Wednesday, August 31, 2011


To my darling boy. You have grown so much this year. You are a great spirit, a kind soul, a cunning fox and a bit of a trickster. And we love every little bit of you.

I hope you had a fabulous day and it fulfilled your wildest expectations. Because birthdays are BIG when you're three, and you've been waiting a long, long time for your scooter... ahem... I mean your birthday.

Happy Birthday to North.

Love, Mama, Dada and Indigo.

[photos courtesy of Paula- Thank you!]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

table settings for little hands

I have finally had a streak of sewing inspiration lately and it has been ever so enjoyable, even if it has meant a little less sleep than a Mama can live on.

While burning the midnight oil last week, I created these little morning tea* sacks for both Indigo and North. Inside each sack is a re-usable cloth snack bag, a placemat and napkin.

Now, when we dine at the park, we dine is style. Which is really not what it's all about, is it? But it sure puts a silly smile on my face!

xo m.

*for my North American readers- Australians call "snacktime" "morning tea" even though there generally no tea to be had... I'll admit at first I thought this was just ridiculous, but it's grown on me. It puts a certain magic and charm into this mini meal, kind of like these place settings.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

the rhythm of today

Like many of you out there (I'm sure), I received the most delightful pre-ordered treat in the post last week- The Rhythm of Family by Amanda and Stephen Soule.  At the park,  in bed, in the kitchen... every little moment I can get I've been devouring this beautiful book. 

Within the pages is one of the Soule's old favourites: WHO (wheat, honey, oats) bread. Amanda has the recipe posted here. North and I measured and kneaded today and out of the oven came the most delicious loaf. 

Indigo thought so too.

If you haven't the means to buy the book request a copy to be made available at your local library or if you live in Sydney, email me, I might be able to let it go out for a borrow in a few weeks.

xo m.

Friday, August 26, 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, August 25, 2011

are we teaching our children to be greedy?

I have found that it is an inevitable (albeit somewhat unconscious) part of mainstream Western culture today to teach our children to be greedy. We teach them to crave brands, media images, jingles and cartoon characters from a frighteningly young age. If it's not a Disney Pixar Cars crayon set, it's Thomas the Tank underwear or Dora the Explorer Cheese snacks. But what are these products, really?

In my opinion, cheap thrills.
We want them, we buy them cheap, they come cheap, they give nothing and they're thrown away.
It's perverse. It's wasteful. It's greedy.

We are  teaching children, babies really, that they need to "have" in order to be happy. They need to "have" in order to fit in. They need to "have" in order to feel cool.

I realise most of the time this is unintentional or at least somewhat innocent on the parent's part. If a child sees a T-shirt with Go, Diego, Go! on it and he clings to it like a magnet, we might think, "What's the harm? Diego is an educational show, he's a great kids character...". My own son is virtually TV-free (minus a few shows at his grandparent's house and some plane movies), and he's still drawn to branded books, clothing and toys if given half the chance.

But I urge us all to look beyond this surface impression. What are we really teaching our children when we satisfy their consumer cravings for brands and logos? Are we not setting them up for a lifetime of wanting to fit in, of needing to have the latest "thing", of identifying their own self-worth and sense of self with cartoon characters? A lifetime of disappointment in realising that they will never have enough.

The first step in exiting this vicious cycle is to limit and carefully scrutinise the amount and the type of media you expose your child to. The next step is to consciously limit the amount of branding in your child's life. Take a look around your home- how much kids 'stuff' is media branded? How can we change this? What can we replace these things with?

Here are some ideas to start off a No-Logo Spring Clean in your home:

* stop buying branded food altogether- prepackaged snacks, branded kids yoghurts (which also contain revolting additives, thickeners and preservatives by the way), and cheeses.

* replace branded bowls, cups,  and cutlery with plain or patterned metal, enamel or melamine versions.

* stop buying branded clothing and shoes- go for plain coloured or printed clothing. If you want to spice up their wardrobe and give them a special something then only give in to branded underwear- at least it's not out-there all day for other children to see, recognise and make comments on.

* stay away from cheap plastic toys- less is more- wooden and handmade toys are rarely branded, are more aesthetically pleasing, more durable and last longer and above all else give your child the imaginative power instead of his memory of a TV episode.

* make your own toys- all you need is felt and thread or wood, sandpaper and a saw or other basic household items (think toilet paper roll and beans= musical instrument)

* limit all media exposure and if you are comfortable showing your child some media at the very least pre-record it so that you can fast forward through any commercials or advertisements

* present gifts and toys in the most sacred manner. Don't just buy something and throw it at your child in the car. Keep it precious, bring it out at a thoughtful time, show that toy respect and reverence and show the gift-giver respect and reverence.

* make sure every toy has a specific place or 'home', that they are tidied up every day and that they are treated well. Remove them if they are being abused. Teach your child that his/her things are beautiful privileges that are to be treated with utmost care.

We live in an age of the latest "thing". We as adults too often confuse wants with needs. Let's try not to trap our children in the same vicious cycle.

Imagine- we could free them from it.

xo m.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

growing from seed

After two years of amateur urban gardening, I have learned a few lessons. That said, every year there are successes and failures. My gardening technique can be summed up as the 'trial and error' sort. Plant's outgrowing the pot? Transplant! Sun seems to be stronger than I thought? Transplant? Carrots and onions seemed to be sown too close together? Thin, thin, thin them out next time. And in the meantime, how about baby carrots and spring onions instead!

One thing that seems to be getting easier and easier and is obviously far more economical is planting from seed. Here are a few things I've learned and thought I'd share with those who are interested in planting this way.

* Although I have sown straight into the garden bed with success (our giant radishes for example) I think it's easier for beginners to sow their seeds into little pots of seed trays, let them germinate and then transplant them when they're a few weeks old. This gives you better control over environment, spacing and thinning.

* See this post on how to make a newspaper pot. I love these as we always have newspaper around they are the perfect size.

* Buy a special bag of earth that's specifically made for raising seedlings. It's finer and sandier than regular soil making it easier for the germinated seeds to poke through.

* Fill each pot or seed tray 3/4 full with soil and plant the seeds.

* You can sprinkle quite a few lettuce seeds in one tray or mini pot, and up to three large seeds (like beans or watermelon) in other pots. You will eventually thin these out to give each plant all the space it needs but it's good to plant more as opposed to less because some seeds won't germinate at all and others will be weak or sick and die through the process.

* Make sure to label your little pots because when the plants are small it's hard to tell the difference between lettuce and watermelon!

* Small seeds like lettuce can be sprinkled on top of the soil, larger seeds are planted 2-3 cm deep- check the seed packet for details.

* Keep the soil very moist but not wet by using a spray bottle and spraying a few times a day.

* Keep the tray in a warm and very sunny spot.

* After only a few days many of your seedlings will start to appear.

* Plant your seedlings in your garden once they have a few leaves and are strong enough to handle a move and possible cool weather and elements outside.

* Store your seeds in a cool, dry place and stagger plant them through the season to ensure you have ongoing fresh veggies to pick

Some very talented and knowledgeable gardeners you can look to for guidance include

Tammy from Girls Wear Blue Too
Rhonda from Down To Earth
Garden Girl TV
Michelle from Hugo and Elsa

and of course Google- the answer to so many questions!

Happy Gardening and may your harvests be plentiful.

xo m.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Healthy Start for School Initiative- a bogus scheme that causes nothing but stress

I was going to write a post today about growing from seed but a pressing email from Kids in Australia just popped up in my mailbox and I think its contents are more important.

Many parents and health care practitioners are shocked and infuriated by a new government initiative entitled: The Healthy Start for School Initiative. The requirement is that all parents bring their child (who turns four within this financial year) into a GP for a health assessment. Compliance with this requirement will determine whether you do or you don't get the family allowance. Letters are going out to parents this week – some have already been received.

 From his blog, entitled "Unfit Until Screening And Intervention Says Otherwise" by Dr Joe Kosterich:

"It is not often that something makes my blood boil but this has. I received a letter from the Federal Government informing me of its new Healthy Start For School “ initiative”. This is a scheme whereby any parent receiving an income support payment in the financial year that their child turns four must take the child for a “check” to ensure the child is “healthy, fit and ready to start school”.
The propaganda sheet informs me that as a doctor I can expect requests for these assessments. The check that I am supposed to do includes (and I won’t bore you with all twelve points) height and weight, oral health, and toileting. It must also include “making an overall assessment of the child and recommending appropriate interventions”.
The rationale for this as with most of these schemes is that it will “… help with the early identification of life risk factors and development delays and conditions”.  Really? Even if you could understand this double speak it is meaningless.
Now whilst on the surface it may sound well and good to want to detect problems early there are major fundamental flaws with these schemes. The primary one is that not all children develop at exactly the same rate and that does not mean they have any condition. Not all children walk or talk at exactly the same age. Not all children are the same height; this does not mean there is anything wrong with them.
The second major flaw is the assumption that children are not healthy until screened to be so. In other words all children are deemed to have something wrong with them, which requires “ appropriate intervention” unless proven otherwise.
The third flaw is the assumption that screening is actually capable of sorting out those who do have a problem (a tiny number) from those who just are developing at their own rate. For example 10% of normal ten year olds are not dry overnight. “Intervention” can be useful if sought but not if imposed.
The final howler in all this is that lots of worried well, will get shunted down the line of further assessment and intervention only to find that there was no problem in the first place. This places stress on the family, has the capacity to damage the child who feels there must really be something wrong and means that those few children who actually need help will be more likely to miss out.
The screening lobby loves this kind of stuff and will bleat about how wonderful it is. The screening lobby is the main beneficiary of this as they get more government money for their programs. And guess what, they will find all sorts of “conditions” in numbers far higher than ever thought to occur which will need even more government “funding” to solve.
The fact that most of these “conditions” will not actually exist or that considerable harm will be done to families and that those in genuine need will miss out through dilution never bothers the zealots.
And there is worse to come! In 2012 the program will extend to include “… consideration of emotional wellbeing and development in three year olds”. This is being delayed  “…to allow expert input on the assessment instrument(s) and resources for professional development”.
What absolute rubbish! There is no such thing (and nor should there be) as an unemotional three year old. Tragically there are people out there who diagnose conditions like ADHD and bipolar in three year olds and then prescribe drugs. This may increase exponentially if this “screening” of three year olds goes ahead and will end up damaging children.
You can be certain that “screening” will turn up an army of three year olds in need of emotional counseling or drugging of some kind!
Here is the bottom line. Children develop at their own pace and need to be allowed to do so.  A few genuine objective measures like sight and hearing have some value. Mass screening of this nature, medicalizes childhood on the assumption that all children have “conditions”, just waiting to be found and “treated”.
Reality is far different. Children need basics to thrive. They need nutritious food and adequate sleep. They need to be able to play outside, to be read to, and above all to be loved. Whilst not every child may get all of this, no useless government mandated screening test will replace it."
You can read about the Healthy Start for School Initiative and your requirements as a parent on the centrelink website. 
Most disturbing is this checklist which the GP is asked to fill out in order to "pass" or "fail" your child. 
Here are some of my own specific concerns and questions:
* Why and how is a GP (any GP!) able to assess whether your child is healthy or "at risk" in a 10 minute appointment?
* What if your primary care practitioner is not a GP? 
* What if your health philosophy has indicated that mainstream medicine is not in your child’s best interests? 
* What if your child is not immunised?
* What if your idea of healthy eating differs from the GPs? 
* Will breastfed babies and children be at risk because of their slower weight-gain as compared to those fed formula?
Between the ages of 0-2 I took North to all of the maternal health check-ups they encourage you to go to. Our particular Maternal Health nurse was a real shocker and put me off of the entire experience. In the two years we knew her she told me
* my children should not be vegetarian because it will be emotionally distressing for them when they are at a Sausage Sizzle (according to her an Aussie rite of passage) and can't have one with their friends
* to stop breastfeeding him when he was 1 because he didn't need it anymore, but to put him on a bottle with cow's milk
* again, to stop breastfeeding while I was pregnant or I would hurt the baby
* to stop breastfeeding because North was in the 35th percentile for weight and was drinking too much milk and not eating enough solids 
Needless to say, Indigo hasn't been to a maternal health check appointment since she was 2 months old. These are the kind of ignorant health professionals who are assessing my child and my parenting choices!
As a parent, what's your take on this initiative? Do you feel as violated, screened and belittled as I do? Doesn't it all feel a bit Big Brother-esque... or is it just me?
xo m.

Monday, August 22, 2011

one year old

She was born one year ago today and has blessed our lives in more ways than we could count. There's been cake, singing and lots of cuddles today.

We are so grateful and blessed to have Indigo in our lives. For every lesson we teach her she provides two. And so it goes in this crazy dance called parenthood.

xo m.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

quinoa burgers


2 cups cooked quinoa
3/4 cup shredded cheese 
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated carrot
3 eggs 
2-3 tablespoons all purpose flour 
2 green onions, including white parts
1 /2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for frying
In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheese, zucchini, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, sugar, pepper, cumin, salt, and paprika.
Heat a frying pan 
Add couple teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat.  
Measure 1/4 cup and form into patties about 1/2 inch thick  - mixture will be slightly sticky.  
Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side.   

Makes approx. 10 burgers.

xo m.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How to Prepare a Raised Bed Garden for Planting

I've been busy putting together little seedling cases made of newspaper today and planting seeds. We're building a few more raised beds for this summer. I can't wait to get everything going! One of my favourite places to get urban gardening tips is Garden Girl TV.

Here is a video by Garden Girl on Preparing Raised Beds for Vegetable Gardens. 
Please go back through my urban gardening posts if you're feeling inspired to grow a few vegetables at home. I've grown a lot of things in pots- you don't need very much space to grow your own veggies!

xo m.

Friday, August 19, 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, August 18, 2011

winter greens soup

Winter Greens Soup
4 cups vegetable stock
olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of chard and kale stems, finely chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
2 potatoes thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine or sake
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, leaves washed (8 cups packed)
1 bunch of green chard, steams removed, leaves washed, (8 cups packed)
1 bunch of english spinach, stems removed, leaves washed (8 cups packed)
sea salt
lemon juice
parmesan cheese or creme freche

Saute onions, garlic and stems for a few minutes in olive oil until soft
Add the carrot and potato and saute until vegetables are heated through
add 1/2 cup of stock, cover and cook for about 15 minutes
When the vegetables are tender add the wine and simmer for a few minutes until the pan is almost dry
Stir in the kale and the chard with some sea salt and pepper and add 3 cups of vegetable stock
Cover and cook for a further 20 minutes
Add the spinach for the last few minutes until just wilted
Carefully blend all ingredients ina food processor until smooth
Season with lemon juice and top with creme freche or parmesan cheese
Serve with bread rolls or homemade croutons

Never in my life did I think an almost three-year-old would be so smitten with green anything, but this soup is a hit all around. 

{I adapted this recipe from one a friend of mine gave me, but I am unsure of the original cookbook it is sourced from, so sorry I can't give credit where credit is due.}

xo m.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the winter garden

Not much has been happening in our garden this winter, apart from a few fresh herbs. but a few weeks before we left for Canada we planted a bed of radishes and wen we returned we had some giant ones! North thoroughly enjoyed plucking them from the earth. Since then, we've been eating radish sandwiches, radish curry, potato and radish cakes and radish salads.

There are potatoes planted behind Indigo in this photo. Does anyone know how long we should wait until we dig them up? They've been in the earth for about 8 weeks now. I can't wait to see what we've got!

We also returned home to a whole lot of weeds- 7 weeks worth of rainy weather weeds to be exact. We spent the day on Saturday weeding, digging and fertilising. Today North and I tried our hand at planting flower seeds in the front yard. I had a few packets lying around including "cottage mix", "wildflower mix" and . A couple months ago, I was also the lucky winner of the Petit Eco Kids giveaway and won an organic seed kit from Giftboxology, so we planted rows upon rows of sunflowers in the front as well.

Fingers crossed we got it all right and we'll have some blooming colours (and giants!) starting in about 8 weeks time. The seeds have been ordered for our spring/summer veggie patch. Inspired from my parent's cottage garden we've gone all out this year and plan in planting vegetables in every space we can!

xo m.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

natural teacup stain remover

Evidence of a hospitable (or at least energised) home are the inevitable stains in the teacups. These beige and brown marks appear quite quickly and drive me (you?) crazy. When we're down to the last sparkling cup I gather them all together and give them a good scrub down. Here's how:

1 tbs salt
1 tbs bi-carb
1/2 tbs water

Make a paste from the ingredients and rub into the stains all around the cup- a little elbow grease may be necessary
Let it sit for a few minutes
xo m.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

the demise of guys

A "think link" for your Sunday evening. Interesting and sobering. 

Thank you for all of your comments regarding yesterday's post. Glad to hear I am not alone with my shock and disappointment over that article and also encouraging to hear there are so many other women that are passionate about natural birth. 

xo m.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

questioning natural birth

I was shocked and infuriated by a report from The Age, entitled 'Caesarean births a better option for mothers?'

From the article: "'It dawned on people, what if it turns out to be safer to have a caesarean birth if you're a healthy mother? … What would that mean? How would that affect society? The topic led to great discussion at a meeting I was at recently where one cheeky guy said, 'Maybe we could do away with labour wards forever and save hundreds of millions of dollars,' '' he said.

This article is once again an example of how modern medicine and a male-dominated, Western perception of the still prevails. "Safer"? By how much? By what standards? Perhaps physically. But mentally, emotionally, spiritually? What about the psychological and sociological implications of such a claim?! 

I don't know what to say about studies like this, they just seem so lop-sided and backwards. Of course caesarians are safer sometimes, and thank god for them, but having a natural birth is something so sacred, yet less and less women are able to experience it because of intervention, lack of support, lack of knowledge and lack of birthing exposure and experience. 

A quote from my own birth story: "I had no tears, no stitches and no wires or cords attached to my wrists. I have never felt so alive, I have never felt more proud of myself, and I have never felt more feminine. I felt so connected with our Mother Earth and to every other Mother who has ever given birth. Thank you my daughter. Thank you so much, for giving me this gift. It will stay with me forever- you have taught me a great lesson- to love and trust my body, to listen and learn from it. I truly wish that every Mother could experience childbirth the way I did that evening, because after all is said and done, it really honestly feels so right and so good."

I feel like this is a beautiful right and privilege that is being taken away from more and more women everyday and this is distressing to me. The thought that my daughter might live in a world where natural birth is considered unsafe and reflected in a negative light is just horrible.

How do you feel about natural birth? Do you care? Does it matter to you the way it does to me?

xo m.