Thursday, 31 December 2009

Holiday Tips for Hi-Tech Campers

One of the ways we keep our family holidays affordable is to camp. For us, that means hooking up our caravan and settling at various caravan parks. After all, hot showers and flushing loo's make life that much more enjoyable. Over the years they’ve ranged in comfort from bare necessities to beautiful grassed sites and plenty of amenities….like a swimming pool only 3 sites from our van. Perfect!
We also cook for ourselves. As much as the idea of not cooking is somewhat appealing, at some point we would tire of it. And we'd become quite plump, I suspect. And we'd have to mortgage the house to feed our lot....hungry monsters that they are. Besides, we are able to enjoy lots of barbecue's, eat outside, have our normal wide variety of meals. Remind me again why eating out is so appealing?
To this end, I usually pack myself a clutch of cookbooks that I simply cannot do without. This year, I’ve had myself a light bulb moment. We always take the laptop away with us so that the kids can watch movies during inclement weather or rare moments of boredom,....or rare moments of illness. Why not put my recipes on the laptop too? So I’ve been digging around and going through past menu plans for what we’ve eaten on our holidays in years gone past and begun putting together a holiday recipe file.
No more excess packing for me. No…I’ll save my book space for more important things. Like novels. I have 12 on my holiday stack!!!!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

'The Sound of Sleigh Bells' by Cindy Woodsmall

One of the things I've managed to do is catch up on some of my reading and book reviewing, since school finished. Poor Rel has been somewhat inundated with three reviews landing in her inbox within almost as many days.

Rel has posted the first of the three I sent her ~ 'The Sound of Sleigh Bells' by Cindy Woodsmall, and there is a giveaway included. So make sure you click your little mouse in her direction to check out my review and enter the giveaway. Cindy Woodsmall is an amazing author and this book is one worthy of a place on the bookshelves of readers everywhere.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Monday's Summer Holiday Menu Plan

I suspect my menu plans will be quite irrelevant to those in the northern hemisphere. However, for those of us below the equator, we're just beginning to enjoy summer....barbecue's, salads, alfresco dining. Many people flock to seaside areas to camp....or find accommodations a little more upmarket, but nevertheless, close to the sea.

We're not quite into the full-on heat of summer where I am, so my menus reflect my husband's desire for bbq's mixed with the reality that it is still cool enough to have a hot meal!

Monday: Ricotta fritters, vegies or salad
Tuesday: Warm Chicken Salad
Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Pork Meatballs, rice
Thursday: BBQ pork rissoles, salad, potato cubes
Friday: Singapore Noodles
Saturday: Nachos
Sunday: BBQ chicken fillets, salad, potato cubes

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Once Christmas has come, been enjoyed and gone again we Aussie's then look ahead to summer holidays. Guess what that means for us who live in the way south? Bathers.

I have faced my fear of buying bathers head-on. I won the battle by the skin of my teeth.

My last set of bathers was in the form of a long tankini top and board shorts .... ladies ones, of course. I bought them nine long years ago when Mr Busy was but a babe in arms. They were jolly expensive, as I recall, but they've lasted a really long time. They were perfect ~ swimwear that covers all the scary bits you don't want anyone to see from neck to knee! Last summer I noticed that the fabric on the tankini was stretching and deteriorating. I hate shopping for bathers so you can imagine I was not happy that they were not going to last forever!

Miss Sunshine had the onorous task of judging the suitablity of my choice this time around. She assures me they look OK and I figure a 13yo girl who would be happy to see Mum in that top would know. I found new board shorts to match and we became much the poorer for my expensive, but limited choice. Last night I was reading the tags...impressive claims about making one look their best. Not sure about that, but they feel comfortable and I reckon I could spend the day wearing them, as we're inclined to do on 37C days and not feel all wobbly and uncomfortable.

Hopefully I'm set for another 9-10 years or so.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Our tree is sparkling with lots of gifts beneath, just waiting for the morning to arrive. I think even I am all ready now, having finished preparing my food offerings for tomorrow's family gathering. I hope you're ready too!

Tonight we enjoy the Carols by Candlelight live from Melbourne. It's the one constant Christmas tradition we've managed to maintain every year!

I hope and pray that each one of you experience and blessed and precious Christmas. One that is filled with laughter, joy, family and all the traditions that make the day special to your family. Most importantly, may you be filled with the wonder and awe God's most incredible gift to us.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Slow Starts and Busy Days

I had the strangest start to today....I got up and got started....and then went back to sleep around 8.00am. The kids were most surprised to see me still in bed at 9am. Too bad they couldn't see that I was dressed for the day LOL.

I've a busy day ahead. A day that will include cooking, cleaning, baking, and preparing for next week. I may even get a load of laundry washed and my own hand. Dh does all our laundry, usually, but I'm pretty sure the children and I will manage just fine. And there's time yet for him to fit another load in before the weekend. He starts to prowl the house looking for something to wash if he doesn't get to do some for more than a week.

So...time to really get started. We've got friends coming for dinner and the little boy I work with in Mr Busy's class is coming by to drop off something for Mr Busy later today as well.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My little simple joy for today: My SIL dug up some oregano out of her flourishing garden for me, and this morning I got it planted. It wasn't looking too happy, but it was still green! I've been wanting oregano and my last little plant was killed along with the nearby weeds.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Family, Fun and Food

I feel a bit like all we've done over the last three days is munch our way through vast amounts of food, not unlike the picture above!

Our 'overseas' family members have returned to the in-laws and we've returned home to finish some Christmas shopping and recuperate from a few too many late nights in a row. Our niece looked about ready to burst into tears at having to leave Family Camp. However, we hugged and farewelled with the promise of catching up next week ~ our last opportunity before they head back to the US.

After such a relaxed interlude before Christmas, I've almost forgotten about all the preparations I need to make for the days ahead LOL.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Great Cousin Sleepover

Last night began what I suspect may become an annual event that will grow in number as younger cousins become old enough. Of course it will. What other outcome could there possibly be when you have cousins come from overseas and you have your family gathering at the campsite owned by the most popular (aka the funnest) uncle?

The older cousins end up staying the night! Four little boys in one room and four little girls in the other. Alright, so some of them are not so little, and having to sleep in your clothing was no barrier to those who were gathered up in the plans throughout the day. When we left last night all the boys were tucked into bed and all grinning widely. I hope they slept. It was after 10pm after all and some of those children get rather nasty when they've not had enough sleep!

I've a little stop to make up the street before I head back out there this morning. But I smile every time I think of all those cousins enjoying as much time as they can together.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Simple Summer Pleasures

Cherries in my fridge, straight from the orchard, at only $6/kg. This picture from is a perfect likeness. My cherries might be imperfect 'seconds', but Miss Sunshine and I are enjoying them for dessert each night. A dint here and there on the otherwise glossy red orbs are easily overlooked.

Being in a spot not far from the most amazing orchards, we have been thoroughly amazed at the sad offerings in the supermarkets, compared to the fresh produce nearby. Dh decided to compare our local Safeway's cherries with his 'imperfect' orchard-bought ones....the Safeway version are sad indeed and cost a hefty $10/kg. In fact, the man who owned the orchard Dh visited refuses to sell his cherries to Safeway. Just as well we live near the orchard!

Our first experience with this understanding was when we lived on a property with a chestnut tree in front of our house. Fresh chestnuts are plump and the skins shiny. Not so the supermarket variety. They were dull and had space between the skin and the nut. I don't like chestnuts that much, but I know if I ever take to them I'll go visit someone with a tree in their yard!

Take a trip out to the country and visit an orchard, folks. You will be treating yourself!

Friday, 18 December 2009

First Day Bliss

Brighton Beach, with Melbourne CBD in the background.

There is something special about the first day of holidays. Not having to get up with the alarm. Not having to make four school lunches. Not having to bug the kids to get ready. Being able to languish in front of the television for as long as Mum allows. Being able to do all those things that you really want to do but never manage to find time reading, and baking.

I'm planning to bake shortbread and gingerbread to go to one of Dh's sisters with their Christmas gifts. I have a raspberry and lemon curd trifle and a pavlova to make for Sunday's family gathering. I desperately want to get started on my fruit mince pies. It is my one daily indulgence over summer. Finally, we have friends coming for dinner tomorrow night and I'm still at a loss as to what we should eat!

Despite all of those plans my mind is still filled with all the tasks that we never managed to attend to in the classroom over the last couple of days. I suspect I may be one of those who sneaks back. There is a basket of unused worksheets to be refiled in the alphabet files that is calling my name!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Pavlova Postscript

Frances commented sometime throughout today about how wonderful pavlova sounds, simply because it is filled with whipped cream....but didn't know exactly what pavlova was.

Because Wikipedia is the source of all answers to questions and a fountain of absolute truth (yes, I'm being vey tongue-in-cheek) here is the link to find all the answers you may have about pav's. Essentially, it is a big meringue, which is topped with whipped cream. In Australia we are inclined to whip our own....buying it pre-whipped is only just becoming something that is available to us. And it doesn't take but a moment to do. Pavlova's are topped with all manner of different things. Passionfruit, or strawberries, or grated chocolate or peppermint crisp. I've seen banana, although that doesn't appeal to me quite so much.

Pavlova is something that has a place in the hearts of my father's family. My Granny was always required to bring one to family gatherings and it would be devoured eagerly. Indeed she felt she wouldn't be allowed in the door unless she came bearing the pav! Of course, we would never consider buying a pre-made, store-bought one. It must be homemade, and I have my Granny's recipe, in her handwriting, in my recipe folder. It is something I treasure greatly. As a result of having a good recipe and a good oven, the pavlova-making mantle has been passed on to me.

An unusual twist for this quite traditional dessert is for the meringue itself to be chocolate. I gained this recipe initially from watching Maggie Beer on 'The Cook and the Chef'. It was also included in the 'Maggie's Kitchen' cookbook. I've made this recipe a number of times and it works beautifully. It tastes pretty darn good too, if you ask this purist.

You will find this gem of a recipe here. I have to say, mine looks just like the picture!

There are a few tips for making pavlova successfully, which I'm sure I've sure posted before, but will include it here so you (and I!) don't have to go searching:
  1. Make sure the bowl and beaters are absolutely and completely dry.
  2. Make sure there is NO egg yolk in your whites. This is one time when it pays to separate the egg and then add the white to the mixing bowl. You'll regret it if you separate the egg into the bowl if you break that yolk!
  3. Make sure the sugar has been completely dissolved before you stop mixing. If you take a little bit of mixture and rub it between your figures, you should no longer feel sugar grains.

End of School Menu Plan

Life has been quite hectic the past two days. A flurry of long and busy days at school, coupled with very tired people at home has seen me in bed by 10pm. I heard disturbed mutterings by hungry children at 6.30pm on Monday that went something along the lines of being highly concerned that all the take away places in Our Town would be closed by 7.30pm. They were thinking that Dad should bring dinner home, because Mum had obviously lost all sense of the 'need to feed'. I figured, at that point, that perhaps I should ease their fears and appear to be doing something productive about their dinner!

Today we have a farewell lunch at school (between all the sorting, organising and cleaning that must be done!) for the staff who are leaving us. My contribute to the meal: chocolate balsamic pavlova filled with fresh whipped cream and topped with strawberries; and Caesar style salad. I must confess, making a pavlova last night was not the thing that I most wanted to do. Especially when it is something that can only be done after the oven is finished with for the day. However, I'm sure I'll appreciate it at lunch time!

My menu plan for this week looks like this:

Monday: Ricotta fritters, vegetables, potato
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza (a last day of school treat)
Wednesday: Baked Potatoes topped with coleslaw
Thursday: Chinese Corn Soup, prawn crackers
Friday: Pork with apple & celery, vegetables, potato
Saturday: Something fabulous for guests which is yet to be determined!
Sunday: Dh's family Christmas gathering

Today is meant to be 39C/102F, so I'm hoping our lunch will be eaten in the VCE common room, which has newly installed cooling. Thankfully, work break days have no dress code restrictions, so light, cool, sleevless tops and otherwise inappropriate footwear is the go. The kids have already asked if they can wear thongs (the footwear variety!). My answer, "Yes...thongs and strappy straps are fine", to which they cheered and hooray'd! Oh the simple joys of children LOL.

Monday, 14 December 2009

And Then There Were None

There is but one sleep left before the school year ends for our children and six blissful weeks of summer holiday begin. Blissful in the sense that there is no rush to arise each morning and no lunches to be made and packed before 8am. Not so blissful in the lack of structure that sees little people resorting to mischief that is not so positive.

Today has been filled with mad preparations for a little gathering to farewell a very dear member of the Primary Staff. I was thrust a project or two with a "could you just....". With no school work being done, there was no student that required my undivided attention and the computer became my workmate instead. Hurried preparations also, for tomorrow's final assembly. A little video taping which will be edited tonight, I believe. Then there is the requisite Christmas craft projects to enjoy. Classrooms which require stripping down to bare walls and cleared and cleaned surfaces. I believe one student was indulged her cleaning and sorting obsession at the teacher's stationery desk caddy.

Tomorrow will no doubt be filled with excitement aplenty

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Dreamy Weekend

Thought I'd pop in quickly between getting home and heading out again...just in case you thought I'd fallen off the planet in the last few days. Alas, no. No planet-falling for me. Rather, Dh and I took the opportunity for some time without the children and tonight I'm off to spend some time with my girlfriends.

Another Maggie Beer recipe has been attempted. Our stuffed chicken the other night was absolutely delicious. I have some fresh stuffing in the freezer for another day, as the recipe made plenty for two chickens. This afternoon I made Roasted Capsicum Pate. Made in vintage-looking cups, one of those little pots of pate is coming with me to be enjoyed with my friends. It is not the kind of food even my wide-eating children enjoy.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Of Plates and Dinners


I am very blessed to have two very separate and yet very precious groups of friends. I often mention the small circle of girlfriends that are inclined to weekends away and seeing movies together. These women are indeed precious in my life and I would hate to think what life would be like without them. I also have some very amazing and special friends at school. Fellow mum's with whom I spend Friday mornings over a cuppa and enjoy the occasional lunch together. We have laughed together and cried on each other's shoulder and chatted about the things that give us joy ... and the things that frustrate us.

I bumped into one of my 'school friends' the other day in Safeway and she mentioned that she'd bought me something and she'd bring it to school with her one day. Well, today was that day. She was at a market, I believe, and remembered my desire to have a collection of beautiful, mismatched plates and bought me these two. I was overjoyed! What a beautiful spontaneous gift. It meant so much to me, that she remembered such a trivial little thing and acted on it.

Thank you Jodie. You're are an amazing woman and I'm so privileged to be able to call you 'friend'.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Today is Dh's birthday...yes, quite the celebration month in our house! The best way I could think of to celebrate was to choose a recipe from 'Maggie's Harvest' and make him a special dinner.

I chose 'Stuffed Roast Chicken'....bacon, onion, fresh herbs and fresh breadcrumbs with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of zest. It bakes as I type. I can't wait to try it.

There you have it ~ I've taken the Maggie-plunge. The roasted capsicum with goats cheese was tempting, but I will have to save that for lunching with special friends who appreciate such delicacies!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Planning Ahead

I don't know about you, but planning for next year has begun with a myriad of dates already needing to be added to a new diary. I have just one problem. I don't have a 2010 diary yet. I know people who do. I think those must be people who have time to shop. I'm not one of them.

So tonight after school I got online and found some free printable weekly planner and calendar pages. It took me a while to find something that I thought might work for me. I wanted something pretty and creative ~ something practical and vintage Lollychops....unfortunately there were no 2010 options that were practical for busy families.

In the end I settled on pages from The Household Planner. Not so much pretty, but heavy on the practical.

I don't suppose any of you have found practical and beautiful on the one freebie page?!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It Catches Up with All of Us

OK, so maybe I'm not as old as this lady. But I've had lots of occasions in the last few weeks where I've felt like I'm catching up to her very quickly.

Today is my 19th Wedding Anniversary. Nineteen. Half my life. I don't feel old enough to have been married that long, and yet the calendar does not lie. I discovered I'm not alone. Mr Busy's 2010 teacher marked the same milestone 8 days ago. Good things happened in 1990!

Last week one of the Prep's randomly asked me how old I was. To them I'm old ~ older than most of their parents, in just said "old". One of the Year 1's whose maths is exceptional asked if I was 29. I told him that no, I had one of my babies the year I was 29. He knows all my children and I saw his cheeky little mind ticking and he came out with this gem "so, are you 350". He knew exactly what he was asking!!!! My response? A very calm "not quite".

And finally, while chatting with some of the newest and youngest teachers at school one lunch time recently, one of them said they were born in 1985. Uh I'm feeling old. I was in Year 9 that year. Ouch.

I remember when I first began working in a school before I had children that I was younger than the first-year-out-teachers. Those days are long gone. *sigh*

It's only going to get worse, isn't it?!

Menu Planning

Ugh..It's Tuesday!!!! I got carried away preparing my next quilt block for the embroidery and forgot to get back here to post my menu plan. You know, because someone in the world must just hang out for it......or not!!!

We had our volunteer thank you afternoon tea at school yesterday. This year it felt a little odd. I get paid to be there more than I volunteer now, but I was still 'invited'. As MrsB rightly pointed out though, I did Toastmasters with the kids and that's a pretty mammoth task. I nibbled at two little things and enjoyed a small slice of sticky date cheesecake and then chatted with some of the parents around me. And got home just after 5pm. And Go Digital has been airing the very first episodes of Bewitched at 5.3opm. Who needs dinner anyway?! tribe need dinner or they become very nasty people to be around. They get snappy and begin to look like they might eat each other. I know just how that feels. I get lunch at about 2pm on Monday and I am fit to eat little children by then. Watch out Prep's! So here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: Sweet & Sour Pork, Rice
Tuesday: Chicken wings, vegies
Wednesday: Warm Chicken Salad
Thursday: Lamb rissoles, salad/vegies
Friday: Roast chicken, vegies and I think a dessert....for Dh's birthday
Saturday: Chicken & rice noodle stir fry thanks to Miss Sunshine
Sunday: Frittata, salad

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas is Just Around the Corner

Christmas is galloping closer each day. Each day I deny the inevitability of its arrival, but I think I'm going to run into problems if I continue with my ostrich-esque behaviour!

Today after enjoying a beautiful breakfast at a cafe near church with some other church ladies (ooohhhh the guava juice...mmmmm), I popped in to Sassafras on my way home. There is a 'Gepetto's Workshop' toy store there with the most beautiful wooden toys ... the kinds of toys that last a long time, that you can't find it Kmart or Target. The prices baffle me. Some items are super expensive and others are more moderately priced for the budget concious shopper. I picked up items for two nephews and two nieces while I was there. I also ducked across the road to Tea Leaves to seek out an appropriately priced 'female' gift item for my family's gift giving exchange.

I've broken the rules regarding my extended family's guidelines. I've ditched the prescribed Op Shop idea as an impossibility. Besides my lack of time to do so, every time I've thought about finding something funny, ridiculous, crazy or horrible I am left feeling completely uninspired. Quite frankly I'm not convinced on the idea of receiving something I'll potentially hate as a deliberate act on the part of the giver. The idea goes against everything I deeply desire to do. So I stuck to the dollar limit set and found something that will delight any of the women in my family. Somewhere deep within me I find beauty in gifts that are meaningful to the recipient. Cost is always a consideration...but the thought behind it is incredibly important to me. Perhaps I link that with the ultimate gift that God gave in giving us Jesus.

Yes, I'm inclined to a little 'bah humbugging' just before Christmas....if that's what you call it when you rebel and buy something beautiful to give. Christmas shopping has begun. Five down, nine and Christmas stockings to go.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Filled Up Friday and Tapping at 'The Tin House' Windows!

Dh asked me this morning if I was going to be at school, or at home....or what?! It was a bit more of an 'or what' answer I think. I had a cuppa this morning and had a really good chat with the Mum of one of the boys I work with. Her young lad is an absolute delight and I'm very excited that I will continue working with him next year. I asked him the other day if it was OK if I come with him to Year 4....he was very happy with that idea.

The Year 6's had a day out, swimming and shopping and relaxing after their Graduation preparation and excitement. I went down and supervised the girls while we lunched and shopped. They are the most amazing group of young ladies and again, a delight to spend time with. I feel so very blessed that Miss Mischief has such wonderful friends in her life.

* * * * * * * * * *

I went to check on a fellow blogging friend who hasn't posted for quite some time and discovered her blog is by invitation only. If anyone knows how to get a hold of Lisa at 'The Tin House' I'd love to know how she's going. I miss hearing her updates about her vegie garden and sewing or knitting projects. I would love to know how her muchkins are doing and I'd love to hear how she's going with work and home and all that entails.

Lisa...if you get to read this, post a comment!!!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Graduation Night went beautifully, last night. The kids were truly the stars of the evening, as each presented his or her final Tiny Toastmaster's speech. Some of them forgot to use their photos on the overhead projector. One boy thought he'd misplaced two of his cue cards, only to discover them between the overhead sheets in his plastic pocket...once he got on stage!!!! There were jiggly, giggly boys and nervous nelly girls buzzing about all night. I spent much of the evening on my feet as I waited with each student while they prepared to go on stage....not to mention the requisite shushing and hushing that goes with giggly boys sitting together. I'm not sure when it happened, but boys are certainly the noisier of the two genders in our Year 6 class.

Miss Mischief had the time of her life. Her speech was at the end of the second (of three) group so she had plenty of time to work herself up! She did beautifully. I could even hear her....quite a feat for those who know she's inclined to bare whispers which require the listener to constantly declare "I can't hear you!!!!".

This morning we were a bedraggled bunch of party-weary people. We dragged ourself in to school and spent the day trying hard to stay awake.

Tonight it's our Girl's Brigade Award Night. A far earlier night than last night's 11pm arrival home....with more unpicking and sewing-on of badges to be done by next year. *sigh*

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Author Interview at Relz

Last Friday night we had our last Book Club for 2009. Rel had organised for us to send questions to the authors...a very informative and fun experience, for 'Never the Bride'. This book was novelised by Rene Gutteridge from a screen play written by Cheryl McKay. You'll find Rel's post of the interview here.

Rel never ceases to amaze me ~ I was very impressed with the above header for our Book Club.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I'm off to find some hair do that will thrill Miss Mischief's little soul. It's her Year 6 graduation evening tonight so we have hair and showers and dresses.....and trousers.... to get pressed and donned. I have a small musical piece to practice as well. I don't want to be the one making mistakes and spoiling the performance for the violin-playing star!!!!

I may even dig out some make up. Don't anyone faint!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Monday's Menu and Other Surprises

I woke up at 4am and quickly remembered, with a groan, that it is Monday. Already! And then I realised that this Monday is an exciting one. Our School has Orientation Day, this afternoon. I love Orientation Day. I love seeing new families come, and I am filled with hope that throughout the journey of their children's education they see what lies beneath the outer layer of doing education to the true nature and character of our very unique and precious school. Truly God has given our family a beautiful gift in planting us in that place.

Before I get too sooky, I'll get straight on to my menu. As usual, it has been swapped about between unexpected evenings out so some of last week's meals are getting pushed ahead to this week.

Monday: Chicken with honey & vinegar (a la Maggie Beer)
Tuesday: Chicken with orange and cranberry sauce
Wednesday: Dinner out ~ Miss Mischief's Yr 6 Graduation
Thursday: Pasta with vegie sauce
Friday: BBQ, salad
Saturday: Wraps...chicken, I think
Sunday: Chicken Stroganoff, thanks to Rel's author cooking spots!

* * * * * * * * *

Yesterday I promised to post some links to some very exciting and creative gifty-type ideas. I came across these links from some other blog somewhere out there. Goodness only know how my mouse finds these things sometimes....but the two blogs I discovered because of my mouse-clicking are now bookmarked so as not to lose them!

For free printables, like gift tags, jar toppers, embroidery patterns, note cards and recipe cards....amongst many, many superb items, check out LollyChops. On her sidebar right under her picture, you'll find links to free stuff. She's a very gift lady, and I know you'll find something to suit your printing needs there! Lolly will make even the most craft-challenged people look creative.

The reason I found LollyChops, was because she created the jar labels to go with this Mini Pie In a Jar idea. If you are pastry-making challenged, use bought pastry ~ the pies are so cute you'll be forgiven for not having made your own!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Great Dinner Shuffle

Every now and then I really surprise myself. Creativity in the face of spontaneity is perhaps not my strongest trait, and yet I've managed it twice this weekend with nary a ruffled feather in sight. Quite an accomplishment, I assure you.

Last night we had a phone call at 5pm to see if we were free to join some friends for an impromptu evening and dinner together. The chicken roasting the oven and the potatoes Mr Busy had just finished peeling got thrown into the crockpot and off we went. This morning, the chicken, potatoes and juices were all stored separately in the fridge awaiting some grand form of inspiration to befall me. Hmmmmm.

Inspiration, as it happens, came in the form of some friends popping in. The two older kids were out, Mum was on a girls weekend (can I say 'jealous'!!!), and Dad and the two littlies decided a cuppa and fun here was on their menu. I picked the meat off those chicken bones and invited the friends to stay. The spuds got oiled and baked, the chicken became a breacrumb-topped creamy casserole, all served with vegies. The tummies at the table were suitably filled and I suspect the tastebuds were quite happy too. Clean plates from children is quite an indicator! The look on Dad's face was thanks enough ~ a homecooked meal with vegies when his wife is away: priceless.

In between all that, we lunched with very special friends while our matching pair of daughters had a thing to do at church together.

I think a night of stitching whilst tucked under a quilt as heavy grey clouds pass overhead is the required end to a perfect weekend.

Stay tuned tomorrow ~ I came across some wonderfully creative blogs today and I just know those of you who love pretty printables and kitchen ideas will be as impressed as I was.

Great Aussie Weekend Activity

Yesterday was quite the day for everyone to get out into their gardens. Dh went to fill up his little petrol can twice and was, apparently, in fine manly company at the petrol pump.

Our yard has gone from looking scraggly and unloved to beautiful in one morning. I love watching Mr Busy out there. Under his Daddy's watchful eye, those daisies, that were nearly as tall as he, were bravely cut down to size in a very ordered fashion....mowing in a square from the outside of the yard to the centre. I think it's the only ordered thing he did all day. He spent the rest of his time being quite scatty.

For my part, I napped on the couch....penance for a late night. And then I stitched between dishes and grocery shopping.

We had our first experience with Wii yesterday. Well...not the children, of course. They manage to find ways to play with these things, despite our lack succumbing to leisure technology. Dh and I had our first experience! We had dinner with some friends, who had us flapping our way from buoy to buoy and eventually landing on a boat. At an hour far too late for children, we realised the time and flapped our way home...well...not literally, but I'm sure a little flapping might be considered quite useful in getting up that driveway!

Friday, 27 November 2009

The End Draws Nigh

I'm finding it quite difficult to get my head around the fact that school finishes in a pip over two weeks. I have a full three weeks yet to go, but the last two days is work break time and student free. Always fun!

Today marks the end of two different things at school. Firstly, Tiny Toastmaster's meets for the last time today. Not without a measure of relief for me! There are still a couple of boys that I want to sit with one on one to work through their speeches together. I had recommended to them that they get Mum or Dad's help to prepare so we'll see how they go.

The second thing that comes to and end, hopefully, is finalising VCE textbook distribution. The new books have come in so I'll be working on those today after Toastmasters.

Before I had the chance to wonder how I would spend a glorious Friday to myself, I received a notice from Miss Mischief's class to advise parents that they'll be heading off on a little excursion as a treat after the hard work of presenting their speeches at Graduation night. They require parent help.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

'Stand-in Groom' by Kaye Dacus

My review for 'Stand-in Groom' has been posted at Relz Reviewz. Click here to check it out.

Kaye has perfectly balanced light romance with deeper thought provoking themes. Truly the mark of a gifted writer!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bird Brain


After many months of doing very little that has been joyfully creative I have finally found a renewed enthusiasm for something I love to do. It's not that life has slowed down. In fact, this week is shaping up to be far busier than I realised. Yesterday it dawned on me that I had something on every evening this week. No, I think it has more to do with the natural ebb and flow of creative energy. For me, right now, it's flowing.

Above is the first three blocks of my 'Tail Feather's' block of the month quilt. much of the blocks as you can see of it!

I'd gotten so behind in doing a block every month that I finally decided that I should just order all the patterns at once. That way, I'd have them at hand when the bug strikes and I want to plow through...and the lady at the quilt shop would not be muttering about customers being inconsistent and unreliable.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Conceding Defeat....and Menu Plan

I'm finally admitting it. Posting my menu plan on Friday just isn't happening! I don't know why, but it seems that even though I shop on Thursday nights and I'm all set for the next 7 days, I seem to think about posting my plan on Monday so I'm just going to go with that! Perhaps it's that by Monday I can't think of anything to post and a menu plan provides a post that is practically pre-written?

Today I will post retrospectively to catch up a bit and then continue on through to the end of the weekend ahead.

Friday: Sloppy Joe's, potato cubes
Saturday: Homemade Pizza
Sunday: Zucchini, cheese and onion pancakes
Monday: Chicken and rice noodle stir fry, a la Miss Sunshine
Tuesday: Pasta with bacon and mushrooms
Wednesday: Sweet and Sour Pork, rice
Thursday: Ants Climbing Trees (see sidebar for recipe)
Friday: BBQ (sausages and burger patties), potato cubes, salad
Saturday: Crumbed chicken with orange and cranberry sauce, vegies or salad
Sunday: Baked Potatoes, coleslaw, bacon, cheese

I feel a little bit funny about sitting here posting while my daughter slaves over the chopping board. But...well...she wants to do it and learning to cook is an important life skill.

What a shame it's so close to tea time and my Mum's probably cooking....or I'd phone her to chat while I have some time on my hands LOL. Perhaps I'll prepare my next block of the month embroidery pieces so I can start working on those tonight.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Where to Begin?

I've been deeply invested in my beautiful new Maggie Beer book this past day. We've had a friend's 13yo daughter staying for the weekend and she is now at the point of shaking her head each time I sigh or exclaim over the deliciousness of some new recipe I discover at the turn of every page. Or, indeed, the little gems of information waiting to be discovered by me.

I tried to explain to this lovely 13yo that her mother would be suitably impressed and be inclined to sighing and exclaiming along with me....but this young woman is 13...she hasn't reached the age of appreciating such things yet. She will!

My friend came to collect her daughter late this afternoon and when I showed her the cover she just looked at me. "N-o-o-o-o. Really?" Was her response and then she just had to turn a few pages, herself....before she declared "I am closing the book and stepping away NOW"! Her daughter shook her head again.

I've decided that I want to cook through each season of the book when the season arrives for me. Summer begins in just over a week here, and so by then I hope to have decided what it is I wish to begin with. Will it be roasted red capsicum with goats cheese and olives? Or perhaps red capsicum pate? The section on apricots looked appetising. It might even be possible to delight my family with a main course and a dessert....for no other reason than to celebrate the beginning of appreciating the joys of eating in-season foods more fully.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Books and Embroidery

What do these two things have in common you might ask? The picture above might give you a clue!

I am now the delighted and ecstatic owner of this hefty volume, filled with beautiful recipes interspersed between Maggie's knowledge and wisdom about working with and eating beautiful seasonal produce.

I have long drooled over the beauty of this book. The cover is embroidered fabric, which drew me immediately. The fact that Maggie Beer is my food hero had much to do with my love of this book too. I love that this book is sectioned into seasons and that by cooking my way through each section I'll be able to take full advantage of things that truly are in season and not just from cold storage somewhere.

When the book first came out two years ago I would sit on the floor next to the shelf it came from, in the bookshop, and sigh longingly over the recipes and read snippets of the text about each ingredient she writes about. What stopped you buying it, I hear you ask. The price. I took the plunge this afternoon with a 30%-off voucher from Borders in my hot little hand. Borders is often the most expensive, but even so, I managed to get the book for around the original new-release price, about $40 less than the current higher price. I should've just done it in the first place, shouldn't I?!

Now the question is, which recipe will I cook first?

picture from

Friday, 20 November 2009

Busy Little Extroverts

My family is significantly weighted in favour of the extroverts. There are three of them...and last night provided a funny little exchange, thanks to a little extroverted boy who can't fathom the idea of staying home with his dad, if there is an opportunity to go out! Especially when it's just 'the boys'. So desperate is he, that even teachers are fair game because of course, they must want to spend time with him after school!

Mr Busy: Dad, can we go to MrsC's house? I haven't spent much time with her lately.
Dh: No son, MrsC probably doesn't want to see her students after school. We can't go to her house.
Mr Busy: What about MissS? She has heaps of lego, we could go and play with her.
Dh: No mate, MissS probably has lots of things to do besides playing with you tonight.

MissS is the Head of Secondary and not one of Mr Busy's teachers. But she is renowned for her Lego collection and ability to play. She rivals the best of the kids in relation to play! And interestingly, Mr Busy had just spent ALL day with MrsC....she is his Thursday teacher!

I also learned today, that Mr Busy has himself quite a reputation. Our receptionist was telling me this afternoon that her Year 11 son pointed Mr Busy out one afternoon saying "who is that kid?". His Mum said "oh that's Mr Busy, he's cool". "Really?" says Mr Yr11 "he followed me around and talked on and on about my bike".

Mr Yr11's mistake? He made eye contact....must've grunted in the right places and that is enough for any 9yo boy to think that he has a new best mate.

The two of them both play the drums. Of course they'd be best mates!

* * * * * * * * * * *

As it happens, I was the fortunate one to spend a large chunk of today in MissS's office working on VCE textbooks and allocating all the second hand ones that I could to next year's students. We chatted a bit amongst the work and I am again impressed with the depth of this young woman's wisdom and her passion for our school. I feel honoured that she feels comfortable sharing what burdens her with me and I have the privilege of lifting her before the God who overcomes all our weaknesses and carries us through our trials.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Daily Ramblings

You know the school year is coming to an end when class combinations are finalised and specific groupings are being prepared.

I love listening to parents trying to figure out the logistics in regard to numbers, ponder who will teach those classes and then try to figure out who will teach their child. It amuses me for two reasons.....firstly, I suppose, because I rarely have to figure that out. Two years ago I knew exactly which classes my children would be in ~ the girls follow each other one year after another. They are always kept separate. When you only have one Year 3 classroom, guess where your Year 3 child goes?! Next year, for us, is also somewhat pre-determined for the girls. Mr Busy is our only question mark. He'll be fine no matter who ends up teaching him....because our teachers are all amazing in their own individual ways.

The second reason that I am amused is that all the obsessing, wondering and conversation that goes on around this issue really does very little to impact the final result. Apart from a written request parents don't make the decision...the teachers do. At the end of the day the children will be placed in a new class group and hopefully they'll have a great year.

Whatever the outcomes, we'll all find out late next week who will be where so that we can have Orientation Day the following week. That day is always filled with excitement and anticipation.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Dress

The Dress

Miss Mischief and I spent a few hours down the hill at one of the big shopping centres searching out the possibilities for her graduation dress. Graduation will happen on the 1st of December, so time was running out fast!

This was her choice. It needs a little altering...but only just a little. The straps need shortening and the bodice needs to come in a tiny bit down the side seams. Easy done.

We then went to Diva and chose some jewellery. She ended up with a silver chain with about 10 pearls with silver sparkly spacers and some dangle-down earrings (her term!).

I walked away with this cute bracelet that tinkles. The fact that it was pink was a huge bonus.


Miss Mischief just needs some suitable shoes. I need something to wear....I don't mind alternating, but I don't want to wear the same dress as I wore to last year's Year 6 graduation. Something about photos and handing out Toastmaster's just shouldn't wear the same thing!!!! At least, I don't think I should. Something pink to go with that tinkley bracelet might be nice.....

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Kreativ Blogger...from Rel

My very dear friend Rel has bestowed upon me a beautiful award ~ the Kreativ Blogger Award. Unfortunately Blogspot isn't allowing me to post the pretty award that goes along with it. Seems to be the way of things with computes! You'll be able to see Rel's post about it by clicking here.

I'm to list seven favourite things and then pass this on to seven favourite bloggers.

Let's start with my favourite things:
  1. My family ~ a magnificent husband and three beautiful children.
  2. My home in a beautiful little corner of outer Melbourne.
  3. Books...I have piles of them on my TBR shelf! That's what summer holidays are all about for me!
  4. Time with my favourite 3 girlfriends. They are priceless treasures in my life.
  5. Time at my piano.
  6. My job.
  7. Tinkley bracelets. Silly, cheap...but there ya have it!
Course there are lots of other things I love but the thingy said I could only list seven!

As for my favourite Bloggers?
  1. Frances, from Lefthanded Housewife
  2. Kate, from Our Red House
  3. Joy, from Joy's Quilts
  4. Jenny, from Little Jenny Wren
  5. Natalie, from Cinderberry Stitches
  6. Jodie, from Life in the Hills
  7. Anna, from Pleasant View Schoolhouse
As soon as I'm able to I'll have another go at placing that Kreativ Blogger picture here too.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

This Week's Menu

I'm looking outside and seeing very clear blue skies ~ another warm day ahead. I just checked the long range rain forecast too....nothing to be seen in the next 28 days :( Looks like we might need to start watering a little bit. Just the herb garden. Everything else is on its own.

I've not planted any vegies this year. I feel very sad about that, but I want to move the vegie garden closer to the house where I'll remember to get out to it and away from the jumping jacks. We'd like to plant fruit trees where it has been. Perhaps I'll try planting some vegies into self-water pots instead. That way they can stay inside and watered over the worst of the heat in summer. The idea of not having real tomatoes is too tragic to contemplate!

My rhubarb plant, however, is going amazingly! I need to get out and pick some. It dies down each year and then pops up bigger and stronger than last year! Muffins, crumbles and stewed rhubarb will have to be in our future!

I sat down last night and planned out the rest of November's meals. I wanted to put a roast on the plan, but it's getting a bit too warm to do that now.

Friday: Lasagna
Saturday: Out at a dear friend's for dinner
Sunday: Chicken in 'fig bath' (minus the figs I think!)
Monday: Ricotta fritters, salad, jacket potatoes
Tuesday: Chicken wings or drumsticks, rice, stir fried vegies
Wednesday: Gnocchi with roasted tomato sauce
Thursday: Leftover lasagna, salad

I didn't actually get to making lasagna last night. I couldn't shop on Thursday or yesterday and we got home late from school...I was all done in! So I'll make it sometime today and then I'll have two meals in the freezer...after I buy some gluten free lasagna sheets.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Feeling Neglected?

I'm not, but I wondered whether you might think I'm being a little neglectful in my posting. I've been flat-out busy...and the next few Friday's will continue in the same vein, I think, with Toastmaster's on the go. So today's post might just be a lot of little tidbits and catching up on stuff that has been racing through my mind.

  • Miss Mischief won a 'Burnt Toast' award for best speech of the day during Toastmaster's this morning. She did a fine job, if I do say so myself...despite the tears and tantrums over the writing of the speech. I'm so cruel you know, making her change shortened forms like b4, ur and gr8 to the real word. After all, it is a Language activity!!!! It was worth it though ~ her teacher has asked for a copy for next year's educational segments.
  • Last night we had our school association EGM and dinner meeting. That meeting precipitated some healthy and positive discussion around morning cuppa this morning. Too bad I missed huge chunks of it! But I love hearing other parents fired up about their commitment to the school.
  • I had lunch with two beautiful friends from school today. One had a birthday to celebrate and I was celebrating the end and successful completion of my course. We had a lovely time together and then headed back to school ~ me to the stack of VCE textbooks, one to her housework and one to supervise a VCE exam.
  • As I was working for the Head of Secondary this afternoon, we both had a giggle about the fact that I landed in so many of the photos the Principal used in his powerpoint at the EGM. The pictures were just turning over behind him as he spoke....I must've been in about 6 of them. I wondered aloud to the HOS about whether there are photos of other parents doing stuff. Surely there must be!!!!! If not, someone needs to seriously get into finding some photo opportunities with other people as the subject!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

School Starts Early Too!

In our school, Year 11 and 12's begin their 2010 classes in the next week or two. We still have 5 or so weeks of term left so they get a head start.

Today, next year's Prep's came to give school a little try-out, meet the teacher, do some fun things. Oh my. I'd forgotten how much new little school people need to learn. Not just the academic stuff...but how to sit still, and be quiet when the teacher is talking; how to do what the teacher asks you to do, not just what you want to do; how to put up your hand and wait to be called on. So very much to learn for little people.

I got to meet one particular lad, whose mother thinks I have some amazing teacher-gift. Apparently her son doesn't talk. Well, I had no idea so I just started chatting to him about what he was making with the playdough. He chatted right back. It seems a huge dose of ignorance overcomes a whole bunch of immovable mountains!

And then the kids left and I kind of melted! Our classrooms are hot. The Prep/1 and Year 1/2 teachers both looked exactly like how I felt. I was so hot at lunch time I even had a chocolate paddle pop, leftover from yesterday's staff meeting. My goodness that was good! Ice-cold chocolate....what could be better?

Oh. And we came last in the Primary Christian inter-school sports ... AGAIN. Our children are learning huge lessons about enjoying the journey rather than focusing on success at the end!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Summer Started Early!

It's only spring, yet we seem to have hit a bit of a warm spell (30-35C this week). Thankfully, we've been able to come home and put the cooling on. Dh seems to think it's leaking a little ~ but it's still cooler than not having it!

I'm not a huge fan of hot summer days...I wilt, the further through the day I go. However, there are a few benefits. Like ice-creams and icy poles at staff meeting to cool us down...well...those of us who don't have air-conditioned rooms and offices to hide in, that is.

I'm not the only one who wilts. MrsB was doing some maths assessment on the Prep's this afternoon, whilst I did alphabet recognition and sight words. MrsB was slowly melting to the dulcet tones of little children counting by numbers over 100. Yes, I'm sure that would be put me in a very sleepy, floppy kind of place too!

Roll on next Sunday when the temperatures will head back down to the low 20's (C).

Monday, 9 November 2009

Parents Partnering with Schools

I attended a Parent Partnership Conference over the weekend. A number of parents from our school went along, as well as from many of the other Christian schools within the movement our school belongs to.

It was a day filled with blessing and profound statements and ideas. The keynote speaker is a teacher I worked with at another Christian school, before I had children. He has a vibrant style and expressed some thought provoking ideas about parenting children in the 21st century and partnering with our Christian schools in that endeavour.

I always come away from these types of events reminded of how very blessed we are to have our children enrolled and attending a dynamic Christian school and enjoying the benefits of the wider school community.

I participated by sharing in one of the six 'parent spots'. I was asked to answer two questions: How does Christian education equip my children for life? and How does partnering with your Christian school involve more that doing 'stuff'? I can't really remember exactly what I said! Something about our children learning to think and discern, not just accept what is taught by society. Something about our children being nurtured as whole people, both their faith and looking at who God intends for them to be and to embrace that person completely.

Then I think I might have said something about scratching beneath the surface of doing things to see why. I'm a 'doer of stuff' it took some thinking about! I decided that it's about supporting one another ~ seeing a need and being there for one another in those times, in practical ways and through prayer. And I think I said something about how we talk about being the body of Christ in churches, and that we do the body of Christ stuff in the context of school.

At the end the facilitator said he thought he might have found the next keynote speaker. I didn't think what I said was all that profound. But then, I merely shared what goes on in my head all the time! I certainly don't think I'm keynote speaker material. N-o-o-o-o....I think God's got quite a ways to go if He has that plan in mind!!!!!

* * * * * * * * * * *
I got my work back from College today ~ all marked and ticked off as 'meets requirements', which I knew. There is a new lecturer in the external studies team and she sent me back a little note congratulating me on my completion of the course and commented that my work has been of a very high standard.

My award (certificate) should arrive sometime soon-ish ~ she applied to have it mailed to me.

And I have left a note for my boss, asking if he would be willing to continue to pay for my study to gain a Cert 4 & Diploma next year. I continue to be excited about the idea of further study. I really have enjoyed what I've done this past year.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

None But Jesus

I had to do Staff Devotions on Thursday morning. I'm getting better, but the act of sitting before such a large group of people, all more learned than I, is quite a challenge. And yet God takes each one of us on a journey that is worthy of sharing.

What I shared with our staff is that I often begin my day at the piano. Usually it will be when I have a moment before dashing off to school. For me, it is part of what I do in meditation on God and who He is in my life. As a musician I gather music from all over the place. "Here Trace, learn this...." and so I have this folder of stuff that I love...and some I avoid LOL.

One of the songs I love is Brooke Fraser's 'None But Jesus'. I love that this song talks about knowing God in the stillness and quiet ~ a place I love to be. But also how God is sovereign in the chaos and confusion of life. In fact, I think I spend more time in the chaos...because life is busy. Even busy in a good way though, is sometimes taxing. Despite this, God gives us the grace and the enabling to do the things He gives each one of us to do. This song talks about all of that.

After I'd talked about all of that I simply played a CD of the song for us to listen to quietly. I can't tell you how many staff came to me afterwards to say how much they appreciated that. And our Chaplain, who works at another Christian school, where I have worked took the CD and the words to use as her devotion for yesterday.

I have no idea how to place the You Tube thingy in this post, so I'm supplying the link, so that you can listen to the song if you want to.

Friday, 6 November 2009


I found a spot at school where my laptop actually connects to the wireless network, so I decided to take a little peek at my College results....just in case they'd been posted. I have officially been deemed 'competent' in all the subjects I have completed, according to my provisional results.


A rather satisfying word.

I may just have to talk to my boss and determine his willingness to continue funding my 'professional development'.

And because we can, tonight we're skipping quiche and salad and going out to celebrate.

The Menu Plan

Can you believe it? It's Friday and I've remembered to post my menu plan.

Actually, I tried to post yesterday, but I discovered two minutes is simply not long enough to gather one's scattered thoughts and put them into words that make sense to anyone else! I wanted to post yesterday because I noticed something very exciting as I was walking in the morning. We've lived in Our Town for exactly five years now and in all that time there has been a house a little closer to the main street that has remained unclad. Oh, it has had the wet-area grade plasterboard on the outside so that the family have had protection from the elements. But as I walked yesterday, I discovered that they are half way up, with proper cladding. If I'm excited for them, I can't imagine how besides themselves that family are. I don't even know them!

I have a pretty flat-out the end of a rather busy few days! Today, instead of having a day off I'm spending time with Miss Mischief's class again, doing Toastmasters. And then I'll spend some time with the Head of Secondary organising and collating the VCE textbook order to be put in later this afternoon.

Tomorrow I'm at a Parent Partnership Conference...and need to get my head around a couple of interview questions. I've been asked to be an interviewee. A little nerve wracking ~ but surely no worse than having to promo Starting Points in church when the DVD didn't work!!!!!

So today, the menu plan is organised ~ one thing I can tick off my to-do list!

Friday: Quiche & salad
BBQ (sausages & lamb chops), coleslaw & potato salad
Sunday: Pork Meatloaf, vegies or salad
Monday: Pasta Salad
Tuesday: Tuna & Pasta
Wednesday: Honey Mustard Chicken, vegies
Thursday: Dh & I are out ~ frozen fish & chips for the kids

Enjoy your Friday everyone!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Busy Mother's Baking - Anzac Slice

I had wanted to do more baking before we left on Friday, but alas it was not to be. A full-on week with the addition of Toastmaster's with the Year 6's on Friday morning meant I was home barely long enough to get our things together before Dh came home and we began packing the caravan.

In the midst of the last few things he had to do and picking up the children early from school, I managed to get a couple of things baked. Honey Joys are always a good stand-by for this cornflakes eating family.

I also made an Anzac Slice. It comes by many names, but the recipe is so similar to Anzac biscuits that this is what we have ended up calling it.

Anzac Slice

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a slice tin with baking paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Place the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and heat on low until the butter is melted.
  4. Pour the butter mixture and an egg into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking pan and spread out evenly.
  6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.
  8. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.
Note to self: Make sure I allow plenty of time for summer camping holiday baking.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Calm Between Storms

We hang between the flurry of swimming pools, Op Shopping trips, eating outdoors and the end of unpacking....and returning to regular life tomorrow. It is a brief interlude ~ one I value with great delight.

My highlight? Op Shopping and snapping up a $3 very classy-looking T-shirt. My second highlight was taking two friends off down to CleanSkin (a kitchenware store) and drooling our way through the entire shop. I also bought the one item I intended to ~ a new wooden chopping board. Did you know the new fandangled bamboo ones can't be washed in hot soapy water. Pffft. Who ever heard of such a ridiculous thing.

Mr Busy has had his customary broken-hearted little cry as he walked in the front door. Poor lad...he really suffers deeply, leaving his friends and all that fun behind. You can't imagine how long he sobs for when we return from our three week holiday!

I've begun a list of things that are a must for the caravan before our summer holiday and I'm feeling a little more motivated to get on with Christmas.

Monday, 2 November 2009

To Race or Not to Race

I've decided Melbourne Cup weekend has the population of our fair city divided into three different but very specific groups of people.

The Race Goers. These people are all into horse races or the fashion that goes with it and wouldn't miss the opportunity to frock up and head out to enjoy a day of picnics and bubbly...pretty dresses, hats and well....lots of fun, I suppose.

The Stay at Hom-ers. These are the people who stay home. They're not interested in horse racing and getting away for a few days, so they stay put. They often even go to work on Monday. Because someone has to keep the city running, after all.

The Out of Town-ers. This is where we fit in. We pack up the caravan, gather up as many fellow campers as possible and take off. We don't go too far...just in case someone has to head back to Melbourne for work....but we have a little four day holiday to get us through to the end of the year and Christmas holidays.

Traditionally, the weather is somewhat iffy at best and downright disgusting at worst. This year Melbourne has weathered pretty bad storms. I got an SMS from my friend Rel on Saturday wondering how we'd managed to get on, given the horrendous weather. We've been fine. A little rain...pretty lightning and plenty of pool time for the kids!!!! The girls are beginning to look like prunes!

I'm off to enjoy what's left of the weekend.....what kind of Melbournian are you?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Am I Mad?

You know how I victoriously declared myself finished with my course?

I'm seriously thinking about going further with my study and earning a higher qualification. I've just emailed my lecturer to find out if I can go straight to the Diploma, given my work experience. I'm not holding out much hope though as they've just changed the entry requirements from last year and it looks like the Certificate 4 is a prerequisite. Never hurts to ask the question though.

Whichever way it goes, both are only 1 semester full time and I believe both are available externally. So if I had to do both to get the Diploma, it would still only be one year. The Diploma subjects are far more interesting and the list of options to pick from for the elective subjects are going to be hard to narrow down to just six!

And I really want to get my % mark first too. Then I'll know if I have what it takes to go further. If I only just scraped through, I don't think I'll go any further!!!!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I did it! I have finally mailed off the last of my College subjects and my practical placement information today. The package was triumphantly placed in the mail tray in the office at school and I declared myself no longer a student. The Head of Secondary grinned a little grin at my excitement. The receptionist said "well done"...and I went to have my recess LOL.

My provisional results so far are all 'competent' and they are just waiting for corroboration from the practical placement information I've returned and a conversation with the Prep teacher I work with.

I'm still tossing about the possibility of doing a little bit more. I've just completed Certificate 3 level and there's a Cert 4 and Diploma I could still do....all via external study. So far, the school has paid for it. I'm just not sure. Maybe I'll wait and see how I did first. 'Competent' doesn't really tell you how well you've done...just that you're done.

The Depths of Boyhood Despair

Mr Busy came to me on Sunday night in floods of little-boy tears. "Mum" sob, sob, sob "My high hat pedal is bro-sob-ken". The way he said, you'd think that high hat pedal was a goner, never to be repaired. His happy little world of bliss had certainly come crashing down on him!

Mr Busy was not easily persuaded that the pedal could be repaired and was not so keen to wait a day or maybe two! He spent quite some time bouncing like a ping-pong ball between the two of us, desperate for someone to phone his drum teacher and find out what to do. He was finally placated when I emailed his teacher's contact details to Dh's work so that he could make the arrangements first thing Monday. After all, if Daddy doesn't like people phoning him on a Sunday about work, then why would other people?

By Monday evening Mr Busy had a repaired pedal, had his drums tuned (did you know they needed tuning?!) and had caught up on a lesson as well.

The arm injury sustained while driving a little motorised buggy at his friend's place on Friday night didn't stop him one bit.... funny that! I don't suppose it is broken after all.

Mr Busy is back up on the moutain top in his life.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

"Julie & Julia"

What could be better after an afternoon of mini-golfing, than to follow up with an evening out with your bestest girlfriends? Not much, I'd wager.

Last night my girlfriends and I had dinner together and then headed off to see 'Julie & Julia'. I loved it. It was about cooking, after all...what's not to love?! It was humourous and touching, delicious and true-to-life with moments of despair and then triumph. Meryl Streep does a marvellous job of imitating the real Julia Child. I had to watch a You Tube clip, just to be sure. Her performance had touches of Dame Edna Everidge though!!!!

I have another food-loving friend who mentioned she wanted to see this....I think I'll have to go with her and see it again. You know...just in case I missed something the first time round :)

You should go and see it too.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Elusive Weekly Menu Plan

I've done it again, haven't I?! In my defense, yesterday was a busy day!!!! I had a total of two hours at home in the afternoon....not enough time to keep all my wits about me, I can assure you.

And even today...I remembered about posting my menu plan as I was on my way to spend the morning at a friend's place. She had a little girl from our Prep class staying last night and through until late this afternoon. Their family is again dealing with a pretty big health issue and so my friend asked if we could come and spend some time giving some joy to this precious little girl who is all pink and piggy tails and the most adorable little person, inside and out.

As it turns out, Miss Sunshine is the only one home this morning ~ the other two are at a sleepover and a camp. So Miss Sunshine and I headed off with a recipe and ingredients to make Hummingbird Muffins with Miss Adorable. Miss Sunshine took the lead as the two of them measured and mixed together. Once they were in the oven I believe an indoor cubbyhouse was created and some sandpit playing ensued once their indoor creation was complete.

Miss Sunshine says she enjoyed this morning much more than she thought she would. I knew she'd have a great time. I wish I knew Miss Adorable's parents better than a fleeting recognition. Miss Adorable would be more than welcome to spend days on end with us if it were necessary.

So....after that convoluted little journey, the menu plan:

Friday: Nachos
Saturday: Pasta with Bacon & Mushrooms
Sunday: Lamb Moussaka, vegies
Monday: Apricot Chicken, mashed potatoes, vegies
Tuesday: Pork Meatloaf, vegies (a holdover from last week)
Wednesday: Singapore Noodles (another holdover)
Thursday: Crockpot...something or other chicken. Maybe Cacciatore.

I'll get things organised for Miss Sunshine to cook tonight....I'm going to have dinner with my girlfriends before going to see 'Julie & Julia'.

Class of '09

I spent the whole of yesterday at school. Fortunately I went of prepared with recess and lunch food! On the Year 12's last day you just never know what will happen or whether the thing you'd planned to do will actually get done!

Yesterday the theme was Pirates and the Year 12's dressed up as characters from Peter Pan. Captain Hook made an imposing figure. Peter Pan, clad in tights, had grown considerably! Of course, everyone of the cast were there....and each made their own grand entrance into a whole-school assembly. Each class presented the Year 12's with something precious. Food, which is always a winner with teenage boys, treasure maps to find their VCE ENTER score, prayers, notes of encouragement, a key to the real treasure ~ the Bible.

We had the traditional staff vs Year 12 game. This year it was lacrosse. The staff won :) We had our traditional guard of honour and farewelled some very special young people. Now they'll go and study for exams and their school life is finished.

A little sad really. And very exciting. And a bit daunting because in five short years my own daughter will be experiencing her last day. The year after, the next one will have hers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

After such excitement and frivolity (and a few tears from the library tech whose son is in Year 12), we knuckled back down to the business of preparing for Year 6 Graduation.

We do 'Tiny Toastmasters' with our Year 6's and they present one of their speeches on Graduation Night. They have an 8 week program during class, where formal meetings are run and each student performs different functions within each meeting. Each student is required to present 3 speeches during the 8 weeks, and they are critiqued by their peers. The teacher and I determine who wins the 'Burnt Toast' award for the best speech and then we work with the kids to refine their chosen Graduation speech. Not to mention some meeting etiquette refining along the way!

Yesterday Miss Mischief was the Toastmaster ~ the one who emcee's the meeting and keeps it moving. She did a marvellous job. We just need to have her turn up her volume!

I love this journey with the Year 6's. I love seeing them develop from uncertainty to confidence. It is one of the last instances where they willingly allow themselves to be molded in preparation for a significant event in their lives, before the final years of high school.

In Year 7, their willingness disappears.

One of the greatest pleasures for me is that I've done this with Miss Sunshine and I'm now doing it with Miss Mischief. I have the very rare pleasure as a parent of seeing my daughters through this program. And in a few year's time I imagine I'll see Mr Busy through this process too. Miss Mischief's teacher is very keen for me to continue being involved, now that I know how it all works.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

'A Slow Burn' by Mary E DeMuth

Rel has posted my review for 'A Slow Burn', which you will find here. As I reread my review I was reminded again how my heart ached for the characters in this book. Mary E DeMuth is a brilliant author. She addresses difficult, heartbreaking issues in a perfect mix of brutal honesty tempered with delicate care.

I have to warn you, your heart will break and you will cry buckets, but this is a book that should not be shied away from. It's one of those ones that will stay with you for a very, very long time. And I can't wait for the third book in this trilogy to be released. Mary has assured me there are good things ahead for Emory.

Tonight I'll go to bed smiling in anticipation for her.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Want to know what my favourite lunch so far this week so far this week is? A chopped falafel on 94% wheat free rye bread with a little bit of sour cream. good! I mentioned the other day I had made falafels for my lunch and would enjoy them for the rest of the week's lunches. Such a good idea, that was!

Mr Busy studied Egypt last term in General Studies so the recipe comes from his school recipe folder. Have I told you how cute that boy is?! Cute enough to eat, I reckon. Oh wait, we're talking falafels.....before I eat my delicious son I'd better post that recipe.


2x 400g tins chickpeas
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
20 stalks flat-leaf parsley
15 stems coriander
20 mint leaves
1/4 cup self raising flour
oil for frying
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic.
  2. Drain the chickpeas.
  3. Add ground cumin, ground coriander, chickpeas, parsley, fresh coriander and mint to the food processor and process until the mixture is well blended. You may need to stop the processor regularly to move the mixture about to ensure even blending.
  4. Once you're happy with the consistency of the mixture, add the flour and blend further until the flour is well combined. Again, you may need to stop the machine regularly and move the mixture about.
  5. Form the mix into balls about 4cm wide.
  6. Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat. Add the falafel balls and cook until the bottom turns golden brown. Turn the balls and cook until the second side goes golden.
  7. Remove and serve with a simple salad and a dollop of sour cream or tzatztkiki.
Of course, you know I altered the recipe to suit my tastes. I don't like fresh coriander or mint that much, so I left that out and added just a little extra flat-leaf parsley. I also used gluten free self raising flour. Next time I do this recipe I want to try sautéing the red onion and garlic before it is processed with the other ingredients. Thoroughly cooked onion is always more socially acceptable.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Little Drummer Boy


Mr Busy has been taking drum lessons for the better part of this year. I have long resisted this development in our son. Every time he enthusiastically watched the drummer in my church music team I would point him to the guitarist instead. Guitars are so much more mellow and ... well ... quieter. I value peace and quiet. Goodness only knows why I thought I'd get any of that when we had three children!

In any case, the drum teacher is a young man who grew up in our church and this year began teaching drums privately at our school. Mr Busy adores his drum teacher, and is oh so keen to learn more than just how to play the bongo's!

Just a few weeks back, the drummer in my music team at church emailed us and offered us the use of his old drum kit. We decided it would be foolish to decline and gratefully responded with our desire to take up the generous offer. Yesterday was the day that Dh & Mr Busy headed off to pick up the drum kit.

Oh the excitement and joy on that little 9yo face! Oh the noise that comes from that corner of the house now!!!! However, there are two doors we can close between him and the family room so he can bash away without driving us too nutty. There is barely room for Mr Busy to move in his room now...but I'm sure he'll find a way to play with his lego, sleep and keep those drums!

I have to say, he's not half bad! Rather smooth, even. One day when he's a little more proficient I may even cave in and move the drums to the formal dining room where my piano is. I think I could handle having a companion to play with. I think that'll be a while off.

I value peace and quiet.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

This Week's Menu Plan

It seems that my change of day to post my menu plan has thrown me. I only realised late this morning that I'd neglected to do it this week! So before I forget again, here's the plan:

Friday: Miss Sunshine's chicken & rice noodle stir fry
Saturday: Lamb roast, vegies, sticky date pudding
Sunday: Homemade pizza ~ bacon & pineapple; onion, garlic & potato with a wheat free base for two of us
Monday: Soup?
Tuesday: Forbidden City Chicken, vegies
Wednesday: Pork meatloaf, vegies
Thursday: Singapore Noodles

Can you tell we had visitors for tea on Saturday ~ dessert doesn't usually happen at our place unless there's a special reason!!!!

I have a new recipe for falafels, which I am going to have to post. It is far superior to the recipe I have used in the past. I made a batch today for lunch...and lunches during this week. None of my family are thrilled with falafels, but I adore them so having them for lunch means they stretch out over a few days and no one else is going to complain at me.

Sticky Date Pudding

I found a great sized lamb roast that had been reduced for quick sale yesterday. With a plan in mind I quickly added it to my supermarket trolley and bought enough vegies to ensure I had plenty for guests.

Fortunately for us, we found some wonderful friends willing to share a lamb roast with us.....but then, what does one serve for dessert?! The girls and I mulled and pondered for a while and then I came up with a sure winner ~ sticky date pudding. A quick trip back to the supermarket for dates, cream and ice cream and we were on our way. Quite the success it was. You always know you've hit the mark when little boys, young and old alike, kind of melt at the table while they enthusiastically devour every bit they can without licking the bowl....which would be impolite in front of others!

I make my sticky date pudding into muffins, for easy portion control. I turn them upside down so they soak in as much yummy sauce as possible and serve with ice cream. Mmmmmmmm.

Sticky Date Pudding

250g pitted dates
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups boiling water
125g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
300ml thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
60g butter
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line 7cm deep, 22cm cake pan (or use a 12 hole muffin pan).
  2. Chop dates and place in a bowl with bicarb soda. Pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Using a large metal spoon, fold through date mixture and flour until well combined.
  4. Spoon mixture into prepared cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. turn onto a plate. (if making muffins, cook for 15-20 minutes).
  5. Make Sauce: Combine all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-slow. Simmer for 2 minutes.
  6. Serve pudding with sauce poured over the top.
Of course, the picture is not mine. With 10 hungry pairs of eyes eagerly awaiting their dessert, there was no time for picture taking!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Faith 'n Fiction: Publishers and Branding

My Friend Amy's faith 'n fiction topic has saved me from staring blankly at a 'new post' screen!!!!

Today's Topic

This week Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher announced a new division for self publishing. They named this new endeavor, Westbow Press. This was a bit of a shock for those of us who remember books on the shelves by some of Christian fiction's most accomplished writers published under the Westbow imprint of the past.

When asked about this, Michael Hyatt responded that readers don't pay attention to imprints and publishers. To be honest, I found this rather insulting and it also made me question why publishers would try to brand themselves if readers don't really care anyway. Even before book blogging and reading book news every day, I paid attention to publishers. I figured if a publisher published enough different sorts of books that I liked, than I would like a lot of their stuff.

This really holds true today. I have favorite publishers in Christian fiction and in the general market. There are publishers I know I will read new authors from and other I'm less likely to pick up.

How about you? Do you know who the Christian publishers are? Who are your favorite publishers or imprints? Do you have certain perceptions of the kinds of books each publishing house brings out? Tell it like it is...even if you have no idea what I'm talking about!

My Response:
I don't know whether I would go so far as to say I feel as insulted as Amy does....but I am definitely surprised. I've been reading Christian Fiction since I was 9 years old and I do take notice of the publishers. I will admit to being oblivious as to what an imprint is....but I'm familiar with my publishers. I have a overwhelming number of Bethany House books on my shelves. I notice when an author changes publisher mid-way through a series ~ I've even asked an author about the change! I know when I see the 'etc' circle at the top of the spine it's going to be a NavPress book. I know that B&H books are going to be pretty fantastic, because Karen Ball is one of their editors and I have a deep respect for Karen's work as an author and as an editor. David C Cook makes me giggle a little inside because the publisher name could be an author's name!

Of course that's barely a handful of publishers, but you get the gist. The apparently unaware reader is more aware than Thomas Nelson give us credit for. If I am inclined to notice these things, you can be sure there are many, more discerning, readers doing the same. Publishers do become synonymous with the style and genres they publish. In the past, Westbow has published the likes of Angela Hunt, Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. I wonder then, how they will distinguish this new self publishing 'Westbow' from the old. After all, there are many Christian Fiction readers who will look at the publisher and have some expectations. Surely there are some creative people in the publishing industry who could come up with a name that does not set the reader up with the high expectations that one rightly has when they pick up Angela, Ted or Frank's books.

Don't get me wrong though. I think having an avenue for self publishing could be really helpful for new authors, when they are wanting to write something that none of the big publishing houses are interested in, at the time. I'm sure black and white sales figures will help authors who want to break into the Christian Fiction arena. If they have a good self publishing record, they will no doubt become more attractive to the big boys in the industry. It will also allow the reader access to more than what the publishing houses are prepared to publish. I'm just not so sure it's a good idea to use a name with a reputation already attached to it.

What do you think?