Live Your Sacred Essence

Lavendilly is my work at home: where I live and play with my family and friends. At Lavendilly we celebrate all the goodness that makes our life interesting, colourful, spicy and beautiful. Food, play, creative projects, poetry and stories! The other side of my work is my work in community, and that is SACRED ESSENCE.

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Sacred Essence has been going for about three years now. Melissa Joss and I have been working with women in our community, providing a place for women to be in the moment – a challenge in particular for mothers! We benefit from these circles as much as anyone else does, and it has become our heart’s work.

Our passion for Sacred Essence has never waned, but our time and energy did when Melissa and I both had babies in late 2010, so for a while our energies were often diverted into parenting and loving our little families. Our little girls are now both two years of age, and we are both feeling a resurgence of enthusiasm, passion and ambition for our work. We’ve been working hard over Summer (and when you’ve got all kids home on school holidays any kind of work is hard!) and we’ve made ourselves a new website, written a new mission statement and have all our projects for the year planned out. It feels great!

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We are kicking the year off with our Open Day Circle and our Hand-Felted Journal Cover Workshop. Look what I made! I love this journal cover! It fits an A4 book just perfectly, and I spent a few happy hours sitting in the sunshine embroidering it. It is going to be a free gift in our competition, which will be announced very soon. Also you can win a free booking to the Workshop so you can make your own.

Go and have a look at our Sacred Essence website! There’s lots in there … and keep watching here, or on our Sacred Essence facebook page for more information about how you can win the journal cover or the booking to make your own felted book cover. We’ll also be offering the instructions on-line so you can make one even if you don’t live on the Gold Coast.

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Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Resources for Celebrations

linden garland 3I believe that our celebrations should be given thought – there should be an understanding of what we are celebrating – and why – and then we should consider how to celebrate it according to where we live. It has always felt strange to me to celebrate winter festivities at Christmas time when it is summer in Australia … and Australia is a country with great variety in landscapes so each celebration for each family would be strengthened with an inclusion of local foods, plants, animals, landscapes and people.

The following posts are my journey into understanding Christmas and Advent, and making it real for us according to where we live. I hope you enjoy them, and I would love to hear your ideas too.

ADVENT POSTS

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Advent

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: The Four Kingdoms

Advent Week One: The Mineral Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom

Advent Week Two: The Plant Kingdom Story

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom

Advent Week Three: The Animal Kingdom Story

Advent Week Four: The Human Kingdom

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Epiphany

CHRISTMAS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE POSTS

Finding Meaning In the Festive Season

What to Do About Santa Claus?

The Christmas Tree

The Jesse Tree

The Summer Solstice

CHRISTMAS RECIPES

Raw Gingerbread

Christmas Spice Muesli

Raw Chocolate Cherry Christmas Stars

CHRISTMAS CRAFT

Handmade Fabric Christmas Garlandslinden garland 3

OTHER CHRISTMAS ARTICLES AND RESOURCES

Christmas in the Middle Ages Part 1

Celebrating Play: Boys and Building and Loose Parts

My son has always needed to build. It has been one of the tricky things, living in a rental home, to find a place where he can dig and climb and build in the back yard. To have some independence in his play so that he can safely explore and create without creating too much havoc. In the days that I was offering Family Day Care at home the sand pit was invaluable – for all the children who played at our house, girls included, but for my son it was an absolutely necessary feature. A big pile of soil waiting to go in a garden was a big pile of pure joy.

When not digging in the sandpit he’d wander around the place and find all kind of loose parts. Then, seemingly in the period of time it took for me to duck inside and answer the phone, he would have all kinds of bits stacked up on top of each other in sometimes very precarious arrangements, and sometimes with his younger sister inside or on top. I learned to let go and trust. I had to because when I worried about the dangerous arrangements they would happen again anyway. It was actually a great way to learn about safety, balance, strength. It would often take all my self-control to go out there and respect the construction and the experience by quelling my fear and panic and then quietly offering some observations that led to conversations about how to make things safer. The need to build led to the need to tie things down, which led to the need to have play ropes and octopus straps readily at hand. The kids didn’t have many accidents at all – certainly not as many accidents as I had heart tremors each time I looked out the window. And what really amazed me was the sheer strength he needed in order to lift the heavy garden benches, chairs, tables and random pieces of wood he used in all his constructions!

One of the best pieces of play equipment we added to the backyard were a collection of plumbing pipes and connecting pieces. This was actually his gift for his fifth birthdayNo explanation was necessary … he just went straight outside and began to connect – then he began to experiment by pouring water and sand and small bits and pieces down the pipes, zooming cars through the pipes, working out how to keep them upright, learning what happens when water and sand pool in the bottom. There was so much problem solving involved in this simple gift. The pipes were an awesome addition for outside play, but they didn’t quite cut it as a gift – after spending hours with his pipes he came back in and asked when he could have his birthday present 🙂 All the same we had the pipes in our backyard for a couple of years and they served their purpose.

Rocks are great too. Provided they are kept clear of climbing structures (he’s learned that the hard way too). Rocks can be stacked and arranged. They can be markers, walls, designs, weights. Here we found a cache of rocks in a nearby park and couldn’t help ourselves. He and I spent a good half an hour shifting rocks to make a double-ended spiral. At home he and his sister have enjoyed finding rocks that they can polish, or crack open, or grind into powder to make paint. I’m a bit wary of the rock-cracking because of the small sharp bits that fly everywhere … but then again both our children have learned through experimenting (and with some adult guidance) how to engage in this play safely.

Then of course there are boxes. After we moved house I re-taped a few of our boxes together for some large-scale building on the verandah. Everyone enjoyed this, but we had to let the toddler work through her natural instinct to deconstruct stacked blocks before any serious building could begin.

For building that required a more stable construction material there is also straw bales. These were bales of mulch ready and waiting to go on our large garden … but the children found them first and the entire household just had to respect the sheer strength and effort and cooperation it took for the kids to build themselves a fort from those heavy bales. We kept the fort up until the rain dampened them, and with the threat of mould growing on the inside the fort was deconstructed, but that was ok too. The children took almost as much pleasure spreading the mulch everywhere too.

Our backyard has always been full of loose parts and tools. The ‘toys’ we have for outside play include a trolley for carting things around, shovels, rakes, hammers, gardening gloves, ropes and buckets. We have a few structured toys in the sandpit (dinosaurs etc) but even still those are ones that facilitate creative play.

Loose parts in the backyard means: creativity, strength, cooperation, problem solving, innovation, persistence, resilience, adventure, experimenting. Having unstructured playthings rather than commercial toys in the backyard also means you have children who can play for lengths of time anywhere, with anything. It means you have children who have the chance to show leadership, caring and consideration. It means you have children who are open to fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. It means you have children who can cope well with failure and set about finding another way.

I don’t regret the lack of ‘toys’ in our backyard at all.

Recipe: Left Over Baked Rice Breakfast.

I don’t eat rice any more, but I still cook it now and then for the family. I always make extra rice when I cook it for dinner because the leftovers are given to the kids for breakfast. It is one of the easiest and most delicious and nutritious ways to fill up on good food in the morning, particularly if you are using brown rice. It can be eaten hot or cold, but of course in this weather the kids are eating it hot to keep their bodies warm in our crisp winter mornings.

When we are doing the dishes after our evening meal, I mix up this dish and cook it before bed-time. That way it is ready to be heated and served hot in the morning. I’ve written out the basic recipe here, but I like to add whatever I’ve got around the place: chopped apple bits, sultanas, blueberries, mashed banana, chopped dried apricots, a bit of grated lemon zest … something to add a bit of colour and interest – something for the kids to talk about. It’s nice to make it a bit different each time. I apologize for the random measurements .. I’m becoming a bit of an intuitive cook and to me a ‘swoosh’ of honey, is a drizzle from the jar which is just enough to make it sweet and not too much. You can make it without the honey entirely if you like because the grated apple just seems to be enough. The apple kind of disappears into the custard and rice during the baking so you can’t see it (for those who are texturally sensitive!)

BAKED RICE BREAKFAST

INGREDIENTS

1 cup left over rice (this dish is YUMMIEST with brown rice)

2 eggs

milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

a swoosh of honey

1 tsp cinnamon

1 peeled and grated apple

butter

METHOD

Grease a casserole dish with coconut oil or butter.

Spread leftover rice evenly over the bottom of the dish.

Crack the two eggs over the rice and mix gently with a whisk.

Pour in enough milk to cover the rice.

Add vanilla, cinnamon, grated apple and honey (to taste) and stir until everything is well mixed.

Add some random knobs of butter on the top of it all.

Bake at 150C for about 40 – 50 minutes or until it is set and lightly browned on top.

Serve with hot with cream and stewed fruit (or a drizzle of maple syrup) or cold with fresh fruit and yogurt.

Craft: Pressed Flower Fairies

In the beginning of the term I went for a walk up at Mt Tamborine, one of my favourite places, to gather some of Mother Earth’s fallen Autumn bounty: in this case, leaves and petals. I found some wonderfully large maple leaves, which have been lots of fun for the children to dance around with, rose petals, golden cassia petals, golden trumpet flowers, old man’s beard, grevillea leaves and smaller maple leaves. I took these home and pressed them for a few weeks in our phone book by laying them carefully flat in the pages and then laying a few heavy weights on top of the phone book to keep them all flat.

Inspired by a very beautiful book that I was given many years ago, Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwandin which the most exquisite clothes have been created out of pressed flowers, bark, feathers and leaves, I couldn’t wait for my own pressed flowers to be ready. I wanted to make some greeting cards with Autumn fairies dancing!

It was worth the wait. It was several weeks before they were dry enough to take out. Some of them had faded in colour, but I think that adds to the Autumnal feel 🙂

Here are a few of the pretty fairies that emerged when I brought out the pressed flowers at playgroup. I provided a cut out silhouette, some card, glue and Fairie-ality  for inspiration, and set the mums free –  this is what happened:

Recipe: Blueberry Crostata

This recipe caught my eye on Pinterest. Click on the picture above for the link to the original post. I love recipes that look simple and are also simple to make. This one is basically a pie crust and blueberries. Can’t go wrong!

I made my pie crust with spelt flour and coconut oil, which made it a bit crumbly … but still very delicious. I used maple syrup instead of sugar, left out the flour (instead I kind of mashed the blueberries a little bit after they were cooked so they all stuck together in the crust better) and I used dabs of coconut oil on top of the blueberries instead of butter.  It was really delicious! I managed to save a slice to take a photo of.

 

I love the rustic look of it too. Can’t you picture yourself on the couch, wrapped up in a snuggly blanket eating hot crostata with cream?

How Bread-Making can Teach Inner Strength

Bread-baking seems to be one of the familiar and reliable activities you will find in waldorf/steiner kindergartens and playgroups. With rhythmic kneading of dough to a soothing melody sung by adults and children, this time is looked forward to and enjoyed by all.

I had second thoughts about including bread-making time in my playgroup. First of all we were initially meeting in parks so baking was impossible. Secondly, once we did find a venue with a kitchen, there are many more people around now who have wheat or gluten intolerance. As for myself, I eat grain-free, and even though I and a few others in the group do not eat the bread I decided to include bread-making. Not to test our will-power, but to strengthen it! Like a lot of the activities we do with children, it is about the PROCESS. Everyone can participate and there are enough bread-eaters in the group to take care of the rolls that are left over.

Making bread from scratch helps children understand that food is not magic. It doesn’t just appear or grow in the shops. There are not many items around now where children are able to see or participate in the full manufacturing process. We buy our bread in bags, drink our milk from cartons, slice our cheese from yellow plastic-wrapped blocks. Bread comes in an expected shape, size and colour. Children, being creatures of habit, may become suspicious when their food looks different to their expectations … unless they are often offered a wide variety of foods or have participated in the process of making it. Having children help you make basic food items from scratch will not only increase their interest in eating it, but also help them to gain some great skills in the kitchen and be on the way to learning some healthy habits surrounding food. I’ll never forget watching Jaimie Oliver’s demonstration of how commercial chicken nuggets were made. Ironically though, even though the children he was doing this exercise with were fully grossed out – they still chose to eat the commercial nuggets because they had no connection to food as a source of nourishment.

Ideally we would mix the dough up together in our playgroup, let it rest and watch it rise (my favourite part), then pat it down and knead it and roll it before making it into buns and baking it. We have a short session each week: 2 hours in which we fit quite a lot of interesting things in, so I bring the dough in already made and risen, and the children and parents help to knead it, roll it and shape it.

The other ideal would be for children to be able to feel what it is like to knead the whole or at least half of the full dough mixture. Our group has lots of really little children so we roll out little balls of dough for them, but there is quite a lot of strength involved to squash it down and smooth it out, fold it over and start again. Imagine all the muscles in your child’s arms, chest and fingers that are being exercised. There is the benefit also of learning how to start a task and bring it to completion – and here I am talking about developing a child’s inner strength. Inner strength (known as the “Will” in waldorf/steiner circles) is the ability to persevere. Developing a child’s inner strength also develops their resilience, their sense of helpfulness and empathy, and it helps them to develop good habits such as goal setting and positive thinking.

Can a child learn all this just from kneading a ball of bread dough? No, of course not, but it is the process and the practice that count. Finding as many ways as possible to bring wholesome, healthy and helpful tasks to your children to help them develop their outer and inner strength is thoroughly recommended. It means children participate with their head, heart and hands in the household tasks:

  • (HEAD) Children learn about the origin of food and household items, how to make them, repair them, clean them, maybe how these items work;
  • (HEART) Children help to nourish and care for the family and their home;
  • (HANDS) Children learn how to bring a task to completion without complaining, and to know their own limits so they can genuinely learn what it feels like when they are tired. They use their bodies for work and play in an active, engaged and purposeful way.

It changes the experience of eating bread, doesn’t it?

Beyond the bread – It also means that adults need to be doing these sorts of tasks too, so that children can learn from imitating how it is done. Very young children are excellent at imitating worthy tasks and will happily help you do anything, within their own capacity, around the house. My one year old knows how to sweep with a dust-pan and broom, and will go and get a cloth by herself to wipe up her spills. She knows instinctively that a rolled-up length of bubblewrap must be rolled back and forth! She has learned this from watching me make felt so often at home. My four-year old still enjoys mopping and cleaning with me. My seven-year old prefers to do tougher jobs in the garden – but only if I or his Dad are with him to keep him company, to help him with the tricky bits and to teach him side-by-side as we work together. I’m not saying that all chores and cooking are met with cries of delight. They ARE children and we do still have the daily groans about making beds and brushing teeth, but having adults working purposefully and positively around them certainly helps.

Back to the bread though – there are many reasons to include it in a playgroup or a kindy session. When I first began working in a steiner school I made bread only because the kindy had always made bread. I think it is really important to know the reasons why things are done otherwise you are not bringing a sense of purpose and clarity to the task. You are also not being honest to the children you are working with – unless you are doing the task for the pure joy of doing it. That is a valid reason too 🙂 I do it so that parents can participate in the joy of completing a great task with their child – from start to finish – and enjoy the end product together too. When parents bring purposefulness and joy to the tasks they do with their children then children participate with purposefulness and joy.  That’s why we make bread – and also because it is a gorgeous way to end our group by sitting in the dappled sunshine together on some picnic rugs, munching on our freshly made bread rolls.

At playgroup, every bread roll is unique! (It helps to recognise who made which roll!)

I haven’t washed my hair in four years

I read an article in New Idea recently – well it was an old magazine because I only read them when they are given to me! – a small bit on how awful Julia Roberts must smell because she does not wash her hair or use soap or deodorant. Whether this is true or not I thought I should stand up for all those who choose a more natural form of personal hygiene!

That’s right! I don’t wash my hair. Or use soap. Or deodorant. Well, that isn’t entirely true – I wash my hair every day – and I use soap to sanitize my hands – but I can count on one hand how many times I have used hair cleaning (or styling) products in my hair in the last four years.

About four years ago one of my friends told me that she only washes her hair once a week and I was astounded. I washed mine with shampoo every single day! My hair gets disgusting if I don’t wash it!! Then this same friend later stopped washing it all together and I just couldn’t tell the difference. She had long wavy hair and it always looked beautiful. So I gave it a go.

And it was disgusting 🙂

It took two or three months for the oils in my hair to settle down. Fortunately for me my hair had been cut short so it wasn’t so bad to work with. The first three weeks were the worst. I felt slimy and yukky. Then it got better from there. My body oils eventually found their natural balance since they were no longer being stripped out of my hair every day.

Initially I used a bit of baking soda and vinegar, but to be honest I found this itchy and dry and I got a lot of dandruff, so I stopped that and just started washing with hot water. To care for my hair now I wash it well in really hot water (hot as I can stand), distributing any oil along the length of my hair, and letting the hot water remove the excess. I give my scalp a good massage in the shower every day and I don’t vigorously dry my hair in a towel, but gently pat and squeeze the water out. Occasionally I use a little bit of conditioner to make my hair a bit smoother, or a bit of coconut oil to keep my hair in place.  My hair looks its best when I give it a good brush, as this also helps to distribute oils, makes hair shiny and massages my scalp, but being a busy mother of three, I still regard this as an optional exercise, for beauty emergencies only. School pick-up times don’t require hair brushing. Besides I am growing my hair longer, and at the style it is in right now, no amount of hair brushing is going to make a difference!

What I notice now are the times when my hair gets really oily: when I am unwell, stressed or about to enter my menstrual cycle. It is a natural warning system that something is up and that I need to take care of myself.

It is also true that I do not use soap. This started because my skin is sensitive to soaps and my body is sensitive to the scents soap always seems to have in it. So I just stopped using it. I clean myself with soap if I have DIRT on me, if I am shaving, or to remove germs from my hands, but otherwise I wash myself in hot water with a wash cloth. Sometimes I put a few drops of an essential oil on the washcloth and wash with that. I don’t smell.

I notice my body odour on really hot days (when even a normal deodorant would find it hard to cope) and also when my diet isn’t up to scratch. A lot of the time it is just me noticing it, nobody else. When I changed my diet to purely whole, real foods (no chemicals, additives, or anything with more than 2 whole ingredients in it) about two years ago I noticed a great change in my skin, my hair and my body odour. My hair was shinier and I really didn’t stink. I guess it is because I wasn’t consuming any toxins that had to be released through my skin. Digestion is so underrated by our society.

I think these functions in our body are there to let us know what is going on for us, and remind us to keep ourselves healthy. These functions are masked when we strip ourselves of our natural oils and then replace them with synthetic ones. And I do hate the smell of overpowering deodorant with an undercurrent of stale sweat. Natural sweat is much more bearable, actually!

Well I know it isn’t for everyone, but it works for me .. and saves me money on unnecessary and expensive hair products. It also saves me from having to scrub soap scum out of the shower, and that definitely works for me!

Rainberry Muffins at Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup

I started a new playgroup today: Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup. It is a bit ironic that it has been raining pretty much non-stop for three weeks, half of my suburb disappears underwater at least once a day – and I am starting an outdoor playgroup called Sunshine. Well – let’s get wet 🙂

In celebration of the rain and the exciting challenges it brings we started our playgroup year playing in ankle deep water and eating Rainberry Muffins. As it happens this morning the sun did come out, and believe it or not I got sunburned!

The recipe is one I have adapted from Jude Blereau’s Carrot, Banana and Coconut Muffin recipe found in her fantastic cookbook Wholefood for Children (except I left out some ingredients and used blueberries instead and then called them rainberries!) This book is brilliant and filled with wonderful recipes that make the most of the nutritious elements each food has to offer and presents it in simple, attractive and delicious meals for children. You can follow her blog at Whole Food Cooking for more recipes.

Rainberry Muffins turned out moist and tangy. Not sweet at all, but that is because I left out the sugar entirely and counted on the bananas and the blueberries to provide the sweetness.

rainberry muffins

( sugar and wheat free – can be made with gluten-free flour too)

130g (1 cup) white spelt flour

165g (1 cup) wholemeal spelt flour

2.5 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

60g walnuts, roughly ground

30g pumpkin seeds, roughly ground

2 bananas, mashed

90g melted and cooled butter / oil

1 egg

125 ml (1/2 cup) coconut milk

125g (1/2 cup) yogurt or kefir milk (I used kefir)

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nuts and seeds into a bowl and whisk thoroughly to distribute evenly. Add the banana and sultanas and gently mix again.

Place the butter, egg, coconut milk, yogurt/kefir and vanilla in a bowl and beat until just combined. Add to the dry ingredients, then mix in the blueberries, taking care to not overwork the mixture, Allow to stand 1 – 2 minutes to absorb some of the moisture.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 30 – 35 minutes for medium sized muffins and 15 – 20 minutes for mini muffins. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins then turn out and cool on wire racks.

Random Rumi: I and Thou

Blessed time! when we are sitting,
I and thou,
With two forms and only one soul,
I and thou.
Fragrance, song of birds, they quicken ev’rything
When we come into the garden,
I and thou.
All the stars of heaven hurry
to see us,
And we show them our own moon,
I and thou-
I and thou without words, without
I and thou-
In delight we are united,
I and thou.
Sugar chew the heaven’s parrots
in that place
Where we’re sitting, laughing sweetly,
I and thou.
Strange that I and thou together
in this nook
Are apart a thousand miles, see-
I and thou.
One form in this dust, the other
in that land.
Sweet eternal Paradise there…
I and thou.