Sending a small gift is a lovely way to let someone know you are thinking of them. Even better if it’s a beautiful homemade gift you’ve carefully created. It is so special knowing that someone has taken the time to create something just for you.
In this extract from her gorgeous book Futuresteading, author Jade Miles has curated a delicious list of beautiful homemade gift ideas. Make, bake or grow some of these for a friend today.
Make-it, bake-it, grow-it: beautiful homemade gift ideas
By Jade Miles, Futuresteading
Okay, hands up who feels like a scrooge when they turn up with homemade presents? I hear you! This bugged me for a really long time. I’d turn up clutching creations that had taken months of consideration and careful planning, only to feel like my effort was the lesser on the offering table. But my stubborn commitment – and inspiration from the magnificent contributions of a few others in my world – led me to continue in my efforts.
The reality is that homemade gifts don’t actually save you money or time. Food is a common homemade gift, but by the time you save the seed, propagate the seedling, nurture the plant, and harvest and cook the jam/cake/dehydrated chips, it actually costs you more and takes more time than buying something from the shops. So, with this knowledge in your pocket, hold your head high and be proud that the less shiny, less perfect, wholly loved, individual, one-of-a-kind personalised presents have your name on the tag.
Best homemade presents I’ve received
There’s an endless range of gifts that you can make with ease. The bonus is that once you set the tone, you’ll have the favour returned. Some of the best homemade presents that we’ve received are:
a voucher book of activities and time offered for redemption (cleaning the house, picnic day out, day at the beach, night off the dishes, night in together, being read a story)
potted plants or herbs taken from their garden
stories and photos of our childhood together
a packed picnic with thermos, real china and a tablecloth or picnic rug
a garlic or chilli string that is ready to be hung straight up in my kitchen
an upcycled box brimming with hot-chocolate ingredients, including a mug, marshmallows and vanilla-infused cacao
a meal in a jar – all of the dry ingredients plus handy instructions on how to complete the meal by simply cooking it in a pot
dried homegrown herbal tea in an upcycled container
saved vegie seeds
a second-hand collection box – goodies purchased in op shops throughout the year with me in mind.
Add some homemade wrapping
The clincher to your homemade present is the wrapping. Again, it’s a chance to get super creative, so why not try using:
fabric instead of paper
pages from an old street directory or atlas
newspaper or brown paper decorated with natural finds
string or a fabric ribbon.
You can make your own simple gift tags using leaves or layered paper, and add a fresh flower tucked under the corner of the wrapping for a lovely finishing touch. Did you know that spruce is traditionally considered a sign of gratitude and hope? When you next wrap a homemade gift, why not add a little spruce sprig if you can?
Images and text from Futuresteading by Jade Miles; photography by Karen Webb, illustrations by Megan Grant. Murdoch Books RRP $39.99.
Jacinta Tynan has a new book out that is full of love for being a single mother. The Single Mother’s Social Club is both a dispenser of practical parenting advice and tissues. Jacinta herself has been a single mum of two boys for years, a role she prioritises over her public life as a journalist, news presenter and Sunday Life columnist. This is one very busy lady and her book is a fantastic read for all kinds of mothers, not just single mothers. You can see how valuable this book is in the advice Jacinta has gathered from single mother’s everywhere in this edited extract we are delighted to bring you here.
Whether you’re co-parenting, parallel parenting or solo parenting, single motherhood is a big ask. It’s also relentless. But it’s doable. Actually, it’s beyond doable – being a single mother can be the greatest role of your life.
Lara sees being a solo parent as a blessing. ‘At first I harboured this core of resentment where I felt it’s so unfair I have to raise these children on my own,’ she said. “The turning point for me was one day when I woke up and thought, Wow, I’m so lucky I get to raise thesechildren by myself. They were teenagers by then and I realised they were growing up. It was like a light bulb. I’m so lucky I get everyday of that.”
Here’s some collective wisdom from single mothers on the ways they have learned not just to get by but to thrive, for the ultimate good of their kids and themselves.
Jacinta Tynan – author of The Single Mother’s Social Club
Know that you are enough
One of the things that held me back from taking on single motherhood sooner was the fear that I wasn’t enough. Not that I wouldn’t be good enough, but that I wouldn’t be enough – loving enough, calm enough, present enough – to be able to single-handedly compensate for the life I was unable to give my boys.
I may have had doubts at the start, but I have proven to myself, through getting in there and doing it, that I am well and truly more than enough for my boys.
Our children want and need nothing more than our presence, to stop what we’re doing and be here, now. That can seem especially hard as a single parent when there’s so much on your plate. But many single mothers say they find it easier to be present with their kids with no other adult to sap their energy or divide their attention. Our kids get all of us.
Louisa is conscious of being fully focused on her kids when they’re not with their other mother. “I try to give them as much support, love and affection as I can and be really present. To stop and observe and tune in to them, really hear their voices and what they’re concerned about, rather than jump the gun and assume. I’m working on that.”
It’s okay to overcompensate
When your child forgets to take something to school (iPad, lunch), you have a choice: you can leave it (they’ll be right!) or you can move mountains to make sure they get that thing. In ‘normal’ circumstances, the advice is to do nothing – our kids must learn to fend for themselves. But, as a single parent, different rules apply. The inclination is to race back home and get that thing, overcompensating, as we so often do, in an attempt to mitigate any deficiency our life choices have afforded our kids.
When Annabel’s daughter accidentally smashed her phone on school camp, Annabel drove a three-hour round trip to deliver a replacement, without hesitation. “People say we should teach our kids resilience, but my kids have been through enough resilience building in their lives already,” she said. “If it’s possible for me to make things easier for them then I will. So long as I don’t overdo it.”
Eat dinner at the table
It’s conventional parenting wisdom that eating meals together as a family (whatever the configuration) is hugely beneficial for kids, a chance to bond at the end of each day, to talk and be heard, to sink into the same rhythm.
But it’s particularly pertinent for single-parent families, with dinner around the table acting as a touchpoint for kids who know they can rely on at least this one consistency in an often unconventional family routine.
Bronte has a cavoodle called Milo, guinea pigs and a rabbit. She said she acquired this menagerie for her three boys, partly to give them comfort during the huge changes in their young lives.
“Having pets teaches them responsibility like feeding, cleaning out bowls and guinea pig hutches,” she said. “The love you have for your pet is a different kind of love because they’re your responsibility. I tell my boys if they don’t want to tell me about their problems, put your arms around the dog and tell him. I’ll often catch them giving the dog a hug and whispering to him.”
Play team sport
“Get your kids into sport. It’s a must,” said Skylar. “It builds community, teamwork, mental health. And it’s really doable.”
I’m not sporty. I played netball for one season at high school because the teachers made me. Yet as a mother, I’m all for sport. I got my boys up to the oval by 8 am every Saturday for Milo Cricket – me and all the dads – tough going after a night shift at work.
My ulterior motive with the sport drive is that I want my kids to learn the value of commitment and teamwork, being an integral part of something, turning up on time even when they don’t feel like it. These are vital life skills at the best of times but, as a single mother, I was especially conscious of them having a consistent place to be, of being part of a team where they not only belong, but are needed.
Let kids be kids
“It’s unbelievable how much you do when you’re a single parent and you don’t have that second person,” said Sally. “My kids often say to me, ‘I’m not your staff.’ My son even said to me, ‘I’m not your husband, Mum.’ I have to let them be kids. And I have to watch the gender stereotype thing. They accuse me of being sexist because I’ll ask my son to take out the garbage, and my daughter to cook. But I say, ‘But hang on, I do all of it.’”
Early on, I learned that I needed to lighten up. One morning when I was trying to get the boys out the door to school, I found them in a ‘bus’ fashioned out of all the cushions on the couch and most of the contents of the kitchen drawers. I started rousing on them to put it all back immediately. All I saw was the disarray. I didn’t see the bus.
I mentioned the incident to the boys’ child psychologist. “What should I do in that moment?” I asked, seeking guidance.
“Get in the bus with them,” she said.
Model being imperfect
“I have moments where I could have handled things better, and I’m honest with my son when that happens,” said Shakti. “Days where I go, ‘I’m doing my best and my best isn’t wonderful but that’s as good as it gets right now.’
“I can only model an imperfect human trying to do their best. And I hope that’s all he is in his life, an imperfect human trying to be the best person he can be. He sees me meditating, but he also sees me losing my shit sometimes.”
Never is this more called for than when our kids spend time with their other parent (if they have one) during holidays. No matter how in favour of it we may be, it never feels quite right. But as hard as it may be, we have to remember to put them first.
I write my kids notes when they go away with their dad, wishing them a wonderful time. I’m giving them ‘permission’ to enjoy themselves, to never have to bear the weight of guilt that in their joy and connection with one parent, the other one might be missing out.
Don’t diss the other parent
“I can lie straight in bed knowing that I’ve acted with integrity from the day my son’s father walked out the door until every day in the future,” said Lauren. “I would never denigrate him in front of his child. My son thinks his dad is golden, which is the way it should be. He has his own relationship with his dad, because he’s his dad’s family. Me and his dad are not a family anymore.”
“A counsellor told me that no matter what they do, don’t denigrate their dad in front of the child because they believe, ‘I’m half my dad so if you say anything bad about Dad, you’re saying it about me’,” said Inez. “Of course, little things come up, but you have to let it go and focus on the good. I might have chosen bad husbands, but they’re great dads. I take myself out of the equation.”
“I’ve become very good at being the bigger person, because life’s too short,” said Inez. “You want to fight for what’s right but not to the detriment of the child because you still have to have a relationship with the other parent, whether you like it or not. That’s co-parenting.”
Play the long game
Single parents with older kids often find the way they’re turning out is ‘proof ’ that they’ve done a good job, that it’s all been worth it. It’s vindication of sorts.
“I get a lot of compliments on my kids,” said Sally. “It means so much. They’re polite, they’re empathetic. They’re good kids. I so take credit for that,” she laughed.
Sally believes that our kids notice what we do for them, even though they may not say it at the time. “One of the proudest moments of my life was when my son was going on a rugby tour. I suggested that his dad could go with him and he said, ‘No, Mum. You come to all of my games. If anyone’s coming, it’s you.’ I was given an award for being the only parent that had been at every game. He was very aware of that.”
This is what I hope for my children – that they’ll care enough to have a stake in the lives of others from a place of curiosity and care. That they’ll be kind and wise, capable and independent, ever evolving and expanding to their deepest potential. Not in spite of being raised by a single mother but, in part, because of it.
Text from The Single Mother’s Social Club by Jacinta Tynan. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99. For a limited time you can pick up a copy for 20% off at Booktopia.
Back-of-the-envelope maths tells me that the average teen will have clocked up 10–15 hours of sleep debt by the end of the school week. For some it is much worse than that. Naturally their brains try to catch up on that sleep debt by having a sleep-in on weekends.
There are several problems associated with lack of sleep:
1. Hello, Captain Grumpy
While teenagers know at one level that lack of sleep is not going to help their mood, few connect the dots and give their sleep routine the respect it deserves. The link is pretty clear. For example, in one major study of around 10,000 people (mostly adults), those with insomnia were five times more likely to develop depression than the good sleepers. Insomniacs were 20 times more likely to develop anxiety and panic.
The evidence is pretty striking for teenagers, too. A 2010 study found that teenagers, regardless of age, who regularly go to bed after midnight suffer more negative mood swings, are 20 per cent more likely to have suicidal thoughts, and are 24 per cent more likely to suffer depression and anxiety than kids who go to bed at 10pm or earlier.
2. Lower academic performance
Dr Chris Seton says the link between adequate sleep and learning and academic performance is clear. ‘We now know sleep helps learning by boosting concentration, motivation and information consolidation,’ he says.
One 2017 study found that for every 10-point increase on a certain ‘sleep regularity index’, which looked at sleep routine, there was a 0.10 increase in grade point average (GPA marker) of university performance. And it’s not just about sleep routine. The worse the quality of the sleep, the lower the GPA, according to a study from Harvard Medical School.
One theory for this lower performance in sleep-deprived people is the microsleep. Yes, these are actually real and you can see them on a brain tracing called an EEG. They last between half and 15 seconds at a time and we aren’t always aware when they happen.
Studies have shown that the worse your sleep deprivation, the more microsleeps you have. We now know that microsleeps impair the continuity of brain function and that they tend to occur prior to performance failures of various kinds.
3. Increased risk of accidents
This is an important one for teenage drivers and those with jobs involving machinery. The relationship between sleep duration and accidents is pretty telling. Studies have shown that in driving simulation tests, accidents increase progressively as total sleep duration drops.
A US study published in 2015 found that, compared to drivers who had slept for at least seven hours in the past 24 hours, drivers who reported that they had managed just 5–6 sleep hours the night before had almost double the crash rate. The less the sleep, the greater the likelihood of a crash. So, if they only slept 4–5 hours, they had 4.3 times the crash rate and for those getting by on less than four hours of sleep, they had 11.5 times the crash rate.
4. Risky behaviour on the up
In a landmark 2018 American study of over 67,000 adolescents, the findings were stark: lack of sleep leads to poor judgement. The study found that sleep duration was inversely associated with the likelihood of self-harm, risky sexual behaviour, and the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. In other words, the less sleep the teens had, the more likely they were to engage in risky sexual behaviour, use drugs or drink too much.
One explanation for this comes from fascinating tests known as FDG glucose–PET studies, in which we can directly see the metabolism in specific parts of the brain. Well, guess what? If you deprive someone of sleep for 24 hours as part of a study, their metabolism is reduced in their prefrontal and parietal cortex areas, the parts of the brain most important for judgement, impulse control, attention and visual association. So, the parts of the brain most responsible for higher-order thinking and decision-making are the most affected by sleep deprivation.
5. Poor sporting performance
One study of NBA basketball players showed significant improvements when they had more and better sleep. Adequate sleep saw the sportsmen reacting more quickly, remembering their set play better, and showing greater accuracy in shooting and faster sprinting. They also increased their 3-point field goal percentage by 9.2 per cent and their free throw percentage by 9 per cent. Plus, the players reported that they felt better physically and mentally during competitions and practices when they slept more.
6. Lowered immune system
Sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to lower levels of human growth hormone, which, as well as enhancing physical growth, boosts the immune system. Plus, not getting enough sleep slashes the number of T cells (important immune cells) in a teenager’s body by 30 to 40 per cent, impairing their ability to fight everyday infections. It also adversely impacts on immune system cells being able to talk to each other through ‘cytokines’ such as interleukin.
7. Weight gain
I mention this because it might be a big motivator for some teens. Being sleep deprived alters the food choices you make.
Just one bad night’s sleep has been linked to eating more food and of poorer quality. It’s also linked to getting hungry at random times, so that you end up snacking all day, which we know just increases the total amount you eat. I know I crave junk food if I haven’t sleep well. Studies consistently show that increasing the amount of sleep for chronically sleep-derived people – to just over six hours per night – improves their glucose metabolism.
There is growing evidence that a lack of sleep stuffs up the metabolism by impacting on two very important hormones. The first is leptin, the ‘I’m full’ hormone made by your fat cells. Leptin levels are naturally elevated during sleep so that you can last a full night in bed without needing to eat. From studies in rats and mice, we know that going to bed very hungry impairs their sleep and, conversely, being sleep deprived turbocharges their appetite.
The second hormone impacted by sleep deprivation is ghrelin – the ‘I’m starving’ hormone made in the guts. This tends to get dialled down naturally during sleep. Studies in humans show us that sleep deprivation raises ghrelin levels, making your teen’s appetite surge.
Sleep deprivation also has effects on other hormones, such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), cortisol and growth hormone. These might also contribute to the effect of sleep deprivation on obesity.
Not every teenager gets headaches, but studies do show us that headaches, including migraines and tension headaches, are more common in sleep-deprived people.
9. Worse acne
It seems from studies that a lack of sleep pumps up your levels of cortisol, making acne worse. While it’s hard to extricate lack of sleep from stress, which boosts your cortisol levels, it does seem that the less you sleep, the worse the zits.
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OMG, that’s such a big list. Teens and sleep deprivation are a terrible combination. We’ll feature an article shortly on how to help your teen get more sleep. The first step is encouraging them to actually care… no mean feat. The list provided by the authors above should hold the key to getting through to most teens.
Text from The New Teen Age by Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99.
Fortunately, it’s really only a small proportion of kids who are regularly vaping (estimated at about 1.8 percent of high school kids). But plenty of others are dabbling. Over the past few years the number of secondary school students who have tried vaping has increased significantly.
So, is it something we need to be worried about? Is vaping really that bad?
Dr Ginny Mansberg and Jo Lamble have a new book out, The New Teen Age. It’s an informative read that tackles everything from sleep to skin to sex to, you guessed it, habits like vaping. Below is an extract from their excellent book. The authors break down exactly what vaping is and give us an answer to our ‘is vaping really that bad’ question. Because, like everything when it comes to raising teens, we just want to know: should we worry?
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Extract from The New Teen Age by Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble.
The New Teen Age
Often called vapes or juuls (after one especially popular brand), electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are little devices that heat liquid, often in the form of ‘pods’ (as used in a coffee machine!). The liquid sometimes – but not always – contains nicotine, which is turned into a vapour and then inhaled. The use of ‘vapes’ is very popular, especially among teenagers, who can go online and easily buy anything they want in that area.
‘E-cigarettes are perceived by young people as a “cool new gadget” and “safer than smoking”,’ researchers wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2020. Apart from the ‘coolness’ of the gadgets themselves, the liquid that is vaped comes in cool varieties such as fruit or soft-drink flavours that are directly aiming to appeal to young people.
The latest Australian data from the 2017 Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey showed that 13 per cent of teens had used an e-cigarette at least once. Of these, almost half (48 per cent) had never smoked a traditional cigarette. But that data is so old now and – at least anecdotally – vaping numbers are rising exponentially. Drug researcher and educator Paul Dillon, author of Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs, educates on illicit drug use in high-school children. He tells me the numbers of vapers have doubled or even tripled since that 2017 study.
So prevalent has vaping become in children that in July 2020 a group of Sydney school principals banded together and wrote to parents to alert them to the issue. New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council president Craig Petersen was reported to have said that vaping had become a major issue for schools. These devices are now so clever that, apparently, some kids are vaping in the classroom!
Recent laws have made it illegal in Australia to sell vape products to anyone under 18, and vapes can be seized if they are found in the hands of an under-18 year old.
Is vaping really that bad?
Contrary to the way they’re marketed, vapes are not safe. For the kids who are vaping or ‘juuling’ nicotine, if they vape too much they can get acute nicotine poisoning that will see them throwing up uncontrollably for hours. Paul Dillon told me most emergency departments see at least one case a month of nicotine overdose in teens who are vaping. Each ‘pod’ contains about 200 inhalations of 5 per cent nicotine. While you simply can’t overdose on a traditional cigarette, it’s very possible if you just keep juuling.
But concerns have also been about the – largely unregulated – liquids and pods that are available. They are found to contain dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde and heavy metals. Plus, there was a spate of deaths in the United States from an additive – thought to be vitamin E acetate – in vaping liquid, which basically caused respiratory failure. Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia issued this statement on vapes: ‘In 2014 the World Health Organization called for their use to be banned in public places and workplaces, as there was evidence that they increased the levels of toxins and nicotine in the air, adversely affecting those around them.’
Research suggests that the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products by teens could lead to an increase in cigarette smoking over time. So, while it’s used as a tool to help some smokers to quit, when it comes to teens, it looks more like a ‘gateway’ to starting smoking.
Teens who vape are also more than three times more likely to move on to marijuana than youths who never try vaping. Recently we have seen an explosion in teens using cannabis in their e-cigarettes.
As we are writing this, it’s all pretty new and we’re still trying to get our heads around whether vaping marijuana is any different to smoking it. Regardless, we can’t imagine you’d find too many experts who are supportive of the habit.
Text from The New Teen Age by Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99.
Often what we perceive to be our flaws are often our greatest gift. In this edited extract from Jules Sebastian’s new book Tea & Honesty, she explains how turning negatives into positives is as simple as learning to turn on your light. What a fabulous lesson for our children.
By Jules Sebastian, Tea & Honesty.
While sitting down for a tea, poolside on the iconic Hamilton Island, Australian television presenter Catriona Rowntree uncovered another layer of the identity journey for me.
Catriona joined me for a special edition of Tea With Jules that was filmed at one of Australia’s finest resorts, Qualia. Both Catriona and I were guests for Race Week, where every August, spectators and yachties from around the globe sail to this tropical paradise for Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta.
I was there to interview guests for Tea With Jules and Catriona was there hosting events. Catriona is one of those people who instantly put you at ease. She is friendly, down-to-earth and loves a chat. She is a very trusted face in our country and has been on our television screens for decades. I was excited to hear her story about discovering her greater purpose and how she has followed her passion for communicating into a longstanding career on television.
“You’ll never amount to anything”
She shared how a headmistress in her teen years once told her, ‘You will never amount to anything because you cannot physically stop talking.’ It was true! She loved to talk. From the time she could string a sentence together, her family testifies to the fact that she would share a story with anyone who would listen.
But contrary to the headmistress’ perspective, she thankfully surrounded herself with people who saw her potential, who believed in her and who encouraged her to use her gift of the gab. Instead of looking at her quirky chatterbox ways as a stumbling block, people around her saw it as a passion, and she went on to become one of Australia’s most recognised, longstanding and loved television presenters.
I have a lot of respect for Catriona.
I learned from our chat not to shy away from my flaws.
I learned not to look for negatives when it comes to who you are, as there is already so much negativity in the world, and instead to share who you are with others. I was reminded of the importance of being open in life and not to bury the very things that make you unique.
Negatives into positives is a matter of perspective
If you dig a little deeper into your setbacks, you may see that what others perceive as a negative could actually be your offering to the planet.
So, here’s the deal… The same advice that I have for cheering on and supporting your kids, and your loved ones, needs to be turned on yourself. Turning on your light—following what lights you up in life—can manifest itself in many different ways.
Don’t disregard your passion for plants as a boring hobby that nobody needs to know about. Your care for the environment may just lead you to inspire others to take better care of our Earth.
What about that amazing photograph you took of your mum on the last family holiday? Don’t discount how it made your dad feel when you framed the photo for Christmas.
What about the way you set up your house to invite people into it for a lovely dinner? It could be the first home-cooked meal they’ve had for a while—what a gift! And don’t shy away from speaking up when someone hands you a floral dress—it may just lead you to helping other people discover what looks best on them also.
Whatever you love, do that
Whoever you are, whatever you love—do that!
Stylist Jules Sebastian is known for her quick wit, almost as much as she is for her sharp fashion eye and long-term marriage to muso Guy Sebastian.
If you love to go for long walks along unknown paths, sit and witness the sunrise and watch the surfers, or read a mountain of romantic novels, then you go ahead! All your interests add to the wonderful world of you and build into your identity. It is your choice who you are and who you want to become.
Your identity isn’t just one thing; you are the sum of all its parts.
Never forget that you are wonderful as you are and can offer this world something special. Your identity is yours and yours alone. You can stand on your own two feet confidently and not hide in someone else’s shadow or opinion of what they think you should be.
Whatever path you choose—it’s yours. Whatever light you discover within—turn it on. Now, go forth and be nothing short of exactly who you are!
Text from Tea & Honesty by Jules Sebastian. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99.
Let’s help our kids turn negatives into positives from this moment on!
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