Friday, December 21, 2012

merry christmas

Sol and I have enjoyed fresh mango followed by a golden toasted slice of panettone for breakfast over the past few mornings. Panettone is a sweet bread, rich with butter and eggs and studded with sultanas and candied citrus peel. Originating in Milan it is traditionally prepared to celebrate Christmas. My earliest memory of panettone is as a child at my nana's house.

My nan worked as a dressmaker all her life and in the factory where she worked throughout my childhood, many of the women she worked with were Italian or Greek. My brother and I enjoyed going with my nan on some weekends to visit her work friends where we were treated to warm and generous European hospitality (ie. much fussing over because my nan's friends loved children and many treats of home made biscuits and cakes). At Christmas time my nana would bring home gifts from these women of traditional Christmas foods such as panettone.

Having a young family of my own, I am keen to create some of our own Christmas traditions. Our cut + paste tree is shaping up to be one, as is making panforte. What traditions do you enjoy with your family? Or perhaps there are some from other cultures that you admire, I'd love to hear. Creating and honouring tradition makes life richer, brings deeper meaning to our celebrations and acknowledges history and ancestry.

Speaking of my young family, River had his last day of Prep today. I was as emotional as I was on his first day, completely unprepared for the heart swelling farewell to his beautiful teacher and the acknowledgment of all the wonderful ways he has grown this year in mind and heart.

In place of a list today, I have one special link...

My friend and mentor Samantha Gowing, who is a therapeutic chef with a flair for delicious food as medicine, launched her first ebook today. Filled with recipes, remedies and wonderful stories from Sam's life and kitchen, 'The Healing Feeling' represents 12 years of her experience and knowledge. It is a wonderful resource whether you are just starting out making better food choices or whether you are well underway on the real food journey.

The title of Sam's book speaks to me because from where I sit we could all do with some healing in one form or another, and if there's one need that is a growing one for many people it is nutritional healing. So, a big congratulations Sam on putting your heart, soul and wisdom into this beautiful book I know it will be valuable and life changing for many people.

Life is different when we are well nourished. We have more energy, more mental clarity, emotional balance and connection with the earth and the people we love.

On that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you back here in 2013. I've decided to make this my last post for 2012 and savour each moment of the days between now and the New Year giving my full attention to my real life family and friends. Thank you my online friends for reading my blog this year, for your comments and friendship and being part of the wholefood movement. Here's to more people joining us on the wholefood path next year.

Peace and Joy to all.

Nikki xx

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

paper rock sea - an exhibition by Peter McConchie

I can't take the credit for these beautiful images, I will though give myself credit for marrying Peter McConchie my talented, nature loving photographer husband who took these photos.

Long before Pete and I were married, when we had only just been introduced I somewhat nervously asked him if I could work as his photographic assistant. Nervous not because I had my sights set on marrying him, but because I was genuinely in awe of his photographic work and shy about my artistic desires. It's true I promise.

The work as a photographic assistant never eventuated but the day I found myself carrying a tripod up the beach in the heat of summer while Pete ran ahead to catch the glimpses of afternoon light falling across the water I smiled to myself and thought be careful what you wish for. 


A retrospective collection of ocean images taken on the Mornington Peninsula 
by Peter McConchie 
are being exhibited and are for sale at The Flinders Village Cafe in Flinders 
(next to the Flinders Post Office).

The exhibition is on now and will go through Summer or until sold out.

So, if you are in Flinders over summer stop in at the cafe and take a look. The coffee is good too :)

heart and hope

Yesterday I surrendered to the tears I'd been holding for a few days. It was as if by holding the tears I could pretend it wasn't really true, that it hadn't really happened. Yesterday I sat and read the newspaper and let the tears flow, for those beautiful children and teachers and their families, and the whole Connecticut community.

The ensuing discussion about gun law reform in America has taken me back to the brief time I lived in Houston Texas. During the few months there I volunteered at a grief and loss agency set up to specifically support children in times of grief. I had been doing this sort of work in Melbourne before I moved to Texas and felt so grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer at this specialised agency and to learn more about American people and their society. Through this work and in my day to day conversations with people, I quickly learnt about the warmth and generosity of Southern hospitality and the deep religious faith that threaded the community together. I also learnt about the deeply embedded gun culture, particularly through the grief and loss work where gun related causes of death were commonplace rather than a rarity as they had been at the agency I worked with in Melbourne.

I am tremendously grateful gun ownership is not commonplace in Australia and is not part of our social mindset. I am thankful that the Howard government took action with the gun buy back following the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania.

I wish President Obama a clear path to take action on gun law reform and in turn reduce gun related violence and death for American people.

Last night, I searched around other blogs to see what others were expressing at this incomprehensible time and was heartened by Amanda and Jodi's posts.

May peace and gentleness pervail xxx

Monday, December 17, 2012

marinated tofu, spinach and sesame seed salad

As promised, something delicious for you to start your week with. A quick lunch I pulled together using what I had in the garden and in the fridge. I was so happy with the result I thought it worthy of sharing with you :) The key ingredient that, to me makes it extra delicious is toasted sesame seeds.

Marinated tofu, spinach and sesame seed salad

a handful of spinach
a handful of rocket
10 or so fresh basil leaves
a generous handful of sprouts of your choice (mine were alfalfa and fenugreek because that's what we sprout on our benchtop)
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 small beetroot, grated
2 tbsp sesame seeds toasted in a pan
50-100g marinated tofu cooked in a pan with a splash of oil of your choice til golden and cut into small cubes (this cheat's version was made using store bought Japanese marinated tofu, I used the Soyco brand)

To make:

Wash and 'shred' (chop with a sharp knife into 'shreds') spinach, rocket and basil
Place all ingredients into a salad bowl
Dress with a mix of olive oil and apple cider vinegar or if you have it a touch of sesame oil could be nice in place of the olive oil.


Friday, December 14, 2012

friday ho ho ho

(G.Cova Panettone c/o Raw Materials. More about tradition and deliciousness next week...)

This week the crafting continued, partly because I am enjoying it but also because River spent the first few days of the week home with a cold. Catching a cold in summer is no fun but the weather here has been such extremes of hot and cold its not surprising.

Around the web this week:

If you are searching for some meaning in the hurried days before Christmas, slow down with soulemama and read her post 'making merry'. True to form, Amanda's words and photos touched my spirit and her message to honor simplicity rang loud and true.

Christmas is a time of giving, so if you can, here are a few charities to consider on your giving list:
Buy lunch for someone who can't afford it via The Salvation Army Give A Lunch for Christmas
Support Unicef's Enough Stuff appeal
Sponsor a child through World Vision

Now for a list within a list. I am so thrilled to be included in this list of whole food / healthy living blogs over at The Veggie Mama. Check out the list, it is a great resource, and admire Stacey's snazzy new blog design. Thanks Stacey!

Prepare yourself to be delighted by Steph's post at this brown wren, photos and recipes featuring beautiful bounty of the summer season. Nectarines you are my favorite. And clams with angel hair pasta I am happy to sit at any table with you.

2012 and is winding up. If your thoughts are skipping ahead to what shape you would like your life to take in 2013, I suggest buying yourself this Christmas present created by Leonie Dawson. I bought both the life and business books and am excited about working through them and creating some new and powerful work/life habits next year. (I don't know Leonie and am not paid in any way to mention this. In case anyone was wondering).

As much as I would love to sit here all day writing to you lovely readers and drinking coffee at Daisy's in Sorrento where there's WiFi for me and toys for Sol I must venture back out into the rain and face my day. Face my day, gosh that makes it sound like a task which its not but y'know whiling away the hours in a cafe is a sweet luxury.

Happy weekending xx

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

gone fishing

Thirty six degrees here today and as it happened conditions on the bay were good for Pete to take River for his second fishing trip in the boat. Sol talked his way onto the boat for a putt around before the big guys headed out further.

After school Pete, River and Sol did whatever they do to get ready for fishing, sorting rods and reels, threading hooks onto lines, organising bait, Sol tangling ropes and lines believing he is helping, and while this happened I took the opportunity to make phonecalls for work that are best made when children are not about to ask you for a snack or announce they need to do a poo. Tricky to sound professional at those moments. Anyhow, phonecalls made, fishing gear sorted we headed to the beach.

Sol isn't ready to join Pete and River fishing from the boat just yet, a couple more summers and some swimming lessons before that happens, so he and I spent our time beach combing while Pete and River went off on their boating adventure.

We watched pelicans take flight and squished our way through beds of seaweed walking from sandbar to sandbar, stopping to marvel at a starfish Sol announced that the starfish was hungry, "What do you think it eats?" I asked him. After thinking for a moment he told me with great confidence, "Pesto". Of course. Seaweed pesto, he could be on to something.

Pete and River were gone an hour as planned and returned having caught a squid that they decided to release. We've lived on this coastline long enough for Pete to know the fishing tides and grounds well, so it is rare he returns home with less than one meal to add to our wholefood table. These trips that are spent getting River used to being in the boat are about more than catching fish.

I am so grateful for our beach life, for the clean air, the saltwater, the sand between our toes, the opportunity to breathe beautiful natural surrounds in. Every. Single. Day. Oh and the fresh fish x

Monday, December 10, 2012

the art and craft of Christmas

Like most things in life, Christmas is what you make of it. It needn't be about mindless consumption, - be that of food or gifts. Each year the feeling around Christmas is different based on how the year has panned out, the people in your life, or those missing from your life. Christmas for me is a time of reflection, sharing, nurturing, remembering and celebrating being together.

On Sunday, River, Sol and I spent a good part of the day making our Christmas tree. Last year Sol slept while River and I created our cut + paste tree. This year he was old enough and interested enough to do some cutting and pasting of his own. Last year our tree was a collage tree. This year I pondered what we could do differently and I came up with the idea to create a Christmas family tree. So we went through a pile of photos that were already printed and picked out what would become our framed 'ornaments' to stick on the tree. In these times of digital photography, most of us take more photos than we'll ever know what to do with (or how to organise!) so having photos on the tree is a great way to actually enjoy the photos each time I walk past.
For me, crafting with small children is a great meditation on patience, surrender and delight. Ok, there's a pinch or two of frustration or exasperation at times. Patience while small fingers grapple with scissors and glue, surrender to their creative ideas as they burst over my own grand vision, and delight when we all become lost in the making and then stand back to admire the finished piece.

This weekend we also made very simple Christmas cards from white, green and red card cut with a guillotine (which was the exciting part for the boys) and decorated with trees and stars cut from foil. This year River was able to write the messages in the cards. Seeing his almost-in-grade-one handwriting will bring as much joy to the family and friends receiving the cards as it did to me as I watched him carefully form each letter and ask me how to spell certain words along the way.

I know for some craft and baking are not their 'thing'. Creativity though is core to the human spirit. Whatever way you spend creative time with your children, family or friends I hope that you are finding time to do so in these pre Christmas days, for me it feels so nurturing to step away from the daily demands and do a little making.

What are you making? Or not making. Do you love or loathe Christmas? How is it for you this year?

Linking up with Em at The BeetleShack

Friday, December 07, 2012

friday in december

Seventeen days until Christmas Day...I plan to start making and posting cards today. I'm dreaming of spending tomorrow morning out and about by myself to ponder and purchase a few books and clothes for River and Sol. Making panforte is on my looking-forward-to-list next week.

How are your pre-Christmas days looking?

A linky list...

Herbal remedies made simple. The family who run this business look SO healthy. More nettle tea for me. Great information, love the look of the herbal remedy home starter kit. I wonder if there is an Australian equivalent to this site?

Strawberry, coconut and almond smoothie? yes please!

Here's a recipe for sugar free chocolate coconut bars

For traditional Christmas baking recipes visit Local is Lovely 12 Days of Baking series. The second recipe from the series Adelaide's Panpepato caught my eye because it is a variation on panforte which I love. The recipe also caught my eye because almost ten years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Adelaide on a work trip. With a group of other food writers we traveled to Canada to witness a cranberry harvest. Business class travel, super fancy restaurants, boutique hotel, fun memories; very happy though to be a wholefood mama now.

If you want to do some non-traditional Christmas baking, try this superfood chocolate Christmas cake I found it on Natural New Age Mum a blog that is packed with info and recipes that I think will be right along your wholefood path.

Congratulations to Kerry Santillo who won the unexpected guest breakfast giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered.

The highlight of my weekend will be seeing River perform in his first dance concert tonight. I admire how he is so unfazed about being the only boy in his class and how at the dress rehearsal he took to the stage like it was the most natural thing in the world. For his tap dance performance he dances alongside 7 girls in the role of Cupid. The whole thing is totally adorable, especially his red feathered wings. The highlight for River is that he is dancing on the same stage that we saw Justine Clarke perform on a couple of years ago.

Happy weekending xx

Thursday, December 06, 2012

kangaroo and spinach salad

I am back to the stone age way of eating this week. In doing so I've realised even though I love cooking and eat well, I'm often on auto pilot when it comes to day-to-day meal planning and preparation, cooking dishes that are familiar and quick.

Coming up with meals that don't include grains is a creative challenge for my auto pilot. This recipe came together for dinner last night and I was so happy with it I thought you might like it too.

I've written about eating kangaroo meat here before, the subject can surprise or divide people so in advance it is not my intention to offend! 

Kangaroo and spinach salad
Serves 2

150 grams of kangaroo fillet
1 medium onion, chopped into fine wedges
1 handful rocket leaves, chopped
1 handful spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 an avocado chopped
As much fresh coriander and flat leaf parsley chopped as you desire
1 cup of sprouts (ours are a mix of alfalfa and fenugreek that we sprout ourselves)
1 small carrot cut into fine bite size sticks
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a knob of butter
Bragg's all purpose seasoning

1 tbsp your favorite olive oil
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or a bit more to your liking)
1/2-1 tsp grain or dijon mustard

To make:

In a frypan melt the knob of butter and cook the ground spices and onion until the onion is soft. You may need to add a touch more butter or some olive oil, or a splash of water if the pan dries out before the onions are soft.

In a salad bowl place spinach, rocket, fresh herbs, avocado, carrot, sprouts.

Once the onion is cooked and slightly cooled add to salad bowl.

In the same pan that you cooked the onion and spices, add a splash of olive oil and bring to a high heat. Sear each side of the kangaroo fillet (about 45 seconds to 1 minute each side). Remove the fillet from the pan, set the pan aside and going with the grain of the meat thinly slice the fillet. Lower the heat to medium, return the pan to the heat and make sure it is hot before returning the meat to the pan with the garlic and cook quickly until brown, just as it is about done add a squirt of Bragg's all purpose seasoning to the pan toss the meat through it and then remove meat to a plate and cool slightly.

Add meat to the salad bowl and sprinkle with the oregano.

Mix the dressing ingredients together in a cup or jar and pour over salad.

Toss all together and dinner is served.

**Last chance today to enter the unexpected guest delicious breakfast giveaway. Good luck!**

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

cherry ripe

They're here! Those completely delightful plump, crimson stone fruit that herald Christmas here in Australia.

Cherry season is short - November to January - I'm happy to eat them everyday they're available. And so it seems are River and Sol. For the past few mornings we have eaten them for breakfast, the boys have hunted through the bowl looking for cherries joined by the stem to hang over their ears, some childhood pleasures are timeless.

There are over 1000 cherry varieties and while the crimson varieties are the most widely available, there are varieties that merge into deep purply black colours and yellow skinned varieties too. Sweet cherries are the ones we love to eat fresh, the sour varieties are best for cooking.

Cherries are a good source of vitamin C and are rich in health giving antioxidants making them perfect for breakfast, lunchboxes, snacks or dessert. Anytime really!

Living on the Mornington Peninsula I am lucky to live near cherry orchards where visitors can pick their own. This is the first year River and Sol have been old enough to join me on a cherry harvest. If the weather is friendly this weekend we will head to Red Hill Cherry Farm and pick cherries straight from the source.

How about you?  Are cherries a favorite? Do you eat them fresh or cook with them?  

Monday, December 03, 2012

monday musings: birth

After my blog on post last Monday and this Monday being inspired to write about birth, I think Monday could become my non food blogging day.

Pete and I had a rare date afternoon out at party on the weekend. I met a woman there, pregnant with her first child and due to give birth in a few months. She was hungry. Not for party food, for information about how she could birth her babe without ending up having a caesarean. Sigh. What a shame the dominant culture of pregnancy and birth in Australia is so fear based. Right from the confirmation of pregnancy the testing and monitoring begins, the possibility of induction and caesarean looming.

I am not a midwife or doctor or expert in pregnancy and birth. This post is based on my own experience of giving birth to my two sons without drugs or medical intervention of any kind - no epidural, no gas, no episiotomy, no stitching. I count myself as blessed for having two beautiful very straight forward birth experiences. Also, I acknowledge that medical intervention is at times necessary and I do not discount in any way that there are times when delivery by caesarean is a life saving procedure.

What I want to share today is a list of things I did to prepare for birth that I found tremendously helpful and to share some links and references that may be of interest to women preparing for birth.

I believe in preparing for birth - physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

The points below are things that have worked for me. I would love you to add things that have worked for you in the comments section and your thoughts on giving birth, how to handle medicos, birth teams and preparation. Given that we live in times where some women have not even held a baby until they have one of their own, I think sharing stories about birth is vitally important.

Birth can be blissful and exhilarating.

I wrote this list for a friend who I am close to but only see a few times a year and we move in different friendship circles, she explained to me that her friends are 'all for epidurals', and like the woman I met at the party they both said "the main thing I don't want is a caesarean". 

My friend who I sent this list to replied with "thanks for the vote of confidence that I can do it". While I don't think it is the total intention of the medical profession, I do think there is a lot of undermining women's confidence to birth naturally that happens.

Take or leave what resonates or doesn't for you on this list. And if making a comment please remember this is my personal experience.

Face your fears - write down or talk with a trusted friend, relative or midwife. Someone who will really hear you not brush you off. Another friend who had her first baby by emergency caesarean, when she was pregnant with her second baby which was also to be born by caesarean she told her obstetrician she was scared about the caesarean and the doctor's response was a curt "everybody's scared". Not good enough! I really believe it is so important to be heard. If you are really scared about something your body holds the fear. Birth is about letting go. Practice letting go while you are pregnant. Before Sol's birth I had a counseling session with a highly regarded and experienced midwife and counselor, Rhea Dempsey. I found it really helpful talking through with her in a very open way who I wanted to be at the birth. I let go of the fear about who would or wouldn't be there. The more we can let go of fear and move into trust the better.

Affirmations - hold a clear vision in your heart and mind daily that you believe in your body and in your baby to work together and have a beautiful birth. The birth is not all up to you, babies know how to be born trust your baby and talk to him/her.

Get to know your body - my biggest fear when I was pregnant with River was tearing and stitches! I now know a woman's body has an incredible ability to stretch well beyond what the mind can conceive, especially if we are relaxed enough. Perenial massage is recommended by a lot of midwives in the last couple of months of pregnancy to help soften and stretch the area for baby to come out. Some women find this confronting but again it is about facing fears and having the courage to do what needs to be done. Birth calls us to trust and go beyond the limitations of the conscious mind. Yoga and swimming were great for me, walking too all helped with good positioning for baby, with breathing, with relaxation and energy.

I also found chiropractic care during both of my pregnancies was fantastic for helping the baby position well and for taking care of my posture.

Hypnobirthing - mental preparation and relaxation. I listened to a hypnobirthing CD daily for about the last month of both my pregnancy's and I also had a hypnotherapy session during each pregnancy.

Spiritual preparation - this can take the form of meditation or journaling, prayers or letter writing. Taking time to connect with that which is greater than all of us, whatever that means to you.

Be brutally honest with yourself about who you want to support you during labour - this is really important because you have to feel completely safe, confident and inspired by the people with you that they believe in you and know what you want and are prepared to help you achieve it. 

It's so important that you can be uninhibited with whoever you are with, that goes for feeling uninhibited about nudity and noise. Sound is a very important part of giving birth, particularly in the final stage while pushing. After two hours of pushing during River's birth, it wasn't until the midwife directed me to make deep guturral sounds from low down in my body did he begin to emerge.

I was so blessed to have my sister-in-law at River's birth. Davini gave birth to her four children, including twins, at home in water. I was also blessed to have my dear friend Mette, and my friend Renee who I have been friends since we were thirteen. Mette also had three wonderful natural births experiences with her daughters. I felt so inspired by Davini and Mette, between them they had birthed 7 children, if they could do it so could I! And I felt very supported and comforted by Renee's gentle and nurturing presence. 

There is a saying that the baby chooses who will be there. For Sol's birth I was struggling to come up with my birth team, it wasn't as simple as choosing the same team again. The thought even crossed my mind that I would just do it myself! (Which is a typical thought of my independent nature). As it happened, I laboured for an hour on my own at home and then we headed to my friend Luci's to drop off River on the way to the hospital and Sol arrived rapidly in Luci's bathroom with Pete on the phone to 000 and Luci delivering the baby. My aunt was in the house with River, Luci's son Jack and our other dear friend Anthea and her son Tiarnach were there too. In my heart of hearts I wanted Luci and Pete to be at the birth and I wanted my aunt nearby but not actually in with me, so I had the birth team I truly wanted and having Anthea and all the children near was a joyful bonus. Trust and remain open.

Drugs and labour - both my labours were drug free - that is synthetic drug free. I was fascinated to learn when I was pregnant with River, that when you are in labor and you are truly in the zone your body releases its own 'drugs' that support you through the labor and at the other side of it you will be completely naturally high.

Rethinking pain - a friend who has had 3 straight forward natural births told me to think of contractions as 'pressure not pain'. It is the pressure of your baby's head on your cervix that brings on the contractions. I found this helpful.

Overdue? - if you are overdue and your doc is talking induction there are plenty of natural induction methods to try before booking in to be induced. I used acupuncture and with River who was 14 days 'overdue' the old school midwife gave me a dose of caster oil at lunchtime and I was in labour by midnight. With Sol I used acupuncture and homeopathy. Its my understanding that when women are medically induced the contractions come harder and faster than if you go into labor naturally and it makes it harder to handle. 

And you may do all this and have a caesarean for whatever reason, I always remained open to the fact that it was a possibility that may end up out of my hands, all the while focusing strongly on natural birth and believing I could do it.

The natural way to better birth and bonding - by Francesca Naish & Jeanette Roberts (these women are naturopaths and mothers and have written a whole series of excellent books, The Natural way to Better Breastfeeding is the only book you need about breastfeeding in my humble opinion!)

Other Links
Calmbirth workshops - are birth preparation classes that focus on providing skills and knowledge to have an empowering birth. My friend Lael Stone is a calmbirth instructor based in Melbourne. I did not do the calmbirth workshop but I have a number of friends who have and found them to be a very positive experience.

International College of Spiritual Midwifery - my beautiful sister-in-law Davini Malcolm is a Director of this organisation that is dedicated to providing information and programs to empower women in the birth process.

To all the pregnant mamas I wish you many many blessings on birthing your babes. Happy, healthy mamas and babies are the of course the outcome we want for every birth. Each baby and mother unique, as is each birth. X

(the photo is of our sweet baby Sol two hours in the world)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

friday for Sol

Three years ago on the 30th of November our little Sol was born (at great speed in my friend's bathroom. I'll write that story another day). Sol's name means sun in Spanish and he sure lives up to it bringing a whole lot of light and warmth to many people, he is a joy!

Yesterday we celebrated Sol. A breakfast of his favorite berries and mango, a birthday flag and photo album which he loved and wasn't expecting another gift. We then presented him with a beach ball, some clothes and a dvd. He slept with the beach ball last night. After we took River to school, Sol and I headed to Stringer's cafe where he had a cino and I a coffee before going home to bake his spiderman cake.

When I pulled the chocolate cake from the oven he looked disappointed "There's no face on it mummy". This of course made me smile. We iced it red, cut the eyes from paper and spun a licorice web. Cake done we picked River up early from school so we would have time for a celebration before we drove 50 minutes each way to River's dance class dress rehearsal before the big concert next Friday night. (River is cast as cupid, he is the only boy in a class with seven girls. Cupid. Too much! Look out for the photo below, red wings back stage waiting for his call).

Initially when I found out the rehearsal was scheduled on Sol's birthday I quietly clenched my teeth because it felt like a 'disruption' to celebrating Sol but as it happened it was all perfect. Picking River up early from school meant we had time with friends to sing and eat cake. Then Sol slept in the car on the way to the rehearsal. Ahhh. Quiet driving time. The rehearsal was fun and then we decided to do something we rarely do and go out for dinner. Or in Sol's words, "a party dinner".

And the best gift of all? Sol slept through night. Big deal you may be thinking. I'll add this - first time ever in his whole life. After 1095 nights of broken sleep, this is big news. Oh please may this be the new normal.

So. Apologies for disappearing with my list yesterday. I was soaking up all these precious moments.

Here is a Friday list on Saturday...happy weekend. Thanks for reading xx

If you are in Melbourne you can support STREAT a fantastic social justice initiative designed to Stop Homelessness the Delicious Way. The mission is to provide hospitality training and work experience to homeless young people.

Always great to find other bloggers who are sharing their knowledge and ideas for healthy family food, stop by Little People Nutrition for recipes and more.

Thanks to Michelle from Norfolk Exposure for directing me to her grain free brownie recipe - they sound incredible can't wait to make them. Love the header on your blog by the way Michelle.

Catherine's homemade lip balm has me inspired to make some for gifts.

The vanilla banana coconut cake on Catherine's blog is tempting too.

Craft and wholefoods come together with Jay's gorgeous embroideries of vegetables

If you haven't yet entered my delicious muesli giveaway courtesy of the unexpected guest please do it is a scrumptious prize.

And my thoughts are definitely turning to decorations and homemade kitchen gifts...more soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a giveaway: the unexpected guest

Ah breakfast. How I love you so. And today breakfast is sweeter because I get to give away to one of you lovely readers, a totally delicious organic range of muesli, porridge, and maple roasted almonds that is lovingly made in Byron Bay; which happens to be one of my favorite places in Australia and my home away from home.

Before we get into the oaty details I have to declare that I think blog giveaways are a bit like anchovies - people either love them or loathe them - this is the first giveaway to happen here and while  considering whether to go down this path or not I figured one of my main missions is to encourage people to eat well and if I can send some nutritious, wholefoods your way then I am achieving my mission. So on we go with an exciting wholefood breakfast...

Thanks to Raw Materials and the unexpected guest for making this, the very first Wholefood Mama giveaway possible.

Adam Mander and Juniper Wikinson are the creative, breakfast loving duo behind 'the unexpected guest'. Their story of how it all began is a good one involving world travel, a talented ceramicist (Juniper), a mad keen surfer (Adam), falling in love and a darn fine breakfast.

Adam hails from the United Kingdom and Juniper from Canada. Their paths crossed in London and romance was born. Before meeting Juniper, Adam had travel on his mind and was about to pack up his surfboard and head to Australia in search of waves. "In the UK I was tired of traveling 5 hours to go surfing, we decided to travel together," says Adam. First stop was Sydney's famed Bondi where there are waves aplenty and as it happens cafes aplenty, cafes where unbeknownst to Juniper her homemade granuesli would soon be on the menu.

Adam says, "Juniper is a maker and a giver. The granuesli recipe is an age old Canadian one that Juniper tweaked, and when people would come to stay with us in Bondi they would leave with a bag of her granuesli." It didn't take long before Juniper was selling her gutsy toasted organic muesli mix of oats, nuts, seeds, and sultanas to 20 cafes. Adam who was working in advertising, prompted her to pick up the phone and sell some more. Once 50 cafes were on board it became clear they were in business.

"Pardon the pun but everything has happened very organically. In the beginning Juniper was traveling on the bus to hand deliver to the cafes in Bondi and around Sydney. She would step off the bus and walk around the corner to the cafe as if she had just parked her car. It has always been important to Juniper that what she makes is 100% organic, so the next step was certification which also meant a certified organic kitchen," says Adam. That's when the move to Byron happened. A friend in Byron who works in food had a certified organic kitchen that Juniper could work out of. And importantly, there's great surf in Byron too.

And the name? the unexpected guest, where does that come from? "Juniper is a ceramicist and when she was studying her art teacher said that 'one should always do an extra setting for the unexpected guest'. We liked that, for us food is about sharing and bringing people together, the more the merrier especially when you are traveling its all about making room at the table and meeting people," says Adam.

Go here and scroll down to see one of Juniper's hand made ceramic mugs and for her wicked extraordinarily delicious granuesli bar recipe.

(all of the beautiful photos in this post were styled and taken by Kara Rosenlund )

This delicious breakfast giveaway is open to Australian readers (sorry those reading from lands afar!)

The winner will receive the complete range:

1 x 300g certified organic gluten-free style muesli - sunflower kernals, dried cranberries, pepitas, sun dried Australian sultanas, maple roasted almonds, shredded coconut, cashew pieces, quinoa puffs, popped amaranth, brown rice puffs, buckwheat puffs and cinnamon. $14.95

1 x 400g certified organic freestyle granuesli - Premium rolled oats, wild Australian honey, mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts), sun dried sultanas, sunflower oil, seeds (sunflower kernals and pepitas) shredded coconut, oat bran, cinnamon and natural vanilla essence. $14.95

1 x 450g certified organic scrumptious porridge - Australian rolled oats, medjool dates, coconut, currants, slivered almonds, rolled quinoa, millet flakes, vanilla bean, ground ginger, cinnamon and sea salt. $14.95

1 x 75g maple roasted almonds - almonds slow roasted in maple syrup. $7.95

Total value: $52.80

You can enter a maximum of four times:
  • first entry - follow The Wholefood Mama (over there on the right)
  • second entry - like The Wholefood Mama on facebook
  • third entry - like the unexpected guest on facebook
  • fourth entry - share this giveaway on your blog/facebook
Once you have done one or all of those, leave a comment for each entry. The winners will be chosen by the random number generator and will be announced in this post on Thursday 6th of December 2012 at 6pm est.

Good luck!


Thanks everyone for entering.
The winner is #44 Kerry Santillo. Congratulations Kerry I have sent you an email.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

zucchini, chocolate and walnut brownies

The inspiration to create these came from an old cookbook I found at Sol's playgroup. It was a lunchbox and snacks kind of book that dated back to 1992. There was a recipe in there for zucchini chocolate cake that appealed to me except it had 1 cup of white sugar and 1.5 cups of brown sugar so that had to be changed. I scribbled the recipe into my notebook while the other mothers chatted, and the children squished playdough and wandered in and out from the back deck where they ride bikes and play in the sandpit. 

I like the use of vegetables in cakes. I like the moistness they bring to the mix. I won't kid myself or you  though that somehow cakes with vegetables are healthier, but I have managed to create a recipe using wholefoods that is both delicious and has some nutritional goodness in it too. 

Based on the recipe I found, my mind then went forward to brownies which are traditionally so rich and sweet that I don't make them or eat them but then I remembered Jude Blereau's fabulous wholefood brownie recipe in her book Coming Home to Eat. So I consulted Jude's recipe and between Jude's recipe, the playgroup recipe and my own pinch of stevia I think I'm on to something. 
Make a batch and you decide. Let me know!

And if you like a giveaway, do pop back tomorrow as I will be posting the very first Wholefood Mama giveaway. A breakfast delight for one lucky reader to win.

Too hot here today for baking brownies I'm off to the beach. Bye for now x

Zucchini, chocolate and walnut brownies

125g coconut oil
1/2 cup stevia
1/4 cup rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup milk (I used rice milk but you can use cow's, soy, almond...)
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup cocoa powder
60g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped roughly

Preheat oven to 165C. Grease and line a baking tray (mine is 22cm x 16cm but whatever you have is fine it just means depending on the size of the tray you will either have thicker or thinner brownies).
In a mixing bowl combine spelt flour, rice flour, baking powder, cocoa, stevia, cinnamon, walnuts and chocolate.
Then mix in zucchini.
Over a gentle heat melt coconut oil to liquid, add in rice malt syrup and vanilla.
Stir wet ingredients (including the milk) into dry ingredients until well combined.
Pour into lined baking tray and bake for approximately 30 minutes. The key to success with this is not to overcook it or it will be dry and crumbly. The edges will be just cooked and cake like and the centre will still be quite soft.
Remove it from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
Using the edges of the baking paper lift the brownie from the tin and cut into squares.
Can be stored in the fridge but it is best eaten at room temperature. And best in a disguised container from children and husband.
Serve as is or for a dessert serve with tangy natural yoghurt or for traditional decadence, cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

beetroot, rocket, persian fetta and walnut salad

One of the fun challenges that comes with growing your own vegetables is coming up with ideas of what to create with bumper crops. All you veggie gardeners who have rocket and beetroot aplenty, I hope this recipe becomes a favorite to add to your collection. And even if you aren't growing your own veggies, get your hands on some rocket and beetroot and I am sure you will enjoy it too! This simple salad is basically four beautiful ingredients that come together to create a delicious lunch or dinner with a contrast of colours and textures and brimming with seasonal, wholefood goodness.  I love the reference to beetroot in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion, as "the bossy vegetable" in the kitchen due to its striking colour that stains all that come into contact with it. We ate this for dinner tonight with roast chicken, it would work equally well with lentils in it. Enjoy!

Beetroot, rocket, persian fetta and walnut salad

Two medium beetroot
Two handfuls of rocket leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
100g persian fetta

for the dressing

1 medium lemon, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon or grain mustard
1/2 tsp honey

I make this salad on a serving platter rather than in a bowl, the ingredients are layered.

Wrap beetroot in foil and roast in 180C oven til tender (about an hour and a half)
Allow to cool and then peel with your finger tips (just give the skin a little push and it will peel away)
Give the rocket a rinse and drain. Place in a mixing bowl.
Toast the walnuts in a dry hot pan (you don't need to use any oil, the oil from the nuts is enough. Keep tossing them, they burn easily). Remove from pan, allow to cool and then roughly chop.
Slice the beetroot into slices 1/2cm in thickness and place in a separate mixing bowl to the rocket.
Make the dressing by adding the lemon juice of 1 medium size lemon to a jar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp of dijon or grain mustard and half a teaspoon of honey. Shake until mixed, taste and adjust flavours to your liking.
Then, in the separate bowls dress the beetroot and the rocket.
Scatter 5 or 6 beetroot slices across a serving plate, then scatter with rocket, half the walnuts, dot with half the fetta and then repeat the layer.
Splash a touch more dressing over the top and your salad is done.

Monday, November 26, 2012

blog on

Before I started my blog, around a year and a half ago, I was sceptical about blogging and social media fullstop. I wasn't on facebook or twitter (I am yet to tweet! I have stage fright) and couldn't really see what the appeal was. Who wants to spend more hours at the computer than they already do for paid work, especially when working as a freelance writer? hmmm. Turns out I do. I still consider myself a baby blogger with a lot to learn. I love reading how other bloggers go about their blog and being the analytical, reflective gal I am, I like to reflect on the how and why I do things. So I hope today's little break from food gets a conversation started about the art and mystery of making a blog successful - whatever successful means to you.

Why I started my blog...

Having been a writer my whole life, the creative freedom of self-publishing has tremendous appeal. I don't have to fit into publication guidelines or 'sell' my story idea to an editor. That feels as good as a holiday!

When I began, I thought "I'll give it a go for six months to see if I like it" before I get 'serious' about it. By serious I mean posting regularly, spending time (and a bit of money on advertising and design) to grow my audience and in the long term monetizing my blog so I can earn some income. My biggest reason and motivation to blog, beyond creative freedom and business aspirations, is because I want people to eat well. I want everyone to have the high energy and great health that eating a diet with no or minimal processed foods gives you. I especially want that for children. But what I want and what the momentum of big food companies and advertising wants is two different things, so it appears I have my work cut out for me. I am up for the challenge and have decided social media is a fantastic way to reach people and share stories.

How I blog...

I started my blog with the title 'word for word' thinking a broad title would allow me to cover a range of topics. Fairly soon I thought "what am I doing?! food is my 'thing' always has been and looks like it always will be" so The Wholefood Mama was born. Added to this realisation, everything I read about 'problogging' recommended deciding on a niche. Wholefood and family is still a broad niche but it is a good start and I feel like I have found the happy place where I can write about what I love and not get bored. Writing my blog definitely doesn't feel like work which means my motivation to continue is high.

To get some more tips about the 'how' I attended a beginners blogging course at the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne taught by Lady Melbourne , and scoured through Darren Rowse's Problogger site and this year bought a Virtual Pass to his Problogger training day. I would also recommend Darren's 31 days to building a better blog workbook, if like me you have young children to look after, a house to keep organised and a business to run I would re-title it to '3 months to a better blog' because I have not managed to find time to work through a task a day.

The midnight hour...

Finding time to blog means I stay up late. Like midnight late. I fantasise about having my posts planned out, dedicating a day or an afternoon to writing them and then scheduling them to be posted but I think that has only happened once in a year and half of blogging! The flow of family life is unpredictable. The flow of freelance writing work is unpredictable. So, I blog when the house is sleeping. The quiet is bliss and even the tiredness I feel the next day has a certain bliss to it because it is there from doing something I wanted to do.

On design...

Looking at other blogs is a great way to pick up ideas of what you do and don't like about certain designs. It also a great way to feel 'blog awe' which can translate to 'their blog is so beautiful/stylish...insert word of do they do it?!' Well I have learnt some things about this the expensive way. The first thing I would say before you spend any money on blog design is make sure that blogging is something that you really want to do. Once you are dedicated then you can consider if you want to work with a designer and spend some money. I started with having a logo designed by Melbourne based graphic designer Fiona McKerrill. Love my logo thanks Fiona. Then I went a step further and decided to switch from Blogger to a professionally designed Wordpress site because that seemed to be what all the 'probloggers' were saying is the way to go as Wordpress has more flexibility etc; Therein was my first mistake.

I didn't really have a need to switch. The Blogger platform was already capable of all I wanted to do which basically is write and post photos. Bloggers who have inspired me from the beginning such as Allison Tait, Jodi Wilson, Joanna Goddard, are doing very nicely on their blogspot blogs. Why? not because of any fancy design work (they have all paid attention to their visual design but nothing over the top) but because they deliver what their audiences have come to expect from them and they do it consistently. The switch to wordpress for me was short lived. I didn't enjoy the process of working with the 'back end' of wordpress and was inundated with spam in the comments. Not wanting to deter people from wordpress but this was my experience. So, I cut my losses and reverted back to my simple blogspot space that I have put together with my limited design knowledge and for now while I am building my audience (& design budget) I am happy.

That my friends is where I will leave my blogging story thus far, (for fear of boring you!) I hope this post was helpful or interesting and would love to hear where you are at with your blogging ways, whether you just read them, want to start one or are a big time blogger (surprise me if you are reading!) leave a comment or a tip.

If you are still hungry for more read Allison Tait's  top 10 tips for writing your best blog
...update: just found another good link on Fat Mum Slim...Finding readers: how to get the people to your blog

Friday, November 23, 2012

friday fishing

Big day here today for River. After school he is going out in the boat with Pete for the first time, to go fishing. Until now, Pete has taken River fishing off the beach or the pier. Having two sons who are keen to fish and surf with their dad means two things for me...fresh fish and quiet time!

On with the list...

Words to live by. Thanks Mamabake - 16 Ways to Thrive in Motherhood.

Ok. So perhaps this is not one for vegetarians 'The Girls Guide to Guns and Butter', if you can somehow look past the deer hunting there is interesting real food reading to be found on this blog.

To keep things balanced (as I like to do) here's a link to The Messy Vegetarian Cook

Love this - The Leftover Queen

Healthy sweetie

Raw inspiration

This weekend the boys and I will be heading to the Balnarring Community Sustainability Fair where my wholefood mama friend Robin will speak about Community Supported Agriculture.

Looking ahead to next week, I am excited about bringing you the first Wholefood Mama giveaway a delicious little something for your wholefood pantry, a recipe for zucchini and chocolate brownies, plus a super salad. Anything else you'd like? I take requests :)

Happy weekending x

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

wholefood mama:jay black

I am very excited to be bringing you this post for two reasons, one because it is the second post in an on-going series about mamas (& hopefully some papas too) who love wholefoods, be they just beginning their wholefood discovery or deep into the heart of it, but I am most excited because today's wholefood mama is my newest delightful friend who I met through blogging, someone that many of you already know and love, it is the very talented and lovely Jay Black creator of 'and the trees'.

Jay and her musically talented man Scott and their two beautiful children Ilo and Poe moved from Sydney to Bellingen in search of a more simple, creative and family focused life, "Where we can shift the work/life balance and aim for a more sustainable way of living in many different ways," says Jay.  

When Jay is not sewing her fabulous upcycled women's clothing or adding her completely charming photography and words to her blog, Jay's favorite way to relax is by doing weekly yoga for some dedicated down time, reading (in stolen moments), embroidering, it is very meditative, or spending some time with her lovely, listening or chatting.

Now, on to the cooking!

I believe our experiences during childhood of food and cooking lay the foundations for our tastes and attitudes to food, what were you taught about food and cooking as a child and what did you grow up eating? 

My mum is Malay Indian, which meant loads of delicious homemade meals; dahls, curries, rice dishes, etc, we also had the usual fare but we were definitely never a meat and three veg family.  I think that because of the diversity of flavours in our home as well as the utter passion and inclusion that we felt around food as we grew up I am still very passionate about food. I love the communal aspect, the sharing of meals from each others plates, the analysing of flavours, eating with hands, this was the way I was raised, very connected with food, this was the main way in which my mother's culture was expressed, through food.  So many memories of my childhood, involve the smell of curry and the joy of sharing this food with friends, it conjures, warmth, joy and yes, hunger.  

We lived on a couple of acres, we had chickens and we grew a lot of our own food which meant we were aware where food came from, it wasn't a novelty, it was were we got our vegetables and fruit from.

My parents awareness and passion for food has definitely led to my aware, healthy and passionate approach to food, such great and fun foundations. I also love that this passion has continued with them, my dad has recently set up an aquaponics system, growing his own fish and still has a thriving veggie patch, countless fruit trees and oodles of berries and trees with the best oranges I have ever tasted. 

Now that you are all grown up with a family of your own, tell us about your family's food philosophy? (ie. do you eat only organic food/ some organic/ what values are you teaching your children around food? where you shop for your food, who cooks). 

In our home we do only eat organic food/ local, spray free unprocessed food. Previously, when we were in Sydney, we grew a lot of the vegetables and herbs that we would eat and we are in the stages of getting that happening again in our new place. Poe and Ilo know why we eat organic or local; they are aware of why we try not to buy things that have travelled in an airplane to get here and will often ask questions about it or question why other people don't eat like we do. We try to teach them how important it is to have a balance within their body and how sweet things (depending on what kind) are okay sometimes but it has to be balanced with wholesome, strong healthy food. We do our shopping at our local organic food shop, Kombu, at the growers market and via the bello food box. I still do most of the cooking but Scott also does quite a bit as well, always with at least two very special helpers. 

The million dollar question, do your children enjoy eating vegetables and how do you encourage them to do so? Yes they do,  and they see no reason not to. There have always been vegetables on their plates, as part or the whole of their meals so there is no reason not to, or to question it. They particularly love broccoli and peas. I guess the one vegetable they don't like is pumpkin, and that is fine, we include it and sometimes they eat it, sometimes not. 

What are a couple of your favorite wholefood ingredients and what do you love about them? Quinoa - a delicious and versatile complete protein, eggs- again a great protein and such a delicious and quick fix when the little ones are needing a protein snack, sea vegetables - so diverse and amazingly good for you, a sprinkle of dulse, the inclusion of kombu, a snack of wakame, so rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and so much more. Butter, nuts and seeds are also favorites.

Which cookbooks, websites or people do you look to for inspiration with cooking? 
All of Jude Blereau's books 
The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans
World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey


What are your favorite things to cook that your family enjoy? 
Beans and rice, tempeh bolognaise, lentil and potato stew and vege koftas.

What is one of your fondest food memories? 
Having my mother and her mother make rice balls out of rice with some fried fish and a bit of butter for me when I was a child. They would, with one hand, form a perfect ball and using just their thumb pop it into my waiting mouth, so delicious, nutritious and comforting. oh my goodness. 

If you could change one thing about our world in relation to food what would it be? 
Wow, what a question, I guess keeping it real; no gm foods, no numbers in foods, having people understand the importance of 'whole' food and having all foods fall under the heading: 'local, organic, sustainable'.

Can you share a favorite recipe? 
Oh, this was tough. I ended up with an eggplant pickle recipe and my yellow rice recipe, two elements, that once partnered with a curry of sorts would make an amazing meal. Actually I am totally addicted to this pickle and have it on everything. 

Spicy Eggplant Pickle

1 red capsicum
1 large eggplant 
1 large red onion, cut in chunks
1/2 tsp grated garlic
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp dry chilli flakes 
1tsp chopped fresh coriander root
1/2cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
150mL apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp rapadura sugar
sea salt and pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

Either roast eggplant and capsicum in the oven or over a flame until soft (I sometimes cut mine - eggplant lengthways and halved capsicum and roast in oven, as I don't have a gas burner). 
Bake for around 25mins or until soft. When cooled down, scrape the flesh from the eggplant halves. Discard the skin and chop the flesh into very small pieces. Peel the skin off the capsicums and also chop into small pieces (it isn't that big a deal if you still have bits of skin left on capsicum).
In a saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions. Stir around until very very soft, then add the spices, coriander, cumin,cinnamon and chilli flakes. Keep stirring so that they don't stick to the pan. 
Then add the coriander root, ginger and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the eggplant and capsicum. Stir around to coat with the oil and spices. 
Add the vinegar and sugar. Let simmer on low heat for around 30 minutes. 
Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the pan. 
Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper. 
Leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.

You can either leave this to cool or have still a little warm. Just before serving, mix in the rest of the coriander leaves and mint leaves. Any left overs pop in a jar to have on EVERYTHING. 

Yellow Rice
Wash 2 cups of rice and rinse, then to a saucepan (or rice cooker, if you are that way inclined) add two cups of water, then two teaspoons of tumeric (or more if you wish), 6-8 (or more) cardamon pods, stir and bring to boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes or until rice is cooked. Fluff and try to remove pods. 
Enjoy. xx

Thank you so much Jay for sharing your wholefood story and for your as usual fabulous photos. xx

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