Thursday, 28 June 2012

Holiday Baking

I'm going to begin here by making a distinction in the way we use the word 'holiday'.  In Australia if you're talking about holidays, you're talking about the time you have off from work or school....or whatever it is you do.  We rarely use the word 'vacation'.  So when I talk about holidays I'm not meaning special occasion celebrations like Christmas or Easter!


A good family holiday always begins with a morning of baking.  It does in our house anyway.  In part, because I detest the idea of buying expensive snacks.  And partly because those store-bought snacks contain all sorts of things I don't want to consume.

I am constantly amazed at how things have changed since I was a child, when it comes to running a household.  No longer is there a hand-written, pasted-in bunch of recipes.  Nope.  My random collection is mostly typed.  And if I don't have a recipe for something I grab my laptop and that becomes my recipe book.  After all - Google knows (and has access to) everything!  So this morning after dropping the kids off my bench ended up littered from one end to the other with all sorts of baking ingredients and paraphernalia.

My efforts have resulted in boxes of:

ANZAC slice
chocolate biscuits (cookies)
gluten free carrot muffins

We're ready for our mid-year winter school holidays.  Which begin tomorrow at 3.30pm!  The end of Term 2 has almost arrived.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Beginning of the End

It's nice to be back at my own school.  It's nice to be warmly welcomed 'home' and know you were missed, not just by staff, but by students as well.  One of the students most responsible for adding most to the number of grey hairs I can count gave me a big hug when he saw me.  I got a hug from another student who also happens to attend our church.  I saw her across the auditorium yesterday morning, but didn't feel it was an appropriate time to get that hug....she was more than obliging this morning.  And just to make sure that I don't feel too despondent about not being in a position to teach a class myself I'll be teaching both of our Year 5/6's this week.  We'll be making chicken wonton soup to celebrate the end to their unit on China.  I'm really looking forward to it - and so are they.  The end of the term is but a mere four sleeps away.....bring it on!

My last round of assignments have begun to be returned.  The first one to arrive came with a grade of  High Distinction attached.  I must confess I was stunned.  I didn't feel confident when I submitted it.  Especially after having been told that this particular subject was notorious for students failing.  I guess I can thank my most challenging students for all the experience and insight they provide into positive behaviour management! I now know for certain I've passed that subject, given my previous assignment grade and a highly successful completion of my teaching rounds.

I'm still nervously awaiting my exam result as well as my dance & drama assignment.

Other things have returned to normal for us too.  Like Mr Busy being available to assist the library staff after school.  You know he is highly valued for his helpful spirit when they phone the classroom to get him out of class in order to give them a hand with a couple of things he would normally take care of later in the day.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Perfect, The Favourite and The Boy

Do your kids ever have strange, ongoing discussions about how things should be?  Maybe it's just me?

Our girls have been discussing, over a lengthy period of time, their place within the family.  As far as I'm concerned they're equally special in unique and individual ways and I love them fiercely.  So does DH.  One day, however, the girls started pitting themselves against one another with "I'm the favourite one" and "I'm the perfect one".  Who knows how these things came to be spoken, but they have.  After weeks of this topic cropping up here and there I finally turned to Mr Busy and asked him "If she's the favourite one, and she's the perfect one, what are you?"  His response was vintage Mr Busy:  "I dunno Mum, I'm just the boy".

I think we should secretly declare him the superhero of the family, for putting up with his sisters' nonsense!

This silly discussion has become my parental weapon of choice against sooky children.  You know, when they're whining "Why can't I have a [insert item here], she's got one"?  You get to respond "Well, she's more special than you 'cause she's the favourite one".  

Yep - these things come back and bite certain children on the butt.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


I think I've mentioned a few times, I'm not much of a shopper.  I'm a "get in there, do what you have to and then get out as fast as you can" kind of shopper.  Every now and then I vary my MO.  Like today.  Our goal was shoes for Mr Busy and hair cuts for Miss Sunshine and I.  Out in an hour, right?

Well..... almost.  While we were looking for shoes for Mr Busy I wandered down the women's shoe aisle of Big W.  These Mary Jane's jumped out from the shelf at me.  I've been longing for and every now and then looking for a pair of these ever since Anna posted about her Clarkes Marilla's  here all the way back in 2009.  I figure if I'm still pondering those beautiful shoes 3 years later I should just buy them when I trip over them.  Right?

So I did.  The Clarke's are gorgeous and good quality and certainly my preference.  But we can't get that style, nor a similar one, in Australia.  So I bought the ones in Big W.  They look pretty spiffy if I do say so myself.  What surprised me was that they really don't feel like I'm wearing any heel at all.

Of course, having Miss Sunshine standing beside me saying "just buy them" was all the push I needed.  She's wise, at times, that one.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Exploits of a Very Hungry Caterpillar

photo credit:  google search for the very hungry caterpillar

Eric Carle's very famous, very hungry caterpillar was my teaching companion today.  'My' Year 6 class have been exploring the use of adjectives along with interesting verbs and adverbs to make writing more interesting.  I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so I decided he could help my students really get a handle on how these words can be used to add detail and interest to writing.  I made a PowerPoint of Eric Carle's story and then together we worked through the text and added description and detail.  The kids did SUCH a great job. I was torn between wanting to keep going with the editing and needing to get them writing for themselves!!!!

Our version is nearly finished - we'll do some more on Friday.  The writing the kids did was to rewrite the story (all or part) from the caterpillar's point of view, and to make the piece as descriptive as they were able.  So far their work looks fantastic - I can't wait to see how they finish up with it!

Meanwhile, I had a small group of students working on producing illustrated stories for the Prep's, as their writing was already of a really high standard.  I can't wait to see their finished product as well.  I know the Prep's will love having some new stories to read - especially when they know that the Year 6's have written stories just for them!

I truly am going to be quite sad to leave this classroom and go back to my 'regular' job.  I've so enjoyed teaching over the last three weeks.  It's such a long time until my next teaching rounds - a whole six months!!

I can't wait to see my own students though.  

Monday, 18 June 2012

Monday Menu Plan - July

With just two short week until the end of the term I decided that I would try and avoid grocery shopping as much as possible.  I've planned and shopped for the next two weeks with only a quick stop for milk, eggs and a few other perishable items on the cards.  In our house we've also been discussing the kinds of picnic lunches we could enjoy on days when we're on family outings and refrigeration is not available....something to ponder.  I'd love to hear your frugal road-trip style picnic ideas - leave a comment and let me know your great ideas.

My teaching rounds are coming to a fast end.  I'm teaching every day for whole blocks of the timetable.  As much as I can't wait to get back to my own school I will miss being able to plan lessons and teach a class - two years seems like a long time to wait, at this point.  The thing that always surprises me is how much I miss my own school.  Yet on the other hand I discover that I love the children I end up working with in another school.  At the end of the day, no matter how passionate I am about Our School, teaching is all about investing oneself in the lives of children, all of whom are precious and created in the image of God.  Even when they behave in such a way as to have you thinking handcuffs and gaffer tape could be quite useful as preventive discipline tools.

My menus reflect a great lack of energy for cooking at the end of the day, especially while working full time for a few weeks.  I admit, as much as I love being at school, I do kind of miss my day off.  Breathing space, for an introvert, is truly a gift!  Following are the next two weeks' menus.  Given that I've planned and shopped for two weeks, here are two weeks of menu plans:

Monday:  ricotta fritters, vegies
Tuesday: creamy bacon & mushroom pasta
Wednesday:  pork spare ribs, rice, vegies
Thursday:  oven fried chicken, vegies
Friday:  pumpkin & sweet potato soup, turkish bread & butter
Saturday:  lasagna
Sunday:  chicken wonton soup

Monday: roast chicken, vegies
Tuesday: tomato & bacon pasta
Wednesday: quiche, vegies
Thursday:  bacon wrapped chicken, vegies
Friday:  take away
Saturday & Sunday:  not sure yet

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

This is where I'd love to be these days....a familiar classroom that feels like home.  Mr Busy spent a year in this room and I've spent a few more than that.  I feel a little bit homesick for the familiar.

My exam went fine.  I was done in just over an hour and wondered if that was too quick.  But I'd answered all the questions and was only stumped on a couple, totalling 3.5 marks.  We'll see if I interpreted the questions acurately now!  One of my fellow students offered to organise an alternate venue just a 1/2 hour drive from home so I took her up on that.  It was so nice to tootle around down country roads into the edge of the suburbs, rather than battle peak hour traffic into the city.  First thing in the morning. 

I rushed back to school and taught my first full, whole-class lesson straight after that.  It went well.  It was a toughy.  Because fractions-of, decimals and percentages bend the brain a little.  But it went well, the kids mostly got the hang of it and they're well on their way.  The teacher was full of praise, which is always nice to hear....and he's excited about a morning of sitting back tomorrow.  I'm excited about teaching English instead of maths!  Reading to the kids, playing a verb/adverb charade game and getting the kids to do a descriptive writing game is just right up my alley.

But I still miss 'home'.

I've just spent an hour investigating a new-to-me site called Scootle.  It's something Our School has given staff access to if they want it - I'm super impressed.  Wish I'd looked at it well before now.  I know I'm going to have lots of fun using it.  It's all linked in with the new Australian Curriculum and is chock full of really fantastic interactive resources that are levelled according to year levels.  So much fun to be had!!!!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday Menu Plan

There really hasn't been very much more going on around here than was reported on Friday.  Lots of socialising on Saturday, some sleeping and reading yesterday, some studying today in preparation for an exam on Tuesday.  Pretty boring stuff!  Then again, aren't our lives about what we live in the 'ordinary'?

Until Sunday's.  Miss Mischief has to be at church early to prepare for her Kids Church group for 3 weeks out of 4.  I take a book and read.....or as is the case yesterday, I chat to whomever it is that happens by.  Yesterday it was two different pastors who asked how we're travelling....are we's been six months - how are things going?  The whole way through this enormous change there have been various leaders who have checked in with us to make sure we're doing OK.  And they genuinely want to know.  Yesterday one of those pastors provided me with feedback on how Miss Mischief is going with her little group.  Apparently she's going really, really well.  What can I say - Miss Mischief fed the girls smarties on her second week and now the girls love her.  Her girls can't believe that Miss Mischief has a bed time and isn't allowed to watch some of the same shows as her 10yo counterparts.  They share a lot in common - and Miss Mischief shares her faith.

And people wonder why I say that I have amazing teenagers.

My other amazing teenager cooked dinner the other night while I was lesson planning.  And she cared for the needs of her late-arriving father and uncle when I just didn't have the ability to cope with any more that day.  I love the way Miss Sunshine can just step into the gap when she needs to.

The rest of the week will follow our fairly 'ordinary' life of school, work, church activity and meals. Here are the meals:

Monday:  roast lamb, vegies
Tuesday: pasta bolognaise
Wednesday: minestrone, bread & butter
Thursday: honey soy chicken, rice, vegies
Friday: tuna & rice
Saturday:  osso bucco, mashed sweet poato
Sunday: pumpkin & sweet potato soup, bread & butter

I've been enjoying the switch from pasta & rice to quinoa.  Even Dh agreed it was a rather inoffensive approach to grain consumption when he encountered it in his lunch one day. 

Oh, my breaky the other morning in a town just 15 minutes from mine was delicious.  Bruschetta on rye sourdough.  Basil pesto spread on the toast with sliced tomato, finely diced red onion and parmesan cheese.  I really wanted to finish it, but two slices of that bread was more than I could get through.  I think I need to investigate pesto when I head off the grocery shop sometime today.

Meanwhile....breakfast and study are calling me....

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday Catch Up

My first week of placement has been delightful.  Lots of observing - lots of just helping any of the kids who need it.  On Thursday there were 12 kids at school due to a teacher's strike.  We had such a cruisy day.  It began with netball - we all had to play in order to have full teams and we had a great time.  We then set the kids to various ongoing projects and writing tasks that they had ticking away so it really just supervising more than teaching.  And today we all headed off to a sports day with other local primary schools.  In the rain and the cold.  Melbourne at its most miserable winter's best!!!

I'm still trying to come to terms with electronic rolls.  When the computer runs out of battery life or the program times out on you it's a bit frustrating!  Give me a piece of paper any day.  As if I needed to prove I'm no spring chicken, paper is my preference.  Next week I'll be teaching at least once every day, and the week after that the same, within which I will be planning a sequence of lessons for one learning area.  Probably maths or literacy.  I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime I've an exam on Tuesday morning so I need to get studying.  I'm getting cranky and frustrated with the whole thing.  We've been told to revise everything from week 2-12.  Some of the readings are hundreds of pages long....and today we were told if that's too much just reread the lecture notes.  ARGH!!!  As if an exam proves my ability to implement what I've learnt anyway.  All this exam seeks to achieve is to find out how much I can fit in my head and regurgitate on demand.  I don't know about you, but there's not much room for extra stuff in my head.  The important stuff is always falling out unexpectedly.

OK...getting off my soapbox now.  Looking forward to breaky with my dear friend, Rel, tomorrow and the rest of the day putting together another friend's kitchen.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Personal Commandment?

In the depths of winter it seems hard to imagine that northern hemiphere folk are gearing up for a long.....long summer holiday.  Us?  We're meandering through fog and battening down against flooding rains and strong winds, finding candles and making sure there is a lighter that works.  In preparing for the upcoming summer Frances talked today about personal commandments and it got me to thinking.  What would I say are mine?  There are the two I came up with:
  1. Sugar is always evil - even a little bit.
  2. Laugh more often.
And now I feel like I need to explain these a bit!

Sugar has proven itself to be very unfriendly.  I had a small amount of dessert on Friday night and Saturday night due to social occasions.  I barely slept those two nights and dealt with the physical side-effects as well.  Even a little bit of dessert is not something that ends up being enjoyable.  I'm good with fresh and dried fruit and one mouthful of something sweet....otherwise it's best to say 'no'.  How very sad :(

I need to laugh more often.  Laughter diffuses all sorts of ugliness and nonsense.  Of course you shouldn't laugh when people are enduring awful circumstances.  But my teens are generally not found in that category.  Imagine how many silly tense situations could be alleviated by a little laughter.  You when your 12yo son decides he's going to have a leg drop off due to a spill at school.  Is it worth getting cranky because he 'needs' a bandage to prevent the ridiculous limp he puts on?  No!  It's better to laugh (privately, perhaps) at his antics and just put the bandage on.  It's called sanity preservation.  Incidentally, I do a mean figure-8 bandaging effort on a straight limb.  I could get a job doing that!  I've also been caught laughing at the kids lately...and getting into trouble because one of the kids not being laughed at notices and points it out to the laughter victim.  You know what?  The laughter victim often realises how silly they are being in the process.

What are your current personal commandments?  Do share!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Monday Menu Plan

I mentioned Kate's series on living frugally.  This is my enduring frugal practice - menu planning.  I plan and then make a shopping list before going shopping.  I rarely add anything extra to my shopping trolley, and these practices have meant that my food bill never gets near the $200/week mark.  Something many families struggle to achieve from what I hear around the place.

Of course, this week things are going to be a little challenging.  I normally shop on Tuesday, on my day off.  I'll not enjoy the luxury of mid-week days at home for a bit so it might have to get done on my way home.  Sometime.  Soon!  My menu is centred on little effort, tasty food that the girls are able to organise.  Not that I'll necessarily need them to cook, but it's entirely possible.  I don't know what this school's afternoon meetings are like and I certainly won't have my kids with me as I normally would.  So here's what's planned:

Monday:  Tomato and onion pasta
Tuesday: Honey mustard chicken fillets, vegies
Wednesday: Pork spare ribs, rice, vegies
Thursday: Captain crunch chicken, vegies
Friday: Chinese mince, beans & noodles
Saturday: Dinner out
Sunday: Roast lamb, vegies


My first day of rounds went smoothly.  The kids are lovely and the teacher was very welcoming.  After a day or two I'll get into things more....although on Thursday teachers in the Union will be striking.  So for this school, that is all the teachers except the one I'm working with because he's not in a Union.  Which means I will be at school and don't need to make up the day later.  I am so grateful!  It's an interesting situation really.  My school is not terribly 'political'.  I imagine this is because we're self-governed and have less to do with the government than schools run by the State.  It'll be a quiet day on Thursday!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Frugality, Anticipation and Other Musings

My long-time blogging friend Kate is posting every day in June, sharing her tips for living frugally.  It's a joy, for me, to hear from her again after a long hiatus.  Make sure you pop over and see what she's sharing - so far I've been nodding my head saying "yes, been there, experienced that...." and cheering her on.  She's a wise lady. 

My own desire to live frugally, these days, is probably more centred around not wanting to be wasteful and to be a good steward of the resources we are blessed with.  It's a constant challenge and tension when you have a family and someone always needs something.

What's your motivation for living ... resourcefully?

I feel like I am poised to dive head-first into the unknown!  Tomorrow I begin a 3 week block of teaching rounds at a school my children attended eight years ago.  I'm looking forward to it but as you can imagine there are bundles of nerves to contend with.  Especially at 3am when I have been awoken by the evils of consuming sugar after dinner.  NOT doing that tonight!!!  I truly am excited more than nervous, but there's still that element of the unknown that can't be overcome until I actually get there.  And on top of that one of my little students is nervous about someone else coming to work with him instead of me.  I feel for him.  I feel for the lady who will be with him because he's going to be a challenge.  I reassure myself that God knew this would happen when He prompted me to do my teacher training.

Our senior pastor talked last week about the privilege of raising children and talked about "raising up the next generation".  That's a theme I'm taking along with me throughout the next 3 weeks.


I've been a bit infatuated with baked ricotta for the last couple of weeks.  My chives have finally succumbed to the beginnings of winter and put themselves to bed so I had nothing to flavour my ricotta with.  Last week I just made it without any adornment whatsoever and ended up pouring a little maple syrup over little warm muffin-sized puffs straight from the oven.  Oh. My.  Who needs chives?  My Woolworths has a beautiful fresh ricotta sold in 1kg packages in the fancy-cheese fridge section so guess what is cooling on my bench now?  Yep - a whole kg worth of baked ricotta ready for some weekday lunches.  With maple syrup.