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!

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…

Less-Common Pregnancy Fears

This is my second pregnancy. You’d think, because of this, I’m familiar with pregnancy safety, and keeping myself healthy and comfortable, right?

Well, mainly, you’d be right. But every pregnancy is different. Oh, I remember the heaviness at this stage, and the tiredness and the restless legs. But this baby is carrying totally differently – meaning I feel ultra heavy, so much so that I have no appetite, feeling as though my stomach is so small, nothing will fit. Trust me when I say, I did not have this problem last time (thank you, all the world’s food, for my excessive weight gain). Right now, I’m eating 6-7 small meals/large snacks a day to keep myself going. Sounds like a great diet trick – until you realise this is not good when you’re carrying an extra, precious parcel.

My current favourite place in the whole world.

But the lack of appetite I can deal with. The food poisoning I got earlier on the week? Not so much.

Nowadays, the majority of women have heard that the old-wives’-practice of taking castor oil to bring on labour is unsafe. The contractions/cramps brought on from the effects of the oil can cause major contractions (similar to being induced) and can also cause said previous parcel (the foetus) to suffer the same, releasing meconium (poo) into the water and making baby go into distress.

In a similar way, food poisoning and diarrhoea can also bring contractions along with the tummy cramps. Fun, isn’t it? There’s something I never had to deal with in my first pregnancy. Never again will I eat suspect sausages, blaming the funky taste on pregnancy sensitivity. I spoke to my doula after I first started suffering, so I felt comfortable knowing my ‘team’ were informed (my midwife and doula are mother-and-daughter-in-law). But I was warned to keep an eye on those pesky stomach cramps, and to call if I started vomiting (another fun thing – dehydration can also cause pre-term labour. Vomiting may have required a quick trip to hospital to be put on a drip).

Factor 50 loaded…

The second thing I’ve learned this week, thankfully before it was too late, is a funny fact about sunburn. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to Google this information, so go ahead.

Sunburn releases prostaglandin – one of the ‘labour’ hormones. In very extreme cases, my midwife said, extreme sunburn can cause premature labour. She herself has had 2 cases so far. Now, 2 cases in 25 years doesn’t sound so bad – but I really, really want my unmedicated home birth, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to not get this baby out before 37 weeks. No pool time (the only place I’m comfortable) without factor 50 cream. No dodgy meat. No bending over – okay, so that one’s not about keeping the baby in, just about keeping my food where it’s supposed to be!

The best way to enjoy pregnancy…

Pregnancy’s great. Some people really enjoy it. I just can’t wait to get to the baby at the end!

Gelli and Slime Baff – review

Wow – so I get sent things to review every now and then, but this is easily the best thing ever that I’ve been sent.

Zimpli Kids have two new products – Gelli Baff and Slime Baff – to entertain kids at bath time. Gelli Baff turns the water into tiny jelly particles, before you use their special salt and rinse it happily down the plug. Slime Baff turns the bath water into gunge. Then, theoretically, you just add more water to disperse – but we found scrubbing the slippery bottom of the bath with soap got rid of the last bits of goo.

So, I popped Stevie in the bath (or baff?) on Monday afternoon, armed with a bag of pink ‘Gelli’ powder. I wasn’t really expecting a lot, to be honest, but she loved it. She thought the jelly was amazing to squeeze and squish between her hands, she liked filling up her buckets and cups with it and watching it go ‘splat’ and she was also fond of coating Mummy’s knees in the stuff. We spent an entire hour in the tub with this product. It didn’t hurt her skin, it stayed jelly-like all the way through, and even I enjoyed playing with it. The colour was a very consistent pink (her favourite) and it smelled lovely. Stevie was devastated when we had to get out, and immediately asked for “more jelly.” RESULT!

Then, last night, we popped four kids in the Slime. My bath was a bit more crowded, but this also went down a treat!

The slime took a little bit longer to turn to the correct consistency, and I thought we’d have a failure, but once it got there, they were sold. Riley is the same age as Stevie, 2, whereas Jordan is almost 6 and Maggi is 8. I definitely found that the older kids preferred the slimeyness to the younger ones – Stevie spent most of the time massaging slime into Maggi’s back, and Riley just did her own thing in the tub. Maggi wanted to take slime home, and Jordan was insistent she enjoyed the slime “the most out of everyone!”

There was slight confusion, as I said, when trying to dissolve the slime. It didn’t want to dissolve!

I waited until the kids got out before I tried again, with hot water this time, and it did help – and the soap on the bottom of the bath to get rid of the scum worked. I’d recommend the leaflet maybe include that info (as it does the salt info in the Gelli leaflet).

Gelli and Slime Baff will be available at Toys ‘R’ Us in South Africa in about 2 weeks – just in time for Santa! All 3 of us mums who tried the product said we’ll be popping some in stockings for Christmas. It’s great sensory play for kids, it’s clean and easy to get rid of, they feel like they’re making a mess even when they’re not (it’s stain-free) – what’s not to love?! Something that can keep my very busy daughter happy in one place for a whole hour is good by me. Product definitely approved.

ZimpliKids.com

Baby Brain

I hold up my hands, here. I’m struggling big time with the dreaded baby brain.

In a 2014 study by the University of London, evidence showed that Baby Brain is a real thing, brought on by pregnant women automatically using the right side (the emotional side) of their brains more than their left, in order to prepare for bonding with their newborn.

I don’t care about the reason, really – all I know is I have a foggy brain and can barely remember what day it is.

Last week, I had a list in my head of three blog posts to write. I wrote one of them, and I can honestly say I’ve forgotten what the other two were!

All I can focus on is keeping Stevie happy, and this small being inside me that sometimes looks and feels like it’s trying to escape like something from Alien.

So I apologise in advance about what I imagine will be a completely erratic blog from now on.

Now, what day is it, again?

Jump Gravity

Recently, although not as recently as I thought, a new ‘trampoline park’ opened in Bedfordview.

Since Stevie was about 13 months old, every week we’ve taken a trip to Rush trampoline park in Greenstone Mall. She loves it, Pete might love it even more, and it’s great exercise for all three of us. They have toddler hour most days, where all three of us (before I started to ‘show’) could jump for less than r300. However, in the storms in October, parts of the roof of the mall collapsed on top of the trampoline park, this rendering in unusable – and no word has been released as to when we can return.

So the advertising of the newer park, at Bedford Centre, couldn’t have been timelier. We chose to pop along, after making a quick phone call, at 10am on a Tuesday morning – when Stevie doesn’t have school.

We found the place deserted. When I asked the lady behind the counter how busy it’s been since opening, she assured me that from Thursday to Sunday it’s heaving. So I suppose we were just lucky to have the place to ourselves. We were monitored by a first-aid trained supervisor, and Stevie and Pete (of course) went off to explore.

Gravity is laid out completely differently to Rush. Where Rush is a giant floor of connecting trampolines, with a separate room for basketball and balancing, Gravity’s trampolines are laid out in very specific sections: the basketball hoops are all in their own netted enclosures, the toddler area is very clearly defined and the foam activity section is along one side away from the ‘bouncy’ parts. Whilst this worked perfectly for us, while it was quiet, I wonder how well it would flow during peak periods.

My two monsters (yep, I’m including Pete in that description) enjoyed the athletic trampoline the most – basically two competition-bouncy trampolines surrounded by high, padded walls you can jump on to. If there had been more people, Pete would’ve particularly enjoyed the dodgeball section. However, unlike Rush and other trampoline parks, the rules are very clearly laid out – dodgeball must be played properly, queues must be adhered to.

We paid r240 for Pete and Stevie to bounce for one hour. The price list says children 4-7 are r110, but on querying this I was informed that “nobody assumed kids under 4 would come and bounce, so that will be rectified.” The lady in question also mentioned that they may be taking the price down further for toddlers. This does make it more expensive than Rush to bounce, but there is definitely more to do, and a designated toddler area for under-6s.

There is also a zip line and a climbing wall available at an extra charge, which we didn’t try out yesterday but will in the future.

Jump Gravity is now open at Bedford Centre, Bedfordview. For bookings call +27 61 522 3240 or email booking@jumpgravity.co.za

Their Instagram handle is @jumpgravity