Monday, 30 June 2014

The Frugal Files: Travelling and Food

Every now and then we do a long road trip.  Or Dh decides to spend a night or two in central Victoria to visit clients and we all tag along.  Whilst we are avid and committed caravan-campers sometimes it is not practical or cost-efficient to take the van.  In winter it's just dumb.  Sorry to all you winter camping lovers but we're not with you on this one.  We did it when Mr Busy was 1yo.  After freezing our way through a long weekend of gloomy pea-soup fog we decided only crazy people camp in winter.  Say what you will, we like to be warm and we don't enjoy Mr Busy's proclivity to chest infections and pneumonia when he gets too cold for too long.  And when you get a deal in a two-bedroom motel room with two bathrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities that ends up cheaper than a powered caravan site you never drag your van half way across the country.  You would be mad to do that too!

Last time we did a long road trip we left half an hour after I got home from work.  Can I suggest to you, this is not helpful when it comes to organising yourself for travel food?  We ended up spending 3 days eating breakfast and lunch at McDonald's and dinner did not fare much better.  We were so desperate to eat normal food!!  What I learnt from that trip is that travel food takes some organising.  When you can do this it can not only be healthier, it is much, much cheaper.

Next time we hit the road, these are my plans:

Utensils:  You never know if your motel room's tea-making facilities are going to be wonderful or negligible.  In Australia they always have a kettle.  Mostly they'll have a toaster.  I would plan to take a sharp knife, small chopping board, bowls, spoons, plates and cups.  A picnic set would be great but if you're concerned about how to wash up then disposable will be the way to go....just this once. 

Breakfast:  take cereal, fruit bread or croissants, jam and butter. 
Buy a litre or two of milk wherever you end up (or you could buy UHT if your family isn't going to freak out about it) and I don't refrigerate the butter block we're actually using, so that will travel just fine. 

Lunches: stop in at any supermarket and grab some bread rolls, lunch meat and fruit. 
Alternatively, these could be bought the night before when buying milk and an ice-brick could be frozen in the motel-room fridge so things can be kept cold in a cooler bag for a few hours before lunch.

Food:  We enjoy things like crackers, chips and home-baked goodies.  All these things can be bought or cooked before you leave.  I stow some under my feet and some in a cooler bag right behind Mr Busy's seat (we have a wagon-style car so it's easy to get to all the time).  I also make sure I have fruit that isn't messy - think apples, bananas, grapes, mandarins.  Make sure you have some wipes and a plastic bag for rubbish.
Drinks:  take teabags, plastic mugs and a thermos which can be filled before you leave.  Either have small UHT (ie. 250ml) carton of milk or 300ml carton of fresh if you can keep it cold.
Each person refills and packs their own water bottle.

Dinner:  I have yet to figure out a way to do this self-sufficiently.  Next time we're on the road we'll be bringing breakfast, lunch and snacks and then buying dinner.  We have five adult-sized people now so it gets a bit pricey, but cheaper than buying everything.

What are your best tips for frugal food while travelling?

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Parenting Files: 18 Year Old Confidence

Sketch by Miss Sunshine

Miss Sunshine and I had a thing last night.  She's not terribly demonstrative about her feelings towards her family.  I am, a little bit.  I'm a mother who knows the day will come when she will move out and I'll no longer get to have her in my see-you-every-day life anymore and I want to be all hugged up and goodnight kissed up before she goes and leaves the nest.  We're talking one decent moment a day.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable.  She does.

This morning, after our thing last night, I went in to wake her and asked permission to sit on her bed.  Because you can never be sure if that would be considered unreasonable by an 18yo independent person.  She moved.  I sat.  I told her how much I love her and then I looked up at her sketches on the wall and marvelled aloud that she would be so amazingly talented because Dh and I are not.  Not with art, anyway.   II remarked "You're just so amazing".  She looked at me with this funny little smirk and shiny eyes.

"You really want to say 'I know' but you don't think you should, don't you?"

She nodded.

I walked away howling with laughter.

Amazing and hilarious - that's my girl.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Recipe: Lemon Delicious Slice

When you have a lemon tree absolutely laden with golden treasure it inspires a search for new recipes.  I have a real winner to share with you today.

Lemon Delicious Slice

150g unsalted butter, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 1/3 cups plain flour 

4 eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/3 cup plain flour
1 1/3 cups caster sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 3cm-deep, 16cm x 26cm slice pan. Line with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang on all sides.
  2. Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on MEDIUM (50%) for 1 minute or until melted. Set aside to cool. Stir in vanilla and sugar. Sift flours over butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a soft dough forms. Transfer to prepared pan. Press into pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.
  3. Make topping Whisk eggs, lemon rind, flour and sugar together until smooth. Add lemon juice. Whisk to combine. Pour over base. Bake for 15 minutes or until just set. Cool completely in pan. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into pieces. Serve.
Every time I make this it disappears as though in a can't blink or you'll miss out!  


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Health Files: A Successful 5:2 Fast Day

Finally, after much frustration and lacking the mental wherewithal to plan for regular fast days I have finally had success.  This is absolutely the unsteady beginnings of what will hopefully become easier to manage in life's busyness. 

Breakfast:  1 slice toast with sliced tomato (84 calories)*
Morning Snack:  1 orange (45 calories)
Lunch:  2 slices toast with sliced tomato  (185 calories)*
Afternoon Snack:  1 small slice iced fruit bun (87 calories)
Dinner:  Tofu & vegetable stir fry (118 calories)
Total:  519 calories

* I used one roma tomato and sliced it very thinly so it was sufficient for both breakfast and lunch.  

I wouldn't normally have the same thing for breakfast and lunch, but I have yet to work out some appropriate, satisfying options so for today it worked.  I use a spelt and sprouted grain bread and find that it is satisfying.  I know some people eat in the morning and then in the evening, skipping lunch, but I seem to find that incredibly difficult.  For me success is easier to come by when the calories are spread across the day more evenly.

If you're a 5:2 veteran I'd love to hear your ideas and how you manage your meals.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Book Review: Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay

Shadowed in Silk

By Christine Lindsay 

Publisher’s Synopsis 
She was invisible to those who should have loved her. After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger and a cruel father to their three-year old son. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.   
Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. His faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution. 

What I thought: 
Christine Lindsay expertly guides her readers on an adventure into historical British colonial India in Shadowed in Silk, the first absorbing instalment of her ‘Twilight of the British Raj’ series.  Her prowess as an author is clearly on display as she weaves together culture, history and characters so realistic I felt like I was right there with them.  

I found the characters of Shadowed in Silk drew me in and had me completely invested very quickly.  Abby was beautifully portrayed.  As she returns to the land of her heart and eagerly anticipates reunion with her husband her confusion and disappointment is palpable.  It is in these early pages that Nick’s true self begins to be revealed and the distasteful man he truly is becomes more obvious as time goes by.  Lindsay develops the tension between the two and Abby’s bewilderment at her unexpected circumstances and I found myself willing Abby to take a stand.  I fell in love with Eshana (Abby’s nanny) for her faith-filled wisdom, and Geoff (Abby’s travel escort and newfound friend) for his chivalrous loyalty.  Each of these characters adds depth to the story that weave together to make Shadowed in Silk the brilliant story that it is.

Against the exotic location of historical India the plot for Shadowed in Silk is engaging and weaves together threads of political history, personal challenges for each of the characters and ominous secrets that could easily see any one of the characters in mortal danger.  Desperate to find out who the gun smuggler was, and who the Englishman imposter might be I was reluctant to put this book down until I finally learnt all the answers. 

Shadowed in Silk is the perfect blend of mystery, history and gentle romance.  As well as these pivotal elements the faith story of the characters reminded me that God’s grace flows in our lives no matter how terrifying the circumstances might appear.  When we trust our circumstances and our future to His almighty and loving hands we can be assured of God’s promise to care for all our needs, big and small.

I can’t wait to delve into the second installment, Captured by Moonlight as this enthralling series continues.

With thanks to Christine Lindsay for my review copy.
This review is entirely my own opinion.  I have not been paid for this review, nor have my opinions been coerced in any way. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Parenting Files: "You Owe Me...."

Do your teens have a slightly skewed perspective on life?  Mine definitely do.  I had to text Miss Sunshine this afternoon to have her turn the oven on.  I had prepared the casserole and put it in the oven before I left so all she had to do was turn the dial to the right temperature.  A 3 second job.  No effort.

Me:  Could you put the oven on 160 please?
Miss S:  Yep
Me:  Ta
Miss S:  No worries.  You owe me.

Ahhh the naivete of youth!  I bore this child; my body still bears the evidence.  I feed her.  I clothe her.  I house her.  I educate her.  I support her.  I love her.  No my darling, I owe you nothing.  I'm pretty sure I'm all paid up and if we were to audit the who-owes-whom account you'd owe me.  A lot.

A common conversation with Mr Busy that happens just after breakfast, at the end of school, on the way home from school and when I think about entering the kitchen.  He's 14 and related to the rest of his paternal family.  There is no hope for him.

Mr Busy:  What's for dinner?
Me: Food.
Mr Busy:  What food??
Me:  I dunno, but I already fed you today and the law only says I have to feed you - there's no law about how often I have to feed you.  If you keep asking me about dinner I just won't cook it.  Dinner is overrated you know.

The boy has the sense to take me seriously.  Although I would never actually follow through on this threat there has been enough follow-through in his life for him to back off.

Living with big kids is always entertaining.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

My New Favourite Things

I've mentioned being unwell....this is my current favourite drink:  hot water with a slice of lemon in it.  I avoid sugar and dairy when I've got a cold because both just make me feel worse.  But hot water with lemon is perfect.  And it continues to be perfect while my lemon tree is over burdened and cold days have me preferring my water hot instead of cold. 

I've had a 'thing' for raisin toast lately.  Not every day, but more regularly than 'special occasions'.  At 7am this morning when I bought special lazy lunch for the kids (bacon and cheese rolls...nothing in them....whatever, it's nearly the end of the term and I'm done) I found this on sale.  It's a very sophisticated, grown-up raisin toast...see there?  Figs, sultana and pear.  If you're a raisin toast person try it.  I like it fine untoasted too!

My fellow self-confessed 'sister of the difficult hair', Jen Hatmaker, posted on Facebook about coconut milk for taming untameable hair. In my head I was thinking "I'll never find that over here so I'll just have to remain untamed".  Well blow me down if I didn't find the exact same stuff (but I was only able to get coconut water, not coconut milk) and it was on sale.  In the supermarket!!  So I bought this for me and  Miss Mischief the mineral smooth-everything-down-fix-split-ends stuff as well.  Thanks Jen!

And nope, Facebook is not yet on my list of favourite new things.  I'm still an abstainer.  I might have been assessed as 'digitally competent' this semester but it's still a complication I am not yet up for.

Got any new favourite things that make your heart sing?  Leave a comment and share them!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Annual Date with Anne (of Green Gables)

I ended up succumbing to the cold that was brewing last week.  I'm a bit of a bloke when it comes to having a cold...I kind of keel over and pretend to die for a few days.  In my defense it only happens once a year, usually, so I'm not well practiced at what it is to be sick.

In any case when I have to take a day off work because I'm unwell I spend the time sleeping and watching 'Anne of Green Gables'.  It's our annual appointment and one I always enjoy.  Because it's comforting to catch up with friends who have been a part of your life for a very long time.  When you're unwell you need comfort in whatever guise it can be found.  And good cold and flu meds. It is a perfect prescription for getting well again.

Do you know else what I've discovered this week?  I really, really enjoy having hot water with a slice of lemon in it.  Better, even, than a cup of tea.  My lemon tree is groaning with overabundance so I am set to enjoy this for a few months yet!

What are your comforting traditions when you're under the weather?

Friday, 6 June 2014

As the weather cools...

We have, after quite a warm autumn, fallen into winter.  All of a sudden it has gotten cold and we're beginning to find snotty little people around the place.  I've had my own snotty not-so-little young man about the house these past two weeks and being the sharing kind of boy he is, has passed some germs on to me.  I'm diligently taking ease-a-cold tablets and eating fruit.  And salad.  It is terribly unsatisfying eating something cold on a cold day, but I know there are far more good things in raw foods, so salad it is, because this is not the week to be unwell and foggy.  I have an exam on Wednesday and the possibility of me needing to attend an excursion has been raised. 

I found some little gel hand-warming thingys in Aldi the other day.  They're like ice-packs, only you crack the disk inside these little pouches and the gel inside gets warm.  To return them to their original state you boil them in a pot of water for five minutes.  I haven't used them yet....but that excursion may be a great time to christen them for winter use.  I expect they'll be very appreciated when I am finally in a position to be required for yard duty.

My winter adventure in the kitchen at the moment is with a Moroccan spice mix called 'ras el hanout'.  I have used it in a recipe I was given for a lamb and apricot tagine.  I've also used it to coat sweet potato cubes for a salad.  I have plans to make a vegetarian casserole as the lamb tagine only with vegies instead.  I ended up googling for a recipe to make the spice mix because it's hard to come by in this very Anglo little corner of the world.  As it happens I had all of the one hundred million spices (only a slight exaggeration!) I needed to make it so I can enjoy this little adventure whenever I please!  I used this recipe, and added two star anise to my lamb tagine, since another recipe I found had anise seeds in it.

We're deep in the throes of learner driver training around here, with two Learners in the house.  There are days I feel I may never drive my own car all by myself again.  And I have never sat in my own back seat so often since I began driving about 25 years ago.  It's quite a thing, to drag one's very adult self out of the back seat!  This is almost as bad as toilet training toddlers, only this lasts for so much longer.  Maybe I'll just have to enjoy my hand warmers while Miss Sunshine learns about the challenges of icy-cold steering wheels?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Book Review: Parenting for the Launch

Parenting for the Launch
By Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Key strategies for parents of teens in the crucial window before that "launch" into the real world. Learn how to set them up for success through effective communication, valuing and cultivating their unique strengths, and empowering versus control. Help your teens build a strong personal leadership foundation that will enable them to live successful, independent lives of purpose, integrity, and impact.

What I thought:
Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence are an impressive partnership as they team up to share their real-life wisdom in parenting teens for life beyond home in their newest book, ‘Parenting for the Launch’.  With a style that includes personal experiences and advice from broader sources this book will no doubt be one parents of teens will seek out as a guide to preparing their teens for life in the real world. 

This book is broken into three areas of preparation:  destination preparation, relationship preparation, and transition preparation.  In the first section, ‘destination preparation’, I was reminded to begin with the end in mind.  Trittin and Lawrence advise parents to keep in mind that the children we launch are no longer our ‘babies’, but young adults.  We need to keep this goal in mind and be intentional about parenting in such a way as to teach our young people the skills they will require and empower them to be as prepared as possible to be independent.   We need to “give them wings, not strings”.

The section on ‘relationship preparation’ focuses on recognising and valuing the unique gifts and talents of our children and young people, and speaking into their lives in positive ways.  Here the authors provide some sobering and poignant advice to parents about letting children live their own dreams.  It is so important that we teach and encourage our children to understand the way they were created and to dream their own dreams for the future.  When we push them to live our dreams we stifle who they are, and dare I say it, stifle who God intended for them to be.  The advice in this section that resonated most strongly for me is to know the third party voice, or influencers, in our people’s lives.  It is important that parents are intentional about widening the circle of influence as our children grow so that when they are teens the adult voices in their lives are those that we trust to give our teens wise counsel that we ourselves would give.

‘Transition preparation’ gives parents food for thought and helpful advice about the launch procedure, where parents move from the “driver’s seat” to the “passenger seat”.  This is a particularly relevant picture of the short process of teaching children to drive; where we place them in the driver’s seat of the car and instruct them carefully about the skills and decisions they are responsible to make.  And then all of a sudden they are off and driving without our instruction at all.  Our parenting needs to be like that in the final days before our young people leave home!

I found some of the content of this book was specifically related to the American experience of driving at 16 and leaving home for college at 18 years old.  In Australia our children get their driver’s licence at 18 and the majority (not all!) expect to live at home while they complete university and vocational training.  It is perhaps for this reason I found some of the advice a little over the top.  Despite this, there is much to be gleaned from this book no matter where you live because at some point your baby will all of a sudden be leaving home and it is so vitally important that they are well prepared for this reality.  ‘Parenting for the Launch’ should be required reading for parents of young people, well before they are preparing to leave home!

*  With thanks to Icon Media Group for my review copy.
*  This review is my own opinion and not coerced in any way.