Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Lone Objector: Adulting Isn't So Bad

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I have two baby adults in my house.  You know this if you've read here for even two seconds.  Miss Sunshine seems to think that being an adult is the very most hardest thing in the world.  Miss Mischief thinks it's all a bit ho-hum and is more bemused by the fact that with a half-hour drive about with someone extra in the car she is now allowed to drive all by herself.  And feels like a rebel doing so.  This is my rule-follower child.

I don't remember that becoming an adult was all that difficult and I find myself rolling my eyes every time Miss Sunshine thinks she is overwhelmed.  The child has no idea.  She is nearly 20, studying and living at home.  She works casually (for her uncle) and has enough money to keep her car on the road and buy the things she wants to buy.  Conversely, at nearly 20, I had been working full-time for two years, was married, had moved out of home and was doing just fine doing the adult thing without my parents' help.

A friend of mine recently insisted that times were different when we were that age.  And while that is kind of true, it's kind of not.  We all still have to make the transition and it comes with having to get yourself a job, make your own decisions and eventually move out of home.  We all do it.  Generations before us did, and the generations that follow will too.

In complete opposition to my oldest daughter I was quite happy to become an adult.  I have spent more than half my life making my own decisions and being responsible for those decisions.  I have figured out hard things, like how to go about building a house (I was 21 when we did that), and buying a house.  How to navigate the Centrelink labyrinth and buying insurance for cars and houses.    For goodness sake I have managed to raise three kids.  That's jolly hard work, but also the best work ever.

I wonder when it happened, that we began to focus on how hard it is to be responsible for oneself, as opposed to just getting on with the next thing that needs to be done.  My kids have often complained that "they don't feel like xyz" whatever it is they don't feel like doing.  I have just as often told them that it doesn't necessarily matter how you feel about getting out of bed/doing the dishes/doing your homework/going to work/handing in that assignment.  You just do it because it needs to be done.

Lots of being an adult is about being responsible for your obligations, whatever they are.  But lots of being an adult is getting to make fun decisions too.  I just don't think it's all as bad as it apparently seems.

Mantra for my baby adults:  You can do hard things.  Be brave!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Productive Kitchen Day - Busy Term Protection!

I was watching episodes of Rachael Ray's "Week in a Day" yesterday morning and I was completely inspired to cook some meals ahead.  Off I went to do some grocery shopping and got myself organised.  Then I got to work.  Above is a photo at about the mid-point of my cook-fest.

Can I just say, cooking ahead in one day = very hard work.

Despite my sore feet and back and needing a nice long nap afterwards I now have in my freezer:

  • 3 meals of chicken burgers + 3 extra patties for a light-on-people night
  • 1 roasted vegetable lasagne (I made two, only one made it to the freezer!)
  • 1 vegetable pasta sauce (from making the lasagne)
  • 3 meals of sloppy joe mince
After getting all that together I was too tired and sore to make the risotto I had planned on, so we ate one of the two lasagnes for dinner.  It was so much better than I imagined it would be!  You know when you take ideas from a few places and then make it up from there to suit yourself?  Yes.  That was my lasagne.  I'll post a recipe another day because it was just beautiful.  The best part is that I managed to hide eggplant and red capsicums by finely dicing all the veggies instead of leaving them as thin strips or rounds.  All together you just got a beautiful rich veggie sauce.  Any other way there would have been complaints and picking things out.  I am the winner!

As much as I love the protective layer that meals in the freezer gives me I think doing so much in one day is probably not my favourite way.  I suspect I would rather just double and triple recipes on the day I intend to make them.  Which is good to know about myself.  Or I could just sit on the other side of the bench for all the chopping, rather than be on my feet for hours.

What I am looking forward to?  A term's worth of "Fend for Yourself Friday" meals, courtesy of the burgers and sloppy joe meat.  I stopped planning Friday nights because two of the kids would be gone before I could even think about getting home so they had toasted sandwiches or eggs on toast or leftovers.  Or nothing.  I have no idea!  This year I'll be able to get home by 5pm, but they'll still be dashing off not long after I get home.  This way they'll have something they can pull out and when they need it and there will be food for others who come along later.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Spring Cleaning: The Last Mt Everest

Before - View from the front door

I have done it.  I have tackled Mt Everest and won the battle.  Above is a picture of my personal Mt Everest.  While I was studying this little corner was fairly tidy and organised.  Since I finished (over a year ago!) this has become the place where I dump my stuff.  I don't work here because the modem doesn't seem to like the front room and I have sketchy internet at best.  Besides, it's much more relaxing to sit in front of the telly, so that's where I tend to work when I bring things home.

It took me hours of riffling through piles and bags and bits and pieces.  I threw out a whole bunch of stuff I haven't looked at in ages.  It is so tempting, as a teacher, to keep great resources.  I have decided, however, that there is little point to keeping much beyond the year level I currently teach, and so much of what I have is also in electronic version on my computer.  

After - View from the front door

I have reduced my rubbish tip to one bookshelf and moved the little filing cabinet to another corner of the room where it doesn't look too out of place.  What you can't see are all the things I need to take to school.  I didn't realise how much I had collected, but I'm thinking a big plastic box/tub will keep all those things contained and defined as mine.

I think that is the last frontier that needed my attention over the summer.  I refuse to deal with the kids' rooms.  We will fumigate and replace carpet when they leave.  Just kidding...sort of.  Actually maybe it's just Mr Busy.  In any case, doors were created for their ability to close so that's the method I use to deal with their messes.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Of Dust and Other Thankless Tasks

I have spent the last two days cleaning.  Since this is one of my "off the beam" things this year you'll understand how I might feel about it.

After packing down the Christmas tree and spending an hour vacuuming every corner of the room to get rid of fake tree needles and tinsel I have rearranged furniture and got that room back to non-Christmas normal.  And you know what?  I didn't even get to dusting.  Oh dear... and oh well.  After a day deal with all that I went in to spend some time in my new classroom.  Guess what?  More dust!  Two of the kids and I spent two hours dusting, cleaning, sorting and I rearranged a whole bunch of Maths resources.  I threw a whole bunch of old stuff out that has been there way too long.  I still have a whole bunch of shelves behind my desk that I need to go through as well, but that will happen another day.  I have a whole year after all!

My last school holiday cleaning job?  Cleaning out the little corner that has been my "office" for the last five years.  I don't work at that desk anymore and it just collects junk.  My junk.  And since it's right near the front door everyone sees my little pile Mt Everest-sized pile of junk.  Must deal with it. Today perhaps.

Just as well these thankless tasks, that no one else appreciates, brings a certain amount of satisfaction when you finish them yourself.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Parenting Files: Driveway Real Estate

We have a new driver in the house.  Yesterday Miss Mischief became the proud bearer of a Victorian Probationary Driver's Licence.  She came home, sent texts to the people she wanted to tell and then promptly got into her little itty bitty car  (whose wheels are half the size of mine!) and went over to a friend's house.  Just like that.  I'm here to tell you that maiden voyage is the scariest, hardest, worst moment of my parenting life.  It's so much easier when you are in the car with them, which is saying something.  Supervising learner drivers is certainly no picnic.

With the procuring of that precious little piece of paper comes the real issue.  Driveway real estate.  We have a two-car carport...and four cars.  The girls have been coming up with all kinds of solutions to this problem:

  1. Rip out the garden on one side and widen the driveway.
  2. Remove the picket fence so they can park on the front lawn.
  3. Remove the entire front garden area and make it parking space.
I think the solution is that we will be moving cars about a lot.  There is room for the four, with two in front of the carport.  It's squeezy but adequate.  In winter you can bet we'll all want to be under cover, rather than enduring icy windscreens and wiper water sprayers that freeze up.  Maybe Dh and I can start our own little real estate business and charge exorbitant amounts of rent each time a P Plated car ends up there?!  Actually the more pragmatic part of myself tends to think the first one out in the morning needs to be in front.  Under those circumstances I may never see the carport again.  Last year I was the first to leave almost every day.

I think I can wait a long while until Mr Busy joins the ranks of licence drivers.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

On The Beam

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Are you someone who sets themselves New Year's resolutions?  Do you keep them?  I've heard of people choosing a word to define their year, rather than setting lofty, unplanned goals.  Me?  I've tried both and failed.  At both.  You'd think a word was easier to hang on to, but no.  Life gets hectic and that word is a vague and distant memory.

I've decided my year's beginning needs to be defined by what's on my beam and what's not.  I can hear you asking -- what on earth are you talking about Tracy?  Late last year I read "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker, who is one of my very most favourite author people.  Hilarious, real, a little bit snarky with her sarcasm.  A foodie.  In her book Jen talks about her daughter learning gymnastics and how she struggles most with the balance beam.  She goes on to compare those 'tricks' with the things we try to juggle in our lives.

I am someone who has big issues with balance.  I have long maintained that any activity requiring balance is something best avoided by me, in preference to good health.  I can't stay on a horse.  Ever. I can't roller or ice skate.  In fact, I am the only person on earth who doesn't improve their skills over the three or four hours you might be on skates (read: I grab onto anything and anyone in order to stay upright because I can't do it on my own).  Skiing is a dead loss.  Who wants to land on your butt any time you try to stand up?  It hurts!  I won't even bother trying things like skateboarding.  Seriously?  Who dreamed up these torturous things?  And bike riding?  Just no.  I can fall over my own feet quite successfully, I don't need some apparatus to help me out!  The idea of comparing the things we juggle in life to a balance beam made so much sense to me.  I am so epically bad a balance stuff, and I am epically bad a whole bunch of life stuff too!

"We cannot do it all, have it all, or master it all.  That simply is not a thing.  May I tell you something?  Because women ask constantly how I "do it all," let me clear something up:  
~ Jen Hatmaker (For the Love)

So what's on my balance beam this year?

  • Family - mothering, wife-ing, daughtering, sistering, aunty-ing.
  • Work - a new teaching job at a school with which I am intimately familiar.  It'll be hard but worthwhile work.
  • Church - I am continuing to lead a teeny little Life Group; an unlikely little handful of women.
  • Health - what can I say?  A whole bunch of clothes I love, that I want to wear again.  Also a hill at school that I don't want to be winded by every time I have to walk up it.  There's a lot of up at school.  I don't like up!  I want to be able to like up a little more than I do currently.
  • Friends - because these are the people who make life work.  That means book club with some of my favourite girlfriends.  It means breakfast on a Saturday with another friend.  It means spending time with people close to us.  There always needs to be time for friends.
What am I taking of my beam this year?
  • House cleaning.  I'm going to start looking for someone to come and clean.  Floors and bathrooms is all I really want.  So on my beam initially is finding someone.  And then that's off.  I typically score an epic fail in this area and the kids don't do a good enough job for me to be satisfied.   Seriously?  The dust bunnies that grow around here could kidnap a small child and hide them forever!  I don't like clutter but cleaning is a whole other trick I need to get off my beam.  Yesterday I spent some time just vacuuming around the edges of all the rooms with wood floors, and the window sills, and under the computer wires, and around the TV cabinet.  You know...all the places a grown up person cleans.
  • Cooking every night.  I just can't.  To come home after 5.30pm, following a whole day of little people (littler than last year, even) and have to cook dinner?  This has ended in tears over the last six months.  So off the beam!  There has to be some good from having baby adult people who know how to use a kitchen living in your house.
  • Guilt.  I won't feel guilty about saying no to the stuff that doesn't fit my season.  I know my season is about learning to do my job well and efficiently.  I know my season is about getting baby adults to be grown up adults.  I know my season is about cheering on the 15yo who needs to be more diligent at school.  My season is not about saying yes to stuff just because it's "good".  It needs to fit into what I'm currently called to be doing
"We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead by wise".
~ Jen Hatmaker (For the Love)

What are you balancing that you need to take off your beam?  What are your keeping on your beam?  What's in your season right now?

Monday, 11 January 2016

Recipe: Warm Summer Spaghetti

We have been enjoying a warm summer spaghetti meal over the last two weeks.  Really, because Mum gave me a basil pot plant for Christmas.  She told me, right off the bat, she didn't believe I would plant it or keep it alive for any lengthy period of time; just that I would use it and enjoy.  Oh the relief of not having to keep something alive.  She knows this is not one of my skill sets.

The pot has been sitting on my bench and I've been watering it when the soil feels a tad dry.  The first thing I thought of was tomatoes and bocconcini, because that always goes perfectly with basil.  This is the result.  All those things mixed with pasta, spring onion and garlic.  Yum!

Warm Summer Spaghetti

mini roma or cherry tomatoes, quartered
spring onions, finely chopped
bocconcini, drained & the cheese gently torn into small chunks*
fresh garlic cloves(s), finely chopped
handful of basil leaves, finely chopped right before adding to the pasta
spaghetti - enough for your family

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. While the spaghetti is cooking prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Drain the spaghetti in a colander, and while it drains, return the pot to the heat and allow the water to dry out.
  4. Turn the heat to low; add some butter and once melted, add the garlic and salute gently until cooked.
  5. Turn the heat off and add a little olive oil; return the spaghetti to the pot and toss to coat with the garlic butter and oil.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and toss gently.  Add a little oil if you think it's too dry.
  7. Serve and enjoy.
* I tear each ball into about four pieces; be gentle with them!

I haven't really given quantities here because it depends on how many people you're feeding.  For the five of us I use 2 spring onions, 2 garlic cloves and a small container of the mini romas.  I get the bocconcini from Aldi and use two small tubs (that's the only size they have).  Sorry, I have no idea of the weight.  I do know that I get to eat a couple of bocconcini balls myself (cook's privilege!!).

You're welcome!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Fancy Breakfast Bargain

I am an unapologetic smoked salmon lover.  When I go out for breakfast I often go for the menu option that includes it.  Or I pay the extra to add it to something that doesn't include it.  Imagine my complete delight when I was fossicking through the "reduced to clear" shelf in the fridge section at the supermarket yesterday, and discovered salmon marked down!

A 300g package of Tassal (because anything from Tasmania automatically holds a place in my heart) salmon for a mere $6 - about $20/kg.  Salmon is normally around the $50/kg mark, hence it doesn't often make it into our home except on special occasions.  I need to have it all eaten up in two days, but really, how hard can that be?

I had a couple of slices with my breakfast this morning. I'd planned to make some sushi with it for lunch.  Hmmmm....apparently cheap salmon that needed to be eaten was too tempting.  I believe salmon and cream cheese sandwiches yesterday took care of most of it!  Oh well.  It was enjoyed one way or another.

On the breakfast note - I didn't realise, until after I'd had children, that there is a whole delightful thing around going out for breakfast.  You can absolutely believe that the very minute our children were old enough to be left to themselves for an hour or two we were out the door!  But it's not just my husband with whom I have breaky.  No, I have some girlfriends that enjoy a relaxing breakfast away from all the people in our houses.  And a sister-in-law.  We both drive 15 minutes to meet in the town between our houses.  It's always bolstering to a weary soul to start a day calmly while someone else makes you a to-die-for breakfast.  And then my favourite thing to have is something with a chewy sourdough toast, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon and goats cheese - maybe some tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach.  They don't always come on one plate.  Someone needs to do something about that!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Parenting Files: Adult Children in Your House?

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Lately I find myself thinking about, dreaming of, and anticipating the day the children all leave home and it's nice and quiet and peaceful around here.  And clean.  In fact, I'm beginning to disturb myself at the number of times I mention the possibility that the adult children leave home.  I need to stop it!  I love my kids.  I have mentioned often how awesome they are.  Because they actually are.  If I'm going to be trapped in a house of baby adults who stay around then I couldn't choose better people to be with.

But I'm tired of the parenting bit that comes with everyone living here.  They make me forget I'm really a nice person.

When I was in the car with Miss Mischief the other day I finally nailed the problem.  When I was exactly Miss Sunshine's age I was just barely married and had moved out.  I was the queen of my own little castle; boss of my own space.  I also worked full time from 18yo.  I didn't go to University so I was pretty independent from the minute I became an adult.  This is completely and utterly the opposite of my own baby adults, who are pursuing higher education and a gap year before beginning study.  Mostly kids don't leave home to go to University in Australia.  Certainly, when you live in or around a major city students simply commute rather than live on-campus.  University housing is very limited and costs more than my mortgage!

It seems like each season of parenting begins with a major mental and emotional shift and this is no different.  I need to have a long think about what this season needs to look like, and what makes sense for us.  Things like expectations and responsibilities, and then clarity for everyone in our home so we're all on the same page.  Indeed, what the page should even look like.  I remember it taking me about six months to fully adjust to having all my children off at school, and what that would look like for me, as a SAHM.  Clearly I'm a little slow off the mark for this season.  Or maybe I've just finally conceded that I'm weary!  I have recently resorted to blaming some of my parenting decisions on things like "You all know he's the youngest, he's meant to get away with more stuff".  Or, "Middle child life is hard and unfair - we're just fulfilling that for you".  Fortunately adult people get the sarcasm and lack of truth in these statements!!

Any thoughts?  What worked for you (as a baby adult, or as a parent!)?  What didn't?  I am so keen to gather all the sage advice I can find!

Monday, 4 January 2016

A Menu Plan....

It has been a long time since I've posted a menu plan.  Not because I haven't been doing them.  A list-writing type of person is never far from a list of some sort, and this type of list saves my sanity more often than I'd care to admit.  I stopped posting them because they weren't terribly popular posts, and many of my meals are repeated often.  It seemed like having a collection of menu plans over a long period of time and stored in one place was probably enough to wander through.

This week, however, I seem to have found some enthusiasm for my plan.  Enthusiasm seems to wane as I get busy, so working full time is quite the antidote to any kind of kitchen excitement.  I even have ideas for lunches that make me quite happy.  Here we go -- a summer menu plan for us Picket Fencer's:

Monday:  Pasta Bolognese (I'll be out with friends and I'm quite happy to miss out on this meal)
Tuesday: Crunchy Chicken Cutlets (from Simply Nigella)
Wednesday: Roasted Vegetable Platter
Thursday: Vegetable Curry & Rice
Friday: Summer Margherita Pasta
Saturday: Chicken Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries
Sunday: Jacket Potatoes with Coleslaw

My Summer Margherita Pasta is the newest addition to our repertoire.  I'll try to remember to take a photo, but it is a bowlful of summer-i-ness that we all loved.  Even the non-herb lovers of the family (that would be all the younger ones).  I'll post a recipe when I take the photo.

For lunches I'm dreaming of things like sushi rolls, hot dogs, and I found some marked-down smoked salmon which needs to be eaten in the next couple of days.  Perhaps I need to find some really good robust, chewy bread and eat it with some cream cheese.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Chinese Feast (as good as take away)

This is about my favourite Chinese cookbook - full of authentic recipes and great pictures.  A winning combination if ever there was one.  It was the starting point for our dinner tonight.  There is a very tasty recipe for "Three Cup Chicken", the internet equivalent for which seems to be quite elusive.  The other recipe I tried, from a recently acquired library cast-off (one should hang about libraries when they are culling their stock!), was a steamed pork rib dish, such as you would have if you were enjoying Yum Cha.

Neither dish contained any kind of vegetable so I quartered a bunch of baby bok choy and steamed those in with the chicken.  I had no idea, but two of the kids informed me they don't like bok choy.  Well, I just think that's not allowed, so next time I would chop them up and make it part of the dish, proper.  The flavour of bok choy is far less bossy when it's all mixed in and you get small, tender bites throughout.

~ Our Better-than-Take-Away Chinese Feast ~

Steamed Pork Ribs
Three Cup Chicken
Steamed Bok Choy
Basmati Rice

I wish I could find recipes that are closer to what I used tonight, but alas the internet is not being helpful this evening.  What I will say, is get yourself some good books with recipes that are authentic, and then be adventurous.  Or ask a friend who might be willing to share some hints and recipes with you.  What I learned tonight?  The sauces are so, so simple.  The chicken?  Dry sherry, soy sauce and chicken stock.  Liquid stock, I'm sure, made all the difference.  I normally wouldn't bother with the expense of buying stock in liquid form.  I now have a whole bunch of stock ice-cubes freezing for posterity.  And because I was smart, and measured, I know they are each a 15ml tablespoon's worth.

What is your "better than take away" meal?