trying something new


At the beginning of May the lovely Kate set a challenge to herself to do a motif a day in May, and asked if anyone else would like to play along by setting their own challenges for May.

I did, I wanted to play. My challenge was to crochet a little every day, as I wanted to get better. Not show stoppingly better just better than the very, very basics I did know. I wanted to understand what the hell all of these terms meant like, hdc2tog, sc, treble clusters etc. So I did, and now it makes a little more sense instead of looking at it as if I was reading ancient Greek. May is now over and I’m determined to keep practising and keep getting better, (as everyone needs a hat with flaps and ears I think.)

Coming to the end of the month, I came across this short TED talk. He talks of trying something new for 30 days. I was in again. It didn’t have to be big, it could be really quite small. Teeny tiny steps towards doing something I would like to do.

I still want to keep crocheting to get better, so I think I’ll keep that one. It might not be every day, but it will be there for a whole lot of it. I thought I might also try two other challenges during June. One, I want to make each person in our family laugh. Not by performing a slapstick comedy routine, but just to find a genuine chuckle each day from them. My second thing I want to do is read about coal seam gas. Not technically your usual combinations, but important ones for me this month anyway.

I asked Mr Chocolate and Monkey Boy if they would like to play along. A lovely yes from Mr Chocolate. He is going to practise playing his new ukulele each day. Monkey Boy was a bit unsure about the whole thing. But he was happy enough at the suggestion that he and I read a little of a special book every day, and Wind in the Willows we are starting off with.

How about you? Feel like doing something each day in June?

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* I really was so very humbled by all your lovely comments from my last post. That sort of honesty that so many of you wrote about in the comments is invaluable. Not only for me but for any other mums out there that might be reading and not commenting. So really, a heart felt thank you.

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little brothers

Little brothers are for

teasing

laughing with

talking to

wrapping up in boxes

sending boxes to

having long phone coversations with

asking for help in sticky situations

wrestling

 admiring

and most of all…

loving them

because they’re not afraid of anything

and that’s your brother

********

I’m lucky enough to have my own little brothers, and for my boys to be little brothers.

Bamboo Toothbrushes- you might want to try it

A little while ago I was trying to find out what my alternatives were to using the conventional plastic handled toothbrush. I’d like to keep my teeth, so the brushing twice a day for the rest of my life is quite the long term plan. Now if I changed my toothbrush every 3 months as reccommended. Add in the odd change of toothbrush after illness. Times that for the next 60 years (I’m optimistic). That’s a lot of toothbrushes!

All sitting in their landfill graves. Silently sitting and waiting to break down. Waiting…waiting…waiting…waiting…

Now there are a few alternatives out there on the market at the moment and I’m sure give it another few years and there should be a lot more readily available options to the average consumer. However for the most part, the average plastic toothbrush is what sells. Looking at a few of my options, I could get a 100% recycled plastic toothbrush, made from yoghurt tubs, (made in USA). I could use a twig from an appropriate tree, or I could use a bamboo handle toothbrush… Bamboo sounded good.

Step up, The Environmental Toothbrush. Simple biodegradable packaging, looks just like the picture and how does it brush?…

Really well! The head is small enough to get in at the back teeth. The bristles are soft, works well on the gums and that little fella knows how to clean. To be honest I was slightly hesitant when I first saw it. How can something so basic looking work so well? However after giving it a go, I was left nodding to myself muttering that’s a good tooth brush, and with sparkly clean teeth to show for it.

The toothbrush was designed by an Australian dentist. It’s biodegradable, environmentally sustainable. When you throw it out, it simply breaks down into compost.

If you would like to give this toothbrush a red hot go, (not the one I was using obviously!) I’m giving one away. To get one for your pearly whites, tell me something about teeth or bamboo. Anything you like. An interesting fact about bamboo, or a story about your Nana’s false teeth, what ever takes your fancy…Post a comment by the 3rd of November…seriously, it’s a really good toothbrush.

* Top photo from G magazine online.

EDIT- Congratulations to Christine from Slow Living Essentials for getting the Bamboo toothbrush.

The importance of cafes in local community city living.

Walking down to our local cafe the other day, I was a bit shocked when two strangers were standing behind the counter manning the coffee machine and working the grill. So shocked, that I stood there, mouth gaping a little, eyebrows frowning while I contemplated the scene in front of me. Hang on a second, this wasn’t right…who are you? Where’s Anthony? Which is what I blurted out. (Not the who are you, but where’s Anthony?) He sold up and we have taken over…*gasp!*…oh, I meekily said and muttered something about a latte and I would sit in the back. Sitting there mulling over what I had just been told, I phoned Mr Chocolate straight away and told him…*gasp!* He did what?!

Our favourite local cafe owner had sold and up and buggered off. Not a word, not a whisper and as I sat there trying to gather some thoughts, I was gutted. Mr Chocolate was gutted…The Monkeys would be gutted. Why? Not because I was a daily cafe frequenter and should have put up a little plaque in my honour on a chair, but because we genuinely loved the guy. He made the cafe.

Simple, tasty food, small setting. People came back because Anthony made you smile, he remembered your name. He knew what you drank. He was my foodie sounding board. The Monkeys adored him and would always run over and say hello regardless of whether we were buying anything. For 3 years this was our local. This was a place where I could study undisturbed for an hour sitting on one coffee, a place where my grandparents were introduced, Mr Chocolate and I had discussed any home issues at a back table, (when The Monkeys were being entertained elsewhere) milkshakes had been slopped by inexperienced child hands, biscuits handed out generously. It was OUR cafe and Anthony an important part of that sweet blend. THE important part of it.

But not any more. Two strangers stood before me, dishing out coffees and explaining the changes they had made to people coming and asking where Anthony was.

This got me thinking….How important are cafes within our community. For inner city living, the cafe culture is alive and strong. Weekends are full of streetside cafes, takeaway coffees a must and many a meal taken up in cafe. These cafes serve as meeting places, appealing to the family for a special treat out, friends meeting up, and singles seeking some alone time. With the absence of backyards for many inner city living people, this is a way of life. For many, if you are living in a small household like a flat in the city, you can be quite restricted with space. As our urban population increases, so will that high density living and lack of space.

If you want to go some where else, the options aren’t huge. The park, a bar, the beach or a cafe. I do my fair share of parks and beach, bars don’t appeal, so for a little me time now and again that hour in a cafe is gold. Pure gold.

There is something really inviting about going somewhere, where you are greeted warmly by name. Your coffee is being made without having said a word, and the conversation is easy. It’s hard to find that. It’s almost like an extension of your home. For many of my friends who live in the area and all living in 2 bedroom apartments with kids, these cafes are utilised frequently. Whether it be a place to take small children to on a rainy day for a babycino, a meeting spot with friend or a place for some quiet contemplation without kids. Cafes in inner city living are used, utilised and loved. Having a warm friendly face to greet you as you come in makes the experience. That cafe space for me has been on many an occasion, a life saver.

So now as we go past our old cafe I have to deal with from Monkey Boy, Mama it makes me feel so sad that Anthony is gone. I want to talk about him all the time, it makes me feel so sad…

From Little Monkey, ANThatttiii…ANThatttiii!! With small arms outstretched towards his cafe.

I know what you mean boys, I feel the same way.

feeling mortal…I think we need to do some cooking

Strangely enough I am not superhuman. This came as a bit of a shock. I thought as long as you put the fuel in, were kind to your body, mind and soul things would continue on even after major hiccups like hospital stays. Apparently it’s not true though.

Apparently even super heros get sick now and then.

Now I know I’m no super hero, and never try and pretend that I am, but getting blasted with a virus (with super evil powers) still was a bit of a shock. The kind of virus that lands Little Monkey in hospital for two days, Monkey Boy not to eat for 6 days and me to be a quivering mess in a darkened corner for far too long, (I have things to do damn it!)

So what does this have to do with cooking? It dawned on me as I pointed Mr Chocolate towards the fridge and told him “whatever” to feed our children for another consecutive night that all the cooking is central around me. The Monkeys are too little to really help out, and there is only so long the freezer meals will last. Mr Chocolate does long working hours so all the cooking pretty much I do. I have all these simple recipes in my head that mean the difference between screaming toddler at 4.30pm, who just needs a little something to tide him over until dinner, but all fairly useless if I’m not there to execute them.

If I was really sick for a really long time or really wanted a really long holiday…(oh!) Does that mean that’s the end of all the food that my family rely on and enjoy? Now don’t get me wrong, Mr Chocolate can cook a bit, and certainly wouldn’t let the boys starve but if he knew how to cook a few of the staples it would make me feel a little easier.

Even just to feed the sourdough starter.

So last weekend was spent with Mr Chocolate becoming Mr Sourdough and Mr Biscuit. The following weekend will be spent in a similar fashion, compulsory cooking classes.

Everyday Biscuits

* for use for snacks, cure for my belly is so hungry I may explode before dinner, or some after dinner dunking.

100gms softened butter

1/2 cup honey (125mls- a little more if you want them chewier)

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups plain flour (225g)

Cream the butter, honey, vanilla and then add flour. Lightly roll in a ball, then squish down a little. Bake at 180C until light golden.

Now how easy is that?

Evolution of Frugal Food

To me the evolution of food is fascinating. How dinner plates get changed over the years, dependant on where you live and what is available. Asking my family recently about food they grew up with had me fascinated as there were details there that I hadn’t been told before and I hadn’t even considered.

My grandmother grew up during the depression, in rural Australia. Born in 1930, her childhood years saw the brunt of the depression years followed by World War II. With both these factors, frugal dining wasn’t a life style choice, it was way of life. It was the only way of life that she knew for those first formative years.

A dinner meal might have what ever vegetables were able to be grown in the back yard. Such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, (turnip tops were eaten as greens). Mutton was the meat of choice with all parts being eaten. Mock brains were a favourite. Which consisted of left over porridge, beaten egg, salt and pepper rolled in to a rissole and fried. Rabbit would quite often replace chicken as it was cheaper and more readily available.

There was a lot of rationing during the war time, so this meant that everyone stretched out there dinner plate. Waste was not an option and anything ‘leftover’ was turned into something else. Every gram of fat dripping was used, and any meat that wasn’t as fresh as it could be was cooked up as a curry. A lot of people had chooks in the backyard, so there was always eggs.

Whats for dinner in 1930-1940 at Grandma’s house?

A boiled leg of mutton, with some boiled potatoes, carrots and turnips on the side.

When it came time for my grandmother to feed her own children, waste was never an option again. Even though bringing up kids in the 50’s and 60’s was much more a time of plenty. For my grandparents there was a certain amount of comfort brought with a steady doctors income and no Depression or World War lurking. However, to be wasteful of food was not going to happen. Those frugal beginnings were now in built.

My father would often eat food such as lamb brains, …. Much to his now disgust, offal was often served to both him and his younger siblings. This was a generation that hadn’t seen hard times, but still my grandmother liked to put on the table all parts of the beast. Those meaty offcuts so relished by her family during her childhood days. Meat was served at every dinner, in the form of lamb shanks, liver and bacon, rissoles. Spaghetti bolognese emerged and desserts were simple, such as bread and butter pudding.

Whats for dinner in 1950-1960 for my dad?

Meat and 3 vegetables. Lamb cutlets with steamed carrots, potatoes, peas.

After my father left home and had met my mother it was a time of the 70’s. New tastes were on plates. Things were appearing that hadn’t been available before. Food stuffs that were foreign and exciting. With more immigrants coming to Australia, also brought different ideas. For two young hipsters, living out the back of a kombie however food remained frugal. My parents were inspired by the ‘hippie’ earth magazines of the time, bringing new often Indian inspired dishes to the table. Spices such as cumin, coriander, tumeric, that hadn’t been used by their own families growing up.

My childhood, also saw its fair share of frugal food dinners. The dollar being stretched to feed myself and my siblings. There always seemed an abundance of food available, but looking back I can see that my mum would work for many long hours in the kitchen to achieve those delicious tastes. Fruit was preserved, jams were jarred, fish was bought whole, vegetables were bought in bulk (if not grown), and bread was made third daily. Chooks were always in the back yard. This substantially decreased our weekly food bills.

A frugal dinner in my childhood was often a bowl of lentils, Indian style. This dinner, some 30 years later is still a favourite with my siblings. A source of comfort? A nurturing food memory perhaps? Not one for cereal, my sister would often be on the brink of tears, if there hadn’t been enough lentils left over from dinner for the following breakfast. Yoghurt was emerging, vegetables such as capsicums were becoming available and olive oil was rearing its head as a food item rather than a medicinal one.

Whats for dinner 1970-1980 on my childhood plate?

Indian style lentils, served with brown rice.

Cooking a frugal dinner now. Jeez, so many options! So much produce is grown in Australia now, so many wonderful things to make while still keeping within a budget. My monkeys are lucky I think, so many great things. I’m sure as they get older there taste buds will mature, and my cooking habits will evolve as well. A diet that surrounds so many dishes that my grandmother in her childhood would never have heard off. Pesto, dhal, zucchini, capsicums, houmus, pizza, cherry tomatoes, all regular stars of the weekly dinner plate now.

So what is for dinner in the 2000’s on The Monkey’s plates?

Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, diced capsicum, cherry tomatoes, and shaved parmesan.

So cheap, so easy, and utter silence at the table. Nothing but the sweet sounds of chewing and slurping. Just as it has been done for 3 generations before them.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness. It seemed to be a word that just kept coming up last year for me. I thought about it, thought thats an interesting concept. Wonder if I could be more mindful and then sort of let it go, with the word just sitting there, slightly sticking out so as not to forget it.

A word that I know I should look into more as I feel my life would be more fulfilled if I did.

Mindfulness- being completely aware and present in that moment. The body and mind in harmony. Paying attention to the present moment and allowing the person to disengage from mental clutter- creating a clear mind.

My children are more fulfilled when I am mindful. Taking that moment to see what Monkey Boy is showing me, rather than giving a “ah huh. looks good” answer, and then continuing trying to complete whatever I was doing. He’s happy because I have taken the time to listen to him and see what he is involved in, so less inclined to keep interrupting me with what ever I am doing.

I think if I was more mindful in everything I am doing, things just might flow a bit easier.  I get caught up in the small things just like lots of other people, but I think it might be right time to take a step back and just see what happens for awhile. Rather than trying to be on top everything, all the time. Time to de-clutter the mind.

I’m going to try to look at it on a really basic level, and then if I can master that, go further with it in terms of its Buddhism background. Certainly not two things that can be compared, but a good place to start.

Mindfulness in cooking I have always been aware of, just not always put it in to practise. It makes a huge difference. The bread that has been mindfully mixed, kneaded, proven, and then baked. Of course it will taste delicious. So much better than the loaf that was interrupted with, kids fighting, phone call taken, and negative thoughts of other things. If mindfulness has been put in to cooking you can taste it.

The simplest of dishes can taste amazing if made with care, awareness and perhaps a dash of love. Compare that with a dish that has been made in haste, while side tracked with other things, slapped down on the table and then eaten without any thought. It doesn’t compare.

So can I do it? Can I bring myself to be more mindful in everyday life? Mindfulness brought to my cooking, my daily chores, my conversation and most importantly to my husband and children?

I’m sure going to try.


The week that was…

The week started off with a little playground action.

Visited the our wonderful local council nursery. So many great plants to buy. Also got some good tips for my worm farm.

Actually I am loving our local council nursery, an un-utilised resource for people. I’m trying to spread the word but I have seen a few glazed eyes as I tell people how great it is. Most people still like to keep to what they know and that’s a chain hardware/nursery supplies shop.

…..then we had  some  playground action.

The old favourite banana cake was made once more. Tried and true and eaten in a day. Its too easy not to make when those bananas are racing out the door in their black coats. And you can dress ’em up or dress them down’.

Depends on my mood whether it’s a sweet banana cake made with brown sugar and is lovely, light and fluffy or it can be a healthy little brick that involves a whole lot of pepitas, sunflowers seeds, linseed meal and honey. I like the brick but the boys like the fluffy.

After the cake was polished off, the monkeys and I had a little more play ground action.

Then some white nectarine jam. I wasn’t sure about this one. I’m not a big fan of white nectarines to begin with. I find them, not particularly juicy and the flavour is a little perfume-y. So when a whole lot of end of season fruit found their way in to my kitchen, I was unsure of what to do with them. So jam it was.

1kg white nectarines

600 ml water

600 gms sugar

juice of 2 lemons

1 large strip of lemon rind

It has actually grown on me. I thought initially it was too tasteless and just sweet in taste. However the next day after it had had time to think about things a little, the subtlty of the nectarine is a bit more apparent. The consistency is great too. Thick and delicious. Actually it was the consistency that made me re- think the whole jam and find something else to like about it. I don’t love it, but it still sure beats a generic shop one.

That ended our week, right after we went to the playground.

Accident prone gingerbread men

Gingerbread men. I have had the taste for these little fellas all week, and it was about time my fingers walked the talk. Besides there is nothing the monkeys like more, than helping to make biscuits.

We have these funny little gingerbread men cut outs with an arm or leg missing- although the boys just think some one has been tucking into their biscuits.

Biscuits should be their middle names. The hint of a biscuit and the older monkey is clambering all over me to get in on the biscuit action. This is done with shouts of “Glook! Glook!” (what the little monkey calls biscuits) as he shoves them  in as quick as possible, as obviously the quicker he eats them the more he gets (or so he thinks).

This is then followed by their dear father, muttering “I feel like biscuits” as the monkeys go to bed and quiet time ensues. Quiet time except for the persistent grumble of a stomach only hungry for biscuits.

Actually…. Maybe biscuit should be our family name.

Unusual yes.

But fitting….

why cafes and kids simply don’t mix

I live in the city. I live in a flat. I have 2 young energetic kids.

Now back in the day I loved nothing better than to sit back sipping my decaf soy latte. Then I moved on to the little macciato’s, cappuccino’s had a look in for a while and then back to the decaf latte again while pregnant. Add a little biscotti, some people watching, the weekend paper, it doesn’t get much better. So I know my cafe culture. I love my coffee culture. Its one of the best perks of living in a city. The choice of many great coffee haunts.

So what happens when you have a child? You drag them along too of course. You cling on to that cafe culture as long as you can. We don’t have a grassy back yard, where the kids can run around, so parks and playgrounds are utilised nearly daily, or even twice daily. And if it happens to be raining? Why a playdate at the local cafe for a babycino sounds quite lovely.

Now with one child a cafe date is ok. It’s not great, but you can do a little chatting, mop up the spilled milk, back to chatting, help the child back on to the chair after falling off etc etc. You can still cling on to that coffee dream that cafes are still for you, just as a family now.

Then the 2nd one comes along. Lets face it, the dream is shattered. Even with two adults to referee, and a toy box (if the cafe is really kind), it’s just not worth the pain of it all.

The youngest screams for more biscuit, the oldest trickles milkshake down the leg of the table, the youngest snatches the best toy off his big brother, the oldest dongs his brother on the head with said toy and gives him a quick pinch for good measure. The ‘ahhh, this is a lovely coffee ‘ moment is so brief, you vow not come again with the little monkeys.

Then 2  months go by, you forget the pain of it all as the mesmerizing coffee smells tease your nostrils again, wooing you in. So you drag the monkeys in with promises of milkshakes and biscotti again, in order to clutch on to that fleeting memory of old cafe days.

Episode repeats itself, with younger monkey fluttering his eyelids at the waitress as she starts sweeping the metre wide crumbs from under the table and older monkey stepping on outside dogs tail while trying to pat it as we make a hasty retreat once more.