Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Areas of play for simplicity parenting

This week I'm reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and it's inspiring me to be strategic about toys and areas of play around the house, with a focus on creative, open-ended play.

Our fairy table aligns with this perfectly as it sees all sorts of kiddie action, from imaginary campfires, to picnic spot, to swimming pool (the trunk table perfectly fits our clam shell paddling pool), to dance stage and more.

I'm installing a shelf on the fence next to the fairy table at bench height for the kids so they can use it for a play kitchen, or nature collections, or whatever else they come up with. I'm also being more mindful to look out for beautiful examples of autumn leaves and other natural things on our walks.

This week I moved our painting station out to the deck, because it was too dark in the garage and not getting any use there. It's got a permanent place on the covered part of our deck now, but I'm keeping the paints under lock and key as this is one activity that needs my supervision.

Play-doh also has a permanent place on the deck, in a basket with all the play-doh tools. Baby J pulls it out several times a day to play with, so I know it's a keeper. 

This week I sorted through the girls' smaller dolls and removed most of them, leaving just two sets with a few clothes. This means the girls can easily see what they have to play with, and we don't end up with piles of dolls and clothes all over their bedroom floor.

I gave myself a pat on the back this afternoon, when I saw the girls had found their reorganised dolls. I didn't hear one word of complaint over what was missing, just happy engagement with what was there.

It's all taking me back to the best of my Playcentre days, and I'm enjoying getting my excitement around the kids back.

It frightens me how stifled I must have felt in our last house. I don't think I truly realised how much until I came here and felt this amazing sense of freedom. The kids are really benefiting from it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Menu plan - 5 to 11 May 2016

My friend, Angela, has inspired me to try more vegetarian meals, so this menu plan is a lot lighter on the meat than usual.

It's also using up food we already have in the house, as I'm trying not to grocery shop to save money since we had to cut down a big tree this week.

Thursday - Vegetarian Butter Chicken on rice cooked in chicken stock (use chana dahl for protein and whizz in zucchini for extra veges)

Friday - Eating out

Saturday - Asian pork salad baskets

Sunday - Refried bean quesadillas

Monday - Lamb chops, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables

Tuesday - Pumpkin soup and soft white buns

Wednesday - Pasta curls with pasta sauce (and extra vegetables whizzed in)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Our new outdoor dining suite, AKA Fairy Headquarters

A strange thing happened yesterday. An arborist knocked on our door and asked if I wanted the dying tree in our backyard cut down. He had a team there ready to go. This is something I had already approached an arborist about, because I was concerned that the tree might fall on our house, or worse, on the preschool next door.

I asked him to quote and he said $3,500. I said there was no way. He said he could come down a bit, to $2,500. I said it was still way out of our league. Then I asked him how much they could take down for $1,000, just to get it to safe levels. He said they could get it down a fair way so I gave the go ahead to proceed.

After his team got started, the manager from the preschool next door popped her head over the fence and asked whether she could have the wood for firewood. I didn't need it so the arborist told her that was fine. He then went one better and asked her if she would pitch in another $1,000 so that we could take the tree all the way down to the ground. She agreed!
Tree cutting ninja.
So that's how I ended up spending yesterday watching the Cirque du Soleil of tree cutting. Man oh man, that arborist could defy gravity. It was like watching Twilight all over again.

On an educational level, I found it interesting watching the team's technique for cutting the large branches and bringing them down on ropes so they could guide where they fell. Now I want a chainsaw for Christmas. 

Today the tree cutting team came back to finish the job, cutting the trunk down to its stump and chopping up logs for firewood for the manager next door.
Chainsawing the stumps for firewood (and fairy chairs).
I asked that they carve the stump into a sort of table for the kids, and then S had the brilliant idea to ask for some of the round logs so we could use them for seats. Here's a photo of S using the tree stump table as her dance stage...
S dancing on her stage. (Gets her moves from her Dad.)
L tells me she's going to be responsible for keeping the table and seats swept clean.
L sweeping. 
J likes playing with his play doh out here, and all the kids love playing with the saw dust. Check out S's hair. Confetti!

Play doh and afternoon tea on the new table and chairs.
This corner of the yard is much brighter now. 
I'm thrilled to have that worrisome tree gone, and so pleased it has added a fun play area to the yard. Another perk is that my washing line now gets heaps more sunshine on it. The tree used to block the light for most of the day, so I wasn't having much luck getting things dry out there.

Speaking of which, I am going to share my energy saving clothes drying tips, but that post will have to wait for another day. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More nesting photos

New curtains in the master bedroom. 
I'm continuing to feather my little nest over here, and enjoying it immensely. I recently hung curtains in the lounge, dining room and master bedroom. There's just one window to go in the house and then the window furnishings will be done. I'm trying to get it all sorted before winter, but window furnishings are surprisingly expensive so I've been doing it bit by bit as we can afford it.

The curtains I chose throughout are turquoise in a linen weave from Spotlight. I love the colour (it's a very Emma colour), the texture, the drapiness, the amount they black-out the windows and the fact they are washable. And I got them on special, so that always helps.

I thought a plain, textured curtain would be better than a patterned one, since patterns go in and out of style so quickly, whereas a linen texture is timeless and easy to accessorise.

I chose silver curtain rods to go with them, because I think turquoise and silver is a classic combination, plus I wear silver jewelry so again, it's a very Emma look.

The master bedroom didn't technically need curtains, since it already had roller blinds, but the road noises were disturbing my sleep, so I thought it would help to have an extra layer between me and the road. I don't know how much it reduces noise, maybe a little, but psychologically it helps because I slept through the night the very first night the curtains were installed.

I'm particularly proud that I hung all the curtain rods myself, especially since the dining room one was too long so I had to hacksaw it first.
Dining room window.
I chose curtains rather than blinds for this dining room window, because we eventually want to replace it with French doors. The other dining room window will get white wooden venetian blinds to match the blinds in the lounge and to conserve wall space.
Another angle of the new dining room curtains.
I realise none of these photos really show you the true colour. That's the downside of using my phone as my camera!
New curtains over the lounge ranch slider.
The other change I've been making around the house is to add little shelves to the walls in the kids' rooms. I'm really getting into the idea of maximising vertical space, since our house is so small.

Baby J got a cloud shelf next to the Lego table. I thought it could be a cool place for the kids to display their Lego creations, so I hung it nice and low and accessible.
Cloud shelf for the Lego table. 
L got a cloud shelf at the end of her bed for toys, plus a set of three cube boxes in various sizes to hold her tissues, books, toys and drawing things. She was the one I most wanted to get shelves for, since she's on a top bunk and previously didn't have anywhere to put things other than directly on her bed. She loves having her books close to hand, and I love seeing her tucked up in bed reading to herself.
L's bed and her new storage on the wall. 
S got a pink and white hexagonal shelf above her side table. She is the master of displaying nicknacks around the house, constantly rearranging our photos and candles. I thought she would enjoy having her own little display area, and I was right.

I bought the cloud shelves and the hexagonal shelf from Kmart. L's set of three cubes came from Bunnings.

There you have it - just some of the fun (and practical) changes I've been making around the place.

I've also been working on energy-saving solutions for drying my washing, so I'll share those with you next time.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Menu plan - 28 April to 4 May 2016

Drying potato sticks to make fries.
Here's the menu plan I was going to share yesterday, before this post stole the limelight.

Now I realise it has been a long time since I shared a menu plan, especially considering I've got a whole page dedicated to the things, but I'm really not that organised.  Type B personality over here, people.

Here's the menu plan I've made for this week, which I can not guarantee we will stick to, apart from the two nights I've already cooked.

Also, I should point out that my menu plans run from Thursday to Wednesday, because I do my main grocery shopping on a Thursday (with a fruit and vegetable supplement from our farmers' market on a Saturday).

Dinner - Pan-fried gurnurd with homemade fries and raw vegetable crudites (carrot, celery and cucumber)
Bake - Banana chocolate chip muffins

Dinner - Thai cashew chicken on rice
Make - Chicken stock

Dinner - Chicken coriander soup with potato focaccia
Bake - Chocolate afghans (bake when oven hot from focaccia)

Dinner - Slow cooker beef bolar roast, roast kumara, potato and pumpkin, peas with mint sauce
Bake - Apple and cinnamon oat muffins (bake when oven hot from roast vegetables)

Dinner - Tortilla wraps filled with leftover beef bolar roast, cheese and salad

Dinner - Sausages (home-kill), mashed potatoes and broccoli/cauliflower
Bake - Chocolate chip cookies (bake when oven hot from sausages)

Dinner - Pasta and sauce

What's on your menu plan this week? Are you finding your tastes change as the temperature does?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why we moved - the long story

Long-time readers of Craving Fresh will know that I didn't blog much last year. I didn't feel like I had anything worthwhile to share. Not just on the blog, but in all areas of my life.

Things started to turn around for me when I attended a Tree of Life course with a few friends from church. In the course, we drew a tree of our life - the roots (where we come from), the trunk (what strengths we have) the branches (our dreams for the future), the leaves (important people in our lives) and the fruit (the gifts we've been given).

After we had drawn our trees, we presented them to the group.

I went last.

While presenting my tree, I cried so hard I could barely talk at times. I felt like I was describing a dead tree. And then the day was over and because we had run overtime, I had to rush out the door to pick up my children from school/preschool/babysitter.

I had been run over by a bus, but there was no time to process it. Once the kids were there, I was back to Mummy-land, dealing with their needs, answering their questions. My own needs were once more pushed to the back-burner.

It nagged at me though. Knowing I felt dead inside, but was trying to live through it. I talked to one of my friends from the Tree of Life course about it, and she recommended I book in with her counsellor. Then she went one step further by offering to look after baby J so I could actually go and see her counsellor. It proved a life saving offer, and I am so grateful to her for it.

My first session with the counsellor was unreal. Here was a person totally interested in me, totally committed to hearing my story, and totally on my side. Other Mums will get this. No one ever listens to us with complete attention, mostly because there are always kids around demanding attention for themselves.

Through my counsellor's eyes, I started to see myself differently. I saw the scars I hold from my childhood, and realised those scars are not me. I heard the words a family member had used to describe me with new ears. That family member didn't see me. I didn't have to keep believing them.

I learned that it was OK to make decisions for myself, even though I'm 'just' a woman, 'just' a mother. My conservative upbringing had indoctrinated me with the idea that a woman's needs are second to a man's.

Even though it was really hard for me, I told Paul that I wanted a house of my own. I knew he didn't want to move and I felt (feel) terrible guilt for insisting that we move, but it was something I needed for myself. Somewhere in time I had lost my "Emma-ness", as my counsellor would say, and I knew I wasn't going to find it keeping house in a Mt Eden rental.

In our rental I felt constantly on edge, waiting for inspections and worrying about what marks the children were going to make on walls and carpets. We were living next to a neighbour who hated our children making noise and complained regularly to her friend (our property manager) about it. So I was wired tight with anxiety, wondering how much noise was too much, trying to shush the children or keep them inside watching TV. I lost the joy that I used to feel listening to my children play. After one nasty confrontation with the neighbour left me shaking for days, I talked to my counsellor and realised I didn't want to be there any more.

So I started house hunting.

It was somewhat disheartening because houses in Auckland are waaaaay overpriced, but I hoped we would find something that would suit us and just kept looking while we got our finances together.

Once Paul got a short reprieve from the intense busyness of his work, he looked at some houses with me. That's when we found this house. It's small, on a cross-lease and shares a wall with another house. But it has a pretty big section for a small house. And it's walking distance to a really great school. It's also in a part of Auckland that feels like me. More environmentally-conscious, less capitalistic. People are free to be themselves here, however messy or flawed. I don't feel like we have to pretend to have our crap together.

As you know, we won the auction.

Then Paul had horrible buyers' remorse and I felt SO guilty. I had forced his hand and he was miserable. He didn't want to swap his 10 minute walk to work for an hour commute, missing out on family time in the bargain. Seeing him upset made me sick. I barely ate for weeks because my stomach was constantly roiling.

Then I spoke to friends who told me buyers' remorse was completely normal and that Paul would cheer up when he saw that I was happy. So I let the happiness take me. This is what I wanted.

Our settlement period was short, just three weeks. Paul spent one of those weeks in San Francisco, so I packed up most of the house on my own. But I embraced it. Every nasty thing our property manager did made me look forward to moving all the more. Bad things became good things, because they were the impetus to get us out of our rental and into our own place.

And I needed my own place. I am Ma Ingalls from a Little House on the Prairie. Give me some land to grow vittles and a kitchen to cook them in and I am a happy woman.

This actually isn't what I was planning to blog about today. I was going to share my menu plan, of all things. But I was reading some posts on my friend Elizabeth's blog, and decided that every now and again it's worth getting real and sharing the messy parts of life because it might just be what somebody else needs to hear right now.

If that's you, I'm glad you're here today.

Emma xx

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Plans for my new garden

I am so happy. Deliriously happy, because all of this is mine and I get to plant things in it...
Our backyard won't look like this for long.
The deck will get framed by long wooden box gardens. 
Raised vege beds will go here, with apple and nashi trees espaliered behind. 

Passionfruit will grow up the trellis.
Feijoa trees will be planted along the fence in the bottom corner.
This will be planted with herbs for easy picking next to our backdoor. 
I'm removing the river stones from this garden so it can be planted with leafy greens. 

In the evenings I've been reading inspiring gardening books like Square Metre Gardening and Fruit Trees in Small Spaces, which have helped me plan out how to make the most of our yard. Baby J and I have been out there with our measuring tapes, measuring up the spaces so I know how much wood we will need to build our raised beds. My amazingly generous brother-in-law is donating the wood to us, which is a huge help.
The kids love having the trampoline next to the deck. 
Someone asked me the other day what style of garden I'm going for. "Edible," I told them. I want to grow as many fruits and vegetables as I can here. 

I guess I'm inspired by the beautiful gardens I saw in Italy, where lemon trees grew next to rosemary bushes and olive trees, edged by natural rocks. The fruit trees were the statement pieces. That's the picture I have in my mind when I think about this space. We will see how it turns out.