Friday, 23 December 2011

Peace or Panic?

Are you, like me, the kind of adult who falls into a bit of a 'bah humbug' attitude to Christmas?  I must confess, as I've gotten older, my family larger and then older, and busier I find the lead up to Christmas quite overwhelming.  Each year I think to myself that I will get gifts, and things like that, organised well before December.  And then December rolls around and I find myself shopping amidst a crowd of others trying to figure out what on earth to buy for those I care about.

This year I think I've broken through all those feelings of being overwhelmed and it has all to do with knowing what I want to give people.  My own family can be amongst the most difficult of all, and yet this year it has been no problem.  All of the kids have had things on their Christmas list that give me a great deal of joy to be able to give.  In fact Dh, who the hardest of all to buy for, gave me some insight in the middle of the year and I've had his gift stashed away for three months!  The rest of the bits and pieces that end up happening around all those main family gifts has also come easily, again with the ideas already in place. I wonder, did the Wise Men who came to worship Jesus at his birth also feel overwhelmed and stressed about what to give the baby king?

Now that I've figured out what it is that had turned me into a scrooge, I'm hoping the Christmas's ahead will be calmer and more peaceful.  Our summer holiday is also set to be a more peaceful affair as we spend more time at home and holiday with different friends this year. 

I hope you're able to identify the things that have you in a 'tizz' as you prepare for Christmas.  May this year truly be one where you feel more peace than panic.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

And Then There Were Five

As Christmas draws closer we have already begun family celebrations.  Our begin with my husband's side of the family gathering on the Sunday a week before Christmas.  It has taken some time, but we have now settled to enjoying the whole day together and then making a camp of it for a couple of extra days.  It helps to have a campsite in the family.

I've spent three days watching as 15 of the cousins have played and tumbled about together.  It is truly a precious gift to see young people from 22 years all the way down to 5 years enjoying one another, not to mention the adults.  We've enjoyed beautiful meals together and all but demolished a whole box of cherries.  What a blessing to live in an area where cherries are grown and to be able to buy them directly from the farmer!

And now we're back to just being the five of us again....after being a whole clan of shared lives and adventures together.

What a wonderful way to begin the school holidays and the Christmas season.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the week and celebrating with my extended family.  There is more food to be pondered, considered and prepared.  There are more meals to be shared with those we care about.  There are gifts to be showered on others.

What do you enjoy about the lead up to Christmas?

Friday, 16 December 2011

No More School, No More Books....

Well...we don't have much experience in our school with the rest of that poem, but school IS finished for the year.  Before us stretches out six weeks of summer holiday ... well, five weeks for me.

There is something very precious about the end to the school year.  My pigeon hole has been constantly refilled with little gifts and cards with beautiful expressions of appreciation for the way I have blessed others through the year.  There are class parties throughout the school.  We enjoy a whole-school assembly, reminiscing about the joys and highlights of the year.  We farewell people (OK, not so fun!). When I told the Year 6's that I would have the privilege of working with them a little again next year they were as excited as I was.  They are so incredibly precious and they've grown so much.  We all have.

Today, with no students remaining the staff spent time packing up and have enjoyed a final meal together.  I am again reminded that I work with the most amazing and beautiful people. And I wondered today, why it is that we wait until the end of the year to express our feelings for one another, appreciating the time, talents, gifts and blessings that others pour out on us and our school community.  I don't usually make resolutions for the new year, but I think it a worthy pursuit to encourage others throughout the year.  Don't you agree?

As much as I need a break and I'm quite ready to rest I can't wait to return to Work Break and catch up with my colleague-friends.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tribute to a Fine Teacher

My farewell poem to the man who has taught two of our children over four of the last five years. A man who talks about sowing into the lives of children and "sucking the life" out of every moment. A teacher who is one-of-a-kind and whom we will miss incredibly.

So Long, Mr W

Sowing into tender souls – it’s what you say’s important
Sowing what I speculated, what is it you’ve supported?
Stuffing stuff up your nose and serenading the times tables
Simulated accents, backwards names – they are not fables
Silliness and nonsense, hilarity and mirth
Snickering, tomfoolery – is this all that you have birthed?

So much more, I’d dare to say, you’ve sown into young lives
So much more than we suspected, within the walls of your class hive
Soaking in the Spirit on each scion in your care
Sowing love, you have taught them to be all that they would dare
Sucking life from every day, that’s what’s been important
Stretching, training, loving them – that’s what you’ve supported.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Catching Up

Time really flies fast around this time of year!  Since I last posted many, many things have come and gone.  Things like graduation nights, a wedding anniversary, the end of Girls' Brigade, a community Carols night with our lower Primary families, the beginning of my summer Uni subject.  Tomorrow we celebrate Dh's birthday - I've already told him he needs to do a load of washing and watch TV.  Both recently-acquired items that were really for him.  I must confess to doing more washing than normal in the last two weeks, purely to watch the machine turn the clothes around and around.  It's such a novelty to be able to see into the washing machine and we're loving having a front-loader.

Christmas shopping has begun semi-earnestly.  A great dent was made with online shopping, which I very much preferred.  Next year perhaps I'll get organised early enough and do almost all of it online.  I really don't enjoy shopping, never mind the increased crowds and shopping mall rage impoliteness!

Overlaying all the craziness of the past weeks has been the delicate lesson of learning to listen and heed the Sovereign One whose will and timing are perfect.  These things often come with their share of anxiety and uncertainty and we find ourselves cautiously taking just one step at a time.

The week ahead, for us, brings the end of the school year.  We'll take a couple of days spending time with Dh's family and then finish our Christmas preparations.  The children are earnestly requesting the opportunity to shop for one another.  I think an early morning trip might work best for us all!  It is a tradition we began a few years ago with a $5/person budget to teach the children to consider the person they are giving to.  It is beautiful to watch them take on this challenge in more mature ways.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sharing Public Holidays?

I mentioned that I like the idea of Thanksgiving.  Frances posed the question of what Aussie holiday I think Americans might enjoy taking on board.

You know, I've thought about this for a few days now and I'm struggling to come up with one that doesn't have some specifically Australia-only value!  Obviously many cultures and countries celebrate Easter and Christmas, so those ones don't count.  Here in Victoria we celebrate the commencement of the 8-hour Labour Day, ANZAC Day, the Queen's Birthday, Melbourne Cup Day and Boxing Day.  I'm not sure that any of them are ones that others would be inclined to take upon themselves unless they had some reason to do so.  I know some of our holidays are celebrated in other countries.  Other Commonwealth nations no doubt celebrate the Queen's birthday and New Zealand also observe ANZAC Day (hence the A and the NZ at the beginning of the acronym!).

I don't know, maybe Frances will answer her own question!  One thing I will say is that our public holidays are all but done with by June, leaving the latter six months of the year with only one.  It's a long time between long weekends when they're scattered so unevenly through the year.  After all, isn't that one of the things we enjoy about these days - the opportunity to have a paid day off work enjoying time with our friends and family on picnics and camping trips?  I think that's part of it!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thankful, Blessed & Grateful

I have been aware that today (well, tomorrow my time) is Thanksgiving Day in the US.  Generally speaking I am quite reluctant to take on the customs and traditions of other cultures because they belong to ... well... others.  There are definitely things we can enjoy about the ways of others but we don't necessarily have to take them on as our own, if that makes sense.

Thanksgiving Day is one of the few celebrations from another culture that is appealing to me.  I think we would all do well to set aside time in our busy lives to focus on the blessings in our lives and I love that Americans have set aside that time.  They are indeed a blessed bunch to have that opportunity.  If I ever had reason to be living in the US I know this is something I would look forward to!  Given that I can do is take a moment on my day off I thought I'd post a list of things I am grateful for here:
  • A magnificent, patient, funny husband.
  • The most amazing children.
  • A home in a beautiful little corner of the world.
  • A job I adore working with people I admire.
  • Friends who bless me in unimaginably precious ways.
  • Extended family who bless us in their own ways.
  • Generational and personal faith.  Perhaps that should go first!
  • The opportunity to study in a way that works with my family and work.
  • Needs that are always met.
  • Having experienced a Colorado Springs summer with no flies (as I chase blowies around the house with fly spray!)
I'm pretty sure that's a really, really short list compared to what I would come up with if I spent more time.  But as I look at that list I find that the blessings to celebrate are more significant than the trials to work through, and let me tell you there are trials that are challenging.

What are you thankful, blessed and grateful for?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Truth and Tears

Every now and then the issue of telling the truth raises itself in the lives of our children.  Mr Busy was the one to learn the lesson yesterday.

As is often the case, it was over something quite insignificant in the grand scheme of life.  A drink of hot chocolate for which permission was not requested nor granted.  It should have been a simple matter of admitting to the error and moving on, but instead he chose to lie.  Silly really - which is often the case with my children - there was a witness and evidence, yet the lie continued.  After some time in his room we had a chat.

After explaining how disappointed I was we talked about where lies come from and what God expects of us.  I reminded him that I try very hard not to lie to him and that I expect the same in return.  The gravity of his actions hit home, however, when I explained that he was being disciplined more harshly for his lie than if he had told the truth and was punished for not following the rules of our home.  Not only that but he would now need to rebuild the trust that he had broken.  His tears told me that he understood that this is the greater tragedy.

That repentant heart earned my cherished young son a cuddle and reassurance of how much he is loved.  A defiant heart does not allow for restoration of the broken relationship so immediately, if ever.  It made me think about how God wants us to respond to His discipline.  Not just about the issue of lying, but about all kinds of things.  I am reminded that even as adults we need to be willing to heed the discipline we experience so that our relationship with God is restored.  Completely.

It is a precious day when children are able to truly see the error of their ways through a lovingly firm talk

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What My Mother Made For Dinner

Over the last few days the lovely Frances has brought up the issue of food and what we ate as children.  More specifically, what our mothers cook us for dinner.

Oh what memories I have of meal time as a child.  I was the one who was still sitting at the dinner table half an hour after everyone else had finished dessert with my main course still unfinished and a bowl of ice-cream sitting before me, taunting me as it melted.  I was not to have dessert until my first course was finished.  I didn't enjoy eating what we were dished up.  It was not until just a few years ago that I told my mother I had become rather proficient at getting my remaining meal into the bin and covering it up with other rubbish so that no one would know I had thrown it out.  She was horrified.  Firstly that I had been so deceitful.  Secondly that she truly had never known.  I pointed out that the was the whole idea - that she would never know and I would never be caught or punished!  It was the most devious thing I ever did, I think.

I was raised in the '70's where many Anglo Aussie families dined on boiled-to-death vegetables and grilled-to-a-crisp lamb chops or sausages.  Spaghetti sauce was browned mince and a tin of undiluted tomato soup served over pasta.  Now I'm sure there was more variety than that, like chop suey (yuk) and casseroles (which were boring) but that's what I remember eating on a day to day basis.  The highlight of my dinner life was Mum's tuna & rice casserole.  Cooked rice mixed with a white sauce and a tin of tuna, baked with cheese on top.  It's a meal I still make for my own family - with the addition of onion and garlic.

The interesting thing about what we ate back then is that my Dad prefers fairly plain meals even now.  And although she tries very hard not to show it, my Mum is a really good cook.  On the other hand, I enjoy cooking and as a family we enjoy to adventure of flavours and trying new things (for the most part).  In contrast to my own childhood, my children rarely reject what is put before them.  I wonder, is it my cooking, their love of food or a combination of both? 

Mum likes to come to our house to visit - she says it's like visiting a restaurant without having to pay the bill at the end.  I like to visit Mum's house - it's like being on a wonderful holiday from the kitchen.  And every now and then she makes me sugar-coated peanuts.  Oooohhhhh yeah!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mystery Dinner

I mentioned yesterday that Miss Mischief enjoyed her belated birthday party.  Indeed all the girls who came seemed to enjoy themselves.  Miss Mischief chose to have a Mystery Dinner this year and it went beautifully.  Lucky for me I will not have this requested for her friends again because now they know.  My feet are very happy!

The Mystery Dinner involves a menu of 20 or so items from which to choose.  You end up having all 20 items served to you over the course of the evening, but the menu is in 'code' so the guests have no idea what they are ordering.  Even the cutlery is on the menu list.  We had five courses, and for each course the guests chose four items.

So the way it works is that the guests choose their four items, one course at a time, and their named menu sheets go back to the kitchen.  The kitchen 'hands' put all the bits and pieces together and take the guests' orders back to them.  We did this in rounds all at the same time so that everyone was always on the same course.  The guests may end up ordering dessert, a knife, beans and an olive for their first course.  They have to eat whatever they've ordered with whatever implements they have before the next course is ordered.  A clever guest might order all their cutlery first which they get to keep all the way through the meal.  I did wash some things and return them throughout the evening.

Over the years we've tweaked the original menu to suit ourselves.  For example, Miss Mischief preferred beans to peas, and wanted golden syrup dumplings instead of individual pavlova nests for dessert.  And we were able to accommodate her.

It was a long evening for Miss Sunshine and I.  I was in the kitchen at 6am preparing as much of the meal as I could before work.  After school I went straight back into the kitchen to get things on the go and ready for quick reheating.  Miss Sunshine did a lot of the going backwards and forwards to collect the next course of orders and deliver the requisite items.  Do not be misled - this is a time consuming meal.  We managed to do it in three hours.  Any less would be impossible, I suspect.Miss Mischief also sprinkled the evening with rebus puzzles, having separated the girls into two teams.

Following are hopefully links that will take you to PDF documents for the menu and the key to all the items, plus some extras to choose from:
Mystery Dinner Menu
Mystery Dinner Code!

This a great, novel way to have a dinner party.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 21 November

So we're up to graduation season at Our School.  After a depressing shopping effort looking for wedding attire a month back I managed to find two suitable dresses on Saturday for two separate graduation evenings.  The girls were wonderful for objective opinions.  I keep telling my brother it's worth keeping your kids alive so they make it to be teens - my children give him hope.  In any case I'm all set to go with shoes and jewellery organised as well.

Miss Mischief enjoyed her belated birthday party on Friday night.  After having spent a weekend with her class at camp the weekend before, it was lovely to have all the girls (bar one) over for dinner.  I'll have to post about that separately, such was the magnitude of the evening!  I was struck again with how lovely Miss Mischief's school friends are.

This week's meals are as follows:

Monday:  Roast lamb, vegies
Tuesday:  Vegie burgers
Wednesday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Frittata, salad (and me at our Yr12 graduation)
Friday:  Stuffed Cypriot Chicken (thanks to Jamie Oliver)
Saturday: Chicken & Dumplings
Sunday:  Homemade pizza

Today my blogging friend Frances posted about roasted beets.  I'm not a fan of beetroot myself, having been brought up on the tinned variety.  Blech.  However, I do love roasted vegies.  While we were with my parents a few weeks back Mum did roasted parsnips with one of our meals.  Oh my, they were so good.  Only Mr Busy rejected them, and the rest of us were keen to have his.  It was not quite a brawl....but there was healthy debate as to who would get them!  Mum par-boils her parsnips before roasting.  They were lovely and moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  I think parsnips will have to find their way to my table more often.  I don't often buy them because I thought noone but me like them.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 14 November

The title of this post is really a misnomer.  In the flurry of preparing for the weekend and shopping to feed 40 people I did not plan nor shop for us.  "I'll do it on Monday", I foolishly thought.  My achy, tired muscles simply won't allow it.  And I just don't want to go very fast at the moment.  So I've planned to have roast chicken on Wednesday night and to do a mystery dinner for the Year 8 girls to celebrate Miss Mischief's long-past birthday.  That's it.  That's all there is.  I'll have to take my achy self to venture through the cupboards and freezer to see what I can find.  Truthfully this might be a quick trip because my knees are not happy.  And that makes me sound far older than I truly am, but netball in my young adult years was not kind to me.

Dh, Miss Mischief and I spent the weekend with her class and quite a few other parents and a couple of teachers on the annual 'Man From Snowy River' camp. Our Year 8's study 'The Man From Snowy River' as one of their English texts and an elective camp is part of the package.  They camp in tents with no power or shower block, although there are well-maintained drop loo's.  Meals are all cooked over a camp fire and you have to take everything you need in with you, and everything including your rubbish out at the end.  Throughout the camp the kids get to see and experience some sights from the movie, such as horseriding around the area where that magnificent downhill ride scene was filmed.  They got to see that hill and hear the story of the filming of that scene.  They also hike to the top of 'The Bluff' - an arduous and challenging trek for those of us who are uphill-walking challenged.

The kids were fabulous all weekend long and we all had a lovely time together.  My most memorable moment?  Getting to the top of that silly Bluff and looking over directly at Mt Buller.  Incredible!  Worst moment?  Getting to the top of that silly Bluff.  And walking along the ridge and down to Bluff Hut was pretty tough too - just because it wasn't straight up didn't mean it was easy walking.

Alright.  I've put dinner off for long enough. Come along achy muscles and cranky knees, it's time to find something for dinner.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Daily Blogging

I'm definitely not in a daily-blogging place right now.  Time, energy and the lack of something interesting to write prevent it.  Or maybe I'm just not imaginative enough? Whatever the reason, I can barely scrape together a couple of posts a week.

My dear blogging friend, Frances, has challenged herself to blog every day for a month.  Now that's a brave challenge in my book.  I'm glad she decided to challenge herself right at the moment.  Frances makes me laugh and I need to laugh.  Her posts are always witty, humorous and beautifully written.  Of course, she is a writer so that's probably a given, but it makes the reading all that much more enjoyable.  Her take on life always makes so much sense.  To me.

I've discovered over the years that her son Will and my Mr Busy are practically twins.  If you ever see posts about messy bedrooms these two boys are truly soul mates.  I also discovered this week that we have twin bathrooms that seem to become messy all by themselves.  And Frances makes beautiful quilts. 

Daily blogging is beyond me right now, but I'm really enjoying the fact that Frances is in the zone.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week beginning 7 November

You know those mornings when you don't have the energy to get up, let alone for what is to come throughout the day?  I told DH I didn't have the energy for two particular students today and God must have heard - neither were present today.  We have a busy week ahead at our place so the meals have become really simple.  But tasty.  You can't sacrifice yumminess just because you're busy!

Monday: Redcurrant lamb chops, vegies
Tuesday:  Satay chicken stir fry, rice
Wednesday:  Honey mustard chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Quick chilli, corn chips
Weekend:  We'll be hither and thither with meals to match! 

I'm off to do something about dinner and then relax with my stitching. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Good Things

I've not been posting much.  Put it down to having lots unblogable (is that a word?) things on my mind.  In amongst the things that occupy vast amounts of thinking time I'm seeking out the blessings to be celebrated and enjoyed.  I'm so grateful that God scatters difficult days with little rays of sunshine.
  • A distinction for Human Development and a high distinction for Music & Visual Arts assignments.
  • Warm sunshiny days.
  • BBQ with friends.
  • Opening up the cooling vents for the first time this season.
  • Finding time to stitch.
  • Preparing for a 'roughing it' school camping trip for Miss Mischief.
  • A car that runs well, having been loved back to full health.
When things are difficult do you focus on the dark clouds, or look for the sunshine peeking through?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Post Cup Day Menu Plan

We've just returned to normal after a long weekend thanks to the Melbourne Cup.  Both Our School and Dh's business take the extra day off leaving us free to enjoy a four-day weekend, unlike many others who are required to work on the Monday.  For our family this usually means that we get out of town.  A double blessing when halloween coincides with the long weekend.  We were able to avoid trick or treaters who are inclined to continue knocking on our door well after our children are all tucked into bed. 

This long weekend we spent our time with my parents at their home in regional Victoria.  I'm sure my poor mother will never cook again, as cooking for a family of 7 must surely stretch one who does not enjoy the task so much.  However, we felt spoiled and not just because of being fed, although that always goes a long way.

The week ahead for our meals looks a little bit yummy:

Tuesday:  Honey mustard pork scallopine, vegies
Wednesday:  Chicken teriyaki, rice, vegies
Thursday:  Freezer meal
Friday:  Spanish chorizo & potato chicken, vegies
Saturday:  BBQ pork & chicken wings; corn, potato, tossed salads
Sunday:  Gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce

Spring always brings a wide variety of seasons with its weather here in Melbourne - winter and summer with everything in between all in one week.  I love that our weather allows for wide variety in our meals as well.  BBQ's and warmer embracing meals all in one week.  Perfect.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Monday Menu Planning: Week Beginning 24 October

After dipping a brain-addled toe into the waters of non-menu planning I have decided it's not for me.  Truly, I always knew this.  Now I am convinced in a new way.  Things fall apart around here when meals are not planned or shopped for.  I'm back onto my wagon.  Last night I finally got to the supermarket, came home and put a roast on for that meal and made sausage rolls for tonight. much better.

Monday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Tuesday: Sausage rolls, frozen vegies
Wednesday:  Creamy pasta
Thursday:  Hamburgers
Friday: Redcurrant lamb chops
Weekend: Meals will be out an about.

Life is wonderful.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lessons from 'The Grumpalump'

I've been pondering what to share for staff devotions on Friday next week.  Being one who has a bit of a 'thing' for children's books I've decided to base mine on 'The Grumpalump'.  It is a book that was written a way back in 1990 by Sarah Hayes and was very popular when I had Miss Sunshine.  I adored it then and ended up buying a whole set of Reading Together books put together by Walker Books just so I could have this on my shelf.  See, my 'thing' for children's books goes a long way back!!  It's only in the last couple of weeks that I've realised there is more to this book than meets the eye.

I've been dealing with some pretty significant challenges over the course of this year.  Some have been quite painful.  Some have required us to make decisions that our children have struggled with and we've not been at liberty to discuss our reasons with them.  The other day as I was reading 'The Grumpalump' I was reminded that we meet the challenges we face in all kinds of ways - many of which are futile.  Many a time I have found myself staring at the trials that have face me.  I've felt numb and paralysed as to what to do, much like the bear in this book.  I've rolled and sat and shoved and pulled and wacked and been left exhausted.  Not only that, but all that energy has been for naught and I find myself in much the same place as when it all began.

"The bear stared, the cat sat, the mole rolled,
the dove shoved, the bull pulled,
the yak whacked and
the armadillo used it for a pillow.
But the lump still grumped" 

'Then the gnu blew'.  I am reminded that I can't just respond to my challenges in any old way.  I have to pray.  I have to be proactive in seeking God's way through things that have no way through in my own strength or knowledge.  I wish it was all as simple as that, that my grumpalump would become clear and I'd know how to deal with it.  The truth is some of those challenges remain unclear and God chooses not to reveal His answers just yet.  I still feel like the bear staring at the grumpalump most of the time.

What I do know is that at some point God will point the way to the spot where I need to act.  Just like the gnu.  And when He lets me start blowing the challenges will be transformed into something that I never expected and I'll be able to set off on the journey that God has planned.  Just like the gnu.

"The gnu drew breath and clambered in.
the grumpalump began to grin.
"I'm off on a trip in my hot airship," said the gnu, and flew.
Absolutely true."

How do you respond to your challenges?  Are you like the gnu, or are you staring, sitting, rolling, shoving, pulling whacking and exhausted?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

No Menu-Plan Thursday

Tonight's meal is out of my hands - a school association dinner is planned and all I had to do was rsvp.  I have to feed the kids, so they're getting what was once known as Aunty N's pasta and has now come to be Thursday Night Pasta.  Nothing like the yummy pasta meal above, with freshly caught prawns.  No.  Onion, bacon, tinned tomatoes.  Boring according to the kids, yet it fills a whole, it's quick and it's pretty healthy.

So my day of leisure .... began at the ED getting the now-confirmed broken toe checked over.  We were sent on our way with a "yep, just keep doing what you're doing".  Then Dh & I spent some time at the new Ikea store.  Fun.

No reading or resting, but lots of sunshine enjoying went on instead.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Warm days make me think:  skirts, shorts, bare feet, barbeques.  For today anyway.  My non-menu planning meal for tonight is marinated/baked chicken wings with salads.  We would've bbq'd them, but Dh has cleaned the deck ready for finishing with decking oil so we don't want to undo all his wonderful work.

My Year 1 student was full of marvellous ideas of resting and reading books for me tomorrow - my first day off with no other obligations.  He's such a sweet boy.  Now.  For me.  Not always and not for everyone, but he's been lovely for me.  I may just take him up on his ideas and report back.  He'll be tickled and I'll need it after having written a L O N G story with him today!

What do you enjoy doing on those first summery warm days?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A 'No Menu Plan' Week

I'm living dangerously.  Seeing how the other half live.  Actually, it's probably got more to do with brain overload and my inability to think about anything else last week.

I have no menu plan.  I'm making it up as I go along.

It don't like it and I really don't know how people make up their mind at 5pm about what they'll make for dinner.  We'd be eating frozen vegies and pre-prepared meat from the freezer every night because I wouldn't be able to think straight by that end of the day!  I know there are those who don't know how I can be so organised.  We'll just have to agree that everyone works differently, won't we?

Anyway, so far, we've had an Asian noodle stir-fry thanks to Miss Sunshine.  Tonight we had chicken goujons (thanks Costco) & frozen vegies with a jacket potato.  I've no idea what tomorrow will bring.  Thursday it'll be dinner at school.  And then I have no idea again.  My kids looked at the menu plan on Monday and stared at me dumbfounded "Mum, there's nothing written down."  They were puzzled.  "Oh good, we don't have to cook tonight," was my response.  In the home where it has been declared illegal (by the children) to not be fed this was unacceptable.  Miss Sunshine took charge.  She's a take charge kind of girl.

If only Miss Sunshine could take over the grocery shopping as well.

My semester has come to an end and I have officially completed a whole year of Uni.  Results for all those final assessments will be returned in about a month.  And then I have three years to go!

Our medical woes continue.  There have been improvements.  Mr Busy's chest is clear as are Miss Mischief's ears.  Miss Sunshine has tried to break a toe - we'll find out for sure on Thursday with an x-ray.  I'm nearly ready to sell the kids off - I don't remember ever spending so much time at the doctors, even when they were little and with other bouts of pneumonia that have occured!  Must go and strap up the offending toe!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 10 October

I'm speechless.  I'm back at work today - the kids come back on Wednesday.  I'm not ready.  I feel like I could stay home another two weeks and that might not be enough.  Is it really bad when you start the term with thoughts that go "it's 9 weeks until holidays"?  I daresay that's not the best way to start.  Illness and assignments are not the way to spend a school holiday! Poor Miss Mischief has some holiday homework (there's a soapbox moment if ever I saw one) so she'll be working on that today and tomorrow. 

The week will start slowly - staff only (plus staff kids).  A nice way to ease into the frantic pace of Term 4.  I'm glad I don't have to face 3 or 4 classes of children today!  And I'll study my heart out, submit two assignments and dust the semester off with an online exam on Friday (after checking in with the doctor, again!).

This week's menu:

Monday: Ants Climbing Trees, Molten chocolate pots
Tuesday: Roast chicken, vegies
Wednesday:  Spaghetti bolognaise
Thursday:  Freezer meal - chicken thingys & frozen vegies
Friday: Nachos
Saturday:  At a wedding
Sunday:  Soup & bread

Friday, 7 October 2011

Playtime at Costco

It's the last day of school holidays for me.  And for the kids in a roundabout way, in that they will have to come to school with me on Monday and Tuesday.  So we finally got to get out to Costco - something I'd wanted to do at the start of last week!  We always have fun there, poking about in all kinds of interesting piles of things.  So besides boring things like bread, monterey jack cheese and eggs that come in a pack of 3 dozen, we found some fun kitchen toys.  Since the girls do so much of the cooking these days they swayed me easily.  Well, actually, I've been wanting a new grater for quite some time.  Mind is about 10 years old and it really makes a person work hard.  And the girls just loved the different sized boards.  I loved that they have stoppers on the corners so the board doesn't slip on the bench.

And they all match my KitchenAid mixer :)

Back at the doctors again today....Miss Mischief is now on antibiotics for an ear infection.  Yes - we are ALL on antibiotics!  We are so keeping the medical and pharmacuetical profession in business these days.  Mr Busy has managed to get rid of some of the rattling in one lung and just has a bit left in the other.  Miss Sunshine is still rattling a lot.  We have a whole week now before we have to go back!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Escape from Prison

Well...that's what an outing feels like when the only time you've left your house for a few weeks is to visit doctors.  Don't get me wrong - we'll be back at the doctor's tomorrow.  They're getting their money's worth out of us!

We spent the day with my brother and his family today.  At their home - so nice and relaxing.  Slow, lazy, enjoyable.  My brother took his 5yo daughter and Mr Busy out to collect sticks, riding on the mower/trailer combo to do so.  Mr Busy was in heaven.  He got to do 'boy stuff'.  And then he fell asleep in the car on the way home.

All but four of us are on antibiotics now.  Miss Sunshine went to get her foot treated again (long process).  The doctor heard her cough and ignored the foot.  Diagnosis:  raging chest infection.  I couldn't believe it.  She's not febrile, she's eating, she's not sleeping excessively.  There is NO indication whatsoever that she might have something requiring treatment...other than the plantar wart we went for in the first place.  Mr Busy has yet another double course of medication as he is STILL suffering pnuemonic symptoms.  In a perfect world I'd be staying home with them all next week too.  But in the real world I have to go back to work.

The good news is that all this convalescing has resulted in an assignment being submitted, a group task is ready for submission as I type.  Another requires a little more polishing and I have ONE left to write...and a test to study for.  Oh roll on next Friday when it'll all be over.

So....more study and one final outing before Work Break begins on Monday.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday Menu Plan: The week before the end of semester

This is what my floor looks like around the chair where I study.  Every textbook I use this semester is sitting on that pile, as I go between them regularly.  I've spent much of the weekend on an essay which is now officially in 'polishing' phase.  YAY!  Today I've been working on two different group projects, both of which are almost finished.  Tonight I'll listen to a couple of lectures.  In between all of that we're celebrating Miss Mischief's 14th birthday.  Fourteen....I really can't believe she's already that old.  I still think of her as a 12yo.  And then every time I look at her she surprises me.  I'll share her birthday menu in a little bit, but first here's what's on for the rest of the next frantic assessment-overloaded week:

Tuesday: Pork spare ribs, stir fried vegies, rice
Wednesday:  Chicken parmigana, vegies
Thursday:  Beef casserole, rice
Friday:  Hmmm...maybe we'll bring home something from our planned shopping adventures?
Saturday: Chicken and dumplings
Sunday:  Any suggestions?!

As for tonight's menu, it's a rather grand affair which I must begin momentarily.

~ Miss Mischief's Birthday Menu ~

corn on the cob
hasselback potatoes
honey carrots
cauliflower & broccoli au gratin

Molten Chocolate Pots

Cheese Platter

She has no idea about the dessert.  A vague reference to chocolate and something fudge-y reminded me of  little molten pots from an ABC foodie magazine I have somewhere.  I'll do my best to take photos tonight.  Really I will.  And I'll post that recipe for the chocolate pots because everyone needs a show-stopper dessert on hand.  Especially a show-stopper in chocolate.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

It's Grand Final Day.  Something akin to the American Superbowl I suppose.  This afternoon there will no doubt be armchair critics informing their teams of what they should be doing.  We've a supporter from each team in our house....that could be interesting.  I keep telling Miss Sunshine that it is socially unacceptable to barrack for Collingwood, to which she rolls her 15yo eyes and tells me I'm not nice.  But I'm right.

We're keeping our little Mr Busy at home to continue his slow recovery and Dh will watch the game with the kids rather than joining others at church to watch it all on a big screen.  Me...I'll be preparing for the second storm - Miss Mischief's birthday next week.  The halls of shopping centres around the city will be void of people so I'm going to enjoy some birthday shopping in peace and in the process avoid an afternoon of football.  Sounds like a good compromise to me!

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Diversion

...from Uni, from illness, from boredom.  Something we all needed today!

My brother, his wife and their two bubbly little girls came for lunch and a chat and, as it happened, a visit to Our School.  There have to be perks to having a key, so we had a private tour, punctuated with lots of playground stops.

Yesterday our diversion was in the form of going to see 'The Smurfs' at the movies.  It was a delightful movie.  Truly a movie for old Smurf lovers like me.  The only thing left on our holiday to-do list is a visit to Costco.  Sometime late next week might be the way to go.  Mr Busy might survive it by then.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Warning: Whine Alert. Read at Own Risk

I'm tired of illness.  I'm tired of coughing.  I'm tired of feeling drained.

I'm tired of Mr Busy being so unwell.  Not in a selfish he's-taking-so-much-of-my-attention kind of way.  Tired of it because it's no fun watching your little boy struggle to overcome an infection that does not want to give up.  I was hoping we'd just spend time relaxing and I'd watch him regain his health and vigour.  Rather I've watched his health dip again and require another course of antibiotics and more tests.

I can't even think straight to get my essays written.  I'm writing stuff down but it's pretty ordinary.  Where has the sharp edge of my brain gone? 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 26 September

Here we are - the beginning of Term 3 holidays.  Oh what a blissful moment, this morning, when I realised I don't have to go to work.  I can just blob around home. know...what I mean is, I can devote all my daytime hours to Uni assignments and the last few weeks of coursework in my tracky dacks.  The kids can spend far too much time watching screens of various descriptions.  Oh, and I can make time for a friend to pop in unexpectedly without stressing about the time I should be devoting to assignment writing.  Yep.  I do find myself hanging out for holidays.  Even more so after a couple of weeks of illness around the house.

Mr Busy is still coughing a lot.  It sounds appalling really, but I know he's doing so much better so a little bit of unattractive noise isn't so bad.  It's all about perspective.  He went to school and after a physical game of Dr Dodge with his and the next door class he was cactus for the rest of the day.  He lay on the couch in the Yr 5/6 room where I was and moaned...and coughed...and didn't do anything much at all.

Given that I'm in the throws of those final 5 assessments the girls are still going to get their fair share of cooking to do.  Lucky them!

Monday:  Jerk Chicken (Jamie's 30 minute meals)
Tuesday:  Chicken wonton soup
Wednesday:  Cheesy salmon patties, vegies
Thursday: Slow roasted beef, vegies
Friday:  Lasagna, salad
Saturday:  Ricotta gnocchi with tomato pesto sauce
Sunday:  I might go back to the pasta we didn't have last Saturday

Given that it's going to b 27C on Tuesday (what's with that anyway?!) we might do some swapping around.  Soup on a warm day just doesn't feel right!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Recipe: Lazy Day Curry

I know there are purists out there who will say a real curry requires a great deal of preparation from raw ingredients.  And they're probably right.  A curry made completely from scratch is divine.  But I'm not from a curry-making heritage, nor do I have the time or inclination to put into creating such a meal.  So I go for a really lazy option that tastes pretty darn good.  Not only that, if you bulk the meal out with plenty of vegetables, there will be leftovers for lunch.  Always a good outcome!

This is not so much a recipe as a loose set of instructions for you to interpret as you will. 
  1. Finely chop an onion and a clove or two of garlic and saute until softened.  Add curry paste to your taste preference and cook until it smells great (a minute or so).
  2. Add the chicken to the pan and stir fry until cooked, then add the vegies, a tin of light coconut milk and 1/2-1 cup of chicken stock (I use water and stock powder).
  3. Cover the pan and simmer until the vegies are all cooked through.
  4. Serve over cooked basmati (or some other!) rice.
For vegies, I include any combination of pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower and zucchini.  You could also add a tin of chickpeas if you wanted to.  I use curry paste from Aldi ~ use any brand/type you like.  It's your curry!!!

There you go.  Simple.  Fuss free.  Delicious.  Fairly inexpensive.  Just the thing for a busy, hungry family.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

It's Tough, You Know.

It's tough when your study requires you to take a leisurely walk through the bush with your children first thing in the morning.  Our School has a substantial amount of pristine bushland on the property, including a creek and I needed a field site within walking distance so I'm focusing on pollution and local water ways.

I needed photos so my kids joined me in my warm, sunny early morning walk down the track.  I love hearing the sound of the creek swishing along as we get closer to it. I love the dappled sunlight and shade along the track.  If it weren't for the leeches I think I'd be inclined to spend more time down there but alas, the leeches rule the bush!  We didn't see any this morning though.


Mr Busy is going to school tomorrow.  It will be some time before his lungs are fully recovered and gunk-free.  But he's bored, he misses his friends and neither of us think he's sick enough to be home any longer.  I think that's celebration worthy, after two long weeks of illness!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

He Sparkles

Antibiotics are a marvellous invention.  Especially when used to tackle atypical pnuemonia.  Mr Busy has finally turned a corner.  He's gotten cheeky again.  And annoying.  He's sparkly and chipper even though he is still pale and his eyes are red-rimmed.  I've missed his mischievous little self.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 19 September

A busy day back at work today, for the first time since last Monday.  I felt like I'd missed so very much in the days that I missed, and the kids in Mr Busy's class are now asking when he's going to come back to school.  They miss him.  Hopefully in the next day or two, thanks to antibiotics!

People who are not well need good food....

Monday:  BBQ rissoles & pork ribs, salads
Tuesday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Wednesday:  Sweet & sour pork, rice
Thursday:  pasta of some description
Friday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Saturday & Sunday:  I'll decide later.

Here's to the last week of the term, the writing of assignments and getting little boys back to school.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Green and Pink

My two favourite colours....especially when they're put together.

This is the border tile in our newly fitted out ensuite. We get to use it for the first time tomorrow morning. Yay!

These shoes were a bargain at $5 on yesterday's shopping tour. I have the perfect skirt for these and a perfect day to wear both tomorrow, at 27C!  Where oh where did winter go?


Meanwhile Mr Busy is still unwell with a cough, rash and a temperature that comes and goes.  The ED doctor phoned this morning (apparently she was sufficiently puzzled by him) to advise another trip to the GP and a second chest x-ray due to the continuing temperature.  After a full week of these symptoms the Dr was keen for us to revisit clinical investigation.  I appreciated her dedication to his care.  I would never have expected an ED to follow up on a patient that was 'treated and streeted' days ago.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

From the Sickbed

Mr Busy and I have been having some sickbed adventures.  Sad, but true.  I've been coughing for a I have a blocked nose :(  I've succumbed  to buying real cold & flu + cough medicine rather than my prefered ease-a-cold's.  I don't feel that bad...I'm just tired of coughing all the time.

Mr Busy has had a second trip to the ED in a week.  On Saturday Dh gave up after 4 hours and came home at 1am.  Yesterday our GP decided she didn't like the way his rash was behaving and sent us back to have it investigated.  Four hours, a blood test, a wee test and a chest x-ray later we came home, safe in the knowledge that yes, he just has a nasty virus.  Thanks to all the germy kids at school.  Yay for sharing!

Last night's hospital adventure also included the girls being at home for a few hours on their own, doing homework and cooking dinner.  Apparently all went well ~ they're both still alive and smiling.

Meanwhile, my ensuite is fully tiled and being grouted today.  It's a courageous man, who braves the germs of our home to work on the bathroom.  The challenge is to keep Mr Busy at a distance to protect Mr Bathroom Fixing Friend's health.  I will share photos at some point when my head is clearer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Menu Planning and other Household Stories

Firstly menu planning.  I sent Dh and the girls off to do the shopping the other day.  I was just too tired and wasn't up to the task.  They did a magnificient job so we're eating well.

Monday:  Honey mustard chicken pieces, vegies
Tuesday:  Freezer meal for Mr Busy and I ~ everyone else is out for dinner
Wednesday:  Chicken curry, rice
Thursday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Friday:  Beef stroganoff
Saturday:  Take away
Sunday:  Good can dream of all sorts of things!

Mr Busy and I are having a day off together.  I'm not incredibly well....not particularly sick.  I'm in that place in between where we tend to carry on, albeit slowly.  Mr Busy, however, has a bevy of symptoms, amongst which is a rash across his torso.  Given the amount of sickness going around at school I didn't feel this was something to share, even though it doesn't seem all that bad.  Dh is unable to have Mr Busy at work for a couple of days so I've organised some time off to keep him at home.  I must say, the timing is quite providential from my own point of view.  We all just need to have school holidays now.  We're all tired and getting sick all over the place.  A couple of weeks to settle all the bugs down and keep them to ourselves will do us all the world of good.

My ensuite is coming along as pieces of the puzzle arrive.  The tiles should come today, so work on that can begin.  At the moment there is an empty shell.  It is waterproofed.  The basin and wall cabinet are constructed from Ikea flat packs and sit in the lounge room awaiting the day they are to find themselves in their final resting place.  A more energetic person would take photos.  Maybe I some point.

I'm off to try and make my foggy head construct a 300 word reflection of the value of teaching visual arts.  Hmmmm.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Why Boys Can't Get Out of Bed

I went to get Mr Busy out of bed the other morning, having woken him some 10 minutes earlier.  He informed me he couldn't possibly get up.

Me:  Get out of bed young man.
Mr Busy:  But I can't Mum.
Me:  Why not?
Mr Busy:  Because my legs are just too comfortable to move.

I must at admit, when he got to 'legs' I began to panic and thought maybe he'd contracted the virus that is going around school, decimating classes left, right and centre.  Among the many symptoms one that has been suffered by some has been heavy legs.

I'm now sure how he does it ~ his brain just thinks in 'funny' as he is waking up.  My brain only thinks when the need for silence is satisfied.  And then it's just serious stuff going on.

He makes me laugh.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Pursuit of a New Bathroom

Photo Credit:  Google Images - a shiny looking bathroom such as I will have soon! 

We spent today not with me studiously working on an assignment, as I should have been.  No, we spent it in pursuit of items for the creation of a new bathroom.  Rotting floor has been removed, along with everything that existed in that space before Wednesday.  Today we chose tiles and the vanity stand and basin.  Lots of fun.  Especially when it included a trip to IKEA.  We attempted to visit the new store in Springvale....but we balked at the queue waiting to get into the store and drove to Richmond instead.  It was lovely and quiet in there and we were able to browse and make our purchases in relative peace.

So...we're sharing a bathroom with the kids again.  The only word that can be used to describe the experience is 'interesting'.  I hope my bathroom can be completed by the end of next week :)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

This Week's Menu.

Again, better late than never I guess!  Yesterday was busy.  A full day at work, a visit from the guy who is fixing our ensuite, homework til 10.30pm.  A text message from my brother in the throws of parenting little people who are doing some challenging things.  Busy.  So that's my excuse for not posting yesterday.

Our menu this week looks like:

Monday:  Oven friend chicken, vegies
Tuesday:  Redcurrant lamb chops, vegies
Wednesday:  Homemade pizza or ricotta fritters...haven't decided
Thursday:  Pasta of some description
Friday:  Pork spare ribs, vegies, rice
Saturday: Slow roasted beef, vegies
Sunday:  someone else can cook something......??!

And Miss Sunshine will not be home before 7pm any night this week now, in preparation for her year level's production.  She's already tired, so the weekend promises to be a little stormy for her, I think.


 On to more exciting things.  I got my first high distinction!  That silly music/visual arts test that got postponed and fiddle-faddled with ended up being quite a success for me....thanks to the practice test I did in the week beforehand.  What a relief.  Poor Mr Busy ~ he was the only one I could tell immediately.  When I asked if he knew what that meant he said "does that mean you passed?".  Poor boy.  When I explained he came and jumped about with me for a few moments before returning to his book.  Isn't he sweet?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Happy Father's Day

Image Credit:

Here in Australia it is Father's Day.  For us it kind of began last night with the first non-bbq meal of the season.  I ended up baking chicken wings because Dh & Mr Busy were out til dark mowing the lawns.  Bbq'ing is men's work, apparently.  But the meal came with Dh's favourite three salads:  potato, corn, tossed so he didn't mind that it wasn't really a bbq.

This morning the kids offered their gifts and made their Dad scrambled eggs for breakfast.  He's happy.  We're hoping to find somewhere to go for Yum Cha for lunch.  I'm sure an afternoon nap will make his day complete.

Of course, there will be a phone call to my Dad and possibly a visit to his Dad.  Perfect day.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Jamie's Meals: Jools Pasta

Photo Credit:

Another day, another Jamie meal.  Tonight it was Pregnant Jools Pasta.  I have to smile about the title.  Pregnancy is no longer associated with eating (or not!) anything in particular in our house, and hasn't been for well over 11 years.  However, you have to love a recipe that is simple, and this one was.  The meal has instructions for a salad and a frangipane tart.  I didn't do the salad, and with no-wheat and no-nut eaters in our family, the dessert was pretty much a no-go.  I could've coped with the wheat but Miss Sunshine cannot have nuts.

The recipe said to use 'good' sausages.  I think that's a misnomer.  Good and sausages don't really belong in the same sentence in my book.  However, I found something that looked a little more gourmet that a package of Safeway thin sausages.  The meal ended up being pretty tasty.  Definitely worth adding to the list of things we enjoy.  Everyone headed back for seconds except Mr Busy.  I suspect performance nerves are on the rise due to tonight's music performance night at school.  He's not the up-front kinda guy, preferring all things related to working backstage.  Tonight he'll be on the stage and he's instructed us not to watch.  Poor boy.  Sadly misguided.  Of course we'll be watching!

If you want to have a go at this yummy meal (which we all highly recommend), all the recipes and instructions are here.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Imitating Christ's Humility

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain concet.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you to
the interests of others.  In your relationships with one
another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus..."
~  Philippians 2:3-5 ~

Challenging words.  Words that beg the question:  where is the line between justice, mercy and the mindset of Christ?


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Where Have all the Books Gone?

My nephew has just celebrated his first birthday and christening.  Being a lover of children's picture books, I decided I wanted to get him a really nice picture book.  You know, something from the CBCA winners list from the last year or two.  There have, after all been some great books.  The Terrible Plop, Isabella's Garden, Can I Cuddle the Moon and The Flying Orchestra are the ones that come to mind immediately.  I love the stories.  I love the pictures.  I especially love the ones written in rhyme, because that is my weakness in children's fiction.  Dr Seuss, Lynley Dodd and Mem Fox are always going to give you some good rhyming reading as well as great pictures.

Miss Mischief and I headed off to see what we could find.  What we discovered is that there are no bookshops at all now, at Fountain Gate.  Only Kmart, Target and Big W sell books in any quantity, but children's literature is not high on their list of titles to be up-to-date with.  I was devastated at this discovery.  I ended up buying Baby Wombat's Week ~ the updated version of Diary of a Baby Wombat, which I have on my shelf and adore.  A quirky story about a baby Aussie wombat and infuses some basic literacy and maths concepts in a tangible way for little people to understand.

I wonder though, where does one go to actually look at and feel and buy books like the ones I was after?  If we can't go to a shop anymore, how to you run out the day before a birthday event to pick up the story you had in mind for the special little person in your life?  Do good bookshops exist anymore.

All these questions reminded me of the Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks movie You've Got Mail, where Meg's character owns a children's bookshop.  I want one of those 'just around the corner' from me!  A quirky little shop brimming with beautiful children's books.  Surely that's a peek into Heaven?