A few days ago I smashed my food processor on the ground, I'd like to say it was a fit of pique, but it was simple clumsiness and poor luck. As a result my cooking repertoire has decreased significantly. Every Christmas I make my 9 cup gingerbread biscuits. Turns out they don't go well without a food processor.
This is what we got up to this year. But I'm not posting a recipe because they taste abominable.
[edit 10 December 2012]
Okay I have changed my mind. You deserve a recipe and here it is:
Sian’s 9 Cup Gingerbread Recipe.
Lasts 2-3 weeks in the fridge and can be baked up at any time.
In a food processor bowl add:
9 cups of standard flour
½ cup ground ginger
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1.5 cups soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Slowly pulse this mix whilst adding:
1 block of butter chopped into squares or 2 cups of solid coconut oil
Once the mixture is well combined and ‘shreddy’ like breadcrumbs slowly incorporate the following whilst pulsing the processor
2 cups molasses or golden syrup
The mixture should come together in a ball, if it does this before the molasses is entirely incorporated then you can stop earlier.
These biscuits should bake in 7-12 minutes depending on oven heat, recommended baking temp is 160 degrees Celsius. I use baking paper on my trays and on my bottom try I double paper it to prevent brown bottoms.
What you don't do.
Melt the butter and syrup together and mix it into the dry ingredients hoping that this lazy method will somehow replicate the original recipe., then when you realise you have run out of syrup and the mixture is still dry add water in the vain hope to rescue your mixture. Then crumble with defeat when you taste the final baked item and it is horrible…
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Every now and then I spend some time lurking on Pinterest and crafting blogs. I have a whole board dedicated to yule type crafts and ideas and every so often I open it up to look at all of the projects I could do… if I had unlimited time and unlimited money. In a perfect world my house would look like a playbook of perfect projects and perfect parenting. But I don’t have money, and I don’t have time, so seeing Pretty Polly’s Perfect Party Planning and Paper Project Post makes me feel a more than a little inadequate. In fact almost every project blog makes me feel slightly inadequate, I simply don’t have the time and money to reach those levels of achievement on a weekly basis. Let alone blog about it. Sometimes I wonder if these types of blog posts set the bar too high, and create an artificial sense of inadequacy to those parents who simply accomplish the basic day to day life necessities (me most days, still in my bathrobe right now). It’s so important to realise though that these blogs are just snapshots of someone’s endeavors. Simply the finished product shown in a flattering light, after all, photographs only show one angle. And that goes for my blogs too! The parents putting these blogs together aren’t their fancy crocheted toilet roll cover or their 5 year olds haute couture birthday party. They are creative people with cameras, who like to share their triumphs. So instead of feeling inadequate I need to realise that the people behind the blogs are human too and that the stuff we don’t see is just as integral to the finished item as the pretty pictures we do see, which tell one side of the story.
This year I set myself a challenge. I have wanted to make an advent calendar for the last few years. I see an advent calendar as a great way to engage with your kids if done properly. I want to make something a little special with activities, concepts and ideas. I see advent calendars as an excellent learning activity, both as a counting and a patience exercise. Given that I didn’t even start thinking about the calendar until 2 days before December 1 the deck was stacked against me.
After spending hours cutting up fabric and then realizing the idea of sewing all of the pockets was beyond me right then, I had a brainwave. A few years ago, I went to wedding that had pyramid boxes for the favours and from this sprung the idea of Christmas tree shaped boxes and from there the idea grew, so this is my Perfect Pinterest Project .
The pictures I took don’t show me spending too much money at spotlight or sitting up late until 2am with my almost deliriously sick and tired husband cutting out cardboard templates. It doesn’t show me facepalming because after making my own calendar to move away from the candy paradigm I ended up putting more candy in. They don’t show the wonky pencil lines or bad folding, they don’t show my half started fabric bunting calendar or the painstaking cross referencing of the little notes with my diary so the activities matched up with our work schedule and salary. They don’t show any of that, just the finished masterpiece photographed from a flattering angle. Looks great doesn’t it!
|Late Night Picture when we finally finished|
And what did I put in the boxes day by day?
1. Today is the first day of Christmas, lets find a tree and decorate it! Trees are a symbol of new life after winter. The idea comes from our northern hemisphere where it snows during Christmas time. In New Zealand we celebrate summer solstice and it is sunny. But we love the smell of Christmas trees anyway. MMmm
2. Here is some candy we can use to make some stained glass window biscuits, when we hang them in the window we can see the sun shine through them.
3. Lets draw a map for Santa so he can find your house. Here are some doubloons for your pirate treasure.
4. Today we’re going to the farmers market , we can look at the beeswax decorations and listen to the buskers play music. Here is a dollar to give the musicians. What is a Christmas song you know?
5. Christmas is a time to remember people who have less than us, lets get some food from the cupboards to take to the food bank. The food bank is a place that gives food to people who are hungry and don’t have money to buy food. They are very kind.
6. Here are some pine cones we can use to make beautiful decorations. Today we can also choose a special Christmas decoration for the tree from the trade aid store.
7. Here are some candy canes so you can make peppermint hot chocolate and wear your lovely new summer pyjamas.
8. Tonight we are going to go for a night picnic to look at the stars and see the Christmas lights on our way back home. We are going to look for Rehua (antares) which is the summer star. It symbolises summer fruit and summer heat.
9. Today is your nativity play, you get to dress up today, here is your costume. Grandma and grandpa are going to watch you sing!
10. Today you go to grandmas house, here is $20 so you can buy a present for mum and a present for dad. Have fun choosing!
11. Only 14 days until Christmas, lets going to the berry picking! Berries are the first harvest of the summer season. We like strawberries and raspberries but there are also lovely native berries likemakomako, konini and purple hinau berries.
12. Today mum makes the Christmas pudding, can you help her? Here are some lucky coins we can bake into the pudding to find!
13. Look under the tree, here is a Christmas story for you to read with dad tonight.
14. We’re going to the beach today, lets build a really big sandcastle and decorate it.
15. Here are some stickers so we can make a card for grandma and grandpa, who else do you want to make cards for?
16. Today we are going to make gifts for your teachers, homemade chocolates!
17. Movie night! You get to stay up late and watch a movie with mum and dad and eat popcorn. We have a special Christmas movie for you.
18. Let’s decorate biscuits and make a gingerbread house together
19. Here are some stamps we can use to make wrapping paper out of old newspapers and paper scraps. Now our presents can be beautiful under the tree.
20. Today is the longest day and the shortest night. It’s called summer solstice. We’re going to harvest our garlic today.
21. You have lots of toys you don’t play with any more, can you help me choose 3 of them to give away?
22. Today we are going to make cheese and have a pizza party with our new pizza oven.
23. Today is Christmas eve eve! We are going to plant a beautiful native tree to replace the one we cut down. This is the pohutukawa which is the New Zealand Christmas tree.
24. Tonight is Christmas eve, light the Christmas Candle, hang out your stockings and leave a biscuit for santa. Does he need a key to get in?
25. Christmas day today. Check your stockings!
A lot of these ideas come from my current favourite book ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’ by Juliet Batten. She has a blog about it here. Her book is a fabulous guide to seasonal celebrations relevant to those of us in the southern hemishphere and has great ideas for creating traditions related to New Zealand and the seasons. Themes for the Summer Solstice are the colours Gold and Red, harvest with freshly baked bread, honey and berries and the traditional story Kauri and the Whale or Demeter and Persephone.
So far the advent calendar is going down a treat, and my sons don't care if I took pretty pictures and blogged about it or not.
|Candy Cane Hot Chocolate|
Friday, November 23, 2012
For most parents saying ‘Good job’ or ‘well done’ is automatic, it is considered a part of positive parenting and we very rarely even think about it when we say it. So many parenting advice books say ignore bad behaviour and reward good, so it’s something that is built into our parenting collective conscious. For me it was like an automatic tic, I said it whenever I could see my son had achieved something be it small or large. It required little thought and no follow through. It was easy.
Then I read some Alfie Kohn and some Teacher Tom and I reviewed my opinions.
I won’t go into a long spiel about why using non specific praise and positive feedback isn’t ideal, because there are many people who can speak more eloquently on this topic than I ever could. What I will say is that saying ‘good job’ and offering non specific praise does nothing to build confidence or let your child find their inner motivation. Using the carrot and the stick does not breed free thinking or critical thought; it breeds affirmation seeking and compliance. This is not me saying that praise is bad, there are times when it is totally appropriate and if you use one of those phrases inadvertently you are not damaging your child or destroying their independence forever. Parenting doesn’t work like that.
When I first heard about this whole inner motivation thing I was irritated because all of the blogs I read about it focussed on why it was wrong and had an overwhelming message of ‘tsk tsk don’t do it’. So I filed it under yet another way that I am Doing. It. Wrong. But, for all of that, these articles sung for me a little because I personally seek praise all of the time, and if someone criticises my ideas then I am easily brought down. It irritates me that I am so reliant on external feedback and it’s only later in life that I have built the confidence to be satisfied in my own right. Even now I struggle with criticism, so maybe this Alfie Kohn isn’t so wrong after all.
So in saying all of that, this blog is not about how you shouldn’t parent, we have enough of those. This blog is about what you CAN do. Here is a little tool kit of things you can say instead of ‘good job’ and even if you do say good job from time to time. It’s not a biggie, the parenting police won’t come and get you. I promise.
What to say when they’ve done something helpful.
Thank you for that
I really appreciate your help
That was really helpful
Because you did X we can now do Y
That was very kind
It really helps me when you do X
It’s really nice when you help me out
Doing X makes me feel good
I love helping you
When they achieved something great or they impress you
Look you did it
Did that feel good?
I am really impressed at how you (be specific)
I can see what you did there
I see that you did x y z
It looks like you thought really hard about that
I can see you put a lot of effort into that
Wow, look at all of those colours/shapes etc
I see that you did this and look what happened
You have been practicing that for a long time
You worked really hard on that and I can tell!
Wow, how many colours did you use?
How did you do that?
I’m impressed, how do you feel about that?
Tell me about what you did.
When they show empathy and kindness
I bet x felt really great when you shared that with them
It feels nice when your brother sister is smiles doesn’t it
Look at your brother smile, he loves playing with you
It makes me so happy when you share with me
That cuddle made me feel happy
That was very kind to share your x with y
General praise (for those little achievements in life)
I see you worked together to do this
I see you thought really hard about that
How exciting for you
I like to see you thinking about things
I really like to see you play
Seeing you enjoy your game makes me happy
I bet that feels much better now that you pooped/changed your clothes/wiped nose etc
Does that feel better?
Now that you’ve done x, y happened
If in doubt.
Be specific – if you’re going to praise make it very specific rather than a general ‘good job’
Don’t assign a grade or rating (good/bad etc)
Speak from the heart - if you are impressed then say it
Ask questions – people love it when you are interested in what they are doing
Make observations – just stating what you see can be perfect in itself
Talk about consequences – doing this resulted in this
Say nothing and just enjoy being in their creative space
It takes a bit of practice and sometimes I am lost for words, or my comments come out garbled. Sometimes I miss an opportunity to appeal to their inner motivation and fall back on old habits, but it doesn't matter. Sometimes parenting is just about enjoying each moment as it passes and then moving on to the next one. I have noticed a shift in my sons confidence levels since changing my language and that has been nice. It's like watching a flower unfold. Worth a shot?
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
|Hydrogen Peroxide or h2o2|
Calendula and Hypericum are both excellent skin healers, you can buy them independently as salves or as a combination known as hypercal. Hypercal is the Porsche of wound healing. I have the tincture in my medicine cabinet and add a few drops to water before I cleanse wounds and scrapes. Calendula is a natural astringent and antibacterial, hypericum perforatum is also known as St Johns wort and is commonly used as an antidepressant however it is also excellent at healing skin lesions and ameliorating pain and swelling. So the combination of Hypericum and Calendula is really ideal for all of those common childhood war wounds.
What for: Cuts, grazes and scratches
How to use: Use the tincture diluted in water to clean wounds or apply to rashes and grazes. The lotion can be applied throughout healing process as required.
Where: I get my hypercal tincture from Similimum, one bottle lasts an AGE.
Home version: If you have a calendula or pot marigold plant in the garden you can make a quick paste using a mortar and pestle out of the crushed petals and virgin coconut oil to apply to the wound.
|St Johns wort, Hypericum perforatum|
|Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis|
|Chickweed, Stellaria Media|
|Aloe vera, Aloevera Barbadensis|
|Calcium Bentonite clay|
|Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana|
|Rock rose, Clematis, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry plum, Impatiens|
Comfrey is a potent healer for ligaments, joints and bones, in fact its hedge name is ‘knit bone’ for it's ability to heal bones and tendons. It is a strong astringent so is excellent for resolving any internal bleeding or large bruises such as haematoma. Comfrey is rich in allantoin and is one of the best cell proliferants in the herbal kingdom which makes it the ideal remedy when there is any damage from strains and sprains that need to be healed. The leaves are also rich in mucilage which is a binding agent and a demulcent.
What for: Extended bruising and haematoma, strains, sprains and fractures.
How to use: Apply a comfrey cream or salve directly to the damaged area and repeat a few times a day. It's important to not apply comfrey to a bone that has not been set correctly as it can facilitate healing on a bad join. Most home use will be on smaller injuries anyway!
Where to buy: Kiwiherb are the foremost herbal dispensary in New Zealand and they do an excellent comfrey ointment made with certified organic sunflower oil.
Home version: A poultice made out of lightly steamed and chopped comfrey leaves is a powerful healer, and when you have some serious healing to do the roots can be mashed up and applied directly to the wounded region along with the leaves. Crushing the leaves releases a thick stringy goop which is the binding and healing agent. This component will also draw open wounds closed and bind it up. For large wounds I suggest seeing a Doctor before taking any action yourself, however once a wound has been treated conventionally you can still use comfrey during the healing process. Comfrey can also be taken internally but I would only recommend this under the supervision of a naturopath. Interestingly Comfrey leaves used to be battered and fried as an alternative to fish during the leaner years of the great depression as it has a similar flavour.
|Comfrey, Symphytum offinalis|
Lavender essential oil is a fabulous item to have in any first aid kid because of its versatility. It is a pain reliever, a healing agent, vulenary, antiseptic and even an antidepressant. The cicatrizant properties make lavender excellent for wound healing and helping to treat eczema and psoriasis where there is open weeping skin.
A few drops on a warm facecloth applied to the temples can relieve headache, a little massaged into the skin with some carrier oil can relieve pain and stress, applied neat to wounds it can relieve pain, itching as well as aid healing. Lavender oil is renowned for its ability to help heal burns. Once first aid has been used lavender oil can be applied to healing skin neat (do not use other carrier oils with it as they pull the heat into the wound)
What for: Burns, wounds, weeping rashes, eczema and tension.
How to use: Apply neat to skin (one of the only essential oils that can be used this way) or diluted with a little carrier oil. Even sniffing the bottle can relieve tension and stress.
Where: I use a specific genus of lavender oil call Pacific Blue from Arbordale Lavender farm. This is a very gentle and safe lavender oil which is low in camphor and can be used neat even on very small children. Cheap lavender oils are made in spike lavender which is not only high in camphor but low in healing properties. Many people find that spike lavender will give them headaches. To order contact Arbordale Lavender Farm on 03 4896191
Home version: If you have a lavender bush then you can bruise a few flowers and inhale them or make a tea from the flower heads to bathe wounds and burns in (make sure the water is cool or tepid)
|Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia|
|Manuka, Leptospermum scoparium|
Chamomile is a powerful pain reliever and mild sedative, Peter Rabbit was soothed with a cup of chamomile tea after over indulging and so chamomile tea is an excellent carminative and digestive aid for upset tummies. Chamomile tea can be used topically to relieve pain or internally for gastro upsets. It is also good for soothing grumpy children, for teething dramas and to aid in sleep and rest. Every first aid kit for children should have some dried chamomile in it for these reasons.
What for: Tantrums, tummies, teething and pain
How to use: If you have chamomile teabags you can dip them in warm water before applying directly to sore spot. For tummies, teething and tantrums it is best given as a tea and can be easily made up like any other tea. Giving children a small cloth bag of chamomile to sniff if they are having a grouchy day can help lift their mood and the same bag under a pillow will help with sleep and sweet dreams.
Where to buy: My absolute favourite chamomile tea is Artemis baby gripe tea as it also has the added benefits of aniseed, fennel, licorice, peppermint, dandelion and cinnamon. All of these ingredients aid digestion and soothe troubled minds. The plants used are processed to maintain full potency and not diluted with fillers such as fruit fragments or poor quality flowers. Note: if your baby has reflux then I would avoid this mixture and go straight to pure chamomile flowers as peppermint can relax the oesophageal valve worsening any reflux.
Home version: Any chamomile tea will do though most commercial brands are weak, if you have a plant out the back then so much the better. A handful of flowers in warm water makes a perfect panacea.
|Chamomile, Matricaria recutita|
Poultices warm or cool, drawing or healing are an excellent home tool to use for treating injuries with herbs from the garden. Every first aid kit should have half a dozen squares of clean cotton to use for poultices. An old sheet cut into 40cm squares is ideal but any hemmed cotton squares or rectangles will do. To make a poultice you simply encase the macerated herbs in the middle of the cloth and roll it up before placing on the injury. If the area harmed is a limb you can use the longer tails to tie the cloth on or secure it with some gladwrap. If you are using a liquid or decoction for the poultice you simply soak the cloth in the liquid before folding it up and placing it on the injury. To keep the poultice warm you can use a wheat bag or hot water bottle placed over the back of the poultice. Some poultices you can leave over night but ideally they will be changed every couple of hours, especially if it is a drawing poultice. A drawing poultice is designed to pull infection, foreign objects and toxins out of the body. A healing poultice is designed to bathe the injury in a healing medium. Most poultices will do both.
1. Lifestream Biogenic Aloe vera mist
2. Simillimum Hypercal tincture
3. Go Native Witch Hazel
4. J.Friend & Co Manuka Honey 10+ UMF
5. Artemis Itch Calm ointment
6. Simillimum Arnica cream
7. Kiwiherb Comfrey ointment
8. Simillimum Arnica pilules 30c
9. Arbordale Pacific Blue Lavender Essential Oil
10. Health Post Bach Flower Rescue Remedy
11. Go Native Calcium Bentonite Clay (packaging differs from standard retail)
12. New Zealand Coromandel Mountains Tea Tree - Manuka and Kanuka Essential oil
13. Thymeheal Chickweed cream
14. Artemis Baby Gripe tea
15.Home Essentials hydrogen peroxide
Not numbered: Pot of Gold Skin Balm
I have put together my ideal first aid kit based on the products I would use and consider to be the best for the job. If you like what you see then comment on this blog post before January 7 and you will be in to win this entire set. Entries are open world wide. Please note the final prize may differ from this image. Some items such as matches, tweezers and bandages may not be included in the final item. If you are an overseas winner it is your responsibility to ensure you check that all items will be allowed into the country and cleared through customs.
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