How many annual repetitions does it take to make something a tradition? If it’s twice, with the promise of more to come, then I do believe we’re on to something good here.

For the second year running Steve, the kids and I loaded up the car and trailer and set off camping with my brother and his family. Last year we headed to Imbil, where we discovered that A) camping was something we all loved, and B) despite our love of the beach heading to the country and setting up by a creek is a great way to spend a holiday.

This time we headed to Yarramalong in the Scenic Rim, located a stone’s throw from Lake Moogerah in Charlwood. A dam upstream and plenty of rain meant we had green paddocks surrounding us and a full creek to swim and paddle board in, as well as a resident catfish lurking under the rope swing who had bitten four people that we knew of by the time we left.

Our days were as lazy as they can be with young children, filled with multiple swims; drives to nearby Boonah, Kalbar, and Aratula; bushwalks to the lava flow; naps; and books when the kids let us sit for a decent period of time. New Years Eve was a glass of bubbles and sitting around a fire with good company while a full moon rose and the kids ran screaming happily and waving glow sticks. There was koala and kookaburra spotting and goannas walking pretty brazenly through the campsite, and playing. So much playing. I’ve never seen a group of kids so filthy and so happy. It was glorious seeing them streaked with dirt and with black fingernails playing school, climbing rocks, sitting together reading books and even attempting a sleepover although Jman decided to return to our tent in the small hours.

It was also a week of slowing down. Turning my phone on to flight mode for 90 per cent of the time after deleting social media apps, of waking at dawn for a final breastfeed – who am I kidding, it was far from a final breastfeed for the day – and listening to the birds calling while watching the light grow through the tent. Of sitting in comfortable silence with my sister-in-law Kim (the best kind of friends are those you can be silent with), and of giggling with my brother. Of sitting in a waterfall with Steve, drinking a beer and feeling just so damn happy.

So here’s to a new tradition!

Where to go: Lake Moogerah dam. Our kids were convinced it was the dam from Frozen II. The nearby towns of Kalbar and Boonah were cute, and I really want to go back for a wander through their op shops.

What to do: Swim! Walk over the dam wall. Bushwalk – we traded turns where 2 of us walked from the campgrounds to the dam (over steep lava flow that required spider walking and shoes with good grip) and the other 2 walked back the other way. Paddle boarding in the creek, however, actually wasn’t great due to a lot of submerged boulders, so rent a kayak instead.

Where to eat: We were camping, and most restaurants required a drive, so we limited them. That being said, we did eat at the Kalbar Hotel (kids eat free on Wednesday FYI) which was a pretty location and decent if standard pub food. Also Arthur Clive’s Bakery in Boonah made great pastries and coffee, and a quick glance showed if you didn’t fancy take-away there is a pretty garden out the back where you can sit back.

Other things of note: We were fortunate to be camping with a group of families that all had kids, so we weren’t hugely stretched to keep them entertained. Plus kids and tents generally work out well so long as you don’t mind getting up with the sun. If you don’t have enough kids to form a pack capable of amusing themselves and the thought of constant swimming doesn’t entice you, you may want to plan a few day trips. Luckily there are wineries nearby and the Scenic Rim is home to a bevy of great food producers.
We also personally found water shoes to be a great idea to minimise cut feet while swimming in the creek.

And here are a few photos of our time camping.

I swear it was January just a minute ago. What a strange and weird year this has been. I feel as though the whole year has been spent in anticipation of the next month, the next thing. It can’t possibly be over, and yet I really can’t wait for it to be done. There have been lovely moments dotted throughout the past 12 months. Cold afternoons spent in the backyard around the fire, warm evenings walking around the neighbourhood. That first beach swim when we were able to travel a bit further to the coast. Watching the kids grow like weeds, their own personalities booming out. A dinner out, just Steve and I. Being chased around the house by a toddler with a book in hand with pleas of “boo! Boo!”. Rather than put pressure on 2021 to be a YEAR – just like that, in italicised capitals – I’m really just hoping to be able to stop and find more pleasure in the simple things. Who am I kidding, stopping isn’t really my thing. But at least I’ll try to be present just a wee bit more.

So how was December?

Cooking: I finally got my hands on a copy of Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s A Year of Simple Family Food from the library and happily spent a night flicking through it and bookmarking a lot of recipes. And that’s about as far as it got. I did make one of her recipes, a fish and tomato pasta with white wine and mint, which felt and tasted fancy but was made in 15 minutes and got a thumbs up all around, so maybe I should make a few more before I have to return the book to the library. That being said, my desire for kitchen time is waning. It’s hot in Brisbane and my house seems to capture and retain all that heat so on my days at home I really just want to defrost leftovers from the freezer and spend the afternoon outside instead.
Jman and I did make shortbread as one of his advent calendar activities which was fun. Shortbread is definitely one of his love languages.

Drinking: It’s summer! So an arvo G&T or cold wine sounds great. So does a giant cup of tea – my Great Grandmother apparently used to say the best way to cool down was with a hot cup of tea. It’s all to do with the perspiration. Maybe she was on to something. Sparkling water with fresh mint and some kind of citrus juice is also tasty.

Reading: I made a discovery at the library recently: The Blythes are Quoted. Short stories and poems by L.M Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables was and remains one of my all time favourite series and it’s been such a joy to have new-to-me writings. Plus short stories are perfect right now thanks to a combo of end of year exhaustion and a teething toddler. I also listened to Dolly Alderton’s new book Ghosts (excellent) and am halfway through my cousin Catherine’s book The Music Writer’s Rescue. It’s also great and not just because she’s family. Oh, and Ashe Davenport’s Sad Mum Lady pretty much ripped my heart out. If you’re a newish mum, I’d read it. Her depiction of new mum life is hilarious while also being slightly too close to home.

Wanting: Those lazy days between Christmas and New Years to be here. Steve and I are off camping with my brother then and I can’t wait! Although that’s not really a want, is it. The same probably goes for Jman’s transition to prep next year. I want it to go as smoothly as possible. He’s excited and I love watching it but I’m also slightly broken hearted at how fast the time is going by.

Looking: Literally: at a new plant and pot I bought from The Plant Lounge with a birthday voucher. I love plants and vouchers so this was a brilliant idea. Not quite so literally – I’m looking forward to taking Jman to see Bluey on stage later this month. He loves live theatre and has been asking to go more since seeing Playschool live in 2019. And then 2020 happened… nevertheless it will be fun. It’s not often he gets solo time with Steve and I so it’ll be really special. I’m thinking we should make a day of it with lunch out, a play at his favourite park and probably ice cream. Yep, that sounds pretty great.

Playing: Again literally: The High Low finale. What a podcast! And not so literally, so many hushing babies at the moment, interspersed with dinosaurs and the occasional game of Snap.

Enjoying: Watching the kids play more together as they grow. This time of year when we’re working small advent activities into each day. The activities are always small: a walk around the block to search for Christmas lights; dancing to Christmas carols; candlelit baths; a visit to a favourite park; making shortbread; but the excitement each day when they open the next drawer is just too cute. I’m also loving exercising until I’m sweaty (not that that’s hard at this time of year). It feels good to be building some strength back up. Playing on my SUP is also up there, which normally involves a trip to the beach, as is seeing my friends. A lot of this is basically to say I’m enjoying returning to doing things that I love.

Savouring: my time working. It sounds weird, but as much as I love being home I also am really enjoying being back both in the office and in the yoga studio. It feels like the myriad pieces are starting to come back together.

Loving: Audiobooks. They are honestly a lifesaver right now when I’m cosleeping more nights than not and so go to bed in a dark room, and when daily demands make reading more than a page hard. I really notice it at work that the words just don’t flow easily when I haven’t picked up a book in a while.

Buying: For once a lot. Christmas shopping has taken on a new dimension this year now that Jman is really into it and we want to give both kids a special day. That being said, I/we have still tried to keep the presents reasonable rather than lots of crappy stocking fillers. For most of the big presents we’ve tried to buy local and secondhand first and have stuck to things we know they truly want. And I’ve also been selling a lot of excess stuff in the lead up to the festive season to make room in the house for it all. It’s a tricky balance.

Watching: Lots of Christmas specials. I love that I can now put on Home Alone and watch Jman go red in the face from laughter. Or Bluey and watch T dance along to the theme music before demanding MORE at the end of the episode. But on the grown up front I’m drawing a blank and instead I’m returning to comfort faves again – much to Steve’s disgust. He’s no Gilmore Girls fan.

Smelling: The tea sitting in front of me and the frangipanis from across the street. I love how the heat makes their scent permeate the neighbourhood. Also the Ivy and Wood candle I had burning this morning. T woke when the garbage truck rattled down the street so we made our way out in the 5am light to wave hello to it. Lighting a candle and putting some music on seemed like a nice way to try and ease my sleep-deprived self into the day. So did a giant cup of tea.

Wearing: My Ugly Christmas Rashie, lots of shorts and t-shirts at home – the more ragged the better because I introduced splatter painting to the kids and have been painted pink more than once in the past few weeks. But I’m also enjoying pulling out the nicer clothes and jewellery a bit now on office days.

Knowing: I need to pull my finger out and finish cleaning the room we’re turning into T’s bedroom. But other than a regular vacuum it hasn’t been cleaned properly in a while so there’s a lot of dusting and wiping down and washing ahead. Maybe it’s because of this that we’ve ramped up the house hunt?

Thinking: That a mango or a piece of dark chocolate would be good about now.

Sorting: All the things. I despise clutter and when you insert two kids into a small house it is next level. So once again I’m purging. A lot has been sold or given away for free on Facebook marketplace. A little bit has been donated although there is a fair whack of eco-anxiety associates with that after learning just how little is sold on with the rest being sent to landfill.

Feeling: Tired and ready for 2020 to be over, but also cognisant of the fact we’re living in a bubble here and I really haven’t been affected like others. Life is almost back to normal and it’s nice. I’m also super excited for holidays and spending time in the family bubble. I’m hoping for a lot of waterfall and beach swims, bushwalks, chats with friends over a wine.

Snacking: On all the summer fruit, fruit mince pies, good dark chocolate, crackers with cheese or hummus. Whatever takes my fancy really.

Hearing: The butcher birds singing. It’s the first sunny day in about four days and they’re happy about it.

2020, you can certainly go down as one of – if not the – weirdest year on record.

But in the spirit of attempting to maintain some sanity and mental clarity – and I must say thanks to the suggestion of a dietitian I’ve been chatting to – it feels good to lean into what feels good. And unlike earlier this year, I have to admit that what feels good is no longer is a regular G&T with dark chocolate on the side while burning myself out trying to do ALL the things. (Don’t worry gin and chocolate, I still love you. I just think we’ll benefit from some social distancing.)

But back to feeling good. After chatting to a non- diet dietitian to double check I am nourishing myself in a way that hits all my nutritional needs after more than five years of pregnancy and breastfeeding we started to talk about how we like to perk ourselves up when we’re feeling low and run down. It’s such a simple concept, but a great one. So I began to compile a list of things I can reach for that make me smile, and that nurture me and mine on many levels.

I love this suggestion so much that it seemed like a great idea to share it, especially at a time of year that is joyous for some but most definitely be hard for others.

Here’s my feel good list, just in case it helps someone else.

A feel good list:

Good for the ears. Podcasts and music. Always

Good for the eyes

Old favourites: Fleabag, Gilmore Girls, Jamie Oliver anything, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Rosehave, The Crown, Umbrella Academy. You get the idea. Something light, funny and not too intensive.

Good reads, such as The Constant Rabbit by Jasper FForde – or actually anything Jasper Fforde actually. Olive by Emma Gannon, Queenie, The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams. A few pages at the end of the day makes all the difference, and I’m also devouring audiobooks purely because it’s easier to pop one on while cooking/walking.

Good for the Tastebuds

  • Simple one tray bakes. Normally we throw salmon or chicken on a tray, with potatoes, fennel, cherry tomato and dired oregano and drizzle with oil. A load off our shoulders and an easy meal for dinner.
  • Slow cooked anything. Bonus points if it can be frozen for a later date
  • Chocolate. Of any kind.
  • Apple and raspberry crumble or apple pie
  • Haloumi baguettes from our local bakery
  • A fresh mango
  • Banana, peanut butter and cinnamon on toast.
  • A meal that you don’t have to cook – thanks freezer/Steve!
  • Hot chocolate. Peppermint tea. A milky black tea. Coffee. A smoothie. A cold G&T.

Good for the soul

  • Lying on the grass in the sun with music playing. Eyes closed is a bonus
  • Deleting social media and putting my phone in the house for the afternoon.
  • Daily walks, toting the kids along in the pram, with an audiobook playing in my ears
  • A cup of tea, that I drink before it gets cold.
  • Making bread dough. Or pizza dough.
  • Not making bread dough or pizza dough, and instead saying I’ve done enough for today. I’m working on this one. I’ve found I’m good at saying no to others but then “should” all over myself.
  • Ditching all plans in favour of a zero plans day and playing with the kids.
  • Even just ten minutes of yoga asana on the grass, with the kids climbing all over me.
  • A shower by candlelight
  • Using all the masks, lotions and potions I own.
  • Baking with Jman.
  • Cuddles on the couch with a few books to read or Bluey on the TV.
  • Picking herbs and salad leaves straight from the garden. Inspecting new flowers we’ve planted.
  • Spending time drawing with chalk on the pavement or fence.
  • An early night
  • Meditation.
  • Talking with a friend, preferably face-to-face but even just reaching out via text will do.
  • A double up, but reading and journalling.
  • Drinking a glass of water.

Reading through this, it all seems pretty standard. But that’s the thing. It’s so easy to get swept up and forget ourselves in the mad rush of life.

What do you have on your list?

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I grew up in an active family. We all played multiple sports and Saturday was generally spent on a netball field or at a sailing club.

That also meant Mum and Dad were seasoned pros at juggling my brothers and I and getting us to our various trainings. Even now, Wednesday evenings make me think of netball training and the meal Mum would often put on the table for us before shuttling me out the door. Wednesdays were for spaghetti bolognese.

Truthfully it wasn’t my favourite meal then, as I wasn’t a big fan of either meat or pasta. But it’s one I have grown to love and Steve and I now regularly put on our weekly menu, rolling the leftover meat into puff pastry-wrapped pies to freeze for dinner another night.

It’s also a meal both kids love, and as I’ve adapted my version so it simmers on the stove for hours ahead of our 5pm dinner, the smell makes us happy long before I spoon it into our bowls (and I’m doubly happy because it also means no cooking during arsenic hour. Huzzah! Bless the slow cooking gods).

My version is pretty different to the one I grew up with, which allowed Mum to get a good dinner on the table quickly, but I hope it’s just as tasty. And a note on the can of lentils. Well, what I can say? I’m a fan of beefing up the taste and nutrition of our meals, and brown lentils disappear into mince while also adding a good hit of fibre and plant-based protein. Need more convincing? One can also almost doubles the amount of food for about $1 so you can extend that goodness into other meals and help your budget along.

So here we go:

Ingredients

  • 500g beef mince
  • 400g can of brown lentils, well rinsed
  • 700ml passata
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • two carrots
  • one brown onion, diced
  • two garlic cloves (although we regularly add  three or four)
  • two sticks of celery
  • leftover veg such as mushroom, eggplant, broccoli, and old tomatoes all work well too #saynotofoodwaste
  • salt and pepper
  • one teaspoon dried oregano
  • one teaspoon garlic powder
  • one teaspoon onion powder
  • half a teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one to two star anise (depending on how strong you like the aniseed flavour)
  • one cinnamon quill

Method

  • Using a large, heavy bottomed lidded casserole dish or dutch oven, heat a good whack of olive oil over a medium heat. Add your onion and a bit of sea salt.
  • Once the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes) add your garlic, and after about two minutes throw in your chopped veg and can of lentils.
  • Let the vegetables soften for 5 minutes or so, before adding your mince and letting it brown.
  • Add your milk – trust me –  stir it through and then add your passata and seasonings.
  • Bring it to a fast simmer, turn the heat right down and pop on the lid.
  • Let it do its thing for 2 to 3 hours, stirring regularly so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.
  • For the last half hour remove the lid and let the liquid reduce.
  • Serve over pasta and put an indecent amount of parmesan on top.

If you want to jazz it up even more, a good splash of red wine (a tasty one) added to the pan to deglaze it after browning the meat is also a great idea. Just make sure you pour yourself a glass too and drink it while eating dinner.

 

Well that was one big break! But in between an increasingly active toddler keeping me on my toes, a child coming to grips with the weirdness going on in the world, protests and the COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent return to the world – and all the big emotions that brought up – this little corner of the world went forgotten. Plus, to be honest, recounting our days made me increasingly uncomfortable as my undeniable privilege reared its head. I’m so thankful we have a safe home, employment and the ability to work from home when we needed to, familial support we can turn to, food and warmth. We are so very lucky. But that hasn’t been the case for many people and it felt too indulgent to be recounting garden happenings and what I wanted to do while people around me were losing their livelihood. And so I was silent.

But at the end of the day, writing makes me happy and, because I can’t deny it’s really just family who reads this – hi Mum! – here we are.

I should also warn you, this may be a long one. So get comfy and settle in.
Doing: Finding a new flow to our days at home now we’re well and truly into the active toddler stage. Luckily neither child is a super early riser so we’re normally up at the same time as Steve in the morning. He and I have a cup of tea together before I make the kids and I porridge. T either perches on my hip and helps, gesturing to her mouth every few seconds just in case I’d forgotten she was hungry, or she tackles her brother. She adores him.

We’ll normally head out for a walk or to a park with friends in the morning before lunch at home and an afternoon in the garden or playing with our neighbours who have a boy a similar age. They’re so generous with their time and I’m grateful. Looking at this and we’ve pretty much reverted to our former rhythm.

It’s funny I’d already forgotten just how active young toddlers are. At four Jman is a delight and can amuse himself or watch some TV while I exercise or clean up around the house but T is literally banging on doors to get out of the house by the time 9am rolls around. It makes achieving anything a bit tricky.

Since lockdown restrictions have lifted a bit we’ve also been heading out more to cafes, markets and restaurants or just to friends houses, which is such a delight after long weeks at home. We also went to Lot 81 micro farm for a potter recently and I’ve filed it away under #gardengoals

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Cooking: It’s cold – or as frosty as Brisbane gets, which isn’t very much at all. But seeing our trusty houses have been designed to withstand heat, it means inside our little blue house is often colder than out some days. With the cooler weather comes the desire for hearty meals, so we’ve been making lots of roasts, Steve’s been barbecuing away most weekends, and slow-cooked stews like this one or ragus have been making a regular appearance. If we’re feeling energetic we’ll also make our own pasta to go with them. Lately it seems we make one big meat-filled dinner each week and then roll those leftovers into other meals like frittatas or pastas, roll them in pastry or put them in the freezer for future dinners.

Weekly pizza nights are also pretty much a guarantee because Jman has become quite the skilled sous-chef. He’ll climb up into his learning tower – not that he really needs to any more, he’s that tall – and he’ll help knead and roll out the pizza dough before topping his with tomato paste, leftover roast chicken, tinned pineapple and cheese. Steve and I jazz ours up a bit more, adding anchovies, vegetables and red onion, pesto and at least 3 cheeses. It’s good. T, on the other hand, turns her nose up at pizza, preferring instead to eat the meat, cheese and pineapple straight from the cutting board.

True to form of keeping us on our toes, it’s only now after almost 16 months the afternoons have become tricky to navigate. T likes to sit on my hip and inspect what I’m doing, but that doesn’t lend itself to safe knife skills – just ask the top of my left thumb that I nearly sliced off recently. So the trusty learning tower is often adjusted to her height, but her ability to clear the counter with one sweep of her arm makes me a bit reluctant to use it too much. So one tray bakes that I can prep at lunchtime and have ready to go have also become a favourite. Chicken thighs, potatoes and cherry tomateos are good, and Steve recently decided to jazz one up with fennel, roasted garlic and some salmon and it was so good.

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Drinking: I should probably delete this prompt because the answer is always a variation on a theme. Tea, coffee (probably too much), red wine, and herbal tisanes made with leaves or ginger plucked fresh from the garden have all been appealing. As has milk kefir and mugs of warm water. We also still make the odd smoothie because the kids love them and it’s an easy way to sneak more goodness into them without a battle – zucchini, avocado and cauliflower all disappear seamlessly into that milky goodness. I like to add in peanut butter, hemp or chia seeds or some Lovewell as well.
Reading: Not a lot, to be honest, and I’m noticing it in my creativity levels. Like many people I’ve been struggling mentally a bit with 2020. Not seeing my family and friends for long periods of time, combined with trying to navigate long solo days at home with energetic young ones has meant come 9pm I just want to lie in bed and watch a TV show on my phone. However, just like when I don’t move my body or meditate, I notice this negatively affects me so I’m making an effort to put away the tech and pick up my book. These past few weeks though I’ve finished this book, and this audiobook, have this one on the go and am loving it and will start The Constant Rabbit soon. I also need to diversify my reading list a bit more so there are fewer white men at the helm.
Wanting: To press reset on 2020. Seriously.
Deciding: Whether to go for a walk in the rain, or tackle an online class with my physio.
Wishing: We could go on a holiday somewhere just the four of us. Even though we spend a lot of time together, it feels like Steve and I are constantly juggling the kids so we can do something and we rarely get to sit back and relax.
Enjoying: Those days when Jman, T and I seem to flow seamlessly in sync. They’re pretty rare, but when it happens it so sweet.
Liking: Continuing on with my postnatal m-hiit and pilates classes on zoom. My physio was quick to adapt to the COVID-19 lockdown and moved online almost immediately, which I’m grateful for because movement is my medicine. I also really notice it in both my energy and strength levels when I don’t do enough exercise. A 3pm coffee to get me through the dinner/bath/bed chaos isn’t a great idea and my back was complaining about carrying 11kg on my hip constantly.

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Wondering: Which books we should buy next. We rarely buy books, choosing instead to borrow them from the library, so it’s a big deal. Following the BLM protests Steve and I showed Jman the Playschool special about race and began to talk to him about Australia’s history. Needless to say he had a lot of questions, so now I’m on the hunt for books for him. I’ve heard Young Dark Emu is great, but would love some more suggestions.
Loving: My prenatal yoga training. I signed up earlier this year and am loving delving into supporting women through such a precious and vulnerable time in their lives.
Pondering: If I should make another tea or coffee. I really want to but I keep hearing my lovely yoga teacher, Lou, telling me I’m just borrowing the energy from my kidney when I do this (in traditional Chinese medicine the kidney is your battery, and supplies the body with reserve energy. When you deplete it through stress, excess stimulants, late nights, or too much work, it can’t be restored and can manifest in premature ageing etc) but I do love a warm cup of tea. Maybe I’ll make it a herbal tea instead, or a smoothie.
Considering: Booking in to see a dietitian to double check I’m meeting all my nutritional needs. The tiredness levels are rising – of course they are, I’ve got a toddler who breastfeeds all night to help with teething pain and to process the growing world around her and a non-napping child who needs to move his body a lot each day – but that combined with some family health news means it’s probably a good idea for me to double check.
Buying: Not a lot beyond food and some secondhand clothes on depop. But oh the food we have been buying! While working from home I signed us up to a vegetable box from Millen Farms and it was so good. All the produce was local (to us) and it was so lovely to get home and unpack all that deliciousness while planning our meals for the next week. More than once after pulling a number of limes, ginger and galangal and chillis out I’d joyfully tell Steve his beef rending or nasi goreng had to go on the menu.

Depop has also been a recent find. After resolving to minimise my fast fashion purchases earlier this year I would go into my local op shops to hunt for something when I needed it. But depop has made that search even easier. Also this list makes me laugh a bit. What plans I had in store for 2020. To be honest though, we have ticked a lot of these off.

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Watching: Rosehaven is my happy place! The combination of a teething and subsequently clingy toddler and a return to part time work means it’s rare I spend more than half-an-hour on the couch at night with Steve before needing to sleep (or breastfeed aforementioned teething toddler). We have so many shows and movies bookmarked to watch, but for now Rosehaven it is – or rewatching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Hoping: Queensland doesn’t move back towards a lockdown. Watching what’s happening in other parts of Australia is scary and doesn’t bode well for us up here.
Marvelling: I’m sure I’ve said this before, but at how kids develop in leaps and bounds. Jman is suddenly a little boy, full of questions and jokes, so tall and getting so heavy I can’t really carry him anymore. T is also up and about running, dancing whenever there’s a beat and just generally loving on her family. They blow my mind at least once a day, and even though I moan a lot that I just want to sleeeep I wouldn’t change a thing.
Cringing: Continuing on from the above, cringing at some of my short-tempered reactions to the kids. There isn’t a lot of me to go around and after a particularly wakeful night I can be prone to joining in with their tantrums. I spend a lot of time explaining and apologising to Jman and talking it out with Steve. I’ve also been listening to a lot of podcasts with Maggie Dent and Janet Lansbury, audiobooks with Dr Justin Coulson and sending SOS messages to friends. Perhaps I should reignite my daily meditation practice too, seeing that stopped when I got tired of T tackling me for the entire 10 minutes or trying to steal my headphones.

Questioning: A return to university. I would love to retrain as a dietitian or nutritionist but I just don’t think I can do another four years of study.
Smelling: The peppermint oil in the diffuser. The coffee pot on the stove and the hand cream I just rubbed into my poor cracking hands. All that hand washing on top of gardening comes with a cost!
Wearing: Jeans, long sleeves and jumpers, or yoga pants and thick socks if I’m at home and needing comfort. I actually wore stiletto heels for the first time in years recently, when we broke out for Steve’s birthday dinner and within 10 minutes was questioning how I used to go clubbing in them.
Sorting: Baby clothes into bags ready to pass on to friends or drop at the op-shop.
Disliking: Any and all diet talk. Jman asked what “fat” meant recently after overhearing a conversation and I wanted to yell. Maybe I’m just noticing it now, but lockdown restrictions have sure seemed to lead to an increase in conversations about diets and needing to lose the “covid-19”. Boring! And as a parent trying to raise intuitive eaters all I can think is it’s so sad that the kids have to overhear and witness their parents hating on their bodies.
Opening: Wine leftover from our wedding! Steve made the surprise discovery in the bottom of our “wine cellar” recently and it’s been excellent. I should mention our “wine cellar” is a few Styrofoam boxes kept in the study, just in case we were in danger of being taken for adults.
Feeling: Out of sorts, to be honest. Like many other people I am feeling battered by 2020.
Snacking: On fruit; homemade bread (I’m getting there with sourdough) eaten warm from the oven with peanut butter, avocado or butter and jam; cheese and crackers or medjool dates stuffed with almond butter and a piece of 70% dark chocolate. I’m also digging Greek yoghurt with honey, walnuts, and sultanas.
Hearing: As above with reading. The BBC radio adaptation of Neverwhere. It’s so good! Of course it is, it’s Neil Gaiman. But after listening to the first episode I was excitedly telling Steve he had to listen to it and that I now understood why people got into radio plays.
Knowing: This period in time is a crazy one, but it hopefully won’t last. Until then, there’s good food to be cooked and shared, beautiful music to dance to, and belly laughs to be had. And, on off days, there’s dark chocolate and zoom to connect with friends.

“Look at all these leaves Mummy!”

We were walking to our local park and my son had insisted on walking the entire way – the whole 1km. Almost halfway there we passed a section of footpath that had been completely covered with leaves by a friendly neighbourhood bush turkey. I’m sure its scratching drives the locals nuts, but for my son this particular part of the footpath immediately transformed into a rushing river that we had to jump or swim across multiple times, then into a bridge, before we became turkeys ourselves and scratched in the leaves. However, the entire time he was playing I had to keep suppressing the urge to tell him to hurry up so we could get to the park.

But why? We had no plans for the rest of the day, and thanks to maternity leave I didn’t have to be home by a certain time to check emails or delve into work. The day was wide open, and I was struck anew by how used to rushing and pushing I am and how I was sweeping my family along with me.

Kids being the catalyst to slowing down isn’t anything new; stop and smell the roses and all that, but I’d thought I’d got the hang of this slow living thing myself. Turns out, not so much.

As the tiredness from being at home with a breastfeeding baby and a nap-relinquishing toddler slowly crept up on me, I started to examine a few aspects of my life that are supposed to make life slower, easier, and ultimately more sweet for me – as well as gentler on the planet – however were in fact beginning to leave me feeling stressed and tired at the very thought of just how much I had to do. Basically, I began to question if they are still serving me.

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I don’t think I’m the only one to feel this pressure either. When you scroll through the “slow living”, “zero waste” etc hashtags on social media you are presented with a barrage of perfectly curated profiles of people who make everything from scratch, grow their own food, wear only secondhand clothes, are doing headstands on the top of mountains and spending their weeks writing letters to their local politicians with their kids or attending protests. It’a beautifully curated existence, but one that belies just how much work it can be. Further,  I simply wasn’t willing to dig in that much when I was bone tired and the prospect of washing another load of nappies before running to the farmers’ markets, butcher, bulk store and bakery for the weekly shop – toting everything I needed so as to avoid single use plastic – while also trying to spend time together as a family, exercise, practice mindfulness, and make time to socialise was frankly almost too much. And isn’t the entire point of slow living to make life better?

Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home fame has said there is a misconception that when you start to embrace a lower waste life (I’m also inserting slow living in here) that you have to make everything from scratch and do everything yourself. And this was the rabbit hole I’d found myself falling down. Homemade is generally better/more delicious/cheaper/better for you and the planet. But with dwindling energy and time I simply had to admit this lifestyle was no longer serving me – I was serving it.

I love cooking from scratch, but in this season of my life buying a loaf of bread from our local bakery is easier than finding the time and energy to make a loaf (as keen as I am to eventually try it), and opening a packet of pasta means I can get a delicious dinner on the table quickly and minimise the amount of flour being thrown around the kitchen by an enthusiastic child.

So to find the joy again in this lifestyle I used to love I decided to take the pressure off myself and began experimenting with what felt good instead on a physical and soul level, rather than aiming for perfect.

I began with my non-negotiables: good food, time outdoors, social time and time for actual self care eg meditation and movement, and I went in search of slow again.

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A strong morning rhythm helped to get me off on the right foot. I’d preferably wake before the kids, meditate for about 10 minutes, wash my face and make a hot cup of tea. But I also learned to accept that sometimes this would also look like wearing headphones while sitting on the living room floor and nursing a baby while ABC kids plays on the TV and Jman ran around the room. It’s all fine, as long as it happens.

The weekly damily visit to the Farmers’ Markets were supplemented by a farm box from a local micro farm, and I had to admit that grabbing a plastic-wrapped something from the shops would sometimes serve us all better than four separate stops around neighbouring suburbs while the car-hating baby screamed just so I could buy everything in my own jars and bags.

A bin full of stinky nappies went to the bottom of the list, so cloth nappies were added back in (because we were changing nappies anyway!), and prioritising mornings spent walking to parks or playing with friends combined with afternoons spent in the backyard pottering in the garden or playing with the hose, a book in the evening and ditching my phone early began to bring peace back to my days.

After admitting defeat, slowly but surely the slow life has become the good life again.

I know there are many low wasters/ slow living advocates who would seriously disagree with me. Here’s a post that proves exactly that. But at the end of the day it’s about what feels good, and what works for our entire household.

So let’s go slow, on our terms.

Making: plans to go camping again soon. After Imbil we’re all very keen to make this a regular occurence.

Cooking: Nothing new really. I’ve been relying on old favourites a lot at the moment. Steve has been jumping in the kitchen when he can – normally on the weekends as we now eat dinner a 5pm with the baby. My favourite meal so far has been a pho he made after some friends did the heavy lifting and cooked the broth for 36 hours before dropping some to us. #winning

Drinking: So much strong milky tea. The love affair continues. Steve also stumbled upon a great drink: Ink Gin with tonic, ruby grapefruit and thyme. So good.

Reading: The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It’s been too long since I’ve read the original Millenium series, so I’m unsure if David Lagercrantz is successfully carrying on Stieg Larson’s narrative, but I’m enjoying it. I also finished Little Fires Everywhere (good but left me with many questions) and The Quarterly Essay by Annabel Crabb. The latter left me angry but it was also very pertinent to me in this time of life.

Wanting: A pool! Or a creek in our backyard. Basically anything that would allow us to swim without trekking to get there.

Looking: At toys everywhere. As we move back into normal life rhythm and away from holiday mode we’re also having less screen time and more time playing. It’s fun but so messy.

Playing: I’m changing this prompt to wanting to play: Uno, scrabble or chess. Also a lot of Transformers, dinosaurs and dogs. Thanks Jman.

Deciding: What to do in our now open weeks. Steve has gone back to work so there’s a lot of white space in our days. We’ve been filling it with park time, some pilates classes, lots of baking and swimming.

Wishing: We weren’t already having tricky conversations with our three-year-old about bushfires, drought, and sustainability. He’s on board with our day to day life (because to him it’s normal) but he’s confused about why Steve and I get so excited by rain clouds looming.

Enjoying: The long summer afternoons and hot cups of tea. Also reading.

Waiting: For Steve’s smoked eggplant meatballs to cook. Very literal around here today.

Liking: The surprise plants my compost keeps throwing at us. We’re now watching as a pumpkin vine blooms. Luckily the thyme bush is also going crazy, so I can possibly bully Steve into making his pumpkin and thyme scones.

Buying: Far too many bananas. There will be many smoothies and banana breads in our future. Other than that, not too much actually as the house deposit saving continues.

Watching: season 2 of Sex Education, and season 3 of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. Both are excellent.

Cringing: Once again at our Federal Government and the response to the bushfires.

Smelling: Mangoes. There’s a full bag of them sitting on the kitchen bench. I probably should slice them up and put them in the freezer for smoothies and sorbet.

Wearing: Togs, active wear or shorts and shirts. It’s too hot for anything else.

Sorting: Out all our clutter. Selling a lot on, donating some to op shops (although I’ve heard only 10 per cent of donations are actually sold, so maybe there needs to be a plan B). It feels very cathartic.

Getting: mentally prepared for my return to the office next month. I’m both excited and apprehensive about the new level of busyness about to hit our family.

Feeling: Tired and stiff after a sweaty pilates class. Who am I kidding, the tiredness is from much more than that. Balancing a baby with a non-napping child is tricky and exhausting work. I’ve got so much admiration for the friends I’ve seen do this as well as return to full time work. My question is: how much caffeine/chocolate/smoothies gives you the required super powers?

Snacking: Medjool dates stuffed with almond butter, mangoes, smoothies, and chocolate. These make me a better human.

Hearing: Talking Tastebuds, Led Zeppelin and a fair whack of Cannonball Adderley. And right now a lot of silence as two kids are napping and I’m taking the opportunity to type even though I should be napping too. Teething and the desire to crawl are not conducive to quiet nights.

Now over to you. How was your January?

Life posts inspired by Pip.