A Natural Skincare Routine

If you’re anything like me, you get to the bathroom to clean your teeth at the later end of the evening, stare at yourself and your bedraggled hair in the mirror and think, I should wash my face and do all those things that other people do to look after the face that is going to be on the front of my head for my entire life. Then you spit your toothpaste out and go to bed. I don’t wear makeup often which helps to encourage this c’est la vie, shrug-of-the-shoulders kind of attitude.

Part of my skincare dilemma is finding products that fit with my ethos. I don’t use any products tested on animals, I like to avoid palm oil and I don’t like using products with nasty things in them. Sometimes I have bought things from local markets and so on, only to find that stall is not there the next time I need the product. So more often than not I’ve thrown up my hands and put skincare in the too-hard basket. And gone to bed.

When I was offered some products from biome* recently, and knew it was my chance. I have been an affiliate for biome for a number of years, and continue to be impressed. They have recently declared themselves to be palm oil free and have written a post* explaining the truths behind the use of palm oil (and its so-called ‘sustainable’ derivatives). Initially, I thought about choosing cleaning products (as you do) but then, after careful consideration I decided, to hell with it, I’m going all out for me and my face.

I chose*:

// cedar + stone hemp and rose foaming cleanser

// clay face block

// vegan skin food moisturiser

// tinderbox orange flower toner

I’ve spent the last couple of months using these products and getting a feel for them, and I am genuinely happy with all of them. I absolutely love the vegan skin food in particular, but it is quite heavy, which I like as I feel as though it is really nourishing my skin, however if a thick moisturiser isn’t for you, you could try another from their moisturiser range*. The foaming cleanser is beautiful and fresh feeling, and the clay face block (of which I wasn’t sure what to except) is surprisingly easy on the skin, leaving my face feeling revitalised. I often grab the orange flower toner throughout the day, when I need a bit of a pep up. It’s safe to say I’m now someone who has a solid morning and evening skin care routine! It has only taken me 35 years…

I want to mention that I am regularly offered products for trial, from linen to books to gift vouchers and so on. I think in all the years I have been blogging I have said yes to three things, these products from biome* being one. I strongly believe in biome products and this is the only reason I accepted their offer. I am not interested in spending time blogging about products I don’t personally find value in, and which don’t fit with my ethical beliefs.I will  absolutely be purchasing all of the items I trialled once mine have run out. Phew, political statement over!

If you’re looking for a new skin care range for yourself, or a little eco-friendly something for Christmas gifts (books, lunch boxes, drink bottles, the list goes on), I would highly recommend you have a look at biome* and see what you think.

*If you purchase something using my affiliate links I will earn a small commission. I will only ever use affiliate links for things I use and enjoy myself in my own home, for my own family. Thank you so much for your support. 

Weekend Bounty

Today was a hard slog, after spending the weekend in beautiful South Gippy. I ran a squillion errands, did the food shop, bought vata-reducing tea (!), dropped kids here there and everywhere, drove around so the baby could have a sleep (seeing as she refuses to sleep anywhere else in the day time anymore), went to Spotlight (that is a story in itself), washed dishes, put a load of clothes in the wash, put my pyjamas on at 3.45pm and closed all the curtains in case someone walked past, then got dressed again at 4pm because I felt slovenly. Then I started on dinner (think I’ve finally nailed a veggie bolognese sauce with sweet potato and lentils).

We brought back mountains of homegrown food: broadbeans, lemons (lots), broccoli, cabbage and various herbs. This week I have to decide what to do with it all. We ate all the broadbeans and broccoli last night, lightly blanched with roasted sweet potato, hommus, avocado and a jasmine rice/quinoa blend. The perfect throw together meal. The cabbage and herbs will get thrown in amongst other veg and eaten over the next couple of days.

My main challenge now is the lemons. I’ll make lemon bliss balls (always with oats instead of cashews due to no nut policies at school), lemon cake (maybe this one). I’ll have lemons every day in hot water, lemon juice on untraditional dahl, lemon in our hommus, and I’ll still have so many left over – if you know me and want some, please let me know! One of the things I love most about eating seasonally is discovering new recipes and planning out what to do with a glut of various things. Yesterday before we came home Mum cooked up a huge bowlful of artichokes, freshly picked from the garden an hour prior. They. Were. Delicious. We had to google how to prepare them, and now I know for next time!

Today I was feeling good while I moved through the morning tasks, but this afternoon my mood dipped a bit. I already miss the hills from the weekend. The quiet, the space. The familiar holiday come down, even though we were only gone five days. I opened our backdoor and tried to emulate the feeling, the flowing movement from in to out and out to in as the girls donned their gumboots and traipsed around the garden and came and went as they pleased. I know people say you can live a life connected to nature in the suburbs, and I believe to an extent this is absolutely true, but it is definitely not the same as life outside the city where you have to work with nature in order to survive. Here, if we ignore nature, nothing really happens that is drastic enough to impact our day to day life. There, the garden would swallow you in an instant if left untended.

Do you know what I mean?

Stop / Listen

We’ve been away at Mum’s for the long weekend. I stood in the centre of the veggie patch at dusk last night. At first, I thought I could hear a car in the distance, then I realised it was just the wind. As far as my ears could reach, I could only hear the wind moving through the air.

I craned my head in every direction. Towards the great, rolling farm valley in front of me. Towards the pine line along the fence to the right of me. Towards the road and the house to the left of me. Towards the top paddock and the hill behind me.

I never knew the sound of the wind, until it was the only thing I could hear. Stripped of suburban noises, the oceanic waves of the breeze filled my ears; thick, heavy and loud. I could hear the direction the wind was coming from. I could hear it roll over the top of the hill and cascade down, down, down towards the bottom of the valley. I could hear it move through individual trees, the different timbre of each individual leaf.

Then, as I stood and opened my eyes to the wide sky and my ears to the cascading valley, I could hear other things. Frogs, birds (a million birds), twigs crackling, cows, grass moving, insects humming. Tiny, miniature sounds.

In the suburbs I hear the buzzing of the lights, the cars, the buses, the planes, other humans (a trillion humans), footsteps, yelling, talking, showers, electricity, doors closing, doors opening, emails pinging, phones ringing.

Underneath it all is a cacophony of natural noises, drowned out by our oblivious racket.

Tonight I stood on my back deck. Craning my head in every direction. Towards the backyard in front of me and below me. Towards my neighbours to the right of me. Towards my neighbours to the left of me. Towards the road and the house behind me.

I lifted up the sounds of the cars, of my neighbours settling down, of televisions and voices, of that vague humming that seems to be found in congested human places. Underneath it all I started to hear the birds (plenty of birds), the evening insects, creatures exploring my compost in the garden, flowers going to sleep, ducks down by the creek, and the wind softly moving through the leaves.

Stop. Listen.

Here I Am

Spring arrived, picked me up and bundled me along, pushing and nudging me out of my Wintery slumber. Here I am, mid Spring and finally feeling as though I can turn my face to the sky and contemplate a future that involves sunshine and summer and Christmas and good things. It was a long Winter in this neck of the woods, and even today I have my slippers on and the doors closed against grey outside.

A new chapter of life is unfolding for us. A life with small children, and no babies. It saddens me that I am no longer a mother of babies, but it’s also exciting watching our lives change slowly as the girls become more independent. There’s a glimpse of a future that doesn’t involve the hard physical work of babies and toddlers. I haven’t been writing much lately, if I’m being honest, I picked up my pen and journal on Monday night for the first time in almost two months. So here’s a little exercise to get the words flowing again. It feels good to be back in this space.

Here’s what I’m…

Making: a mess in my kitchen (but also, apricot bliss balls and coffee)
Cooking: pumpkin soup
Reading: Mary Oliver everything
Trawling: Yoga websites, continually, planning my final assessment class!
Wanting: a caravan
Looking: at the clouds and longing for the sun to reappear
Deciding: on plans for next year, new beginnings and a fresh start
Wishing: for summer holidays
Enjoying: podcasts, like this one, this one and this one
Waiting: for my Dad to arrive for lunch
Liking: meditation, daily
Wondering: big questions about life, always
Loving: going to bed earlier
Pondering: whether I could ever be a morning person
Listening: to Ziggy Alberts on repeat, it makes me happy
Considering: cancelling all my plans and running away to South Gippsland
Buying: essential oils
Watching: youtube!
Hoping: for some sunshine this week
Marvelling: at my growing girls and their ever-changing ways
Cringing: at my washing pile
Needing: nothing
Smelling: wet soil after the rain overnight
Wearing: leggin’s and slippers, classy
Noticing: how quickly the little banksia seedling we planted is growing
Knowing: that everything will be ok
Trouble-shooting: my over-thinking brain
Thinking: all the thoughts, always and forever
Admiring: spring blooms
Bookmarking: articles like We Can’t Survive In a State of Constant Agitation
Opening: a bottle of wine… later…
Closing: the door on an anxious and draining couple of months
Feeling: like I’m nearly there
Dreaming: of a fresh start in 2018
Hearing: my King Parrot friend complaining that we have run out of sunflower seeds
Celebrating: the Pixie’s 5th birthday, all month!
Embracing: life, trust, compassion…

Thanks for the reminder Jodi, and for such a timeless list, Pip.

Checking In…

I’m feeling the need to check in briefly. I’ve got over thirty tabs open on my computer, a scatty brain, three draft blog posts that I have been working on over the past few weeks and a fast beating heart. Nothing is coming easily at the moment. I’m constantly perplexed at how busy life is… and I’m forever fighting a losing battle against it.

It’s times like these that I absolutely ache to run away, to pack our bags and throw things in the car and head off into the sunset. The urge to run away from this uncomfortable, anxious, overwhelming feeling is strong.

I’ve just put the smallest to bed for a nap. The other two are at school and kinder and I’ve got 45 minutes to spare to have lunch and a moment to myself before kinder pick-up. I spent the morning playing blocks, making bliss balls, folding the washing, putting the washing away, and I’ve also put on four loads of washing (and the dirty basket is still overflowing). I’ve changed the sheets on our bed, picked up what seemed like hundreds of pairs of shoes from the floor (so many shoes), and drank half a coffee… cold. Some yarn arrived via post this morning and I’ve got a list of birdie said orders to finish. I have a meeting tomorrow about a new project I’ve been asked to work on by a community health organisation I worked with last year.  I have an assignment due on Sunday as well as two teaching blocks to practise so I don’t humiliate myself in front of my peers at yoga on the weekend.

Yoga Teacher Training is at the intense end, with the final three months focussing on practicing teaching, assessments, an exam and I’m also (drum roll) completing my pre-natal yoga teacher training in a few weeks as a little extra (because I didn’t have enough to do). Although it feels intense, I’m thrilled to think I will be a qualified 350 hour Level 1 Yoga Teacher come December this year. And trained in pre-natal to top it off. Exciting times!

In saying that, I can feel myself yearning for simpler things. For time at home that doesn’t have my head spinning with all the things I have to do. With juggling priorities. It will be nice to have a little break from studying and for a new chapter of our lives to begin.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather, cool drinks on my back deck, trips to the beach, time to cook and walk around with bare feet, time to practise yoga without it feeling like homework.

Spring is certainly a busy time, although I heard someone say that the other day and it made me realise I kind of skipped that part of Winter where you’re meant to move inwards and enjoy some reflection. So now I’m off to do something really naughty – lay horizontal on the couch and read my book for 15 minutes. Or maybe even 20…

What are you busy with at the moment?

Gender + Motherhood

I discovered something last night: audiobooks. The only time I’ve really heard about audiobooks until recently has been my Gran telling me which murder mystery book she has been listening to on tape from the library. The thought of it always made me sneer a bit… I didn’t feel like it was *real* reading. But good on her, because she can knit while she listens and that seems like a better use of time than watching TV – WAIT, hold up – doing craft + reading at the same time?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a little bit thick.

Suddenly I’m seeing audiobooks being plugged everywhere: on my favourite youtube channels, on instagram, on advertisements. Every hipster I know is listening to an audiobook. Is this the new podcast? I looked into it, and the only reputable looking audiobook app seemed to want to charge $14.95 per month PLUS the cost of books… this seems a little steep to me, particularly when you don’t get a hard copy book to shelve lovingly in your bookcase; it’s just an audio file. I gave up and decided to go back to netflix and podcasts (of which I have a number now I totally love… perhaps a discussion for another post).

It was late last night, I was getting into bed to work on a hat and suddenly I was thinking about audiobooks again. Wouldn’t it be great if I could crochet and listen to a good book at the same time? I had a sudden revelation: I can borrow audiobooks from my library, for free. A few fast taps of the thumb later and I had an app which is linked to my local library, and was listening to this.

I listened to the whole essay last night, which finally brings me to the topic of this post, gender and motherhood.

Before I had kids, I didn’t believe that girls and boys were different in any way. I thought any differences in behaviour or attitude were purely due to parental influence.

A few years into motherhood, and having seen my friends raising boys, or boy and girl combinations while I’m raising girls only, I have changed tack a bit. I realise fully that boys and girls are very different. However, I still believe that stereotyping is alive and well, even in those of us who have the very best intentions not to change the way we parent based on the gender of our children. I am beginning to think of it as invisible stereotyping. That is, invisible to the perpetrator, perhaps not so much to the outside eye. Gender stereotyping is so ingrained within us that, without careful reflection, it is carried out with little notice.

I was at the house of a very dear friend yesterday who has three boys, around the same age as my three girls. We have been friends for a long time, well before we had children. We have always laughed at how different the boys are to the girls and vice versa. But then there’s this extra layer, the invisible stereotyping layer, that I have been noticing more and more.

The example that comes to mind is this. We’re at the coffee shop with our kids. A rubbish truck drives past. My friend looks at her boys, who are staring at the truck and says, “Look! It’s a big rubbish truck!” The boys get excited and watch the truck driving off down the street, maybe saying something like “Truck! Truck!” Later that day, my friend, seeing the boys’ interest in the truck, takes them down to the fire station to look at more trucks. She buys them a t-shirt each with a truck on the front. Their enthusiasm builds, and at home they all draw pictures of trucks. In addition, at their birthdays, they are given a variety of toy trucks as gifts (including one from me…).

Rewind, back at the coffee shop, I’m on the other side of the table. The rubbish truck drives past. I look at my girls, who have also turned to look at the truck. I might say, “Oh yes, look, a truck!” The girls watch the truck driving off down the street and say, “Truck! Truck!” Later that day, I take them home, set them up at the table and get out a stamp collection that someone has given us as a gift. It’s a fairy set, they absolutely love it. We draw pictures of the fairies in their houses and talk about what fairies might eat for dinner. It doesn’t occur to me to foster their interest in the truck in any way.

This is just a small observation, and as much as I hate to admit it, variations of this example have happened numerous times over the years. My friend told me yesterday that she had taken the boys down to a busy corner to watch some trucks drive past. I had also been walking through a carpark with the little yesterday and she had pointed at a big truck saying “Tain, tain!” I said, “Actually, that’s a truck!” and kept walking. I didn’t mention the truck again.

What does this say about us? My friend and I are both well educated, modern women (we like to think). Neither of us are particularly girly, or boyish. We’re both into human rights, and believe women to be strong and independent. But even if we don’t want to admit it, we are raising our children in different ways, and those differences are largely based on their gender. Neither of us are right or wrong and I’m not illustrating this to make a judgement in any way, merely to voice my observations.

Being one of four girls, having three daughters of my own and a niece, having gone to a girls school, I have grown up in a world of girls and women. I don’t know a whole lot about boys. I also personally have zero interest in trucks, which of course are used in this post simply as an example of something that is typically viewed as masculine as opposed to feminine. How can I make sure I am allowing my girls to express themselves freely, in a world where even I am shaping their perceptions and ideas towards a version of an outdated stereotype?

I tell them monthly, weekly, daily: they can do and be whatever they want. But do their toys, their clothes, their school uniform, my guided topics of conversation and interests – do they express the same message?

These are questions I don’t know the answer to. But it feels good to have a conversation about it, I think. I’m inclined to agree with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we should all be feminists. What are your thoughts?

Charging for Handmade Items

I’m writing this on the cusp of my own dilemmas on this very topic. I’ve been chatting lately with other friends who make and sell handmade things, about how we come to pick the price we are happy to make and sell for. You’d think it would be relatively straightforward, but I think for many creative people this is a real clincher – especially when you are not making and selling purely as a hobby, but the money you make actually helps to feed your family!

Last night I was sent a message on instagram asking for a custom order item I don’t make very often. I was caught between these two thoughts, one: feeling super excited that someone wanted to order something from me, so I had better not charge too much otherwise I might miss out on a sale, and two: gently reminding myself of the cost of materials, along with time to make the item. How would I decide what to quote? What if it was too much?

When I am pricing an item, there are a number of things to consider. While I know I’ll never get paid an award hourly rate, I do need to be paid enough for it to be worth my time and energy. As much as I absolutely love creating and making things, I don’t have the time or inclination to do it for free. If that were the case, I have plenty of children and family members I could make for to satisfy my urges. What I am paid needs to compensate for the time away from my family and the cost of the materials, in a way that I am comfortable with and don’t end up with a deficit.

I think sometimes the fear of missing a sale or the fear that our handmade items aren’t worth it, or won’t be valued, can easily fall into the trap of undercharging. The problem with this is it is rarely sustainable and sooner or later leads to burn out. I used to fall into this trap often by undercharging, finding myself up at all hours of the night, neglecting my other responsibilities stitching or crafting away at something begrudgingly. The joy was suddenly sapped out of what was usually an enjoyable process for me. There were even times when I ended up losing money in the beginning as much as I am embarrassed to admit it.

People who don’t know or care much about what it takes to make a handmade item, will never value the price of a handmade item. If they want something cheap and made in a hurry, they can go to any big chain store. In saying that, though, it often surprises me that people are willing to throw $40 at a stock standard, made overseas hat from a big name brand at a shopping centre, but will scoff at the idea of paying that for an individual, high quality, locally made hat. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Here are just a couple of links that can help you to  both understand the value of handmade items, along with some guides to charging for your handmade items.

:: The True Cost – a documentary about the exploitation of both people and the environment in the fashion industry. A must watch if you want to know where your clothes really come from, and what you are personally supporting with every dollar you spend.

:: Tips for pricing your handmade goods – an article by Ashely Martineau

:: A simple formula for pricing your work – by Danielle Maveal on the etsy website

There are so many other things you could research to find out more on this topic – the benefits of a local and capsule wardrobe, the benefits of wearing organic clothing, the benefits of supporting local businesses — all of these things will help you to either price your own items or understand why handmade and locally created items and crafts should be celebrated.

I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments.

Immersion in the Present

Time is passing. There is only now and now and now. With young children it can be easy to daydream through the motions: the feeding, the dressing, the herding. I’ve been reading Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren and have been reminded yet again of “and this.” I find myself quoting as I pack the school lunches, as I wipe the daily grit from our old table, as I fold (or not fold) the washing, as I pull a tearful little face to my chest after a fall: And this. And this. And this. There is only ever this. At first I wondered if it only served to remind me of the monotony and take me, unwillingly, away from my airy thoughts, but with practice I have seen it bring me back into the moment, to ground me.

Over Winter I have been immersed in thought, in yoga study, in reading, in thinking. Perhaps this is nothing new (for me) but with the addition of yoga I have felt growth within myself that has surpassed all other things.

As I type, the littlest wanders over with a shell. I hold it to her ear. “Listen,” I say, “can you hear the sea?”

And this.

I sip my coffee.

And this.

Over the weekend we went to Apollo Bay and I attended a whole day workshop with Melbourne writer, Arnold Zable. The parallels between yoga and writing were illuminated as I listened to his words: “To be a writer, you have to be here, you have to be mindful, grounded. You have to witness.” Because if you aren’t there to witness something, to witness it deeply and fully, then to capture that moment in words later is going to leave you unreliable; the moment dulled through the fog of your inattention.

So go out and allow yourself to see. Notice the way the morning light hits the edges of a plant in your window. See the wisp of hair on your child’s forehead and know its habit to swing this way, or that. Feel the crackle of eucalyptus leaves beneath your feet, the solidity of your legs, your body moving through air – feel it as though you are moving through water, or soup. Step outside in the fading light and smell your neighbour’s open fire, smell the chill of the evening, the dampness of the soil.

And lastly, this: Xavier Rudd singing out from my computer speakers: Cherish this moment. Cherish this breath.

Bringing in the Weekend

It is a sunny winters day today. The girls are on the couch watching Play School in their pyjamas and I’m gearing up to clean their bedrooms. The smallest is sitting next to me doing some drawing and intermittently yelling at me if I don’t take a texta lid off fast enough. I’m finishing my luke warm coffee and knowing my time sitting is coming to an end.

Today we’re doing some tidying, meal planning, and a few other bits and pieces before heading to our local Winter Solstice later this afternoon. Things have been incredibly busy lately with both KB and I writing reports or marking for school/uni and we’ve barely had time to take a breath. I’m not someone who thrives on busy-ness, I much prefer white space in life and do almost anything I can to preserve it. Lately that has been impossible, contradicting almost everything I’m learning at Yoga Teacher Training! But it has provided me with a different platform to practice my learnings, and I suppose a window into what normal life would be like for many of my future students, who may or may not have an awareness of the importance of creating space in life, let alone the tools to do it.

So I have a toddler on my lap now, precariously lashing out at my keyboard, which means this post is coming to an early end. I’m off to tidy, potter and think about how I can carve out some time (because to carve out time is sometimes necessary when finding time is difficult) in these remaining short days to think about how to move forward as our days begin to stretch out and lengthen once again.

What are you letting go of this Winter Solstice? What are you moving towards?

Tomorrow, We Will Begin Again

I spent the day at Yoga Teacher Training today. We practised Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations, and spent the afternoon learning about Ayurveda, laughing about our doshas and the funny intricacies each of us shared with various imbalances (not so funny, but funny enough in the context of our discussion). We talked about how to live balanced lifestyles based on the calm, grounding philosophies of Ayurveda and her sister Yoga. I drove home looking out towards the sun setting in the sky, behind giant white cotton wool clouds feeling motivated and driven and buoyant. I visualised a fairy stone meditation I was eager to try out with my daughters this evening, followed by dimming the lights at sundown and ending the day with a hot bath and deep breathing. Screens off not long after, early bed, rest. I imagined myself deeply asleep by 10pm after this magical evening of peace and calm.

I arrived home and jumped up the front steps. Opening the door I was met with the most incredible display of tears, tantrums, anger, yelling. An abundance of yelling, from all three girls at once. Yelling and fighting and poking and provoking as only children who have been seemingly abandoned for the day by their mother can. Or is it just my children, when I dare to leave for a few hours? There was this brief moment in time where I was absolutely raging internally, wondering how to put out this fire of frustration. Didn’t they know what I wanted for them? How they would benefit? I watched as my thoughts of a peaceful and mindful evening slipped further and further out of sight. I gave the girls a bath (more tears), then hid in my room for a moment to stare mournfully out the window, breathing and waiting, breathing and waiting. Perched on the edge of the bed, fighting off tears at the thought that to be a yogi and to live a calm, grounded life you most definitely have to be single, childless and, quite possibly, residing in a cave somewhere far away from civilisation. I scorned myself for being so naïve (and my thoughts, so anti-yoga).

Then. I pulled myself together. We got the children to bed. I put toys away, picked up discarded socks, pants and undies from the floor. I put shoes away, wiped down the dinner table. Picked squashed peas from the bottom of my socks. Walked slowly. Around the peas. Ate. Reminded myself that each moment is a valid opportunity in which I can bring in the philosophies I am learning. That I am… learning (always).

And that tomorrow, we will all begin again.

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