What my kids eat for lunch : Vegetarian kids : SesameEllis.com

If they could, my children would have the very same thing for lunch every day. In fact, over the six weeks of summer school holidays, they had quesadillas. Seriously, every day the same thing. Two with black beans and one has it just plain cheese. Sides of tomato, capsicum and avocado (when we could get avocado for less that 11 dollars each fruit) would complete their plate. I tried to add a little excitement by getting the rye, sourdough and garlic wrap options instead of the standard wholewheat ones and you can imagine how that went over. To be fair, I can understand seeking comfort in familiar foods when your days are comprised of learning and new challenges. That said, I wanted to have a little variety in their lunch boxes this year and after a lunch planning coffee session with Gemma, I am putting together our kid-approved short list here.

Lunch box Meal planning coffee date : SesameEllis.com

Vegetarian Sausage Rolls from Veggie Mama

This recipe made me finally see the magic of cooking. There is some sort of sorcery in here because these taste like meat. I am not kidding. Meat loving Russian relatives and good old Aussie meat loving blokes were FOOLED. These are best served hot from the oven, but the kids love them as lunch box for the next day too. I will be making these for dinner and then saving a batch for the following day.

-Because my insides can’t take onion in large quantities, I reduced the required amount in this by 3/4 of what is listed. I also added finely diced carrots once and I am putting shredded zucchini in as well.

Vegemite and Cheese Scrolls from Kidspot

My kids swear up and down (and left and right too) that they do NOT like vegemite, so I call these “Salty, Cheesy Twisty Buns” and they are none the wiser that they actually DO like vegemite. I just like things that can be made in 15 minutes out of three ingredients.

-I add some parmesan cheese on the top because salty!

Cheese and Sun-Blush Tomato Muffins from Rose Elliot

This is my absolute favourite recipe from my absolute favourite vegetarian cookbook that my friend, Jessica gave me. I make these in little batches in a mini-cupcake maker without the paper liners. They end up being the perfect lunchbox size.

Our Own No-Nut Sandwich Spread from Sesame Ellis

When they just want a sandwich, this is what we put in their lunch box because they don’t like vegemite (wink, wink), we don’t eat ham and one of them is allergic to peanuts.

Kid Approved black bean dip : SesameEllis.com

Kieran has decided he loves to eat dip and willingly shovels down raw veggies in the process of consuming dip, so dip it is for lunch this year. He especially loves hummus so he has learned to make it himself with low garlic content, but still a lot of taste. We are playing around with a SUPER EASY black bean dip recipe today and so far it goes something like this:

Into a food processor dump the following and secure the lid. Let child blend…saves you time and they think they are cooking.

1 can of black beans* (drained)
1 handful of fresh cilantro/coriander finely chopped
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 teaspoon of cumin

Garlic salt to taste.

If you are eating this at home, top with shredded cheese (tasty cheese is fine…this is for kids and Australia, so I doubt they will request queso fresco) and sour cream. Those dairy based ingredients might not keep well in a lunch box, but if you have a nice ice block to put in with it, they might. I think it is just fine without the cheese.

This goes wonderfully well with crisp strips of raw capsicum/red bell pepper, carrot sticks and cherry tomato. Of course it is FANTASTIC all melty and warm with tortilla chips, but I am trying to be healthy here. 

Yumbox bento box style lunch boxes from Finleeandme.com.au : SesameEllis.com

We spent the second to last day of the school holidays at home, so I thought I would do a test run of their packed lunches while the twins played a video game and Gemma and I sorted all the school uniforms. The twins have brand new Yumbox lunch boxes from Finlee and Me** which are bento box style cases with a leakproof dip section built in. I am excited for them to have these this year because it means not only is there is less for Clover to lose, but their healthy lunch is all right in front of them. They can’t ignore the veggies by pretending not to notice that individual box at the bottom of their bag. At home they have a great divided snack tray at lunch time that puts all their food choices in front of them and this box is the portable version of that. While it says it is dishwasher safe, I find hand washing their lunch boxes extends the life of them and I want these to last! I have labeled the heck out of these lunch boxes as well because, well, Clover… And on that note, I make sure to label everything with our contact details (I use a dedicated family email address for all things school and kid related instead of a phone number – it also keeps my inbox organised) so that if things get lost, anyone who finds those things can return them to us. I found a backpack in the playground this past weekend and although the contents were labeled, they just had the child’s name so I could not contact anyone. Hopefully they came back to get it!

I still put the kids’ treats and snacks for school in reusable individual containers (nude food, y’all) and they always have loads of fresh fruit to choose from as well. It is just like how they eat at home during the day with a morning tea, lunch and access to fruit whenever they want it.

Not that I want them gone, but bring on Friday morning, I am ready for routine again!

*Canned black beans in Australia are still hard to find. When we first arrived here about eight years ago, they were only available in USA food specialty store for about $4 a can. Now they are easier to find and slightly less expensive in the regular grocery stores’ Mexican food section. Once a year, Aldi offers a Mexican food range and they have super cheap canned black beans in that range. You can also find dried black beans in asian food stores and make them yourself, but I find they don’t taste the same and certainly take longer than opening a can and I’m all about the “in and out” factor of kitchen time. That said, my Mr has sourced cans of black beans locally at Moorabbin Wholesale Market for less than a dollar each! If you are in Melbourne and craving black beans on a budget, off you go to Moorabbin.

**Disclosure: Finlee and Me sent us the two Yumboxes free of charge, but I was not required to mention them on the blog, nor was I paid for this post. 

share tweet pin email
  • katepickle - Those Yumboxes are awesome… I look after our dance teacher’s little boy one night a week and he has one of those and I can’t believe how well it seals no matter what we do with it!ReplyCancel

  • Kate Lloyd - It’s so hard to find a good lunchbox. I like the little dippy bit too!ReplyCancel

  • Lea - Those Yumboxes look ace – I guess they either didn’t come up when I extensively searched last year ( or they wont fit a whole apple uncut, which seems to be a big ask )

    Those recipes look yum – will definitely link through and try, but what made me comment is: black beans!! .. totally relate with you there.. I also think the corn chips here are nothing not even like the FREE comp ones you get on the tables BEFORE YOU EVEN ORDER in the States. But yes, it’s getting better 😀

    To add a bit more international to your post – Moorabbin Wholesale Market is also where we buy our Black Pudding for Sunday breakfast/brunch.

    Holy heck, I think I just ruined the vege vibe … but .. it’s mainly grains .. I promise you .. yikes *runs*ReplyCancel

    • sesame - Ha! Definitely does not hold an apple uncut! I just toss those in the bag!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea Farrell via Facebook - Rachel Devine Photography / sesame ellis its time to start digging, your an amazing person, how about helping the little ones to start growing some peas, [really easy], carrots a little more annoying [carrot root flies love carrots :(]. Not sure what the program for growing your own is like in Australia or soil. Perhaps raised beds. I think your kids would really enjoy their food even more knowing they grew it. Your an inspiration to all Mums and Dads across the world. Time for a new book on vegetables and children. xxxxxxxxReplyCancel

  • Veggie Mama - I love food sorcery! I also love Finlee and Me, and those bloody Yumboxes. We have the originals which means the compartments are slightly smaller, so am thinking of upgrading as they get older. Theyre so cute AND i love how it seals!

    Also can you please pack my lunchbox? Your ideas are so goodReplyCancel

  • Liz (Good Things) - Hello Rachel… so lovely to meet you aboard the Golden Princess yesterday! Popping in to see your blog… and those vegie sausage rolls. Bye for now. xReplyCancel

These guys : SesameEllis.com

Here in Australia, the school year goes along with the calendar year.

Sort of.

School technically starts in January, but the last Friday of January so while I would love to be super organised and getting a lot done over here, I simply can’t.

Sort of.

I mean, I really feel fractured when I am trying to be a work-at-home mom with kids actually at home. I do a lot more of the yelling and shushing than the playing and writing. So when the kids are back in school, my work year officially starts.

Until then I am being held captive by these crazies who are about to start 2nd and 6th grades!

End of summer school holidays : SesameEllis.com

February is the new January around here.

share tweet pin email

One of the things that drew me to the micro 4/3rds mirrorless camera system was the fact that I could get adaptors for old lenses that I had been holding onto since my film days. Despite shooting on Olympus for nearly two years now, I have yet to get those adaptors. The Olympus optics have left nothing for me to miss! However, shooting in the water has reignited my love of mysterious and fluid focus. I have been feeling like I need to bring a bit more art into my regular portraits. In fact this year, I would love to offer simple sessions with the result being one large art print and some more shots in a beautifully printed story book. I still need to develop that idea, but today I am finally getting my art in gear and shooting a series of portraits with the freelensing technique and some of my favourite old glass. I thought I would share my learning and practice with you in case you want to give it a try as it works for DSLR too.

Freelensing with Hasselblad lenses and Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark2 :: SesameEllis.com

First, what is “freelensing”? In short, it is freeing the lens from the camera. I literally disconnect the lens from the camera body and shoot. Holding the lens in my left hand, I hold the camera in my right and manipulate the lens forward and back as well and tilting up and down until the area of the image that I want to be in focus is in focus. I press the shutter and hope I got it before either I or the subject moved. The Hasselblad lenses I am using are like mini tanks and weigh between 600 and 900 grams each… that is up to 2 pounds in one hand that I have to keep steady as I attempt to achieve focus. The camera I am using only weighs a little over 400 grams. It is a bit like a new ind of workout for photographers. Now this technique means that the sensor is open to air so there is a risk of dust getting into your camera as well as extra light. The dust is a worry, but the light adds to the effect. I do wish to cut down a bit of the haze so I have crafted a rudimentary dark shade to help cloak the space between the lens and camera. It really does nothing to protect from dust, so ensure the area where you are shooting is as clean as possible (not the best technique to bust out at Burning Man) and keep a camera body cap close to put on in-between set ups. I also have a dust blower, but not sure that will actually help as I have not had to use it yet.

Freelensing with Olympus :: SesameEllis.com

Here the first photo was taken on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark2 with the Olympus 25mm lens and then I stayed in the same spot to use the Carl Zeiss Distagon 50mm lens with the same camera body. You can see that it not only has an effect on the focal plane, but the wonderful swirls of colour and haze are all because of the freelensing.

Freelensing with Olympus :: SesameEllis.com

I have found so far that you need to set the widest aperture on your lens so that the camera has the most area of glass to shoot through. You will also need pretty good light as at least with handholding a 2 pound lens with a razor fine area of focus, camera shake will ruin everything. These aren’t blurry shots, but rather controlled out of focus images. I need to shoot with a shutter speed no slower than 1/200 sec, but would like the extra wiggle room at even faster settings. I need a better lens hood than the one I quickly made from cloth as it often droops (even though it is fairly stiff woven fabric) into the shooting space and I have to readjust. I have tried a piece of black felt from the kids’ art supply basket, but it is not big enough to wrap around all the way. I might see if I can’t get more black felt and sew something a bit more substantial. I have also experimented with my son’s new school shoe box as a sort of tripod/platform. It isn’t practical, but it made shooting portraits of Clover watching something on her iPad at the kitchen bench a bit easier to achieve. It would be the perfect way to do this technique if I was photographing something still like flowers or food. Someone must have come up with a more dignified way of stabilising the two elements, but I haven’t had time to do any googling.

Freelensing with Olympus :: SesameEllis.com

You now might be asking, Why on earth would you do that? Simply, because of the challenge and unexpected results. A bit more of an expanded answer would be to utilise a variety of old glass and to create the dreamy soft focus effects in portraits usually only achievable with a tilt shift lens. I am feeling the need to shake things up with my work and I have begun to explore my feelings about living an expat life through my photography. This added layer of complication to the shooting process helps me slow down again and the results are as unpredictable and delicate as life itself.

I love a good black and white photograph on the best of exposures, but there is something even more haunting with this technique seen without all the colours.

Freelensing with Olympus : SesameEllis.com

I am sure I will have very toned arms when I finally master this effect, but for now I am excited to work out my imagination more than anything. If you are up for trying this out, I would love to see your images! This is a great little project to try on the weekend, enjoy!

Here is the Steller Story:

share tweet pin email

 immersed  underwater photography by Rachel Devine

 As my Facebook feed filled with photos of the first snowfall flakes drifting to the ground on the east coast of the US, I threw towels, boogie boards and children into the car and headed to the sea. Our daily connection to the water. January heatwave and January snowfall both sound correct. They also both sound wrong. The subtle dissonance of expat life. Maybe I am getting used to it now. The idea that my home will forever be fluid is actually exciting instead of frightening. We didn’t really move away to here, I finally see that we are actually always moving. We belong to both and everything in between just like the water. A friend of mine, another expat is helping me see these connections with my photography as well and I truly can’t wait to put these pieces all together this year. I was submerged and now I am able to see the top for a breath…
 underwater photography by Rachel Devine   
underwater photography by Rachel Devine   underwater photography by Rachel Devine   
underwater photography by Rachel Devine  

share tweet pin email

Brought to you by Clarks and Nuffnang

We are currently enjoying the freedom of summer, but with January’s arrival comes the time to start some simple preparations for the new school year. I like to get little things done over the month so that the final week of holidays is not a mad rush with forced errands. I start with the worst preparation, turning my weekday alarm back on!

Clarks 10 step school shoe fitting. SesameEllis.comOne of the main worries that Kieran has on a daily basis is what to wear on his feet. With his sensory processing disorder, shoes are an issue so we usually get him one pair he is fine with and that is all he wears until they are worn out or grown out of. He does have weird swim sandals that he can wear to the beach, but other than that, it is school runners every single day. At the end of the school year, Kieran’s one pair of runners were trashed. There were holes in the toes and the velcro no longer closed tight enough so there was no more support. As much as the thought of new shoes stressed him out, we had to go. Luckily we were invited by Clarks to come out to their store and have one of their specialist trained fitters carry out their 10 step check to find the one perfect fit for my sensitive little guy. For what I hoped would be the final time, he shoved his sock covered feet into the falling apart runners and in the car we all went. Clover was determined that she was not getting shoes as she has sandals to wear for now, but in the car she came anyway. Plus, she would rather have bare feet whenever possible. You can’t keep her little gypsy toes confined.

When we arrived the store was full as there is a 20% off school shoe sale going on and being the experts with over 170 years of caring for kids feet, parents know it is the place to be. That said, we did not have to wait for long at all before we were being helped. There is a huge selection of styles available for school shoes at Clarks, but since our primary school allows sport shoes everyday, we just focused on those. To make our selection even more narrow, Kieran has not learned how to tie his shoes yet, so velcro was a priority on my list. The first step though was to get both feet measured properly. I was surprised to find out that he has not gone up a size from what he was wearing last year. That could either be that I had him in shoes that were too big or there is a growth spurt on the very near horizon! For my wallet, I am hoping for the first option. I love that the width of the feet is considered and catered for in Clarks shoes. They have so many sizes available in their range that his size 13 G foot was sorted right away into a Cross Hype Junior shoe. These shoes are lightweight velcro runners that are fully machine washable so they can remain fresh week after week of daily wear. While Kieran selected the black ones, they also come in white as I know many schools request that for their students. He put them on and I could see the relief on his little face as the velcro was closed. The length, gap for flex and heel grip were all checked and then Kieran was asked to walk and run about the store so the fitter could watch for any slippage. While they use their 10 step fitting process, I could just read Kieran’s expression to know they were the shoes for him. Of course at that moment Clover changed her mind and so her feet were custom fit as well. In the end, I left buying a pair of Clarks Veto runners in pink for Clover. She is a little less harsh on her shoes (probably because she is mostly barefoot…even at school), so I am happy that the Veto come with dual insoles that allow the shoe to literally grow with her feet for longer wear.

Testing Clarks school shoes with Iron Man. SesameEllis.com

Now, Clarks shoes are apparently “School Proof”, so I will keep you updated. I know that Kieran will put that to the test for them for sure. I have no idea what he does at school, but his shoes look like he crawls on his hands and knees with toes scraping over a cheese grater. So far he has run up and down the street and scootered for hours (he still uses his feet for brakes) with his Iron Man and they still look brand new.

running boy

Next year Gemma will need proper school shoes for high school, so we will be back with all three next January! I hope they make the school shoe sale an annual event!

FYI, Clarks has got an Instagram and Facebook competition that’s so simple and gives you the chance to win a pair of Clarks for your child’s entire class! This is what you have to do:
1.      Follow Clarks on Facebook or Instagram
2.      Share your School Proof Tip with them and tag @clarksaustralia and #SchoolProofTips for your chance to win!

It’s that easy!

share tweet pin email