Friday, April 30, 2010

Mama, take a moment

While moping because i was missing the Wilco concert (i had a ticket, had been looking forward to it for months and no appropriate babysitter in sight, sigh) i connected with a few mama friends who have just welcomed another soul into their broods. I spoke with some other mama’s without back up to give a much needed bit of time out from the mama’ing frontlines, who have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s a big job this mama business. Like any big job it’s imperative we have some balance, when we can, in the whirlwind of mess, magic and wonder that are our days. Time to relax, reflect or remember who we are beyond being mama....

Mama, Take a few moments.
Nineteen nurturing things you can do with or without children:

-Remember to breathe. REALLY breathe, deeply and with awareness.
-Pick some herbs, boil the kettle, brew some tea. Sit. Sit until you have drunk all your tea. (How many cups of cold tea/coffee have you drunk lately dear mama’s?). Or perhaps a healing brew of coffee?!
-Pick up paper and pencil. Write: What is hard for me at the moment? on the top of the paper. Write furiously stream of consciousness on that topic until there is nothing more there. Turn the paper over. Write: What feeds me? Write furiously about all that juices you up. Make sure there is space in your life to do these things that feed you.

-Run a bath. Light a candle. Put the oil burner on.
-Take a tarot card a day and revisit it during the day for guidance or thought provocation.
-Find the depths of a pillow or your equivalent of a mountaintop and let loose a primal scream. Let out all frustrations and inhibitions with that scream. Kids love this – get them in on it too. Warn the neighbours!
- Sit by flowing water. Sing, play music or lie back and look for signs in the clouds.
-Go outside when its dark. Listen. Track the moon in her comings and goings, growings and shrinkings.
-Plant a seed and as you water it daily, speak about what it is you are nurturing to grow in your own life.
-Do some yoga. Or stretch, just get your body moving.
-Turn up the music. Dance wild until you collapse laughing or crying in a vibrant puddle.
-Make a map of YOU. Sit down with a friend or your kid/s. Take a pile of cool magazines. Second hand shops are good sources of these if you (like me) don’t buy them. Cut out a pile of pictures that are inspiring to you, pick ones that represent different aspects of you...what you are good at, who you love, what you aspire to be, what you admire in others, whatever moves you. Stick them on a piece of paper – put them up in a gallery and take turns talking about each creation. Great to learn more about your kids inner life – and an opportunity to share some kid appropriate parts of yours.
-Lie down. Do nothing for fifteen or thirty whole minutes. Let your mind drift. Really!
-Plan a garden. Visit your local community garden. Or just dream of one.
-Learn to meditate. It’s not just for the sandal-wearing.
-Read. Not just anything, read something that empowers or supports you.
Jed just walked in from his nap. I asked him if he could think of any healing things to do to nurture a person. He said, ‘Use stingray plants’. (That’s stinging nettles to the rest of us. )
-‘And hug a tree or lie down on the grass and let the earth help you. And that’s the end of my list’.
I end on those wise words. (From a two year old)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

my secret denim fetish

I have a thing for denim. It rarely surfaces but every now and then i indulge it.
After getting tired of lending mine out, i made Jed's dadda a bag of his own. I used Heather Ross' weekend tote pattern from Weekend Sewing. I used a light denim with a super cool vintage cotton lining.
Can't recommend Heather's patterns enough, She-who-is-pathologically-discinclined-to-follow-patterns (yours truly) even follows her patterns. To the letter i might add.

Love that vintage print.

I had ten metres of that denim weighing on me. I wanted a simple denim skirt that i could douse in paint, roll down hillsides in or wander into town in. I used New Look 6710 and did View D. Real simple pattern that lends itself to tweaking. I didn't even tweak. I suspect i might be too chronically sleep deprived to tweak. Sigh! Really enjoy the pockets. Pockets seem to be essential since having a child.
Seven metres of denim to go...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

creativity on the cards - and a giveaway

Finances don't quite stretch to getting contact cards designed and printed yet. I whipped up a set myself. I bought the white standard cards from the stationers and am using the teeny weeny but still beautiful scraps of vintage fabric as decoration. Handwriting the rest. Perfect work to do in small snatches with small people whirling about the environ...

Just like the things i make and sell, these are each unique and are most definitely 'anissa flavoured'. People love them so much i've started making some to sell as gift cards.

GIVEAWAY: I am giving away copies of my plants as medicine handbook this week. I believe strongly in our birthright to have the basic plant medicine knowledge and maintain our own health and wellbeing through the plants that grow around us and common kitchen ingredients.
My plants as medicine handbook is a handy fifteen page booklet covering the following:
- History of plant use in medicine and why use plants to heal you and your family.
- Gathering, drying and storing plants. Or buying.
- How to use them. Preparing teas, infusions, tinctures, poultices...
- Ten common plant profiles: comfrey, chamomile, calendula, nettle, peppermint, plantain, red clover, sage, thyme and yarrow. (These are readily available in NZ, North America and Europe)
- Treating common complaints: from colds to toothache and everything in between.
- Using essential oils at home.
The booklet will give you the confidence to try natural remedies for those niggly ailments we mama's encounter and the satisfaction of doing the best you can to keep you and your family in optimum health. Remember to consult a professional for diagnosis or if you are worried.
Contact me through my profile page here on the blog or leave a comment (making sure i can contact you through your comment) and i'll post one out to you. Those of you who have done a Plants as Medicine workshop with me and would like another copy for a friend, that's fine too. I'll post internationally. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

vintage genius

For the small person who loves to help the mama sew, this is pure genius. For someone who loves to rummage in the fabric scrap bin, and is learning to use proper scissors, just perfect. Made of sturdy wood, it should last a good few generations too.

We crashed into one of those big toy shops when we were in town the other day. We played with their huge trainset and the enormous wooden marble run. We played ball, tried out the bikes, and left happy, having bought an old fashioned bag of metal knucklebones. So much plastic landfill potential in there. And so many 'toys' seemingly designed as merchandise from TV shows. Which we don't watch, so their efforts were slightly wasted on us. Kinda crazy some of that stuff.

I just may be found, late at night, putting a few outfits together for this little fellow, all by myself....

[I haven't forgotten about the Plant Medicine can be yours, email me through the profile page - i'll post about it one day very soon]

Friday, April 23, 2010

lavender magic

I am so grateful I have the knowledge and skills to heal myself and those close to me. This is what it used to be like before we gave away responsibility for our heath to others. First aid used to be just that, what we could do immediately. Look around, what plant is there to help in this moment? What is there in the kitchen? That kinda thing.

Yesterday i burnt myself badly. You know how it goes, hungry hour, tired mama...I grabbed the handle of the cast iron skillet fresh out of the oven. I had forgotten how much burns hurt.
But. In the midst of pain i was so touched by Jed’s response. Gentle touch and the loving question, ‘what can i do to help you mama?’. I sent him to the medicine cabinet (See above) for the lavender essential oil. Every kitchen needs a wee bottle of lavender essential oil. It is pure magic for burns.

Burn: Run under cold flowing water 5-10 minutes. Apply lavender essential oil liberally. Allow to dry and reapply every hour until bedtime. I also added St Johnswort oil to the mix. The sting started fading almost immediately. And speaking from the next day, when that burn should have been a raw sore’s not. It’s well on its way to healing. I repeat, i am so grateful i have the knowledge to heal.
You can too. Managing yours and your families health is part of your birthright.
I’ll be back with copies of my Plants as Medicine Handbook to give away. Right now, i am in desperate need of sleep.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Te Reo in the whare (Maori language in the house)

These are some of our favourite books at the moment. Koro's Medicine by Melanie Drewery is especially good. Get to that library!

One of the things i promised myself if i came back to NZ to live after my 16 years wandering, was to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi and learn Te reo Maori, the Maori language. Neither was covered in my mainstream education. New Zealand has two official languages (English and Maori) and surely it is only a mark of respect to the tangata whenua of the land i live on. Especially when many maori words are now woven into NZ english and many place names are in maori. I studied at Auckland University's marae based course a few years ago and it was intense but wonderful. Trying the keep learning and keep my skills alive in daily life tucked away here beachside is trickier but i am determined to have Jed grow up with at least the basics of maori language and rongoa (maori medicine) as part of what is normal for him.
Besides all the other reasons to learn about this incredible culture, history and the injustices to maori that continue to be perpetrated today, Jed's great great grandfather was a well known rangatira (tribal chief) in the Whanganui area. His portrait hangs in the Whanganui museum. Kinda feels rude not to, aye?!

celebrating the kid crafty

We have two magic boxes in our harry potter-like cupboard under the stairs. One is the craft box. The other box has six different kind of paints and various painting tools in it. The newest edition is non-toxic facepaint. Ignoring the question 'non-toxic by what definition?', we are enjoying this facepaint, although it has yet to make it onto Jed's face...he likes his belly painted. Or painting mine.
Out of the blue the other day, Jed decided to make a cushion. Where this idea came from i have no clue. He chose the two fabrics (cosy vintage flannel) and asked if it was okay if he used them. The next day he chose a cushion to recycle at a charity shop. That afternoon he helped cut the squares out, put pins in and operated the sewing machine foot peddle on a stool while sitting on my lap. The look on his face when we stuffed the inner into his cushion cover was magic. We're big on making nests and burrows around here and this cushion is now a key ingredient.

I love it when he heaves out the huge craft box and sets himself to creating. I get the occasional request to put out the craft tablecloth (a vintage plastic one - highly recommended for the dining/craft room table) or set up the paints. Multi-media is where it is at. Oh, and Glitter. (Notice that capital G?).

A Jed solo piece.
Penny Brownlee does amazing work as a kid advocate and her little book ' Magic Places - the adults guide to young childrens creative artwork' is on my list as a 'must read' for every parent. i own a copy for the pure purpose of lending it out. Its available through Playcentre NZ.
(Playcentre is NZ wide association providing parent run early education centres. Lots of space for wild and messy activities, safe exploration of the world and connections with others. Kinda what we do based at home but mix in twenty other kids...eek, i know!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

orchard abundance

A snapshot of a corner of my kitchen. The fruit bowl overfloweth. Huge apple cucumbers to save for next year's seed, dried beans in a jar from the garden, tomato and basil sauce bottled from the garden, fresh parsley, feijoa's from a friends tree (our crop is sadly disastrous this year), red onions grown in oratia, pears and golden delicious apples from our local orchard and a tin of homebaked
What the photo doesn't show are the boxes of apples and pears waiting in a shady corner of my deck, waiting to be turned into applesauce, stewed apple, fruit crumbles, a tarte tatin, apple cake and just plain eaten. As Jed says, ' Mmmm, mmmmm, this pear is DELICIOUS, thank you tree".

The fruit were seconds, not a bruise in sight, just different sizes and shapes, $4 a box and freshly picked that morning. Jed got to ride on the cool old tractor that brought them in (the very same tractor the grandfather of the current orchardist used when he planted all the fruit trees in 1970), and after we hauled our load to the car we took a walk through the orchard to thank the trees in person. I wished i had my camera, those trees are ablaze with apples. Such a beautiful sight.

A bag of red onions, bags and bags of apples and pears and an avocado cost me $13. I felt a bit guilty. They are truly delicious fruit too. I feel very lucky that we have the opportunity to have that connection to our food. Good to eat, good for the pocket, and food for the soul.

seven days, counting from now...

Remember the 'mama sack' ?
To the woman who asked me how on earth i managed to keep Jed so "beautifully dressed when clothes cost so much these days": The $2 vest is handknitted and new, picked up from a car boot sale i just happened to be passing. The yoga pants i made from a thrifted 50 cent t shirt that didnt fit me. The t shirt came out of the $1 racks at a local charity store.
I have to admit to being surprised at the question, i thought we kinda stood out as thriftily (if not strangely at times) dressed. There's enough stuff in the world without contributing to the demand by buying new (if i can help it), besides, i fall over with shock when i hear what folks pay for a pair of jeans sometimes. When someone says 'oh, i like your shirt', i'll say 'oh, thanks, it was $4' or whatever it was. A fairly reliable conversation stopper for many people. We sleep deprived find people skills a little challenging at times.

Take a few crazy days, add on a couple of days banished from the internet by the powers that rule the tech world, and combine with one chronically sleep deprived mama and you get...
...not much action on aforementioned mama's blog. Ahem.

Not for lack of thinking of you all. Nor for lack of material. Oh No on both of those counts. Life is colourful and exuberantly crafty 'round here and to share it with you I'm signing up for seven consecutive days of blogging...starting right now.

I love to give and know the value of a special heart-sent and handcrafted or vintage goodie appearing in the mailbox, so i will be giving a few treasures away this week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

a day in pictures

Okay, and a few words! I am too verbose to resist.
The weather has been just exquisite. Quite possibly too much so. As much as i love the sunshine and warmth, the land (and watertanks, no such thing as mains water around these parts) is parched. Cracks opening across the garden. Never seen so many water deliveries. And this is a rain foresty sort of a place. Climate change?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

some sleep, some don't

Jed having a rare nap at not quite eight weeks old. (Yup, i know)

I met a woman in a shop a few weeks ago. Her small one was flirting with mine and we got talking. Somehow sleep came into the conversation. I mentioned that we’d had a disrupted night and she burst out laughing, somehow managing to keep an understanding sort of a look at the same time. She has five kids. The first one? Not a sleeper. She tried everything, several times. Felt so much pressure from all the advice and comments from those around her, thought it was her fault. Nothing did any good, number one kid is still not a sleep through the night sort of a person. Number 2, 3 and fourth born children? Slept through the night from fairly early on. Fifth one? Two years old and yet to rack up that first sleep through the night. I wish i had met her when Jed was 6 months old. Would have saved me alot of stress. It didn’t help that his father added heaping spoonfuls of criticism on a regular basis. From the safe place of sleeping largely undisturbed by others i hasten to add.

Fast forward to today and we’re going through a rough patch in the sleep department again. Jed is in that transition time of becoming a ‘little person’ rather than a baby or toddler. Psychologically the phases of development go from 0-3 and then 3-7yrs. This transition is all about learning to stand on his own two feet. Mama as back-up of course, but still, learning that separation dance doesn’t come easy. He’s having nightmares of me not being there and needing reassuring touch from me in the night to let him know i am there. Mama is always there. Joseph Chilton Pearce writes wonderfully about this transition in his book the Magical Child.

Jed is a wonderful kid. He is well balanced, fun, incredibly smart (this is the kid who started walking and talking at 9 months), is centred, wise, emotionally intelligent and many other things. And you know what? I am real tired of hearing what i should have done to stop him from waking repeatedly. Tired of hearing it’s my fault he is a waker because i co-slept or breastfed on demand, wore purple underpants or didn’t leave him to cry it out. More often these days, it's that he needs to go out more, run around more or go to preschool to tire him out. I heard for the third time from the same mama today, that he would sleep better if i made sure to take him out more often. My personal favourite is still the friend who, when Jed was 16 months old and wasn’t sleeping through said, ‘oh, well clearly you don’t really want him to sleep through or you would have manifested it by now’. On reflection, i realised that all these comments (bar that last one) and helpful suggestions came from mothers whose babies and children are sleepers. Pah! I have to admit to holding myself back from cursing all their future offspring with sleeping issues.

It keeps coming up for me, this sleep thing. There is not much support out there for mothers dealing with the chronic effects of sleep deprivation while still trying, bless us, to live life fully and parent peacefully and joyfully from our hearts. Or for those with small ones who have a hard time letting go into sleep. I would love to start a blog for mama’s struggling with sleep issues or just plain ole fashioned nursing a newborn soul interrupted sleep. I don’t have the energy right now and so will include links on growmama for now. Let me know if there is information or blogs you have found helpful.

My advice? You know your child best. Listen to your inner voice. Get perspective if you think it would help. Sometimes just hearing you are doing fine is a welcome thing. Get rest. When you can, how you can. Let go of ambitious plans until you are all getting more chunks of sleep. By all means read up about sleep stuff, but be aware that trying any ‘sleep training’ before at least 9 months is not recommended by even conventional child psychologist’s. Trying something different in a consistent manner can be important so you know you are doing your best to shift things. Be ready to let it go if it causes more stress than you can handle or it clearly, repeatedly isn’t working. Ignore the well meaning remarks and questions of whether your child is sleeping through the night yet. Prepare comments you can respond to when asked if your baby/child sleeps through the night. (Ie, jokingly say, i am sure he/she will be by high school). And, Dad? Get up once or twice a week to be there for your waking child aye – good for your connection with your kid and very very good for your relationship. Keep that baby co-sleeping with you if that is what you feel strongly about and know that you might be trekking back and forth to little one's room anyway. Much easier to lean over than get up.

You know what? I wouldn’t change much about the last years and how i have handled our sleeping...i have learnt so much. Believe me, if you had insider info on our sleep history, you'd know what a statement that is.

Some interesting reading on sleep and babies/very young children:
-Try Kathy Dettwyler PHD
-Or theres a bunch of articles on the Natural Child Project website (including James McKenna and Jan Hunt) or do a search in Mothering magazine online.

If you are at your wits end you might try a session (she does phone and email as well as in person) with Genevieve Simperingham. Her website is Or with Tracy at Dreaming Babies. Sometimes just sitting down to write the case history and reflecting on what is going on for you and your family can be all it takes for insight or compassion to strike.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

season's turning

The clocks turned back an hour last weekend. Yup, the 5.30am wake up turned into yes, gulp, 4.30am. Sleep aside, i am loving this turning into autumn. That crisp early morning air. The burnished colours of the leaves. Thinking about building up the woodpile for the winter to come. Apples and pears from our local orchards. NZ oranges. My fingers in search of the brushed cottons, flannel for pjamas and my eyes drawn to the deeper rich colours in the fabric boxes. We are still sneaking in swims yet i can feel the busy pace of summer slowing.

Went to the Coatesville markets on Easter monday and very happy i did. What a lovely setting and right next to a gorgeous Windmill orchard where you can pick your own year round. They even provide the baskets. My kind of place.

The markets had pretty much everything. Delicious food and coffee, handcrafted goodness, wood working on site, even a mobile (and most delicious pizza oven). Something for everyone. Well worth a peruse if you are in the area. I’d like to have a Growmama stall at these monthly markets, let’s see if they’ll have me.
I met the lovely Suzan at her Made it Baby stall. Jed zeroed in on it like a pro. She had a rug with toys on it bless her. Perfect for tired wee people up past naptime. A sneak preview of Suzan and her crafting partner Amy's handiwork:

Suzan and Amy also run little kiwi's nest, a one stop shop for all things handcrafted for baby and child, up until age ten. Loveliness.

The small one's proud purchase of the day. A much treasured starfish placed with 'loving care' on his special table.

Hope your long weekend was a good one.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Phew! The camera is back.
I missed it. Then i kind of enjoyed the break. Then i missed it again.

It's feijoa season! A long awaited moment around here. Posting this picture reminded me of the delicious feijoa cake recipe i posted last June. So...the wheels were slow to turn but, that must mean i have almost been blogging a full turn of the wheel. Yup, coming up to a year in June. Have to kick my heels up and celebrate. A give-away? Seven days of blogging to mark the milestone? A blog tour? Hmmm.

In the camera's absence you missed: the making of a rainbow of naturally coloured playdough, summer end swims, the cracks in our parched garden and the scraping of the bottom of our water tank, the raindancing, apple and berry crumble-top pie, my handmade business cards (i'll show you those one day soon), debates on climate change in the community, new fabric and crafting late into the night. You missed the fire engines, helicopters and police cars in the neighbourhood, the empanadas made from end of summer garden goodness, the most social outings i have managed in years, a bad run of sleep, new designs and the cinnamon chocolate bread i invented. It has not been dull.