Monday, 31 March 2014

:: an autumn day ::

We spent a few hours out and about today. Over the past ten days or so four out of the five of us have been battling colds. One spent a good part of the week in bed, and this weekend I have felt on the edge of making the four become five! So we got out for some fresh air, enjoying this sunny, still, beautiful Autumn day. I mentioned to Eti twice "It's such an autumn day!" - something about the light, the felt very end-of-the-long-summer-and-autumny ;o)

While it was beautiful and good to be out, there was much indecisiveness, a few grumpy words and very tired big and little voices between us. Something that the photos don't show. But the beauty around us captured me, and it did each of us as we enjoyed our surroundings, collecting acorns and their "hats," pinecones, picking from the bounty of our tomato patch and noticing the changing colours of the trees.

We're embracing this changing of the seasons and all that autumn brings: soups with fresh breads, the appearance of woollen hats and blankets, long sleeves, flannelette pyjamas, apple sauce with our morning porridge, feijoas, fruit crumbles...ah, the cosiness of the darker evenings and mornings and the changing of nature as it prepares for the coming winter (as much as it does here in the relative sub tropics of the north!). I hope this finds you noticing the beauty and embracing the changes where you are, whether going into spring or autumn!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

:: 13 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A: You often pop up wearing these glasses - old sunglasses that belonged to your Aunty Beth. They never fail to make me smile. I secretly love it when you wear them when we go out!
E: The wonderful hostess - setting the table with thoughtful attention to detail, laying out all the forks and spoons and serviettes for one of your friend's birthday parties. We're always hosting someone's birthday party around here. I, for one, can't wait to host yours soon ;o)
T: Snapped with a mouthful of chocolate - trying to get a shot of the three of you with your fun t-shirts that were a gift from precious friends recently. In the seconds before my battery went flat I only managed to get you in focus, our beautiful, gentle-hearted little man. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

:: recipe : easy no knead bread ::

Here's another well-used and much-enjoyed recipe from our home, following hot on the heels of yesterday's Scroggin Slice. One thing I miss very much about Switzerland and France is the bread. It doesn't pay to dwell on it too much because the thought of all those fresh baked loaves of different varieties, the baguettes, the chocolate croissants...sends me into a bit of a spin of "wants" ;o) In fact, you can still buy the NZ type of pre-sliced -lasts-forever-bread in Swiss & French supermarkets but it's generally only used for toasted sandwiches or specific purposes...not so much for the everyday use of bread. 

Anyway, I like to avoid buying bread in the supermarkets here unless necessary, so we make our own. Most Sunday mornings we have our Swiss tresse for breakfast, but for the general day-to-day bread, the following recipe is my go to. Not having a mixer anymore to do the kneading, this no-knead recipe works perfectly!

This recipe takes about 3 hours from start to finish and makes two loaves or several buns (maybe 16?!)

No-knead bread

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 tbsp of dried/instant yeast
1 tbsp of salt
6 1/2 cups of flour (either all white flour or 5 cups of white flour & 1 1/2 cups of wholemeal)
Seeds (if you want them) - pumpkin, linseeds, sunflower seeds...

Pour the 3 cups of water into a large mixing bowl
Sprinkle the yeast over the water and leave for 5 minutes
Add the salt, flour and seeds and mix together. The dough should be still a bit sticky - but it doesn't matter too much if it's a little dry or on the wetter side.
Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours
When the dough has risen and pretty much doubled in size, heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Cut the dough in half, not handling too much, just smoothing into a loaf shape and pop it into a loaf tin lined with baking paper. Repeat with the other half. You'll probably need a bit of flour on your hands and sprinkled over the dough if it's too sticky. Make three slashes with the knife across the tops of the loaves.
Let the loaves rise while the oven heats up, for about 20 minutes.
Pop them in the oven on the mid-lower rung for approximately 35 minutes.
Once looking well cooked, remove from oven, sit for about 10 minutes. Take out of loaf tins and leave to cool on racks until you can handle them enough to cut some slices to enjoy with butter and jam ;o)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

:: recipe : scroggin slice ::

Recently we had friends from overseas staying with us and we had a zoo trip planned for our little people. In an effort to avoid buying snacks/biscuits laden with unknown processed baddies, I decided (against the wisdom given me to not add anything else to my already-enough-on-it-list) to make some myself. Flicking through mum's collection of recipes, I came across 'Scroggin Biscuits,' a recipe passed on from the mum of a very good school friend of mine. Not only did the discovery of this recipe bring back many treasured memories of spending many adventure-filled weekends on the farm that this lovely family own, but I also spied a note saying 'This can also be made as a slice.' We'd never tried it this way before but, because time was not on my side, I did...and it was delicious!

I often find myself a little disappointed after trying various muesli slice recipes. I probably go too healthy, or maybe it's just the honey that doesn't do it for me. This one has its fair share of sugar and butter, but for its taste I think there's no point trying to substitute those things (unless necessary!). The rolled oats, sunflower seeds, cranberries and dark chocolate over balance the health factor I reckon ;o) It's also very versatile - swap and change the dried fruit, chocolate and flavours and you can make any number of yummy combinations.

Here's the basic recipe, for biscuits or a slice. You can follow the recipe in the photo above, or my variation below!

Scroggin Slice

200g butter softenened
1 1/2c soft brown sugar*
2 eggs
1/4c peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2c rolled oats
1/2c cranberries or chopped apricots
2 handfuls of chopped up dark chocolate (find someone with big hands! I use Whittakers 50% cocoa)
1/2c sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Cream butter and sugar together until light
Add eggs one by one into the creamed butter & sugar and beat together
Add peanut butter and vanilla essence and mix in
You're supposed to combine all the dry ingredients separately in another bowl before adding to the wet ingredients. I'm not great at reading details, so I typically just keep adding them all into the same bowl and it turns out fine!
Line a slice/sponge roll tin with baking paper (or grease if you want to take a risk!) and scrape the whole mixture evenly, smoothing over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes to see how it's going). Should be golden brown and still quite soft to touch. At this point, don't worry if it's too soft - after 20 minutes it should be quite soft and just fine ;o) As it cools it will become more dense. Take it out and leave it to cool before slicing.

Delicious as an anytime snack - especially accompanied with little people and colourful fluffies!

*Today I took the plunge and substituted the brown sugar for 3/4c of runny honey (I hate to take risks for fear of wasting great ingredients like chocolate! But my curiosity got the better of me ;o) ). It worked! It's much more cake-y in texture compared to using normal old refined sugar, but it's almost as delicious and makes the whole thing almost refined-sugar free, if you're keen on that. Enjoy!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

:: 12 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A: Running to and fro in one of you favourite places to be - so much to see and do!
E: Wherever there is water, you are there :o)
T: Touching sand for the first time - you're so peaceful and happy to watch others, especially your sisters!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

:: 11 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A: Bright, inquisitive, and full of songs and stories
E: Transitioning out of your day naps, so you often have some time just with mummy while the other two are sleeping. This week one you've loved "doing the dishes." Mummy has been a bit grumpy about using the tap too often (we're on very limited tank water having had no good rainfalls for weeks until today!) but has enjoyed watching you so happy and busy.
T: We tried some self-feeding this week - it was fascinating watching you work out how to pick up the pieces and get them to your mouth! 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

:: just being honest ::

I've written often about my need to focus on the things I'm thankful for, especially when it's very easy to see all that isn't going so well. Growing a thankful heart is such a good thing for me because the opposite can lead to a very self-centred, ungrateful heart that compares and always comes up short. Lately, as in the last several months, has been quite challenging. I'm a perfectionist with little grace for myself and my perceived failings, so I can easily crash into an over-tired and over-whelmed heap of tears when all that is needed is a good sleep, some wise input and open eyes to realise that actually there is always so much going on around me, big and small that is worthy of notice and gratitude.

Our little man is going through a phase of sobbing every single night we put him to bed. Going in at regular intervals to reassure him and sometimes pick him up for cuddles work temporarily, until we leave his room and his tears return in full force. It can take a couple of hours before he's peacefully asleep for the night. I know he needs to learn to go to sleep in his bed, and he does, but it's hard work on my heart and my sanity! At the same time our girls seem to alternate in waking up in the middle of the night, either crying because it's dark or turning up in our beds. They're also transitioning out of day naps, so are either very tired by dinner time, or have had a sleep after lunch and won't sleep until late in the evening. Needless to say it's a pretty tiring phase to live through at the moment. A phase...I have to remind myself of that. Something that will pass!

The future is also unsettling me somewhat knowing that there is a big dream right around the corner that we would love to see fulfilled, but we have no idea how or if that will happen and it will involve some pretty big (sometimes overwhelmingly scary) sacrifices. And, at the same time, I'm asked regularly if the girls are going to kindy yet, which is a very normal question to ask a mum of almost-four-year-olds, but is another thing that is requiring a huge step of trust on my part. I think the realisation hit me just yesterday that it's me who is avoiding this decision because, if I'm really honest, I don't want to let go right yet. These are the two precious lives that I have nurtured and protected right from the moment I saw those two tiny spots on the ultrasound screen. I have fought for them (in my prayers!), and lived through so many terrifying moments of thinking we would lose them, then the subsequent months of them being so tiny and fragile, trying my best to keep them away from sicknesses that normal babies could cope with. These two little girls are now reaching the age where I need to let go a little and allow them to begin to fly on their own. Of course it will only involve a few hours a couple of days a week, at first, but all-too-soon I know those hours will multiply. We're not sure about their schooling yet, but for now it will be good for them and for me to be involved in other activities and getting to know other children and families. It's scary, but I trust it will be good, and, if I'm honest, I know at least one of us is more than ready for this!

So, while I try to hand these worries over to the One who can hold them safely, removing the fear and burdens from my mama's heart, I work on giving myself some grace for being a mummy who simply wants to love well and do a good job raising her three precious little people, even if she's often a bit tough on herself.

If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.

These beautiful words struck a chord with me when I came across them recently and stood me back on my feet, reminding me that as a mother I'm inextricably linked to those closest to me - my husband and the beloved papa of our children, and then these little lives that have been entrusted to us. Because, if I don't accept it, everyone around me suffers. Grace for us refreshing!

And it always helps my soul to choose to look and find the countless things to give thanks for. To stop the comparing, the complaining, the negativity and impatience and to really live in the moment of appreciating the sweet act of service from a child, or the early morning sun filtering through the beautiful lilies growing wild in the grass, or the latest funny phrase that pops out of the mouth of a child whose mind is constantly taking in what she hears and experiences. To realise that I'm really not alone, but living with the most adoring and entertaining company within a world that does hold so much suffering, pain and loneliness, but also (thankfully) equal measures of beauty and love.

There is really so much that we've been enjoying and thankful for here lately, including the visit from some very precious friends with whom we shared an apartment when we were living close to the hospital while our babies were in Neonatal. But that post and others will have to come another day, as I look at the time and hear my husband's very wise but loving voice in my mind reminding me that sleep is vital!

May you all have a weekend in which you realise that you are not alone with your struggles and fears, that you are noticed and valued and that you can see much to be thankful for around you. May grace, peace and joy be with you.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

:: 10 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A: Her sense of humour and giggles are infectious, even if a little mischievous!
E: We know you'll go far in your life, with the big heart you have and the story you have to tell of your own life :o)
T: One of his most favourite people: Megapop! He often watches him until their eyes meet then his wide grin and sparkly eyes appear. P.S. Tooth one just popped through this week and tooth 2 is on it's way!

:: 9 : 52 ::

...aaahhh!! Late but I'm here! We were away for a week without our computer, so here are weeks 9 and 10...

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."
A: Tucked up with her best friend
E: Trying out Aunty Beth's yummy treats!
T: So peaceful and happy to ride around in his pushchair watching the world pass by :o)