Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Under the Carpet....or Sheet

Recently we enjoyed the lovely surprise of a family member driving from Queensland to Melbourne (a very long way!!) to have some time with extended family.  One thing Dh's family does well is rally to get together at the last minute.  I was the lucky one to get the call:

Dh:  How do you feel if I tell Dad we can have dinner at our place on Wednesday night.
Me:  Um, errr, wha..., hah, wh..., how.... I need some time to process before I can answer.
Dh:  Do we have something else on?
Me:  Ummm, assignments.  You're asking me to stop working and clean the house and organise dinner.  I can't do it all....because, assignments.
Dh:  I was just gonna.....

And here the plot needed some sorting out and everyone ended up contributing to what ended up being a beautiful meal.  Miss Sunshine made dessert and I made my popular Asian Salad.  I would have loved to have done it all....but ... assignments!

In the midst of the kids being assigned jobs (remember my GREAT blessing list - still works a treat!) I discovered something very, very funny.  Rather than actually tidy things up and put them away (a very strange concept, apparently, I discovered this:
This chair houses a chopping board a kid made, the sandwich toaster, calendar and an assortment of other odds and ends I never know where to put.  Whoever decided on this solution clearly couldn't figure out where to put things either.  However, with the arrival of a horde of people being imminent it was time to figure it out.  And we did. 

The chair has since reclaimed its previous partners in crime.  But for a day or two it was clear.

And people sat on it. 

It was a beautiful sight.

Got any funny creative stories to solving your little hot spots?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


It is finished. 

Four long years and about eleventy million assignments later and I have just submitted my very last ever assignment.  Actually it's more like about 63 assignments but it feels like millions.

I still need to get results back and commence five weeks of teaching rounds (I begin this Friday), but I don't expect any road bumps at this point. 

I kind of don't know how to feel now.  Empty?  Elated?  Excited?  Relieved?  Lost?  Maybe a little of all of those things.  This study thing has consumed almost my entire life for four whole years so it will take some time to remember what "normal" people do with themselves when they can just come home from work and do....nothing.  Oh, wait.  That's when people do housework and spend time with their families.  I think I remember something about that!

Miss Sunshine had a major "Done" moment last week as well, when she submitted her Studio Arts finals and journal.  What an incredible amount of work has gone into those amazing pieces, and the journaling.  And that focus statement.  Four thousand words.  The girl is amazing.

I'm off to do....I don't know what.  Work.  Read.  I guess I'll figure it out.  I might even get back to being inspired to cook again.


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Happy Birthday Miss Mischief!

Miss Mischief turned 17 yesterday.  Seventeen.  That just cannot be right.  I'm sure she was a babe in my arms just five minutes ago.  She took some of her friends out for Yum Cha on Thursday to celebrate and today she's going to see a movie with a friend, as her birthday gift.

We have this tradition in our home where the birthday child gets to choose what we do for dinner.  I will cook whatever they want, or they can choose to go out.  Since she went out Thursday Miss Mischief chose a home-cooked meal for us last night.  This girl really knows how to put a menu together.  So glad she is dropping Maths and taking up Food Technology via distance education next year.  I have told her and the one other girl taking the course that they have to do all the practical folio work at our house. 

~ Miss Mischief's Birthday Menu ~

Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Hassle Back Potatoes
Pavlova with strawberries

Oh my goodness, the meal was absolutely delicious.  The pavlova, of course, was homemade from my Granny's handwritten recipe.  Miss Mischief wanted Asian salad with the main course, which I didn't feel went with the meat and potatoes, so I offered to make something with avocado instead.  And as I gush about our meal, I realise I have never posted a recipe for my version of a Caesar salad, upon which the salad we had last night was based.  You will surely die if you never get to have this salad!

~ Tracy's Caesar-style Salad ~

Salad leaves (see notes)
1 spring onion, finely sliced
4 rashers bacon, diced and fried (see notes)
semi-dried tomatoes (in oil, not vinegar), cut in half
1 avocado, diced
a handful of croutons
Your favourite Caesar dressing (see notes)

 Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently.

  • Normally I use a cos lettuce for this salad, but last night I had a bag of designer leaves and julienned carrots, so that's what I used.  Any lettuce you like will work, but maybe not iceberg.
  • I used 5 rashers of bacon last night, but I NEED to tell you - they were American-style streaky rashers and I think they were on the short side of normal length.  If you're using regular Aussie middle bacon rashers one to two is plenty.
  • I like a light, thin Caesar dressing and once upon a yesteryear Weight Watchers did a beautiful one that has long since been withdrawn from the market.  Last night I used Nigella's Golden Honey Mustard Dressing, with olive oil, and it was perfectly amazing.
Happy Birthday Miss Mischief.  Thanks for planning a beautiful meal and for just being so amazingly wonderful.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Leibster Award!

Yesterday I received a comment from Danica at Danica's Thoughts blog to let me know she had bestowed upon me a Leibster Award.  Somewhere along the line Danica has found my little corner of the blogosphere  and decided it worthy of recognition, despite a small following of less than 200.  Thank you, Danica, for your vote of confidence and support.

When I began my blog I think I intended to write about things domestic...parenting, organising and running a home, menu planning, recipes, maybe some crafty stitching type stuff.  And initially that's what I did.  Then I started working and my children are much older now, and I've been studying for what seems like forever.  Things have changed.  I have changed.  As a result the things I blog about has changed a bit too.  I've often thought perhaps I need to be more deliberate and planned about blogging, and then my life gets in the way, assignments need to be written (which is what I should be doing right now) and children need to be whatever-it-is-they-need in the moment.

Anyway....apparently I need to answer some questions Danica has set for me and I need to pass this award on to 11 other people whose blogs, like mine, are special and have only a small following.  I'm going to need to do the passing on after my assignments are done but I'll answer the questions now...a two-part award response :)

1)  Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
I have pondered this question from time to time, because wow...anyone in the world!  I think in this season of my life it would be Jen Hatmaker.  Jen is hilarious, incredibly real, wise, and asks hard questions about how faith in our culture could and should work.  That's a seasonal response because of my current journey.  Outside of my current season I'm going to say my dear friend Frances.  We have shared so much of our lives through our blogs and she is just the most amazing woman.  She is also an incredibly real person, quiet, thoughtful, wise and she is a writer.  Seriously....a writer!  She's my kind of people! 
2)  Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don't think so.  Big fame comes with people pestering you and commenting on how you live your life and the mistakes you make and everything you do is public domain.  I'm an introvert.  That would be so stressful!  Small fame that comes from doing your ordinary life, which contributes to making the world a better place?  Maybe.  Maybe one day I will be the most amazing teacher and some precious small person will grow up and say "She's the one who changed my life".
3)  Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you're going to say? Why?
Sometimes.  More likely I make a list of the things I need to remember to ask or convey.  If I'm phoning someone I know well I don't.  I don't pick up the phone "just because"...there's always a reason behind the call.
4)  When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sing to myself all the time.  Often in the car.  I don't sing to other people.  Really, you gotta be able to sing and not scare someone off to be willing to do that!
5)  If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I have no quibbles with the way I was raised.  How we, as a whole family, coped with reverse culture shock is a whole other story though.  I would want to get us all some help with that so we could have recovered better and quicker.
6)  If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
I don't know.  The ability not to become frustrated when my family do things that bug me?
7)  Is there something that you've dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
It seems like I've been dreaming about being a teacher for a long time.  Completing the darned degree to get to do that takes about eleventy billion years.  Well, when you're impatient that's how it feels.  Maybe I need patience?
8)  What does friendship mean to you?
Friendship is the glue that keeps me from falling apart.  My most dear and precious friends are the ones to whom I can say anything I need to vent and they will just love me through it, pray me through it and support me with wisdom, care and a advice to see me into a better place.  They're the people who walk the hardest, darkest paths of you life with you, and celebrate the most joyous seasons of life.
9)  When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
This week.  Both.  Assignments will be the death of me!  Miss Mischief was the poor soul who caught the last "in front of another person".
10)  Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
Nope.  Wealth isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently.  So if that's true I'm going to value my sleep.  Good sleep is priceless.
11)  Complete this sentence "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
I can't answer this question.  I have an amazing husband, incredible kids and the most precious friends.  Between them there's nothing I can't share.

Alright, I've procrastined enough.  Two assignments (hopefully for the rest of my life!!) to go and I need to get on with it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Am I the Only One? Of Vegemite, Weet-Bix and Shopping

There are many, many days in my life when I know I am "not like the others."  It began when I was a child, I think.  I hate Vegemite and I detest Weet-Bix.  These are two Aussie breakfast staples.  Vegemite on toast or Weet-Bix with milk and sugar are pretty much what my father and brothers had every single day, between them.  Weet-Bix with warm  milk....gag.  My Dad used to tell me I'm not a very good Aussie kid, because "Aussie kids are Weet-Bix kids", you know.  In that ad (click on the link) you even see a man eating Vegemite on toast.  Really, I should have been born in some other country at some other time in history!!

A couple of recent conversations have reminded me I'm not a normal 'girl' either.  Not when it comes to shopping.  I shop like a bloke:  Get in, get the thing you need from the place that sells it, and get out.  These are decisions made well before you even enter a shopping centre of any kind.  When our senior pastor's wife begins a sermon talking about needing an inordinate number of shoes and that one shops for these at whim, my eyes glaze over.  I'm sure it is a form of torture.  Shopping tours, therefore, are the ultimate torture.  A whole day of shopping for things you don't need as a form of entertainment?  Oh just kill me now!  My kids know they get about a two-hour window of opportunity for shopping, first thing in the morning, when we need a whole bunch of stuff.  After that I start murmuring things like "why are we here" and "I can't do this". If we go in the afternoon that window of opportunity significantly decreases.  Like, there is no window in the afternoon. 

Living in a "third world" or "developing" nation as a child has surely contributed to the way I view shopping.  Where we lived you only shop for what you need.  If you can get it.  Chances are what you need isn't available and must be ordered from "down south" (aka Australia) and you had to wait a long time for it to arrive.  This idea of shopping for entertainment was simply not part of my world until I was nearly 15.  By then it was too late.

I have passed some of these things on to my children.  Only one eats Weet-Bix.  Only one eats Vegemite (not the same one).  None of them are inclined to shop for fun unless one of their friends insists this is essential for spending time together.  That's rare.  It takes half an hour to get to this version of entertainment from where we live so it's not all that enticing after all.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

In which I plan to overcome the tyranny of the urgent...

I posted about a week or two ago about how we were limping to the end-of-term finish line.  We made it.  Just.  And now my family are rebelling and my husband is complaining about "take away...again?!".  I need to plan to do better because without obsessive organisation and planning absolutely nothing will improve in the next few weeks.  I have four weeks and three assignments to go and I already know that I go into a kind of assignment lock-down.  I get so engrossed in the most urgent things (assignment due dates) that I could easily forget I even have a family, except they are noisy and demanding when it comes to things like food.  They are just so unreasonable!  Really, who ever said they had to eat every three hours anyway?

I looked in my freezer last night and it is practically empty.  This is a distressing realisation for this bunch of food-motivated people.  So I have a plan.  Well, I'm playing fast and loose with the term 'plan', but from 8.30 this morning we'll have no electricity, so I can actually construct a solid plan and then we'll be good to go.  My plan is to put lots of stuff in the freezer so that over the next four weeks I can pull out good food rather than junk.  It will be my buffer between my time constraints and our need to eat better than we have been.

Today I will sit down and think about what I'll put in there and how I'll go about it.  For example, this week I have a casserole and a lasagna planned so that I can freeze half and voila I'll have two meals all ready to go on a whim.  Maybe I'll even do a whole-month menu plan for the first time in forever and assign the kids to cook meals.  Although with Miss Sunshine entering her final Yr12 exam period and Miss Mischief preparing for Yr11 exams just after that I think it'll be Mr Busy and the freezer stash I want to have there.

Alright....let the planning begin.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Biblical Criticism or The Powerful Word of God?

I've just submitted my fourth (out of seven) assignment for the semester.  It's a rather satisfying feeling to hit that 'submit' button and be done with a piece of work that has challenged the very heart of what I believe about the Bible.

Over the past few weeks, in my Religious Education unit, we have been looking at Biblical criticism.  You may have heard of the words hermeneutics or exegesis.  Essentially it is the scholarly, scientific methods through which scripture is examined, interpreted and understood.  I have come away from these past few weeks feeling like the only way to understand the Bible is to have a theological degree in hermeneutics and ancient languages.  I have felt uptight, tense and ill-at-ease.  Critical methods for interpreting the Bible are helpful - there is no doubt about that.  I have learnt that some of the perceived inconsistencies can actually be explained.  In so many ways I have had "aha" moments about the Bible.

And yet.

There are a ridiculous number of methods for interpreting the Bible.  Methods that are complex and hotly debated amongst scholars; old methods superseded by new methods, each looking at the Bible through its own lens, looking for particular things.  Each method brings something different to the table.  But they are all human endeavours.  All human perspectives on what the Bible says, about what the original author may have intended and about the life context of the first readers.  So I have been cautious and I have had this wariness deep within. 

Tonight I figured it out.  A beautifully expressed quote from R C Sproul in his book Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow (thank you internet!!) eloquently nailed the heart of the problem I had been wrestling with:
"The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction, 
which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable 
in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism 
of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves 
above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed 
the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be 
more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t 
correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him" 
(from Chapter 1, emphasis mine)

Whilst interpretation methods can be really helpful, the Bible is so powerful all on its own.  It is God-breathed (or inspired, depending on your version).  It reveals the character and heart of the God who created us.  It reveals the incredible and perfect love our God us for us.  It convicts us, directs us, instructs us and transforms us.  The Bible is powerful enough to change the very hearts and lives of people without scholarly explanation.

My assignment has been submitted.  My world has been righted.