October Reflection

If there was a theme for October, I would have to say it was family.  We started the month in Bendigo on baby watch and we’ve ended the month back here again!  It’s been an amazing time for us being able to spend so much time with our family, and the fact that we were here when the newest member arrived was incredibly special.

We've clocked up a few frequent flyer points this month

We’ve clocked up a few frequent flyer points this month

Highlights of our month have been:

* Of course the arrival of our new nephew/cousin Flynn. I’m so happy to have another healthy baby boy join our family, and I know our three boys will grow up best mates (and no doubt will get into all sorts of trouble).

Troublemakers already

Troublemakers already

* Aiden started solids, finally reached 5kg, is now 5 months old (3 mths corrected) and is trying his hardest to roll over (Liam does try to help)

IMG_8315

* Liam has moved into a big boy bed and after a few false starts, he seems to have sorted himself out now

Seriously?

Seriously?

* We’ve been loving the gorgeous spring weather and have been spending a lot of time at our local park. Liam just loves going down the slide

IMG_8287

* We love our coffee dates, whether it’s catching up with friends, or just a date with my boys, we have a great time getting out and about (most of the time anyway!)

Concentrating hard

Concentrating hard

Even Aiden loves to go out too!

Even Aiden loves to go out too!

* I completed the full month of the FatMumSlim photo a day challenge.  I am still really enjoying this, and look forward to capturing a photo which represents the daily prompt – come and join me!

October

October

 

* Looking back at the photos I’ve taken last month, there are quite a few ‘sleep’ themed ones. Here are a few of my favourites

baby Liam

baby Liam

 

Someone is getting a bit big for their bassinet

Someone is getting a bit big for their bassinet

 

This doesn't look comfy!

This doesn’t look comfy!

* One of the best experiences from the past month has been the increasing interaction between Liam and Aiden. Whilst it’s not always positive – especially for Aiden, watching Liam cuddling his little brother and Aiden smile back at him just melts my heart… that is until Liam then starts trying to pull him along the ground!

Liam loves his little brother

Liam loves his little brother

I hope everyone has had a wonderful month – bring on November

xx

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Apricot Biscuits

Growing up we had a huge apricot tree in our backyard.  Every summer it would be laden with fruit, which as kids we took for granted and would turn our nose up the fresh fruit -instead we found it more fun to try and hit the unripened fruit over the road with our tennis rackets… that’s another story though! When we were really young it provided shade for our cubby house, this was then replaced by a treehouse when we became older, and we used to spend hours amongst the leaves having all sorts of adventures.  A few years ago Mum told me the sad news that they were going to have to pull down the tree, whilst she had tried her best to save it through many years of drought, it had taken it’s toll.  A new one was planted in it’s place and has since started to provide us with fruit (in much smaller quantities).

Mum would spend hours in the hot kitchen making huge batches of apricot jam that we would then devour throughout the year.  I know that I am biased, but Mum’s jam is the BEST, I won’t ever buy apricot jam from the supermarket as it’s just not the same.  She even blends it for me as I don’t like it to be too lumpy!  Any time a family member is making the trip up to Brisbane, she will always check if I need any jam or sauce (her homemade sauce is awesome too).

So when I saw a recipe in my McAlpins book for Apricot biscuits, it was a no brainer that I was going to give them a go. I was quite generous with the jam, going with three tablespoons instead of the 2 teaspoons indicated.  This made my biscuits very sweet, but no too overpowering.  You could certainly taste the apricot in them – which can never be a bad thing.  They were quite flat, maybe this was because of my changes to the recipe, but they still tasted nice.  For half of the batch, I added 1/4 cup of coconut which I thought really went well with the apricot flavour.  Overall they did taste good, I probably wouldn’t make them again, but I did enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Sweet sugary goodness

Sweet sugary goodness

4 oz caster sugar

3 oz butter

1 egg

2 teaspoons apricot jam

4 oz self raising flour – sifted

* Cream butter and sugar together, add egg and then jam and mix well

* Add flour and beat well

* Drop onto a greased tray using a teaspoon, allowing room to spread

* Bake in a moderate oven for 7 minutes, or until golden.

* Allow to cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Sometimes I crave just a simple cupcake.  No indulgent added extras, just a plain simple vanilla cupcake with frosting.  If you feel the same, then these are for you.  To add to the simplicity, this is an easy recipe where all ingredients are added and mixed together.  These cupcakes are super light and fluffy, you can have them with just icing or turn them into butterfly cakes with jam and cream.

Simply perfection

Simply perfection

120 grams unsalted butter – softened

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

2 eggs

* Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases

* Put the butter, sugar, flour, milk, vanilla and eggs in a bowl and beat with electric beaters on a low speed for 2 minutes or until well mixed

* Increase speed and beat for a further 2 minutes or until smooth and pale

* Spoon mixture in to cupcake tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden

* Allow to cool completely on a wire rack

* Ice/decorate as desired and enjoy!!

Butterfly cupcake with strawberry and cream - yum!

Butterfly cupcake with strawberry and cream – yum!

What’s next?

We met with a financial planner last week who put the questions to us – where do we see ourselves in 5, 10 and 20 years? From a financial perspective we were able to rattle off a plan… but from a personal perspective I was stumped.

This is a strange feeling for me.  I will admit I may have some control issues (ok, if  you were to ask Scott he will say I have a LOT of control issues), and in the past I have always needed to have a plan – whether it be in regards to career, health, financial or personal goals.  Generally I have been able to achieve most of these goals – albeit some have taken longer than others, and have taken a greater toll on me personally than expected.

To be honest, I’m exhausted…  Our five year journey to start a family has been tough.  Now that we have ‘achieved’ this (hmm, there is probably a better word than this?), we haven’t really thought about ‘what’s next’??? In fact, does there have to be a what’s next?  It seems as though we are expected to have plan in place – we are asked if/when we will have another baby (seriously I was asked this by a midwife when Aiden was less than 24hrs old and in NICU), when am I going back to work, what school are the boys going to, when are we going to toilet train Liam, when are we planning a trip to visit family…. and the list goes on!

It seems to be a constant question throughout life – when you start a relationship it’s’when are you moving in together’? Once you are living together – ‘When are you getting engaged’…. ‘When are you getting married? When are you having kids? When are you having another baby??  and so it goes on.

Is it a ‘bad’ thing to just stop and enjoy life for a little while without having a plan in place for our next life goal?

I’m making the decision to enjoy our family and life right now.  Instead of worrying myself about what I should or could be doing, or what I need to do next, I am going to give myself some ‘time off’ and LIVE life for awhile.

What do you think, do we always need to have a plan?

Let's stop and enjoy the view

Let’s stop and enjoy the view

Linking up with the Essentially Jess for IBOT

Blueberry and Carob Muffins

Please take my word for it – you MUST bake these over the weekend…  There you go, you can skip through the below fluff, go straight to the recipe and start baking..

You just HAVE to make these!

You just HAVE to make these!

However if you are kind enough to continue reading, or need further convincing, earlier this week I was browsing through our local Wray’s Oranic store and saw this recipe on the back of a pack of Raw Pure Carob Powder (by the Australian Carob Co located in Clare Valley South Australia).  We had blueberries and all of the other ingredients at home so I grabbed a pack (as well as some dark chocolate coated almonds and coffee beans…. yummo)!

The recipe said you will need a 6 hole muffin tin, I used my regular cupcake tins and made 18 from the mixture.  Once all of the ingredients were combined, it was quite a sticky mixture and didn’t look very ‘cakey’.  I was unsure how they were going to turn out – 20 minutes later when they were out of the oven, they looked great!

I LOVE these, so much so that I didn’t give them to Scott to take to work. Instead I have wrapped them up individually and popped them into the freezer as they will be the perfect afternoon tea treat.  As per usual, Liam also had to have a taste test, and they also got his seal of approval.  There you go, you should be convinced by now – have fun baking!

We really need to work on his table manners...

We really need to work on his table manners…

2 cups self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup shredded coconut

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 egg lightly beaten

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup carob powder

2 tablespoons of shredded coconut for topping

* Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare muffin tins

* Sift flour into a bowl and stir in the brown sugar, blueberries, coconut, egg, buttermilk and oil. Stir quickly so the blueberries don’t run, but only until mixture is just combined

* Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 20 – 25 minutes depending on the size of your muffins.  Sprinkle extra coconut over the top.

My Happy Place

Sometimes just thinking about your ‘happy place’ isn’t enough – you need to take action and go there.  This week I’ve felt myself getting frustrated quite a few times, and my usual technique of thinking about what makes me happy has just not cut it – mainly when I’ve been dealing with a tired cranky toddler who refuses to sleep…  oh yes, it’s been fun times at our house this week!

Although I’ve felt selfish and guilty for doing a few of these things (especially when I was upstairs in the bath and could hear both the boys crying with Scott) – they have certainly helped turn my mood around quickly and bring me back to a better place where I appreciate what I have and the challenges associated with it.

This week I’ve gone to my happy place when:

* Sitting down with Aiden for smiles and giggles – this always perks me up!

* Going to the gym for time by myself – I always feel so energised afterwards

* Treating myself to a bubble bath last night – it was bliss!

* Baking (what a surprise!)

* Catching up with friends for Coffee (another huge surprise there)

* Going on ‘dates’ with just Aiden… we have lots of smiles and giggles

What do you do when you need to go to your happy place?

This ALWAYS makes me happy!

This ALWAYS makes me happy!

Passionfruit Slice

I mentioned last week that I had bought up big on all of the summer fruits which are now appearing on the shelves.  Earlier this week we still had 4 passionfruit left, which were beginning to look a bit sorry for themselves.  I was looking for a passionfruit slice recipe – the one I found in my Mum’s old cookbook looked a bit dodgy (sorry Debs), I think she may have missed a few steps when she was writing it down.  Surprisingly I couldn’t find one in the couple of cookbooks I looked through, so I jumped onto taste.com.au and quickly found what I was after.  Earlier in the afternoon I had made a chocolate mud cake which used up almost half a kilo of castor sugar (post will be up in a few days), and I had none left for this recipe – I used Stevia instead, figuring it would reduce some of the guilt involved in tasting this slice.

Reading some of the reviews on the website, it was mentioned that the passionfruit layer was a bit thin.  I decided to add another 1/2 can of condensed milk, I also only had one lemon, so I made up the 1/2 cup quantity with orange juice.

I know I say this a lot about the recipes I post here, but this slice was awesome.  As I was still in pain from doing a bodypump class the day before, I only let myself taste a bit of the corner piece that fell apart when I cut the slice….  and it was sensational!  The orange and passionfruit combination was REALLY good, and the ratio of topping to base was perfect.  You really need to try this!

This is sooo good

This is sooo good

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup caster sugar (or stevia/any other sugar replacement if you prefer)

100g butter melted

1 x 395g can of sweetened condensed milk (I used 1 1/2 tins for a thicker passionfruit layer)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used 1 lemon and topped up with orange juice with pulp)

2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp (I used 4 small passionfruit – they were the size of golfballs)

* Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a slice tin with baking paper so that it hangs over the ends/sides

* Using a wooden spoon, combine the flour, coconut, sugar and butter in a large bowl. Use your hands to bring the dough together

* Transfer dough to slice tin and use a metal spoon to press down firmly over the base

* Bake for 12 minutes or until light golden and set aside to cool

* Reduce oven temp to 150 degrees

* Use a whisk to combine the condensed milk, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp in a bowl

* Pour and spread evenly over base

* Bake for 15 minutes or until just firm to the touch (I found this was perfect at the 15min mark)

* Set aside to cool completely and then cut into slices to serve

Throwback Thursday – Orange and Sultana Cake

This week’s trip down memory lane is a SUPER quick and easy orange and sultana cake.  After a week of Liam deciding he doesn’t want to sleep in his big boy bed (in reality it’s still his cot, just with one side rail removed) and the subsequent crankiness and tantrums, I was after a recipe that wouldn’t take up too much time.

I find that most of the McAlpins cakes require creaming. This one is different, all the ingredients are just popped in together, mix, and you are all done.  It certainly isn’t the best cake I’ve ever made. But for little time and ingredients it needs, it will do the job for a quick arvo tea.

 

1 heaped cup self raising flour

1 cup castor sugar

Juice & rind of 1 orange made up to 1/2 a cup by adding milk

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 egg

1/2 cup sultanas

 

* Place all ingredients together in a bowl and mix for 3 minutes

* Pour into greased cake tin (I used a loaf tin) and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes

That is seriously all there is to it!!

Super simple

Super simple

Then and Now Inspiration

Yesterday when I saw FMS Photo a Day prompt – Then & Now, it took me all of two seconds to decide what my photo would be.  Those of you who know me, or have seen my photo on instagram will know that our two beautiful boys both arrived early – Liam at 30 weeks & 6 days and Aiden at 32 weeks & 1 day (as a premmie parent all those extra days sure do count!!!).  We are incredibly lucky to have two healthy boys, Liam is now 21 months old, and Aiden will be 5 months old this Sunday.

Liam loves his little brother

Liam loves his little brother

He can be a little too enthusiastic sometimes though!

He can be a little too enthusiastic sometimes though!

It is such an overwhelming experience having a prem baby – even if you think you are prepared for it, as we were prior to having Liam.  I spent 6 weeks in hospital before he was born, had visited the NICU, spoken to lactation consultants re: how to express/feed a prem baby, knew what would happen at his birth, understood he would probably require help breathing (despite the cocktail of drugs I had taken to help mature his lungs) and was educated about the ‘typical prem health issues’.  Each week I would check the handout I had been given by the neonatologist outlining the improving survival/disability rates for each week of gestation, and watch the odds slowly improve each week – but when he arrived at 4.12am on the 11th of January 2012, all of that preparation and information went straight out of the window.

We were thrown into a world that revolved around weight gain/loss, feeding tolerances, oxygen saturation levels, heart rate and breathing monitors,  and of course – expressing!  Liam was five days old before I was able to hold him for the first time, even then when his condition had stabilised, we still had to ask permission and seek assistance to hold our own baby and take him out of his humidicrib.  The day he graduated to a ‘big boy cot’ was one of our happiest days, we no longer had to ask permission or for help to hold him!

During this time we received a mountain of support and advice not only from the wonderful midwives at the Mater Mothers Hospital, but also from organisations such as Life’s Little Treasures, PIPA (Preterm Infants Parents Association) and Lil Aussie Prems – all of which helped us survive the NICU/SCN journey.  I found the online parent forums really helpful and also comforting to read in those lonely hours during the night when I was expressing.

When it became apparent that Aiden was also going to make an early arrival, the knowledge and experience we had gained from Liam’s journey was invaluable.  With every gain he made, we knew it was inevitable there would be a couple of steps backwards – as is the life of a prem (in Aiden’s case it was being diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease at 12 days old and going back onto Oxygen).

Just looking back at the early photos when picking then out for the photo challenge, it bought back a flood of memories from the constant beeping and alarms of monitors, to the smell of antiseptic as you walked out the lift doors.

This Sunday our family is participating in the Life’s Little Treasures Foundation Walk for Prems.  This charity provides a wealth of support and information to families and friends of premature babies.  I am proud to say we will be walking together as a family of six – we will be walking not only for Liam and Aiden, but also their big sister Amber and brother Riley, who were also born prematurely and sadly did not survive. We will be walking for all of the premature babies and their families out there and hope we are able to raise much needed funds to support these families during this tough time.

Sending lots of love to all the families with a baby in nicu/scn xx

 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

First cuddle/family photo with Liam - 5 days old

First cuddle/family photo with Liam – 5 days old

First cuddle with Aiden - 2 days old

First cuddle with Aiden – 2 days old

Breakfast Bars

Don’t let the name fool you, although this recipe is called ‘Breakfast Bars’ (from the lovely Donna Hay), I dare you to try to resist these throughout the day!  Instead of making the muesli slab into bars, I cut it into small slices, which are perfect for morning tea.

I couldn’t resist adding to the original recipe, I used it more as a base to start from and then added various ingredients we had in the pantry.  I added the honey as due to the extra ingredients I had added, I felt it needed a bit more help to bind together.

I LOVE these, even Scott and Liam were also impressed.  Liam even swiped a piece whilst I was taking photos of the slice and I found him sitting back on the couch quite happy with himself.  After cutting the slice, there was a bit of leftovers on the baking paper – these were awesome mixed with vanilla yoghurt and strawberries!  I’m now thinking of even making this combination up as a muesli mix.

Enjoying afternoon tea

Enjoying afternoon tea

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup flaked almonds (I used blanched almonds)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup quinoa flakes

2 tablespoons wheat germ

2/3 cup plain whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

I also added:

Replaced 1 cup of dried cranberries with 1/4 cup goji berries and 3/4 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons coconut

2 tablespoons LSA mix

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1/4 cup pepitas

1/4 cup honey/or honey substitute if you would prefer

* Preheat oven to 160 degrees

* Place oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, quinoa (and pepitas if using) on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for around 10 minutes until golden

* Place the wheat germ, flour, baking powder, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and stir to combine (add coconut, LSA mix and chia seeds also if using)

* Add the oil, egg, honey (if using) and vanilla and stir until smooth

* Add the oat mixture and the cranberry/goji berry mixture and stir to combine

* Spoon mixture into a slice tin lined with baking paper and push down using the back of a spoon. Bake in over for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown.

* Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool further, then cut into bars/slices and enjoy!

breakfast muesli bar

 

Linking up with the Multitasking Mummy for Mummy Mondays