Baby shopping.

That’s shopping for baby, of course, not for babies. Grammar is so important in these instances.

We haven’t yet bought these things, pending clearing out the holding pen that will become the Bunny’s nursery, but they are in the online cart and ready to go. There seems to be a lot of angst around shopping for baby things. People invest vast amounts of time and energy researching, visiting, testing, comparing and discussing everything from the big ticket items like prams right down to facecloths. I would understand this if it were all in aid of finding the very best thing, but when the choice ends up being not just the cheapest (price obviously being a sensitive factor) but also the item that has failed safety tests and been selected, it seems, purely for availability or colour-matching to the fully themed nursery, I wonder what the point is. Choosing was simple for us. Our criteria in order were:

  1. Safety
  2. Quality
  3. Useability
  4. Style (let’s not pretend that wasn’t a factor)
  5. Price

We’re obviously quite lucky that we could put price at 5. when for many it’s a 1. But nothing justifies putting style above safety.

Any thoughts or advice on the choices below?

Take Me For A Ride In Your Car, Car

With safety in mind, we wanted to invest the most into the two things that would keep our baby safest and that we would use the most – the car seat and the pram. With the car seat, I decided against a capsule because I wasn’t sure you should keep babies in them for too long anyway, and I didn’t want to pay $400 for something I’d use for a couple of months. However, if the Bunny is a shocker of a sleeper and I’m depserate to transfer from car to pram and back with a minimum of movement, I’ll look into renting one.

We chose the convertible car seat that was safest. That’s it. If anyone can tell me if there’s one safer than this, I’d appreciate it. The Safe’n’Sound Platinum AHR Air Cushion (AHR stands for the Active Head Restraint Tilt’n’Adjust head rest) has the side impact air cushion technology as well as the infant safety cushion sported by the Safe’nSound Meridian AHR Tilt’n’Adjust, and a few other small features not silliest of which is speakers in the headrest.

Safe’n’Sound Platiumum AHR convertible car seat.

Wheels and DollBaby

I’ve always maintained that a good pram is vital, because you’ll be hauling it around for many hours and possibly for many children. Sass has referred to the choice of pram as a pissing contest for mums, and I quite agree! Oh the drama and the comparisons and the feature bragging … Not that I endorse the $70 cheapie from K-Mart with its metal snap closing hinges that could snap off a baby’s fingies in a trice, but honestly, I’d prefer to use a baby carrier or sling full time that steer around the baby equivalent of a thirty year old supermarket trolley with wheels that refuse to roll in the same direction.

I didn’t have many criteria for the pram, except that it be lightweight, have one handle (so I can push with one hand … coffee in the other of course!), not revoltingly ugly, and most of all, allow for a forward and rear facing seat. I’d always been a fan of the Bugaboo Cameleon, and it was really the only one we considered after a cursory glance around the traps. It has a bassinet for newborns and a bigger seat for more upright babies and toddlers. I also bought a few accessories that I thought would be useful, including the Breezy Canopy (a lightweight canpoy with mesh inserts for summer, which will be right when the Bunny is little), a sunshade which goes all over the front of the pram to block out UV, a cup holder (for said coffees), and when winter comes I’ll consider getting the raincover and the foot muff, which I’ve heard is great because it prevents your baby from kicking off all the blankets you so carefully wrapped its little frozen feet in.

We were lucky enough to find a pristine second-hand one on Gumtree – the one and only time I’ve been on it – still with its factory wrapping and sold to us by a lovely man whose sister actually wanted the Donkey. It came nicely wrapped up and now I just have to learn to use the bloody thing!

Ours is all black just like this, and I got the cheery yellow Breezy canopy. I hate the blue/orange combo in the second photo, but the Breezy canopy is such a lovely rich sunny yellow, and this picture shows the sunshade to cover the baby’s delicate sunburnable skin.

Bugaboo Cameleon

I hate the blue/yellow combo here, but the yellow Breezy canopy is such a lovely rich sunny yellow, and this picture shows the sunshade to cover the baby's delicate sunburnable skin.

Bugaboo Breezy canopy with sunshade.

Hold Me In Your Arms

We also wanted the option of carrying our baby close to us. There is so much evidence of the benefits of babywearing, and frankly I just can’t imagine not wanting to have my new child close to my heart quite a lot. I knew I wasn’t a babywrapper (where you wrap long pieces of fabric around you or use ring slings – very simple and traditional) as I just don’t have the patience or inclination, and I also read so much about selecting a baby carrier that positioned the Bunny’s hips in the ‘correct’ position to avoid hip dysplasiathat I’d more or less narrowed it down to the Ergobaby range straight away (the Manducas are also meant to be excellent but less easy to adjust between different wearers, and I fully expect Buzz to do a bit of carting around too). We’ve chosen the Sport version for its lightweight fabric – apparently the Ergos can be quite hot with the infant insert, and we’d have an infant over summer – and I am definitely getting plain old black.

Rock-A-Bye Baby

The ideal aim (note the words ‘ideal’ and ‘aim’, not ‘it will happen come hell or high water’) is to have the Bunny in a bassinet next to our bed for at least four to six months. Evidence suggests that room-sharing is a mitigating factor for SIDS, good for bonding and also I am flummoxed by the idea that my baby will have spent its entire existence literally inside me and then I expect it to sleep by itself in another room. I also intend to demand feed, so having a bassinet next to the bed will be easier than hopping out of bed and trooping to the nursery every few hours. Naturally, all this might fall by the wayside, but I’m planning for the best and prepared for the worst.

I was shocked to learn that there are no Australian standards in relation to bassinets. Choice has done a basic review which focusses on ease of use, but that’s all there is. With that in mind, I just chose one of the two that passed Choice’s muster, the Boori Madison. We were kindly given a Boori cot so I know they are good quality furniture, and it has wheels so it can be wheeled in to the living spaces during the day. It also has a handy tray underneath for keeping things nearby for feeding,which its competitor didn’t.

Boori ‘Madison’ bassinet.

Table Manners

I have so many memories of sitting at the dinner table with my parents. I had a chair that clipped on to the table, and apparently I was such a messy eater that the floor around me was covered with drop sheets and I was dressed in a puddle suit, hood and all, so I could be stripped off directly in to the bath after I had finished mauling my food.

I am a big believer that children should be regularly included at the dinner table so that they understand the joy and social aspect of sharing food and conversation (not all the time though … sometimes there are adult things to discuss and wine to drink!). I liked the Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair because it is adjustable and allows children from infants up to sit properly at the table, feet supported, and be a part of the company. Also, referring again to number 4) on the list of criteria above, I was loathe to have a vinyl patterned monstrosity sitting at my dining table, in our small living room, taking up space and looking like a machine spewed up a blancmange of plastic, wobbly metal legs, and comic animal cartoons. I’m also planning to get the baby attachment (the infant one seemed like a bit of expensive overkill), and a cute cushion which most reviews I’ve read say is unnecessary, but is so cute it’s coming home anyway.

The Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair.

Stokke Tripp Tapp baby attachment.

Stokke Tripp Trapp cushion.p

 The Bumbo
The first time I saw a Bumbo I thought it was about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I can’t wait until the Bunny is able to sit up in theirs. Squeeeee!
 

The Bumbo. The cutest.

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The Narrowest Bath In The World

Oh Friday night. Couch, puppies, TV, husband, home-made garlic bread. 

This week has been a revelation in feeling well. I didn’t realise just how much I was struggling and that almost all of it was due to having a virus (and I have the impaired liver function to prove it). Now that I am almost better I just feel like I am ‘normal’ again – they say this is the golden trimester and I can now appreciate that, instead of experiencing unnatural exhaustion, out-of-the-blue spew alerts, and various other weird and nasty symptoms (heart palpitations, dizzy spells and hot flushes. Sounds like menopause).

Our bathroom renovation started this week (no more showering in thongs!), and naturally the first drama occurred on Day Two, morning. I had forgotten to amend our order for an S-trap toilet to a P-trap. Could we get one on site today? Uhhh … I’m at work. A few phone calls and all was resolved – we can do a swapsie with our supplier on Saturday. Easy peasy.

 

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I expect that my finished bathroom will look something like this.

Day Two, afternoon. The shower-bath we bought off the specs in a brochure, which looked exactly like our old one, is narrow at shower end. Very narrow. Freakishly narrow. The builder, his dad and their plumber have never seen one so narrow. It looks nothing like the spec drawing. We should look at it before they frame it up. Really, we should. And if we want to change it, it’ll probably be about $2000 to move the plumbing that the plumber had spent all day putting in.    

And what happened next is what happens when Things Just Work. My builder identified two alternate options to replace The Narrowest Bath In The World, and the timeline on Day Three, morning, went like this:

  • 8:10am: Call Supplier 1 re Bath 1 (recommended by builder). None in stock. Doesn’t refer to supplier. 
  • 8:15: Call Supplier 2 re Bath 2 (which we wanted anyway). No Supplier 2 branches keep it in stock, but there’s one at the warehouse in Dandenong he can have at his store by 11am tomorrow. Purchase over phone. 
  • 8:20: Advise builder. Builder asks if we can get it in today to prevent further delays and cancellation costs.
  • 8:25: call Supplier 2. They have someone at the warehouse right now and can have it at their store by 10:30am. Advise builder of same.  
  • 8:30: Supplier 2 calls and asks if we want it delivered to home as they’re going past anyway. Yes please. Advise builder not to bother collecting it. 
  • 8:35: Builder asks if Supplier 2 can advise when they leave warehouse so builder can arrive on site. 
  • 8:40: Call Supplier 2. Driver has just left warehouse. 
  • 9:30: delivery of Bath 2 to home, within 90 minutes of first calling Supplier 2. 
  • 10:00: send customer compliment to Supplier 2.

I can take credit for some of this – making decisions quickly, sourcing baths with the keen scent of a scavenger – but most of it goes to Supplier 2, who was friendly, professional and went out of the way to help me. We’re still stuck with $2000 of extra, unexpected costs, but that is far far better than living with a shower base that was, quite literally, only as wide as the length of my husband’s foot where you were meant to stand under the shower. I’ve also negotiated a return of The Narrowest Bath In The World with the shop that sold it to us, and they were, to their credit, excellent about the whole thing. And I’m also grateful to my builder for stopping to think that we should really check out The Narrowest Bath In The World before he built it in. We’ve ended up with a bath that will suit our needs over the coming years much better, and I can’t wait to get to use it. 

There’s no real lesson here; just to be clear, realistic and nice when dealing with people who you want to help you out. 

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I’ve gone viral.

I’m home sick with a virus. It’s quite good actually; I was worried that I was feeling so wretched because of the pregnancy but knowing I am sick-sick means that I will get better, it will go away, and I won’t feel like this for the next few months. Phew!

So with doctorly approval, I’ll be home for a grand total of 5 days (including the public holiday) and intend to do zilch that doesn’t fit in with the very real definition of ‘cocooning’:

Cocooning: staying at home, keeping warm, sitting on the couch, napping, drinking hot drinks, eating comfort food, watching TV, entertaining self with the internet, avoiding housework, and exclusively wearing trackie-daks*.

 

*for non-Australian readers: trackie-daks = tracksuits.  Consider yourself educated. 

A new style icon

I have a new style icon.

Not the Duchess of Cambridge, fabulous (but worryingly skinny) as she is, but the Duchess of Cornwall.`

She was a bit of a dish when she was younger. No wonder there was a spicy relationship with the young Charlie …

 … and I absolutely love that she and the Prince of Wales married after so many years of love from afar. Watching the Prince of Wales walk to his wedding with his brothers was lovely.

Her wedding outfit – particularly the hat – was fabulous.

Wedding dress by Anna Valentine and (imho) iconic headpiece by Philip Treacy.

She wears the classic trench with aplomb, whether it’s looking like she’s about to trim the rosebushes …

… or with pearls and heels to celebrate the Jubilee lunch (I want to try this look now).

And of course it’s Burberry.

She does a nice line in hats …

Hat by Philip Treacy.

… and she’s not afraid to recycle them! (The outfit below is from Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding and it’s appropriately gorgeous).

Coat and dress by Anna Valentine, and hat by Philip Treacy of course. She is loyal to winning combinations!

She has a sense of humour …

… and tastefully co-ordinates with the Prince of Wales.

Her jewellery is fit for purpose, whether it’s a big but not tackily blingy engagement ring in an elegant emerald cut, worn with joy…

The platinum ring belonged to The Queen Mother – what a lovely touch.

… a (dare I say it) regal tiara …

… or a totally knockout, cleavage-busting showstopper.

She has outdone herself this Jubilee. This outfit from the thanksgiving service at St Paul’s is both classic and slightly avant garde …

Coat dress by Bruce Oldfield and marvellous hat by Philip Treacy.

… she can definitely carry a big hat …

 … and she chooses colours that suit her age and colouring (take note, Chelsy).

Coat and dress by Anna Valentine, and another excellent hat by Philip Treacy.

Completely magnificent dress by Angela Kelly.

Long May She Reign Over Us

Alert!

I am captivated by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I know that Faux Fuchsia has hosted parties and dressed in theme (kudos!) but for those of us who prefer to participate form the couch, Channel 9 will show the Jubilee concert from 8pm AEST tonight.

I saw snippets this morning and not only does my idol, Tom Jones, perform a flamenco version of Delilah, but the rest of the show seems little less than star-studded – Our Kylie, Our Rolf, Our Gurrumul, Robbie Williams, Sir Paul, Grace Jones, Cliff Richard, Annie Lennox,Will.i.am, Jessie J and Sir Elton.

The crowds at the concert spread outside Buck Pal and down the Mall, waving flags and wearing silly wigs. Perfect. Between exuberance of The Wedding and The Jubilee, I hope the United Kingdom squashes The Riots in a blaze of red, white and blue.

These boots were made for walkin’

Maybe it’s the almost oppressive string of wet, grey and bitingly cold weather we’re having, but I appear to have contracted Bootitis.

Bootisis: An affliction frequently contracted during the winter months, predominantly by females in their 30s. Symptoms include: severe aversion to cold feet (for conditions including fears of covering feet up, see Havaianaitis, an affliction mostly contracted by females aged 13-27); unbridled horror of rain seeping into one’s shoes; and desire to keep the lower extremities warm and protected regardless of choice of bottom-half clothing. Often co-morbid with psychological condition ObsShopitis, whereby females of the affected age group develop an obsession with chosen item, frequently stalking it online, comparing prices and postage, and scheming to get to said shop as soon as possible despite potential intereferences such as work.

You’ll recall I bought a pair of Berlins (sadly no longer available so no linky) from Betts, my chosen purveyor of boots, and loved the wooden heel that produced a very satisfying clunk when I walked. I also considered the Magiks but progressing pregnancy made the future Sensible Mum in me choose the lower heels. Sensible Mum also directed me towards this pair of Drifters, which unlike my other pair of black suede-y knee-highs, are less of an equestrian boot and more of an urban stroller. These thankfully zip up over jeans (I don’t mind when boots don’t zip up over jeans because I have firm runners’ calves; I do mind when it’s because I have soft unexercised flabbos), and are delicate enough around the toe to look girlish not farmerish (while leaving enough space for my wide feet). They also come in a neutral colour.

Betts Drifter

So I thought that was it – two pairs for winter; one short and one long; one brown and one black. Sensible Mum was happy. Yummy Mummy was not.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the Magiks, which had the same wooden heel I loved and had been so comfortable and added a good few inches to my height. Due to a mistake by the shopgirl (which realised too late and would normally point out, but dealing with her extreme incompetence , even while observed by two senior staff members, disengagement and sulkiness made me think I truly deserved a reward for putting up with eye-rollingly poor customer service), I got them for $75. Score!

Betts Magik

But Yummy Mummy and her friend Slightly Tacky Mummy conspired to make Sensible Mum realise that she also needed to replace her main pair of work shoes, which I realised last week are at the Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (pre-Richard) stage of disrepair, needing significant amounts of black texta to cover up all the scuff marks. Surely a pair of boots would be the most sensible replacement at this point?

I have to admit that I (and Slightly Tacky Mummy) are a sucker for a wedge. They are stable and comfortable while providing the lift that we all – including ex-President Sarkozy – so desperately want. Wedged boots, however, are borderline. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and really think that the way in which they are worn makes or breaks them.

I tried on these Plutos in-store when I bought the Magiks. I left after I tried them on, needing to wrestle with my conscience a bit, but as I thought about them repeatedly, and resorted to web-stalking, I knew that my subconscious was heavily infected with Bootitis and I was ready to purchase.

Betts Pluto

I am worried that the heel with also scuff, but hey ho, work shoes are meant for hard wear. I’m not so much a fan of the platform at the front, but they’re not too high, nicely cushioned inside, and the roundness doesn’t squish any toes. They’re plain enough not to attract attention, and I think under black skinny jeans they could be made to work. In any case, they’ll be workhorses under my usual work attire of black or grey pants (plus tops! I wear tops to work!), so I’m really quite happy with them.

However, I will complain about Betts’ online ordering – there isn’t any! Every single thing I have looked at has virtually no sizes left and advises you to call in-store. This is pretty slack I think, seeing as each store can only advise you of their own stock and can’t post anything to you. It seems to be an online store that only serves to direct you to bricks and mortar stores and expects you to call around until you chance upon what you’re looking for, and makes it devilishly difficult to purchase anything. I thought I’d save another trip and order the Plutos online, but there wasn’t a single size available. I rang a store closest to work hoping I could dash out at lunch time, but they didn’t carry it, and in the end called my local store, paid over the phone, and have prevailed upon my obliging sister who works nearby to see if she can pick them up after work tomorrow, as she finishes earlier than I do. A bit too much effort, Betts.

But there you have it – a case study of Bootitis at its worse. At least the total damage bill came to less than one good pair of leather boots, and I feel well-equipped to brave the long and splashy walk to the station each morning. Now to find some waterproofer!

Birthday brunching

As 5 out of every 7 birthdays are, mine this year is annoyingly situated mid-week. Instead of trying to negotiate a Tuesday night cheap’n’cheerful, I invited the girls over for a Saturday morning brunch (my favourite meal to eat out).

This posed a number of challenges:

1. Finding a date everyone could make it. Given there are only 6 of us, this was harder than imagined – in fact, we were one short as it was. For two of us, baby-wrangling had to be sought or traded or bargained for. Gosh we’re busy and important.

2. If people arrive Saturday morning, the house needs to be clean on Friday night. Much as I find cleaning therapeutic, Friday night is rarely my ideal time to bust out the Dyson.

3. Brunch at home implies feeding people. If I were to go out to order brunch, I would always go for cooked over sweet. Not thinking I could manage a cooked breakfast for five, I decided to bake instead, and settled on pancakes with ice cream and berry reduction, and peanut butter and chocolate muffins (along with the obligatory ‘health’ offering of fruit).

4. I don’t bake. Some people are cooks, and some are bakers. I am a cook. I’ve noticed many bakers are quite skinny.

So braving the alchemy that is baking, I trial-runned the pancakes last weekend and they went beautifully. I didn’t get around to trying the muffins out so threw caution to the wind and decided that if they sucked, then it’s my birthday and I’ll suck at baking if I want to.

The pancakes were again a dream. It’s the simplest recipe and the hardest part is waiting for just the right amount of bubbles to flip ’em over. I served them with a choice of lemon juice and sugar, or soy ice cream and a berry sauce (put frozen mixed berries in saucepan with about 1/4 cup of water and a splash of lemon juice. Heat. Bring to boil. Reduce. Add cornstarch. That’s it). I was pretty happy with the outcome and they looked pretty to boot. The empty plates assured me that I wasn’t just tooting my own horn!

The muffins were also a simple recipe, but required much more nail-biting. They were easy to mix up but it was with not a small sigh of relief that they came out not underdone, not burnt, and quite edible. However, they did stick to the silicon tray, even though I had sprayed oil in before as well, so they had to be dug out with a spatula. They were delicious, but broken! I didn’t take any photos because I was a little broken-hearted. Any tips?

I also sent my runner, the affable Buzz, out to get ‘proper’ coffees, and had some hot chocolate on hand for those who weren’t already in a sugar coma. Orange juice and mineral water made me feel like I was having an actual Buck’s Fizz. I just realised that I *totally* forgot to make or put out the fruit platter! Hostess fail!

A brunch at home is a lovely way to see friends without having to find an evening, and without having to battle your way through a crowded cafe shouting to be heard. You just have to learn to bake.

Pancakes – demolished!

Pancakes – from ‘Vegan Brunch’ by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients

1-1/4 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp canola oil

1/3 c water

1 to 1-1/4 c plain rice or soy milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Method

Sift or stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the remaining ingredients in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined, like muffins (you know, a couple of lumps are fine-overmixing results in tough pancakes and tough muffins).

Add oil to a large skillet and heat the skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add batter and cook until the pancake has some bubbles on top and is browned on the bottom. Turn pancakes and finish (until bottoms are browned). Repeat until batter is used up. Oil skillet between pancakes or as needed.

Chocolate and peanut butter muffins, from here (I used ready-made PB. Toasting peanuts is just a step too far for me).

If you want to use ready made peanut butter then use 1/2 cup butter and 2 tbsp oil.

Ingredients:

100 gm (1/2 cup) unsalted shelled and skinned raw peanuts

4 tbsp oil (preferably peanut or any other flavourless oil) a pich of fleur de sel or your favourite salt

140 gm (1 cup) plain flour

30 gm (1/3 cup) cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

90 gm (3/4 cup) jaggery powder or muscovado sugar or any dark soft sugar (I just used brown sugar)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract 200 ml (3/4 cup) water

Method:

In a skillet, on a moderate flame, roast the peanuts until golden brown. Alternatively heat an oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F and roast for about ten minutes or until they darken, shaking them a bit half way through so that they roast evenly. Allow the peanuts to cool a bit and then place them in a blender with the oil and fleur de sel and process until you get peanut butter.

In a bowl, mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda and sieve once to make the mixture uniform.

Put in the jaggery or sugar, vanilla extract, water and peanut butter and mix with a whisk or a wooden spoon until well blended.

Heat your oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F. Place the batter into cupcake liners* and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. *You might want to use 2 cupcake liners to get neat edges after baking. I didn’t use cupcake liners – maybe I should? I also put a square of Whittaker’s dark almost chocolate in the middle of each muffin – yum!