Thursday, 31 December 2009

Holiday Tips for Hi-Tech Campers

One of the ways we keep our family holidays affordable is to camp. For us, that means hooking up our caravan and settling at various caravan parks. After all, hot showers and flushing loo's make life that much more enjoyable. Over the years they’ve ranged in comfort from bare necessities to beautiful grassed sites and plenty of amenities….like a swimming pool only 3 sites from our van. Perfect!
We also cook for ourselves. As much as the idea of not cooking is somewhat appealing, at some point we would tire of it. And we'd become quite plump, I suspect. And we'd have to mortgage the house to feed our lot....hungry monsters that they are. Besides, we are able to enjoy lots of barbecue's, eat outside, have our normal wide variety of meals. Remind me again why eating out is so appealing?
To this end, I usually pack myself a clutch of cookbooks that I simply cannot do without. This year, I’ve had myself a light bulb moment. We always take the laptop away with us so that the kids can watch movies during inclement weather or rare moments of boredom,....or rare moments of illness. Why not put my recipes on the laptop too? So I’ve been digging around and going through past menu plans for what we’ve eaten on our holidays in years gone past and begun putting together a holiday recipe file.
No more excess packing for me. No…I’ll save my book space for more important things. Like novels. I have 12 on my holiday stack!!!!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

'The Sound of Sleigh Bells' by Cindy Woodsmall

One of the things I've managed to do is catch up on some of my reading and book reviewing, since school finished. Poor Rel has been somewhat inundated with three reviews landing in her inbox within almost as many days.

Rel has posted the first of the three I sent her ~ 'The Sound of Sleigh Bells' by Cindy Woodsmall, and there is a giveaway included. So make sure you click your little mouse in her direction to check out my review and enter the giveaway. Cindy Woodsmall is an amazing author and this book is one worthy of a place on the bookshelves of readers everywhere.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Monday's Summer Holiday Menu Plan

I suspect my menu plans will be quite irrelevant to those in the northern hemisphere. However, for those of us below the equator, we're just beginning to enjoy summer....barbecue's, salads, alfresco dining. Many people flock to seaside areas to camp....or find accommodations a little more upmarket, but nevertheless, close to the sea.

We're not quite into the full-on heat of summer where I am, so my menus reflect my husband's desire for bbq's mixed with the reality that it is still cool enough to have a hot meal!

Monday: Ricotta fritters, vegies or salad
Tuesday: Warm Chicken Salad
Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Pork Meatballs, rice
Thursday: BBQ pork rissoles, salad, potato cubes
Friday: Singapore Noodles
Saturday: Nachos
Sunday: BBQ chicken fillets, salad, potato cubes

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Once Christmas has come, been enjoyed and gone again we Aussie's then look ahead to summer holidays. Guess what that means for us who live in the way south? Bathers.

I have faced my fear of buying bathers head-on. I won the battle by the skin of my teeth.

My last set of bathers was in the form of a long tankini top and board shorts .... ladies ones, of course. I bought them nine long years ago when Mr Busy was but a babe in arms. They were jolly expensive, as I recall, but they've lasted a really long time. They were perfect ~ swimwear that covers all the scary bits you don't want anyone to see from neck to knee! Last summer I noticed that the fabric on the tankini was stretching and deteriorating. I hate shopping for bathers so you can imagine I was not happy that they were not going to last forever!

Miss Sunshine had the onorous task of judging the suitablity of my choice this time around. She assures me they look OK and I figure a 13yo girl who would be happy to see Mum in that top would know. I found new board shorts to match and we became much the poorer for my expensive, but limited choice. Last night I was reading the tags...impressive claims about making one look their best. Not sure about that, but they feel comfortable and I reckon I could spend the day wearing them, as we're inclined to do on 37C days and not feel all wobbly and uncomfortable.

Hopefully I'm set for another 9-10 years or so.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Our tree is sparkling with lots of gifts beneath, just waiting for the morning to arrive. I think even I am all ready now, having finished preparing my food offerings for tomorrow's family gathering. I hope you're ready too!

Tonight we enjoy the Carols by Candlelight live from Melbourne. It's the one constant Christmas tradition we've managed to maintain every year!

I hope and pray that each one of you experience and blessed and precious Christmas. One that is filled with laughter, joy, family and all the traditions that make the day special to your family. Most importantly, may you be filled with the wonder and awe God's most incredible gift to us.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Slow Starts and Busy Days

I had the strangest start to today....I got up and got started....and then went back to sleep around 8.00am. The kids were most surprised to see me still in bed at 9am. Too bad they couldn't see that I was dressed for the day LOL.

I've a busy day ahead. A day that will include cooking, cleaning, baking, and preparing for next week. I may even get a load of laundry washed and my own hand. Dh does all our laundry, usually, but I'm pretty sure the children and I will manage just fine. And there's time yet for him to fit another load in before the weekend. He starts to prowl the house looking for something to wash if he doesn't get to do some for more than a week.

So...time to really get started. We've got friends coming for dinner and the little boy I work with in Mr Busy's class is coming by to drop off something for Mr Busy later today as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My little simple joy for today: My SIL dug up some oregano out of her flourishing garden for me, and this morning I got it planted. It wasn't looking too happy, but it was still green! I've been wanting oregano and my last little plant was killed along with the nearby weeds.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Family, Fun and Food

I feel a bit like all we've done over the last three days is munch our way through vast amounts of food, not unlike the picture above!

Our 'overseas' family members have returned to the in-laws and we've returned home to finish some Christmas shopping and recuperate from a few too many late nights in a row. Our niece looked about ready to burst into tears at having to leave Family Camp. However, we hugged and farewelled with the promise of catching up next week ~ our last opportunity before they head back to the US.

After such a relaxed interlude before Christmas, I've almost forgotten about all the preparations I need to make for the days ahead LOL.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Great Cousin Sleepover

Last night began what I suspect may become an annual event that will grow in number as younger cousins become old enough. Of course it will. What other outcome could there possibly be when you have cousins come from overseas and you have your family gathering at the campsite owned by the most popular (aka the funnest) uncle?

The older cousins end up staying the night! Four little boys in one room and four little girls in the other. Alright, so some of them are not so little, and having to sleep in your clothing was no barrier to those who were gathered up in the plans throughout the day. When we left last night all the boys were tucked into bed and all grinning widely. I hope they slept. It was after 10pm after all and some of those children get rather nasty when they've not had enough sleep!

I've a little stop to make up the street before I head back out there this morning. But I smile every time I think of all those cousins enjoying as much time as they can together.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Simple Summer Pleasures

Cherries in my fridge, straight from the orchard, at only $6/kg. This picture from is a perfect likeness. My cherries might be imperfect 'seconds', but Miss Sunshine and I are enjoying them for dessert each night. A dint here and there on the otherwise glossy red orbs are easily overlooked.

Being in a spot not far from the most amazing orchards, we have been thoroughly amazed at the sad offerings in the supermarkets, compared to the fresh produce nearby. Dh decided to compare our local Safeway's cherries with his 'imperfect' orchard-bought ones....the Safeway version are sad indeed and cost a hefty $10/kg. In fact, the man who owned the orchard Dh visited refuses to sell his cherries to Safeway. Just as well we live near the orchard!

Our first experience with this understanding was when we lived on a property with a chestnut tree in front of our house. Fresh chestnuts are plump and the skins shiny. Not so the supermarket variety. They were dull and had space between the skin and the nut. I don't like chestnuts that much, but I know if I ever take to them I'll go visit someone with a tree in their yard!

Take a trip out to the country and visit an orchard, folks. You will be treating yourself!

Friday, 18 December 2009

First Day Bliss

Brighton Beach, with Melbourne CBD in the background.

There is something special about the first day of holidays. Not having to get up with the alarm. Not having to make four school lunches. Not having to bug the kids to get ready. Being able to languish in front of the television for as long as Mum allows. Being able to do all those things that you really want to do but never manage to find time reading, and baking.

I'm planning to bake shortbread and gingerbread to go to one of Dh's sisters with their Christmas gifts. I have a raspberry and lemon curd trifle and a pavlova to make for Sunday's family gathering. I desperately want to get started on my fruit mince pies. It is my one daily indulgence over summer. Finally, we have friends coming for dinner tomorrow night and I'm still at a loss as to what we should eat!

Despite all of those plans my mind is still filled with all the tasks that we never managed to attend to in the classroom over the last couple of days. I suspect I may be one of those who sneaks back. There is a basket of unused worksheets to be refiled in the alphabet files that is calling my name!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Pavlova Postscript

Frances commented sometime throughout today about how wonderful pavlova sounds, simply because it is filled with whipped cream....but didn't know exactly what pavlova was.

Because Wikipedia is the source of all answers to questions and a fountain of absolute truth (yes, I'm being vey tongue-in-cheek) here is the link to find all the answers you may have about pav's. Essentially, it is a big meringue, which is topped with whipped cream. In Australia we are inclined to whip our own....buying it pre-whipped is only just becoming something that is available to us. And it doesn't take but a moment to do. Pavlova's are topped with all manner of different things. Passionfruit, or strawberries, or grated chocolate or peppermint crisp. I've seen banana, although that doesn't appeal to me quite so much.

Pavlova is something that has a place in the hearts of my father's family. My Granny was always required to bring one to family gatherings and it would be devoured eagerly. Indeed she felt she wouldn't be allowed in the door unless she came bearing the pav! Of course, we would never consider buying a pre-made, store-bought one. It must be homemade, and I have my Granny's recipe, in her handwriting, in my recipe folder. It is something I treasure greatly. As a result of having a good recipe and a good oven, the pavlova-making mantle has been passed on to me.

An unusual twist for this quite traditional dessert is for the meringue itself to be chocolate. I gained this recipe initially from watching Maggie Beer on 'The Cook and the Chef'. It was also included in the 'Maggie's Kitchen' cookbook. I've made this recipe a number of times and it works beautifully. It tastes pretty darn good too, if you ask this purist.

You will find this gem of a recipe here. I have to say, mine looks just like the picture!

There are a few tips for making pavlova successfully, which I'm sure I've sure posted before, but will include it here so you (and I!) don't have to go searching:
  1. Make sure the bowl and beaters are absolutely and completely dry.
  2. Make sure there is NO egg yolk in your whites. This is one time when it pays to separate the egg and then add the white to the mixing bowl. You'll regret it if you separate the egg into the bowl if you break that yolk!
  3. Make sure the sugar has been completely dissolved before you stop mixing. If you take a little bit of mixture and rub it between your figures, you should no longer feel sugar grains.

End of School Menu Plan

Life has been quite hectic the past two days. A flurry of long and busy days at school, coupled with very tired people at home has seen me in bed by 10pm. I heard disturbed mutterings by hungry children at 6.30pm on Monday that went something along the lines of being highly concerned that all the take away places in Our Town would be closed by 7.30pm. They were thinking that Dad should bring dinner home, because Mum had obviously lost all sense of the 'need to feed'. I figured, at that point, that perhaps I should ease their fears and appear to be doing something productive about their dinner!

Today we have a farewell lunch at school (between all the sorting, organising and cleaning that must be done!) for the staff who are leaving us. My contribute to the meal: chocolate balsamic pavlova filled with fresh whipped cream and topped with strawberries; and Caesar style salad. I must confess, making a pavlova last night was not the thing that I most wanted to do. Especially when it is something that can only be done after the oven is finished with for the day. However, I'm sure I'll appreciate it at lunch time!

My menu plan for this week looks like this:

Monday: Ricotta fritters, vegetables, potato
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza (a last day of school treat)
Wednesday: Baked Potatoes topped with coleslaw
Thursday: Chinese Corn Soup, prawn crackers
Friday: Pork with apple & celery, vegetables, potato
Saturday: Something fabulous for guests which is yet to be determined!
Sunday: Dh's family Christmas gathering

Today is meant to be 39C/102F, so I'm hoping our lunch will be eaten in the VCE common room, which has newly installed cooling. Thankfully, work break days have no dress code restrictions, so light, cool, sleevless tops and otherwise inappropriate footwear is the go. The kids have already asked if they can wear thongs (the footwear variety!). My answer, "Yes...thongs and strappy straps are fine", to which they cheered and hooray'd! Oh the simple joys of children LOL.

Monday, 14 December 2009

And Then There Were None

There is but one sleep left before the school year ends for our children and six blissful weeks of summer holiday begin. Blissful in the sense that there is no rush to arise each morning and no lunches to be made and packed before 8am. Not so blissful in the lack of structure that sees little people resorting to mischief that is not so positive.

Today has been filled with mad preparations for a little gathering to farewell a very dear member of the Primary Staff. I was thrust a project or two with a "could you just....". With no school work being done, there was no student that required my undivided attention and the computer became my workmate instead. Hurried preparations also, for tomorrow's final assembly. A little video taping which will be edited tonight, I believe. Then there is the requisite Christmas craft projects to enjoy. Classrooms which require stripping down to bare walls and cleared and cleaned surfaces. I believe one student was indulged her cleaning and sorting obsession at the teacher's stationery desk caddy.

Tomorrow will no doubt be filled with excitement aplenty

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Dreamy Weekend

Thought I'd pop in quickly between getting home and heading out again...just in case you thought I'd fallen off the planet in the last few days. Alas, no. No planet-falling for me. Rather, Dh and I took the opportunity for some time without the children and tonight I'm off to spend some time with my girlfriends.

Another Maggie Beer recipe has been attempted. Our stuffed chicken the other night was absolutely delicious. I have some fresh stuffing in the freezer for another day, as the recipe made plenty for two chickens. This afternoon I made Roasted Capsicum Pate. Made in vintage-looking cups, one of those little pots of pate is coming with me to be enjoyed with my friends. It is not the kind of food even my wide-eating children enjoy.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Of Plates and Dinners


I am very blessed to have two very separate and yet very precious groups of friends. I often mention the small circle of girlfriends that are inclined to weekends away and seeing movies together. These women are indeed precious in my life and I would hate to think what life would be like without them. I also have some very amazing and special friends at school. Fellow mum's with whom I spend Friday mornings over a cuppa and enjoy the occasional lunch together. We have laughed together and cried on each other's shoulder and chatted about the things that give us joy ... and the things that frustrate us.

I bumped into one of my 'school friends' the other day in Safeway and she mentioned that she'd bought me something and she'd bring it to school with her one day. Well, today was that day. She was at a market, I believe, and remembered my desire to have a collection of beautiful, mismatched plates and bought me these two. I was overjoyed! What a beautiful spontaneous gift. It meant so much to me, that she remembered such a trivial little thing and acted on it.

Thank you Jodie. You're are an amazing woman and I'm so privileged to be able to call you 'friend'.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Today is Dh's birthday...yes, quite the celebration month in our house! The best way I could think of to celebrate was to choose a recipe from 'Maggie's Harvest' and make him a special dinner.

I chose 'Stuffed Roast Chicken'....bacon, onion, fresh herbs and fresh breadcrumbs with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of zest. It bakes as I type. I can't wait to try it.

There you have it ~ I've taken the Maggie-plunge. The roasted capsicum with goats cheese was tempting, but I will have to save that for lunching with special friends who appreciate such delicacies!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Planning Ahead

I don't know about you, but planning for next year has begun with a myriad of dates already needing to be added to a new diary. I have just one problem. I don't have a 2010 diary yet. I know people who do. I think those must be people who have time to shop. I'm not one of them.

So tonight after school I got online and found some free printable weekly planner and calendar pages. It took me a while to find something that I thought might work for me. I wanted something pretty and creative ~ something practical and vintage Lollychops....unfortunately there were no 2010 options that were practical for busy families.

In the end I settled on pages from The Household Planner. Not so much pretty, but heavy on the practical.

I don't suppose any of you have found practical and beautiful on the one freebie page?!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It Catches Up with All of Us

OK, so maybe I'm not as old as this lady. But I've had lots of occasions in the last few weeks where I've felt like I'm catching up to her very quickly.

Today is my 19th Wedding Anniversary. Nineteen. Half my life. I don't feel old enough to have been married that long, and yet the calendar does not lie. I discovered I'm not alone. Mr Busy's 2010 teacher marked the same milestone 8 days ago. Good things happened in 1990!

Last week one of the Prep's randomly asked me how old I was. To them I'm old ~ older than most of their parents, in just said "old". One of the Year 1's whose maths is exceptional asked if I was 29. I told him that no, I had one of my babies the year I was 29. He knows all my children and I saw his cheeky little mind ticking and he came out with this gem "so, are you 350". He knew exactly what he was asking!!!! My response? A very calm "not quite".

And finally, while chatting with some of the newest and youngest teachers at school one lunch time recently, one of them said they were born in 1985. Uh I'm feeling old. I was in Year 9 that year. Ouch.

I remember when I first began working in a school before I had children that I was younger than the first-year-out-teachers. Those days are long gone. *sigh*

It's only going to get worse, isn't it?!

Menu Planning

Ugh..It's Tuesday!!!! I got carried away preparing my next quilt block for the embroidery and forgot to get back here to post my menu plan. You know, because someone in the world must just hang out for it......or not!!!

We had our volunteer thank you afternoon tea at school yesterday. This year it felt a little odd. I get paid to be there more than I volunteer now, but I was still 'invited'. As MrsB rightly pointed out though, I did Toastmasters with the kids and that's a pretty mammoth task. I nibbled at two little things and enjoyed a small slice of sticky date cheesecake and then chatted with some of the parents around me. And got home just after 5pm. And Go Digital has been airing the very first episodes of Bewitched at 5.3opm. Who needs dinner anyway?! tribe need dinner or they become very nasty people to be around. They get snappy and begin to look like they might eat each other. I know just how that feels. I get lunch at about 2pm on Monday and I am fit to eat little children by then. Watch out Prep's! So here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: Sweet & Sour Pork, Rice
Tuesday: Chicken wings, vegies
Wednesday: Warm Chicken Salad
Thursday: Lamb rissoles, salad/vegies
Friday: Roast chicken, vegies and I think a dessert....for Dh's birthday
Saturday: Chicken & rice noodle stir fry thanks to Miss Sunshine
Sunday: Frittata, salad

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas is Just Around the Corner

Christmas is galloping closer each day. Each day I deny the inevitability of its arrival, but I think I'm going to run into problems if I continue with my ostrich-esque behaviour!

Today after enjoying a beautiful breakfast at a cafe near church with some other church ladies (ooohhhh the guava juice...mmmmm), I popped in to Sassafras on my way home. There is a 'Gepetto's Workshop' toy store there with the most beautiful wooden toys ... the kinds of toys that last a long time, that you can't find it Kmart or Target. The prices baffle me. Some items are super expensive and others are more moderately priced for the budget concious shopper. I picked up items for two nephews and two nieces while I was there. I also ducked across the road to Tea Leaves to seek out an appropriately priced 'female' gift item for my family's gift giving exchange.

I've broken the rules regarding my extended family's guidelines. I've ditched the prescribed Op Shop idea as an impossibility. Besides my lack of time to do so, every time I've thought about finding something funny, ridiculous, crazy or horrible I am left feeling completely uninspired. Quite frankly I'm not convinced on the idea of receiving something I'll potentially hate as a deliberate act on the part of the giver. The idea goes against everything I deeply desire to do. So I stuck to the dollar limit set and found something that will delight any of the women in my family. Somewhere deep within me I find beauty in gifts that are meaningful to the recipient. Cost is always a consideration...but the thought behind it is incredibly important to me. Perhaps I link that with the ultimate gift that God gave in giving us Jesus.

Yes, I'm inclined to a little 'bah humbugging' just before Christmas....if that's what you call it when you rebel and buy something beautiful to give. Christmas shopping has begun. Five down, nine and Christmas stockings to go.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Filled Up Friday and Tapping at 'The Tin House' Windows!

Dh asked me this morning if I was going to be at school, or at home....or what?! It was a bit more of an 'or what' answer I think. I had a cuppa this morning and had a really good chat with the Mum of one of the boys I work with. Her young lad is an absolute delight and I'm very excited that I will continue working with him next year. I asked him the other day if it was OK if I come with him to Year 4....he was very happy with that idea.

The Year 6's had a day out, swimming and shopping and relaxing after their Graduation preparation and excitement. I went down and supervised the girls while we lunched and shopped. They are the most amazing group of young ladies and again, a delight to spend time with. I feel so very blessed that Miss Mischief has such wonderful friends in her life.

* * * * * * * * * *

I went to check on a fellow blogging friend who hasn't posted for quite some time and discovered her blog is by invitation only. If anyone knows how to get a hold of Lisa at 'The Tin House' I'd love to know how she's going. I miss hearing her updates about her vegie garden and sewing or knitting projects. I would love to know how her muchkins are doing and I'd love to hear how she's going with work and home and all that entails.

Lisa...if you get to read this, post a comment!!!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Graduation Night went beautifully, last night. The kids were truly the stars of the evening, as each presented his or her final Tiny Toastmaster's speech. Some of them forgot to use their photos on the overhead projector. One boy thought he'd misplaced two of his cue cards, only to discover them between the overhead sheets in his plastic pocket...once he got on stage!!!! There were jiggly, giggly boys and nervous nelly girls buzzing about all night. I spent much of the evening on my feet as I waited with each student while they prepared to go on stage....not to mention the requisite shushing and hushing that goes with giggly boys sitting together. I'm not sure when it happened, but boys are certainly the noisier of the two genders in our Year 6 class.

Miss Mischief had the time of her life. Her speech was at the end of the second (of three) group so she had plenty of time to work herself up! She did beautifully. I could even hear her....quite a feat for those who know she's inclined to bare whispers which require the listener to constantly declare "I can't hear you!!!!".

This morning we were a bedraggled bunch of party-weary people. We dragged ourself in to school and spent the day trying hard to stay awake.

Tonight it's our Girl's Brigade Award Night. A far earlier night than last night's 11pm arrival home....with more unpicking and sewing-on of badges to be done by next year. *sigh*

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Author Interview at Relz

Last Friday night we had our last Book Club for 2009. Rel had organised for us to send questions to the authors...a very informative and fun experience, for 'Never the Bride'. This book was novelised by Rene Gutteridge from a screen play written by Cheryl McKay. You'll find Rel's post of the interview here.

Rel never ceases to amaze me ~ I was very impressed with the above header for our Book Club.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I'm off to find some hair do that will thrill Miss Mischief's little soul. It's her Year 6 graduation evening tonight so we have hair and showers and dresses.....and trousers.... to get pressed and donned. I have a small musical piece to practice as well. I don't want to be the one making mistakes and spoiling the performance for the violin-playing star!!!!

I may even dig out some make up. Don't anyone faint!