Monday, 11 August 2014


I don’t know about you, but life for us has become incredibly hectic. We have been busy for more weekends in a row than I can count. Not bad busy; fun busy… lots of time with family, fun adventures and great memories… but busy, and always with other people. I literally couldn’t remember the last time it was just us.

I was craving some time with my people. Just my husband and kids. Call it grounding.. or regrouping.. I needed it. I would have loved to have gone away for a night or two and totally escaped, but money is a thing… a thing that we don’t have lots of.. so we did the next best: a staycation. A pretend holiday, where the accommodation is free and you get the luxury of sleeping in your own bed. Win-win-win! We spent the days doing whatever we wanted to do, holding hands, and just enjoying. It was magic, and it made me so, so happy.


It’s getting harder to fit our family into a selfie!! We started off the day at a local craft festival… checking out market stalls and enjoying free show rides and cheap locally grown fruit.

And yes, Mayana is wearing a beard…

How did I get so lucky as to marry this boy?

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Did I mention the rides were free?


We also stopped at pretty much any playground we went past, much to the kids’ excitement!

When it started to sprinkle a little, we bought some bits and pieces for a picnic lunch and jumped in the car to another nearby town, where we found a little museum with picnic shelters, barbeques and another playground. Happy days!


Quinten has huge problems with watching us eat. He wants in on that!! He was particularly cranky this day, and wouldn’t be calmed until I gave him a crust off my sandwich… which he proceeded to go to town on… hands-free!

These two were a bit thrilled when I gave them a lolly… and that thrill was increased ten-fold when they discovered that it changed the colour of their tongues!

My men in their fabulous hats!


I didn’t take any pictures in the museum but we had lots of fun exploring. Mayana got it in her head that you have to be REALLY QUIET in a museum, and proceeded to adopt a very theatrical whisper as she pointed out all the things that interested her. Reuben decided that museums are a place to see dinosaurs… luckily, there was a gigantic crocodile skin on display, and that was close enough to a dinosaur for him!

The kids asked for a movie night, and we decided to go old-skool and hire out DVDs. The kids had fun choosing, and we all enjoyed watching The Croods with a lounge-room fish & chip picnic (despite the serious look on my kids’ faces).

On Sunday, we went to church, then popped home to pack up the picnic basket, change into some summery clothes and hit the road.. destination: unknown.

We landed at the beach, and found a secluded spot under some shady trees to roll out our gigantic picnic mat.



Not a bad lunch view eh?

Isn’t Mr Q getting a bit clever? I dug a little mound of sand around him under the blanket to help him balance, but he sat there for most of the time we were eating… all by himself! Clever fella.


It was still a little chilly for swimming, but down by the water enough wind picked up to fly our kites. Mayana had been given this butterfly kite for Christmas, and this was the first time we have had a chance to fly it. Such fun! The kids enjoyed running around on the wet sand. Reuben inevitably got completely soaked… running around and jumping into puddles, which of course almost always ended with him landing pretty much flat on his face (“Splat Mama!!!”)

We had such a beautiful weekend pretending to be on holidays. My family is so awesome; it was such a happy time just being us, being together. I feel refreshed and ready for our next slew of busy weekends ahead. I can certainly see more of these staycations in our future!

Our Top 8 Challenge

If you are a regular reader of this blog, as well as noticing how behind I am in my blogging endeavours (Quinten’s 365 anyone!!?) you will know that we are currently doing an elimination diet with Reuben, after he was given a borderline diagnosis of Eosinophilic Eosophegitis.

Last week was EOS awareness week, an initiative run by a fantastic organisation called AusEE, that aims to raise awareness and money for education and research into Eosinophilic Disorders. Anyway, one of the ways to fundraise was the ‘Top 8 Challenge’, which we registered for. Our family committed to eat top-8 free for an entire day (the 8th of August), and friends and family could sponsor us. So basically, we went the whole day with no dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts or peanuts. All of which, along with corn, Reuben has been without for the last few months now. We are trialling corn at the moment, which means we really are only off the Top 8 at the moment, so that worked out well!

I wanted to share our day here. Creating allergy-friendly food has become somewhat of a second nature to me.. I read a recipe and automatically start to ‘translate’ it in my head… I can use coconut oil instead of butter… sunflower seeds instead of almonds, tapioca instead of cornflour, chia seeds instead of eggs… Reuben eats well… he eats interesting and varied foods and meals, and I have managed to find ways to recreate most of his favourites. So with that experience under my belt I was confident in going into this day. It was trickier for our friends. You see we decided that to make Top 8 Day a day worth celebrating we would end it with a dinner party in honour of Reuben. I was so excited at the thought of a meal with friends where Reuben was free to eat absolutely anything that he wanted to. So we invited our friends to join the challenge and bring along a Top 8 Free meal to share.

So here we go… our day of Top 8-Free food, in pictures:


We started the day with gluten-free weetbix. These are new from Sanitarium, made from sorghum, and taste close enough to their wheat counterpart to make my weetbix-loving-and-missing boy very, very happy. We served them with rice milk. Which was also in our coffee. The kids did not have coffee… Mayana had rice milk and Reuben had his neocate. None of us other than Reuben really like rice milk very much at all, but the weetbix were okay!


Mayana took a Top 8-Free lunchbox to school. She had a Sinchie with apple puree (we love those things), everything-free baking, rice crackers, corn cakes with ham & nuttlex, cucumber, grapes and dates.


Reuben and I had chocolate brownies, medjool dates, corn cakes and banana for morning tea.


Lunch was some delicious leftovers. Pete invented this very yummy top8-free carbonara with rice pasta. Quite delicious.


Afternoon tea was apricot-date squares (made by blitzing dried apricots and dates, and shredded coconut), a coconut ‘chocolate’ fish, and potato bread with blueberry jam. The potato bread is a new find, and one of the few gluten-free breads I’ve come across that contains no soy or egg. It does have corn, so we’ve only been able to buy it since the corn trial. It’s very expensive, but as far as texture and taste goes it’s probably the best gluten free bread I’ve tasted. Also, it’s made locally on the Sunshine Coast, which is pretty cool.


Dinner. Well. Our friends completely outdid themselves and we enjoyed an allergy free feast of epic proportions. We had amazing soups, Asian-inspired noodles, sticky rice with delicious curries… a feast fit for a king!

When I told Reuben that our friends were coming over for a special dinner and he could eat anything he wanted to he got very excited. “Party? Me?” he asked?
”Yep, a party for you Reuben,”
”Yay! Chips? Cake”
I think he thought it was his birthday, hehe. But yes, we did have chips and cake!


And dessert. Oh yum. I made a chocolate self saucing pudding with whipped coconut cream. It was very popular, and I should have at least doubled the recipe. We also had coconut rice pudding with strawberries and peaches, and coconut caramel custard with banana. So much yummy.

And that was it! Our Top 8 Free Day. We succeeded, we didn’t go hungry, and we actually enjoyed our food. And to top it off, we have raised over $300 for AusEE, which is pretty fabulous given that our initial fundraising goal was only $150.

I’d call that a great success for our very first Top 8 Challenge Day. Thank you so much to all our friends who sponsored us, and who joined us on challenge day.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

That time we went camping…

I have had this blog post half written for a ridiculous time, and it occurred to me that our camping trip was about 2.5 months ago and it was time to get this post published!!



Yep, we went camping with a two-and-a-bit month old baby. Honestly, camping with babies is way less stressful with babies than toddlers. Babies stay in one spot when you put them down. Babies stay in their warm clothes once you’ve got them dressed. Babies don’t try and play with the fire.

Anyway. We went camping at the beautiful Kenilworth Homestead. It’s a great place for camping.. close enough to civilisation that you can go and buy things that you may have forgotten, it has flushing toilets and hot water showers, and acres of beautifully manicured green grass on the banks of the Mary River.


It’s a cool place, and has heaps of memories for me, because my family actually lived there (in a tiny duplex behind the main homestead in the picture there) in the early 1990’s when my dad used to be on staff running camps. Chances are if you went on a school camp in the 90s at the Kenilworth Homestead, my dad cooked your food and organised your activities. So it was extra cool for me to go back and check everything out from an adult perspective.


We chose a gorgeous shady spot to set up our campsite. We went with a couple of other families, and decided to set up Petes ridiculously enormous tarp as a central ‘living area’, with our family tents around it. This is the first time that we had opened up Pete’s tarp which he got for his birthday last year, and we knew it was big but boy…. is it big!!!


Quinten was our site supervisor, and gave Keith from The Block a run for his money!!


Pete was in his element. Between our group we had enough equipment for a really great set up.



Our tarp had plenty of room for a kitchen and dining area, as well as a 3x3m picnic rug which made a play space for the kids.



Our family realised that we would no longer fit in our tent! Luckily Pete still had an old 4-man stowed away, so we set that up for the kids.

Both sides of our family has since chipped in for Pete’s dream tent for his birthday present. Boy-oh-boy… just you wait till you see it!


Pete kept the fire going for the whole weekend, and we cooked some pretty delicious food on there. Pete had it down to a fine art, and the kids were all completely enthralled and very keen to help whenever possible.

We spent the days hanging out by the river, sitting around talking and doing an awful lot of eating!


Mayana is standing in front of the schoolhouse where I started my education. She couldn’t believe that this was my school.. it didn’t match up with her experience of what school is at all! The building is in disuse now, and is filled bits of broken furniture and pieces of wood. There are signs up warning against entering. But it still brought back a lot of memories… it’s a pretty special place to me – I learned to read there!


Quinten coped splendidly. It was quite cold, which disrupted his sleeping a little, but once he was snuggled into bed with Mama and Papa, we all got a bit more shut-eye.


And well.. this photo of Mayana and Reuben not long after we pulled out of the driveway of the homestead is pretty telling as to how much fun they had!!

Camping is something that Pete and I both love to do, but seem to put off, thinking that it will be too much work with the kids. I’m glad that whenever we decide to do it we always prove ourselves wrong, and find it pretty much the complete opposite.

Pete has a whole week of holidays booked in the September school holidays and we are looking very much forward to heading out for another family camping trip and trying out our brand new house-tent!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Everything-Free Baking

After a slight hiccup where he was accidentally fed pasta at daycare on day five and we had to go back to day one… we are nearly half way through Reuben’s elimination diet. It isn’t easy, and the combination of being off corn, soy, wheat and nuts makes baking interesting.

Pretty much every gluten/wheat-free product on the market, including breads, flours baked goods etc. contains either one or more of the other flours that are off limits. And probably eggs as well. So I can’t really buy any pre-made gluten free products. I need to make my own flours so that I can make my own breads and biscuits and pancakes. I’ve been using combinations of different flours like tapioca, potato starch, buckwheat (which is NOT wheat), quinoa, oats (which Reuben is allowed to eat because he is technically off wheat not gluten), besan (chickpea) and rice. None of these behave in the same way as wheat flour, so it’s a bit of trial and error, and learning about which alternative flours have which properties.

This buckwheat, quinoa and chia bread has been a favourite, although it’s sometimes quicker and easier to make up some simple pancakes with whichever flour I’ve got on hand and some Orgran egg replacer and oat/rice/coconut milk. The Quirky Cooking thermomix cookbook that I was given for Mother’s Day is full of great ideas, but I will be able to use it even more once Reuben is allowed nuts again. The poor lad has eaten a lifetime’s worth of rice in all of its various forms (rice milk, rice cakes, rice biscuits, rice flour, actual rice) and lots of coconut too.

A few weeks ago, a lovely friend gave us a package of absolutely delicious everything-free chocolate chip biscuits, and I decided to use the ingredients list on the package as inspiration to make my own. It only took me two experiments to get a cookie that, which not exactly like the one in that package, tastes pretty delicious. And so, I thought I’d share it here.

I made mine in the thermomix, so I’ll include directions for that as well as how you could do it without one. Here goes…


  • 100g oil (I used a mix of nuttelex and coconut oil)
  • 50g raw sugar/rapadura/coconut sugar
  • 50g rice malt syrup
  • 10g molasses (or 60g golden syrup – I like to use RMS + molasses to make the flavour of golden syrup with a lot less sugar)
  • 1tsp bicarb soda
  • 200g besan (chickpea) flour *
  • 90g tapioca flour *
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g dairy-free chocolate (I use the lindt 70% dark stuff, use dairy-free chocolate chips if you can find them)
  • pinch of salt.

*If you have a thermomix, you can grind your own chickpea and tapioca flour. You just need to mill on speed 10 for about a minute. I found this wasn’t fine enough, so I let it cool (it heats up when it milling at that speed), and mill for another minute, and repeat until it is an appropriate texture. Just be prepared, milling chickpeas is LOUD. Like nasty loud. But waaaaaaay cheaper and easier to find than the actual flours.

Method (with thermomix):

  • melt together the oil, sugar, RMS + molasses/golden syrup and bicarb soda 60degrees/3 minutes/sp2.
  • add flours, baking powder, salt and chocolate and mix on interval speed for 30-40 seconds until combined.
  • roll into teaspoon sized balls, and flatten slightly. Bake at 180degrees for 10 minutes or until cooked. They will harden as they cool.

Method (without thermomix):

  • melt the oil, sugar, liquid sweetners and bicarb soda over a low heat on the stove.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  • roll into teaspoon sized balls, and flatten slightly. Bake at 180degrees for 10 minutes or until cooked. They will harden as they cool.

note: I found that the lindt chocolate kind of melted into the mixture, so they kind of turned into chocolate biscuits instead of chocolate chip. I will hopefully one day find dairy free chocolate chips so I can try it that way!


And there you have it… gluten free, dairy free, corn free, soy free, nut free, egg free chocolate (chip) biscuits, a delicious little treat for my gorgeous boy!

The other snacks in the picture are apricot balls and date balls. I made them both in the thermomix, but you could do them in a food processor too. I used the same method for both; a handful of dried fruit (dates/apricots), a good dessert-spoon full of sunflower seed butter (which I also made in the thermie – and you could use any kind of nut butter if you’re allowed nuts) and a handful of shredded coconut. I pulsed on turbo for a few seconds to get it started and then blitzed on speed 8 until it was cut up and blended enough to hold together. You can add more coconut or sunbutter to make the mixture wetter/drier as needed. Reuben loves these little snacks, they’re a nice little treat!!

As much as I’m not enjoying the actual diet or the reason that we’re doing it, I’m trying to approach it from the attitude of an opportunity to be a bit creative. I’m learning a lot about alternative foods and different ways of looking at food, so that is kind of cool. And Reuben seems to enjoy most of my endeavours, which is pretty awesome. I hope you do too!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Quinten 365 {14/52}


Apologies for the massive flood of these posts these last few days. We’ve been having internet troubles and I managed to get my old laptop hooked up to catch up. And this is the last one… I’m caught up!! Yay! Quin’s photo a day posts will now be (hopefully) published each Sunday night. I hope you enjoy them!


92/365 |  Seriously. Could he be any cuter?93_365

93/365 | Three months old today!!


94/365 | Quinten often sleeps with his eyes open. Funny fella.


95/365 | Taking a steam train ride

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96/365 | Two photos today. Because I couldn’t choose between the cuteness. 


97/365 | Listening to sweet tunes at the local food and wine festival.


98/365 | Opa FaceTimed from Singapore Airport today. Quin was underwhelmed.

Quinten 365 {13/52}


85/365 | There were three in the trolley and the little one said… “Help!!!”


86/365 | My assistant photographer and I went and did a photo shoot for Tante Boo. This is his ‘I’m concentrating really hard’ face.


87/365 | Feeling a bit under the weather today.


88/365 | But ready to smile again today!


89/365 | “Oh I say” *Imagine posh English accent*


90/365 | Heading home after a big day out.


91/365 | I wanna be a cowboy baby! Showing off his genuine Wrangler onesie that he got for Christmas before he was even born!


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