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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Where did my baby go?!

I'm one of those parents who takes a gazillion kid photos on my iPhone (aren't we all) and it's so full now that I need to delete old ones every time I want to capture the next too-cute toddler thing he's doing.

Inevitably, I become captivated by those old pictures, those fleeting moments of early motherhood with a squishy newborn in too-big jumpsuits; the first smile; the snuggles in bed with nowhere to be. I look wistfully at his teeny-ness, and feel where I was then; consumed by doing things 'right' while fumbling with my own sense of who I was on -647 hours sleep, like an adrenalin-charged deer in the headlights.

I came up for air at some point in the first year as I realised that to be the connected, conscious parent I wanted to be I'd have to work through some of my own stuff and take care of my own needs too. Fancy that!

This little spiritual teacher of mine is now a walking, talking person with a cheekiness and confidence that is irresistible. Sure, he pushes buttons, but they are MY buttons, not his, which I try to remember when he spits it because his banana is peeled too far down, or won't brush his teeth, or 'interrupts' me when I'm trying to do the dishes.

And so I take a breath and remind myself that just like those old photos show, these moments are fleeting too. I let go of the list, the dishes, and horsey ride around the house. And roar like a dinosaur. And maybe stick some undies on my head for good measure! (I'll do anything for a laugh)

What do you do to get out of your head and connect with your kids?

Friday, 31 October 2014

Easy dips to make in a flash

Many people say they feel stuck for snack options when it comes to real food - it can be so easy just to grab something on the run. But the perceived convenience of store-bought dips can overshadow what's inside - often, fake sugars, preservatives, hydrogenated vegetable oils and more. Not to mention the wasteful packaging.

If you have a high-powered mixing device of some kind, making your own dips is really quick and budget-friendly. You can also make extra and freeze it, ready to pull out if you have somewhere to go or people coming around (or hungry kids!).

This hommus recipe is one I used to whip up in the Thermomix before work and the beetroot and walnut dip is a current fave.


400g cooked chickpeas (if going canned, choose BPA-free if you can (see what I did there?!)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
Small handful fresh coriander (optional)

What to do

Add garlic cloves and coriander (if using) to blender and blitz up, then add chickpeas, tahini and half the lemon juice. Blend together until the chickpeas are the desired consistency. If it looks a little dry, add more lemon juice. 

If you have any leftover lemon juice, add it to a glass a water for a refreshing drink!

Beetroot and walnut dip

2 large beetroot, roasted (you can do this in advance when you're using the oven for something else, then refrigerate)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup walnuts
Half a large brown onion
Half teaspoon dried cumin
Small handful fresh coriander
Juice of half a lemon 

What to do
Peel and chop roasted beetroot and set aside. Add garlic, onion and coriander to blender and blitz up, then add all remaining ingredients and blend to desired consistency.

Real, simple food made easy.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The problem with perfection

When we want to make changes in our lives, the gap between where we are now and where we want to be can often feel overwhelming. Commonly, we go in with grand plans, give it a red-hot go for a few days, and then life takes over and all your best intentions have fallen by the wayside. I’ve done this time and time again – in the quest for perfection, I’ve gone in too strong, set unrealistic expectations of myself, and failed.

Earlier this week a bunch of lovely people came along to my first film screening, of Overfed and Undernourished. Many were well on the path of eating whole foods and ‘ticking the boxes’ of living well, so to speak. Others were just embarking on their journey of cutting out junk and overhauling their lifestyle and one lady during the Q & A asked,  “Where do I start?” To this person I say: begin with the end in mind, but be gentle on yourself.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what we all ‘should’ be doing, Marketing hype about the latest super food products, and how everyone should go Paleo (I kid!). What we often forget when we dive straight into these things, is how sustainable they are long-term, because that’s what really matters. Start with your pantry, fridge and freezer and clear out anything that no longer serves you in your commitment to getting and staying well. Focus on buying real, whole foods and keep it simple by trying one or two new recipes each week. Can’t muster the energy or time to make your own version of LCM bars for the kids this week? Check out some ideas on Wholefood Simply but if you don’t get to it until next week or the week after, that’s okay. Just set the intention and follow through. Change doesn’t have to happen all at once – and in fact I’d argue it’s more sustainable long-term if it doesn’t.

What matters is progress. If I’d waited until I had 15 minutes of quiet time to myself each day to do yoga, I’d never have a daily practice. And so often, it’s just five minutes,  often with a toddler mimicking my moves, or climbing all over me! The same can be said for this website - it needs a lot of work, but i'm not going to stop writing and sharing just because it doesn't look or function as well as i'd like it to. 

Do what you can, with what you have and be kind to yourself! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wellness Family Summit: Free online event

Attending the Wellness Summit in Melbourne was a life-changing event for me. In the two months since, I've cut out gluten from my diet completely, I practice yoga every day, and I have a renewed sense of purpose and direction. This experience has demonstrated for me just how powerful knowledge and commitment can be in taking charge of our own health.
An event based in the US, The Wellness Family Summit brings together 30 experts in the field of health and wellness to deliver talks on autoimmune disease, thyroid and adrenal health, how food affects children's behaviour, reversing leaky gut and much, much more. A free event running October 13-20, this is an amazing opportunity to expand your knowledge and create change for yourself. Below is a snapshot of just some of the presentations that are going to be available. 
If you register for the event, you'll be able to stream any presentation you like for a 48 hour period. After that, you can purchase digital access for unlimited viewing if desired.
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The event has been organised by Katie from www.wellnessmama.com who says,  “I wanted to create a resource that would make the journey easier for other families than it was for me, and that would be a one-stop resource for switching to a healthier, more natural lifestyle without breaking the bank.”
I can't wait to get stuck into it! If you're interested too - register now

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Not so plastic fantastic

Eight broken 'clam' pools, three kid's potty's, and countless pieces of water-swelled furniture are just some of the things I noticed on the nature strips of my neighborhood while out walking this morning. Each day the piles grow larger in anticipation of the council hard-rubbish collection, which happens each Spring in metropolitan Melbourne. They grow smaller too, thanks to opportunistic folk like us who cast a discerning eye over other peoples castoffs in search of something worth nabbing (a potty has been on our shopping list!).

I find I'm equal parts horrified and excited when hard-rubbish season rolls around: it's the ugly underbelly of mindless consumption en masse, where the spoils of planned obsolescence are in plain sight for all to see. The trouble is, we don't really see it for what it is. The broken printers, cheap plastic, unfashionable gadgets which were once so shiny, new and coveted, are simply replaced by more shiny, new and coveted things and so the cycle continues. 

October is Buy Nothing New Month and i'm sure it's no accident that it coincides with hard rubbish collection in many municipal councils. Keeping things out of landfill and giving them a new life is one of the great joys of hard rubbish season, I'd just love to see more conscious awareness of our consumption habits in the first place - Australians spend over $10 billion each year on goods we never use, clothes we never wear and food we never eat.

Often, mindless consumption happens because we're looking to fill a void in our lives and so we plug that void with material things. Marketing tells us that our self-worth is tied to doing or having stuff. It's all around us, and even if we're aware, it's challenging to detach from this way of thinking because in Western culture today most of us have been inoculated into a materialist consumption mindset from early childhood. 

The 1999 film Fight Club is a confronting example of the excesses of materialist consumption and this quote from the film, while bleak, sums things up pretty well I think:

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes. working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don't need." Tyler Durden, Fight Club 
So what to do? Get in touch with your true values, ask yourself if you really need or desire that next thing on your wish list, bring awareness to your spending and look to buy secondhand or borrow from a friend. Most of us have too much stuff, cluttering our homes and our minds (me included!)
"I make purchasing decisions with conscious awareness, understanding that my happiness depends on the work I do on my internal Self, not on the things I acquire."

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Overfed and Undernourished Premiere Screenings

In our society today, we seem to have lost the art of nourishing our body and listening to its innate need for real food, movement and mindful interaction with the world around us.

Overfed and Undernourished is a powerful new film that looks at how we ended up here, following the journey of a young boy from Queensland who, at age 11, was well on the path to the lifestyle diseases so prolific today; obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, asthma and ASD. Sadly, his story is not unique. The Center for Disease Prevention in the USA is predicting that this generation may be the only generation in modern history where the kids may not outlive their parents. Dr. David Katz from Yale University predicts that if this trend continues, there will be more premature deaths from poor eating, obesity and lack of activity among our youth than from smoking, drugs and alcohol combined. It's pretty scary stuff. 

But there is hope - the simple changes we can make as parents, grandparents, relatives and friends will shape our children's health in the future. The village that raises a child can also empower the child to see beyond food marketing, to understand what truly fuels their body; to get off the computer and enjoying the outdoors; and to have fun learning about growing and cooking real food. 

Please join me for special Melbourne screenings of the film, with Dr Damian Kristof, co-founder of thewellnesscouch.com, and a Naturopath and Chiropractor, as MC. 

Mornington, Wednesday 22 October, 7.30pm
Tickets: www.overfedmornington.eventbrite.com.au

Brighton, Wednesday 29 October, 7pm
Tickets: www.overfedbrighton.eventbrite.com.au 

Brunswick, Wednesday 10 December, details TBC
Tickets: Email me at bridget@suburbansandcastles.com 

All proceeds raised from the Mornington and Brighton events will be donated to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation to support the great work they do on food education in primary schools.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Gluten-free: everyone's doing it

It's been one month since we cut gluten from our diet, and I can't believe I'm saying this - I don't miss it at all. Not even a tiny bit. And I really, really, love bread.  

So what gives? I think the trick is to make the alternative so delicious that it doesn't feel like deprivation. But let me back-track a bit to the why, because based on the shelf-space and marketing claims devoted to gluten-free products these days, it seems like everyone's doing it.

The deal with gluten 
Consumption of gluten grains wheat (in particular), barley, rye and spelt (and oats) increase the production of zonulin, a protein that opens up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal wall. This allows nutrients and other molecules to enter the intestines, however if someone has a 'leaky gut' the spaces open up too much and this allows larger protein molecules to enter the bloodstream where an immunologic reaction can take place. Basically, gluten is strongly linked to poor gut health and autoimmune conditions. I have PCOS which is autoimmune in nature, and gut issues, so cutting out gluten is a no-brainer. Gut flora is passed onto babies via the birth canal, so the odds are good that Hugo's gut health isn't fantastic either, so he's on board too. And my husband? He's along for the ride, but still has bread here and there. 

So what are we eating?
Real food, much to the disappointment of food marketers keen for our gluten-free dollar. Nothing much has changed, we've just had to be a bit more organised and creative in the kitchen. For many of us, coming up with different breakfast options is a challenge when toast or cereal is just so easy, so here's a roundup of what's been on the menu instead.

(From left to right)

1. Bone broth -  As I'm working on healing my gut, this is becoming a staple in my diet (the gelatin helps to restore the lining of the digestive tract for better nutrient absorption). Served here with poached eggs, parsley and Pink salt.

2. Buckwheat Bircher muesli - buckwheat is a great substitute for oats if you're looking for breakfast cereal of sorts. I buy this one in bulk which also includes goji berries and sultanas. It's made with activated (soaked) buckwheat which is easier on the digestive system because the phytic acid in the grain has been broken down. I serve it with organic natural yoghurt, but if dairy doesn't sit well with you, coconut yoghurt/milk or almond milk (with no added sugar) are good alternatives.

3. Coconut apple crunch -This quick recipe is from an ebook called 'Rise and Shine' written by Georgia, a naturopath and blogger at Well Nourished. The book is my regular go-to, so many delicious recipes with lots of tips for substitutes for intolerances (and incidentally, empty cupboards!). This brekky features apple, almonds, shredded coconut, cinnamon and carrot. Served with natural yogurt and a choc-coconut granola also from the ebook. 

4. Kale and mushroom omelette - an omelette is a brilliant way to get some veggies in at breakfast time and provide sustained energy throughout the morning. I chop up onion and garlic and fry in coconut oil before adding some chopped kale, steamed pumpkin or sweet potato and/or sliced mushrooms. About five eggs whisked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and poured onto the veggies that are simmering away and it's nearly done. I serve with some sauerkraut, fermented cucumber or fermented carrot.

5. Breakfast salsa - This one is a twist on a recipe from the Well Nourished 'Rise and Shine' ebook that involved pulling together what was in the fridge; eggs, coriander, tomatoes, pecans, mushrooms and fermented cucumber. Have fun and experiment!  
6. Asparagus and chicken with poached eggs - it's dishes like this that remind me why I married a chef. He might not cook much anymore, but when he does it's a taste sensation! The chicken breast was sliced thinly and the asparagus lightly blanched before being added to to chicken and coated in coconut oil and chicken-y goodness.  

7. Quinoa and chia porridge - this light and warming porridge made in the Thermomix is so good. As is everything created by the amazing Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking fame. Recipe here.

8. Poached eggs with mushroom, avocado and sauerkraut - pretty self explanatory, really

9. Green (purple) smoothie - we've recently started boosting the goodness of our standard green smoothie (kale or spinach, banana, blueberries, maca powder, ice, water) by adding almonds and The Healthy Chef's organic super food and whey protein. It's a richer, smoother taste and keeps us full for ages, making it a good breakfast option, especially if you need to run out the door. 

Have you considered giving up gluten and if so, what are the biggest challenges for you?