Saturday, August 29, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 8:49 PM 19 comments
It's my third blogiversary today AND this is my 500th post! Who woulda thunk it?
Three years ago we'd not long moved to Red Dirt Central, my big kid had just turned four, my baby was about to turn one and I'd decided to start a blog so that family and friends could keep up with what we were doing. I figured I'd share news of our life in the red dirt along with photos and updates on kids and, in the process, hopefully feel like we weren't quite so far away from everyone. In the next three years I made some great friends through the blogging world, baked more new recipes than I ever thought I would and ended up with people as far away as Italy, Texas and Germany reading about my corner of the world. We also moved back home to the Perth hills and, while I mislaid the blogging mojo for a while, I kept blogging.
I thought I'd share some of my favourite posts from over the past three years.
One of my favourite places and definitely one of my all-time favourite holidays was Exmouth in October, 2007. And looking back at some of the dumb things I've done, but blogged about anyway, has made me giggle. I've also enjoyed looking back and and seeing how much the kids have changed and grown as well as being reminded about some of our not-so-traditional family traditions. I still love this post about Offspring #1's artwork and his attempts to explain it to me.
I also love this post from when I did a work trip from Red Dirt Central to Sydney. To say I was terrified and freaking out would be an understatement and realising, once I was well into the trip, that I could do it on my own was an amazing feeling.
And of course, finding some truly fabulous recipes and sharing them with you has been one of the highlights for me.
Thanks for keeping me company and for reading. Would you do something for me? To help me celebrate my milestone? Please, please leave a comment. Just a quick hello would really make my day. You can be anonymous if you want but I'd love to know you're here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Going Bananas

Posted by MANDI at 8:47 PM 5 comments
I scored a huge bag of bananas for $2 while I was doing the grocery shopping yesterday. There was at least a couple of kilograms of lovely yellow bananas - I have no idea why they were going out cheap and, frankly, I don't care. Hubby and the kids go through bananas faster than I keep up but this was a heap of them, even by our standards, so I got busy searching out some recipes. Last night we settled for plain old banana splits - nothing fancy mind you, just banana split lengthways and some ice-cream, today I made our favourite banana bread and tonight I tried a new banana dessert.

This recipe was easy, fabulous and a huge hit. Even Offspring #2, who is fussy at the best of times and prefers her ice-cream unmarred by other sweet things, succumbed and declared it to be "very deee-lish-us". I doubled the recipe to make four one-cup puddings and realised, too late, that the servings were going to be far too big. Next time (yes, there will be a next time!) I'll make the recipe as is but put them into half-cup ramekins.

Banana Maple Puddings
from No Time To Cook by Donna Hay

2 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2/3 cup mashed banana
50g butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup self raising flour
thick cream, to serve (we added ice-cream too)
extra maple syrup, to serve

Preheat oven to 170C. Place the sugar, maple syrup, banana, butter, egg and flour into a small bowl and mix until combined. Spoon mixture into 2 greased 1-cup (250ml) capacity ramekins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Serve puddings warm with a dollop of thick cream and extra maple syrup.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Catching Up With Friends

Posted by MANDI at 9:49 PM 1 comments
Trish, over at Light. Sweet. Crude. has moved house. Her new blog - Eat, Shoot, Blog - is lovely. It's clean and pretty and all nice and new. She's moved all her old stuff over there and added lots of new bits and pieces but essentially it's the same Trish. Great writing, gorgeous photos and enough funny to make me snort hot tea out of my nose. Often.
Pop round for a visit soon. I'm sure she'd love to see you.

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Posted by MANDI at 8:40 PM 1 comments
Take photos of them!

These beauties are on the lemon tree down the back of the yard. They are a gorgeously bright yellow with thick waxy peel and smell divine. Darn shame I'm allergic to them and this is about as close as I'm willing to get.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 8:19 PM 1 comments
What a hectic weekend! We had a full-on weekend of football for Offspring #1 with his normal Auskick session for a couple of hours yesterday and then the wind-up, presentations, etc, for a couple more hours this morning. It was freezing cold at the rec grounds - not so bad when the sun was out but once the wind picked up it got positively arctic. We also had a birthday party for a small friend of Offspring #2 yesterday afternoon which both kids thoroughly enjoyed. By the time we got home today, after stopping off to pick up some vegies on way back from footy, both kids were plum tuckered out. They both spent the afternoon lazing about, alternately playing on the playstation and watching DVD's or hanging out with their Dad in the shed. Hubby and I were allowed no such luxury and had just a few short hours to get an entire weekend's worth of work done around the house and yard.

I managed to get the house mostly cleaned with just the mopping left to do and I'll tackle that tomorrow while the boys are at work and school. I also got most of the washing done and it's drying in front of the fire as I'm typing this. Of course I had baking to do. More cheesymite scrolls had been requested (that should read DEMANDED!) so I hopped on and got them made for lunches as well as baking some cookies. Donna made these when we visited her earlier in the year and they were great so I'm glad I finally got around to making them. They're still great and totally worth trying. I didn't have any choc chips so I chopped up some chocolate I had in the pantry and used that instead. The honey and the sultanas made them healthy but the chocolate made them yummy!

Oat and Raisin Choc-Chip Cookies

Saturday, August 22, 2009

There Goes My "Best Mum" Award, #351

Posted by MANDI at 10:09 AM 5 comments
Yesterday morning Offspring #1 lost another tooth. It's his fourth one and, at last, the drama surrounding the general loss of teeth thing seems to be dying down. This time round he left it alone until it was good and wobbly then wiggled and wobbled it with all his might until the darn thing came out. He announced the news to the household and grabbed a cup, added the tooth and some water, and set it on his bookcase for the Tooth Fairy's impending visit. Hubby and I both made a mental note to remember the visit and then we all got on with the day.
I don't need to go into detail do I? Let's just say that halfway through breakfast this morning #1 remembered his lost tooth and raced down to his room. The sad wail that followed was truly worthy of an acting award. Of course some quick thinking saved the day - the Tooth Fairy is particularly busy on the weekends so sometimes she can't quite get to all the kids, especially as Perth is sooooooo far away from anywhere else, but the kids she missed last night go to the top of tonight's list so he's guaranteed a visit tonight. He checked that it would be 'impossible for her to forget' and was reassured that this was indeed the truth and all is well with the world.
Now I'm going to put the money for the visit in a place I can't possibly miss it so I won't forget. Again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brotherly Love

Posted by MANDI at 5:42 PM 2 comments
Around 5pm I did the usual "Daddy will be home soon, let's tidy up the house so it's nice and neat for when he gets here" call. Old-fashioned though it may be, appealing to the kids desire to please their Dad is a far more successful way of getting them to clean up their mess than stomping about and threatening to throw out all their toys. Who knew?
Anyway, they were tidying up fairly well and Offspring #1 was being very helpful. #2's usual M.O. is to grab a handful of toys, trot up to her room and launch them in from the doorway. Her big brother was actively encouraging her to actually put them away and everything was going along rather nicely. They reported back that they'd finished and began playing again when I spotted the tea-set #2 and her 'babies' had been playing with earlier and asked for that to be put away too. #2 sighed dramatically, pouted those beautiful Angelina Jolie-esque lips of hers and flounced off down the hall carting all she could carry. Big brother and I listened as her load was dropped at the doorway and bounced and clattered as it fell to the floor. He sighed, pouted his not-hardly-at-all lips and headed down the hall to sort her out.
I waited for the squabbling to start but was instead reduced to giggles when I heard him declare, "Well! This room is a disgrace!" Then he dug in and helped her clean it up. What a hero.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

For Iris

Posted by MANDI at 8:45 PM 6 comments
In case you're new to my blog Iris is one of my favourite blogging buddies. She lives in Germany where, apparently they just don't make pies. I can't imagine a life without pie. Okay, I'm not a huge fan of the Aussie meat pie (very un-Australian, I know!) but I love a juicy delicious fruit pie and what better variety than apple?

Iris has told me of her lack of pie dishes, her lack of a 'good' pastry recipe and in general the lack of pie in her life. So this pie is just for her. It doesn't need a pie dish, the pastry is easy and the end result is delicious. Iris, I hope you like this.

I mished and mashed a couple of different recipes together but they all came from the same book - Donna Hay's Simple Essentials, fruit.

Rustic Apple Pie

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
2 cups (300g) plain flour
3 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
150g cold butter, chopped
2-3 teaspoons iced water

Process the flour, sugar and butter in a a food processor until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a smooth dough and process until just combined. Knead the dough lightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface or between sheets of non-stick baking paper until 2-3 mm (1/8 inch) thick.

Apple Filling
6 green apples, peeled, cored and halved. Cut each half into four slices.
1 tablespoon water
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the apples and water in a deep frying pan over medium heat. cover and simmer, shaking the pan occasionally for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool . Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon.

To assemble the pie
Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll the pastry into a circle about 30cm round on a lightly floured surface, or between sheets of non-stick paper. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons almond or hazelnut meal in the middle 20cm (or so) circle. Pile the apples (drain them if you need to) into the middle of the pastry over the almond meal then fold the sides of the pastry up to partially enclose over the apples. Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Posted by MANDI at 8:14 PM 4 comments
We've had a rough old time of it with Offspring #2 this week. Her asthma (or is it croup?) has played up terribly and we had a couple of scary nights. She now has a streaming head cold and has been one miserable little chicken. We had an appointment scheduled with the specialist who has been treating her for Wednesday so he finally got to see when she's actually sick instead of having to rely on my version of what happens. He was really scratching his head to sort her out this time - you might remember that he'd tested her for a whole bunch of allergies and, upon her non-reaction to any of them, had declared that it wasn't asthma but recurrent croup. This time he got to hear the horrible cough for himself and decided it was an 'asthma cough'. He freely admitted that he didn't think it could be asthma but that 'that cough' was indeed an asthma cough.
So... instead of reducing her meds, as per the original plan, he has increased them. And he wants to see her again next week to check how she's responding to the changes.
I'd just like a decent night's sleep.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Tonight

Posted by MANDI at 8:02 PM 1 comments
I had grand plans to tell you all about a cooking demonstration I attended yesterday but... Offspring #2 had a huge asthma / croup attack last night that went on and on and on. As a result none of us got a great deal of sleep and, after I finally took her to bed with me and sent Hubby off to sleep in her pretty-in-pink bed, I still didn't get much sleep because I was listening to her laboured breathing for most of what was left of the night.
So, even though it's just gone 8pm I'm heading off to bed. I'm going to try and catch up on a little bit of the sleep I missed because I have a feeling that tonight isn't going to be a whole lot better.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Making New Friends

Posted by MANDI at 8:58 PM 2 comments
Offspring #2 arrived home from daycare on Wednesday and, after rummaging about in her backpack, handed me an envelope. "This is for you," she announced. "It's from K's Mum. K is my friend at school and her mum sent you a letter!"
I took it from her somewhat dubiously. Bear in mind that I don't get to meet the daycare Mums. We all drop our kids off at different times and, while I know some of the kids by sight, I generally wouldn't have a clue who the mums are. From time to time she has received birthday party invites from various kids at daycare and besides not knowing the parents, I also tend to think that birthday parties for two, three and four year-olds (as the kids she mixes with at daycare are) are for family and close friends rather than random kids from daycare. Generally I tell #2 it's a picture for her from her friend and then call the parents to politely decline the invite.
To my surprise there was a note for me in the envelope and it was indeed from K's Mum. She introduced herself and went on to explain that K thought #2 was wonderful and kept badgering her Mum to invite us over so she and #2 could play. K's Mum, Mel, provided her phone number and asked me to call her if I was interested in arranging a play-date. I took a deep breath, told myself to act like a grown up and made the phone call.
Long story short. I called and Mel was just lovely on the phone. She seemed so pleased that I'd rung and we arranged a play-date for that afternoon. #2 was just about bursting with the excitement of having K come to play so when the appointed time rolled around it was something of a relief to have them pull up in the drive-way. K is the same age as #2, in fact their birthdays are barely two weeks apart, and she is so sweet. Mel is just as lovely in person as she was on the phone and we seem to have lots in common. The girls played together beautifully - they played cooking at #2's toy kitchen, they ran around the yard, played on the swings and took very good care of all the 'babies'. When it was time for them to go neither K nor #2 were particularly happy but they shared a big good-bye hug and promised they would see each other at school (ie daycare). Mel and I also agreed that we would organise another play-date soon and #2 and I are both looking forward to it.
The funniest bit? K's family live behind us and down one. Our back corner lines up with theirs. I can see two little girls hanging out at the back corner just about as soon as they work it out. And, as the girls will be going to 'big' school together before too long I'm kind of guessing there might be a step-ladder across the corner fence with two little girls, grown a bit bigger, running between houses in the years to come. Yep, that's the kind of thing that happens up here in the hills.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Lunchbox Hit

Posted by MANDI at 7:42 PM 1 comments
This one was pathetically, ridiculously simple. I'm not even sure it has much in the way of nutritional content but Offspring #1 liked it. Even better, he ate it and his lunchbox came home empty! Which meant that, regardless of the questionable nutrition, he at least had some food in his tummy to power his brain and, hopefully, he learnt something this afternoon.

These twists will last a couple of days in an airtight container so they won't solve a week of lunches but they'll sort out at least a day or two rather nicely.

Cheese Twists
from The AWW Little Party Books: Fairytale

2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 cup (100g) pizza cheese
1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat oven to 220C. Line oven trays with baking paper
2. Spread one piece of pastry with tomato sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Top with remaining pastry; press down firmly.
3. Cut pastry into 20 strips. Twist strips, place 2 cm apart on trays. Brush with milk.
4. Bake about 10 minutes or until browned lightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Perth Good Food and Wine Show

Posted by MANDI at 8:20 PM 1 comments
Hubby and I went to the Good Food and Wine Show in Perth yesterday. I was sooooooo excited - the kids were with my folks (again! - two dates with hubby in one week!), Hubby had agreed to go with me and, after our couple of years in Red Dirt Central I could finally go to one of my favourite food events. You know how sometimes you look forward to something so much that when it rolls around it's kind of anti-climactic? Yeah...

I was fairly disappointed. I thought the entry price was somwhat steep and, while there were lots of free samples to be had (mostly olive oil or wine) and some free info sessions/demonstrations, I'm not sure you actually got a whole lot of bang for your buck. But rather than dwell on what it wasn't, I'm going to tell you about the stuff we really enjoyed.

We started the day with a session on understanding wine. I'd class myself as a regular wine drinker but that doesn't mean I know a whole lot about it. I know what I like and I tend to stick with those varieties and/or labels and, being the cautious creature I am, don't tend to venture outside my comfort zone. The session was great in that it was geared towards people like me - not complete novices but not a whole lot of knowledge either. I found out why I like the wines I do like and why I don't like some of the others. And I found a new wine I like.

I managed to get the very last ticket to see Gary and George from Masterchef. Hubby occupied himself with some beer tasting and I settled in to watch the demo and hopefully pick up an extra tip or two. It was a fun show and Kate, one of the WA entrants on Masterchef, was their surprise helper.

There was an on-site restaurant serving dishes by the guest chefs. I have to guess that since those chefs were all presenting shows and signing cookbooks they weren't actually cooking the food themselves but we jumped at the chance to try it out. There were set prices for entrees, mains and desserts and each was served with a glass of wine from WA winery Fifth Leg (incidentally, one of my favourite wine labels). Hubby and I opted to share an entree and main and then worked to narrow it down from there. We finally settled on Antipasto, from Alistair McLeod, of Marinated Gympie farm goats cheese topped with pickled beetroot, Field mushroom bruschetta and Seared Haloumi with salsa rossa. It was delicious! The different flavours were spectacular and it was a refreshing change from the tired old sundried tomato, olive and salami antipasto plate. I forgot to take a photo straight away so here's one when we were halfway through!

We had decided to try Gary Mehigan's main but so had just about everyone else in the place and the queue was huge so I jumped ship and chose Tobie Puttock's Veal Osso Bucco. Again, delicious! It was melt-in-your-mouth tender and served on a soft, buttery polenta. The photo is rubbish but you get the idea. I picked up the recipe for this and have already added it to this week's menu plan.

My very favourite find came almost at the end of the day. Kool Cookie Cutters is run by a lovely lady called Mandy who has the most amazing range of cookie cutters you can imagine. That's her on the left.

She stocks about 250 cutters and has access to over 1000 unique designs. Go check out the website here and tell me you don't see something you love. I've picked about 20 that I must have so far! Details of how to order are on the website.


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