Sunday, February 28, 2010

Easy Summer Dinner

Posted by MANDI at 7:40 AM 0 comments
I made this a few weeks ago and it was the perfect easy dinner for a hot summer night. We've been sweltering through a heat-wave for the past few days, 40C+ for several days and hot, hot nights, and this would have been just the thing - if I'd remembered. Doh!

Hubby particularly enjoyed this meal. It was light, refreshing with all the summery flavours through it and filling enough that he felt like he'd been fed. There's nothing worse than a light summer meal that's so light it leaves you hungry! I made a slightly modified version for the kids - minus just about anything with flavour - so they were happy too. The recipe uses a bought cooked chicken but I cooked up some chicken I had in the fridge instead and it worked out great.
Tex-Mex Chicken Salad
from 3 ways with... by Ross Dobson

Mash 1 avocado in a bowl with 125g (1/2 cup) sour cream and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and season well. Put the shredded meat and skin of a barbecued chicken in a bowl with 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges, 2 large tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces, 1 handful pitted black olives, 1 large handful chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and stems, 3 tablespoons jalapeno chillies (in brine) and 3-4 handfuls shredded iceberg lettuce. Toss to combine and top with dollops of the avocado dressing. Serve in warm taco shells.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another New Favourite Book

Posted by MANDI at 8:56 PM 8 comments
This post is going to be a little bit shorter than I'd planned. Offspring #2 decided to smack full-tilt into a door late this afternoon. Much blood, much screaming and and unscheduled trip to the doctor later and she has a nicely split lip, cut gum and bigger lips than even she normally has. Think Angelina Jolie lips with silicon lip injections. Yep, that big. Luckily she didn't need stitches and was sent home with steri-strips holding it all together. My poor little possum is feeling very sad and sorry.
And onto the book... I read Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief this week and fell hopelessly in love with yet another book. I'd go so far as to say it's the best book I've read since The Time Traveller's Wife. And you know how much I loved that one.
The book opens in 1939 Nazi Germany as Liesel, who is to become the book thief, and her younger brother are being taken to live with a foster family. The novel's narrator is Death but rather than being sombre and morbid he is funny, kind and even loving. The story spans the war years and tells of Liesel's life with her foster family, her friends and her love affair with books.
I did find it a bit hard to settle into initially, more to do with the style of the opening chapters than anything else. But once I was in I couldn't put it down and just read and read and read. I loved this book. The descriptions were gorgeous, Liesel's journey was inspirational and Death himself was such an entertaining narrator.
Go. Borrow this book. Buy this book. But most of all just read this book.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bit and Bobs

Posted by MANDI at 9:15 PM 2 comments
Yes, I'm still here and no, you haven't been abandoned. Gee, working three days last week just about did me in. And before you all have a go at me... yes I fully accept that I'm a total wimp. In my defense I did have twelve or so weeks of holidays where I didn't do very much so a week of working, getting kids to school and from school and after school activities, and everywhere else they needed to be, attending parent info sessions for each kid at the school, entertaining, arranging play-dates and whatever else needed to be done left me completely and utterly stuffed!
But I did a bit of cooking and made some tasty new dinners, a seriously fab baked cheesecake and some yummy cookies. Those recipes will be coming along shortly. Or on Thursday, when I'm not working.
I also oversaw the delivery of 16 tons of crushed limestone and now hubby is working very hard making his own limestone block retaining wall and work on the house has begun. There's lots of work to do and it's going to take a long time to get done. A seriously long time. Like pretty much forever. Probably the kids will grow up, move out, get married, have their own kids and we'll finally have an extra bedroom for the grandkids to sleep over. But don't tell hubby I said that. Photos will be forthcoming at each and every exciting moment. You'll be well sick of the reno pictures before I'm sick of the reno's. Although I'm already sick of the dust - it's a little bit like living back in Red Dirt Central with a fine coating of dust over every single surface of the house!
At night when I was too tired to go near the computer for very long (though I did try to do twitter updates so you'd know I was around) I ploughed through some of the books on my bedside table. I went a bit crazy with my requests from the local library and then they all came in pretty much at once. Our library allows you to borrow up to 10 books at a time for three weeks on each card. I used up all of my card and most of Offspring #1's. I was almost pleased when I couldn't get into a couple of the books I'd borrowed simply because it meant I was finished with them quickly and could get onto the next one. I know, I'm an idiot. But I did find a couple that I enjoyed and one that I loved. Loved. LOVED. I'll do a post on that tomorrow.
And when I was having a quiet play on the computer I found a couple of new blogs that I'm loving to bits. I'm going to add them into my sidebar and do proper introductions just as soon as I can (hello Bush Babe!).
I also got my hair done and it's blonder than last time and getting really quite long. The blonde is to hide the white. An intersting side-note - redheads don't tend to go grey, we go pure, sparkling white. Like Tweety-bird's Granny. I figure it'll all blend in together until the white eventually takes over. The long is just because I feel like it. It's kinda my last hurrah before I turn 40. And have white hair.
And I've spent the past week chasing a mouse who has taken up residence in my house. He is driving me insane! He successfully evades traps, seems immune to lavender and bay leaves (mice don't generally like them and they can be a good natural deterrent) and has become quite brave about sticking his head out of little hidey-holes when he thinks we're not watching. I've now stuffed every hole I could find with steel wool and ordered hubby to kill the little bastard. Enough Mrs Nice Mummy, fair means or foul that mouse is going.
Now I'm going to sort school bags, lay out uniforms and generally get things organised for the morning.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Posted by MANDI at 9:46 AM 6 comments
Yay! I've got some work over the next couple of weeks.
After finishing up my last job in December I was on paid holidays until the end of January so technically I wasn't unemployed until just a couple of weeks ago. I've panned to do relief teaching a couple of days each week but of course school has only just gone back so no-one's off sick or out on courses, therefore I haven't had any work. It's exactly as I expected and to tell the truth I haven't minded too much - it was nice to spend the first couple of weeks getting the kids sorted out with school, especially with Offspring #2 starting kindy. But... by yesterday when both kids were at school and all my chores were done by 10.42am I was going a wee bit stir-crazy.
Then this morning's phone call came - would I help out in a slightly sticky situation for 6 or so days? Um.... Yes please!!!
And the money I'll earn will pay for the tree-lopper I've booked, the pest control man, and the 16 tonne of crushed limestone that is being delivered today. Very nice timing indeed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quick, Easy and Fab!

Posted by MANDI at 12:04 PM 1 comments
I just made this totally delicious slice. Yeah it has lemon in it and if I eat more than a bite or two there'll be hell to pay. Or hives that look like I've been whipped with a cat o'nine tails, along with some seriously interesting swelling - oh good point, I should go take my rings off right now!

Anyway, back from being sidetracked, this is soooooo easy, super quick to throw together and tastes fantastic. Go make it. Now.

Passionfruit Slice
from Australian Women's Weekly magazine, February 2010

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
125g butter, melted
Passionfruit Topping
395g can condensed milk
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice (I used 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup passionfruit pulp

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease an 18cm x 28cm slice pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper.
2. Combine the flour, coconut and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the butter; mix well. Press evenly over the base of the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes oruntil browned lightly.
3. Passionfruit topping: Meanwhile, combine the condensed milk, lemon juice and passsionfruit pulp in a medium bowl. Beat with a wood spoon until smooth. Pour passionfruit mixture over the hot base. Bake for a further 15 minutes or until just set. Cool in pan.
4. Serve cut into pieces.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

Posted by MANDI at 1:54 PM 4 comments
Nothing big, just little bits that are making me smile at the moment:
- Offspring #1 seems to have settled into the school year very nicely. He likes his teacher, has organised himself a couple of playdates and is happy to head off to school each morning. It's a proud Mummy smile, tempered with a bit of a relief-style smile.
- In a similar vein, because school is going well #1 is just that bit easier to cope with. He's a routine kinda kid (he gets it from me, poor kid) so by the end of the long, long, summer holidays he was a little bit beside himself. Now we're back into a proper routine he's feeling more settled and we're getting to see his normal sweet self instead of the devil-child he has been lately. I've been getting lots of hugs, lots of "I love you's" and the odd cheeky smack on the butt as he wanders past. That's definitely a relieved smile.
- One of my bestest bud's called me this morning. Normally when the phone rings just after 7 in the morning I'd not be expecting great news, instead I heard a chirpy "hello!" and got the best surprise. She was trying to work out something on facebook and it wouldn't work so instead of emailing to ask me she gave me a quick call. She's still on the other side of the country but it was so good to hear her voice. That one was a happy, happy, happy smile.
- I have three different books on the go at the moment. I don't normally read three at the same time but I wasn't loving the first one so started on the second and didn't love that either and started on the third and now I just pick up whichever one is closest. I keep getting the characters confused and the plot-lines tangled and, when you consider that one is a gothic-y ghost-y story, one's a murder mystery and the other one is a sci-fi novel that's just funny in itself. This one's a "yes, I'm a fool" kind of smile.
- Last night I frightened the crap out of myself. Then completely cracked myself up when I realised what had scared me. I was sitting at the computer and could see a light flashing in the back yard. We've a few solar lights in the garden but this was more like a flashlight. Of course in my head that meant there was someone in the yard. With a flashlight. And probably a big knife. To murder us all in our sleep. You get where I'm going with this right? I freaked out long enough for my breathing to become shallow and my heart-rate to rocket. Then I realised that the reason I could see the light was because the kitchen blinds were up. Which meant... it was my mirror ball in the back patio reflecting the kitchen lights. Doh! That there is a "I'm a complete moron and I'm glad hubby wasn't here to see this ridiculous-ness" kind of smile. Actually I laughed out loud at myself, partly in sheer relief.
- And the last one for today belongs to Offspring #2. At the moment she's having a growth spurt with regards to her language skills. She's discovered some big words and she's loving them. Certainly, definitely and seriously are at the top of her list and each time she comes out with them I just smile and smile. Then go into another room and giggle. She certainly is funny. And she definitely knows how to use them in the right context. And she makes me smile, seriously.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Posted by MANDI at 8:05 PM 2 comments
I bought the wrong brand of muesli this week. Yes, absolutely disgraceful. What kind of woman would do such a thing? Ummm... one who was trying to drag the shopping bill back down to a I-can-live-with-that level rather than a bill that resembles the national debt. So with my recent muesli-convert husband complaining that he didn't like this brand as much as the one I'd bought the previous two weeks I thought I'd help him out by making cookies. (Did you get what I did there? Turned the negative into a positive - he doesn't like the muesli, I'll bake cookies!)

I remembered a friend saying that she'd made muesli cookies with her daughter a while back and rang her for the recipe. Some time later (we were chatting and catching up on all the news) she found the recipe for me and away we went. I had a go at the version she gave me but they ended up kind of soggy. You know? The kind of cookies that are soft but the middle seems too soft. So today I had another go and changed a few bits and pieces. I played with the measurements a bit to get the texture I wanted and reduced the sugar. The original recipe called for unsweetened muesli but since I was using up what I had (toasted and sweetened as all get out) they were waaayyyy too sweet. If you're using unsweetened muesli, ie cardboard, go ahead and up the sugar a little.

Wah-lah! Yummy cookies for the lunchboxes this week and I've used up some of the muesli. Even better, you mix the whole thing in a the saucepan you melt the butter in, so less washing up. Go me!

Sultana and Muesli Cookies
makes about 16

100g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup muesli
1/3 cup sultanas
1 cup wholemeal flour

Preheat oven to 180C. Line two cookie trays with baking paper.
Melt butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan. (You'll need it to be big enough to put the rest of the ingredients into.) Set aside to cool slightly.
Dissolve baking soda in 1 tablespoon of hot water. Add the soda to the butter then add the dry ingredients. Mix well
Drop tablespoons of the cookie mixture on prepared trays, leaving room to spread. Press lightly with a fork.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on trays for 2 minutes. Place cookies on rack to cool completely.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mary Bennet Grows Up

Posted by MANDI at 11:04 AM 2 comments
Here's the next instalment in my reading list. I got a great haul from the library last week - it's so much easier to find some good books when you've got a list of what you want to read rather than looking over the shelves for something you might like and haven't already borrowed. Especially in a small library like ours. Thanks to the suggestions some of you have made, as well as some ideas from various other places, I now have quite a few books I'd like to investigate further.
One that really took my fancy this week was Colleen McCullough's The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. I love Pride and Prejudice. LOVE. And I've always had a soft spot for Mary. She was such a ridiculous figure with her terrible singing and overwhelming piety and, to my mind, was always the left-out middle child. Jane and Elizabeth as the eldest daughers were best friends and confidantes and Kitty and Lydia as the youngest daughters were silly and undisciplined and poor Mary was left to her own devices. The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is set twenty years after the marriages of Elizabeth to Darcy and Jane to Bingley and shows us a very different Mary to that seen in Pride and Prejudice.
I loved Mary's story and enjoyed revisiting each of the Bennet sisters. Parts of the story will quite possible horrify die-hard P&P fans but I was impressed with McCullough's working of the characters. I have read other P&P sequels and haven't liked them nearly as much, in fact I've not finished a couple because they annoyed me so much but McCullough has retained the sense of each character while allowing them to grow up (or not, as the case may be!). Darcy's still arrogant, smug and conceited and it hasn't done him any favours with his family. Elizabeth is still pig-headed and thinks she knows best. Lydia is still man-crazy, particularly if the man happens to be a soldier and Jane is still sweet, forgiving, Jane. But it's Mary who is at the centre of the book and she very quickly became my favourite character. She is clever and witty, self-deprecating and completely unaware of her own charms. She has 'grown up' and is horrified by the girl she was. As she quite rightly points out she could have been a much nicer person if one of her sisters had but told her she had a terrible singing voice and that people don't like being preached to. Instead they laughed at her behind her back and made a polite show of listening to her perform. Mr Bennet takes something of a bashing in the novel and I did find that a little difficult initially but the reasons are... um reasonable and I was easily swayed.
If you're a P&P fan but are far enough removed from it to cope with the characters being played with I'd really recommend this one.
**A warning - there is some fairly crude language in there that will offend some readers. To be honest I'm not sure it was entirely necessary but it did prove the point McCullough was trying to make and, despite what we might think, it is historically acurate for the time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Day

Posted by MANDI at 9:33 PM 5 comments
Well school started back and the boy-child headed off to Year 3 while the girl-child started her first day of kindy. All together now... Awwwwwww.

I know! How did she get to be big enough for kindy? That's about 17 different kinds of wrong. And Year 3? That's 23 completely different levels of wrong!

They both had great first days. Offspring #1 thinks his new teacher is "AWESOME" - the reason is hilarious and doesn't actually make sense but he's happy and that's all that matters. Offspring #2 thinks kindy is terrific fun - her teachers are very nice, they did drawing and painting, read stories, played and played some more and she came home "all worned out."

Yay for a great start to the school year. They're happy, I'm happy and it's all good!

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