Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Recipe - Bircher Muesli


Making Bircher Muesli was my next step in my Nourishing Traditions journey. Sally Fallon recommends soaking all grains overnight in some sort of acidic liquid, like yoghurt, kefir, or water with some whey or lemon juice added, to help remove some of the phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that hinders the body's absorption of important minerals. It isn't quite cold enough here for soaked grain porridge yet, so I was kind of struggling with what to do for breakfasts when I remembered how much I loved eating the bircher muesli when I was on holidays. I figured that even though the oats are soaking in the fridge rather than at room temperature, it is still better than not soaking at all. This bircher muesli will last in the fridge for about a week, or as long as the expiry date on the yoghurt is, but mine is usually eaten well before then. You could easily make this using a bought untoasted muesli mix, but it is so easy to make your own, plus you can customise it with all the goodies that you like, and leave out all the thing you don't!

Sarah's Bircher Muesli

300g rolled oats
50g chopped raw almonds
50g chopped raw pecans
50g craisins
50g chopped dried apricots
1kg whole milk yoghurt (I use homemade raw milk yoghurt)
2 medium apples, grated (skin included)

  • The night before, mix everything together in a large bowl and then store in fridge.

  • To serve, add some extra milk to thin it to a creamy consistency, and then add some fresh or stewed chopped fruit. Berries are particularly good!



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Monday, April 19, 2010

5 Easy Toddler Chores


I think that it is really important to involve children in the running of the home so I like to involve Stephen and Irini in some of the easy chores suitable for toddlers. Since they are still very little, only 2 & 3, I can't expect too much, but there are a number of things that they do to help around the house, even if I have to redo part of it after they go to bed.

  1. Loading and emptying the washing machine - we have a front loader and one of Irini's favourite jobs is putting the sorted dirty laundry into the machine, and then pulling out the washed laundry into the basket for me to hang up or put in the dryer.

  2. Sweeping the floors - one of Stephen's jobs is to sweep our living room rug with the carpet sweeper. These do a great "in-between-vacuuming" job of picking up crumbs etc from the rug.

  3. Bringing dirty dishes to the kitchen - both are responsible for bringing their dirty plates and cups from the table to the sink in the kitchen.

  4. Putting their own rubbish in the bin - when they have finished their yoghurt or anything else that comes in disposable packaging (which is less and less), they have to put their own rubbish in the bin.

  5. Getting their own water - I know this is not a "chore" per se, but it is a great way to foster their independence. I have all our cups in a draw within their reach, and they know to get the plastic cups. I have a stool at or nearby the sink, and Stephen knows how to reach the water filter tap. Whenever he comes to me saying he is thirsty, I always direct him to go and get his own. He is also responsible for pouring a glass for Irini, since she can't reach yet.
None of these tasks really help me around the house, and sometimes they even slow me up, but I really think that having them involved in doing these 5 easy toddler chores now will ensure that as they get older they will see that every member of the family helps out in the running of our home.

What chores are your toddlers doing around the house?

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Raw Milk

My next baby step on the Nourishing Traditions (NT) path was to start our household using raw milk. There is a lot of research out there (not just from NT) that suggests that a lot of important nutrients, beneficial bacteria and other "good" things are missing from our modern milk because of pasteurisation. NT really stresses

Now, in the past, I think pasteurisation was vitally important and more importantly saved potentially millions of lives - we did not have a well regulated sanitary dairy industry, and diseases such as brucellosis and tuberculosis were rife. Now, however, is a different story. Australia has been declared free of brucellosis (since 1989) and bovine TB (since 2002) as has Canada. Thus, there is no real risk of getting these illnesses from unpasteurised milk.

Despite this, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption here in Australia. However, there are a number of producers who have circumvented this by selling their organic raw milk as "bath milk" for cosmetic purposes. You can find brands such as Cleopatra's Bath milk at local organic food stores, and this is what I was using until recently.

I have been happy with the Cleopatra's Bath Milk, produced from pasture fed jersey cows in Queensland, but really wanted to find a local source. Last week, I finally found Perth Organics who make local raw milk deliveries weekly. The milk comes in 5 litre plastic delivery containers, so it needs to be re bottled into easier to use containers. The pic at the top of the post is my beautiful milk re bottled into glass bottles. It is just wonderful to drink milk the old fashioned way - in glass bottles with the cream floating on top!

Do any of you drink raw milk? Do you think it makes you feel better?

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review - Buyster Kids Rugs

I was very excited the other day when Maree from Buyster Rugs contacted me to see if I wanted to review her site and a rug from their huge range of traditional, contemporary and kids' rugs. I had never heard of Buyster Rugs before, but was very impressed when I took a look around. I decided to pick a kids rug, since we have rugs in the living room and playroom, and carpet almost everywhere else. Originally I was going to pick a rug either for Stephen's or Irini's room as a decor accent, like this great plane themed rug for Stephen, or this pretty striped rug for Irini.

Then I came across the Pooh hopscotch rug and I was sold!

I decided that this rug would be perfect for the upcoming cold and wet winter. Both the kid's love Pooh (a Pooh softie has been Stephen's lovey for the past year!) and they are both getting old enough to understand the rules of hopscotch. With this rug, we will be able to play inside regardless of the weather, and since they are still learning and still falling over, this rug will give them a nice and soft place to learn. I will update you on what the rug is like in real life as soon as it arrives.

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Disclaimer - Buyster.com.au is providing me with a rug free of charge to review. All my opinions are, as always, my 100% honest opinions and are not influenced by the company supplying me with the review product.

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

This is the first time I've taken part in 5 Minutes for Mom's Ultimate Blog Party. As usual, I am running very late, but better late than never, right!

If you are dropping in from the blog party, a big hello!! My name is Sarah, I am a SAHM to a two and a three year old and I blog in my spare time (whenever I can grab it!). My blog topics are pretty random - everything from beauty, fashion and style, to home preschooling, to health and eco living and beyond. Basically, if something has peaked my interest, or I think it might peak yours, then I blog about it. So, again, welcome, take a look around, and have fun!

There are a heap of prizes to be won at the party, so make sure you head on over and enter. You can still enter even if you don't have a blog. My top three choices for a prize are:

US 69 - Bo's curriculum from The Itty Bitty Bookworm

US 56 - Custom painted canvas from October Belle Designs

US16 - The custom made Sweet Patootie tutu from Peachy Keen

If these prizes are already gone but I am still lucky enough to win, then I would love any of the following (in order): US7, 22, 19, 83, 18, 96, 33, 105, 34, 112, any of the amazon, target or paypal gift certificates, or anything suitable for a 3 yo boy and 2yo girl.


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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nourishing Traditions


I have been reading about this book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon for a while now on a number of blogs such as Down to Earth, and Heart of Home, and was really interested in the concept of returning to real, whole foods, and eating in a way more like the way traditional indigenous peoples ate. After searching for a copy at my library and local bookshops, with no luck, I finally went and ordered it from Fishpond (like an Australian version of Amazon). All I can say is "WOW". Go and get this book and it will change your life. I feel like a groupie or a cult member saying that, but that is how much of an impact this book had on me.

Basically, the author lays the blame for many modern illnesses (often called illnesses of civilisation) such as heart disease and diabetes at the feet of our modern highly processed, low fat, high refined carb diet. She relies heavily on the research of Weston Price, a mid-century dentist who extensively researched traditional peoples isolated from modern diets, and found that despite living long lives, they had virtually no incidences of heart disease, diabetes etc.

The book is huge, more like a textbook than a cookbook, and is very dense with text. Having said that, once I started reading it, I couldn't stop, and pretty much read it in the course of a couple of days, which is no mean feat with two young toddlers. There is a lot of content in there and a lot to take in; it seems overwhelming, what with fermenting, soaking grains, culturing your own dairy products etc. However, I decided to start small with easily achieved baby steps.

My first step was to make a big batch of my own slow simmered chicken stock that I simmered for 24 hours. I used a whole free-range chicken, some onions, carrots and celery. When the stock was finished and the fat skimmed off, it was delicious, rich and unctuous. I hadn't added any salt, but it honestly didn't need any. I use a lot of chicken stock in my cooking, so making this switch was easy and practical.

My next step was to culture some of my own dairy products. I already make my own yoghurt and yoghurt cream cheese, but I always threw away the whey, not knowing how useful it is. I also made up a batch of homemade creme fraiche (sour cream) which is in the pic above. This is absolutely delicious - it is thick and silky and can be used anywhere regular sour cream can be used, but is just perfect dolloped on stewed fruit.

Stay tuned for more things we have started incorporating.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Singapore - a wonderful place for kids


We have just got back from a 8 day holiday with the kids. OK, I got back nearly a week ago now, but I am only just starting to get back into the rhythm of things. We had originally booked our holiday with 5 days in Phuket, Thailand, followed by 3 days in Singapore, but because of the political situation in Thailand, we changed our plans a week before leaving and decided to spend the whole time in Singapore. I am so glad I did! While it was a totally different holiday to the "let's sit by the pool and relax" one originally planned, Singapore is so child friendly with so many great things to do, that we all had an amazing time.

Everyday had a gentle routine to it. We would sleep in and wake up around 9/9.30. We would then meander down to an amazing buffet breakfast, where everyday, the kids were amazed that 1) ice cream was being served for breakfast and 2) mum and dad were letting them have some! After breakfast, we would go to our activity/sightseeing and have lunch while we were out. Irini would usually fall asleep in her stroller around lunchtime, but we would carry on a bit longer and around mid afternoon, we would head back to the hotel for a rest. After an hour or so of rest, we would refresh and head for dinner, followed by more sightseeing/walking, and then to bed. Having a similar routine each day made it a lot easier on the kids, and we didn't have any serious meltdowns, which I really think was due to this.

Singapore is very toddler friendly. We pretty much took the very efficient train system everywhere and every train station has an escalator and a lift, as well as a wide entry gate for people with strollers or a disability. They are clearly marked as such, making them easy to find. There are shopping centres everywhere, often on top of a train station, and all the shopping centres we went to had very clean baby change rooms that were spacious and easy to use. A few shopping centres even had child sized toilets. In general, people were very helpful, especially in the restaurants and cafes, often coming out immediately with children's cutlery and plates, and often with crayons and paper.

The sights and activities in Singapore are also very toddler friendly, especially if your children love animals (like mine do). Our favourite activities (in no particular order):

Singapore Zoo

This is a world class zoo and is spectacular. Wherever possible, the animals are kept in place through a system of moats and ditches, rather than bars or glass, and this meant that you felt like you were right up close with the animals. In one area, the orangutans are actually climbing and playing right over your head on a collection of vines and ropes strung up high across the road. The only animals I can think of that were "enclosed" were the mountain lions, the jaguars and the leopards. The regular lions had a huge area simply separated by a wide moat made to look like a river. We didn't realise until we got there, but the zoo also has a decent sized water play area, with shallow pools, fountains and water slides, so if you go, make sure you take your swimsuits! When you buy your ticket, definitely buy the tram ticket as well. The ticket gives you unlimited hop-on/hop-off rides around the zoo, which was great since it was very hot and the zoo is huge, so the chance for a breather was appreciated by both the kids and us. There are boat rides as well, which we took. It was nice to sit and enjoy the cool breeze on the water, but you don't see any animals while on it, so I probably would say not to bother with it.

Night Safari

This is located next to the zoo, and is the only night zoo in the world. Like the regular zoo, it is also set up to be as natural looking as possible. Definitely buy the tram ticket for this one as the tram ride is the only way to go through certain parts of the zoo. The tram takes you so close to the animals that it felt like a real safari. The zoo's lighting mimics moonlight, so trying to push strollers in near darkness was a bit of a challenge and the tram ride was so good that we quickly gave up on the walking trails and hopped back on the tram. The night safari was a definite hit with the kids - they are still talking about it!

The Zoo closes at 6pm and the Night Safari opens at 7.30, and there is a decent restaurant there with cultural entertainment that opens at 6 pm so you could theoretically do both on the same day and save yourself the extra taxi fare, but I really think this would be too much for toddlers. This would definitely be an option for those with older children, though.

Jurong Bird Park

Jurong Bird Park is one of the largest bird parks in the world, and it is amazing. Think of any bird and it is probably here, in very natural environments. We took the monorail ride, but it honestly is one you could miss out on. Unlike the Zoo and Night Safari rides, you couldn't see that much from it, so it was a bit of a waste of time and money. The live bird show was great - Stephen loved it. There were plenty of different types of birds doing all sorts of things, and the host/trainer was very informative but never boring.

These three parks are all run by the same people, so you can buy a park hopper ticket that gives you entry to all three parks for a discounted price. If you didn't bring a stroller with you and don't think your child's legs will survive, you can hire strollers and pull along wagons at each of them. There are plenty of food options at each park; I can't tell you anything about them since we brought along our own water and snacks. There are plenty of seating areas scattered throughout to sit and take a breather.

Singapore Flyer

This is currently the largest observation wheel in the world, although it is soon to be overtaken be Shanghai and San Francisco. We went on it twice, both times at night, since the kids loved it so much. You get a great view all over Singapore, and on a clear night or day, you can even seen neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. The trip takes half an hour and is well worth it.

Singapore Duck Tours

This is ultra cheesy but surprisingly fun and informative. You hop aboard a Duck, an amphibious vehicle used during the Vietnam war, then go on a land and water tour of Singapore. The tour is only an hour, but we had a great time and you pass some key sites of Singapore that you probably wouldn't make it to with two toddlers in tow.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island is being developed as Singapore's leisure island, and is full of beaches, resorts, the new casino, the new Universal Studios theme park and plenty of other activities. We spent quite a lot of time there, going three or four separate times. The following are some the activities on Sentosa.

Butterfly Park

I wouldn't come to Sentosa just to see this as it is quite small, but if you are already there, it is worth stopping for a visit. You get to walk into a large aviary filled with thousands of colourful butterflies and the lovely caretakers will even show you how to get some to land on you. The kids were absolutely fascinated by them but drew the line at letting them touch them. After the butterfly aviary you walk into another aviary with a lovely waterfall and some beautiful birds. This is then followed by a butterfly and insect museum with preserved specimans. My two were definitely not interested in this part, but I think older children would probably find it fascinating.

Aquarium & Dolphin Lagoon

Right next door is the Aquarium and Dolphin Lagoon. My two weren't that interested, but I think that is because we have a very large aquarium with similar underwater travelator here at home which we go to quite often, so it was nothing new (I also think ours was better!). The dolphin lagoon was a big disappointment for us. It is basically a large swimming pool with 3 pink dolphins, but there were no underwater viewing areas, and the dolphin show was only running once a day at 4pm despite being advertised in their brochures as running at 10.30 and 11.30. We turned up in time for the 11.30 show, they wouldn't issue a pass out, and hanging around for 5 hours wasn't an option, so we missed out.

Songs of the Sea

This is a laser and light show set to music down by the beach. This was one of the favourite things we did. The laser and light show was really good with some great pyrotechnics, and the expressions on the kids' faces were priceless! The music, acting and lip syncing (hey, if it's good enough for Britney!) is pretty cheesy, but overall, the show was still great. Get there early so you can get a good seat, since it is free seating.

Luge

Just near the Songs of the Sea is a wonderful concrete luge track that you can go in with your toddlers riding with you. You take a cable car up to the top of the track, and then whiz down as fast (or as slow) as you want. We all loved this, and if your child is older, they can go by themselves.

Universal Studios

This was a bit of a bust for us. It is expensive, it is not that big, and since it has only just opened, not all the rides are operational. The one I really wanted to go on (Battlestar Galactica dueling roller coasters) is closed indefinitely due to technical issues and the white water rapids ride was closed most of the day, and when it finally opened, had an hour long queue. Also, the majority of rides require you to be 115cm tall to go on them, and two of the ones that didn't (like the Madagascar ride) were also still not open. With older children (but probably younger than teenagers) you would probably get value, but with two toddlers, we definitely didn't. The one ride I can recommend is the Mummy roller coaster. Like Disney's Space Mountain, this is in the dark, but it is 10 times scarier due to some well timed lit areas, and a backwards plummeting section. I loved it! The other great memory was it was Stephen and Irini's first roller coaster. There is a little Skrek themed junior roller coaster with a height limit of only 89cm, so even Irini could go on it. We looked at it, and it seemed fine for her, especially since she loved the luge the day before, but she was terrified. I have probably put her off roller coasters for life. Stephen, on the other hand, thought it was fantastic. At least there will be one other person in my family who loves roller coasters the way I do!

We are not quite back to our regular routine, since school holidays just started, but we are definitely refreshed, if not quite relaxed, after a wonderful family holiday.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

5 great ways with tinned corn

I love tinned corn, and always have quite a few tins sitting in my pantry. They are convenient, healthy, and great to add some colour and a serve of veggies to so many different dishes. Here are five great ways to use tinned corn beyond the regular adding into salads or macaroni bakes.

  1. Corn Fritters - these are great as a side dish, or an afternoon snack for the kids, since kids love them even if they are choc full of veggies

    Whisk together 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of skim milk with 2 eggs. Stir in a small tin each of corn kernels and creamed corn. You can also add in peas and grated carrot. Drop spoonfuls onto a hot frypan and cook each side until golden.

  2. Chinese Chicken & Corn Soup - this is a quick and easy lunch that can use up some leftover chicken.

    To 2 cups of boiling chicken stock add some shredded cooked chicken and a small tin of corn kernels. Pour in 1 beaten egg, stirring as you add the egg, and 3 chopped spring onions (scallions). Cook for 2 minutes. Garnish with more chopped spring onion.

  3. Creamy risotto

    To make a chicken risotto nice and creamy without adding any extra butter or cheese, stir in a small tin of creamed corn when the risotto has finished cooking.

  4. Pita Pockets

    Mix a small tin of corn kernels with a tin of tuna, some cottage or lowfat ricotta cheese, and chopped chives. Stuff into a pita pocket for a balanced lunch.

  5. Stuffed Potatoes

    Scoop out the cooked flesh of a baked potato and mix with creamed corn, low fat yoghurt, chopped ham or lean cooked bacon and finely sliced spring onions (scallions). Spoon back into the baked potato, top with a bit of shredded low fat cheese and bake for 5 minutes until cheese has melted.
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