Wednesday, February 29, 2012

city limits

I was in Melbourne yesterday and was reminded how if you have never known anything else but city life, you either become desensitized to noise, traffic, pollution and the quick pace of living or tolerate it (or perhaps even like it!)

I moved out of Melbourne six years ago, first to live by the Yarra River in Warrandyte and now to the ti tree lined coast on the Mornington Peninsula. My visits back to the city have become less frequent and when friends ask would you ever move back, or do you miss it? The answer is no.

There is much to love about Melbourne, yes the coffee, the bookshops, the galleries, the diversity of people. Today though I witnessed stressful city living.

After one of those quintessential Melbourne cafe bites to eat, I returned to my car parked outside a supermarket in Elsternwick with my mother-in-law ( MIL) and Sol when we heard a commotion and turned around to see a young guy around 20 years of age being wrestled to the ground by two other guys about 2 metres from where we were standing. I ushered MIL into the car, put Sol in and quickly got myself in. I looked back at the three guys and slowly realised two were plain clothes security guards. The adrenalin pumping through the three of them was high, the security guys aggressively held the young guy down for a moment and then dragged him to his feet and marched him towards an office in the supermarket. One security guard then reappeared on a mobile phone, presumably to the police. I wondered what he could have stolen or done that warranted the level of force they used to apprehend him, he didn't appear to be trying too hard to run off. MIL and I were both feeling churned up by the scene.

I drove MIL home and as I headed to the freeway back to the coast I stopped into a petrol station up the road from MIL's house, put fuel in my car and when I came out from paying, just outside the door were a well dressed man and woman arguing loudly. Their voices grew to shouting, they were waving their arms in each others faces and slamming the doors of their latest model cars.

It was time for me to get out of the city.

The longer I live outside of the city the more sensitive I become to its pace and all that goes with it. That's not to say that shop-lifting, road rage and the like don't happen outside the city too, they do but the overall pace and quality of life to my mind is better by the beach or surrounded by trees.

To anyone dreaming of making a sea or tree change, I say start looking into making your dream a reality. It may mean being more creative about how you live and earn money, it may mean down sizing, it may mean changing your priorities.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Start spending more weekends outside of the city
Read the towns local papers and notice boards to get a sense of the community
Go to local markets
Research job opportunities and schools in the area you like
If you decide to make the move, renting a house before buying can be a better option until you settle in, particularly if you are planning to move and commute to the city for work (commuting not ideal in my opinion).

My top of the list reasons for moving out of the city, that I wouldn't trade for any amount of great coffee, art or fashion:

Clean air
No traffic
Slower pace
Clean air
Reduced cost of living
Living closer to nature is better for your health
Clean air
Smaller schools
Endless beach days
Watching my boys leaping the waves then rolling in the sand
Did I mention clean air?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

our generation

My husband Pete works closely with Indigenous Elders and communities around Australia, in Pete's words he "celebrates culture" through his work such as his books Elders: Wisdom from Australian Indigenous Leaders, Yolgnu Mali - Aboriginal Spirit and My People's Dreaming.

It is through Pete that my insight into culture has grown and sparked within me a fire to create and take every opportunity to be part of solving the inherent ignorance and discrimination in Australian government policy and attitudes generally towards Indigenous people.  And for those insights I am grateful.

Pete brought this DVD home and I recommend seeking out a copy and watching it.

It is excellent in its balanced, honest documentation of Indigenous people's lives both in the past and today.

Of the many things that stood out to me in the film was a shot of a poster from the 1950's promoting assimilation, seeing that poster reinforced in my mind that Australian government policy is still one of assimilation, that Aboriginal people are expected to live like white people is still the dominant way of thinking.

I dream that the attitudes and policies change to one of genuine respect for the knowledge and wisdom of Aboriginal people, with a willingness to recognise and value their land, culture and traditions.

The eloquence of the speakers in the film brings clarity to what at times seems like such a complex situation that the answer is out of reach. After watching the film I see the answer is close at hand and is simple, it is living the answer that seems to be the complex part. If you're interested in living the answer check out these ways to Take Action on the Our Generation website:

Speak Up
Get Involved
Find out more
Spread the Word

Everyone can do something.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

time to cook dahl

My man and boys are a bit fragile this week with coughs, fevers and sneezes. And er, almost a broken nose and knocked out teeth. River was tearing through the house boy-style at 7.30am yesterday and ran smack into the brick wall, yes there was blood from both nostrils, blood lip, blood gums, blood, blood, blood. No screaming or panicking from River – that was for me to do internally while getting wet facewasher and ice. Is there nothing a wet facewasher can’t fix? Fortunately I can continue to answer that with a wet facewasher fixes everything. Once I mopped up the blood and placed the ice on his rapidly swelling lips I assessed that all teeth were firmly in place and nose was not broken.

Two sick and one injured male in the house means my nerves are freyed.

Time to cook dahl.  

There’s something comforting and soothing about dahl, the cooking and the eating. I lugged four kilos of red lentils plus kilos of other dry goods home from our bulk buy group yesterday. The sack of lentils was staring at me from the bench all day and the thought of finding jars and space for it in the cupboard was too much. Cracking it open to make dahl and soothe the household was way more appealing. (In case you’re wondering dahl can be spelt dhal, daal, dahl or dal).

I’ve only ever made dahl with lentils but it can be made with other pulses.

I cook it with a different combination of spices each time. I’d be happy to eat it as is, however I think it is the accompaniments that make it special. Yes some rice, a simple dollop of beautiful natural yoghurt (sugar free of course) pappadams sometimes but always some sort of pickle.

The recipe below is for the dahl I made yesterday. Increase or decrease the garlic and vary spices depending on the flavours you like.

Speaking of flavour you can try my sister-in-law Davini’s finishing touch that elevates her dahl to heavenly heights. Davini has a fantastic feel for cooking beautiful wholesome food and the secret to her recipe is once you have the dahl simmering add the juice of one lemon and then place half a lemon, rind and flesh into the pot and leave until done. I love the edge the lemon juice gives to the flavours.

Dahl to soothe the day

1 large onion chopped
8 cloves of garlic crushed
1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds (as well as the flavour I like the crunch they add. Mustard seeds are good too)
1-2 teaspoon ground tumeric
5cm ginger root peeled and grated finely
3 cups split red lentils
25g butter or ghee
2.5 litres of water

Melt butter in large heavy based pot and fry onion until soft.
Add spices, ginger and garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Pour in the lentils and water bring to boil then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. The dahl will be quite thick at this stage. If you prefer it a bit more soupier add some more water. We have recently switched from using sea salt to using Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (similar taste to tamari you can but it from health food stores) so I add Bragg’s to season the dahl towards the end of the cooking.

Pete’s tomato accompaniment

With a seemingly endless supply of tomatoes this year from our garden there is a new recipe involving tomatoes being created daily in our kitchen. Pete threw this together, he loves chilli and I don’t put chilli in the dahl to keep it child friendly but adding chilli to an accompaniment is the perfect way to keep everyone’s tastebuds and tummies happy.

1 large onion sliced into rings
3-4 medium tomatoes chopped roughly
1 small chilli sliced finely
a generous splash of Bragg’s seasoning
a knob of butter

Melt butter and gently fry onion til soft add tomatoes and chilli put a lid on and simmer for an hour. If it there is too much liquid leave the lid off and simmer to reduce.

The Hungry Girls’ eggplant pickle
Thanks to the Hungry Girls’ for permission to share this recipe from their second volume in The Hungry Girls’ Cookbook series. These clever, creative ladies  have recently released volume 3 check it out here .

I didn’t make eggplant pickle this time with the dahl but the recipe is excellent so wanted to add it.

Rachel Pitts is the recipe writer in the Hungry Girls trio, Rachel’s recipes are
my kind of good food, always nourishing, uncomplicated but with an interesting flavour twist.

2 eggplants
1 Spanish onion
2 lemons
1 small bunch coriander, roots removed, chopped
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Trim the tops off the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise.
Place on a tray facing up and cover with foil.
Roast in a 200 C oven for around 40 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, slice the Spanish onion wafer-thin and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the juice of the lemons and stir.
Leave for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the acid of the lemon has softened the onion and turned it iridescent pink.
Dice the eggplant and add it to the onion along with the coriander, mint, salt, sugar and oil.
Stir well and taste, adding extra salt or sugar if needed.

Happy cooking! And if you feel like it please share your dahl recipes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

no comment

Hi Folks,
To those of you lovely readers eager to leave a comment who have emailed to say you can't work out how to leave comments no it is not that you are technologically incompetent, it is more that I have just this moment discovered I didn't have the correct settings on my comments section to make it easy for you just leave your name rather than sign in using weird things I've never heard of either such as OpenID?!
So there you go I still have much to learn about this blogging thing too.
I've changed the settings and now when you click on comments a box will pop up and you can write your comment and to leave your name and or URL without any signing in bizzo.
Look forward to reading your words.

book talk: Playground compiled by Nadia Wheatley

I'm doing my small part for Culture today sharing this fantastic book compiled by Nadia Wheatley.

Playground is so beautifully put together, the artwork by leading Indigenous artists, photographs, and stories sit alongside each other in such a way that readers from age 2 to 102 will be touched by the truth and wisdom of Aboriginal culture.

In contrast to my post yesterday about modern living and the allure of television, the opening paragraph of Playground sums up how times have changed.

"In traditional time, kids didn't have to set off from home in the morning in order to go to school. The whole country was a vast outdoor classroom, which contained everything that the First Children needed to know. The land was also their playground." p.6

There are 18 chapters covering almost every aspect of traditional life. 'Playing in the water', 'Cubbies and toys', and 'Going fishing' are among my boys favorites. 

In the chapter ‘Playing in the water’ there’s a photograph of 7 young boys at a waterhole near Ramingining, Northern Territory, climbing out to the end of a tree branch to take it in turns to jump into the water. My boys love to look at this photo and hear the stories about how big kids looked after the little kids near the water and how the children were told scary stories of mythical creatures such as the  bunyip waiting in the water as way of keeping them close, preventing them from wandering too far and getting into danger.

The appeal of sharing Playground with young children is that you can dip in and out of the chapters. The personal accounts in each chapter are short and evocative. It is a book rich with insights for children and adults.

'Playground - listening to stories from country and from inside the heart' compiled by Nadia Wheatley, published by Allen & Unwin. RRP $39.99

Monday, February 20, 2012

TV:opiate for the masses?

There’s a new rule in our house: TV only on the weekend. Before River started school, each day around noon I would put Sol in bed for a nap and River was allowed to watch ‘a show’. A show was either a DVD or programs on ABC2 (a commercial free station dedicated to programs for preschool aged children).

Depending on the length of Sol’s nap, River spent between one and two hours a day in front of the screen. Multiply that by 7 days and he was watching around 14 hours of television per week. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this but it was the only block of time during the day I had to work, make phonecalls, return emails etc; The part I felt ok with was that the content he was watching was not commercial or violent or aggressive. The part I didn’t feel ok with is that I felt too lazy to change a pattern we had fallen into.

I have a few friends who don’t have a television in their house and their children spend their time being creative or playing outside. Because there isn’t television in the house there isn’t the option to watch it. For those of us living with a television, limiting the viewing time is the task.

I didn’t announce to River the change in viewing hours I just made the decision, confirmed it with Pete that was our new plan. When River came home from school and asked ‘Can I watch a show?’ I said, ‘No. You can watch a show on the weekend but not during the week.’ He asked why and I explained there are plenty of other things to do besides watch TV. River didn’t protest (phew!); he just got on with playing.

Even for us adults turning on the teev and zoning out can be relaxing, but overall I think watching television makes people lazy - body, mind and soul!

What do you think? Do you have a TV? How much does your family watch?

Read what one work-at-home-mum writes about TV as babysitter, and for some research findings on how much is too much? read here .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saba's story

Saba Button's story was on the front page of The Australian newspaper today. The story moved me deeply. I spent the time I would have been writing this post earlier today writing to the letters page of The Australian. My heart goes out to Saba's parents Kirsten and Mick Button, people I have never met but as a parent I have immense empathy for what has happened to their little girl and the ripple effect it has on their family.

As reported in The Australian today, Saba Button received the Fluvax influenza vaccination in 2010 and as a direct result of suffering febrile convulsions caused by the vaccination she is now brain damaged. Saba was in perfect health when she received the vaccination at 11 months. Now almost three Saba has epilepsy and has to be fed through a tube. Fluvax has since been banned for use in children under five. It has though been selected for Australia's flu immunisation program this year.

The photographs below show Saba and her mum and Professor Peter Collignon the photos are taken from a story published in The Australian in May last year titled Virus in the system written by Natasha Bita. It is an excellent feature article about the influenza vaccine and it is a must read for anyone considering flu vaccine or for that matter vaccination of any kind. Natasha Bita's reporting of this issue is exceptionally well balanced, unlike nearly every other piece written in mainstream media on the topic of vaccination.

Professor Peter Collignon (left) says last year's flu vaccine might have caused more harm than good in otherwise healthy children; Kirsten Button (centre) with baby Saba, 2, who has brain damage (picture: Frances Andrijich); and Saba when she was a "perfectly happy and healthy baby". Source: The Australian

Reading the report in The Australian this morning I wondered why children so young were being vaccinated for the flu? how many children get the flu each year? do any die? So I did a search and came up with this information (which I included in my letter to the editor) taken from Department of Health and Ageing Australian influenza report 2011 (No.14 - 30 September 2011), in it I read "In 2011, 14 influenza associated deaths have been notified to the NNDSS, with a median age of 47 years." 

And this "The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) conducts seasonal surveillance of children aged 15 years and under who are hospitalised with severe complications of influenza. Between 1 July and 18 October 2011, there have been 46 hospitalisations associated with severe influenza complications in children, including 20 ICU admissions. Of the 32 hospitalisations with completed questionnaires, around half of these hospitalisations were associated with pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection, and 13 were noted as having underlying chronic medical conditions." 

The report did not state how many of these children were vaccinated. 

As of June 2010 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (report 3235.0) showed the population of children under 15 was 4.23 million. 

46 children hospitalised with severe influenza complications out of some 4.23 million, to me suggests that the risk of contracting a severe bout of influenza under the age of 15 is low.

Sadly it is too late for Kirsten Button to weigh up the risks of not vaccinating Saba based on these figures. Saba was in perfect health, she did not have an underlying chronic medical condition. 
She now has an irreversible condition that there is no price that can be paid to compensate how this has changed Saba's life and that of her family. At the expense of Saba's well being the learning to come out of this is for all Australians is to go the extra distance in informing themselves before they put their trust in their doctors hands and agree to any and every vaccination they are offered. 

Contrary to the amount of pressure placed on parents to vaccinate their children you do have a choice. Of course no parent wants to see their child with a severe or chronic illness as I was asked by a local general practitioner when she learnt I had chosen not to vaccinate my sons. Nor does any parent want or deserve their children to be accidental test cases for vaccines. 

Please take the time to read Virus in the system I feel it is the least we can do as a community to show support for the Button family and other families who have suffered as a result of vaccines.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

love your planet

Spending Valentine's Day at the Myer Mural Hall with 500 - yes 500 - frocked up, chatty and cheerful women for the Cool Australia 'Love Your Planet' lunch was a fun and informative way to celebrate the day.

I came away from the lunch being inspired by Great Women.

Debbie Cox was the keynote speaker, an Australian woman now living in the Congo working with the Jane Goodall Institute  (JGI). From her childhood Debbie dreamed of working with chimpanzees and she is living her dream and making the world a better place in doing so.

JGI was founded by primatologist Jane Goodall in 1977. Jane arrived in Tanzania in 1960 as a 26 year old to study the wild chimpanzees of the area. This began her life's work.

We are each given this life to live just once and the unrelenting dedication of Jane Goodall to continue her work saving and improving the lives of chimpanzees in the face of immense environmental degradation is truly awe inspiring. Since beginning her work over 40 years ago, Jane has extended her focus on primates to the environment and humanitarian concerns. Jane sees that animals, people and nature are part of an interdependent ecosystem.

Jane is quoted as saying "the greatest danger to our future is apathy". So true. We can all do something. It would be easy for any activist or conservationist to become overwhelmed and give up but it is their dedication and vision for a more positive future that I find inspiring and gives me the energy to act within my own community and country.

Now I've talked about some of the Great Women and their stories in the Mural Hall yesterday, depending on how you look at it there were about 6 brave or lucky men there yesterday one being photographer, Antarctic adventurer and Climate Project Presenter Jason Kimberley. Jason is also the founder of Cool Australia and is working to put sustainability firmly in the curriculum of Australian schools. Rather than teach about the environment as a subject that sits separately to maths, english, geography etc; the idea behind Cool Australia programs is that those subjects are taught through topics relevant to sustainability such as climate change, energy, forests and so on. I think that this is a fantastic concept because in my way of seeing the world the health of our natural world is paramount and is woven into every facet of being human.

What issues move you to action? In your community? Your family? Globally?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

move it or lose it

My sister-in-law Davini who is a fabulous wholefoodie mama to four, asked me recently how I was feeling after doing my 12 week detox (no - sugar in any form, wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine or fruit). I said I felt great but I miss feeling fit like I was before I had children. Davini immediately related remembering the days when her children were under 6 years like mine, ‘It’s hard isn’t it to fit in exercise with little ones,’ she said thoughtfully and then added casually, ‘unless you’re really committed’.

The word ‘committed’ was the aha! moment for me. Davini’s right, I’ve been talking about improving my fitness for a few years now. Just hearing that word changed something inside of me. I am by no means a couch potato but I’ve been wanting to up the fitness ante for a while, I am committed so I am going to do things differently to last year and the one before that starting with working my way through this list of ways to exercise even while looking after my 2-year-old boy full time.

I’m not one for excuses.

Buy a skipping rope
Dance around the house more – sounds daggy but good cardio!
Try out local gym that offers child minding
Personal training with friends to split the cost and child minding
Buy or borrow from the library workout DVD’s
Increase playing active games with River and Sol
Commit to two yoga classes a month

If you want to improve your fitness I hope this list gives you some ideas and inspiration. Feel free share some more…

oh and if you're into Valentine's Day hope it is all you wish it to be. I'm spending today in Melbourne going to the 'Love Your Planet' lunch organised by Cool Australia and The Jane Goodall Institute. More about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 13, 2012

first prize

I unpacked River’s school bag on Friday after his first happy week in prep and found a book of raffle tickets. A raffle is nothing out of the ordinary as a fundraiser but to my mind first prize in this raffle is: ‘wheelbarrow containing an assortment of wine, spirits and beer valued at $2000.00’. Two thousand dollars of alcohol!

Having only been part of the school community for a week we are the new kids on the block but on Sunday I drafted a letter to send to the Principal, the fundraising committee and the school council that goes something like this…

I consider a prize of a ‘wheelbarrow containing an assortment of wine, spirits and beer valued at $2000.00’ to be inappropriate.

First and foremost it sends a message to the children that winning a large amount of alcohol is something to celebrate. Australian society has a problematic drinking culture and it is from a very young age that first impressions influence a child’s idea of what it is to be ‘grown-up’, sadly all too often that is tied up with excess consumption of alcohol. DrinkWise Australia an independent, not-for-profit organization has launched two campaigns ‘Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix’ and ‘Kids Absorb your Drinking’ in an attempt to change this culture.

I acknowledged the effort the fundraising committee invests in the work they do and finished the letter with an offer to source alternative prizes for future raffles.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What prizes are being raffled at your child’s school?

Friday, February 10, 2012

apples and plums

We are blessed to have a chemical-free apple and stone fruit orchard 10 minutes drive from our house, I take River and Sol to pick fruit from the trees. The orchard has a magical feeling to it. Behind tall pressed metal gates there are rolling grassy hills covered with fruit trees. The sight of their branches hanging with ripe fruit is like a picture book.

Pete went to the orchard recently and came home with a bag of exquisite plums and new season apples.

 Despite the warm summer weather, River asked ‘can we make an apple pie?’

Sounded good to me.

With such beautiful plums and more Drum Drum farm biodynamic blueberries in the house alongside the apples it made perfect sense to me that the trio of fruit go in the pie.

Using my super talented, super gorgeous friend Mette’s apple pie recipe the pie was created. And devoured. Devoured before a photo for this post was taken. Apologies. Good reason to make another!

Mette’s recipe is THE BEST apple pie recipe I have ever used.

Here it is for you. I've left the recipe written in 'Mette speak' all the exclamation marks capture her exuberance for life, friends and family.

Perhaps you’d like to make a new season apple pie this weekend…heavenly!

Mette’s Apple Pie                                     
Quick flaky pastry
For 1 thinly rolled double crust, 25 cm pie
1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
125 g cold butter
About ½ cup of milk (I found this a little too much so add a bit then add some more if needed. N)
1 tsp vinegar

Mix the flour and baking powder. Grate butter or cut it into about 25 small cubes, and rub or cut into the flour, by hand. Pieces of butter should be visible when pastry is rolled out. Mix liquids and add to the flour mixture until it forms a fairly stiff dough. Roll out thinly and use as required.

For a 25 cm pie
1 quantity quick flaky pastry!
½ cup of sugar
2 tbls flour
4-6 apples
25 g. Butter,melted
Ground cloves –if you like !
Make once the recipe of the pastry
Cut the pastry in1/2, then roll it out thinly. Put one piece in the dish-, with its edges hanging over edge.
Put sugar and flour in bowl –corsly shred or slice the peeled or unpeeled apples.- toss the apples in the sugar and flour. Pour the meltet butter over apples, add the cloves if you like them. Put apples in dish. Press top layer of dough on top!. Make holes in dough. Bake at 220 degress- or until golden.                
Enjoy !!!! 

Happy weekend to everyone.

Ps. Oh and by the way feel free to leave a comment, I know you’re there. It is so quiet in those comment boxes I'd love to read your words...well, the positive ones anyway :)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

sweet surrender

The growly bear arrived yesterday morning. It was predicted he would visit, I  wasn’t sure when or what shape he would take just that he would be here. The morning began unusually early around 5.30am with the youngest cub telling me his nappy was wet. A quick change and some gentle coaxing didn’t work to get him back to sleep til 7am, no the day had begun. I grumbled quietly to myself and settled for reading stories in bed to prolong the resting, it was after all River’s rest day from starting school. For the first five weeks preps at River’s school have Wednesday off and a bumpy morning this first Wednesday turned out to be.

My two little bears grizzled and growled as they adjusted to being in each other’s company for the whole day after being apart with River starting school. I quickly tired of sorting out bear fights so between making beds, washing dishes, folding clothes, and snippets of writing I decided it was time to build a cave with my bears to see if that would help. It was a case of 'sweet surrender' on my behalf, (hmmm or is that bittersweet surrender?)

As a ‘working-from-home’ mother the temptation to become easily frustrated when I can’t get this or that done because of constant ‘interruptions’ is always close and when I feel that, most of the time I slip into sweet surrender mode. Sweet surrender mode is along the lines of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ and I find most of the time it works. That is to drop whatever I am doing and be really present to what is going on, clear my head of all other thoughts and just really be with whatever is happening. 

In a child’s world time doesn’t exist. I remind myself of this as often as I can and switch off my mental clock as often as possible to be in the moment. I find in doing this life with my boys, bear fights and all, flows more smoothly.

So, the bears and I started by seeing who could grizzle and growl the loudest whilst prowling through the house. Quite fun to be a bear. Then we built a cave using space behind the couch, a sheet and an elastic band to secure the corner of the sheet to the top of a lamp stand creating the roof of the cave. A furry rug on the ground, every teddy bear we could find in the house into the cave and my bears had a new home. They then went ‘hunting’ in the back yard for food to feed their bear friends and I was then free to finish my grown up jobs. Hooray. It doesn’t always work so simply but for the most part it does and it is always my preference to growl with them rather than at them, that rarely feels good for me.

A parenting book I have really loved along these lines Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves  by American author Naomi Aldort, is filled with inspiring anecdotes of how to be in flow with our children rather than against each other.

River is back at school today. Sol is sleeping. Such a quiet cave.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

conscious chocolate

This little box of chocolate caught my attention on the counter of Rye Health my local health food store here on the Peninsula. It took me a few visits to part with $6.95 for 45g, it definitely qualifies as a mummy only kind of indulgence. To give you a picture of the intensity of this dose of chocolate there are six squares per packet, here are four remaining from my current stash...

I tried first the raw cocoa variety, the texture is close to a chocolate truffle. One square satiates even the strongest chocolate desire. I've since tried the coconut and goji and loved that there was a perfect balance of coconut and goji berries.

Conscious Chocolate is a funny name for a chocolate bar. It doesn't have a heartbeat but it is handmade from raw organic ingredients and the makers state their health and environmental conscience clearly:

"At Conscious Chocolate we are concerned with 3 things; the quality of our chocolate, the health of your insides and the sustainability of the Earth."

I don't intend this to be an ad. it is just so good I had to share - not the actual chocolate - you'll have to buy your own.

Part of the joy of this chocolate is that it is actually good for you. Really. And satiates like no other, I know I'm repeating myself. 

It contains no refined sugar, instead it is sweetened with agave nectar which has a naturally low GI index. (There's a bit of controversy to be read about how agave nectar is being promoted as the Next Best Thing in natural sweeteners and how the promotion is misleading. If you're interested read this lengthy and informative post over at Food Renegade a blog written by a passionate American wholefood loving mum). 

Now that I consider the quality of the ingredients in Conscious Chocolate and the fact that it is handmade from start to finish, $6.95 is a good deal after all. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

old favorites

Here are some well-loved real food recipes I recently enjoyed making, eating and sharing with our neighbors.

As far as I’m concerned the words ‘muffin’ and ‘cake’ can be used interchangeably. A bounty of blueberries from Drum Drum blueberry farm inspired these muffin/cakes…

Blueberry, coconut and lemon muffins
Makes 6 large or 12 small

1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup almond oil
½ cup raw sugar
½ cup dessicated coconut
juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup blueberries
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and lightly grease muffin tray. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and coconut into a mixing bowl and stir. Add egg, almond oil, lemon juice, yoghurt and blueberries and stir gently so as not to squash blueberries. When all mixed together spoon into muffin tray and bake for 15-20 minutes.


River starting school prompted me to make a batch of these. For any newcomers to Anzacs the origins of this recipe date back to World War 1 when wives and mothers of soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps would bake biscuits made mainly from rolled oats, flour and desiccated coconut and send them to their husbands and sons.

I don’t use the traditional recipe because it has too much sugar in it as well as golden syrup so I’ve included the original recipe and my less sweet but equally delicious version.

Traditional recipe
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour (you can use any type including gluten free)
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
1 heaped tablespoon golden syrup
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line two trays with baking paper.
Place oats, flour, coconut and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Melt butter over a low heat and stir in golden syrup. In a small bowl add the boiling water to the baking soda to dissolve, then stir into the melted butter mixture. Combine butter mixture with dry ingredients and spoon onto trays allowing space for biscuits to spread. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on the trays.

My Anzac recipe
 1 cup rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
½ cup raw sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Method is the same as above omitting the golden syrup and reducing the sugar.

Silverbeet and potato pie

Once upon a time long, long ago I had a little foray into the world of working as a television presenter on a little known program on pay tv. It was there that I watched Stephanie Alexander put this recipe together and have made it very regularly ever since, always with silverbeet but adding other vegetables and different cheeses depending on what’s in our garden and fridge.

You can read Stephanie’s recipe here . Below is my very loose interpretation.

For the pastry

2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
approx. ¾ cup cold water
pinch salt

In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt, stir in the oil and then stir in enough water to form a dough. Turn dough out on to floured bench and knead for a few minutes refrigerate until needed.

For the filling

8-10 silverbeet leaves with the stems (you want to have two big handfuls of silverbeet once it is finely chopped)
2 medium potatoes
1 finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs of your choice
200g cheese, I use a mix of fetta and parmesan
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil

Wash the silverbeet well. Chop off stems then finely slice them. Roll leaves and finely slice. Place silverbeet and stems in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon salt, leave for 20 minutes.
Boil potatoes until tender then roughly chop.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and oil a pizza tray.
Rinse silverbeet and squeeze out excess liquid in a teatowel.
In a large mixing bowl combine silverbeet, stems, potato, onion, herbs and cheese. Whisk the egg with the olive oil and mix into the silverbeet mixture.
On a floured surface roll out 2/3rds of the pastry round enough to easily cover the pizza tray. Place the silverbeet mixture into the centre of the dough allowing a 3 cm border around the edge. Begin at one side of the dough lift the edge up towards the centre and work your way around the circle crimping the pastry folds together with your fingers as you go. Roll out remaining dough into a circle and drape over the centre of the torte squeeze the edges of the smaller circle into the torte. Using a fork pierce some holes into the top of the torte, drizzle with olive oil and scatter some sea salt. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Allow to rest for 10 minutes out of the oven before cutting.

The pie half eaten!

Monday, February 06, 2012

the $21 challenge

I stumbled across the $21 spending challenge while blog browsing. The challenge is a great thing to do, to save money but especially for the benefits to the environment.

The challenge began when a member of Simple Savings , (a website designed to teach people ways to save money), Barbara asked her husband for some cash so she could do the weekly grocery shopping for their family of four. Her husband smiled and handed Barbara a $20 note. Barbara decided to take on the challenge her husband had jokingly set and work out how to feed their family for a week spending only $20. Barbara then found $1 in loose change and the $21 challenge was born.

Most people buy groceries each week by habit, not what they actually need. The $21 challenge forces you to delve into your fridge and pantry and REALLY see what’s in there and then be creative with what you have. The creators of the challenge estimate the average household of four spends $320 per week on food. By eating the food already in your pantry, fridge, freezer and garden for one week and spending only $21 you save almost $300. If you do this once a month, in one year you can save $3600.

The satisfaction of being thrifty is one thing; the aspect I love about this challenge is it forces consumers to be really conscious of their spending and undoubtedly reduces food waste. Food waste in Australia has embarrassingly high statistics attached to it. According to the FoodWise  website, New South Wales (NSW) government research shows that the average NSW household throws out $1,036 of food per year. This waste is not only a waste of money and food it is a huge waste of resources, the energy it took to grow, refrigerate and transport the food and then the increase in greenhouse gases generated by food rotting in landfill. FoodWise is a national campaign set up to get Australian’s to reduce the environmental impact of their food consumption.

Even if you make it the $50 challenge you are still saving money and honouring the labour and environmental resources that go into producing food. Being creative with cooking is part of the fun, and if anyone in your house whines when you cook pasta and create a sauce out of what you have, even if that is tinned tomatoes and tuna, once you finish reminding them to be grateful talk with them about the environmental reasons behind what you’re doing. Give it a go!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

to school or not to school?

January is over all too quickly. Beach days that stretched one into the next are about to be punctuated by River starting prep tomorrow.

There have been many conversations about education between Pete and I leading up to River’s first day at the local primary school.

We spent yesterday morning with friends who are a home school family. Our visits together always fill me up in a different way to time spent with other friends. My home school friend’s children spend their days playing with chickens in their garden, drawing, painting, creating and once a week meeting up with their homeschool group of families. There is no sense of needing to follow time or schedule.  What about reading and writing I hear some readers ask? Well they do that too. Theirs is a gentle home without a television, ipad or DS to be seen. I admire my friend for the path she has chosen educating her children, it works for her and her family.

The thought of homeschooling our boys, or 'unschooling' as it is sometimes called, doesn’t appeal to me. I like the thought of immersing them in activities that Pete and I value – art, the vegie patch, fishing, swimming, and of course I want them to read, write and know about numbers. River is such a social being I want to give him the opportunity to be part of a school community and for my own perhaps selfish reasons I want some of my own time to write and create, some time apart. And we will still immerse them in the activities we value at home plus they have the experience of being part of something else outside our family.

The other options considered were Steiner education , and Montessori .

I never joined the local mother’s group, instead when River was 6 months old I went to the Steiner mother and baby group here on the Peninsula. I didn’t know much about Steiner philosophy, I did know it was a way of meeting like minded folk who valued a gentle approach to raising and educating children allowing them to be in their imaginative world. I made my best friends on the Peninsula through the Steiner playgroup and kinder. Steiner primary school education however isn’t an option for us due to distance and cost. In a nutshell for those interested, Steiner education and anthroposophy was founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1913. Steiner education focuses on the whole child ‘head, heart and hands’, Steiner believed “the soul needs nourishing as well as the body”. For an insight into a Steiner school in action read this ABC Compass interview.

I also went to visit the local Montessori school. Montessori education was founded by Maria Montessori in Italy in 1897 and like Steiner, Montessori's focus was on the whole child and optimising the expression of their full capabilities. As I see it Montessori's approach to achieving this was through introducing children to concepts using tactile equipment such as wooden shapes, numbers and letters whereas the emphasis for Steiner is in the artistic realm. The Montessori classroom was set up so beautifully with all the Montessori learning equipment I wanted to sit at a table myself! The proximity to home was good, but the curriculum didn’t seem so suited to River’s nature and again the price of independent education was out of our budget. 

So this afternoon I will sew name labels on to River’s school uniform. I’ve poached the chicken for his chicken and avocado sandwich tomorrow, and into his lunchbox will go blueberries and a home baked anzac. And we’ll see. We’ll stick to our Steiner inspired values at home and we’ll weather the attitude change that so many parents of post preps tell me about that is possible to come as River finds his place in his new community, and we’ll see. Happy beginnings to all families starting and returning to school this year.

I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts on home schooling, Steiner, Montessori and mainstream education.
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