Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Operation Freezer Stash Is Go

I have plans in the works to spend a day with my sister-in-law (also a teacher, also works full time, also a mum) to get our freezers all stocked up and prepared for the school term ahead.  But being the driven, overachieving type I've already begun my quest for a well-stocked, family-protecting freezer.

My biggest issues around meals and motivation is the preparation.  Well, besides coming up with the ideas, and shopping, and putting everything away, and then figuring out that the meal I had planned needs to be switched a bit and getting it done.  I just still don't get it - these unreasonable people need to be fed every day.  Every.  Day.  On my worst days I think just once a day would be fine, but no.   Mr Busy has even told me it's illegal not to feed children, to which I responded that the law only tells me I have to (not neglect them, you know), not how often.  Our GP laughed at that and agreed that I was right.  There was no stipulation for how often.  So once a day then, right?  Secretly though?  I get hungry too.  Darn!

The other night when I went to buy chicken thighs for dinner I did something brilliant.  I bought three bags of thighs (from Aldi) and did the preparation - we ate one meal and I froze two more.  All prepared and in the marinade.  All that is left to be done is defrost and throw in the oven.  My kind of busy-day cooking!  Last night I was bread crumbing chicken fillets.  I made four fillets go two meals for the five of us by slicing off the tenderloin and then placing the fillet flat on the bench and slicing horizontally - two full-sized half fillets just like that.  Once prepared, those were flash frozen and bagged.  Again, nothing to do but defrost and cook.

Kicking goals all over the place!  So far I have two Forbidden City Chicken's, one chicken schnitzel, one homemade pizza dough and sauce and....I think that's it.  But I'm on my way!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Mr Busy = Funniest Boy on Earth

There is a child in my house who does some very strange things.  The said child also loves to bake biscuits (cookies).  Today was end-of-term class party day, a couple of days early, and so last night was baking night.  He was quite intent on ensuring that the girls in his class would have their favourite bikkies, made by his very own hand.  He's so sweet!

But tonight, when I went looking for butter, the picture above is what I found.  On Sunday afternoon there were four 250g blocks of butter.  Now there are three half blocks.  I shook my head, more than a little bemused, and called out for Mr Busy to come and have a chat with me about this.  It began with first, middle and last name.

Mr Busy:  What have I done now?
Me:  Come and look at this? (to which I slowly pointed to each. half. block)
Mr Busy: Uhhhh … yeeeaaahhhh.
Me:  What is this?  Why are there three half blocks?  What did you do? Need 125g, cut half and put half away.  Next time you need butter, grab a whole block, cut in half, put half away.  How many times did you do this?  What were you thinking?  This is what scales are for!!  You get out the bits of butter and weigh some bits until you get to the weight you need, so that you don't use Every. Single. Block.  (with tone of voice escalating as to the absurdity of the whole scene)
There may or may not have been girly slapping at a big strapping young lad at this point.
Mr Busy: (laughing) OK, Mum.  I get it.  I'm sorry…..as he wandered off to his room again.

And then we were both laughing.  Him louder than me.  Because I still have three half blocks of butter.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

IT'S THEM! Not me. Or you!

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If you're a mum and you feel like you're losing your mind, it's probably because you are.  But not because there's something wrong with you.  Yesterday during my it's-breakfast-time-and-the-only-way-to-block-out-the-noise-is-to-read reading time I was reading Glennon Melton's Facebook page.  I think I woke everyone up as I killed myself laughing.  Do yourself a favour.  Read the post, and then read all the comments.  Make sure you've got tissues and whatever else you need for a good laugh.

If I had Facebook I could have posted about how it's not just littles that make you crazy.  No, it's 19yo's as well.  My 19yo has decided I owe her a MacBook.  I can't figure this one out.  I have given up explaining and just roll my eyes at her now.  And remind her often: "I gave you life, I owe you nothing".  And then I remind myself that when I am away from these people that make my house crazy I am a really nice person.  I don't get cranky or frustrated or yell at anyone to tell anyone off.  No!  I am perfectly reasonable and calm and sweet and caring.  I'm telling you - it's not me. It's them!!  If you feel like you need some solidarity today then read the post and comments.

As I was reading yesterday morning and sharing tidbits with Mr Busy, who just laughed politely, he was putting his hoody on while standing just behind me.  All of a sudden I hear a muffled "this isn't going to work".  I look up and there's a hood over his face.  He had put the thing on back to front.  And I killed myself laughing even harder.  It's been a while since the boy has come out with something funny.  It's like he got to upper Primary and all his funny left him.  But it's still there.  Hiding

Solidarity Mums!  You're NOT crazy.  It's all the them's living in your house being crazy around you.  It's them.  All them!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Smug Homemade Pasta

Not the best photo, I'll grant you, but this will be the best lasagna!  I am beginning my mission to protect our family from a life of pretend meat, take away and other unhealthy meals for the sake of lack of time and energy.  Tonight I'm feeling a little smug.  Homemade lagasne noodles and two full dishes of lasagne to boot.

Sunday's are slow days in our house and slow days sometimes means slow food.  The kind that takes time but tastes so good.  And feels a little bit like love on your plate.  With any lasagne the time it takes to make means I want to make two because all that time should could for more than one meal.  But today I gifted myself a glassware baking dish that can also go in the freezer.  This is going to be a kitchen game-changer!  Oven to freezer to microwave or oven again?  I think this stuff is going to be my best friend!

I pulled out my "Chicken Plan" (by Kim Tilley) yesterday and perused recipes I haven't made in quite some time. This is my school holiday job; stocking the freezer with pre-prepared meals that the kids can pull out and cook on days when I won't be home til tea time.

So far:  pizza dough and sauce, lasagna….I wonder what else I can get stocked away this week?

What are your crockpot and cook-ahead favourite meals?

Friday, 19 June 2015

And The Shopping is DONE!!

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Today I completed all the necessary clothes shopping required to begin working next term…just three weeks away.  If you've read here even for a little while you will know what a relief and triumph it is for me to be able to say I'm DONE!  Can you say "excited"?!

It took quite some searching and frustration to find suit-style trousers.  No one seems to sell classic trousers suitable for a business (or more formal education) environment.  And when I did find them they were simply NOT cut for my shape.  No amount of being a different size was ever going to fix that problem!   Success eventually came from a corporate work-wear supplier.  Who you know sometimes just works better than what you know, and in this case a friend who works in a work-wear and embroidery place that supplies uniforms and the like was my clothing hero.  I walked in, tried on the pants I had found online (pictured above) that gave a description that sang my song, and I walked out with something that fit perfectly.  PERFECTLY!  Do you hear me?  This happens to me exactly NO TIMES!  Ever.  At the very least I have to make a little tuck in the back to deal with the gaping.  They were so perfect that  I have a second pair and a skirt on order.  So, so happy.  And it was just so easy.  Not like retail shopping at all.

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This afternoon I ordered some merino wool fine-knit tops from Wool Overs.  I'd never heard of them before, but after finding them (thank you Google!) a parent at school was singing their praises.  So I took the plunge and ordered.  Without trying them on….but the measurements online fit the merino top I bought last week.  And the prices were excellent.  And free shipping.

My little wardrobe capsule now consists of:

2 skirts
2 trousers
2 jackets
2 blouses
4 knit tops
1 dress shoes
1 pair knee-high boots

The knit tops are in the same colours as one of the blouses so I'm all set.  I'm about to go pick up some boots I needed to have re-soled.

And then no more shopping for a long time.  Happy dance anyone?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Menu Plan for Winter

It's a very long time since I've posted a menu plan.  Partly because I didn't feel like they were particularly popular posts.  More recently because my plans have been embarrassingly underwhelming and were filled with pretend food and take away.  Not my finest plans.

This week's however, has begun well and I have no reason to imagine we won't finish strong.  Confidence and enthusiasm are wonderful ingredients when it comes to implementing a plan that feels good!  Here we go.

Monday:  Slow roasted lamb and salad
Tuesday:  Vegetable curry and rice
Wednesday: Jamaican-spiced chicken thighs, veggies
Thursday:  Veggie Noodle Stir Fry
Friday: Lamb Souvlakis
Saturday:  Homemade pasta (lasagna - freeze half)
Sunday:  Chicken noodle soup

We had the slow-roasted lamb tonight and it was absolutely and completely perfect.  I prepared the glaze and had it sitting in its baking dish around lunch time.  I turned the oven on to 140C as I walked out the door at 2pm.  When I arrived home at 5.45pm it was done.  It was tender and moist and oh-my-goodness.  There are no words.  Except next time I need to do a bigger one than the 1.5kg boneless roast I did tonight.

I will be spending Wednesday and Thursday in my new classroom getting to know my students and the routines and procedures that are already in place there.  I think Tuesday afternoon might require some planning.  Getting home at 5.30pm is not conducive to implementing even the best of plans!

I believe some serious OAMC will be a school holiday job.  Otherwise we might never eat real food again once I start work next term.  This is my biggest fear about working full time!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Join me - IF: Equip and their "Beatitudes" study

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My very most favourite daily devotional comes from IF: Equip.  There is a new devotional posted each weekday and their beauty is in their simplicity.

A portion of Scripture
Guiding questions for journalling
A 2-minute video clip discussing the text
A question to ponder and respond to in the comments section

IF: Equip has helped me to slow down in the Word and really take in what I'm reading.  Some days I journal and some days I don't.  Some days I comment and some days I don't.

There are no rules or expectations or systems to rebel against here.  Just me in the Word.  I can engage in community when it's helpful and I go as deep as suits me.  Often I am pondering what I've read throughout the day.

Join me?

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Saturday Night - Pizza Night

We have reached new heights in homemade pizza making.  Or maybe real pizza dough and homemade sauce is just always going to be so much better than pita bread pizzas?

I used this pizza dough recipe (scroll down to the 'favourite' recipe), with semolina in it.  And I used Jen Hatmaker's House Sauce recipe for the tomato base.  And then I obediently followed Jen's instructions and froze half the dough and half the sauce.  Voila.  Pizza for another night, because I do not hate myself.

Actually, tonight saw quite a number of 'new' adventures in pizza-making here.  Jen suggested using basil pesto under the tomato sauce.  She was right.  Absolute winner (unless you have a child allergic to nuts, and then you need to do one without the pesto).  Usually I do a bacon and pineapple pizza and a potato, garlic and onion pizza.  Don't ask - it's Miss Mischief's Year 2 teacher's fault.  In any case Miss Mischief wasn't in for dinner and Miss Sunshine was at work so we got pesto and not-potato pizza!  I also didn't have any tinned pineapple.  But I did have red capsicum, mushrooms and zucchini.  I grilled and peeled the capsicum, sliced the mushrooms and used my mandolin slicer to do the zucchini in ribbons.  That was it.  Three veggie pizza with pesto and tomato sauce on the base, and mozzarella cheese.

Soooo good.

And dough and tomato sauce for another night.  I am a winner tonight folks!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

New Lemon Season Ahead

I tried out a new recipe last night, which required lemons.  I picked my way through wet grass and growing, lush lawn weeds out to the very back corner where our productive little lemon tree resides.  Wouldn't you know it, there are new-season lemons deep in the foliage, near the bottom of the tree.

Hold on to your hats, people, in no short amount of time that tree will be weary with the burden of holding all the fruit it bears!

They're not super ripe yet, but they were good enough to try out this recipe.  Since I needed to pop into Aldi to pick up the chicken and beans I also snatched up, as I passed by, a pack of chocolate chip brioche buns.  And those become the best bread-and-butter pudding I've had in a long while.

Before we even got to dessert, however, we three girls got texts from my SIL - a new Tim Tam flavour is out.  Three Bean….coffee, vanilla, cocoa.

Tira Misu, or Chocolate Coated Coffee Beans, in a biscuit.  YUM

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

To Twist or Not to Twist - Bread Bag Issues

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I am a pretty pragmatic kind of person.  I don't like to waste time or energy doing things that are unnecessary and I am pretty good at finding the most efficient way to get things done.  My mother used to say "give the laziest person the hardest job and they will find the easiest way to do it".  I think she was onto something.  I will happily change my habits, routines and procedures when I feel like the changes will improve efficiency.

So, every morning when I go to get some bread out of the freezer for my toast breakfast you can imagine having to untwist the top of the bread bag 40 million times is a little annoying.  It takes ages and anything past about two twists doesn't really add any benefit.

I finally figured out who the heavy-twisting culprit is.  Mr Busy twists that bread bag, after use, like his very life depends on it.  Twist, twist, twist, twist.  I dunno…five or six times.  What a waste of his energy.  I've hinted and asked and told him straight out:  twice is enough!  I don't want to spend all that time untwisting the top of the bag because you're obsessed with I-don't-know-what.

And then I discovered Dh does the same thing.  Those men-people are like peas in a pod.

There is no hope of me ever being able to open a bread bag without waiting half an hour for it to unwind itself.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Who would you invite to dinner?

I think I might be a creepy stalker kind of person.  In the way that the internet lets ordinary people kind of stalk famous people without them knowing that we've decided they are our best friends.  Now, don't tell me I'm no alone here!!!  I am probably one of the less scary versions of this kind of stalker, because I don't have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or any of the other thousands of social media thingys people use these days.  But some of my favourite famous people have websites and blogs and Facebook, and they write almost daily and let you into their lives a little bit.  And, for social media avoiders like me, they make stuff public.

But like I said, these people don't know that they would be my best friends in real life, and best friends have meals together around their tables.  They laugh and cry together, and share life and groan about housework.  Isn't it funny how the internet lets you do a little bit of those things without ever meeting someone?

So, my favourite famous people?  The people I would love to spend a few hours around my table with good food and lots of fun?

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Jen Hatmaker:  Because this woman is hilariously funny and very real.  She asks hard questions about the church and thinks deeply about faith - walks what she talks.  She does her stuff with God in the Word.  I'm learning that I work the same way.  And she's so funny (did I say that already?).

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Shauna Niequist:  Shauna is more than a handful of years behind me in age, but she carries this incredible wisdom that I just want to soak up.  She is a truth-speaking story teller and the minute I have a regular income again I am ordering all her books.  She speaks of the sacredness of living life around the table and how sharing our stories deepens our faith.

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Shiela Walsh:  Another incredibly funny woman, with a dry sense of humour that I totally get.  She has an incredible story and is an amazing story-teller.  Again, faith is her grounding and she just oozes warmth and wisdom.

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Ann Voskamp:  Another profound storyteller, homeschooling mother of five.  She also has an amazing story, and with five kids no doubt has a great sense of humour.  But this woman lives in the moment with deliberate intention in her faith that I just want to soak in and become.

I think I would put Jen and Shauna in charge of food because they are complete foodies, and I need their inspiration.  Desperately.  I want to return to my foody ways and I'm having a little trouble getting back there.  And then I can only begin to imagine what an evening, or a whole day….or well, let's just go all out shall we?  a whole weekend retreat.  We would talk and laugh and eat and talk some more about absolutely everything that is important, and probably a whole bunch of stuff that isn't so much.

If you could have dinner with a favourite someone, or a group of someone's who are famous who would you choose?

Monday, 8 June 2015

When Good Men invest in Good Young Men

How do men, across generations, spend the public holiday of a long weekend?  By rabbit hunting.  With the help of ferrets.

One of our pastors comes from up in the country, a couple of hours' drive from here.  His adult kids live on the farm he and his wife still own; his brother is up that way and so is his Dad.  So they have land.  And ferrets.  And rascally rabbits.  Something about the chase and the hunt and being all messy and loud and enjoying the great outdoors is appealing I guess.  Rabbit hunting seems to kill a few birds with one stone:  having fun, getting rid of pests, catching your own food.

You can't see it, because I am super thingy about privacy and safety and boring stuff like that, and because my new-to-me Mac has a cropping function, but Mr Busy has the biggest grin on his face, holding this cute-looking fluffy little ferret.  I see cute….I'm sure the men see "hunting tool".  But what I also see is my son having the time of his life with a whole bunch of really special Good Men.  His Dad, our Pastor and his son, brother and Dad.

These Good Men are investing far more into my son than a fun day doing manly, hunting stuff; more than giving my extroverted men somewhere to be, something to do and people to do it with.  They are investing into my son a whole bunch of important stuff about how to be a Good Young Man.  They are showing him some practical skills, sure.  But there will be laughter, bonding and encouragement.  They will model what it is to be a Good Man who respects other Good Men.  They will build him up, pour in and fill him up with being accepted and valued for who he is without expecting him to be someone he isn't.  He will get to feel like he's good at something and be mentored along the way when maybe he needs to learn a bit more.

I can't wait to hear stories from the day; the fun, the laughter, the successful catches.  But more than that I can't wait to see my son standing tall because some exceptional men showed him he is worth their time and their company.  I can't wait to see the self-belief and self-esteem that will grow because one significant man in my son's life thought enough of my son and my husband to organise a day doing some fun stuff together.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Stories of Faith

A few years ago, now, I discovered that I am a real story girl.  Studying Genesis for a year, followed by studying Romans for a year showed me that I connect more deeply with people's stories.  Today in our church we are getting to hear people's stories.  This morning we had four people sharing, and somehow or another I ended up being one of them.  What a privilege and responsibility to share our stories, be vulnerable with our communities and speak Truth about how God changes us, no matter where we are in our faith journey.

What I learnt this morning is that when you share a part of yourself people share some little corners of themselves with you, in return.  I got to have some little conversations with people who were deeply touched because something of my story was echoed in theirs.  We are more the same than different, aren't we?

This morning I shared about my experience with loss and grief and deep wounds from two significant, specific experiences.  The game-changer for me?  Psalm 103:1-6.  At the end of working through my stuff and having some prayer ministry, and having precious friends walk that very difficult and painful journey towards healing, it was those verses that made me realise I didn't have to be burdened by the weight of what had so wounded me.  Those verses reminded me of how God had already given me freedom and victory - all I had to do was exchange my wounds for freedom and victory and live like a free, victorious person.  It was easy once I was ready to hand it over!

We are not normally inclined to going to church in the morning and the evening, but I think today is one of those rare days where I can't help myself.  We have four different people sharing tonight, and if this morning is anything to go by it will be so worth it.

Weirdest part of the morning?  Hearing myself on the intro video.  That is the most bizarre sound in the world!

So, in your journey of faith, what was your game-changer?

Friday, 5 June 2015

Lazy Friday School Lunch

Reasons why some mothers (i.e. me) would pop out to one of the five bakeries and pick up something special for the two who still go to school:

  • It's Friday.
  • Miss Mischief is handing in her 93-page folio (A3 sized pages of trials, photos of trials, all annotated by hand).
  • Miss Mischief also has an English Lit SAC this morning.
  • Mr Busy's jumpers are too small or need washing.
  • Making another chicken and salad wrap seemed cruel on such a cold morning.
  • It's winter.
  • $4.80 is way cheaper than the $10 it would cost if we bought food from the school tuck shop.
The two who are still at school feel spoilt when they come out in the morning to find this is their lunch. I feel spoilt because I didn't make it.

One thing that has always amused me, however, is the number of bakeries in our town.  We have five, if you include Safeway.  Five bakeries for a town of 3,500 people.  I learnt a thing or two the other day about picking the right bakery.  The bakery I used to go to first thing in the morning would sell out of these types of rolls really quickly so I would be out the door at 6.30am and still not necessarily score what I wanted.  The bakery closest to Safeway, however, has these easily available well after 7am (much more sane!).  This morning I got there are 7.30am and their rolls had only just come out of the oven, so there were plenty and a greater variety of fillings to choose from.  The second bakery is now my go-to choice for an early morning trip for a lunch treat.

How do you treat your kids on days when you can't be bothered making lunches?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Parenting through Yr12 Folio Subjects

This is our second year in a row of Year 12 Studio Art.  The second year of a stressed out teenager with too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Folio subjects require a great deal of time in a way that the more academic subjects just don't seem to.

Miss Mischief and I spent six hours at school on Saturday, working on her folio.  I cut, put double sided tape on hundreds of printed photos.  She placed them, I unpeeled said double-sided tape and stuck them down.  Ten combined hours of hands-on work time. Now there are about 30 pages of annotation to be completed.  And a proposal for potential directions for next term to be written.  Between English essays and Biology SAC's.

So how do we manage this stressful time crunch?  Gently.  Carefully.  Compassionately.  I hope.
  • Miss Mischief has a dishes reprieve for the week.  The other two will either wash or put dishes away instead of splitting the putting away between two of them.
  • I get to rub Miss Mischief's back before bed - I have no idea what I'm doing or how to do it, but she seems to like it and thinks it's special.
  • Encourage her to keep going when she'd love to just collapse in a heap.
  • Help prioritise annotating those pagse and studying for SAC's.
  • Nag Encourage her to phone her Food Tech teacher (distance subject) and ask for a small extension.
  • And pray.  Pray that she gets that annotation done; that she can write like the wind.  That words would come easily and quickly.  That her writing would be clear, succinct, intelligent and address the subject matter, aesthetics and materials appropriately.  That time would slow down and that she would be able to use every single spare moment to the best possible effect.
Last night when I popped quickly into Safeway I was served by a beautiful young man I have known since before he was born.  He said he has lost the will to study and that it just all feels too hard.  He's doing a folio subject too - not Studio Arts.  Before he had to serve another customer all I could do was encourage him to remember the big picture.  There are just four or five months to go.  Keep going, run your race.  You can do it.  Don't stop now!  I could see him inhale my words to bolster him for another step or two.

How are your Year 12 students faring?

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Lamington Wars

In our church there has been a raging debate about lamingtons.  Specifically, the debate is around whether they should have jam or no jam?  I think, as a some-time lamington-maker, this is the wrong question.

Yesterday we had after-church gatherings around food to celebrate who we are as a community and to foster engagement and relationships.  We had the most brilliant morning!  A week or two ago we were approached by one of our pastors, who whispered in Miss Mischief's ear; a special request for her lamingtons.  She had made lamingtons for him when he was over for dinner once, while his wife was overseas.  He felt special and spoilt and…well who could possibly deny a man who asks so humbly, and we had to bring something anyway?  

Funnily enough, others had the same thought.  Lamingtons everywhere!  It should have been dubbed "Lamington Day".  Very few were homemade though, so many offerings had jam in them.  I think this has happened with the advent of pre-prepared food and bakeries.  When I was a child, and all lamingtons that were consumed were made at home, there was no such thing as jam lamingtons.  And I know why.  They are fiddly as all get out to make.  And time consuming.  When you are dipping squares of cake in runny chocolate icing and waiting for them to drip off a little and then rolling in them coconut at 10.30pm you are not dealing with jam and slip-sliding pieces of cake as well.  Your people are lucky to be getting lamingtons at all because they are truly a labour of love.  Your people would do well to remember this!

So yesterday I heard of one pastor who asked quietly "who would bring lamingtons without jam?" and I saw another pick up a lamington and put it down to get a different one.  I caught him doing it and in true mother-form I asked "did you really just pick that up and put it back?  What are you doing?" (we have a good relationship!).  He responded that the first one didn't have jam.


Neither of these men have ever made lamingtons.  At 10.30pm at night.

The question, dear pastors, is not "Should lamingtons have jam or no jam?".  The question should be "Do we have lamingtons or no lamingtons?"  Because if people are making them at home they're not doing jam!!