things I like

right now. (summer 2016)

August 30, 2016
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August marks one year since we left Luxembourg and moved to London. It’s one of those big transitions that both feels like an age ago, and like yesterday. This summer has been good so far. We’ve had a lot of great weather so lots of time for the three of to spend in parks and hanging out in the garden. We bought a sandpit and were given a paddling pool, we’re growing cherry tomatoes and courgettes, and many a glass of Pimms or white wine has been consumed.

Here is what I have been into these past few months (linking up as always with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into post)…

 

reading.

It doesn’t happen very often in this season of baby + toddler, but we went away for ten days with family so I actually got to turn more than three pages at a go without being interrupted! I read the YA novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, which is the story of a teenager who’s beloved uncle dies from AIDS in New York at a time when there was no treatment and the stigma was brutal. It is the story of her getting to know her uncle’s partner and how their grieving process intertwines. I really liked it (and it took me back to my childhood with all the early 90s references!).

I’ve also finally finished Sand Daughter by Sarah Bryant – epic drama, religious conflict and simmering romance! – and I’m part way through Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self by Richard Rohr, which is messing with my head in the best way possible.

 

watching.

The Olympics, of course. Team GB did exceptionally well it seems, so although I am not hugely patriotic when it comes to sport of any kind, it was fun to watch us do so well, especially in the cycling. Netflix UK also finally added multiple seasons of The Gilmore Girls so I have started at episode one during Oskar-feeding-times.

 

cooking.

A new banana muffin recipe (because you can never have too many of those!).

I borrowed Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals from a friend. They take much longer than 30 minutes (you need the chopping skills of a chef to go that fast) but we’ve tried three with success: his Satay Chicken, which I unfortunately cooked for my cousin with a peanut allergy after she forgot to tell me – oops! – is easy and good; the Fancy Crusted Cod is DELICIOUS and will definitely be repeated; and the Stuffed Cypriot Chicken, which was surprisingly similar to the cod – same stuffing/crust ingredients basically.

We also made this lamb halloumi bake one evening which was quick and yummy. Earlier in the summer I tried this Burst Tomato Galette from the ever-divine Smitten Kichen. And when Rasmus was away on a work trip, my cousin Allie came over and we made a Caesar Salad but with this yummy Avocado Coriander dressing.

Lastly, this is the only Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe you will need from now on. By Edd Kimber, it is amazing. My sister came to stay two weeks after Oskar was born, and she made a batch of these and froze them raw in the freezer for me. Seriously, every new mum should receive this service. Those cookies got me through the next few weeks! And I’ve made them myself a few times since…

 

for the kids.

One of the joys of toddlers is starting to rediscover all the books you read and loved as a young child. This month we are reading the gorgeous Alfie and Annie Rose books, The Tiger that Came to Tea, and the delightful Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy.

I bought Kaya the cutest little backpack from Skip Hop. It’s the Giraffe from their Zoo rucksack collection, but I also love the Unicorn and the Owl.

Kaya and I have been baking a lot together too. I wrote a post about it last week if you’d like to start baking with your kids but aren’t sure where to start.

 

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in London.

  • We staycationed for three days at the end of our family holiday in Germany. And one day we made the trek to the London Zoo for the first time. We really enjoyed it. It’s not too big so we could see most of it before Kaya got too tired. She loved the penguins and the monkeys. And we loved the first half an hour after we arrived when both kids were napping in their pushchair and we got to sit and have a coffee in peace! (We were worried it would be heaving in the middle of summer, but arrive at opening time and it’s incredibly quiet even in July!)
  • The Spitalfields City Farm is just lovely. They have pigs, goats, sheep, hens, rabbits… and an awesome tree house to take your coffee up into.
  • I met up with my cousins Helen and Allie, and Helen’s kids, on their day trip into London to do The BFG Dream Jar Trail. In honour of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, and the new movie of The BFG, they’ve asked celebrities to describe their dream, and it’s been designed into a glass jar, which are placed all over London. We joined in and found two on the South Bank with them (only up until 31 August!). Particularly good for kids 4+.
  • Borough Market remains one of my favourite spots in London but do go early or you will fight with the crowds. And don’t leave without a doughnut from Bread Ahead. They are seriously probably the best I’ve ever had.
  • Sydenham Woods is a lovely little forest here in SE London that we enjoyed exploring with the kids one weekend. I love that we can be in the middle of one of the biggest cities and still find these pockets of undisturbed nature to refresh in.

 

on the blog.

I’ve had some more time to write this past month and it has felt good to press publish on some of those thoughts and pieces these last few weeks. I finally pressed publish on Oskar’s birth story – part one about giving birth when you’re scared, part two about his birth itself and how redeeming it was. And then part three, which is so important to me – a message to any mama who thinks she failed at giving birth. You did not fail. I promise.

 

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loving.

Family time. We spent ten days in Harz, Germany, with all of Rasmus’ family to celebrate his mum’s 60th birthday. It was so fun for Kaya to get time with her three cousins and all her aunties and uncles. And just lovely to be with family for such an extended amount of time. And also this summer we’ve gotten to see cousins and my parents and my sister. Just so good.

First birthdays. A little friend of ours turned one and we got to join in the celebrations. There’s something really special about getting to that first birthday marker, acknowledging all the hard that that first year brings with it, and celebrating all the growing up the little one has done. Looking back, it’s incredible to think how much can change in just twelve months.

Half birthdays. When my uncle and aunt sent Oskar a present to mark his six months of life, Kaya caught on to the idea that it was Oskar’s birthday and wouldn’t let go. So we made a half birthday cake (make one round, cut it in half and layer them!) complete with six candles and lots of singing in English and Danish. She was very satisfied.

Visitors. We’ve had friends to stay from Luxembourg this past month and it is always such a joy. I adore having a guest room. It gets used so frequently at the moment that it doesn’t feel like wasted space at all.

Summer Weather. It’s just easier being a mum to two tinies when you can get outside. We have so many great parks and playgrounds within walking distance, and there’s always the garden if that’s too much. I love autumn, but I will miss this great weather when the rain sets in again…

 

faith, She Loves Magazine, Writing Elsewhere

When God is a handful of stickers

August 28, 2016
When God is a Handful of Stickers // She Loves Magazine

My She Loves post this month went live last Tuesday, but I was dealing with an increasingly painful back that has had me sofa-bound and relying on help from family and friends and babysitters to do even the most basic things like lift my six month old from the floor to my lap. I wrote about the little things that feel like big things when they are given with kindness in the moment you most need them. And I’ve received a lot of them this week.

“The London Underground is unlikely to be a very easy place to work. You’re dealing with frustrated commuters made late for their meeting by yet another train breakdown, or clueless tourists who want to get to Buckingham Palace, but don’t speak a word of English to help them get there.

And yet this woman gets up in the morning, puts on those ugly-looking standard shoes and then pops a handful of stickers in her jacket pocket. Just in case.

Just in case she meets a family like ours, where an overwhelmed Mama or Daddy needs the distraction of a pink dinosaur sticker to help them get through this moment…”

 

Read the rest of my She Loves post over there. That day, I saw God in a handful of stickers. The next day, it was the woman who gave my little girl a strawberry from her fruit salad after she’d bumped her head on the pushchair. This week it’s been multiple people who have fetched me ice packs and glasses of water and reminded me to take my pills, friends who have fed my baby, entertained my daughter, and done the washing up without asking.

Give me eyes to see you. It is becoming the prayer of my life. Where have you seen God show up in unexpected places or people recently?

food, motherhood

Why I think you should bake with your Toddler (and how to start)

August 26, 2016
Baking With Your Toddler (and how to get started) // Fiona Lynne

Some of my earliest memories are of baking. I can remember standing at our kitchen counter, weighing flour and whisking eggs and learning how to use the hand held mixer. My mum taught me how to make cheese scones and coffee cake and “hag and mag” (our family version of tiffin). All my memories of family gatherings and events are full of food – cake and shortbread and chocolate mousse and lemon icicle and sticky toffee pudding. There was always plenty, because there was always plenty of people invited to eat it all up.

Baking and cooking was about the food, oh yes. But it was also about the hospitality, and about the built in rest times in the day for a cup of tea and something sweet, and about the pure enjoyment of the process itself. And all of that led to my realisation as an adult that baking is an important spiritual practice for me.

These memories are such a central part of my own childhood, that I guess it was natural that I’d start baking with Kaya as soon as possible.

Of course the reality was not exactly bathed in golden light…

Baking with toddlers is MESSY. When Kaya stirs the cake mix, she kinda does this upward flick at the end of each stir which effectively spreads flour and sugar all across the kitchen counter. When I am weighing ingredients, she helpfully presses the “zero” button on the scales when I’m halfway through, so I have no idea how much I have already added. She sneaks nuts and cranberries out of the cake mixture and she demands to “lick lick!” from the first minute, even though I have tried to explain so many times that we only lick the spoon when we’re all done. When I try introducing her to my spices collection by letting her smell them, she blows through her nose instead of sniffing, sending spices flying. She wants to help with everything but has particular ideas about how, like using the measuring cup to stir with. She frequently gets bored before we are finished, and I am secretly usually relieved to be able to finish off with some degree of order and speed.

And yet we still bake together nearly every week. And I still love it.

Because as we are standing there at the counter together, her on the stool next to me, I can see us setting down a foundation of memories together, a foundation that values togetherness over tidyness, that encourages creativity over uniformity, that enjoys every moment of the process as well as the tasty results.

I am sure she is learning more measurable skills too. Her hand-eye coordination will be improving, she can identify more and more ingredients, her counting is getting better as we scoop spoonfuls up, and her patience to actually get to eat the thing she is making is slowly slowly increasing. But it’s those other more intangible outcomes that I am hoping for every time we take down her brown hand-me-down apron and pull out the scales.

Licking the spoon!

 

So how do you start?

Pick a simple recipe that you know, and one that is toddler friendly. That means, lots of steps that they can be part of, for example spooning ingredients into the bowl to weigh, or filling up cups; things that just need stirring, no adult machinery necessary; as few steps as possible, coz our little ones have short attention spans; definitely a spoon that can be licked at the end.

Have low expectations as you begin. When I first started baking with Kaya at around 18 months, she was still too little to really be able to contribute much at all, but I discovered she loved putting the muffin cases into the tins. By the time she’d done that, I was done with most of the steps that were still a bit hard for her, and she could help me do the final stir and direct me to fill up the cups with batter. She still saw everything I was doing and so as she has grown she’s taken over more and more of the steps.

Make it a multi-sensory experience! This age is all about discovery. Kaya loves to smell the ingredients, try a little of everything (figuring out quickly that she likes sunflower seeds but not so much vanilla essence), and tends to put her hands in everything. That bugged me at first because it meant more mess, but then I realised she has no idea what flour feels like unless I let her touch it. And then it is fascinating to her. Now it’s all part of the process.

Enjoy the results. This might seem obvious, but how we eat is as important as what we eat. So when the cookies are out the oven and have cooled a little, we both get a drink and some nice plates, and we sit down together at the table or outside on the garden bench, and we enjoy what we made. We savour it. Kaya tends to hoover it up at lightening speed actually, but the intention is there! Really feeling the enjoyment of what you have made is a way to instil a sense of gratitude in yourself and your child.

Baking with your Toddler

Some recipe ideas:

Here are a few recipes that have worked well for us so far…

  • Pancakes – perfect Sunday morning activity, pancakes have only four ingredients at their most basic, so this is not exactly hard. Of course the cooking part is for Mama but they can still enjoy watching from a safe distance as the bubbles appear in the batter and you flip them (and gets them used to seeing you use safe practices around hot things.)
  • Cherry Shortbread Hearts – shortbread of any kind is fun and this is a great one for cutting out the shapes.
  • Muffins! So many varieties including lots of healthy ones (pick ones packed with vegetables or fruit, and with natural sweeteners. I also nearly always substitute at least some of the flour for wholegrain). These Banana Bran Muffins are a favourite (and we like her carrot bran muffins too).
  • Granola – everyone has their own favourite recipe but this is the one we use as our base, and then change it up with different nuts, seeds and fruit (which Kaya loves tasting!). I also use honey instead of maple syrup because it’s cheaper.
  • Scones – Kaya is still a little young to be able to rub the butter into the flour, but she can help with all the other steps and loves cutting out the circles. We have a basic recipe we use and then change up the additions (raisins, cheese, dried figs, glace cherries…).

 

Do you bake with your toddler? What recipes have worked for you or what are your best tips? I’d love to hear your ideas, and how it goes if you decide to start!