Thursday, 28 October 2010

Long Lazy Weekends

In Melbourne, we are headed into a bit of a strange long weekend.  On Tuesday, the Melbourne Cup race is held, and the city takes the day off.  But what to do with Monday?  It's not officially a holiday, unless you have very wise and sensitive bosses.  In Our School, there is an acknowledgment that very few children are at school that Monday and we should just close.  Ahh the blessings of being independent of the State!

So....four long, glorious days of relaxing.  What should we do?



Spend time with friends...nibbling on yummy things!

And whatever else may take your fancy!  I'm hoping like crazy that my new Nigella cookbooks arrive tomorrow morning so that I can spend an entire long weekend with them!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Chris Fabry & Glenn Williams talk Parenting, Drugs & Alcohol

Chris Fabry
Glenn Williams
I have just listened to a superb interview between author and radio host Chris Fabry and Glenn Williams, both of whom I have a deep respect for.

I have read Chris's adult fiction books for the purpose of reviewing them and recommended 'June Bug' as one of our book club selections for this year.  His writing is authentic and engaging and brimming with topics that are worthy of discussion.  I just heard his new book 'Almost Heaven' is nearly on bookshelves and I can't wait to read it.  Chris's personal story is incredible and the circumstances surrounding his family's health problems added weight and credibility to 'June Bug'.

Glenn has authored a couple of parenting books and has extensive experience in working with young people in all manner of circumstances from youth pastor to youth worker to psychologist.  He has recently stepped down as COO at Focus on the Family and is starting a consultancy firm that supports not-for-profit organisations.  He has been heard on Melbourne's Light FM over the past few years offering parenting advice, tips and encouragement. I recently reviewed Glenn's newest book "Talking Smack:  Who's talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol if you're not?".  I have recommended this book to all of the Year 8 parents in Our School as 'required reading'. 

This morning when I was checking out Glenn's blog, I noticed he'd tweeted about doing an interview with Chris about his book, "Talking Smack".  Of course, when you discover two men like this having a conversation, you need to check in and have a listen.  And so I did.  Glenn's interview with Chris can be found here.  You need to click on Hour 2 (on the right hand sidebar) and their conversation begins at around 11 minutes in, until the end.  So make sure you have some time!  If you have teens, I would encourage you to listen to this interview together.  If you have younger children, Glenn has some great insight and encouragement about talking to them about drugs and alcohol.

Thanks to Chris and Glenn for sharing your discussion with the wider world!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Review: 'Sarah's Christmas Miracle' by Mary Ellis

Rel is slowly catching up with my reviews...I'm going to have to speed up my reading to get ahead again!  My review for a Christmas novella, "Sarah's Christmas Miracle" by Mary Ellis has been posted here at Relz Reviewz.  If you're wanting to get you mind into Christmas mode, this is a nice quick read to get you started.

Tuesday's Menu Plan: Week Beginning Yesterday!

Yesterday happened in a bit of a blur, I think.  Well it must have, because I didn't get to think much, about sitting at a computer.  Indeed, by lunch time I felt like I'd worked a whole day and then some.  Such is the way of things when you work with children on the Autism Spectrum.  Last week it was one student's difficulties and this week it's another's.  At least they weren't challenging at the same time!

This week's menu is looking thus:

Monday:  Creamy bacon & mushroom pasta
Tuesday:  Meat Pies for the 'men', soup for me.  The girls will be elsewhere.
Wednesday:  Chicken wonton soup
Thursday:  Chicken coq au vin (from the freezer), rice.  Me...out at a work function
Friday:  Sloppy Joe's, salad if we're lucky
Saturday:  Honey soy chicken, rice, stir fried vegies
Sunday:  Roast chicken, vegies

I feel like this week is going to be completely flat out with a couple of evenings out and the anticipation that surrounds the arrival of a new toy for me.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Recipe: Red Roast Salad

Yet another weekend of fellowshipping has swept us along.  One planned event, one not.  Both equally enjoyable.
On Saturday evening we had to take a salad to share at a BBQ that was some part birthday celebration and some part end-of-building-the-deck celebration, with friends.  I was uninspired when I did the grocery shopping and reluctant to purchase the myriad of salad items I might've needed to create something, once the day arrived.  I ended up buying just a few things and created a salad that thrilled me even though the kids were unexcited.  What evolved became a Red Roast Salad.

Red Roasted Salad

1 red capsicum
lots of tomatoes
kalamata olives
capricosa mozzarella cheese
fresh basil leaves
olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.  I used a combination of roma tomatoes and mini roma tomatoes.  Slice the large tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and the mini ones in half (lengthwise).  Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and dried thyme.  Bake for about an hour.
  2. Slice the 'cheeks' off the red capsicum and lay it skin-side up under a griller at full heat.  Allow the capsicum skin to blacken.  Remove to a plate and cover with glad wrap.  After about 10 minutes, or when you can handle the flesh, remove the charred skins.
  3. Slice the capsicum into strips.
  4. Slice the capricosa mozzarella cheese (a paler version of mozzarella).
  5. Slice the olives in half lengthwise.
  6. Layer the tomatoes, capsicum, cheese and olives with basil leaves that are torn by hand.  Once all the ingredients are all in the bowl, splash a little extra virgin olive oil over the top.
I realise the quantities are a bit vague.  I had an oven tray filled with tomatoes and the one capsicum was enough to go with them.  I used enough olives to scatter throughout without overdoing it.

The salad was completely delicious, filled with lots of my favourite things and indulging my preference for cooked vegetables.  Even a salad can be everything you love, no matter the season. 

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Cooking on the Run

Fresh Corn Salad ~ photo from

You know how some days you can be completely undone by the frenzied busyness, and other days it's somewhat exhilarating?   Yesterday, for me, was the exhilarating version.  Possibly because it began with a few quiet hours at home.

We had our Junior Primary concert last night, which was absolutely delightful.  They are so gorgeous ~ I just know I'm going to cry buckets when that group graduate Year 12!!!!  In between the end of school and 6.15pm, when Miss Mischief had to be there, we had a doctor's appointment to attend (1/2 hour trip each way) and dinner to prepare and eat with friends whom I picked up on my way back.  I had thought fish and chips might be the go....but even that takes time when you have seconds to spare instead of minutes!

In the end I decided upon making dinner.  Around lunch time I realised that I could make salads ahead and set the oven to cook while I was gone.  It was such a beautiful warm day yesterday that fish and chips seemed like a travesty!  Fresh, delicious salads were definitely required.  Especially when I found fresh ears of corn for 20c each in Woolworths!!!!  20c, can you imagine?!

So here's what we ate:

Rosemary and Lemon Chicken Pieces:  I laid chicken drumsticks in a glass roasting dish and splashed a bit of extra virgin olive oil over it.  Then I snipped in some fresh rosemary leaves and some grated lemon rind.  I set the oven to cook those for an hour.

Potato Salad:  Unpeeled potato chunks were cooked until just tender.  The dressing was whole-egg mayonnaise, dijon mustard and fresh chives snipped in.  I thinned it a little with some milk.  Combine the lot in a pretty bowl and refrigerate for later.

Salad Platter:  Chopped up tomatoes, carrot sticks and cheese sticks, with stuffed green olives for the Mum's.  This I prepared in the five minutes of cooking time (the chicken) that remained when we arrived home.

Fresh Corn Salad:  This salad was introduced to us by my SIL when we were in the US.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  What a salad!  Simple, oh so easy and a balm to the hearts of my corn-loving family.  The recipe is from the Barefoot Countessa and you will find it here.  I prefer it with a small change.  We found the red onions a little overpowering, so this time I made it with spring onions instead.  Perfect.  I suspect that in a pinch you could even used tinned corn.  However, I highly recommend the fresh version ~ it's really not that much more effort than opening a can.  This too was done at lunch time and set in the fridge for later.

The kids have decided I need to use the automatic function on the oven more often.  I decided that as soon as you remove yourself a little from the effort of cooking, that the meal tastes so much better.  Usually the meal someone else cooks tastes so much better, but last night's meal was pretty darn good.  Even if I do say so myself.  And I suspect a little smugness at being so organised added to the flavour.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Conversatiions with Mr Busy

Mr Busy has always been an entirely entertaining little character to live with.  When he's not around, he leaves a void and quiet somberness is all that remains.  Don't get me wrong ~ I long for that quiet on many days.  But I also miss the laughter he leaves in his wake.

At Home:
Mr Busy:  What's for dinner?
Me:  Corn soup.
Mr Busy:  Nigella's corn soup with the corn chip things on top?
Me:  Yep.
Mr Busy:  YES!!!! (hands raised like he'd won Bathurst)

At School:
Mr Busy:  Mum, I don't understand.  Can you help me?
Me:  Sure, what's the problem?
Mr Busy and I then go back and forth between his lack of understanding and me helping him figure out what to do.
Repeat about 20 times in 20 minutes!
Me:  Go and stalk someone else, I'm trying to help other kids too, you know!
Mr Busy:  gives me a hug and a kiss and hops off to visit his teacher.

It seems I've educated him very well at school we've a long way to go!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Review: "Under a Maui Moon" by Robin Jones Gunn

My review for 'Under a Maui Moon' is now posted here at Relz Reviewz.  A little taste of Hawaiian paradise awaits you in this novel, with lots of think about as well.  I must admit, the idea of jetting my way to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to visit these islands was highly tempting after reading this book!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hi-Tech Cooking

Hi-Tech Recipe Book

As noted in my menu plan yesterday, last night was Char Kway Teow night.  The only place I have the recipe recorded is on the laptop ~ both online and on my hard drive.  So...what is a girl to do, but sit it on the bench?  Did you ever, as a child, think that you would be cooking from a computer, rather than from a book?  I'm sure I didn't.  Even back 25 years when KITT (from Knight Rider) was ultra futuristic and capable of doing all sorts of magnificent unimaginable things, and we had Atari's and Commmodore 64's did I think this day would come.  But it has. 

I still have a thing for hardcover recipes books.  No computer can come close.

 Char Kway Teow ~ the photo just doesn't do it justice!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 18 October

Spring seems to be the perfect time for enjoying the company of others.  If it's warm and sunny, you have a barbecue.  If it's cold and wintry, you have freshly made scones with jam and cream.  Or homemade wheat-free gingerbread....with cream, because otherwise you'd be missing out on all the yummy fun!  And you dream about whether now is the time to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer because the prices are going up in two weeks.  After all, you really do need to protect your family from beaters that are dinged and go rusty if left in water.  I'm pretty sure the deep cranberry coloured model would match that diamond flower tile above my cooktop perfectly.

Anyway, enough of dreaming for now.  We have lots of concrete things to look forward to.  Melbourne Cup weekend, with two days off school and the return of our US family members the week after that.  I think we need happy food!

Monday:  Char Kway Teow
Tuesday:  Quiche, vegies
Wednesday:  Lasagna from the freezer
Thursday:  Corn Chowder with cheesy tortilla chips
Friday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Saturday:  Out for dinner at one of the three engagements to pick from
Sunday:  Chicken wonton soup

Are you having happy food this week?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Is exercise really good for you?

An injured knee has me thinking not.  Not my knee ~ one of the kid's.  We took said knee (and its owner) off to the doctor yesterday and he declared it too unstable for sport.  No basketball day for this particular child, on Monday.  The doctor also requested a rather expensive test.  Ouch.

I always suspected that exercise was not as good for you as it has been proclaimed.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Salvation comes in many forms.  For my car, it comes in the form of an unexpected refund.  I can't wait to send my 'little' baby off to the doctors to get fixed properly.  It's really starting to sound and feel a bit 'wobbly' despite the 'bandaid' we applied a couple of months ago.

* * * * * * * * * *
Miss Sunshine's class are having a Hobbit Party this week ~ to celebrate the end of reading 'The Hobbit'.  She has to dress up and take 'Hobbit food'.  Apparently little cakes are high on a Hobbit's list of favourite foods.  My pantry always welcomes a foray into its depths for the simple ingredients required, and Miss Sunshine is quite capable in making these without my help.

Mr Busy has earmarked a few to take for his literacy circle activity tomorrow.  They meet in little groups of four or five students and the leader brings food to share.  Perhaps Miss Sunshine needs to make another batch.....

Monday, 11 October 2010

Monday Menu Planning: Week beginning 11 October

Not much to say today, except for posting this week's menu plan.  We're full-tilt into all that can possibly happen this week.  *sigh*  I also need to remember to chase up my College paperwork so I can pass it on to the University.  Must put that at the top of the list!

My menu for this week is as follows:

Monday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Tuesday:  Chinese corn soup, yum cha bits
Wednesday:  Honey soy chicken, rice, stir fried vegies
Thursday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Friday:  Meatloaf, vegies
Saturday:  Slow roasted recurrent lamb, vegies
Sunday:  Minestrone soup, buttered bread

What's on your table this week?  Inspire me!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Whisky Obsession

I've developed a bit of an obsession about whisks over the last few months.  I think it only fair to lay the blame squarely (and affectionately) at the feet of Nigella Lawson.  After all, it is because of watching (and re-watching!) episodes of her shows that I decided that a particular kind of whisk might be useful.   What I discovered, however, is that the 'magic whisk' is an incredibly difficult item to get your little hands on.  I have searched kitchen suppliers from Big W to House and even spent a fair amount of time in the US looking for this elusive whisk as well.  I managed to get a little tiny one that only measures about 15cm from top to bottom.  And I adore it.  Unfortunately that just led to me needing wanting a more practically-sized version, like this one below.

Last week I took Miss Mischief shopping so that she could spend a Borders gift voucher.  So while she searched for the perfect book, I indulged my love of cook books and drooled a little over the very newly released "Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home".  In it she named this particular whisk, and I have finally found an Aussie supplier and placed an order.  There will be no suffering the need for unwieldy silicon-coated whisks for me.  Nope, I've found the real thing!

I can't wait to get my parcel in the mail!  And then I'll have to do some whisking.  Pancakes for breakfast?  Scrambled eggs, perhaps?  Maybe a little marinade mixing.

* * * * * * * * * *

A side note about "Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home".  I balked at the $65 price tag for this albiet hefty book, at Borders ($59.95 online).  A few keystrokes brought up my favourite online booksellers and revealed a far better deal there.  The Book Depository has it for $31.14 and Amazon has it listed at $21.  Both are hardback prices.  The Book Depository is in AU$ and includes free worldwide postage.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Fruitcake or Nutcase?!

Fruit & Nut Snack

Thought I'd show you my current favourite snack to eat.

I was inspired, after reading 'The Flat Belly Diet', to change a few little things in my diet.  Don't get me wrong, I eat pretty healthily.  But the book talked a lot about mono-unsaturated fatty acids and the importance of including them at every meal.  We're talking about things like avocados, olives, nuts & seeds, olive oil and dark chocolate. 

"What changes did you make?" I hear you ask.  I don't manage to add these things to every meal, but it's all been rather simple, for the most part.  A sprinkle of sunflower & pumpkin seeds on my yoghurt in the morning, as well as some sultanas makes a welcome addition.  I eat plain Greek yoghurt, so I'm enjoying the crunch and sweetness.  Avocado & sliced kalamata olives on toast is really yummy for lunch.  Especially if you have some roasted red capsicum and some baby boconcini to add to it. 

The picture above shows you what I've been having for morning tea.  A rather satisfying combination of almonds, macadamias (both unsalted), dried figs, dried apricots and a (very!) few dark chocolate buttons.  And might I add, that the chocolate is best eaten in combination with the madacamias.  To eat them with the apricots is far too much sweetness in one mouthful.  Yes ~ it's true!

I don't know that these changes have made much difference to my belly.  Seeds and nuts are good for you so I'm enjoying the addition.  But really, I'm loving my morning tea!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Review: "Facelift" by Leanna Ellis

Rel has posted my review for 'Facelift' here

Leanna Ellis is one of those amazing authors who takes the deep issues of life and weaves a story that is threaded with lightheartedness.  I love her humour and I always love her characters.  She always has me giggling and thinking all at the same time.  The perfect combination, I think!

Rel is offering a give-away for this book so get on over there and enter!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Agents of Change

I seem to keep having a theme threading its way throughout my life at the moment.  It started to peek into my thoughts a little while back, but it seems to be constantly with me right now. My head is rather full of big thoughts that run around inside and bash about with no forum to put them somewhere useful.

Over our Work Break I was challenged again with two different things that fall somewhere into the category of being agents of change.  One was more of a personal nature, but the other was about the wider community I live in.  And all of it comes on the heels of some posts over at Outward Looking about how evangelicals seek to change the world.
  1. Before the Industrial revolution our families were an economic unit where work was manual, done at home and passed on to children. Post-revolution factories were built and people went 'out' to work.  Family and work became separate.
    This challenged me to consider what I do pass on to my children, if work is no longer one of those things.  What we do somewhat defines us, no matter what that may be.  If that is the case, we gain some of our identity from our work.  In the past, there was also a sense of certainty of what we would do in the future.  None of the "what would you like to be when you grow up" kind of questions we ask our children today.  And nowhere near the choices available now.
    How do our children gain their sense of identity, the certainty for the future?  How do I pass on the stories of what makes us who we, as a family, are if we no longer do it as a natural part of life?  How do I counter a culture where mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are sky high?
  2. At school, we are constantly being encouraged to be 'counter-cultural'.  I felt overwhelmed at the enormity of trying to engage and motivate a generation of children who are victims of the death of The story (God's story) and Our story (human history), and are instead focused only on the My story (self) part of the equation.
    So how does one counter a culture based on self?
    One of the 10 steps shared with us on Monday seems to have piqued my interest.  The idea of the Salon Movement.  The speaker shared the example of the French Revolution.  She said that the whole Revolution had begun in salons, where women had gotten together and chatted.  As they spent time chatting, things began to happen in all different places.  Of course, that all ended in bloodshed.  However the point the speaker was wanting us to hear is that small groups can change our culture.
As you can see, lots of questions and lots of thinking.  None of that probably even makes a whole lot of sense ~ now you know what it's like inside my head!

What I am wondering is this:  why does this keep coming up?!  When a theme keeps recurring like this I begin to wonder what it is that God wants me to notice and I begin to question how He wants me to act upon whatever it is.  We've been asked to meet with our Pastor this week.  Perhaps the two are related.  Perhaps they're not!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Monday Menu Planning: Week Beginning 4 October

First day back at school and my brain is swimming in all kinds of overwhelming thoughts.  How to engage and inspire Gen Y was the topic for the day.  The speaker did an excellent job as she shared 10 steps to doing this effectively.  Not all of what she said was agreed to by those who know better than I.  Still.  We were encouraged to find the heroes, extremophiles and strange leaders amongst ourselves and our students and encourage them to fulfill all they can possibly be in the interest of positive change in our world.  We talked about what that looks like in our own school context, and still have much to consider.  Tomorrow will be an opportunity to put some of that into practise, I think, as staff meet in smaller groups and prepare for the term ahead.

Not to set aside all that today has brought with it, but rather providing time to process, I'm about to start dinner.  Perhaps in the natural rhythm of the ordinary I'll be able to grasp something tangible.  Something that I can engage in, in my role with my students.

As far as the 'ordinary' goes, beyond my picket fence this week, you will find meals such as these:

Monday:  Bacon wrapped chicken, vegies
Tuesday:  Lasagna...perhaps with salad!
Wednesday:  Quiche, vegies
Thursday:  Singapore noodles
Friday:  Roast chicken
Saturday:  Soup.  maybe chicken noodle
Sunday:  BBQ'd chicken wings & rissoles, salad

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Review: "Somewhere to Belong" by Judith Miller

Always right when I'm thinking I should post something but have little else to babble about, Rel saves me from myself.  I finished reading this book while we were away last school holidays, so you can imagine how terribly slothful I began to feel as weeks passed by and I'd still not sat down to write a review. 

It is finally done and you will find my review for 'Somewhere to Belong' here, at Relz Reviewz.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup

picture from

A number of people commented about my pumpkin and sweet potato soup...that it sounded yummy...that it sounded interesting.  Well, it is indeed both of those things.  Especially when served with straight-out-of-the-oven homemade bread rolls.  It's one of those soups that is so ridiculously easy to make that serving it for guests seems almost wrong.  And yet when you serve it to guests they exclaim over how wonderful it is.  Even my kids, who have aversions to either pumpkin or sweet potato love this soup.  Are you ready to give your guests a treat without spending hours upon hours over a complicated feast?  Here you go....the recipe:

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, peeled and diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 butternut pumpkin
 chicken stock  ~ about 1.5 litres in all
  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion has softened and become translucent.
  2. Add the pumpkin and sweet potato to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes, whilst stirring.
  3. Pour the stock into the pot.  Use just enough to barely cover the vegetables at this point, or the soup will be too thin!  Cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Turn the heat off.  Using a stab blender, blend the soup until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add some boiled water a little at a time until you're happy with the consistency.
  5. Served with a swirl of cream and fresh buttered bread.
I've used liquid stock for this recipe and I've used powdered.  Both work just fine and only the pickiest most discerning guest will be able to tell the difference.

And just for reference for those who have different names for things, here are some pictures:

Stab Blender

Butternut Pumpkin

Friday, 1 October 2010

Pre Birthday Feast

photo from

Miss Mischief is a very focused young woman, when it comes to her birthday.  Once she hits on something she really enjoys, she's inclined to do it for a few years in a row until I suggest that "surely there's something else you enjoy doing ... isn't it time for a change?".  Well, it appears there is one 'tradition' that she has begun and her friends are encouraging her to stick with it.

Yum Cha.

In Australia, when you say Yum Cha, it is understood that you are referring to the whole experience, not just the drinking of tea.  Not to say that's not enjoyable, but we wanted to delight ourselves in all manner of little Chinese morsels.  Well, not chicken's feet.  But almost everything else!  Two of Miss Mischief's friends were Yum Cha novices, having never been to one before.  They declared everything they tried absolutely delicious.  And to their credit, they tried everything I placed before them.  I did tell them though, that if they tasted anything they didn't like that they could set it aside and no one would be upset with them. They also tried the tea (we always choose oolong, over jasmine or chrysanthemum) and had a go at chopsticks.  Although they cast those aside rather quickly in favour of cutlery that enabled them to get food into their mouths!

You can tell that your children are maturing, when they choose a small, simple meal for dinner, following such a feast as Yum Cha.  Baked eggs, potato patties and baked mushrooms....with a pavlova for birthday cake.  A girl has to keep things in perspective!