Wednesday, March 31, 2010

baked easter ornaments


Ingredients
2 cups white flour
1 cup salt
2 tbs vegetable oil
3/4 - 1 cup of water

Directions
Mix together flour, salt, and vegetable oil.
gradually add water and stir until you get a playdough like consistency.

Shape into eggs or leaves, or use festive cookie cutters in the the shape of bunnies, chickens, Australian native animals or birds. Poke holes at the top of each ornament with a toothpick to thread string through.

Bake at 12o˚ C oven for 1 hour (if they are thick leave longer).

Let cool, then paint and decorate.

Because I'm not quite prepared for my 19 month old decorating small things with paint, I separated the soft dough and coloured it with food colouring before letting him shape the ornaments.

Place a small branch in a large vase and decorate.
xo

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

homemade cinnamon sugar doughnuts

I hate to use pregnancy as an excuse... but I will. That, and it just seemed like the perfect day for making some homemade cinnamon sugar doughnuts (see here for recipe).


Baked, not fried. These are definitely a decadent treat, but not quite as guilt-laden as the real thing. Of course, all my ingredients were organic except the yeast, but unfortunately I don't think that makes them much healthier for us, just the Earth. They're quite filling, so make sure everyone's eaten all their fruits and vegetables before indulging!


xo

Monday, March 29, 2010

faith, as i know her


A lot of people in my personal life question the initiatives I take and the changes I make to our lifestyle. They don't see why our family eats only vegetarian food, why I insist on buying secondhand and handmade, why we eat organic, why I refuse to buy bottled water or over-packaged products, why my little one is in cloth nappies or why I make my own bread. I hear the chorus ring inside their heads, "Why does she make life so difficult for herself?" No one says much aloud to discourage me, but I can often sense a lack of understanding and alienation when friends and family hear I am taking another conscious stand and replacing "such and such" with a greener version. A slight roll of the eyes or judgemental smirk is all I need to know that they believe many of the changes I make are trivial and make no difference in the grand scheme of life.


Of course, I wouldn’t do any of it if I truly didn’t believe in my heart of hearts that it was making a difference.


So, what difference does it make? In my humble opinion, the over-consumption and abuse of Mother Earth and her precious resources will not end until there is popular demand for it to end. Simple economics- supply equals demand. And Mother Earth, like any infinitely loving mother, will give and give and give until she has absolutely nothing left; while the human race, like any spoilt rotten child who is not taught not to respect his/her Mother, will continue take and take and take until there is absolutely nothing left. I am a child of this planet, just like everyone else, and I want to show my Mother support, love, understanding and respect while she gives me life, and to pass these values on to my own children. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but as cliche as it sounds, the best and first thing one must do to see positive change is to start “with the man in the mirror”. Never be discouraged by the imperfections you see in the reflection but use them as inspiration. No one becomes Mother Teresa in a day. Every action we take to stand for what we know in our hearts is good, is a stepping stone in the right direction. And every step that we take transforms us into a newer, more educated, empowered, loving and respectful child of the Earth.


I am by no means an eco-saint, but I challenge myself everyday to think about the consequences of each and every action I take and then to change what I can, bit by bit, for the betterment of myself, my family, my community, Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. I am a mother, a wife, a vegetarian chef, a writer, a creator and above all else a believer.


Believe with me.


xo

Sunday, March 28, 2010

report on '24 hours of no power'

Yesterday was a wonderful family day which included delicious vegan meals, beach walks, making easter eggs, moulding playdough, collecting rocks and above all else- very little electricity use. We kept the lights off the entire day in honour of Earth Hour, which was a bit of the challenge at 6:30am when L'il B decided to wake up. Throughout the day a few lights were flicked on momentarily out of habit followed by a bit of profanity and an immediate switch off, but other than that it was smooth sailing.



I served up some homemade salsa and guacamole with the scrambled tofu and homemade fattoush, and almost had the bamix going for the guac. when I realized it clearly counted as an electric appliance. I scratched my head for a moment and then decided hands were as great as any other avocado masher. I did use the oven twice, which I originally said I would do- once for making the fattoush and once for cooking our stuffed squash dinner. I also rode in the car briefly as B had to pick something up at a friend's house and L'il B had a visit with a friend as well. Other than those two slip ups it was a positively power-free day and easy as pie.

The best part about this resolution was the calm and quiet time B and I had when L'il B went down in the evening. We had all the candles lit in preparation for nightfall, and say having a candlelit dinner and chatting for hours. We had assumed that we would be in bed early because there wouldn't be much to do once it became dark, but we had such an amazing time talking and stayed up until close to midnight. We made a new resolution to turn all outlets (TV and lights in particular) off at least once a month to have more intimate evenings like last night's.

Of course turning your lights off once a year is much more of a symbolic act than anything else, but I think it is still really valuable to remind ourselves of our utter reliance on electricity and the fact that we don't 'need' to use it as much as we 'want' to use it.

I hope everyone else enjoyed the peace and quiet. Be sure to check out what the lovely family at Sweet Scented Path did to celebrate Earth Hour as well.

xo

Friday, March 26, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. - soulemama


xo

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

earth hour 2010



This year at 8.30pm on Saturday, March 27th nearly 100 iconic landmarks in 1,000 cities and towns around the world will switch off their lights for Earth Hour, joining hundreds of millions of people showing their commitment to the environment.

The ecoMILF family is going to take this challenge a step further by resoluting to use very little electricity for the entire day (24 hours without power!!). We will use our gas stove to make hot meals, keep the heating (or aircon), television, stereos, computer and any other appliances off (minus the fridge). We won't use the dishwasher or the laundry machine and we will avoid use of the car (unless there is an emergency of some sorts). We will also be eating a purely vegan diet the entire day in order to lessen our carbon footprint based on consumption (for more information about this see here). My husband may insist on having a quick hot shower, but the little one and I will bask in our beautiful dirtiness for the day. And of course above all else, we will keep the lights off for 24 hours.

This is a wonderful way to come together as a family to discover what we can do without more often. Our little one is asleep by the time it gets dark, but if you have older children you can play games by candlelight (ecofriendly candles here), or make homemade lanterns during the day in preparation to light the stage for a night of storytelling, dimly lit puppetshows or instrumental jam sessions.

If you would like to join us for '24 hours without using power' please leave your site link below and write a post with your family's earth hour resolutions. Make sure to include an update on Sunday morning about how your electricity-free day went.

For more information on Earth Hour please see the official Australian site which is filled with fabulous ideas that will empower you to make a difference. Even if you can't go the whole day you can certainly go an hour without electricity. What a calming and blissful experience to escape the buzz and to just be with those you love.

xo


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

back to eden



I promise you, I am the last person to believe anything that's reported on 60 Minutes, but their Sunday night story called
"Poisoned" was enough to remind me that when I buy non-organic produce I am undeniably consuming an unknown plethora of chemicals. Whether or not these chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, waxes etc.) are harmful to us is a hot debate and only you can be the judge of what you're comfortable with. I always try to buy organic when I can, Safeway has a mediocre organic range of produce that I buy on a regular basis, and I always insist on buying organic dairy. But, when it comes to basic produce I have recently slipped off the organic bandwagon. Mostly because it just seemed inaccessible. I don't have a car during the week so there is no local organic market available to me. Just last week I was eating a crispy sweet Jonathan apple when I noticed this white waxy residue all over the skin despite the fact that I'd washed it. I hurried over to wash it again but the wax just would not come off. Cringe! I don't care how "harmless" they claim these waxy substances are, they are simply not what I want to be putting into my body. I mean, if I got rid of my microwave because it gave me the creeps, surely organic produce should be on my priority list. So, I did a little research and found a wonderful organic delivery company that delivers throughout Melbourne.

My first weekly "mixed box" arrived today filled with seasonal and organic produce to use for the week. I especially love this concept because I can look online and find out in advance which fruits and vegetables will be delivered to me for the week and plan my seasonal meals around those foods. I am actually pretty sure that this weekly delivery is actually delivering more savings as even though it's organic, it is all seasonal, and relatively cheaper than the unseasonal varieties of fruit and veg I would buy unknowingly at the super market.

So what foods do we consume in our house that aren't organic? I can list them on one hand-

vegemite
baking powders/sodas
herbs, spices, salts, seasonings, oils and vinegars
specialty foods like coconut milk, dessicated coconut
some grains I buy in bulk like rice, couscous and barley

I'll never be able to completely eradicate all of the chemicals from my menu, unless I become a permanent vegan raw foodie, but I feel really good about this little change I've made for our growing family.

Organic delivery is a popular and global phenomena, I used to have boxes delivered to my place in Toronto, Canada and to my place in Sydney. Google it and give it a go for week- you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

xo

Monday, March 22, 2010

buckwheat pancakes with coconut crusted fried banana and lime zest

Ingredients

1 cup organic milk

1 free range egg

3 tbs melted margerine

6 tbs white flour

6 tbs buckwheat flour

2 tsp cane sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp bi-carb soda (no more than that!)

butter or veg. oil for frying


1 banana

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs dessicated coconut

zest from one lime

juice from one lime

maple syrup


Directions

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together and in another the wet ingredients

Add the wet to dry and mix until smooth with no lumps

Let sit while you prepare the bananas


Mix brown sugar and coconut in a bowl and dip sliced banana until coated

Put a little vegetable oil in a pan and fry both sides of banana for 2 minutes, remove and cover to keep warm.


Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and spoon batter on frying man to make 2-3 pancakes at a time

When lots of little bubbles have formed at the top, they are ready to flip and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes until golden.

While the pancakes are cooking remove zest from lime

Mix 1/2 cup maple syrup with the juice from the lime.


xo

Sunday, March 21, 2010

serene sundays...

Sundays are a time for sleeping in, having late, long and wholesome breakfasts, sipping tea, reading the paper, planning the meals for the week, trips to the market, mending, cleaning, reorganizing, recharging, spending time with family and friends, reading books, playing in parks, taking naps in the sun, baking bread or any of the above in combination.

In light of this, I will categorize my Sunday entries as “serene sundays” and put up photos that describe my mood, thoughts, ideas, inspiration or general weekend goings-on, instead of writing an entire entry.


Some weekend highlights-

homemade gnocchi


fresh flowers from the market


cupcakes at a local fine food and wine festival


wild and crazy dancing to live music


Feeling refreshed, filled to the brim with family love and looking forward to the week ahead.

xo

Saturday, March 20, 2010

pants to be proud of



I hate to float my own boat, but I am oh so proud of these little autumn pants I made for L'il B's Easter basket. I am a very very beginner sewer (as in, when I got my machine I had to ask someone how to place the clothes on it to start stitching). It's been a few months of beginner projects and mucking around and today I made my very first pattern from scratch using a pair of his old trackie daks as a basic guide. It helped that I had previous experience sewing toddler pants from old t-shirts- kind of an introductory course to the real deal. They are fleece on the inside and the cuffs and pocket are made from some fabric I picked up at the thrift shop. What was most satisfying is that I expected this would take me a week or so to finish, but I did it all during one naptime! You can't tell by the photos but this is the most clean and sharp sewing project I have done to date- no mistakes, no funny stitching, no uneven lines. Their only little flaw is the pocket it a but too close to the waist. Anyway, I'm sorry this was a very boastful post, but I wanted to share my excitement with all of you.

Hope you're having a lovely weekend with those you love,

xo

Friday, March 19, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember. -Soule Mama

xo

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

mama, what is easter?

image from country living

I’ve been thinking a lot about Easter. Specifically, how to celebrate it authentically in a spiritual but non-Christian home. What traditions to keep, what traditions to scratch, what traditions to create. It’s a funny thing raising your children with no religious affiliation but keeping the Christian-Judeo traditions you grew up with. Lucky for me, a lot of religious traditions were heavily influenced by the Pagans, whose beliefs and traditions I feel more comfortable passing on.


Here are a few of the thoughts I’ve been scribbling down on the subject in the hopes that we can create our own family easter traditions


- No over-commercialization of the holiday- cheap chocolate, excess wrapping paper and plastic toys that are thrown in the trash all too quickly


- Special day for the children on which they can enjoy a few surprises and treats (eg. one chocolate bunny, a couple small wooden toys and an item of handmade clothing to mark the change of season)


- The word Easter comes from the Goddess Ēostre, who loosely symbolized fertility and the coming of Spring. The rabbit is an animal that represents fertility, as does the egg.

*On this note, in Australia, this is the time of year to mark the coming of Autumn, so it’d be nice if this became a seasonal celebration marking the quietening and cooling of Mother Nature.


- Spend some time on the long weekend setting up our seasonal table, putting out fall themed things like fallen gumnuts, gourds, leaves, pinecones, coloured silks etc. The children can become more and more responsible for collecting and creating this as time goes on.


- Keep the bunny and chickens in the picture, but also include some native Australian wildlife- perhaps talk about how they all leave little gifts behind for children to play with and enjoy before the winter comes. But, also make it a reciprocal thing- the animals give gifts in exchange for gifts from the children- perhaps the promise of leaving some food and water out in the cold months (ex/ homemade bird feeders) and the promise to be kind and never hurt them.


- Create a respectful awareness of what others celebrate on Easter- the death and resurrection of Jesus, but I want to make it clear that this is what others believe and that they can believe whatever holds true in their hearts (clearly not a concept I have to worry about just yet as I have a 1 1/2 year old and another in-utero)


- Above all emphasize values such as family connection, honesty, respect and appreciation for Mother Nature, understanding of seasonal changes and respect and love for animals of all kinds


Now I just have to figure out Christmas...


xo

Monday, March 15, 2010

homemade beetroot dip



image courtesy of regionalfood

A little while ago I posted about making some homemade beetroot dip and promised a recipe to come. Well, here it is finally- delicious and nutritious- perfect for an afternoon snack with dry biscuits or sliced veggies. Don't waste anything- save the beet leaves for a nutritious addition to salads. Beetroots are high in fiber and full of carotenoid antioxidants, high in vitamin C and folate and are used in naturopathy to cleanse and strengthen the liver and gallbladder.

Ingredients
1 bunch of medium sized beets (4-5) or 3 lg beets, stems and leaves removed
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 small brown onion
3 tbs horseradish
1 tsp dried cumin
Juice from a lemon (max. 1/2 lemon)
salt to taste

Directions
Roast the beetroots in the oven at 190˚until soft in the middle (anywhere between 25-45 minutes depending on the size of the beets) (hint: slicing them in half will making the roasting process faster)
Remove from oven and let cool until you can peel the skins off without burning yourself
Slice beets into quarters and put in food processor with the rest of the ingredients
Blend until smooth enough to dip but with a little bit of texture
Add lemon juice until you have desired consistency
Ad salt to taste

Buon appet-beet!

xo

Sunday, March 14, 2010

serene sundays...

Sundays are a time for sleeping in, having late, long and wholesome breakfasts, sipping tea, reading the paper, planning the meals for the week, trips to the market, mending, cleaning, reorganizing, recharging, spending time with family and friends, reading books, playing in parks, taking naps in the sun, baking bread or any of the above in combination.
In light of this, I will categorize my Sunday entries as “serene sundays” and put up photos that describe my mood, thoughts, ideas, inspiration or general weekend goings-on, instead of writing an entire entry.



We've had a reasonably quiet weekend- keeping fluids up, getting some extra rest and trying to kick this cold once and for good. My poor little bubba has had a low-grade fever for a couple days now, but he seems to be on the mend and his cough has improved dramatically- must have been my immune boosting soup and homemade cough syrup; ).

We did find a little time for a beach walk before the water gets too cold for our toes.

In other news my seeds have almost all sprouted and I am now trying to figure out when I should put them in the fertilized garden. I know seed planting soil is low in nutrients so I don't want to starve the little guys, but I also don't want to disturb them too much until they're strong enough. Any planting professionals out there with some advice?


Hope you all had a peaceful weekend filled with love and light.

xo

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2 years

from today I made the best promise I'll ever keep. I love you. Happy 2nd anniversary.

xo

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 natural and homemade remedies for coughs and colds - safe for pregnancy and toddlers

L'il B and have had a bad cough for almost 2 weeks now and it has turned into a nasty cold, so I went to the health food shop and fruit market yesterday to collect some supplies. Today has been all about combating the sickness and getting rid of it once and for all. Here are some natural remedies that help us out in times of need.





DIET
1. drink plenty of fluids
We’ve heard it before, but drinking lots is the best way to flush that cold through your system
Some excellent choices include: purified water, vegetable broth (low-sodium) and soup, freshly squeezed juice, herbal tea (thyme, chamomile and ginger with added manuka honey are all excellent choices for coughs and colds), hot water with freshly squeezed lemon juice
2. ecoMILF’s immune boosting soup
Soup has been used throughout history as a healing food. It's easy for the body to digest while supplying us with high amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients and helps to flush out the system. When cooked slowly on a lower heat, the nutrients are retained in a soups broth, which is why broths are so potently beneficial.
Benefit of Each Ingredient

Garlic- high in anti-oxidants and is also highly anti-bacterial
Ginger- is also high in anti-oxidants and helps to soothe achey stomachs, and aids the body with digestion
Carrots- high in beta-carotene and vitamin C, carrots are used in Chinese medicine to improve long-term coughs
Shiitake Mushrooms- also used in Chinese medicine, they contain an active compound called lentinan which boosts the immune system
Swiss Chard- high in vitamin C
Herbs de Provence- (usually a mix of dried thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary (and others)) thyme possesses expectorant and bronchial antispasmodic properties, oregano is high in anti-oxidants and is also found to be antimicrobial
Orange juice and zest- the zest acts as an anti-inflammatory and the juice is high in vitamin C
Tofu- easy-to-digest, fresh protein is essential, as the body needs extra protein to fight an illness, but doesn’t want to work with hard-to-digest proteins like red meat
Borlotti beans- another simple protein source and are high in a number of minerals and vitamins
Cinnamon- has antibacterial and cough relieving properties

Ingredients:
3-4 tbs olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 sm brown onions
1/2 block organic tofu
2 lg carrots, chopped into small pieces
3 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
3-4 shiitake mushrooms (I used dried (soak for 20 minutes in advance until soft), but preferably fresh), stems removed, chopped into small pieces
3-4 leaves swiss chard, stems removed, chopped finely
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 tbs herbs de provence
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 170˚C
Put an oven-friendly pot on the burner at medium heat
Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until soft
Add carrots, celery, mushrooms and swiss chard, stir and leave for 2-3 minutes
Add vegetable stock, water, orange juice and zest, herbs, cinnamon stick and salt and pepper
Bring to a boil
Turn heat off and add barlotti beans, stir
Put pot with lid on in the oven for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are soft

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3. Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon has antibacterial and cough relieving properties
Mix 1 tbs ground cinnamon with 1 tbs cane sugar and sprinkle over buttered toast
4. Fresh Pineapple
Pineapples are high in vitamin C and also contain bromelain which is a natural cough suppressant- and loosens mucous
SALVES, SYRUPS AND ESSENTIAL OILS
5. Homemade Vapour Rub
Pour sweet almond oil into a small vial and add 3 drops eucalyptus or peppermint oil**, rub into chest and back in the morning and before sleep.
As any Australian will tell you, eucalyptus oil vapor is a decongestant

6. Handkerchiefs
Soaked in warm water with 2-3 drops it of lavender oil** in it to wipe sensitive noses
7. Homemade Cough Syrup:
Mix 1 tbs apple cider vinegar and 1 tbs manuka honey*, drink 2-3 times a day
Apple Cider Vinegar- is a natural bacteria-fighting agent that contains many vital minerals and trace elements such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chlorine, sodium, sulfur, copper, iron, silicon and fluorine
Manuka Honey- is a natural antibiotic and soothes a sore throat

8. Homemade Cough Drops (made with honey and thyme tea)

see here for recipe, add sticks for younger children to hold to reduce choking hazard.
COMMONSENSE AND GRANDMA’S WISDOM
9. Slice a large brown onion in half and place it next to the your bed or the little one’s cot. I can’t swear by it myself, but it’s an old wive’s tale that has been tried, tested and proved effective.
10. Get a little bit of fresh air and sunshine. The temptation is to stay inside in your PJs all day, but the vitamin D we get from the sun is an essential immune system regulator, and every Grandma will swear a little fresh air is the best remedy for anything.
Of course you should also get lots of sleep/rest/and cuddles in. Allow the dirty dishes to pile up, enlist help in the form of spouse, grandparents and friends, have a nap instead of mopping the floors.
**Many health professionals advise against the use of essential oils during pregnacy as there has been little research in this regard. Some oils have been found to stimulate mild uterine contractions. Do your own research, talk to your doctor and use your commonsense. Sexual intercourse and physical activity also cause uterine contractions and if you are having a normal pregnancy and have no history of miscarriage all of these things should be fine.
*Honey occasionally contains a spore of the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum which can cause a rare form of food poisoning (botulism) in babies. Although this is very rare, health professionals advise babies under one year of age should not be given honey.
Disclaimer- Please note that I am not, and do not claim to be a health professional. These remedies were concocted based on my own experiences as a mother, and are based on research and consultation with naturopaths and other alternative health professionals. If you or your young one is sick with a high fever or a consistent cough or cold please see you doctor for medical advice and treatment.
xo