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)? 
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