Friday, 31 May 2013

Embracing the last day of autumn

It's the last day of autumn today and the weather is perfect. There is a cool breeze but the sun is warm enough to make you feel like your cosying up next to a wood fire heater.

We love autumn at our place because our backyard is completely transformed thanks to a beautiful deciduous liquid amber tree. It was this tree that basically sold us the house. The original two bedroom house that stood here before we renovated was a run-down, cockroach infested, green and pink-walled shack. The carpets smelt like urine, the kitchen was rotting and when I would cook at least twenty cockroaches would clamber together for warmth on the kitchen ceiling.

But we survived. We lived in this house for two and a bit years before we renovated. Throughout that time it was this beautiful tree that added colour and vibrancy to an otherwise shabby home. We certainly added our touch to the inside of the house at the time – new paint, polished floorboards and photos—but it was always this tree that took centre stage. Even now with the renovations and extensions complete, it is the tree people still comment most about. It’s an artwork on its own.  

So today being the last day of autumn I thought why not embrace it in our own backyard?

Too often I am too quick to pack our bags and rush out the door to enjoy a local park or find something better to do.

Yet it's often in our own homes where some of the best memories are made.

We put on our boots, clomped down the stairs and let loose in our own backyard. We trampled through crunchy, golden autumn leaves, gathering handfuls of colour and tossing them sky high. Isabella enjoyed smooshing the leaves into Fin's hair as he would gasp and giggle.

We also thought it might be time to collect some oranges from our ancient, no-maintanance-needed-orange tree.The kids loved it. Fin especially enjoyed scooting along on his bum through the wet grass and crispy leaves.

As we made our own fun on this fine, final day of autumn, I realised how relaxed I felt. I didn't have to drag the kids to anywhere in particular or try to entertain them. We can made our own fun. It was a simple day yet one to remember. 

What do you love most about autumn where you live?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Saying goodbye to self pity

I woke up feeling sorry for myself today. I had two kids at home and no plans. It was raining outside and the house was a mess. It was still dark at 6.20am when my daughter Isabella rushed into our room and climbed into bed with my husband and I. Only ten seconds later she ran out, leaving a trail of morning wee behind her.

I buried my head under the pillow as my husband did the clean up. "Make sure you use disinfectant!" I yelled out. Then we had a "heated discussion" about toilet mishaps and house cleaning.

This was five minutes into the day.

Four and a half hours later I was still moping around the house in my ugly, stained, pink dressing gown. Isabella was squashing play dough all over the floor and Fin was rolling onions under the table. They were happy. I was still miserable. But part of me wanted to be in this place, this pit of self-pity.

Eventually the kids and I got dressed and we went for a drive to nowhere in particular. I just needed to get out of the house, out of my dressing gown and out of this negative head space.

Around and around the streets I drove as negative thoughts swirled around and around my mind.

I am so tired.

I feel trapped.

I hate rainy days.

I wish I could have a day to myself. A whole day.

I wish Isabella would stop asking so many questions.

“Where are we going mum?”

Nowhere. I am going nowhere. I feel like I am sinking.

But I reply, “We’ll see…”

We end up at the local shopping centre. It's a  hole a very exciting place. There's Target, the Reject Shop & Coles - all under one small roof. Wow!

I buy the kids some pajamas which has been a long overdue purchase. There's only so long you can squeeze an almost one year old into double zero pajamas.

We sit down at table and chairs outside a doughnut shop to have some morning tea that I had oh-so-budget-consciously packed. It's then that I overhear a conversation that changes my day.

“Would you look at that,” an elderly female voice says from the table a few metres away. “How beautiful are those two. A boy and a girl. Do you remember when…”

Her voice trails off and out of my hearing range. I wish I could hear but instead I imagine what she may have said to her husband who was sitting next to her.

“Do you remember when we had two young children? Do you remember when we ourselves were young  parents too? We use to think it was so hard. If only I knew how fast time would go and how quickly they would grow up and move out and into the world. I sometimes wish I knew what I know now: those days were some of the best in my life. I had purpose. I had my whole life ahead of me. I had my health. I had many friends and family, all still alive. I was free, without even knowing it.”
I look at my two children. Isabella is squeezing a ripe banana between her fingers and then painting the trolley with the sloppy, gooey mixture. Fin is mouthing a rice cracker, his yellow snot running over the ridge of his cherry coloured lip and into his mouth.

My children are beautiful.

I love them and I love that I can just be here with them. I have all the free time today to enjoy them.

Our next stop is the supermarket and I bump into my neighbour Jim. He is 85 years old and a keen gardener. I ask him how he is and he tells me:

“I am going slow today. I fell out of the taxi last night when I got home. My knee just gave way and they had to drag me inside. I am in a lot of pain.”

I listen and sympathise. I think that maybe I should help, but Jim being Jim has never wanted me to lift a finger for him. The subject of conversation changes and we say goodbye. I wish I could help but perhaps this was more of a case of Jim helping me.

I am slowly begin to realise how good I’ve got it.

As we meander in and out of the aisles I am conscious of my legs moving strongly and rhythmically. I have no pain. I am not trapped within my own body. I am free to walk, to run, to move without restriction.

I walk outside the shops and I spot Jim’s wife Pat. I begin to walk over to her and realise she is asleep, sitting atop of her walker.

“Why is she asleep mum?” Isabella asks.

“She’s tired.”


“Well, when you get old you get very tired.”

She looks exhausted. Her body is a little slumped and her pale face is set in a frown. It would have been a long and hard walk from the taxi to the entrance of the supermarket. It doesn't take much to take it out of her. We decide not to wake her and instead let her rest.

As we continue on I realise that although I am tired I still have energy. I feel like I have a  reserve of strength that come when you’re still young. I feel like I can keep going.

As I arrive back home from the shopping centre I am greeted at the door with clothes that have been flung across the floor and shoes scattered in the doorway. There’s still play dough squished into the cracks of the table and floorboards. There’s still toys and a zillion crumbs covering the carpet.

But I choose to look beyond the mess, beyond myself and see that I am so completely blessed.

Goodbye self pity.




Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Gluten free minestrone soup

I've been meaning to cook a heart-warming, gluten free Minestrone soup for weeks and kept putting it off because I couldn't be bothered dicing carrots and zucchinis into tiny peices.

But tonight I realised that all the dicing is well worth it. This soup is truly delicious, packed full of nutrients, fibre and antioxidants. It also fills you up without filling you out if you're worried about that.

So, I decided to adapt a favourite minestrone recipe of mine to suit my low gluten/wheat diet and use whatever was lying around in my fridge and pantry.

What i used:

1 x can of diced tomatoes
1 x can of chopped tomatoes
1 x cup of red lentils*
1 litre of gluten free veggie stock
2 x carrots, peeled and diced
2 x zucchinis, diced
2 x celery sticks, diced
2 x red onions, peeled and diced
3 x rashers of bacon, chopped.
1 clove of garlic, diced
2 x tsp of dried basil leaves (or a handful of fresh basil)
2 x tsp of dried rosemary leaves (or two sprigs of fresh rosemary)
1 x chili finely diced
2 x bay leaves:

So, as you can see from the image, these are simple, inexpensive ingredients. While cooking I did change my mind a little & added another can of diced tomatoes and three rashers of bacon (my naughty edition to this pot full of goodness) and left out the tomato paste. I also replaced the usual pasta in minestrone soup with lentils and they really won me over. The lentils give the soup a thicker texture & soak in the beautiful flavours. No need to worry about soggy pasta either.

How I cooked it:

1. In a large flame proof pot, fry off the garlic and onions and cook the bacon until it's slightly crispy.
2. Add the carrot and celery and cook until they have softened a little.
3. Fry the chili, dried herbs and then add in the cans of tomato & zucchini. Give it all a stir for a a minute.
4. Add the stock (warm in a glass bowl for 2 minutes in the microwave) and the lentils.
5. Pop in the bay leaves and let it all come to boil.
6. Once boiling, put the lid on and let it simmer for 40 minutes. You'll know it's ready once the lentils have cooked (they are soft and have expanded) and the veggies have softened.
7. Top with any fresh herbs you may have (I added some parsley from the garden) and some parmeson cheese if you like.
8. Enjoy with a side of crusty bread topped with butter- YUM! I had this soup with wheat-free sourdough spelt. Delish!

The end product:

Husband's Review:

My hubby, also my number one food critic, said this minestrone soup was "beautiful, amazing, one of the best."

Why, thank you...
I hope you enjoy it too.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Bedtime routine fatigue

If there is a Guinness Book of Records entry for the longest bedtime routine in the world then my three-year-old daughter would win it.

Right now, I have bedtime routine fatigue. After three and a half years of lengthily bedtime settling I am wanting out. I just want an easy day where I can say, "Go to bed now", and wham, she's there.

When my daughter was a tiny baby she required lots of settling to get her to sleep. I was constantly on the phone to Tresillian and reading every sleep training book known to man. I ended up using a mix of breastfeeding to sleep (a bad habit which is hard to break), controlled comforting/crying and rocking her cradle. When she grew too big for the cradle I found a port-a-cot that I could shake vigorously rock. This worked well for awhile but soon the rocking no longer worked. She was also no longer breastfeeding from 16 months. Nothing was working.

We then developed a routine which involved the usual dinner, bath time, reading two books, bed, prayers and then added some quiet singing. Each day and night my husband or I would sing her a song. This was fine until the routine slowly grew and stretched to be at least an extra half an hour some nights. We were now singing three songs, blowing kissing at the door, getting glasses of milk and water.

One of the songs we would sing to her was "Amazing Grace", a beautiful song, but oh how I needed grace itself. Sometimes I'd be singing it through gritted teeth and fumbling over the words just to get it out.

This sleep routine generally took an hour and a half - not including dinner.

Then when our second child came along all hell broke loose and she was taking FOREVER to go to bed. I was also up through the night with the baby and was completely exhausted. We got to a point where we were doing anything to get her to sleep so the baby would sleep.  Bad, bad, bad habit to start. We then began using baby sleeping music on top of everything else to soothe her..

At some point along the line, we added ‘telling her stories from our childhood’ to the routine and  'relaxing story' - a little bedtime meditation thing I made up to help her relax her body so she would stop rolling around the bed.

Why I added more things to this already long routine I don't know. I guess I was desperate. I thought maybe I'd find the perfect formula that would help her go to sleep and not keep calling out.

But we have instead become slaves. Slaves to my three-year-old daughter's routine. We have tried to cut the routine down and we have had some success. I put my foot down more now. I am happy to say, "enough is enough!" But she seems to not listen until I reach that point of boiling.

I hate having to raise my voice and get angry. Every. Single. Day. Did I mention this routine happens twice a day? After lunch and at night? Yes, she still has a day sleep. She needs it at least 4-5 times a week to keep her sane.

I can tell I've got bedtime routine fatigue because I'll often sit here at my desk swearing under my breath while I try to find the sleep music she wants from YouTube. I am not a swearer. It's only come upon me recently. I hate what comes out of my mouth. I get so frustrated.

Today she was crying out because she wanted a non-existant rocking chair to be delivered to her room. I don't give in. I guess that's easy when a rocking chair does not exist.

Routine is great but I am hoping that there will come a point where we can slowly cut it down. For now, I just need to see the positives:

-          It does help her unwind (if you count screaming and crying…hmmm)

-          I get quality time with her (true to an extent)

-          I get to listen to beautifully, relaxing instrumental music while I clean up the kitchen

-          I can re-live my childhood through telling her every good story I can remember (although I am now running out of stories)

-          I am learning to be patient (but need to work on no longer swearing.)

How about you, what’s your bedtime routine like with your kids? Anyone got a longer one?

I’d be interested in hearing all about it.