Wednesday, 29 January 2014

School's back!

In what varied from going too slow, to too fast, the school holidays have finally, yet all too quickly, come to an end. School started again today, which means that routine is back to being a necessity, and organisation comes in at a close second.
In regards to school supplies, I've always been slack. The kids would write these amazing shopping lists that include a new bag, water bottles, books, textas - you know, the things they "need" for school, and I would push these lists aside, refusing to buy new stationary all the time, and wait until at least Term 3 to begin actually considering that I might need to let go of my stronghold on mismatching socks and blunt pencils.

Lets face it, everyone likes shiny new things.

And coloured highlighters.

This year feels like the first time I've gotten things organised before school went back. Apart from school hats which we got this morning, as part of me was no longer happy with "a hat for school" and preferred "a school hat".

But. If there's one thing I have really struggled with (in regards to my children's academia), it would be homework... And reading... But mostly homework. Which isn't something that can be checked off a list at the start of a new year.

This year, my eldest son is in Year 5. It's a big year, and only a couple shy of high school. I declared that I would really like to be more consistent with getting my kids to do their homework. Whenever the kids would come home with the message of "no homework", I'd secretly cheer inside. But this year, it is my aim to pursue 30 minutes of after-school academic work each day. Even if it's on the computer.

When I came across The Organised Housewife's Homework Nook, I was determined to make one, believing that it would be the solution to my inconsistency! At least for a couple of weeks, anyway, before the novelty wears off. It will at least, though, provide us with a place to store homework sheets/folders, exercise books, and workbooks for various subjects.

What will this look like in Term 2? In Week 4? By Friday!? Who knows, but it's certainly a start that I'm happy with.

By the way: Though the heat was determined to melt any hopes of me living out this desire of mine, we managed a whole hour of a mixture of workbooks, FunBrain, and the opening chapter of a novel by my daughter.

I can now announce Day #1 as a success!
The TV is now on, and there's only 197 days to go ;)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

Ah, Australia.
A country that is the biggest island, and smallest continent in the world.
A country characterised by mate-ship, sport, and multiculturalism.
A country that is home to almost everything that can kill you.

Today is Australia Day. To celebrate (apart from eating Weet-Bix, Vegemite on toast, a snag on the barbie, a meat pie, lamingtons and pavlova) I thought I'd brush up on some facts about this wonderful sunburnt country that we live in.

 Assuming new births, deaths, and immigrant acceptances, the population of Australia increases by one person every 1 minute and 18 seconds, and is currently estimated to be 23, 364, 312 at the time of this post.

• Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. The only continent drier than Australia is Antarctica.

• Pubs, bars, and hotels in Australia cover more land mass than mines. There are currently 6033 established pubs, taverns, hotels, bars, and licensed restaurants in Australia. 69% of those are located on corner blocks.

The Snowy Mountains receive more snow than Switzerland.

• The only type of boomerang that will come back when thrown is the "Hunter". Other types are called the "Hook", the "Club", and the "V".

• The Australian Coat of Arms has a kangaroo and emu on it, because they are animals incapable of travelling backwards.

• Kangaroo meat is 98% fat free.

• Ayers Rock, also known as the Red Centre, or heart of Australia, is the largest solitary rock in the world. It rises 348m above ground, and sinks 2.5km underground.

• 91% of Australia is vegetation.

Australia was the second country to give women the right to vote in 1902. New Zealand was the first, in 1893.

• The dingo fence in Australia is the longest fence in the world (5,530km), and twice as long as the Great Wall of China.

• Approximately 30% of Australia's population were born overseas, from over 200 different countries.

• "Koala bears" are marsupials, not bears, and sleep for 18 hours a day.

• Australia's first police force, formed in 1789, was made up of 12 of the best-behaved convicts.

• Former Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, held a guinness record for chugging beer.

Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.

• Australians eat 260 million meat pies each year.

Happy Australia Day!

I hope you had a great day celebrating this wonderful country we live in,

in whichever way you chose to do it :)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Fun Facts Friday!

This is a new blog segment I've created called Fun Facts Friday, because I consider myself not only a creator, but an educator, perhaps in the same way that someone strapped to an electric chair may be considered a conductor.

Fifteen Fun Facts about STRAWBERRIES!

1. Strawberries are actually the stem of a flowering plant, not a berry. Flan looks like a flowering plant. Therefore, flan is also not a berry.

2. The average strawberry has 200 seeds. These "seeds" on the strawberries are actually single-seeded dry fruit called achene, and actually have their own seeds. Eating these seeds, however, increases the risk of growing strawberry plants in your stomach.

3. In Belgium, there's a museum just for strawberries. In my stomach, there may also be one.

4. In France, strawberries are believed to be an aphrodisiac, and are given to newlyweds for breakfast... And lunch. And dinner. And dessert.

5. Strawberries are low in fat and calories; and high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid and potassium. Mix them with a bit of pastry and whipped cream and you've easily added calcium and extra deliciousness.

6. Strawberries (as well as raspberries) are members of the rose family. Strawberries can come shaped like roses on top of what looks like a jar of Nutella. It would be a shame not to eat all that Nutella, too.

7. Strawberries can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart attacks. Making a snake out of strawberries can help reduce the risk of being lame.

8. Strawberries are rich in nitrate, which can help burn up to 100 more calories when eaten before exercising. Sounds like these strawberry kebabs are in order for my next pre-workout boost!

9. Eating strawberries increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles, preventing muscle fatigue, making exercise easier. Ice cream certainly does make surfing (the internet) easier.

10. Vitamin C improves the skin's elasticity and resilience, resulting in healthier, younger-looking skin. A serve of approx. 8 strawberries provides more Vitamin C than a medium sized orange. To remain youthful, it is important to remember things we enjoyed as children, like jelly! But mixed with alcohol, because we are no longer youthful.

11. The antioxidants and Vitamin C in strawberries also protect the eyes from UV rays, which may prevent cataracts. If you tilt these mousse desserts on the side and go cross-eyed, it may not be helpful for your eyes, so better just eat them upright.

12. California produces one billion pounds of strawberries each year. That equals to approximately 450 billion kilos, which would make one big chocolate cake decoration!

13. If all the strawberries produced each year in California were to be laid in a line, they would circle the world 15 times! Then if you lay crepes next to them and roll them North.....

14. Unlike other fruit, strawberries will not continue to ripen after being picked. All the more reason to eat them quickly!

15. Strawberries come in liquid form, also, and increases the risk of having an awesome Friday night!

Source: The internet.
N.B. What you read may or may not be factual.

Looks like my Friday nights may now include taste-testing various strawberry recipes so I can live longer and not lose my sight!

Have you eaten your strawberries today??

Om nom nom nom!

Sunday, 19 January 2014


I wonder if procrastination really stems from an inability to multi-task.

Wonder, v.
1. To feel curious about.
2. To ponder, think about, or meditate on.

Procrastination, n.
1.    . . .                          

I often find myself wondering about big things in life. Life-altering issues, like how I raise and discipline my children, if the earth is flat, and whether you'd need a silencer to shoot a mime.

I've decided that it's time to share some of the things that fill me with deep concern and puzzlement.

Episode 1.

Where do ants come from!?

Sure, there's 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants alive at any given time, but what is so appealing about my house!? Why do they like my bathroom so much? Is their sense of smell greater than that of my dog, giving them the ability to smell the tiniest drop of ice-cream that I missed while wiping down the table?

Myrmecophobia is the fear of ants. Do ants also have a fear of humans? Next time the little bastards bite me in my sleep they will.

What do ants do on rainy days? Do bull ants bully the littler ants in the playground? And seriously, what could they possibly hope to find inside my laptop! Naked photos of the Queen!?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Game. Set. Matchstick!

One of my greatest tennis memories is watching Husband and his father verse each other in this game of giant ping pong. He (my father-in-law) lived on a farm, which was set up with tractors, sheep, horses... and a tennis court. One of the farmers was the commentator/score keeper for the match, and it was an enjoyable couple of hours listening to them trash talk each other while they played.

Owning a tennis court came with many hassles of upkeep. It takes just as long to set up for a game as it does to play it, as the court needs to be rolled, the lines marked, and the net hung up. And, of course, the spiders and snakes removed... Much unlike the perfectly maintained courts at the Australian Open, e.g.

A friend of mine has a son who lives and breathes tennis. She asked if I could make a tennis themed cake and cupcakes for his 13th birthday.

I'd designed a simple tennis court cake, with some tennis ball cupcakes. I'd felt very clever with the cupcakes, using bright yellow sprinkles to make them look furry, and white fudge frosting to mark the lines on them.

In my original plan, the tennis court was going to be perfect (much like an Australian Open court). But, instead, I didn't have quite enough fondant to cover the entire cake, so it was spontaneously surrounded by darker green tufts of grass to hopefully hide the cracks and gaps...

For the tennis ball cupcakes, I had attempted to mimic a Wilson ball, and changed the number on the ball, with the age Matthew was turning.

In a delightful turn of events, the 13 cupcakes sat perfectly around the cake to aid in extra coverage to the various blemishes.

The request also included Matthew's racquet ->

I managed to make something that almost resembled a tennis racquet, though could have been easily mistaken for a ping pong paddle with wires.

I used white royal icing to draw the tennis court lines, and then placed the "racquet" on top of the cake.

For the net (because you have to have a net in tennis), I used a strip of fly screen, and glued it to two cake pop sticks. Sure, proportionately it looks more like a volley ball net, but hey, no-one's perfect, right?

Did you know that the origin of using "love" in tennis scoring quite likely came from the French word for egg (which is l'eouf) because 0 looks like an egg? Though, there is dispute that the use of "love" actually came from the acceptance that at the start of a tennis match (when the scores are zero), the players still have "love for each other".

I like the French version, personally... Everything sounds better in French.

Joyeux Anniversaire, Matthew!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

It's a boy!

A midwife must possess
the hand of a lady,
the eyes of a hawk,
and the heart of a lion.

The experience of having a new baby is one that is not forgotten (well, unless you're knocked out). It is indescribable the way pain becomes a distant memory when that tiny and slippery miniature person that's been growing like an alien inside of you, is now on top of you, so tiny and fragile...

When I gave birth to Jonathan, he was purple and not breathing, because the umbilical cord had been tied around his neck for so long. Instead of me cuddling him, he was taken straight to the little emergency table, and the midwives and doctors attended to him until he started breathing and crying. I didn't realise what was happening at the time, but since Husband wasn't looking worried, I wasn't. He told me later that he doesn't worry about things he can't control, but that the situation probably justified abject terror: A baby not breathing, a suction hose, an oxygen pump, lots of carts, and many people crowding around...

He said it was cool seeing Jonathan go from being purple to pink from the extremities inwards, fingers and lips, then arms and face, and finally his chest. Everyone holding their breaths waiting for him to take his own.

Recently, friends of ours had a similar situation with their baby. But, for her, there was so much focus on making sure the baby started to breath, that no-one noticed the mother had passed out from so much blood loss. After being attended to, she was pulled to recovery, and everyone has a story to tell about the day.

Everyone has their own opinions on Home Births vs Hospital Births. I'd previously had a relaxed position, but am now a firm believer in a hospital birth considering Jonathan's complications... And because Husband pointed out that had the same situation been presented at home, his solution would have included a mini Dyson and a bicycle pump.

I had two midwives help me deliver Jonathan. One had just been made a registered midwife, and this was the first baby she was about to deliver on her own (special for everyone). The other, clearly a pro, refused to let me change my mind to have a cesarean, just because he was a few minutes away from being born... How rude!

Here's a little video that Husband had made about the arrival of Jonathan:

On the topic of hospitals, babies and midwives, this weekend I'd made some cupcakes for a local lady who has a tiny newborn of her own. She wanted to take some cupcakes to the hospital, to thank the midwives and staff who took such great care of her while she was there having her little baby boy! What an honour to be part of such a lovely sentiment :)

She had a baby boy, so requested baby boy themed cupcakes. There were designs in mind, and slowly the toppers were taking the form of what they were supposed to look like:

If you don't already know, I have a thing about symmetry. And things matching. And anxiety. Which is why I really don't understand why I made a different number of baby face/footprint cupcake toppers, to the blocks spelling BABY. After agonising over it all afternoon about how they would be placed in the box if there weren't even numbers of them all, I made an extra block, and put a star on it. Stars are baby boy themed, right?
... Just say yes.

Placed over some blue buttercream icing on top of my new favourite recipe for vanilla flavoured cupcakes, and they were finished! And just as importantly, they were symmetrical :)

The final challenge was to hold back the tears when my 9 year old daughter asked why the icing wasn't the same colour blue as the fondant...

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Cirque Du Mickey.

So we were in America, on Day 5 of our Walt Disney Floridian holiday. We had time to grab a snack before seeing Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba in Downtown Disney. By now we knew very well that "snack" in America, means a decent sized meal.

Wandering through Downtown Disney, we came across "Candy Cauldron" - a magical café/store that surely kept dentists in business. The front windows were filled with shelf after shelf of chocolate coated caramel apples, shaped into Disney characters. The walls were splashed with colourful candy. Vats of treat packets placed around the room. A cabinet in the middle lured us like the gingerbread house lured Hansel and Gretel. I had a suspicion that our diabetic-free life was sure to come to an end if we stayed too long. But there was no way we* could leave without admiring everything they had.

* Okay, just me.

Inside this cabinet was a display of marshmallow sticks covered in chocolate made to look like Mickey Mouse pants, cookies the size of your hand, fudge with more flavours than Disney characters, another selection of caramel apples, and what looked like LCMs, shaped into Mickey faces, decorated and on sticks (among many other things)! Why, oh why, did I have to make a decision? I wanted one of everything!

A young Australian woman served us, and as I looked through the glass, I asked if these were like "LCMs, shaped like Mickey"? She said they were exactly that, but here (America) they're called "Rice Krispies". From what I could tell, they had a layer of chocolate, a layer of something else**, and were drizzled with more chocolate. Fabulous, I'll take three, thanks!

** Mini M 'n' Ms, crushed Oreo biscuits, etc.

I chose the one with mini M 'n' Ms, because why not overdose on chocolate in one swift move, eh? Considering it was the size of my face.

I managed to get through half of this "snack" while people were taking their seats, waiting for La Nouba to officially begin. While this was happening, two older clowns were 'performing'. From what I gathered, their aim was to carry big, brightly coloured foam 'boxes', atop a giant stretcher, from one end of the auditorium to the other. Never-mind that it was probably one of those moments where you 'just have to be there to understand', but they were hilarious. Without speaking, they silently captured the attention (eventually) of everyone in the room.

Then the lights went out, and it started... Oh. my. goodness: It was incredible! The entire audience was captivated by the emotion, the intensity, and the victories of each acrobat, comedian, and dancer. Cheers were made and rounds of applause were frequently given. I highly recommend grabbing the opportunity to see a Cirque Du Soleil performance if you can! Amazing.

The Mickey shaped "rice krispie" that defeated me that night, I have managed to re-create at home, which proved to be a hit with the kids for afternoon tea. How hard could it be to make our own LCM bars? Here's what I did to make them, and kids would easily be able to help if you so desired them to...

I used this recipe. Once made, I used the back of a spoon to squish and spread it into my Mickey shaped cookie/sandwich cutter (like I'd seriously leave Disney World without one). I did this to avoid wastage from cutting shapes out of a square/rectangle slice. Half of the recipe made 6 decent sized 'LCM Mickeys':

I wanted to at least try the mini M 'n' M version that I had in Disney World. But I also really wanted to try something different, too! I remembered while we were drooling over them in the various bakeries around Disney, we noticed them with M 'n' Ms and crushed Oreos. I didn't have Oreos at the time, so made half with mini M 'n' Ms, and the other half I decided to make with peanut butter and chocolate, hoping to somewhat mimic one of the best combinations in the world.

After dipping them all into the melted chocolate, I sprinkled M 'n' Ms on the plain chocolate ones, and crushed peanuts on the others, which already had peanut butter spread on them... Ta-da! Afternoon tea was served:

One thing that I forgot to do (I realised too late, as usual), was push a paddle pop stick into the base so there was a 'handle' for them! Oh well. We'll be making these again, and I shall try to remember next time! :)

I've recently wondered what "LCM" actually stands for... Some suggestions may or may not include:

- Low Calorie Meal (Ha! I wish)
- Lunchbox Crystal Meth.

Oh, Snap! Crackle. And Pop.

Do you know what LCM stands for?
What would you put on top of a rice krispie?
Have you ever seen a Cirque Du Soleil performance?