Thursday, 19 December 2013

Progress with Pickle

Railay Bay, Thailand ~ June 2009
Once we received Mr Duncan's visa grant and were working out the details of our move to Australia we thought we'd spend a month or so experiencing the good food, weather and laid back lifestyle to be enjoyed holidaying on an island in Thailand, while we waited for our stuff to be shipped to Australia.  After all, Mr Duncan only needs a fast internet connection to be able to work.

Then we found out about Pickle and decided it was better to come straight here - I was concerned about continuity of maternity care and had no desire to be somewhere I didn't speak the language if something went wrong like before.

We travelled when I was 11 weeks - I really wanted to be here by Pipkin's due date - and I skipped the 12 week scan completely.  I didn't want the test results last time, and after what happened that was doubly true this time.

I registered with a doctor the week we got to Melbourne who referred me to
  • a pathology clinic to have blood taken and tested
  • a radiology clinic for an 18-20 week ultrasound and to 
  • the local hospital for pregnancy care
I had the bloods taken on the same day as my doctor appointment.  I haven't had any results so I assume they went to the doctor and everything is fine.

I received a letter from the hospital I was referred to saying they accept me as a patient for pregnancy care.  They have scheduled two appointments for me on 7th January.  One for the booking clinic, the second for the doctor clinic.  The hospital website says the booking clinic appointment is usually held between 14 and 18 weeks and mine is scheduled for week 19, so only a little late.  I have no idea what happens in the doctor's clinic.

I hadn't heard back from the radiology clinic as them so made a follow up call and they have booked my 18-20 week scan for 13th January.  After checking my dates I called back to check the appointment has been made for the right time - it is scheduled for 20 weeks, 6 days.  I was told that the doctors there don't want to see you for the scan until you're at least 20 weeks. It is a different hospital to the one I have been accepted at, (I have to get the ultrasound done privately) so maybe they do things differently there.  Except even their website refers to it as "Mid-trimester scan (18 to 20 weeks)".

So I'm a bit confused.  If anyone reading this has any experience of the Australian (Victorian) system for pregnancy care, I'd be very interested in any comments/advice/feedback.

I am slowly getting bigger and now look pregnant enough for someone to offer me a seat on a crowded tram yesterday.  I'm also experiencing some growing pains in my belly which in the absence of any other confirmation is mostly reassuring.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sardine Fishcakes

I'm not very good at preparing small portions so we very frequently have leftovers.  This is good when it is soup or stew or something that can easily freeze and be revisited some time in the near future.

Unfortunately my potato salad is not a freezer friendly dish, so we had a portion or two left sitting in the fridge wanting to be eaten, but nothing really to eat with it.  The potato salad itself was made from the last vestiges of our vegetables before my first Melburnian organic vege box was delivered this afternoon.

What to have for lunch when there is next to no food in the house...
Sardines?  We had a tin and I'm trying to eat more sardines for the protein and healthy fats.  I suggested sardines and potato salad to Mr Duncan but he wasn't keen.

Then I started thinking about what else I might be able to do with sardines and came across these ideas on The Kitchn.  Several of them mentioned mustard, eggs or onion.

Wait, there is mustard AND eggs AND onion in my potato salad!

Looking a bit worse for wear after a night in the fridge
So I pulled it out of the fridge, mashed it all up with a fork, flaked a tin of sardines into the mix, shaped with my hands and shallow fried in a pan.

Not pretty, but delicious
They're very different from my usual fishcakes, but make a tasty lunch - especially with a few drops of chilli sauce.

I love it when a meal can do double duty.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pumpkin, Chicken and Basil Stir Fry

I have been missing my veggie garden and fresh herbs and Mr Duncan surprised me by bringing home a big bunch of basil the other night.  How romantic.

The problem was we didn't have any of the mediterranean type ingredients that I traditionally use with basil.   In fact all I had in the fridge was that chicken I forgot to use and a quarter of a pumpkin which I had earmarked for soup.

A quick google found a chicken and pumpkin stir fry recipe I could modify to my needs.

I added garlic and ginger to the onion and substituted soy sauce for the fish sauce. With no lid for my pan I needed more moisture than just the soy sauce to steam the pumpkin so used about half a cup of water - adding a little at a time to maximum steam. Naturally this took longer than indicated in the recipe.  I also used cooked chicken instead of fresh so raised the heat at the end and stirred it through to brown and heat through just before tossing through the basil and serving.

Fertility Focus
Pumpkin is high in carotenes which are converted to vitamin A by the body and a good source of B vitamins and iron.
Basil is great for pregnancy according to Fit Pregnancy:
Basil is a pregnancy superfood. This fresh herb is a good source of protein, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin; plus, it’s a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. 
Basil is also packed with iron, vital for keeping your energy levels up; calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth; and folate, vital for many processes, including fetal cell growth and division. (One serving of basil has 20 micrograms of this B vitamin.) Whenever possible, choose fresh basil, because it contains more of these nutrients than dried basil.     

Friday, 13 December 2013

Bok Choy and Stir Fried Noodles

While it is great to have access to a kitchen again, the kitchen here is pretty limited in its equipment - it has one pot with a lid, one pot without a lid, a frying pan and a casserole dish.

Additionally I'm reluctant to fully stock the kitchen with staples and spices as we'll have to move it all again in another six weeks so I've been trying to keep my meals simple and not go crazy on the ingredient buying.

This was supposed to be a Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry to use up about a cup of white meat we had left over from a roast chicken, but I completely forgot to put the chicken in.  Oops.  Never mind, it turned out to be just as tasty.

Fertility Focus
Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage) is nutrient dense and a good source of vitamins A, C, K and folate.  It is also a good source of calcium as its oxalic acid is low and the body is able to absorb the calcium more easily.


  • coconut oil
  • onion
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • chilli pepper
  • egg noodle nest (1/2 per person)
  • soy sauce
  • bok choy (1 per person)

Place the egg noodle nest in a bowl and cover with boiling water and a lid (or a plate) to keep the heat in.

Chop the onion into wedges while you melt some coconut oil in a wok (or frying pan if that's all you have).  Add onion to pan with finely chopped garlic, ginger and chilli.  Stir fry until onion is soft.  Wash and slice through the bok choy lengthways so each leaf is at least halved.  Add softened egg noodles and a little of the egg noodle water to the pan along with the bok choy.  Splash in some soy sauce. Saute until the bok choy is wilted and the noodles have separated.  Serve hot.

If I'd remembered the chicken, I would have added it before the onions were completely soft and tried to brown it a little before adding the noodles, water and bok choy.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Clothing alterations...

Super comfortable skirt
Although I was nowhere near large enough to show when we left London, I packed a couple of bits of clothing I could alter in my luggage as I knew I was likely to outgrow my trousers before our goods arrived in January.

I figured I'd rent a sewing machine for a week or something once we arrived in Melbourne.

Alterations complete

In Brisbane I was at a bit of a loose end during the day - our hosts were working/in school and Mr Duncan was also working all day from a little desk in our guest room.  While we were there, another friend gave me a few hand me downs in anticipation of my growing form so I took the opportunity to blow the dust off the eldest daughter's sewing machine (she's at university in Canada) and set to the task of making some maternity alterations.

I altered my cargo pants as previously planned following these extremely easy-to-follow instructions for maternity pants.  The waistband turned out to be fairly loose - still okay as the elastic in the original hem holds them up, and they'll fit perfectly once I start getting bigger and wearing the waistband unfolded, but I decided I needed to use something much tighter for the waistband for my denim skirt conversion.

I had a look around the local charity shops and found the perfect thing for just two dollars which is a lot less than buying the fabric.  It was very tight on me and two-way stretchy, without a seam.  I fell across a pair of commercially made maternity jeans in the same shop which fit me perfectly so I snapped them up for ten dollars as well.  I altered these using the same method.
Before: skirt and way-too-tight tank top

I had some of the tank-top fabric left over, so I doubled it over and used it to make a waistband and turn a comfortable old dress (which had become too frayed and out of shape to wear) into a skirt.

Gather and pin to the new waistband
Floaty skirt with room to grow

Too-big tunic
The last piece I altered was given to me by our friend.  A large tunic-type top in a fabulous blue.  It was just too wide for my frame (and indeed, for my friend's which is why she was passing it along).

Amazing what one piece of elastic can do
My plan was to bring in the neckline while retaining the fullness by using pin tucks per this T-shirt to pin-tuck tunic tutorial but once I had it pinned and tried it on, I realised it would mess up the existing neckline - and I didn't want to cut a new neckline as it was already huge on my shoulders.

Instead I adapted the Deep Vee Nursing Tunic tutorial and simply gave it a princess waistline by using elastic to gather in the fullness.

Ready to grow into

Some of the pics of me in the altered clothing show a bit of a bump (though mostly just bloating at 12 weeks) so I've put them here.

These items will do me for now, indeed I practically live in that denim skirt, but when my sewing machine arrives I have plans for some more alterations to accommodate a larger belly.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Although technically I have more time on my hands than usual given I'm not working, time has been flying and I just feel tired all the time. I've been trying to figure out why. I don't think its just the pregnancy. Or just the heat (which is lovely).

Moving to a new country, no matter how well you speak the language, is an exercise in non-stop information processing and decision making: Where to go to get or do this? Where is it?  How to get there? How to pay for the transport? How do things work here? All new rules and ways of doing things.

Then there is the food. Where to eat if we're out? Where to buy ingredients if we're cooking at home? I take a while reading food packaging when I shop normally, but in a new place everything is new and each option needs weighing up and deciding upon. Its exhausting.

I've been extremely neglectful of this blog so I'll just summarise the past couple of weeks to get up-to-date.

We enjoyed a couple of weeks staying with friends in Brisbane.  While Mr Duncan was working each day I sorted out flights to Melbourne, somewhere to stay while we look for a rental, health insurance and insurance for Mr Duncan's expensive work computer kit which was a condition of his new employment contract.  We both swam in the pool a lot.

I also borrowed the sewing machine to alter some of my clothes to fit my expanding waistline. I have a draft post on that I'll try to get up this week.

Brisbane was lovely and sunny and we were there just in time to enjoy some amazing tropical storms after they had endured nine months of no rain. Here are a few shots inspired by Marcy who always has such great pics in her posts.
Ben and Jerry's Open Air Cinema on the Southbank.  The bean bags are extremely comfortable.
View of the city from Southbank as the sun starts to go down.
View of the city from Southbank after the movie finished.  
We arrived in Melbourne last Monday.  I accidentally left my glasses case on the plane.  At the 11th hour our serviced apartment was upgraded from a one bed to the originally requested 2 bed with balcony.  It is great.  Spread over two floors it is larger than our home in London.   And about the same price which puts the expensive glorified bedsit we stayed in for three nights before we left into complete shame.  It is big enough for Mr Duncan to have his own work area and we're not in each other's pockets which is good, because he's been pretty tetchy of late.  I put that down to all the uncertainty - he prefers to be settled and surrounded by all his 'stuff'.  

The apartment is located next to a large park and only a ten minute walk from the city.  It has a 'full' kitchen so I'm back to cooking, but with limited equipment and ingredients there is only so much I can do.  We spent the weekend charging around lots of different areas trying to get a sense of where we might like to live.  We have until the end of January to sort it out but the rental market here seems to be quite competitive, so I'm a bit concerned our belongings will arrive and we'll have nowhere to put them.

Just before we left Brisbane I developed eczema on my inner arm for the first time in about ten years.  

I guess I've been eating less well than usual - its tricky when you're eating out or a guest at someone else's table.  It could also be due to moving stress or the increased dairy I've been consuming because of Pickle as both stress and too much dairy are known triggers for me.  I'm making a concerted effort to cut down on both and now that I have a kitchen, return to healthier eating habits. I've also been lavishly applying coconut oil to the eczema. Something is working as I've seen some improvement in the last day or two.

Not much to report, but no news is usually good news.  I registered with a doctor last week.  I kind of expected her to take my blood pressure and weight etc but she just referred me to a hospital and to a radiology clinic to book my 20 week scan.  She told me I should hear back from the hospital with an initial appointment date in a week or so.   

I sorted out medical insurance when we arrived, but there is a 12 month waiting period for maternity related services so I'm with the public system whether I like it or not. Which is actually fine with me.  The Australian health system is of a high standard and must be on a par at least with the NHS in the UK.  I joined the library and got out a book on pregnancy in Australia, so hopefully that will tell me what to expect.

Today I am 15 weeks, which is the time we lost Pipkin.  As far as I can tell everything is okay, though thats how I felt with Pipkin until it wasn't okay any more.  The nausea has abated which is to be expected and I am bigger than I was with Pipkin which is reassuring.  I had to give up on the hairband trick last week, so its just as well I put in the sewing time I did while I was in Brisbane!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Anti-nausea snacks

Almond stuffed dates
With Pipkin I had no appetite, but I had no nausea to keep at bay either.  All I wanted to eat was dairy (yoghurt or custard or ice cream) and plain crackers or breadsticks.  Obviously I provided myself more nutrition than that, but only because I was following my brain instead of just my cravings.

This time I am really hungry a lot of the time and try to eat something small every 2.5 to 3 hrs between meals.  If I don't eat I start belching repeatedly and feeling super nauseous.  My favourite snacks balance some sugar/carbohydrate with protein.

Dates stuffed with Almonds

Yep, just like it says on the tin. I just shove an almond or two inside a pitted dried date and carry a small container of them around with me for when I feel that bleurgh feeling coming on and I'm not able to sort out something more substantial to eat.  Two or three are usually enough to stave off the sick feeling. This sweet but fulfilling snack was introduced to me by the Somalian woman I was seated next to in the NHS healthy pregnancy class when I was pregnant with Pipkin.

Dates are rich in minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as being high in fibre which helps with the constipation.  Eat them sparingly as they are full of fructose and high GI, though I read that the protein in the almonds help slow down the absorption rate.
Almonds are rich in protein, fibre, vitamin E and folic acid and help to regulate blood sugar levels.

Apple and cheese

Half an apple cut into chunks eaten with generous slices of cheese.

Cheese contains calcium and B vitamins and counts towards my daily protein and dairy requirements.
Apple has vitamins A, Bs and C and contains soluble fibre which seems to help manage morning sickness.  Consumption during pregnancy is supposed to reduce the risk of asthma.

Oatcakes and spread 

Oats are full of soluble fibre and low GI.  I top a couple of oatcakes with generous servings of a protein rich spread such as hummous or peanut butter or tahini which is iron rich. Again, two or three is enough to ward off the symptoms.  I haven't been able to find any oatcakes in Brisbane but hopefully they have them in Melbourne.

Hummous Recipe

This is not even close to a traditional recipe but it is cheap, super speedy and super yummy.  It also contains a lot less oil and salt than the commercially ones.  When I prepare dried chickpeas, I do a big batch and freeze portions for when I need them.  They're quickly thawed by being rinsed in warm water.

The 'recipe' is very flexible. If I'm out of chickpeas I might make the exact same recipe but with black beans and call it black bean dip.  There were some pimento stuffed olives that needed using up in the fridge here where I'm staying, so I threw them in this last batch instead of the cumin.  Delicious.

Chickpeas are low GI, a good source of protein and soluble fibre and rich in iron.

  • teaspoon cumin seeds
  • cup pre-cooked chickpeas
  • clove of garlic
  • some chilli
  • splash olive oil or dessert spoonful of tahini
  • lemon juice to taste
  • water for consistency
In a dry pan, toast the cumin seeds over a medium heat.  Put cumin seeds, garlic cloves, chickpeas and a small splash of olive oil in a high sided bowl or jug. Blend with a hand blender adding lemon juice/water to taste until the consistency you want.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


82 boxes.
Today was Pipkin's due date.

We arrived in Australia to start our new life today.

I've always had a head for dates - remembering birthdays and anniversaries without any effort.  I'm glad that I can make this date dual purpose - and bring some positivity to an otherwise sad association.

I hope I can do that with Poppy's due date too.  Although it was the middle of freezing cold January, we took the day off for a day trip to the seaside at Brighton and it was good and healing to spend that time together and acknowledge what might have been.  I hope the next time it comes around we can start something positive in Poppy's memory.  In summer.

Its been an exhausting and busy week. I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks downtime in tropical Brisbane before attending to the graft of finding a job and a place to live in Melbourne.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Outback sunset
Tomorrow I will be ten weeks.  I had a scan today and we have a heartbeat and a little dancing embryo.  Cue a huge sigh of relief.  I don't think I'll feel confident about this pregnancy until this little Pickle is actually born, Pipkin was also fine and dancing at ten weeks, but its progress at least.

I wanted to keep myself busy to keep my mind occupied and... be careful what you ask for Lisa.

Time has flown what with the new job in the mornings and co-ordinating this move.  I've been busy sorting and cleaning and packing and freecycling the various random items we are not taking to Australia with us.  

I've also sorted out the paperwork for the import application for the Land Rover and sent it off with the 15 additional documents required to support the application.  Fingers crossed.  The Landy enjoyed Australia the first time and will be much happier having adventures there than sitting parked outside a London flat.  I'm still working on coordinating final readings and cancelling various services and regular payments.

We check in to a hotel this weekend, the movers come on Monday for the furniture and we fly a week from today.  We'll spend a ten days or so holidaying with friends in Brisbane and then head on to Melbourne to find a place to live.

Before we found out about this pregnancy we had intended to spend a month or so hanging out in Thailand while we waited for our goods to sail from one end of the planet to the other (as Mr Duncan can work from anywhere he has access to the internets), but I'm anxious to find a new doctor and get in the 'system' as soon as possible, and for that we need a proper address in Melbourne.  I just hope we can get one and move in before the whole country shuts down for Christmas.

I'll be without a kitchen until we find a place to live - and without my kitchen things until probably February when our shipment should turn up - so it may be a while before I post any new experimental recipes.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Chicken Liver Pate with Apricots

Very proud of my home-made chicken liver pate
As a relatively new meat-eater, offal and liver has never really been on my list.  I've tried pate a few times but found it either extremely fatty or quite bitter tasting. I can't even imagine trying liver and onions!  So in order to add some liver to my diet per the dietary guidelines I'm following in this pregnancy I thought I'd better try making my own liver pate.

I know when you're pregnant you're advised not to eat pate due to risk of listeria.  I reasoned if I made my own, I could keep the equipment and work surfaces boiling water clean and ensure all the ingredients were thoroughly cooked.  So I did.

I went down to our butcher's and bought some organic chicken livers with no problems.  I thought I'd have to order them in advance.  Man, I'm going to miss our butcher when we go to Australia in a couple of weeks.

It took me quite a long time to find a recipe I liked the look of.  Most of them required loads of butter or cream, but I wanted to avoid that fatty taste.  Lots of them also included some form of alcohol to balance out the bitter rich flavour of the liver.  While I definitely wanted that balance, even the smell of alcohol is enough to make me want to puke at the moment so I needed an alternative.

I finally decided on the Chicken Liver and Apricot Pate recipe from Kavey Eats. It was absolutely delicious!

I made a half recipe, with double the onion and when I discovered my thyme plant completely dead in the garden, substituted dried mixed herbs for the thyme.  I also soaked the dried apricots in hot water before using.  This was more for the benefit of my hand blender than anything else.  I had enough to completely fill two cling-film lined ramekins, one of which went into the freezer after cooling.

The servings were quite big and the pate just a little sweet for my palate so next time I'll find smaller containers and reduce the number of apricots a little.  There will definitely be a next time.  I just have to find a decent butcher in Australia...


For other meals I've mainly been using up store-cupboard staples and repeating my favourite recipes.

Blackbean, Butternut and Corn Chili Sin Carne

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet Potato, Basil, Feta and Avocado Salad

Friday, 18 October 2013

Homemade Granola

Homemade granola
I spent most of my life skipping breakfast.  I'm not a very morning person and I find it hard going just dragging myself out of bed, into the shower and out the door in time for work.  When I eat immediately after waking I feel weighed down like there is a lump of stone in my stomach.  

During the past several years of trying to conceive, as I learned about the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar levels, I have made more of an effort to eat within an hour of waking.  Mr Duncan, aware of my disinclination to get up eat early, sometimes made me a breakfast parfait to take to work and eat at my desk.  He'd just throw some chopped fresh fruit topped with a dollop of yoghurt and a handful of granola in a travel-friendly container.  Yum.

Since reading this article on the cause of and solution to preventing morning sickness I've been eating even more beans than I usually eat - and I think its working.  I've been getting bored with beans though so thought I'd try branching out to other sources of soluble fibre as suggested by this handy-dandy factsheet. Now that I'm working again, it seemed to me a daily breakfast parfait is the perfect solution.  Just fill it with fruit and oats full of soluble fibre.  The yoghurt adds to my dairy count for the day.

We used up the last bag of granola a month ago and now we're only a couple of weeks away from moving I wasn't about to buy a new one.  Granola is expensive and I find even the low sugar shop bought options to be very sweet.  

Mr Duncan has mostly replaced his toast-based breakfast habit with porridge as part of his blood pressure lowering efforts so we have lots of organic steel cut oats in the house which need using before we move.  We also have odds and ends of nuts, seeds and dried fruit...

First I thought I would make muesli and serve it with fruit and yoghurt. This brought back vague recollections of my mother making homemade muesli.  Then I remembered how much I always disliked it.  The oats became all soggy, tasted like raw flour somehow and I felt like I was eating paste. It was improved a little by cooking like porridge on the stove for a warm winter breakfast but always left me feeling weighed down and stodgy.  Maybe this is the source of my distaste for breakfast?  

So granola it had to be.  I based it on a granola recipe by Elizabeth Rider, but replaced some of the honey and coconut oil with fruit juice and omitted the salt and vanilla extract altogether.  It was so much easier, and tastier, than I expected.  I wish I'd started making it years ago!

  • Whole rolled oats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit juice
  • Honey
  • Coconut oil
Set oven to 150 degrees celsius.

Mix a spoonful of honey and a teaspoon of coconut oil in quarter of a cup of organic apple juice until dissolved.  I actually only had an empty jar of coconut oil with scrapings left so I poured the juice and honey into the jar, screwed on the lid, ran the jar under some hot water and gave it all a good shake.

In a large bowl, mix a couple of cups of rolled oats with several handfuls of roughly chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  Pour the liquids over the oats mixture and use your hands to ensure the oats are evenly coated.

Spread evenly in a single layer over a clean baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until oats are dry and toasted.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Silverbeet Pie

In the interests of upping my intake of dark leafy greens I re-visited a dish I used to make all the time in New Zealand.  Basically it is greens and a cheese sauce with a potato top.  It is total comfort food for me - like a vegetarian shepherds pie - my Mum used to make when I was a child.

Silverbeet is a type of chard from New Zealand. Everyone I knew grew it in their garden, it was nearly as indestructible as mint. Cheap and nutritious.  I actually made this dish with kale and spinach instead of chard today and it turned out as good as I remembered it.

Fertility focus
Dark leafy greens like Kale and Spinach, are full of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin K and are good plant sources of calcium.

  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Silverbeet or other dark leafy greens
Set oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Scrub and chop potatoes into even sized chunks.  Boil until cooked and mash with just enough milk to make up a dryish mash.

Wash and chop greens and pile into your pie dish.  You want enough to completely fill the dish while the greens are raw.

Finely chop the onion and saute in a knob of melted butter over a medium heat.  When the onion is soft, add a small spoonful of flour to soak up the butter and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Basically you're making a roux and want to cook off the taste of raw flour.   Once you've done this add a little milk and mix in, keep adding milk until you have a creamy sauce without lumps.  Remove from the heat and stir in about half a cup of grated cheese.  

Pour the hot cheese sauce over the greens and mix.  The greens will wilt a bit.  Squash them down into the pie dish and top with the mashed potato.  Sprinkle over a little more grated cheese and bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and browned and the sauce is bubbling up the sides.

Mum always used to sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast which makes for a cheesier tasting, crunchier top.  

Friday, 11 October 2013

Oily fish, dairy, eggs and greens

Spanakopita without the pastry
Given my normal eating style is very close to the Weston Price dietary guidelines anyway, last time I was pregnant I looked into the Weston Price Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers and it made sense to me.

Because of my age I'm at higher risk for pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, placenta praevia, pre-eclampsia and premature birth.  The other diet I looked at was the Brewer diet which claims sufficient maternal nutrition plays a major factor in preventing such complications.

While trying to conceive I limited my intake of dairy and revisiting the eating guidelines for these diets now I'm pregnant has prompted me to include more oily fish, eggs and dairy in my diet.

And you can never have too many greens can you?

Nicoise Salad with Tinned Salmon and Avocado

This Indonesian Gado Gado salad is based on the same ingredients as the Nicoise - eggs, potato, green beans and greens but with a spicy peanut sauce instead of the fish.

Gado Gado
Smoked Mackerel and Spinach Pate

Harissa Sardines with Cucumber Couscous and Spinach
Courgette and Feta Frittata

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Sword of Damocles

Conception room with a view
I feel like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head.  Yes I have another chance and I should be happy but I can't help but feel its all about to fall apart again at any second.  Slip through my fingers...

I feel guilty that I am so... not negative exactly, but certainly not positive. Not quite ambivalent as I do care, in my head at least, but I'm not ready to let myself feel that I care very much.  I'm too apprehensive. Its not safe.

I feel like a total ingrate and it seems unfair somehow to all women everywhere who want to be pregnant and aren't and unfair to the wee one inside me right now.

I feel bad that my emotions are not of sweetness and light, unicorns and rainbows.  I am supposed to be the mother doing the best for her child.  I know that relaxation and positive thought correlates with successful pregnancy outcomes and maternal anxiety correlates with adverse outcomes.

I know there are no guarantees and I have no control other than looking after myself in the same way I have been for all the years we have been trying to have a baby.  But I want so much to be able to do something, cling to something, anything that might indicate that this time will be different.  Cue symptom spotting mentalness, which I know is futile, but I don't seem to be able to stop checking in with myself for symptoms fifty times a day.

And even though I understand all these things in my head, I really don't have a clue what to do about changing any of it.

I had my last session with the grief counsellor this week and she said it is a normal part of grieving - that as this one grows, I re-experience my loss of the others.  That she'd be more worried about my mental health if I was all gung-ho and super upbeat about everything.  Nice enough to hear, but it doesn't change things.

I started work at a new contract today - its only mornings for the rest of the month, but I'm hoping a set of data problems to solve for work will help keep my mind focussed on things other than the feelings of impending doom that threaten to overwhelm me.


In other news

  • The movers are booked
  • I bought our flights to Australia this evening and we're off in a month
  • I still need to figure out how to say goodbye to Poppy and Pipkin before we go.  I so hope I don't have to say goodbye to this one too.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Matilda the Musical

When I became pregnant the first time, Mr Duncan and I started a new practice in which he reads aloud to me in bed a couple of nights a week before we go to sleep.  Mr Duncan can be a bit of a gadget addict and this was my way of trying to ensure we both had at least half an hour of non-screen time before bed to
promote good sleep hygiene.

We were supposed to take it in turns reading each book but it transpires Mr Duncan falls asleep almost instantly when I read, and given he said he doesn't mind doing all the reading, now he does all the reading.

So far we have read
We are currently reading Boy, the first autobiography by Roald Dahl who is the author of the book Matilda.

Matilda the Musical opened in London last November and since then I have been asking Mr Duncan when he's going to take me on a date to see it.  I like to take advantage of the culture available to us in London once in a while and I am a fan of musical comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

One of the things I like about Tim Minchin is the articulacy of his lyrics.  He uses a wide vocabulary and often makes unexpected choices which tickle my sense of humour.  Storm is a good example of his work (contains strong language and anti-hippy sentiments).

Both Tim Minchin and Roald Dahl have a good sense of the dark and absurd, so I was sure they would be a good mix.  I haven't actually read the book Matilda or seen the movie and made a point not to find out more than what I already knew - which was that it was about a little girl who liked reading and developed some special powers to restore justice with regard to those who mistreated her.  So when we went on Wednesday night, I didn't really have any expectations.

As a singer, the main thing I like about musicals is the singing.  I know that sounds obvious, but a well pitched, strong voice speaks strongly to me emotionally.  Its the reason I listen to, and frequently cry at, opera - irrespective of whether or not I understand the words.  I've been known to cry at contestants singing on X-Factor for goodness sakes.

This show had me crying at its first line - but because of the words, not the voices.
My mummy says I'm a miracle.
Deep breath.  Children are all miracles though this fact is sometimes not appreciated by people who do not experience any difficulties in having them. The opening number went on to illustrate that Matilda's birth was not desired or her existence valued by her parents, which just made me cry harder.  Its so unfair!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Courgette and Duck Green Coconut Curry with Noodles

While we were trying to conceive Poppy, I was working for a company based in Paris.  My team were based in Poland and the South Coast of England so most of my work was done over the phone from my home office.  Every couple of weeks I had to go to head office for a couple of days for 'management meetings'.  Snore.

A couple of days a month working in Paris sounds rather glamorous, but really, work travel is work travel and tends to involve too much work and too much travel.

It interrupts your sleep patterns.  I had to get up at 5am to catch the Eurostar train which would get me into the office at midday and I didn't get home until after 8pm on the day I returned.

It interrupts your eating patterns.  Eating out for every meal becomes old very quickly - especially when you're trying to eat as nutrient rich foods as you can. There just are no good choices available in ready made foods and you don't know the quality of what will be in the meal you order in restaurants. Although I will say this much, ordering restaurant food in Paris was much less of a concern in this regard than ordering restaurant food in the other city I once regularly had to do work travel to - Dallas.  At least the French value fresh ingredients prepared fairly simply.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Imam Bayildi - Turkish Aubergine and Tomato dip

Scoop it up and pile it onto Turkish bread
This was my favourite dish when I was waitressing at a restaurant in Istanbul.

I did not intend to waitress while I was living in Istanbul - it just kind of came to me.  I used to go to a particular restaurant around the corner from my room in the evenings, to study my Turkish language texts and relax with a glass of wine.  It wasn't long before the owner asked if I had any CDs as they were bored with their selection.  So then I used to study and be in charge of the CD player behind the bar for the few hours a night I was at the restaurant.

One night after I'd been going there for about a month the restaurant was super-busy and understaffed.  The sole waiter was covering both floors of the restaurant and the bar and I could see he was running out of clean glasses for drinks and the dishwasher was full.  So I went behind the bar, emptied out the clean glassware and put it away, re-filled the dishwasher and turned it on again.  I cleared some tables and ran orders downstairs to the kitchen for about an hour, while the waiter focussed on taking and delivering orders, then I went back to my books.

The next day the owner offered me a job for $10.00 USD a night.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Third time lucky?

My only belly shot - Pipkin and I at 14 weeks

For once my two week wait symptoms were not actually PMS.  I got a positive result on my home pregnancy test today.

Identical symptoms to the past three cycles. Completely opposite results.


Part of me feels - whew, I get another chance.

Part of me feels  - oh no, here we go again.

At least the age statistics are on my side for once.  Apparently at my age 50% of pregnancies end in loss.  Given my two losses in a row, statistically I'm due for a live one.

I do know its not that simple though and I wont be counting any chickens until they hatch.

Farmhouse vegetable soup with croutons

Last weekend the weather was crappy and we had nothing but a bunch of odds and ends left from our veggie box so I thought a good old fashioned farmhouse soup was in order.

I remember this as a Sunday evening staple in winter while I was growing up. It is filling, tasty and extremely versatile. I had no appreciation of it as a child, but its also a pretty inexpensive way to feed a horde of hungry children.

I find it oddly comforting.

As part of eating nutrient rich foods to support my fertility, I've added bone broth to my diet, mostly in the form of chicken broth which I make after a roast chicken dinner.  I normally end up with about three litres and freeze it in 500 ml portions for use in other meals.  I dont really follow a recipe for that but here are some instructions at Natural Fertility and Wellness.

We've had lamb chops a few times this year and it seemed a waste to throw out the bones, but I never had enough to make a proper batch of stock with them. I've slowly been amassing lamb bones in the freezer two by two.

Normally I make my soups with chicken stock from the freezer but I'm all out out and there didn't seem to be much point in buying more lamb bones to make a proper batch of stock and therefore increase the stuff I need to use up from the freezer before we move.   So I kind of made the stock at the same time as I made the soup by starting with the frozen lamb bones (I had about eight chops).

You can pretty much add anything to this soup veggie-wise.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Chickpea and Spinach stuffed Gem Squash

Perfect for one
We got Gem Squash in our veg box this week. Its all very well being able to skip the potatoes or lettuce when I want to, but sometimes I end up with a replacement I have no idea about.

This was one of those times.

Now I like orange winter squash and they're very nutritious, but after a disaster soup situation with some spaghetti squash, I've been a bit more careful to find out what I'm dealing with when it comes to new veg.

So cute!
I love the size and shape of Gem Squash, they're the perfect serving for one, but most of the recipes I found on google suggested stuffing them with mince or some variation thereof which didn't appeal.  The South African way is to roast them with butter but that seemed too plain for anything but an accompaniment and I wanted to make a one dish meal (for a change).

While I'm desperately trying not to symptom spot its impossible not to notice that I'm experiencing all the same annoying symptoms as last month, plus nausea, and legumes are supposed to help whether its PMS or morning sickness so chickpeas are also on the menu.  I don't know exactly when I'm due this month as I didn't take the bbt thermometer to Jersey and I haven't figured out my cycle properly since my last loss, but it must be by the end of the week.

We have loads of spices to throw out use up before we move to Australia so I thought I'd try to create a North African inspired recipe.

Gem squash is a lot harder to cut than I expected and I struggled somewhat to cut the tops off evenly.  You might need your super-strength for this.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Trying : love, loose pants & the quest for a baby

Appropriate pun.
Trying : love, loose pants & the quest for a baby
Mark Cossey
Summersdale Publishers, 2013

I am supposed to be writing an essay for a continuing education course.  I go to the library to find books. Actually I also go to the library just to leave the house. Working From Home and Not Working are two very different beasts.

I'm much better at the former.

One of the things I like about having a library card (and I have something like seven cards in four different countries) is that you can just pick something off the shelf on a whim and take it home with no commitment.  If you don't like it, you don't need to finish reading it.  If you DO like it, you can buy your own copy. This encourages me to read lots of books about all sorts of subjects that I might otherwise show no interest in.  I'm a bit stubborn in that I usually make myself finish a book even when I think it is awful.

I read mostly non-fiction and like to read autobiographies and biographies.  I like to learn about other people's lives and perspectives.  Especially when I need to distract myself from actually doing any research or writing the essay I'm supposed to be working on.  'Trying' jumped out at me from the biography section when I should have been looking at medical journals.

Mark and his wife Martha have been diagnosed with 'unexplained'.  In the UK, that means you've not conceived after two years of unprotected intercourse at the fertile time of your cycle.  Martha spends her time learning about their options.  She does the research and presents him with the next steps.  He reacts and describes all sorts of odd fantasies in his head before addressing the subject at hand.

Char-grilled Sardines on Barley and Spinach with Tomato Chutney

I'm trying to use up foods from our store-cupboard before we move to Australia and found this packet of pearl barley which I have been avoiding for months.

When I bought it, I was actually trying to buy millet, which is supposed to be amazing for fertility, but I guess they were out and put the barley on the shelf above the millet label.  I hate it when they do that.

I should really read the labels on things before I put them in my basket.

With the veggie box this week we got spinach and tomatoes, which I love and I ordered some fresh sardine fillets because they were on special.  I knew those ingredients would go well together, but it took me a while to figure out exactly how.

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Stillness and reflection
The first time I heard about meditation I was ten years old and my Mother had just given me a book for my birthday called 'Meditation for Children'.

Although an avid reader, I was unimpressed  and uninterested in this particular book.  I didn't like my Mother telling me what to do especially if it was in any way related to her hippy ways and it lay on a shelf, disregarded, for years. I don't actually remember what happened to it.

I guess my Mother could see what was going on with me and was trying to do me a favour.  While I'm pretty happy with my brain, it has seen me through some complex and difficult situations, I do have one of those minds that churns incessantly.  So in my head, I think meditation is something I should do, and would benefit from.  If nothing else, I could do with conditioning myself to trigger the relaxation response.

I've tried to learn to meditate a number of different times in my life, with a number of different methods.

  • In my early 20s I bought a transcendental meditation cassette tape which had you repeat a mantra for 20 minutes.  
  • Inspired by a recent visit by Sri Chimnoy during my first stint working in London, I set up a small shrine with a candle to meditate on in the morning before I left for work.
  • When I was living in San Francisco I attended several terms of meditation classes at a 'church' that I eventually felt was a bit too cult-ish for my comfort. 
  • I've taken meditation workshops at Tibetan Buddhist temples.
  • I tried various guided meditations on YouTube in the interests of reducing stress while I was trying to get pregnant.
  • When I first lost Poppy, a friend recommended the meditation podcast 'Emotional Ease' to help with the merry-go-round of incessant self recriminatory thoughts I was suffering.
  • When I was pregnant with Pipkin, I listened to a meditation iPhone app while travelling to work on the tube in rush hour.  I find crowded tube trains extremely stressful.
I'm sure there are other times I've tried to start a meditation practice that I don't even recall.  I can honestly say I've learned something from each attempt, but I haven't ever stuck with it.

The problem is, when I try to meditate silently, my internal voice kicks up a big ruckus and I usually terminate the session after a couple of extremely uncomfortable minutes of conflicting internal dialogue.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Broccoli and Cashew Stir Fry with Noodles

Brocco-nut Noodles
Mr Duncan gave notice to our Landlord at the end of last week.  It was not as soon as I would have liked. I'd have done it the day he got the visa.  But when you delegate the job of Landlord Relations to someone else you live with, you have to let them do things their own way.

Even if it drives you nuts.

Otherwise you just end up taking all the responsibility for everything - and that is not a recipe for a harmonious home-life or relationship either.

So there has been a sudden flurry of activity this week.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Beetroot, Tomato and Lentil Salad

Although I started working on eating the freezer and our cupboards bare some months ago, we still seem to have lots of random store-cupboard and spice items to use up before we move, so I need to get better at incorporating these into my meals.

It seems the weather in London outdid itself in sun and heat while we were in Jersey on holiday.  I thought I had cancelled the veg box due on the morning we returned, but it was sitting under a bush outside our door when we got in that evening.  The contents were a bit wilted but otherwise fine for having sat in sunlight all day. I normally elect to skip items we don't eat or already have a lot of.  But because I thought I'd cancelled the box, I didn't check what would be in it.  I ended up with rather more limp lettuce than I prefer.

The sun also put an end to my usually robust mint.
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