Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My patio garden

We've been living in Mount Eden for nine months now and I've missed having a vegetable garden. There isn't anywhere good to put one that the landlord will approve of, so I've been living without.

However, this week I started reading the books Embrace Your Space by Janet Luke and One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein, and they got me thinking about what I can do in the space I have. 

I had already been growing herbs in pots against the sunny side of our house, so I decided to think bigger in the same space and grow vegetables there too. 

I went to Kings Plant Barn today to check out what they had and found wooden planter boxes on sale. 


I bought three of them.

I half filled the planter boxes with Pea & Lucerne Straw to bulk them out without adding too much weight, and then topped them up the rest of the way with Container Mix. 

Over time the straw will break down, fixing nitrogen into the soil above it. It will also heat up as it decomposes, which will encourage plant growth over the coming winter months. 

I planted my new boxes with various kinds of lettuce, kale, spinach and silverbeet. 

Our patio container garden.

Then I reorganised a couple of big pots I already had to make better use of them. I shifted strawberry plants out of one large pot and replaced them with spring onion seedlings and carrot seeds. I've been spending a lot of money on organic carrots from the supermarket, so it's high time I grew my own again. I'm hoping the odour from the spring onions will deter any carrot-loving bugs.

I replanted a lime tree I already had into the other large pot, which my mother-in-law recently gave me, because the lime tree wasn't doing well in our shady garden. I planted blue lobelia around it to attract bees for pollination.

I have to say, it does my heart good to have these pots and planter boxes full of edible joy.

I can't wait till morning when I can go and inspect my new garden again and anticipate my first harvest.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Allergy-friendly recipe: Chocolate covered banana pops

These Chocolate Covered Banana Pops are the perfect ice-cream like treat for people wanting to avoid dairy, eggs and refined sugar.

These delicious little morsels keep well in the freezer, or can be stored in the fridge for a few hours to create a softer centre.

Thanks to the creamed coconut and coconut oil in the chocolate coating, these treats are nutritional powerhouses, making them a dessert you can feel good about eating. Don't consume too many if you're trying to lose weight, however, as bananas contain a lot of natural sugar.

My thanks to the Coconut Oil Shop and Natvia for providing ingredients for my test kitchen.

  • 3 bananas
  • 3T coconut oil
  • 3T creamed coconut (fibrous part, not the oily part as that's accounted for above)
  • 3T Natvia (Stevia/Erythritol blend)
  • 2T dark cocoa
  • Pinch salt
  • Dash vanilla

  1. Peel bananas and place in a container to freeze for two hours or more.
  2. Place the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan on a medium-low heat and melt together, stirring until well combined and looking like chocolate sauce.
  3. Take chilled bananas from freezer and slice into 1cm thick pieces.
  4. Place banana slices in saucepan of chocolate sauce, turn to coat using a spoon, them remove chocolate covered pieces with the same spoon (allowing excess chocolate to drip back into saucepan) and place on a tray lined with baking paper to set. 
  5. Place chocolate covered banana slices in freezer to set, then peel away from the baking paper and either transfer to a freezer-safe container, or serve immediately.


Friday, April 18, 2014


Paul, Sophie and Lily cooking damper over an open fire.
This post is dedicated to my friend, Liz, who pointed out that I haven't done an update on the family recently.

Family life is good right now.

James just turned seven months' old and is still as delightful as ever. I'm quite smitten with this wee boy of mine. He's very active, in a quietly sweet way. He recently learned how to pull himself up on the coffee table and is super proud of himself.
James standing at 7 months.

James is still drinking about 800mls of donor breast milk a day. Every time I think we are going to run out of breast milk and will have to introduce formula, another person contacts me with an offer.

It has been quite incredible.

An example from just the other day was down to the hour. We had fed James the very last bottle of breastmilk in the morning and he was down having a nap when one of my lovely donors texted to say she had some more and I could pick it up right then if I wanted. Yes please! I fairly dove into the car to pick it up before James woke up. Amazing timing!

I feel like I'm living on faith with this situation, and God keeps providing.

Incredibly, I'm still breastfeeding James as well.This is the longest I've breastfed any of my babies for, and it has been made possible by the fact I breastfeed James to sleep for all his sleeps, and keep him in the bed with me overnight so he can feed on demand.

I think the fact we co-sleep also contributes to his happy, trusting nature. He seems very confident in the knowledge he is well loved.

We've recently embarked on solids with James and are taking a baby led weaning approach. Mostly because it's easier and seems to be what James prefers. He likes holding chunks of food and feeding them to himself. If I try and spoon purees into his mouth, he shudders and cries.

Sophie is almost three, and finally at the age where she can play alongside Lily (4.5) in imaginary play. It is so cute to listen to their dialogue. I'm tempted to record them and make a video like these clever dads did.
Sophie and me chilling on the couch.

Sophie took gymnastics this term and loved it so much that Lily wants to go too now. I've enrolled both girls for next term. I think gymnastics is great for teaching kids to follow instructions, as well as helping them to develop physical strength, balance, agility and coordination.

Over the past year, Sophie has been delightful and difficult in equal measures. Happily the balance is now tipping in favour of her delightfulness.

Over the Christmas holidays I was counting down the days till pre-school would start up again and I could get a break from her tantrums. She has calmed down a lot in the past few months though, and I genuinely love spending my days with her.


The current plan is to unschool Lily until she is 6. We've just pulled her out of her third day at preschool because she was feeling sad about being away from the family so much. Now she's doing two days there instead of three, which really makes me wonder how she would cope with five days at school if we did start her when she turns five.

Once Lily turns five, I will be able to enrol her in swimming lessons on a weekday, where the class numbers will be small since most kids are at school then. Lily LOVES swimming, and will happily swim under the water for as long as she can hold her breath for. She fancies herself quite the mermaid.

Because Lily is four and a half, she just had her B4 School Check (their spelling, not mine). She was excited to go to the doctor's office to play lots of games that tested her school readiness and general well-being.

Lily took the testing very seriously and tried her best with everything. The nurse got her to: hop and balance on one foot; throw and catch a ball; put shapes in a shapo; write her name; copy some letters the nurse wrote down and then read them out to her; draw a picture of a person, count to 10; and count how many fingers she was holding up.

The nurse also weighed and measured Lily and checked her teeth for any sign of decay. Apparently Lily is very tall and her teeth look great. She also aced all the tests, and the nurse said Lily is the first kid to count backwards from 10 for her - Lily's favourite new trick.

Lily also recently had an hour-long interview for Growing Up in New Zealand, which is a longitudinal study she has been part of since I was pregnant with her. I love these interviews, as they offer me insight into all the different things Lily has learned. Because she is my eldest child, I don't have anyone to compare her development to, so it's interesting to see the kinds of things they are looking for in her age group.

Again, Lily took the testing very seriously, and I was impressed with how much she knew.

After Lily finished her part of the interview, I was also interviewed about Lily for an hour.

I found the health questions of the interview particularly interesting because the interviewer asked what vaccinations Lily has had (none), plus which of a whole host of common childhood illnesses such as eczema, asthma, ear infections, allergies, etc, Lily had suffered (none), and how many times in the past year she has been to the doctor (none).

The interviewer commented that she'd never had 'never' as an answer on the doctor question before, and all I could think was that I hope this longitudinal study shows that children who are not vaccinated enjoy better health than vaccinated children. I know other smaller studies have shown that, but this is a massive, longitudinal study so the findings could be quite profound.

I also found the food questions interesting, mostly because they focused on the healthy food pyramid idea of a healthy diet, rather than one that looks at the way food is prepared to increase nutrition. For example, we were asked if Lily eats white bread or wholegrain, but not whether her wholegrain bread is sprouted or sourdough, which I think are the healthiest ways to eat bread. Also, there were no questions about whether the milk she drinks is pasteurised or unpasteurised. (It's actually pasteurised at the moment because I haven't got myself organised to collect raw milk.)

From these two tests Lily has done, I've realised she is doing really well academically and I'm sure will continue to do well if I unschool her.

Paul is doing a job he loves and that makes him really happy, which makes me happy.

He's also really busy in his job and working about 15 hours a day plus weekends at the moment. I'm not really sure how he's still functioning, other than on coffee and adrenaline. He took today off though, for Good Friday, and had a big sleep in, then took the girls to see the Lego Batman movie, which he loved.

Emma (me)
I've spent the past couple of days in the kitchen, preserving and cooking a whole lot of produce my mother-in-law brought me from her garden, plus some produce I got from the vege store. I've still got two buckets of feijoas I need to do something with before the fruit flies hone in on them.

This week I have also been reading lots, as I've discovered how fabulous the Auckland Libraries are and have requested a whole lot of books that I've wanted to read for ages. I just finished two books by Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com, plus Carry on Warrier by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Crystal has inspired me to get more organised with my daily and weekly goals, so I've hung a tall 4-photo frame in the kitchen, on which I write my to-do-list, weekly goals, menu plan and what's on today lists. I cross off items as I check them off, and anything I don't get done stays on the frame until the next day. It's quite motivating and good for keeping me focused on my most important tasks.

Crystal's books have also inspired me to de-clutter, so I've been pulling stuff out of my bedroom to donate, and will move around the rest of the house looking at what can be donated, sold or chucked out.

Glennon's book, Carry on Warrier, is beautiful. She has such a way with words.

Gosh, but she's so insightful.

I soaked her book in and have come away thinking more about what I can do to bring hope and light into this world. Lately, I've been feeling keenly how short this life is and how easy it is to get so caught up in the day-to-days that we forget about all the hurting people out there who need a hand.

On my night-stand I've also got a few gardening books that I'm about to start: One Magic Square, which is all about square-foot gardening, plus a couple of books by Janet Luke of Green Urban Living. I'm hoping to get ideas for gardening in pots, since that's my only option at the moment.

I'm loving all this reading. It's my favourite thing to do, but I'm a bit all-or-nothing with it so have to be careful not to lose myself in books and forget about my other responsibilities. I've been reading while settling James to sleep, the perfect way to multi-task.

My weekends have been busy with World Organic parties, which have been a lovely way to catch up with friends while talking about skincare products I adore.

~ ~ ~

And that's all our news. Happy Easter everyone, especially Liz. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cashew Parmesan Kale Chip recipe

These Cashew Parmesan Kale Chips are so moreish and good for you.

They really are the perfect healthy snack when you're craving something salty and crunchy, but don't want to eat potato chips you'll regret later.

If you're lucky like me, your kids won't want a bar of them, so you'll be able to savour the whole lot yourself.

This is a Trim Healthy Mama 'S' recipe.

  • 6 large kale leaves
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • 1/3c finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3c roasted cashews, crushed or finely chopped (the finer the better these will stick to your kale)
  • Himalayan Rock Salt or Celtic Sea Salt, to taste

  1. Remove stalks from kale leaves and break the leaves into big chunks.
  2. Rinse leaves thoroughly in a bowl of water and drain through a colander or in a salad spinner. Dab leaves dry with a paper towel to remove any excess water.
  3. In a large bowl combine the olive oil, parmesan cheese, crushed cashews and salt.
  4. Place rinsed kale leaves in the bowl of seasonings and use your hands to rub the mixture all over the leaves.
  5. Place seasoned kale leaves in a dehydrator and dry on lowest setting overnight. (If you don't have a dehydrator, place the leaves in an oven tray and dry at your oven's lowest setting for about 1.5 hours. Check leaves from 45 minutes onwards, and remove any completely dry ones.)
*For a dairy-free recipe, replace the Parmesan cheese with 1-2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast.

*For a nut-free recipe, replace the cashews with 1/3c lightly toasted and crushed sunflower seeds.

*For an even more super-foodie snack, you could replace the olive oil with coconut oil. This isn't something I've tried, so let me know what the end result is like if you give it a go. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My number one REAL food priority

Hey friends!

I'm guest blogging over at Freddy's Food today. My lovely friend, Kate, who was a fellow Playcentre Mum with me in Wellington, asked if I could share a little bit about REAL food.

Since I don't have the grocery budget, time or energy to feed our family the perfect real food diet all the time, I thought I would share how I prioritise what I do in the kitchen.

Check out my post, The number one real food priority over at Freddy's Food.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trim Healthy Mama success story - my sister-in-law Louise

Louise, before and after with Trim Healthy Mama

My sister-in-law Louise, who blogs at Making Ends Meet NZ, is my biggest Trim Healthy Mama inspiration. I have watched her steadily lose weight over the past nine months, all the while eating gorgeously satisfying and nourishing food.

Her success is what motivates me to keep going, for the sake of my own health, so I asked Louise every question I could think of to help me on my journey, and am sharing her answers with you today. 

Get ready to be inspired!

1. When did you start THM?
I started THM at the end of July 2013.

2. Where did you hear about it?
I have been a subscriber of the Above Rubies Magazine for many years and have read articles written by Pearl and Serene (authors of THM) which reflected where they were in terms of their journey with food. For example Pearl would share vegetarian recipes and sing the praises of TVP (textured vegetable protein) and Serene would share recipes and sing the praises of eating 100% raw food.  I even bought Serene's raw food cookbook but only had success with one recipe! We bought a juicer after reading about how fresh vegetable juice was so healthy for you but on the whole I carried on cooking and eating the same food I had always done.

It took the authors five years to write THM and I read various updates saying the book was nearly ready, then the book was released. I was interested to see what new food fad the girls were touting now but didn't want to spend the money on something that was too 'out there'.

3. What convinced you to buy the book and give it a go?
I discovered on Facebook a THM group where people were posting before and after photos with their stories about how much weight they had lost and how quickly and easily the weight had dropped off. 

People shared photos of the yummy cakes they were eating. I followed this group and a few blogs and reviews and read recipes on Pinterest for two months before I decided I would order the book and give it a go. It sounded too good to be true.

4. What were you hoping to achieve by doing it?
I was hoping to lose lots of weight as I was 105kg! I was worried about getting diabetes as I carried a lot of weight around my middle. I also have Coeliacs disease and there is a higher risk factor of getting diabetes if you have Coeliacs and I was very aware of this fact.

5. How much weight have you lost to date? How much, if any, more do you want to lose?
I've lost 32kg so far. Currently I weigh 73kg and would like to lose at least 8kg more but will re-assess once I get to 70kg. My pre-6 pregnancies' weight was 60kg and I would quite like to see if I can get to that weight and how I would feel there, but I've only ever got down to 65kg before (after babies #1 and #2) so I will just see how I feel. I am 168cm tall (or 5ft 6inches). For the North American ladies (I am from New Zealand) I have lost 32kg which is 70.5lb and gone from a size 18-20 which is USA size 14-16 to a size 12-14 which is 8-10 US sizing.
Louise, before Trim Healthy Mama.

6. What has your weight loss journey looked like on THM? (ie. constant loss, or big drops and plateaus?)
I lost 25kg very quickly with THM (in 5 months) and it was fairly constant, around 1kg each week. I don't have digital scales and my scales are not too accurate so it is hard to give exact numbers, but each time I stood on the scales, I saw the scale either stayed the same or went down. In the first 3 months I measured myself weekly with a measuring tape and now I measure myself monthly. It is nice seeing centimetres disappear.

7.  How easy or hard has it been to follow THM? How do you make it work with the family?
I have found it easy to follow. I pretty much adapted all our recipes to fit in with the THM plan rather than changing to a lot of recipes that are in the book, particularly dinner meals. 

For example, when I make a beef or chicken stir-fry I no longer thicken the sauce with cornflour, the family serve their stir-fry with basmati rice but I serve mine with Konjac noodles or loads of veges and I no longer douse it with sweet chilli sauce, instead I sprinkle over Cayenne.

8. What's been the worst thing about THM?
I think the worst thing has just been being unsure about foods.  It took me a good 3 weeks to figure out the plan and even now after 8 months I am still learning new things about food all the time, things like figuring out whether food is low GI rather than just looking at the Carbohydrate level.

9. What's been the best thing about THM?
Eating lots of fats.  I LOVE eating THM S meals (low carb, high fat) so I can enjoy a yummy slice of cheesecake with berries and a huge dollop of cream after a dinner of Thai curry made with coconut cream.  Yum!

My husband, Kris, couldn't believe I was eating 'diet food' whenever I made myself a Muffin in a Mug and served it with a huge blob of whipped cream and berries. He called it my 'cake diet'.
Kris and Louise, after discovering Trim Healthy Mama.

10. How do you feel health-wise these days compared to before?
I feel great. I feel really good. I am not nearly as tired. I used to wake up in the morning and feel like I'd been hit by a bus (as in all my muscles ached and I would be all bent over like a decrepit old lady when I first got out of bed until I kind of stretched out and could straighten up) but I no longer have aches or pains at all in the morning!! I thought it was due to aging but turns out it was because I was dragging around so much weight.

11. How have you explained this way of eating to the rest of your family?
This diet is basically low-carb, low-GI and you separate your Carbs and Fats.  All meals are centered around protein and then you either choose if you want to include fats or carbs at that time.  By eating this way your body burns one type of fuel (eg. fats or carbs) and once it runs out of fuel it begins to burn fat.  By changing the type of meals you eat each day your body never knows what fuel type to expect and this revs up your metabolism.  It is also no sugar!!  This idea can put people off a bit as people are quite wary of limiting yummy treats and of alternative sweeteners.

12. Would you recommend THM to others?
I have recommended THM to so many people and my book is constantly lent out to people!  I love getting it back so I can re-read it and get new ideas.

People ask me what I have been doing all the time now as it is obvious now that I've lost weight (I didn't get many comments until I'd lost a good 15kg).

13. What would you say to encourage others on this journey?
You don't need to buy a whole lot of specialty ingredients to have success with THM. There are a LOT of ingredients the book suggests which I don't use.

All you need to do is get a good understanding of the S and E plan and then modify your existing meals to suit either meal style (and learn how to make Muffin in a Mug and skinny chocolate)!  

Also eat plenty. This is not a diet where you need to restrict yourself to tiny portions in order to lose weight. Eat to lose the weight.

14. How have you stayed so focused?
The thing is, I don't have a huge amount of self control. What has made the biggest difference in being able to stick to this diet has been the fact that I am no longer addicted to sugar so I no longer have the sugar highs and lows. 

I used to feel so tired and would eat a whole king size block of chocolate and after that I would get a big burst of energy and would run around the house doing all the chores I needed to get done.  This was not a healthy way to get energy!

I am no longer dependent on sugar, I don't have sugar highs and lows.  I feel so much more balanced and even in terms of my hunger, no longer feel starving and get the shakes if I haven't eaten all afternoon.  

I can only describe this as feeling much more balanced.  I truly used to feel starving hungry when I was eating a lot of sugar. I could not understand how people could have self control when it comes to food. 

Some people do seem to have super-human self-control - I was and am certainly not one of those people! I love food, I love to eat lots of it, but eating this way means it is so much easier to make good choices as I am in control.
Strawberry Chocolate Muffin in a Mug.

15. Has your attitude to food changed on THM?
I love that I can plan to eat every 3 hours and if I do mess up (either by mistake or by choice) I am just 3 hours away from making a good choice. This was huge for me as I would often start a diet and by the end of the day I would be starving and eat something off-plan and then feel miserable and eat a king size block of chocolate or stuff my face with a huge portion of something else since I had already ruined my diet.

Knowing that if I eat off plan, I am only 3 hours away from being back on plan, I feel much more in control. It seems much more do-able.

I do eat foods which are off plan every now and again, or I choose to eat cross-overs which will stop or slow down my weight loss, but it is a choice I am able to make rather than feeling like I really have no control over my choices. 

I know how a particular food will help or hinder weight loss, I know when I need to include a few more E (carb) meals for energy, or when I need to pull back from so many S (fat) meals and include a few lighter meals, simply based on how my body feels.

16. Have your tastes changed?  
I definitely notice how sweet many foods are now if I ever choose to go off plan.  For example Pad Thai noodles, I have had them twice in the last few weeks, totally off plan but boy are they sweet!  I would not have noticed how sweet they are before. I ate a chocolate brownie at a party and couldn't believe how sweet it was either!

17. What are some of your favourite THM recipes or THM-style meals?
I LOVE Muffin in a Mug, chocolate, choc-strawberry or cinnamon spice, topped with butter, yoghurt or cream and with a side of berries.  I also love the Cake in a Mug recipe with cream and berries. 

These recipes that make an individual serving with just 1 minute of cooking time in the microwave have been one of the best things for me. Making an individual portion size helps me not to overeat.

I am also loving a simple E lunch of chickpeas fried in a tiny bit of coconut oil and spices and any vegetables I have on hand, plus some salmon (or tuna).

A selection of Louise's Trim Healthy Mama-type meals. 

18. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I am just so delighted to have lost 32kg!  I feel great.

I can buy clothes SO much more easily!! Smaller-sized clothing is so easy to find in all the shops and is cheaper! I am far more likely to put on a garment in my size (14) and have it fit than I was at size 18, nothing seemed to fit right on my body. 

I had gained a shoe size with that extra weight so now I am back to my former shoe size.

Exercise is so much easier!  I can go for a walk around the block and not get puffed out, or do a one-hour Zumba class and feel exhilarated.  

I am no longer embarrassed to just BE.

I had got to the point where I was embarrassed by my body, having to haul myself out of a chair rather than bounce out, or trying on shoes at the Sports shoe shop and having to run on their treadmill and nearly dying and then trying on the shoes and suddenly realising I had to get myself into a different position as I couldn't do up my laces!  

I am not embarrassed to wear a sleeveless top or shorts or dresses (I can wear cute dresses!!) so I can actually feel cool and comfortable in the summer! This is so liberating! I used to feel so hot and sweaty. I can now cross my legs when sitting in a chair - woohoo!  

Last winter I froze and wore an old polar fleece jacket of my husband's which miraculously fit me. It was 12 years old and threadbare but I couldn't zip up ANY of the jackets at Kathmandu or Macpac - boy that was embarrassing! I cried in Macpac when I realised I couldn't fit any of their jackets (mens or womens). I went into Macpac last week and tried on a gorgeous pink puffer jacket and fitted the size 14 easily!! 

I will try the size 12 next time!!! 

My brother, Kris, and my sister-in-law, Louise.

Thank you so much Louise for sharing your experience with us! You are amazing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Allergy-friendly recipe: Golden blueberry mini muffins

Golden blueberry mini muffins.
These golden blueberry muffins are perfectly nourishing, while being free from dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, sugar and gluten.

They make a gorgeous snack for people with allergies, but can also be enjoyed by anyone wanting a deliciously healthy sweet treat.

The secret ingredient is pumpkin puree.

It gives these muffins their golden colour and moistness. A hint of spice and blueberries to top, make these morsels the perfect autumn fare.

Thank you to the Coconut Oil Shop and Natvia for providing ingredients for my test kitchen.

  • 4T chia seeds, ground
  • 12T water
  • 1/2c coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2c coconut flour
  • 1/2c desiccated coconut
  • 1/2c golden flaxmeal
  • 1/2c Natvia
  • 3/4c pumpkin puree
  • Zest and juice of one lemon or lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2t cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2t nutmeg, ground
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1c blueberries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.

2. Mix ground chia seeds with water and place in the fridge for a few minutes to thicken. This mixture will act as an egg replacer in this recipe, and is equivalent to four eggs.

3. Mix the chia seed mixture with all the other ingredients, except the blueberries. Combine thoroughly.

4. Spoon mixture into three mini muffin pans (or one and a half large muffin pans lined with silicon cupcake patties) and press down to fill the cup holes. The mixture should be thick and maleable. It won't rise overly much so you can fill the muffin tin cups to the top.

5. Press a blueberry into the centre of each mini muffin, or press several blueberries into the top of larger muffins.

6. Bake at 180°C / 350°F for 15 minutes if making mini muffins, or 25 minutes if making large muffins.

Perfect just as they are. No accompaniment necessary.