Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Singapore and Bali, one noodle at a time...

I ran out of time before we went away to say, I'm going away! We are in Bali after a four day jaunt with my parents in Singapore. Think - Zara, Universal Studios, Marc Jacobs (drool), playing, swimming and my favourite, watching Zahara eat noodles with one chopstick. Memorable stuff.

Now we are relaxing, unwinding into that slow, easy pace of not doing much poolside. Oh and thank heavens for Kids Clubs. Just one hour is magic. And reading Steady Days, which while my mind is relatively clear, could set me on a path when we come back home.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weekend wrap

Where possible, we try to create fun, new but wholesome experiences for our girls. We try to impart an appreciation of 'the simple things' in life. And so, a trip to local hardware chain Bunnings several months ago produced....
the outdoor firepit!

Around $60, it's basically a steel bowl on legs that you put in your garden and make a little bonfire in. Now that it's winter, we light it some weekends in the late afternoon while the kids play outside. Then dinner is eaten outside in a bowl. Always followed by toasted marshmallows.

The fire is soothing, warming and is a real novelty for kids. They scurried in the garden and down the street to collect fallen branches and twigs to throw in the fire. It looks beautiful too. Although admittedly, my heart is in my stomach for most of the time watching three kids walking, stumbling and moving constantly around it.

The face paint was from an African festival the girls went to on Sunday. They watched African singing and dancing, ate African food, and even got an awful red braid put in their hair. Zahara didn't speak for the three hours she was there.

By the way, these books (A School Like Mine, A Life Like Mine , Children Just Like Me) by DK Publishing are also great to expose your kids to other cultures, nationalities and lifestyles. (I've put some in the sidebar linked to Amazon.) We have a few in the series and they are probably one of their most frequent requests for reading at bedtime. Layla and Yasmin really enjoy them and talk about that some of the kids have no shoes or toys but big smiles on their faces. And the ones that do housework and cleaning and cooking at home. Here's to hoping it may rub off on them...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Some inspirational reading

If you haven't heard of the Nie Nie Dialogues you'll no doubt be moved, saddened and inspired all at once. I've been following Stephanie's blog for some time now, as well her sister CJane.

Stephanie is a gorgeous mother of 4 young kids in the States, and was in a horrific light airplane crash with her husband last year. She almost died from her burns, but survived. On her blog, which she started before the crash, she wrote witty, sweet and honest posts about life with her kids and her Mr Nielson. Stephanie was also a guest on the Oprah show and has a huge following of blog readers.

You can watch a video if Stephanie here and here.

At the very least, you'll be reminded how lucky most of us are and how we take all the little things for granted.

Hope you are having a lovely weekend.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In our kitchen

When my kids aren't around or when Zahara is pretending to sleep, you will often find me, apron on and cookbook open, in my kitchen. This is where I love to be - feeding my family. I have had lots of years practicing my cooking now, and I have really come to enjoy it.

Luckily, my kids are also pretty good eaters. They love to try new foods as well as eat a variety of foods. Cooking is also one of the things I love to do with my kids at home. They are always up for some cooking, and it's great to give them practice and confidence in the kitchen. They'll need it eventually! I've also found (as I'm sure many of you have) that they are more likely to eat what they cook.

And so, inspired by Amanda at Soulemama, here's what we've been eating in our kitchen.

Banana Bread, Donna Hay kids 2008
I made this last week with Zahara and Layla and it was easy, great for kids to make and really tasty. It was great for after dinner desserts, lunchboxes and general snacks. The girls really enjoyed the novelty of using a knife to cut up their bananas. If you are visiting from the States, Donna Hay is our version of Martha Stewart. She has a magazine, cookbooks, homeware products and an annual kids issue that is great.
1. Oven on to 160degrees celsius.
2. Grease long tin and line with baking paper.
3. Beat 130g butter with 1 cup brown sugar and 1teaspoon vanilla till pale brown and creamy.
4. Slowly add 2 eggs and beat till well mixed.
5. Mash approx 3-4 bananas to make 1.5 cups and add to batter.
6. Sift 1.5cups plain flour, 1tsp baking powder and half tsp of bicarb soda over batter.
7. Add 1/4 tsp of cinnamon (we used more) and 1/4 cup of maple syrup.
8. Beat until mixed.
9. Bake for one hour.

Shepherd's Pie
I've made this countless times, it's a great, hearty meal perfect for winter and I pack it full of vegies. The layers of meat, potatoes and peas look gorgeous in a big glass casserole dish. I use this Annabel Karmel recipe as a base, adding in lots of vegies in the meat sauce. For the mash, I replace most of the potato with sweet potato which is more nutritious but still really tasty. Add some dollops of Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce and ketchup to the meat sauce will also make it delicious.

Pikelets for breakfast
I used a Donna Hay kids' recipe for this as well. I made the mixture the night before and in the morning, it was ready to cook.
1. Place 2 cups SR flour and 1/2 cup caster sugar in bowl, make well in centre.
2. Place 3 eggs, 30g melted butter, 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in well.
3. Stir with wooden spoon until combined.
4. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.
5. Heat lightly greased non stick pan on low. Spoon 1tblespoon of mixture on pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes till you see bubbles appear.
6. Flip and cook 3-4 minutes until golden.
7. Serve with jams, maple syrup or fresh fruit.

These are easy and best of all homemade. Enjoy!

Weekend wrap

It was a lovely end to a long weekend (today is a public holiday in Victoria). For the first time in months, Zahara napped yesterday....for 3.5 hours! What a lovely treat that was. While she slept, we watched Mr Bean on Holiday with our two older girls. We lit the fire, ate popcorn, drank tea and snuggled together. Heavenly. Then, the older two went to a playcentre while Zahara continued to sleep. I continued to snuggle (alone) on the couch with the paper. Double heaven.

Today, Zahara went to creche and Daddy took the girls to Werribee Zoo with their cousins. The girls are always excited when Zahara is not there, as much as they love her, a 2 year old is tiring on everyone sometimes! And as you may recall, some adventures are just not made for little ones. They had a great time, played, walked and saw some animals. You know, just some lions, zebras and giraffes.

In the mean time, I tackled our study. A mess of papers, bills and crap...all gone thanks to some serious filing and a visit to Kikki K. A great shop filled with gorgeous desk organising stuff, pens and labels - especially motivating when you are organising your study! Perfect timing. I also bought this recipe journal as my old one is getting tattered from all the clippings I cut out or print online.

But the quiet, the peace, was amazing. I think it was the first time in years I have had the day ALL TO MYSELF, even if I was tidying up for most of it. And just before I started to enjoy my aloneness a little too much, a little reading of my book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, reminded me that these years are indeed precious. As draining as it can sometimes be to be needed by little people constantly, one day we will miss it terribly. And when that day comes, we will have to let go as our little people go out into the world making their own plans, choices and judgements. And suddenly, I ached for my three little people. For their warm, chubby bodies that snuggle perfectly into mine. For their funny little teeth, little fingers and soft kisses on my lips. For their little faces, wide eyes, smatterings of freckles and squishy bums.

Once everyone regrouped at home, we actually enjoyed a lovely afternoon together(and you know I tell it like it is!). We had BBQ'd lamb cutlets for dinner, brown rice and peas, corn on the cob, salad, asparagus, artichokes and orange for dessert. We chatted. We talked. We joked. We really enjoyed our meal and most importantly, our time together as a family.

At shower/bath time, the older girls sang for Zahara while she sat back in her laundry tub that she now loves to bathe in. She joined in happily. Layla brushed Yasmin's hair while they continued singing. Am I making you sick yet? Because I was amazed at the peace, contentment and simple happiness in my kids. Thank the lord for public holidays! Here's hoping you had some peace and happy times in your weekend. 'Cause I know we used up our lot...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dontcha hate...

Don't you hate reading blogs where the kids play together so beautifully, pick up after themselves and write thank you notes to their mum? And the mum is so, so happy, relaxed and positive that you are left thinking something is wrong with you/your kids?

Well, this is NOT one of those blogs. Man, I am tiiiiirrrrred! This winter is cold already, and we need some sunshine. Another two weeks till end of term and we are off for a much needed trip and warm weather. In the mean time, my kids are tired and cranky after school. My 2 year old would rather serenade me through the baby monitor with nursery rhymes than sleep, and my older girls need a little TLC after school which is near impossible while holding the by then tired and cranky 2 year old. Add in one stretched out mother and it's not pretty. Minor meltdowns are tossed around like a hot potato between all of us. Which leads me to declare....."Help! I need help. "

I like to do things myself when it comes to looking after my kids, but I can't go on like this. NOT. ONE. MORE. DAY.

So, Karolina from Peru is coming tomorrow afternoon to ease the load. I've never met her, but I figure it can't get worse than what it is now.

In brighter news, the girls did enjoy doing this little obstacle course at home this afternoon. Hope you and yours are happy and well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weekend wrap

It was a nice, fun weekend. Our highlights:
- Taking Yasmin to see Rock the Ballet. Fun, great music and high energy dancing. This is time just for Yasmin without younger siblings in tow. I tend to do something one on one with Yasmin every weekend so she can feel special doing something the little ones can't.
- Going out for yummy dinner at Chez Olivier in Greville Street. Highly recommended. Seriously delicious steak and fries followed by chocolate mousse. Heaven.
- Filling our empty Play do container with homemade playdough.
- All the girls in bed by 6.30pm. Sharp. Asleep within 5-10minutes. And now, silence.
- Seeing Gill get tired and grumpy after staying home with two tired and grumpy girls today. Kidding.
- Counting down to a nice, warm holiday in less than three weeks to Bali and Singapore.
- Replacing our melamine and plastic kids ware with this , this and this. No more plastic. Yech.
- Shopping online at Minifashionista's sale with some great kids clothes on SALE people. I love Polka, I am proud to say they are Australian kids clothes and sooooooo cool.
- Waiting for my takeaway Japanese to be enjoyed in peace and quiet.
- Watching Underbelly. Addicted.

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An easier afternoon...

Finally, the afternoons are getting just a little, teensy bit, easier. A little less fighting and bickering (them). A little less shouting (me).

My tactics:
1. Give dinner as soon as we get home from school (about 4, 4.30pm). Yasmin is STARVING after school and needs to eat ASAP. I don't want to fill them up with silly snacks and would rather they eat a proper meal early and snack after.

Yesterday the girls had lentil soup followed by steamed artichoke. They consider artichoke a treat - they love peeling off each leaf to get to the artichoke heart. Even the 2 year old! Then they had a slice I had made earlier in the day with oats, pistachios, dried cranberries and organic dark chocolate.

2. Have a small activity or a 'plan' ready. Yesterday was the first day of winter in Australia, so I had printed out some 'winter' colouring pages I Googled online. This took me 5 minutes but gave them something to get started on. Then Yasmin and I made snowflakes (very easy - trace circle from a bowl or jar, cut out, fold and cut shapes out). Yasmin loved doing this, it's easy, quick and every snowflake pattern is different.

Meanwhile, Zahara was content painting the 'mountains' inside an empty egg carton. Eventually her and Layla joined forces and did some painting together. I taped butcher paper to our blackboard to give them ample room. Then they got totally into adding more and more paint and mixing the colours - about 10 minutes later things got OUT OF CONTROL with the paint and these were quickly put away! But they loved doing a painting together.

3. Have snacks ready and available while playing. Yesterday's was pre cut vegies and tahini to dip. They devoured these too.

4. Take it easy. During this hour, hour and a half of playing post dinner to pre bath, we take our time. This is the one part of the day they can relax and have some free time at home. The girls usually shower instead of a bath which is quicker and less chaotic as they are in and out.

For tomorrow, I have printed out some colouring in pages, mazes and games from the Eric Carle website (we are big fans). There are so many resources and printables online. Hope you're having a lovely week too.