Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Compromise and Christmas

I was listening to Radio National the other morning – which is one of life’s great pleasures for me – and pricked my ears up as I heard the philosopher Avishai Margalit interviewed about his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. The book is really about political compromises, not personal compromises, but it got me thinking. Particularly this quote, ‘We should, I believe, be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals and norms. Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are.’

This makes utter sense to me. It’s easy to be impressed by a person’s or a group’s stated ideals and values, but when and where they compromise is a much truer measure of what really matters to the person or group. Avishai Margalit doesn’t see compromise as a good or bad thing, but he talks about compromises that actually help work towards peace and those that should never be made (they’re the rotten ones!) because of the damage they cause. So, as we hurtle towards the festive season, maybe a little compromise should be on the menu (as well as free range turkey and biodynamic pork!)

No-one in my family gets too fussed about Christmas; no-one has hard and fast rules that must be obeyed, or Christmas traditions that have to be adhered to. (Actually that’s not true. My dad insists that he is the only one capable of buying a decent ham and the only one who can cook a traditional Christmas pudding. Needless to say, none of us has tried to change his opinion…and he does make great puddings.) But, I have friends who are turning themselves and their families inside out to attend every gathering, to keep everyone happy, to ‘have a really, really good Christmas’ (said through gritted teeth)…etc…etc. Might be worth a moment’s thought about what really matters and what can be compromised on?

Peace and kind thoughts, Rachel

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tummy bugs & kindness

We’re just recovering from a particularly nasty gastro bug in our house. As I lolled about on the bed last Saturday afternoon feeling sorry for myself, I remembered another nasty bout of gastro many, many years ago. I’ll spare you the details of the symptoms as they were not the memorable part of the episode, it was what happened afterwards that has stuck in my memory.

I was living in southern NSW, boarding with a family and finding my feet in my first job as a brand new, squeaky clean psychologist. I didn’t know the family I was living with that well and I knew their daughter, who is the same age as me and was visiting her parents for a few days, even less. I had spent the Friday vomiting, but was determined to drive back to Melbourne for the weekend, so set off, with a bucket between my legs and a pile of towels next to me. When I returned on the Monday morning, I found my sheets washed and ironed, my bed re-made and some flowers in my room, with a short note which read, ‘It’s nice to have clean sheets after you’ve been sick. Katey xx’

I still think that’s one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I am a bit fascinated by kindness these days and often think about Katey’s kindness and many other kindnesses that have come my way. I have been reading the book On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor. It’s a comprehensive history of kindness and an examination of what motivates kindness in people these days…and more importantly why kindness is so out of fashion. Phillips and Taylor make a good argument for how kindness has become our guilty pleasure; something we can’t admit to enjoying. And, how we tend to trivialise kind acts and view kindness with suspicion. It’s interesting to think about how and why kindness has moved from being seen as a natural virtue, inherently part of humankind to the point where people generally think that kindness is a weakness and only practised by losers. How often do you see the words ‘winner’ and ‘kind’ or ‘kindness’ in the same sentence?

Real kindness requires us to be vulnerable; to be aware of our own and other people’s vulnerabilities. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that kindness is so out of favour…we all like to feel safe and don’t like to experience the unpredictable, which is what happens when we act in kindness; we never know where it might lead. Personally, I think kindness is one of the best parts of humankind and should be embraced. It is wonderful to be part of kindness in any way…as an observer, a receiver or a giver.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pad Thai

For those of you who have received your Summer issue, here is Kate Quinn's extra raw food recipe from her Raw Feminine article.. Enjoy!

Pad Thai
Serves 6
Equipment: blender


4 cups bean sprouts
4 large cos lettuce leaves shredded
Fresh coriander chopped
Fresh mint chopped
½ cucumber chopped into chunky bite-sized pieces

1 cup raw almonds ground
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar/nama shoyu
1 tablespoon agave nectar1-
2 tablespoons ginger

Place all salad ingredients into a bowl.
In a blender, mix all of the dressing ingredients until well blended then mix well into the salad.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moving through 'No'

Hi Anna, there’s been a lot of hot air floating around my head during these hot and steamy days, so your talk of fans (and the rather large hint that me and Rachel are slack arses when it comes to blogging) has inspired me to share it with you!

I’ve been thinking recently about freedom and what it really means to be free—how much do we allow ourselves and our children to take that risk or have that experience?

When my oldest son was little, a friend and beautiful mother talked about how important it was for her to say ‘yes’ as much as possible to her wee ones so that they might experience the world fully. So when they’d want to play in the mud or the rain or go nudie in the sea, for example, she’d let them, overriding various voices in her head: ‘They’ll get dirty’, ‘They’ll catch cold’, ‘What will people think?’ And so on.

I really liked this idea and went along with it for the most part, within (my) reason. But ten years into family life, we’ve moved on from the mud and the ideal of ‘yes’ and onto other things. I don’t know how or when it happened but somewhere along the way my children’s desires for experiences turned into longings for ‘things’; mostly technological things for the boys who are ten and eight and crystals, clothes and horse mags for my four year old girl. Clothes—Four?! And this is for children who have been mindfully—mostly— shielded from the mass media hype.
I find it so much harder to allow material acquisitions than experiences of the world, so my ‘yes’s’ have become ‘no’s’ and all of us are struggling—me to be consistent and upright in my resolve and my children with the unpleasant surprise of not getting what they want as often as they used to. I kind of wish I’d said ‘no’ a lot more now, just for the hell of it and certainly for the practice of it.

The thing about a ‘no’ in our family is its longevity. How long will Mum and Dad last under the barrelling determination of the children? I’m tired at the moment and would like some more time so ‘yes’ beckons with promises on the horizon for all of us. But ‘no’ quietly grunts along in front—for the most part anyway—with roots stretching back to my past (the past that inspired my initial ‘yes’s’, ironically, having been brought up to be such a good girl).

‘Mama doesn’t get upset with Dada when she doesn’t get what she wants, you know,’ I found myself telling my daughter via the rear view mirror as we drove along. She was on mega sulk and I was trying to talk her out of it. But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt it fill up with the thought of such a big fat lie! The countless times I have been challenged (and that was just through questioning—not an outright ‘no’) about something I have been planning to do have infuriated and enraged me to different degrees depending on my yearning and the manner of questioning.

Yearning, longing, desire—it’s such a fundamental part of our being-ness in the western world; how much time do we all spend wanting something and being a slave to our desires? From world peace to DS’s to a good night’s sleep! But this is where freedom comes in because desire, whether it’s for a material thing or an experiential thing or even a kitten (my eight year old’s current obsession), is linked into freedom. And I say this with the deep appreciation that I live in a democracy, never go hungry and have a relatively luxurious existence. I’ve realised that the best thing about longing for something is the actual longing itself; the yearning is the sweetest feeling—allowing myself to be in the moment and the middle of it is great and liberating! It’s not the object of my desire I want it’s the desiring and I’m right here, right now doing it. But try telling this to my four, eight and ten year olds! The last thing they’re feeling is liberated when they come up against a parental ‘no’.

‘No’ is a container for them to push against and flex their muscles; a ceiling where patience floats in clouds and lessons of practising to live with unrequited wants abound. Maybe after enough time they might get into the groove of just feeling the desire and enjoying it? For the moment though, they’re not having a bar of it! So I content myself with the thought that I’m providing some boundaries and holding for them; in navigating their desires and mine too, I just have to make sure the container of ‘no’ is solid enough to withstand their tenacious spirits and mobile enough to allow us room to grow...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fans - what are they good for?

So in the absence of Charlotte and Rachel sending me tidbits of wisdom, I'm going to write my own - and it's about fans...
Being incredibly hot in our terribly insulated, badly positioned house, and having ONE fan as our cooling method during these hot nights - I've been pondering the idea that fans might actually not be all they are cracked up to be....
Do fans just push the hot air around so it feels like it's cooler, or is there some method behind their apparent hard work? I'm beginning to think that they actually just massage our mental state, allowing us to THINK that we are being cooled down...
Anyone else got a theory?


Recipe Blocks

Check out this special for the Recipe Blocks cook book - there is one of these starter packs in our Christmas Hamper too..

Monday, November 9, 2009

A few more hamper items..

Here are a few more latecomers to the Christmas hamper...

P.S. I seem to be having a bit of trouble getting all these photos to come up together... Sorry about the visual sprawl...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Christmas Hamper

Wow! We have such an amazing prize hamper for all you subscribers, resubscribers and people buying gift subscriptions for friends to go into the draw for!!!

We've included just some of the prizes here for you to have a look at - and there are more coming... So keep an eye out to see what else is being added....
Below is a list of some of the items that have been kindly donated by our sponsors, advertisers and distributors... Have a look at their websites and see all their amazing ideas for Christmas presents (if that's what you do!)

and there's more to come!!!

So get subscribing for a friend for Christmas, or re-subscribe for yourself, or even better - subscribe just for you!

Have a good weekend.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We want the world to know that it's Charlotte's birthday today!
She is such an amazing and inspiring woman, and boy, can she dance!
We love you heaps Charlotte - thanks for everything you are to us, our families and to Barefoot.
Have a day full of fun and laughter..
Anna & Rach

Monday, October 26, 2009

Christmas Special

So you're already a subscriber and you miss out on all the great prizes on offer for subscribing??
This one is for you! Subscribe for a friend - get them a subscription for next year and YOU go into the draw to win a great hamper filled with goodies from our sponsors!
So all you need to do is jump onto our website and subscribe with your friend's details, then email me at with your name and I'll put you in the draw! Easy!
There! All your Christmas anxiety erased....

Eltham Festival - November 7

If you're in Melbourne and you're looking for a small town festival with lots of free entertainment for the kids - come to the Eltham Rotary Festival on November 7, 2009 from 12pm
We'll be there and we'd love to meet some of our readers!
Come and say hello!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scrunchies, hoarding and stories...

I have always been a hoarder. I think it’s a reaction to my father’s ‘If it hasn’t been used in six months then it should be thrown out’. To this day, my poor mum comes home to find the kitchen cupboards rearranged as dad has done a spot of culling. Ebay has been a boon for him!

When someone offers me their ‘stuff’, I can’t say ‘no’. So the other day, when I was offered an older friend’s complete scrunchie collection—collected over the past 30 years—how could I refuse? The large box filled with different colours, fabrics and sizes looked so cheery and beautiful and seemed to be calling my name.

My creative mind keeps telling me that ‘you never know when you might need 50 or so scrunchies for an 80’s theme party’ or ‘I’m sure they could be turned into an amazing fabric sculpture’ while the other side of me is saying ‘take them to the op shop…now!’

Actually we’ve had heaps of fun with them. The baby loves pulling them out of the box and throwing them in the air. My nearly 3-year-old boy loves putting them all up his arms and legs and turning himself into a colourful caterpillar. And, we all had fun the other night with my step-daughter dressing up and creating crazy hairstyles…dogs included.

I’m sure the reasons for hoarding are many and varied. I know part of it for me is about holding on to history, sort of documenting events and lives through objects. It’s the same reason I love writing and especially love working on Barefoot. Stories and words are another way of holding the history of an event or a person. We all use stories as a way of being anchored to the world and connected to others…and Barefoot is all about stories and connection.

So, for now the scrunchies are staying…you might even see a picture of an amazing scrunchie sculpture posted on this blog sometime soon!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Downstream and listening

Rachel, in response to your question...What’s making you smile?

This week, two people (one in a conversation, the other in an article) have talked about ‘responding to life’, not having a big life plan or even a little one. Just responding to whatever comes their way and in so doing they have created fulfilling and supportive work – life work – for themselves; one’s an international aid worker and the other is a civil celebrant in Sydney.

The pressure to go out and ‘do’ starts young with the questions from well meaning adults—what are you going to do when you grow up? I don’t get asked that anymore (strangely enough) but I still sometimes ask it of myself. I had a few contented years off from this question, in happy surrender to birthing and mothering, just going with the flow, not needing to ‘do’ so much as to ‘be’.

Over the last few months though, as my youngest needs me less, I’ve felt this growing impulse to be in the world AND do. Dare I say change it! So I really liked hearing these two women talk about just responding to circumstances; seeing a need and responding, then seeing another need and responding. This is a much more gentle way of contributing to the world, the community, the family, the self...It made me smile and think of water—saying ‘yes’ to the flow and ‘no’ to pushing the river.

The other thing that made me smile was hearing the same message twice, from completely different sources, just a few days apart...I think I needed to hear it!!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Recipe Blocks Book Launch

What have you got on this Saturday afternoon?
Are you in Melbourne?

Our very own Rachel Watts is launching a new book called "Recipe Blocks" by Kerrie Hancox & Claire Raymant on Saturday 10th October at the Urban Life Cafe (143 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood) from 3.00pm.

If you are interested in going, send an email to to reserve a ticket as there are limited spaces available.
Have a look at the flyer and come and say hello to us if you come!!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Subscribe during October

It's nearly the end of October - and if you subscribe before November, you go into the draw to win a $50 voucher to Leatherwood Books!

So what are you waiting for?

Think about something that makes you smile...

We love Justine Clarke’s CDs for kids at our house, and I especially love the lines
‘Think about something that makes you smile,
Think about it for a little while,
What you feel and what you see
And give your smile to me’

Here are a few things that have made me smile over the past few weeks….

The man who walks his dogs along the same track as us, who always has a pocket full of dog treats, which he hands out to all the other dogs who are out walking with their owners. He’s a bit of a favourite with our dogs Jack and Ruby!

The teenage boy I met at the park, who had his pet chicken walking behind him.

The father with his two adult sons I met just after they’d kayaked down a very full and fast Yarra river. They were all bursting with the joy of seeing the river so swollen from the recent rain, and being able to travel faster than they had for 5 years or more.

The young man who helped an elderly gent get out of a tricky parking spot. The young guy offered his help respectfully and kindly, and the older man, who might have felt embarrassed had it been handled differently, was left with all his dignity in tact.

A photo from a friend in the country of the flowers blooming in her garden since the Spring rains have arrived.

What’s making you smile?


Monday, September 21, 2009

Spring offer at Spiral Garden

Spring is here and I love it!!
Sun, some warm nights already and just the general lifting of Winter - it makes me want to dance.. And dance I will..
So one of our distributors has a Spring offer at the moment, and I thought some of you might want to take advantage of it.. (Barefoot stockist)

Spiral Garden ~, nature's way... a home-based online retail store specialising in wooden toys, fabric dolls, quality art supplies, natural craft materials, co-operative games, books, magazines and other natural and organic gift items.

Free Shipping for all orders over $80 not including postage

Australia only

Valid till 30 November 2009

Code = 'Spring' - enter into Discount Coupon section of Checkout

Have a great day...

take care



Thursday, September 3, 2009

No electricity!

Tuesday night last week (25 Aug) and the eye of the storm went right overhead. We (all five of us) stood and gazed open mouthed to see great gums bending over with their canopies dancing to chaos. The rain was hammering down but being whisked in every direction, so it didn’t look like it was falling at all. MAD! ‘Tree down’, ‘limb down’, we shouted as we ran from room to room, inspecting the rip that had torn through.

Amazing though, to see Nature in some of her crazy glory.

The result of which meant all three roads ‘out’ were blocked by fallen giants or their limbs (for the evening at least) and we were without power for thirty odd hours. A mere trifle in the global scheme of things, although I did feel a breath closer to tsunamis, tornadoes and whirlwinds and extremely grateful for our solid bricks built so carefully by the former dwellers. The window panes, on the other hand, had not made me feel so safe with their demanding rattling...and thankfully I didn’t see some of the roof tiles finding their way to the ground.

The biggest surprise and delight though was camping, all of a sudden, in our own home. Enforced slowing; nothing to do, except cook the dinner—porridge (thank goodness for gas) and sit by the fire (believing the electricity would be back in a while. The kids were asleep a whole hour earlier than usual and so were we, after a lovely relax with ‘nothing to do’.

If you’d have asked me, before this stretch without electricity, I’d have told you I was not ruled by technology, that I was well and truly in control of my usage and managed my juggling (family/working at the computer) with ease. I’ve since learnt I’d have been lying.

I was shocked at how ‘on’ I’d become. I’m not a facebooker, blogger (have serious concerns about starting this one!) or twitterer but I am an emailer and very occasionally a surfer. I don’t spend a lot of time at the computer but I am clearly hooked; I felt bereft without my connection. It had been removed, taken away from me and I kept catching myself just going to check my emails and then feeling empty.

So I was given this lovely opportunity to reflect on my attachment to this ‘feeling connected’ feeling. It’s not like I ever get really amazing news or profound insights when I’m ‘on’. I think it’s possibly a sense of being involved in a virtual community but that’s not strictly true as most of my emailers are friends or colleagues that I see as well as correspond with. I guess the virtual community may begin then where will my addictions be?!

It is about belonging though, somehow. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s just that I feel like I belong to my computer. Yikes!

Enough talk of computers and more about peace. The house was wonderfully peaceful without electricity. I’m so used to the whirring of the fridge or the buzz of the stereo. I could feel the sense of the house more strongly, without the usual currents flowing through it. So much stillness and solidness!

The power’s back on today and noise is here with a vengeance as chainsaws are seriously disturbing the peace with their mania. It’s time for us to do a garden clean up so I think I’d better get out there and pick up all those scattered limbs and branches; say goodbye to fallen friends and thank the ones still standing.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Cheeky ads....

Just wanted to say that we don't want any cheeky ads on our blog - from people trying to sell stuff that we don't want - so I have changed our settings so that we have to approve all your comments - but don't worry! We won't sensor you - just the rubbish that has been mass sent!
Hope you're all enjoying your Spring issue - have had a few people tell me already it's our best issue yet!! Get out there and get it - in shops this week!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Okay. Anna’s been pointing out how crappy our blog is and gently pushing us all (Charlotte, me and herself) to get writing…so I am resisting my inner luddite to put a few words down (or is it up?)

I have been watching with interest the slapping/no slapping of children debate in New Zealand. I’ll nail my colours to the mast here and now and say that I am fervently anti-smacking for lots of reasons (maybe the topic for another blog entry?). I was (pleasantly) surprised when the New Zealand government chose not to go with the majority in their recent referendum on removing the ‘no smacking’ laws which were introduced there a few years ago. So, in a nutshell, the majority of those who voted wanted the law to be removed—so that smacking was no longer a criminal offence—and the government decided to ignore the majority and keep the law. I guess there’s another debate (another blog entry?) to be had about whether or not governments should behave in what could be seen as a paternalistic way.

It’s easy to be clear, definite and to take the moral high ground when all is going well, but yesterday I had one of those moments when my firmly held beliefs (about smacking and about myself) were put to the test. I was saying goodbye to some friends after a long walk and natter when my two-and-a-half year old boy quietly disappeared on me. I spotted his curly, golden locks bobbing along as he ran happily through a busy car park towards our car. As soon as he heard my anxious calls, he hid behind another car and waited. By the time I found him I was full of fear, anger and relief all at the same time. The look of defiance on his face was the thing that tipped me into the realms of wanting to hit him. But why? Hit him for not listening? Hit him for the terror his running off had caused me? Hit him to teach him a lesson? Hit him to relieve my own anger?

I didn’t hit him. I bundled him into the car, locked the doors, stood outside for a few minutes and breathed. All the while, he was inside the car screaming and thrashing around…I couldn’t help thinking that he was expressing my rage and fear for me! A few minutes later he calmed down…and some time after that I calmed down and I was able to tell him clearly, strongly and with love (and a slight ‘mum’s really upset’ edge to my voice) what was unsafe about what he’d just done and why I was cross.

Everything was calm and sweet after that…and I was left to think about what had happened. It really just reinforced why I am anti-smacking. All of the times I have felt close to smacking and nearly all of the smacking I have witnessed or heard about has been about relieving the feelings of the parent, not about what is in the best interests of the child in that moment.

Well, it looks like I’ve thought of at least two more blog entries to write, so hopefully this will be the first of many. Thanks to all the Barefoot supporters…hope you enjoy the Spring issue, which will be out in shops next week. Subscribers already have theirs…one of the benefits of subscribing!


Monday, August 24, 2009

EcoKids Festival

For everyone who lives in Sydney, or feels liks a visit on Sunday 13th September - there is a great festival happening at Luna Park called EcoKids. You can find out more information at

The Eco Kids Festival has been designed to allow a single point of access to a wealth of information on living sustainably both for children and their parents over a single day.

The festival has been designed to allow the children attending the unique opportunity to gain access to the latest in green technologies, techniques and ideas, and experience them first hand while also enjoying an incredible day of entertainment.

Featured will be eco-workshops on everything from worm-farming to renewable energy, organic food stalls, recycled arts and crafts, sustainability experts to answer all of those tricky questions, interactive eco-gadgets and displays, roving performers and some of Australia’s best children’s entertainment.
I'm going to head up to it and check it out - they are thinking of bringing it to Melbourne next year.
Let us know if you go and give us some feedback on what you think...

Spring is in the air...

So the big news on the Barefoot front is that Spring is ready to go!

Received this afternoon, lovingly put into envelopes (although we had a dud batch of envelopes that wouldn't seal very well which created some serious frustration!) and tomorrow I'm going to juggle two kids and a great deal of boxes and get to the Post Office. So...Melbournites will get their copy mid week and all our other lovely subscribers should get their copies later in the week or early next week..

If you haven't subscribed, then you're going to have to wait till the end of next week, which is when Spring will be in stores. Yet another benefit of subscribing..what are you waiting for?

I really want to add another image down here but am such a novice at this blog thing - I'm going to have to put up a different post...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

So our new website is up!! No more broken or non existent links! So hopefully all of you who tried to have a look on our blog, can now find it! Say hello to us! Introduce yourself!
We are all madly getting ready to send our Spring issue to the printers and it is going to be such an amazing issue - about families and friendships, the earth, birth and death and so much more. It will such a full, exciting read for you all - sometimes I wish I was a subscriber so that I could just pick it up fresh and read it cover to cover all over again! (Perhaps I'll do that...)
Anyway - still waiting for one of you to take the initiative and write on our blog - isn't that what people do on these things??
Hope you're all well where-ever you are.
Take care

Friday, June 12, 2009

New blog

Hi everyone
We've switched over to Blogger for our blog space - it seems like the place to be and we can be green as well, instead of blue (for anyone who visited us in the last place).
So Winter issue is out in almost all our stores now - and it looks like it is already selling well..
Great feedback on the all the articles about fathering...
We in the Barefoot team are already getting geared up for our Spring issue - no rest for the wicked!
So write to us - tell us what you're thinking...
keep warm on this chilly night..