Monday, January 31, 2011


The last post I wrote seems very ironic now, given what actually happened in our town on the weekend. While all eyes were turned towards Cyclone Bianca, hovering off the west coast and expected to make an unprecedented crossing south of Perth late on Sunday, two unrelated cold fronts conspired to unleash a storm the likes of which are rarely seen in these parts, sweeping down though the Wheatbelt and culminating in an awe-striking display of the might and power of Mother Nature that caused significant damage to a number of towns, including my own.

This storm was completely unexpected. I had gone outside for some forgotten reason, and noticed the sky was looking strange. Great, orange billowing clouds were rolling in quickly, and for one minute, I thought I was looking at a bushfire. I sent Nath into the backyard to secure some of our (many) loose objects, and I grabbed the phone to take some photos.

Within minutes, the cloud was almost upon us and it was apparent that this would be no ordinary storm. As happens in the far north of Western Australia, storm fronts early in the storm season kick up masses of dust from the dry, rain-deprived earth and push a huge wall of this dust ahead of itself as it travels along. It's not common here, but....

....this one was enormous.

I called the girls inside and closed the house up. Within minutes, the sky became as dark as night, even though it was only three in the afternoon. The power went out, and we watched from the window, the little that we could see.

As we watched from the loungeroom window, our trampoline was picked up by the wind and thrown towards us, veering off at the last minute and tumbling round the side of our house, where it became wedged. The girls at this point were very scared (and somewhat concerned about their trampoline, and I promised to break the buying ban if it had been broken) and we huddled them up in the kitchen with their teddies while we checked all the windows and doors.

After a while the rain came, and some time later the winds died down. We heard the FESA vehicles driving through town with their sirens on, checking for emergencies, and we ventured outside to assess the damage. We have (before children) lived through a couple of cyclones in the North of WA and, aside from the brevity of it, this storm seemed just as furious. Many houses lost their roofs, and many more lost fences and trees. Sheets of roofing iron were strewn across the town and roads were blocked by fallen trees.

Our front fence
The power stayed off for over 24 hours, and some houses still haven't had theirs reconnected. On Sunday, we took some of the contents of our fridge and freezer to my Mum's house and stayed until we were fairly sure that our house had had power reconnected.

Eden is still a bit shaken by the whole event. She is very concerned about the trampoline, but was quite upset when Nath retrieved it. We eventually realised that the point where the trampoline came flying towards the window where we were sitting was the first point where Nath and I acted with urgency, and she responded with fear.

Our neighbour's house
Apart from this, we are unharmed, and very lucky. We still have our house, our roof and each other. Our garden came through relatively unscathed, and the chickens and ducks were also unharmed. If nothing else, this event has served to remind me how dependent on electricity we are, and how important it is to have a stockpile and a plan to get us through events like this, if the power had remained cut for much longer.

Here's hoping next weekend will be quieter!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Blessed Weekend.

It's Friday. A sigh of relief. Another blessed weekend, relaxing into our family, slowing down, finishing up and preparing for another week.

Weekends are for projects, for the tasks that require time, and patience. The tasks that still our minds, slow our bodies, let us ponder life, let us enjoy the rituals of providing. 

 My mending basket

The tasks that see us sweeping hair out of our faces, shifting weight from foot to foot, while we absent-mindedly stir a pot on the stove.

Nice, ripe tomatoes for paste

The tasks that see us brushing flies away from our eyes, dirtying our knees and the palms of our hands, as we unconsciously pull weeds, examine soil and feed our garden, with water and attention.

Weekends are for children, for family, for engaging our souls. For balancing the burdens of responsibility with the need for let-loose, energetic fun, for self expression, for reconnection.

My two frocked up princesses

Weekends let us choose what we bring to the home, and what we shut out. What we leave behind, hidden in busy weekly timetables, on messy work desks. When we find time to feed our souls and our minds.

My current reading list

 Weekends are when we re-establish what is truly important to us. We do this every weekend, to keep us in check, to give ourselves something to anchor to during the busy-ness of the week ahead, to keep us in mind of why we live the way we do.

From My Kitchen.

I made this pavlova for an Australia Day barbecue we went to. The recipe called for six egg whites. Eggs are a bit scarce in our kitchen at the moment - we believe we have a snake or something similar stealing the eggs from our chicken coop. Even the eggs that our clucky silkie bantam was sitting on have disappeared.

With this in mind, I wasn't keen to use the whites of six eggs and dispose of the yolks. So I decided to try my hand at mayonnaise. I haven't made it before, and it was a project I had been intending on attempting for months, but have felt slightly daunted by (possibly because there is a bit of a Masterchef connection to homemade mayonnaise in my mind!)

I used Julie Goodwin's recipe, which I will post below. My mayonnaise is very yellow, but my backyard hens lay eggs with the most beautiful rich yellow yolks, so this was to be expected. The recipe called for extra light olive oil (this efers to the colour of the oil, not its fat content) but I only had regular extra virgin olive oil. I believe the taste of the mayonnaise would be improved with extra light oil, but, having said that, I quite enjoy the batch I have made!

Julie Goodwin's Mayonnaise
 (I doubled this recipe)
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup extra light olive oil
salt and ground white pepper, to taste
up to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
I added some fresh crushed garlic

Place the egg yolks and vinegar into a food processor and switch it on.
Add the olive oil a few drops at a time. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the oil in a steady flow until it is all incorporated.
Season with salt and pepper, and add lemon juice (and garlic) to your taste. 
Keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Sewing Corner

I treated myself for Christmas with a new sewing machine - I had been borrowing one prior to this and wanted something more permanent. Pre-Christmas sales made the decision easy. I got this 'Brother' machine which should see me through from my current novice stage to when I am able to sew with much more flair!

As I am only just learning to sew, I knew I needed to have the sewing machine accessible at all times - if it was tucked away I might never be motivated to practice! I set it up in our kitchen along with some material shelves and boxes that I picked up in our local opshop for $10. 

In our house, we have very limited space. I needed to find a home for my material stash (which is growing weekly - have you ever searched for 'vintage fabric' in Ebay?). A friend of mine was selling a TV cabinet of theirs for $80 which fits nicely into our loungeroom...

...and the best thing is, when I'm not sewing, I can hide it all away!

So that's my sewing space. It's small and cosy, but it works for me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Taming the Wild: Our Garden

For some time now, we have had a ramshackle vegetable garden on the go. It is not quaint and neat, there are no beautiful raised garden beds and timber retaining walls, and things aren't planted in lovely, marked rows.

We are not green thumbs from way back; growing our own food has been one of the biggest changes we have made to our lifestyle. If lawn was food, our yard may look a lot nicer, but as it is not, we pay little heed to maintaining it.

We had let the garden go to seed after last season, as we thought we would be moving on. However, we will after all have enough time to see another harvest from our little garden. Last weekend, Nath and the girls planted (from organic seed) radish, turnip, pumpkin, rockmelon, tomatoes, rainbow chard, cucumber, bush bean, cabbage, habanero chilli, roma tomato, cayenne chilli, rocket, silverbeet and zucchini. We already had some capsicum and cucumbers growing, as well as a variety of herbs. I am looking forward to harvesting it all, and hopefully we will have enough to preserve some for when these foods are not in season.

 Our capsicum plants are going well - I wish we had planted more!

The cucumbers that were already growing are going mad - so we will have enough to eat fresh, and, with the ones we have just planted, enough to pickle for the rest of the year as well.

One of our bean plants sprouting.

 One of our pumpkin plants sprouting.

Some lemon basil drying in the kitchen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Two Things That Make My Heart Sing.

 I cleared my iphone of all my photos today (yes, the digital SLR is still a dream....) and found some nice ones of the girls. Given that being a stay at home mum is what I'm about these days I thought I would share some of them with you. This post is all about my two little angels, my gypsy child and my wild child, 
Miya Bethlehem and Eden Susannah.

Miya and Eden dancing at our "Tiny Tunes" music group

Classic Miya photo is her full "Fairy Princess Ballerina" get-up. Did someone say 'girls'??

Miya refuses to wear shorts. On the one day she was told to, we had to skype her grandad in Taiwan (who is, apparently, the authority on all things ballerina) to ask if she would still be a ballerina if she was made to wear shorts. Grandad, after recovering from a sudden coughing fit, assured her she would be.

Miya and Eden making Christmas crafts at their friends' house.

Cheeky monkey Eden

My girls helping me with the washing up. They love this job, even if Eden sometimes forgets that the teatowel is more effective when it is dry.
I love my girls.

My First Award!

Holy Moly I have just received my very first blog award! Heaping thanks onto Manda from Manda's Rambles for bestowing this honour onto me! Now, readers, go and check her very funky blog out, and click 'follow' to stay updated.

This award comes with four rules....

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post
2. Tell us seven things about yourself
3. Award seven recently discovered new bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know they’ve received the award

So here goes.....

1. Thankyou so much, Manda, looking forward to immersing myself in your blog!
2. Righto....
  • I would very much like to raise goats..... and bees.
  • I am a qualified and rehabilitated ex-teacher - staying at home is a far better career, I feel.
  • I love having my feet rubbed - by my husband, my girlfriends, my kids (although we are still working on longevity - its about quality AND quantity, you know!), and, if necessary, random people on the street.
  • I am passionate about sustainability and living simply.
  • I am addicted to a high level user of Facebook. Not in an oh-my-god-I-have-no-life way, more in a networking, researching kind of way.
  • I enjoy cooking. I've been married for ten years, and only discovered that 12 months ago. My husband is very relieved.
  • I have travelled Australia, and left my heart in the North of Western Australia. I plan to return there later this year to find it.
3. Seven new bloggers... well as I am only new on the field, I am not sure of who else is a new blogger, so I will award seven bloggers I have recently found and love.

Memoirs of a Modern Day Mumma - I just found this blog today and love it. I have a thing for 'mummy bloggers'.
Earth Angel Mumma -  this is a local mumma (SW Western Australia) who I have been following on Facebook (researching, networking...) for a while. I love her thoughts. She is a natural parenting advocate who is working towards a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle, and, well, it resonates!
Kith and Kins - I like this mumma's style. She writes her blog to her bubba, documenting all the milestones that are important to her, and will be to him one day too. I feel privileged to be reading, almost as if I have been invited along for the ride.
The Urban Hippy - this is a girl after my own heart. She is new to blogging (around the same time as me) and seems to be on a bit of a journey of self discovery... and I love her garden!
Bella Rae - this is blog that belongs to a friend of mine. She is a very talented lady who makes all kinds of gorgeous things from upcycled and vintage materials and objects, and does the market rounds here, as well as selling on

My last two are definitely not new bloggers, but they are the two bloggers that inspired me above all others to begin writing about my own journey.
Towards Sustainability - when I first came across Julie's blog, I sat for an entire day and read it backwards (from her first post to her last) and was so inspired. This lady came from a similar start to me and the way she worked through her discoveries made me believe that, I, too, could walk this walk. I wonder if she knows how much she encourages other through her words.
Eco-Milf - the author of this blog, Meagan, writes beautifully about parenting her two gorgeous children. Her words have had such an impact on me and caused me to reflect on not only how I parent my two young girls, but why I parent that way. I have been compelled to take up a gentler, more intentional way of being with my children, and fill their days with meaningful things.

So there's my seven inspiring blogs! I will now take myself off to share the good news with them, so that they can continue this blessing throughout blog-land!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Plum Liqueur.

Tonight I bottled a whole load of juicy sweet plums in alcohol for steeping. I plan on making plum liqueur, thanks to the recipe I found (via google) here. The plums will steep in the alcohol for three to six months, then when they are ready, I will strain the liquid out and add a sugar syrup to it to make the liqueur.

Three to six months is a long time to wait.

Tomorrow, Nath will be utilising his Christmas still for the first time to make another batch of spirits. I intend on making some cherry liqueur and some peach schnapps before all of these beautiful summer fruits disappear.

Breakfast From Scratch.

This was my breakfast this morning. Homemade muesli, yoghurt and caramelised apricot halves. I just love putting a meal together from foods that we have been able to make ourselves, without any harmful additives. For the record, it was delicious!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Perils Of Preserving.

Nath bottled some tomato sauce tonight. I've been laid up with a sore back and was worrying about the five kilos of tomatoes in the fridge that I had intended to preserve as a sauce. He hadn't done it before, and he did a really good job - it smells divine. I talked him through the process, right from the cooking through to the sterilising and bottling, but neglected to tell him to leave the heat on under the pan while he bottled the sauce. By not doing this, the sauce cools down until the last bottle to be filled is with sauce that is almost at room temperature. When it hits the jar that has just come from the oven, the discrepancy in temperature causes the jar to shatter. Which it did. All over our kitchen. I daresay we won't make that mistake again.

Our Buying Ban: An Update

Our buying ban is in full swing, having commenced on the 1st of January. We were away camping as we welcomed the New Year, and the buying ban didn't cause even the slightest ripple to our holiday plans. I visited the local markets and bought something locally handmade (which is within the rules) and aside from that felt no need to purchase anything.

We have been away once more since then, on our holiday to Margaret River, and Nath and I both felt that the buying ban enhanced, rather than detracted from, our time away. We bought many local foods and wines, and aside from this only entered two shops - a secondhand clothing store and a secondhand bookshop. We didn't waste endless hours trawling shops looking for things we don't need, and could probably buy closer to home even if we did need them.

Ebay is becoming my friend. I realised I would need to purchase shoes for winter for Miya as she has gone up a shoe size since last winter. I bought four pairs of winter shoes for her for $13 - including postage. I have also picked up, from local garage sales, a few winter jackets for both girls for 50 cents each - all in immaculate condition.

So far, the buying ban has not impacted us negatively in the slightest. I am sure that as the year progresses we will face times where I will desire nothing more strongly than to spend all of our savings in a massive shopping spree! Until then, though, I am content with never needing to enter the large department stores and suburban shopping centres. At least, not for the next twelve months!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Woman's Work Is Never Done.

I don't, for one second, wish to imply that a man's work is ever done, or that women work harder. I have the utmost respect for the role of men in society, employment and family today and the tension they strike between these areas of their lives.

I have, however, been reflecting on the cyclical nature of housekeeping. I apologise for the gender assumptions I make here, but in our house, since I left paid employment, the logistical running of the house falls to me, and Nath continues in paid employment and upkeeps the gardens. It works, for now.
At least daily, I find myself muttering (or wailing, depending on the day) some variation of the phrase "all I ever do is clean." So much so, that Miya, one housecleaning day, turned it into a song as she helped me in my daily tasks. Since then I have attempted to instill in her a sense of value in the little tasks she does around the house, as well as the tasks she sees me complete.

For a long time, I have seen housework as a task that needs completing. I can't relax in my home unless I have ticked off the cleaning and housekeeping items on the list in my head for that day. Of course, once the list is complete, no sooner do I sit down and put my feet up than there is something more to clean. That is the nature of running a house, particularly one so lived in by small children.

Yesterday I had a headache. It was severe enough for me to put Playschool on for the girls, ring Nath and ask him to come home early and close my eyes to the world. Before doing so, I surveyed my house and felt the familiar anxiety that arises from having so much to do, but knew that I would be silly to push myself to do it. My body needed rest, and was telling me in no uncertain terms to give in to it. When I woke up this morning, the work was still there, more or less. Nath and the girls had tidied some things, but in place of the tasks completed were more chores vying for my attention.

But, imagine if we cleaned the house and it stayed clean? Imagine if we washed the clothes and there was no need to ever wash them again? Or if we cooked a meal that sustained our families for eternity? Would there be any value in that? Through our roles as women, we teach our daughters to nurture. We teach our sons to appreciate. We remind our husbands to respect. I have been trying so hard to teach Miya the value of a woman's work, and yet have forgotten to remind myself that what I do is important... not only for what it gives others, but for what it gives me.

I want to embrace the rhythm of housekeeping, the way it cycles around, daily, weekly, annually. The way it keeps my hands busy, my mind active, my children clean and clothed and fed. The joy of a task well completed, the challenge of a task not yet begun. I can't promise that the next time my children run sand across my freshly swept floor I won't raise my eyes to the ceiling and sing out, "Why do I bother?!" but I will endeavour to learn to relax amidst the piles of washing, the sink of dishes and the scattered toys, knowing that it will still be there tomorrow, and tomorrow is not far away.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An 'Eco' Holiday, A Food Journey and Change In The Air.

The time between before Christmas and now has flown by so quickly. I apologise for my absence from the 'blogosphere' but have truly enjoyed the family time we have enjoyed together.

Nath is back at work now - yesterday was his first day after a month off. It was slightly strange to see him off in the morning, but the girls and I enjoyed a pleasant day pottering around the house, running some errands and re-establishing our 'weekday rhythm' that I have secretly missed!

Before Nath went back to work, we enjoyed five days away without the children. This month marks ten years of marriage for us, and since the wee ones have been in our lives, opportunities for 'us-time' have been few and far between. We decided to head to Margaret River (South-West of WA) for a break, and stayed at Yelverton Brook Eco Chalets.

I am becoming uncomfortable with the word 'eco' when used to describe a product or a service, as I feel it is becoming a 'brand name' of its own, and often further investigation reveals that the product or service in question is not as 'eco' as one might expect it to be. By far the best example of an 'eco-resort' we have stayed in (or even come across) is this one on the Ningaloo Reef coastline in WA, which has such a minimal impact on its surrounding environment that if it was to pack up and leave, you would not even be aware that it had been there. Beside this, our preferred style of environmentally aware holidaying is bush camping, where we stick to existing tracks and live by the the motto "Take only photos, leave only footprints."

However, when all is said and done, Yelverton Brook does a fine job in providing a less impactful holiday stay to people who are used to holidaying with all the trappings. The chalets are furnished with recycled and cast-off timber, they do not use any chemicals in cleaning and bins for recycling and organic waste are provided. They run a breeding program for endangered mammals (Woylies) and control pests naturally. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there (particularly the six man private spa under the stars!)

The wildlife provided much fun, as they are quite tame (many were hand raised by the owners of the property as part of the breeding program) and they came to the chalet door nightly for some organic feed provided by Yelverton Brook. I quizzed the owner, Joy, on the animals and came to recognise each kangaroo by name and learnt how they were related to one another. One cheeky kangaroo even hopped right into our chalet one night and rummaged through the scraps bin looking for treats!

Each night as we hopped in the spa, the possums and woylies would venture in for their share of the food, fighting amongst themselves. It was such a treat to see nature close up, and I miss that part of living in the North - the opportunity to be involved with the 'rawness' of nature, and to catch a glimpse of how things are in the wild, without human intervention. I am usually not keen on hand feeding wild animals, but these ones are part of a controlled environment with the ultimate goal of re-establishing the natural order of the local environment. When numbers get too high on the property (usually with kangaroos) some of the less tame ones are released into the wild by the owners and monitored to ensure their successful transition.

Over the New Year, I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver - a book about Kingsolver's family, who embarked on twelve months of eating only homegrown or locally produced foods. It was a brilliant commentary, and provided much insight into the ethics of our food consumption. With this fresh in my mind, I was keen to enjoy our holiday by delving into the many local foods that the Margaret River Wine Region has to offer. Our 'buying ban' is in full swing (and is going well) which afforded me the freedom to spend some money on sampling locally produced treats. We had some great fun scouring for dairy, olive oils, wines, beers, spirits, breads etc and I probably came away ten kilos heavier!

Now that we are back into the swing of things, we are looking forward to seeing what 2011 brings to our lives. We have been in a time of transition over the past few months, playing the waiting game in terms of buying a house, me leaving employment to be at home with the girls and seeing what might eventuate with Nath's job. Some of these questions have now been resolved, and this has allowed us to step back and look at what we want for our family and how we might go about achieving some of our goals.

Since leaving the North of WA nearly five years ago, we have missed the laidback approach to life that is so present there, the landscape and the lifestyle that isn't found anywhere else. We have decided to work towards moving back to Broome this year, for a last 'adventure' before we truly grow up and settle down. We love the town we live in currently, and plan to return here, but while our children are young we would like them to experience the 'wildness' of the North and the opportunities that Broome provides. Our lifestyle goals are very congruent with living in Broome - endless fishing trips will supplement our home grown produce and Broome has a fantastic market also.

We have also decided to have another baby. I am looking forward to hopefully introducing another little wee one into our family late this year or early next year. Our children bring us much joy and we feel we have done a pretty good job raising the first two thus far!

Finally, before I sign off from this epic post, I want to acknowledge the suffering occurring in Queensland at the moment. I can't begin to imagine what those people are going through. Many people across the country have felt helpless this week, wondering what they could do, if anything, to help. The Queensland government, as well as many welfare organisations involved, are reiterating that monetary donations are far more helpful to the people and communities affected than donated goods, for a variety of sound reasons. The Oz Material Girls have organised a huge auction of donated, handmade gifts. All proceeds will go to the flood effort. Some wonderful work-at-home-mothers have made and donated some truly beautiful creations to this cause, so please, if you are Facebook, head over, like the page, and check out the flood appeal auction albums. You can find it here. This link will only work if you are already a member of Facebook.
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