29 November, 2014

LONDON WEEKEND



London was a wonderful experience and I'm convinced I was introduced to the City by the best person for the job. Ana and I ate ungodly amounts of bread, walked till we thought we'd worn holes in our boots, stayed up too late, slept too late, and laughed far too hard.

Our days were spent shopping (Oxford Street! Like nothing else...) and sightseeing and in the evenings we mostly hopped cocktail bars, one evening saw a play and another, visited the German Market in Hyde Park.

London food was good for my soul, and naturally I ate a lot of it. Anything you can dream, within a one-block radius (unless you're in Chinatown).

Friday night we had Swiss fondue at St Moritz and later went to one of London's top cocktail bars, Sketch.

One of my favourite meals was brunch Saturday at Le Pain Quotidien-- organic croissants and baguettes with farm fresh organic eggs, green drinks, and house jams and chocolate spread floating between tables.

In Trafalgar Square we stumbled upon teens advertising free hugs and a man twisting wire into rings and threading beads and stones through them with a sign "Free Rings -- everyone will be happy!" I had him custom make one for Katharina, and she's worn it every day since I gave it to her. Later, we enjoyed wine during a stunning and hilarious performance of Shakespeare in Love at Noël Coward and very late dinner at Côte.

Sunday we had High Tea at the impressive Laduree in Harrods, which was admittedly more cake than two little ladies could consume. But not to fear, they gorgeously packaged it up for us to take away. After plenty of sightseeing and popping into the impressive Victoria & Albert Museum (I loved the pool in the back courtyard-- open for wading, but clothes must stay on- ha!), we visited the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park for mulled wine, wurst, and a bit of Christmas shopping. 

The weekend was packed full of great times but the fastest we ever hustled was through the tube stations. We really enjoyed sitting back and savouring each thing we did; if it's possible to be slow-paced in London, I think we did it.

I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the busy life of a Londoner, but was happy to get back to The Bubble and my family! Speaking of, I arrived home late Monday afternoon to a sparkling house and four sweet faces hiding in the kitchen. Peter had deep cleaned the whole house and reorganised the kids' dressers, cleaned the bathroom, washed, dried and put away all the laundry, meal planned, grocery shopped, and took our babes on long adventures. He's such a keeper.

That's all! Next time I visit I'll be house hunting-- hooray!

20 November, 2014

GLUTEN & REFINED SUGAR-FREE PUMPKIN BREAD

Hello! I'm frantically packing my bag, waxing my eyebrows, and trying to catch up on household things before travelling to London tomorrow, but wanted to share this recipe the littles and I made several weeks back.

I'm really thankful to my husband for making this trip to happen, because I know I need it. It's the first time in a year I will have spent nights away from the children, and the first time since becoming a mama that I've left them without taking Peter with me.

I've packed my big girl camera and am clearing my camera roll (which has on it photos from two summers ago in America!) so watch my Instagram this weekend for fruity cocktail photos! And London of course.




And now the bread:

The littles and I love this pumpkin bread or anything pumpkin really, especially in the cold months when we bake at least twice a week. I'm sorry to say we didn't do well in terms of saving even one slice for Peter, so I can't share his review. But we enjoyed it: it's soft and oh, so dense. With the bean flour and assorted add-ins, it is filling too!

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Pumpkin Bread

1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup olive oil (or other cooking oil)
2/3 cup maple syrup (or another liquid sweetener)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of sea salt
2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (we used Bob's Red Mill)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powered
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 cup add-ins of choice (we used chopped dark chocolate, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios)
extra pumpkin seeds for garnish 

Preheat oven to 175ºC/350ºF. Line a bread pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add pumpkin, oil, sweetener, vanilla, spices and salt to a large mixing bowl. Blend using an immersion blender (or in your blender).

Add amm remaining ingredients, except for add-ins and pumpkin seeds for topping. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Gently fold in add-ins.

Transfer batter to prepared bread pan and smooth out. Tap it on the counter several times to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Bake about 1 hour, and transfer to cooling rack to continue cooking in hot pan 10 minutes. Serve warm with a pat of butter and cup of tea.




(Find the original recipe here)

19 November, 2014

46/52

This Friday I'm off to visit a good friend in London, so I'll be back with a scrumptious gluten-free pumpkin bread recipe before then, then that'll be it until I'm back.

Happy midweek, everyone!

xx




Sebastian// during a full-family sword fight, "I just died, so I need True Love's kiss."
Katharina// after reading Proverbs 15 one evening, "So, if Sebastian takes a toy from me then I will say [softly], 'No, Sebastian, that wasn't kind.' because that turns away wrath."
Philippa//  on her first day of potty training: potty: 1, leggings: 4. Day two has been exponentially better. . .

13 November, 2014

FEVERS, EAR INFECTIONS & GARLIC-INFUSED EAR DROPS

These garlic-infused drops are the bomb for kicking ear infections. We had our first ever bout of ear aches several months back, and these drops worked miracles. The rate at which garlic can destroy an infection blows my mind.

I've said it before: did you know garlic is nature's best antibiotic? And a beautiful thing about garlic is that resistance can't be built up, so its an effective and safe antibiotic. According to this study, garlic is one-hundred times more effective at beating infection than the two leading antibiotic brands.

At our house we don't panic over a fever, because fevers are a good thing.  A fever is our body's way of raising it's temperature to kill viruses and bacteria. (Just as when our body temperature dips, some viruses and bacteria die). Our bodies shift their temperature to move outside the virus or bacteria's line of defence. How amazing is that?

When we attempt to lower a fever, bacteria and viruses are able to survive, and continue to multiply, making the sickness more difficult to fight off, which can lead to further illness, often requiring medication, which compromises the immune system and prohibits it from functioning as it should.




So in a generally healthy person, fevers shouldn't be concerning because temperature control is a weapon of the human body.

Then what do we do? Seek to reduce the discomfort and speed up the healing. Let the fever run its course and keep them as comfortable as possible. For Sebastian this usually means sleeping flat on our chests between episodes of Looney Tunes. And a few other things:

Like water. Loads of water and loads of sleep. If you struggle to get water down your sick child, electrolyte-packed coconut water is a great option, especially when dehydration is more possible.

I appreciate this post by a Loyola pediatrician on when a fever should begin to concern you. If the person is slow, unresponsive, or has had a fever for more than three days, or if they are immune-compromised, seeing a naturopathic doctor or someone you trust, may be needed.


Before the garlic drops recipe, a few tricks we use for achy ears:

  • Garlic in general is great to consume, even if the earache is only viral. You can roast garlic but you're losing the therapeutic properties. The best way to consume it is raw. I like to chop a few cloves and swallow them in a bit of water or raw apple cider vinegar. For the littles, chopping a clove and mixing it in a teaspoon of honey goes down well.
  • Massage lavender (neat) to soothe and Thieves (diluted in coconut oil) for anti-bacterial & anti-viral properties, around the base of ears for relief.
  • Rub magnesium oil on chest and stomach to stimulate immune response.
  • Double-dose on fermented cod liver oil. This blog has interesting facts on Vitamin A deficiency and the ear's ability to function, as well as the damage fever reducers can cause.
  • Hot towel compress  or "rice bag" - one of the biggest socks we can find, filled two-thirds of the way with rice, and knotted. This is one of the few situations where I feel okay with using the microwave-- stick the filled sock in the microwave for 30-second intervals until it is very warm but not hot. Hold on sore ear until cool.



Garlic-Infused Ear Drops

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil (it's anti-viral!)
2-3 cloves organic garlic, crushed

In saucepan over a larger pot filled with water (or a double boiler), melt coconut oil, then add olive oil and warm until just hot to the touch. Add garlic to oils and allow to sit over heat, being careful not to cook the garlic. The water beneath the pan will keep the oil hot for quite a while, but once it cools to body temperature,  carefully strain out garlic using a cheesecloth and pour oil into a glass bottle with dropper.


For an added soothing effect, heat oil by placing the jar in a sauce pan of water on the stove until oil is warmed to body temperature. Use generously. Drop 2-3 drops into ear canal every hour or as needed. Massage a few drops on the bottom of each foot and around each ear. For best results, lie on your side for 30 minutes after applying in ear. Should be used 4-6 times daily, but preferably 8-10 or until infection has cleared.

(This recipe is adapted from here).

11 November, 2014

BYRDIE'S CAKE



I wanted to share a few photos from the little party we threw for Philippa on Saturday. We invited some of her best toddler and adult friends over and let her choose the food-- "choc-at cake" and "pee-nk i-creem" it was! We also invited a few party animals. . .

Philippa's chocolate cake was the same I made for Sebastian's third birthday, and the party animals we easily created by gluing homemade party hats on some inexpensive safari animals (plus a camel?).

As each of Philippa's guests arrived she met them at the door and upon seeing they had a present in hand would exclaim, "Oh! my peh-sents!?" and proceed to carry it to the place she was accumulating them.

She thought each candle represented a verse of Happy Birthday to You, so after she blew out her first candle and no one sang, she repeated the song solo.  The girl definitely milked her day and it was a blast celebrating her second birthday (yet again!).






(Thanks, Sarah, for photos four & five!).

10 November, 2014

45/52

Happy Monday, everyone! We're coming out of a fantastic weekend of celebrating with Philippa's birthday party and later, Peter's "signing party" in our garden (read: an excuse to stay up far too late around a fire with drinks, good conversation, and best friends).

We still have balloons hanging and are feeling a tad tired still, but the cake is gone and we have loads of photos. I can't wait to share them!

Can I also take a moment to applaud my husband for spotlessly cleaning up from both parties after the second ended at three a.m.? Husbands with their babies are attractive, but equally so are husbands mopping dirt off the kitchen floor 6 hours before said babies are due to wake up.

Without further ado, portrait week 45:



Sebastian Grey//  when I exclaimed, "I love you too much!" He responded calmly, "It's not too much, it's just a l i t t l e bit too much."
Katharina McCallum//  Sebastian, "Wellies starts with "w", what does firetruck start with?" Katharina, "And what does pink dresses start with?" Ha!
Philippa Byrde//  has been using less of the buggy and more of her legs, and she's doing great!

06 November, 2014

LAZY MAN'S APPLE TART



Here's a delicious and fairly guilt-free recipe on this rainy Thursday. It's simple and uses few ingredients, all of which you probably already have on hand. Depending on how you do it, it can be entirely sugar-free as well.

I first made this nearly four years ago when we hosted an American Thanksgiving in Scotland, with several Brits and a Bulgarian. They were mostly appalled at the amount of food we carried from the kitchen, but that's beside the point. This apple tart was there, and it's been a keeper.

Lazy Man's Apple Tart

2 cups flour, plus extra for sprinkling (spelt, organic unbleached, or buckwheat or this for GF options, are all good)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into thin pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten, plus enough ice water to make 1/2 cup
5-7 crisp apples
1/2 cup apricot, plum, or similar jam 
OR 
1 cup sugar (for glaze)

Place flour, butter, and salt in a bowl and work the butter into the flour until it becomes coarse, with a few remaining flecks of butter. Pour the egg & ice mixture into the bowl and quickly knead dough until it comes together-- only a minute or two as you don't want the butter to melt.

Dough will be soft, sticky, and a little rough looking.

Divide dough in half, sprinkle each half with flour and pat into rectangles about 1-inch thick. (Place one half in freezer if desired to use another time. We always make both). Wrap with paper and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight. 

After chilled, roll pastry into a rectangle the size of your baking sheet. Transfer dough to the sheet and allow to rest. If the dough doesn't fit perfectly, patch it together as necessary. This adds to the rustic look of the tart.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.



Peel and quarter apples, using the skin and cores to make a glaze if not using jam.

For glaze: Combine 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add cores and skin and simmer to a thick syrup. Strain and set aside. OR use a good quality jam or honey, thinned with a splash of water. We have used the sugar water glaze, apricot jam, and plum jam and all are delicious.

Slice apples as thin as possible and arrange over pastry in rows, overlapping like cards.

At this point you can cover the tart and refrigerate for several hours (its fine if the apples brown. Again, this is a rustic tart).

Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Bake tart until apples are beautifully browned and edges are crisp. Just over halfway through baking, brush a generous layer of glaze over the tart. Once finished baking, allow to cool on wire rack.

Before cutting, reheat the glaze. Slide tart onto cutting board and paint glaze over top of tart (toddlers are perfect for this job). Slice small rectangles, triangles, or whatever shape you like.

Original recipe can be found right here.

04 November, 2014

BYRDIE TURNS TWO



Today Philippa is two, and when she woke this morning we learned her favourite word became "no" overnight. Though we'll never believe in the terrible twos, we do hope she says yes to cake this weekend.

She went out for a full Scottish breakfast with her papa this morning, per family tradition. Sebastian, Katharina, and I picked up some "pee-nk" coloured balloons while she was out and we let her walk around town with them to see how many Happy Birthdays she could get. It turns out she was quite eye-catching.

She opened her present from us this morning before breakfast, which was the rabbit version of her well-loved Frances, a Moulin Roty teddy bear. The Bear has been worth every penny we paid and the Rabbit (whom we named Imogen) seems like she'll be just as loved.
We're having bangers & mash tonight followed by banana splits. Saturday we'll have a small party for her with a few close friends and we cannot wait for the cake.

We're so thankful for this little girl and the happiness she brings to our lives. She's such a wonderful reminder to us of the many joys of parenthood. We love her bright eyes, her pudgy fingers, and the way she links the words in her sentences together (Me-eh-finding-eh-da-dust-y-pan ["I'm finding the dust pan"]).

Happy birthday, my Byrdie! You rock our world.


03 November, 2014

44/52

Sebastian Grey//  playing train conductor at Craigtoun Park
Katharina McCallum//  dressed up in Mama's party mask.
Philippa Byrde// is TWO tomorrow!