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another story about my Mum

Mum in 1941
Mum in 1941

For me, writing is one of the best ways to deal with the gradual and deeply painful loss of of my beautiful Mum to dementia. When I was finishing my writing degree at Uni a few years ago, I wrote about her almost continuously. She hadn’t deteriorated much at that point, but I didn’t know that. When you’re losing someone, you become so caught up in what’s been lost, that you don’t always stop to consider what remains. I didn’t grasp the full potential of where she would end up back then, of how far her mind and body would fail. I still don’t think I do.

Some days the shadow of dementia just drifts over her like a gradually shifting tide, and the next it’s a crashing ocean. The only certainty in her life, is the downward spiral, and it all feels so tragic and pointless.

But she’s given me a heart full of amazing memories, and a never ending stream of inspiration for the path I’m on as a Mother today.

She was a real textbook Mum. The kind that everyone wants. She has always been a peaceful person, full of grace and warmth and love. I was taller than she was by the time I turned eleven, which I thought was hilarious. Sunken living rooms were all the rage back then (so was the word rage). She would hug me a lot, with me in the sunken room, and her on the step, so that I could continue to feel like her baby, even though my body was becoming so long. She would tuck me into bed so tightly that I could barely move or breathe, and it felt amazing. I can remember a few unstable points in my adult life when I stayed with her and Dad, and she would do the same thing.

I don’t remember her ever raising her voice at any of us (I was one of four), and I know now what a superhuman feat that was. She studied and worked full time from when I was 5. She ran a stupidly efficient home, which I have only recently come to fully appreciate. She taught me how to do and love many things. My passion for cooking stems directly from her. I love to bake. I don’t actually remember her baking a lot, but she always encouraged us to bake. I think there is a link between that and ‘running a stupidly efficient home’! She created so many food traditions for us, which have influenced how I cook for my family today. She had lots of creative hobbies, but nothing self indulgent. Nothing she couldn’t do while teaching one of us to do the same thing, or have a meaningful conversation with one or all of us at the same time.

She was a phenomenal Mum, an inspirational person, and is constantly in my thoughts. Happy Mothers Day beautiful lady, you are, and always will be the most amazing Mum in the universe to me.

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heigh-ho, heigh-ho…

image After a two year hiatus in my paid working life, I started back at the hospital last Friday. It’s my second return to work after a long break, and a lot of thought went into the decision to return. The past 18 months for me has been a time of slowing down, of healing, of purposefully looking after myself and creating a space within our home which prioritised not becoming overwhelmed with crazy schedules and life. A space which focused on drawing together our little family in a positive, happy and peaceful way. It’s definitely not always peaceful, but that has always been my goal. There were lots of reasons which led me back to work. The first being the uncertainty within the mining sector at the moment. As a single income family relying entirely on the mining industry, things have felt unsettled for some time. We needed a plan B. The second reason was that as a nurse, if you don’t practice for a while, you lose your registration. ‘A while’ is actually 5 years, but as time has slipped by, I realised that 5 years could pass in a blink, and there we are. The third, and most surprising reason for me, was that I was beginning to miss it. This was the interesting thing on Friday, because although I felt like a fish out of water for most of the day, it was beyond lovely to be completely appreciated for what I did. Nothing against partners and children, but when you can solve a problem like getting on top of the worst pain someone has ever had, and they grab your hand, stare into your eyes and thank you for being there, it kind of feels pretty special. I don’t really believe in conventional medicine in my personal life. It has a place, but it’s rarely my first port of call when someone in my circle is sick. It doesn’t really align with my view of how to look after your health…at all. It’s a system of disease management, of symptom relief, not really health care. It’s always been that way for me, but it’s only something I’ve consciously acknowledged quite recently. I thought I would have a real problem internally rationalising my work and my beliefs now. But nursing is about people, and about caring, and I don’t actively associate my personal beliefs with my work when I’m nursing…and it’s OK. As I walked back to the train station after my first shift, I was buzzing with excitement. Partly because I’d done it, I’d finished a shift, but also because deep inside of me I acknowledged this lifelong connection to myself as a nurse. My legs were aching, my house was a mess, and I only just made it back to school in time to pick up the boys, but I felt good. I am a nurse. It’s been a part of who I am for a really long time, and surprisingly to me, it still is. Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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a simple childhood

a simple life
a simple life

Every so often I find myself thinking about the simple things in life which will create lasting memories for my kids, and how I can make them happen. I wonder which adventures will be the ones imprinted in their memories forever, generating those really special feelings about their childhood. It usually crosses my mind when it seems as though we are in the midst of one of those moments, and I feel deeply happy about it.

But I can absolutely guarantee, that although my own parents would have loved the sight of me and my siblings enjoying the simple things in life, that not a whole lot of thought would have gone into the creation of that moment, or into where that moment would end up in the grand scheme of lifelong memories. Why is that? Why do I spend time thinking about family traditions, and ways to create great childhood memories, when it seemed to just happen quite naturally thirty or forty years ago.

I think it’s because life was inherently more simple in the seventies. That’s my memory of it anyway. Those ‘towel over the shoulder, bike riding to the sea’ memories were a dime a dozen. Sunday picnics in the park happened more often than not in the warmer months, and camping was the natural form of most family holidays. Alternatively in our family, we would head across the Nullabor plain to visit relatives on the other side. We would listen to Abba, tear Mintie wrappers into the longest strips possible, and play ‘I spy’ for hours on end, to entertain ourselves during the 36 hour drive. Once there, it would be a total farm life experience. We would feed chickens, shoot guns, ride on harvesters, and do all the stuff city slickers rarely get the opportunity to do. Amazing memories. Nothing fancy. None of us needed to be reminded to ‘stay present’ or to ‘live in the moment’. Simplicity just seemed to happen, and we were there to experience every second of it.

Today it feels as though all of the simple things I crave for my family, need to be sought…and then created. Life has evolved into something so complex, that it needs to be consciously pared back to reveal the basics.

There are probably loads of factors influencing the shift; an obsession with consumerism and overindulgence, our need to be in a permanent state of ‘busy’ to name a few. But in my mind, technology is the greatest threat to a simple, wondrous childhood and life full of sweet memories. Technology, mostly screens, consume us. Our minds and our time is consumed, and our energy and creativity is diverted and sapped like never before. Children role model on screen obsessed parents who are unable to sit for more than a few moments without checking a device or looking for entertainment. There is an entire generation of young people unable to walk around without being physically connected to a device, and essentially disconnected from the world. No-one is denying the problem, I’m pointing a finger directly at myself as I write this…but it’s not something which will change without conscious effort. I would suggest that it’s one of the main reasons that so many of us are seeking lives less influenced by the rush of modern life, and more inspired by the traditions of the past. A life for our kids which somehow reflects the childhoods we remember.

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best ever grain-free Anzac biscuits

It’s Anzac Day this Saturday, and a very special 100 year Remembrance Day for all of the men and women who fought and served at Gallipoli in World War I. (Anzac Day is about all of the Australians and New Zealanders who have served or lost their lives in all wars).

I find it quite incredible to think that only a couple of generations separate us from World War I. It is really very recent history. My own paternal grandmother who died a couple of years ago, was a small girl in 1915, and that is astounding to me.

My connection to her life is limited. I didn’t see her very often, as she lived in another part of the country. When I did, it never occurred to me to try and delve into what must have been a fascinating insight into the entire goings on of the 20th century. I was far more interested in her freshly baked bread, homemade apricot jam, and thick freshly skimmed cream…a wonderful memory in its own right.

I don’t know if she would have been interested in sharing her past, or speaking about how the ‘Great’ Wars affected her life. For those who have lived through them, it’s probably a mixed bag of emotions and memories. Some they want to share, and some they don’t. Most of us will never know the full story, or really know the pain of war. So instead we remember. We remember who they were, and what they did, on this special day of remembering.

Lest we forget.

Delicious Anzac bickies
Delicious Anzac bickies

I created and published this recipe last year, and I’ve been making them fairly regularly ever since. Sometimes I make them with honey, sometimes with golden syrup, sometimes with both. They are all delicious.

Grain-free Anzac Biscuits

1 cup of shredded coconut
1/2 cup of rapadura sugar (or any other sugar you prefer)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup of roughly chopped raw almonds
125g butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup (or honey)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons of boiling water

Combine all dry ingredients. Melt butter and golden syrup/honey over low heat until melted. Mix bicarb soda with boiling water and add to melted butter mix. Then stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Take spoonfuls of mix and place on greased tray. Flatten out each bickie. Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, then cool on a tray. They harden up as they cool. Enjoy!
Makes about 20

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a moon of honey

There is slowing down, and then there is stopping altogether…all of the usual bits of life paused and gently reset.

Last week we flew home from our honeymoon, or our ‘moon of honey’ as my brother referred to it. And what an absolutely lovely concept the moon of honey is. The sweetness of new marriage, celebrated during the changing phases of the moon. Generally a full month of sweetness, before the reality of regular life seeps between you. When you consider how nurturing and healing pure ‘couple time’ can be, it’s clear that honeymoons are something which don’t happen often enough.

As we flew home, I decided quite unilaterally that we should make it an annual event. I haven’t formally announced my plan, but I’m not imagining much resistance, at least not from my husband. It was just so peaceful and rejuvenating. Perhaps that’s why people renew their vows regularly. To recapture the newness. To reconnect with the moon of honey feelings buried under stress and schedules. Perhaps. Or maybe it’s to amplify those positive feelings that can grow within a marriage, not allowing complacency to slip in and weaken the bonds of love. Either way, a wonderous thing.

Below is a taste of Desa Seni, a yoga resort in Canggu Bali, which we discovered and fell in love with.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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wholefoodie classes in Perth

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Nikki of The Wholefood Hub is running a series of classes during May and June here in Perth, so I thought I’d give her a bit of a shout out, as bookings are now open and they sound fantastic!

The following classes are scheduled for Monday evenings, and will be run in the funky and centrally located Mt Lawley/Highgate area.

Bringing Fermented Foods into your Home
Sourdough Bread Making and Fermenting Grains
Wholefoods and Holistic Health for Busy People

The classes are small, so book asap, right here

If you book by Friday April 10th, you will receive Nikki’s Earlybird Special. A goodie bag filled with samples, a free shipping voucher for an order on the night and you’ll be
ensured the best available seating.

Got any queries, contact Nikki via email info@wholefoodhub.com.au or on 0400 884 404

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Nikki Di Costa, the Wholefood Hub founder and nutrition and holistic health coach (CHEK HLC2), evolved her career as a Pharmacist and University Lecturer in order to offer a more integrative and holistic approach when coaching and motivating clients towards positive health change. Nikki is also a passionate mother of 3 small children so knows all too well the juggle of health within a busy life.

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that sugar film

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I’ve just spent a very enjoyable evening at the movies, watching a documentary which has made my heart sing. The film ‘That Sugar Film’, is so closely aligned with the real food movement (which I am passionate about), that I felt both inspired and hopeful that change is coming…and not before time.

3 years ago, Australian actor/now also film director and producer Damon Gameau, began an experiment on himself to monitor the physical effects of consuming 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. This is the average amount of sugar eaten by Australians. Most of the sugar consumed is hidden in processed foods. Gameau had absolutely no trouble filling his sugar quota using what would conventionally be seen as healthy foods. He didn’t eat any junk food. He ate breakfast cereals, he drank fruit juice and fruit smoothies, and an abundance of supermarket foods, such as pasta sauces and salad dressings etc which are all ladened with hidden sugars.

His experiment lasted for 60 days, and the decline in his health was marked. His liver function deteriorated to the point of him developing a fatty liver, with scarring and the beginnings of cirrhosis. He became pre-diabetic, and put on a huge amount of weight almost entirely around his belly, despite his overall calorie load not actually changing from his pre-experiment intake. His moods yo-yoed, and he looked and felt terrible. He also lost all motivation for activity. As the physical changes started to happen, Gameau realised the power of the message he was creating, and the possibilities of this experiment becoming something of significance. What started as a home movie, now had the potential of becoming an international success, and changing lives.

For me, the message of the film was not a great revelation, but it was still quite shocking. The concept of going from healthy to seriously unhealthy, with foods which are widely accepted as ‘healthy’, was interesting and quite unique. What was really inspiring for me, was the feeling in the cinema, that the groundswell of support for a shift away from processed food is growing. In my mind, the real food movement is the next logical step, and it makes my heart sing.

The film is being released nationally this Thursday March 26th, and the DVD will be released mid 2015.

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DIY corner

I never imagined that this would become a space for DIY talk, but the last few weeks here have seen me on the tools, and as happy as a lark about it.

We have a very “homely” (read run-down) 1950’s house, and we recently started a small renovation project in our kitchen. All of the tradies who looked at the area encouraged us to get rid of everything and start from scratch, which we didn’t want to do, so the decision was made to pursue the DIY route. This meant that my tiling skills went from none to some in a very short period of time. The whole process was surprisingly enlightening.

Post demolition
Post demolition

I discovered that tiling is a very peaceful pursuit. I am a really slow and methodical tiler, and obviously no-one had commissioned me to do the work, so there was absolutely no pressure. I had the prerequisite tradie’s radio, floating atmospheric music around me as I worked which was so calming. The whole feel of the job was very creative, which in turn made me smile, and be even more at peace in my little tiling world.

It also made me think. I had to really contemplate the more complex points, and each new section demanded decisions and planning. My tiling debut wasn’t a simple flat square job. It was quite a challenging project. I was expecting it to be difficult, but I didn’t anticipate the amount of thought I would have to put into it.

The tiling fun has begun
The tiling fun has begun

Lastly and probably because of the previous point, it was deeply satisfying. Every step of the way saw me learning and performing completely new skills, and the satisfaction of that was huge. I probably spent more time admiring my work than I did actually doing it.

Having the time to complete a project is so rewarding, and then to sit back and enjoy your handiwork while you contemplate your next one is even better.
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growing stuff

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"Terry"
Terry the turnip next to a good sized cabbage

This enormous turnip came out of our garden a while back. I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I left it in the ground to just keep growing and growing…subconsciously, I was hoping for an ad to pop up in the local paper saying something along the lines of, ‘Come and show your super-sized turnip at the local fair this weekend. Compete with the greatest turnip growers in the region’. The ad never came. The turnip kept growing, and becoming more and more woody and unpalatable by the day. It was so ridiculously large, that it became a fairground attraction in its own right, a daily source of amusement for the kids as it burst further and further from the ground.

Growing stuff is such a sweet pastime, and as the heat drifts out of the days here, I am feeling inspired again to be out there amongst it all, digging my hands into the earth, rebuilding the parched soil in the vegetable patch, and really getting things going again.

Trying to grow veges in the heat of the Perth summer is a tough gig. We’ve had an abundance of kale, rocket, celery and tomatoes, but not much else. I don’t think turnips will make it into the patch again this season…or ever again.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT