Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meatless Monday - dessert

I recently bought The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook on a health kick sort of whim. We eat quite healthily, lots of home cooked organic food, but I wanted to take it to the next level and broaden our diet. This book is quite full on (recipes like Millet Porridge and Quinoa and Pea Pilaf, if you get my drift), so we are slowly trying new dishes. One that I made, that was a success with the girls and really yummy was the Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw almonds
1-1.5 cups medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup almond spread
4-6 TBLSP of cocoa powder (you need the high quality stuff)
shredded coconut

Put almonds and hazelnuts in food processor and process until finely ground.

Add all other ingredients except coconut and repeat.

Press mixture firmly into 8 x 8 inch square baking tin. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. We keep our tin covered in gladwrap in the freezer which makes it less crumbly. It's really delicious and satisfies any sweet tooths out there.

Weekend wrap

It was a lovely weekend, despite some members of the family (including me) still rundown. I went to my trusted naturopath on Friday, and armed with an array of supplements, am hopeful my exhaustion will lift soon.

We took the girls ice skating yesterday, where I quickly learnt some valuable lessons:
1. Some activities are not suitable for 2 and 4 year olds.
2. Ice skating is one of them.
3. Trying to hold on to a 2 year old on ice skates while you balance precariously on your ice skates is frightening stuff.
4. Trying to hold on to a 2 year old on ice skates who is crying, demanding you pick her up and both tired and hungry, while you continue to balance precariously on your ice skates is TERRIFYING!

The up side - Yasmin loved trying ice skating. She is adventurous and loves to try new things. Zahara had about 1 minute of happiness ice skating till she decided she didn't want us to hold her on the ice rink. Luckily I managed to capture that moment on film before things went pear shaped.

Layla, on the other hand, is not interested in trying new things with the same spirit as Yasmin, she is a homebody and creature of comfort who was happy to go to the cafe after 10 minutes of skating for lunch (like me). Layla's take? "Mummy, you, me and Zahara are NEVER going ice skating again." Ice skating is hard enough without trying to hold on to your child. Recommended for 5-6 years and above!

Today I took Yasmin to see Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang which we both loved. We cried and laughed together (I never knew kids could cry from movies!). Also recommended for 6 years and above.

Hope you had a lovely weekend

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What happens when you leave a 2 year old alone... Part 2

Oh yes, it happened again. This time, perched halfway inside a hallway cupboard that remarkably houses both birdseed and dinner platters, Zahara struck again. With some homemade lipgloss that Yasmin made at a birthday party, Zahara slathered her face until she looked like the bearded lady.

And don't let the bags under her eyes fool you...this 2 year old hasn't had a nap for weeks (except at creche of course). All that cream slathering and no napping makes for a very LLOOOOOOOOOOONNNNGGGGG day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What happens when you leave a 2 year old alone...

A little lesson for all of us, even me, a seasoned third time mum. This is what I call, 'the price to pay'. The price to pay for getting your parents to babysit - the kids waiting up for you when you get home. The price to pay for taking your kids on a roadtrip - lollypops and meltdowns.

The price to pay for sneaking off downstairs to finish a lunchbox and leaving your 2 year old unsupervised for 5 minutes? Half a tub of moisturiser on your 2 year old's face and hands. The bonus? A soft little smiling face and two sisters almost peeing in their pants and screaming.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to look after a little sickie

We are all a little rundown at the moment, so the mid term school break couldn't have come at a better time. Zahara woke up with low temperature today, and with everyone sniffling and sneezing...well, the emergency chicken soup was already cooking on our stove by 10am.

Here's what we do when we have little sickies in our house:

Drinks and Food
- Lots of Rooibos tea with Manouka honey. Soothing for sore little throats and keeps everyone hydrated.
- Chicken soup, chicken soup, chicken soup. Soothing, warming and nourishing.
- As well, I like to give my kids any other soups when they are sick as they are more nourishing, contain more fluids and easier to eat and digest than food like sandwiches
- Natural juice icy poles are also handy to keep fluids up.

Activities at home
- Keep things quiet. Books, puzzles and low key playing at home.
- I might allow some playing on the computer too if needed. (Yasmin loves Moshi Monsters.)
- If the sun is shining and it's not windy, some fresh air in your own garden can feel nice after being stuck inside all day.
- Play School (or any other kids DVD) is a wonderful thing. Looking after sick kids is draining on mums (and usually involves carrying the sickie all day) so this gives everyone a break. Watching TV has to be one of the few perks of being sick for kids!

- Dummies and comforters are available when wanted (or needed).
- Give Panadol before each sleep.
- Extra vitamin C and any other supplement or vitamin you can get into your kid. And take some for you too while you're at it.
- Make sure you get plenty of rest too...otherwise you might be next!

Hope everyone is healthy in your house!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Layla's 4th Birthday

Like I said a while ago, May is a busy month for us. This past weekend we celebrated Layla's 4th Birthday. Our parties are not huge, some friends from kinder and cousins and family, at home with homemade food, homemade decorations and homemade take home bags. This is all lovely as we enjoy the process of preparing for the party as much as the party itself. But now, I am pooped!

It was lovely but truthfully, having Zahara's birthday only two weeks ago, I'm glad it's over.

In any case, here are my party principles:

1. We don't invite the whole class or even just the girls from the class. The girls are allowed to pick 3-6 friends. This plus two siblings and four cousins is plenty.

2. We handmake our invitations, decorations and take home bags. We do this because
- the girls can all be involved in the birthday celebrations and feel a part of it
- their handiwork is proudly displayed during the party
- it gives us something to do after school
- I want to teach them that you don't always have to buy things, you can make beautiful things (that aren't perfect) at home.

3. Parties are in our own home. This is because I like to do things my way and also because it's just nicer and more intimate. It's also probably more comfortable for the girls.

4. Birthday girls are allowed to choose whatever theme they like (or gently guided).

5. Prior to the party, we talk through manners, being a nice host and what we say to our guests when they give us presents and also when they say goodbye.

6. Treats are included in the kids party food, but so is fruit and cut up vegies. I don't go overboard on the junkfood. For Layla's party we had jelly and fairy bread, as well as sandwiches, strawberries and cucumber, carrots and peppers.

7. Give kids a snack right before party so they are relaxed and comfortable. Enjoy, savour and celebrate.

Meatless Monday - Baked potatoes

Our dinners can be hectic. I often feel more like my kids' waitress to keep up with spilt cups of water, ketchup, and some more of this mummy please. Zahara often wants to sit on my lap at mealtimes which make it harder. All this and trying to keep dinner a pleasant experience with a little conversation shared about everyone's day...

But, I've found that my kids will really enjoy a meal a lot more if they can make it, or even assemble it, themselves. Even though this is not a meal that I really love, it's great for the kids and pretty easy to prepare in advance. I prepare all the toppings in individual bowls during the day, as well as the potatoes to keep it easy and ready to go.

Baked potatoes with toppings
Use washed potatoes, wrap individually in foil and bake for 1.5 hours at 200 degrees celsius in the oven
Unwrap carefully when cooked, cut top off and scoop out filling.
Mix with grated cheese and some salt till a little gooey
Put back in potatoes and let the kids serve themselves with any of the toppings below
- corn kernels with butter (I steam fresh corn first and then cut off)
- sour cream
- grated yellow cheese
- chopped up tomato
- cooked chicken, bacon, canned tuna
- baked beans
- guacamole

Easy, tasty for kids and fills their little tummies on these cool Autumn days. Yum!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Safta Rachel's Moroccan Meatballs

This is a delicious and so very tasty all in one dish perfect for dinner. It warmed us up tonight!

It's my grandmother's recipe (she's Moroccan) and my mum taught me how to make it. It's not very hard and it is sooooo delicious.

1kg of mince meat
3/4 packet of frozen peas
1 bunch of celery
2 x zuchinis
2 x small onions
Flat leaf parsley, one handful
Spices - mace, ginger, cloves, turmeric, salt and pepper

Heat a wide pan with about 1 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Chop the celery and zukes and simmer on a medium heat in the water with the lid on. (The turmeric will colour the water and the vegies giving it a nice colour.)

While it's cooking, fill your food processor with the parsley, onions, mince meat, salt pepper and the spices. You don't need to have all the spices. I've made this dish with various combinations, and it always tastes good. The amount of spices you use will depend on your preference, but allow about 1/3 - 1/2 teaspoons per spice. Chop in the processor until well combined.

Lift the lid and roll meatballs, gently putting them in a circle around the pan. Close lid, reduce to medium heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently turn the meatballs in the sauce. Add your frozen peas, then cook for another 15 minutes or so. Add some salt and pepper to the vegies and sauce. Serve with rice. Yum. Your house will smell amazing and if you're like me, feel good about serving your family a nice hearty meal. Watch your kids inhale and pat yourself on the back.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Did you know I needed a new floormat?

Neither did I. I have NO CONTROL in homeware stores.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What we groove to...or how to make a Kiddie Disco

Sometimes it feels like I have six kids, not three. Noise, excitement and chaos reign. Normally, from 4pm to 6pm, kids are running, scootering (indoors), and asking me what's for dessert all at once. Or (more often), siblings pester and annoy each other, kids are tired and grumpy, with some specially left over, reserved just for mummy, energy and exuberance left over from a day sitting in a classroom.

When things get a little too crazy, I often give in, but try and direct their energy to another activity - the Kiddie Disco. We make some space and we have a big dancefest. Often they will decide they want to dress up. They like me to sit and watch, or if I feel like it, I'll join in with them.

It's an instant mood lifter and suddenly smiles are on everyone's faces. It always works. Plus, they love listening to some adult music and learning the words (and it gives me a break from listening to 'kids' music). I think kids can really love and appreciate adult songs. They enjoy 'visiting' our world sometimes, probably more than we realise.

So, we crank it up and listen to:
Magalenha, by Sergio Mendes
Sunchyme, by Dario G
YMCA, by Village People (with actions)
Blame it on the Boogie, Jackson 5
I Gotta Feeling, by Black Eyed Peas
Wanna be Startin Somethin 2008, with Akon
Hey Ya, OutKast
The Chicken Dance, David Shelley
Rock this Party, Bob Sinclar
That's not my name, The Ting Tings
We are Family, Sister Sledge

After, when I need to wind it back, I found a great album on itunes one day, called 100 Best Relaxing Classics. This has beautiful music (but you'd probably never know what the songs are called), and I'll often put it on while the girls are colouring on or playing (semi) quietly.

We all need to remember to lighten up sometimes. Motherhood is not just about wiping noses, preparing meals and chauffeuring kids around town. And normally, kids are the best people to remind us to let loose and HAVE FUN.

Enjoy xx

When you're child number 3....

...You want to do everything your sisters do. So after you watch your big sister have her teeth cleaned at the dentist, you can't wait to have your turn.

Wasn't that fun?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Zahara

Today was a perfectly lovely Autumn day to spend with my newly turned 2 year old girl.

A midweek birthday breakfast, with Nutella on toast for the girls. Excitement reached fever pitch. The wearing of the birthday crown, the birthday table and to Zahara's delight, the reading of her very first, made by Mummy, birthday book. Full of pictures about a tiny baby called Zahara, she loved it.

A day pretty much devoted to her, as she liked it. Pick up new birthday scooter in the morning? Check. Gymbaroo class? Check. Hold Zahara in my arms for half the Gymbaroo class while she refused to participate? Check. Eat two sushi rolls by 10 in the morning? Check. Sing, make a poo and chatter for two hours during nap time? Check.

With my two girls spending some time at their grandmother's after school, Zahara had me all too herself in the afternoon too. Just the way this girl likes it. I tickled her endlessly, blew her bubbles and took for her a walk on my shoulders to pick some flowers.

The day ended with some more singing, choc chip muffins and the final wearing of the 'Z' birthday crown for 2010.

Hope you are enjoying these precious times now too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Birthday Bash for Zahara

Wow, what a day. My littlest girl celebrated her 2nd birthday today, surrounded by family and friends in our home. It was fun, easy and comfortable.

Zahara's absolute love and ease with animals was the clincher for deciding her party theme; short of buying her a pet, it was the best present her little heart could want. We had some lovely visitors from Animals on the Move; guinea pigs, rabbits, a piglet, lambs, a calf, chickens and goats. We fed, petted and held animals to our hearts delight.

We started preparing party decorations about a month ago. This is always a fun project for the girls, giving some purpose on those after school art and craft sessions. I've also found it gives siblings a chance to share the excitement and feel like they are part of the celebrations.

We made paper chains - my six year old did this almost hypnotically, my four year old learning to handle the loops and sticky tape herself. We also painted animal cutouts (I downloaded from the internet and cut out the shapes myself), using small roller brushes which were fun for the girls - red roosters and pink piggies. These were strung on fishing wire and hung to decorate our party space. Others were blu tacked to our window.

I hired bales of hay for an authentic farm feeling, placing the take home bags on one and a Radio Flyer trike on the other. They looked great (but make lots of mess!)

Take home bags
We also made simple but very sweet (and inexpensive) guest take home bags. I bought some blue gingham fabric by the metre, cut into squares and placed a toy farm animal, bubble mixture and some stickers. These bundles were tied with yellow ribbon and then a homemade thank you card (using a Thank you stamp) with a handwritten message (done by Yasmin) on the back was looped on with string.

Table Settings
These were simple but so effective. I had kept some artificial grass samples from a garden makeover earlier this year, placed these on the tables with a farm animal on top. Cow print cups, gingham tablecloths and farm plates were all purchased in advance. I always start looking for decorations and ideas about two months before the party to allow enough time.

The Menu
For adults - bagels, homemade dips, cut up fruit and vegetables, home made borekas and a feta and caramelised onion tart my mum made. Juices, mint tea and coffee.

For the kids - cut up fruit and vegetables, cheese and Vegemite sandwiches (essential for any kids party in Australia), and brown chocolate cows (using a playdough cutter, I buttered cow bread shapes and dipped into chocolate sprinkles. This was the only 'treat' apart from the cake, as I don't like to give kids lots of rubbish at parties after watching them a) gorge themselves and b) get totally hyper after).

The Birthday Cake
My mum made a chocolate marble cake and then decorated it with chocolate icing and plastic toy farm animals and a fence. Adults and kids gobbled it up.

The Soundtrack
Animal Playground. We LOVE the Putumayo CDs.

Other activities
On the morning of the party I quickly printed off lots of farm animal colouring pages, cleared our play area and table and left jars of textas and pencils for colouring in. This was a hit too. While having a break from petting the farm animals, the kids were colouring in for about half an hour quietly and contentedly. Kids parties can turn to disaster if the kids run out of things to do, and I remember this about 1 hour before the party. Phew!

Post party edit
A great, fun and happy birthday party for my sweet, happy 2 year old.