Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the waldorf way


A while back I wrote a post about our search for the right educational path for our children. North has been going to a Montessori and a Waldorf playgroup so that I could observe him within the different environments in order to make a more informed choice about the type of preschool (ages 3-5) I was going to enrol him in twice a week. It didn't take long to see that the Waldorf philosophy speaks to our hearts, compliments our family values and beliefs and speaks to the style of parenting I am naturally inclined to. But it has also become apparent it is also an environment in which North thrives.


North enjoyed Montessori, as he is a naturally organised and task-oriented little person, however after he had matched all of the farm animals onto the right flashcards, named them aloud and put them back into their box, he wanted to play imaginary farmyard animals. He wanted the cow to talk to the duck; he wanted the sheep to jump up onto the fence (chair) and then to scamper through the fields (the desk). And there was, plain and simple, no room for this kind of play within the Montessori playgroup. This was where that particular method lost us the most. He did however learn to take his shoes off and put them on by himself (ahem... more like I learned to have patience and wait for him to do it himself); learned how to set a table nicely and learned a few more manipulative skills (buttoning buttons etc). However, there was very little interaction with other children and not a great sense of sharing and community within the group. Of course, this could just be the particular playgroup we joined and not totally reflective of the teaching style itself, and I am not at all saying I don't agree with the Montessori method- I think it is amazing in so many ways. It just wasn't the right fit with us, him.

Although the Waldorf playgroup costs significantly less than the Montessori group, we roam wide open spaces dotted with climbing fortresses, a chicken coop, a sailing boat and a huge sandpit. We sing songs and listen to enchanted stories that are related to the world and the seasons around us. We knead and bake bread together. We give thanks and eat together as a community. Mother's are given the materials to make beautiful felt toys while the children play with gorgeous wooden treehouses, knit dolls and animals. What I love most about the Waldorf playgroup is that it feels like an extension of our home and our values. It instills and supports a sense of imagination, wonder and creativity within the children. It finds and highlights the magic in the everyday.


The biggest issue most people have with Waldorf is in regards to delayed reading. Generally, children at Waldorf schools do not learn how to read until the first grade. I can only answer from our own experience: our home is riddled with books. We read the children, at very minimum, four books everyday. North is already "pretend reading"- pointing to words and narrating what he thinks they say. He is also learning the sounds associated with letters- in his own time, when he shows interest. And so, I might veer from the average Waldorf family on this point. This is just what feels natural for us. I am quite sure that no matter how little we directly "teach" him, he will be reading long before first grade, and by then who knows what kind of school we will think he is suited for- public, private or home. We are still figuring out what the exact plan will be, but I believe a Waldorf preschool two days a week starting next year (North will be 3 1/2) is a step in the right direction.

This Sunday we are driving to the countryside to pick apples with our Waldorf group. We'll sing songs of Autumn, collect apples, share a harvest picnic and play in the fields with new friends. I am so looking forward to it and look forward each step in our Waldorf journey.

xo m.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

mama's helpers- a kitchen share/cook-off

This morning we welcomed 4 mama's, 3 toddlers, 2 one-year olds and another baby into our humble abode and began cooking up a storm.


A while back I sent an email out to some of the vegetarian (and vegetarian friendly) Mums I have met in Sydney to ask if they were interested in meeting once a month to cook one freezable dinner, one lunch and one treat or snack. Everyone was very enthusiastic and todays first meeting was a huge success.

Of course it was totally chaotic. There was crying and screaming, happy screeching, toddlers jumping on couches, toddlers (my own!) running through the house with muddy boots, babies clinging to ankles in the kitchen... but there was also laughter and above all else the beginnings of friendship, a sense of belonging and a sense of real understanding between mothers, women. There is nothing better than hanging out with Mums who know exactly what the daily grind is like for you because they experience it too.

In the end we each went home with a just over a dozen carrot and zucchini spice cookies; vegan cornbread batter (there wasn't enough time to bake this); a family sized portion of black bean soup; pizza dough to keep in the fridge and roll out at some point this week for lunch or dinner; and exhausted children ready for a big afternoon nap.


I am still buzzing from all the energy in the kitchen this morning. No photos to show for any of it as we were so busy cooking, cleaning and running after toddlers, babies and a dog looking for scraps. Hopefully next time I'll get my camera out and you can catch a glimpse of the happy insanity that was.

Thank you so much to the ladies who came, I look forward to our monthly bake-offs.

Here are some links to what was on the menu:

Julia's Black Bean Soup (thank you Julia- this is just amazing!)
Zucchini and Carrot Spice Chocolate Cookies (sorry recipe was made up- will provide it soon!)

If you're looking to stock up your freezer, socialise and entertain you children all in one go I highly recommend getting together with a few friends and organising a monthly cooking event. You can roster one mum to plan and shop and another to bring snacks and another to host each month. You don't need fancy kitchenware or a big kitchen to do it either- we were all crammed into our tiny kitchen with a 4 burner gas stove/oven made in the 80s.

xo m.

Monday, March 28, 2011

tv-free update

Many of you take great interest in our tv-free household . To recap for new readers, we have been tv-free for almost a year now. North has seen a handful of children's videos in that time and a couple Thomas the Tank episodes at his Grandparents but that is about it.

In our last update I told you on a few occasions North had gotten his grubby little hands on a dvd at the library and had suckered me into bringing it home. After one viewing I usually hid the dvd and told him I had returned it for another child to bring home. But in the past few months we haven't been doing that either.

Becoming tv-free is kind of an addiction. Suddenly you become such a purist, a total snob about the stuff your child is exposed to. I suppose because North rarely watches television, when he does it is glaringly obvious how much of it he absorbs and mimics yet clearly doesn't really intellectually or emotionally understand. The last video I let him watch was Bambi and for days afterwards he'd say things like, "I don't want the dogs to chase me with their teeth like Bambi" or "Where is Bambi's Mama? Did the man take her?" or "That's a bunny like Thumper" or "That's a deer like Bambi". You can see why the first two comments are disturbing (bad call by me letting him watch something with such emotional height), but the second two are an example of how television stunts his imagination. When he sees pictures of deer in other contexts they are no longer mystical forest creatures but have been pigeon-holed to be "just like Bambi". The same goes for simpler and happier shows like the Wiggles. He watched one of those dvds about five months ago and for two months afterwards any red car we saw was "Like the Wiggle's big red car, Mama!".


The other problem with dipping our toes in the video pond was that television is a serious drug for the child. North would zone out (as if on a high) completely, the show would end and he'd immediately ask for more (as though his high were plummeting), have a mini meltdown because I said no and then for days afterwards beg over and over to watch the tv ("just a little bit, Mama").

And so, after not much thought, we have cut out absolutely any screen time whatsoever.

My parenting style is what some like to call, "wacky" and what I like to call "different", but of all the choices I have made for my children and our family so far, this is the one I am most sure of, am most proud of and the one from which I can truly see and experience the positive effects.


You can read more about our tv-free journey here and here with some ideas on just what to do with your little one instead of popping him in front of the screen. Tricia from Little Eco Footprints also has some wonderful ideas on how to cut screen time here and here.

If you are curious about the benefits of going tv-free and about just how detrimental television is for children please brave the following for some more educated insight.





xo m.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

in honur of earth hour- some urban gardening

We spent the entire day and evening weeding, tilling, fertilising and planting our front and back gardens. When we moved in a month ago, the backyard was completely barren and the front yard was a total mess. Not a plant or flower in sight just bone dry dirt, garbage and heaps of dried leaves. Well, we now have the beginnings of a beautiful garden along the edges of both the front and the backyard. We planted little wildflower seedlings that will bloom throughout the winter right on through spring in the back. Our frontyard is bordered with vibrant orange marigolds and a few other similar flowers. We also purchased a raised garden bed for vegetables (yet to be put together) and have our eye on another one come Spring. I am going to plant some vegetable seeds this week in homemade individual biodegradable boxes and once the garden bed is ready we'll plant them all out.

Photos are to come as we were too busy to take any and it has been bucketing with rain for two days straight. But for now, here are a few inspirational gardens I've had my eye on of late.

Please, don't ever feel like you can't enjoy a garden because you rent or you live in a small urban space. There are so many options from pots to raised beds and you can always grow beautiful (and edible!) plants and flowers inside your home or apartment too.


cool way to grow seedlings, herbs and microherbs without a lot of space, from here


tutorial on making cute garden markers, from here


wine barrel garden pots, from here (they sell these at Bunnings)

gorgeous raised garden beds, from here


adorable birdhouses, from here

For more about my urban gardening adventures see here. And don't forget about all of our lovely herbs and lettuces. All of those pots made it to the new house and continue to thrive. Thank you to those who suggested we added sage and lavender to the mix. I did and am loving them both!

xo m.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

the green smoothie

The combination of 24/7 breastfeeding sessions, a very active toddler and dog who loves to run means I am basically on my feet from the moment I get up until about 8 or 9pm. Enter the green smoothie: the most sustaining and nourishing part of my day. I have been religiously drinking one of these almost everyday for a couple months now and it has really made a huge difference on my energy levels and my overall mood. It kick starts my day with a large amount of plant-based protein, tons of super vitamins and minerals and dietary fibre.


Ingredients
big handful of clean kale or spinach or swiss chard or a tsp of green barley powder
3 tsp pea protein powder
1 cup almond milk
1 organic banana
1 tbs peanut butter or almond butter
drizzle or honey or maple syrup
a few ice cubes

Directions
Blend until smooth

So good. So easy. And exactly what my body needs right now.

xo m.

Friday, March 25, 2011

{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. -soulemama

xo m.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

thank you


Me: metaphorically sloshing through the river of attachment parenting, breastfeeding and never-ending domestic duties. (Tell me again why I mop the floors when food is spilled all over them within seconds?) I hope to visit you all more often when I reach the other side of the bank.

***
I am spinning with life right now. Brad is working from dawn to dusk six days a week (not that that's anything new). I have absolutely no family (or in-laws) in Sydney and no friends close by (we don't have a car so this makes us very local). I am feeling stretched beyond belief and this space has become even more of a happy escape than usual.

That said, I just haven't been able to visit other blogs or respond to comments the way I did before Indigo was born, and for that I am truly sorry. I hope that as the kids get older and when North starts preschool (January '12!!) I will be able to pop over and visit all of you much more often.

In the meantime, I think I am well overdue to extend a thank you from the bottom of my heart. I receive comments and emails all the time with advice, well wishes and kind words. I just want you all to know that your presence is such a daily blessing. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for you and am so flattered and honoured that you enjoy seeing and hearing about little bits of our lives. If you haven't read it already, please see this post with a bit of insight about why I do what I do.

Below is just a tiny sample of some of the comments and emails I get on a daily basis:

Hi M. I was thinking about your 'oil cleansing routine' and thought I must see if you've heard of Dr. Bronners All In one Organic Castile Soap. It is what we use for Ruby (8 months) and what I use for my whole body including my face. Just thought you might be interested. Jade x
***
Thank you for another book recommendation, a gratitude journal is such a beautiful idea.
I've just started reading
Calm & Compassionate Children. It's so wonderful to read words that resonate with my heart & mind. I really get so much from your blog. Thank you for writing it & sharing your thoughts, recipes & ideas.
I was admiring a pinterest board of yours when I came across something I'd like to make you to say thank you...
I won the one skein giveaway you held a year or so ago, so now it is your turn to be blessed with a gift.
Have a beautiful week- Kitty
***
thanks for your gorgeous blog! i have not written in ages, but you are such an inspiration - thank you. I am noting down some of your quick meal tips and find them sooooo useful when my brain is dead & cant be pained to trawl for new ideas.
So a big mega thank you!!!-
Catherine
***
Hi M,

I just came to tell you I cooked your
farmhouse vegetable and barley soup for dinner and how wonderful it was and I saw your giveaway. I have been making a few of your recipes since stopping by last week. Really enjoying your blog and would love your book. - Lani
***
Hello there

Just thought I'd drop by and say thank-you for your inspiring, real and fantastic blog that you write - I am always pleased to read your new posts and feel like we have a lot in common with the things you write!

Your
cleaning kit has particularly inspired me and I have made my own I have added it to my blog and mentioned your blog there too - hope you don't mind? (just say if you do and I'll change it)
- Victoria

***

Thank you all for being here with me and for inspiring me to grow, to be accountable, and to be real and honest.

xo m.

homemade linen spray

One of my favourite things, especially when the bed isn't quite getting the attention it deserves due to many other priorities.


image from weheartit.com- I only wish my bed looked this lovely

homemade linen spray
small spray bottle
15 drops essential oil (we love mandarin and peppermint, but lavender is always perfect for a calm night's sleep)
1 tbs vodka
water

xo m.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

so many ways to enjoy miso


Miso is a fermented soybean paste (although alternatively it can be made with fermented rice, barley or wheat) that comes in many different flavours and strengths. It is a very versatile condiment that provides wonderful health benefits. Although high in sodium, a tiny amount of it provides a rich source of minerals including zinc, maganese and copper. It is high in vitamin B12 (very important for vegetarians and vegans), protein and fibre. You can use miso as a salt-substitute in many dishes increasing your food's vitamin and mineral content. Try to add miso to hot dishes only when the sauce or soup is totally finished cooking and off the burner, as if it is overheated it loses a lot of its beneficial enzymes.

Experiment with the different varieties and flavours your local health food store has on offer and choose the one(s) you prefer. Here are some of the ways we enjoy miso in our home:

miso soup: add in veggies, tofu, noodles and whatever else you'd like in this tangy soup

toast topping: as a replacement for vegemite- spread margerine or butter and then add a generous portion of miso to the top

addition to guacamole: blend a couple teaspoons of miso with the avocado and lime juice

cilantro pesto: blend together cilantro, garlic, cashews, miso and olive oil

salad dressing: mix together a few teaspoons of miso, tamari, rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and sesame oil for a delicious Japanese style dressing

mashed potatoes: stir in some miso with the butter and milk

tomato sauce: add a few tablespoons for a tangy salt-replacement

in a sandwich: spread tahini and miso on bread- wonderful with avocado as well

xo m.

Monday, March 21, 2011

felt leaf template

My wonderful Mama just sent us a package of goodies she has been collecting over the past few months including thrifted clothes, about 30 different themed cookie cutters and some thin coloured paper leaves. I thought the leaves would be a perfect pattern for felt versions- a lovely addition to your autumn nature table.

I plan on making them tonight, so no photos of the creations yet, but here are the very simple directions:

(please note this is not a felt leaf- this is the template/pattern to make them)

For one leaf:
Trace pattern onto coloured felt to make two pieces
Embroider leaf vein details onto one side of one of the leaves (if you want to- not necessary if this is too complicated)
Blanket stitch the two leaves together leaving a small opening for stuffing
Add a small amount of stuffing so that the leaf is still flat, but has some depth to it
Seal.

Repeat as many times as you want with as many colours as you choose.

You could also make a fall mobile with a bunch of these hanging from a fallen branch as well.


xo m.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

'the kind diet', alicia silverstone

I am in the midst of the 30 Days Vegan Cleanse run by Heather from Beauty that Moves, and I feel so happy, so light and so free. I honestly believe I am more gracious, calm and present since starting. Although my eating habits haven't changed immensely, I have freed myself from some of the little dirty habits and addictions I was stubbornly clinging onto and I now feel a huge weight has been lifted off of my conscience.

Alicia Silvertone, a famous vegan and PETA advocate, has just published a book called The Kind Diet. It outlines the benefits (physically, spiritually, ethically and environmentally) of a plant-based diet; dispels the myths and includes many recipes that look divine. It emphasiszes gradual change with three different levels of 'veganism' for you to choose from and start with. From Amazon: "Flirts learn to dip a toe into the vegan pool, reducing their meat-eating and swapping out a few key foods for plant-based substitutes to see quickly how even small changes can reap big results. Vegans get to experience the life-altering effects of forgoing animal-products entirely, while still enjoying many convenience foods and meat substitutes in addition to the wonderful grains, vegetables and fruits that form the core of that diet. True enlightenment comes with the Superhero program, based on the principles of macrobiotics and built on a foundation of whole grains, vegetables, and other yummy foods that Alicia describes in detail."



For the full length speech go to fora.tv.

xo m.

Friday, March 18, 2011

{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. -soulemama


(he thinks they're magic because they have stars in them)

xo m.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

one thousand gifts



I am presently reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, a book about one mother's spiritual journey- a quest to finding true happiness. The book is a personal narrative and centers around a challenge Ann set for herself- recording 1000 things she was grateful for within everyday moments. I often read Ann's blog, A Holy Experience for inspiration.

I've already laughed, cried and had goosebumps cover my body in intense realisation. So, last night, I started my own gratitude journal which I hope to add to each and every day.

Here are the first few entries:

1. heartfelt expressions of gratitude from a 2-year-old

2. mandarin, lemon and peppermint oils diffusing throughout the house

3. the crisp and cool autumn air, overcast grey skies and soft cotton long sleeve shirts

4. kind hearts and words that reach out to me through the world wide web and pull me into a like-minded and supportive community of strong women and mothers


5. warm homemade apple sauce with cinnamon and cashews

6. the brave and selfless ones, presently sacrificing their own health and safety to help others in Japan

xo m.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

planning for festivals and celebrations and making them your own


Brad and I have been putting a lot of thought into what festivals and celebrations we want to incorporate into our family's traditions. I would call myself 'very spiritual' and Brad would call himself atheist, but we both come from Christian backgrounds and our extended families celebrate Christian holidays. I now have a list of festivals and celebrations that our little family would like to plan for and celebrate each year. It Includes full moons, birthdays,
Candlemas, Easter, Canada Day, Australia Day, Valentines Day, Christmas and many others.

I have put together a worksheet to help us plan for each celebration and to find focus and meaning in each one. I thought some of you might take interest and perhaps even use it when planning your next family celebration.

Enjoy each moment together for they are all we have.


xo m.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

star gnome and pouch tutorial


A very similar little star gnome is brought out of the clouds each week at our Steiner playgroup to help us all sing 'Twinkle Twinkle' together. I thought North would be sick of this little song by now, as it was the very first one he ever learned, and there is barely a day that goes by in which it isn't sung. But I couldn't be more wrong. All the children just go into a mellow, happy trance whenever we sing it together. Especially when a star gnome is floating around in the air above them. I just couldn't resist making one of our own. We often pull him out before bedtime for one last lullaby.






Materials
felt in two colours- one for star and one for pouch
wooden bead or small acorn for head
wool roving for stuffing
embroidery thread or regular thread and needle
scissors
button


Directions
gnome

Trace two matching stars out on the felt.
Add a circle to one of the stars tips (size depends on the size of your bead)
Cut
Glue a small bead or acorn to the circle and hold until dry
Blanket stitch the stars together, sewing the neck together at the top too
Stuff with wool roving and then seal
(It's not in the photo, but trim the top tip off of the star without the bead so that the point is not in the way of the face)
Attach a thread to his head so he can be hung, dangled and spun around

pouch
Trace a large rectangle onto the felt (making sure the gnome will fit inside the shape)
Add a large semi-circle to the top of the rectangle - this will be the opening flap
Fold the rectangle in half and blanket stitch each side together
Sew in a small loop and button

xo m.

PS. Are you new to sewing? Do not be intimidated! I only just learned how to blanket stitch and it couldn't be simpler. Felt is so beautiful and so forgiving- you don't have to worry about seams or hemming or fraying, just cut and use as is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

homemade peanut butter dog biscuits

As wonderful as Sonny is, he needs a bit of fine tuning in the training department. He can sit, but he has no interest in lying down. He can come, but has no idea what a ball is and has clearly never played a day of fetch in his life. He's very good at playing deaf, but when you have a treat in your hand, he is an excellent listener. Enter homemade dog biscuits. Simple, wholesome, package/paper-free and small enough to be able to reward him a few times throughout the day without him getting all rollie pollie.

I'd tell you what he thinks of the taste, but I am pretty sure he inhales them before his tastebuds even get a chance to experience the peanut butter goodness.


Ingredients
2 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cups oats
3 tbs peanut butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2 eggs
dash of vanilla
dash of cinnamon

Directions
Mix wet ingredients together and then add to dry ingredients until you have a doughy ball.
Add extra flour to the ball and knead a bit, then roll out into a large patty 3-4 cm thick. Cut into desired shapes (or just roll small balls and flatten with your thumb if you don't have a cookie cutter)
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200˚C.

(In reality, dogs actually have very little tastebuds and 'taste' everything with their sense of smell)

xo m.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

happy

3 years!!

We are about to sit down to kale and baked tofu, vegan mashed potatoes, tamari mushrooms and some hearty red wine... so I'll keep this short. I love you and I love that you support me and all of my quirkiness. You are a rock while also an inspiration to me. I truly, madly, deeply love you with all of me being.


xx m.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

introducing...


The newest member of our family- Sonny! We picked Sonny up today at the
RSPCA and it already feels like he's always been with us. He is seven-and-a-half years old, gentle, calm and pretty well trained, especially when you have a treat in hand. North is smitten, Indigo is intrigued, Brad's already in love and I couldn't be happier. I grew up with Golden Retrievers in my home and have missed having a four-legged friend and companion.

Of course everyone loves a puppy and would love to share their life with a dog from the very beginning, but there are so many dogs (and animals) surrendered to the RSPCA everyday, I could just never justify buying a brand new animal when there are so many in need of a good home. If you are thinking of getting a pet I urge you to consider adoption. You can search the RSPCA website for an animal that suits your family and lifestyle.

Welcome to the family Sonny, we hope you learn to love us as much as we already love you.

xo North, Indigo, Meagan and Brad.

Friday, March 11, 2011

{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. -soulemama

xo m.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

our autumn nature table

I'm in the midst of cutting out some felt leaves too. And might even brave this beautiful pattern if I am feeling really adventurous. Welcome fall! Sun-kissed days, cool evenings, the harvest moon...you've always been my favourite season.

xo m.

PS. The owl was made by lovely Kristi- thank you again.

PPS. I'd love to add a miniature gourd or squash or pumpkin to the table but can't figure out where to get one (or a few)... any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

the sacred bedtime routine- juggling a baby and toddler

Good Morning!


I have written a guest post for the Modern Little Munchkins blog today all about trying to keep bedtime calm, quiet and timely with two little ones. Please go and visit if you're interested in reading and sharing tips.




xo m.