Thursday, 31 March 2011

Promise and Comfort

Yesterday's devotion (at home) was a small passage in 1 Samuel 12.  It is a description of a moment in time when, like all of us, the Israelites realised the error of what they had asked God for.  They had wanted to be like the nations around them and have a king.  They would not be dissuaded and God gave them what they wanted.

Does that scare you just a little, as it does me?  God knew a king would not be in their best interest, but they were so determined that He let them have their way and experience the long-term consequences of their stubbornness.  I wonder how many times, in my life, I have pestered God for something that was outside of His will for me that I now endure consequences for?  I'm not sure I have the answer for that, because my life is full and rich.  But I can be stubborn and pester God!!!!  What about you?  Do you pester God like a petulant child when He doesn't give you what you thought you desperately wanted?

What I loved about this passage in verses 19-25 is that when the Israelites realised how wrong they'd been Samuel had comfort for them.  He reminds them to turn their hearts towards God, despite what they'd gotten themselves into.  Samuel reminds the people that God does not reject His people and promises to teach the people, again, the way that is good.  And he reminds them to remember all that God has done for them.

I think this is a beautiful picture of what God does and wants to do in our lives, when we've gone off the track He had planned for us.  It doesn't matter how wrong we've been, God just wants us to repent and return to Him.  We might have to live with the consequences off being on the wrong track for a long time, but God uses even those journeys for our benefit.  I know in my own life that the toughest times are those where I've learnt the most about God.  Not that I think we should all take off and do our own thing, because I do think God will teach us what we need to know of Him when we're diligently following His way!  But I think it's good to remember that all is not lost when we step away.

The other thing I love about that passage is Samuel's promise to teach the Israelites God's ways.  I am very grateful for a handful of friends who will courageously speak into my life the truths that I need to hear.  God uses these women to teach me and through their sage, Godly words I am able to seek out God's will in situations where I get lost in my own thoughts and forget to look up.  I believe God places people like that in the lives of all of His children.  But we need to choose to see those people and appreciate them as God's gift of teaching to us.

Finally, Samuel tells the people to remember the great things God has done for them.  When days are dark and we've nothing within us that can praise God with in our own strength, this is where to begin.  Look back and see what God has done in our lives.  If we look, there is plenty to see!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Cheesecake Feast

Is there a better way to end a day and indulge part way through the next than with cheesecake?  Well, OK, I'm sure there are many, but since I mentioned cheesecake the other day I've been looking at that other block of cream cheese in the fridge.  Yesterday an array of delicious versions arrived in our staffroom for a pre-meeting afternoon tea.

And the sugar hit I needed at morning tea time was satisfied entirely with one of the very many pieces of leftover cheescake from yesterday.  Some days sugar at morning tea just seems quite medicinal!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Of Assignments and Other Mind Boggling Exercises

 I have handed in my final assignment in this semester's first round.  I am relieved.  And I am nervous.  It takes up to four weeks to get a result back, so I feel like I'm flying blind.  Particularly when this last assignment was for a second-year subject.  I'm not sure whether to consider subject credit as a blessing or a curse at this point.  Time will tell.  By the time I begin the next round of assignments I'll have some idea of what I need to do better!
As if writing assignments in quick succession weren't enough I've also been bending my brain around middle school mathematics.  And it's made me surer than ever that I should not teach beyond Year 6!  In fact, I was so concerned about my maths capabilities, yesterday, that I checked the Degree schedule to see how many maths subjects I need to complete in the next 3.5 years.  Only 2 others!  I hope they focus on Primary school maths instead of early Secondary.  My tutor, however, is lovely and very patient.  It is the one subject I wish I could actually sit in a room with other people.  I suppose that balance learning style I am inclined towards really does scream "visual" over all the others when it comes to maths.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week beginning 28 March

The week ahead brings things like parent/teacher interviews.  And the anticipation of school holidays just around the corner.  I can't wait.  It's been a long term, but it's been a short term.  I can't believe first term is almost over.  Already!  And yet I'm ready.  It's funny how body-weariness tells you more truth than your brain can comprehend. 

I have Miss Mischief back from her week-long school camp.  My how I missed that girl...and not just because she cooks a fine meal.  No, I just missed her.  I didn't miss her noise ~ she doesn't make much....or her humour, because she's pretty quiet.  Perhaps it's her quiet that I missed?  In any case, she's home and I'm happy to have her back.  And I'm happy she wasn't one of the three school camps airlifted out of Wilson's Promontory last week.  She was a fair way from there, but they still had rain anytime they went outside, apparently.

So on our table, with great thanks to my girls:

Monday:  Chicken wings, fried rice (Miss Sunshine)
Tuesday: Frittata, vegies (Miss Sunshine)
Wednesday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies (Miss Mischief)
Thursday:  Creamy pasta (Miss Mischief)

Friday: Potato & leek soup, bread/butter (Miss Sunshine)
Saturday: Tuna & rice
Sunday: Tomato soup, english muffin pizzas

And we're off to a great start to the week!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Fascinating History

Picture from

I mentioned, yesterday that I'm in the midst of writing an assignment in relation to design and technology.  I had to choose an item from and find examples from three different decades to photograph and describe, and then describe the teaching and learning inpired by these objects.

In the last two days I have immersed myself in the history of the development of the sewing machine.  What a controversial invention!  Its many inventing contributors engaged in patent wars. The machine was the subject of some significant industrial upheaval.  It is even reputed to have contributed to the devaluing of the woman's role in the home.

And yet, the invention of this machine is the source of a great deal of enjoyment and creativity, even though less and less of us have need of its use.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Cutting Room Floor

One of my Tail Feathers blocks, used for the same subject

I'm in the middle of writing an assignment for Design & Technology and like the sewing related theme a scrap of my work has been flung to the cutting room floor.  As is always the way, sometimes the most  beautifully written sentences are the ones to go.  And so this is mine.  One I love, that no one will see otherwise.
"As a child I watched my mother create our clothing, a sewing machine always set up in our living room with fabric scraps, pins and threads scattered about."
Just had to share it with someone!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Primer for Kitchen Frugality

I work with some really amazing young women.  Women who are now, where I was 15 years ago...minus the baby!  One of these young women has been doing some very astute surveying amongst her married-couple friends and found herself puzzled by the fact that we spend what they spend on groceries.....and there are five of us.  I keep reminding her that we don't buy toilet paper, laundry detergent or dishwashing powder.  There have to be some benefits of being self employed...and this is one of them.  This didn't account for the still-wide gap between our spending and hers and she questioned me about it the other day.  I don't know that I gave her an adequate answer at the time and I've had a moment to think, so here it is now.  The answer I should've given her, had we both had the time to do the topic justice.

First of all, you know I menu plan and organise my shopping list accordingly.  In the early years of Dh's self employment things were very tight.  My rule was "if it's not on the shopping list I don't buy it".  This was tough if I'd forgotten something.  But that was my rule.  It was only if the item was a matter of urgency that I would break the rule.  I'm not so harsh about that now, but I needed to be back then.

We don't eat huge amounts of meat.  If we're having mince or a stir fry, we use about 1/2 a kilo for the five of us.  Yes, that would be 100g each.  But it is enough for us all to be healthy.  I try to have a meat-free meal about twice a week.  Miss Sunshine makes a delicious frittata!  I also have a price limit on meat.  We eat a fair bit of chicken, because it's cheap, but I won't buy anything over $10/kg unless it's a special occasion.  And on the subject of stretching meat, the reason we have roast chicken fairly often is that I make stock from the bones for soups, as often as I need to replenish my stockpile.  I freeze it if I have no immediate need.

Like my price limit for meat, I also have one for fruit.  I don't buy anything over $5/kg.  You can't imagine the anticipation for being able to finally buy things like grapes and stonefruit, but I watch those prices and do not indulge until the price meets that magical mark.  I have a family who dive into fruit and to replenish it half way through the week with expensive offerings just cannot work on a strict budget.  If you can find your desired fruit in a 1kg package, that is usually the cheapest option, so look around when you're shopping and see what you can find.

I am a little less inclined to watch the prices of vegetables so vigilantly.  I have an approximate idea of what things cost and get pretty crabby when I know prices are too expensive.  I also know where to shop to get the best prices and use that to my advantage.  My vegetable shopping is pretty boring.  We eat very similarly most of the time, so potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms are constants.  Aldi is always the best place to buy all of those.

One of the biggest budget-busters for us is lunch boxes.  When my kids were young and money wasn't too much of an issue I used to buy what I've heard termed as 'snackety-packety' items.  Muesli bars, cheese sticks, mini packs of crackers and the like.  When I stopped that I saved $50/week immediately.  As our financial life has improved one or two of these things have snuck back in.  Boxes of flavoured crackers in Aldi are $1.29 (or somewhere close to that), so the kids put a handful into plastic containers for their morning snack.  These are supposed to be the back up, but sometimes life gets ahead of us.  In our house we bake whatever snacks are required, as often as we can.  The kids are competant bakers so they do much of it now.  When they were younger I would put Mr Busy to bed for a nap and Miss Mischief and I would spend a morning baking while Miss Sunshine was at PreSchool.  I would make two double batches of biscuits (cookies) a batch of muffins or maybe a cake.  And that would do us for a week.  You can freeze biscuits and when defrosted will be just as they were, freshly baked.  No matter what, I never buy packaged sweet biscuits and cakes.  The price and the strange ingredients make it an unacceptable option to me.  Although Dh has a bit of a thing for jam tartlets.  He will indulge in those from time to time.

In the area of 'health and beauty' we use the cheapest conditioner for the girls, from Aldi.  I've found the Oganic Care brand of shampoo in Woolworths to be a really good product and it stops our scalps being so irritated.  The best thing is that it's pretty cheap compared to other more popular brands of shampoo.

In general, I find Aldi's products are often my preference.  The one thing I prefer in Woolworths is tinned tomatoes.  For butter, milk, cheese and other dairy items, Aldi is my preference for both price and satisfaction with the item.  In fact, my kids commented on the grated mozarella the other day, prefering the Aldi brand.  I know it is time consuming to go to two places, but I find it worthwhile.  Where I go to shop, Woolworths and Aldi are across the shopping centre hallway from one another so that makes it easy.  I always need to go to Woollies because they have the gluten free products I need plus a few other things I can't get in Aldi.  But the weeks I can't get to Aldi I really notice the different in my spending.

Those are the main things that enable me to do what we do on the budget we have.  I'm sure there are other little things that I just don't think about!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Blackforest Cheesecake

I have developed a bit of a 'thing' for morello cherries.  Thankfully Aldi have their own brand.  A nice big jar at a great price.  A Blackforest Cheesecake seemed to me to be the perfect thing to do with them. 

Inspired by Kate's baked cheesecake the other day, I bought creamed cheese on a whim.  In my non-menu planning mind, last Thursday, cheesecake just sounded like a good idea.  So did Rum and Raisin chocolate, but that's another story.  I had every intention of making a baked cheesecake, but an impromtu dinner invitation made an unbaked cake the way to go.  My jars of morello cherries grabbed a hold of my attention and that's where I went.  A cheesecake with regular old chocolate ripple biscuits for the base for everyone else, and a tiny little one made from gluten free biscuits and some cocoa powder for me.  Should you wish to create this very easy and impressively delicious dessert, click here for the recipe I used.  I must confess I didn't do the topping layer.  I just couldn't be bothered.  And I don't have any port wine, although I did buy port wine jelly to make for the top.

I have another package of cream cheese and more jars of cherries.  Perhaps the next one will look like the picture ;o)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 21 March

It seems like so long since I've posted a menu plan, and I'm afraid this one will be rather a disappointment.  I post my non-menu plan, however, because it seemed to me that it was a good example of how to plan what you're going to eat when life throws you a curvball.

My curveball was thrown on Thursday afternoon, when I had planned to rough out something very quick and put together my shopping list.  Instead I had to deal with something urgent, and tough.  So my version of planning looked more like a thought process.  I have mince in the fridge and will do a pasta meal one night, so if I buy three other kinds of meat, we'll make it up as we go along.

I bought vegetables.  Potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, celery.  And some fruit.  I bought chicken drumsticks, thigh fillets and a whole chook to roast.

At some point this week we'll have a roast and then soup from the bones.  I've a bit of a hankering for Nigella's African drumsticks and we might have a stir fry and rice with the chicken fillets.  There will be pasta and there will be something with beef mince.  Perhaps rissoles.  That leaves one meal, and we may very well have a houseful of extra children for the evening.  So I'll do some asking through the week and see what they'd like to eat.

And that, my friends, is the inner workings of a mind incapable of menu planning in earnest.  This week will be focused on the curveball and the girls will have plenty of opportunities to put their own spin on the meals they create.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Secret Life of Authors

Throughout the life of our Book Club, Rel has managed to organise many an email interview and the occasional telephone call to some of the authors of the books we have read.  On Friday night we received answers to the questions we had emailed to Sarah Sundin, author of 'A Memory Between Us'.  Sarah reiterated a long-standing observation we've had about authors.  They have a secret life.

This secret life was revealed for the first time when we spoke with the very fine, gentlemanly Charles Martin.  When asked how he developed his characters he said it was a bit like meeting them unexpectedly as you come around the corner in a supermarket.  Odd....a little strange, even.  Sarah, and many other authors, have told us that their characters do unexpected things.  They say things the author didn't intend them to say.  They do things the author had no idea they would do.

The very pragmatic ones in our book club, me included, find this just a little bit weird.  Surely, we think, that the author is the one with the pen in hand, or the computer keyboard in their control.  Surely the author decides what characters do and say.  Yet, according to the authors we've had contact with, they seem to have little control of these surprising and fiesty imaginary people.

I've come to one conclusion over this.  While I might find this phenomenom rather strange, it obviously takes a very special person to be an author.  If this is the type of imagination authors have in order to produce their very fine works, who am I to shake my head?  I am the recipient of much enjoyment thanks to the strange workings of these unusual minds.

So if you see someone in the supermarket chattering or muttering away to an imaginary person.  Don't be alarmed.  It's probably an author having a conversation with the character in their book, trying to convince them to do as they're told.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

And I'm Back

After many days and a variety of circumstances, I'm back and I think my brain is now clear enough to think about blogging.  Here's a little catch up.

School Camp:  3 days, 50 kids, lots of time on my feet.  We had some great fun and learned a lot about rubbish, and sewerage, and natural environments.  And spent a lot of time checking in with kids.... have you got your hat, your drink bottle and your proper shoes on?  No?  Go and do it.  Yep.  Gotta love 10yo's and kids with extra needs.  I got lots of cuddles from Mr Busy and little boy who is tenuously related to us.  Very cute.

Camping:  3 days, non powered, nuthin' much to do.  I was home for an hour on Friday night.  I have to say, that was pretty tough.  When Dh told me our friends were cooking dinner for us I nearly cried.  They had our two big girls.  I had their two little people ~ they'd been on camp with me.  That was the most beautiful gift anyone could have given me that day!  I finished 'Save the Date' by Jenny B Jones, and savoured it for a while before starting the next book.  My golly she's a great author!  And I sat in the shade and drank lots of tea.

Home:  We got home Monday and I submitted my first Uni assignment.  My next assignment (different subject) is due next week.  I'm nervous.  I don't know how high the bar of expectation is now.  TAFE was easy peasy.  So, I've been catching up on six days worth of not doing ANY of my Uni work.  And I'm still really tired.

Today?  Study.  And perhaps a 'Nana Nap'.  Because I'm feeling pretty old right about now!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Blogging Hiatus

I keep seeing this page pop up whenever I open up the laptop, which is frequently due to study.  I need to take a short hiatus this week and into the beginning of next week.  We have some things to sort out here at home and I'll be away on a school camp later this week.  Balancing all that with everything else just takes more time than I have.

See you next week.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

When the Circus Comes to Town

This week our Secondary kids are enjoying their Creative Arts Week.  With a circus theme, they are busy learning acrobatics and putting together side-show type activities.  Today they have some people visiting from a Circus group to teach them some extra skills.  At the start of recess Miss Sunshine told me I had missed out on the best fun.  I'm sure I did...but I was having my own fun!

As if to predict the day's fun, we were greeted by some special visitors as we drove up the school driveway.  Two alpacas frolicked between the oval and the road.  A little dangerous for them, but we were enthralled.  They don't belong here, but the teacher organising CAW decided that their arrival was the perfect thing to happen to a developing circus!