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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some variety for the sausage roll fiend

I've written before about Little E's penchant for sausage rolls. Oh ok, penchant is a bit classy, it's more like an addiction. (So far at least) she has never turned them down, and lately all kinds of things I never would have predicted have been shoved away, smushed, dropped on the floor, met with a raspberry, or her old favourite "no more!"

Anyway, a while ago, Lovely Friend E gave me her recipe for vegetarian sausage rolls. I suppose given they contain no meat they don't really need the "sausage" ... perhaps "vegetarian rolls" is a better description? I digress. It took me a while to get around to making them as we were working our way through the veal and pork stash in the freezer. These ones are predominantly mushroom, capsicum, onion, oats and cheese, flavoured with tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce. Little E has finally started doing what I would describe as a proper "toddler nap" - two and sometimes more hours in the middle of the day. It is really wonderful and please please may it continue. It gives me a chance to eat, read, clean, cook, potter in the garden and even have a semi decent sleep if I need to. Today it gave me a chance to whip up a batch of these little goodies.

Little E is still asleep so I don't know if she will like them but I just had four with salad for my lunch and they are yummo! I was worried the sweet chilli sauce would be too spicy for a toddler but it doesn't taste hot/spicy at all.

Here is the recipe for anyone who is interested:

Vegetarian Rolls

1 cup of finely chopped onion (I used half a cup and added a couple of cloves of finely chopped/crushed garlic)
1 finely chopped red capsicum (medium size)
6 finely chopped button mushrooms
1/2 cup rolled oats (I used quick oats)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I doubled the oats and omitted these)
1 cup grated cheese (I used half cheddar and half parmesan)
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 or 4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce (I used 2 tablespoons of this and 4 of tomato sauce)
3 or 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 eggs
3 sheets of square frozen puff pastry
A little extra beaten egg for brushing
Poppy/sesame seeds (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 200C and take the puff pastry out of the freezer.

2. Finely chop the onion, capsicum and mushrooms and crush the garlic (if using).

3. Mix the eggs, milk, soy sauce, tomato sauce and sweet chilli sauce together in a small bowl.

4. Stir together the chopped vegetables, oats and cheese. Then add the egg mixture and give it all a good stir. The mixture will look quite wet but don't worry because the oats will absorb most of the moisture as it cooks. If you think it looks really sloppy you can add a little extra breadcrumbs or oats.

5. Cut each square of puff pastry in half so it makes two rectangles. Using one rectangle at a time, put a line of filling down the middle. Then wrap each side over and gently press down to seal.

6. Brush each roll with beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

7. Carefully cut each roll into 8 small rolls. Arrange them on a greased baking tray. After 15-20 minutes hopefully you should wind up with something like this:



Monday, June 27, 2011

Book of the Week: Monkey and Me

We love love love Monkey and Me! It's a rollicking, rhythmic, repetitive read that describes a little girl and her monkey visiting a variety of wild animals.

We've used it to introduce a number of new animal noises/actions; Little E can now flap like a bat and bounce like a kangaroo. We like that it includes a few animals less common to children's books; the afore mentioned bats and kangaroos, as well as penguins (and the more common elephants and monkeys).

The illustrations are lovely, simple pen and ink drawings. If you look closely, each page gives you a clue as to the identity of the next animal they visit.

I can see Monkey and Me being a favourite at our house for years to come.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Locking them up

Someone knocked on our front door today. 

This is not exactly a momentous event but it is quite rare. Normally the only people who knock on the door are people we have invited over, or occasionally the man in the Australia Post van bringing a parcel to the front door that won't fit in the letterbox.

Today's visitor knocked at about 5:30pm when Little E and I were home alone and were halfway through her dinner. I was quite startled - it was a loud, long knock and obviously we weren't expecting anyone. I really thought twice about opening it. The front door is wooden, has a lock and a deadlock and in front of it is a security(ish) screen door. None of the locks were in use. I wished that I had the good sense to lock the screen door as a matter of course so that if someone unexpected arrives I can open the wooden door and still feel relatively secure.

I don't know why I was worried. We live in an area that's as safe as you can ever be and so far as I'm aware we haven't annoyed any bikie gangs or other scary types lately. I suppose though that no one ever expects to get burgled, or robbed, or for bad things to happen to them.

[Brief, lawyerl-y tangent: there is a difference between being burgled and being robbed. "To rob" means to steal with violence (or threat of violence). So if, whilst you are minding your own business at the train station, some savoury soul punches you and relieves you of your mobile, you have been robbed. If he then goes down the road, points a gun at the service station chick and takes all the money from the till plus some Cadbury koalas for good measure, that's a robbery too (in fact it's an armed robbery because of the gun.) "To burgle" means to enter someone else's property without their consent and to either commit an offence, or intend to commit an offence. So if our same pleasant friend is really having a big day and after his service station shenanigans he goes to someone's house, breaks a window and wanders away with their plasma screen telly under one arm, that's a burglary. If they get home and catch him in the act, it's still probably a burglary (assuming he had more sinister intentions than just having a nap on their sofa). Anyhow, now that you know the difference you can join me in being irritated everytime someone in the media misuses the two terms.]

Anyway, today's story has a happy ending: the unexpected caller was an early-20s girl collecting for disabled people and she was perfectly pleasant and disappeared quickly when I declined to give her anything. But it's made me resolve to remember to lock the screen door whilst I'm home alone with E, at least until our fancy new driveway gate arrives at the end of the month.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Swings & roundabouts

Image from
I am completely resigned to the notion of "this too shall pass" when it comes to babies sleeping - or not, as the case may be. Until this morning I hadn't thought about applying it to the seemingly random and definitely annoying eating habits of the same sweet and fickle little creatures. I've been whinging away about Little E's mercurial temperament in relation to all things food over the past week or so (see here and here if you think that misery deserves company).

As of today she could be a different child. She ate porridge and fruit for breakfast, snacked throughout the morning on her usual rice cakes, cheese and fruit, but was distracted quite easily and happily on the occasions I thought she was bored rather than hungry. She managed a trip to the library without demanding food in the middle of it, then consented to sit in a high chair without screaming and struggling to get out at a cafe, where she shared my fruit juice and raisin toast. She did pour water in her lap and spent the rest of the morning looking as though I have very unimpressive nappying techniques but that is a separate issue! Back to the library for Rhyme Time where there was enough going on that food was the last thing on either of our minds. On the way home she accepted that we had run out of snacks and spent the drive completely absorbed in attempting to take her shoes and socks off. At home it was lunch time and she ate half a toasted wrap with cream cheese, avocado and turkey.

She is now napping and all I can say is that I would like to put an order in for a repeat of this morning rather than a repeat of last week.

Are you paying attention, oh mighty food gods?

Book of the Week: Usborne "Look and Say" Garden Book

This is an enduring (well, a few months anyway) favourite at our house. It was a library find that we liked so much we bought.

It is a sturdy little board book with tabs down the right hand side of each page to make them easy to turn.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Today I am grateful for ... pikelets

Pikelets of the gourmet variety from
Mine don't look quite this impressive.
 ... seeing as Little E has decided they are a food group all on their own. 

Meal times have become a bit fraught lately. She won't sit in her chair - or if I insist, she attempts to climb out of it, heart-stopping Houdini style. She wants to snack constantly, tugging at the freezer door (the only one she can reach, and which has a baby lock on it) demanding "minga minga minga" as though she has not been fed for weeks. She will eat pikelets, or frozen vegetables, or rice cakes/crackers with hommus/cream cheese, or sliced cheese. That's about it. She's even off fruit, which if I'd heard a week or so ago I would have laughed at. The constant snacking is perpetuating the annoying cycle because I think part of the problem is that she eats so many snacks she's then not really hungry when it comes to meal time.

Yesterday for dinner I offered E:

* Boiled egg: doubly offensive because it had to come off a spoon, and being fed from a spoon is, like, worst ever nightmare territory - she would not open her mouth, shoved the spoon away, and when (even though I knew it was a bad idea) I tried to persist, she grabbed it and rubbed it in her hair;
* Mini raviolis (which a week ago she could not get enough of) - she ate two;
* Frozen vegetables - she ate a few bits of carrot and maybe three peas.

It is making me feel like some crazy bag lady who alternates between mumbling to herself and then bursting out into loud, unexplained rants.

I keep reminding myself that it's not the worst thing in the world; after all a homemade pikelet has nothing dreadful in it and incorporates a fair amount of egg and milk.

And I have a few strategies to attempt this weekend and next week:

1. Distraction. Instead of giving in to the demands for constant snacks, offering a book or something else fun. Hopefully she will then be hungrier at meal times.
2. Trying some savoury pikelet recipes; the old sneaky vegetable technique.
3. Maybe trying some other finger food that is similar to pikelets, little fritters or something. I just need to work up the enthusiasm to cook stuff even knowing that it will probably be rejected.

So there we are, gratitude for the old one cup of flour, one cup of milk, one egg (plus at our house at the moment, some mandatory mandarin rind).

This post is part of Maxabella's Grateful Saturday.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ode to Frozen Vegetables

Praise you frozen vegetables
yellow orange green
frosty crunchy packets
in my freezer lurk unseen.

A minute in the microwave
round and round you go
exactly the attraction
I'll prob'ly never know

but Little E will gobble you
when all else is refused
her bowl will come back empty
nothing to re-use.

Oh lovely frozen vegetables
never hit-and-miss
nutritious frozen vegetables
you make me feel like this:

Winter garden

About a month ago I loaded the vegie patch up with bags of compost and blood and bone. Digging is hard but satisfying work! Then I left it to sit and fester for about a fortnight (convenient timing, as it took me that long to get to Bunnings to buy seedlings and mulch, and the blood and bone bag said to wait at least 7-10 days before planting anything).

Then in went runner beans, snow peas and rocket. We also have an enormous feral pumpkin, an unidentified feral melon (possibly re-germinated from the watermelon seedlings that died a speedy death in our unforgiving summer but could also be rockmelon sprung from buried scraps), a few leftover herbs and the passionfruit vine that is in its second year and which I really 
really hope will give us fruit this summer.

Winter vegie patch: planted, mulched and ready to go! (or should I say grow?)
Recently, just to the left of the end of the photo above, we installed two compost bins. Prior to this I was burying all our green scraps but it's too hard to do that without disturbing the new seedlings. I'm trying to alternate layers of green/brown/scrap/dirt, with a different layer on top of each at any one time. So far they mainly seem to be producing flies and midges in prodigious quantities, probably because the most frequent thing that goes into them is fruit/vegie scraps. However E and I just took advantage of what has turned into a beautiful afternoon to add a layer of dirt to the most offensive one which will hopefully reduce the problem.

And we still have about a million manderines. The flesh is closest to an Imperial in texture and now that they are properly ripe they are quite sweet. The skin is somewhere between an Imperial and whatever those other ones are called (the ones with the thinner, harder to remove skin). Yesterday I peeled what felt like a hundred but was probably only about a dozen, juiced them and froze the juice. Somewhere between six and 12 seem to fall off every night and E's new favourite game is to toddle around after me with her beach bucket, carefully picking up each one and depositing it before moving onto the next. Good for toddler entertainment if nothing else!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Great Mandarin Glut of 2011

It's on, folks. And it shows no signs of abating any time soon. This has to be the most tolerant, generous tree on the planet. It barely rains all summer, we vaguely remember to turn the hose on it a few times, we do absolutely nothing else. And look what it bestows on us:

We've been through a couple of dozen already and I'd say there's another couple of hundred to go. So earlier in the week I decided it was time to attempt some mandarin-heavy recipes in an attempt to dispose of a few.

First off the bat was mandarin jelly:

500mL mandarin juice
100 gm sugar
10 gm powdered gelatin

... all stirred together over low heat until the sugar and gelatin dissolved, and then refrigerated for several hours. It used up about 20 mandarins, which I juiced by whizzing them in the food processor and then straining the pulp through a sieve. It's tangy and sweet and was declared a success.

Next attempt - mandarin muffins courtesy of this ABC recipe. I did them in cupcake containers and they also turned out well, pretty much just butter cake with mandarin juice and zest, but nothing to complain about.

I have in mind a mandarin chicken dish but don't have a recipe, I've  googled for one but to no avail. I was thinking a stir fry kind of thing that uses mandarin juice, if I can't find a specific one I might adapt a lemon chicken recipe.

So today I"m grateful for citrus, citrus, citrus! How are things at your place this weekend?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to splish splash and stay dry

Around here it's the season of the early morning walk. Since Little E reverted to two naps a day, the first one being at about 9:00/9:30, our adventuring generally starts at about 7:30/8:00. Despite Perth so far having a very dry winter, everything is still well and truly damp at that hour. Little E does not understand this (or perhaps more to the point she does not care). In her mind, the washing machine serves no purpose beyond something to bang on whilst Mumma is in the loo, so she does not think that returning home with completely soaked clothes is a major issue at all.

Consequently, I was very very pleased when her most recent clothing purchase arrived in the mail:

With these on you could fight a fire ... or stay dry in the rain.
They mean you can climb in amongst the plants in a damp garden bed and not get wet.

It wasn't actually raining but the overalls had just arrived so I had to try them on her immediately.
You can climb up wet stairs, and laugh ecstatically on a drenched swing, and slip down a wet slide and land in the puddle at the bottom, and no one will roll their eyes and grumble.
They weren't exactly dirt cheap (overalls $28, jacket $34.90 from Splish Splash rainwear) but they are Danish, good quality and generously sized enough that  hopefully they will last next winter as well as this.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The sausage roll fiend

Recently we had afternoon tea with lovely friend Em and her Little H (two and a half) at Lawleys, a local bakery/cafe. We preceded it with a play in the park but then E started yelling for food (fair enough as I tend to give her dinner by 4:30 at the latest as that seems to be when she is hungry and if she doesn't have something approximating dinner at that time then she winds up eating fruit and cheese and rice cakes and then not wanting dinner when I offer it an hour later). Anyway, I should have known that the box of grapes was not going to cut it food-wise and wound up buying a sausage roll for E and I to "share." The quotation marks are because E loved it so much she ate about three quarters of it and when we got home her little tummy was all distended with the quantity of meat and flaky pastry she had managed to shovel into it. So I decided that I better learn how to make the things myself.

I wanted a recipe that didn't involve commercially produced sausages, just mince and this one from Kidspot looked promising. I used veal and pork mince because that was what I could find at the supermarket, added a big stick of celery as well as the carrot and onion, and left out the salt and pepper. I wouldn't attempt it without a food processor, but with one it was pretty easy, and they worked out really well. I did them in two batches and only thought about the fact that they would freeze better uncooked after I had put the first batch in the oven. I thought we'd have trouble getting through the 32 I cooked, but pigs that we all are they are disappearing pretty rapidly! They are a big hit with E and D and I had a sausage roll dinner the other night and enjoyed them too. Here's what is left:

International Postcard Swap Update

 We received our list of families to whom we need to send a postcard. If our list is representative, Zoe did a great job of allocating everyone different countries and trying to match the ages of the children in the sending/receiving families. Our postcard recipients live in:

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