Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Anyone for Dessert?

PomPom asked what's for dessert after reading yesterday's post. Rather than answer her in 'comments' I thought I'd answer here.

There is actually a good reason why I never post what we're having for dessert. It's because I don't make it. I grew up in a home where we always had dessert. For me it was the reward for having struggled through a meal I, most often, didn't enjoy. Food was not something I was terribly interested in, in the era where vegies were boiled to mush and meat was grilled to a crisp. Dessert back then was tinned fruit or jelly or custard or fruit salad...usually served with ice cream. As you can see, it was pretty simple fare and not something that took large amounts of time or effort. Coming from that background, you'd think I'd be all gung-ho about having dessert!

In my own home we have dessert when we have visitors. It depends on how I feel and who the people are, as to whether I declare the visitors at the table friends or family. We don't do dessert for family and we have some friends that could fall into either category thanks to a distant family marriage! When my parents come to stay, it's usually when we're busy out and about or doing something so they often fall out of 'visitor' status too. Poor things!

On a day to day basis, I don't do desserts for a few quite significant reasons:
  1. It's time consuming. Usually I'm in the middle of a couple of different things and conversations in the midst of dinner preparations and I just wilt at the thought of adding to that busyness at that time of the day.
  2. It's not so healthy. Desserts are filled with sugar. Better to fill them up with vegies I think, than a bowl full of things we're only meant to eat 'sometimes'.
  3. It's expensive. Really, it just adds to the cost of the meal and when you're on a fairly tight food budget it is better not to add to that burden either.
Before Dh was self employed the children used to have a small serve of yoghurt for their dessert. A 1kg tub lasted two days ~ a cost of $5-$6 every two days was worth dispensing with when all we were earning toilet paper and laundry detergent! The Food Nazi within also decided that spending money on foods that added nothing positive nutritionally was not what I wanted to do for my family.

By now you're wondering what we do if people are still hungry after dinner and all the food is gone. Dh often has a couple of sandwiches. The kids are welcome to eat fresh fruit. IF we have something home baked in the cupboard they might be allowed to have a portion of whatever is there. If they haven't already overdone it through the day, that is.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Holiday Menus and Other Kitchen Plans

I was going to walk first thing this morning before Dh left for work. In the daylight. Hmph...it rained. I know we need the rain but it would've been perfectly alright for the rain to have stopped before 7am and started after I got home!

My plan for the first day of holidays is to do some supermarket shopping, pick up Miss Sunshine from a sleepover and then go shopping for a birthday present....for the sleepover she's off to tomorrow night. Just as well for all her friends she'll have a night at home in between!

To that end, some menu planning has been done:

Monday: Beef Pie with gluten free pastry, vegies
Tuesday: Herbed Fish, vegies
Wednesday: Chicken braised with honey & vinegar, vegies
Thursday: Lasagna (will double it and freeze half)
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Jacket Potatoes and Coleslaw
Sunday: Roast Chicken, vegies

I also have a growing list of items I'd like to have prepared and in the freezer for those inevitable nights when I get home and I just really can't be bothered thinking about dinner.
  • Bolognaise pasta sauce
  • Meatloaf
  • Buttermilk Polenta Crumbed Chicken
  • Orange Crumbed Chicken
  • Forbidden City Chicken
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Sausage Rolls
  • Vegetable Patties
  • Hamburger Patties
  • Bacon Wrapped Chicken
It seems to be that there's a lot of chicken on that list, doesn't it. Don't worry...I'll intersperse it with other things! I also came across a blog called Altered Cutlery, with lots of slow cooker recipes on it. Recipes that seem to suit the Aussie palate, given that the author is South Australian. I'm going to dig through her recipes over the next week and find things that we'll enjoy. The nights when life is hectic are made so much simpler when I've thought ahead and put something in the crock pot. Last week Miss Mischief prepared vegies while I dealt with the meat and then we just threw it all in.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

A Stitch in Time


I've just returned from my Stitching Day, held at a church in Our Town. Ahhhh what a lovely way to end a busy school term ~ to just sit and stitch all day long. I was placed at a table with two ladies from my Quilt Class so it was lovely to catch up with them. Amazingly I was also placed right next to my Aunt!!!! I had no idea she was going to be there. The Quilt Shop owner knows us both and had no idea we were related! So we spent a lovely day catching up on family news between all the other bits of chatter between the ladies at our table. I've looked at my accomplishment for an entire day of stitching and decided it's a bit pathetic, volume wise. My excuse? I make tiny stitches so there are more than if I made large stitches. Nevertheless I will take it out with me tonight and continue on.

I'm already looking forward to 'Quilt til You Wilt' in a few weeks time.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Half Year Report

The second term has finished with a flourish of fun and excitement. One of Miss Sunshine's teachers has left the school to seek adventures in other arenas, sadly for us. And I've enjoyed a lovely day with a friend over a delicious lunch and cherished some adult conversation without children interrupting. I know that's going to be thin around here for the next two weeks...and then I will go back to work while the kids frolic just a little longer.

I picked up the kid's half yearly reports this morning and was suitably impressed with their outstanding achievements. Importantly to me, even when their academic result could have been better, I can see they have tried their hardest...which is all I really want to see from them. I just want to know that no matter what the outcome they've done their best. And they have. All three of them. I do believe I have been successful on one of my parental goals!!!! Having worked in a school office before having children, I never wanted to be the parent of the kids that no staff member wanted to have in their class. Rather, I've three children that teachers love to have. Responsible, hard-working, bright, sparkly and a pleasure to teach. Every parent loves to hear that!!!!!

It was then, slightly mystifying to read that one of Miss Sunshine's results lacked the shine of all the others. One stood out with an appearance, on the surface, of having not tried and not done well. A subject that has been quite within her realm of understanding all through her primary years. Dh and I will be speaking to the Head of Secondary to alert her of the issue and what we believe to be the heart of it. With another child following into Secondary next year we're not prepared for this to be a pattern. Miss Mischief can't afford a bad year in this particular subject.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Six Months Today

Did you know that in exactly six months it will be Christmas? Yep, I was surprised and dismayed too.

And why, you ask, am I torturing you with this snippet of trivial information? Because my daughter's Girls Brigade Company is torturing me and I'm a sharing caring type, so I thought I'd share the love a little. Tonight they're having a fun and games night and parents need to arrive early to share supper (a snack after dinner, in Australia) with the girls. Sort of a Christmas in July thing, a month early. It's also fundraising for their Company camp later in the year.

This also serves as a reminder that I need to tackle my family regarding our current gift giving practices and make some changes...so that we all get one thing, rather than only the kids getting everything. I really missed buying for grown up's last year.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Looking Forward To...

It's that middle of the week thing ... you know, on the downhill slope to the weekend and, for us, school holidays. My weekends begin on Friday's now, as that is my day off. So...I'm all set to get started on things to look forward to right away LOL:
  • Lunch at a local eatery with a school friend on Friday
  • Sewing day just down the road for the w-h-o-l-e day on Saturday
  • Going to see 'The Proposal' with my favourite group of girlfriends on Sunday.
How does that sound like covering the mind, body and spirit bases quite extensively?! And speaking of my favourite group of girlfriends, the picture above looks like just the thing we ought to plan to do ;o) The only thing(s) missing from the picture is the cheese platter, books and our preferred craft activity....and maybe the pile of DVD's we want to watch.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Heart Break

Normally I'm quite nonchalant about broken crockery. With three children I realise things just happen sometimes....even when they're not being silly. In this last week however, I've had two moments that ended in tears for me. Miss Sunshine is known to be a klutz and she has outdone herself with a special fine china mug from my birthday present and my butter dish lid...also a gift a year or two back from Dh.

I told Miss Sunshine this morning that if she were to continue breaking things p-l-e-a-s-e could she break some of the 12 bowls that a boring, clinical, cafe white. Anything that is not terribly special would be fine, really!

Fi, I think our conversation on Sunday was a tad premature. I believe Miss Sunshine may be on a mission to keep up with you guys! I feel your pain far more accutely now :)

Monday, 22 June 2009

End-of-Term Menu Plan

This week marks the very last week of the school term in Victoria. When someone in the Primary school suggested that we only had one sleep to go, this morning, the staff cheered as enthusiastically as the children! Yes, we've been very very busy this term with lots going on to tire even the most resilient amongst us!

This week my menu plan may well look something similar to this:

Monday: Honey Lemon Chicken, vegies
Tuesday: Chicken & Corn Soup, yum cha nibbles
Wednesday: Braised honey & vinegar chicken, vegies
Thursday:Crockpot Beef Casserole, brown rice
Friday: Homemade Pizza: potato, onion, garlic and bacon, pineapple
Saturday: Baked Savoury Cheesecake (a hold over)
Sunday: Meatloaf with Tomato Sugo (a la Maggie Beer)

I managed to finally get a hold of 'Nigella Express' over the weekend and bought it with a 30% discount voucher. It's only taken six months for it to be on the shelf at the same time I was in Borders, but I have succeeded and so will start adding a whole new bunch of recipes to my repertoire. I'm very excited.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had my first solo day with my new Prep student today. Two of his siblings were home unwell so Mum needed to stay with them. We did absolutely fine. I'm still nutting through the intricacies of balancing a boy focused on learning and keeping his physiotherapist happy without upsetting him. But we'll figure it out. It was good to able to give Mum a really positive report at the end of the day and see the look of "Oh wow, it's really going to work!". I believe my student has earned himself a bowl of ice cream after dinner tonight LOL.

* * * * * * * * * *

The flip-side of such a positive day is hearing from Miss Mischief that she's being bullied a little bit again by the same child who treated her this way two years ago. Conversations with Miss Mischief's teacher and her bible study leader will ensue as a result. This child goes to another church and attends her own small group there but has decided that she should come to our church and I'm not happy....for a number of reasons. Miss Mischief's relationship with her is one of many.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Kreativ Blogger

Rachel from 'Home is Where the Heart Is' has bestowed upon me a very special blogging award. Special to me because I feel quite inadequate when it comes to creativity and I would not have put my blog in the 'creative' category. I mean, I can't even get my head around all those cute freebie backgrounds people are using to make their blogs look pretty!!!! And all my so-called creative vices (aka sewing) are all about following the instructions. I make nothing up off my own bat! So you can see, I feel very blessed to have been chosen as a Kreativ Blogger. Thank you Rachel.

* * * * * * * * *

Frances commented yesterday and asked (and I picture her with a quirked eyebrow as she does so!) 'p.s. Moving forward on the drums, are we? You're a brave mom ...' Yes, it seems we are. He's loving those lessons so very much and he's actually not too bad with his coordination so. I'm still thinking a drum kit should belong in the dungeon or the cubby house but both would need sound proofing. But did you know you can get electonic drum sets that you can plug headphones into?!?! Expensive but I suspect worth it, for the family of a budding but determined drummer! For now he has a practice pad which is just a round rubber topped thing that makes very little noise. We're both very happy.

* * * * * * * * *

You know all those marvellous plans I had for yesterday? I bought the drumsticks and pad and began hemming the skirt. After school pick up. That's it!! The rest of the day I spent at my desk studying. Oh the bliss of silence and no distractions! I had some online exercises to complete and it kind of just went from there. But I'm in a very good place coming into the school holidays. I can finish up the last couple of things I've left, do the two assessment tasks and send it off. All that requires far less concentration than working through the workbooks.

So you can see, I have quite a list for completion today LOL.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Oh Happy Day

The Prep's have been talking about "Monet's Garden",
so I thought this picture was quite appropriate...and very serene.

The sun is shining brilliantly...and I've had time to notice. Woohoo! There's not too much warmth in it, but it's shining nonetheless.

I am jealously hoarding today for myself with a to-do list as long as my arm...all at home. I've bought myself some rye bread and the required wrapping paper and card for the birthday party Mr Busy is attending tonight, but that's it for out-of-the-house til 3.10pm!

So what does a girl do on her first day off all week? Well...because there are minds like mine who are curious to know, this is the list. I don't know how much will actually get done though!
  • Book review for the librarian at school (she only gives me lower primary books cos they're a quick read).
  • Complete a review for Rel. It's been started but I need to finish it.
  • Finish up the money stuff from Retreat. Was that really two months ago? Shame on me. But one of the money men is asking for it because the end of financial year is looming...next week! You can see how much I love dealing with this stuff...the fact that it takes me so long to get it completed.
  • Pick up drum sticks and a practice pad for Mr Busy. I think we'll do that after school so he can come too. I found the little music shop a couple of towns away (ie. 15 minutes) has a great stock of all things drum related.
  • Hem a skirt. It's been sitting on Penelope waiting for me to finish. I've stitched the closure on and pinned up them hem this morning so it's all set to go.
Then....read a book, watch a movie....oooohhhhh I could take a little nana nap. The day stretches before me quite deliciously!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Germ Warfare

I'm sure most of the world has, by now, heard that Melbourne is the Swine Flu captial of the Global Community at large. I'm here to tell you Swine Flu has nothing on a classroom full of Preppy's!

Prep is our first year of school here in Victoria. The children are generally 5yo and turn 6 sometime during the year. So far this week (and I've only had 3 days in there) I feel like I've been inundated with puke, snot and poo. Ok, so inundated is perhaps a little extreme. But you know, one of each in three days is pretty big when you've gotten used to kids who can get themselves to the loo in time and blow their own noses without being reminded to do so!

I'd quite forgotten how gross little kids can really be once you get past the cute little exterior!

I'm not a proponent of hand sanitisers and antibacterial room sprays usually. However, I'm starting to think that a big can of Glen 20 sprayed through the room at recess, lunch and the end of the day might not be so bad. And maybe hand sanitisers do have a place in the world after all.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


You know, we may well end up eating real ants instead of just a meal called 'Ants Climbing Trees'. In our case, it'll be Ants Climbing the Pantry Walls. Ants Climbing the Cupboards. Ants Climbing the bin. Ants Climbing up the Sugar Bowl. Ants Climbing Over the Honey Jar.

It doesn't matter how clean the kitchen is, the ants visit us anyway. I'm hovering somewhere between just let them have their own way and get the pest controller in to spray....otherwise known as giving in or fighting back with a vengence. I think we're going to have to go with having someone come in and do the job because we're getting a bit overwhelmed. They're even in our ensuite. Really, I can promise you we have NO food in there!!!!! It's not about the food, obviously.

I'm keeping the picture above in my mind for now. That ant almost looks cute. Probably because he's only one and not a whole army in my pantry!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

One Day Soon

I'm feeling a little (make that a lot!) brain dead at the moment. Yesterday was an exhausting day, mentally. Not because it was a difficult day, far from it. My new little Prep student is a joy to spend time with. However, at different times during the day both his mother and I had moments of realisation. The task before each of us is huge.

I woke at 5.30am this morning (not unusual) and realised what I have taken on is s-o-o-o-o-o big. It's not just the physical support I will be required to provide but the educational support he will require looks a little overwhelming right now too. And then I remember that in reality, he's starting at the start and the rest of the class is half way into the year. We'll need to be sensitive to his need for down-time in the day. Something the rest of the Prep's had in Term 1 and don't require now. He might need a day off here and there to regroup and renew himself. The Prep's had a four-day week in Term 1, too.

What I know is that one day, this will be routine for all of us. For the student, for his Mum who will cover my day off and other times through the week and for me. One day I'll know his little signals and the subtle nuances of a look or his tone of voice. One day he'll be comfortable with me caring for him in a way that only Mum and Dad have done so far. One day his Mum will feel perfectly confident in spending a whole day away from school, and him.

I'm looking forward to that 'one day', but the journey between will be full of positive things too.

For right now, tomorrow, my little student is looking forward to a day at home to rest and I'm looking forward to a bit of mental space and a more normal-to-me looking day. You know, for as long as what I've known til now remains 'normal'!

Monday, 15 June 2009

D-Day Menu Planning

Ugh. I've already failed my first test! I was going to do a pot roast in the crockpot today and the piece of meat is still in the freezer. Just as well I have a plan B!

Apart from that mild little uh-oh I'm all set to go. What I mean to say is I feel as prepared as I can. The girls and I did some shopping on Saturday and have managed to replace a pair of shoes that was letting my feet get wet. Colorado, while expensive, make shoes that are really comfortable and last a long time. So I invested in a pair there and then added a couple of pairs of trousers and tops and a skirt to my sadly-lacking repertoire of clothing. I think, now, I look more like I'm meant to be there. All I'd had to wear was jeans or denim skirts...not so professional looking, really.

I also got my school name tag on Friday. It's only taken six months LOL.

So. This week is already being altered to suit my needs, menu wise.

Monday: Pork Meatloaf (remember that one I stashed in the freezer a few weeks ago?)
Tuesday: Chicken curry, brown rice
Wednesday: Fish, or that pork pot roast
Thursday: Ants Climbing Trees
Friday: Pasta and vegetable sauce
Saturday: Mrs R's Vegie Soup, garlic bread
Sunday: Chicken with honey & vinegar, vegies

The Year 3's made vegie soup last week and Mrs R put parsley in it. What a lift it gave! Mr Busy and I decided we should do that at home from now on. That reminds me. I need to replace my parsley plant which, after two years, finally went to seed. I desperately miss it!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

'Valley of the Shadow' by Tom Pawlik

My review for 'Valley of the Shadow' has been posted here at Relz Reviewz.

For the second time, my spine tingled. Not just my spine...all the way down to the ends of my fingers and toes, actually. 'Valley of the Shadow' reveals more of the intricacies of how the Interworld works and brings the journey of each character to a very satisfying end. It's one of those books that really makes you think about how you're living your life in the here and now and that your here and now extends into and effects what is beyond this life.

I think if Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti are in your repertoire of must-read authors, then Tom Pawlik should definitely be added to your must-check-out list. Having said that, I'd pick up one of Tom's books before one of Ted's. I can read a Tom Pawlik book at night and not be completely freaked out LOL. It's an important thing for those of us who don't like the dark much!!!

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Timetable

Over the last day or so, my brain has been completely consumed with timetabling between two students so that everyone gets what they're supposed to....as well as me! I have met with the two teachers I will be working with and have only to update my schedule and print it out and it's set in very wet concrete! I really do think, however, that I have come up with the best plan possible with the knowledge we have at this point. I have also privately verified that the teacher I will begin working with is, in fact, happy with the plan thus far. I'm really looking forward to working with her!

I have just one small point to raise with the Head of Primary for her to address with one teachers. Thankfully the request also comes with the support of the other teacher and the Principal, whose instinctive reaction was the same as mine.

Roll on Monday....

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Guinea Pig

Many's the time we've invited friends over for dinner and I've gotten all excited about being creative and tried something new. Only to realise, as I was dishing up, that I had no idea how it would turn out, because I'd never made it before. Fortunately, I have never had a disaster occur. In fact, I think this is the pattern of my entertaining. I did it again on Mother's Day with the Panna Cotta I made!!!!! It has been a constant joke between my husband and I, the number of friends who have been my unwitting guinea pigs! However, none have complained and many have asked to be my guinea pigs again, so all is not as bad as it may seem.

I'm having a friend over for lunch today. It's been many long weeks since we've even had a cuppa together and it seems that having lunch has been hard to come by, between her work schedule and mine! In any case, she's coming over after supervising a VCE exam for a late lunch and I thought I might try the frittata above from 'The Cook and the Chef' last night. In my defense, I have made frittata's before. In fact I make myself a sweet one for breakfast with fruit a lot of mornings. I just haven't made this particular one! But it looks scrummy with potatoes, pumpkin and rosemary in it and ricotta on top. With a little side salad, I do believe my naturopath would be very excited and the number of vegetables involved! And it will make a yummy winter lunch.

* * * * * * * * *

On the subject of winter....we're right at the start of winter and the last few days have been C-O-L-D. Mr Busy's teacher lives just up the moutain from us and she said she had snow on Monday night. We never get it in Our Town ~ we're about 200m too low, but we've had heaps of hail and plenty of rain. Yesterday I had the kids rotating jackets, seeing what fits between the three of them and what Mr Busy can wear ~ the jacket the next size up from him is PINK. So he's got the maroon one that is miles too big...but he's certainly cosy buried down in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, my husband has only just succumbed to wearing a jumper (sweater). Late last week he was still in short sleeves. Where's the 'roll eyes' smiley face when you need it LOL.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Hum Drum of Life

Today has been just one of those dull-roar kind of days. Some time in the classroom, some time at home studying. Dinner is bubbling away in the oven while Miss Mischief dries some dishes for me. There is a quilt to continue with and some reading to be done.

I even managed to figure out how to get Miss Mischief's homework to print! I have no idea what button she pressed, but it was being silly.

'The Cook and the Chef' has just started so I'm off to sit for a minute or two while the carrots boil.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

Last week I mentioned my mega-organised day in the kitchen where I made stock and roasted tomatoes, amongst many other things. The other night we finally got to enjoy the final spoils of that day, with a new recipe for roasted tomato soup. It was beautiful ~ so much better than something out of a tin. I can also testify that all the hard work can be done ahead so all you have to do is put it together.

Roasted Tomato Soup

1 bulb garlic, unpeeled, cloves separated
1kg roma tomatoes, halved lengthways (any tomatoes will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a tray with baking paper; place tomato (cut-side up) and garlic on prepared tray. Drizzle with half the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes or until tomato is tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  2. Peel garlic, discard skins. Process tomato, garlic and half the shredded basil until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Discard tomato seeds.
  3. Heat remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook, sitrring, for 3 minutes or until soft. Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add stock and tomato mixture. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer stirring oaccasionally, for 10 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly. Stir in remaining shredded basil.
Of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I roasted the garlic with the tomatoes, in its skin and. I also left the garlic and tomatoes whole and put it all in the pot in step 3. Then I used a stabl blender in the pot to process everything to smooth and left the seeds in. And I used dried basil cos it's all I had.

I intended to make polenta wedges, but didn't end up getting to it. Would've been nice though.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Holiday Monday's Menu Plan

Today is a public holiday in the State of Victoria. It's the Queen's Birthday weekend. Although we have no plans for the day right now, I'm sure that will change. People in our house just don't seem to like spending time at home for too long. I don't know....I have plenty of little projects to keep me occupied! Trouble is, I'm the only one entertained by them LOL.

The family is very entertained by the idea of 'what's for dinner', however, so here is this week's plan:

Monday: Sweet & Sour Chicken
Tuesday: maybe baked potatoes?
Wednesday: Vegetable Patties, scallop potatoes, vegies
Thursday: Apricot chicken, mashed potatoes, vegies
Friday: Ricotta Gnocchi with tomato pesto
Saturday: Tuna & Rice
Sunday: Baked Savoury Cheesecake (from 'Maggie's Kitchen')

I'm pondering the idea that perhaps some baking should happen today. I'm sure the freezer would appreciate having its belly filled with goodies.

Last night I began reading 'By Reason of Insanity' by Randy Singer for book club on Friday night. Have to say, I'm hooked already, three chapters in.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

When Old Becomes New

My FIL has just celebrated a milestone birthday, for which his wife threw a party. We spent the afternoon chatting away with people we've not seen much of over the years. People we'd love to spend more time with, but our lives have all moved along to other places. Some not that far away and others quite a lot further. It was such a blessing to renew some very long-grounded friendships from our past. Those people form part of the rich tapestry that our lives are.

And then there were the grandchildren. Our kids are smack bang in the middle between the 'older' cousins and the 'little' cousins. Mr Busy played with the little kids ~ the next one down from him is one year younger. Our girls sat at a table with the older three. It was a great pleasure to see the five of them serving food together and then to watch them enjoying one another's company.

Last night we had some friends come up after dinner to spend the evening chatting and catching up. It seems to have been the theme for the day. A rather nice theme, worthy of our time and attention. A theme that busy lives often send to the background of our days. Perhaps that's what long weekends in the middle of winter are really for. Days when it's wintry and dull outside just beg for the bright warmth of good friendships and time spent together.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Week's End

This is what my flannel quilt look like in July last year!

I've spent quite a lot of time posting about kitchen related topics this week. In reality, I've spent far more time with stitching in hand. The flannel quilt that I posted about nearly a year ago here is still on the go. I'm not too far off from having the quilting completed, and then it's just the binding left. A quick little machine job that will be done in a flash. I've enjoyed my evenings with a nice yummy cosy quilt over me as I've stitched. I can even watch more TV doing that, than I can with knitting.

I took my 'current' quilt in to school to show the primary art teacher, today. She was suitably impressed, as were the Year 4 & 5 girls that were knitting away during lunch time. Our Head of Secondary was also curious and impressed. Her mother designs and makes quilts, so she truly appreciated all the work that has gone into it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Working with Year 3's is always a delight and pleasure. Today I had quite an amusing conversation with one of the most delightful little girls. Little Miss P came to me with a little dark brown dot about 2mm long on the end of her finger and said she'd found it in her hair and what did I think it was? The dot was wiggling.

She was taken home at lunch time for an "afternoon of pampering" (in her mother's words) where they would wash her hair and do her nails. I'm not so sure about the nails, but there will definitely be hair washing going on in their house over this long weekend!

Yes...the wiggling dot was a bug. I think I might just wear my hair up when I'm at school over the next little while. Til all the hair bugs have been dealt with, at least. My head has been itching ever since for no good reason. Mind you, my tummy has been considering the idea of getting a little bit yucky, thanks to a report of gastro from my Year 3 student's household. He's away keeping his upset tummy to himself.

The power of the mind is a wicked thing at times!

* * * * * * * * * *

My long weekend is looking quite full. Quilting, knitting, celebrating a milestone birthday in the extended family, reading and, Rel will be pleased to hear, catching up on some reviews for her. Being a Commonwealth nation is useful for something.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Lunch Box Lessons

Lunch Box Necessities

I would dare say that most Australian children take their lunch to school. If not all the time, at least some of the time. In Our School we have the opportunity to buy lunch one day a fortnight, so taking your own lunch to school is a must. For everyone. For us, buying lunch is quite an expensive exercise, so even though we could do it regularly we don't. It's a once-a-term kind of treat in our home.

Above is a picture of our lunch box necessities. The kids all have heavy duty soft sided, insulated lunch boxes. They each have a sandwich box, a snack box and there are enough freezer bricks to rotate them in case we forget to put them back in the freezer straight after school. Well...not 'in case', but 'because'! I also have little rectangles of fabric to wrap around the freezer bricks so they don't spread their condensation over whatever else is in the box.

Each evening I put a set my bread machine to make a loaf of wholemeal bread. It cools overnight and slices perfectly with an electric knife first thing in the morning. This always as a good alarm system for the children ~ they know it's time to get going when I'm slicing bread!

I know there is a lot advice to suggest that making your sandwiches the night before is a great organisation tool. I really don't like sandwiches made that far ahead, so I happily get up 15 minutes earlier to do it in the morning...and besides...the bread is still cooking at night! I also make the lunches myself, unless I'm not well or I'm away, both of which have happened in the past couple of weeks. I just get it done so much faster, before the kids come out to make their breakfasts. You know, it really doesn't bother me to do it and the kids aren't fussy or difficult to get an answer out of if there is some choice to be had. By the time they're up and dressed their lunches are ready to be packed into their bags.

Our lunches are very routine. Sandwiches, snack, fresh fruit. At the moment the kids are having cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce on their sandwiches. And Mr Busy has a half one with jam as well. Growing boys, and all that. Last week I got four avocados for 50c, so they have avocado, cheese and lettuce. Some of them like leftover roast meat, one likes vegemite. There's not a lot of variety, really...but there's usually something more than peanut butter or jam. If I buy ham, the kids think they've hit the lunch box jackpot!

What we have for snacks depends on what is around, obviously! If I've baked, they take a muffin, a couple of biscuits or a piece of cake. If we've leftover pikelets they might take two of those. If no baking has been done, there is always the standby of flavoured rice crackers or Salada crackers.

We always have a basket of fresh fruit on the bench. A big basket! Right now we're enjoying royal gala apples, packham pears and mandarins. Miss Mischief, of course, would prefer apricots and grapes....but we can't have everything we want all year long when your Mum refuses to buy grapes that come from overseas. If we get really stuck and run out of fruit, sometimes they'll take a little container of sultanas or some dried apricots, along with the admonishment of "make sure you have a drink straight after to rinse your teeth off". Dried fruit is a sticky sweet substance!

Miss Mischief also informed me this morning, with a woebegone look upon her face, that she doesn't like bread. Eeesh. It told her "this is it til you finish year 12, get used to it and stop your moaning". She then proceeded to have toast for breakfast! Terribly sympathetic I know....but I'm not running a restaurant and she has no access to microwaves etc. Actually, when she gets to Year 12, they do have access to things like that so she can fight her Dad for the leftovers!

We've recently switched to using plastic containers for our lunches instead of plastic wrap. My bread slices only *just* fit into the tupperware sandwich boxes...with a bit of poking and tucking. It's a very snug fit....but it works. I'm really happy with this little switch. Not only does it save money by not having to buy the plastic wrap, but it also saves the environment from having petro-chemical products going into landfill.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

More Kitchen Successes

This morning in quite a miraculous fashion, I managed to get a little pot of pumpkin soup prepared before heading off to school ~ just enough for two serves. I had a couple of extra things I wanted to do for my Year 7 student to aid an assignment he has due tomorrow so I decided to stay for the day. I took my own study with me so my time would not be wasted frivolously once I'd finished what I intended to do.

My recipe for pumpkin soup is incredibly simple ~ chopped onion, a clove or two of garlic crushed, chopped & peeled pumpkin all boiled together in chicken stock that only just barely covers the pumpkin. I had that with a couple of pieces of rye bread spread with butter.

Miss Sunshine suggested she'd like to make some muffins tonight, so we'll see how she goes with the finishing touches to her project "My Book About Me".

I've instituted the new dishwashing routine and I am loving it. Mr Busy is well able to deal with his portion of the dishwasher and having the girls help me with the hand-washing is almost as good as someone doing the whole lot for me! My kitchen is clean at the end of each day and I feel like I've barely done anything to make it happen. I don't know why I didn't think of doing this before.

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Things are slowly coming together for my start with the new student in a couple of weeks. I had asked to keep Monday's as my day off...but on reflection I thought maybe Friday might work just as well. It seems the Head of Primary is of the same opinion, so maybe that might end up being the case after all. In the grand scheme of things I don't suppose it really matters. I just feel like a day off attached to a weekend would serve my frame of mind the best.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

My Quilt Journey Continues


You're probably sick of hearing about my quilt. But! Even though I said I'd finished the top, I still have to put the thing together so it is, in fact, a quilt. Right now it's just a pretty piece of work. Yesterday I popped in to my my local quilt shop to look at the 'Tail Feather's' patterns, which had already been sold (!!!!) and thought I'd look at wideback fabric for the back of my quilt. I came home with a scrap of the fabric above, which I liked the look of but wasn't certain about. As it turns out, it was perfect. So I went back today to buy it....before someone buys it all on me. My favourite wideback was sold out two months ago :(

The owner of the shop had been telling us about some bamboo batting she'd gotten in, so I had a feel. Oooohhhhhhh. I don't know why anyone would use the scratchy poly/cotton blend stuff. The bamboo is silky soft and absolutely lucious. I think I'll just cuddle it for a bit before I start sewing it into the middle of my quilt, never to be felt on its own again.

As I walked out, I realised I'd forgotten to buy the quilting pins I need to hold it together. All the other 'girls' in my sewing group reckon they'll be just fine over a period of time. That'll be Thursday's purchase. I will wash both the quilt top and the backing before I start sewing.

The Organised Kitchen

Between my own rambling thoughts and watching some 'In My Kitchen Today' type videos online, and decided I needed to get my act together. What better day to do that, than on a day when you've done some grocery shopping! So last night after having done just that the girls and I got to work. We had quite the production line going at by 8.30pm the dishes were done and the oven was turned off...just in time for 'Sea Patrol' to begin. Perfect.

I had Miss Mischief make some pikelets for afternoon tea. I had her use gluten free flour so that I could indulge along with the children. We had them with raspberry jam.

Throughout the afternoon I managed to:
  • Roast tomatoes and garlic for Roasted Tomato Soup.
  • Make Chicken stock for soup.
  • Prepare a pork meatloaf for the freezer, complete with attached instructions for cooking and the bacon pieces required.
  • Cook a roast for dinner last night. The leftovers are in the fridge and I will use them for my lunches this week.
  • Made a chocolate cake.
  • Made a batch of bluten free biscuits.
I had heaps of celery from the half bunch that I bought and only one recipe I planned to use it in. That's what inspired this little cookfest. I hadn't planned on having meatloaf, but with one $5 purchase I was able to use what I already had and use up some of the celery. I also used some in the stock I made, along with the ends from the carrots we had for dinner.

It feels good to know that one meal this week is on its way and I haven't wasted the tomatoes that were on their way to oblivion. It's also nice to know I've gotten a meal organised for one night when I don't make to to the grocery shopping, or when I don't have time...or whatever else might come up.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Monday's Menu

Once I'm finished here I'm going to get my shopping list organised so I can shop before I pick the kids up from school. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have their help with unloading the car afterwards. They have it done in a snap. And then the girls love to help put things away in the pantry as well. Of course, there is the ulterior motive that Miss Mischief wants to know what's for afternoon tea...but I'll take the help however it comes.

After enjoying my nephew's third birthday party yesterday I'm all set to get back to my regular eating habits. Party food isn't terribly conducive to a wheat free diet!

Monday: Roast pork (hold over from last week)
Tuesday: Meatball stroganoff & pasta
Wednesday: Fish (not sure how I'll do it yet)
Thursday: Baked potatoes with coleslaw, bacon, cheese, sour cream & avocado
Friday: Herbed ricotta fritters, vegies
Saturday: Roasted tomato soup
Sunday: Chicken & Dumpling soup

I'm still pondering the idea of doing some meal preparation for the freezer. I've taken all the freezer bricks out so I can see what room I have. My freezer really isn't looking terribly satisfied right now. Since the power outage we had early last year I've been reluctant to keep too much in there for fear we'd lose a lot of food again. Now that we have a car with an auxiliary battery I think I could save a freezer stash in the Engel, in the back of that car for a period of time, if necessary.

Further Ponderings

I believe I've done a full circle with my floor-cleaning musings. I had a very interesting conversation with a homeschooling, hobby farm owner friend. She's paying her eldest (same age as Miss Sunshine) to do some extra chores at home. Ahhh, I thought...perhaps that could work for us too. Pay the kids to do that one job.

And then I thought about what that would look like in our school-attending family. It would mean washing & vacuuming while everyone else is home. I'm seeing visions of Mr Busy skidding his way through the house adding mud to the wet & clean-for-a-moment floors. I'm also envisaging the reality of my children's personalities. It all sounds fine to pay them and they'd be excited about the prospect of earning money they'll only ever spend on the once-a-fortnight tuck shop at school. But the rubber will hit the road when they realise it takes a long time to clean those dastardly floors and that they'll have another thing to fit in to their homework time. It would also add another "I asked you to....." situation where in the end I would end up doing it because no one has gotten there yet. There may be some compromise in there though and I'm thinking through that now. Having someone come in once a fortnight and offering the task to the children on the alternate week would give them opportunity to do the task and earn some money. If it didn't happen I could live with just a quick sweep through instead. I think for as long as I'm studying this might just be how it works for us.

I am working on a new Kids Jobs list though. They already do things like:
  • set the table
  • help with dinner
  • the girls empty the dishwasher
  • clean their bathroom & toilet
  • keep their rooms tidy
The things I am in the process of adding are:
  • hang out and bring in the washing (Miss Sunshine)
  • dry and put away the handwashed dishes (girls)
  • Mr Busy will empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher
I've mentioned all of this in passing to Dh and he's not balked at the idea. I'd like us both to be on the same page with how things will work best for us all. I don't want to end up so stressed out that I can't cope and I don't want him feeling reluctant to come home because we're all in an uproar. A peaceful home is such a blessing at the end of a busy day.