garden-and try to forget how desperately the bathroom needs cleaning. Ah, the life of a stay at home mum ain't all roses. The playing with and teaching my daughter part is peachy, but the jobs are never ending.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Rain, Rain, Come Again

It seems like everyone at the moment is miserable about the afternoon storms and rainfall we are having in Sydney. Everyone except me and my veggie garden that is. Don't get me wrong, I am seriously effected by the weather, and need sunshine to brighten up my day and mood. However, at the moment we are getting sunny mornings (today is an exception), nice warm days and rain in the afternoon to cool everything down before we go to bed, and of course, water my garden. That means one less job for me to do, and paying for less water, so I'm a happy girl-yes, I'm still hanging on to my youth by calling myself a girl.

The veggie garden is loving the regular soaking. So much so that I'm currently getting away without mulching it. The mulch is sitting in the shed, just waiting for me to make time to do it. Regardless, we are getting a good crop of tomatoes, beans, eggplant, strawberries, cucumber and enough herbs to open a herb store. Admittedly the herbs are also doing a great job at making the veggie garden look more productive than it is, and keep the weeds at bay. They are also doing a good job at rapidly spreading over where I have planted lettuce seeds, so we are lacking lettuce at the moment, but that just makes for great basil salad.

The girls (chickens) are also loving the longer days and warmer weather, so we are getting lots of eggs. And I'm proud to say that we haven't brought bread for months now, I just keep making it and the loaves just keep getting better. Mark has also caught the bread making bug, so Sundays are often a team effort bread making day.