Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Salmon & Pea Pasta

As the weather warms up and we spring into... well.. Spring, I've been trying to come up with quick & easy recipes that are perfect for a picnic or a sunny day. This pasta dish can be served warm, as an impressive midweek dinner, or chilled as a perfect picnic pasta salad. The sauce has the illusion of being rich and creamy, even though its dairy-free and uses hardly any mayo (2 tsp for 4 servings!). I love the small shell pasta, because the peas and sauce fill up each little piece!

If you happen to have canned salmon lying around, and you don't know what to do with it, you could totally add it to this dish in lieu of the fresh salmon. If you're not a salmon fan, try some pole-caught tuna, or maybe some shrimp/prawns (cook it the same way as the salmon above - I love roasted shrimp!).

MM Approved: Diapers, Chocolate, and Laundry- Oh My!

You know how sometimes you're walking around IKEA, and you come across some brilliant storage/organisational device/object and it stops you in your tracks and makes you say, how have I ever functioned without this? Pretty much the same thing happened when I got my hands on the Ubbi Diaper Caddy and Wipes Dispenser. With the limited space in our one-bedroom flat, I don't have tons of room for a fancy changing table and shelves (Chloe still shares a bedroom with us!) and this compact changing station has everything at an arm's reach. 

I love how the wipes dispenser is easily opened with one hand (how annoying can the plastic wipes packets be to open one-handed? Aargh!) and it stays open. It has a clear window in the side, so you can see when you're getting low on wipes - no more surprises mid-diaper-change when you pull the last wipe out of a packet! I use Mamia Sensitive wipes, and they fit in this universal dispenser just fine, and I've tried Pampers wipes in it as well.

 The wipes dispenser alone is worth its weight in gold, but combine it with the Diaper Caddy and it gets even better. There's a changing mat in the slot at the back, and a drawer that can fit a full-size bottle of baby powder with room to spare. With space for about 20 diapers (size 3 at the moment), it's enough that if we want to go away for the night (like when we went to my in-laws' over Easter weekend), you can just grab the caddy and go without worrying if you've packed enough diaper-changing supplies. 

Or, if I'm in the living room and *someone* needs a diaper change, I don't have to grab ten things (or ask Steve to bring me this, that, and the other thing)- just grab the caddy and you're all set! The size isn't too big that it's a pain to lug around; if we were road tripping, I would just keep it on the backseat and it would hardly take up any room at all. By far one of the handiest baby products this on-the-go family has come across- five stars!!

Sainsburys, £3.50

I was convinced that I wouldn't get to enjoy Easter chocolate this year because of my dietary needs, but I was proven wrong! Now, I love me some good dark chocolate, don't get me wrong, but I'm sort of missing milk chocolate and candy in general. In particular, I've had a recent craving for caramel. I was pleasantly surprised when the hubby found me this dairy-free Easter Egg from Sainsburys in the "Free From" section - and it's caramel to boot! Super yummy, I ate the entire thing in one sitting. Whoops! 

Size 3, Midi, Pack of 56
Sainsburys, £4

My mother-in-law stopped by last week and saved me a trip to the supermarket by picking up some nappies for me. I've mentioned before that I mainly use Mamia from Aldi, and although I've tried quite a few brands by now, I hadn't yet bought Sainsburys nappies. I'm really quite happy with them; Chloe has just begun sleeping through the night (about 9pm-6am) and they've held up really well. She had one leak, but I really can't fault the nappy at all - it was HEAVY and FULL to capacity; I think any nappy would have leaked with that much wee in it. They're soft, they fit well, and they seem to be pretty absorbent. I'd definitely buy them again! 

Anco So Soft Fabric Conditioner
Aldi, £1.40?

I accidentally threw away the receipt and can't find it online, so I'm not sure how much this fabric conditioner cost; I think it was around £1.40 but I can't be sure. Not that it matters too much to me; because sadly I won't be buying it again. Even though it has the "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval, I was let down by this fabric conditioner. It smells... cheap, and strong (too strong for "sensitive" fabric conditioner, if you ask me) and my clothes came out crunchy once dried. Yes, we hang-dry our laundry, but with a good fabric conditioner, it's not too bad. But this time? Yikes. It was like folding cardboard when I took my towels off of the drying rack. Maybe it's not as concentrated as other brands, but all in all, not a winner for me. Sorry, Aldi! Still love you, though. 

Have you tried any of the above products? Love em? Hate em? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sunny Southampton (Instagram)

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen that we've been out and about in Southampton today! The weather was gorgeous, but I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, and I think the fresh air really helped. My Health app says we clocked in about 5 miles of walking today!

One of the things I love about Southampton is that it's such a liveable city. You can walk it in a day, and it's not super-city-expensive to eat and drink (like London). Southampton compared to London, actually reminds me of Philadelphia compared to New York. I dig its vibes. We've been talking about making it our next home, since Steve's business has him travelling down there quite a bit these days. I'd love one of those new flats overlooking the water, but we haven't won the lottery yet. 

We stopped for a meat-free lunch at a French bistro, because I needed somewhere to sit and feed Chloe and the menu was perfect for today's weather. I had a Niçoise salad and Steve had a veggie-laden frenchbread "pizza". All in all our meal was like, £8, another testament to how affordable (food-wise) Southampton is as a city. I mean, sure, you have your fancier restaurants, but it has a ton of "everyday" sorts of places too.

Our whole purpose for going out today was to have a browse around IKEA, and I came across these chocolatey amazeballs. 4 of them are gone as I write this, and no, I haven't shared. 

I think today solidified the idea that we want to get a baby carrier for Chloe. We splashed out on a sling before she was born, but she's not a massive fan of it. She really likes to sit up and look around (little miss inquisitive!) and we think something like a Baby Björn would be perfect. If you have a carrier recommendation, let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hawaiian Pizza Bowls

Hawaiian pizza is the bomb. Sweet, salty, yummy to the last bite, and it's one of my favorite flavor combinations, hands down. If you want all of the yum factor (and then some) without the guilt/cost/bloat of pizza, this is exactly what you need. Or, maybe you're going to have some leftover ham after your Easter dinner- this recipe is perfect for using it up! It's a quick one-pan meal that you'll even love when it's leftovers itself!

It's sort of a one-pot recipe as well; except it's one-baking-sheet (assuming your ham is already cooked). I put it over basmati rice, but you could use brown rice, quinoa, or even just a bed of spinach. I topped mine with a dollop of fresh spinach pesto, but fresh basil is great on its own! Steve liked his with a bit of barbecue sauce drizzled on top, since that's what he usually puts on Hawaiian pizza.

This recipe can easily be doubled for bigger families, and you can add chunks of pepperoni or olives (don't bake the olives, though!) if that's your jam.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wardrobe Hacks: Breastfeeding

I. Love. To. Wear. Dresses.

And now I've come to terms with the fact that most of my favourite wardrobe items have to be retired for at least six months, because they're not breastfeeding-compatible. Why oh why is life so cruel?

It's been a learning curve, which started with my hysterical sobbing with a two-week old baby that I couldn't wear any of my existing clothes, except for maternity leggings, yoga pants, and the two nursing tank tops my mom had sent me. 
But as the baby weight gradually began to fall off, and I started having the energy to actually get dressed every day, I learned a few ways to bend my existing wardrobe to make it breastfeeding-friendly. 

Unfortunately, a massive heap of dresses did have to go into storage, but I know I'll see them again before the year is up. Save another rant for another day, but I found the same issues I had with buying maternity clothing in the UK applied to nursing clothes as well: high street shops don't stock it, and most of it that does exist is poor quality, horizontal stripe t-shirts and outdated designs. If anyone reading this has millions of pounds (or dollars) that they'd like to invest, there's a huge gap in the maternity clothing market in this country that I'd love to tap into. But I digress...

I've only needed to buy a handful of new wardrobe items so far, so here are some of my favourite nursing outfits to our together, without busting the bank on (not-so-attractive) "nursing" clothing. 

Shirt Dresses
Button-down styles are a breeze to nurse in. Even half-button-down will do the trick (just try on and "test" how far they button down). I found a chambray one at TK Maxx that I love; the relaxed fit is pretty forgiving of new-mummy-tummy, and if can be belted once your waistline reappears. Here are a couple of others that I love:
Sleeveless Shirt Dress, H&M, £14.99

Denim Shirt Dress, Next, £28
Belted Shirt Dress, M&S, £55

Wrap Dresses
Universally flattering on almost every body type, wrap dresses can be so easy to breastfeed in. Look for true wrap dresses (not faux wraps) and fabric that has a bit of stretch in it.
Khaki Wrap Dress, House of Fraser, £30

Marrakesh Jersey Wrap Dress, East, £79
This came to me the other day as a sort of revelation: Overalls are perfect for breastfeeding! Just un-snap one side (or both), and you're good to go! I have a couple of pairs of vintage corduroy ones, as well as some cute denim overall dresses. 
Brooklyn Dungaree Dress, Oasis,  £48
Bandeau Dresses
Even though spring has just sprung, stores are already beginning to stock some summer dresses. Bandeau dresses, with their stretchy, elastic tube tops, are perfect for pulling down to feed. 

Camie Printed Bandeau Dress, Monsoon, £39

I hope this post helps if you have any worries about your post-baby wardrobe! It's been a learning curve, and I feel like I'm just beginning to get the hang of getting fully dressed each day, with the help of some of the clothes I've mentioned above. Let me know in the comments if you have any more tips for building a breastfeeding-friendly wardrobe!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It's Not What It Looks Like

Sometimes we bloggers get so caught up in making things picture perfect that readers might think that our kids are well dressed, our homes are always tidy, and our hair and makeup is always done. So here's a little recap of my day, to put your mind at ease:

We finally get out of our respective beds. No joke. Chloe decided that her 5am feeding was time for everyone to wake up and play, so once daddy left for work, she and I took a nap from 8 to 10 to recover from her early morning adventures. Did I mention that we're in the throes of a growth spurt, and she's been eating every hour for the past lol, 3 days? Yeah. Lots of sleep being had over here. Not. We'll take what we can get. 

Laundry folded and put away, dishes washed, bed made, time for a workout. But Chloe didn't want to be put down so I ended up doing some squats in front of the TV until she calmed down enough to sit in her bouncy chair and watch Tiny Pop so I could do a 5-minute workout, in which I had to stop about 10 times to put her binky back in. I'm on Day 4 of the 30 Day Flat Abs Challenge, but technically it's day 6. I'm 2 days behind and it's not even been a week. Yep.

This is a no-shame, no-airbrushing mom body pic. Not because I'm preaching anything, just because it's the reality of it, and it's part of my journey back to fitness. Nothing wrong with that. And as I kept *mostly* covered up, trust me, you're welcome. Sorry for the poor photo quality; phone selfie in a poorly lit room. You know how it goes. 

Made a really yummy tuna salad, because I didn't actually eat a real meal yesterday. My dinner was roasted sweet potato wedges - I literally just cut up two sweet potatoes, and put them in the oven. It's all I had time/energy for. So here's my pole caught tuna salad with cucumber, spring onion, heirloom tomatoes, lemon juice, shredded beetroot and mixed greens, topped with a soft boiled egg. Made a double batch and extra egg so I can have a decent lunch tomorrow, too. 

Popped on the sling and decided to try taking it out of the house for the first time now that Chloe can hold her head up steadily on her own. She usually likes it and falls right asleep, but my overstimulated child was wide awake as we walked to Waitrose less than half a mile away to pick up the spinach I forgot when we did the grocery shopping yesterday. I got my free coffee (perks of having a MyWaitrose card, so if you don't have one, get one!) and sat in the café when I saw another mum from the antenatal classes, all tall and skinny with her fancy pram and designer changing bag. Well, my baby is always well behaved in public, and she was sitting up and looking around and babbling, so I thought I'd be smug about it. Nope, Chloe threw a stink fit and screamed bloody murder for no reason, so after a couple of minutes I just abandoned my coffee, bundled her back up in the sling and walked away embarrassed. Of course, as soon as I stepped foot outside the cafe, Chloe went back to her calm and happy self. Thanks for knocking me down a few pegs, kid. 

Used the spinach and kale I picked up at Waitrose to make a quick green smoothie in the Nutribullet. I figured it was a better snack option than finishing a big bag of Penn State pretzels (*cough* - yesterday - *cough*) so I blended it up quick and sat down to write this post. Oh, and the first two bananas I peeled were rotten inside. Awesome. Perfect and yellow outside, manky as hell inside. Yum.

I'm planning to make a garlic & herb roasted chicken for dinner, with roasted courgette (zucchini) wedges with a balsamic glaze, and dairy-free mashed sweet potatoes. And now I have to go change a *very* stink diaper that just occurred, and then tackle the pile of ironing hanging from the living room door handle. It's 5pm and Chloe still hasn't taken a decent (more than 20 minute) nap since 8am. Wish me luck!

I'll probably end up posting this at like, 10pm, so don't mind the delay. C'est la vie.

Happy St Patty's Day, btw!

Monday, March 14, 2016

9 Weeks Already!

I totally dropped the ball on the "Two Month" post, so here's a "9 Weeks" post instead! Sort of. The lazy version. 

I can't believe Chloe is 9 weeks old already. Every week I have to pack up clothes she doesn't fit into anymore; when will it end?! (I already know the answer... waa!)

I love that the weather is finally feeling spring-like. I mean, I still wore a long puffer coat today, but I didn't need gloves or a hat, and I didn't have to put the rain cover over the pram because of the cold. It was actually pretty warm in the sun.

So Steve's been pretty busy with work, and has been pulled in all sorts of directions lately - literally. He's been driving to appointments every other day, and found out last minute that he had to leave for two days in Bath, so it's been just us girls (and Doopy) holding down the fort.

I'm constantly fascinated by how much she learns and does every day - from holding herself up better, to grabbing toys, recognising people and sounds at a distance, and being able to entertain herself. She stays awake a lot longer these days, too. It's about a half mile walk to the high street, and she was alert and awake the whole way there. After a trip to Boots for some necessities, I was going to stop off for a coffee at the Ivy House, but knowing that they don't have soymilk (still dairy free strong over here) I thought I'd try the Sainsbury's cafe, since I had to pop in for some groceries anyway. And she was awake the whole time! I mean, what baby stays awake for like an hour in a pram? My baby. Lol. But you can just see her little brain processing it all and soaking it all in as she looks around. I'm sure the world must be fascinating from her little point of view.

She's also begun to roll onto her side, giggle during bath time, and gets really excited when reading books - sometimes. It seems like every day she's making more sounds and interacting with us more. I swear today when I walked out of the room to go use the bathroom, she yelled something that sounded like, "HEY!"

Grabbing toys is a new game- once she has a grip, she hangs on tight and swings it around like mad. For this reason, I've been trying to give her soft rattles to prevent any head-bashing incidents. Today she pushed her own binkie back in whilst laying down a couple of times, but I'm not sure if that was a fluke or a legitimate accomplishment. She certainly wiggles around enough trying to make it happen when she wants it and when it's in reach, though. 

Here's to hoping we haven't thrown off her sleep schedule! (The post-walk nap was longer than usual, and I have a bad feeling I'm not sleeping until midnight tonight!)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Weekly Menu: Mid-Week Meal Cheats

This week was a yummy one. I'd eventually like to return to some sort of post-baby normalcy which allows me to truly plan our meals for the coming week and stick to it, but alas, that time is not now. My current planning is 2-3 days ahead, which is still pretty manageable, now that the weather allows me to walk into town with the pram instead of relying on Steve to drive me everywhere. We've even been able to get back to a pretty good food budget, because I'm no longer in the manic aftershock of a new baby and I don't have to rely on convenience foods and ordering in anymore.

In light of trying to get my pre-baby-body back (and then some, because I got WAY out of shape in the 8 months we lived with my in-laws), we've been veggie heavy in our meals recently. Someone (ahem, we won't mention any names) found that his suit trousers were a bit snug, so he's on board with the veggie meals. I'll be honest, when we got married two and a half years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought that Steve would be happy, nay, excited to eat a salad. Say whaaaaat? You heard me. I done converted the boy. Hallelujah. The icing on the cake? While out shopping in Windsor on Thursday, someone I was speaking to made a "you don't look like you just had a baby!" comment. If that's not the best pick-me-up for a new mum, I don't know what is. And it's totally a motivation to keep working toward my goal.  

A few of these recipes would be great for Meatless Monday, or for Fridays (we are in Lent, after all). The one thing they all have in common, is being quick 1/2-hour-or-less meals for any day when you don't have ages to slave over the stove. 

Shrimp Stir-Fry
Loaded with veggies: cabbage, bell peppers, celery (great for crunch if you don't have bean sprouts! Slice it thin on a diagonal), broccoli and egg noodles. And sustainable shrimp, of course. I toss it together with my no-longer-a-secret stir fry sauce (which also doubles as an all-purpose Asian dipping sauce). Recipe below!

Left: my stir fry sauce recipe ; Right: a few of the groceries I picked up at Wing Yip!

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Kale Curry
Technically, it's a Madras curry, and it was a huge hit. I used the Madras curry sauce from Aldi, and I'm a big fan because it has a little container on top of the lid with dry spices in it, so that you can layer the flavours during cooking like a proper curry. It was really spicy (in a good way) and the only real additions I made were a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey (the tiny touch of sweetness balanced the spice perfectly). Steve was sceptical of a vegetarian curry, as he'd never had one before, but he actually woke up the next morning and had another bowl for breakfast. I had a bowl cold for lunch yesterday and found that the leftover guacamole I made when we had chicken fajitas (spoiler alert) was a fab alternative to the yogurt I usually love to dab on my curry but currently can't eat due to my dairy-free conundrum. If you want to whip up a bangin semi-homemade vegetarian curry, the recipe is below! 

Dressed Up Ramen
I love Korean ramen (Ramyun, actually), and it's a whole different animal from the Maruchan and Cup Noodles that you might be used to. First of all, the broth flavours aren't just 90% sodium, and they pack a real flavour and spice punch. I like to dress it up with the addition of fresh veggies and maybe a hard boiled (or poached-in-broth) egg for some protein, and garnish with spring onions (scallions), coriander and a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. If I'm lucky enough to have made it to an Asian supermarket recently, I might add extra Kimchi to my kimchi-flavoured ramen, or some fish balls to the seafood flavour ramen. We stopped in at Wing Yip in Croydon earlier this week, where I picked up a massive bag of baby boy choy for under £2, I stocked up on some pantry staples, and I bought a block of my favourite silken tofu. Tesco carries some imported Japanese and Korean ramen in their international foods aisle, so it's worth a look if you have one nearby. My personal favourite is Shin Ramyun, but I tried a new Kimchi one I hadn't had before this time around. 

Chicken Fajitas
I'm actually kind of mad at myself for saying the words "chicken fajitas," because fajita actually means skirt steak. Boom. Sorry to drop that knowledge on you, because everything you ever knew about Tex Mex has just been flipped on its head. But I digress...

We're big fans of Taco Tuesday in this house, but with its red meat, sour cream (I usually use Greek yogurt, but you get where I'm going with this) and cheese, they're not all that healthy. This time I made a bold spice rub and grilled my chicken in a griddle pan, and our condiments included sautéed onions and peppers, homemade 30-second guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, finely chopped red onion, and coriander (cilantro). That's it. Well, and the tortillas. But I mean, it's a big step up in the health department from your average taco night. I tend to pile mine up into a salad and ditch the tortillas altogether, claiming that I deserve more of the guacamole because it's the "dressing" for my salad. Haters gonna hate.

Monday, March 7, 2016

My First Mother's Day

Yesterday was my first Mother's Day (don't panic US readers, you haven't missed it - the UK has a different Mother's Day! Yet, curiously, Father's Day is the same date. I don't get it, but oh well). I woke up with a cold... well, I'd been waking up all night sneezing with said cold, so my wish for Mother's Day was a quiet day on the sofa, complete with lots of cuddles - but no smooches, and lots of hand sanitizer, so as not to give Chloe said cold (although we all have a slight case of the sniffles at the moment).

Look at that happy face. I melt. I'm one proud mama. 

Anywho, I love daffodils, and Waitrose was giving away free £1 bunches with your MyWaitrose card, so I couldn't resist having fresh flowers in the house. I've always loved flowers... sometimes on the way home from work, I'd hang around Waitrose having a coffee for 15 minutes so that they'd mark some down after 6pm, and then I could take a bunch home for like, 50p. I'm such a sucker for fresh flowers, but I can't afford to buy a new bunch every couple of days to support my habit. Hence the waiting for markdowns. 

Yep, that's a pint glass for a vase. They were too short for any of my real vases, I swear. Don't judge. 

This is my Midweek Mum Meal of the week: Bowtie Chicken & Kale Pasta. It can feed 4 from a bag of pasta and 2 chicken breasts, so it's economical, too. I had picked up a bag of Tuscan kale (Cavolo Nero, UK readers) and wanted to think of recipes to incorporate it this week, as well as use up the last bit of white wine that I had in the fridge. It's both dairy free and potentially vegetarian, so it would work for Meatless Monday if you nixed the chicken. Oh, and in the photo, it's not dairy free-  I added some chunks of Mozzarella onto Steve's bowl because I needed to use up what we had left in the fridge. Which, if you're not dairy free, is another great addition to the dish. But on its own, this meal is full of veg and fresh flavour, while still feeling like comfort food. 

PS- I've added the UK "translations" for this recipe in italics, because I know there can be a minor language barrier when it comes to supermarket items. Hope it helps!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

8 Weeks

Little miss Chloe is 8 weeks old today, but because I plan on doing a "2 month" post all about her next week, this post is all about little old me. And the photos are just little daily snaps from my phone, so no Pinterest-worthy perfection up in here. I mean, that's just not the reality, is it? But it's still to cute too omit.

"I woke up like this." All of the smiles.
8 weeks of motherhood, and my very first Mother's Day tomorrow. What have I learned? Well, forgiveness, for a start. Forgiving myself for losing my house keys and a binkie cover this week. "Mommy brain" is a real thing, people. Steve has to decipher what I want when I can't think of a word and have to resort to pointing and grunting for communication. Am I losing my mind? Maybe. It's ok though. It's like I'm that kind of nuts that is too far gone to realise it, so I'm fine. It's just the people around me who suffer. 

I've finally gotten into a sort of household routine, which pretty much revolves around a constant supply of dirty laundry. I don't know how one little person can generate so much washing, but alas, this is my life now. I cannot wait until we're out of this flat and I can either have A) a dryer (currently the best we can do is a heated drying rack, which is getting mucho expensive to run 24/7) or B) a home with a garden so I can hang laundry outside. Did I mention that this flat is getting kind of cramped these days? And that's without having an airer set up in the living/dining room all day, errrrrryday. 

Someone wants to go for a ride in the car. 
Doopy (the cat) is such a proud big brother. He loves to watch over Chloe while she sleeps, and he is so gentle and barely bumps her with his nose when he sniffs her, if he touches her at all. Often, if she's laying on her play mat or on our bed, he curls up about a foot away. Just close enough without mummy telling him it's too close. He knows. He's so good with her. I feel like they're going to be bff's someday soon and I'll totally take a back seat. I know how special a kitty can be when you're a little girl, though, so it's a-ok with me. 

Late night YouTube workout time.
In my 6 free minutes each day, I'm doing the very best I can to get some kind of exercise. I am following a few YouTube workout channels and downloaded a couple of apps (everything is semi-Pilates-based, as that is my exercise of choice) and I'm trying a little here and a little there every day. Even if I only get ten reps of a move in, a few times a day, I feel like it's better than nothing. On nice days (when it's not freezing/raining/Narnia outside) I go for a walk with Chloe in the pram, and do a loop from our flat to the centre of town, up the high street, and back around to our flat from the opposite direction. On that route, it's 90% uphill so I get a pretty good leg/bum workout in. I'm happy with my progress, and on the days when I try on pre-pregnancy clothes and they still don't fit, I really have to remind myself that I am 8 weeks into changing something that took 9 months to re-shape. I have a goal in mind: a wedding in May, and I have a specific size of dress I'd like to fit into by then. I don't have a scale, I'm just holding myself accountable each and every day to be the "hot mom" I hope I can be. 

As far as our meals go, Steve and I are both striving for hearty salads and healthier versions of our favourite comfort foods.  I have some epic recipes on the horizon, so stay tuned this week.