listening / watching / reading

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There’s nothing quite like the start of Spring to bring about feelings of freshness, new beginnings, energy… I absolutely love the Winter but it always drags on about a month too long here in Melbourne. All of you Melbournians know what I’m talking about!

Over a month into Spring now it finally feels like the sunshine has arrived. KB is on long service leave for another two and a half weeks and we have just got back from a lovely holiday on the south coast of NSW – a magical and inspiring coastline if you ever do get the chance to visit.

On the way home we heard a song by Nick Mulvey on ABC radio which was a treat, and I have been listening to his album every day since we got home! I’m sure I’ll be told to turn it off soon but in the meantime I’m dancing around in bare feet to it on a daily basis.

In our usual pursuit of slow and calm I also bought this book and devoured it in 48 hours. I’m now well into the process of #konmari – ing our house. I’m up to papers. I have such a problem with papers. We have no system with bills or anything and it’s just so boring that we are always finding ourselves getting into trouble with late notices and so on. Who has time for this stuff? We can’t work out a system that works so I’m loving Marie Kondo’s paperly advice: to throw it all away. Duly noted and obediently doing just that. What a relief to see all those old bills, receipts, notices, blah blah blah going into my throw out pile. KB will most likely have a minor freak out when he sees my pile but shhhh let’s keep it our secret for now.

While I was pregnant I succumbed to netflix and promised myself it would just be for the free month. Five months later we still have netflix. Yesterday I watched Cowspiracy, and I have to say it has had such an effect on me that I am dragging out all my old vegetarian recipes and taking a good hard look at our diet… again. When I began eating meat again after a period of time as a vegetarian, I was so careful with my choices and seriously limited our meat intake. As the years have gone by and more children have been born, meal times have become a last minute panic, throwing together whatever I can during the last dash before bedtime. I hate eating this way as I love cooking and planning and preparing and being thoughtful about what we eat and when we eat it, and while we have a number of good habits it has been difficult lately to be mindful about it. Cowspiracy has given me that motivation again. Tonight we’re having eat your greens pesto pasta (with brown rice instead of pasta because I don’t have any in my pantry). My sister gave me the recipe a while ago; you basically just cook up some garlic and leek or onion and any other vegetables you like that you have on hand, mix through some pesto and serve. You can be as creative as you like with this dish and it will always taste good. You can make your own pesto but I usually let myself off the hook and just buy a jar because this is meant to be an easy and cheap meal, after all.

In other news Pearly pops is already rolling over, and yesterday at the dreaded Maternal Child Health Nurse appointment she said it’s time to put her in the cot (!) and start thinking about giving her food (!) and all sorts of other dreadful things like that. I nodded my head like the good mother and threw the papers in the bin when I got home.

Well, it feels good to be here today. The sun is shining and I’m about to make myself a coffee. Birdie is at kinder, the Pixie is with her Daddy out for the morning and Pearl is demanding that I turn the computer off. Right. Now. So… goodbye and have a lovely day.

the flowers and so on

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Spring has officially arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. Over the past year we have done a little bit of work here and there in our garden and although there is a lot more to be done (and we generally have no idea what we are doing) I was amazed at the variety of flowers that bloomed to announce the beginning of the new season. I love Winter, but the last few weeks always seem to drag a little. Everyone seems to have a sunnier disposition all of a sudden now there is some colour in our days.

It always takes me a while to shake off the darkness of Winter. I thrash through my wardrobe wondering what to wear when the sun comes out and warms the air. I keep putting nourishing yet heavy stews on the meal plan, unsure of what to do with those fresh leafy greens that arrive in my veggie box. (While we adjust our favourite go-to meal is currently a tray of roast vegetables, raw greens, a handful of seeds and a blob of hommus. It has enough possibilities to suit the whole family in one form or another.)

At the start of each season I always spend some time consulting this book. It grounds me in the here and now and no matter what is going on in my life, it always has something to say to me. I love the recipes and find that with a quick refresh of the suggested seasonal pantry items the kitchen is in business again. I’ve had about five minutes to peruse it this season, but I have kept it out on the kitchen table so it is within grabbing distance at opportune moments. I was also given this book for my birthday back in May which I absolutely love and am happy to say Pearl has finally allowed me the chance to test out some of the recipes, many of which are perfect for the warmer weather headed our way.

Speaking of warmer weather (or lack of it) for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere who are bundling up and slowly retreating into Autumn, I am very excited to be featured in the Autumn issue of Tend Magazine, talking about creating a sense of place for our children in our homes and local landscapes. Pop over here to check it out.

I think that’s all for now, my head is a little foggy with less sleep than I would generally like, and the end of the school term in sight. I’m looking forward to KB being on long service leave and I can think of little else. FIST PUMP! Ciao.

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school lunches // take two

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(rainbow chard fritters + a sneak peek at my massive 29 week belly)

Thank you so much for all your lunchy suggestions! I am finally finding my feet in the kinder lunch box department and Birdie has only had the odd sandwich thrown in the last few weeks (once after I asked her what she wanted for lunch and she looked at me with pleading eyes – “Mum, can I just have a vegemite sandwich, like the other kids?” :/ )

On the agenda this afternoon was a big batch of fritters for this week’s lunches. A few weeks ago we had an influx of rainbow chard in our veggie box. When this happens I always have good intentions to eat said chard, but I don’t like it very much so those good intentions seem to turn sour quite quickly, ending with a soggy heap of green stuff at the bottom of my fridge. So this time I tried chopping the whole bunch up, blanching it briefly and then froze in small lots to use (hide) in meals. Fritters seemed like a good way to get these nutritious greens into not just the kid, but into me too!

Rainbow Chard Fritters – with millet and corn

:: 1-2 cups blanched rainbow chard (or other green veg like spinach or maybe even kale… they would also be delicious with coriander added)

:: 1 cup millet

:: 1 can or 2 cobs of corn

:: 2-3 tablespoons of arrowroot flour or similar

:: 2 eggs

:: salt/pepper if you like

You can really do whatever you like with these – any grain or flour would do the trick really. Quinoa? Oats? Or you could start with just your basic pancake recipe and add veggies… whatever works. I’m so haphazard with cooking and generally just feel my way. Trial and error – there’s no better way! Lucky for me, these turned out well.

:: cook millet on stove

:: whiz up blanched greens in blender, then add in two eggs and other ingredients. Depending on your blender you could blend a little, or if it will get too chop-happy, tip everything into a bowl and mix through with a wooden spoon. You want the corn to be whole, not blended.

:: use fat of choice (I used coconut oil) and cook up in fry pan or on BBQ.

:: eat!

I’m on kinder duty tomorrow so I’ve also packed a lunch for me – I mixed some sweet chilli sauce and cream cheese together to go with these… I don’t know if this is completely weird or if it is normal, my pregnancy taste buds have got the better of me at the moment. For Birdie I’ve packed a small container of yoghurt for her to dip them into. If she eats them, I’ll be super duper happy.

meal planning

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The last six months have been probably the fullest, busiest, craziest six months in my short history of parenthood thus far. With me heading back to work three days a week, Birdie starting three year old kinder plus a day of childcare and little Pixie going to childcare one, then two days per week, along with Prince Charming working his regular two jobs, our lives were jam packed with drop offs and pick ups, tearful goodbyes and all the in-betweens – cooking, cleaning, dressing, bathing, and so on. I’m not sad at all that the juggle of those six months are now behind us. We are starting the year with a clearer outlook and a readjustment of priorities. After seeing my little Bird develop a tendency towards being anxious and panicked, and less like her normal cheerful and bubbly self over these past six months, we all knew it was time to make change. She was not the only one feeling like this.

So. Last week was my final week of working three days. From this week onwards I’ll be working 1.5 – 2 days a week on average and the plan is that I will have a little bit more time, more energy for my girlies and will slowly wind down between now and end of April towards maternity leave, again!

And more time means one thing in this house: meal planning! Oh how I have missed being able to actually think about what we are going to eat for more than five minutes before we actually need to eat it.

This morning the girls and I spent an hour and a half cleaning out our fridge while PC was at work. It was actually frightening to see its contents, vomiting (literally: vomiting) out onto the kitchen floor. Needless to say, there was unfortunately a lot of waste and horrid, nasty things hiding in the dark depths that I never want to have to think or talk about again. Like in most other areas in our life, we are now ready for a fresh foodie start and I can see what we’ve got to work with.

This week we are planning on having:

:: Lentil loaf with sweet potato mash and veggies (using a combo of this, this and this recipe I reckon, all of which I’ve cooked before but I am missing at least one ingredient from each so there will be a lot of improvisation – ah, time for cooking improv, my favourite thing!)

:: Scrambled tofu and veg using a recipe I’ve made up myself after lots of failed and dry scrambled tofus!

:: Quinoa salad and roast veg.

:: Coriander chicken burgers and salad.

:: Stirfried brown rice with toasted nori and sesame, with maybe some avo, homemade hummus and veg, recipe from one of my all time favourite recipe books.

:: BBQ something and salad.

In the past two days I’ve made hommus, almond milk, chicken stock, candy bars (one of my fave recipes!), smoothies, egg free mayonnaise for this preggy belly (naughty!!!), and a variety of other meals around these staples. Yay. I’m baaaa-aaaackkk!

settling in

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Thinking and dreaming and writing (elsewhere!). Reading things that make my path and decisions easier. Focussing on mindfulness in the day to day. Trying not to get bogged down by the irrelevant. These are a few of the things I have been doing. As Autumn comes into focus (albeit a rather warm one) the world around us seems to slow down. The days become shorter and, if you pay attention, nature begins to wind down, reminding us that we should be doing the same. The Ashtanga Yoga I was doing over summer has merged into sporadical (read: rare) trips to the studio for rejuvenating stretching and meditation. Food has become warmer in our house, and cooked longer and slower as I follow the seasons and my instincts to fill our bellies with fresh, warm seasonal produce. In a book that I constantly refer to, I read that Autumn is a time for shedding, and not to be surprised if you cry a lot as we move into this season. I’m never afraid to cry. Are you?

ditching the big guys

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I went to a major supermarket yesterday. It’s something I still haven’t quite worked out how to avoid completely, but something I do a whole lot less of these days. When I was zooming up and down the aisles it dawned on me that it wasn’t long ago that I did all my food and grocery shopping there. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with Birdie four and a half years ago that I started reading more and moving slowly towards a more sustainable, local and community driven life.

It is such an inner battle for me going to the supermarket these days. The things I buy there are now limited to things like toothpaste, tuna, cheese, yoghurt, oats, some nuts/seeds, spices, special ladies items, overnight nappies and… chocolate. That’s pretty much it.

Yesterday I found myself in the nut aisle and was outraged. At least half of the nut shelf was suddenly occupied by the supermarket’s own [cheaper] brand. Over the years everyone has noticed the homebrand of the supermarket slowly nudging in, haven’t you? Changing colours like a chameleon: look I’m red and white! Oh, don’t look at that cheap guy, come over here to me young lady, I’m exactly the same thing but look, admire my fancy pants packaging, look deep into the colours of my fancy homebrand packaging, don’t look towards the other brands… I’m just quietly sidelining the shelves. If I could just… elbow my way… Oh HELLO THERE! How did I end up here, right in the middle of the shelves? Where’s everyone gone? Oh goodness, what a surprise! Now you have no choice but to pick me, no matter what colour my packaging is… do you want… me in brown with fancy font… or… me in red… or ME?

Gosh it made me stamp my feet a little louder down that aisle! The thing is, I can’t even remember which brand I used to buy, but I know it wasn’t there anymore! Same for the sustainably fished tuna (if there is such a thing)… I have to stand in front of the shelves for five minutes trying to find the two cans that are squished into their tiny allocated spot while the supermarket’s own brand screams at me. Go away!

Changes have happened slowly in my kitchen over the last four-ish years, but they sure have happened.

I first changed my fruit and veg to a local fruit and veg shop when we moved out of the city five years ago. Then I took it a step further and now get my fruit and veg weekly in a box from an organic co-op. I was vegetarian for a while there so meat wasn’t an issue, but when I started to eat meat again, boy, what a conundrum. I now travel about twenty minutes from home with a friend and we buy our meat at a lovely free range butcher about once a month.

With these small changes it has meant that our diet has gone from 100% non-organic to around about 60-70% organic. I go all over the place for my shopping now. What I can’t get (due to availability OR price) at our co-op, I sometimes buy at one of a few organic shops that I frequent. I am buying a lot more things in bulk – flour, canned legumes, fruit.

Initially I got so overwhelmed seeing how people organised their food and where they bought from and so on. I didn’t know where to start. I’ve learnt when trying to change anything in my life, that it helps to start slow, to make small changes and soon those small changes accumulate until you look back and don’t recognise the place you began at!

Coming towards the end of the year, what are you going to change for 2014?

on the fly

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Firstly I must say a very warm and heartfelt thank you to those who have commented on my last post, emailed me, texted me, called me, hugged me. Thank you dear friends, family and readers! I really do appreciate your kind words and thoughts, particularly in times of tough decision making and shitty/unplanned outcomes as I have been experiencing around here.

About a month ago I was lucky enough to be given a leave pass to use a massage voucher I was given for Christmas. I see my naturopath for massages every now and then which are absolutely amazing and a wonderful treat. We were talking as I lay on the table, about this and that. Usually we talk about True Blood and life. True Blood hasn’t been a discussion point of late as we are waiting for Season 6, so it was mainly just life that was being discussed. She advised me to wait four weeks. Just wait. To give myself four weeks without thinking too much about this dilemma and that dilemma. Without wondering who I am and where I’m going and if I’m breastfeeding or what type of mother I am or where we are going to live or whether the sky is blue for any particular reason or whether or not there is life in outer-space (I do wonder this, do you?). She assured me that things would fall into place.

This was a harder task than one would imagine, but I tried hard and kind of managed to succeed.

And fall into place, things did!

In the last week I have gone from the point where I could not make a decision about whether or not to take the rubbish out, to suddenly seeing so much clarity around me. Perhaps coming to the end of breastfeeding and making such an enormously difficult decision has cleared some space in my mind. Yes, probably. Perhaps getting a few hours of extra sleep has removed some fog. Who knows.

I have learnt a few things on this motherly path. I experienced this influx of “life questions” on-mass last time I was on maternity leave. Maternity leave is wonderful: it is fun and tiring and expansive. It’s also a time that I personally feel kind of withdrawn from the rest of society. For me, it is like stepping away from the “real” world (I hesitate to say that, as I think being a mother is pretty much as real as it gets), taking time out and not having the external hustle and bustle going on that distracts you from you. Maternity leave has given me the time and space to think (too much?) about my life and where I am headed, despite being physically and environmentally busier than I have ever been in my life.

Excuse all this, I have had two coffees today which we all know is against the rules for me, so I am not really sure where this is going or if it makes sense to any of you.

I had kind of a premonition the other day. I’m just about due to go back to uni (naturopathy degree) after a year off. We are balancing some figures and wondering how long we can last without me going back to work. Things have been vague and for a while now I have had a niggling feeling in my gut that has been questioning my path. Do I forget about uni for now and go back to community development and disability? Do I change plans again and do something completely different? Who the bloody hell am I? What do I like? What am I good at? I felt insanely jealous of people who have just fallen into something they feel passionate about and who totally love going to work every day. I had pretty much decided to forget everything and think about it again when my girls are in Primary School.

Then, the epiphany. What do I like most outside my family and kids? What am I drawn to? What am I interested in? What do I think about when I think about a future career in naturopathy and how I would treat patients? What do I like to do? What do I think about? What excites me? What do I want to learn about? What do I read books about? What do I like searching on google?

The answer came to me a couple of nights ago at around 2.30am as I sat up in bed cradling the Pixie in my arms in the dark:

FOOD.

I LOVE FOOD. I love thinking about it, cooking it, learning about it. I love how good food, real food, can influence our lives, our health, our happiness and our communities. I love the connection between good nutrition and community. My community development background urges me to learn how to teach other people about it, help pregnant women to navigate it, to show new mummies how to introduce it to their kidlets. It feels like a fit, a fantastic melding together of my current skills and future goals. My gut said YES! I said YES! This is it! I could hardly contain myself from waking the just-sleeping baby in my lap to tell her.

The very next day, I rang uni and began the process of transferring from naturopathy to nutritional medicine. I go back in four weeks (part time!).

Flying by the seat of my pants? Absolutely!

Excited? Finally feeling in my gut that I am doing the right thing? Many questions evaporated from my mind? YES!

I am a true believer, particularly since becoming a mum, of listening to your gut. It usually tells you what is right and wrong. From wondering if your baby is sick, to making big life decisions. Once the fog has cleared, you know most of the answers already.

Have you guys made any big decisions this week? Are you at a turning point? Do you wonder where life is going to take you?