Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Um...hello? Is This Thing On?

Posted by MANDI at 4:46 PM 3 comments
I'm here, I've just been hibernating. In the middle of summer. As you do.

Yes, I've been fielding emails and phone calls enquiring as to my whereabouts and, in some cases, they have been downright demanding! But it's nice to know I'm loved.

I'll be back properly very soon. Promise. Cross-my-heart promise.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interesting Branches

Posted by MANDI at 7:49 PM 6 comments
A few years back I got into genealogy and, using the parts of the family tree I already had, started doing some research using the internet to fill in some of the blanks. I found some bits and pieces in various census releases. Mostly it confirmed what I already knew but I also found things like street addresses, who the unmarried sisters ended up living with and so on. At one stage I went off on a tangent and traced back someone who wasn't really even part of the family. I got really excited because I managed to trace them back to France in the 1640's but, like I said, they weren't actually part of the completely and utterly Scottish and English family I'm descended from. You get that.
The file of info sits in with my cookbooks and today while I was searching for a particular recipe my 'family file' kind of jumped out at me. Offspring #2 was having a nap after swimming lessons and I had some time on my hands so I thought I'd have a quick look. Knowing that two more lots of census information have been released since I'd last searched I was hoping I might find something new and reignite my enthusiasm.
Most of the names on the tree are fairly common, run-of-the-mill, kind of Anglo names. But there are a couple that are just unusual enough to make searching a little less needle-in-the-haystack and a little more might-actually-find-something. I popped one of them into Google and was pleased to have only a few pages come up. Opening one I checked the details I had and verified that, yes, it was the man I was looking for. I decided to try one of the other unusual names and had similar good luck. The first one was a diplomat, author and professor who had a particularly impressive obituary in the UK newspaper The Guardian while the second lot are Barons, Ladies and Honourables.
I guess I found the posh side of the family. They'd be the ones who didn't jump on a ship and head to Australia!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meet My Boy

Posted by MANDI at 9:00 PM 1 comments
We call him Gappy.

Since we're up to lost tooth number 5 I'm thinking that the Tooth Fairy probably calls him expensive!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pasta La Vista, Baby!

Posted by MANDI at 8:13 PM 3 comments
We had this cannelloni for dinner ages ago but I just haven't got around to blogging it until now. This is one of the easiest cannelloni recipes I've come across and, apart from the brand of pasta sheets I used, it was fabulous. I will definitely be making this one again, just with a better brand of pasta sheets than the ones that were suggested. They were 'half-size' sheets, so if you bought, what I consider to be regular sized, large pasta sheets you'd need to cut them in half before you started. Yes, your fingers get goopy while your mixing and rolling but I think that was part of the fun.

The recipe is from the free magazine that is put out quarterly by the supermarket I generally shop at so lots of brands are specified in the list of ingredients. In the interests of not joining in with their advertising I'm not planning to list the brands. That's me being subversive!

Pumpkin, Ricotta and Spinach Pasta Bake
from Coles Magazine, Spring Issue (2009)

1kg butternut pumpkin, chopped and peeled
250g ricotta cheese (tubs tend to be smoother than fresh ricotta and give a better consistency in this recipe, fresh ricotta may also be too dry)
2 cloves garlic, crushes
1 bunch chives, snipped
400g packet fresh lasagna sheets
100g baby spinach leaves
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Salad leaves, to serve

1. Place pumpkin in a medium bowl and microwave until tender Cool
2. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a large baking dish.
3. Add ricotta, garlic and chives to cooled pumpkin and mix well. Lay a lasagna sheet on a flat clean surface. Arrange some spinach leaves along centre of sheet. Top with spoonfuls of pumpkin mixture. Roll up to enclose filling and place in prepared dish, seam side down. Continue making cannelloni with remaining lasagna sheets and filling.
4. Pour cream and stock over filled cannelloni in baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve pasta bake with salad leaves.
*Freezer tip. You can freeze the cannelloni at the end of step 3. Once thawed, continue the recipe as directed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 7:22 PM 3 comments
We took the boat out today for the first time this summer. Well, I say summer though technically it's still spring. But you know what I mean. We packed up a picnic, the Sunday paper, hats, sunscreen, fishing gear and headed out for the day. We wandered down the river, helped out a grand-dad who was fishing with his grandkids until their boat engine died, did a bit of sight-seeing and stopped at a playground for our picnic lunch. After that we jumped back in the boat and headed back up the river a little way before finding a good fishing spot.

Offspring #1 continued to astound us with his fishing skills as he caught three bream in fairly quick succession...

And Offspring #2 was thrilled to catch her first ever fish...

And yes, the fish were on the small side and were carefully released back into the river by the Dad of the family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Artiste

Posted by MANDI at 8:21 PM 4 comments
Offspring #2 and I had a rare day at home today. I say rare because, although I only work a couple of days a week and we spend heaps of time together, it's not often we stay at home all day long. Sure we still did the school run but that's an everyday kind of thing so it doesn't really count.

We washed dishes, made beds, tidied the house, hung laundry and even managed a spot of gardening.

We also watched #2's favourite tv show and danced and sang along. And danced and sang. And danced. And sang.

And we played "Cinda-brella". Apparently you pop on your noisiest dress-up shoes,run up and down the hallway a bunch of times and on the last lap you drop one shoe before running into the living room and exclaiming in a completely pathetic and tragic whimper that you've lost your shoe and don't know what will happen now. On the one hand I'm kind of horrified that she's play-acting at being helpless and waiting for the Prince to come and on the other hand I'm actually pretty impressed with her comprehension skills as she's only been interested in listening to the story the whole way through for the past couple of weeks.

I was enjoying our day so much that when she very sweetly asked if she could 'do painting' I totally weakened and gave in. Which was lucky. Because that was my chance to take some more photos of my lovely girl. The Artiste.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner

Posted by MANDI at 7:53 PM 1 comments
I've been trying to cut some costs in the food-shopping area of late. Food prices here have just gone up and up and up - I suppose it's the same everywhere - but, of course our pay hasn't. So at some point, after paying for the kids' activities like swimming lessons, guitar lessons and school excursions and the unexciting things like the power bill, phone bill, gas bottles and day-care I'm noticing there's less money to pay for the groceries which are costing more! Monday is shopping day and one of the ways I'm cutting costs is to actually buy less. I know, it's a novel approach! I'm also putting more effort into using what I have rather than buy a new jar of this or packet of that simply to try a new recipe. Yep, another novel idea.
Sunday night rolled around this week and we were all tired and, the grown-ups at least, were wanting something simple and not-too-heavy. I asked for suggestions from the other members of the family and was greeted with ideas ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and most of them involved a trip to the corner deli. And I was not dressed appropriately to even walk to the front gate. Saggy trackpants - not a good look. Ever.

I finally remembered this recipe for a potato omelette and, with all the ingredients readily to hand, we were away. This was just right for an easy Sunday night dinner when you're in the mood for something warm but light and everyone else in the house has vetoed tinned baked-beans on toast. It didn't have a huge burst of flavour but I was very sparing on the chilli powder. I'd probably have a go at using something like rosemary to flavour it next time. We had it with a fresh garden salad and it was declared a resounding success by all. Yay for the Mummy!

Tortilla de Patata
from The Australian Women's Weekly, Cooking from the Pantry

20g butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium potatoes (600g), chopped finely
1 medium brown onion (150g), chopped finely
8 eggs
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Melt butter with oil in 22cm-base ovenproof frying pan; cook potato and onion, stirring occasionally, until potato is tender.
3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and chilli powder in medium jug.
4. Add egg mixture to pan. Cook, uncovered, over low heat, about 5 minutes or until just set.
5. Place pan in oven; cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until browned slightly. Carefully turn tortilla onto plate. Cut into wedges; serve with a side salad. (No, mine didn't slide out easily. I literally dug it out of the pan.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A rose by any other name...

Posted by MANDI at 7:55 PM 3 comments
Look what my lovely Dad sent me home with on Friday.

We dropped in for a cuppa and a quick visit on the way home for work/school/day-care and after the grown-ups had caught up on the news and Poppy and the kids had played in the front yard my Dad (aka Poppy) cut some gorgeous roses and sent us on home. I've got the roses on the dining table and the window open a crack. Each time there's a breeze the scent of roses wafts through the living area. Lovely.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

She's Growing Up Too Fast

Posted by MANDI at 4:08 PM 5 comments
We've just arrived home from the Kindergarten information session for Offspring #2. Yep, she's off to kindy next year and, while there were times when I thought that the first day of school would never come, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to let her go just yet. She's still so little - she only comes up to my waist. And she calls things funny names - we know what she's talking about but other people don't. And she needs help with her shoes sometimes. And she makes up crazy songs mushing together a bunch of different nursery rhymes to create something quite, um, extraordinary. And... she's my baby!

We found out what days she'll be attending kindy, who her class-mates are, met her teacher and saw her classroom. She'll be attending the same school as her big brother so a lot of the general school information is familiar but it was a bit of a relief for both of us to know that two of her special friends will be in her class and at least say hello to her teacher.

I guess I'd best clear off my fridge door sometime before February. I have a feeling there might be a lot more art wanting a space there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 2:28 PM 3 comments
Dear Karmic Forces,
I realise that I need to lose weight. About 12 kg's worth if we're being picky. I also realise that the 'wishful thinking' version of dieting I was undertaking (you know - the one where you wish you were slimmer, you wish you fitted into your clothes better and you wished you didn't look quite so... fat, in photos. Yeah, that one!) wasn't actually working but I don't think that sending me a hearty dose of food poisoning was a very nice thing to do.
Sure it kick-started the weight loss. 4 kgs in the first 12 or so hours is impressive by anyone's standards. And I'll admit that the extra kg I've lost since then just because I still can't eat anything is a bonus. The fact that I probably will never be able to eat that particular brand of fast-food ever, ever, ever again probably isn't altogether bad either.
But still. It wasn't the kindest way to tell me to start being more aware of what's going into my mouth and to watch how much of it is going that way too. Then again, maybe it was just the kick in the backside I needed.
Much love,
(from a mummy who is about 5 kg closer to her goal weight)
Red Dirt Mummy xxx

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Truly Fabulous Cake

Posted by MANDI at 7:52 PM 2 comments
I made this a couple of weeks ago and just haven't got around to sharing it with you yet. Which is a shame, because this is one fantastic cake! The cake part itself is moist and sweet, the apple and strawberry layer on top of that is delicious and the crumble mixture that covers the cake is oh-so-more-ish. Everyone who tried it was hooked and I'll be making it again really soon.

Added to the general delicious-ness is the simplicity of the recipe itself. This isn't difficult to put together but the end result, both in presentation and taste, would suggest otherwise. You could make this for a weekend afternoon tea treat or to take along somewhere and really impress - it would be a big hit either way.

Apple and Strawberry Crumble Cake
from Good Taste, June 2009

Melted butter, to grease
200g butter, at room temperature
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs, at room temperature
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
150g (1 cup) plain flour
185ml (3/4 cup) milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, thickly sliced
200g strawberries, washed, hulled, halved
Crumble topping
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
50g chilled butter, chopped
55g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Brush a round 20cm (base measurement) springform pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base with non-stick baking paper. Place the prepared pan on a baking tray.
2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Use a large metal spoon to fold in the combined flour and the milk until well combined.
3. Spoon into the prepared pan. Use the back of the spoon to smooth the surface. Arrange the apple and strawberry on top.
4. To make the crumble topping, place the flour and butter in a bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
5. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the apple and strawberry. Bake in oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's A Good Thing I Think He's Funny!

Posted by MANDI at 3:57 PM 3 comments
Yesterday morning I was flipping through the newspaper while I was sorting school-bags and lunches at the kitchen bench. I came across an article about a survey of Britons who had declared that Jane Eyre's Mr Rochester was the most romantic character in literature. I scoffed to Hubby that he was nowhere near the lead for that title, indeed Mr Darcy was my ultimate winner. Hubby astonished me by remarking that Darcy was "arrogant, aloof and up himself" - oh I wasn't astonished by the sentiment, Darcy is after all each and every one of those things, rather I was astounded that Hubby, Mr I-Don't-Read-If-I-Can-Possibly-Help-It-And-I-Definitely-Don't-Read-Fancy-Literature-Type-Stuff, knew that about him.
After closing my gaping jaw, I agreed with him but said that Darcy was still a million times better than Rochester. As I told Hubby, Rochester kept his deranged wife in the attic. Hubby's reply? "He was lucky to have an attic. I have to keep mine in the kitchen." With that he gave me the cheekiest wink you can imagine and then dear reader, we fell about the place laughing. Seriously, belly-aching, child-scaring, laughter. That's love.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Day At The Park

Posted by MANDI at 8:03 PM 6 comments
We spent yesterday with Hubby's family celebrating his Mum's (aka Grandma) birthday. Hubby's parents had arranged for a small bus to collect us all and transport us to a national park, some distance from our usual stomping ground, for a picnic lunch. We took more food than could possibly be eaten in one day, even if our numbers had been doubled. Or even tripled. The kids, also referred to as 'the cousins' had a ball playing together all day and there was much seat swapping on the ride to and from the picnic. Hubby's grandmother also made the trip so we had four generations together ranging in age from just-turned-four to 89 years old.

The park was gorgeous. Beautiful lawns, well tended pathways, a body of water named Loch McNess and the requisite jetty for small children to tumble head-first into the water. Not that they did. Despite their best efforts.

We got down to the serious business of eating and drinking as soon as we arrived. The kids were all starving and, just quietly, most of the grown-ups were pretty hungry too. As you can see Offspring #2 took it very seriously.

We took along a few bits and pieces to keep the kids occupied. A few frisbees, a footy and of course the obligatory cricket bat and tennis ball. Hubby set to teaching the kids how to play cricket with varying results. Here's Offspring #1 attempting to talk his Dad into agreeing that he was safe. His attempt was unsuccessful.

Some kids had a great time swinging the bat. Here's one who's swinging madly. It's a shame the ball is still on it's way to her.
And some kids needed a little more assistance than others. Especially when the cricket bat was nearly as tall as that kid.
But my word. When she finally hit the ball (with the afore-mentioned assistance) she ran like the blazes, cackling like a lunatic the whole way.

After the games we wandered off to check out the koalas. Oh sorry. Was that a bit casual? Yes. There were koalas! And yes, we all got just a little bit excited trying to find them in the trees. Look, here's one.
And here's another one. She's playing peek-a-boo. And, although you can't see it, she's a Mama koala and her baby is hiding behind the gum leaves too.

And here's one without a head. Only joking! The kids thought this koala might be playing hide and seek. They thought he was counting while his friends were hiding. We thought he was probably hiding from the kids.

So there's our day. Cricket, koalas and a day in the country. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's All Going Swimmingly

Posted by MANDI at 8:21 PM 2 comments
Yep, swimming lessons have started again. We had a break from swimming last term - it was too cold and I was running out of steam with racing up and down the hill umpteen times a week. And, as it turned out, Offspring #2 suffered from cold after cold after cold so her lessons would have been a complete waste of time and money anyway. After a little break both kids were eager to get back to swimming - or 'fwimming' as #2 insists it's called, she'll even sound out 'sss, sss, ssssss.... ffffwimming. It drives her big brother crazy. Which makes us laugh. A lot.

Anyway... I worked most of the school holidays and kept putting off organising their lessons which is why, having finally made the phone call on the last day of the holidays, we've ended up with the lessons on different days and at not especially fabulous times. #1's lessons are late in the afternoon and I'll be needing to get super organised as I'll be arriving home with two tired, starving children smack on dinner time each and every Monday. My plan is to dig through my slow-cooker recipe books and try out some of the different recipes. We're heading towards Summer so my regular slow-cooker standby's, like Beef Hot Pot, Lamb Shanks and other casserole-y type dishes, aren't going to be all that popular.

I put the plan into action and came up with something a little different for Monday night's dinner. I guess my head was stuck in the "slow-cookers are only for casserole-type dishes" so, while I've made Chicken Cordon Bleu many times, I was pleasantly surprised by how well this turned out when I used the slow-cooker. And I was even more pleased to arrive home with tired, grumpy kids and have dinner ready to go. A dinner that everyone polished off and even had the boys in the house asking for seconds. It's a winner for me.

Slow Cooker Cordon Bleu
from The Easy Slow Cooker Cookbook by Barbara C Jones

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 slices cooked ham
4 slices Swiss cheese, softened (I used what was in the fridge - regular Cheddar)
1 (300g, 10 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup milk

Place chicken breasts on cutting board and pound until breast halves are thin
Place ham and cheese slices on chicken breasts, roll up and secure with toothpick.
Arrange chicken rolls in 4 litre (4 quart) slow cooker. Thin soup with the milk and pour over chicken rolls.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. (I messed up the starting time so did 3 hours on high and it worked a treat).
Serve over hot cooked noodles and cover with sauce from soup. (I gave the noodles a miss and served it with a salad).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 7:58 PM 2 comments
I've been cooking myself silly over the past few days - new cookies, a new cake recipe, a pasta dish, something different in the slow cooker and some seriously fabulous roast potatoes! I'll be sharing them with you over the next few days but I have to tell you about the most recent one first.

Last night we had my mum's birthday dinner at our place. It's not really her birthday till later in the week but she'll be away so we decided a few days early was better than not celebrating at all. We had herbed crumbed lamb cutlets, beef and sundried tomato sausages, a garden salad and the best roasted potatoes I've ever had. Ever. In fact they were so good we gobbled them up and I only got a photo of the sad looking leftovers.

The recipe is over at Ree's Pioneer Woman site and was a big hit with all at our table. I skipped the garlic - we all had meetings today so I felt it was probably safer to leave it out - but I'll be making this with all the ingredients very soon.

And yes, we did have birthday cake. Of course we had birthday cake! But I wasn't allowed to bake it. The kids demanded that we buy an ice-cream cake. And who am I to refuse them?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How Many Is Too Many?

Posted by MANDI at 3:34 PM 1 comments
Also known as Choc-chip Cookie Recipe #1297!

I came across a Donna Hay book I hadn't seen before at the library last week and couldn't resist it. A whole Donna book of cookies, slices, cakes and desserts! After several days of drooling I settled on making some choc chip cookies this morning. I have a bunch of choc chip cookie recipes - several are on this blog - but that doesn't stop me trying out new ones.

If you like coconut it's fair to say you'll like these cookies. Unfortunately I don't love coconut. But... I have suffered my way through a couple, just in the interests of taste-testing you understand, and they're not bad. The kids think they're lovely, especially because 'they're not hard' - #1 has two wobbly teeth right now and is having difficulty biting into food. Hubby wandered in some time after they were cooked and he's also given his vote of approval.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Modern Classics Book 2 by Donna Hay

125g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dessicated coconut
185g milk or dark chocolate, broken into chunks (I used choc chips, because they were in the pantry!)

Preheat the oven to 190C. Place the butter, vanilla and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Beat int he eggs. Stir through the flour, baking powder, coconut and chocolate.
Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper, allowing room for the cookies to spread, and flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 38 (really? I only got 30).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Magazine Monday: Greek Chicken Platter

Posted by MANDI at 9:25 PM 3 comments
I tempted fate tonight by including the lemon in this recipe. Actually, I only included half the lemon - I wasn't willing to tempt it too much! Two and a bit hours on I'm itchy but that's it so far so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This chicken salad was really nice. The roasted chicken was lovely and the salad was bursting with flavour. We often have some variant of warm chicken salad, especially as the weather warms up, but this one was just a little bit different which made it a nice change. I ended up making two versions of the platter - one for us with the olives, etc, as described in the recipe below (and I added some feta) and one for the kids minus those bits but with some carrots and regular cheddar cheese. Both lots went down a treat.

The recipe is from this month's issue of delicious. which, incidentally, features my local area in the piece by Matt Preston. See, it's not just me who thinks this is a great place to be! Oh, and about the lemon - I used the zest in the marinade but none of the juice listed. I'm sure the juice would have added more flavour but like I said, I wasn't willing to tempt fate quite that much.

Greek Chicken Platter
from delicious. October 2009

4 free-range chicken breasts, with skin on - optional (I chose not!)
Grated zest of one lemon, plus a squeeze of juice (from our tree)
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (I used marjoram, from the herb garden)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 bacon rashers, cut into bite size pieces
100g thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
50g black olives
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salad leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Place chicken in a bowl with lemon zest, oregano ad half the oil. Season, then turn to coat in the mixture. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Place chicken in a roasting pan (skin side up, if using) and roast for 18-20 minutes until cooked through. Cover with foil and rest while you make the salad.
Meanwhile cook the bacon in a frypan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until crisp. Drain on paper towel.
Stir yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons water and some salt and pepper together in a bowl. Drizzle with remaining oil.
Arrange the bacon, olives, cucumber, tomatoes and salad leaves on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and serve with the salad and the yoghurt dressing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Breakfast

Posted by MANDI at 5:26 PM 0 comments
Buttermilk pancakes with strawberries, cream, maple syrup and a dusting of icing sugar. A perfect way to start a Sunday.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Right At Home

Posted by MANDI at 8:05 PM 1 comments
Here's a picture of part of the back garden. Hubby calls this spot the rain-forest. I usually call it the jungle. It's full of ferns and bits and pieces that like to be warm, damp and in the shade.

It's one of the areas that I've been working on over the past few weeks. Clearing out some of the undergrowth, thinning out some of the plants, finding some hidden treasures buried away underneath the bigger, showier things. While #2 and I were admiring our hard work today something caught our eye.

We crept a little closer for a better look.

We crept a little closer still and found this frog snoozing on an old log.

He was quite big for the back garden - a bit bigger than my palm I'd guess - and though his colours don't show up well in this photo he had splashes of pale, almost translucent, blue and green across his back. We have a couple of resident frogs in the pond but we haven't come across this little froggy before.

He stayed on that log for ages, just enjoying the dappled sunshine, and wasn't at all perturbed when Offspring #2 and his buddy tumbled out of the house to look at him.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Show Time

Posted by MANDI at 7:20 PM 4 comments
Perth Royal Show Time that is.

We spent the day at the show today and it's fair to say we're all exhausted. We walked miles and miles and Hubby and I were pleasantly surprised with how well the kids coped. They LOVED the excitement of the show - the rides, the exhibitions and displays, the fairy-floss, the samples to taste and, of course, the big decisions about which show-bag to buy.

We limited their spending-power to one ride, one game and one show bag each - and then made them buy the show bag with their own pocket money anyway! What hard, cruel parents we are LOL. They didn't know any better and had a wonderful time deciding which ride to go on (Bumper Cars with Dad for him and a beautiful horse on the Carousel for her), narrowing which clown to choose in the Laughing Clowns game (and being totally delighted to be given a toy at the end of it) and umming and aahing over the myriad of show bags on display (after much discussion, the Barbie Bag for her and Magic Gag Bag for him).

We oohed and aahed over the fluffy yellow ducklings, sweet little lambs and the bleating kid goats in the animal nursery. We gazed in awe at some of the rides as they spun, twisted, turned and tipped and I thanked small mercies that Offspring #1 is mere centimetres short of the height requirements for some of those rides. We tasted a bunch of samples - yogurt, lollies, custard, ice-cream and fruit. We chowed down on show food - hot-dogs, fairy floss, hot donuts. You know, all the good stuff that'll keep you going all day long.

We had a wonderful day together and, after missing the show for the better part of the last 20 years, I loved seeing it all again through my kids' eyes. Yes, it was hideously over-priced but I have to tell you, the excitement, joy and delight I saw in my kids today made every cent completely worth it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In The Garden

Posted by MANDI at 8:21 PM 5 comments
My whole entire body is aching today. In fact, it was almost a relief to have to go to work just so I could have a break! We've had a long wet winter and even on the few days that we didn't have rain it was freezing cold and, let's face it, I'm not a fan of the cold. The wussy side of me says that I couldn't go out and play in the cold because Offspring #2 would want to join me and with all the dramas we've had with her asthma and a trying winter of ill-health I didn't want her out in the cold. The more grown-up side of me just says I'm a big wuss and to get over myself!

Anyway, I spent the past three days out in the garden raking and weeding, sweeping and cleaning up, planting and potting, and I AM EXHAUSTED! My arms ache so much I can barely lift my tea-cup, my legs are in serious pain, my lower back is screaming at me and my butt muscles... well, let's not go there.

I filled the trailer twice with pruning offcuts, raked leaves, pulled weeds and general garden debris. We used the last weekend of the burning season to get rid of some undergrowth and while it's not real pretty right now at least we feel better about our preparation for summer.

I weeded the vegie garden, pulled up the scraggy broccoli and cauliflower plants that were finished and then replanted the whole lot for summer - we've got... silverbeet and beetroots that have been in for a month or so, the English Spinach that is doing really well and a bundle of different types of tomatoe seedlings.

a heap of corn

and some leeks that are taking their time but getting there verrrrry slowly as well as more broccoli, cucumber, zucchini, a bunch of mixed lettuces, some french beans and a couple of capsicum plants (that's bell peppers for the Americans amongst us). I'm planning to fill in some of the spaces in another six weeks or so in order to keep us going through the summer.

I tidied up some of the flower beds straight out from the back of the house and was left with this pretty display of spring flowers.

Remember a few weeks back when I showed you my first Camellia flower? Well, the tree is looking beautiful now.

Oh and I dug up and separated one clump of agapanthas. I ended up with about 30 plants and, in the interests of not having my arms completely fall off, left the clump in the backyard that is about 4 times the size for next weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heart-Attack In Waiting

Posted by MANDI at 8:32 PM 3 comments
After last week's healthy muffin recipe took us on a decidedly un-RDM-like twist, the cake I made today brings us right back to the heart-attack inducing, artery clogging, diabetic coma kind of recipes I can't go past. I saw this Snickerdoodle Cake over at Cooking is Medicine this morning, right smack bang in the middle of looking for something that Offspring #2 and I could bake today. It fill the bill nicely and, after a quick run to the deli after I realised I didn't have enough cinnamon, we got straight onto it. I messed up a few steps, in completely different ways to how Claire messed them up so I think it's fair to say this is a fairly forgiving recipe that turns out great whether you follow it properly or not. Mine did take longer to cook that the suggested time, closer to an hour and quarter.

This is seriously, deliciously unhealthy. Please, please, please don't make it every week. Or if you do you should probably increase your health insurance. But... as a once-in-a-while, take-a-plate-to-something, kind of cake it's a winner.

Hubby thought it was fab though upon first taste he did wonder how I'd managed to get the flour to hold all that sugar together!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Surprisingly Nice

Posted by MANDI at 8:57 PM 6 comments
If you've read my blog at any length (or know me in real life!) you'll be aware that I have a very sweet tooth and that healthy food isn't all that high on my must-eat list. Oh, I don't eat too badly and I really do work hard to ensure our meals are balanced and we eat a good range of foods. But... when it comes to the cakes, cookies and other sweet treats I bake I don't tend to make a huge deal of focusing on 'healthy' options. Which is why the recipe I tried today comes as such a surprise.

I found the link for these Strawberry and Honey Muffins on Twitter and, with all the ingredients on hand, decided to give them a go. I 'un-healthied' them a little by using regular full-fat cows milk instead of the soy milk that was listed as well as the extra virgin light olive I had in the cupboard rather than rushing out to buy yet another type of oil to store in the pantry but I did stick to the rest of the ingredients.

Look, by my standards they were disgustingly healthy but... they taste great. They have a really nice sweetness from the fruit and honey without being laden with butter and sugar. Offspring #1 and I enjoyed one for afternoon tea. He was very impressed and has requested another for his lunchbox.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Baby's A Big Girl Now!

Posted by MANDI at 8:22 PM 5 comments
Remember this gorgeous little creature?

Well she's gone and grown up. I'm not sure when it happened. I'm positive that she still looked like that just last week. Then yesterday she went and turned four. Yes. Four-years-old!

To say she's gorgeous and (along with her big brother) the absolute light of our lives would be a complete understatement. She's funny, inquisitive, sunny and, according to her besotted Daddy, cute, cute and cute. She loves to help me 'do jobs', adores helping her Dad in the yard especially if it involves her gumboots, dirt and some garden tools and she waits patiently all day to collect her big brother from school only to pick a fight with him before we even reach the carpark. She loves her babies, doing puzzles, drawing and colouring, jumping on the trampoline, riding her bike and cuddles. She hates being left behind, being told no, cleaning her room and green beans.

We had a few of her little friends, along with their families, around for afternoon tea on Saturday afternoon for a birthday celebration and what would an afternoon tea party be without...

Some sweet little Marshmallow Teacups

Fairy Bread, with fairy sprinkles

Tiny little Baby Cupcakes

Party bags for the guests

and Birthday Cake with pretty flower candles


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