Monday, November 23, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A surplus of strawberries (and what to do with them)

Like lots of other families in Perth we went strawberry picking in October. There are a bunch of different farms to choose from (this website lists a range of Perth fruit-picking options) but we went to one at Lot 424 Badgerup Road, Gnangara. I don't think it has a name, but it is easy to find as it is behind Duva Continental Deli.*

A friend commented that the farm we went to looked preferable to the one she visited as it had straw between the rows, thus reducing the dust and dirt factor. Even with the straw we still got pretty filthy! The combination of dirt and sticky red juice meant I was glad we had a large stack of baby wipes and wished we had spare water. There are no toilets and nowhere to wash hands, although you can buy drinks and food at the deli.

The farm charged $5 a tray and a tray held about 3kg. With two adults and two "helpers" we picked three trays. We then had 9kg of strawberries to dispose of - quickly! They were extremely ripe, and even being careful to pick them with the stalks on (which apparently extends their durability) it was clear they weren't going to last more than a few days in the fridge.

Here is what I did to use them all up:

  • Strawberry sauce for stirring through yoghurt, topping icecream or adding to smoothies: hull, wash and halve any biggies. Either blitz in the microwave for about two minutes or cook on low heat in a saucepan with a lid until they are very soft. You can add sugar if you want - these were so sweet I added about a teaspoon per cup. Then whizz with a handheld blender. Freeze the resulting sauce in baby food trays (or ice cube trays) and then store in a ziplock bag in the freezer.
  • Strawberry sorbet: I used this recipe from Epicurious but reduced the sugar given how ripe the fruit was. I used an icecream maker to freeze it but it still came out very soft - it was better after a couple of hours in the freezer.
  • Strawberry fruit leather: following this recipe from the Organised Housewife. I made some with sugar and some without. I strained the seeds from one batch but couldn't be bothered for the rest. It was a bit of a pain as it took so long to cook, and it edges of mine cooked before the middle, making it difficult to judge when to take it out. However it was extremely tasty - it had that lovely sweet-sour tang, and both E and C gobbled it up.
  • Froze some whole for when strawberries are out of season: I washed, hulled and halved them, then laid them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer until sufficiently frozen that they wouldn't stick together. I then moved them into ziplock bags. They won't be good on their own but they will be fine for smoothies, in yoghurt, or for baking.
  • We ate plenty fresh and gave some away. Amazingly, given the ridiculous pile we had to start with that got rid of all of them bar a cereal bowl which sat in the fridge mocking me for several days until I gave up and fed it to the worms.
We really enjoyed the outing and the luxury of more fruit than I initially thought it possible to use up. We will gladly return next year.

* some but not all of the strawberry farms are advertised as being open in November. Check before you go.

Monday, October 26, 2015

E is five and a half and C is one and a half

And just like that my babies are five and a half and one and a half. There is the greatest difference in C over the last few months - E is a slightly taller, slightly grumpier version of the self she has been all year. But C - running! Talking! Insisting on being involved in everything! The talking is a source of great pleasure and amusement to us all. For quite a while she has been able to point to almost any item in a book that we might ask her to identify. But now she is able to independently name most of them too. I don't think she is quite as verbose as E was at the same age, but she is using two words together more often ("more 'ee?" [more cheese?] or "Mama's 'oo" [Mama's shoe]) and managed, quite coincidentally, to repeat one of E's early two word combinations - "big duck!" - upon seeing the cassowary at the zoo. (See here for E's version at almost exactly the same age).

She will still eat most things offered to her, and in fact sometimes puts E to shame in her willingness to try new options. She is very happy with "'oup" (soup) which E still refuses to touch, and loves "bean-bean" of all varieties, whether green, baked, black or lentils. Her one surprising dislike is icy-poles or ice-cream, I think because they are too cold. She far prefers a baked treat, having told me very coyly last week that her favourite on the Very-Hungry-Caterpillar-deserves-that-tummy-ache page is "cakey."

We are down to just a pre-bed milk feed each day and recently reached the milestone of C being willing to go to bed without it if I am not around. There has even been once or twice when I have been here but have wanted to skip milk for various reasons and she has gone to bed without fuss. I don't want to cut it out all together as it still seems to be important to her - when I walk in the door from work on Wednesdays and Fridays she runs straight to me and then straight to the couch saying "mulk? mulk?"

Not surprisingly, anything that E does, C wants to do to. In her mind I am sure she is one going on five. E drags her up into her bunk bed and they sit there giggling and conspiring and fighting over the "Goooo" doll (a horrible Elsa that endlessly wails a verse of Let It Go). She would like to be able to ride a scooter, stopped only by her lack of size and coordination. E insists on giving C "drawing lessons" and C scribbles earnestly with a pencil for surprisingly long times whilst E creates various sticky-tape and texta laden works of "art." She flails around on the trampoline with E, and E is able to read her various simple books. They are good little mates these days, enjoying a period where C is able to play at a level interesting enough for E even if their games do usually involve E bossing C mercilessly.

What to say about E? She is challenging most of the time but good company when she wants to be. She is able to read a whole early-reader chapter book to herself - I had a heart catching moment the other day when I looked up from the computer to see she and D snuggled on the couch after D had finished reading aloud, each of them engrossed silently in their own book. Whilst she is able to read to herself she would still rather be read to most of the time, but it is nice to know she can do it. She adores her "art" and is convinced she is going to be famous for it one day. We had a funny conversation recently about why her pictures could not be sold or displayed in an art gallery, which ended in the compromise of her creating a "gallery" on her bedroom wall with blu-tack. A pin-up board might be on the Christmas list! 

Our mornings and bedtimes are still a battle a lot of the time, although we have stumbled upon various tricks that seem to improve the mornings such as a list of all her morning jobs on the fridge, and giving up on the expectation that she will put on her own shoes and school dress (she is able but not willing and I have concluded it just isn't worth the fight). The evenings, whilst far from perfect, are much improved from a while ago in that she is finally capable/willing of putting herself to sleep without one of us staying in her room, even if it does generally involve numerous trips out to complain about it being, variously, too light, too dark, too hot, too cold, too boring, too lonely etc. Nothing like an articulate five year old to try and turn on the guilt: "Mummy, I am going to sleep at the other end of my bed because it is closer to the door and I want to be closer to you when I sleep" (!) She also has other moments of complete brat-dom but I try to be hopeful that the tradeoff for a wilful child who accepts nothing at face value and will argue every point to exhaustion is a an independent and thoughtful adult (please? maybe?!)

She mostly enjoys school, although there is one little girl there who she really doesn't get along with and who there are lots of complaints about. She is quite change resistant; for the first week after the recent holidays, every morning was a litany of woes about going back to school, and then the walk to school the other day involved her unloading a wealth of fears and concerns about starting Year 1 next year (which involves moving from the separate ELC part of the school into the "big school").

On the whole things are much easier than a year ago when we had a 4.5 year old and a 6 month old. It is lovely to have a bit of space and capacity to focus on enjoying our girls rather than getting through the day to day slog of merely satisfying everyone's needs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Yesterday we got up at our usual time but E got herself dressed and ate breakfast without being asked 17 times and so no one yelled and getting ready felt easy instead of an ordeal.
Yesterday C and I walked to the library and borrowed books and CDs and I started singing nursery rhymes at low volume at one point to stop the grizzling and every time I paused she yelled "more! more!"
Yesterday C slept for an hour and a half.
Yesterday  C produced four dirty nappies and had three baths because her poor little bottom is so red and sore that she sobs and says "nooooo!" when I put her on the change table.
Yesterday C got up from her nap and we ate watermelon and then a slice of chocolate brownie and then she said "more? Moooore!" And I said "no, eat your watermelon" and she said "wh-yyyy?" and I said "because it's good for you" and she said "wh-yyyy?" and I said "because it's red and sweet and juicy" and she said "wh-yyyy? More? More?" And so I gave her another slice.
Yesterday it was 27C and I put C in a dress because she is finally walking enough that a dress doesn't annoy her and when she wears a dress I can see her fat brown knees.
Yesterday when we picked E up from school she ran straight out of the classroom and hurtled against me and wiped her nose on my tshirt and stepped on my foot and I hoped that she is never too big to want to run straight out of the classroom and into a hug.
Yesterday it was 27C and I took washing off the line warm and it smelt of sunshine and grass.
Yesterday I noticed blossoms on the apricot tree for the first time this year.
Yesterday after dinner C lay on the trampoline and E bounced her and they rolled around together and laughed and laughed.
Yesterday nothing much happened.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Flora told a fig about a ball

On the days I go to work E goes to after school care. The first month was a big success, with her whinging and wailing about having to go home with the grandparents when they arrived at 5pm. 

Then last Wednesday, when D's Dad arrived to collect E, one of the carers said to him "I have to tell you there was a bit of an incident today, E threw a ball rather violently." She didn't give any further detail, like if she threw the ball at another child or at a window, just that she threw a ball. E overheard this and immediately started denying having thrown a ball and rapidly worked herself into hysterics over it and so they left without any resolution. We repeated the same conversation when we arrived home, with a similar result; she was hysterically adamant she had not thrown a ball, nothing had happened with a ball and "Flora is telling figs."  However, she also insisted that we were not to talk to Flora about it (usually a sign she is not being truthful) and that she did not want to back there (because of Flora's "figs"). 

We were somewhat bemused as to what to do - it didn't seem likely that Flora would have completely invented the incident, or that she would have mistaken another child for E as there were only a handful of kids there. D's parents also said that they did not mind if E did not go to after school care on Wednesdays (on Wednesdays they look after C at our house. We initially booked E into after school thinking that they might wish to have C at their house rather than ours, and also that E would enjoy spending more time with kids her own age). We didn't come to any decision but hoped, somewhat optimistically/ridiculously that E might have forgotten about it by the next morning.

No mention was made of it before school and when I arrived to collect E that afternoon I managed to arrive a few minutes early and asked Flora what had happened. She said that E had thrown a bowl. Courtesy of Flora's rather bogan Aussie accent, D's Dad must have misheard her and thought she said ball. Apparently it was a china bowl and E hurled it to the ground, whereupon it shattered. Flora seemed more worried that I would be angry about the safety issues of a child care facility proving china bowls than about E having broken the bowl. I was planning on talking to E about it once we got home but she immediately asked "did you tell after school care I'm not going back" so we had the conversation then. She initially denied anything had happened with a bowl but then burst into tears and said "I didn't know it was china, Mummy." 

More tears, more anxiety about being in trouble if she went back - despite being stubborn and mischievous and challenging at home, E is usually very well behaved at school and has never been seriously told off by anyone outside the family before. She still didn't want to go back. We had a big discussion about how, just because you have one bad day or experience, that doesn't mean you should give something up. I promised to telephone Flora the next day and explain that E didn't know the bowl was china. I also tried to impress upon her that she should have told us that nothing happened with a ball, but there was a problem with a bowl and that we would have helped her resolve it, and paid for the bowl if necessary, and that she should always always tell us her problems. She very reluctantly agreed to try after school care again the next day.

I was so relieved, and somewhat overwhelmed myself. It felt like we had learnt significant lessons about perseverance, and telling the truth. I felt a bit ashamed I had been skeptical of E's claims that nothing happened with a ball (strictly true - although D reckons I am being ridiculous and that she was being evasive to try and avoid getting in trouble for something she knew was wrong). It also feels a bit like the thin edge of the wedge and what people say about "bigger kids, bigger problems." This wasn't such a huge problem in the end, but it makes me worry about the even bigger issues of future years and makes me reallyreallyreally hope that E will tell us about them before they escalate, and that if she didn't believe it before, she now knows we will always support her.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bunker Bay holiday

In the second week of the July school holidays we spent three nights at Bunker Bay resort, near Dunsborough.

On the way down we stopped at Big Swamp Wildlife Park in Bunbury. It is next door to a huge, fantastic playground and had I not promised E birds and kangaroos I think both girls would have been perfectly happy with just the playground. Some of the birds are in walk-through aviaries and are very enthusiastic about their visitors. This one decided it wanted to take up permanent residence on my head and shoulders and given my nervousness about its rather large beak I had quite a time persuading it to leave. Needless to say my darling family thought this was hilarious!

C was enthusiastic about the kangaroos, which she had not seen before, but they were very slow and disinterested in the bags of feed. At the other extreme was the enormous emu which gave E a good fright and swipe on the head in its attempt to snitch the entire bag of food from her hand.

We stayed at Bunker Bay once before when E was a few months older than C is now. The resort lived up to our fond memories - car free beyond the top carpark, teenage boys in golf buggies to transport bags to the rooms and the villas surrounded by lots of native plants with a central trail leading down to the beach. The rooms are scrupulously clean with comfortable beds, a kitchen equipped with enough to make cooking simple meals easy and a huge bathtub.

The beach really is beautiful and although it was too cold to let the girls in the water we did enjoy the sand and salt and wind.

Despite the weather E was crazy enough to get in the (heated but still chilly) pool each day. Unlike our last stay she is a good enough swimmer to get in our her own so D and I sat on deck chairs wearing jumpers and coats, drinking red wine and gin and tonics ordered from the pool-side telephone and conveyed to us by the restaurant staff!

One morning we drove to Cape Naturaliste and did a 2km walk circling the lighthouse. C obligingly went to sleep in the Ergo on D's front, and bribed with the promise of "something special from Mummy's bag" at the end (lolly snakes) E managed the whole circuit with minimal complaints.

We were sorry to have to leave and E is already asking how many more sleeps until our next holiday (for the record, about 180!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

C turns one

Our littlest darling turned one last week. Hovering on the cusp of babyhood and toddlerdom - one! Or twelve months, or 365 days, or 52 weeks, as we have been discussing with E, who was somewhat perplexed as to why I was still saying C was 11 months old when it was her birthday in a few days.

At one, C, you cannot yet walk, but you can crawl as though turbo-charged, and take steps with the furniture, and reach all sorts of things we would rather you could not. (Want the volume on the stereo cranked to maximum? C will sort it for you). I think the biggest change in the last few months has been in your language - you are never quiet! You can say mum-mum and da-da discriminately, and ca-ca (cat) and occasionally "up" and "more." A week or so ago you started saying "sa? sa?" which  we eventually figured out is "what's that?" You now say "sa? sa?" accompanied by an imperiously pointing finger, all day long. Whoever knew there was such interest to be found in household objects? What's that? The fridge. What's that? A photo of Mummy and Daddy on holidays. What's that? A light switch. All day long you - and we - are talking.

You celebrated your birthday week with a cold and so we have delayed your birthday lunch for the extended family until next weekend. But on your actual birthday Daddy stayed home, and we drove to South Perth, intending to go to the zoo. When we got there the line out the front must have been 100 people long. We had forgotten it was school holidays. So we went down to the river foreshore instead, and you crawled all over the grass, and E played on the playground, and we caught the ferry to the city and back, just for fun. 

We had cupcakes for morning tea and you had great fun pulling one to pieces (eating some) and smearing strawberry icing all over yourself. 

You're wearing tshirts and pants more than onesies these days, and looking a lot like a toddler rather than a baby. But you're still very sweet and cuddly, and still determinedly clinging to three (and sometimes four) milk feeds a day. 

Darling C, we all adore you. We look forward to  so many more birthdays with you.

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