What’s for lunch, kids?

In honour of Plastic Free July, I thought I’d share some of the lunches I’ve made for my children in their stainless steel lunch boxes.  Long-time readers may remember when I shared about reusable sandwich and snack bags – I’m still using the same ones nearly three years later, plus more that my mum made for me from food-grade BPA-free cotton laminate. Imagine how many plastic bags that could have been used just once and then disposed of in that time?

Last week when I put my son’s lunchbox in the fridge at his kindy, I saw a transparent lunchbox belonging to another child in there.  It had half a cake of dry 2-minute noodles and a white cheesy-bacon bread roll.  I know parents are busy, stressed out and time-poor, and perhaps his/her parents maybe aren’t aware that these foods are nutritionally void – somewhere along the way society has compromised the health of our children in the name of convenience. I don’t know what that child had for breakfast or dinner that day. I hope it was nutritious and life-giving.

My children do not have perfect diets. I don’t even know what a perfect diet in the 21st Century looks like – I’m still figuring that one out. But they do have parents who are nutritionally literate because we choose to be, and we do not rely on advertising and marketing to tell us what to eat or how to feed our children. When it comes to packed lunches, it would be easy to throw a whole lot of little packets into a lunchbox, slapped together with a sandwich. But I know enough about health and life to know that the best foods for us don’t have barcodes. I see packed lunches as opportunities to nourish my children, not just fill their tummies.

Here are some of the yummy lunches I have made my children recently. At an estimate, 90%+ of the food in our house is organic, and 100% is free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, so the contents below are  also. My two children have wildly different tastes, so sometimes the two lunchboxes in each picture are similar and sometimes they are entirely different. These lunchboxes (Lunchbots is the brand), do not show their complete lunches. They also have other things on the side, such as yoghurt.

1: Guacamole with flax crackers, lentil sprouts, carrot sticks, kale chips, raw onion bread. 2: Cucumber and carrot sticks, kiwi fruit.

1: Guacamole with flax crackers, lentil sprouts with carrot sticks,  raw onion bread, kale chips,. 2: Cucumber and carrot sticks, cheese squares, kiwi fruit, apple slinky.

1. Sauerkraut, rice pasta with nutritional yeast, lentil sprouts, raw onion bread.  2: pineapple, watermelon.

1. Purple sauerkraut, rice pasta with nutritional yeast, lentil sprouts, raw onion bread. 2: Pineapple and kiwi fruit, watermelon.

1: Kiwi fruit and pineapple, rice wrap, curly carrot and naturally cured ham from a local farm (no nitrites/sulfates). 2:

1: Kiwi fruit and pineapple, rice wrap, curly carrot and naturally cured ham from a local farm (no nitrites/sulfates). 2: Avocado, sauerkraut and kalamata olives, kiwi fruit and pineapple, curly carrots and naturally cured ham.

1: Carrot sticks, dried apricots with spelt puffs, spelt pancakes (Nourishing Traditions recipe), boiled egg. 2: Boiled egg, dehydrated apple rings.

1: Carrot sticks, dried apricots with spelt puffs, spelt pancakes (Nourishing Traditions recipe), boiled egg. 2: Boiled egg, oaty jam biscuit (Jude Blereau recipe) with spelt puffs and pepitas, rice pasta with lentil sprouts, dehydrated apple rings.

1: Watermelon and grapes, cucumber sticks, kalamata olives, apple slinky, spelt crackers. 2:

1: Watermelon and grapes, cucumber sticks with kalamata olives, apple slinky, spelt crackers. 2: Same except no spelt crackers.

1: Rice wraps with raspberry jam, corn puffs with sultanas, world's smallest banana and kiwi fruit. 2: Corn puffs, kiwi fruit and mandarin,

1: Rice wraps with raspberry jam, corn puffs and spelt puffs with sultanas, world’s smallest banana and kiwi fruit. 2: Corn puffs and spelt puffs, rice wraps with raspberry jam, kiwi fruit and mandarin, medley of sunflower seeds, pepitas and sultanas.

1: Banana, carrot sticks, rice crackers, quail egg, spinach dip (to go with the crackers). 2: Cucumber sticks and , carrot sticks and parsley dip, boiled egg,

1: Banana, carrot sticks, rice crackers, quail egg, parsley dip (to go with the crackers). 2: Cucumber sticks and kalamata olives , carrot sticks and parsley dip, boiled egg, rice crackers.

1: Avocado, grapes and watermelon, homemade popcorn with coconut oil and himalayan salt, quail eggs. 2:

1: Avocado, grapes and watermelon, homemade popcorn with coconut oil and himalayan salt, quail eggs. 2: Grapes, watermelon. 3: Carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, quail eggs, homemade popcorn, banana.

This is a picture of one of the reusable lunchbags my mum made for me (the logo is my company as I sold these through my online store until they ran out!)

This is a picture of one of the reusable lunchbags my mum made for me (the logo is my company as I sold these through my online store until they ran out!) Food grade and BPA-free.

Posted in Food, Homemade, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Homemade Sun Cream

I dislike using sun cream. It blocks absorption of UV radiation, which produces Vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D is a cancer-preventer and has innumerous benefits to human health. Many people are Vitamin D deficient because we’ve been raised on a fear theory about sun exposure, and so to prevent getting skin cancer we slather toxic cancer-causing sun creams onto our largest organ and make sure that no part of our body gets the sunlight it actually needs.  There are ways other than sun cream to protect ourselves from sun damage, and I share about these further below.

Despite my immense dislike of sun cream, I live in Queensland ‘The Sunshine State’ Australia, and occasionally there is a time and place for using it.  I used it twice over the past summer, both on scorching days where I had prolonged sun exposure during the middle of the day.  I made sure that I used my own homemade version though, instead of toxic chemical sun protection or a ‘safer’ organic product that I would have to work for a week to pay for.

Homemade sun cream

Homemade sun cream

I can’t take credit for this recipe –   it is from Green Foot Mama, a fellow Queenslander who suggests that this yields a cream that is SPF20+. It works and it’s lovely.

I put it in the refrigerator to set, but after that it is fine to keep out. In fact, I kept a jar in my car throughout summer and it is still perfectly fine!

Homemade Sun Cream

3/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup beeswax (I use pellets)
2 Tbs shea butter
2 Tbs zinc oxide powder
5 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops roman chamomile essential oil  OR myrrh essential oil

(Ingredients can be purchased at most soap supply shops / websites). Place coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter in a saucepan and melt gently and slowly on low heat.  Remove from heat and add essential oils and zinc.  Mix well with a whisk or fork to ensure no lumps.  Pour into containers and place in refrigerator to set. 

I personally keep mine in glass as I am trying to eradicate plastic from my life. I worry about putting anything hot/heated into plastic and the risks of leaching toxins into the product. But you can store it in whatever way is convenient to you!

There are other ways you can protect yourself naturally from sun damage. I prefer to build up my internal sun cream and a natural resistence to UV rays through small amounts of daily exposure to sunlight and by eating a diet high in antioxidants.  I protect my body from nutrient deficiencies that allow radiation damage to occur. I recently had my antioxidant levels tested and they were sky high, topping the scale that was used. I believe diet is a sensible and effective approach to sun protection, and that on the odd occasion that an extra boost of protection may be needed for whatever reason, then use a homemade non-toxic version of sun cream, such as this one!

Posted in Homemade, Radical Homemaking, Ranting, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dr. Sears seminar – “Why Attachment Parenting is Smart”

Back in January I had the privilege of attending a seminar by Dr. William Sears about attachment parenting (AP).  While I detest labels and boxes, AP is something I relate to on many levels. I never set out to be an attachment parent / natural parent / instinctive parent. In fact, I never even questioned what type of mother I would be prior to having my first child because I had never consciously considered that there was such a thing as ‘mainstream’ parenting in order for there to be alternatives.

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When I did become a mother and was faced with baby sleep issues (well, I thought they were baby sleep issues but they were not, they were expectation issues on my part. My baby was perfectly normal in every department, including sleep), I spent hours reading and researching everything I could find about life with a newborn.  I read one book that shocked me and made me cry (Save Our Sleep, Tizzie Hall) and another that had me questioning whether it was real –  I  googled the author and discovered he’s a quack and that there are thousands of warnings by the medical community and others about his advice (Baby Wise, Gary Ezzo).

I also read some beautiful books which were respectful of babies as people (Loving Mama, Tiffany Palisi [ed]) and others that aligned more with what felt right to me to be doing (The No Cry Sleep Solution, Elizabeth Pantley).  As I read more and talked with other mothers I came to realise that there are many approaches to parenting, and that my approach was about trusting and following my instincts. It felt natural and right for me to breastfeed my baby on demand, rather than on schedule. It felt wonderful to sleep with him cuddled up next to me at night. It felt empowering and special to wear him closely against me as I went about my daily business. I could not go against my instincts even if I tried. I was intimately connected with my newborn and he with me.

Much later on I learned that there was a name for what I was naturally doing; attachment parenting. Even though I dislike the restrictions and expectations that labels can bring, I am grateful that through this particular label I ‘found my tribe’, firstly through a Yahoo group centred around the fascinating book The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedoff, where I lurked and learned and sat at the feet of wise mamas, and secondly through some local AP groups on Facebook.

Fast forward a few years to just a few months ago. When I heard that Dr. Sears was coming to Australia, I knew I had to see him – Dr. Sears is considered the father of attachment parenting, even though it is something that has been practiced as long as humans have existed and is still practiced in most cultures around the world.  He is a pediatrician and father of eight. When Dr. Sears had been practicing only a few years he began to notice differences between his patients and would question the parents in order to determine what influenced those differences. Over time, his curiosity and research lead him to share and publish his findings about ‘what works most of the time for most kids’.  He was delightful and entertaining, and his wife Martha was impressive and wise.  I took many notes from his seminar, some of which I have selected to share below. The seminar of course included slides with tables and graphs and links to specific research. I have not included those here as most of the time I was too busy madly scribbling down his spoken words to look up at the slides.

I would also like to suggest that I don’t especially care what kind of parent you are, nor am I judging you negatively if you choose to parent differently to the way I do.  I do what is right for me and my family. It works, it feels right,  I am blissfully happy and I wouldn’t change a single thing.  You do what you know is right for you. Every baby is different. Every family is different. I am not dispensing any of these notes as advice. If they don’t resonate with you, then you never need to think of them again. But I know there are others out there like I once was, searching for confirmation that it’s okay to respond to your baby when they cry and to reject modern recommendations that don’t align with your instincts.

Seminar Notes

Definition of Attachment Parenting – instinctual. If you were stranded on a deserted island and had noone to tell you what to do and no books, how would you treat your baby? AP is not a controversial subject. It is natural and instinctive. The media has made it controversial. 

In 40+ years of pediatric practice and studying what works most of the time for most parents, Dr Sears has developed the Bs:

Birth bonding
Bedsharing / bedding close by
Believe baby’s cries
Beware of baby trainers

Baby trainers will train your baby so that they don’t cry, so that they are convenient and a ‘good baby’ – which is just shut down syndrome. Feeding on a strict parent-designed schedule can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.

In long-term studies of criminal minds, the number one common feature is the lack of empathy.  They cannot think before they act.  A highly-touched child automatically thinks first and responds with empathy. It is neurologically programmed forever in them.  At-breast, in-arm babes grow into compassionate kids. Dr. Sears is yet to see an AP child who is a bully. A less-attached child is more likely to tease and taunt a hurt classmate in the playground. An AP child is more likely to go up and hug them and ask if they are ok. The neurological pathway in their brain is wired forever – when someone is hurt, I help.

How to get balance in a separated culture/society. We need a sense of community because it was never meant to be mum and dad and baby doing it alone. Mums need support. 

Discipline – you must have the right relationship with your child before you get the right techniques. Lots of books and training workshops for parents use only techniques, which will never work long term if you don’t have the relationship right.  When you have a connected child, often ‘the look’ is enough. Be firm, stern, loving and end with an ‘i love you’ smile. Instead of ‘no’ with babies and toddlers who want to get into everything, try ‘not for Saskia! not for Saskia!; repeat.

Co-sleeping – when you start resenting going to bed then it’s time to move them out. Bedsharing has stages of weaning, just like breastfeeding. Move them out of the bed and onto a mattress on the floor.  Inch the mattress closer to the door slowly. It should not be a sad occasion.  It’s all in the marketing! Read books AND tell stories, there is a difference.  Key theme – investment. There is no magic answer to where should baby sleep. The answer is, where everyone sleeps best.

Baby Bs become Childhood Cs – caring, compassionate, communicative, connected, comfortable with intimacy, confident.

AP kids are smarter. When you breastfeed, you are feeding their brain. Brains are 60% fat, so is mothers milk. Coincidence? The brain triples in size by age 2 and is most affected by nutrition. The first two years is an opportunity to make connections. AP helps the developing brain make the RIGHT connections. Myelin is like electrical wires in the brain. The more myelin, the more electricity can travel. Every time you breastfeed, nurture, hold your baby you are making more myelin in their brain. Never in 48 years of practice has Dr Sears had someone say they regret breastfeeding for so long. It is always the opposite. 

Science supports very clearly that AP kids are more independent and more inter-dependent (how to work and connect with others around you). Science says connected kids are
– better students
– more resilient
– play better with peers
– better lovers
– better behaved
-become connected parents

AP is a blueprint for future relationships.

Never advise other parents on the following – how long to breastfeed, whether to let baby cry, or how long to co-sleep for. Every answer is different because every situation is different.

AP is not the gold standard and is not about ‘if you’re not doing it then you’re missing out’. You do what you need to do. You make decisions that work for you.

During the seminar, it was so lovely to hear several testimonies from the audience from mothers who practiced attachment parenting and who now have teenage and adult children who are highly confident, independent and capable.  One mum publicly thanked Dr. Sears for his book Nighttime Parenting. When her 25 year old was a baby he suffered silent reflux for 18 months. The advice from Dr Sears affirmed her intuition. The baby’s grandmother would warn and complain that he would be a spoilt child because of all the love and breastfeeding and co-sleeping. By the time he went to school, the grandmother was selling baby slings because she saw how confident and mature the child had become from the AP investment during infancy. Said child is now in Canada studying a double degree.

What a treasure it was for me to attend this seminar and listen to someone who has been in the child-rearing game for decades. It was also wonderful to be surrounded by mums and dads and babies and boobs and slings and carriers!

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Healing green soup

I found this yummy recipe in the fabulous book Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel.  I seem to have made it weekly or thereabouts for the past few months – it is simple and delicious and packed with goodness. The original recipe was devised by a man named Henry Bieler and it is know as a ‘healing broth’ as it treats all sorts of illnesses.

Green soup

Healing green soup. Yes, I am aware how poor my photography is! These were taken on my iPhone to quickly share on Instagram. Only later did I decide to use them for here!

3 zucchinis
2 cups green beans
handful parsley

You can add any vegetables really. The above is delicious as is, but I have also added brocolli and it was amazing. Cover ingredients with water or broth (I use bone broth) and bring to the boil then simmer until cooked.  Whiz up using a blender / stick blender / hand mixer to the consistency you like. Season to taste – I find it needs a decent dash of salt and pepper, and a swirl of cream or a few sprinkles of freshly grated parmesan will improve both the taste and the digestion . Eat and enjoooooooooy!

Posted in Food, Homemade, Recipes | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Homemade lemon enzyme cleaner

One day last year I had been making something in the kitchen that required lots of lemons. I had a bunch of lemon peels laying on the bench and I didn’t know what to do with them. I would love to be a zero-waste family, and we’re a way off from that yet, however I always look for ways that I can reduce, reuse and recycle. Most food scraps go into our worm farm or to feed our quails, but citrus cannot be used for either of those.

So I did what any 21st Century solution-seeker does and jumped online. I was excited when I came across a nifty article about homemade lemon enzyme cleaner. As someone who loves fermenting foods, this was right up my alley – a homemade fermented cleaner! As I read the comments I became intrigued – carpet cleaner? clearing blocked drains? natural insect repellent? I had to give this thing a shot!

The trouble is, I can be impatient and the recipe said it required three months. Three months! In my real food journey I have learned that good things take time (think fermented foods, dehydrating foods, sprouting seeds, activating nuts and so on). With that in mind, I decided I had nothing to lose. I made my first batch.

Lemon Enzyme Cleaner

Lemon Enzyme Cleaner

Three months later I opened it and used it as a concentrate in every way I could think of – in my mop bucket water, to clean my bathroom sink, to soak a stain on my kitchen bench. This stuff is great and contains no toxic chemicals! It is basic to make and mega cheap. I have since made a second batch and it is fermenting away while I ration my first batch so that I don’t run out before I have more on hand! The instructions are listed below in my own words and interpretation of the original recipe.

Lemon Enzyme Cleaner by happyhomemaker88

What you need:

2L plastic bottle (this was the hardest part for me, trying to source a plastic bottle! We don’t drink softdrink and/or supermarket juice – if you don’t either, find a friend who does and ask them to save you a bottle! It must be plastic, not glass which can shatter if the gas build up causes the bottle to explode. Scared?)

100g brown sugar

300g lemon peels (you can use any citrus scraps)

1L tap water

What you do:

Pour the sugar into the bottle, using a funnel if required. Add citrus peel and water. Make sure there is lots of room at the top and that the bottle is not full to the brim. There needs to be space for the off-gassing to take place, which may involve the bottle expanding slightly.

Place the lid on and shake that baby! Shake shake shake!

Write the date on the bottle so you know when you made it and when 3 months will be up.

Release the lid slightly so it is about half-closed tight.

Place the bottle somewhere safe for three months.

After three months, strain the solution through a muslin cloth. Use as a concentrate (ie. in most cases you will need to dilute it with water).

Then clean, clean, clean and experience this fragrant liquid work its magic!

Posted in Cleaning, Homemade, Radical Homemaking, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Raw onion bread

I’m always on the lookout for snack food ideas and I enjoy making new things in my dehydrator. This raw onion bread has become a staple around here and I’ve made it probably monthly for the past six months or so. My mother-in-law is a big fan and so is Sunshine Girl (19 months). If you don’t have a dehydrator, get one! I mean, if you don’t have a dehydrator you could probably put this in the oven at a very low temperature for a long time to get a similar result. Raw foodies believe enzymes in food are destroyed once it is heated above about 40C, so if you follow that train of thought then keep the temps ultra-low.

The original recipe is from The Rawtarian, and the only way I have tweaked it is by using red salad onions (or a mix of red and white onions).

Raw onion bread

Raw onion bread

Raw onion bread

3 big fat onions (red, white or a mixture)

1 cup ground sunflower seeds

1 cup ground flaxseeds

1/3 cup olive oil

3 1/2 tbs tamari

Peel onions and place in a food processor.

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Whiz those babies up until they are chopped but not mushy.

March2013 1112Pour into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.

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Mix well and spoon onto dehydrator trays lined with baking paper. Flatten out as thin as you like. Dehydrate until ready!

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We got bees!

An apiarist is a beekeeper. Who knew! I didn’t, until I started looking into beekeeping early last year. I read a few different articles mentioning how bees were dying and that this ultimately could affect the world’s food supply. Being curious as I am I needed to know more. I purchased The Vanishing of the Bees documentary where the dying bees phenomenon is examined and I raided my local library for all the resources I could about bees.

As it dawned on me how critical bees are to our food supply, I realised that I needed to take action.

I dragged Informed Papa along to a local beekeepers meeting. Actually I didn’t need to drag him, he was totally into the idea! We met local beekeepers and were shown our first look into a busy hive. We chatted with others and participated in a couple of hands-on workshops to do with the practicalities of beekeeping.

Me at our first beekeepers meeting - all the gear, no idea.

Me at our first beekeepers meeting – all the gear, no idea.

That was in March 2012. Fast forward to September and even though we still felt completely unprepared and totally out of our depth, we knew getting our own hive was something we wanted…NEEDED…to do – for our planet and as part of our journey towards self-sufficiency. Informed Papa purchased all the equipment and worked at putting our first hive together.

Informed Papa constructing our first hive

Informed Papa constructing our first hive

He hammered away and made multiple trips to the beekeeping supply store and the local hardware store. In November 2012 it was ready for occupants and we sourced our first Queen and drones.

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Informed Papa the amateur apiarist

The house we are currently living in is not on a block large enough to keep bees (if we want our children to play in the backyard), so we put the hive at Informed Papa’s brother’s place, which is three-acres large with a yummy vegie patch that would benefit greatly from little buzzers. We go out every couple of weeks and check on our ‘babies’ and like all new parents we panic when there’s a storm or lots of rain or anything that may impact our bees.

Our first hive of honey bees

Our first hive of honey bees

It’s now April 2013, a little over a year since I started my mad mission to learn about bees, and I am so pleased and proud that we have taken the steps to do so. We haven’t extracted any honey yet and have little clue how to do so at this stage, but the beauty of being members of a beekeepers association is there is always someone willing to mentor and share. They say if you ask ten different beekeepers a question you’ll get twenty different replies; that there are multiple ways of doing things in beekeeping land and just as many opinions. As we learn more about bees we also want to share the knowledge. We have big plans for owning and caring for many hives in our future and for supporting new beekeepers. One of the first things we will do when we move onto acreage is get more hives. We have so much to learn about beekeeping still, and we are enjoying the journey so much!

Informed Papa checking our hive

Informed Papa checking our hive

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