Monday, 28 August 2017

Monday Is Menu Day

It's Monday again.  I tell you, this term is positively flying!  Which is good.  And bad.  I've still got so much to get organised before Parent-Teacher meetings that happen in just three weeks!  Then again, I know we're deep into the term, because the food thing is falling apart over here.  We all want to eat healthy, delicious dinners, but none of us have the mental wherewithal to actually cook.

I did some self-protective work this weekend.  I have got four meals prepared and ready for cooking sitting in my freezer.  It feels like the best compromise for preparing ahead, that I can manage.  Cooking whole meals is too much work to be reasonable (I have five adult people here), and I'm still not totally in love with the crock pot idea.  I'm just not enjoying the dry-ish, stringy way the meat turns out each time I try it out.  But the minestrone soup I did a week or two ago did work, so maybe that's my ticket there.

So here's the menu for this week:

Monday:  Chinese simmering chicken, rice, veggies (+ another in the freezer)
Tuesday: Veggie Plate (a plate of roasted & steamed veggies)
Wednesday:  Crumbed chicken with orange and cranberry sauce, veggies (+ another in the freezer)
Thursday:  Beef Burgers and wedges
Friday:  Fend for Yourself Friday / leftovers
Saturday:  Chicken & corn soup, prawn gyozas
Sunday:  Maybe a roast chicken?  I've run out of ideas!

What's on your table this week?

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The 80/20 Rule for Mum Success

The hilarious Jen Hatmaker released her newest book, "Of Mess and Moxie" last week.  She shared a small excerpt on TODAY's Parenting team website to whet our appetite a few days later ,and I giggled my way through the whole thing.  Or maybe there was actual laughing out loud.  My kids now roll their eyes and ask if Jen is involved.  All I can say is I'm really glad a copy of her book is sitting on my bedside table.  Jen is funny and smart and real and challenging and full of snarky sarcasm that just seems to be match my own blunt directness.  She's the kind of person you'll wish lived right next door to you.  And you'll certainly wish you were part of her tribe.  I know I do!  Like any really good friend, we have differing views on some things here and there, but the really important things hold true regardless.

What I loved about this little excerpt (besides her hilarious communication style) is the sentiment that it's OK to be a good enough Mum most of the time.  That's not to say we should aim low, but it is important to know that we're not perfect.  And we're not!  None of us are perfect, so I wonder why it is that we seem to think that we should be perfect in our parenting?  Read the snippet - you'll realise that maybe your 80% success is actually pretty good.  Because, you know, have you ever driven an hour in the wrong direction to an excursion location to meet your kids that aren't there?  No?  See, you're doing great!

I mentioned, just recently, that my son takes fake food, like cup-a-soup and tinned spaghetti for lunch these days.  And I haven't actually cleaned my own house in about a year (I outsource this job).  I have forgotten my kids in all kinds of places.  Miss Mischief in a supermarket in Malacoota, picking kids up from school at the right time (to be fair, they were returning from camps at odd times).  Once I forgot to take my kids to a birthday party.  My friend phoned to ask if we were coming....yep...just a bit late, as it turned out.  I'm never normally late.  If you're like me, you've screeched at your kids, you've failed to keep a promise, you overreacted and probably done a thousand other things you wish you could retract.  And you know what?  These are all opportunities to model apologising, asking for forgiveness and dealing with disappointment.  So I guess our 20% failure rate turns out to be a silver lining in an otherwise grey cloud.  We get to help our kids develop resilience and persistence and empathy.

So Jen is shooting for 80/20 success rate, or so.  What are shooting for?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Monday Menu Planning

Do you ever get to the end the day and wonder where it went?  I certainly felt like that at the end of recess and lunch time.  Where did that break go?  I haven't finished my tea yet.  And I need to finish my tea.  I don't drink coffee and days with no release time are full on.  Tea is essential!  And sugar of some description.

The good thing is that I managed to get my menu plan and grocery shopping done.  On Sunday.  Sadness.  I so enjoyed not having to do that last Sunday, but you can't be at work all afternoon on Saturday and expect to get the grocery shopping done, now can you?

In any case, we have a menu, and one meal has been prepared, consumed and cleaned up.
Monday: Thai chicken curry, rice, roti bread
Tuesday: Chicken Kiev (pre-prepared from Aldi), vegetables
Wednesday:  Oven Friend Chicken, vegetables
Thursday:  Mum & Dad are bringing dinner with them (Hallelujah!)
Friday:  Fend for Yourself Friday
Saturday:  Homemade pizza (using Aldi pizza bases from the bread section)
Sunday:  Veggie Plate (a plate filled with roasted & steamed veggies)

We're exactly half way through Term 3, and you can tell that things are starting to slide, in the food department.  Pre-prepared, pretend chicken is evidence.  You know what?  I don't have the wherewithal to care that much.  And yet I do, but other things seem to get in the way of the time it takes to prepare the kind of dinner I really yearn to eat.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How to Feel Like You're Not Really Cleaning

If you've been here long enough, you know I outsource our regular household cleaning for floors and bathrooms.  It was something that was truly getting the best of me when I began teaching full-time, so I found someone who was willing to help me out with that.  Even though I have someone in once a fortnight, there are still a whole bunch of little things that need to be done more regularly, or things I don't have my wonderful cleaners do for me.  Like the cooktop and the oven and the microwave and any vertical surface in the kitchen.

The other thing you will know about me, by now, is that I am ridiculously sensitive to chemicals.  By which I mean synthetic and super scented stuff you buy these days.  I don't mean naturally occurring, in-their-natural-state things.  So for me, cleaning is a bit of a thing.  It requires rubber gloves and being extra careful not to get stuff on me...even dishwashing detergent.  It is quite ridiculous, and yet me skin will scream at me if I'm not overly cautious.  I'm still trying to clear up an encounter with liquid hand soap, of the foaming variety, from back in April.  It smelt so good, and it felt so fun.  Until the eczema arrived and I had to find and anti fungal cortisone cream to finally clear it all up.  Not so good or fun after all.

All that to say, I think I found something that works for me, and my cleaning needs.  An all purpose cleaning solution spray that I made myself at home, and use all the time around the kitchen, and it is fantabulous.  I have stainless steel appliances, and it is perfect for cleaning those and getting them nice and shiny and streak-free.  This stuff just does a beautiful job, and it doesn't make my skin go nuts.  A total win-win!  The best part?  I had every single thing in my pantry, so it kind of didn't even cost me anything.  Right?!  Also, because this stuff works so well, it doesn't even really feel like cleaning.  A quick spritz and the surface is shiny.  It's very satisfying!

All Purpose Cleaning Spray

2 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
2 teaspoons baking soda
a spray bottle

Pour the water, vinegar and dishwashing liquid into a very large bowl or jug.  Then add the baking soda - DON'T STIR IT!  It will fizz quite a bit, and you'll just need to be very patient and let it completely stop fizzing.  I stirred mine very minimally, every now and then, and when it finally stopped trying to overflow the container and everything was dissolved, then I poured the solution into a clean spray bottle I had.

To use it, just spray it on the surface you want to clean and use a soft cloth to clean as you normally would.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A New Blogging Adventure

Last night I took a step into a wild new adventure.  Well, it feels wild right about now!  Why am I adding something into this already frenetic life that is well and truly overflowing with too much to do?

It's one part courage and one part fear.  Courage, because I'm considering dabbling in selling teaching resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Also, I wanted a place to share things, specifically, about teaching.  The stuff non-teachers don't really need, and therefore really beyond the scope of this blog.  One part fear, because I love watching teachers on YouTube, but that feels like way beyond .... anything sane.  So a blog focussed on teaching is the saner idea of the two.

My first post went up last night.  And it'll probably be a very quiet little space, over there, for a while.  I've always been a social media refuser, so I have no other way to promote that it's there, other than here.  I have no real need for Facebook or Instagram or whatever else it is that people are using these days.  I don't even know!  At least I haven't had a need.  I don't know, maybe I need to be more open minded about that? I'll leave that question til another time - one adventure at a time is probably enough.

So there you have it - a new blog.  A new adventure.  New possibilities.  And a new logo I put together myself.  I have to say, that owl was worth every one of the few pennies I spent to procure the commercial licence required to use him.  Isn't he so, so cute?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why I have always made my kids' lunches

I've been asked this question numerous times throughout my kids' school years.  Why don't your kids make their own lunches?  It's a good question!  Usually it comes with a little sprinkle of disbelief, because it doesn't gel with the level of independence and responsibility we generally require from our kids.  The last time I had this discussion it was with someone who has only known me a short time, and doesn't know our family dynamic all that well.

To be fair, Mr Busy has broken all the rules of expectation.  I don't actually make his lunch for him, but I do send him to school with a bag full of tinned spaghetti and cup-a-soups.  And yes, that doesn't gel with my beliefs about food vs food-like products either.  But this is a difference between the boy eating and not eating.  Like his father many years before him, I found a number of lunches languishing in the bottom of his school bag, and I am vehemently opposed to wasting my time and energy making food for people who won't eat it.  So the man people in our house get no special lunch treatment.  The flip side for Mr Busy is that he won't take food if he has to make himself.  I'm paying a pretty penny for him to go to school, so I want his brain to actually work.  Therefore I send him with things he'll actually eat.  And that can sit in his bag or locker and won't go off.  It's a definite compromise on my part, but I think it's working, for now.

The real reason I've always made my kid's lunches (and was prepared to make Mr Busy's through to the end of Year 12 as well), is purely and simply about my own self-preservation.  Yes, they can do it themselves.  They all cook dinners, they're all very capable.  But this is the barest, most selfish reason for making lunches for capable people:

I can't stand listening to the kids fighting the kitchen in the morning.  Cannot.  Even.

When the three of them were still in school I would make their lunches and pop them in their designated colour of Tupperware sandwich box along with a snack and piece of fruit next to it.  It was their job to pack it into their insulated lunch box and into the bag.  There.  They won't totally devoid of responsibility in the process.  Just the being in the kitchen part!

These days I have no idea if the girls are at Uni for lunch or at home, or at church, or at work...  Baby adults with University schedules are a whole other beast.  I only really make my own school lunch now, and provide Mr Busy with non-perishable options.  And a lunch order on Thursday's.  Yep.  The youngest is spoiled, because I got tired of parenting.  Sorry girls.  You wore me out.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Monday's Weekly Menu Post

A miracle happened on Saturday - I managed to get my grocery shopping done instead of doing it on Sunday.  It's been something on my mental list of things I wanted to change, because I really don't enjoy shopping (you already knew that, if you've read here long enough) and doing it on Sunday just always felt like a double whammy of unenjoyable.

Somewhere along the line, I feel like I'm winning at a bunch of organisation things.  Especially at work....I don't know how it happens, but my weekly planning is zooming along so well.  So is my menu planning at home.  Don't you love it when things seem to come together, almost despite yourself.  I enjoy those moments because inevitably something will come along and bite me in the butt at some point!

In any case, this week's menu plan, all planned up and shopped for on Saturday.  Oh glory be!

Sunday:  Homemade burgers
Monday:  Lasange (homemade from the freezer)
Tuesday:  Veggie plate (a plate full of all kinds of steamed and roasted veggies)
Wednesday: Rosemary balsamic chicken (I'm gonna try the crockpot...wish my luck)
Thursday:  Freezer meal = Meat/Chicken pies, frozen veggies, jacket potato
Friday:  Fend for yourself Friday

There's the week's meals planned.  Now to get myself sorted for my final assignment for the  year.  I am so looking forward to having an actual day off, rather than unpaid days where I still fulfil my contractual obligations.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mum's Minestrone and a Crockpot Win

I have always been a reluctant crock-potter.  Partly because of the fare my mother produced in hers, when I was a child.  My mother and I have very different styles of cooking and preferences in food.  By far my tastes are more complex!  I am also more willing to put in more effort.  Don't get my wrong.  Mum is an excellent cook.  She just doesn't enjoy it, and isn't motivated to do more than necessary.  Also behind my crockpot reluctance is having produced some less than wonderful results.

My crockpot is as old as the hills, as you can see from the image below, which I found on Gumtree.  It was advertised as "retro".  Well, I'm not that old, but I have been married 26 years and this thing was a wedding gift.  It's not had that much of a workout and still works exactly as it did when we got it.  Mum insists the old crockpots were the best and not to get rid of it.  I've been a little more dubious.

Despite all of my reluctance and not-so-great experiences, which have included dry, stringy meat, I decided to give that thing another whirl.  I have Wednesday's off, so I figured that would be a good day to experiment, since I'm home to watch over it.  So, into that pot went my Mum's minestrone, minus the ham hock and beans.  I ended up having it on high all day, and it simmered very gently the whole time.  I turned it on low for a little bit, but everything just stopped moving and sank to the bottom.  I'm wondering whether 'low' is really just for keeping things warm, more than cooking things.  The last time I left something on low for 10 hours the carrots were still a little crunchy and the meat wasn't that tender.

An hour before I served dinner I threw in a few handfuls of risoni pasta and by the time we were ready to eat it was perfect.

That soup was the best thing I've cooked in the crockpot for years.  This coming week I'm going to try a rosemary balsamic chicken recipe and see how we go.  It was beautiful in the oven, so it had better live up to our high expectations!

Mum's Minestrone

Finely chop and saute an onion and 2 cloves of garlic, and then place in the crockpot, which is set on high.

Chop up into a fine dice:
3 carrots
1 zucchini
3 celery stalks
Throw into crockpot

Also add a tin of chopped tomatoes, Italian herbs and 1.5 litres water.

Set the crockpot to high and let it simmer for the day.  An hour before cooking add 3 handfuls of risoni pasta and cook for another hour.  You'll need to stir every now and then to make sure the pasta doesn't catch on the bottom.  You'll want to add salt (or not) to taste, depending on how you cook.

Serve with warm crusty rolls.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday means menus

What a day!  It began with a stereotypical Melbourne wintry morning.  Rain.  Grey, dark clouds.  Cold.  I had four students away and the rest were, shall we say, quiet and rather still.  Except for the two boys who decided to make some not-so-great behavioural decisions.  Sigh.

After hibernating all of Saturday, I managed to plan menus for the week, put together a grocery list and shop.  I also remembered to buy prizes for the room that went to sleep first, and the tidiest room, from camp.  And you can bet the kids were asking about those prizes....but I need to coordinate with the class next door and that just didn't go smoothly today with staff dropping like flies all over the place.

My successful menu plan is currently looking like this:
Monday:  Pasta bolognaise
Tuesday:  Thai chicken curry, rice, roti bread (Mr Busy cooking)
Wednesday: Mum's Minestrone (a bean free version) (me cooking)
Thursday: Honey soy chicken, veggies, rice (Miss Sunshine or me cooking)
Friday:  Fend for Yourself Friday
Saturday:  Burgers and wedges

Bonus for me, Mr Busy made the pasta to freeze and take on his snow camp last week.  It remained frozen and returned home, so that was dinner tonight.  We're all very happy not to be cooking!

What's on your dinner plates this week?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

After that I hibernated

I have slept.  And slept.  And slept some more.

This morning I realised that this is the first camp I've been on (as a teacher) where I have not had to be at school the day after returning.  And I realised why I got sick last year, after returning to school and having to teach the following two days.

Saturday was the day I hibernated.  I slept.  I watched some YouTube subscriptions.  I slept some more.  I popped out to get a family meat pie and some frozen veggies for dinner.  I may have read a chapter of my book, and then I went to bed reasonably early to sleep some more.

In the space of 24 hours, I slept for 11 of those hours.  Today I feel pretty good.  My feet have stopped aching and I happily went and photocopied all my stuff for Monday.  On Saturday I just couldn't face it.

The antidote to being on camp is definitely spending the next day sleeping.

Friday, 4 August 2017

You know you're a teacher when....

I've just spent 3 days on camp with our Year 3's and 4's.  Can I say, 8-10yo's are absolutely the best people on the planet?  Well...maybe except at 4am.  No child is lovely at 4am, I don't think.  No people are lovely at that time unless they are tucked in their bed and sound asleep!  Miss Niece, I'm looking at you!

I decided, this morning, that answering ten thousand questions before breakfast could be a form of actual torture.  Here are some questions I answered before 7.30 this morning:  MrsT, can I go to the toilet?(repeat x1000)  MrsT can I get a drink? (repeat x1000)  MrsT can I jump on the trampoline?  MrsT, can I go to the games room?  MrsT, what's for breakfast?  MrsT what is "GaGa Ball"?  MrsT, how many hours til I see my Mum again?  MrsT can I borrow your socks?  WHAT?

This was my actual conversation with one of my boys this morning:

Boy:  MrsT I only have one dry sock, all my other socks are wet.
Me:  Well, I can't really help you with that.
Boy:  Could I borrow one of your socks?
Me:  Hmmmm, ummm....nope.  That would be weird.  And what makes you think I want to share my socks with you?
Boy:  Oh well, that's mean (imagine a puppy dog-eyed stroppy face)
Me:  Yep.  I'm mean, you know that.

I don't know how he solved his problem, but I never heard about it afterwards.

Also on camp, one of our boys, who has had both his feet amputated.  He is an amazing, inspiring little fellow who participates in everything with incredible resilience.  But two prosthetic legs/feet makes for hilarious conversations that, out of context, are totally weird.  Things like "M's toes are breaking so we've duct taped them back together.  We'll give you some more tape just in case they break during camp."  And "Can I please take my legs off?" Then a funny story about his legs getting stuck and having to call Mum for instructions to remove them.  Apparently he was quite non-plussed, but his face suggested the adults in the room were distinctly unknowledgeable!

Camp is also about big wins.  Like my niece eating tomato, and one boy staying all the way through camp, and being brave enough to ask for something different when the food offered was not going to work, and having a go at games that looked confusing to start with, and hundreds of other things that our little people overcame.

One of my boys ended the camp saying "This felt like such a short camp!"  Three seconds short and ten years long all at once!

Now I'm going to sleep for a couple of days.  And not answer any questions.  None.