Summer holidays and School terms.

February 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Despite my most fervent intentions to blog here with much higher frequency this year, the beginning of the new school year has found me focused on family and not on writing.

Oh, how I was enjoying January. I always feel as though I only just manage to limp over the finish line of school and other commitments every December, only to turn around and be staring down the barrel of Christmas and all that is entailed there. Christmas Day 2014 found me deeply exhausted and just wishing for it all to be over, which of course it was rather quickly.

After all the busy-ness of present buying and wrapping and trifle making and two full days of celebrations, suddenly there were no more commitments or things to do. New Years’ Eve passed rather quietly in our house, and I wrote about the deep sense of unease I was feeling with no defined purpose or to-do list here.

To break out the funk both Sol and I were feeling, we organised a very last minute holiday to the south coast of NSW. It was full of uncomfortable feelings and some family tensions, but also of some awesome fun in the surf, some gorgeous nature scenes, kangaroos by the side of the road and a fantastic outdoor bath. All in all, a pretty normal holiday I think.

It did the trick….we returned revitalised and I easily slipped into a lovely summer holiday vibe….spending lots of time swimming with the children in various locations, but also getting some decluttering done at home. All of a sudden I didn’t want it to end….the soccer competition we all enjoyed watching on TV, not worrying about bedtimes so much, and that lovely feeling of harmony in the family when the pressure is off.

But time continued its inevitable march and a new school year arrived. Zara began fulltime school and now there are four lunchboxes to fill each morning, four bodies to nudge into bed as early as practical, and lots of sports bags to pack and slippers and pencils to buy.

I must admit, as much as I sighed with relief on the first day to have a few hours at home (almost) alone, that this year the return to routine has been hard. As our boys grow older it feels more and more important to support their after school activity choices, as they slowly discover their interests and passions. But of course this makes life busy after school as well as before.

In my usual style, I have charged full steam ahead with my own plans, running three weekly craft groups (pics to come soon!), and one playgroup day. It doesn’t sound like much but once preparation time is added, on top of the usual household things, it makes for a busy life. I like busy, I thrive on busy, but there can be a fine line between healthy busy an overwhelming. And as always. I am treading that fine line, sometimes crossing over into the overwhelm, sometimes managing everything like a champ and feeling on top of the world.

So as I ease into the school term, I learn to manage it better each week. My focus now is on my eldest two boys cooking one meal a week, and packing their own bags and lunches. Small things, yes, but just one more step towards independence for them, and a bit less for me to be responsible for. And now….some pics from our whirlwind summer holidays.

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The Tree of Life

January 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

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 Photos by William Price.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Tree of Life – an ancient image that is sacred in many religions and cultures.

The tree reaches both down into the earth, and up into the heavens. I have read that for some, the branches represent male, and the leaves female. The Tree of Life symbology also incorporates the four directions, as well as the Milky Way.

It can represent the spiritual realm, where the dualities of light and dark, or good and evil do not exist. Think of the Bodhi Tree, under which sat Buddha until he attained enlightenment. In Christianity, the tree can represent the cross, and the blood of Jesus Christ is referred to as the Fruits of the Tree of Life. And of course there is the tree from which Eve plucked a forbidden apple to eat, thus finding herself and Adam banished from the Garden of Eden

Probably the stories that I am most familiar with involve the Norse legend of Yggdrasil, a most sacred tree that is at the center of all life. It reaches far into the heavens, as well as below the earth, therefore connecting it to all nine realms. Gods would regularly visit the tree, and it is from this tree and the tales surrounding it that other trees, such as ash or oak, have come to have sacred meanings and uses.

I first became interested in crafting my own Tree of Life some seven years ago, whilst living in QLD. We bought a good friend of ours an Egyptian representation of the tree on papyrus paper. The accompanying description of its meaning intrigued me deeply, as this was the first time I had seen birds present.

In the Egyptian Tree of Life, there are four or five birds depicted, representing the different stages of life from infancy through to adulthood and death, or for me more personally, the four stages of womanhood: maiden, mother, magii, and crone. All but one bird faces the East. In the Egyptian telling, the East, being where the sun rises, represents life. The West, embodied by one bird facing this way, looks toward eventual and inevitable death. I often look at the birds and think of the stages of womanhood I have passed through, and those I have yet to meet.

My husband, being a very talented artist, helped me draw the first template of my internal vision. Then, taking felt, my preferred textile, I created. The very first Tree of Life I made went to a dear friend, wise woman and mentor, for the occasion of her own Harvest Queen Ceremony. Since then I have made four more: one for my own mother, one for myself, and two sold – not to strangers, but to women who I know or know of in my community. Because of this, I think the pieces have remained highly meaningful, and indeed have become even more powerful in their symbolism and beauty (at least I hope so!).

Each Tree of Life is slightly different in leaf colour, in bird positioning, and of course through the normal variations that occur when making by hand.  In this final piece, pictured above, I have tried to reflect the seasons through the changing color of the leaves. Every aspect is made by me: the felt, hand dyed. The leaves and bird shapes, cut by hand. And everything hand stitched in place. After seven years and five different variations, the Tree of Life still remains one of my favourite creations.

Belated Birthday

January 15, 2015 § 2 Comments

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Birthdays are not a big deal for my husband, but they kind of are for me. I know I like to feel a bit special, a bit pampered, and remembered on my own day – so I try to give to others what I would wish to receive myself.

This Monday just past was his special day, but we spent the day mostly apart, driving home from a short holiday (separately), and with him attending a funeral. That night we spontaneously decided to go out for dinner to ‘celebrate’ – though I think the idea was also to save us the chore and work of cooking at home after a tiring day. We chose a family restaurant, full of TV’s showing the soccer, a kids movie area showing -what else- but ‘Frozen’, and with an outside play area too. Perfect for lots of children to entertain themselves and for exhausted parents to sit, dazed-eyed, with a glass of wine.

Today, three days later, I finally got around to the cake. Sol is not a sweets-man, preferring wholesome and often different flavours, and so I decided to make him the cake I prepared for his 30th birthday (over ten years ago now!). Then, we lived in rural QLD, far from family. I invited the only couple we knew over to our sparsely furnished but gorgeous modern “Queenslander’ home, a cornflower blue two level beauty with wooden floors and a massive wrap around verandah. Our guests were clean living folk who appreciated the nutty, not to sweet Choc Walnut Torte that I presented.

I presented the same cake tonight – unfortunately rejected by most of the children due to the amount of nuts involved, but happily devoured by Sol and myself; our little secret. The recipe comes from one of my all-time favourite cookbooks by Holly Davis, which I have owned for many years. I used to be a hard-core macrobiotic eater, and her cookbook ‘Nourish’ entered the market just when macrobiotics was becoming cool. It transformed the original macrobiotic principles into modern, fresh, gorgeous food with clean flavours.

Though not containing many ingredients, the cake is super moist with a few subtle flavours in there. The choc/coconut ganache is my own addition to the dessert.

Rich Cocoa and Walnut Torte (gluten free, dairy free).

4 cups ground walnuts

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon cardomom powder, or seeds crushed up

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup maple syrup

2 unpeeled oranges, boiled whole for 15 mins.

5 eggs

 

combine all dry ingredients in a bowl

blend the maple syrup and whole oranges (yes, whole oranges!)

whisk the eggs to a frothy consistency

gently fold wet ingredients into dry

pour into an oiled, floured cake pan (flour with cocoa)

bake at 170 degrees celsius for one hour

serve with berries, cream and optional choc/coconut ganache.

 

Chocolate Ganache (dairy free)

100ml coconut cream

100g dark chocolate, dairy free if desired

 

heat the coconut cream to just boiling

remove from heat and add chocolate

stir till smooth and silky.

Summer Swimming

January 8, 2015 § 1 Comment

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The Reality of January.

January 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

About this time of year, I always think of when I was seventeen. I had finished high school. Completed exams that had been built up for years as the all-important gateway to my future. Christmas was over, and time was hurtling me into January, into a space of limbo between leaving school and the rest of my life, amidst a long, hot summer.

It did not take me long at all to realise that those all-important exams were not so essential after all. No one I met in the wider world seemed to care about them, or even mention them. I felt ripped off. I had bought into an illusion about the ‘right’ pathways a teenager should take, and I felt somewhat empty.

But more than that, I felt purposeless. Exam results were not out for a while, so there were no decisions to be made about University or otherwise. I had a part time job, which kept some rhythm in my life. My friends were all socialising regularly, but after a couple of parties I was over it. There seemed no point to it. I will always remember that January, how I drifted along in a state of discomfort and melancholy, waiting for the rest of my life to begin.

Which brings me to my life now, some twenty years later. And how, every January, after the rush of Christmas and New Years, I feel that familiar melancholy creep into my being. Now that I have children, I look forward to this time, I do. As November and December pass by too quickly and in a blur of busyness, I long for these days where I have no job but to be with my children.

But once I get here, I feel lost. We do lots of swimming and board games and see movies and hang out with the relatives, and that is all fun. But at home, at night, when everyone is asleep, I lie awake, wondering about the big questions of life, and about my place in it.

It may not be a negative thing – maybe January gives me the time to ponder the deeper layers of life- time that I don’t have during the rest of the year. With all the inevitable talk of New Years’ Resolutions, maybe I am performing a natural evaluation of my life and it’s direction. Or maybe I am exhausted and in need of a good break – not just from school routines and my part time work, but from my home and familiar surroundings.

Again I think back to the past, and the two week holiday our family took every year without fail, leaving at 6am each Boxing Day. Somehow that two weeks at the beach served as a break between the year just gone and the one just beginning. All that swimming, exercise, simple eating and laying around was healthy and rejuvenating for me, even as a child.

So this becomes my New Years’ Resolution, of sorts. To go on a holiday – a proper holiday away from home. Let’s see if it helps.

 

Scenes from Christmas 2014

December 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Hoping that wherever you are in the world, and however you celebrate at this time of year, that it has been a good one – full of peace, love and happiness!

 

Family Day

November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

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When we lived in QLD, years ago, we began a family tadition called ‘Family Day’. It came about through a combination of my young-family earnestness to create intentional relationship building rhythms, the fact that we lived in a new city and wanted to explore it, and Sol’s unpredictable shift work.

He had every Sunday free, so that became ‘Family Day’. We wrote a list of all the places we wished to see, all the things we wished to do. And every Sunday we ticked on off the list. Now, ten years later, Sol still works shift work, and mostly on Sundays too. Saturday just doesn’t work for Family Day – sports, lunches with Grandma…. It does not have the same carefree energy that Sunday holds.

Recently Sol had a rare Sunday off – and the Spring weather was warm and breezy, so off to the beach it was! For both Sol and I, our favourite beach outings involve bushwalking and getting somewhere off the beaten track, so to speak. We have visited this little beach on Pittwater many times before, but the length of the walk is perfect for the little ones (two of whom we ended carrying up 400 steps anyway!), and the beach has lots of rocks and physical challenges for the older boys to get into.

I was left behind on the beach with Robin while the others went exploring/rock jumping, but I didn’t mind. I explored with my camera and had a swim, almost alone on the beach. Just the way I like it: just me, and the ocean.

 

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