Archive for February, 2013

I Heart Camping

February 28, 2013

Possum is 6 years 9 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 7 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

 

Tonight it is raining.  It isn’t torrential, as it was last weekend, but it is certainly steady.

And in that little, selfish corner of my heart I am so relieved.

I haven’t actually been praying for rain; I wouldn’t let myself do that; but I certainly have been hoping.

You see, we are meant to go camping this weekend.  Camping.  You know, where you spend ages assembling that temporary home, have kids walk muck all over the beds, sleep on the ground, get woken too early…  THAT camping.

The thing is, I don’t really like camping.  I think the worst bit is, there is just so much STUFF.  I mean, like, really, LOTS of stuff.  I am the Mum who carries one of those mega Ikea bags when I go to the park as it is (yes, be prepared, you never know what will happen), so you can just imagine how much stuff I need to go camping.

It isn’t that I hate camping.  I used to hate camping.  Before that, I used to love camping, but then I had a terrible – really TERRIBLE camping experience, so I hated camping.

That one was when I was a Uni student in Canada.  A whole bunch of us decided that we would go camping at the end of winter term.  It would be spring then, so nice for camping, right?  There was a large group of us planning to go to Algonquin National Park.  Of course, at the last minute, all the locals pulled out and left us foreigners in for a treat.

I had the added bonus of being the lone remaining girl in the group of five intrepid campers.

It was cold.  It was miserable.  The lake was still frozen.  We had had our heads filled with stories of bear attacks.  And the guys we were with decided to tell me that there were no loos, so we had to dig when we needed to go.  Not that we had a spade.  Oh they had some fun with that little gem for the first three days.  (Yes, we camped FIVE nights like this.)  It was so cold and windy that whoever slept on the side of the tent spent the evening blown onto the person beside them and the next day in the car with the heater running trying to warm up.  Fortunately we rotated that position.

It really was awful.  Very pretty, but really, really awful.

So I avoided camping quite happily for many years.

And then I hooked up with DH.

Now DH is a wonderful bloke.  In most ways I am so blessed that I have him.  But when it comes to family holidays, I really think I married the wrong man.  To be fair, he probably married the wrong lady, too.

For example, my idea of a fun, family holiday involves a house at the beach, the car staying in the garage from when you arrive until when you need to go home again.  A big night might involve the local pizzeria.  DH thinks a 9 hour flight and backpacking through Asia would be fun with the kids. *ahem*

Now, DH and his mates LIKE camping.  Not this cushy “car camping” thing.  Oh no.  It doesn’t count unless you have trekked for miles, carrying a heap of stuff on your back and get to spend the night in the middle of nowhere with nothing but your bleeding feet and bleeding shoulders and a bunch of scary snakes to keep you company.  THEN it is fun.  (Disclaimer:  This may be a slight exaggeration.)

Strangely, I declined the offer to join the more hard core outings.

And then a group of my friends thought that camping would be a good idea.

To be honest, when we camp it is much more civilised.  It involves a camp ground.  It involves relaxation.  It involves a lot of posh stuff, in some of their cases.  It also involves about twenty kids Possum’s age and younger.

The kids LOVE it.

Even I have been known to have fun.

And so, when they booked the latest weekend, I committed to it.  Surely it will be alright on the night.  Only, this week – oh the dread!  All that planning and packing.  It is completely overwhelming.

DH finds it amusing, and also frustrating.  I think he is the only one who really has any idea how overwhelming packing is for me.  To go away for a weekend, I spend a week nauseous with anxiety.  It is completely stifling, sometimes paralysing.  Even the afore mentioned trip to the park takes a couple of days to mentally prepare, and a few hours to physically prepare.  How do people take their kids to the park every day?  So you can imagine what packing for camping is like.

So this week, I have been hoping like crazy it would rain.  Praying for it would just be selfish and mean, but hoping… well what else is a girl supposed to do?

And tonight, as even the most hard core of the group have decided to pull the pin (apparently severe weather warnings and flash flooding are a bit too much with kids) I am doing my little happy dance.  It is disappointing to be missing the get together, but I am so RELIEVED that I don’t have to prepare for the event.

Time now to curl up with a warm drink and listen to sound of fairies dancing on the roof.  Aaaah!

Lent Madness 2013

February 15, 2013

Quick, quick, quick!  It is time for Lent Madness again!  Here is last year’s post about it.

Voting starts today.  Who will win the Golden Halo this year?  Head on over and join the journey.

I voted Macrina the Younger today.

Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2013

Bandicoot is 4 years 7 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

IMG_7321Cards Bandicoot made for some of his friends

I really like the outside of this one:IMG_7324

IMG_7325 Little Princess working on some cards of her own.  Isn’t the concentration beautiful?

Shrove Tuesday

February 11, 2013

Possum is 6 years 9 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 7 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

 

Did you know that Shrovetide is actually the two days before Ash Wednesday?  It is the end of the Carnival season that started at Easter (from Latin carnelevare, indicating abstaining from meat during Lent)?  No, neither did I.  You can read more about it here: http://www.fisheaters.com/customsseptuagesima2.html 

I just wanted to remember what “shrove” meant.  It comes from the archaic verb to shrive or to confess, recalling the old custom of confessing sins prior to Lent.

What I do know that we eat all those pancakes to try and use up all the goodies that we used to have to fast from for Lent.  Dietary requirements are not so strict these days, but the spirit is the same.

And so I make pancakes.  And pancakes.

I made so many pancakes that we ended up with leftovers.  And tummy aches.  I was looking forward to Ash Wednesday by Tuesday evening!

So what did our menu look like?

This year it was necessary for me to forgo our usual blinis.  DH and I fell in love with Russian blinis back in 2004.  I find them so much work to make, so I tend to only do them once a year.  But by the time I have made all the milky crepes, filled them, folded and rolled them, fried them in butter… well I wasn’t getting up that early this year.  (How do those Mamushkas make them every morning??)

Instead we had American-style, apple pancakes for breakfast.  Well, not DH.  Even they were a bit slow making it to the table for him before work (besides, fighting the vultures children off to get one, was a bit gruesome.)

I thought about a German pancake for lunch, but with the dinner plans I just knew that I needed something else to eat instead.

Dessert first.  I made two different kinds of English-style pancakes (you know, like a crepe only a bit thicker and cooked on both sides).  The first were the plain ones that were brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar prior to rolling.  These were ready for toppings of choice: maple syrup, lemon and sugar, cinnamon sugar…  The second were my classic chocolate pancakes – made with a cocoa batter.  I normally serve these rolled and filled with lingonberries and whipped cream, but had to substitute blackberry jam for the lingonberries and really it wasn’t the same.

But now…. drum roll… my piece de la resistance… (drum roll)  Peking Chicken!!

Yes, it is a dish of my own invention, if inspired by another, slightly more famous dish.

I started with a bbq chicken from the supermarket (needs must, and it wouldn’t have happened any other way),  I brought it home and made a quick marinade of (approximately):

  • ~ teaspoon raw castor sugar
  • ~ 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ~ 1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
  • ~ 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Good, healthy slurp of sherry ~ 1/4 to 1/3 cup (let’s hope it was the cooking sherry – I can never remember which one is mine for cooking and which one is DH’s posh drinking sherry.  It tasted good either way!)

I slopped this all over the chicken and whacked it back in the oven to crisp up.  (After a little I pulled all the skin off and put the skin back in so that it could go really crispy without drying out the meat too much.)

Then there were the mandarin pancakes.  I am not sure how I would manage these next time.  I ended up needing to use a LOT of flour to roll them out and they had a floury taste because of it.  Perhaps practice would help with this!

Manadrin Pancakes:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • sesame oil (a whole lot more than you would think!)
  • flour to stop it sticking to the bench in a gluey mess
  • So, really tricky here, mix the flour and water into a dough and knead it a little.
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  • Roll it out to about 5-7mm thick.
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  • Cut in circles with a scone cutter (about 10cm across)IMG_7333
  • Brush one side of the circles with sesame oil and put 2 circles together – oily sides together.
  • Now roll them again, nice and thin.
  • Dry fry the pancakes (in a non-stick pan if possible).  It is about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 on the second.
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  • When they are done, you can peel the two pancakes apart.
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Voila!

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Now, roll these up with chopped shallots, hoisin sauce, chicken meat and a bit of crunchy skin.  In our case we added in a bit of lettuce, too.

Super yum.

In fact, so yummy that I forgot to take photos of the finished item before we gobbled them all up!  Oops.

Too Much On…

February 10, 2013

Possum is 6 years 9 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 7 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

What a hectic week this is!  I love to mark the passage of the year by celebrating the various significant events and feasts.  This week, however, is a doozey.

Today, as you may know, is Chinese New Year.  Good Fortune to You!

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We had planned to go into the city today to visit the CNY markets – to enjoy the food, the music, the crafts and activities for the kids.  We got as far as the train station where we discovered that there was trackwork across the CBD, meaning that we would need to catch a train partway then change to a bus (and, honestly, rail-buses are NOT something that blow my hair back).  We ditched that idea in favour of visiting a much more local Chinese restaurant for lunch and DH is in the process of cooking pot-stickers for dinner.

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I had planned to do some crafts with the kids – movable cardboard dragons (I have the templates), spiral paper snakes (it is the Year of the Snake), paper lanterns…  Instead we came home and cleaned out the guinea pig hutch and cubby house and collapsed from a busy day.

Aah well.  Maybe we will have a chance to go and watch the dragon boat racing next weekend.  (I am not sure how I will go with that.  I was a highly competitive dragon boat paddler, way back when – you know, before kids.  Hopefully I will be able to be a good sport as a spectator if we do go watch.)

At least I got a chance to explain the significance of eating noodles and dumplings at CNY to the boys.

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But that is not the only event this week.  St Valentine’s Day is looming.  I know it is not until Thursday, but the kids need to get their “Valentines” sorted for posting/delivery.  Bandicoot will need to have his ready for his fiancée girlfriend sweetheart BFF (and his other BFF) for Tuesday, for example.  We don’t celebrate St Valentine’s Day in a big way, like in the US, but it is nice to remember our nearest and dearest.

However, those two pale into insignificance when we consider that this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.

Lent is a significant time for us.  Easter is the most important occasion on our calendar and Lent, as the preparatory time has a lot of meaning.  This all starts with Ash Wednesday (or Shrove Tuesday – don’t even talk to me about blini and pancake pressure!), and that means this is a heavy focus week.

It is a struggle to explain Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter to children, especially to young children.  It is hard enough for me as an adult to get my head around (I guess that is why Mother Church gets us to take this journey every year), let alone their sweet little heads.  I feel the pressure, too, because our kids do not have the benefit of the kind of Church or school that I did – one that took the gravity of the Lenten season quite seriously, and made sure even the youngest understood what we were doing and why.

And so I turn to the internet.

Have you tried Googling Lent for kids or similar?  The response is overwhelming.

There are so many entries, many of them not suited to our family (ages or stages), quite a few are.  It is a huge job sifting through this information to find what would work for our kids.

And then, once I have found the ideas that are suitable, to thin them out and choose the one or two that we can actually do consistently enough for the experience to be meaningful.

Oh, and then there is the actual implementation.

And somewhere amongst all this I am trying to fit in English and Maths and preschool activities and family life and….

Never rains but it pours!

Two Days in the Life…

February 6, 2013

Possum is 6 years 9 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 7 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

 

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It is only the second week of school for us, so it is awfully early to be doing a “Day in the Life” post, I know, but I am linking up with Jamie over at Simple Homeschool for her series.

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We are no where near settled in to the year, yet.  And, gosh darn it!  Despite myself, we will be having some kind of rhythm to our weeks this year, I promise you.  Or I promise me.  We are also pretty much still only doing the basics at the moment.  More of the extras will fit in, or fit in in a more regular way or be fleshed out more, as the year goes by, but at the moment they are pretty basic, ad hoc or missing.

But here it is.

Monday

Trying to get homeschooling and Possum to get along, as well as get Bandicoot and Little Princess away from the tv can be quite a challenge, so this year I am trialling a new plan.  The bulk of our week’s work is done on Mondays and Tuesdays while Bandicoot is at preschool.  Then Thursday through Friday we do a little, just to keep the cogs ticking over and to keep Possum in the routine of doing schoolwork.  Great plan?

Yup, unless the dentist’s receptionist is not aware of this and makes an appointment on Monday at 10am.  (I am not blaming DH, the other party in the conversation, as he hadn’t been filled in on the plan.)

So on Monday, we worked with the flexibility of homeschool.

Possum (and then Bandicoot, who should have been getting ready for kindy) worked on his nature journal.  This took w-a-a-a-y longer than I had scheduled for it, but the end product was a beautiful piece of art work.  I need to remember to allow more time next time.

Then, as the lion’s share of the work hadn’t been touched, it was packed in a tote bag.

Readers in the car.  English (language arts) and maths in the waiting room while Daddy and then Mummy had a turn in the dentist’s chair.  Spelling and other sneaky educational conversations in the car to homeschool group.

Ah, yes.  Monday is homeschool group day.  This is proving to be a wonderful thing for us.  Possum is fitting in with the other kids brilliantly and I am really enjoying the other parents.  There are even a group of 2yos for Little Princess.  It is just a really good fit.  The only two problems seem to be that it is on Bandicoot’s kindy day and it would be great for him to join us; and remembering the time so we get home before Tuesday.

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We even managed to sneak in a bit of practical maths with a helpful kiosk lady providing maths problems for Possum when he wanted to buy a snack.

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Tuesday

Tuesday was a more conventional (and hard core) school day.  We managed to get through loads of work, which was great because it frees up the rest of the week for stuff that is more fun (painting, craft, swimming, stories, music and lots of playing)

It was not an early start – Possum was exhausted from a fun afternoon in the sun the day before, so it felt like it took more of the day than it should, but we got there.

Bible: I like to start the day with Bible, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  Today we discussed the presentation in the temple and the feast of Candlemas.  This lead onto all sorts of interesting conversations about the dangers of childbirth.  It is always amazing how these conversations turn.

Catechism: We started Catechism today with a “chapter” on God the Father.  It is sad that I have so little confidence in my own faith, but it is comforting to be teaching using a curriculum for this.

Maths is always fun, we are such “number” people in this family.  We did a lesson from Miquon Red Book on odd and even numbers (and played with Unifex blocks.  It seems that my anti-manipulative boy is enjoying manipulatives this year!)  This was followed by some 2D geometry from a Mathletics workbook (Guess what!  More manipulatives!) and finally some work on vertical addition.

English: We continued working on our current reader from Fitzroy, as well as the matching worksheets.  We completed a level in All About Spelling (yay, Daddy!  I got a spelling award!) and have begun a review (I think it will take about a term) on his Magic Words sight words from last year.

Some serious trampoline time was needed by now.  And a MotoGP race enacted with his model bikes.

We started work on an Angry Birds anger management unit (from Keri at The Home Teacher), too.  Possum is mad about Angry Birds, and we could all use some help with our anger management around here!

Finally, there was some mental down time while we watched the Disney version of  “The Jungle Book” (again).  DH is reading a kids’ version of this book to the boys at bedtime and they are loving it.  They keep begging to watch the movie over and over again.  Good thing it is a childhood favourite for me, too!  By evening the house was abounding in 3D paper crafts of Bagheer, Sheer Khan and Baloo.

And then it was time for art class!  Possum does art lesson’s once a week with the mother of one of his friends, who is both an artist and an art teacher.

*Phew* what a busy day!

Going Out

February 2, 2013

Possum is 6 years 8 months

Bandicoot is 4 years 6 months

Little Princess is 2 years 1 month

 

DH and I are going out tonight.  Once every two months, my siblings have a standing dinner date.  We never get to go.

However, this month, when the reminder went out, it was swiftly followed by an offer of babysitting from my sister’s pretty-much grown up kids.  Wow.

So tonight we are going out.

It is such a strange experience.  Our kids never get babysat.  We have been out without them, I think, maybe seven times since Possum was born.  Maybe not that many.

It occurred to me, late this afternoon, that in order for me to go out for dinner, I had to make dinner for the family.  It is much the same as when I get a “night off” during the week (to run off and shop on my own – usually for groceries or kids’ clothes or school stuff.)

(Oh, okay, to be fair, I would be allowed to do other things, according to DH, but I don’t get away often enough for that to happen.  It is always the essentials.)

So, after getting dinner ready, I went and got changed.  I put on my nice skirt (wash and wear, of course) and dug out my nice sandals (flat, but I can’t run as fast in these as in other shoes I own) and then looked into the wardrobe.  So.  Not a T-shirt then.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Eventually I remembered going out with some of the girls for dinner about 2 or 3 years ago and the top I wore.  Yup.  It was still hanging there all forlorn.  I am not sure it quite believes it is getting another outing.

Then I looked in the mirror.  Something was missing.  What was it?  Oh yeah.  Make-up!

I rummaged in three different drawers before finding my make-up bag.  To be fair, I knew which draw it was supposed to be in, but obviously the kids have other ideas.

I looked inside.  Foundation was too hard.  Even powder was too hard.  I felt like a teenager.  Okay.  Eyeliner.  First eye, good.  Second eye, um.  Not supposed to be on my cheek, I don’t think.  Second try was better.  Eye shadow.  Right-e-o.  I know you aren’t supposed to keep this stuff, but my newest is from our wedding.  In 2003.  Maybe the colours have come back into fashion again.  I am not going near the mascara after the eyeliner.

My lipstick is the same vintage, but it is a nice colour.  The blush even older.  Hang on – lip liner.  I KNOW that I have matching lip liner, now where is it?  Eventually I manage to retrieve it from the kids’ basket of coloured pencils.  Hmmm.

Okay, make-up done.  Another rummage and I manage to find some jewellery.  My friend Sam-O bought me a lovely set of owls a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, one of the earrings has been residing under our bed for a while (recently retrieved, yay!) and the filigree of the pendant owl’s body upsets Bandicoot.  Good opportunity to wear them tonight.  (I love them).

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There.  Done.  Even mildly respectable.

Bandicoot has begged me to cover him with lipstick kisses and Possum has assured me that there is funny stuff around my eyes.

Gosh, I hope I remember how to eat with cutlery.

IMG_7290 Bandicoot showing off his lipstick kisses xxx