Monday, July 18, 2016

first impressions: north east arnhem land

After a mere 10 hours driving from Katherine, 700 kms of the drive on red dirt avoiding pot holes, sandy bogs and jagged rock we arrived in Arnhem Land.

For 11 years I've been hearing about Arnhem Land and Peter's Yolgnu family who live here.

Finally we are here together with our own children.

Pete is working with a Yolngu Grandmother here who takes care of her community through a healing program, taking young at-risk Yolngu out to homelands for support and healing.

We are based in Nhulunbuy the mining town set up here on the Gove Peninsula in the late 60's when Rio Tinto started mining bauxite for aluminium.

From Nhulunbuy we go out bush with Pete for him to do his work.

The coastline and landscape is postcard perfect except when the mine and refinery come into view, the mined red earth and the imposing refinery buildings and silos look like something out of a sci fi film dropped from the sky.

It is hard to fathom what it must have been like here in the 60's before the mine arrived and even harder to imagine what it must have been like when Rio Tinto made their mining 'deal' with the Traditional Owners of this land.

I don't even feel like I am in Australia anymore. It is a place of its own here.

We are remote in many senses.

Food comes in on a barge from Darwin once a week. Once the supermarket runs out of something for the week that's it. I was told on one of my first visits to the shops "Sorry, no bananas until next week".

But then there's Nature's 'supermarket' where real food is plentiful if you know where to look and how to catch it.

On our first trip out bush we ate the most spectacular mud crab, speared in the mangroves by a Yolgnu friend and cooked on the beach by his mother. "From the mangrove, to the fire, to your mouth," she said laughing as she handed Sol and I a crab claw to share.

There was no sense of time that day on the beach until the sun started to set, "We need to get back to camp before its dark, so they can collect gapu (water) from the creek" our Grandmother friend said looking up the beach for her son and husband who had gone fishing with River and Pete.

As dusk settled around us on the beach I began to worry about baru (crocodile). I looked up the beach nervously hoping to see the hunters walking back. I noticed Grandmother and her daughter-in-law did not take their eyes off the sandy point in the distance where the men had gone hunting, they too seemed to be willing them to walk back into view soon.

Within minutes we could see them walking back towards us. No fish today. We were happy and grateful for the crab. Grandmother gave the other crab claw to Peter and River to share and divided the body of the crab up for her and her husband, her son and daughter-in-law.


I shared this story on my facebook page, it has been one of my favorite moments of the trip so far...

We went to meet Nandi Beth, Pete's Yolgnu mum. Nandi is the Yolgnu word for mother. Nandi Beth was spending a few days in hospital, nothing serious so we went to the hospital to meet her. Her delight and joy at seeing River and Sol for the first time was so lovely. She hugged them to her and smiled from her heart, then stood back and looked at the boys, "I get depressed when I come to hospital. Now you've made me happy". In the car when we left Sol said, "We look different but we have the same feelings. Grandmothers love to see grandchildren." They sure do. It was such an experience of universal love.


There are challenges here. Divisions. Politics. Corruption.

There are wonders here. Songlines. Dreaming. Artistry. Family. Ceremony.

I hope you'll stick around to hear more.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

love a puppy? read this first

Meet Jedda.

In January this year a lady named Kel drove into our driveway in a pick-up truck with two red heeler x dingo pups on board.

Kel was like a movie character.

Long red hair down her back, cowgirl boots and belt to match, dressed in jeans and check shirt she was fit for a rodeo. Kel is an animal whisperer no doubt about it.

I'm still not sure exactly how Pete found Kel but he had heard that Kel found puppies for people. So for a good few months Kel was on the lookout for us for a red heeler pup.

Late December Kel phoned to say that she had found a breeder in Queensland with a litter of pups but that we needed to wait a few more weeks before the pups could leave their mum.

I was out of the house when Kel arrived. When I came home River came running out the front door, "Mum this is the best day of my life!!!!"

I knew Sol was going to be excited that we FINALLY had a puppy but River's excitement surprised me I didn't think he would be as taken with the little bundle of fur that arrived.

Once the first rush of puppy love wore off and the toilet training challenges set in we all began to realise we had absolutely no idea what we had signed up for.

It was Pete's idea to choose a working dog breed. The idea and the reality are quite different things.

We knew that puppies and working dogs especially had a lot of energy and would be quite nippy around the heels as their sharp little baby teeth were tested out but wow it was all so constant!!

So much so that within two weeks of Jedda joining our family Pete declared to me one evening, "I've made a mistake. I've chosen the wrong breed, I think we should send Jedda to live on a farm, now while she's young before she gets too attached to us".

"Whaaaaaat??!" was my civilised response. "I think we need to give it some more time", I suggested. "She'll settle down."

But no, in my darling husband's get-things-done-now approach he decided it would be a good idea to tell River and Sol of his plans the next morning before school.

"Can't you at least wait until after school? They're going to be devastated," I said bracing myself for the inevitable tears.

And tears there were.

I took the boys to school that morning with tear stained faces and tried to re-assure them that Dad would change his mind. I hoped quietly to myself.

That night after school River in his mature beyond his years way announced to Pete that he had an offer for him, "Dad if I spend time training Jedda, we take her to puppy school and we keep her for another month, if she hasn't settled down by the end of the month we can find a farm to take her, but if she does settle down we can keep her." How could anyone argue with that?

I'm very pleased to say that six months later Jedda is firmly part of our family.

It's been an interesting ride falling in love with a puppy and carrying out all the responsibilities that come with having a pet. Sol and River do really love Jedda and I might add that Pete is besotted with her. Pete is the one that walks her on the beach each morning and has made a whole new group of friends as a result.

Jedda's made friends too, we don't only have children over to play now we have dogs! Jedda's friend Del has even had a sleepover!

Within a day of Jedda arriving I tried to talk a friend into taking Jedda's sister. I'm so glad that my friend decided not to. With the benefit of hindsight it wasn't the right time in my friend and her family's life to take on a puppy.

If you're dreaming of owning a puppy or have children trying to talk you into getting a puppy my advice would be if you've never owned a pet before do your research before getting a puppy.

Here are my tips:

- research the breed, do they lose hair? how active are they? what are their temperaments? do you have enough space in your backyard for the breed you are considering?
- find out all the costs involved - registration, vet fees, pet food, flea treatments, grooming
- if you travel a lot - who would look after the dog? could the dog travel with you?
- spend time at the local dog walking park or beach and get to know some dog owners and different breeds. Keep talking to dog owners and ask lots of questions

Having a pet IS a wonderful thing. It is a big responsibility too, one that will demand of your time, energy and money but will of course offer emotional rewards and physical too with all the walking you'll be doing!

Even though in my heart of hearts I'm not really a pet person (sorry for all of those who are! but I have to be honest!) I can't imagine our little family without Jedda now, she is such a sweet old soul and she has brought new friends into our life too.

Are you thinking of getting a pet? If you have a pet what are your tips for becoming a pet owner?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

birds of a feather

We're preparing to drive north for the winter.

And with that preparation, my mind turns to schooling the boys on the road.

I've been reading Guerilla Education - How to Give Your Kids A Real Education With or Without School, a fantastic read that my friend Robin loaned me, written by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver.

There is so much for me to learn reading this book.

When it comes to education Pete and I have chosen to send our boys to a local public primary school even though I think that mainstream schooling isn't perfect, there are many aspects of school that our boys enjoy, River more so than Sol but he has warmed to it too especially since having grommets put in his ears on the last school holidays. He can finally hear!

For one term each year though, I homeschool our boys while we are on the road traveling for Pete's work with Indigenous Elders around Australia.

The homeschooling is something that I both love and feel anxious about. Am I doing it right? Are the boys going to 'fall behind'? It feels like a tremendous responsibility to school them in an academic way.

While all of my concerns are valid I stop my mind and heart going too far before they spin into a whirlwind of worry. Everything is going to be ok. I take a breath and get some perspective.

We live in a small, beautiful coastal town and community. The natural beauty of the ocean and seascape is truly spectacular. The pace of life away from the city suits us, no traffic or pollution. So many positives.

Here comes the BUT, it is a limited view of the world our children are growing up with here so it is important not just for them but for Pete and I to travel and see the world beyond our bubble here.

Travel for us offers the school of life, or road school as I like to call it.

So, back to education.

What I love about Guerilla Education is the way the authors offer 5 keys to learning: opportunity, timing, interest, freedom and support.

These are the keys that are just not entirely practical to live by in mainstream schooling where unfortunately there is a heavy focus on achievement and outcome and at an ever increasing and pressured pace.

My concern with the mainstream approach is that children's love of learning can be squashed and the critical thing that suffers is their confidence. This has a domino effect on so many aspects of the child's life. I sometimes ponder ways that this could be different that I could suggest to the education department, ways we could change the culture of education. I know, no small task but a worthwhile one!

I'm already putting the Guerilla Learning keys into practice by noticing the topics that naturally catch my sons interests and creating opportunities for them to delve into them deeper.

When I think back to my childhood my great grandmother was really the person who did this for me, who noticed my love of cooking and gave me opportunity, freedom and support to explore this interest. I always remember bringing home a cookbook from the library when I was in about grade four, Grandma let me choose any recipe I wanted and we cooked it together, the recipe was called 'birds nests', baked potatoes with an egg cracked into the middle with bacon and cheese on top!

Sol's interest in birds is so clear and continuous. He's had croup the last couple of days so we have researched and written about birds. Did you know birds have hollow bones? Neither did I. "Let's look up flightless birds Mum!" Sol said enthusiastically, pen in hand ready to write down the names of the birds. Everything the authors of Guerilla Learning said would happen happened! Three months ago getting Sol to write was about as easy as it is for me to fly.

And River, all he wants to talk about, learn about, read about is Greek gods and mythology thanks to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series of books.

With this in mind I'm starting to prepare lesson plans for our trip based around River and Sol's natural interests. And now I'm excited.

We're such funny creatures us humans, I go through this process of anxiety and nervousness every year before our trip and I come out the other side. Most times for me its a case of loosening my grip a little, just letting go and er... not trying to control the outcome :)

Where are you at with educating your children? When faced with change do you hold on too tight sometimes?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

the friday list

What a bad blogger I've become. So much dead air time! And still you turn up. Thankyou.

Well today I've turned up, I'm having a little break from writing copy for a client's website.

I thought I'd share a friday list of things (on saturday) that have caught my eye this week...

My friend Brenda Janschek has given her site a makeover and it looks fab.

I'm saving up to do this course, if writing is part of your day job I reckon its a goodie.

I found Feasting at Home this week, all the recipes look super delicious.

I'm not really a slipper kind of a gal but take a look at these! 

Have you been to Copenhagan? I haven't but I enjoyed this little window into Copenhagan photographer and writer Nana Hagel's world.

I had dinner last night at Cakes and Ale with a group of local women in business, highly recommend a dinner out with some great women if you haven't done so in a while. I'll mention while I'm here that Cakes and Ale have started a 'Local's Lunch' that they'll be offering all through winter, a main course and a glass of wine $29.50 or two courses and a glass of wine for $35.00. Worth a trip to Sorrento!

A friend invited me to a fundraiser during the week and one of the items on sale was the beautiful soy candle pictured above, from Feather and Soy

If you feel like a night off cooking and you're local to Elsternwick, call into a new shop (that I do the marketing for) called What's 4 Dinner. Beautiful home-style meals like you'd cook at home, real food, no nasties, family friendly, gluten free and vegetarian options too.
250 Glen Eira Road Elsternwick ph: 9528 3507

Happy weekend everyone. Hope you've got some sunshine where you are x

(*Just so you know I do the marketing for Cakes and Ale too).

Sunday, May 08, 2016

I love you past the volcanoes and back

Mother's Day.

Another one of those days in the year that can be joy filled, tear filled and everything in between.

Even if you want to ignore it, want it to be low key, some years it just isn't what you expect it to be.

This year, today my day was perfect.

The rain was falling and I got to watch it from my bed and listen to the sounds of my three guys in the kitchen preparing me breakfast.

Breakfast in bed on Mother's Day. A first for me.

Every Mother's Day is different.

Some years I miss my mum.

Some years we have a family lunch.

One year we spent it in in New Zealand with friends.

There are parts of this calendar event that I love and parts I loathe.

Whatever shape yours took I hope that it was all ok, and if it wasn't that you can take a few deep breaths, head off to sleep and wake up to a brand new day leaving the hurts and hiccups of today behind you.

I just read Kate Northrup's post about being a new mother. Its a must read.

Oh, the "I love you past the volcanoes and back" they are the words from Sol's Mother's Day card.

The volcanoes no less. I love that his imagination went beyond the usual moon and back and led my imagination to wonder, where are these volcanoes anyway?! Of course the literal meaning isn't important, the point is wherever the volcanoes are and back that equals a whole lot of love!

River's card touched my heart equally, describing me as "adventurous" because I try new foods lol. And that I'm good at "writing your blog and other things as well".

It got back to me a while ago that a male friend had read my writing here and couldn't understand why I'd write the things I write here, I'm guessing he found it a bit too personal, not professional or 'writerly' enough but that's because I don't write it for my friend, I write it for women.

I write here for the mamas, the fairy god mamas, the aunties, the sisters, the girl cousins, the female the feminine, that's who I write this blog for, yes for me but also for you.

So Happy Mother's Day ladies, whether you have children, wished for children, are missing your children or missing your mother today you are all welcome here and I hope that I provide something for you for the taking, something that inspires you, makes you smile, touches your heart or just makes you think "I'm not alone", because you're not! Not today or any other day. We're all in this together.

Friday, April 22, 2016

catching up + a friday list

It's been a while between posts. Sorry about that!

Life got busy and full.

We got a puppy.

We moved house.

Sol had grommets put in his ears.

I've undertaken more writing and marketing work this year than I have since before I had children - ten years ago - so now I have a full work load. Children. A puppy. And husband. Blessed. And stretched in every direction!

Ok, so now I write it in a list like that, A LOT has happened in the last month.

And sadly, time to blog fell away. Not because I haven't wanted to blog but because I decided I needed to sleep each night well before midnight.

Anyway, here I am back at the blogging wheel and happy to be.

Coming back with a Friday list seems like a good place to start...

I'm working with a new marketing client on their social media, they publish excellent resources for early childhood educators so if we have any kinder teachers or childcare workers in our midst do take a look at Teaching Solutions

Since I haven't been online 'just for fun' for a while I've been enjoying re-visiting some of my favorite food blogs:

My New Roots

Petite Kitchen

Mondays Wholefoods

Homegrown Kitchen

Have you read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? I loved it.

I enjoy being on the newsletter lists of Pip Lincolne, Brenda Janscheck, Mamacino and A Cup of Jo

How amazing does Sophie's chocolate cake with sweet dukka and goat's curd look? (it's 4pm I'm hungry)

Blogging can be a bit like going for a run, once you put your shoes on you're fine, off and running.
So consider this post me putting my blogging shoes back on and hopefully it won't be so long between visits.

Have a great weekend x (long weekend if you are in Australia)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

thursday recipe: emily rose brott's chocolate pecan brownies

We're moving house this week.

I'm surrounded by brown cardboard boxes, a few filled, many empty waiting for the contents of our cupboards and shelves to be placed inside sealed with tape and transported to...our new home!

Our new home that we've waited almost ten years for.

When River was six weeks old we moved to our current little beach shack which is in a fantastic location between the ocean and the bay.

We've had what I think is possibly the cheapest rent in Australia while we've been here - believe me the antiquated kitchen and bathroom haven't deserved a dollar more - but the location is the drawcard.

It has been the perfect little nest to raise our babies into boys, and the easy to handle rent has given us freedom, freedom to travel each winter to remote communities for Peter's work and freedom to save.

For the past three months Pete has treated getting our new house ready like a job leaving home early each morning to go 'on site' and work through a long list of plastering, painting, laying new floors, designing and creating new bathrooms and kitchen and and and the list goes on. We've been blessed to have the help of my uncle with this work and a great young carpenter who has enjoyed honing his craft on Pete's creative design ideas.

I'm looking forward to showing you some photos soon!

But for now there's brownies. I thought you'd be ok with that. Personally I don't see what the fuss is about brownies I'd rather eat chocolate but I know a lot of people love them. My sons and husband included!

Thanks to mum of four and cookbook author Emily Rose Brott for sharing her brownie recipe here today. This recipe comes from Emily's most recent book My Secret Ingredient. If you don't eat wheat flour you can use spelt or your favorite gluten free option. I also don't use rice bran oil so I'd use almond oil or butter.

You can read more about Emily and get her recipe for apple, oat, cranberry and chocolate muffins here.

Ok I'm off to make school lunches and then pack some more boxes.

Enjoy the recipe x

Emily Rose Brott's Chocolate and Pecan Brownies
3 eggs
2/3 cup (165ml) rice bran oil
120g 70% dark chocolate
2/3 cup (190g) honey
¾ cup (120g) wholemeal (whole-wheat) plain (all-purpose) flour
¼ cup (25g) almond meal (ground almonds)
¼ cup (60ml) milk
½ cup (55g) chopped toasted pecans (refer to cooking tips)

To make
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F) fan-forced.
Beat eggs and oil together. Melt chocolate, and mix honey into the chocolate until dissolved. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture, and beat.
Mix in flour, almond meal and milk until combined.
Stir in toasted chopped pecans.
Grease a brownie tin (28cm × 18cm) with oil, and line base with baking paper. 
Pour mixture into tin, spreading it evenly, and bake for 25 minutes.
Leave to cool in tin for 20 minutes before removing and leaving to cool further on a cake rack. 
Slice and serve.
Makes 15

Cooking tip: As an alternative to pecans you can use toasted walnuts or macadamia nuts.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

are you mothering or smothering?

Are you mothering or smothering?

In different words essentially this was a question asked by an Elder at a public forum of about 100 people that my husband went to in Alice Springs last year.

It was a good question that made me think. Smothering is different in a way to what we think about when we use the term 'helicopter parenting'. It is more about getting kids do things for themselves and in fact getting them to do way more than most of us probably do right now.

Another way to look at it is that lots of kids today are raised sitting on the couch so to speak. You know, they don't do much around the house, aren't expected to do much or parents have given up asking.

Before we go on, I am as guilty as the next parent of doing things for my kids that I know full well they can do for themselves OR that I really should take the time to teach them to do for themselves.

My boys have their jobs to do around the house - make their beds, empty the compost bin, empty the recycling bag and the rubbish bin, wash and dry dishes (I'm not consistent enough with this one yet), putting their clothes and toys away, and from time to time sort and fold the washing. Looking at that list it isn't much really.

So why do I and so many other mums I know do too much for their kids?

One of the number one reasons some of my friends tell me is because they don't want to have to listen to their kids whinge about whatever the said task is.

One of my main reasons is because I know I can do it faster myself and often I can do it better.

Really, none of these are good enough reasons.

We are not doing our kids any favours (or the other people around them at school, at friends houses and later in their workplaces) if we are not teaching them to be capable and independent.

I am making a concerted effort before I just do a task, I make a point of asking River or Sol to do it.

Instead of feeling like you have to do everything around the house, start delegating. Not only does it lighten your load and teach your kids skills, it relieves any underlying resentment you may be feeling about having to keep on top of the household chores and perhaps you're not even aware of it.

So join with me, take the time, let go of perfect and let's put the effort into raising capable, independent kids.

Love to hear your experiences with this in the comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

from our kitchen to yours

I was so honoured to be asked to contribute a recipe to an e-book titled 'From Our Kitchen to Yours'. Some of you may have noticed it starting to be promoted on social media.

It is the brainchild of Sonia Donaldson who blogs at Natural New Age Mum. Sonia decided she wanted to take action in response to the high incidence of domestic violence in Australia so she put the word out to some of her blogging buddies in the food, health and wellness area and Aussie Wellness Women was born.

Our first project has been to put together 'From Our Kitchen to Yours'. All monies raised from the sale of the e-book go to the Luke Batty Foundation, our goal is to raise $200,000 and we would love your support either through buying the e-book and or sharing details of our project and goal to your family and friends.

In addition to the e-book Aussie Wellness Women have organised a nation wide donation drop of items such as unused bed linen, women's clothing, vouchers to supermarkets or department stores, this Saturday 27th February to support women and children at refuges. Very often women and children arrive with only the clothes they are wearing. Details of where you can donate and what is needed in your state can be found here.

**The Melbourne one is at Street Organics 1430 High Street Malvern between 8am and 4pm.**

Together we can all make a difference.

Thanks in advance for your support.

**If you or someone you love is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault you can call 1800 737 732 information and support is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week**

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

consistency is key to happiness and success

A new year brings 365 untouched days for us to leave our mark on, to dream our dreams, live them, and still there's washing to fold.

Even if you're not one for new years resolutions what I'm writing about today is an unavoidable truth.

Anything that you want to achieve in life, that you want to master, or even just get a little bit better at calls for one thing - consistency.

My husband who has published nine books and has a single minded focus and self belief that I marvel at reminds me regularly that consistency is the key to achieving all the things that he does.

Let's take a look at the usual suspects where 'consistency is key' applies:

- Improving health and fitness

- Weight loss

- Reducing stress and anxiety

- Getting children to eat fruit and vegetables

- Saving money, building wealth

- Having stronger more fulfilling relationships

- Becoming a better artist, singer, musician, athlete, photographer, craftsperson

I admit I struggle to be consistent with some things in my life. My blog is a good example of that as you patient readers know. I have bursts of posting and then it is quiet for days.

My unfinished cookbook is another example. Spending just half an hour per day - everyday - would see that book finished in a couple of months. So why am I stalling? What is the pay off?

I'm going to get deep now.

Generally there is a pay off that we might not even be fully aware of as to why we keep doing things a certain way that basically just aren't working.

We cling to those ways mainly because we are comfortable in the pattern we are in and attached to the feelings that those behaviours bring. What??? I hear you cry, attached to the feeling of being broke or overweight or having projects unfinished, am I crazy you ask?

Nope. Not crazy. Just spelling out the complex human condition. Somehow we have to let go of being attached to those feelings and see ourself stepping into a new way of being and feeling, allowing ourself to do that and get on with it.

I've veered slightly off on a tangent but my point is whatever you are hoping to achieve and feel fulfilled about this year requires your daily attention. Daily is the key word. Ok, you can have weekends off if you want to.

Save 10% of every dollar you earn this year. Every dollar.

Write one page every day of that book you've been dreaming of writing. Every day.

Phone a friend or family member once a week and have a good talk. Every week.

Get up half an hour earlier and go for a walk, do some yoga, move your body. Every day.

Present fruit and vegetables to your children at every meal and snack. Every meal and snack.

Consistency is what it takes. I hope you'll join me this year in being consistent about the things that really matter. Happy New Year!

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