Cinnamon Beef Ribs with Silverbeet + Childled play

Cinnamon Beef RibsI am learning about play lately. Specifically child led play. The notion of letting Asher takes over and just do what he wants while I follow his lead. 

Play has so many layers of meanings to it. A child’s ability to explore in a safe environment, experimenting and working out what goes where and what sounds it makes. I know that if given an option, Asher love having the two of us watching him and being with him play. 

Child led is really a skill. It is so tempting to correct him or encourage him to pick up a different toy. My mind wanders to the messy kitchen or what can I make for dinner next week. Child led play forces me to be present and just enjoy being with him. It tells him that he is important to me. It demonstrates respect to him. IMG_1896 (640x427)

And so we set it up. It was post lunch and I reminded myself to be present. Asher asked me to open a box consisting of 4 mini cars and a car transporter. He wanted me to help him set it up. Then it was a game of sliding the cars. He named the colours and I repeated it, praising him as we go along. His attention went to the bigger cars and attempted to slide the it onto the truck that did not work. We laughed and we started a game of bumper cars. Suddenly he pointed to the slide and he asked me to be on it. I said “mummy is too big” but attempted to slide down which made him laughed. He went under the slide and pointed that out to me. I followed him and it became a game of chasey. His attention went back to the car transporter and started playing with it again. Then he handed me a car and I said “mummy’s turn” and he nodded. That two words turned into a game of turns, and cuddles. He went to the shelves and wanted some help with the cashier toy. We pretended to go shopping and paid for some items. We even pretended to eat an apple and drink some milk. He was having such a ball and giggled each time we pretended to eat something. IMG_1899 (640x427)

25 minutes later, I told him that we have 5 more minutes and then it is nap time. He said “no” and pulled me to a book. We did some reading and I told him we have a minute left. I sang the pack away song and he started helping. He took a book and walked towards the stairs. In bed, I read to him and he gradually drifted off to sleep. 

His behaviour reminded me that there is so much joy in play. So much contentment and just being with him. I’m joining in his world. He loved the attention but most of all, he almost seems to be calmer. As I stared at him sleeping, that 30 minutes reminded me of what being a parent is about. I’m sure fast forward 18 years later, he will not remember these moments. But I do. and that’s what’s matters. 

IMG_1896 (640x427)You hear me talk about the dilemma of making fast dinners but also wanting to add different variety to our meal planning each week. Winter is exciting to me because I can start braising and experimenting with different cuts of meats again. I am a fan of pressure or slow cooking and is determine to utilise our pressure cooker more. At our local markets, I picked up some gorgeous looking beef ribs and decided to experiment using a Pete Evan’s recipe from his Family Food Cook book. The flavours are wonderful, the meat melted in our mouths and it tasted even better the next day. The best bit about this kind of cooking is that that leaves me more time to play! 

And that’s the bit about parenthood that I love. 

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Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart + Reconnection in a Marriage

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut TartHave you ever have those moments in your marriage that you appear to be travelling on the same page, but really you are going in opposite directions? 

A friend attended a wedding recently. In the midst of our happy conversation, I recall moments of our weddings, attendance of friends’ weddings and being part of the bridal party. We are at the age where we have witnessed quite a few of our friends getting hitched. We laughed a lot, danced and even shed a few tears at some of these unions. 

A wedding is not a marriage. Marriage that comes after the celebration is the real test. Marriages go through their developmental stages of changes. Adjusting to being newly weds, negotiating families dynamics, readjusting when a child arrive… Indeed there are so many stressors when a child arrive. IMG_1888 (640x427)

Unfortunately where we have been in happy parties, we are also aware of unions that are at the risk of being dissolved. Tears, anger, frustration and betrayal. They make us realise how vulnerable a marriage is. 

Those moments where hubby and I are travelling in opposite directions often leave warning signs. Exhaustion, one of us being sick, Asher being unwell, a conversation did not involve us or each other but rather the everyday routine. While we can be in synch, we became out of synch. It doesn’t feel like we are in a team anymore, but rather we are just existing in our everyday life. We start to do our own checklist of tasks, but neglect to see what each other needs. IMG_1891 (640x427)

One thing we have learned, is to not leave these not of sync moments for too long. We learned that it is inevitable that moments like that will occur. I will be lying to say we never have those days. The reconnection bit is hard but needed. 

Sometimes, all we need is a good chocolate tart, hot cup of tea and some music. Perhaps a long walk or time set aside to have a proper conversation on what happened. Other times, the build up becomes an argument. Over small things. Another warning sign that shock us into taking action. I needed to calm down, and hubby went out to grab some errands. Then he returned with a coffee cup and suddenly, it all seems better. The act of care. It says “I’m in this” and nothing else but us matters again. IMG_1889 (640x427)

I love how this tart turned out because I finally nailed the pastry! It was easy to remove and has a melt in your mouth texture. Turns out less is more and it worked! Happy moment. Less learnt- simplicity works the best. 

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Banana Yogurt Muffins (Clean Eating, Nut Free, Gluten Free)

IMG_1876 (640x427)Pre pregnancy days, hubby and I often had kids over that we babysit. I would measure out ingredients and we would bake cookies. The kids would have a ball, and would often wait by the oven, asking if the cookies are ready yet. Then they would have a few cookies, packed some for their parents and excitedly tell them that they made it.

There is something special about “making things”. The sense of achievement that a child has when they realised that they did it themselves. IMG_1882 (640x427)

I never thought that my cooking journey with Asher will begin before he turns two. Maybe closer to 3 was my original assumption. One fine afternoon, I realised that his eyes were watching me as I move in the kitchen. Then hubby commented that Asher seems to be interested to what happens at the kitchen and it must be interesting to him that some ingredients come together and it appears as food to him. IMG_1878 (640x427)

So we decided to get him involved. I was making pesto one evening and he helped me tear the basil leaves, putting it into the food processor. 

Gradually we moved on. I placed some bananas, eggs, and a few other ingredients around him together with a big mixing bowl. Oh how excited he was. He helped me mashed some bananas, whisk the wet ingredients together and fold them into dry ones. Yes he needed help along the way but he was fascinated by the process. He spooned the mixture into the muffin cups and watched eagerly while the cakes cooked in the oven. IMG_5759

As a psychologist, I work with the most under privilege families. Often with kids that have close to nothing. Some times they struggle, other times I see their resilience coming through. I know that we should never under estimate them. Back in my own kitchen, I realised I have underestimated my own son. A simple act of cooking and baking involves many chains of behaviour. Here is he, practicing his fine motor skills, learning how to stir and spoon. Hand eye coordination is required as he spoon into small cups. A sensory experienced as he realised that this mushy wet mixture that he tasted turned into fluffy cakes. Not to mention listening and processing skills as he listened to my verbal instructions and translate that into actions. 

This little activity reminded me how little we know about child development. We know a lot in science but there are things that are hard to explain with science. Trusting your instincts and experimenting can be one of the best ways to learn how our children operate and what they can/or not. 

I have made these little muffins with apple and they turned out great. The only fruit that I felt was a little dry was pear-funny enough. Nevertheless, I think this recipe is a keeper as it is a nut free one. Very handy for his future school years I’m sure. Banana Yogurt Muffins

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Ricotta Chives Waffles + Work Life Balance

IMG_1845 (640x427)Balance is such an subjective word. What is balance for you may not be balance for us. A recent conversation with a close girlfriend got me thinking….

Balance is the perceive notion that there is even weight given. Work-Life Balance would suggest that one has managed to figure out how to ensure both are given equal amount of attention and work. Equal. That word lies heavily on me. I would love to say I’m happy with the “balance” on the day in and out basis. Sure I like my job, and I certainly like being at home. Is it balance? I think “balance” means fine tuning takes place on a weekly, if not daily basis. IMG_1849 (640x427)

In reality, I believe that it is what we choose to prioritise. What we choose to concentrate and focus on, and perhaps  even what we choose to let go. Balance is perhaps not the best word for us. Like most people, we have bad and good weeks. We have events that throw us off. Our emotions get better of us. Or perhaps someone falling sick means plans need adjustment. 

Balance perhaps is what you perceive as working for your family. Each family takes it quite differently because most of us have different priorities plus developmental changes What we choose to do depends on that too. Balance for us means we have to accept that at our stage in life, we may not get as much time together as a couple than what we have before. However, we choose to spend time as a family figuring out Asher’s personality, likes/dislikes and how can we develop him in his potential. We chose for me to work which means we have to make do with simple or batch cooking for meals, adequate cleanliness and ironing that sometimes pile up. We choose for hubby to concentrate on his career, which means he looks for opportunities to develop himself. I choose to concentrate on strength and performance at the gym, which means I’m trying to focus less on image but more on development. IMG_1845 (640x427)

Do we want more of something? That’s a big YES! Perhaps it is human nature, but hubby and I love to have more time together. We are still learning how to be a couple again on top of being parents. We like to spend more time doing up parts of the house, and most of all, be able to have more time with both sides of our families. There are times when hubby and I give up going for courses because we have other priorities even though the courses might interest us. 

Is balance a series of choices then? 

It’s a really interesting topic because hubby and I never talked about being “balance”. We spoke about how we need to shift things around to make things work. One thing that works to our advantage is that the working hours in Australia is shorter than Asia. That provides the perceive notion that we have a more balance approach to life. Somehow I do agree with that because the shorter hours means there are more option provided to us. I also feel for my family and friends whose life seem to be consume with work. I believe we do work hard here though. I think it is such a myth that being in laid back Australia means there are no hard workers around. Sure we all know of people who slack or we might even question why some individuals are in certain positions. However, I know more people who takes work seriously and commit themselves to it when they are there. Hubby starts work 7ish, and I know that he has already started replying emails and working while on public transport, right down to when he comes back. My part time hours means I generally do not have a break (Yes, I know, probably not legal but I like to make sure my minutes are well accounted for) on some days. I have friends who push themselves and work longer hours than they should. 

Balance perhaps is a cultural option as well. Perhaps we are luckily here because we have the option. That I count us very very lucky.

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware that whenever I can, I like to have breakfasts at any time of the day. On our wedding anniversary, I made some waffles for lunch. It was a real simple savoury one that we enjoyed with some lovely gluten free lamb and rosemary sausages. I did have a small side salad that was not shown in the picture. For these waffles, I attempted to whip the egg whites to give it more of a lift. However, I neglected to note that my waffle maker does thin and crispy waffles. Not the Belgium style type. So…. my waffles turned out crispy anyway! Major DOH moment. IMG_1848 (640x427)

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Carrot and Basil Bread

IMG_1844 (640x427)I see it in his eyes. He is tired. What do you do when one of your favourite person in the world is tired? 

From an encouraging word, to making sure meals are being looked after. Truth is, the rat race isn’t easy. Just like a modern woman battling with the balance of working and home, I can see that the modern man is facing that as well.IMG_1842 (640x427)

My hubby is a hands on father. I remember in the first 6 months that Asher was born, hubby said he felt that he could not do much. In fact, he did. He changed Asher’s first diaper, get peed on, and practiced unconditional love when Asher screamed for 3 hours when he was born in his arms, while I was in theatre. At home, he does the laundry, emptied the bins and water the plants. He make us breakfast once a week. He wakes up in the middle of the night when Asher wakes, even if it is to make me a hot drink or to cuddle Asher while I have a loo break.

IMG_1839 (427x640)These days,  he is even more hands on with Asher. No matter how tired he is when he returns home, he would spend time playing and cuddling him. I know that in the morning, he would leave work a little later just so he can have some time with him. 

With each family, there are challenges. Ours is no different. Sometimes I think hubby faces the same challenges I do in balancing it all. I see it in his face. Choosing work or being at home a few minutes early. Sleeping in an extra few minutes or getting up to empty the dishwasher. Replying that email or reading a book. Having a child also means the focus is a lot on him, and our relationship can get neglected. I cannot put more on him because I know his time is filled. That can be a spiralling cycle where I feel tired from not asking from help. 

I’m grateful though that, those choices he make made us where we are and who we are. 

I make this loaf for a few reasons. The biggest one is that it is a portable snack or breakfast item for hubby. The other, was the celebrate our friends who visited from Singapore a while back. They stayed for breakfast and we had a ball. Nourishing my friends’ tummy resulted in me and Asher feeling nourished with adult company and friendship. Besides, carrot and basil is a combination that can’t go wrong. More veggies in the morning? yes please!Carrot and Basil Loaf

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Imperfect Salted Caramel Slice (paleo, not so paleo, gluten free, clean eating, raw)

Imperfect Salted Caramel SliceI hesitated writing about this recipe because I wanted to fine tuned a few things. Hubby, being the biggest encourager that he is, insisted that I take some photos- despite the chocolate being a little rough, and my cutting of the slice is uneven as. His logic was that I make the decision later, but he loved this slice so much that he doesn’t see why I shouldn’t be sharing it. 

He reminded me that perfection can be a good and bad trait. I wrote about how in my desperation to “get it right”, I have once made a lemon tart 3 times. I wasn’t happy with the based once, the curd 2nd, and there was some cracks on my 3rd. Funny though, that once I put that to rest, the next tart I made- the base came out the way I wanted it to be. Sometimes, the best thing that one can do is to “put it down” and try again sometime later. IMG_1833 (640x427)

Have you ever experienced that? 

I can recall as a child, my mother used to coach me in doing my homework. I wasn’t a good student. I laughed and cringe now, as I became somewhat like a nerd when I was in University. Pre university days? Not so. Mum can probably fill up a book on stories of my whinging, running away (yes! I literally ran away from maths!), and down right resistant in completing any school work. Her persistence in me taught me exactly that trait. In some ways, she taught me what perfection stands for because she never give up. At the same time, when I was in secondary school and she found me in tears over some maths question (I guess by now you know my love-hate relationship with maths…), she encouraged me to take breaks and to re visit them again. IMG_1837 (640x427)

How many times do we persist on with something head on, only to become increasingly frustrated and stressed? Cortisol has been known to increase productivity. We know that through the stress curve, having some cortisol and adrenaline get things going quicker. However, we also know that it will come a point, where productivity falls. Your other instincts will kick in (aka fight or flight), and nothing just seem to make sense anymore. 

The little slice reminded me of just that. My imperfections are there for a reason. It’s ok to sit with that. Who knows, I may come back with a better and prettier slice. Just this moment though, sitting with it does not mean I’m giving up. It simply means exactly that. Pondering, savouring and taking in the moment. IMG_1836 (427x640)

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Coconut and Date Cookies aka Anzac Cookies (Paleo, Clean Eating, Gluten Free) + Roles Definition Husband and Wife

IMG_1825 (640x427)What defines you as a wife or husband? Is it your ability to keep the house clean, manage the kids or bring in the bacon? It sounds so deep and meaningful but it all comes down to what your perception of what you think a wife or husband look like in a marriage. 

Prior to our wedding, we had pre marital counselling which revealed that hubby and I are traditional in our nature. We appear to have our own defined roles. For example, hubby takes the rubbish out. I like to do the cooking. Many of our definitions and image are of course shaped by what we see around us. Our parents, friends, relatives and even media. IMG_1821 (640x427)

Fast forward 6 years later, we realised that it goes deeper than that. As marriage falls into a lovely comfortable rhythm, it is so easy to mistake these roles as fixed. A marriage is after all a partnership. When one needs help, the other pull him/her up. When a particular household chore can’t be completed, the other, knowing what it is, can attempt if not at least asked how the chore is done. Sometimes, it is no longer the “that’s her job” or “that’s his role” anymore. 

Staying at home part time makes me do more. I can fix things (aka put together broken toys), open jars (all those gym workout is making me stronger), take the rubbish out, clear the dishwasher, drive to more places, play rough, learn how to operate the entertainment system at home, and dare I say it, even lift heavy items. (Given a chance and a need, I might even change the lightbulb). Doing these things make me appreciate hubby more- after all, most of the time, he does them. Deep in my heart, I hope he realises how much I do around too! IMG_1822 (640x427)

Which brings me to the next point. Do you know and appreciate what your partner/spouse is doing? Has marriage and your relationship fallen into the rhythm that it has easily fallen into defined roles and responsibilities? 

Having a child makes me realise how much we co depend on each other. That used to scare me. Prior to marriage, I was the pro single career focused woman who has a clear vision in my head on what my life will be. Ask hubby. He asked me to be his girlfriend, I interviewed him for the position as my life partner. As time goes on, I realised I have fallen not only for him, but lean heavily on his support as a life partner. Sure, when we both get busy, it can fall into the way side. Marriage is after all a process not the end of a relationship. It’s a team. One I hope we can role model to our young Asher. 

Marriage and deep and meaningful conversation aside, I created these Anzac look alike cookies in April. I call them coconut and date too because I believe that the traditional Anzac cookies would probably not have fancy ingredients like dates and almond meal! They are pretty yummy though. Truth be told, I’m trying to figure out a cookie recipe that Asher will have at home. Day care and sometimes church creche would provide him with an arrowroot Arnott biscuits. Nothing wrong with them if you can take them, but I am trying to find something that is more nutrition denied. One day, I will figure it out! This one? Not a winner in his books, but certainly in ours!IMG_1820 (640x427)

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Chorizo Lamb Kale Soup

IMG_1801 (640x427)The cold is starting to set in. The mornings and nights are chilly but in the day, it’s actually quite pleasant. While most people dislike the cold, I’m neutral. I love what it comes with- cosy blankets, hot drinks, boots, sweaters and most of all the comfort food. 

I love soups. For many reasons. The biggest one is that it is easy to make a big pot that will lasts a long way. Two dinners and sometimes, even for 2 lunches. Plus, it is usually quick to whip up provided we have some stock in the freezer. I love letting it simmer on the stove, or in my pressure cooker. We do not own a slow cooker (as I’m an appliance hoarder!) but I would imagine that it is an useful tool setting up to “cook and forget”. IMG_1810 (640x427)

In our household, we seem to prefer chunky soups with a bite. Not only that, we like having red meat in it. I think with the pressure cooking or slow cooking, the meat seems to just melt in your mouth. We find that Asher seem have a little more red meat if it is in the form of a soup too. 

Whenever we have a lamb roast, I tend to keep the bones. Adding to the pot would be some celery leaves, carrots, tomatoes, and whatever that is left in my fridge really. Bay leaves, pepper corns and perhaps some herbs from the garden are all added to the pot. Simmer in my pressure cooker for 1-2 hours and I let it cool. I tend to separate it into 2 cups each or in ice cubes for cooking. I used to purchase packet stocks but I have since realised how much more cost efficient- not to mention it is a good use of bones that are left from roasting. I do the same with chicken frames- I freeze them after making a roast, and often have a few slow brewing away or in my pressure cooker. I tend to make stock once a month depending on how much soups or pressure cooking we do. IMG_1808 (640x427)

Chorizo is a favourite in our household. Ever since we found Eurochef, we never buy any other kind of chorizos anymore. They do use pink salt as the preservatives but that’s pretty much it. I love that it is handmade and all natural. In fact, we do most of our shopping at the local Manning Road Markets. Local and fresh! The way we love it. 

I had some left over pesto and drizzle some over it. It was truly divined. And bowl of comfort. After a long day of work, that was what I crave for. Simple food. IMG_1811 (640x427)

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Choc Chip Chickpea Cookies (Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free) + Working Mum Guilt

IMG_1720 (640x427)We were having a conversation about the working mum guilt. I’m not talking about the feeling I have walking away from my son as he settles in day care. I’m talking about the kinda of guilt I feel at work. 

The flexibility that I receive at work is amazing. If Asher is sick, I can shift things around- sometimes working evenings and even on days that I’m not supposed to be on. Mostly, it is a system of trust. As long as I get my work done, and I’m contactable, the organisation is happy. There is also a certain accountability where I let people know what I’m doing and where I am. I think that is fair. 

The other side of the coin is that with a flexible work place, it means the expectation is that we have to respond to the organisation’s flexibility. Changing work days, times and training days to suit. While we can always say no, I often find myself saying yes because I think it is only fair that the organisation and myself work together collaboratively.

There are times though, that I remind myself to say no. It’s very easy to let time and tasks get away and suddenly, it gets stressful trying to coordinate everyone’s timetable. That is when the sneaky guilt sets in. Being part time makes me more aware of each hour I have is precious- more in a being productive way. It does, however, feel “less productive” as naturally, things are sometimes completed slower with less days in the week. The momentum can get lost by the time I returned to the topic that was on hand 2 days back. 

On the others side of the coin, this allows me to take a breather from the topic at hand. It allowed me to slow down to sit on the issue for a little and not react. 

My dear husband reminded me the other day, that part of the reason why I choose to do part time work is to be present with Asher. To enjoy our little family and channel my energy in attuning to us. He said he noted that as proud of him with the way I handle work and home, he observed that while physically I’m not working, my brain is there. I was “slowing down and thinking”. 

There is a common perception that part time mummies have it easy. The perfect work life balance so it seems. I think on many levels, that is true. I like it that my brain is used for something other than mummy and family duties- and that I’m impacting on other families. I love the flexibility and the evidenced based focus. I believe though, that we work hard for it. I may not be at work, but my mind drifts to work at times because it makes my work day more efficient. I have already thought about it and am ready to action. 

At the back of my head, there is that voice. The voice that tells me that I’m not doing my best at work or at home. I feel torn. The exhaustion is part of trying to juggle both. Is there such thing as work life balance? Perhaps. One thing for sure, it means I have to take the good with the bad. I have great weeks and not so great weeks, and that is ok. After all, I’m role modelling to my little boy on how to say no, switch off, and have strong work ethics. 

Speaking of my little boy, I discovered this chickpea cookies recipes a few months back. A good and close friend shared it with me. Now, we are not big wheat or legumes eaters. Mostly we avoid it. I know that legumes can be inflammatory hence less is more. From time to time, we have it and it seems to sits ok with us. This is one of those occasion. Plus I was curious! 

The result was a moist, fudgy cookie! The texture was crumby just like a cookie should be! I used mayvers nut butter and tahini  and it worked a treat. I think if I added in a full 1/2 cup tahini, it would have been too bitter. IMG_1721 (640x427)

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