Christmas 2017

And just like that, another festive season has come and gone. But what a festive season it was!

We headed to Melbourne to spend Christmas with my family this year, but our celebrations started well before then. For knowing we would be away for Christmas Day, and having my niece back from Vietnam for a short while, we held a Canberra Christmas celebration with my in-laws in early December too.

The girls loved the festivity of the day, redecorating the tree (for the hundredth time) and ripping open presents. While we sat back having cuddles with the littlest member of the family, sipping cocktails, before tucking into a simple brunch of fruit and croissants.

A few weeks later, it was time to head down the Hume. Given it was likely to be a little cramped if we all stayed at my Mum’s two-bedroom unit, we decided to rent a holiday house nearby (= best decision ever!) . We made ourselves at home in our ‘home away from home’  almost immediately – with the big backyard, in particular, being a huge hit with the kids.

We hosted Christmas Eve at the holiday house, watching three rounds of Carols by Candlelight on the TV. The cousins were super excited to be reunited,  and didn’t stop playing and singing along to the carols the whole time. Meanwhile, we sipped on (more) cocktails, caught up on ‘life’ and snacked on a mezze platter. There were, of course, goodies left out for Santa and his reindeer too.

Up next…Christmas Day, which proved to be one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time. Casual, fuss-free, and just perfect really.

Maggie and I headed out for an early walk before the household stirred, and returned home just as two excited girls emerged from their bedroom to discover the presents that Santa had left overnight – along with the mess the reindeers had made of their carrots. We then lazed around in our (matching haha) Christmas pyjamas for most of the morning while the girls tested out their new toys, before heading to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the day.

This year we decided to do ‘Kris Kringle’ among the adults again – which took a lot of stress (and cost!) out of buying pressies. The kids, on the other hand, we well and truly spoiled by their extended family – and loved every second of it.

The afternoon was then spent feasting with the family in the sunshine. All the Christmas trimmings were had – turkey, pork, ham, roasted vegetables and salad. Followed by a tropical pavlova, and washed down with champagne. We were so pleased to see that Melbourne had put on a beautiful day – sunny but not too hot – making it perfect weather for indulging in a hot lunch outside on the deck. Post-lunch naps were had by some (both young and not so young), after which the kids splashed under the sprinkler while the adults laughed their way through a few rounds of charades.  Then, as the sun started to set, we made our way back ‘home’, crashing into (sugar-induced) comas not long after.  And thus a truly wonderful festive season was had by all. Not only because we had the chance to spend time with our extended families, but also because we had a whole week away with just the five of us! The kids LOVED every second of having their Dad off work – and barely left his side the whole time. Needless to say we returned back to Canberra with lots of happy memories (oh and a few extra kilograms too).

Bring on 2018!

Life, lately. October 2017.

Enjoying – Netflix. Yes our household has finally come of technological age and we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. We don’t watch a lot of TV – generally an episode of something after the kids have gone to bed – so Netflix is proving perfect for this purpose. So far we’ve made our way through 3 seasons of Fargo and our ‘must watch’ list is growing by the day.

Planning – A renovation of our backyard, and an overhaul of the bathroom at our unit in Melbourne. Yes life lately has involved  meeting with lots of contractors – and I’m feeling excited (and perhaps a little nervous too) about our upcoming projects. I’m particularly excited for the work we are having done in our backyard given Summer will soon be upon us!

Deciding – On lots of things related to the renovations. Style, structures, fixtures and fittings – and if I’m honest, I’m getting a tad overwhelmed by the process.

Cooking – Lots of power bowls and salads.  Generally filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and rice or quinoa.

Drinking – Mineral Water – by the bucket load. I’m currently obsessed, provided that it is the glass bottle version. Thank goodness for Costco and their bulk buy option!

Eating – Not cheese. Little Maggie appears to have developed eczema, so I’ve been told to stay away from dairy for the moment. Sounds easy right? However, given that I used to have a cheese  sandwich for lunch every other day – this has pretty much been torture. Sidenote: I tried dairy free cheese, but won’t be doing that again in a hurry…

Thinking – About where we might like to travel as a family next year. The whole family loved our trip to Fiji last year, so I’m thinking of heading to that region again when Maggie turns 1 (which conveniently is when Canberra is in the midst of Winter).  Samoa perhaps?

Loving – Watching the friendship between my two oldest girls grow and grow. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they seem to be great mates and will happily play for hours together. We evened moved them into a shared room last week, and so far its working quite well.

Feeling – Grateful that Maggie is a good sleeper. Neither of her sisters were all that great at sleeping in the first year, but so far Maggie is proving to be quite the superstar (hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself though…) She generally wakes once or twice a night to feed but will resettle well, meaning that I am not feeling too sleep-deprived when the morning rolls around.

Making – our annual family photo journal and, for once, I am actually up to date. I love the whole process of reminiscing over our family adventures, and getting incredibly nostalgic while doing so.

Wishing – I could find the time to run. I’m sure the ‘time’ is there, somewhere, I just need to fit running time more firmly in my schedule. My daily walks are great, don’t get me wrong, I just really miss running too. Time to get my running mojo back!

 

Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

Indian Style Salad

My parents-in-law are now home from their grand overseas adventure – so we wasted no time in scheduling a family dinner over the weekend. For there were lots of baby cuddles to catch up on (and two bigger sisters who had missed their grandparents dearly!)

And, as is proving to be the norm for our family dinners, there was no shortage of food.  We decided to pull together an Indian-style dinner – with spicy lamb shoulder (slow coked for 6 hours) and a tomato / potato curry being the stars. The usual sides – raita, kachumber, rice, naan and pappadums also made an appearance – but I couldn’t resist trying a new dish to throw some green into the mix.

Enter: an Indian-style salad. Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe.

Crunchy lettuce, radishes, carrots, spring onions and tomatoes, mixed with a good amount of fresh herbs (coriander and mint). Dressed with toasted spices (fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds), mango chutney and lemon juice.

The salad was finished with crumbled pappadums – adding some extra crunch and a little saltiness.

A lovely little addition to our Indian dinner indeed.  Oh and it made for a pretty good lunch the next day too!

Spicy Chicken Tacos with Avocado Dressing

I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our evening routine is a little “unpredictable” at the moment. Nothing too dramatic, just a bit more on the relaxed side as we settle into life as a family of 5. Miss Maggie tends to want to nurse, pretty much non-stop, from around 5pm – which coincides with the other girls’ dinner and bath time, and the time I’d usually be spending working on dinner for the ‘grownups’ too.

But we all need to eat, and I am trying to avoid takeout where I can, so I’m pleased to report meal planning is still in full force. Actually, if anything, meal planning is probably a tad stricter than ever at the moment as ducking to the supermarket with three kids in tow is not all that appealing. I’m doing the bulk of our grocery shopping online, and loving being able to sit down and order groceries from the comfort of the couch after the bigger kids have gone to bed. Not to mention having a weeks worth of fresh ingredients literally delivered to my kitchen at a time that suits us!

The meals themselves, however, have generally been quick and easy to prepare. Leftovers are then tucked away for a quick lunch the following day, or frozen for future dinners when cooking one-handed is inevitable.

One of our favourite meals, lately, has been tacos. The kids prefer the crunchy shelled tacos, generally filled with some sort of savoury mince and vegetables. While I tend to go with soft tortillas, filled with whatever we have on hand.

On this occasion, I found inspiration in a Healthy Food Guide magazine – in the form of spicy chicken tacos. The added bonus being that they came together in no time at all.

Chicken – spiced and grilled in the sandwich press – piled high onto wholemeal tortillas and topped with pre-cut coleslaw. Actually the only real effort, if you could even call it ‘effort’, was blending up the avocado/ yoghurt dressing to serve alongside.

Definitely a winner all round!

Spicy chicken tacos with avocado dressing (serves 4)

  • 500g chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • Bag of pre-cut coleslaw
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • Warmed wholemeal tortillas, to serve
  1. Combine the spices, oil and 2 tbs of the lime juice. Add the chicken and toss to coat well.
  2. Pre-heat chargrill pan or frypan over a medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through. Place on a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the avocado, yoghurt and remaining lime juice in a small bowl, and stir until smooth. Season.
  4. Fill the warmed tortillas with the chicken, coleslaw and avocado dressing.

 

And then there were 5….

It is with great pleasure, that I introduce you to our newest family member – little Margaret Edith. Maggie, for short.

Born by elective C-section mid last week, weighing  a respectable 3.59kg, and completing our family just perfectly.

Maggie and I were fortunate enough to spend some time in hospital after her birth, living in a rather wonderful ‘newborn’ bubble. We were cared for very well by the doctors and midwives at John James Hospital, and were sure to make the most of our one-on-one time before we headed home.

And as I’m not all that great at sitting still, I must say that the enforced ‘downtime’ was good, and most likely just what I needed. Good for succumbing to naps (when I’d normally be looking around for a household chore to complete instead), good for saying yes to cups of tea and freshly made muffins when they were offered by the morning tea lady, and good for taking long, hot showers when Maggie was in a slumber of her own. And newborns sure do love to sleep….well during the day, at least.

So, although I was desperate to get home after Maggie was born, the time in hospital was undoubtedly perfect for the healing process. Both physically,  and also emotionally, as various pregnancy hormones began to leave my body and new ones took their place.

The hospital time was also wonderful for the bonding process. Maggie and I  spent many moments just snuggling and talking (well I talked, she ‘responded’ with those adorable little newborn gurgles and squeaks). Not to mention soaking up that heavenly newborn smell.

And, once again, I am in awe at just how amazing the human body is.  I can’t quite believe that we made this perfect little human, and that she was inside me only a week ago. Now here she is, earthside – with a whole wonderful world of opportunity and adventure laid in front of her.

Yes, I did say those pregnancy hormones were in full swing…

I recently mentioned that my pregnancy felt like it went for a long time. And while I still stand by that, having Maggie here with us makes it feel as though the pregnancy also went by in no time at all. It’s that age old adage of ‘we feel like you have always been here’ – which I know sounds rather corny, but looking down at her peaceful sleeping face, feels really true.

This being my 3rd C-section, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a recovery perspective. Not unlike my earlier procedures, getting up and moving as soon as I could (which on this occasion was the morning after the afternoon procedure) worked wonders in helping with my pain levels. In fact, by the time I left hospital I was not taking any pain medication at all.

This time had a few differences, however, that I had not anticipated. I reacted to the anaesthetic during the procedure, and spent most of the first half trying not to vomit or faint (or both) when the nausea kicked in and my heart rate dropped making me dizzy and wanting to go to sleep. The anaesthetist managed to stabilise things just as Maggie was delivered, though, so I was able to get a cuddle not long after.

The other difference was that I opted for a spinal morphine (instead of a PCA drip) to control post-operative pain. And while it did the job from a pain management perspective beautifully, my body was itchy for almost 24 hours.  And I don’t mean  itchy, but unbearably ‘oh my god I am going to go insane and scratch my entire body off’ itchy for the better part of a day. IV ‘anti-itch’ medication barely took the edge off, and it was only the passage of time that eventually saw this annoying symptom subside. Me + spinal morphine = never, ever again.

But on the plus side, a change in hospital policy meant that unlike after my earlier C-sections, both my husband and Maggie could come to recovery with me. I could also have skin on skin contact with her, and give her her first feed, before we headed back to the ward. THIS was the best change in hospital policy that one could ask for! I also got to see my placenta this time around (I’m sure that is not for everyone…) and talk about fascinating!

And as for her bigger sisters?? Well they have been wonderful!

I thought it might take some time for Josie, in particular,  to get used to having another little person in the house, but she seems to have adapted in no time at all. She asks to see Maggie as soon as she wakes up in the morning, and has been full of cuddles and heat strokes for her little sister.

Charlotte has also taken everything in her stride – and loves to cuddle Maggie whenever she gets the chance. She is definitely my little helper at the moment!

And just like that – so begins our new life as a family of FIVE. Feeling ever so blessed as we do!

Third Pregnancy: Third Trimester Reflections

In some ways I feel like this pregnancy has been a long one. The relentless nausea and fatigue of the first trimester probably has a lot to do with it.

But in other ways, I am a little surprised that we just hit the 38 + week mark. Yes, I’ve officially made it to full term and, once again, I am pretty damn amazed at the wonder that is the human body.  Sure, I may not *fall* pregnant easily, but this ol’ body of mine has now grown and carried three beautiful babies to full term, all within the space of 5 years, which feels rather wonderful in itself.

So how has the third trimester treated me this third time around?

(25 weeks, 30 weeks, 36 weeks)

I’m feeling large, despite most people saying that I look ‘small’ , and I’m pretty sure I’m in the waddle-phase. But I am grateful that I have been able to keep up with my daily walks, something I wasn’t all that consistent with in my previous pregnancies,  and I am hopeful that the regular exercise will assist with the recovery phase.

I’m not sure whether it is due to the regular walking, or perhaps the baby is just sitting differently, but I am pleased to report that I have suffered none of the pelvic pain (SPD) that plagued me throughout my pregnancy with Little J. Over the last few weeks I’ve had some pretty intense shooting pains down the back of my upper leg / hip / area, but I think that might have something to do with the baby pressing on a particular nerve? Sure, they are painful and will stop me in my tracks for a moment (and elicit a curse word or two), but they are nowhere near as frustrating as the daily SPD pain.

(36 weeks – round 1, 2, and 3. Not much difference really – except for the bags under my eyes!!)

Perhaps the biggest shock of the third trimester was being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes – something I never considered would be an issue.  I’ve eaten healthier this pregnancy than in my others, and managed to walk around 5km each day, even with the nausea of the first trimester.  But, despite this,  it seems my body likes to dump a little glucose into my system overnight while I am sleeping, so I continue to have high fasting levels when I wake up – and no amount of diet watching or exercise was working to correct it. As a result? I’ve now been introduced to the world of endocrinology, the national diabetes scheme and blood-glucose monitors. I’m having insulin before bed at night, which is not too bad, and my doctors tell me everything should correct itself once the baby is born. Fingers crossed!

Symptoms aside, I am most definitely at the stage where I just want our newest family member to be here. I finished up at work a week or so ago, which has been nice. I was tempted to stay a little longer, but my family encouraged me to finish up and have a couple weeks “off” before the baby arrives. And I am pretty grateful for that encouragement (if not for the fact I no longer have to try and squeeze into the last few corporate work dresses that fit…)

I’m not all that great at sitting still, though, so being at home has meant that the nesting urge has been in full swing. I finally pulled all our baby things out of storage, washed a bunch of clothes, reorganised my linen cupboard and pantry, tackled the office filing pile, and can’t help but find more things to add to my ‘to do’ list.

The freezer is also stocked with lots of ready-made meals that I have been preparing over the last few weeks or so. Casseroles, stews, pulled pork, lasagne, pasta sauce – you name it, its probably in there. I figure these will come in handy while I am in hospital, and also for the first week or so when  I get home. So much for cleaning out the freezer recently.

Although there is, if I’m honest, no great rush to get everything done for unlike after my other pregnancies, I’ve decided to take a little extra time off work this time around. I’ll still be helping with bookkeeping for my husband’s business, but I’m not due back into the office until the New Year. My longest time off work since I was 17!

Another big focus recently has been spending as much time with the girls before their little sister arrives (not only because we are acutely aware that getting out and about with 3 kids of varying ages will take some getting used to!).  We’ve taken lots of walks, headed up to Corin Forest for some snow play, and generally just been making the most of these last few weeks as a family of 4.

It’s been lovely to have some one-on-one time with each of the girls too. Little J and I had a great morning at the playground while her big sister was at school, then it was off to the toy shop – stopping for milk and cookies along the way. I’m not 100% convinced that she really understands what is going on – although her daycare teachers mentioned she told them that the baby is coming soon – so maybe she understands more than I give her credit for…

Miss C and I also took advantage of the school holidays and had a girl’s day out at the movies, followed by lunch. She seems to be very aware that home life is about to change, but as long as the baby doesn’t play with her ‘beanie-boos’ I’m pretty sure she will cope just fine. In fact, I have no doubt she will be a huge help in the coming weeks.

Overall, this third pregnancy has been…well…different. Not only because of all the physical reasons I’ve already spoken about, but also because of the  emotional ones too. Life with active  5 and 2 year olds meant that I had very little time to really think about being pregnant at all. There were still the hours to be billed at work, books to be audited,  the never-ending loads of washing to be done and meals to be prepared… yes pre-pregnancy life went on as usual – just with the addition of a basketball belly to contend with when packing up the kids toys at the end of the day! Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful to have carried three beautiful babies to full term , I just don’t feel that I have had any pregnancy ‘glow’ this third time round.

And at 38+ weeks, I can safely say that we are more than ready to meet our newest little one!! Now if we could only decide on a name….

Life. Lately.

My oh my. Where do I begin?

I feel as if we hit the ground running in 2017 and haven’t really stopped since. We knew it was always going to be a busy start to the year, but I probably underestimated just how busy. Work is hectic. Home life is busy. Our social calendar is quite full. And then there is the whole ‘growing a baby’ thing…

I’ve just come off the back of a couple particularly full-on weeks, with a few more ahead of me. I’m certainly juggling the work / life balance, and probably dropping a few, no a lot of, balls along the way. Life is feeling full, and too often – frantic, but I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been lots of fun times too. For in amongst the chaos we wedged in a family holiday and have even booked in a few more short  family trips away for next month too!

So while I’ve found myself with a spare 20 minutes until my flight boards, let’s focus on some recent happenings that have made us smile…

The girls and I headed down the Hume just before Easter to spend the week in Melbourne. After a big school term for Miss C (and a term of daycare for Little J), it was truly rewarding to spend some one-on-one time with both the girls outside of their normal daily routine, and for them to also spend some time together.  Sure, there were moments of bickering (sisters..), but for the most part they seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, while collectively, and collaboratively,  keeping me on my toes!

Ps. Number of games of Uno played? Approximately 1000…

The car trip itself went pretty smoothly – although having done it quite a few times now with the girls they are becoming quite the seasoned car travellers. A bucketload of snacks helped, as did having the Moana soundtrack on repeat (both girls are obsessed!!)

But the main reason for our trip? Celebrating my little brother getting married!!!! Both girls were flowergirls and Charlotte, in particular, took her role very seriously. Josie on the other hand….yeah not so much (aka we had to wrestle her into her dress lol). They both barely left the dancefloor once the reception started though – so needless to say a lot of fun was had by all!

Yes. Shoes were optional by this time….

(You might notice that I don’t have a lot of photos from the day. I was also honoured to be a bridesmaid and my camera was, as expected, swapped for a bouquet!)

The next big excitement on the agenda? Easter! Which after an Easter-Thursday wedding snuck up on us in no time. It was wonderful to spend the morning with my family (before hitting the road for home), and watching the kiddies run around collecting eggs and generally getting up to mischief.

And in no way related to chocolate consumption (I swear!), we celebrated another milestone with Miss C losing her first tooth while we were away. It was wobbly for about a week (so so gross), and finally fell out the day before the wedding.  A visit from the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny was, as you would imagine, pretty exciting for a certain 5 year old!

But it wasn’t all about the kids, for us ‘oldies’ got to have a bit of fun too. Namely ticking an item off our bucket list and watching our beloved Brumbies play in Melbourne. Starting with sunset nibbles on the Yarra, it was a fun night for sure – we just won’t mention the result…

Overall, this little break was just what I needed. Time with our girls and with my family, and trying to switch off from work before the next two crazy weeks begin.

Until next time!!!

 

 

An “Under the Sea” 5th Birthday Party

This year it was Miss C’s turn to have a “big” birthday party, and she’s been planning it for months. Many months.  First it was going to be a Pirate Party, then a PJ Masks Party, but a little while ago she settled on an “Under the Sea” theme – and we ran with that.

Actually, it ended up being a lot of fun to put together. But then again, kids parties normally are!

Since Christmas we’ve been collecting lots of blue and ocean-themed decorations, mainly from the cheap party shops and e-bay. And with the help of Pinterest, a sea-filled party table came together in no time at all!

The food

The table was laden will lots of sea-themed party food – which despite appearances – were quite easy to throw together.

We had starfish sandwiches (some filled with jam, some with nutella and some with sprinkles) and mermaid munch (honey joys).  There were also blue jelly cups (jazzed up with mandarin boats and umbrellas), clam cookies (chocolate chip cookies filled with buttercream) and seaweed sticks (grapes threaded onto skewers). Most of these I made on the morning of the party so that they would be nice and fresh. I also made a big batch of sausage rolls in advance, which I was able to freeze then reheat during the party.

Oh and my favourite party treat? These adorable ‘crab-wiches’ – mini croissants filled with ham and cheese – made into ‘crabs’ with the help of googly eyes glued to toothpicks.

The Cake

I found inspiration on Pinterest for this grand blue cake, and was a tad nervous about trying the ‘petal’ icing for the first time. I loved how vibrant the buttercream turned out, and though the weather was warm, I managed to pipe something akin to what I had in mind without the buttercream getting too soft.

I “cheated” and bought Dory and Nemo toys as toppers, and then finished the cake with some starfish I made using candy melts and star moulds.

A little rustic, but I think it tied in with the overall theme.

Party Favours

I found some cheap buckets on e-bay and they turned out to be the perfect party favours.

Filled with lollies and some other little treats, and I’m hoping our guests can put the buckets to good use next time they are at the beach!

Entertainment

When I realised that we would have 25+ kids attending, I knew I would need some help in keeping them all entertained. I planned a big pass-the-parcel game, but also hired a party host (a Pirate!) to help with the other entertainment. There were games, a magic show, balloon making and even some face painting – certainly much more than I would have been capable of. And all the kids seemed engaged – so I’m calling it a win!

And so another year, and another big birthday celebration,  came to pass. And, as always, along with the sugar high, I’m left wondering just where the last few years have gone???

Happy 5th Birthday to our beautiful Miss C!  Always full of imagination, a lover of adventures and quite the sensitive soul.