Sunday, 30 March 2014

Fear

With my first pregnancy I was a bit anxious because it was all a new experience but innocent enough to believe things would probably be fine until it all went downhill at ten weeks.

With my second pregnancy I was hyper-vigilant.  I worried and over-analysed every symptom until we passed 14 weeks gestation.  Now that we were out of the first trimester surely it was safe to hope everything would be okay.  I had three whole days of relative peace-of-mind before things went downhill again.

This time I have every reason to believe the pregnancy will go to term - we're now more than 75% of the way there.  I'm healthy and growing and gaining weight as expected.

But that is just in my head.  In my heart is fear.

I know that babies can still die in utero in the third trimester.  Some babies are stillborn.  And some babies die due to birth complications.

Upon waking every morning the first thing I do is check for movement.  Most often there is none and the cold fingers of fear start to crawl up my spine.  Pickle seems not to be a morning person, preferring to save the major acrobatics for when I'm trying to fall asleep at night.  I know this in my head, but still the nightmare scenarios play through my mind until I first feel movement later in the day.

All I can do is treat myself well and hope for the best.  It is much more difficult than I would have believed.

There are no guarantees.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Tiger Towel

As modelled by my kitchen chair
I went to buy baby clothes for Pickle the other day.

I found it totally overwhelming.

Even outside the pink/blue themes there was lots of choice and despite my careful research, once in the store I had no idea about quality or price or anything.  I came home with just a couple of onesies and a big headache. 

I complained to Mr Duncan that I really just needed to inherit a big bag of baby stuff so I didn't need to make so many decisions.  

Lo and behold I was visiting one of my few Melbourne friends the other day and she mentioned she'd recently been through the wardrobes of both her little ones' and I should go up to the spare room and feel free to help myself to anything I wanted.

I love it when you put something out to the universe and it answers like that.  I went home with a bag full of gender neutral stuff in newborn and 000 sizes along with a few pieces of 00 and 0 stuff for the future.

Newborn clothes ready to go
The next day I came across some high quality Egyptian cotton towels on sale and I thought I'd make a hooded towel for my friend's two year old as a thank you for the baby clothes.

I first came across these cute hooded towels when I was pregnant with Poppy and working from home - I had lots of time to surf the internet for baby things to sew while waiting for people to join conference calls.  I couldn't imagine making one for when Pickle is born, but they seem perfect for a toddler to exercise their imagination in.

The instructions are good and I'm very happy with the end result, but I encountered a few issues along the way.  If you decide to make one of these, don't make the same mistakes I did...

The bath towel I bought was 640gsm and because there were no matching hand towels left on sale in the same colour I bought a bath mat instead which was 1050 gsm.  Most luxurious, but next time I will use thinner towels.

While the size of the bath mat was fine, the thickness caused me no end of problems with the sewing machine.  My needle kept getting gummy and skipping stitches when sewing the pupils of the eyes, the nose and whiskers.  I guess two layers of heat and bond was a bit much.  Next time I'd sew those bits onto the white fabric before sewing the fabric onto the towel.  I also had problems with the feed dogs due to the thickness of the towel when satin stitching the face bits and had to stitch backwards and forwards again and again.  It turned out the satin stitch worked best for me when I used the reverse functionality - though sewing circles backward was a bit tricky.

As for putting the face together... my sewing machine foot just would not accommodate so many thicknesses of towel, so I ended up hand sewing on the ears and muzzle using a darning needle.

I can't wait to give it to my friend's two year old and see what she makes of it!


Monday, 10 March 2014

Mediterranean Dinner Party

I invited friends to dinner on Thursday night.  Our first dinner guests - actually our first guests - since moving in six weeks ago.  Unbeknownst to me, my invitation coincided with the local power company's plan to replace all the electricity meters in the neighbourhood.  Of course it did.

'It will take two hours, tops' said the nice power company man as he came by to say the power would be turned off in ten minutes.  That was at 11am.  By 2pm they had discovered the power in our rental property was not earthed and they 'could not in good conscience' return power to the property while it was a death trap unsafe.  Fair enough.  They wrote us an official defect report and said we needed to get an electrician out to repair it asap.

We called the property manager to authorise/arrange an electrician only to find that our property manager no longer works for the company and they haven't allocated anyone new to her properties. Nice one.  We eventually got an electrician who couldn't find any earthing wires to the water pipes to be repaired and speculated that they were removed when the property was re-plumbed, sometime in the past, and most of the metal water pipes were replaced with plastic ones.  The issue became locating an appropriate pipe to run a new earthing wire to.  So the electrician had to call someone out to drill holes and climb around the roof so they could run the new earthing wire across the length of the house.  That was complete by 4.30pm.  But the power company employees finished work at 4.00pm so we needed to get an after hours team to inspect the repair, rescind the defect notice and turn the power back on.

The power was finally returned just after 6.30pm.  Our guests were due at 7.00pm.

Our friends are vegetarian and I had planned a Mediterranean menu - mostly Greek versions of dishes inspired by this cool book I took out from the library - A La Grecque: Our Greek Table.  I don't usually do much baking, but had intended to bake a fresh spinach and feta pie and bake some bread to go with dips and salads.

By the time our guests arrived, the amended menu was

  • Mediterranean dips - hummous, tzatsiki, melazanasalat (see below)
  • Toasted pita bread - Mr Duncan ran out for some from the supermarket, to substitute for the homemade turkish flat bread I had planned to make from my library book.  I'll have to take a photo of that recipe for future experiments.
  • Spanakopita (reheated from the freezer)
  • Sweet potato, feta and basil salad - The gas was still on but the ignition spark on the stove is electricity dependent.  Once I found some matches to light it, I was able to boil the sweet potato instead of roasting.
  • Fattoush salad

So it all worked out in the end but I was in such a flap I totally forgot to take any photos.

Tzatsiki
This is a simple mix of chopped cucumber, mint and garlic stirred into yoghurt that I've made for years, but I followed the library book recipe method and made it the Greek way by

  1. straining the yoghurt to make it thicker (don't forget to save the whey and use it for other things
  2. removing the seeds from the cucumber before slicing and draining the chopped cucumber, sprinkled with a little salt in a colander for a few minutes before mixing into the yoghurt.
  3. mixing a little extra virgin olive oil into the finished product
These changes made for a much thicker, luxurious texture which really complimented the pie (and also went well with some grilled lamb chops the next day).

Melizanosalata
This was Mr Duncan's favourite dip when we were in Greece.  It is made with grilled eggplant.  I threw it and the hummous together in the 30 minutes between the power coming back on and our guests arriving.

Ingredients

  • Eggplant
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Parsley

Method
Slice the eggplant.  Place slices on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Grill under a high heat for approx 5 minutes either side until soft and slightly charred.

Mash eggplant in a bowl with remaining ingredients.  Blend until desired consistency reached.  If you like you can fold in some crumbled feta cheese.

Friday, 7 March 2014

All-purpose pillow

While I consider this pregnancy to have been fairly 'easy' on me so far (not that I have anything to compare it to), I have been experiencing hip pain and heartburn at night.

Looking at the long and intimidating list of items to purchase in preparation for your new arrival I noted one said 'nursing pillow' and wondered what that was.

It turns out it is a horseshoe-shaped pillow that you can rest the baby on to nurse, thus bringing the baby up to a more comfortable height and saving your arms.  I also read on a message board somewhere that I could use a nursing pillow during pregnancy, to help with my discomforts at night.

The Boppy Pillow seemed to be the go-to product, but I also read complaints in the forums that it wasn't firm/high/wide enough for various peoples tastes.  I found a great, easy to follow tutorial for a similar nursing pillow that would be firmer and higher and decided I would alter it a little to make it wider so it would fit around Mr Duncan's waist too.

I went down to the local charity shop in search of fabric and came across a bonanza.  They were having a half price sale.  Not only did I find a tablecloth made out of a sturdy cotton fabric to use but I came across a pillow stuffed with hypoallergenic filling I could use and another bag of craft filling - all for the princely sum of $3.00.

Textile filling

( And a black leather ottoman for $2.50 that matches our black leather couches from Mr Duncan's bachelor days. )

I could use a good footrest

After I got the tablecloth home I was a bit reluctant to cut it up - it really is quite pretty, with blue and white checks.  When I measured up the fabric needed for the pillow it left me with half of the tablecloth - which happens to be just big enough to fit our table.  So I'm going with the best of both worlds and saving half to use as a tablecloth.  For now.

When I placed the pattern on the folded fabric, I added a half an inch up to the fold to make it that little bit larger to accommodate Mr Duncan's girth.






I need to find some fabric to make slip covers (I'm thinking one side soft and fuzzy and the other side cotton or flannel).  I also think I'll make a couple of slipcovers in the original 'Boppy' shape to bring the two ends closer together in the middle, like a ring, so it could be used for propping up baby or tummy time when the time comes.

In the meantime I've squeezed it into a normal pillow case to keep it clean and in the past two days have used it

  • to sleep on - with my hip in the hollow and my belly resting on the back to take the pressure off 
  • to sleep against - with my back propped up against it and another pillow on top for my head to stop the heartburn rising up
  • to rest my laptop on my legs
  • to support my lumbar back while sitting on the couch
  • as an armrest to lean against

I'm sure it will come in useful when the baby comes, but I can't believe I haven't been using one of these for years!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Sweet things and hospitals

I've never had a very sweet tooth.  While I like the odd chunk of dark chocolate or creamy desert (mmm custard), you won't find me salivating over rich cakes or sugary treats.  I had a milkshake the other day that was too sweet for me to drink.  Even a handful of dried fruit or more than one Christmas mince pie at a time sees me break out in a hot flush.  I start sweating under my eyes and craving water.  Not long afterwards my brain goes all fuzzy and I start feeling nauseous and faint.  I prefer to keep my blood sugar levels stable.  This might be because my Mother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in her early thirties so I was raised on a diabetes appropriate diet with balanced amounts of carbs, proteins and fresh veg for every meal.

It was for this reason, not because I thought I might actually have Gestational Diabetes, that I was dreading the Glucose Challenge Test at the hospital this week.  It went better than I expected.  The drink itself didn't taste that bad - just like super-sweet 7 Up. But it was a challenge forcing the whole 300 mls down in only five minutes.

I did get all hot and sweaty and then felt headachy and sick, but I was allowed to drink water, so I drank about two litres and that helped.  I also elected to just sit in the waiting room for the entire hour until the blood test was due, to avoid any risk of passing out.  My doctor had suggested I bring a protein snack with me to eat immediately after the test was complete, to help stabilise my blood sugar levels, so I had a cheese sandwich before attempting to leave the hospital and brave road-crossing and public transport.

My test results were 5.8, which is well under the threshold of 7.9 for Gestational Diabetes.  I also had a checkup with my obstetrician.  My belly is measuring as expected for dates, Pickle's heartbeat was good, my blood pressure is low.

By good fortune, rather than design, the temporary apartment when we first arrived in Melbourne was in the catchment area for the Royal Women's Hospital - which is Australia's leading maternity hospital - so this is where I was referred for maternity care.  Since we moved, we are in the catchment area for a smaller, local hospital, whose maternity services happen to be run by Royal Women's. Being closer and more community-oriented I thought it would be better to transfer to the local hospital, however they take low risk pregnancies only and although I am low risk by most of their criteria, I do not meet the age criterion.

I mentioned this to my obstetrician at my checkup and she agreed it would be better for me to transfer and said that my pregnancy was much lower risk than many of her younger patients so she emailed the head of department to ask them to make an exception.  To my surprise they agreed to accept me.  On one hand this is great - the hospital is two train stops away rather than an hour-long train and tram schlep across to the other side of town.  On the other hand, it will all be new.  Again.  My next appointment is due in another four weeks - so I guess I'll meet my new team then.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Home is the smell of cooking coming from the kitchen

 Cashew Chicken stir fry
Our furniture finally arrived two weeks ago.  I heard the truck backing up the
driveway and was surprised to see they had an enormous truck carting a entire container on the back!  In London, they had just loaded our stuff into a medium-sized lorry.  We didn't even have half a container's worth, it was a bit tricky figuring out somewhere for it to park while they unloaded it, but we managed to squeeze it between the tree and the letterbox.

The delivery team were great and worked really well together.  One guy unloaded the truck, calling out each box number and description for me to check off the inventory.  One guy took each box to the room I specified and the third team member unpacked the contents of the boxes in the rooms (somewhat haphazardly) and returned the empty boxes to the container.

By the end of the weekend our furniture had been assembled and arranged and most of our things had found a home but it has taken until today to get really settled - what with TVs not working and needing to change power plugs and clean everything.  I still have a drawer of plastic storage containers in the kitchen that needs washing and organising but that can wait until a rainy day.

********

I'm really enjoying having a properly equipped kitchen again and have been cooking up a storm, though haven't really tried cooking anything particularly new or adventurous.  I'm sticking to my healthy food for pregnancy principles and doubling up on recipes to stash food in the freezer for when I am too tired to cook.  Unpacking our books, I came across Nourishing Traditions which I bought just before we left the UK and plan to start making some fermented foods and using my own pastry from the recipes in the book.

I keep forgetting to take pictures...  here are a few I remembered to take before we ate.

Spanakopita
In honour of having baking dishes again, I bought some phyllo pastry and made double lots of spanakopita which I served with homemade falafel and humous and beet/carrot salad.

The recipe is basic - sweat onion and spinach over a low heat until well wilted. Squeeze out moisture, mix in feta and spread over pastry layer.  Pour over a couple of beaten eggs.  Top with more pastry.  Bake at a medium heat.
Meze plate with spanakopita, humous and falafel

Bacon and Egg Pie
With the leftover phyllo pastry I made this Kiwi classic. Use middle or back bacon, rather than the rashers you get in North America.  Evenly spread finely chopped onion over the base pastry layer and sprinkle with chopped bacon.  I put mine under the grill for a few minutes before chopping as it was quite fatty, but raw bacon or even some ham works just as well.  Crack five or six eggs on top.  Some people like to ensure the yolks remain whole but I use a fork to prick mine so they run a bit.  Top with pastry.  Bake for about 35 mins in medium oven.

Its just as delicious served cold and can be eaten with the hands, so is an easy dish to take to a picnic.
Bacon and Egg pies, fresh from the oven

served with spinach and orange salad
I made a batch of granola but used blackstrap molasses as the sweetener, in place of honey, which made it a lovely rich brown colour.  We eat this for breakfast several times a week with fresh fruit and plain yoghurt.
Home made granola

My friend gave me a couple of kaffir lime leaves from her tree, so I was excited to use them somehow.  I've never made my own yellow curry paste before but this Thai Yellow Curry recipe was much easier than I expected and turned out to be so tasty.  I added chickpeas and cashews but went easy on the chilli.  Cold leftover curry piled onto rice crackers made a great lunch the next day.

Yellow pumpkin and sweet potato curry
I'm loving the fresh produce available in Melbourne.  The other day I found a bag of ripe tomatoes and a bag of ripe avocados for only $3.00.  They needed using immediately, but that was okay, I had just soaked some mixed beans - so a Mexican evening it was!
Veggie beans, guacamole and salsa

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