Cook this: 5 ingredient lemon coconut shortbread

We’ve all been in COVID-19 induced isolation, so we’ve all been spending some quality time with our kitchens. And when I noticed our lemon tree had gone bonkers a few weeks ago, I turned to my trusty, 888 page-long CWA CLASSICS cookbook for help. Classic shortbread is nice, but shortbread with lemon and coconut is better, so here’s my spin on a classic…

Ingredients:
• 250g softened butter
• ¾ cup icing sugar
• ⅓ cup desiccated coconut
• finely grated zest of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon from the tree in my backyard)
• juice of one lemon
• 2½ cups plain flour

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a lamington tin with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until creamy, then beat in the coconut, lemon zest and juice.
3. Sift in the flour and stir to combine – you might want to use your hands to bring the dough together.
4. Press the dough into the lamington tin as evenly as you can, then place into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes – you want it  JUST golden, not browned!
5. Cool the shortbread in the tin for 2 minutes, then transfer it carefully (leave it on the baking paper) to a cutting board. Cut it up into squares while it’s still hot, then transfer the shortbread, still on the baking paper, onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

KEEP YOUR CHIN UP: The book about Pierre-Robin Sequence

It’s certainly not the book I ever thought if write, but I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to write it and maybe help some other families out along the way.

And I know it’s not the food and travel adventures I usually write about, but I wanted to give it a tiny space on the blog here, because

a) I wanted the families who need this book to have every chance to find it, and

b) I’m really proud of it 🙂

How it came about is that my son was born with a rare medical condition, Pierre-Robin Sequence, in January 2019. There’s very, very little information available about this condition, and after briefly falling down the Google rabbit-hole trying to find answers, I got frustrated and decided to take matters into my own hands. I spent 14 months researching medical websites and journals, contacting and interviewing other PRS families, and typing up my own journal entries chronicling our time in NICU and beyond. The result is this book…

About the Book

So you’ve been told that your new baby has a medical condition called Pierre-Robin Sequence. OK. I know you’re scared right now, because I’ve been there. Finding helpful information online was almost impossible, which only made it scarier. That’s I why I wrote this book.

Within, you’ll find many of the questions we searched for answers to when our son was first diagnosed – how will this affect his development? What difficulties will we have with feeding? What treatment options are there? How will his time in NICU affect him long term? With research drawn from more than 160 medical sources, over 120 full color photos, experiences contributed by more than 25 PRS families, and my own personal journal entries from birth to NICU and beyond, this is a guide to PRS written for parents, by a parent. 

FEEDBACK FROM PRS FAMILIES
If you just found out your newborn has PRS, read this book! It provides an extensive and thorough understanding of PRS without being overwhelming, while also providing relatable insight into the experiences you may have as a parent of a newborn with PRS while the NICU. This helpful guide is written by a mother who has lived it herself, and wants to help others by providing an easy to read educational tool. I absolutely wish I had something like this book for support and guidance when I was in the NICU with my PRS newborn!
– Shannon, PRS mom, USA

This book is what every parent with Pierre Robin Sequence should be presented with upon diagnosis. The book gives the options parents may be presented with surgeries to help their child, with ideas for families to mention to their providers, with real life results. It is so helpful to see other families’ progress and healing.
– Kelly, PRS mom, USA

This book is exactly what new PRS parents and families need to read. If only this was out when we first found out about PRS! Showing your own journey and providing all details, even the frustrating ones is exactly what is needed.
– Kiera, PRS mom, Canada

Available online at Blurb now!

And we’re back!

Wowwww this feels so weird… it has been a really long time since I last sat in front of an empty WordPress post to start writing. Call it COVID-19 isolation madness, call it the often mind-numbing monotony of being a new stay-at-home-mum, call it the inevitable pull of my love of storytelling calling me back. But here we are, back in front of the keyboard. Now, where to start…

A lot has changed since I said my temporary farewell back in November 2018, and I guess the first thing you’ll notice is that I’ve changed up the layout of this site. The standard first step of the “fresh start, fresh look” routine. The other big change is that I am thankfully no longer pregnant – our little guy, Jasper, came along in January 2019, as planned… sort of.

In no way associated with the crippling sickness I experienced throughout the pregnancy, Jasper was born with a rare medical condition requiring an almost 2 month-long stay in NICU, almost 8 months of being tube fed, and a few rounds of pretty nasty surgery. He has a few more operations coming up and we still have a very busy schedule of regular specialist appointments. Which might explain why I’ve stayed away from here for so much longer than I’d originally intended; becoming not only a new mum, but essentially a low-level nurse overnight took up a lot of time and energy. That said, I didn’t stay away from writing all together – I’ve spent the last 12 months researching medical journals and writing a book about Jasper’s condition. It’s so uncommon that we struggled to find any information on it, so I decided to put my forced time at home to use and work on a resource that might help some other scared new parents in the position we were in. It’s almost done and should be due for release in the next few weeks, so watch this space! All the drama and continual medical appointments aside, I’m now an exhausted but proud mum to a very sweet, sassy, funny little boy who doesn’t know the meaning of giving up 🙂

There have been other changes, too, of course. But the one solid that’s remained is my love of travelling and documenting and story telling. It’s going to be a slow re-start for me, so posts will be few and far between for a while. Step one for me will be getting my blog’s Instagram account back up and running; over the next few weeks, you’ll start seeing some more action over at @ordinarygirl.blog – I’ll be posting some of my personal travel throwbacks, re-visit some of my older posts, share some of my favourite places, and post some great travel book recommendations to help everyone get their travel fix while we’re all in lockdown and start the ideas flowing for post-COVID travel plans. For those of you still receiving and reading this, thanks for sticking around 🙂 it’s good to be back!

Signing off, for now…

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while. I figured now is as good a time as any, seeing as I’m really early for a doctors appointment and have nothing else to do while I wait! This week, there’s also an incredibly important mental health awareness campaign running, that I’ll come back to in a moment…

When I posted this last image to Instagram back in June, there was a lot happening – mostly, I’d found out a few weeks previously that I was pregnant, and that husband and I would be joined by a little apprentice traveller in January 🙂

It was great news and we’re super excited, but unfortunately, even in that early stage, I was already having a pretty rotten pregnancy. I was struck down with hyperemesis gravidarum – for those of you  (read: me) who laughed when it was revealed Kate Middleton was suffering from this illness and made comments like “ohh poor princess can’t handle a bit of morning sickness, whatever,” let me tell you, it’s no joke. 

Imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had, one of the ones where the idea of even a cheeseburger turns your stomach and a sip of water makes you throw up, when you don’t even have the energy to walk from your bed to the bathroom, when you can’t envision ever brushing your hair again, much less showering and changing your clothes. Picture those few hours of hangover hell; I felt like that almost 24/7 for about 14 weeks.

Turns out it’s not just “a bit of morning sickness.” It’s a completely debilitating illness that leaves you utterly depleted, very isolated and pretty much confined to bed. And in my case, also unable to work. 

The illness, the loss of control over my body and physical health, and the fear of the unknown (I’ve never had a baby before, after all!), combined with the stress of selling our home and buying a new one at the same time, having to move house, and also being bullied relentlessly by the senior management team in my workplace after I announced my “happy” news (if you think Australia is a civilized county where workplace bullying of pregnant women doesn’t happen, you’d be wrong) before finally taking my job away in the first few months of my pregnancy was never going to end well. And it hasn’t.

In the early stages, I had hoped that taking a bit of time away from my writing would give me a chance to get my mental and physical health back on track – it was also really hard to focus on writing anything when I was running back and forth between the couch and the bathroom! I can see now that was wishful thinking. The combination of all those factors breathed new life into my depression and anxiety, and, at least for now, they’ve taken my voice, my strength and my health away. 

I voluntarily took a break from writing because I was so sick; I’ve stopped writing completely for now because I have no voice left with which to write. I guess I’m one of the 1 in 5 women who experience perinatal depression. This week is also PANDA Week – a week to raise awareness about perinatal anxiety & depression, which is why I took it as a sign from the universe that I should finally get around the writing this post, as difficult and uncomfortable as it is.

I’m lucky to have a strong man by my side who hasn’t for a second balked at the difficulty of this situation. I have a sister to confide in who is pregnant for the second time around, and understands much of what I’m going through. I have a wonderful OBGYN who is prioritising my mental health and ensuring I have access to all the help I need. And I have the advantage of having come through the darkness of mental illness before, so I know I’ll get through it again.

And when I do, I hope my voice comes back, too, and I can get back to doing all the things I love – including writing here. In the meantime, the biggest thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read along and encouraged me to write here over the last few years – I’ve made some truly wonderful friends and have really enjoyed having a space for me to share what I love – hopefully I’ve been able to encourage a few other people to get out and explore, as well! xoxo

The Comprehensive Guide To Surviving A Long Haul Economy Class Flight

This morning marks my 870th blog post here. 870 pieces I’ve put together just for this little online space of mine sine March 2014. That’s quite something, when I stop and think about  it… But this morning is also going to mark a time for me to step away from the blog for a little while. As some of you may know from past posts, I do struggle with my mental health, and over the past few months, that struggle has become more predominant in my life. So, it’s time for me to take a little step back from blogville and focus on my health instead. This isn’t goodbye, its just see ya soon 🙂

But before I go on hiatus, I wanted to leave you guys with this post. It’s a big issue in the life of the budget traveller. I know, I know. Another bloody blogger posting on that age old issue. Yes, there are a lot of articles and blog posts on this topic, but the majority of them are completely unrealistic – how many of us can SERIOUSLY afford a $350 pashmina to keep us cosy and warm, or have enough frequent flyer points to be able to upgrade to business class? Those tips are not helpful; they’re infuriating.

So what makes me qualified to give useful advise? Chances are, I’m just like you. I don’t have any frequent flyer memberships because I pretty much just book the cheapest flights available. I’ve only ever flown business class once, on a family vacation 15 years ago, because the plane was all but empty and the air hostess probably thought the exhausted family of 5 flying back home from Europe deserved a break. I can’t afford expensive travel clothes or hydrating face masks made from unicorn tears – my current carry on backpack came from Kmart, and my travel document wallet cost $15 from Typo about 6 years ago (yup, that red one below).

Now that we’ve established that I’m not ‘just like you but better,’ let’s get down to it. I’ve flown a lot in the last few years. That’s given me plenty of time to work things out by trial and error. Before we start, let me preface these tips by saying that there is no magic formula to making a shitty, squishy economy seat feel luxurious for 14 hours. But there are ways to make it manageable, so that when the plane doors open at your destination, you’re not disembarking like an extra from The Walking Dead.

 

BOOKING PHASE
Pay attention to your seat selection. Whether you book with an agent or do it yourself online, you should be able to select your seat from a seating plan. I always pick a seat towards the back, for a few reasons:
a) First, you’re generally less likely to have a crying baby. Many airlines provide bassinets, and if parents use them, they’ll need to be seated at the front of the plane (or front of a section).
b) While you can view being that close to the toilets as a bad thing, you can also use it to your advantage for space to get up and stretch your legs.
c) And finally, if there’s no row behind you, you can recline all flight without annoying someone else, and no one can kick the back of your seat while trying yo get themselves some space.

– While we’re talking seat selection, go for an aisle seat. Being able to stretch you legs out in the aisle in between trolley runs make a lot of difference on a long flight!

– Something else to consider when you’re booking is your meal selection. Yes, plane food gets a bad wrap and most of us feel like rubbish after eating it. But you can actually do something about that by ordering a special meal. Here’s the deal with plane food: there are the standard meals everyone gets by default. But you can order a special meal if you have certain dietary restrictions – gluten free, non-pork products, lacto-ovo, there’s actually a lot you can pick from! Given that the main culprit in plane food is excess salt, you could order a low sodium or raw vegetarian meal – all you need to do in most cases is add in the request to the online ‘manage your booking’ portal, or just email customer service for the airline you’re flying, ask for their special meal options, and let them know what you’d prefer!

 

PRE-FLIGHT
– Following on from that last tip, try to eat well in the 24 hours before your flight. Aim for lots of veggies, wholegrains and protein, lots of water, and try to minimise your intake of sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Basically, go low FODMAP for at least a day or two before you fly. Trust me, it’ll make a big difference!

– If you do have a sensitive tummy on flights, its also a good idea to BYO food on board, even if it’s just a few snacks. I generally take with me a punnet of strawberries or blueberries, some mixed raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc), and a packet of corn thins.

Plan your arrival aiming to decrease your stress levels. If you’re on a plane for 14 hours and spend half that time worrying about what you’ll have to deal with when you arrive in terms of collecting luggage and organising transport out of the airport, you’re not getting much rest! Know what you’re going to be doing when you collect bags – you may want to book a shuttle bus in advance, or decide to get a coffee once you have your bags before you hit the taxi stand.

 

CARRY ON
There are lots of things I like to take with me on board, like books and journals, but these are the things that will really help you.

Noise cancelling headphones. These are new to my arsenal and hands down the most essential thing to take. Trust me, invest in some, it’ll make flying at least 68% less shit. Crying baby? Bickering couple? Snoring neighbour? Doesn’t matter!

Make up remover wipes and mini fragrance. You’ve been airborne for many hours. You’re tired. You feel irritable and blehh. It’s amazing how much more refreshed you are after giving you face a good clean and spritzing a little perfume over yourself.

Moisturiser and lip balm. We all know planes are dehydrating. And landing after 14 hours with cracked lips and a dry, itchy face feels crap. My go to products are Natural Instinct Rejuvenating Rosehip Oil (great for face & hands, and Burt’s Bees original honey lip balm.

A clean top and undies. You may have a flight delay. You may have a while to wait between connecting flights. You may have a bit longer to travel to your final destination after your flight lands. If you can’t carry a shower and full wardrobe with you, a clean tshirt and pair of undies will make the world of difference!

 

ON THE DAY
Choose your flight outfit carefully; this is not a time for fashion. Bottoms with either lose or stretchy waistbands are ideal; I like a long, maxi skirt or gym leggings. On top, layers. I go with a loose fitting black singlet or tshirt (you’d be surprised at the amount of stains you can accumulate on a flight), a light button up hoodie or cardigan, then a heavier layer or a big scarf that can double as a blanket.

Forget about fancy hats and headbands (headaches are not your friends on long haul flights), chunky jewellery, tight belts, anything decorative.

– While I’m at it, forget make up. You’re sitting on a plane for 12 hours, trust me, everyone in economy class is looking the same level of crap by the end. If you prefer to be made up, take a few small items with you to use at the end of the flight.

Pick your shoes wisely. Nothing too tight or uncomfortable, because your feet will swell and the people sitting around you won’t appreciate you taking your shoes off when you get uncomfortable. Also, socks. Planes get cold, and you’re not going to get much rest with cold feet!

Get to airport early. I’m always at the airport 3 hours before my international flight is scheduled to depart. Because I’m only going to be waiting around at home, so I may as well wait at the airport so I don’t have to rush! Drop your bags off, head to a café or bar, and relax until boarding time.

 

ON BOARD
Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you’re buckled in to your seat. Then, act like you’re already on that time. So if they’re serving lunch at midday in your departure city but it’s 7pm in your destination city, consider it dinner. Then watch a movie and try to get some shut eye.

Drink. Water. Buy a big bottle before you board and just keep drinking!

– Yes, they’re daggy and look ridiculous, but wear the compression socks. We get ours here, they’re pretty cheap, and it’s as easy as putting them on and forgetting them until you arrive! They’re good for your body. And while you’re at it, make sure you walk around every now and then, or at least wiggle your feet and ankles around regularly!

All set? Great! Now off you go and book a flight and I’ll see you back here soon 🙂