Weekend Notes

Thank You

I got a break from blogging this week when I handed over the reins to my friends Emma, Fiona, Therese and Katya. Each woman shared their journey to motherhood story, and they were all wonderful.  A big thank you to each of them. None of these women are bloggers so it was very brave of  them to share such personal stories online.  I hope you enjoyed reading them.

Stories To Tell

Curating these stories was a reminder to me of how everybody has an extraordinary story to tell. This was a lesson I learnt during the six years I spent as a Creative Memories consultant. In my stay-at-home decade my job was teaching photo scrapbooking and selling product with this direct-sales company. It was an amazing experience to sit with people as they worked on their photos and hear such incredible tales, the brother killed in Cyclone Tracey, the mother who adopted out her first-born only to adopt another person’s child many years later, the thrill of children graduating, the courageous journey of  children with special needs, the weddings, the birthday parties, the holidays, the love affairs, the losses. It was all there laid out in photographs. It is very true that everybody does have a story to tell. I was very sad to hear that Creative Memories here in Australia went into voluntary administration last week.

Mother’s Day

It was Mother’s Day here today. We had both Grandmothers here for lunch.  Mr Shambles and the girls cooked.

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Our menu started with roast tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches.

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Followed by Prawn Stuffed Squid with Couscous Salad. Well actually I made them do some chicken for me. They also threw together a roasted vegetable salad.

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And we finished off with the  fruit flan/cake Nana brought from the Cheescake Shop.

Fruit Flan

Then there was the obligatory photo shoot.

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Surfing the Net

In other news. I read a lot. Books, magazines, and more and more lately, online. I have always consumed a lot of reading material. It’s costly. Here’s a few of things I’ve enjoyed reading this week, it may had made me laugh, cry or given me something to think about.

An interview with Liane Moriarity over at Life In A Pink Fibro, What Alice Forgot is one of my favourite books, and now it may be made into a movie.

In Cleveland there was the extraordinary story of the rescue of three women held captive for ten years. Terry Proybn is the mother of another kidnap victim, Jaycee Dugard, who was returned to her family after 18 years. Terry wrote about the trauma of such an experience.

Author Anna Funder writes a letter to her late mother in the Good Weekend.

Reservoir Dad was named the best parenting/personal blog in the Australian Writers Centre Blogging Competition I loved his piece on 2190 days as a house husband.

While Mrs Woog made me laugh with her loan shark duties at the mother’s day stall.

Read any great articles lately?

I hope you had (or are having) a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

So That Was Christmas

 

Are we all done with Christmas now? Hopefully you folks at the wrong end of the world have finished your Christmas day festivities as well, so we will all have survived the family get together and gluttonous overload.

We celebrated at our house again this year. It’s a strategic thing. If we are having everyone over for lunch it means we have to clean up. That involves doing the mad, rushing around, hiding things in cupboards, making spiders homeless, discarding a forest worth of paper, including pizza coupons that expired six months ago, school notes I forgot to read and invitations to events long since past. However, it means for at least the first couple of days of the holidays we give the appearance of a normal family with a tidy house.

Two days out from Christmas I did my back in and caught a summer cold. Which wouldn’t have mattered except Mr Shambles is a practical bloke. He had noticed in the past that when I bought cold & flu tablets I always ran out of nighttime tablets and had plenty of the daytime pills left over. So he bought a packet that was ONLY nighttime tablets. Nighttime meaning sleep inducing. I didn’t read the packet properly, I took the nighttime tablets at 8.00am in the morning.

Your getting sleepy, very sleepy.

The first sign I was in trouble was when I felt my lids getting heavy as I attempted to write a blog post. I have since decided not to post that particular blog, it got a little rambling before deteriorating to a collection of random words which failed to form any sort of coherent sentence.

I moved to lounge where I proceeded to sleep for the next four hours. Raising my head occasionally to issue orders to my slaves loving family.

EVERYTHING needs to be picked up from the floor.

Who is going to sweep?

Dusting, it’s important to dust, SOMEBODY has to dust!

The family muttered something about they didn’t know what was worse, my incessant snoring when asleep, or incessant nagging when awake.

One day out from Christmas I’m out of the coma, but there’s still some Christmas presents left to buy, plus the perishable food for chrissie lunch. Husband and I head out to brave the crowds with the other disorganised souls. Children are left instructions for further cleaning.

Turns out the children have learnt well my slash and burn approach to housework. When we get home the house is looking reasonable. As usual, opening any cupboard could result in concussion and the spare room is now unable to be entered, our bedrooms also remain a disgrace. But as long as we keep the guests contained to the central living areas we’ll be alright.

Christmas Day arrives, the kids like their presents, Aunt Dorothy embraces the reuse, recycle, re-gift philosophy, the Bing Lee Chinese dinner set she got free with her washing machine purchase was just sitting in a cupboard, we will actually use it.  The family arrives bearing food. We have seafood, salads, ham and turkey, finished off with pavlova and cheescake.

Here’s what I contributed to the feast.

Cranberry granita champagne cocktail

Roast tomato, goat’s cheese and caramelised onion quiches

Walnut, goat’s cheese and rocket salad. (I added roasted pumpkin & sweet potato to it).

Peach & pistachio salad (it’s from the latest Australian House & Garden but the recipe doesn’t seem to be up on the site).

Hippie Child made her father’s world-famous potato salad (which he stole from our friend Bronwyn), she received a multitude of praise, the handing on of great knowledge between the generations.

A lovely day was had, nobody wandered out of the designated public viewing areas and the food was delicious.

Hope you all enjoyed December 25th, however you spent it, I’m off to eat leftovers.

 

Reading This Week – Love & Hunger – Thoughts on the Gift Of Food – Charlotte Wood

Every month I take part in the Book Club on ABC Mid North Coast, which means I have books selected for me to read. It’s like a literary lottery, you never know what you are going to get. You often find yourself reading books you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself.

This month we discussed Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood. Given I’m not much of a foodie it probably isn’t one I would have ventured into without encouragement.

At first I was a little confused by the work, it combines essays on food,  recipes and tips for cooking. (Did you know you could freeze nuts? This could change my life, do you know how many packets of expensive nuts I have thrown out having only used a quarter of the packet?) I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a memoir or a cookbook. Flicking to the back jacket I read that along with being a celebrated author of fiction, (Animal People, The Children, The Submerged Cathedral) Charlotte is also a blogger, writing about her passion for food at How To Shuck An Oyster and I realised the book was reading to me like a blog. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, it was just moving between topics (all food related) in the way a blog morphs and merges with consistent themes appearing and disappearing. I began to enjoy the book more when I stopped trying to classify it in a traditional format and imagined it as a blog on the page.

The essays which resonated with me the most were Charlotte’s recollections of growing up in the 70′s and 80′s – devils on horseback anyone? The linking of food to the ebb and flow of life was also an emotive theme. A chapter on supplying meals to friends undergoing chemotherapy and the food at wakes reminded me of how food was once a means for showing care and love to friends and neighbours. Charlotte writes movingly of Jim, the bloke next door, who prepared a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings for her family while they were visiting her ill Father in hospital. Or the chest freezer delivered to their home full of casseroles, soups, pies and desserts all of which were restocked each week by the country town community during her Dad’s final illness.

I wondered if we still use food in this way? Funerals of my childhood were held at people’s homes, everyone came bearing a plate of food. Recent departures have usually been followed by a gathering at a club or function room, catering provided. In our busy lives have we lost the ability to give practical support to those around us with home-made food?

The link of food determining a particular time and place in our memory is one which this book had me thinking about. Particular food is forever linked in my mind with certain jobs and places – the cheesy ham pasta made by the little Italian lady at the food court under the AMP Centre where I was studying for my “Advanced Secretarial Diploma” – the country kid in the big city devouring this
Grandma’s comfort food, my introduction to Yum Cha in Sussex Street all grown up in my first radio job but “don’t give me any of the yucky stuff”, the paella from a café at Blues Point Road, the chicken pie from yet another café, this time in Port Macquarie (perhaps another comfort food for a woman returning to the work force after a ten-year hiatus).

Charlotte’s  essays are though provoking -  a distaste for offal signifying a fear of death – our inability to recognise hunger for we never allow our bodies to experience it juxtaposes with people dying on the other side of the world from lack of food.

A love of food is evident in every word of Love & Hunger and Charlotte encourages the reader to simplify and enjoy the art of cooking and the pleasure of sharing it with friends. Suzie, one of my fellow book clubbers, described the book as “warm and engaging”. Emma, the younger of the book clubbers spoke of how her Mum’s cooking has improved recently – as someone smack, bang in the middle of the endless “what’s for dinner” cycle I can imagine when children  are grown it might be easier to take the time to savour the experience of creating a meal. In the meantime, perhaps I can take some lessons from Charlotte’s philosophy and try to occasionally make a little more effort at the evening table – there’s a four-hour spaghetti bolognese that has me intrigued – I might give that a go on Sunday.

Diary of the $120 Food Challenge

Well we’ve got through the week trying to live on the one grocery shop, how did we do? Probably not a raging success.  I was attempting the $120 Food Challenge.

Saturday

Pantry clean out. Inventory of supplies. Plan the menu. Do the shop. Go over budget by $50 by adding in way too much expensive fruit and other breakfast/lunch treats. Not a sterling start.

Go to cook the spaghetti with roasted tomato and garlic. Really need to read these recipes better, it takes an hour to roast the tomatoes. It’s already 6.00pm. Ooops. Luckily my oven is super-sonic fast so bung it on high and get it done in 40 minutes.  Unfortunately I have to go and pick up Hippie Child from a party before I’ve finished cooking. Leave Mr Shambles to boil the spaghetti -he puts in way too much which results in a dish heavy on spaghetti and little light on sauce. However, it is very nice, and I get to eat it for dinner tomorrow and lunch for the next two days as well.

Sunday

Baked Fish with Ginger and Soy big hit with Mr Shambles, “as good as a restaurant, you’ve got to cook this when my brother comes for a visit”. Actually did look really good, I’m not big on fish and usually have something else when I cook it for the family but reckon I could have had this one.

Unfortunately, leave house to get Sunday Papers and Princess Child and I fall for a box of six lamingtons ($2.99).

Monday

I make the fruit salad for breakfast. Children impressed. I spend too much time chopping fruit and I’m almost late for work. Ham and salad wraps fresh and nice.  Chorizo, fennel and potato tortilla for dinner was relatively quick and easy and family enjoyed it. Hippie Child off sick from school, eats half an avacado – she’s messing with my menu plan.

Tuesday

Can’t remember what happened for breakfast. Ham and salad wraps still looking good for lunch. Get home tired from work and discover meatloaf takes an hour to cook, decide to do chicken parmigana, however Hippie Child still off sick from school has eaten all the ham and drunk all the orange juice. Head to supermarket (ham $3.98, juice $4.99). Get home now can’t be bothered crumbing chicken so end up doing the chicken, feta, tomato bake, which is very nice.

Wednesday

Get distracted blogging before work.  Children get themselves yoghurt for breakfast. Running late throw a bit of ham on a couple of slices of bread (we’ve run out butter) children look at sad looking sandwiches in horror.

We’ve got parent/teacher interviews at highschool this evening have to call in Nana Shambles to do soccer training pick up/drop off. We run late for the meetings. When we get home Nana Shambles has done dinner (thank you thank you). She turned the chicken into a tomato hotpot dish – she bought a can to tomatoes (probably a couple of bucks).

Thursday

Vegemite on dry toast for breakfast. Still got no butter, rest of ham falls off bench and dog eats it, children convinced dog is going to die, he, however looks relatively happy at his achievement. Discover the fridge has turned off – new fridge probably just out of warranty – Princess Child and I try to move it to see if it’s still plugged into the wall – nearly give ourselves hernias but fridge doesn’t budge. Give up. The kids get money for canteen lunch ($10) and I go to work.

Busy trying to finish a report at work, get home late to discover I’ve forgotten to pick up Mr Shambles from work (he’s car is off the road now). Back in car find him wandering the streets in an attempt to walk home.

Get home still trying to sort out what is wrong with fridge. Princess Child needs to “take a plate” for morning tea at school tomorrow, she also demands butter for her toast tomorrow. Head to the supermarket, cave  in and buy butter chicken and rice meals for all of us for dinner ($5.99 each that’s – gulp – $24). Buy a packet of biscuits for the morning tea ($5). Forget to buy butter. Princess Child can’t believe she’s been born into such a disorganised family, firmly convinced she’s adopted.

We heat and serve the butter chicken, Mr Shambles turns the fridge off/on and it magically starts to work – if only we could have MOVED THE DARN THING this morning. I cook the meatloaf with the now defrosted lamb mince for dinner tomorrow – was going to do the lamb curry in the slow cooker as well but discover I’m now out of onions. Give up.

Friday

Another disastrous morning. At the parent/interviews Mr Shambles had asked textiles teacher for help with Hippie Child’s new sewing machine – we can’t get it to work. Teacher suggests she brings it in to class. Hippie Child completely embarrassed by the idea of lugging sewing machine to school, Mr Shambles insists. Of course he then goes to work and I’m left trying to find a box for her to take it in. Takes about four boxes/plastic containers before we find one that it will fit. I carefully explain to Hippie Child that it’s a parent’s role in life to give their children something to talk about in therapy when they are 30 – she just needs to note this down it should fill a couple of sessions.

No time to sort out lunch. Money for canteen again ($10)

Mr Shambles knocks off early on Fridays (and it’s my day off) so we end up having lunch out ($30).

We are out of tomatoes and onions so it’s another trip to the supermarket ($5). But I get the sweet tomato and onion chutney made to go with the already-made meatloaf. Mr Shambles loves the chutney, Princess Child thinks it’s too spicey but I may have been a bit heavy handed with the chilli powder. Meatloaf is very nice.

I make the lamb curry in the slow cooker for dinner tomorrow (it’s without the fresh herbs – bought them last Saturday so they’ve long since fermented).

The result

We did spend less on food this week. But it’s obvious I need to be MUCH MORE ORGANISED. Sandra at the $120 Food Challenge does recommend doing the shop fortnightly and I’m sure that would be better given that with $240 you can buy bags of onions, potatoes etc so you are less likely to run out like I did.

I also need to devote some serious time on the weekends to baking – it’s hard to fill the kids lunchboxes when you don’t allow the usual museli bars, cheese snacks etc.

Time seems to be the big killer for me in this challenge I really need to try and find some really quick and easy recipes or some that can be prepared in advance. I also need to try to keep away from the shops completely. I’m a marketers dream, constantly falling for the impulse purchases. I’m in denial about how much I spend that way.

However, I don’t like to be beaten, so I’m gonna give this another shot. Starting Tuesday I’m doing a $240 shop for the fortnight. Will let you know how that one goes.

$120 Food Challenge

An expedition into my pantry this weekend turned into a Hitchcock thriller. Attack of the Moths. We seem to be harbouring a colony of flying creatures. I know that is bad. I know it makes a statement about my housekeeping skills – but hey I’ve never put my hand up for Homemaker of the Year.

So we proceeded to remove every item and do a clean out. This proved a good thing. Over at the $120 Food Challenge Sandra Reynolds has produced a blog that shows people how to feed a family of four on just $120 a week. I’m a little sceptical but given the state of our bank account it can’t hurt to try.

The first step in the process is to do an inventory of all the food you are currently hoarding. The exercise highlighted that we probably don’t need eight boxes of opened but only half used boxes of cereal. While one particular item, out-of-date in 2009, seems to have moved house with us three times – even my clutter-bug tendencies are willing to let that one go.

After the tossing finished I sat down to do a menu plan for the next seven days. Here’s what I came up with:

Saturday

Spaghetti with roasted tomato & garlic

Sunday

Vegemite on toast.

Leftovers.

Baked fish with ginger and soy

Monday

Fruit salad & yoghurt.

Ham & salad wraps.

Chorizo, fennel and potato tortilla

Tuesday

Avacado and cheese on toast.

Ham & salad wraps.

Lamb & bacon meatloaf with Sweet tomato & onion chutney

Wednesday

Museli and yoghurt.

Meatloaf & chutney sandwiches.

Chicken parmigiana

Thursday

Scrambled eggs on toast.

Chicken schnitzel sandwich.

Slow cooked mild beef curry.

Friday

Vegemite on toast.

Tuna salad.

Chicken, tomato, feta bake.

Then I hit the shops, armed with my list. Which is where my plan fell down a little. I spent $175.57. Sandra’s estimate for the seven dinners was $84.90 which I think was pretty spot-on. However, I went a little overboard in supplementing for the breakfast/lunches/fruit side of things. My family eats a lot of fruit so spent too much there,  I also bought a few things I had run out of, and I had to get a few spices for the dinner dishes which added a bit to the total.

If we take off some of the “pantry” items I brought – anchovies, baking paper, dog food, frozen peas, frozen beans, capers, dishwashing detergent, tuna, plus some of the extravagant fruit, strawberries, blueberries, then the orange juice, yoghurt, and a mystery item I can’t remember what it was but it cost $5.90 so I’m deleting it too we get the bill down to $136.42.

This still leaves in one orange juice, bread, wraps, milk, heaps of fruit, bananas, pears, oranges, apples, plums and lots of spices cardamon pods, nutmeg, oregano, garam masala, cloves, cinnamon stick (which I won’t have to buy again if I use the same recipes next week).

So essentially, I went closer than I thought possible. I’m banning myself from visiting the supermarket during the week so we will see how we go in just eating what I’ve bought. I’ll let you know the result.