Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Treehouses and old school play

You know that I am an advocate for slow childhood.

And despite helping my children keep up with the modern world so as not to impair them by not giving them the tools to navigate it, I am also ever so aware of the fleeting moment of time that is childhood.

We are a technology rich household, we all know how to use computers, are literate with iPad technology and use mobile phones.  I am strong believer in these things as amazing tools and resources for both our children and for us. I am happy for my kids to utilise all of these things but we have very strict time limits.

But I also aware that some of the aspects of childhood that we all enjoyed and that helped shape us into resilient adults may be on the decline.

Playing outside without toys and just nature as our guide.

Playing with mud & dirt & getting dirty are not really big on parents list of games we encourage our kids to play.

Letting the kids use hammers, drills & saws is not really something we encourage either as we worry about what might happen.

Don't get me wrong- I worry too. A lot.

But I have learned to tame my anxiety in favour of offering these things to my lads as feel it is imperative for them to know I trust them.  I want them to know I trust their judgment and that I want them to know that I am happy for them to take risks- albeit calculated.

It is about letting them just be.

To help them find quiet.

To be able to find quiet is so very important. Most adults never ever re-learn the skill that we all had as children to do just that.

And I do not mean quiet in terms of decibel volume here- I am talking about finding an inner peace.  Finding a a place inside that feels comfortable, feels good.

Taking away the white noise of the things we let overtake our days and letting our kids go at their own pace.

Over the last two weekends we have been working on an extension of our ol' skool treehouse (ol' skool in that it is just a platform with NO sides very high up in a tree). We built it a couple of years ago- I wrote about that here.

Over the last two weekends we built a lower level for the little kids- they wanted it to be like a Pirate ship.

There was sawing, there was hammering, there was hanging around in the shed finding tools & the right size nails.  The 3yo too. In fact he was the busiest.

The sun has been good to us the last 2 weekends in a row and so last Sunday evening the Pirate ship was finished.

The kids named her the 'Polly Wodger' - after our Basset hound Polly and a kind of ode to the big kids love of Monty Python.

I sewed a Pirate flag that was designed by the kids too- instead of a Skull and crossbones it was to be Polly's head and Dog bones.

Kids are so very ace.

It is so very ace to spend as much time as we can with them in this way.

I just love hanging out with my kids so much.

If you have ever had Congee it was probably at Yum Cha.
It is one of the things at Yum CHa that  I 'must' have or it just doesn't feel like I have finished- along with the Chooks feet.  Not everyone's thing I know but must haves for our family.
I had really only ever had two varieties- chicken congee or the century egg version.
Then when we moved to Melbourne my mum found this fantastic authentic little Chinese restaurant that was easily missed as a dodgy little Chinese that only served the ubiquitous Lemon Chicken & not much else.
It turned out they do a killer Fish Head Congee and any time my mum is in Melbourne she will drive out of her way to get herself some of that Congee action! 
And the Restaurateur remembers her no matter how long between visits. A special little place.
Congee is one of my favourite comfort foods. So healthy and restorative. 
Some people are not so keen on it's texture- it is best described as a Rice Porridge, but I absolutely love it.
I often make Congee from the leftovers of Hainanese chicken- you have everything you need; stock, chicken & rice!  
It requires long cooking to dissolve the grains of rice but you can speed it up considerably in a Pressure cooker.
To make it super tasty it requires a good quality stock as it's base- then you can add whatever little things you like to zhooz it up. To do this form scratch I just use Chicken drumsticks to give it full flavour and depth. It is the bones that give good stock it's flavour.
I love to add heaps of ground white pepper & Spring onion as I serve.
Or as a textural difference sprinkle a generous amount of Fried Shallots and some Fresh chilli & coriander.
Or a lovely garnish that I heard about from one of my gorgeous readers on Instagram that I am soooo going to try!-  topping it with Ikan Bilis ( a Malaysian side dish of crispy fried anchovies and salty peanuts with the skin on). YUMMMMMMMMMMM.
Best of all just serve a variety of garnishes at the tabel and people can add their won as they like.

  • 1.5 litres of good chicken stock (use fish stock if making Fish head version)
  • 200g Jasmine rice 
  • 4 chicken drumsticks (or 3 fish heads)
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, sliced 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ground white pepper
  • Fried shallots (for garnish)
  • fresh coriander (for garnish)
  • fresh chilli, sliced finely

Place the chicken (or Fish heads), the rice, the ginger & the stock into a pan and bring to the boil.
Cook for about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours stirring occasionally to to make sure the rice does not catch.
If using a pressure cooker, once you have reached pressure,  you only need to cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and remove drumsticks and shred meat off the bone. Discard the bones and replace the chicken meat back into the stock.
Check for salt and add if necessary.
(If using fish heads leave)
Serve and individually garnish.

This track has been making me happy this week.......


  1. I am trying super hard to stop worrying about my kids & just let be kids. I need to remind myself they are capable of smart decision making & that if they do happen to make a wrong move it will be ok. It's hard to do sometimes. My eldest is wanting to do all sorts of things that are new- hang out with his friends after school at our local shops, walk to new friends houses & then walk home. He is yet to get a mobile phone so when I said yes I worried that he wouldn't be able to contact me. I had to give myself a stern talking to & remind myself that when i was younger this was how we lived & we survived just fine.

  2. I am so with you on this. A bit of boredom does wonders for creativity too. Our youngest is 13 now and it's a constant battle to get away from the "noise" of technology that prevents that head space and inner calm and ability to listen to your own voice. We have strict time limits too but often feel as though we are alone in the world, maybe not alone in wanting it, but alone in trying to enforce it, so it's good to read your blog. :0)

  3. My eldest is only three but I worry about this. I want him to put his hands in mud, walk to a milkbar by himself, use hammers and find his own quiet. I worry about the impact of a cotton wool generation on boys. Beaut song too x

  4. Exactly understand what you're talking about Ruth, word for word. Finding quiet is a real skill and I think it's one of those things that you need to keep practising at. It's normal now in our world and the world our kids live in not to be quiet. To be able to do so many things well or get all these things done. I learnt how to find quiet from my mother in law. :) And I'm sure your boys will learn it from you slowly but surely.

    Thank you so much for the gorgeous mention. I can't believe you called me gorgeous! Total smile. I hope you like ikan bilis (You can make it yourself!) Your ingredients and instructions sound superb as always. Congee is meant to be simple but have that wonderful nourishing calming hidden flavour. I think we could be yum cha soulmates (chooks feet! My kids spit the bones out)

    Just a bit of trivia: The teochew porridge commonly found in shops in Singapore, but sadly not here, is very plain with no ingredients. But you can choose over 40 different dishes all laid out for you to see and pick to go with your porridge: Ranging from braised eggplant, fish, octupus with plum sauce, sambal kangkong to omelettes. I could go on for a while but I might bore you to death!!!
    We can't find it much here but we are diehard fans of the yum cha porridge too.

    Love and warmth to you this week xx

  5. I'm with you on this one. Children need to play, play inside, outside and explore their environment. I feel sad for children with small backyards or backyards without trees. Unfortunately children these days don't know to entertain themselves unless they are watching t.v or have an electronic device. Playing not only helps their physical and emotional development, it helps them build self esteem and solve problems. Love your tree house, yay to you. Oh and you are allowed to worry, you are a mum, I don't think that will ever go away. Hayley x

  6. Your words are always wise Ruth, both on the topic of raising children and food! x

  7. Isn't that the best crew of pirates I've ever seen? How happy are they all with their work? and the brillant flag??!! Can't wait to go for a voyage when I'm there soon. xxxxxx

  8. Love your philosophy and recipe and pirates

  9. Your tree house is 100% awesome.I so glad kids are still building real cubbies and tree houses instead of just downloading the "tree house" app.
    Love Mumabulous.

  10. The tree house looks AMAZING!!!!
    Love that Polly is the mascot.
    love you!!
    Hope that we can all work together and finish that tee-pee at ours on the holidays.

  11. Perfect. Just....perfect. xxxxx

  12. LOVE this so hard! Always wanted a tree house when I was younger but just made do with the tree. I do have kids who actually complain about being told to go play outside. They just don't seem to get it. We did this all day without encouragement :/

  13. Do I even have to say it?!! Congee is my absolute FAVOURITE!!!!

    I love the Polly Wodger flag - so awesome!!


  14. Right, it's official, sending you my 3 boys for some pirate mischief. Love the passed out dog, it's a dog's life is it not?


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