Category Archives: Family

Waldschattenspiel (Shadows in the Woods) – a board game

Wer wird gewinnen, das Lich oder die Zwerge?

Who will win, the light or the dwarves?

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This beautiful German board game by Kraul, wandered into our lives at Christmas. It’s a simple but magical game best played in complete darkness. The board is a forest – lit by a single luminary tea-light that travels the forest pathways on each roll of a die. The tea-light illuminates wooden 3D trees which cast a shadow on to the board, providing hiding places.

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The shadowy woods

Within the shadows cast by the trees,  tiny Zwerge – dwarves/gnomes – must keep to the shadows. Any who stray from the shadows are frozen in the light until rescued by another dwarf.

The objective of the game is for all the dwarves to gather together in the shadow of one tree, before the light freezes them all.

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A dwarf alone in the woods, frozen by the light, awaiting rescue

Tip: First time play – unpack in daytime

This is handy to know if you’re excited to play this for the first time one night – unpack it in daytime. Before playing, you have the opportunity to transform the wooden dwarf playing pieces into dwarfish characters. There is felt supplied for their crafting their hats.

naked-dwarves

I also took up the additional suggestion to add some beards, and some felted wool from my stash added a beardyness any king from under the mountain would be proud of. I did have a few visions of them catching alight, so tamed my initial extravagant very curly beards to this:

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Playing

What I particularly love in a world of plastic Monopoly and Game of Life empire building, is that this feels like a fresh breeze in games, because it hearkens back to old story-telling, to simple themes of light and dark, yet, where the shadows are the safer place. It is a very calming game,  and dwarf players play cooperatively against the light player.  Usually an adult plays the  light as the naked flame is pushed around the board through the forest, while the children work cooperatively as hiding dwarves, but responsible children could be given the role of the light.

It’s such a soothing game that it can played right before bedtime.

Complete darkness works best, and in this shadowy world,  the trees even cast their shadows on the walls too, so if you can preserve a childlike wonder, you too are in the shadowy forest. Part of the realisation for the children is that they can hide their dwarves in sight right in front of you (the light-bearer) in what feels like it should be visible to you – yet if the candle is beyond the tree the adult won’t be able to see them – they are hidden right in front of you, in complete darkness. The light-bearer can’t move from their seat and you rely utterly on the tiny light to catch a glimpse of a hat or beard. It’s actually very difficult to find the dwarves, much to the amusement of the children.

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I see you! Betrayed by a bushy beard!

As the adult playing the game with younger children, because you need to look away while the children hide their dwaves each time, you may need to ask older children to take responsibility for helping the younger childen avoid reaching directly over the candle flame. The game is recommended for 5 years and above.

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The only other grown-up person in our family of 4,  found the game painfully boring, and I’m not sure we’ll convince him to play again. Both kids 9 and 5 absolutely love it, and keep asking to play it, as I do, so it wins with 3 out of 4 of us. It’s more than a game, it’s got something enchanting about it.

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There is an additional game board on the reverse of the board which we haven’t played yet.

I can’t quite explain how much I absolutely love this game , unique in its gentleness and with the feel of a fairy tale. It feels older than it is. It relies on your willingness to take on a role and be part of the world of the shadowy forest, to fall into a story of your own making. In simple terms, imagination beyond the board. The kids have invented names for the dwarves and I love their secret whispering strategies as they negotiate tactics for keeping hidden and guessing where the shadows will fall.

A game that will be remembered and loved beyond childhood, and if you find it hard to track down, you can also try making your own version.

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“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Exploring one of the last lagoons on the coast…

Getting out for an exploration at my favourite time of the day, twilight – is one of those true pleasures, and often one bumped for all the million other things that need to be attended to.  So today after school, we headed nature-side and explored the coastal wetlands at Aldinga, Sellicks Beach – the Aldinga Washpool Lagoon.

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It’s a beautiful place in the twilight, yet humble, with nothing to point out its significance, except some fencing and ‘conservation area’signs and a large diverse collection of birds gathering.

It’s a place that speaks for itself, if you listen.

lagoon

It’s included in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia because significant flora and fauna are present. The local council (Onkaparinga) describes it as “one of the last remaining coastal lagoons of its type along the metropolitan Adelaide coastline“. The phrase “one of the last remaining” evokes a pang of sadness, because it feels like we have to read it far too often sometimes. Wandering there in the last remaining rays of sunlight for the day, light reflecting off the rippling lagoons with the sound of waves on the beach, you can see this is an important place of water. It must be astounding to see the full moon reflecting in the lagoon. Just imagining it…

But even beyond its ecological significance as a remnant coastal lagoon, and being able to appreciate its unique beauty, there is far more here to cherish and protect.

The lagoon is a culturally significant site, sacred to local indigenous Kaurna groups as an important place on the Tjilbruke Dreaming Track,.  It’s actually the cultural significance which drew me here this week. Miss 7 visited the start of the dreaming track as a school excursion, to Warriparinga Wetlands And Living Kaurna Cultural Centre. Exploring the sites closer to home at the end of the dreaming track, are on the top of our list, particularly because I have my head in indigenous astronomy at the moment.

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There’s a lot of information about the Aldinga Washpool lagoon area, once you go looking online. The ecological facts and figures are easy to find, but it’s trickier to uncover more detail about the cultural stories of this place, but I’ll keep searching and learning (and adding finds here). There is a Washpool newsletter and it seems there has been a long effort by locals to achieve sustainable integrated management of the site focused on the cultural significance.

This action is reassuring as it is a quiet spot, and while we were there, some young lads turned up and decided to use the dirt track between the two lagoons as a place to practice skids and burnouts in their car. Sacred places in quiet spots sadly do sometimes need a bit of protecting from some our human wildlife.

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My favourite sight amongst the black swans and wading birds were the swallows darting over the long grass, in flashes of blue and rust red – very difficult to photograph though.

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And here’s some 4 year old human wildlife, learning to fly like a swallow – also elusive to photograph so I’m including him here:

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Geek parenting fail

Geometry set

So, the other day I bought little Miss 4.5 year old a gift that I thought was ‘cool’. It was a $3 coloured plastic geometry set.

What? She’s been into drawing with rulers and stencils lately so I thought she would love it. Admittedly, building up the drama of receiving a geometry set with “I’ve got a surprise for you” didn’t get me off to a good start.

And there it was. The first look of genuine, wavering bottom-lipped dissapointment that I’ve been responsible for. She looked at the geometry set and then me as if I was the meanest mother on earth.

So, how did I respond?

By explaining all the cool things that you could do with a geometry set…

1. Draw cool things with straight line, like you do with a ruler. Counter argument received: “But I only like long rulers for doing that
2. Having a geometry set makes you like a big school kid. Counter argument received: “But I don’t want to be a school kid until I’m 5.”

But…the sobbing was escalating. I was becoming desperate to put some kind of positive angle on the situation (angle, geometry, get it??)

And then, I found it!  The reason for a 4.5 year old to have geometry set, that IMMEDIATELY stopped the tears, elicited smiles and even a ‘thanks mum, this is cool”….

(mathematicians….please look away in disgust now…)

behold….

Funky geometric glasses

Why marriage is like chutney and oatcakes.

I recently bought the River Cottage Everday cookbook because I love everything about River Cottage and Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s approach to food and lifestyle. I didn’t expect to get a meaningful, philosophical insight into my marriage from it, but that’s precisely what I got. This is one inspirational cookbook!

As I’ve just stopped work to have our second baby, I’m keen to really revert more to my natural inclination towards living frugally. We have two professional incomes but my soul properly sings when I can grow food, reuse things and hunt for second hand stuff. It just makes me happy.  It just costs a little more time that can sometimes be snaffled during a working/parenting week.

I was looking through Hugh’s cookbook in a browsy way, wondering if I could make something nice for our 11th anniversary on Saturday. One recipe caught my eye as it said “perfect with home-made chutney”.  Richard had just crafted a delicious batch of home-made chutney last week with our plentiful supply of green tomatoes.

The recipe is called Bill’s Rona Oatcakes, and when it dawned on me that this was from the Isle of Rona near Skye, I had to know more. With a quick search online, I found out that the recipe was from Bill Cowie who is the only permanent resident on Rona.

After reading the Isle of Rona website and seeing Bill’s  Images of Rona collection, I was besotted with the place. Next time we travel to the UK (which we do every few years) I feel determined that we’ll have a family holiday there. I feel drawn.

Richard and I have spent lots of time in Scotland and have a deep love of the islands, and they form a large part of my mystic/romantic dreams of the ideal place in terms of the natural world.  Growing up with Scottish parents probably sowed the seeds of my love for that wild landscape, but now having also spent time in Scotland, that feeling of awe and love is so easily conjured. When I listen to celtic music, memories of all the times we’ve spent in the highlands and islands flicker throgh my mind and fill my heart – so brim full. Sometimes I can so vividly summon up the landscape, I feel like I can go there anytime I need to. My favourite holiday of ours was cycling and camping some of the Hebrides, and I have a soft spot for Sutherland on the mainland, and love the islands I’ve so far visited which are Iona, Mull, Skye and the Orkneys. But not Rona yet….not yet…but I can dream!. .

Rona sounds truly like the idyllic wild holidays that Richard and I love. No shops or roads, one permanent resident and only a few holiday cottages – a place where you can walk in rain and sun showers, catch fish and cook them on an open fire, relax by the fireside in the evening with whisky or heather beer, gaze at the clear night sky, eat kippers for breakfast while watching a rainshower, look for plants and wildlife on land and sea – generally just adore feeling little in nature’s big beautiful vastness.

Suddenly, this oatcake recipe was just not about biscuits for chutney  – it had leapt off the page into my dreaming mind – and the oatcakes became symbolic  – little oaty tokens that represented a taste of a future ideal – a family holiday on Rona.

It wasn’t long before I was  infusing the kitchen with some delicate tunes from my celtic playlist –  and the mood was well and truly set.  I had decided to make some of these oatcakes for Richard as his wedding anniversary present!

A well-baked tune -click to listen
Click to listen
Oatcakes made with love

I accept that in terms of gift-giving, some little oaty cakes might sound a bit cheap, and like my frugality has gone a little over the top – but we don’t generally do anniversary presents anyway. Also, being just a week away from giving birth means we’re not really up for going out for a meal anyway, and are planning to have a normal Saturday together with Fionna – and have something with chutney for tea!

Yes, a first attempt at baking oatcakes are probably going to turn out to be imperfect, and experimental as I’ve never made them before – but homemade gifts appeal to my quest to use money for living experiences – like holidays to the Island of Rona!  Lets just hope Richard doesn’t mind a few half-baked biscuits instead of something made of stainless steel for 11 years of marriage! (I did after all make him a minature cosmos for our 10th!)

Anyway, cheers to Shug and Brian for putting this recipe into a cookbook and consequently, mixing all the ingredients in my head into a hearty, wild family holiday dream.

Romancing the oatcakes

Let’s hope Rona oatcakes and chutney turn out to be a marriage made in heaven. But it’s not just about chutney and oats –  there’s more to enjoy – these oatcakes go well with cheese and marmalade too!  This is how I came full circle with my great insight (bear in mind, I have a crazy pregnancy brain) to  think of our marriage as being just like chutney and oatcakes too: we compliment each other, both mature with age, and yet, are equally and individually enhanced by some lovely condiments…er…children.

In my experience of marriage, it’s just as  romantic being a mother and father together as it is a husband and wife. Now to me, that sounds like the right sort of ingredients in a recipe for happy times ahead. 😉

Fionna’s first book recommendation: The Secret of Moon Castle

I sometimes ask Fionna, “Where do you live?” and for the last few weeks she has sometimes replied with the same sentence: “I live on adventure. I live in a moon-castle.”

I have no idea where it’s from, but I am soooo intrigued that I googled it, thinking it might be a song. I found a book called ‘The Secret of Moon Castle’ by Enid Blyton which is of course an adventure book by *the* adventure story writer.

Maybe this is this Fionna’s first book recommendation to me?? I like it. 🙂

Baby Fionna arrives at the farm…

Today is Fionna’s 10th day in the outside world. I went into labour on 4th October at 18:15pm and Fionna Gillian Brown was finally born on 5th October at 13:50pm, weighing 3.5 kg or 7 lbs, 12 ozs.

After four days in hospital, I was really ready to see our farm and all the animals again, although from my hospital window I had the most beautiful view of maple trees and I passed most days staring at Fionna and the spring sunlight through the maple leaves beyond. As the room was on level 4 of the hospital, it felt as though the room was literally in the canopy of the trees. It’s something I will always remember in terms of bringing her into the world.

This is a photograph of us waking up on our first morning back on the farm as a family. I am still in my pjamas and Tara the goat managed to sneak into the photo which is quite cute.

fionna and goat

All of the animals have either bonded or ignored this latest little addition, and the farm is a strange place, resonating with the usual cries of roosters, chickens, goats, cows and now a human baby girl too.

Being gluttons for adventure, we have managed to take Fionna out three times already in the 10 days of her life. Once to the local supermarket and post office, then to the local Saturday morning farmers market and a half-day trip today to Victor Harbor.

I have to admit that I was slightly anxious about taking her out initially and this was why I so badly wanted to do it. The first expedition out saw me not being able to concentrate on anything but her and nor could I really relax. I felt extremely conspicuous with our newborn accessory and as everyone is drawn like a magnet to tiny babies you stop every few steps to answer questions and admiring sighs from friendly strangers. It’s lovely but a bit disconcerting when you are trying to blend into the crowd. After I got over that weird initial feeling, it’s better and today I even breastfed her on a bench in the main road in Victor Harbor and felt calm about it. Any niggling doubts about not having the confidence to feed and settle her in public have nearly gone now as I know I can manage to do it at this stage in a state of complete inexperience and first born clumsiness with her.

Physically, I am still recovering myself (stitches & tiredness) but moving is so much easier when you don’t have 3.5 kg hanging off the front of you and it feels great!

The spelling of Fionna with a double n is deliberate. Sgurr a’Fionn Choire (The Fair Corrie) is a mountain in the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye. Fionn in Scottish Gaelic means fine or beautiful. Richard climbed this mountain in the 1980s and we spent time on Skye together in the 2000s. Scotland is our favourite place in the world. When I was in labour I thought of the most peaceful place I could think of which was camping a the foot of Marsco on the Isle of Skye which is part of the same area. I also found out from my mum that her mum had wanted the name Fiona for me thirty years ago when I was born, so all in all the name really suits. Her second name Gillian is named after Richard’s sister.