Wednesday Reads – All That I Am by Anna Funder

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Over the last couple of months I’ve found myself in a book club, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but always struggled to find a club that was 1) accepting new members, 2) reading the kinds of books that I enjoy and 3) with people I could find a connection with.  In the end a friend and I started our own, at first very ad hoc but now more organised and in line with standard book club practices.  We have recruited a few extra members and the four of us – all Mums with young families that need some intellectual stimulation and discussion, and wine! – meet monthly.  We discuss the book or books (we sometimes do two a month) as well as all sort of other book and non-book related topics.  It’s a very pleasant way to spend an evening.  All That I Am was originally a book club book, but one that was abandoned soon after selection because it was a difficult read and not one that connected with the other members particularly (okay, that’s probably not standard book club practice and we probably wouldn’t do that often, but that’s the benefit of starting your own club, we can make up our own rules).  I say this out of honesty, but not because I felt this same away about the book.  I stuck with it and enjoyed many things about it.

Firstly, All That I Am is set in Germany and England between the wars, with Hitler and the Nazi party gaining momentum in the decade leading up to the start of WWII.  The book, based on real people and real events, tells the story of a group of anti-Hitler/Nazis activists who seek exile in Britain.  At the time the rest of Europe including Britain, were not particularly open to Jewish exiles from Germany.  They were banned from working and all political activity was disallowed and could lead to deportation back to Germany – a death sentence for most.  As well Hitler’s SS were not opposed to operating outside the bounds of Germany’s boarders to stop dissidents. This group took on considerable personal risk and lived with financial insecurity as they continued to speak and write against Hitler and his actions in Germany.

Narrators Ruth – who eventually finds refuge in Syndey, Australia – and Ernst Toller, a writer and academic, both love the vivacious and passionate Dora, a woman of heroic proportions who pays the ultimate price for her activities.  The voices of Ruth and Ernst are filled with sorrow and regret, a deeply felt pain that never leaves.  I found it a stirring and desperately sad portrait of a period in time and a group of people I knew nothing about.  The fact that there were agitators against the rise of the Nazi party, and in particular Hitler, trying to alert the world to what was happening and where it might lead and that these people were dismissed by the rest of the world is despairing knowing what we now know happened under Hitler.  Those who survived must have felt enormous powerlessness and guilt for not having succeeded in getting that message across.  Those who ignored it must have felt they had blood on their hands too.

Where this book loses it’s readership is its slow, heavy beginning.  It takes a long time to get into and to find a connection with the four main characters.  It is understandable given the nature of the story, and the necessary background information and the author’s history as a non-fiction writer.  The structure was also a little clunky at times, as it flicks between several different timelines.  For me it was well worth persisting with, but for others it may not be.  I shall leave it to you to decide that.

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Not a Sentimental Gal

I have recently read a couple of things online about how to keep your children’s artwork.  It got me thinking….. why would you want to keep all that stuff?  These articles were talking about photographing or (worse yet) scanning each painting, drawing etc and then creating photobooks or albums showcasing the art.  I just thought, “Are you serious?”  My kid (the kinder one) brings home multiple paintings, drawings and box constructions (oh I HATE them!) EVERYDAY.  Can you imagine the time it would take to copy them into whatever format, arrange them artfully in some sort of considered way and then produce the book or CD or whatever.  And for what?  I can’t see myself trawling happily through thousands of four year old creations in my retirement and I hardly think they’ll want them.  I’ve never thought to myself, if only I had copies of my own artwork from that age.  Personally I just don’t see the point, or have the time to do it even if I did.  But it does seem like other do, perhaps their craft-makers are not quite so prolific, or perhaps they can see a future Picasso or White or something.

Miss Five’s artwork is all the same, just varying colours.  Blobs, lines and dabs with the occasional flower thrown in.  You ask her what she’s painted and she simply says, “Art!”  Don’t get me wrong, I love them because she’s spent so much time getting them just the way she wants them and has gained so much enjoyment out of the creative process (that I didn’t have to organise, set up or clean up!!), I just don’t need to keep them.

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My theory on the excessive amounts of craft that comes home each night is simple.  One goes on the fridge each week, anything particularly colourful or pleasing to the eye gets stashed to use a wrapping paper (I may never have to buy paper again!) and the rest gets quietly filed in the recycling bin.

There is one exception, a painting on canvas that the kids did for Mother’s Day.  This perfectly sums up my child and her idea of art.  It’s all pink, purple and light blue and the usual abstract style.  I’m going to frame this one and hang in it on the wall somewhere as a tribute to her passion for the paintbrush over the last year.

Do you think I’m lacking in appropriate maternal sentimentality or do others take a similar approach to kids’ artwork?  Are you an avid electronic (or hard copy) collector of the stuff, stashing it away for future nostalgic occasions?  Or is artwork so rarely done that you treasure each and every item?

 

 

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A belated update on my May 500 stuff cull

You may or may not remember I made some pretty rash statements at the beginning of May, when the stuff in my house felt like it was crowding us all out.  I declared I would rid the house of 500 things in the month…. the number being inspired by the Minimalist Game, in short getting rid of the same number of things as per the day of the month (so one thing on the 1st, two on the 2nd etc).  If you do this for May it comes to a total of four hundred and ninety something, but I’m better with round numbers so went for 500.  I’m also better doing things in big chunks so my aim was to do 500 things over a couple of big decluttering sessions rather than a bit every day.

Two months later I thought I should share a bit about how I went.  Firstly, it turns out that May was a really stupid month to pick.  Mr Good was working HEAPS, there were kinder runs every day and kinder duty and other kinder events… and my BIG uni assignment was nearing its due date.  Plus my Grandfather became concerningly unwell and died towards the end of the month (not that I knew that was going to happen at the time) and then we had another family health crisis which pretty much wiped out June as well.  In short decluttering time was limited!

If you follow my Facebook page, I did regular updates about my progress.  Technically I did hit the 500 mark, but the vast majority of those were baby clothing items which probably shouldn’t count as one for one, in which case I don’t think I could claim a win.  Going through all those baby clotheswais a strange experience.  I was keeping them carefully stored away thinking they might get used for one more Good offspring, but I came to the realisation some time ago that I didn’t want to go back down that road.  It feels quite final when you give away those tiny little jumpsuits and cute-as-a-button outfits, but also nice knowing they will get used once again with another family.  I had a couple of friends expecting babies in June and July so most of the items were split between them.  My mum took a big basket full that I could get through the wash here, being winter our own clothes took up all the room on my clothes horses.  I’ll offer these to friends too and then offload the rest to the opshop.  I have kept a few items I’ll pass onto family if more babies (fingers crossed) come along and I’ve kept one small bag  to give to my girls when they are ready to start their own families (if they choose to do that).

The best thing about getting rid of the baby clothes was the storage space it freed up.  And with all that extra space I boxed up two thirds of the girls toys into two big boxes that we rotate each month.  My plan with the toy rotation is to see which toys they consistently play with and get rid of the rest.  This means the toys in the family room are much reduced,and  a bookshelf was freed up for, you know…. books, so the girls now have all their books in their room.  And I had room to finally bring my piano down from my parents place.

The rest of the May 500 items included things from mine and Mr Goods cupboards (though neither of us have an extensive wardrobe and we culled heavily before we moved last year), the linen cupboard, the kitchen draws and cupboards (again I’m not a hoarder of kitchen bits and pieces, despite my love of cooking and we didn’t bring anything that wasn’t being used when we moved), the toy boxes and some odds and ends like an old dog bed, some rubber mats and some DVDs, books, CDs and computer games.  A lot of these thing went on freecycle, the mats went to an animal shelter and the rest still needs to go to the op shop.

There were things on my list that didn’t get done though.  The bathroom cupboards are chock full of stuff I never use.  My skin care routine consists of cleansing with plain old water and occasionally applying moisturiser (or sunscreen in Summer).  Despite this I have all sorts of bottles and jars in there that I feel like I SHOULD use, but never do.  I’m sure if I cleaned these out properly I could fit all the towels, bath mats, face washers and hand towels in one spot…. instead of three.  The laundry cupboards which hold an odd conglomeration of things were ignored and who knows the cull capacity in there.  My bedside table was neglected – except the top draw which is now junk free – and the draws are bursting at the seams.  And the cupboards under the mirror in my room are also in need of some attention.

Despite my attempt at toy organisation I still feel like the family room is cluttered with the paraphernalia that comes with children, especially those who love craft.  I have a plan that I’m hoping will ease that situation, but it involves acquiring a particular Ikea bookshelf, one that can be laid on its side with baskets for storage and cushions on the top…. like this:

From here.   Although only one.  I figure the craft supplies could be kept in these rather than the one big tub that gets spread out every where (every day!) that is our current craft storage solution.  I’ve been trawling Ebay and Gumtree hoping to come across one such bookshelf with no luck so far.  Also in my sights are a set of bunk beds for the girls room which will allow the toy boxes, dolls house and dolls prams and cradles to go into their rooms.  Wow, I’ve been side tracked a bit here, sorry about that but my dream of containing toys to children’s rooms is quite overwhelming.

In short I still have work to do.  My longing for a clutter free but comfortable (ie not TOO minimalist home) continues and perhaps doing it bit by bit over the long term is more realistic.  Battling the ingrained dump and run attitudes of Mr Good and myself is constant and not something I want the girls to inherit.  But my triumph so far is my lounge room.  It was declared toy free from the start and has stayed that way.  The draws in the cabinets and coffee table are close to empty instead of being a place to hide more junk and the few decorations that adorn the top of the crystal cabinet and mantel piece are not hiding behind piles of abandoned items.  My wool is stored nicely in two discrete decorative baskets and a few wine bottles are displayed in a wine rack.  It is ordered, cosy and definitely my favourite room of the house, especially now with a fancy gas log fire!

Now I would love to hear how you keep order at your place and reign in the stuff.  Are you a hoarder (I’m not, but Mr Good can be)?  Or do you ruthlessly stop the influx of more junk?  Do you have bad habits, like me, of letting piles of stuff accumulate around the house or in draws and hidey-holes.  Or are you super organised and have a place for everything?  If so, please tell me how I can be like you.

 

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Wednesday Reads – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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This is one of the those books with a lot of hype surrounding it.  On the best seller list and with everyone raving about it, I was feeling a little apprehensive about reading Gone Girl.  So often I’m left disappointed after reading a book ‘everyone must read!’  I did not feel that at all on finishing this book, it was a real obsession for the few days it took me to read it.

Gone Girl is set in one of those cookie cutter modern housing estates in America where half the houses were abandoned to the banks, who then couldn’t sell them, in the economic crash of the GFC.  Nick and Amy Dunne live in one such monstrosity with a cat and the few neighbours desperately clutching to what remains of their former middle-class lives.  It’s Amy’s worst nightmare but as both she and Nick lost their New York jobs and house and with Nick’s parents’ declining health there was little choice but to move out of the big city and into North Carthage, Missouri.  On the day of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary Amy disappears and what we thought we knew about their lives, crumbles.  The story from there is one of the most compelling I have ever read. I’m talking gasping out loud, reading til 2am cos you can’t put it down kind of compelling.  It has many, many five or four star ratings on various reader review sights, and then a scattering of one and two stars (so no promises that you too will feel this way about it).

What I loved about how this book was written and structured was that it kept you rethinking everything you had previously read.  I loved that feeling of the story moving beneath your feet so you never felt quite secure with it.  The intrigue and suspense was wonderfully unsettling.  The characters are, on the surface, very familiar.  Then as you get  further into the story they become something else completely, at least you hope so or else you might look at your neighbour, friend or, god forbid, partner in an utterly new and scary way.

The writing, in this case, just gets out of the way of the story (as my book club friend said) and lets the pages roll on without you stopping to consider it.  I love good writing, writing that is rich and vibrant, or deep and despairing, but sometimes just getting out of the way is exactly what it should do.  Having said that, there were a few inconsistencies or implausible elements to this crime novel (that you pick up on after watching so much forensic/police style dramas on TV) which were a little annoying.  Not so much that they detracted badly from the plot, but just enough to make you think for a second, ‘hang on, they could easily prove/disprove that by…..’

This is one book I would highly recommend for it’s psychological (or psychotic) take on married life and a totally gripping tale to boot.

 

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Garden Share Collective – July 2014

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Once again I’m late with this post and my lack of attention to the garden means that I don’t have a lot to say.  The weather here has been terrible, bitterly cold, gusty unbearable winds and wet, wet, wet.  Though I did just sneak out and snap a few photos for this month at least.  It’s also been a somewhat difficult time personally and for my family so blogging and gardening have gone by the wayside quite a lot.  Anyway enough of that, here’s what’s currently growing in the patch….

The randomly scattered broccoli plants are coming along, some more than others and most in among the cosmos, pea and rocket that have sprung up all over the garden.  I really should clean it all up, but I can’t see that happening for a while yet.

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My one glorious red cabbage is like a beacon of hope and beauty in the otherwise much neglected, messy and weed-filled garden beds.  I’m not sure that it’s going to form a proper head (my track record not being good), but I love looking at it nonetheless.

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The paddock of rocket is completely out of control and has swamped the kale, parsley and spring onions.  Though the silverbeet in the back is looking magnificent.

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The broad beans and snow peas are coming along slowly and there’s actually some semblance of order in this bed.

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The garlic is still growing nicely, though the weeds are building up in this bed too.

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That’s all I managed to plant out this winter, so the rest of the beds are either under mulch or full of weeds and too shameful to photograph.

I’m not harvesting much except the silverbeet and rocket, a little parsley from a pot and some mint growing wild.

Planting:  I have no plans to plant anything this month.  I need to get on top of what I have got in and sort of the beds before I can think of doing anything like planting.

To do:  Weed, weed, weed, weed, weed!!!!!

It seems winter gardening – which I used to quite enjoy – is a whole different ball game in this climate.  It gets so cold I can’t move my fingers and my feet go numb, so a few plant and forget crops is exactly what is needed.  And while I’m cozy and warm inside my house, I think now is the perfect time to check out some other far more ordered and productive gardens than mine.  If you’re interested you can see plenty more garden share posts at Strayed from the Table.

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Winning the mealtime wars?

When Miss now Five turned two she went from being a fabulous eater that astounded everyone with her varied diet and interesting tastes, to a stubborn, infuriating food refuser.  Some days she ate little more than a handful of sultanas.  What she ate one day the next would be pushed ceremoniously away with an upturned nose the next.  Sticker charts worked once, and then each night’s dinner was again refused with an “I don’t want a sticker tonight!”  And so I began a two and a half year long battle to win the war on food with her.  I trawled websites, cook books and the local library in a desperate attempt to find recipes and meal ideas that would be so tempting she just couldn’t refuse them…. while, of course, still being healthy.  We tried growing and picking food together, cooking together, letting her dish herself up, in short we tried everything we could think of.  It was exhausting, frustrating and generally fruitless.  About six months ago something changed.  I don’t think it was anything I did, I just think she was more hungry so dinner had greater appeal.  Kinder might have something to do with that.  Now meal times with Miss Five are often a pleasant experience, she regularly asks for seconds, and independently polishes off a bowl of whatever it is I’ve dished up.  I won’t say she’s perfect, we still struggle to get her to eat vegetables on their own (she’s a committed carnivore!) and soup still gets the upturned nose attitude, but it’s a huge improvement.

However, I am quite horrified to admit that Miss Three, whom I could always count on to eat well and with gusto, has become a total mealtime terrorist.  She enjoys nothing more than bringing the family to our knees trying to deal with her antics.  The once totally independent eater now requires feeding with a spoon (considering I am an advocate of baby led weaning from six months this is something I’ve never really done before).  The humouring and cajoling for every mouthful drives me crazy and what’s worse is her habit of flicking her head away or clamping her mouth shut just as the spoon is about to go in, resulting in food in hair, on face, down the front of her clothes, on the table, chair and floor.  ARGH!!!!!  Mr Good and I are at our wit’s end and are confused about what our next strategic move in this war should be.

Don't let this sweet innocent face fool you!

Don’t let this sweet innocent face fool you!

My thought is to ignore the antics (rather than doing the whole counting, naughty corner, early bed punishments we’ve tried in vain), offer food that can easily be eaten with her hands and again hopefully finding some meals that are appealing enough she just eats them without all the fuss.  And if they are refused then she may well go hungry (is that too cruel?).  I made these Salmon Picklets last week which were my one food win for the week (aside from the take away pizza that made up Saturday night’s meal).  I picked these for several reasons.  Firstly, both the girls love seafood.  Secondly, I could make them small and easy to eat with their hands.  Thirdly, I could smuggle in a little of the silverbeet that grows in my gardens.  And lastly they looked tasty enough for everyone to enjoy…. and they were.  Instead of the green beans, I served them with broccoli which remains one of the few things Miss Three will still reliably eat.  Her other favourite foods are mushrooms and pasta.

So with this all in mind, I am on the hunt for healthy, delicious, food-to-eat-with-your-hands to try and tame the wild creature that emerges at mealtime.  Suggestions welcome…… PLEASE!!!

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Wednesday Reads – The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy

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Take a work-from-home dressmaker, an Irish dancing costume, an adulterous client and a very long Auckland blackout and you pretty much get this book, The Last Days of the National Costume.  The premise is intriguing, the characters and their relationships with each other hold such promise but the execution left me extremely disappointed and at times downright annoyed.  Sometimes I felt like screaming at this books, “For God’s sake, just get on with it!”

To be quite frank I loathed the writing style from about fifty pages in.  It was pretentious and just trying to damn hard to be clever when it wasn’t necessary.  The story dragged to the point of utter frustration and although I finished it (I’d given up on too many books lately and my reading challenge was slipping) it was painful to the end…. which was also pretty ordinary.

There was one highlight though, one thing that suggested that Anne Kennedy had a better book than this in her (and perhaps she has produced that before or since).  The tales of the client’s childhood in Ireland, with the desperate poverty and religious divisions, were wonderful.  She captured his voice and his story so much better in these sections than she did anywhere else with any other character.  Such a pity she didn’t assume this low key, plain speaking approach to the rest of the story.

Obviously not one I’d be recommending, only two and a half stars from me.  But I’ve got something special coming next week.  And as always, I’m interested in what you’ve all been reading lately to add to my must-read list.

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Hey there…….

Oh I have been a neglectful blogger and sadly this time it hasn’t been an absence caused by too much fun stuff happening around here.  Instead I’ve been finishing up a big assignment, managing the kind of family stuff you hope never happens and with a severe lack of good things to write about.  Uni is now finished for the semester and soon kinder will be on a break too.  I’m hoping to get back to reading some fiction so I will have some book reviews to write and I might even do a garden update soon…. with pictures.  I’ve got the prettiest red cabbage growing, even if it doesn’t form a head, it’s worth it’s place in the garden for pure aesthetic appeal.  One thing I have managed to do quite a bit of recently is cook, some new recipes and some old favourites, that I thought I would share with you.  I am totally a winter comfort food kind of girl so bringing on the cool weather and I can’t help but get stuck into the kitchen.  Plus a couple of new cooks books are providing me with added motivation.

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First up were some designer okonomyaki (Japanese pancakes).  These have been on my dinner schedule every now and again (usually when I need to use up some cabbage) for a while.  I’ve posted the recipe previously, but it’s well worth a look if you missed it first time around.  These were actually Miss Five’s request from the Vegie Smugglers 1 cook book (I recently bought both 1 and 2 and would highly recommend them if you need some inspiration for family meals that are packed full of vegies and not the usual boring, tasteless kids fare).  She was drawn to the star shape so of course I had to traipse through countless cookware stores to find them (it was torture I tell you!).  I usually make these vegetarian and often add mushrooms, but this time I added ham as in the cook book.  They go down well either way.

Miss Three picked the carrot triangles from the Vegie Smuggler 2 book (sorry recipe not online so you might have to order the book if you want that one), which are basically filo triangles filled with carrot, cheese, herbs etc and baked.  They’re totally delicious, but I over-filled mine so they split while cooking and were not photo worthy.  Next time a couple of extra layers of pastry and a little less filling and I think they will work better.

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Continuing my Vegie Smuggling obsession, I’ve made the ravioli with orange sauce with a few small alterations.  I used some frozen oven roasted tomatoes from the end of my summer harvest and added olives because they’re a favourite of my kids.  I also whizzed up some of the basil leaves in the sauce so kids would get the flavour (which they like) without the obvious bits of green (which they DON’T like).  Using store bought ravioli made this such a super fast meal, great for mid week.

Ma po dofu was next up, swapping the port mince for some chicken.  The kids and Mr Good gobbled this one up, but I’d have to say I still not that keen on tofu….  I added sweet chilli sauce and coriander leaves to the adults servings, but Miss Three picked the leaves off Mr Good’s and ate them herself and insisted on some sauce too.  She’s definitely going to be my curry/spicy food girl.

Finally I’ve done the pink meatloaf (no pictures as I’ve had some logistical issues…. it falls apart as I cut it) and the chocolate beetroot brownies (no pictures, because I was far too concerned with eating to bother snapping any) .  Let’s just say I’ve had plenty of beetroots to use up.  Both are delicious and great for this time of year when beetroot is being harvested locally.

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The old favourite I thought I’d share with you is one of my versions of smuggling vegies into small (and big) bodies, my sister’s Creamy Chicken Strudel, with my own tweaking.

Creamy Chicken Strudel

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped,
2 gloves garlic, crushed
250g chicken mince
1 carrot grated
1 zucchini grated
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup sour cream
10 sheets filo pastry
90g melted butter
1 stick celery, choped
1 small red capsicum, chopped
1 small avocado, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Pre heat oven to 180C.  Line oven tray with baking paper.  Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion and garlic and stir fry over a medium heat for 2 minutes.

Add chicken mince, stir fry over high heat until browned and all liquid is evaporated.  Break up any lumps with a fork.  Add carrot and zucchini and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add curry powder and fry for 1 minute then cool and mixture a little.  Combine chicken mix with ricotta and sour cream.

Place 1 sheet of filo pastry on the work surface, brush with melted butter. Place the second sheet on top and brush with melted butter again.  Repeat with the remaining sheets of pastry.  Spoon the chicken mixture along the long side of the pastry, leaving a few centimeters at either end of fold in later.  Top with the chopped celery, capsicum and avocado.  Roll up the pastry, tucking in each end and place seam side down on the prepared tray.  Brush with a little more melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

So that’s a small insight into my kitchen over the last couple of weeks.  Hopefully I can keep up my motivation and share a few more recipes with you next week.  In the meantime, tell me what’s been on your menu.  Any good recipes to share?  What’s your best vegie smuggling, sneaky family favourite?

 

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A Screen Free Week….. almost

Last Sunday I wrote about a rut the girls and I had gotten into involving way too much screen time and my realisation that this needed to change.  We’ve had just over a week without screens almost entirely.  The exceptions have been two episodes of Play School – where the girls were set the task of finding some inspiration for afternoon activities – and a couple of iPad apps for a few minutes after dinner on two nights.  These were literacy apps like Eggy Alphabets and Busy Things UK.

Play School inspired puppet making.

Play School inspired puppet making.

Having this much unstructured but screen free time has been an interesting development.  We’ve gone screen free in the past for periods and it seems each time is a little different, depending on how many other activities the girls have during the week (including days a childcare or kinder).  This time around we’ve had LOTS of fun, a few whingey I-want-TV moments and a bit of hard work for me… TV really is an amazing babysitter!  This is what I’ve discovered…..

1. When Miss Three and Miss Five haven’t got screens to rely on for entertainment they rediscover their extensive picture book collection….. piles and piles of books everywhere!  This is interesting because Miss Three has never shown this much interest in books and reading ever!  It’s definitely a great thing!  Miss Five and I have worked our way through a few chapter books including the first of the Wishing Chair books which was a favourite for both of us.

2.  The girls are much, much more active – obviously!  Outside play is big and long and involved.  And the best thing about this is that they are ready for bed before 7am and are asleep within minutes of the light being turned out.  Sadly this has not equated with sleeping through the night for Miss Three who is STILL a shocker overnight and ends up sleeping with Mr Good and I almost every night.

3. While screen free means I have to much more actively involved in keeping the girls busy, I have found this quite a creative and motivating position…. I kind of feel like a teacher again coming up with interesting and engage activities to do with them.  Miss Five is really interested in words and language, loves writing words and finding connections between books.  We happened to come home last week with three books about wombats so we’ve spent lots of time looking at the similarities between the words and pictures and stories and talking generally about wombats.  We also found a favourite book “Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker” which we’ve read every day.  We also listened to the music on YouTube and watched some clips of a Russian production of the Ballet.  I have to admit I have loved this part and feel that same satisfaction I felt when coming up with lesson ideas for my classes when I was teaching.  But I have to be careful not to turn to much into the ‘teacher’ and take the fun and spontaneity out of our days.

4.  Spending time together with the girls and with the whole family is lovely.  We’ve cooked together, gone for long walks/adventures, planted bulbs, plays games and puzzles and snuggled with books.  And this has been in every combination, Miss Five and I, Miss Three and I, all three of us, Mr Good and the two girls separately and together and the whole family.  All without a screen to be seen.

5.  I have had very little time to do the things I need to do or want to do, except the housework which they have been helping me with…. sort of.  I used to easily find an hour or two to concentrate on my uni work, to read a book of my own choice or to get dinner ready… or to blog.  Now I’m lucky to get fifteen minutes where I can really focus on something other than them.  My latest assignment is being done in frustratingly short bursts, dinner takes for ever as I try to help with the latest lego creation at the same time and reading for pleasure is strictly for once they’ve gone to bed.  Now some would say that this is as it should be, if I’m home all day with kids they should be what my focus is, but I NEED some of these other things to keep me from going crazy.

So will I continue with screen free?  Yes, for another week or so, with just the odd show or ipad time thrown in there.  In the long term though, no.  I see lots of benefits from some TV and some time using devices.  It sparks the imagination and breeds curiosity.  Because of TV we’ve explored abstract art which is Miss Five’s main inspiration for all of her paintings.  Because of TV the girls have long and involved role play games, taking on characters, establishing the setting and creating a plot.  Because of TV they’re vocabulary is much broader than it might have been otherwise.  And because of TV they have seen people, places and animals from all over the world.  Good quality children’s TV without ads – which we are lucky enough to enjoy in Australia (Thank you ABC!!!) – has so many benefits… even children’s author and literacy expert Mem Fox agrees with this.  Even when books could have delivered on some of these things, it is often TV that draws their attention and leaves them wanting to know more.  I feel the same way about good quality iPad apps and websites.  They add to the rich fabric of life rather than detract from it….. as long as it is all in balance and not a mindless staring at the screen for hours on end.  And that is what we will be avoiding from now on.

Posted in Books, Family, Kids, Lifestyle, Parenting | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Garden Share Collective – June

Well, I need to apologise for missing last month – I’ve had a busy, sad and kind of stressful time of late and blogging just hasn’t been happening.  However, I have managed to make it into the garden a few times this month and wanted to share what’s happening in my little patch.  Please excuse the lack of photos, I will get to those on Monday and add them in, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular to photograph anyway.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix

Growing:

I haven’t planted as much as I had planned for my winter/spring garden and made the decision a couple of weeks ago that I would be satisfied with what I had managed to get in and not worry about what I hadn’t planted.  This should mean that I’ll have space in the garden to plant thing before my winter veggies have completely finished.  The bare areas have been mulched thickly to keep the weeds down and get it ready for later in the year.  What has been planted includes lots of garlic, snow peas, broad beans, cabbages (red, green and chinese) broccoli, silverbeet, red Russian kale, spring onions and a paddock of rocket.  I also have parsley and mint still going strong.

Planting:

I have no firm plans to plant anything, but if I find time and motivation I might see what I can put in, maybe some beetroot and turnips?

Harvesting:

Only silverbeet, rocket, parsley and mint.

To do:

There quite a bit of cleaning up to do in a couple of the beds.  The last of the cosmos needs pulling and I need to thin out the thousands of new cosmos plants coming through.  I also need to pull out quite a lot of the self-seeded rocket to make sure the plants I have put in have enough room to grow.  The weeds in parts of the garden are a bit out of control too, I shall endeavour to deal with these.

I must admit I do enjoy the slower pace of gardening during the colder months.  The watering is mostly taken care of thanks to regular rain and the weeds grow more slowly so I can get on top of them.

Aside from the veggies I’ve cleaned up part of the front garden and planted some bulbs for some spring colour.  Some of those have come from my Grandmother’s garden and I really hope they will establish themselves in my garden.  This is particularly important to me now.  My grandfather, and last remaining grandparent, passed away in May and their house will soon be someone else’s home.  It’s hard to think of anyone else living there, it holds such special memories for me.

That’s it from me this month, but do go and check out all the garden sharers a Strayed from the Table.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged | 11 Comments