Mom Story: Food Writer Sophie Hansen
Hello! My name is Sophie Hansen. I'm a mother of two (Alice 4 and Thomas 2), food writer and farmer (or at least married to one). I love growing, sourcing and cooking good food with my kids and write about this on my blog, Local is Lovely. I also contribute recipes to JustB Australia, Village Voices and Kidspot Australia. We live on a farm about four hours west of Sydney and farm deer Mandagery Creek according to holistic principles.
What kind of house do you live in – are you and the kids happy here, or is there anything you find lacking, or would like to change?
We live in a moderately-sized farm house in a beautiful valley on the back slopes of Orange’s Mount Canobolas. When I moved here six years ago to live with my now husband, it was a functional brick rectangle with an interior palate of dark brown, pale brown and a little more dark brown. But just before we had our first child Alice (now 4), we gave the place a modest face-lift and now it’s a happy, bright and much-loved family home.
We love living here. We have space and gorgeous views from every window and the kids have vast spaces as their own private playground. Thomas is a busy two-year-old and loves the fact that he can roam freely within the house paddock, pushing his bike and wheelbarrow as long and far as he likes (within the gates of reason!). Alice has a lovely old pony who lives in a paddock just next to the house and she often steals apples and carrots from the fridge for him. I know this sounds trite but I couldn’t be happier that my kids are growing up in the country with so much space and freedom to explore.
If I could change anything though it would be my lack of pantry and kitchen storage; I write and test lots of recipes for my blog and other websites (justb, Kidspot, Village Voices) and often dream of having more benches and a proper walk in pantry. One day our budget will allow for this but for now, for us, its perfect.
What do you like best about living here?
The aspect. Every morning I look out our window, up the valley, and catch my breath at the views. To us this valley is paradise.
Do you like to spend time decorating your home and your children’s room?
Yes! I love fiddling around with our rooms and am constantly moving furniture and paintings around. It drives my husband crazy!
Do you keep your children’s play area separate, or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
We do have a playroom but it’s also my office and a spare bedroom. In theory the toys stay in there but in practice they migrate to every room in the house as the day progresses.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
For Alice it’s her desk in the playroom, I try to keep it stocked with paper and pens/pencils and she loves hanging out there drawing her own little creations. Tom loves his big box of trucks!
Er…I wish! I was getting sick of Alice changing outfits ten times a day and leaving piles of clothes in her room so now we pick an outfit the night before, shut the cupboard door and then that’s it for the day. Day two and so far so good!
What places in your neighbourhood do you like to shop at?
For food? In Orange I love A Slice of Orange and Totally Local. For clothes, coffee and gifts it’s Hawkes General Store. Twenty minutes in the other direction from our farm is the beautiful town of Canowindra, it is home to the fantastic homewares shop Bendy Street Emporium.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
My perfect day would involve just the four of us hanging out on the farm all day – no driving to town, no work, no phone calls and no computers! We’d take Alice and Chutney (aforementioned pony!) for a walk, cook some sausages over a fire and maybe move some stock around. Just the four of us not going anywhere all day.
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on the weekends?
When they aren’t at pre-school or family day care (three days a week), the kids and I are either hanging out at home or driving around our region visiting farmers and cooks for my blog, Local is Lovely. I think it’s really great that they are getting so much exposure to the way our food is produced and the amazing farmers and cooks in our area. They are learning first-hand that foods come in and out of season and that really nice people work really hard to grow the good food we eat. As well as being my Local is Lovely ‘roadies’ the kids have all the standard engagements such as swimming and ballet lessons, play dates and home days. As for weekends, if we aren’t travelling to farmers markets we spend our precious free Saturdays and Sundays just quietly together on the farm.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice?
My kids are still pretty little and like all Mum’s I have days when I feel I’m doing pretty well and days when it all seems a bit too hard. In general though I try to do these three things every day; make them laugh as much as possible, keep them active and feed them well.
Do your children have friends over often? If yes, what activities do they do?
We live a good half hour hour of town so don’t have a constant stream of visitors. That said, we love seeing our friends so often invite them out for a cup of tea and some cake. There’s an old set of cattle yards near the house with a ramp and some sturdy sliding gates and that seems to be the big draw card for every child who visits us! They love climbing up, over, in and around the yards and jumping off the ramp. We have also tied a rope ladder to an old pine tree so the kids can access their little tree house. I generally find that the kids just need to get started with a play ‘scenario’ and then they’re off and running with the story. This week we converted an old apple bin into a pirate ship and that has provided loads of play ideas.
What are your all time favorite books for children?
Because we spend so much time in the car, we go through lots of Audio Books, our favourites are Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and Lola, Dogger by Shirley Hughes and Mem Fox’s collection of stories. For actual books, my kids love the ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on the roof eating cake’ series, Dr Seuss plus all of the Madeleine books.
How do you buy your books? Bookstores? Online?
I spend a lot of time writing about the merits supporting local food merchants and try to do the same with other items we buy, from books to clothes and home-wares. We have a handful of really great bookstores here in Orange and I love to shop at all of them. I know it’s cheaper to buy online but we share a community with these bookstores and the people behind them. They support us by buying our meat so we like to support them in turn. Plus I love love love book shops and find the experience of going in to town and coming home with a crisp new book in my bag much more fun than ordering one online.
What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?
We have some really beautiful parks here Orange and our favourite is the historic Cook Park with it’s gorgeous old rotunda, glasshouses and fish ponds. In the park’s centre is a little shop called The Guildry, selling home made biscuits, slices, jams and preserves plus beautifully knitted baby and children’s jumpers, bonnets and booties. The Guildry is a real gem and all the ladies who bake, sew and knit its inventory work there on a roster system. A little further out of town is Lake Canobolas, a stunning piece of water surrounded by walking tracks, playgrounds and a little further onwards, orchards, vineyards and mountains.
What movies do your children like to watch?
We try not to watch too much television but do love cuddling up on the couch to watch a good movie. Most of our family’s favourites are old classics from Pollyanna to the Princess Bride and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Both I think! I have spent my career writing about food and spent three years living in Northern Italy working for the Slow Food movement. Now I am a primary producer and am incredibly proud that we grow such beautiful animals via a holistic farming system that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
Yes, we all love cooking and eating together. Because Tim works from home we usually share all three daily meals together and all share the cooking. I admit I do the lions’ share but everyone helps. Alice is just getting interested in what happens in the kitchen and it’s such a joy to me to see her mixing, stirring and cooking so happily.
What a lovely Mom Story, thank you Sophie!