Friday, April 30, 2010

building

This week we've been busy building. It's amazing how many different kinds of materials are all around you!

Have a happy and restful weekend with those you love.

xo

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

a day in the kitchen

It was a blustery blustery day and I felt the desperate need for some comfort food. I started off by making a nice big batch of homemade applesauce. Peel the apples and stick some cloves in them while they boil for a little extra pow. Delicious topping on yoghurt, pancakes and porridge.

Then, since I had pancakes on my mind, I indulged in some buckwheat pancakes for lunch! How very Canadian of me, I know. We've run out of maple syrup, so I drizzled lemon juice and a sprinkle of cane sugar on top of them. Sorry, I was stuffing my face before I thought to take a photo.

For dinner I concocted a plan- cream of potato and broccoli soup, marinated tofu and a green salad.

To finish up- freshly baked almond crescents (stay tuned for recipe), a cup of hot tea and my feet up with a good book.

xo

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

puzzling...


North has really started to get involved with his wooden puzzle sets. It's definitely a guided activity- not so much because he needs help placing the pieces into their correct spaces, but because he needs help setting everything up, laying the pieces out and he enjoys a little bit of vocal encouragement ("good job!"/ "turn it around a bit").

The Benefits of Puzzles
Cognitive Ability
Puzzles help to exercise a child's problem solving skills. They begin to see the relationship between a whole (the puzzle) and it's parts (the pieces). Puzzles also teach children to a range of new vocabulary that are connected in some way (it/ an farm animal themed puzzle, a clock with numbers or the alphabet).

Hand Eye Coordination
Placing the pieces in the correct spot takes a great deal of concentration and effort. At first your toddler may struggles- trying to forces pieces in the wrong spot or at the wrong angle. Over time, their hand eye coordination will develop and they will place the pieces in with ease.

Socialization
When a child works on a puzzle with an adult or other children it teaches them cooperation and is a wonderful way to work on their listening skills. Simple commands such as "Turn it upside down", or questions like, "Where does the cow go", teach them how to listen, react and verbally respond. Puzzles are also a great way to introduce 'quiet time' to an active child. it is a quiet activity that involves a great deal of concentration- so your child is still expending energy.

Fine Motor Skills
Puzzles also help to develop their pincer grip (the grip between the pointing finger and thumb), which is an essential skill for humans. This is the same grip that will eventually enable them to write with a pencil.

Some things to Remember
It is important to use age appropriate puzzles in order to keep your child happy and frustration-free. Wooden puzzles are best for toddlers through to pre-school as they are sturdy and can endure being slammed against the table, stomped on or being thrown on the floor. Cardboard puzzles with a number of small pieces can be used once a child is old enough to calmly lay the pieces out over a large flat surface and is patient enough to complete such a lengthy task.

Keep your eye out for a
variety of puzzles at your local Op shop- almost all of our puzzles are thrifted treasures.

Simple is best. Keep the puzzles as simple as is age appropriate for your child. They don't need to have glitter on them, sing songs or have their favourite characters on them to be effective! Children do not tire of things at the same impatient rate that adults do. A plain and simple puzzle should last a long time and is less distracting than a complicated version.

On our 'wish list' is this shapemaker puzzle. Your child can create any image they want with the eco-friendly rubber wood blocks. I'll have to wait until I'm a little bit older... oops, I mean he's a little bit older.

xo

PS. For more creative ways to play go to Childhood101.com's "We Play".

We Play

Monday, April 26, 2010

our nature table- autumn



The
nature table is an important aspect in the Waldorf classroom. You (well the child(ren) really) can put whatever natural things you choose on the table, which is often seasonally or traditional themed (ie. 'autumn' or 'hanukah' or 'easter').


North and I have been busy collecting leaves, berries, flowers, rocks, gumnuts, pinecones, feathers and other exciting 'outdoor toys'. He places them in his treasure bag and we bring them home and lay them out on the table. Every few days I have to pick dried leaves off of the floor, and I find rocks in every corner of our home, but it's all worth it- he adores the table concept and spends a lot of time places things in and out of the box in a very intentional way (I have no idea what his intentions are, but he gets a very serious look on his face when rearranging things).

I also have a few autumn books on the table. North's absolute favourite is "The Bold Boy" by Malachy Doyle. Feel free to browse through my autumn children's reading list for some inspiration.

What do you and your families do to share the joys of autumn and to mark the change of season? I'd love to hear!

xo

PS. Those adorable little gnomes are from a gorgeous Australian Etsy seller lillipilli if you're interested.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

in the autumn garden...



This season in the
urban garden I have planted-

beetroot
pea- greenshaft
onion
leek
garlic
great lakes lettuce
mustard greens
dandelion greens

herbs and spices- (some from seed and some bought as seedlings)
lemongrass
parsley
oregano
thyme
chives
capsicum salsa
capsicum karneval


All this beautiful sunshine, cool weather and heavy rainfall has really seen my little seedlings flourish. So much so, I planted another round, this time just sprinkling the seeds onto the ground and covering lightly with a fine soil/sand- they opened up in a matter of days- ah the beauty and wonders of nature!

We are already enjoying the sweets and spices from the herb garden- can't wait to harvest some of these autumn/winter vegetables!

xo

Saturday, April 24, 2010

the little prince

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), by Antonine de Saint-Exupery has been translated into more than 180 languages over the past 60 years. Although it's a children’s book it is deeply philosophical in nature and delights even the most serious adult reader.


The narrator, a fallen pilot, finds himself stranded in the Saharan dessert after a serious airplane crash. A little blond Prince approaches him like an enigma and begins to tell the pilot his story. As the pilot attempts to repair his plane the little boy explains he is from another small planet, far from the earth, where he has left his beloved rose in order to explore other parts of the universe. He recounts his journey and the characters he has come across- a king, a conceited man, a drunkard, a lamplighter, and a geographer- all adults who are unable to teach him much more than he already knows. During his visit to Earth he comes across a fox who has a some more valuable lessons. He is then overcome by a desire to return to his little planet and to his rose, willing to sacrifice anything to get back to her.


Here are a few beautiful quotes from the book:


"Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."


"Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essentail matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

But the conceited man did not hear him. Conceited people never hear anything but praise."


“Why are you drinking?” demanded the little prince.

“So that I may forget,” replied the tippler.

“Forget what?” inquired the little prince, who already felt sorry for him.

“Forget that I am ashamed,” the tippler confessed, hanging his head.

“Ashamed of what?” insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.

“Ashamed of drinking!”


“When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful.”


“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”


“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”


I highly recommend this book to children of all ages- including the child in every Mother and Father. Request it at your local library, keep an eye out for it at the Op shop or buy it as a special treat for someone you love from your local bookstore.


xo

Friday, April 23, 2010

early winter masala


A Masala is a combination of (often dry-roasted) spices and herbs that have been ground and mixed together. For masalas to be most effective they should be made fresh at least twice a month. Certain herbs are better for you in certain seasons, and as the weather changes and chills our environment, it is best to flavour meals with warming, soothing and potent herbs and spices that fight off the colds and flus associated with the cool temperature. When roasting and grinding herbs and spices try to be in a peaceful and calming environment so you are able to enjoy the experience (this may mean having your little one help you or maybe this is an activity reserved for when they’re safely tucked in at night). If you take the time to breathe in the smells and enjoy the colours and textures in front of you, your brain will begin to send signals to your stomach- curbing cravings and aiding digestion. Perhaps preparing, roasting and grinding spices will start to become a meaningful and enjoyable weekly ritual for you.


This ‘early winter masala’ recipe is from the book ‘The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Aurvedic Healing’ by Bri Maya Tiwari.


It is delicious added to rice bowls, for marinating tofu or to spice up a steamed vegetable dish.


Ingredients

2 tbs caraway seeds

2 tbs cumin seeds

1 tsp black/brown mustard seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder


Directions

Roast and grind the seeds before adding the powders


Benefits

Caraway Seeds- are especially beneficial for the gastrointestinal system, soothes sore throats and aids in fighting coughs and colds.

Cumin Seeds- are naturally antiseptic, high in iron and have been used to help with flatulence, indigestion, morning sickness and diarrhea. They increase heat in the body creating more energy and increasing the metabolism.

Black Mustard Seeds- are known to be naturally laxative (mildly for the amount added to your masala) and have also been used to treat minor respiratory problems.

Turmeric- is known as one of natures most powerful healers- used as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent for centuries. It is also thought to be a major anti-carcinogenic.

Garlic- is another natural anti-biotic that has been throughout history to treat coughs, colds and even ear infections. Garlic is also a naturally warming herb.


As with anything, the more pure your herbs are, the more confident you can be that they are going to do their job well without polluting your body in any way. I think it is especially important to examine your spices and read the information labels looking for harmful preservatives. Also make sure none of your herbs are past their used by date or you could be doing more harm than good. A trustworthy Australian Organic herb provider is gourmet-organics. They have an online shop if you can’t find their brand at your local health food or organic shop.


I encourage you to research spice and herbs that have been frequently and historically used in your family and country and by your ancestors. Experiment and create your own masalas. They do not have to use only dried herbs and spices, but fresh ones as well.

xo

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

earth day 2010


image from weheartit.com

Tomorrow (April 22nd) is Earth Day- yet another day we've set aside to remind ourselves to take care of our Mother, as she does us each and every day. Earth Day for me symbolizes a time to step back from your everyday existence and to see the bigger picture. It's a time to ask, "what kind of
reactions are my actions causing?". Just as many people reflect and write resolutions for themselves on New Years Day, this is an opportunity to choose just ONE change you can make for the betterment of yourself, the planet, the animals, the plants, your children and children's children.

On Earth Day 2010, stand up and remember that what you do does make a difference. We are one and we are many.

Here are some ideas for resolutions. Please leave any other suggestions below in the comment section to get people inspired.
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I will bring my green bags with me to the grocery store every time I shop for food, clothes or anything else.

I will browse my local Op Shop/second-hand store first before buying something new.

I will cook and eat a vegetarian/vegan meal X number of times per week.

I will walk/ride/take public transport to work X number of times per week instead of driving.

I will not throw recyclables away- even if I am out and about on the street and there is no recycling bin to be found.

I will hang my clothes to dry whenever possible instead of throwing them in the dryer.

I will buy fairtrade chocolate and coffee.

I will buy organic food whenever possible.

I will buy handmade products from my local community as often as possible.

I will think about the possibility of re-purposing, upcycling or re-using an item before I throw it out.

I will stop using pesticides on my lawn or in my garden.

I will set up a worm farm or compost heap to compost our food.

I will think, question and come up with alternatives before I buy cheap plastic toys, plastic cutlery, gadgets, gizmos, jewelry or any other fleeting objects that will most likely be thrown out within a year.

I will switch to using cloth nappies (diapers).

I will decrease the amount of pre-packaged products I buy at the grocery store.
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I suggest choosing just one goal for yourself or your family and committing to it whole-heartedly for as long as you think you realistically can- a week, a month or maybe even a year. It may be such a simple change that it organically becomes part of your everyday lifestyle as opposed to remaining to be a constant and conscious effort. Write your resolution down and stick it somewhere where you'll be confronted with it everyday- the bathroom mirror, the back of the bathroom door, the refridgerator or above your desk.

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"- Voltaire

xo

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the neti pot

Let me introduce you to the neti pot. Neti pots flush out your nasal cavities with the help of a warm saline/bi-carb tonic, relieving hayfever, sinusitis, pregnancy rhinitis and other nasal problems. With your head over a sink or bowl you gently insert the spout of the pot into one nostril, tilt your head to the side and let the tonic run down and through the other nostril into the bowl. I know, not the most appealing home remedy, but if you're still with me...

In the past, neti pots were used in yoga to assist in clearing the nasal passages in preparation for pranayama (breathing exercises). For the past year I have been plagued with sinusitis attacks (I haven't quite figured out which Australian flora I am allergic to), and because I really dislike taking any kind of allergy medication, the neti pot has been a real saviour to me.

If you experience a lot of allergies through the seasons, I highly recommend giving one a go. There are a variety you can buy, I got my white ceramic one at the local health food store. You can also find them online. Like anything, use it in moderation. I use my neti pot when I am feeling blocked on one side- once in the evening and once when I wake up. It also keeps my nasal passages moist and clean, which can be a challenge when your frolicking in sandpits all day.


xo

Monday, April 19, 2010

international 'tv turn-off week'



The children's park. A timeless blessing too often overlooked.

Today marks the start of 'TV Turn-off Week" (April 19th-25th).
After having read a lot of Waldorf/Steiner inspired literature, and mainly just following my gut instincts, TV has become a thing of the past in our home. North rarely ever watches television programs (I'd say maximum 30 minutes a fortnight). However, my husband and I have not curbed the habit at all- something I look forward to doing this week. I realize the television can often seem like a harmless help when you are frantically fixing dinner, cleaning up around the house or simply want to take a shower, whilst a needy toddler lingers at your feet, but I promise you, after only a few days tv-free you will see such a difference in your child's nature, their ability to play creatively and to entertain themselves for longer periods of time. What you should prepare for is being more creative yourself- what fun activities can you suggest to your children as an alternative to TV?


'Billy' provides hours of entertainment- North feeds him, puts him to bed, takes him on walks in a little pram and reads books to him.

Wooden trainsets are magical and grow with your child.

North happily helps me around the kitchen a couple times a day. By noon today, he had already "helped" whip up a batch of pumpkin oatmeal muffins and had decorated his own mini pizza for lunch. He also has his own broom to help me sweep up the floors. Yes, it does take longer to get things done and cleaned when he's helping, but it gives him a sense of control, independence and purpose, and how else will he learn to be careful pouring the flour or how to sweep up after himself? We also do a lot of drawing with crayons; make our own playdough; paint if the weather's nice outside; go for walks, collect sticks, rocks and nuts; garden together; play catch; have dance parties; read books and many other things. He is only 19-months old and has just begun to use imaginary play (he'll pour pretend tea into teacups and stir pots of rock soup for mama to taste). Encourage older children to get outdoors and explore- climb trees, make tipis and forts. Sit down as a family and write a list of all the fun activities you can do together (and independently) that don't involve watching television or playing computer/video games.

Homemade playdough.

For some more inspiration see the following websites for ideas.


Give it a go this week and see if you notice a difference in your child(ren). What have you got to lose? If you don't think you can last that long, it may be a red flag warning: why might your family be so dependent, dare I say, addicted to television and how might it be affecting you and your children?

xo

Sunday, April 18, 2010

it's the simple things...

A dearly cherished rock collection, one small pinecone, some leaves, a dash of water and a big wooden bowl- what more could a 19-month-old dream of?


Endless entertainment and happiness for him... and one very happy mama.

xo

Saturday, April 17, 2010

digestive lassi for pregnancy

Ever since writing 'mindful eating for the mindful soul', I may have become a little obsessed with ayurvedic cooking. As a vegetarian family, we already eat predominantly Indian inspired foods (nothing like you'd get at an Indian restaurant, I assure you), but I wanted to get back to the basics- using less ingredients, making my own homemade masala with a mortar and pestle, and drinking homemade teas and lassis. Although we eat mindfully on a regular basis, I have been feeling a little drained and run down as of late- in part because of the seasonal changes in the air and also simply because I am pregnant with a young toddler on my hands (oh, how so many of you can sympathize!). When I get run down, I tend to get very hungry (I know many people are the opposite) and if I don't have a plan established to satisfy my hunger, all sorts of yucky decisions are be made (chocolate has been particularly poisoning afternoon pick-me-up- never a good food for pregnancy).

According to ayurvedic belief, roasting seeds and spices, grinding them by hand and cooking with them mindfully helps to curb unwanted and unhealthy food cravings. I am going to write a series of ayurvedic inspired posts, but in the meantime, I highly suggest this simple and soothing lassi.

Lassis have been used for centuries as a digestive aid. Although in ayurvedic tradition yoghurt eaten by itself is thought to be horrible for digestion, lassis- with added water, herbs and spices that are mixed together are thought to be a powerfully healing food. As my baby grows I am only able to eat smaller amounts more frequently, or the heartburn sets in. I have found this concoction especially soothing as of late. Don't add acidic fruit to your lassis if you're looking to relieve heartburn, and make sure to add some warm water- this changes the acidic properties of the dairy. Lassis should be consumed after meals and you should leave an hour before and after you drink one before consuming anything acidic (fruit, raw veggies, vinegars, pickled things etc).
lassi for heartburn in pregnancy
(or as a digestive tonic)


Ingredients
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup organic whole yoghurt
1/2 cup warm water
dash each of- cinnamon, cardamom powder, ground cloves and ground nutmeg
1 tsp raw honey

Directions
Put all ingredients together into a small bowl and using a hand whisk, mix until smooth and bubbles begin to form. Try to avoid using an electric blender as it takes away from the whole sensory and organic experience, (and is also much more of a pain to clean up)!

If you're interested in finding out more about ayurveda I highly suggest all of Bri Maya Tiwari's books. Her story and literature is truly inspirational. Reading her books makes you feel more whole and connected to your true self.

xo

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

mindful eating for the mindful soul




As many of my regular readers know, I am a vegetarian. For a basic explanation of my personal reasons for this, please see my post ‘the vegetarian child: part 1”. But eating mindfully is not just about what you consume, it's also how you prepare your food and how you eat it. Here is a basic guide to our family’s diet philosophy. We do not always adhere to every idea and principal, but we try to keep these in mind as much as we can. Since I started to eat more holistically I have inadvertently lost 5 kilos (about 12 pounds) over the past three years. I have more energy and never binge-eat, overindulge or emotionally eat (something I used to do quite often). Above all else, I am truly a lot happier because I feel that I am living more intune with my ideals and my ethics and that I have grown much closer to my ‘true self’.

Shop Mindfully
*Foods that are in season are evolutionarily designed to best serve our needs at that time of year- eating in season is not only an eco-friendly act, but a way to remember the natural cycle of life and to strengthen your physical body and soul.
*Organic foods are free from chemical residues, are generally grown in season and are not genetically modified. They are much more abundant in nutrients and are of course, better for the environment. If you do not have a local organic produce source you can often find online companies that deliver once a week to your neighbourhood.
*Buy whole ingredients and avoid processed and packaged foods. Replace processed and preservative-laden bread with homemade loaves; replace store bought crackers (dry biscuits) with oven-baked homemade pitas; replace packaged sweets with homemade cakes and cookies sweetened with honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or cane sugar, * Buy naturally processed oils from the health food store (not hydrogenated variations). This way, when you do indulge, you have worked hard for the reward and are likely to consume less often.
*Do not buy or consume foods that have been made in an environment filled with fear, terror, painful death and torture. This is a huge reason why I am vegetarian and I consume fairtrade chocolate and coffee. Food is filled with vital life force that is meant to give us energy. When you eat a steak produced in a factory farm, are you not also consuming the negative energy that went into making that meat? The murderous energy from the slaughterer, the fear of the animal as is watches its sisters being killed, the pain of standing in metal pens and trucks for countless days and the shock and horror or the stungun as it enters the animals head. The same goes for chocolate, eggs, milk or coffee beans produced in similarly oppressive environments- do not underestimate the power of these subtle, but negative energies.


Prepare Mindfully
*Have you ever noticed that weekend meals tend to taste far better than a rush job put together last minute? This may seem obvious, but when we put some tender loving care into preparing our food, that love and positive energy radiates into it and our bodies.
*Be conscious of the energy in your grains, legumes and vegetables. Cut vegetables, fruits and herbs along their life lines (following the shape of seeds, veins and leaves)
*Be aware of and enjoy the smells, the textures, the colours and the sounds of the foods as your prepare them- the smell of freshly squeezed lemons or fresh herbs, the velvety softness of black beans, the vibrant colour of a red capsicum (pepper), the crunch of the silver beet under the knife.
*Try to stay in the moment, don’t rush and enjoy the experience. Don’t think of cooking as a means to an end, but a joyful experience that awakens and enlivens our senses.
*Invite love into the kitchen. Have even the youngest of children help to prepare a meal, listen to inspiring music, share a glass of wine or a cup of tea with a loved one while you prepare.


Eat Mindfully
*Eating in a mindful manner means sitting comfortably, (without a television in front of you), surrounded by loved ones and paying attention to each mouthful you swallow- enjoying taste, texture and sounds.
*When we eat mindfully we begin to listen to our wise bodies and become satiated sooner without overindulging.
*Give thanks. You do not have to be religious to be thankful. A simple acknowledgement of the sacrifices that have been made b you, your community, animals and the environment in order to produce the food you are about to eat is an important way to stay present and conscious of food as a life-giving force.
*Be mindful of conversations during meals- engage in calm, soothing and positive conversation, be aware of any negativity or judgement that comes through at the table.
*Eat with your hands whenever you can. The simple joy of hand to mouth is often intercepted by a sharp or plastic utensil.

Simple Vegetarian Curry

Ayurvedic philosophy says that food is composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. As animals, humans are also composed of these elements. Therefore, when we take time to ‘nurture’ our food, we are also nurturing ourselves.

For more recipes please go to my 'fork-worthy' archives or search in my left sidebar under season.

xo

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

autumnal reading for children


There's nothing like a cozy blanket, a cup of hot tea (or warm milk), and a good book. We frequent our local library once a fortnight, and as North's language comprehension increases, so does his joy for reading. I tried to find a some books that introduce Autumn themes to him, and the following are a few of my favourites.

The Bold Boy- Malachy Doyle
Pumpkin Soup- Helen Cooper

Autumn- Gerda Muller

We Gather Together- Wendy Pfeffer

Read away!

xo