Thursday, December 29, 2011

looking back, looking forward

I always enjoy this time of year, the lull of days between Christmas and New Year. For me it is a time to reflect on the year, to clear out cupboards and drawers, and look ahead to the New Year. I’m not one for making resolutions but I do like to think about what I’d do differently or the same in the New Year, and to write a fresh list of hopes and ambitions.

I spent yesterday editing the family photos I took in 2011. I have a first edit of about 280, there’s more to trim before creating an album. With the switch from film to digital photography I think fewer people print photos and instead opt for sharing them via their phones, email, facebook and online albums. I like the process of creating a hard copy album and then being able to sit and share the memories and stories without looking at a computer screen.

I hope that you have all filled up on precious moments this Christmas and that you are having the chance to get sand between your toes and feel the splash and salt of the ocean, or your version of that wherever in the world you may be.

Friday, December 23, 2011

back to the beach

Finally the weather feels like summer. Soak up the beach via these pics and I'll see you back here next week. Wishing everyone a very joyous Christmas. The beach is calling...

...merry christmas...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

christmas retreat

The week before Christmas is filled with activities preparing for the day to celebrate with family and friends.

So, when I decided to pack up and drive two hours from home to take the boys to my nana’s house in the countryside for a couple of nights this week I felt like there must be at least 10 things I’d forgotten to do and how could I be going away right now.

 The reality was with nana around to entertain the boys I was able to make panforte, finish writing cards and sew pants for River and Sol all with relative ease and minimal interruptions. And between cooking, sewing and writing I took walks with River and Sol in the ‘enchanted forest’ as River calls the gum tree forest on nana’s property. A little piece of bush magic…

When we return home to Peninsula the traffic will have started streaming with holiday makers. I'm so glad to have had time in this peaceful sanctuary and I hope you've enjoyed the 'escape' even just for a moment in pictures.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

strong bread

In Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast it doesn’t need to be Christmas to enjoy the delightful panforte made by talented artisan bakers Faith and Sally. I spend winter in Byron with my family and I always return to Victoria with Faith and Sally’s panforte, that they make year round, for my nan who then slices it wafer thin to make it last to go with as many cups of tea as possible.

Panforte originates in Italy and literally translates to ‘strong bread’, a specialty in the region of Siena it is also known as Siena Cake. It dates back to the thirteenth century and there are a number of stories to be found about the origins of panforte. One being that farmers for the Convent Montecellesci made panforte as a tribute to the nuns.

This Christmas I’ve experimented and made my own as gifts for friends and family. Nan tells me it is as good as Faith and Sally’s. I’m not convinced about that but I am happy with the spicy, nutty, fruity, chocolatey result!

This recipe is gluten free and was inspired by the recipe in ‘More gorgeous gluten free’ by Carole Hofflin. The recipe is very flexible, you can substitute any number of the ingredients. Carole’s recipe calls for 300g of mixed peel, I’m not a fan of mixed peel so I left it out and added dates and cranberries. Switch the walnuts for pecans. And so on.


400g whole almonds, blanched
250g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g raisins
250g currants
250g dried figs, chopped
100g dried cranberries
100g glace ginger, chopped
150g dried dates, chopped
300g dark chocolate, chopped
100g brown rice flour
100g almond meal
3 tspns cocoa powder
2 tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn white pepper
1 tspn ground nutmeg
1 tspn ground coriander seeds
300g honey
100g raw or brown sugar
30ml water

Pre-heat oven to 160C degrees.

Into a large bowl place walnuts, dried fruits, rice flour, almond meal, spices, cocoa and chocolate.

Mix all ingredients well.

Toast the almonds and while still hot add the to the mixture.

Place the water, honey, and sugar into a saucepan and gently bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves and taking care not to burn.

Pour the sugar syrup over the fruit and nut mix and stir quickly and thoroughly.

Tip mixture into a lined (bottom and sides) lamington tray.

Using the back of a wooden spoon press the mix evenly into the tray.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from the tray.

Cut into rectangles or triangles and store in an airtight container. It will keep for several weeks.

Optional: dust with pure icing sugar. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the gift of a day

I gave my friend a gift today. It wasn’t a gift I could wrap and it didn’t cost any money. It was, the gift of a day. A precious gift of time to herself and I felt so joyous to give it.

My friend is a mum raising her four-year-old daughter on her own. To any mother, time to themselves is a rare and fleeting commodity to a mother flying solo with their children it is even more elusive. So, a whole day for my friend to be, think and feel as she wanted. No questions to answer, socks to be found, stories to be told, games to be played. Just her own thoughts to be had. Uninterrupted.

I love giving gifts and I got so much out of this one because I understood how much it meant. Even when during the day the children squabbled and Sol cried and my friend’s daughter asked, ‘Can you do something about the crying?’ I just smiled to myself and thought of my friend and I felt so happy.

My point of sharing this is not to say ‘how good am I?!’ rather to take a moment to shine a light on the incredible work parents do, the energy it takes to parent and to the importance of supporting each other to do it – especially those parents doing it on their own.

Each day really is a gift. Christmas drawing closer, the coming together of family and friends is causing me to feel reflective and immensely grateful for the gift of each day, for the gift of children, my own and other people’s, and for family and friends.

Surprise a friend with a gift of a day or a gift of a meal. Not because they're sick, or they have an appointment, or they're grieving, or just had a baby. Just because.

Happy gift giving.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

break the farce

Finding a breakfast cereal free of sugar of any kind is almost impossible. Today I may have done the impossible. Artisse organic cinnamon spelt flakes do contain barley malt extract, however it is the second last ingredient listed instead of the second as is the case with most cereals containing sugar, and there is less than 1 gram of sugar in the whole 300g box (pictured below). I can live with that. I found this in the health food aisle of Coles supermarket. (Does anyone else find it curious that there is a health food aisle? What does that say about the rest of the food sold in supermarkets?)

There’s a lot riding on a nutritious breakfast, it sets you up – or down – for your day. Who really thinks eating sugar for breakfast is a good idea? I’d say no one but really most people opt for convenience over truth.

Food manufacturers push health claims on the front of the packet, while the truth is in the fine print, the ingredients label.

So, what to do?

Avoid buying packaged breakfast foods that goes for cereal, breakfast bars and breakfast drinks.

Instead, go for the whole grain – oats, quinoa, amaranth, brown rice – and make porridge. A TEASPOON of honey or maple syrup on a wholefood porridge is better than any packaged cereal.

Poached or boiled eggs on good quality bread are a good option.

Avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice on toast.

The weather is warming up here in Oz making fruit salad a good start to the day with some whole grain toast and nut spread.

If you do buy cereal look out for these words: maltodextrin, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, sorbitol, high fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, sucrose, name a few other names for sugar. Not to forget maple syrup and honey.

While we’re at the breakfast table, so to speak, watch out for other high sugar hijackers like yoghurt and fruit juice. Much healthier to eat a piece of fruit than drink a juice. Real yoghurt does not contain sugar. Try natural yoghurt with no sugar and stir in some fresh fruit and if you must so the kids will eat it add a small spoon of honey. Sugar is addictive. If you are making changes remember you are weaning yourself and your family off something you have been consuming for years. It will take time and possibly a few tantrums but they will pass. If the sugar options are not in the house they can’t be eaten and they can’t be the trigger for a fuss.

For readers with new babies – congratulations! – I’d recommend not getting yourself into a situation where your child is demanding sugar by not introducing sugar to their diet right from the start. My two year old loves natural yoghurt because he has never eaten yoghurt with sugar in it – a very strong case of what they don’t know about can’t hurt them! 

I’d love to hear about your favorite real food breakfast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

money for jam

For River’s kinder Christmas fair it was my job to make marmalade to sell. I turned to a trusty Women’s Weekly cookbook for the recipe because the book’s recipes are triple tested so even though I’d never made marmalade I could count on it working it out. I hoped.

I turned a blind eye to the incredible amount of sugar it takes to make jam. There is fantastic profit to be made from jam, hence the adage ‘money for jam’. Oranges and lemons were donated, as were the jars, the only expense was the organic raw sugar.

Wow. Making marmalade is labor intensive! For the uninitiated, there is a lot of rind peeling and fine slicing to be done. It is somehow meditative though, even with River and Sol at my heels asking for snacks and games to be sorted.

After the slicing and chopping came the ‘stewing’ of rind, pulp, sugar and water until boiling and ready to set. I love testing to see if it is ready to set, a spoon of hot marmalade on a saucer out of the freezer. If it sets with a ‘skin’ it’s ready.

While the jam bubbled on the stove-top, the jars and lids were sterilizing in the oven below.

It was time to fill the jars.

The whole process was immensely satisfying. And profitable.

I’d love to hear about homemade creations that have been successful for fundraising for your child’s kinder or school.

A jar of home made jam or chutney makes a wonderful Christmas gift because you made it! If you’re feeling inspired here’s the recipe I used. I varied it though as I didn’t have limes and I used raw sugar and it worked out fine.

Citrus Marmalade

4 large oranges (1.2kg)
3 medium lemons (420g)
4 large limes (400g)
1.25 litres (5 cups) water
1.6kg (7 cups) white sugar approximately

Step 1: Peel all fruit thinly; cut rind into thin strips. Remove pith from all fruit; reserve half, discard remaining pith. Chop flesh coarsely, reserve seeds.
Step 2: Combine flesh and rind in large bowl with the water. Tie reserved pith and seeds in a piece of muslin tied with kitchen string; add to bowl. Stand at room temperature overnight.
Step 3: Place fruit mixture and muslin bag in large saucepan; bring to the boil. Simmer covered, 25 minutes or until rind is soft. Discard bag.
Step 4: Measure fruit mixture; allow 1 cup (220g) sugar for each cup of mixture. Return mixture and sugar to pan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Boil, uncovered, about 40 minutes or until marmalade sets when tested on a cold saucer.
Step 5: Pour into hot sterilised jars; seal immediately.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

cut + paste christmas

We don’t have space for a big fat Christmas tree with all the trimmings so this year while Sol, my two year old had his nap I decided River, my five year old son and I were going to make our tree. 

River looked bewildered when I rolled out a sheet of brown paper and explained, “We’re going to make a collage Christmas tree”. “But where is the tinsel and baubles?” he asked, “Why isn’t the tree on a stick?” “You’ll see,” I smiled encouragingly secretly hoping my idea would work.

Step one: Measure how tall you want your tree to be and roll out brown paper to the length – leave enough room for an angel or star!

Step two: decide on your colour theme and cut or tear images in that colour from magazines. We also used coloured paper squares in two different shades of green.

Step three: draw a pencil outline of your tree and star or angel.

Step four: you can either lay out your images and then start sticking or start sticking and see where it goes.

Step five: fill in any small gaps or curious shaped gaps with pastel colour or paint.

Step six: hang your tree.

Step seven: using sticky tape attach any decorations you wish. We have hearts sewn by our late great friend Sandra, a knitted Christmas tree from our clever crafty friend Rachel in London (picture at top) and yes a few baubles too.

Ta da! 

Simple, fun and if I say so beautiful.  
I breathed a sigh of relief when River announced “Mum you have the best ideas ever.” Success!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

a kitchen garden window

Although I'm 37 years young I feel like I'm getting old because of my newfound interest in creating gardens. This small garden of succulents, herbs and flowers is the view I now have from my kitchen window where I stand about four times a day to wash dishes. It is a simple collection of plants and symbols I've gathered over the past six months since I decided to transform the overgrown patch of dirt and concrete that was there before. I was inspired by my great friend Sally who planted a memorial garden outside her inner city home, a garden about this size, for her friend whose baby died. Sally's plot is always bursting with colours, and when passers by stop to admire the flowers Sally tells them it is in honor of a baby who died. In my own garden the yellow silk heart flag is in memory of my dear friend Luci's baby girl Sunny who was stillborn, sweet beautiful Sunny. The colourful ceramic rooster a wedding present from my long time friend Kylie, I love the colour and character it adds to my patch of dirt. I'm still adding to this garden space, still dreaming of new shapes, colours, symbols...a boat in memory of my late great brother in law Peter Malcolm...a symbol to honor my late brother...and when I see them I plant marigolds for my mum. Mosaic tiles made by my boys and I are on my wishlist too. Pete, my husband, can't understand why I'd plant anything we can't eat. Pete tends the vegie garden in our backyard with great attention to the soil, the planting, the harvest. Lettuce and carrots have their own beauty but for me the colour and beauty of flowers is nourishing too. As my great grandmother Emily Rowe taught all the children in our family "dirt is good for your soul". Happy gardening.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


If you are yet to discover the joys of wholefood chef Jude Blereau’s philosophy and cookbooks it is my pleasure to introduce you. Jude’s cookbooks ‘Coming home to eat – wholefood for the family’ and ‘Wholefood for children – nourishing young children with whole and organic foods’ are on high rotation in my kitchen. Both are perfect for newcomers as well as deft hands at wholefood cooking. Jude’s writing makes every aspect of whole foods cooking seem possible even to readers who consider themselves ‘time poor’. From cooking your own nourishing stock to making natural yoghurt, the best-ever chocolate brownies to fabulous recipes incorporating grains that perhaps you had no idea how to prepare. In ‘Coming home to eat’ Jude writes about making the transition to a real food diet, “Without doubt, the best advice I can give you is this: expect the transition to take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight – I consider one to two years normal…It also takes a while before you fully understand the whole idea of real food, adjust your approach to meal preparation and cooking and work out your own shortcuts.” Before you even get to the recipes in these books, soak up the front and back sections  crammed with useful information about whole food ingredients. Jude's writing is inspiring, her tone is very encouraging and realistic about what people can achieve when making a change to whole foods or learning about new ingredients. If you have no idea what to stock in your whole foods pantry, have no idea what to do with kudzu, agar or arrowroot, or how long to soak dried black turtle beans the answers and many, many more are in these beautifully presented books. Go on over to Jude’s blog and see what I mean for yourself. You’ll read her passion for real food and even score a few free recipes. Do buy the books though, one or the other or both. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

mama's little helper

I’ve cut caffeine, wheat, dairy, alcohol and all forms of sugar including fruit out of my diet for 12 weeks, I have a month to go! Planet Organic herbal teas have been a saviour during this time, particularly the Female Balance blend – certified organic licorice root, sage leaf, nettle leaf, chamomile flowers and lemongrass.
The licorice root gives the sweetness I am searching for and the chamomile and sage takes the edge off my freyed witching hour nerves. Nettle is a natural detoxifier, and lemongrass aids digestion. Giving up sugar is no easy task, goodbye 3pm chai with honey, goodbye date and coconut roll, goodbye chocolate. I had no idea I was addicted to sugar, but that is a whole other post. 
A simple cup of this fragrant, naturally sweet and uplifting herbal tea is my new best friend.

Friday, November 04, 2011

10 tips for making the switch to wholefoods

1. Go through your cupboards and pull out all the processed foods in packets, cans and jars. Read the labels look for numbers, look for how many times the words sugar, sucrose, maltodextrin appear. You have two options: throw them in the bin or if that feels wasteful take them back to your local supermarket that has a collection for foods to donate to charity.

2. For one week keep track of how often you eat out or buy take away and the cost. This is not about deprivation. I’m not saying never eat out I’m saying be conscious of what, where and who you are eating with. Then ask yourself at the end of the week was it worth it? Both financially and for your health and well-being. Part of the problem with eating out is that there is a culture of mediocrity out there in most cafes and restaurants, sub standard meals are tolerated by most consumers. Do not tolerate mediocrity.

3. Find out when your local farmers market is on and buy your fresh food for the week.

4. If you say time is a real issue for you go online and have your fresh food delivered.

5. With the money you save on not buying take away and eating out you can afford to buy organic food and cook at home.

6. When you cook, cook double the amount and then you will either have lunch or dinner for the next day.

7. This is not ideal but it is still better than take away food – stock your freezer with some real food meals that you can pull out before work and leave to defrost in the fridge then reheat on the stove or in the oven and serve with a salad. ‘Microwave’ is a dirty word. If you are going to eat real food, cook it and heat it with fire.

8. Attitude is everything. If you say cooking is a bore and a chore then it will be. If you change your attitude and enjoy the luxury of having fresh food and see preparing your own food as a way of nourishing yourself, your family and friends cooking becomes satisfying.

9. Enrol in a wholefoods cooking class. If you have the know-how, preparing real food can be quick and easy. Skill up.

10. Can’t afford cooking classes? Go to the library and borrow some books on wholefood cooking. Or find recipes online. See there’s nothing stopping you! Not time nor money J

If you have any tips I’d love to hear. Share your experience of switching to real food.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


The fact that food is even referred to as ‘real’ or ‘processed’ says much about where we’re at with food today. Thankfully an increasing number of people are asking questions: where does our food come from? Who grew it? How far has it travelled? And in the case of meat, what sort of life did the animal have?

Real food is good for our body and soul, and good for the planet. It doesn’t contain chemicals, preservatives, artificial colours or flavours. It doesn’t come from a factory and is not sold in packets with numbers on the ingredient list. Real food, fresh fruit and vegies, grains, meat and dairy is grown or produced without chemicals. It is fresh, preferably local and importantly for our planet sustainable. The best places to buy real food are direct from growers at their farm gates, farmers markets and from food co-ops.

For many folk, especially city dwellers, the excuse of having ‘no time’ to purchase or prepare real food is their reasoning for eating ‘convenience’ foods be that take away or heat and eat meals out of packets. The truth is, enjoying real food and their own good health and that of the planet is not a priority. I appreciate that people arriving home late, tired and hungry go for convenience but with the right ingredients on hand a real food meal can be prepared quickly and effortlessly. It is just a matter of changing your habits and your mind about what matters.

It is well documented by leading experts such as American author and journalist Michael Pollan that eating mass-produced and marketed food is unsustainable from a health perspective and planet perspective.

If you’re not already committed to eating well, eating real then make the switch! Silence the sceptics who want to keep you on the same path as them they’ll say ‘I eat food from the supermarket and I’m ok’ or ‘organic food is too expensive’. Until you have a real food diet you don’t know how well you can feel, how much energy and mental clarity you can have. And as for organic food being too expensive ‘what price is good health and well-being?’

Tomorrow – 10 tips for making the switch to eating real food 

Thursday, May 26, 2011



I found my inspiration to cook dinner for my family tonight within the pages of this fabulous new vegetarian cookbook, Veg In. Written by Melbourne dynamo Flip Shelton it is filled with exactly as the sub-title promises 'simple vegetarian dishes from around the world.' I describe Flip as a dynamo because she has a wonderful vibrant energy (proof that eating well and keeping fit is good for you!) and manages to fit a lot into her day. To name a few of the things Flip is a writer, broadcaster, presenter, muesli maker, mum to Harvery and wife to Joffa. The beauty of Veg In is its simplicity. Even if your cupboard and fridge are pretty low on ingredients (as mine are this afternoon) there will be a recipe in there to create easily. For us tonight it is lemony zucchini fritters. I like the book's compact size and clear, easy to follow layout. I'm all for the concept behind the book too, showing people it really is easy to whip up a meal at home instead of regularly resorting to take-away. So, do your wallet and waistline a favour, and our planet too and Veg In! (An added bonus for the planet is reduced packaging in the form of take away containers and plastic bags being used).  For more about Flip click here 

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Potent and beautiful I am, my papery outer skin holding eight months or more of my making, nurtured by the Earth herself. The pharmaceutical factory upon the hill laying out its line of synthetic bulbs trying to imitate the natural wonders from this beautiful Earth. l am only one of many forget me not I'm at your feet and between your fingertips............Garlic.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Welcome to word for word. I am excited to have space to write about all things close to my heart - being a mum, being a writer, cooking, organic food, health and well-being, love, friendship, the beach and more! Today is a start. As the rain falls hard on our tin roof and the winter chill bites, the autumn leaves in this picture I took at a friend's house seem a little dated now. I like the simplicity of the leaves and feather hanging by cotton threads from the stick, a beautiful nature project by my friend and her four year old son while his little sister took a nap. A rare quiet time together.
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