Friday, 15 April 2011

Quick and, er, mostly healthy.

A house-wife's blog wouldn't be complete without a recipe or two to tempt the taste-buds and fill the belly. Here is something yummy and easy.

Some background first.

In the mornings, I really struggle to come up with interesting breakfast food for the monkeys. Usually I try to invent things. Things don't always work out. This morning, however, I scored a goal.

Meet the 'Breakfast Crumble".

It is a variation on the typical fruit, muesli & yoghurt breakfast that is all too common around here. Kind of like a Winter version of it. Or, technically an Autumn version of it. I made this with the organic pears that came in my CSA box this week. The idea came about because we have run out of our home-made muesli and my budget is too sad to buy the wheat-free store-bought muesli at the moment. I thought, surely it is possible to make muesli on the stove-top?

The recipe is below. Not that it's much of a recipe. This is so easy to make. You could use in-season berries or apple instead of the pear and you could even throw some real muesli into the crumble pan instead of the oats. You could add nuts or seeds. You could use honey instead of brown sugar. Macadamia oil instead of butter.

If you try making this or you've already made something similar please leave a comment below to let me know.

Breakfast Crumble

 2 Firm Ripe Pears, peeled, chopped into chunks
2 Tbsp Organic Sultanas Or Raisins
1 Tbsp Water
¾ cup Organic Oats
2 Tbsp Natural Almond Meal
3 Tbsp Organic Shredded Coconut
2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
50g Organic Butter


Put the pear pieces, sultanas and the water into a small sauce-pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pears are slightly stewed and steaming hot.

Meanwhile, melt the butter gently in a small frying-pan. Add the oats, sugar, almond meal and coconut. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture resembles cooked 'crumble' and smells like Anzac biscuits. Yum.

Divide the stewed pears amongst 3 bowls. Top each bowl with a third of the crumble mixture. Serve with a dollop or two of natural greek yoghurt and fresh fruit if desired.

Yield: 3 small servings or 2 adult servings.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

House-Wifely Thoughts

Today is a beautiful day.

Technically it is Autumn and winter is fast approaching, but today it feels more like Spring. There is no wind except a soft, warm breeze. The morning began with a chill in the air which gently dispersed as the sun rose higher in the sky. This is my favourite kind of morning. It prepares me for action like the usual waking-in-a-pool-of-sweat Queensland morning never can.

Having taken on the cloth-nappy life-style one of my first chores of the day is to drain the nappy bucket and tip the contents into the washer for a double rinse-cycle. I can't explain what it is, but there is something strangely satisfying about this task. Maybe it is the fact that I have an electrical appliance that does most of the work for me? I know I have it easy compared to previous generations of women.

While I am busy in my laundry I sometimes think about the women who must have slogged it out there before me. Most of them would have done all their washing by hand. The concrete slab that my washer and dryer sit on is a new addition to the 100 year old house we live in.  The laundry basin is original. It's three huge tubs are molded out of worn concrete.  This is an excellent laundry tub for washing cloth-nappies in, by the way. Each tub has a dedicated tap. One tub even has a built-in washboard, should I ever get the urge to do it the hard way.  Opposite the triple-tub is the brick surround of an old fire-place. Above the fire-place is a platform with a large round hole in it for the 'copper' - the huge bowl that my modern washer has replaced. The 'copper' is long-gone. Maybe cashed-in by a previous home-maker to pay for her shiny new washing-machine.

I'm relieved that I have a sympathetic landlady who also loves old things and only performed minimal improvements on this beautiful house.

The house is built in the typical 'queenslander' style. It is raised from the ground enough to have storage and laundry underneath, but not high enough to be legal head-height. This creates a laundry ceiling height more suited to midgets. Thankfully, I am part-midget, having never grown more then three and a bit feet in my whole life since being born at the ridiculous length of two feet long.

I have wanted to live in a house like this all my life. Although there are things that bug me, literally - like mosquitoes flying in through the unscreened windows, I am grateful for the chance to live in this house - even if only for a little while. This house was a gift from God. He went above and beyond answering my small prayers.

It is a pleasure to have a job to do and then be given the tools to do it. This morning I am grateful for my mummy job, grateful for sunshine, grateful for my old-lady house, grateful for modern washing machines, grateful for a loving husband, grateful for my lovely monkeys and grateful for, and to, my God.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

TrueFood Guide for Kids

Do your kids already eat their vegies? Do you get up early on the weekend just to roam the local food market looking for that one magic vegetable that has all the goodness of broccoli but tastes like chocolate? Do you count how many peas your little angel has left on their plate and then mentally calculate how much EXTRA vegetable you're going to have to cram into their reluctant mouths at the next meal?

In case you weren't doing enough already, now you need to be on the look-out for sneaky genetically modified food entering your kitchen. But wait, some helpful person has compiled a downloadable PDF that with some very handy information for a GMO-wary parent.

I just found this little number tucked away on the web and I thought I'd share it with you.

Here's the link:

Personally, I think the best way for my family to avoid genetically modified food is to eat organic meat & dairy products and avoid processed food, i.e. anything that comes in a packet with a list of ingredients.  This isn't always possible though and, if you are worried about genetically modified food, hopefully the little booklet will help. The website is also worth looking at. I found it comforting to know that in Australia no genetically-modified fresh fruit and vegetables are sold for human consumption, yet.

I am increasingly confused with the information around the place about healthy food, extra-healthy food, super-food, not-very-healthy food, extra-super-healthy food, etc.  I have just found out that not all branded 'organic' eggs in the super-market are free-range. Who'd have thought? It pays to read the fine print. I'd rather eat non-organic free-range eggs then non-free-range organic eggs. And never 'vegetarian' eggs. Chooks need protein. Unfortunately vegetarian chickens are fed soy protein to make up for the lack in their diets. My chooks would be offended if they were offered soy instead of a healthy, fat slug. They are quite selective in what they'll put in their beaks and they know exactly what to eat to produce lovely eggs with bright orange yolks. We provide them with a selection of (non-GMO) organic grains that are mixed up with fish-meal, and they forage for the rest.

I really wish feeding children was that easy and I know it'll be a constant learning process for me.  I only hope I get it right before they're too old for it to matter!

Lord, please help me.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Adventure in a box.

Adventure in a box.
There are some other words I could have chosen instead of 'adventure'.

Odd looking root vegetable.
All these things came in the CSA box I picked up yesterday.

I have had a few different kinds of food-box deliveries over the last few years.  This was the first 'delivery' I had to pick up myself though. And you know what? I didn't mind. This delivery was unique. Other deliveries have sometimes been organic, some times not. Sometimes they have been all fruit or all vegies or a mix of both. Sometimes the delivery has been meat. None of them have lasted long. Usually because after a little while I begin to wonder, is this really worth it? Am I paying all this money for something I can't get anywhere else? Can I really afford this? Usually we run out of fruit and we have to go shopping anyway to satiate the ravenous appetite my monkeys have for bananas. My eldest once ate four bananas in 10 minutes and still wanted his breakfast.

The reason I am so excited about this food delivery is that, compared to ones I've had in the past, it is CHEAP. Significantly cheaper. Another reason is that everything in the box was grown within the local radius of the city I live in. I am fortunate that Brisbane is in a subtropical area and our local farmers will continue to harvest fruit and vegetables in some form or another all year round. Everything in this box is either certified organic, grown organically or chemical-free. None of it was imported so it is all fresh. The snow-peas taste like the ones I used to pick and eat straight from my mum's garden when I was a girl and we were sent out to 'graze'. Green sugar.

CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture. The farmers who grew my fruit and vegetables can do it because there is a growing community who WANT their veges chemical-free and local and are prepared to invest money to get it.  Sharing means sharing the abundance but also sharing the lack. Strawberries are out of season? So we wait until they're back in season and eat whatever else the farmer can provide in the meantime.

I am so excited to be a part of this community. By supporting these farmers I am keeping food on THEIR children's tables. This is real food, grown in a real way and sold for a real price. What we put on our table can change genuinely with the seasons. I can also, with a click of my mouse on the CSA's website, find out the names of the farmers who grew my food. There is even opportunity to go to the farms and visit my fruit and vegetables growing. Maybe I could take some herbs from my garden for a bit of a play-date with the vegies before they 'officially' meet each other in my kitchen.

Dragon Fruit
While I was rummaging through my box, digging amongst old favourites like zucchini and tomatoes, being surprised by other vegies like a strange albino carrot (young parsnip maybe?), I came across a pink artichoke-looking thing.

 It's called a dragon fruit. Luckily, my mother-in-law was here to identify it for me.  Wikipedia identified it as a Pitaya.

Cut Dragonfruit.
Have a look at what I found inside when I cut it open. I have to say, the taste was nothing special. It was kind of sweet and very slightly sour. A very subtle kiwi-fruit flavour. My eldest didn't like it and my middle boy wouldn't even taste it. It's the colours of this fruit that I find tantalising. My camera couldn't do it justice. Do you think that pink is bright? In my kitchen it is even brighter. I have never seen food without artificial additives that colour before. And then there's the contrast of the lovely black and white flesh inside. I'm speechless.

Left to myself I would never have bought a dragon fruit. This is the adventure in a box I was writing about. It's the joy of receiving a gift like this. A new experience or taste sensation that I would never have chosen for myself.  Something unusual to amaze me and remind me of God's wonder. Thank you.

After being asked which company supplied our food-box I decided to include their URL here:
I hope that helps.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The switch from disposable to cloth.

When I had my first baby my lovely & frugal mother-in-law bought me a stack of snowy white, brand-new terry-towelling nappies. In the cloth nappy world they're known as 'terry-flats'.  I attempted to put a terry-flat on my average-sized new-born baby. My mother-in-law had pre-washed & pre-folded all the nappies. I still struggled and got it wrong. The nappy poked out of the plastic yellow pilcher all over the place and none of the cute new-born clothes would fit over it. So I gave up. Forget the environment, forget my budget. Forget washing and drying cloth nappies. Forget weird plastic yellow pilchers. I wanted style & convenience! And besides, none of my friends were doing it.

The terry-flats didn't go to waste. They were used as change-mats, spew-rags, face-cloths and a nice soft place to have 'nappy off time'. Gradually they were cut into quarters and used as rags.

Now what prompted this post?
Two things. The first is that I spoke with a lovely lady today who used the same, I repeat THE SAME twelve terry-flats for all three of her children. Not as face-washes but on their bottoms the way they were intended. And then, she passed those SAME terry-flats onto her children to use for THEIR children. So I'm beginning to feel like the most wasteful person on the planet.

Luckily for my ego, I had already made the switch to cloth. This is the second thing that prompted this post.

We are now onto our third baby. Needless to say, baby one and two both had disposable nappies. We tried every brand we could find but really, only the most expensive brand on the market seemed to fit right and hold everything in where it was supposed to stay. So for two children who were in nappies for an average of two years we have spent at least $4000 on nappies. Probably more. That's quite a cost. And that doesn't include wipes or nappy-sacks to put the stinky things in. And that doesn't include the cost to this planet. I have been personally responsible for $4000 worth of stinky, non-biodegradable nappies to be buried in land-fill. Sorry everyone.

Time for a change. For this baby, we decided to take the plunge and get kitted out with cloth nappies. Not any old nappies but the softest, most beautiful nappies I have ever seen. Now there are a lot of options on the market when it comes to reusable nappies and if you're interested in this topic I suggest you do some thorough research. As far as I know you can choose from biodegradable disposables (easy but still planet-friendly), terry-flats, pre-folds & modern cloth nappies. If you know of more feel free to comment below. I am far from an expert. Modern cloth nappies are a whole world of their own and there are many retailers with many brands. All the cute bum-related names have been used up as brand-names.

We have been using our new modern cloth nappies for about two weeks and I am thoroughly smitten. Never more so then when I put a disposable nappy on my baby today because I had mistimed my washing. The disposable really stank. And it was a fresh one! I had never noticed the stink before. It was putting off a vapour. My cloth nappies smell like sunshine and baby goodness. I couldn't wait for them to finish drying so I could put one on my precious boy.

I have only bought 13 so far and I really do need to buy more to keep plenty in rotation. If I double my stash then I would have spent around $800. I have bought multi-fit all-in-ones (there's some technical jargon for you!) so I won't need to buy anymore for this baby. So even though I've had to spend the money all at once, eventually I would have saved at least $1200 over the next two years. One more step in this journey of ours. And besides, he just looks so beautiful in them!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

It's been too long now.

This December my husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

They have been the best ten years of my life.

I'd like to include a joke here but I really can't think of one, it really has been wonderful being married to the love of my life.

As usual, I am pottering through my life, paying meticulous attention to the details (mum could tell you more about that) but not really stepping back to look at the big picture.

The truth is, I have neglected some things. Some very serious things. One thing is family finances. It hasn't really demanded much of my attention for a long time other then a few minor hiccups. My husband pays the bills through the wonder of online banking. When Income is up and Expenses more or less travel with Income then it's easy to ignore the bank account. But when Income is suddenly down, and Expenses want to go off on their own little adventure, then suddenly there is a problem. Drastic measures are called for.

Another thing I have neglected is our food. It hasn't been too bad. Mum taught me the basics growing up and I thought that we were generally doing OK. We never eat margerine. We put olive oil on everything. We look for the 'Organic' labels at Woolworths. We eat fish. We drink, ahem, bathe in raw milk. We buy from the Organic Farmers' Market down the road. But are we really getting the most nutrition per dollar? Turns out money and food are connected and we could be doing much better. Beginning with eating much less take-away.

It's a journey and one that we are beginning in fits and starts. And to complicate things, there are the three little monkeys who are traveling with us. I suspect though, they are actually making the whole thing simpler. They are my motivation and inspiration. They are one of God's lessons for us and I pray that I can look Him in the eye when I stand before Him one day and give account for how I nurtured these children.

As we walk, climb and sometimes crawl along this path to better management of our family's money, resources, health & earth I pray that God blesses us and shows us His hand in everything we do. Amen.