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!

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?

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.

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.

Sprout

So any reader knows, Elia can’t handle cows’ milk proteins in my milk. This is different to a lactose intolerance (often commonly mistaken) which is found in all milks, including human, and is very rare. Cows’ milk protein sensitivity/intolerance is quite common in small babies. Mostly they grow out of it by about a year, but until then, it’s up to the breastfeeding mama not to ingest any form of cows’ milk.

So, with that in mind, my friend, Alésia, took me to Sprout cafe in Greenstone. Alésia’s 7 month old son, Thomas, has a very strong reaction to cows’ milk proteins, so she has become my guru in finding safe places to eat.

Elia and Thomas – besties!

Sprout opened fairly recently, and is a sort of vegan-health-food paradise. The majority of the menu shies away completely from animal products, adding them in if you ask for them (like in the spring rolls) or making it very clear on the menu (burgers, anyone). But it’s a very clear winner for people with sensitivities or allergies – or whose babies have the same!

Unfortunately they had run out of decaf coffee when we went (this isn’t a breastfeeding ‘thing,’ I just haven’t drank caffeine for about 5 years, since it started giving me heart palpitations) so I didn’t get to try their famous almond milk cappuccino – but I did have a lovely berry smoothie.

We had both eaten already, so decided to have something ‘small’ and go for a piece of cake. Their cakes are completely devoid of anything animal based, so I treated myself to a glorious carrot cake (seriously, it was the best) and Alésia had the chocolate. This was also amazing – you’d never know it was vegan!

The total price for both of us was R180, super reasonable. I brought a menu home to show Pete, and he wants to go now, too!

Sprout is in Stoneridge Centre next to Greenstone mall in the east of Johannesburg. They are also now on Mr. Delivery!

Every Baby is Different

I was so spoilt with Stevie. She was the world’s most perfect baby – she fed well, she slept well from day one. The only issues we had were that my own, personal sensitivity to cooked onions caused her extreme discomfort, and she never pooed. Seriously, even before the expected 6 week mark, Stevie pooed once a week – and my god did she poo. Once, she showered Pete, the wall, the door and the floor (and there may have even been spatters on Rome).

Baby Stevie – the face that launched a thousand poonamis

I appear to have been spoilt with Elia, too. This little poppet came out of the womb with the world’s most perfect latch, cluster feeding her way through the day. But she doesn’t seem to like dairy. And by that, I mean the fairly common intolerance that babies sometimes have to cows’ milk proteins, transferred through mum’s milk. In formula babies, this often results in transferring to expensive, sensitive formulas made with soy or other substitutes. In breastfed babies, this means mum has to cut all dairy out of her diet.

Little Miss No-Dairy

This isn’t the worst thing for me. In order to get my body ‘back,’ I’m going to have to look after myself, and I don’t mind admitting I need to cut out my addiction to cheese. Thankfully, that’s my only dairy weakness. But wait – what about my porridge?

Bring in the almond milk and coconut milk. Almond milk porridge (half water, half almond milk with oats. Stir in a tablespoon of real maple syrup and a teaspoon of Flavorgod Gingerbread Cookie and let simmer fill at your desired texture) or coconut milk quinoa porridge (about 2 parts coconut milk to 1 part quinoa, with cinnamon powder or Flavorgod Chocolate Donut simmering but not stirring until fluffy and light) – and you can also do chia seed puddings with either, letting the chia seeds soak in the fridge in your desired milk overnight. I like mine done in coconut milk with vanilla essence, topped with berries the morning after.

Thankfully, the possibilities are endless. Now, to just convince myself that I don’t miss my stinky cheeses…

Chia seed pudding topped with pineapple, with banana loaf and almond butter

Quinoa porridge with coconut milk, topped with bananas, blueberries and coconut bits

Banana and egg pancakes – that’s it! No more ingredients! Top with whatever you please – lemon? Yup. Real maple syrup? Yup yup.

Flavorgod ships worldwide, including South Africa, for a small fee. Head to Flavorgod.com for prices.