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.
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