Fred at six months: food and attempts at crawling…

Well, Fred has started on solid food… although I suppose puréed apricot and baby rice aren’t really that solid, but you know what I mean. We’re off to an auspicious start. He is already an eating machine! I’ve made him small portions of course, but he’s eaten loads for his first three ‘meals’ and sort of strains to get closer to the spoon and looks like he’s dying to get the next bite! I know it’s a bit too early to get my hopes up, but if things continue like this, it looks like we might have yet another little foodie on our hands. Yay!

I have to say, I’m delighted it’s time to start him on food now. It’s more work of course, because apart from the baby rice, I make everything else from scratch. But sometimes it feels a bit challenging getting him to breastfeed, especially now that he gets so distracted by what’s going on around him and because I think he just wants so much to be on the move, it can be a bit annoying trying to get him to feed, even when I know he must be hungry. So, now with solid foods coming into the picture, I feel like I won’t have to worry so much about his feeding. I know breastmilk is the most important food for him for the entire first year, but still. It’s good to know he’ll be getting a bit extra in his belly each day!

He also looks like he’s going to start crawling pretty soon, which is mental! He’s only just six months old! He has been scooting around, spinning and doing the backwards wannabe-crawl for weeks now, but he’s been able to get up on his hands and knees properly for a few days, and this morning he was doing the rocking back and forth thing a bit. My leg happened to be behind him at one point, so he pushed off me a bit to do a sort of forward dive, which was his first successful forward move full stop, but he was cheating a bit, so it doesn’t really count. Anyway, I just keep thinking that Liam’s peaceful existence is almost over and soon he’ll have a mobile little brother trying to get him and his stuff all the time! He doesn’t know what he’s in for! Then things will really get interesting around here.

Recent cooking adventures…

I’ve been having some fun recipe experiments lately. That is, on the days when I don’t hate the sight of the kitchen and the mere thought of having to cook. I’ve been a bit back-and-forth on the whole kitchen/cooking thing for months now, probably pregnancy related, but my desperation for healthy new recipes and inspiration has led me to some delicious discoveries.

My favourite food blog at the moment is Stonesoup, for many reasons. One of the highlights are all the recipes featuring only 5 ingredients, most of which are prepared in about 10 minutes. Time and time again I’ve looked at such a short ingredient list and simple cooking instructions and been sceptical that the end result would end up being very flavourful, but each and every time I’m delighted with the delicious food I end up eating! Obviously such quick and easy cooking is a great thing when one has a toddler to chase around. There are also tons of high-protein and low-carb recipes, and lots of great vegetarian recipes too, which have been a lifesaver during pregnancy. I actually just had a routine blood test last week and apparently my blood sugar levels are too high. This has been a wake-up call to cut back on the carbs again. I have to have a follow-up test as soon as I get the chance, so hopefully it won’t be a major problem, but still, I do need to cut down on all the pasta and potatoes and sugary stuff. I’m also trying to find new and creative things for Liam to eat, or at least to try. He eats really well, fruits, veggies, meat, everything, but I want to keep introducing him to new stuff, especially some vegetarian stuff. He loves his meat, the little carnivore, and I’m perfectly okay with that, but I’d just like him to have wide-ranging tastes, so I would like to have him at least try more lentil/bean type stuff. With a little coaxing, he did eat some of the lentily fake-meatballs we had for dinner tonight, so that was a success!

Anyway, here are some of the Stonesoup recipes we’ve tried recently and loved, for anyone  interested. There are so many more I want to try!!! Unfortunately, there are some I can’t really do here, because of the ingredients available (or not available), but I’m sure I’ll have a chance some day!

Irish-style baked beans (great served with fried or poached eggs)

Lentil-balls with tomato sauce (just had this for dinner tonight with fried courgettes/zucchini and it was really good. Liam even tried some! It was a delicious and MUCH cheaper alternative to meatballs)

Chickpea burgers with yogurt sauce and cucumbers (haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on the menu for tomorrow night)

Butter chickpeas (mine took a bit longer than 10 minutes to cook because I added some extra vegetables, but it was still really quick and easy. Had it a second night substituting some left-over roasted chicken breast instead of the chickpeas and that was delicious too)

Carrot ribbon salad with pesto and cashews (love it!)

Anyway, it’s a fun blog to explore! Love it love it love it!

Exploring Çanakkale…

The next stop on our expedition was Çanakkale, a seaport town just a short ferry ride across the Dardanelles from where we had spent our first night near Eceabat. The population of the town is a bit over 100,000 and it was a nice place to spend a couple of days.

Çanakkale is an important tourist destination for Australians and New Zealanders coming to commemorate their countrymen who fought and died in the Gallipoli campaign during World War I. In 1915 the British and French were trying to take over Constantinople/Istanbul and secure passage to the Black Sea. Turkish forces defeated the invaders, and many on both sides died during the fighting. Apparently this campaign is especially important in both Australia and New Zealand, as it is considered to be the beginning of both countries’ sense of national distinctiveness and identity. Anzac Day, which commemorates the soldiers who died at Gallipoli, is one of the most important holidays in both countries. The Gallipoli campaign was also extremely important for Turkey, and sort of defines the time when the old Ottoman Empire was coming to an end and set the stage for the Turkish War of Independence a few years later.

However, we mainly stopped in Çanakkale to break up all of our travels, and because it would be a handy place from which to take a day trip to Troy, one of the main objects of our wanderings. We were pleasantly surprised by the town and enjoyed our stay there. There were a number of nice pedestrian streets to stroll along, some tasty and cheap food to enjoy, and the place had a generally good vibe. The highlights were a lovely little café where we stopped every day for Turkish coffee and a new Turkish food experience- peynir helva.

The café was run by a friendly German woman who we chatted with a bit. We learned that she’s married to a Turkish man (there are quite a few Turks living in Germany), and a couple of years ago the two of them along with their two children moved to her husband’s home town, Çanakkale. So, she’d been completely immersed in Turkish, which meant that she was having trouble recalling the English she knew (she still did better than I could do in either Turkish or German, so I’m certainly not criticising!). Anyway, her café was gorgeous, on a lovely pedestrian street with flowering trees growing nearby, just across from a mosque. We enjoyed the cosy inside a couple times, and others we sat out at tables on the street enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful surroundings. And the coffee was delicious!

In terms of food, we’d read that peynir helva was a speciality in the region, so we ate it every chance we got! We’d had ordinary helva before, which is a sweet thing made from seasame paste. It’s kind of hard to describe, but maybe it’s like a dry, slightly crumbly nougat. Whatever it’s like, it’s good, particularly with some strong coffee! Yum. Anyway, this Çanakkale variation seems like something else altogether and involves cheese, which sounds rather strange, but it is now definitely one of my favourite desserts here (especially when served with a dollop of ice cream on top), and that’s saying something!

Our first evening in the town, we went into this dull and rather bare looking helva shop, with a sort of nerdy looking man in glasses being basically the only person working there. The place had the look of the 1970s; the colours, old tables and chairs, minimal decoration. On the walls there were a few black-and-white photos, one of a man with a very strong family resemblance to the chap currently working there, probably his father or grandfather. Apparently the shop was founded in the 1920s, and the only thing on the menu is peynir helva. That’s it. No fancy décor,  no gimmicks, no witty chitchat with the proprietor to bring folks into the shop. Just a really freakin’ amazing recipe for peynir helva perfected over the last 90 years. And the place certainly seemed to have a reputation; one of the evenings we were there, there was a queue of people ordering boxes and boxes of the stuff! Oh, my mouth waters just thinking about it!

Well, there’s more to tell, but it’s late and my pillow is beckoning….

Decaffeinate your own tea…

So, I’ve decided to try and avoid caffeine for the most part, although I know that having a bit of caffeine while your pregnant isn’t a big deal. For the first few months, this was super easy, since my body turned against tea and coffee anyway! But I am now reunited with my old friend, tea, and I feel very happy that we’ve gotten over our period of separation. I heart you Tea!

Anyway, I found a quick and easy way to decaffeinate this delightful leafy beverage, and it works with any variety of tea. All you have to do is heat the water to the appropriate temperature and pour just a little on your tea leaves/bag. After 30 seconds, pour out that water and then pour on the normal amount and brew how you usually would. Apparently the caffeine in tea is released in the first few seconds of brewing, so you just get rid of the caffeiny water and you’re set! Since the decaffeinating process is so easy and painless, I figure I might as well just do that. Anyway, thought I’d share, for all you non-caffeine folk out there!

Baby kicks and strawberries…

I have to say that I love this whole pregnancy thing. Okay, the months of nausea and headaches and tiredness weren’t that enjoyable, but it’s definitely fun now! I’ve been enjoying feeling the baby move for the last few weeks, but this week I can actually see him move! When he gets going, I can see my belly bulge out in a little spot for a second, which is so fun! Richie finally got to see it yesterday too. Baby doesn’t seem to be quite strong enough for Richie to feel him moving, or maybe it’s just because he isn’t very consistent and it’s hard to catch him in the act, but I’m glad Richie got to finally catch a glimpse of some of the action!

Yesterday we also had an ultrasound with a specialist at the hospital to look for any abnormalities in the baby. No problems were found, and it was fun to get a more detailed description of all the baby’s parts and see him moving around and looking so much more ‘baby-like’, so to speak. We got a video of the whole scan, on CD, which is really cool too. And apparently from the measurements that the specialist took from the ultrasound, I’m 22 weeks along, although I’ve read that these measurements aren’t 100% reliable for predicting the exact age of the baby, but still.

In other news, the weather is FINALLY NICE. Outside our sitting room window, there is a lovely mulberry tree, and over the past couple of weeks we’ve watched the leaf-buds pop out, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the baby leaves. Well, they’ve arrived! I love that fresh, bright sort of lime green of new leaves. Plus there are swallows darting around in the early morning and evenings now, which sort of take on the role of robins in America: they come with the spring and stick around all summer and into the autumn. AND there have been strawberries in season for the last couple of weeks at least. I love them so much! I could eat them until I died! Last week I bought two lovely, juicy, fresh kilos of them (probably for like the equivalent of 2 dollars), ate as much as my stomach could hold the first day, and then froze the rest. Even de-frosted, they taste amazing. I am deeply and madly in love with strawberries! It’s like a party in my mouth every time I eat one! So basically, for as long as strawberry season lasts, I am wholeheartedly going to indulge in my love affair with this  amazing little fruit, guilt-free. Actually, I’ve just inspired myself; I’m going to go eat some right now!

Yummy things…

So, first of all, I am currently obsessed with lemons. This all started just a few days ago, but it has been rather relentless! One of my favourite things, when lettuce is nice and fresh, is a simple green salad, with whatever mix of leaves you like (I really love lolla rosa, cos lettuce, fresh mint or basil leaves, etc.) and a super simple dressing of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. You don’t have to do anything special for the dressing; just pour all the ingredients on your leaves and toss them together. I love having this salad after a meal. My Italian friends (ciaoaya!) eat salad after dinner and say it’s good for digestion. Works for me! This week I’ve just wanted to eat huge heaping bowls of lemony salad! I can’t get enough of it!

Literally, I can’t get enough. So, to further indulge my lemon craving, I just made up a delicious warm treat. Pregnancy has turned me against my old love – tea – and so I have essentially been hot-drink-less for the last two months! But tonight I’ve found a great replacement, inspired by some tea friends from work are currently into. Basically, it’s just juice from half a lemon and a small bit of fresh grated ginger in a mug of boiling water. I added a small bit of honey too. You can add as much ginger as you like; I prefer a decent bit so it’s nice and spicy! I just had a cup of this and OH MY GOD, I love it. Spicy, lemony, and definitely healthy. When I’m finished with this post I’m going to make another cup!

I was just remembering that, a number of weeks ago, I was looking online for natural headache remedies, because I’ve had tons of headaches in the last month or so and hate taking paracetamol/tylenol all the time. One I remember seeing was lemon juice in hot water. I thought that sounded too simple to be worthwhile and ignored it. Now, with lemon-mania taking over my brain and tastebuds, I’m wondering if it’s my body craving that natural headache remedy. It’s probably just a coincidence, but I’m going to experiment on myself for the next while, and have some lemony-something when I get a headache and see what happens. Can’t hurt.

On a non-lemon related note, I found a superfantastic blog and free e-book I am dying to share! The theme is minimalist cooking, which I’m so into! The blog is Stonesoup and the author is food scientist Jules Clancy. She creates amazing recipes, all of which involve 5 or fewer ingredients! In her free e-book, all the 5-ingredient recipes take only 10 minutes to cook. Can’t get simpler than that. They have lots of easy to find and use ingredients that are also super delicious. So it’s easy, but definitely not plain or boring. This looks like the perfect thing if you’re a busy person, you work long hours and are usually too tired to cook or you are a busy parent, or you don’t really like cooking and spending lots of time in the kitchen but you want to eat great food… basically, it looks great for anyone. I’m imagining us in about 6 months, with life taken over by small baby, and thinking that this type of cooking could be such a lifesaver. I think there’ll be lots of recipes Richie might like to try too, since he’s not a big fan of time-consuming cooking. Anyway, I definitely recommend checking out the Stonesoup blog and downloading the free e-cookbook.

Okay, that’s all for now! Happy eating!