Monday, 31 December 2012

Another New Year!

It has been quite some weeks since I have mustered the energy and mental capacity  to post here!  Since my last post we finished up school for the year and begun our summer holidays.  Christmas has been planned for, preparations made and finished with along with mountains of food having been prepared and consumed.  And my summer semester at Uni has well and truly begun.  In fact I think it is probably at the official half way point at the end of this week.  No wonder I am feeling so tired!

All of a sudden it's New Year's Eve.  I've been pondering what I want for the new year.  I don't do new year's resolutions - they seem to come undone after no more than a month and then there's all that guilt to carry along through the year as well.  No, my dreams for the year ahead are really a continuation of what I always desire - beautiful kids who value their relationship with God, strong relationships with my husband and my kids, to do my job to the best of my ability for the benefit of the kids I work with and to do well with my study.  I want to be healthier...on the outside.  To be blessed with having 'enough'. 

I think rather than constructing new year's resolutions I prefer to evaluate how I've done with all of those things and consider how I can do them better.

What are your dreams for 2013?

Happy New Year Everyone.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Roller Coaster of Growing Up

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

The past week has been a bit of a roller coaster at our place, between the two girls.  Last week it was going in to bat for a daughter who was struggling with undue pre-exam stress, and being willing to tackle some significant issues with people who are also colleagues.  This week is it the euphoria of the end of exams and the anticipation of being in VCE.  Then the grief of a close friend unexpectedly leaving our school.  Followed by the excitement of all the privileges of 'free periods', access to the VCE common room and beginning the journey with breakfast provided by the new Year 12 class.

Motherhood is difficult when you're watching a precious child suffering with a grief you've known yourself.  Knowing that it will be alright, but remembering that intense pain of the moment.  Wishing you could erase it completely and prevent that pain from ever happening.  These are the realities of life, though, and it is these circumstances that build within characteristics such as compassion, empathy, resilience and the ability to support others.  

In all that has swirled around us this week I have had two real highlights.  A weekend away with a precious friend.  Sitting on the beach and chatting on a quiet Sunday morning was such a relaxing way to spend some time!  This morning, as I past the Year 9 room I looked in and saw tables arranged in a group together in the centre of the room with books weighting down some blankets, which were draped over the top.  The room looked like my house did when I had toddlers!  That traditional-looking indoor cubby house is indicative of the class in which Miss Mischief enjoys her days.  They genuinely enjoy the simple things of life together.

What's your roller coaster been like over the past week?

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Parenting Files: Keeping Your Identity

Photo Credit: http://hominspire.com

A few years ago I went on my first real weekend away.  I'd been on many a women's retreat.  I love them.  They are a great way to build community within a church and connect with women in a meaningful way, not to mention an opportunity to retreat from the normal responsibilities of family life.  There is not so much relaxing, however, when you're one of those running the thing!

So my first 'real' weekend away was about 3 or 4 years ago - just me and three other girlfriends at a beach house owned by the boss of one of the 'girls'.  I came home from that amazingly relaxing and wonderful weekend thinking "oh my goodness I am a nice person"!  In the midst of all that it is to be a wife, and the mother of three very normal (you know, ones that argue and fight with each other) children as well as responsibilities beyond the home I had forgotten who I was without my children.  I had forgotten that when I am not giving out instructions, refereeing arguments and dishing out discipline for non-compliant behaviour I am a great person to spend time with.  That whole weekend I did not once feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, exhausted or any of the other emotions I deal with on a daily basis as a result of being a mum.  Don't get me wrong - there is a lot of laughter and enjoyment that comes with having children, but if we're honest we'll all admit that motherhood is not without the other side of the emotional coin.

It's been a couple of years since we've managed to get away like that but one of those three girlfriends and I have plans again, in the very near future, to enjoy some respite from our busy lives and just stop.  My family was a little miffed when I was a little too enthusiastic about going away without them and why couldn't they come too?  The answer is that this is my little bit of respite in which I will rebuild some sanity and remind myself of who I am.  I think that at some point every mother needs to remind herself that sanity and identity can be rediscovered.

How do you stop, recharge and rediscover who you are?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hospitality that Delights

Photo credit: nigella.com

The weekend has begun.  It kind of feels like we only just had one, especially given that I've only worked two days this week.  That feels a little bit special in the midst of a busy term.

This weekend we're caring for close friends' children.  Three of the children, anyway.  I have this 'rule' to do with visitors.  Not so much a rule, really as a way of honouring and blessing others.  The rule is that with family we don't usually do dessert, but for visitors we do.  My family all agreed that these gorgeous children should come more often.  Tonight we had Nigella's maple chicken (without the ribs!) with vegies and an apricot sponge for dessert.  Tomorrow night I'm making mango mousse similar to that which you would receive at the end of a Yum Cha meal.  I haven't quite decided what we'll have for dinner yet.  Whatever it is I'm certain the children will have some input, and will enjoy it.  They make cooking feel entirely worthwhile.

Their mother sent brownies and fresh-laid eggs from their chooks.  Even this non-sugar eater enjoyed a small piece as an antidote to one particular little student whom I decided I'd had enough of.  I can only say I love my boss and his 'angry eyes'.  I told him he has great 'angry eyes'.  We agreed he should keep them.  Apparently my angry eyes, of which my own children are afraid, as just not scary enough for my young student!

So.  Brownies, yummy food, a houseful of special children and the weekend is ON!  I may even get out my stitching again.  I have some time right now :)

What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A long weekend with no pressure to study a single thing is just a little bit of treasure around here.  I had hoped I would end the weekend feeling oh so much better.  Alas that dream was not realised.  After a trip to the GP and bleeding a significant amount of money out of my wallet I'm still struggling along with this cold that won't get better.  On Monday morning I awoke with a throat infection.  On Tuesday morning I awoke with no voice...almost.  Miss Sunshine told me to "stop talking Mum, you sound like a sick mouse".  Charming, that one!

I feel alright - I'm just not yet truly well and I really do sound pretty funny.  Maybe tomorrow will be better?  In the meantime I'm in love with my antibiotics and the prescription-strength nasal spray that has indeed stopped the snot in its tracks.  Thank you God, for good medicine!

So, while I wait to get better I'm planning meals for the three children that are coming to spend the weekend with us so their parents can have some time away.  They love to be fed so it's always a rather gratifying exercise.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Recipe: Banana & Choc Chip Muffins (gluten and cane sugar free)

I have been doing a small amount of kitchen investigation.  You might remember that I mentioned banana and choc chip muffins that were far too sweet.  As it happens I'd not put in half the flour, as the white and wholemeal flours were listed separately.  I did think it was a runny mixture at the time!

Yesterday I wanted something quick for an impromptu picnic lunch, so I tried removing all the brown sugar and golden syrup completely and instead used two large soup spoons of honey instead.  They turned out beautifully, even with the use of gluten free flour.  A perfect end to a lovely picnic on the banks of the Yarra River in Warburton on such a beautiful warm, sunny day.  The recipe below is as I made it yesterday with a note with the original alternative.

Banana & Choc Chip Muffins

2 cups self raising flour*
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
60g butter, melted
2 spoonfuls honey**
1 cup bananas, mashed
1 cup milk
1 egg
125g (1/2 cup) choc chips

  1. Combine the flour and bicarb soda in a large bowl.
  2. Melt the honey and butter together, in a pot on low heat, or in the microwave.
  3. Add the honey & better, bananas, milk and eggs and mix well.
  4. Fold the choc chips through the mixture.
  5. Spoon mixture into lined muffin pans.
  6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 180C (160C fan-forced).
  7. Remove from the oven and cool on a cake rack.
*  Alternatively use 1 cup white flour and 1 cup wholemeal flour (both self raising) if desired.
**  Alternatively use 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon golden syrup, melted with butter on low heat.

What I love about these muffins is that with gluten free flour they have no cane sugar products in them at all.  The sweetness comes from the bananas and honey.  Although I use honey and maple syrup with reluctance they do not appear to give me the same symptoms as sugar.  I've popped these little beauties into the freezer for me to have one every now and then if I am craving something cakey and sweet.  It is a bleak future to consider that cake might be out of the question forever and ever!

Friday, 2 November 2012

The Smugness of Organisation

I don't know about you, but I'm generally a pretty organised person.  Being organised keeps me from panic, so it is often also the antidote to my husband's spontaneous nature.  So this week I'm feeling very smug and self-satisfied about my level of organisation.

Over last weekend I made some banana and chocolate chip muffins.  The recipe is from one of my sisters-in-law but I'm not completely thrilled with it.  It's too sweet...and not just for my non-sugar-eating tastebuds.  Even Miss Sunshine said they were too sweet.  So I'm going to reduce the sugar and golden syrup and replace some of it with honey next time.  I think that'll work well.  They were in the freezer, until Miss Mischief took the last one for school this morning.  Sorry - no photo forthcoming on that front.

The photo above, however, is evidence of the other terribly organised things I've managed.  I made real chicken stock overnight on Saturday in the crockpot.  Some was used on Sunday, and another meal through the week.  The remainder has been frozen, as you can see.  Some in ice cube trays and some in larger blocks.  They'll all go into the labelled bag.  Every time I open it up to get some out I just know I'm going to feel good about that one!

The pale disc beside those blocks is pastry.  I love Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry for both sweet and savoury dishes.  It is just perfect and light and easily and quickly made in the food processor.  A couple of moments of wizzing in there and it's all done.  Given it requires 125ml of sour cream and the container has 250ml I tend to make a double batch and use all the sour cream.    Next time I need pastry I am but a footstep away from pulling it out of the freezer.

And finally, I am feeling relieved and excited that my final exam for the year is over and I have a blissful three or four weeks before I begin summer school.  I feel like it went OK.  Time will tell!  I have done my two exams at a school down in the suburbs with a couple of other fellow students.  It is always so very good to catch up with them and have a real-life, face-to-face chat.  It is far more relaxing to drive a half hour to the edge of the suburbs than to drive through traffic into the city!

Now...a four day weekend with no responsibilities to attend to other than relaxing!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

....next month!

You know what?  Summer arrives next month.  All the warm days must have made my brain go into overdrive.

I'm still looking forward to a completed exam and a lovely long weekend.  Who wouldn't?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

And Summer Arrives


I just realised that it is summer tomorrow!  We've had a couple of very summer-like days.  Temperatures into the 30's (86F+) but it will rain and cool down again tomorrow.  I think the most perfect beginning to summer must surely be mine this year.  A full six-day 'weekend'!  Along with my normal day off, I've had to take Friday off to do an exam and then Our School closes for Monday, before Melbourne Cup Day.

The days are looking bright indeed given that I've had confirmation that my first choice of school to undertake placement have agreed to let me go there next year.  I am very excited about the experience.

Autumn's final fling concludes with the strange advancement of Australians taking on the American celebration of halloween.  I put a sign on our front door this afternoon after being taken unawares by trick-or-treat characters.  We don't celebrate halloween.  There are a number of reasons, which I suspect would appear offensive to those for whom this is a part of their way of life.  Nevertheless, it's a personal choice and we are all very wary of the idea.  My sign was as friendly and direct as I could make it.  It reads:

Greetings
Our family does not celebrate halloween and thanks you for not disturbing us.
Enjoy your evening.

At last count I've escaped the opening of the front door to explain we don't do halloween about five times.  There will probably be more now that the dinner hour is over.  A few years back they were still going long after my then young children were sound asleep. 

So...a lot of study and then the blissful release of a completed exam before enjoying some very much longed-for time to just relax.  A wonderful beginning to summer.  I have a strange hankering for fish and chips at the beach.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Healing Food for the Sick



This week I've been craving things that I need for improved health.  Fresh air, for example, and fresh fruit.  I finally managed to have that longed-for pot of Chicken & Dumplings on Thursday evening.  A good homemade chicken soup is bolstering when your under the weather.

The other thing I've craved is salad-type foods.  The salad below was my lunch yesterday.  I'd bought a bag of avocados from Aldi a week or two ago and they are finally soft enough to eat.  So fancy salad leaves, cucumber, avocado and prawns.  Nothing more difficult than that.
 

Prawns are one of those things I tend to keep in the freezer.  My local Safeway has a 1kg bag for $16-18.  Now that might seem expensive, but if you're only using a handful at a time they really do go a long way.  I defrost them in the microwave and then toss them into a pan and they're cooked in the blink of an eye.  I did these ones cooked in some melted butter with a pinch here and there of dried thyme, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and lime juice. 

The other thing I have enjoyed while I've been unwell is hot water with a slice of lemon in it.  I just can't handle the idea of tea and the extra mucous caused by the milk.  So hot water it is, and the lemon has been very refreshing.

What I have not craved is sugary foods, beyond vitamin C laden fruits like oranges and blueberries.  In the past my throat has always felt far worse when I've eaten sweet foods so this time I was not even tempted.

All of this along with lots of sleep interspersed with some quality time with Nigella and I'm almost as good as new.  I think when you believe you can safely walk away from the tissue box without being terribly anxious you're just about there.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Plodding Kind of Pace

I'm meant to be studying for an exam at the end of the next week, but I'm all stuffed up and my brain is too foggy.  I've been coming home from school and keeling over.  Today I slept between getting home and taking Mr Busy to church.  Yesterday I just sat and grunted at anyone who looked at me....and napped on and off most of the evening.

Yesterday's exhaustion was also, in part, due to an excursion to the Melbourne Aquarium.  My Year 1 student demonstrated his scientific prowess as he named almost all the different sharks they had there.  He met a few new types as well that weren't in his shark book - very exciting for the shark obsessed!

I have come up with a new food dilemma.  If you aim to only eat what makes you feel good, what happens when cooking what would make you feel good (old fashioned, homemade chicken soup) is well beyond your physical capabilities?  Fish and chips was all I could muster.  It was only us girls who needed dinner and no one was going to make me some soup.  It didn't make me feel good - I knew it wouldn't.  There should be somewhere you can get chicken soup when you're not well enough to make it!

Tomorrow, barring a miraculous recover, I am planning to stay home to study and nap alternately.  I would love to go and enjoy the Year 12's final day but I don't think I could gather the necessary energy to do so.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A New Relationship with Food

Photo credit: vitality4life.com
 
I think many of us have a somewhat unhelpful relationship with food in some way or another.  We have strange food rules and guilt over eating something we think we shouldn't.  Or like me, food that tastes delicious but will end up making you feel less than well.

My last download from Kindle's Top 100 Free list was "Why Quantum Physcicists Don't Get Fat" by Gregory Kuhn.  It's not a very long book and it contains its fair share of Oprah-style psycho-fluff over which I swished rather quickly.  But there were two little gems to be gleaned that I think will change the relationships we have with food.

The first of these nuggets was to only eat what makes you feel good.  Now I know that sugar does not make me feel good.  Nor does wheat.  And as I stood in my kitchen the other morning considering what I might have for breakfast I wondered "what would make me feel good?".  Whilst my favourite breakfast is raspberry jam on toast, at some point that would make me feel quite uncomfortable.  So I chose thinly sliced tomato on rye toast that had been lashed with real butter and sprinkled with ground salt and pepper.  It made me feel really good.  It's a question I ask each morning now.  This morning it was poached eggs on the afore described butter-lashed rye toast.

The second nugget was to reconsider the stories you tell yourself about food (and exercise).  The author suggests that you begin thinking carefully about rewording your stories so that they are positive....a bit of a "fake it til you make it" kind of approach.  He tells the story of his journey to loving fruit.  He didn't begin that way, but he began by eating one piece of fruit a day and telling himself that while he didn't enjoy it now he would eat it because he knew it was a healthy practice to engage in.  He went on to tell himself that perhaps tomorrow he would enjoy it better.  Eventually - about three months later - he was able to genuinely enjoy eating fruit.  I think that beats "I hate fruit, I'm only doing it because I know I should".  The positive story brings with it hope and a willingness to change.
 
It's a rather interesting take on how to think about food.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Gracious Simplicity

Photo credit: nigella.com
I spent much of the day on Thursday with a very special lady and her gorgeously perfect little boy. At one point I suggested that days at home with a happy little person was perhaps a calmer, more sane way to spend a day than my current busyness.  And it was.  It did me a great deal of good, not the least of which was because of a few hours with a precious friend.  

For lunch we enjoyed a quickly thrown-together Thai Chicken Noodle Soup.  It was absolutely delicious and something I think my family will enjoy - I will definitely be serving it to them!  The quick throw-together was by no means because of a lack of desire to put in some effort.  It was simply a beautiful meal that was quick and effortless, and which was permeated with the love with which a good friend cooks.

Unfortunately 3pm arrived all too soon and I had to leave to pick up my own children - a definite change of pace after a six month old!  I came home with the Nigella Feasts DVD.  Which means two things:
  1. A few hours of viewing enjoyment - and I have the book so I will transfer some of that enjoyment to meal-time inspiration.
  2. I'll need to see my friend again soon to return her DVD.  Not that I need an excuseBut certainly it'll not be so many weeks next time!  
 Now....for some exam preparation.  I gave myself a few days of down time and now it's time to be a little bit serious to finish off the semester.
 
Thank you, A.  I had the most wonderful, serene day in the midst of all that happens here.  It was a pure joy and blessing to spend some time with you. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Dinner Hour Pastimes


 Dinner last night: Nigella's Lemon Linguine, and Salad

The antidote to a long, tiring day must surely be relaxing around food.  I always think it's far more relaxing to watch someone else bustle about in the kitchen, so this afternoon two of the kids, and I, sat down to a few episodes of Nigella Express.  In between a chicken was directed into the oven and there will be vegies later.  Dinner is on its way.

A cup of tea and some more time with my feet up and I feel a little less stretched.

I've just started reading a book (a freebie from Amazon for my Kindle app) titled The Hour that Matters Most, all about the family dinner hour.  My children were astonished when I suggested that we are, in fact, a very unusual family and that there is a trend towards rarely sitting together over a meal.  It has been a practice in our home since Miss Sunshine was barely a year old.  It made practical sense a way back then and its a habit that has been retained, no matter what.  In the early years of my husband's move from sales to management I used to fret about him missing dinner time.  In the end I decided that there were more of us present than absent and that we would carry on with our daily routine regardless.  Young children in a home tends to demand it.  It gave Dh the freedom to do what he needed to and me the ability to release us all from my anxiousness and frustration.  The children and I almost always sit together at the table.  In fact we almost never sit anywhere else.  Dh is here as much as he can be.  And I try to insist that everyone remain until the last one is finished.

Sitting at the table makes sense to me.  My children are (still!) messy eaters.  I can't tell you the mess around Mr Busy's place, let alone the floor beneath.  I would much rather have only one space that requires diligent sweeping, than trying to keep up with it spread throughout the house.  And during ant season I don't want those little pests running about the entire house.  Again, limiting the damage to one area is much more manageable.  If dealing with ants could be described "manageable"!

We talk and laugh.  We tease.  Sometimes we are silent.  Sometimes we are listening to the news on TV.  And I'm OK with that.  What is important to me is that our children see that cooking a healthy meal and valuing the people at our table is important.  Perhaps this is one of the secrets to having raised, thus far, children who enjoy spending time with us and one another?

What are your meal time habits and practices?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

More Nigella Inspired Planning


My week with Nigella's inspiration about my kitchen was very successful.  We adored the crisp chicken cutlets.  Dh was particularly fond of the redcurrant lamb chops.  I preferred the lower-sugar teriyaki chicken....although that will still need to be saved for rare occasions I think.  Tonight we'll have a roast lamb which will receive some Nigella Express treatment.  And next week we'll spend some more time with the Queen of Quick and Satisfying.

To top it off I've been re-watching some of my Nigella DVD's.  Sometimes a girl just needs to relax and find a reason renew her relationship with the kitchen!  Particularly one that now has a dishwasher that appears to work properly.  I feel spoilt after 4 years with a dud.

Study is nearly over for a while.  My final assignment is awaiting approval from my study partner and then I need to prepare for an exam.

In the mean time...shopping lists and thinking about sugar-free snack food....


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Special Diets: Sugar Free?

Have you ever had to try and give up something you really enjoy?  You know what?  It's not so easy.  And not so fun.

My journey with sugar began many years ago when I discovered I can't have aspartame.  It makes me very unwell almost immediately and that lasts for about 3 hours.  For about 3 years I couldn't touch it, nor any kind of soft drink because of the severe response I had to it.  Now I can gamble with small amounts, but generally I avoid it like the plague.  The suffering simply isn't worth it...and it's pretty scary stuff.  Over this course of this year I've also discovered that regular sugar is no friend of mine.  If you've been reading here a while you'll know that I have discovered that sugar is evil...and I've talked a little about why.

But it's really hard to avoid it.  And it's even harder to choose not to have it.  Even when you know it won't be a good thing.  This is really something that I need to address and I think the key may lie in finding alternative foods that I really enjoy.  I found some sugar-free chocolate.  It's OK, but it doesn't thrill me. 

This is something that I really need to get a handle on.  If you have any stories to share leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Watch Out...She's Gonna Blow

 classroom 'investigations' - making car tracks with blocks

Something families do really well is knock off all the raw and rough edges and refine us.  A little bit here and a little bit there.  Over time our families make us reconsider how we respond to circumstances and help us to understand that we may not know what is going on in someone else's life to make them respond the way they do.  They tell us the truth (sometimes the painful truth!) about how our actions impact on other people. 

The other day the kids and I (my kids, not my students) were discussing something (I can't remember what) and I began to get a little hot under the collar passionate in the way I reacted to the topic.  It wasn't a discipline issue or a parent-child disagreement - just a discussion where we were all expressing our opinions and sharing our thoughts.  My kids know all too well that there are some topics that press my buttons.  This was, apparently, one of them!  Miss Sunshine, in all her 16yo wisdom, commented just as I was getting a bit worked up, "watch out, here comes the cyclone".

How's that to stop you in your tracks.  And I did.  And they laughed.

For those of you who don't know it, there was a famous cyclone in 1974 that hit Darwin on Christmas Day, named Tracy.  Yep - same spelling and all.  I was 3 at the time.

After our staff devotions on Monday, in which we heard about Child Theology, I think it's rather apt to acknowledge that my kids have plenty to teach me.  Perhaps as much as I have to teach them.  I think it's a wise parent who is humble enough to accept that our children have a certain way of cutting straight through the superfluous junk to get to the heart of a matter to refine us.

In what ways do your kids teach you?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Week with Nigella

seafood and avocado sushi

I'm back to work tomorrow, sans children.  I am always terribly grateful for the fact that we have a couple of days to get brains back into work mode before adding children to the equation.  With the return to work comes the return to frenetic activity and less time to cook elaborate meals.  But I still want tasty and interesting.  Where does one go for inspiration within those parameters?  Nigella, of course.  She is indeed the queen of practical, time efficient and satisfying.  Sprinkled between a clutch of Nigella's recipes are family favourites like pasta bolognaise and a lamb roast.  But on all the other nights of the week I'll be spending some time with Nigella.

Crisp Chicken Cutlets need to be steeped in buttermilk and worcestershire sauce to create a lucious, silky crumbed chicken fillet.  I already have them getting cosy with one another in the fridge ready for tomorrow night's meal.  (Nigella Kitchen, p. 28) click here to go to the recipe

Teriyaki Chicken is a meal we enjoy from a recipe I garnered along the way from "The Chicken Plan" a few years back.  It's delicious but full of sugar.  Nigella's recipe contains a smaller quantity and has mirin in it, so I thought we should give it a go.  (Nigella Kitchen, p. 40) click here to go to the recipe

Recurrant Lamb Chops have been taste tested before now and found to be delicious.  I have some redcurrant jelly tucked away in my pantry so I'm all set to go without the panic of wondering where to get my hands on it.  I don't think any Woolworths store stocks it now so it's a half hour drive to find this ordinarily easily acquired ingredient.  (Nigella Kitchen, p. 67)

African Drumsticks have become a recipe we enjoy immensely, so I could not go past the page when I came across it without writing this one down as well.  (Nigella Kitchen, p. 46)

Where do you go for weeknight meal inspiration?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Celebration Feasts

 
Miss Mischief turned 15 this week.  Fifteen...I simply cannot imagine how that happened.  As with all birthday's in our home the right to choose the menu becomes yours for the day if you're the birthday person.  You know how I said that I was looking forward to having time to cook time-consuming meals?  I think Miss Mischief sensed that!  Here's her day-long menu:

~ Breakfast ~
Cinnamon Bagel

~ Lunch ~
Hot Chips
Salad

~ Dinner ~
Chicken Wonton Soup
Sushi
Dim Sum
Black Forest Cheesecake

Pretty spectacular isn't she.  It has been such a beautiful couple of days that we decided a picnic in the backyard would be the perfect way to enjoy our lunch.

Then of course, as if that weren't enough, she had a couple of friends sleepover for a movie marathon last night and had a specific idea of what we should eat for that too.  Of course, all of this was sandwiched between generous helpings of movie food.  Like coconut M&M's and chips.

~ Sleepover Menu ~
Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Fresh Corn Salad
Potato Salad
Asian Salad
Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Ripple Cake

I forgot to make the chocolate ripple cake the night before.  It really needs an overnight in the fridge so I spent an hour thinking about how to speed that process up.  At 6.30am I got up and began making it - I dipped the biscuits into milk before sandwiching them together with the cream.  It worked perfectly.


After all that feasting my brother and his family came for lunch today.  My 6yo niece had wanted to know why she wasn't invited to Miss Mischief's birthday party because they are best friends.  We laughed - who said Miss Mischief was having a party on her birthday?  And who said a 6yo could cope with it?  So we had a cousin birthday lunch.  With all the leftovers.  YES!  And after a rather significant and very entertaining meltdown on my SIL's part over cheesecake two weeks ago, she was finally presented with a slice.  Better late than never.

And now I'm returning to my almost sugar-free life....

What's your favourite menu for family celebrations?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

By the Way Honey....impromptu dinner guests

Do any of you know what it is to be an introvert married to an extrovert?  An extrovert whose mother could cater for any number of people at the drop of a hat?  Let me tell you, it's been a nearly 22-year training program for me to be able to accomplish what my amazing mother-in-law made to seem effortless!


My husband is one of those incredibly generous people who loves to be spontaneous and spend time with friends.  It's been a challenge, over the years, for me to figure out how to cater for the likelihood of his spontaneity without getting myself in a bother.  I think I'm getting better.  Now I only panic for the first five minutes!  So after yesterday's mid-afternoon I've-invited-friends-for-a-barbeque phone call I determined that it wouldn't actually be a barbeque.  It would be dinner based on what I already had planned...and fancied up a bit.  A quick stop at Safeway after a dash down to pick up a new (our first) Myki card for Miss Mischief netted all that I needed to have a plentiful meal on the table.

The kids cleaned the bathroom, toilet and swept the floors - they're getting good at that basic list of chores required before visitors arrive.  I worked on dinner, which was always going to be the vegetarian rolls with vegetables.  I used Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry recipe and brushed egg wash over them before baking.  Oh my they were good!

Nigella's Ginger & Mustard Chicken Drumsticks
Jacket Potatoes with Sour Cream
Cauliflower & Broccoli Au Gratin
Honey Carrots
Buttered Dinner Rolls

I used Nigella's recipe for cocktail sausages on the chicken drumsticks.  I've always found the marinades she uses on sausages to be quite chicken worthy, and this was no exception.  I had some ginger, lemon and lime marmalade from our trip to Queensland, so I used that.  It was delicious!  The dinner rolls were marked down to $1, hence their last-minute inclusion.  Our friends brought dessert, and everyone walked away contented. 

Best part?  There are some leftovers for lunch today....very surprising considering the appetites seated around our table last night.

How do you cope with last minute dinner guests?  Do you have a favourite stand-by menu to get you through the panic?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Nice Mid-Assignment Surprise

I am in the middle of semester-end assignments again and am only now, as the semester is nearing its end, receiving feedback from assessments completed 4-5 weeks ago.  It feels like 'too little too late' in many ways.  Getting the mid-semester assessment results gives me a bit of a guide as to how I'm going and an opportunity to see how I need to improve or what I need to focus on.  Mental note for assessing my own students in a couple of years time - quick turn-about times are very important!

Anyway, you know that horrible assignment that required semiotic analysis of a printed text compared with its movie counterpart?  The one I was stressing over?  The subject that saw me have a little meltdown as I began the second assessment task with no knowledge of whether I understood anything?  That one?  I got a distinction.  A DISTINCTION!  Really?  I have no idea how.

As I opened the returned document I was just praying that I'd passed.  That's all I really wanted...just not to fail.  And there was - that beautiful little DN sitting at the bottom of the marking table.

You cannot imagine how excited I am.  It feels like the first time I got a High Distinction.  I may as well have for all the anxiety this assignment caused!

I'm thinking something special for breakfast must surely be the first order of a celebratory day!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Frugal Files: Stopping Wastage


Last time I was in Costco I decided to give Dawn dish-washing liquid a go.  I have to say I absolutely love it.  It works well, smells nice, has great suds...what more could a girl want?  Because when it comes to washing up I'm all about the smell and the suds.  If it smells yuck or it doesn't stay sudsy then I try to find ways to get rid of it.  Or I shove it unceremoniously to the back of the cupboard for use in emergencies.

My one problem is that I don't do the dishes all that often because the girls share the task on alternating evenings.  And my how they go through detergent!  A 350ml bottle was lucky to last two weeks.  How on earth do they do that?!  When I began using the Dawn I decided I didn't want that enormous bottle being emptied in the space of but a few weeks so I came up with a plan.  The ultimate "reduce, reuse and recycle" plan....for my little world anyway.  I foraged about in the cupboard beneath the sink and pulled out this pump dispenser that came home with who-knows-what in it (Dh often brings home samples of things).  It had been emptied, cleaned and awaiting some important future task so I filled it with Dawn and put the big bottle away again.

The girls have been happily using the pump dispenser which delivers a metered dose.  The three of us decided 2-3 pumps was plenty for a sink full of water.  Each smaller bottle full lasts a few weeks and we're all happy.

What have you done to "reduce, reuse or recycle" lately?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Bunyips and Other Mysteries

photo credit:  booksdirect.com.au

I bought this book the other day.  My Yr1 student has a bit of a 'thing' for bunyips at the moment.  And the Loch Ness Monster.  And Pacman.  And sharks. And Battleships.  And Traffic Rush on my iPad.   Anyway, the day he asked about bunyips we googled a bit to see what they looked like.  When I came across this book I knew it was a 'must have'.  Really....Jackie French and Bruce Whatley...it's going to be good!  I ordered the book and it finally arrived so I took it to school and we read it together during 'silent reading'.  Our reading isn't so silent, since I'm reading out loud.  And the other kids on the table are often listening in and peering over pencil and texta pots to see the pictures. 

Emily was a hit.  The big bad bunyip was super duper.  My student was a happy boy.  I might have even won a few brownie points that day.  That might have also been the day I declared myself to be Steve Irwin and that I needed to wrestle a crocodile off to the safety of the teacher's desk.  I haven't seen the crocodile hat since.  It had been on this boy's head for two solid weeks, apart from when we wrestled it off him during class time.  Thank you Steve Irwin!

Emily and her bunyip have also entertained my nieces, who were here for the day last weekend.  Really....it's a great book.  A bit of a Christmas theme runs through it, but none of us really cared!

As for the next two weeks....no bunyips, emus or crocodiles will cross the threshhold on this side of my picket fence.  We're on holidays.  I have two full, whole, blessed weeks.  To study.   And spend time with the children.  The thing I'm looking forward to most?  Having time to enjoy cooking really yummy and meals that are perhaps time consuming in the preparation.  And I'm looking forward to just being able to take my study at a slightly slower pace.  I'll only have two weeks of the semester left when I go back to work so I might even be able to get a little bit ahead.

The best news of the week came when my boss announced some new teachers joining our Secondary school next year.  One of them is my sister-in-law.  She'll teach Miss Sunshine and Mr Busy.  We're all incredibly excited.  Four months until the beginning of next year seems a long way off!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cosy Corners

We've been doing a fair amount of furniture moving lately.  Shelves from Dh's office have come home.  Miss Sunshine wangled an old desk along with the shelves.  Her desk was homeless.  A cute little thing, just about my size.  So rather than settling into a comfy lounge chair with my feet on the coffee table this has become my corner.  The shelf houses my Uni paraphernalia and the desk is just the right size for the space.  And it's better for my shoulders.

And one of those days I'm going to get that quilt hanging over the bannister custom-quilted.  I made it a few years ago now and have never managed the time to get it quilted.  One day.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Perseverence

I thought I was back.  I wasn't.  You all know what it's like when life just really gets ahead of you, right?  The last few weeks have been stressful in a variety of ways.  When I get really stressed I get quiet, and so I have been.  Stressed and quiet.  My challenging subject is nearly over - one more week.  I feel like maybe there is light at the end of that tunnel.  Miss Mischief reminded me it's nearly her birthday.  And she needs a haircut.  And she now has no jeans which are still intact.  There is no light at the end of that tunnel!

In the middle of days where it feels hard to breathe and like things are just too hard there are little glimmers of sunshine and calm.  The kids are doing really well at school.  We've just had parent-teacher interviews and heard beautiful things about our children.  Although I've warned a Secondary teacher or two that Mr Busy is not like his sisters in very many ways.  Gorgeous...but perhaps not studious.

And we are now the proud parents of a learner driver.  Miss Sunshine took her test yesterday and came out glowing.  Not only did she pass very, very well - she beat a friend's score.  The victory is all the sweeter for it!  So.  Now we need to give this child of ours 120 hours of varied driving experiences before she turns 18.  I drove home after dropping her off at school and thought "Oh my goodness.  She'll be driving me around VERY soon".  I swear she was just a bubbly little 5yo only yesterday.  When did it happen that I now have a child old enough to legally take control of a motor vehicle???   

I have but four more days with students....and one more day off all by myself.  And then it's school holidays.  Bring it on!  I might just make it that far.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

When Children are a Blessing


My precious niece playing with playdough.  Even little people are amazing.

You know you have amazing kids when they let you have a cry on their shoulder and make you a cup of tea.  And then steer clear of you. 

And when your children organise themselves to supervise the inexperienced one when baking, which is required for homework, and leave you out of it, you know you've got amazing kids.

And when they forgive your unreasonable outbursts quickly and seek to comfort you as their response....yep, they're amazing kids.

I had a little meltdown yesterday as a result of pretty severe study stress.  That semiotic assignment I offered up to anyone interested (and no one took up!!!) has come back to bite.  Now it's a unit of work "showcasing what you have learned".  Uh oh.  Fortunately for me the unit coordinator has taken pity on us and provided an example of what the assignment would look like if she were required to do it.  She had fun.  I am not!  But I am managing to get through it little by little with more hope than I had last week!  For the first time I am thinking perhaps a mere pass would be quite sufficient.  Miraculous even.

And for light relief Miss Sunshine and I have undertaken online IQ tests.  She's looked at them because she's doing Psychology at school this year.  Guess what?  I'm smarter than her.  YES!!!!  According to the test I took I'm pretty smart.  I'm not going to try any others, I like the result from that one.  On weeks like this one a girl needs to reminded that she's no dill.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Returning ... with a little less brain

I'm back.  I've still got a big yucky assignment to complete in the next three weeks as well as a much nicer one just before that.  So I'll probably still be posting very irregularly.  But I am still alive.

In the last week I've made many remarks about the attractiveness of a hotel room that includes room service.  I suspect the tent above might be the reality for one study-weary mother.  I had a student for 18 months who would use this as his brain-space place.  There's a bit to be said for that!

Whilst I've been absent from here I've submitted 2 assignments and an exam, and have nearly finished a 3rd assignment.  I attended a student engagement day in the city last weekend and took Miss Sunshine to visit the Deakin Uni open day.  Wow - what a fantastic place!  If only their course was exactly the same as mine I'd be so tempted to do a subject on-campus  The girls have been magnificent at being thrown curve balls like "I haven't been shopping.  There's mince.  Figure out what to do with it", as an instruction for making dinner one night.  The revelation of the weekend was a comment from one of my fellow students, who suggested that every time you submit an assignment you hand in part of your brain along with it.  Trouble is, the same thing is said to happen whenever you deliver a baby.  I'm in big trouble!

Oh.  And I completed my first hook turn.  Ever.  Successfully.  I tend not to drive in the CBD because it's a little bit overwhelming.  But I had to go in last Saturday when things are quieter and it's much quicker to drive.  Plus, I found parking for a flat rate of $9...cheaper than a train ticket!  I figured I've been driving into Docklands now for over a year all on my own, so I came into the city at that end of Collins Street (the street I had to go to) and getting to the parking venue required a hook turn.  Here's a really funny YouTube clip of how it works.  The girls and I killed ourselves laughing at the lady...but seriously, it's a very weird turn to do - so counter-intuitive.  And for you out-of-towners, here's a google map image of the city.  If you enlarge the picture I you can see the left hand bottom corner is where I entered Collins St.  It's nice and easy down that end of town!

image credit:  google maps

Have you done anything new lately?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Study Leave

I'm sure you've noticed my posts have been irregular at best, thin on the ground is probably more accurate.  I've got three assignments due in the next 2 weeks and one about two weeks after that.  I'm going to take a short break from posting.  More to the point, I'm letting myself off the hook completely.  No "hmmmm haven't posted in a while, what should I talk about?" kinds of thoughts.  I'm just going to get these assessments done and then I'll come back.  Eng of August at the latest.

See you then.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

On Giving and Pilgrimages

screenshot from 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'

After our series at church about stewardship and making a decision about how I would respond to that I figured that would be kind of 'it' for now.  After all that thinking, angst and finally a decision, I have received the very thing I wanted at the beginning of the year!  Just yesterday I was told that some extra funding had come through for one of my students, so as of next week I will be working four full days a week again.

Which brings up another issue - cleaning.  It's one of those things that doesn't require any great skill or knowledge, just time.  Because it doesn't take skill or knowledge I balk at the idea of paying someone else to do it.  But I don't have time.  Nor a love for the doing of  it, truth be told.  It seems I have passed on this genetic trait to all of my children because none of them have a love for the doing of it either.  Then again, perhaps Mr Busy would like to earn some extra money.  Lawn mowing through winter is not terribly lucrative.  And it's tough when you're the only one who isn't legally old enough to get a job and earn some money.  Especially when the lure of hot chocolate or the best hot chips you've ever had are dangled before your nose each Sunday.

A thought to ponder this week came from Sunday's sermon.  Life is not a journey, it's a pilgrimage.  And it takes a great deal of responsibility.  It's amazing what happens when that responsibility is absent. 

By the way....and completely off the topic....have you ever seen Penny Dale's 'Ten in the Bed'?  It is the cutest version ever and perfect for teaching kids to count backwards.  I see a maths assignment in the making!  For Prep children what's more .... way more fun that analysing semiotics!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Monday....


screenshot - 'The Cat in the Hat' (2003)

I've spent the entire day thinking it wasn't Monday.  But it is!  Perhaps when you spend too much time with Dr Seuss you lose track of time?  I've watched both 'Horton Hears a Who' and 'The Cat in the Hat' in the past week in preparation for an assignment.  And above is my favourite screenshot.  I didn't know this, but the direction of the image tells us that this poor fish has now power in his relationship - and after watching the movie, 'they're' right!  No one listens to the fish.  Ever felt like that?  Yep, me too.

The girls have been pushed into service this week, because I need to focus on some assignments.  They've each been given opportunity for input to what they'd like to cook and when and we've come up with a very workable plan:

Monday:  roast chicken, vegies (Miss Mischief)
Tuesday:  pasta carbonara (Miss Sunshine)
Wednesday:  nachos (Miss Sunshine)
Thursday:  osso bucco, mashed potato (me)
Friday:  chicken & rice noodle stir fry (Miss Mischief)
Saturday: honey soy chicken, rice, vegies (me)
Sunday:  homemade pizza (Miss Sunshine & me)

Anyone want to do a semiotic analysis of texts/images and how they create meaning?  No?  I guess that means I'm on my own!  I think a cuppa before bed might be the way to begin this one.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Menus, Learning and Balance

I've just realised Thursday is well on its way out and I've not posted a thing since last week.  I wonder how that happens?  Let's begin with the week's menu plan!

Monday: chicken schnitzel, vegies
Tuesday:  tomato and bacon pasta
Wednesday:  sweet & sour pork, rice
Thursday: lasagna
Friday:  osso bucco, mashed potato
Saturday:  roast chicken, vegies
Sunday: chicken wonton soup, salt & pepper calamari

I had two thigh fillets left on Monday night so I put those aside and made my nephew's curry coconut soup again, and with glass noodles that made a perfect lunch for me for two days.  I'm going to have to plan out lunches a little more carefully next year.  Miss Sunshine is already looking forward to having access to things like a kettle, microwave and sandwich toaster at school.  She is sure to become quite inventive after enduring 11 years of sandwich eating.

I've spent the day with Dr Seuss today.  It began with an assignment task description.  I thought I was going to use 'The Cat in the Hat', but after a day with him I've decided the 2003 movie version really isn't all that appropriate for Year 2 students - thanks very much Mike Myers.  I think I've settled on 'Horton Hears a Who' instead.  It is a beautifully engaging story with themes that are really appropriate to 7 and 8 year old's.  The second assignment requires us to create a unit of work around the text/movie so it needed to be wholly appropriate!  Besides that, the movie is gorgeous.  I've seen bits of it - I need to get a hold of a copy to watch it.  Did you know you can view 'A Cat in the Hat' in its entirety via YouTube?  Amazing.  I wish that one had been appropriate.  It would have been so much simpler!

I've also learned to use my 'snipping tool', something I thought was a HP feature but apparently it's a Windows 2000 gadget.  It makes copying an image from anywhere oh so simple...a wonderful thing in the midst of complexity in other areas of life.

 screen shot from the 2003 movie 'The Cat in the Hat'

I suspect the coming few weeks will be filled with the frenzy of preparing for an exam and assignments, as a full time study load demands.  With that frenzy comes a lack of balance in life that just seems to be necessary for a short time.  I think I need to re-institute plans for the girls to cook dinner.  They've gotten out of it so far this year.

What do you do to help keep your equilibrium when you have no choice but to be out of balance for a while?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Put Your Glasses On

My youngest student comes out with some hilarious off-the-cuff comments from time to time.  Little kids come out with some great one-liners and part of what makes them so funny is that they often have things quite upside down and don't realise it.  I had one such moment this week.  My student was enamored with a book about sharks, which had plenty of pictures of sharks which were labelled with captions identifying what kind of shark they were.  One page had a shark approaching a shark cage, and the caption was to do with the cage, not the shark.

Student:  What shark is that?
Me:  I don't know, it doesn't say.
Student:  No, what's that shark?
Me:  The words are talking about the shark cage, not the shark.  It doesn't say what the shark is.
Student:  Yes, but what shark is it?
Me:  [read the caption].  See, it talks about the cage.
Student:  Put your glasses on!

Because in the mind of a 7yo putting on glasses, that help you see, will help you read things that aren't on the page.

I wish!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Direction, Conclusions...and probably other stuff!

Pork & Apple Pasties - discussed here.

Thanks to your wise and insightful comments, a conversation with a good friend at church and a great deal of thought I have finally come to a conclusion about the issue of tithing.  Jodie made the point that we have a responsibility to support our local churches, and she's absolutely right.  I feel  comfortable with the place at which I've arrived.  It feels pretty good actually, not to feel paralysed and fearful about the whole matter.

I've also been giving some thought about the types of things blog readers like to read about.  It would also be kind of nice to have a plan, of sorts, so that a whole week doesn't go by without me having gotten to the end thinking "I couldn't think of a single thing to share".  That usually happens because my brain is so full of Uni stuff...which is really only interesting to fellow B.Ed. students!

Recent conversations with my youngest brother have made me ponder the idea of posting a series about parenting.  After our chat yesterday I realised that I've been there and learned stuff that he's just having to deal with.  And like me a way back then, he's struggling with how to go about parenting his beautiful girls in the best way possible.  Surprisingly, I realised I know stuff about that and in my work I've developed some practical, useable resources that can help him.  How cool is that!

So, regular commenters and lurkers alike, I'd love to hear from you.  What would you like to read about?  What information do you want to learn about?  Is there something I do that you think you'd like to learn how to do too?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Menu Plans, Fellowship ... Blessing


Last night was a very exciting evening for me.  I've had lots of computer problems with my laptop recently (a vital piece of technology in my life!) which resulted in my having to take the whole thing back to factory settings and start over.  It was rather traumatic for this computer dummy.  Since then I've not been able to figure out how to make the laptop talk to our wireless printer.  A source of great frustration on my part.  This week I could bear it no longer.  Uni requires a great deal of easy connectivity!  My solution?  Invite some friends over for dinner - both of home have degrees in computer science.  These lifetime, childhood friends took great pity on my pleas of desperation!  The outcome?  After 15 minutes my computer was functioning as it should.  And then we gathered around an Asian-style feast - home cooked.  The children were ever complimentary (as these children always are of meals eaten here) and I insisted that in this case their father was the one to thank! 

How truly blessed to have precious friends who willingly share their wealth of knowledge and expertise!

Miss Sunshine was suitably impressed too.  Her favourite Yum Cha dessert made its way to her dinner table at home.  My SIL had a recipe for this mango mousse/jelly in one of her many cookbooks, which I perused while we were in Queensland.  I wrote that one down and it was well worth the effort.  I'll post it sometime soon, because if you're a mango lover you'll love this one!

Our meal adventures continue around here.  Glass vermicelli noodles (made from mung beans) are my experiment for the week.  My menu reflects and idea.  A desire.  I've yet to find a recipe to match, although my nephew's favourite curry soup could be adjusted to suit.

Monday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Tuesday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Wednesday:  Captain crunch chicken, vegies
Thursday:  Pork spare ribs, rice, vegies (this might end up being the lasagna we didn't have last night!)
Friday:  Glass noodles with chicken curry
Saturday:  Chicken schnitzel, vegies
Sunday:  Homemade pasta with creamy mushroom & bacon sauce

Thank you to those who left comments yesterday.  I appreciated hearing your thoughts, and I was quite relieved to know that my intuitive response was not outrageously inappropriate!  Sometimes we just need to know that about ourselves!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Generosity, Giving and Other Uncomfortable Stuff

In my last post I mentioned that we'd been given granny smith apples at church last week.  This week we were given 10 smarties each (like M&M's).  If I were to stop there you'd be wondering what kind of church it is that we go to!!  We've been discussing stewardship under the sub-heading of "each of us needs all of us".  When we first came to the church the sub-heading was approached in relation to the church's community welfare ministries.  Now, it's to do with money....and time and assets and other resources. 

The apples were a tangible example of the fact that we don't know how many apples will grow out of an apple seed.  Likewise, we don't know how far our generosity will spread into the future.  It is our responsibility to simply be generous and trust God to bless our efforts.

This week we dealt with the uncomfortable topic around tithing.  I find this one difficult - I know what the church teaches around the idea of tithing.  I don't disagree with it. I struggle with what the outcome of tithing would mean in my circumstance, and trying to figure out what my response needs to be.  I've lots of questions that require some more thought, so I'll work through that throughout this week.  The smarties were given to us - 10 in a little zip lock bag. We were then each required to give one of our 10 back.  A practical example of tithing.  I'm told the senior pastor later dipped his hand into the 'tithed' smarties and enjoyed some.  And I figured that was probably scriptural.  After all, the Levites were provided for through the tithes of the Israelites in the book of Numbers.  I gave my smarties to Miss Mischief.  She had surely earned them after a morning out in Kids Church!

I'd love to know your thoughts.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Belated Menu Planning


I've been doing a bit of recipe experimenting this week.  Not because I have time - I don't really, between work and my Uni semester beginning yesterday.  However, the long preparation time recipe happened on Sunday, and the other one was literally a 10 minute go-to-woe effort.

On Sunday it was Maggie Beer's pork and apple pasties.  Rather than the gluten free pastry I went with her sour cream pastry, which is always just perfect.  I ended up making mini pasties and with the leftover meat I made sausage rolls using some pastry I had in the freezer.  These were really zingy and tasty, with ingredients I'd not normally associate with pasties.  Like currants.  I used some fresh granny smith apples we'd be given at church - there's another whole post there so I'll come back to that one another time - and I didn't soak the fruit in verjuice.  I just used water.

The other thing I tried was for lunch today - a spur of the moment thing for a beautiful friend who came for a visit with her gorgeous little boy.  We had a magnificent time together, topped off with me using her as a guinea pig for a new recipe I wanted to try....I do love her.  Really!!  And I wonder, how far wrong can you go when prawns are involved anyway?  The recipe came from a book from The Spirit House.  THE place to go, apparently, if you're on the Sunshine Coast and hanging about near Yandina.  It's a Thai glass noodle, prawn and chicken salald with a lime and fish sauce-based dressing.  VERY yummy.  Although Mr Busy left the noodles.  That's ok...I'll make them into something for my lunch tomorrow.

We're trying my nephew's favourite chicken curry coconut soup tonight.  Oh how adventurous we are.  I'm only trying this because I trust my nephew.  Not because I looked at the recipe and thought "Oh, my life will not be complete if I don't have a go at that one".    As for the week's menu at a glance?  Here it is:

Monday:  Honey lemon chicken, vegies (Maggie's Kitchen p.122)
Tuesday:  Coconut chicken soup
Wednesday:  Pasta bolognaise
Thursday: Pumpkin & sweet potato soup
Friday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Saturday:  Gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce
Sunday:  Lasagna

A note on the gnocchi....I tried the pan fried gnocchi from a recent Masterchef Master Class episode.  My brother also, quite independently tried the same recipe.  We don't like it and we're both going back to our tried and true's.  Mine is from the good old Australian Women's Weekly.  You just can't beat them!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto

View from our balcony towards Maroochydore

We're home.  It was a lot of driving in a short space of time, but when you get a little sniff that you're close you just have to go for it!  We got to the Victorian border on Friday evening at dinner time and thought that with less than 300km to go seemed like it wasn't worth stopping another night.

There really isn't any place quite as nice as your own bed.  Even when it's jolly cold!

I've realised that, despite the fact that I don't like the heat, I'm a sun-loving person.  When it got light at 6am I was very excited.  The sun comes up a whole hour later in Melbourne.  I lay there this morning trying to patiently await the arrival of some light.  We really enjoyed the sunshine too.  There is nothing that makes this girl happier than happy sunshininess.  You know what though?  Even when it was raining the air was nice and warm.

My favourite things from this holiday, besides spending time with family - because that goes without saying?  Fresh salt & pepper calamari from the Eumundi Market.  And Australia Zoo.  I'd heard the Australia Zoo wasn't that great, but we were really impressed.  We thoroughly enjoyed our day there and would definitely go back if we were in the area again.

PS.  Frances - Melbourne to Brisbane is like going from Charlottesville, Virginia to Miami, Florida.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Holidays, Menus and Other Fun Stuff


 photo credit: http://www.engelvoelkers.com

We have driven a LONG way and ended up on the beautiful Sunshine Coast just north of Brisbane.  Where my BIL and his family live.  We learnt some things while we were travelling.  Firstly, our kids are good travellers thanks to movies on Dh's laptop, books and iThings.  Australia has some strangely-name towns.  Like Goondiwindi....we wondered what kind of name that was, but the motel was clean and quiet so we were happy to be there for a night after a very long day on the road.  We also learnt that there is only so much take away food and McDonald's one family can consume in a short space of time without complaining.  And we learnt that perhaps on the way home we might stock up on those single-serve cereal bowls so that we can at least have breakfast before we leave.  It was a long drive from Goondiwindi to Toowoomba only to be faced with sad-tasting egg sandwiches as the choice that was available.  Nothing is open on a Sunday in country!

The sun has been out and been a balmy 20C so we're glad to be here instead of miserable, wintry Melbourne.  Dh has insisted that salads are the way to go for dinner.  Because if the weather is warm you need summer food!  Our menu plan is kind of loose to allow for some eating out if we feel like it.  But at the moment it might include:

roast lamb with 3 salads
tacos
chicken drumsticks with salads
hamburgers
And we might visit 'the Wharf' to see if fish is cheaper there....like anything less than $30/kg!


Dh is ever the clever hero of the family and has figured out how to make his iPhone into a modem so that we have internet access without paying a fortune.  Who'd have thought it could be that easy?

My most exciting discovery so far?  It gets light around 6am.  That's exciting for an early-riser like me, who has been mumbling about the darkness that lurks until 7am at home.  Six in the morning is a lovely time to curl up in a blanket with a book by Ronie Kendig.....