Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cottage pie for dinner

And the best bit?

I didn't have to wash up the baking dish...

A pie? In Australian summertime???? I hear you cry.

Well, let me tell you, the weather has taken on a decidedly English feel in the last few days. Chilly, wet, blustery and very grey.

Sunday was 36 degrees. We stayed in all day because we couldn't take the heat. It plummeted after that, and I've had to dig out some of our winter clothing.

Today was a silly 15 degrees. Crazy.

Still, it didn't stop us from going out for a walk along the beach... even if we were all wrapped up.

Can't believe he's already 11 months

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Butterflies are for boys too

Are you tired, bored and more than a smidgen irritated by how much gender stereotyping goes on in our children's world?

You know what I mean: pink for girls, blue for boys. Dolls, cuddly toys and tea sets for girls; blocks, dinosaurs and space rockets for boys.

For most of my life, I've gone along with it all. You don't really question or think about it, do you, until you watch your own children make their choices.

Luca loves his trucks. His cars. Dinosaurs. Lego. Trains. Wooden blocks and everything else he's meant to play with.

But he has a lovely nurturing side, too – like most children. He loves tucking his 'friends' into bed, so for his 2nd birthday, we bought him a little wooden cot. He still plays with it today. He also has a little pushchair and a baby doll, after I noticed he was fond of rocking dolls to sleep at playgroups.

They're by no means his favourite (Luca would happily play with Lego alone all day every day), but I'm really glad that he isn't yet aware of what he should and shouldn't be playing with.

I can't say that I'm a big fan of pink – I think girls look beautiful in pale blue dresses. In fact, sometimes I thank my lucky stars my house is free from pink fairy outfits and glittery wands. But I like to think that colours are just colours in our house.

Much like bugs. Luca spends a large portion of his day with creatures in the garden. He's fascinated with butterflies. To him, they're another insect, like beetles, ladybirds and cicadas.

And yet, butterflies 'are for girls', aren't they?

Oh and flowers. I love how Luca talks about the flowers on our walks, and often holds the flower heads in his palm to take a closer look. But very soon he'll work out that flowers are all frou frou and so remain quite firmly in the girly domain.

This was all put very succinctly in an article I read last year in the Guardian.
How should children ignore gender, not be influenced by the assumptions and expectations it brings, when they continually watch it, hear it, see it; are clothed in it, sleep in it, eat off it? Little wonder that children become "gender detectives" eager for their behaviour to fall on the right side of the all important social divide.
 You can read the piece (Let's end the great gender lie) here.
...children are getting the message conveyed to them (however inadvertently) from the way their clothes and bedding, toys and crockery, greeting cards, and, yes, even wrapping paper, comes gender-labelled from birth.
...these gender cues pack a psychological punch.

Anyway, the reason I'm posting about this today is because I've just finished painting Kian's book ends. I picked them up at a garage sale (surprise surprise) a few weeks ago.



What do you think?

I'm really pleased with the colours, but I wish I spent longer painting the actual butterfly.

Point is, Kian has butterflies in his room now. So maybe, when he's older, he'll be able to ignore some of those gender cues out there.

I'll leave you with a picture of a child's room. Bet you can't guess if it's a girl or a boy's room...

Might have to save up to get one of these beautiful teepees. And definitely that wooden tree.

Taken from here


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Latest garage sale finds

It's a Saturday morning ritual now. We play in bed with the boys for a little while (until someone gets hurt), have breakfast and then I head out with the latest garage sale listings from the local paper.

For me, it combines a great many things that I love: me time (naturally), bargain hunting, giving old things a new lease of life. Plus, of course, it serves as a great way of stocking up on presents and buying everyday household stuff (my regular buys range from toys and garden pots to books and picture frames) without trudging through the shops (have I mentioned I hate shopping centres?).

Last week, I wanted to maximise on family time so we all went. Graeme wasn't so keen, until he spotted a fish tank at one house. Five dollars.

Brilliant, we've been thinking about a small fish tank for a while now.

We snapped it up, then headed out to buy some fish and fish food. Except there's more to keeping fish than we thought... There's the water conditioner, water ager, plants, pump...

Anyway, here are our new pets. Pip, Tat, Syd, Monk and Pop (all named after characters in Luca's books... kind of). Trouble is, we only remember who Pop is.

I thought Luca would be the only one getting any pleasure out of it, but oddly enough I love watching them swim around in our kitchen. They're strangely calming, though I do have to get used to the deep-fat-fryer sound of the pump.

Today, I came back with a $2 basket – just the thing for toys that drive me wild don't have an actual home, a few 2011 Country Style magazines and a stunning hydrangea plant.

I love hydrangeas. I love their fat, blousy flowers heads and their creamy lavender and violet-blue colours. One day, I'll have great big sprawling bushes of hydrangea, so that I can have them in vases around the house.

So I had a lovely Saturday. Afternoon spent on the sofa with magazines while all the boys slept, followed by a swim in the lagoon and lamb on the barbecue.

How was your Saturday?


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday

A lovely tender moment

My two thumb suckers sharing a muslin

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Cheeky so and so

It's a habit. One that I haven't given much thought.

Until this evening.

Luca is munching away on his corn-on-the-cob. But doesn't finish it.

He hands it over to me and says Mummy, I don't want any more...

Wait for it.

Here you go, you can finish it.

Uh huh. Right.

Truth is, I didn't know what to say. No point in looking indignant. Who would I be kidding?

I had no idea he noticed me picking at his leftovers on the way back to the kitchen. There I was thinking I was being sneaky about it. All this time. Over three years. (I started polishing off his baby rice. Anyone else think baby rice is yum? Add pear purée and I'd almost make double servings.)

I wonder what else he notices?


P.S. The sad (or perhaps funny) part to this is that I did indeed finish his corn. I'd had no lunch – OK?!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Muffins for lunch

It's Saturday morning and it's already too late to make bread in time for our lunch (the boys often have lunch around 11.30, even with morning tea!).

Besides, I'm bored with the usual lunch options.

I suddenly remember my lovely friend Tracey making savoury sausage muffins for the kids' lunch one afternoon when Luca and I went back to the UK last year. Delicious, and they came in neat little packages for the kids to unravel, plus they looked a doddle to make.

I didn't have any sausages – what am I saying? I don't buy sausages, so it's pretty unlikely for any to be lying around. Oh, how I long for a proper sausage.

But I did have courgettes, parmesan and lots (and lots) of basil in the garden.

So I made courgette (zucchini) muffins based on Hugh FW's recipe for courgette and pine nut muffins that I found in the Guardian.

Grating aside (usually puts me off recipes), it was quick and easy. And with oats, yoghurt and sultanas in the mix, it's definitely a muffin recipe I'll do again for the boys.

Kian tucked into the last two on Sunday. Wish I'd made a second batch now...


Friday, 11 November 2011

Effortless family cooking

Like I said in a post recently, my cooking nowadays is very different to what it was when a) I slept at night, b) I didn't have a very vocal baby who developed separation anxiety very early on, and c) I didn't have a 3-year-old who values his space and screams whenever his baby brother comes near him.

So, it's all about food that doesn't take up too much of my time – for now, at least. That is, food that either I can rustle up quickly and put on the table within 20-30 minutes, or something I can shove in the oven – for hours if need be – while I take the boys out.

Effortless food based on good ingredients (some homegrown now, I'd like to add!).

That's what I'll be mostly writing about over the next few months.

I wish I planned my meals better for the week ahead. But somehow I always start the day wondering what I've got to do for the boys' lunch and dinner.

Yesterday was a case in point. We've had a lot of chicken and red meat of late, so I started thinking pasta and vegetable dishes. My plan was to pick Luca up early and have him help me in the kitchen. So I needed something involving a little light chopping and some mixing.

Sweetcorn fritters.

Corn from the freezer combined with some store cupboard ingredients make a very tasty fritter for children, especially with some avocado on the side. And they're a cinch to make.

I don't know about you, but I always have a particular book, writer or website in mind depending on what I want to cook.

Chocolate cake? Nigella.

My favourite roast chicken recipe? Hugh FW's meat book.

Food to whisk me back to life in the Middle East? Claudia Roden.

Fritters? It has to be the cool and breezy Bill Granger.

A fabulous recipe to cook with kids. Before I darted out to get Luca, I measured the corn, flour and spices into two bowls. When we got in, he took great delight in whisking the eggs, adding the corn and stirring it all together.

I heated a bit of leftover duck fat from our dinner a couple of nights ago (a little decadent for kids' food, but why not?), and Luca dolloped spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan.

We made a mess, but for once we had fun together from beginning to end (normally, it all starts well and then he'll go off in a sulk about something).

He even managed to flip them. While he waited for them to turn crisp and golden, he sliced some avocado (yes, he uses a knife in the kitchen. On paper, he's probably too young to be near a hot pan and a sharp knife, but he's incredibly sensible. And I think it's key to getting children involved in food from an early age; if they show an interest and can be trusted to listen, then encourage them as much as possible).

I was so proud of him yesterday. He served the fritters onto plates for him and Kian. What's great about this recipe is that you end up with a robust fritter, one that holds its shape well, so I simply cut it into fingers for Kian to hold in his gorgeous chubby fist.

I wish we could do this every day, but it's not always possible with Kian hanging off my leg.

The fritters were such a hit, I'm now wondering how a pea version would go down. With some parmesan perhaps, instead of the spices. I'll let you know...


P.S. I'm not going to type out Bill's recipe because, as I discovered today, the web is awash with mention of these famous fritters.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

This week I'm loving...

Maroon 5's latest single Moves Like Jagger. Makes me bounce around the room.

The fact that my son who will be 4 in a few months still sleeps for two hours in the afternoon. Amazing, I know. And I'm sooooo grateful. Because when the-one-with-an aversion-to-a-well-rested-mummy does sleep, it means I can catch up on some zzzzz...

Air-con in my house. It's stinking hot, sticky and the air is thick with flies out there. But, aaahhhh, it's lovely in here.

My garden! I've already picked sprigs of thyme for a delicious beef and carrot one-pot; a bunch of basil and oregano for pizza, and mint for a divine feta salad to go with our duck last night. It's wonderful to have my own herb garden finally.
Browing onions and carrots before adding tender sprigs of thyme
I 'hid' the basil and oregano in a tomato sauce. Number 1 son isn't too keen on seeing anything leafy in his food.

The basil is growing out of control, those tiny tomato seedlings that I thought would take months to grow already have flowers, and it looks like we'll be having home-grown salad leaves this weekend! Pics to follow in the next post!

What are you grateful for this week?


Friday, 4 November 2011

Purple beauties

I haven't been able to keep track of what month it is since Kian was born, but I do know it must be November. The jacarandas are in full bloom.

It reminds me of when we visited Grafton two years ago and saw beautiful clumps of purple lining all the streets. A fond memory from our four-month caravan stint – there aren't very many!

Another feature of the summer roadsides are the rows of agapanthus flowers, or aggies as Mum likes to call them.

I guess it's a good thing that I'm slowly tuning into the seasons here. It might be heating up out there, but it's very pretty.

Mum, if you're reading this, this picture is for you.
From Garden World Images: Agapanthus in the Barossa Valley

Have a lovely weekend.


I will never play host again

I hate playdates. There, I've said it.

After today, I'm going to have to wait until my kids have left home before I try and make any friends. I WILL not have playdates here again, and because these things are reciprocal, I don't suppose we'll get invited after a while.

So that's it. I will chat to mums in the playground, at our music class and in the library, but it ends there. If the mums want our kids to play together, they can enrol them at the same preschool next year. And if it's me you're interested in, well, it'll have to be in the evening when they're fast asleep.

Why? WHY?

I'll tell you why.

Because I don't want to hear non-stop hysterical screaming from no.1, 2 and 3 over the same bloody toy.

Because it's not fair that the boys' things get torn apart from the constant pulling and tugging.

Because I don't want to comfort my children, and their children, every two minutes.

Because I don't want to spend days tidying up and clearing away special toys that might get wrecked, only for the place to get trashed anyway and major upset over a broken toy (it turns out every toy is special).

Because I don't want to spend the whole time watching where the other kids are in case they're up to no good.

Because I don't want to try so bloody hard to keep a conversation going that stops and starts so many goddamn times, because one of us has been torn away to comfort no.1 child, then the other has to run and stop no.2 and no.3 from killing eachother. You spend a few minutes trying to recall what you were talking about, you remember and then get dragged away to enforce time-out because no.3 walloped no.4 over the head. This goes on and on for the entire duration of the playdate.

Because I don't want to pretend that all of the above is OK. 

Because, really, the only reason I organised this was for me and my boys to enjoy other people's company. And guess what? I'm having a crappy time and they're both wailing.

Because I'm now so tired and exhausted from the stress of it all.

And I'm not the only one. Kian, the poor little soul, fell asleep while he was eating his lunch. I went into the kitchen to fetch something, turned around and he was away.

I'm not surprised. It was quite a morning.

Never again.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

What am I doing wrong?

Why is it my children have two personalities? One personality around me, and an entirely different one with everyone else.

I know a lot of kids are like this, where they behave like smiley, angelic, cooperative little darlings with grandparents and at preschool etc, and then the minute they catch sight of you throw a wobbly, start whinging, and get top marks for truly outrageous brattish behaviour.

This has been happening for as long as I can remember, but there's more.

With Michelle, his teacher, Luca produces the most beautiful artworks. And before you say anything, no he doesn't get any help. I'm assured that they're all his doing – he even comes up with the concepts. Michelle says it's lovely watching him at work, creating very considered drawings.
Luca says this is a drawing of Daddy with a goatee - I love this one
His father's day creation: fishing with Daddy on the water

I love them all and they hang throughout the house for us all to see. 

Trouble is, I'm jealous. His talents, it seems, shy away whenever I'm around.

You see at home, I'm lucky if I can get him to do anything on paper, much less anything considered. It always starts the same: I ask if he'd like to do some drawing, we get out paper and an assortment of drawing implements along with exciting stationery bits such as paper punches and animal stamps (that I bought recently for me Luca). I sit with him, and there's never ever any pressure from me. I'm happy for him to just doodle.

But, typically, he'll start drawing on the table, throwing pens across the room, asking me to draw something because 'he can't', some huffing and puffing, followed by sulkily leaving the table.

Playdough's the same: Mummy, make an elephant. Mummy, make a snowman. And when I start suggesting he make something too, or we do it together, he decides it's game over. Then starts the battle of getting him to pack the mess away (oh dear God, why do I bother?!).

Apparently though, he thoroughly enjoys Playdough with Michelle. Oh, and mushrooms. Won't go near them at home. Ever. Thinks they're revolting. But when Michelle asked what Luca would like to put on top of his pizza one afternoon, he chose mushrooms. And gobbled them all up! What the hell is that about?!

Can anyone relate to this? Is this just a case of a wonderful teacher who brings out the best in my son, or am I lacking some basic parenting skills?