Mother Who Works

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pearl Couscous Salad

Pearl couscous, to my mind, tastes more like pasta than couscous - which is probably why people who don't care for couscous quite like it - ie Geoff.

Here's a quick salad that could easily double as a lunch to take to the office or a working girl's dinner!


  • Saute a chopped brown onion until golden. Add a 250g packet of pearl couscous, two cups of boiling water, a good pinch of sea salt and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Let it sit for a bit before transferring to a dish to cool
  • Once cool, add a couple of diced tomatoes, a diced Lebanese cucumber and sweet corn. I used cooked, cold fresh corn and just sliced the kernels off the cob. It could have done with some diced red capsicum but there was none in the fridge...
  • Micro-plane the zest off a lemon, then squeeze in the juice
  • Drizzle on a good amount of olive oil - I used lemon scented because I reckon it can't ever be too lemony
  • Add lots of chopped mint and parsley and taste - it might need more salt as the couscous really does needs a fair bit. And that's it - too easy!



Monday, November 25, 2013

Stumped

I pride myself in my ability to follow instructions. I spent years putting Lego together for George. I can construct an office chair from Officeworks and a wall of shelves from Ikea. If I pay attention, I can install a scanner or the latest version of Call of Duty onto a computer. I have read the manual for my car and can now use the navigation and the heater. I've made 2,000 piece jigsaws before. Geoff has charged me with programming the watering system. I'm just that kind of nerd!

Or I thought I was.

When we were in Thailand last year, I bought one of those lights that you put together yourself and is meant to look something like this....



In my excitement and liking the freestanding look, I bought 120 pieces - the mother of them all. The guy at the night market (says it all really - like he was ever going to see me again!) said it was easy to put together.

Well it's NOT!!!!

I have wasted at least two hours of my life that I will never get back and this is what it looks like so far.....










 
Aggggghhhhh!! I laid all the pieces on the floor as per the instructions below for all 120 pieces, and that didn't work. It was very confusing. Especially as the instructions say "have a play, be inventive!" For fuck's sake, I can't even get them in the right order!!!


Then it says start with the five and then turn it upside down 'like a bowl' and keep building. You can see it starts off looking okay, but then it becomes too complicated for my clearly decaying mind and I can't work out what goes where. I've had several goes at it and it still isn't making sense. I just keep thinking the pattern will become apparent - like in an IQ test. (There's a thought....)



I've even Googled it and no luck there either in finding anything that makes it the remotest bit clearer.

So if any of you are harbouring a child-genius who's brilliant at this kind of stuff, I'm prepared to pay money to have them put it together. Real money. Happy to negotiate. It'll probably cost more than the light - but that's NOT the point. My pride is at stake.

Sadly, I also have a sneaking suspicion I'm not not going to like it nearly as much as I did after eight beers and a green chicken curry in the Phuket night market at 11pm - but again, that's NOT the point!! Let's see if I can get it made and then worry about getting rid of it!

Message me peeps!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fair Fairy Floss

Last Sunday was the local school fair. I confess, my contribution to that school's activities and fundraising has typically been pretty negligible. Only because there is an army of amazing women who run those events like a military operation and I figure I might as well focus my attention to causes that don't have that kind of support.

But this year I did put my hand up for a stint on the Fairy Floss stall. Seriously peeps, that stuff should be classified as a health hazard. It's artificially coloured pink sugar poured into a heated centrifuge and then spun into a floss guaranteed to weasel its way into every nook and cranny of your teeth. It's like fertiliser for decay. Not to mention that by the end of my shift I had that sticky pink stuff in my hair and on my face and stuck all over my clothes and watch. I kept thinking it was hair in my face but as I tried to brush it away - nup, more floss.

Getting that stuff onto a stick is an art I'm not certain I've mastered. I was making an awful lot that resembled those crazy extra-long sock-hats - they just needed a pom pom on the end. I had to try and flick the long tail back around the the main mass. They amused me!

Sort of like this but pink and fluffy...




The kids demanded I made them huuuuuge, the parents insisted I make them small. I tried to please every one.


But the real damage came when I banged my fingers on that spinning grater-like thing in the middle and later that night my shalac peeled off :(

Anyhow, an hour and half later of continual flossing and we'd gone through a staggeringly small amount of sugar - probably less than a kilo so about a dollars worth.  I estimate we made about 150 sticks at $3 a pop meaning the school was about $450 better off. Not a bad ROI!

PS Please excuse typos - my Proof Reader's had a huge weekend so I've decided not to bother her tonight...



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dare to poo on my nature strip!!!

I have had it up to pussy's bow with dog owners allowing their dogs not only to crap on our nature strip, but not even bothering to pick it up. My apologies to the dogs. I'd sprinkle this up your owner's nose if I could.

I'll get back to you on the results.


 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pros & Cons of Being #4

I was reflecting today how disciplined we were with George and Jaz when they were little,. The routine was clockwork. The only time they knew as pre-schoolers was 'twenty past seven' which was either ten minutes until we left for creche if it was the morning or ten minutes until they were tucked up in bed if it was night.

And once tucked into their cosy little beds, that was it. They never got out. On occasion, they would call for room service, but on the whole, it was dinner, bath, book and bed. We even used to pop Enya on the portable CD player to get them off to sleep.

Then straight up at 6.30am to do it all again.

Oh how things have changed!

It started to slide a bit when Elle was born - she's 5 1/2 years younger than George - but on the whole, it was still pretty much on track.

But then Saskia arrived - a mere 12 1/2 years after George  - and that perfect pre-schooler routine was never located again. We did look. But even by three she was a reluctant participant. 'Why am I going to bed?' she'd complain, bewildered, as George, now 15, Jaz 13 and Elle 9 were all settling in for a bit of Australian Idol.  Yep - just wasn't happening. We'd still be trying to round her up at 9.30pm.

This year was our big year. She's now 7 and the only one at home. Surely we could get a routine going. And we have - sort of. She does go to bed between 7.30 and 8pm. But does tend to pop out several times if the mood takes her. It's a complete mystery to me now as to how I got the others to stay there. And I'm sure there wasn't any yelling involved either.

But it has been pointed out by Saskia's peers mothers that there are up-sides. She is incredibly articulate and usually pretty confident. She can also be extremely grown up for someone who's 7 and be very responsible with our young, pre-school neighbour.

I think you do ease up a bit as they go on and I hope there were pros and cons for all of them. But I am wondering if, like grand parenting, there should be some refresher courses for those of us who thought they'd just sneak in that last one before menopause. But at least tonight I did think to pop some music on - the iPod not the CD - and I haven't heard peep out of her!
All six of us circa 1855. (or 2006!)






Tuesday, November 12, 2013

4x4x4

No,  not 64. I mean the four-wheel drive beasts that line the narrow streets around our local primary school. One parks on either side of the road as two aim to pass by each other in the narrow gap that remains.

I used to drive a van and people had respect for van-drivers. Not so drivers of a 4x4. And rightly so I might add.

Before the van I had a Pajero and I remember well the time it needed a service. The kids and I got up extra early, drove to Burwood to drop it off and collected a loan car - a Colt - in an unfortunate shade of copper that forced me to dub it 'The Poo.' The kids were small but filled the car and the boot barely had room for school bags!


From this....
.... to this.


Nevertheless, off we shot!

As we hurtled into the narrow street to school, I found myself confronted by a very large, very European 4x4. I had actually entered the tunnel of similar vehicles first - not that the driver cared as she bore down on us and mouthed some pretty clear words at me. Bloody hell! Just because you drive a big car and I'm in a little poo does NOT make you queen of the road.... but actually, it did. She refused to budge. Frankly I was lucky she didn't decide to drive right over the top of me, monster-truck like. So I popped the poo into reverse and edged out backwards. I wound my window down in the hope of sharing a few choice words back at my persecutor but sadly, she didn't want to play. She ensured her electric window remained tightly sealed, stared straight ahead and, I suspect, turned up her classical music in case her nerves of steel needed calming.

One to her.

I dropped the kids and tootled off to work. I always kept an eye out for this 4x4 bully, but frankly, she was lost in the sea of sameness.....

I wonder when they planned those little streets around that little school if they ever envisaged that it would be inhabitated by such creatures?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Dress De Jour

My business partner Mandy and I were at Oaks Day on Thursday, entertaining clients. That makes it sound so legitimate - and is was - but we were also just having a ripper day with some great chicks who we happen to work with.


But, the big surprise of the day was this ubiquitous pink dress.


Anyone else see one? Or ten??

There were three within a two car-park radius of our spot and we spotted a couple more floating by as the day progressed. We were in the section called On The Rails which would be one of the smallest and we guessed there were at least seven in our enclosure. One of our guests, Sue, sent us this pic as she'd spotted yet another on the train on the way home.


Mandy thought it may be a Manning Cartell - I said more likely the major department stores - Myer or David Jones. So intrigued were we than Mandy bravely approached a champagne-sodden wearer (the fifth we'd spied), said how much she loved her dress (liar), and asked what brand it was. The wearer was so tanked she couldn't speak - in fact, she was having trouble standing - but indicated Mandy was welcome to check the label herself - Country Road. Reminded me exactly why I don't buy it - well, the fact that it's ubiquitous and over priced....

So there you have it ladies, for $179 you too could be wearing the same dress as probably thirty people across the course on the same day. Maybe a hundred over the entire carnival - maybe more.

It probably doesn't really matter - it is a great colour. The girl above clearly looks gorgeous in it but some, dare I suggest, could have done with a better choice of undergarments....

PS Please excuse typos etc as my proof reader isn't recieving my emails... technical issue. Dn't you hate those!




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Party

Elle was home from boarding school for the weekend. When I say the 'weekend' it was pretty much a week. I wish I had the same ability as her school to condense time! A weekend to me is two days. Six is pretty much a week. But hey, that's private school for you - the more you pay the less you get.

And why were they on a 'break'? That's right - The Melbourne Cup. The only place in the world, I hedge to bet, that has a public holiday on a Tuesday for a horse race. I did think it was pretty funny when the news talked about the bemused tourists never seeing anything like The Cup parade through the city, etc. What about the parade we have for the football grand final? Or Moomba? Or even how everyone goes nuts about the Australian Open - also here in Melbourne. Seriously, sport is our religion.

But back to Elle.

She asked if she and her friend could go to a party on Friday night. It was supervised, there was security and it was $5 to get in. Sounded perfectly legitimate to me. What they didn't realise was that the hosting hall wasn't in neighbouring South Yarra, but way out in Burwood. Never mind, I said, sounds fine - I'll drive you there and pick you up.

As we arrived, there were young men in hi-viz vests with night wands directing parents to the drop off point, which was all very reassuring.

The girls were very excited and said they'd text me with the pick up time.

So weren't they surprised when half way through the party, the lights were turned on, the music turned off and they were all asked to sit down on the floor and let Jesus into their hearts. Laugh!!!

In addition, they told me that during the dance, the night wands were also used to tap kissing couples on the shoulder to 'cut that out - it's offensive to others' and even those who were dancing too closely got the tap. I loved this party!

In fact having got the debrief, I have promised Elle and any of her friends that I am willing to drive them anywhere to go to more of those parties!!

The night wand - used for directing traffic and keeping teens apart!!




Monday, November 4, 2013

Paella

We had a few friends and kids over for lunch yesterday so I thought a paella would be a crowd pleaser - and it was.

There were 13 of us in total and naturally I made enough for about 23 which was fine because every one also got a take home pack and it's not bad microwaved. 

My paella pan is probably just big enough for 8-10 so I hatched the cunning plan of using my roasting pans on the barbecue, as they're the same enamel as the pan so figured that would work. I mentioned the barbecue when I was talking on the phone to Mum and she asked me if it would all fall through the grill - seriously. She also enquired if I was going to have a test run - ha! You'd think she'd know how I roll by now. Of course I'm not doing a test run, who's got time for that - and I like to live on the edge. Remember when I set fire to the rotisserie? See, that wouldn't have happened if I'd had a test run, and where's the fun in that??

Anyhoo - back to the paella. Here's what I did (I've halved the recipe but this would still feed a crowd of 10 or so)

In a large pot, heat 2.5 litres of liquid - exact mix doesn't matter that much
  • 1.75 litres chicken stock
  • 250ml white wine/champagne - whatever's in the fridge
  • 500ml crab stock*
  • a few strands of saffron (it's also mega expensive and I'm not sure it does make a huge difference so let's call that optional)
*I reckon the secret to why this paella is so good is the crab stock. I get it from the fish shop - it's really expensive - $11.50 for 500ml - but worth it. 

In a fry pan, fry off the following until soft/cooked:
  • 4 chorizo sausages
  • 600g diced chicken thighs
  • 2 red capsicums - diced
  • 2-3 brown onions diced
  • 3 cloves garlic - fry with the onion
  • 500g prawns* (keep aside separate from the rest).
*I used Coles frozen farmed cooked prawns tails on - they're a bit average but pretty cheap. Probably better to use fresh ones with tails and heads on if you can be bothered dealing with them. Put them aside so they don't get over cooked - or like me, chuck in the cooked one's towards the end.

Put all this in your paella dish/baking pan and add:
  • 2 diced ripe tomatoes
  • 4 cups medium grain rice
  • 2 large teaspoons smoked paprika
Put the pan on the stove/barbecue and start adding the hot stock.

When it's almost all in - or you've lost interest - add:
  • prawns
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh peas
  • 1kg raw mussels in shells over the top
Cover with foil or close lid of barbie and give it about 10 minutes to cook peas, warm prawns and steam mussels.

Top with a small jar of pimento strips and a bunch of roughly chopped parsley, toss around some lemon wedges and - voila!

Well, I say voila - but because I was doing two big trays I had to recruit my friend Brenda to help - which was fun - but if you'd rather not, I suggest you get it up to the point of adding the stock before the guests arrive.

This was the first one I did - no time yesterday to get a pic! But same same.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Amercianisation

I often hear people complaining that Halloween is so American and why do we even recognising it here in Australia.

Well I for one am embracing it.

The sheer excitement it generates among the kids is just gorgeous, so where's the harm? Even businesses are getting in on the act. My Frankie won the prize at her work for dressing as an Awkward Silence. That's scary!

Our neighbours front gate.
When I was a kid we had Guy Fawkes Night, which was about the only thing I can compare it to. It was sooooo exciting. Not Christmas/birthday exciting, but getting together with other families, running around in dark with kids of all ages playing tiggy and hide and seek. Christmas is mostly family and birthdays your own peers, but Guy Fawkes Night was a free for all!

We had bonfires and fireworks of varying types - penny bangers, Catherine wheels, skyrockets. All the parents had a few (or many) drinks around the fire and Dad invariable burnt himself on one of the year's fancy new pyrotechnics. But it was all part of the fun.

And what happened? That's right, it was all deemed far too dangerous and was banned. Just like that. Party poopers.

So what have little kids got to get excited about now? Halloween!

Our front door - for the past week
And as my business partner Mandy and I tried to have a sensible conversation about our new website, she was herding six kids down the road trick and treating and I had eight under 8s at my front door that I was ladling lollies to. And did it matter? No! The kids - every one from two to teens - were out there having fun and meeting the neighbours. And for the sake a few cheap costumes (landfill, I concede) and too much sugar, it's just plain fun and what's the problem with that?


The aftermath at ur place....

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