Thursday, August 27, 2015

franjos kitchen | biscuits for your boobs

Hand a new mum a biscuit when her arms are full of baby and her head is tired and weary and you'll have a friend for life. Indeed, when it comes to making a new mum happy it's all about food and extra hands. The best gifts are homemade casseroles, nourishing snacks, folded washing and clean dishes.

It turns out I'm not alone in thinking this, either. Take Fran and Jo for instance: they met at the traffic lights one day while walking their babies around their Melbourne neighbourhood. They got chatting about babyhood and sleepless night and their careers - Fran is a chef and Jo is a naturopath. They forged a friendship whilst pounding the pavement and soon after became business partners, too. "Once we got chatting, Franjos Kitchen seemed obvious, we would combine our experience and skills and create something wonderful," says Jo. Their packed-full-of-all-the-good-stuff biscuits are exactly what new mothers didn't know they needed. Fran and Jo brought their friend Kate, an Art Director, in on the action and together they have created a much needed product. Heartwarming work.

From the beginning they wanted to create bite-size food that would support and nourish women in the stages of pregnancy (a perfect time for the belly bump biscuits), post-partum and breastfeeding. Their lactation cookies, or tanker toppers, have been a mainstay in my diet for the past few months and they are an absolute godsend on cluster-feeding days or at times when I'm hungry but time is in short supply.

They key ingredients are galactagogues oats, brewers yeast and flaxseeds along with coconut oil, chia seeds and buckweat flour. Each biccie offers vitamins, minerals and good fats to support you and your baby by:

> increasing milk supply : brewers yeast, oats and flaxseeds are renowned for their milk-boosting properties

> enhancing your energy : due to the abundance of important B group vitamins and iron found in brewers yeast and oats.

> improving appetite control and reducing sugar cravings : due to the high amounts of the nutrient chromium in brewers yeast which helps to balance blood sugar levels.

> promoting better bowel habits : fibre and good fats help to promote good poo that is easy to move (magical words for those who have ever torn during childbirth).

Franjos Kitchen are offering you 15% off all online orders from today till September 4th. Just add the code: "Simple" at checkout to redeem.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

winter clutter

"Clutter is not just physical stuff. 
It's old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits.
Clutter is anything that does not support your better self."

It's time to shed your winter clutter and get rid of the unnecessary bulk of the season so you can move a little easier and feel a little lighter. 

I get sick around this time every year; the last winter cold to force me to slow down and recharge in preparation for the new season. My naturopath calls these final winter colds a "cleanse"'s the body getting rid of the bulk of winter, the shedding of layers and unnecessary excess/mucous - letting go of the weight of winter. Right now my sinuses are stinging, my throat is sore and I'm feeling dehydrated so I'm gargling salt water and drinking lots of water, nettle tea and fresh juice. I'm opting for lighter, fresher meals and leaving the indulgent food behind; winter is over and the newborn/breastfeeding metabolism has most definitely slowed. 

I've noticed that the energy in our home is a little lacklustre, too. I'm making a mental list of clothes that need to be sorted, wardrobes that need a re-fresh and corners that need cleaning. I'm well and truly ready to throw open all the windows and give each room a thorough clean. I've started burning eucalyptus and lemon oils again, every night there's a beeswax candle flickering on the dining table (beeswax is a natural air purifier and helps relieve the house of odours, pollen, dust, mould and mildew) and I'm considering purchasing a white sage set to release and renew. 

Yes, I am feeling a little weighed down with sickness and routines. I am so ready for spring. You?


Monday, August 24, 2015

feeding your baby solids

Feeding baby solids - not exactly my favourite part of babyhood, to be completely honest.

Let's start at the beginning. Seven years ago, when Che was about seven months old, I noticed he was looking a little yellow, perhaps even a bit orange. Fearing he was jaundice and his liver was failing, I took him straight to my GP who manage to stifle her laughter and diagnosed him with a mild case of beta carotene overdose. I had been feeding him too much pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot and had subsequently turned him into an Oompa Loompa. Needless to say, he ate broccoli, banana and avocado for the entire week afterwards and his skin returned to its normal shade of milky baby. He never really started loving solid food till he was one and while I spent a fair few months fretting that he wasn't eating enough (or as much as every other baby I knew) I soon realised that it was simply his way of eating; he was a grazer who was quite content to breastfeed in lieu of eating a bowl of mashed avocado.

In my experience, introducing solid foods is a messy case of trial and error. A fair amount of food goes to waste and while it's quite fascinating to watch your baby explore the texture and taste of food, be prepared for your washing pile to get significantly bigger (a soaking bucket in the laundry sink is an absolute necessity).

So, where to begin? Personally, I always wait till baby is over six months before I introduce solids. Why? I prefer baby to be sitting up, or close to it, as it aids the digestion process. I also serve food at room temperature (or slightly warmed) for the same reason. I keep an eye on baby's cues too: grabbing for food and watching me (and chewing) while I eat.

I started Che on the token rice cereal but when Poet was little I started with fruits and vegetables. Grains are really difficult to digest so I'm still at a loss as to why they are recommended as the ideal first food. Here's what I've planned for Percy to eat in a few weeks time (inspired by Jude's Wholefood for Children - a brilliant resource):

- I'll start with avocado because it's quite a neutral taste, is available at the local organic store and doesn't require much preparation (the first few weeks baby will spit out more than they eat)
- I'll feed him the same food for 3-4 days before I move onto the next. This is the best way to discover if he likes it or has an aversion to it.
- after avocado I'll feed him banana (and then banana mixed with avocado - always a winning combination). And then: pumpkin, apple, kumera etc

When it comes to puree and mash versus baby led weaning I'm quite open to trying everything. Che gagged on almost every food I gave hime whilst Poet didn't have much of a problem at all. I'll follow Percy's lead and go from there: pureed pumpkin, mashed avocado and a lamp chop - I'll give it all a go.

As for necessary feeding tools? It's best to be prepared with the essentials and leave everything else behind. In my opinion, here's what you need:

- a spoon, cup, plate and bowl for baby - use it now and for the next few years of toddlerhood. I love the bambu range from Nature's Child, this gorgeous all-in-one bamboo set (it comes in blue, too) and these divided plates (because toddlers love eating bite-size pieces in separate sections - trust me on this one).
- a sippy cup. I love the spill-proof, stainless steel range from Thermos where you can buy replacement lids (because that spout is going to get chewed).
- freezer pods with a lid to keep pre-made food nice a safe or alternatively, use these glass storage containers (perfect size for baby).
- reusable sachets for puree on the go
- a pile of teatowels and bibs because you'll need a lot of them.
- a blender or puree stick to effectively turn food to mush.

But just know this: it's best not to stress about what you baby is or isn't eating. Some babies will devour a bowl of food at four months and others won't really develop a taste for it till their first birthday. One baby may love a bowl of pureed vegetables and the other will smash a few stalks of blanched broccoli.

Take it day by day, vegetable by vegetable and be prepared to have mashed something or other thrown in your face, on the floor and spread all over baby's head. And if you don't have the time or the inclination to make you baby's food from scratch? For goodness sake do not let motherguilt come into it. The supermarkets have a great range of organic baby food in pouches and they are perfect for those first few fussy months and beyond. I always keep a few in the pantry for days when time is evaporating and baby is demanding.


Sunday, August 23, 2015


"A portrait of my youngest children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Poet: this is how she looks at the end of the day: one pigtail in, one pigtail out, snotty nose, flushed cheeks, big smile. 

Percy: an inquisitive little thing, he'll often wake at the slightest noise (I'm sure he feels like he's missing out on something). This is my view of him whenever we go on a walk; he cranes his neck to see what's going on. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

spring busy

Sometimes the busyness of life completely stuns me. Take for example the fact that Percy is nearing six months old. Where did six entire months go to? I remember so many of those days as a whole experience; feeding and cuddling and loving upon him whilst adjusting to being a mum of three and all that it entails. But my goodness it's been busy. And the fact that it's been so fleeting leaves me feeling a little sad, to tell you the truth. 

Just this week we've noticed a distinct change; the air is warmer and the trees are beginning to blossom; spring is here. I'm officially back to work and getting used to the work-from-home palaver that is never predictable or particularly easy. I don't strive for balance but I do accept the fact that it's a constant juggle. I write this while Percy lays on his playmat, squawking at the teeth that are attempting to push through. But next week? He'll be rolling off the playmat and well, then life reaches a new level of busy. 

There are numerous lists in my head at the moment, so many tabs that are open and begging for my attention. Yesterday afternoon as we neared the witching hour I found myself stressing about this and that and all the things. And then Daniel piped up: "Write a list." So I did and yes, it worked. It always does.

So I'm working from home with a school child, a pre-schooler and a soon-to-be-moving baby - just call me the listmaker. And while I know that this level of busy isn't going to go away, I do know that there will be days, sometimes weeks, of reprieve. But today? We'll it's up to me to create those precious hours of rest, to put aside the emails and the phone and the never-ending chatter of social media and focus on the child beside me, the child at my feet and the baby in my arms. Because I don't want to get to the end of 2015 and regret not spending enough time with them - just with them.

Spring means warmth which means bare feet which means summer. Before we know it there will be end-of-year performances, mangoes at the fruit shop and beach towels on the line.

Just a little reminder.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

how to create a realistic family budget

I'm incredibly well practiced at writing an idealistic family budget but not so good at the realistic sort. And you have to be realistic when it comes to money for the family, don't you? Incidental expenses and financial surprises (of the not-so-cheery-kind) are guaranteed.

I've spent the last week preparing my accounts for my annual trip to the accountant and a quick scan of my bank statement revealed one rather confronting fact: when I'm busy and not entirely focussed on my budget I revert to frivolous spending habits. As soon as Percy arrived I opted for convenience at every opportunity and convenience is always the most expensive option. Alas, I feel like I'm back on track with added motivation and a sharp budgeting eye.

I like to think that the essence of simple living is living within your means; cultivating healthy and realistic spending and saving habits. And perhaps the first step to being realistic with money is to recognise exactly what your financial habits are. Me? I'm a spender who will transfer too much money into our saving account without thinking about the everyday expenses that will undoubtedly arise over the following week. Daniel? He's the saver who will research for months before buying something, will always buy second-hand or in the sales and is incredibly adept at going without. Together there's some balance there, I'm sure of it.

Our finances have changed significantly over the past few months, such is life in the freelance game. We have also had a few big expenses: a second car became an absolute necessity when Daniel's workload increased (there's only so long you can rely on the help of others) and we're paying for Poet's operation upfront (subsequently we've also increased our health cover to include hospital cover...the things you learn).

As for a realistic budget? You Need a Budget is a handy app for those who need some direction and ASIC recently launched the Women's Money Toolkit which asks you a series of questions and then offers a variety of helpful financial tools including a budget planner. It also links to Centrelink so you can keep on top of your family's entitlements.

But whilst apps and programs can be useful guides, there's also the bare bones, back to basics way of tracking how and where you spend your money. All that's required is a piece of paper, a pen and the discipline to write it all down. Indeed, if you want to know where all your money is going just document every single expense for a fortnight and the answer will be right in front of you.

So how do I create as budget that's both realistic and geared towards saving for our own home? I make a list of monthly expenses that includes rent, bills, extra-curricular activities, petrol and groceries. From there I allocate a certain amount for spontaneous spending each week and the rest goes into our savings account (at the end of the month when everything is accounted for). We recently moved all our money into a savings account that offers us a great interest rate as long as we deposit regularly and make no withdrawals. We have set up an automatic transfer each fortnight to make sure we're meeting the minimum deposit required - an invisible habit, so to speak, that is recommended by almost every financial guru out there.

Here's what we're also doing to make sure we squirrel away as much as possible:

- when we're home we'll often make our own coffee and when we're out we'll either sit in at our local cafe or take our keepcup (many cafe's will charge you less if you take your own reusable cup - good for the environment and your wallet).

- I've started Christmas shopping. Granted this may be a little premature but I figure that without the stress of last-minute shopping I'm more likely to spend wisely. A little purchase every fortnight ensures I'm not taking a significant amount out all at once - buying beautiful gifts here and there ensures I'm buying consciously and with awareness.

- I've stopped using paypass/paywave. Honestly, the ease of this payment method is a little frightening and whilst it's very handy when you have a baby on your hip and a wallet in your hand, it's not so great for your saving goals. Why? It may be different for your bank but I've found that the transaction doesn't show up immediately so it's difficult to keep track of how much I've spent. With this in mind, I do try to only spend cash where possible.

- we buy groceries online. I buy my fruit, vegetables, oil and sourdough from Nurtured Earth and the rest of my groceries from the supermarket. A grocery trip with a baby-in-tow is never fun and I find that I'm much less likely to overspend if I can keep track of it as I go. I'm also more likely to buy the essentials when they're on sale (it shows up on my account) even if I don't require them that week. My Groceries is a handy app that notifies you of weekly specials as you type your list (thanks for the tip, Leuke). Meal planning is essential for conscious grocery shopping and once a month I'll spend a few nights rustling up dinner with leftovers, pantry staples and pre-made meals that I've frozen to make sure little goes to waste.

- we take our water bottles everywhere (we use klean kanteen)

- we switch our appliances off at the wall because electricity is one of our biggest expenses.

- we don't go without everything. This may be surprising but I don't think depriving yourself of all indulgences is healthy or beneficial in the long run. There's a lot to be said for saving for your future but enjoying the present is important, too. So yes, we spend money on the occasional cake with coffee, a bunch of flowers for the table, a take-away Indian, ice-cream cones and craft supplies.

- I refer back to my bank account and budget plan at least once a week to ensure we're not swaying from our intentions. Constant reminders are always necessary for spenders like me.

Now that we're halfway (and a bit) through the year, how is your family budget looking? Are you on track to meet your savings goals or have unexpected expenses got in the way? What is your failsafe advice to creating a realistic family budget?


This post follows on from an earlier discussion about the Cost of Living in 2015. I've also written this as an entry to Heritage Bank's Savvy Saver Awards which are determined by reader votes. I would be so appreciative of your support - just head over here, search for Practising Simplicity and vote. If you do so you could be in the running to win a $100 gift card


Sunday, August 16, 2015


"A portrait of my youngest children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Poet: content to play real-life house, she often locks the latches on all the doors...just for fun. 

Percy: despite a little cold and his first bout of croup, he's happy and giggly and thinks I'm hilarious.


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