Tuesday, October 28, 2014

the I in family

When I was 30 I studied zen shiatsu. I remember the first class sitting in the circle of about 20 students of all ages and walks of life, listening to people tell their story as we went around introducing ourselves.

To this day, the only person in that circle that stands out in my memory is a softly spoken woman in her forties whose vulnerability and nervousness was obvious and the feeling behind her words incomprehensible to me, "I'm here because I've spent the last twenty years of my life raising my children and I haven't really had many interests outside of that so I thought I would try this out."

How could this happen?! My pre-baby self thought. How could any woman's sense of self disappear just because she became a mother and wife?! This woman seemed so lovely and at the same time seemed so, well, lost.

In that moment I vowed to myself that when I had children I would never let that happen to me. I would maintain my sense of self and continue to grow outside of being a wife and mother.

About six weeks into the shiatsu course I found out I was pregnant with River. I was beyond thrilled.

I finished the course but never did return to further my study in shiatsu, and now sitting here just turned forty and eight years into motherhood I have to say I have a whole new understanding of the mother in that circle.

As any mother reading this will know it is VERY easy to become lost in family life. And it is especially easy if like me, you have always been very maternal so have always adored being with children, but also if you are a people pleaser who doesn't like to rock the boat (unless it really needs rocking) and who thinks taking time out or asking for help is selfish and a sign of weakness. That was hard to write.

Without getting too psychoanalytical, I know that these tendencies are rooted deeply in my being and I am only at the beginning of being aware of them and changing my ways. Why change? Because they are no longer serving me. Up until now I have been genuinely happy being so devoted to my family in a way that even some of my closest friends marvel at and don't understand.

However if I'm honest, somewhere along the line I confused being a loving mother and wife with being available on tap to my family and giving, sometimes even when there was very little left to give.

With my youngest turning 5 next month and starting school next year we are entering a new season of family life and a bit like the woman in the shiatsu class I am at a new place of finding myself.

I feel relieved that I 'woke up' before I was completely lost and perhaps filled with regret or worse resentment. I can actively attend to what needs to change within me and continue to give of myself from a full cup rather than running on empty.

Watch this space.

Do you sometimes feel lost in your role as wife and/or mother? What are your tips for self-preservation and self-love? Your words might just help a mum who really needs it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

weekend reading

Where did the week go?

I've had River home this week with bronchitis and an ear infection which has been no fun. He is such a good, uncomplaining patient that boy but he was disappointed to miss a whole week of school and I was disappointed that I had to shift my whole week around and missed out on time with friends I hadn't seen in a long time. But that's what we mamas do and I wouldn't have it any other way. I count myself lucky that I can stay at home with my boys when they're sick.

I did make it to Melbourne at the end of the week, I'll write more about that next week.
For now, here is some weekend reading:

~ Michael Pollan on the benefits of homecooking

~ Dealing with picky eaters? Christine Sullivan is a naturopath and mum whose book Feeding Picky Kids is packed with sensible, doable tips and advice that if you put them into practice will restore harmony at mealtimes

~ Blogger, wholefood mama & health and wellness coach Brenda Janscheck has teamed up with naturopath Naomi Judge and together they have created an online e-course Breakthrough: Your Ultimate Guide to Losing Stubborn Weight. Oh I know, it can get so boring that we women talk about losing weight but fact of the matter is there is more to it than energy in and energy out and for some women even if they're eating well and exercising they have weight that won't budge and they're unhappy about it. The thing that I like about Naomi and Brenda's approach is that it is holistic and addresses underlying reasons such as hormones, metabolism and digestion. And for this reason I am sharing it with you! If you enrol before November 5th you can do so at the earlybird rate of $99 for the 21 day program. (I like it so much that I am an affiliate which means if you sign up via this link I earn a small commission).

~ Like I need another cookbook but The Nourished Kitchen is on my wishlist. Ok and while we're at it At Home in My Wholefood Kitchen by Amy Chaplin looks beautiful too. Visit Amy's blog here.

~ Today is the last day to sign up to Lisa's Small Steps to Wholefoods course, designed to help you get going with wholefood or get back on track.

We have 3 birthday parties to go to this weekend. With all this spring sunshine I'm in the mood for some celebrating. I hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you back here next week. Thanks for reading :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

9 tips for taking better photos

We'll take a little break today from wholefood and turn our attention to another great love of mine, photography. Now, I'm no expert when it comes to taking photos but I do enjoy it. Having a passion for something always helps with the end result. So today I share my simple photography tips in the hope it might help you get better results too.

9 tips for taking better photos

1. Light, Lens, Love: This tip comes from a very talented Australian photographer Jacqui Mitelman. I had the pleasure of doing a portraiture workshop with Jacqui about 12 years ago and her words have stayed with me.

I always choose natural light over using a flash ( on most cameras and phones you can turn the flash off). If you look at the photos of the fruit above you can see the difference in the photos based on where the light source (daylight through the kitchen window) is hitting the fruit.

The first and last light of the day is a beautiful time to take portraits of your children or anyone for that matter, or to capture the layers of colours for landscape photography. I learnt this tip about natural light from my husband Peter McConchie who is a real life professional photographer :)

If you have a fixed lens camera like I do then you are stuck with it (sorry!), but if you can change your lens perhaps consider doing some research, see which lenses other photographers are using and try out a different one to what you have now.

And of course everything done with Love produces a more beautiful result.

2. Look to the edges of the frame: this is a tip I read in a book years ago and it made a big difference to my photos. Often we are so focused on our subject in the centre that we forget to pay attention to what is around it, by looking to the edges you will notice if you need to move your subject to a better position. Beware of poles or trees sticking out the top of people's heads, or clutter on your benchtop if you are photographing food.

3. Pay attention to the background: this is similar but slightly different to the previous tip. Many years ago I happened to go on a shoot with Sydney photographer Ingvaar Kenne, he was photographing a Christian rockband! It was on this shoot I picked up the tip about the importance of background, especially for portraits. The streets of Melbourne were the backdrop for the shoot, Ingvaar showed me how to use everything from a staircase to a roller door as a background and the difference it made to the feeling of the photo. Try it out, different colours, different textures all create a different effect. Sounds obvious and simple but paying close attention to the details is what makes the difference between a great shot and a mediocre one.

4. Know your camera: I have to admit I am still working on this myself. I bought a new camera about six months ago because my other camera ended up with sand in it and that was the end of that. (mini tip - protect your camera from sand!) My current camera is a Fujifinepix S with a 30x superwide fixed lens. Next camera, I will definitely get one with a changeable lens. Photographers such as Jodi would also tell you to switch your camera off auto and on to manual, I too am yet to do this! I have started playing around with doing this but am not that confident about it yet. Watch this space...

5. Study photography you love: and see if you can work out exactly what it is that you love about it, what sets it apart from other photography? is it the light? the composition? movement in the shot?
the angles? Visit Jay, Jodi, Kellie, Erin, my husband Pete for some inspiration.

6. Challenge yourself: set yourself a task such as joining in with Jodi's 52 project, this will hone your skill if you have a topic to focus on.

7. School up: either borrow books from the library, do an online course, or find one at your local community centre or tafe. The main thing though is to remain passionate about what you are doing. The most technically correct photographers do not always have the most feeling in their work, but by doing some study you will gain confidence in what you are doing and the effects you want to achieve.

8. Edit edit edit: Until I met Pete I kept every photo I took! Pete has taught me the art of editing and that it requires you to be ruthless.

9. Practice, practice, practice

Now it's over to you, what are your favorite photography tips? or favorite photography sites or bloggers?

Friday, October 17, 2014

weekend reading

If you're wondering how to get our kids to eat salad, or they hover around you looking for food before dinner prepare a plate like the one pictured above and I think you'll find they will actually eat some raw veggies! 

For more school lunchbox inspiration go here.

Check out Meg's new ebook: Wholefood Children's Parties.

If you are feeling torn between your family responsibilities and your work or blog, read this.

I found Nisha Moodley via Olga and got lost over there for a little while.

Off topic of food for a moment, if you'd like to support an important social justice campaign my husband Pete is involved in please take a look here.

Continuing on the social justice topic, next month I will be supporting the Step Up for Sisterhood week that works to stamp out abuse and neglect of Australian girls. The funds raised from this campaign go towards the Sister 2 Sister program a year long mentoring and risk management program designed to empower vulnerable teenagers. One person believing in a vulnerable teenager can make be the make or break. Let's get behind this. 

Ok, that's the end of the list from me for today. I'm off to cook some bolognaise for dinner with wild deer meat from our friend's country property. Then we have a very low key weekend ahead which is exactly what the doctor ordered because this week Sol has had croup and River a chest infection which meant time off school and kinder. 

We spent 5 months on the road and no one had even a sniffle, two weeks home back on the cold, damp (but beautiful) Peninsula and the colds hit. Oh well the sun is out and the boys have been jumping on my bed like a trampoline this afternoon to I think they are back on track!

See you back here next week for wholefood deliciousness and more! x

Thursday, October 16, 2014

thursday recipe: lauren's chocolate brioche

We fell in love with Cooktown. As with all great loves, it is that element that you can't quite pin down or put into words that is the most seductive and that's the case with Cooktown. I can't quite put my finger on what stole my heart but stolen it was. (Ok so the consistent hot weather, palm trees and spectacular views of the mountains and sea had something to do with it).

The township of Cooktown is pretty basic, one pub, one bank, bakery, butcher, post office, a souvenir shop, an Italian restaurant, Indigenous art gallery, a couple of petrol stations, an independent supermarket with 4 aisles of groceries and a few accommodation options ranging from a caravan park and a back packers to guest houses.

Oh and there are a couple of cafes but don't bother with the coffee there. Pete decided he would brave a take away chai from one of the cafes, I went in and ordered it for him. The waiter asked, "Would you like coffee in it?" say no more.

One Sunday morning I visited the bakery thinking I'd buy River and Sol croissants. I scanned the few racks of bread and couldn't see anything that resembled pastry. "Do you have any croissants?"
"I could defrost some for you," came the reply. Thanks anyway.

So you can imagine our delight when we left Cooktown with our friend Dave who had flown up from Byron Bay, and headed out to Eddie's camp at the remote Elim beach and were treated to French and Vietnamese inspired campfire cuisine by our newfound friends French born Lauren and her boyfriend Josh.

It was out there at Elim beach where the heat was relentless, the showers cold, no swimming allowed of course because of the crocs, that we enjoyed good coffee brewed in Lauren and Josh's coffee press and Lauren's handmade chocolate brioche made using her Dad's recipe.

One afternoon while Pete, River and Josh went out fishing and crabbing, Sol, Dave and I watched Lauren create her French delicacy. The previous night in a stockpot over the campfire Josh had carefully prepared a wonderful Vietnamese fish curry. The spice kit they travelled with was better than the selection in my pantry at home!

This recipe isn't paleo, or raw, definitely not vegan, gluten free, sugar free or egg free. No, it's French. And having this made for us, in a remote location while listening to Lauren talk about her Dad and her life in France was as much a gift as the brioche itself.

Given we had been eating mainly fish and salad for days, the brioche was sheer decadence. (I did have a moment out at that camp where I thought I can't possibly eat fish again, and immediately felt very ungrateful!)

The day after making the brioche, we took some of the catch back into Hope Vale to share with our friends in the community.  The brioche however, well, leftover chocolate brioche? Whoever heard of that.

Lauren's chocolate brioche

60ml milk
3 eggs, whisked
140g butter (melted + cooled)
50g sugar
430g white flour
14g of yeast
a few drops orange essence (optional)
200g dark chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour, yeast and sugar and mix with a fork.

Make a well in the centre and using a fork, whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk and melted butter (and orange essence if using).

Mix until you have a dough.

Leave in a warm place for 2 hours or until it doubles in size.

Break dough into approximately 10-12 balls and press 2-4 squares of chocolate into the centre of each ball and cover the chocolate over with the dough.

Lauren baked the brioche in a camp oven over a campfire until it was golden. At home you can preheat the oven to 200C and bake on a tray until golden, approx. 12- 15 minutes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

weekend reading

We have been home 10 days and there's been a lot of catching up to do, not to mention returning to school and kinder for River and Sol. How happy we are to be home!

Here's what I've been catching up with online that I thought might interest you too:

If you're feeling overwhelmed about where to start with detoxing your whole life, not just the food you eat click on over and take a look at this new ecourse: 30 days to a low tox life with Alexx Stuart

And if it is specifically help with getting onto your wholefood path (beyond reading my blog :) take a look at Lisa Corduff's new four week e-course Small Steps to Wholefoods

I know it is spring not winter in Australia but this is worth filing for winter: 8 ways to keep kids healthy this winter (plus the blog is worth a read too)

I love this from Hands Free Mama: to love a child by their book. If you have been challenged by your child's personality you must read this.

If you like an old-fashioned calendar to hang on your wall take a look at Nicola Galloway's delicious creation for 2015 complete with recipes. Of course.

Hooray it's Friday! Have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you back here next with a recipe and more tales and photos from our travels. x

Thursday, October 02, 2014

where's my toothbrush?

We're home. Our road trip is complete. But of course the unpacking isn't!

Packing is always exciting, the anticipation of what lays ahead. Unpacking on the other hand is well, tedious. I've been pushing through it though and in the process sorting clothes and toys and sending bags of belongings to the op shop.

Pete and I have both returned home with a renewed sense of what matters and what doesn't, how we want to spend our time and what is important when it comes to raising our boys. We were both fairly clear on these things before we left, our time away has crystallised certain elements.

If anyone reading this has been considering taking a road trip I say go. So much of life can easily become predictable and mundane if we allow it to be, travel changes that. Travel is revealing, not only in what you see but in who you see in yourself and in those you travel with. Not all of it is beautiful, but it is rich and adds to the depths of who you are and who you want to be.

Having said that, for me traveling when our youngest was four and a half and our oldest seven and a half was perfect. I marvelled at families I saw travelling with toddlers and babes in arms. Maybe one baby but both a baby and a toddler! Not for me. The thought of breastfeeding, sleepless nights and then keeping an eye on toddlers so they don't get bitten by a snake or worse a crocodile is not my idea of fun. I'd love to hear differently though if you've done it and want to leave a comment.

In the 24 hours that we've been home when friends have asked, "How was your trip?" I haven't really known how to answer. You see, travel is different to a holiday. We weren't on a holiday.

Pete was working, making connections, joining dots, doing all that he could to ensure that his work with Indigenous Elders and at risk Indigenous youth brings positivity and longevity to young people in communities and values the wisdom and expertise of Elders.

River and Sol dropped easily into community life, playing handball with their new friends, catching fish and trying out a few swear words too!

I like to think that I too dropped easily into community life, making cups of tea, listening to stories, getting to know Elders and young people and of course cooking and sharing my love of wholefood as best I could with the limited good food available. In many ways I felt quite at home and in other ways I was confronted and overwhelmed.

It was the matter of factness that struck me when I was told stories of domestic violence, child safety concerns, drug and alcohol issues, chronic health problems, told in a way of acceptance that somehow normalised these situations. When of course there is nothing acceptable about any of them.

Pete has been working with Indigenous Elders for 20 years. This trip was my first time visiting a community. Not only did I gain tremendous insight and understanding into the reality of daily life in Hope Vale, the community we stayed in, I gained a greater insight into my husband. Despite the magnitude of the work he undertakes, working to convince policy makers that Elders led healing is the way forward, he rarely shows even a glimpse of it being too hard.

Now we are home and the work continues. It is big work, work that can sometimes overshadow much of our lives and I have to remind him to lighten up.

Blogging on the road has not been easy. So thank you for your patience and for returning here. In many ways Pete is anti-technology and while he supports the change I want to see in the way people eat, he doesn't even begin to understand why anyone would want to spend hours in front of a computer - promoting wholefood or otherwise! I felt for the most part of the trip it was best to surrender to real life and step away momentarily from my online life.

Finding time to blog on the road was one hurdle as was access to electricity and wifi in some areas.

But now I am home with only four sleeps until school goes back so there will be some clear time in my day (though I will miss River and Sol after 5 months spending everyday together), easy access to power and internet, and a heart full of stories to tell.

I look forward to sharing them with you as well as getting back to some usual posts such as recipes, weekend reading and wholefood step-by-step.

Oh, and the other thing I am really happy about is that my family can stop asking me "Where's my toothbrush?!"

If you have any questions about travelling with children please feel free to ask, or share your experiences in the comments.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

stills collection


1. Juice Art is a new smoothie & juice bar/cafe in Murwillumbah. I will post more about it soon.

2. River being his spontaneous, theatrical self who I love.

3. Beautiful poppies gracing Ruth's kitchen.

4. Wholefood picnic deliciousness.

5. We will be hitting the road again soon. The final leg home.

Monday, September 08, 2014

spring cleanse reading

Life got in the way last week of getting this posted on Friday for weekend reading so here it is to start your week...

In keeping with our spring cleanse/self care theme this week here are a few links to help you cleanse body, mind, and spirit and to inspire you to be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend.

I LOVE this from The Yogic Housewife - Don't worry no one has it all together

The importance of connecting to nature for our well-being and our children's well-being is spelt out clearly on Nic's page. Her passion and clarity about this brought tears to my eyes.

If you are looking for tips on starting meditation head to Leonie's post: Meditation for lazy people

Or exercise inspiration go here

For green smoothie inspiration head to Simple Green Smoothies

What to eat?

Try my simple parsley, apple and capsicum salad

My friend Robin's warm kale and pumpkin salad (minus the feta if you are on the cleanse)

Teresa Cutter's warm broccoli salad with kale, lime and roasted tamari almonds

Janella Purcell's miso soup with veggies

Green Kitchen Stories carrot, tomato and coconut soup or warm cauliflower salad (again minus the feta if you are on the cleanse). There are many other delicious suitable recipes on this site.

This delicious sounding vegetable curry

I have been making separate/additional meals for my children during the spring cleanse, it is the only time I do this! I have been keeping it simple for them though too, avocado, poached egg on toast, tasting plate with veggie sticks, olives, hoummus that sort of thing.

I'd love to hear how those of you on the spring cleanse are going. Only 5 days to go! Which also means 5 days until my birthday. Can't quite believe I am turning 40! Half way to 80. More thoughts on that later. Happy Monday!

Photo credit: Peter McConchie

Sunday, September 07, 2014

stills collection: road trip

1. Driving up Elim beach at low tide to see the coloured sands

2. So many mangroves. Elim beach

3. Fisherman in the making

4. Sand dune fun

5.  River gave his AFL footy card collection to his friends in Hope Vale

6. Sunset Hope Vale
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