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.

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