Monday, 14 December 2015
One of the reasons I love to travel, and it's an important part of my life, is that it helps me to put what I value into perspective. For this reason, the most transformative type of travel is to foreign countries. It helps me to step out of my daily patterns of living, and consider new ways of being.
This feeling came over me after our European holiday in the middle of the year. Thoughts had been bubbling away for some time but taking time out to assess what mattered the most for us as a family became a crucial piece in our puzzle.
We got to stay at three amazing places that had a profound impact on our consideration as to how we wanted to live our lives. The first was an historic mill house in the mountains near Varallo. Here we learnt to slow down and relax together as a family, as well as enjoy spending time in a smaller house but on a larger piece of land. The children roamed the garden, splashed around and built dams in a stream that flowed from a nearby waterfall, and we cleared our minds with the fresh mountain air.
Our second base was on an organic olive farm in the hills above Verona. This beautiful place left an indelible mark. Again, we were staying in accommodation with much less space than our current home but every day the children spent their days - or least wanted to - running around the farm. When we went sightseeing they were eager to return to see the horses or play with Viva, the gentlest and friendliest dog I've ever met.
The children loved picking fruit, such as peaches and figs, straight off the trees. They were mesmerised watching bees buzzing around bunches of lavender, and butterflies fluttering along the flower beds. They also enjoyed finding and smelling the different herbs that were often planted as ground cover on various parts of the farm.
Each morning we enjoyed honey made from the bees on the farm, jams from the fruit and homemade bread and yoghurt. We sat under a giant olive tree and took our time to savour and share our food, and ease into the day.
While we were acutely aware that we were on holiday - the best kind - talk started to turn more to how we could replicate more of this lifestyle at home.
Our last main stay was in an apartment in Helsinki. While it was a city base, we were living in a place that was about one-third of the size of our current house, yet it felt so much more functional. We were free of so much "stuff", we were able to engage with each other easier, and the space was light and bright.
While we love our current home, it is a typical Sydney terrace - long and narrow. It has the all-important north-facing aspect but it doesn't feel light and airy. We have designed changes to the house, which have been approved by council, with a focus on capturing more north light and creating a greater open-plan family-friendly living area. But after our holiday, we started to question if this was the path we really wanted to go down right now. It's one thing to build a beautiful house, but is it the home you really want? Where you live, and its environment, is just as important to your well-being as the four walls and the belongings that surround you.
The weekend after we returned from our overseas adventure, we started a search to buy a property in the countryside. For years we have considered moving back towards the coast but that felt too claustrophobic. We wanted to live somewhere that the children could run free, roam and explore. Having a quarter-acre block or a square patch of lawn out the back seemed like a compromise in the big-picture dream we'd had while overseas.
We looked north of Sydney, closer towards family, but inland. There was an area that we had visited previously, and that seemed to tick many boxes. It is a verdant valley with many horse farms. It is only about 90 minutes north of Sydney and 30 minutes from the coast - the same time it currently takes us to get from inner Sydney to the beaches in the east.
Every farm we visited the children wanted to run and run and run. It felt right. There was talk of tree houses, fruit trees, living a more sustainable life. It felt good, and our instincts were telling us to keep pursuing this dream.
After about four months of looking we found a place to call home. We've already learnt a lot along the way but there's still a long way to go. We're not frightened of a challenge. And we love adventure. We can't wait for our new family journey to begin.
image the indigo crew
Friday, 11 December 2015
The last of the books arrived for our advent book calendar a short while ago and the other night I finished wrapping the last of them to put on display as the selection on our mantle was growing smaller and smaller. (You can read about the other books here and here.)
I thought I'd share the last of the books as many of them would make great Christmas gifts even if you aren't or don't plan doing a future advent book calendar.
Paddington and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond
Couldn't resist when I saw this in my local bookshop. We read the original book a couple of Christmases ago, and enjoyed the film. I think this should go down nicely.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
We have many of Eric Carle's books and they always seem to strike a chord. This one was bought with the littlest in mind.
Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
A book I discovered on my search for festive titles. The story is about a tree that's alone from the others in the forest. It seems to be a story with a soul.
Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry
This book appealed as it reminded me a little of my Christmas holidays growing up as a child. Each year my mum and her sister rotated who would host Christmas. We all slept all over each other's homes but created such wonderful memories together that are still some of the strongest of my childhood.
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
Picture books don't hold as much interest to the first grader (soon to be second grade) and this one was for him. I read many good reviews before purchasing it, and hope it holds his interest and imagination.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore
A book from last year which will once again be read on Christmas Eve. It had to be the Classic Edition.
Letters from Father Christmas by J R R Tolkein
We are reading The Hobbit with School Boy every night, and he's hooked so thought this book might appeal to him, as its by the same author.
A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
While we already have one Christmas story within our collection I spotted this one after purchasing the first and was captivated by the illustrations.
Interestingly, the book that has been read the most so far is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. It's one we've had for years, but the preschooler has wanted to read it every night since it was opened. She's a big fan of Dr Seuss, in general, and recite many of the stories off by heart. It was also popular with her brother when he was younger too.
image the indigo crew
Friday, 4 December 2015
Most of the time we have fruit or fruit and yoghurt for dessert. Sometimes with a dash of maple syrup or honey. Recently we've been fortunate enough to have some honey courtesy of a neighbour's bees. However, every now and then we have a proper dessert - something baked or made from scratch. As a treat the other day, I made custard. Well, everyone wanted to help! Delicious with slices of juicy ripe nectarines. It is based on this recipe.
1 cup milk
1 cup thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/3 cup caster sugar (optional - we had it without sugar this time and sometimes we only have 1tbsp)
1. Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Add vanilla extract. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.
2. Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in heatproof bowl until well combined. Pour hot milk over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 to 15 minute or until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (Do not allow to boil as may curdle.)
images the indigo crew
Thursday, 3 December 2015
This year we might not get the chance to get a real tree. So in the meantime, we have created a craft-inspired one. It all began on Saturday when the children were asking to get a Christmas tree, again. At that stage it wasn't even December so a crafted one seemed more appropriate.
School boy likes to get really involved in these projects so he drew the star and we used that as a template for the rest. The girls helped punch the holes into the paper, and thread the pieces. And together we hung the stars in our dining room.
At this point, the children decided they wanted to hang string lights around it and create a base. It all came together in break-neck speed, but they were incredibly happy, and did individual and a group performance of "Twinkle twinkle little star".
YOU WILL NEED
Raffia paper string
String lights (optional) and masking tape to hang
1. Draw and cut a paper star.
2. Create holes on two sheets of stars.
3. Thread raffia paper string through the holes until they are back on the same hole. However, when you are about 5 holes from the end, fill with paper. Or you could insert rosemary or cloves for a nice fragrance. Tie a knot at the top and leave enough string to hang.
4. Create 15 stars so you can hang in a triangular tree formation. Hang with washi tape.
5. To hang a string light outline, you will need stronger tape, such as masking tape.
images courtesy of the indigo crew
Wednesday, 2 December 2015
I thought I'd share some more of the books that feature in our advent book calendar. I have to admit that the rest are yet to arrive! I had scoured some local bookshops and one had yet to put out Christmas books - this was two weeks ago - and my local second-hand bookshop didn't really have the sort of books I was looking for. So I bought some online and am eagerly awaiting them. However, as it turns out we only really had room on our mantel for about 12 books at a time so we're going to display the books in two acts.
Of course, even if you're not doing a book calendar, you might want to consider some of these for Christmas gifts.
See the previous post for some more Christmas-themed books.
See our advent activity calendar - which is something we definitely want to revisit again.
The Polar Express by Chris Vans Allsburg
A lovely story that I read a few times with my son last year. I seem to remember even getting a little teary.
Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Stories by Andrew Grey
A new book for the advent calendar. All the children enjoy Winnie-the-Pooh stories - although I think this may now appeal most to my preschool daughter.
The Little Christmas Elf by Nikki Shannon Smith
To keep the cost of the calendar overall a little contained (especially as I wasn't able to find second-hand books as I'd hoped), I bought a few Golden Books. There are many with good stories and they're really affordable too.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson
This is another book that I suspect will appeal most to the preschooler - as she's a big fan of Peter Rabbit.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This is a book that I bought for my son last year as it had fond memories for me as a child. As it has no text, I expect it to appeal to all of the children in some way.
The Christmas ABC by Florence Johnson
Another Golden Book that I bought with the littlest at the forefront of my mind, although I suspect the preschooler will read along too.
The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson
A sweet way to share the Christmas story with all of the children.
Tea and Sugar by Jane Jolly
I came across this book in my local bookshop and was glad to have found it. I had a quick read in-store and enjoyed the story and illustrations. Most of the Australian-themed Christmas books I had found up until then were a little heavy on cheesy observations whereas this one presents itself as a thoughtful and important historical read.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
There are fewer books that are specifically for the school boy as the ones I did find are longer, and anticipate we will read together over several nights, including this version of Charles Dickens classic story illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova.
What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin
The illustrations initially pulled me in, but then I read the story and felt it would be one that the preschooler would enjoy. And I've since realised it is by the same illustrator as Dotty Sprinkles, which the littlest loves.
images the indigo crew