Wheelbarrow gardening!

I had this old wheelbarrow and its tyre became flat. I couldn’t figure out how to pump it and after taking it back to the store I bought it from to see how I could get a new wheel, I was told it was easier to get a new wheelbarrow. Rather than throw it out, I decided to upcycle it into a mobile garden with the help of my kids.  The great thing about having a mobile garden is that you can move it to suit your needs. For example, there are places in my garden that are very shaded in winter and other areas that would be too hot in summer. I can use the wheelbarrow to move the garden to suit the season.

Before
Before

This became one of our projects during the school holidays.  First we painted it – they chose all the colours and actively painted the wheelbarrow with little assistance from me.

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We then visited a gardening store where each child got to choose a vegetable and a flower to plant in the wheelbarrow.  They chose some interesting ones: cabbage and cauliflower and some regular ones like carrot and strawberries.  I planted some Chinese greens too because they’re fast growing. It is only when you have your own garden that you realise the effort and time it takes to grow food. So I think one of the positives about growing food with children is to teach them patience. In spite of this, the fast growing and not likely to fail Chinese greens were also planted to keep the kids interested.

Happy little planters
Happy little planters

The beauty of this activity is that the kids were involved in the whole process.  They were so excited to choose the colours and to paint it and then again to choose their own flowers and vegetables to plant. The flowers as well as attracting bees, were planted because they add colour and are pretty.

They’ve really loved this activity and have taken great pride in it. My daughter almost daily visits her strawberries and counts them. After we harvested the Chinese greens, I had my son help to cook it up and we had it for dinner.  So another benefit is that they’re getting healthy eating habits too.

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Yum-o!
Yum-o!

I understand that not everyone has a house or access to space to grow food. Many schools have gardening clubs, so kids can become involved there. At home, it’s possible to grow some herbs in the kitchen, or if you have a common area, you can help to start a verge garden or community garden of sorts. Many edible plants grow really well in pots on balconies. You can even make a mini greenhouse using an old plastic soft drink bottle.  I think the important thing is to be creative. Look at what resources you have and start a project today!

Mini-Greenhouse
Source: http://craftingagreenworld.com/2014/04/10/spotted-mini-greenhouse-plastic-bottle/

National Tree Day and Other ways to get Children Active in the Environment

Tree day 2

I am always trying to get my children active and thinking about the environment.  They are usually pretty responsive and study various aspects of environmental protection at school and pre-school. But I like to take it one step further and get them outside with their hands digging in the dirt.  Today was the perfect opportunity  for this, being National Tree Day.

My Council, Lane Cove, organised a tree planting day very close to me. It was great because we started the day with a bushwalk along Stringbark creek to a  park that we often go to.  My older two and my niece loved the walk. They kept talking about how exciting it was to walk through the ‘forest’.  I’m very lucky in that I have a little bit of bush so close to me. Many don’t and probably don’t get many opportunities to simply wander amongst so many trees.

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The other exciting part of the day of course, was all the digging that was involved. To my surprise all three loved planting. Well I have to say I was most surprised with my son as he doesn’t usually show that much interest at home.

So a little about National Tree Day. This is a national event where local communities come together to plant trees and shrubs. It started in 1996 and to date over 22 million plants have been planted by over 3.5 million volunteers.

What I loved about today was the fact that it really felt like a community event. Council Bushcare workers and volunteers were on hand to give knowledge and encourage everyone’s participation.  It really warmed my heart to meet these dedicated folk that work tirelessly to propagate all those  trees and regenerate urban bushland areas which are usually so polluted and affected by urbanisation.

Tree day 4

Overall, the day was a success and I am a very happy eco-mummy.

The other thing I’d like to share is an initiative called ‘Cool Australia’s Enviro Week’. http://www.enviroweek.org/

Basically, it’s a program to encourage the participation of young folk in the protection of our environment throughout a year.  You can participate in a few ways: by yourself or a group of friends, through your class or your school.  You make a pledge as to what you will do and the pledges are all positive things that can be done by anyone like gardening, having waste free lunches, spending quiet time in nature …..

So far I’ve volunteered my kids as a group, but will also ask my son to suggest it to his teacher as something that they can do as a class or indeed a school.

I encourage you to check out the website and see how you or someone that you know of can get involved.

Enviroweek

Childhood adventures to save the planet!

BOgey Bugz

If you were to create an environmental mascot, what would it be? Would it be a panda? A koala? Or a frog? How about a booger?  Well it was this in fact that inspired Martin Lever and his daughter Remi to create the ‘BogeyBugz’ book series.  I met Martin and Remi some years ago when I lived in Abu Dhabi. When the books were launched, he gave us a copy of the book series as a gift. At the time my son was too young to fully understand the books. But as he got older he grew to LOVE the books.  He knows all the characters off by heart and their characteristics. We had to read the BogeyBugz every night and they’ve now been a part of our lives for about 4 years. Now that my son and daughter are sharing a room, we’ve introduced the book series to her and so another BogeyBugz fan has been made.

The BogeyBugz are a great book series that teach children about different environmental issues ranging from global warming, to deforestation and pollution in a fresh way that isn’t too preachy. They’re colourful and fun and aimed at teaching these concepts to children. The books also have a ‘Facteria’ section which acts like a quiz to reinforce the concepts.

I was lucky enough to talk to the author and illustrator of the BogeyBugz, Martin Lever.

How did the concept of the Bogey Bugz come about?

I used to tell my daughter “made-up” stories when she was younger at bedtime. One evening as we were settling down for a new tale, she picked her nose as little ones do! And an idea popped into my head. What if Bogeys could be good things not bad things! Remi liked the idea…and we started to work out the characters, their personalities, and think of a cause which they could champion.

Why did you want to send out an environmental message in these books targeted at kids?

We love our planet. Sir David Attenborough is largely to thank in many ways! And while we’re not hardcore environmentalists, it’s depressing to see how much harm mankind has done to our incredible home. We also noticed that there is little to no written material for pre-schoolers and early primary schoolers that addresses the simple rights and wrongs when it comes to the environment. This seemed like a natural cause for a bunch of maverick Bogeys to adopt!

 

How were you able to make these complex environmental problems into ‘adventures’ and ‘fun’ for kids?

The key to these stories was marrying reality (ie. a real environmental problem) with fantasy. Roald Dahl was a master of the absurd. And we (I say “we” because Remi helped plot out the tales!) took inspiration from his work in trying to find the most abstract solutions to real world problems. Children’s minds are a wonderfully free-flowing font of imagination. So for every environmental issue, I simply asked myself “how would a child solve this?!”

Will the BogeyBugz go on any more adventures?

The BogeyBugz are out there right now “pickin it for the planet”. And when they get back in touch with me, I’m sure they’ll have some new adventures that need writing up

My son has a question for you: ‘Does Plasmo really know the answer to everything?’

Plasmo likes to think he knows everything! But as with all “know-alls”, he sometimes gets things wrong.

 

Well overall the books get the thumbs up from my children. My son’s favourite is ‘The Big Melt’ which is about global warming and how the Bogey Bugz save the ice caps from melting by using ice cream!

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If you wanted to buy a copy of the books you can buy them online at:

http://www.amazon.com/The-BogeyBugz-Environmental-Adventures-Set/dp/9889979578

To find out more about Martin Lever and check out his talents in writing and art, go to:

https://www.behance.net/martinlever and http://www.martinlever.com/index.html

DIY Gifts from the heart

Olive oil

My son is getting to the age when he is learning more about material things. I didn’t even know this. I’m not into ‘brands’ and ‘brand’ things, so I figure he doesn’t get his information from me or my husband, but one day he happened to get a pair of ‘Nike’ sneakers (they were on special!) and when the shoes were presented to him, he shouted in excitement that he had a pair of ‘Nikes’! Also, as he reads now, he is always talking about the brand of cars and other things. Usually my kids don’t watch commercial channels, so they’re not really exposed to much advertising, so it is very interesting how it all creeps into everyday life, which is why I try to discourage them from getting too much into ‘buying’ things such as gifts.

Every year for special holidays and birthdays, I ask my kids to make gifts for family rather than buy. Usually, we bake cookies, but this year, with baby no.3 keeping me busy, I didn’t even have time for that, so we made herb infused olive oil. Luckily I had some spare jars in my garage which I used. I also had herbs to use from my garden. With our scissors in hand my son and daughter and I went harvesting – first some rosemary, then Thyme, then lemon myrtle (an Australian native plant) and lastly some chillies. Here is what you need to do the same:

  • Jars – I sterilised mine with boiling water and let them dry out completely;
  • Extra virgin olive oil – I usually like my olive oil quite fragrant, so I usually buy a strong one;
  • A clove of garlic;
  • Chillies; and
  • Herbs as you wish. Good ones to use are rosemary, thyme and basil.

Now, I have to state that there are apparently issues with making your own herb infused olive oil. This relates to botulism. Apparently, the water in fresh garlic and the herbs can lead to bacterial growth in the oil.  There are ways to avoid this, such as using the oil soon after making it, using dried herbs, preserving the herbs first (in vinegar) before using, and pressing the herbs. This article contains great tips on how to avoid this: http://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/infusing-olive-oil

I ended up drying my herbs in the sun and then the oven for a little while before using.

Firstly thoroughly wash your harbs then dry. Keep in the sun for a day or out in the oven on low heat to dry them out.

Warm your olive oiI in the oven. Then get creating and add your herbs to the jar and carefully add the olive oil. Viola!

These make a great gift. They were very popular and I’ve had great feedback from family about it. It’s also super easy for kids to make with you.

Eat more- waste less: Mushy rice experiment!

My kids are those annoying children that are super fussy when it comes to eating. At first doctors and professionals told me not to worry as they would grow out of it. Well they aren’t. In fact, they’re getting worse. I honestly have no idea on most days what to cook or make for school lunches. Too many days whole sandwiches come home. So I’ve taken to making a meal plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners to ensure some sort of nutrition is reaching those little bellies.
On Thursday I was to give my son and daughter sushi. I thought I’d get all organised the night before and make the rice, and that’s when my rice disaster began.
Instead of having sushi rice, I had a lump of mushy rice. I tried to somehow make it work, but it didn’t. Instead I had to give them store bought sushi, but that still left me with my mushy problem. I couldn’t make myself throw it out, but I couldn’t eat it as it was, and so began the mushy rice experiment.
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My mum suggested that I make some sort of stuffed rice number. This is my recipe:
1 bowl of mushy Jasmine rice;
2 tablespoons of turmeric;
Olive oil;
1 small onion;
A cup of sultanas (I salvaged these from the little box of sultanas that you can buy from the supermarket. My daughter stopped eating them. They became a bit funny, but I kept them for cooking);
¼ cup pine nuts;
A pinch of cinnamon;
A pinch of salt;
Method:
Add a tablespoon of turmeric to the rice and set aside.
Chop the onion and fry over low heat until golden. Add the sultanas and fry for a few minutes.
Add the remainder of the turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pine nuts. Fry for another 3 minutes or so.

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This is the tricky part. You will need a bowl of water close by to stop the rice sticking to your hands and a bowl of flour.
Grab a small bit of rice and flatten in your palm. Add a little of the sultana mix to the rice, then add a little more rice, so that it becomes encased in the rice. You may need to dip it in flour to stop it being too sticky.
Then fry until it is quite crunchy on the outside. It should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. So the taste test?? It tasted good and nice to know that I avoided throwing them out.

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You can use other fillings. Get creative, but mostly try to avoid mushy ride. Remember not to overcook rice and add too much water to it to make sushi!

How to entertain during the school holidays on a budget

As I sit here resting after another school holiday day, I wanted to share some of the things that I’ve been doing with my children during these holidays. Usually school holiday time seems to be the perfect opportunity for prices to go up – double or triple. So holidays away always seem to be quite pricey, as do most activities. 

But one thing that I have done for the last two holidays has been cheap and fun. Essentially I take my kids on what I call a ‘treasure hunt’ through the City. I work in the CBD of Sydney, so before the ‘treasure hunt’ I usually scout for some ‘clues’ to help us on the way to funding our treasure.  

The day starts with a bus ride, which for my children is the ‘most fun ever’!  We get to sit on the bus as it goes across the Harbour Bridge and see the Opera House. 

Once in the City, the treasure hunt begins.  I print them off a table with various landmarks and points of interest which I hope to see. Usually I have a route or destination in mind and along the way as we see our ‘clues’ they get a stamp once they’ve spotted the clue.

This time around ‘Art n About’ was on in Sydney, so there were a few more fun things to see like giant snails. My route usually takes me from the bus stop in Wynyard, to Hyde Park where we eat a home packed lunch.  then on the way back to the bus stop we stop at David Jones’ where we go and get chocolate dipped fruit. This is about the only thing I spend on the day and after a few hours of walking, the kids are more than happy to get the bus back home.

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This is an idea which I think can work on so many levels. Already I’m thinking of doing this at an art gallery, bushwalk or overseas ‘cultural’ holiday. 

I hope you enjoy your treasure hunt with your children as you point out things that they would have otherwise missed.

Happy Mother’s Day

 Love

To all the mummy’s around the world ‘Happy Mother’s Day’.

If you’re a mother,how did you spend today?

For me, I was woken up early by my son who is always an early riser. Today he was in my bed twitching excitedly before 6 am. I then left him to it and went into his bed and got back to sleep. My husband later told me that my son did not sleep and spent the whole time talking and wanting my husband to play with him. So some sleep was my first gift!

We then had breakfast prepared by my husband with my kids helping. After some play, I got my gift of a massage and a book on the natural wonders of the world. I ended up spending my afternoon at my mother’s house and with the glorious day was itching to get into the garden. When I did get into the garden I discovered that part of my brick fence had fallen down and I also discovered that even a little bit of physical labour in the garden seems to upset my wrist. Grrrr……

I did however want to take a moment to recognise the mother of all mothers ‘ Mother Earth’ and the wonderful world she has given us. Also I wanted to share this link to photos of mothers from around the world.

http://www.dailylife.com.au/photogallery/life-and-love/parenting-and-families/mothers-around-the-world-20130507-2j57e.html

Enjoy.

Bush Kids

I have been enjoying a glorious autumn in Sydney. The weather has been beautiful and I have taken this opportunity before winter to get out into the bush.

I have been trying to encourage my children to enjoy nature. A few weeks ago, we decided to go on a bushwalk in a local national park: Lane Cove National Park. My son who is now nearly 5 was super excited. He donned his hat, backpack filled with snacks and his binoculars.  My daughter also was excited, as she seems to be excited about anything that her brother may be into. She just turned 2. The walk we chose is ran along Lane Cove River, along the mangroves.

We chose to take the pram with us (yes strange to take a pram on a bushwalk, but my guidebook told me that there would be boardwalks there).

Once we found the track, we got walking. My son decided he wanted to take photos of spider’s webs which was great, as last year the sight of them scared him. I suppose the Abu Dhabi is slowly leaving him and he is getting more used to the abundant creepy crawlies that call Australia home.

The walk is pretty easy actually, but there is strange part to it when you hit Chatswood Golf Course and you have to walk through it, but then the path dips back along the river with beautiful views. Overall the kids enjoyed the walk and the snacks they got along the way (the best part of a walk no?!) and my daughter even walked most of the way. While the success had me excited, I did feel a little pang of sadness at the realization that they are no longer my little babies….now they are bush walking children!ImageImageImageImageImage

With this success under our belt, my husband and I decided to go to the Blue Mountains, a beautiful part of New South Wales, about 1.5 hours west of Sydney. With autumn leaves glistening and the sun shining, we decided to go on a bushwalk. The one suggested to us was Sublime Point walk. I have to say, this time it seemed that my son’s excitement of the bushwalk had waned and I suddenly had a flash forward to a grumbling ‘I don’t wanna’ time. I was hoping that this would not surface at age 4! With some encouragement however we got out and walking and what a sublime view it was. With that short walk under our belt and children in need of their ‘babycinno’ fix (for those not familiar with this, a babycinno is frothed milk with some chocolate sprinkled on top).

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After that it was time for our second bushwalk of the day, this time Leura Cascades. This walk was a little bit more challenging, with lots of steps. It is relatively short however (500 m to the cascasdes) and the views were spectacular. The actual walk was beautiful too, as you go along a creek with wet sclerophyll vegetation growing overhead.  While walking back up was a little hard for my daughter who was carried back most of the way, my son found it an enjoyable bushwalk altogether.

I think with regular encouragement my kids will grow to love the bush as much as I do.

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A tast of Morocco

 

Moroccan Dinner

 

So my mum is really into cooking blogs. She can spend all day reading these blogs. It’s actually how she got into reading blogs at all. When I told her I was starting a blog, she was very excited, because I think she thought it was going to be about food!  While I may blog about food from time to time, it obviously isn’t the main theme.

Until tonight, when I put on quite a feast, I have to say!  Tonight’s theme was Morocco.  My son is really into this book called the ‘Mirror’ book (Janine Baker), which is about two boys on opposite sides of the world, living very different lives, but something connects them. He loves that book. I’ve wanted to go to Morocco for a long time. When I was in Abu Dhabi I had a Moroccan colleague who surprised me on my birthday with a box full of Moroccan things.

In my current job, we have a book club and I was so excited when I saw a Moroccan cookbook. Since then I have been planning this meal and tonight I decided to cook it all up.

My Montessori book also told me to teach children about countries one at a time, focussing on a country, its culture, food, geography etc. So this is our first country assignment. This morning I showed my son where Morocco is in the world. We looked at some photos of its geography from snow-capped mountains to desert, from the markets to the villages. I also told him he would help me cook this Moroccan feast, so this morning he woke up very excited waiting until we cooked ‘Moroccan food’.

Obviously we’ll have to re-visit Morocco, but for tonight we enjoyed some of its foods, even if I had to take short cuts to get the meals all cooked. So what did our menu consist of tonight?

  • Spicy aubergine and tomato salad (zaalouk) – very yummy!
  • Roasted peppers with goats’ cheese, onion and parsley (salada felfla wa jban) – yummy also!
  • Chick pea salad with onions and paprika (salda hummas) – very nice
  • Chicken k’dra with chickpeas, raising and red peppers (k’dra djaj) – for the kiddies
  • sautéed spinach with orange and almonds (saute d’epinards) – interesting, but nice!
  • Honey glazed pumpkin with spices (ambassel mechoui) – very yummy

If anyone is interested I can share these recipes – all were nice and spicy.

For those inspired to cook, here are some vegetarian friendly cooing blogs:

However here are a few vegetarian friendly cooking blogs (I’m vegie) http://www.veggienumnum.com/ this looks really yummy actually and I’ve cooked a few things from it.

Here is the one my mum really likes: http://scandifoodie.blogspot.com.au/

Enjoy and if you have any favourite recipes that kiddies might enjoy also, please share.

 

Wooden Toy Dilema

 

 

I have wood on my mind…several things have cropped up to cause this. No pun intended!

Firstly, I have been wanting to buy a little kitchen set up for my kids to create a ‘pretend play area’. My Montessori book tells me, why have pretend, when you can actually have your kids in the kitchen, where they want to be? Well it’s not really where I want them to be and apart from the odd times where I may get my son to help me prepare some food, I thought it best to give him a ‘pretend area’. It is also my way to trying to diversify his interests a little away from cars and trains and I have a daughter and niece who will enjoy playing with it also.

I tried E-Bay to no avail. My few forays into E-Bay have left me wary of buying other people’s crap, as I have done on a few occasions. I know many others beg to differ.

Research at the local toy store and elsewhere showed that these toy kitchens (I wanted wood, as Montessori also says that having beautifully crafted wooden toys is good for kids – they appreciate it apparently. Also I think it looks better than plastic) cost around $250 and up! This was not what I had in mind.

I had about given up the idea and was trying to think of ways to convert a bookshelf into this elusive oven, when Aldi had a toy sale extravaganza and what were they selling? All kinds of wooden toys for kids.  I was very excited and ordered my husband to buy all kinds of these wooden toys: oven and food accessories; dollhouse and spaceship.  But as I did this, I ignored the niggling voice in my head which was questioning where Aldi was sourcing its wood from. At these low prices for which the company prides itself, it surely could not have been sustainably managed forests.

Does this make me a bad Eco-mum? It probably does. Around the time of the purchase, I happened to watch a documentary about the Earth Liberation Front (for more info on them, go to http://earth-liberation-front.org/ ) and the fact that some of the guys in the group have gone to jail and are effectively in isolation.  After all, deforestation is a major environmental threat and issue. Trees provide habitat to many species, clean our air by absorbing carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), stabilize soil and prevent erosion, provide us with fruit and other natural resources (like wood) and are beautiful.

Since, I have tried in vain to find where this brand ‘JacknJill’ source their wood from, but I haven’t found anything. I have also gone to the toy stores to see if the alternatives were more environmentally friendly, but they weren’t. I have however found a website that does sell the alternative at a price: http://www.ecotoys.com.au/store/eco-toys.php?cat=6

In the end, the price was too hard for me to ignore. I could have avoided the whole thing and not bought anything at all, but sometimes being a mum takes precedence over my moral conscience. I have however vowed to write to Aldi and voice my opinion. At least they should say where the wood comes from, maybe in time, the alternative won’t cost 5 to 6 times more.