Feb 28, 2014

Sultana Bread From Scratch. SAHM Fitness.

As luck would have it, I'm writing this post about my SAHM fitness regime on the greyest day of my break.  After endless days of soft sunshine and pleasantly warm evenings, Friday's been a bit of a bust.  I reckon the weather is as gutted as the rest of us that summer's officially over.  Perhaps I'll just start with what's been going on today and hopefully when I'm done, I'll be motivated enough to talk fitness and maybe even walk my talk and head out the front door for an afternoon stroll.

Basically, Toddler SSG and I have had our wings clipped with this cool weather and rain.  I didn't even have a wet weather contingency plan for today, so convinced was I that the lovely weather would just go on and on.

Thinking on my feet required coffee.  In whatever form I could get it.  Nescafe Gold, you will forever remind me of swot vac at uni.  Whenever I spoon your granules out of that curved jar with your chunky, fake olde gold screw on lid, I can't help but get flashbacks of the textbooks of my arch nemeses.  There was  one for each year of my degree, actually - organic chemistry, pathology, biochemistry, stats, physiology, the neurology section of clinical methods (neurology anything....).  

PJ leggings set - Target, soup ladle - second top drawer to the right of the gas cooktop.

Toddler SSG was unfazed by the change in the weather.  He was dressed for the cool morning in leggings that promised sleep on their waistband and beeps from car horns down both legs.  As the morning wore on, we actually got a bit of both - much to his delight.  

The coffee kicked in and I decided that this was the day to bake a sultana bread.  I've used this recipe and the smell of the dough haunted me all morning.  I'm trying to resist the scent of the freshly baked loaf that's just popped out of the oven.  It's a sobering thought, isn't it, that you need so few ingredients to make a loaf of bread yet the ingredients list on your average supermarket version runs into the high teens.  Yet the one thing all those numbers and compounds can't deliver is the smell and feel of real bread.

As part of the liquid component of my dough, I used a cooled jar of tea.  I've always wanted to eat or drink something out of a jar after seeing all the tempting photos on blogs and instagram and I've realised that dream in a roundabout way.

I did the usual back of the car to prove thing with my dough.  Because it was so cool today, it sat there for twice as long as when I made the pizza dough.  I even drove it to a late morning coffee catchup with a friend.  Thank goodness for humid underground car parks!  I kneaded for about five minutes before resting the dough in a loaf tin until it expanded to reach the top edge of the tin.

I baked my loaf for 25 minutes at 250C (fan forced).

And just like the recipe said, it had a hollow sound to it when I tapped the top.

I've just ducked out to cut my bread and sneak a bit for the purposes of updating this post.  It is good.  I just used regular non bread making flour and it managed to be both chewy and dense as well as crisp at the crust.  The bread itself isn't sweet which makes it a perfect foil for the dried cherries, sultanas and apricots I used.  I might try my next slice (or three) with honey as well as the butter I lightly dabbed on my first slice.  I may not have any left to freeze.....

During this week off, I've been doing circuit training using the driveway, a chair and a skipping rope.  The circuits borrowed heavily from fitness videos on YouTube and feature exercises I tend to put off at the gym - lunges, squats and push ups.  I'll be interested to see if this has any impact on how I go back at the gym next week.  Will a week of weight bearing exercise using my own bodyweight be any match for all those fancy machines at the gym?  I've really enjoyed this change in routine and the chance to feel fresh air on my face.

Toddler SSG locking up for the night after we've gotten home from a jog (me) and a nap (him).

Cardio has been evening runs and brisk walks with Toddler SSG in the Baby Jogger Summit X3.  I'm really happy with this pram and it was well worth the price and shipping via Amazon.  When I first used it, we were in Perth and a particularly flat and wide footpathed area of it at that (slightly off topic but my home town is in the New York Times, people!!!  Not as Dullsville but as a contender for best hipster city in the world.).  Toddler SSG was also around 8 kilos.  The pram was great to jog with and easy to use when walking casually.

Over here in Sydney and Toddler SSG is around 11 kilos and 80 cm tall.  The terrain where we live is pretty hilly and the footpaths are often narrow, winding and uneven.  The Summit X3 still does it all with ease.  The seat size still fits Toddler SSG well (with room to grow) and it's been surprisingly easy to push him along as I run.  He also still loves sleeping in this pram as I run.

Strap on stroller caddy by Jolly Jumper.

I've accessorised with a couple of things that have made my running life much easier.  The first is a strap on stroller caddy.  It's by Jolly Jumper and available at Toys R Us and Big W for under $15.  I like that the central zip section is big enough to hold my keys safely and that there is a deep pocket that fits my iPhone.  Nothing falls out as I run.

The other thing I've found handy is a mosquito net with some UV protection.  This one was again under $15 from Toys R Us.  It's basically a huge shower cap that you drape over the front of the stroller.  It's got enough grip in the elastic to not fly off when you run into the wind.  It's a good option if you've got a toddler like mine who hates wearing hats or sunscreen.

And with that, my staycation is just about over.  I'm back on for work tomorrow.  Have a lovely weekend and if you're hoping dip your fingers into some bread making - why not give Rachel's sultana bread a go?

Feb 27, 2014

Toddler Cooking. Zara By Pram.

I was at the top of my game when I wrote that post about toddler proofing the other day.

But sadly, things have gone awry since then. This is how our microwave looks now. The little gadget on the left is meant to be a door lock for ovens and fridges ($6.99, Dreambaby at ToysRUs). I say meant to be because just by looking at my photo, I bet you can guess that I stuck it on the wrong way. Really stuck it down good, I did too. I suppose it's working in a strange kind of way because all Toddler SSG does when he looks at the microwave now is lock and unlock the catch on this gizmo. So perhaps it wasn't even that toddler proof to begin with...

Oh and then there was the toilet bowl situation. Apparently there are lots of toddlers in the greater Chatswood area who like a good fish around in their household commodes because Westfield was all out of toilet bowl locks.

It's okay. I can take a hint. Perhaps I'm better off writing about safe topics like cooking for toddlers. One of my projects for this week has been to get a few meal options into the freezer for Toddler SSG for when I'm back into the chaos of work.


Long time readers will know that Toddler SSG is a huge fan of Cheesy Pops (aka Kraft's version of calcium rich crack cocaine for toddlers) but I've been trying to move away from the situation where he was eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a bit of perseverance from his carers and I, we've gotten there.

Breakfasts are toast, pikelets (off the shelf in the supermarket bakery aisle) or mini muffins (will link to a recipe later in this post) plus fruit. Lots of fruit. In fact, Toddler SSG hasn't yet met a fruit he doesn't like. He had two peaches and a nectarine yesterday as well as half a banana. One trick I have with him is to let him start meals with his fruit and then introduce 'the main' when he's halfway through the fruit. I keep both options in front of him and he usually goes between the two and does a good job of eating most of both.

Lunch is often a rice based meal with a blander version of what his Aunty and Uncle may be eating. Dinners are a variety of Asian and Western foods. We're trying to encourage him to eat a wide variety of foods and to not be too fussy.

Why mop your floor clean when dishwashing bubbles do almost as good a job?

My other big tip is a housekeeping one. Your grandmother was right - it is truly a virtue to have a floor so clean you can eat off it. Besides dropping all his cutlery over the floor, Toddler SSG has a thing for reconnecting with bits of his meal that he previously dropped from the table.


I drop old newspaper around his high chair and have a dedicated dustpan set for sweeping up food scraps. I also use those floor wipes you can mount on a 'mop' to make cleaning quicker. I found this set at Costco for $11.99.

Onto the cooking. I've recently discovered two great resources for toddler recipes - kidspot and a lovely blog called mamacook. Mamacook is a mum herself with a professional background in food science. I like how her recipes are healthy, easy and use everyday ingredients that you'd often have around for the rest of the household's meals. The first of her recipes I tried was Mama Cooks' Tomato Sauce for the slow cooker. I was curious about the addition of capsicums in her version.

Crushed tomatoes with added herbs .... a god send for the home chef who finds herself distracted by things like finding tiny toothmarks in the oranges in her fruit bowl. And a quiet, doe eyed toddler hovering behind said fruit bowl.

The sauce cooks down to a vibrant red (echoes of Opi's Big Apple Red, anyone? Note to self, must do toes again soon) and richly flavoured. It has a sweetness to it from the capsicum. And I didn't even have to roast the capsicums beforehand. They just got chopped, deveined and plonked into the bowl of my slowcooker.

The recipe makes a huge amount and is suitable to freeze. It also has a myriad of uses. I use a little to add some stick and colour to mini ravioli. It also makes a great pizza sauce. Other suggestions Mamacook has made include to use it watered down as soup and as the base for a pasta bake. I'm trying the pasta bake idea soon.

It's been prams, prams, prams wherever I go in Sydney these days. One of my favourite pram places at the moment is Birkenhead Point which isn't too far from home. It's very popular with local mums for a number of reasons - designated play areas dot the complex and it has some great outlets. I found fully leather Clarks toddler shoes for less than $30 a pair the other day. Cheaper than a pair of toddler Crocs! Speaking of which, I think I'm going to have to bit the bullet and get the real deal for Toddler SSG, my $5 specials seem to be a bit too stiff for his feet.

Another haunt of mine is the Corningware outlet which has a large range of Pyrex and Baker's Secret gear as well. There's a 30% off for two or more baking accessories deal on at the moment. So I stocked up on these 12 hole mini muffin trays which worked out to be less than $10 each.

Cheese makes everything better.

Knowing Toddler SSG's passion for cheese and bacon, I whipped up a batch of savoury mini muffins using a remix of a few recipes I found online.

I fried the bacon and onion before adding them to the batter.

Stealth vegetables. Every parent's sneaky but effective little trick.

Mini muffins freeze so well and a snap to reheat in the microwave. They're also perfect for satisfying that odd toddler need to have both their hands full of food when eating. And that other need to be walking around the garden when they're eating too.

Buoyed by the savoury mini muffins' success, I also made these Apple, Carrot and Sultana mini muffins. This is a recipe that contains rolled oats but these didn't cause any dramas in this household.

Another happy snap of my clean as a table top kitchen floor. At what age does this 24/7 drawer emptying end? Anyone?

I've finally gotten around to introducing more egg into Toddler SSG's diet. He's been fine with the egg I've used in baking so the next step was these Toddler Mini Quiche With Hidden Vegetables using a kidspot recipe.

Again, here are more of my bargain buys from Birkenhead Point.

I'm really pleased with the quality of my Baker's Secret tins and pastry cutters. All they need is a light spray of olive oil for greasing and they come clean after every baking project.

More of that cheesy goodness....

I used Pampas butter puff pastry to make these quiche. Butter, cheese - it's all dairy, isn't it? Introducing cows milk as a drink is still a huge challenge for us. I'm sneaking it in with the recipes I've been making this week but still can't get the toddler to actually drink any. Any good ideas that may have worked for you?

And more of that stealth vegetable goodness - mashed carrot and potato this time.
I made just under two dozen mini quiches and again, they freeze really well. Just reheat in the oven from frozen for 10 minutes or so.

The backyard picnic. What's not to like? Toddler SSG has embraced this staycation ritual of ours. While he has his post walk to the shops or drive to Camp Chatswood for coffee nap (oh, the SAHM life) I set up the picnic mat and get lunch ready.

When nap time's done, it's out to the backyard for a lunch that feeds everyone - Toddler SSG, the plants, the ants, that dustpan set that always sits with us....

Preparing sushi in the basement level at Westfield, as seen from the travelator.

Speaking of the SAHM life, we were at Chatswood yesterday. So early that we got to see the food hall wake up and do its hair and makeup for the day.

We were so near yet so far from Zara. I was getting a coffee and drinking it whilst Toddler SSG was doing a few circuits outside Bing Lee. I picked that level because it was pretty quiet that early in the morning. It's a bit tough for walking toddlers and people who aren't their parents in the busier sections of the shopping centre. They're always at cross purposes and things can end badly pretty quickly.

But where there's a will, there's a way. We prammed it over to Zara after my coffee, where most of the prams at Westfield seemed to be, actually and explored both levels. The in store lift was loved by both of us. I do like the layout of the Chatswood store. It's spacious and airy. Much like the South East Asian stores. Only thing is, I wish there were more mirrors around the store. I think most of the other mums there were probably with me on this too. There's this way of buying clothes when you're out with a pram and it doesn't involve change rooms. You basically place the hangered item against the back and front of the person for whom the clothing item is being purchased. Works fine without a mirror if it's for your toddler but yeah, you do need a mirror if it's for you.

Take care and have a lovely day. Might do a post next about what's been passing for exercise this week. Any takers?

Feb 24, 2014

Toddler Proofing SSG Manor. A Work In Progress.

A blog reader recently asked if I wouldn't mind putting together a few of my thoughts and experiences with toddler proofing SSG Manor.  This post is a summary of what I've done to the house so far but what would probably be more helpful to my reader is if any of you with a bit more experience wouldn't mind adding your tricks and tips to the comments section of this post.

Hard hitting, considered blog posts are always best planned out with a bit of chocolate in one hand.  In my case, it's been chocolate coated Scotch Finger biscuits.  From behind the doors of the toddler proofed pantry.  I know it would've been much easier if I'd just gotten something out of the fruit basket but where's the challenge in that?  These click open locks are available at quite a few stores around town - I've seen them at both Big W and Kmart.  They retail for around $10 per set and usually come in packs of three.  No screws or adhesive are required and to release the lock, all you need to do is click on the button.  I've got a set of these locks on the shoe cupboard, the under sink bathroom cupboards and most of the others in the kitchen.  More later on why I haven't locked all of mine in the kitchen.

A good tip I've always remembered when trying to toddler proof your house is to look at your domestic situation from down low,  You'd be amazed at just how many potentially dangerous things look so interesting and reachable.  Power point locks were probably the first thing we put around the house - Ikea do multi packs with a 'key' with which you can unlock them.

There was a time when all that tugged at my heart strings were plaintive looks from behind the bars.  These days, those bars get a firm rattling if Toddler SSG happens to be on the wrong side of the fence.

Our house has an open living area that adjoins the entry hall to one side and the kitchen and dining area on the other.  Two baby gates effectively block off Toddler SSG's area from these busy thoroughfares.  We have the metre high gates from Dreambaby.  Toddler SSG was never one for play pens so though the gates are pricy, they have been a good investment for us as they were put up pretty much from the moment he learned to crawl.

There isn't much furniture left in the lounge room and that's made it easier to keep this area safe for Toddler SSG and also to keep tidy.  There's a lounge, a couple of side tables (near the gates so that I can drop things off as I come and go and a soft sofa made out of some mattresses and a back rest.  It works well for our purposes.  So long as I have a spot where I can have a lie down close but not too close to the action of a toddler tantrum or a new experiment with furniture climbing, I'm happy.

The one other thing I couldn't get rid of was the entertainment unit because our television couldn't be wall mounted.  The Good Guys and many other places sell TV straps which help prevent flat screens from being pulled down over the heads of curious toddlers.  The set I have cost around $35 and screws into the unit but straps onto the television.

Fishpond.com.au was where I found these stick on cupboard locks.  They undo like little buttons.

I have a larger version of the lock on a folding door near the kitchen.

Height has also been my friend.  Any ledge that's way above toddler height is the best place to stow things like remote controls.

Ever since I discovered Toddler SSG's ability to fossick through the bedside tables and take things from  them and then hide them around the house, I've saved myself a few panic attacks by hanging door and car keys from hooks set up high behind the front door.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get my sunnies to hand off the hooks as well.

Back to the kitchen.  It's managed to entertain Toddler SSG more than any one toy I've bought him.  It's been one of those ironies of life that he's learned his vital motor skills from the contents of the kitchen cupboards as opposed to the dozens of wooden educational toys I've bought him.  

I did mention that I've only locked half the cupboards in the kitchen.  My reason being that I wanted to give Toddler SSG some freedom here to allow me to get on and do what I have to do.  The drawers he can get to are filled with unbreakable but noisy bits and pieces. He empties and I pack up after him.  I've lost count of how many times we've gone through this routine already today.

Our bathroom features a bath you need to climb into.  My mother tells me that it won't be long before Toddler SSG will make a go of climbing into it.  Until I see it for myself, I'm in denial.  I do have this alligator shower mat from Ikea laid down though.

The bathroom bin will always be a sore point between Toddler SSG and I.  What is it with used dental floss and cotton squares?  And old adult toothbrushes when you won't even let me use your one to brush your teeth?  I found this bin with a acrew down lid at my local discount store today and I'm hoping the manoeuvring required to open the lid will put him off rummaging through its contents.

This isn't strictly a safety tip, more of a creative diversion.  To make up for all the interesting rooms of the house being devoid of practically anything interesting at toddler height, I've been stockpiling empty cartons and plastic containers which I leave on shelves and on tops of chairs so that Toddler SSG has reasonably safe but 'rewarding' things to pull down.  It's working about half of the time so far.

I'm sure there's heaps of situations I've missed out.  If you have any more suggestions, please leave a comment.

Ta muchly.


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