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All posts by Kathryn Whitmoor-Pryer

Cream of chicken soup

I have had this recipe in my collection so long I can’t remember where it even originated from. I’m fairly certain it was something I learned to make in Home Ec as a teenager. Over the years, I’ve tweaked and adapted to suit my tastes and I have to say, it’s hands-down my favourite comfort soup! I make it the minute it starts to cool down with a huge serve of sourdough bread. Since winter has well and truly hit my part of the world, I hope you enjoy this as much as our family does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • Shredded chicken breast (either slow cook yourself or buy a roast one from the store)
  • 250mls thickened cream
  • veggies of your choice – I use carrots, onion, celery, potato, kale, zucchini – whatever is in the house/ in season
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • Chicken stock / Bone broth
  • 50g or so of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic – the more, the merrier I say
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch

Chop up all your veggies nice and small. For zucchini, I just grate it all finely so the kids don’t give me too much grief. If you want to be real clever, you can peel yours first and it blends right in! I keep the skin on though so the kids get used to having bits of green in all their food. Then melt butter in a large saucepan and start to fry up your garlic and onion. Once they soften, add in your veggies and make sure they’re well-coated in butter. I like to have some water boiling in the kettle while I’m doing this. Next I add the flour and mix well. This is where you need to be quick because the flour will quickly glob up and stick to the bottom of your pan so have that boiling water at the ready. Once the veggies are coated in flour (about a minute or so) add in the water – use as much as you want depending on how much soup you want to yield. I don’t have this down to an exact science as it depends on how much veg I’ve cut up. Then add in your bone broth (I keep some frozen in cubes on hand always) or powdered stock will do then let is simmer away for about 15 minutes or until veggies are all cooked through.

At this point, if the soup is still too runny for my tastes I’ll add a few teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with cold water (make sure to mix them together first!) then add to my soup and quickly whisk it for 30 seconds. I only do small amounts at a time as it thickens the soup quite quickly. I then add in my shredded chicken and cream to finish off.

Serve with warm crusty bread and ENJOY! It’s so good for lunches too and everyone in my fam-bam wants seconds whenever I make it.

Life Lately – part two

I wouldn’t go back to last year, not for a minute. The mere thought of it makes me start to feel ill. I definitely didn’t think to myself last year while everything was going on “hey this would make a great blog post one day.” I wasn’t secretly glad to have a topic worth writing about. Frankly, I just wished none of it happened and I could post a gift guide or keep on slinging skincare. But I kept going back to that word; my theme – vulnerability – and I knew if I acted like this wasn’t happening, then I was nothing but a liar.
So by the end of 2017, I was both physically and mentally exhausted, not to dissimilar to this year actually. But 2018 exhaustion isn’t wrought with fear and doubts, just good ol’ fashioned ‘I’ve over-committed in every area of my life and I have two kids’ kind of exhausted. I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded by a discipleship group the last two and half years. These are people in our life we trust implicitly, see often and allow to speak into our lives, even if it’s hard to hear. Sidebar: we ALL need those kind of people in our world am I right?

It was one night in one of our gatherings after my post went live that one of the women who is a psychologist kindly suggested I come in to see her. As I do when anyone gets too close, I shrug it off, make a joke and try to act cool. But secretly my husband and I had already discussed it and he had suggested I talk with her. So off I went. Honestly at first I felt like this was going to be a huge waste of her time. After all, I was fine – this was just a weird year; fantastically unlucky in sickness. Overall life was great and it’s not like I’ve not suffered any major traumas or abuse. Sure I’ve had some extremely hard good byes – another post on another day perhaps – but really, I didn’t feel like I someone who “needed” help.

But over the weeks and months, I realized not only did I need these sessions, but they had became a lifeline for me. Truthfully I dreaded almost every session because I still felt awkward but by the end, I was always sad to go. Every session was filled with new little gems, learning to look at things differently and effective strategies for dealing with my panic and anxiety. I really feel the most valuable thing I could learn was how I’ve been wired and what I can’t change. Some things are just who I am and how God made me – so no point trying to fight that. What I can do is learn to re-train my brain to deal with situations and stress in a much healthier way. Again, if you know me well, you know I’m a huge over thinker – to the point that it’s considered chronic or dysfunctional. I’m wired to think things through and be analytical, which can be positive attributes. But those thoughts were being allowed to rule my day and control my emotions and belief systems, which is where I came undone. I’ve summed it up as succinctly as I can but I can assure you the process is neither simple or quick. What I can say is that it’s worth it. In twelve months, I’m starting to feel like a new person. I haven’t yet got it all figured out and it’s tiresome at times to feel like I’m constantly talking to myself to re-train my brain, but I’m seeing progress. The best part? No panic attacks since the end of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments where someone just says the word ‘gastro’ and my entire body starts sending off alarms (crazy, I know!) but now I’ve got ways to talk myself off the proverbial ledge so I don’t end up in a ball on the floor again. And like anything, when you practice it enough, you get better at it and it becomes a habit – the good kind.

So if you’re still reading this, the biggest takeaways from me would be:

  1. Talk to someone, specifically a professional. Don’t be too proud. No one has their life together like they make it look like on Instagram anyway. I don’t like talking about my feelings at all (just ask my poor husband) and even I can say that this is the best thing I’ve done for my mental health… ever.
  2. Find something that works for you. For me, I like to write. Even in my time with God, I find it easier to write to Him than to pray out loud. I also love worship music and it’s something that instantly calms me down so it’s playing in the car, at home and in one ear of an earphone at work so I’m constantly filling my head with truth. I’ve also added reading to this list. If I’m immersed in a great piece of fiction, I’m too distracted to be stressing over something else. It sounds crazy but it does work to keep my mind off wandering places where it shouldn’t go.
  3. Learn to say no. Nowadays it seems like ‘busy’ is the best thing you can be. How are you? Oh really busy. Like my boss says “you don’t get to own busy.” EVERYONE is busy and I’m really not sure why we made it a buzzword as if translates to being important or productive. Busy has only made me tired, burned out and flakey to be honest. Do I want to help people whenever I can? Of course. But I can’t be all things to everyone and now I’m okay with it now. Isn’t it better to focus our attention to one thing at a time and do that thing well?

Lastly – but most importantly: “keep focusing on the things that are above” Colossians 3.1

 

 

Mother’s Day gift guide

Well after packing away the Christmas decor it seems, Mother’s Day is now upon is. Let’s not even talk about how fast 2018 is slipping through my fingers shall we?
For something a bit different I thought I’d round up some gift ideas for the special momma in your life. Mother’s Day always falls on or near my birthday so this list will be pulling double duty for me….cough…husband….cough…

WEEKENDER BAG
Tell me what woman wouldn’t want a weekend away? Brownie points if she can go without the kids! Although what’s the point, you always end up looking at photos of them anyway.This would also be a great hospital bag.

MONOGRAM BATH ROBE
I know, I know- it’s kind of a typical Mother’s Day gift. But in Australia it’s starting to cool down so this is hugely practical AND you can have it personalised so it’s bit nicer than just a regular robe.

WATCH 
I still love these simple, elegant watches. Such good value!

C&M TEE
Classic and stylish, these graphic logo tops are apparently going to be everywhere this season. I feel like they’re everywhere already! I LOVE tee shirts – I’d live in them if I could.These are a bit pricey but for the trendy mama, I think this would be a hit. I also love these shirts because they have “mommy and me” options. I’m a sucker for matching.

CARDIGAN 
When I was looking for a cute robe, I stumbled across this cardigan and now I want to move into it. Forever.

SLIPPERS
Yes, another “typical” Mother’s Day gift but HOW CUTE are these pom pom ones from Peter Alexander? They’re on major sale at the moment. I love my gold glitter mocs but now I want these too!

SPA DAY (or hour, whatever you can get!)

CANDLES
If you can’t get her a spa day, at least her light a candle and pretend she’s there! No seriously, I love candles – can’t have enough. I’m obsessed with Ecoya’s French Pear (smells like my favourite place in New York) and Sweet Pea & Jasmine.

SKINCARE
The gift that keeps on giving! You know I wouldn’t be able to go past my beloved Rodan and Fields. There are so many options at different price points: from delicious lip balm to body scrubs. Maybe an eye cream for any mama with a newborn. And a big supply of coffee of course.

SWEET SILVER
I was kindly gifted a voucher for Smallprint when I had Jack from some of my coworkers. It was the sweetest gesture! I now have Jack and Emma’s tiny fingerprints around my neck – which is the closest thing to keeping them t his small forever. Excuse me…of to cry quietly and eat chocolate now…

Happy Shopping friends! If all else fails, get the kids to make her a card and write things you love about her. Add some homemade coupons for cuddles and on-time bedtimes. Mom’s love that stuff!

Life Lately…

I don’t believe in good or bad years. Sure, some years the balance can be severely skewed one way or another but still I stand firm that every year – even the absolute worst of years – still have good in them if you look hard enough.
For this household, me in particular, 2017 was not my favorite year. Not even close. In fact it’s taken me until December to even muster up the courage to write this and admit to myself – and now others – just exactly what this year has been like.

For the last two years, I’ve felt that God has given me a word that has ultimately become the theme for the year that followed. This year, I couldn’t shake the word vulnerability. I’m inwardly groaning just writing this because being open and vulnerable is not my thing. At all. Just ask my husband- we’ve been together almost a decade and I still find it hard to let my guard down. This is the man who watched me birth his two children for goodness sake. Seeing it in black and white makes it seem laughable now but it’s the truth. Never in my life did I imagine that this ‘theme’ for the year would outwork itself the way it did. I couldn’t foresee that I would be so rocked, so sick, so brought to my knees that the vulnerability would have to be pried from my fingers if I wouldn’t freely give it.

Now important disclaimer: I’m not blaming God for any of this. I don’t think he sent down plagues of illness and disasters upon us – though it felt like it at times. So I hope in reading this, that’s not how it comes across because I’m not here shaking my fists at the sky.

So back to it….it was March. We had a whirlwind summer, maternity leave round two had just finished up and I was excited to sink my teeth back into work again. One of our favorite things to do is have people over for dinner, especially new people to church. On one such occasion, we had a lovely new couple over for dinner and while cooking and chatting, I accidentally grabbed a hot panhandle and burned my whole left hand. Such was my desire to keep dinner going, I decided to stick my hand in a bowl of ice water – which I’ve since learned is the worst thing you can do. I got through the dinner as best as I could but the minute they walked out the door I burst into tears and told James this pain was worse than labor. I stand by that comment by the way. I ended up calling a locum to come out so I could at least see if I needed to go to hospital or get it properly dressed. The doctor kindly prescribed me some pain medication to help me sleep and assured me it would be fine to take two. I made sure to mention my codeine allergy – repeatedly in fact – only to learn the hard way the medication prescribed did in fact contain codeine. The long and short of it is I couldn’t get up and walk without throwing up wherever I went. My husband ferried the kids to childcare, I called in sick to work then waited for my beloved friend to take me to the doctor. She held my hair back while I threw up in pot plants outside the clinic while old ladies tried to help wipe my face. In other words, it was the beginning of the end of my humility.

In the weeks that followed, I had a bout of food poisoning and then caught severe gastro that lasted a week. Somewhere in and amongst all that, my sweet daughter turned one but her birthday is a complete blur. One night, in a bid to get back into our normal routine, we invited friends over for dinner. It was a Thursday night so I had been working all day. I can remember feeling off all day, feeling panicked but I couldn’t pinpoint why. I got into my car to head home and before I had pulled out of the driveway I was hysterical. I’m talking ugly sobs all the way home. It was too late to cancel, nor did I want to, but moments before our guests arrived I was in a ball on the floor sobbing, not being able to breathe for no apparent reason.

At this point, I knew something was wrong. I blamed it on the gastro and they kindly left early to give me some space. I managed to hold myself together to make it to June for our staff retreat with church. I was counting down to a few days away as a family, just making space for whatever God needed to do in us. I could literally write another post just on that retreat, maybe another day, but it’s probably not as exciting for you as it was for us. And I thought it was a turning point I suppose, that after some of the things spoken over us that it would all just click into place. It was and it wasn’t. Looking back now I’m not surprised because isn’t that often what happens? You take a step of faith only to be met with opposition? I try to remind myself that the greater the opposition, the greater God’s plan is for us.

The rest of this year has been filled with sickness, mostly for my daughter and me. The pressure to stop taking sick days has hung over me, especially as we entered events season and my anxiety cranked up about ten notches. I’ve had to call on friends from church, some that we’re only just getting to know, to watch my kids, cook meals and take over basic daily tasks while I’ve been too sick or too anxious to function.

So what’s the point of me telling all this? I like to think I live an authentic life – my instagram is proof that I’m not all about glossy photos that paint a picture perfect life. I wish I could do that but it isn’t me and frankly I don’t have the time or effort to put into it. But another part of me has felt a bit like a fraud when I see people in person and they ask how are you and you respond with “good, how are you?” It’s basically ‘lie and deflect.’ Behind closed doors I’ve been battling with anxiety that is crippling me; the smallest things sending me into a panic where my heart races and I start to cry. A big contributor has been our upcoming trip overseas to see family. If you know anything about me it’s that I love my family more than anything and miss them terribly – yet I’d give up this trip if it means not having to fly the 21 hours with dizzy spells and two toddlers. Sometimes someone can bring up one thing about the flight and suddenly I can’t eat and I’m physically sick. I find it’s gotten worse over the years – the anxiety in the lead up to a trip.

It seems so silly when I think about it at times, all of this stuff. I feel like we are leading a church campus – how can I be going through this? Where is my faith? Get your stuff together woman! I’m currently hogging all the prayer time during our devotions, at least that’s how it feels. But of course God doesn’t call us to live by how we feel. And if there’s anything to be learned from all this rambling is that God is the author and perfector of my faith, not me. I need to let go and let Him deal with the issues of my heart, let Him take those fears because I know He wants more for me and more from me. I’m not saying I’ve figured it all out because clearly I’m still a work a progress but I know at least admitting where I’m at was a big part of the issue. I’m still learning that it’s okay to not always be okay. But when I’m not okay, I need to run to the only One who can bring healing to my troubled heart.

A few weeks ago a beautiful friend spoke this over me – not just sent it in a text (though that is so amazing too!) but she read it out loud while I stood there and wept:

Isaiah 54.10-17
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies,  your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you;  you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you.  If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

I love this version as well – the use of the words terror and tyranny. They sound so harsh but they truly describe how these months have felt. It’s felt terrifying to be so out of control. It’s felt oppressive and lonely (mostly because I didn’t let anyone in so that’s on me). So now whenever I start to feel anxious I put on some praise and worship and keep reading that verse (and many others). Sometimes just writing the verses out by hand or speaking them out loud make such a difference. So to wrap up this insanely long post: all I can really say is let the One who made you, heal you. By all means do whatever you need to – talk to people, see a professional but ultimately run to the One who is waiting with open arms and gave up Heaven to have you.

For me, the biggest thing I can take from all this is that nothing is wasted; God will use ALL things for His glory. Romans 8.28 has been spoken over me more times than I can count. I’ve seen Him use all the good, bad and hurting things in my life and made them all beautiful in ways only He can. So while this has been one of the hardest years it’s also been one of the ones I’ve heard God speak more clearly than ever. It’s been a year where I’ve felt more pursued by Him than ever. So even when it hurts, I’ll praise Him and I hope if you’re in the same boat, you will too.

My makes-me-so-homesick-vodka sauce

If, like me, you grew up in New York – specifically Long Island – then chances are you’re familiar with Penne ala Vodka. It’s a staple in almost every Italian restaurant. And for good reason: it’s hands down the best sauce in the world. Ever, ever, EVER {foreva eva, eva eva in an Outkast voice, sorry had to}
Anyway imagine my dismay when I get moved to Australia as a 16 year old only to discover that it basically doesn’t exist here. No one had heard of it and only one restaurant had it on their menu as “vodka sauce” and it was nowhere near what I was used to. So a combination of boredom and homesickness was all it took to start perfecting this recipe. It’s an adaptation of Rachel Ray’s “You won’t be single for long” vodka cream sauce but her recipe has no meat in it. So I had to rectify that one. No disrespect for my girl but everything is better with a bit of bacon!

vodka-sauce5

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 heaped tsp minced garlic or 2 cloves
1-2 cups vodka (nothing fancy needed!)
2 shallots {or 1 large onion in a pinch}
5 slices of pancetta, chopped in chunks {or prosciutto, bacon etc}
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bottle of passata {our family makes their own but whatever you can get}
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil
Pasta of your choice – I use bowties or penne

Heat butter and oil in a pan. Fry up pancetta and shallots until crispy. Add the fresh garlic and fry until golden. Add 1 cup of vodka and let it reduce for a few minutes.  Next, add the passata and diced tomatoes and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring some water to the boil and add salt.

vodka-sauce4vodka-sauce3

vodka-sauce1

Once the pasta has cooked til al-dente {around 8 minutes}, turn the heat off the sauce and add the cream. Stir through, season with salt and pepper. I usually toss in another douse of vodka to finish it off and whack on some fresh basil.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and enjoy. I’m talking put on stretchy pants, pour some wine and really dig in.

vodka-sauce2

Toddler travels

I know I’m not alone when I say I hate, haaaaaate flying. I mean where do I even begin? It’s a giant steel tube floating a million miles {give or take} in the AIR. Explain physics to me all you want, I just don’t get it. Then there’s turbulence. Throw in some cluster migraines triggered by pressure changes and I’m basically a crying ball of anxiety every night before I fly. Sure in all my holiday posts I look happy and relaxed but let’s be honest; I’m nothing short of a hot mess in the lead up. And all this is just me. Now let’s add kids to the mix….{insert that eye bulging emoji and a gulp here}

I look so excited but I'm faking it haha

I look so excited but I’m faking it haha

So a little background information of you: my husband and I currently live in South Australia but grew up in England and the USA respectively. So long-distance travel, unfortunately for me, will always be on the cards for us. It’s twenty four hours of flying or never seeing our families and the second option is the only thing worse than the first. In the last two years we’ve flown to New York with our 13 month old son Jack then to St Thomas in the Caribbean from there. We’ve also done a quick trip to Sydney with Jack when I was almost nine months pregnant {fuuuuuun} and most recently the UK with Jack {2} and our daughter Emma who was 4 months. So it’ safe to say that while I’m no expert, I’ve picked up a few tricks that have saved our butts. On one flight someone told me they didn’t realise we had a baby on the plane. I don’t say this to brag, it mostly came down to how much my son loves to eat. Which leads me to my first point….

  1. FOOD is your best friend! Now’s not the time to skimp either. I packed all Jack’s favourites and a few treats. We are pretty strict with his sugar intake so candy/chocolates and things like that were definitely off the cards and who am I kidding? Sugar anda pent-up kid? Don’t do it to yourself! Depending on your child’s age I’d pack individually wrapped muesli bars, packets of crackers, low-sugar biscuits, squeeze-y fruit packs and boxes of raisins {sultanas for the Aussies reading}  Anytime Jack got a bit antsy I handed him a new snack. Also handy for when you hit turbulence and you have to strap them in. Save a special treat for then!
    toddlertravel8
  2. TOYS.  Jack was at such a tricky age when we went to New York. I was thankfully flying with my parents but sans husband {he met us there ten days later}. He didn’t watch TV yet or know how to work an iPad so those options were out. Instead I purchased some cheap toys from Kmart & the Reject Shop and wrapped them up like gifts. Not only did the unwrapping kill time, Jack loved having a new toy or book and also ended up keeping busy ripping up the paper. Other random items I packed included a rubber bottle brush, a plastic spatula {because kids are oddly attracted to everyday items} and some masking tape and stickers. I just ripped off bits of tape for him to stick wherever he wanted and it peels off easily. Also it might seem obvious but check any new toys before you pack them. On our last trip, I packed this cool plastic light up sword that was only a few inches big. Turns out it also played a loud, obnoxious noise that thrilled Jack no end. My bad flight EK15, I’m truly sorry. #momfail
  3. MOVE! I’m one of those flyers that will only get up if absolutely necessary. I’m talking one bathroom break in 11 hours of flying. It’s unhealthy and lazy I know. And when you have kids with you, you don’t have the luxury of just lounging in your chair watching crappy movies. You will be that parent walking their child up and down the aisles, make peace with it now. They need to stretch their legs even if you don’t. Anyone with kids know how much energy they have & you need to be realistic in your expectations. Thankfully for me, I had none so the bar was set low first time around. If you’re lucky enough to be on an A380 Airbus, utilise the snack bar out the back as it’s a bit more roomy. We made friends with a set of twins on our way to London and my husband make them all do jumping jacks and other exercises {it ended up being a jumping contest but whatever}. The point is, the kids stayed in one spot and burned off some energy.

    pre-flight laps around our gate...at 5.30am

    pre-flight laps around our gate…at 5.30am

  4. MAKE FRIENDS with those around you. Many will probably groan when they see a baby or toddler board a flight. It’s rude but honestly, do you blame them? I don’t envy me when I step on board with two kids, backpacks and a pacifier hanging out my own mouth! We planned to get cheap ear plugs for those around us with a chocolate explaining it was my daughter’s first flight and hopefully it wouldn’t be too bad on anyone. In the end we didn’t because well… packing for 3 weeks overseas with two kids. Luckily she’s cute and didn’t scream at all. We always try to make friends with other parents – something about that “we’re all in this together” mentality. Also your flight attendants can be an extra set of arms if you luck out. Most times they got me hot water for bottles, held a baby in a pinch and got us activities, extra blankets and pillows. All I’m saying is it pays to be nice. Real nice!

    Our wonderful flight attendants on Emirates grabbed this Polaroid of Jack in the pilot's hat

    Our wonderful flight attendants on Emirates grabbed this Polaroid of Jack in the pilot’s hat

  5. DRUGS are your other friend. Okay so I’m not talking about anything too crazy, don’t worry! Our doctor told us to simply take panadol/advil with us for our baby and give it to her every 4 hours, whether she needed it or not. We did the first flight but after that we didn’t feel she needed it. We also got our hands on Pain Stop at the insistence of a friend for Jack. You need a prescription and they need to meet the weight limits {I’m laughing to myself because my Italian children of course met the weight limits} We only used it for the long haul flights {12 hours +} when he was due to sleep because it would knock him out. Plus, he was cutting his molars so it was a win-win there. We were also recommended to try liquid Melatonin. It’s herbal, safe to use and most importantly helps overtired and jet-lagged babies. We used it on the flights and during the trip while the kids were settling in to the new timezone. Hubs and I totally hit it too at 4am when we were wide awake.
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  6. PLAN ahead. We stay with family whenever we’re away so we’re fortunate that we never needed to pack high chairs, playpens and things like that. I knew I had a stroller (pram) waiting for me in New York so I managed to carry Jack at 13 months in the Ergo carrier. It was great to be hands free even if Jack hated it!  However when we flew to the UK we decided to pack our City Select double stroller because we knew we’d use it there more and there was no way I was wrangling two kids over there for three weeks without one. I still took the Ergo though because in the airports when you transfer, we either didn’t or couldn’t gate check so we used the airport strollers so Emma was in the Ergo while I pushed Jack. It was tempting to let him walk but in the end we just found a play area so he could stretch his legs. I always look at the airport map of where we arrive in relation to a kids area. Those places are lifesavers! Most airports have one so take advantage and in the layover let your toddler run to their hearts content. I also pack double and a bit more of whatever we need {formula, diapers, spare clothes} It’s annoying but worth it! Also pack a change of clothes for the adults. My husband learned the hard way flying back from St Thomas. Jack had a fresh outfit after his explosive poo incident but James was not as lucky! Extended layovers and lost luggage happen all the time {seemingly always to us} so now I just always have travel insurance and most things I need are already in my carry on. Also, if you can plan your flights or car trips around nap time then DO IT! It’s worth extra money if that’s what it costs. Plus the movement in the car or plane generally knocks the kids out.

    toddlertravel13

    prepared for anything

  7. KEEP THEIR ROUTINE as normal as you can. Also, now is not the time to make any big changes either. We let Jack keep his dummy {pacifier} longer than we wanted because we knew we had our UK trip booked. It’s just too good being able to plug your kid on a plane! When we returned home, we let him have it for a couple weeks to help ease off jet lag before kicking it to the curb.still napping at normal time wherever we go

And a few cheeky holiday snaps. Jack was ‘an easy baby’ whereas Emma has always been a bit trickier {colic, reflux that sort of stuff} but both of them have travelled so well. The more you do it, the better they become. I honestly believe kids are so adaptable so I guess my biggest ‘tip’ is to stay as relaxed as you can & the kids should – hopefully – suit!  Please feel free to comment below if you have any other travel tricks to share. Our next long-haul trip is to New York & Vermont around Christmas time so I’m always up for any more information too! Travelling with kids is exhausting, no doubt about that but I must say, seeing the world through their eyes is double the fun! Happy trails xo

playing around Dartmoor, UK

playing around Dartmoor, UK

Dartmoor hikes

Dartmoor hikes

St Thomas with this cheeky kid

St Thomas with this cheeky kid

The CCA Christmas Fairs of years gone by

It’s hard to sit down to my laptop to write this post without feeling so overcome with emotion. The Childhood Cancer Association {CCA} was started back in 1982 by a group of parents who had children going through cancer. As a parent of two children, I can only imagine the pain and uncertainty these families are facing and it is nothing short of truly heartbreaking. As a Christian, I certainly don’t claim to understand why so many families have to face this or have all the answers to the questions that would be gripping their minds on a daily basis. But in times of suffering, all I have is my faith to hold me through. So when the opportunity for the church I belong to – Edge Church International – to work alongside the CCA to put on their annual Christmas Fair for the families of children undergoing treatment, it seemed like a no-brainer to put my hand up to get involved.
The first year I was able to take part as a team member of our “style crew,” we had a Candy Land theme which was incredibly fun to dream into. We spent a night eating all sorts of treats and watching “Wreck it Ralph” to get into the headspace and make this vision come to life. I remember that night so vividly as I had just found out I was 4 weeks pregnant with our son! Embarking on this journey as I was just entering into parenthood felt like such an awesome responsibility.

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Some of our team back in 2013, including our MUCH loved James who sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2015

The set up consisted of making giant lollies, eating takeaway with lots of laughs and frustrations, setting up endless Christmas trees and transforming anything with a bit of Dacron. But the true highlight of the day was watching the children light up as they came through our building. In fact, it’s the same thing every year.
In the years that have followed, we’ve taken more of a traditional route: white Christmas, reindeer, snow everywhere…basically my fantasy all in one. My role has been to deck out Santa’s Cave with my decor dream partner Naomi. There has been so much laughter, ideas, long talks, overshares and happy tears…all fuelled by Redbull {don’t judge me!}

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My partner-in-crime

But all the fun decor aside, there is a much bigger purpose attached to what we are doing & why we are doing it: because we love God and we love our community. The families that I’ve met over the last few years are the sweetest and strongest people I’ve ever come across. Watching your child battle an illness as relentless as cancer would be one of the most gut-wrenching things to watch. Even though I can’t erase their worries or heal they’re child, I can still help. Sometimes the little things are the ones that touch our hearts the most. I can’t pretend I don’t get something out of it either because it’s quickly become one of my very favourite days of the year. So maybe it seems trivial, maybe handing out candy all day is pointless, but I like to think it’s the heart behind all the volunteers that people see. That for one day, you can just try to forget about the ins and outs of illness and remember what’s important – being together as a family. The privilege of being a very small part of that is nothing short of an honour.

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Behind the scenes of our set up; Santa’s house coming together!

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Santa’s desk where he checks his list twice! You’ll even some some candid snaps of Santa with his family 😉

So much fun to imagine what Santa's living room might look like!

So much fun to imagine what Santa’s living room might look like!

my go-to chicken cacciatore

Do you know someone who just had a baby? Maybe you’re visiting a sick relative or maybe you just need an easy dinner that generally pleases everyone. This is one of ours.
In our church, whenever someone has a baby there’s a group of us who cook meals to make the transition into parenthood that tiny, tiny bit easier. I love this meal because it’s easy to throw together, it freezes well and there’s not much in it that will cause upset to a newborn if you’re breastfeeding….except maybe the onions. Use at your own discretion.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 can diced tomatoes {400g}
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 small white potatoes
  • fresh basil

Fry up the onion in a little olive oil and add the wine. Cook until the wine is reduced then add the chicken and tomatoes. You can either cook the chicken through or finish it in the oven. Stir through the fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.
As a healthy side option, I make mash in our Thermomix with this recipe {tweak the quantities as needed}. I also use both sweet and white potatoes with 75% of the amount being sweet potatoes but there’s something about adding a few white ones that makes it seem creamier. I also use regular milk as we aren’t a dairy free household but this recipe has saved my butt when cooking for friends who are DF.

Chuck the finished products in takeaway containers so there’s no washing up to worry about and you’re on your way!

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Finished product pictured here with wholemeal cous cous for an extra-healthy option

Finished product pictured here with wholemeal cous cous for an extra-healthy option

Newborn Daze

Ah the newborn days…do I miss them? Not entirely. And I’m not even out of them yet; I’m actually staring down the barrel of them again in the very near future!  But one of the things I’m grateful we did was get some professional photos during those early days. Although the day we booked ours – day 6 – was particularly awful and I called our lovely photographer to explain I couldn’t possibly look at my son lovingly that day. Thankfully she did still come by to grab a few snaps so we could use them for his dedication that week and then came back a few weeks later. I went through them the other day and maybe it’s the hormones, but it made me feel giddy at the prospect of having a tiny baby all over again. {Disclaimer: giddy with a healthy dose of terrified mixed in}

This is what exhaustion looks like

This is what exhaustion looks like

These are taken on my nonno's old chair

These are taken on my nonno’s old chair

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whipped feta & pumpkin tart

One of my favourite weeknight meals to make is this tart {by the way does anyone else loathe the word tart..?!} Anyway a friend of ours introduced me to whipped feta and since that fateful New Year’s eve, I’ve been all but eating it by the spoonful. It makes a great base for this dish; I’m a sucker for the tangy saltiness of feta with sweet, caramelised onions. I won’t say it’s the healthiest dinner I make, but you can use light cream cheese and chuck a salad on the side to make yourself feel better!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 medium butternut pumpkin
  • 1 block Philly light cream cheese
  • 200g Danish feta
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • Sage leaves {if they’re on hand or substitute with baby spinach as shown}

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees
Peel and cube pumpkin, drizzle with a bit of honey and bake for 15 minutes or til cooked through
Combine entire block of cream cheese and feta, whip until creamy*
Arrange thawed pastry over slightly greased tart pan & place in oven
Caramelise onions with a sprinkling of brown sugar in a pan for 5-10 minutes
Remove tart from oven when it’s almost completely cooked through {10-15 minutes}
Spread whipped feta along the base, layering with sage/spinach, pumpkin and caramelised onions
Return dish to the oven to heat finish cooking {no more than 5 minutes}

whipped feta pumpkin tart

Serve with a salad of your choice for a quick weeknight meal that won’t leave you feeling too guilty!