Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Lily has a Little Lamb Cradle 'N Swing

This is a sponsored post by Nuffnang.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by my sponsors, Nuffnang, asking if I'd like to review a toy from Mattel. So I said, yes of course, I am a stay at home mom with three young kids, toys are our expertise! But if you've seen my house, you would know it sort of resembles Santa's workshop or a second hand toy store. Train sets and a train table, speedy sport cars of all shapes and sizes, a footy all rough around the edges, tools for little boys, toy soldiers and other little boys' toys! What is it that we haven't trialled and tested?

When the big box arrived at our door, I was excited. I have been secretly hoping that it would be a toy for Lily, my youngest of the three. She is 10 weeks old and the only little girl of the family. Lo and behold, in that big box we unravelled My Little Lamb Cradle 'N Swing, fit for our little princess Lily. All of a sudden, it was ALL ABOUT ME! This is JUST what I need.

In our busy household, sometimes I could use an extra pair of hands. Although Lily is an easy baby, sometimes she still wanted to be held, cuddled and rocked. Here's a swing that cradles and swings, here's a place I can plonk Lily down and she can easily entertain herself.

The swing rocks with a side to side motion, a bit like how you would rock a baby in your arms. And the cradle that surrounds her has a really soft, squishy fabric and a canopy, making it a cozy little cocoon. Above her a little hanging mobile with cute little felt lambs, fluffy clouds, moon and star in pretty shades of pastel.

When I first saw the dials and buttons on the body, I was a bit overwhelmed! So many different functions, tunes, speed and volume. There are 8 soothing lullaby tracks as well as 3 nature sounds. The volume and speed dials allow for control of a comfortable setting.

What I love most is the globe mirror on the mobile. I watch Lily watching herself, she could stare at herself without blinking for ages or she makes these little funny grimaces that are sooo cute! The rotating toys engages her attention. And I think Lily enjoys looking at her own reflection, and it encourages self-recognition. And the best thing is, it rocks her to snoozy sleepyland.

Now that's not all. When Lily grows a little bit older, the seat could be repositioned into a more upright position, and the rocking motion could be changed to back-and-forth motion. It also comes with a tray that can be snapped on in front of her. The tray has little tethered toys and beaded bars for when she can reach out with her hands and fingers for tactile stimulation.

What's more, it has a lovely neutral colour that blends into the home. A nice visual appeal. The sturdy steel frame as legs that could fold in for easy storage.

Overall verdict: I think this toy has many positive aspects. It stimulates, it soothes, it entertains and it is an extra pair of hands for me. Perfect for Lily, perfect for me. I couldn't be happier.

Would you buy this for your newborn? What do you look for when choosing a toy for a newborn?

Drop me a comment, let me know what you think.

Here are some links that may interest you:

My Little Lamb Cradle 'N Swing

Age by age resource for toys

What's new at Fisher Price Australia Best Blogger Tips

Monday, 28 June 2010

Mad Monday

As I'm typing this, I've got Lily in a sling and the boys are watching telly in their PJ's and it's way past noon! The house is in a mess, remnants of lunch still on the table and I don't care! It's school holidays and we're allowed to.

This is what USUALLY happens on a Monday in our household:

2am, 5am, 8am: Feed Lily

Morning: After Lily's feed, I get up and out of bed. Sometimes (if I'm lucky) I get changed, brush my teeth, wash my face and do my "own thing". Other times (most days), I'm not so lucky and it gets done in bits and pieces throughout the day.

Get breakfast ready for the boys, and have my morning coffee and brekky with them.

Put yesterday's dishes away from the dishwasher.

Get a load of laundry in the washing machine.

Fold and put away yesterday's laundry.

Clean Lucas' mess from breakfast, including the wall, the floor, the carpet and in between his hair.

Change the boys. Lachlan is usually able to change himself BUT only after some pleading, coaxing, bribing and SCOLDING. By this time, I would have had said "Would you like to go to the toilet?" about 15 times. Make them brush their own teeth.

Change Lucas AGAIN after he's done his poos. Nope he's not yet toilet trained.

Oops, have I forgotten Lily? Oh yes, she too needs a change, and the sheets needed changing after she had vomitted her morning feed all over the sheets and herself. And nope, she is ALSO not toilet trained! LOL! Usually she's OK if I plonk her in her play gym for half and hour or so. Other times, she might go back to sleep.

By 11am, I need to prepare lunch, in between breaking up fist fights, picking up toys from the floor and FEED, BURP, CHANGE my baby. There's a LOT of yelling, scolding, pleading and talking (Yes, I do try to talk like a normal human being). On a good day, my laundry is up and hanging to dry. Otherwise I try to get it out of the washing machine before the day is over!

12 noon: The boys and I have our lunch together. I pack a snack box for Lachlan. Change the boys again if needed. Hurry up the kids and pack them into the car, all three of them.

1pm: Lachlan goes to kinder. I take him, along with his younger brother and little sister, so you can imagine how many times I buckle and unbuckle their seat belts! By now, I smell like puke and poo, my clothes and hair in disarray and I probably look like a drowned cat. And I wonder how I'm going to face Lachlan's teachers, the other moms and their kids. (Well, some of them look a little bedazzled just like me, so I smile and wink at them just as they would to me!)

I drive around the neighbourhood, in hope that Lucas will fall asleep before I arrive home. If I'm desperate and mad, I will drag the two younger kids to the supermarket to get some shopping done.

Get home and do more house chores, feed, burp and change Lily again.

3pm: Blink of an eye, it's time to pick up Lachlan again. Again, I throw the two young ones at the back of the car. You see, kinder pick ups and drop offs are tricky because I have to take them BOTH down with me, Lily in a sling and Lucas in one hand. And after picking up Lachy, I have Lily in the sling, Lucas by the collar, Lachlan tagging behind, teachers notes under one arm with my car keys, Lachlan's school bag between my teeth!

We get home, the boys get snack: a cup of milk, a piece of cheese, crackers or biscuits. If the weather is good, the boys get chucked outside, or if I'm up to it (or mad), I take them all out to the park.

5pm: I wrestle with the chicken that is for our dinner, with Lily hanging off my boob and a grumpy Lucas around my leg, in my half comatose state.

6pm - 7pm: We have dinner.

I say to my hubby Gary, "Here you go, you can have your kids back, thank you very much". He bathes them and make their cups of milk, entertains them and put them to bed by 10pm 9pm. I plonk myself on the couch, baby on my boob, watch MasterChef, surf the net, blog if my brains still work and other things.

So you see, such is life of a mother with three kids under the age of 4. And it's only Monday. Wait till you hear what happens on Fridays! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Love shoes?

What are little girls good for?

Clockwise from front:

Pink Leather Mary Janes by Fred Bare, thrifted at kid's market $4 (WOW!)
Cream Mary Janes with satin roses by Lovely Teddies, gift from a special aunt.
Pink and purple leather sneakers by Bibi Kids, thrifted at kid's market $5 (Can't believe my luck!!)
White and pink leather Nike sneakers, thrifted at kid's market $4 (OMG! I love kid's market)
Pink Ballerina slippers with ribbons by Red Robin, a gift from a dear friend. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Spaghetti with a Chance of Meatballs

Have you watched "Cloudy with a chance of meatballs?"

What a fantastic animation movie! We got the DVD as a gift last weekend, and I think the boys must have watched it 25 times. It's every child's dream to have food raining from the sky, and skipping in puddles of ice cream and lollipops don't you think?

The movie is about a scientist, Flint who invented many quirky contraptions like spray on shoes, "rat-birds", monkey thought interpreter and his latest, a machine that changes water into food, any sort of food you would ever dream of! But somehow, somewhere, something went amok. What happens when you have too much food "raining" from the sky? Can you imagine a "food flood"?

So Flint and his friends had to find their way to shut down the food machine.

I think it's quirky, it's so funny, and it has an interesting storyline. The characters are genuine and so cute, and I find myself addicted to the tunes. Couldn't get the sunshine, lollipops and rainbows out of my head!

So I made spaghetti and meatballs the other night, and the kids thought I was such an awesome scientist! And they said please mom, could you make it rain M&M's next?

(Of course there are veges in your meatballs, you suckers! Hahahahhahaha....)

Listen to Sunshine Lollipop and Rainbow here.

Miranda Cosgrove's Raining Sunshine. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Broccoli and Ham Frittata

It's winter time and the boys are getting sick of cold ham and cheese sandwiches. Not one sandwich goes without it being dissected into bits and pieces, and most of the time, everything gets eaten by the dog in the end. So I get cracking on hot lunches for them, and I don't have a lot of time to prepare complicated dishes.

So here is a quick and super easy recipe that I threw together for lunch yesterday, and the boys loved it!

Broccoli and Ham Frittata:

4 Eggs
1 Broccoli Head, cut into florets and blanched lightly
4 Ham slices
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, grated

Add a splash of olive oil on a moderately hot fry pan. Whisk eggs together in a small bowl and stir in cheddar cheese. Pour in eggs and cheese mixture. Cook gently on moderate heat. Drop in ham slices and brocolli florets. Cook until eggs are slightly set, and finish it off in the oven or grill. Cut into triangles and serve with extra broccoli.

... Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Lily @ 8 Weeks

Blink of an eye, Lily is 8 weeks old.

Mom and Dad has come and gone. Now we're on our own, our family of five.

Most days go by in a hazy blur. I have not just one, not two, but three children under the one roof, under the age of four. 3 children who are not yet independent of their own needs, who are still needy of love, attention and guidance. And there is so much to do around the house!

People ask me how I get things done with three latching onto my limbs. How do I manage?

Honestly, I just get on with it. Things may not be the same as it used to be, but we survive. I survive. Juggling, trying to get organized, adapting and just getting by with the basic necessities. Keeping things simple and not sweating the small stuff. I learn to ignore the mess on the table, and I learn to quickly kick the toys under the couch every time the door bell rings. And most important of all, I have a hard-working, helpful, understanding and loving husband who helps around with the house chores. He knows that my brain is fried after 6pm, and from then on till bed time for the boys, he will be the one who bathes, entertains and reads to them. It's all pretty hard work, but we learn to be supportive of each other's needs and we cope. And it's all worth it.

(More on our daily activities later, now back to Lily @ 8 weeks!)

I don't know how much she weighs, or how long she is. But I know she is putting on stacks. Her cheeks are getting chubbier, and her neck is getting lost under rolls and rolls of skin. And I feel it in my arms.

Her feeding and sleeping pattern is still unpredictable. She is exclusively breastfed, 3-4 hourly. But she has been demanding up to every 2 hours in the last couple of days. It must be one of those "growth spurt" phases that she's going through. She's still feeding every 3 hours at night, so yes, my own sleep cycle is very very stuffed. But I don't mind it, not at all. Sometimes she surprises me with a long 6 hour stretch, and my own body wakes me up at the 3 hourly mark, wondering what I should do.

She loves it when you talk to her, and responds with smiles that will melt your heart and sometimes an "ahh gooo" and will certainly make your day! The boys adore her, and showers her with little smooches and I bet her first words would be "get off me!" Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Staying Indoors

There's a perfect excuse for staying indoors, away from the wintry weather, lounging in my trackies, curling up on the couch in front of the heater. 28 degrees Celsius.

My newborn.

But. Having two very active, very energetic boys running amok cooped up within the walls of the house all day is enough to drive you nuts. And I'm really running short of ideas of what to do with them. No more tricks to pull from my sleeves. Most days, they stay in their PJ's until noon. Or if they're really really lucky, they can hop straight back into bed without even changing! And they watch a lot of TV. A little too much for my liking.

So I know this would raise a few eyebrows. But hey, I'm split threeways and things need to get done around here.

So I say yes to TV. Yes to Wii. Yes to DS. Yes to GHWT. Yes to computer games. But only on my terms. Only on weekends. Only for 20 minutes. Only if you've brushed up and changed. Only what I say you can watch on TV or play. Only if you've eaten all of your lunch etc. Like everything else, in moderation. (If only things work out like it should in theory!)

There are some websites with some really cool games, like Lachy's current favourite: The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Interesting (educational) games and ideas for crafts. Check it out! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, 7 June 2010

Weekend Baking: Black Forest Cake

My husband Gary absolutely adores pretty much anything edible with cherries, cherry ripe cheesecake, cherry ripes, cherry lollies, even sickly red cherry cordial that tastes like yucky cough medicine! Like what an obsession! So with our current Masterchef craze, it's only natural that I had to bake him THAT Black Forest Cake that was THE Gary Mehigan's recipe on Masterchef a few weeks ago.

This is Gary Mehigan's version of Black Forest Cake. Layers upon layers of chocolatey goodness, cherry compote, cherry syrup, mascarpone cream and chocolate hazelnut praline mousse. The full recipe is here.

Now here's my version. Just two layers, and I took a fair few shortcuts. But hey, it looked pretty impressive if I must say so myself. Who needs candied cherries when you can get fresh cherries from the supermarket for $24 per kilo?! Cherries are not in season at the moment, and so the handful of cherries that I hand picked from a small crate at the shops costs me $4, and they're just for decoration. I was a little embarassed taking them to the counter, those 10 little cherries.

All the other ingredients are readily available from my pantry and the fridge. My version of this recipe was actually quite simple and it took me just under an hour to make. Honestly. With a newborn and two kids running amok in the house, it was like my own version of pressure test, except I didn't subject myself to painfully pitting the cherries one by one and splitting the chocolate sponge into 5 layers.

For the chocolate sponge:
(From MasterChef Australia)

7 eggs
250g caster sugar (I reduced the amount to 150g - I like it not too sweet)
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced. Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.

2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.

3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the cream layer:

I used freshly whipped cream (about 300ml). I made a hazelnut praline with 1/2 cup castor sugar and 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts.

4. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto a lined tray and cool completely. Break into pieces and process in the food processor until finely chopped.

5. Fold hazelnut praline crumbs into the freshly whipped cream, reserving a little for decoration.

I omitted the cherry compote and cherry syrup. Instead I used a can of black pitted cherries in syrup.

For the chocolate ganache:

150ml cream
200g chopped dark chocolate

6. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

To assemble the cake:

7. Place 1 cake as the base on the serving dish. Brush with a little syrup from the canned cherries. Spread a layer of chocolate ganache on the base. Scatter canned cherries evenly on the cake, then spread the hazelnut praline cream on. Top with the other cake. Drizzle chocolate ganache all over cake. Decorate with fresh cherries and hazelnut praline crumbs on the edges.

I think it would be lovely to split the cakes into halves to make 4 layers. But I was running out of time, so I practically just slapped everything on top of each other.

My chocolate sponge was not as light and fluffy as I would like it to be. But I did knock out quite a bit of air from the egg mixture as I was folding through the flour. I would definitely try this recipe again, hopefully not making the same mistake again and I'll try making the chocolate mousse and mascarpone cream. Maybe next summer when cherries are back in season! Best Blogger Tips