Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Of Baby Birds and Other Outside Joys

We have been watching a mother bird sitting on her nest for quite a few weeks now.  This afternoon when I went to see how she was doing she wasn't there.  What a perfect time to get a photo of what she's been caring for.  Little did I know her chicks have hatched - we have baby birds! How exciting.  I hope the new Mummy finds plenty for her chicks to eat around here.  Heaven knows the bunny that visits has been happily munching his way through our grass!

Around the few days on either side of Christmas Day I decided it was time to get my herb garden back in shape.  If you look very carefully you can see rosemary at the back there and the purple flowers of the chives.  The rest, embarrassingly, is weed.  Nice, healthy, choking weeds.

Herb Garden - Before
Because I am such a weakling and a wuss it took me three goes to get through the weeding.  I started and after half an hour or so I just couldn't do anymore.  I'm not so sure that's just cos I'm tired either.  In any case, I finally got to the end and I can see my herbs again.

Herb Garden - After

We still have some work to do.  The soil is quite tough just under the surface so my heroic (and very strong) hubby will need to help me pitchfork it over. I'm simply not strong enough.  Then I want to add some compost before buying some herbs and mulching the whole thing.  I've always wanted: thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, parsley.  Perhaps even some basil, though that's never been terribly successful.  

I have to say, it's completely satisfying to have the time to wander outside a bit.  To enjoy watching a mummy bird and getting that garden bed in order.  I've even sprayed the lemon tree, which is looking a little worse for wear.  Perhaps next spring I will even have the mental capability to consider a vegie garden, given my teaching degree will be on the verge of completion!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Recipe: Ice-Cream Winner

Unfortunately the photo above is all that is left of last night's chocolate ice-cream.  I've mentioned this recipe before and it has become a very firm favourite in our household.  The recipe comes from Nigellissima, and of course I've tweaked it a little.  Firstly because I don't keep the liqueur she uses and secondly because our sweetened condensed milk comes in tins that are double the weight stipulated in the recipe.  The original recipe for 'no churn coffee ice-cream can be found here.  I've tried a couple of different variations to the basic idea of this recipe - they are below for your summer enjoyment.

Chocolate Ice-Cream

1x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
1x 600ml container thickened cream
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (or more if you want it stronger)

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and whip until the consistency of whipped cream.  
Pour into an airtight container and freeze for at least six hours.
I find my freezer makes this pretty hard so we put it in the fridge about half an hour before I want to serve it and it scoops out perfectly.

Caramel Ice-Cream

1x 395g tin 'top 'n fill' sweetened condensed milk
1x 600ml container thickened cream

Method as above.


This recipe is incredibly easy and quick to make.  I did this first thing Sunday morning for guests that evening whilst sipping my morning cup of tea, given the mixer truly does all the work it was absolutely no burden and took no more than five minutes.  I think you'll find it difficult to go back to commercial ice-cream after trying this.  I'm wondering how it would go with lemon zest and a little lemon juice rather than the cocoa.  When my lemons start to ripen I'll let you know!

Book Review: A Marriage in Middlebury

My review for A Marriage in Middlebury has been posted here over at Relz Reviewz.  I loved Anita Higman's style and her characters were so engaging.  If you're after a book that explores deep themes ensconced in a lighthearted wrapper this is just the thing.  Pop over and read the rest of the review.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Anticipation

We are in the calm before the storm here at our place; waiting with delicious anticipation for Christmas morning...the girls are counting down the hours.  Our extended family gatherings have been and gone and Christmas day is, for us, a quiet affair with just the five of us at home for the day.  Having been in and out of the kitchen for things like Festive Dip and Granny's Pavlova we are all now looking forward to our Christmas lunch - the makes of which are overflowing from the fridge!

~ Christmas Lunch Menu ~

Main Meal
Baked Glazed Ham
Roast Cherry-stuffed Pork
Roast Potatoes
Asian Salad
Corn Salad

Sticky Date Pudding
Caramel Ice Cream

Our recipes are a collection of favourites sourced from family members and food heroes like Nigella Lawson and Maggie Beer.  Each member of our family has made the requests that make up our menu after my question about what food makes them think of Christmas.  I think really, some of these things are more likely firm favourites and therefore a special meal could not be had without them.  These salads are, after all, not exactly traditional.  Even in a summery Australian Christmas.  And none of us are thrilled with turkey so that has never been part of our meal.

What food makes you think of Christmas?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Stopped in my tracks

This morning as I was having breakfast I did a normally-benign kind of thing: I was reading the paper.  Well, you know, in a very modern kind of way via my iPad.  There I found an article listed on the front page of 'The Age' app about an Aussie couple living in a Bangkok slum.  As it turns out I knew this couple in the early 90's when we both worked for the same organisation.

The article (video and link to article can be found here), written by Tim Elliot, is authentic and compassionate, and accurately represents the character and intention of Ash and Anji.  As a Christian living in a Western culture, though, I found the article challenging and confronting in the face of the overt consumerism especially so close to Christmas.  What inspired me, however, was that Ash and Anji are enabling people around them to use their gifts and skills to support themselves and rise above their otherwise dire circumstances.  They actively work to promote hope.

Whilst I am not rushing off to live in a slum, or in fact move anywhere, there is much one can do to contribute to building hopefulness and showing people a picture of who God is.  Yesterday my girls and I cooked to provide meals that our church's pastoral care team can give out to those who have need of them.  In the final weeks of the term our school collected festive non-perishable food items and donated them to a local church who puts together food hampers for those struggling at Christmas time.  We can choose not to be so concerned about material 'things' and the gathering of them....even when the world about us insists we need their product to have a better life.

I'm still pondering the 'Heart of the Slum' article...and my pondering leads me to ask lots of questions.  Does my faith drive me to live differently?  Is life in a 'first world' country really that much better?  Do we really need all our stuff?  How does what I do in my normal life give others an image of God?

Lots to think about.  Read the article...be challenged and maybe transformed!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Summer meals on quiet summer days

Mr Busy undertakes the manly task of barbecuing

Another quiet day has passed here.  One can hardly be blamed, as it was 39C in the city today.  However, after a very industrious day of dusting, vacuuming and mopping yesterday I had intended to dust and vacuum carpeted rooms today.  Instead, I napped in the morning.  Miss Sunshine, I believe, turned the cooling on before the house got too warm.  In the afternoon I had another nap.  Really...this is beginning to be very unproductive!  Tomorrow!  I will get there tomorrow!!!

In our house when the mercury sores we BBQ.  I was once informed by a male friend that females are not permitted to cook a BBQ.  Now this presents a problem when the man of the house is still at work when everyone else is ready for dinner and we don't want to heat up the house to cook.  We have solved that problem in the form of Mr Busy.  Having been well-instructed by his Dad he took up the mantle of man-of-the-house-BBQ'er in fine form.

Miss Sunshine made a salad to go with our sausages and potatoes and we dined in fine style, although sausages are not my idea of 'style'.  They were simple a means to Miss Mischief getting her desired cold sausage sandwiches for lunch tomorrow!

Monday, 16 December 2013

The week before Christmas....

 Our Christmas Tree - we love our new baubles

Our first official day of school holidays passed quietly and slowly.  The bulk of our Christmas shopping was done over the weekend, with plans for the final purchases to be made tomorrow.  Our Christmas menus have been assembled in consultation with everyone in the family.  Presents are wrapped and under the tree. 

I am quietly appalled at what I did not achieve today.  Every time I sit down I end up sleeping for a few hours and today was  no different.  My wonderful children are becoming very good at quietly going off to other corners of the house while I lay claim to the family room.  This morning Mr Busy followed my lead and claimed the other couch for a long morning nap.

This afternoon I was completely enthralled by the discovery of a birds nest in our apple trees.  When I looked closely a little mother bird was sitting there quietly.  I guess she was sitting on eggs because she didn't budge even a feather until Miss Sunshine got too close in her efforts to take a photo.  At that point I directed my over-zealous kids away so that mummy bird could tend her nest in peace.

Tomorrow I need to begin on my cleaning list.  Before I succumb to a nap.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Book Review: When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

My first review for the summer has been posted here at Relz Reviewz.  Surely the single-most exciting way to kick off a summer of reading.  My goal is to read more than 20 books.  I'm on my way!

Click on the link to read my review.  I adored this book and will be eagerly looking for more of Billy Coffey's works.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Parenting Files: "I am doing a great work and cannot come down".

I've been thinking a lot lately about seasons.  Not so much about the weather but about life.  I like how our Senior Pastor's wife put it in a recent sermon on seasons:  what occurs in the natural occurs in the spiritual.  I mentioned the other day that I had been feeling a bit put out that my planned season of rest has been somewhat usurped by children's needs.  I was reminded of the aforementioned sermon as I have tried to get my head around all that is going on, and the busyness that is the end of the school year and preparing for Christmas.  In this sermon we were given five principles regarding seasons that I have found helpful.  The sermon was a part of a series on marriage, but I am finding these principles helpful in all areas of my life at the moment and perhaps you might them helpful too:
  1. Every season has a purpose.
    There is no such thing as a wasted season - even the dry ones have purpose.  Expect to have hope rekindled.
  2. Recognise the season you are in.
    Don't over-spiritualise (Satan is out to get me) or under-spiritualise (oh, that's just what's happening right now) your season.  You will either see things that aren't there or miss what's really happening.  Be aware of what God is doing.
  3. Respond appropriately.
    An incorrect response to a season can be disastrous - think David and Bathsheba.  That event occurred at a time when David had stayed back in Jerusalem during a season when he should have been off at war. (2 Sam 11:1)  Don't try to rush ahead of the season or hang on to one for longer than it is meant to be.
  4. Persevere and push through.
    Sometimes we just have to grit our teeth and push through a season.  (Gal 6:9)
  5. Find your 'great work' and do not be undermined.
    Like Nehemiah, do not allow others to undermine or distract you from the work God has given you to do.  I love the words of Nehemiah, when people tried to undermine his work rebuilding the city walls, that were given here "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down" (Neh 6:3).
Each of those principles is as valuable as gold to me.  But that last one "I am doing a great work and cannot come down" just reminds me to be content in my season, to learn all that God has to teach me, to commit myself to the work He has given me to do in this season and not to be distracted, and to know that my current season has a purpose.  Every time I try to step out of the season I'm in with a new activity my life starts to unravel until I say to myself "I am doing a great work and cannot come down" and return to where I am meant to be.

Right now my season is to prepare for the next season in my work.  Within that, this is my season to care for my children's needs and rest up for the final pushing through of my season of preparation.  I am feeling impatient in so many ways, but I am equally aware that it is important to learn all I can while I'm in this season.

What is your season?  What is your 'great work'?