Reality Bites – Mealtime meltdowns

This is a well-trodden blog post theme for me, the seemingly never-ending dramas that occur at the dinner table.  Friends tell me it gets better, as yet I have no evidence of that but as I rarely see a 17 year old have a meltdown tantrum when eating out I can only assume they are correct.  Instead of going on and on about my frustrations around the dinner table I thought I’d make a little list.  My top 5 dinner dramas….. here we go.

5. A relaxing meal out – an oxymoron if ever there was one. I physically tense up in restaurants with the kids and not because they are horrible generally.  I just find the potential for the horribleness to come out (which it does very ocassionally) enough to set my teeth on edge.  I want them to be able to sit at a table, eat nicely, not disturb others around them and let everyone enjoy they’re meal.  I feel like other are judging me and my parenting based on the behaviour of my children.  So is this paranoia or something based in reality?  Who knows?  But what I do know is how often I’ve heard (and even said before having my own children) the line “My children will never behave like that in public” – or some version of it.  There seems to be unrealistic expectations about how children should know to behave and it’s bad parenting if they don’t fit that criteria.

4. No soup for you me!  My kids hate soup, pretty much universally.  I love soup, I want to make soup, eat soup and enjoy soup without a complete break down ocurring as the bowls are put in front of them.  What’s worse, they too used to love soup.  What the hell changed?

3. Cutlery, it’s there for a reason.  Use it!  Your hands are disgusting.  But if you insist on using your hands DON’T TOUCH ME!  Granted Miss Five is a gun with a knife and fork these days, her sister,  not so much.

2. Chilli, pepper, spice, I miss you so!  This one is reserved for Miss Five only.  She can spot a crack of black pepper at fifty paces.  A minuscule amount of chilli will send her racing for the tap as though flames are about to shoot from her mouth.  A curry is just not going to happen, I’ve tried!  Miss Three loves a bit of spicy sauce, a grind of pepper or some spicy salami.  She’s a girl after both Mr Good and my hearts.  And while adding our own heat or spice to the end product is okay, it’s just not the same as cooking it into the dish.

1. I’M BORED!  That’s me talking, not the kids.  I’ve given up my usual wide variety of dishes and have started serving up the stock standard meals week in, week out.  Spaghetti bolognaise, tuna mornay, fish fingers/fish fillets and veggies, fried rice, grilled meat and salad, kebabs and rice, tacos.  I’m bored with it all, I’m bored cooking it and I sure am bored eating it.  The dramas are fewer but at the expense of anything particularly interesting to sit down to.  I do add a new recipe in there every now and again, but mostly it’s the same old, same old.

It also doesn’t help that at least half the nights of the week I eat with just the girls, so there’s not even some adult conversation to dull the pain of eating with whining, fussy, messy kids.  I have two saviours though when I think I’m going to snap.  Wine and TV – the wine for me, the TV for them.  I wouldn’t normally suggest letting your kids eat in front of the TV, but occasionally it does the trick, they eat and don’t complain about the food.

I’m linking up with Jess again this week.  Click here to check out her post (when it goes up).

In the meantime, tell you’re tricks for surviving mealtime dramas.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Reality Bites – Whinge-a-thon winner

Remember last year a friend and fellow blogger, Jess, and I wrote a short series of posts about the realities of living with young children and being mostly at home with them full time (even if we do work or study as well in there somewhere)?  Well, we’re bringing it back.  Perhaps it’s a sign that we’re both finding the children a touch trying and the realities are biting particularly harshly just at the moment.

This first post of the second series of Reality Bites is all about the whingeing.  I think five year olds might bring a new highs to the world of competitive whingeing.  It’s something about the pitch of their voices, the particularly drawn out vowels (Muuuuuuuuuuuuum!) and the sheer consistency of it.  For Miss Five it begins at about 6.30am and continues until 7.30pm, with a break for the hours she attends kinder.  Apparently she NEVER whinges, whines, complains or acts out in any way.  What’s with that?!  Couldn’t she get a least a small part of her whingeing quota out on someone else?

Now one clear trigger for this excess whingeing for Miss Five is tiredness.  She’s the kind of kid that just needs her sleep and if she doesn’t get it the end of the day can be complete torture for all of us.  Add to that it’s the end of the year and all kids are more tired than usual (aren’t they) and in need of the rest and lack of scheduling the holidays will provide.  I look forward to those slow mornings and our beach holiday in the hope that the whining too might subside at least a little.  Of course I also dread the holidays just a bit because there will be no kinder to break things up and provide some solace for her and the rest of us.

Our strategy to deal with the whingeing has been one straight out of the Parenting for Dummies handbook, bribery!  If she doesn’t whinge all day she gets a jelly bean.  It helps a little as a gentle reminder that the voice is edging towards that terrifying pitch and the vowels are becoming dangerously elongated.  It’s generally enough to pull her back into line for a while at least, but I must say that packet of jelly beans has lasted a LONG time.  Of course bribery for good behave is a clear no-no for many parenting experts…. it’s a good thing I claim no expertise in this endeavour so I can get away with it.  However I have done a little research on the whole why kids whine thing and here are a few things I came up with.

1.  Kids whine to get attention, any kind of attention.  Solution: make sure they are getting some time with you doing something of their choosing everyday (the website said 2×10 mins with each parent per child per day, but I think you do what you can when you can).  But most importantly DON’T give them any attention (good or bad) when they whine and definitely don’t give them the thing they are whining about.  That seems like good advice, just walk into another room and ignore it.  Of course you need to set this up by saying that they are old enough to know how to ask nicely for something and be okay if they’re told no.

2.  Some suggest that whining is a signal for something else altogether, for a sense of being disconnected or loneliness.  In this case actually giving close attention and physical contact might be necessary.  This seemed more likely perhaps for younger children.  You can read more here.

3. Don’t you just love when expert advice directly contradicts each other!  However, I did find this website, which I liked a lot.  It identifies a whole series of reasons why kids whinge and how we can deal with them.

4.  Whingeing can go on for years, many years.  Some kids whinge and whine well into their teen years..  That is not a thought that gives me any comfort.

But it all honesty, I never find parenting advice as terrific as it sounds.  Real life is complicated and being consistent with whatever plan you have in place becomes difficult.  And then of course kids change constantly so what was working all goes out the window from one month to the next.  I just try to do what we feel is right for our kids at that time.

Have you got whingers at home?  How do you cope with it?  Tell me you whingeing stories.

Posted in Kids, Parenting | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Pinterest in the Kitchen – Asian Flavours

I was once asked at a dinner party “If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life what would it be?”   My immediate answer was Japanese.  It was a kind of strange answer for me given that I rarely actually cook Japanese.  Rather I go out for it, so it has this special aura about it, I eat Japanese sans children often with Mr Good and so I think of it with particular enthusiasm.  I also adore Miso Eggplant and love the clean, fresh and healthy flavours.  The children do love themselves a good sushi roll as well. But then someone else said Thai and I thought what good is it living if you can’t indulge in a spicy green or red curry with prawns every so often.  Then someone else said Italian and I realised that already that is the most common thing I cook and definitely my kids favourite cuisine.  Let’s face it the decision was impossible.  A dilemma on the same scale as penis fingers vs spider hat perhaps.

And all of this leads me to today’s post, my experimentation with a few new Asian dishes (thoroughly inauthentic I’m sure) thanks to my Awesome Asian pinterest board.

The first dish I made quite  while ago when I had splashed out and bought fresh salmon fillets for dinner.  I dearly wish I could stretch my budget to fresh fish more often – we all love it, though trying to navigate the ethics and environmental considerations when buying fish does my head in.  With that gorgeous salmon I made this Asian Salmon and Noodles dish.

My only alternations was to use a mild sweet chilli sauce in stead of the Sriracha sauce in the noodles.  Don’t do this, it needs more kick less sweetness than my version.  I would definitely use a spicy chilli sauce next time, perhaps added at the end after I’ve taken a portion out for the girls (or Miss Five who can taste a chilli flake at twenty paces) or sprinkle with chilli flakes after serving the noodles.  I also used a packet of egg noodles rather than pasta but it’s all pretty much the same right? And as we consider it sacrilege to discard salmon skin, I crisped this up under the grill and served it on top.  The whole thing was really delicious – despite being a little too sweet for my taste.

Sorry about the bad lighting.

Sorry about the bad lighting.

The second dish I really did some experimenting with.  It was based on this recipe for Mongolian Beef.  I wanted something I could have already prepared and then just throw in the wok ten minutes before serving.  So instead of following the method, I made up the sauce, threw in the meat and veggies and popped it in the fridge until dinner time.  At the last minute I decided it needed an injection of vegetables to I add carrots and snow peas.  It cooked up in the required few minutes, but would have been much better had I cooked the meat first, as directed, then the veg followed by the sauce and then returning the meat to the pan.  In the end mine turned a sort of muddy brown colour and I needed to thicken it with a little cornflour.  The flavours were still there and I loved the hit of ginger.  Both girls ate a whole bowl without a single complaint (a rare occurrence indeed).  I will be giving this a second go doing it properly next time.

IMG_0382

You’ll note the sprinkle of chilli flakes in the picture – added colour and gave a great little sizzle to the flavours.

So what’s you’re favourite Asian dish?  Is it kid friendly or do you have alter (or just not serve it to kids)?  I always struggle finding the balance between flavours I enjoy and ones the kids will tolerate.  And if you have to pick a cuisine for life what would it be and why?

Posted in cooking, Pinterest Inspiration | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday Reads – A Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

22168349

This was another audiobook I’ve listened to recently and having it read by Tara Moss herself gave it extra poignancy given the personal nature of much of this account of the treatment of women in today’s society.  Moss recounts her childhood, the loss of her mother as a young teen and her very early entry into the world of modelling.  Much of it was frightening.  The young age these girls were/are and the sorts of photos they are expected to participate in, the products they are promoting just does not correlate.  You know society has gone wrong when teenagers are used to sell anti-aging creams!  While Moss herself chooses to (or is lucky enough to be able to) avoid the ultra skinny model look, she sees it first hand in those working with her.  Girls so thin they start growing hair all over their bodies, girls with appalling teeth from throwing up all the time.  There didn’t seem any appeal to the life style at all – not even the cash, as Moss describes the years she went making almost nothing.

But modelling was only a small part of Moss’s story.  She is also a highly successful crime novelist.  This success has not come easily.  There have been many critics, some who accused her of not writing her own books – she ended up agreeing to a polygraph test to subdue these rumours.  Who else has had to do that?  There seems an assumption that beautiful women can’t also be smart – she proved that was not the case on her appearance on Q and A at the launch of this book.  Many of her book reviews – written by women as often as men – make references to bodies, cosmetic surgery, or personal appearance despite it being A BOOK REVIEW!!

The second half of the book chronicles a range of issues facing women and where women are excluded or discriminated against.  These included sexual violence, pregnancy, motherhood and breastfeeding and politics.  I could relate to a lot of it and have found, since becoming a mother, that the world is not quite the even playing field I had experienced prior to having children.  The statistics are often shameful.  I particularly liked her discussion of why she calls herself a feminist – and not a humanist as other celebs have decided to go with.  Her sentiments were echoed in this recent article from Tanya Plibersek.  While there is a lot to worry about and a lot of work to do still in regards to sex equality, we have come a long way and there seems to be global attention now on the areas we need to work on, books like this included.  Let’s hope it pays off.

Posted in Books | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Garden Share Collective – December

Wow, how did it suddenly become December?  Christmas is just around the corner now, but we are holding off the start of the silly season for a little while just yet.  The Christmas tree will stay in it’s box until next weekend.  But that is all beside the point, we’re here to talk gardens so let’s do it.  Welcome to another month of the Garden Share Collective, hosted by Strayed from the Table, where you can check out lots of other posts.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix

Over the last month big things have happened in the garden.  Harvest wise I have picked all the broad beans….. there were a LOT!  I blanched most of them and put them in the freezer to use later.  I gave lots away to friends and family.  And I have a stash still in the fridge to add to my standard steamed veg mix which goes with anything from fish fingers to zucchini slice.

997078_829541890429579_5598132488558918710_n (1)

The snow peas came in a steady stream over the last month (and before).  They’re still in the garden but looking pretty sad now so I think that might be the end of them.

I dug the random potatoes growing in the garden, some from where I planted them last year (and clearly did a poor job pulling them all up) and others from where I had dug in some compost.  It wasn’t a huge harvest, but they sure were yummy!  Boiled, then with butter and chives.

I pulled up half the garlic – I grew two varieties, a red one and a white one.  It seems the red one was ready for harvesting first, the other one is still going strong in the garden.  The bulbs weren’t huge, but they weren’t tiny either and I was pretty pleased with them (considering I had thoroughly ignored them all winter).

IMG_0022

Also going strong are my strawberries – and my strawberry munching monsters (dog included).  We get a bowlful every two days or so.  They don’t last long.

988418_834252216625213_795846477252435234_n

There were also some parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary, silverbeet, spring onions, broccoli, kale and a couple of tiny cauliflowers I didn’t even know were hiding under the broccoli.

1506632_835273213189780_2482331922306170556_n

Planting:

You’ll all be pleased to know that mighty grosse lisse is doing well in the garden and the other seeds I’d given up on have finally germinated, and potted up.  They’ll be ready for the garden this week I think.  I’ve planted lots of cherry varieties into the garden too which are looking fantastic.

IMG_0014

Capsicums have been planted out in two spots at two different times, the later ones are doing much better.

Zucchinis and Lebanese cucumbers are in, though I’ve lost a couple of each in the heat and will put a couple of seeds straight in the soil to make up for these.

IMG_0015

Finally beans and snap peas have been planted, again with a couple of losses, but not too many.

To Do:

Argh…. lots.

Firstly I need to finish planting out, more tomatoes, capsicums, some pumpkins, corn, basil and eggplants (and anything else that takes my fancy I guess).

IMG_0021

Watering, watering, watering (let’s hope there’s some rain in there too).

I actually still have a few of my broccolis in the ground which will come out in the next week or so.  Plus the silverbeet and kale that’s gone to seed needs to be cleaned up.

Mulch!!!!

Oh, and that path that STILL hasn’t been done.

There’s a bit of colour in my garden too at the moment which is making me very happy.  But I’ve written the lemon tree off – no leaves, no new growth, nothing, despite my efforts.

IMG_0011

And that’s a wrap I think.  Check back next month!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Wednesday Reads – Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

18143088

Recently I’ve found myself reading or listening to a number of non-fiction books, not my usual fare.  However, the break from fiction has been something of an education for me.  Firstly on the lives of Islamic women in the Middle East and then on the lives of slaves in the southern states of America in the mid-1800s.  This was more familiar territory for me – having studied and taught some American history – but no less thought-provoking or harrowing.

12 Years a Slave is a memoir written by Solomon Northup about his experiences as a slave in Louisiana.  Unlike most in his circumstances, Solomon was not born into slavery.  He was a free man lured away from his home and then kidnapped and sold as a slave.  He lived, worked, suffered and endured that life for twelve years before the truth finally emerged and restored his freedom.  He was educated, musically talented and intelligent, but for his white owners he was equivalent to a mule or a horse.  Valuable only insofar as the labour he was forced to provide.

Solomon was also a stickler for detail.  He goes to considerable depth to describe the planting, tending, harvesting and processing of various crops like corn, sugar cane and cotton.  This at first seems tedious and somewhat irrelevant to the reader, until you begin to understand that what he is describing is what constitutes the daily toil of the slaves, harsh physical labour, extraordinarily long days and the ever-present threat of the whip to spur them to work harder or faster, to punish even the most insignificant of misdemeanors and distressingly, for entertainment and vengeance.  Without slaves there could have been no cotton, tobacco, sugar cane or corn industry in these parts of the US.  The entire economy of those states rested entirely on the oppression of one race of people by another.  That’s a terrible thought made clear by the way Northup described just what the slaves did each and every day.  So while it may have seemed tedious at first, that detail left an indelible impression on me.

The stories Northup retells in his account are often tragic, appalling and heart-wrenchingly sad with but a few exceptions.  While 12 years of his life are spent in the condition of slavery, others are born and die as slaves, a relentless, inescapable truth.  I felt total despair for those poor souls.  However, the very fact the Solomon was saved from these circumstances is a tribute to human kindness and his tenacity and ability to trust others despite his past treatment.

Like with many memoirs Solomon is not a natural writer – though he makes a very fine attempt and it is by no means badly written – and that is apparent at times during this story.  Despite this, his story is so powerful it overcomes any failure of the writing.  As Steve McQueen, who wrote the foreword and directed the film (which is also brilliant by the way) said, this story is as important as that of Anne Frank’s.  How it wasn’t more widely known of until recently I don’t know.

In finishing, I’ll leave you with one thought that stopped me in my tracks as I tried to come to terms with what humans are capable of doing to each other.  A thought that Northup expressed most eloquently as he condemned not the slave owner, however cruel and heartless, but the system under which he operates.

“It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears that the rod is for the slave’s back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.”

Posted in Books | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Little About Me…. again

I recently joined a Facebook group called Ballarat Bloggers which I somehow stumbled across and then discovered some really great new blogs and a few new readers for my own blog.  One of my favourites is Potential Psychology written by Ellen and chock full of interesting reads about, well, psychology but also about what motivates us and how to improve our lives in simple ways.

She nominated me for one of those blogger awards (the Liebster Award), where you get nominated by a blogger and then nominate others, as well as answering some questions about yourself.  I think I might have done this a couple of years ago.  I guess these awards are a way of boosting your readership more than anything else.  I’ve never really been that focused on how many people read my blog so I don’t do lots of the things ‘experts’ say you should do to attract a wider audience.  I have a lovely following of people, some of who write me great comments, offer terrific advice and recommend books, share recipes and generally enhance my life.  I also follow some blogs – not as many as I used to because there just not enough time in the day – which I find funny, inspiring or that I relate to in some way.  Blogging for me is definitely a hobby, I have no intention or desire for it to be more than that.  So having said all that, I thank Ellen for nominating me and I will answer her questions and suggests a few other blogs to check out, but probably not much more than that.  I hope that’s okay.

Here goes:

1. What is one of your favourite quotes and why?

I read A LOT!  You would think I’d be chock full of wonderful quotes.  But for whatever reason mostly they don’t stay in my head.  Except for one!  Now are you ready for this one?  It’s a little bit life-changing.  “Would you rather wear a hat made of spiders or have penis fingers?”  Who could forget a quote like that?  And what would you answer, for me definitely a spider hat!  If you’re wondering this quote is from a wonderful Australian novel called Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  The line comes in a conversation between the protagonist, Jasper Jones, and his best friend and possibly one of the greatest Aussie fictional characters, Jeffrey Lu.  Silvey has an amazing talent for putting you inside the heads of teenage boys.  If that’s a space you’ve ever wondered about, definitely read Jasper Jones.  Actually, it’s whole lot more than that, so just read it regardless of whether you’ve had a curious thought about the inner workings of those particular beings.

2. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?

This is a tough one, so many characters!  My answer today is Jo from Little Women.  This is one of very small selection of books that I re-read (The Anne of Green Gables books and anything by Jane Austen would be the others).  I love Jo because she’s a free spirit, she thinks little of appearance (I too would have to dance with my back to the wall because I’d wrecked the arse area of my dress), she loves to write (and has the confidence I wish I had) and she needs no man to make her happy.  I love Jo!!

3. If you had 30 minutes of free-time, how would you use it?

Read.  That’s it!!  I find 30 minutes EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!  There is no housework more important than a few chapters of a great book.  By the way, my house is never that tidy, but ask me what I’ve been reading and we’ll have a great chat.

4. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?

I didn’t get into a primary teaching course when I decided to go back to uni….. the first time.  To be fair I applied only for 1 year courses and there was only one primary course that fit that bill – they had something like four times the number of applications to positions and you needed a masters to get in.  As it turns out I make a MUCH better secondary teacher than primary.

5. What is your first memory of being really excited?

Argh, I’m terrible at remembering stuff from my childhood.  My sister, on the other hand, will be able to tell you what every member of the family had for breakfast on the 23rd of September 1985.  Well, perhaps not quite, but she does seem to remember EVERYTHING, except scaring the pants off me by telling me there was a man with a gun hiding behind our curtains.  She promptly went to sleep and I was left with a lifetime of nighttime paranoia. I was about 8 at the time. Thanks for that one sis!  But I digress, this is supposed to be about a really exciting memory.  If I think about that for a second, it always comes down to holidays with my family.  Growing up we used to go on a road trip just about every September school holidays.  I loved (and still do) everything about road trip holidays – my siblings didn’t so much love my renditions of the Bangles whilst wearing my walkman headphones.  Possibly the first road trip holiday I remember well was our Queensland trip to visit Expo ’88.  I fell in love with the idea of travel and different cultures, food, music and more on that trip.  It left a lasting impression.  For some reason that trip always makes me think of a Ken Done painting (did he do the official artwork perhaps?).  It was vibrant, colourful and with that proper summer holiday freedom feel.  Hell, even my parents were pretty chilled.

6. What is something you learned in the last week?

Well, last week my brain went on holidays!  So potentially nothing.  It took leave citing extreme exertion and utter exhaustion.  It’s been slogging through a masters level Research Methods unit for the last few months so I think we can all cut it some slack.  Before that it had learnt a LOT!  I did take note of a few things this week though.  Firstly that I’m definitely not young anymore.  You see, I went to a wedding.  The realisation came when I found I was on the dance floor for all the songs sung by the guy with the guitar (also of a certain age bracket), but never for the DJ songs.  I couldn’t even begin to work out what I was supposed to do with my limbs in those songs…. are they even songs…. God I even sound old now.  Secondly, I’m glad I’m not young.  While my limbs may not know the moves, I at least have a moral compass attuned enough to know that humiliating a guy at his most vulnerable is a pretty darn horrible thing to do!  I would hazard a guess that Facebook or Instagram were involved.

7. Top three favourite songs?

Now if the question was top three most played song in your house the answer would be ‘Let it Go’, ‘Do you wanna build a snowman?’ and ‘For the first time in forever.’  But MY actual favourites (among many) would be Crane Wife by The Decemberists, Cotton Fields by Creedence Clear Water Rival (or The Beack Boys) and The Cave by Mumford and Sons.  Ask me tomorrow I’ll give you a completely different three.

8. Best thing about blogging?

Blogging kind of rescued me four or so years ago.  I wasn’t handling the mundanity of being at home with one, soon to be two very small children.  I was going a bit crazy inside and taking it out on my husband.  I started a blog on whim and in the middle of the night.  It’s not quite what I first imagined it would be.  It’s much more personal than I thought I would get.  And it has opened a world I knew little of before embarking on this journey.  Blogging still fills that void somewhat, but it is becoming less of a crucial lifeline and more of something I dip in and out of.  I’m not sure how long I’ll keep writing, I don’t keep to a schedule, I just write when inspiration strikes.  I do love that it gives a space to people who have all this floating around their minds that needs to get out there somehow.

9. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

A second language, something practical and useful.  I recently went looking at what exciting, interesting and worthwhile jobs there were for educators in the global arena – I do want to actually do something with this masters I’m working on.  There were lots of fascinating jobs….. all requiring a second language.

10. What are you most looking forward to in the next month?

Finishing the Hunger Games books.  Planting out the rest of my veggie garden.  Dinner out more than once…. without kids!  Hopefully a night where no small children invade my bed in the wee hours of the morning (unlikely).  Catching up with a friend I haven’t seen for months.  Lots of little things that make life good.

Now a confession to make, I struggle to keep up with most blogs.  I read bits and pieces as I go, but I’m not the devoted reader most bloggers would like.  I used to be, but I found it too hard to keep up with.  There are a few exceptions, mostly ones that get emailed to me or that I follow of Facebook.  So here are the three blogs I think you should all check out – if you guys choose to answers the questions and forward it along further that is completely up to you.

1.  Country Life Experiment

2. The Fearse Family

3. Ren Likes Red (who just happens to be a friend also)

Posted in Blogs | Tagged , | 7 Comments