Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve dinner for a tired, happy toddler

It's 5pm on Christmas Eve. So far today Little E has eaten two fried eggs, bacon ("ham! ham!"), two pancakes with raspberry sauce, gingerbread ("biccies"), chips (also biccies), rice crackers (little biccies), miniature chocolate Christmas brownies ("cakey") and mountains of watermelon.

It's dinner time. She's tired. I need something fail safe. So here it is. Cook in the microwave cheese sauce to put on pasta, and a plate with some cucumber and tomato.

Microwave cheese sauce for pasta or potatoes or whatever else

1 heaped tablespoon of butter
1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup of grated cheese
Chopped parsley or chives
1. Put the butter in a microwave proof jug or deep bowl and zap for long enough that it melts (30 seconds in our microwave).
2. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until it makes a thick, lump-free paste.
3. Add the milk a little at a time and whisk vigorously until the liquid is lump-free, scraping down the sides with a spatula if necessary.
4. Zap in the microwave for two minutes then take out and stir.
5. Zap another two minutes then take out and stir again (you may need to do this again depending on your microwave - it should be quite thick by this point).
6. Stir in the cheese, zap for a further 60 seconds.
7. Stir in the herbs.
8. Serve on pasta. Freeze the excess in small portions in sandwich bags or ice cube trays.

I've used it as the base for baked macaroni cheese and I reckon it would be good on baked/boiled potatoes. I've also seen recipes that involve baking leftover cooked rice with cheese sauce and cooked vegetables.

I would post a photo of the result but again it was served in the red Ikea googly-eye bowl and no one but a toddler would think it appealing. That said, our toddler just devoured her bowl of without complaint and demanded seconds - a happy household all round. We're set to repeat today's excesses tomorrow.

Merry Christmas wherever you are.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A challenge for grown-up readers

I am good at finding a variety of books for Little E to read, and for making time to go to the library to get books for her. Invariably though, our library trips don't involve us going home with anything other than picture books and DVDs from the "juvenile" shelf as E has to demonstrate how much she loves the library by running all over it and attempting to pull books from any shelves in her path

I am good at finding things for myself to read; the trouble is they almost all come from my bookshelf and I have read the vast majority of them an embarassing number of times before. So when I came across Judi J's post about two new reading challenges for 2012 I decided that I must try one. Like Judi, I'm going to attempt a combination of the Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge and the Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012. So my challenge is:

  • Read one book per month;
  • From each of the 12 genres below;
  • Each book must be written by an Australian female author; and
  • After finishing each book, write a blog post about it.
The 12 genres ,along with my tentative booklist are:
  1. Literary Fiction (something by Sonya Hartnett)
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction (The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarky)
  3. Romantic Fiction (either Paris Dreaming or Manhattan Dreaming by Anita Heiss)
  4. Historical Fiction (Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. Cheating slightly, at least in the "eclectic" stakes, as I love Kate Forsyth's Witches of Eileanan series);
  5. Young Adult
  6. Fantasy (BattleAxe by Sara Douglass. I’ve seen her books in libraries many times without ever picking one up. I didn’t realise she was Australian).
  7. Science Fiction (Dark Space, Marianne De Pierres, as the fourth book in the same series won the Aurealis Award)
  8. Non Fiction (something by Germaine Greer)
  9. Horror (no ideas here, so unless someone else inspires me I'll copy Judi and read Madigan Mine by Kirsten McDermott)
  10. Thriller /Suspense (maybe something by Bronwyn Parry whose website describes her work as "Australian romantic suspense")
  11. Classic (I'm not sure if it counts as "classic" but I've never read Sally Morgan's My Place so I'm going to try that)
  12. Your favourite genre. (I'm adding poetry so as not to double up but haven't chosen an author yet).
Before working as a lawyer I used to quite like crime/mystery fiction but haven't read anything that would fit into that category since. For me it's the same as watching police shows on tv: it prompts thinking about work and invariably it prompts lots of complaints from both D and I as the shows are never accurate enough. Horror and thriller/suspense are also going to be a challenge.

This Wikipedia page is a useful source of authors if, as I was, you're struggling to think of enough. It's not arranged by any kind of genre so you just have to get clicking.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Toilet training trauams

    This is one of the things that my pre-pregnant self would be horrified to find out.

    I have just been googling for something called "Potty Time Tinkles." 

    Potty Time Tinkles? Hello? Where is the grown up world when you want it? Obviously lurking somewhere beyond the door, in a land where poo-poos and wee-wees do not get done on the rug. 

    So far I have discovered that Potty Time Tinkles has some competitors, known as "Potty Patty" and "Potty Scotty", for the little madam and master who need help comprehending that the white plastic edifice is not just for perching on whilst doing puzzles or building block towers. Naturally, Potty Patty and all her little friends and enemies are quite ridiculously priced. (I have to say, that if you were the designer, why wouldn't you charge extortionately? Your target audience is parents who have spent half the morning standing unfruitfully (excusing the pun) in the bathroom exhorting the virtues of the toilet, only for the desired deposit to land on the carpet the second they have given up and taken their eyes off said toddler. At this point $49.95 for a small plastic doll doesn't sound too bad).

    So. Obviously the focus at our house this week is all things below the belt. How is everyone else's week? And does anyone know of a miracle working doll or other fantastic toilet training tip?

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Holidays round two

    The second of our two closely timed holidays was now nearly a month ago; where does time go?! I remember a friend telling me when E was very new that when at home with a small one the days can drag but the months whizz by, and it is true.

    Anyway, our second trip involved going to Margaret River for a friend's wedding. So that we could accomplish the ceremony and reception sans toddler, my Mum, Dad and Dad's sister K were kind enough to come with us. We stayed in a chalet about five minutes drive from town. It was one of three chalets on the property and the other two were occupied by the groom's brother and friends which was very pleasant and convenient, as the bus provided by the bride and groom picked us up before and delivered us after. The house was surrounded by bush and came complete with its own dam, duck and resident kangaroos who visited at dawn and dusk. 

    Aside from the obvious wildlife attraction, the timing was great as Little E's (and our) bedroom was very bright, so she decided wake-up time was as soon as it was light and was able to eat her breakfast at the kitchen window whilst watching for kangaroos.
    We visited Sunflowers Animal Farm which even the adults enjoyed. Dozens of farm yard animals, plus kangaroos and emus. We spent a fair bit of time at the playground by the actual Margaret River, engaging in some covert and very un-PC duck feeding. We even fit in a winery or two, plus a visit to the olive oil factory.
    The wedding itself was beautiful and we got to catch up with a bunch of people whom we were friends with at uni but only tend to see when B & R are in town. 

    The sad after-story is that the week after we left, a massive bushfire went through the area, destroying about 40 houses. It was so close to where we were staying; in fact we're not actually sure if the chalets are still standing, although we think based on the descriptions in the media of the affected area that they were probably just outside it. We felt so lucky to have been safely home as the chalets are/were surrounded by heavy bush, and the roads in/out were all closed during the fire. The thought of having been there, let alone with precious Little E, is truly frightening.

    Anyone wanting to assist the fire victims can do so via a donation to the Lord Mayor's Distress Relief Fund:

    Incidentally, there are some more photos on my private blog for anyone who is interested.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Oh Coles how I hate thee and thou penny pinching ways

    Does anyone else think that the self-serve checkouts at supermarkets are a con? I am sure Coles would tell you that they enable a greater number of people to be served at once, and that they make it much faster for people to pay and leave when they only have a few items. This may be so but all the supermarkets in our area that have them seem to think it's an excuse to only have one, at best two, regular checkouts operating at the same time. Naturally this means anyone with more than a few items queues up for the normal checkout because let's face it, why would you want to scan your own groceries when someone else could do it for you, at twice the speed? Without having to fetch someone else to scan their card everytime you tried to do something like not use a bag, scan items at something approaching an efficient speed or swap the full bag for an empty one?

    In case you haven't gathered, it drives me nuts. It especially drove me nuts this morning, when I had made the effort to get Little E and myself there as close to opening time as possible, and there were still stupidly large queues for the two normal checkouts (one of which was 12-items-or-less) so we (with about 20 items) opted for the self-serve ones. They were as annoying a I remembered, despite a few improvements (there is an "I don't want to bag this item" button and a "new bag" button). 

    But still. It didn't like our 6-pack of sultana boxes because Little E had eaten half of one and poured the other half on the floor, so it weighed the wrong amount. It didn't like how fast I scanned the six identical tins of cat food. I didn't like that I had to scan and pack everything myself, leaving me with less ability to stop Little E trying to launch herself from the trolley seat. She didn't like how long the whole process took, so in addition to trying to launch herself from the trolley she took off her shoes and threw them on the ground, smushed banana in her hair, and tried to grab handfuls of watermelon through the plastic.

    I suspect that the Coles lady didn't like us much either by the end of it (in addition to the problems with sultanas and cat food I, distractedly, scanned the washing powder twice, again necessitating her assistance). We had our first delivery from Aussie Farmers Direct yesterday, and today's palava definitely put a vote in the "regular delivery" column.

    Has anyone else had good experiences with home delivery options? Which one(s)? 

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Mini vegetable greenhouses

    A while ago I started experimenting with growing vegetables from seed. Last winter, fairly unsuccessfully, I attempted broad beans and this winter, with far greater success, runner beans and snow peas. I put the difference down to the miniature "greenhouses" I used on the snow peas and runner beans, which help to retain moisture and keep slugs and snails out until the seedlings are big enough to stand a fighting chance. They are just empty 1.25L soda water bottles with the labels removed and cut in half, but they made a remarkable difference with the snow peas and runner beans.

    I'm now attempting to replicate the success with tomato seeds. I ordered three varieties from the "Green Harvest" website:


    Our vegetable bed is in hiatus at the moment as I am hoping we will get organised enough this summer to extend the limestone blocks and therefore have the ability to properly improve the soil. So the yellow and red cherry tomatoes seeds have gone into big pots and the romas will follow as soon as I acquire another pot that is large enough.

    Tomato and herb corner,
    complete with guardian greenhouses and ceramic angel

    Tomato greenhouses up close, complete with grubby feet!
    Have a pleasant Sunday evening, wherever you are.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    The post holiday comedown

    It's in full force at our place today. The house is a mess: toys, multiple loads of dirty washing, half unpacked shopping. Little E probably wonders where her in-house entertainment team has gone: she had five days worth of Mumma, Dadda, Granny, Grandad and Aunty Katherine all dancing to her tune and she's now stuck with boring Mumma who started the day by wrestling her around the supermarket and is now attempting to tidy one part of the house whilst E  alternates taking apart another with demanding food.

    And E has learnt how to maneouvre the lever door handles that are on all our internal doors and so now takes great delight in letting herself into any room she pleases, including the ones that are stuffed full of things we would prefer she didn't touch ... sewing machine and supplies, CD towers plus 500-odd CDs, a desk covered in papers waiting for the magical 'someday' that I can be bothered filing them ... This is particularly annoying me today because I spent the last week attempting to change the door handles to round, hopefully less easy to open ones, not being able to figure out how to do it, and requesting each evening that D help me ... of course it didn't get done. E's other recent accomplishment is that she has got tall enough to reach the bench top, the last bastion of all things not belonging to her. I discovered this upon coming in from the clothesline to be greated by the kettle and an enoormous puddle of (thank God, cold) water on the kitchen floor.

    She also seems to think she no longer needs nappies (or clothes for that matter). I do not think I am psychologically equipped for toilet training. Let's face it, after a few days away from the real world I do not think I am psychologically or in any way equipped for being a full-time parent at all.

    Incidentally, the holiday was lovely and I will write about it at some point when my little angel is asleep.

    Image from out.jpg

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Toddler creamy salmon pasta

    Little E pleases me very much by being willing to eat fish. If we have fish and chips she won't touch the chips but will get through quite a bit of fish, either grilled or fried with the batter removed. 

    I bought salmon for dinner for D and I, and had planned on giving E what is a staple for her: small pasta shells, a few cubes of cheese sauce from the freezer, frozen peas. Then I decided that it would go well with salmon, and chopped the skinny end off the piece (which would have been annoying anyway as it would have cooked much faster than the rest of the piece) fried it in a little bit of butter, flaked it and, voila! Creamy salmon pasta. Put together in less time than it took for Little E to watch her daily ration of Playschool. I contemplated taking a picture, then decided that the creamy mess in the red plastic Ikea bowl with the googly eyes didn't quite justify it. But E gobbled two bowls of it, then a bowl of strawberry yoghurt for dessert, and I felt like a virtuous Mumma.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Here's to holidays

    Through either good luck or silly planning, after not having had a proper holiday in about a year, we have wound up with two down-south holidays scheduled in the space of six weeks. The first was with friends in the CHOGM week, to take advantage of the public holiday and the fact that the courts all closed for the week, so it was a good time for D and lawyer friend S to be away. The second is next week, for a friend's wedding.

    Round One was declared a success. We stayed at the beautiful Bunker Bay resort just outside Dunsborough. It is a series of villas that are surrounded by bush and designed to blend with the natural environment. It is also close enough to the beach that you walk through the resort, and through a short bush track, and emerge on sand.

    It's not the sort of place we'd ever have stayed pre-E, but with two toddlers it was perfect. Buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant was included four mornings out of the five, and we all made complete pigs of ourselves. E happily demolished a plate of "eggy," "ham" (bacon), fruit and pancakes each morning. Unlike the rest of us, she usually managed lunch each day too!

    The main room of our villa.
    There were also two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

    E had a fantastic time swimming in the hotel pool with her Dadda. She appears to have forgotten the beach since last summer and was quite scared of the waves, but she loved the pool. The weather was cool enough that I was more a fan of the deck chairs and the view, but D was very devoted and went in with her each time she demanded it.

    See what I mean about the view?

    And the weather - check out those grey clouds!
    Although travelling with E and with another toddler had its challenging moments, on the whole it worked out really well. Each grown-up couple managed a lunch out, plus a dinner at the hotel restaurant. We did two group trips to Simmos ice-creamery where E enjoyed smearing her first ice cream in a cone all over her face, a trip to a local animal farm and a 3km walk from Cape Naturaliste lighthouse to a scenic lookout. Amazingly, E consented to stay in her pram for almost the whole thing and Little Friend T did pretty well in an ergo carrier on his Dad's back.

    The reward at the end of the walk
    E and I very much enjoyed having five days solid with D. E's language continued to increase in leaps and bounds: memorable additions to her vocabulary included an amazed "Mama! Biiiiiig duck!" when she saw the resident emu at Simmo's, and "go in pool! go in pool!" every time we walked past it.

    The only good thing about the holiday being over is that the next one is now only a week away!

    More photos on the private blog for those who are interested.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    The sleep saga continues

    Since she was about 9 months old, Little E has been a pretty good sleeper. She sleeps through the night. She self-settles. She's been on one day nap since she was about 11 months old, currently of about two hours duration.

    But for the last week or so it's been taking her an inordinately long time to fall asleep at night. During the day she puts herself to sleep with minimal fuss, perhaps 10-15 minutes of talking to herself and then she's out. All of a sudden, at night, without anything else having changed, it's taking more than an hour (previously she took half an hour or less). She wakes up at the same time in the morning, just an hour shorter on sleep than previously. She is then grumpy all morning and needs to have her nap an hour earlier, making for a very long afternoon. This evening I put her to bed an hour earlier, thinking that maybe I was letting her get over tired. That was an hour and fifteen minutes ago, and she's still in there, in almost complete darkness, chatting away.
    Any thoughts?

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    A happy footnote to teethbrushing traumas

    Hallelujah, Little E is not going to have cavities before the age of two. I whinged at length here about what a tough time we were having with teethbrushing.

    The magic solution? She gets to watch two minutes of Playschool on YouTube while we brush her teeth. Everytime she wriggles, or tries to shove away the toothbrush, or yells, we pause it. We only press 'play' when she sits still with her mouth open.

    I have to confess that when Lovely Friend E first told me that this was what they do for their little boy I thought it sounded a bit ridiculous. Now I am a sworn convert. It worked from almost the first night. Before I boast too much, I should add that Little E might be wilier than I am confessing to, as *somewhere* in this house, are not one but two toddler toothbrushes. I say "somewhere" as we suspect that Little E has stashed them somewhere tricky. Perhaps we need one of the clever inventions in the picture ...

    * Image from

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    My baby is 18 months old

    ... and not really a baby anymore. It seems like Lovely Little E has done lots of growing and developing in the last month or so. She has cracked 11kg and is almost 80cm tall. Her hair is longer, and has become quite wavy at the ends. It's not the same length all round though, much longer at the back. I'm waiting for the top bits to lengthen before we attempt a proper hair cut.

    She can use a spoon and fork pretty well, although it's very much a case of her using them when/if she feels like it, her fingers the rest of the time, and if it's bluberries and yoghurt then she might well use her tongue! She can drink extremely competently from cups with or without handles, and she can also deliberately pour a full cup of water all over the floor and then say in surprised tones "oh no! oh no!" When told it is time to sit in her high chair she races around collecting an army of toys and sitting them on the table in front of her high chair to play audience to her meal time. One doll or teddy is never enough; having put one up she races back to the toy shelf insisting "moremore! moremore!"

    So much language, 50 or more words now we think. Recent additions are "Granny," "Amber"  (Grandma & Grandpa's dog - "Am-bah!" said in tones of great delight) and a slurred version of her name. We are working on "down please Mama" as a means of telling us she has had enough to eat, rather than announcing this fact by standing up in the high chair and launching herself at whoever races toward her (the lack of a five point harness is proving a real down side to the Ikea high chair!) She has to say goodbye to everything and everyone: "bye bye park," "bye bye shop," "bye bye trolley."

    Aside from four or five days recently during which we think she had hand, foot and mouth disease (so gross!) her sleeping continues to be a dream (excusing the bad pun). A good two hours in the middle of day, then 7pm to 630-ish am.

    Her play is more sophisticated and imaginative. We recently acquired a plastic stove (thank you verge collection), a plastic farm house ($4 - thank you op shop!) and a beautiful wooden doll's house (thank you friend's garage sale). All of these are very popular. For some reason her favourite thing about the doll's house is the little high chair that came with it - surprising given how keen she usually is to get out of the real thing!

    It is a lovely age.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    The small blue instrument of torture

    Little E does not like to brush her teeth. Correction: she does not like to have her teeth brushed. She is perfectly happy to "brush" her teeth, ie, walk around chewing on a toothbrush. She is happy to "brush" her teddy's "teeth." She is happy to use her toothbrush, or Mummy's toothbrush, to smear toothpaste in and around Mummy's mouth. 

    But when it comes to having her teeth brushed? It is a two person job. One to hold her hands away from her mouth, the other to hold her still with one hand and brush her teeth with the other, while she screams as though extremely bad things are happening to her. It doesn't make any difference if someone else brushes their teeth at the same time as her, or if she gets to look in the mirror while it happens, or if songs about brushing teeth get sung, or if someone reads a book to her at the same time. She gets cream (moisturiser) on her back and tummy, which she loves, as a "reward" after brushing her teeth, but it doesn't seem to make brushing anymore attractive to her. I laughed when I read something which said toddlers should brush for two minutes as we're lucky to manage 20 seconds.

    Needless to say, it is a pretty unpleasant process. I thought about taking a break from brushing to try to defuse the trauma but when I managed to look in her mouth while we were outside one day I could see plaque on her teeth. Obviously the 20 seconds we're managing isn't really cutting it.

    Does anyone have any tips? Or know of any picture books that feature children brushing teeth? 


    Image from

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Book of the Week: One Night in the Zoo

    I haven't done a Book of the Week for ages but that isn't because we're not reading! I love Judith Kerr, but E hasn't been interested in the Mog books yet despite repeated offerings of them, so I was stoked to discover this book which she can't get enough of.

    It's the story of what the zoo animals get up to after dark: 

    "One moonlit, magical night in the zoo
    An elephant jumped in the air and flew.
    But nobody knew."

    I've heard it described as a "counting book" and it is, in so far as the number of animals progresses on each page (a crocodile and a kangaroo, three bears, four lions, etc). For me the counting aspect is secondary to the rhyming verse and the pretty pastel illustrations in Judith Kerr's distinctive style. I read a review that described the rhyme scheme as "silly and tedious"* and I don't agree at all - the rhyme scheme is built upon words that rhyme with "zoo" but I thought Kerr did a good job within this limitation. Another review commented that "numerous spelling variations for the "oo" sound will appeal to primary teachers."**

    At any rate, we enjoy it. E thinks it's funny that the animals are getting up to things that they normally wouldn't (riding bicycles, playing cards, cooking stew). She especially likes the stew cooking page: "yum, yum!"


    * Blair Christolon, School Library Journal, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA. Review reprinted and accessed on

    ** Donalyn Miller, review published and accessed at 

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi, three ways

    Gnocchi is one dinner that we're all happy with. It's possibly D's favourite dinner ever. It was always something we'd enjoyed but, appropriately, we became particularly enamoured with it whilst enjoying our "luna di miele" (honeymoon) on the Amalfi coast. The gnocchi of choice there was "Gnocchi alla Sorrentina." Gnocchi, thick tomato sauce, cheese, baked. Need any more be said?

    Little E is also a fan of the potato pasta; my lazy dinner option for her is gnocchi from a packet, a cube or two of cheese sauce from the freezer, some frozen peas. It's quick and easy, vaguely nutritious; she gobbles it.

    In the last month or so we've discovered two new gnocchi recipes that are going straight to the favourites file. The first is gnocchi with chorizo, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, which I made up/adapted after a few internet searches one night when we were having friends over for dinner. The second is gnocchi with green beans and tomato-butter sauce which I came across on this blog and which we had a few nights ago.

    So that the world can experience the gloriousness of gnocchi, here are the recipes:

    Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

    ~675gm gnocchi
    1.5 cups tomato sauce (see below)
    ~350gm grated mozzarella cheese
    1/4 cup parmesan cheese

    To make the tomato sauce: 

    (Makes about 2 cups) 

    1 Tablespoon olive oil 
    3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved 
    ~1.5kg fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
    2 teaspoons salt 
    1 Teaspoon sugar (optional) 
    4 basil leaves 

    Over medium heat, heat the olive oil and gently sweat the garlic in a big saucepan, 3-4 minutes.  
    Add the tomatoes, salt and sugar and increase the heat to medium-high.  
    Bring the mixture to a boil and cook off the liquid for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn/stick.  
    Place the tomatoes in a colander to drain, reserving the tomato liquid.  
    Puree the tomato pulp.
    Return the sauce to the pot, add the basil leaves, and cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, until it reaches the desired consistency.  If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved tomato juice to it.  
    Remove the garlic and basil before using.

    To assemble the gnocchi

    Cook the gnocchi in boiling water; drain.
    Mix the gnocchi with the sauce; it should only be lightly coated.
    Put half the gnocchi in a casserole dish; top with half the tomato sauce and half the mozzarella.
    Then put the other half of the gnocchi, topped with the other half of the sauce, on top.
    Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the top layer.
    Bake in a hot oven until the cheese is melted and golden (~10 minutes).

    Gnocchi with chorizo, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

    1kg gnocchi
    1 chorizo sausage
    Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
    I can't remember what quantity of mushrooms I used - maybe half a paper bag full?
    Some chopped fresh basil
    Parmesan cheese, to serve

    Slice the mushrooms and chorizo and halve the cherry tomatoes.Fry the chorizo and mushrooms in a little olive oil. You won't need very much oil because the chorizo releases quite a bit. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the chorizo looks a bit brown/crisp.
    As soon as you have put the chorizo/mushrooms in the pan, put the gnocchi into boiling water.
    Add the tomatoes and the basil, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and have released a little juice, but still hold their form.
    Scoop the gnocchi out as soon as they float to the surface. Mix the gnocchi in with the sauce. It's not a terribly saucey-sauce but there should be enough to lightly coat the gnocchi.
    Serve with Parmesan cheese.

    Gnocchi with green beans and tomato-butter sauce

    To save me re-typing the recipe, you can get it from here.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Loving the office slavery

    Three and a half weeks in, I can report that I am loving being a slave for the money.

    Little E is, as far as I can gather, having a brilliant time running her grandparents ragged. As far as I can gather, they don't mind too much. I can report, somewhat guiltily, that I don't think about her much at work, but that I am very glad to see her when I get home. I enthusiastically dispense dinner and bath and stories, and look forward to the next day spent at home with her (the at home Monday, work Tuesday, at home Wednesday, work Thursday, at home Friday formula is a winner). I put more effort into Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Hanging out in the park, doing multiple loads of laundry and acquiring groceries, interspersed with story and sandpit time, all of a sudden seem to involve much less effort.

    The work side of it is good, too. I'm learning new stuff. Because I'm not managing my own files I don't get constantly interrupted like I used to. I get hours at a stretch where I can work on one task. The ultimate responsibility is not mine. When I don't know stuff, it's ok. No one goes to jail (although they do wind up paying extremely large amounts of money to each other). I go to the gym on Tuesdays.* My boss is not nearly as annoying as I thought he might be; in fact he is positively pleasant to work for.

    Thank you, grandparents, for making this possible.
    * It is yet to be established whether this is a good thing. Last week I went to my first Pump class in more than two years, wobbled down the stairs afterwards and hobbled my way through the next five days. Because I am a sucker for punishment, I went to another one today.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Hi-ho, hi-ho

    ... it's off to work I go (tomorrow). And very pleased about it I am too.

    Having moaned at length here (and to anyone who would listen) about how I wished I could find some sort of suitable work in my field, I've lowered my expectations a bit and taken a leap sideways. I'm returning to my old firm two days per week, but to work primarily on my boss' personal injury files rather than managing my own criminal ones. I might do the odd criminal appeal but that will be all.
    I forsee good and bad things about this: the good - it's work! It will get me out of the house every Tuesday and Thursday, dressed in something other than jeans, to talk to adults and think about things other than how to persuade a toddler to eat, and when I should try to make her sleep, and which book we've read less than a dozen times in the last twenty four hours. It's also pretty good money - not essential but it will be nice to be able to have a few luxuries we would have otherwise delayed. The bulk of the work I will be doing is discrete tasks on files managed by someone else. I've only ever managed my own files, which is good in some ways, but is also a big responsibility. I'm looking forward to the chance to use existing skills in a new way, and to do so in a relatively low stress environment.

    The bad - I suspect my boss is going to be a frustrating person to work directly under. Previously I chatted to him every now and then about how my files were going, and occasionally asked for help, but that was it. Whole days could pass where we didn't do more than say hello in the kitchen. All the people who I saw try to work directly under him had a hard time. That being said, they were all a lot more junior than me and were struggling to learn basic skills at the same time as work for someone who's impatient, doesn't suffer fools, and has very high standards. I'm arrogant enough to think that I can manage better than others have.

    I'm not really feeling sad or worried about leaving E, I think because I know she's going to be in such good hands (my Mum on Tuesdays and David's parents on Thursdays). That being said, we'll see how I feel tomorrow!

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Wine-ing and whining

    Today I had the good idea, that after a 3-5pm session at playgroup, and a quick stop at the IGA on the way home, that immediately upon getting home, I would walk Little E to the BWS on the corner to buy a bottle of wine. If you've been in Perth today, you'll know that 5:20pm was about 10 minutes before it poured with rain. We actually made it to the bottle shop and back before the proper rain hit. The problem was not the rain.

    The problem was Little E; tired, hungry, bored with shops. Wanting to touch and grab every.single.thing between the door and the fridge full of nice cold white wine at the back of the shop. Who did not want to be held, and screamed "no more, no more!" when I insisted on holding her while I dithered over what to choose. Who then wriggled so hard that I put her down and then tried to pull casks of wine off the shelves. (I  suppose I should be grateful it wasn't bottles of scotch.) Who, when I gave up and grabbed the first thing I saw, threw herself on the floor and wouldn't get up. Who made me feel like a complete alcoholic and derelict parent for daring to want a bottle of wine to go with dinner on a Friday night.

    The second we left, and she was not in the boring shop any more, and she was under the umbrella with Mumma, in the lightly sprinkling rain, she gave me kisses and cuddles and was perfectly adorable. Whereupon I felt bad for being cross at her.

    In this situation, there are just no winners except for the toddler, are there?

    (Or perhaps for this Mumma, who did in the end, get her bottle of wine to go with dinner and is feeling much more magnanimous about the situation now that Little E has been in bed for several hours).

    Sickness and health

    Image credit

    Over the last fortnight I've been very grateful for good health because in the fortnight prior I did not enjoy good health at all.

    Enough said, other than that it involved a trip to the after hours GP on Monday night, a trip to the normal GP on Tuesday afternoon, a trip to Sir Charles Gardiner emergency room on Tuesday night, a locum home-visit GP on Friday night resulting in mega-loads of antibiotics, an ultrasound and more GP the following week, after which everything appeared to have returned to normal!

    It was a full-on, unpleasant time and having come out of it at the other end pretty much unscathed other than a few kilos lighter, it's made me grateful for a bunch of things:

    1. My Mum, who rallied around taking care of E, dispensing invalid food and good advice;

    2. Lovely D, who came home at lunch on Monday and Tuesday, took me to the long list of appointments above, didn't go to work at all Wednesday to Friday and did the bulk of caring for E and keeping the house running the whole time I was unwell (and did it cheerfully, without complaint and pretty competently too!);

    3. Public hospitals. Not something I've ever had cause to be grateful for before, but we waltzed into Emergency at 10.30pm, were seen straight away and dealt with efficiently and compassionately the entire time we were there. I know it is not everyone's experience of public hospitals, but I was really grateful that it was mine. Sneaking glances around the ward as I was walking out, I was also really grateful to be leaving on my own two feet, as everyone else in there looked as though there were in far worse shape than me. Having also paid all the fees that go with various after hours appointments it also impressed upon me how good it is that public hospitals are free. I mean, they should be, but isn't it good that they actually are?

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    The end of an era

    Little E had her last breastfeed on Monday 11 July 2011. I didn't know it was going to be her last one; we stopped the next day because I was sick and taking medicine that wouldn't have been good to pass on to her.

    She was fifteen months and one week old, so there was absolutely no nutritional need for it, and she was only having one feed a day anyway (just before bed); but had matters not been taken from my hands I think I would have let her continue for as long as she wanted to. I don't know how long that would have been, perhaps another month or two? The feeds were very quick, 5-10 minutes max, and she was getting pretty wiggly, so I think she would have stopped herself sometime soon.

    Because I was really unwell, lucky D got the job of persuading her that it was ok to go to bed without special cuddles with Mumma in the armchair. The first two nights she put on a bit of a performance, by the third night she went to sleep quickly and without fuss. The fourth night I was back in her room reading stories etc with D, and she seemed to briefly remember that she hadn't always gone to bed without milk, but only cried briefly. She now doesn't even look for it and takes somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes to talk herself to sleep each night.

    I am sorry that the decision to stop or not was taken from us, but I am glad that she is big and healthy enough that she doesn't need milk anymore. I am also pretty excited at the prospect of buying some new underwear in a month or so!

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Family dinners

     Image credit

    We have an exciting new evening routine which involves us all eating dinner together, and ideally the same dinner, at about 5:45pm. it doesn't happen every night, but I'd say we're managing it four out of five times at the moment.

    Previously I was feeding E at about 4:30/5:00, and usually something different to what D and I were having. She now has four molars and is getting more competent with a fork. She's also a lot less keen on the high chair if she's in it by herself, so putting her at the table with us is a good distraction.

    Not every meal has been a success, but the ones that have been include:
    * Roast chicken and vegetables;
    * Stir fried beef with bok choy, mushrooms, beans and rice;
    * Chicken drumstick casserole; and
    * Pasta bake with spinach, mushrooms and cottage cheese.

    It's not glamorous food, but it's healthy and I'm pretty pleased about only having to cook one meal for all of us. I have happy memories of family dinners when I was growing up and I'm really happy that we're finally able to do this. It's exciting to actually set the table and use placemats and serviettes and a water jug rather than D and I eating in front of the TV after E is in bed.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Lovely Little E at almost 16 months

    E is a delight to be around lately.

    She is a very busy, important litlte thing. Quite steady on her feet, she trots and bustles around the room, perfectly intent on completing whatever task is at hand. She has started engaging in the cutest imaginative play. Big favourites are her teddy, plastic dolly and a little dog on a string who barks when pulled around. She is obsessed with feeding all three of them and putting them to bed. When I suggest "is dolly hungry?" she grabs the cloest block and shoves it at dolly's face whilst yelling "yum yum, yum yum!" If I then say "does dolly want to go to bed?" she shoves dolly into her wooden cot and throws her blanket on top. Two seconds later dolly invariably wants to get up , whereupon her blanket is ripped off and dolly grabbed by one arm so she can wake up. She gives dolly and various other toys cuddles which involve clutching them to her chest, rocking back and forth and vigorously slapping their backs. (She also sometimes gives D and I lovely cuddles which involve resting her little head on our shoulder and then patting our backs).

    Every day we notice more and more language. Her latest additions are "Dee" (Daddy), "bean" and "where's it gone?"

    She still loves books and is developing firm favourites if not obsessions. The latest ones are anything with flaps, particularly Spot and a Peek-a-boo book, but still Shirley Hughes and books with photos of animals. Her favourites we can do 10 or more times a day; often as we hit the last page she turns straight back over and demands loudly "more! more!"

    A large part of why I am finding our days easier is that I am getting a really decent break in the middle of the day. We seem to be in a reasonably fixed routine (famous last words!) of waking up between 6:00-6:30am, having a big breakfast, snacking throughout the morning, a small lunch at about 11:00-12:00, then sleeping from about 12:30pm for 2 - 2.5 hours. She then wakes up happy at about 2:30-3:00, has afternoon tea and plays pretty happily until about 4:30/5:00 when I turn on Playschool so I can get dinner ready. We are trying to all eat dinner together at about 5:30/5:45 depending on when D gets home.

    Although I am still hoping to find a few days work a week I am really enjoying my days at home with E, and I think I will look back fondly on this time.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Rewinding all the way

    Weekend Rewind's theme this week is new beginnings.

    My first blog post was on my private blog but I replicated it in part in the "About Me and the Suburbs" page on this blog.

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    What to do with yet more mandarins

    1. Pick up all the ones that fell down during the rain, plus anything off the tree that looks vaguely ripe.

    2.Start peeling.

    3. Enlist a bit of help.

    4. Keep peeling. Smush a few down your front if you want. Don't worry, there's plenty to spare!

    5. Eventually you'll have peeled them all. 

    6. Take them inside, whizz in food processor, put pulp in sieve over a big bowl. A heaped bucket = 1.5L of juice. Tastes good mixed with soda water and ice!

    Adventures at a damp and deserted zoo

    The District and Supreme Courts are in the middle of their two week winter break, which means a bit of down time for criminal lawyers. Each year, D's work uses some of the time to hold an advocacy course, and this year, for no apparent reason, they held it in the conference rooms at the zoo. On Wednesday morning E and I dropped D off and then braved what looked like yet more rain to put our annual zoo membership to good use.

    It was a perfect day to be there. The combination of weekday and weather had obviously put most other people off (without the zoo pass I definitely would not have been game). We got there as it was opening and for the first hour almost literally had the place to ourselves. Little E loved it. She has got the walking gig under control enough that I am happy to let her trot around the more contained areas on her own. I mainly put her in the pram in order to get between areas beacuse although she is quite steady she is definitely not fast. But in the African animals section, the Australian wetlands and the Australian aviary she toddled alongside or ahead of me and loved it. Often she looked back to make sure I was coming along beside her, or held her hand up for me to hold, accompanied by the most heart wrenching little "mumma?" She got to stand right up close to the glass in every exhibit without having to fight hordes of other kids. She pulled at plants and stuck her fingers in puddles. Despite the threatening skies it didn't rain at all. 

    It looked and felt as though we owned the place:

    Beautiful morning sunshine winning the fight against damp grey sky

    Checking out some botanical action on the path between the Australian wetlands and aviary
    She trotted as fast as I have ever seen her go down the slight slope on the huge and empty lawn and had a fantastic time playing with a fallen palm frond.

    Look at my grown up baby in jeans and hoodie and big girl shoes
    Later we sat together in the cafe and had morning tea. E was ridiculously pleased because I let her have the three tiny teddy biscuits that came with my tea. She fell asleep in the car on the way home and slept for two and a half hours. 

    I've said before that I can take or leave the zoo, but in these conditions it's an outing I'll gladly repeat.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    And then there were postcards

    Having dutifully sent off our postcards around the world I really really really hoped we would receive some in return. 

    And we did!

    One from Canada...

    ... which recommended "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch.
    One from India
    Lovely handmade-paper card from India with dried flowers that it is best we never tell anyone from Customs about.
    ... which recommended "Two Crazy Pigs" by Karen Berman Nagel.

    One from New Zealand...

    ... which recommended "Follow That String" by Deborah Brown and Kathy Bacovitch.

    One from France...

    ... which recommended "There Are Cats In This Book" by Viviane Schwarz.

    Look at the cute little picture of the cover of the book included on the back of the card:

    There was also from the USA, which has disappeared, I suspect down a black hole, never to be retrieved (aka under the fridge). I will update this post with a picture of it if I manage to fish it out.

    Next project: go to library and see if we can find copies of any of them!

    Thank you to Zoe from Playing By the Book for organising this. It was a great project and I hope it will still be going when Little E is old enough to properly appreciate it.
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