26 Nov 2014

cooking (with little people)

We have done a lot of happy mama + toddler cooking lately... I must confess, up until recently I've found cooking with this little person quite challenging. It is just so much easier to cook alongside him while he does something else like run about wildly or race cars or read books... But when he's pulled a chair up to "help mama" there is sure to be cream splatters, washing up water on the floor, raw egg finger-tested... It's also that I find it difficult to change my pace - to slooow down - and be patient for him to stir and grate! This is not always possible, but in the past few weeks I have made a decided effort to prepare a meal everyday with him. Oh, and let messes happen!

So far we've made banana ice-cream, sushi rolls, salad, orange juice jelly, shortbread, green bean salad, omelette and guacamole. Sushi is especially wonderful and tactile - fingers spreading out rice - cutting fillings - rolling up the seaweed (which the little cook would rather eat just plain by itself). I am amazed that these tiny hands are nimble enough to whisk and even, with careful guidance, slice green beans!

My love of cooking started at a young age - when I was about four or five. I am so glad for the encouragement and opportunity my mum gave me so I would feel comfortable in the kitchen preparing edible (and inedible) meals and learning one of life's great skills - making wholesome food for yourself and others.

Let's be brave and encourage the same in our little ones...

~Real banana ice-cream ~

5 free-range egg yolks
1 litre full-cream milk (we use raw)
1/2 cup cane sugar or honey
2 very ripe bananas
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Prepare the custard by heating milk in a saucepan on a low heat until just below boiling. Meanwhile whisk egg yolks and sugar in a jug or bowl. Pour in warm milk and whisk vinously - then tip back into saucepan. Continue to heat and stir custard until set (when the back of a wooden spoon stays coated with mixture). Cool. Stir in mashed banana, spice and vanilla. Freeze in a ice-cream machine or (as we do) pour into popsicle moulds. 


~Gluten-free sushi rice ~

Its funny to put the "gluten-free" in the title but most store-bought sushi is not free from gluten - despite being rice based, the vinegar often contains wheat or grain alcohol and the mayonnaise most certainly does. It is so easy to make your own sushi rice though! 

2 cups short grain sushi rice (will make about 6 rolls)
2 cups water
__________
1 cup white vinegar (rice wine vinegar is perfect)
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

Soak rice for a few hours in tepid water and rinse thoroughly. Combine rice and water in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer with the lid off for 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile in a small saucepan bring vinegar, sugar and salt to the boil. Stir till dissolved and remove from heat to cool.

Spoon rice out into a long baking dish (I like using a ceramic or glass one) - then sprinkle rice with vinegar mixture, turn it over carefully without squishing the rice, fanning the steam as you go. I use the packet of seaweed nori sheets for this - but a real paper fan would be better. You want the rice to look shiny but not "slimy" with vinegar so just add a little at a time. Cover with a damp tea towel while you get your sushi fillings ready. 

Roll sushi rolls by hand or using a mat and fill with whatever you feel like - we love combinations of slices of avocado, cooked egg omelette, cucumber, lettuce, tamari chicken, smoked salmon, tined fish - all delicious with a delicious smear of wasabi and tamari sauce (gluten free soy sauce). 


22 Nov 2014

the natural home

We start moving house in two days - to a perfectly practical 1956 red brick cottage complete with curved kitchen wall and open fire place! It will see us living next to our landlord's happy cows, hilly landscape and most importantly - so much closer to our farming operations on a nearby property. It will be the first house we've lived in alone as a family since France - in about eighteen months - I can't wait to unwrap long-boxed-up belongings and hang art on the freshly painted cream walls... nest a happy space for our growing brood. 

Recently I borrowed a beautiful book from the library compiled by Hans Blomquist "The Natural Home" - the scenes above are from it's pages... so many homely spaces to swoon over; washed walls, earthy tones, natural fibres, recycled timber, found objects, art, ceramics, linen... Ideas to pocket away for the day we plan and build our own farm house. 

Happy weekend friends
xx

19 Nov 2014

comfort sewing

In the last few weeks I had some rare opportunity to sew a few practical items for myself. They may be very modest garments but they bring a lot of joy when worn...

The first is a soft robe for the often chilly mornings (despite it being mid-November) from some pure cotton terry and a very old Kwik-Sew pattern. The second is a beige linen cross-back apron - I drew up the idea a few months ago and used a Japanese pattern from this apron-compendium as a guide. Linen is by far and away my most favourite fibre - it is so very soft and healthy and beautiful to look at - all that crushing.

Before the year is out I'd like to start on some sewing for the baby, and maybe a few things to sell at the Christmas markets next month.

Have you been sewing anything lately?

16 Nov 2014

twenty weeks, oh boy!

Long before I conceived you, before I had your brother, before I met your father even - I dreamt of future children. I saw the backs of these sturdy, curly haired boys on the cusp of manhood - following their father through a wooded forest. My heart swelled with pride at the sight of them, and the thought of maybe, one day - getting to be a mother of boys who could grow into men with goodness, strength and tenderness, compassion in their hearts...

And then last week while I lay on my back and the radiographer followed your beating heart and growing brain, long spine, nose and cheek, and so-very-often moving hands and legs - we learnt that you are indeed a he... 

so, beautiful boy of ours - twenty more weeks of growing and expanding, of feeling you turn and kick, of deciding on names, of preparing your brother for your arrival, of growing a farm, of nesting a happy home, of wondering who you will one day be...

twenty more weeks till I can hold you in my arms and kiss your cheeks and whisper in your ear...

14 Nov 2014

lately

smelling : thriving lavender in a friend's garden
loving : pink peonies in our bedroom
learning : how to budget
making : gluten free sourdough
marvelling : in our first occupied hive
hearing : wings of honey bees
feeling : baby wriggle and turn
thinking : about our farm's business plan
planning : for our house move in two weeks
hunting : for furniture
humming : a song about shapes
sighing : over sore shoulders
drinking : lady grey with raw milk
wearing : linen button-down shirts
eating : triangles of watermelon
reading : the art of fermentation
waiting : for a polish crock to arrive
knitting : a teeny tiny pair of overalls
laughing : at reu's desire to jump on the trampoline, naked
disliking : being so far away from my mama
wanting : a swim in the ocean
needing : a long nap
remembering : to slow down and drink water
discovering : whether baby is a he or a she
marvelling : at the sunset
pondering : a christmas with all my siblings
growing : trays of vegetable seedlings
praying : for big decisions
hoping : to catch another bee swarm
gathering : elderflowers for syrup

inspired by Pip's monthly reflections. Happy friday friends with all you're doing, thinking, hoping
x

8 Nov 2014

exploring

Alex's parents stayed with us recently and it was wonderful to spend time with them exploring nearby towns... that is one thing I do so love about this area; we live in the countryside but are within an hour's drive of two big cities and countless small towns each with their own interesting shops, cafes and galleries on the high streets, monthly farmer's markets and beautiful gardens.

One day we took a day trip to see the steam train at Castlemaine, followed by a wander, a lovely lunch and an afternoon stop to peruse shops in Daylesford - two wonderfully quaint (and so very alive) former gold-mining towns brimming with colour and character, history, tall stone churches, old lattice-adorned wooden buildings, blooming flowerbeds...

29 Oct 2014

bold and dainty

bold is 
the waratah for 
the kitchen table, 
brilliant ruby face 
sees us while we eat

dainty is 
the statis you pick 
on your way home, 
tiny white stars
always remind me of 
the first garden we grew.

27 Oct 2014

17 weeks

"I heard the heartbeat today and it sounded like someone hammering beside the sea." 
Rebecca Elson

There is something so magical, unearthly even about hearing another heart beating inside you... still so small and yet you throb with all the strength and determination of waves crashing against the shoreline. you are seventeen weeks and growing mightily. I am impatient to feel you moving - sometimes I catch a fluttering when I wake to pee in the night, or when I'm stretching on my hands and knees... You keep me hungry most the time, and sleepy before night falls. I crave sharp cheddar and sweet ripe pears, hot baths and oysters (that I dream of)... I am keen to find a daily rhythm that nourishes and soothes this needy body, cares for your active brother and keeps on top of all our work... when you arrive we hope to have hives full of bees, garden beds full of vegetables, chickens laying eggs and maybe a piglet or two. I met one of the midwives today who might be there when you are born - I was so glad when she said she believes in stepping back and letting the mother lead the way in birth... I look forward to the intensity and mystery of breathing you out into the world. Stay well little wave, keep on growing...  love mama xx


23 Oct 2014

the pattern of Spring

I take less photos nowadays. Is it that there's less time to stop and frame, or that my hands are too soiled with earth and messes to point and shoot? I yearn for moments to pause and remember, relay events, pen to blank pages. I know it's okay not to... I often feel a loss of words, or when I find them I am quickly caught up with another thought or plan or to-do... 

At the beginning of the year I resolved to embrace a year of seasoning - of letting the rhythms, opportunities and limitations of the season pattern me. We need to change pace, but often we can't accept it. And so here I am in late Spring, flat-out, busied, and thankful for so many things...

for summer plans
for wood to make vegetable beds
for possibilities of our next housing 
for fields days and local apiary club meetings
for raw milk collection at a nearby farm gate
(and for all the creamy cups of tea and ricotta that follow)
for paperwork to become a vendor at the farmer's markets...

for two natural bee hives, milled from local cypress, cut and assembled by my lover 
for homegrown greens, and all the local produce that blesses our dinner plates
for my two-year-old's knack at chasing, catching and clutching hens
for buckwheat and sesame seed lavosh ready for the oven
for a visit to a favourite garden for seeds and orchard inspiration
for a spying the delicate wisps of flowers in the bush
for the symphony of wavering grasses on the land
for forget-me-nots tiny as finger tips
for gentle flutterings of growing babe

for all Spring brings... 

10 Oct 2014

lost and found

For a moment this week I lost my child. 

It was probably only fifteen or twenty minutes in total but it felt like centuries while my body and mind raced frantically to find him. Somehow while I was on the phone to his dad about garden supplies he disappeared out the front door and off after one of our housemate's dogs. When I got off the phone I heard silence - that familiar prompt you get as a parent to inspect what your child is up to and what it occupying them so intently! He's never opened the front door before so it didn't occur to me that's where he could have gone - I wasted time looking around the large house and the backyard. Then when I noticed one of the dogs was gone too I thought, oh no, he's probably trying to take him for a walk... 

I ran out onto an empty street - nearby a neighbour was fixing his bicycle. Have you seen a toddler and a dog I asked (the question choked in my throat). He wasn't sure... but he'd help me look for him and immediately rode off on his bike to look. Around the corner ran the dog and a joggler who asked if he was mine - she'd seen him wandering stray up the road. And a child I asked? My two year old was with him? She asked what he was wearing and jogged off to look. The dog was loose and likely to run off again so I carried him back to the house. I grabbed my key and left. I ran up the road after the jogger while countless cars drove past - it's such a busy road I thought, he'd never venture across it, surely? He's usually so cautious near passing cars... I prayed and ran, out of breath. And there he was - being held by a lady in her garden - the jogger beside her. He was sobbing. The dog had wandered into the garden, my boy following - the kindly owner of the house noticed, scooped him up and rang the police. I've never been so glad, so so thankful... 

On the walk home, I held my still crying boy tight, it's alright my love, you're okay now... we found the dog, he's at home, oh Reu you're only wearing socks, and they're wet through... 

There are countless moments as a parent you miss the detail - of a wobbly chair they might try to stand up on, or not deadlocking a front door (because you don't think they'd ever open it) and you feel defeated, a failure... I know there will be other moments of terror in this journey as a mother to my children - moments I can't control or prevent or even prepare for.. that is a sobering reality but not something to stop us living a full and spontaneous existence.

That and I am reminded
of the kindness of strangers,
of the newness of each day -
of how we can choose to embrace
a present, connected life -
of my trust in Him who found me first,
loves me best, my child too. 

6 Oct 2014

the whole beet

 I love beetroots. I will be the to first confess however, that I usually only use the root and dump the rest in the compost - that I even thought the root was the only edible part! Then while thumbing through the vegetable chapter in Nourishing Traditions I read how the "tops" or leaves of a beet are just as edible and nutritionally dense as the root - not only that, but that the process of grating, cooking by heat or lacto-fermenting actually helps the body absorb it's nutrients and eliminate acids that are troublesome for the gut.

In France farmers would sell great baskets of cold beets which had been steamed with skins still on for preparing various traditional salads. I was reminded of their wonderful smell and taste as I wandered through our local farmer's market this weekend - I spied a bunch of colourful heirloom beets from a local organic farm and snapped them up without hesitation. Home they went and minutes later became part of an experiment - my take on Turkish beetroot dip - but this time using the whole beet - leaves, stalks, root and all.

The result is an absolutely delicious, earthy dip - a perfect accompaniment we discovered to the grass-fed beef sausages we also acquired at the market and backyard grown cos lettuce salad! And just as wonderful spooned atop buckwheat crackers and carrot sticks...

. the whole beet dip .

1 large beetroot (leaves, stalks, root), washed thoroughly
1 garlic clove, minced
olive oil
handful flatleaf parsley, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup thick, unsweetened greek style yoghurt or labneh

Peel and grate beetroot, chop finely leaves and stalks. In a small frying pan gently sauté beetroot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once softened, add crushed garlic and continue to stir until completely cooked (you may need to add a little boiling water if it gets too dry). Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl. Add parsley, lemon juice, spice and sea salt. Using a stick blender - blend beetroot mixture until it resembles a paste. Stir in yoghurt and season with extra salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Should keep for up to a week in the fridge in a well sealed container (not that it will last that long)...