Simply Living Journal

Health & Family

fats and oils

Let’s chew the fat about oils

fats and oils

I’d like to demist a few of the fallacies surrounding fats and oils, more particularly what’s great to use cold and what’s good to cook with.

Too much information often leads to confusion and thus we sort of just give up and grab whatever’s closest, which may not be healthy. We all know fat and oil makes food taste great. It gives flavours more depth and enhances them like nothing else does and finally, there’s scientific proof that fats and oils can be good for us! HOORAY for modern day science! However, many health professionals including myself will still suggest using everything in moderation and to always be mindful of the quality and source of what you choose to consume. The quality and source of fat and oil is very important especially if you’re heating it or using it in your baking.

A simple a rule of thumb is: ‘If it’s solid at room temperature it’s safe for cooking,’ with very few exceptions. The reason for this is solid fats or oils are more stable at higher temperatures.

Let’s go through a few fats and oils used for cooking: coconut oil is perfect, vegetable oil – there’s enough scientific research to support avoiding this one for most uses. Ghee is  fine, lard is  great, olive oil is okay for some cooking, extra virgin olive oil – maybe not, avocado oil – maybe not.

Let’s roll back a little. Why a maybe not for avocado oil and EVOO? Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil (especially) and other similar oils have many health benefits at room temperature but may not be as good for cooking as we’ve always thought. Although they have been popular for a long time and the food and health industries have promoted them as the healthy fat that can be used for everything, new research has shown that heating some oils over specific temperatures can break down or oxidize it. This is what those ever-so-loving antioxidants that you consume work so hard to clean up and we want to help our antioxidants out as much as possible, which we can by avoiding oxidized oils.

To do this, choose the right oil for its purpose, and base it on source and smoke point. If you’re cooking above 160 degrees Celsius, choose a fat or oil with a high smoke point like Ghee (Clarified butter) or coconut oil. The smoke point of the oil is normally easy to find if you do a quick search and most products will have the smoke point on the label. Save the Evoo and other delicate oils for more gentle low heats or even after plating your food, they’re great as a salad dressing or a last minute drizzle on your fresh food to enhance the flavours while keeping the nutrient value of the oil true.

I always encourage clients and people I help to do a little research into what they’re using and eating so they are empowered with knowledge that helps them make healthy choices and I strongly encourage readers to as well.

By Holly Kendall of Holly Kendall Organics

Holly Kendall’s Organics, provides families with easy access to fresh, seasonal certified organic produce sourced from Australian farms where it is grown free of chemicals or pesticides and hasn’t been subjected to any long term storage. The business is operated with the help of her family, from her small organic farm in the hills of Wandong, Victoria.

Holly Kendall

Simple ways to add lots of nutrition to your diet

Over the past few years, ‘Superfoods’ have gained a lot of attention in media and culinary circles due to their high level of nutrition and the health benefits of adding them to your diet. Some superfoods like kale, turmeric and blueberries are well-known and wonderful but I find many people overlook our very easy to get ‘normal’ fruit, vegies and herbs, some of which are packed with just as much, if not more nutrition and can be easily grown in your own garden.

Silver beet

Firstly, consider old-fashioned silverbeet. I find many vegie gardens are often bursting at the seams with (usually self-sown) silverbeet, which is great for those who want to make sure they’re getting nutritious greens. The humble leafy green silverbeet is very high in essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients including calcium, iron, vitamin A and C, which promotes healthy skin, eyes, bone health and immune function. If you’re not a confident gardener, this is one vegetable most people can comfortably grow well and it will always be a very healthy and nutritional addition to meals.

Growing a leafy vegetable that you can pick and lightly cook soon afterwards is something I highly recommend. It’s when you will get the most nutritional value from it. You can easily steam it, mix it into your salads raw or even pop it in your fresh home- made juices and get a healthy dose of chlorophyll. It’s a natural blood cleanser that helps the body detoxify and clears out any nasties that may be lurking around our systems.


Next consider the normally prolific growing herb, Parsley. It’s one that doesn’t gain a lot of attention for its nutritional properties or health benefits but always steps up to the plate (no pun intended). Parsley is a humble little herb rich in the important Vitamins A, K, Folate and energizing B Vitamins. Its health promoting benefits range from protecting our DNA through to providing antioxidants. Its high levels of iron and calcium assist with anaemia, improve our digestive health and is a natural diuretic, plus much more.

Adding MORE of these naturally nutritious foods to some of your meals during the week is a simple way to provide your body with the essentials it needs to improve digestion and feel more energised.

There are so many delicious recipes available you can try that include these ingredients. It’s an excuse to get in the kitchen, experiment and become excited about preparing healthy meals.

By Holly Kendall of Holly Kendall Organics

Holly Kendall’s Organics, provides families with easy access to fresh, seasonal certified organic produce sourced from Australian farms where it is grown free of chemicals or pesticides and hasn’t been subjected to any long term storage. The business is operated with the help of her family, from her small organic farm in the hills of Wandong, Victoria.


Beach picnic

Simple, classy alfresco Aussie dining

If you’re going to eat fish and chips do it with style. One of the nicest places to eat is outdoors in a natural environment with a sensational view, particularly with children.

Summer dining at the beach or near a river can be simple, inexpensive and more enjoyable than going to a restaurant.

Pack a hamper with an attractive table cloth, serviettes, a cold bottle of wine and glasses, cold drinks for the children, plates and cutlery.

Make a home-made tartare sauce or delicious fish sauce (recipes below). Chill and put in a sealed container.

Prepare a simple shredded tossed salad using lettuce, tomato, spring onions or salad onions, cheese, parsley, rocket or whatever else you have in the fridge. Dress with a combination of olive oil and a light wine vinegar or lemon juice and place in a plastic tub with some tongs.

Find a quality fish and chip shop on the way and purchase some cooked fish… and the chips if you enjoy them.

Find a picnic table on the beach or near the river, spread the table and place the fish on plates with the salad. Dress the fish with the sauce and enjoy outdoor dining in some of Australia’s beautiful locations. Do it with real flare and style!

Fish and chips at the beach

Traditional Tartare Sauce
Combine 1 tablespoon of minced or grated red onion
1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of finely chopped gherkins
1 tablespoon of finely chopped capers
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley
Combine ingredients and mix in enough Aioli or mayonnaise to suit.

A delicious Fish Sauce using purchased or home grown produce
2½ tablespoons of raw sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of vinegar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of dry mustard
2 large eggs beaten
¼ cup of water
1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped cucumber
1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped celery
1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped dill or parsley
1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped asparagus
1 small clove of crushed garlic
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
Stir constantly with a whisk over a low heat until it thickens. Remove from the heat before it boils and chill. Makes approx. two cups.



Barry Goldsmith

Be nice to snakes

Be nice to snakes

Barry Goldsmith, a Victorian snake catcher and conservationist, loves all Australian native animals, particularly snakes. For more than 30 years he has made it his business to rescue and relocate Australia’s venomous snakes while educating people to dispel the myths surrounding them and to reduce the fear many people have of what he believes are a beautiful and necessary part of our environment.

Like all Australian native animals, snakes are protected so it’s illegal to kill them. ”Almost every second person I talk to has a story about how they killed a snake and it’s just not necessary,” Barry said. “If they’ve got the time to go and grab a shovel, then their life is not in danger and they’ve got time to call a snake catcher to have it removed and taken to a safer environment. Killing a snake can attract a fine of more than $6000.”

He said trying to remove or kill a snake is very dangerous and it’s often when people are bitten. “Cutting off the snakes head is dangerous and really, really cruel because it doesn’t die straight away. It remains alive for about 15 minutes watching you. People then often bend down to pick up the severed head and are bitten.

“There is no evidence of a snake attacking anyone without a reason; dogs and humans are not on their menu as food items so they have no reason to attack anyone. They are easily scared and very scared of us. If you scare a snake the first thing it will do is quickly move away from you. If it’s cornered, it will attempt to bluff you by puffing out its neck to make it look larger. If you persist on engaging with it and the snake has no other means of escape, then it could be dangerous for whatever or whoever is involved.”

Copperhead snake

Snakes are protected because they are essential to the health of our natural environment. “If there were no snakes, the environment would suffer,” Barry said. “We would be completely overrun with rodents and other species they prey on. In many areas, they are an alpha predator and if you take an alpha predator out of the environment then you’d have a lot of ecological problems. Snakes are a sign the environment is healthy.”

He said some people try to keep snakes away from their house or garden using electronic devices or chemicals, which he believes are a scam. “They don’t work. Ideally you don’t want to give snakes too much cover. If you’ve got low lying shrubs in one area and a bit of rubbish in another area, the snake is going to go from one to the other. They don’t like to be out in the open because their main predators are large birds. Rubbish, long grass, standing water and rodents are very attractive to snakes. If you have pets though, it’s a good idea to have a place for a snake to hide so if it’s chased it has somewhere to go, which will save the life of the snake and the pet.

“I know for many people having short grass and only a few plants may not be practical because everyone enjoys having bushy or native gardens with water features to attract birdlife. They should have that, but they need to be aware that snakes are attracted to it too. In a dry area during a dry time of the year, snakes need to drink so they will also be attracted to swimming pools, water troughs and people watering plants and they are excellent swimmers. You won’t see a snake on a really hot day; they usually come out then early in the morning or late in the evening.

Copperhead snake

“There are some resident snakes. If they find a nice habitat with lots of food and water, shelter and they feel safe, they may hang around but nine times out of ten, they are just passing through, so if they are left alone, they will often just move on.

“Snakes don’t have ears, they are deaf so you can scream till the cows come home and it won’t make any difference to a snake nor does stomping the ground. You’d have to be a herd of cattle or horses to create enough vibration to chase away a snake. They have poor eyesight but can see over short distances and they can detect slow movement, which is how they catch their prey. If you keep perfectly still, they will have trouble focusing on you. They also have heat receptors and can pick up heat radiation.

“The only time you are likely to be bitten by a snake apart from engaging with it in some way, is if you actually step on it, but if you wear boots, long pants and watch where you walk you’ll never be bitten. If you are walking through long grass, grab a long stick and use it to part the grass before you put your foot down. That way you are giving the snake notice before you step giving him the chance to move along.”

Baby snake

Barry said many people believe baby or juvenile snakes are more dangerous than adults. “The juvenile snake has the exact same toxic venom as its parents but it has small fangs and venom glands so it’s dangerous, but less dangerous than an adult. Some people believe adult snakes will only give them a dry bite. While both adult and young snakes do sometimes give dry bites, it’s not something anyone can rely on.

“Also when some people see a young snake, they believe the mother is close by but most snakes are live bearers and as soon as black snakes, copperhead snakes or tiger snakes are born, they all go in different directions. Snakes don’t have any maternal instincts. Eastern brown snakes lay eggs but leave afterwards.

“People will often say ‘I have blue tongue lizards so I won’t have any snakes’, which is a common myth. I quite often find blue tongue lizards with snakes. Another myth is that snakes are attracted to milk and some people think they can’t cross kerosene or oil but they can.

“I have also often heard people say that a snake chased them, but snakes don’t chase humans or dogs. A snake that feels threatened will have a couple of lunges at you to get you moving and while you are running away, it will turn around and make it’s retreat.

Tiger snake

“Red-bellied black snakes are very gentle. I once had a black snake swim over to me while I was floating down a river on a rubber tyre. It rested its head on my leg for a while and then kept on going. Copperheads are very shy and gentle. They always stay low to the ground and they eat tiger snakes. Tiger snakes have a bad reputation for being aggressive but they aren’t. They do prey on birds and can sometimes be seen in trees.

“The Eastern brown snake is considered the most dangerous snake in Australia simply because its main prey is rodents and wherever you have humans you have mice and rats. The eastern brown snake is not as shy and it will follow the scent of its prey and not really care about what is going on around it. They are very common out in the bush and a lot of people try to kill them, which is often how they get bitten. They are the most common snake to be killed and it’s why they are responsible for the most deaths.

“In Northern Australia we have coastal taipans, which have caused very few deaths and in South Australia and Queensland there are inland taipans, which are the most venomous snake in the world but they have never killed anyone.”

Barry said there are many things to be more wary of in Australia than snakes. “Many snake fatalities are caused by people not looking where they are walking and stepping on them and not knowing the first aid needed when they have been bitten. If you run around screaming after you’ve been bitten by a snake you’ll work the venom though your body much faster than if you remain still. Don’t wash or clean the bite, apply a compression bandage and call an ambulance. If you have the compression bandage on properly it will instantly give you approximately eight extra hours.

“Very few snake bites result in a fatality. In Australia each year an average of 3000 people are bitten and of those only one or two are fatalities. Many of them could have been avoided with the right education and first aid.”

Barry has been catching venomous snakes for around forty years and in all that time he has never been bitten by any of them. “Pretty much everything else has bitten me,” he said, “koalas, wombats, possums and sea birds. I’ve been bitten many times by pythons and I’ve been bitten by a white lipped snake and a little whipped snake but their bite is like a bee sting. Unless someone has an allergic reaction to their bite, it just becomes itchy.”

Baby snake 2

Barry removes and relocates several hundred snakes back into the wild each year. When he catches a snake, he grabs it by the tail and uses a hook to keep the other end away from his body and places it in a special bag. He doesn’t recommend that anyone copy him and try to do the same. “In the early days we didn’t need to have licenses and insurance and I did it then for the love of it. Someone would call me up and say they had a snake, so I’d call around to collect it and they would give me a cup of tea or a beer and that was it.”

He said fear of snakes is a problem. “If people could get over their fear of snakes then that’s half of my job done. I spend most of my days trying to educate people that snakes are not out to get them, they are not evil killing machines. I show people the snake when I’ve caught it and sometimes by the time I leave they’ll say it’s a beautiful animal. Quite often people contact me after watching my videos on my Facebook page and say it has changed their attitude totally and they’re not scared any more.

“I want people to respect them. This is Australia and it doesn’t matter where you are, even if you are in the middle of the city, there’s a chance you’ll see a venomous snake. They are beautiful, but they are deadly animals so never interact with them. Never touch them and if you do see one just take a few steps back. If a snake sees you stepping back, he’s not going to come forward.”

For more information
call Barry on: 0408 067 062 or visit


Choosing the right education for your child

Choosing the right education for your child

Home education, school or alternative schools

Australian school-aged children will soon head off to State Government, private or grammar schools. Many will attend alternative Democratic, Steiner, Montessori or Reggio Emilia educational institutions while believe it or not, almost 20,000 Australian children will be Home Educated and not attend school at all.

A good solid education, one that prepares your children for life in an age of constantly changing technology where learning is a continuous process, is the most valuable gift you can give them. The options now available are many and varied. Parents are able to choose the style and type of education that suits their family and their children’s individual needs.

Home Education

Home educated children

For parents who are looking for an alternative to mainstream or alternative school systems, Home Education also known as modern Home Schooling, has been a successful and viable alternative around the world since the 1970s, and numbers are rapidly increasing.

Millions of children in various countries including Australia have been effectively Home Educated. Many have completed tertiary studies and apprenticeships while some are operating businesses, companies and employing others. Some have become teachers and are now teaching in alternative and mainstream schools.

The philosophy behind Home Education is curriculum free, natural learning sometimes called unschooling, a term coined by American educator and author John Holt in the 1970s, who claimed children enjoyed learning and learnt more in a spontaneous, less structured learning environment where a child’s interest directed their pursuit of knowledge.

According to Home Educators, when children are allowed to direct their own learning, it makes it a joyous experience and they quickly learn more without the need for any rewards.

Home educated students

They believe their Home Educated children are not limited to socialising with the same group of peers each year, isolated from functioning communities; they can socialise with people of all ages from various walks of life in all types of natural settings, enabling them to develop advanced communication and social skills.

For anyone concerned about the qualifications required, like John Holt and various other known educators, Home Educators believe parents are the best facilitators of learning just as they have been through the first five years of their children’s lives, a time when children learn more than any other time during their development.

The process of Home Educating children is providing them with a range of connections within their communities and various resources, then getting out of the way and trusting they will naturally and extensively learn. It’s more about how to learn, so children continually learn throughout their lives. It’s cooperative learning as opposed to competitive learning so knowledge is shared and extended with their families and others in their community.

For more information visit: Home Education Network Victoria    Home Education Association    Home Schooling Downunder    Sydney Home Education Network     Home Education WA 

Democratic Education

Democratic Education in schools around the world is a mode of learning that has a democratic goal and method of instruction. It promotes democratic values in education and self-determination within a community of equals including justice, respect and trust. Democratic Education is often where students’ voices are equal to the teacher’s. Classroom activities vary and are often determined by the children’s interests. Some schools hold weekly meetings with teachers and students to vote on their future activities and focus.

The oldest Democratic school is Summerhill, in Suffolk, England, founded in 1921, which still exists. It has voluntary class attendance and school meetings with broad powers.

List of democratic schools in Australia

Steiner Education

Steiner Education is a popular alternative that follows the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner who established the first Steiner school in Germany in 1919. It’s based on the role of imagination in learning and holistically incorporating children’s intellectual, practical, and artistic development.

Learning is divided into three main developmental stages. Early childhood education focuses on creative play and active participation. The primary stage focuses of developing artistic expression and social capabilities. Secondary education focuses on developing critical reasoning and understanding.

The aim of Steiner Education is to develop free, morally responsible integrated people with a high level of social competence. There are now more than 1200 Steiner schools in 60 countries with 40 in Australia.

Steiner Education Australia

Montessori Education

Montessori Education is an education model developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori.  Her method, which was established during the early 1900s, is used in public and private schools around the world. Montessori classrooms aim to encourage children’s innate passion for learning by providing them with opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained Montessori teacher. Children are able to progress at their own pace within an ordered framework.

Montessori Education aims to promote independence and freedom within limits and respect for children’s natural physical, psychological and social development.

Montessori programmes are now serving children and families in remote, indigenous Australian communities, where the Montessori philosophy unites with the culture and heritage of Indigenous Australians.

Montessori Australia

Reggio Emilia Education

Reggio Emilia Education, which focuses on preschool and primary school-aged children, was developed after the Second World War by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the municipality of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. The educational philosophy is based on Loris Malaguzzi’s belief that children are able to express themselves in an astonishing number of ways due to their unlimited imagination.

Children’s contributions are valued equally with that of their teachers. They are both seen as educators and researchers exploring knowledge together. The goal is to provide a fun-filled dynamic learning experience for both students and teachers.

Reggio Emilia Information Exchange

State, private and grammar schools

Public and private mainstream schools all have their own sets of values and checking with each school before enrolling can be beneficial. Some small state primary schools in rural areas may be part of a cluster school program that involves interaction with other small schools. State, private and grammar schools generally follow a directed state curriculum with children learning within peer groups of approximately the same age. Students learning and development is assessed by the education authority.

Children's education

My School is a resource for parents, educators and the community to give readily accessible information about each of Australia’s just over 10,000 schools and campuses.

My School (Australian Government)

Wendy Morriss


Lemon Cordial

Make refreshingly simple lemon cordial

This is a deliciously refreshing drink and so simple. The recipe was obtained from two French chefs who once operated a unique and distinct restaurant in Victoria. Other fruits may be used instead of lemons but less sugar would be required. Orange cordial for example would only need 1 cup of raw sugar.

You will need:
1 ½ cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups of raw sugar
1 cup of water

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil stirring. Allow to cool and then stir in the lemon juice. Bottle and use the same way as other cordial. (Pour a small amount in a glass and add cold water to suit taste). It will keep in the refrigerator for approximately a week.

Lemon Cordial

Holly Kendall

Young entrepreneur Holly Kendall and her organic enterprise

In 2015, Holly Kendall flew solo establishing an amazing scalable online business that provides families throughout Victoria with easy access to fresh, seasonal certified organic produce.

The intelligent and thoroughly charming young business woman based in Melbourne is also a healthy lifestyle advocate and a qualified nutritional therapist.

Holly Kendall at a community market

Her business Crisp Organics, now known as Holly Kendall Organics, is an online organic produce store with a daily delivery service that operates throughout Victoria. Customers can order all their fresh organic produce online and have it delivered straight to their door or community Co-hub.

She said after launching the business, it gained a lot of traction very quickly. “It’s an industry that is growing and people are becoming more aware of the benefits. I’ve found as people learn more about me, why I do it and the experience I have, a certain level of trust and reassurance has developed. I think being a nutritional therapist is something that reassures people as well because it’s all about promoting balance in the body and really supporting it naturally using healthy food. “

All the produce is certified organic and sourced from Australian farms where it is grown free of chemicals or pesticides and hasn’t been subjected to any long term storage. “I look for quality and I’m very strict on certification,” she said, “so I don’t take home grown or organically grown, it has to be certified so that both I and my customers have an assurance that it is legitimately organic.”

Holly tries to source the produce as locally as she can to reduce food miles so most of her suppliers are in Victoria. However, to avoid limiting the availability, she also sources some foods like bananas, sweet potatoes and foods that are out of season in Victoria from growers in Western Australia and Queensland. “A lot of my produce comes from the Mornington Peninsula, Thorpdale, Kooweerup and the Yarra Ranges. Some also comes from growers in Northern Victoria.”

She said basing the business online was an obvious choice. Her customers are able to obtain all the fresh, high quality produce they want and deserve for themselves and their families in the one place. It saves them time, money and the inconvenience of traipsing from one organic store to another and coming away feeling frustrated or disappointed. “Being an online shop and delivery service enables me to help many more people gain easy access to fresh, high quality food.”

Holly once did all the home deliveries herself but she now outsources it to a refrigerated courier company, which has opened the business to the whole state. She still does deliveries in her own inner suburban area and picks up from farms and suppliers.

Another arm to Holly’s business is selling her organic produce at weekend community markets. She has also started operating pop up shops, which she said is a bit like roadside trading. She has linked up with Parks Victoria for a site at Westerfolds Park in Templestowe. “I take my van and an insulated trailer (that will soon be refrigerated) to a designated place and set up for roughly four to six hours in one location. It’s to make it easy for people to grab an organic option as a snack while they are in the park or something for dinner on the way home.”

Holly also plans to become certified organic herself, which she said will give customers that extra reassurance and she’s growing some of her own organic produce (all heirloom, non-hybrid varieties from certified seed) that she will sell as well. “There are a few certification bodies around but mine will be with NASSA because I’m growing in my backyard and they have a domestic certification. I’ll then be able to go to Farmer’s Markets. The requirement for Victorian Farmers Markets is to either be the grower or be working directly from the farm so there are a few technicalities that prevent me from currently going there but once I’m selling what I’m growing then that will open up for me.”

Prior to finding her passion and operating her business, Holly had tried many things. Initially she completed the first year of a hairdressing apprenticeship before realising it wasn’t for her and decided someone else should have that opportunity. She then did factory work packing fruit and kitchen goods and became a courier. She left for a while and completed a few different courses including one in civil construction to get her heavy machinery tickets, a truck licence and learn transport logistics, which she said has helped her with organising deliveries. She then went back to factory work while deciding what she wanted to do with everything.

She said one thing sort of led to another. She’d eaten organic foods since her late teens because she had digestive disorders and someone she worked with had told her about organics and the research on what chemicals were doing to people’s bodies. After eating organic food she said her digestive disorders started to fall away and she felt so much better. Her anxiety reduced and her skin was much nicer. “There were so many benefits, I felt more balanced physically, emotionally and my thinking was clearer and I don’t get sick at all. I haven’t been sick for years.

“I started meeting people in organics and going out to farms and one day I thought while I’m doing this for me I could give other people the same opportunity to have access to amazing, tasty, nutritious organic food, it was a no brainer.

“Both the organic health community and business community are cooperative rather than competitive so they’re very supportive. It’s a very down to earth community with beautiful people who want the best for others and the older generation are particularly supportive of younger ones coming in.”

Holly has even more projects lined up. One area of interest is speaking and education – teaching children about fresh food, what it is, where it comes from and how it supports their growth.” I’d like them to take their knowledge home and grow and use fresh food with their families so they have a healthy way of doing things and a fun way of doing it.  There’s so much information on the internet about what is or isn’t good for you yet there’s such a disconnection. I’d like people to understand that when their food is natural they can trust it and even more so if they’ve grown it themselves.”

Holly Kendall’s business Crisp Organics is now known as Holly Kendall’s Organics, which she operates with the help of her family, from her small organic farm in the hills of Wandong, Victoria.

Christmas in Australia

Does Santa Claus really exist?

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon who lived in Manhattan asked her father if Santa Claus really existed. He suggested she write to ‘The Sun’, which was a prominent New York newspaper at the time and ask them, while assuring her that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so”.

Her letter appeared in ‘The Sun’ newspaper on September 21, 1887 and was answered by reporter Francis Pharcellus Church.

Now more than a century later the famous reply “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”, has become an indelible part of popular Christmas folklore and is the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language.

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Francis Pharcellus Church, author of the famous editorial

Francis Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War who saw great suffering and a corresponding lack of hope and faith in much of society.


Virginia O’Hanlon 1895

Virginia O’Hanlon married Edward Douglas in 1910. He left her shortly before their daughter Laura was born and they were divorced in 1930.

She received a Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910, a Master’s degree in education from Columbia University in 1912 and a Doctorate from Fordham University. She was then a school teacher in the New York City ISD. She became a junior principal in 1935 and retired in 1959. She died in 1971 and was buried at the Chatham Cemetery in New York.

Throughout her life Virginia received a steady stream of mail about the letter she wrote and she included a copy of the editorial in her replies.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year!

Wendy Morriss

A child's journal

A child’s journal can be the gift of a lifetime

A nice thing to do for a child is to give them a special journal to write in at the beginning of each year and then keep each one. It’s a lovely way to help them learn valuable skills and the entire collection can be handed to them as a special gift when they reach 18 or 21 years old.

Provide them with a nicely bound book that has blank pages with faint lines. You can rule off larger lines for them while they are very young. Encourage them to write something inside each day or at least each week. They could start with writing the day, date and time at the top of the page and then anything that comes into their mind underneath. It might be something they have done or seen or the way they feel. It doesn’t matter if they fill the page or only write a few lines. They could then illustrate it with a drawing underneath or on the opposite page. It can be colour or black and white. If they misspell anything, avoid correcting it. Allow them to correct it themselves but only if it’s something they want to do. You don’t need to wait until they are school age to start; their first one may only have two or three words and a picture on each page. It will still be a valuable learning experience for them and a beautiful item to keep.

Your child’s journal is an educational exercise that will teach them naturally about the days of the week, months of the year and time. It will help develop their reading and writing skills, their observation and drawing skills and later it will become part of a beautiful collection you can hand to them as a gift when they are adults. It’s lovely then for them to be able to look back through their journals and read their childhood thoughts, to remember the things they experienced and to see how their skills developed throughout their growing years.

Wendy Morriss