Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let Them Run Free!

'Childhood shouldn't ever be thought of just as a prelude to becoming an adult. Too much brain work forced on children kills something in their spirit. Let them run and play and make tree houses and catch lightning bugs and lie in a field staring at the clouds floating by. Provide them a wholesome environment and then let their spirits go, free, free, free.'

From the novel 'Christy' by Catharine Marshall - the above quotation is from a philosophy of education of a Danish minister Bishop Gruntvig, that captivated the character of Christy who found herself teaching school in the impoverished Smoky Mountains in the early 1900's.

It captivated Christy and it captivated me when I first read it. I abide by it and let my children do just that, they spend lots of time outside running and playing and building forts out of all kinds of natural materials. I have always resisted the temptation to purchase a plastic cubby house and I don't even need to sew up a fabric tee pee. Branches, vines and palm fronds do them just nicely outside and blankets and throws off the sofa are used to create indoor play huts.

No, it is not a snake! It is the tail of the mother lizard!

And here is one of her offspring. See it has legs!

Their favourite outdoor spot at the moment is an old hollow log close to the real tree house that their dad is building for them from recycled materials. We are demolishing an old potting shed and all the old timber and roofing iron is being put to good use! It is still under construction but it is going to have the wow factor. Can't wait to show you in a future post.

The hollow log is home to a family of lizards. Not a blue tongue as we originally thought but a land mullet and her five babies. Laughter reigned when we googled images of land mullets - we found our lizards along with hairstyles from the 1980's! If you are afraid of lizards I can tell you that the images of the mullet hairstyles were much scarier! They are called land mullets because apparently, they can emit a rather fishy smell if they feel threatened. Another interesting wildlife fact to add to our growing knowledge of the nature we can study here at our eight acres of eden.

There is sometimes a price to pay for letting your children run free. I have never wrapped them in cotton wool. I let them run, clamber over logs and rocks, do somersaults on trampolines, climb trees and much more. They have been ice skating for years for goodness sake. But a 19 year record came to an end last week when during a simple game of chase one of my twin girls tripped and fell, fracturing her arm. The first broken bone for any of my children. I knew she had broken it and somehow stayed calm which kept her calm even though she was in a lot of pain. Dad was called and we were soon on our way to the hospital.

My sweet girl (the one on the right in the photo below) showed such bravery. She stayed so calm and composed even in the emergency room where a patient under the influence of alcohol or drugs was screaming out as staff tried to attend to her. We couldn't see her from the triage area, only hear her wailing and my poor girl was looking a little alarmed as she knew she was going to go into that ward next. Thankfully, we were sent straight for an x ray which revealed our worst fears, that this was a serious break requiring surgery. And that is where I spent my evening, waiting with my daughter to go in for her operation. She needed wires inserted close to her elbow to realign the bones. She has never been to hospital before as a patient. She hasn't even been to see the doctor as she has never been sick (apart from occasional colds and fevers). She never complained, never cried and showed no fear at all. I was just amazed. She was even smiling as she was wheeled into theatre and by now had completely charmed all the staff who described her as an angel.

We were very blessed to have wonderful attention from friendly and competent medical staff. The operation went well without complications and we were soon back on the children's ward where I stayed overnight with my daughter. The ward was not busy so we had a room to ourselves. I feel very blessed to live in a country that still has free public healthcare. The standard of care we received was excellent. How rewarding it was for me as a mother to see my daughter - just 5 years old being such a cooperative patient, saying please and thank you and no thank you whenever she was asked something, even when she was being woken at regular intervals for observations through the night. I was so proud of her.

We were able to come home the following day, her arm in plaster which is making some everyday activities a little awkward. She is still having some pain but does not make a big fuss. Of course she is not running free at the moment. No more chasing or tree climbing and much to her disappointment, no ice skating lessons for the rest of the year.

The spider isn't real but we do have spiders of this size come into the house!
My son loves to move this plastic spider around his wall to try and scare me!

We have to return to the fracture clinic next week for another x ray and hopefully a lighter cast.
I would appreciate your prayers for my sweet girl that her arm is fully healed. She will need another surgery to remove the wires.

Helping his dad build one of our ponds

I will be taking a little blogging break over the next couple of weeks now that hospital visits have been added to our schedule. We have lots of renovation projects around the home underway at the moment. I'm spending time with my husband looking at pavers and organizing all my ideas for our outdoor living areas on my pinboards over at pinterest - what a useful tool that is proving to be! I have boards for all sorts of subjects and have just started putting together teaching activity idea boards for homeschooling. Email me and I will let you know how to find me on pinterest. If you are still waiting for an invitation let me know and I will send you an invite.

I'm also having a huge declutter throughout my home - simplify, simplify, simplify is my motto at the moment! Oh and I'm also trying to see if I can bring the Courageous movie to my region as I believe its powerful message about fatherhood will impact and transform the lives of many families. It is due for release in Australia on my birthday!

I hope to return inspired with all sorts of reports and ideas! So watch this space!

Monday, October 10, 2011

'Sweet Handful' Natural Fruit Snacks

Sweet Treats for a Sweet Girl

I have been experimenting in the kitchen making raw, sweet snacks using all natural ingredients - no sugar, no honey - just dried fruits, nuts and seeds. I wanted to come up with a recipe with exact amounts but discovered that providing that you throw in enough 'sticky' fruits to bind the dry ingredients you really don't need to measure anything out - hence the name I chose for our sweet treats 'Sweet Handfuls'. They contain a handful of this, a handful of that and just a splosh of water!

Our favourite combination contained a handful of

organic dates
organic, unsulphured apricots
dried cranberries (with no added sugar, purchased at the health food store)
organic dessicated coconut
goji berries
slivered almonds (you could leave out the nuts if allergies are an issue)

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend away! If the mix seems a little dry you can add a splosh of water.

The girls loved rolling out the mixture and cutting out shapes with cutters. They also shaped some into balls and rolled them in coconut. They insisted on placing a craisin on top to make them look like cookies but these 'cookies' did not require any baking and were ready to eat! Talk about fast food.

Time to taste test our sweet handful treats!

And the verdict? Delicous - that's double delicious by the way!

This was our second batch of raw treats for the day. Our first was raw gingerbread men - similar ingredients with just a pinch of ginger, cinnamon and cloves. We used a miniature gingerbread man cutter and rolled out the mixture with a rolling pin to ensure an even surface. The girls were not so sure about the spices when they first tried these but a second tasting produced a 'mmm - good'!

Do your children like dried fruits? Dates and apricots are a pantry staple in our home - they are chopped up and incorporated into sourdough bread, muesli and baked goods such as scones and muffins. I have noticed that my older children are not so keen on dried fruits but my younger ones who were introduced much earlier to more natural and wholesome foods love them and will eat them whole straight out of the jar. Do you make raw natural sweet treats for your family - ones that can be made quickly, that require a minimum of effort? Do share your ideas - I'd love to hear them!

Now for some experimentation with sourdough baking. I'm thinking of trying this recipe today!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making Mulberry Jam

The black weeping mulberry tree is laden with fruit this spring - even after the birds have raided the tree there have been more than enough berries to pick. Plenty for eating fresh from the tree and for making jam. I have made two batches so far and would love to show you how I made my jam.

I enlisted the help of several willing volunteers (my younger children) who were more than happy to pick (and eat) berries. Pays to wear old clothes when you are picking mulberries! We filled up a big bowl with approximately one kilo of berries. This is just from one visit to the tree - plenty remain, still to ripen. I usually make jam in small batches - one kilo at a time. This is more likely to ensure that your jam sets, especially as mulberries are not naturally high in pectin - this is why I also included some not quite ripe berries in the batch I was making into jam.

A handy tip I found was to also pick a few green berries. Squish them between your fingers and rub over those inevitable purple stains - hey, guess what? Green mulberries can remove the stain of ripe mulberries from hands and fingers. Try it - it works!

I did not remove the stalks - 1. Because it would take forever 2. Stain my fingers even more and 3. I did a little research and found out that mulberries are high in anti-oxidants and the stalks contain the most resveratol, a phytonutrient that studies suggest may provide a number of health benefits including a cardioprotective action.

All the berries (1 kilo) went straight into the pot and were gently simmered in their own juices until tender. I then added 1 kilo of raw sugar and 2 large apples that had been lightly stewed in a small amount of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in a separate pan.

Brought to a rapid boil - the jam bubbled and reduced down and I began to test for setting by placing a spoonful onto a cold saucer and gently pulling back the surface. Even though the jam seemed a little too runny for my liking, a slight crinkle was appearing after just 12 minutes. I poured the jam into the hot sterilized jars and sealed them. It set just fine without the need for commercial pectin. But do not be dismayed if your jam does not set - call it dessert sauce and spoon it over ice cream or pancakes! You can't go wrong. In fact the next batch of jam I make is not going to be allowed to set as I would like to have some sauce in the pantry too!

The first jar was opened later to serve on homemade scones with cream of course. Four out of the seven original jars (I used slightly bigger preserving jars for my second batch) remain and will come out at breakfast time - just a little sliver is all that is needed on a slice of crusty sourdough toast.

I have been using Gary Mehigan's (Masterchef Australia) recipe for scones since I discovered it as it involves no rubbing in of butter - anything that saves me time in the kitchen I'm happy to try and this is a great scone. I sometimes add walnuts and dates, occasionally white chocolate and berries but as there were whole berries in the jam this batch was just plain sweet scones - whipped up in next to no time. They disappeared in next to no time too!

We still have the odd passion fruit coming in from the vine that covers the fence of our chicken run and orchard. Not enough for turning into jam as most are sliced open and consumed by my children who love them. They occasionally remember to bring me a few to use for passion fruit icing! What fruit are you harvesting at the moment? What are your favourite preserves?

Monday, October 3, 2011

And the Winner is......!

One of the pages from my digital Family Recipe Journal

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway for the My Memories digital scrapbooking software suite. I was a little surprised that it didn't attract more entries but never mind - it gave those of you that did enter a much better chance of winning. It is Labor day here but I found the time to conduct the draw with some assistance from one of my daughters and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is Carrie from Farming on Faith.
Congratulations Carrie - I will be in touch with you soon to let you know how to download the scrapbooking software. I know you will just love using it. I will post a picture of my recipe journal project on my sidebar with a special promotional code and a link to the my memories website for anyone who is interested in purchasing the My Memories Suite. Use that code to obtain a $10 discount off the purchase price of the My Memories Suite 2 and a further $10 voucher to use at the My Memories store where you can find all manner of kits and design templates in to supplement the basic suite.


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