Thursday, 30 September 2010

Little to Say

My TBR pile(s) ~ all the books lying down!

I've sat down a couple of times to post, and realised that I really didn't have anything to say.  I have been enjoying myself at home immensely.  Catching up on cleaning that was left over the last school holidays has been very satisfying.  I've also been on a reviewing frenzy.  Poor Rel might never catch up with posting them all!  As you can see from the picture above, I've more than enough reading to keep me going for a very long time.  The black bag on the middle shelf there has the books to be reviewed, so she keeps me well stocked.  No complaints here!

Well..I'd better get myself off here and go and sweep (again!) the front entry way before we have some friends arrive.  Pumpkin and Sweet Potato soup with homemade bread rolls are the order of the day.  Perhaps some pikelets would go down well for morning tea.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 27 September

We enjoyed our first barbecue of the season last night, with some friends whose chicken poxy daughter was happily released from her home-prison for the evening.  We have all had it or been immunised so we're as safe as people can be.  Yes...I know you can get it again, but none of us have thus far despite numerous encounters.  Besides, such a sunshiny day demanded barbecue and lemon meringue pie.  And I don't do desserts unless I have a good reason, so visitors were required for the occasion.

Our menu for the evening was very simple but all the more delicious with the company that shared it ~

Barbecued sausages and marinated chicken wings
Barbecued corn on the cob
Quick-roasted potatoes
Tossed salad
Lemon Meringue Pie

As for the week ahead?  More of last week's adventures I suspect.  A lot of reading and reviewing.  A lot more cleaning.  More visitors popping in as well as a birthday to celebrate for Miss Mischief.

Of course, there are many more meals ahead of me too!

Monday:  Oven Fried chicken, vegies
Tuesday:  Homemade Pizza
Wednesday:  Honey Mustard Pork Scallopine, vegies
Thursday:  Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Friday:  Finger food, after a big lunch
Saturday:  Lasagna (double batch for freezing)
Sunday:  Whatever Miss Mischief wants

If you're thinking this seems awfully repetitive, you're right.  My meals have been planned and then quite muddled up.  Whatever I have planned this week that was there last week and the week before are meals I didn't end up making for some reason or another.  Most likely, life got in the way and we were too busy to stop and heed the plan.

I was thinking about the way my plans have been unheeded and the meals that have resulted from things like arriving home at 6.30pm.  I think it's time to consider an SOS Storecupboard plan so that my stand-by meal is something I know we will all enjoy.  Frozen pies or quiches from the supermarket do not inspire my tastebuds one little bit.

What is your standby meal to counter unexpected busyness?

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Productivity and Wasting Time

I've done lots of work on my to-do list over the last two days.  My bedroom, desk and laundry are all winking and sparkling with cleanliness.  I've even taken over the upright deep freezer as storage space, given that it has sat idly for far too long.  It now has a reason to take up space in the laundry.  I have gotten rid of half the old shoes hanging about and there's a pile to go downstairs to be stored out of my way.  I was feeling very productive, until this afternoon.

Then we wasted a few hours watching a football grand final that ended up in a draw and will be replayed next week.  I will be looking for some other way to spend the afternoon next Saturday.  I don't enjoy football that much.  It was a chore the first time round.

'Beneath the Southern Sky' by Deborah Raney

I love Deborah Raney's writing.  I was very excited about being handed this book to be reviewed.  Finally, after many weeks of languishing on my bedroom floor or my school basket, I have gotten around to writing the review.  You will find it here at Relz Reviewz.  Enjoy!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Little Holiday Fancies

Tomato & Chorizo Salad

Yesterday I had a friend and her two sons come for much of the day.  I made Jamie Oliver's Tomato and Chorizo salad for the grown up's lunch while the kids had macaroni & cheese with a salad.  Rather than the required goats cheese, I chose baby bocconcini.  Tender, sweet, perfect.  That salad is going to become a favourite, I just know it.  I have leftovers for my lunch today :)

Delicious food and wonderful company always rate highly on my list of things to enjoy over school holidays.

* * * * * * * *

Surely reading in bed first thing in the morning is one of the most luxurious things a person can do.  The idea that there is time enough to spend there, without thought for the time is one of my little holiday joys.  Of course, being the early riser I am, 8am is as far as I tend to get.  Still, it is nice to still be home at 8am instead of running out the door for the day.

* * * * * * * *

Holiday To Do 

Inspired by Shiny Red Houses and photos like the one in this post by Debbie at Artful Aspirations, I am determined to douse some fires around my house.  I'm certain my desk could look more inviting and my craft pile needs to be organised and better contained.  And let's not even mention the laundry just yet.  I mean, how do things get clean in a room that gets so grubby?  On the top of the list though, is my bedroom.
I don't relish the idea of housework, not when a pile of books beckons me.  But there is something rather nurturing and embracing about a home that is in order before you head into another busy term.

What do you enjoy doing when you have some time at home?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Op Shop (Junking) Entertainment

My daugthers and I went on an Op Shop tour this morning with my Mum.  We stopped in at a funny little place that I knew was going to be a treasure trove, just because the outside of the establishment had a myriad of bits and pieces on shelves and trolleys before we even walked in the door.

We went into each little room and were amazed at how much stuff filled each corner and crevice.  We went upstairs to the 'mens' room and down to the basement to the 'furniture' room.  In one of the rooms that had lots of kitchen stuff, there was a box filled with beaters.  If you had an electric beater in your house somewhere, I bet you there was a beater in that box to suit your needs.  None of them were paired or labelled with the appropriate beater machine they fitted.  But that box amused me more than anything else.  I took a photo on my phone, but posting it will have to wait til I get a hold of a cable.

My purchases included a beautiful little bowl and a steamer saucepan.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday I met Mum at my Granny's nursing home for a visit, along with my kids.  Granny has come back to life after a drug change and she's very entertaining now.  She was insistent that we needed to take her to Charles St to visit the glasses place and she needed new pants and shirts.  It took us a bit to realise that Charles St was in Launceston (Tasmania, where she grew up) and not in the suburb of Melbourne that she had lived in when I was young.  The kids and I giggled our way through the visit and left her happily attempting some knitting.  I'm pretty sure her knitting will be far below Miss Mischief's beginning pieces in quality, but she'll have fun and insist that she's knitting something rather grand.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 20 September

This past weekend has been filled with lots of sweet fellowship with good friends and extended family, over meals, afternoon tea's and 2yo birthday parties.  Amongst the treasures of the weekend ~ watching a man making scones with practiced ease.  And they were really good too, especially the small half I ate in curiosity.  I'm trying very hard to avoid wheat more diligently...the brain fog simply isn't worth it most of the time.  The odd mouthful here and there is easier to handle.

Given that we've entered our first full week of school holidays, we've begun making plans, which means I won't be cooking meals for the next couple of nights.  A blessing for me.  A bit of a whole for anyone who might've been inclined to cook along with my menu plan.  I'll begin my plan from Thursday, since that's the next meal I'll be making!

Thursday:  Oven fried chicken, potatoes, vegies
Friday:  Homemade pizza
Saturday:  BBQ.  Hmmm..that's what I wrote down.  Perhaps I'll change that later to suit the rainy weather :(
Sunday:  Tuna & pasta

Over the last few days I've been pondering questions like "is a Costco membership worth the price, in Australia"; "perhaps a price book would be more helpful than I've given it credit for in the past"; "I need to make a list of all the around-the-house jobs I need to do".  I've printed out a price book page from and will begin my list.  On that list will be a note to make a phone call to Costco.

And I plan to read.  A lot.  And write the corresponding review the second I put the book down.  But mostly I plan to enjoy reading, because I'm certain I won't have much time to read for the pure pleasure of it next year.

Has anyone ever followed someone else's menu plan?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Living in (unreasonable) Hope

What does one do on the first day of school holidays?  Why, she takes her three children grocery shopping, of course.  It was not without a fair measure of frustration, but I did make some very interesting observations this time.
  1. Mr Busy is the main cause of all shopping frustration.  He touches everything.  He gets in the way of both the trolley and my feet, whichever the case may be.  He requests all kinds of things that he knowing his requests will be rejected.
  2. The girls are a dream to shop with.  They're even helpful!  The girls help keep Mr Busy in line and remind him that you get no joy at all when you beset your mother with a myriad of requests for special things in the first half of the first aisle.
I was reading a post at Shiny Red Houses the other day, in which Sara shared 11 easy steps to 'junking' (ie. finding great second hand goods at fabulous prices).  One of Sara's steps was to ensure you leave your children at home to go junking.  And then she made an astute observation about boys, specifically.  I think her comments are true of boys and all shopping trips.  She says:

"I have yet to meet a boy 
who will junk without being 
convinced that the junk shop 
will kill him dead on the spot. 
So just don't bring them."

She reminded me that when Mr Busy was about three or four years old, he used to cry and whine whenever I set my car in the direction of a shopping mall.  He used to beg and plead not to have to go until I promised that when he entered Preschool I would not ever taking him shopping again, if it was at all possible.  He settled down for a little while at that point.

How do you handle shopping with children?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Ye Olde Days

The main street of Sovereign Hill

We enjoyed a bit of an end of term celebration of studying 'Australia Getting Started' today.  A bit of dressing up along with damper cooked in our fire trench, homemade lemonade and kangaroo stew made the day what is was.

I adore almost all things old fashioned.  I think it is what drives my love of Amish fiction and my determined commitment to things like cooking a proper meal each night.  The fact that men and women knew what their roles were and fulfilled them to the best of their ability and with a sense of pride appeals to me.  I don't doubt for a moment that the lives of people 250 years ago was busy.  And hard.  But busy and hard in a different way to what we experience now.  Busy and hard in a way that brings satisfaction at the end of the day rather than wondering where on earth your time disappeared to.

Often over the years I have wondered if I was born in the wrong era.  Long dresses and lace call to me in a way that would be inappropriately over the top to indulge in, these days....and somewhat impractical on many occasions.  I've often wondered what my life might have looked like had I been born 250 years ago, in the early years of Australia's history.  While my great-grandmother used to tell us that "there was nothing good about the 'good ol' days, they were just jolly hard work", I'm sure there was something to recommend it.  I wonder would I have been the one who got her washing on the line first....or would I have been amongst the last?  Would I have managed to get the hang of cooking in a wood stove?  Would I have ever been wealthy enough to have travelled beyond the local township.  And even if I could have, would I have wanted to?

So many questions that will never be answered.  But I think perhaps it is possible to capture just a little olde world-ness.  What I do can still be done to the best of my ability, with pride in the doing of a good job.  I can dress in a way that feels ladylike.  Indeed I have these odd clothing rules in my head ~ like no jeans at work or church, even though it is a common choice amongst many others, and one that is perfectly OK (to me) on someone else.  And I can choose solid old-fashioned morals and values that come from a time when the Bible was the authority on how one should live.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

For Sure and for Certain

I have received two very exciting pieces of news today. 

Firstly, I have received a mark of 'competent' in all my Certificate IV subjects, which is now fully complete.  My certificate is on its way :)  My lecturer was full of high praise about my RPL application, which was such a fantastic way to begin the day!

Secondly, I have received a letter of offer from my preferred University to begin a Bachelor of Education (Primary teaching) next year.  I am so excited about the prospect of 'serious' study.  The Uni is interstate and offers their degree program via external delivery so I can continue to do what I normally do with family and work.  I am equally excited about the fact that I can do this via a method that works so well for me.

Of course, this calls for celebrating over a meal enjoyed at a restaurant.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cybersafety Causes Morning Time Warp?

There is something incredibly disappointing about waking up thinking it is the weekend, only to discover you're still part way through the week.  Imagine then, how very much more disappointing it would be to wake up thinking it is Saturday and figure out (slowly!) that it is only Tuesday.  Near the start of the week.  *sigh*  That's how I started my day.

The reason for my out-of-whack start to the day?  I'll claim two reasons.  Firstly, a jab in the arm to update my tetnus, diptheria, whooping cough immunisation.  I figured since I had no recollection of having had the last one, I was probably due to have it again, especially with whooping cough on the rise.

Secondly, an unexpected evening out to hear Dr Michael Carr-Gregg speaking about Cybersafety, thanks to an early evening phone call from the library teacher at Our School.

Dr Carr-Gregg began the evening with the quote "If you haven't upset your teenager at least three times this week, you're not trying hard enough".  Ahh...already this was my kind of guy.  His other quote was "It is not our job to be our kids' friend.  It is our job to keep them safe".  He went on to say that if sometimes that makes us unpopular, then so be it.  Yep, in other circumstances we'd be fabulous friends.

When it comes to cybersafety and cyberbullying Dr Carr-Gregg is a wealth of wise and useful information, sprinkled with his very down-to-earth brand of humour and creative discipline style.  He didn't really tell me very much I didn't know...but what I didn't know was pretty big stuff:
  • As parents, we are legally responsible for what happens when our modem is in use ~ if our kids misuse our internet connection, we will be in the firing line as surely as the misuser.  
  • When our kids do silly things online there is the potential for having committed a crime they didn't intend to commit and their future could be seriously affected.
  • Kids under 13yo who have a Facebook account are committing fraud!
  • Our kids are already creating their CV.  People have been passed over as potential employees because of opinions expressed on their Facebook pages!
Of course there was so much more discussed in the hour or so that Dr Carr-Gregg spoke.  Interestingly he does not advocate for banning our children from the internet or social networking sites.  Rather, he advocates for a very high level of parental involvement, monitoring and supervision.  There is also a social networking site called '' that he describes as 'training wheels for Facebook'.  He deemed it a safer place parents teach their children to use such sites safely and responsibly and encouraged us to take a look at it.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 13 September

I simply cannot comprehend that the end of this term is upon us and that we're about to enjoy another break.  The break is much needed and right on time according to my energy levels, but still, it feels like we've only just returned from our epic holiday journey.

Over the next few weeks I am planning to get a little bit ahead of myself and cook double batches of casseroles and pastas so that the busy nights in the coming term will be a little easier to handle.  Term 4 is always busy in all kinds of ways, with end of year festivities and the inevitable flurry of organisational tasks at school.

This week our menu is looking a bit like this right now:

Monday:  Pasta with creamy bacon & mushroom sauce
Tuesday:  Nachos
Wednesday:  Coq au Riesling (from Nigella Express)*
Thursday:  Teriyaki Chicken, rice, stir fried vegies
Friday:  Tuna & rice
Saturday:  Honey Mustard Scallopine*, vegies
Sunday:  Sloppy Joe's...well...maybe soup

* make a double batch for freezing

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Lamb Shanks with Beans...without Beans

We spent a leisurely afternoon enjoying a belated Father's Day lunch with my parents.  Of course, Nigella had to be involved in inspiring the meal.  Jamie Oliver made his contribution as well, now that I think about it.

Our Menu:

Slow Roasted Lamb Roast
Roasted Potatoes
Honey Carrots
Steamed Cauliflower & Broccoli
Tomato Salad

Apricot Crumble with Cream

Our slow roasted lamb was inspired by Nigella's Lamb Shanks with Beans (p117 in Nigella Express).  I balked at the $4/shank and picked up a leg roast piece instead.  I marinated the meat overnight, as directed, and then roasted it for 3 hours at 155C (135C fan forced) and then turned the oven up to 180C/160C(FF) and uncovered the meat to let it crisp up a bit while the potatoes baked in a separate pan.  It ended up being the perfect meal for an after-church lunch.  Jamie's tomato salad was delicious, minus the chorizo.  You'll find the recipe for that here.

I think I've figured out what it is I love so much about Nigella's recipes, as well as Jamie's.  They are no-fuss, fairly simple recipes for the most part that ooze goodness and vitality and are a delight to the tastebuds as well.  They use fresh, good quality ingredients.  Where shortcuts are taken, they are in the form of canned or frozen products to replace their fresh counterpart.  Where shortcuts are absent, good planning takes over. 

I'm looking forward to 'Nigella Kitchen'.  My favourite online bookseller will have it available in about a month.  And then there's a TV series...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Pride and Prejudice Comes to Our School

Earlier this week we attended one of the Year 9 Production presentations of 'Pride and Prejudice'.  What an absolute treat in so many ways!  Firstly, the students did an incredible job of their performances.  Their costumes were exquisite!  Mr Darcy was played by the son of our Primary Art teacher, and what a dashing Mr Darcy he made too.  He carried off 'aloof' perfectly.  Lizzie was played by two different girls, each having half the play.  A good decision given the enormity of the task.  Each of those young ladies brought something of her own to the role without detracting at all from the play as a whole.

The script, I was told yesterday, was taken from the book itself and put together by the Yr9 English teacher who claims it to have been not that big a deal.  I suspect he put far more hours into the process than he lets on. 

And the joy that we've waited for now for over a year ~ we got to use the new gym/multi-purpose hall for the very first time.

Friday, 10 September 2010

School's Out

Actually, school will be out for term break next week.  But I am almost officially finished my Certificate IV course.  I say almost, because my lecturer says marking the RPL application is a mere formality and that passing shouldn't be a problem based in her quick glimpse. So for this year, at least, my own study is finished.

I've learned much in the last two years about myself in relation to studying:
  • I adore external study.  Three years of correspondence in Yr's 7-9 have served me well.
  • I really enjoy the study and, surprisingly, I miss it when it is finished.  
  • My confidence is boosted when I receive my marked assignments with high praises regarding the quality of my work.   
  • Dedication to my own work is oh-so-fine ammunition to be fired at certain undisciplined children who flop about, moaning and groaning while trying to get out of their homework.  Oh yes...very fine ammunition.
I'm now in serious investigations for next year....

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Home Sweet Home

We had a great camp.  Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is always a favourite for this old fashioned gal.  I am glad to be home though.  It was nice to be greeted with enthusiasm by each of my children.  And I'm looking forward to finding out what's been happening here, when Dh gets home.

And I'm looking forward to a nice warm sleep in my own bed.  I was so very cold overnight, more so the second night than the first.

Mr Busy thinks I shouldn't have to cook dinner tonight, but oh well, he'll just have to be disappointed.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Recipe: Lemon Jelly Bake

This recipe is one from my childhood.  When we lived overseas we had two 'muli' trees that I recall as being huge and kept the three or four families of our mission well supplied.  We drank litres and litres of muli juice (lemonade), and Mum made this slice far more often than I am inclined to.  A slice with three layers seems like so much more work than it really is!  As I rediscovered, it's really not that time consuming, rather, it is something to be done between other things.

Lemon Jelly Bake

Lemon Jelly Bake

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
125g butter
1 egg
  1. Rub butter into flour and sugar.
  2. Add egg and enough water (or milk) to become consistency of scone dough.
  3. Spread over base of a well greased baking pan.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes on 180C/350F (adjust for fan forced oven).
juice of 3 lemons
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2-3 tablespoons custard powder (heaped)
  1. Mix as a custard and cook until thickened.
  2. Pour onto base while both are still hot and allow to cool slightly.
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornflour (heaped)
4 tablespoons icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  1. Mix as a custard and cook until thickened.
  2. Add butter and stir until melted through.
  3. Pour onto jelly while hot and sprinkle with desiccated coconut.
  4. Allow whole slice to cool to room temperature before serving.
Store covered in the refrigerator

I just now at this moment realised I forgot to put the butter in the top layer.  Oops.  Guess what?  You don't need it ~ it's fine without.

Apologies for the un-artistic photo ~ it was a quick snap in the midst of a busy morning.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Monday's Menu Plan: Week Beginning 6 September

I'm heading off on a school camp this morning.  None of my children are in Year 5 or 6, so this time I am completely, wholly and solely a staff member.  As you can imagine, Mum going away for a couple of days requires a little bit of planning, but these days it's a lot less than it used to be.  A teensy bit of preparation for meals and bread in the freezer should keep everyone's bellies filled.  The girls are terribly excited about taking over in the kitchen.  They get to prepare one meal each and no doubt Miss Sunshine will dive into the task of lunch-maker with gusto.  And I confess to spoiling the kids just a little ~ a rare pack of snack-sized potato chip packets is hiding in the bottom of the pantry.  To remind them that I love them, even while I'm away.

And when I return, they may just have to keep cooking ~ being on camp is very tiring work!

Monday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Tuesday:  Pasta with bolognaise sauce
Wednesday:  Italian sausages in tomato sauce (Nigella Express)
Thursday:  Crumbed chicken, potato & mushroom gratin, vegies
Friday:  Coq au Riesling, doubled for another night (Nigella Express)
Saturday:  Chowder, bread & butter
Sunday:  Baked eggs (a la Nigella), tomato salad, bacon

Can you tell I scrolled through my PVR recordings to the Nigella Express programs?  What else is a girl to do on a stormy Saturday, but reach for inspiration while menu planning?  And worthy inspiration it was, too.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A Mid-Weekend Post

my chicken & dumplings looks identical to this picture
Chicken and Dumplings is the perfect antedote to miserable winter-like weather that came with storm and flood warnings.

We've spent the day doing a little bit of cleaning and a lot of  TV watching.  BH&G and Jamie Does Andalucia from last night as well as some episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  All the while it has blown and stormed outside.  Not the torrential rain that others in Victoria have seen, but certainly worth a day tucked away at home.

What is your favourite thing to do when it's wintry and storming outside?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Sunshine - at last!

I woke up this morning and guess what greeted me?  Sunshine....brilliant, bright, cloudless sunshine.  The sky is blue.  I'd forgotten what lay behind those dull grey clouds!

It's the second day of spring here, but today is the first day of sunshine.  I don't suppose it's permanent but I am certainly going to enjoy it, revel in it and soak myself in it.

I've decided I love gerberas.  They look like little pieces of sunshine, don't they.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Review: 'For Time and Eternity' by Allison Pittman

My book review drought is over.  It's been some weeks since I last sent one off to my wonderful friend Rel.  How I've neglected this little piece of life lately.  Sorry Rel!

In any case if you click here, you'll end up at my review for Allison Pittman's "For Time and Eternity".  I'd love to say more, but my brain has stopped so you'll just have to read the review.