New Twists on Old Traditions

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Syrup Traditional Biscuit Recipe

Happy Purim to you! The sun has gone down and the festival can officially begin, but actually we have spent the afternoon frolicking in a celebration that my husband has declared is a Renegade Purim.

We held a “Purim Picnic Party” in a local park and took a huge basket of costumes, a suitcase full of instruments and rattles, and invited a bunch of kids to come and dress up and make noise with us. There are very few photos of the fun we had because we were having too much fun.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Holiday Kids

I gather that this is a key purpose of the festival: making merry and having a great time. The other key purpose seems to be making and eating Hamantaschen, which are fruit-filled biscuits shaped to look like the ears of the villain of the Purim story.

And just as I went a bit left-of-centre with the mode of celebration, I also struggled to stick with the traditional recipes that were given to me for the biscuits. I ended up making two batches and started them off the same way; by using equal parts room-temperature butter and cream cheese, to create a lovely texture for the biscuit base.

Purim Hamantashen Gluten Free Traditional Jewish Cookie Biscuit Recipe

To one bowl I added plain flour and to the other I added dessicated coconut and LSA mix (which is made from Linseed, Soy and Almond meal). I combined them both well until I had a firm dough, which I put into the fridge for half an hour.

While the dough became stiff, I combined dates, sultanas, prunes and dried apricots with hot water on the stovetop until it was syrupy. This became the filling for my first batch of biscuits.

Purim Hamantash Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Traditional Cookie Biscuit Recipe

I decided to fill my gluten-free batch with the sticky jam that I made a few months ago with the elderberries from the tree in our backyard. I hadn’t strained the berries so it wasn’t suitable for cordial and it didn’t seem quite right for spreading on toast (it was a very simple recipe with just the berries, sugar and lemon, a bit like this).

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Syrup Traditional Cookie Recipe

It turns out that it takes practice to take the step from elegant pastry rounds to excellent Hamantaschen triangles. I never really mastered it and then I ran out of time to get to our picnic. My attempts at gluten-free biscuits looked like puddles when I pulled them out of the oven, so I abandoned them on the stove stop and rushed out the door.

How incredible and wonderful, then, that two other attendees had gone to the trouble to make and bring their own, including another gluten-free version (seen at left in the picture below; the recipe sounds a bit like this one from Friendly Little Kitchen).

Mine are the ones at bottom right that are not triangles at all.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Jewish Hamantaschen Healthy Sugar Free Celebration Children Kids

We told noisy stories, held a noisy parade and played noisy games. Then nobody wanted to come home.

Purim Cultural Jewish Celebration Costume Tradition Cookie Biscuit Recipe

When I finally arrived back in the kitchen, I looked again at those gluten-free puddles and they had come good upon cooling. They were a little bit rustic, perhaps, but recognisable triangles (see the photo at the very top of this post).

And to be fair, all my Hamantaschen — of whatever shape — were actually really delicious.

So I think we were happy to be renegades with our celebration of Purim. Our festivities were a bit “unorthodox” to say the least, and our biscuits were non-traditional.

But this was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other families in our area, in a really fun way that held meaning for us.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Many Cha Cha

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Christmas, Customs, Curiosity

Christmas Tree Farm Pine Pagan History

Christmas in Australia is a Travel at Home experience, because almost all of the traditions surrounding the holiday have been transplanted from elsewhere. Roast dinners, images of snow-men and reindeer, songs about a “White Christmas” — all of these are incongruous to our experience of a sweltering, summertime, Christmas Down Under.

So it was in this spirit of doing something outside our normal reality that we decided to visit a Christmas Tree Farm in the lead-up to December 25.

The plantation was located on a bush road about 20 minutes from us, and it was immediately clear that the field of young pine trees did not match the towering, grey gums surrounding it.

Christmas Tree Farm Kids Discover Learn

We observed our surroundings and these differences together and set off to choose a tree under the scorching sun.

The farmer let the kids climb onto his ride-on mower and even hold the chain-saw. They watched, fixated, as he cut down our chosen tree.

Christmas Tree Tradition Farm Kids

It wasn’t especially big and we were relieved to discover that it fit into the back of the car. The tree immediately infused the vehicle with its fresh fragrance, and in the heat we knew it was imperative to get it into water before it “got dead” as the children so eloquently stated.

While driving home I admitted that I didn’t really know why people brought trees into their houses at Christmas time. Some research later revealed that the tradition has many different roots (so to speak!) and that many of them have nothing to do with Christmas.

Christmas Tree Children Learn History Culture Curious Help

Our outing was a fun diversion which got the kids thinking about cultural traditions, particularly since we undertook this activity the day after Chanukkah ended.

Christmas Tree Kids Unschool Science Historic Traditions

It was also a great chance to discuss similarities and differences, and be reminded about what plants need.

(The kids also took the opportunity to kick up a dust storm, and they drenched themselves while attempting to water the tree; full disclosure).

Christmas Tree Learn Science Culture Kids Tradition Religion

Our efforts to erect and decorate a traditional Christmas Tree were not immediately successful.

But as a way to engage curious kids in the world around them, it was a super undertaking.

Christmas Xmas Tree Curious Kids Learn

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

children driving steering wheels wooden toy

Both of my young fellows are back-seat drivers and recently I had an idea to make them their own steering wheels, both for safety reasons and for fun.

Since they upgraded to their “bigger kid” car seats I have had to regularly tell them to sit back, because they enjoy gripping the back of the seats in front of them as they pretend to control the vehicle. I hear the kids chattering away behind me about how they are participating in a race, rushing in an emergency vehicle or leaning to take a turn on a motorbike. Rather than continuously reprimanding my children for not sitting properly, I decided to encourage the imaginative play by making it possible for them to “drive” while safely strapped in.

kid craft make steering wheel

This was the thriftiest possible project. I found the wooden plates for twenty cents each at the local second-hand shop and I simply used a large nail to hammer a hole through the centre.

children home made steering wheels paint craft make car steering wheel easy craft kids

Once the holes were done, I set about painting some “steering wheels” based on pictures I found on the internet. It took me quite a while to complete them, from start to finish, because I simply added a layer of paint and detail whenever I had a chance and hid them away to dry; I wanted the finished products to be a surprise for the kids.

easy fun craft car drive children kids

When I was happy with my final paint work, I strung the wheels to the back of the car seats using elastic.

back seat drivers steering wheel car kids

I made large knots on the front and then pulled the ends through the hole to the back. Couldn’t be simpler.

kids driving steering wheels wooden hand made

The kids are utterly rapt with their new steering wheels. Funnily enough, there is now very little chatter from the back seat when we drive, and when I glance at them in the rear-view mirror I see very serious faces. They concentrate! They really drive along with me, turning their wheels at corners and watching for obstacles on the straight stretches.

It took me some time and effort to make these steering wheels, but these simple home-made playthings really fit into the category of cheap thrills.

twins back seat drivers kids make car wheels

 

 

How a Hoarder Lets Go of Beloved Objects

I’m all nostalgic and sentimental because I’m in the process of selling my babies’ cots; they are babies no more. Isn’t it funny how some objects seem to absorb and contain memories, and that we all react differently to the idea of objects and their stories?

Baby Room Stokke Cot Unisex Twins Calm Vintage

I’ve joked before that I’m a borderline hoarder. (The joke is that people around me think I’m well past the border!). I do struggle to let go of objects that seem special, and it perplexes my husband that it’s often someone elses history embedded in an object I choose to hoard.

Others that I know are not at all sentimental about objects, exactly, but they have gathered papers, notes and clippings throughout their lives, amounting to boxes and suitcases full. I’m not alone in wanting to hold onto baby items; I know mothers who still have every piece of clothing and baby toy, without any expectation of procreating again. They simply can’t let go.

Baby Twins Infant Nursery Vintage Decor Hand Made Style Home

These images are a reminder of a time when I hadn’t met my children; I was in the throes of nesting and nervous anticipation. I was attempting to create a calm haven for us all.

Baby Infant Decor Nursery Hand Made Home Vintage Twins Heico Lamp

In addition to the beloved cots you can see numerous vintage toys and decorations; bunting made by a lovely, clever friend; a fluttering mobile made from old doileys; Chinese papercut birds.

Baby Bedroom Vintage Trunk Style

I made provision for note-taking, plus lovely music, lots of story-books: plenty of gentle stimulation for babies.

Baby Bedroom Decor Vintage Doll Books Style

Of course now when I look at that couch I recall anxious time-keeping, attempts to nourish two babies at once (hilarious!), an enormous breast-feeding cushion and the seemingly relentless hum of an electric pump.

Baby Twins Bedroom Nursery Unisex Pastels Vintage Heico Bunny

Thus, objects can hold memories with mixed feelings. The early days of motherhood for me were often stressful and tense as I practically juggled two infants. (Perhaps “juggled” is not the right word, but it felt like that!) I also remember staring for hours at their pink faces, fascinated with their early movements and expressions.

Baby Twins Nursery Decor Infant Monitor Vintage Souvenir Sophie Giraffe

Of the objects in these photos, many have moved on and the only one I now cling to is the “Open” sign, below. It had been the sign my Dad used on the door of his business and he gave it to me simply because it featured two kittens. It was with great surprise that we met our fellows and realised they colour-matched the cats on the sign.

Baby Twins Decor Nursery Bedroom Vintage Pastels Change Table

Objects don’t really hold memories (and I’ve mentioned this before) but I certainly think those that do evoke history have more value, don’t you? So I seek out antique or hand-made, when I need to buy something… and I mourn just a little as I pass on the cots that remind me of when my boys were babies.

I may be sentimental and have a penchant for “vintage”, but I’m very grateful to live in the age of photography so I can revive my memories with a glance.

Baby Twin Nursery Vintage Pastels Heico Bunny Lamp

Lessons in Letting Go

I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of perpetuating my own unhappiness by reliving horrible experiences in my mind and dwelling upon situations that have upset me. Recently I gained some new “tools” to help me stop these bad habits and take positive steps forward.

My family and I have had a rough time in the 6 months since I last wrote here on Many Cha Cha. We left Tasmania (and have moved a number of times since) due to the malicious acts of one or two vile individuals who operate without conscience. There’s always more than one side to a story, of course, but there is no version of this one that justifies the upheaval and suffering that my children have gone through as a result of those people’s actions.

The experience left me with burning bitterness and seething resentment, which of course does nothing to alleviate a difficult situation. I realised that in order to move on, I needed to let go. But I was so caught in a cycle of stewing and overthinking that I didn’t know how.

I decided to investigate ways of “letting go” used by different cultures around the world, and I found that there are numerous traditional, symbolic ways to release negativity.

Across the globe, there are common themes when it comes to rituals of release. Some traditions involve breaking, smashing or burning significant objects, such as the Italian New Year custom of literally tossing out and burning the old in order to make room for new. Historically, Italians and Greeks would break glasses and plates around the entrance to their homes in order to discourage negative energy from entering.

Many “letting go” rituals require an object to actually be sent out into the environment, either on wind or water. In China, sky lanterns made from rice paper have been used for thousands of years as a way to cast away fears, while kite strings are cut so they may carry sorrow away into the sky. Both of these methods are also used to send hopes and dreams up to the heavens.

A charming and probably very healing Native American tradition apparently involves digging a hole in the ground near a tree (or perhaps using a knot-hole in the tree itself) in which to whisper all your stories of anger and grief, then filling in the hole and thanking the tree for listening.

My children and I used these traditional ideas as starting points for activities. We made simple kites from twigs, paper and yarn and then ran with the wind, attempting to fly the kites by a flat lake. We blew up balloons and let them go, giggling ourselves silly as they blurted around and deflated. Together we foraged for broad leaves and gum nuts to make little boats. We sent them floating out onto a glassy billabong beneath soaring eucalypts.

Perhaps it was the symbology or the “ritual” aspect of the activities that helped me let go of much of my venomous anger. Maybe it was the running or the children laughing or the calm reflections in the water or the rustle of overhead gum leaves. It doesn’t matter.

Limits

When I used to travel solo, I enjoyed pushing myself beyond my comfort zones. I would often say: “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”. Now that I have travel companions who are small and inexperienced, I notice that my boundaries have shifted in interesting ways.

Limits Travel Family Kids Hobart Tasmania Shot Tower

It’s not that I participated in recklessly dangerous activities or blazed particularly hazardous trails. I would simply feel timid about the unknowns that I was facing, or nervous about being alone in the huge world. An example that comes to mind is when I called home upon arrival in Kolkata, India; my father was glad to hear that my plane had landed safely. He was not so thrilled when I told him I was afraid to leave the phone booth, which was surrounded by curious men whose faces were pressed up against the glass, staring at me.

These days, while adventuring, I must also consider the limits–  both physical and psychological–  of the children who are in my care. It seems an obvious point, but I know how easily it can be taken for granted that our kids and babies will just tag along wherever we want to go. We have occasionally pushed our twins too far: by taking a flight at their normal bedtime, for example, or expecting them to sit in a stroller for days on end while we explore a new city. Changes in climate have also knocked our children around in ways we hadn’t expected.

But the new boundaries are not only related to the experiences of the children; my own perceptions are affected by having them with me.

Limits Hobart Tasmania Taroona Shot Tower Tourist Family

Last week, on a whim, I pulled off the main road and stopped at “The Historic Shot Tower”, a tourist attraction that has caught my eye each time we’ve driven past. It’s situated near the coastline and looks a bit like a lighthouse, but perhaps taller and narrower. I thought it might be fun to take the children for a climb up inside it to see the view over the water.

I paid the entrance fee and wasn’t able to read anything about the history of the unique structure (“the only remaining circular sandstone shot tower in the world“) because the boys were restless and eager to begin the ascent. Through the door from the main factory we went, into the belly of the tower which was drafty and creaky.

Looking down was like peering into a bottomless drain pipe.

Limits Shot Tower Historic Channel Highway

Looking up was like gazing through an enormous telescope.

Limits Travel Children Tasmania Shot Tower Joseph Moir

The stairwell was enclosed only by chicken wire, the steps themselves were simply narrow planks, and each felt flimsier than the last. The small, unglazed window openings were far apart.

The children skipped ahead, eager to look out each window (although the view that interested them was of cars passing on the nearby road, not the picturesque sea on the other side).

Limits Taroona Historic Shot Tower Children

As our height increased, so did my heart rate and blood pressure, it seemed. I didn’t want the boys to run ahead, but when they stayed with me they clung to my clothes and made the going very slow. When all three of us stepped together, I feared the stairs would not hold our combined weight.

I’ve never been afraid of heights and have rarely felt claustrophobic, but I started picturing dreadful scenarios and I realised that I needed to make the children feel safe even though I did not. We made it halfway up before I became so anxious that I insisted we return to our starting point at ground level.

I can’t remember feeling so afraid. They thought it was a jolly jaunt.

Since then, we’ve encountered flames thrown skyward during the Dark Mofo festival that gave everyone a fright and terrified the children. Now that they can articulate more of their fears and needs, it’s fascinating to observe them discovering their own levels of comfort as we experience the world together.

Meanwhile, their presence continues to shift my boundaries and test my limits. I may need a new travel motto.

Limits Shot Tower Hobart Joseph Moir Historic

Cookin’ With Cardboard

Users of Pinterest* will be aware that there are a thousand different ways to make a DIY toy kitchen, usually from old TV units or involving an Ikea hack. I used empty cardboard boxes.

Card Board Kitchen Play House Tutorial Craft Carton

Since our move from Melbourne we have possesed a surplus of packing boxes, many of which will be reused when we return, of course. (In my dreams, we won’t need as many boxes for the return trip because I will have reduced the clutter in our house).

Cardboard Carton Craft Kitchen Kids DIY

The thought that we don’t need any more stuff contributed to the idea to use a very available material to make a play kitchen for my twin boys. Also, while I hoped they might enjoy the opportunity to cook for each other and serve me pretend meals, at age 2.5 they have miniscule attention spans and they tend to climb upon everything. Any activity could go either way and it might not last for very long.

Cardboard Kitchen Knife Cutting Board How To Make Play

So I equipped myself with a set of instructions from Japan — which I purchased after our trip — from The Cardboard Collective, who has an etsy shop here and whose blog is seriously inspiring if you like the idea of creating ALMOST ANYTHING from cardboard. Which I do.

Card Board Cardboard Boxes Cartons Make Play Kitchen How To DIY

To ensure that my kitchen looked great, I also collected a pile of interesting looking boxes from my local Asian grocery. I wanted to add some bright fruit boxes into the mix but I couldn’t find any, funnily enough (Tasmania is awash with them but I think they are already resused and then reused again, and seem to never appear in recycling piles). I might try old wallpapers and wrapping paper to brighten up future projects.

Cardboard Kitchen Box Carton Gloves Mat Equipment Make

The Japanese instructions were challenging (I could only follow the pictures and diagrams) and I had to pack up my work-in-progress at the end of each session. There was a very large amount of glue involved.

Cardboard Kitchen Play Toy Make How To DIY

So it took me a long time to complete the kitchen and I was almost completely sick of it by the end, but the sense of satisfaction upon completeion was enormous.

Card Board Kitchen Play Toy House Home Made Craft DIY

I would highly recommend to other potential cardboard constructionists that you start small, like I did not.

Cardboard Box Carton Child Toy Play Kitchen DIY

As I suspected, it was a huge hit with the kids to begin with. The utensils were very popular, and both children got a kick out of “washing” everything in the pretend sink. We shall see how long it lasts!

Card Board Kitchen Upcycle Discarded Lids Play DIY Tutorial

If you are keen to try something like this, check out Foldschool, an online resource that offers free patterns for foldable furniture. I’ll be trying those next and I’d love to hear from anyone else who has a go at cardboard furniture making.

*PS you can find me on Pinterest here, with pins about things that do and don’t start with T.

Cardboard Box Upcycled Kitchen Toy DIY