It has been a quiet week here on the blog…last week was Spring break for Maya’s school and so our days were busy. Now a rainy and cold Monday morning, with Maya back to school, it is the perfect moment to sit and re-cap. We were very lucky with the weather for Spring break with warm gorgeous days – unlike this week that is predicted to be cold and wet. I am certainly glad we made the most of the sunshine, with the highlight being a day spent at the Jersey Shore with friends. Nicole suggested we all go to Bradley Beach and so we made a convoy south. It is about an hour drive from Montclair, and while an hour seemed like a long way to me to drive to the beach it was an easy drive. Amy and her two Children car pooled with us which meant we each had a friend to chat with on the way. Nicole chose Bradley Beach as she said it is one of the nicer beaches close to us, and it really was nice!
We were quite the beach party, with 4 Mothers and 8 children.
There were beach rocks to climb on and a tidal pool for them to splash and play in.
We collected, shells, built sandcastles, and of course as we always do…we made mermaid tales for the mermaids.
It was such gorgeous weather with blue skies and a gentle breeze perfect for flying a kite.
Much thanks to the friends that made this day special!
Have you heard the news, yep we are getting chickens! Chickens, chickens, CHICKENS! Can you detect my excitement? I have been dreaming of raising chickens for a while, and now that we are settled we can finally commit to them. You might remember during the first weeks of moving to Montclair we found ourselves chicken sitting for friends of our new neighbour Nina. It was then that I was reminded of just how great chickens can be as pets for children. As a child I had a pet bantam named Wilhelmina, who had two chicks I named Juliette and Julian. I have always felt I would like the girls to have a pet, and there has been some talk of a dog, but the idea of having to buy meat products for a dog did not sit well with me. Being that we are vegetarians this led to the visualisation of a pet food abattoir, and that is really unappealing, (yes, I have thought it through thoroughly) and because so I have not reached a place I feel I can commit to a dog…despite my loving Boarder Collies. Anyway, adorable puppy aside, chickens seemed like the perfect fit for us. We give them our compost scrapes, so that is an environmental win, and they give us fresh eggs, another win! We get to name them and care for them, and if you are up to date on current chicken trends, it is not unusual to see a chicken sitting happily on a lap getting a pat. Did you know that you can buy chicken diapers made of fabric to avoid any poop disasters! Funny right?
Urban, and suburban chickens have been hot for a few years now, and it is not surprising considering the ghastly conditions average supermarket hens eggs come from. I am going to avoid touching too deeply on this topic as it is loaded and I am passionate about it and I feel like most of you reading my blog buy free range organic eggs anyway…I mean who able to sit at a computer reading blogs, with a conscious, would by any other type of egg to save $3? Bad chicken farms are old news now, but the articles are still coming about the plight of the chicken and the quality of the egg. Most recently I read this article in the New York Times, which I found interesting, honest and very grounding, and even though I thought I was doing right by being a proactive consumer, I realised we could do more…so my friends we are getting chickens!
Thus begins the joy of shopping for a coop. I would love to say that we were going to build our own chicken coop, but as we are still in a lot of ways getting on our feet in America – and we do not own any woodworking tools. I also did not want Cam to feel he had to build our coop next week…(did I mention I was excited?) and so we decided with our combined Birthday money from my Mother we would buy a ready made coop. Mum was so happy to hear this is what we decided on. My Mother is a devoted animal lover and has dedicated much of her life to animals and can not stand animal cruelty. For example, just recently Mum paid $500 for a retired dairy cow to save it going to slaughter (yep! it was bound for dog food!). Mum felt that after a lifetime of being a milk slave the cow deserved to live out her remaining years eating grass in a paddock, so she paid the farmer the predicted meat value to let it live. Mum is an advocate of raising backyard chickens to help reduce the number of chicken farms. With Mum’s character in mind, it seemed right that we would use money from her for chickens. We are so grateful to her for generously gifting us with (enough!) money to make this possible.
I have very much enjoyed looking at all the coops available, even Williams Sonoma are selling chicken coops now! There are a lot of options out there from do it yourself coop plans to top of the line luxury coops. Some adorable, some laughable, but all coming from a good place, to liberate the chicken. Just so you can really get the scope about what is happening out there I chose four that caught my eye for various reason….the practical Eglu, the sleek and clever Nog, and one that really made me laugh, the Co-Op Coop. Then lastly the one that I think we have decided on, the Clubhouse Coop.
It is no secret that chickens can live, and lay eggs daily in almost anything. Another article I read interviewed a farmer from Ohio state (where most of America’s eggs come from) who is proud of his state-of-the art facilities, where four million birds produce more than three million eggs a day. In just one typical barn there is 268,000 small white hens that live in cages about the size of an open newspaper, six or seven hens to a cage. There is no space to move, to spread their wings or roost. These chickens do not get to nest, peck for bugs or take dust baths. This farm supplies the standard American supermarket chains – and restaurant food chains with eggs. A bit sad right?
So in a bid to hopefully bring more joy to our life, chickens are to become our pets, and increasing both quality of the chickens life, and the quality of ours. Looking forward to sharing our chickens journey with you friends, maybe you will want to do this too?
The Eglu: $650 (including two chickens)
The Nog: $3150
Coop Co-Op: $3500
The Clubhouse Coop: $569
So hear we are back to the beach again…this time visitng Evans Head. Evans, as locals call it is a small coastal town half hour drive south of Ballina. It is about the same distance as driving to Byron from Ballina, but the other direction – heading south down the coast. It is sandwiched between two National Parks, the Bundjalung National Park and the Broadwater National Park. To get there form Grandma’s house we drove through Broadwater, or ‘Sugartown’ as it was once dubbed because of the sugar cane mill. It is a beautiful drive south, through cane fields and bushland. The vegetation is different to that driving North, there is a noticeable change from rain forest into dryer and coarser vegetation.
Evans Head is a favourite destination for many who want to avoid the crowds of more developed beach towns like Byron Bay. With a population of less than 3000 people, it is tiny, and in the off season, very sleepy…but you really get the sense while there, that it wont be like this forever. It offers much in the way of natural beauty, and still comes across as ‘undiscovered’, which is what I love about it (and I know that is why you love it too Zoe and Donna!). Evans Head beach is popular for fishing, surfing, swimming, and I might add, collecting shells too. Evans is very much a classic coastal Australian town that has not yet become overly trendy or hip. It is not at all a shopping destination, the majority of the stores are closed on Sunday, but you can buy a great espresso coffee there. Evans offers a few good places to eat and has a large supermarket, so you can grab some groceries for a picnic.
It is a good place for families with small children as it offers both the beach and the river. Cribb Reservation on the river is the best! It is a popular place to picnic or camp. There is a well designed esplanade, with lots of grass, shade, and BBQ areas. Along the way you will find plaques about protecting the native wildlife and a historical figure statue. The Girls loved riding their scooters along the river to where it meets the ocean.
We were there at low tide and so they played on the rippled sand flat of the river. There were lots of low tide treasure to be found, shells, kelp and crab sand balls..and the odd piece of plastic rubbish. The river at low tide was ideal as there were isolated warm clear shallow pools for them to run and jump in. As you will see they wanted to wear each others bikinis…nice to have a sister to swap with right?
As a child a was inspired by the crab sand balls, the amazing little spheres that are the product of an industrious search for food. The Girls were familiar with them as we would find them daily at low tide on Grandma’s beach. They are something that I think everyone finds intriguing. Even now as an adult I stop to try the impossible task of pick them up and involve them in some sort of sand play. On this day there was an enormous mass of crab balls, all over the place. I love the disposition of the crab, the way they seem to be so neat, tidy and efficient, making these little perfect balls, into a haphazard patterns that are somehow orderly…so artful of them!
For the most part, we were the only people swimming in the river, that was until a high school class arrived with their teacher. They all undressed down to their swimwear in one of the rotundas, leaving their school bags sit while they swam in the river. Their teacher joining them. It gave me great appreciation for the Australian school system. I think it is fantastic that the schools are not fearful of something happening and involve outdoor activities at the beach as part of the curriculum. Surfing and fishing are offered as class activities, meaning you can choose surfing as sport, or for gym class you can go fishing. While at many of the North Coast coastal towns you can find a group of children spending time by the sea or river with their teacher. This kind of thing is not a special excursion, but part of the weekly schedule. Ballina primary Pubic school has a Marine Biology research Center built on the school grounds. I have never been in the building, but the outside is painted turquoise, and looks gorgeous. I am pretty sure (correct me if I am wrong!) the Ballina High School has a school boat to take students out on the ocean.
We have a soft spot for Evans Head, and when we were considering moving back to Australia last year we looked at houses there. Maybe one day we just might end up in or near Evans again…In the meanwhile though, I am so glad we had this lovely day there.
This time last week we were celebrating Spring with an Easter party. I invited the families in our street with small children and some of our friends. We could not have asked for a nicer day, the sun shone brightly, and our Easter party was lovely in so many ways. I decorated the dogwood tree in our back yard with ribbons and flowers, we made fresh flower crown wreaths, and many brought dyed eggs, filling the giant basket for the egg hunt. We played pin the tail on the bunny, and had an egg and spoon relay race with both parents and children. We played duck duck goose, and enjoyed a small feast of great home made food. The children had a blast, and all looked so adorable.
It was exciting for our family to host a Spring celebration, it made me feel content and settled. Growing up my family would gather to celebrate Easter and I have fond memories of Easter being a lot of fun. Grandma would dye eggs for an egg hunt, and make chocolate bunnies for each of her children. The fireplace seat in the family room would have a long line of Easter baskets that would magically be filled on Easter morning with goodies. We would wear our best clothes, have a large elaborate meal and play games.
With our family now on the other side of the world, more often than not during holiday times we are unable to be with them. Non the less I hoped to make Easter into a special occasion for our children, and a party with friends was a great way to make it memorable. I wanted it to be symbolic of Spring, to be colourful and lively, and I wanted to share it with people we care about.
It will be great to look back at these photos in years to come. We feel lucky to be living in a street with so many little ones, always right there ready and able to play! I am grateful especially to our neighbour Nina who was a tremendous help setting up…and to my husband who made this party possible…and to my daughters who are a continual source of inspiration. I just loved it when Maya filled her wheat grass basket with flowers and hung it on the tree…Elle then had to do it too. Our creative girls…always making beautiful things.
Our day wound down, bit by bit neighbours left, and then friends, until it was just us, sitting in the yard. The girls building fairy houses out of shells, pebbles and the left over flowers…and I, sitting still…in that special quiet space after a party where I get the reward of a resonating heartfelt feeling…from a wonderful celebration.
A few weeks ago our family became a part of something special that has changed our life. That something special was Sparkle Stories. We are often looking for calm and gentle ways teach our children, and we are often looking for ways to teach or children to be calm and gentle – Sparkle Stories does just this. All round Sparkle Stories is a positive addition to our lives, it entertains, it inspires, it educates and the Children love it. I love it too, Sparkle Stories has become my Friday afternoon shinning light, as I know that just when I need it most the Sparkle magic will cast a spell over my children. The enchanting story lulls them into an enthralled still and quiet, which is oh so valuable for energetic little ones…and oh so valuable for this stay at home Mama.
Since joining Sparkle Stories I have been meaning to spread the word, then today I received an email with a special Sparkle Stories offer to share with you, so that you too can have the gift of Sparkle Stories in your life.
For the coast of $1 you can join Sparkle stories for one month (four weeks). This will be 12 stories that equals 3.5 hours of delightful audio for Children. If you do not want to continue ( which I know you will want to…) you can cancel at any time and you still get to enjoy the month’s worth of original, delightful and relevant stories for only $1.
We enjoyed all of the free Sparkle Stories samples, listening to each of them many times first before deciding which story we were going to subscribe too. Maya then chose At Home with Martin and Sylvia. We look forward to each installment with anticipation. Friday now has an added pleasure for us as we get a new Sparkle Story segment – following the two delightful characters Martin and Sylvia who have become a positive influence in our daily life, in so many subtle ways.
So my friends, follow the link below and enjoy this Sparkle Stories bonus! I hope you too all subscribe. I look forward to hearing which story, or stories you choose.
The magic code: SPARKLEFRIENDS
The magic page: www.sparklestories.com/
A big thank you to the generous, creative folks at Sparkly Stories, you are the best!