Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aaahhhh, Traditions.

Posted by MANDI at 1:54 PM 0 comments
It really wouldn't have been Christmas without one of our favourite traditions.

Here are the kids preparing a snack for Santa's reindeer.









And here they are with the evidence that Santa and his reindeer landed right outside our front gate!



You've just got to love tradition!

Monday, December 29, 2008

End Of Year Meme

Posted by MANDI at 8:58 PM 0 comments
Here's a little wrap up of 2008. Trish over at Light. Sweet. Crude posted this meme a week or so ago and I thought it was a nice way to bring the year to a close. The links didn't quite work out but if you click on the words in bold it'll take you to the relevant post.
1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?
Moved house twice in one year
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next this year?
I don't usually make them so it's probably fair to say I didn't keep any. I am considering making a few for 2009 - yell less, cook more, enjoy the kids more, get more organised.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No one especially close but a few friends did welcome babies into their lives, most notably Luka George just a few days before my birthday.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My Grandma died but we weren't actually very close.
5. What countries did you visit?
Ha, good joke that one!
6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Maybe job security? But nothing really.
7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April - we left Red Dirt Central and came back to Perth. And July, when we finally got our house back.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping my sh!t together. Okay, I don't actually feel like I achieved very much at all this year. Pretty much from when we found out we were moving back to Perth I have been treading water and barely, just barely, keeping my head above the water line. I spent most of the year feeling like it was a constant one step forward, two steps backwards kind of dance. To be honest it was exhausting and I'm looking forward to the new year in a 'wipe the slate clean and start again' kind of way.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Setting myself goals that were just about unachievable. Like with my last job - I set myself a massive goal and truly believed I could achieve it working three days a week in just 16 or so weeks. No one else expected as much from me as I did. Those who I reported to told me repeatedly that I was doing/did a great job, turned things around, got it all back on track, etc but I feel like I didn't achieve everything I set out to which means I failed. Bah, Capricorn perfectionism sucks big-time.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope - just the regular coughs and colds. Coping with Offspring #1's asthma just about wore me out though.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
The shelving units for the kids bedrooms. Best. Thing. Ever.
12. Where did most of your money go?
My money or 'our' money?
My money - family holiday to Exmouth, stuff for the house, school uniforms for #1, asthma meds for #2, and books that I should have borrowed from the library but couldn't resist buying.
'Our' money - mortgage, car payments, groceries, bills. All the really exciting stuff.
13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving back to Perth.
14. What song will always remind you of 2008?
The Proclaimers 'Misery to Happiness'. When we moved back to Perth the kids and I, obviously, spent more time in the car getting from place to place. I have heaps of 80's CD's and played this song for #1 because he used to love it when he was about three. #2 promptly fell in love with it and whenever we hopped into the car she requested the 'uh huh, uh huh song' (sing it to yourself, you'll work out why both kids call it that)
15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Happier all round - We're back in Perth, I'm back in my house and hubby's doing a job he's loving.
b) thinner or fatter?
Hmmm... fatter. I was thinking that I'd just accept it and embrace my 'inner Nigella'. But I can't. So I'm going to cut down on the sugary treats and up the energy output a little and see if I can't burn off just a couple of kilo's. I'm not proclaiming a full-on diet and exercise regime - I think we all know that wouldn't work for me but I'll be making a couple of small tweaks to my lifestyle.
c) richer or poorer?
Probably about the same really.
16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Stopped cleaning, or tidying or whatever and played with the kids.
17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Yelled.
18. How did you spend Christmas?
19. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Was already there. I told you about that too.
20. What was your favorite TV program?
Heroes. Or Top Gear (the real one not the Australian rip-off version). And Home and Away - shocking and shameful, I know.
21. What was the best book you read?
You know, I read heaps of books this year but I really don't have one stand out for the year. There were lots that I looked forward to because I liked the author, or the subject material, and they didn't meet my expectations. There were several that I really enjoyed because they were unexpected finds, or sweet, or funny. But there were none that made an amazing impression and left me thinking about them for days like in previous years.
22. What was your favorite film of this year?
I don't really watch that many films. Hubby borrows lots of DVD's from the video shop but I tend to blog or read or do housework rather than watch them (he's watching one now while I'm doing this). I guess my favourite was Alvin and The Chipmunks just because we all sat down for a family movie and #1 giggled himself silly the whole way through, which obviously made us giggle too. Sorry, ti was more the experience than the movie.
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
24. What kept you sane?
Blogging. Three very good friends in Red Dirt Central. Hubby
25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Still George. Always George. (Clooney obviously!)
Hubby knows that if George lands in our backyard and begs me to share his life I'm outta here. In fact he's given me his blessing - I'm not sure if I should be grateful or insulted!
26. Who did you miss?
The girls from Red Dirt Central, specially Felicity.
27. Who was the best new person you met?
Sarah- I met her through work and she's young, sweet and so funny. She cracks me up and just makes my day a little brighter whenever I see or talk to her.
Because we moved home I didn't necessarily meet a lot of new people but I did get re-aquainted with lots who I didn't know all that well. I have enjoyed getting to know a group of fellow school mums - with kids a variety of ages - and hope that I'll get to know them better next year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary Hubby

Posted by MANDI at 9:10 PM 3 comments
Dearest Hubby,
Today is our 11th wedding anniversary. Who would have thought that falling in love, pretty much at first sight, just over 12 years ago would have us where we are today? We have built a wonderful life together and I'm even more in love with you today than I was when we got married.
You're a terrific dad to our kids and I love watching you with them. You get such joy from playing with them and remind me to slow down and enjoy them while they're little.
You work so hard to provide for our family and always want the best for us. You make our house so lovely and put up with all my wacky, not-particularly-well-explained plans for it then produce something even better than I could have imagined.
Although it's cliched, it's true to say that you are my very best friend in the world. I tell you everything and never worry that you'll judge me. I love spending time with you, whether we're on the go and doing stuff or just hanging out together. I love that you love me because, not despite, all the things I do that make you laugh or shake your head or groan with sheer bloody frustration.
I even love all the things you do that drive me crazy - that you make up your own lyrics for songs, that you have a crazier sense of humour than me, that you like music I hate, that you find it impossible to just sit still and relax and that you go out of your way to annoy me then make me laugh when I'm trying to be angry
I love that you tell me you love me every single day and I love that you chose to share your life with me. Most of all, sweet Hubby, I love you.
Your ever-loving wife,
Red Dirt Mummy xxx

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Poppy!

Posted by MANDI at 7:17 PM 3 comments
** Edited to add the photos Blogger wouldn't let me put in yesterday!


We celebrated my Dad's birthday today with a picnic lunch, mostly comprised of Christmas leftovers, at one of the local popular picnic spots. The kids enjoyed a swim with their Pop, we all tucked into yet more food and we even had a bit of excitement after lunch. We could see smoke not too far away and were trying to work out where the fire was when water-bomber helicopters flew in to fill their tanks at the lake. They refilled several times while we were there and the kids' eyes just about popped out of their heads.




But, back to the birthday celebrations. I offered to make the birthday cake and turned to one of the Bill Granger cookbooks I received for Christmas. It seemed only fitting that I should use a gift from my parents to make Dad's cake! This was delicious... rich, moist, fabulous and could well become THE cake for birthdays. I even made a teensy mistake and forgot the final 1/4 cup of flour - I had to cook the cake a little longer but it turned out beautifully. Be sure and make the frosting; it's this that makes a good chocolate cake a stand-out.








Easy-mix Chocolate Cake With Real Chocolate Frosting
from Bill Granger's Simply Bill



2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
50g cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
250g very soft butter
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk

Frosting
300g dark chocolate (I used milk chocolate), broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups sour cream

To serve
bright sweets (candies) and candles (I used M&M's)


Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift flour, baking powder, cocoa and sugar into a large bowl and stir together. Add the butter, eggs and milk and mix with electric beaters on low speak for 1 - 2 minutes until smooth.
Spoon into two greased and lined 20cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool.
Once the cakes are cool, prepare the frosting. Put the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat very slowly until the chocolate has just melted, being careful not to let the water boil or touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes, before whisking int he sour cream. Use a spatula to spread a third of the frosting over one cake and sandwich with the other. Spread the rest of the frosting over the side and top of the cake. Decorate with sweets and candles if you're celebrating a birthday!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Was Lovely

Posted by MANDI at 8:08 PM 1 comments
Christmas this year was quite small - just us, my parents and my brother's family - but it was absolutely perfect! It was relaxed, comfortable and just lovely. The family lunch was at our place and we'd decided that I'd take care of the meats for lunch, the nibblies and assorted bits and pieces while my sister-in-law looked after the salads and Mum saw to the desserts. It couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it all year instead or sorting it out just a couple of weeks ago.
We hung out, the kids played, we ate, the kids played, we flaked out on the couch, the kids played and we all had a terrific day. No one stressed out or worried about anything I think it was the nicest Christmas we've had in a long time.
Boxing Day today was just as nice. Hubby and I made a deal that we wouldn't go out at all today so we tidied up the house, did a few chores that couldn't be ignored (you know, washing and stuff!) and played with the kids for most of the day. We watched new DVD's, did jigsaw puzzles, coloured, played card games, ate leftovers and had another lovely day. Gotta love a relaxing, stress-free Christmas at home!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Carols by Candlelight

Posted by MANDI at 9:08 PM 2 comments

The Carols last night were just lovely. Even Hubby admitted that he really enjoyed the night and would go again! They were put on by one of the local churches at the main park in our little neck of the hills. The Carols were broken up by readings from the Bible that told of the story of the birth of Jesus. We aren't even remotely religious but it was really lovely to have the story of Christmas given significance in the middle of the singing.




There were about 400 people at the park and there was a real mix of ages from brand new bubs through to some really elderly local residents. There were family groups, groups of friends and even a few sets of neighbours and the spirit of the evening was so... neighbourly. People smiled indulgently at the little kids, shared their candles so others could be lit and just enjoyed being out on a lovely summer night.





The kids loved it. Offspring #1 was a little disappointed that he didn't know more of the songs but liked reading the songbook with his Dad. Offspring #2 loved snuggling on my lap and singing her own songs - not necessarily the ones that anyone else was singing! But they both loved the candles. I think that the lighting of their candles was probably their favourite part of the night.






Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday To...

Posted by MANDI at 10:18 PM 6 comments
ME!!!!




We had a few friends around for a bbq last night, a kind of combined Christmas catch-up/birthday dinner. Everyone bought a dish to the table and I have a delicious salad to share, thanks to one of the friends, in a later post. They also gave me some wonderful gifts, among them champagne and a new cook book.




This morning I woke up to birthday kisses and cuddles and opening presents with the kids. Then we waved Hubby off to work, did a few chores, played some play-doh, ate left-overs for lunch and we all took a nice three hour nap. Aaaahhh... gotta love being on holidays (okay, technically unemployed!) for your birthday. When Hubby arrived home we headed to my parents' house for dinner and birthday cake then we all went to the local Carols by Candlelight. The Carols were lovely (more on that tomorrow) and we were finally out late enough to do a quick drive around the neighbourhood and look at some of the spectacular Christmas light displays. It was a low-key kind of birthday but it was lovely.




Here's my present from Hubby. I LOVE IT!!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tagged

Posted by MANDI at 10:21 AM 3 comments
I was tagged by Claire over at Cooking is Medicine to join in a meme where I tell you seven weird things about myself. I'm pretty sure I've done this one before but I guess there are people who would call me weird so I'm also pretty sure I can come up with some new stuff to share.
Here are the rules:1. Link the person that tagged you and post the rules.2. Share 7 random or weird facts about yourself.3. Tag 7 people at the end and link to their sites.4. Let each person know about the tag in the comment section of their site.
1. When I was younger I hated having red hair and dyed it every colour I could, though mostly brown. Now I'm older it's turning brown and I'm madly dying it red. Weird!
2. I didn't eat meat for a few years in my early twenties. One night I was out for dinner and couldn't find anything I liked on the menu. At that exact minute the chef started cooking a steak and it smelt divine (it was a really tiny restaurant) so I ordered steak. When it arrived at the table it was the biggest steak I'd ever seen and I ate the whole thing. And never looked back. Weird!
3. When Offspring #2 was tiny I sat on the couch one night crying because I was so happy that we had given our children the MOST perfect names. Weird and hormonal!
4. I love chocolate but I don't like dark chocolate. You know, the good quality stuff? Bleuch. Weird!
5. You already know I love to cook - in Red Dirt Central I had the tiniest most horrible kitchen and I made great stuff. Now we're home in the kitchen I love, with terrific shops where I can get great ingredients and I have hardly made anything exciting. Weird!
6. I have the same surname as my first every boyfriend. Weird!
7. I used to have the fastest metabolism and could eat ANYTHING and not gain weight. In fact I had to eat every two hours or so or I felt quite unwell and turned into a big grump. It became a joke that when Hubby and I were shopping we had to be outside somewhere that sold food every two hours. Then I had two kids and got closer to being 40. It slowed down in the biggest way, I'd almost say it stopped completely, about 6 months ago and I'm completely shocked at what I CAN'T eat and drink. Crazily, unaccepting-ly shocked. Weird!
Hmmm... now who to link to? I'll tag this lot but feel free to ignore it if you're not into memes or just have better stuff to blog about!
1. Melody at biglittlesister
2. Trish at light.sweet.crude
3. Iris at Double-Half
4. Belongum at Belongum's Weblog
6. Mountain Mama at Careful What You Wish For

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arty Afternoon

Posted by MANDI at 5:00 PM 3 comments
Yesterday was the first day of summer holidays and it was a gorgeous warm sunny day. Offspring #2 has been asking to 'do painting' for days, maybe even a couple of weeks, so I set the kids paint easel in the shade on the lawn, poured lots of different coloured paint into plastic bowls, added an assortment of brushes and lots of paper and left them to it.






They had a wonderful time and produced lots of lovely bright pieces of art. I think we'll be doing this again soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Visitors From Afar

Posted by MANDI at 1:43 PM 0 comments
We had a wonderful time with our visitors from Red Dirt Central. They didn't arrive until late on Saturday night so the kids all got to say hello then we put the lot of them to bed! I couldn't have planned it better LOL. Us 'grown-ups' sat around enjoying a beer or two and catching up on all the news. The visitors are off to live in Sydney and are, quite understandably, rather excited about it. Along the way they are stopping off to do some visiting - here and in Adelaide - and a bit of sight-seeing too. Hubby and I are willing to admit to being just the teensiest bit envious of the travelling.
Sunday was spent lazing about while the kids played their hearts out. We did take the visitors for a quick sight-seeing jaunt, mostly because Offspring #1 wanted to show his former school-mates his new school, but figured they'd be spending the better part of a week in the car so we stayed close to home and kept the tour short. The kids had an absolute ball and it was lovely to watch - they jumped on the trampoline, played on the new rope swing that Hubby had hung, dug in the sand-pit, played pirates in the fort and ran and ran and ran. We had some tired wee souls on our hands by the end of the day.
Monday morning was busy - we all headed off to work and school amidst a flurry of good-byes and the visitors loaded up their car and headed east.
It was so nice to catch up with some friends from 'up there' in our own neck of the woods and are looking forward to hearing all about their new home when they finally arrive there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Grrrr

Posted by MANDI at 10:19 AM 2 comments
I tend not to post when things aren't going quite right. My blog is supposed about sharing nice stuff, fun things and yummy recipes not whinges and whines. So... I haven't posted this week. Sorry.
Everything is fine really - kids and hubby are all good - but work is annoying me very much, the new job I was supposed to be getting doesn't look like happening, and because of these things I'm rather more tired and stressed than I should be. Even for this time of the year.
But... we have friends from Red Dirt Central arriving for a couple days over the weekend, I only have three more days at work and Christmas is shaping up to be lots of fun. I'll be back next week and I promise I'll be in a better mood!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Another Yummy Breakfast

Posted by MANDI at 8:45 PM 3 comments
The kids requested pancakes for breakfast but each recipe I turned to wanted an ingredient I didn't have, and I wasn't about to do a deli run at 8am on a Sunday morning. I love my kids but we have to draw the line somewhere! In the end I cobbled together about three different versions of pancakes and kind of made it up as I went along ending up with raspberry pancakes nicely set off with some double thick cream. YUM!
Then I got busy with all the house-cleaning, washing and gardening chores that had been happily ignored yesterday. Lucky I had a good breakfast in my belly to keep me going :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Day On The River

Posted by MANDI at 8:03 PM 4 comments
The house is in dire need of some attention and cleaning so when Hubby asked if I wanted to spend the day in the boat on the river I was easily persuaded to join him. Some of you might remember that I'm not too keen on boats but spending time on our (really rather small) boat on the ocean and in the river is completely different and I, along with Hubby and the kids, had a wonderful time.

We were going to head up the river, let the kids have a go at fishing and then have a picnic lunch but once we were on the boat we decided to head down the river and towards the city instead.









We ended up going all the way into the city and it was great fun to see the city up close from the river.








Along the way we wandered up the canals in East Perth and exclaimed over the gorgeous (and very expensive) houses.












Heading back up the river we came across a deserted park that had a fabulous playground and decided that it was the perfect place to stop for lunch. The kids ran off some energy while Hubby and I read the paper before we tucked into sandwiches and fruit.



















Once back on the boat we pulled off to the side of the river and and the kids did a spot of fishing. #1 caught a couple of Blowies, #2 caught nothing but did so very enthusiastically!










By then we were all starting to feel the effects of a sunny day on the river and decided it was time to head back to the car. Poor Offspring #2 couldn't quite make it that far and fell asleep bouncing around in the boat.



We had such a lovely day and I promise that I'll be heading out on the boat again sooner rather than later.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hubby's Home!

Posted by MANDI at 9:26 PM 3 comments
Hubby arrived back in the hills yesterday afternoon and I'm so glad to have him home!
I hadn't told the kids that he'd probably be home earlier than planned (I wasn't quite prepared to believe it myself!) and had just kept to the original story that he was due home on Sunday. Earlier this week he told me he'd probably be home Friday but they got a couple of jobs done even quicker than they'd hoped and got in an extra day early.
I thought I'd give the kids a surprise and told them that their Aunty K had invited us for a coffee. They were pleased to be able to play with their cousins so fell in with the plans happily. When we arrived they commented on the man cleaning the car in Aunty K's driveway but it wasn't until Offspring #1 hopped out of the car and got a closer look at 'that man' that something clicked.
First off he squinted at 'that man', then he edged a little closer, then he muttered "Dad??????". At that point he was joined by Offspring #2 who, upon hearing her older brother's mutterings, stared at 'that man' before shrieking , "my Dadddddeeeeeeee!" and pelting down the driveway to him. This of course spurred her big brother into action and poor Hubby was just about knocked off his feet as two small bodies ran straight at him. After lots of hugs and kisses and dobbing on each other (where would we be without the tattling?) they checked that he'd be coming home with us and then declared that I was a 'very good tricker'.
Aaahhhh, these are the moment I love.
Then #1 and #2 started fighting again and I was forced to bang my head repeatedly against a wall.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Pub Lunch

Posted by MANDI at 2:39 PM 4 comments
I caught up with a friend and her 4-year old son for lunch today. When we were planning the catch-up we were toying with the idea of heading to one of the local pubs for lunch but in the end it was much easier, and cheaper, to have her come here. I didn't want to miss out on the pub lunch so I created my own. Well, I created it with a bit of help from a cookbook or two.


First we had Shortcut Steak Sandwich from my new Donna Hay cookbook. Seriously easy and fabulously tasty.



I followed up with a dessert that had been sitting in Ugly Binder for ages. I think it was just waiting for the right occasion. I adjusted the quantities somewhat to suit the fact that only two of us were eating (and two kids who had a slightly different, and smaller, version)


Chocolate Meringues with Cherries
from Australian Table Magazine, September 2007
Serves 6

3 egg whites
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
425g can pitted cherries in syrup
6 scoops low-fat vanilla ice-cream


1. Preheat oven to 140c or 120c fan. Line two baking tray with baking paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until thick and glossy. Whisk in cornflour, vinegar and cocoa. Spoon 12 oval shapes onto prepared trays and bake for 45 minutes until crisp but centre is still soft and fudgy.
3. Meanwhile, drain cherries,m pouring syrup into a saucepan. Bring syrup to boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until reduced slightly. Cool.
4. Place a scoop of slightly softened ice-cream onto six meringues. Top with a few cherries and drizzle with syrup. Top with remaining meringues an serve.


Monday, December 1, 2008

An Early Birthday Present

Posted by MANDI at 9:17 PM 1 comments
My wonderful neighbour came over for coffee on the weekend and delivered my birthday present at the same time. Nothing unusual there except that it's not my birthday for another three weeks and we see each other just about every single day!


She'd bought the new Donna Hay cookbook for me and wanted to give it to me right away so that I wouldn't buy it for myself.




To say that I LOVE my gift would be a massive understatement. I'd actually been looking at this book the day before while I was shopping and put it back on the shelf knowing that Hubby would be most unhappy if I brought home another cookbook - especially as I haven't been cooking a great deal of late. So... I broke out my new cookbook yesterday and made the easiest and, to my mind, yummiest banana bread I've come across.

Simple Banana Bread
No Time To Cook by Donna Hay







Combine 1 2/3 cups plain flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/3 cup caster sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Make a well in the centre, add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 3 mashed bananas and mix to combine. Pour into a greased 20cm x 10cm x 10cm loaf tin. Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake in a preheated 160C oven for 60 minutes or until cooked when tested.
 

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