Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another farewell

Life is sometimes cruel and unfair.  Death is never easy to accept, particularly so when it happens prematurely.  So for our good friend Russell the journey is over.  His is not going to stretch into old age. His boys will become men without their Dad there to guide them.  We all desperately wish it to be otherwise.

Tonight I'm going to love my children just that little bit more, hold them a little more tightly, whisper loudly in their ears how much I love them.  Make sure they understand their importance in my heart.  And be thankful for another day with them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Facelift (the garden that is, not me!)

Yesterday I mentioned the celebration at our school to mark the opening of the rejuvenated veggie garden.  The beds and fences have been rebuilt and an arbour constructed to support grapevines.

As parents we are fortunate to have this remarkable school for our children to attend, within walking distance of our home.  It has been threatened with closure a number of times in the past due to falling student numbers, but a change in demographics over the past 10 years has seen a doubling of the student population.  The school operates with a high level of parental involvement and it is amazing to see what can be achieved with a non-existent budget and a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers.  Rainwater tanks (for flushing toilets and watering the garden), solar panels, vegetable garden, orchard, chooks, rabbits, canteen (not only providing staff and students with healthy and delicious food but a hub for parents to gather and drink cafe lattes!).


The special guests for the opening ceremony included our local MP and Vasili from Vasili's Garden.

Here he is zorba dancing with the whole school.

I love the touches added by the kids - their signs and these sweet sculptures (I think it's meant to be a butterfly!).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More brown food

Why is all the food I photograph for this blog brown?

Last night I was up late making biscuits for the school canteen and for home.  In two days I have made 16 dozen biscuits requiring a kilo of butter, a couple of kilos of flour and more than a kilogram of chocolate.  I'm thinking I've missed my calling!
Each Monday morning I deliver a big jar of crunchy choc chip biscuits to our school.  Apparently the kids know to buy them on a Monday, since they're often gone by Tuesday.  Today I made a special second delivery for a special reason - the opening of our rejuvenated school veggie garden.  It was a gala affair.  There was a parade, a petal strewn path, special guests and food showcasing ingredients from the garden.  What a great occasion for our little school!  More about that tomorrow.

Usually I'm happy to share recipes - but this one is special and it's mine - sorry!  You'll just have drool over the picture instead :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sweet all round

The children enjoyed the peach juice from these sweet little bottles.

Meanwhile I was imagining how sweet they would look on the kitchen window sill.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lebanese pizza with pine nuts and pomegranate

I'm wondering whether this should be a food blog because I seem to be dedicating posts to food of late.  Well, in my role of primary caregiver to four kids, a cat, a dog and a husband (don't worry - he doesn't always come last, that's my spot!) much of my time is spent on food related activities - shopping, cooking, stoking the fires of hungry bellies and cleaning up afterwards.  It's amazing how much food they can get through without putting on an ounce of fat!  I demand to know their secret!

The Sydney Road Brunswick trip on Monday has set the tone for the week.  Tonight we tried something a little different - testing the little palates further.   The recipe for Lebanese pizza with pine nuts and pomegranate comes from Arabesque by Greg and Lucy Malouf.  Greg Malouf is a Melbourne chef and author who is well known for his modern (and rather fantastic) Middle Eastern cooking.  This is quite a simple meal to prepare and is obviously very different to the Mediterranean pizzas we are used to.  You can make your own bases, but to save a bit of time (on one of our two swimming nights), I used bases from  Amir Bakery in Sydney Road.  I generally buy a pack to pop in the freezer for emergencies. (For a quick snack with drinks I melt a little butter with olive oil in a large frying pan, add some crushed garlic and sumac, then toast the bread/pizza base on both sides until they're a little crunchy then cut into wedges).  The pomegranate molasses is worth finding, and is available at delicatessens.  The flavour is amazing!

40ml olive oil
40g pine nuts
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
180g minced lamb
1 tomato, peeled, de-seeded, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sumac


Fry the pine nuts over a medium heat until they are golden-brown (I dry roasted them, rather than adding oil).  Remove them and set aside.

Fry the onion in olive oil until it's soft, then add the garlic and mince.  Cook until the mince is browned all over.  Add the pine nuts, tomato and pomegranate molasses and spices and stir well.  Remove from the heat and check seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Depending how generous you are with the topping, this is enough for 2-3 pizzas approximately 30cm in diameter (I only managed two). Using pre-cooked bases, these pizzas take only 5 minutes. Using you own dough, the cooking time is closer to 10 minutes).

Serve hot from the oven with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of yoghurt and sprigs of young parsley.


Stress Down Day

There can be many sources of stress in daily life, and we all experience it in different ways and to different degrees.  Tomorrow I'm going to take a little time out - have a cuppa with some friends, catch up with Mum and take a walk by myself.  What do you do to reduce your stress?

My workplace

My workplace is a tough gig.  The hours are long, the clients demanding and relentless.  Often they are ungrateful and fickle.  They are results-driven, and don't think about the time or effort required by others (i.e. me) to achieve their goals.

On the upside when I need a little break I can make myself a cuppa (just the way I like it, no cheap tea-bags or International Roast in my tea-room!), wander into the garden and take a picture of the pretty primulas.

It's not all bad!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tick that one off the list

Sometimes I surprise myself and finish a project in a timely fashion.

New cushions for the kiddies to abuse.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why I LOVE Brunswick #1

I love Brunswick for it's diversity.  On this glorious Melbourne morning  I visited some of the Middle Eastern Bakeries of Sydney Road Brunswick with Rosie (Fangirl Sings the Blues).

Cheese pasties, Turkish Delight, pastries filled with walnuts and pistachios, Turkish and flat breads and breads to use as pizza bases, cheese & spinach triangles and others filled with spinach, lemon & sumac.  Shanklish cheese, bags of sesame seeds and fresh falafels.  We always buy too much on these trips - but it's so hard to resist!  Great food, handmade, still warm from the oven, served by the people who make it.  Heaven!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Next project & a market, to boot!

This week has been all about cleaning (thoroughly at that!), sorting and de-cluttering.  A little bit of self-analysis has revealed the cause - I'm about to make some changes and before I can embark on this new cause I have to clear the decks of outstanding tasks around the home.

Like so many of you out there I suffer from a lack of balance in life.  Mentally, I'm reasonably well-balanced *g*.  And although I'm pretty good at multi-tasking, I also have the tendency to become incredibly focussed on one particular thing, to the exclusion of all others.  Recognising it is the first step to improving the situation!  I'm forcing myself to step back a little and objectively review how to manage my life (and that really means managing our family's life) to extract the greatest amount of satisfaction.

So this weekend I'll be extremely satisfied when I have turned this pile of fabric into new cushions for the lounge!

Oh, and if the weather is fine (because we don't fancy getting ourselves and our stock wet) Cottage Nerd and I will be in our usual spot at the Shirt and Skirt Market on Sunday.  See you there (or not, as the case may be!).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

When I was at school, students studying French would subject the rest of us to a performance that always ended with the duck/chicken dance.

Tonight we'll be eating Boeuf  En Daube (since I chose Home Economics over French)

from here and I'll be thinking of Year 7 Linguistics and learning how to buy ice-cream (so long as it came in vanilla, caramel or chocolate and cost no more than 1 franc in those pre-Euro days!).  And since my children give out points for presentation (a la Masterchef) I'll be making sure it's as pretty as the pic above.  Maybe even prettier.

wordless Wednesday

Play wordless Wednesday with Faith Hope and a whole lotta Love

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Something old, something new

I feel as though I've been hibernating for the past month.  Lots of sitting about feeling less than average = lots of knitting (can't sit about doing absolutely nothing!), so that's a bonus.  But it also means not much sewing.  The sewing I have done seems to have taken quite a while.  In fact, everything seems to be moving slowly at the moment.  Although it was a little frustrating to spend most of the school holidays confined indoors as we battled our lurgies, it gave me plenty of thinking time.  Instead of lurching from school to kinder to extra curricular activities to shopping to play dates I had some time to mull over a few thoughts and actually make some decisions.  Most of these relate to Squirt Baby, but I'm not ready to share them yet!

I popped out the front to take a couple of quick snaps this morning.  Of course, it's blowing a gale outside and nothing is staying still!  

 These two a-lines are in lightweight denim (about 6 oz).  The one above has a little applique from the Alexander Henry "sage glen play day".  My Mum used to make me little dresses with puffy sleeves (similar to Snow White's) and this fabric reminds me of them.  Actually I have a small collection of those dresses in my old wardrobe.  Hmm - I think an exhibition is required!  The one below is decorated with vintage lace (50s or 60s).  I don't know why I find red and navy so comforting.  Perhaps it stems from the denim a-line skirt Mum once made me that I teamed with a red velour jumper...  That particular denim was very special.  Printed with large footprints.  I loved it.  It was the 70s, remember!

Mate and Marv are back at school.  It's a great reason to re-establish some semblance of a routine.  Today I am beginning a spring-clean and a purge.  Yes, I know it's only July, but I really can't wait any longer.  And it means that when spring rolls around I'll be free to frolic instead of clean!

Monday, July 12, 2010

And the winner!

In this life, creative, bloggy journey we have the opportunity to connect with folk we wouldn't otherwise cross paths with.  Such is the delightful and talented Sarah of Faith Hope and a whole lotta Love who has very kindly bestowed this award on this humble blog!

And now I need to share seven things you may or may not know about me!

1. I love to watch the Tour de France.  It has nothing to do with all the lycra and everything to do with the scenery and the speed with which the cyclists ride up those mountains!
2. I am trying to teach myself crochet.  I've been meaning to learn for about, oh, 25 years (yep, since birth hehe!).  Apparently it's not that difficult!
3. House plants are not my forte.
4. "A home for everything and everything in its place".  I need more homes.
5. I don't expect/need much for Mothers' Day, but I do expect something.
6. I didn't pay enough attention in Year 10 typing classes.
7. I prefer cats to dogs.

And now for the tricky part where I need to pass the award on.  For lots of reasons I have a hard time choosing (something to do with being an over-thinker!).   Last time I asked you to find and follow a new blog.  I don't know if any of you did, but I took my own advice to heart and signed up on quite a few new blogs!  So, that's what I'm going to do again - go on, get out there and have a look around!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fireworks in July at Docklands

Our family has been cooped up with colds and flu for most of the school holidays.  Last night we made the effort to bundle them all up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves and headed to the Docklands Precinct for a fireworks display.  Every Friday night during July there's a fireworks display at 7 pm that lasts for about fifteen minutes.  Hot chips to eat dockside and yummy ice-cream for afters it was a simple outing that brought about lots of smiles.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In The Garden

I don't particularly like dusting, but I do it, albeit irregularly.

Am I supposed to dust the garden too?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010


When my Nana moved into Lionsville my cousin and I helped our mothers (her daughters-in-law) empty the house.  She was born in 1901, grew up with an alcoholic father, lived through two world wars and a depression.  My grandfather was a primary school Headmaster (as they were called in those days) and the family lived in country Victoria during WW2.  Pa had secure employment, but wages were reduced during the war and weren't increased until the 1950s.  Money was tight.  Lots of people struggled and scrimped and saved. They, unknowingly, were reusing, reducing and recycling long before it became fashionable.

When clearing out Nana's kitchen cupboards we found piles of brown paper, saved from parcels, and the string that had bound them.  There was carefully folded aluminium foil (clean, of course!) and rubber bands.  In the fridge were butter wrappers, waiting to be used for lining cake tins.  Careful to the end.  

At the time we mocked Nana for her thrift.  In those days Dad (along with every other bloke with a garden) would fire up the incinerator on Saturday afternoons (causing Mum to rush out and whisk the washing off the line).  The compost heap was well used, but everything else went into the bin.  We were modern and lucky and recycling was limited to me wearing my sisters' hand-me-downs.

Within the last couple of weeks, my girls have all received new shoes.  And, of course, they want the shoe boxes for various purposes.  Luce wanted hers for her "collection".  Luce, at 2 years and 8 months, is a huge Charlie and Lola fan (who isn't??) and her collection makes even less sense than Lola's!  However, she's had a great time adding bits and pieces to her little box.  

As I thought about Luce's eclectic collection, it got me wondering about things I "collect" for no apparent reason.  The common denominator linking things I keep is this - they are too good to throw away.  And if they are too good to throw away, I can't let them leave the house unless they're going to a good home.  Not all things that are still useful are desired by others.

So, my collection of may-someday-be-useful items include the bags pillows and doonas and sheets come in (especially the zippered ones - good for storage) and iddy-biddy scraps of fabric (surely I can't just throw them away!).  I am crippled by sentimentality and an inability to dispose of anything which has potential.  I find it difficult to part with anything I've been given (it was a gift, after all), or the clothes my children wore as newborns.  I cried when we sold the car that had safely delivered all our babies home from the hospital.  We will never move because our house belonged to my grandparents.  And the house is filling up around us.  It's time to let go of some stuff, pass it on to others that will be able to use it.  The trick is to let go of it wisely and not into landfill.

Image from here via Betty Jo

I've spent the weekend going through my fabric scraps.  All that's left is a small tub for my children to create things.  The rest fills two rubbish bags and will be used to stuff the scarecrow I'm making with Im's kindergarten class.  What a relief!

Please don't go away thinking I have a serious hoarding problem!  We can move around the house with ease.  There are horizontal surfaces that are clear of stuff.  It's just that when I look around there's still lots of bits and pieces we don't need.  Most of it enters the house as gifts.  It's great to receive gifts!  But they usually come as lots of bits of plastic which then need to be managed - by me.  Perhaps that's the part I really object to!

If you made it all the way to the end - a gold star to you!  And thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Feeling better

I know the children are feeling better because they've spent a fair bit of time squabbling this morning.

I know Mate is feeling better because he's dragged himself off the couch and has started building with his Lego.  He was inspired by Marv's Lego numbers last week.

Lego numbers by Marv

This morning he came to me and showed me his version of the Lego numbers, requesting a photo shoot to boot.

Setting the scene

Lego man directs the crane operator

After careful manoeuvring  Number 5 is lowered into place

The eldest three are off to the movies this afternoon - Toy Story in 3D is the plan.
I wonder what Lego marvels will be built tomorrow?

Friday, July 2, 2010

More works in progress

Sorry to bang on about the poor health in this household, but the inactivity of the last two weeks have given me lots of thinking time.  I am a person who finds comfort in familiar surroundings.  At the same time, as a person unleashing their inner creative self, I need to move on.  Earlier in the year I decided to have a "go-slow" over winter.  And I'm so glad I did!  Lots of ideas have been popping into my head.  Last night I woke to find my head buzzing with new ideas for market stall presentation (something I'm yet to perfect!), and it looks as though the summer range is taking on a life of its own.  I'm grappling with a problem at the moment - most of my output is for girls.  So, a fork in the road - do I persist with gear for boys, or concentrate on girls?  Any thoughts out there??

At some point early last week - I left my machine to tend to the ailing Im.  This morning I wandered back into my sewing room to find this - 

- maybe I should finish that off?

Also in my sewing room is a large cane washing basket full of fabric for personal use only. There's some Bettina Liano denim waiting to be made into...something.  Now, I just don't have the type of body to do Bettina's jeans justice.  But, the fabric I have is lovely - just waiting for the right project!  Lots of lovely cottons waiting to be made into...something else (little dresses for the girls is the general idea).

In the meantime, I'm going to make a couple of things for myself today.  This knit is destined to become a drapey vest, or a cardigan if I can be bothered with sleeves!

Happy creating!