Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Productivity Breeds Contentment

Lemons from my tree

If you've read here for a little while you might remember me mentioning my prosperous lemon tree.  Yesterday it was citrus tree day here at the Picket Fence.  We trimmed some suckers off the base of the trunk of my kumquat tree.  That poor thing hasn't fruited for a couple of years now.  I've time for marmalade making so I'm hoping all the little flowers will now have the energy to produce fruit.

Dh then went for the lemon tree.  He's a very heavy pruner and has gotten himself into miles of trouble of the years for being a little to enthusiastic.  Like the time he pruned the kumquat tree when it was flowering.  The children wisely warned him but he went ahead with his heavy-handed ways, and the poor man hasn't lived it down yet.  In any case, the lemon tree has been dragging its branches all winter and autumn with the weight of fruit so Dh thought a little trim might help it.  He brought me a bucket of fruit he'd gathered from the trimmed branches last night.  This afternoon I finally braved a look at the tree.  Even at half the height there is still a mountain of fruit out there.  The tree doesn't look too nude either.  Relief for us all!

What to do with a bucket of lemons?

"Maggie's Harvest" comes to the rescue
I'll take some to the friends will be New Year's Eve'ing with tonight.  The rest I might just preserve.  Maggie Beer's "Maggie's Harvest" book is the place to go for such a recipe.  I'll need some nice large preserving jars, which I think I can get up the street here in Our Town, and some salt.  That's it.  Easy peasy.  

Since tonight has been designated a dessert night, by our NYE hosts, I made a lemon polenta cake (thank you, Nigella) to take with us...more lemon usage.  Miss Sunshine was a bit stroppy because the cake has almonds and she can't eat nuts.  But there'll be other desserts to be enjoyed and one cannot live completely nut free if it isn't necessary.

As well as dealing with the lemon bounty I also needed to use some leftover pork today before it was headed for the bin.  I'm in the process of making Asian pork buns, which will reside in the freezer to be reheated as desired.  The dough requires a three-hour rise.  I'm sure that's a little over the top, but who am I to argue?  I've made a cake and now get to sit with my recipe books and computer while my foot has a rest (plantar faciitis, I think).
With lemon curd, onion chutney, fruit mince and pork buns stashed away and preserved lemons on the horizon I'm feeling quite content.  And the children are keeping up with my dishes.  Because that is why we have clean up after us.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Post Christmas Entertaining and Cleansing

It seems that, with Christmas, additional entertaining tends to be the way things go.  For us it comes in the form of family members who travel down from interstate.  In our desperation to eke out a extra little time with people we love and rarely get to see, we invite them over for an impromptu meal with very little notice.

Enter Nigella.

I knew that with only a couple of hours to shop and cook Nigella would have some kind of answer for me.  Actually, it was Miss Sunshine who suggested fajitas, and I knew Nigella had a great recipe.  So we sat down to a meal which, apart from the colour of the dishes, looked exactly like the one pictured above.  Simple, easy and not too time-consuming.  Two children hate capsicum.  Three children love it.  One child didn't care.  There was some picking out and some gobbling up, in equal measure, on that score.

For dessert we had watermelon and nectarine slices.


Today I decided it was time to find out what lies beyond my kitchen window.  Four years of build up meant a dusty, somewhat moldy view.  This morning I took out the fly screen and hosed it down, and then cleaned the windows.  Wow - there are really pretty trees, and rosemary, and chives out there.  And now I can see it all very clearly.

I could be persuaded to do a little window cleaning here and there and find out what lies beyond all the other windows too.  It might take some time.  Between reading.  And sleeping.


Do you get to the end of all your Christmas celebrations and find yourself unable to digest a single morsel more?  I didn't quite get to that this year, but a day at my parents saw me nibble my way through more sugar than I eat in a month. pavlova, my Mum's apple pie and a mango twist on a tiramisu...what's a girl to do?  And sugar coated peanuts embody my childhood and I simply cannot leave them in the bowl.  It wouldn't be right.  And homemade shortbread.  You can see how the day went.  

I'm finding it very easy to nibble on small tidbits rather than sit down to a full meal.  Unfortunately the boys in the house don't quite agree.  I'm sitting here trying to figure out a menu plan so I can go grocery shopping (in the Aldi store that opened in Our Town just before Christmas.  Hallelujah and Praise the Lord!).  You know what?  I can't think of a single thing I feel like eating.  Because I don't feel like eating at all.  And then my tummy rumbles and I know something has to keep it quiet.  But what?

It will be 37C and 39C (around the 100F mark) on Friday and Saturday so I image something cold will need to happen.  Who wants to cook on days like that?!

What do you eat after Christmas when your tummy is tired of digesting food?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

From our home to yours, 
Merry Christmas! 

This year has been declared "The Year of the DVD" in our house.  What can I say - we love watching movies together and this was, apparently, the perfect time to endow one another with movies we've been wanting.  Since I'm the kitchen gal, I finally have in my possession a cast iron recipe book stand.  No more splashes on recipe book pages for me!  I needed that yesterday and this morning before we exchanged gifts.  I have been making caramelised red onion chutney, lemon curd and fruit mince yesterday and today.  The chutney was part of our gift to my brother and his wife.  I had some on my hamburger last night.  YUM.  The lemon curd has been used in the trifle.  The fruit mince will go into pies for Sunday with my family. 

Picket Fence Christmas Menu

Glazed Ham
Roast Pork (with crackling - the best bit)
Cranberry Sauce & Apple Sauce (for the pork)
Hasselback Potatoes
Roast Carrots
Caesar-style Salad

Lemon & Raspberry Trifle
Christmas Pudding & Custard


I hope your celebrations 
are full of precious, beautiful 
moments with people you love.  
More importantly, my prayer 
is that you will be reminded 
of the incredibly priceless gift God 
gave us through the birth of his son. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Over the four years of my degree my children made it very clear that we should travel to Tasmania for me to graduate in person, rather than in absentia.  In fact, they declared that we had all earned a little graduation trip.  Indeed they were correct.  It is only with the support of my incredible family that I have had the freedom to pursue a degree and I think we all more than earned a little holiday to go with graduating interstate.

My University is located in Tasmania - they do an excellent job of distance education and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time studying with them.  We spent the first half of our trip in Launceston,  beginning with my graduation.  The ceremony was an incredibly uplifting and inspiring occasion.  I was particularly moved by the occasional address presented by a lecturer from my faculty.  She reminded us that we should not settle for our students to be limited by our perception of them.  Rather we should aim to inspire them to be the very best they can be.  She articulated all I believe about this with beautiful eloquence.

I also learned what the Latin on the University's logo means:  "the field is open to talent".  I liked that.  It tells me I should dream big.  I should aim high.  And I should step fully into the field I have chosen and the best educator I can possibly be.

And then we spent a few days just being tourists.  I'll post more about that soon.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

More from Miss Sunshine

Miss Sunshine posted her sketches on her Facebook page (something she signed up for when told she should move out rather than get a pet.  Apparently Facebook is a sufficient alternative to having a pet) and got lots of family love.  Amongst the "Oh, you get that from our side of the family", as if my genetics are meaningless, there were requests and challenges issued.  Frosty was a request.  The oldest cousin in that family was issued a challenge when he suggested her efforts were below par.  His offering was "sad and pitiful" and Miss Sunshine remains the queen of the sketch.

As for the genetics, my mother is quite skilled with sketching.  Dh's family may have some artistic skill, but Miss Sunshine and my Mum surpass them all.

This one is my personal favourite, because Hugh Jackman.  I've never watched Wolverine or X-Men, but still. 

Our school receptionist suggested we should frame and sell Miss Sunshine's works.  When she asked why, we responded "because money!"  Miss Sunshine hadn't thought of that!  I think she should sketch a picture of our Principal.  They have a little morning routine that has been lost with her departure from school.  I think he misses her cheery "Hi Mr R---" every day.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Miss Sunshine is bored....

Miss Sunshine's sketch of Bilbo Baggins

I've not had much to say lately so I thought I'd share some of Miss Sunshine's sketches.  This is the product of her I've-just-finished-school boredom. 

Miss Sunshine's sketch of Jack Sparrow

They say pictures tell a thousand words and I have none of my own to share.  Miss Sunshine is a freak of nature when it comes to sketching though, so I thought I'd share these instead. I really want her to email me a picture of today's sketch of Hugh Jackman.  Because if I wasn't married to my husband I might be all about the gorgeous Hugh.  When she sends it and Frosty I'll post those too.

In the meantime I've resigned from work and will officially be unemployed in January.  There are just no words.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Out of the Cocoon

I feel a bit like a caterpillar who has been in a cocoon for a few weeks and have finally emerged!

I realised, this morning, that I've been in blogging hibernation for quite a long time.  Not for any difficulty going on.  Quite the opposite.  My days have been completely filled in good and beautiful ways.

Teaching rounds.

Five weeks of working full time.
Five weeks of getting to know, and operating in, a new environment.
Three of those weeks, teaching full time.
Lots of planning (that's an understatement, by the way).
Lots of late nights searching the interwebs for activities and ideas (how did people teach without the internet anyway?).

I have had a complete and utter blast.  As well as the class I was invited to teach in, I got to teach across the senior primary classes with a streamed maths program and a three-week rotating program on Friday mornings.  All of the kids were completely delightful.  Of course every class has their 'characters' and those that find classrooms difficult when they'd rather be outside doing stuff.  But those kids seem to be the ones who endear themselves the most!  I've learnt a lot about managing a class when they hit the mid-term, end-of-year feral week.  We overcame that challenge and the kids went back to being their amazingly wonderful selves again.  It was a bit like someone took over their bodies for a day or two.  Yesterday one of the girls said "oh yeah, we were just helping you learn".  We all laughed, and I thanked her for caring enough about me to want me to learn everything I could.

The staff were incredibly affirming and encouraging.  Such a beautiful working environment!

There is always the bittersweet return to normal life that comes next.  I can't wait to see my school babies.  I can't wait to catch up with my colleagues.  I can't for life to get back to normal.  But it means I don't get to be the teacher.

In this past week I have had all my final grades released.  I have passed everything.

I am now a teacher.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Book Review: Veiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay

Author’s Synopsis: 

As the British Empire comes to an end, millions flee to the roads. Caught up in the turbulent wake is Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah.

Cam has never been able to put Dassah from his mind, ever since the days when he played with the orphans at the mission as a boy. But a British officer and the aide to the last viceroy cannot marry a poor Indian woman, can he?  As this becomes clear to Dassah, she has no option but to run. Cam may hold her heart—but she cannot let him break it again.

Miriam rails against the separation of the land of her birth, but is Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sunderland her soul mate or a distraction from what God has called her to do?

The 1947 Partition has separated the country these three love…but can they find their true homes before it separates them forever?

What I thought:

Christine Lindsay brings her “Twilight of the British Raj” series to its gratifying conclusion with a flourish, in “Veiled at Midnight”.  This final instalment continues the now grown Cam Fraser’s story and brings to a climax the final separation of India from British rule.  Told in Christine Lindsay’s gentle, yet captivating style “Veiled at Midnight” is the perfect ending for this truly magnificent series.

Having been introduced to Cam when he was an infant, in Lindsay’s first “British Raj” book, it took me a few moments to realise that I was now being privileged with being reacquainted with Cam as an adult.  It is rare, as a reader, that we are given the opportunity to follow our book friends across the seasons of their life and so I was delighted to follow this part of Cam’s story.  Cam is an endearing character whose struggles challenged my mother-heart.  I watched him wrestle with the desire to follow his heart with truth and integrity in relationship with his childhood friend, Hadassah, yet be influenced by the thoughts and actions of others.  Lindsay dips into the topic of generational sin and influence and the hard work required to overcome and become free of both.  I liked that this thread of the story was written with a realistic authenticity.  Lindsay clearly shows that changing the impact of previous generations takes commitment and hard work, but that it is possible to be free of these wounds in our lives.

As Cam deals with his alcoholism, Dassah struggles with her feelings about Cam and wanting to protect herself from the effects of Indian and British separation on her relationship with him.  Again, Tikah becomes an insidious influence as she sets out to undermine members of the Fraser family.  Meanwhile, Cam’s sister Miriam is facing challenges of her own, trying to discern the right direction for her future.  Should she stay in India?  Should she pursue a relationship with the charming Jack?  I’ll not spoil the story by revealing the outcome here.  Suffice it to say the outcome of all these threads was entirely satisfying and true to the characters themselves.

I will miss these characters immensely, yet I will take with me a number of truths from their stories.  They remind me that even when all seems lost or uncertain God has a plan for each of his children.  Cam and Dassah’s story reminds me that we should hold true to that which is right in God’s eyes, even when the world around us tells us a different story.  God’s way is always the better story to live out.

With thanks to Christine Lindsay for my review copy.  
It has been my absolute privilege to be invited, by Christine, to review her books.  My review is my own opinion, for which I have received no financial incentive, nor been coerced in any way.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Planning, Planning....more Planning

The last few weeks have zipped by.  I'm sure I blinked too many times because I didn't notice.  Since I last posted Miss Sunshine has had her last day of school.  A fantastic affair with a "Disney Classics" theme.  She was dressed up as Mini Mouse with a cute not-too-expensive outfit we found online.  Our School has a beautiful tradition of the Year 12 class setting up all kinds of things in the day's theme for the rest of the school to enjoy.  We had a Cave of Wonders, Sleeping Beauty's bedroom, Cinderella's carriage and Beauty and Beast's ... well I don't know, but we got to see the tea set and enter the Beast's cave.  Children and staff dressed up in their allocated characters and the Year 12's escorted the younger classes through the different areas.  After a whole-school assembly, a lunch with parents and staff and a whole-school guard of honour to say farewell I had cried a bucket of tears.  And I forgot to bring tissues, because I'm really dumb with that kind of stuff.

Since then it feels like I have been planning my little heart out.  I've had two weeks (and a bit) of my final teaching rounds and so far all is going very well.  The kids are delightful and my colleague teacher is fantastic to work with.  So far my feedback has been wonderfully affirming and I am remembering how much I just love teaching.  It will be so hard to go back to being an aide after yet another taste of being the Queen Bee! 

But the planning.  Oh my word it is slow to begin with.  It's far more enjoyable than writing assignments and listening to useful and helpful as those were.  I can sit in front of the TV with my computer now and surf my way to some wonderful things.  It just takes time. It's a long weekend here in Melbourne and I have spent more than a work day just planning.  I can't wait until I just know in my head what to do, and can just do it on the fly.  Right now I'm thinking carefully about my questions, and setting up meaningful, engaging activities and finding little YouTube clips to support my teaching, because that's the world we live in right now.  Last Friday I taught a lesson on volcanoes, and got to blow up a bottle of coke.  And show a little video of the Mt St Helens eruption.  So much fun in two hours!  None of these precious people, or their teacher, was alive when Mt St Helens blew.  I, however, remember it with great clarity.  It was spectacular!  And my students now know that too, all these years later, thanks to YouTube.

Planning may be time consuming, but I love it.  I'm one of those geeky teachers that just loves the planning process....and then seeing it come to life.  Best fun ever.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Under the Carpet....or Sheet

Recently we enjoyed the lovely surprise of a family member driving from Queensland to Melbourne (a very long way!!) to have some time with extended family.  One thing Dh's family does well is rally to get together at the last minute.  I was the lucky one to get the call:

Dh:  How do you feel if I tell Dad we can have dinner at our place on Wednesday night.
Me:  Um, errr, wha..., hah, wh..., how.... I need some time to process before I can answer.
Dh:  Do we have something else on?
Me:  Ummm, assignments.  You're asking me to stop working and clean the house and organise dinner.  I can't do it all....because, assignments.
Dh:  I was just gonna.....

And here the plot needed some sorting out and everyone ended up contributing to what ended up being a beautiful meal.  Miss Sunshine made dessert and I made my popular Asian Salad.  I would have loved to have done it all....but ... assignments!

In the midst of the kids being assigned jobs (remember my GREAT blessing list - still works a treat!) I discovered something very, very funny.  Rather than actually tidy things up and put them away (a very strange concept, apparently, I discovered this:
This chair houses a chopping board a kid made, the sandwich toaster, calendar and an assortment of other odds and ends I never know where to put.  Whoever decided on this solution clearly couldn't figure out where to put things either.  However, with the arrival of a horde of people being imminent it was time to figure it out.  And we did. 

The chair has since reclaimed its previous partners in crime.  But for a day or two it was clear.

And people sat on it. 

It was a beautiful sight.

Got any funny creative stories to solving your little hot spots?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


It is finished. 

Four long years and about eleventy million assignments later and I have just submitted my very last ever assignment.  Actually it's more like about 63 assignments but it feels like millions.

I still need to get results back and commence five weeks of teaching rounds (I begin this Friday), but I don't expect any road bumps at this point. 

I kind of don't know how to feel now.  Empty?  Elated?  Excited?  Relieved?  Lost?  Maybe a little of all of those things.  This study thing has consumed almost my entire life for four whole years so it will take some time to remember what "normal" people do with themselves when they can just come home from work and do....nothing.  Oh, wait.  That's when people do housework and spend time with their families.  I think I remember something about that!

Miss Sunshine had a major "Done" moment last week as well, when she submitted her Studio Arts finals and journal.  What an incredible amount of work has gone into those amazing pieces, and the journaling.  And that focus statement.  Four thousand words.  The girl is amazing.

I'm off to do....I don't know what.  Work.  Read.  I guess I'll figure it out.  I might even get back to being inspired to cook again.


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Happy Birthday Miss Mischief!

Miss Mischief turned 17 yesterday.  Seventeen.  That just cannot be right.  I'm sure she was a babe in my arms just five minutes ago.  She took some of her friends out for Yum Cha on Thursday to celebrate and today she's going to see a movie with a friend, as her birthday gift.

We have this tradition in our home where the birthday child gets to choose what we do for dinner.  I will cook whatever they want, or they can choose to go out.  Since she went out Thursday Miss Mischief chose a home-cooked meal for us last night.  This girl really knows how to put a menu together.  So glad she is dropping Maths and taking up Food Technology via distance education next year.  I have told her and the one other girl taking the course that they have to do all the practical folio work at our house. 

~ Miss Mischief's Birthday Menu ~

Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Hassle Back Potatoes
Pavlova with strawberries

Oh my goodness, the meal was absolutely delicious.  The pavlova, of course, was homemade from my Granny's handwritten recipe.  Miss Mischief wanted Asian salad with the main course, which I didn't feel went with the meat and potatoes, so I offered to make something with avocado instead.  And as I gush about our meal, I realise I have never posted a recipe for my version of a Caesar salad, upon which the salad we had last night was based.  You will surely die if you never get to have this salad!

~ Tracy's Caesar-style Salad ~

Salad leaves (see notes)
1 spring onion, finely sliced
4 rashers bacon, diced and fried (see notes)
semi-dried tomatoes (in oil, not vinegar), cut in half
1 avocado, diced
a handful of croutons
Your favourite Caesar dressing (see notes)

 Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently.

  • Normally I use a cos lettuce for this salad, but last night I had a bag of designer leaves and julienned carrots, so that's what I used.  Any lettuce you like will work, but maybe not iceberg.
  • I used 5 rashers of bacon last night, but I NEED to tell you - they were American-style streaky rashers and I think they were on the short side of normal length.  If you're using regular Aussie middle bacon rashers one to two is plenty.
  • I like a light, thin Caesar dressing and once upon a yesteryear Weight Watchers did a beautiful one that has long since been withdrawn from the market.  Last night I used Nigella's Golden Honey Mustard Dressing, with olive oil, and it was perfectly amazing.
Happy Birthday Miss Mischief.  Thanks for planning a beautiful meal and for just being so amazingly wonderful.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Leibster Award!

Yesterday I received a comment from Danica at Danica's Thoughts blog to let me know she had bestowed upon me a Leibster Award.  Somewhere along the line Danica has found my little corner of the blogosphere  and decided it worthy of recognition, despite a small following of less than 200.  Thank you, Danica, for your vote of confidence and support.

When I began my blog I think I intended to write about things domestic...parenting, organising and running a home, menu planning, recipes, maybe some crafty stitching type stuff.  And initially that's what I did.  Then I started working and my children are much older now, and I've been studying for what seems like forever.  Things have changed.  I have changed.  As a result the things I blog about has changed a bit too.  I've often thought perhaps I need to be more deliberate and planned about blogging, and then my life gets in the way, assignments need to be written (which is what I should be doing right now) and children need to be whatever-it-is-they-need in the moment.

Anyway....apparently I need to answer some questions Danica has set for me and I need to pass this award on to 11 other people whose blogs, like mine, are special and have only a small following.  I'm going to need to do the passing on after my assignments are done but I'll answer the questions now...a two-part award response :)

1)  Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
I have pondered this question from time to time, because wow...anyone in the world!  I think in this season of my life it would be Jen Hatmaker.  Jen is hilarious, incredibly real, wise, and asks hard questions about how faith in our culture could and should work.  That's a seasonal response because of my current journey.  Outside of my current season I'm going to say my dear friend Frances.  We have shared so much of our lives through our blogs and she is just the most amazing woman.  She is also an incredibly real person, quiet, thoughtful, wise and she is a writer.  Seriously....a writer!  She's my kind of people! 
2)  Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don't think so.  Big fame comes with people pestering you and commenting on how you live your life and the mistakes you make and everything you do is public domain.  I'm an introvert.  That would be so stressful!  Small fame that comes from doing your ordinary life, which contributes to making the world a better place?  Maybe.  Maybe one day I will be the most amazing teacher and some precious small person will grow up and say "She's the one who changed my life".
3)  Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you're going to say? Why?
Sometimes.  More likely I make a list of the things I need to remember to ask or convey.  If I'm phoning someone I know well I don't.  I don't pick up the phone "just because"...there's always a reason behind the call.
4)  When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sing to myself all the time.  Often in the car.  I don't sing to other people.  Really, you gotta be able to sing and not scare someone off to be willing to do that!
5)  If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I have no quibbles with the way I was raised.  How we, as a whole family, coped with reverse culture shock is a whole other story though.  I would want to get us all some help with that so we could have recovered better and quicker.
6)  If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
I don't know.  The ability not to become frustrated when my family do things that bug me?
7)  Is there something that you've dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
It seems like I've been dreaming about being a teacher for a long time.  Completing the darned degree to get to do that takes about eleventy billion years.  Well, when you're impatient that's how it feels.  Maybe I need patience?
8)  What does friendship mean to you?
Friendship is the glue that keeps me from falling apart.  My most dear and precious friends are the ones to whom I can say anything I need to vent and they will just love me through it, pray me through it and support me with wisdom, care and a advice to see me into a better place.  They're the people who walk the hardest, darkest paths of you life with you, and celebrate the most joyous seasons of life.
9)  When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
This week.  Both.  Assignments will be the death of me!  Miss Mischief was the poor soul who caught the last "in front of another person".
10)  Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
Nope.  Wealth isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently.  So if that's true I'm going to value my sleep.  Good sleep is priceless.
11)  Complete this sentence "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
I can't answer this question.  I have an amazing husband, incredible kids and the most precious friends.  Between them there's nothing I can't share.

Alright, I've procrastined enough.  Two assignments (hopefully for the rest of my life!!) to go and I need to get on with it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Am I the Only One? Of Vegemite, Weet-Bix and Shopping

There are many, many days in my life when I know I am "not like the others."  It began when I was a child, I think.  I hate Vegemite and I detest Weet-Bix.  These are two Aussie breakfast staples.  Vegemite on toast or Weet-Bix with milk and sugar are pretty much what my father and brothers had every single day, between them.  Weet-Bix with warm  milk....gag.  My Dad used to tell me I'm not a very good Aussie kid, because "Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids", you know.  In that ad (click on the link) you even see a man eating Vegemite on toast.  Really, I should have been born in some other country at some other time in history!!

A couple of recent conversations have reminded me I'm not a normal 'girl' either.  Not when it comes to shopping.  I shop like a bloke:  Get in, get the thing you need from the place that sells it, and get out.  These are decisions made well before you even enter a shopping centre of any kind.  When our senior pastor's wife begins a sermon talking about needing an inordinate number of shoes and that one shops for these at whim, my eyes glaze over.  I'm sure it is a form of torture.  Shopping tours, therefore, are the ultimate torture.  A whole day of shopping for things you don't need as a form of entertainment?  Oh just kill me now!  My kids know they get about a two-hour window of opportunity for shopping, first thing in the morning, when we need a whole bunch of stuff.  After that I start murmuring things like "why are we here" and "I can't do this". If we go in the afternoon that window of opportunity significantly decreases.  Like, there is no window in the afternoon. 

Living in a "third world" or "developing" nation as a child has surely contributed to the way I view shopping.  Where we lived you only shop for what you need.  If you can get it.  Chances are what you need isn't available and must be ordered from "down south" (aka Australia) and you had to wait a long time for it to arrive.  This idea of shopping for entertainment was simply not part of my world until I was nearly 15.  By then it was too late.

I have passed some of these things on to my children.  Only one eats Weet-Bix.  Only one eats Vegemite (not the same one).  None of them are inclined to shop for fun unless one of their friends insists this is essential for spending time together.  That's rare.  It takes half an hour to get to this version of entertainment from where we live so it's not all that enticing after all.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

In which I plan to overcome the tyranny of the urgent...

I posted about a week or two ago about how we were limping to the end-of-term finish line.  We made it.  Just.  And now my family are rebelling and my husband is complaining about "take away...again?!".  I need to plan to do better because without obsessive organisation and planning absolutely nothing will improve in the next few weeks.  I have four weeks and three assignments to go and I already know that I go into a kind of assignment lock-down.  I get so engrossed in the most urgent things (assignment due dates) that I could easily forget I even have a family, except they are noisy and demanding when it comes to things like food.  They are just so unreasonable!  Really, who ever said they had to eat every three hours anyway?

I looked in my freezer last night and it is practically empty.  This is a distressing realisation for this bunch of food-motivated people.  So I have a plan.  Well, I'm playing fast and loose with the term 'plan', but from 8.30 this morning we'll have no electricity, so I can actually construct a solid plan and then we'll be good to go.  My plan is to put lots of stuff in the freezer so that over the next four weeks I can pull out good food rather than junk.  It will be my buffer between my time constraints and our need to eat better than we have been.

Today I will sit down and think about what I'll put in there and how I'll go about it.  For example, this week I have a casserole and a lasagna planned so that I can freeze half and voila I'll have two meals all ready to go on a whim.  Maybe I'll even do a whole-month menu plan for the first time in forever and assign the kids to cook meals.  Although with Miss Sunshine entering her final Yr12 exam period and Miss Mischief preparing for Yr11 exams just after that I think it'll be Mr Busy and the freezer stash I want to have there.

Alright....let the planning begin.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Biblical Criticism or The Powerful Word of God?

I've just submitted my fourth (out of seven) assignment for the semester.  It's a rather satisfying feeling to hit that 'submit' button and be done with a piece of work that has challenged the very heart of what I believe about the Bible.

Over the past few weeks, in my Religious Education unit, we have been looking at Biblical criticism.  You may have heard of the words hermeneutics or exegesis.  Essentially it is the scholarly, scientific methods through which scripture is examined, interpreted and understood.  I have come away from these past few weeks feeling like the only way to understand the Bible is to have a theological degree in hermeneutics and ancient languages.  I have felt uptight, tense and ill-at-ease.  Critical methods for interpreting the Bible are helpful - there is no doubt about that.  I have learnt that some of the perceived inconsistencies can actually be explained.  In so many ways I have had "aha" moments about the Bible.

And yet.

There are a ridiculous number of methods for interpreting the Bible.  Methods that are complex and hotly debated amongst scholars; old methods superseded by new methods, each looking at the Bible through its own lens, looking for particular things.  Each method brings something different to the table.  But they are all human endeavours.  All human perspectives on what the Bible says, about what the original author may have intended and about the life context of the first readers.  So I have been cautious and I have had this wariness deep within. 

Tonight I figured it out.  A beautifully expressed quote from R C Sproul in his book Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow (thank you internet!!) eloquently nailed the heart of the problem I had been wrestling with:
"The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction, 
which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable 
in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism 
of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves 
above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed 
the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be 
more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t 
correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him" 
(from Chapter 1, emphasis mine)

Whilst interpretation methods can be really helpful, the Bible is so powerful all on its own.  It is God-breathed (or inspired, depending on your version).  It reveals the character and heart of the God who created us.  It reveals the incredible and perfect love our God us for us.  It convicts us, directs us, instructs us and transforms us.  The Bible is powerful enough to change the very hearts and lives of people without scholarly explanation.

My assignment has been submitted.  My world has been righted.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

While the boys were away: Reentry can be Bumpy

Last week the 'boys' in our house took a little road trip.  Mr Busy could not get his homework done quickly enough, nor pack with enough speed when we suggested he might like to accompany his Dad on a trip to install a coffee machine in some out-of-the-way country town in northern NSW.

This left us 'girls' with three nights at home without the pleasure of our menfolk to entertain us.  The house was quiet.   And calm.  And peaceful.  We all spent some of our time studying.  With a student-free day on Friday, we spent some time catching up on episodes of 'Under the Dome' and 'Extant'.  We enjoyed a shared pan of nachos without feeling like we had to hoard our share, because we just picked away at it til it was gone.  No competition.

And then the boys came home.  In a whirlwind of noise and teasing and general kerfuffle they arrived home at lunch time on Saturday, ravenous and prowling through the kitchen.  I spent the entire afternoon telling Mr Busy "it was quiet while you were gone!"  Indeed, I went and did grocery shopping all the way down in the suburbs to get away let the dust settle a bit!

I know when I've been away for the weekend without my family I find the reentry to family a little bit bumpy.  Coming home drops you back in the deep end of refereeing arguments and fielding requests that begin with "Mum, can you...." or "Mum, can I...." like all those questions have been building up to be blurted out the moment you walk in the door.  After a weekend away it's hard to come back to the full force of that.  But what I discovered on Saturday is that when anyone in the family has been away there is a period of readjusting and resettling that is necessary.  And not always that easy.  My best reentries have happened when the family have been out and I've had an hour in the house on my own to reacquaint myself with my real life.   I suspect that may be have been useful to remember when the boys came home.  Mind you, they had been on a three-day sugar bender, so there was extra fuel behind that reentry noise!

The back seat of the car looked like an archeological dig - layers of rubbish that told a story.

We're back to normal now, and a visit to 'The Dish' as they drove through Parkes netted me a new thimble for my collection; a softening of the reentry whirlwind.  

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Limping to the end....worst end-of-term family on the planet

It's two weeks until the end of the term; three-quarters of our way through the school year and we are limping, people.  Seriously limping.

Last week I didn't make a menu plan.  Bad, bad mistake.  Figuring out what to eat nearly brought me to tears more than once because I have lost my will to cook.  It feels overwhelming and completely overrated and I daily wonder aloud why these people in my home think they need to be fed.  Five. Times. A. Day. We are resorting to freezer meals and take away too often because I have lost my will to cook.  In the words of Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show:  Sad and pitiful!

Mr Busy keeps asking about putting together a Gandalf costume for his Hobbit Party next week and I just can't make my brain work enough to think about what that even means.  And then there are all the school holiday dates that I can't even make myself put into my phone.  I know there's a Kids Church leaders thing, and movie days and a Uni thing and maybe a trip to South Australia for a few days.  My brain is sludge and it won't cooperate with keeping those things straight in my head let alone putting them in my phone where they won't be forgotten.

To top it all off I am not waking up at the crack of dawn, even though it's light by 6am now.  I am an early riser.  I beat the birds all through the winter without a second thought.  But two weeks before the end of the term and I'm struggling to get out of bed with the alarm that is waking me from a dead sleep.

Yes, we are limping.  The girls are tired.  Mr Busy has to be reminded ten times to do anything, including turning his light out at night.  I am just doing the next thing and saying no to stuff I want to say yes to.  Dh keeps telling me how tired he is and I have no sympathy for the poor man.  The other day I told him "we're all tired, it's not unique to you so suck it up and get on with it".  Not our finest moment!

The problem with this picture is that we're all sad and pitiful.  None of us seem to capable of carrying another.  In eleven sleeps we can stop going to school for a little bit.  Eleven sleeps can't pass by soon enough.

Tonight....roast chicken.  If I remember to pull it out of the freezer, and there are no guarantees between here and there.

How are you going this close to the end of the term?  How do you protect yourself from being the worst end-of-term family?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Clash of Wills - Mine, God's or Ours?

I wonder how you handle those really big decisions in life?  Those ones that occur at a major cross-road in life, but where there doesn't really seem to be a 'right' or 'wrong' way ahead, just a choice to be made.

When you come to the end of a season these decisions are inevitable and necessary, yet not easy to discern the path ahead.  My degree will be completed in a mere 7 weeks + teaching rounds.  By the middle of November I will have completed all the requirements of my course and be qualified to register as a teacher.  I know this is what God wants me to be doing.  He pushed me to enrol at University.  It was an impression over my life that I simply could not escape.  I could not disobey what I was being asked to do.  God has reiterated that the response He requires from me is to teach.  The big decision, for me, comes with questions about where will I be teaching.

Over the last few weeks I have been doing some major wrestling over the desire of my heart and whether or not that might be the same as God's will in regard to where I get to teach next year.  The desire of my heart is so strong.  To have to step away from that will mean heartbreak, one crack at a time for weeks and weeks.  It would mean leaving where I am.  Leaving the children I simply adore.  Leaving staff I respect and love deeply.  Leaving the shared history of knowing and being known by others.  I can tell you, this possibility has caused more than a few tears. 

Yet I know to my very core that being outside of God's will is not a pleasant place to be.  Being in that place means that when the wheels fall off and things get tough everything is just harder because you're not where you're meant to be.  Knowing you're in God's will when things go haywire makes it just a tiny bit easier to endure.

The last few weeks have meant wrestling my way to a place where I have been truly able to say not my will, but Yours.  You know my heart and my desires and I hope there is a way for them to be the same, but I'd rather be where You want me to be.  The future is uncertain.  There is no clear direction with few opportunities to apply for at the moment.

And so in my waiting my prayer has become make my will the same as Yours and give me a passion for where You want me to be.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Tales of Laundry Woe

This image above gives you an idea of the beginning of Mr Busy's day, when he realised his PE clothes were hanging on the line.  Wet.  Whilst we don't have a uniform at Our School we do have a you-must-wear-appropriate-PE-attire-and-school-sports-shirt rule for PE classes, so I had to write a note, which I opted to email because you know, you don't hear about these details until three seconds before running out the door.

For you amusement...the note:

Hi there

It is probably a little late in the day, but I promised Mr Busy I would email you about his PE attire today.  Dh, the resident laundry guru (as in, I have no idea how the laundry appears clean, dry and folded in this house!), upset the normal laundry routine yesterday, which meant Mr Busy's PE clothes were all wet this morning.  You can't imagine how upset he was that he wouldn't have the right clothes, because I have passed down my rule-following genes.  It took a bit of convincing that normal clothes would OK this once, considering the alternative (ie wet clothes that would stink, or ... nothing at all....).

Hope the day has been bright for you both :)

I didn't end up emailing til late in the day because Miss Mischief left information for a SAC on the table so I uncharacteristically dashed back to school for her.  I never take homework to school after we've left home (you know, if I was home to do it on a normal day), but this was an assessment thing, and I knew she would stress out over it.  In payment, she is now my slave for life, which will includes shoulder rubs whenever I desire.  It's a small price I'm sure.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Parenting Files: Of Learner Drivers and Teenaged Sickies: A Glimpse Ahead for Mothers of Little People.

Parenting older teens is a completely different prospect than I ever imagined for my life as a mother.  Back when I began this journey with a teeny little one (and I do mean teeny, Miss Sunshine was just under 6lb when she was born) I could only imagine myself as a mother of little people.  Indeed when Mr Busy finally went off to school it took me six months to adjust to the reality that I no longer had really little people in my house.  I don't know, those Prep's at school look mighty little from my perspective now!

If I could write a letter to my very much younger self I would tell me to embrace every moment of having small people because day I will blink and all of a sudden all my children will be bigger than I and they will no longer fit on my lap (and Mr Busy has not fulfilled his promise that I could sit on his knee when he got bigger than me!).  And those endless early days of 'peak hour parenting'?  They will be gone in the blink of an eye and don't roll your eyes, even to yourself.  You have no idea how quick that endless time goes by.  It's an oxymoron...the quick and the endless.  It's just how it is so embrace every moment: the tantrums, the illnesses, the cuddles, the innocent "I love you's", the funny pronunciation of new vocabulary, the "You can't tell me what to do" statements of a brazen (read: silly and unwise know-it-all) 3yo....all of it. 

I would tell myself to stress less about the toilet training.  It will not be the worst part of parenting.  That will come when you have two learner drivers in your house.  And they will try to kill you and crash your car every time they drive.  Almost.  Every day.  For two years.  Toilet training lasted about 9 months between the three of them and your life was not at risk.  Embrace the toilet training and its safety.  Frustration has nothing on fear-for-your-life.  Be satisfied with 'frustrated'.

Those nights when you were up changing sheets because you had children vomiting in the middle of the night.  More than once? And the chest infections and snot and slobber?  Yeah, that won't last forever either.  One day your 18yo will be able to make it to an appropriate receptacle AND clean up after herself.  Yeah, baby!! You will feel like you won the lottery on that one.  It starts to happen around 10yo.  By the time they are 18 you can leave them at home on their own for the day with the instruction to drink lots and avoid dairy.  They will be just fine.  And the nearly 17yo who goes to bed with a fever and wakes with a cough-her-lungs-out cough?  She'll be fine on her own too.  In fact, you'll leave her asleep in the morning and scrawl out a note reminder her to study around the coughing and be ready to write an essay assessment in the 100 minutes you'll have at home that night.

I do not know where the years and the little people have gone!  I still look at these three and wonder how they got all the way up past me in height.  But even though I was petrified of having teenagers these three have made it almost easy.  There is the 'blip' and the 'dumb thing' here and there.  And the teary tantrum because one's sense of justice has been breached.  But they are just this beautiful overflowing of God's grace on a mother who wanted the second coming to happen before the oldest one turned 13.

Mothers of Little People?  Don't be afraid of the teens you will have in your house.  Teens can be so amazing.  Not just mine either, there are a whole bunch of them in my girls' classes at school that are simply incredible.  You know when you look at other people's teens and say to yourself "I want my child to grow up like that"?  'That' can actually happen!  But don't wish away the Little People phase of life either.  Cuddle them lots.  Laugh with them more.  One day you'll blink and they'll be learner drivers who can take care of themselves when they're sick.  Who knew?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Shopping the pantry/refrigerator for a frugal menu

I am in a rut.  It's not a pleasant rut and I wish I could wriggle and inspire myself out of it, but it doesn't seem to be happening.  What I have learnt in the last few years is that when I am busy and my mind is completely focused in other areas, cooking a meal at the end of the day is this hugely stressful mountain to climb.  Which is silly.  I can cook a meal almost with my eyes closed, I've been doing it so long.  I think it is more that it's another thing I need to get done in the day.

This past weekend I just could not get to the supermarket.  At. All.  I worked really hard on Friday night to get some assignment work done.  I was out all day Saturday, home long enough to cook a dessert and then out for dinner.  Slept all afternoon on Sunday to recover.  But no shopping.  And no desire to shop.  But I have some stuff floating about in the places I keep food so I've cobbled together a menu that requires no shopping beyond some butter, bread and fruit.  Here we go:

Monday:  Meatloaf, vegies (last of my Costco mince)
Tuesday:  Pasta with bacon & tomato sauce (another of my meals made with Costco staples)
Wednesday:  Beef casserole (bought the meat last week and didn't end up making that meal)
Thursday:  Freezer meal (because whatever...I just can't do it every night!!  and thank you Costco)
Friday:  Tuna and rice (Dh brought home an abundance of milk...tuna always in the cupboard)

As of Friday there will officially be 3 lamb chops and about half a kilo of chicken thigh fillets.  I really will need to shop next weekend, but for now I'm pretending supermarkets don't exist.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Melbourne in Winter

You know spring is imminent when the daffodils begin to peak up out of the frigid ground.  And a little sunshine with a smidgen of warmth offers even more hope!

I don't know about anyone else but this winter feels like it has been colder than I remember winter being in recent years.  I'm always inclined to choose winter over summer when asked for my preferred season but my toes seem to have been cold for weeks, now.  Any season is welcome, in my book, apart from the vicious, brutal heat of summer.  We don't get the humidity like they do in the north of the country but my goodness, a 45C day will melt anyone's bones.  And sanity.

With just a couple of months until I finish studying I'm starting to dream about vegie gardens and having the time to potter about one, should I ever manage the work of planting it out.  Home-grown tomatoes and zucchinis a-plenty....I really do miss having a garden that grows yummy food.

In the meantime I'll just have to make do with photos of a stitchery I did, which hangs in my parents' home.

Look at all those pretty flowers, lovely rows neat beds of vegetables and tidy shed.  Yes, a bit of a pipe dream.  Maybe if I dream a little harder some little vegetable gardening fairy will decide to just drop a raised garden bed box or two outside my family room window and plant things that will grow despite my brown thumb.  I killed ivy once; don't even ask!  All I can say is the soil in Our Town makes even me look good!  It grows things despite my garden-killing ways.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Why "Interrupted" made me cry

My recent read through Jen Hatmaker's revised edition of "Interrupted" provoked a crazy need to underline.  I'm not normally an underliner.  It wasn't until my second semester of University that someone mentioned they highlight.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Marking a book?  You've got to be kidding me!  This has always been a no-no in my perfectionist little rule-following world.  However, I was transformed and went from reluctantly underlining in pencil to highlighting in with fluorescent highlighters that cannot be removed.  It changed my world.

When I read this recent version of "Interrupted" it was a digital copy....You can highlight and remove and re-highlight and change colours and whatever else you want to do.  And, you can pull up the list of highlights.  Hello world!  This is not what made me cry!!

This week I have been reflecting on the things I highlighted.  Trying to make sense of what it means to be broken by God and desperately wanting to be put back together.  To find a way forward.  To know what it is I need to do with what God is showing me.  Overwhelmingly, my highlights were focused on how we need to transform the way we walk our faith in ordinary life.  How Jesus' life showed a love-first, sold-out poured-out for others  way of life.  About the hope that we have and how just loving others completely, practically, in the places they are is the most effective way to show them who Jesus is and who He wants to be in their lives.

"Our only hope is to follow the example of 
Jesus and get back out there, 
winning people over with ridiculous 
love and a lifestyle that causes them to 
finally sit up and take notice"
                                     ~ Jen Hatmaker, "Interrupted"

I cried my way through this book because not only was there a line in there just for me ("Are you a teacher?  Your school is a mission field, plain and simple"), but the whole way through there is this thread that reminded me....As Christians we are called to just love others.  This is what Jesus lived.  Not just to offer 'church' with its programs, events, Bible studies and all its various ministries.  Although those things are not bad or wrong; in fact many of these things are quite good.  But just to love others authentically, in relationships, in lowly places, with real people.  To love "ridiculously".

I don't know what that looks like for me yet, besides that I called to teach.  I'm trying to be content with the process for now.  Jen says this part of the process took about six months, for her.  I need to just be patient (not really my thing!).  I know my season of preparation is nearly done and I don't know where I will be planted next year.  In the meantime I am contemplating, reading, reflecting and praying.  And crying.

I wonder if the tears will ever be done with?

In the meantime I can love on people where I am right now...I just feel so tied because of the things I need to be doing right now.  And my kids wonder why I insist on "payment in hugs"!