For as long as I can remember, “food” has been a huge part of our family. Childhood memories of porridge on winter mornings with a pool of fresh cream and brown sugar, working on the farm and coming in for a hot lunch, hanging out with Grandma over the stove on a crisp winter day at the farm eating homemade heart-warming vege soup from Grandma’s garden.  I also remember an afternoon treat of Grandma’s moist sultana cake or delicious golden syrup dumplings for pudding, family gatherings with a good home kill roast, yummy doughnuts with fresh bread after church on a Sunday at my Aunt’s.  I loved sharing a sneaky pack of Twistees or liquorice with my mum on the drive home, trips in the truck with dad and the promise of a yummy ice-cream or a pie – “if you are good,  Dad would always say with a cheeky grin.

Now, with my own growing family and the way things have changed, there is more thought about what we put in to our mouths, how many “E numbers”, if it’s low in fat, what give us the most sustained energy. Meat comes in packets from the supermarket and tastes nothing like the home grown beef that I now know I was very privelleged to have.

We are encouraging our children to try different foods, pick from the garden (OK we had to ban them from picking the Stevia plant!), eat meals at the table together, participate, talk, listen, work together as a team…whether it’s in the garden, or the kitchen cooking, the outdoor table, the dining room table, a bbq with friends and family, a picnic rug – eating a meal is one of those main moments we come together as a family and touch base.

We have a few foodie traditions and favourites like every Sunday morning we do a cooked breaky (often pancakes), and our kids favourite “Don’t Know Burgers”. The idea behind these is the kids don’t know what’s going to be in them and they aren’t allowed to peak, just open their mouths and eat, enjoy the bliss of flavours. We get to sneak some extra veges in to them and they always ask for seconds!

My daughter and I are spending our weekdays in Tauranga and all our weekends in Taupo now. As I walk outside, I get a wave of the aroma of fresh basil, and other herbs, cherry tomatoes sun kissed and fresh off the vine, and the smell of dirt as I pull out home grown beetroot and spring onions…we love our vege garden and is definitely a core part of us. It has become not just a resource of food in the physical sense, but a nurturing food to our senses, our minds, and our environment.  We sit outside to eat every day in the Summer, surrounded by the garden and the aroma it brings – chatting about our day, planning what to do next. I watch Rik outside watering the garden and for the first time this week he has shifted from his stressful week mode and slowed down and relaxed, the dog playfully barks and jumps around him, the children are laughing and teasing and wanting to play under the hose. My hands delve in to the soil and I feel earthed, balanced, nurtured.

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Michelle Woolley is a qualified nanny, has worked in hospitality, accounts and advertising, and is now studying Bachelor of Social Work full-time, working part-time as a support worker for people with disabilities. In her teens, she volunteered at kids' camps and listened to real life stories, dried the tears of many young girls struggling with living in a broken family. She didn’t realise that one day she would be drying the tears of her own child while parenting alone. Join her as she writes about her journey.

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