Archive | August, 2012

Sayonara Winter, you bitch

31 Aug

I have not loved this past winter. No, sir-ee Bob, I have not.
We’ve had cold, after cold, after cold….damn, these little people are petri dishes of bacteria! I never knew people could catch this many consecutive colds. The rounds of snot got my spirits down at times, so I’m ready to herald the change of season with topless cheerleaders and dancing bears….although the bears may be deemed a touch un-PC.
I wanted to farewell winter with a haiku -

This winter sucked balls
My butt was quite frozen
Thank dog it’s over

See….culture. That’s what you get with the Holsbys.

Back at the beginning of Winter, when I saw Bunny.Eats.Design’s Winter To Do List, I loved the idea.
I try usually to keep my recipes to family friendly, quick meals, but I need to challenge myself also…..plus, I’m a massive bum-licky, show-off, over achiever…..but you already know that.

B.E.D. had 10 items on her list, and because I had just had a baby, I thought I’d do five. I figured I’d smash that early and cruise for the rest of the season.
Except I forgot all about it after the first three……

But I’m not here to talk about my failings, no, no. I’m here to celebrate the things I did do, and we won’t give another thought to those pesky croissants. Perhaps one day when I’m gagging for a culinary challenge, don’t have large piles of washing to do and have 2 kilograms of butter lying around I’ll get onto it. Maybe even this Spring?

So, let’s just recap on this past winter’s feats, shall we?

Lamb Tagine cooked in the actual tagine

This little puppy was first cab off the rank. Perfect winter fare and I’d hail it a roaring success. We loved it, Boy loved it and there was sufficient for left-overs. What more can a girl ask for?

If I was to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing, and once more I’d like to flip Food Gawker the bird because I thought that photo totally did justice to how delicious the meal was. Food Gawks, consider yourself flipped.
You can read all about this delicious meal here.

Make Salt Caramel Ice Cream

Holy hypoglycemic shock, gang, this ice cream was amazing and intense and sweeeeet. I loveses me a bit of caramel, don’t get me wrong, but the praline didn’t stay pralined and turned into gooey caramel sauce in the bottom of the container.
It was definitely delicious, but your ass expanded as you ate it and your insulin levels shot through the roof.
Next time, I’d do less praline, if at all……..but the salt caramel ice cream bit was to die for.
If you’re keen to have a crack at giving yourself diabetes, check the recipe out here.

Make My Own Yum Cha

If you can excuse a moment of absolute immodesty, I smashed this one out of the park. Although none of the elements of this lunch were particularly difficult, I really felt a sense of pride and joy sitting down with our dear friends and eating this meal.
My pork buns may not have been as fluffy as at the Chinese restaurant, but I wouldn’t change a single thing.
If you love a dumpling, these are tasty and simple. Check out the post here.

Duck It Up

Phew, bit of a race to the finish line with this little puppy. As I said, I kind of forgot about the list and it was only when I actually saw a duck in my supermarket and felt the first whiff of the Spring breezes that I remembered that I really wanted to share this salad with you guys.
If it’s your turn to cook, and you want to impress while not breaking a sweat, this is your dish. Check it out here.

Croissants

Well, well, well, you divine, buttery pastry cresents, I may not have got to you this time, but believe me…….your days are numbered, because Mister H laid down a gauntlet many months ago.
He said -

If you truly love me, you will make me croissants.

No pressure.


Get Your Quack On……Asian Duck and Pumpkin Salad

31 Aug duck fini

Holy snapping duck shit….did you realise that Winter is almost over?
Thank Christ for that, right? It’s been freezing in our new house. Top of my To Do List is get a shit-hot gas heater for next winter.
After writing my winter to do list and crossing the first three off in lightening speed I got a tad complacent and forgot all about it. Well, shit, mates, I nearly missed the boat but I’m going to sneak it in today, although today is not technically a recipe day.
You know what, it’s my blog, and I’ll mix it up if I want to….and you’ll actually thank me because this duck recipe that my mum gave me is all that.

I really love when you find a recipe that is simple, yet impressive enough to serve at a dinner party, or heaven forbid, a dinner date. I had those once.
This duck got me lucky.
Lucky duck.

I don’t really have any quippy duck tales to share with you. I guess the most interesting duck fact I have is that when I was growing up I lived next-door to this super-kooky, eccentric lady named Helen. She lived with her dear ol’ toothless Ma, and the pair of spinsters were co-mums to 300+ quackers….. In suburbia. Little bit noisy, little bit smelly.

I personally think Helen may have been a touch quackers herself, but, regardless, she was very lovely. She used to let me watch the little ducklings hatch and I would adopt a duckling a month as they fast grew from those sweet, little fluffy ducklings into grown ups.

She didn’t eat the ducks. In fact, I have no idea what she did with her ducks. I must remember to ask my Mum.

When I buy a duck and it’s just for the two of us, I tend to split it up the backbone and cut it with kitchen scissors so I can freeze half. I did that today, because I want to make a nice rich, duck ragout to throw over some pasta, another day.
This recipe will feed four, and everyone will love your arse for cooking it…..and you can be all smug because only you will know it was a piece of cake.

Yield : 4 serves

You will need :

1 x 2.5 kg duck
sea salt and ground pepper
small bunch of mint, chopped

For the roast pumpkin :
1-2 dried chillis, crumbled
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
1 large butternut pumpkin, quartered

For the dressing :
zest and juice of 1-2 limes
olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped (deseeded if you want a little less heat)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 shallots, white parts trimmed and julienned, green ends finely chopped
a large bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped

Preheat over to 180C
Wash duck and pat dry, then rub inside and out with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a baking tray and roast for about 2.5 hrs, turning over now and then. Halfway through, drain away a lot of the fat.
If you’re only doing half the duck, it’s about 1 and a bit hours. Keep an eye on it.

In a pestle and mortar, bash up your dried chills and coriander seeds and add the ground cinnamon and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
Scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin and save to one side.
Cut the pumpkin into wedges, place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle over the ground spices and give pumpkin a good toss, spreading pieces in one layer. When the duck has been in for an hour and fifteen minutes, pop the pumpkin into the oven as well.
Meanwhile, rinse the pumpkin seeds, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Toast in a dry frying pan until crisp. I really like pumpkin seeds so I often throw a handful of pepitas in when I do this bit. They kind of puff up and add another texture, and we love texture.

To make the dressing, put the lime juice and zest into a bowl, add the same amount of olive oil, plus sesame oil and soy sauce. Stir in the sugar, chilli, garlic, coriander stalks and green shallot ends. Taste and adjust the sweet and sourness of the dressing.

When the duck is nice and crispy and the pumpkin is soft and sticky (keep an eye on the pumpkin, sometimes it cooks faster). Take both pans out. Using 2 forks, shred the meat off the bone and put into a large bowl. While duck and pumpkin are still warm, toss with toasted seeds, half the coriander leaves, half the mint and half the white onion slices. Pour on the dressing and toss together with gentle, fairy fingers.
Serve sprinkled with the rest of the coriander, mint and onion.

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Big Energy for Little Kickers – Pepita, Cranberry Anzac Slice

28 Aug

Little Kickers has fast become D Man and my favourite activity of the week.
He is surely less than amazing at it – I think he struggles with his concentration. I can really notice that, although he’s the same size as the others, he’s indeed one of the youngest and therefore the most likely to vague out (gets that from his dear ol’ Ma), but you know what?
I get filled with great joy watching him and his little mates trip over and bumble around in their red and white uniforms.
Every single goal may as well be the World Cup to us proud folks on the sidelines.

The dudes who run the class are seriously the most patient men on Earth. They don’t use strong voices, lose their cool, or kick anyone ever.
It’s a miracle, really, as some of them give them a run for their money……D Man included.


D Man’s new soccer buddy is Eli. The second they met it was instant friendship, which rocks because Eli’s mum is pretty cool and we shoot the breeze while the lads hang out.
Eli’s mum taught me the joys of peanut butter and grated carrot sandwiches…..where the hell have I been on that one?
They’re good. Give it a crack if it’s not already in your repertoire.

As good as that combo may be, it’s not as good as this combo of traditional Anzac flavours made even better by my jazz hands….not even close.
I was accused recently of writing ‘healthy’ at the beginning of my baking titles to trick y’all into baking more and fattening up, presumably. I totally resemble that accusation.
Well, this ain’t healthy…….but, it does have heaps of healthy things in it. Oats are low G.I. and awesome for energy, and pepitas and cranberries are great for you and tasty to boot.

Yield: 24 

You will need :

  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 160g butter, chopped
  • 2.5 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seed)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 3cm-deep, 19cm x 29cm (base) slice pan with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at long ends.

Combine flour, oats, sugar, pepitas, cranberries and coconut in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.

Place butter and syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until smooth. Combine bicarbonate of soda and boiling water in a jug. Remove butter mixture from heat. Stir in bicarbonate of soda mixture. Add to flour mixture. Stir to combine.

Transfer to prepared pan. Using the back of a spoon, press mixture evenly into pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan. Cut into squares. Serve.

This was the perfect post football snack. D Man loved it. Eli didn’t rate it. Eli’s mum was stoked because she got to finish his as well as hers.
I’d call that a result.
Here are the chaps in action. Cute or what?

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A Letter To Me, One Month On – August

26 Aug

Hey You,

I really wanted to write you a quick letter to check in with you, we haven’t touched base since your birthday. You’ve had a really big month or so and it hasn’t all been roses.
You smashed the car, dude. What happened??? I know it was really scary and I’m not going to beat you up about it, but that was a really closed one, babe. You can vague out at the washing line, and you can be distracted at playgroup, but driving the car? Come on. You have very precious cargo.
You’re very lucky you didn’t hurt anyone because you would struggle to live with yourself. Anyway, the angels were watching you this time, don’t let there be a next time. I don’t think your husband or the law would be as forgiving if it happened again.

Otherwise, your month seems to have been pretty good, huh? You actually did do those things you promised yourself you would. Anyone can talk it up, but to act on it isn’t always easy. You took the positive steps you needed to take and I just wanted to say ‘welcome back, you’.
You haven’t tried to move mountains, but taking an afternoon at the movies or a pizza night with a girlfriend has really given you back a sense of you. That’s all you needed, just to reconnect with yourself. It doesn’t mean you love your family any less….and the household seems to run just fine without you for a few hours.

It’s really great to see you feeling sunnier, and it’s still not always easy, but it’s certainly easier to handle the world when you’re feeling positive with a whacking great big smile on your face.
You have such precious little time in the day for yourself, don’t waste it doing more chores than you have to. Spend it wisely doing something you love. You’re so enjoying writing, so honor that and say screw the housework.
Just remember you need to put your feet up sometimes. You really aren’t Wonder Woman, but you do keep trying to squeeze into those hot pants.
You can have a super tidy house once a week (or fortnight), dude. What does it matter every day? It’s not forever…..one day you’ll get a damn cleaner again. I know you miss those guys.

I’m not sure why it’s suddenly happened after almost 12 months of living here, but how bloody nice is it to have a few friends in the neighbourhood? It’s not easy as an adult to make friends but slowly, slowly new people are coming into your life. You created that. Don’t ever forget how powerful the power of the mind is, and you can manifest anything you want. You asked for a network of people within walking distance…..if you build it blah blah, don’t want to get all Anthony Robbins on you, but you know it’s true.
Be careful what you ask for, and be specific, but you are creating your reality every day. Make sure you stay positive, because that draws positivity to you.

Your time away with your family was so precious. Don’t be sad that it can’t happen all the time. Be grateful that your family is only an hour’s plane ride away and that they love you and your children unconditionally and that they are always there to support you. Maybe in the future you will live nearer each other but this is just the way it is right now. Dwell on the positives of that, because you’re building a lovely family home with your little family now, and that home needs to be filled with joy, not longing.

It seems that the long cold winter is breaking, metaphorically also. Kiki is growing so fast, and those smiles and giggles just melt your heart. The toughest part is over. It’s not quite all smooth sailing from here, but it gets easier from here. Those first 12 weeks are the hardest.

Try to commit to your memory forever that feeling you felt today when you were walking to the park and D Man slipped his little hand into your hand, without a word, just because he wanted to touch you. Those days won’t last forever.
The only thing you can always bank on, is change. Life is flying by so quickly you can guarantee he’ll be running too fast to hold your slow, old hand soon.

Try to be present. Sometimes when you’re trying to do too many things, you get frustrated with everybody needing something from you, just try to be present (especially driving the car, muppet). D Man is only two, he’s really just a baby. He doesn’t understand that there is anything else but what he wants. He has plenty of time to learn that, and you’ll be the one to teach him, but it won’t happen tomorrow.

Anyway, I just wanted to say it’s great that you’re feeling great.
I love you, You. I may not always show it, but I do.

Lots of love,

Me.

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In Protest of Deprivation…..Chorizo and Squid Spaghetti

23 Aug

As I’ve mentioned before I go to a Mums’n’ Bubs bootcamp (Yummy Mummys – shameless plug) for a regular arsekicking  workout with my torturer  trainer, Yazalicious.
Every week Yaz sends out an email to everyone welcoming newcomers (totally sucking them in and letting them think she’s not going to smash them mercilessly) and giving tips on health and nutrition. It’s very informative.
One week recently she suggested that everyone take a small step towards their health goals and give up just one thing.

Just one thing? How hard could that be, right?

You wouldn’t do a blanket thing like sugar, because that’s way too full on, but perhaps you could give up chocolate?
My arse.

Ice cream?
Absolutely not.

Crisps?
Weeeeell, maybe.

Wine?
Get f*&ked. I’d rather die.

I thought about it for weeks. Yes, I really do want to lose my baby pouchy belly, but I don’t want to actually have to deprive myself of food I love!???!!!
That’s a foul thing in my mind.

I decided I really didn’t want to give up anything that I wanted to eat……and then I realised all of the things I eat that I don’t want to eat- AKA D Man’s food.
I don’t want to eat his soggy half chewed toast, or dropped pieces of pasta. I really don’t.
Nor do I want to finish his rejected meals, share his snacks or nibble his crusts.
Why do I?
Part laziness (can’t be arsed to walk to the bin), partly habit, and a large part of seefood addiction I have (not a typo – See Food and Eat It is a very real disorder).

I vowed I would give up his food. I had steely resolve. I told Yaz, because the first step is admitting the problem and telling people who care that you’ll change – AND MEANING IT.
Well, I meant it.
I was so proud of myself because I lasted one whole day.

Anyway, Yazalicious reads this blog so she knows what I eat……she said to me today,

“You’re fine to eat what you want, but for this hour YOU. ARE. MINE.”

It was kinda hot.

So as retaliation for her thinly veiled threat, I thumb my nose at her with a tribute to pig fat and carbohydrates. Bring that shizzle on, oink, oink.
She’ll totally make me pay in a pound of sweat so if you don’t hear from me, please send flowers to St George Hospital.

Yield : 4 serves

You will need :

  • 1 cured chorizo, sliced
  • 1 squid hood, scored and cut into pieces
  • 1 small spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • a handful chopped parsley
  • a packet of dried spaghetti

Salad for serving

Pop a saucepan of water on the stove for your pasta. Salt the water.

Over a low heat, place chorizo into a heavy bottomed fry pan without oil. The fat will render out and be delicious to cook our onions in. Oink.
Turn once, ensuring it has a little bit of golden colour.
Remove and place on kitchen roll to absorb any excess fat. Yaz would want it that way.

Pop your pasta into the pan. Cook as much as you think you need. I almost always make too much….you’d think I could cook pasta by now, huh?

Throw your onion into the pan and when translucent add your garlic and fennel seeds. Toss in your capsicum, tinned tomatoes and wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
Chuck in your squid, and parsley and stir for a further 5 minutes. Add about  1/3 cup of your pasta water to the pan. Toss your chorizo back in, season and throw your cooked pasta in.
Toss and serve with a big yummy green salad. I find that a salad with shaved fennel goes beautifully with this pasta.

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At One With My Inner Wookie.

20 Aug

image sourceMe in a few years

I was breast-feeding KiKi the other day, and as I gazed down at her perfect alabaster skin, I noticed she had a single, dark hair on her upper lip.
A tad for young a ‘tache and months premature for Movember, was my initial thought, so I gently went to brush it off her lip when I realised it was indeed attached.

To. My. Nipple.

WTF is up with that????

Upon closer inspection, I did not discover any more than that one, single, protruding breast whisker (that no longer exists, FYI, for approx 4 weeks at least), but it made me sit back and take stock of the hirsute invasion I’m noticing on my previously silky-smooth lady body.

A prime example of this infiltration is (I tell you this in great confidence because it’s a bit of a secret) I used to have just one hair, slightly pubic, on my chinny, chin, chin.

One hair is a talking point, provided it is faithfully tweezed. A laughable matter of which to talk to your friends about, and more often than not, you’d find you’re not alone…..however, my one, single whisker now has a couple of mates.
Where one rogue whisker is funny, three is a hop, skip and a jump away from a goddamn beard.

A mere stone’s throw from a permanent gig at the circus like my gorgeous friend pictured here.

I love how it states ‘ALIVE’….don’t reckon taxidermy is big in the carni community. source

When did this happen? How did this happen??
Is it not enough that my boobs are no longer perky but pointing towards the ground and I have saggy knees to worry about?

Do I really have to grow random hairs like some old gorilla??

While we’re on the matter, what’s going on on the backs of my thighs?
The fronts of my thighs are so hairless that I’ve never had to shave or wax them. There simply is no hair to speak of there, except perhaps very fine body hair that really doesn’t count unless you’ve removing a Band-Aid……so why would I even look at the backs of my legs?

Surely they match the front, right?

WRONG!

It seems I have thigh mullets. It’s all business at the front, and party at the back, and I’m not happy about it.

Not one bit.

It’s not like it’s knee to bum cleft or anything, more like a patch or a toupee on the back of my legs. The problem with it’s proximity, though, is that it could be mistaken for a small animal hiding under my skirt.

I’m not even going to talk about my bikini-line.

I’ve boycotted the Brazilian after reading Caitlin Moran’s book (I wrote about it here). I mean, in truth, there is no longer a bikini line, as such, but it’s winter so no members of the public will be subjected to it, and anyone who may get a private viewing would, frankly, be so stoked at the opportunity that I doubt they’d notice the Mirkin factory I’m harbouring.

That’s the thing about winter, though right?

You have a couple of months where you don’t have to take yourself off to the Wax Emporium (AKA The Pubic Inquisition) and suffer the indignity of your legs in the air whilst someone applies scalding hot wax to your nethers, only to remove it a second later sometimes taking a layer of labia with it.

Why, oh why, do smooth bits feel so much nicer???

It really doesn’t seem fair. I’ll add it to the design fault list.

No, definitely something to skip in the winter months, particularly if you’re married with kids, because let’s face it, you’d feel ripped off if you did get the wax and then didn’t get laid before it was stubble again. We all know hairy minge increases the chances of rumpy, right?

Bring back the bush.

So, if you find yourself gazing down at your human fur leggings, thinking how you’ve really let yourself go this winter, just relax, and spare a thought for me, because I’m fast becoming a Wookie.

What should my Wookie name be, I wonder?

On Honeymoon With a Superstar….Vietnamese Pork with Coconut Rice

18 Aug viet pork fini

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to hang out with Brad Pitt at a Brad Pitt Appreciation Convention, then you could simply take a blond haired, blue-eyed baby to Vietnam to get the gist of the mania. Luckily, we didn’t have twins or it would have been akin to traveling with the Beatles and I don’t know if I could handle having undies thrown at me on my honeymoon.

D Man had the honour of accompanying Mister H and I on our ‘month of honey’ when he was 9 months old. It was a little less like mead moon and a little more like Bia Hanoi but D Man refrained for the most part, sticking to breast milk, possibly occasionally tainted with a touch of said Hanoi nectar.

I had traveled in Thailand when I was a stinky backpacker, and I’d also been to many of the Indonesian islands but Vietnam had been high on my itinerary wish list for a rong rong time….it seemed the perfect time to go, as we were heading to Holland for a white Christmas and it was practically on the way……and it was OUR HONEYMOON.

It really was like traveling with a superstar. People would come running to touch him, grab him out of our arms, once even reefing him off my shoulders practically decapitating me in the process. The kid was a hit.
He was a bit of a reluctant hero though. I dare say the experience was somewhat overwhelming as ‘personal space’ is not a commonly used term in most not-quite-third world countries.

We tried to protect the little fellow from too much man-handling. We found him safest in his backpack, but a kid cannot spend an entire three weeks in a backpack. Besides, it squashed his nuts.

He was a brilliant travel companion, and I thoroughly recommend inviting your children to your honeymoon. If you don’t have children, don’t take someone else’s though because they do cramp your style somewhat (i.e. bonking romance is not the same with imminent squawking, or wakeful babies). Just a little warning.

The food in Vietnam was awesome. It not as chilli-burn-your-face-off as Thailand (although I do love that), and I just adore the big, fresh flavours.
This recipe was inspired by our trip, or more accurately, a desire to eat Vietnamese without taking off my slippers and getting a babysitter. It’s not totally authentic, because I made it up, and I’m not Vietnamese, but it hit the spot.
This would be awesome with a couple of birds-eye chillies chopped into the meat, but I was serving it to D Man – who enjoyed it considerably more than the kofte, thanks for asking.

Yield : 4 serves

You will need :

For pork -

  • 500g pork
  • 5 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemongrass, white part only chopped and bashed (I found a jar in the fridge and used that. If you don’t have it or can’t find it, use a little lemon zest, or omit. It’s not make or break.)
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shao Xing wine, or sherry
  • 1 handful chopped coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

For coconut rice -

  • 1.5 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 2 bunches Chinese greens, to serve

Put your rice on first as this will take half an hour to cook. Aim to get the rest done and cooked in that time…..or turn your rice off.
Throw rice ingredients into a heavy passed pot with a lid. You could chuck it into the oven on 180C for half and hour, or you can get it to the boil on the stove, then turn it right down and pop it on a diffuser if you need to….Do not stir. Just ignore it for half an hour, or until liquid is evaporated. Turn of an leave to sit, especially if it looks gluggy. Sitting will be good for it.

Throw all of your pork ingredients into a bowl and give it a good mix with your hands. Remove your wedding rings first cos getting this out of the grooves is not cool.
Using tablespoon sized portions, roll into balls and give them a little pat to flatten.
I cooked mine on the BBQ but you could pan fry or grill. Whatever floats your boat.

Steam your greens giving them a nice drizzle with oyster sauce, or soy, plus some sesame oil and maybe a squeeze of lemon.

Serve it all together and throw some of those tasty little fried onions that you get from the Asian supermarket. I bloody love those crunchy, little morsels.

Take a little walk down memory lane with me….I loved hunting these photos down. That’s the arse about hard drives. Pictures aren’t as present as they used to be.

Igniting Curiosity…… From little fires, big fires grow.

16 Aug

I read a fascinating article the other day by a journalist called Bronwyn McNulty. Never heard of her? Me neither, but that’s by the by. It was all about how engaging your child’s curiosity is much better than simply problem solving for them.
Children are naturally curious creatures and by nurturing this, we are igniting their brain development and learning ability.
It’s a pretty cool gift, no?

We all know that helicopter parenting (hovering, dudes, hovering) is akin to wrapping them up in cotton wool, but it’s also not affording them the opportunity to negotiate the world and find their own way. Some of the best lessons in survival our children will ever learn is by exploring their world and making judgment calls for themselves….and yes, occasionally messing it up and getting the odd scrape and bruise.

Every time children explore and discover something on their own, their brain gives them a hit of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine often gets a bad rap because it causes addiction, but addictions can be used for good as well as evil. There have been some dopamine lovers in my family, so I’m feeling pretty confident that my progeny will be all over this like a booze hound at Happy Hour.
In the case of our darlings’ discovery, the little junkies are growing an addiction to learning.
Allowing little brains to guess how something works and figure it out on their own gives them a rush of excitement because they worked it out for themselves (a bit like me when I manage to out wit my inner tech-spazz).

Early on, this shows itself as imaginative play. For those not au fait with ‘play terminology’ that’s when your kid is in the bath and offers you a cup of water and suggests it’s tea and you should drink it. This behaviour should absolutely be encouraged, however, I would not drink the bath water because I reckon you can fairly safely say your kid swazzed in it. The bath always makes me want to pee. That’s why showers are superior, because you can.
But I digress…..

Today, D Man was playing with his play dough (home made, of course – show offy, bum licker). He made a little circular shape, brought it to me and said ‘Cookie’.
I took that cookie and I expanded on the theme, suggesting perhaps that we needed to cook it first. We pulled out the baking trays and put it in the oven (not turned on, just in case you think I was really letting him learn survival skills) and played with the oven mitts, and then progressed to the muffin tins, making an array of inedible unbaked goods.
This is not because Jamie Oliver is stinking rich and I’m grooming D Man to rock a toque hat and checked pants, but because the more I engage him in this imaginary world, the more excited and involved he became. He showed interest in something and I engaged his curiosity……I think that’s kind of the gist of what they’re talking about.

When the barrage of ‘whys?’ hit, instead of pulling your hair out and poking knitting needles in your ears, this article suggests that you answer questions with questions. Anyone that has ever been to a shrink will know this is fairly infuriating, maybe it’s a tactic to make your toddler go away?
“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why do you think it’s blue?”
By asking them questions in return, you’re making them think for themselves, even if their answer is wildly wrong, their brain is still computing.
If you run out of answers, make a game out of going in search of the answers together. There are trips to the library and endless google possibilities. Turn it into a project that you can engage in with your child. Hell, you may even learn something yourself.

We all know that reading to our sproglets is invaluable, but not just in the obvious ways. Being read to is one of the things that releases dopamine, so we can encourage a love of words and reading by getting them addicted to it early on. It’s brilliant, and it’s so easy. You don’t have to read them War and Peace. Simple Spot and The Lorax can create a lifetime habit.

Let’s grow curious people, people!

Let’s create children smarter than ourselves, because the world is in their hands and by the time we’re done with it, they’ll have some serious work to do.

Cowboy-tastic Healthy Cherry Ripe Muffins

14 Aug

I am a self-confessed cowboy boot-a-holic. If I’m really honest about it, I have way more boots than I have places to wear them, but I can’t bring myself to enter a 12 step program for it as I fear it would actually be boot scooting. Get it? 12 steps – boot scoot?? Dear Lord, did I just make a boot-scooting joke? Are there no depths I won’t stoop to????
I need to get out more.

As a completely uncoordinated gal, sky-scraping Manolos or Jimmy Choos were never going to moisten my knicks, but I do get my kicks over a hot pair of cowboy boots…..I’m also quite partial to a cowboy, but that’s an entirely different blog. One my Nana doesn’t read, perhaps?
I have 4 pairs (of boots, not cowboys), one brown fairly straight forward pair, one maroon with white stitching- my first love, one cream with an ostrich leather toe and one gold Xanadu style with studs.
I really love my cowboy boots. The only person I’ve ever heard of that loves cowboy boots more than me is BootMan. He was quite the fetishist. My love does not run sexual. Strictly above board.

Bootman was a customer in a bar where a dude I know worked. This dude was a bit of a Rock Dog and he has a collection of boots that kicked my ass. Anyhoo, BootMan gave Rock God an indecent proposal he could not refuse and once a month BootMan came to his house, and while my buddy read the paper and drank cup of tea, BootMan licked his boots while he wore them.
It was an easy $200, but still, how fricken’ weird is that?
I would totally have drunk coffee.

If one was to say I was a cowboy in the kitchen , one would be fairly bang on the money. I love reading food magazines and recipe books but then when it comes to making recipes, I have trouble not going all renegade. I think it’s because I’m such a know-it-all. I always think that I can make it better.
I do love to create in the kitchen but as with all inventors, sometimes I make a dog of a dish. Not often, but sometimes.

I recently made Turkish Delight muffins. Chocolate and rosewater muffin with dark chocolate chips and chunks of Turkish Delight in the middle. I made them with half almond meal and they were amazing in my head……..in reality, hmmmm, not so much.
They were dry, and kinda strange and even my darling D Man, with his two year old’s love of cake, wouldn’t eat it. I think when a kid won’t eat the chocolate muffin, you’ve truly stuffed it.

I ate them. Of course I did!

Waste not, want not, but they were not my finest.
However, like a scientist I let the concept evolve and from those dry, powdery nuggets something beautiful was born.
Chocolate, coconut and cherry muffins. Just like a Cherry Ripe, but almost healthy. They’re moist and yummy and not too chocolatey……..mmmmmmmm.
Boo ya.

Yield – 12 muffins

You will need -

3/4 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup cocoa powder
40g dark chocolate, chopped into little bits
1 cup frozen or tinned cherries, halved (better than fresh as they’re more moist)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vanilla yoghurt (low fat if you want – I didn’t because I don’t believe in it!)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg

Pre-heat oven to 180C.
Throw all of your dry ingredients into a bowl and combine.
Make a well in the middle and remaining ingredients, stir until all combined and place into your muffin cases.
Pop into the oven for 35-40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
Grate a little left-over chocolate over the cooled muffins to make them all sexy like.

I accidentally ate three straight up. I will endeavour to give some away tomorrow or I may eat the rest!

WANTED – ONE VILLAGE. Serious applicants need only apply.

12 Aug my tribe 8

Last week I went to the loo.
Nothing ground breaking there, however, last week I got to close the door.
Not only that, but after I was finished, I sat there for a minute or two longer than I needed to. Just sitting. Thinking about nothing. Just picking my cuticles and thinking about making a cup of tea.
Childless people would say ‘er duh, what’s the biggie?’ but anyone with sproglets would look at me with avarice in their eyes. How could I do this, they would ask? Was I not worried my toddler would be smothering my baby with his stuffed Rat, or sticking CDs in the toaster?
Nopes, because I was staying with my family.

Once upon a time, it took a village to raise a child, but now, in this bigger, better, faster age more and more people are doing it all alone. Neighbours don’t help neighbours, extended families don’t live together or even near each other and often families are simply unable to lend a hand due to their own requirements to be out earning money or playing bowls or whatever grandparents do when they’re not babysitting.
With the world becoming easier to access, and more people traveling and setting up shop around the globe, people are having their families miles away from their support networks. So, just how important is a support network when you have children?

The simple fact of the matter is, when your partner is at work all day every day and you’re stuck in Groundhog Day, it’s nice if there is someone to lend a hand now and then. Even just someone to share a cup of tea with, and chat about what’s going on (or not going on) in your life.

I wonder if post natal depression is on the rise because we do no longer live in this village way?
Mother’s Groups can be a great help (not my bag, but last round the escapees and I got on famously), and I’ve heard many women say they would not have survived without it….but when you have more than one child you can no longer go. Toddlers aren’t welcome, probably for fear of terrifying mums of newborns and creating a whole spate of infanticide.
I recently found myself going under. I was feeling increasingly sad, and very cranky.
Mister H was working on a big project, and was pulling long days. Combine that with his training and I felt like a single mother (hats off to single mums around the world….it is one mother truckin’ tough gig). I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling, because I couldn’t really put my finger on what the problem was. The day to day business of raising children is not exactly difficult, but the repetition, routine and constant negotiation with a toddler can grind you down, added to the months of disturbed sleep.
I’m lucky that my family live only an hour’s plane ride away, so I jumped that plane and got to where the love is flowing and the whiskeys are poured large.

While hanging at my bro’s house recently, my sister-in-law had the big kids in the bath together while I breastfed and then I started dinner, all nice and relaxed, not feeling like a jumped up juggler in curly jester shoes, keeping a chainsaw, an axe and an egg all in the air. I realised then that perhaps there was something to be said for polygamy. The husband has his hands full, sure, but the wives have sister wives to help them. Shame I’m such a shit sharer, that’s never going to fly for me.

Apparently, people are twice as likely to say yes to babysitting for an hour than people are to ask. If you need an hour off, and you do the math on that, you’ll realise you’re failing the maths test.
So, why is it so hard to ask for help?
I was discussing it with a girlfriend and I told her I felt like I was failing motherhood if I needed help. Millions of women don’t have help. She suggested that perhaps it was a sign of a great mother, one who recognised when help was needed to maintain the balance of sanity.

I’m not going to lament my lack of village any longer. I’m going to build a village. I’ve invited over a group of mums from my locality, 2 Poms, a Yank and a Dane. Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? All we need to do is walk into a bar. They’re all here raising babies without their tribes. I’m going to suggest a weekly co-op babysitting vibe. Twice a month you look after someone else’s kids for two hours, but twice a month, you get two hours off.
It’s not huge, but it’s enough time to get your bikini line sorted before Chewbacca mistakes you for a mate, get the groceries done without having a scene in the biscuit aisle, or simply curl up and read a book quietly (might even get that book finished by 2014).

Space.

That’s all it is. Just a little space so I can just be me.
Not someone’s mum.

Not someone’s wife.

Just me.

My village may not be my tribe, but maybe we can start a new tribe?

Anyhoo, here’s some shots of my tribe I took on my trip. I really love the shit out of those guys.

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