Thursday, May 27, 2010

So I bought a bag...

Ah, my shiny gift to self for Mother's Day. An extravagance I know (though I got it off ebay new with tags for much less that the retail price), but one also intended for symbolic use. Yesterday I made a rare city trip with a girlfriend who is two years younger than me but has two babies under the age of two. She is stunningly beautiful, stylish, educated, intelligent and well-spoken. But living in suburbs in the lower socio-economic demographic, seeing a young girl with young children leads people to instantly think knocked-up-teen. What happened to the world such that young women can't have children without being scrutinised and judged? We're far from teenagers really, being in our early twenties. But it's hard to convey specific age, and even harder to show that you are an educated young woman whose pregnancy and resulting children are the highlight of her life rather than an accident with some life-long casualties.
My friend used the example of a circle of very young mothers on a train platform, blatantly smoking around the strollers and ignoring the bored pleas of their children. We're trying not to judge, but we also don't want anyone to associate us with them. How do we do it? Walk down the other end of the platform. Somehow try to ooze sophistication and class? Not the easiest thing to do with a wriggly, whiny baby, no matter your age. Sometimes I feel hesitant in admonishing Wolf for throwing things or hitting and biting when I walk him around in public. Will I come off as one of those careless young mothers yelling at their kids all the time? I'm terrified that some old lady will tut tut me and shake her head, much the way my grandmother used to when she saw young mothers around town.
It was much easier to look like happy young mothers when we arrived in the city and had a messy but enjoyable lunch at a cafe in Federation Square. The kids were free to play and make noise, and we managed a rare non-home cooked lunch in architecturally beautiful surrounds (a debatable opinion for some). The waitresses were attentive and friendly. We had a lovely walk to Birrarung Marr along the Yarra river path, enjoying the sunny weather and talked baby poo and mother-in-laws. We smiled at other parents and they responded in kind.
The demographic of your location can have a massive affect on how you are interpreted. In a poorer area, you're a silly girl who got herself into trouble, in a richer area, you are a lucky young woman with a beautiful child and a lot of wonderful life experiences to come. I know I shouldn't care, but I admit my confidence as a mother is affected when I think I'm being judged poorly.
So back to the bag. It probably sounds ridiculous, but it is part of a mother-hood style makeover. I've been progressively emptying my wardrobe of my more bizarre fashion choices (and there have been many. I love weird things.) and replacing them with basics, multiple pairs of properly fitting jeans (no more mummy-bum crack, save that for work) and everything easy to wash. Sensible choices for a sensible person, or least someone trying to become sensible.
My first baby bag was one of those insane Gwen Stefani Harajuku Lovers creations. Pink, blue and yellow shell printed bag with lots of zips and charms and keychains. Very...colourful. Pockets stuffed with tissues and crumbs. It's been nearly a year since Wolf was born, so I'm graduating to my new black Il Tutto Nico bag. It's a little shiny; I wasn't going to get something that wasn't at least pretty. It's the first time I've ever spent proper money on a bag actually made of leather. Most of my bags are machine-washable things, not that they've ever water that wasn't rain or a leaking water-bottle.
Call the bag a talisman. A symbol. A glaring neon sign that says 'LOOK! I like being a mum! I even got a proper bag and everything!' 
I suppose my tattoos don't help much do they. I'll think about how to work on that one later.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Elevating the side dish

Sometimes I used to roast off a side of meat or fry up some fish just so I had the excuse of making Potato au Gratin as a side dish. But now with our need to make more economical, baby-friendly, quick-to-prepare dining choices, large portions of meat and fish have been relegated from being central to our nightly meal, to an a few times a week occasion. Couple that with increasing guilt over the ecological cost of meat production - though let's face it, inherit blood thirstiness means we're never going to go vegetarian - and you have yourself a fine argument for elevating the humble side-dish to the main event. Evade the middle-class-wealth proscribed idea of meaty/fishy dinners and have a gratin for dinner! There's enough fat in this to keep you all going. Serves four people, or two adults, a baby and leftovers enough for a very greedy person's lunch the next day.

Potato au Gratin
8 medium sized potatoes 
1 onion
2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup cream
2 handfuls gruyere
1 handful tasty cheese
knob of butter
bunch of thyme

salt and pepper

1. Peel potatoes and slice into reasonably even 1/2 cm slices. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
2. Halve and thinly slice onions. Peel one clove of garlic.
3. Add potatoes, onion and garlic clove to large pot, cover with a mix of half milk and half cold water. Add a couple of pinches of salt. Place on medium heat and bring to boil. Cook until potatoes are just tender but not falling apart.
4. Meanwhile chop second garlic clove finely and place in the bottom of a deep baking dish with a knob of butter. Place in warming over to lightly caramelise garlic and melt butter.
5. When potatoes are cooked, drain off liquid and add the potatoes to the prepared baking dish.
6. Pour over cream, sprinkle over cheese and finish with thyme leaves.
7. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

This yields a totally non-watery gratin with nicely cooked potatoes that still retain their shape. This is perfect for Wolf as he refuses to eat from a spoon most of the time and prefers to use his hands. He loves potatoes! His eating habits are turning out to be a lot like mine as a child. This would be really good with some caramelised leek through it, or some shaved ham if you're desperate for meat. And yeah, it does go really well with a roast chicken or some panfried fish. But tell yourself you don't need it.
It's my new mission to have at least one or two dinners based around just one vegetable. The other night it was orechiette with a broccoli sauce. And Wolf ate it all. I got my baby to eat broccoli! This is an achievement I will use to justify my next shopping spree.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reasons to go raid the Korean Grocery Store

Last week I wandered into the Korean Grocery Store that's opposite Queen Victoria Market (The one on the opposite side of Victoria Parade, not the one on the other side of Elizabeth Street). Fantastic baby goods find!

They're clips you use with your stroller to keep a blanket over your baby's lap. I've needed something like this so badly, because on our second stroller it doesn't have a foot muff or anything, but it's the one I run Wolf around in the most. Wolf loves kicking blankets off and then watching as I roll over it. They were $10.50 in the random household goods section of the grocery store. Awesome!
I love Korean grocery stores and I love IGAs! Maybe I should like quit being a cook and open some random corner store? 'Cept I wouldn't be able to help myself adding like a coffee machine and a zillion in-dining options. Someday someday.

Big Boy

Look at him! He's huge! Over 11 months now and he's big enough to muck around in the playground.
It's been a beautiful day today. Sometimes things like this just show how mature he's becoming, and
how quickly!

Then there are other moments that show he's still really just a baby with a lot of things to learn.
Particularly about table manners.
How did that piece of apple get up there? And why isn't it falling off?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bath Toys

Thank you to Bebe Online for giving us these Boon Designer Bath Toys and Scrubbies to road test.
They are crazy fun! Wolf adores them. Yes I'm aware that that brown coloured shape in the bath looks
like a poop at first glance. But baby mums know that a baby poo in the bath wouldn't look like that anyway. It's still a fun picture.
I love these toys because they can be chewed on, they stick to the walls and little bodies and they repel mould and mildew. Wolf thinks they're brilliant. Except now he expects things to just stick on walls all the time so he spends a lot of time picking things up and pressing them against the wall then watching as they fall on the floor. Sigh. Learning. It's all learning.
He's getting a bit big for the little bath tub though. Time to get the big bath tub re-finished!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Food nerds and lemons

OK. So I'm a huge Masterchef fan. But anticipation for Julie Goodwin's cookbook waned pretty quickly when she kept appearing in those Glad ads. They're really weird. A not-quite-right attempt at facsimile of Australian family life. Wouldn't she get really mad if they started tossing her food around like a soccer ball? Where's the bickering? Where are the disasters and accidents? Too many rictus grins. Anyway I don't know. I probably spend too much time puzzling over advertisements. 

Still I can't believe that upon it's release it appeared in one of those random product bins they have in post offices where you line up. And it was only $30. Pretty cheap for a full-colour photo cook-book with nice binding and all that. Still it's supposed to be peddled to the masses. It's surprisingly good, full of pretty easy and obvious family recipes. Even Josh might be able to learn to cook from it. The section on cooking when camping is particularly good, because I can't remember a single school camping trip we ever did that had good food. Camp-fire roast pork! Nice. If I ever get over my hatred for waking up outside without the option of a shower or an actual toilet seat, I might let Josh drag Wolf and I out camping.
I tried out her lemon butter recipe and it's actually quite good. 

After making litres and litres of lemon curd every week at the patisserie, a curd recipe that has only four ingredients and only takes 25 minutes to make is pretty refreshing. I remember the time I put twice as much gelatine as my master's recipe required and it came out like rubber. The flavour of Julie's lemon butter is nice and tart with a smooth finish; not too egg, sugary or grainy like so many other recipes out there. It contains only lemon juice, eggs, sugar and butter but still has a firm but spreadable texture. 
I made some butter cookies sandwiched with curd for my mum! Something nice for her to have while she babysits Wolf for me. Thanks mum!

Tomorrow will be my first mother's day too. However I will be working and am anticipating a day full of sniping remarks and general ill feeling from my bosses. I've been pretty run-down the last month and have suffered illness after illness, meaning that I've had to duck out of my two days of work a few times. Not very good for my overall record. I do feel really incredibly bad about it. Through my entire time there I've rarely asked for time off for social occasions, unlike my colleagues, I like to keep days because sometimes we get sick. I'd rather that be the only reason that I don't work. In any case they've been quite angry with me so I suggested that they let me go without any ill-feeling from my end. That seems to have been more trouble than anything else. I just wanted them to do the right thing for themselves without having to feel guilty. It's troublesome when you begin to have an emotional attachment to your employers and begin to do things to help them or protect them that are out of the norm. Really it should be a direct relationship with specific protocols, but when you work close quarters it's quite hard to maintain.
In any case I'm hoping desperately that tomorrow will still be a good day and that we make a few mums happy with a Sunday breakfast she doesn't have to cook!
Happy Mothers Day to all you mothers for tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things that happen when you're not watching baby

Usually these things are bad. Very bad. Like finding Wolf had made it into our bedroom and fallen into a box full of scarves and hats. Or Wolf trying to pry open the nappy bin to see what the smell was all about.
However after he performed his miraculous Speedy Gonzales act disappearing from underneath my feet, I could hear this strange plastic rattling and rolling coming from his room. I freaked out and ran in, thinking he might be trying to attack the air conditioner again only to find that he had re-discovered his Christmas present from his paternal Grandparents.

You put the plastic balls through the circular openings at the top and they roll down the tail or neck or through the 'stomach'. 4 months of putting the balls through the chutes to show him how it was done. Usually he got bored or watching that and tried to climb the dinosaur and eat the birds on top. It's not very stable, so it was put away in a corner in his room. He actually had to shove a bouncing donkey (we have weird toys I know) out of the way and pull the dino out of the corner and turn it around. He even found the matching balls and began to play all on his own. When I came in he just looked at me,  smiled and kept playing!

Amazing. These milestones are so amazing. He does it all himself. 
I love being a mum! It's better than anything else in this entire World. 
This has really made all the stresses of the week seem like nothing. Feeling like I can't live up to my previous standard of work anymore. Trying to make things easier for people in the long run but still feeling as though I'm constantly the source of all problems. Trying to make time to see specialists. Having simultaneous epiphanies about future plans and crises over money and relationships. 

These things still have to be dealt with, but who wants to feel depressed when you have an awesome baby doing brilliant things all by himself! We made him from scratch. But he deserves all the credit.

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