Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For Your General Hilarity

Posted by MANDI at 6:46 PM 5 comments
So I went along to one of the local high-schools to do some relief teaching today. It was my first real day of relief back in a high school - the days I did earlier in the term were all in the VET area and I was doing work placements. That's where some of the kids go out to the workplace one or two days of the week. It counts as a school subject and towards their graduation. I was sorting the placements and setting up paper trails, etc. It's what I love doing and generally involved 1-1 contact with the kids with the odd quick info session thrown in rather than up-front proper teaching of a subject. I've also been doing the odd bit of relief at the local primary school - the very one my kids attend - but that's an entirely different kettle of fish.
Relief teachers are, as a general rule, paid well and treated badly. They get the grunt jobs, the rotten classes, playground duty and no breaks. That's okay though because, in my case it's only a couple of days a week, and like I said you get paid well. you also have the added bonus of no lesson prep or marking to do. Just walking in, teach it, and walk out.
So, my day today?
Form class - take attendance, read notices and wait for the next bell to ring.
Period 1 - Yr 8, SOSE, or social studies for those of us who went to school 20 or so years ago.
Period 2 - Year 10 Dance
Recess - 20 minute break - run from one end of the school to the other to go to the loo, gulp half a cup of tea and a biscuit and then run back to the other side of the school.
Period 3 - Year 11 Dance
Period 4 - Year 10 Maths - the TAGS group (Talented and Gifted, as in seriously smart kids)
Lunch - 20 minute break. During which I have yard duty.
Period 5 - Year 9 Dance
Does anyone see the problem(s) here?
Me teaching DANCE? I'm a huge klutz. HUGE. With all the rhythm of a stumbling baby elephant. No problem - we'll make the kids work on the computer and do some research instead.
Me teaching MATHS!!!! Umm, yeah. See numbers really aren't my thing. I don't play card games because of the adding up stuff. And I've got the TAGS group. Who are doing algebra revision. HAHAHAHAHAHA. And they're foolish enough to think I can help when they get stuck! Oh the sheer hilarity. Luckily I did what all good teachers do and turned it around on the kids and had them explain to each other - I had about three kids up the front with whiteboard markers instructing the kids who were stuck. It worked a treat.
The SOSE bit I should have been able to handle - it was my minor after all and they were doing an assessment so really I just needed to shut them up and supervise them. One small problem. Part of the assessment was creating a graph from data that showed both temperature and rainfall. Hmmm, back to the maths thing really. Luckily it was an assessment piece so I wasn't allowed to help them.
By the end of the day I was starving and my brain hurt. I have never been so glad to see 3pm.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Anne!

Posted by MANDI at 5:41 PM 3 comments
Remember me talking about the across-the-roads? They are our favourite ever neighbours, great friends to the whole family and generally terrific people. Yeah. Them. Well, they up and moved just before Christmas and, while we still love them all heaps, they're not exactly our neighbours anymore. Luckily they didn't move too far away, a mere 10 or so minutes in the car, and the kids all still go to school together. And also luckily we all get to see each other lots - the kids organise playdates, we all catch up for a meal now and then and Mrs-former-across-the-road and I have 'coffee' every few weeks. Though the coffee date is more often a cup of tea (English Breakfast for me, green for her) and there's usually cake involved.

Normally when it's one of our birthdays we would simply run across the road to exchange gifts, have a cuppa and share some birthday cake but now... well, we have to organise things in advance. Again with the lucky - lucky I ran into her at the shops yesterday. It saved me a phone call LOL.

So Anne and the kids came round this afternoon and we caught up on all the news, the kids played and yes, we ate cake. Yum.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Something Warm

Posted by MANDI at 8:11 PM 1 comments
As the weather cools down after a long hot summer in our part of the world it's almost a relief to be looking to warm dishes for dinners. I remembered making this tuna pie some time ago and thought I'd blogged it at the time but, apparently not. I don't know why I didn't - I wasn't wrong in remembering it as being tasty, filling and just the right thing as summer turns to autumn.

Be warned - the recipe serves 10. When I made it I halved everything except the tin of tuna and had enough for about 6 serves.

Creamy Fish Pie
from an advertising feature in Australian Table, July 2007

425g can tuna in oil
1 large leek, washed, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups (500ml) thickened cream
500g potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup (120g) grated extra tasty cheese

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Drain tuna, reserving 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat reserved oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook leek and carrot for 10 minutes until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Add tuna, herbs, lemon rind, eggs and cream. Stir gently, breaking up largest chunks of tuna. Pour into a 15 x 25cm baking dish.
2. Spread potato over top, overlapping. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbling. Serve.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's This In The Laundry Basket?

Posted by MANDI at 4:57 PM 3 comments

Don't panic! It's just my turn to wash the doll's clothes for kindy. But it gave a few people cause for thought when they saw that laundry basket during the week LOL.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easy Roast

Posted by MANDI at 10:23 AM 2 comments
I cobbled together a few bits and pieces to come up with a simple, quick yet tasty dinner the other night. There's nothing hard about it, and I'm sure you could all come up with the same thing without my help but for the cooking-challenged among you (Hi Jodes, I told you I'd come up with some just for you!) here it is. The measurements are fairly much guess-timations so feel free to work with what you've got.

Roasted Chicken Pieces

1kg chicken pieces, skin on
3/4 cup white wine
olive oil
a few bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
3 medium sized potatoes, each cut into about 6 pieces
2 tsp dried tarragon
2 Tbsp finely grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 180C.
Place the whole lot in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Pour it into a good-sized oven-proof baking dish.
Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake a further 45 minutes.
Serve with steamed beans and carrots.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Wondering

Posted by MANDI at 5:48 PM 1 comments
Why is it that one child believes that an answer of 'maybe' really means 'probably not' while the other child is convinced that the same answer translates to 'sure, let me stop what I'm doing right this second so I can do your bidding, oh mighty one'.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

At Least

Posted by MANDI at 4:51 PM 2 comments
when she has this much crap in her room...

I have an excuse not to vacuum! (yes, she does normally have bed linen. It was wash-the-sheets day.)

Offspring #2 spied the brightly coloured bag on the top shelf in my wardrobe and, being the inquisitive child she is, had to find out what was in it. Upon finding out a tent lived in the bag she nagged and nagged until I finally got the thing down and, amid much muttered swearing, set it up in the living room. Then she wanted it in her bedroom. Her tiny little bedroom. Cue more muttered swearing as I dragged it up the hallway and shoved it through her doorway.

So that's where it is - literally squeezed in between her bed and her shelves, full of teddies and babies and blankies and toys. And she's spent most of this past week turning it into a school-room, a hospital, a 'holiday place', a bedroom for babies and a princesses castle. I love watching her imagination at work.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Family Fun

Posted by MANDI at 7:54 PM 3 comments
We had grand plans to take the boat out on Sunday but the Daddy of the house developed a streaming head cold and wasn't up for it so we decided to have an 'at home' kind of day - playstation, some dvds and just hanging out. Yeah, right. The aforementioned Daddy of the house has a bit of an issue with sitting still so that plan didn't last too long. Then he announced that we should grab the already purchased picnic food and head out for a drive. Being the good wife I am I promptly agreed, packed the picnic and the kids and away we went. Well, nearly. I kinda have issues with spontaneity - Hubby says I need two weeks advanced warning that it might be called for and, where possible I should be given clues as to what direction it might take LOL. So, after fussing about and worrying about every little thing that could possibly go wrong... I pulled it all together and then, away we went.

We headed out towards the Swan Valley and found a spot by the river for our picnic lunch.

We watched boats go by, kids fooling around with a truly cool looking rope swing and had some nosy, and noisy, visitors join us on the river bank. The kids were intrigued (and possible a little bit terrified) by the geese but happily threw them chunks of the leftover bread roll. From a distance they deemed to be safe.

We hopped back in the car and did a bit of exploring. We wandered out to Houghton's Winery and had a look around. I was completely unaware that they open up their lawn area for picnic-ers on the weekends. There's a huge grassed area with big shady trees and picnic tables, for those who choose to bring their own meal and a cafe for those who don't. The menu consisted mostly of shared platters but they looked good. Of course you could also do a little wine tasting and choose a bottle to go with your lunch. I think we might be heading back there sometime soon.

We also visited a section of the river that, in winter is a raging white-water monster that is an integral part of the Avon Descent. On Sunday, before the big storm that hit Perth the very next day, it was simply a rough and rocky river-bed. And we got to see exactly why so many boats come to grief at this very spot.

Our final destination for the day was the Margaret River Chocolate Company (aka the Chocolate Factory) in the Swan Valley. But I'm saving that post for another day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't You Hate...

Posted by MANDI at 10:45 AM 7 comments
... when you make something yummy for dinner, everyone* gobbles it up happily and you think to yourself, "mmmm, I'll be making that one again" only to have the recipe vanish from the face of the earth!

I made a Pumpkin and Feta Frittata sometime last week - the title would suggest it had pumpkin and feta in it, and I remember it had eggs and some finely sliced bacon but as to measurements? Meh, don't know, can't find 'em. I know it was started on the stove-top and finished in the oven but for how long? Wouldn't have a clue. I know the recipe was a page torn from a magazine but which one? Got me stumped there. Anyone out there know where I got it from? I think it was fairly recent if that helps. Anyone????

Well, here's the photo anyway...

*In the interest of ummm, like, honesty... I must disclose that while Offspring #1 went back for seconds, and then thirds, Miss Picky aka Offspring #2 took one look and declared the whole thing to be 'yuk' . She did, under threat of death, taste the frittata but made such a fuss that I fed her all the carrot sticks from the accompanying salad just to make her shut up. Bad Parenting Technique #4627.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

Posted by MANDI at 9:03 AM 7 comments
The engagement party was last night and it was lovely. The venue was on the beachfront, about an hour away for us, and we laughed because we hadn't seen the ocean for the longest time. Mental note to self: must ensure children occasionally see ocean! I was truly excited that we'd be there for sunset - there's nothing like watching the sun sink into the ocean - and I am pained to admit that I missed it. I was too busy talking and by the time Hubby nudged me it was gone. Oh well, I guess we'll have to head back again soon.

The party was for a younger cousin of mine who has been away travelling for a couple of years. She looked gorgeous and glowy and in love and we met her fiancee who seems very nice. Hubby and my brother gave her the third degree "what does he do? how old is he? where is his family from?" etc, etc, etc. Hilarious when you know what a terror my little brother (and hubby too, for that matter) was in his younger days. It was really nice to catch up with family I haven't seen for ages. Between us moving around the country-side and life in general we worked out that one of my cousins hasn't even seen Offspring #2.

So, how was my outfit? Pretty much perfect I'd say. Better dressed that some, not quite as jazzed up as a few of the pretty young things. Some of the teeny little frocks were gorgeous and my sis-in-law and I had fun ogling (and coveting) some seriously beautiful shoes. Now I need to find some fancy places to go so I can get dressed up again!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Not Happy, Jan!

Posted by MANDI at 4:44 PM 6 comments
Let me start by telling you how much I love the delicious. magazine. It has contributions from lots of my favourite foodie-types, both local and international. In every issue I can find something to make for dinner that very night, something special to serve and impress guests and something interesting that will challenge me either in the cooking arena or taste-wise. In fact I love it some much that about 18 months ago I asked Hubby for a subscription for my birthday. It was duly organised and now I get my copy of delicious. delivered to my door each and every month. And that's where I start being not quite so pleased.
There's no discount on the subscription. Lots of mags offer a percentage discount when you subscribe, you know 10% off or 3 free issues or some such. Not here, but that's okay because I love the mag so I'd buy it at full price from the newsagent anyway, right?
Generally the current issue has been in the shops several days, or on some occasions two full weeks, before my issue arrives in my mail box. I used to subscribe to a scrapbooking mag and they made a big deal of the fact that it arrived at your house before it arrived in the store. And it always did. This one? Not so much.
You know the freebies that sometimes come with mags? Yeah, subscribers of delicious. don't tend to get them. We get the odd thing - the free calico shopping bag a couple of months ago was one that we did get (nice and all but nothing I don't already have 15 or so of). But the salad servers sometime last year or the recipe booklet this month? No, they didn't go to subscribers. Why not? I don't know, but as an unimpressed subsriber I guess they figure they've already goto our money so they don't have to entice us with pretty things.
So tell me, why would I bother with a mag that treats its subscribers so poorly? Any other magazine I've bought has made a big deal of its subscribers - special offers, discounts, lots of freebies, etc. I guess it's a good thing that I really do like delicious. month after month. I certainly won't be renewing my subscription but I'll probably continue to buy the magazine. The day it comes out, with freebies attached.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday... On Thursday

Posted by MANDI at 1:41 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

For Your Approval

Posted by MANDI at 1:39 PM 5 comments
Awww... you guys! Thanks for all your advice and words of wisdom on what to wear. I carried it all with me when I went shopping today and I present my finds for your approval.

As suggested by Trish: pretty shoes. I'm loving the peep toe and the buckle.

I was considering the 'going out' bags I already had and came to the conclusion that most of them should probably go into the dressing up box. There's nothing wrong with them except that they were fashionable about 10 years ago and were last used about 8 years ago. So... a pretty little up-to-the-minute clutch purse.

And I love the material lining. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

I vetoed the suggestions on dresses and skirts. I'm just not comfortable in them and, while I will be a little outside my comfort zone simply by dressing up I don't want to be so far out of it that I feel like a freak. Even if I looked okay I'd feel weird and that would just put a downer on the whole night. I found a pair of black pants that are just gorgeous - they're just regular black pants, pretty much the same as every other pair I already own except that they fit beautifully - skimming my butt and thighs rather than sticking to the lumpy bits - and just sit really nicely. I tried really hard to buy something sparkly. Really hard. But nothing fitted / sat nicely / stayed where it was supposed it / covered the bits that really should be covered / cost less than my fortnightly mortgage payment. Then I found a plain black T with a lovely ruffle. Not too ruffly that it messed with my head but big enough to add some interest to the top. The t sat well and looked good too. And to go over it a 3/4 sleeve, long-line cardy with ruffly bits too. The photos don't do it justice - it looks better on a body than it does on a hanger. Promise.

I'm going to wear my big gold hoop earrings and check out what I have bead/necklace wise, and make a raid on a girl-friends jewellery box if I need to, and that's what I'm wearing! It should be dressy enough to look the part yet still close enough to my comfort zone that I can enjoy the evening.
Any positve feedback would be most welcome, criticism not so much - the credit card is smoking and I don't have time to exchange anything anyway. But again, thank you. Your advice really helped me out while I was looking for ideas and trying stuff on. You guys are the best.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What To Wear?

Posted by MANDI at 8:36 AM 7 comments
Arrggghhh. I've got an engagement party to attend on the weekend and the dress code is cocktail attire. Help! I'm a not very dressy, not very girly, nearly 40 year old Mum. I do jeans, t-shirt, 3/4 casual pants... all very casual and all very suited to my casual lifestyle. I'm going to be surrounded by 20-somethings who, from the pics I've seen on facebook, are gorgeous, slim and used to dressing up.

Any suggestions for what I should be looking for? I'm not comfortable in dresses so I'm thinking more along the lines of black pants and a sparkly-type top. At least then I can pretend it's jeans and a shirt, so long as I don't look at myself in a mirror.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why I Should Have Named My Blog "The Donna Hay Tribute Blog"

Posted by MANDI at 7:52 PM 6 comments
Unless I'd called it " The I Love Bill Granger Blog"

But seriously, I think my favourite contemporary Australian cookbook author is Donna Hay. I love her magazine - pretty bits of frippery, recipes to tempt and challenge and twists on old favourites; I own several of her books and have borrowed still more from the library. Again a nice range of recipes from simple to challenging, fun to serious and tasty to downright delicious.

Whenever I'm after something quick, tasty and not too difficult for dinner I turn to one of my favourite Donna Hay books, No Time To Cook. All the recipes I've tried so far have lived up to the title and, with the possible exception of one, they've been fantastic. My latest effort was bursting with flavour and simply delicious. The kids loved it, Hubby enjoyed it and I thought it was pretty darn fabulous.

I did in fact have some time to cook so instead of cooking it under the grill I roasted the lot for about 35 minutes and it turned out great. If I really didn't have time to cook I'd go with the instructions. And as usual I didn't necessarily have all the ingredients so did a bit of switching and swapping. The recipe states that this serves two but with a salad on the side it served the four of us - bear in mind that the kids are quite little so don't necessarily eat huge amounts.

Roast Tomato Chicken
from No Time To Cook by Donna Hay

2 x 220g tomatoes, halved
8 sprigs thyme
16 basil leaves (oops, didn't have any so I used fresh parsley)
8 pitted Kalamata olives (again with the oops, I was using up some green olives)
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets, cut into thirds
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, extra
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan
sea salt and cracked black pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
rocket leaves, for serving (hmmm... no way the kids would eat rocket. A garden salad for us)

Place tomatoes cut side up in a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Make a few slits in the tops of the tomatoes with a knife. Stuff the slits with thyme, basil and olives. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with extra thyme, parmesan, salt and pepper. Add chicken to the baking tray, drizzle with oil and place under a preheated hot grill for 6-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Divide rocket between serving plates and top with chicken and tomatoes. Spoon over pan juices to serve.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Husband Trickery

Posted by MANDI at 8:31 PM 7 comments
Hubby is not a fan of baked cheesecakes. He thinks they are dry and crumbly and generally not very nice. He's quite vocal in his dislike of them refusing to order a baked cheesecake off a dessert menu and generally making rude comments if I so much as suggest making one. Luckily for all of us I quite often pay no attention at all to his moaning and whinging and go on my merry way making whatever takes my fancy. And so I present for the you the creamiest, smoothest, yummiest baked cheesecake I have ever tasted. It was easy to make, looked spectacular and impressed all who tasted it. Even Hubby. It impressed him so much he wants me to make another one really really soon.

Baked Cheesecake with Passionfruit Topping
from Good Taste magazine, June 2009

1 x 250g pkt plain sweet biscuits (I used Arnott's Nice biscuits)
125g unsalted butter, melted
2 x 250g pkts cream cheese, at room temperature
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs plain flour
5 eggs
125ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
1 Tbs cornflour
80ml (1/3 cup) water
1 x 170g can passionfruit pulp
55g (14 cup) caster sugar, extra

1. Release the base from a 20cm (base measurement) springform pan and invert. Line with non-stick baking paper, allowing sides to overhang. Secure the base back into the pan.
2. Place biscuits in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely crushed. Add butter. Process until well combined. Transfer to pan. Use the back of a spoon to spread and press firmly over the base ands side of pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
3. Preheat oven to 160C. Use an electric beater to beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon rind in a large bowl until smooth. Add the lemon juice and flour. Beat until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the c ream and beat until well combined.
4. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the biscuit base. Place on a baking tray. Bake in oven for 1 hour 10 minutes or until the cheesecake is just set in the centre*. Turn the oven off. Leave the cheesecake in the oven, with the door slightly ajar, for two hours or until cooled completely (this prevents the cake from cracking). Place in fridge overnight to set.
5. Combine the cornflour and water n a small bowl. Transfer to a saucepan. Add the passionfruit and extra sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture boils and thickens. Set aside to cool slightly. Pour over cheesecake. Place in fridge until set.

*Don't worry if the cheesecake is slightly wobbly in the centre when you turn off the oven - it becomes firmer as it cools.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Posted by MANDI at 8:03 PM 3 comments
We've had the tree-loppers in again. Before you get all tree-huggy on me let me tell you we've got a bunch of trees all over the block so it's not like we can't manage without one or two. Especially one that's right at the corner of the house and leans slightly in its direction.

First off, it's a fire hazard. Common thought is that there should be no foliage within 20metres of the house. We haven't quite managed that but by the end of all this work we will have cleared the trees from the direct circuit of the house.

Second, while it was in no danger of falling over anytime soon... anything that leans towards the house rather than away from it is always worrying.

And third? Well, it's where the new carport is going to go. Yeah baby, I'm getting carport that's attached to the house!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reno's. Part 1 of About 39,000

Posted by MANDI at 8:51 PM 6 comments
The real renovations and extensions won't be happening for some time yet but the preparation work has begun and that in itself is worthy of a celebration! The retaining wall that surrounds the house is mostly made up of timber sleepers and they are crumbling and falling down. Besides being really really ugly as they fall down around the place they're very attractive to white ants (termites) which is not terrific normally but really not great when you're got a cedar house. So the sleeper walls have to go. The question of course is what to replace them with. In our previous house Hubby discovered the joys of limestone blocks. He also discovered that he could make them himself a whole heap cheaper than he could buy them. The back-breaking labour was kind of beside the point - he likes to keep busy - and after some experimenting, a changes or two to the 'recipe', and a few second opinions he decided to go with limestone blocks again.

So, how do you make them? To start, you order the first of many truckloads of crushed limestone. It looks like this...

Then you get your kids shovelling (while the wife stands around taking photos), add some cement powder and water and swish it all around in the cement mixer. While that's happening you dig out the old sleeper wall, clear the trench, measure depths and widths and angles and all sorts of other stuff and finally set up the mould for the first brick.

Then you pour the first brick and make the woman with the camera come take photos of it.

And then you make a block or two each night after work and slowly build yourself a wall.

He's got to go around the entire house, with several tiers at the front of the house. And because of the planned extension he's got to go further out at the other end of the house. And I'll be following along behind him replanting the garden that needs to be ripped out as we go. And taking lots of photos. Lots. Don't worry, you'll get to see a heap more pics as we go along.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bad Mummy

Posted by MANDI at 8:27 PM 4 comments
No, nothing too awful happened. I just broke my promise to Offspring #2. Just???? Yes, I made a promise to her and I'm about to break it right now. Right here.

A friend made some seriously fabulous, seriously rich, seriously from scratch, totally decadent chocolate mousse. I didn't think the kids would like it much (not just wishful thinking!) mostly because it was sooooooo very rich. Boy was I wrong. They LOVED it. And I took photos that showed how much they loved it. And #2 allowed my photo-taking interference provided I agreed to show those photos only to our mousse-making friend. I was under strict instructions: "don't put them on your blog Mum! I mean it!!!"

But... this shot was too gorgeous and I couldn't resist. And so I broke my promise. Bad Mummy.


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