Thursday, May 31, 2012

national porridge day - june 1

I've decided this year I am going to do my best to embrace all that is good about winter. Starting with celebrating National Porridge Day tomorrow. What's better than a hot bowl of porridge on these wintery mornings I ask you? 

In honor of the humble breakfast dish, 5-grain porridge and muesli maker Flip Shelton has declared the first day of winter in Australia National Porridge Day, yes to promote her muesli and porridge range but also to encourage everyone to start their day with a nutritious breakfast. Flip says, "Porridge warms the cockles of your heart on these chilly mornings, it’s cheap (only 70c for 50 g – depending if you have a Papa, Mama or Baby Bear size); nutritious being a wholegrain food packed with complex carbohydrates and proteins; and there are so many delicious ways to  enjoy it.  My favourite way is cardamom, currants and pistachios".

Flip recently spoke on ABC radio about the glories of porridge including 12 suggestions for porridge toppings you can find them here.

As this is the world wide web I will go one step further and declare it International Porridge Day I like  northern hemisphere readers to feel included even if I'm finding it difficult to read northern hemisphere blogs at the moment as I have season envy. All those photos of sunshine and beach days. Back to enjoying winter. 

Now of course oats are not the only grain used to create porridge. I made the porridge pictured above using quinoa flakes and then added rice milk, sliced banana, natural yoghurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. When I visit my friends Nicky and Jason on a weekend, if I'm lucky Jason will have made a pot of decadent black sticky rice porridge with palm sugar and coconut milk - dessert for breakfast! A recipe for black rice porridge can be found here on this lovely blog. One of my other favorite grains for porridge is brown rice. I love the nuttiness of it and particularly like to add nutmeg and sometimes lemon rind to it. Amaranth is another grain I've tried but wasn't especially taken with. My friends Bronwyn and Rosie top their porridge with umeboshi plums.

What are your favorite porridge combos? How decadent do you go? A dollop of butter? A sprinkle of salt? Cream??! Sultanas and honey? Get your grains and toppings today and prepare to start the day tomorrow with some warming, delicious porridge. Warming hmmm grated ginger is a good idea.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

coconut & date pikelets

When I wandered to the kitchen yesterday to create an after school snack, I was inspired by Lucy's comment on this post. Coconut and date pikelets were the well-received result. The cool weather here makes hot pikelets perfect afternoon or morning tea fare at the moment. This recipe is gluten free and sweetened naturally with dates and natvia which is new stevia product I was experimenting with. 
I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.


3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 tbsp shredded or desiccated coconut
2 x 3g sachets natvia (or sweetener of your choice)
1 tbsp melted coconut butter
3/4 cup water or milk of choice
1 egg, beaten
a few dried dates cut into slices
extra coconut butter for cooking

To make

Mix dry ingredients - except dates - in bowl. Add water (or milk), melted coconut butter and egg. Mix well.

Heat a pan and melt a generous knob of coconut butter. Pour batter in and just as bubbles are starting to appear as in picture above, dot the pikelets with slices of date. Flip pikelet and cook the other side until golden.

Remove from pan, spread with butter and enjoy with those you love.

I made some with dates and some without. Thinly sliced apple or pear would be nice too.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Each year the mainstream media do their best to churn out a few stories portraying breastfeeding as something unusual, unnatural, sexualised or something for mothers to be embarrassed or ashamed about, for instance those mothers who do vs. those who don't, those who stop after a few months vs. those breastfeeding three year olds.

Being a long time breastfeeding mama myself I couldn't resist weighing in on the matter, particularly as I'm still breastfeeding my youngest son Sol who is two and a half (he and I pictured above). I breastfed Sol's older brother River until he was two and then for River's second birthday I decided the gift I was going to give both he and I was: weaning. Within two nights our breastfeeding days were done. We were both ready for that to happen.

Not so with Sol who is far more attached to being breastfed than River was. I am growing physically weary of feeding and am looking forward to having my body back. Slowly, slowly.

Today I came across this article 'Getting rid of the breastfeeding taboo' written by Australian author and mother Tara Moss about her experience of breastfeeding her daughter, the article also includes a lot of facts and figures about breastfeeding in Australia and the general lack of support many new mothers experience in their effort to breastfeed. Tara is the UNICEF Patron for Breastfeeding, for the Baby Friendly Health Initiative which aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in Australia.

Before having children I didn't imagine I would breastfeed for more than the first year of my children's lives. I've been very fortunate that my experience of learning to breastfeed was very straight forward - no cracked nipples, no difficulty with attachment, no mastitis.

The Natural Way to Better Breastfeeding by Francesa Naish and Jan Roberts is the number one book I recommend to any breastfeeding mother. I referred to it daily in the beginning months of feeding. Franseca and Jan are natural health and fertility practitioners and have written a number of excellent books about conception, pregnancy and birth.

If you haven't yet visited Marvellous Kiddo, one of the series I enjoy on this great blog is the art and photography series celebrating breastfeeding mamas such as this photo by Dorothea Lange.

This has turned into a long post! And its not over yet, below is a story I started a few years ago about breastfeeding and I've just finished it now.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have something to say about your experiences of breastfeeding or the media's role in making it look unnatural.

Would you like a glass of water love?

When pregnant with my first child I wondered what will it be like to breastfeed? Would I be able to? Would my baby take to it easily? I felt nervous at the thought of it not happening easily. So, during my pregnancy I read books on breastfeeding, browsed the internet and studied the Australian Breastfeeding Association website. I listened to stories from my aunt and sister-in-law who breastfed their children for two or more years. I also heard friend’s stories of suffering cracked nipples, back, neck and shoulder pain, having difficulty attaching their baby to the breast, not enough milk or too much milk. My aunt and my sister-in-law were really the only two women who spoke of the experience with fondness. Despite my quiet nervousness I knew breastfeeding my baby was the natural thing to do, I also knew reading and hearing stories were one thing, doing would be another.
On July 29 2006, after 10 hours of labour our beautiful son was born naturally and to my relief he latched on to my breast and sucked with strength. From day one I felt no pain, within two days I had an abundance of milk, my nipples didn’t crack and my baby gained weight literally before my eyes. As perfect as this experience sounds, in my early newborn daze I felt twinges of how women can feel depressed when first attempting to breastfeed.
Recovering from labor was a greater task than I imagined: the physical pain of sitting, standing, walking and even laying down left me craving just a moment to breathe, to have my body to myself. But no, my body was working round the clock to produce milk and the little being I had brought into the world wanted and needed to be fed, wanted to suck at my breast at anytime of the day and night regardless of how exhausted I felt. The support and encouragement from my partner cannot be underestimated. He brought me countless glasses of water while I fed River and reminded me that the feeling of exhaustion would pass and encouraged me to sleep while River slept.
In decades gone by women learned to breastfeed by watching their mothers, aunties and sisters, who were supported by other women to do so. Today some women will not have held a baby til they have one of their own, much less regularly witness women breastfeeding. It seems what is natural has become unnatural. Breastfeeding takes time and commitment, you have to want to do it, you have to be supported to do it by your family, friends and community. An example of this kind of support happened when my son was four months of age we were walking along a local shopping strip and it came time for a feed. I sat on a bench outside a hairdressing salon and began to feed, the salon owner came out and asked, ‘Would you like a glass of water love? I remember how it was.’ I was so touched by her support.
My friend Maria who breastfed her three beautiful girls gave me a valuable piece of advice before I gave birth to River at a birthing centre and that was, for the time I stayed at the birthing centre each time River was to feed to ask a midwife to be by my side. That way, I had support from the very first feed and my nipples were less likely to be damaged if someone was there to guide me through those early feeds.
At first, I felt quite overwhelmed that my baby depended on my milk to survive and thrive. What if I didn’t have enough? What if he didn’t gain weight? As River and I settled into our breastfeeding rhythm my overwhelm eased and I was thrilled to see him grow and know that I really was sustaining him. I loved the convenience of breastfeeding. No bottles to carry around, no need to make sure there was enough formula in the house or packed in a bag if we were going away. Another aspect I totally value about my experience of breastfeeding River and now Sol is the way it connected us, fulltime breastfeeding meant I had to be with them. 
I’ve chosen to be with our boys around the clock during the formative years of their lives and that has included breastfeeding day and night. I count my blessings it was easy for me to do. To new or pregnant mothers reading this, like everything else in parenting, breastfeeding is a ‘season’ a period of time that begins and ends, for some it is a smooth, enriching season for others it is stormy; whatever shape the season takes for you speak up early when you need help (or if you have too much ‘help’ speak up) and above all else trust your instincts and enjoy your baby. All too quickly you’ll be wondering what to put in their lunchbox.

Friday, May 25, 2012

one for the weekend

We are rained in here today. The wind is wild. Even the school drop-off became an adventure this morning navigating flooded roads, puddle filled walking paths and gusts of wind that threatened to turn umbrellas inside out. My mind is turning over the possibilities for rainy weekend happiness.

Here goes:

-Making playdough following a hand-written recipe given to me by my friend Lucy, who among many other talents is a creative mama of 3. Lucy stood at my kitchen bench and wrote the recipe (from memory) on a card along with one for finger paint when River was about six months old, Lucy told me they were essential recipes for all mamas. Right she is.

1 cup plain white flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup cold water
1 tbs oil
2 tbs cream of tartar
food coloring (drops of!!)
Stir and cook all together over low heat for 3-5 minutes or until just 'off' sticky. Store for months in airtight container.

I haven't been brave enough to make the finger paint but here's the recipe in case you are:

Finger paint
2 tbs sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
2 cups cold water
food coloring
Mix sugar and cornflour then slowly add water. Stir over low heat until blended. Divide and add different colors.

-Being arty designing birthday cards for the many May birthdays we celebrate in our family this week
-Drinking homemade chai
-Dreaming up dishes to cook that incorporate yoghurt cheese, such as steamed broccoli with garlic, lemon, olive oil and one or two balls of yoghurt cheese stirred in before serving. I am yet to make my own yoghurt cheese despite how simple it apparently is to do, if you'd like to give it a go try this recipe
-Sneaking out for at least one coffee with a friend
-Finishing sewing hand puppets with River and Sol taking to the sewing machine!
-Baking...any suggestions? How beautiful does this 'garden cake' look? I first saw it on A Cup of Jo.

And then just letting the rest of the hours unfold...I'm sure there'll be some cubby making, drawing, squabbling, fingers crossed some napping, writing, reading, movie watching.

Happy weekending.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

attitude is everything

My nan (pictured left) and Pete's mum (on right) are visiting River's school today for Grandparents Day. This occasion has raised an unexpected wellspring of emotion in me - which I have to say I find inconvenient when this happens! - but anyway happening it is. Partly an emotional hangover from Mother's Day but the other part is the pure love and admiration I feel especially for my nan who is such an inspiration to me, and all the women of her generation who raised their children back in the days before lattes, baby cinos, 'me' time and dads who washed dishes.

My nan and Pete's mum are a year apart in age, (in their eighth decade shhh! they don't look it or talk much about that), their resilience is something I am in awe of.

Nan raised her four children while my grandfather could be counted on to drink his pay check and turn the house upside down.  To feed herself and her children my nan sewed. Dress after dress, alteration after alteration, with children climbing on her lap her sewing machine hummed along and nan just 'got on with it'. When nan's youngest child, my aunty, was 14 they went to live with my great-grandmother another great woman I was blessed to have in my life. By this time, nan's three sons - my dad and my uncles - were living independently off in the world doing their own thing.

Nan is an exceptionally capable and unflappable woman. I have never heard a bitter word spoken by her about my grandfather who passed away 2 years ago. In fact, they remained in contact over the years. My grandfather had stopped drinking in the latter part of his life and had better relationships with my aunt and one uncle. Nan is eternally optimistic about life and lives by the motto, "attitude is everything and as long as you have good health that's all that matters."

The quality I admire so much about Pete's mum is that despite a very difficult family life as a child she went on to create a loving family life with her husband and Pete and his sister and also became a Nanny to two families who she is still very much part of their lives today. Pete's mum's kindness and generosity is inherent in her nature.

The year nan was turning 70, my aunt and I were planning a party for her. Plans changed though when nan announced that she had met a fella and that he had asked her to go travelling with him. First stop was Darwin (from Melbourne where nan lived to Darwin by road is 3,754 kilometres). As her family we were slightly speechless but nervously happy for nan who was off on an incredible adventure. On her seventieth birthday nan rang me from Broome in Western Australia where she had just watched the camel train walk along Cable Beach as the sun was setting, her beau Bob by her side. The lightness and joy in her voice, she sounded like a teenager. I was so happy for her it was a gift I couldn't have given her and it beat the barbecue party in the backyard my aunt and I were planning.
Nan and I on my wedding day

Today I am happy for River that he gets to have his grandmother and great grandmother see him in action at school, and Bob will be there too. And I am happy for all the grandparents because I know the boundless joy their grandchildren bring.

Who are the inspiring women in your life? Are you lucky enough to have great grandparents?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

i'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon

This post marks the beginning of an occasional series looking at a particular ingredient or flavour. First up is a humble yet versatile essential: lemon. The zest, rind, juice, oil, whole or sliced, preserved or fresh imagine cooking without lemon?

"I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon" is a line from a play written by Irish author Oliver Goldsmith. It is also the title given to a mini collection of writings and recipes by lauded British food writer Elizabeth David, in the book David laments the absence of lemons from kitchens during the war years:

"Without a lemon to squeeze on to fried or grilled fish, no lemon juice to sharpen the flatness of dried pulses - the red lentils, the split peas - which in those days loomed so largely in our daily diet, no lemon juice to help out the stringy ewe-mutton and the ancient boiling fowls of the time, no lemon juice for pancakes, no peel to grate into cake mixtures and puddings, we felt frustrated every time we opened a cookery book or picked up a mixing bowl...There are indeed times when a lemon as a seasoning seems second only in importance to salt." (pages 79-80)

A bowl of lemons is a permanent fixture on my kitchen bench, and a lemon tree is a quintessential part of an Australian backyard (that said, we don't actually have one in our backyard! our steady supply of lemons come from friends, family and local road side stalls set up with an honesty box to pay).

Here's are some of the ways I use lemon:

I start each day with a liver-cleansing glass of fresh lemon juice and warm water.

Sliced lemon slid beneath the skin of chicken before roasting provides a wonderful flavour and aroma, the lemon slices are as delicious to eat as the chicken.

I baked lemon tart on the weekend using this straight-forward recipe. It takes a bit of time but it is easy really it is!

Lemon wedges are always on the table alongside the bounty of seafood my family is so lucky to enjoy - squid, whiting, flathead, salmon - thanks to Pete, and to our friend Simon who dives for prized scallops.

Green vegetables from our garden lightly stir-fried with garlic, then a squeeze of lemon juice are a favorite of mine. Is it a favorite of River and Sol's? Not so much but I'm working on it!

I was a latecomer to appreciating the fabulousness of preserved lemon but now there's no looking back. I have to confess I am yet to actually preserve some myself, but if they're not already part of your pantry seek them out. They elevate everyday recipes - soup, salad, tagines, casseroles, stuffing, pasta - to something memorable.

Lemon and dahl together are good company in my view.

What are your favorite ways with lemon? Do you have a prolific lemon tree?

Monday, May 21, 2012

managing distractions

Monday feels like a good day to write about 'getting things done'. While I'm definitely one for making time to watch the clouds drift by I do have a mild trait of needing to be productive to feel happy. And if I'm honest, I'd like to be way more efficient at getting things done. I don't like the feeling of always playing catch up and I'm guessing I'm not the only one. I've identified a few daily distractions slowing me down and want to compare notes with you.

As regular readers know my eldest son River started prep this year, one thing his class is practicing is 'managing distractions' that stand in the way of their learning. What a great thing to learn, because there is no shortage of distractions in this lifetime to take our minds and actions away from what we really want or need to be doing.

Checking emails, sending text messages, chatting on the phone, reading blogs, washing dishes, are just four of my distractions that keep me from getting through a to do list that some items seem never to be crossed off.

So now that I'm becoming clear about what is distracting me, I am going to manage those distractions. If my five year old son and his classmates can learn to do it so can I. And I've started with writing this post. Normally I would check emails as they came in and if I felt like it I would reply to them, I would answer the phone if it rang, if I got stuck for a word or next sentence I would wander off and wash the dishes or wander to another blog - true this does help writer's block - but it didn't take much for me to wander off.

Single-minded focus is my new aim. Starting a task and seeing it through, managing those distractions as they come flying at me including the thoughts that take me away from my task is my new approach.

I think clearing my mind with meditation and returning to regular yoga practice would definitely help me to focus my busy mind and scattered approach to getting things done.

I've decided clutter is huge time sucking distraction. My husband is always telling me the more possessions people have the more time they have to spend putting them away and he's right. A 'spring clean' is in order for me to cut down on the time I spend organising possessions, finding lost items and putting things away. Less things, more time to myself.

If you're looking to change your ways this list 50 tricks to get things done faster, better and more easily has some good ideas. And if organising and decluttering your house is a priority but you don't know where to start The Organised Housewife will get you sorted.

Are you satisfied with your productivity/efficiency? How do you organise your time to get things done? Send me your tips I would love to know what works.

Friday, May 18, 2012

this (food) writing life

Reading Alison Tait's blog Life in a Pink Fibro inspired this post. Alison is a blogger, author and freelancer with 20+ years experience working in magazines, newspapers and online.

I've recently been re-assessing my freelance writing life, what I like about it, what I want to do differently. Perhaps you are pondering how to get started or keep going in your own writing life?

Pinpointing what I like about being a writer is easy - hearing people's stories, using words to craft a story, seeing said story in print and the power of sharing stories.

Changing what I don't like about being a writer takes work. I was lamenting to a friend recently that I love the writing part of my job but not the selling side. Selling? Yes selling. Writers sell ideas to editors. To be a freelancer who actually gets paid work you have to do BOTH writing and selling. It's true that editors commission writers to do stories but writer's ideas are their currency; the ability to take your idea, come up with an angle and sell it to an editor is the real skill as far as I'm concerned. There's no two ways about it, rejection is not fun but it is part of the job. Alison has written a great post on pitching.

For those starting out, the adage 'write about what you know' worked for me. Writing about what you passionately know about will come across in your writing.

As I explain on my about page, writing and cooking have been passions of mine from a young age so it made sense when the time came that I wanted to work as a writer to combine the two. I remember when I was 19 deciding I wanted to be a food writer, I sat by the phone picking up and putting down the receiver trying to pluck up the courage to phone Roslyn Grundy the then editor of The Age newspaper food section Epicure. I wasn't phoning Roslyn with a story idea. I eventually made the call and earnestly asked Roslyn, "how do I go about becoming a food writer?" Roslyn defied every stereotype of gruff editors and spent half an hour talking encouragingly to me about looking for stories, suggesting them to editors and the importance of reading food writing. Ten years later I enjoyed working with Roslyn as my editor when I was reviewing for The Age Cheap Eats and The Age Good Food Guides.

Whether you are an aspiring or experienced writer here are some ideas and links to get you started or keep you going:

-For a goldmine of freelance writing tips and inspiration click on Alison Tait's writing page.
-Seek out your local writer's centre such as Writers VictoriaThe Sydney Writers Centre or Varuna
- Or this online writer's society Write on Edge
-Take a look at Julia Cameron's book The Right to Write
-If you are thinking about starting a blog or want to improve your existing Problogger is the place
-Read with a pen in your hand. Take note of what really works in other writer's work and use it to sharpen up your own.
- I love Doris Lessing's approach when pulling a story together, Lessing says you have to 'let it cook'. Even with a deadline looming if the words are not flowing going for a short walk and 'letting it cook' really works for me.
- Go with the flow. Get the words out, edit later.
- Whether you are scared to write, bored with what you're writing, uninspired, frustrated, exhilarated, passionate the feelings pass the process is the same - you must start and keep going.

For me the writing life is proving to be a rich life, no it has not been a fast track to financial fortune, instead it challenges and inspires me daily and has enabled me to be at home with my sons in the early years of their life.

Let me know if you have any writing links you love or if you have any questions about the writing life.

That's enough of that for now. Happy weekending to you all! What are you cooking? Home made burgers and chips for dinner here tonight. And I'm yet to decide what baking joy will take place. Perhaps something from Sarah Wilson's new 'I Quit Sugar' e-cookbook. Bye for now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

a linky list

Once you've made a cup of tea and have a moment to actually sit down and drink it, here's a list of links to keep you or get you inspired...

- How good do Jude Blereau's pear anzacs look?
- And this incredible orange blossom sesame cake on My New Roots.
- On my foodie reading wishlist Love & Hunger by Australian novelist and journalist Charlotte Wood.
- My friend Michelle sent me this one -  Child's Own Studio - have you seen it? Your child does a drawing of an animal, fairy, creature, robot, you send it in and from the drawing they create a soft toy.
- On that crafty note, take a look at the latest creations happening at Harvest Workroom
- If you fancy a bit of eco 'window' shopping for housey stuff, jewellery, stationery and more check out my friend Jenny's site State of Green
- An email promoting The Champagne Dame Masterclass at Circa landed in my inbox this week and made me smile because while I still have great appreciation for champagne, The Champagne Dame seems a world away from my Wholefood Mama ways these days.

Have you finished your tea? Do you need to sort out squabbling children? Hang some washing? Go to sleep? Off you go. 'See' you back here again soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

book talk: growing great families

Before getting into the highlights of Ian and Mary Grant's fantastic book 'How to bring out the best in your family - Growing Great Families', I spotted this quote today on a retro postcard:

"My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance". Good huh?

I'm slightly obsessed with wanting to create a family life rich in experiences and opportunities for River and Sol that encourage them to grow with open hearts and minds and that they see themselves as a part of this vast world not the centre of it.

My latest resource on this quest is Growing Great Families. I like the writing style of this New Zealand husband and wife team, it is conversational rather than patronising as some parenting books can be, and their strategies straight forward and achievable. The book covers the years from babies right through to parenting teenagers. There are 13 chapters, beginning with a focus on the importance of community and building foundations, moving through to 'giving your child a moral foundation', 'moving from dependence to interdependence', a chapter about '...different family shapes' such as solo parenting and step-families, and one on parenting 'tricky' kids, who the Grant's describe as "tricky kids are 'more' - more intense, more stubborn, more argumentative"

At the end of each chapter there is a chapter summary in point form. Even if you only read these summary pages you would get a lot out of this book.

One of my favourite messages within these pages was that:

'Children need three R's - Rules, Routines and Ridiculousness'. It is good to be reminded that rules and routines don't have to equal serious all the time.

Others points listed on the summary pages that stood out were:

"Your children will remember the feeling in your home.

Parents, nurture your own resources.

Capitalise on the ages five to 10.

Young children are good observers but poor interpreters of events.

Don't forget to be playful. If you are stuck in power struggles unlatch with a different approach.

Take one-on-one time with each child. Recognise their need for significance."

What are you reading at the moment? What are you loving or loathing about being a parent?

How to bring out the best in your family - Growing Great Families by Ian and Mary Grant, published by Random House Australia, RRP $29.95

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

natural remedies to see you through winter

If I haven't mentioned it before I love flowers. Some women out there I know can take them or leave them but I think they are a divine creation. Hence beginning this post with a shot of a beautiful bloom from the bunch our local vegie grower Georgina gave me on the weekend. If you want more flower power click on over to Cecilia Fox. Now on to some natural remedies.

Despite my best immune boosting efforts, River and Sol both have sniffles and coughs. Last night I cut an  onion in half and placed it near their pillows letting the vapors release and do their work. A homeopath I used to see told me of the onion remedy and I absolutely think it helps relieve congestion.

Unfortunately at 2.5 years of age Sol doesn't really have the hang of gargling salt water which is my first strategy for treating a tickle in the throat. The key with these remedies to get on to symptoms immediately, don't wait for the tickle to develop into a super sore throat.

Liquid echinacea is part of my winter keep well kit. At the very first sign of a cold I dose up on this, or dose the boys up, and I definitely think it helps to reduce the severity and duration of a cold. Some friends are prefer olive leaf extract.

Warm honey, lemon and ginger tea (with a splash of liquid echinacea) is soothing to sore throats and just generally comforting on a rainy, cold day.

Keep the warm liquid nourishment coming in the form of chicken soup. My recipe is here.

My great gran's remedy for moving a cold along was to put garlic cloves in her socks before going to bed.

As always, if you or your child is really unwell go see your doctor or natural health practitioner rather than seeking internet advice! While natural remedies are my preference, if I have the slightest twinge of concern about symptoms in my children I visit the doctor for a diagnosis. Having a solid diagnosis helps me feel more confident about which treatment path I take.

What are your favorite remedies? All tips gratefully appreciated!

*Thanks to a comment below asking for natural alternative to Vick's vapor rub I found this alternative recipe on Whole New Mom. 

ps slight digression here but I thought it may be helpful for parents reading this who live in Victoria, if you are up late at night with a sick child and want to talk through symptoms with a health professional I can recommend the 24 hour telephone service Nurse on Call  1300 60 60 24. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

a date with a pumpkin

If you have a backyard vegie garden, are the pumpkins taking over? Can't face another pot of pumpkin soup? Well as I mentioned in a previous post I do love a sweet recipe that involves vegetables. So today I'm celebrating the fact we have pumpkins piling up that I can turn into at least one pumpkin and honey loaf. My friend Cath who is a keen backyard vegie gardener and wholefood mama introduced me to this dense and not overly sweet 'cake'; a loaf Cath baked made perfect fare for our picnic on a recent warm autumn day. So, thanks Cath for sending the recipe over.

Pumpkin & Honey Loaf recipe


You will need to cook 200g pumpkin
1 C white self-raising flour
1C wholemeal self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
60g butter
1/2C cold mashed pumpkin
1/2C chopped dates
1/3C honey
1/4C milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp oil

To make

Grease 14cm x 21 cm loaf pan, line with greaseproof paper. Sift flours & spices into large bowl. Rub in butter. Stir in pumpkin, dates, honey, milk, egg and oil. Spread mixture into tin.
Bake in moderately slow oven for about 45 minutes or until firm. Stand for 5minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
(Recipe originally from Australian Women's Weekly Vegetarian Cooking)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

happy mother's day

Thanks to my friend Nicky for sending me this gorgeous message. A storm has blown through here on the coast and so have my blues blown away. Phew. Have a love filled day whatever you're up to.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

mother's day blues

One more sleep and it is Mother's Day here in Australia; in the eyes of some it is a day of consumerism and commercialism, others see it as a day of honoring and celebrating mothers and grandmothers.

Today I've been struck down with a case of Mother's Day blues. I've had it before but this year it snuck up on me. It's been sixteen years since my mum Natalie passed away very unexpectedly. It was a saturday, she went to work and then in the evening went out to see her sister and it was while with her sister, mid-conversation that mum had a sudden heart attack. In some ways, all these years later the experience of losing my mum when she was just 44 years young and I 21 years young still seems surreal.

The first Mother's Day without her was undoubtedly the hardest. The intensity of the longing and grief lessens over the years and some years pass by without the slightest trigger of heartache.

This year it is my mother as grandmother to our boys that I am missing. Innocent conversations with other mothers at River's school gate have caused a few twangs, I listen as they candidly share their day with me, such things as 'we called into mum's and had a cup of tea' or 'I dropped my youngest into mum's and had an hour to do some shopping'. The reality is that even if my mum were here today she may not live locally to me or be available to help out in the way these other grandmothers do. But still, I miss at least having the possibility.

For daughters grieving their mothers and also for mother's grieving children the things I've learnt about grief is:

it runs on its own time and there is no way around it only through
the intensity of the sadness and/or anger lessens
walking helps
yoga helps
talking helps
crying helps
laughing helps
sharing stories helps
writing helps
looking at photos helps
expression of your grief is important and necessary, make time for that
grief can be a wonderful source of creative expression
go gently
take care of yourself - move your body, rest, drink water, eat well, surround yourself with beauty, surround yourself with people who 'get it'

today I walked my blues along the beach, cried my blues in my husband's embrace, went back to bed for a while, looked at photos of my mum and then in the afternoon warmed our house and cooked buckwheat pancakes with our boys.

The wonderful mantra of many mothers "this too shall pass" totally applies to the feelings of grief.

And to any of my aunties or friends reading this I am ok but wanted to share this here as it is honest and sharing our stories helps others. So to anyone feeling their grief this Mother's Day, go gently. And to all mothers - passed, present and future - Happy Mother's Day! And bring on Monday!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I spent time yesterday writing in one of the many hard covered journals I collect. The house was blissfully silent with River at school, Sol napping and Pete out working on a shoot. I took a break from the computer screen and opened a journal I use for collecting images and stories, creating collages and writing thoughts. It had been a long time between entries. I only spent about 20 minutes sticking in images and penning some words but it felt as good as meditating. I returned to the computer feeling refreshed.

I've kept a journal, or a diary as I called it back then, just about since I could write. It feels cliche to say but from a young age writing really has been my way of making sense of the world and my place in it. I remember the hard cover notebooks in a rainbow of colours I had in primary school. I also remember a friend at high school telling me she'd never keep a diary because it didn't matter how well she hid it her mum would go through her room to find it. 

In my twenties when I moved house, sorting through a box of my journals I came across one I had written at 11 years of age it was filled with recipes that I had tried out and at the end of each recipe I had written a review. I smiled at the blind prophecy as I was working as a restaurant reviewer when I came across it.

In my thirties again moving house, I read over the journals from my twenties and it was as if I was reading about someone I didn't know. Who were these people?! It was a time of becoming. And during that time I read a pivotal book for me At Home in the World by American author Joyce Maynard. In the front of the book Maynard includes this from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams -

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, the you become Real."
              "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
              "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't       mind being hurt."
               "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
               "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, r have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

I still love that piece of writing. 

Blogs are an online version of keeping a journal. Only major difference is your mum and the whole world can read it! Looking at my collection of notebooks I began to wonder in the technological age who still keeps hand-written journals or diaries? I don't write in mine daily as I once did, but that has more to do with my time being voraciously consumed by my young family than it does with lack of interest. 

Along the lines of keeping a journal, I was once an avid writer of Morning Pages. Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way introduced me to the practice of writing three long hand pages first thing in the morning before doing anything else and preferably before even speaking for the day. To do that now with a two year old, a five year old is but a fantasy. For everything though there is a season and when the season was ripe for me to write Morning Pages it was a very freeing thing to do, it opened me up to possibilities in my life I hadn't considered and in a sense it woke me up.

So, do you keep a diary? Is it outdated?

And just to finish off, journal cafe just happens to be one of my very favorite places in Melbourne for great coffee, simple delicious eats and watching the passing parade of city folk.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Having a pot of soup simmering on the stove is a good feeling. The gentle aroma fills the house, I enjoy the anticipation of eating a bowl of warming goodness and I also enjoy knowing I have a nourishing meal or snack ready to heat and eat for a quick lunch or for family and friends. Below are recipes for two of my everyday favorite soups and the third one comes from my friend Bronwyn who each winter since I met her three years ago has told me about a traditional Tibetan yoghurt soup she makes when she or her daughter have a fever or a cold. I finally have the recipe and have included it here for you. Thanks Bron!

Soup is a meal I never tire of so expect to see more soup recipes soon. And if you have any to share let me know and I'd be happy to try them and write a post including the recipe and even better if there is a story that goes with the recipe, perhaps a family or cultural tradition.


1 large onion, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 sticks celery with leaves, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 chicken pieces with bone (drumstick, maryland or thigh)
2 litres chicken stock or water (can use 1 litre stock 1 litre water)
A small handful of brown rice or barley or short noodles
A bunch of parsley chopped

In a large pot heat a splash of olive oil over a low to medium heat and gently fry onion and garlic until onion is transparent.
Add celery and carrot and fry for a few minutes longer putting in a splash of water if pan becomes too dry.
Place in chicken pieces and slightly brown the outside.
Cover with stock and water.
Toss in brown rice or barley. If using noodles add them towards the end of the cooking time.
Bring to boil then lower to simmer and cook for an hour or until meat tender and grain is cooked.
Remove chicken pieces from pot, discard skin and shred meat from bone. Discard bones and return meat to pot.
Add chopped parsley, stir and it is ready to serve.

This is a meal-in-a-bowl kind of soup. My nan filled my freezer with containers of this soup when River was born (he is a July baby) it was perfect post partum fare. And now it is a family favorite.
I  especially like it when I am feeling a bit low on energy.

1 tablespoon olive oil           
2 lamb shanks           
2 onions, chopped           
2 cloves garlic, crushed           
2 carrots, chopped           
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped           
1 turnip, peeled and chopped           
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped           
1 litre meat or vegetable stock           
1 litre water           
1 (425g) can chopped tomatoes           
1/2 cup pearl barley           
2 bay leaves   

Heat oil in a large stock pot/saucepan.
Brown shanks well all over.
Transfer to a plate.
Add onions and garlic to pan and saute until onions are tender.
Stir in carrots, potatoes, turnip and parsnip.
Cook for 1 minute.
Blend in remaining ingredients.
Return shanks to pot.
Bring to the boil.
Reduce heat.
Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours or until barley is tender and lamb falls off the bone (add more liquid as required).
Transfer shanks to a dish.
Remove meat and chop roughly.
Add meat to soup.
Ready to serve.

TIBETAN CURD SOUPBronwyn writes, "Traditionally this soup is made in the Summer time as a refreshing dinner, cooling and balancing to the body. It is also used to remedy fever and symptoms of flu. This has been successfully tried and tested by myself and friends numerous times! I just love it as an alternative, vegetarian dinner. The measurements are slightly vague, because as it is with traditional cooking, ingredients are seldom measured out but done by feel and visually passed down from cook to cook."

Ghee to cook with
1 bunch spring onion, sliced
Full cream, unsweetened yoghurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Just boiled water
Noodles of your choice

Firstly fry down the spring onion, in ghee, in a saucepan.
Spoon the desired amount of yoghurt (I use about 2-3 tbspn per person) into a bowl and mix till smooth.
This will help the yoghurt to stop separating as it is cooked. I've been told, the more mixing the more delicious the soup will taste!
Add the yoghurt to the spring onion in the saucepan, and fry for a few minutes.
Season as desired.
Add as much boiled water as needed to cook the desired amount of noodles properly, not making it too thin or too sludgy.
Add noodles and serve when ready!
A hearty yet light soup ready to go in no time!

Thanks Bron. I made this soup with butter as I didn't have ghee and it worked out fine. I made enough for two serves and used about 40 grams of gluten free spaghetti as the noodle component, I broke the noodles up and put them in. Don't worry if when you put the water in it seems to thin, it will thicken up again as the noodles cook. 

I did have a photograph to accompany this recipe but my camera or computer is being temperamental and won't send photo across. I like the recipe so much though I couldn't wait! So here it is and perhaps I'll cook it one day with Bronwyn and post step by step photos.

Happy soup cooking. I look forward to hearing your recipes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

boost your immunity today

We in the southern hemisphere are rapidly heading into winter and combined with River starting school this year I have one thing on my mind and that is boosting our immune systems! A house full of sick males is something I definitely want to avoid. So, here's a list of things we're doing to hopefully see us through winter feeling strong and healthy or if we do happen to catch a cold hopefully this preparation will see it over as quick as it began. (I feel I need to write some sort of disclaimer here and say I am not a naturopath or doctor, this is what works for me and you may want to do more reading or check with a health practitioner before following my suggestions).

  • This will sound so obvious, but thorough, regular hand washing can't be underestimated for keeping the spreading of germs down to a minimum.
  • The garlic crusher is my new best friend. Clove after clove is crushed and slipped into anything and everything ranging from soups and stews to dips and homemade pizza. Garlic is highly prized for fighting bacteria and infection.
  • Mother Nature is so smart how she times an abundance of vitamin C rich citrus fruits to be in season right about now. Oranges and mandarines are on the table for breakfast in our house. We all also take a daily vitamin C in tablet form - read labels really closely to make sure they are not sweetened with artificial sweeteners no saccharin or aspartame.
  • Good gut health is essential to a strong immune system and the best way to look after the friendly tummy bugs is to take a good probiotic. If you really want to read up on this topic click here.
  • Sleep. Lack of sleep reduces your immune system's ability to fight off infection.
  • Stay well hydrated. Our bodies rely on staying hydrated to function at their optimum. Drinking 8 glasses of water each day is one of the easiest ways to support our immune function. 

What are you doing to boost your immune system? Any tips? I'd love to hear.

Monday, May 07, 2012

soul food

After taking River to school one day last week I was going-through-the-motions of my day with Sol, quite happily but there was something missing. I stopped and thought back to days spent at River's Steiner playgroup and kinder, the gentle tones of the room, the bread making, the songs and stories, connection to the seasons. I realised that's where Sol and I had to go. For our family joining the local Steiner community was more about meeting like-minded folk than it was about a strict belief or adherence to Steiner philosophy.

After I realised this and made the necessary phone calls to make it happen I started thinking about what is nourishing to my soul and that of my children. Is this {insert activity, book, game, relationship } enriching their spirit? I'm finding it helpful at the moment to ask myself this question.

And along those lines, I am loving this book Parenting with Soul by Sally Collings. I'll post a full review when I finish reading it but couldn't wait to share it with you because what I've read so far is excellent and you may want to seek it out now. With chapter titles such as, 'this messy life', 'gold in the laundry basket', 'six soul aches and how to cure them' and 'top ten soul practices' it is turning out to be one of those books I wish I'd written myself!

New-to-me blogs I've been enjoying and the trees, Local is Lovely and Rummeybears.

Friday, May 04, 2012

one for the weekend

Sadly I grew up only ever seeing beetroot come out of a can. Sliced beetroot out of a can was essential to a salad sandwich or hamburger where I grew up, it was also sweeter than a slice of cake. And that's precisely what I plan to do this weekend with those glorious beetroot beauties pictured above - turn them into a cake.

I am a fan of using vegetables in sweet creations - carrot cake, zucchini muffins, pumpkin and date about you?

As regular readers may remember, our family has been reducing sugar in all its forms in our diet since doing a 12 week cold-turkey detox last year. We now look forward to baking once a week usually on the weekend and enjoying a wholesome, lightly sweetened cake or dessert.

This weekend my mother-in-law is coming to stay and now that I think about it, chocolate beetroot cake is probably not her first choice of sweet indulgence her preference would be vanilla custard slice, jelly lamingtons or sponge cake with lashings of strawberry jam and whipped cream. Oh well as long as there is cream on the table and the cake is iced and I don't mention the beetroot or that I reduce the amount of sugar I think she will be happy. I think. And no doubt during her stay we will venture to the main street of Sorrento, our local town, for coffee and there she can delight in something super sweet and take great joy in 'treating' River and Sol to something too. There's a saying along the lines of grandparents do the spoiling, parents do the disciplining.

On to the recipe.

This recipe comes from one of the first cookbooks I received as a gift eighteen short years ago and I still love it as much today as when I first looked upon it in all its newness.

The book is New Food - from the new basics to the new classics by Australian cookbook author and food writer Jill Dupleix. And the recipe is a wonderful earthy, dense and moist chocolate beetroot cake.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake


1/2 cup cocoa
1.5 cups white spelt flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1.5 cups of castor sugar - (I make it with 1/3 cup rapadura sugar. Or use a sweetener of your choice)
1 cup corn oil (I use sweet almond oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 good eggs laid by happy healthy chickens. Lightly whisk the eggs.
1 cup cooked beetroot pureed
2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped (optional)

To make:

Preheat oven to 180C
Grease and flour 18cm round cake tin, or muffin tray
In a large mixing bowl sift cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix in sugar (if you are using a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup add it in the next step)
Pour in oil, vanilla, eggs, (liquid sweetener if using), beetroot and walnuts. Mix  well until all ingredients combined.
Pour batter into tin or spoon into muffin tray and bake 50 minutes for round cake, 25 minutes for muffin tray
Allow to cool in tin, remove and dust with icing sugar or icing of your choice.

We are also visiting Red Hill market this weekend. And then hopefully relaxing at home on Sunday. River starting school this year and our family becoming part of a school community is wearing me out! Bring on Sunday. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

brother eagle, sister sky

Sol and I wandered into Antipodes our local bookshop for a quick browse that resulted in an impulse purchase of American author and illustrator Susan Jeffers' book Brother Eagle, Sister Sky. I was captivated by Jeffers paintings and the 'story' that accompanied them. The words in the book are based on the message of Native American Chief Seattle (Seathl).
this image via Jeffers' website

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky has been met with both praise and criticism and I was in two minds whether to write about it here at all out of respect for those who are offended by the book. The main and very important criticisms are that Jeffers has adapted Chief Seattle's words to suit her creation of the book and that her paintings depict Native American people in a stereotypical way.

I decided to write about Brother Eagle, Sister Sky here initially because in our family Jeffers book opened up further talking about Indigenous people as traditional caretakers of the land and about the precious nature of the environment. And that's a positive thing in my view. And then as I read further into the controversial nature of the book that became a reason to write about it too. To start a conversation about culture and accuracy in children's literature.

These words are from the book:

"This we know: All things are connected like the blood that unites us.
We did not weave the web of life,
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves"

What are you teaching your children about Indigenous culture? Are you reading any great children's books about culture?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

snack on this

For many people making the switch to a wholefoods way of eating giving up highly processed snacks leaves them wondering if not biscuits and chips then what? Or perhaps you are bit further along in your wholefood ways and are tiring of hoummus and carrot sticks so today I thought I'd make it easy for you and give you 20 snack suggestions that will hopefully inspire you to snack well. On that note, 'snacking well' refers to morning and/or afternoon tea taking into account how active you and your family have been and whether you are actually hungry. Endless, mindless snacking means meals are often not eaten with gusto and you are in a constant state of being full rather than being in touch with hunger.

I think one of the first steps in changing the foods you eat is to shift your thinking to 'how is this nourishing me/my family?' compared to just filling tummies. The new aim is for the food you eat to be nutrient dense. And for the eating to be mindful.

Even when choosing a snack, consider the season. Here in Oz we are edging towards winter so fruits and raw foods are not the best choices as they are cooling to the body and require strong digestion. Cooked and warmer foods are better options in the cooler months. Todays list is a mix to give you ideas, take into account the season you are in and go from there.

And for any readers thinking my children will never eat that! Involve your children in the preparation and remember to be patient. Change takes time, you may have to present and re-present the same food and then one day your child will surprise you and enjoy eating it.

1. a bowl of homemade soup or miso
2. almond spread on corn thins, rice cakes or a slice of good bread toasted
3. mashed avocado on corn thins, rice cakes or a slice of good bread toasted with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of grated carrot or alfalfa sprout.
4. buckwheat pancakes or pikelets with cinnamon and natural yoghurt
5. a small handful of trail mix - nuts, seeds, dried fruits
6. a hard boiled egg
7. seaweed sheets cut into strips (best for children 5 and over as they are a choking hazard if not chewed well)
8. homemade sushi
9. homemade rice paper rolls
10. air popped popcorn
11. homemade dips and a colourful array of veggie sticks
12. fruit smoothie
13. fruit lassi
14. seasonal fruit stewed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and or cloves served warm with a dollop of natural yoghurt
15. natural yoghurt with a tablespoon of flaxseed oil and a sprinkling of seeds
16. caffeine free chai
17. fresh fruit (the laws of food combining recommend it is best to eat fruit on its own. so if you choose fruit as your snack don't then eat a slice of toast after it)
18. fresh dates
19. homemade cake, biscuit, rice pudding - if it is homemade you can control the sugar content and the quality of ingredients
20. antipasto - cheese, olives, roasted vegetables, good bread - (skip the traditional processed meats)

I'd love to hear your snack suggestions - so would my family!

While I'm here, I'd also like to share that the very lovely Zoe Saint-Paul who writes the Slow Mama blog interviewed me for her Living Slow series you can read it here.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


When I was pregnant with River I was chatting with my chiropractor/homeopath who I have great respect for and who is a father of six, we were chatting about birth and babies and what to expect in parenthood and he uttered the words, "Ah sleep. It will never be the same again". It were as if he were half saying it to me and half saying it to himself like sleep was a distant memory or a place he'd once been to and may never return to again. That is very much how I feel when it comes to sleep, or should I say lack of it.

Our darling second boy Sol, on the third night of his life he slept from 10pm to 5.30am. I was quietly rejoicing thinking "I've got one of those babies, one that sleeps for more than two hours in a row!" I hear about those babies but didn't really believe it. That third night was just a tease. I haven't had an unbroken nights sleep for two and a half years. And by unbroken I mean waking 3-5 times a night. I'm not looking for sympathy, really I'm not, some say I only have myself to blame because I co-sleep with my children and am still breastfeeding Sol (though practically counting the days til he weans!) I am ridiculously thankful that River is such a solid sleeper 7.30pm-7.30am he is that kind of a guy. If they were both waking I don't know how I would cope.

Despite knowing a good nights sleep is invaluable for well-being I still choose to go to bed late most nights, like around 11pm-12am. I relish the quiet time as my family sleeps. Even waking up tired the next morning at around 6am is so worth having that time to myself. Of course all the research tells me its not worth sacrificing sleep and that lack of sleep is linked to all manner of illnesses ranging from heart disease to diabetes and obesity. For now I miss unbroken sleep I remember it as a rejuvenating place and look forward to going there again one day.

I like these fourteen tips for getting more sleep . I'm making an effort to have at least 2-3 early nights per week. 

If you're really interested in sleep or have way too much time to fill in you can read The National Sleep Research Project 40 amazing facts about sleep . These stood out to me:
"A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year"
"In insomnia in bereavement taking sleeping pills can disrupt grieving"
"Experts say one of the most alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet"

Oh and if you're wondering what the photo above has to do with sleep, in a way nothing and in a way everything. The photo captures a collection of things that bring me joy daily and when you are living in a state of constant sleep deprivation the small things really count, like the tea cup from a favorite mama friend, the miniature vase a gift from a friend who bought it back to Australia from her time overseas working in refugee camps, the divine sculpture created by a talented mama friend when I was pregnant with Sol, and the ceramic heart found in a share house I once lived in reminds me of the great women I shared the house with before we all became mamas. 

To all the new mamas especially, may good sleep be yours.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...