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!

Sum Ting Fresh

If you’re a follower on Instagram, you may have noticed my now-monthly obsession with fried chicken. A specific fried chicken, in fact, from local food-truck-turned-restaurant Sum Ting Fresh.

Started in 2012 by Hezron Louw and Andrew Leeuw as a loose idea of a food truck, they opened their restaurant in trendy Norwood in 2016.

I first tried the wonder which is their Gua Bao in early 2017 at the St. John’s Rugby Fest. I was on the lookout for something gluten free for my sister, and found these beautiful little fluffy buns of joy. A few weeks later, we went to Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein for the first time, and found them again. I was hooked. Pete took a bit longer to come around, but we soon found ourselves making excuses, on Saturday mornings, to drive into town for our fried chicken fix.

At the end of 2017, when I was 8 months pregnant, that same sister got married in Hartebeesport, the most beautiful location an hour from Johannesburg. The day after their wedding, guess who did the catering? Yup, the one and only Sum Ting Fresh popped up again. Imagine my pregnant excitement? I think I ordered 2 portions of Gua Bao.

Then, the Bedfordview Night Market came to town. On the last Friday of every month, Jeppe Quondam, a local sports centre, allows the market to take over their cricket pitch. After a couple of months, Sum Ting Fresh moved in. Well, that was us happy forever. We could have our date nights in between, at their Norwood location, and, once a month, we could sit outside in the lovely evening air and enjoy our chicken while the kids go crazy on the bouncy castles.

The Norwood cafe is now closed for renovation, until further notice. We are exceptionally thankful for the Night Market, especially as we are heading to the U.K. for the next 7 weeks. We managed to get our final Sum Ting Fresh fix for the year, last night! I wonder if it’ll tide us over long enough, until we’re back in the lovely, hot, African summer sun?

Hello, Old Friend

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? If anyone is interested in a very long story, read on. If not, there’ll be a TL;DR at the bottom for you.

Shortly after my last blog post (we never did win that World Cup, after all) I decided I was going to focus wholly on my modelling, and take a step back from the blog. All went well for a while, until I had an 8 day stint in London which, well, didn’t go quite so well. It was decided, mutually, that, since I would need to spend infinitely more time overseas than I already was doing, I would take a giant leap back from the European modelling circuit.

Why didn’t I start my blog back up then, you may ask? Well, because I’ve been working on a couple of novels, and to be quite frank this year has been a big, hard adjustment for us all. I’ll dedicate a whole post to that in the new year, once I’ve got the festive season out of the way.

You may now be wondering, why have I not changed the name of my blog? Well, I still have representation here in Soutb Africa, and over in Germany. And I still do bits and pieces, here and there. Expect a video, starring both me and Pete, to come soon, and I’ll share mine and Stevie’s full shoot and cover story for Your Family in the next few days.

TL;DR I’ve taken a step back from modelling and will be restarting my blog ASAP

Welcome back to the wonderful, chaotic world of Mumming and Modelling. Hope you enjoy it as much as last time!

PS – I chopped off my hair, by the way!

To Wean or not to Wean…

The title of this may be slightly misleading to some. The term ‘Weaning’ has different meanings, but both boil down to the same thing.

When you begin to wean, as far as I was brought up in England, it’s when you start your baby on solids. But the majority of people also seem to understand Weaning as meaning stopping breastfeeding. Both terms are actually correct – Weaning (solids) is the beginning of the end of the breastfeeding journey, no matter how far away that may be, because baby no longer relies solely on breastmilk for nutrition.

Now we’ve got that out of the way – this week we’ve started to very gently wean Elia. Weaning meaning the solids version. She meets the full readiness checklist, as suggested by KellyMom (my bible when it comes to infant feeding):

• Baby can sit up well without support.

• Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.

• Baby is ready and willing to chew.

• Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

• Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

On paper, she is 100 percent ready. Yet… she’s just not that keen. Last night, she nibbled on a strip of chicken, chewing away happily. She gobbled a piece of Swiss chard without a blink. It was lovely to watch. But this morning, and the rest of today, she’s not been that bothered. She had a nice chomp on a chicken leg bone (so much like her sister). She had great fun playing in the scrambled eggs and avo I gave her (I didn’t see any enter her mouth, but her breath had a distinctly eggy smell afterwards).But here’s the beauty of Baby Led Weaning – it really doesn’t matter. As we did win Stevie, we want Elia’s experience with food to be fun. Especially at such a young age, it’s more about her tasting her foods, playing in them and fully understanding the fun behind eating. It’s messy and filthy and the dogs definitely put on some weight when Stevie was younger, but I love it. We don’t have to rush – when she’s ready, she’ll show us. And, if she’s anything like her sister, she’ll be eating like a grown-up at 3 years old (and by that, I mean eating when she’s hungry, and declining when she’s not). No, seriously – I’ve never seen anyone that size shovel so much food into their mouths in one day. Little food monster!

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.

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.

Boredom and After School Activities

A piece of writing went viral last week on the problem with organising your toddler’s day after they’ve finished school.

Stevie’s preferred after-school activity.

And it made me think.

Right now, with Elia so small and needy, it’s easy to organise every last aspect of Stevie’s life, to keep her occupied whilst I’m busy with Elia. But what if I’m giving her too much to do? A few days ago, Pete and I were busy and she brought her Duplo brick through to the lounge and happily played with them for hours. On other days, she’ll ask to paint or play with her Play-Doh. And, yes, at times she’ll want all of my attention, and sometimes have a breakdown if she doesn’t get it – but, surely, that’s a really important part of life for her to learn?

Oh hi, Rome!

I used to think I was doing her a favour when I organised things for her to do. But, having watched her deal with her own boredom by requesting to go in the pool, or play hide and seek, or help Daddy around the house, I can see that by letting her decide what she wants to do, I’m giving her a really important responsibility to control her own fun. In effect, she’s teaching herself a valuable resource for later life. So, from now on, she can decide what she wants to do on an afternoon, if possible (but not Tuesdays – horse riding is her one requested hobby, so that’s staying). Let’s see how it goes…