Friday, 30 September 2016

Currently... September

It is currently the end of the school holidays. We've had the best time just chilling out in Melbourne, a nice change from our usual travel-packed holidays. I can't believe it's the end of September already, which means that Ella will be 15 months old tomorrow. Here's what we've been up to this month:

Reading: I'm in the middle of two books at the moment. I find I can read two books at a time as long as they are not both fiction. My non-fiction book I mentioned in my last post, called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. It's a look at the impact of children on parents, and the title is a good description of what it can sometimes feel like to be a parent: a lot of joyful moments, but not a lot of fun. I'm only about a quarter of the way through but I'd recommend it for any parents out there, regardless of how old your children are.

The fiction book I'm reading is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I reserved this from the library about four months ago, and I was 270th on the waiting list. So, it's a popular book. When I finally got notified that it was my turn to borrow the book, I almost gave it right back when I saw the size of it. At over 700 pages I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it by the time my three week loan is up. However, I am SO GLAD I did start reading it. It is utterly gripping (but devastating) and I can't put it down at night, even as my eyelids are closing while I try and squeeze in one more page. 

Watching: We are about halfway through Australian Survivor and I'm loving it, but shhhhh don't tell anyone! Andy always makes fun of me for watching it, but when he actually pays attention I can tell he is secretly hooked as well. Also loving Master of None on Netflix, and Season 2 of Narcos. Oh and for the first time I watched the American presidential debate. SO MANY THINGS that could be said about this. I don't even know where to start. I won't bother. Personally, I find it hard to understand how anyone can think that Donald Trump is fit to run a country.

Listening to: A couple of new podcasts (for me): Planet Money and This American Life from NPR, both are ace. Also I've started listening to Optimal Finance Daily and Optimal Living Daily. Both follow the same format, which is the reading of a popular blog on personal finance/life - it's a good way to get a daily dose of current blog posts without having to find them yourself. Each episode is less than 10 minutes long as well, so very manageable.

Wearing: Less leggings, more jeans/real people's clothes. I figured that the "new mom" excuse of always wearing leggings/yoga pants is not valid for more then a year after giving birth. Don't get me wrong, I still love a bit of activewear, especially if I'm not actually going anywhere beyond Woolworths. But I've made a bit more of an effort to wear jeans when going out lately, and it does make me feel more put together. 

Planning: Our move next month. Yes, we are moving AGAIN. This will be our fourth, and hopefully last, rental in Melbourne. We are moving a few km further north, to Brunswick East. We wanted a 3 bed, 2 bath house as the plan is to get an au pair to help with childcare next year. (We're also hoping that we will have some extended visits from the grandparents as well!) We move in two weeks time, so lots to be done by then. The good thing about the moving is that it forces a clear out of our "stuff" and we've already got rid of loads, either via gumtree, the charity shop, or throwing things out. It always feels so cleansing when you have a good clear out!

Cooking: Beans! For the first time I cooked dried black beans instead of just buying them in a can (which can be hard to find in Australia). I used this recipe, and Ella loved them! With them I made a sweet potato/quinoa/avocado mix with a coriander lime dressing, and also used them to just make rice and bean tacos. Yum! This is part of my effort to use up lots of our food from the pantry before our move.

Also, I bought the new One Handed Cooks cookbook. One Handed Cooks is a website with baby/toddler friendly recipes that are good for the whole family. Loving the recipes I have made so far. From their website my favourite thing to make Ella is these Turkey Broccoli nuggets. You can put lots of veggies in these, they have a lot of protein, and they are a great "on-the-go" food. Perfect!

Loving: School holidays. They really are the best. We've sent Ella to daycare on her regular days which has given Andy and I some time alone together, which is very rare for us as expat parents. It's been so great.

Hating: Hmmmm, I can't think of anything for this one. I guess that's a good thing?!

Working on: Gratitude. I went to a school leader's dinner earlier in the month and saw Hugh van Cuylenburg from The Resilience Project speak. It was one of the best talks I've been to in a long time, and an excellent reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. I've re-ignited my gratitude joural, writing about three things that I'm grateful for/made me happy each day. I've even got Andy on board this past week.  

Feeling: Sad about our move, as I love our area. I'm especially going to miss my yoga studio, my mother's group, and our neighbours. I do wish we could afford to stay in this area, but 3 bed/2 bath houses are hard to come by so close to the city, and cost about $800/week - yikes!

Looking forward to: Ella's first steps. She is so, so close. 

Grateful for: My yoga studio, which, as mentioned I will really miss. But it has really got me much more interested and dedicated to my yoga practice, which I will hopefully continue once we move.

Pic of the Month: A rare day out, just the two of us!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The highs and lows

I'm reading this book at the moment called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, which is all about the impact having children has on their parents. One of the parts that has stuck in my mind is the research findings of the happiness of parents vs. non-parents. The author writes for New York magazine, and wrote a story examining studies that showed that parents are no happier than non-parents, and in some cases are actually a lot less happy. That sounds pretty negative, but when digging deeper the research shows that parents tend to experience more highs, as well as more lows, than non-parents. Raising children, it would seem, is a very "high cost/high reward" activity. A more positive finding from the research is that parents report greater feelings of meaning and reward in their lives than non-parents, so I guess it's not all bad news for us! Last weekend I really felt like I could relate to this research, as I was reminded of how quickly moods and feelings can change when you have a child.

Friday night Andy and I stayed in, ordered pizza and watch a few episodes of Narcos on Netflix. Season 2 is pretty epic, even more so than season 1. We both in a great mood as Friday was the last day of term, so we had a whole two weeks of school holidays to look forward to. We had an early night, and woke on Saturday at 5:30am, with the joyful realisation that all three of us had slept through the night. There is nothing like waking up to realise that you have been asleep for a whole EIGHT HOURS. It is pretty much the best thing ever. It is becoming more of a regular thing for us as well, which is wonderful. We enjoyed coffees together in the early morning before Ella woke, and then did our usual yoga/swimming routine, before coming home and putting Ella down for her nap. Domestic bliss.

That afternoon we joined some friends who had organized a pub crawl in the Collingwood and Fitzroy area, which is conveniently walking distance for us. A pub crawl sounds more like something from our pre-baby lives, but it started at noon and at a pub within walking distance of our house, so we were able to both go and take Ella with us. Our good friends Chris and Ness were there with their 5 month old as well, so it was great to catch up with them and have another baby around.

The first pub we went to was The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. We had been there about an hour when Ella started to get a bit fussy. Ness and I decided to take the babies for a walk to see if they would have a little nap. Now, I actually don't mind that we went for a walk, it was nice to have time to catch up with Ness, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were near Gelato Messina, which is one of my favourite Melbourne treats, so naturally we stopped in to get a scoop of gelato. And I didn't even really think anything of it at the time. However, on reflection, it is such a cliché that it was the mums that left the pub to take the babies for a walk. I can pretty confidently say that no one would have expected Chris or Andy to do this, nor did either of them offer. Also, I'd bet good money that if they had been the ones to take the babies on a walk, at least one person would comment on how lucky we were to have such helpful husbands, or there would be some mention of "daddy daycare". I'm pretty sure no one told Andy and Chris how lucky they were to be the ones that got to stay at the pub and socialise. It's annoying, not because I mind going on a walk, but more that it was expected that I would be the one to go.

Anyway, I don't want my little rant to overshadow the fact that it was a really lovely afternoon, and besides a little bit of fussiness when she was tired, Ella was a perfect little lady, very cute and sociable with everyone.

Soon after Ness and I arrived back with the babies everyone headed off to the next pub in Fitzroy, the Marquis of Lorne. Ness headed home her little one while Ella and I stayed about another hour before I took her home. (Again, dads stayed out, mums went home with the baby. Sigh.) Ella and I got in around 6pm, did the bed/bath/bottle/book night routine and Ella fell asleep easily around 7pm. I made myself some fajitas for dinner, had a glass of wine, and settled in to watch Master of None on Netflix. I was feeling pretty content.

Helping daddy play ping pong
At about 10pm, just as I was getting ready for bed, Ella woke up. This is an unusual time for her to wake up - she does sometimes wake once in the night for a bit of water around 2-3am. I gave her some water and she went back to sleep quite easily, and I got into bed. I've got into the habit of writing three good things that happened each day before going to sleep, in order to try and focus more on the positives that happen in my life. As I reflected on my day I noted how lovely it had been and how happy I was feeling with life in general.

I heard Andy get in around 11:30pm, and again Ella woke up. Andy dealt with it this time, and I stayed in bed pretending to sleep. Pretending to sleep is one of the skills both Andy and I have perfected since having Ella. This is a vital skill for all new parents. Otherwise, you will end up being the one constantly getting up to check on the baby. 

Ella woke again at 1am, and then 2am. Andy, having had a few more drinks than usual, did not have to pretend to sleep through her cries this time. Each time I got up and gave her some water and then rocked her until she fell back asleep. By this time I knew something was up, this was not a normal night of sleep for her. When she woke again at 2:30am I got up for the third time and discovered she had a fever. I gave her some Panadol and tried putting her back in bed but she wasn't having any of it. My darling husband was still fast asleep, snoring peacefully. It's hard to describe the intense rage you can feel towards your partner when they are sleeping through multiple night wakings, especially when they've just had a fun night out with friends. Now feeling both stressed and annoyed, I left Ella in her cot to tell Andy it was his turn. I'd like to think I sweetly whispered this request, but it's more likely that it came out as a hiss. All I got was a groan in response so I left to get Ella. This time I took her out into the living room. From past experience I know that at this point it's normally better for everyone to just let Ella play for a little while rather than try and force her to sleep in her room. She was clearly tired but not feeling well. To his credit Andy did get up to try and help a bit later. Once he did the rage monster inside me subsided, as now that we were both up it felt like we were on the same team, working together to try and calm Ella down. Eventually we got her to sleep in our bed at about 4am, both of us falling asleep shortly after.

I woke groggily to her cries and was dismayed to see that it was still dark outside. A quick check of my phone confirmed my fears... it was only 5am. Noooooo! We tried to resettle her in our bed but it was no use. We both got up with Ella and tried to calm her down. About half an hour later Andy looked at me (pathetically) and was like "I need to go back to bed". Welcome back, rage monster! Not wanting to upset Ella I took a deep breath and just said ok. It was definitely not ok, and I had a lot of irrational, sleep deprived fantasies of exactly how I would tell him it was not ok in the morning!

Finally, at about 6:30am, Ella fell asleep with me on the sofa. I was exhausted but still able to appreciate how lovely it was to see her finally asleep, my little angel snuggled up next to me. She stirred an hour later and I took her into her room and layed with her in the spare bed we have in there. She snuggled into me again and fell fast asleep. I was uncomfortable and unable to sleep much, but relieved that she at least was getting some rest. 

We woke at 10:30am. Andy came in to the room and sheepishly apologised. I was still a bit angry, but things never seem as bad in the morning. He then had to leave to coach soccer for the afternoon, and the rage monster briefly bubbled up again, although I was too tired to really let it take over. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that the soccer season is nearly over! Before Andy left he told me he'd look after Ella once he got home and I should book in to do something for myself that afternoon. "Like what?" I thought bitterly. But then I remembered there was a Yoga Nidra workshop at my yoga studio that afternoon at 4pm. Perfect!

The morning/afternoon was actually not too bad considering how tired I was. Ella went down for a nap at 1pm for two hours, so I had a chance to get a shower, make a cup of tea, and start this post, reflecting on how my mood and feelings had done a complete 180 in the past 12 hours. It was a perfect example of how things can change so drastically, and how not sleeping really amplifies any negative feelings you have. 

Andy got home from soccer just as Ella was waking from her nap. I unapologetically told Andy I was going to the yoga workshop. I had never done Yoga Nidra before, nor did I really have any idea of what to expect. But this workshop could not have been more perfectly timed following the night I'd just had. Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation practice. It is a lying down guided meditation, where you consciously focus on different parts of your body in order to relax them. It was a 90 minute workshop, and at the start I thought that seemed like a really long time, and that I would probably fall asleep (you are encouraged throughout to stay awake). However the time seemed to fly by. Before I knew it we were told the practice was finished. I managed to not fall asleep (yay), and I felt SO relaxed and rejuvenated. It was the perfect antidote for my negative mood and tiredness, and I walked home feeling much lighter. I've realized lately that I tend to hold a lot of tension in my jaw, and for the first time I felt like it was fully released.

When I got home Andy and Ella had been on a walk to see the animals, and the household was peaceful again. We put Ella to bed at 7pm and started cooking dinner, thinking we'd be able to finally relax together... except our darling Ella had other ideas! We had a hard time getting her to bed, and Andy ended up cuddling her on the sofa while watching soccer. Thankfully he sent me to bed, where I promptly fell into a deep sleep. Ella fell asleep around 10pm, which is ver unlike her, so she was obviously still not feeling well. I blame her teeth... a new one seems to pop up almost weekly. Luckily we didn't have to worry about getting up for work the next day.

Finishing up this post now, nearly a week later, it's hard to even remember what that sleepless night felt like. Ella has been pretty good since then - we're not sure what it was, as it is so hard to figure this stuff out with toddler whose only way of communicating that something is wrong is to cry. However I definitely remember that I felt a lot of highs, and a lot lows, as a parent last weekend... I'm sure not for the last time!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Babyology Box

My parents gave me the coolest gift for my birthday this year: A one year subscription for Babyology Boxes. The boxes are delivered every three months and are full of surprises for both me and Ella. I just received my second box last week, here's what was inside:

For Mummy:

1. A black Bodypeace Bamboo scarf. This scarf is SO soft and in a super practical colour for me. Love it!

2. Burt's Bees Intense Hydration treatment mask. A perfect product for me as I've got dry skin. I tried it out while Ella was having her bath the other night. You leave the mask on for 5-10 minutes which is a good length for using while she is in the bath, but I think she was a bit weirded out by it, and maybe a little scared too! She seemed relieved that her normal mummy was back when I wiped it off. My skin felt nice and soft after using it, so I'll be adding it to my (non-existent) skin care routine 1-2 times a week, as recommended.

3. Table of Plenty dark chocolate rice cakes. Yum. A good snack to take on our morning walks together. 

4. A voucher for You could order any A4 print valued at $20, so I got one that has Ella's name and the origin/meaning of her name. I had no idea what that was, but after consulting google I've learned it is of English origin and usually short for Ellen or Eleanor. It can mean "beautiful fairy woman" (lol) or "light". We'll see what the printing company go for when the print arrives! 

5. Wooden Feather keychain. Bit random but I've put it on my keyring anyway as I don't have a keychain and now look like less of a janitor with my keys.

For Baby:

1. Emotion & Kids muslin wrap. This is beautiful but will be put away for baby #2, as we don't really need muslin wraps anymore (we used them heaps in the first few months of Ella's life though).

2. Babylove diaper. Diapers are useful.

3. Organic Bubs mango, peach & banana fruit purée pouch. Perfect for when we are out and about. I have to hide these from Ella now as once she sees one she wants it (and will let you know she wants it!)

4. Owl wall sticker. This comes with a voucher for 20% off at The Wall Sticker Company, which is a great way to decorate a room if you are renting, as the stickers peel off very easily. We stuck this one up in the bathroom and Ella loves it, and says "whooo whooo" now when she sees it which is cute.

5. Johnson's Baby Bedtime Oil. Used after the bath during her baby massage. She is so spoiled!

6. "Oh the places you'll go!" print. We got a similar style print in the last box (which says "the snuggle is real") so we really should get a few frames and put them up in Ella's room. I love this Dr. Suess book. There are so many good messages for both children and adults in it about having a positive attitude and learning from life's challenges. This is a perfect quote for my little girl's room.

And that's it! There was a bit less in this box than the one I received in June, but I'd have to say pretty much everything in it is quality and will get some use. I love the surprise I get each time a box is delivered and it is nice to get a few pampering gifts for me that I probably wouldn't buy myself. (Last month there was hair serum and hair balm, and face lotion from the body shop). It would make a great gift for ideas for any new mum. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Weekends with a 14-month old

I have had a super crazy work week, meaning that this post that I started last weekend has had to wait until today, Friday, to finish. Last week marked the first day of spring here in Australia, as well as Ella's 14-months month birthday. Although I guess technically its not really a birthday, but you know what I mean. 14 months! How has that happened?! This is such a cliché, but time is flying with her now. My baby is not a baby anymore, but a toddler. Crazy. 

At the moment I don't work on Fridays, so Ella and I get to have a three-day weekend together. Last Friday morning started in our usual way. Ella woke up around 6:30am, just in time to see Andy off to work. Mornings are one of my favourite times of the day with Ella. She has a bottle of warmed milk upon waking and we cuddle on the sofa while she drinks it. I know that she is probably getting too old to be still drinking from a bottle, according to my Maternal Health Nurse and the internet, but I love this quiet time we have together and I think she does too. I'm really not into forcing Ella to do things just because she has hit a certain age and that is what she is "supposed to" do, so we will cut out this bottle when we are both good and ready! Shortly after that we ate some breakfast, porridge with blueberries, while chatting on FaceTime with my parents. My original plan was to take Ella into the city that afternoon, after her morning nap, to run a few errands including picking up a Father's Day gift for Andy. Ella obviously had other plans though, and refused to go down for her nap. Lately she's been more difficult to get to sleep during the day, which is unusual for her. I think she is going through some major teething pains. Every time I look in her mouth a new tooth seems to be popping through! So instead of spending ages trying to get her to nap in her cot, I decided I would just take her on a long walk into the city. Walks are the best recipe for a cranky, overtired baby. Of course, she fell asleep within minutes of leaving the house, it was a nice day, and I was able to listen to a podcast for the 50 minute journey, so it was all good in the end. 

She woke just as we were getting to the main shopping area around Bourke St. Our first stop was at a parents room inside the Emporium shopping centre so that I could give Ella some lunch. Parent's Rooms are the greatest thing ever, and this one is pretty nice. There were microwaves to heat up her lunch in and a few toys, like the one pictured below:
Playing in the Emporium Parent's Room
After lunch we went to Myer to pick up a Andy's present, and then headed over to the State Library, where I had read about a Play Pod inside that was good for crawling babies. The Play Pod is for children under 8, and is set up in a section of the Courtyard in the State Library. There are some bean bags and reading areas, arts and craft tables, and some random toys. It is a nice big space for a baby to crawl around and explore as well. There is a children book theme that changes every few months, at the moment it is "Mr Chicken arriva a Roma", so the theme was ancient Rome. I thought the whole thing was a bit average but Ella seemed very amused and we stayed there for AGES. I think my standards and Ella's standards for what is fun are very different. By the time we left it was time for her to have another nap so I decided to walk back home instead of taking the train. I was very impressed with myself for all the walking I did that day, and needless to say I was pretty tired by the time we got home!

Play Pod, State Library

Favourite activity: dropping pencil crayons on the floor.
Andy was able to leave work nice and early and was home in time for me to go to Yoga at 5:30pm. That class is my absolute favourite, it's a combination of slow flow and Yin yoga. I got home so centred and relaxed, it was the perfect way to end a week. When I got home Andy had already put Ella to bed. We ordered takeaway pizzas, opened a bottle of red, and rented a movie (Steve Jobs, great film). Bliss! And to top it all off, we went to bed and woke at 5:15am to discover that all three of us had slept through the night. Amazing. Andy and I felt so well rested that we just got up at that time, and enjoyed a coffee and the morning news together before Ella woke.

Saturday mornings we have a pretty set routine where I go to yoga at 8am, and then we take Ella to her swimming lessons. Swimming is a very tiring activity for a baby, so once we got home Ella went down for her nap. While she was napping Andy and I contacted a guy on Gumtree who was selling his Tokyobike. It's the male version of the bike I bought in April and we were planning on getting one for Andy in place of his road bike he just sold. We've both moved on to bikes that will be good for family friendly bike rides. Anyway, it was a definite score to find the bike we wanted in Andy's size on Gumtree for about half the price, so we arranged to go and have a look at the bike later that day. We had to travel to the west side of the city for the bike, so we thought we'd make a day of going out west, and arranged to visit friends that live in Williamstown.

On the way down we stopped at a Happy River Café in Footscray. This place has picnic blankets and toys on their big front lawn, so a perfect place to take Ella. We both had sandwiches, which were pretty average, but reasonably priced. However Ella loved it there, and at this stage in our lives I will choose average food at a kid-friendly place over a hip place with amazing food if we have Ella with us, as it is a much more enjoyable experience overall. 

After lunch we hung out on the beach in Williamstown with friends who have a daughter called Millie that is a few months older than Ella. They were kept pretty entertained by a few other kids who were on the beach and played with them. It's so nice that Ella is at an age where she can start to "play" with other kids.

After the beach we went to a nearby park. Ella was having fun until about the last half hour when she started to crack it. We thought she was probably tired, but she didn't sleep the whole way home (it was not a fun car ride), and then when we did finally get home Ella fell fast asleep on Andy's chest, which never really happens anymore. It turns out that she was at the start of a cold, poor thing. We'd had a good 6-8 weeks without any illness for Ella, so our luck was bound to run out at some point! Oh and there was good news about the bike: It was in great condition so Andy arranged to go and pick it up the next day (we didn't have room in the car to take it right away).

Williamstown Beach

Playing at the park in Williamstown
Sunday started out pretty "blah" for me (and Ella). Andy coaches soccer every Sunday, so I was left alone with my sick baby. She was hard work for a while, and I was very much looking forward to Andy getting home. When she is sick she is very clingy, so it is hard to get anything done, however I did manage to get pulled pork going in the slow cooker, which I was planning for our dinner. When Andy got back we all went for a walk down the Yarra River and over to Abbotsford Convent. The convent was buzzing, with a jazz band playing outside the bakery. We sat down with Ella to watch the band and eat some lunch, and just like that everything was ok again. 

That night Charlotte and Adam came over to show us their pictures from their trip to Uluru. It looked pretty spectacular and they both raved about their trip. I hope we are able to make it there before we leave Australia! I know my dad really wants to go so maybe we can plan to go the next time they are in Aus. We had a good night catching up with them, and the pulled pork turned our really well (reciepe here). 

Listening to jazz at Abbotsford Convent
Young lambs at Collingwood Children's Farm
And that was our weekend! It was pretty good overall, and I'm looking forward to the next one, starting... now!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Currently... August

I'm currently at home, waiting for a pot of pasta to boil so I can eat dinner. Andy is coaching soccer and Ella has just gone to bed. I'm exhausted but determined to get this post out tonight as it is the last day of August! I'd love a glass of wine to sip while I type but I know that it will probably mean I won't sleep as well... but a glass of wine would be so gooooood right now. No... I must resist.

ReadingThrive by Arianna Huffington, who is the founder of The Huffington Post. She puts forward the argument that we need to rethink what it means to be successful. These days money and power seem to equate to success, but these things on their own don't really lead people to having a happy and fulfilled life. I am enjoying the book, and am already on board with a lot of her ideas and suggestions, such as incorporating meditation and yoga practise into your life. She also advocates for prioritising sleep which I totally agree with. 9:30pm bedtimes are a regular occurrence in this house! I also read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr last month. I absolutely loved it. By far the best fiction book I've read in a long time. It's set in during the lead up to, and in, World War II, but doesn't focus on the Holocaust, which is a nice change from a lot of books I've read set during that time. It follows a young French girl the occupied town of Saint Malo, and a German boy who ends up in the SS. Beautifully written, heartbreaking and uplifting in equal parts. I cannot recommend it enough.

Watching: A few different things, although nothing I'm totally hooked on yet. I finally finished all four seasons of House of Cards, which has left a hole in my TV viewing life. I've started a few new Netflix series but nothing is really captivating both me and Andy. I'm enjoying Last Chance U, which is a documentary series about College football in Mississippi. I watched about half an episode of Flaked, developed by and starring Will Arnett from Arrested Development. I loved Arrested Development so was looking forward to this, but it is pretty terrible. Disappointing, and unusual for a Netflix produced show. I started Stranger Things with Andy but 5 minutes in he declared he wasn't watching it, so I might save that one for when I'm home on my own. Ditto for Master of None, I thought it was funny but Andy is not into it. My next try will be Marcella, which is a crime drama so will hopefully appeal to both of us. Oh and my guilty pleasure at the moment is Australian Survivor. It's just like the American version except the winner only gets half a million dollars here in Aus, and of course, no Jeff Probst. I love Jeff Probst, and watching this reminds me of being at Uni. Survivor was on on Thursday nights, which was the same night I worked at a local bar until 2am. After the obligatory drink with my work mates after we had cleaned everything up, I would come home and watch the latest episode of Survivor which I had taped. (On VHS! I'm so old!) Then I would go to class at 8am. I was so much more hard core when I was at uni then I am now. When my mom was here Andy and I went to the movies together for the first time since Ella was born, and to my surprise he suggested going to see Bad Moms. He normally wouldn't choose a comedy, and certainly not one that you would peg as a chick flick. I hadn't heard a lot about it, I am very out of the loop when it comes to new movie releases, and wasn't expecting much. However I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of laugh out loud moments, and of course being new parents it was very relatable to both of us. Andy also thought it was funny, so not just a film to go see with your girlfriends (although Andy may have been the only male in the movie theatre).

Feeling: Much better now that I've started taking iron supplements. I had some blood tests a few weeks ago that I'd been meaning to get done for months. Some post-natal check ups. Anyway turns out I'm iron deficient. I have to eat more red meat along with the supplement which I think I will struggle to do, as we really only have red meat once a week at the moment. But so far the supplement seems to be working as I feel a lot less tired this week. Could be mind over matter, but whatever works I guess!

Cooking: All of our own meals now that my mom has left and I've cancelled Hello Fresh for the time being. I'm trying to make better use of my slow cooker, especially on my days off. It's so nice to do a bit of prep in the afternoon and then just let dinner cook away, and not have to do anything once we've put Ella to bed. This Rogan Josh Curry was pretty yummy as was this Beef Ragu. I've also turned back to my Jamie Oliver cookbooks which have been sadly neglected over the past year. I tried his "30-minute" cauliflower macaroni the other night and it was delicious. Andy helped himself to not just seconds, but thirds, and Ella enjoyed leftovers the next day for lunch. Of course, it took me way longer than 30 minutes to do (it was more like 45-50 minutes) but I let go of expecting to actually cook any of those meals in half an hour a long time ago!

Enjoying: Getting back on my bike. Now that winter is nearly over and the mornings are much lighter I've started riding my bike to work again. It's such a good way to start and finish my day and get in some exercise. Not to mention I save $8 in train fare each day that I ride. We are looking into getting a bike seat for Ella, this one is my personal favourite, mainly because of the design, but it also has very good reviews. Then we can go on family bike rides on the weekends, I can't wait!

Hating: The start of the Premier League season, along with this new TV box Andy got from Optus that gives us some special sports channels. So. Much. Soccer. On. My. TV. Argh!!

Looking forward to: Summer! I know, I know, it's still technically winter. But it does feel like summer is just around the corner. After our trip to Noosa and Ella loving the beach I can't wait to be able to take her there more often this year. 

Learning: To not over-schedule myself, slow down, and enjoy the little things in life. 

Grateful for: Rice! I nearly ruined my brand new iPhone by leaving it in the pocket of my sweater, which I then threw in the washing machine. Such an idiot. I realised a few minutes later, stopped the machine and fished it out, promptly drying it off and putting it in a bag of rice. I left it there for three days (after reading various posts on the Internet about saving a wet iPhone) and miraculously it seems to work fine... for now. This wouldn't be so embarrassing, except this phone was replacing my last phone which I ruined when my full water bottle leaked in my bag. I didn't do the rice thing that time, so I guess at least this time I can say I've learned something new?! I'm blaming baby brain. That's still a valid excuse when your child is 14 months old, right?

Pic of the Month: I love this picture of Ella and I in Noosa, taken by my mom. Ella had just woken from a nap while my mom and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the sunshine. Happy times! 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Nannie's Visit

Ella's Nannie, (my mom) came to visit us for the first three weeks of August, hence the lack of activity on the blog. I can't believe how quickly three weeks passed us by, and that her visit is already over. It was so great having my mom here. She was a big help around the house, not just with things like cooking and doing our laundry (which I already feel like I'm behind with since she left!) but she also gave Andy and I the opportunity to go out a few times together, which we rarely get to do since Ella was born. However, by far the best thing about her being here was seeing her relationship with Ella develop even further.

We saw my parents in London in July, so it was actually only three weeks later when my mom arrived in Melbourne. Ella and I met her at the airport and Ella gave her the biggest smile and cuddled right in when my mom picked her up. She doesn't normally give out cuddles when you pick her up, so to see her lie her head on my mom's shoulder with a big smile on her face really melted my heart. In fact someone else at the airport commented on how beautiful the moment was. Ella definitely recognised her Nannie, and knows that she is someone special who cares about her!

It was a warm, sunny winter's day, so once my mom had freshened up after her 24 hours of travel we headed over to Abbotsford Convent to meet Charlotte and Adam for a glass of wine. Andy was coaching football but joined us once he was finished, and then we all headed back to ours for an impromptu BBQ.

That week on my first day off we walked to Birdie Num Nums in Carlton, a café with a sand pit and play area outside. I'd read about it in some article or another about good cafés for kids. It had rained earlier in the week so the sand was still wet, and I thought that the toys were in pretty rough shape, but Ella didn't seem to mind. She kept herself busy while my mom and I drank Chai lattés and shared a (very average) piece of carrot cake. I really love the idea of a play area in a café but it was a fair distance for us to get to (about a 45-50 minute walk) so I'm not sure I'd make the trek again without a car.

Birdie Num Nums play area

Walking home through Edinburgh Gardens
On my second day off we took Ella to the zoo for the first time. I purchased a membership which is about $90. You can go to the Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary, and the Weribee Open Range Zoo as many times as you want in a year. The coolest bit of the zoo for us was the walk-through Lemur Island exhibit. It is totally open and you just walk amongst the lemurs as they run and jump around you. The exhibits that were the best for Ella were ones where the animals were behind glass. As she can't walk or stand on her own yet, she could look and lean on the glass at the animals without having to be held by us or in her pram. I think the zoo will be a bit more enjoyable for her once she is walking, as she didn't want to stay in her pram all afternoon but we couldn't really let her just crawl wherever she wanted. The best part of the day for mom and I was when she took a nap in her pram and we had lunch, complete with mulled wine and then scones and tea for dessert!

Lemur island
Ella loved petting this stuffed lion in the zoo gift shop!
The Friday of that week my mom stayed in with Ella so that Andy and I could have a date night. We met up with Charlotte and Adam in the city for dinner at Chin Chin. Andy and I had never been there, which is poor form from us. It's one of Melbourne's top restaurants and we have been here for nearly four years! They don't take bookings so you have to get there early, put your name down, and then go for drinks until they call you. We were quoted about a 2.5 hour wait, which was fine as we had a baby-sitter at home, so no worries! Charlotte and Adam took us to a few different bars for some very Melbourne cocktails. Dinner was incredibly yummy. We all went for the "feed me" option which was about $70 each, and they just bring you a range of their top dishes, including dessert. It was SUCH a good night. Going out and feeling like a normal adult was a big treat. You could definitely spot the parents at our table as by midnight when we finished Andy and I were struggling to stay awake, which I don't think was the case for Charlotte and Adam!

The second week we went to Noosa which I wrote about in my last post. Our last week together we stayed pretty local. The weather was nice so Ella had lots of walks and trips to the park with my mom while Andy and I were at work. In the three weeks my mom was here Ella seemed to grow up so much, you could pretty much see changes every day. She is a very confident climber now, and can pull herself up and stand, although she is still hesitant to try and take any steps. She's also started repeating things we say, and when you ask her what a duck says, she replies "kack kack kack" which is super cute. 

It was so special to have my mom visit, and like every time we are together it went by much too quickly. We said a tearful goodbye on Saturday morning, and now the countdown until the next visit is on. Andy, Ella and I are back to our little family of three, forever contemplating when will be the best time to move to Canada, so that our little girl can grow up with her extended family around her (and her English family a much closer plane ride away). It does not help that Melbourne is such a cool city (the most liveable city in the world, for the sixth year in a row), we have good jobs, and feel fairly settled here now. But does that all matter when you don't have your family around you? That's the question we seem to never have an answer to! 

Fun times at our local park
Lots of fun climbing in and out of this tunnel, while Nannie works out how to use her phone!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Noosa with Nannie

I've been a bit slack on the blog in the last month. I've actually notice that this is a pattern with me. Looking back on the past three years I always go through a blog drought in the winter. It must be the dark nights that make me want to just switch off and watch TV or read rather than try and write, which I find quite challenging. On top of that we've been very busy with Nannie (my mom) who visited us for the past three weeks. Sadly we said goodbye to her yesterday morning, but we had a lot of fun while she was here. The highlight (besides just seeing Ella and my mom continue to form their special relationship) was having a three day "girls weekend" in Noosa last week.

Ella, my mom and I headed up last Thursday morning, staying in the Nautilus Resort, located pretty much in the middle of Noosa Heads and Noosaville. This was my second visit to Noosa, Andy and I holidayed here in September 2013 and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately Andy could not join us this time as he had to work. I am very lucky at the moment being part-time and can be fairly flexible with the days I work, so could rearrange that week to have my two days off on a Thursday and Friday to take a long weekend.

We flew with Virgin Australia were lucky to have an extra seat in our row of three, giving Ella lots of space to crawl around. She was pretty good on the flight, which was just over two hours. That's actually a pretty short flight for our jet-setting baby! I arranged for an airport transfer with Rentacar Noosa, who I would highly recommend. This was the first time I've felt like the car seat they had was properly installed (we've even had one transfer in Melbourne where we had to install the car seat ourselves!), new, clean and it was no problem to have a rear facing one, which is much safer for babies. Ah, the things you have to organise when you travel with a baby!

Anyway we arrived at our resort around noon. We had a two bedroom place which was a good size for us. Not the most modern of apartments but a good price and the resort had a swimming pool, heated spa, and tennis court. As mentioned above it was located about a 20 minute walk from both Noosa Heads (the beach side) and Noosaville (the river side). Once we got settled in we headed towards Noosaville for some lunch and exploring.

Nautilus Resort Noosa
We had fish and chips at Red Emporer by the river, which Ella enjoyed, although for her we peeled off the batter of the fish and she didn't have any chips - I think she is still too young for anything like that. We then browsed a few shops, stopped for Gelato, and took Ella down to the sandy banks in the river. Boy did she love it!! She happily crawled through the sand, stopping to do what looked like "sand angles" and very interested in all the ducks and pelicans in the water. While walking through Noosaville we took note of many delicious looking restaurants, however ended up spending the rest of our holiday in Noosa Heads so didn't get the chance to try any of them out.

On Friday miss Ella woke nice and early so I took her for a walk and ended up at Little Cove Coffee, which is where Andy and I went for coffees on our last visit to Noosa. It was very nostalgic, actually, remembering our trip nearly three years ago, when we had just moved to Australia, had only been married about a year, and were child free!

Walk to Little Coffee Cove - not a bad view!
On the walk back Ella fell asleep and so I parked her beside the pool in our resort while mom and I got our books and planned on relaxing.

That was short-lived, of course, as soon as my mom came to the pool with fresh cups of tea Ella woke up and wanted to play. It was pretty warm by then, so we got changed into our bathing suits and took Ella for a swim in the pool. When I say pool, I mean "heated spa", as the pool seemed a bit too cold. I will say it was too cold for Ella, but really it was too cold for me! The spa was the perfect temperature however and we spent the rest of the morning there splashing around with Ella.

Pre Swimming snack - a yummy pear. 

In the afternoon we headed to Noosa Heads and browsed the shops on Hasting Street. Ella had the most epic nap in her pram, allowing us to get not only a Gelato but a glass of wine as well! We tried the gelato at Nitrogenie, where they make the ice cream in front of you fresh eggs, cream, and real food ingredients, and then frozen with liquid nitrogen. It was pretty expensive as far as gelato goes, but very delicious and creamy and a fun experience to see it being made in front of you.

After devouring our gelato (and regretting not getting two!) we strolled along Hastings Street and noticed all of the inviting looking bars and restaurants, with outdoor seating in the beautiful sunshine. We thought we'd risk it and try and get a sneaky glass of wine in at Miss Moneypennys, and my very well behaved daughter slept almost the whole time! When she woke up she was super calm and cuddely and generously let us finish up our wine while sitting on my lap. If only it was always this easy!

We took Ella down to the beach after that, so that she could crawl around and burn some energy for a while. She loved the sand again, along with the Bush Turkeys, that can be seen frequently around Noosa. We ended up getting a pizza for dinner and ate it on the beach while watching the sunset before heading back to our resort for the night. We got the "pizza on the beach" idea from a dad and daughter that were doing the same. The little girl was about four years old and they were having the best time together. After enquiring about where to get the pizza from, we sat down to eat with Ella. Pizza with a one-year-old on the beach is slight less relaxing than pizza with a four-year-old. Lesson learned! I did, however, manage to keep pizza from getting on her cute cardigan, which I was pretty proud of.

On Saturday was our last full day. In the morning we all went to Little Cove Coffee for breakfast, where Ella enjoyed a pumpkin, sage and pear quiche which was very yum.

We then took Ella back to the beach for a closer look at the water. She was very intrigued and I think confused as to why the water kept coming closer, and then going away. Prior to this she has only really experienced water in the bath or a swimming pool, so this was a whole new territory. She got a big shock as she tried crawling towards the water but then was met with a little wave that splashed her in the face. She was not too happy about that!! After that it took a bit of convincing to get her near the water again, so we spent some time letting her experience the water running over her feet, and I think she seemed to get over her initial distrust of it.

After getting Ella changed into some dry clothes we went for lunch, followed buy some shopping for Ella on Hastings St. Ella fell asleep and after a bit of searching we found a spot in the sun to have some wine. Rather optimistically we ordered a whole bottle, so of course she woke up as soon as it was opened! She was less willing to sit nicely while we drank wine this time, so after a glass each we decided to take her to the beach again for more crawling time. Luckily we were able to take the remainder of the bottle of wine with us, which we enjoyed once we got Ella back to the resort and into bed.

We played on the beach for a while again - Ella was super interested in some kids playing with a soccer ball nearby. I felt a bit sorry for her as she really looked like she wanted to join in, and kept crawling towards them and pointing at them. She also amazed us with some new skills in being able to pull herself up and climb, as seen in the video below:


I know this looks like just a very boring video of a baby doing normal baby things, but to her mom and Nannie this was the most amazing thing ever.

And that was it! Sunday morning seemed to come around way too quickly, and I really wished that we had at least one more day. Noosa was the perfect place for us to escape the Melbourne winter and just chill out with Ella. It was nice to just take each day as it came and not feel like we had to "do" a lot of stuff to get the most out of our days. We were happy to just go with the Ella-flow, which is basically they key to enjoying a holiday with a baby or young child.

We did lots of other fun things with my mom which I will write about in our next post. Of course now the next countdown is on until we see my parents again, which is only four months away when we meet them in California for Christmas!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

England Holiday Highlights Part 2

After spending 10 days in Waterlooville with Andy's parents, we headed up to Bicester for the weekend for Lee and Claire's wedding. We did, however, have one very important stop along the way... picking up my parents from Gatwick Airport! Yay! After the obligatory sit down and catch up at the airport Costa Coffee we all piled into the huge van Andy's dad had rented to drive us around for the week. We all joked that Dave should start a business called "Dave's Retirement Taxis" as he did a lot of driving around with us while we were in England.

We stopped for lunch just outside of Bicester at a pub called The Lion Wendlebury. What a find this was! There was a garden outside and the grandparents took turns playing with Ella out there, which meant we were able to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch together. The food was delicious, impressing even our Melbourne food snob selves.

Ella with her two Grandma's for the first time!
Enjoying our lunch at The Lion
Bicester is a little town about an hour north west of London, near Oxford. It is most famous for Bicester Village, which is a huge outlet shopping centre. The town centre is really cutesy and looks exactly like you'd expect a small English village to look like. We stayed at The Kings Arms Hotel with the rest of the wedding party, right in the centre of town. My parents were staying at an Airbnb about half an hour walk away with Ella, giving Andy and I our first "weekend away from the baby" (sort of).

The weekend was pretty busy, especially for Andy as he had to fulfil all his best man duties. The Friday was Ella's first birthday, which she spent mostly with my parents. We did have lunch all together while she opened some presents, but it was a pretty low key first birthday. I feel kind of sad and guilty about that, but I am happy that we were able to spend so much time with both sets of grandparents around her birthday. Maybe we will have a party next year. I decided in the end to save her first taste of cake/sugar for another time. Again, maybe next year. I am trying to hold off on her tasting sugar as long as possible!

Opening presents!
The wedding was absolutely gorgeous. There was a church ceremony at St. Mary's church in Launton, followed by a reception at The Tythe Barn. It was so much fun to see all of Andy's friends again - there is definitely never a dull moment around that group! Andy's best man speech was very funny, I will admit I was nervous for him throughout dinner, but he did a great job and kept everyone very engaged. After the speeches he was able to relax - probably for the first time since we got to England! In the picture below you can see the dress I mentioned in my last post - found in under half an hour and on sale - I was pretty proud of that one!

After the wedding we headed to London for the last leg of our trip. We managed to book a two bedroom Airbnb in Herne Hill, which is where Andy and I first lived together. I loved living in Herne Hill (I lived there previously with flatmates as well) and being in the area again brought back so many memories. Brockwell Park where we regularly did our runs and where the Lido is located - a gym and outdoor pool we used to be members at. Blackbird Bakery, where we would get coffees on a weekend morning (which I was horrified to see was replaced by a mobile phone shop, and later relieved to see they had just moved to a bigger location). The little Sainsbury Local where we would do our shopping (now Tesco's has also moved in next door). The Florence, The Commercial and The Prince Regent pubs we frequented regularly, mainly with our teacher friends. The walk from Herne Hill to Brixton, where most of my friends lived. Ahhh, it all seems like so long ago!

My old street in Herne Hill
Our first day in London we were proper tourists and went up The Shard, home to London's highest views. It was being built when we lived there and was finished in 2012, just before we moved to London. It costs 25 quid to get to the top, which always seemed pretty extreme, but it is one thing neither we nor my parents had done in London so we thought, why not? We were lucky to visit on a very clear day and it was cool to see London from a bird's eye view, especially picking out landmarks we were familiar with from when we lived there. There are two viewing levels, and the highest one is open so you can hear and feel the wind whistling through. The coolest bit was actually the toilets, which are called "A Loo with a View" as each stall is up against a floor to ceiling pane of glass.

After that we visited Borough Market for some lunch, and then took a long walk along the Thames to Southbank and then through Trafalgar Square, St. James' Park and all the way to Victoria Station where we caught a train back to Herne Hill. This was also where we said good-bye to Andy's parents, who returned to Waterlooville after that. It was, as always, very sad to say good-bye.

Borough Market

Trafalgar Square
St. James Park - Dave and Andy waiting for the slow walkers to catch up!
St. James Park
We spent the rest of our time in the local area, discovering all the great places there are for kids that I had no idea about when I lived there. We had beautiful, sunny weather these last few days... It almost made me want to move back to London. However reality hit when I checked out some local house prices - they are even more extortionate than Melbourne! My mom and I went to a yoga class at Yoga Point in Herne Hill, we had lunch in Brixton Village, and then spent the afternoon at the duck ponds, paddling pools and sand pits at Brockwell Park (a favourite of Ella's). 

Brockwell Park paddling pools

Brockwell Park duck ponds
Andy and I also visited our old school, which was where we both started our teaching careers, albeit at different times. I left there mid-2011, but there was still quite a few familiar faces and it was brilliant to catch up with them and introduce them to Ella. After that visit we met up with my parents in Dulwich Village and visited one of THE best bakeries I think I've ever been to, called Gail's. After making the nearly impossible choice of what to have for lunch, and dessert (a chocolate and cherry scone, which was super yum), we went to nearby Dulwich Park for a picnic. The park has an immense playground so my parents took Ella there for a play while Andy and I had a little nap in the park - a rare luxury to have a bit of time alone together! We  then walked to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill. The museum and grounds are another great place for kids in South London. The gardens are high on a hill and have a great view of the city, and include a Nature Walk and and Animal Walk where you can visit goats, alpachas and rabbits among others. Inside the museum there are some paid exhibitions and an aquarium, but as it was getting late we just wandered around the free part, which is mainly taxidermy, fossils and skeletons of just about every animal you could think of. We then had some ice cream in the sun before walking about an hour back to our apartment in Herne Hill.

Ella and her Nannie and Grampie in Dulwich Park
Horniman Museum
And then next day was our flight back to Melbourne. My parents left very early for their flights to Dublin, where they started the next leg of their European vacation. We had the whole day until our flights that evening, and our Airbnb hosts graciously let us stay in the apartment as late as we needed to. We took Ella back to Brockwell park for a play in the playground and had some breakfast at hte Lido Cafe, before packing up our stuff and heading off to the airport. Andy's dad amazingly drove back to London to take us to the airport which was so super helpful. 

One last play in Brockwell Park

Our flights back actually went much better with Ella than our flights to London. She slept a lot more (although only on us again), but it meant she was less cranky when she was awake. We arrived back in Melbourne last Saturday morning, sad to say good-bye to our family but also happy to be back in what is currently our "home". It was a bit easier to say good bye this time as my mom is actually coming to visit us in less than two weeks, so we are eagerly looking foward to having her stay with us for a few weeks. 

Ella and Andy having a nap in Abu Dhabi airport

If only we could actually afford to get Ella her own seat!