Summer is HERE! (A tentative declaration) ☀️

At the beginning of a new season I get so wrapped up in the possibilities of said new season, and do often declare that this said new season is most definitely my favourite season of all. So Summer is my current favourite. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever declared Winter my favourite, but for my northern hemisphere readers, I did write an article for Essential Kids about the things I love about winter, you can read that here, if you’re shivering your way through pre-Christmas celebrations).

I love the seasons and while I complain about the cold weather, I don’t think I could live in a climate that doesn’t have all four seasons. So, I say this very tentatively, because well… Melbourne. Four seasons in one day, and all that. But I think I can say it now: [Read more…]

The Importance of Rituals and How They Impact Wellbeing

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The veil and head piece that my sisters, my Mum, me and my daughter wore.

 

Next weekend my son is making his First Communion.  The preparation for these religious rituals is always a time of reflection for me. It brings back memories of my own Communion Day, and of my daughter’s, at the same time two years ago. My Communion Day seemed like a party that lasted all day.

I wore a white lace dress, that had been worn by my four older sisters, and a long lace veil, which was made from my mother’s wedding dress. There were cousins, aunties and uncles at our house all day and there was a feast that seemed to never end. My daughter wore the same dress as me, all her cousins have worn it before her, with the veil that was made from their Grandmother’s wedding dress.

While our son wont wear the dress, there will still be celebrations. A family get-together with cakes and celebration food. We’ll make a big fuss of him and hopefully he’ll feel important. These kinds of rituals punctuate my memories of growing up. They shaped my childhood and inform the choices that I make for my son.

While it won’t be the party that lasts all day,  I can already see that he is benefiting from this process – he feels valued by what we have planned. I’m not sure he’s totally across the spiritual part of it, but for me, it’s not that important – that will come with time.

Rituals are traditionally attached to religious rites of passage – Baptism, First Communion, Bah Mitzvah, Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Marriage and finally a Funeral – to name a few. However,  our society is becoming increasingly secular with the 2011 Census statistics showing a sharp increase in people who reported no religion, up five per cent from 2006.

This appears to be a global shift, with New Zealand also reporting an increase of five per cent of ‘no religion’, Canada and the UK reported a rise of 10 per cent, and America reported a rise of six per cent. So where does that leave our children and their rituals? What will punctuate and shape their childhood, the same way ours were?

Professor Graeme Davison, a Melbourne University historian recently wrote in the Age Newspaper:

“only as I grew older and my parents passed on did I begin to recognise how much of my life had been shaped by family tradition and expectation.”

Perhaps we don’t see it as significant now, our lives are already so busy; but Davison captures how important these rituals are. Not just for our children now, but for when they become adults.

How will our children navigate the introspection that inevitably comes with the loss of a parent that Davison speaks of, if they are not given the rituals that can be so shaping in a child’s world? Although such significant numbers of the population are moving away from religion, this does not mean that traditions and rituals must also be forsaken.

Research has shown that family rituals can provide a sense of security for a child; constancy and comfort. Research published in Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training shows how knowledge of family history influences psychological well-being. The research found that hearing the stories of family traditions and indeed enacting those traditions forms what MP Duke, one of the authors of the study, calls the ‘intergenerational self’.

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A Summer family ritual – picking zucchini flowers for these gorgeous snacks

It was found that ‘this intergenerational self and the personal strength and moral guidance that seem to derive from it… are associated with increased resilience, better adjustment, and improved chances of good clinical and educational outcomes.’

Taking part in family rituals will increase your child’s sense of family, provide a source for identity, and give them insight in to their cultural history. For example, in our house, on Christmas Eve, my husband makes mince pies with our children. This tradition binds his history with their future, and possibly the futures of their children. Our children now embrace this Christmas tradition and recognise their own English heritage through its practice.

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Mince pies in the making – Christmas Eve 2015

Rituals can also be used as a parenting tool. Creating a ritual around difficult behaviour can often turn it into positive behaviour. For example, if getting your defiant toddler to go to bed is posing a challenge, introducing a ritual that everyone looks forward to can turn this stressful situation into something everyone enjoys. Even now, my nine year old and seven year old still snuggle on the couch waiting for their Dad to read the bed-time story.

When considering creating your own rituals, be purposeful and ensure there is meaning behind what you choose to do. You can create daily rituals, weekly rituals or rituals that tap in to the seasons or religious events that you no longer follow.

Every family, what ever your story, or circumstance, can create your own rituals unique to your own family. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, look to your own family history for something that resonated with you as a child, and still resonates an adult.

What made you happy as a child is great place to start, as it is likely to have the same effect on your own children. 

What are some of your favourite family rituals?

Five reasons (or more) for loving Good Friday

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My home made Hot Cross Buns – fresh out of the oven.

Today is Good Friday, and I’m thinking that maybe Good Friday is my most favourite day of the year. I know; it’s a big call. But think about it, what other day of the year can you spend an hour having a pot of tea in bed? Stay in your pyjamas ’till 12 o’clock and bake hot cross buns from scratch (still in your PJs)?

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Winter: it’s all about the food

Winter has well and truly struck in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Melbourne. Every year I think us Melburnians enjoy the summer so much that we forget how torrid the winter can be. Now I know it doesn’t compare to some parts of the world, where winter very nearly knocks your socks off.

But here, well, we’re not really equipped for winter and each year we are taken by surprise when it drops below zero over night. We all freeze and complain about how freezing it is, with such fervour that anyone would think we’d been snowed in.

But I’ve come to reason that winter is all about the food. I hate the cold, I’m a spring and summer kind of gal, but I get through winter because I celebrate the amazing food that just doesn’t work when the weather is warm. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I visited the ‘Whole Larder Love’ blog. The man is a genius and his love of the seasons and the simple life he has created, is so authentic. You can feel it through his velvety prose and his beautiful photos. Specifically, the ‘Buckets of Rain’ post sent me directly in to my kitchen with the intention of cloaking myself in the warm comfort foods of winter.

To start, Roast Chicken. What is there to say about Roast Chicken, except that it definitely deserves the capital letters I have given it. When someone says they are going home for Roast Chicken, I say ‘say no more, my friend’.

And from that humble, but joyful dinner comes more winter culinary joy. In the form of the Pie. Chicken and Mushroom Pie, to be precise. And today I give you mine. Serve it with mashed potato and peas and then tell me how much you love me. Because you will.

Ingredients
250 gr mushrooms – any type you feel like
the left over roast chicken, stripped off the carcass
three sheets of puff pastry (or make your own if you are feeling especially homey)
1/4 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of olive oil
chicken stock (and preferably some gravy also saved from the roast)
a handful of fresh herbs (if you have them) – oregano, thyme, parsley

Method
Preheat your oven to about 175C
Grease a pie dish (big enough to accommodate your left over chicken, or to feed your family)
Line the dish with pastry so it is ready to fill.
Put a sheet of pastry aside for the lid of the pie
Thinly slice your mushrooms and pan fry in olive oil or butter and set aside
Heat the olive oil till you can see its very runny
Add the flour and stir vigorously and turn down the heat if you need to
Once the flour and oil are combined, and look like a yellowish paste, add your stock, a little bit at a time. (If you have some gravy left from the roast, add this first and stir through until very thick, then start adding your stock).
Keep adding the stock each time the roux starts looking gluggy, stir and continue until you have cooked out the flour flavour and can just taste a lovely thick and smooth chicken-y roux.
Add your mushrooms, stir through then add your chicken.
Give it a good stir so it is well combined, then fill your pre-lined pie dish with this glorious concoction.
Add your pastry lid, brush the top with milk (to help it brown) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until brown and daring you to eat it.

Pour yourself a large glass of Pinot Noir and enjoy your pie. You will visit that happy winter food place and for a minute, you’ll be glad its so cold outside.

Keeping chickens will make your life better!

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Keeping backyard chickens will always add a bit of colour to your life. Taking part in #100happydays is really helping me appreciate the small things in life. I’ve made a commitment to notice the small things that make life a little bit better. And the lovely girls that we share our backyard with, do just that.

 

We’ve had Myra, Molly and Maisy now for about 18 months, and I admit that I often take them for granted. But sitting outside this week, enjoying the winter sunshine, I watched them scratching around and generally getting on with their chicken lives.

 

It has to be said, they are the funniest, oddest, most endearing creatures I’ve come to know. There are so many great things about keeping chooks in your backyard, here are a few:

  • Fresh eggs, of course! Who doesn’t love a weekend breakfast of eggs. There is nothing quite like the feeling of listening for the crow of one of your chooks to signal a fresh egg has been delivered for your breakfast. And without a shadow of a doubt, eggs laid in the backyard taste better than those you find in the supermarket.

 

  • Their chook poo provides soil that is incredibly rich in nutrients. This summer, our tomato patch was better than it has ever been, largely due to the nutrients in the soil that was raked through a couple of months before planting. It was all from the chicken house. So cleaning out their house might not be top of your joy list, but the compost will have a little party each time it’s done.

 

  • If you want to live a bit greener keeping chooks is a great way to do it. All our household scraps go straight in to the chook tin and get delivered to the chooks after breakfast the next day. So by giving them your scraps you provide them with their food, and you reduce your waste (and landfill). So it’s a win-win.

 

  • If you have kids and live in the city, its a great way for them to learn about the farm-to-table cycle. This simple act of waiting for the chicken to lay an egg for our Saturday morning breakfast shows them that food doesn’t just materialise at the supermarket, that there is a whole process that happens before food lands on those shelves.

 

  • They are a low maintenance and affordable pet to keep. You need close the door to their house at sunset and let them out in the morning to keep them safe from foxes. (If you’re away a bit, you can even buy an automatic door that will close at sunset and open at sunrise.) They need fresh water, and every couple of weeks their house needs a clean. That’s it. Low maintenance and low cost.

 

  • If you’re having trouble switching off or you’re stressed about something, go and spend ten minutes watching the chooks scratch around. You’ll be in a trance in minutes!

ImageYesterday’s loot – two days worth of eggs

Do yourself a favour, get yourself some chooks. We’re all weighed down by our modern lives and making an effort to get lighter will make your life better. Simple things, like backyard chickens, make life richer.