How to really grow food in your backyard Here I share with you the secrets that have transformed me from a gardener with a not-very-productive vegie patch, to growing most of my family's fruit and veg.
Traditional Foods My health has dramatically improved after changing my diet for a more traditional way of eating, as advised by Sally Fallon.
Food Flower Poster Forget the food pyramid! It was developed by the agricultural industry, not by nutritionists. Instead, print this Food Flower poster, which shows a visual guide to choosing nutritious and satisfying traditional foods.
After I made the house cushion cover in my last post, I realised that when I wash the cover, my cushion will be bare. I hate being without it in bed, so I decided to quickly whip up a spare cover out of a piece of old sheet I had in my cupboard. I tested out the freehand sewing feature of my sewing machine and wow - I love the way the writing turned out! A nice little touch for a spare cover. Actually.. maybe I like it better than the main cover! Pity I didn't look carefully at the sheet before I cut out the pillow - there seems to be a stain centre front. Bummer.
I made this house cushion to go on my bed. My much loved reading cushion had worn out completely. I replaced it with this little house, made entirely from things I already had on hand. I think it's gorgeous.
One of the things I love most about my job as a performer, is getting to have an impact on the lives of people in the audience. I got the most charming email the other day, after my shows at The Victorian Arts Centre:
I took our 6 year old Roby to your show "Mortimer Revealed" last Sat afternoon at the Arts Centre and afterward he looked at your sets and asked me to buy your book. In the car home, he studied your book. On Monday afternoon, when I picked him up from after school care the girls told me that he had made puppet characters, two bad wizards and snow leopards that afternoon there and performed an impromptu puppet show for the 15 kids in after school care ! I just love the fact that he obviously took in your show and that it implanted the seed of inspiration for him to make and perform it himself! Thank you and well done on such a lovely show! We didn't get to see "Hatched" so would love to see it if you do another run again in Melbourne.
It's been so long since I did any art (other than writing books for Allen and Unwin, and illustrating them, which is definitely a form of art - but a commissioned one, so it counts as work), that I have gotten out of the habit. Trying to find the right headspace seemed impossible. I've wanted to make this piece for over a year, and so I wouldn't forget about it, I had a drawing tacked to the stairs, showing how it should go, complete with instructions for what colour to paint each item. I'd even assembled a kit, back when I did the drawing, of the various components I planned to use.
I sat down and got started, by doing the easiest thing: paint house black. One thing led to another and by the end of the day I was fantastically inspired - I'd gone into that special, magical headspace where I felt I could invent anything. My sister, Cal, came over half way through the day and worked with me. She made the fish, altered and painted the chook on the roof, and made gorgeous tiles for the roof of the house.
This whole piece represents my dreams - I hope one day to be able to raise my own meat, fish and honey as well as the vegies and fruit I grow now.
I'm really pleased with it - I think it looks beautiful.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
I was fascinated by The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua from the moment I read about it in Time Magazine. I was in the midst of a series of arguments with Jesse, as well as trying to work out what homeschool approach I want to take, and the book seemed to be offering me something. I got ahold of a copy and read it last weekend.
It's about a Chinese woman who was raised in America by strict Chinese parents, married an American man, and decided to raise her children the strict Chinese way. She set out to show that the Chinese method of parenting is superior to the Western method, though in the end, I think she wasn't quite so sure. One of her daughters went along with her methods (hours of rote learning, hours of piano practise every day, no sleepovers or playdates) but her second daughter refused to comply, and the household became a battleground. In the end, her second daughter won.
What I was looking for in the book was an understanding of Chinese parenting and how it works. What she says is that Chinese parents demand and expect more from their children than Western parents, and this is how they show their respect for their children. Chinese parents begin with the idea that their children are strong and tough, and need to be trained to become stronger and tougher, whereas Western parents tend to think of their children as being fragile, and worry a lot about damaging their self-esteem.
By the time I put down the book though, I realised I am far more of a Western parent than a Chinese one, and I don't really aspire to be a Chinese parent. Amy Chua reports of her struggle, after leaving school, to find what she wanted to do. To please her father she enrolled in courses such as economics, which bored her to tears. It wasn't until later she managed to find a variety of law that she could live with. Even then she wasn't passionate about it, the way her husband is passionate about his work. And I think this is the great drawback, of raising children with obedience and compliance as important values, because it makes it harder for them to look inside themselves and see what they feel passionate about.
Amy Chua points out that Western parents think they are being strict when they make their children practise a skill for half an hour to an hour every day, while Chinese parents know that the first hour is the easy one - it's hours two and three that get hard.
Well on reflection, I don't want to make Jesse practise anything for several hours a day. I do want him to practise basic skills that he is learning each day - half an hour to an hour is fine by me.
When I'd finished the book I realised what it was that I wanted from it, and I got it. I wanted the inspiration to be a bit stricter, and to demand a bit more from Jesse than I have been. I want to raise the bar and assume he has the strength and skill to do what I require. And my requirements are very much a Western Parent's dream, not the dreams of a Chinese parents.
I want him to:
- do his morning jobs without me having to harrass him. You know, the every day things like getting dressed, brushing his teeth and so on. The same with the night time.
- do his various homeschool activities without argument. Yes, be compliant and obedient. I don't need this as a great life value or focus, but for those exercises, like handwriting, ballet and guitar practise, I think it's fair enough.
And that's it. Pretty straightforward.
I was inspired by the Chinese approach to work out a way to achieve it - to demand that he work on achieving these goals at once. Before, maybe I would have gone with a gentle phase-in of expectations, and been much more flexible. Instead, I'm going with the tiger mother approach. I've put up a chart with a breakdown of everything I want, and a star system of rewards and consequences as he works towards achieving it.
Breaking the idea to Jesse was terrible - we had tears and tantrums as he was so daunted by the chart. We postponed starting for a week so that he could get in some practise. This week is official week one.. and it's taking a lot of my focus and energy to be so strict and demanding. Ouch. But I'm hoping we'll get some results soon.. results in the form of a smoother, easier daily routine, with more of my energy left for playing with Jesse and doing fun activities with him.
Anyway, if you've read it leave a comment and tell me your thoughts!