Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Day My School Babies Cried

School Photo Day.  Once upon a few years ago it was a bit of a fun, messy kind of day and we all managed to endure the whole-school shot without too much drama.  Today was not so easy.

We have some very precious people in our school now, who don't cope with lots of noise and being near (read: in the middle of) lots of people who jostle and yell.  I found one of my school babies huddled on the ground sobbing: someone had hurt him.  The child that was named has not a mean bone in his body so I think it was just general jostling, but he didn't understand the difference.  Another of my babies had his headphones on to block out noise and just hummed.  Loudly.  His nearest neighbours put their fingers in their ears and endured the extra noise wordlessly.  One of my littlest ones didn't understand that when the boy next to you roars like a dinosaur (because you are) you can't pounce on him like a T-Rex, or whateverasaurus it is you happen to be right now.  These were not the only ones in tears or struggling with the whole thing.  There were a number of others.

By the end of lunch time I wanted to tuck them under my wings and cry along with them.  I still might.  Cry...not tuck them in.  They're safe in the quiet of their own homes now.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

In Which My Words Disappear

I've noticed a terrible development over the past 12 months, particularly.  When I am in the middle of assignment-writing and preparing for exams my conversational language seems to evaporate.  I just can't find the words for simple things and I am left waving my hands around hoping someone will figure out what was meant to be in my brain.  My children think this is wildly amusing.  My children's friends (specifically, the Year 11's and 12's at school) think this is wildly amusing.  Glad I could entertain you guys!  You'll be my age one day and your words will disappear too.  I promise.

Fortunately my written language remains intact.  Perhaps that's because I type just a little slower than I talk?  Or maybe because I can stop mid-sentence and think before I continue on?

As of the end of next week I will only have about six assignments left to write.  Ever.  Therein lies my hope to regain my conversational language....

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Birthday Party

We have experienced our first 18th birthday party and survived to share the tale.  It was a very long day but the evening was so very worth it.  Twenty-eight happy young people singing and dancing their way through the evening with bouts of table tennis interspersed. 

Miss Sunshine's best friend and her Mum helped us decorate, and while they were doing that I puddled about decorating chocolate cupcakes in the requisite purple and white icing.  I love Miss Sunshine's faith in me:  "Oh Mum, they look so much better than I expected!"  Thank goodness for that!  It's amazing what a little bit of pearl sand will do for a humble little cupcake!

Every time I went to the kitchen (which is in the same area as the family room...aka dance floor) throughout the evening I smiled.  Because 16-18yo's who have that much fun together are truly a joy.

It was a joy when they went home too though!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Scone Verdict

I am ecstatic.  I took one bite of my scone at morning tea time yesterday and enthusiastically declared "I won!"  The others at the table looked at me strangely so I had to explain my ongoing scone dilemma and the fact that I had overcome it.  My scone was still tender and delicious when it was cold the next day.  By the end of Monday evening the 8 scones I'd had left had been devoured.  Yes indeed - I WON!

The recipe I posted the other day is a winner, a keeper and the solution to a scone-challenged cook's kitchen woes.  Try it out - you won't be sorry.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Perfect Scone: Success At Last!

Do you have a particular cooking goal to succeed at a basic recipe which you have yet to achieve success with?  It's funny, when you talk with people who have been cooking for a long while you will find some struggle with pastry.  Some are baffled by pavlova.  Some think bread-making is only for the brave or the foolish.

My kitchen nemesis has been the humble scone.  Sad but true.

I consider myself a competent cook.  All the things I've listed above have never given me an ounce of frustration or trouble, but scones have been another story.  I've tried all kinds of recipes: the traditional rub-the-butter-in, lemonade scones, cream scones, using the food processor to do the rubbing in.  Really, I've tried them all.  My scones are kind of just OK when they're hot but they're absolute rocks when cold.  Demoralised, I had declared defeat and decided this was just something best left to others.  Pretty much the way my mother leaves the pavlova making to me (although she is certain the oven has a part to play).

The other day a friend at work had a scone for morning tea and it was still light and fluffy the day after she'd made it.  After a long round-table (literally...our staffroom tables are round) conversation about methods I thought perhaps one last attempt should be made.  As with all these things one heads to Google to see what 'fool-proof' recipe can be found.  And I may well have found the very thing for this scone-challenged cook.

A few years ago the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article about the best scone recipe and thanks to the wonders of the internet the article was easily available today.  It seems I'm not alone with this particular scone-making struggle.  The Country Women's Association in Australia is renowned for magnificent scones and this author tested a number of recipes (including ones I had tried).  She finally offered up a recipe I had not seen before so I gave it a go this afternoon.  You know what?  I think I found the recipe for me.  Rather than lemonade or cream or butter this recipe had an egg and oil in it.

They turned out beautifully.  I'll let you know tomorrow if they are still OK when cold.  But I'm fairly certain they will be.  The recipe and article can be found here.  I promise you the article is worth the read and the recipe lived up to it's touted 'perfect scone' label, and is worth storing however you store collected recipes (I use OneNote).

Recipe:  The Perfect Scone
 (Gloria Hyatt's recipe)

1 egg
4 tablespoons oil (Gloria uses vegetable oil)
2 cups milk
4 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Beat the egg, oil and milk until combined. 
  2. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. 
  3. Add the egg mixture to the flour. 
  4. Knead until just combined and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Pat into a flat shape of the thickness you'd like your scones. Hyatt prefers ¾ inch. 
  5. Cut with a floured scone cutter and then place on a greased tray. 
  6. Cook at 220 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Tracy's Note:  You will need to flour the bench very well and then flour the top of the dough well too, then it's not too sticky to handle.  I didn't actually do much more than turn it over two or three times and then pat it into shape for cutting the scones.

What's your kitchen nemesis?

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Parenting Files: The Day My Baby Turned 18

I always found it hard to imagine what my family would look like when I first had children.  Our house was full of little people who needed us to do everything, or at least have a hand in everything they needed or wanted to do.  They laughed and frolicked through the days in a flurry of cute little clothes and a mountain of toys; hugs and kisses, and mess.  Frequently there was the testing of limits and attempts to assert their little wills over ours. 

There were days when I wondered if we would all survive this thing called childhood.  Especially when our first three year old informed me that I could not tell her what to do!  It was this stubborn little person I most seriously wondered about in terms of the possibility of reaching adulthood.

Today Miss Sunshine is 18 years old.  

In Australia this means she is now legally an adult.  I have spent this week counting down the sleeps and gazing at her in amazement that her childhood was about to officially end.  Today she looks no different, but she is, and forevermore will be, an adult.

We decided on a Pandora 'Essence' bracelet for her gift.  Normally I would be the first objector about the expense of a thing to hang on a wrist, however this particular collection is all about character.  We want this to be not only a representation of her character but a prophetic word of promise over her life.  If we believe (and I do) that words have the power to be creative or destructive then I want my daughter's life to be lived under words that have creative power.  We have begun with 'faith' and 'freedom'.  The lady in the store thought 'freedom' was perfect for a new adult.  And perhaps that is true.  I had a completely different justification.

I want my daughter's life to be one driven by her own 'faith' in a God who adores her and goes to great lengths to keep her in His arms and part of His kingdom.  I want her to know the immense 'freedom' she has because of her faith; that she is free to be who she was created to be.  Freedom to live a life of significance that comes when she is  acting out of her beliefs which are informed by faith.

Our daughter is an incredible young lady.  She is beautiful, both inside and out.  She is poised and quietly confident.  She is sensible, funny and fun-loving, talented, capable and intelligent.  And she is such a rare and stunning gift to us.  She is the kind of daughter I always dreamed of, and was so scared I would not have the privilege of having.

She and I were recently discussing how her becoming an adult might change the family dynamics.  I wondered how that would work.  I was working full-time and driving my own car at 18 and definitely had views about being independent.  I'm still paying her (significant) school fees and she can't go anywhere without me for another 90-hours-and-a-test.  She decided it would be easier if I still tell her what to do, she stays at school and nothing else much changes.

And I'm perfectly OK with that.

Happy Birthday Miss Sunshine

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