Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Orange & Apricot Loaf

Sunday night isn't usually the best time for baking for me. We had such a busy Sunday taking rubbish to the tip, washing, shopping and getting ready for the week. I had friends coming for morning tea on Monday and wanted to whip up something with what I had on hand. 

I had a quick browse through one of my old favourites, "Day to Day Cookery", my high school home economics text book and came across this recipe. I've never made it before but the combination of orange and apricots was really good. It's another one of those recipes you could throw just about anything in like sultanas and apple, cherries and walnuts, macadamias and pineapple, kiwifruit and coconut. Just about anything.

Orange & Apricot Loaf

1/2 cup sultanas (I omitted because I didn't have any)
1/4 cup dried apricots
grated rind 1 orange
2 tbs orange juice
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup caster sugar (I just used ordinary sugar)
1 egg
2 cups self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

  1. Chop sultanas and apricots. Add rind and juice of orange allow to stand for 10 mins.
  2. Beat butter and sugar to a cream (or as I do on a regular basis, melt butter and add sugar).
  3. Add egg and beat well. Add fruit.
  4. Sift flour and salt and add to mixture alternately with milk.
  5. Pour into a greased and floured bar tin.
  6. Bake in a 180 deg C oven for 30-40 mins.
  7. Serve sliced with or without butter.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today is "mental health day"

My mental health day that is. What started out as a day full of motivation and wanting to get things done has slowly progressed to a complete stand still. I've got a 'to do' list a mile long and a week full of appointments that I'm losing track of where I need to be on which day. Even though everything is on my calendar, I'm feeling like I've forgotten something.

On my 'to do' list for today was:
  • wash
  • fold laundry
  • mend
  • vacuum and dust living room
  • wash bathroom and toilet floors
  • tidy main bedroom
  • bake cookies
  • finalise tax return for accountant
  • organise craft supplies for Father's Day card and gift so kids can start making it
I've washed and that's about it. It's become grey, cool and overcast and I feel like curling up in bed with a good book so that's what I'm going to do. Even though, trying to be the most organised person I can be, I love to do all that, I feel like I go into 'overload' mode and can't cope with even the most simplest detail. Like a kettle filled too high and then overflows when it boils. That's me.

On days when my kids are at school and Kindy, I don't interact with anyone unless it's a shopkeeper or someone I've caught up with for a coffee so learning to recognise the times I need a 'mental health day' has been good for me. I suffered from depression in my early 30's and since having the kids, post natal depression. Sure, I still have my 'blue' days but I have the ability to pick myself up and concentrate on the positives.

I just wish, sometimes, that someone might say, "R U Ok?". It doesn't have to be patronising, it doesn't haven't to be interfering. Just three words that might make someone feel that there's people out there who care enough about them and the world is an okay place to be in. Unfortunately, there are people who do take their own lives as a result of depression. Fortunately, I haven't done that and don't intend on doing that anytime soon.

"R U Ok? Day" is Thursday, 15 September 2011. Check out the R U OK website for more information on how you can help, when to know if it's okay to ask "R U OK", dealing with depression and bereavement and how to get involved.

Thanks to Gemma from over at My Big Nutshell for raising awareness of this issue. And yes. I am okay but thanks for asking!


Mexican style lamb shanks

I'm kind of glad we had these lamb shanks last Thursday night, when it was pouring with rain and cool-ish. If today's weather is anything to go by, that just could've been our last stew for the year. We've had a lovely warm day today with temperatures in the mid 20's (high 70's in fahrenheit).

I based my recipe on this from the Australian Women's Weekly web site. We tend to eat similar things, week in, week out so I try to mix it up a bit based on what I have on hand.

Mexican style lamb shanks
(based on recipe from Australian Women's Weekly)

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 medium red capsicum (bell pepper) (200g), chopped coarsely
1/2 medium yellow or green capsicum (bell pepper) (200g), chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 fresh long red chilli, chopped finely or 1/2 tsp ground chilli powder (optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
2 lamb shanks
  1. Combine tomato and capsicum in 4.5-litre (18-cup) slow cooker.
  2. Combine oil, spices, garlic, chilli and oregano in large bowl; add lamb, turn to coat in marinade. Cook lamb in heated large frying pan,  until browned. Transfer to cooker. Cook, covered, on low, 8 hours. Season to taste.
  3. Serve lamb shanks drizzled with sauce; sprinkle with extra oregano leaves.
I served with mashed potato.

Serves 2.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The 2012 Ikea catalogue has arrived!

So what? But I do have a secret love/hate relationship with Ikea. I hate the fact that it's so mass produced and people just rave over it but I HATE, with a passion, the fact that you purchase the furniture 'flat pack' and put it together yourself. I have no talent or skills for that whatsoever. Same as putting jigsaw puzzles together. I hate that as well.

[photo source]
In an attempt to get my house, and life, organised this year, we went in search for some furniture for our living room. We chose to buy second hand, firstly because we wouldn't have to put it together and secondly, because it was cheaper, better for the environment and was most likely going to be wrecked from our two living, breathing, running hurricanes.

We were lucky enough to find a Billy bookcase system on ebay for around $400 which comprised a bookcase combined cupboard, display cabinet for my husband's model car collection, corner unit and end shelf system for knick knacks. It's still hasn't got everything in it that I would like but I'm getting there.

[photo source]
We also picked up a TV cabinet like the one above from ebay for around $40 and a small dining table and 4 chairs for about $60, all in the matching birch finish. Our living room/dining area is pretty much beige, birch, latte colours which is a little boring but practical. There was a time when I might redecorate every season, ie winter or summer with splashes of colour in the form of wall of art, cushions and home decor but not anymore. It's just not practical. Maybe again one day.

[photo souce]
I don't live very far away from Queensland's only Ikea store but I've only ever been there twice. I don't really need anything and would only be buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff (is there any other reason for shopping?) but I do love to look around. I could drop my son off at the child minding play area and have a quick browse. We could then have a cheap meal and get lost in the maze which they call their store. (I can never find my way out of there. What a clever marketing ploy.)

But here a few of the things that I've bought in the past and would like to buy, for no reason whatsoever.

RAJTAN Spice jar - $3.49 for 4
I use these to store all my spices.

TROFAST Storage Combination - Retails for $175 but can pick up second hand for less than half that.
The best invention for toy storage.

DUKTIG 10 piece children's coffee/tea set $19.99
A really cute set for any little girl (or boy) but imagine those cups filled with mousse,
puddings, fresh fruit or ice cream sundaes?

STINN silicone oven glove only $4.99 - comes also in blue and red
LILLABO 20 piece basic wooden train set only $19.99
We bought one of these for our son nearly 4 years ago and he still plays with it.
A browse through the Ikea catalogue is always very refreshing and I love peering into what could quite possibly be a lovely home in Sweden but as far as trying to recreate that look here in my home, I'll stick with second hand furniture in my beige world with dirty finger prints and permanent marker all over it and dream of a really cool, slick, trendy, designer home that would be near impossible to keep (for me anyway). If one hasn't shown up in your letterbox, check it out online here.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pinning & Singing - I'm so tired

I've been wanting to play along with Natasha's "Pinning and Singing Sunday" for a while now but I'm never in the mood for a song, or pinning for that matter, on a Sunday. Might have something to do with being busy with the kids and the husband on the weekend.

This morning the kids were in fine form, as usual. Fighting and talking over the top of me. I was instantly reminded of Madeline Khan's performance of "I'm Tired" from Blazing Saddles. I just love that movie and find it hilarious still after watching it probably 1,000 times. Madeline Khan was a fantastic comedienne and actress and she is sadly missed.  When the kids won't listen to me, they're are talking over the top of me and each other, I drift off into a rendition of "I'm Tired":

I'm tired,
tired of playing the game,
ain't it a crying shame?
I'm so tired,
God dammit I'm tired!

 Here's a snippet of her performance.

Although the song isn't about parenting or being fed up with your kids, I do love it.

As far as pinning goes, there's been a few things I've pinned this week but not many. If I don't read the blogs I'm following for a day, I have over 100 blog posts to catch up on. I try to get through everything so quickly, it doesn't leave me much time to pin. I try to get back to it but often forget. So much to read, so little time.

Halloween snack food

Gorgeous rose pillow from Angella Eisman Designs

Book page flowers

Candy/treat/favour boxes

Letter road art with cars

Pretty paper covered pencils

Thanks Natasha for hosting. I'm sorry I've not joined in earlier. I've found 5 minutes today to get involved. *wink wink* Head on over to Natasha's blog "5 Minutes Just for Me" for more pinning and singing.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Travelling Toy

It's like I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about what to expect when the kids started Kindergarten and school. I'd been to Kindy and school, albeit a long time ago, but I knew you wore a uniform, took lunch from home, played in the school yard and learnt stuff. Little did I know there'd be a 'travelling toy' to take home, to photograph and give an insight into what life's like at your place. Those poor toys!

For the uninitiated, most schools, Kindergartens or day care centres in Australia, have a resident toy. They usually differ from year to year and I assume that would be because of the state of the toy, after all that travelling, and it'd be ready for the trash! 

Awwww, this is when I love him most!
The toy gets to spend around 2 weeks at your house which means you have 2 weeks to get photographs taken of the toy with your child, the rest of the family, the pets, on a bus, in a car, in a plane, on a boat, on a slippery slide, at the dinner table. Basically anywhere you are, the toy is there too. It just about drives me crazy because at the last minute I remember that the toy is here and I better get some photos. We do the whole dinner table, in bed at night, with the kids playing etc but it's all getting a bit boring.

The following photos would probably be better.
Nosey at dinner time with the fussy eaters

Nosey trying to break up the fights

Nosey...just I would be!
My daughter had a travelling toy in Kindergarten and her 1st year of school in Prep and now my son has done it and will do so again next year when he starts school. After that, if I never see another stuffed toy in a pretty drawstring bag and a scrapbook, I'll be happy.

(PS My photoshop skills are just as bad as my scrapbooking skills.)


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Salmon Patties with a quick tartare sauce

On those days when you've realised, at 4:30pm, that you haven't defrosted any meat for dinner, I always go looking in the pantry for inspiration. I always have a can of tuna in brine and pink or red salmon in the pantry for moments like these. I grabbed the canned salmon, checked we had enough potatoes and made salmon patties. I served it with a very simple salad of lettuce and tomato and a quick tartare sauce that I make.

Salmon Patties with Quick Tartare Sauce

large can of pink or red salmon, bones and skin removed
3 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped, boiled and mashed
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs lemon juice (and/or 1 tsp grated lemon rind, optional)
1 tsp dried dill
1 small onion, grated or chopped very finely
Panko or other dried breadcrumbs
oil for shallow frying

Quick Tartare Sauce:
1/2 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 tbs gherkin relish
1 tbs lemon juice

  1. Mix flaked fish and mashed potato.
  2. Add beaten egg, dill and onion.
  3. Form into patties and roll in breadcrumbs. (If you have the time, refrigerate for 30 minutes before frying.) I make teeny little nuggets for the kids.
  4. Fry patties in oil until golden and drain thoroughly.
  5. For tartare sauce, mix all ingredients and serve with patties.
Note: I have made these patties with tuna and swapped the potato for sweet potato for both types of fish. These patties also make a good fish burger, piled high with salad between a bun.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WOW Write on Wednesdays - Take a walk

This week we have an exercise taken from Mark Tredinnick's "Little Red Writing Book" as suggested by Karen at The Rhythm Method.

Read the excerpt from Tredinnick's book below:
"To write well is to make your sentences well. Whatever you want to write, it's sentences you're going to need to master. Your task is to get to the end of each sentence, one after the other. But not just any old how. You have to get somewhere and take your reader with you: and you want to get there well - elegantly, economically, gracefully, reasonably. You don't want to trip, and you don't want your reader to stumble. .. a sentence is just like a gravel path through a forest. It's a track, not a road; it's a trail, not a footpath. You want it to feel finished, but not mass-produced. You don't want it to be anonymous. You want it to have a bit of personality, preferably its own, which will resemble yours. You want it ... to rise and fall. And you want it to take a sensible, and reasonably straight, path to wherever it's meant to be going. So, if you have something to write, concentrate on your sentences and take them one at a time. Put down the burden of the whole huge book, the suite of poems, the letter, the report or the essay. Don't carry that monster on your back. When walking, as the Buddhists say, just walk. When writing, just write. Specifically, write that sentence. And then write this one. Walk it elegantly, and let it suggest, let it even express, everything you mean to say, in the way it tells its own short story - for every sentence is a short story. The way it takes the bends."
Write On Wednesdays Exercise 11 - Take a Walk"Come back home and write what you encountered. Try to write so that your sentences feel the way the walking felt." Let's toss the 5 minute sprint aside this week and instead take a lingering stroll through our exercise. Participants are encouraged to write a first draft (the point being to get it out on the page), then to go through and edit their piece before posting. We're aiming to get from one place to another, taking the reader with us - economically, gracefully, elegantly. 

Carla had been on the road for a couple of days now. The day was drawing to an end and it was time to pull over and find a place to bed down for the night.  She stopped at a roadside kiosk for a coffee and thought another hour would take her to the next major town where there would be more accommodation options.  As she sipped on that steamy hot cardboard cup of caffeine hit that burnt her fingers, she saw a sign for a rainforest walk.  Cool, she thought. Only 800 metres, round trip. That'll give me time to get the coffee down, time to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing again and time to get a little more refreshed for that last stint of driving for the day.
The air was cool on her face. It was darker too and she thought maybe this wasn't the best idea after all.  The wet, well-mulched rainforest floor covering the muddy earth reminded her of the road she was now taking. Easy to start with. There was so much to look forward to, especially the unknown. It wasn't until she was well along the path that the leaves covering the path had disappeared and the muddy path was exposed, along with large tree roots, rocks and broken tree branches. Was this what her future held? Would she get to where she was going and find she had more problems to deal with?  More twists along the bumpy road? Why on earth did she have to over analyse everything? She had left that all behind in her 'old life'. This was a new beginning.  A new adventure. A new chapter in her life.  Just live, thought Carla.
The arrows on the sign had rubbed away from being exposed to the elements. It was well and truly getting dark now. A slight sense of panic fell over Carla. What would she do now? She'd heard of people getting lost bushwalking before. Search parties being sent out to find the missing bush walkers. The sense of the unknown and thought of adventure that warmed Carla in the beginning of this saga came over her once again. Why should she worry? Just keep walking. Surely it's just around the corner.
Her coffee was finished. All of her senses were alive. The sound of crickets chirping, birds whipping and cooing, water trickling off in the distance.  The taste of the last bit of stale coffee in her saliva. The strong, thick, nearly cool, smell of damp timber filled her nostrils. The sting of the cool evening air against the tiny beads of perspiration forming on her lip and brow. And the sight of the car park off in the distance. Things were good. Things would always be good for Carla from now. There was balance.  The planets were aligned.  She just had to change the way she thought about life. Her life.
Even though I physically didn't go for a walk before I completed this exercise, I visualised walking along a rainforest path. Something I'd done many, many times in the beautiful rainforests of Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland, Queensland. We've had an awful day of rain and wind here in Brisbane (and that's my excuse for not going for a walk).  Check out what all the other lovely 'walkers' have written over at Inkpaperpen for WOW Write on Wednesday. Thanks Gill, and Karen for this week's prompt. I'm not sure I was any good at it but I really enjoyed it and it opened my eyes to being more descriptive in my writing.


Shirley Barber and how to survive "Book Week"

BOOK WEEK! Arrrghhh! It's one of those things that sends shivers down the spine of even the most hardened person. The Children's Book Council of Australia, in conjunction with schools all over Australia, conduct Book Week for a week in August every year. It's a great initiative to get kids interested in reading and books BUT it means that on one of those days during the week, your child has the opportunity to get dressed as their favourite book character and parade around the classroom and school.

[photo source]
Shirley Barber is a well known Australian (originally from the UK) author and illustrator of the most gorgeous fairy story books. My daughter (and son) have loved them for years and have many different books. The illustrations are just fantastic, full of detail and allow the children to get swept away into 'fairyland'.

[photo source]
[photo source]

Last year, my daughter's first year of school, sent me into a spin. I knew nothing of this 'book week' and she informs me on the Friday afternoon that she needs a costume for Book Week and wants to go as Dorothy from "Wizard of Oz". I knew I had some blue checked gingham in my sewing stash. Team that with a white t-shirt and we were done. Or were we? What about the shoes? The most important part of the costume. I managed to pick up a pair of red sequinned shoes at the local department store, in her size. The Gods were kind that day my friends.

I wasn't going to be unprepared this year. First mention of Book Week in the weekly newsletter and I was onto it. We decided (with my persuasion) that my daughter would go as Red Riding Hood. I stumbled across a red hood that my Mother had made for me when I was 6 years old so Red Riding Hood it was. That was until last Thursday when my daughter had just read one of her favourite Shirley Barber books "A Visit to Fairyland" and she wanted to go as a fairy. Oh no!

The Gods were smiling again on Friday. It's still a bit cool here so I didn't want to let her wear one of those summer fairy dresses. I ducked down to my local thrift store and found this beautiful blue velvet gown for $5. I gathered a few sewing and craft supplies and spruced it up. She is now the "Winter Fairy delivering the hope of Spring".

So, my top tips to survive "Book Week"?

  1. Make sure you keep that dress up box fully stock until they are at least in high school.
  2. Know that around August there will be "Book Week" and you will be required to dress your child up at short notice. The school usually tells you the week before. If you check out the Children's Book Council of Australia web site, they have already announced the dates for book week for the following year so start planning NOW.
  3. Find out what story your child is 'into' about a month before. They usually change their mind at the last minute so have a few options available.
  4. Be aware that this is another one of those 'competitions' that some Mums like to get involved in. Remember, it's not about us, it's about the kids and encouraging them to read.
  5. Know that after the Book Week festivities at school that morning, you can come home and have a nice hot cup of tea (or whatever you fancy) and know that Book Week is over for another year.
Here's another take on Book Week from a 'book weeking virgin', Gemma from My Big Nutshell. It's her daughter's first.

What on earth will I do next year when I have both of them at school? I'm removing all "Cars" (ie Lightning McQueen) and Transformers books from the house NOW!


Thai Chicken & Cashews

I don't claim to be an expert in Asian cuisine but I do love it. The vegetables are in such wonderful abundance at the moment and I sure could do with a fair bit of healthy eating. We used to eat stir fries all the time before the kids were born. It was always quick and easy after a busy working day and being late home.

Sometimes I'll do a quick version of protein (beef/pork/chicken/fish), vegies (whatever is in the fridge) and carbs (rice/noodles) with soy, ginger, garlic and that's it but tonight I wanted to do something a little different. I browsed the net for recipes using "chicken cashews" as my search criteria and I was shown a Chicken and Cashew Stir Fry with Thai Basil dish on I had most of the ingredients but thought I'd substitute the fresh herbs with pantry items I had. It was really delicious but I should've made heaps more. No leftovers for the husband's lunch. Oh well!

Thai Chicken & Cashews
(Recipe based on Chicken & Cashew Stir Fry with Thai Basil)

60ml (1/4 cup) bottled lime juice
60ml (1/4 cup) fish sauce
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs mint sauce
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled, halved, thinly sliced lengthways
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 shallots, ends trimmed, cut into 6cm lengths
80g (1/2 cup) raw cashews
600g chicken tenderloins, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

  1. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sweet chilli, soy sauce, mint sauce and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Heat half the oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add the onion, garlic, and shallot. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the onion softens. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl.
  3. Heat remaining oil in the wok over high heat. Add the cashews. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until golden. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the bowl.
  4. Add one-third of the chicken to the wok. Stir-fry for 4 minutes or until just starting to brown. Transfer to the bowl. Repeat, in 2 more batches, with the remaining chicken, reheating the wok between batches.
  5. Return the chicken and onion mixture to the wok. Add the fish sauce mixture and pepper. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat.   Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the fried shallots to serve (optional). Serve with rice or noodles.
Serves 2.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Listography - Last week, in review

[photo source]
This week's Listography by Kate at Kate Takes 5 is a little more laid back than last week. I think her Listography from last week, Guilty Pleasures took her by surprise, surpassing any previous records and proved to be her most popular by far. This week, we're taking a look at last week.  The week 'that was'. I'll be lucky to get 5 photos of anything exciting from the last week. Most photos I take are of food for my blog. Poor kids are always shouting "look at me Mum - take a picture of me Mum" and I'm just too busy taking photos of food and tell them to be quiet.

1.  The Travelling Toy

Ah yes. The Travelling Toy. Yet another thing they didn't tell me about at the hospital when the kids were born. If your children are in Kindergarten or the early school years, each child has a turn of taking the class 'toy' home and you photograph the toy enjoying every day life at your place, the edited version of course. This then means a lot of Photoshopping, getting photos printed and putting your really bad scrapbooking skills to good use. The toy in question with my son (above) is "Nosey" the elephant. I still haven't managed the scrapbooking part yet.

2.  My Paleontologist Daughter's attempt at playing babies

I don't recall my daughter playing much with dolls when she was a bit younger. She's got Barbies but I don't think she plays with them that much. I spotted this in the backyard on the weekend. It's her T-Rex, asleep in the wheelbarrow, all tucked in for a bit of a nap. This happens often.

3.  Aboard "The Jolly Roger" looking for Captain Hook

Both kids dressed like "Jake" and "Izzy" from the Disney cartoon, "Jake and the Neverland Pirates", their favourite cartoon at the moment. They spent hours playing pirates. Daddy made our son a swashbuckling sword out of cardboard and my son thinks it's the best.

4.  Watching a migrating snail

This could take a while and it did. It kept them amused for ages (well for at least 10 minutes). I'm surprised the poor little thing didn't get crushed under foot.

5.  A day at the beach

Last Wednesday was a public holiday here in Brisbane (for our Royal National Show, the "Ekka") and I had my daughter home from school. We planned on a shopping day but the day started out so nice, I suggested a day at the beach. I kept my son home from Kindy and off we went. By the time we got ready and in the car, it became overcast but the kids were still keen to go. I was clicking away happily for 5 and 1/2 hours without a memory card in the camera so the photos went straight to the hard drive in the camera. Do you think I can find my cable to transfer the photos to my laptop? Nuh! This is an old photo of my daughter at the beach, like 3 years ago. The beach is still the same.

Check out what everyone else has been up to at Kate Takes 5.

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