Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cooking Day

This saying sums up how my kitchen will look in the next couple of hours!

Today has been a scorcher of a summer day. 37C/98F is not really my idea of a fun time and I am again incredibly grateful to have cooling in our house for the second summer! Now that we've had a cool change and the breeze through the kitchen is blissfully refreshing I'm all set to get into my cooking plans for today. See...this is what I love about living in Melbourne!

I tried a new Maggie Beer recipe for chicken with raisins and pinenuts for dinner tonight. I love the combination of dried fruits with meat. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. YUM!

I'm about to further indulge my adoration of Hummingbird cake and make Hummingbird muffins with the bananas that need to be used up right away. I'll use gluten free flour for those. Then I'll make some chocolate muffins for the rest of the family.

While they're cooking I'm going to cook the meat sauce for lasagna with the kangaroo mince I've been trying to get to. I don't know that I'll feel energetic enough to make a whole lasagna....but at least I'll be half way there! The vegies are chopped and waiting for me, so I'd better hop to if I want to get to bed at a reasonable time!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Motherhood Milestone

I believe I have reached a milestone, albeit with a large dose of reluctance and caution on my part.

Miss Sunshine went to the movies this morning. With her friend. Without adults. The friend's mother dropped the girls off and I picked them up after. They saw 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' together and hopped into the car at the end as happy as two girls could possibly be. Miss Sunshine was perfectly safe ... and I survived just fine.

I suspect we will continue to proceed on such occasions with great caution. The group of kids has a lot to do with whether or not we feel comfortable allowing Miss Sunshine to experience such independence. Last time she was invited to the movies with friends Dh and I both balked when we she told us who was going along.

On the other hand, I had Miss Mischief firmly attached to my side all morning....even once we got to school (we had a working bee on) and she had the opportunity to play with her friends. Ugh. She finally extricated herself enough to go home with a little girl who lives just around the corner. Yay!

And where was Mr Busy whilst all this was going on? Working his heart out at school with the men, pulling an old retaining wall down and digging the bricks out from behind it. I reckon he earned his fair share of our family's community levy points!

Friday, 29 January 2010

I'm Such a Wuss!

This morning, just as I had my toast in the toaster, the power went out. Two hours after it should've been back on, it was still out so I phoned again. Power lines down and an estimated time of power returning: 5.30pm. Ah ha. Yep...not so fun with three kids at home and no plans to get us out of the house.

I prevailed upon a friend who had power and plonked the kids in front of a 'Home Improvement' DVD so we could chat in peace. I know, I know. You'll all be horrified at the huge amount of screen time in one day....but my friend's kids were at her parents.

I hate it when the power is out for long periods of time (ie more than an hour or two). I had a few things I wanted to do and all of them required electricity. I also wanted to try out my kangaroo mince....but I got home way too late to a) defrost it, and b) cook it.

So that's IT. I'm declaring war on power outages. Tomorrow, I will make that lasagna and pop it in the freezer for another night. Furthermore, I am making it my mission to ensure I have something in the pantry at all times that can be cooked on the gas cooktop. No more wussy inability to cope with no power. It just takes some planning for right? Right!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Yesterday's Simple Joys

I had two little splash of pure joy in the day yesterday.
  • I was offered a little tiny office to use as my own!!!!! There's a lot to be said for having a place to belong.
  • As I went out to a meeting last night, my girls were doing the dishes together.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Impromptu Dinner Menu

Don't you love it when a few simple ingredients make for simple, impromptu entertaining? It doesn't have to be fancy. The friendship shared at the table is, after all, the most desirable ingredient!

My menu for my most recent spontaneous entertaining effort:
  • On the BBQ: pork, rissoles, sausages, potato cubes, onion
  • Tossed Green Salad
  • Beetroot
  • Bread and Butter
  • Easy Pineapple Pudding for dessert
  • ....and a delightful plastic fruit picnic afterwards hosted by our youngest guest, Miss Pink.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

'Becca by the Book' by Laura Jensen Walker

My review for 'Becca by the Book' was posted a few days back. It is another great installment of Laura's Getaway Girls series. To read my review, click here.

While not absolutely essential to read these books in order, I would highly recommend the first two books, 'Daring Chloe' and 'Turning the Paige'. In fact...perhaps you should just begin collecting the series. Laura's books are always worth having on your shelf!

Happy Australia Day

Happy Australia Day!

We're celebrating by picnicking at a park with some very dear friends. I have cake in the oven to make lamingtons....otherwise, it'll be egg or chicken sandwiches, chips, fruit and cordial for us and great time catching up with our friends.

Lamingtons: picture not mine!

What do you do to celebrate Australia Day?

Monday, 25 January 2010

Monday Update

Dh left this morning, wishing me a wonderful day. We may have spent much of the day in staff meetings, but it was a good day. It was good to catch up with the wonderful people I work with and find out what they've been up to. It was lovely to do something other than referee childhood arguments. It was even nice to be out for a while.

My direct supervisor got some new toys for me to experiment with when they're all loaded and ready to go ~ little notebook computers with voice-recognition software. The special-needs kids I work with struggle with writing and spelling. For them it is an exercise in tedious frustration so I'm pretty sure they'll find this to be a worthwhile (and maybe fun!) addition to their learning resources.

You know what else was nice? Coming home to beautifully squeaky-clean floors.

Monday's Back to Work Menu....

By the time I head off for work today, I have a list of things I want to have completed:
  • Go for a walk ~ it's doing my back the world of good
  • Make a potato salad to take for a combined lunch
  • Dust, vacuum, sweep and mop the floors
What do you think? Too ambitious for an early riser?

Something not too ambitious, certainly, is the feeding of a hungry family. Well....perhaps, at times, it is ambitious. My appetite has been waylaid down at sea level so the kids have been making up for me! My goodness they can eat.

We've managed to have two meals that were spontaneously hijacked from my menu plan, so my kangaroo lasagna is still awaiting its tryout. Since we went out and were given the exact meal I planned for Sunday, I think we'll have it then. Jacket potatoes with a variety of toppings is not so fun eaten 6 days apart!

Monday: Ricotta Fritters, salad, potato
Tuesday: Australia Day ~ BBQ sausages and pork ribs, salad
Wednesday: Gnocchi with bacon & mushroom sauce
Thursday: Chicken with Rosemary, pinenuts & verjuice (from Maggie's Harvest)
Friday: Crispy fish in chilli sauce, rice, stir fried vegies
Saturday: Sloppy Joe's, salad
Sunday: Let's try again for lasagna!

There. Off to work on that to-do list before I head out. Dh has a 'honey-do' list of his own while I'm at work. Like mowing lawns and arranging for repairs to the caravan before our next camping trip! Mr Busy will enjoy mowing with his Dad.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Perfect End

Today is my very last day before starting back at work tomorrow. The last couple of days have provided a perfect ending to a very relaxing summer holiday.

I have spent the last two days relaxing and spending time with a couple of different friends. Chatting, feasting on simple but very tasty fare and laughing a lot.

Yes, life is beautiful and relaxing...until tomorrow. Then it will be beautiful and busy!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Polenta Crusted Fish Cakes

I wish I had a photo. But photo-taking of dinner as it is being plated up is impossible around here. I usually have three hungry little people leaning eagerly over the bench. Between putting food on plates I'm shoo-ing them off like the blow flies I shoo when I'm camping.

By the way, my BIL tells me there are no flies in summer where he lives in the US. I so-o-o-o want to do summer there!!!!!

So, no photo...but a yummy recipe, regardless. In search of something 'different' to do with fish, I found somewhere to begin my fishy travels. Dh wondered why we couldn't have it whole....I told him to pretend, because there was only a few little additions, really.

Polenta-Crusted Fish Cakes

  • 375g boneless white fish fillets, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley
  • 1 tbs grated fresh ginger
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • 120g (2/3 cup) polenta
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 500ml (2 cups) peanut oil
  • Sweet chilli sauce, to serve
  1. Place the fish in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the onion, parsley, ginger, salt, pepper and the juice from 1/2 of the lemon. Process to combine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

  2. Divide the mixture into 8 and shape into patties about 5cm in diameter and 1.5cm thick. Place the polenta on a plate. Dip the fish cakes in the egg and then the polenta, pressing the polenta on firmly to form a thick coating.

  3. Heat the oil in a large shallow frying pan (about 30cm base measurement) over medium heat. Add 1/2 the fish cakes and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining fish cakes.

  4. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges. Serve the fish cakes with the sweet chilli sauce and lemon wedges.
Miss Sunshine is allergic to nuts, so I used olive oil and just shallow fried the patties and I substituted spring onions for red onion, because that's all I had. Otherwise, I behaved and did exactly as the recipe said.

This recipe came from

Thursday, 21 January 2010

'How Do I Love Thee' by Nancy Moser

If you've read my blog for any small length of time, you will have come to know that one of my great loves in life is reading. I have thoroughly indulged myself over this summer and am about to finish book number 11 (I'm nearing the end of week 4 on this journey!). I have 2 more I'd love to read before Rel gives me some more to review....and then there's that pile over there on the bottom of my bookshelf that sings to me. My TBR pile, currently numbering 18. I truly am a blessed woman to have so many books at my disposal.

At the beginning of our holiday I focused on the books requiring a review. 'How I Love Thee' by Nancy Moser was completed and reviewed the morning of our departure....nothing like last-minute, is there! This was a fascinating biographical fiction of a woman I'd not heard that much about before this book. I can only imagine that being the author telling the story of a renowned poet would be somewhat intimidating, and yet Nancy Moser's skill is perfectly suited to the task. To read my review at Relz Reviewz, click here.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Purpose for Swimming

photo from

I finally figured something out about myself this year. You see, I grew up swimming nearly every day. At a beach. Dad would come home after work, we'd grab our towels and off we'd dash for an hour or so and come home for dinner. And yet I have little enthusiasm for beach-going excursions these days.

As an adult, going to the beach has seemed like hard work. You have to go for the afternoon....and takes drinks, and snacks, and sand toys, and boogie boards, and the beach shelter and towels...and the list goes on. Over the years I've wondered why it has to be so tedious. Especially when, for the most part, it's not hot enough to swim anyway. Let's face it. Victorian ocean waters are the warm tropical waters I grew up swimming in. Here the water is icy cold. I can't bring myself to immerse more than my ankles!

This year I finally figured it out. I grew up swimming at the beach for an hour or so most days because we needed to cool off. It was HOT...and very humid. Once a week we had dinner at the beach with fellow missionary friends. On Sunday's it was lunch and often snorkeling on the reefs which were so close to shore. Again, though, it was hot and we enjoyed the cool refreshing water.

These days, the only time I swim is when it's so hot I can't cope. Like when the temperatures hit the high 30's (95F+). Because somewhere deep in my psyche, the purpose for swimming is cooling off. If you're not hot, there's no reason to swim. These days when I swim because it's far too hot, I still can't do Victorian oceans. Over our holidays I was able to enjoy a solar heated pool at once place, and the warmer water temperatures of a closed-off river. The ocean water over the sandbar was still too icy for me!

A walk along the beach when the tide is out ~ now that I could do any day!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Little-Boy Life Lessons

Mr Busy struck it rich while we were away. Riches that came with a pretty profound lesson for a little boy. He learned that being honest is tough stuff. He learned that doing what God would have him do hurts sometimes. But he also learned that the reward at the end is that much sweeter.

Mr Busy found $20 while we were at our first destination. Unfortunately he found it within the campsite property, where there were 130-ish teens were participating in a camp as well as us campers there too. We had a long talk about how he would feel if he'd lost $20 and what the right thing to do might be.

It was with drooping shoulders and teary eyes that he handed that $20 in to the office. He didn't resist but he sure was sad! The Manager was lovely and offered a small glimmer of hope when he said he would put the money. At the end of the week if it was still there Mr Busy could have it. And then Mr Busy devised ways that I could help him feel happy cream, lollies, toys....the list went on!

First thing on that last morning that the office was open he was all set to go and see if that money was there. I suggested that perhaps we should wait 'til the end of the don't want to seem to greedy, after all! So about 4.30pm we headed over and asked the Manager if the money was still there.

Guess what. It was a very different boy who walked out of that in hand, smile on his face and a bounce in his step!

I think he spent a fair bit on ice cream and lollies at the next camp site, seeing as how that had a little kiosk there! And whatever he spent, he did so with a completely clear conscience and a lot of joy.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Menu Plan Monday

One blissful week of long, lazy holidays remain for me. I'm planning to clean the house and read a lot. I've four more books that I really wanted to read this holidays....and then Rel will have some for me to review. I may even attempt to get some things baked and into the freezer. I'm not convinced I'm quite ready for the frenetic pace of normal life just yet, but one should prepare oneself anyway. This is one time where Denial is not my friend!

* * * * * * * * * * *

One of the highlights of my holiday was having a new family join us for the second two weeks of our time away. I knew the wife as my discussion leader when I first went to BSF a few years back. I thoroughly enjoyed renewing my relationship with her and getting to know her husband and children. One of the things I learned in the two weeks we had together was a more off-road approach to meals, where refrigeration and food storage is limited. One insights they shared was their preference for kangaroo mince instead of beef. It is far cheaper and lower in fat than the beef and they now prefer its flavour. I decided we should try it for ourselves, and have included it on my menu this week.

Monday: Roast chicken, potatoes, vegies
Tuesday: Mushroom quiche, potatoes, vegies
Wednesday: Fish, scallop potatoes, vegies
Thursday: Spinach & feta pie, salad
Friday: BBQ chicken wings, salad
Saturday: Pasta with vegie sauce
Sunday: Lasanga (using kangaroo mince), salad

I need to seek out a new fish recipe. I have nine meals worth in my freezer and I fear I will tire of it before we eat it all. Dh and two of the other guys caught a lot of Taylor, Aussie Salmon and Flathead. I prefer the salmon, but the others are pretty good too.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Smallest Things

Last night we enjoyed our final night of camping with some friends. We sat around after we done some pack-up preparation and talked about what we were looking forward to about coming home.

My two thoughts were:
  • sleeping in my own bed again ~ the bed in the caravan isn't all that comfortable.
  • Having a decent shower!
The second caravan park we stayed at has pathetic showers. You spend much of the time attempting to get as we as possible, although the attempt is always rather unsuccessful. I saved my normal Saturday hair wash for tomorrow morning!

I've also added "being able to curl up on a nice comfy couch". And have you ever noticed how big you house is after spending 3 weeks in a 7ft x 14ft box, even though your lounge room is the great outdoors?!?

Oh....I also have clean feet for the fist time in 3 weeks. Something to do with constant beach trips and wearing thongs the whole time. Who'd have thought clean feet could feel so good?!

I'm off to start catching up on all my blogging friends.....

A note for those who are concerned about terminology. Thongs= rubber footwear. Remove the 's' and you are talking about something else entirely. A very subtle but important thing to notice!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Monday's Menu Plan from Planet Salade

I've just realised that my menu plan is very heavy on the salads...a sure sign that summer is full swing now. The fact that my fruit bowl is taking a beating is also a sure sign that summer is here!

On our plates this week:

Monday: Warm chicken salad
Tuesday: BBQ rissoles, cubed potato, salad
Wednesday: Lamb & snow pea salad
Thursday: Cold deli meats, salads
Friday: BBQ chicken wings, cubed potato, salad
Saturday: not sure yet
Sunday: Homemade pizza

We will be doing a long trip on Saturday, so I doubt that I'll be wanting to cook when we finally get home, and yet the thought of having to go out again might prove more of a burden than the relief of not cooking. I may cook something on Friday to have on hand for reheating. We'll see how organised I get!

Monday, 4 January 2010

More of the Summer Menu Plan

Thought I'd pop in very quickly to post this week's menu plan. We've been enjoying all the delights of warm summer days with Dh on holidays, so days pass quickly before I realise I've not posted in a few!

Monday: Pasta Bolognaise
Tuesday: BBQ lamb chops, cubed potatoes, salad
Wednesday: Pasta & chicken salad
Thursday: Cold deli meats, salads
Friday: Chicken & rice noodle stir fry
Saturday: fish & chips
Sunday: Hamburgers

On Wednesday night we'll be enjoying a dessert night to celebrate the birthday of a friend's son. I think this year I'll make 'Southern Ambrosia'. It's the perfect summer dessert and I love that apart from the cream, everything else is in the pantry. My children were dubious about the addition of mini marshmallows to a fruit salad....but they've decided it is definitely worth the oddity!