Remembering nature play – on seeking wild spaces this spring.

Remembering nature play - on seeking wild spaces this spring.

Lately, it has just been Ginger and I. I am on holidays at the moment and Jason has been working, either at his new job or around the house, preparing spaces for our renovation. I have been slow with first trimester fatigue, but she has been bold: like two year olds often are. Today, we packed a rug, art materials and a few books and headed to a park with wide open spaces. I have been spending a lot of time close to home lately at familiar parks and am feeling this warmth drawing me out of myself again. I am craving nature as the heavy fog slowly lifts from around me this spring.

Ginger did not spend long on this rug with me today – she drew ‘a black sky’ with ominous clouds before taking herself off to explore her surroundings – hiding behind trees, finding flowers, poking things with sticks and chasing butterflies. She found a leaf suspended in mid-air (in truth, dangling from a spider web) and tried in vain to catch it in the breeze. We sat by a lake and explored a small stream – her little feet sinking into muddy creek beds. She threw mud, lifted big rocks, and sent ‘leaf boats’ off down the meandering brook. Yes, she got wet. Yes, she got muddy. No, she did not want to leave, even as her eyes grew weary and her little body wanted cuddles.

I have been seeking out these spaces for our adventures lately. They remind me of the bush where I was fortunate enough to spend time as a child. Wild spaces, unstructured places, filled with all manner of possibilities. There is nothing that a playground has that can compare to the calm that comes from spending time in nature. I still find myself reticent, however, protective of this child of mine, who still seems so small in comparison to the great outdoors. I must remember to trust her, and to trust nature, as my parents trusted me in turn. You want to climb down that ridge to the creek? Sure! You want to carry that stick bigger than you are? Why not? You’ll learn your limits and your capabilities, create strong muscles and a strong mind. These wild places are more enticing than any activity – more real and challenging than anything structured.

May you take solace in the natural world around you, my little one. May you seek its calm when all seems stormy. Here’s to a lot more nature play this springtime!

Remembering nature play - on seeking wild spaces.

Taking a pregnant pause – on the shifting of the seasons, of life, of time.

A pregnant pause - Sapling House

Although we are still in the thick of winter, the days are warmer and the sun shines freely. This interim time between the solstice and spring is always such a delicious season – each year I cherish the exact moment when I realise that summer is coming. Sometimes, it is a stolen moment between classes as a warm breeze envelops me, or often an accidental awakening to birdsong, the little creatures stirred earlier by the morning shortening. This year, it seems to have entirely passed me – it just dawned on me one day as I realised the acacia were blooming.

The seasons seem to pass so quickly these days, both the seasons around me and the seasons of my being. The time of a few years past seems but a lifetime away, another era, another season in the orbit of my life. As we continually move around this universe, I feel my focus shifting, my needs changing. I am no longer able to tolerate a lot that I used to, yet I am wiser in my expression and more fiercely protective of my joy. I feel like I have grown, yet embraced my inner child, inspired by the creativity and simplicity of the world of my child.

Blogging, which brings me a release and serves as catharsis, seems to have taken a backseat at the moment. I have taken a little break, a pregnant pause, if you will, as I focus on another shift that will irrevocably alter our lives again. Jason and I are expecting our second child, another little being to be loved and nourished! We are so very happy, and I so very tired, this first trimester is taking its toll. After a virtually perfect pregnancy with Ginger, this time I am more tired than I remember, and quite sick, something that I was not expecting!

As I wait out this season of my fatigue, my little blog might be a little neglected, but I need to nourish myself and be kind to my time. This little project is here to invigorate me when I need it and my posts will ebb and flow with my energy. I am so appreciative of everyone’s kind comments and I apologise if I have not replied to one of yours lately! Thank you all for your understanding and continual support!

Until next time, R xo

Simple living with kids – is it even possible?

Simple living with kids - is it even possible? From Sapling House.

I am on holidays at the moment and have been enjoying long and productive yet unhurried days. Ginger and I have been waking slowly and reading in bed before rising, whereas usually there is a mad rush to get ready and out the door for the day. I have achieved a lot around the house and ventured furthered into whole food cooking (look out for an upcoming post) and have been working on my early learning cards for an Etsy store that is nearly ready to be open (see this post for an example of what will be in store!)

As I’ve been pottering in the garden these winter days I’ve been pondering the choices that we have made in regards to living a simple lifestyle. It seems so easy and achievable until you factor in a toddler! Sometimes I think back to the time before I had Ginger and long for the simplicity that was. I could take a leisurely shower uninterrupted and easily make myself a nice nourishing breakfast. On the weekends I might have bought my vegetables at a farmer’s market with friends or had a cup of coffee at my local cafe. Sometimes I long for those wistful hours, where my mind could wander and the only concerns I had were for my immediate pleasure. Now, deep in the throes of parenting a toddler, I do wonder where that time went to… when was it that simplicity vanished and life became such a balancing act?

Nowadays, like most parents, I juggle work with child care and try to manage a household on the side. If we’re not playing at the park or running an errand, then I’m making sure my bills are paid on time to avoid excess fees or cleaning the household with bicarbonate soda and elbow grease. If I am not in the kitchen attempting to organise it then I am trying to cook something nourishing from whole food ingredients. We are in the throes of establishing a productive garden and halfway through a very basic home renovation. There are animals to be fed, a little dog to walk, clothes to be sewn and mended, and somewhere in there I must honor my daughter – give her the time and love that she needs and deserves. Sometimes, I wonder, is this simple living gig even possible when you have kids? Is the considerable amount of time that it takes to live mindfully even available when there are children to nurture?

After much pondering and soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that:

Yes, I think there is. 

I think the trick is to redefine what is meant by simple living. It is on the days when I struggle to line dry my washing as my little girl wants me to paint flowers with her that I remind myself. It is on the days when I have just finished cleaning the floor before she tips on it a bucket of sand proudly carried up the stairs by herself that I remind myself. It is on the days when I can’t cook dinner from scratch as she needs me to comfort her for whatever ills may be that I remind myself. I remind myself that simple living is not just about making your own laundry powder or baking your own bread, it is about honoring connection, love and people over possessions, obligations and things. 

The heart and soul of simple living, for me, is about honoring time. It is about honoring the time that I have to spend with my loved ones and actively prioritising this time over that which breaks my connection with them. It is about being mindful of my choices around consumption so that I may spend my time indulging my passions instead of merely giving it away. Children are part of the magic and joy of a simple life – so the key to making time for all the things that comprise ethical and environmental living is simply to involve your children with them.

Let your toddler help you make bread – let them knead the dough and feel the squish of the bubbly yeast between their fingers – they will love the simple sensory activity!

Enlist your little ones in the vegetable patch – allow them to help plant the seedlings and harvest the pumpkins – you will be teaching valuable lessons about our Earth that are no longer taught in schools.

Involve your children as you thrift for fabrics and make the trips to goodwill an irresistible affair! Instil in your children a sense of social responsibility and they will take pride in crafting a unique household.

Above all, however, remember that is okay to do none of it if the sunshine outside calls for adventures elsewhere or the birdsong inspires a morning of inquiry and investigation.

Simple living with children is simply living: involve, educate and nurture connection xox

Simple living with kids - is it even possible? Sapling House

A lesson in mindfulness from my daughter – on remembering how to be present.

A lesson in mindfulness from my daughter - on how to be truly present - Sapling House

It was a winter’s morning and the day was glorious. The sun shone low in the unclouded blue sky, its warming tendrils only just peeking through the branches of the willows and spruces that sheltered this park. We walk here often, you and I. It is not far from our little home in our little city, this old town with old houses and mature green spaces. I am grateful for these places where you can run free – where you can explore and climb and hunt for treasures to collect in your little wicker basket. You observe the leaves, the flowers, and find pinecones and seed pods. You love rocks most of all, taking after your mother, who once seriously pondered becoming a geologist. The breeze blew and ruffled your hair, you squealed with delight. You spotted your shadow on the lawn – you danced as it did. You noticed birds nesting on a branch – you shared this discovery with me, your proud mother, your smile radiating and filling me with joy. The morning was perfect. It was truly perfect. Until I decided that I wanted to capture it.

I often take photos as we go on our adventures, as you play, and as we pass our everyday. I cannot help myself – I have always been a storyteller and the visual medium is a record of memory – it turns the intangible into something to hold onto, something to delight in when the immediacy of the moment has gone. Usually you smile or happily accommodate me with my phone or my camera, taking pleasure in looking at the images and exclaiming, “Look, Mummy, Ginger!” Sometimes, you even ask for a photo and run backwards and smile as I obliging snap one. Today, however, there were so many perfect photogenic moments, so many perfect plays of light that you did not want photos. You just wanted your mother.

“No more photos, Mummy, no!” you exclaimed as you ran under the willow, your little feet sinking in the grass. “Hold my hand!” And with that, you taught me a wonderful lesson, my little girl. Sometimes it is best just to be truly present. Sometimes perfection does not need capturing. Sometimes it is enough just to be.  When I am old and you have long since left and this memory has long since faded, it will have been enough.  You are enough, I am enough. Being mindful of the moment is as important as creating stories and histories, being present is sometimes the best gift the moment deserves.

With love and gratitude, your mother xo

Everyday simplicity – how to dress ethically on a budget.

Dressing ethically - Everyday Simplicity - Sapling House

How to dress ethically while on a budget - Sapling House

How to dress ethically while on a budget - Sapling House

I love fashion. I have far too many clothes (most that I never wear) and I shudder when I think of the money I have frivolously spent over the years on clothing. I have a cupboard bursting with dresses and skirts, a garden shed full of items that long haven’t fit me, yet I still struggle to avoid the temptation of ‘fast fashion’ and its cheap promise of revitalised adornment.

This said, however, I have become far more conscious in the past few years of the need to make ethical choices. I remember reading an article that talked about the international garment industry and I was horrified at the true cost of that six dollar skirt or ten dollar top. I was shocked at the environmental impact of the garment industry and resolved then and there to make conscious decisions about how I clothe my family. Although I am not always able to be rigid with these tenets – below are the ways I try to dress ethically on a budget.

Mend and make do: By far the most ethical and environmental choice concerning clothing is to mend and make do with what you have. I’ve taken to sewing small tears in leggings (whereas usually I would just buy new ones) and actually darning the holes in my socks! I make do with the items I have in my closet and think about ways that I could wear them differently. Maybe I could pair this top with that skirt or accessorise with different jewellery? Repairing and reworking are the top two ways that I try to keep myself dressed in a way that I like now that we live on a part-time income.

Buying second-hand: Second hand clothes will be your staples when dressing ethically on a budget. Thrifting or op-shopping does not have to be a chore – I liken it to a wonderful adventure – you’re never sure of what treasures you will find! Most thrift stores these days only stock quality clothing and my wardrobe is made up of vintage finds. I’ve always enjoyed reinventing pieces of the past and putting my own spin on clothes that others have discarded – it feels wonderful to dress in a way that does not encourage the mindless consumption of resources. The two dresses for Ginger pictured at the top of this post were both thrifted and each cost no more than a few dollars. Do not feel that you are limited to the musty nanna shop, however: vintage stores (while more expensive) have wonderful pieces that are unique and interesting . I have also held and attended various clothes swaps over the years where a group of friends pools and exchanges their unwanted garments.

Learning to sew: I could write a whole series on learning to sew – it has been such a fun ride. So far I have sewn many little tops and dresses for Ginger and only two dresses for myself. It is not necessarily hard (but it is time consuming) however there is the potential to create quality pieces that reflect both your style and your figure. There are so many wonderful sewing blogs that offer pattern sew-a-longs (which is how I have been learning) that all you really need is the will. If you choose organic fabrics (or even better, vintage – like the fabric in the top photo that I plan to turn into a summer dress this spring,) then this is one of the most affordable yet satisfying options for dressing ethically.

Purchasing from small, independent, ethical fashion labels: I like to support small handmade businesses. There is no shortage of indie designers who sew their garments themselves or who make it a point to source ethical manufacturing. A little while ago I won a giveaway for Fabrik over at This Brown Wren  (see the beautiful Bazaar dress below!) and it reminded me that if I was willing to spend a little more for something truly beautiful then I could have my cake and eat it too! I just can’t do it as often, but that does not bother me so much anymore.

The steps to thriving while living a simple life sometimes seem overwhelming. It is truly these everyday choices, however, that do have the biggest impact. The more that we can limit our needless consumption the more that the health of our planet and the people in it can be preserved.

As an aside – I’m really, REALLY loving Instagram! I can’t believe it took me so long to discover it – it is such an easy way to share snippets of our days when blogging seems onerous.  Follow me here and feel free to join in with the hashtag #everydaysimplicty 

How to dress ethically on a budget - Sapling House

Creating a birthday tradition – a yearly letter from mother to daughter.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

When I was pregnant, I bought this simple brown notebook. I enjoy writing and wanted it to be a place to journal my pregnancy. Instead, all that was inscribed was a letter to my unborn child on the eve of the new year. I wrote about what I was looking forward to and what I was hoping for, I wrote of my fears and my excitement. Jason wrote a letter as well – his own words, his own message. I decided then and there that this would be a yearly tradition. On the eve of my little daughter’s birth, the winter solstice dark and cold, I would write a letter reflecting, appreciating, chronicling the year that has been. I would write to my child and share with them my thoughts, share my love in a way that only a mother can.

I sat down to write this letter this night just gone as yesterday was Ginger’s birthday. My little baby girl, my winter miracle, turned two years old and I can hardly believe it. These two years have been unlike any that have gone before. Becoming a mother has changed me in so many wonderful ways – it has taught me to appreciate what is truly important in life and has opened my eyes to what is worth fighting for. It has helped me return to my values and reignited passions that had long since been dormant – namely, my creativity. Motherhood is not always easy and is often hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it away for the world. The simple things bring children joy – your time, your presence, your love; and these are the things I have come to cherish too. I told Ginger this is my letter, told her how much I am appreciating the person she is and the ways that she is in the world. I told her I loved her, in the way that only parents know, I told her how happy I am to have her in my life.

I hope to keep this journal safe and write my messages year after year, one day to be gifted to her when she is apt to appreciate it. Perhaps when she becomes a mother herself, perhaps at a time when she needs to hear love. A little yearly birthday tradition – a little letter from mother to daughter.

In other news: I finally caved and joined Instagram! I’m really loving the immediacy of the platform and have been enjoying sharing a few shots here and there. Follow me at http://instagram.com/saplinghouse 

Here are a few Instagram photos from Ginger’s birthday yesterday – she loved twirling in the winter sun and LOVED her new sandpit! Oh, the simple joys of childhood xo

Sandpit play! - Sapling House

Twirling in the winter sun - Sapling House

Everyday simplicity: little choices for living large.

Everyday Simplicity - little choices for living large. [Sapling House]

Everyday simplicity - little choices for living large [Sapling House]

I’ve been thinking of a way to help me focus my energy while dwelling in this space – blogging is such a satisfying (albeit self-indulgent) way to reflect on the world and there is so much that I want to say. I am a typical creative – I have a thousand thoughts, schemes, dreams and projects on the go at any one time and, being a lover of storytelling in all its forms, I want to share them all with whomever will listen. Oftentimes, however, I become overwhelmed with all there is I want to express so instead I will simply say nothing at all.

I started this blog as a way to document the different activities I did with my daughter – I quickly realised I wanted Sapling House to be more than this – I wanted it to be a journal to keep myself accountable – a place where I could reflect on my choices and that could be a sounding board for my values. Jason and I have made deliberate choices and although they may not be revolutionary, they are ours. Buy a small house and do not cripple ourselves with debt. Nourish our home, our children and each other with wholesome food and wholesome pursuits. Work less and follow our dreams. Tread lightly upon the Earth.

That said, we do fall into the traps of commercialism. We fall prey to convenience and spend more than we should. These things keep us from our goals, keep us from home and our real desires. Enter Everyday Simplicity – a series of posts where I document my choices. I have decided to write this series as a way of keeping myself on this path I have chosen – as  a way to keep me accountable to my dreams.  I will write of those small choices that we make; the little everyday things we do to tread lightly, to save money, to nourish and to thrive. Living simply does not mean going without – it means frugality but it also mean freedom. I’m thinking of posts about food, cleaning, organisation and clutter – about transport and home management and budgeting and more. Of course, about play and family and love and ‘the moment.’

I think it’s important to note that this is not a how-to series,  it is not a benchmark for anyone to live up to. It is not a competition and it is not a race. It is merely our journey, and it will most likely be a slow one. There will be posts in between, reflections and ramblings: this is merely my way of organising my thoughts – everyday simplicity – everyday choices. I hope you enjoy my rants as much as Ginger above loves ‘her pigs’ – those hand-me-down fleece pyjamas that she loves so much she won’t wear anything else to bed!

Much love on your journeys –

R xo

Everyday Simplicity - little choices for living large. [Sapling House]

 

 

Winter – a time to slow down.

Lemon Myrtle - Sapling House

Things have been a little quiet here at Sapling House lately – winter is well and truly upon us and I find this time of year I tend to slow down. Instead of being ‘productive’ in my down time, I like to drink tea and read books and snuggle under covers with a good series to watch. We’ve been relishing in our own kind of slow lately – long mornings with Play School and blocks and sunshine on the deck, afternoons chasing balls in the garden or baking various treats in the kitchen.  Our first radish and silverbeet seeds are sprouting and I finally found a lemon myrtle sapling.

Oh, lemon myrtle, how you have eluded me! I have been searching for a sapling for some time to complete the row of productive plants at the rear of our yard, however they are surprisingly rare and very hard to source. I have long had a place earmarked for this myrtle, both close to the deck so I can pick leaves easily for tea and in a position where it will screen us from neighbours; but, until last Saturday, this place was vacant, lonely, empty – just waiting. It was only when I was leaving a market (that I do not usually attend,) arms and pram full of produce and toddler-essentials, that this beautiful specimen leaped out and found me! I struggled to carry it the fifteen minutes to the car, but I persevered, and now it is home, about to be planted out this very afternoon.

Winter, you are glorious. Here’s to warm cups of fresh lemon myrtle tea:)

 

Rediscovering the joys of baking: cacao, coconut and banana muffins.

Eating clean - Sapling House

banana muffins (1 of 1)

Baking is something I have always enjoyed. Whether roasting apples for a crumble or grinding peanut butter for a cheesecake, I love the magic and science of baking. It is a sort of alchemy that is not lost on me – a simple pleasure that brings joy to my home. Since becoming a mother and returning to work, baking is something that I have not often indulged in. Like everything these days, I must carve out time in my life for it, often multi-tasking and negotiating is involved, given the small and confined space of our kitchen!

I was inspired, however, after been referred to the wonderful blog Wholefood Simply by a friend. Bianca’s gorgeous words, photographs and recipes were enough to reignite my interest and have me getting out the food processor. I am trying to follow a reduced-grain diet (that’s another post for another day) and Bianca’s recipes use coconut flour and fruit as a sweetener. I took her banana bread recipe (here) and added some cacao powder, chia seeds and pecans to the mix. I baked them as muffins so that Ginger could have small portions; that said, the batch did not even last the day! She helped me to make them and between her and her father they were gone by the evening. Next time, I must double the batch!

banana muffins (1 of 1)-2

Exploring colour – matching minerals with our colour cards.

Exploring colour - matching minerals with colour cards [Sapling House]

minerals (20 of 20)

Exploring colour - matching minerals with our colour cards [Sapling House]

Exploring colours - matching minerals with our colour cards - Sapling House

Exploring colour - matching minerals with our colour cards [Sapling House]

Exploring colour - matching minerals with our colour cards [Sapling House]

I’ve been extending Ginger’s interest in colour during her play recently. She brings me the colour matching botanical cards that I made for her daily (read about them here) so I thought I would vary this activity using a variety of different coloured minerals. I love including natural elements in play for Ginger to discover and I was inspired by a co-op day that we attended yesterday (hosted by Rachel from Racheous, a lovely local mum and blogger.) At the co-op the children looked at various minerals and played with them on mirrors with magnifying glasses. Ginger was delighted to explore their colours and shapes so I picked up a few specimens to play with at home.

Well, it was a hit! Her ability to match the colours was amazing – she correctly matched them the first time after she lay out the cards. She said the names of the colours and carefully put the minerals in front of them. She then returned the rocks to the bowl and repeated the activity three times without prompting. The most surprising thing, however, was when I started to count the rocks and she counted independently to ten! She is showing an increasing awareness of numbers and letters (pointing them out in signs everywhere we go) so that shall be my next project.

I am loving exploring this method of teaching and learning – it is so different to the types of things I do in my secondary classrooms. The mind of the young child is such a sponge – it is a lot of fun to engage at this level and see the delight and joy on her face when she finishes. “Done!” she exclaims, with a big smile and a happy clap. The photo below was taken as she went to complete the activity again. Oh, I am such a proud mother, forgive me!

Exploring colour - matching minerals with our colour cards [Sapling House]