Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday Menus: Week Beginning 31 May

Here we are again. The Monday after a busy weekend, and already the week has begun somewhat unexpectedly. I ended up co-leading the Primary Assembly this morning, because the teacher in charge was away sick and her class had already prepared. The CRT was amazing though, and the kids did all that they had planned to do and did it beautifully. And, for me, the technology we needed to use worked like it was supposed to.

The week ahead for me includes LOTS of reading, work, a book review, College study, Bible study, Book Club...and somewhere in amongst that I'm sure people will want to be eating. I often wonder why I can't just have them eat money and circumvent the whole shopping, storing, preparation cycle. And yet, I'm certain I'd bemoan the loss of cooking a meal if it were something I didn't need to do. On the other hand, housework would definitely not be missed. I was chatting with our Yr9 class teacher the other day, who said he and his wife have someone come in once a fortnight to do dusting, mopping, vacuuming and very reasonable rates. Hmmmmmm.

In any case, back to the eating. I do have a plan, as always despite how it might turn out in the end.

Monday: Pork schnitzel with apple/celery, vegies, potatoes
Tuesday: Pumpkin & sweet potato curry, rice
Wednesday: Honey Soy Chicken, stir fried vegies, rice
Thursday: Pasta with mushroom & bacon creamy sauce
Friday: Meatball Stroganoff, rice or pasta
Saturday: Gnocchi with tomato cream sauce
Sunday: Chicken Wonton Soup, Yum cha bites

The other day my son's class made minestrone soup, at school, the recipe for which was used in a maths lesson as well. The soup was absolutely delicious, so I made a pot for dinner last night with some homemade chicken stock that had been simmering in my crockpot all day. It was amazing. Mr Busy doesn't like beans of any kind so he put that request in, and I obliged. Because every now and then I'm not the Food Meanie my kids take me for. He'd not mentioned zucchini though, so that went in ;)

In my lunch tomorrow? Some smoked salmon and feta I'd bought a few days ago, with some roasted red capsicum in a sandwich. Perhaps some sliced kalamata olives and spring onion might go nicely in there too. Today I had soup leftovers.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

At the Hearth

I determined in my mind, a few weeks back, to spend more time this winter in front of our fireplace. It has been a rarely used feature of this house, because it is in a room we rarely use in our day-to-day life. And yet my favourite thing is to curl up in there and or not! This weekend would have been the perfect time to have indulged that determination, but alas it has ended up being busier than I'd imagined it would be.

Perhaps a slightly romantic notion, but somehow the idea of reading ... or studying ... in front of a warm, embracing fire warms the depths of my soul as much as it does the body. It is something simple, yet speaks of days with a slower pace and more deliberate focus on what is truly important.

Tomorrow is the first day of winter here, so I have pulled out my 'Maggie's Harvest' book and begun to delve into all the food treasures of the season. Perhaps next weekend will be slow enough for an afternoon of fireside reading. Or studying. What a shame our wireless capability doesn't stretch that far!

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Each morning at school, the staff gather for a 10 minute devotion. We take turns doing it...some of us are more nervous than others. Typically, the Primary's and the non-teachers are the most anxious. Nevertheless there are often terribly wise thoughts shared. Thoughts that stick with you for a bit. Thoughts that you ponder for quite some time.

Yesterday, the receptionist had her turn....and she talked about Words. She talked about a journey she had gone on, through a chapter or two of Proverbs and really stopped to think about what each verse was really saying. She shared some profound lessons.

She reminded us that words, even the truth, can be very damaging and dangerous. Our motivation and intention needs to be one of love towards the receiver....even when we're speaking the truth. We should be trying at all times, to speak words that give life. Words that uplift. Words that encourage. Words that guide.

It made me stop and think. I am far less careful with words at home, than I am at work. I'm fairly certain that most of us would say the same thing. This afternoon I saw examples of words that break, words that crush. I was in another classroom in the primary school, working with some kids on a PowerPoint about our camp and was reminded what girls are like, in that age group. They begin to get catty and manipulative. They can be cruel. They don't think about the consequences of their words on the hearer. I've long been frustrated by seems all girls who enter this age group go through it. My own daughters have had their struggles and experienced things that linger to this day. Maturity has its way of smoothing out these childhood happenings, thankfully. But it brought back very quickly, that which was shared just the morning before.

On my fridge right now, I have this Bible verse:

"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about
things that are excellent and worthy of praise"

Philippians 4:8

It is said that we act out of what we believe. If we believe our speech comes out of what we think, then the way to prevent harsh words is to think on things that are good and pleasing to God.

Let's choose to speak words that give life

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Maple Chicken

image from Nigella's Website

Frances commented that she'd not heard much of my Nigella obsession over recent weeks. Truth is, I don't suppose I've posted very much of anything in recent weeks. And of course, when a person is busy, cooking becomes more necessity-focused rather than for enjoyment's sake. My dinner tonight manages to combine necessity and pleasure in perfect harmony. Had I remembered to get chicken out in the morning it would have been so much better. If I'd been super organised and marinated the chicken during the day I suspect I'd be in Foodie Heaven.

In reality, I've come home and thrown a few simple ingredients together in true Nigella Express fashion...because much of my cooking is the express version these days! I found the recipe for Maple Chicken and Ribs on Nigella's you can enjoy this meal too, in two shakes of a lamb's tail!

Of course, I altered the recipe to suit my needs. I didn't have any apple juice or ribs, so I simply ommitted those things. I am in love with the sweet smokey smoothness of real maple syrup. An indulgence that is truly with spending a few dollars on. Try not to be tempted by the cheaper alternative, I promise you, the real stuff is so much better. Of course I choose the cheapest one I long as it's pure. And then I have a little on my natural greek yoghurt for breakfast.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Monday Menu: Week Beginning 24 May

I am feeling a little smug tonight. I made two meatloaves a couple of weeks ago and froze one of them, ready to be cooked on some night when I wanted something homecooked and didn't have time for preparation. Tonight would be that night. A longer-than-usual staff meeting is the perfect reason to pull out something I had prepared earlier. So here I sit...dinner in the oven. Oh yes, I'm so anyway!

I've realised as I sat down to finish preparing my menu plan that our weekend is going to be very bitsy and somewhat here and there with all our busyness. So I think I'll leave planning Friday and Saturday until I have a discussion with the girls to see how they'd like to spoil themselves.

So far this is what I have:

Monday: Meatloaf, vegies
Tuesday: Ricotta fritters, vegies
Wednesday: Maple chicken (a la Nigella Lawson), vegies
Thursday: Ants Climbing Trees (see sidebar for recipe)
Friday: Under discussion
Saturday: Under discussion
Sunday: Sloppy Joe's.

I've a recipe for cornbread that I've been wanting to try out, from the same book the Sloppy Joe's came from. I think I might just add that to the menu for that evening, as well as a good old green salad to go with it.

I've been drooling over 'Nigella Feasts' over recent weeks, with the TV series as my inspiration. I'm certain that at some point very soon I'll have to indulge in procuring the hardcover version so that I can spoil us all with lots of yummy treats.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

'Never Far From Home' by Mary Ellis

Rel has posted my review for Mary Ellis's 'Never Far From Home'. This sequel was equally as refreshing as the first book, so I happily delved in to a new visit with the Miller's. If you want to check out my review, click here.

* * * * * * * * * *

As you can see, Mr Busy and I are home from camp. Tired, but happy...each of us for different reasons. He, from lack of sleep. Me, from the emotional energy expended on all the little incidents of homesickness and "I'm not going up there". Rock climbing walls and way-up-in-the-trees flying foxes are always going to challenge 8-10yo's!

Despite all those little things, we all had a magnificent time together. My mind is filled with the successes we celebrated and the fun that our 'Shaun the Sheep' mascot had with us. That sheep was very busy, cheeky and entirely adventurous. He has come home with crusty, beige coloured wool on his previously white self.

As for me personally? I tried a number of things for the first time during the camp. My favourite thing was archery. It's not something I'd previously been inclined to, but it turns out to be quite fun. Even if you overshoot the target a time or two.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Fudgy Birthday Cake and Other Happenings

We've ended a rather marathon-like birthday season in our family. My extended family is still going...but I don't have to organise those ones! When Miss Sunshine had her birthday she was very keen to have a chocolate mud cake. I was inclined to moan and groan about the expense of buying 'real' chocolate and finding a suitable recipe. She also wanted it 'iced' with ganache. Such exquisite taste, that girl of mine has!

I have a brownie recipe that I love, which has no 'real' chocolate, but rather, uses cocoa powder with absolutely amazing results. So I went in search of an easy chocolate cake recipe that might yield similar delight in my mud cake-obsessed daughter. I believe I found a winner, and when topped with ganache, one would never know it was made with cocoa powder and gluten free flour!

Chocolate Dessert Cake

125g butter
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
3 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk

200g chocolate (dark, or milk)
1/3 cup cream
  1. Grease deep 23cm round cake pan, cover base with baking paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl of electric mixer, beat on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then, beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth and changed in colour.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in moderately slow oven for about 1 1/4 hours. Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
  5. Top cooled cake with ganache.
To make ganache:
  1. Place chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and place over a low-medium heat.Melt chocolate slowly, stirring constantly until the chocolate is completely melted and mixed well into the cream.
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature before spreading over the cake.
* * * * * * * * * *

Mr Busy is all packed and ready to go on camp. And I'm not far off. I think I've remembered all the little things required for being away....bus pass for the girls, a meal all ready for a busy after school routine, mobile phone charging, bath towels have been remembered. I think I'm ready! Wait let me go check on those towels again. I can't tell you how often I forget to pack towels for events such as this. When we go away in the caravan they're already in there...I've become quite hopeless at packing one in a suitcase! But no, it's there.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Monday Menu: Week Beginning 17 May

Guess what I found on my front doorstep when I arrived home tonight? Yes, you guessed right! That package from College with my next group of subjects. Not only that, but the work that had been marked was also waiting for me. For those of you who joined me in praying for their arrival...THANK YOU! I received very positive comments about my work. The marker claimed it a pleasure to work through my written assessments. I also discovered that I don't have to do one of the four subjects in the next group. It is one I had done in my Cert 3, and so do not need to repeat it. Now that is good news! So....I'm all ready and set to go once dinner is over and the has been kitchen cleaned up.

This week is an unusual one on this side of my picket fence. Mr Busy and I are off on camp on Wednesday, so I've planned a combination of the girls doing some cooking and some already having been prepared. What not have to cook for 3 days. Mmmm...a girl could get used to that. Though it tends not to happen when one is most busy and pressed for time, does it!?!

Here is this week's plan:

Monday: Lasagna (make double)
Tuesday: Zucchini Slice, vegies with cheese sauce
Wednesday: Chicken & rice noodle stir fry
Thursday: leftover lasagna
Friday: Staff dinner @ school ~ kids out somewhere
Saturday: Soup?
Sunday: Roast chicken

Last week on a night I'd left unplanned we ended up having frozen chips, frozen vegies and frozen beef pastries which were a little like fancy sausage rolls. It was my answer to running out of time and food. I found myself really pondering the notion that the meal was very quick and easy, requiring nothing more than opening packets and throwing everything in the freezer and how attractive that was on a busy day. was not an enjoyable way to eat. I began to think on those days a way back when the kids were younger, when I'd trek out to the chicken factory in Lilydale and buy bulk fillets and pieces to prepare, ready for defrosting and cooking with no further preparation required. I really must look at doing something like that again. I'm not about to get any less busy anytime soon!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Saturday Catch Up

I realised yesterday, that I've been neglecting this little corner. It's been busy around here though, with lots going on and as all bloggers know, sometimes real life simply has to take precedence.

The picture above will give you a hint about our weather in the past week. Autumn, foggy, very cool. It's the beginning of that cozy season where reading in front of the fireplace would be the perfect thing to do. I plan to do that more this winter!

So what's been happening around here? Heaps! Miss Mischief declared me "tired of being happy" the other day. My how I laughed!

Mr Busy has celebrated his 10th birthday. He had to bake something for homework this week, so he made mini honey joys to share with his friends and heaps of the staff. The Principal had his at 8.20am! Birthday's and baking makes it quite the challenge to get out the door in time, but we did. He had his party last night. Oh My! A house full of smelly, boisterous boyness is something else after the quieter tones of a house dominated by big sisters. But he has beautiful friends whom I adore. They were so much fun to have.

Mr Busy and I are both excited about his camp next week. And I am excited about early plans for Year 5/6 camp next term, which I found out this week I must also attend. I went on this camp two years ago with my girls when they were both in 5/6 so I know how much fun it will be. One of the boys who was here last night absolutely lit up when he found out I was coming on his camp too.

I'm also excited about some plans for next year. I'll not say much more than that for now. Suffice it to say that it will require some challenges for me personally, and as a family no doubt....but I am excited.

Not to be accused of putting an unrealistic positive spin on everything, all that excitement has been tempered with some challenges that have burdened my heart. I've spent much time in prayer, this week, for the children in Miss Sunshine's class. Things came to a bit of a head for Miss Sunshine this week, fortunately, right at a time when her teacher was available to chat with her and I about her concerns. It is so hard to watch your daughter struggle so and know that there is no easy solution. I've shed my fair share of tears for her. And her teacher. Her teacher is an amazing young woman who cares deeply and sheds her share of tears over 'her' kids too. She has wisdom beyond her years and is so gentle and gracious. I know she aches over the challenges of her class but she is so perfect for the task.

And my last frustration for the week. I've waiting for WEEKS for my next group of subjects to arrive from College. For those of you who pray, would you pray that everything arrives quickly. There seems to be a problem with packages that come directly from the External Studies team office, and the Bookshop is just plain slow. I'm also not getting much response from the External Studies team when I email or phone. I am starting to wonder if there is some kind of spiritual thing going on there.

There you go ~ that's the week that has been. Sorry about the novel-length epistle....I think I'm making up for the lack of posting all week long!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Menu Planning: Week Beginning 10 May

I'm feeling really out of kilter this week. I wasn't able to grocery shop on Thursday or Friday .... or over the weekend. I'm now doing that 'duck into the supermarket on my way home from school' thing each evening. That stops tomorrow. I will have time to shop then, and shop I will.

In the meantime, we're taking it one day at a time like this:

Monday: Apricot Chicken
Tuesday: Hmmm...just Mr Busy and I. What shall we do, just us two?
Wednesday: Homemade Pizza
Thursday: Singapore Noodles
Friday: Party food dinner
Saturday: Zuchinni Slice, vegies & cheese sauce
Sunday: Tomato soup, sausage rolls or english muffin pizzas
I'm tempted to go very lazy on Tuesday, given it's an evening with a bit of dashing about. Will have to think on it some before tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I'm trying desperately to get my next group of subjects here from College. The enrolment process for each group of subjects seems to be more tedious this year and my inclination to impatience shows its head. I'm trying to enjoy the space, but the truth is, I'd really love to get on with it.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

God of the 'Impossible'

Sometimes I think the big impossible things of life are much like looking up at really tall trees, like in this picture above. If someone loved climbing trees, climbing these would seem impossible!

God has really been challenging my concept of what 'impossible' really means. Among many other little things in the last couple of weeks, it was in my BSF homework on John 6 that really showed me what God sees when we are busy saying "that's just not possible".

In John 6, Jesus was attempting to spend some quiet time with God. I was struck, firstly, with how He didn't insist on His "me time" and how He set his own desire for respite aside because the people needed Him. That is often our first 'impossible' these days. Don't we always hear "I just need some me time". Or, "you need to look after yourself before you look after others". I've posted about this before, but in John 6, Jesus offers us an insight to HIS perspective on this. It is possible to be available when God needs us to be, and He does indeed give us what we need to make it through to times when we can have that much-needed rest.

The second thing that was brought out so clearly in our lesson last week was how the disciples reacted to Jesus' question about how they should feed the growing crowd that followed them. Philip's response was one of being stumped by the impossibility of acquiring food for 5000 people. It would, after all, take 8 months wages. And really, what was Jesus thinking when He suggested they should feed the people!!!! I know I'd probably be caught up and stopped right there, were I in Philip's shoes!

But then along comes Andrew. Andrew, who brings a little boy with but a meager poor man's lunch of five little barley loaves and two eensy little fish. Andrew had to know that this would never feed 5000 people! Not on its own, anyway. And yet, he was willing to take what was obviously impossible...that tiny little meal....and give it over to Jesus. He demonstrated his willingness to believe that God could make it possible to feed so many with so little. And of course, we know that's exactly what Jesus did. He blessed the food, broke it up and it fed everyone with plenty to spare.

This really made me stop and think. I've been saying "it's just not possible" about something in the last 18 months. This passage in John, that I've read so many times before, made me stop and think hard about what God is really requiring of me. Am I going to be like Philip and allow myself to be stopped by the practical logistics that make things 'impossible'? Or am I going to be like Andrew who was prepared to step out and, by faith, say to God 'I can't see how You will make this work, but here's what I have for You to use'.

Surely, as followers of Christ, we need to be willing to exercise our faith and give God our 'little bit' to use for impossible tasks! How much blessing do we miss out on when we don't allow God to do what He really wants to do in our lives because we don't trust Him enough to do the impossible? And how often do we turn down opportunities to reflect His glory because we don't allow others to see what He could do, if only we would be courageous enough to flex our faith muscle?

Who are you going to be? A Philip or an Andrew?

Friday, 7 May 2010

Finally, a little bit of time....

The PD I was at the last two days was jam packed full of information. So much so that I have an aversion for sitting too long (6 hours a day of sitting is a LONG time!) and I need to empty my brain and sort out my thoughts. Our Head of Primary wants us (Mr Busy's teacher and I) to prepare something to share with the rest of the staff. Trouble is, it took us two days to get through all much do you pass on and what do you leave out? LOL.

Anyway. Enough of that for a moment!

In my last post I mentioned a couple of posts that had me thinking hard, or had touched me. Let me start with the thinking hard one.

I followed a link, as you do, from someone else's blog to another and came across So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter. I rarely click my way around the net anymore, but the blog post title piqued my curiousity. 'The Public School Apologist' title had me does a Christian advocate for public schooling? Not 'how could they do that'....but 'how does one go about presenting arguments that make sense'? Well, Suzannah makes a number of very good points about being the light in a dark world and education not being a one-size-fits-all proposition. Do Christian families use a Christian school as a cop-out for educating their children about faith?

My 2c on the subject? I'm pretty sure my own school experience has a lot to do with my opinion. I went from a 30-student missionary kid school to an 800-student public school when I was in Year 10. That was such an overwhelming and traumatic thing. If I had my time over I'd have continued doing distance ed. at home. But I was a kid and didn't know there could be other options, even if I'd told my parents I hated school. Because of my own experience, I was never going to send my kids to a public high school.

However, I'm also into my 9th year as a parent with children at school and I would do things differently if I had my time over! We began our children in local public primary schools and had good experiences in both the schools we had our girls enrolled in. Looking back, I think I was pretty naive. We didn't really even check the schools out!!! They were just the closest thing and the decision seemed obvious and predetermined. We didn't even discuss the possibility of an alternative! Now, with hindsight on my side, my advice to young parents would be to pray. Pray hard about what God wants for your child/ren. Let Him guide you and then follow the path that is set before you, whatever that may be.

The fact is, we should not take all the Christians out of public schools. Public schools need to have God's light of salvation shone in those dark places. I can't imagine that He wouldn't choose families to follow that option. Some children need to be homeschooled. And some need to be educated in a Christian school.

I wish I'd thought to pray about what God wanted for my children. As it happened, He picked them up and put them in the Christian school they're in now....and I am ever so grateful that God made that decision for us. My kids are in the very best place, for them. And as it turns out, the journey has been about me too. If not for our school, I would possibly have remained a stalwart SAHM with no intention of exploring the idea that maybe God would have me venture down another path as well as being a mother.

Christians should never presume or assume that one style of education is the only one a 'good Christian' should consider. I love our school. If I had my way, everyone I know would have their kids there. But the truth is, that is not going to be God's plan, is it? Thankfully God knows where He wants each of our children to be!

The other post I came across the other day touched me deeply. It probably won't mean a thing anyone else, because Kate at Our Red House posted here about a little stitchery I sent her a couple of years ago and what it has meant to her. I must confess to shedding another teardrop or two as I read her post.

And that really must do for now. I've still a million and one things to sort through from the last two days. So much I think we should do and so much that needs to be passed on..... I'm off to sort through and unload my brain. Let's home there's something left at the end!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Hold That Thought

I have come across some very thought-provoking posts lately....and some very humbling and heart-warming ones. But you'll have to bear with me, until I'm able to spend some time constructing posts about them.

In the meantime, the picture above will give you some idea of the rest of this week. I'm at a two day seminar on Autism and Asperger' the city. Which means catching a train and following a map and walking around unfamiliar city streets and maybe getting lost and being 'concerned' that I'll get there on time and .... I was awake at 4am. Says it all really!

It feels very strange to be away from school for two days. It feels stranger still, to leave the transporting of children to and from school to someone else. Although I'm certain my husband will enjoy taking them. And I feel strangely protective of the three boys I work with who will have neither me, nor their teacher, in the classroom for two days. I know the CRT who will be with them will do a marvellous job and has all the skills and experience these three boys require. They'll have a ball and barely miss us, no doubt!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Monday Menus: Week beginning 3 May

One of these days I'm going to remember to take my menu to work with me so I can post this during a release period I have after lunch. Alas, I am not so organised, and so this inevitably happens very late in the day. But happen it does, almost despite myself!

We all had a rather nice surprise at school today when we realised there was no staff meeting scheduled. I was somewhat disappointed...from the point of view that I'd actually remembered to take something for the kids to eat for afternoon tea and all my effort was wasted LOL. Rather than hang about all afternoon, Miss Mischief is delving into recipe books looking for 'J' food ~ to celebrate the return of a fellow student who has been on an extended holiday. Miss Sunshine wants to take something for her friends to share, for her birthday. I can see my kitchen going from a little untidy to a bombsite in the blink of an eye.

Now, on our table for this week you might find the following:
Monday: Maple chicken, vegies (Nigella Express)
Tuesday: Creamy bacon & mushroom pasta
Wednesday: Pork schnitzel with apple & celery, vegies
Thursday: Frittata and salad
Friday: Honey mustard drumsticks, vegies
Saturday: Lasanga (make double)
Sunday: Roast Chicken, vegies

I'm feeling like some of that might be a bit ambitious with a 2-day PD in the city thrown in to this mix. Not to mention a forced meal at Hungry Jacks (gag). I'm sticking with my plan to make lasagna, regardless.