Friday, March 30, 2007

How to Drive Three Children to the Brink of Insanity in One Day

OR We Drove

Due to complicated tax things that I try to ignore, we are obligated to drive a certain number of kilometres every year. This year we fell short by 2000 kilometres, a situation that would cost us almost $2000 if we didn't make those kilometres by March 31st. So last weekend we decided to 'go for a drive'. And that's exactly what we did.

We drove south.

We found a very picturesque lane in a swamp near Byron Bay.

We looked for koalas, but this is the only one we saw.

We stopped near Ballina to stretch legs and admire the view.

The kids were so funny.

"Where are we going?"

"Nowhere, really, just for a drive."

"How will we know the way home?"

"Oh ye of little faith!"

Then, of course, due to tiredness and an incident with an idiot who cut us off, we missed the turn off to our part of the city, and found ourselves headed in entirely the wrong direction. No problem, we'll just get off the motorway and go home a slightly longer way. That's when Samara burst into tears, wailing "We'll never get home!!"

Ten hours after we set out, we dragged ourselves home. The kids were too tired to even eat toast for dinner.

We have another drive ahead of us tomorrow, but it's much shorter, and the kids are going to stay with Grandma and Pop for the day. We are all much happier with that arrangement.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Look at this beautiful piece of stitching that found it's way into my mailbox! It is my Cross Stitch Crazy band sampler RR, home again after a whirlwind tour of the US and the UK. It was a cosy little group, just the three of us. I have really enjoyed stitching on the other pieces, and my own result is simply exquisite!

I took Christa's Autumn themed band sampler to a stitchy get together on Saturday, and it was much admired. It will be posted to you very soon, Christa! In the meantime, thank you so much Dee and Christa for making this a really pleasurable round robin. I love my sampler so much!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Time to think about what's for dinner again. This week I am only going to shop for fresh produce, as the fridge is already full of load of great ingredients.

Monday: Salmon mornay and fettucine

Tuesday: Veal stroganof, mashed vegies, peas.

Wednesday: Spinach and sweet corn parcels, salad

Thursday: Pork schnitzel, mashed vegies, gravy.

Friday: Roast chicken, baked vegies, brussels sprouts, gravy.

Saturday: Takeaway

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner, bacon, eggs, toast.

Menu Plan Monday is graciously hosted by Laura, at Organizing Junkie.

I suffer for my craft.

My knitting has been slowly progressing. I don't seem to spend much time on any craft at the moment, but knitting has been my main preoccupation over the past couple of weeks. I usually take it to soccer training with me, struggling to do a couple of rows between trips to the toilets on the other side of the school and rescuing Joshua, who's again 'stuck' on the slide. He's not actually stuck, just enjoys the whole 'you saved me' routine. I also relish the hour I spend in the car outside choir, listening to my audiobook and knitting in utter solitude.

Last night I could almost smell the end of the back. In an impressive (at least to myself) burst of stamina and speed I ploughed through about four times as much knitting as I would usually do in a session, eventually admitting defeat within sight of the finish line, only 12 rows from the end. As I put the knitting away for the night, the muscles in my left hand were cramped and protesting the unusually punishing paces they had been put through.

This morning I woke up in pain. Knowing the best remedy for sore muscles is to do more exercise, I took my knitting to school this morning and plugged away at the final rows while the kids read to me in turn.

I finished the back. Now I am off to find the paracetamol!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The trees behind our house are in blossom. They act like a sweetly perfumed magnet, attracting lorikeets and honeyeaters during the day, and enticing hungry bats by night. The chatter and screeching first drew my attention to the tree, which for the rest of the year is an unobtrusive part of the scenery. When I saw the lorikeets I knew I had to bring my camera out and try for a few shots. Their vivid colours seem to reflect their outrageous personalities. As I was photographing them they were quietly conversing with each other, a contrast to the loud shrieks they use to convey outrage to interlopers. The green on their backs blends seamlessly with the trees, but they are so colourful from the front, that it's obvious camoflage is not an issue in the life of a rainbow lorikeet.

Their visit to our yard will only last a few weeks. When the blossoms are gone they too will depart. We'll spot them feasting in other yards, in other trees, but I'll miss their company while I am hanging out the laundry.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I have discovered a new pleasure. Audio books. Ok, I know many of you out there have been enjoying them for years, but for me this is a new thing. I have always been a bit of a book snob. I like turning pages. I like seeing the paragraphs in front of me, the arrangement of the lines, knowing how much I have read, how much there is to go. I even flick to the last page, not to actually read it, but to see if the character I am worried about makes it onto the last page.

This week I downloaded my first book, and put it on my little iPod, to listen to while I knit outside choir. Last week, as I knitted in the silence of the car, I nearly drove myself crazy with thinking. I counted the rows and stitches, calculated how long it was taking me to knit a row, worked out how many rows I'd do in the hour, and raced the clock to finish them all before I had to get out and greet Christopher. It was all too much. I did not feel relaxed at all.

This week I listened to the opening chapters of Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. Wow! The book itself is very good, but I thinkthat the audio aspect really made the descriptive passages come alive for me. You know how sometimes, during a lengthy description or soliloquy, your eyes glaze over, and your mind wanders, and the next thing you know you have to turn back three pages and start again? Well, I don't do that when I am listening to a well written, well read passage! It's great.

Then, I am enjoying books in general this week. The night before last I finished The Great Gatsby, so that's the first book I can cross off my list! It was good, so brimming with mood, and an intersting portrayal of the flapper culture. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monday: Lamb and Rosemary Shepherd's Pie, brussels sprouts.

Tuesday: Veal, mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato in a garlic cream sauce, fettucine, green salad, fresh bread rolls, pavlova with strawberries and cream. This is a special dinner, a farewell dinner I am cooking for a friend who is about to move away.

Wednesday: Spinach and corn pasties, steamed carrots and brussels sprouts

Thursday: Roast beef, baked vegies, peas, Yorkshire pudding and gravy

Friday: Potato, garlic and oregano pizza

Saturday: Eggs on toast (we are going out for lunch)

Sunday: Chicken pasta bake, vegies

Over 100 bloggers now participate in Menu Plan Mondays! Don't miss the fun. I can't tell you how nice it is just to check the list and get started, instead of standing in front of the fridge wondering what is for dinner.

Lamb and Rosemary Shepherd's Pie

A simple recipe I made up on the spot last night.

500g lamb mince (ground lamb)
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin tomato soup
1 zucchini, diced
1 beef stock cube
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

5 big potatoes, peeled, boild and mashed
tablespoon butter, stirred into mashed potato.
grated cheese

Soften the onion in a little olive oil, add garlic, stir until aromatic. Add mince and brown, breaking up big lumps. Toss in tomato soup, zucchini, stock cube and rosemary. Simmer on a low heat until mince is cooked, about 15 - 20 minutes. You have to stir it regularly, as the soup can burn easily.

Place the mince in a casserole dish, top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook in a moderately hot oven (180 - 200 C) until cheese is melted and golden.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Have you met Olive yet? She's the most wonderful old lady ever to have a 'blob'. After 4 posts she has had an amazing response from the world. She's the epitomy of a great grandma, 107 years old and telling stories from when our grandparents were children, with the aid of a friend, "Mike the Helper". I am really enjoying reading her blog, and I am sure you will too.

It took a while, but I have finally found the perfect frame for Swirly Sampler. I stitched it to celebrate the birth of a very dear friend's twin sons, late in October. Last week I went with her to Pixiphotos, which was located in KMart. We sat, facing a wall of frames for 45 minutes, waiting for the twins' turn, and there I spotted this frame. It was one designed to hold 3 photos, but I pulled out the glass, and it fitted perfectly. I am thrilled with my first effort mounting stitching!

We had a nice day yesterday, in spite of the ridiculous heat (it's supposed to be Autumn!) We went to visit friends for a 7 year old's 'not a party'. It was not a party, because there were no formal invitations, or organised party activities. But a houseful of 11 adults and 13 children sure feels like a party!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Although I love to sing, and have had a small amount of choir experience, I am not the chorister who requires menu planning around. Christopher is the proud performer in our family. Last year he started singing with the Australian Youth Choir, and it has proven to be a truly enriching experience for him. The first picture is of our little man on his very first day, a year ago. They are required to wear the uniform to every rehearsal, and he's so proud of it.

This is his performing robe. They simply look amazing on stage. There are about 500 kids on the stage at their concerts, and they all look immaculate and angelic. His former Grade One teacher attended his first concert, without realising he was there. She spotted him on the stage, and commented to me afterwards about how amazing it was to see 500 children behave so in unison for so long. They are seated between songs, and they rise in perfect concert at a gesture from the conductor. It gives me chills every time. It also amazes me how clearly the words are audible when they all sing. At school you can barely make out the words when the kids sing, but the choir flourishes under the skilled tuition provided for them. I just think it's wonderful, and I look forward to this years three concerts with great anticipation.

When Chirstopher started in choir we were quite concerned about his lack of concentration and his social immaturity. He has developed so well with the high expectations that choir place on him. His teachers at school have also notice the growth, and commented very favourably about the changes.

Much to our delight, he passed the end of year examinations and was promoted from probationer to training choir. I feel a little lump in my throat each week to see him troop off to rehearsal, my tiny 8 year old in a sea of tall teenagers. I am so proud of him, and at the same time a little fearful that he's growing up too quickly. Listening to his tired chatter on the way home last night, I get the impression that the older kids are being very kind to him, and encouraging him to feel comfortable, even though he's a far bit younger than most of them. Neither of his close friends from last year are with him any more, and I was worried he'd be a bit lonely. He seems so different. Last year he'd be one of the first out the door, stampeding with his friends down the verandah. We'd see them before we'd hear them, and more often than not one of the three would have left something behind and need to rush back up to the classroom. This year, a sedate young man strolls casually down to me, with all his things carefully tucked under his arm. We walk arm in arm back to the car, and he tells me a little, though he's so tired he needs prompting.

They are all so precious!

Chocolate is well known for the feelings of happiness and energy that indulgence can give. Apparently, according to scientists, it is chock full of chemicals know to pick us up; caffeine, theobromine, and phenylethylamine among the 300 chemicals found in chocolate. I don't know a whole lot about that, but I do know that when our family could use a little pick me up, chocolate is a great place to start. It makes me feel better just to unwrap a glossy, smooth block of dark chocolate. It seems almost wrong to mar it with my fingerprints.

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies were the order of the week. I discovered a scrumptious recipe in this month's Delicious and simply had to try it. As you can see, the results were wonderful, moist, and rich, just the chocolate fix we were looking for. I won't put the recipe up, due to copyright issues, but I urge you to find a copy of this magazine, I swear it's cooking heaven. I can't read an issue without finding loads of recipes I simply must try!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Look at me! I am knitting!

It's pretty remarkable really, as my biggest knitting achievement to date is a fuzzy pink scarf and cloche set. I got the urge to make something useful, so I went down to Spotlight on Monday and picked up a pattern, needles and wool to make a sweater for Josh. He was very excited, though the novelty is wearing off for him, since he's realised it's not an intant gratification thing.

The first day, as I cast on the required stitches he perched beside me with a perky "Are you making my jumper now?" After two days of "Is my jumper ready yet?" he's beginning to lose interest. Though I have noticed that he is less disruptive when it comes to me working on a project destined for him. Maybe he figures that if he's quiet it will happen quicker.

Poor child doesn't realise that I know my own attention span too well, and I daren't take on a knitting project that's larger than my smallest child!