Have you met Mr. Brown Mouse?

A few weeks ago I was introduced to Jono, a friend of a friend who has the most incredibly heart warming story. He and his wife have 2 children, born 1 year apart. His daughter Hannah is 6 and his son Tate is 5. Understandably life was busy with 2 kids under 2, but even more so with the growing concern that something wasn’t quite right with their son. After a diagnosis of Tate’s Autism Spectrum Disorder, parenting took on a whole new meaning. While the diagnosis was a shock, Jono and his wife were relieved to have some answers and pave the way ahead for their precious boy.

Along with a difficult diagnosis, Tate needed additional time, energy and attention and both Jono and his wife were stressed, and to be honest, exhausted (as ANY parent can imagine). His wife was also not well at the time which added to the exhaustion of every day.

 

With everything that comes along with such a diagnosis (despite the emotional toll), seeing specialists, special needs school, new financial pressures, and the demand both of their jobs had on them, they noticed that their daughter was also starting to take strain (she was around 3 at the time). Her brother couldn’t talk, he screamed a lot wasn’t able to play with her in ways we would presume normal. They realised that Hannah was aware of the pressure they were under and needed some extra time and attention too. Based on all this Jono started spending more intentional time with Hannah telling her bedtime stories, helping her try to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Jono and his wife would alternate nights putting each kid to sleep. (I mean if you’re a parent reading this, you can feel the immense demand on them can’t you?)

Hannah soon began asking for more and more of Jono’s imaginary stories and so after a while (still with no plan to do anything with them) he started recording them onto his phone as he told them. The character of Mr Brown Mouse became the hero of the stories. While story-telling, he would always include a positive message, something that Hannah could relate to with what their family was going through at that time. He included themes such as a willingness to try, courage, a sense of adventure, friendship, being helpful and positive etc. It was a gentle but strong message that even in the midst of the hardest challenges or experiences that Mr Brown Mouse was going through, ‘everything was going to be okay’.

It was here that Jono stumbled upon the unsuspecting benefit in keeping the story recordings on his phone. On the nights where he and his wife were just too tired or needed to give extra time to Tate (or even take some much needed time for themselves) they could ask Hannah which story she wanted and she could listen. It is a beautiful picture – the image of Hannah and her mom or dad lying next to her, intentionally being together, listening to stories, but without the pressure of being ‘on’. The value and relief for them was life changing!

With the discovery of what a gift this was to their family, Jono began to wonder if he could do something with the stories and if other children (and parents!) might appreciate them. This was when the idea of creating audio books came to mind. Working in TV advertising meant that he had plenty of experience working with voice over artists, music and sound effects. He re-wrote and refined the stories, received outsiders opinions as to how best to tweak them and the rest is history. It truly is a beautiful outlet for his whole family to embrace any fears, challenges and the unknown as they walk this journey.

In his own words, “Our hope is to first and foremost be an awesome source of help to parents who might find themselves in a similar space to us and occasionally need to take a moments rest in the midst of the busyness. We also hope to be helpful to children with (even in a small way) helping them see that everything is going to be okay; that everyday is a possibility for adventure, and that it’s good to help others, to care and to always try, especially when things are hard“. Jono De Canha.

A personal review: So, that’s the beautiful story behind the audio books, but I’m not lying when I say, since putting them on one night for the kids, my boys have asked for them EVERY NIGHT since – no word of a lie. They have been an enormous hit, and I’m desperate for Jono to release some more!!

You can buy these (instantly downloadable) audio books for R29.95 each or R149,95 for the set of 6. The MP3 can be saved to your itunes library for quick and easy access. Each story contains originally written and scored music, professional voice overs with multiple characters, age-appropriate sound effects and comes with a full colour illustrated ‘cover art’ for the MP3. (Pics in this blog post)

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Here are some summaries of the first 6 stories:

1) MR BROWN MOUSE MEETS MRS GIRAFFE

11:15 minutes

Mr Brown Mouse rides on the back of ditsy Mrs Hippo and crosses the river for the VERY FIRST TIME! Join him as he crosses paths with crocodiles, elephants and lions and makes friends with the tallest animal he’s ever seen!  A gentle first adventure, perfect for bedtime.

2) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE BIG BIG FIRE

11:00 minutes

Join Mr Brown Mouse on a courageous adventure to help save the animals and the forest from a big, big fire! With a little bit of thought and a sincere desire to help, almost anything is possible… But who will help Mr Brown Mouse when all the animals are running away?  Listen again and again to this daring story of courage and character!

3) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE OWL BABIES

11:06 minutes

After waiting THIRTY DAYS, Mr and Mrs Owl’s babies are ready to hatch! It’s terribly exciting and Mr Brown Mouse wouldn’t miss it for the world… after all, Mr Owl is his first ever friend!


4) MR BROWN MOUSE’S FAMILY IS COMING TO VISIT

12:00 minutes

Mr Brown Mouse’s family are coming to visit but he’s out of Honey Biscuits and tea! What will he do? Would he dare to ride on the back of big, old Mr Crocodile, all the way down the river to get more? Who will he meet on the way?

5) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE OSTRICH EGG

11:45 minutes

Mr Brown Mouse finds an egg! A VERY BIG EGG! It’s even bigger than he is! What will he do and how will he find it’s mum.  And can he stop Mrs Hippo from accidentally sitting on it?

11:45 duration with wonderful character voices, sound effects, music and narration.

6) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE BEAR

10:13 minutes

In his most daring and epic adventure yet, Mr Brown Mouse soars on the back of Mrs Eagle! Join him as he travels over the mountains to visit his old friend Mr Bear. But will Mr Brown Mouse be able to wake Mr Bear up.

Our favourite things – products & recipes recommended by MGFC members

I run a Good Food Club – which is essentially a monthly buying club from our home in Cape Town. We facilitate Farm-to-Table style living by supporting, for the most part, local, sustainable, natural/organic style small businesses.

We have the most incredible families who participate in this club. With over 800 products available to purchase, we have so many different styles and intentions when shopping. From hormone free meat, to grass fed farm butter, to chemical free cleaning detergents and menstrual cups.

Last month I asked my members to share what they loved buying from the Good Food Club and why… and this was what I received back.

From Debbie Knighton-Fitt (me!):

So you know I’ve always been a greenie right? It’s pretty much the reason I started the GFC.

So here are my non-negotiables, every month…

Butter, Eggs, Swiss Cellar – pickled onions and jams (once you start, you LITERALLY can’t stop), strawberry yoghurt, mozzarella cheese (for pizzas). Cake flour (we make a lot of pancakes and pizza bases), beef mince, mango strips (my absolute spoil), oh mega peanut butter, and my (fantastic!) new wellness doc really recommends Superfoods’ Super Thrive Women.

We eat the chicken burgers once a week, as well as boerewors for braais, and nachos with the corn chips. Another spoil is the (chocolate and) hot chocolate from cocoafair (YUM!). We buy 5 packs of salami and freeze them, and take them out when needed. It is THE most delicious salami I’ve ever tasted. I always buy frozen blueberries, strawberries and plain yoghurt for smoothies. The honey is a must, I love the spices (mainly cinnamon and cumin) and Eikelaan & Metro Organics fresh produce! I try get my hands on as much organic fresh produce as possible. I also buy the salmon now (due to Cara’s influence) and eat it with my 2 year old to get some good omegas into her.

A few other favourites: fresh organic coriander, quinoa, dates and raisins (for lunch boxes), halloumi spring rolls (YUM!) and 1kg cashew nuts when I’m feeling flush.

Body products: Love the Pure Beginnings range for us all, the natural deo (is incredible!) and I cannot CANNOT recommend the menstrual cup enough. If you’ve ever thought about buying one, DO it.

From Lauren Potgieter:

I love buying the angelfish for Jamie Oliver’s FISH PIE. It’s full of good things like carrots, spinach and boiled eggs (weird I know, but it works) and if you don’t want to use double cream you can use double cream yoghurt instead.

From Cara Eachus:

Salmon offcuts: I use it often in pastas and with scrambled eggs or on a sandwich with cream cheese and cucumber.

I also do the venison-droewors-in-the-freezer-trick for lunch boxes. It defrosts super quickly though so I keep it in the freezer and just take out little bits each evening when I make the boys’ lunch.

I do a yum meal with the pork fillet. I make a chutney by frying a diced onion, a clove or two of crushed garlic, thyme and some grated apple then smoothing that onto puff pastry. Searing the fillet in the pan and then placing that into the pastry and baking it for about 30 minutes. A delicious meal! 

The strawberry JAM! I am never going back. It is to die for. Also a big thumbs up to the raw creamed honey, one of my faves. I love a spoon in a banana smoothie or on toast.

A little treat is the edible flowers. I add them into ice cube trays to make interesting ice or top baked goods with them. For Harry’s dedication tea I even added them on top of sandwiches.

The frozen berries which are so extremely well priced are used in smoothies, Harry’s fruit purees and in muffins or cakes. At Christmas I made a big sorbet with them.

I really love the halloumi. I fry slices in lemon juice and place on top of vegetable pastas (I try make meatless meals at least twice a week) or eat as a snack.

The eggs and venison mince are also well priced and make many good healthy meals with those good proteins. I have recently started buying the boerewors and pork sausages (both delicious!) and make a sausage pie with them or use them for bangers and bash otherwise boerie rolls. I used the lamb stew meat last night in a tomato bredie – oh my yum – but am definitely keen to try the chuck stewing meat next time.

From Jolene Bonney:

I love the venison mince. My two favorite dishes are Keftedes with Tzatziki (Jono makes the most amazing greek yoghurt that we use for this) and the other dish I use it for is a venison mousaka. If we need a quick and easy dinner I make a halloumi cheese salad and throw in a generous amount of blueberries too.

I’ve included the keftedes recipe:

Venison Keftedes 

  • 3 slices bread (I use oats instead)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons finely fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (3 tablespoons if using fresh)
  • 500grams venison
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • flour for dusting

Method:

1) soak oats in milk and eggs for a little

2) mix everything else in

3) let the mix sit for about an hour

4) roll into small balls

5) dust with flour

6) fry in olive oil

From Garth Stephenson:

So here is what I generally do with the stewing meat I buy from you:

Brown the following in a large pot

Once the meat is browned, add the following:

  • ½ cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • ½ pack of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 x tomatoes, chopped or 1 can of diced tomato mix
  • 2 x table spoons of balsamic vinegar
  • ½ x bottle of wine, red or white (I prefer red)
  • ½ l water
  • Mixed herbs and rosemary to flavour (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to flavour
  • A dash of tobasco sauce

Bring to the boil, and then let simmer on lowest heat for 1-2 hours (depending on how hungry I am). Stir regularly and add more water/wine if liquid boils off.

Before serving, add beef stock and let simmer for 10 minutes.

From Yvette Newton:

Chuck stewing is great for beef bourginon, tomato bredie, wraps with warm veg and hummus. It also goes quite far if you use a tomato base and add veg/beans etc.

Mince – I buy 2kgs and then make bulk meatballs and freeze. Each 500grams is used for a meal – spaghetti bolognaise, nachos, meatballs mash and veg, burgers.

Rib stewing is good for potjie. We make it once a month during winter.

Salami packs are great for quick lunches and pizza toppings.

From Michelle Gibbs:

Venison sliced biltong, it’s a WIN, gonna try order more and keep half frozen next time I think but very happy with it so far!

Pork fillet 👌🏼 drizzle with oil, sprinkle herbs & oven roast 180 degrees, 20-30min’ serve with mash/veggies etc & gravy. Delicious! We cook it on braai too with marinade, its always a win 🙂

Desiccated coconut, amazing price, great for crunchies!

Stir fry greens, delicious sliced & thrown in at end of stir fry

Nu Eco dishwashing liquid, works brilliantly, I’ve tried a few earth friendly and this is by far my fave. Great smell & bubbles, cleans excellently & MGFC price is fab! Natural deo works really well.

Treat: I love white choc covered hazel nuts.

Crunchies:

  • 250g butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1tbspn golden syrup/honey
  • 1tspn bicarb

Melt in microwave approx 1min (or stove top!)

Mix in:

Combine well, spoon into greased baking tray.

Oven 180 for 15 – 20min.

When remove from oven immediately divide into blocks with spatula in tray, leave to cool in tray.

Pancakes:

Combine well, ladle onto hot oiled frying pan, spread around & fry, flip & fry until done 😉

Thank you to everyone who sent in their suggestions! Enjoy your shopping and your cooking xxx