Banana Bread? Yes, Please

Baking. It’s all anybody seems to be planning to do, isn’t it? Judging by the lack of flour on the shelves, at any rate. But what, exactly, to bake? We’ve made gazillions of cupcakes throughout the last few years (and still, believe it or not, I suck at them). We’ve done sponge. We made brownies the other day. What’s guaranteed to be eaten, and tasty?

Well, banana bread, of course. Filling, simple, with one of your five a day – what’s not to love? I found a recipe on Pinterest using 4 very ripe bananas (my kids never want bananas when we have tons of them… strange little beings) and changed it a bit to suit us.

We used

  • 4 ripe bananas (we like them browning for cooking)
  • 45g melted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg, pre beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Generous dash of salt
  • 200g plain flour
  • Generous handful chopped Brazil nuts
  • 3 rows of Dairy Milk (from the sharing size bar)

We used the Aga, and I slightly miscalculated the heat of the ovens – next time, I’ll use the bottom one, but for standard ovens, 180 is recommended. Preheat it before you start – not something I had to worry about!

I got the girls to mash the bananas and the melted butter together, then we added all the dry ingredients, flour last, then the nuts and chocolate chips (some may have escaped – into tiny mouths or large ones? Who knows… shush). It’s really that simple – then just pour into a bread pan, cook for 45-60 mins (until a skewer comes out clear) and Bob’s your Uncle.

We decided to use our daily exercise allowance to take the banana bread on a picnic in the field next to the house – with some Dairy Milk spread, too, of course!

What to do in Quarantine

Since both the U.K. and South Africa are in, essentially, full ‘lockdown’ now (movement restricted, shops and businesses closed), I’ve decided to dedicate a few posts as promised to what it is we, as a family, are doing to stay sane during this extended quarantine.

First things first, we have to acknowledge how incredibly lucky we are right now. As I said in my last post, my in-laws’s home is not a bad place to be quarantined – second only to being at home. I know most people probably won’t have easy access to the space that we have, and I can’t claim it as my own so this is in no way a smug post. What I can do is share ideas which have worked for us, and which can, hopefully, work in smaller spaces, too.

My mother-in-law, since she moved to this house 20 years ago, has become a keen gardener. She’s had the girls helping her with doing the borders – if you have a balcony, terrace, or even a big, sunny windowsill, this is definitely possible.

She’s given me a tutorial in the best things to plant for little kids – they can get their hands dirty AND make the place look lovely! Kids love knowing they’ve been involved with something they can see; they love feeling proud.

Firstly, please, don’t be put off if you only have a sunny window. Secondly, you may think that, in quarantine, you can’t find seeds etc, but most can be found either at your local supermarket or on Amazon. Finally, these are super purse friendly, even after all the corona virus nightmares. If you don’t have a plant pot, find a decent size, deep bowl – make sure to gently drain it the evening after you’ve watered, to make sure you don’t get stagnant water in the bottom.

The best flowers to start with for kids, and ones that yield pretty flowers, are probably sunflowers (seeds available at every supermarket with your fortnightly big shop, on Amazon for less than £3 or Takealot where you can get an entire 2kg for R149) or Nasturtiums (Amazon for £5 or Takealot – R99 for a bulk pack, also including sunflowers!).

Both can be planted in a small-ish pot, either on a windowsill, on a balcony/terrace or in your garden. Make sure to keep the seeds far enough apart, treat them lovingly, and watch them grow! If you have access to a bird table, or space for birds to land, then, once your sunflower has lived its beautiful life you can pop the spent head on the table and watch all the birds flock to nibble on the seeds in the middle. Nasturtiums are, as I’m sure you know, the edible flowers you see on cakes and cheese boards. Plant them now (before the end of April) and they’ll flower all through summer. They’re a no-brainer for kids – they look pretty and they can eat them afterwards!

Other easily bought options are herbs (you can buy them already planted in small pots at most supermarkets), which you can pop on a kitchen window and eat straight from the pot. Rocket seeds are easy to get hold of, and can be grown in 3 weeks (plus, it’s a year-round herb). It can be eaten straight from the pot, and occasional ‘thinning’ (i.e. eating and tasting, so nobody can see) only helps it grow better. French beans and carrots are also easy to grow, and start in small pots – and Sweet Peas are great fun if you want another cute little flower – plant them now, and they’ll flower from May until October.

I understand gardening might not be for everyone, but it’s a fun way to keep kids entertained and concentrating. Another, really easy way to amuse them, especially the younger kids, is to feed the birds. You might think that sounds overly simple, but why not mix it up a bit? Fat balls and suet-based feed (available at bigger supermarkets, on Amazon and Takealot) last for ages. You can make a bird-feeder out of old wire coat hangers, or buy from the same places. My girls love watching the birds (and squirrels, ahem) eating the food they’ve put out for them, but they also really like dividing the food out, too.

It can be difficult trying to keep children occupied when they’re not allowed out of your property (even in the U.K., we can only go out once a day for exercise purposes) – and trying to do things other than screen time can be trying. Much as we’re resigned, for now, to letting the girls watch more telly than usual, we’ve still started saving ideas to do over time. Tomorrow, we’ll be making banana bread. Watch this space!

Oh, Corona…

I know, I know. You must be so very sick of hearing about the damn Corona Virus strain, Covid-19, by now.

Did you know that coronaviruses have been around for decades? Approximately 30% of common colds are caused by a strain of coronavirus. It is not new – SARS was also a separate strain. This strain is Covid-19, and, so far, it’s turning out to be a little bit more severe than people originally thought.

As I’m sure you’ve realised, we’re still stuck in the U.K. With CV19 causing countries, including South Africa, to close their borders, we’re fully expecting to still be here until at least May. Part of the worry about schooling has been taken away, as there are no longer schools in operation anywhere we want to be, but that now leaves us wondering how, exactly, to keep two kids entertained for the next few weeks without museums or soft play centres!

Thankfully, we’ve become almost dab hands at the homeschooling game. I’ll write a whole different post on our favourite activities for children. We’ve found quite a few things we enjoy doing. This post is just about one.

We have fallen in love with country walks. I know, that sounds weird – we’ve always been big walkers. Our dogs get walked daily, when we’re home, and I take them on at least one big trek per week.

Since we’ve been here, however, Stevie has decided her favourite place is out in nature. This is fantastic for all of us – well, apart from Elia, who is decidedly more of an indoor type of person. And we are incredibly lucky: short of being home, my in-laws’ house is definitely the best place to be quarantined. We are surrounded by vast acres of Yorkshire countryside and national park glory. I’m sure it’ll get stifling, eventually, but for now we’re fully enjoying our surroundings. Stay safe, everyone!

Stuck in a Cold, Intermittently Snowy Rut

I know, I know. I restarted my blog with a single post in December, then vanished off the face of the earth.

We travelled to England for our every-other-year (what do we call that? Is it biannual? Biennial? Answers on a postcard/in the comments pretty please) Christmas holiday, and I decided to leave my blog until we returned – hopefully, with a lovely, full list of things to blog about.

Well, things never seem to go how you want them to, do they. Oh, sure, I’ve got a fantastical long list of blog subjects (which I will post in the upcoming weeks, I assure you), but I haven’t been able to sit on my sofa and talk about them, just yet. Why, you may ask?

Well, because we’re still stuck here. Without going into too much detail, we’re playing a waiting game with South African home affairs, and we can’t go home just yet. We don’t even know when we will be able to – nobody can tell us.

My mother in law (retired primary school teacher) is homeschooling Stevie. We are trying to keep them outside, playing, for the rest of the day, but it’s very difficult. They constantly want to return home, as do we. We miss our dogs! Stevie asks at least once a day, when she can go to big school (she’s supposed to have started Crawford 3 weeks ago).

This is not a post to moan or complain – just an information post, for those who may have assumed I’d vanished. We’re still here; we’re still just about hanging on. Our sanity is just about still intact. But, my word, I have never known homesickness like this!

Losing my Mum Tum – the Healthy Way

It’s no secret that I need to be in shape for work. It’s also no secret that it can be damn hard to get into shape after having a baby. I refuse to use the term ‘back into shape’ as I don’t believe your body will ever be the same. But being fit and healthy and strong is so important, even for people who don’t wear bikinis for a living!

So here’s how I did it. I’ve written a food diary of the last week to show what I eat every day. My snacks (not written) are Woolies maple syrup infused prunes and Lindt 85% chocolate (2 blocks). I drink only red wine and sugar-free squash or water, and if I have a hot drink it’s either coffee or rooibos with one sweetener.

This is the eating plan which works for me. The cows’ milk aspect is obviously new, but otherwise this is the way I have been eating for many years now. There is no diet involved here. I eat what I like. My only rule is that I try to eat a good amount of vegetables throughout the day. I also exercise every single day.

Mummy’s, Daddy’s and Stevie’s

The reason I am sharing this is twofold – one is to potentially help anyone who doesn’t know where to get started on eating well. Because getting started is the hardest part! But the other is to show that there is effort and discipline involved after pregnancy – and during – if you want to get into shape again quickly. There is so much emphasis on how a woman ‘should’ look after giving birth, but there is a lot of effort there and it doesn’t just happen overnight.

Read on, enjoy – and if you have any thoughts, please let me know in the comments section.

Monday

Breakfast: porridge made half almond milk, half water, with real maple syrup.

Lunch: oriental chicken wings with mini corn on the cob

I forgot dinner – very naughty, I know.

Tuesday

Breakfast: porridge made half almond milk, half water, with real maple syrup.

Lunch: Brussels sprouts and baby spinach cooked with garlic in coconut oil with chopped crispy bacon

Dinner: hake tacos made with coriander, cayenne pepper, cumin, parsley and chipotle paste, with peppers and onions on lettuce tacos with homemade guacamole, goats’ cheese and Relicious green jalapeño sauce

Wednesday

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs on corn cakes with smashed avo and chopped spinach, with Relicious jalapeño sauce

Lunch: homemade peanut, chicken and coconut soup with rye bread (I didn’t make it, I’m not that good)

Dinner: 3 Woolies pork sausages with Mrs. G’s hot sauce

Thursday

Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled in coconut oil, cooked with goat’s cheddar and chopped spinach, on corn cakes with smashed avo

Lunch: Woolies lamb frikkadels with homemade sauce – beef stock, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and ginger with onions, garlic and peas

Dinner: ‘Southern style’ shell-on prawns, steamed with fresh coriander, chopped tomatoes, onions, chilli and cumin, with charred mini corn-on-the-cob

Friday

Breakfast: 1 apple, 2 boiled eggs and one extra yolk (Stevie nibbles the whites and gives the yolk to me)

Lunch 1: three Woolies pork sausages with avocado

Lunch 2: 2 chicken breasts with pineapple and salad

Dinner: half portion of chips – oops!

Saturday

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs with chopped spinach and smashed avo on corn cakes

Lunch: 2 fillet steaks, 3 steamed prawns (with garlic, chilli and lemon) and garlic wilted spinach

Dinner: 2x beef tacos with lettuce, guacamole and tomato and onion salsa.

Here’s a little disclaimer – I am not, in the slightest, advocating missing meals. Unfortunately, as a busy mum, time sometimes runs away with us. I like my three meals per day – it suits me. Monday, unfortunately, was not a good day – and I’ve kept it in the diary for honesty’s sake.

When Did my Baby Become a Child?

I’ve been busy recently. Not busy with work (I’m still desperately trying to stick to my not-working-until-June plans, but I’m finding it difficult to turn options down!) but busy with my kids.

Something has happened to Stevie. A few weeks ago, she became whingy and stroppy and I was worried, for a minute, that I had the ‘threenager.’ It would be about right, karmically – I missed out on the ‘terrible twos’ and it makes sense that I’d be given the threenager in return. But, if that was the threenage stage, I understand it, now, and that makes it easier to handle.

She woke up at night. She cried for no reason throughout the day. She wanted to nap all the time, and was really relying on ‘boobies’ for sleep – more so than she has for a while (but not as much as when Elia was first born). I found myself wondering where my happy little girl had gone! Okay, so the strops with the folded arms and the pout were seriously cute, but still…

Then, almost overnight, the change had happened. First of all, she asked me to do her hair like mine. Of course I did – but this wasn’t a once off. For anyone who doesn’t know, Stevie has always hated having her hair sorted – but she has started asking for it. She chats non-stop – all day, every day. It’s exhausting but also amazing – and challenging. I find myself having to use my brain every time she asks “why,” which is about 254789 times a day. I refuse to be the “because I said so!” mum. I walked into the lounge the other day to find her cuddling Elia, who she claimed was ‘scared of the Neverbeast.’ Uh huh, we all know who was really scared, Stevie.

I have seen the biggest developmental change in my first baby girl. She has, somehow, turned from a toddler into a little girl. The most perfect little girl I’ve ever seen. Yes, she doesn’t shut up, and she still has mini-tantrums when she’s tired, but she looks at me and says “I love you, Mummy,” with such feeling, that I can forgive her everything. I love that she’s at this stage – and I’m excited to see where she goes from here!

Back to Work!

I never intended on going straight back to work after I had Elia. To be honest, I was still reeling from the 26+kg I put on with Stevie, resulting in a further 9 months of maternity leave after she was born, that I was assuming, due to being healthier this time, I could go back to work when Elia is 6 months or so.

But here’s the thing – I’ve lost my weight already. I’m back in my 26in jeans, and, much as I’m not in my favourite, model ‘shape,’ I’m not looking too bad. And with that, comes work.

So, this weekend, leaving behind a hard-worked for 3 litres (yes, really) of breastmilk in the freezer, I boarded a flight to Cape Town, to work with the lovely James Harvest crew. 3 days of work, 3 nights from my babies. Never had I dreamt I’d be doing this again with a 3-and-a-half-month-old baby.

And it was fine. My mum sent me a message on the Sunday, after spending part of the weekend with Pete and the girls, to tell me how proud she is of him for being such a good parent (well, duh, Mama) and how proud she is of me for going away. That was lovely, and so reassuring. Of course, I really missed the girls and Pete. Mostly in the nights, when I’d wake up to express milk, and have to go back to sleep in a cold, empty bed. And, much as I love FaceTime, when Stevie fell and hurt herself mid-conversation, it pained my heart to know I couldn’t be there to comfort her.

But we all came through it. I was very, very spoiled with my first trip back. Not a high shot count, amazing locations and food, well-organised and nice people: I felt like I was working 10 years ago! Such a lovely shoot to slowly get back into the swing of things.

I can honestly say, I’m still pushing for July to be when I make my first, official foray back into work. But if jobs like this come up in between now and then, I definitely won’t be turning them down. It’s a nice way to dip my feet back in the working waters. Pus, I got to eat a hot breakfast with both hands, which is always a bonus!

PS – the nicest part of the whole thing, of course, was coming home. Those two little faces lit up when they realised Mummy was back, and Stevie’s been telling every person she sees today. It’s worth going away just for that!

Peppa Pig (kinda…)

If anyone in the Gauteng area with children has somehow managed to miss this, Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy and their friends are at Emperor’s Palace for a few days. And, as a part of her third birthday present, Stevie and I went on a Mummy and (eldest) Daughter day to watch it.

I have been so excited for today. Since we’ve had Elia, Stevie has been very Daddy-reliant, as you’d expect, and I’ve been dying for us to do something nice, just the two of us. Stevie was excited for the Peppa Pig portion of the day – I was excited for her excitement.

Emperor’s was heaving. I have never seen so many giddy toddlers in my life. We managed to get ourselves a snack box, a George cuddly toy and a magic glow stick before taking our (fantastic) seats. Stevie had just woken up from a nap on the way, so she was taking a while to come round / but she seemed happy to be there, taking in the whole atmosphere.

The first half was fantastic. The compére, ‘Anna,’ was very charismatic and her voice was great – and the puppets were nice and realistic, exactly what someone Stevie’s age would enjoy. Everything was very interactive, and the end-of-act-one section was excellent, with giant, bouncy beach balls floated across the crowd and bubbles floating down from the roof everywhere! The kids were going crazy! Well… most of them. Hmm. Something wasn’t quite right here.

We went to the loo in the break, but before we could buy a ‘busy pack,’ we were called back in again. On the way we passed our friends, Alésia and her daughter, Nikki, who wasn’t feeling or looking great. Then we sat down. The second half started where the last one picked up, with great singing and dancing and entertainment for everyone to join in with.

But unfortunately I couldn’t really pay attention to this bit, and nor could Stevie. She cuddled into me, not wanting a drink or any of the snack pack (I had eaten the crisps already). Something wasn’t quite right here. And, unfortunately, 20 minutes before the end, I ended up with toddler vomit down my top, doing a quick shuffle out of the theatre with a very lethargic (and disappointed) little girl.

So here, my review comes to an end. Neither Stevie, nor I, knows how the show came to a close. We managed to snag ourselves a queue-free busy pack, which was great. But the fun was over, as Stevie seemed to have the bug that has taken over the school (I don’t think it’s listeriosis, no panic! She’s fine now). We quickly called Daddy to come fetch us, and she slept the whole way home, cuddling her cuddly George.

I honestly thought I was more disappointed than Stevie. But, hey ho, we had fun and she enjoyed what she saw. But she did, honestly, break my heart when she felt better later on, and said, “Mummy, I’m not sick anymore. I want to see Peppa Pig.” So, disappointment all around but she obviously enjoyed the show. I actually enjoyed the show. And, therefore, it gets top marks from us.

Peppa Pig Live is at Emperor’s Palace until the 2nd April, and tickets are still somewhat available at Computicket.

How to Grow a Tomato Plant…

Okay, so the title is slightly misleading. I actually don’t know the slightest thing about growing a tomato plant! But now, we have a perfect combination on big, beefy tomatoes and tiny, round vine tomatoes growing next to our braai…

Here’s what happened. A few months ago, I took seeds and stones from various fruits and planted them in the garden. There was no rhyme or reason for where I planted what – it was more just a bit of fun, to see what happened.

Well, needless to say, not much came of any of it. We’ll see in the next few years whether my apple or peach or plum trees grow or bear fruit – but my tomatoes are thriving!

My mum is a lot more green-fingered than I am – and she seems to think it’s the roses that have helped the vines to grow. They’re using the hardened stems to climb up, but because the roses are so well-established, so far they’re not being suffocated. We’ll see what happens there. All I know is, I’m getting some really lovely, fat tomatoes! And Stevie is very proud.

A Perfect Tuesday Morning

We’ve had a bit of a manic week and weekend. Most of it good – we had plenty of nice parties and events to go to at the weekend, plus my sister (Auntie Georgia, cheetah sister) and her man were in town, so we had lots of family time. But Cleo, our big dog, got a haematoma in her ear which has now become infected, and Stevie and Elia both decided to shout at me on Saturday – all morning – so it’s been just a bit much.

So, this morning, I woke up with the sudden realization that we have to hurry up with Elia’s passport paperwork (thank god we called to sort that out yesterday) – and this made me realise just how close I am to going back to work. Back to travelling and being away from my family.

I decided I’d get up and do the morning again this morning, to have some quality time with the two of them – and this happened…

What a way to start a Tuesday morning! We read books and watched Paw Patrol and snuggled until school time. It really cheered me up, so I thought I’d share it. Happy Tuesday, everyone!