Life: July

*Written over July and the beginning of August*

July was a big month. Weddings and birthdays, busy work periods, and a toddler constantly on the move combined with our decision to tackle the Plastic Free July challenge left us all lacking in energy by the end of the month.
However, it was almost worth it. Weekends by the beach and reconnecting with friends helped to revive our spirits, the sheer joy of a little man running at us with a huge grin was too cute not to love, and the beautiful clear winter days we've had also meant we spent a lot of our hours outside in the garden, pottering around and gardening – a pretty perfect way to spend an afternoon to be honest.
And as spring approaches I'm starting to feel my energy grow with it.

Desiring: Some dark or raw chocolate. Or even just a hot cacao. Something rich and slightly bitter and delicious that I can sip away on while reading The Wolves of Calla. After a hefty break from The Dark Tower series I'm back with a vengeance!  

Loving: Podcasts! By about 8am every morning the little man and I have cabin fever and will normally set out for a long walk. He watches the trains and I treat my ears. Currently I'm flipping between Conversations, Chat 10 Looks 3 and Penmanship  but am considering delving into Revisionist History. 

Wearing: Um. Does activewear count? I certainly hope so because I'm throwing on yoga pants and a comfy top most days, partly so I can run around after a little man and then do a yoga session (did I mention I'm training to do be a yoga teacher?) before settling at the computer to work. And partly because it's a damn comfy attire, although part of me is terrified of becoming like this.

Happenings:  Steve and I decided to tackle Plastic Free July for the month, predominantly focusing on refusing water bottles, cutlery, bags, straws and coffee cups. What an eye opener this month was! We found just how entrenched plastic is in our society, and how strange people found this refusal was. But on the plus side, farmers' markets are our happy place, our local butcher accepted our own containers without batting an eyelid and bulk stores are fantastic (if just for the bulk chocolate). A few weeks on and we've loosened our grip a litter, but mostly we're living a plastic-free life and loving it!

Eating: Mexican. Lots and lots of Mexican with homemade spice seasoning and flour and water tortillas. So easy, so delicious.

Drinking: Gin! For Christmas I asked for lemon trees to keep my lime tree company, and the little trees are flourishing with fruit. A G&T with a homegrown lemon or lime is a pretty amazing experience, especially after spending many sleepless nights with a teething toddler (that's something they should put in the manual!)

Hearing: My wedding playlist. Spring means wedding anniversary and, for me, sounds, smells and memories are pretty tightly interwoven. Plus dance-offs with a one-year-old to Hall and Oates are also fun. 

Reading: I'm a notorious book swapper, and will normally have a few books on the go at a time. In addition to Wolves of Calla (again - get into this series if you haven't already), I'm flicking through Mia Freedman's Work Strife Balance, which is OK but it's not really capturing my attention. I've also got my eye on this book as we continue to simplify our lives.

Watching: Probably like everyone else, we're watching Game of Thrones. Come Monday nights I pretty much run out of the little man's room, get handed my dinner and we hit play. But we also tackled Lion recently, and I really recommend it!

Now over to you - how has the month treated you?

Life inspired by Heidi (and in turn by Pip).


From the archives: The only way to travel

So, prior to settling into "real life" with the daily grind and parenthood ruling our weeks, Steve and I were avid travellers. We still are, in fact, but our travels keep us a little closer to home these day.

But a little reminiscing sent me to the pages of my old blog – Red Robin Blue – that chronicled our lives while living in Paris and travelling around Europe.

And so I thought I'd bring back a few of those posts here. I hope you enjoy them too.

As the heat of the August day started to wane The Boy and I hauled our backpacks on and hoisted ourselves on board an old train in a village on the edge of the Czech Republic. We were headed to Poland and had decided to save a few pennies and train it there. The train was old and noisy, the seats in the carriages were upholstered in a material straight out of the 1970s and judging by the noise the brakes made that was probably the last time they had been oiled too.

We settled down into our seats, opened the window wide so the smell of freshly mown grass could drift in, and immediately fell in love with the romance of it all. With a groan and a few too many bumps we started to move and the countryside flashing by was beautiful; fields and forests flashed by dotted here and there with tiny villages and families out enjoying the cooler afternoon. Our was only broken by the sporadic tin whistle from the train

I’ve long been a fan of train travel. Besides the obvious benefit of not spending hours on either end in an airport and then still having to push through customs at a snail pace, there’s the chance to actually see the country you’re travelling in rather than just the cities in all their touristic glory. As far as I’m concerned there’s something intrinsically romantic about train travel as well, it calls to mind the glory days of steam trains puffing across Europe, although considering there was a murder on the Orient Express there must be some downsides.

The Boy and I settled into our seats, the material hot behind our backs, for the four hour trip. But almost straight away The Boy was up and hanging out the window, camera in hand trying to snap a perfect shot of the sun sinking behind the trees, a forested area full of wildflowers or a solitary man working with a scythe in a field. Passengers came and went, seemingly amused by how enchanted The Boy and I were with our surroundings until darkness forced us to pull our heads back within the carriage and settle down. 

Its not often that I fall in love with a trip between destinations. Normally I'm grumpy from last minute packing and the rush to the station/airport all the while struggling with shoulder bruises from my too heavy backpack that I refuse to lighten, and by the time I've settled into my seat visions of where I am headed are usually dancing in front of my eyes. All the time in between daydreams is normally reserved for reading, sporadic writing or catching up on some shut eye.

But for now I think it's safe to say I'm a convert. At least until I buy tickets for a 10 hour trip.


Well-brewed women: Heidi Apples

Picture this: you're sleep deprived beyond all comprehension. Your little bundle of joy is adamant about only snoozing during the day while lying on your chest (and is more and more frequently invading your bed at night). While trapped on the couch for hours on end under the sleeping baby you wile away the hours scrolling social media and see other mothers of young bubs out and about posting photos of impossibly toned and tanned bodies or beautifully curated home spaces, manicured gardens, or even just cups of tea enjoyed solo. You, however, count it as a win if you've managed to shower, drag a brush through your hair and put on clean clothes in a 24-hour period. Anything beyond that, including cooking and feeding yourself, is a big plus.
It wasn't supposed to be like this! And how on earth are these other mums managing to do all that?!

Then a serendipitous comment from a friend sends you down a different Instagram wormhole: that of the lovely Heidi Sze AKA Heidi Apples.
Her Instagram posts are beautifully shot and refreshingly honest and depict a mum doing things her own way and following her child's needs (and her own instincts) rather than what society said she "should" be doing. 

(Upon realising this you take a long-needed breath and snuggle your own babe a little closer. Everything is OK).

Then there's her blog Apples Under My Bed, which is a gorgeous mix of food (did I mention Heidi is also an accredited dietitian and regularly uploads mouth-watering recipes), parenting, travel and musings about life alongside dreamy photos.

I was completely absorbed, and powered through both her Instagram page and her blog in a matter of days. And so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm more than a little excited about introducing you to Heidi Sze.

Side note: Steve and I also regularly scroll through Heidi's recipes for healthy meal ideas, and have her spaghetti bolognese and banana bread on high rotation. I highly recommend you take a look! 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a mother and dietitian living on the Mornington Peninsula. Most days I am home with my daughter, playing, cooking and reading. When I do work, I see clients via Skype for pre and post-natal nutrition consultations. I am fascinated by this area of practice and love to encourage women to feel good nourishing themselves.

You’re mum to almost two-year-old Joan. How has life changed in that time?
Almost everything has changed! I’m still me, but now I’m also a mother who is responsible for a small, strong and sweet human. My priorities have shifted, along with my ability to do day-to-day tasks. Joan is with me pretty much full time (my parents and mother-in-law come to care for her when I work, which suits us all and for that we feel very lucky!) and so everything I do has to take into account the fact that I will have my little sidekick with me. Things take longer and life is messier, and it’s infinitely more enjoyable.

Your blog is a delicious mix of food and parenting (and beautiful photography) that is also remarkably honest. Is that something you intentionally set out to do?
Thank you! Being authentic and honest is what feels good to me. I began my blog as a personal outlet for thoughts on food and cooking. It’s always been a journal of sorts, and entirely self-serving. The fact that others enjoy it is a bonus! The way I deal with life and its challenges is to talk and write, and I happened to put it on the blog. I honestly forget that there are people out there reading it. It just feels good to me.

What does a typical day look like for you – or is there even such a thing?
Joan wakes me around 6 and we get out of bed. Ben has left for work already so it’s just us two. I get her a snack and we get ready for our morning walk. I listen to a podcast, push her in the pram and get a dose of energy and fresh air. We’ll spend the morning pottering around the house, getting groceries, seeing friends for a playdate, visiting the library or my great grandparents, and then home for lunch before Joan has a nap. She’s never been one to nap for very long, but if I’m lucky I’ll get an hour (if I’m really lucky I’ll get and hour and a half), and I’ll sit and answer emails or write on the blog. We’ll ideally spend the afternoon outside (Joan, like most kids, needs fresh air and freedom!), perhaps with our neighbours’ kids, whom she adores. And then we’ll prepare dinner. Ben usually comes home in time for dinner, then it’s bath for Joan and I put her to bed and snuggle in beside her (she still sleeps in our bed) with Netflix or a book and snacks, while Ben does a little more work in his study. On my work days I simply go to my desk with my computer while Joan plays with family. Life is good.

As a parent it’s pretty easy to put yourself last. What are some of your daily non-negotiables when it comes to self care? How important do you think it is for other parents to work these elements into their days?
Oh gosh, it is SO crucial to do things each day that help you feel good in yourself (and to have grace for yourself when you’re in seasons that limit your ability to do this). I have always been very good at self-care. When Joan came along, I had to figure out how to do things a little differently, but I found a way. These days I stretch every morning, go for a walk, have a hot shower and nourish myself with food that makes me feel good. That does the trick for me!

If you could give one piece of advice to a new mum/parent, what would it be?
Figure out what makes you feel your best (or close to your best, because let’s be real, you’re probably still going to be tired) and do what you can to prioritise it. When you look after yourself, you’re a better mother and partner, but importantly, you’re happier in yourself.

You’re an accredited dietitian and your blog is a goldmine of delicious recipes. Do you remember what kickstarted your love affair with food?
My mother is an excellent home cook and always made meals enjoyable. I grew up surrounded by local, delicious produce. Food was a joy.

What’s your favourite thing to cook and/or eat?
If I had to choose one thing, it would be pasta. We eat it once or twice a week. Spaghetti with clams may be my ultimate favourite. Or pesto with orecchiette. I also adore slow-cooked lamb shoulder, but we don’t eat a lot of meat (due to environmental and cost reasons – we buy sustainably-produced meat and it’s expensive!). And there’s nothing like a perfect croissant with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

We’re living in an age full of “super foods” and fad diets. What does creating and maintaining good health look like to you?
Feeling energetic and vibrant and good within yourself. It’s important to listen to your body, because we all feel good eating different foods. Find a form of movement (because we’re made to move) that feels good to you – be it walking in nature, dancing, yoga, team sports – and incorporate it into your life. Honour the fact that we’re all different, and our bodies and needs change as we move through life. Also, life is short and food should be enjoyed, so eat things that make you happy.

If you could eat any meal anywhere, where and what would it be?
A croissant in Paris.

Where’s your favourite place to escape to?
Italy. I love Sicily and Rome. The food, the scenery, the people… We’re excited to take Joan and future children there someday soon.

For anyone heading to the Mornington Peninsula, where should they go?
Visit Foxeys Hangout for wine and small plates, Mock Red Hill for cider and Johnny Ripe for pies and my very favourite doughnut! The bushrangers bay hike is pretty special, as are the views from the back beaches like Gunnamatta and Portsea.

What destination is on your bucket list?

And finally, what’s up next for you?

Continuing to raise my daughter and hopefully having more children in the not-too-distant future. More of the same, please! Oh, and dreaming up that trip to Italy.

All beautiful imagery is from Heidi's Instagram page, and you can find more recipes and life happenings at her website Apples Under My Bed

Now over to you: what helped you during those newborn months?

Also, if you think anyone would enjoy this post, please share the love!