Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coffee, Scotch Eggs & Deli treats...

Now I love my big corporation coffee as much as the next caffeine addict (Starbucks I am looking at you!) and I will probably never quit them but their is something about getting your coffee fix from an independent cafe, or in this case, deli.

I love Caracoli.

We first discovered this place when we took a day trip to Arlesford earlier in the month and after deciding it was far too chilly to wander around Jane Austen's House (and it was nearing lunch), we ventured further to Arlesford to find something delicious. It was there we found Caracoli.

This little jem was not only filled with delicious food (eggs benedict, tortino anyone?) all sourced locally, but had delicious coffee and a deli section that I could have spent more than we earn in.

Whilst in Australia I discovered T2, an amazing tea emporium and here were their products for sale right here in Hampshire.... Brisbane Breakfast Blend please...

So we had a brunch of sorts, bought a new Vegetarian cookbook and enjoyed the chilly morning in Arlesford

G is impressed... Avalon is snoozing.

When we got home, I searched for the Caracoli web page and to my surprise discovered they had just opened up here in Guildford!

....Any excuse for a mosey into North Street suited me just fine. So today, we stopped in for lunch- it was very hard to resist the bear, walnut and brie on rye but I went with this treat below.... and coffee of course.

Vegetabularian Scotch Egg & Chutney

It was delicious, with great views of the town and although very busy, the staff were very friendly and helpful. We will definitely go there again for a bite to eat, or for a caffeine fix... and it gave me an idea for G's birthday in 2 weeks.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday nights are alright!

Friday means....

Big Daddy is home early from work... plenty of time to play.... chilling on the couch... and a glass of wine.

Tonight, it also means the best pizza money can by, made lovingly by my main man....

... and chill out with some tunes....

This is 'our' song......

There is no such thing as 'Baby Food'....

On our journey to crunchy enlightenment, we discovered a concept known as 'Baby Led Weaning' (BLW), or as I like to refer to it, 'Common Sense Eating'.

After Avalon's birth, and with the breastfeeding going swimmingly (and with no end in sight), I started to look into what we would do when it was time for Avalon to start exploring food sources other than boob juice.

I started reading a lot of information about BLW (and what exactly the term meant) through my fellow crunchy friends, in particular Sausage Mama. With that research we knew this was the way to go for us. We all like natural and easy... what could be better than that?

I guess a lot of people don't realise that breastfed babies don't actually require any food until two years of age. They get all the nutrients and goodness they need form their Mamas. I have one friend who said her son first 'ate' a sandwich on his 2nd birthday. Until then, the point of food is for exploration of tastes and textures, as well as feeling included at meal times.

We had planned to wait until Avalon was at least 6 months before giving her anything other than milk but she was curious at about 5 1/2 months (grasping for our foods, putting her hands to mouth etc) So we decided to give her something to try.... we started with some carrot from our garden.

5 months on, she 'eats' just about anything and feeds herself (no loaded spoons, no purées.)

Some common foods we have given her for breakfast are: fresh fruit, yoghurt, toast, peanut butter, vegemite, jam, scrambled egg, sausage, croissant (hey now!) Fir lunch she will usual just have a bit of whatever I am having; today we met up with some friends so I packed her a lunch box of grapes, organic chedder cheese and spelt biscuits. Dinner, she will eat a little of what we have too, I have found BLW fabulous for being accountable of what we eat; how much sugar and salt is on our food as well as eating organically. She LOVES asparagus, broccoli, pizza (who doesn't?) ravioli, Quorn mince and the list continues.... She drinks smoothies, juice and even the odd soy milkshake. Avalon and Grant had a day out together to the art gallery in Murwillumbah and she thoroughly enjoyed her strawberry soy milkshake.

We eat out quite a bit also, it is great that BLW fits in so well, no purées, bowls, jars, spoons to carry around... here we are at Wagamama (our favourite!) Avalon loves the edamame beans.

We eat as a family and at the same time which is EASIER for us (no puréeing!) and makes her feel included.


I have had a lot of questions about BLW ('Arent you worried she is hungry?' 'What about choking?') and it really all comes down to good old common sense and knowing your child's needs.

I was speaking to one of my dearest friend's, Elisabeth, about BLW. She has older children and she said. 'Hey, I did that-- it is just common sense, I didn't know it even had a name!'... That is what I love about it; easy, connected and sensible eating.

Ok... not BLW... but pretty cool anyway.

 I figure I am not a fan of eating mush so why should Avalon?

breakfast at Nannie & Grandads... Mango & Watermelon

Got any more??

Belissima Ravioli

The remains of the Spinach & Feta Pie featured a few blog posts ago.....

These were taken just now as Grant was preparing dinner.... snacking on a cherry tomato.
Photo credit to Uncle Graham.

If you are interested in baby led weaning, you can find out more from here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Book Club

With the motivation to make more time for reading this year, I thought at the end of each month I will discuss what books I have read over the past month.

Here are my picks for January.

Everyone at Dartmoth College knows Kristina Kim, Conni Tobias, Albert Maplethorpe and Jim Shaw. Attractive, intelligent and poised for brilliant futures, they are campus elite, and ever since freshman years, they've been inseparable--almost like family. Led by the beautiful, spirited and enigmatic Kristina, they share an intimacy others envy.But it is more than camaraderie that unites the friends. Dark and seductive secrets bind the four to one another--intense passions and simmering tensions that have been building for years. When those passions finally explode the dead of a bitter cold night, a brutal act will be committed--one that will reveal shocking truths about each of them. 

I read this when I was in my first year at University, not as part of any course reading, but for a summer read while sunning myself by the pool. I enjoyed it then; a bit of fluffy light reading, but with a conclusion you see coming a mile off and a little heavy on the clichés.

I picked it up again when I was in Australia over the Christmas holidays, I couldn't remember how this 'thriller' panned out when I started to re-read and it didn't take long to realise it wasn't particularly great. Thumbs down. I guess I was feeling a sense of nostalgia when I picked it up again. Simons has her fans and I am sure they read anything she has published. I'll leave it to them.

The Continuum Concept introduces the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings - especially babies - require the kind of instinctive nurturing as practiced by our ancient relatives. It is a true; back to basics approach to parenting. 
Author Jean Liedloff spent two and-a-half years in the jungle deep in the heart of South America living with indigenous tribes and was astounded at how differently children are raised outside the Western world. She came to the realisation that essential child-rearing techniques such as touch, trust and community have been undermined in modern times, and in this book suggests practical ways to regain our natural well-being, for our children and ourselves.---

I recommend this book to anyone that has children or is thinking about starting a family. I feel very grateful that I knew of the theories discussed by Liedloff and more importantly, that I had found a 'crunchy community' before Avalon was born. 
An insightful read.

Domestic Goddess Part Deux


While the little one and the hubby are playing then bathing upstairs, I thought I would whip up a treat to go with my coffee tomorrow...
This one is a tried and tested recipe but here it is for you to enjoy too...

Now, first things first, pour yourself a class of wine... I recommend a red from the Stellenbosch region...
Make sure to take frequent 'breaks' to sip and enjoy.

Grease a tin....

Mash 2 bananas


In a mixing bowl combine 150g of castor sugar and 125g of melted unsalted butter..... 

... mix in the mashed banana

... add two eggs... beat well.

*sip*... again

To the mix add 1/2 tsp of bicarb... 2 tsp of baking powder... and 150g of plain flour...

.... and fold.....

100g of chopped walnuts

Pop the loaf in a pre-heated oven for 50mins (gas mark 3)... time to polish off that glass of red...


Voila!... banana & walnut loaf. 

You don't have to thank me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I want, I need, I must have.


.... breath.....

The Iron Fist Ruby Slipper. I bow before them. I covet them. I shall inconspicuously leave a picture of them for my husband to see (with the purchase details of course!) It has worked with Tiffany before, maybe I will be in luck again. These are the perfect gift for Valentine's Day... or a 4 year wedding anniversary?.... Big Daddy D... are you reading??

I love all things Iron Fist and have several pairs of their killer heels (plus a bathing suit)... They certainly make statement shoes, just the way I like it. I love my jeans, I love my Chuck Taylor's, but sometimes, you want your shoes to do the talkin'.

My baby is a STAR!

So today Miss A crawled forward for the first time, my heart bursts with pride!

I thought I best blog this lovely moment; I have been extremely slack with recording her growth over the past year so I will do my best now. I also wanted to muse about the idea of baby milestones.

In the last month she started laying on her stomach for longer... then moved to up on her hands and knees, to crawling BACKWARDS and then today, she went forwards... she only did it twice... but YAY!... my baby girl is growing up.

I suspected she may take a little while to crawl as she hated being left on her tummy, she had such bad reflux and colic in her first few months that we never put her on her stomach, much to the disdain of many 'health professionals' around me.

Look, I take the view that she would, sit up, crawl, walk, talk and wean in her own sweet time and that is exactly what she is doing.

Even at only a couple of months old, Avalon was sitting up. To be honest, I haven't seen another baby that has been the way she is in terms of leg strength and also in back and neck strength. She was sitting unaided at 5 months and had been bearing weight on her legs long before that. I figured her for one of these children who would never crawl and just go straight to walking. We will see.

She loves to pull herself up and stand at the couch, play walker, table. She 'walks' with my husband holding her hands-- one foot in front of the other. Gahhh... I am one proud Mummy.

She has also gotten her first tooth in the last 2 weeks, I have felt like she had been 'teething' since she was about 12 weeks old, and have had the amber teething necklace on her 24/7 since then. I guess the jury is still out on it's effectiveness but I have drunk the Kool Aid-- I think it has been great. Avalon never drools and dribbles and I attribute that to the necklace. We have had some inquiring looks about it, but like all else, hey ho!

Milestones are a funny thing, I am not sure if there is 'competition' or not amongst parents as to who does what first. It strikes me as so odd (and terribly silly) I have never felt like that! All will happen in each babies own time. My wish away time? I first notice with the sleep issue "Is she sleeping through the night?" I was being asked that at only a few weeks old. At first I wasn't sure if it aggravated me so as I was sensitive to the fact that she wasn't but then  I just came to the conclusion that all babies are different , and these milestone queries are annoying whether they are sleep related or not!

Each baby will get there in their own time; my best friend apparently didn't speak a word until she was 2 years old and she is one of the most articulate and intelligent people I know. My friend's child got her first tooth at 12 weeks old, and here we are, first tooth at 9 + months. All babies are different and considering the coming through of teeth is really something that cannot be 'controlled' I find the urgency for such as really odd. Another god friend of mine has a daughter who is almost 11 months; she has 9 teeth, crawls faster than I can walk, walks along aided by props and yet has only just started clapping this past week ('A' has been doing that a month or more.) Listen up, the pressure is OFF parents (and family!) Each to their own time.

Avalon was smiling within her first 2 weeks; with her mouth and her eyes... she was always very serene and inquisitive, I have heard her described as an 'Old Soul' on several occasions and I know what people mean- sometimes it is like she looks through you, my brother was the same as a baby and I remember that time well. I guess some babies just sort of stare in the first few months, Avie looked at you like she was sizing you up, trying to figure you out. At almost 10 months old she still has that look about her- adding to that the squeals, arm flapping and hand clapping when she sees her favourite people, my friend Tracy says she feels like a rockstar whenever she sees her.

She started scooching along on her bottom at 8, almost 9 months. One moment she is sitting still, the next time you turn back and she is halfway across the room. It is strange yet and wondrous.

I can hardly remember when she started saying 'Mama'... I believe she was about 5 to 6 months old; I still think that 'Mama' means 'Milk' to her. We also get 'Dada' and 'Nana'.

Even as I type this now I am watching her playing amongst her toys; she is singing, playing with her socks, sizing up her legs (Theses things are still here? Oh they do that!) Her Kora Koala is getting pats on the back interspersed with tight squeezes and bites (yes, don't forget that tooth.) Then the koala gets discarded and she is off on a crawl.... something else has caught her eye.

I could sit and watch her forever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Globe Trotting.

Ever since I was a child, the idea of seeing the world filled me with such wonder and excitement my fingers would twitch! Being a total film buff, I wanted to see the amazing lands I was being transported to; from the rolling hills of Austria (The Sound of music) to the city streets of London (Mary Poppins) - Oh yes... I had a 'thing' for Julie Andrews.

When I was 13, I went overseas for the 1st time to Fiji; what a beautiful and magical place. I feel very lucky that my parents could take us to such an amazing spot for our Christmas vacation, although I have vague recollections of being quite the sullen teen, it is still one of my fondest memories... I would take long walks along the beach in the evenings, swimming in the bluest ocean you have ever seen- truly it is paradise.

When I was 17 I was given an even greater oppurtunity, to be a youth exchange student in America through the Lions Club... Boy, oh boy, 6 weeks spent with 2 host families- seeing their local areas, living with them as a family member and soaking up some good ol' American culture.

I went to California, Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois. I stayed with my host families in Martin, Michigan & Sigourney, Iowa. Both rural, small times. I loved it. It was such an amazing experience and I still keep in touch with these families 12 years later (and some fellow students thanks to social networking.)

Whilst in my final year of school the romantic idea of travelling through Europe could not escape my mind, I had grown up pouring over my Mum's photos of her backpacking as a student and my little country town was starting to make my skin crawl. I wanted to stand at the Trevi fountain like my Mother had... Climb the Eiffel Tower... Kiss the Blarney Stone. I wanted it all.

I planned out a very crude map of where I was going to travel (thanks to an out of date Lonely Planet Guide)... I wanted to see the United Kingdom, France, Greece, Italy.... but... Life got in the way... What would easily derail a 17 year olds plan? Well, I fell in love. Hard. I am embarrassed to say it consumed alot of my final year at school... I would never say negatively in terms of my school work (thank God) but in terms of taking off for the other side of the world for a few months? Well... That went on the back burner.

Straight after school I moved out of home. I was minus one boyfriend (heartache), plus a new one (*sigh*) and was starting university the following year. Travel was pretty much not a word in my vocabulary for the next 3 years... Ok... 4 years (I had a degree change.)

Fast forward to 2003 and that restless feeling came back, yep, I couldn't shake it... I wanted to go to Europe! I had been in a relationship for 3 years and on a whim one Saturday, walked into a travel agent, and booked my holiday of a lifetime; 6 weeks in Europe. I had finished university, but was waiting to graduate, my relationship could pretty much be described as 'meh' and I needed an escape. One of my closest girlfriends decided to come along too (I had booked onto 2 touring groups) and then the fun began.

In the Summer of 2003 we went to Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Germany, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland. It was a blast, I hardly have the words to describe what that trip meant to me; but I have hundreds of photos from that time that  treasure and I cannot wait to share them with my daughter. You only see Pompei for the first time once. It hit me ("I am here") when I first saw the Eiffel Tower. Cheesy, I know. But it takes my breath away (and have been back to Paris twice since then.)

My best friend Kate was living in London at the time so I got to spend a little bit of time with her. London was just. Me. I didn't want to leave, but I had someone waiting for me at home and a graduation ceremony to attend. I will never forget the day before I left London that summer, sitting in a pub in Russell Square, ironically named 'London Pub' and saying to Kate, "I'll be back here again before you leave." She was planning on leaving in 2005 so that gave me two years to save my pennies and get myself back to Ol' Blighty.

....and that is what I did.

On March 15th, 2005, I left Brisbane International airport with tears streaming down my face for the adventure of a lifetime. I was taking a years leave from my job with the Commonwealth Bank, a years leave from my boyfriend of 5 years (the deal was, I WOULD be back) and saying farewell to my friends and family for 12 months.

I was in Thailand when it hit me. Shit. WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE??? I have no job, hardly any money, boyfriend and family on the other side of the world. SHIT! I got through that 8 hour wait in Bangkok airport with a battered copy of King's, "It" and some semi positive thoughts. To this day I would say this is the bravest thing I have ever done.

I moved in with Kate in Ealing Common ("I am here. I promised I would be back") before we moved into a flat share in Victoria. Central London, baby... I was loving it.

Fast forward to 2009 and I am still in the UK, married to the man of my dreams (NO, not him!) and travelling to South Africa to meet many of his family for the first time. Seeing the exquisite sites of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Margate, Graskop and Kruger National Park. We stayed with G's Dad in Johannesburg too. We did a Great White Shark dive in Gansbaai- A-MAZE-ING!

In the same year we ventured back to the US with my work (Los Angeles and San Diego) and back home to Australia for a friends wedding (since leaving in 2005 I have been back 4 times??)

Travel is in my blood. I will never stop exploring and wanting to know/see/experience more. I would love to see the Canadian Rockies, or enjoy coffee in a street cafe in Göteborg.... and we will, but these adventures will be as a family.

Seeing the world is something I want for Avalon. I feel it is so important to see how others live, how other cultures thrive, and that is an education you cannot get from any institution. I would always encourage her to see the world, and along with giving birth to her, it is the accomplishment I am most proud of. I cannot wait to share this experience with her.

The world is your oyster, baby....