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.