Saturday, May 31, 2008

Winter Soul Food

Getting some really amazing fruit and veggies delivered has been a real inspiration in the kitchen. Even though I will never get to cook the vegetarian feasts I dream of while married to my Hubby (although this post gives me hope!) I base our meals around vegetables, and then ‘add meat’ as a side dish.

I allow at most 200g of meat per meal for the 3 of us – so 1 kilo of meat does five meals here. I use lentils, beans and lots of veggies to bulk up what we have, so that no one goes hungry.

I thought you might like the recipes for a couple of favourites that I have cooked this weekend in my slow cooker. I wish I could take decent photos of my meals - I have tried but trust me, I'd put you off ever cooking them. You'll just have to imagine what they look like!

Hairy Chest Pea Soup

OK – that’s not the most appealing title I could think of. But my mama used to make pea soup in winter all the time, and always used to say ‘this will put hairs on your chest my girl’. I think she meant it would warm me up and give me strength.

My version doesn’t have the bacon bones she used but its just as good I promise. This makes a huge batch – easily ten servings. I always make a soup on a Friday night to serve whoever is helping with renovations on Saturday (our working bee day) and any other hangers on. I just freeze any leftovers.

2 onions, finely chopped
4-6 fat cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp mustard powder
1 cube organic vegetable bouillon (I use Rapunzel)
3 large carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, finely diced
500grams split dried green peas
1 ½ litres of boiling water

Pop it all in the crock pot overnight on low. Puree it if you are that way inclined (I’m not but I like lumpy soup). Season with salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg, and serve with crusty bread.

One Curry – Two Ways

Hubby insists on meat, but really I’m just not enjoying it at the moment, so this curry works great for us. Again, I throw it all in the crockpot – and we get about 5 servings (I freeze it) from this so its seriously economical.

500gms lamb, diced
1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight
3 tins chopped tomatoes
1 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large kumara (or sweet potato), sliced
1 Tbsp each of tumeric, ground coriander seeds, ground cumin (if you can grind them from whole seeds so much the better)
1-2 tsp chilli powder, more if you like it hot (fresh chillis would be better of course)
1 – 2 tsp ground ginger
500 ml veggie stock

Its great with rice, yoghurt and naan bread. I can pick out the lamb for hubby’s plate, and Munchkin and I love the beans.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why not Made In China

On an internet parenting forum recently there has been a debate about buying Made in China and of course, I had to wade in! I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.

Since I did Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge in April, I have avoided buying Made in China (and other similar countries in terms of manufacturing) unless I really can't find an alternative - which is fortunately rare.

Following the challenge, I decided to always try to buy second hand as my first choice , made in NZ as second choice and then fair trade/organic/made in a first world country if I can't do the other two. Children's shoes have been my latest stumbling block - even at the flash stores in town I could only find made in China - every pair!

My reasons for avoiding Made in China are hardly unusual - environmentally poor manufacturing processes, human rights abuses in Tibet and in their own country, appalling labour conditions, concerns about slavery, poor quality control and regulations. I don't believe the 'cheap cheaper cheapest' economy is sustainable for anyone, not for the Chinese people, not for the planet, and not for us.

The argument that I hear a lot is 'isn't it better for them to at least have jobs– if we didn’t buy their cheap goods they wouldn’t eat’I honestly think that its a bit like when people used to say that slavery was OK because otherwise these people would be on the streets, starving etc, so wasn't it better for slaves to be fed and sheltered! I think the economic model the Chinese have created, - which is 'cheap, cheaper, cheapest' is fundamentally unsustainable, for the planet and for their people.

If items were certified fair trade from China, then I would buy them despite China's human rights record - because fair trade programmes are directly helping the people. Even quality goods made in China, unless the factories have fair trade or similar certification, are made by little better than slave labour. So I won't buy them. I won't take advantage of workers that have no real choice, I won't create demand for dirt cheap labour, and I won't support these economic models.

It is really tough to do this - its not like we have money to burn. I do the second hand thing a lot - and of course, some of what I buy second hand was originally made in China. I feel that by creating a market for second hand things is more ethical than creating a market for slave labour. But it is really hard to find things that aren’t made in China – and if you can find alternatives, they are extremely pricey when we are used to buying 10 pairs of socks for $10.So its not something we can do easily.

But I have hope – even my mother in law who is particularly unconcerned by such matters won’t buy food products from China because of the poor regulations there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recipe: Healthy Toddler Muesli Bars

OK - to be honest I'm not sure anything with this much butter is really truly healthy, but compare the ingredients list with commercial kiddy muesli bars and this one definately wins out.

I tried a bunch of different recipes and then cobbled this one together. You can chop and change within the dried ingredients - let me know if you try it what you think!

125gms butter
½ cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (or a mix of similar grains)
1 cup rice bubbles (lightens it up for little tummies)
¼ cup LSA powder
¼ cup dried chopped fruit

In a large saucepan melt the butter and honey. Then take off the heat, add the dry ingredients. Press well (use your fingers) into a 20 x 30 slice tin that has been lined with baking paper. I line it so that the baking paper comes up over the sides so that I can get it out of the tin without it breaking up.

Then bake at about 160 degrees celcius for 40 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely before cutting it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Since effectively 'quitting' my part time work, I have felt like my old self again. I have missed this - feeling calm, feeling healthy, feeling inspired.

I have been able to sense the rhythm in our day more. I no longer need to worry about what time it is. Or, whether Munchkin has slept early enough soso that she'll be in a good mood for her Dadda while I work. I'm not always stressed about whether I'll be able to meet the 'deadlines' that seems to perforate my day into little sections.

Our playgroup leader, a wonderful woman who was herself a Steiner child, says that you have to 'feel rhythm'. She won't have the group do things at set times - instead she senses when the children as a group are ready. So we breath out - run around, and then we breath in - come together for a set activity. Sometimes that means we eat morning tea at 10.45, sometimes as late as 11.30.

This used to frustrate me. I didn't have 'time' for all this rhythm stuff, I wanted a schedule. I was itching to check the time, hurry things along. I don't even know what I was hurrying for most of the time.

Off schedule, life seems so much more peaceful.

Our rhythm involves an order that we do things in - meals, morning outings, free play, a bath in the late afternoon, dinner, bedtime. Our days have always followed this order - since she was tiny. What has changed is the clock watching. I'm trying to watch 'us' - our family, and what seems to be the right thing. If she's playing happily, bathtime can wait. If she seems out of sorts, an early bath might be just the right thing.

The concept of rhythm is a critical one in Steiner Waldorf circles, but its so hard to understand. It definately isn't about a schedule - it isn't about set times, 15 minutes for morning tea, 45 minutes for free play. And it isn't 'make it up as you go along'. It is about routine, but there is more to it.

There is, as with all things Steiner, a spiritual element to it. When I first heard this - that there is a spiritual dimension to rhythm - I rolled my eyes. Spiritual shmirtual ... its just routine without the benefit of a watch. But sensing what children need, and responding to those needs, within the framework of a consistent order that ensures the right things get done ... is about being tuned in to these little souls. There is a kind of magic in the air when it works - and without it there is inevitably stress.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Early to bed

Uncommon Grace has written a beautiful post on her belief in a seven o clock bedtime, and how she organises her life to get there.

It got me thinking about our battles with bedtime, and our journey to a consistent and happy bedtime routine.

Right from when Munchkin was born I wanted to have a set bedtime, but for the first few months it wasn't to be. I've written before about what a sensitive and high-needs little person she is. I quickly discovered that while a sense of rhthym was something I strived for on a daily basis, but any actual routine was impossible.

She screamed in the bath, refused any attempts at infant massage. We tried white noise CDs, sleepy essential oils, baby calming homeopathic treatments, but she would have none of it. Sometimes she was so so tired her eyes would look like they were on stalks, and we would have to drive up and down the motorway with our Baby Mozart CD on full bore to get her to sleep - and even that wasn't failsafe. Sometimes we found that bouncing her quite firmly on our laps, facing outwards, while watching television (not very Steiner I know but desperate times) would get her off to sleep - she was so unpredictable.

Until she was turned one, bed time was anywhere from 6.30 till 10.00. Routine was not even in our vocabulary.

We wanted a bed time, but we knew that she wasn't ready for this level of external structure. You try putting a child to bed who is bouncing off the walls, or turning purple with rage at the idea that you might be 'winding down'.

So for us it was baby steps all the way.

Then finally, at around I think 13 months or so, I started taking her to bed each night, shutting the door, and reading stories, singing songs, nursing and cuddling, with the lights dimmed.

There was some resistance to this as she would try to bash the door down and collapse in my arms in tears at this new routine. But her protests were shortlived - she was finally at the age where she was ready for a more rhythmical bedtime.

Now some nights she takes my hand and leads me to her bedroom ... while blowing kisses at her Dad. She knows the drill.

So, our routine is a little different now from the common wisdom around bedtime routine.

For us, it worked to give her a bath before dinner, not after as seems to be the common wisdom. Bathtime is just too exciting, too stimulating for our sensitive little girl.

We have a bath around 4.45, and then dinner as a family most nights, at about 5.30. Then by 6.00 dinner is over and she has quiet play with her Dad, sometimes in her bedroom. At 6.30 its time for teeth brushing and bed time stories in bed with mummy, and lots of milkies. By 7.00 she is usually asleep.

So, if any of you are struggling with this whole bedtime routine, believe me, it does get better. I'd love to hear what your bedtime routines are.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Its been a rambly kind of week around here. I haven't been posting much, and I'm not sure why really. So this is a rambly kind of post to go with my rambly kind of mood.

Good news is that I have quit my job. After much angst about whether to carry on working, and feeling incredibly cut up about it all - my husbands company changed their minds about the whole flexible hours thing and the decision was made. So, in a couple of weeks, I will be a full time at home mum. Of course, I was full time at home before, just some of it was paid work!
While it will be a serious challenge financially, I feel incredibly relieved

I'm still on a health kick. I have been reading 'Eat Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert and 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan, and I'm feeling increasingly motivated about cooking really healthy food. So this week I've made a delicious brown rice and spinach casserole, delicious pasta sauce, and a (you guessed it) delicious green potato curry. We've never eaten so many vegetables. There is also lovely fruit at this time of year, mandarins, apples, pears - so eating well is a real pleasure.

Its been gorgeous and wintery here lately. Finally its cool enough to insist Munchkin wears a hat and a cardigan every day, so all her beautiful winter woolies (I'll post pictures if I can get any nice ones - I take the worlds' worst photos!) are getting well used. I love getting her all rugged up ... it feels like I'm taking really good care of her somehow.

The other thing I've been doing this week is helping out Lianne at Organic Baby with her website. Its an incredible incredible resource - there is so much information. She is launching a US version in a couple of weeks, so keep your eyes posted.

Also, I've just read the most beautiful post over at Uncommon Grace on her bedtime routine - don't you just want to curl up in one of her beautiful beds and be looked after my such a wonderful mama?

That's all from me - I promise there will be a more cohesive post another time!

Friday, May 16, 2008


After my self pitying post the other day, I decided I needed to take action to get some more energy. About the same time, my wonderful health-obsessed aunty gave me Skinny B*tch to read - a book that, despite is title, is all about the health benefits of a vegan diet.

I've mentioned before about on-again-off again-vegetarianism, and although I never went Vegan, reading this book reminded me of the many many benefits of taking a whole-foods natural approach to your diet.

So, I've been making all sorts of changes around here - and I'm delighted that I am really feeling so much better.

Some of the changes that are really working for me are:

- I'm taking my multivitamins and Omega 3s religiously.
- I've cut out soft drink almost entirely, and dropped my tea and coffee to one cup a day.
- I'm starting my day with hot water and lemon instead of tea.
- My daily walk is longer and faster.
- I'm doing a little bit of yoga in the evening.
- I'm getting a delivery of organic fruit and veggies and eating heaps more of them as a result. (Thank's Munchkin Mama for putting me onto this place!)

This has also inspired a bit more creativity in the kitchen.

Some of the highlights this week have been:

Couscous with parsley and mint from the garden, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, chopped tomato and some feta cheese.

Spicy vegetable soup - onions, garlic, pumpkin, parsnip, carrots, tomatoes with cumin, coriander seed and chilli powder. Next time I'm going to try it with chick peas.

Pizza - I made some pizza dough in the breadmaker and had roasted pumpkin and kumara, caramelized onion, red capsicums and of course, some mozzarella. I used some spicy plum sauce for the base - and put some lamb on Hubby's side.

I'd really love to know what you find gives you more energy. For me, its such a virtuous cycle - once I start making positive changes I have the energy to keep on going.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

So just what is 'Attachment Parenting'

In the early days with Munchkin, when she wouldn't sleep, wouldn't settle and I didn't know what to do - I found Attachment Parenting International on the internet one night and cried - there were other people who felt like me! Their eight principles should be handed out to all new mothers in my terribly humble opinion.

Now, API have a wonderful new site with a blog and forums and all sorts of wonderful information. Head over and check it out. I laughed though because already debate is starting on their forums and in their blog comments about the very sensitive definition of attachment parenting. Its very easy for people in attachment parenting circles to become precious about 'how to do it', and for mothers to end up feel like they aren't 'AP' enough to belong.

To me, being an attachment parent is about an attitude, and a belief - rather than a set of ‘have tos’. Attachment parenting is wanting to develope a very strong bond with your baby, to give your baby as many of the proven benefits of having a strong primary attachment.

The core AP practices according to William Sears who developed the AP approach are ‘birth bonding, babywearing , responding to your baby’s cries, breastfeeding, sharing sleep (which can be sleeping in the same room) and balance'.

AP doesn’t have to mean breastfeeding for-ever, but it does mean weaning gradually with love rather than cold turkey. For a lot of AP mums, this will mean child led weaning at whatever age this happens. But if you want your body back and feel exhausted breastfeeding your two year old, this doesn't mean you are not 'AP enough'.

AP certainly doesn’t mean no boundaries or discipline, but it does mean no smacking or harsh punishments. Think 'loving guidance' not 'anything goes'.

AP doesn’t mean no routine, but it does mean feeding on baby’s cues especially in the early days, and working gently towards a routine that suits everyone.

AP doesn’t always mean no bottles, although it is strongly pro-breastfeeding. But you would give the bottle lovingly, holding your baby gently and close. You can ‘fail’ at breastfeeding and still get an ‘A+’ in Attachment Parenting.

AP definately doesn’t mean no-nappies (or cloth nappies). But no-nappy people find it makes them feel they know their babys better - not something I have done though!

AP doesn’t even have to mean no strollers. Strollers can be really handy. But AP parents also want to spend time with baby close, especially if they are upset, so AP parents are likely to use a sling or baby carrier especially for the first six months or so until they can crawl!

AP does stress the importance of a happy baby and wider family, so BALANCE is the most important Attachment Parenting principle.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Autumn Singalong

Oh we've been having some autumnal fun at Playgroup this week.

The weather was miserable today, so rainy that the garden was a muddy quagmire. I don't actually know what a quagmire is, but I do love the word.

The beeswax crayons came out, and we managed to use the planks of wood from the benches to create indoor climbing frames. Our teacher brought along an amazing old fashioned apple corer that not only cores the apples but peels them and creates a spiral of apple. The kids were fascinated - we peeled a lot of apples! Its amazing how creative a bunch of mums can be.

We have been singing some lovely new autumn songs during circle time that I thought I'd share:

"The leaves are green, the apples are red'
They hang so high above my head
Leave them alone till windy weather
And they'll come tumbling down together

The leaves are green, the nuts are brown
They hang so high they won't fall down
Leave them alone till frosty weather
And then they'll all fall down together"

"I had a little apple on my apple tree
As small and round as an apple can be
And then one day it started to grow .....

I had a little apple on my apple tree
As small and round as an apple can be
And then one day it started to grow .....

It grew so big ... and red .... and ROUND
It just had to fall down to the ground"

"The river called softly to the leaves on the trees
I am waiting to take you on a journey with me.
So the leaves fell down softly on a quiet autumn day
And they floated with the river far fa-ar away"

"Five little leaves so bright and gay, (hold up five fingers)
Were dancing about on a tree one day
The wind came blowing through the town
(everyone blow loudly)
And one little leaf came fluttering down

Four little leaves so bright and gay.... (repeat poem)

One little leaf so bright and gay
Was dancing around on the tree one day,

The wind came blowing through the town
And the last little leaf came fluttering down."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What I love about toddlers

Munchkin has just turned 18 months. Its a cliche, but where did the time go! Particularly the last six months - they have just disappeared.

18 months is a beautiful age. She is on the cusp of becoming a little girl, rather than a baby.

Her walking is becoming less of a 'waddle', and she is starting to run. Her words are becoming clearer and clearer, not just 'no no no' but 'yesss' as well. She knows the names of everyone in our family, and we spend hours looking at the photo albums practicing saying their names. New words appear everyday. Yesterday it was 'garlic', the day before it was 'gumboot'. Her little voice is the most beautiful sound I can imagine, it lights up my world.

She is such an affectionate wee girl, she loves to give cuddles and kisses. When she is frustrated or upset, she will throw her arms around my neck as she sobs her little heart out.

I love the look of attention that she gets when she is focussed on something, like using the brush and pan to try to sweep up the floor, or put objects in a box, or pull apart the plastics drawer. She adores bumping down stairs on her bottom, and will laugh hysterically the whole way down. She loves to splash in water, stomp in puddles, and occassionally to try to drink the water that pools on our deck.

She loves other children, particularly those older than her. If they will let her, she will give them big cuddles, and then follow them around like a devoted puppy dog.

These months have already passed by all too fast. Munchkin, your second birthday will be here all too fast. We love you so much.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Work doesn't work for me

Over at Rocks in My Dryer Shannon is having a 'what doesn't work for me Wednesday'.

It seemed particularly pertitent this week. Life has hit a new level of mania this week. My 'part time from home' job has turned into deadline central with urgent phone calls and emails from early in the morning till late at night. I was even taking calls and texting during playgroup today. Everything has suffered.

Quite simply, work isn't working for me. Work is pulling me in too many different directions. Its scattering my energies between different clients, different reports, different deadlines. I don't dare take a minute to tidy my desk or even write a to-do lists, practices that I used to hold sacred. My proverbial saw is blunt.

I have been re-reading Buddhism for Mothers, which Nikki suggested I should turn to. I need to stop rushing, and start focussing on being mindful. When I'm working I need to work. When I am not working, I need to develop the confidence to turn my cell phone off, close the computer down, and be a mum.

Working from home, splitting child care with Hubby, both of us working less than full time - this is supposed to be the post feminist nirvana. But, more and more I'm realising, it just doesn't work for me.

Now, this is a rather desperate sounding Works For Me Wednesday, so cheer yourselves up and head over to for some more cheerful links!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Incarnating Child

"This Divine Feminine principle is most fully represented on earth in the mother and child. Thus today does motherhood give the possibility of revealing the Divine in its archetypal feminine form. It should be said that a true and conscious art of motherhood as it is practised by an increasing number of young women, gives an opportunity for the Divine Mother Being to work into human souls on earth, to be manifested amongst us. "

On my bookshelf at the moment is The Incarnating Child by Joan Salter.

Its such a strange book that I almost didn't write about it. The combination of her generation (she would be my Grandmothers age) and her extreme Anthroposophism means that a lot of it it pretty out there. She recommends 'nipple preparation', is against extended breastfeeding, and recommends a level of controlled crying. She suggests that cows milk is "the ideal food to help the child incarnate" - and comes dangerously close to suggesting that mothers should give cows milk over formula even in the first year. Fruits which grow above the earth should be introduced before vegetables that grow on the earth, and then root vegetables which grow under the earth. That is, unless your child has a large head, and is therefore a slow incarnator. They need root vegetables early to balance out their dreaminess. I could go on.

All of this makes me nervous, and is certainly at odds with the way most Steiner people I have met go about their lives. The 'Anthros' I know (and I invite lots of comments please) seem to see the 'indications of Rudolf Steiner' as revealing, but don't treat them as gospel.

Although I would hate for anyone to think this is what all Steiner mums are like, I have thorougly enjoyed reading it. It reads a little like a 1950s home economics text, or for that matter Ms Stricy-Pants Gina Ford - its terribly precise and prescriptive with no room for questions. But, at the same, time, I actually found myself agreeing with an awful lot that she says.

- Exposure to the worlds rush and bustle must be avoided (for newborns). The best music for this ages is a softly played lyre or flute ; and lullabies, sund by mother and grandmothers down the ages, have a timeless value.

- The best colours for baby are rosy pink, mauve, pale blue, a sunny yellow, or creamy white. Brown and green should be avoided, for they are too 'earth' for the young child'

-For a child under a year old to wear a flimsy top only ... is contrary to the laws of Nature ... it is asking for body organ degeneration in later life.

- A common error is to expect a young child to be capable of making a choice ... How much better for the child if Mother, in a cheerful and authoritative voice says 'Bathtime now! come and get dressed"

- Television watching ... induces passivity and cripples initiative

- If someone gives you a 'horror' as a baby gift, have the courage not to use it! The well being of the baby is the prime consideration.

and my very favourite just to leave you with ...

- The deplorable Mr Men series is a sorry and degrading portrayal of everything human. It can only undermine a child's respect for what shoud be the dignity of man.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Writers Block

I adore reading other mothers blogs. I love getting an insight into the every day details of other peoples lives. I love reading people’s inner thoughts, and struggles. I suspect people share more intimately on their blog than they often do in real life.

I sometimes struggle to write when I think of people I 'know' reading my blog. I worry that they might snigger or judge me somehow. Somehow philosophizing isn’t best done in polite company, but rather in the anonymity of our online selves.

But I'm not feeling particularly philosophical today. Life is busier than I would like it to be at the moment. I seem to be struggling to find any sense of balance between being a mother, a wife, a home maker, a friend, and this pesky career thing I have on the side. So when I sit down to write, a million 'to dos' float around my mind, and nothing else comes.

So, in honour of my current writers block I thought I would share some random posts that I have read recently that I have found particularly inspiring ...

Uncommon Grace

"All this has me thinking about the rituals that we keep when our children are not themselves -- suffering, under the weather, emotionally distressed, etc. Most of the time I kind of think that those times are isolated and somehow not part of our "real life."

And yet, there they are, cropping up and reminding me of the messiness of life. And how important these times of convalescence are: to nourish a sick child's body, to nurture a sorrowful child's spirit, to ease a suffering child's mind. What does it take to do that job? Yes, it takes some real physical things: some eucalytus oil in the vaporizer, a homeopathic remedy under the tongue, a cool cloth on the forehead, a gentle massage of aching muscles.

But most of all, it takes time. Time is the best gift I can give my children, when they need me, and even when they think they don't. Time that sometimes I think I don't have. But if I really take the time to be present with my children, everything else seems to fall into place anyway. That time spent is an even greater gift to me. "

Bluebird Baby

As the little one and I were raking the garden yesterday I began to think of my mother. We had beautiful flower beds around our house growing up. We were always outside gardening or inside baking. I was trying to imagine how much of that would have been lost if we had a computer in our living room. How would I have felt if my mother was online instead of getting her hands dirty in the garden? (And this is in no way said to make anyone feel bad about their computer usage! It's just my feelings about how my time is spent.) Those times spent gardening and baking are some of my fondest memories. I want to make sure the little one has that too.

Soule Mama

I'm a firm believer that one must truly know and love something in order to be believe strongly enough to protect, save and heal it. This philosophy guides the way we parent in so many different areas, and certainly our feelings and beliefs about the Earth are at the top of that. I truly want for my children to love and know the world around them, and as a byproduct, I know (and have already seen) that a sense of caring for it will evolve. I don't want to flood them with doom and gloom of the state of the world, but rather, mindfully give them information as they are ready - as they age, and as emotions mature. I think they know a lot about the state of things, but more than that, they really quite simply are in love with - and still getting to know - the Earth around them.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.