Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The 80/20 Rule for Mum Success

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

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

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

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

Monday, 21 August 2017

Monday Menu Planning

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How to Feel Like You're Not Really Cleaning

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

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

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

All Purpose Cleaning Spray

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

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

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

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A New Blogging Adventure

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why I have always made my kids' lunches

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 14 August 2017

Monday's Weekly Menu Post

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mum's Minestrone and a Crockpot Win

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

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

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

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

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

Mum's Minestrone

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

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

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

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

Serve with warm crusty rolls.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday means menus

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

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

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

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

What's on your dinner plates this week?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

After that I hibernated

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 4 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 29 July 2017

And Week 1 Flew By

I accidentally went radio silent.  This is just what happens.  Over the term break I have time to think thoughts in my own head and then actually write them down and send them out into the big wide world.  Then the term begins and I forget where all the thoughts went...they get lost or overridden or something.  Or maybe my school babies just need all those thoughts?

I cannot believe that Week 1 is done and dusted.  It went so amazingly, stinking fast!  I began the week with a kind of teacher dread that is common to our breed.  The kind that says I spent too much time working and not enough time resting.  I never start the term thinking "Yes, I'm so ready for this, bring it on".  I usually have thoughts of "I'm still tired, I need another week to hang out with my own kids and read and watch YouTube and hang out with my friends".  The term calendar listens to my thoughts exactly zero times.  Our Youth Pastor bravely went to tread on the "teachers have so many holidays" comment....Miss Mischief intervened before he could hang himself.  "No...Stop.  You will die, this is not safe for you to say to a teacher."  To be fair, lots of my early morning work, on holidays, was done in my PJ's in bed.  So there's that.

By Monday afternoon, however, I was over myself and my dread had completely transformed into energy.  My class is just so ... I don't know ... there isn't a word that expresses how much I totally adore this group of kids.  I don't want my Year 4's to go to Year 5 (and I don't want to teach Year 5 again, yet!!).  I want to keep them forever.  They are just such a beautiful bunch of awesome, engaged, hilarious little people.

Best thing this week?  Introducing the first of my interactive notebook foldables.  My kids are really good at being engaged in their learning, but foldables take it up 10 notches.  They were engaged, interacting, on-task....learning!  They now know that not all words that start with 'dis' are a word with a prefix.  They know they can't just whack a prefix on any old word - it doesn't necessarily make a proper word if you do that.

Also, other best thing?  One of my boys has been a bit of a "fly under the radar" kid, and I didn't feel like I know him super well.  He's sitting at the front, closer to me, and already I'm getting to see little pieces of his personality that I hadn't been able to catch when he was further away.  Loving that I get to see who he really is, even though he's pretty quiet.  And no more avoiding AR quizzes Mr Young Man!  I'm onto you now!

Next week we're on camp for 3 days.  I love school camps.  I don't love that it involves a hill, down which exist all the activities.  I was not born to be a mountain goat.  But school camp.  All of the unstructured relationship building and none of the "sit down, be quiet, do your work, why are you walking around, are you meant to be talking right now, is that what you're supposed to be doing right now, what are you supposed to be doing right now, why are your scissors up your nose?" kinds of conversations I have all day.  Because 10yo boys!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Why we track each other

We are Channel 9 news people in our house.  We have a deep affection for Peter and Livinia.  Although not as prominent, we also have affectionate feelings for Allan Raskall.  He is lively and funny and his stories often come with flair and a special Allan version of dagginess-in-a-suit that we appreciate around here.  So last week, when Allan was doing a story that mentioned schools my ears pricked up.  He was talking about some app for schools to use to track their students (see story here).  Of course the civil libertarians weighed in, talking about children's right to privacy.  And then right at the end it was made clear parents had to agree and students had to download the app on their phone.  The app would allow for geographical tracking and for the camera to be turned off.

Not so much humour in that story, but still there was Allan.

My baby adults and older teen had interesting reactions to this story.  "But Mum, what if those kids are wagging school?"  Yes indeed.  I suspect this is exactly what this app is designed for.  Those students who like to disappear off school grounds during the day without permission or explanation.  In such cases I would be inclined to land on the side of the argument that says a school's responsibility to students (and their parents) would trump a student's right to privacy.  They are under 18 and us teachers get a little bit (actually, a LOT) worried when we can't find our precious people.  In the same way that I get a "little bit" worried when I lose my own children in foreign countries, in places like, say, Disneyland (looking at you Mr Busy).  Thankfully in my school this has never been an issue.  We are in the absolute middle of nowhere and anywhere interesting is far too hard to get to on foot.  Nature has provided the perfect deterrent to wagging.

The news story also raised another round of why we use "Find My iPhone" to track each other in our household.  It's not just us tracking the kids either - we all use it to find out where the other has gone. Many are the days when I get a text from my girls saying "Why are you at Mrs....'s house without meeeeee?"  You can imagine the emoji's inserted afterwards.  Because they discovered I've snuck of to see a friend that they also adore.

When the girls first started driving themselves around in their own cars Apple had just put "Find My iPhone" onto our phones with some update.  I don't know, you do these updates and new apps just appear.  Whatever!  But this one was actually useful to us. We asked the girls to turn it on, to which their immediate response was "What? Why?"  Parents of older kids, you know what that sounds like! So we had to lay it out for them.  These are our reasons for tracking each other:

  1. First and most obviously, so that we know where they are!  If anything were to ever happen to them we would be able to get to them quickly, or send emergency services directly to their exact location.
  2. Our second reason involves avoiding them being distracted drivers.  With an app like this one, we are able to check in when we suspect they might be driving.  That means we don't have to text or call.  They don't have to feel pressured to respond or pick up, but we know they're on their way.  Neither of the girls have blue tooth in their cars, or hands-free phone thingys so this is a big deal for us in keeping the as safe and undistracted as possible.
  3. They get to track us too.  Again, this means reduced texts of the "where are ya?" kind.  If they wake up in the morning and wonder where everyone is, they can find out before they go ahead and panic.  If we are out late at night they can see where we are.
Since all but one of us is an adult, in our house, this is far from being a "nanny state" arrangement.  Anywhere Mr Busy goes, someone in the house delivers him and retrieves him, so we always know where he is anyway.  This is the nature of where we live - transport is always provided by us.  For the rest of us, this is purely peace of mind.  We check the app before we worry or consider getting concerned.  The kids check and see if we're still at work.  We check and see if Miss Sunshine is on her way home from Uni.  We know if Miss Mischief is at "games night" after church on Sunday.  Initially the kids were dubious about the idea of being able to be tracked by us.  I suspect they do more tracking of us these days, and they have all agreed using this app makes perfect sense in our household.

PS  I am in no way related to Apple or this particular app.  It's just one that we use and have appreciated.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Eastland Daiso and other classroom fun

Eastland is one of the major shopping centres on my side of Melbourne.  As you would expect it's pretty big, and because of the distance from our home, we don't end up there very often.  As I mentioned the other day, the first time I went there, two years ago, it ended up in tears for me.  Seven hours since lunch and never finding the restaurant, and having to decide what to eat from the food court at 8pm was never a recipe for my success.  Especially on a Friday night after work!  When Miss Mischief found out her response to Miss Sunshine and her Dad was "What?  You took her shopping and didn't feed her?  Are you stupid?"  Yep.  We do "direct" in our house like nobody's business.

Last year Dh and I went there for buy a birthday gift for Miss Mischief.  We lost the car.  Turns out we needed to go through the shopping centre doors on the other side of the wall to where we actually exited.  We forgot we had come in through Woolworths and not the exit right next to that one.  Like, 50cm away with a wall in between. 😣

Today I won!  I went all the way to Eastland, found the store I wanted, and then also found the car again afterwards.  No tears!  Miss Mischief came along to be my voice of reason in all things Eastland and shopping.

We found our intended target, Daiso, fairly simply with the help of the touch-screen map thingys.  Above is what we came out with.  The storage boxes have all the eleventy million disposable cups stored in them.  The shelf liner has been cut to size to fit the top of my washing machine.  I need to clean off the feet of our kitchen chairs to protect them with those perfectly sized felt circles.  The other things are for my classroom.  The white basket and hooks are magnetic so they'll be able to attach to my whiteboard.

Now that I know what's at Daiso I'll be able to plan trips there with added discernment.  I have to say, it is teacher heaven!  Everything is $2.80, if there is no other price attached.  There were some things that were more than that, but they were all over on one side of the store.  Once my classroom has been put back together (painting should have been completed, and I think carpet was scheduled to be laid today) I will be able to decide what I'd really like to have things the way I want them.

This is one of my new storage units.  Miss Sunshine and I spent some time last Monday labelling the boxes.  It took me a little bit of fiddling to get the label size right, but then it was a breeze to print, laminate and stick them on the inside of each tub.  I am very happy with how they turned out.  Not bad for a little creative ingenuity!

What's your favourite bargain store?  So far I'm leaning towards Arthur Daley's, and then Daiso was a very close second.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

On the decluttering train

This week's little decluttering job is complete.  To look at the space, you'd think not, but I only ever intended to do a small portion of the job.

This week it was the front cupboard.  It's this monstrously sized cupboard in the front entry way.  When we moved in we thought we'd never fill up all that space.  Alas and alack, we did fill it and it was overflowing.  It seems to be a consistent phenomenon:  you fill whatever space you have.

The top shelf of that cupboard has been hoarding and collecting things since the very year we moved in here, a way back in 2005, as it turns out.  Twelve years.  Before I attacked this vortex of stuff it looked like this.

I spent an hour going through photos and kid's school work and baby cards and all sorts of things.  I threw almost all of it out.  I kept the catering/picnic stuff.  I kept a small box of photos and keepsakes.  I kept a couple of portfolios from when Mr Busy was in Prep/Year1, and Miss Mischief was in 3/4.  The 3/4 one is interesting to me, since I now teach that year level in the same school.  Mr Busy graduates next year, so I thought I'd stow that work in case it's wanted for graduation celebrations.  Can I just say, Mr Busy was awesomely cute way back in the day.  He's still cute, but he has such a long, lanky body now.  His cute little 6yo self was so compact!

Everything else?  Gone.  That Linak box?  Full of stuff we didn't need.  Up the other end?  Phone books.  Who on earth needs phone books anymore?  We don't even need them for loo paper (my mother says they all looked forward to phone book loo paper because it was softer than whatever else they used).

The new-look top of the cupboard looks like this:

Most interesting discovery?  A brass plumb line and eleventy million disposable cups.

My organising/cleaning/decluttering "done" list is looking pretty good:

  • pantry
  • oven
  • recycling bin
  • desk area
  • entry cupboard (top shelf)
I still need to work on the dining room.  And then I need some major storage overhauls to happen, in the form of shelving for the bottom section of that front cupboard.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Strangest School Holidays Ever

It has been a very strange school holiday so far.  This week may feel a little more like normal, but so far it has been anything but.

It began last Monday with an early morning drive to get Miss Mischief off on her road trip to Sydney, to attend a conference up there.  Since I was up in the wee dark hours, when I got home I just got stuck into some work....four days later I decided that was enough!  We missed Mischief coming home, since the rest of us headed up to my parent's home in country Victoria.  It was an odd feeling, having us there and Mischief here, when she finally got home.

To add to the oddness, Miss Sunshine has gone back to Uni, so while the rest of us are still on a break, she's back to the grind and none to happy about the idea!  By the end of this week she'll feel better.  I'll go back to school next week, and then a week later Mr Busy, and then the week after that Miss Mischief will be back.  By August maybe life will look like we expect it to!

Gone are the days where all the little people here spent the first week of holidays bickering and trying to figure out what to do with themselves and all their spare time.  Gone are the constant "what can I eat?" and "Can I watch a DVD?" and "Can I play on the computer?" questions I used to field and manage constantly.  I don't manage the logistics of getting kids to holiday activities any more either.  Well.  Except for Mr Busy.  His Wednesday mornings are spent at church doing the technical behind the scenes stuff of lighting and sound and CG for Movie Morning.  This week one of the girls will need to do that ferrying.  Once upon a time I found school holidays exhausting and had to work hard to ensure everyone settled into something of a routine that wouldn't send us all crazy.  Once upon a time I wouldn't have worked at all through the break.

This school holiday break has been the oddest for sure.  But as I ponder what has been and consider the season in which we find ourselves, I suspect this is our new normal.  Kids who start and stop their school breaks at inconsistent times.  Kids who get themselves about the place.  Peace in the house because everyone gravitates to their own space when they're home.

The tip of the oddness:  me suggesting a trip to Eastland.

You can't imagine the sideways look I got from Miss Mischief.  Eastland is not on my list of places to visit.  One previous trip ended in hungry tears after being lost.  It's a whole story.  Another trip ended with us losing the car, because the car park there is ridiculous.  But Eastland is home to Daiso.  And Daiso is my kind of shopping.  So the girls are going to guide me carefully and lead me gently.

What's your school holidays been like so far?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Monday Means Menus!

I had such grand plans for today.  Plans to clear out a cupboard that has been hoarding who-knows-what for about 10 or 11 years.  What I know about that cupboard is that I haven't actually touched anything on most of the top shelf, except the disposable places & cutlery, and picnic stuff.  So I was all excited about the idea of dealing with it.

But then I just slept instead.

In my defence, today is the first day I haven't worked since the school holidays began, and I need a break.  Apparently.  My body has decided it has no energy, so at 11am, when I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore I just wriggled down on the couch, pulled up my blankie (because there is nothing better than being all cosy when you're watching TV!), and slept for two hours.  It feels pitiful, but that's what this poor old body needed.  The sad thing is I slept so well last night.  My Dad sent me home with a clock radio that has red numbers.  What I now know, after a few clocks, is that red numbers don't glow like the sun at night.  Red numbers just keep the time in the clock, not all over the room.  Every time I woke, briefly, I looked over at the time and drifted back to sleep.  No green glow emanating from the clock.  YES!

The only productive thing I needed to do today was grocery shopping.  Which means list making, which means menu planning.  It was so nice to be the one asking "What's for dinner, Mum?" instead of having to find the answer!

So our Picket Fence Plan for the week is as follows:
Monday: Sloppy Joe's and potato wedges
Tuesday: Chinese simmering chicken, rice, stir fried veggies
Wednesday: Veggie plate (a plate full of roasted/steamed veggies)
Thursday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Friday:  Sheet pan tacos
Saturday: Chicken & corn soup
Sunday:  Maybe lasagne so I can make a double batch for the freezer?

Monday & Friday nights are new recipes for us from The Family Fudge.  This is on my list of Favourite YouTuber's, so if you have time take a look around.  Jennifer's recipes always look so delicious, so I'm willing to have a go.  The sheet pan taco things looks like a really good idea for putting it together.

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Perfect Lunch Partners


There is only one thing better than the yummiest salad on earth, eaten at lunch time.

Pairing it with my other very favourite lunch thing - Mum's rhubarb relish on crackers with cheese.

At Mum's house.

This has been my weekend partnership, whilst at my parents' home in country Victoria.  In return, I made brownies.  My mother's delight over brownies was equal to mine over rhubarb relish.  Except I get to take a jar of relish home with me!

What are you eating for lunch this week?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Productive Days (who needs a holiday, after all?)

Whoever said teachers get a lot of holidays speaks from blissful naivety, total ignorance or a combination of both.  Over the past four days of school "holidays" I have handed in an assignment, planned my Measurement & Geometry lessons, found video clips for each topic and spent a ton of time creating resources.

I'm going to be flap-booking my way through M&G this term.  Above is part of just one flap book I've created from scratch this week.  I'm growing a little bank of templates so I can use the basic shapes for other flap books as well.  That will save me heaps of time in the future.

Last year I used flap books and other interactive notebook type of activities a few times, and my kids loved them. I felt like shape, angles and lines just fit really well with the idea, so that's what we'll be doing.  What I love about interactive notebook activities, is that the kids are highly engaged, the vocabulary seems to stick with them better, and the information is in their books in a very organised fashion without taking up heaps and heaps of space.  The flap books give them an opportunity to draw examples and write their own definitions, so hopefully this information will be firmly embedded in their smart little brains.

And this idea gets the Mr Busy tick of approval.  I showed him the flap book I created for 2D shapes and he reckoned he wouldn't mind being in my class, because Yr11 Maths doesn't look quite like that much fun!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

What's Cooking Wednesday....a healthy lunch

I'm not much for lentils, or salads (especially in winter!).  What I know, however, is that it's good to have more plant based foods in one's diet, and legumes are meant to be really good for you, for many reasons.  So, last week I was pondering my favourite pasta salad and thinking about how to have that salad yumminess (now there's an oxymoron!) without the pasta.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, so I set about to include some necessary healthful foods into my weekday lunches in a palatable manner.

I love Bobby Flay's Greek Orzo Salad, and use his recipe all the time, without the prawns.  I think what I love most is the dill!  So with this as the basis, I switched out the pasta and use French Puy lentils and pearl couscous instead.  I cooked 1/4 cup of each and mixed them together.  Then I quartered some cherry Roma tomatoes and a small Lebanese cucumber and added that, imprecise measuring and all, until it looked like a good ratio to the lentils and couscous.  I added just one spring onion and a handful of chopped dill, and omitted the feta.

The recipe made enough for 3 lunches.  This salad made the Thursday grade.  Thursday is tuck shop day at our school, and sad lunches just do not stack up in a staffroom of sushi and filled fresh baguettes.  Amongst those delicious tuck shop offerings, my salad still felt like a great lunch.  The texture that I don't love, with the lentils, was softened with the pearl couscous.  I'll keep using that combo and over time may I'll back off the couscous bit by bit until I am content with just the lentils.

Now I need to make this again, so that the leftovers from Miss Sunshine's party don't call my name too loudly!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Three reasons why I don't colour my hair

Image Credit
Disclaimer:  I shouldn't need to say this, but the internet being what it is, I thought I'd make it clear from the outset:  This topic is totally about people making a choice for themselves, based on what works for them.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad, or judgement to be made.  What I choose for myself is not a judgement about anyone else's choices.  
Now....back to our scheduled program.....

"You should think about colouring your hair," was the not so subtle suggestion I received from a hairdresser some 10+ years ago, now.

You see, grey hair runs in my mother's family the same way that male baldness runs in my Dad's.  Since I'm not a boy, I'm fairly safe with that one, but not so much they grey.   My maternal grandfather was absolutely white in his 50's.  My mother was not quite as white, but not far off in her 60's.  At any given age, she has been more grey than I have been.  I first noticed my own one or two greys in my early-mid twenties, and they've been gathering steam ever since (my mother noticed her own in her teens - I had a good 10 years on her!).  Right back then I knew I needed to make a decision.  To dye, or not to dye.

I chose not to dye my hair.  Ever.

Back then it was simple reasoning:  if I go grey one hair at a time, it won't be quite so obvious, compared to if I dyed my hair and then decided to stop.  That difference would be quite stark.  Since then I have developed a more considered reasoning.  So here are three reasons I don't dye my hair (or intend to start!).

1.  It's expensive
I am nothing if not practical, and I have experienced numerous times of financial stress in my life.  It was not long after that comment from the hairdresser that we had to buckle down and hold our financial breath.  Spending on anything that was not absolutely necessary just did not happen.  In fact, I think I had my Mum cut my hair a time or two during that season of our life (she had cut half the town's hair when we lived overseas - it was a safe, cheap option).

2.  It's a time commitment
Not only the sitting in the hairdresser's chair, but also how often you need to visit the hairdresser.  I have long hair, so I don't need to go any more often than once a quarter and can get away with longer if I cut my own fringe.  Again, the practical side of me is inclined to shun anything that requires upkeep more often.  It's also part of the reason I've never been able to have my hair in a short style for more than about a year.  Hair appointments every six weeks?  Nope.  Too much like hard work to my way of thinking.  I'm terrible at being a girl sometimes!  And again, the money.

3.  Sensitive Skin
Perhaps the most persuasive reason I don't dye my hair is because of my skin.  I am so sensitive to normal chemicals people use.  Things like dishwashing liquid, hand soap, household cleaners, perfumed hand creams.  You name it, I avoid it.  As an example, my current hand moisturiser is a non-frangrance one, and if you're read here for a while, you know I've had a major eye sensitivity to something in make-up this year.  Given all that, frankly I've been too scared to try dying my hair.  If I'm that sensitive to regular stuff I can only imagine I'd been on The Project or A Current Affair as an extreme examples of chemical burns and rashes and swelling everywhere.  If regular people get a little irritated, I don't want to think about what that would look like for me.

So I don't even consider dying my hair.  I think more than a choice, it's probably just not an option.  And I'm totally OK with that.

What about you?  Do you colour your hair?  Or not?  Do you wish you'd made a different choice at some point?

Monday, 3 July 2017

Weekly Menus

We made it.  We fell over the Term 2 finish line and crashed.  Almost.  I crashed.   And then had to pick myself up to welcome about 30 family and friends for Miss Sunshine's 21st birthday party.  A party that is two months late, because we were just not in a place to do it at the time.

Term 2 has been long.  Eleven weeks just feels exhausting!  I ended my term with reports being completed, portfolios being compiled, an assignment being written and my classroom being emptied out.  The past two weeks have definitely been a sprint.  It was a delight to see my students' faces when they looked through their portfolios.  Then they worked so hard to help move everything to the room where our classroom things are being stored for the holiday break.  I commandeered Mr Busy for move some bigger things with the trolley (he had study lesson), and Miss Sunshine came in to direct traffic and supervise the kids when they were taking things to the storage space.  I was so grateful.  My building, plus my previous building (4 classrooms altogether), are both being refurbished with lockers and cupboards being ripped out, carpet being replaced and walls being repainted.  Next term I will have moveable storage instead of lockers and cupboards, and my data projector will be changed over to an interactive projector.  My classroom will be reoriented so that the "front" of the room will be on a different wall.  It will be SO GOOD!  Right now, however, my hip is not happy due to all the bending - an old injury that flares in these types of circumstances.

So while my classroom is being tended to, I am rehoming resources into tubs that will then need to be labelled.  I will also need to do some planning.  Otherwise, lots of sleeping and reading and YouTube watching is my plan for now.  I'm very excited about the idea of the forecast rain and me being tucked up at home with a book.

Our menu for the week.... (sans Miss Mischief, who will be in Sydney this week)
Monday: Pasta Bolognese
Tuesday: Honey Soy Chicken, Vegies, Rice
Wednesday: Tuna & Rice
Thursday: Vegie Plate
Friday: liaise with Mum about the weekend

How has your Term 2 been?  What are you looking forward to for the holidays?

Monday, 19 June 2017

Menu Plan Monday

This is the last week of our girlies being away housesitting.  I go back and forth between missing being part of their every day, and not missing the bickering that is natural between siblings.  The house has been quiet and peaceful, and my days off have been delightful silent and uninterrupted.  Mr Busy is easy to have about and doesn't fuss if he's asked to do something.  Unlike the girls, who make grand declarations about the fairness, or lack thereof, about who does what dishes job.

As I mentioned when I talked about the upsides of having a smaller households the cooking has been delightful.  This week is no different.  I'm planning for cooking once and eating twice while I can.  And then a nice family roast for the night that we're all home to eat dinner together properly (with plans to use the leftovers in another meal).

Here we go:
Sunday: Chicken noodle soup
Monday:  Lasagne and salad
Tuesday: Pasta with tomato & bacon sauce
Wednesday: Leftover chicken noodle soup
Thursday: Leftover lasagne and salad
Friday: Leftover pasta
Saturday: Roast chicken & veggies (maybe even dessert!)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Claiming my Desk... Before and After

 A very long time ago, it seems, I wanted to get rid of the great hulk of a desk we had inherited from my father-in-law (we are his favourite disposal site, I think), and replace it with something simpler and less invasive.  Ikea provided us with what I considered the perfect alternative.  So it has been sitting in this corner for many years.  All white and slimmed down compared to its predecessor.  Gradually Mr Busy took the desk over with his junk.  The curtain over the window in front of it deteriorated so much that the backing became white dust over everything (hence the sheet).  I have been less than pleased with this corner.  It was never really what I intended.

As well as desktop issues we began to have under-desk problems.  All the reams of paper that came home because Dh couldn't use grey (neither do we, incidentally), and the printer cartridges and the manilla folders and on and on it goes.  Things that have been piled up and then spilling over the floor under the desk.

Well.  No more.  This was my latest corner of decluttering, reorganising, cleaning and reclaiming for its intended purpose.  Mr Busy studies in his room now.  I have finally claimed the desk I chose as my own.  With all my favourite pink things!

One day I'm going to need to have a trip to Spotlight to see if I can find a good enough curtain to replace the sheet over that window.  It looks so tacky, but it does the job.  No one can see in from the street.

My next challenge:  The area to the right of the desk.  It rests along a hip-height wall that will one day be pulled down.  The junk in front of it needs a better home.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

If Google Knows Everything...

Imaged Credit
...Then YouTube can teach you anything.  Or at least inspire you to try something new!

Today's Lesson:  How to clean a very very dirty oven.  Did I say dirty?  Maybe embarrassingly putrid would be a more accurate description.  I had hoped to have replaced it by now, but that's looking like an out-of-the-question scenario right now.

My oven is so bad that I'm only half way through I've only just started getting it clean.  I've done the door.  But I sense hope.  My sink and tap are ridiculously shiny, as is my cooktop, thanks to a quick swipe with the paste I'm leaving to sit on the gunk in the oven.

Thank you YouTube, for teaching me that I don't need to use the caustic (but quick, less scrubbing...but also no breathing) oven cleaner I had been using.  So I hear you asking...."what is this shiny-making non-caustic cleaner?"  Well, three things you probably have right in your kitchen.

2 cups baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda)
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup dishwashing liquid

Mix the vinegar into the baking soda VERY slowly.  Pour a little in and little it fizzle; stir a bit before adding a tad more.  Once it's all in the bowl (and isn't fizzing over the side - remember I said add slowly!) add the dishwashing liquid and mix it really well.  You just slop that, rather thickly, over all the internal surfaces of the oven and let it sit overnight.  I used a silicon pastry brush to do this.  In my case it'll be 24 hours before I can get back to it, but I suspect that might be best for all concerned.  I'll let you know how it goes, but so far the oven door is looking beautiful.

Incidentally these same ingredients (in different proportions) have been touted (on YouTube) as a miracle bathroom cleaner.  If my sink is anything to go by, your bathroom will certainly shine!  The video I watched for cleaning the bathroom said you have to use "Dawn" liquid, which is all very well if you have a Costco membership.  If not, you'd be up the creek without a paddle, here in Australia.  I can't see that a particular brand would make a difference, so I'd give it a go with whatever you happen to have.  Morning Fresh maybe?  I think the point is, something really good, not the cheap, weak stuff you get in $2 shops.

Some other YouTube channels I've been enjoying:
The Daily Connoisseur (inspiration to live a good life)
Do It On a Dime (how to organise on a budget)
Pick Up Limes (great nutrition advice and inspiration)
Fly with Stella (a very funny flight attendant who vlogs her life - she's just so happy!)
A Classroom Diva (teaching ideas and inspiration)
Pocketful of Primary (another teacher vlog)

What have you learnt lately?

EDITED TO UPDATE: This method for oven cleaning worked reasonably well.  Yes, it took a fair amount of elbow grease, but I didn't die from inhaling awful, choking chemicals.  And my hands were nice and soft, albeit dry.  Definitely the longer it sat the easier it was to clean (24 hours).  It was very, very sudsy, so know you're gonna have bubbles in your sink all over the place!  I suspect that if you were more diligent about oven cleaning, in general, this would look like it had worked better.  Given where my oven started and where it ended, I'd say it was a definite winner.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday.  Of a long weekend.

That means lots of extra time.  Time to menu plan.  Time to grocery shop.  Time to plan for the week ahead so I can get some running records done in my lesson planning time tomorrow.  Time to nap.  Time to get the house picked up a bit and flat surfaces decluttered.  Oh yes, I love a good long weekend at home.

Yesterday we took Mr Busy down near the bay and had lunch at a little cafe in McCrae.  Then we did something I think I haven't done since I was a teen!  We drove up to Arthur's Seat.  Oh my it was so full of people.  But Mr Busy found a geocache there and the view was magnificent against a backdrop of sunny blue skies.  Not warm, but sunny, because you know...winter.

This morning I planned my menu and I have a shopping list ready to go.

Monday:  Potato, cauliflower & leek soup (with Costco dinner rolls - so dying YUM!!)
Tuesday: Leftover soup & rolls
Wednesday: Honey soy chicken, stir fried veggies & rice
Thursday: Chicken tenders (from freezer, thank you Costco) & veggies
Friday:  Fend for yourself (Mr Busy will be at church before I get home from work)
Saturday:  Leftover chicken, veg & rice

What are you eating this week?  Please share!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Pantry Capers... Before and After

It's a long weekend, here in Australia to celebrate the Queen's Birthday.  Say what you will; on this occasion I am more than willing to keep ties to the Commonwealth and take a short break for a long weekend.  I've been hankering to clean out my pantry, which I do about once a year.  Because after a year of the locusts (aka children) fossicking through it and spilling things and all of us shoving things in gaps and wherever, it needs a thorough clean out.

It took me a few goes, with sitting down in between, because, Friday night.  After teaching PE, a lunch time yard duty and an after school yard duty I was so tired.  There ain't no tired like teacher tired, folks.  In fact, I think I even shut my eyes for 15 minutes on one of those breaks.  Anyway, everything came out, the shelves got cleaned and then everything went back.  Almost.

I couldn't finish off last night because I needed some storage items to I could organise the floor of my pantry.  Also, I've thrown out about this much stuff, because I don't love it or use it or want out-of-date food in my pantry.

My pantry started off like this.

See how the floor is hidden under piles of stuff?

Part way through, the kitchen was an organised disaster and I wondered why on earth I keep all this stuff in there?

And then things were slowly returned to rights with everything organised, cleaned and restored.

Thanks to some stacking bins and throwing stuff out the floor is clear again.

I bought baskets for the pasta and some Asian food items as well as the stacking bins.  Everything is looking much more organised and tidy.  I also found a new dish soap dispenser with a pump top.  The old one got a crack in the bottom after many years of use.  Couldn't last forever I guess.  Just as I was finished up, Mr Busy peeked in and was very impressed.  "Oh Mum, I can find things...but do we have any food?  I'm hungry".  🙄

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Appy and Free

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A couple of months ago I decided that I needed to start tracking my food intake, to gain back some control, where control had apparently been slipping.  I felt like I just couldn't be tied to a piece of paper again, like I was back in the 90's when I was using Weight Watchers.  You know, back before computers and the internet?  So went looking for an app.  Because now we have computers and interwebbings and smart phones and all the fancy things.

There's an app for everything these days, isn't there?!

The app I ended up choosing is from Calorie King.  Their "Control My Weight" app is a freebie, and I have to say I am incredibly impressed.  Input to the food diary is so easy!  And because it's on my phone, it's always close by and handy.  The app has an extensive inbuilt list of Aussie foods and brands, so I can almost always find exactly what I'm looking for.  Also, you can save meals as a whole recipe, copy from previous days and search by meals, as well as individual ingredients. There are also features to track your water intake and exercise and easy peasy weight check-ins.  It literally takes me a total of about two minutes over a whole day to put everything in there.  In the morning I can put in my breaky, lunch and snacks, so I can see what's left for dinner and whether I have wiggle room for treats.  Or not.

All of that easy-to-use app-i-ness, and it's really helped me see how far off track I'd gotten.  Man oh man my track was very far away from where it should have been.

If you're an Apple kinda person and you want a food tracking app that works seamlessly, give this one a try.  For free! Yay!  If you're an android user, I'm sorry, I've got nothin' for you.  Apple for the win!

Disclosure:  I have not partnered with Calorie King or been approached by them for my endorsement (they don't even know I exist, I'm sure).  I'm just sharing something I use and love and find helpful in my quest for being healthier.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

What's Inside My Teacher Lunch Bag?

I was googling about the other day, as you do, searching for inspiration for my school lunches.  The only staple that never changes is my Thursday lunch.  A lunch you'll probably never see a photo of, because I never take my phone to the staffroom at lunch time.  But I will tell you, it's my favourite lunch.  Freshly baked baguettes from The Artisan Crust, filled with brie, fig jam and salad greens.  Oh be still my heart! Maybe it's a good thing our tuck shop is only available one day a week.  I might end up looking like a filled baguette!

On every other day, lunch is whatever I can cobble together from the depths of my pantry and fridge. Not always an easy task!  So for anyone else seeking inspiration, here's what's inside my teacher lunch bag (a smattering through last week and this).  Incidentally, my lunch bag is an insulated one I got from Aldi for about ten bucks.  It is exactly the right size, and in summer I slip in a lunch box sized freezer brick to keep everything fresh and fine.

Monday: Leftovers - chicken and corn soup, with a dinner roll from Costco.  For fruit time I have a mandarin, and for recess (morning tea) I have grapes.

Tuesday:  Bread with tomato, spring onion and goat cheese.  On this day I toasted the bread and then topped it with the tomato mixture.  My sister-in-law and I share a tub of real butter that is kept in the staffroom fridge, for such occasions, so of course I had butter on the toast as well.   Everything is better with butter!  Another mandarin and grapes for fruit time and morning tea.

Thursday:  Leftovers again - Chinese simmering chicken, stir fried veggies & basmati rice, with the requisite grapes and mandarin.  The recipe for the chicken is here.  I always use drumsticks and then remove the chicken from the bones and mix it through the veggies.  Then I use the liquid from cooking to thicken for a sauce.  So yum.  

Friday: Scraping the barrel means another toasted sandwich.  I always store my sandwiches for toasting with glad wrap between the bread slices so the butter doesn't stick together, and the fillings sitting on top.  It just works so well when you go to put into the sandwich toaster.  And my favourite grapes and mandarin again!  Am I sick of those grapes and mandies yet?  Nope.  They're only around for a limited time in the year so I take them while I can.  And red grapes are, by far, my preference over green.

And here's my lunch all packed and ready to go.  Obviously this was Monday's lunch.  My golly I love those Costco dinner rolls.  The only way I don't scoff the whole bag myself is to keep them in the freezer.  And determine to only eat them with things like soup.  That little container in the mesh pocket has rock salt in it.  Sometimes the salt in the staffroom seems to disappear.  This way I always have some when I need it.

And no, I did not forget about Wednesday.  On Wednesday I have the blissful joy of having a "day off".  I am playing terribly fast and loose with the term "day off".  Today, for example, I spent the entire day writing English reports.  So fun.  Said no teacher ever.

I am officially done with reports though, so yay me.  Now I need to start on an assignment. 🙄

What do you take for not-at-home-and-can't-buy-lunch days?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Upside of a Small Family

The government considers us a "big family".  We even get an extra $10 (or something similar) because of it.  Apparently three kids is becoming a rare thing.  Around here, it's a regular sized family, amongst a whole bunch of families with 4-6 kids.  That's Yarra Valley water for you.

Our foray into kids moving out and becoming a small family, albeit temporarily, has brought out some interesting little observations.

1.  It's so much quieter.
Obviously!  The funny thing about that is that we barely know Miss Mischief is home most of the time, because she holes up in her room and slinks out for food, basically.  Truly, our kids are all at the age where the spend a bunch of time in their rooms like hibernating bears, so why is it quieter?  Because Miss Sunshine isn't here to come out in the evening and wrestle through the ads on TV with her Dad. He has no one to pick on.  No one to bug.  No one to bother.  It's just blissful for this introvert who spends all day with people!

2.  I don't have to cook as often!
This is a new discovery this week.  If I cook the same volume as normal, a meal will go two nights, easily. Plus leftovers for lunches sometimes too.  Oh. My. Goodness!  What a beautiful relief.  I'll cook tomorrow night, and then Wed-Fri we'll just feast on the 2nd half of the meals I've made from Sunday to Tuesday.  I figured if I make three and then cycled back to the start it wouldn't feel like we're just eating the same thing over and over.  And thanks to some new, inexpensive-but-better-than-disposable containers from Aldi, this week, we're all set to store single-serve quantities of some of it.

3.  My food budget has gone way down.
I'm still paying for the girls' food.  They're both poor Uni students, and the reality is, they live at home because they can't afford to move out.  So I hand them $60 each weekend (they blow in, briefly for that!) and they make that work for the two of them.  Meanwhile, I've only spent about $50 on the three of us.  Well....I did do a big Costco shop the other day, so that makes a difference, doesn't it?  Still, even if I spent the same as I give the girls it would be less than when they were here for dinner every night.

4.  The girls are very different in how they connect.
It has become clear, this past week, that Miss Mischief is the connector.  Miss Sunshine is happy with distance.  That would probably change over time, but at the moment Sunshine gal is revelling in being on her own.  Miss Mischief has popped in to get Microsoft Office on her new computer, and organised for me to drive down to Koorong, and buy them lunch, and wash her hair....ok, maybe she just needs me more!  I'm blaming the post-op recovery process.

So while I'm content that they are safe and sound tucked up in my friends' home, Hubby comments every day that he misses the girls.  It's too quiet for his extroverted self!