Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bathtime Battles

Posted by MANDI at 8:18 PM 1 comments
School starts back tomorrow so when I sent the kids off for their bath I told them it was wash-hair night (it's been a bit scatty through the holidays - kind of when we notice they're heads smell, or the hair stands straight up) and that they didn't have a whole lot of time before bed.
Well that was like raising a red rag to a bull. Could they have gone any slower? Probably but I'm not sure how.
Several minutes after they'd got into the bath I called out to see if they were washed...
Me (from the kitchen): Are you washed yet?
Them (in the bathroom): WHAT???
Me (sighing and heading to the bathroom): Are you washed yet?
Them: Yes.
Me: With soap?
Them: Soap???? Um.... (casting their heads about wildly looking for the soap)... yes.
Me: Show me your feet.
They duly lift their feet out of the bath-water. Said feet are filthy. Still.
Them (staring in amazement at those same feet): Oh... maybe we didn't wash our feet yet?? (yes, they had a question mark at the end of the sentence).
Me (not so calmly handing them the soap): I'll be back in two minutes to wash your hair.
Them: Is it wash-hair night? Why?
Then my head exploded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Almost A Curry Convert

Posted by MANDI at 8:19 PM 2 comments
So long as the curry in question is fairly mild, that is!

As I mentioned in a previous post I found a recipe for Chicken Korma that I felt confident I could both make and eat. I was also hopeful that it would be mild enough that the kids would enjoy it and I knew that Hubby-who-never-gets-curry-because-his-wife-doesn't-like-it would be over the moon. I did find the recipe a little difficult to follow at times - it was a bit all over the place and I needed to read and re-read it to make sense of it. That could have been my lack of curry-making experience or it might have been the recipe book although I don't usually have a problem with Jamie Oliver recipes. I've changed a few bits and pieces to reflect either what I did or to make it a little easier to follow.

This was a resounding success. Once the recipe issues were dealt with it was easy to put together, easy to serve and everyone loved it. Offspring #1 was the first to ask for seconds but Hubby followed fairly quickly. Miss Fussy ate what she was given (she was on a promise of ice-cream) but didn't want more, though did concede that it was pretty good and she'd probably eat it again. Mostly because, "I like rice, Mummy." That's a good thing because the leftovers are in the freezer and when they're gone I'll definitely be making it again!

Chicken Korma
from Jamie's Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4-6
800g skinless and boneless chicken thighs
1 large onion
optional: 1 fresh green chilli (umm... not up for that challenge just yet)
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
a small bunch of fresh coriander
400g tin chickpeas
vegetable oil
a knob of butter
1/2 of a 290g jar of Patak's korma curry paste
400ml tin coconut milk
small handful of flaked almonds, plus extra for serving
2 heaped tablespoons desiccated coconut
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g natural yoghurt (a small tub would do fine)
1 lemon (left it out)

To prepare your curry
Cut the chicken into approximately 3cm pieces.
Peel, halve and finely slice your onion.
Halve, deseed and finely slice the chilli if you're using it.
Peel and finely chop the ginger.
Pick the coriander leaves and finely chop the stalks.
Drain the chickpeas.

To make your curry
Put a large casserole-type pan on a high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil (what's a lug anyway? I added a couple of tablespoons worth). Put the chicken thighs into the pan and stir around until lightly browned.
Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
Put butter, onion, chilli, ginger and coriander stalks into pan. Stir it around the pan so it doesn't catch and cook for about 10 minutes until it has turned evenly golden, then cook for another 10 minutes. Add the korma curry paste, coconut milk, the flaked almonds, drained chickpeas, desiccated coconut and return the chicken to the pan. Add half a tin of water and stir.
Bring to the boil, then turn the head down and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on.
Check the curry regularly to make sure it's not drying out and add extra water if needed.
When the chicken is tender and cooked, taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve your curry
Jamie suggests serving it with any of his fluffy rice recipes - I cooked mine in my Tupperware rice cooker and it worked a treat.
Add a few spoonfuls of natural yoghurt and sprinkle over the rest of the flaked almonds. Scatter the coriander leaved over the top and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best BBQ'ed Chicken. Ever.

Posted by MANDI at 8:26 PM 3 comments

Big statement, I know. But seriously this chicken recipe for the bbq is delicious. It's dead easy to make, hubby does the cooking and everyone raves about the end result. It's a win-win situation! I have made one change to the recipe. The original calls for wholegrain mustard but I used Dijon by mistake the first time I made this and haven't looked back. It gives the dish a lovely smooth finish and can't be beaten.

I know I've made a big deal on here about how much I hate chicken thighs but I've come to a new appreciation of them. I still don't like them when they're served up as an un-flavoured, plainly cooked piece of meat. But I have discovered the fuller flavour that can be fabulous in pasta dishes and totally love that the fattier cut means they are just about impossible to overcook. Despite my allergy issues I do put the lemon juice in - it kinda needs it - but I'm not an idiot and I don't chance this unless I'm in tip-top shape and haven't been near anything citrus-like for awhile.

We've had this dish three or four times since I discovered it - the kids scoff it down, Hubby and I love it and dinner guests have been mighty impressed. This one's up in the top 10!

Herb and Mustard Barbecued Chicken

from Good Taste magazine, December 2009

80g (1/3 cup) Maille Dijon Mustard
60ml (1/4) cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
8 chicken thigh fillets, halved
1. Combine the mustard and lemon juice in a large glass or ceramic dish. Add the oil and rosemary and stir to combine. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours to marinate.
2. Preheat a barbecue grill or chargrill on medium-high. Cook the chicken for 7 minutes each side or until cooked through.
3. Arrange on a serving platter and serve with mixed salad.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More Banana Bread

Posted by MANDI at 5:40 PM 4 comments
In much the same way as my collection of choc-chip cookie recipes got totally out of hand for a while, so too has my banana bread collection. But... I couldn't resist just one more which is why I gave this one a try. And boy, am I glad I did. This little treasure gives my regular favourite a run for it's money! It's really good served at room temp but serve it warm from the oven with yummy melty butter on it and it is divinely awesome!

I didn't have any mixed spice so turned to my favourite research tool - Google - to find out what was in it and bodged together something similar. I used a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and it worked fine. Oh, and the honeycomb palaver? I gave that a miss.

Banana & Honey Loaf
from recipes+ magazine, September 2009

1/3 cup clear honey
100g butter, chopped
1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas will do it)
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
3/4 cup white self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
butter and honeycomb to serve

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line a 19x9cm (base measurement) loaf pan with baking paper, extending paper at long sides for handles.
2. Combine honey and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted.
3. Combine banana and sugar in a large bowl; stir in egg, milk and honey mixture. Stir in sifted flours and spice.
4. Spoon mixture into prepared pan; smooth surface. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted at centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; turn out onto a wire rack. Slice loaf; serve warm, topped with butter and honeycomb.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Books and Movies and Stuff

Posted by MANDI at 1:58 PM 4 comments
I'll get to the book bit in a minute but before that... I saw the new George Clooney movie last night. Let me be completely and utterly up-front about my deep and abiding love for George before we go any further! George, if you ever stumble across my blog please know that I adore you. Hubby is aware of this and appears to be fine with it. In fact he says if you land your helicopter in the back yard and beg me to run away with you he'll completely understand and let me go if it makes me happy. He's good like that.

So anyway. The movie was Up In The Air and I loved it. I thought the casting was great - George is, of course, wonderful as Ryan Bingham - self absorbed, cynical and emotionally detached from everyone. Vera Farmiga is wonderful as the love interest who shares Ryan's business traveller lifestyle and Anna Kendrick just about steals the show as Natalie, the young efficiency expert who is threatening Ryan's way of life. The scene with Natalie and Farmiga's Alex discussing what they look for in a man is perfect, and achingly truthful for two business women of different ages. Also some of Natalie's lines in it are priceless - you'll know them when you hear them. While there are laughs along the way this is quite a dark film dealing with large-scale company layoffs and a man who finds himself reassessing his way of life. The twist, when it comes, wasn't entirely unexpected but still twisty enough to be satisfying. I loved the ending but won't give it away here. Others might not find it entirely satisfying but, for me, it was perfect.

And onto the book part of the post. I've read a couple this week but the one I liked was a cookbook. I missed Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Ministry of Food when it was first released but found it at the library last week. What a fantastic book! I've read it though cover-to-cover and have found a bundle of things to try. Sometime this week I'll be attempting the Chicken Korma Curry - I'm not a big curry person but this sounds like something I can both manage to cook and might enjoy eating.

A book I read a while ago and have recommended to a bunch of people is Lisa Genova's Still Alice. It's about a 50 year old academic who, after realising she is suffering from memory problems, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. It's written in third person narrative but from Alice's perspective so as the disease progresses the language used changes to reflect this. I did find it a little slow at the beginning but once I was in I was hooked. It's beautifully written and really touching. I cried my way through the last couple of chapters but them again, I'm a wuss.

So how's your reading list going? Are you keeping track? It doesn't matter how much you're reading, whether they're high-faluting, arty-farty or airport trash, if you finish them in a day or take a month to read them, just keep reading. What have you liked lately? Any authors you've discovered and enjoyed? Share please. I'm in need of more reading material.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Boy...

Posted by MANDI at 8:48 AM 1 comments

and some-one else's dog!

A girlfriend called through over the weekend and she had her two little Jack Russells with her - Zorro and Indi. They were lovely little dogs, especially considering they were Jackies who aren't generally known for their um.... obedience and quiet natures LOL. These two were gorgeous, beautifully obedient and gentle with the kids. Both kids fell totally in love with them but Offspring #1 was especially enamoured. He loved when one dog climbed up for a cuddle, was thrilled when she lay down and napped on his lap and stoked beyond belief when the other dog climbed up for cuddles too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baking With The Kids

Posted by MANDI at 3:21 PM 4 comments
I spent hours scrubbing my house on Thursday. Hours! Then Friday morning the kids asked if we could do some baking and I was so pleased with my nice clean house that, dolt that I am, I said yes. A short time later we had flour and sugar everywhere. And that was well before we got to the icing. I'm still scraping that up off the bench.

But they had fun which was, after all, the whole point of the exercise. These little cut-out cookies were simple and easy. I was worried they wouldn't roll out very well because despite the amount of time the dough was in the fridge it stayed fairly soft but, so long as it wasn't rolled out too thinly it was fine. If you do make them be sure to keep an eye on them - they go from not-quite-cooked to blackened-and-smoking in the blink of an eye.

We used a variety of sprinkles to top the icing. I pretty much gave the kids free slather over whatever I had open.

Sprinkle Biscuits
from Australian Table, April 2008

125g margarine, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/12 cups plain flour, sifted
3/4 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup hot water
food colouring
assorted sprinkles, to decorate

1. Using an electric mixer, beat margarine and caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add flour and, using hands, press mixture together to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes, until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
3. Roll dough between two sheets of baking paper to a 5 mm thickness. Cut into shapes using a biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on prepared tray. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
4. Mix together icing sugar and hot water until smooth. Add a few drops of food colouring and stir until well combined. Dip one side of each biscuit into icing, holding over bowl to allow excess icing to drip off. Decorate with sprinkles.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Books Galore!

Posted by MANDI at 9:50 AM 13 comments
If you know me in real life you'll know how much I love to read. I'll read pretty much anything though chick-lit and thriller/mysteries are probably my favourite genres at the moment. I love a well-written chick-lit book: something with likeable characters, that makes me laugh out loud at the dialogue, smile with satisfaction at the turn of events and shed a tear or two (ok, occasionally sob my head off) at the inevitable sad stuff. There's nothing worse than reading a book where you don't actually like the main characters all that much. And yes, it happens more than you'd think. I also love a well-written thriller, one that keeps me guessing and frightens the daylights out of me at the same time. I hate working out who the killer is on page 12 and having to read another 200-odd pages to be proved right. It's okay to have a hunch, and even better to change your mind about who the villain might be three or four times through the story, but it's just plain annoying when it's so completely obvious right from the get-go.
Maggie Alderson, who incidentally is one of my favourite chick-lit authors - heck, she's just one of my favourite authors all round, recently tweeted that she was going to keep a list of all the books she reads in 2010. I tweeted back asking if she planned to count re-reads or if they had to all be new reads and... she replied to me. OMG. I just about fell of my chair. My brushes with famous people are few and far between and this one ranks right up there! Anyway, she said she was planning to count re-reads but would mark them accordingly. So... I've started my own list. It's down a ways on the side bar and I'll add to as I read more. I don't have a goal number or anything like that, I'm just interested to see the volume I read (I know it's generally what other people term 'a lot') and the kind of stuff I read.
My rules for my list?
- Pretty much everything I read will be added. Except crappy little romance novels. Like Mills&Boon. Because it's kind of embarrassing to admit that, yes, I do read them and, because they take me about 45 minutes to read and are fluffy and light I particularly like them when life is heavy and I need to chill out a bit. But I will include the heftier historical romance-y ones that I'm quite enjoying at the moment. By the end of the year you'll no doubt be horrified by the amount of utter crap that I read. And enjoy.
- re-reads will be marked with an * and there will be re-reads. There are several books that I read once every year. You'll see them as time goes on. There are already a couple on there.
- I won't include books I don't finish. Although for me to not finish a book is pretty rare. It's more common that I'll get to the end and then exclaim, "That was the worst book I ever read." And then hubby questions why I bothered finishing it and I tell him I need to know how it ended and he shakes his head and wanders off muttering about mad women. And yes, I am one of those annoying people who check the last page before reaching the end of the book. Can't help it, won't apologise for it.
- I'll only include cookbooks if I read them sort-of properly. Not if I just skim through and look at the pictures. There's one coming up.
- If I love a book I'm going to blog about it. Again,there's one coming up. If you love a book I'd really like you tell me about it. At least recommend it to me so I can check it out.
So, any thoughts? Anything you want to suggest for my rules? Any books you want to recommend? I'd love to hear what you think. And if you want to play along, let me know.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sexed Up Salad

Posted by MANDI at 8:46 PM 3 comments
I had this deliciously different salad well over a year ago when a friend brought it to share one night. I begged for the recipe and then didn't get around to making it until Christmas where it went down an absolute treat (well, except for with my brother. But I made a very boring, very plain salad for him. Hi little brother!!).

We had it again last week when we caught up with some old friends from a previous life and one of the girls brought this along to the bbq lunch. As I'd planned a bbq for tonight's dinner, and was getting a little bit bored with regular garden salads, I thought I'd throw together a mini-version of this so that Hubby and I had something a bit special to enjoy. Again... yum! At Christmas I did the pumpkin in wedges and laid the salad out on a large platter and tonight I cut it into cubes of about an inch square and served the salad tossed in a bowl. Both worked a treat but I think I prefer the bowl version more.

Pumpkin and Spinach Salad

600g pumpkin - peeled and cut into wedges/slice or cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 packet baby spinach (150g)
1 packet pine nuts, toasted. (I didn't have pine nuts today and used toasted pumpkin seeds instead - they were just as good)
200g fetta, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey - extra
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
Heat oven to 220C. line baking trays with baking paper. Place pumpkin in a large bowl and coat with oil and honey, season with salt and pepper and gently toss. Place in a single layer on baking tray and bake turning once during cooking for approximately 25 minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven and cool.
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Dress salad just prior to serving.
Put salad together with pumpkin, spinach, fetta and pine nuts. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back At It

Posted by MANDI at 1:34 PM 2 comments
All my scrapbooking stuff has been sitting idle for so long and, while I've missed it and wanted to get back at it, I haven't been quite motivated enough. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much while we were in Red Dirt Central was because of the group I scrapped with each week. The social side was as much fun as the creative side and it was great to have a few people ( or some weeks more like 20 people) to seek inspiration from, share ideas with and learn new techniques with.

I tried to get into a few scrapbooking groups down here but there was always a but. But... the night they met didn't work for me. But... they weren't very welcoming to newcomers and it wasn't really much fun being there. And so on.

Anyway, I was chatting with one of my neighbours recently and discovered that she had some scrapbooking stuff and wanted to make a start but wasn't really sure what to do next. A brief conversation later and... wa-lah. We have ourselves a scrapbooking session each Tuesday night at my place. A couple of neighbours wander over just after my kids go to bed and we spend the next few hours creating, trading gossip and drinking coffee (or in my case, tea). Altogether, a delightful way to pass a few hours and get some 'work' done at the same time.

Here's last night's effort. The colours didn't come out too well in the photo but they're much brighter and prettier in real life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Finished Product

Posted by MANDI at 8:27 PM 4 comments
This will be the last post on the new tv unit. I promise!

It's all together and in place, everything has been relocated (and I still have quite a bit of space to fill - insert evil laugh here!) and the old tv cabinet has been removed to the carport while Hubby decides what to do with it. I'm not entirely sure I made the right choice colour-wise. Maybe I should have gone with the black? Oh well, it's too late now. I do love that there's heaps of space, all the cords that used to hang down all over the place are hidden away neatly and this piece is actually slimmer than the old one so we've gained a weeny little bit of extra space in the living area. This last one is actually very important when you realise how small the space in my house really is.

So.... here are the pics. They're a bit um... rubbish, partly because I waited until it was dark to take the pics and the lighting wasn't great and partly because my batteries were on their last legs.
Number 1 - Hubby putting it all together last week.

Number 2 - Doors, doors and more doors!

Number 3 - The finished product. We're waiting on another sliding door to cover the drawers down the right hand side and some glass shelves for the top outside sections - they should be in stock in a couple of weeks. We'll also pick up some door handles then because we were a bit dopey and forgot about them.

Number 4 - And here it is with the lights inside the cabinets on.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wishful Thinking

Posted by MANDI at 8:45 PM 0 comments
My whole house looks like the living room threw up across it at the moment. Whoever tells you that Ikea furniture is easy to put together is lying. And probably doesn't have a husband who is sick as a dog but making a Herculean effort to get the damn thing looking like what it's supposed to. I had high hopes that by now we'd be snuggled up on the couch watching Friday night tv and sneaking admiring glances at the cabinets during the ad-breaks. Instead I'm following orders, listening to him swear under his breath and wincing in sympathy each time he tries to cough up a lung. Hubby has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow morning and then we're heading out for the day to catch up with some old friends so that pretty much wipes out Saturday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that by Sunday afternoon things will be a little more settled both living room-wise and Hubby being a wee bit more healthy-wise.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Furniture Shopping. Day TWO.

Posted by MANDI at 8:27 PM 3 comments
Yes, we headed back to Ikea today but along the way we checked out a few more stores. I found one gorgeous huge buffet/hutch kinda thing that I seriously loved. Only problem is that I need to seriously get a job (more on that in another post) to save up for it! But, as I strive to maintain a positive outlook, it should be noted that out of approximately 3,492 pieces we saw I found ONE that I liked for the dining area.
We did get a modular-type series of boxes thing from Ikea to be the entertainment unit (ie hold the tv, dvd player, video player, play-station, etc, etc, etc and all the associated stuff that goes with them). I do really like it, not least because it has lovely clean lines, is white and has enough shelves, doors, drawers and general space to house all our collected crap. Judging by Hubby's somewhat colourful language as he's putting it all together I'm thinking he's a little bit less in the 'loving it' zone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Woe! My Aching Feet

Posted by MANDI at 8:31 PM 0 comments
We have traipsed from one end of the known world to just about the other in search of furniture today. All with both kids in tow! We started out at Ikea - where we found exactly what we wanted - but decided to have a bit more of a look around. We hadn't looked at proper 'pieces of furniture' (ie not in a flat-pack!) for ages, not since last time we couldn't find what we were after. Hubby convinced me to go looking so we looked and looked and looked. And found nothing and nothing and nothing. But we did have fun laughing at some spectacularly horrible pieces. And were horrified at some of the shoddy work that was being passed off at ridiculously high prices.
So guess where we're off to tomorrow? Yep, the hour plus drive back to Ikea to get what we found first thing this morning. This time tomorrow night we'll be knee-deep in flat-packs, glass doors and allen keys.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Out Of Practice

Posted by MANDI at 9:32 PM 0 comments
I made these really simple and completely scrummy Lamb Meatball Baguettes for dinner a couple of weeks ago. They were seriously delicious and, even though I wasn't blogging at the time, I snapped off a couple of shots of the finished product. Hubby was so impressed he went back for seconds, as did Offspring #1.

Now do you think I can find the darn recipe? The answer to that would be a big fat NO! And it's the sauce that makes this totally fab and I totally can't remember what went into it. I guess I'll have to have a proper look tomorrow and see what I can turn up. Meanwhile, if any of you know which magazine it came from I'd sure appreciate a hint or two.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Oh Look. Photos of My Kids. Again.

Posted by MANDI at 9:06 PM 3 comments
Just in case you forgot what they looked like while I was away...

We convinced the Daddy of the house to put the pool up when the temperatures hit the high 30's for several days in a row. Actually, I wanted him to go with us to the Lake for a picnic and a swim and he didn't want to so figured putting up the pool would shut me up but the first explanation sounds nicer. Anyway... the kids have had a ball playing in the pool and now, upon rising from their beds at Bloody-Early O'clock each and every morning, their first question is not about breakfast but what time they will be allowed to swim.

It's only a little pool so to call what they do swimming would be a fairly generous description but they splash and play and bash each other with the pool toys and generally exhaust themselves enough that I can make them go to bed half an hour before their actual bedtime. During school holidays.
Yeah, I know. Pure genius.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Site Under Construction

Posted by MANDI at 9:40 AM 0 comments
New Year. New Look.

Come back soon and see what I finally decide on!

Oh... and Happy New Year!

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