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!

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…

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!

Kikki and Franki

Just under a year ago, at a random kids’ pop-up market near my house, I made the amazing discovery that is Kikki and Franki. I got chatting to Stacey, and bought some beautiful cupboard separators for presents for certain people. Well, their babies were born and they were gifted the things, and I thought nothing more of it really – until the next market when I saw Stacey again, and told her about my blog. She insisted they send me something for the new baby, and wow did they send something lovely.

Kikki and Franki make wall art and milestone blankets for babies. Not knowing what to do with Elia’s room, not knowing whether she was a girl or a boy, and knowing she wouldn’t actually sleep in here for a year or so, we were at a bit of a loss. Which is when Stacey sent me her wall decals.

Okay, here’s the honest reason it’s taken me so long to write this review – I was really worried by how bloody fiddly the decals seemed (I asked Pete to do them in the week before Elia joined us, not being able to climb a ladder, and he got very annoyed very quickly). It kind of put me off. But, of course, I found them the easiest things ever! I wish I’d done them sooner. Hey ho!

We love them, they really suit the colour we chose, way before Elia was even thought of, to paint her room. For a unisex bedroom they’re beautiful, still, and different to the usual things you see. Plus – they’re moveable! So when we eventually put Elia in her own room, we can move them to suit whatever we put in here. And how cute is the ‘Elia’ frame our next door neighbours bought us?

Baby Things – Good or a Waste?

So recently my friend Billie Brown, of Young London Mum, asked me for my list of what’s good, and what’s not-so-good, to buy for baby. I thought I’d post my recommendations here – and add a couple more, of course!

1. Top 5 Buys

– a stretchy baby wrap. I now have two that I interchange. I started with a Jojo Maman Bebe wrap with Stevie, and now with Elia I primarily use a Mona Lisa Mamas wrap (a homegrown South African company). You can also make your own using t-shirt fabric!

– a baby bath seat. We bought one for Stevie originally in the UK, and we bought another one for her when we loved to SA. We now also use it for Elia- babies are slippery to hold in the bath, and much as it sounds lovely to bathe with them all the time, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

– a good bouncer/rocker. Brand really doesn’t matter (although we love our Tiny Love rocker), just find one you like and it’ll prove invaluable – so handy for when you need that 5 mins just to have a quick shower or make a cup of tea.

-a great quality, long-wearing travel system. We have the iCandy Peach, which we bought before Stevie was born. We did a LOT of research into different brands, and we liked the giant wheels and the slightly higher vantage point of the seat. Besides missing a bar (I think it’s still in my cousin’s car) it’s lasted us well for 3 years! It fits either a Maxi Cosi or BeSafe car seat, then has the pram attachment and the buggy. Stevie still uses the buggy bit, and Elia has taken over using the car seat and pram. Special shout out to the BeSafe car seat, which has also lasted 3 years!

Mimijumi bottles. Essential for a breastfeeding mum with a boob monster! The shape mimics that of a breast and baby needs to suck to get out milk, thus making it the closest bottle to a boob. Weirdly, it even looks like a slightly odd nipple! Every other bottle was useless for us – Stevie refused anything but the real thing until this bottle came along. It’s pricey, but totally worth it.

– a baby nest. We stupidly left our Sleepyhead sleep pod in storage in the UK, but we found a new one! A must for any mum, it can create a safe co-sleeping space (nice, firm walls) or a safe space where they still feel cocooned inside their cot.

2. Useless things

– Tommee Tippee breast pump. Sorry to the makers of this breastpump, but if I’d have known how long I’d be feeding for (nearly 3 years now) and how much expressing would have to happen per trip (hi, model who looks like a dairy cow in designer clobber) I’d have gone straight for the big guns in the form of the Medela Swing and saved myself a load of hassle. Frugal doesn’t always mean sensible!

The joys of pumping and travelling – this is on a 16-hour direct flight on the way back from Mexico

– Moses basket. Thankfully we didn’t invest in one, but we know lots of people who did and who weren’t happy. It’s cumbersome to move with one hand (whilst holding baby) and just gets in the way – and baby grows out of it so quickly, it just seems a waste of space.

– breastfeeding pillows. I used one with Stevie, but I haven’t needed one at all with Elia – I’ve realised far too late that any cushion will do the same job!

– dresses for girls and fussy clothes for boys, in the 0-6 month size category. Super cute but totally uncomfortable and impractical! Our girls have been stuck in them for photos, but for everyday wear, stick to a cute baby grow or trouser/top combo.

– expensive baby clothes. Okay, so this one is kind of a given – but it’s still true. Babies wear their clothes for maximum 3-4 months, and I guarantee that they’ll poo/puke in the most expensive item you own. My MIL bought a beautiful Petit Bateau baby grow for Stevie, white velvet with a Peter Pan collar. So pretty, but the Cursed Onesie. If we ever needed her to have a poonami, we’d pop her in that. Rather stick to Asda/Tesco or Morrisons clothes in the beginning – they wash nicely and you won’t get upset if your child explodes in them!

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