Monthly Archives: June 2013

Nudity Blues

If you’re wondering why I’m so twitchy and nervous at the moment, it’s because I’m currently teaching Harry how to use the toilet.  Toilet training is stress on toast.  That child’s bladder is a ticking time bomb. I need to maintain a catlike state of readiness at all times.

As Harry is discovering this wonderful world of toileting, he is rediscovering his love of nudity.  More often than not, before going to the toilet (or lemon tree) Harry feels the need to remove ALL of his clothing, like he’s wearing some elaborate geisha costume.  And he never wants to put them back on again.  And it’s the MIDDLE OF WINTER.  Sometimes Harry takes all of his clothes off just because he can.  I don’t know what he’s thinking:  “home time!  Time to get naked!”, “Mmmm, this is a great snack, but what is it missing – ah, I know: nudity!”, “I don’t know about you, but I prefer to do my trampolining sans vêtements”

Yesterday afternoon, I was running late to pick up Matilda from a netball party because Annie had done an emergency-nappy-explosion just as we were getting ready to leave.  I should say right here, that I could have picked up the phone and asked one of the other mums to give Matilda a lift home, but I resisted.  I find it so hard to ask for help.  I feel like I’m always the one asking and yet I’m never giving back.  Besides, I want them to know I can cope.  I don’t want them all to think I’m the crazy lady who had too many children too young.   I am Superwoman, don’t you know?

Harry, meanwhile, was feeling very angry at the world and was expressing this anger by refusing to wear clothes.  Any attempt to dress this young protester would result in extreme resistance and I had no time.  I was already the worst kind of late.  The kind of late that imposes on someone else.  Someone I’m trying to impress with my superior coping skills.  I think that’s when things got a little crazy.

“I’m only taking him to the house around the corner and back home again and he won’t be getting out of the car”, I reasoned, “why not take him as he is?”

I started with some threats “If you don’t hurry up and put some clothes on, you’ll have to go out with no clothes on!” and “I’m taking you in the car whether or not you’re dressed, so you better put some clothes on!” had no effect, so I picked up the young naturist and carried him to the car in a no-nonsense, “right! We’re leaving!” sort of way.  All of a sudden, Harry panicked and started shouting “No! No! No!”  I smiled to myself.  I knew I could outsmart him.

It was as I put Harry down to get his clothes that I realized Harry was not cross at the idea of going out without clothes on, he just didn’t want to be carried to the car.  Once I had put him down, this nature child strode happily to the garage, clad in nothing but his birthday suit, and climbed into his car seat.

I’m a great believer in natural consequences when using discipline.  Sometimes children need to learn the consequences to their behaviour for themselves and this becomes a learning opportunity.  So it was with some vague idea of natural consequences (au natural consequences?) that I strapped a naked three-year-old into his car seat.  I draped a jacket artistically across his lap, but he promptly flung it off in disgust.

As I drove to the netball coach’s house, I formulated a plan of attack in my mind.  I would park in the driveway and leave the children in the car while I ran to the door to fetch Matilda from the party.  She would dash back to the car with me and we’d hightail it home.  It would all be over in a matter of minutes and nobody needed to know.

The first thing that struck me as I arrived at the house was that I wasn’t as late as I thought I was.  There were still parents arriving and chatting and returning to their cars by walking down the driveway, RIGHT PAST HARRY’S WINDOW.  Meanwhile, Matilda was having the time of her life and in no hurry to leave.  When I finally managed to extract her with her school bag, lunch box and netball certificate from the party, a group of excitable girls came with her.  No sooner had Matilda looked into the car when she announced exultantly “HARRY’S NAKED!  HARRY’S NAKED!”

So it was that a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls rushed to the car to behold a self-satisfied Harry smiling shyly with nothing but a seatbelt buckle to cover his shame.

The parents nodded awkwardly as I stammered out a lame explanation and, at the same time, it struck me that nothing shrieks ‘trailer park neglect’ like a small child who’s naked for no good reason.

As I drove off in crimson confusion (I think even my hair was blushing), I was beginning to doubt the effectiveness of ‘natural consequences’.  There were no negative consequences for this inappropriate behavior.  On the contrary, Harry had thoroughly enjoyed his nude expedition and was probably planning his next one.

When I got back home, I was setting the bath running when inspiration struck.  This was always the plan.  I am actually so organized that I prepared Harry for his bath an hour ahead of time. 

I am Superwoman.  That’s just how I roll.

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Awards a go go!

I’m feeling a little spoiled at the moment.  The lovely KeKe at Off the Hook has nominated me for a Liebster Award.

liebster award

And, just as I was getting my head around this wonderful fact, the delightful Angelphilipp nominated me for six more awards:

The Versatile Blogger Wonderful Team Membership AwardOne Lovely Blog Award Super Sweet Blogging Award Seed of Light AwardAwesome Blog Content Award

So here’s how I’m going to deal with this haul of awardy goodness:

1. Thank the people who nominated me and link back to their blog

2. Share seven things about myself

3. Nominate seven bloggers to receive the awards

4. Let them know they’ve won by sending them a message

Here goes:

1.  Thank you so much, Keke and angelphilipp for nominating me.  Your blogs are both so lovely to look at and a constant source of hooky and handmade inspiration to me.  These awards are going straight to the pool room.

2. Here are seven things about me:

2.1 I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I love being in the centre of attention.  It probably comes from spending most of my childhood around a noisy dinner table devising ingenious ways to get a word (or fifty) in.  I can’t get enough of it.  The larger the group of people hanging on my every word the better.  Hence, this blog, I think.
2.2 After much heartache, money and two years of living in a two-bedroom unit with no backyard, we have built our house.  It is so blissful to finally have our own home and do homey things like have friends over for coffee, bake cakes, and dig in the garden.  Life is good.
2.3 This is linked to the first one, but I find it hard to keep up with a single linear conversation.  It takes so much concentration.  I’d much rather have five conversations at once, all spilling over the top of each other.  That’s what a typical dinner with my family looks like.
2.4 I love rules.  I love reading about grammar and etiquette so I can know what the rules are.  I’m a pathological good girl.  I like to think I have a sense of morality evolved beyond basic rule-following, that I follow an innate set of principles independent of local authority, but I’m not so sure.  If you make me cross the road when the green man isn’t there, I go a little nutso…
2.5 I love this blog so much and I am in great danger of becoming a blog bore, if I’m not already one.  Whenever somebody says they’ve read one of my posts, I just about fall over with excitement and then try to nonchalantly pump them for feedback.  If someone else sails in and hijacks the topic of conversation before they reply, I give them a death stare.
2.6 Almost all my siblings are abandoning me.  I don’t know what I did wrong.  Greg, as I may have mentioned, lives in Japan; Jan has now left for Singapore and then Europe (and then Africa, but that comes later); Bobby has gone to Europe as well (he’s in Paris at the moment, and I’m trying very hard not to feel jealous); and soon Cindy will leave for Cambodia.  For a while, it will only be Peter and myself in the country (maybe it was his fault?).  But on the bright side, it will give me some very exotic blog statistics!
2.7 I don’t know if you’ve already picked this up from my writing, but I love a numbered list.  This feels right.

3. And here are my seven blogs:

3.1 Little Poppits “a crazy mix of a whole bunch of stuff” – LP, or ‘Pop’, as I sometimes call her, was one of the first people to comment on my blog who wasn’t also my mother.  Reading her blog feels like sitting at her (restored vintage) kitchen table with a cup of tea and chatting about chickens and craft.
3.2  Papa  Angst Papa is a stay-at-home dad and a great writer who always makes me laugh and nod.
3.3  Random Dreams of Grandeur  This is a new blog I’ve just discovered.  Random (AKA Maggie) shares her journey as she prepares for a frugal wedding (self-catered!).  I was the first-ever person to comment on this blog and it really deserves more comments, so go pay a visit and write something!
3.4  Make a Choice  This is a fantastic resource for those wanting to shop ethically but not knowing where to start.  I know the author of this blog in real life, too, and she’s really lovely.
3.5  Roar Sweetly Full of great ideas and funny stories and tips to help you in the frugalympics
3.6  DiscomBUBulated Always a great read, this is a breezy, chatty blog but with heart as well.
3.7  Pretty Little Things in a Box Full of lovely patterns and craft ideas, this blog is just so pretty to look at.

And that’s it!  Thank you again, Keke and Angelphilipp for nominating me.  Now I’m off to put a shelf up in my blog to display these beautiful awards!

Happy Birthday, Harry!

 

fake cupcakes

Harry is three today.  This is a picture of me putting icing and sprinkles on store-bought mini-muffins in an attempt to make them look like home-made cupcakes.  Then when we arrived at playgroup, I had Annie on my hip and Harry’s bag on my shoulder and I picked up the cupcake carrier sideways and all the fake cupcakes fell all over each other and all the icing came off.  Fail.

 

Frugal Fail.

Free Aldi flowers - still going after 2 weeks!

I’ve always wanted to be a queen of thrift.  Well, no.  That’s not exactly true.  I’m pretty sure at various points in my childhood I wanted to be a fashion designer, a movie star, a member of the A-Team and a boy, but since I’ve become a full-time mum, I’ve aspired to get really good at saving money.  I suppose I want to earn my keep.  I’d love to save so much money by making miracles out of rice and tuna that we would have EVEN MORE to spend than if I’d been working – that’s how clever I would be with the budget.  I pore over websites like Simple Savings and Cheapskates for tips on making a single income look sexy.  I see it as a kind of sport.  I have friends who are also trying to save money and I’ve noticed a subtle sense of competition making its way into our conversations.   It’s like the Frugalympics.

“I can make a million things with mince meat!”  I boast
“That’s nothing!  You should taste my spam-burgers!”,  says one friend
“You mean to say you guys can afford meat?”, the other friend exclaims in smug triumph.

Whenever I make an extravagant purchase like movie tickets, cappuccinos, décor magazines or disposable baby wipes, I try to keep a lid on it.  If news got out amongst the other frugalympians, I’d lose points for sure.

Having said all this, I’m not deluded enough to think I’m in any way poor.   I’m talking about first world problems here.  I won the birth lottery in a big way.  Australia has an extravagance of riches compared to the majority of the world’s population.  I wash my clothes and my dishes in fresh drinking water and, while I might agonise over which school to send my children, I never have to question whether they get an education.

I suppose part of this comes from a desire to resist a culture that has become rampantly consumerist.  I’m sick of getting told I need to put my marriage under pressure and outsource my mothering to an institution so that I can afford stuff I don’t need to impress people I don’t like.  I would much rather be frugal (and I appreciate that not everyone is in my position and I am attacking the pressures placed on working mothers, not working mothers themselves, please don’t write me angry letters, end disclaimer)

Grocery shopping has become a military operation.  I take stock of the freezer, pantry and fridge and try to incorporate it into my meal plan.  I write my meal plan, making allowances for any events or meals out planned for that week.  I look at the meal plan and any shopping list notes and make a master list.  On this master list, each corner of the page represents a corner of the shop.  I write the items according to their location in the supermarket (as Aldi really only has two major aisles, this is not quite as impressive as it sounds).  I pay close attention to the two “red zones” – the sweet biscuit and lolly section at the front of the first aisle and the meat section at the back of the second aisle, where everything is at toddler height.  I need to have a clear idea of what I need from these red zones and move through them at lighting speed as she who dawdles is lost (and buried under a pile of grocery suggestions from her helpful son).  Pay attention!  There can be no doubling back in this jungle.  But if you’re good you can get a vegemite scroll at the end.

Last week was a good shop.  Both Harry and Annie were enjoying their weekly ritual with cheerful enthusiasm.  Harry didn’t toss too many items into the trolley and Annie didn’t toss too many items out of it.  I stocked up on meat and even bought a whole chicken to roast (I’d read all about how you can make three meals out of one roast chicken and was longing to try it to boost my frugal credentials).  When I got to the end of the shop there were free fresh flowers on the packing bench (too old to sell, but still good).  I grabbed a bunch to brighten up the house and sailed home feeling unutterably smug.

I packed the groceries away, putting the bulk meat in the bottom drawer of the fridge to be divided into portions and frozen.  Then I got to work on the roast chicken.  I stuffed it with onion and half-eaten-apple, rubbed it with oil and salt and herbs and cooked it into a culinary masterpiece at only five dollars a kilo.  My smug levels rose ever higher.

After dinner I got to work stripping the chicken (for stirfry meat) and inspecting the carcass (for soup stock).  While there wasn’t nearly enough chicken left for another meal, I stuck it in the fridge for sandwiches and pulled out my phone to search for instructions on turning a roast chicken carcass into a delicious winter soup.  I was met with a bewildering variety of opinions on how to do it involving all manner of ingredients and equipment I didn’t have.  I drudged back into the kitchen only to find that Mr Knightley had tossed the carcass in the bin whilst cleaning the kitchen.  I hugged him in relief.

“What’s with all the meat in the fridge drawer?”, that worthy personage asked casually.

“I’m buying meat in bulk now.  It’s more economical, don’t you know” I gushed enthusiastically.

“You should probably put it in the freezer”, he said, filling the roasting pan with water.

I treated him to one of my best eye rolls.  “Of course I will!  I just have to separate it into portions first.  It’s all under control.”

Later that week, after I posted my Sticky Tape Pudding recipe, my levels of smugness had reached epic proportions.  Oh look at me – the mother who bakes with her children and makes it to the bottom of her laundry basket!  I’ve finally got the hang of this parenting malarkey!  Just call me Captain Awesome and be done with it!

And then it hit me all at once – the meat!

I scrabbled to the bottom of the fridge drawer. Surely it hadn’t been that long?  Surely it was still good?  I sought the fateful use-by date.  It was two days ago.  My bottom lip started to wobble violently.

meat fail

Mr Knightley walked into the room to find me wailing amidst mince meat and sausages.

“How can I manage a family of six,” I hiccupped, “if I can’t even manage basic foodstuffs?!”

I may have been just a little hormonal.  Mr Knightley knew it and wisely chose not to say “I told you so”, but instead steered me to the couch and allowed me to sob tempestuously whilst he cast furtive glances over my shoulder at a repeat episode of Futurama.

In the commercial break, Mr Knightley gave my shoulder a squeeze, “Some women”, he said, barely managing to suppress a twitch playing on the corner of his mouth, “blow the budget on shoes or cigarettes or designer clothes.  You’re the only one I know who splashes out on budget meats!”

At Mr Knightley’s suggestion, I tried to find a dog in the neighbourhood to benefit from this tragic situation, but it would seem every dog in the area is on a special sausage-free diet.  So it came to pass that the sausages and mince stare up at me reproachfully every time I open the outside bin (along with the chicken carcass).

But I’ll be fine, really.

I just need to work out a way to keep the IFC (International Frugalympics Committee) from inspecting my bins…

Gluten-Free Sticky Tape Pudding

Time for another recipe post!  This is my best-ever recipe and so much fun to make.  I get lots of requests for this recipe, and not just because it’s gluten-free.  There is plenty to keep little hands occupied as well, so a good recipe for engaging children who would otherwise be painting the carpet with Jalna Natural Greek Yoghurt.  Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

1 cup dates (chopped)
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup boiling water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup gluten-free plain flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons (40g) butter

Butterscotch Sauce

2/3 cup thin cream
50g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla

You will also need:

A mixing bowl
A whisk
Some sort of medium sized (over 2 cup capacity) and heatproof jug or bowl (for dates and boiling water)
A measuring cup
Scales (for the butter, but if you don’t have any, you can estimate by the way you cut it, or measure with a tablespoon)
A 20cm round cake tin, lined with baking paper (the shallow sort you would use two of to make a sandwich cake) – this is the same tin you would use to make the Half-Eaten-Apple Teacake

A saucepan and wooden spoon for the sauce

kitchen helpers

Oh I love this photo so much.  Look at my boys in their aprons!  I need to pull this photo out every time I feel like I’m failing as a mother.   Step one is to chop up the dates.  This is a good ones for the kids to do (with butter knives) whilst you sneak about measuring the other ingredients and doing the messy stuff.  Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F).  Oh, and put the kettle on, if you haven’t already done so (cup of boiling water, remember?)

dates,hot water and bicarb

Once you’ve chopped about a cup’s worth of dates, put them in your heatproof bowl or jug and add  a cup of boiling water and a teaspoon of bicarb.  Gather the children around to watch it fizz!

dates and butter

Then add the butter, whilst the water is still hot, so it melts into the hot water.  Put this mixture aside to cool.

DSCF4937

Now crack your egg into the big mixing bowl and use the whisk to beat it.

brown sugar

Then add the packed brown sugar (it’s like a sandcastle!  This is Christopher Robin’s favourite part)

mix it

Stir it in with the vanilla (or you can put the vanilla in with the date mix, it doesn’t really matter – I didn’t have any vanilla on the day I made this one anyway!)

flour

Now add all the other ingredients (flour and date mix).  I tend to alternate between the two – mix in a little flour, then some date mix.  Repeat.

in tin

Tip it into the cake tin.  Don’t worry if it seems a little runny:  that’s how it’s supposed to be!

Bake it in the oven for around 50 minutes.

baked pudding

At this point, you could just serve it as a date cake, but nothing beats sticky tape pudding, so pull out your saucepan and put the butter, cream, brown sugar and vanilla into it.  Warm it up over a medium heat until it boils, then turn it down to low and let it simmer for five minutes or so.  Keep stirring it the whole time.

saucepan

Here, we really need a money shot of a slice of the pudding with the sauce on top and a scoop of icecream melting slightly against it.  Or, perhaps a series of such gratuitous pictures.  But the problem is, whenever it gets to this point in proceedings, I get so excited I end up eating it before I remember to take a picture.  This has happened on multiple occasions.

Instead, here are some pictures that Google has to offer:

pudding porn 1

pudding porn 2

pudding porn 3

I hope I don’t get into trouble for sharing these pudding porn photos.  Please don’t sue me – I’ll take them down if you want me to!

This serves 8 to 12, depending on how small you cut it.  Enjoy!