Tuesday, April 30, 2013

queer-friendly picture books: what makes a baby

what makes a baby
illustrated by fiona smyth

sj read about this book when silverberg was trying to fund it as a kickstarter project. she thought it sounded so great that she contributed on our family's behalf. we all think it was money extremely well spent.

the book is a clear and concise explanation of how babies are made. what makes it so great, is that it acknowledges that there are many contexts in which this happens.

silverberg is inclusive in his approach, and explains the biology of the process of baby making without being prescriptive about gender, or family structure. 

he acknowledges that trans people, gay people, and families of all configurations make babies. he also builds in opportunities for the child to talk about their own family with the person reading the story.

another thing that i personally love about this book is that it also acknowledges that there are different ways to be born, including by caesarian. i've never seen that in a picture book before, and i'm really glad that at least one of arty's books features how he was born.

i'd say this book is suitable for 3-8 year olds, as the concepts might be a little complex for younger kids. arty already likes it, though, because the illustrations are so vibrant and colourful.

this book is unique in it's inclusivity, and in it's clarity. it's a valuable resource for both families and schools. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

family noms: creamy chicken & thyme slow cooker casserole

our oven is on the blink at the moment, so the slow cooker is coming into it's own!

this is a very easy recipe to get on in the morning, and makes the house smell delicious as dinner time approaches.

creamy chicken & thyme slow cooker casserole


4 chicken thighs
tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
a handful of geen beans, chopped
4 small potatoes (or two large ones), cubed
1 leek, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
300ml single cream
1 cup chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp dijon mustard

  • brown the chicken thighs in a frying pan, then transfer them to the slow cooker
  • in the remaining oil and chicken juices, fry the onion and leek over a low heat until they begin to caramelize. place them with the chicken in the slow cooker
  • add all the chopped vegetables, the thyme, mustard, cream and stock to the slow cooker, place the lid on, and cook on low for 6-7 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • season to taste, and serve over pasta or mashed potato.

i used home grown thyme, and scarlet runner beans for this recipe today, which i think made it extra delicious. i get disproportionately excited about picking ingredients from our own garden and using them the same day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

queer-friendly picture books: mommy, mama and me

it's so important to us to show arty that there are all kinds of families. we want him to see families like ours represented in the stories he reads, and that there are a whole range of other family structures that are as functional, normal, and special as his own.
with this in mind, we've gone out of our way to try and find picture books that represent this diversity. i thought i'd do a series of blog posts, and share some of these books, and what we think of them.

mommy, mama, and me
written by leslea newman
illustrated by carol thompson

we received this book as a gift from a friend, and as you may be able to see from the picture, it is very well loved (read: chewed).
it's a sweet little story, told from the point of view of a toddler, listing the things that they do with their mothers every day. it has bright, bold pictures, depicting a happy family doing normal things like visiting the park, cooking, reading a story, and having a bath.
it has a simple rhyming structure, and is a quick read, making it suitable for very young babies with shorter attention spans.

one thing i particularly like about it, is that the child telling the story isn't gendered in any way. it makes it that much easier for the child reading to project themselves into the story.
i also like that the parents are not stereotyped. they're just normal women, spending time with each other and their child.
this book is very accessible and welcoming in it's simplicity. i'd say it deserves a place on any toddler's bookshelf, particularly if they have two mothers of their own.

for families with two daddies, leslea newman has also written 'daddy, papa and me' (also illustrated by carol thompson).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

special drink

autumn's here, and sj has her first cold of the season, so this morning i made her up a mug of 'special drink'. i make this whenever we have cold-like symptoms and it rarely fails to comfort and soothe.

special drink


1 tsp dried chamomile flowers*
1 tsp dried calendula petals*
1 tsp peppermint* (dry or fresh)
1 tsp dried lemon balm (aka 'melissa') leaves
1 tsp honey
juice of one lemon
3-6 thin slivers of fresh ginger (optional


  • place all ingredients in a teapot, and pour boiling water over the top, as you would when making a cup of tea
  • allow to infuse for at least 5 minutes, then sip slowly

all the herbs in this infusion have medicinal qualities:

  • chamomile helps to relax sore muscles, and is thought to have anti-viral properties.
  • calendula helps to fight infection, and calm inflammation. it is also high in antioxidants.
  • peppermint is calming to the stomach, and helps work against any upset tummies brought on by mucus or medication. 
  • lemon balm is a member of the mint family, and has similar properties to peppermint, but it is also very calming and relaxing. some studies have shown that it can reduce the severity and duration of cold sores, which often accompany other viruses.

the lemon and honey, are there for throat soothing, and germ fighting purposes, and they also make the whole thing taste nice.
i hope i won't have to make too many mugs of this through autumn and winter, but i'll make sure we're stocked up on the ingredients just in case.

* i grow and dry my own, but these can all be obtained from any good health food store. try to get organic if you can!

disclaimer in case of silly gits: i am not a doctor or qualified health practitioner, and take no responsibility for the consequences if you try this yourself. this post is intended only as a way of sharing personal experience, and should not replace qualified medical advice.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

our five favourite kids albums

kid's music. so much of it is awful jingly jangly, repetitive rubbish that gets stuck in your head and makes you feel like you've been lobotomized. i find it often feels as if it's been thrown together by people who just want to make a buck, and haven't actually thought about the lyrics, the musicality, or the artistic merit of what they're making.
our son deserves better than that.
he listens to his fair share of 'grown up music' and loves rocking out to paul simon, van morrison, darren hanlon, the beatles, and our other favourites, but i think it's nice for him to have some of his own music too. stuff that's written for little ones, about things that they like, like dinosaurs, farts, animals, birds, and families. we've kept a look out for good stuff, and kept our standards high. these are some of the best we've come across:

our top five children's albums:

'you are my little bird' by elizabeth mitchel
this is a beautiful folky album. the vocals are soft and mellow without being sickly or babyish, and the musicianship is really lovely. she covers songs by woody guthrie, velvet underground, and neil young, but manages to make them new, interpreting them with subtlety and sensitivity. this is a family favourite.

'family time' by ziggy marley
this album is fantastic to dance to, and i love putting it on when we have jobs to do around the house because it keeps us happy and energetic while we get on with things. the whole album has a really positive, cheerful mood to it, and it features some great guest artists, including paul simon!

'leave your sleep' by natalie merchant
this beautiful, unique album will always hold a special place in my heart, because i listened to it almost constantly while i was pregnant. natalie merchant has a powerfully evocative voice that can be raucous, haunting, playful, mournful, enticing, and soothing by turns, so it's perfect for a project like this. she has taken poems by writers as varied as ogden nash, mervyn peake, e. e. cummings, rober louis stevenson, and christina rossetti, and turned them into a brilliant collection of songs about childhood. if you only buy one album especially for your child, it should be this one. i can't recommend it highly enough.

'alphabutt' by kimya dawson
this album is exactly what you would expect to get if you asked someone as whimsical and imaginative as kimya dawson to write a bunch of songs for kids. there are songs about monsters destroying block towns, about wiggly teeth, and about having tigers in your underwear drawer. it's fast paced, there's loads of great percussion, and it's full of love, honesty, and sincerity.

'the johnny cash children's album' by johnny cash
i was pretty surprised to learn that johnny cash had recorded a children's album. it seemed a bit odd and incongruous to me. but it's actually a really great little bunch of songs. it's certainly dated now, and there are some references in some of the lyrics that are a little bit iffy by modern standards, but it's got some classic tracks on it that are fun to sing along to in the car, and that arty really enjoys. june carter-cash makes an appearance too, and that makes me happy, because she is amazing.

i feel like i also need to give an honourable mention to 'before sleep comes' by luka bloom. this isn't a children's album per se, but it is a collection of folky lullabies that arty often listens to at nap time. the guitar playing is as accomplished as any you'll hear, and the songs vary from traditional irish folk songs, to luka's hymn to chamomile. i listen to this myself when i need something comforting and calming, and i think it's the perfect bedtime album for any baby or child.

so those are our current favourites, but i'm always keen to find new tunes for us to enjoy together. what do you like to listen to with your kids?

Monday, April 15, 2013

family noms: dried apples

i don't usually get particularly paranoid about food additives. we try to cook good food at home, and if we have the odd snack or meal out that's not the healthiest, we don't worry too much about it.

but i find that sulphite preservatives (220-228) upset my stomach, and make me really uncomfortable. i don't want to inflict this on arty, but i want him to be able to eat dried fruit as a snack (and in dishes like porridge etc).
so i decided to have a go at making my own. it was really easy!

dried apples


4 apples
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups water


  • peel and core fruit, and slice into pieces approx 5mm thick
  • combine lemon juice and water in a bowl
  • in batches, soak the fruit slices in the juice for no more than 4 minutes
  • using paper towel, or a clean tea towel, gently blot excess moisture from fruit
  • arrange slices carefully on trays of dehydrator, ensuring that no pieces are touching each other
  • dehydrate for around 7-10 hours (this will vary depending on your machine). they are ready when they are still flexible, but no moisture comes out when you pinch them hard between your fingers.
  • store in airtight containers in a cool dark place, such as a pantry or kitchen cupboard.

i expected these to be nice, but a bit funny looking. i was so pleasantly surprised by how they turned out. they didn't discolour at all, so they look appetizing, and the flavour is SO GOOD. i had no idea how much the commercial drying processes alters the taste - there's just no comparison with the home made kind. these just taste like distilled apple essence. scrummy!

i already owned a food dehydrator, because i use it to dry my own herbs, so that was handy. they cost around $100, so i wouldn't have gone out and bought one just for experimenting with. if you want to give this a go, maybe see if anyone you know has a dehydrator languishing in their attic or pantry that you can borrow. and check out gumtree, ebay, or a similar site for a second hand one if you decide you want to have a few goes!

n.b. it's a bit hard to say from what age these are suitable for babies - arty's gotten all his teeth early, so would have handled nomming on these from about 8 months, but babies that aren't as adept at chewing would need to wait til after a year. 
use your judgement, and if in doubt, wait til they're a bit bigger.

Friday, April 12, 2013

baby noms: spinach, chickpea, and pumpkin soup

yes, this is a soup, but it's got some real body to it, and is a very satisfying meal for a growing baby or toddler. it's simple and nutritious, and arty thinks it's delicious. as a matter of fact, i do too. maybe this will end up being a whole family meal in future!

spinach, chickpea, and pumpkin soup


1.5 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (they will expand to be a bit over 2 cups)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cups finely chopped spinach
1.5 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)


  • heat olive oil in medium saucepan. add onion, and coriander seed, and sauté until onion goes glassy
  • add all other ingredients, cover, and cook over a low heat until pumpkin is tender.
  • puree to desired consistency (i kept a bit of texture for interest, but you could make it quite smooth for smaller babies)
  • serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt or sour cream.

i can see this being a go-to recipe for us this winter!

Monday, April 8, 2013

help! are there such things as queer friendly parenting books?

arty has started walking in the last few weeks. he's a toddler. a toddler. this is almost entirely incomprehensible to me.
and it's not just the walking - his vocabulary is growing, his social skills are becoming more sophisticated, and he's generally becoming more of a child than  baby.

til now, parenting has essentially been about bonding with this kid, and keeping him alive. we've fed him, clothed him, changed him, bathed him, talked and sung to him, and it's all been comparatively straightforward.
but now that he's a toddler, parenting has taken on another level of complexity. we're finding ourselves in situations where we need to mould and guide behaviour. we want to teach him to respond to important instructions ("don't touch the oven!"), to share, to be gentle with animals, not to hit or pull hair, etc. and we want to do this in a way that's effective, respectful, firm, clear, and kind.

how the hell do we do that?
i don't know.
so i started reading.
and then i got mad.
because so far, all of these parenting books have sucked.

not because their techniques were bogus - for all i know they're perfectly effective - but the language they used, and the assumptions they made about the structure of modern families were alienating, and embarrassingly archaic.

i've barely made it through more than a chapter in any of the books i've picked up so far before putting them down again with the strong feeling that they were not written for my family. they don't even acknowledge our existence.

so i'm putting the call out.
have you read a great book about toddler-wrangling that didn't completely ignore the existence of queer, single parent, or otherwise non-nuclear families?
if you have, i want to read it!
i'll gladly report back on any that i come across. if they exist...

fizzing colours

it's school holidays at the moment, so we are getting so spend a bit of time with some of our favourite school kids. that's one of the perks of being a stay-at-home-mum and a school teacher :)

today we got to hang out with miss m (seven), and mister s (five).

my lovely friend talia pinned this idea the other day, and i thought it might be a fun activity to try, in between planting some seeds in the garden, and going for a walk to the park.

i was right!
here's how it went...

fizzing colours

what you'll need:

bowls of bicarbonate of soda (filled approx 1.5cm deep)
ramekins of vinegar
different coloured of food colouring (we used red and yellow)

what to do:
  • mix a different colour of dye into each ramekin of vinegar
  • use the droppers to make marvellous colourful fizzing shapes and patterns in the bi carb.

m and s loved the fizzing, and were delighted by the way that the colours blended. they enjoyed swapping bowls and colours, and adding to each others creations.
this is a great way to learn about primary and secondary colours. next time i'll make sure i have some blue dye to hand so we can make rainbows with green and purple too.

arty enjoyed this activity too, though he was strictly a spectator. i couldn't tell if he was more interested in the fizzing colours, or the big kids laughing and exclaiming. 
either way, a good time was had by all.