Friday, 30 July 2010

Dream Lake


I'm back to some holiday sharing today. How's this for a view!?!

While we were in the US we went camping at a cute little hamlet called Estes Park, which is right near the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a beautiful little spot, just a short drive north of Denver. The views, of course, are beautiful because it can't be anything else when you're surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains. My SIL and I decided to take a little hike, one afternoon. The children opted to swim in the pool at the "RV" park (aka caravan park), Dh supervised them and my BIL had a snooze.

So off we set. We drove into the park, hopped on a shuttle bus and headed up to some spot up the way a little where we hiked from. I use the term 'hike' very loosely. It was really a lovely little 1.1 mile walk that was just barely going uphill. If I managed it, it is easy peasy! The picture above was what awaited us for that small amount of effort. If you look carefully on the edge of the right hand side, on the side of the mountain there is a glacier. Funny the middle of summer the glaciers and thick ice never melt way up there.

The water of the lake is so pure and so clear that you can see the bottom with no problems at all. And around the edge of the lake and along the path were squirrels and chipmunks scampering bravely alongside the people I'd never seen either, let alone in the wild. They're pretty cute!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

'Talking Smack' by Glenn Williams

While we were away we had the priviledge of having a little look around the Focus on the Family headquarters. We met some wonderful people who do amazing things. They're a pretty talented bunch of folks with a passion to support people to do family life well. I picked up a copy of 'Talking Smack' by Glenn Williams and finished reading it late last week. Below is my review...

‘Talking Smack’ should be considered essential reading for every parent. Its mere 166 pages make it a quick read but there is nothing mere or insignificant about this book. Glenn informs parents of the importance of educating their children in an easy-to-read manner that will leave you feeling encouraged, empowered and equipped rather than overwhelmed by the task. Filled with practical tips, ideas, conversation-starters and solid evidence-based information, ‘Talking Smack’ is the perfect tool-box for parents who want to protect their children from the very real dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Towards the end of ‘Talking Smack’, Glenn includes an interview between himself, a mother and her daughter about their experience with drugs and alcohol. I loved that after all the positive advice, tips and information, Glenn addresses the fact that there is still the very real possibility of good kids taking risks with drugs and alcohol. Throughout this interview, Glenn seeks to encourage parents to be prepared and to think carefully about how to handle these types of surprises without damaging the parent-child relationship that becomes tender and fragile under the weight of such pressure.

Glenn’s heart and desire to see families grow and become strong comes through clearly throughout ‘Talking Smack’. I was able to see beyond his extensive professional experience and knowledge of the subject and into the tender father-heart that drives him to educate other parents to be the best parents they can be.

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'Talking Smack' is available from Amazon and Koorong.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Monday Menu: Week begining 26 July

Today is a little break from holiday reminiscing. Sometime this week I'll load up our photos and then perhaps I can start showing you some of what we did. However, for now, Monday has rolled around again and it's time to think about planning ahead for the week. I'm not sure how busy women go without menu planning. I hate having to go shopping terribly often, and I hate standing at the pantry/fridge at 5pm wondering what on earth I feel like eating for dinner tonight. Planning my meals and then the shopping list that results from my plan is my little piece of daily sanity. I do it as a gift to myself! It just so happens that my family are the greatest benefactors of my self-gift. I would encourage you to have a go and see how it works for you, if you've never been organised with this before.

Monday: Rissoles, vegies
Tuesday: Meatloaf, vegies
Wednesday: Minestrone, bread
Thursday: Pasta with bacon & mushrooms
Friday: Honey soy chicken, rice, stir fried vegies
Saturday: Wonton Soup
Sunday: Lasanga

It was my niece's birthday on Saturday and rissoles are the thing she loves to we're having those dinner tonight in honour of her. Seeing as how she's too far away to celebrate with in person. If you don't know what a rissole is, click here and check out the Aussie version. I didn't know there was such a wide variety of definitions. My rissoles, typically, have mince, tomato sauce, egg, onion and breadcrumbs. I make homemade rye breadcrumbs, but bought packaged ones were what I used before I had to steer clear of wheat.

I'll be preparing our meatloaf tonight so I can throw it in the oven when I make it home on Tuesday night. Another little gift to my sanity! My car is having another trip to the mechanic tomorrow so I suspect we'll be getting home late in the day after picking it up.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Week in Review

It's a little hard to believe that at exactly this time last week we were about an hour off landing back in Melbourne. We've been home a whole week!!!!

Settling Back to Home. It's been nice cosying ourselves back into our home. It's been oh so cold (to us!), with icy mornings and overcast days. Especially after the reprieve of warmer days. Our heater has been working overtime. The washing and dishes have been kept up with and the suitcases have finally gone into the 'dungeon'.

Back to Work. I felt a bit like a fish out of water, in that I missed work break. Despite that I've settled back in pretty well and the week has just been like I never left....except that we all have holiday stories to tell.

After having experienced a front loading washing machine for a few weeks while we were away we've decided we'd like to replace our top loader with a front loader. We've car repairs to work on first....a rather unpleasant surprise upon our return. One day in the next year or so, though, it'd be good to be able to do that.

Friday, 23 July 2010

With You? Or in the Bag?

I did my normal Thursday evening grocery shopping last night. Alas and alack it has come to making decision for myself rather than riding on the coattails of my SIL's dining decisions!

Given that it is summer in the US, almost all our clothing purchases were geared towards summer. And rightly so. We will need all those things in a few months. For right now, I'm enjoying my drastically inexpensive Levi's and Columbia fleece! However, with all that shopping Mr Busy still didn't get any tracksuit pants. Lots of jeans and nice looking trousers, but no trackies. So last night I ventured into Big W. Oh my goodness....lots of winter stuff is marked down for sale right now. Because of course, half way through winter we couldn't possibly want to stock winter clothes, could we?

I got two pairs of trackies for $5/pair. I got flannel pj's for three of us ~ kids for $8 and adults for $10 per set. And I got a skivvy for $5 as well (skivvy being a turtle neck type long sleeve top....not a singlet as I've heard them referred to). My winter clothing tip: Head off to Big W quickly and enjoy the mark downs! Get your winter clothes while you can! As dh suggested, the quality is not the same. But you know what? There are no holes in Mr Busy's knees now, so we can throw out all his old pants!

Interestingly Big W here and Wal-mart have the same slogan: We Sell for Less. I wonder if they're related?!

What I realised, as I was paying for my items, is that here the cashier just throws the receipt in the bag and the first thing I do is fish it out! I'd become quite used to being asked "receipt with you or in the bag" and then having the receipt handed to me. I miss that. I like the receipt in my hand so that I know where it has gone, should I need to make a return. Do you think Aussie's could make the switch and ask what their customers would like?!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Changing My Tune about Summer

Pikes Peak viewed from a rock formation at Garden of the Gods
We went to both places! Wow!

I've long said that summer is the one season I can't stand. Ours are long and hot. Our hottest days are 45C/113F and we usually get a handful every year, now. Our 'regular' days are often somewhere between 35C/86F and 38C/100F. It's dry, the north wind blows and feels like you're in a hairdryer or a heater and breathing that in. The sun is merciless. It doesn't cool down overnight.

Contrast that with Colorado Springs. A balmy, comfortable 24C/75F. A gentle, fresh breeze and evenings are lovely and cool. You need a blanket ~ particularly if you're in the basement, as we were. And Pikes Peak still has a little bit of ice here and there around the top. So if you need to cool down you just drive up and enjoy the 3C/37F and then return home. Course, you'll find it hard to breathe at 14,110 ft....but it'll be nice and cool!

You know, I've changed my tune about the idea of summers. If I were to live in a place like Colorado Springs (not that I'm moving!!!) I could so do summer and it would be a joy. I'll be remembering that when our summer comes along, harsh and unbearable as ever.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

First Impressions

Cute frog huh! We had two very big first impressions when we arrived in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, now...neither of which included a frog! Plus another observation that came over time.

Our first: LA has serious smog! We stepped out of the airport terminal and were hit by the smell of car fumes....and my how those buses and cars wizzed by! Melbourne airport is sedate a cute compared to the massiveness of LAX!

Our Second: The toilets had waaaayyyy too much water in them. Our few days in the US were spent in LA and the constant lament was "Mum, I'm scared my hand will get wet!". So we analysed it.

I was keen for the kids to understand that 'different' doesn't mean 'not as good'. Australia doesn't do everything better than other countries. In this case, we came to the conclusion though, that in the case of toilets Aussie's do better. We use less water to flush and have the option of a half flush. Less water sits in the toilet bowl. You can do what you need to do without fear of getting your hands wet. And our toilets don't get clogged up so easily. Fortunately for us, the toilets in Colorado Springs were a little closer to what we were used to and so the bulk of our time was spent with children less distressed! They still got clogged up at the drop of a hat!

Our Third: Americans are a very generous people. In all the small kinds of ways ~ water on your table in a restaurant, great deals in terms of shopping (no Aussie company would give you two free pairs of shoes if you bought one pair!), people generally having an attitude of giving in the small things of life. In this regard, I reckon they have it over us in spades. Aussie's are great in a crisis, but Americans are way better with generosity in the day to day. Even on the roads they're way more polite!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Return to Normal Beginning with Monday Menu!

Wow. What a holiday we've had. We arrived back in Melbourne yesterday morning and reluctantly considered normal life. Things like menu planning and grocery shopping. And what to wear to school today in wintry conditions when we've enjoyed three weeks of a USA summer.

Fortunately I'd begun to set my heart towards home in small snatches last week. A menu plan here, an email to my boss there. Nothing to make me think my holiday was over, but enough to make returning a little less taxing. Already I've switched things around just a little. Crossing a dateline and spending too many hours in a plane does something to your appetite! I have a feeling that going from a high altitude to sea level decreases your appetite too.

So here's my rearranged menu:

Sunday: Chinese corn soup and yum cha bites
Monday: Roast chicken, potatoes, vegies (make stock)
Tuesday: Ricotta fritters, vegies
Wednesday: Mellow Meatballs, rice
Thursday: Tomato & Bacon pasta (a la SIL)
Friday: Sloppy Joe's, salad
Saturday: Sweet & sour pork, rice
Sunday: Oven fried chicken, potato, vegies

There you have it. Barely a salad in sight, after weeks of nothing but. My one disappointment is that we don't have tinned fire roasted tomatoes here. Oh wow are they good in a pasta dish.

Grocery shopping yesterday was like turning up to a little milk bar. After enormous USA supermarkets our little town's Safeway was a bit....well....underwhelming. The prices however were not! My SIL's cousin didn't buy a thing for two weeks after returning from living in the US. I totally understand why!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Christy Awards

At the very beginning of our holiday, a mere three weeks ago, the Christy Awards for Christian Fiction were presented. I finally found a list of the winners here. My only disappointment? The books I'd read did not win. None of them! And yet the books I read were magnificent and worthy of an award. So I can only imagine that the winners were a cut above in some way that made them stand out even more.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Brief Check In

I realised that it's been well over week...maybe two since I last posted. We've been on school holidays here and Dh has taken some time off work. We've been enjoying some quality family time and doing lots of fun things together.

Don't be too worried if I don't post much between now and when school goes back. We're just having fun and enjoying real life.