Anca saves the day

Simple, gentle and effective guidance for growing families

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One Pot Wonder!

Winter has arrived and I can't think of anything better than having a feast on the table for everyone to enjoy. Having heard so many horror stories of multiple dinner meals being cooked to suit everyone's needs, I had to intervene. Here's to the beginning of Anca's family dinners for all! You don't need to be slaving away in the kitchen and with a few tweaks here and there you can zazzz it up or tone it down. 


Beef Ragu! 

Ragu - (for those wondering), is simply a meat-based sauce. That's all! The key to this sauce is stewing your meat so it becomes this delicious, soft, rich (but not too rich, you're in control) sauce. It's so tasty! ! 


Understandably, making fresh pasta is a bit of a stretch, but don't you worry, this dish is just as good with any pasta you have in the pantry (but if you'd like the recipe for my fresh pasta, drop a comment)!

Recipe Time! 

Now, the recipe below is for when you need to host a dinner, or if you feel like something a bit richer. That being said, i've put in brackets what you can use as an alternative. 

600g beef cheeks, trimmed, halved (or chuck steak)

2 tbs olive oil 

1 large red onion, coarsely chopped 

1-2 large carrots

1 bag of fresh spinach (I like about 300-500g)

6 cloves garlic, crushed 

½-1 long red chilli, thinly sliced (for a more adult based dinner)

½ bunch rosemary 

½ bunch thyme 

250ml dry white wine 

2 x 400g cans whole tomatoes, pureed (this isn't diced, chopped, look for puree )

1/2-1 can x hot water (I simply use the old tomato can to get that left over tomato juice)

1/2 bunch basil leaves, chopped 

2 Bay leaves

Lets get cooking!

  1. Lightly oil your meat of choice - season well, don't be shy. 
  2. In a large pot, add some olive oil and brown your meat all over and chuck it in your slow cooker (which is set to low) when done. 
  3. Add onion, garlic and chilli to same pan. Cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Stir in rosemary, thyme and wine. Simmer until wine is reduced by half, then add carrots.
  4. Add your pureed tomatoes! Bring to the boil and stir stir stir. 
  5. At the sauce to the slow cooker. If the meat is covered well by the sauce then just add half a can of water. Stir the mixture to combine all those lovely flavours and get your toddler to add Anca's favourite ingredient - Bay Leaves! 
  6. Pop that lid on, blow a kiss, put those feet up and signal hubby to wash up. Your dinner is set for tomorrow night. 
  7. Before serving, shred the meat in the sauce, throw it in a pot to reduce until you're satisfied and whack the pasta on. 
  8. Stir in the basil & the spinach (don't worry, it will soften).  
  9. Serve with some parmesan cheese. 

Note, this could easily be thrown together in the AM ready for the evening. I love to make this dish and eat it the night after! 

Travelling guidance

Dreaming of a getaway? Does the thought of a simple domestic trip scare you ? This is for you then, because Anca has got you covered! Having kids can be expensive, and travelling can seem like you need a lottery ticket before googling webtjet prices. Aside from the cost, you start to think of all the little details; 

  • They're going to scream on the plane?  
  • How will we keep them entertained ?
  • What about the pram ?
  • Getting to the airport? Getting home! 
  • Food while we're there? 
  • What about delays ? 

Going on a trip doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience, it simply comes down to being organised and then a little bit more. Preparation is absolutely KEY! So, lets get you all prepared! 


Whether you're going international or domestic - if you  have an infant over 12months old i'd invest in a few of these free apps. Your must apps are one click away!!! 

Wash away the guilt of having an ipad on a plane - you are trapped on a plane with a ticking energy time bomb so you gotta do what you gotta do!  If you have some kids that are older, i'd recommend checking out these apps which include a range of fantastic educational games (i personally love exploring the Nat-geo one. 

Feeding the little one/s..... 

Sugar is the devil here. I'm not opposed to the standard treat here and there, but having a child trapped on a plane, and in a small confined space, it's safe to say the logical thing is to keep the sugar devil away. I've made a little slide show of some of my favourite snacks - i've done 4 long journey's with kids under 5 years of age, these worked a treat, especially having them in the 'fun bag/treat bag'. When you feel he has been behaving or simply needs a distraction - Want to have a dip in the fun bag????". It works a treat - PUN INTENDED. 


Dried nuts!

Mixed nuts. 

Fantastic healthy and filling snack for everyone

Seaweed snack!

Dried Seaweed ! 

A fantastic, crunchy, messy and tasty treat

 (click to scroll)

The key to all of these snacks are -very low sugar or natural sugars. Having an over supply rather than an under supply. For the long distance trips i've taken I have found that kids who are full tend to have less mood swings. Make sure the fun bag is closed and not available 24/7, it's always a good idea to keep it as a treat or opportunity. 

Milk zone 

Here are some points about getting those bottles together if you are not breastfeeding. The flight attendants are always helpful when it comes to topping up water, etc. Don't be shy to ask for help! 

  • Have your formula pre-measured, in the bottle ready to go. 
  • take off and landing can be a horrifying experience for some little ones, so be sure to make some extra bottles incase they need soothing feed
  • There is filtered water on the plane - that is available to you. Once you pass security check, go to the store and buy a big bottle of water so you can top up at your seat (especially if you're doing a domestic trip). 
  • Ask the flight attendants if they wouldn't mind topping up the bottle with hot water - they have boiling water all ready to go. 
  • Another trick is to have a formula divider container, and as you get on the plane, ask the air hostess if she wouldn't mind topping them up, so when you're ready for a feed you can just add the formula. This will save you so much time
  • For post formula kiddies, I would recommend taking some longlife on the plane. You can buy the small sizes to get through security and all you have to do is pour into the bottle. Simple and effective. 


Getting to the airport 

This is usually the big stress when it comes to trips. If you are doing a domestic trip then I highly recommend checking your Health fund, and car insurance - WHY ??? If you're with NRMA or BUPA, then you could be entitled to up to 20% off at Park and Fly. 

  • - A great service where they take you on a shuttle (with car seats if needed), drop you to your terminal, pick you up and have your car ready. So effective especially if you're going on a quick trip. If you have any discounts through your car insurance it almost costs the same as organising a cab with car seats etc. Less hassle, more convenience - IDEAL when travelling with kids. 
  • - 20% off park and fly!!! Make sure you check and compare all your health insurance, private insurance and car insurance. For all the premiums you pay, it sure is handy to have some benefits. I've attached the NSW seat belt/car seat regulations for travelling in taxi's - I get asked this question so frequently that I hope this helps and be sure to pass it on to those who are travelling !!! 
    •  I've attached the NSW seat belt/car seat regulations for travelling in taxi's - I get asked this question so frequently that I hope this helps and be sure to pass it on to those who are travelling !!!
  • - Ride with UBER! cheaper, better service and 100% more reliable than taxi's. NB: you are also able to catch an UBER at the airport arrivals now in the public pick up area! 


While you're in the airport - don't give your pram away - hold onto it (i absolutely push for Yoyo's or the simple Maclaren that does a 2 second origami fold-away. When checking in, inform them you need the pram up until boarding - it makes carrying your hand luggage a lot easier 

- On that note, don't carry lots of loose toy items in the bottom of the pram for the simple reason of you'll enter security check and have to stand there emptying it all out!!!! Keep to the fun bag/treat bag. All the goodies you need in one simple location, quick and effective. 

Be safe and have fun! I hope this information is helpful to you all! 

Happy travels!!!


Anca xxxx 

To potty train, or not ?

Before going into anything - parents, guardians, carers, basically adults; ask yourself these two questions.

Am I ready ? 

Are they ready ?  

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to toilet training is ‘readiness’, because although the glory of getting rid of nappies is at the end of the tunnel, there are numerous hurdles that come with potty training.

I've made a list of some of the fun ones below: 

  • accidents everywhere 
  • patience 
  • confidence 
  • confusion
  • doubt
  • independence 
  • potty VS toilet seat 
  • poo phobia 
  • night confusion 
  • cabin fever 

Yes, the fun ones. If you're child is attending a daycare, it's likely they'll have more peer pressure around toilet-ing than most, this isn't to say that kids who don't attend childcare don't have pressure. Every child is different when it comes to the toilet and i've noticed a lot of parents comparing their child with others, siblings, and even themselves. There are so many roads to choose from when it comes to the toilet, so I want to write about options and encourage you to compare less, and choose the best road for you and your family. 

Photo by markcarper/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by markcarper/iStock / Getty Images

The first road is letting your child tell you that they're ready - Now, they're not going to walk up to you and say "no more nappies", what they will do is show you some signs and signals. 

  • Do they let you know what they're doing ? "i'm doing a wee wee, I did poo"
  • Doesn't their nappy stay dry for at least 90mins ? 
  • Is their an increased interest when others use the toilet ? - You know those fun toilet chats; "mum, what are you doing, mum, whats that, mum what you doing". 
  • Are they actually wanting to wear underwear? 
  • Have they tried to take off their nappy to use the toilet ? 
  • Are they talking about it or friends doing it ? 

Whether they're 2,3, 4 or older, these are signs that maybe its time to take the leap and say ciao to nappies. Sometimes I like to encourage parents to invest in some L plater pull ups, just to get the momentum going with their independence. 


If you're not wanting or are already in L plater training, then moving to the unrestricted licence potty training is next. First things first - boost that independence and confidence of theirs. I'm talking about hitting your local kmart and target and stocking up on those cheap undies - not just a few - STOCK UP! You're going to be packing at least 5 pairs at school and believe me when I say receiving poo undies at the end of a daycare day is not something I would wish on anyone. Don't be shy, buy those undie packs like a plague is going to hit. 

NEXT, the talk. 

Just like a sportsman has his pre-game prep talk, I'd advise you do the same - boost that confidence, reinforce that accidents are OK, put some humour and serious proud parent comments in there. "You're a big kid now, I'm so proud of you". 

While i'm on this road (your child leading the way), don't throw gifts at them yet. Remember they're developing enough to want to try it, so they don't need materialism (yet). Gifts are fantastic when you have a particular goal for them, as lets be honest it's the NO.1 motivator. Let them lead the way on their progress, if their morale is down, take them for a big kid baby cino bonding time, rather than - here's a toy. I like to reinforce rewards with bonding experiences instead of detached gifts. 

Think about it - linking gifts with successful toilet time may be quite the expensive path......

The other road... 

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

 This road is the "i want my child out of nappies', either because a baby is on the way and one less seems optimal or you're ready to save 20c per nappy OR you're just sick changing dirty nappies. Whatever it may be, this road I find to be harder as you're initiating the independence, rather than watching for more signs - you find the standard cabin fever/no pants wearing/nude child/wee on the floor method will be the breaker.

On this note - it may ? Sometimes having that 2-3day period of getting use to the toilet works, and you have a knicker wearing little one with just night nappies to worry about. If this is the path you're going down, be prepared for the 'regression period' of muchos accidents and laziness. Most kids go through this because their bladders are still in the piddle phase. 

Did she say piddle phase ? 

I did- the piddle phase is simply where your child's bladder is nappy trained, its still just releasing with the comfort of thinking the undies will absorb it.It'll pass  - also if your child is at daycare, even though they have teachers asking them, they're so stimulated that often the toilet is the last thing on their minds.

Some tactics; 

  • if asking your child every 30mins isn't working - let them take the lead, change the communication. "remember if you need a wee, you have to go to the toilet". 
  • increase the intervals to an hour or so and include yourself "mummy is going to the toilet, lets go together"
  • Remind them that they're a big kid now, and we have to practice the toilet 
  • Make links with the underwear- "we don't want to wee on Dora (yes, we do), lets take her to the toilet. 
  • Get a toilet mascot (elmo/their favourite companion). 

Remember the toilet is about leading their independence, encouraging them to develop and strengthen their self-help skills. 



- please comment all questions! I'd love to hear from you and help.