Saturday, 30 July 2011

Would You?

I was in Aldi the other night, ignorantly minding my own business.  That's what I do when I'm grocery shopping.  I do it at the end of the day and I just kind of go into my own brain and, whilst I know other people are around, I tend to ignore the fact that they are there.  Getting the shopping done does me in without crowd-watching or sticky-nosing into other people's trollies.

So I had all my shopping on that conveyer belt thing at the cash register and was waiting my turn behind the person being served when this man comes along behind me saying "excuse me can I get through".  Now people do this in Aldi, if they've nothing to buy.  There is no other way out and if you're not buying anything you don't want to wait.  I get that.  I let them through.  This guy, however, had two items in his hand.  So as I am authomatically moving my trolley thinking he was someone without anything to buy, I noticed he has two things in his hands.  And as I notice he says "Oh, I've only got two things so can I just squeeze in here?".

I was stunned.  What I wanted to say was "NO!  You may not, you rude, arrogant man.  What makes you think your time is more valuable than mine?".  What really happened was that I let him through because by the time I'd noticed he needed to pay for something I'd already let him past me.  And I was cross because I felt like he had put me in a position where I would have appeared to be the rude one if I'd said no.

So I have two questions:
1.  Would you have pushed past two other people because you only had two items to put through, or would you have waited your turn like everyone else was doing?
2.  Would you have let him through.....or not?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Secret Life of Pillows

Either I've been watching too much Cosby Show or I have a weird sense of humour all by myself.

This morning when I went to wake the children for school Miss Sunshine and Mr Busy both had me laughing.  Miss Sunshine had two pillow sitting on her head, with her face smooshed into the mattress.  In the midst of waking her I insisted she needed to get out from under the pillows which seemed to be holding her down.  "It's a hold-up" she said.  She has a funny sense of humour too.  Meanwhile, Mr Busy's pillow had dropped off the bed when he was waking.  There I am, between two child with pillows holding her down, one with pillows running away.

Miss Sunshine came out after having dressed rather quickly.  "Had to get away from those pillows," she commented.

Yep.  Too my Cosby Show

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Just Quickly

Sorry I've been so absent.  As I suspected, I needed that deep breath before diving in to the term.  I'm still struggling to overcome feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed at the time required for Uni this semester.  Everything just seems to require more than reading and thinking....which is the kind of learning I seem to prefer.  The hands-on stuff has always been a little more challenging to me and I am being reminded of that at the moment.  Perhaps it's just the different formats some units are taking.  In any case, my brain is on the settling-in opposed to the overload associated with writing four assignments at once!

So....I'm off to papier mache a flower mask.  In front of the TV.  Surely there must be an upside to all that goey, disgusting mess.  I suspect my learning through art is going to be to get comfortable with being icky.  And I'm not.  Comfortable, that is.  I hated finger painting as a preschooler (yes, I do remember finger painting incidents as a 4yo!) so you can imagine that 36 years of being uncomfortable with goo is going to be quite a hurdle!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Taking a Deep Breath.....

....before beginning another term.

Today has been a lovely deep breath.  I took my day off today, so the kids have had their last morning of watching MacGyver and The Brady Bunch.  We've had our last sleep in and slow start.  We've had our last 'interesting' (meaning, not plain old sandwiches) lunch.

We had one of Mr Busy's friends over, with his Mum this afternoon.  The boys have been wanting to have a play but this family is new to the school and rightly feel a little concerned about sending their precious young man off to someone's home whom they do not know.  We experienced the same thing when we arrived at Our School.  So us Mum's got to chat and get to know one another.  The boys had their play.  And I think we both feel more comfortable sharing our precious children with one another.

Incidentally this friend of Mr Busy's is a lovely, gentle-hearted young man with the kindest, most innocent face and the brightest blue eyes.  It has taken Mr Busy all of his 11 years to find a second boy to be so insistent about organising a play with.  He has chosen a wonderful friend. 

And so the term is about to begin with all its activity, action and excitement.  My how I have appreciated some time to slow down in between!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Celebrating the Non-Stereotypical

As I have headed back to work this week, and as the children have tagged along with me....As I have ramped back up to the hours of full-time study and close to full-time work... I am incredibly grateful for the amazing children I have the privilege of calling mine.

They are doing a great job of breaking through the stereotypes so often pinned upon teens and tweens.  That's not to say we don't have door-slamming and foot-stomping around the place.  That's not to say we don't have eyes being rolled at us or being told we are being unreasonable because someone didn't manage to convince us to their way of thinking.  But you know something special is going on when Mr Busy can come and ask for a hot chocolate at 'recess' time, receive the answer "no" and still give his Mum a kiss before he trots off to find something else to do.  Secretly I think he knew the answer would be no, but figured it was worth a try anyway.

I am conscious of how gentle they are on us, considering the mischief teens can get themselves into and today I'm celebrating and appreciating them.  

Monday, 18 July 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 18 July

We're back to almost normal.  The kids have another week off school....but the poor things have to come along with me.  So we are at school.  Later than normal in the morning, allowing for some sleeping in.  Less structure for the day is involved because noone rings a bell.  And there is lots of time to just catch up with fellow staff, many of whom I haven't seen for four weeks because of placement.  The kids are doing lots of playing and watching DVD's with other 'staff' kids.  Ahhh, the blessing of other kids in the same school-on-the-holidays boat!

Before I go and watch a little bit of TV with a textbook on my lap, here is my menu for the week:

Monday:  Chinese corn soup, yum cha morsels

Tuesday: Recurrant beef, vegies
Wednesday:  Morroccan chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Nigella's quick chilli with corn chip/cheese stacks
Friday:  Beef curry, rice
Saturday:  Chicken noodle soup
Sunday:  hmmm..will ponder further!

Friday, 15 July 2011

This is a photo I took when we were out and about visiting the snow last weekend.  The little town of Woods Point is entirely as quaint as this now disused petrol station.  The school and the police station shared the same yard.  There was no one about.  We know they must have all been in the Pub, due to the amount of noise and carry-on coming from in there!

The only living thing about to greet us at all was a dog that barked its way around town with us!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

In Which I Fight Dust and Clogged Vacuums

I thought it must be time to post, because surely you're all wondering where I'd gotten to.

I could answer with the fact that I've been up to my eyeballs in study.  Well...not that bad.  The first week is all about introducing yourself all over the place.  But there was this one lecture of 55 minutes that wouldn't stream and required the downloading of another software program so I could download and listen to it.  Grrrr.  I'm sure I wasted an hour doing that before I listened to the lecture for another hour.

I could answer with the fact that I took the kids rollerskating the other day with some other kids in Miss Sunshine's a few requisite siblings.  They had a ball.  I got tired of yelling over the loud music in order to be heard.  Miss Mischief had the best time of all.  She's a tenacious child who taught herself to skate on $4 roller blades from an Op Shop and skated around the table on the deck outside.  It's not that big...but she learnt to skate pretty well.

What I'm really going to answer with is this:  I have been dusting.  Not just the quick flick of a Flylady feather duster.  Nooooo....when you don't do housework for a few months because you're too busy working and studying the dust gets stuck.  Did you know that?  Well, take it from me, it does.  So I've had to mix some water and vinegar and grab one of those cloth nappies I keep for such occasions and I have waged war on every dusty surface in my house.  Nearly.  I have one area left to go.  In the process of all that dusting, of course, comes vacuuming to get rid of the dust on the floor as well.  My vacuum has a particularly bad design flaw, which means the dust clogs up in a particular spot just near where the pipe attaches to the machine itself.  Did you know that kiddy chopsticks (the ones joined together at the top) and a metal skewer were actually invented for the purposes of unclogging vacuum cleaners?  No?  Well, I'm sure they were, because they work pretty well for such a task.

And now I'm paranoid about that amount of dust accumulating on those pristinely shining surfaces.  My feather duster has been out more this week than it has all year.  A task I believe the children will need to become familiar with once school returns as well.

Tomorrow, that last bit of dusting will be complete.  For now.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 11 July

My last days before Uni starts this morning have been perfect.  An afternoon with a friend.  A Sunday relaxing at home.  A Saturday afternoon excursion to see some snow.  We headed out through Warburton for an afternoon drive and found enough snow for the kids to play in at a little place called Matlock.  There's a public toilet and eating shelter there.  And snow.  That's it!  We had afternoon tea.  The kids played.  And we had dinner at a little pub on the way home.  Great meals for very reasonable prices.  It didn't cost all that much more than a take-away meal!

After all that enjoyment and toe-pinching cold it's back to the realities of the week.  For me, that means Uni will be available within the next 10 minutes and the kids will be pestering for things like computer and playstation time.  For me...that might mean they should be tidying up the messes they call bedrooms.  I also need to try and get all the dusting and vacuuming finished and the mopping done between studying and spending time with the kids.  All of a sudden my week feels....full.  And rushed.  A normal week, or course, also includes lots of yummy meals.

Monday:  Crockpot pot roast, vegies
Tuesday:  Rissoles, vegies
Wednesday:  Chicken wraps 
Thursday:  African Drumsticks, vegies
Friday:  Chinese corn soup, yum cha morsels
Saturday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Sunday:  Gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce

As you can see, someone else has posted Nigella's African Drumstick recipe so now you can all have a go at it too.  I have to say, it's one of my favourite ways to have chicken.  Then again, I have lots of favourite ways!!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Girl-ish Kind of Day

The 'boys' in our house headed into the city today to enjoy a bit of blokey time around cars.  Us girls are not so into such things.  Instead, my Mum came down from the country to spend the better part of the day with us.  So we chatted and had lunch, and chatted....and chatted.  And then we took her back to the train station.  And it was nice and quiet and relaxed all day.  None of the boyish energy that is generated around our house most of the time.  It's amazing how much quieter it is without Mr Busy!  He's so fast.  And loud.  And always running...even when he says he's walking.

Miss Mischief has taken over my kitchen to make what is basically an ANZAC biscuit recipe as a slice.  The recipe is posted here.  After having a luscious pumpkin and sweet potato soup for lunch we'll be feeling a little spoiled for the day I suspect.

Meanwhile, I have been doing some really intensive dusting, fighting to unclog the vacuum.  It does this regularly because of a poor design feature.  And we've been watching the winter storms pass by our windows whilst we have remained inside enjoying the warmth of a good heater!  As I dusted my thimble collection I was reminded how this time last year we had just returned from visiting the Denver Zoo and the Museum.  'Tomorrow' we visited the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  Such a beautiful and perfect summer we enjoyed!!!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Yesterday's Excitement

We had quite a bit of excitement around here yesterday, considering it was a 'boring' day at home.  Again!

We were sitting peacefully watching the last few episodes of the last season of Little House on the Prairie when it sounded like a huge wind hit the house and then it shook.  And shook.  And shook some more.  For about 40 seconds  Not violently.  Just enough for us to pause the DVD and go "wow....feel that!".  Melbourne is not known for having earthquakes so it's quite exciting when they happen.  This was only a baby at about 4 on the Richter scale.  I'm sure the ones I felt as a kid in PNG were stronger....and often longer.  We got another tiny one after dinner as well.  It always sounds like a truck is barrelling through the house, which of course there never is.  Thankfully.

In the afternoon the excitement was mine alone and the kids were left pondering again if their mother has a few screws loose.  I peered out the laundry window with all the wind and rain that was flying about and saw the poor little lemon tree out there in it all.  What do you know, that thing is full of little yellow orbs just waiting for us to find things to do with them.  Miss Sunshine wanted to run right out and pick them all.  Firstly it was pelting with rain so no one was going out there.  And secondly I had to explain that you only pick as you need, otherwise the lemons go off sitting on the bench or in the fridge.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Recipe: Beef Casserole

I wish I'd thought to take a photo before we ate last night.  Whilst I linked my menu, yesterday, to a recipe from Jamie Oliver, I felt a little overwhelmed at the list of ingredients.  Oh I can add in and take out all manner of vegetables for things like this.  But it just wasn't simple enough.  The casserole I ended up making was a tried and true recipe that I've tweaked a little over time.  The organic beef we bought off our friends a few weeks back is absolutely divine.  I'm not sure yet, if it possible to make it turn out awfully.  Time will tell with the roasts, I imagine!

Beef Casserole

500g beef, diced into 1.5cm cubes
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
5 potatoes, peeled & chopped into large chunks
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into thick slices
1/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
a few splashes of red wine (optional)
a splash of worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock (or water and stock powder)
  1. Combine the flour, paprika, mixed herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste, in a plastic bag.  Add the beef cubes and shake until the beef is coated.
  2. Heat a pan with some olive oil; add the beef and brown on all sides.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the beef and stir about until the onions are transparent and softened slightly.
  4. Add in the potatoes and carrots and toss, before adding a little red wine.  This will begin to thicken; add the beef stock and worcestershire sauce.
  5. Put the lid on and place in a preheated oven (180C/350F) and cook for about an hour.
  6. Serve with rice or pasta.
Of course, you could brown the meat and then add everything to the pot of a slow cooker and cook all day on low.  I wasn't that organised.  You could also add vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin...any root vegetables you like. Last night I added a zucchini that I had cut down the middle and then sliced into semi-circle shapes  about 15 minutes before serving.

None of our children are fans of casseroles, as such, but we all enjoyed this one immensely.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The New Toy

This is a picture of my new toy.  I say 'my'.  Really, Dh's accountant told him he had to spend some money before the end of the financial year.  So really, it probably belongs to 'the business'.  I don't know how it all works and quite frankly I don't care.  Because right now I'm tapping away on a new laptop replete with academic software.  I have Publisher on a laptop...finally!  Woohoo!

I have yet to move all my Uni and work files over from the old laptop, but you know, these things can't be done all in one day.  My one disappointment?  No numeric keypad to the right of the alphabetic keypad.  But you can't have everything right?  I have Publisher!  Oh, wait.  I said that already, didn't I?  It's one of those things ~ you don't realise  how much you use something until it's not right at your fingertips. Uni semester starts in two weeks and by then I will have this baby all ready with all my favourite files and bookmarks transferred over.

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 4 July

Apart from this week's menu plan I have some very exciting blogging foodie news. was exciting for me.  Once upon a very long time ago....say, 10-15 years....there was a site called 'Steph's Country Kitchen Goodness'.  It was absolutely filled to the brim with really good, tasty recipes.  They weren't fussy, but they were tried and tested by a family and our family ate often from Steph's vast repertoire.  One day her site just disappeared.  You can still access some of it here at the Way Back Machine archive site.  Today, however, I randomly decided to google the original site name and discovered that Steph's Country Kitchen is back in blog form.  Oh happy day!

All of that was in aid of the fact that I needed some inspiration for my own menu plan today....and wondered if I could dig up Steph's seasonal menu plans, because they always inspired me all those years ago.  That...and my freezer is full of beautiful organic beef and I need some help with what to do with it all!  I need some room in my freezer for other things.  Like bread.  And chicken, occasionally.  I'm also planning another trip to Costco with my brother and his wife at the end of my school holidays, so some of that beef needs eating.

Monday:  Beef Casserole, rice
Tuesday:  Frittata, salad, baked potato
Wednesday:  Beef stir fry, rice
Thursday:  Honey & lemon chicken, vegies
Friday: Beef Shepherd's Pie, vegies
Saturday:  Tomato soup, english muffin pizzas
Sunday:  Crockpot pot roast, vegies

We'll be all beefed out by the end of this week!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

This Time Last Year

View from the top of Pikes Peak, looking out over Kansas

On this day last year, we were enjoying a beautifully perfect Colorado Springs (USA) summer.  Half way through the torture of shopping, yesterday, I realised that on the 2nd of July last year we had spent 7 hours at Castle  And it had been easy.  I commented, yesterday, that I would rather shop at Costco, and what do you know, within an hour and a bit that's where we were.

Anyway, on the 3rd of July last year we were driving up Pikes Peak.  It is one of the 14,000 footers in the US.  Each morning, while we were in The Springs, I would open the back door blinds at my BIL's house and take in the view of the magnificent Rocky Mountains...and Pikes Peak.  Apparently you can't get that close and not drive up, so we did.  My BIL drove.  A good thing, since Dh was a bit freaked out once we got past the tree line near the top.  We were told to drink water as we drove, to help avoid altitude sickness.  Alas, we were still not used to being at 6,500ft, let alone 14,000ft!  We reached the top, where there is a visitor centre ~ as large as any I've seen.  Truly American sizing!  Miss Mischief and I struggled with the lack of oxygen the most.  Dizziness and queasy stomachs, however, did not stop me from buying a thimble from the top of that amazing mountain.

The thing that has amazed me, as I have spent the last week wandering through beautiful memories of that amazing holiday, is that the weather here in Melbourne has been the winter match for those oh-so perfect summer days.  It has been sunny and not too cold.  As if to encourage us to remember.  And remember we have.  Days in Disneyland and Universal Studies.  Castle Rock.  Pikes Peak.  Fourth of July in Denver to see the fireworks....and one of the worst storms to hit Denver on the 4th of July in a long time.  Oh those black, black clouds!  I've never seen anything like it!  A few days camping at Estes Park, just north of Denver, as well as some must-see tourist stops around The Springs.  And driving for ourselves....on the wrong side of the road on the I25 at 75mph...well over our customary 100kph!!!!  *sigh*  It was a magnificent once-in-a-lifetime holiday.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


We celebrated last night, with one of my brothers and his little family.  End of term, great reports for the four students of the house and just happy for a change of pace to be upon us.  My SIL is also a teacher so she was more than happy to celebrate with us!  I cooked dinner, they brought dessert and we were entertained by the going's-on of little people at the dinner table again.

I'm told my youngest niece has declared me 'favourite aunt'.  How gorgeously special is that?!

Now that the hullaballoo has settled, however, perhaps some house-cleaning and baking might have to be the focus.  And since we're meant to have some sunshine here and there again today, perhaps some rose-pruning might not go astray either.  We were overseas this time last year, enjoying a Colorado Springs the pruning never got done.  Poor roses.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The End

Today marks the end.  Of professional experience.  Of Term 2.  Of my Uni semester...once and for all.

I have one lesson to teach today ~ a consolidation of a maths lesson I taught on Wednesday.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I think it will be fun.  And 45 minutes later school will be over and there are plans to relax before heading off for the holidays....and for me, to pick up my own children who finish an hour later.  You've always wondered why private schools seem to get more holidays?  We actually have slightly longer days and finish the term at normal time.  It all ends up even at the end.

I'm looking forward to the school holidays this term.  Not a scrap of study to be done.  Just lots of time to spend with friends and family.  Lots of time to ponder some cooking adventures and then to put those thoughts into practice.  Time to read.  Time to visit Costco again.  Time to just be.

And time to make a list of all the things I want and need to do during Work Break in two weeks' time!

On a completely different note, I just googled something and discovered that today is Dorothea Makellar's 126th birthday (it came up as the header on google).  Incidentally last night I was in Big W and couldn't resist buying a beautiful hardcover copy of 'My Country'.  We all adore the poem.  My Busy particularly, as he studied it in Year 3.  I also couldn't resist "There Was an Old Man Who Swallowed a Chook".  With truly Aussie humour, it really appealed to me.  I'm hoping to get a chance to read it to the P-2's today.  I know the Prep's at my school will love it.  I believe this is called building up my 'professional library'!