Monday, 29 November 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 28 November

We sent off our 10yo visitor last night in a blaze of dining glory, with her family. Roast lamb (supplied by them and cooked by me) with all the yummy things that should go along with it. As well as the two desserts that had been requested. Apparently you just can't go home unless you've had golden syrup dumplings!  Personally I was up for the apricot crumble.  I received some quizzical looks when I pulled out a tiny single-sized serve for myself...gluten free.  After Friday night I was not prepared to forgo sleep for the sake of dessert.

I told Miss10yo that she needed to go home so I could have a holiday from fanciness in the kitchen.  Her mother laughed and declared that parents need respite care sometimes!  Really, I'd have her and her older sister anytime.  They're fabulous kids to have around.  And they understand our humour.  Always helpful!

I'm looking forward to reducing my kitchen load to 'regular'.

Monday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Tuesday:  Redcurrent lamb chops, vegies
Wednesday:  Lamb rissoles, vegies
Thursday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Friday:  Quiche, vegies
Saturday:  Chicken wonton soup
Sunday:  Baked jacket potato with assorted toppings

I am slowly but surely become more protective of myself when it comes to what I eat in relation to wheat.  I've known for a few years that wheat is not my friend.  Perhaps it's age and wisdom.  Perhaps I have gotten to the point where the consequences are not worth it.  But a stolen mini muffin here or a cracker there rarely go by unnoticed.  It's either insomnia or indigestion or the fuzzy brain that won't function.  Usually it's the brain fuzz that stops me first.  I need a clear head when I'm at work.  Actually, I need a clear head to deal with my own kids on a day to day basis.  Having two teens and a full-on boy mean you have to have your wits about you!  But the insomnia is not fun either.  I've now developed a very short list of items that are worth paying the price for.  Hot jam doughnuts (the kind you used to buy from a doughnut van), tiramisu and yum cha are the three top picks.  Even homemade pasta doesn't make it to the list anymore.  I'm getting really good at finding ways to alter favourite recipes to suit me.  I still haven't found a good alternative to scones or pastry.  It's the pastry I miss most of the two.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A Slow Cosy Weekend

It's been a slow, wet, quiet weekend here.  Even with some extra people around the house.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say I'm a bit bored between meals! 

We had French Toast this morning, Miss10yo visitor was oh so very excited when she learned of the treat ahead.  Easy to please!  Dh came home with a roasted chook on Thursday, so we had toasted chicken & cheese sandwiches for lunch.  An ordeal when your sandwich toaster does two at a time!  Nevertheless, there were lots of happy people quite willing to take turns at having theirs on their plate.

The 14yo's were as bored as I so they made butterfly cakes, a little like the ones in the picture above.  Plain cream and a dot of jam and topped with an uncut lid were more our style.  The 10yo's have been Playstationing....and the 13yo has had the joy of Daddy's iPhone.  You know.  Because you have to have special privileges when everyone else has something to do.

And it has rained.  My it's been heavy.  In a little bit I'll put some dough on for homemade pizzas for dinner.  And we'll stay indoors, all nice and cosy, and just watch the weather roll by.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to those Over the Sea

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate the day!

I've been giving a little bit of thought to the idea of Thanksgiving Day.  Aussies don't celebrate Thanksgiving.  Not to say that we're an unappreciative bunch who are not grateful for the blessings we enjoy.  It's just that Thanksgiving in a quintessentially American tradition.  We have different traditions and things that we celebrate. The idea of setting aside a day to really consider all that we have to give thanks for, is incredibly appealing.  Even for one, like me, who has a bit of an objection to taking on the traditions of another country or culture.  

I mentioned this to my kids this morning.  I made the observation that if we were in the US we would have finished eating lunch and would've been enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, stuffed full of good and yummy things.  It is good to remind ourselves that all of life is not about the bleak things we may be facing, or the busyness that this time of year brings.  It is good to really focus on the blessings that we enjoy and the fact that we live in a country where we have access to all kinds of things that make life good.  Healthy food, good water and hygiene, medical resources, education, homes....the list goes on and on.

Tonight we have two extra kids staying over.  The younger one requested roast pork for dinner.  So once we get home from a little choir thingy for the two older girls in the house I'll be getting the table set nicely.  I'll get things going for a pumpkin pie...because I love pumpkin pie and what better excuse?!  We don't have a day off work and school and I don't think we should (because we're Aussies), but we should remember to thank God for the way He cares for us.

On a side note, I think I just figured out what to say for my staff devotions on Thursday morning.  Another thing to give thanks for!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Midweek Hump...Or Maybe Slump

The picture above depicts a little of how I'm feeling...blown along by strong winds that can't be held back and can't be fought.  Along with numerous extra end-of-school-year things that need to be dealt with it has been so warm the last few days.  Not uncomfortably so, for the most part.  But enough to make sleeping a little troublesome.  Enough for mozzies to dive-bomb you all night long.  Enough to make you think going to bed at 9.00pm feels late, because of the sleep you lost the night before!

And with the realisation that the end of the year is upon us also comes the awareness that Christmas is coming and presents must be bought.  Quickly.  So that I don't have to shop for more than food in the week between the end of school and Christmas.  The children have placed 'wish lists' on the fridge.  I have to laugh.  They are quite lofty and unreasonable.  But they're good for a laugh.

Mr Busy:  "a mobile phone, so that if I'm alone and something's wrong I can ring you"
Miss Mischief: "lots 'a money"
Miss Sunshine: "a new iPod nano (pink)"

Of course, Miss Mischief also has a note about the promised, but un-findable pretty glasses case.  Her comment ends with  "....still waiting"

I giggled over bits of all of them, but Mr Busy's about the mobile phone made me laugh the longest.  Because what 10yo boy is ever away from adult supervision long enough to need a mobile phone?  Except maybe in Disneyland when he decides that he doesn't want to stick with the rest of the family and gets himself left behind?  Visible to us...but he didn't know that.  And neither did we for a good 5-10 minutes.

How is your Christmas preparation and shopping going?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 22 November

As the week begins I'm thinking of the busy days ahead and the heat that has been forecast, weather wise.  Good thing Wednesday will be warm.  I won't have to come up with a creative solution to keeping warm for Our School's Yr12 Graduation dinner.

Our meals this week:
Monday:  Chicken parmigiana, salad
Tuesday:  Chinese corn soup, prawn crackers
Wednesday:  Chicken Noodle Stirfry ~ a la Miss Sunshine
Thursday:  Nachos
Friday:  Roast pork, vegies, dessert
Saturday:  Homemade pizza, dessert (again!)
Sunday:  Roast lamb, vegies OR something unexciting!

We have two young ladies coming to stay for the weekend while their parents take some time out.  Roast pork was the request.  Dessert apparently a must.  How could I possibly disappoint such cute gorgeousness?  The younger one is so excited about staying.  And excited about the potentially delicious things she will be fed. I suspect a fair amount of class time this week to be spent reminding her to work, rather than dream of yummy food!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

End of the Week Catch Up

It must have been quite a week if I haven't posted since Wednesday!  The next two weeks follows pretty much what this past week has held.  I have been working on a couple of extra projects at work.  Preparing Year 6's for their graduation night and organising transition/social story books for students coming in next year has taken much of my time during the day.  At home, the regular hum drum of end-of-the-week happenings have had us running all over the place.

In the midst of it all, the fridge has decided it doesn't need the defrosting element any more.  Of course, we know it does because when that little part goes on the blink the fridge doesn't work very well.  The man came to have a look on Friday and said he'll be back on Monday (or Tuesday!!!!!) to replace the part. We've been instructed to turn the fridge off tonight, so that the ice build up in some hidden place defrosts before he arrives.  I hope he comes on Monday. More than that, I hope he fixes the thing and that it lasts another four years, at least.  That's not asking too much is it?

I came across a new blog yesterday, thanks to Joy from The Stay at Home Missionary.  The three women who post at Courageous Homekeeping provide some really thought provoking posts from a deeply faith-filled perspective.  Kristi has bravely tackled the subject of Attachment Parenting and whether or not it is a sin to work outside the home.  In both cases I kind of held my breath.  The Attachment Parenting post began and I thought "where's the 'but'...".  It didn't come.  Kristi's perspective on the subject is almost identical to mine, only she does a far more eloquent job of stating her views than I would have at the stage, when I was at home with Preschoolers.  I was relieved!  Even moreso, I was relieved when she came to the conclusion that it is NOT a sin for mothers to work outside the home.  I was beginning to like Kristi and was scared my appreciation for her wisdom was about to prove misplaced.  But no, she wisely indicates that on this subject a mother must seek God and know her motivation.  It appears that Courageous Homekeeping is a fairly new site, and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes from them in the future.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

In Honour of Debates

I received this week's Simple Savings 'Tip of the Week' in my email box on Sunday.  I must say, this one had me raising my eyebrows.  And wanting to wage a debate of proportions such as our Yr 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9's have never seen (they're all doing debating at the moment).

What has me on the defense?  This week's tip was about the financial benefits of being a SAHM, and how much working mothers waste on pre-prepared food items.  I'm not in complete opposition to the writer's opinion.  Yes, there are expenses to do with working.  Petrol, clothing, child care (for some), a slightly higher inclination towards take away (again, for some).  My objections was specifically to do with comments made about the type of foods consumed and the higher grocery budget required in those households where Mum works.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with this woman.  The friend for whom this lady cleans has obviously made choices.  But not ALL working mothers (or working women, generally) make those same choices.  Just because you may work does not mean you cannot cook a meal from basic, fresh ingredients each evening.  It does not mean you resort to boxed/prepared snacks.  Last year I worked four very full days each week, and was often out and about on my day off.  I managed to shop wisely and cook the way I normally do ~ using fresh, raw ingredients.  When I was a SAHM I would have evenings when I just didn't feel like cooking.  I don't believe that happens with any more frequency now than it did then.  I still rely, occasionally, on having a bag of frozen vegies as a back up, and a packet of rice crackers in the pantry for school lunch snacks.  Just as I did before I began working.

Every one of us makes choices based upon that which is important to us.  I strongly believe in providing healthy, nutritious meals for my family.  How busy I am may change the meal I cook on busier days, but I am still cooking as I always have.  Other families don't place the same importance on nutrition that I do and their food choices bear that out.  But it is these values and beliefs about what is important in regard to food that governs what a family eats.  Not whether or not a woman works.  We may blame work.  But I don't believe that is the entirely accurate perspective.

I'll hop of my soap-box now....

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Recipe Review: Nigella's African Drumsticks

I wish I had a picture for you, but alas in the flurry of serving lunch as quickly as I possibly could a photo was not going to happen!

I used Nigella's recipe from page 46 of 'Nigella Kitchen'.  A simple marinade of wocestershire sauce, tomato sauce, mustard, ground ginger, jam and onion on chicken drumsticks made for a very delicious foundation for our Sunday lunch.  Along with jacket potatoes, fresh corn salad and a garden salad there were lots of happy people sitting at our table!

As much as I would love to post Nigella's recipe, I have a feeling I'm not allowed to.  Copyright laws and all that.  So.  Borrow the book from the library, get it from your favourite online bookstore, take a peek at a friend's copy.  However you do it, it's worth taking a wander through the pages of this hefty volume!  This recipe is a keeper at our place.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 15 November

What a whirlwind of a weekend, mostly spent in the kitchen.  Dessert to go out with us on Friday evening. Cake and bikkies for afternoon tea on Saturday.  A Sunday lunch for guests.  It almost seems lazy to have a roast chicken in the oven after all of that!  Regardless, amongst all that food was some great fun with friends and family.  And now plans are afoot, according to a 10yo friend who is coming to stay in a couple of weeks.  She sidled up to me this morning with "What are we having to eat while I'm at your house?".  I think the question is better asked by me...."What would you like to eat?"!  So far a roast pork has been requested.  I'm sure she'll come up with more as time goes by.  And so it seems my cooking slump has ended, more by force than by natural inclination I suspect.

This week at our table you might find the following:

Monday:  Roast chicken, vegies...perhaps even a dessert!
Tuesday:  Quiche, vegies or salad
Wednesday:  Meatloaf, vegies (we'll again to make this one happen!)
Thursday:  My SIL's tomato & bacon pasta
Friday:  Ricotta fritters, salad, potatoes
Saturday:  Teriyaki chicken, rice
Sunday:  Soup, sausage rolls

One thing our recently-returned nephews and niece adore is to be treated to party pies and sausage rolls.  Something not found easily in the US, but certainly a favourite party food on this side of the world.  I much prefer homemade sausage rolls.  I might have to trek my way to a Coles store to see if I can find the gluten free pastry (frozen) that I have heard tales about.

One of my greatest discoveries this weekend?  Costco in Australia has Cashew Clusters available.  When we popped in on Dh's brother yesterday he handed me the pack and encouraged me to take a decent handful of these little delights.  Oh what a treat!  I am thinking a Costco membership might be worth it, now that I know they're available.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

To Be or Not To Be (slack, that is)

I'm officially calling it.  I'm in a mid-term slump when it comes to churning out meals.  There.  I said it.  Out loud.  I just can't be bothered.  Perhaps I need to conserve some energy tonight before creating a magnificent dessert to take out with us tomorrow, and before having some friends over for Sunday lunch.  I think I'm on to something.

I could never understand it when I would hear other mothers talk about the slackness of their meals (ie not to the standard they normally deem appropriate) when their husbands were out and they just had the kids to feed.  I never understood it, because the kids and I constitute the majority portion of our family.  Dh is but one (a very important one, mind you) of the number who grace our family table each night.  It never made sense to me that four out of five people weren't enough impetus to get a person cooking.  I still hold to that opinion.  If you're going to cook and only one of your tribe is missing, you might as well do what you normally do and cook a proper meal.

Tonight, however, I'm cheating as if to prove myself a complete hypocrite.  I'm not going to cook at all!  I could blame the fact that Dh will be out.  The reality is that I am using that as merely an excuse.  A more astute mother would have seen this mid-term slump coming and planned to have something in the freezer to be whipped out and reheated.

On the upside, I've just spent a few lessons being entertained and amazed by the Prep kids and what they've managed to accomplish this year.  They're all so very sweet, in their own unique little ways.

Hungry Jacks, here we come.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Ugh. We Have a Problem!

My problem comes in the form of menu issues.  It's 5.30pm.  I don't feel like eating meatloaf and I don't feel like making it either.  *deep sigh*  I think this is one of those days when I would happily accept an impromptu invitation to go somewhere else for dinner.

Upon deeper investigation I have discovered some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that I have a half kilo pack of mince in the freezer.  I thought I only had a full kilo ~ too much for a single meal.  The bad news?  No onions or garlic left to be had.  Perhaps rissoles will do.  And vegies.

Even the best planning cannot outwit the 'blah' feeling that comes over a girl some days.

Moan.  Groan.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

How Do You Do It?

This evening I was asked by a friend "how do you do it?".  My daughters attend a bible study group once a fortnight, and for the past two months, or so, my staff meetings have clashed.  We'd resorted to meeting at a carpark and swapping children into different cars there.  Tonight I had the freedom of enjoying a cuppa with my friend, where she wondered how on earth I manage to cope with staff meetings that finish late in the day.

I believe you could ask this question of two hundred different working mothers and discover two hundred different answers.  What works for me will be quite different to what works for other women, and their families.  And yet each story is surely of equal value, in that in the sharing of those stories perhaps other women will gain insight, ideas and realise there are all kinds of different ways to tackle this role, should they find themselves in the place of "Working Mother".  May I just start, however, with the comment that I was fully committed to being a SAHM, until my children had all started school, and even a couple of years beyond that.  I, in fact, had no desire to work outside of home for a very long time.  God did a lot of work on me to get me to the point that I would consider working.  So let me share with you what makes it work for me.
  1. I work in the same place that my children spend their day.  I am blessed to be in a position where I do not need to split my priorities between my most precious little people and my work.  My children come to school early with me, and leave late with me.  And my fellow colleagues are very accommodating in allowing them some after-school privileges in the library.  So long as that privilege is never abused, they will be able to continue to enjoy the trust they have, thus far, gained.
  2. My husband has been very supportive of what I do, as he has been when I have suggested that I would like to study on top of everything else.  He willingly has the children at the office, on occasion, after school and usually a day or so during each term's work break.  His willingness to be flexible has a huge positive impact on my ability to do what I do.  I know sometimes the arrangements that are required can be inconvenient, but he makes it happen anyway.
  3. There is much planning that goes into our meals, as regular readers would have seen.  I carefully consider my work schedule and days off as I plan our week's meals.  I plan meals that are quick for our busy days and more time consuming meals for days when I know I'll be home by 4pm and have nowhere to be for the rest of the evening.  Sometimes I mess that up a bit, but the kids are old enough to eat a little late and not be too perturbed or think they've been unreasonably starved.
  4. I have learned to say 'no'.  A valuable skill for a busy servant-hearted person!  I hold the opinion that anyone can ask me to do something, but that doesn't obligate me to say yes.  The year Mr Busy was in Preschool taught me that I simply cannot do everything that comes my way, and I began to value a yearly review of what I do.  Learning how to seek God as I make these decisions has been invaluable, and a process I always employ when I consider significant commitments.
  5. My standards for housekeeping are perhaps lower and somewhat unacceptable to more diligent homemakers.  I, however, recognise that I simply cannot keep up a really high standard and stay sane.  I sweep the floors when they bug me.  I clean bathrooms when I notice they need it.  The kids help with emptying the dishwasher and doing other dishes....some days the dishes don't get done.  And I'm OK with that.  Clutter bugs me, so things never get completely out of control.  You may find the kitchen benches a little overrun and there may be a pile or two in the lounge room ready to head out to the caravan.  That's as bad as it gets.  I rarely have much input into how the kids keep their rooms beyond a quarterly clean out.  If they can stand their own mess, I can shut their doors.
  6. I confess to being a bit Nazi-like when it comes to having the kids clean up behind themselves.  I will call them back and have them finish a task or put something they have used away, rather than doing it myself.  The path of least resistance is not necessarily the best.  I strongly object to being the only one doing all the work when everyone else gets to relax and watch telly!
  7. As strange as this may seem, I ensure that I have things built into my days that I know I will enjoy.  While each thing would appear to be something else that must be done, this is not how I view these activities.  Reading a book when I hope into bed.  Stitching evenings once a fortnight.  Book Club once every six weeks and the occasional women's function at church as well as the more unexpected things like a quick cuppa with a friend.  All of these things build an added measure of joy into each week and provide something to look forward to.
  8. How I cope with my work week also has a lot to do with how I feel about my workplace and the people I work with.  My workplace is a living, breathing example of a Christian community where we each practise what it is to be committed to the larger body of Christ.  I work with amazing men and women for whom I have deep respect and great affection.  I find myself blessed whenever I am in a position to be a measure of support and encouragement to my colleagues, although receiving anything for myself is rarely my motivation. 
I'm sure there are many more bits and pieces that I have forgotten to mention.  Perhaps a part two will evolve as I think about this in the wee hours of the morning during regular bouts of insomnia.

How do YOU do it and cope with your busy schedule?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Monday's Menu Plan: Week Beginning 8 November

Today has been a perfectly beautiful spring day.  Warmth, sunshine and an unexpected visit with a friend late in the day have been quite a treasure.  I don't really feel like I've 'worked'.  Not when you spend the afternoon languishing in the sunshine on the pretense of supervising children who are fully engaged in their activity!  Having leftover lasagna in the fridge, ready to go for dinner when unexpected things happen, is definitely the best thing ever.  No cooking dinner beyond warming it up.  Can you tell I'm feeling a little smug right now?!  I always do when I manage to organise myself so well.  I wish I managed it more often!

In the meantime, planning the week's meals is as organised as I'm inclined to get, for now.

Monday:  Leftover lasagna
Tuesday: Bacon wrapped chicken, vegies
Wednesday:  Meatloaf, vegies
Thursday:  Ants Climbing Trees
Friday:  African drumsticks, salad (or vegies)
Saturday:  Tacos
Sunday:  Minestrone, homemade dinner rolls

We may end up with guests for lunch on Sunday as well as Friday night dinner.  I think I may need to dig into Nigella Feast for some inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, I have some for the wheat-free eaters amongst us.  I've re-discovered the humble rice paper sheet recently and have been enjoying them filled with lettuce, carrot, bean shoots, finely sliced chicken (from leftover drumsticks) and hoisin sauce for flavour.  When you have no bread in the house that is suitable, this makes a great alternative for lunch and is really no more difficult than making salad sandwiches, although slightly more time consuming.  I say slightly, only because each rice paper sheet must be soaked in warm water for about 30 seconds.  I've also discovered that Woolworths have corn tortillas (Select brand) that are gluten free.  I've bought some but haven't tried them yet.  They seem far more flexible than the specifically made gluten free alternative.  I reckon I could try Nigella's Quesadillas with a reasonable expectation of success!  In fact, I could even do this at school, on the George Foreman style grill thingy.  Ahh, now there's some inspiration.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Mini Adventures

This arrived on my bench on Thursday afternoon.  I can't tell you how excited I  Unfortunately for me, it arrived at a time when my brother was visiting and not long enough before I had to pick up my kids.  I would have put it straight into action, but for the time.  Between picking up kids and having two little nieces arrive for a 'sleepover' I made a double batch of chocolate chip bikkies.  Oh wow!!!  That machine didn't even blink at the heavy dough.  It just whirred away doing what it was designed to do, with perfect ease.

Our next adventure:  Shopping with a 5yo and 7yo.  "Can you buy this?" was the cry of the evening.  Even after I pointed out that they would never get to consume whatever they were asking for!  Apparently I am a very funny person.  I didn't know it until Thursday night.  There were a number of giggles and snickers around me as I dealt with two little grocery shop muppet-style monsters (ie, the cute variety).  Strangely, I was completely unphased by their antics.  My own children have been known to drive me mental!  And Mr Busy stepped up into 'responsible older cousin' mode and was a great help with hand-holding while crossing roads and walking through a busy mall.  A pleasure to behold!

Our next adventure will be a trip to the airport this morning to welcome home Dh's brother and his family after seven years of living overseas.  The kids are very excited about having their cousins back and at a closer range for plays and sleepovers.  I'm looking forward to seeing how a short-distance relationship unfolds for them, as these are the cousins they are closest to in age and enjoyment of activities.

Of course, more baking must be on my horizon for today.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Review: 'A Promise of Hope' by Amy Clipson

Rel has posted my review for 'A Promise of Hope' here.  This is book two in the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, so it was lovely to revisit old friends and pick up a different thread of their story.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Of Panzanella

Picture from

A little Nigella wisdom in relation to this Italian bread salad.  The last sentence is true of bread, no matter what use you intend to put it to.

"...and very useful it was too for finding a happy end to the brief life of that strangely unsalted, blink-and-it's-stale bread.  But then, as anyone who has ever made their own bread (even once) knows, the fact that store-bought bread doesn't stale quickly is just plain spooky."

Nigella Lawson:  Nigella Kitchen:  Recipes from the Heart of the Home p148

Monday, 1 November 2010

Monday's Menu Plan: Week Beginning 1 November

My kids are counting down the days until Christmas.  Already. Now that it's the beginning of November I'm almost ready to concede that one must begin to prepare for the festivities. I think I might just wait until the long weekend is over though.  I don't want to spoil four days off, in the middle of a busy term!

The week ahead in my kitchen is looking a little like:

Monday:  Chicken wings and vegies
Tuesday:  Gnocchi with a tomato based sauce
Wednesday:  Singapore Noodles
Thursday:  Slow cooked lamb chops (Nigella Express P117)
Friday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Saturday:  Lasagna, salad (make double for the freezer)
Sunday:  Chicken noodle soup

Back to my book...or my stitching, with a little sunshine on my back.