Honey loaf

It's been raining buckets here in Sydney for days now, which calls for lots of time spent indoors and under blankets. I did find the opportunity to do a bit of baking which made me happy as I always find it so therapeutic - the heat from the oven, the smell of honey and butter melting on the stove and the final reward of biting into that delicately sweet loaf with a hot cup of tea. I can think of few things nicer, really.
Honey loaf

Ingredients

75g butter
1/2 cup honey
1 cup self raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease a 10cm x 20cm loaf tin.

2. Melt butter and honey in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool in fridge for 5 minutes.

3. Place flour, almond meal and sugar into a large bowl and set aside.

4.  Add milk, egg and cooled butter mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine.

5. Pour into greased loaf tin and bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Eleven months

After ten months of all round gummy smiles, Alexander is finally sprouting teeth - two bottom front ones, to be exact. This little boy is such a tough cookie; he did not fuss once and I only found out after the teeth had cut through. Hooray! The boy has teeth! Can you see?
Mealtimes have become a truly messy affair now as he insists on feeding himself, and as you can imagine, most of the food ends up on the floor (much to Frankie's delight). While he is very uncoordinated with a spoon, he is great with finger foods and even manage to have a slice of toast all by himself in the mornings - which means I get to enjoy breakfasts with him.

He loves looking at other babies, and is especially curious about the ones who are younger than him. There are a couple of really wee babies at our local playgroup that he loves to touch. He doesn't have much finesse in his hands so he mostly ends up grabbing or poking them! Eeeks. 

We have been hanging out at the playground lately so he can watch the older kids. We go down on the slide together and he loves sitting in the baby bucket swing while I push. Stu and I bought him one so he can swing in our own backyard. He loves it so much, especially when Stu or I are swinging next to him.
Apart from that, not much else to report, except he is still a giggly, constantly squealing ball of energy who has completely captured my heart. And oh, isn't it crazy how he'll be one in a month?!

Fab Five: hand creams

Thanks to frequent hand washing and also this tricky thing called aging, my hands are always very much in need of a hydrating boost. My trick is to have hand creams scattered all over the house; by the sink in the kitchen and bathroom, on the table next to the couch, on my bedside table, and in my bag wherever I go, so I can restore moisture to my hands whenever is needed. What I look out for in a hand cream is 'spreadability', quick absorption, and of course how moisturised and soft my hands feel after use. Here are my current faves:
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream - The tiniest smidgen of this heavy duty cream restores the driest of hands and I love this for harsh winter months. Deeply penetrating and leaves no greasy residue. Great for elbows too.

The Jojoba Company lemon and coconut hand cream -A lightweight but deeply hydrating cream that is fast absorbing. Bonus: it has a wonderfully delicious smell that makes me wants to lick my hands.

The Aromatherapy Co sweet orange and jasmine hand cream - The first thing I noticed and loved about this was its divine fragrance that transports me to some sort of a secret garden. Really lovely product that is easy to apply (ie. very "spreadable) and not at all oily.

Crabtree and Evelyn Gardener's Hand therapy- An old favourite of mine. For years now, I have one in the drawer at work that I would use daily to ward off dryness from air-conditioning. Light and pleasant fragrance and travel size is handbag friendly.

Palmer's Eventone Age Spot hand cream - No fuss and very affordable hand cream that is thick and almost waxy upon application but quickly melts away into skin, leaving hands soft and smooth. I don't have age spots but am hoping regular use of this product will keep them far far away!

What hand cream do you use?

How I take self portraits with my baby using my iphone

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed an increased number of self portraits with my wriggly worm of a baby in my gallery. For years, I have been extremely envious of bloggers and friends who either have a willing friend/partner/spouse who takes incredible photos of them, or who have worked out some clever way to take self portraits. I am stoked to have finally devised a simple way to do so with my iphone that would like to share with you today!
Apart from an iphone, you'll also need:

Tripod (I use the Joby Gorillapod)
Fastcamera app

Method:

1. Set up tripod and phone in a spot with lots of natural light.

2. Using the Fastcamera app, set timer at an interval that suits; I usually go for 5 seconds.

3. Hit "Start" and move in front of camera. Once the timer interval is up, the app will take dozens of photos in seconds and capture those precious moments that otherwise might escape your camera.

4. When you're done (usually after a minute or two for me), hit "Stop" and then "Review", and then pick the best of the lot to save to camera roll.

5. Edit image. I use Snapseed to crop, adjust brightness/contrast/saturation as needed. Or add filters, whatever you tickles your fancy.

Tips:

-  Keep photography rules in mind, such as rule of thirds, trying different perspective, removing clutter and so on. I found this guide which was sent to me and created by PhotoBox to be particularly handy.

- I find the best photos are the ones that are not posed.  I like to tickle bub and have a giggle with him. Sometimes we dance, sing, twirl, jump or just have a quiet moment together so the photos will turn out natural.
-  The above works extremely well for furbabies and other reluctant models (ie. husbands) too.

Happy clicking!

Motherhood series: to work or to stay at home? Pt 5

Part 5 of this motherhood series is particularly close to heart because it is my mother's story. While I always knew she returned to full time paid work soon after she became a mum, I never knew the how, the why and more importantly, what it was like for her and how she felt about it. So I decided to find out. Here is her story, as told to me.
***

I returned to work full time when your brother was only one month old. Why? I had fallen pregnant with your brother soon after starting my first job and I felt very guilty about taking maternity leave so soon, so I went back in a hurry. Plus, your father and I needed the money. We didn't have much choice then.

At first, your brother was minded by our family friend and next door neighbour (you know her as Poh Tee). Your brother stayed with her weekdays and only came home on the weekends, but I would visit every morning and every evening. After we moved to our new flat, however, Poh Tee could no longer mind him as our new home was too far from her, so your brother was cared for by my younger sister.

Due to various circumstances, your brother changed carers a number of times after that, including a brief stint at a daycare centre. Your brother suffered terrible separation anxiety and would sob and suddenly fall ill in the mornings as I was getting ready for work. It tore my heart to pieces and many a days I just wanted to resign so I can look after him myself but financially, we wouldn't be able to cope with just one income.

It was only when your grandfather retired that your brother received consistent care from him. By that time, he was able to speak, so we would use a voice recorder to communicate with each other. Everyday he would be able to listen to my voice while I was away from him and he too, would record little messages about his day - what he did, what he ate, how much he misses me and so on. Every night after work, I would listen to his messages. Sometimes I would laugh or smile but mostly I would cry at what I've missed out on.
You came along four years after your brother and I too, went back to work full time when you were one month old. Your Aunty Lian became your carer until we had an argument one day over the way you were cared for. Your hot-headed Aunty was so angry with me, she put all your belongings out on the street and threatened to throw you out too. After that I went on leave to care for you full time for a little while. You grew so fat under my care! I still remember your chubby legs and face!

Your father and I searched high and low for a full time carer for you and we were so lucky to find a lovely lady (Xiaohui Aunty) who lived in the next block of flats. She has boys of her own but always yearned for a girl, so she was thrilled to have you in her care and she looked after you as if you were her own. She was loving and caring and you stayed with her during the week and came home to us on the weekends.

When you were about four, your father and I earned enough money to afford full time domestic help. Fe from the Philippines came to live with us and helped with chores and was your carer and companion until you were eleven. Both of you were so close and you called her "jie jie" (big sister) and she was in many ways the big sister you never had.

I feel that you were the more fortunate one as you had consistent and loving care, whereas your brother moved along from one carer to another. To this day, I feel really guilty that I wasn't able to be a stay at home mum but I'm glad you and your brother turned out well and I am so proud of the both you.

***
Dear ma, you are the best mother that we could ever wish for, because you did the very best you could for us. And that is all that any mother can do for her children - her best. I love you more than words can say.