OLYMPIC CHAMPION | ENTREPRENEUR | MUM
WELCOME to my site – a place to share and reflect on the life experiences I’ve had as a professional athlete, mum, wife and business owner. A place to share my journey and the amazing people who have helped me get the best out of myself. It’s also a place for random snippets relating to food, family, travel and gear I can’t seem to do without. Enjoy!
It’s hard to sum up the first couple of months of Alek’s life. I knew the weeks would fly by and indeed they did and baby Alek has changed so much already. Welcoming a new baby is blissful and so much happens in such a short space of time, not just with the baby but also with mummy which has a trickle on effect to the rest of the family unit.
Here’s the rundown of what we’ve been up to over the last couple of months….
After the birth, I was in hospital for 24hrs and by Alek’s 2nd day of life, we were back down the coast at home in Lorne. Those first 24hrs are truly amazing. For us, it was a beautiful and intimate moment in time. The world outside the hospital walls almost doesn’t exist. Time slows – which is rare these days. Finally, after nine months of wonder and guessing, we finally got to meet our newest family edition and we took our time during that first day to choose his name. When Alek ‘came out’ his limbs were erect and stiff, his palms clenched tightly shut, so tight the midwife could not pry them open. I sensed a certain strength in him – maybe because we’d just had an incredible birth experience together and a strong name seemed fitting. Coming up with a name that is understood across two languages and cultures (Finnish/English) is no easy feat, but soon enough Kai, Lauri and myself came to an agreement. Alek – ‘the protector and defender of man’ resonated with us and felt spot on for our newest little man.
Ahhh the newborn phase. Soak this up as it doesn’t last for long! This phase whizzes by in a flash so much so that I felt like he was changing every time he woke up from a nap! Within the first week, what was left of his umbilical cord dried and fell off. I love how floppy newborns are in the ‘0000’ clothing which is still baggy. He took to feeding without issue and boy is he a feeder. In his first 48 hours of life I counted 12 meconium poos. Yep 12. It just kept coming and coming as he kept feeding and feeding assuring me that his pipes were well and truly functioning.
When the nurse visited us on his 3rd day of life, he’d only lost 40grams which left me feeling proud as punch. Newborns can lose put to 500grams in the first week! At the same time my milk arrived which is one of many post natal unpleasantries. My breasts were rock hard, aching and tender. On the up side, it was a perfect moment for me to trial and test my new BodyICE Woman range of ice/heat packs. I lay in my bed with the ice packs on my boobs (and perineum) and was instantly relieved. Relieved because I wasn’t in pain and relieved to know that I had created an awesome product that so many women will love and need! (Watch this space as we’ll be launching this product soon)
Other unpleasantries I experienced before I forget include:
- In the first week or so, I felt a period pain ache every time I fed. It’s because the uterus is contracting back to its normal size. Crazy! It’s surprising how swollen a belly is after childbirth. You would think once the baby is out that you’re back to wearing your wardrobe…but unfortunately it’s not the case and it takes time to shrink back to normal.
- Bleeding. It’s surprising how much you bleed after childbirth and not something you get warned about. My bleeding stopped after about three weeks but stock up on the heavy duty maternity pads.
- Sore perineum after birth and boobs (especially when the milk arrives) – not surprising really! Cold packs are the key here.
- Strained pelvic floor. I remember on day three post birth, I walked Kai to Kindergarten which is down a big hill. Not a good idea because I felt it on the way back up and was tender for the rest of the day. You really need to go easy on the pelvic floor muscles as they’ve been through the ringer!
- Fatigue – I would say the first week of interrupted sleep and constant feeding felt pretty good. I just charged through it. By weeks two and three however, fatigue kicks in and energy wanes. That’s when you really need some back up support and I was lucky to have loads of help from my family.
- Milky – that stuff gets everywhere and I found myself changing my clothes and pj’s almost as often as Alek. Stock up on breast pads and get some good maternity nighties/pj’s to wear to bed.
- Mastitis – at about week 5, I got a blocked milk duct which is absolutely horrible. I used heat packs (again my BodyICE Woman prototypes came in handy!) and expressed as much as I could. I got fever and my whole body ached but miraculously I managed to get rid of it within 24hrs without antibiotics by continuing to feed, express, heat and massage. Ouch!
The cycle of feeding, burping, changing and laundry can seem never ending in the first couple of months and life becomes a bit of a fog. Alek has been a very easy baby (so far) so we’re very lucky. By about 6 weeks he started to fall into a pattern of consistently sleeping through – i.e: from about 10:30 -6:30, then he would feed and go back to sleep until about 9am. It doesn’t happen every night but it’s sooooo good to get a good stretch of sleep. I can’t imagine how exhausting it would be to try and comfort a screaming baby night after night. The constant feeding and changing is demanding enough! He’s already out of his newborn nappies weighing in over 6kgs now. His chubby creases are so cute and I’ve had to start packing away some of his clothes that are too small.
Personally, I’m feeling really good and the fact that Alek is a cruisy baby is the reason for that! Physically, I’m shrinking back to normal and have a couple of kg’s to lose before I get back to pre-pregnancy weight. It’s nice to start fitting back into my normal clothes! Strangely, my linear nigra (dark belly line) is still quite dark, so I’m wondering when that will fade. I’ve been walking loads as well as getting into the gym when I can. I just take Alek with me and he usually sleeps whilst I work out. I’ve also been able to get back into surfing which I am LOVING right now. I just express a bottle of milk which buys me a couple of hours of ‘me time’ which is so important for my sanity otherwise I find I get a little cranky and crazy! I
All in all, life is good. The first couple of months of going from three to four has been full but we’re adjusting well and finding a balance. Kai has taken on the big brother role and started 3-yr old Kindergarten. He’s very sweet to his little brother and thankfully has had loads of attention from his grandparents which has helped us parents give Alek the time he needs. xx
Flaounes are definitely a must for our family during the Easter holidays. And I’m not talking our immediate family, I’m talking EVERYONE. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles and any visiting guests that happen to pass by. The making of these cheesy, minty pastries was traditionally led by my Yiayia, but since she passed away early this year, the ladies of our family have made it our own to continue the tradition.
Supplying our large family (who all love these Easter treats) is a bit of a mission so it would be crazy to try it alone. You should have about 5 people helping out (or even more depending on how big your workspace is). Soon enough you’ll be lost in chatter and laughter and won’t even realise you’ve made a mountain of Flaounes.
This recipe will make around 50 pastries but in our family, we aim for about 100 or more and normally would double this recipe. The key is to have all the prep work done in advance and then the process is fairly straight forward.
I recently learnt that you can buy Flaounes in cafes in Cyprus all year round…so it’s fair to say, you don’t need to wait for Easter to give these a go. There are many recipes and family variations, especially on how you fold them. We’ve even started to make them in muffin tins which look beautiful and stay moist.
So hands washed, aprons on and let’s get started! xx
1.25kg plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground finely masticha*
1 teaspoon ground mechlepi*
¼ teaspoon finely ground salt
400g unsalted butter, chopped into little cubes
1 cup water
½ cup milk
60g fresh yeast or 3 sachets of dried yeast
125ml milk warmed
1 teaspoon sugar
750g cheddar cheese finely grated
750g pecorino cheese finely grated
800g haloumi cheese finely grated
1 cup semolina
2 tablespoon dried mint leaves or a large handful of fresh mint
½ teaspoon ground machlepi*
¼ teaspoon masticha*
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g sesame seeds (brought to a boil, then strained and spread on a tea towel)
4 eggs lightly beaten
*Masticha (also known as mastic) is the hardened resin from a small evergreen tree found on the Greek island of Chios. It is used to flavor Greek and Cypriot baked goods, sweets, drinks and ice-cream.
*Mechlepi (also known as mahleb) is a spice made from ground cherry pits. It is available in small pips so you grind to a fine powder or you can purchase the powdered form of Mechlepi. I buy the ready ground. Both of these spices should not be replaced and you’ll usually find them in a greek, italian or middle eastern deli.
Measure all of your ingredients and have them ready prior to starting. The first step is to start your filling before the pastry because it’s got to rest for up to 2hrs.
- Get a very large mixing bowl (or two). Remember once you add the yeast, your mixture will double in size.
- Place the warm milk, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Stir until the yeast is combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double in size. (about 15 minutes)
- Place all the cheeses, mint, spices, semolina, into the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are combined well. We normally use our hands!
- Add the eggs and yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- The mixture should be soft and smooth. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let stand until double in size. Generally, this may take 1.5-2hours so it’s a good time for a coffee and a snack!
- Add the baking powder just before you’re ready to start the assembly and mix thoroughly.
While the filling is proving you can get started on the pastry.
- Sift the flour, machlepi, masticha, salt, baking powder into a large bowl.
- Rub the unsalted butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles crumbs.
- Add the eggs, water, and milk.
- With your hands, mix the dough until it is soft, smooth and elastic.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes (or longer is fine)
- Roll out the pastry to no thicker than 3mm.
- Using a large glass or pastry cutter cut into rounds around 10cm.
- Dip one side of the pastry lightly in the sesame seeds.
- On the opposite side, place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the round.
- Fold each side to make a square shape or any shape you desire. In any case, you want to leave a small section of the filling exposed. Place each Flaoua on a baking tray lined with paper or non-stick spray.
- Glaze the flaouna with the lightly beaten egg.
- Bake in a preheated oven and 200°C for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Don’t open the oven door whilst cooking otherwise your flaounes will flatten.
- Let them cool on a cooling rack.
Enjoy fresh out of the oven. Flaounes also freeze really well, so they’re a good snack to have ready to go and you can just zap them in the oven or microwave. Happy Easter!
Christmas has been and gone and it doesn’t take long for the shopping aisles to be full of easter treats. Easter always reminds me of my Yiayia and the procession of traditional Easter pastries we would prepare in the lead up and during Easter for the whole family to enjoy.
In memory of my Yiayia who passed away this year, I’m going share some of her Easter recipes and continue the tradition of baking them with my family so that they may live on for some generations to come.
This is Yiayia’s koulouria recipe which she always had available on her kitchen table for us to munch on – amongst many other treats. We would always make a big batch together before Easter with aunts and cousins ready with sleeves rolled up to help our Yiayia.
This recipe is scaled down and will make approximately 2 baking trays worth of koulouria.
I cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
5-6 cups self raising flour +extra for kneading
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Sesame seeds for rolling
1. Prepare the sesame seeds by bringing to a boil in a medium saucepan. Drain them and set them aside.
2. Mix sugar and oil in a bowl until combined
3. Add the eggs, mixing until combined
4. Add the milk, mixing until combined.
5. Mix in the spices
6. Start stirring through the flour one cup at a time until mixture forms a soft dough. Turn the dough on a floured surface and knead adding as much flour as it will take to reach a soft silky dough that no longer sticks to your fingers.
7. Spread the drained sesame seeds on a clean tea towel and line the baking trays with paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
8. Break of pieces of the dough and roll into skinny logs. We make our Koulouria about 10cm long and 1-2cm in circumference.
9. Roll individually in sesame seeds and place on the baking tray.
10. Bake for approximately 20mins or until golden in colour. Turn the oven down to low 120°C and double bake the koulouria until dry and crispy – the way we like to enjoy them!
These are quite basic to prepare but it’s handy to have a few hands on deck if you’re making loads of them to feed a large family like mine! Besides, it’s more fun that way and a good opportunity to gasbag and catch up. Enjoy xx
When my first-born son Kai was a newborn, I didn’t get any professional shots taken of him. I just didn’t get around to it, so when the opportunity arose to be a part of a newborn photography workshop with Alek, I enthusiastically accepted. The newborn phase passes by so quickly and Alek has changed so much even in just 2 weeks, so I wanted to capture him in the here and now before it’s too late.
The photographer, Lorna Kirkby aka the ‘baby whisperer’ and her lovely assistant Emily opened my eyes to the art of newborn photography. Sitting in the natural light of Lorna’s home with photography students closely watching and absorbing her every move, I got to see first hand, the skill, effort an technique involved in capturing artistically beautiful photographs of newborn babies. It’s no easy task and there’s a lot involved in getting a newborn to sit, lie and pose peacefully and majestically.
The room is warmed to keep the baby comfortable throughout the nappy changes, wrapping and unwrapping. Simultaneously, Lorna plays white noise off her iPhone, turns on a nifty gadget called a Baby Shusher and even has an in-utero heart beat playing in the background. In her cool, gentle confident manner, Lorna effortlessly showed us and her students how to soothe, wrap and position a newborn baby in order to ‘get the shot’.
I am spoiled for choice when it comes to sunglasses. Bolle Eyewear have been a supporter of mine since 2002, so it’s fair to say, they’re family to me. My top pick at the moment from Bolle Eyewear is Greta. She is so light and a great fit for small/medium face. LOVING her in Black as well as Matte Chocolate!!
Bolle Eyewear – Greta